Monday, December 31

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Happy New Year to you & your family!

The fireworks here in Manila were phenomenal! I have never seen anything like it before in my life! Beautiful, spectacular shows that filled the night sky all around the city. In fact, after it was all over about half past midnight, a thick cloud of smoke hung over the entire area as far as I could see. It was truly awesome! (The fireworks... not the smoke.)

I hope you all have a wonderful 2008 full of life, love & joy!


At about 11:30 pm, we decided to join thousands of other spectators at a huge countdown party right around the corner from our home. We had been watching several beautiful fireworks shows in the direction of the bay, but tall buildings were blocking our view of this particular show, which I had heard would be excellent. So, since the kids were still awake, we asked them to get shoes on & we quickly left our room. It was very crowded, but tons of fun! I'm sure this is the closest to a New York like countdown I'll ever get, so I was glad we made the decision to join in the fun. It was exciting to be a part of the actual countdown with thousands of Filipinos and other people from around the globe. (One thing about Filipinos is they sure know how to throw a good party!!) And, the fireworks show at the stroke of midnight lived up to all the hype we had heard about. Spectacular!! Here are some pictures of our fun New Year's Eve celebration:

Making our way to the party!
(Samuel likes to pretend the huge spotlights are actually enormous Star Wars light sabers!)

Getting closer to the bands & dancers at center stage...

MIDNIGHT = FIREWORKS!!

Our kiddos watching the cool fireworks.
(A bit loud for Nick's little ears.)

The throngs of crowds making their way home after the huge celebration.


Sam also put together another great video of our evening. You can check it out here!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

(I meant to post this last night while it was still December 31st here in the Philippines, but I got all caught up in the awesome fireworks celebrations and missed my opportunity. However, it is still 2007 in Texas, so I am not late yet!)

I would like to wish my wonderful parents a very happy 42nd anniversary today!

FORTY TWO!!
FORTY TWO!!
FORTY TWO!!

FORTY TWO!!
FORTY TWO!!

42 - WOW!!

You guys are a wonderful example of marriage. I have learned so very much from both of you and I am immensely grateful for the lessons of love you have passed on to me. Thank you for modeling a marriage and partnership that I strive to follow. You two are the best!!

I love you!

Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, December 30

TMI

Another cultural difference between Filipinos and Americans I have noticed is that Filipinos share almost all personal information with each other. They will not think twice about asking how much your salary is, how much you paid for an item (whether it be house, car or television set) or details of an illness.

The first time I encountered this was one of my very first weeks here. The kids & I were experiencing some cabin fever since Sam was gone to work every day, school had not yet started and we did not have any way of getting around town. So, one day we decided to visit a well known park in the area, along with another family who moved here from Texas. We thought it would be great to let the kids get out, get some fresh air & wear themselves out. While I was watching the two younger boys slide down the humongous slide over & over & over, a friendly Filipino father struck up a conversation with me. He asked me where we were from, how long we had been here, how I liked it so far, etc. Then, when he started asking about my husband's job, he caught me totally off guard when he questioned, "How much money does your husband make?" Ummmm... uhhhhh... That was my exact response until I realized that he was serious & was waiting for me to answer. So, I answered honestly, "I don't know. Enough to pay the bills, I hope." I tried to laugh it off & turned my attention back to the boys. Later, when I relayed our chat to one of the relocation ladies who was assisting with our transition overseas, I was told that this is very common among Filipinos. It is not considered taboo to talk about your salary. Since then, I have been asked similar questions, but have been prepared to ward off the questions with a vague answer.

I have also been asked numerous times how much we make in car payments, condo payments, etc. Although this information is not completely taboo in America, it is something usually only shared between good friends... not complete strangers, as is the case in the Philippines.

By far, the strangest bit of personal information shared among Filipinos is the details of illnesses. I would NEVER, EVER call in to my employer to tell them I was sick at home with diarrhea, but that is exactly what they do here. I received a text from my driver last week stating that he could not drive for me on that day because he had diarrhea. (This post is going to make for more disgusting google searches, I'm sure! I can't wait to see...) It's just way too much information than I really need. Sam has also experienced this with some Filipino workers on his project. It's funny how something that is just not talked about in America is so freely discussed in the Philippines.

These are just a few of the many cultural differences I've experienced, but overall, the Philippines has truly been an easy adjustment for our family. We do live in a very Americanized city, so it hasn't been a terrible transition. Once we move to the small resort town of Subic Bay, that might be a completely different story...

Saturday, December 29

Last Day at ISM

Since we will be moving to Subic Bay next month, the kids will be attending a new school starting January 15th. So, I took lots of pictures to remember their last day at International School of Manila. It was a very sad day for me because I absolutely LOVE that school! Great teachers, great kids, great everything! But, they will be attending another great school, Brent International School at Subic. And, I'm sure I will come to love their new school just as much as ISM. In time...

Samuel's classmates presenting him with a card & scrapbook

Samuel with his teacher, Miss Higgins

Sydney's class

Sydney playing dress-up with her friends at school

Recent Pictures

Here are some of my favorite pictures we have taken recently...

Sydney's last day of school at ISM with her teachers, Mrs. Ramirez & Mrs. Nat

Samuel's last day of school at ISM with his teachers, Mrs. Garcia & Miss Higgins

Nick's last day of school at Summit with his teachers, Teacher Arlene & Teacher Erika

Nick & Santa

Sydney, Santa & Samuel

Dr. Nick

Thursday, December 27

First Filipino Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Philippines

I couldn't resist snapping this photo the last time we stopped for gas. Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like a heavily armed guard with a Santa cap on. For some odd reason, this scene was very humorous to me.

We enjoyed our first Christmas in the Philippines. It was small & intimate with just our little family of 5, but there is really never a dull moment with 3 young kids in the house. The kids had a wonderful Christmas, which is all I wanted. I was a bit depressed leading up to the actual day, due to the fact that this would be our very first Christmas with just our immediate family. We are always with so much extended family during the holidays, so I was nervous about how to celebrate on our very own. Sounds strange when I type it out, but it's how I felt. It ended up being a nice celebration, so I am very thankful for that.

On Sunday evening, we invited some friends over for popcorn & karaoke. All the kids sang every Christmas carol known to man. They had a blast! Then, on Monday, we took the kiddos to see The Polar Express in 3D at the IMAX theater. It was awesome!! It seems as if that movie was created especially to be viewed in 3D. We all loved it! Then, I attempted to go grocery shopping. What a nightmare! What in the world was I thinking?! Monday evening, Sam & the kids prepared a festive table full of hors d'oeuvres while I ran to the corner store to grab some sodas. When I came home, they had Christmas music playing, candles lit & a table full of yummy goodies. It was just what I needed to kick start my Christmas attitude. We decided it was the perfect time to open our Christmas Eve gift. We ended the evening with hot cocoa & our traditional viewing of A Christmas Story. After the kids put out cookies & milk for Santa, they happily climbed into bed anxiously awaiting the fun Christmas morning would bring. But, Sam & I stayed up until midnight to watch the spectacular fireworks show we had heard so much about. You could look out any window in our apartment in any direction & see several different firework shows. They were everywhere! And, they were beautiful! It was incredible. Finally, the kids woke Sam & I up in the morning begging us to get out of bed! They were precious!

We had a great morning & a fun day playing with new toys. You can check out the Christmas video on our photo site to see the kids enjoying their loot.

Slowly, but surely, we are learning to make this tropical country our new home. Spending our first Christmas here helped to seal the deal in my mind. It was rough at first, but ended up going well.

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas celebration as well. And, happy new year!

The Amazing Races

The Amazing Race is one of my very favorite shows! I love watching it!! In fact, I would seriously love to participate on it someday. But, for now, I am content to watch it on TV. And, in the Philippines, I get the best of both worlds... The Amazing Race & The Amazing Race Asia. I get to watch both shows & they are both equally addicting! (Mom & Dad, you would get just as completely hooked on the Asian version.) I am currently watching Season 2 of the Asian show & there is a team of Filipino-American boys that are hysterical... Marc & Rovilson! They are the strongest team, but they are so cool & laid back. They make light of every situation & really enjoy participating on the race. I love watching their segments because they are always good for a laugh. Great shows!! If you're not watching it, you really should. You're missing out on a fun, exciting show.

Saturday, December 22

Thank You B.A.D. Girls!

I seriously have the best groups of girlfriends! I've got a wonderful group of ladies from church who keep me sane with regular Girls' Nights Out (or GNOs, as we call them) and Girl Weekends! We all get along so well & have so much fun together. I've also got a terrific group of girlfriends through my Wylie Moms group. They are all terrific moms and great friends! And, lastly, I have an awesome group of girlfriends through my book club! They are beautiful, superb ladies!! And, I just received a fun box of goodies from them in the mail: a new monogrammed book club shirt (so cool!), some delicious Christmas candy, and wrapped Christmas presents!! I was so excited, I started crying! Christmas has been quite an emotional roller coaster for me this year. This will be our first Christmas without any family around & it's hot as he$$!!! I am trying really hard to adjust & not let those things bother me, but I'd be lying if I said they didn't. But when I received this package in the mail from my fellow B.A.D. Girls, it brought so much joy to me!! So, thank you, Stephanie, Lindsay (who someday might start her blog!), Becky, Dara and Rachel!! You ladies are so wonderful & just absolutely made my day! I am saving the wrapped presents until Christmas, so it will be a nice surprise! (Also, in case you're wondering after my ranting email the other day, no I did not have to pay customs taxes on your package!) So, once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart! I love you ladies & I am so grateful to still participate in the book club from across the world! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17

Google Searches

Okay, I'm pretty grossed out that the majority of visitors to my blog come here because they google the phrase "public urination". Ewwwww!!!

Saturday, December 8

Christmas Confession

This probably will not settle well with many people, but I feel the need to confess anyway:

* I do not like icicle lights!

And the only reason I don't like them is because they do not hang straight! Drives me absolutely crazy!! I like for Christmas lights to be nice, clean & straight! Icicle lights just don't do it for me.

A bit anal, no?

Christmas Favorites

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Before kids, wrapping paper. After kids, gift bags. (Of course, I do wrap the kids' presents in paper. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much of a surprise on Christmas morning!)

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Real tree, except we had to buy artificial overseas this year.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually the first or second week in December.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Sometime in January... whenever we get around to it or the needles start stabbing my kids.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Yes! My Dad used to buy it every Christmas, so I grew up on that stuff. YUM!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Nintendo w/ Super Mario Bros. & Duck Hunt games. SO FUN!

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes! Love my nativity set!

8. The hardest person to buy for?
Pretty much no one. Gift cards have made buying for difficult people very easy!

9. Easiest person to buy for?
My kids

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I mail every year, except this year. I will be emailing from the Philippines.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A scanner from Sam who actually bought it for himself. Whoopee!


12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
A Christmas Story & The Polar Express

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Mid-December


14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas gift?
Oh yeah... you have to know my family


15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Hands down winner is Pan de Polvo! Yum! Yum! Yum!


16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Colored

17. Favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night & anything by Mannheim Steamroller

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Travel every year... either to Houston, Austin or back home to Kingsville

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Sure, but I'm too lazy right now.


20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Star


21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
My family - One present on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.
Sam's family - Gifts from family on Christmas Eve, Gifts from Santa on Christmas morning.


22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Crowds & commercialism


23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Vintage Santa Claus


24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Tamales & a traditional Mexican feast!!


25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
LASIK eye surgery

Tuesday, December 4

Current Frustration in Philippines

* Return policies at local stores!

They are not posted anywhere... they are not printed on the receipts. You are expected to just know them. (And, I suspect they change on a whim.) It is VERY frustrating!

First of all, you cannot return anything & get your money back... no matter what! You just can't do it. Not even if you bought the item the same day, never opened it & have your receipt with you. You cannot get your money back! You can exchange the item, but that is your ONLY option. So ridiculous! The first time I encountered this, I threw a tantrum in the middle of the store. I got lots of stares & Sam tried to walk away from me to avoid embarrassment. It was stupid! They didn't care that I was not made aware of this policy & they didn't care that it was not posted ANYWHERE or printed on ANYTHING! They just plain did not care! And, I was furious! So, I learned my lesson... the hard way.

Secondly, I learned tonight, that you can only do one exchange and that is it. I bought a pair of new tennis shoes for Samuel, which he desperately needed. We got home & that's when he declared they were too big for him. The next day, I took them back & exchanged them for one size smaller. The next morning, he planned to wear them to school, but said they were still too big for him & slipped off his heel. We decided it wasn't the size of the shoe, but the style. So, this evening, I took them back again to exchange them for a different style. I was still within my 7 day exchange policy (that I DID know about), so all was good. I handed his shoes & my receipt to the shoe department desk, explained that this style did not fit my son well & asked if we could choose a different style of tennis shoe. She said we could, so Samuel & I proceeded to look at ALL the boys' tennis shoes. After an exhaustive (and I mean exhaustive!) search, he found a style that he liked. We tried on 3 different sizes (I still don't understand foreign sizes yet) & finally found one that fit well. I asked him to run all over that store to make sure it didn't slip off his heel, to make sure his toes were comfy, to make sure he liked them overall. Thank goodness, he did! So, he hands them to the lady who proceeds to take them to a manager to get a routine approval for the exchange. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the manager finally comes over to me to let me know that they have a one time exchange only policy. I cannot exchange the shoes that do not fit Samuel for shoes that do fit him. Even though they are brand new, have never been worn (except to try them on at home), and I am within my 7 day return policy. No can do!

So, of course, I am fuming mad again. Why didn't someone tell me that when I first walked in the store & handed them my receipt? Where is this policy printed? How was I supposed to know about it? Do I have any other options? Why can't they exchange a brand new pair of cheaper tennis shoes and allow me to spend the extra money for a pricier pair? I loudly ask all these questions & keep getting the same answer:

"I'm sorry, ma'am. We cannot exchange the shoes. It is our policy."

I want to scream that their policy sucks! It is stupid & pointless! Instead I angrily tell them that they have lost my business forever & I will never shop at their store again. I then turn to Samuel & tell him that we are going to another store to get some better tennis shoes.

It wasn't very Christian of me & in hindsight, I should have probably handled my emotions better, but I still maintain that it is a stupid, stupid policy. I worked in retail. I understand policies. But, there is no valid reason for this. UGH!!!! I'm still bitter, obviously!

Teacher Christmas Gifts

I need help! I always draw a blank when it comes to giving Christmas gifts to teachers. Last year was wonderful, because the twins' preschool handed out a sheet of paper with their teacher's favorite things:

* Favorite Restaurant
* Favorite Store
* Favorite Scent
* Favorite Activity
* Favorite Music

and more! It made buying Christmas gifts so easy!

This year, I am clueless.

So, parents, please send me some good ideas. Teachers, please tell me what you like to receive/don't like to receive. (I mean, really, how many candles can you use? Actually... I would LOVE to get some White Barn or Pier 1 candles here! Mmmmm... I digress...) And, everyone else, send me your ideas also, please.

Thanks!

Monday, December 3

Nick's November Observation

Here is Nick's latest school observation letter. This sounds exactly like him:

What Nick Did and How He Did It
November 2007

Scissors

Part of our Safety unit for this term is scissors safety. Teacher explained to the group that a pair of scissors is a tool and not a toy. Teacher also reminded them that scissors are sharp and that we don’t run with scissors.

Teacher handed over a pair of blue plastic child-friendly scissors to Nick. Nick smiles at Teacher and said,”I like blue.”

“I’m glad you like blue, Nick,” Teacher said with a smile on her face.

Teacher gave all the children long strips of paper. Teacher explained to them that they were going to cut the paper using the scissors. Nick was excited. The group started to use the scissors and started to cut the pieces of paper.

While cutting the strips of paper, Nick stopped and looked at Teacher, “We don’t cut shorts and we don’t cut pants.”

“That’s right, Nick,” Teacher said while keeping eye on the others who were doing the activity.

“We don’t put it inside our mouths and we don’t cut shirts,” Nick said while continuing to cut his paper.

“That’s right. Scissors are tools, not toys,” Teacher reminded him again.

“I did it!” Nick exclaimed after being able to cut a small part of his paper.

“You did it! Good job!” said Teacher.

To believe or not to believe...

that is the question!

Christmas decorations are in full swing here in the Philippines. They really go above & beyond! On the way to school yesterday, Samuel caught me off guard when we passed a Santa Claus statue & he asked me, "Mom, is Santa Claus real?" I'm sure I looked like a deer caught in headlights. We've never given him any indication that Santa might not be the real deal, so I was very surprised that he even questioned his existence. Of course, he is a pretty smart kid, so I really shouldn't be too surprised. But, I also wasn't quite ready for him to give up the wonder and mystery of Santa Claus. So, after reading several other blog posts about this very subject, I quickly decided to follow a modified version of Kristi's approach:

Me: "What do you think?"

Samuel: "I don't think he is."

Me: "Well, Mimi always told me if we don't believe in Santa Claus, then he stops bringing us Christmas gifts."

Samuel: "Oh, well I do believe in him!"

See... smart kid!

Friday, November 30

At the beach...

This is so cool! I am sitting at the most beautiful beach, eating breakfast, surfing the web. (Only because I stole Sam's computer who is trying to do some work. It can wait.)

So much has happened in Manila lately that I have not had the chance to blog about. Someday soon. But for now, we have exprienced the following where we live:

* Typhoons
* Mall bombing/explosion (They cannot agree whether it was a natural gas explosion or a terrorist bomb.)
* More typhoons
* Earthquake (This was interesting...)
* Military coup takeover

The Philippines have been fun & wonderful, but I am constantly on my guard living here. You just never know what's going to happen.

But, come visit anyway... we'd love to have you! It's beautiful & you can come to the beach! I promise it's worth it!

Back to breakfast...

Monday, November 26

Thanksgiving Celebration

Although it was quite a different celebration, we did enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal this past Saturday. It took a lot of planning & a lot of shopping, but we pulled of a feast almost identical to what I'm used to eating with my family each Thanksgiving. We pigged out on the following tasty dishes:

* Turkey, of course! Sam always makes our yummy turkey every year. Each time, he tries a different recipe from foodnetwork.com and so far, they have all turned out wonderful. This year was no exception.
* Stove Top Stuffing. So excited we found it in the store.
* My Dad's delicious sweet potato casserole. However, we could not find solid white marshmallows to melt on top, so we had to use pastel, multi-colored marshmallows. Tasted the same, just looked strange.
* My Grandmother's wonderful Veg-All Casserole. Again, I was very excited to find an authentic can of Veg-All!
* Creamed Corn Casserole. It took a lot of searching, but I finally found ONE box of cornbread mix! Just one!
* Green Bean Casserole. However, we could not find French's Fried Onions anywhere, so we improvised using Stove Top Stuffing instead.
* Fresh Asparagus
* Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad
* Peanut Butter Pie
* Peach Cobbler with Cool Whip
* Chocolate Chip Cake

It was all so good! We invited our friends to join us for dinner and played Scene It afterwards. Good times.

We missed being with our families, but are so very thankful to spend Thanksgiving in the Philippines making new memories and new traditions.

On Friday night, we tried a newly opened restaurant called Texas Roadhouse. I've heard they are all over Texas, but I have never been to one. So, we were excited to try some authentic Texas food. WRONG! It just wasn't authentic. Sam was upset because they didn't even have a Chicken Fried Steak on the menu. And, I am always searching for some good brisket. We are going to have to keep looking.

After dinner, we stopped in at a local video game arcade and chilled out in a videoke room for a while. Believe it or not, Sam is building a reputation as being a microphone hog! Now, if you know my husband, you know this is a completely different side of him. My shy, quiet, recluse husband loves to sing karaoke!! Who would have thought?!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration also! Now, on to Christmas...

Thursday, November 22

Israel... not jail

Sydney's friend, Dana, is spending about a month visiting family and friends back home in Israel. The other day, Sydney mentioned that she missed Dana and asked where she was:

Syd: "Mom, where is Dana?"
Me: "She's in Israel."
Syd (completely panicked): "WHAT? Why is she in jail?"

Thursday, November 15

100 Things

My friend, Jenny, posted a "100 Things" list on her blog and I am stealing her idea. So, here are 100 things you may or may not care to know. Most are about me. Some are not:

1. I will celebrate my 10 year wedding anniversary in February.
2. I don't feel like I'm old enough to be married 10 years.
3. I am scared of cats.
4. Unfortunately, I think Sydney has inherited this same fear.
5. I did not find out I was pregnant with twins until my first sonogram at 20 weeks.
6. A friend predicted I was pregnant with twins the first time I announced my pregnancy.
7. She also predicted the birth date and was exactly right.
8. I should have asked her to pick my lottery ticket numbers.
9. I loved working at Publicis before the twins were born.
10. I thought I would love working at Zig Ziglar, but I ended up leaving after a year there because I hated the hypocrisy of his company.
11. My sister, Jonetta, was the first one to know about our possible move to the Philippines.
12. I was dead set against this job until I talked to her.
13. She opened my eyes to the experiences that this job would afford our family.
14. Had I not confided in her, I might not be here today.
15. I am really glad we have this opportunity to live overseas.
16. If Sam wasn't offered this job, I'm not sure that we would have ever traveled overseas.
17. This job is really helping us pay down our debt.
18. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the Philippines.
19. Thankfully, we have found a grocery store that sells Butterball turkeys and all the traditional Thanksgiving necessities.
20. What I will miss most is being with family this Thanksgiving.
21. I had a bad dream last night about not being with my family for the holidays.
22. We listened to a Filipino Christmas concert last night and did not recognize one single Christmas song.
23. The Christmas lights were beautiful, though.
24. Samuel made a painting of outer space for his Show & Tell time tomorrow.
25. He loves all things outer space.
26. He took an alien ball to school today and got it taken away during music class.
27. He was upset about that when he got home today.
28. I wonder if the music teacher has a stash of toys that she keeps in her desk like the teacher in A Christmas Story.
29. I wonder if my husband will ever grow out of his video game phase.
30. I am thankful that my son is not addicted to video games... yet.
31. I started a new workout at the gym this week and my ankles are really hurting right now.
32. I went to Abilene Christian University my first year of college.
33. I was pretty homesick that first year.
34. I transferred back home to Texas A&M University - Kingsville my sophomore year of college.
35. After my transfer, I realized how much I missed ACU.
36. I have vivid memories of my Kindergarten year.
37. I can't remember anything that happened in 2nd grade.
38. When I was in 5th grade, my elementary school burned down.
39. Our class wrote essays about how we felt about the fire.
40. I got to read my essay in front of a television news camera at our temporary school.
41. It was shown on the news that evening and I remember that my parents were not too thrilled about what I wrote.
42. Looking back, I was also embarrassed about what I wrote.
43. I transferred to a new school my 8th grade year.
44. It was one of the worst decisions I have ever made.
45. Before my transfer, I would willingly speak in front of large groups.
46. After my transfer, I encountered terrible stage fright.
47. I used to make up all sorts of excuses not to read out loud in front of the class.
48. My throat used to physically close up and my voice would start quivering.
49. I have never overcome this fear.
50. Sometimes in Bible class, if we are assigned a verse to read, I will ask Sammy to read it for me.
51. I really hate this about myself.
52. It makes me feel weak and I don't like to feel weak.
53. I have so many wonderful groups of girlfriends!
54. I dearly love my GNO girls!
55. (Sherry, if you are reading this, I am trying to find a good time to return your call.)
56. I also treasure my book club friends.
57. I look forward to reading different books every month.
58. I also have a great group of girlfriends that live in Wylie.
59. I met them through a Wylie Moms group on meetup.com.
60. We have a blast at our Mom's Nights In!
61. I also have so many wonderful girlfriends from school, summer camp, work and wives of Sam's friends.
62. I suddenly feel extremely blessed now that I took the time to type that out.
63. Sometimes I worry whether I will fall back into place with my friends when I move back to Texas.
64. I also have 2 beautiful sisters.
65. And 4 cool nephews.
66. And 1 pretty princess niece.
67. Oops! I have 3 nieces on Sam's side also who I hardly know.
68. Sam's sister lives in Las Vegas and we rarely see her or her daughters.
69. In fact, I've never met my youngest niece who is atleast 2 by now.
70. My kids think their Uncle Jakey is the coolest guy around.
71. It was hard for me to say goodbye to Jake because I knew how much my kids would miss him.
72. It was harder for me to say goodbye to my oldest nephews because I realized how much older and more mature they would be when we returned in 2 years.
73. I love to go camping!
74. There is nowhere to go camping in the Philippines.
75. Sam's sister looks very much like Angelina Jolie.
76. I cried two nights ago because I wanted some Taco Bueno.
77. I was hormonal.
78. I also cried because Sam didn't put enough strawberry jelly on my PBJ sandwich.
79. When I am hormonal, Sam cannot do anything right. He usually tries to stay out of my way.
80. I would love to participate on The Amazing Race someday.
81. My dad said he would also like to participate with me.
82. My dad has vertigo.
83. I don't think we would stand a chance.
84. But I would do it with him just for the opportunity to travel around the world with him!
85. I can't wait for my parents to come visit us in the Philippines.
86. I have so many fun things I want to do when they come, like visit a beautiful beach.
87. My parents are so wonderful and we all miss them terribly.
88. My sister, Erin, has started making beautiful jewelry.
89. I hope that wasn't a secret, Erin.
90. I love the way Nicholas runs and hugs me when I pick him up from school.
91. He gives me the best bear hugs!
92. Sydney still cannot say her r's properly.
93. I think Sydney has the most beautiful skin.
94. I wish my doctor would have performed a tummy tuck on me when I had my last c-section.
95. I wish my body would magically shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size.
96. I am so proud of my husband for all the hard work he has done on this project.
97. I need to make it a priority to write my Grandmother a letter.
98. I wish my Grandmother had email.
99. I really miss my dog, Dallas.
100. I spend way too much time on the computer!

Tuesday, November 13

Lesson Learned

The kids hear the phrase "Oh my god" a lot in the Philippines. All of their classmates, teachers, coaches, etc. say it. (I am sure they have never heard it from me. Oh absolutely not. And, they never heard me say "What the hell?" either. I have no idea where Samuel picked up that phrase. Anyway...) So, one afternoon, I was not surprised to overhear the boys talking to each other & using those words: "Oh my god..." I rounded the corner to face Samuel who knew immediately the error of his ways. I realized he knew what he was not supposed to say, but I wasn't sure if he knew why he was not supposed to say it. So, I gathered all three kids and calmly explained to them why we do not say "Oh my god" unless we are talking to God in prayer. I went on to explain that it hurts God's feelings when we take His name in vain. And, we all came up with alternate suggestions:

Oh man
Oh my goodness
Oh no
Oh wow

Now, periodically, Nick will inform me and whoever is around to listen, "Mom, we don't say 'Oh my god' because it hurts God's feelings. We can say 'Oh man' though." He is very adamant about this!

So, on Friday evening, we were sitting down at the dinner table listening to Samuel tell a wild story about a volcano, dragon and lots of lava. Febe, Sydney, Nick & I were all adding to his story, making it more & more outrageous. At one climactic point in the story, Febe said, "Oh my god. Are you serious?" Three little heads immediately whipped around to face me with anxious expressions on them. Sydney quietly asked, "Mom, are we allowed to say 'Oh my god'?" And, Nick answered, "No. But, we can say 'Oh man'."

I know that was Sydney's innocent way of tattling on Febe, but I am relieved to know that atleast that is one lesson I have taught them that has stuck! We have many, many more to go.

Glimpses of Heaven

We visited the Union Church of Manila again this past Sunday. We have started visiting there regularly for the past few weeks. The kids love their Bible classes. Sam & I enjoy listening to the minister. And, if we happen to miss the early service, we can always attend the 2nd service. (And, if you know us, you know how we tend to be overly late sometimes! I'm sure we'll be taking advantage of that 2nd service more often than not.)

I know I posted about this previously, but it hit me again Sunday how awesome it was to worship with fellow Christians from literally ALL OVER THE WORLD!! I became so used to fellowshipping with people just like me... white, middle-class Americans. Unfortunately, there is little variation within the Church of Christ population. Which is sad. So, attending church here actually seems like I'm getting a little glimpse of what heaven might be like... people from all walks of life and from all seven continents of the world. This is how it should be!

We also sang Our God Is An Awesome God before the minister began his sermon. I've sung that song a million and one times since I was in high school. Maybe even junior high. However, when I sung it on Sunday with the band playing on the stage (yes, you read that right... a band! GASP!), it actually moved me to tears. Now, I am not one that is prone to crying easily. (Okay, don't ask my husband because he will disagree.) I get emotional, but I just usually don't cry at stuff like this. So, I was shocked at myself when I got goosebumps & my eyes watered up. I couldn't finish the song. The thing that did it was the crescendo from the drums building up to an awesome final few verses of the song. The accompanying instruments are what really helped me focus on the words. They would get a little bit louder with each verse until the praise team on stage was singing their hearts out that our God is an awesome God! I'm sorry, but you just can't get that same effect with a cappella music! I love my a cappella heritage and tradition, but these drums really drove it home on Sunday. It was awesome!

This is how I think Heaven will be! Drums and all...

Friday, November 9

Caribbean Night

Our condo unit invited all the residents and guest to "Caribbean Night" in the dining hall. Sam is out of town on business, so I went with a few other girlfriends and made a girls' night out of it. We had a great time singing, dancing and eating, of course! The food was delicious!

Mom & Sydney
(I let Sydney come with me for a couple of hours before it was her bedtime.)
Sydney & Malay
(Sydney pretty much thinks Malay has hung the moon!)
Julie, Malay, Cynthia, Liza & Amberly
Julie & Amberly
Liza & Malay
Liza doing the tequila limbo

Friday Night & Grocery Shopping

It is 10:30 Friday night & I am laying in my bed watching another beautiful fireworks display out my bedroom window. They put on displays quite often during the Christmas season here, but it never gets old to me. I love fireworks!

I am also stuffing my face with my newfound love... pomelo. I have never, ever liked grapefruit. Never! And, this fruit looks very similar to grapefruit when cut open. However, when a Japanese friend of mine served this at Nick's school one day, I did not want to be rude and refuse her offer. So, I took a couple of sections, then nibbled on a very small portion of one. And, I really enjoyed it! After I finished those two pieces, I went back for more! Ever since then, I have kept it stocked in my refrigerator. Very delicious! Is this sold in the stores in Texas? I've never noticed it, but then again, I never had a reason to look.

Before moving overseas, we assumed that living in a third world country would mean that the cost of living would be significantly less. Including groceries. In the four months that we have been here (can you believe that?!), we have come to realize that is not the case. It all depends on what items you buy in the store, but for the most part, the foods that we eat are imported from the United States, which means they cost more. Excluding, of course, fruits & vegetables. Otherwise, pretty much everything else is imported... beef, chicken, milk, and everything else in between. We set up our monthly grocery budget when we first moved here, but have found ourselves consistently exceeding that amount. On Tuesday, I was at the grocery store & texted Sam to let him know that my bill would exceed our current budget. He replied wondering why we can't stick to the budget that we allotted. I replied back that first of all, we do not have coupons in the Philippines. (If there are, I have not seen them & neither has anyone else I have asked.) We did The Grocery Game back in Texas for quite a while & saved a significant amount on our bill at each store visit. It was fun! And, cheap! I don't have the option of doing that here. No coupons whatsoever. I also mentioned in my text to him that if we wanted to eat what the locals eat, then I am sure we could save bundles on our grocery bill. Fish & rice. He never sent a reply after that last message. I am going to assume I made my point.

(By the way, it's not that we don't like fish, because we really do. But, we have learned that you should never, ever cook fish in an enclosed condo unit with no ventilation! It's just not right!)

And, speaking of grocery shopping, I was just thinking of our early married years when it was so much fun for Sam & I to go to the grocery store together. I remember that feeling of picking out foods together & discovering what Sam did or did not like. And, knowing that you were going to go back to your house together to put everything away in your refrigerator or pantry together and prepare these foods for each other together in your new life together. Those were the days! Nowdays, I think the planets and sun and moons have to all be aligned in perfect order to get Sam & I to the grocery store together. It's an impossible feat. We both hate to grocery shop! Times change...

But, one thing that doesn't change is how much I miss him when he is gone. He will be home tomorrow morning from a business trip to Taiwan and we are all so excited to see him. It will be a fun Saturday!

Wednesday, November 7

Germs

We have been talking about germs a lot lately in our household. Ever since all the illness struck our family, we have tried to reiterate how important it is to wash hands, turn your head away when you cough, etc.

So, today, Nick was licking some food off his fingers & suddenly stopped. He looked at his fingers disgustingly & said, "Ewww! Mom, when everybody puts their fingers in their mouth, all the germs get all over it and come out. That's gross."

Smart kid!

Monday, November 5

Randomness...

Thank goodness Monday is over!!

So, after a full week of fall break, the kids & I were all pumped to go to school this morning! We woke up at 6 am. Everybody was happy. We left on time for a change. We got to school 10 minutes early. (If you know me, this is a big deal!) And, the gate was closed. So, my driver pulled up to the gate, spoke to the security guard in Tagalog & told me we had to enter through a different gate. I noticed that there was absolutely nobody else entering the school & thought that was very odd. So, I politely asked the security guard, "Are there classes today?" He replied, "No ma'am. Today is a teacher workday. Classes will resume tomorrow." Oops! So, we headed back home, the kids in school uniforms, carrying their lunch boxes back into the condo unit. I was so embarrassed!

Since there was no school today, I decided to take the kids someplace fun. So, we tried a new playhouse area called Active Fun. The kids had a blast! It was a very nice indoor play area, similar to a Chuck E. Cheese tube/tunnel/ball pit/slide area. We spent almost 4 hours there! When we left, we lingered outside for a while in the courtyard. It has a carousel & mini ferris wheel. The kids rode those rides, then stopped at one of the many knick knack booths to get glitter tattoos. Here are some pictures of their cool tats:

Samuel's Dragon

Nick's Scorpion

Sydney's Dolphins & Rebekah's Flower

Older Kiddos Tattoos
(Notice Sydney's hairy arms! It's that Latin blood in her!) :)

And speaking of hair, Sydney had an impromptu haircut today. Sometime mid-morning, after she had taken her cute ponytail out since there was no school, she came to me with a fistful of hair glued together by a wad of gum. I tried my best to get it out, but I was doing more damage than good. So, we just cut it out. Luckily, it was on the underside of her hair, so you really can't see the jagged cut unless you are looking closely. But, this was a first for us. And not one she was too thrilled about since she is adamant about NOT cutting her hair! (I have to convince her that it keeps her hair healthy to get a trim periodically. Otherwise, she'd never allow it.) However, after me yanking & trying to pull strands free from the gum, she happily obliged to taking a pair of scissors to the area.

I am desperately trying to finish a wonderful book, but I keep falling asleep and it is driving me crazy!! I so badly want to finish this book to see how the story ends. But, for some reason, every time I sit or lay down to read, I nod off. I think I get that from my Grandmother... or my Dad... or my Mom...

This evening in the shower, Sydney asked me if she had soap in her eyes. Every time any of the kids ask me this, I always start singing, "Soap gets in your eyes..." to the tune of The Platters song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. And, then I laugh. My sisters know what I'm talking about! So do my parents... especially my Dad! :) So, Dad, get a tissue because this is for you:



I love you, Dad!

Saturday, November 3

Magnificent Sunset

This evening, I watched a beautiful Manila sun set over the bay. It was really gorgeous! I have the opportunity to watch the sun set over the bay every evening from my view on the 25th floor. It's something I have to constantly remind myself not to take for granted!

Friday, November 2

Happy (late) Halloween

Here are some pictures from the Halloween party we attended on Tuesday evening. The kids were not feeling their best and the pictures show that. But, at this point, it's better than nothing!

Samuel as Darth Vader

Sydney Princess

Witchy Mom with Darth Vader & Spiderman

A little bit of face paint can turn a nice Spidey into the evil, black Spidey!
(Or so Nick thinks...)

My boys posing with the Ascott ladies

Nicholas posing with more employees

Fall Break

This week has been the kids' fall break from school. November 1st (All Saints Day) and November 2nd (All Souls Day) are national holidays in the Philippines, so the school system decided to declare the week corresponding to those holidays "fall break". We were looking forward to doing so many fun things on our fall break. We were invited to go to a friends' beach house in Batangas for a few days. We RSVPd for a Halloween party scheduled on the 30th. And we had plans to go trick-or-treating with a friend on Halloween night. In between those times, I was going to take the kids to some fun places to fill up our week.

We ended up doing ONE of the activities I had planned... the Halloween party! (And, even at that, we didn't last very long.)

Samuel became so ill with that nasty stomach virus & it completely attacked his immune system. Just when we thought he was over the worst of it, it came back with a vengeance! For about 2 1/2 days straight, he laid on the couch & did nothing but sip Gatorade & watch movies. Wednesday evening, we finally called the doctor on call to come check on him. We never visit the doctor for a simple stomach virus, but at one point, I went to check on him & his face & lips were extremely pale white. (He could have been a ghost for Halloween... without any makeup!) So, I made up my mind to call in a professional. By the time she got here at 10 pm, he was fast asleep & did not want to be bothered. She gave us a prescription for nausea & vomiting, but he has not had any problems since that evening. Thursday morning, he woke up feeling a little better. And, by Thursday evening, he had some energy to burn. He still has not regained his appetite, but I'm sure that will come in time. This morning, he ate almost half a slice of toast with butter & strawberry jelly. That was the most he has eaten in 3 days! And, I'm thankful for that.

So, although our fall break was a bust, I am just so thankful for all my children's health. I am always reminded that it could be worse & that for many, it is. Our temporary health setbacks here & there are so minor compared to what many people face on a daily basis. Put into that perspective, I realize how truly blessed I am! And, for that, I thank God!

Monday, October 29

Early Morning Fireworks

At 12:30 am, I started hearing popping sounds, like gunshots or fireworks. Sure enough, I opened the curtains to look out the window & saw another beautiful display of fireworks. AT 12:30 AM!!!

Sometimes I feel like I live in the city that never sleeps, but seriously... fireworks at half an hour past midnight for no apparent reason?! It's not Independence Day here. It's not New Year's Eve. It's just October 30th.

I completely love fireworks, but when you start hearing noises that sound like they might be gunshots after midnight, it's a little unnerving. As Sammy loves to continuously remind me when I start questioning the way things are done in the Philippines, "Remember, you are not in America anymore." Yeah, yeah...

Yuck, yuck & yuck!

Well, the nasty stomach bug virus that recently struck the Dallas area has somehow made it halfway across the world into our home! Many of my friends have dealt with this monster & now it's my turn. Thanks.

After #7, I stopped counting how many times Nicholas threw up on Saturday. Sammy was at work all morning, so lucky me got to deal with 2 active, healthy kids & one tired, sick kid. We had a family bowling event that evening with Sam's co-workers, so we decided to cancel the sitter & draw straws to see who would stay home with sick Nick. Sam, being the wonderful husband he is, offered to stay home since I had been at home all morning. And, I gladly accepted his offer! Samuel had been complaining of a headache all day long, so he decided he wanted to stay home with the boys. Sydney & I ended up having a fun girls' night out at the bowling alley! Sam & Samuel, however, ended up with this yucky virus! They are both currently camped out in the guest bedroom. It is definitely a contaminated area. Both sides of the bed are decorated with lined trash cans. There are bath towels spread out strategically between the two boys and over each pillow, just in case. And, the bathroom reeks of Lysol! In the morning, it will get a good bleach scrub down, but in the meantime, Lysol has my back.

This illness hit Nicholas pretty hard on Saturday & he is still not back to his normal self today. Sunday, he was very lethargic & took an afternoon nap. Today, he was complaining that he was tired & just wanted "to be left alone"! (I heard him tell his siblings that over & over & over today!) So, I am fully expecting the two older boys to react in much the same way. This could be a very long week.

Halloween Candy

Somehow, eating 5 pieces of snack size chocolate bars does not make me feel as guilty as eating an entire regular size chocolate bar. So... I'll keep eating them!

Saturday, October 27

Honesty is the Best Policy

The other evening, Sydney & our helper, Febe, were talking away in the dining room. For quite a while. After several minutes, I passed through on my way to the kitchen & casually asked, "What are you two talking about?" Sydney answered, "I don't know. I can't understand what she's saying." It was so funny! And, the look on Febe's face was priceless!

Febe does have quite a thick accent, but she speaks English. However, there are even times when I have to ask her to repeat what she says. I guess Sydney just sat there and listened pretending she knew exactly what Febe was telling her. She's too polite!

Wednesday, October 24

What does he do?

Our home phone just rang a few minutes ago. I say "home" phone, meaning our Dallas area phone number. Remember that one? The number that is a completely free & local call to anyone within the 972 area code? And, the number that is a mere long distance call to anyone else in the United States? Not an international call... a simple long distance call charge if you are outside of the 972 calling area. Anyway, I digress...

So, someone just called a moment ago asking if this was the residence of Sam E. (He did know our last name... I just don't feel like typing it.) I confirmed that yes, it was. He then asked if this was "the same Sam that did elevator work... uh... does he work on elevators or elevation?" Huh? I paused for a while, because if I were to be completely & totally honest, I have no idea what my husband does at work. But, I've never heard him mention anything about elevators. So, I answered "no". However, it was one of those answers where I'm trying to convince myself & the other person that I actually am telling the truth. I assume he bought it because he thanked me & hung up the phone.

Guess I better double check with Sam to make sure that I didn't lead this poor Texas man with a thick, country accent & a 469 area code (he called me for free!) astray. And, then maybe I'll ask him what he actually does do at work...

Tuesday, October 23

Never Say Never

Sounds cliche, but I am learning the hard way to follow this advice.

Recently, I have been forced to make decisions regarding events I always said I would never do! I should never say never!

For instance, I always said I would absolutely, never ever homeschool! However, I almost feel as if I'm being forced into that situation. It's not that the schools in the Angeles area are not good. It's quite the opposite. They are very good & have extremely high standards. Much higher than standards in America. (They closely follow Korean curriculum. Which means smart kids!) But, they focus so much on academics & do not have any PE, Arts or Music programs. All the lower levels (Kindergarten-3rd Grade) in Angeles attend half-day school so they just don't have the time to include additional activities. They focus on reading, writing & mathematics for the 2.5 or 3 hours that school is in session. As it is, my kids are already a little behind their peers in their current school. They are just now figuring out that putting the sounds of letters together actually creates a word. Samuel is catching on very quickly now. He can read words such as: and, hat, cat, pat, fat, rat, sat, had, bad, pop, top, hop, is, stop, etc. I am daily amazed at his improvement. Sydney is also coming along quickly. She can put all the sounds together, but has a harder time forming the sounds into a word. For instance, if she reads the word "hat", she'll say, "Huh - a - t. Huat." She will get there, but she is just a little slower in her learning. (Always has been! My 16 month walker!) So, my fear is that if I enroll them in one of the schools I visited on Friday, they will feel completely lost and out of place with their peers. I certainly don't want them to feel frustrated & isolated in a school where they will already most likely be the only Westerners. It's just a lot of pressure for their tender age. I am hoping to avoid that at all costs. So, we are still praying & keeping our fingers crossed, but I'd be lying if I said that I have not seriously thought about homeschooling these past few days.

Also, I always said I would never live away from my husband while here. Our plan was to move with Sam wherever he needed to go, no matter what. But, after reviewing all our options at this time, I think we have both come to the conclusion that it would be better for the kids & I to stay behind here in Manila while Sam spends the week up in Clark working at the facility. If we decide to go that route, he will come home on Thursday or Friday nights for the weekend & go back to Clark on Monday mornings. It will only be for 6 months tops & we know that if a month into this decision, it is not working out for our family, we can always change our mind & move to the Clark area with Sam. No biggie. We are not bound to our decision. I think we will give that a shot & pray that it works out good for the kiddos. We'll see...

Hopefully I have learned my lesson to never use that "n" word! (Like I just did.) I'm pretty sure my sisters have sat back & had a good laugh these last 5+ years that I've been raising my children. Things that I said I would never do with kids, I'm sure have been done. Things that they always said, "Amberly, you just wait..." Well, I may not have figured it out then, but I'm figuring it out now:

NEVER SAY NEVER!

Sunday, October 21

Sam the Man

I've seen this on several other blogs lately, but my friend, Dana, tagged me on hers. So, here goes:

1. Who is your man? Sam
2. How long have you been married? 9.5 years - We celebrate the big 10 in February!
3. How long dated? I think it ended up being almost 2 years (I'm so bad with dates!)
4. How old is your man? Just turned 32
5. Who eats more? That is a tough one. It just all depends on the food, but I'd say we eat about equal amounts.
6. Who said “I love you” first? Oh geez... I don't remember exactly. I'm going to say Sam just because it sounds more romantic.
7. Who is taller? Sam
8. Who sings better? Before, I would have said I do in a heartbeat. But, after our newfound love of karaoke (or videoke), I think I'm going to have to give that award to him. He can sing a mean and very accurate Billy Joel or Paul McCartney song! He's awesome!
9. Who is smarter? Sam is book smart, but I think I have more common sense
10. Whose temper is worse? Hmmmm... that's a toss up. We both have hot tempers. Thankfully, we rarely have our tantrums at the same time.
11. Who does the laundry? We both do. We share the loading of the washer/dryer. I ALWAYS fold! (He never folds! I'm a bit anal about that.) And, he always puts the folded clothes away. I hate that chore!
12. Who takes out the garbage? We both do.
13. Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? I do, because it's the closest to the door.
14. Who pays the bills? Definitely Sam
15. Who is better with the computer? Me. But, he is much better with all the audio/visual components on a computer.
16. Who mows the lawn? We both do. (I love to mow!)
17. Who cooks dinner? Once again, we both do. But, he is a much better cook than I am & I am a better baker than he is. (I'm starting to realize how many chores we share.)
18. Who drives when you are together? Whoever gets behind the wheel first. (We fight for it, because it means the passenger gets to deal with the kids who will inevitably get in a fight in the backseat!)
19. Who pays when you go out? Whoever has the "Bills" card in their wallet.
20. Who is most stubborn? Hmmmm... hard one. I'm going to say me.
21. Who is the first to admit when they are wrong? Definitely me. Unfortunately, I am wrong a lot! (I have a really terrible memory!)
22. Whose parents do you see the most? Mine
23. Who kissed who first? He kissed me first in his car in the parking lot of our church. (I remembered that!)
24. Who asked who out? I asked him to my Senior Prom.
25. Who proposed? Sam
26. Who is more sensitive? We both are.
27. Who has more friends? I do.
28. Who has more siblings? We both have 2 siblings.
29. Who wears the pants in the family? Definitely Sam. But, he shares them with me. :)

I tag Christy, Stephanie C., Jennifer & Dixie. (Because, come on, Jenn & Dixie... it's time for a new post already!!!) :)

Saturday, October 20

Missing Home

Apparently, Christmas is a REALLY, REALLY huge celebration in the Philippines. They start celebrating early in September & continue on through December. Part of this celebration includes fireworks on most evenings. There are fireworks somewhere out near the bay at random times each evening. At first, we concluded they would occur sometime around 7:30 each evening. Then, they started shooting some around 9:30, also. Now, we have no clue as to when the fireworks will start sounding off! We just listen for the loud, popping sounds & then we each run to a different window to locate the show. Typically, we see them near the water. And, they are always beautiful! They really have a spectacular show here! It's just much shorter than the big shows I'm used to watching in Texas. However, I guess when you put on a fireworks display every evening for 4 months, a 5 minute show is sufficient.

This evening, I heard the sounds again at 11:30 pm. I got up to watch the fireworks & again saw the beautiful, huge displays fill the night sky over the water. Now, I absolutely LOVE fireworks! Always have! So, I will never get tired of watching these nightly shows. However, tonight's display brought back a flood of memories from this past Fourth of July in Texas. It was our last week at home before flying out to the Philippines. Sam's mom, dad & brother were visiting. Instead of heading out to a local show in the area (there are dozens to choose from!), we decided to stick close to home & take our chances on seeing fireworks from our upstairs windows. That was the best decision we made that night! We laid out on our trampoline & watched fireworks pop overhead. (While also slapping mosquitoes off our skin!) We ran upstairs & watched fireworks from a bathroom window. We sprinted to the boys' room & watched numerous firework shows visible from their three windows. And, we watched another colorful display from the window in our guest bedroom. (Or, our UT room, as we liked to call it! If you'd seen it, you would understand!) The kids & I (and sometimes another adult, if we could coax them away from the food!) went from room to room to backyard & back watching each display with amazement. (I think my kids love fireworks just as much as I do... thank goodness!) We had a wonderful time!

So, all of a sudden, watching this display tonight from my window on the 25th floor made me terribly homesick for our life back in Texas. This is one of the first times I have felt this way since moving here. I have definitely missed family & friends back home. I have longed for the familiarity of Dallas. I have wished to be in a place where my kids & I don't stick out like a sore thumb. But, I have never felt the very strong desire & urge to return home like I do tonight. I am missing it!

So, right now, I am going to cross my fingers, click my heels & chant, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home..." And, pray that I feel "at home" soon!

Thursday, October 18

Another Look-See

Tomorrow, I am going to Clark to start visiting schools in the area. Come January, the kids will be enrolled in a new school closer to Sammy's job site & we will have a home there also. And, I am having a very hard time with this decision! Very hard. In fact, just typing it out in print already makes me teary eyed. I really do not want to move them... at all! It was hard enough making the transition to this huge international school. But, now they love their school, their friends, their teachers & their routine. And, so do I. But, when I weigh all the options, it's just not worth having an absent father. I know that having their dad available will do more for them in the long run than any school will ever do. But, that doesn't make it any easier at the moment.

My hope for tomorrow is that I will visit a school that is just outstanding & that will really stand out to me as a wonderful school for my kids. I want and need something tomorrow to tell me that we are making the right decision for our family. Right now, I have so many doubts and fears. I am hoping tomorrow that I will find peace of mind and confidence.

Dear Anxiety, please go away!

Wednesday, October 17

Public Urination

The one thing I CANNOT get used to over here is men urinating in public! It's disgusting! They unzip their fly & do their business... in the bushes, on the cement, in a drainage hole, against a tree trunk, anywhere! They even have little structures on the side of the highway the resemble a circular phone booth. Except that it is only covered from about your knees up. So, when you see a man's feet standing in there, facing away from the road, you still know what they are doing. And, every time I see it, it turns my stomach. Disgusting! I can't even imagine what it must smell like for all the people walking the streets every day. Which must be why they carry washcloths to cover their noses & mouths. I was always told it was to help alleviate the amount of smog & pollution they breathe in. But, I am convinced it is to keep from having to smell the urine soaked sidewalk they are forced to walk on! UGH! I'm feeling queasy just thinking about it...

Monday, October 15

Monday in Manila

I have been craving banana pudding for quite a while since moving here. Of course. Why do I crave the things I can't have? Just like good Tex-Mex! Anyway... the problem is that nobody here knew what Nilla Wafers were. And, you just plain cannot have banana pudding without Nilla Wafers. But, just by chance, I ran across a stock of them at a grocery store the other day. I was SO excited! So, I grabbed 2 boxes & all the remaining necessary ingredients to make banana pudding. I had to make it all from scratch, including the vanilla custard, but I am positive it will be worth it. I'll find out after dinner in a while. I cannot wait! (And, yes, that is a photo of my beautiful banana pudding!! I'm very proud!)

I almost talked the kids into going with another theme for their Halloween costumes this year. I was so excited! I thought I was going to have my way for atleast one more year. Samuel was on board... Sydney was on board... Nicholas was NOT! Of all my kids, I would have thought that either of the older two would be more opinionated & stubborn about their Halloween costumes. But, I should have known better. It was Nick. I wanted to have a Texas football theme with Nick as the football player, Samuel as the referee & Sydney as a cheerleader. But, Nicholas is determined to be Spiderman. He refuses to consider any other options. So, once again, we will have a Spiderman son for Halloween. Samuel has since decided he wants to be Darth Vader & Sydney will be a princess. Oh well... maybe next year.

Yesterday, I took Nick back to the doctor in the hopes of removing his stitches. The doctor peeled off his gauze, looked at Nick's thumb & determined that the stitches needed to stay on for one more week. He then covered his thumb back up with a simple Band-Aid, handed me my bill & walked me to the door. I ended up paying a little over $12.00 for 1 minute of his time & a plain 'ol Band-Aid. Ridiculous!

By the way, should I be worried about a doctor who stores his iodine in an old Gatorade container?

Dinner is ready...

Sunday, October 14

Olivia Oink & Mr. Fluffy

(I have insomnia right now... so I'm posting AGAIN!)

Samuel & Sydney's Kindergarten classes each have a class mascot. Samuel's class mascot is a cute little stuffed pig named Olivia Oink. We had the privilege of having Miss Olivia Oink as our guest a few weekends ago. As part of the class curriculum, Samuel had to take pictures & write in Olivia's journal. Here are some of the fun pictures we took:

Samuel & Olivia Oink Playing Video Games

Olivia Oink Met a Mime at Greenhills

Olivia Oink & Friends at Chili's

After a long day, Olivia Oink shares a bubble bath

Olivia Oink plays dress-up with Samuel (a.k.a. Flash)

Olivia Oink dressed in a Spidey shirt with the Spiderman posse

And, last but not least, Olivia Oink is appalled at what our family eats for breakfast!

Then, last weekend, Sydney was able to bring home her class mascot, Mr. Fluffy. Mr. Fluffy is a great big cuddly bear who had lost his eyes, but received new ones thanks to one of Sydney's classmate's mother. Sydney got to bring home Mr. Fluffy on Daddy's birthday weekend and she was very excited. Here are the pictures she took for his journal:

Mr. Fluffy meets Sydney's friends from Germany

Mr. Fluffy helps us celebrate Daddy's birthday

Mr. Fluffy & Sydney enjoy chocolate cake

Mr. Fluffy & Sydney exercise together

Mr. Fluffy & Sydney brush their teeth

The kids & I must admit, Mom & Dad, enjoyed staging each of the photos. It was a fun class project!