Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Adelaide on her 4th birthday

Dear Adelaide,

Happy fourth birthday beautiful girl. For weeks now you've been correcting your Dad and I when we tell people who ask that you are four. "I'm 3!" you say with determination. Finally, now you can say you are four and so can we.

Being your mom is a most humbling experience because you amaze me on a daily basis. When I look at you I am constantly reminded that you are my daughter and bits and parts of me are also in you, but as a whole you are a more spectacular human being than I ever could be. There are so many things about you that make me smile and make my heart melt. In what seems like four short years you have transformed from my newborn baby into a stunning little girl.

You are curious and innocent. I love your questions and your logic during arguments. You don't take answers on face value. You always ask additional deeper questions to understand just what I mean. I love that if a situation makes you nervous and I open the conversation by allowing you to ask me any question you like about what is in store for you; you fire away and I can instantaneously sense your anxiety fade away. I love that you don't let me just say "because I said so" or "just because". You require more information than that and I love to give you honest, age appropriate, real answers to your questions. You keep me on my toes and constantly thinking through my own actions to make sure they will be acceptable to you and in line with the type of person your father and I hope you will be. You force me to be my best self in your presence.

You're not typically a risk taker. You took weeks to finally go under the water in the pool this summer even then it was a careful measured decision to do so. You hate the movie theaters because it's going to be a new unknown movie you see there. It takes you a long time to become comfortable in new situations and really come out of your shell. That's why I'm so proud of how you opened yourself up to your preschool classmates and teachers this year. You formed true friendships, grew socially and tried new things. I love seeing you reach for a special handshake from one of the boys or exchange little gifts and hand written notes with your girl friends. I love the confident strong voice that you use now and seeing you joke and laugh and jump into a game. Now you shout out your farewells to your friends just as they shout to you. At the first of the year you wouldn't say a word!
The other day we were at your Father's boss' home for a dinner party and by the end of the night you were chumming it up in the game room with the older boys who were all playing video games and joking around. Seeing you confidently join them and participate in the fun made my heart sing. You're growing and changing and slowly reaching our of your comfort zone that is me, Dad, and Bella. I am so proud of you. Sometimes I look at you and have to remind myself that you are only four. Sometimes I see glimpses of you as a teenager and I have remember that you still need my help opening your water bottle or putting on your socks without toe wrinkles. Thank God I still have all this time to do these things for you and with you.

I love seeing your face after I've insisted that you keep trying to do it on your own. I'll show you the way to do it, then give you a chance to try again. The spark that ignites when you accomplish something new is electric. It's like you are starting to believe the idea that you really can do anything you want if you try hard enough.

You are an amazing big sister. I adore hearing you call your sister "little Bella bean" when you are playing or she has fallen and you are making sure she's alright. You show your sister tenderness and love that tells me the two of you will be good friends as you grow together. You can be a tad bossy when you start a game and she has decided not to fall in line (Bella never falls in line). Quickly, you adjust things so she can still be involved in her own way. As the oldest and the first child you will have more responsibilities and will always have to be a good model for your younger siblings. I have no doubt you will take on this role like a champ.

At school this year a good deal of time was spent learning about people who work and have roles within a community. A good deal of time was also spent on discovering yourself and your likes and dislikes. You were asked what you wanted to be when you grow up and your answer was always, without fail "a mommy"! At home I encouraged you to choose a profession along with becoming a mommy because that's an option you most likely will adopt when you grow up. You shot that idea down over and over even when the combinations were things like; ballerina and mommy or chef and mommy, even fashion designer and mommy or veterinarian and mommy. "No" you'd insist, "Only a mommy!" was your response. And you know, I understand the feeling darling girl. I'm a mommy and just a mommy and that is what you see me doing. You are going to be a fantastic mommy because the authenticity of your interactions with babies and your dolls is the sweetest thing I've seen. You hold and bounce your baby doll with the comfort of a seasoned mother. Right now at the age of four you have stated your motherhood claim and I love it.

Every year Adelaide, you grow more and more amazing. You're silly and funny and sweet. Every year you grow more so. We are navigating the parent child relationship together since you are our first daughter and so far I think it's going well. I only hope that as every year passes we can just grow closer and more in touch with one another. I can't imagine a day when I don't know what you've eaten for lunch or when you've fallen asleep for the night. I know that day will come when you are older and I'm so grateful that you still need me for all those things a child needs. I'm not ready for you to be exponentially bigger and more grown up. Day by day growing bigger is all this Mommy can take.

I love you precious girl. You are one of the lights that I hold in my heart and one of the reasons I think being a Mom is the best thing I will ever do in my life. Happy Fourth birthday! We have many more to celebrate together.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Addie Rose turns 4 today!

Addie's birthday party came during a busy time for us. I've been crossing my fingers everything would come together for the big day. I love having parties for the girls. I love how excited they get and I wanted this party to be a little extra special since it's the last time Addie may see some of her friends before we move. Because we don't have our kitchen resources, I ordered a cake and had someone else come decorate. I wanted to take advantage of the rock bottom party rental and party planning prices here in the Philippines and there was no better time than now. We also had someone come for face painting! It was loads of fun and everyone had a good time. Amazingly enough between Cora and I and our measly embassy welcome kit kitchen items, we managed to pull off quite a spread of food for the parents and kids. Addie and Justin chose the iPod playlist. Bella begged for the balloons that were strung all over the house and thoroughly messed up her dress in record time. Here is the birthday girl with her best buds. These girls had to stick together this year at preschool.I can't believe how unbelievably unprepared we were for having so many 4-6 year old boys in our house. There were 6 girls at the party (that includes Bella and another toddler sibling). There were 11 boys and I swear they suddenly turned into wild animals when they all got together. It became apparent that we didn't have enough structured party games or activities to occupy the boys. The girls on the other hand were fine with a light dance party, our t-shirt designing craft and playing with Barbie dolls. The boys started drop kicking one another and wrestling. There was so much noise! Addie has a black eye from colliding with one of the boys and another boy beat her to blowing out her candle after we all sang "Happy Birthday" (I was especially peeved because it was an older sibling that I had made an exception to allow to the party-never again). I vowed it was the last time we invite the entire class for her birthday (especially when the class consists of 3 girls and 12 boys).

Addie didn't seem too bothered by the boy chaos. Most likely because she and her two little girl friends go to school every day with these rowdy boys. The teachers are much better at keeping things in order than we were. In the end,

The cake was delicious and gorgeous. The t-shirt designing craft was fun and different than anything we've seen at other parties and she loved opening all the gifts from her friends and grandparents. Mostly, she was the birthday girl for the day and loved every second of it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I've avoided blogging about our pack-out mostly because we've been counting down to these dates for months now. It's been on my mind too much to want to write about. My to-do lists started as far back as February when I started going through all the closets and drawers to find items to give or throw away. Then came the lists for what stuff should go in what shipment. I'm a list kind of gal but I have a friend who made a flow chart diagram to use as her decision making authority for packing. It was pretty impressive.

It's not quite as simple as letting the moving company come in on the day of pack-out and just box it all up. For our family, it takes quite a bit of forethought into what we will need at different points during the next 8 months. There is three separate shipments.

1. Our large shipment contains the majority of our household and all the furniture. This shipment takes multiple days to pack and move. Everything going into this shipment will be loaded onto crates that will go by sea to a storage facility and then again by sea to a port in Africa. When we arrive in Addis Ababa in December 2011 this shipment will be allowed to start it's final voyage by air to Ethiopa for custom's approval. We should expect to see our things again sometime in February or March of 2012, aproximately 2-3 months after we arrive to our new home in Addis Ababa. It's a long time to be without our things. It's especially tough to settle into a new home while still waiting for everything to arrive.

2. Our small air freight shipment is 700 lbs. and will travel by air to the United States and wait to be received at our temporary housing in August 2011. This shipment must contain items that we will need for the final week in Manila when our large shipment has already been packed as well as things that we want to have for our four months of living in the States (August-December 2011). The tricky thing is that we will also have a 700 lb air freight shipment that will be packed in DC right before we move to Ethiopia. The items that we bring back to the States in this air freight shipment will also likely have to be in the air freight shipment to Africa. Thus, I have to think ahead to what we will need in our air freight shipment for Africa; which will get us through those 2 months in our new home in Addis Ababa before our large household shipment arrives. Throw in the fact that we are expecting a new baby in October and any of our baby things I want to use for the first four months of our third child's life, need to be in this 700 lb air freight shipment. Needless to say, we will be borrowing lots of things from friends and family while we are at home.

3. Our accompanied air baggage is essentially our luggage and items we can take on the airplane with us back to the States. These will be the only items we will have for the next 9 weeks until we get our air freight in August. The other tough thing is that all our important paper work and documents or valuables all have to come with us on the airplane. Most of it in our carry-on luggage. You can't trust putting your original Social Security cards and birth certificates in your checked luggage. Other random things that will go in our luggage is our address books, title to the car, shot records, valuable jewelry, the dog's health records. Everything important. The list goes on and on. Amazingly, we are planning to fit everyone's clothes and personal items in 5 suitcases and two small bags. One devoted to toys, books, fancy ball gowns, princess wands, sparkly shoes, night lights, white noise machines, and all of Bella's 37 must-have bedtime friends. Blankie, lovie, nana, and Bop Bop will go in on of our 4 carry-ons. Don't laugh when I tell you that we'll also be bringing two car seats a stroller and the dog on the plane with us too. I'm already scheming how to cut a hole in a pull-up diaper to put on Lucy's butt. Flying with the girls is tough enough, you better believe I will not be cleaning up after our dog too.

This past week we had movers in our house packing and moving our large sea shipment Tuesday through Thursday. They threatened to push some of the work into Friday but I pushed back some. Instead of the four packers we had on Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 guys arrived on Thursday to finish the job. We had roughly 6,400 lbs of stuff. I was most sad to see our mattress packed up knowing Justin and I won't sleep in our own bed again until 2012. I was also sad to see the toys go because so many of those things the girls use on a daily basis. I guess it will be like Christmas again when it all gets unpacked in Africa.
I thought I'd be more wistful about all of our things getting put in boxes and loaded onto crates to weather a long boat ride over the ocean. In the end I was relieved to see it all gone. After months preparing for pack-out it was finally over.

Tomorrow our air freight gets packed. This is the ugly pile of stuff that we will see again in August. When we separated out what went into our suitcases we have very little air freight. Probably half our allowable limit. This bodes well for the inevitable shopping and stuff-accumulation that will happen during the 6 months we are in the States.

We're ready to head home now. The house feels like a shell of our home now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

back home to Manila

Sadly, our wonderful weekend came to an end today. Justin had to shower, shave and go to the office when we returned mid-day Tuesday. My break from the move is over and my anxiety level is a little higher knowing there is less time to get everything done.

It was totally worth it though. Every single moment watching my lovely children and amazing husband at the beach this weekend was worth it. I loved every second of it. It's going to be one of those weekends that we think back about with favor years from now.

Day 3 sand castles, sunsets and more beach

Night beach walking (or dancing and twirling)

beach babes

This weekend with the girls at the beach was practically a piece of cake compared to the times we've taken them places when they were younger. I can't believe how much easier it gets as they grow and Bella's only 2! We went to New Zealand in October and wow, what a huge difference 7 months makes. They both slept better and we worried less about what they would eat. Are my kids the only kids who don't eat much on vacation? I swear we feel like we are force feeding them when ever we are out of town. Anyway, I packed boxed milk for them and a few snacks but it was nice not to worry so much about food for them. We stretched bedtime each night and avoided major melt-downs for the most part!We didn't even need to bring diapers! Just a pull-up for bedtime! I love the freedom that comes from the girls getting older. I worry and stress less and as a result enjoy myself much more on vacation. It makes me a little sad that we are going to be starting all over with a newborn again in October. Lugging the breast pump and bottle brushes and a million diapers with us where ever we go. Traveling is tough with a baby. Mostly tough on Mom. It was amazing to experience the beach with my girls with the added freedom of them being 2 and 4. I can't imagine what it will be like when the kids are all older than diapers and sippy cups.

The girls are not babies anymore. They are my beach babes for sure!The Sea Wind has some beautiful tropical garden pools that Addie was curious about trying out. They hopped in and weren't swimming for 5 minutes before she said she wanted to go back to the beach!Who can blame her.

somewhere between 4 and 5 months pregnant

I'm about 4 and a half months pregnant. I'm still squeezing my belly (and rear end) into my regular one piece swim suit. It think it may be time to get a maternity suit this go around. All in all it wasn't a bad place to be while four and a half months pregnant.

Monday, May 16, 2011

full speed ahead

Arabella has one mode: Go! Fast! She ran right into the ocean without a care in the world. You can see she's refusing Justin's hand here. She wants zero help. I slipped her arm floaties on and she swam right around with her sister like it was the biggest pool in the world. The salt water in the nose, mouth and eyes was a bit of a shocker but she figured it out really quickly.

My little fish!The sun was scorching so we were all most comfortable in the water. We swam out to where Justin and I could barely touch and played, then swam back into where the girls could stand. I could have sat in that water all day watching the girls swim and play. That's basically what I did. That entire first afternoon we spent playing in the sand and water.When we got hungry we packed it up and walked down the beach for dinner at Nigi Nigi Noo Noos Too! Another one of our favs. The girls played in the sand. We had fresh seafood and watched the sunset. Not a bad first day.