Saturday, October 23, 2004

Check-ups for Check-out

The family is having medical checks for our clearances. Lab tests have been run, general numbers taken and now we're having the final steps of being looked over by the doctor.

The only thing anyone seems to care about though is height/weight. All I can remember are weights. Katherine is 67 pounds. Rebecca is 56 pounds. Nicholas is 43 pounds. Jonathon is 35 pounds. There you go!

Friday, October 22, 2004

A perk with the FPO

I learned today that shipping between FPO/APO and FPO/APO is free to those of us with access.

Why do I know this? A friend of a friend is stationed in Basra. He's recovering from broken ribs and a fire took out his camp. Oh, and there's shooting and stuff going on too.
So I asked for his address, went shopping this morning at Rustans, recycled some amazon boxes and off they went to Iraq care of the Military Postal Service.
He doesn't know me, I don't know him, but shipping out some Pringles and Skittles with some Chocolate Milk to wash it down(amongst other things), just made me feel better. The lady in the FPO kinda sighed and asked if I hadn't had a bigger box, the paper process was bugging her I guess. Actually, I didn't have a bigger one since I don't like storing loads of huge empty boxes in the house. But really, who wants to get one big package when you can get three smaller ones? It's more like Christmas when you hear your name called several times and have to balance a stack back to your quarters.
Have a great day, Ron!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

bond classified

Last night we found the PICC, also known as the Philippine International Convention Center.

Not to be confused with the CCP, the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Everything says the PICC is right behind the CCP, but as we discovered, it's actually a block down, a block over and another block down. Well, it wasn't that hot a night, and parking was a breeze. Plenary Hall is rather nice. Laura and Ryan came too and they liked it way better than the CCP Main Hall. I have to agree that we had better and more comfy seats this time.
About the time we discovered Maksim for ourselves, we discovered bond. They are a similar genre, crossing the line between classic and rock, with artists as wild as their music.
bond is a quartet with two violinists (from Perth, Aus. and Wales), a viola player (from Sydney) and a cellist (from Cyprus). I admit it was hard to get into at first because of their garish costumes and hyper movements. With Maxim, he sat at his piano. With these ladies, they were skipping and dancing in tight tops and tutu type skirts with wickedly high heels, all while playing their instruments. Quite a sight.
Once the concert started it was 45 minutes late and the audience was typical Filipino. We've noticed this when attending other functions or watching local concerts on TV, the audience does not react. I can't figure out if it's a sign of respect, a sign of enjoyment or a sign that the population is hard to please, but concert goers don't move. At all. The musicians came out and there was little more than polite applause after their first few pieces. The first violin spoke into the mic and tried to get a response with her "Hello Manila!" and you could practically hear crickets.
We were amazed then that near the end of the concert, one side of the orchestra seats were waving their arms! And then... they stood up! The first violin waved her arms for everyone to get up and some people did... then sat down again. By the very last piece, I was baffled because more of the audience was actually staying up and there was noise while folks clapped and cheered and some people were even moving in their seats. They were dancing!
But you know why people were really getting out of their chairs? Everyone had their phones. And they were taking pictures. From where we were, we could see dozens of little blue screens being held up as bond danced their way to the front of the stage and posed for photos as they played. We joked later that we'd love to get a picture of all the folks taking pictures. It's classic.
My favorite part of the concert was the acoustic set. Watching bond play electric instruments is impressive, but I really feel the acoustic pieces highlighted their true talent. Probably because the sound is much purer, and you can tell how intensely and beautifully they work together. They hopped around the stage with their radically unique electric instruments and we were swept away with the power of their music, but the acoustic really shone their talent.
It was a great evening. Ryan and Laura hosted us for dinner which is always a treat and bond plays amazing music that and you can't help but start dancing. One of our favorites is "Explosive". If you watch a video channel, you might catch it there. It's a little odd involving military men storming an empty building, but the group is a little odd all over.
The one thing I would have changed from the evening (ok, two things, but only one from the actual concert) was the spotlight guys. They were AWFUL. Terrible. Miserable. Dreadful. Spots would forget to come up. They would cut off heads. They wouldn't follow the women. When the musicians were lined up, three spots would come up but the fourth would be napping. We weren't the only ones who noticed, so don't think I'm nitpicking. It's distracting when the lead instrumentalist is in the dark.
The other thing I would have changed... I would have taken tylenol as soon as I got home. Go ahead and say I'm just old, but the loud music and the excitement came back to bite me during the night. One thing I really hate is waking up with a pounding head and fumpbling around in the dark for tylenol.
Ok pain aside.... Buy the CD. Or all three.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Braunohler hits Iraq

A classmate of Ian's from his A100 class has landed in Iraq.

Ian forwarded Walter's website where he's always kept a pictoral log and this time is Iraq is no different. Walter curtailed from his tour in Bangkok to do a tour in the "greenzone", after spending some time back home and then going through security training.
The images are there. Some will see a silly guy. Some will see a scary place. Some think "cool!" when he shoulder's a weapon almost as big as he is.
For me, the danger Walter has put himself in is palpable. I want to laugh at his funny captions but instead find myself holding back a tear. To think that thousands have put themselves in the same (and worse) position he has, to be on the front line. People who have pulled themselves voluntarily away from fun and often cushy jobs to take to a trailer in a steamy desert. People who have seen what is happening and feel they can make a difference.
With folks like Walter on the job, how can we not succeed?
Walter's Photos:

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Another busy Saturday

Katherine had her second swim meet today.

For some reason they had her listed twice, once under ISM and once under the European International School, and they gaver her times under the Euro and called the other one a no show. Oops. By the time we left they'd fixed the freestyle score, so hopefully they'll catch on for the rest.
The meet was quite a bit smaller, with three teams participating: Brent, ISM and Euro. Brent was still the overall winner by shear numbers. So many heats were all Brent swimmers and since points are awarded to the 16th place it didn't take a genius to figure out that if ISM won the top 3 and Brent won 4th to 16th, we still lost overall. Since I never received a copy of Katherine's times from the first meet, I can only go by what was on the sheets today for back stroke. She cut 2 1/2 seconds off her race time! The funny thing was that we'd been telling her to stop looking at the other swimmers and that the person she was racing against was herself, to beat her own time. We told her to imagine that the pool was empty. With the backstroke, it turned out that the other swimmers for her heat weren't there so she swam alone and did have the whole pool to herself. Of course was first in her heat. Once I get her times, I'll put them all up and you can see how she's improved.
She opted out of the butterfly this time. I think she would have done great, but we had another engagement to get to by 2 p.m.
We departed Brent and went to Greenbelt 1. I never knew it before, but upstairs by the movie theater is a stage theater. We saw the musical "Pinnochio". The lead was played by an ISM student and a CCD kid, and the proceeds were going to support the San Antonio CCD program. By 3:30 it was done and the boys were fascinated by the whole thing, following the story and definitely knowing who the bad guys were. Nicholas didn't want to go meet Pinnochio afterwards. Seems he didn't like the fact that He was played by a She. "I think he's a girl, mommy," said with a quizzical look. The cat (you know, the fox's sidekick) kept pawing Jonathon and he was none too pleased with that either.
We ran into Meg and Tierney at the show with their parents, so on a whim I suggested Katherine invite them for a sleep-over tonight. Meg decided she really didn't want to, but would come over to play for a bit so we invited her little sister, Katie, as well to play with the boys. We ordered in KFC and made a big pot of mac&cheese, and all were happy. Once Meg was here though, she changed her mind and asked to stay. Ian drove Katie home after dinner and picked up Meg's things, and now the girls are messing around downstairs in their sleeping bags. I told them they could have until 10:30 but then it was time for sleep. We'll see if it works.
This is Katherine's first sleep-over having friends over. It's obviously a first for Rebecca as well. There's been a slight clash with who is who's friend, Katherine didn't want Rebecca around, the other girls said that wasn't being a nice big sister, some tears were shed, one of the girls announced Rebecca was annoying, etc.
I sure hope they go to sleep soon.

Friday was a day for home time.

Friday I didn't leave the house. I can't recall the last time that happened.

That doesn't mean that we didn't do anything. The boys didn't go to preschool, because the preschool came here. It was Visitation day for the class and they came to spend the morning playing, doing crafts and eating at our abode.
There are 11 kids in AmeriKids and since 2 of them are mine, we expected 9 to show up. Two ended up being ill, so only 7 came. Only 7? Yeah, I think it was the adults who took up more space than the kids! They played with a plethora of toys I'd brought out from the toy closet and from the boys' room. Even the car mat came down to the living room floor. Snack time, then they painted papier mache' pumpkins. I think Teacher Nympha had imagined wonderfully orange pumpkins with black stripes, except that I'd bought a rainbow of colors and not one of them turned out orange. We have purple, red and green pumpkins instead. Thankfully I'd had a brainstorm in the morning and taped down several large black plastic bags to the second kitchen floor so there was little effort for clean-up. Perfect for me. We all went to the playground for a bit and then it was lunch time. Once they'd finished eating trays of homemade pumpkin shaped sugar cookies were pulled out and the kids decorated with M&Ms, raisins and sugar.
It was time for everyone to head home. One of the drivers either forgot the time or got lost, so we had time to pull out some puzzles and letters, and read some stories. Five kids seems like nothing after nine kids, and they were all the older ones so the dynamics had definitely changed. It was fun.
All in all, I think it was successful day but I was still worn out by the end. I know the boys had a good time. They had been asking for weeks when their friends would come over, and upon waking they'd asked ever 10 minutes when their friends would arrive. They were happy and even while I was nervous and had spent the week before cleaning up and organizing and planning, it was worth it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Of Trias and Apricots

Jasmine Trias (of American Idol fame) is coming to Manila. The streets are lined with Smart ads (the cell phone company) with her face plastered on them. I realize she's a Fil-Am, but really, should they be so proud of someone who really can't sing? Oh who am I kidding, I've heard enough local radio to know she's fits right in.

On another topic, I gave the kids dried apricots in their lunch today. How did I not know they had the same effect as prunes? Pardon... dried plums. Poor Jonathon.

Oh, and want to know what my day is like tomorrow?

0745 Pick up Katie
(15 min drive)
0800 Exit med exam for boys
0830 Drop off kids at preschool
0900 Exit med exam for me
(15 min drive)
1030 Dental visit for me
(10 min drive)
1130 National bookstore for finger paints
(15 min drive)
1300 Pick up boys
(30 min drive)
1415 Pick up girls
(30 min drive)
1500 Exit med exam for girls
(15 min drive)
1600 Dental visit for Katherine
In the evening I need to clean up the main floor and prepare for Friday when the kids from AmeriKids are coming over for the morning to do an art project and play at the playground. That's what I need the paints for. I also wanted to get sugar cookies prepped for them to decorate, but who knows if I'll get my act together.
Saturday is Katherine's swim meet, followed by a production of Pinnochio, followed by a potluck at Seafront. We're still debating about the last one, depending how the rest of the day goes.
Sunday will be blessedly quiet.
Oh, one last thing, promise! I bought a cookbook yesterday called 1001 Recipes with 4 Ingredients (or less). It's perfect for me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

9-11 October 2004 - Club Noah

Vacation Weekend

9 OCTOBER 2004 – Club Noah –
Five in the morning comes way too quickly on trip day, especially if you’re supposed to be up at 4:30 and the alarm doesn’t go off, creating a panic of trying to wake children along with packing those last minute items with a driver outside knocking on the gate. With our plans being local, even arriving at the airport less than an hour from departure time didn’t seem to matter. The domestic building is tiny with a single room hosting all departing passengers, and glass doors leading to the airfield and awaiting planes. The only casualty for the trip was Nicholas’s blanket… left at home for the duration. As it turns out though, he was so busy both days and so tired both nights, blanket didn’t even get mentioned.
At the airport with plenty of time to spare, we crossed paths with Chad & Misty and Eric & Rachel who were all on their way to Boracay for Columbus Day weekend. It made the time go quicker chatting with them.
Our flight was called and we received our seat assignments and in-flight snacks of mango rolls (think mini mango fruit roll-ups). I was assigned seat #1 while the rest of the family was in the teens. At first the part-time stewardess wouldn’t let me move back (I say part-time because she came on board to get us into our seats and do the safety lecture, then left the plane), but once everyone was on board she determined it was OK. See, we flew a 19 seat aircraft. Upon checking our bag, the bag was weighed as were we so our weight could be split evenly and the plane wouldn’t tilt to one side.
All aboard, we had a one hour and twenty minute flight to Rodriguez ‘airport’ in Palawan. Everyone got a little chilly flying in shorts and sandals with no heat at 10,000 feet but here I’ll put in a plug for beach wraps. They are light and thin cotton, but pack compactly and are warm. The boys shared one and it provided some entertainment as they built a tent over their heads, and the girls shared one to keep their feet warm. Flying above island after island, we spotted reefs and sandy beaches, mountains and rice paddies. The Philippines outside of Manila is just an amazingly beautiful country and one we don’t expose ourselves to nearly enough.
After too many inquiries into our arrival time, we reached our half way destination, landing on a grass and dirt strip and exiting the aircraft to the one room open air lounge where juice and rolls were waiting. Of course the first thing we notice after living in Manila is the air quality. Ian and I joked that we’d have to take deep breaths before leaving to try to hold on to that wonderfully clean air. The kids devoted their attention to the wandering dogs. Thank goodness for hand sanitizer.
The Club Noah representative gave us an overview of the next legs of our trip and once the jeepney had our bags and we were off on a 10 minute bouncy ride along washed out dirt roads and across a bridge of two cement boards. Accompanying us was an armed Philippine National Police guard, a presence we became accustomed to over the weekend whenever we took a boat to another island. It’s part of overall Club Noah security, along with radar stations, boat patrols and on-island stationed guards. Did we feel safer? I don’t know that I would have felt less safe without their presence, but when you consider that Dos Palmas on another Palawan island is where the Burnham kidnapping was, the security wasn’t really overkill.
To a rickety wooden path over part of the river, we collected life jackets and carefully stepped our way to a small motorboat that floated us over to a large bangka boat in the middle of the narrow river. Along this brackish river among the mangroves were reportedly crocodiles and monkeys but we weren’t lucky enough to see any. Since it was already 8:30 a.m. it was too late for most creatures to be out.
We were allowed to sit on the roof of the bangka where the breeze was cool, so all the passengers did. We were traveling with another family with two little girls and some other couples. It was then I realized I hadn’t put sunscreen on our fair skin and we weren’t wearing hats. Did the sunglasses at least count for protecting our eyes? I sure hope so. I did get better about the sunscreen as the vacation went on, but still didn’t account for the ridiculously strong sun on Sunday. More on that later.
Club Noah Isabelle came into view, a beautiful cove with small cabanas on one side of the beach and a mix of cabanas on the other side, including ours, a two-story family cabana. The resort is along the coast in front of large mountains with plenty of jungle growth precariously attached to shear black rock. In the middle of the resort was the beach (advertised in photos as an expanse of powdery white sand, instead a smallish rocky spread of coarse yellow sand) along with the buffet restaurant, shop, clinic and under-construction-swimming-pool.
We took another small motorboat from the bangka to the dock, freed ourselves from our life jackets, and followed the path to a thatch roofed area set up with tables and fruit drinks. Jonathon promptly knocked his drink over and received a replacement as our host explained a map of the resort. Then we were set to go to our cabana. Our bags had magically appeared at the door as we explored Cabana 43. Bright and airy, there were two twin beds on the first floor along with the shower room and toilet room and a small deck with outdoor hangers (invaluable with loads of wet clothes daily). A gate opened to a set of stairs leading down to the sea, literally when the tide was up and the bottom steps were under water. We could watch the sunset from our room, over the main Palawan island. The sea was flat with just the sound of lapping water along the edge. Peaceful is only the beginning. Upstairs was a queen bed and an additional twin on the floor for Jonathon. The windows all opened and the breeze filtered into the room. At night we could close up and turn on an a/c unit and fans. It sounds like a waste but the mosquitoes made it more of a necessity, though now I’m thinking we probably should have taken the plunge and plugged in the electric mosquito killers. It would have made the rooms quite a bit quieter, and there’s nothing like sleeping to gentle water sounds, live from nature. Our cabana was set over the water, on stilts.
What happens first? Swimsuits on, of course. The sky was overcast so we went to the beach to try some volleyball, chase some beach bunnies (literally, the island is crawling with rabbits and there are covered bunny huts everywhere that hold food and water and provide cover when it rains), dig in the sand and play in the water. There were ducks near the beach and a trio of geese that were a plain nuisance. Jonathon really wanted to chase them but they were bigger than he was and we all know how nasty geese can be. These were no exception. The bunnies didn’t want to be petted either, so the kids were reduced to playing with mom and dad. The water was so shallow that I didn’t worry at all about the boys because even if there was a dip where they suddenly couldn’t stand, they could swim enough to get over to a shallower spot. The number one way to get mom to relax is to not have a threat of someone dying every ten seconds and this gentle shore was perfect.
The girls and I tried to make a village but it was hard with so many shells, rocks and coral in the sand. Building became a hassle so we followed Ian’s lead and just picked a spot and started digging until we created little pools along the beach. Why? No reason, it was just fun to do. The sea was warm and so very salty, everyone agreed it tasted simply nasty. We wouldn’t have to add any salt to food for a good long time. Ian said it was way saltier than Virginia Beach back home.
Without breakfast that morning, we were more than ready for lunch. After removing sand as best we could, we settled in at our assigned table with plates full of buffet options. Surprisingly good options, in fact, and there were enough choices to make everyone happy from soups and bread to rice and meats and fruits. The desserts were great too, including banana bread and flan. Lunch timing was perfect as the heavens opened and rain poured down during our meal. It stopped as lunch ended and we prepared for snorkeling. The snorkeling guide ended up being our water activity person for the weekend and was great with the kids. They didn’t have snorkeling gear small enough for the boys but it didn’t really matter. If the boys wouldn’t go down to see the fish, Danding would bring the fish to them. At one point while snorkeling he caught a small clownfish and put it in his face mask. All the kids got a huge kick out of seeing a little fish swimming around his eyes. He released it back home without too much damage to its psyche. Hopefully.
Schools of striped and brightly colored fish were all over, thanks to a large amount of bread tossed in. Some along the bottom were huge. Jackfish created rippling splashes as they came up, but the kids weren’t allowed to feed them by hand because the jackfish would just as likely take a finger or two along with the bread, they were that big. We spent over an hour just finning our way around the dock watching everything under the surface. The coral was non-existent because of the heavy boat activity there. On Sunday we would go snorkeling again at a nice reef, but for Saturday the kids were introduced to the experience. The girls took right to it and Katherine was the last one out as she always is with water activities. The wind was picking up and the sun was heading down so we decided it was time to get cleaned up before finding a snack. Dinner wasn’t scheduled until 7:30 which for my kids is bedtime, so we needed to get some food into them before then. Considering also that they’d been up since five in the morning and had a busy day I was surprised they were hanging on.
Showered and in clean clothes, a slow walk took us back to the main area of the resort and the outdoor pool table. The kids love to play pool, though we rarely ever do. They always ask and since no one was playing, we took over the table and played several games in teams and finally one with just Ian and me. Whenever kids weren’t playing, they were on the beach with our own evening yaya, Miss Ann. She swung them in the hammocks, played badminton and followed them while they chased rabbits. We didn’t ask for all this attention, but kids being kids, they got it anyway. It was nice for us because even while they were always in view on the beach, we could play some pool and not worry too much they’d fall into the water. Even if they had though, the tide was out and it would have taken them a long walk to get to any deeper than their ankles.
At 7:30, dinner time. Too late. Rebecca was hungry but more tired than hungry. She pushed her food around and eventually put her head on the table. Jonathon was glazed over. Before the show began he fell asleep on my lap. Katherine and Nicholas did OK, even after Nicholas knocked over his mango shake, and they all woke up a bit when the show started and there was singing and dancing to watch. The favorite was the coconut dance with men wearing ½ coconut husks on various parts of their bodies and clapping them with coconuts held in their hands. Now that patch on our Philippine quilt makes sense.
We slowly worked our way “home” after a filling meal with more yummy desserts. Jonathon slept the entire way and didn’t budge while having his feet wiped down and being placed in his bed. The kids sleepwalked into their beds. We all crashed hard. I can’t say that I slept, because I didn’t, but I did feel really good being where we were. The kids had a wonderful day and so did we.
10 OCTOBER 2004 – Club Noah on Sunday
Why is it kids wake up at 5:50 a.m. whether they have school or not? *yawn* Good morning. It was OK though. Rebecca read the boys a book, they played a game of UNO and I got a few pages of reading in before we decided to get our day going and search out breakfast.
For an all-inclusive resort, there’s a lot that’s not included, like drinks aside from breakfast juice. Even the cooler drinks after our reef snorkeling weren’t gratis. Of course the gift shop items weren’t included, but the snorkeling gear? The weekend was not cheap and I felt like rental items should have been part of the package. I can understand alcohol, but Coke? That’s probably just me though.
Swimsuits back on, down to breakfast and this time I brought my backpack with cameras. Made to order omelettes alongside yogurts, Tender Juicy hotdogs and something that resembled grits. Thank goodness the kids like yogurt, bread and fruit because that’s what they stuck with.
We had a busy day of fun planned. First was a skip through the gift shop and we examined a project called Art Clay Silver. It’s moldable clay that when fired, all the other properties burn off leaving behind the 99.9% silver particles to create jewelry. I want to look it up on-line, it sounds really nifty. Katherine had asked for a massage, so we scheduled one for 9 a.m. then decided to explore a bit. The steps to the scenic view went up, but not to a view point. It basically petered out and left us in the jungle. So we returned back to the bottom and instead went up the steps to the grotto. The kids were both intrigued and nervous. It didn’t help that Ian kept saying this is where the monsters lived. There wasn’t much exciting at the top, just a small cave opening and a statue of Mary. Katherine asked to explore but it looked like prime snake territory to me. At the bottom of the steps was a baby bunny I picked up to let the kids pet. And so continued the chorus of “I wish we could adopt this bunny” and “Can we bring him home?” I’m sure our cats would just love having a bunny all their own to play with.
At 9 a.m. Katherine got comfortable on the table in the beach side massage hut. Ian and I, along with Danding, took the rest of the kids kayaking. The two of us with Rebecca were no match for Danding and the boys. It was obvious who had been kayaking all his life and who… had not. The boys thought it was way cool to pass us up even as Ian and I struggled not to whack our oars together and actually keep our arms moving. I should note that Ian hadn’t put on any sunscreen yet and it would prove to be a mistake he’d pay for later. We returned to shore when Katherine was done and she paddled away with Danding while the rest of us played on the shore and noticed schools of fish in the very shallow water. Rebecca ran to my bag where I had stashed bread from the breakfast buffet and we spent a good long time trying to catch a fin. My efforts to fling some onto the shore were fruitless. Rebecca didn’t have any better luck holding bread under water and trying to coax the fish into her hands. It was while we were feeding fish that I noticed Nicholas wasn’t there. He had climbed into a kayak and was paddling himself out to sea. He was easily 30 feet away before I noticed and I do believe he’s a better kayaker than both his parents. He, of course, thought it was hilarious and since the water was so shallow so far out, he could paddle around as much as he wanted. The kids played in the seaweed, splashed around, jumped off kayaks and swam under the brilliant blue sky. The tide was starting to go out when we decided it was time to gather for our beach picnic. It didn’t make sense to change, so we rinsed off the sand as best we could before heading to the dock and took the motorboat to beach around the bend where a barbeque lunch had been set out.
A table for six was all set in the shade and the buffet included grilled shrimp, meat and fish. It was delicious alongside the fresh fruit, vegetables and desserts and while we ate we watched schools moving along the shoreline with small black-tipped sharks circling about. After lunch I lathered sunscreen on the kids again and this time Ian put some on his face as he was starting to turn pink. Nope, nothing on the rest of him yet.
Relaxed after a leisurely lunch and swim, we returned to the dock and prepared for snorkeling. This time we were going to take the bangka to Noa Noa island. Jonathon was totally worn out and it only took a minute of laying his head down on my lap to have him snoring to the breeze and gentle rocking. We reached the very rocky shore and in minutes the kids and Ian were gearing up with fins and masks. Jonathon was still completely zonked out so I put down a wrap in the shade and let him sleep. With nothing else to do, I went snorkeling. Of course I could see him at all times! Well, except for the time my face was underwater. We purchased a disposable water camera and each took turns capturing images under the sea. The coral here was much prettier than by Club Noah, but I have to be honest and say it was not nearly as nice as what we saw in Puerto Galera. Danding brought up a sea anemone and yes, it does sting your finger if you touch it. Not terribly painful, but still an obvious sensation. Our guide also used the camera and took underwater photos of us snorkeling. Nicholas quit early because he cut his hand on a rock and the salt water stung too much. I don’t blame him. With the tide out the coral was very shallow and I think we all bumped into a piece here and there and the mini cuts did sting. Even without the life jackets, we could float easily because of the high salt content. I just hope the photos turn out, because it’ll make a great layout when I scrap them. Did I just say that?
Jonathon slept through it all. When I was done snorkeling, he was in the exact same position and only the sun had moved to cast new shadows along his sprawled body. He didn’t want to wake and took a while to get moving. I don’t think he was sad to have missed snorkeling and an Oreo on the boat brought some life back into him. We shared our package of Double Stuf Oreos with two other little girls on the trip.
We were salty, sandy and generally feeling tired, gross and yet still refreshed. A hot shower was definitely called for and we all scrubbed clean and changed into dry fresh clothes. It’s such a wonderful feeling after being soggy and sticky all day. We meandered down to the end of the resort where a club house on the water was set up for sunset viewing and we sat there soaking in the rays while a guitarist serenaded. There was plenty of live music all weekend, while we were playing pool, eating dinner or just lounging around. Favorites were, of course, Tagalog love songs and classics from the Beatles and John Denver. The kids loved listening to Take Me Home, Country Road. Twilight and we moved back to the main resort to the Rock Bar where we had a private table to view the night sky and be serenaded once more. The boys didn’t like it at all and kept asking to leave. Katherine said it was just like Survivor, even as she asked the guitarist to sing songs by Avril Lavigne. No, he didn’t know any, nor did he know who she was. I’m still trying to figure out the Survivor comment myself.
The boys couldn’t hold out anymore, they didn’t like being in the dark on the side of a hill surrounded by flickering candles and insisted that we leave. It was dinner time anyway so we complied. At the bottom of the stairs we checked out the dining area and saw… nothing. Finally we had to ask and discovered that dinner was being held on the beach. A group of Korean honeymooners had arrived that morning, so the buffet included kimchi and plenty of Korean foods that none of us have taken a liking to. We stayed with the pasta and the delicious desserts. This time, Jonathon made it through the show because of his earlier nap, but Nicholas fell asleep sitting in his chair without eating his cake. Dancing and singing and one number that invited guests to join the performers, so both girls joined in. They were all more than ready for bed again.
11 OCTOBER 2004 – Farewell Club Noah
All weekend our phones were turned off and our watches were in the suitcase. We were led by the position of the sun and the rumbling in our tummies. It was a time to enjoy each other and being a family. Why did we leave so soon? This was a three day weekend but there is a single Sea Air flight to and from Rodriquez “airport” each day. I would have loved to have arrived Friday evening and depart Monday evening, but it couldn’t be done, so we enjoyed the time we had and all felt a sense of sadness when it was time to leave. I know that seems extreme but you have to understand how gorgeous, how peaceful, how fun it was to be there. None of us was prepared to leave.
But it was time to leave and while the resort crew sang a farewell at the dock, we took to our bangka for the departure to the main island of Palawan. We watched our plane land and then took to our seats with our souvenir t-shirts and Katherine’s giant clam shell safely stowed away.
We don’t have much longer in the Philippines, and this weekend truly captivated us with how beautiful the country we have called home for a year and a half, truly is. We’re thankful for having had the opportunity to indulge our senses and we’ll miss it once we’ve gone.

Friday, October 8, 2004

My emotions are all over the place.

Rebecca went to the dentist yesterday and last night we celebrated with Ryan for his birthday.

My guess was correct. I am not a dentist, nor do I play one on TV, but looking in Rebecca's mouth last week I saw 2 cavities and those were exactly what the pediatric dentist zoned in on as soon as she opened her mouth. The next hour was taken filling them in and she was quite a trouper even when one of those nasty pokey tools hurt her. The dental office is located in San Antonio Plaza and has a general dentist and a pediatric dentist. I brought the boys with me as well and they were generally good. Mostly they wanted to watch what was happening with their sister, but that was a little boring as she had 3 people around her head and she was watching TV. A flat screen was attached to the arm of the overhead light and Totally Spies kept her mostly distracted. By 4 p.m. she was all better and now carries a toothbrush to school to brush after her lunch. She should also be flossing (the culprit was food stuck between her closely spaced molars) but we'll tackle one thing at a time. Feeling guilty for letting it go this long.
Next week Katherine and I get check-ups and the following week is the boys.
Last night we had dinner with Laura and Ryan for Ryan's birthday. It was a wonderful 5 course meal, with an intermediate sorbet and a menu all in Italian. Laura made awesomely cheesy lasagna, Ryan made a perfect pumpkin pie and together they created minestrone soup that made me not hate chickpeas and celery. If I had to pick, I'd say the salad was my favorite course but it was all so good. And since it took us nearly two hours to eat, there was still room for a second piece of pie. Feeling a bit old, as Ryan just turned 26.
The hard yet amazing part of the evening was Katherine and Weston were there as well with their 2 week old daughter, Liesl. I was granted the opportunity to hold her throughout dinner and it reminded me so much of how I miss having a little person in our family. She is absolutely perfect. I'll get to hold Ryan and Laura's baby next month too and I'm excited to meet her. Feeling sadness and longing on the whole though.
After food, we played 20th Anniversary Trivial Pursuit and while the men took an early lead, the women caught up and -should- have won, but with both pies full Ryan (as birthday boy) got to be extra picky. It's OK, I guess we could let him win this once. ;) Had fun all evening and really enjoyed being out with friends. Ian wants to do a board game night. Cool.
We got to bed too late and 5:30 rolled around too soon. At some point Jonathon had crawled into bed with us and I never sleep well after he does that, so today I was so very cranky and unfortunately took it out on the boys while we were cleaning the car and packing the suitcase in the afternoon. This morning I figured I would drop the kids off at school then come home, do some laundry and take a nap. I knew that's what I needed to do, but instead I went to the library and worked through some of the non-fiction books, skipping breakfast and lunch. You'd be amazed how not enough sleep and not enough food makes me very unpleasant to be around for the rest of the day. One day I'll learn to take a mental health day.
Oh listen to me. I don't do anything all day that makes any difference to anyone but me, and I need a "mental health day"? Days like today make me seriously think I need help and that I'm crazy to think I could manage another child when I was a lousy mom to the ones I have already. I didn't do a good job caring for myself today, much less the little munchkins. Definitely feeling like I need to get a grip on reality.
Anyone have a spare dose they can mail me?
Maybe I should just go to bed.
Told you my emotions were all over the place.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Babies in the Air

1 October 2004: Operation Baby Shower

It was a day of preparation. All week has been focussed on the baby shower with planning, ordering and then picking up and preparing. Friday was putting it all together.
After dropping off the boys, I immediately drove to SM Makati to run through the grocery store. Pineapples, watermelon, cat food (not for the party), ingredients for spinach dip, breads and various items I couldn't find were on my list. How can I go through a store several times and not find a jar of mayo? I don't know especially as this city loves mayo but after jogging through the same aisles, including the condiments that housed both ketchup and mustard but no mayo in sight, I gave up. The vegetables looked great so I purchased several items for a tray. We had nixed the idea of a vegetable platter because finding good raw veggies is a tough task sometimes. But I got lucky. I do have to say that the SM produce section is exceptional.
By the time I paid it was too late when I realized that now I had to carry 8 bags to my car parked across the street, through a smaller mall, up a flight of stairs and into the parking garage. Ugh. By the time I reached the stairs I asked a guard to watch half the bags while I ran the others to the trunk. The inital carry took a toll though and today my shoulders have been so very sore.
Groceries bought, I walked back across the street to National where on Wednesday Stephenie and I had put a balloon bouquet order in. With a little time to spare I also bought some costume gear for Nicholas's Christmas present and a bunch of art supplies for Rebecca's Christmas present. I know I know... her birthday comes first. I can only focus on one thing at a time! Balloons in the car, I left the Park Square I garage and moved to the Park Square 2 garage because I didn't feel like carrying the Red Ribbon cake through the entire Glorietta mall. One lucky stroke, I was parked short enough that it was a free stay.
OK, groceries, balloons, cake. Next stop, the San Antonio Plaza. Rustans had mayonnaise so that was covered. Then I saw the perfect "favor", single packs of pancake mix. Before Laura was pregnant they decided they needed a nickname for any impending baby. Pancake was chosen, their blog is called Pancake and so... each person would receive a little box of pancake mix. After all, it wasn't quite baked yet, just like their baby. A joke went around at the party that everyone should make their pancakes the day she delivers. And then it moved on to everyone should bring their pancakes to Laura and Ryan. Whatever happens, folks got a chuckle and the girls had fun tying ribbons on the boxes.
Our little Santis (an import store with great meats and cheeses and a little of everything else from sweets to sauces to wines and fresh vegetables) had prepared a sliced meat and cheese platter. They did a great job and while the tray was in the case, my counter helper said she'd received three orders for trays. I feel this is something they haven't really explored. The tray looked awesome with salami, ham and smoked turkey, next to gouda, emmenthal and cheddar.
Right next door to Santis is La Nuova Pastelleria with a case filled with delicious cakes. We didn't know if the party cake would be big enough so I'd put an order to have a light vanilla roll cake ready to be picked up and accompany the chocolate cake.
Everything was in the car and it was time to go home to unpack and try to cram everything in the fridge. For some reason all week I'd avoided grocery shopping and it was obvious with regards to the fridge contents and the kids' lunchboxes. They weren't starving, but the foods were getting *ahem* creative. Now I knew why I hadn't shopped because with food for us there would be no room for party trays, cake boxes and drinks to drown an army.
All set, I picked up the boys and Stephenie and so began the final stage of putting it all together. We plugged in our crockpots full of meatballs. Stephenie cut up all the fruits and veggies and made gorgeous platters. We counted out platters and set up the table with plates and cups. The punch would be 7Up with cranberry/raspberry juice and a peach ice float. Scrapbook pages for her baby book were put out for the attendees to sign. Balloons found their stations. I even got a shower in before making the spinach/artichoke in a bread bowl and slicing the pitas. No, I didn't make hummus. Stephenie had designed a diaper cake that looked amazing. Everything was set.
And it was just after 5.
The evening went without a hitch. Laura and Ryan came just before 6, our house filled up as people came and left. Katherine was off at a slumber party but the other 3 stayed entertained, had some dinner from the buffet then went to bed. They enjoyed their gifts. It was an easy evening with plenty of chatter.
The housekeeper had come at 3 to clean before the party, then she hung out until present time when Ian asked her to clear the table. By the time gifts were done and folks were drifting home, all the leftovers were packed away, the final dishes were being washed and there was no stress. We paid her for the evening a hefty amount (after all, she came in on her holiday).
I think Laura and Ryan had a good evening and I think the rest of the guests enjoyed themselves. Of course I'll never hear otherwise, but I know that I had a good time so I'll take their word for it and consider our first party a success.

Following the Age of Reason...

Immediately after the Age of Reason seems to be the Age of Discontent.

Katherine has put herself in a circle of girls that shift alliances by the minute. It's infuriating and frustrating and, let's face it, annoying. Daily I hear the report of who is friends with who. Who is being mean, who's spying (on what? And why does spying need to go on... what're they doing?) who said this or that, blah blah blah.
I could pull my hair out, and she's only 8 years old.
Katherine came home "sick" from school on Thursday. I put that in quotes because I'm not sure what to believe from her at the moment. She hasn't been feeling well for the past couple weeks. A lot of headaches (see above as to my guess why, and the fact that she has takent to drinking almost nothing throughout the day... I'm remedying the latter as best I can, the former, well, read on), stomach aches and general "I don't feel good". Finally Thursday the nurse called from the clinic and I picked her up.
But then Rebecca came home and the "she saids" started. Katherine is apparently having serious issues with a classmate, but it's not who I expected and honestly what I'm hearing just doesn't jive well with what I thought these two kids were like. Then on Friday, the other girl told her mom that Katherine called her a really bad name and flicked her middle finger at her!
Anyone who knows Katherine up to now would say that's impossible. She's simply not like that. But it concerned the other mom enough to talk to Ian. Ian talked to me, then to Katherine. The mom talked to me today and now we're going to get the girls together tomorrow afternoon to hash this out.
Last year, issues like this would be worked out in the classroom during a teacher-led circle time. Mrs. Bayly worked hard to keep the classroom harmony and it showed. Whenever Katherine had an issue with a classmate she would come home a few days later and said it had been discussed and worked out and everyone was friends again. Mr. Gascon doesn't use that route and Katherine has mentioned several times that she and other girls have asked playground monitors to help them work out the problems and they're generally brushed off. I can see why, playground monitors have a lot to watch over. The homeroom teachers play such a pivotal role in how the class meshes that to have what seems like an oblivious leader isn't working for this age.
So tomorrow afternoon we see what's what by putting the two girls together with us next to them and figure out what's really going on. Last year they were great friends, this year they share a class again and the swim team, along with CCD on Wednesdays. Something is going on and we'll find out what.
Along that note, earlier this week we had a bedtime race and I gave the kids 10 minutes to do what they needed to do (go potty, brush teeth and change into PJs). They were done with three minutes to spare, pretty good! Of course I still asked if they'd all brushed and each assured me they had, but Katherine had a chocolate milk (don't ask) and said her teeth were probably dirty again from drinking that.
I happened to go to the bathroom to check the tap, push the stepstools back, etc. and I noticed the toothbrushes. All were wet... but Katherine's.
Now, the penalty for not having everything done (it was a test of cooperation as well) was that they wouldn't get stories. Everyone would get penalized, so it wasn't worth it, right? She said she was helping her brothers. Well....
She said she thought she would run out of time. I reminded her of the 3 minute warning and when she said she was done. I told her she could count to 30 while brushing her teeth and would know for certain that 30 seconds was less than 3 minutes and she would be done in plenty of time. She didn't have a response to that.
The last thing I pointed out, of course, was that lying was never acceptable. And in addition to that, no matter the lie I would either know or figure it out. Perhaps not immediately, but no lie would survive.
I'm disappointed in her at the moment. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Bad Mom Award... pass it over, please.

So Rebecca has been complaining of mouth pain for a while.

Whenever she brings it up (daily), she's pointed to the sides of her mouth and specifically the gums on either side. Since she's of Tooth Losing Age, I kept reassuring her that it was probably her new teeth working their way up, even as she argued that her teeth were not at all loose.
Today I finally actually looked at the teeth rather than the gums she was pointing at and noticed red spots on either side. I had her brush, thinking it was food lodged, and then took a second look. Nope, not food... two gaping holes, one on each side. My kids has cavities and they're bad ones. No wonder she's had headaches for a couple weeks. No wonder she has troubles eating. No wonder she can't fall asleep easily at night.
Monday I'll get a recommendation from the clinic for a good pediatric dentist, then make appointments for all the kids. The 20th is a day off and I can schedule Katherine that day, the boys can go any afternoon, but Rebecca needs to be seen ASAP so I'll let you know what Makati pediatric DDS we go to.
I will wear my Bad Mom pin with shame.