Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Cats have been Broken.

1/31/04 - Broken cats are a good thing. It's been a rough 3 weeks with the cats.

Almost simultaneously with the arrival of my parents, Bopis went into heat. Let me tell you, that is not a fun thing to go through. Yowling, rolling around, and basically driving this human nuts.
So, she went into heat. We spent some time seeing what possible damage can be done while waiting for them to be "broken". We guess them to be about 6 months old, though Pomelo was also losing his baby teeth at the same time. That's most definitely an off shoot of his poor start in life. He's just maturing later in some areas, because otherwise he's weeks to months younger than Bopis and that's impossible (cats should have all their adult teeth by 3-4 months old).
Anyhow, we did our best keeping them apart, cycling who was locked in the storage room with who had free roam of the house. Of course, no matter what they were both meowing for each other 24 hours a day. It was awful. It worked OK logistically, except for the day we were out and the housekeeper (I guess) figured that we'd missed locking a cat up and put the other one in the storage room too. Here's where I smack my head for not saying anything before we left the house, but also feel like getting annoyed at her for assuming so much. Arg.
The vet came to pick up the cats on a Thursday and ran a series of blood tests. Friday he returned the cats exactly as they'd left, because the test on their liver came back abnormal and he wouldn't do the surgery until it was corrected. Yup, 2 weeks of twice a day meds for both of them. And the whole time separated. Could you hear my head pounding into the wall over that one? It was frustrating, but 2 weeks later and Jetepar complete, he picked them up again and delivered them back the same night, minus their reproductive ability. Pomelo was a little unsteady, but doing fine overall. Bopis had a hard road getting over the anaethesia and the pain was probably pretty bad. The vet gave us amoxicillin for her and another med for Pomelo that would also serve to treat his persistent diarrhea.
This morning I tried to give him the Scourlak. Well the vet had warned that while the cats were recovering we might have some bouts of vomitting, but this was purely med related. Pomelo would have nothing to do with it. We've given him oral med series twice before and never had a reaction like this. Not only did he struggle, but what actually went into his mouth (vs the floor or my arm), was immediately and violently spti out and thrown up. He was so insistent that at one point the foam exuding from his mouth was bloody.
OK, his diarrhea isn't that bad, I'm not putting him or the rest of us through that again, not once a day, not three times a day per the prescription. I gave Bopis her amoxicillin then went back to him and gave him amoxicillin too, and he took it just fine. Let's hope there are quieter days ahead.

A milestone reached, and not just for Jonathon.

1/31/04: It just kinda happened.

The busy time of my parents visit was the catalyst and now, it is done. Jonathon has weaned.
A big part of me has to be reminded that it's missing. I find that when the reality crosses my mind I feel sad, but since that rarely happens I don't have many thoughts on the subject at all. I felt the same way for all my kids, actually, but I know I have the pangs of sadness because this was the last time I'll nurse a baby. And as with all things that reach a permanent end, there's a definite sense of loss.
And then I remind myself that of the 4, he was my longest nursling. Nearly 29 months. No, it isn't a statistic for Guiness, but it is for me. I can't say that I'm "proud for lasting so long", it just happened. All the planets were in alignment. I was well-educated about nursing, I was a veteran at it (not perfect, but I did learn each time), Jonathon demanded it and I didn't become pregnant soon after having him. Katherine was weaned at 4 months. Call it first-time mother stupidity. Rebecca weaned herself at 13 months, but she had been down to once a day nursing for a month by then. Nicholas weaned at 9 months. A growth spurt and pregnancy depletion hit at the same time and he wouldn't stand for it so he picked a cup with formula and never turned back.
Maybe I extended it on purpose, knowing he's my last. That's a valid supposition. It probably played a part, though I think ease of nursing was the biggest factor. It let me sleep in an extra hour on the days he woke way too early. It made bedtime simple and calming (how many times did I doze off while doing a final nursing for "just a minute"). When he was sick, it comforted him and me. It put him down for a nap faster than the car.
The numbers wore down over holiday vacation and by the time my parents flew home, Jonathon hadn't nursed in a couple days. Oh yes, he remembered, but by then the damage was done. He would continue to ask and I would allow, but by this week all it took was a few seconds to realize nothing was flowing and he'd hop off my lap. Periodically he will return to my side and with a goofy grin ask "Nurse?"
"Oh, silly boy, you don't want to nurse."
"Yes! Nurse!" he laughs at me.
"Nope, all done"
Pull his long, toddler, 28lb body up to me, with legs hanging off my lap and a hand that either shoves through the sleeve of my shirt or holds on to the cross of my bra. Remembering that tiny infant (Jonathon was my smallest baby at just 7lbs 11oz) who could fit with is head in the crook of my arm and my hand supporting his bottom. Skinny little legs and socks that wouldn't stay on his thin little feet. He had nursing jaundice, just like his siblings, but since none of them remained pumpkin colored I know they're fine.
After a try, he sits up distractedly and says "All done."
Yes, love. All done.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Disease Strikes Again

29 January 2004: Rebecca has amoebiasis.

For 3 days Rebecca has said her head hurt. That is unusual in itself, so I asked if her eyes hurt in class. She replied that they didn’t, but when she said where her head hurt it came across like a headache.

So the first day I gave her motrin, figuring she’d strained something or not slept enough or a plethora of other headache indusing problems. The second day she couldn’t figure out if she felt bad or not but continued saying her head hurt among periodic other complaints. The third day, she had a headache again and by the evening she had pains in her pelvic region and a fever. Each of those things separately wouldn’t mean much, but three days of head pain coupled with an increase in other symptoms, and school was forgotten. To the doctor we trouped and after a couple hours, the results were in. Amoebiasis, also known as amoebic dysentery, caused by Entamoeba Histolytica. No wonder she feels so awful and looks even worse. With pills in hand, we went to the school to drop off birthday invitations and to tell Ms. Cater what was up. She said she noticed that Rebecca wasn’t herself that past couple days. Homeward bound for some soup and a nap for all kids. Rebecca insisted she wasn’t tired, then slept for 2 hours. Taking the first pill was a trial as she couldn’t get herself to swallow it and ended up letting the whole thing dissolve on her tongue and being completely grossed out by it. I wrapped it in some bread, but the piece was too big. Tonight we’ll hide it in a small piece of cheese. Why do I feel like I’m trying to pill a dog? Since the medication is dispensed 3 times a day, I have left several pills at the nurses office for her to take during the school days.
When trying to figure out where this might have come from, we realized it would be completely impossible to determine. It is passed through fecal contamination (gross, I know), and can be in the water (the kids repeatedly put bath water in their mouths no matter how many times I tell them not to and explain WHY), from contaminated bathroom sinks/doorknobs (say, if someone doesn't wash their hands well or at all after using the toilet), or from foods at a restaurant. The nurse asked if we had eaten out recently, say at a birthday party? We went to 2 parties this past weekend (one catered at Island Cove) and we eat out regularly.
Now, I worry because the kids take baths together. I think we'll break them up into 2 and 2 from here on out. That way, the chance of this spreading to all 4 through the bath water is drastically reduced.
Let’s hope that she’s better by tomorrow so she can attend her class pajama party. She’s been looking forward to it all week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

4 Days written on "The Parents Were Here!"

7 January – 10 January 2004:

My parents arrived Wednesday morning, the 7th of January and stayed until th 15th of January.

The flight was to arrive at 6:30, was pushed to 7:30 and then to 8, which worked out well for us as we were to pick up airport passes but took a tour of all the airport wings in order to find the right office and we didn’t get to the Arrival hall until 7:30. I should clarify that I don’t mean the Arrival gate, as the pass simply allowed us to enter the building rather than stand around outdoors with the other welcomers. Lucky us were permitted to stand around the luggage carousels. What we didn’t know is that the planes pulled up outside and behind the carousels and the passengers are offloaded directly to the room we were milling around in. That didn’t mean I didn’t give grief to the immigration officers (and then Ian) when trying to find out where to go to meet the arrivals. Ah well. I paced, I muttered, I got the kids some chocolate milk and cake for breakfast from a vendor, I complained about how useless airport passes were when all they did was let you walk 20 feet closer to nothing. But my parents were the first ones off the plane and in line for immigration and we were right there to meet them, holding up a sign welcoming them to Manila. Big hugs all around and with no checked luggage we were off to the house for a break. Originally we’d planned to have a driver each of the 9 days they were visiting, along with an 11 person van. After the second day we decided we didn’t need a van or driver at all, and we muddled through just fine.
Day One, Wednesday, 7 January: We showed them around the house with a miniature scavenger hunt that ended with a collection of Dunkin’ doughnuts from the den, Oreos from the girls’ room and a pot of coffee in the kitchen. Silly us had purchased a 4 cup pot since we’re not coffee drinkers, where a 10 cup pot would have fit the bill instead. We did discover that Monk’s Blend coffee is really good stuff, made by monks right here in the Philippines. Batangas Blend from the province south of us is not so good though. After a sugar filled breakfast, we piled back into the van and asked the driver for a tour of our regular spots. I should have known when he couldn’t find the school that this wasn’t going to work well. We finally drove by the church, ISM, then by PriceSmart, over by the hospital and to the Embassy where we had lunch and saw Ian’s office. We couldn’t actually see the hospital as the driver drove every tiny back road to get there and then maneuvered around the side of the building, but oh well. Hopefully we won’t be seeing it for a long time ourselves.
In the afternoon we held our Second Christmas and then while grandpa made a first pot of his World Famous Spaghetti sauce, the kids with grandma and I played the new Lion King board game. The game has gobs of pieces and almost took more time to set up (for the first time) than to play, but it was quite enjoyable. There’s a single game piece for all players and at each checkpoint a contest for all the players. It sounds confusing but Nicholas figured it out so it couldn’t be that hard. Since it was quasi-Christmas we had hot cocoa, but not the local variety. If I’ve sent you a package, please accept my apologies. I’d sent some to my mom and tried some myself and it’s awful. Perhaps I’m simply accustomed to instant sugary goodness, but since neither of us ever got it to achieve creamy or even smooth (nevermind sweet), I just couldn’t get past the gritty, bitter drink it became. My mom wasn’t shy sharing her thoughts either.
Day Two, Thursday, 8 January: A trip to see the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Pinas and lunch in Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay. Our directions used highways and well-known roads to us. The driver took us an alternate route and the entire time I was wondering if he actually knew where he was going. And then, there it was. A dark little church still decorated for Christmas, with a gift shop on the side, we entered and asked to see the organ itself. The bamboo organ is exactly that, with all the pipes carved from bamboo. The caretaker brought us up and we saw that it has a single tier of keys approximately half the size of a regular keyboard, and middle C isn’t in the middle. The pedals were about ½ a shoe in length and my dad says they weren’t actual pedal keys but an extension of the finger keys. If it piques your interest, you can read more about The Bamboo Organ. We did stop in the gift shop and purchased a small nativity made of, what else, bamboo. After the church, we drove what seemed like forever to Tagaytay. On our first trip there it had taken just about 45 minutes from home to the picnic grounds. I guess with the sidetrip to Las Pinas it was considerably further. That, or the fact that he never left 3rd gear (as my dad noted) made the trip longer and more painful that it needed to be. We did make it and while we’d been assured that he knew where the restaurant was located, some slow driving, asking for directions and our own printed instructions (thankfully done that morning “just in case”) finally had us arrive at an off the beaten path B&B with a restaurant on premises.
The location was gorgeous, truly a garden filled with flowers and fountains and there was a single menu for all the guests. They fed us too much, as bowls and more bowls of various foods were served (many organic and grown right on-site) including bread, salad, pasta, dessert and tea. The small bowls were filled with mangoes, pâté, parmesan cheese, cream sauce, prawns, gourmet mushrooms (ok, I’ll admit, I don’t know what kind they were), pesto, sundried tomato and olive spread, melon, dressings, and many other filling items. Dessert was banana and jackfruit, deep fried then drizzled with honey, and the tea had a distinct licorice flavor from the herb steeping in its watery bowl. Someone remind me what that is, ok? It tasted better with fresh-squeezed dalandan juice mixed in though.
The boys devoured the mango, and the rest of us were absolutely stuffed. The place settings were all similar but most from different sets, and the bathrooms (yes, I’m going to mention the bathrooms) were open-air and lovely, with shells and flowers all around, big basin sinks and a view of green hills and goats. OK, no one needs all those things, obviously, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
We can’t go anywhere without something funky happening. I don’t know if it’s us or the country. While we were dining, a photographer and a cameraman were staking out the place taking test shots. After a short while, and a table set for two, a pair of actors entered and sat down to a meal, apparently on a date. We’re in the background of a very short scene in a local soap called Sports Unlimited. Check your TV listings. We just might become famous.
After lunch we waddled past the massage hut and down to the B&B. With three houses, each larger than the last, the one we toured was available for 6-13 people. I guess the idea is similar to homes at the Outer Banks for entire families to stay, but the idea didn’t really translate. There were 6 queen beds, but only 3 bedrooms, so 2 large beds in each room, with an additional twin in a sort of hallway. Definitely not kid-friendly, the place was stylishly decorated with flowers, glass bowls and gobs of pretty breakable items. I think the room with the greatest interest was the bathroom. Yes, I’m mentioning bathrooms again. There was no tub, but like all the other rooms, the room was bright and airy. The shower poured onto a floor not of tile, but of pebbles, and bowls of flowers were alongside piles of shells. Everything was white, from the bed linens down to the slippers and body scrub. Such a refreshing spot.
Relaxed and full, we left Sonya’s Garden to stop by the picnic ground, see Lake Taal and the mini volcano, and walk the trail. We’d seen what there was to see from the car already so when we returned and the mist had settled heavily over the entire lake and the volcano was completely erased from view, we didn’t feel bad about deciding to head home. Stopping along the way to pick up fresh mini ponkins (tiniest of oranges), bitty bananas (not their technical name, but I don’t know the variety) and a pineapple we finally made it home a little worse for wear. My dad would have a backache for the rest of his visit, largely caused by the bad roads, bad driving and poor suspension of this day trip. I was glad we didn’t plan any other out of town trips. But if we had, we were going to take our own vehicle.
Day Three, Friday, 9 January: There wasn’t much planned for today, just some photos, some shopping, a little food. It was a really enjoyable day overall. I was able to show my parents how I drive here. It’s not that big a deal, but I learned my driving paranoia from my mom, so I guess it is a big deal for me.
At 8 a.m. we ambled over to the playground in our tropical clime casuals and posed for our first full family portraits in years. You can see a couple on our photo page from the visit. Jonathon was not cooperative in the smile department, but remember Nicholas at this age? Same deal. Nicholas had received a Spiderman watch from the grandparents for Christmas, so you’ll notice its obvious presence.
After photos, we went our separate ways. Ian has needed some new suits for a while and while he had three we’d bought from S&K right before A100 began, now he’s doing 6 months in the Ambassador’s office and does need to look sharp. Tack on the 5 day turn-around for dry cleaning (or double the price for next day), it was time to fill out his wardrobe. Ian and my dad were dropped off at King Philip Haberdashery to be measured for custom suits, ready for alterations on Sunday and pick-up on Tuesday. Meanwhile the rest of us took over Powerplant Mall where the girls both visit the hair salon for trims and layering, followed by lunch at McDonalds. Looking back, we should have eaten at Jolibee for the “experience” but McDo is an experience here anyway. I was going to get a cake from Sugarhouse, but the kids couldn’t agree on one, and the menfolk were done with their measuring and wandering through electronic stores, so it was time to regroup.
At home, the Christmas tree finally came down, minus a few that the cats chewed on but with a slew of new additions. It was time. And we didn’t have any pine needles to pick up. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m not sure what the attraction was, but the cats sure enjoyed chewing some of the plastic “needles” right off the branches. Ew.
The housekeeper arrived in the late afternoon and the adults hit the town, more precisely Greenbelt about 5 minutes from the gates of our village. It’s the upscale night time hot spot where every sort of restaurant is available and some way too expensive stores, all around a designer park with fountains and what else, a chapel. After walking by all the dining options, my dad chose La Grappa, an Italian spot that we’d been to before and knew to have good food. We had meandered, looking for outdoor seating which plenty of restaurants had, but decided that the relative quiet of indoor seating was preferable. The entire complex was teaming, expected for a Friday night. We checked out the chapel, purchased some CDs (Classical Chillout, Movie Reel Chillout and a contemporary Gregorian chant CD) and bought movie tickets for a “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” showing on Saturday. Since this city has figured out desserts, we stopped in at Bizu for a coffee and tea break, and some additional time to spend as adults chatting about whatever came to mind, a most wonderful way to finish off an evening. Oh, I’ve got to mention a bit more about Bizu. Our orders were taken on an iPac and on each table was an electronic call button for service. Yes, there were a plethora of wait staff milling about, but the urge to press that button almost got the best of us. Of course we were still stuffed from our meal, so we drove home with our assortment of individual desserts, just waiting to be tasted when an inch of space presented itself.
Day 4, Saturday, 10 January: My parents were finally adjusting to the time difference by Day 4, where mom wasn’t up at 4 a.m. Remember how I said we’d bought movie tickets? Well, it was time to go and the grandparents would get a day with the kids. Grandpa was very prepared to spend the day doing train and track maintenance in the boys’ room.
We left for the show early. Too early I thought, but once we realized the movie was 3+ hours long and lunch had been forgotten, I stood in line for popcorn and drinks at one kiosk while Ian ordered grilled sandwiches from another, and we made it to our assigned seats in a packed THX theater just in time. I loved the film and everything about it, the characters, the story and yes, the grand scenery. But more than that, each time we view one of the trilogy there’s a pang of “Wow, we’re going to go there!” and I get more and more excited about our trip. I’m so glad we decided to forgo a couple weeks in Sydney. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sydney! But (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) I feel a connection with New Zealand, and the opportunity to see the sites of the film along with the cities and countryside has made me giddy.
We had a quiet evening at home, just the 8 of us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Update on Me

The holidays were harder for me than I’d anticipated.

I guess it came out rather clear in my previous entries, I was bitter and a little depressed. It is hard moving away, and of course I knew it would be. I expected it. What I didn’t get was that other people wouldn’t comprehend how much I desperately needed them to step up in my life, as a source of continuity and as a warm steady rhythm to combat the cold spaces left by being alone with our little family in a foreign nation. Of course we create our own family traditions and find joy in each other, but sometimes it’s important to feel needed, wanted and loved by those outside the circle. And it’s nice to feel that others are interested in the life we’re leading. I want to know what’s going on with all of you, it’s wonderful to know you want to know the same of us.
I want to send my thanks and love to those who have stood by us and made there presence known, even from 8000 miles away.
My parents have always communicated via e-mail, been on the end of the phone line and plied us with snailmail. They have definitely kept me grounded, no matter the time or day. They flew 30 hours to reconnect personally this past week. Some would say “But they’re your parents, they have to” and the reality is no, they don’t. But they do anyway and for that there are no words good enough to say thanks and I love you. Well, maybe that did it right there.
Jeff is a dear friend to our troupe. He visited us in Florida, and regularly in Maryland and Virginia. We consider him part of our family. If it didn’t sound dorky, the kids would call him Uncle Jeff. But Jeff’s a real uncle now, so I guess Mr. Jeff will have to suffice. *wink* He’s always been a ready ear when the doldrums of life get to me, sends postcards from his adventures, and generally takes an interest in what’s going on over here. We miss having you over, Jeff, but know that you’re in our thoughts every day.
Christine and I were friends at Marymount, but life dragged us in opposite directions. Then last fall we crossed each other’s paths in e-mail and have been writing back and forth ever since. I’m so glad to have you back as a friend and appreciate the time you take to keep in contact.
Elise has been willing to offer an ear, suggestions and samples whenever the need arose, no matter how tired she’s been. Our friendship has been fitful as we’re two very different people, but for some reason we keep hanging on. Thanks for being there.
Amy from theparentperspective, it means so much that you keep up with the family log and want to e-mail. Even though we haven’t met, it’s so nice to chat with you about the silliness and trials of raising little kids. Thanks for initiating a new friendship.
And I can’t leave out our local friends, Ryan and Laura, who have no qualms about babysitting the kids, spending Christmas with us, or inviting our gang over at the last minute for lunch, playground time and really pathetic game of Taboo. Next time it’s Boggle, though that can’t possibly be fair with Ryan’s knowledge of two letter words can it? We love spending time with you. Next time, our place.
Life gets busy for everyone. I appreciate all of you for keeping us in your thoughts even during your busy days, weeks and months.
It’s a new year and I’m determined to start it off right, by counting my blessings and being thankful for those who have added so much to my life. Having my parents here put many things into perspective. I was wasting a lot of energy being frustrated and bemoaning the friends lost over the past years. What good lies on that path? My father saw what was happening via my writing of the last few weeks. He sent me a book called _The Power of Positive Thinking_ and I’ll start it this week. He and I spent a morning out together where we had a chance to talk over errands and lunch at the Pastelleria. We talked about the evolution of friendships over time, about his plans for the year and about where I should go from here. Personally I’d like to have more children, but realistically I should look into a program that will enable me to teach in the kids’ schools, work in the Embassies or support the medical units. We’ll have 6-9 months in Virginia in 2005 so the opportunity is there. My heart isn’t set on it, but in 2006 all my kids will be in school so then what? Without more babies to fill our home I’ll have to look to the community for a daily purpose during school hours. Anyhow, it’s something to mull over the next year.