Monday, December 31


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...


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!


(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!



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


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?

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?

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?

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.


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


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!