Friday, December 31, 2004

And the Sky Lights up.

HAPPY 2005!!!!

May all your dreams come true in the coming year (as long as they're legal, rational and um... no one gets hurt).

So have I changed?

For myself, 2004 was an amazing and wonderful year. We all experienced and enjoyed so many new things from riding on elephants to traveling across New Zealand. Katherine had her First Communion, we saw my parents -twice-, the kids enjoyed a couple of modeling gigs, and we were able to lounge at the beach twice. I wish all years could be as good as this one was to us.

So here you have My Personal Year in Review:

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before? Traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Around the Philippines we took a weekend in Palawan and a weekend in Bohol. We love to travel and being able to finally do it freely was wonderful
2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Nope, I'm still just as lousy a cook as I was in January, but have discovered the 1001 Recipes with 4 Ingredients or Less Cookbook. This I can do.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Laura did in November. Not only that but she had a homebirth!
4. Did anyone close to you die? No.
5. What countries did you visit? Last year I said "Just the Philippines. 2004 should be quite different." And it was. See #1
6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004? Plenty of time in the States. Woohoo!
7. What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? December 26, 2004. If the earthquake had been on the same fault line but on the other side of Indonesia, we would have been washed away.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Zorbing? Bridge Climb? Vertical Slide? Not exactly achievements, but facing a fear counts, right?
9. What was your biggest failure? I'll have to think on that one.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing serious. Just the crap you get from living in this den of pollution.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A bar in Thailand. No, not a drinking bar that people go to... a rolling bar, you know, a piece of furniture.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Rebecca, she's really trying to pull herself together.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? There are a few, but no one in my personal life. Just people I know of and have to roll my eyes.
14. Where did most of your money go? Travel travel travel.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My parents visits.
16. What song will always remind you of 2004? No clue.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Don't know. I could say happier, but I wasn't unhappy last year.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. I've gained another! 5 pounds.
iii. richer or poorer? "Poorer" but only if you're going by $$.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Played with the kids
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Yelled.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? It's done. We spent it at the beach in Bohol Province, on Panglao Island. Heaven.
22. Did you fall in love in 2004? Yup.
24. What was your favorite TV program? CSI and Amazing Race.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? There are plenty of people I dislike, pity or just don't consider a friend anymore, but I don't actively hate anyone. Takes too much energy.
26. What was the best book you read? _Girl with a Pearl Earring_. My mom suggested it and I enjoyed it. I would have said _Rizal_ by Austin Coates, but I haven't finished it yet.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Sadly, nothing new this year.
28. What did you want and get? Quilts for all the kids!
29. What did you want and not get? Same as last year. Yup, it's still on my mind.
30. What was your favorite film of this year? Hrm, have to think on that one.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I have no recollection of the actual day, but I turned 30, and I like being 30. I feel like I finally fit my skin.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Ah, again, I'll skip this one.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004? Things haven't changed... jeans and tops.
34. What kept you sane? My husband.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? None.
36. What political issue stirred you the most? The election.
37. Who did you miss? My parents and Jeff.
38. Who was the best new person you met? Lisa and Kristine.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004: As a family we have a lot of fun. Outside the house. So the lesson... never stay home :)

It's the last day of 2004

Didn't I do a "Year in Review" last year? Maybe I'll dig it up and fill it out again. But in the meatime...

This week saw the completion of _The Village of Waiting_ and _All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes._
_The Village of Waiting_ was written by George Packer, a former Peace Corps worker, of his time in the village of Lavie in Togo. The book takes place in the early 80s so much has changed with respect to the dictator in charge, Eyadema, but the frustrations of regular village living continue and to some degrees have worsened. Rare passages were hopeful, but overall the book is a look into very desperate situations. Not exactly a warm fuzzy.
_All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes_ was my first novel by Maya Angelou. Definitely an interesting view of black Africa and her time in Ghana in the 70s, through the eyes of a Black American. She's not exactly kind to white folks, white Americans or even black Americans of that time.
I'm looking for something else to read at the moment. I'm debating reading through the Harry Potter books again, or maybe something political. Whatever it is, I need to take a break from Africa. _Emma's War_ started interesting but the Sudanese civil war is just too much at the moment. I stopped _Glitter and Greed_ because it too takes place partially in Africa, and not in a good way. Something lighter is definitely called for and perhaps American politics will fit the bill.
But this post is not about books. It's about what happened on the way to, where else, the mall. This time we actually had a reason to go to the Shangri-La Plaza, but that too isn't the story. It all happened on the way to the mall.
The Scene: Driving down EDSA towards MegaMall, the Shangri-La comes up first. The road splits with the left lanes going under a crossing road. The right lanes go along the side, stop at the light and then continue on. Traffic is very light today.
The Incident: I approached the split, took the right lane and was immediately pulled over by the MMDA "traffic officer". I rolled down the window and he approached.
Me: Yes?
Him: Abrap Swarbing
Me: I'm sorry?
Him: Abrap Swarbing.
Me: *look at Ian* Abrap Swarbing?
Ian: I have no idea.
Him: *pointing down the road behind the car* Abrap Swarbing.
Me: I don't understand, Abrap Swarbing?
Him: *points again*
Me: I really don't know.
Him: Diplomat?
Me: Yes
Him: *waves his hand to go ahead*
I drive on and look at Ian.
Me: Call Anne.
Ian: She's out of town, I'll call Chris (Chris and Anne learned Tagalog at FSI)
Ian on the cell: Hi, Chris? We just got pulled over and were told something about Abrap Swarbing. Any idea what that means? Swarbing? ... Swerving? Wait, Abrupt Swerving? Oh! Yeah, that's probably what he meant! *he finishes converstaion*
Me: Abrupt Serving? I didn't abruptly swerve! Kids, did you feel me swerve?
Kids: No!
Me: Ian, I didn't swerve did I? I changed lanes, that's all, I even used my blinker! Abrupt Swerving!? There isn't even anyone on the road! No one to swerve around, no one got thrown to either side of the car, it was a smooth transition! I didn't abruptly swerve anywhere!
Continue conversation of disbelief. He just kept repeating the same two words without any sort of follow-up and it didn't make any sense.
Abrap Swarbing, my foot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Kinda sad...

The news from the Indian Ocean is horrific. What's kinda sad is how little other blogs I scan from the U.S. bother to talk about it. If they do at all. Do they really think that just because it's "way over there" it doesn't affect them too?

It's all the news there is on CNN Asia, and that's the way it should be. Not because we're actually -in- Asia. Not because we know people who live in the affected areas or visit there. Not because Americans were killed. Not because it could have been us - literally.
But because an estimated 60-80THOUSAND people have died and a large number of those deaths occurred in a matter of seconds the day after Christmas. If you live in a small town... imagine everyone you know washed away and the town dissolved. If you live in a medium sized town imagine the buildings gutted and every single person you know losing loved ones.
The devastation is incomprehensible, even to those who've survived massive flooding and California sized earthquakes. But being incomprehensible doesn't take away the responsibility we have for caring. I just really hope those bloggers are talking about the colossal loss of life in other forums . I hope it's made an impact on their consciousness in some way. I hope some of them have actually considered what they can do to help.
Because if the thought is that Sure, it could have been "here" but it wasn't... Because if hasn't made a blip in their lives... that says more about the average American personae than I care to admit.

Kid Funny

Last night...

Rebecca was asking Ian where a coloring pad she received for Christmas had been put. She asked where he had put her “pitcher”.
Rebecca: My pitcher?
Ian: A pitcher? A baseball pitcher? Beer pitcher?
Mom: A pitcher is for iced tea.
Rebecca: OK, my art, where’s my art?
Ian: Which art?
Mom: Art Garfunkel?
Nicholas: R2-D2?
Commence riotous laughter.
You have to admit, that was pretty good for a four year old.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ian keeps telling me not to say anything...

But yesterday the housekeeper was here and -she- started it, so it's not my fault.

She started talking about the FPJ funeral procession that started Tuesday night, blocking roads and generally creating problems through Wednesday. If you haven't heard, Fernando Poe Jr. died last week after falling into a coma from a stroke. It seems pretty straight forward and honestly it also seems like it was a stroke (no pun intended) of good luck that he -wasn't- "elected."
Not so to the FPJ camp. Apparently, according to them, the stroke was brought on by the depression he had fallen into from having the election stolen from him. His death was all President Arroyo's fault. Perhaps she "killed" him to avoid a coup? (Does this country even know what a coup is? They've tried multiple times but never seem to succeed because everyone is so disorganized. People Power seems to be their sole method of political overthrow and the folks have to be -really- bad for them to do anything.. and then they'll forget and welcome the baddies back anyway.) Perhaps she "killed" him to send a message? Perhaps... who knows?
Draw what you wish from that revelation... he's dead and as far as anyone knows, no one tried to poison him like that guy in Kiev who miraculously isn't daed.
So last week, Arroyo sent a funeral wreath and the FPJ camp tore it to shreds and burnt it. It says a lot about what's wrong with this place.
Which brings me back to the housekeeper. She came into the kitchen and struck up a conversation about the bad traffic and the closed roads from the funeral procession. Anything different on the road means loong back-ups, just like anywhere in the world, so I gave expected sympathy for the delays. And then the conversation went a bit like this:
Her: Roadblocks are up and people from the provinces haven't been allowed to come for the procession. I think Pres. Gloria doesn't like so many people here. It's not fair to the provinces. They want to march too. No invitations had to be sent out, so many people liked FPJ, he was such a nice man and did so many good things. Gloria, she just likes to smile.
Me: Uh huh.
Her: Gloria put more security around.
Me: The Palace?
Her: Yes. I don't know but it's probably because she feels guilty. That's what people who feel guilty do. She knows she did wrong and she thinks she needs more protection.
Me: Well, it's a common thing to do when a President expects large crowds.
Her: I think she is guilty, feeling guilty. And to keep those provincial buses away, she is scared of so many people liking FPJ. Her flowers she sent? *she chuckles*
Me: Yes, I heard what they did. I thought that was very sad. Once people have died, differences don't matter anymore and it was sad that they reacted that way rather than show some respect.
Her: *silence* Yes, well... *silence* His friend who gave a speech said that FPJ turned down important invitations to go to homes of people like farmers and dentists. And he helped them. He said "FPJ didn't want this to be told" because he is a good man who wanted to help but not for everyone to know. He helped so many people like that. His best friend...
Me: Estrada?
Her: Oh, he's a very nice man too. He did many good things for people, people really liked him.
Me: He also stole billions of pesos from the country.
Her: *silence*
And it was time for lunch with the kids.
I brought up not being thrilled with our current President and there was some mention of Ninoy Aquino in there too, but it got lost in the jumble. Honestly, she is a regular member of the largest class in the city, the Upper Lower, and from Ian's perspective she is typical. One guy is a movie star and the other is a little woman who smiles a lot?
Let's pick the movie star!

Fred Franke's Passing

We've learned more about Fred's death while he was teaching in China. He contracted Bacterial Endocarditis which is often confused with the flu, but is extremely dangerous to those with a prior heart condition.

He has been brought home and his funeral service was held on December 18th.

An eye-opener

Yesterday was the day for Katherine to execute her gift-giving endeavor.

For many weeks Katherine has been gathering toiletries, candy and small toys to parcel together in bags (some of which I made with my rediscovered basic ability with the sewing machine) and give to the street children we see on the way to the Embassy.
In theory a wonderful and generous idea. In reality, well.... still wonderful and generous but not quite what she'd envisioned.
Katherine imagined a young beggar at the window. She would roll down the window and happily pass a bag of goodies over, saying "Maligayang Pasko" and being thanked with a smile. Then another child beggar would come and she would repeat the scenario.
I'd gone through the process that would actually occur. I told her that once one child received something, the rest would swarm the car. I told her that I would control the window and that if it got to be too much we would shut it. She worried that someone would get their hand caught, I said they would move. I don't think she took me too seriously but when it was all done I realized that I hadn't thought everything through. The largest fault was mine, in letting her hand out bags before we were right at the light. We had a couple cycles to go through and it was too long to sit with children and teens and adults mauling the car.
A couple of kids knocked on the window and I allowed her to pass out some bags. And like I predicted, the car was swarmed. I opened the window too far to try to get gifts to the lower, smaller kids but bigger kids started grabbing them right from Katherine, and not just one at at time. Then the worst part, the adults ran over and shoved THEIR hands in the car. I shut the window 3/4 of the way, I yelled at them to go away, I yelled that the bags were for the children. They ignored me. I shut the window on one man's arm and had to lower it a bit so he could pull it out.
The light changed and I moved up, but like I said not through the intersection, so the children that hadn't received anything ran down the street following us. Katherine was able to hand out a few more before the throng grew too big and I had to shut the window again. We ignored the rest who kept panting on the window and knocking.
The light changed again and we were still not through the intersection. One child decided he didn't want to run after the car so he HUNG ONTO the rear view mirror while I drove! He had a rock in his hand and when we stopped again, he knocked with the rock on the window, a loud irritating noise. I told him to knock it off and one of his buddies would periodically stop him, but I discovered later that when he wasn't knocking on the window he was -scratching the paint of the car-. There were three or four more bags and we gave them only to the young ladies holding infants. We realized after that the girls were well-behaved while the boys were obviously not.
The light finally changed for the last time and with no one hanging on the car, but instead with a final smack and a few kicks, we made it through relatively unscathed. Physically at least, for Katherine was emotionally worn.
She'd wanted to be the benevolent gift-giver. She'd actually wanted to walk around the street handing out bags but I'd figured this was a reasonable compromise where we were secure and I was in control. It didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Katherine was confused as to why the people were so mean. Why did one of them almost touch her (he didn't, I wouldn't have allowed that). Why did they scrape the car and why didn't they say Thank You? Why didn't she get to say Maligayang Pasko like she'd practiced.
Why wasn't it a good experience being nice to others?
I asked her what her goal had been. To give away to those less fortunate? Then her goal was accomplished. We also agreed that next time (for in Togo the children have even less) we would do it differently. Katherine has a vision of going from door to door at night and mysteriously dropping packages at their door. I had to remind her that the children she was giving to didn't have houses, much less doors. But we'll think of something else. There are always organized gift-giving programs, so we will participate with something like that until she and the other kids are much much older.
I'm extremely proud of Katherine for wanting to give the way that she did. I hope that all the kids develop the same sort of desire to share what they can. We both learned something from this experience and it wasn't all bad. We talked a lot about -why- the people we'd encountered behaved the way they did and while none of the kids really understand it (how can they?) it will prepare them a bit for our next stop in Togo.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Twas the Week Before Christmas

I'm enjoying the down time and the relaxed feeling from not driving all around town. Today it was just me and the kids at home. I couldn't figure out what was weird outside until I realized the driveway gate was closed and we hadn't left the house but to go the playground next door. Sure, it'll get boring eventually, but today was nice to spend the day cleaning, reading and even some playing with the kids.

Friday was the last day of school for all four of them. The boys had caroling at the Seafront offices, the girls had a 1/2 day and received their report cards. With all the parties already completed earlier in the week, I don't know what they could possibly have been doing on Friday. Anyhow, both girls did well, Katherine received a single D (they have four "grades" in 3rd grade... A(dvanced), M(eets Requirements), D(eveloping) and N(eeds Improvement)). Her D was in, what else, Listening. It's gotten to the point that we just chuckle. Bad parents, I know. But it's not that she's not learning or being disruptive, she's usually just too busy reading and we're working on that. She's gotten better with her in-class organization so there has been improvement. Small, but important.
That afternoon we spent at Glorietta where the kids had clothing and stage rehearsal for another modeling gig. Rebecca and Nicholas had been hired, while Katherine and Jonathon offered to do it on the spot and were accepted. At the moment, only the first two have been paid for it and I don't know if the other two will be as well. We'll see. They had fun anyhow. Jonathon loved being on the stage and struck some very silly poses. We've been practicing with Katherine to have her use a more natural walk than what she perceived was a "model walk" with flamboyant shoulder moved. With the shoulders toned down, she moved smoothly and looked lovely. The rehearsal was long, disjointed and chaotic, but it finally ended around 6 p.m. Ian met us there and we had dinner at the Outback. The afternoon had worn Jonathon out, he fell asleep on my lap and missed the Glorietta fireworks on the drive home. The other kids were thrilled though. Not just fireworks, but fireworks from the backseat of daddy's Jeep. They rarely ever get to ride in daddy's car, what a treat.
Saturday the vet was supposed to come by to deworm the cats (what a wonderful visual and I'm sure the cats won't have -any- memory of the last vet visit) but canceled at the last minute, so we lazed around the house all morning until showtime.
I wasn't going to sweat it even with the complete mess the place was in with kids all over the place, clowns and Santa, balloon animals and the worst MC ever. Though this show was being managed terribly I knew that in the end it would all work out. And it did. Katherine looked so much more comfortable, Rebecca met our goal of looking at the audience and smiling even as she raced from spot to spot, and the boys just looked cute. Jonathon got applause for hamming it up a bit. It was a fun afternoon.
Sunday was church, then (ugh) back to the mall... this time Rockwell. We took the family to see "National Treasure" on the recommendation of Catherine and Weston. It really was an enjoyable movie. A little too complicated in the storyline for the kids, but lots of action and mystery. Once home again, the gingerbread house took shape. Each member of the family got a piece to work on and without too much trouble it came together nicely. Perhaps I'll put up a page of photos.
We've seen another new movie, "Elf". I'd heard plenty of good recommendations and it is a cute movie. Not a fabulous movie, but cute and the kids enjoyed it.
OK, I'm off. It's evening now and I'm tired, but I told myself that tonight I'd finish up the kids' gifts and get them under the tree. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Almost legal

In case anyone's wondering, I am still taking flying lessons. Well, I should say, I was, because I finished the last one today. I flew my solo cross-country from Manila to Clark Field, formerly Clark Air Force Base when we still had bases here. It's a ridiculously large runway, and perfect for an easy landing. I did a touch-and-go , then headed back to Manila.

Now I have over 41 hours, and my instructor is submitting my log to the Air Transportation Office. I just have to pass a written test, take a checkride (probably the same route I did this morning), then I'm all licensed and legal.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tomorrow will be a busy day

It won't be a busy day for me, but for the kids.

It's a lot of work to move from one party to the next. I'll be present for most of them, but I won't have to do anything than remember to provide some food and pack teacher gifts. Let's hope I can actually remember to do those two things though.
This afternoon I pulled out several pieces of art or just plain drawings by the kids' that I've always liked, and I framed them. Earlier this year I'd bought a bunch of matching 11x14 frames, so now the ones I like and have some meaning to me are in frames. They aren't on the wall though. Like everything else we've recently framed they are stacked against the wall waiting for packout.
My mouth still hurts but now that I have an antibiotic I can take Motrin without worry. See, I have this thing that unless I'm taking something to help the problem I don't take medicine to take away the pain. I figure if I can't feel the pain then I don't actually know if something is getting better or worse. So after several days of steady aches with periodic shooting pain, I am hopefully on the mend. I'm looking forward to the day I can eat with my whole mouth.
I'm also looking forward to the day I can get enough sleep. I'm so very tired. Sunday was a very bad day for me and I should have napped the day away, but I didn't. While Monday was better, my family is suffering from my inability to cope with normal activity.
It'll get better, it always does. I just need to sleep.

It's Tuesday.

Nothing much ever happens on Tuesdays, have you noticed that? So I'm at home this morning surrounded by papers I'm shuffling through and basically trying not to entirely zone out. I could be in the ARC library finishing up the kids books, but I'm not. I'm here for the next 2 1/2 hours listening to music and generally relaxing. Tough life.

With the end of afterschool activities comes free afternoons, unless you're on the swim team. And now we have two little Sailfish in the family for Rebecca has joined the team. She's far from a great swimmer, but her sister has welcomed her and she gave it a good effort. The other kids have several months of training on her, but I figure this much... she'll get some regular exercise, improve her strokes and decide if she'd like to continue it at our next post.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Ballet et Danse

Culture abounds! Dance! Dance Dance!

Perhaps I'm a little nutty now after Saturday, but really it was an enjoyable though long day of dance performances.
I got a new cell phone after mine went kaput on Friday. It was that or wait for over a week to get mine fixed and we couldn't have me phoneless for that long, could we? Of course not. So, newly phoned am I, and this one will work in the States and possibly Togo as well. A good purchase all around.
At 2 p.m. we were at the CCP for the modern ballet performance of "Peter Pan in Neverneverland". I have flipped by modern ballet on TV before, but watching it live for an hour and half is quite different. I was impressed at how well the boys payed attention, even as they asked question after question about who the characters were and what they were doing. They watched! It's more than I can say for Ian who commented during intermission that the show was great for his afternoon nap. Pshaw, it was fun.
Immediately following that, we went to ISM so Rebecca could get ready for her ballet recital. She took Ballet 1 this semester as an afterschool activity and last night's performance was the culmination of all the rehearsals for all the dance programs.
To put it mildly, we were impressed. I know that many of the kids take dance outside of school as well, but the talent shown on stage really amazed us. Ok, Ballet 1 is Ballet 1 no matter where you go. They had great costumes and enjoyed their minutes in the spotlight while they tried to remember what the next step was and didn't look too terrified. The older kids sparkled in more than their costumes with their tap and jazz programs. It lasted for nearly 2 hours and Rebecca was beat as were the rest of us. Because we're clueless newbie parents of kids involved in outside activities, we'd totally missed getting everyone dinner, so 8 p.m. rolled around with Jonathon conked out and the rest starving but too tired to actually eat. Next time we'll know.
Next time? When will that be? We'll be leaving before the end of the next semester so there won't be another recital for us in Manila. Thoughts like that one keep coming up and they're starting to make me sad. Our next post, well... you heard it hear first, it's no Manila. ISM has been a wonderful school and I will miss it as much as the kids will. They offer so many opportunities for learning and self-learning I just don't know how Togo can match it. I know that Lome will have its own pros and cons but right now I'm in the phase of seeing all the things we're leaving behind, more good than bad. Even as I curse the drivers, I get teary-eyed at the mountains in the distance and the stunning colors of the sunsets. Even as I grumble about the crappy food, I talk to my friends and hear the latest on Audrey and Liesl. Even as I fume over the red tape and inequality, I feel the gorgeous breeze and the warmth and I know, I know that when our time comes, I will miss it here terribly.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Last night was the Consular Christmas Party, held at the Century Park Hotel across the way from Harrison Plaza.

Even though it was in a ballroom, the party went from 3p.m.-whenever and was very casual. With a theme of "Naughty or Nice" there was quite a range of outfits which played into the Ms/Mr Naughty/Nice competition. The food was OK, the skits were fun and the people enjoyable. My biggest issue was the hotel apparently trying to create a winter wonderland atmosphere with ice sculptures and a room temperature that could create snow if only there was a little more moisture in the air. What was I thinking wearing a sleeveless shirt and neglecting a sweater or wrap? Jackie from NIV was kind enough to share her pre-costume dress which doubled nicely as a wrap.
I'll write about the skits later, or better, have Ian write about them. Right now it's breakfast time before going to Rockwell and see what's up with my cellphone. Of all days, yesterday it died on me. Then this afternoon we're seeing a story of Peter Pan at the CCP followed by Rebecca's ballet recital.
Oh, and while our donated single fare to Xiamen was the grand prize, we didn't stay to the end of the party to see if we could win it back.

Thursday, December 9, 2004


I have to say "owie" for how my mouth currently feels after have some gum removed from covering a wisdom tooth.

During the procedure I felt like I was inhaling totally burnt chicken. How's that for a thought? It was nasty and my gum looks plain awful. The dentist assured me that it wouldn't hurt when the local wore off and that it would most likely itch. ITCH? No sir, the anaesthetic is wearing off and I can definitely say it does not itch. It plain hurts. Owie.
So now I'm at home for a few minutes before getting the boys and I have a list of things to accomplish a mile long and I just want to take a nap. I should at least get all the rest of the clean clothes put away. I've gotten -so- bad at that. Taking the clothes down, sorting, putting in washer, putting in dryer, taking out of dryer... all in a day's work. Actually folding and putting them away? It can take weeks. I'm not kidding. It's bad. But the other day Ian and I went through both baskets and put them all in separate piles. Now the piles have been on the floor for two days and I'm telling myself right now to get them gone. Here I go... watch me go...
OK, all done. No, that's a lie, there's still a pile of towels. Give me a sec...
Done! Woohoo! Now it's noon and I have to think about getting the boys.
I know why I feel a bit discombobulated and it doesn't have (much) to do with my mouth aching. Owie. Actually, it's because there are piles all over the house. Not of clean clothes anymore, but other things. There's the suitcase in our bedroom that's open and gathering clothes I want to pack for our trip home (yes, I'm an early packer). There are the paintings and other framed works piled against the walls because we don't want to bother with driving nails into concrete at the moment. There's the pile that's getting donated to the school for typhoon relief. There's the pile for Katherine's donation project. There's the multitide of paper/book/magazine piles that need to be shelved or thrown out. Piles piles everywhere, all in various states of doneness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Go me!

Christmas cards were dropped off at the FPO. Watch your mail boxes. There might even be a photo inside, so don't drop it in the snow. And just remember that if you are sending us a card, please DO NOT put Manila, Philippines anywhere on the envelope. Someone did recently and it took weeks and weeks getting through the local mail system.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Passing of a friend

We learned today that one of Ian's college friends died on Tuesday. Fred Franke was teaching in northeast China, became ill and died suddenly while in hospital. His case is being managed by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and one of Ian's A100 classmates in Beijing is keeping him informed on the proceedings.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

What a weekend.

Friday was another day off for Typhoon Nanmadol. Saturday was a step up. And today I felt like we lived at the mall.

School on Friday was canceled again, even though the storm pushed through overnight. The concern here is the typhoon, obviously, but even moreso the flooding, mudslides and general chaos that occur afterwards. So while the rains had slowed and the wind had ceased, those who lived a little further out could have a treacherous drive. Therefore, no school.
I'm not sure what we did that morning, it was so long ago, but once whatever was finished, I was reminded that Rebecca had a birthday party at 3:30 that afternoon, Katherine was invited to a friend's house and we were invited to the Taylor's for a bit. Were we housebound? Oh well, it was practically sunny out already.
So Katherine was off to string popcorn and play, and the rest of us went to Glorietta where Rebecca spent her P2000 Cinderella gift certificate for her modeling. That was a lot of fun and she picked out some great clothes including a knee length jean skirt and some summer shirts for next year. We splurged on some Auntie Anne's pretzels and I had my eyes checked at Perez Optical. Two new sets of glasses are mine (I figure lenses are cheap to replace or upgrade, but frames cost a fortune at home so might as well get them here).
Missions accomplished, we dropped Rebecca off at her birthday party, picked up Katherine, then went to AJ, Abby and Aiden's house for some chat and playtime. By the time we got home it was dark, but seeing as it was Friday night there was no rush to toss everyone in bed. We hung out and made plans for Saturday.
So the tree decorations came out Saturday morning. This year it's a kid tree so I didn't bother putting out any of the adult decorations. With four kids and new ornaments each year, we have plenty to cover every branch and eventually we'll have to buy a bigger tree, preferably a prelit one with the terrible stringing job I did. My mom called which is a good thing since I'd completely forgotten it was Saturday. The kids had been home for two days already so all my days were mixed up, but they enjoyed talking to folks back home and the tree eventually was done. The cats can't get enough of all the dangling things, which makes me wish we had a couple fewer furry creatures in the house.
Rebecca had invited two of her classmates to go swimming and have lunch with us. One had a piano recital, the other came down sick. I think she'll remember this birthday as the one where nothing went right. We still went swimming and a bunch of their friends were there as well, and we still ate at the Seafront Club where she very maturely chose potato and leek soup with a side of mozarella sticks. But you know, no matter how much other fun stuff happens, it's just not the same as the plans you'd hoped for. I felt so bad that everything went wrong for her from typhoons to illness.
Post lunch, we took on the nasty task of going to Harrison Plaza, down the street from the CCP. Harrison is the oldest mall in Manila, which means it's probably the oldest in the Philippines. It shows it too. It's dark, grungy and there are some unpleasant folks who hang around. I don't know if smoking is banned, but it doesn't seem to matter if it is. There's a Balut Eggspress trolley and "free parking" that is monitored by dozens of yellow vested guys who insist you pay P20 to park in the gravel lot. It's a joy to visit, and we did so to drop off some pictures to be framed and to check out a rug shop. The real reason we went here of all our choices is the proximity to Seafront. I can stop by while the boys are in preschool to pick up the frames when they're ready. I can't wait to actually put up all these things in our new place. Currently we're just getting them framed and stacking them up against the wall at home. No sense putting things up now, right?
Finally home, it was time to get dolled up, for last night was the Consular Ball held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati. It was fun. I admit, yes, it was fun to get dressed up a bit and sit with a table of friends while eating and listening to a live band. Photographers were everywhere, and like the Oscars there was talk of this dress and that, from the subdued to the extravagant. I bet you're wondering what I wore? A leftover from the mid-90s, sad to say, but it fit the black tie bill as a floor length velvet gown with black velvet shoes, updated only with gorgeous shawl that made it all acceptable. Of course we sat at a table with Tahwanda who had bought loads of embroidered silk in Bangkok and had a stunning gown made for her. I was so envious thank goodness my dress was already green. I've told Ian that if he gets the tuxedo made that he -should- have, I would get a dress made. Now to face the reality that I know absolutely nothing about fabrics, style or anything else that makes a good dress. But then what does Ian know about tuxedoes, right? Right?
And guess what, I won a raffle prize. Oh no, not the cruise of the Greek islands, not the tickets for 2 to anywhere in Europe, not the four days in Hong Kong with air and hotel, not the trip to El Nido... no no no. We won a single economy plane ticket to Xiamen, China. Who wants to come with me!? Oh wait, you can't! Because it's only one ticket!
That one is getting tossed into the raffle at the Embassy Consular Christmas party. Not that I'm not grateful for winning something, but I have no intention of going to Xiamen and neither does Ian, so we'll let some other lucky soul go.
We were home by 11:10 which isn't bad for something that started at 7:00.
So that brings us to today. We desperately need to go grocery shopping, but hey there are more important things to do. With church done, I put our Christmas photo on a CD and we went back to Glorietta. Some additional Christmas shopping accomplished, we made our way to the entertainment center where "Aladdin and Jasmine Star Struck" was going to be performed. There's always a section blocked off with chairs but I've never been a lucky one to sit there, so this time I figured I'd at least ask what the guidelines were for getting a seat. The sign said holders of the Ayala value card and "shoppers", whatever that meant, but as I was asking, one of the organizers came up and ushered us past the ropes and into seats. Off to the side and a few rows back we could see just fine. Then another organizer came up and asked if one of the girls would like to be a princess. Of course both arms shot up but the luck of the Katherine continued. We were moved to the very front and center row, Katherine was given a crown, a wand and a line and we watched the production. After a round of religious Christmas carols and a rap of "You down with G-O-D?" it began and in 45 minutes we had the abbreviated and lip synched quasi-Disney version of Aladdin, with local girls literally screaming over the male lead whenever he came into the audience.
Katherine did great. At the point where Aladdin is told that only a princess from another kingdom can grant his wish to become a prince, they looked into the audience and the very blue genie came down and brought her up on the stage. Aladdin knelt and implored her to grant his wish. She replied "So glad you asked... Done!" with a wave of her wand. It was perfect and once again she declared that she wants to be on TV when she grows up. Sometimes I think she just might do it.
There was the issue of Rebecca who had also volunteered but lost out, yet again. Katherine would not give up her crown, no chance, but showing her new colors and her attempts at controlling herself, she told Ian that while she was disappointed it was OK that Katherine would be the princess. Ian says that secretly she was relieved, for Rebecca is still a bit shy in public.
So it all worked out and my kids are growing up even while Jonathon insists he's still a baby. It was a great weekend with a yummy lunch at TGI Fridays and all in all, I'm happy with my clan.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Not All Washed Out

It's been a day of ups and downs.

The downs were out of our control. Typhoon Nanmadol is blowing through (it's 10 p.m. now and the winds are blustering), following two other typhoons that have come through parts of the Philippines in the past seven days and left hundreds dead from flooding and mudslides. It didn't actually hit our neighborhood until early evening, but the kids had off from school because of the Storm Signal 2 that was announced late last night.
Because of the storm, Katherine's class didn't get to go on their field trip to a local school. She was totally bummed.
And because of the storm, I didn't get to see a friend before she leaves the country tomorrow.
And because of the storm, Rebecca didn't get to celebrate her birthday with her classmates. Wednesday night we'd made cupcakes and were all set to bring then in to share this morning.
So there's the big Up, amazingly Rebecca has turned Seven. On Thanksgiving I was remarking to one of our friends that while Rebecca was turning seven she had just begun to fit comfortably into six. She's young for her age and always has been.
Ten days ago she made a count down chart and has been announcing the days remaining. Ian has asked her each day if she knew the difference between right and wrong, recalling that seven is the age of reason. He was kidding with her that she wouldn't be allowed to turn seven if she didn't know, and once she did turn seven she wouldn't be allowed to do wrong anymore. While we were mostly joking, she got the point that it's time to do some growing up.
Then this morning Ian and I looked at each other and said "She... looks older."
She honestly does. I think it had a lot to do with her demeanor, knowing it was her day, knowing that she was growing up a bit more, knowing that she is indeed special.
We managed to eat some of her party cupcakes, the tree went up (what else do you do while housebound in December? though we usually wait until Saint Nicholas Day on the 6th) and the blue and white lights went on. The girls hung bead ropes on the tree in a unique design. Though the tree blinks hideously, the kids love it, and so it stays. Becca and I played Stratego and she almost beat me. A good mom would have let her have the win, I know. We drew pictures together, hers was Santa's sleigh being pulled by flying elephants, Nicholas's was of our Christmas tree. Jonathon's is very blue but I can't quite make out what it is though he said it was a box. We watched Rebecca's choice of "The Secret Garden" and after dinner, of course, present time. Her sister had bought her a shiny red bead bracelet at the ISM Filipiniana Tiangge. Katherine always picks great gifts for Rebecca and it's obvious she loves her, for even in the e-card Katherine wrote:
Dear Rebecca,
A very happy birthday to you!!!
I still love you, even if you are very annoing.
All together now... Awwww. Ok, maybe that's a stretch. But the degree to which the two of them are getting along, holding hands in the mall, chatting together, etc. It's almost enough to make one think they are in cahouts about something. That or they actually do like each other. Could it be?
From mom and dad she received a scrapbook starter kit with a new camera. And from grandma and grandpa she has a new ballet bag for her outfit and shoes, and a new Checkers board game. We said that if the power is out tomorrow, it'll be the first game played in the morning.
You might be wondering why I said "amazingly" earlier in this entry. Rebecca isn't the easiest kid to get along with sometimes. She is a defiant manipulator with more than little white lies. There were days I didn't know if she'd make it to her next birthday. OK, that's exaggerating but you get the drift. Some days she can be really hard to like. Today was not one of those days. Today she was everything I could imagine her to be... a good sister, a wonderful daughter, an artist, a fair player, gracious and all this with a glowing smile and the ability to make us laugh. She made me proud to be her mom.
Now the hard part. How to get it out of her mind that because tomorrow is the 2nd in the States that she gets to have a second birthday and turn Eight right away?