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:


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!

Saturday, October 13

Ignorance is Bliss

I had lunch with a couple of mothers from Samuel's Kindergarten class on Thursday. Since I am the room mother for his class, I have come to know many of the moms. (The remainder of them probably try to avoid me due to my constant request for volunteers!) Anyway, the two mothers I lunched with are from Israel. And, they are as nice as they can be. However, I was completely saddened to hear that they are shunned by most people because of their nationality. We were discussing how we liked (or sometimes disliked) living in the Philippines and they told me that life here for them was much easier and less stressful than living in Israel. They talked about all the turmoil and fear in Israel. I admitted that I was pretty ignorant about the current state of affairs in Israel and truly had no idea that life here would be that much easier for them. They both looked at each other & smiled knowingly. Then, Iris, one of the mothers said, "That's why you are so nice to us. You have no prejudice against us."

I know this happens all over the world - probably especially in America: citizens from other countries feel totally isolated, abandoned and maybe even threatened when they move away from their homeland. I have felt this way several times here, but thankfully, I have a good network of friends that moved with me. We can gripe, moan and complain together without feeling guilty or ungrateful. (And, I don't mean to sound ungrateful. There is a lot to love in the Philippines, but seriously... it's just not Texas!) But, when I heard these two women talk about the prejudices they endured here, I was in disbelief. It still shocks me when I hear about these ugly truths.

I am glad I have met these two ladies. Sydney plays with one's daughter and Samuel plays with the other's son. Samuel's friend, Omer, doesn't speak a lick of English. Hebrew only. However, they still have a wonderful time together. And, Samuel has even learned to say "no" in Hebrew when Omer gets a little too rough. I know I've said it before, but I love that my kids are making friends from all over... Israel, India, Ireland, Australia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, England, China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam & of course, the Philippines, just to name a few. I pray that this experience opens their minds and hearts forever!

Thoughts on Sydney

The word "shy" from the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says this:

1: easily frightened : timid
2: disposed to avoid a person or thing (publicity shy)
3: hesitant in committing oneself : circumspect
4: sensitively diffident or retiring : reserved; also : expressive of such a state or nature (a shy smile)
5: secluded, hidden
6: having less than the full or specified amount or number : short (just shy of six feet tall)
7: disreputable (gambling hells and shy saloons - Blackwood's)

The reason I included these definitions is because Sydney completely fits the first, second, third & fourth definition. That is just her personality & it always has been! Moving here has done her a world of good as far as coming out of her shell more, but at her core, she is still a very shy little girl. Which makes it hard when she gets invited to playdates. She has quite a few good friends at school and she gets invited to several playdates, which I am very thankful for! However, I always tell the parents that for the most part, she is quiet & shy, so please don't take it personally if she doesn't always speak up, etc. I always tell them this so they will be aware of her personality. So, after 2 of her playdates last week, both mothers told me how Sydney didn't talk much, didn't eat much and was very shy. NO KIDDING!!!! That's why I tell them beforehand! Each mother was very surprised at how reserved Sydney acted. I'm guessing that I have the only shy child on this side of the world. But, between her Daddy & her Mimi, she definitely came by it honestly!

Another character trait she came by honestly is her dislike of cats! I have NEVER liked cats! Never! BUT, I have also never said or shown this in front of her. (Atleast, not to my knowledge.) In fact, last year, when she wanted to be a kitty cat for Halloween, instead of cringing, I smiled & went along with it. And, she loved being a black cat. But, when it comes to the real thing, she very much dislikes them. She is actually pretty scared of them... as am I! Which was the case when she went to her friend's house last week who had a cat. She was very frightened of that little cat. She acted the same way at friend's homes in Wylie, even when I was there & pretended to like the cats just so she could see that it was okay. I guess her fear of cats is just another personality trait passed on in her genes.

On Friday, Sydney spent the day with her friend from school & had a wonderful time! Last night, she spent the night at another friend's house & I'm sure had a great time! I am really looking forward to seeing her this afternoon & spending some time with her myself.

In the meantime, 2 little boys are playing together in the other room & are having so much fun!!! So much that I think I'll go join them...

Sunday, October 7

So Brave!

Nicholas is so proud of himself for being "so brave"! And, of course, so are we! So, we took some pictures this morning of our big, brave boy. And, he gave the camera the best smiles!

All ready for school this morning, even with a wounded thumb:

Trying so hard to give two thumbs up:

Cleaning the wound & changing the gauze. He says it "tickles":

And, lastly, his fat, swollen thumb with three blue stitches:

Can I just say how wonderful it is to have a nurse on call at the condo? I don't have to remove the gauze or bandage myself... I don't have to clean the wound... I don't have to wrestle a wiggling 3-year-old & pin him to the chair so he will sit still. All I have to do is hold him in my lap & comfort him while someone else does all the hard work. I love it!

Stitches... AGAIN!

Nick & I made a quick visit to the Patient First care center here in Makati this evening. Today was Sammy's birthday & he had asked for a Sunday afternoon nap. Easy enough! So, after lunch, the kids & I got Daddy all tucked into bed, closed his door behind us & went into their bedrooms to play. Actually, I laid down on the bed to finish reading a book, while the kids played in the closets. The closets here are pretty big. You can go in one door, walk to the other end of the closet & exit out the other side. It's a fun game to them. They try to guess which door the person in the closet will exit out. And, honestly, I should have known the potential for disaster this little game held. Three small kids opening & closing four different closet doors at rapid pace. Disaster! And, so it was. While I was reading the last few pages of my book, Nick started crying... hard. I knew immediately he had smashed his finger, but did not expect to see what I saw. He smashed his thumb & he smashed it good! So good that it split open. So, we ran it under some cool water for a while, but the bleeding never stopped. I was able to calm him a bit & hold a piece of ice on his thumb, but could not stop the bleeding. And, I also couldn't decide how serious the gash was. So, I sent Sydney in to wake up Sammy so I could get his opinion. She came back with the announcement that "Daddy is gone". HUH?!? I went to check the bed & sure enough, he was not there. Come to find out, he had locked himself in the bathroom due to a very upset stomach. Which lasted the rest of his birthday. (He is currently spending the last half hour of his birthday snoring!) Since he was out of the picture, I called the front desk of our condo unit & asked if there was a doctor or nurse on call. Luckily, there was a nurse on call who came to help out. She iced his thumb, she blotted blood, she poured on hydrogen peroxide & iodine, she blotted more blood & she tried very hard to determine whether he needed stitches or not. She finally recommended I take him to the clinic nearby. By this time, his thumb was as big as a grape & as purple as one too! The clinic doctor removed the gauze, took one look at the open wound & said he would definitely need stitches. So, for the second time in his short 3 years on earth, Nick received stitches. When the doctor came out of the room after he sutured Nick's thumb, he was laughing. He told me that Nick had fallen asleep during the procedure. I made sure that they only gave him a local anesthetic & they assured me that they did. He was just very relaxed & very tired. Sure enough, I walked into the operating room & there was Nick completely sacked out & snoring on the operating table. What a trooper!

From the moment I could feel him moving around in my belly, I knew he was going to be a wild one! So far, he has not let me down.

Saturday, October 6

All About Food

Remember my neighbors? Well, they may be famous, but their home stinks!! Really bad! The first time I smelled it, I seriously thought there was a dead rodent nearby. Then, a friend of mine came to my room & said it smelled like a wet dog. She thought they were cooking dog. Which, from what I understand, isn't too uncommon in the Philippines. However, after a little investigation (my cook is pretty nosy!), we discovered it was not dog, but some sort of dried fish they were cooking. It was DIS-GUS-TING! (And, I'm not the only one who thinks so!) We turned on all our exhaust vents, turned the A/C up high & stayed as far away from that side of the condo as possible! It eventually dissipated. But, not before I complained to the housekeeping staff that came to get some empty boxes out of my apartment. They just nodded & smiled when I asked them what in the world smelled so terrible. Who knows... might have smelled like roses to them.

Then, it happened again a few days later. A terribly repulsive smell! Seriously... I'd take the stench of my son's rotavirus over this dried fish business any day. So, this time, I held my breath, ran out my front door, pressed that elevator button as fast as I could & prayed that I could hold my breath until the elevator made it up to the 25th floor. I went straight to the front lobby & made a formal complaint. I halfway knew they wouldn't and/or couldn't do anything about it, but I wanted my complaint to be known.

The third time we smelled it, we were alerted when Nick came running into our bedroom & announced, "Something smells like poop!" He was right on!

And, when it occurred a fourth time, I was furious! By the time I made it downstairs to complain AGAIN, the lady at the front desk said, "Oh, you must be here about the smell?" (I'm thinking surely they must have gotten a whiff of it!) I asked how she knew & she said they had already had one complaint that morning. She said, "In fact, I think it was your husband. Yes, it was. He stopped by earlier to let us know." Good for him! (But, they obviously hadn't done anything about it.)

She offered to give us an ionizer & was surprised when I told her that we already had 4 ionizers in our home. (With the pollution as bad as it is here & having no control over the air conditioner filters, we decided the next best thing we could do was get air purifiers.) She did say that her manager was in the office that day & they would be sure to pass along our complaints.

I'm not sure that they ever talked to our neighbors, but the smell hasn't been nearly as nauseating & revolting as those 4 incidents. There are still times when they cook some terrible smelling food, but after that dried fish, I think I can take pretty much anything. As long as it's not that!

Speaking of food... I cannot find a cheesecake here that tastes like cheesecake. I'm not sure what they are made of here, but it doesn't taste like Philadelphia Cream Cheese at all. I bought a frozen one at S&R (a store very similar to Sam's with a good selection of American imported foods) the other day, thinking it might taste like a good, old fashioned American cheesecake. It's much better than what I have had here, but it's still not as good as I was hoping. We drizzled it with chocolate syrup, hoping to make it taste better. It helped some, but still not enough to taste like Olive Garden's delicious cheesecake!

One last note about food... our cook was making the kids spaghetti last night before Sammy & I went on a date to celebrate his birthday. I walked through the kitchen just in time to watch her pour a large amount of ketchup into the pot of spaghetti sauce. I asked her why she did that & she said it was a little secret to sweeten up the sauce. Huh? Why? She claims it makes the sauce taste better. I explained to her that my kids have been eating spaghetti sauce as it was since the day they started eating spaghetti. No need to go & doctor it up now. She acted like I was crazy for not wanting to make it sweeter & to be honest, I think it's crazy to want to sweeten it. However, that is very common with Filipino food... it is much sweeter than traditional American food. They put sugar in everything! Tea is automatically sweet. You have to request unsweetened tea. And, yet, for the most part, they are still fit & slender. Why didn't I get those genes?

All this talk about food has made me hungry... for food I can't get! I miss good 'ol Texas food!

I'll end with one more quick, funny story... I was asking around last week for a good Mexican restaurant to take Sammy to for his birthday. One lady recommended a good place with "great Mexican food" - Taco Bell! Ummmmm... no!

Wednesday, October 3

Philippine Favorites

As I stated in my previous post, here is a list of "favorites" in the Philippines from the view of an ex-pat:

(Once again, my personal comments are in italics.)

* Easy travel around Asia (Flights out of Manila are very inexpensive!)
* The National Museum
* Brunch at Sala on the 1st Sunday of every month
* The Pearl Farm in Davao, Mindanao
* Greenhill's Pearl Market
* Salcedo Market on Saturday mornings (I haven't been here yet, but I am looking forward to it!)
* Repertory Philippines - great theatre shows for under 10 USD
* Zen Asia - great selection of wines
* Going to movies is affordable
* Greenbelt shopping
* American Cemetery - beautiful and a great place for walking
* Massages
* Beaches (Beautiful!!)
* Time to read
* Snorkeling
* Manicures
* Pedicures (AMEN!)
* House help = No housework (AMEN again!)
* Friendliness of the Filipinos
* Sunshine almost all the time
* Exploring in Divisoria, Intramuros, etc.
* Creativity and talent of the Filipinos
* AWCP Bazaar (It really is pretty cool!)
* "Ladies Who Lunch"
* The "Blind Band"
* Drivers who carry bags so hands are free for more shopping
* Having a driver when you are directionally challenged
* Knock-offs
* Shoes
* Hoedown
* Scuba Diving
* Friends
* Pampering
* Lumpia (fresh or fried spring rolls)
* Pancit Malabon (noodles)
* Taho (morning treat of warm bean curd, liquefied raw sugar, tapioca balls, and soya) (Anything with the words "bean curd" sounds absolutely disgusting to me!)
* Inexpensive Cosmetic Procedures
* MADS (Mothers & Darlings - support group for mothers with small children)
* Turrones (sweet nougat)
* Fried Bananas
* Mangoes
* Purses
* Luxury living
* Seamstresses
* Abundance of tropical fruits and flowers
* Beautiful quilts
* Inexpensive restaurants
* Ya Yas (Nannies for your children)
* Funny phrases - fall in line, for a while
* Free live music every weekend at a variety of venues
* Inexpensive language classes
* Classes for everything you can think of, and for all ages - dancing, instruments, cooking, wine, singing, yoga, pilates... the list is truly endless
* Museum Volunteers day tours
* Restaurants open past midnight
* International cuisine
* Grocery delivery
* Always a helping hand to help with bags

To that list, I'll add:
* Videoke (Video Karaoke - so much fun!)

Philippine Frustrations

This list is from an article in the local AWCP monthly publication, Inklings. I'm sure it's a lot funnier to me than it will be to anyone else, but I wanted to copy it here so I won't forget about these:

(My personal comments are in italics.)

Philippine Frustrations

* High cost on imported goods
* Bad phone and internet service
* Hot and humid weather (Very much like Texas!)
* Typhoons
* Clothes that are made for tiny sizes in the stores (No kidding!)
* Response of "yes, ma'am" when the answer is no, when the question is not understood, and when the question does not require a yes or no answer (This is completely frustrating!!)
* "For a while" when you are in a hurry (and sometimes even when you are not!) (When they say "for a while", they mean, "wait a minute" or "hold on while I check")
* Getting stared at (This has been VERY hard for me and the kids to get used to!)
* Being ignored because you are a female
* Traffic
* House help using the in-sink aerator to spin dry undergarments (only a one-time occurrence!)
* Drivers driving really slow in the middle of the road when looking for an address
* Being expected to dance and sing at Filipino parties (especially when you are unable to do either)
* Balikbayan boxes that come out before suitcases in the airport
* Being searched at the airport, mall, movies, hotels, grocery stores, etc.
* Dirty bathrooms with no toilet seats, toilet paper, soap or paper towels (I carry a package of tissues in my purse now for this very reason. I learned the hard way.)
* Squatter toilets
* Saving face
* Pollution
* Public transportation - buses, jeepneys, taxis
* Haircuts (This is so true! Sammy is now sporting a traditional Filipino "do". It's all they know.)
* Instant iced tea
* No queuing
* Nothing happens on time (Ask the TI engineers here about that!)
* High electricity prices
* No air conditioning (Here, they call it "air con")
* Communication problems (ALL the time!)
* Brown-outs
* No instant rice (I just ran into this problem tonight when I wanted to quickly fix rice to go along with our meatloaf: "Oh sure, ma'am. No problem. It'll only be 25 minutes.")
* No napkins with substance (This is something you have to experience - all Filipino napkins are half the size of ours in the States and are VERY thin!)
* No Mexican food (How are we going to live without Mexican food?!?!)
* Trying to buy things at department stores - one person to open the product and check for defects, another to ring it up, another to take money/credit card, another to stamp the receipt and one more to staple the receipt to the bag (Seriously... it's a ridiculously long process!)
* Grocery shopping - have to shop at several stores, things go in and out of stock with no inventory to replenish, expired items, strong smell
* Loud noise pollution in the malls
* People who text while they are trying to walk (SO annoying!)
* No sense of personal space in malls, on escalators, in line at the store, etc. (Once again, you must experience this to understand it. People line up RIGHT behind you. I mean, RIGHT behind you. If you turn your body sideways, you'll hit them. On escalators, people will stand next to you on the same step instead of behind you on the next step. I just don't get it. And, don't even get me started about waiting for your turn in a line. DRIVES ME CRAZY! If you are in a line at say, a pharmacy, you have to be aggressive and make your way to the counter if you want to be seen in a timely manner. People will shove their way ahead of you & walk right up to the counter, even though you've been patiently waiting your turn. It's the same at the ATM machines. In fact, I about threw a fit at an ATM machine this weekend. I gave up waiting for my turn because people kept pushing their way ahead of me. I left the line, went to the car & told Sammy he needed to do it. I get very irritated with impatient people!)
* "Out of stock" (not surprisingly, this was the most frequent frustration!) (If they do not know what an item is, if they do not want to look for it, if they don't understand what you are asking for, the automatic answer is "out of stock", even if it is not out of stock. Filipinos are very non-confrontational people, so this is a "safe" answer, according to them.)

My next post will be a list of Philippine Favorites. Like the article says, "Although we all have some days it may not feel like it, take note that the favorites far outweigh the frustrations."

Ummmm, sometimes...

Mexican Recipes

Sammy's birthday is Sunday, so I am planning a Tex-Mex dinner for him on Friday evening with some of our friends here. (The one thing he misses the most from Texas is good Tex-Mex food!)

If you have any good recipes for enchiladas, Mexican rice (Dad or Rocio, that's you!), or anything else Tex-Mex, will you please send them to me? I am not sure I can find all the ingredients here, but I am going to try my hardest to make an authentic Tex-Mex buffet.

Bring 'em on!

Monday, October 1

Observation - September

After I posted Nick's August observation letter, I received an email from the school director with his new September observation letter attached:

"What Nick did and how he did it
September 2007

“I did it!”

One morning, during Choice Time, Nick chose to play with the dough that Teacher prepared. Nick was trying to make a ball by rolling the dough on the table. Teacher was sitting in front of him and watching what he was doing. “I can’t do it!” he told teacher with a frown on his face.

Teacher encouraged him to continue what he was doing and said, “Nick, you can do it. Just continue rolling the dough.”

He tried to do it again and patiently rolled the dough on the table. He finally made a round shape. With a big smile on his face, he grabbed the round dough from the top of the table, held it up in the air and exclaimed, “I did it!” Teacher gave him a smile and said, “You did it, Nick! Good job!”

Nick was drawing sweeping circle like marks on his paper when he suddenly dropped the crayons on the floor. Teacher said, “Please pick-up the crayons, Nick.”

Nick patiently picked up the crayons one at a time and carefully placed them in the box. “I did it!” he said as she showed the box to Teacher. “Very good, Nick!” Teacher said as she gave him a quick hug."

Love that school!

Nick at School

Periodically, the teachers at Nick's school send out "Observation Letters" to the parents. These are basically just a cute, short summary of something their child did at school.

For the month of August, we received this Observation letter for Nicholas:

"What Nicholas Did and How He Did It
August 2007

Arrival Time

One morning, Nick and his Mom arrived. Teacher greeted him as soon as he entered the door. “Good Morning, Nick.” Teacher said. Nick looked at Teacher with a big smile on his face. His mom helped him put his bag inside his cubby hole. After putting his bag inside his cubby, Nick went straight to the Circle Time area. He hopped on the square boxes pasted on the floor with their names and symbols printed on it and slowly looked for his name and symbol. He stopped at a picture of an airplane. He called his Mommy, pointed to the picture and said “Mommy, look! It’s my airplane!” Mommy approached him and looked at the picture that he was referring to. “Your name is written under the picture of an airplane. That’s awesome, Nick!” she said while giving him a high five. Nick sat down on his name and looked at the other pictures beside his name on the circle. Mommy hugged Nick and waved goodbye.

Pretending to be a Lion

It was Choice Time, and Nick, Taiga and Kyler were playing with the empty cereal boxes at the Creative Dramatization area. Suddenly, Teacher saw Nick crawling on the floor with a grumpy look on his face. He approached the mirror and started to make an animal sound. “Ro-war! Ro-war!” he mumbled while looking at his reflection on the mirror. Taiga and Kyler noticed what he was doing and started imitating him. Teacher approached the three of them and said, “I think Nick is pretending to be a Lion. What other animal sounds and actions can we make?” Nick continued making a roaring sound and answered, “Lion!” Taiga and Kyler started making barking sounds while looking at themselves on the mirror. The three of them giggled as they watched themselves make animal sounds and do animal actions."

Kyler & Taiga are two of Nick's best buds at school. All three of them are so cute together. They have lots of fun at school... sometimes too much fun, I'm sure. But, that's why I love his school... because Nicholas has a great time & loves it also!

Open House Movie

This movie was shown at the Open House for the twins' school. It's cute!

ECLC Open House Movie

Username: eclc
Password: ismeclc

Nick is 3

(Nick posing with his birthday sign made by his preschool teacher, Teacher Erika.
At most of the schools here, they address the teachers by "Teacher (first name)")

Last weekend, we celebrated Nick's 3rd birthday. I can't believe my baby is three!! I mean, seriously... how did 3 years slip by me that fast? It's incredible!

First off, he enjoyed cupcakes with his friends at school:
I love my friends!
This cute sign was made by his teacher & his classmates.
(They know how much he loves Spiderman!!)
After his school party on Friday, we celebrated Sunday morning with a birthday breakfast in the condo dining room:
Thanks, Mimi & Papa, for the cool Spiderman robot!
Opening his gift from Samuel:
WOW - The Green Goblin!
Thanks, Bub!

Later that afternoon, we invited some friends over for a little party in our home. It was small & cozy, but fun!

All dressed & ready to party!
Blowing out the candles on the cake Sydney & her friend, Rebekah, made.
They did it all themselves! (Can't you tell?)
We even hired a handsome guy to come make balloon animals!
He was awesome!
Despite a few setbacks (I was sure missing a Wal-Mart or Target when shopping for party supplies!), our first birthday celebration in the Philippines went off without a hitch! Nicholas had fun & that's all that counts!
(Nicholas & Samuel both have taken up the sport of climbing our doorframes.
Here is Nick at the top of the doorframe, posing with his "Happy Birthday" banner.)