Monday, November 29, 2010

Paris continued

There's not much better than exploring Paris on a crisp winter day with no plan or agenda. That seemed to be the tone of the holiday for us. We had plenty of time and no where to be so that is what we did. Since Finn has been around, we have become early risers but it was so dark in the mornings that we didn't venture outside until at least 9am. We opted for an apartment in the city rather than a hotel so we were lucky to have the extra space and in particular, the kitchen for breakfast.

Holden and Finnley both were enthralled with all things outdoors. The cafes, the parks, the street mimes as well as all the other street performers, the pigeons and Holden in particular the beggars. He has such an empathetic little soul and I am quite sure we spent most money on our trip on the street. Especially if someone was cold or had an animal, his coins went straight into their cup. One night we had walked past someone with a puppy. Holden asked for some coins but we told him if he wanted to use his, it was fine but we were done financing his goodwill for the day. He took his coin out of his coat pocket, looked at it and then followed us down the street. Halfway down the block he yelled out for us to wait and ran back to the man with the puppy and deposited his 2 euros. I never want to forget that moment. A few other things he noticed about Paris included how dirty it was, there was a lot of litter and graffiti and oh the leaves (he thought that was trash as well) and I suppose that along with the old buildings equals dirty in his mind. Once again bringing out his delusional enchantment with the Philippines where he goes from one manicured lawn to the next. He is completely unaware of the poverty where he lives. We also noticed we have a little Marxist on our hands. "One day, when I am President of Paris, I will put cameras everywhere to catch people drawing graffiti and littering and then I will throw them in jail."

Paris is truly gorgeous at night. It's alive, and you can feel it. I like that. A lot.

Nate stayed with us a few days then left us to our own devices as he headed up to Dublin for work. I opted for a few extra days in the City of Lights with the boys. Wow, that was exhausting. Single parenting in a foreign city. I don't remember the last time I was on my own with the kids but I guarantee I won't forget THIS time. Finnley managed to find his way to my bed after Nate left and also managed to tumble out of said bed during the night. Not uncommon, but it was a high bed and the floor, well it was rough red patio tile. I didn't think much of it, I picked him up, cuddled him and he fell back asleep all without any lights on. The next morning as he stumbled out into the living room I noticed he serious road rash upside his face. My first thought was Disneyland or hospital. Anyone, knowing our past travel sagas wouldn't even flinch. I chose Disneyland. No photos you ask? Nope, with the chaos of the morning getting to the station in time, etc I managed to leave all cameras and video cameras behind. Nice going! I had my iPhone for a few shots until the battery died. In a way it was nice though to just enjoy the day without worrying about capturing it. It was a LONG COLD day, but the boys were in heaven and in return, so was I. The happiest place on earth was magical as ever, maybe even more so in French. Have you heard a Disney princess speaking French, it's much more princess-like. Add to that the Christmas feel and voila, there you have it; Magical!

Getting to Dublin the next day seemed like an easy enough feat. Except that we didn't leave until that night and the airport that we had to fly out of was an hour and half out of the city and we had to check out of our apartment by noon. I had some options laid out on how to entertain two boys for eight hours outside of a hotel but it turns out I only needed one: Jardin du Luxembourg. Hours upon hours of entertainment and another mom with two boys (Hi Dawn!)it was an epic win for all of us. Sure, I had to catch Finn as he was falling off the kiddie playground but you know, that's par for the course these days.

Paris was amazing yes, even more amazing seeing it through the eyes of our children. The Eiffel tower at night, the parks, the pigeons at Notre Dame, the artists at Mont Marte, the chasing of bubbles at the Sacre Coeur, the copious amounts of cheese and wine and baguettes, the art, the architecture. I am not sure why anyone would move away from this place. Paris is more child friendly than most places we have travelled. There is something for everyone here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

and the beat keeps coming

We have this neat little thing in our family where 7 days after we Nate or I has a birthday one of our children has one as well. It's really easy for everyone to remember.

Finnley Roarke is 2 today! Little chubba chub, Finro, FinnBoo, Bunso is two. How can it be that he has only been with us for two years. It feels like he has been a part of our family for so much longer.

As we all walk around in this fog of jetlag, we will celebrate this littlest with ice cream (his favorite, he walks around all day saying "Ice, Ice!") cupcakes balloons, gifts and close friends.

Finnley, you are such a big part of our lives. I mean big literally, you have a huge personality. Everything you do is with vigor and zest. Even waking up in the mornings is a momentous occasion in your book and you let everyone within earshot know that YOU HAVE AWOKEN. You jump through life, skipping and dancing throughout the day. In between those moments you melt into frequent puddles of tantrums, but then are back to your extreme zeal for life. I love the passion in you. I love you at this age in particular as you start to communicate so fully with words and body language. You adore your brother and your daddy and you tease them fully and completely and they deserve every little bit of it! You are a mamas boy, and oh how I adore that as well. Your passport is almost full. You have travelled to 11 different countries, many of them multiple times and you have rocked every single one of them in some way. Finn, you have changed us, you have "tamed" us for the good. We love you.

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…” The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In typical second child fashion I have just realized I didn't post Finnleys 1st birthday photos last year! Really? I must have been in some sort of fog back then as well, here they are:

And from his birthday this year:

1978 + 4

I remember one of my Mom's friends Carolanne giving her own mother flowers on her (Carolanne's) birthday just to thank her for bringing her into this world.

I owe my own Mom flowers. Thanks Mom, for having me, for keeping me, for letting me grow up so close to amazing grandparents. I know it couldn't have been easy doing it alone and so young. I understand that now as a Mother more than ever. So on my birthday I celebrate YOU!

As I celebrate turning 32, as a family we also celebrate a whopping four years since our arrival in the Philippines. Seems like a lifetime really. It's home. Have I said that before? We have just returned from our whirlwind holiday in Paris and Dublin and I can say I missed Manila. I missed the people, the weather, the ease of what I "know." It's home, or at least one of the places we can call home.

I have had some phenomenal birthdays. Arriving in Manila on my 28th, celebrating 29 on the Great Wall of China, on the cusp of having our gorgeous Finnley at 30, celebrating with the most amazing girlfriends at 31 and now 32, atop the Eiffel Tower. It makes aging almost bearable!

Friday, November 19, 2010

For those in on the bet

Day 3 in Paris. Finnley refused to wear shoes for most of the day. He also denied us the ability to look like somewhat in control parents as he stripped his socks and coat off while walking down the Champs-Elysees. People would look at our barefooted babe in his stroller then look up at us in shock because guess what, it's cold here, 7 degrees celcius to be exact. What can you do? If he gets cold enough he will wear his darn socks is what we kept telling ourselves but he never did. We finally had to force them on him. You can picture this right? The screaming and gnashing of teeth, the brimstone and fire. It was ripe. So ripe.

We visited the Musee d'Orsay to see works of little know artists like, Monet, Renoir, Degas. You know, the basics. Haha. Ah, if only the boys could truly appreciate what they saw today. I do pinch myself sometimes Julie!

We truly felt like pioneer children as we walked and walked and walked oh and walked some more. From St Germain to Jardin de Tuileries and down the champs-élysées to the Arc de Triomphe and back across to the flame of liberty getting a closer view of the Eiffel tower. Holden is dying to make it there but it's reserved for Sunday. That's the thing about Paris, you could walk for ages and not be any more aware that you have walked more than a block. It's easy, so much to see, so much to explore. The boys are crashed. We fully wear them out every day. Here's to hoping I have a clothed child tomorrow. Maybe he has seen too many naked statues?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


We all knew this was going to be a long trip, all of us but Holden apparently. While looking at the screen on the airplane with the map showing the flight plan, he says, "just so you know we are basically going to the other side of the world." "Yes Holden, Paris is quite far away but this is where you wanted to go, remember." "Mom, you could have talked me out of it."

Good news, I'll work that angle next time.

With the roundabout way some of us (Nate) had to take getting here, we are off to a slow start. It's ok, it has allowed the kids an extra few hours to slay the jet lag dragon which turns them into monsters. We filled our little kitchen this morning with a trip to the market picking up the most amazing produce, bright red tomatoes and huge juicy berries along with baguettes and Boursin. The kids are in heaven with their pain au chocolat. While eating them this morning, Holden, again dramatically, exclaimed "ah, this is the life.". Little does this boy know, he truly lives a charmed life.

Bundling up is so foreign to Finnley, he hates the socks, the hats, the scarves and coat process. It's like wrestling a small elephant to get him out the door. By the time this is over, one of us will be broken, if I were you I would put my money on him winning. Imagine the looks as he runs around jardin du Luxembourg barefoot and coatless in the middle of winter, the only thing more shocking in France would be if I dressed the children in color.

We have conquered the Louvre. It's massive and we covered it. Ok, not really but it sure felt as if we did. The up and the down and the up and the down of it forced us to stop waiting for elevators and just start carrying Finn AND the stroller up and down them all. So what if I am skipping the gym this week, we've got the work out covered.

We ask Holden to keep a journal as we travel so that even though he may not "officially" remember the places he has been, he has a personal journal logging his travels complete with drawn pictures and descriptions as well as photographs and souveniers. As he was working in it this evening he said, "I am drawing the Mona Lisa, it is obviously the most famous painting ever, it's guarded so closely." He was constantly asking Nate to take photos of the hieroglyphics from the Egyptians so that he could study them when he got older. I never realized that to a child the Louvre is mostly about death and naked people. "Mom, the art here is kind of strange, they really like naked people, and everyone is dying." Out of the mouths of babes.

Both of our children are such troopers, we haul them places WE want to see and they come along with very little complaining. I'm so very grateful for how well they do considering their circumstances.

PS. At dinner tonight Finn stripped off his shoes and socks. I'm telling you, by the end of the week he will be running half naked around a cafe.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A catch up

Wow, there has been a lot going on in the past little while.

Holden played soccer for his school (the ISM Bearcats) I was surprised he wanted to play as the last attempt at soccer team a couple of years ago was a bust. After the summer camp this year he caught the soccer bug and made the team. The way sports are arranged here is quite funny (as are most things) and they ended up only having 4tournaments the whole season, two of which we were in the US for. Ah well, he looked pretty cute in his uniform and they made it to the finals where Holden kicked the only goal in overtime, in the rain I might add (I tell you that just so you know how dedicated I was, standing out there without an umbrella, haha!)

At parent teacher conferences we had glowing reviews about Holden. Academically he is doing well, but even more importantly he is socially adept. His teacher told us we should be extremely proud of the son we have raised. Could we really ask for a more? Affirmation of successful parenting is so rewarding.

We are coming up on 4 years in the Philippines, and while funny and unbelievable things happen to us here almost on a daily basis, it's so common anymore that I don't think to write them down. I noticed a few things watching Saturday morning cartoons with Holden. There are shows here on the Disney channel that I am almost positive are NOT on your tv back home. For instance, I bet you don't get the show Sally Bollywood or Pucca the cartoon about a ninja who makes noodles and plays ping pong and I'm going out on a limb here but I bet you don't get informational bits between cartoons about Diwali and Ramadan. We do! It's kind of fun, but at the same time, very strange yet again this is the first time I have really noticed enough to think "huh, I bet they don't have this back home."

Speaking of cultural differences, Holden's school recently celebrated Filipiniana. It is a celebration of the Philippine culture and the school embraces it with a full day of activities ranging from cooking and dancing to language class and jeepney rides. The kids are encouraged to dress in native Filipino clothing. Holden and Finnley dressed in the traditional farm clothes.

Finnley is our littlest budding flower. Every day is a new word a new skill or jig of some sort. He adores books right now. Seriously, a concern I had as he wouldn't sit still from the moment he was born to read a book. He now fully embraces books and comes into our room every morning with two or three tucked under his chubby little arm. Sippy cup and baby in the other. They each have names. "Ruff Ruff" or "LALALALALALA" is Sandra Boyntons "Moo, Baa, LaLaLa." "Ice" is Carles'"The Hungry Caterpillar." "Niynight" is "Goodnight Moon." The list goes on. He literally jabbertalks from sun up till sun down. MomMom, DaDad, Ate, Tita, Nanay(Carol the nanny), Tatay(Ed, Carols husband) Purse(percy the dog), bastos(naughty-this is actually his favorite word!) pasta, nice, cheeeeeeese, ice cream, mustoes(muscles)juice, drace(Grace, the other nanny) and my personal favorite pease(please). I forgot how much I love this age, and also how challenging this it is. Then again, most of Finnley's "ages" have been challenging! Every day I look at Nate and ask how he can NOT want 5 more Finnleys. I just adore him so much. His is fully and completely a mamas boy right now. No one else can carry him, or read to him or do anything else for him other than mom and Carol. Thank heavens he has Carol 6 days a week too!

Halloween in the city is interesting. When we were kids we wore costumes and the winter parkas over the costumes because it was so cold. Here it is hot. Costumes are usually made for the US so this year I finally wised-up and had them made. Little Indian Braves. Does any costume call for less covering than a loin cloth? haha I actually had pants made and they turned out really cute. At the Halloween party, Finnley won best costume. Holden's reaction was "WHAT? We are dressed the same!!!" Tough luck big brother.

With both of the boys at every stage I think, this is my favorite age. Clearly, they are all my favorite age, or maybe they are just my favorite boys. Either way, we are absolutely loving life with them.

Nate and I have both been playing tennis together for some time here. For the last little while we have been taking lessons with different couples. Me with the ladies and him with the guys. The couples are fantastic and it's been super fun. We are hooked for life I believe. Every chance we get, we head over to one of the clubs to play. I ran a 5k last month as well and it looks as if I caught the "runners high" as I have been at it ever since. I hate, no that word is not strong enough, I abhor it for the first 20 minutes and then after that I feel like I could run forever. It's sick really, but secretly I love it. The friends, the great husbands and the pancakes afterwards don't hurt either.

I have been busy reading up and booking our flights and hotels for Europe. This year, I celebrate my birthday in Paris and then head to Dublin. Lucky girl, to be surrounded by all three of my boys for yet another journey.