Friday, June 26, 2009

Life...with a 5 year old

It's busy. Always. And it's rough and tumble and there are lots of giggles and tickling and loving and snuggling. There is reading chapter books and playing video games and watching silly cartoons. There are experiments and scooters and bikes. Swimming, legos, building and destroying. There are things that are hilarious to him that really aren't that funny. But we let him believe they are because that's what parents are for and it helps make that childhood last just a little bit longer. I love it. I love him.

practicing his taekwondo moves.
Star wars, an all time favorite around here and even better now with the jedi robe from Nama!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

busy business

Finnley is a growin'. The little sprite won't stop despite how much I beg him to stay baby. Almost seven months old and with two very sharp teeth he is non-stop entertainment.

He is a very happy baby always sing-songing through the day. I call him my little dove because of all the lovely cooing he does. He has been known to say "dada" and "mama" and even "baba" but only in tempting us. He is rare to vocalize these little combinations. He shreiks with excitement whenever Holden shows his beaming face. He absolutely adores his kuya and will watch his every move as he bounds around the house as 5 year-olds do. Whenever he can get a grip of those golden locks he does and this morning he proceeded to pull a handfull out as well.

He is moving and shaking around the house. His crawl started out like a new turtle racing into the ocean. Up on his hands and knees rocking and the propelling himself forward onto his stomach arms and legs flailing about until he got back up on his hands a knees and again propelled his body forward. It was hilarious. Now he has resorted to army crawl with a little knee action. I am sure our time in America (on carpet) will result in a full speed ahead.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day: I hate to brag, but really my kids have the best dad ever.

In honour of Father's Day, I thought it was best to share an article by Nate that was published in one of the local expat magazines this month.

"How my life changed after I turned Dad"

I expected life to change when I became a dad, but not to this magnitude. Even more surprising to me is that it continues to evolve and change. Growing up in Utah, family was always a part of my life but it wasn’t until I had my own family that I really came to realize the significance of being a husband and a daddy. I would rather spend time with my family than anything else. And what’s more, I truly mean that.

My wife and I didn’t have long to adjust to the newlywed or couple lifestyle before Holden made his debut. In many ways I think that has helped our marriage. We cannot often say; “Remember life before kids,” because frankly, there wasn’t much. It may make for a harder adjustment down the road when it is just the two of us again, but for now, it works.

I have found a new responsibility thrown my direction. I find myself checking my family’s needs against my own. Before I had kids, I was selfish. If I wanted to buy something, I did. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t practical or I didn’t need it. Now days, my wife is begging me to buy something, anything I want, just for me. Come to think of it, maybe it helps her feel less guilty about her shopping “habit” HA!! Now I am sure most parents feel this way, but I want to give my boys the world. Every. Little. Last. Bit. Of. It. I don’t want them to be spoiled or over-indulged in monetary things but I want them to experience a happy peaceful and memorable childhood. As a co-parent, many times the sacrifices I make come in the form of sleep, as I work American work hours.

Work is work. I don’t save lives, but it can still be long and stressful. Before I was Daddy, I rarely took time off of work. Work WAS my priority. Now, my work is still important but I make a conscious effort to separate it from my family time. Very few things are more gratifying than coming home from a long night/day and seeing the excitement as my kids faces light up. It is like Christmas morning for an adult. I want my kids to know that I WANT to be around them.

So many times I think parents are trying to get to the next stage with their kids. “Oh, it will be so much easier when he can talk.” “Once they are old enough to do it themselves.” Etc. Every day Melissa and I make an effort to live in the moment. I don’t just want to remember Finnley sitting up for the first time, I want to remember the expression he had when he did it and realized it himself. I want to take time to appreciate our “holdenisms” and why they come about. (“Holden, you need to need to rein it in.” “Mom. I didn’t rein it out.”) It is so easy to get caught up in the routine of parenting, the exhaustion, the every day monotony and the schedule of it that I have to make a conscious effort to live in the now. I want to live life with my beautiful wife and my two little buddies by taking part in it, not just getting caught up in the chaos of it.

I love watching Holden strike up a conversation with anyone or leading a restaurant in a rousing round of “Pakitong-kitong”, and think to myself; “this is a kid who is doing pretty well in life,” and being able to take just a little bit of the credit for that. My life before Daddy is just that; history and I don’t know what the future will bring but for now everything is just right.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Taipei, Taiwan

One whirlwind trip after another found us in fabulous Taiwan. When we first arrived in Manila Taipei was on my list of places to visit but there seemed like such more exciting places it fell by the wayside. It was a must-visit after some very good valued airlines tickets got us there for a long weekend. As is typical in our travels, nothing is ever what we expect and Taiwan was no exception.

Lucky for us we have a good friend here in Manila who lived in Taipei for years and was generous enough to plan our whole itinerary. She also arranged for her former helper's husband who is a driver to take us around for the weekend. I was a little nervous about having the whole weekend planned out hour by hour. Usually when we travel our plans are on a whim. We have a list of things we want to see but we just go with the flow. Typically our children surprise me with their easy-going attitudes and this was no exception. One of these days I will just learn to appreciate and accept that they are travelers to the bone through and through rather than worrying. Each morning we left the hotel around 9 and didn't return until well after dinner time and we were able to experience a lot of Taipei both inside and outside of the city.

The first night we flew in and after getting settled in at our hotel went out to explore. Taipei comes alive in the evenings as there are dozens of night markets. We headed to one of the larger ones, the shilin night market where we did a little shopping and tried all sorts of interesting food.

The next morning after breakfast at our little boutique hotel we were picked up by Truckee (sounds like it's spelled) and headed to an antique market. Clearly my friend understands our penchant for shopping as she arranged for us to see this treasure trove.
We were there early as the merchants were coming in to set up their wares. Many of them brought their treasures in tapestry lined Chinese boxes and laid them gently on cushions. Others had regular stalls and just flung open their doors. Around every corner there was another alley full of row after row of vases and statues, paintings, coins and jade. It's amazing how much communicating you can do with a calculator!
Treasures found include a painting that just makes us feel good, a drawing of two children and their grandparents which reminded both Nate and I of his parents, an oddly shaped vase and a tall lanky statue of a Chinese man. All in, I think that was a successful day but it was our shopping day so before heading to a pottery village outside of town we stopped for a great lunch of dim sum where we were happy to find that Taiwan is family friendly! We even managed to round up a fork for Holden as chopsticks are still a little tough for him, especially with noodles.

With full bellies and happy hearts were headed to Yingge, the hub of Taiwanese pottery making. We were transported back to America as we wandered around "old street" as it was just like a touristy part of any-town USA. Loads of ceramics and pottery to buy and even Holden had a good time finding special treasures along the way. We managed to purchase a few goodies and not break anything, with two children in tow, I consider that a success!

Taking in the incredible scenery that Taiwan has where there are luscious green mountains everywhere we headed back through the tunnels into Taipei and downtown to see the Taipei 101 building. It is still "officially" the tallest building in the world at 1,667 feet tall and the elevator to the top goes a whopping 37 mph. Holden thought it was the coolest thing EVER. I found it a little disturbing to be standing near the window and feel the building sway as people walked. We beat the rush and were able to see the sunset as well as the night lights of the city.

It was a long day and the following morning found us up a little later. Truckee came to fetch us and we headed out in the late morning for a relaxing visit to a spa and hot springs in the Yang Ming Shan National Park. There were so many hot springs to choose from, mandarin orange and iced coffee flavored pools, private hot tubs overlooking the mountains, fountains jutting out of the ground and rain shower beds. Clearly we were as exciting of a view for locals as the actual view was for us.

Afterwards we headed back through the gorgeous but motion-sickness inducing mountains full of switchbacks to have a late lunch at din tai fung, a Taiwanese original which seriously has the best dumplings in the world. All six floors of this restaurant, once on the NYT top 10 list, is filled to capacity all the time with crowds waiting outside to get in. And let me tell you something, I just found out they have one of their chains in LA. If you are in LA, go!

Heading out from dim sum heaven we found our way to Longshan temple. When we arrived I expected something similar to the temples we visited in China or Japan. No, this temple was alive with worshipping and chanting. I was so struck by the sincerity and intensity of it I couldn't even pull my camera out. I am sure no one would have even looked twice but I felt uncomfortable even being there, like I was intruding on their peace and connection. It was very moving as they chanted and went from station to station with offerings and incense. It was probably one of the most spiritual moments I have had in Asia. I felt that these people had such a tie to their beliefs. I wish I had photos to share as I saw so many opportunities but this is the ONE I did take.

Heading out we went a night market called "snake alley" where you can buy snake venom and blood or even a whole snake (for your meal). It wasn't my favorite place but the boys, and by boys I mean Nate and Holden, found it fascinating. They don't allow photos of the snakes so none here as well.
We bid Truckee goodnight as he dropped us at our hotel and went out to explore a little more around our neighborhood. We regularly have our "must-finds" in every country which include a starbucks and a toy store. This trip out also required a tube of aloe vera to soothe the slight burns from a day out in the hot springs, oops! Finn officially got a tooth in Taiwan and decided to try crawling...he doesn't quite have the hang of it yet and for that, I am grateful!

Now we are back in Manila and in the swing of things just counting down the days until our trip back to America. More updates coming soon!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

One week home, one week off

It's done, we spent a whole week in Manila and now we are heading out again for an extended weekend. Heading to Taipei, Taiwan this weekend. This trip has been a while in the making and we are really looking forward to it.

Holden said this morning, "I'm so excited to go to that other "Tie" country. Is it the same as Thailand or different, there are so many "Ties" mom."

I'll let you know what this "Tie" is like when we return.