Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yaya is back so I made risotto

I gladly handed Yaya back her dish soap and sponges on Tuesday when she returned to work. Washing the dishes is not a chore that I will miss one bit. The girls were happy to have their Yaya to play with and I didn't feel too (maybe a little bit) sad that they wanted to show her all the games we've been playing since she was gone. I really enjoyed having my girls all to myself the past week and sometimes it's hard to share them. It's a double edged sword because when I have the girls all to myself I burn out on playtime quicker but when Yaya's here I have to deal with the jealous feelings I get when they want to play with her.

After not sleeping the night before (I finally fell asleep at 4AM-it was terrible), I was surprisingly chipper and upbeat for the day (maybe it was the hunk of 70% dark chocolate I had at 9AM. I figured I was feeding a chocolate hang over). I made dinner and let the girls play with Yaya. It was super nice having them occupied so I didn't have to hold Bella while at the stove or rush to open and close the oven without her running in to me. I always set my expectations too high for what I should accomplish on my own when Yaya is gone. I have to prove to myself that I can do it all, all on my own. And I do but stretch myself a little too thin in the process. I made elaborate dinners every night when she was gone and found it extremely difficult to do so while keeping the girls safe and occupied. Now a more realistic mother would just make the call to keep dinners simple or even order in, but no, I was going to do it all, all on my own. Anyhow, having Yaya here to watch the girls while I cooked is a huge luxury.

I've been a little obsessed with risotto lately. This was the second risotto dish I've made in the past week. It's a little tedious and time consuming, ladling the broth a cup at a time into the rice mixture and stirring at a low temp until it's all absorbed. I guess something about the stirring and watching it absorb and adding more liquid until the mixture is creamy and delicious just works for me. I made asparagus risotto this time. If you haven't attempted risotto at home you should. It's can easily stand on it's own as a main dish. Just give yourself a good 30-40 minutes.

Here's what I did:
Roast a half pound of chopped asparagus in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper until tender. Set aside.

Heat 6 cups of chicken broth until boiling and then keep it at a low simmer on a back burner on the stove.
In a second large sauce pan heat 1/4 olive oil, add 3/4 cup chopped onion and two cloves chopped garlic. Cook 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice and cook for 3 minutes stirring constantly. Add 3/4 cup white wine and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Add 1 cup simmering broth to rice mixture and stir until absorbed. Keep the burner on Med/Low so the liquid absorbs slowly. Add liquid cup by cup, absorbing each cup all the way into rice mixture before adding another. The rice will become creamy. The rice should have no crunch when it's done. If you still need some liquid but have used all the broth just add a bit of water and let it absorb at the end.

When the rice is creamy and no longer crunchy turn off the burner. Stir in a pad of butter, roasted asparagus, fresh thyme, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste.We attempted having Bella join the nightly bedtime story in Addie's bed. Addie's had a bedtime story every night since she was like 4 months old. Bella on the other hand has never been a bedtime story kind of girl. When she was little it was impossible to get her to calm down and stop screaming. Stories were the last thing we were worried about at 4 months. As she got older we read a story at bedtime here and there but it usually revved her up instead of calmed her down. Bella loves sitting down with a pile of books to look at on her own but the minute you join her and start reading and restricting her page turning and independent discovery she looses interest. She just wants to do it on her own. Last night she as so thrilled to be in Addie's bed snuggled up with Dad that she just giggled and rolled around and played. She could have cared less about the story but it was cute to see the girls in bed together. Addie's special bedtime story was interrupted so she insisted on another quiet story after Bella and I retreated to her room to get down to the business of getting her asleep. I think we'll keep on trying the group bedtime story thing. Bella will figure it out eventually.

Monday, August 30, 2010

when I eat too much 70% dark chocolate

...I don't sleep. It's 1:45AM and I cannot fall asleep. My kids are sound asleep, my husband is catching Zs and I just can't get there. That chocolate is so good but man, I've really got to start eating it before dinner instead of after.

Most of the time, I get super angry when I can't fall asleep on a night that the girls sleep like angels. Weirdly enough, I'm not even that mad right now. It's quiet. There is no one pulling on my clothes trying to climb me. It's probably the first few hours of calm alone time I've had in I don't know how long. It's kind of not that bad.

Only, tomorrow will suck.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

outdoor shopping Filipino style

We spent the afternoon at Tiendesitas today looking at antiques, puppies, and t-shirts. This place has tons of local handicrafts, cheap clothing, Chinese made toys, food, wood art, ...and the list goes on. They were having a pit bull dog show this afternoon so the girls were thrilled to see all the dogs. It's a very dog friendly area with lots of little pet shops full of adorable but sad looking puppies. I really loved this little caramel miniature poodle. He reminds me of my best friend's childhood dog Ferme la bouche. We could have easily come home with another dog but instead we found something cool for the house. Wood carvings are all over the Philippines so it would be strange for us to leave this country without a few. Our wood purchase wasn't a decorative carving but a utilitarian one. It's an old cart wheel from the 1900's. It stood out for both Justin and I as something that is Filipino but not Catholic iconography. I really love the metal work. There were a couple wheels that weren't as battered but I really liked the well used one (wheely bug is for scale-although I'm sure it will get parked there plenty). Justin picked up a few dollar coins from 1898 when the Philippines was a United States colony. That's where our purchases stopped being antique and became silly. Justin found a Master's of the Universe t-shirt and had to bring it home. Really? How could we pass it up?It was hot and muggy as it always is in Manila so we took in as much of the outdoor shopping we could before we needed to stop for shakes. We finished the evening off with a Filipino attempt at Mexican food which was actually quite descent. I was starving so it tasted spectacular going down. The fried ice cream always finishes off Mexican just right. Justin can barely hold Arabella back in this photo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

heartbreakers

These baby blues are going to be breaking hearts some day. I can't believe Justin and I had anything to do with these two beauties.

ordering in

This is what date night, sans Yaya, looks like.
Awesome Indian delivery and Anchorman. Throw in some Chardonnay and Haigh's chocolate brought home from Australia and it was a winner evening. The best part was no dishes to wash after our meal! I really needed a quiet Friday night with my husband after our girls were fast asleep.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Filipino Fiesta

The entire family attended a fiesta at Addie's pre-k class at AmeriKids today. All month the kids have been learning traditional Filipino dances, games, and phrases. I loved Addie's miniature nipa hut she made. The kids were extremely enthusiastic. Adelaide usually freezes up in these situations but was happily joining along. The fiesta finished off with a spread of traditional Filipino cuisine. video

my flyest chick

Adelaide Rose LOVES the Black Eyed Peas (or the Split Eyed Peas as Grandpa mistakenly and hilariously called them). Her very favorite is Imma Be. I took this video of her last week dancing in her Native American Princess costume. I'm thinking Fergie's going to be calling Addie to be her costume designer for their next video. That or their choreographer because Addie has the beat down. She's my flyest chick for sure.

Side note: I understand plenty of people are going to be appalled that we've allowed our three year old to listen to this music and to be honest I'm not sure how it happened. I think it just became part of our dance party music on the i Pod. It also could be a little of the Filipino influence. Admittedly, we need to get the censored version of their album. Anyhow, go ahead and judge. I can take it.

video

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a little sniffly

As I feared, the Museo Pambata gave us all colds. Either that or Justin passed on some germs from his flight back to Manila. Maybe it was a self fulfilling prophecy because I was certain the germy museum was going to be my downfall this week. That or all the dishes I was going to be washing by hand. It's a toss-up really.

Addie has her father's super human immune system and had a runny nose for one night and that was it. Justin drank a few gallons of green tea and is fine. Poor Bella and I got it worse. She's snotty and attempting to sleep with the humidifier. I have a cold but we all know that when Mom gets a cold it's no big deal because Moms have to pretend they aren't sick and just go about doing what Moms do. No "woe is me" sick days for me. My mantra this morning in the shower was "buck up".

Yaya is still out sick with no idea when she will be feeling well enough to come back to work. I'm now trying to figure out how I'm going to make the Filipino pancit I promised for Addie's school program potluck on Friday.

I have been spending an inhuman amount of time in the kitchen; cooking for my children, feeding them, cleaning them up, washing the dishes, and preparing for the next meal. Three average sized dishes fill up our tiny little kitchen sink so the dishes are a constant cycle of stacking, washing, drying, and putting away. Once the dishes are done it's time to dirty up new ones. All day long. I don't have time to drink a gallon of green tea.

I have to admit, I love having my house to myself, doing all the cooking, and being in charge of how everything is done. It's nice to take back some of the control I had given up. I can't tell you how many times I've found something and said "what in the world is this and why are we keeping it?" I sent four garbage bags full of junk to the trash that was being kept for God knows what reason. Needless to say, it's nice to get things cleaned up and organized.

If only I were split into two people. One Mom to do all the cooking and cleaning and one Mom to do all the playing, laughing, and snuggling. This is the challenge that all Mothers, everywhere, for all time have faced. Over stretched Moms unite!
I took the girls to S&R yesterday to do some grocery shopping. They were the only kids there. Bringing your kids shopping here is like bringing your kids to a matinee movie in the States. It just isn't done. Adelaide insisted on wearing her "Fancy Nancy" shoes, which have heels and go "click clack" when she walks. She sat in the cart with her sister but when she saw two ladies with heels on she pleaded with me to get down so she could click clack in her heels so everyone could see and hear her shoes. I love this girl! I had to say no because if daughter number one got down daughter number two would have wanted to as well. You know the drill.
I took some cute pictures of Arabella yesterday when Addie was at school. She has an unnatural obsession with the dog's leash. She carries this thing all over the house and completely looses it when you try to take it from her. I even bought a new retractable leash and collar complete with dog tags that shake. She still prefers Lucy's leash. She's adorable getting ready to walk Lucy for the morning. She's also obsessed with the refrigerator. I know when she's really hungry because she wants to hang out inside the fridge. She's always trying to climb up the shelves and grab the food. She hides things in the fridge. I found Justin's i Pod arm band in the fridge yesterday. Arabella cracks me up. Today Adelaide was such a huge helper. I told her that when her sister took a nap I was going to mop the floors and clean the bathrooms. I suggested that she sit and play with her Barbies or color while I was busy but she wouldn't have it. "I want to be with you, Mommy" is what I heard over and over so she decided to help me clean. Some day she's going to laugh (or roll her eyes) when I tell her that when she was three she would rather help clean the toilets than play just so she could be with me. Once she smelled the Lysol she high tailed it out of the bathroom but she was an awesome helper mopping the floor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

keeping memories

Since having kids, I've played a mental game during all the wonderful sweet moments I have with them. I'll pause for a second and prompt myself to take a mental snapshot of the moment. I tell myself to focus really hard and remember all the details so that I will be able to recall the memory later on. A sweet hug, the smell of her hair, silly way she did this or that; the list of moments with my children that I try to imprint on my brain is infinite. I'm constantly afraid that the moment will slip by and be gone forever. Afraid I'll never be able to pull up that wonderful memory again.

And truthfully, I have never been able to recall all those tiny little moments, even if at the time I might have forced myself to memorize it second by second and inch by inch. Sure, I can bring up all the firsts and the frequently talked about milestones. Those things are easily recalled but it's the fleeting sweet moments that I've tried so hard to hold on to that just don't ever seem to come back to me.

Last night I was sitting with Arabella in her room for her bedtime routine. She was snuggled up under her little blanket on my lap with her "nana" (pacifier) death gripped in one hand, her other hand holding her sippy cup of milk to her mouth. The night light allowed us to steal glances at one another. She looked up periodically at me while I sang her bedtime songs. She kicked her leg up and plopped her chubby little 16 month old foot in the palm of my hand. She giggled because her feet are ticklish and I giggled because her chubby little 16 month old foot still barely fits in the palm of my hand. It's a beautiful little foot. I felt so much sentiment to this little foot in my palm that I started playing my mental game of memorizing how adorable it is, what it feels like, how Bella sounds as she laughs, the way the light shadows one side of her face, how her freshly washed and still damp hair smells like coconut; and on and on I'm trying to memorize the details so that some day in the future I can remember this precious moment and relive it's amazing beauty. Some day when she isn't 16 months old.

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. I never remember these moments. As hard as I try they don't come to me months later in the vivid detail that I see them at the moment when they are happening. Suddenly I realize that I'm wasting my time trying desperately to memorize these special moments. Instead of trying to file away the memory for future enjoyment I should simply enjoy the moment IN the moment.

Having had this minor revelation sitting there in my youngest daughter's bedroom, I smile down at her and she glances upward to me letting the milk dribble down the side of her mouth. She smiles again and kicks her little foot up and then back in my hand. This time I just focus on enjoying every little morsel of that chubby 16 month old foot in the palm of my hand. It's precious and delicious and I'll never forget it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

success

My successes used to be measured by very different criteria. Now, they are measured by things like; how few toys are on the floor at the end of the day, how little mess is in the kitchen when I finally call it quits in the evening, when there are no new bruises on the littlest girls' head, or if Addie gets through the night without a nightmare.

Yesterday, I considered the entire day a success because between the hour of 3:30PM and 4:30PM not only did I make dinner for my family, but I answered an important question my 3 year old very dramatically came into the kitchen and asked me.

"Mommy, how do fairy princesses fly?"

I then demonstrated for her exactly how they fly. And she bought it. We flew around the kitchen together. And then she ate her dinner!

Success.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

teaching life lessons

Having a Filipino helper is like having a kindergartner in many ways. I never thought that hiring a live-in helper would require me to act not only as an employer but a teacher too. The well known "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum comes to mind in this kind of situation.

Cora has been working with our family for two years now. We are fair employers. She gets paid well, the weekends off (many Filipino families have help 24/7), paid holidays, overtime pay, paid sick leave, loans, basic food and toiletries provided, and tons of our hand-me-downs. We try to go above and beyond what is expected of us as her employers with bonuses and gifts. Beyond that she has become my friend and the girls' Yaya, someone they dearly love. Cora is a wonderful woman with a good heart and a survivors mentality. She's struggled to raise her three sons with little money or worldly possessions and she's always an exceptionally hard worker.

Because she's such a sweet, hardworking woman, I find it hard to believe that this person, who is 15 years my senior needs me to teach her anything. She's lived a much harder life than I will ever know and has seen and done things I will never (hopefully) have to do in my lifetime.

Having a maid is awesome. Having a maid is also not awesome. Like being woken on Saturday at 5AM by said maid as she vomits everywhere asking me if I have any stomach pain medication. The night before I've asked her to clean out the leftovers in the refrigerator, some of them having sat in there for a few weeks. I know for a fact she's eaten the leftovers and gotten herself a serious case of food poisoning. I know this because it's not the first time it's happened. (a tangential lesson I'd hope she'd learn here is to THROW AWAY old food not eat it-but sadly it's probably not the last time this will happen. She has yet to make the connection between stomach cramps and eating two week old leftover chicken.)

So I know she isn't feeling well this weekend. I am also expecting a text message letting me know how she is and if she will be at work on Monday morning. Too sensible on my part? Not at all. This is a very reasonable expectation.

Do I get a text message? Of course not. Do I have to text her Monday morning at 8:30AM, an hour and a half after she's expected at work, to ask her if she's coming in today? Of course I do.

I then have to give her a lesson on life via text message. One of the many life lessons I have had to teach this woman we have grown to care so very much about. The lesson is a little about professionalism and a little about trust and expectations. It's a little about "we've asked you to do this before" and "you need to let me know BEFORE you are expected at work". I even pull out the word disappointed because really at this point in her working career this woman should know this.

Sadly, she doesn't get the message. Instead she pleads me not to fire her. She's still sick and really needs the job. I have never once threatened to fire her for being sick. I have never threatened to fire this woman at all in the two years we've known her (does she really think I'm the firing type-even after living with me for two years?). It's amazing to me that this middle aged woman doesn't understand the common courtesy of informing your employer about absences from work and is more worried that I'm mad she's left me to do her job for the day. Of course she needs her job, she's living week to week on her paycheck. I get this and being sick is not the problem. Having never learned basic professionalism IS the problem. (and for the record I washed the heck out of the laundry and dishes this morning all on my own-thank you very much).

Then, I realize that it all makes sense, because Cora never attended kindergarten. Given that, I guess I don't mind teaching some life lessons. It's all about perspective right?

four walls or filthy hands

Since Justin arrived home Saturday afternoon we've gotten out of the house a lot. Thank goodness, I was going a little nutty the weekend before stuck looking at the four walls of our apartment.
Saturday night we ate at the Corner Tree Cafe; a great little vegetarian bistro down the street from our place. It's perfect because it's open all day so we can eat at 4:30PM and have the entire place to ourselves. The food is fresh and amazing. The spinach and feta croquettes are great as well as the walnut tofu burger and the fried Parmesan polenta cakes with mushroom sauce. The great news is that the girls love the food. Both times we've gone we order the soup special and Addie's happy. She loves soup, any kind really. Bella gets super antsy here because they don't have highchairs. It definitely dictates what Justin and I wear to this place, knowing we are required to hold her during her meal. Since we are alone while we eat it isn't too big of a deal when Bella wants to wander a little. The best part of this meal is the bill. For drinks, starters, entrees, and deserts for our family of 4 (3.5 really since Bella eats off our plates) the meal cost $22. For the quality, you can't beat that price.Today we decided to escape our ever so familiar four walls and wear the kids out. This morning we headed to the park to play before Bella's nap and after her nap we spent a few hours at the Museo Pambata (The Children's Museum). Addie hated most everything there and had a serious case of fearful anxiety with any new exhibit we looked at. Before we even really saw what it was she declared "she didn't like it" "didn't want to do it" and "she wanted to get out of here!". The straw that broke the camels back was the human body exhibit. Admittedly, it's run down, kind of creepily lit, and a bit overly focused on the bodily functions that kids think are funny. For example; the display showing you step by step what happens to the food you eat. At the end, the display shows you the final stages of the food as it leaves the body. Seriously? Gross! Addie really had troubles with the gigantic farting buttocks. It totally freaked her out but made my husband and I giggle. It's hard to get the scale of this photo but Addie's head stood probably just about mid-butt. It came with a ridiculous explanation too. Only in the Philippines.

This is when Addie started to panic a little bit and scream that she wanted to leave and go home. We ran through the rest of the exhibits. She only calmed down at the end when she got to climb a tree house like they build in Davao. She also enjoyed the musical instrument display. Bella loved the whole thing. She's at that stage where the idea of fear is non-existent.The museum turned out to be torture for Addie and fun for Bella. Justin was cool as he always is but, for me it sparked this crazy Mom fear about germs and filth. Like most public places in the Philippines, the museum is frequented by tons of people and kids and really needed a good disinfectant wash. To my surprise and irritation, I turned into a super nagging Mom, cringing as Bella would touch something and then touch her pacifier or put a display item in her mouth. When Addie gets shy, nervous, or upset she puts her fingers in her mouth and chews her nails and I just couldn't stop swatting at her hands and telling her to keep them out of her mouth. She finally called me out on my nagging (at 3-she was like "stop saying that to me"). I felt terrible! Visions of stomach viruses and flu bugs all over everything we were touching were swirling around in my head as I watched my children pretty much lick their way through this grimy place. It was maddening for me. I'm normally not like this and actually don't worry too much about them putting their hands in their mouth or getting dirty but today the germaphobe side of me came out with vengeance.
Hunger drove us to Greenbelt for People's Palace Thai food for an early dinner again at 4:30PM. The first thing we did was take the girls to the comfort room (restroom) to wash hands. It was a normal, crazy, eat-so-fast-you-get-heartburn kind of dinner with our two little girls. There was lots of fussing and demands, rice everywhere, empty milk glasses that needed filing, toys to distract since the littlest girl's belly fills the fastest and more dropped silverware than I could count. Totally normal. Addie impressed us with eating her entire dinner of chicken satay and fried rice. I was impressed with my ability to keep a hand on Arabella's plate the entire time I ate my meal just to be sure she wouldn't throw it off the table. Two dinners out with the girls two nights in a row was probably not the best idea even if the lemongrass ice cream kept them happy. We are always sure to apologize for the mess and leave an extra tip for the guys who have to clean up after our craziness.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

portraits

I've been trying to capture photos of the girls that illustrate who they are at this moment in time of their lives. It's hard to do. It's also hard to get a photo of them together where they are both looking at the camera.

AdelaideArabellaSisters

Friday, August 20, 2010

homecoming

I made homemade cinnamon rolls this morning for Daddy's return today. We couldn't wait for him so we had a few at breakfast. There are lots of love in these along with all the sugar and butter! We can't wait for him to get home.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Philippe's quickly, Thomas my stylist, and Greenhills insanity

All that Pacific Northwest fresh air and sunshine in the States had the same affect on my hair that it had on my children. It grew! I finally got my hair trimmed this morning. It was the most efficient Philippe's has ever been. I was there at 10AM and out at 11AM. Now that's what I'm talking about. Thomas ranted and raved about my "dreamy" blonde locks. No highlights needed this time after the sun lightened it up just as it did when I was a little girl running around in my parent's backyard. Anyhow, I had a nice cold hair wash. Not even in the same dimension as Jake's from the last time but, I guess a girl can only get lucky once in awhile huh? I flipped through just one magazine while Thomas trimmed my hair and his assistant blow dried it. For $700 Ph pesos ($14) this haircut, in this salon is a total steal. I definitely recommend Thomas. He's awesome.

Thomas and I. He was so cute about posing with me!After the cut, I geared up for Greenhills shopping. I had been putting off getting my Mom's pearls restrung for a long time.

In theory, I love Greenhills. I like the idea of shopping for jewelry, pearls, handbags, clothes and local handicrafts, all in the same place at rock bottom prices (sometimes). I make lists of things I'd like and then lists of things to get family for gifts. In practice Greenhills is not nearly as fun as it sounds. Tiny stall after stall of merchandise shoved in a very small area manned by pushy and annoying Filipinos all screeching "you buy here", "Mam, I give you discount", "Mam watches", "Mam, bags, Mam, what you like? Prada, Jimmy Choo?". They never leave you alone to browse and get your thoughts together. I often give up trying to look for something because I simply get tired of being accosted by the sales people. It's always crowded and men with hand written lists of movie titles walking around bumping into you while asking clandestinely if you want to go upstairs to their special room to buy black market DVDs. I try not to make eye contact or pretend I'm Finish and act like I can't understand them. Plain and simple, Greenhills shopping is a big hot mess. I can usually handle about an hour or so before I've got to get some air and head home. I have to say it's one of the most unique shopping experiences I've ever had. The first trips to Greenhills when I moved to the Philippines were the best. I was naive and excited that I could get real South Sea pearls for $30 and a look-a-like Coach bag for $45. By now the truth is out. As a white girl shopping at Greenhills I'm guaranteed to get completely ripped off. Case in point: today at a bag stall a gal quoted me 3,500 pesos for a drawstring Gucci purse (really cute but not great quality and not worth even close to $70 what do they think I'm stupid), another gal at the same stall said she'd sell it to me for 1,800. Still too high. She said she'd go as low as 1,200 pesos. I walked away. I know for a fact that if I wasn't me they'd sell that bag for half the price and take home a profit. The process of haggling and knowing that if I get them as low as I can, it's still double the price for ME has me completely disenchanted at this point in time in Manila.I snapped a few photos while I was there (something I haven't ever done before because it just draws even more attention to myself). I was taking the photo of the start of the pearl section (100 stalls of pearls like the one in the picture-no joke) and I can sense someone come up to my right. He says "excuse me Mam". Without even taking my eye off my lens, my knee jerk reaction was in a rather irritated voice "No, I don't want to buy any DVDs". Oops, when I looked up it was a guard who explained to me I couldn't take photos. HA, the shopping center that sells knock-off stuff is getting a moral backbone? Then I realized the knock-off goods was exactly why he didn't want me taking pictures.Anyway, it was a fruitful trip (if not exhausting). I may not have haggled to the best price but I did call BS a few times, got my errands taken care of and was home to play with my girls all afternoon. Success.