Thursday, April 29, 2010

Arabella's first birthday party

We had an awesome party for Arabella last night. It was full of noisy kids, good food, balloons, presents, and good friends. Arabella wasn't completely sure that all the fuss of singing and blowing out candles on cakes was for her, but she sure didn't mind the big slab of cake that was put in front of her to eat! I've never seen her sit so quietly and contentedly as she did eating that cake bite after bite. It was adorable. She loved all the people and excitement. When it came time for the presents she dug right in along with her sister and opened them up. She received her own baby doll (Addie named her Tina), along with doll clothes a high chair, books, bath toys, and a few other treasures. Both girls have been playing with everything since. A big thank you to Grammy and Grandpa for the wonderful gifts. The Polar Bear cake was a monumental hit. Justin declared it was the best cake he's ever tasted after the carrot cake I make him which is his all time favorite. I have to say it is the best cake I have ever eaten. Some cakes you accept a mediocre cake because the frosting is so good or vice versa. Not this cake. Every layer; the cake, filling, and frosting was amazing. The combination of the three made for perfection. This cake will be a reoccurring birthday cake for years to come. I was so proud of how gracious Addie was as a big sister during the party. She happily let Bella have the attention and encouraged her little sister to enjoy her birthday. She very sweetly helped Bella open her gifts showing her sister everything with the understanding that they could play together but ultimately it was Bella's toy. How very grown up my eldest daughter is becoming as well. Justin and I were beaming last night as we lay sprawled out on the couch in exhaustion. We have two beautiful daughters where just three years ago we were childless. Amazing how much can change in just a few short years. We both agreed we have two amazing little girls that bring us endless joy and happiness. We are so lucky! Arabella is one! Already! And what a sweet one year old she is!

Dear Arabella

Dear Arabella,
Hi darling, it's your Mommy. It was a year ago that we met for the first time, eye to eye, skin to skin, your tears mingling with mine. It was true that I had known you for the nine months you were squirming in my belly, but truly our meeting on April 29, 2009 was a moment like none I have ever experienced before. You came into this world with a force, an urgency, and determination. You looked at me, your father, at the world around you and decided it was worth all those solitary months in the womb. You came out with sense of understanding and knowledge right from the start. Oh how your personality has changed and grown but ultimately stayed the same over this past year. My determined and aware newborn has simply grown into my fiery, curious, and strong willed toddler. You challenged me as a mother right from the first moments, never letting me rest, always moving forward, onward to the next thing. Even now I detest and at the same time adore how even in our quietest moments together before bed, in my arms, drinking your bottle, your eye lids will flutter closed and still your fingers are working, pulling at that little curl of hair behind your ear. If I gently hold your hand still your foot starts pounding up and down on the arm of the chair. My baby girl continually in motion. I savor those moments that I peak at you on your stomach with your arms under your belly, balled up in a sleeping fetal position. It is your only moment of silence, of stillness. Careful not to stare to long, knowing that you will sense my presence in your ever-working mind, I move on quietly so I don't interrupt your moment of peace.

As my second child you have changed me as a mother, calmed me and given me wisdom. You have given me a great gift of patience beyond anything I knew with your older sister. Patience I imagine would impress even the steadiest monk. Every moment of frustration and silent rage sprouted a little growth of patience and love that steadily grew and grew to overcome my earlier notions of how to care for you. In all that we have gone through you have given me a deeper sense of love. The bond that we share (that will not be quite the same with anyone else) is the outcome of all those long nights and over exaggerated sighs of desperation. All those murmurs of sweet lullabies and attempts to calm your over stimulated mind have given us an unconditional understanding and respect for one another. Me for your innately determine personality and you for my unfaltering attempts to make you happy and feel loved. In the past 12 months I have watched you grow from a frustrated yet beautiful infant desperately wanting to interact with all of us, to a smiling happy baby, and now a playful and wonderfully joyful toddler. With every milestone and gained freedom you become more content. It's as if you have a sense of your unmet potential buried deep within your mind. With every step you are still reaching; striving for the next.

I love you Arabella, with all my being. Thank you for showing me strength and patience. Thank you for giving me the chance to love another child so differently than my first. Thank you for expanding my heart to contain yet another little being to adore. You are my joy. Your smile lights up the room and warms my soul. You are not my baby any more but your own little wonderful person. I'm so lucky to be the one to spend this year with you and all the years to come as your Mother.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Birthday preparations

Bella and Addie were really excited about receiving the big birthday box from Grammy and Grandpa. We've been blowing up balloons, getting the Elmo party supplies ready, bringing out the ball pit for the kids and taking lots of pictures to capture the special moment of Arabella's first birthday. I'll save the mushy stuff later but it's safe to say I am feeling all sorts of big love for my little girl today.I've decided that my special birthday "thing" is baking cakes from scratch for my family on their special days. I've been baking lots of cakes lately. Two in March, now one in April for Bella, and again one for Addie in May. Bella's too little to ask for a certain type of cake so I chose to try something new this time. I made the Polar Bear cake. It's a recipe from "Angel Food" a cookbook written by our good friend's Grandmother in memory of his mother who passed away from melanoma. I've never made a more elaborate cake! I usually avoid long detailed recipes but this time wanted to give it a try. The cake is full of whipped butter and eggs. The filling is a lemony orange coconut custard creation and the frosting...well the frosting is just divine. It's a frosting technique I've never tried before. The egg whites get whipped to oblivion and then a sugar syrup is made on the stove top. Slowly the two are combined to create a fluffy light delicious bowl of white frosting. I assembled the cake and covered it with the frosting and decided that the name was fitting. It looks like a big snow ball. Bella approved of the frosting. I'm not sure how any one could disagree, it's the most delicious thing I've made with my two hands. I think we are ready to party!

Monday, April 26, 2010

my chimp and my fashionista

Arabella is at her happiest attached to my hip like a little chimpanzee. Before going on our long walk this past Sunday, I dug out the Hip Hammock that was given to me by a friend when Addie was a baby. Adelaide was content with the stroller and being held by her father at Bella's age so we didn't make use of the Hip Hammock. I decided to give it a try. It took many tries of twisting and adjusting the straps and our arms to get this thing comfortable. At one point my arm started to tingle because an artery in my neck was getting pressed too hard. Bella didn't make a peep the entire ride in this contraption. She was happy as a clam. Sadly the device was just not comfortable for me. I even have a bruise on my hip bone from it. I envy those really hip luscious Moms who have that wonderful hip ledge their kids just hang out on. My hips leave little room for kids to hang. Now if we all toted our kids around on our derrieres, Bella would have a nice comfy ride back there. Anyhow, I decided my gift to Arabella for her first birthday is to comfortably ride around attached to me with the ERGObaby carrier. I was tempted to spring for this device with Addie but after the Bijorn she was done with baby carriers. My second daughter is another child entirely and loves me to carry her. It will be especially nice for the traveling we do.I am completely thrilled with Adelaide's wonderfully crazy fashion sense right now. Aunt Meg sent these flippin cute knee socks with the girls birthday gifts and I couldn't keep them away from Addie any longer. She loves socks and especially bright over the top ones. I'll fully admit to being disappointed in not needing patterned tights and knee socks for the girls since living in the tropics. What is the point of having daughters if you can't get them ridiculously cute tights and super long knee socks for skirts and mary janes? As you can see, Addie could have cared less that we live in the tropics or that it's actually summer here now. She sported them out to walk the dog with Yaya. I can only imagine the fawning over she received today from all the locals. Secretly, she eats it up. God help us!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Every parent is shocked at one time or another by the amount of food that your child consumes during a meal in the middle of a growth spurt. This morning Arabella ate an entire scrambled egg (screw separating the yolk from the whites-she eats both), a large handful of avocado, a huge slice of green tea pound cake from Japan, two slices of cheese, and two handfuls of Gerber puffs. You can tell that originally her breakfast consisted of just the egg and avocado. Once I watched her pound that and look around for more I started scrounging in the refrigerator and pantry for whatever was quick, edible for a one year old, and fast. She's kind of like a hungry ogre that can flip out if she's still hungry and the last bite has just been swallowed and tray is empty. So I quickly fed her more. I couldn't believe it!

Welcome and Introductions

I thought I would introduce myself to all of you who are checking out my blog whom I don't know already. I added the counter to the blog last Wednesday and am surprised to see that it has received 240 hits in half a week. I know most of my viewers are family and friends who check daily for updates but I have to believe there are some of you whom I haven't met! Or maybe you are an old friend and I don't realize you are reading the blog.

So hello, my name is Sara. I just recently turned 30 (with equal parts relief and dismay). I am married to a spectacular man and have two lovely little girls. We are Americans and we are currently living in Manila, Philippines. I am a hands-on stay-at-home Mom who really can claim motherhood as my full-time job. I have healthy obsessions with good chocolate, cheese, and shoes (not necessarily in that order). I generally don't get enough sleep. I love that I can go to the beach and pool year-round while living in the tropics. I fully admit that I miss The United States but have made a comfortable home overseas. So there's a bit about me (although since you are a follower of my blog you must already know those things about me). I would love to know a little bit about you! Please comment! If you are an old friend please give me a shout-out!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

school field trip

Adelaide's class painted pottery on their field trip last Friday. Here is Addie painting a "princess" on her plate.


Justin and I made a very wise parenting decision today. We analyzed the situation, debated the possible outcomes, and ultimately decided that taking the entire family to meet friends at the Sofitel buffet for brunch today would not be the smartest choice. Instead we drove to Ristra's Mexican Grill for burritos. Yes, the Sofitel is an amazing culinary experience, and yes, both Justin and I were salivating at the thought of all those choices weighing the cost ($100 for two adults) and our companions (two little girls under three years old) we ended up making the best decision. Ristra's is "Chipotle-lite". We were introduced to this Mexican joint a few months back by our good friends Kristi and Brian. Like everything else he does, Brian had put some research into this place so he could not only show us this little Mexican haven in Manila but also give us some facts about it's origination. Apparently, a Filipino American man who was living and working/attending college in the States decided to copy Chipotle back in his home country. Ristra's is the outcome. It's definitely modeled after Chipotle. They do a great job with the cilantro-lime rice, as well as the pulled pork, and add-ons like guacamole and pico de gallo. Plus they import Rogue Ale from Oregon! On the other hand the chicken leaves everything to be desired (spongey P.I. chicken) and the salsa tastes more like spaghetti sauce than salsa (so sad when it reaches your tongue and ultimately disappoints). That being said, it's the best Mexican we get here. The little dinning area has high chairs and we've never had a problem finding seating. The price is definitely right at about 300 pesos per burrito. In the end it doesn't matter if we are at the Sofitel or at Ristra's; it's always Mom who splits her food with both girls and eats the remnants herself after everyone has had their fill. Bella shoveled avocado, beans, and rice while Addie picked at her rice and munched on the chips (Bella's in a growth spurt while Addie has plateaued for a while). Both girls ate a total of 10 bites combined then in unison declared it was time to go home. Also as usual, I shoved the last mangled bites of my burrito in my mouth, wrapped up the second half to-go, grabbed our stuff and we hit the road (I call this the unintentional diet plan for Moms). As the three of us serenaded Arabella with "Old McDonald" on the ride home to calm her tears Justin and I concluded we had made the right choice for lunch today. Ristra's was just what we needed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

dinner for 3

A few months back I couldn't begin to imagine Arabella sitting down for dinner with Addie and I at 5:30 PM. For a long period around 4 months she was overtired and not taking a good third nap in the afternoon which put her ready for bed around 5:30PM! I would get her to bed (after rocking and bouncing my until my back gave out and then pray she wouldn't wake up every two hours the entire night like she usually did). I would then come join Justin and Addie in the kitchen for dinner. We'd close the kitchen door and quietly eat for fear of waking the sleeping giant. Many evenings I would sit in the kitchen eating my meal while listening to Bella crying herself to sleep in her crib. I had indigestion so often back then. Of course she grew out of needing that third nap and her second nap slipped later in the afternoon and now she's going to bed around 6:30-7:00 PM along with her big sister. We used to dream about the day the girls would go to bed at the same time and here we are. All this means is that Addie, Bella, and I get to enjoy our dinner together. The girls (and I) are generally too hungry to wait for Justin to get home at 6:00 PM so we eat ahead of him. Usually the clock strikes 5 PM and it's as if a switch flips creating little cranky monster girls instead of my sweet angels. They get that trait from me. I'm a bear when I'm hungry. Yaya says I look at her "fiercely" when I'm hungry. I don't deny it. Bedtime produces less anxiety for me because both girls bathe, I get Bella ready for bed and Justin takes Addie. Arabella, after a year of a consistent routine, has the bedtime thing down. She doesn't have to cry herself to sleep anymore. Our biggest problem now is if she pushes all four of her pacifiers out of the crib she will have a mini-meltdown until we come in and retrieve them all for her. She's silly but I love my Bean.

for Kiki and Po

The girls received adorable new swimming suits in the mail from Kiki and Po this week. We opened the box in the evening and Addie immediately insisted on wearing her new Disney Princess suit until bedtime. We tried it out in the pool yesterday. Addie and I had a nice swim just the two of us while Arabella napped. When we got home she was awake and sporting her new butterfly ruffle number ready to come join us in the pool. I am such a sucker for ruffles on the bum. I seriously almost bought myself a ruffled skirt at Zara the other day so it's no wonder I get all gaga ridiculous when my girls wear ruffles. There is nothing girlier than ruffles. Thank you Kiki and Po for all the wonderful goodies you sent. Who knew my wasn't complete without Brach's pastel candy corn.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

love affair

Arabella has two passionate love affairs. One with her Soothie pacifiers and the other with breast milk. She sleeps with a pacifier in her mouth and one clutched in her hand under her belly. She has four pacifiers in her crib for naps and night time. Twice last night before she really conked out she cried until I came in to find that she had pushed or tossed all four of the pacifiers onto the floor. This happens all the time. I wish I could tape one of those darn things to her hand.Bella is slowing down on her breast milk obsession because frankly it's time for her to get over this one all together. I've been pumping for this girl since she was 6 weeks old (just another indicator of what kind of stubborn little monkey I was getting when she chose the bottle over the boob at this young age). She'll be one in a few weeks (what the? how did this happen so fast?) and I'm starting to ween off the pumping (thank God). She drinks some milk before her naps to calm her (a soothing method that I introduced when she was very young because NOTHING worked to calm her for naps). I knew it would be tough later on to get out of the habit of drinking from her bottle before naps but at the time with a screaming overtired infant I didn't care. She drinks a good bottle before bed and then one again around 10PM and then sometimes if she wakes early at 4 or 5AM I'll give her some milk to go back to sleep. Gradually she's going longer and longer without a bottle at night. I know some people look at this like I'm crazy because their miracle babies slept through the night at 3 months or even younger and here my almost one year old is still waking for feedings at night. Both my girls were this way and Addie just grew out of it at one and I'm hoping Bella does too. I'm just not lucky enough to have easy sleeping babies. Arabella has been anything but a sleeper. Anyway, she's getting so much better and the 6 hour block of sleep I am getting is pretty blissful. I am thrilled that I can quit the pumping and have already spread it out so much that the milk should be dropping significantly. I'm really proud of getting through another year. It wasn't as hard this time because I was home most of the time and had Yaya to take over when I needed to sit and pump (especially when Bella was super little). Pumping for a year has simply become the norm for me and what it means to have a baby under one it's what works best for me. A lot of women gasp when I tell them that I pump full time and have been for almost a year. It is a lot of work but to me that worked better than nursing. I don't even think about it any longer. When we went to Puerto Galera last weekend I didn't even think twice about packing the pump, bottles, bottle brush, dish soap, a bowl for washing, ice packs, the cooler, and the voltage converter. Phew, it's a lot of extra baggage that I can't wait to go without it. My pump has come with me all around the Philippines and Asia for that matter. Sadly it was put to use in the airplane restrooms of our flight from PDX back to Manila after Bella was born and then again in the Nagoya business class lounge on the second leg of that trip (my worst pumping experience by far-I got so many pitying glances-alone with two babies, too much crap, pumping, covered in spit-up and breast milk). In Manila it's just in the car since the traffic is so unpredictable. Months ago, I'd just tell Garry not to turn around as I plugged it into the cigarette adapter of the Jeep and pump away in the backseat. It's taken bonka boat rides on the back of our friend. I love seeing a big guy with a breast pump strapped to his back. For me that's the ultimate laugh. The pump has seen Boracay as I pumped while reading the Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society to the light of a night light in the bathroom of our hotel at night. I love all the weird places my breast pump has gone. It reminds me of pumping for Adelaide and the very different locations that breast pump went compared to my current, sleeker, more chic Medela. Having the breast milk on demand has been really nice because traveling in this country doesn't always guarantee fresh milk at our destinations. Bella's had her first taste of cow's milk and while it's clearly a different commodity it's not altogether repulsive. A good sign since she's going to get getting much more of it in a few weeks. When I see my big healthy girl, I know I gave her a very wonderful gift for her first year of life. A sacrifice that I made for both my girls and would do again for any future children we may have. It's just part of being a Mom for me. I do have to say that I am overjoyed that my year's sentence with the breast pump is coming to and end very quickly. I can't wait to wipe it down and pack it up in a closet and not look at it for a long while.

Indian food, naps, and pink tutus

Thank goodness for husbands returning to their family to take over and let overtired wives take a break on a Sunday. Justin brought back all sorts of fun Japanese treats for us from his trip this past week. The strangest by far was the wasabi flavored KitKats. Yuck! In my book, wasabi should stay a savory flavor. Addie got Hello Kitty! Bella a sushi magnet and I got boxes of my favorite green tea with brown rice. The stomach bug seemed to be mostly gone from our house by Sunday but I was definitely feeling the effects of not getting enough sleep all week. The nights were horrendous with Bella and my tummy aches and Addie rising for the day at 5:30AM. I took a nice nap along with Bella on Sunday. Amazingly Addie needed one too. She was a new child after the hour and a half nap she took at 11AM. I hadn't left the apartment all weekend so we decided to walk to a little Indian place down the street at the early bird hour of 5PM. I was a little hesitant about the spice on my newly settled stomach but that deep hunger one gets after fasting during the stomach flu took over and I needed food right away. On the way to the restaurant I took this picture of Addie walking ahead of us. She was so pink and sparkly compared to the torn up dirty sidewalk that I had to photograph her. She gave me a mad mug at the dinner table while eating. Bella preferred all the decor. Our girls love naan. And who wouldn't? We get the garlic naan. It's so good dipped in the yellow dahl and chicken curry. I felt more full than I had in days after our meal. Not just because of the food but because our family was back together after a long, sick, tantrum laden week. I don't tell Justin enough just how much I appreciate parenting with him. Together we are much stronger than apart. Addie knows it too and tends to push the buttons less. She did give it a good try that afternoon though. She and I were sitting on the couch reading. She asked me if she could watch a show, to which I answered no (all movies have been put in the storage closet for now-behavior is just not up to par). She immediately turned around and asked Justin on the other side of the room the exact same question. We shook our heads thinking about how those type of scenarios will play out 10 years from now; not about shows but with sleepovers at girlfriend's houses and trips to the mall with her posse. For now I'll take a quick fix of Indian food with my girls and my man.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

first hair cut

Addie jumped at the opportunity to have her hair trimmed for the first time today. Her hair absorbed the full weekend in the pool in Puerto Galera. The ends are suddenly brittle and dry. I didn't have the courage to give my daughter an adorable bob yet. She just got a little trim.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

overdose of cute

Cause no child can do without a 8:00 AM stroller ride wearing tutus and sunglasses. Addie proclaimed that Arabella was a "movie star" and that she was a "rock star princess". Obviously!Nothing gets me more irritated than a whiny girl first thing in the morning. Gives truth to the getting up on the wrong side of the bed notion. I've noticed Addie saves most of the whining for the adults in the house because her sister gets nothing but love in the morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

these shoes were made for walking

Arabella is a bit impatient to learn how to walk on her own. She is leaping herself from one place to another without focusing on gathering her balance. She is learning to walk completely differently Adelaide did. Addie took her first steps only after she had completely mastered standing and balancing on her own for a very long time. Arabella seems to want to skip that step and just run. Here she is trying out a pair of her great shoe collection thanks to all the hand-me-downs from big sis. She stood herself up from the stool and walked a few steps to Yaya. She loves to practice walking from me to the couch and then from the couch back to me over and over. I just wish she could stand still long enough to get the balance thing down. That's our Bella-never staying still.

lucy's little sisters

Lucy is the eldest child of the family and she takes everything that's dealt to her in stride for the most part. She understands that Bella is expressing her love when she swats her nose and that Addie is overjoyed when she walks her on the leash even if she strangling her most of the way. She's a great family dog and has given my girls an unquestioning love for dogs. Bella squeals and kicks every time we see another dog and gets upset when I don't kneel down so she can love on it like she loves on Lucy. Yesterday Lucy was groomed and came home with one nail cut a bit too short so that she was bleeding. Addie was completely distraught by our concern and helped as we disinfected the nail bed and wrapped it with surgical tape. The rest of the evening Addie would rub Lucy's head and say "You're okay Lucy?" Lucy sometimes gets lost in the background of our household but she's really just as much apart of our family as the girls are. Plus she's an excellent bed warmer when Justin is away! After dinner Bella discovered that it's more fun to play in Lucy's water bowl than to try to sneak her food. Yaya and Mommy don't say "No" nearly as forcefully when it comes to water. Lucy as usual took this all in stride and actually seemed to like the company at her "dinner table".

sick day

Addie got a hold of some bad milk in the middle of night (correction: she woke asking for milk at midnight and I handed her the sippy cup from the fridge without checking it's freshness). At 3 AM I had vomit all over me and was changing her sheets. She wanted breakfast but that came up 15 minutes later. She spent most of the day hungry but with a tummy that wouldn't let her eat anything. She doesn't go to school on Tuesdays so it was a good day for her to relax on the couch and watch Cinderella. I had a school parent meeting to attend but to my surprise was canceled because a mandatory evacuation was announced for all of the U.S. compound when I arrived. A undetonated WWII ordinance was found during a trench dig on the construction site next to Addie's preschool. We got all the kids home and then I headed back to my sick girl and my Bella bean. Addie asked to lay in her bed at about 1:30 about the same time I got Arabella down for her afternoon nap. After a few moments of silence I checked and Addie had fallen asleep as well. She hasn't napped since she was two and a half so this was definitely unusual. She woke feeling better and the rest of the afternoon slithered by like a slow snail. Sick days are no fun.