Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Holiday Pay and Travel Expenses

She tried to scam me!

A long while back in the spring, our housekeeper asked about her yearly holiday. I have no problems with giving a two week holiday, everyone deserves one. The problem I have is how she went about it.
Back then we'd discussed when would be a good time for it and we agreed that sometime in September would be good. At the time she told me it was because of her daughter's Coming Out party (yes, they still do that here). Fast forward to August and she asks for the last week of September and the first week of October, the "time of her province's fiesta". Again, that's fine. My schedule is filling up slowly but I've run a house before on my own, this is nothing new. Granted I've gotten lazy the past 18 months but I knew I'd cope just fine. Though now I knew that Laura's baby shower was going to be held smack in the middle of the housekeeper's vacation so that's quite a bit of work I hadn't anticipated. Again, no big deal. In the real world, it would be all my work anyhow prepping the house.
Fast forward again to last Wednesday. As I swing by the house to pick up something, she mentions that her last employers gave her a travel allowance during her holiday. She asked if I would do the same.
Being a caught a little off guard, I told her that wasn't something I'd heard of before and that it was a little late to be asking seeing as she was off at the end of the week. I asked her how much the trip was. She didn't know! The only thing she said was that the rates were higher than last year. Not that she said what -those- rates were either. And then she changed her story. It was no longer fiesta time, it was the anniversary of her mother's death and she wanted to go back to her province for it.
Now, she had stated last year that once her mother died she had no more family in Leyte. Everyone else was in Manila. So in essence she was asking to go back to go to the cemetery? OK, I could see that, and yet if -this- story was true then she knew when her mother's death anniversary was and she should have prepared for it, right? Or am I just heartless?
Skip to Friday and she mentions that she's not going to Leyte because she can't afford it and if I need help for the baby shower then she can come. Oh, and that she'll just have to send up prayers for her mother and hope it's enough.
Can we say a poor attempt at a guilt trip? Ugh.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Is that a blowtorch?

Today I had a doctor's appointment at the clinic with Nurse Judy.

Last time she removed several moles from the right side of my back by using anaesthetic and then slicing them off, followed by a couple stitches in each. I went home wrapped up enough to feel like a mummy and the anaesthetic did weird things to me. I'm discovering I'm a little sensitive to drugs in any form.
Today she took off a bunch of oversized skin tags. I've never had skin tags removed so I wasn't quite prepared for it. Just as she was getting ready with the first one my phone rang and being the cell phone slave I am, I answered. Silly me figured she's hold off, but no. I was talking and she dove right in, grabbing tag after tag and snipping them off with scissors. Yowch. Why didn't I think to take tylenol beforehand? So as I made little gasps into the phone with each one and after hanging up she said "Well, I figurd you'd be distracted." I wish. I now had little bleeding wounds and the next step is cauterization. If you haven't had anything cauterized externally without anaesthetic before, it's not quite what you'd expect. Ian suggested it was very hot and felt like fire.
It's not. What it does feel like is quick repeated bursts of thousands of tiny needles simultaneously jabbing into an open wound. Of course a couple decided not to cooperate and kept bleeding anyway requiring more bursts of pain. I told the nurse the only saving grace was that the instant the cauterizer stopped, so did the pain. I had to look up and see what the machine looked like that caused that amount of pain and questioned whether it was just a miniature blowtorch. The nurses got a big kick out ouf of that. But wow. No wonder it took me so many months to go back and get this part done. It'll probably be a couple more months before I get the last portion completed.
At least I'm not loopy while recovering this time like I was last time. It's what I have to look forward to though.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Oh right, the birthday party.

So after the swim meet yesterday, we drove for an hour and a half back by home in the opposite direction, to Malikina.

There we went to a birthday party for a One Year Old.
Now, we had already discussed that we weren't going to go to any more of these parties. We've seen how they're run, they aren't generally that much fun because we don't know anyone but the hosts and really, it's usually far to go for Filipino food and entertainment. But we went to this one.
In Virginia, my parents manage/run/lead the choir and music program at St. Michael's Church in Annandale. A while back, a couple of the choir members started dating and eventually got married. He's American, she's Filipino. We went to their wedding. Then they had a little girl and we went to her baptism and her first birthday party. Another little girl came along and she just turned one. Her mother wanted Isabel to have a party with her Filipino side, so to Manila the family came, and last night was the party. Seeing as are here, we were invited.
There was a Faery theme with loads of entertainment and food and the entire evening was in Tagalog. Our family stuck out just a bit, but at least the kids made their mark. Katherine sang Happy Birthday while the clown held the microphone. Nicholas sang the ABC song into the same mic. An incredible feat, if I do say so. My usually shy boy sang the entire thing and perfectly clear. Rebecca sang Happy Birthday in Tagalog, and there was an audible gasp from the rest of the guests. I guess last year's ISM Filipiniana Week was all worthwhile! She received a hearty round of applause.
Rows of little plastic chairs had been set up so most of the time the kids were sitting watching the clown, a puppet show, and listening to fairy tales, all in Tagalog. It didn't bother them much. Ian and I kept our good humor as best we could as we'd all had a long day and the party ran four hours. Isabel slept for a good chunk of it and missed the dinner of lechon, baked macaroni and barbeque (meat on a stick). Oh wait, that wasn't dinner, it was merienda because it was only 5 p.m. though we had no intention of eating yet another meal later. Isabel also missed her cake. The kids were too tired to eat any cake so they collected their goodie bags and gathered some balloons and we said our goodbyes with the other guests who were streaming out at the end.
Thankfully the ride home was about 25 minutes and everyone was ready for sleep (except Jonathon who had taken a long nap in the car earlier).

Katherine is ill.

After her swim meet and the birthday party yesterday, Katherine came down with a 101 fever last night. Today it's up to 103. I don't know if she'll be off to school tomorrow, but I already gave her a break from her swim lesson today and her swim practice after school tomorrow. If she wakes up without a fever I think she'll be good to go, but we'll see.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Quick post because I'm too tired to write more

Katherine had her first ISM Sailfish swim meet (held at Brent, along with the Brent, British, Manila Japanese and European International teams) this morning and did her very best.

She had four events, 25m in each stroke. For a kid who wasn't swimming any stroke 3 months ago, she did amazing. The biggest surprise for me was her butterfly and how well she's progressed since even a few weeks ago when she hit the flags and basically stopped moving. Oh her arms were going but her forward motion stopped, she was too tired. Not today, today she did great.
I only know her ranking for the first two events so far, the 25m Free (32/41) and the 25m Back (27/31). She had a goal for each race... overall it was "don't get disqualified". And she didn't! For breast stroke it was to touch the wall with both hands... and she did. For butterfly it was to finish... and she did. For backstroke it was to not be last... and she wasn't.
We were very proud of her effort, sending her loads of encouragements as she worked herself into a nervous tizzy before the first event. But 5 hours later she was a successful swim meet survivor. Not the best, but far from last place as well.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The 300th entry.

This is our 300th entry since starting this blog. Most of the entries by yours truly, though the funny ones are almost always guaranteed to be Ian's doing. Since this is me, I'll just give you a run down of what's coming up with us, in case you were wondering.

25 September: Katherine's first swim meet with the ISM sailfish. We get up well before 6 in order for her to catch the team bus at 6:30. We'll follow in our car since the meet is supposed to last until 2 or 3 in the afternoon but if she's done with her races we can leave early, because...
Tomorrow afternoon we have a birthday party to go to in the opposite direction of the swim meet. It's for a 1yo, which at this point I would skip, only the parents are friends of ours from Virginia. They attend my parents' church and her family is here in Manila. They're coming here to have the party and we're invited, so it's not something we can miss.
26 September: Church, swim lesson, letter writing/e-mail/package prep.
The rest is a quick overview -
All Next Week: Preparing for Laura's baby shower. She's due sometime near the end of November and is having the baby here. I get to see and hopefully hold a newborn again! I'm so excited.
27 September: Scheduled to have the rest of mylarge moles removed. Yay. Yuck. Mail everything I prepped Sunday.
28 September: Take Christine to pick up the pictures/paintings I dropped off for framing last week. It was fun deciding how to frame everything, when I got home I was looking around to see what else I could bring in. Definitely affordable.
29 September: Order the cake and balloons for the party. Pick up last minute non-food items.
30 September: Do the rest of the food shopping and prep foods that can be refrigerated overnight. Hope the fridge is large enough, we're expecting anywhere from 25-40 people.
1 October: Pick up cake, etc. Clean house, finish prep. The shower is at 6 p.m.
2 October: Shopper's Day! Shopping shopping shopping. Thank goodness Thursday is payday because I want to buy some quilts. And other stuff.
3 October: Church, swim lesson, letters etc.
7 October: Ryan's birthday dinner at their house. Hmm, need childcare, it's for the adults.
9 October: Palawan for the long weekend!!
Jovy is on vacation for the next two weeks but will come in this Friday to help with the baby shower. We're still going to be using a lot of disposable stuff. It's not going to be a game centered party, but a couples get-together to share the joy of expentant parents. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just such a lousy guesser of how much food is enough (I'm always underestimating for my own family) that I hope I go overboard instead. Wish me luck. Any suggestions on what we should have/do?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


A long while ago we had some photos developed off a CD and while we were there the counter girls had all the kids get in front of the screen and took their picture. Of course some of the counter girls got in there too.

It's odd enough that the kids are fawned over, but that was a little more weird.
Fast forward to yesterday and I had photos to pick up again. They recognized the boys and asked where their ates (big sisters) were. Here comes the eerie part. One of them opens up her own wallet and pulls out the printed image taken months earlier.
Our kids are in someone else's wallet. I guess it's no weirder than the folks in Hong Kong who would sidle up to Jonathon while he was eating an ice cream on a bench and have a friend take a picture. But maybe it is weirder because we actually see these ladies in the kodak shop over and over again.
Even the boys seemed embarrassed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

School notes

Tomorrow night I'm off to the Open House meeting for Katherine's class.

Should be fun. Ian went on the 15th for Rebecca's class and had some words with the teacher about an assignment from the prior week. If Casey makes it tomorrow night, it should be interesting to hear the exchange between her and Mr. Gascon. We do wonder where some of their work comes from, it doesn't always make sense.
Rebecca received her first set of spelling words. They didn't start easy either. Were, There, Which, Said, Will. Couldn't there have been a set of words that could be figured out phonetically? Or have something in common (sound, ending, twist)? At least to break them in? She'll learn them though.
Oh, one more quick note. For some unknown reason, Rebecca cut her hair today. She says Kai told her too. Now she has bangs and a chunk on one side is shorter. I guess we're going to get a haircut tomorrow. This from the girl who told me she wanted to grow her hair long again. Well, that's not going to happen for a long time at this rate.

Getting Around

Last Friday was a day off for the girls.

It was Teacher Appreciation Day, so I guess they showed appreciation by getting all the kids away.
The plan had been for Christine to pick up a couple girls to go bowling with hers, I would drop my boys off at preschool and then take my girls to the bowling alley too. Well, one of hers got sick that morning, so after dropping off the boys, I picked up her healthy kids along with the other girls and we went to Kids at Work in Glorietta instead. Bowling would have been fun, but with just me and a time constraint of retrieving the boys, Kids at Work was better.
So six girls and I played for an hour in that grungy playland. Katie had no intention of going in but after sitting on the side for a bit, she agreed to go in as long as I stuck right by her. It took another 30 minutes for her to climb off on her own. Why is it whenever an adult plays, they become the "monster", the "bad guy" or just someone to gang up on? Sheesh. But I have to admit I had fun. The kids got thirsty so we went to Burger King for some lunch and then Meg asked if everyone could go to her house to play. I called up moms, got OKs, and dropped them all off with the yayas before heading back to Seafront to pick up my boys.
Back to Dasma and my girls and the other set that didn't live in that house piled back into the van. Another OK from their mom and they came to play at our playground. Finally it was time to take them home and wouldn't you know they asked to go play again?
Then yesterday was another driving day. After taking the boys to preschool, Laura showed me Harrison Plaza and where the framing shop she'd used was. I finally dropped off several pieces that have needed framing since July 2002. One of them is a poster size photo of a church in a small town in Belgium where we lived when I was little. I feel the need to go through everything else we own and see if it needs framing.
After dropping those off, I hopped over to pick up Lisa and kids and brought them to Seafront. They don't have their car yet and haven't gotten a rental so I'm trying to help out as I can. Back at Seafront it was time to get the boys, and Katie came over to play until Rebecca got home. Katie safely at her house, Katherine came home, kids start eating as Ian gets home and I'm back out the door to pick up Christime for a sailfish swim team meeting at ISM until 8:30. Drop her back at home and promise that today will be quieter.
And it was. Boys in preschool, I brought Laura, Sonya and Jennifer to the AWCP bazaar (where I found plenty of new stuff to buy, but didn't since Shopper's Day is coming up soon). Katherine's quilt was apparently brought to last month's bazaar but no one called me, and they didn't bring it today, so it will be delivered to the house on Monday. The frames will be done on Monday too. A week turnaround isn't bad at all.
I still want to get a quilt for the guest bed (that I like.. the one I have I decided I just don't care for) and one for our bed. I saw the perfect one today for us but hadn't (intentionally) brought much cash with me. Besides, someone else bought it as I was standing at the stall. It was niiiice.
Next week's duty is Laura's baby shower. A friend of her's, Katherine, had her baby on Saturday so I think Laura is really gearing up for having her own. I'm getting in gear putting it together with Stephanie. My schedule is forming for when to order and pick up items, so I don't feel like I'm flailing too much. The true challenge will be that the housekeeper is off all next week and the week after. I'll be doing a lot of cleaning, but that's OK. I'm determined to come home each morning so I have that child free time to use well.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A side effect of living by gov't rules and regs

Everything is a numbers game.

When we get anything new, we look at style. We look at cost. We look at benefit to the family. We look at durability.
But since our time here is coming to an end next year, the biggest thing we look at is...
"How much does it weigh?"
As we replace items, there a victory whenever the new version cuts down our overall load. If we buy something new the first concern is whether it will put us over our limit. We're allowed 7200 pounds of personal items when heading to a furnished post and coming to Manila we had somewhere around 5000 pounds. Plenty in the clear but the worry still hangs. We hear stories of recent departees who've been over the limit and paid ~$20/kilo of excess, totaling thousands of dollars. The trick for them though was that this was their final post. They stocked up on items like full custom made bedroom sets and a pool table and are taking it all home. We might do that in 20 years, but not now. For now, we count the toys and decide on the smaller TV.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Amazing Race

If you don't watch Amazing Race, then you missed the episode last week with the teams in Rotorua, New Zealand. We didn't miss it... we were hooting and hollering through the whole thing as they zorbed, mucked and shooshed their way through the challenges.

This week's episode took the teams to Manila. You should be watching! So far they've been to Las Pinas Jeepney Factory, Laguna, and the the Coconut Palace. Next week is the two-hour finale, so pull out your TV guide and stay up and watch! We will be.

[As far as we can tell, the taping occurred at the beginning of the rainy season. I'm amazed that no one heard they were hear.]

Monday, September 13, 2004

There's Nothing Much Cuter

There's nothing much cuter than Jonathon referring to Nicholas as his brother.

Saturday was the first time I'd heard him actually use the word and today he said it again. Perhaps it's because usually he just refers to him as "Nicholas" but the other day he told someone "Don't hit my brother!" and it's the sense of possession and ownership that moved me.
Jonathon hasn't been feeling well of late so he's been rather difficult to deal with, but I think he's pulling out of it now and is allowing a touch of reason into his thought processes. In other words, he's willing to listen a touch and perhaps compromise? For a child so loving, friendly and out-going, he is such a handful compared to my other kids that I don't take for granted the easy days with him.
It actually seems that we've all been so very tired lately. I don't know what's going on, but even the kids are waking up exhausted, Rebecca especially. She's sleepy from the get-go and can barely focus by dinnertime. Last night she proclaimed that she was the most tired she had ever been before. She looks it too with circles under her eyes. Jonathon was so worn out that I put him to bed at 5:30 today. It's not at all uncommon at 6:30 while eating dinner that he'll either start to nod off at the table or just quit eating and ask me to put him to bed. This morning he wasn't up until 7 either, so he's either still working on getting over this runny nose he had or something else is up and he's not getting enough sleep overall. Yesterday he fell asleep in the car after church at 11:30 in the morning. He hasn't done that in a long while. By 8 p.m. I'm ready for bed. The boys are begging to be put down at 7 and Rebecca is tired when she gets off the school bus. Katherine has resumed Energizer Bunny status so she doesn't count.
Anyhow, all I'm trying to say is, we're tired! And I don't really know why. Is there something in the air?
[To my parents: We've started taking our vitamins again :) ]

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Guess who we met?

This is a funny story, read on.

For a while I've been chatting through e-mail with a family scheduled to come to Manila. Lisa has asked questions, I've answered as best I could. They have 3 kids and a dog and after a long wait, they arrived this afternoon. Originally they were supposed to land last night but a delay had them stay overnight in Tokyo before completing the last leg. We thought our trip was long.
But they made it and after dropping Rebecca off at a birthday party we swung by their house to say hello. A dog crate was in the yard so we figured we had the correct house, but one doorbell ring... nothing. Another ring... nothing. We were outside the gate and could peek through to their front door, but there was no sign of a dog and no people movements. We'd brought a basket of items to leave for them so we tired to open the gate to leave it by the front door.
I could get my arm through the bars and wiggle the sliding bar out, but there was another latch I couldn't reach. We discussed tossing Katherine over the top of the gate so she could open the latch, but wondered how we'd get her back out if it was locked. A pile of empty paint cans were down the block a bit so Ian picked one for me to stand on and as I was reaching over and just getting my fingers over the knob, the curtains moved back.
"Lisa, the Hoppers are here!"
What a great first impression.
But not all was lost. They were very gracious about our attempts at breaking into their yard and welcomed us into their abode. We did have another purpose for coming over and that was to hopefully keep them busy and talking for a few hours. Perhaps they could beat back the sleep dragon until a more reasonable time. It worked to a degree, as four of the five were active and awake until 5 when we departed. Lisa was obviously yawning by then and I know the kids were beyond their threshhold for exhaustion.
Lisa and Matthew are outgoing and friendly. Ian is Matthew's office sponsor so I know we'll be seeing a bit of them before we depart. I think they'll fit right in.
I just hope they didn't all curl on the couches the moment we left.

Three Years Ago Today

A prayer for all those who lost their friends and loved ones on 11 September 2001.

Three years ago, Ian was working at the Associated Press in Washington DC. The story unfurled when Ian called and told me to turn on the TV after the first plane had impaled the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. I remember telling him right then that it was no accident. Someone had intentionally caused this heartache. As we spoke, the nation exploded when South Tower was hit, followed by the Pentagon. Another plane went down and no one knew if it was part of the disaster or a coincidental disaster all its own.
Later we would learn that United Flight 93 was part of the attack, only something got in the way and it crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We learned that it was most likely headed towards Washington, possibly aimed at the Capitol. The Capitol is only a few blocks from the AP office. The plane went down killing all the passengers on board. It hit nothing and no one.
It was later that day I learned my uncle was on that plane that crashed in Shanksville. My dad's sister had married a wonderful man and they have two amazing kids. My aunt has persevered through pain I can only imagine and my cousins have thrived through their loss.
Over the following days and weeks the pieces came together through cell phone calls from Flight 93, how the passengers knew what happened on the ground and how they decided to do something, anything. No one will ever know what really occurred, but we do know the plane did not go where it was intended.
My uncle was on that plane, the plane that was headed for where my husband was on 11 September 2001. Amid the losses that day, there were miracles and I consider his presence there, his knowledge as a pilot, and the strength of all those passengers to be a miracle for our family.
Through their sacrifice my husband came home.
We miss you, Don.

A Day in Review

I like being busy, but some days are too much even for me.

Friday, 10 September 2004
5:50am - Crawl out of bed. This is going to get harder as the mornings get darker.
6:00am - Wake up girls. Always difficult with Katherine. Had to do laundry last night so she would have a green shirt and khaki skort for a program.
6:25am - Put girls on bus with bags in one hand and a bagel in the other. Life is so much smoother now that I make lunches the night before. And today the girls are buying pizza and the boys have Club Lunch. Only needed to pack snacks.
6:30am - Clean for dinner company. Make grocery list. Have an unsuccessful reading lesson with Nicholas. We're on Lesson 22 in 100 Easy Lessons. He's getting bored with it. Text two parents telling one that the girls won't be at the birthday paty that evening (just got the invite the day before, and it's at the same time as Katherine's time trials), and tell the other one that Rebecca will be at the party on Saturday afternoon. There's another party on Sunday afternoon that all the kids are invited to. It's at the same time as their swim lesson.
8:30am - Pile into car, pick up Katie, head to AmeriKids.
8:50am - Drop off kids at AmeriKids. Take new photos of the field and playground for the school website. Go to ARC office to let them know the kids won't be at swimming lessons on Sunday. The kids won't complain. The ARC office is empty.
9:00am - Work in Seafront library on the Gs.
9:30am - Check ARC office again, someone is there. Tell them about Sunday. Head to the grocery store.
10:00am - Grocery store run for fruit and ingredients for lasagna.
11:00am - Home and break.
11:30am - Put lasagna together. The sauce has onions, ground beef, sausage, carrots, tomatoes and mushrooms. Oh, and a can of Garlic and Herb Hunts. Cover and put in fridge.
12:15pm - Head to Seafront.
12:40pm - See the kids finishing their Club Lunch.
12:55pm - Head home with Kelly and Katie in tow as well. There was something huge going on at the Colegio in Dasmarinas Village. EDSA was completely backed up from all directions entering the village. A normal 15 minute ride took over 45 minutes. Once we were in the village, took a circuitous route to get to Katie's house. Dropped her off.
1:50pm - Go directly to ISM for Katherine's time trials.
2:10pm - Finally at ISM, with a convenient parking spot even.
2:30pm - At the pool, Christine arrives which makes Kelly very happy, and general chaos ensues as computers don't work, parent volunteers are collected for timing, kids are wandering about, etc. I volunteered to time which left my younger set entertaining themselves.
5:00pm - Texted Ian to put the lasagna in when he got home.
5:30pm - They entertained themselves for 3 hours. The parents scored free sodas for standing there. Katherine did her best, even with the freestyle trial where she jumped in at the whistle (take your mark) instead of the beep (go), and swam the entire length... the only one who didn't stop as people were shouting at her. She even tried the butterfly trial. For the last 5 meters she hardly moved with each stroke, she was so tired. The kids had been bribed with pizza afterwards but by 5:30 no one stayed. Meg needed a ride home, my younger three were so filthy and Katherine was wiped out.
5:45pm - Meg dropped off and we enter the house. Kids are tossed unceremoniously into the shower. We had dinner guests coming. Ian was setting the table.
5:55pm - Kids are dressed in PJs. I get into the shower.
6:15pm - Guests arrive. I'm showered and clothed. The lasagna is finishing up. Ian heads to store to get edible bread since the baguette I'd bought earlier is hard as a rock. He also gets dessert from La Nuovo Pastelleria. Yummy.
7:30pm - Dinner done, boys are asleep, girls eat some ice cream. I promised them that since they didn't get pizza after swimming we'd have pizza saturday night.
8:00pm - Girls are asleep. Katherine said she didn't want to read. I don't blame her.
9:20pm - Guests leave. They depart post on Thursday. We'll see them at FSI next year.
This is where I turn off my brain and veg for an hour, then give in and go to bed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Oh Nicholas & other updates

At AmeriKids, Nicholas is the only 4 year old boy with three 4 year old girls. One of them has already told him that she loves him and wants to marry him. He has bashfully said that he loves her too.

Now, for our four year old, love is an extension of like, and I think it's adorable that these kids are being so sweet to each other. It's a class of 12 kids and Nicholas is the oldest boy in the class. It's good that he's getting a bit of attention because at home his siblings don't shower him with the attention he craves. He's still a wonderfully sensitive and sweet boy and she's a sweet girl so I'm glad they are friends. In fact, all three little girls are great.
We had the AmeriKids Open House this evening and I had my 5 minutes of talking about sign-up sheets and asking for someone to take over the website. Lucky me, we have a volunteer, so I know that it won't immediately die. I completely forgot to bring my camera to take photos for the website. Oops.
As with any gathering, we all brought food to share after. I'd had high hopes of making a mild guacamole but can you believe there wasn't an avocado to be had? So I went for the next thing I could think of while staring at the shelves in the store. Hummus. Canned chick peas to the rescue.
The only problem was I didn't have a recipe in front of me, nor had I looked at one earlier, so I prayed I had what was needed. Being the fabulous cook that I am, I didn't. Fresh garlic? Nope. Seasme paste? Nope. I'm lousy at substitutions but with 45 minutes to change and make the hummus, there was no choice. Garlic powder to the rescue. And one recipe I found online actually had a recipe for making sesame paste. The funky thing was that I had a bag of sesame seeds. Certainly not something I normally keep, but it would work. All I needed to do was toast up the seeds, grind them up in the food processor and add the rest of the ingredients.
I didn't add enough lemon juice or sesame oil, it needed fresh garlic and would have done well sitting overnight first. Unfortunately, I overtoasted the seeds so there was an overwhelming smell of roasted sesame in the mix. It didn't taste bad, but it wasn't what I planned. I've come up with something new "Smoked Hummus". Next time I know what to do and it'll be delicious. At least the pita triangles were fool proof.
Laura and I are still plugging along on organizing the Seafront library. It's a fun project as we are both bibliophiles. Watching the shelves take shape and planning what to do with various books has really been enjoyable. I'm hoping when we're done it will be functional for the users. It's a tiny room and doesn't need to be designed like a full-fledged library.
Stephanie and I are slowly prepping for Laura's baby shower. I should say that Stephanie is. She's making and distributing the invites. I'm providing the space (our house) and ordering the cake. We'll do the food together. Ryan didn't want a baby shower in the normal sense, so this will be an evening affair for couples to attend. It should be fun.
Friday the new family I've been chatting with over e-mail finally arrives. Ian is their office sponsor, so he'll be seeing them on Monday. I'm hoping to have them over for dinner next weekend.


As Michele mentioned, we found a food stall at the local mall called "Balut Eggspress." You might have heard of Balut on Fear Factor, but it's a Filipino delicacy involving a fertilized duck or chicken egg. When the chick is still developing, it's boiled and eaten. You suck out the 'juice,' then eat the contents -- bone, feather sprouts and all.

It doesn't bother me so much that we found a balut place. What bothers me more is that it's a FAST FOOD balut place. Like McBalut.

We haven't had balut yet, and seeing as we've got only several months left here, I thought I might regret it if I didn't try. However, we already had lunch. ("I'd really like to suck down that duck fetus juice, but really, I'm stuffed.")
Like any good food court, they had free samples. It's like Chick-Fil-A, but without the fundamentalist Christian overtones... and mature poultry. Sadly, they had no balut samples. It's either whole balut egg, or nothin'. But they did have other samples: quail egg innards, which looked like little orange dumplings, and pieces of what the employees called "one-day-old-chick."
This was not cute furry Chicken Little. This was a skinny dead naked chicken corpse about four inches long. It had no feathers nor signs of feathers, and its eyes were bulging and bluish, rather fetus-like. It was fried without breading. They had a plate full of about 30 of them, all piled up like a mass grave. I don't see how they could be really "one day old," they looked like they weren't born yet.
Nevertheless, they were free samples. Well, not all of one. They cut them in thirds, lengthwise. I picked one up with a toothpick -- the head and upper ribcage.
Wisely, I bought an iced tea.
Michele and the kids wimped out. So I popped it into my mouth. For about a tenth of a second, I thought, "Kinda tastes like fried chicken." Then I bit down, and crushed its skull.
Then it was all bone fragments and squishy parts, mostly the former. The beak was particularly hard to get down. One shouldn't have cranial pieces stuck in one's teeth. Finger-Lickin' Good it ain't. I was queasy the rest of the day.
So I did it. And now you don't have to.

Monday, September 6, 2004

Mine Eyes.

Today is Labor Day and a holiday for us just like the rest of you.

The housekeeper came to watch the kids while I went to a doctor appointment. Ian took me because if all had gone as planned I wouldn't have been able to drive home.

Unfortunately, I went through the preliminary steps and was deemed currently unqualified. Arg. They said to come back and we'll see how things are after a course of minor medication. Ian will have to take a day off from work to do this trip again, and that frustrated both of us.
So what were the issues. #1: My eyes are too dry. I have steroid drops and imitation tears drops to use. Yuck to both. But maybe this is why my eyes are perpetually tired? #2: My pupils are dilated too much in normal daytime light. Eyes are dilated unnaturally to 8.5mm to have a surgery site of 5mm. Mine are naturally at 6.5mm, meaning that if I were to have the surgery, I could have a glare halo for several months. That explains why I have terrible twilight and night vision, especially while driving. I always knew I saw halos. #3: The image of my cornea came back "abnormal". A typical scan is centered with a figure 8 image on the screen. One of my eyes had the 8 but below the center. The other had no 8 at all and was below the center as well. I had to assure the optometrist that I haven't worn contacts in 10 years, so that couldn't be the cause of these malformations, could it?
I didn't make it to the dilation step. Though it could have been done today, it would have taken 2 hours to complete and next time I'll just have to do it again. I'm not looking forward to having dilated eyes in the least. Yuck. That and the LASIK just give me the heebie jeebies. She explained how they have a tool for holding your eyes open during the 15-20 minutes it takes and I can't help but shudder.
Considering how poorly I've slept for the past week because of anxiety over this, I'm surprised I'm still considering the procedure now that it has been delayed.
I just don't know.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Labor Day Weekend

Nothing much is going on this weekend. I've been sleeping a lot the past week, last night I fell asleep while Ian was putting the girls to bed. The middle of the night was some dozing time, but I didn't actually get up until 6:30 this morning.

I wanted to write up a few things that have gone on the past week:
For one, I can't believe I haven't mentioned yet that Nicholas can tie his shoes! I know some prefer to stay with velcro shoes for the first 5 or 6 years but we've always used tie shoes as well and each of the kids has learned to tie their own laces right around 4 1/2 years old. He's proud of himself, as he should be.
Right after Nicholas's birthday he told me that he said he'd wait until he was 5 to learn. And no, I didn't push, nor did we have intense sessions of shoe tying lessons. We took it slow with learning one step at a time. First I'd ask him to just make and X with the laces and I would finish the rest. Then we added in the twist. Later, I'd ask him to make the first bunny ear, and so on. Easy, and now the only thing I do is double knot.
We bought Rebecca her leotard and ballet shoes at SM. If you're in the market for them, you don't need to go to the dance schools. SM has a section near the inside doors of the children's section. The shoe floor has ballet shoes as well. I bought 3 pairs there first (in different sizes), but they are not good quality. I didn't mind though as they will most likely be used as play shoes at home. For $2/pair it wasn't a waste. In the dance supplies section, I bought a much more durable pair for P499/$9 and the leotard for P459/$8. She's all set for Tuesday.
Katherine has been doing well with organization in school. She's only forgotten to bring home her PE uniform once and her spelling book once. She says she's regularly using her glasses and is being responsible for them, to the point of using them for computer, keeping them safe in a locker during PE and then missing the bus to retrieve them from the locker after PE, where she's forgotten them.
I had a talk with another 3rd grade mom on Friday and she was concerned with the class. I admit I looked a little lost. She said that the homework is difficult to follow and I agreed that it seems much of the detail of their homework is left up to the kids to remember from being told in school. Katherine seems to be doing OK with that, so I wasn't worried about it. Then she said that they were reading _Charlotte's Web_ and I completely blanked. She said her daughter was having a little trouble keeping up with the night time reading. I didn't even know they were reading _Charlott's Web_, Katherine has never brought the book home. Then there was the question of the spelling words and where they were coming from. There's a list of about 30 words that come home on Monday and there doesn't seem to be a method to the chosen words.
I told her I'd ask Katherine about it.
Well, about the book, they are indeed reading _Charlotte's Web_, but Katherine has never brought the book home because she reads in her spare time and is well ahead of where they should be in class. The spelling words were explained in the 3rd grade Friday report I just read through. Words are chosen from a 3rd grade list but also from the work done in class. So it seems that all is well.
Jonathon is doing well and enjoying preschool. Everyone loves him, he's the Smiling Boy. Of course not all is roses, he made it to the Red Chair timeout for fighting on Friday. It's his first timeout for the year and it was a doozy. His brother shared the timeout with him for fighting with the same boy.
Yesterday we had lunch at the SM foodcourt. Wendy's, Jollibee, Tokyo Tokyo, so many of the same places as right outside the door. But we did see one that was unexpected: Balut Eggspress. I think I'll let Ian tell about that little adventure.
Today is the CCD Mass at church. CCD starts 15 September, we do the Wednesday classes because otherwise Sunday mornings are a mess with the classes partially overlapping Mass.
Then this afternoon we'll play some tennis and the kids will have their swim lesson. I don't like this timing at all for the swimming but since we don't live at Seafront it's the only timing that works moderatly well for everyone Only 6 more weeks to go and then we'll take a break.

Friday, September 3, 2004


Prayers for the stopping of the heartache and misery and loss in Russia today.

Three days ago hundreds of children with their parents and teachers were taken hostage in a Russian school. It was the first day of school, a group of radical Chechnyans stormed in and took over.
Earlier, a group of about 25 infants and adults were released.
Today when the terrorists agreed to release the dead, children began to escape and when the militants noticed them they opened fire on the escapees. This drew return fire from the soldiers surrounding the school and a spur of the moment siege. It's been 3 hours of a firefight now, many hostages have escaped, several have died. There are still hostages in the school, but the Chechnyans have set off blasts, part of the school roof has collapsed, and in the gymnasium where the children had been gathered there appears to be a pile of bodies.
No one knows anything for certain. Who are these people? How many were there? What do they want? How did the initial group of hostages escape? How many hostages were there initially? How many are dead? How many militants remain? Why are the children practically stripped of clothing?
Watching the children return to their families has me in tears. What heartache. What misery. What sadness.
And what joy for the miracle of safe return.

It's September

This year the girls both have Filipino teachers. Rebecca says school is OK, Katherine said the first day that she had all the best teachers. Neither one of them has any homework worth commenting on (Katherine has spelling words and some math worksheets, Rebecca has some reading and lots of parent involved "work")

Afterschool activities are in full-swing as well. Rebecca had her first ballet class on Tuesday and while she had fun she was also very serious when following her teacher's directions. I'm glad to see her apply herself to something. She should though, she's been asking to take ballet for a year now. Thursday she had her first Sculpture class and she thoroughly enjoyed playing with clay and making a picture with it.
Katherine is still doing swim team. I hope to get over there about once a week to watch her progress. She loves it and it has radically affected her calorie intake. She's much like Helen from "The Miracle Worker", wandering around the table and finishing off what everyone has left behind after dinner.
The boys had Water Fun Day at AmeriKids and then played at Katie's house. Nicholas proclaimed Sean, her big brother, the coolest big brother ever.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Merry Christmas. It's September 1st.

The Christmas season begins in September in the Philippines.

Halloween is celebrated here as well, but while you cannot find a single pumpkin the stores are already decorating for December 25th with trees and lightbulb reindeer with rotating heads. Soon, Christmas music will hit the airwaves. Earlier this week the nurses at Med asked if I was getting ready. Ian has had visa applicants wish him a Merry Christmas.
While I do Christmas shopping throughout the year, I still like to enjoy my holidays in order. I accept that Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here (duh), but since they do Halloween, couldn't Christmas wait until November 1st?
This will be our last holiday season in Manila so we will enjoy it and perhaps even purchase a blinking parole for memory's sake.

My time with Jeff

I too had a great time with Jeff visiting. Though I worked most of that time, and just saw him in the evening, we did have a couple jaunts to ourselves: A long weekend in Korea, and a flight above Luzon Island.

Korea was Jeff's idea, and a darn good one. We hadn't taken a travel adventure together in a long while, so we went to Seoul for a long weekend, as he would be flying through Seoul on the way here. We did some planning, but not a great deal -- just enough to know the areas we wanted to get to.
We spent the first day in central Seoul. We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, a collection of beautiful buildings, temples and courtyards. This palace was the seat of the Joseon dynasty, which lasted over 500 years, until 1910. Then we went to the National Museum, next door. National Museums are either good, or not good. This one was more of the latter -- too many pots, coins, pieces of buildings. Interesting, but they start to run together after the first few rooms. Far better was the War Memorial Museum. Now this was cool. It tells the story from Korea's inception right up until now. Fitting, since Korea's existence is defined by war. Whether that's war against barbarian tribes, Japan, China, the British, the French, assorted other Asian nations, or, most recently, itself, you can track the history and development of Korea by its wars. The War Memorial Museum does a wonderful job of this, through artifacts, videos, even little Chuck E Cheese-esque animatronic exhibits of naval battles. The most gripping story, of course, is the war between the North and South. It's amazing how much we didn't know: how the North advanced all the way to Busan in the southeastern corner of the country, and was days from total victory, how the North grossly outmatched and yet surprised the South, how the South were forced to toss everyone, including Seoul students and military cadets, into battle. We spent over 3 hours there, and could have easily spent more.
On Saturday, we went to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea. No, really. Thanks to a friend at our Embassy in Seoul, we scored tickets to the USO tour of the DMZ and "peace village" of Panmunjom. Panmunjom actually means "Joint Security Area," which doesn't sound very peace-y at all. There, we went into one of the infiltration tunnels dug by the North into South Korea in the 1970s. We got a great view of the "Propaganda Village" in North Korea, which until very recently was deserted and existed only to blast propaganda broadcasts southward. Now, thanks to an agreement this year, it has a few workers in it, and the propaganda is blasted back north. In Panmunjom, we went into the Conference Room, where summit meetings are held and duty officers from both sides meet daily. A line goes through the room, representing the control border between both sides of the DMZ. Hence, we went over to the North. It didn't feel so strange. What felt strange was the creepy DPRK soldier that kept poking his head next to the outside of the glass windows on their side and staring at us. He didn't seem to mind all the pictures taken of him, either.
The DMZ is full of great and harrowing stories, many of which we learned on the trip. Here's one: Why were B-52 bombers, 27 helicopters and a platoon of soldiers needed to trim an overgrown tree?
Seoul is great for stories, as well as souvenirs, but we also took a roadtrip to Gyeongju in southeastern Korea. It took about 4 hours to drive there, more if the map you're using has all the street numbers wrong. Sometime between the printing of our map and when we went, all the highway numbers changed! Lonely Planet Korea doesn't even have a section for driving around, and we discovered that people just don't. Why? Here's three reasons:
1) Traffic in Seoul sucks.
2) It cost over US$100 to fill up our rental car, a Samsung. (Yeah, they make cars. But Samsung cars drive as well as Samsung TVs.)
3) Their road food. They have tons of highway rest stops, like the ones on I-95 in the mid-Atlantic. But the food! Jeff had a fried thing that had a label in Hangul characters that sounded like "Pee Zaa Hot Do Gee." Pizza Hotdoggee. It was neither Pizza nor Hotdoggee. I had something that looked identical to a bratwurst on a stick, complete with grill marks. When I bit it into it, the conversation went like this:
Jeff: What is it?
Ian: It's not bratwurst. It's... I think it's fish.
Jeff: Fish? It's on a stick.
Ian: True, but it really is fish. And squishy.
I was right. It was grilled fish paste on a stick. Who came up with this? "Stupid round-eye Americans won't eat fish paste. Let's put it on a stick!" Ugh.
But Gyongju was worth it. It truly is a museum without walls. It's the seat of the Shilla dynasty, which ruled for about a thousand years. We saw two UNESCO heritage sites, and burial mounds of its kings scattered throughout the city.
Our second adventure together was back in the Philippines. Jeff went up with me in a Beech Musketeer as we flew over Batangas, Lake Taal, Cavite, and Corregidor. He had fun, and only had a tiny panic as I took a steep turn for a closer look at a grass airstrip. Now I need to take Michele and the kids for a flight.
Jeff and I did have another short adventure together, which Michele alluded to. But we decided that we'll keep that one in our pockets for the next time someone accuses us of not being adventurous enough.
Thanks, Jeff, for a great visit. We'll see you when we return.