Thursday, June 21


So, that is what the relocation company here in Manila calls our visit to the Philippines... a look-see. Every time I heard them say that, I thought it was a little comical. Then, when I caught a glimpse of our agenda yesterday, I noticed the title read, "Look-See". It still sounds funny to say... almost like I'm talking to a baby, "Looksy here!"

So, I already wrote about our look-see visits on Monday. Now, I'll write about what we saw Tuesday & Wednesday.

Tuesday we visited the International School of Manila ( GREAT school! It's wonderful! I'm afraid I liked it too much!! We may only live in Manila for a few months, which makes it a very tough decision whether to enroll the kids in this wonderful school & keep them there even after the project moves to Angeles City. If we do that, then Sammy will have a 1 hour & 45 minute commute one way to & from home each day. That's definitely not my idea of quality family time! Otherwise, I can just wait to enroll the kids mid-year at a school in Angeles City when the project moves there. I've visited that international school, which is really nice, but just not the same as the ISM. It's hard to downgrade your idea of something when you've already seen the best option available. But, we just need to figure out where our priorities lie & go from there. That & a LOT of prayer!

International School of Manila

After we saw the school, we went to look at some of the housing. We saw 8 homes for rent in the Makati area of Manila. Some were very nice, some were not. All of them were HUGE!! Huge homes, huge rooms, huge backyards!! Very spacious! Sammy & I really only liked one home. But, like I said above, we're not even sure that we'll be spending much time here in Manila, so there's really no point in considering a one-year home lease.

Home at South Forbes Park

After the homes, we looked at condos for rent. I didn't think I would be the least bit interested in renting a condo, but we did look at one that we both loved! The pool area is wonderful for the kiddos... it has a huge grassy area where several kids were out playing the evening we looked... it has an underground walkway to a mall directly across the street... it has an awesome gym/spa in the basement... and all the other amenities just can't be beat! Plus, I already made connections with a 16-year-old high school girl who was exercising in the basement when we walked through. Her family is from Connecticut & she told me how much she loved their apartment. And, she told me how much she likes to babysit!! Little does she know...

After we toured 6 different condo buildings, we called it a day. We were very tired & our feet hurt!! Sammy & I crashed early that night!

The next morning, we left the hotel at 7:30 am to drive to Angeles City/Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ). We met a new representative, Jim, from the relocation company that TI is providing for us. Jim took us first to see the Westfield International School in Angeles City. After we toured the school, we went to the Clark mall. (The Clark Special Economic Zone used to be the US Clark Air Force Base. This was where they took John McCain when he was released from being a POW. So, when I say we went to Clark, basically we just drove onto base property... except that it's not a US base anymore. The Philippines just treat it as such. Right down to guards at each entrance!) We killed a little time at the mall before heading to another wonderful Italian restaurant in Angeles City. There, we met a realtor who took us to view 2 homes for rent. And, that's it! Only 2 homes! This is hard for me to comprehend coming from Dallas, TX, but basically we were told that TI is pioneering the way for a new industry influx in the area. Angeles City is not used to & not prepared for new families to move into the area. So, there are very few homes for rent... very few! Both families nixed those homes very quickly. Sammy & I didn't like the neighborhood atmosphere. I think the other family felt the same way. So, Jim took us onto the CSEZ to view the old base housing that they are refurbishing specifically for all the new TI employee families. We are not required to live here, but TI has contracted with them to refurbish the duplexes so that they will be suitable for our families. They were nice. Not outstanding, but liveable for 2 years. The largest they had was a 3 bedroom duplex & they will be outfitting them with new furniture... sofa, dining room table, 3 queen size beds & mattresses, bedside tables & appliances. That seems to be a good option for our family, if we decide to move to CSEZ & enroll the children in the Westfield International School. So many choices!!

Westfield International School in Angeles City

After seeing all there was to see in Angeles City & CSEZ, we buckled up for the commute back to the hotel, which took 2 hours!! That just confirmed that it would most likely not be a viable option for Sammy. The kids & I would really miss him if he spent 4 hours commuting each day!

Yesterday was by far my hardest day here. Angeles City was quite disappointing, in my opinion. It was very primitive living & there were just very few options as far as housing, schooling, extracurricular activities, etc. But, this is where TI chose to build their brand new facility. We were told several times yesterday that our families are basically the "guinea pigs" in the area. We'll be the ones paving the way for new industries/companies to build in Angeles City. And, we'll be the ones to pave the way for a true real estate market. I'm just not sure I want to pave the way for anything!! I didn't sign up for that. After shedding a few tears, I sucked it up & went on about the afternoon. I want to have my cake & eat it too, which is just probably asking way too much. I need to spend some serious time on my knees!!

Since yesterday was so draining on all of us, the other wife, Julie, and I decided that we needed a day of pampering. So, we slept in late this morning, had brunch, then made an appointment for a spa pedicure. It was wonderful & so relaxing! After our pedicures, we went to the spa downstairs & had a 1-hour full body massage! We'd been on our feet, walking for 3 days straight. We needed to de-stress & relax. The massage did the trick. Then, this evening, we all went to see Ocean's 13. The tickets were $3 each!!! You can't beat that! We all enjoyed the movie. It was good. Now, we're back in our hotel room, just relaxing. I find myself constantly wondering what the kiddos are doing right now. I miss them so much!! But, I also know they are having fun with Mimi & Papa & Aunt Jon & all their cousins. I'm glad they are getting this time to spend with them before we move overseas.

Tomorrow will be another lazy day, I hope. Maybe I can work on my tan by the pool! Then, I am flying home early Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to it!

See you soon...

Monday, June 18

Our Monday Adventure

(This is the view from our hotel window at night.)

Monday morning, Sammy & I woke up early to hit the gym. After a good workout, we came back up to our room, showered & got ready for the day. We ate our standard breakfast buffet that the hotel provides, then waited to meet our relocation liason from the Philippines. Little did we know that she was waiting in the lobby for us while we were waiting for her on the couch across the way. It was a little humorous when we discovered that the lady we had been secretly staring at for 10 minutes was actually our guide! Her name is Catriona (Cat for short) and she is originally from Scotland. She has 16-year-old twin boys that attend boarding school in New Zealand. They are already studying for their engineering degree. Her husband works for the Marriott Hotel chain & they have been living in the Philippines for 4 years now. However, they have lived pretty much everywhere... England, Germany, New Zealand, in the Middle East, India, Russia & China... just to name the places I can remember off the top of my head. She was very thorough, very straightforward & very friendly. She gave us all a good laugh.

When I mentioned the common sight of old, white men with young, Filipino women, she said they had a phrase they used there to describe that: "Old farts with young tarts"

She also confirmed what we had suspected... you do have to ask for your bill to be brought to you at the end of the meal. They will not bring it without you asking first. Quite a different approach from the fast paced American life. We like to rush, rush, rush!! That is definitely not the case here!

She took us to see two schools yesterday, a very nice hospital, a great marketplace & outdoor mall. Today, we are going to see the International School of Manila & some housing in the area.

The two schools we saw yesterday were so completely different in every way! The first was a Montessori school & followed the core Montessori principles. The administrators were both educated at a University in the US (I want to say Loyola Univ.) and all the teachers have thier Early Childhood Education degrees from local colleges. Everyone was very friendly, but the kids almost seemed a little robotic. They were all doing their own thing, working on their own... very quietly. We saw a music class in progress & all the kids were sitting so perfectly, singing along with opera music. They do have outside play time & the kids looked happy, but they just seemed to be so quiet & focused. Which is a great thing... just not what I'm used to with my own kids! :)

The second school was so different. Their administrator was also educated in the US, at a school in New York. So, they follow American curriculum. However, they did a lot of work outside, also. They have an animal area with guinea pigs & rabbits. They used to have a goat & chickens, but they had to get rid of the chickens due to the bird flu... and the goat died. Hmmmm... And, each class has a garden outside their window that they tend. It wasn't as flashy as the Montessori school, but the kids appeared to be happier here. They were visibly having fun... smiling & laughing. The teachers were young & playful. They were active. I liked that about this school. It also helped that at the end of our tour, one American mother happened to be picking up her son. So, I stepped aside from the group & asked her if she would mind talking to me for a bit. She told me they had been at this school for 2 years now & she & her kids really like it. Her son that she was picking up is 4 & she has a 5-year-old that attended in years past, but I'm assuming attends elsewhere now. She said both of her kids really like the school & she likes it that they are happy there. She confirmed that they do a lot of outdoor work & play. So, talking to her probably did more to inform me than the entire tour! I'm more interested in my kids having fun & being happy than being #1 in their class.

After touring the schools, she took us to lunch at this fabulous Italian restaurant! I had spinach & ricotta raviolis! YUMMM!! Cat ordered raviolis stuffed with asparagus & broccoli sauce. They were delicious!! We're definitely going back there!

After lunch, she took us to see one of the best hospitals in the area. A hospital administrator gave us a tour of the facility, which was very nice. Seeing the Presidential Suite birthing room almost makes me want to have another baby here. Almost... but, not quite! It was a very lovely room, though! We toured pretty much all of the hospital & got to see the nursery where the newborns were. They were so precious & tiny! I just wanted to stay there & hold them!! I couldn't have cared less about the remainder of the tour, but I had to go along... I was relieved once it was over. I was tired of walking!

Then, we drove back into Makati to visit an outdoor marketplace (like a Farmer's Market) & an outdoor mall (like Firewheel Mall in Garland). The produce market was fun! I LOVE things like that! I saw so many different fruits that I have never in my life seen before! I can't even tell you what they were called, but they were certainly interesting... and a little smelly! We walked down a row of stands filled with foods from various areas of the Philippines. Foods that are customary to that region. We walked down a row of beautiful, fragrant, fresh flowers! Georgeous flowers of all colors!!

The outdoor mall had all the same stores we have in the states, plus much more. We didn't go in any, but just walked & browsed.

She also took us to a store called S&R, which is EXACTLY like a Sam's store in the US. In fact, we were convinced that it had to be a part of the Sam's chain. Everything was exactly the same! Here, they have all of the American foods that we're used to, plus a good variety of local cuisine. But, when I get hungry for Pringles or Hot Pockets or Cheerios, this is where I'll be heading.

Cat also took us to a eyeglasses store so that I could buy an extra pair of contacts. (It's a good thing I had my prescription on me.) I ordered my new contacts before I left, but they didn't arrive in time, so I've been wearing the same pair for a while now. However, my left one has been bothering me so much, that Cat finally insisted that I go get a new pair at this place. They did have to order my prescription, but I'll be able to pick them up sometime this afternoon! In the meantime, I'll be wearing my glasses today.

Oh... she also told Sammy & I about the American Eye Clinic here in Makati that does laser eye surgery for much cheaper than in the States. She has known several people that had this done & highly recommends it. I think we're going to look into it for me. Sammy might wait until his eye prescription stays steady for a while. This is probably what I'm most excited about!!

That was our day in a nutshell. It's 7:45 right now & I've got to get ready to meet her again at 9 in the lobby. I'll post later about how our day visiting the International School & looking at houses went. One thing we did learn about renting here... you have to put down a deposit worth 3 month's rent, PLUS you have to pay a year's worth of rent upfront. You can't pay month to month here, even if you sign a contract to rent for a year. You have to pay the full year's rent upfront! That is something Texas Instruments does not know about, but will soon learn from us! There's no way we can do that, so that will completely change the housing allowance they told us about. Oh well... that's why we're here... to learn how in the world we're going to move over here!!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Monday... or Tuesday!

Sunday, June 17

Hard Rock in Makati

We ate dinner tonight at TGIFridays. (Which, by the way always reminds me of watching Office Space, where Jennifer Aniston has to wear a certain amount of "flare" on her waitress uniform. These servers tonight had on TONS of "flare"!! And, because of her flare, we found out her favorite sports team is the Miami Heat. She said she liked the Mavericks, also, but I think she was just fishing for a bigger tip.) On our way home from dinner, we passed the entrance to Hard Rock Cafe, so we stopped to take a picture:

A couple of other things I've realized here:

* In the United States, they are typically fast to bring you your check at the end of a meal. Here in the Philippines, every single time we've gone out to eat, we always have to ask to have our check brought to us. Every time! Even when we eat downstairs in the hotel restaurant. Either it's just customary here to ask for your bill, or they are in no rush to get you out of the restaurant like they are in the US. Tonight we waited & waited & waited, until I finally mentioned that I really think we have to ask for the bill. Sure enough...

* They have some humorous remakes of American songs. Some are truly funny!!

* They have a Philippine Idol. The phenomenon has even reached over here! I wonder what their "Simon Cowell" character is like ??

* Fantastic Four is the biggest movie in the theater right now. Of the 5 screen theater, it takes up 3!

* There are police officers & security guards EVERYWHERE here!! Security is excellent! Which can be either good or bad... either they've had problems in the past & stepped up security to fight it. Or, they've just always been this secure & really are a safe country. Maybe we're just in a very safe area of Manila. You have to pass through metal detectors before entering malls & department stores. There is a security guard posted at the entrance of almost every building/store here. There are security guards at every underground walkway. They're just everywhere! Very safe & secure!

* It is very much like living back in Kingsville... hot & really, really humid! We're used to that!

Have a great Sunday & Happy Father's Day!!

Saturday, June 16

Some Observations...

One thing we have both noticed while walking around the city yesterday, eating out in different restaurants & even within our own hotel... there are LOTS of older, white men seen with younger Filipino women. LOTS! It's interesting.

I'm also making a list of items I definitely need to stock up on in the US that I cannot find easily here:

* Tyenol or Advil
* Shampoo + Conditioner Bottle (I like the combo bottles, where I only have to wash & rinse one time! I don't have time to shampoo, rinse, condition & rinse again! Too much fuss!)
* Certain feminine products (Who knew they don't allow the use of a certain product here?!?!)
* Tide To Go - Instant Stain Remover (I should ALWAYS keep this in my purse!)

I'm sure I'll be adding to the list the longer I stay here & the more I experience. I had a heck of a time finding headache medicine this morning, which is why that is tops on my list today. We finally had to go to a medical cinic just to get 2 Tylenol. I don't want to have to go to all that trouble next time.

Today is Father's Day here in Manila... so Happy Father's Day to all of you great Dads out there! I've got one of the best fathers here with me in Manila. I am so thankful for the great Dad he is to our three kids. They adore him & he absolutely adores them, too!

Also, my wonderful Dad is getting to experience his Father's Day today with our three little ones. Dad, thank you for being the best father to me & the best Papa to my kiddos. You are #1 to all of us!! I love you!

More on Manila

Here are some more pictures we took walking around Manila last night:

Hard Rock Cafe in Makati & California Pizza Kitchen

Lots of other flashy restaurants

Pictures of our hotel... The Peninsula in Manila

And, yes, the traffic is always like that!! FAST & CRAZY!! The honking here is outrageous! I've never heard so much honking in my life before. If a light turns green, the very next millisecond, all the cars (and, I do mean ALL) behind the very first car start honking their horns. Long & loud!! And, there are pretty much no rules on which lanes turn, which lanes go straight, etc. You can turn from any lane... even if you're in the far right lane, you can turn left. All you do is lay on your horn to let everybody know you're coming over! It's crazy! But, Sammy & I both noticed that even though there is so much traffic & it's just complete mayhem, we have not seen or heard one single wreck since we've been here. Maybe Dallas drivers could learn something from these Filipinos.

Seventh Floor View

We are in a corner room on the seventh floor of the Peninsula Hotel ( in Manila. It is absolutely gorgeous. The lobby looks exactly as it does on the main picture on the website. Beautiful!

Here are some photos Sammy took out of our window this morning:

This is what they call a Jeepney. They converted old war Jeeps into these longer versions & they are used as mini-buses. You just hop on the back of one & tell the driver where you want to go. You pay after you get off the vehicle.
(These are for you, Dad!)

And, my favorite picture so far... this is our hotel courtyard right below our window:

There are so many tropical areas in Manila that are just so beautiful like this courtyard. I love it!

Japan Airlines

We flew Japan Airlines from Tokyo on to Manila, Philippines. It was another huge plane! And, the Japanese flight attendants were some of the nicest people we have encountered. They were all just absolutely beautiful & so kind!

We were served a meal on the way to Manila & beforehand I asked for a Coke to drink. The sweet flight attendant looked at me & asked me to repeat my drink. Thinking maybe she didn't understand Coke, I said, "Can I get a Coca Cola please?" Maybe it was noisy & she couldn't hear me very well, but she looked a bit confused, so I tried one more time, "Can I get a soda?" That she understood. She turned to Sammy & he indicated he wanted the same. So, she brought us our drinks... two soda waters. Ewwww! Needless to say, we didn't drink them & asked her one last time for a Coke. She heard us this time & finally brought us both a classic red can of Coke! (As a side note, on the can, underneath the word "Coke", was written a description... "Refreshing & Uplifting". I thought the word "uplifting" was an odd description for a can of soda. Maybe that word is used a little differently in Japan than it is in the US ??)

Now to the meal... the only meal that sounded even remotely appealing to me was the sirloin steak. Everything else either had mushrooms in it or was a seafood dish. With my stomach acting crazy, I knew I couldn't handle a seafood dish at the moment. So, we both ordered the steak. When they brought our meal, there were plates of all sorts of food spread about the tray. Our salad was 2 tomato wedges in a bed of I don't know what. Maybe cabbage & onions? Maybe shredded turnips? I have no idea what it was, but I wasn't willing to try it at that point. The salad dressing was an onion dressing, so it just didn't sound good to my tummy. There was a seafood gelatin mold thingy with four different sides. The only side I recognized was tartar sauce. I tried a small bite of it, but couldn't handle any more than that. Next to the steak, there was a small mound of almond topped mashed potatoes, which was pretty good. There was also some stringy sauteed mushrooms on the other side. I'm not sure what they are called, but I'm just not a mushroom gal. Our dessert was another gelatin item... banana with a lemon topping. It wasn't my favorite dessert, but it was okay. I finished it.

I really wanted to try new experiences & taste the local flavor, but I'm just not sure that me or my stomach is up to handling all that foreign food.

Today, we ate dinner at Outback Steakhouse in Manila. It was much easier to tolerate! Something I thought was funny... what we call an "Awesome Blossom", they named a "Typhoon Tower". Under the description, it says the Typhoon Tower will "blow you away"! Sammy has pointed out how many times I've said "awesome" to a Filipino when asking for directions & he doesn't think they understand that word. So, when he saw that on the menu, he thought it validated his point. I don't buy it... yet.

Anyway, the flight here was great, but the people made it even better. I just can't stress enough how sweet & accommodating the Japanese attendants were. And, they were absolutely stunning!! It was a wonderful experience!

Friday, June 15

Missing my kids...

When I'm with my kids 24/7, I always complain about how I would love to have a vacation... to just get away for a while!

Now, that I've been gone for a day (or has it been two? I'm very confused!), I just want to be home with them again. I miss them so much!

Why can't I just be happy with what I've got at the moment??? I frustrate myself!

Tokyo Airport

Here are a few pictures we took inside the Japanese airport in Tokyo. If I remember correctly, it's called the Narita Airport.

Sam & Amberly in front of a Japanese art mural:

Another view of the mural:

Close-up of the mural, which was very odd & interesting:

We are now in the Philippines! I'll update about that flight & our experience here so far in another post. I can't wait to get out & explore this city!!

Tokyo Bound

As I type, we are flying over the ocean. The problem is, I’m not exactly sure which ocean it is! Sammy says it’s the Bering Sea, so I’ll just take his word for it. (I double checked & he was right... we flew over the Bering Sea & the Pacific Ocean.)

We flew out of DFW airport on Thursday, June 14th at 12:05 pm & it is now 8:35 pm. I’m starting to get a little worried about how we’re going to do this next month with 3 kids in tow. I mean… seriously!! There are some kids on this flight, but of course, they are all perfect angels! I haven’t heard a peep out of them. (That probably has a lot to do with the awesome BOSE headphones we got at the beginning of the flight. They are wonderful!) I’m afraid my kids might be a little more active & quite restless. That’s where Benadryl will come in handy, I hear!

SO… send me all your tips & tricks on how you help kids during a long flight. We’ve got the portable DVD player, thanks to Sammy’s brother who had the foresight to buy that for our family last Christmas. Thanks, Jake!! Sammy will also be surprising them with handheld video game systems once we get on the plane. Well, I guess it won’t be a huge surprise, since they get to pick out their own games, but it’ll certainly be a novelty item… atleast for a few hours. I’m packing coloring books, markers, crayons & reading books But, still… it’s a 13 hour flight to Japan alone & even I’m getting tired of watching movies, sleeping, reading, etc. (Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I’d get tired of sleeping! But, it’s true! I’m not really used to doing it anymore!) What I really want to be doing is laying on the floor coloring with my kids right now! I sure do miss them like crazy!

Sammy says that on my flight back home, I’ll be able to sit next to the window. I’m looking forward to that. I’m a pretty inexperienced flyer, so I still get all giddy looking out the window at the scenery below.

Texas Instruments flew us Business Class, which I have to say is my favorite way to fly so far! (I’ve never experienced First Class, though…) We got to skip all the long lines at the airport & go straight to the front. I felt a little guilty walking past all the other passengers waiting patiently in line, but getting to the front of the line came in handy, since we were running a bit late. (Imagine that… ME running late?!?! NEVER!!) The flight attendants have been so friendly & so attentive to us. At one point, I got up to take my water bottle & drinking glasses back to the galley. The flight attendant got up from her chair & said, “Please let me get that. You don’t need to be waiting on yourself.” I explained to her that I had 3 kids & waiting on myself only was actually a luxury for me!

The flight so far has been smooth & easy. My stomach, on the other hand, has not been. I probably should have taken something to calm my nerves… lesson learned for next time!

Thank you all for your prayers & thoughts for our family during this time of transition for us. We are excited & completely nervous all at the same time! I’m going to do my absolute best about updating this blog more frequently. This is my only form of journaling & I know this experience is one I’ll not want to forget!

Have a great day … whatever day it is where you are!!

Nick's Surgery

We had a surgical consultation Monday afternoon with a pediatric surgeon for Nick’s umbilical hernia. Originally, we were going to wait until he was about 4 or 5 years old to perform this surgery on him. However, given the current circumstances of our move, we decided to see if it was possible to be done before we left the country. So, he & I went in for a visit & the doctor agreed that it would be fine to go ahead & perform the procedure. What totally took us by surprise was the fact that he wanted to schedule it for the very next morning… Tuesday, June 12. The surgeon was so great to work within our very narrow timeframe & for that, I am completely thankful! So, Nick, Sydney & I went in to the children’s pediatric surgery center early Tuesday morning, so he could be prepped for his 9:00 showtime! (Samuel stayed at his friend, Josh’s, house.)

Nicholas did great & they were able to close up the hernia completely! The surgeon, Dr. Renard, told me that the hole was bigger than they expected, so he has a lot of loose bellybutton skin that he’ll eventually grow into. Kinda like all my loose belly skin from carrying the twins for 9 months… except that I really don’t want to grow into it!! I want to cut it off! But, that's a whole other story...

Eventually Nick's bellybutton will look like a normal one & he’ll be able to see his toes again soon!

For now, Mimi & Papa are so good to take care of him while he’s healing. I know they will do a great job keeping him healthy & happy while he takes it easy for a few days.

That’s just one more thing I get to cross off my list before we move…

Tuesday, June 5

A Big Tomato!!

This past Spring Break, we had to cancel our trip to my parent's house due to a tornado that passed through their land & did some damage to their home. At the same time, our little 'ol town of Wylie experienced several tornadoes in a short period of time. So, the kids became pretty familiar with tornadoes... what we do if a tornado is near... where we go when we hear the tornado sirens, etc.

Yesterday evening, a pretty big thunderstorm came rolling into Bastrop. We were sitting out on my parent's front porch, watching the clouds come closer, awestruck by the beautiful lightning & listening to the thunder. The kids were running around on the porch & having a great time! When a particulary loud thunder roared in the sky, Nicholas came sprinting back towards where I was sitting & shouted, "MOM, IT'S A BIG TOMATO!"

He knows all about tornadoes... he just doesn't quite know how to say it yet!!