Sunday, May 30, 2004

Friday, and more party.

Party time again, only this time in Katherine's class.

Actually it was more than just party time in the 2nd grade. First thing in the morning, we missed the musical show in the Little Theater, but I heard Katherine played the xylophone.
Because it was the last day of preschool I didn't want to have them miss the day or arrive late, otherwise they would have skipped and attended all of Katherine's functions with us. But it was the last day so we dropped them off with gifts for their teachers, bought some doughnut holes for Katherine's party and then made it to school after the music portion but before the Powerpoint presentations in the computer room.
I have never made anything with Powerpoint. Katherine knows how to make slides with images that bounce around and make noise. I can feel myself slipping behind technologically even faster than I already was. It's not that I can't, just that I've never done it. After seeing Katherine's projects on her home country (What you shouldn't miss when you visit? Why, Giant grocery store of course! Oh and the monuments in Washington too), bugs, Dr. Seuss and simple machines, we all gathered to watch a Powerpoint presentation Mrs. Bayly put together as a review of the year. I cried through a good bit of it. It was a mix of how happy I was that my kids get to do and experience and learn so much, how fabulous Mrs. Bayly was as teacher and how much we'll miss her (she's going to be an ECLC teacher next year), how uncertain I am about next year, and watching my girl grow up in pictures in 10 minutes or less.
Back to the classroom and the final presentation of the day, the Anansi spider play. Several of the kids were jungle animals, one was Anansi (Wendell), a couple were rocks, a bunch were narrators and Katherine played the role of the little deer.
Anansi is a trickster who discovers a rock in the jungle. When he says "My, what an odd moss-covered rock!" he falls to the ground asleep for an hour. Anansi decides to use this knowledge by finding the animals in the jungle who have lots of food collected, show them the rock, have them comment on the odd moss-covered rock and fall asleep, then Anansi would steal their food. The little deer watches from behind some leaves and figures out a way to get Anansi back. She collects a bunch of food to lure him in and he takes her to the rock. Anansi points and says "Look at that!" Katherine answered "What? I don't see anything" which of course irritates Anansi to the point of him yelling about the moss-covered rock at her feet. He promptly falls to the ground and the the little deer returns all the food he stole.
My video tape just made it to the end of the play, thank goodness! They all did a great job, it seems none of the kids are allowed to hide even if they are shy.
More pizza! No more pizza please. It was noon and time to head out for the boys and take some photos of the last day of preschool. It'll be nice to have them home again for a while before our trip.
The girls arrived home at their normal time with Ian following shortly thereafter. And then, the real fun began. That's in the next post.

Then it was Thursday...

Thursday, we toned down the day. After dropping off the kids, mom and I went to the mall to wander and just enjoy some time together.

After popping into a store here and there, we ended up at Landmark which is usually a mistake, both for the sheer availability of everything (I want that, and that, and that) and the fact that it is always over crowded. In the end it was worth a visit because we found lunch boxes for the boys and a new backpack set for Katherine, along with the elusive pair of jeans for Rebecca, and the all-important end-of-year teacher gifts. There is a balikbayan (tourist trappings) section in Landmark where I discovered a wooden set of apple shaped bowls. On our way out of the mall we stopped in the Lush store and in the bowls we would wrap up a pot of Helping Hands cream and Therapy massage bars. Do you think the teachers will get it? I thought it was all very fitting.
Lunch was a Bento box from a small Japanese place in the mall. Mom wasn't too used to chopsticks but picked it up quickly and aside from the sashimi we weren't brave enough to eat, it was all very good. OK, I admit I didn't drink down the tofu cubes in the miso soup. Tofu still hasn't found a place in my daily menu, but it's getting there slowly.
The afternoon was quiet. The boys napped, the girls came home and watched a movie and we spent the rest of the day doing more of nothing. Perfect.

Catching up on the last days of the school year...

Wednesday was a party day.

Wednesday was the ECLC class party followed by a birthday party for one of Rebecca's classmates. The only problem being, we had no birthday gifts. It seems in my rubbermaid box o' gifts, I have items for all younger ages. Something to be remedied over time.
The class party began at 12:30 so we ran into a minor hurdle. Pick up the boys an hour early at noon so we could all go to Rebecca's class, or ask someone to take care of them after preschool until we could get there around 2:45. It sounded like more fun to bring them for crafts and pizza, so we had between 9 and 11:45 to go to SM to pay a bill, look for remaining necessities for our trip, and most importantly get gifts for the afternoon birthday girl and the 2 birthdays scheduled for Saturday. It was a tough morning and while that sounds ridiculous, you try shopping in a place overcrowded with Back to School shoppers where everything is arranged by brand rather than item. Don't like these shirts? There's another brand way over there. But if you're looking for socks, they are in a separate section, also segregated by brand. We walked the entire kids' floor in circles and asking didn't help as each SM girl is designated to her specific aisle and knows nothing about the next aisle over.
It was still fun though because at the bottom of it all we were shopping. And shopping, especially for the kids, is enjoyable.
Time flew by and before we knew it, the boys were in the car, and Jonathon was fast asleep. In Rebecca's class we layed Jonathon on the floor in order to help the kids with a craft that even Nicholas was allowed to be involved in. They decorated cereal box (painted gold or silver) picture frames which would hold class photos from International Week, and they put their own photos on fabric squares, decorated brightly. The class photos came home, the personal photos did not so I'm curious to see what they've done with them. Oh here's a thought... Ms. Cater is leaving ISM this year, I wonder if they parents are putting together a booklet for her of all her kids?
Jonathon woke in time to watch the class put on a play of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. Every kid had a role, so it was 13 billy goats (+1 since Nicholas was in on the action too) with 2 trolls under the bridge and eventually there were billy goats "eating grass" and bleating all over. The trolls didn't eat anyone and everyone lived happy ever after.
Time to eat. On Monday and Tuesday the kids had learned about reading a recipe, writing a recipe and they had practiced building a pizza with paper parts. Earlier on Wednesday they had physically made their pizzas so when we went to the canteen all the pizzas were ready and kids sat in their groups of similar tastes. Rebecca had made a creation with Malcolm, one of her best friends in the class with pineapple and extra cheese. Thing was, all the pizzas were cold and none looked like they had been fully cooked.
The kids didn't care and we decided the brownies were definitely worth the wait.
Rebecca went with Karen to her party and we followed after some playground time for the boys. The birthday party was being held at Kids at Work at Glorietta mall. The kids love the big indoor playground. Adults cringe at just how grundgy and dark and icky it really is. That's not to say that I haven't done my fair share of climbing through tunnels, jumping in a ball pit and falling down slides. There was a party room but it was just too small for the 27 kids and accompanying adults. I couldn't believe there were going to be games. All the kids were situated around tables, the MC decided it was time for musical chairs. All the tables and chairs were pushed to the side and after watching 27 kids trying to set up chairs in a mass, Mom Michele jumped in and organized them into a circle. First round, the birthday girl and Nicholas were out. I wasn't given enough time to count and we were short 6 chairs. Not that they could have fit in the space available but that meant 6 kids were out in one turn. It went quickly down from there. Five chairs taken, then 4, then 3 and so on. Organized and significantly less painful. Katherine won, big surprise.
Then there was the Jurassic Jungle game. Don't ask me where the name came from, but the boys were lined up in one row and the girls in another and then they were told to do things like get in order of height or get in alphabetical order. I suppose it would have been fine if all the kids knew the alphabet or if there hadn't been twice as many boys as girls. The boys didn't stand a chance and they knew that it was unfair. All around not a good party game.
The shoe game was just as unfair since it too was boys against girls and a bunch of the boys couldn't find their shoes in the big pile much less put them on and tie them without help, before the girls were completely done.
The last one was the Give Me game. This one I insisted the girls sat out after they literally attacked me yanking on my cell phone case when the MC called for a phone. I'd already planned to give it to Nicholas to bring up but he missed his chance while I fought off the girls from tearing it off. With the girls out, Nicholas had a chance to win a prize and was satisfied with his pencil and sketch pad. It takes so little to make him happy, and it takes so little to make him sad too.
More food, more pizza. I had a chance to talk to a couple other moms from school but we were all very ready to go home and take a bath. Ian was at a food tasting for the 4th of July so we all got home about the same time and the kids crashed hard after such a long day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

A normal week so far.

It's been a quiet couple of days here at home. Monday, my mom and I dropped off the kids at school then spent the morning doing laundry and packing suitcases for New Zealand. Mom made some great chili for dinner (even though we had *gasp* no ground beef and used ground pork and chicken instead).

Today, we dropped off the kids again, but this time stayed at Seafront to go swimming before having lunch at the Seafront Club with all the AmeriKids monsters. I missed some spots with sunscreen (ouch!), one day I'll learn, right? And lunch was OK. The kids were so cute sitting at their long tableclothed table with real glasses.

After a quick tour of the compound and finally discovering where the gym was, we came home with a snoring Jonathon and pulled together a pretty good Thai chicken dinner after a quick store trip.

But now, after a rough day lounging and missing my bonbons, I think it's time to get some sleep.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A Special Day for Katherine

Katherine took another step in our Faith today as she completed her First Communion.

At 10:30 Mass this morning, Katherine and her 68 CCD classmates took and celebrated their First Communion so she can now fully participate in our Mass.
This was the reason my mom came to visit, and Katherine was happy, excited and nervous.
Last year I'd bought her a dress and it fit beautifully. New stockings and shoes completed the basic outfit, while a lovely lace and bead headband (from grandpa), pocketbook (from grandma), pearl bracelet (from mom), gold cross necklace (from grandpa), communion pin and children's missal completed the ensemble. She was gorgeous, and not just in her outfit. You could tell she was excited this day had finally arrived.
Katherine, my mom and I went to the church at 9 to complete preparations. There we picked up her head wreath and stole. While we had her photos taken with the headband, the wreath she used during the ceremony to match all the other girls. The stole was embroidered with the sacraments she has completed along with their dates, with confirmation left empty to be filled in a few years. We attached her communion pin next to the First Communion lettering.
All the girls were beautifully dressed. I'd feared that some would show in ballgowns or dresses reminiscent of beauty pageants, but none had and all the girls glowed.
It wasn't long before the parents (and yayas) were shooed out to reserve our pews in the church, and Ian and the boys joined us right before the group processed in. And then there was the Mass which was blissfully short and wonderfully touching.
After Mass we picked up Katherine's commemorative box to store her mementoes while the kids had a snack (for like everything here, there was food).
Home for a short while and a change of clothes, then off to Powerplant to grab a few sandwiches for lunch before seeing Shrek 2. A cute movie with loads of adult humor and jokes that are missed by the kids, but the kids kept on luaghing anyway. The storyline was more complicated than the first time around, but the kids didn't mind and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. The music track was boppin' just like the original. Jonathon did great (unlike Finding Nemo) because it was fun, there wasn't a scary thing in it, it wasn't too loud and he had a popcorn bucket all his own. Actually, I think the popcorn might have been his favorite for once it was emptied he announed it was time to leave. He was convinced otherwise without any trouble once I reminded him the movie wasn't over.
We saw loads of folks we knew too. With the way movies arrive and disappear in a couple weeks, it's a must to hit the theater as the first opportunity.
Then home. The kids were exhausted once again. Will they be OK for school tomorrow? We adults stayed up to watch some Survivor finale and the newly recorded Manila post video (coming to an OBC near you). But now, it's after 10 p.m. and I'm too tired to be up.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Waking at 4:30 a.m. for a good reason.

My mom arrived today after 24+ hours of flying and she'll be staying with us for 5 weeks.

Two weeks of her visit will be here in Manila and the rest will be on our R&R trip.
Because the jetlag is horrendous on this trip, we kept her (and everyone else) up for the entire day. She landed before 5:30 a.m. and we were ready and waiting. Gone were the jokes we'd tossed around about having her catch a taxi, or better yet a jeepney or trike. It was so nice to see her again.
We went home for some breakfast, unpacking and relaxing. She was impressed with how well Nicholas and Jonathon are communicating and the girls showed her a bunch of stuff in their room. Yesterday the outside bands of a far offshore typhoon hit, so I didn't make it to do any shopping. Today, it was done at PriceSmart, before heading to Powerplant to get some lunch and purchase tickets for a Sunday showing of Shrek 2.
Off to the Embassy to pick up cash before hitting the pool at Seafront for an ARC pool party. After being up from before sunrise, Jonathon had fallen soundly asleep in the car so we moved him to a pool lounge chair where he continued to sleep for another hour and completely missed the opportunity to swim. I woke him to go inside for the "festivities" (aka raffles, giveaways and of course, games). ARC had hired some radio personalities to host the "Nothing but Water" fashion show and handle the rest of the fun. The show was interesting, if not my style, and thankfully short. I ended up buying a couple of wraps since I feel I've outgrown the "just out of the shower" look a wrapped towel gives, but they are basic Bali tie-dye. Loads of people won items and we participated in all the games. Really. One for moms and kids, one for dads and kids, and one for moms and dads. The mom/dad one was the most fun. In a minute, we had to make the longest chain we could using nothing but what we had on our persons. Our team won and it was basically a challenge of how naked we'd dare get (with swimsuits on, this was a family event). I lent my shorts to one of the other ladies who was wearing a wrap but no swimsuit under. Her wrap gave us a good extra 5 feet. Ian took out the laces from his shoes. We had shirts, socks, shoes and best of all, we all laid our bodies down flat as the time ticked to zero. We won by a mile.
The big prize of the day was accommodations at Plantation Bay. Sweet place to stay and we'd expected it to be a raffle. Instead someone began talking about the resort then asked what the website address was. Ryan jumped up and said Guess who won the gift certificate? Lucky guy.
It was OK though. We're not bitter! We left with loads of coppertone products, a heavy duty flashlight (definitely useful), a giant umbrella (even more useful), and some water toys including water guns (definitely not useful). And it was fun. Most importantly though, it was 5 p.m. and my mom was still awake.
Keeping her and the kids that way until we got home and had some dinner was a bit of a challenge. Nicholas was trying to doze off in the car. Mom layed down for "just a minute" once we got home. No no no. Up we go, have some dinner and then you can conk out. And that's what everyone did. It was just past 6:30 p.m. and the house was quiet.
Tomorrow is another busy day. I wonder if mom will be up at 3 a.m. when jetlag tells her to wake.

Friday, May 21, 2004

PreSchool Commencement.

Yes, it's as silly and adorable as it sounds.

It started with the kids marching in, fully decked out in their blue caps and gowns (handmade by the class aides). Then when they all hop on their marked spots, we had a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner followed by a touching Pledge of Allegiance. What can I say, I'm a sap. To see my boys turn to the flag with their hands over their hearts and sing, to hear them try to say "allegiance" "republic" and "indivisible" and have them participate in the ceremony with its handshaking and bowing, yes I'm definitely a sap. Fully and completely, tears and all.
I'd come prepared with the still and video cameras only to discover the video camera was quite dead. It had been left on all night and that was that. But some of the stills turned out well, so go check them out. The focus of the exercises was of course receiving a certificate and shaking the hands of the AmeriKids board members. Then each child stepped onto a box and took their bow while Teacher Nympha said what role they played in the class. Jonathon earned "Little Man" status and Nicholas was dubbed the "Calculating One". Little Man because he is one of the smallest but carries himself like a big kid. Calculating because Nicholas always stands back to assess a situation before jumping in.
It's always interesting watching a group of fifteen 2-5 year olds. At one point Jonathon was yelling at Stephen Lee to stand up. Stephen Lee would shout back he didn't want to. The twins were making faces, Sunshine would hop every time she had to say something, and Morgan and Megan were so tired they just shut down entirely. Controlled chaos would be a good description of most of the hour.
Part of the evening involved a play based on the book about Grandma Tildy and her elephant who want to attend school (the sequal to _But No Elephants!_). Jonathon had the part of the turtle and was supposed to slide around on his tummy but he was too busy fighting over a plastic apple and chasing some of the other kids. Nicholas had the notable part of the bus driver and he sat perfectly in his chair. He even had a line and said it clearly. Quietly but clearly. The kids are done with their lessons when the bus driver announces "The bus broke!" That's my boy. During the part in the classroom, the kids danced, counted and showed off their regular, speed and rap versions of the ABCs. It was quite a performance. [In case you're wondering, the kids get home via elephant.]
A song and poem and then we learned that the 2 aides are leaving the school.
One of the reasons I enrolled the boys now at the end of the year rather than start fresh in August, was so that they would become accustomed to the classroom, the procedures and most importantly, the teachers. It came as quite a blow to learn that two of the three would not be returning next year and that we now have the responsibility of finding a replacement. I'm glad that the main teacher will remain, but I worry about the additional adjustments Nicholas and Jonathon will be making in August. Maybe it's my own adjustments I'm actually worrying about. I don't like having to worry about who is watching my kids when I'm not around. Yes, I was actually thinking of pulling them out, and I haven't even met the replacement yet, or even potential replacements.
Several people said some words about the aides and then Nympha opened the floor to the rest of us to say anything about them. Can you guess who's arm shot up? Katherine bounced onto the floor and said that she would miss Teacher Djoni because she had been a helper at Camp Critters last summer. It was very sweet of her.
Of course to finish off the evening there was food, and enough to feed 100 people. It was all good. Rebecca almost literally ate her weight in junk food. I was thoroughly embarrassed. We'd had dinner at the Seafront Club right before because I didn't know about all the post-ceremony victuals, so by the time we dug in dessert was all she wanted. A dessert would have been fine, she had 6. That would give me a tummy ache for sure.
The boys were absolutely exhausted by this time and completely hyped up with all the excitement. Anyone with kids knows that's an interesting and volatile mix. Jonathon was out by the time we got home.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Well sure, if we all got paid...

After my post about the election and voting statistics, Laura pointed out that if American candidates paid every voter anywhere between $10-$100 (the folks here were paid between $1-$10, but that wouldn't fly in the U.S.) that we'd have great turnout on the second Tuesday in November.

She has a point.

If you're a regular non-voter, would receiving cash in the mail encourage you to cast your ballot? Would you head to the polls with your Sample Ballot in hand ready to give the paying candidate your vote? Would you say "Thanks for the cash and the reminder" and then vote for someone else? Would you pocket the cash and forget anyway? Would you rail against the ridiculous waste of sending money to every constiuent and then head to work?

Obviously, paying for votes from the common man (ah, you caught the distinction, huh?) won't be happening in the States.

I'd like to think we regard our voting democratic process as something almost sacred.

We should.

Only Adults can say that.

Quick question about something I've been wondering about.

Why are curse/cuss/dirty/off-color words considered adult words?

What makes them acceptible words for adults to use but not children? What is it about them that makes them grown-up? They are only words after all. We give them the power they hold. Specific terms have been deemed unacceptible for polite company even as the terms change through the decades. If there are phrases we censor our kids from using, why use them at all? Does choosing off-color verbiage set an audible line between childhood and adulthood?

Is there a thrill? Is there joy in using them? What advantage is there to using them? Do other adults give you more respect when the dirt spouts out? Does it make adults feel better? And if the answer is yes... why? Words have the power we give them, why choose ones that color black marks across our thoughts?

What is the attraction?

But really, my question is, what makes them Adult? What makes them Mature?

If I start cursing regularly, does that prove I'm more of a grown-up?

Monday, May 17, 2004

When life picks up, I can't keep up.

Goodness, where was I last? I don't think I've written for a week and it's because we've been on the go.

The car is giving us issues again. Besides the leak in the evaporator pan (which we're still trying to figure out if we need to order a part and now would be a good time to do it, or if a part can be gotten here, or even made), periodically the van now decides not to start. It seems to be a battery issue but I can't figure out what. Sometimes the car starts. Sometimes it starts and stalls. Sometimes the lights are on but it doesn't start, sometimes the lights don't come on at all. Sometimes it tries and fails, sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it just sits there like a giant dead metal bug. Frustrating? A bit.
Anyhow, dealing with that, movin' on.
I learned Thursday afternoon that the doctor at the clinic is out of town until the middle of next week, which means that Katherine's physical won't be completed until then and her re-enrollment isn't complete. I told the office, they promised they'd make a note so there won't be an issue with it. One thing the people here don't handle well is having their procedures messed with, so I'm taking a gamble that all will be well. I've already told Katherine that since I missed the Friday deadline that she won't be attending school next year. I figure this way if there is a huge problem I'm covered, and if there isn't then she gets a surprise. I do wish she wasn't so glib about telling her sister though, you'd think she didn't like school. And of course she -will- be enrolled but if you know us, you also know that we make nothing easy on our children.
Saturday was a hectic day. After talking to my parents in the morning, we were at Seafront by 8:15 so Ian could kick a soccer ball around with some friends. I took the kids over the pool and while Katherine played soccer as well, she joined us soon thereafter because it was so very bright and hot on the field. Once Ian joined us I was able to swim a bit in the big pool which is always a nice treat. Katherine worked on her breaststroke as well and aside from sinking with every stroke, her form improved. Is the sinking a sign of no body fat? It's going to take more practice to get the forward motion smoothed out so she's not coming straight up whenever she needs a breathe.
Rebecca is still attached to whatever floating device is nearby and Jonathon thinks he can do everything but had the lifeguard blowing his whisle and jumping into the pool because the kid kept going under. Nicholas wears goggles and arm floats so he'd just dandy.
Around 11:15 it was time to leave. Katherine was invited to a birthday party at TGI Fridays. It was a last minute deal, with the mom calling me Thursday evening with the invitation. But we made it right at noon, stopped in Tower to pick up a quick gift and realized there was no wrapping to be had. Fifteen minutes later, after I'd already gone to the restaurant with the other kids and ordered for us, Ian and Katherine arrive with gift secure in a Hello Kitty gift bag. It's an interesting choice for an 8 year old boy, but oh well, it's what was available. The kids all ate and we sat at a nearby table so Nicholas, Jonathon and Rebecca wouldn't feel completely left out, only to learn as we finished up that the party host had picked up our tab. The Filipino way of inviting everyone who shows up (she had offered to let the other 3 sit at the table with the big kids) had blind-sided us. Perhaps we should have sat in a different part of the restaurant? I have another thank you to write. But desserts were so yummy... mocha mud pie and a 3 layer brownie sundae.
The party was ending and we were off to the next activity, which was Katherine's First Communion rehearsal. It was to start at 2 p.m. and the party was wrapping up at 1:45 so there was plenty of time. In fact, it was planned this way because the birthday boy was headed to the same rehearsal. All set and we're ready to go when I realized that there was a child yet uncollected. I told the host that we would stay with her, expecting her mom to show up right at 2 when even I had thought the lunch ended. Two came and went and I told Ian that he had to take Katherine to the church. It's all of 5 minutes away from Glorietta so she wasn't too tardy, but at the same time we were supposed to be taking the boys to a birthday party for a preschool classmate. I asked Ian to take the boys with him so he could drop them off at the party, but he declined and it turned out to be for the best even though we'd be terribly late. As it turns out, no one noticed.
So we waited for Tierney's mom. Soon it was 2:30 and we were still hanging around outside the TGI Fridays, riding the escalators up and down and playing hand games. I called up Ian who was now at home picking up the gift for the boys' party and told him that her cell # was in the kitchen. He called her up and 10 minutes later her yaya was there to pick up Tierney. Ian swung by Glorietta to pick us up and we were off to the next party. Arriving an hour later I was surprised to see Tina and kids arriving at the same time. And all the worry about being so late melted away. Somehow I'd thought this was a preschool party. In reality it was a birthday party for all 3 of their kids combined with a going away party for the whole family, and done in the clubhouse in true Filipino style, games prizes, MC, ice cream, food, cotton candy and about 100 people. We had not been missed and with the boys getting worn down we decided we'd keep this party short. But not before both Ian and I were subjected to party games worthy of a baby shower.
Ian was called up to do the infamous "drink liquid out of a baby bottle" race. He won. Not sure how. Then it was time for some moms and we did the gag where, behind a paper we're holding up to our faces, we draw our own face parts. Guess what.. by virtue of applause, I won. Cool. When I got a chance to see my drawing, it wasn't even half bad.
Nicholas was on his second ice cream and had already picked up a bag of cotton candy, so it was time for us to depart and pick up Katherine from church. I thought it ended at 3:30 and we arrived at 4. Late again. What a day. She'd gone through rehearsal and accomplished her second Confession. Next Sunday is the big day and I'm so proud of my girl for this step she is taking in our Faith.
Home. Quiet. Peace. Jonathon had fallen asleep in the car and would not wake up. It was lousy timing as I knew he would wake up right about bedtime for a while, but this evening it wouldn't be my hassle to deal with. Saturday night was a night out for the adults, thanks to Laura and Ryan who came to babysit. We drove over to Greenbelt for a movie and coffee since lunch and dessert were still sitting heavy in our stomachs. The movie of choice, well the only movie out that seemed interesting, was "Troy". Ian disagrees with me, but I thought it was pretty bad. There are several points where I simply couldn't watch and it wasn't because of excessive gore or violence. Yes, it was violent, yes it was kinda gory, but I couldn't watch because the acting was mediocre and the script awful. There was so much potential, but the actors didn't have much to work with and what they did, fell flat. I can't watch anything (ask Ian) where I feel the people involved are making fools of themselves. Survivor is the exception, but sitcoms, news programs or movies where people just seem foolish, and I find something else to do.
After the movie, we stopped at Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man, where all the male employees are required to be bald, and Ian learned that shaving day is Monday. A tidbit you never know might come in handy. I had a hot chocolate that almost had to be chewed it was so rich and Ian had a frozen chocolate something with a splash of vodka. Yes, I was driving home.
Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man is kosher chocolate and can be found in it's home in Israel, Sydney, Singapore, at Harrod's in London, and right here at Greenbelt in Manila. They have these amazing hot chocolate mugs, made for wrapping your hands around and taking little sips once it's not scalding. There's a second cup called a Suckao that is just charming. If you're curious and it sounds good to you like it did to us, check out ChocoSphere.
It had been a long day and we were exhausted. Home we trotted, relieving Laura and Ryan and sending them off to Seafront. Thanks guys! Overall, it was a nice day and evening. The next few weeks will be just as full I fear. I hope to get it all down, but forgive me if I don't. I'm already missing so many things the kids are saying and doing, some of them priceless. Believe me when I say the kids are doing great and saying cute and funny things every day. I hope to start catching snippets again so they aren't lost forever.
Oh, and tomorrow is our 8th wedding anniversary. That's why we went out Saturday night. Ian got me a gorgeous gift, a Citizen watch. I see myself wearing this one for many many years. Thank you, dear. Love you!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sometimes they surprise you...

While leaving the school today, I commented that someone had left a bunch of trash on the lawn. It looked like a lunchbox had been overturned and a variety of wrappers and bags were floating about.

Unprompted, Katherine heads over and cleans it up, with Jonathon and Rebecca helping out.

Katherine: "We've been learning about how we all need to work to keep our environment clean."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The last few weeks of school....

This morning I was at ISM for the 2nd grade Japanese Children's Day (May 5th) celebration.

There was a power point presentation and then a puppet show about Momotaro. About a boy (and his name means Peach Boy because in the legend he was born out of a giant peach that an old woman found floating in a rive), who goes off to Monster Island with his dog, monkey and pheasant and fights them until they return everything they've stolen. It was an excellent show. Here's the Legend if you're curious.
Then the kids broke into groups and moved back to the classrooms where they had one room with Japanese snacks, another for origami, another for games, another for stories and another for music and dancing. The kids would rotate through for the rest of the time before lunch.
This afternoon Katherine has her final CCD class before her First Communion. The rehearsal in on Saturday and next Sunday is the big day. My mom flies in on the 22nd and will stay with us until the 25th of June. She's coming on our R&R trip with us. Rebecca has (I think) her final Daisy meeting today as well. Then tomorrow I have to get my act together and get Katherine to the doctor for her 3rd grade physical so I can re-enroll both girls on Friday. Friday is also p/t conference with the preschool teacher.
In other news, with all the rain over the weekend... I can breathe. Wow. I'd forgotten was it was like for my sinuses not to be so closed up that every breathe was an effort. I know it won't last, but boy am I enjoying it.

We survived the actual election day but now I learn....

It could take a month to count all the votes (handwritten ballots, individually counted, cheating galore).

On the evening of the election there was already a demonstration forming by one camp saying that the election was tainted because with -less than 1% of the vote counted- he wasn't being reported as ahead. I'll let you know what's going on at the end of the month.
Ian did make it home safely and stated that being an election observer is one of the dullest jobs around. I don't know that I agree with him though. His stories about being pointed out, whispered about and having a an order made to fix the commode because there was an observer present sure made it sound exciting.
I'd like to say something about the election. Yes, this society and the politics that run it are dirty. They are liars and cheats, whiners and just plain mean. They bribe voters with money stapled to prefilled sample ballots (just copy and go!). Some even bribed with candy taped to trading cards emblazoned with scary images of the candidates with catchphrases like "Advocator for Godly Righteousness." I told you they played dirty.
The people who vote are simultaneously at both ends of the spectrum. They know their governement is corrupt. They know that nothing will change. And yet, they go out to vote. It's standard in this nation of about 80million people (based on 1995 census projections) made up mostly of those who live in poverty, for 80% of the population to vote. OK, granted there is bribery, ballot stuffing, burned ballots and ballots papering the streets, but these people are still voting. Theirs just might be one of the ones that make it to an actual counting room and make a difference.
What are our rates in the United States? Less than 50% across the board.
I realize we have some apathy going on. But really, when our votes COUNT. When our votes can literally change the world. When our votes matter and we can see how our lives change over the years as our leaders change... why don't more of us vote?
I have one simple suggestion that I think the Filipinos got right. They know the importance of the vote, even if at this time it's in name only and nothing good comes of these popularity contests called elections. The people believe in the process, they believe in the effort and they believe that their vote counts. Imagine if we had the same belief. Even "just" 80% of us. What did the Filipino do right to get that sort of number out to the polling places?
Election Day is a national holiday.
I know what election day is like at home. Does any of this sound familiar? I'll try to get up earlier to go before work. Can I run in quick during lunch? Oh the line is too long. After work I'm too tired. It's raining. The kids won't stand in line for it. And the best one, my vote doesn't count so it doesn't matter if I go or not.
I suggest that every 2 years when the big national elections come up, that it's not just the kids who get a day off. Proclaim it a national holiday so there is no excuse because there is no question why you're home. Give the day the importance it deserves and focus on what exactly you're doing and realize your role is every aspect of your lives. The school council makes the decisions that affect your kids. The President makes the decisions that affect our nation and the rest of the world.
Is it time we realized that it's worth it to go out and make ourselves heard? And isn't it time our own government acknowledges the importance of giving us no excuses not to make ourselves heard?

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Ian made it to Bohol

On the news this evening, the 5 leading runners in the Philippines presidential election attended Mass together to pray for a smooth election tomorrow. I was originally concerned about this weekend but it seems that mid-week should have occupied my thoughts instead.

But I just won't think about that right now. First we get through the weekend and open polls tomorrow.
Ian is in Bohol today. He had planned on flying himself in a 4-seater something or other. It's a 3 1/2 hour trip down and then back on Tuesday. He'd have an instructor with him and the trip would cost and arm and a leg, but he'd earn a good chunk of hours towards his license.
Then it started to rain. Friday night it stormed. Saturday night it stormed hard. I finally got the hint to check on the weather forecast at Yahoo! Weather and wouldn't you know, scattered storms through Tuesday. I asked Ian if he made alternate plans because if it was storming, he wasn't flying anywhere. Well....
Before church he received a text that the plane was out of commission. There was a problem and he couldn't fly.
Engage frantic scramble to call airlines and get a seat on outgoing flight at 3 p.m. Watch clouds roll in and prepare to storm again in the middle of the afternoon. Success when Philippine Airlines came through. He was in Bohol by 5 p.m.
Even with all the praying going on (there's been a prayer said at the end of Mass for several weeks now, pleading for honesty and wisdom in this "pearl of the orient") I'm not naive enough to think that it will be a smooth process. But while I know that things could get progressively worse as the week wears on and the count solidifies, my current worry is getting Ian home safely. He has a reserved seat on Wednesday but will try to get on the Tuesday flight home. We'll see if he's successful. Wish him luck, OK?

Harry Potter strikes again.

Or should I say, Daniel Radcliffe?

The kids watched Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets, split between yesterday and today. It's not the first time, and certainly not the last. But today Katherine discovered the deleted scenes, interviews and the bloopers sections. She was laughing herself silly, and asked me about the upcoming Prisoner of Azkaban.
The third movie is arriving this summer (or have you been living under a rock?). We'll be in New Zealand for its local release on the 10th of June and it looks like Christchurch will be a good spot to see it. It's a tradition for Ian to take the girls to the theater, and this will be no exception.
Katherine is jittery with excitement. The trailer looks amazing but it's also very clear that it is not fare for the boys, so I guess we'll be off shopping or seeing some sights in the meantime. I don't mind, I think the dementors might scare the pants off me as well on the big screen.
Discovering the New Zealand release date was actually a bonus during our on-line search. Can you guess what we were looking for? I'll clue you in. Katherine is 8 years old. Enough said. While watching the Prisoner of Azkaban trailer she noticed how much the main characters have grown up. She has a crush and we were on-line searching for a snailmail address for fan mail.
That's right. Today I was entrusted with a sealed letter to Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter star, filled with tidbits about how Katherine thinks he's a great actor and asking if they could become friends. Or at least penpals. All written on her Harry Potter stationery and safely tucked in her Harry Potter envelopes. With Harry Potter stickers. I wonder if she wrote with her Harry Potter pen.
Hey, as a 29 year old mother, I think the cast is pretty darn cute, I love the books and enjoy watching the movies. I'm not about to ruin her good mood and high hopes. She has such a twinkle in her eye when she talks about him.
And who knows. He just might write back.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Jofasin, I want show you munty!

Aw, isn't he cute? Nicholas has come so far, and I can see how preschool is helping him quite a bit too with his speech.

We're currently working on 3 important words. Jonathon (which he can say when we go through it slowly), class and school. The 'k' sound has always been difficult at the beginnings of words, and combining it with other consonents is proving a challenge. But he shall prevail.

It's time for another.......

Traffic Vent.

The traffic has been remarkably clear the past couple days. That's because everyone is gearing up for the rallies, protests and general chaos of election day on Monday.
This post is not about that. It's about the MMDA. Metro Manila Department of... Something. I haven't figured it out yet. I could ask Ian but that feels like cheating.
Anyway, these people are everywhere. They are the traffic cops (though I'm realizing that's just the folks in blue. The folks in yellow and red with MMDA on the back are the street sweepers and roadbarrier scrubbers). At every major intersection, there are anywhere from 1 to 8 blue uniformed guys. Sometimes a woman, but that's very rare. Most often they are standing in little groups casting glances at the traffic. Sometimes they sit in little bedraggled huts on the corner. There's always one or two waving traffic through. Even when the standard 4 lanes have swelled to 6 lanes and there is a bus perpedicular and blocking 3 of those lanes, they stand amidst the unmoving rows of steel frantically waving their neon-gloved hands and whistling for people to move.
We ignore them.
I ignore them more and more it seems. I hate to say this but "everyone is doing it." I've been pulled over twice already. Correction, I've been pulled over once and the second time I was waved at to pull over but I kept on driving.
Does that make me a bad person?
Let me explain and try to defend myself.
There's this one intersection at EDSA and Taft. It goes under the lightrail bridge and the Taft road often has barriers to close off traffic from crossing EDSA. It seems to be the favorite method of controlling traffic here... don't give people any place to stop. U-turns are the favored method of going the opposite direction, even if it means driving several miles out of your way to reach the desired U-turn. Going around a block is impossible.
At this intersection there happens to be a light. I never noticed this light because it's rare than anyone stops at the intersection. Remember the barriers? Well, it seems that sometimes the barriers are moved and cross-traffic is indeed allowed through. When I did notice the light, I realized that it was on the opposite side of the column that is holding up the lightrail. Like it's giving directions to folks on the opposite side of the road. If they happen to glance in their rearview mirror. Which no one does.
So there's this light, that I didn't know was there, at an intersection that generally has barriers up to cross-traffic, and there were gobs of MMDA folks hanging around and along the median.
The light was red. I kept driving.
Now, here's the next bit about the MMDA guys themselves.
When you're in the States and a cop pulls you over, there is no doubt whatsoever what's going on. Right before we left Virginia, Ian made an illegal right turn on red. Cop at the corner stepped out in the road in front of him, pointed at him and turned full body to the parking lot where Ian was meant to pull over. No questions, no confusion. Caught.
MMDA guy stood on the median strip while I was 2 lanes into the road, stuck out his arm and did a little wrist wiggle down. I almost thought he was waving hello to me. It took a split second to realize what he was doing, and in that second, I was past him and moving down the road.
Nothing happened. He seemed to glanced after me and that was it.
I was nervous on the return trip home. Maybe he was waiting for me? Maybe my license place # had been recorded and was being watched for?
And then the reality hit. There are new MMDA folks there every day. Never the same 2 faces and never at the same hours of the day. People are rotated through these jobs it seems almost on an hourly basis. I was clear, but it would take days to stop clenching my fists on the wheel everytime I drove through.
Suffice to say that I am much more careful now at the intersection. I stop when the light turns red (they have since moved the light to the correct side of the pillar) and oftentimes am irritating the MMDA guys hanging around because then they have to come out into the street again to wave me (and any other moron who follows my lead and stops) through the intersection.
I'm more careful for one major reason. Getting pulled over is a waste of time. In Virginia, it's relatively quick and to the point. Give me my ticket, I'll remember next time, let's move on. Here, it's an exercise in bribery, intimidation and a complete waste of time. When I was actually pulled over several months ago (for driving the wrong way down a 2-way street that I didn't know turned one-way for a few hours each morning and there are no signs that -say- it goes one way), one guy held my license while another guy was writing up someone else for the same offense. I don't know if he was the official ticket writer or if they only have one ticket pad to share, but I sat there for 10 minutes while my personal MMDA infraction cop played toss with my license, then let me go after saying Merry Christmas. It was February, but I guess he did do me a favor.
Next time though, just send me my ticket. And leave me alone.

Some cool news.

Our buddies, Ryan and Laura, are going to be parents come November. She had an ultrasound yesterday and showed me the images today. So amazing. Even though I'd had four kids of my own, this process is exciting for me. I've never been able to watch a friend develop through a pregnancy.

She'll be MEDEVAC (is that right?) out in October to have her baby in San Francisco, then will return in January. It'll be nice to get to see the munchkin for a couple of months before we head back to D.C.

I really enjoy talking with Laura. She's a fun person to hang out with and today we spent several hours chatting about a variety of subjects. Nice to keep the brain from getting too mushy, but she has a huge heart as well. She even invited me and the kids to stay with them over the weekend while Ian was gone. Sometimes I wish we lived on the Seafront compound as it seems like all the excitement and people there. But then I remember all the pros to where we are now.

And I realize it's going to be like this every single place we go.

So, did I tell you my dream from the other day?

I had a dream and it wasn't pretty.

In my dream, I was reading a letter from Main State. The letter stated that when assignments were decided there had been an error. The wrong algorithm had been used to determine where we were headed. Instead of Lome', we were actually being sent to Chengdu, India.
First off, I know that Chengdu is located in China and not in India. This is my dream, cut me some slack.
Now, Chengdu nor India was on our actual list, but was ranked #9 on my dream list. We were dumbstruck and confused. I can't say we were furious, it was more the feeling "They did it to us again!" The top set on the dream list was all Africa, just like reality. But it had been skipped over. Why? We couldn't understand. Then more confusion set in as we saw the dated stamped on the letter - April 1st. For one thing, it was dated before our assignment to Lome' had been given to us. That made no sense. And then it was April Fools Day. Was it just a big joke? I didn't know.
And I never found out. I woke up despondant that once again we'd been ignored until I realized that I had indeed woken up.
If you live a life guided by the State Department you'll understand. It was no dream. It was a nightmare.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

There's Tension in the Air

I'm sure that for the local population it's an air of excitement. For me and mine, it's a case of the nerves.

I can't put my finger on one specific issue, but honestly no where feels entirely safe at the moment. The Philippine Presidential election is coming up on Monday (along with gobs of other elected seats) and I don't feel good about any of it. Primarily the issue is the stories and rumors circling about.
I wish I could go into more detail about the whole process, but as I'm sure you can understand, it's simply not a wise decision to do so. Do us a favor though, keep us in your thoughts until Ian arrives home on the 11th.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Katherine the curious

"Mom, don't freak" as she pulls out a wad from her school shorts pocket.

"I found this under a mat at the playground," she says. I can only imagine how long she's had this in her pocket. Since lunchtime? Did she wash her hands at all? Did she go to gymnastics and tumble around with it in her pocket? I'm sorry to say I didn't ask any of these questions, though I did have her wash her hands immediately with soap.
Cradled in a tissue in her hands, a charming yet mostly featherless baby bird. Quite dead. Like a cat bringing home a prize. After properly freaking out her sister and showing her little brothers, I asked her to deposit it in the outdoor can.
I'll have to ask her next time to use a little box or something. Those shorts need a desperate laundering.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Nervous Mom.

Katherine isn't home this evening. She's at a birthday sleep-over.

Ordinarily this wouldn't be too worrisome. The girls both had a sleep-over recently when the Brownie Jamboree ran late and the troup leader had Katherine call us to ask if they could just spend the night instead of us going to get her. It was fine, they live all of 5 minutes away and we didn't have to drive at 11 p.m.
This is different though. Katherine was invited to Dominique's birthday party (a classmate) which is a surprise all its own. Katherine and Dominique didn't get along at the beginning of the year. Mrs. Bayly would tell me about the difficulties they were having, and the steps she was taking to force them to work through their differences. They were given space, but also told to work together on various projects and day-to-day tasks. I wasn't thrilled with Dominique because she sounded cliquish and well, she was hurting my baby's feelings.
Over the months, Mrs. Bayly noted that the girls were starting to get along. They could sit at the same table and work effectively. Katherine was coming home with tales about how they were playing at the recess and having fun in class. I made sure to ask that their friendship was not dependent on casting out others. It seemed that her first friends Meg and Elspeth weren't in the picture as much as they had been and while I understand shifting alliances, I wanted her to be very sure that she was being kind to all her classmates, no matter who she was playing with or "best friends" with now. I know that Meg and Elspeth are good kids, and I knew nothing about Dominique and her friend Joanna. It worried me.
Today we drove to White Plains, Quezon, to drop her off for her party. On a bad day, the drive can take 45 minutes or more. Today was not a bad day. We left at 10:50 for an 11:30 start, and we arrived by 11:15. The party was to start at 11:30 with lunch, followed by an afternoon at Enchanted Kingdom. The kids were expected back after 9, sleep-over time. There were 8 girls and 4 adults going to Enchanted Kingdom, so my first worries over losing her entirely at the park were eased.
Our early arrival wasn't a problem and I was thankful for the chance to meet and speak with her parents.
That's right, I had agreed to let Katherine spend the night at a place where I had never met the parents, in a home I'd never been to, with a child I am not too fond of. Anxiety. What was I thinking? You have to understand that the community in an overseas expat/foreign national/local wealthy class school is different than a public school back home. I'm not sure how to explain it, it's just different. It's tighter and there's a degree of trust, even if you don't personally know the other people.
We had a chance to introduce ourselves and they were kind enough to ask us to stay for lunch, so we talked for several hours. Dominique's dad is Bruce Purdue from Australia. Her mother is Ching, a Cebuano. She has an older brother who is currently at boarding school in Australia, so Dominique is basically an only child. We chatted about all sorts of subjects, but the one that stood out for me was about this party. Ching had expressed surprise when Dominique asked to include Katherine on her invite list. I told her that when Katherine received the invite, she was -thrilled-. What I was pleased to hear was that Ching also knew that the girls had their differences at the beginning of the year. It meant a lot to know that I wasn't the only one hearing from Mrs. Bayly. I already knew that Mrs. Bayly was a fabulous teacher, but to realize that she really is on the pulse of every student and keeping tabs on them was reassuring. We compared notes about the girls and realized that their issues most likely stemmed from both being headstrong, opinionated individuals. In some respects they are too much alike. But the year and the teacher have done them good and they had smoothed over their differences. Dominique had invited her, Katherine was happy, all was well.
But I still have this nagging feeling that only a mom can have. Katherine is a good-hearted kid and I worry that she is being set up for hurt feelings. I worry that she was invited to be ignored. I worry that she was invited but will be left out. I worry that she won't be in the thick of things and she'll be left on the side to read her Nancy Drew Mystery. I don't want to think that Dominique would do that, but I have to admit it's in the back of my mind.
Until we pick her up tomorrow and I see her smile and hear all the wonderfully fun things she did, I'll worry. Afterall, that's my job.
UPDATE: Katherine came home happy and mildly sunburned, sporting a new Enchanted Kingdom t-shirt and lots of stories about wild rides at the park. It seems she was the stick in the mud, for after their return home at 10 p.m. the rest of the girls wanted to start a pillow fight around 11 and Katherine just wanted to go to sleep. That's my girl! They were up about 6 the next morning, and before we went to church I got a phone call from Ching asking if she could stay later with the rest of the group because they wanted to go to the park nearby to go swimming.
When we went to get her, it was obvious that she was thoroughly exhausted. She had a great time with the other kids and all the activity, so my fears were unfounded. Thank goodness. I know I need to give Dominique a chance, even Katherine says I'm not giving her a fair shake. It's just hard to change my impression of her since all I really have to go on is the difficulties Katherine was having at the beginning of the year. I have to realize that other kids and their parents probably say and think the same things about my own kid. For Katherine's sake, I'll let my old notions go.
So we picked her up and while fun is fun she had been wiped out and was ready to head home.