Sunday, April 26

Dive #6

We went out on our sixth dive today. (A huge thanks to MP for watching my kiddos on the beach, while her son joined us on the dive.)

Waving goodbye to my kids on the beach

Today, we explored a sunken landing craft unit in the Triboa Bay area of Subic Bay. (This landing craft wreck is near our friends', the Gulleys', private beach in Triboa Bay.) Again, I had very little problems with my ears today, which is still a huge relief. On one occasion, my right ear felt quite a bit of pressure, but it was easy to clear. Sam explored the inside of the unit swimming in & out of portholes. I opted to stay in the sunlight! It would be my luck to encounter one of the numerous lionfish while swimming in the dark opening of a sunken ship! I'm not willing to take that chance yet.

While the visibility was still relatively low, I did enjoy this dive more than the one last week. My goggles did not fog up and there was more aquatic life to enjoy. I prefer exploring reefs rather than sunken ships, so I got pretty excited & mesmerized when there was an abundance of fish or coral nearby. I'm still amazed that I can swim among these sea creatures & watch them interact underwater. It's a really cool experience! I truly wish Sam & I had not procrastinated for so long on getting our diving certificate. I feel we could have done so much more underwater exploring around Asia, but I'm just thankful that we did complete it & are taking full advantage of the opportunities while we have them.

On this dive we saw many lionfish, angelfish, butterflyfish & something called a spotted sweetlips fish. Interesting!

After our dive - Dean, John, Amberly & Sam

Amberly & Sam
(Ray driving the boat)

Samuel had fun digging a huge hole while we were out

(All our pictures from this dive can be seen here.)

Saturday, April 25

To miss or not to miss...

What I will miss when we leave the Philippines:

* Ummmm... almost everything!
* The beach
* Rosalie
* Our home
* Our friends
* The fresh fruit
* Frequent date nights with my hubby

What I will not miss when we leave the Philippines:

* All the insects that constantly plague our house - little ants, flying ants, cockroaches & spiders! Our home is really their home & there is not a thing we can do to keep them out. They are relentless!

Wednesday, April 22

Before I leave the Philippines...

There are so many things I want to see & do before moving back to Texas in June. Two years is just not enough time to take it all in. I have thought of a few tonight worth mentioning:

* Visit the Banaue rice terraces - said by some to be the 8th Wonder of the World
* Massages, massages, massages! I need to take full advantage of these while here. They are so great & so incredibly inexpensive!
* Eat more mangoes. I never appreciated mangoes until moving to the Philippines. When they are in season, they are delicious!! And, extremely affordable. Mango shakes, mango daiquiris, mango salsa, mango jam... yummmm!
* Visit Sagada - Excellent caves, waterfalls & hanging coffins. How cool is that?
* Dive at Anilao
* Take a boat ride through the Pagsanjan Falls
* Stock up on lots more unique pasalubong for family & friends back home

There is much, much more to add to this list, but I get overwhelmed thinking of all I'd like to do before leaving. I certainly don't want to leave the Philippines with any regrets, but at the same time, I know it's impossible to see & do it all. Maybe someday...

*************************

I can't end this post without a couple of pictures...

At our hotel in Singapore, they had this enormous candle display in the center of the lobby. The first night we arrived to check in, I immediately thought, "Oh, please do NOT let my kids knock one of those over & start a fire!" Because anyone that knows Nicholas knows that he is the klutziest child alive! He is just an accident waiting to happen. (I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not.) Luckily, we made it 4 nights walking by that candle masterpiece several times & never knocked over a single flame! We blew a few out, but the hotel just had that coming...

Is this not the cutest picture ever?! I'm sure this could win some sort of award:


How Sammy got all 3 kids to pose & stay that way long enough for a picture, I'll never know. That man's got talent!

Sunday, April 19

El Capitan Dive

This morning, we went out for dive #5! We explored the wrecked El Capitan ship in Ilanin Bay. This was by far the easiest descent for me, because I had no issues with my ears. That was a huge burden lifted as I went deeper & deeper. I was pretty excited to finally explore underwater without worrying about my constant ear trouble. However, I was not thrilled with the overall dive itself because the visibility was very low & my goggles continued to fog up every so often. So in addition to not being able to see due to the murky waters, I was having trouble seeing clearly through my goggles. It was just frustrating. But, I have now have hope for future dives that I can regulate my ears quicker & easier.
We purchased a package deal with 10 dives included, so it looks like we'll be getting in a lot of practice before heading back to Texas...

Wednesday, April 15

Palawan - Day 2

... finally!

Our 2nd day in Palawan was just as wonderful! The breakfast buffet was spectacular (as was all the food during our entire stay there). After breakfast, we decided to join the lagoon tour. There are 2 lagoons at Miniloc Island - the big & small lagoons. We first visited the small lagoon, with numerous coral reefs & caverns to explore.


The limestone cliffs were amazing! And, the beautiful clear, green water... truly indescribable. I was in awe at the beauty surrounding me.

We kayaked & snorkeled in both lagoons. It was so fun to kayak in & out of the coves & caverns surrounding the cliffs & explore the entire lagoon.

Amberly & Sam inside a cave

Heather & Brad in the cave
(We were a little cramped with 2 kayaks in a small cavern.)


After kayaking, we donned our snorkels & flippers & enjoyed swimming around the fantastic coral reefs. We were excited to use the camera to get up close & personal with the sea creatures.

Coral as far as the eye can see...

Clown fish in his anemone home

School of bright blue fish swimming towards Sam

This picture reminds me of the "drop off" part in Nemo.
This brave fish was swimming past the drop off.

After lunching at the Miniloc island resort, we headed to Entalula Island to work out with a little rock climbing. Our friends, Brad & Heather, are highly experienced rock climbers, so this was nothing new for them. They scaled the cliffs like the pros they are! Sam & I are beginner climbers, but you would never know it by watching Sam. He did a fantastic job on both climbs! I enjoyed my first, short climb, but opted to stay on solid ground while the other 3 ascended the more challenging cliff. We were all ready to cool off in the ocean after that hard work!

Mountain Man Sam

I made it!

This was a piece of cake for Heather!

... and Brad!

Entalula Island was by far, our favorite spot within the El Nido islands. The water is a beautiful crystal aqua blue. And the sand is white & powdery. We were definitely not ready to leave when our boat arrived to take us back to the main island, Lagen, for dinner.

Arriving back to our water cottages

That evening before dinner was served, the four of us enjoyed relaxing outside by the pool. Sam & I did a little reading, while Brad & Heather played cards. It was the perfect way to end such a great day!

One of my favorite photos... Sam took this from the other side of the swimming pool while we were lounging before dinner.

Tuesday, April 14

Twins' FINAL 7th Birthday Celebration

We held the twins' official 7th birthday party on Friday, March 20th, after school. They had been planning for months what they wanted to do... I planned for a week! But, we pulled it off.

Sydney wanted to have a horse party at the local stables where she attends horse camp every other Saturday. My friend, Heather, volunteers quite a bit of her time at the stables, so she agreed to help us arrange a fun party for the girls.

Samuel, on the other hand, did not want to have his party at the stables. He wanted to have his friends over to the house, instead. And, I was not willing to have 2 separate parties for them... yet. I know that time is coming, but not this year.

As a compromise, Heather suggested the girls all meet at the El Kabayo stables to ride horses to our home. We could then celebrate with cake & refreshments at our house with Samuel & his friends. We live near the stables, so this was a great plan! And, of course, Sydney thought it was a wonderful idea!

So, that's what we did! All of Sydney's girlfriends met at the stables. They were issued pink ball caps with "07" embroidered on the front & their names embroidered on the back. They picked a partner to ride with & doubled up on the horses.

The girls riding up the hill

Meanwhile, Samuel & his friends were given khaki ball caps with the same number embroidered on the front & their names on the back also. The boys swam in the blow up pool in the backyard & bounced in the jumpy house. They all had so much fun!

Samuel, along with most of the other boys, decided to sit on a horse for a photo opportunity. Somehow, I never got a photo of Sydney on a horse, though. (I am definitely NOT a scrapbooking mom!)

Nicholas

The horses grazing across the street from our home

Saturday, April 11

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from our sweet dog, Dallas:






KIDDING!!

My mom sent me this photo in an email with the subject as "Easter Greetings". I completely believed it was my dog, Dallas. She has been known to enjoy the taste of baby bunnies (not that I'm proud of that) and it looks just like her! See for yourself:

Okay, well I now see that my sweet dog has a lot more white around her mouth. When did she get old?!

Enjoy your Easter celebration!

Twins' 7th Birthday Dinner at Home

On their birthday, I invited some of the twins' closest friends over for a playdate & picnic dinner. Their actual party was planned for the next weekend, but they wanted to celebrate with friends on March 12th. So, a few kiddos came over to swim, have a picnic dinner in the backyard & make their own ice cream sundaes. They all had so much fun & even provided the adults with a song & dance show afterwards. We are so thankful for our great friends here in the Philippines!

Most of the group sitting down for dinner
(Rian & Rowan were working on the entertainment for the evening)

Sweet Girlfriends - Rebekah, Sydney & Madison

Handsome Birthday Boy


And, last, but certainly not least... our evening entertainment written & choreographed by Rian & Rowan:

video

Friday, April 10

Twins' 7th Birthday at School

Brent Subic - First Grade

(Well... I'm about a month late on this post, but then again, when am I not late?!)

Sydney & Samuel had a great birthday celebration with lots of wonderful friends here in Subic! On their actual birthday, I took cupcakes & juice to their classrooms for a small party with their schoolmates. All the kids sung "Happy Birthday" twice... once for each of them. They were a little embarrassed standing in front of the class for that long, but enjoyed the one on one attention from their friends afterwards. Such sweet, shy kids.

Center stage with Sydney's teacher, Ms. Gomez

Samuel enjoying yummy birthday refreshments with his friends

Sydney & her friends eating cupcakes

Cupcake Mouth

Mom & her terrific twins!

Wednesday, April 8

The rest of Spirit Week...

Here are some pictures from the other days during Spirit Week at Brent. I relied mostly on the kids' teachers to share their pictures with me (thank you Anna & Malen!), so unfortunately, I don't have any of Samuel. It's hard trying to be in 3 different places at the same time to get pictures of all my kids! And, don't even think about taking a group shot before school! That's impossible for my crew...

MONDAY - PAJAMA DAY

* By far, the easiest day of the week! Great way to spend a Monday at school!

Sydney with her friends in pajamas

Nicholas with his class in pajamas

TUESDAY - CARTOON CHARACTER DAY

* I thought for sure this was going to be a no-brainer for my three who LOVE to play dress-up. We have about a gazillion costumes in our playroom. Should be easy... but I was thrown a curveball. Nick wanted to dress up as a cartoon character whose costume we had previously given to another little boy... Samuel didn't know what he wanted to dress up as (story of my life with that kid!)... and Sydney, well, she's usually the easiest out of my kiddos. She followed my suggestion with no complaints. After more whining than I care to admit (me included!), we finally made it to school all decked out:

Sydney as a Barbie cheerleader with her classmates

Nicholas as Flash with his buddy Sebastian as Thomas the Train

(Samuel went as Buzz Lightyear... FINALLY.)

WEDNESDAY - CAREER DAY

* This day was fairly painless. Both Sydney & Nicholas decided they wanted to be veterinarians. We already had one white angel gown that easily passed as a lab coat & we had a duplicate coat made overnight at the market. They each carried a doctor kit & a stuffed animal to school with them. Voila! However, Samuel could not decide what career he wanted to dress as. I threw out a ton of options & he finally settled on being a Cowboy. It was a perfect choice since we already had all the necessary clothing. Then, 30 minutes before school started on Wednesday, he changed his mind... AGAIN! He decided he wanted to be a paleontologist instead!! WHAT?! Are you kidding me?? So, I told him he was responsible for creating his own costume & he had 20 minutes to do it. And, he did! He switched his cowboy boots for hiking boots... put on a brown, camo jacket... and gathered a few items as props - a magnifying glass, a paintbrush & a small brown bag of toy dinosaurs. It was awesome! I wish I had taken a photo, but I am looking forward to seeing one from his teacher soon...

Dr. Sydney with some of her classmates
(Love Javier's architect costume!)

Dr. Nicholas with his classmates

Thursday was Twin Day, as you've already seen & Friday was Jazz Up Your Uniform Day. Friday also happened to be track & field day for the kids, so we did nothing to jazz up their uniforms & I was relieved! So long Spirit Week! I definitely won't be missing it next year...

Speaking of books...

I've been on a search for some great, new children's books lately. My mom has been fantastic about sending books to the kiddos that she gets from her local library sales, so the kids' bookshelf has finally been transformed from countless baby board books to ones more appropriate for their age. And now that we're on a roll updating their literature, I can't stop myself!

I recently ordered the following books from Amazon that I saw recommended on The Martha Stewart Show:

Who Is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel
The Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
Could You? Would You? by Trudy White

These books encourage imagination & creativity, according to Books of Wonder owner, Peter Glassman. You can watch his segment on the show here. His passion portrayed for the books is infectious!

While browsing online for these, I also ordered the following books that got great reviews on Amazon:

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Robin Page

They are all waiting at my parent's house for the kiddos to open in June. I can't wait to check them out myself!

In addition to the books mentioned above, Sydney's first grade teacher has given me some great recommendations. I will be ordering some of these very soon:

* Wild About Books by Judy Sierra - I read this book to Sydney's class last year & they all really enjoyed it! They were mesmerized! Great book!
* Flotsam by David Wiesner
* Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
* Anything written by Julia Donaldson, including a class favorite, The Gruffalo
* Anything written by Kevin Henkes, including one of my kid's favorites, Owen
* Anything written by Tana Hoban, including Look Book
* Anything written by Jim Arnosky, including Rabbits & Raindrops

I love discovering new & exciting books that my kids will enjoy for years to come! So... what are some terrific children's books that you & your kids can't live without? What other great recommendations do you have for my home library? Looking forward to your responses...

Same Kind Of Different As Me

So, I've been on the search for this book for a while. All over the Philippines... Subic/Olongapo, Clark & Manila. When I couldn't find it at any bookstore in Manila, I knew I was out of luck in this country. Then I went to Singapore. They have EVERYTHING in Singapore. For a very, very pretty penny, but still... they have everything! Except this book! I figure if they don't carry it in Singapore, I won't find it anywhere else in Asia. So, BAD Girls, I tried. I really did! But, I cannot seem to get my hands on this book over here. So, if one of you wouldn't mind saving your copy for me, I would really like to read it when we move back home. Thanks!

Thursday, April 2

Spirit Week - Twin Day

My sweet twins

Today was "Twin Day" during Brent Subic International School's first annual Spirit Week. Each student had the opportunity to dress as a twin with another student in the school. The kids had fun planning their twin costumes...

All ready for Twin Day!

Twin Princesses - Joanna & Sydney

Boy Scout Quintuplets - Samuel, Javier, CJ, James & Daniel

Surfer Twins - Nicholas & Cade

Tomorrow is the last & final day of Spirit Week - "Jazz Up Your Uniform Day". For my kids, it's gonna be "Wear Whatever the Heck You Want Because Mom Has Definitely Lost Her School Spirit Day"!!