Sunday, December 30, 2012

Definitely Will Miss Seafront

Though when we were first assigned to Seafront for housing, I moaned and groaned.  I didn't want to be on a compound, cut off from the city.  When we arrived and lacked a car for the first three weeks, I struggled to be positive about our living situation, with none of the advanced amenities (ie, Western style grocery store and Starbucks) within walking distance.  Then our HHE came and I was reminded of all the things I sent to storage, knowing we'd be in a small apartment.

When Patch started AmeriKids, I came to mind it less.  Who can complain about walking 20 feet to pre-school ... especially since little kids are not patient sitting in Manila traffic.  When both boys had pretty serious scrapes on the playground, I appreciated it even more, since our nanny could take them to the clinic for evaluation (nurse called me on the phone saying stiches not necessary).  When coworkers told stories of two hour drives home, I was thankful for my 15 minute commute - especially with a nursing infant waiting at the end of the day.

Today, I down right love it.  School holidays are hard to keep two active boys happy.  BUT, with two six year old boys living at Seafront, the three of them pop around like a little gang, riding bikes, going to the playground, dropping in each other's houses.  They're old enough to generally be trusted to be safe, and enough guards are walking about to alert us to anything really bad (like when another six year old was trying to shimmy up the compound fence!).  It's going to be tough for Wm when we move back to the U.S. and he needs an escort to walk to a friend's house.

I'm definitely a Seafront convert.  It's not just making the best of where I was planted - I honestly happily enjoy the ease with which my kids can play independently, even at the expense of a Starbucks or Apartment 1B right around the corner.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Waiting for What?

I have this feeling that I'm waiting for something, but I'm not sure exactly what it is.  Probably it's the start of the moving process ... which right now is a huge looming cloud just far enough off that I can't quite start on the project, except for the occasional sorting of a drawer of papers or stack of clothing.

Thankfully I'm pretty close to my pre-prego size already, so the clothing sorting can commence.  Even better, a friend just emailed me that she's moving to Africa (from Copenhagen) - and since we're about the same size, would I be interested in her winter wardrobe, seeing as how mine is woefully out of date (the last time I wore winter work clothing was 2005, before grad school!).  It's like a personal consignment store coming my way next fall.

But, back to waiting.  Moving leaves one very unsettled.  Where will we live?  Will there be other kids near by for our boys to play with - and even if they are close, will our kids like those kids?  How much should we expect to spend on furniture?  After all, we left a two bedroom condo with an 18 month old ... and will need a four bedroom house for five of us plus a nanny.  Will we like our new jobs and the people we'll work with?  We'll need to find a church.  We'll need to figure out how to keep the boys entertained over the summer so they don't resent being in the "new city."  And figure out a bunch of other things, too.

Our last four months will go quickly.  My work schedule was just sorted out this week, thankfully.  Greg's PRK surgery went well.  The last three weekend trips are booked.  Wm's school finishes up March 15; Patch won't make the end of his semester, sadly.  Ian will get his six month vaccines.  Dentist appointments for the two big boys scheduled for two weeks before we go.

I'm thinking about leaving a lot, I know, because one good friend just left yesterday.  We'll overlap in DC (us for our assignment, her for training), but she arrived in Manila just after we did.  And another friend who arrived just before we did has only four weeks left.  So, our "cohort" is heading on ... and starting to say good bye to others makes me think about us saying our own good byes soon.

Most nights I tell the boys stories about Mailliw, Kcirtap, and their baby brother Super Nai.  (Super Nai has super powers)  Before I knew it, tonight's story involved Mailliw and Kcirtap having to sort their toys for what goes in the airplane and what goes on the slow boat.  (rest of the story: boat gets lost and Super Nai has to fly all over the Pacific to catch it (in Fiji) and put it back on track)

I made myself a milkshake tonight, thinking perhaps that would calm me down.  It worked, kind of.  Tomorrow I'll try hot chocolate, even though its 90 degrees out during the day.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kay Saya't, Kay Sigla Ng Pasko sa Pinas!

For whatever reason (I don't know why, I've thought about it before but haven't come up with an acceptable answer), we don't do much cultural stuff in Manila.  Especially when compared to our two years in India.  Thankfully, William's school (Maria Montessori Children's Foundation) helps us step out of our Embassy/Expat bubble every now and then.

Today was what Greg refers to as the "Christmas Spectacular."  As in, for the last month, the kids have been practicing their song and dance routine.  In fact, this week, normal classes were suspended and it was practice practice practice all the time - Wm reported that they didn't even have playground time yesterday because of the dress rehearsal.

In the 1.5 years, I've come to enjoy the song-and-dance routines, not just by kids at school, but also at work.  I admit.  At last year's embassy holiday party, I thought it was ridiculous.  How could managers be expected to give employees time during the work day to practice so much?  I mean, we had VISAS to process!  But, this year I thoroughly enjoyed the dance show down at the holiday party - from the cross-dresser on the Facilities Maintenance Team losing his top to the gold-sequined deputy NIV chief jammin' to gangam style.

As I came to realize today, this love of Christmas dance shows starts young, at age 2.5.  Filipino parents could not imagine a school Christmas pageant without a real dance show by their kids.  And I mean Christmas - in a country that's 90-95% Christian, it's full on Christmas, even with the concept of separation of church and state existing here.

So, for those of you wanting to watch Wm's performance, check it out on YouTube.

Bonus points if you can spot where he stuck in his gangam style moves during the "free dance" portion.

And a picture of the stage:
(** translation: Happy and Vivacious Christmas in the Philippines!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Before we leave

I have a feeling I'll be saying this phrase "before we leave" a lot over the next 4.5 months.  It's inevitable to leave a place with things undone -- I lived in DC for eight years and never made it to the top of the Washington Monument or to observe a session of the Supreme Court, two things I said I really wanted to do when I first moved there. 

Today, I decided that before we leave Manila, I'd really like if Wm can learn to ride a bike without training wheels and Patch to swim without floaties.  Seafront boasts one long, relatively traffic-free road perfect for learning to ride a bike.  The swimming pool is feet from our door.  No way we'll have either of those back in DC!  

I also wish that before we leave, we only have one child in diapers.  I fear, though, there are quite a few loads of midnight laundry between now and then... 

Call Me Maybe

I saw some emails suggesting the embassy do this just before I went on prego-vac.  Apparently, while I was out, some fun-loving coworkers actually followed through.  Though released after the craze was over, it's still fun!

U.S. Embassy Manila: Call Me Maybe

Wm loves this song.  His top three are Call Me Maybe, Fireworks, and Gangam Style.  So, this morning we've watched the YouTube videos for these three over and over - and Gangam Style gets changed to "Ian Style" while I make the baby dance, resulting in huge laughs for the big two and big smiles from the little one.  I bet Wm would have loved a cameo appearance in the embassy video had he been in country!

Wm had two critiques of the video:
1. I didn't know construction workers could dance so well!
2. Wow! That's the REAL ambassador. He's COOL!

And then we had to go through slowly so Greg could tell him all our coworker's names and which "team" they are on (ACS, NIV, IV, etc)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

GGPA and the boys

I don't use too many photos on the blog, mostly because I like to keep the blog password-free, and I have a strange aversion to too many strangers looking at pictures of me and my children.  But, as I was organizing photos this evening, I wanted to bring together this collection of my grandpa, known as "GGPA" (for great-grandpa) to the boys.  As you can see, he loves the boys so much that I can never manage to get him to look at the camera!  Maybe when we're on home leave, I can get him to sit down with all three and smile at the picture taker :)

(1) With William - their first meeting and then six months later at Christmas

(2) With Patch - their first meeting, then later that week at his baptism

 (3) Meeting Ian - sadly, we only had two days in Bethlehem.  Here's to hoping for some more pictures come May.  And then again in August when we celebrate GGPA's 90th birthday!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How did I ever live without it?

An electric swing for a baby.  Really.  How did I manage having two babies already and not find out about this magic contraption until the third?

Oh wait - I know.  For baby #1, we were living in 1000 sq ft with three adults, two dogs, and a baby.  It being our first, we were under the delusion that it was possible to have an "adult" house, relegating anything that screamed "baby" to a tiny corner of our living/dining room.  The design of these swings definitely have "baby" written all over them with cutesy ocean or jungle themes.

Then, for #2 we were in India with 220V power.  I could have purchased an expensive imported one from the UK at the fabulous MotherCare store which opened a few months before #2 was born.  But, my guess is that after our totally failed attempt to purchase a baby monitor made in China (I'll have to look to see if I wrote a blog about that), I wasn't so up on the electronics thing.  Plus, I never had one for #1, so it never occurred to me to get one for #2, even though our flat in HYD was HUGE and could have easily fit two baby swings discretely.

Now, here's #3.  We live on a compound with 110V power surrounded by other American parents who, like most American parents, own a baby swing.  #3 has tried out two baby swings and fallen directly asleep any time he's placed in either one.  When a neighbor offered to lend hers as her chunko baby was really getting a little too big for the swing, we (specifically my nanny) pounced.

Do I particularly like having such a big contraption in my living room?  No.  Is it annoying to keep on reminding #1 and #2 to not touch/swing/try to sit in the baby swing? Yes.  But ... am I liking the break my back and arms getting after a fussy night and cry-full morning.  Why yes, yes I am.  In fact, I'm able to write in the blog!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Budding Independence / Self-Sufficiency

One of my work friends, when I told her I was pregnant with our third, shook her head and said something along the lines of - well, the next five years will be rough, but then your role will change from being a "worker" to a "manager."  Meaning, I wouldn't actually have to brush each child's teeth.  Or pester them to keep eating.  Or change their clothes.  Or put together their school bags.  I could just ask (and ask again) if it had been done - and if it hadn't, ask that the children please do it.  Hopefully our three boys will be as cooperative as her three kids!  

I had a glimpse of this "manager" life just now.  William asked if he could ride his bike around the apartment hallway (it's covered, but outside - not like he's riding inside corridors).  Seeing as he had finished breakfast, gotten dressed (and even changed his shirt without fuss when I pointed out that the one he picked didn't match), and brushed his teeth, I agreed he could until Joel returned from dropping Greg at work to take Wm to school.  Less than a minute later, I heard the bike being parked outside the door.  Wm came in, took off his helmet, got his back pack, library bag, and lunch.  Turned around and said, "See ya, Mama. Joel's here to take me to school."  And that was that.  As Wm has taken to saying lately: easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.  

I'm looking forward to being the manager.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Feeling a bit more back to normal

As I sat on the couch, feeling restless at 9PM, I realized that I must be feeling more normal.  The last few weeks I had purposely been avoiding creating a "to do" list -- with settling back into Manila, then adjusting to being back at work, all the while balancing *three* kids five and under, I didn't want to get myself overwhelmed.  And nothing is more overwhelming than a long to do list!

Today, though, I felt like I didn't do much productive.  We attempted to go to church, but had to cut out during the sermon.*  We came home, I putzed around the house a bit, then met some friends for Sofitel lunch.**  I came home, pumped a bottle (the only thing I produced today), then played on the playground with all the Seafront kids who finally came back from vacation.***  At bedtime, I slowly read Cars & Trucks & Things that Go to Patch, while he sat on the potty, keeping fingers crossed that maybe - just maybe - after 45 minutes he might be convinced to go poo poo on the potty. No cigar.  I then tried to boost my knowledge of Settlers of Catan by playing on the iPad.  An hour after that, I was even more restless.

Which has lead me to the obvious conclusion: it's time again to make a to do list.  Ian must be sleeping well enough, and work is going smoothly enough, that I have extra energy needing an outlet.

*Last Sunday, Wm and Patch wanted to stay with Ian in the service and not go to Sunday school.  It was generally OK, so we agreed to do the same this Sunday.  But, Wm kept on going in and out of the sanctuary, and when he entered the Sunday school room he sat with his back to the class distracting the other kids.  So, having managed to disturb both the congregation and the Sunday school kids, we cut our losses and headed home.

**In India, we really enjoyed the hotel brunches, but haven't really done it here because of the cost - and the conflict with nap time.  Today, my meal pretty much consisted of sushi, shrimp, cheese (and more cheese and more cheese), beef (sirloin, tenderloin, prime rib...), and champagne.  Plus some chocolate mousse and caramel tapioca pudding to wash it all down.  Tasty for a one time treat, but still not convinced it was worth $70.

***Nov 30 was a Filipino holiday, and many of our neighbors cut out of town.  We weren't quite up for preparing for a trip with Ian, so we stayed put.  Though, given how restless Wm and Patch were after two days of just me and Greg as entertainment, I think we should have taken up our neighbors offer to join them at the beach when another family cancelled last minute.  The hour and a half packing around with various kids at the playground and chatting with our neighbors was quite relaxing - especially after the huge lunch!