Saturday, March 28

Scuba Diving - Day 1

We embarked on our first "real" dive today. Last weekend we did a practice dive, entering the water from the beach. Today, we took the boat about 10 minutes out to an amazing coral reef. We performed 2 dives today, both descending to 12 meters, or roughly 40 feet.

On our first dive, I had trouble regulating my ears. I had trouble last week also, but hoped that some things I learned during the week would help. However, I still could not clear them! I tried every method shown to me, but in the end, just had to descend much, much slower than my dive mates. Eventually, the pain subsided & my ears cleared, making the dive more enjoyable. Once I reached the sea floor & joined my dive instructor & fellow classmates, things seemed manageable. Then, it hit me... "I'm sitting on the bottom of the ocean! What if I see a shark? What if I can't get enough air in my lungs? What if I start freaking out?" Which is precisely what I did! I started experiencing anxiety & had a mini panic attack. It was the same feeling I get when I have to speak in front of a crowd - accelerated heart beat, tightness in my chest, closed throat, shortness of breath. Not a good thing to experience 40 feet under the ocean! So, I quickly swam back to the rope attached to our boat with the intention to start making my way back to the surface. I figured a little fresh air was all I needed to calm me down. However, the assistant dive master was quickly on my heels & kept me down on the bottom. He signaled for me to look him directly in the eyes & to take deep, controlled breaths. I followed his lead & was able to rejoin the group moments later. That was quite a scary moment for me, though. And, one I hope to never repeat!

After we reviewed & mastered our necessary drills underwater, we began to swim around the reef & enjoy the sights.

I had a better experience on the second dive. We entered the water using the "walk in" method. We descended using the rope again & practiced a few more drills on the ocean floor. After mastering those drills, in which I accidentally took a big swallow of sea water (GAG!), we explored the opposite side of the coral reef. It was during this dive, that we experienced some amazing encounters:

* We saw a large, silver tuna bottom feeding
* We touched a sticky sea anemone, with a clownfish swimming among its tentacles
* We petted a blow fish (or puffer fish) that our dive master held in his hand
* We swam by a spectacular looking lion fish, one of the most venomous fish in the region
* Sam held a jellyfish in the palm of his hand
* We saw numerous variations of sea worms
* And, of course, we saw tons of beautiful, brightly colored fish swimming all around us

We had a great afternoon of diving & I ended up thoroughly enjoying my time spent under the water. Tomorrow, we will dive a sunken barge & a sunken Spanish ship. We will go a little deeper & I truly hope I can regulate my ears quickly enough to be able to explore this amazing world in the ocean blue!

Thursday, March 26

Mothering Day

Yesterday, at the kids' Wednesday morning chapel program, we had a special eucharist to celebrate the European holiday, Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday during Lent, but Father Rossouw prepared a special chapel lesson especially for us mothers with children in lower school. We were all able to listen & enjoy this wonderful presentation together with our little ones. Afterwards, each child was handed a rose to present to their mom. It was sweet watching all the kids eagerly searching the auditorium for their mothers. They were so proud to hand out their roses!

I was blessed to received three beautiful roses from my sweet munchkins! I got the best long hug from my sensitive Samuel, lots of kisses from my affectionate Sydney & a quick short squeeze from busy Nicholas who would rather be with his friends! I am so proud to be their mom!

Monday, March 23

Samuel's Illustration

I had to scan in this drawing done by Samuel intended for his brother. Nicholas had, apparently, been a little aggressive with Samuel soon after he got his cast on his arm. Instead of physically lashing out at Nick (because Samuel didn't feel good), he drew this picture for him instead:

(I love that you can see the anger behind the all capital letters & the exclamation point. And, the arrows pointing to a "mean" and a "nice" kid.)

He was quite angry when he brought this paper to me & asked me to please show it to Nicholas so he would understand how to treat Samuel.

It's so hard not to laugh in front of your child when they are being so serious & passionate about something like this. I promised Samuel that I would talk to Nicholas (yet again!) about treating others nicely. Samuel also suggested I tape this paper to Nick's wall so he will see it every day! :-) It is a great illustration!!

Thursday, March 19

This & That...

Okay, I've tried keeping up with American Idol for the first time ever & I just cannot do it! I mean, first of all, how does anyone keep track of what days it airs? Or, maybe it just changes days in the Philippines?? I doubt it. I think I remember it doing this back in the states also. Second of all, I cringe whenever Paula starts to talk. She fumbles over her words so frequently & sounds as if she's on the verge of crying every time she opens her mouth. What is with that? Sam, who rarely watches the show, heard her speak last night & asked me, "Is she drunk?" I honestly didn't know... Third of all, I get completely annoyed when the audience starts booing anytime a judge gives honest feedback to a singer. I know it's all for show, but it comes across as such an immature reaction, in my opinion. Whew... good to get that off my chest!

While I'm still on the subject, I did watch last night's show & I think the wrong person was voted off! I heard Michael's performance & was less than impressed by it. Of all the contestants remaining, I thought he should have been the next to go.

And, wow, has Randy Travis aged!! I'm not sure what I expected, but that was not it. Same hair though! Just quite a bit grayer...


I got a call from the school nurse yesterday afternoon as I was packing up water bottles for the twins' soccer practice. Apparently, Samuel attempted a daredevil stunt off the slide & took a pretty hard fall. He tried to break his fall with his hand & ended up fracturing his wrist instead. On the recommendation of our wonderful school nurse, I drove him to an orthopedic surgeon in Olongapo. The doctor was fantastic & so patient with Samuel. An x-ray confirmed the fracture & Samuel was fitted with a half cast for his arm. He is pretty self-conscious about wearing his sling... always worrying about what other people are going to say to him or if they're going to stare at him. (He swears some guy in McDonald's made a face at him as we walked in to get his sympathy Happy Meal after the hospital visit. Where do kids come up with this stuff??) But, after his first day at school with the cast, I think he's already annoyed with all the attention. He acts so exasperated when someone asks him how he hurt his arm. I am thinking Hollywood is definitely not in his future... thank goodness!


I had a dream the other night about my last day in Subic Bay. In my dream, I bawled like a baby! I think I just might do that in real life, as well. I am leaving so many great friends behind... some that are staying here in Subic & some that are relocating to various locations around the world. I am leaving behind a fantastic new family member, Rosalie. She is a 2nd mom to my kids when I'm not around, since we don't have any family living nearby. She is a sweet friend, an excellent helper & a great shopping companion. She is priceless! I am leaving behind beautiful, exotic beaches... lush jungle forests... easily accessibly Asian vacation destinations... and a great school for my kids with teachers who give 110% every single day! We do miss our families terribly, but we have loved every minute of living in the Philippines. It has been an adventure from day one & will be an adventure until the moment we leave. This country has so much beauty to offer! We are truly grateful for our time spent here & for the experiences that we will never forget!

Wednesday, March 11

In the blink of an eye...

... my babies grew up!

How did we go from this completely unexpected surprise in 2001

to this so quickly??


Palawan - Day 1

Our Sunday morning flight for Palawan left at 7:30 am out of Manila. We had family plans for Saturday evening, so we decided to leave Subic astoundingly early on Sunday, at 4:15 am. We met our friends, Brad & Heather, who were vacationing with us, so we could all drive to Manila together. Thankfully, we safely arrived with plenty of time to spare!

Amberly & Sam in the Manila terminal at 6:30 am

Heather & Brad on our tiny plane
(It's always a comforting feeling to have a pilot friend with you when you fly tiny, toy airplanes like the one we were in!)

Our welcoming committee at El Nido airport
(These ladies sang us a beautiful song in their native language while we all exited the plane. Such a nice welcome to our stay in paradise!)

Sam & Amberly on the boat, heading to the resort finally!

Our beautiful room!

The view from our private patio.
(We stayed in a water cottage, so our room was built on stilts in the water. It was pretty cool to sit out on our patio & watch the tropical fish swim by right under our noses. Such a great experience!)

The El Nido resort offers a wide range of activities to partake in during your stay in Palawan. The resort staff is great about offering you several different choices to fit your timeframe & your lifestyle. We wanted to do as much as we possibly could, so we hit the ground running...

Soon after we arrived at the resort & had a quick bite to eat, we decided to hike a trail that would lead us to the opposite side of the island & dump us out at a private beach. The trail proved to be steep & beautiful!

Sam tested out our new waterproof camera by diving right into the ocean.

Brad & Heather on a private beach with the limestone cliff backdrop

After our hike, we took advantage of an island hopping & cave exploration tour. We visited 3 different picturesque islands at El Nido & explored a couple of cool caves.

Heather & Amberly at Snake Island

Snake Island view

Sam & Amberly at top of Snake Island
(See how the island "snakes" out in the water. Thus the name...)

Stunning Paradise View

After visiting these islands, we went back to the resort for dinner. Sam & I were quite surprised to have a delicious chocolate cake delivered to our dinner table, with the words "Happy Anniversary" written across the top. The waitress then took our photo & left this sitting on our bed while we were finishing up our evening at the restaurant:

A momento of our 1st night in Palawan, celebrating 11 years of marriage! So thoughtful!

From our first moment at the resort, we knew we picked the perfect destination to celebrate our anniversary! (See all the great photos here.)

We had even more fun adventures on our second day there...

Monday, March 9

Palawan Teaser

Sam & I enjoyed 4 beautiful days & 3 relaxing nights at El Nido Lagen Resort in Palawan, Philippines. It was amazing!!

We took hundreds of breathtaking photos, but haven't had a chance to sit down & organize them all quite yet. So, in the meantime, I will just post a few of my favorites. In the coming days, however, I hope to post our day to day adventures & escapades in paradise. I never want to forget our fabulous 11th anniversary celebration! I'm not sure we can ever top this... unless we come back! :-)

Our first day at the resort, we hiked to a private beach on the opposite side of the island. On the hiking trail, we passed this massive tree with roots that towered above us. It is hard to appreciate the enormous size of these roots until you see them in person.

Amberly & Sam exploring a cave

Snorkeling in paradise
(Have I mentioned how much weight my awesome hubby has lost?! Check him out...)

Nemo in his anemone home
(We have more great pictures of some beautiful clown fish up close & personal. They were pretty territorial & did not like us snapping photos of their home! Who would've thunk it??)

Baby Sea Turtles
(Born 30 minutes prior to this photo)

Entalula Island, Palawan
(My favorite beach!! Gorgeous!!)

Sunset at Pangalusian Island, Palawan

Amberly & Sam at Entalula Island, Palawan
(At 7 am! Which just proves how much I loved this beach!)

Where we spent our last morning in Palawan... ahhhhh!

School of fish at El Nido Miniloc Resort

Brightly colored fish
(Have no idea what kind!)

Elaborately patterned brain coral

More to come later... !!

Tooth Fairy's 1st Visit

The Tooth Fairy finally made her first appearance in our household a couple of weeks ago!

Samuel was the first twin to grow a tooth & he is now the first one to lose a tooth... although Nicholas has tried numerous times to lose several of his teeth! Nick does have a couple of "dead" teeth, but Samuel is the first to experience a pulled tooth.

The way the story was told to me, Samuel took a tumble at the playground with a few other boys & knocked his lower tooth loose (which was previously pretty solid). He came home that afternoon with a very wiggly bottom tooth. The next day, he went to the nurse's office, complaining that his loose tooth was bothering him & he couldn't eat his apples. So, the nurse assessed the situation & yanked that tooth right on out! Amazingly, his adult tooth is already coming in quicker than I expected... although, not quite in the same place. I see braces in our future.

Here is my shaggy-haired handsome Sam, minus a bottom tooth: