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Northern Luzon Roadtrip

October 11th, 2014 No comments

The kids had a 5-day weekend in August so we took advantage of that and went on a road-trip. I must confess that I was a bit apprehensive since Blake was only 8 weeks old and was colicky. But, Matt did a wonderful job planning this road-trip and all of the kids did great. I really like spending time with my little family and exploring more of this country.

The route we traveled in northern Luzon in 5 days. We discovered once again how beautiful this country is outside of the big city

The route we traveled in northern Luzon in 5 days. We discovered once again how beautiful this country is outside of the big city.

Our first stop was to Baler where we stayed at Coasta Pacifica. We stayed here for 2 nights and enjoyed the swimming pool, beach, having a tour of the area and getting out of the car. There were 2 routes to get to Baler and we took the route that goes through the mountain which tacked on 3 extra hours...thanks Google Maps for the recommendation

Our first stop was to Baler where we stayed at Coasta Pacifica. We stayed here for 2 nights and enjoyed the swimming pool, beach, having a tour of the area and getting out of the car. There were 2 routes to get to Baler and google maps recommended we take the route that goes through the mountain which tacked on 3 extra hours.

All of the kids on a surf board. This was Blake's first time in the ocean/pool & Kalani's first time back in the ocean after being stung by a jelly-fish

All of the kids on a surf board. This was Blake’s first time in the ocean/pool & Kalani’s first time back in the ocean after being stung by a jellyfish

Our "city tour" took us to Cunayan Falls. The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn't have their swimsuits, but we told them they could swim in their clothes like the locals and that made them happy

Our “city tour” took us to Cunayan Falls. The kids were a bit disappointed that they didn’t have their swimsuits, but we told them they could swim in their clothes like the locals and that made them happy

We got to explore the "Millennium Balete Tree" where you can walk through it since there is a path "carved out". And the kids could have stayed here for a couple of hours climbing all over it

We got to explore the “Millennium Balete Tree” where you can walk through it since there is a path “carved out”. And the kids could have stayed here for a couple of hours climbing all over it

We left Baler and the only road to get to Tuguegarao was a bit scary at times with it only being dirt roads and even some roads were washed away

We left Baler and the only road to get to Tuguegarao was a bit scary at times with it only being dirt roads, land slides and washed away in some places

On this road to Tuguegarao we saw some of the descendants of the very first people in the Philippines called "aeta"

On this road to Tuguegarao we saw some of the descendants of the very first people in the Philippines called “aeta

After a few hours in the car we made it to Tuguegarao and met up with our friend Mavis. She and our driver Juan joined us exploring the C caves

After a few hours in the car we made it to Tuguegarao and met up with our good friend Mavis. She and our driver Juan joined us exploring the Callao caves

There are 7 "openings" at Callao caves and in the 2nd opening is a "church" that holds services once or twice a month

There are 7 “openings” at Callao caves and in the 2nd opening is a “church” that holds services once or twice a month

We said our good-byes to Mavis and continued driving north to reach Cagayan Resort. This is the place that Survivor 2012 was located

We said our good-byes to Mavis and continued driving north to reach Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort. This is where the Survivor Cagayan crew stayed

Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort has a bunch of homes (5 bedrooms & private pool) to rent out, a casino & private airstrip...mostly caters to Chinese clients

Cagayan Holiday & Leisure Resort has a bunch of homes (our had 5 bedrooms & private pool) to rent out, a casino & private airstrip…mostly caters to Chinese clients who like to gamble

On our way to our next destination we came across the "Filipino Family Vehicle"

On our way to our next destination we came across the “Filipino Family Vehicle”

We stopped at Padgudpud beach and enjoyed the powder white sand and beautiful scenery

We stopped at Pagudpud beach and enjoyed the powder white sand and beautiful scenery. They call this place the Boracay of the north.

Our hotel on the north/west of Luzon was at Fort Ilocandia and it was wonderful. There was so much to do/see at the resort

Our hotel on the north/west of Luzon was at Fort Ilocandia and it was wonderful. There was so much to do/see at the resort that we will most likely go back since we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to

We got in this jeep and went on some sand dunes as a family

We got in this jeep and went on some sand dunes as a family

Mason really liked sliding down the sand dunes

Mason really liked sliding down the sand dunes

Kalani went horseback riding around the resort and on the beach

Kalani went horseback riding around the resort and on the beach

She also tried out archery for the first time

She also tried out archery for the first time

After staying at 3 wonderful hotels, our last hotel, in La Union, would be considered a dive. But, we enjoyed a walk on the beach and were now only 6-7 hours away from home

After staying at 3 wonderful resorts, our last hotel in La Union would be considered a dive in comparison. But, we enjoyed a walk on the beach and were now only 6-7 hours away from home.

We enjoyed the beautiful countryside on the north

We enjoyed the beautiful countryside of Norhern Luzon

More photos from our road trip here.

Brothers and Sister-in-law visit

October 11th, 2014 No comments

In 2013 we missed the yearly festivals where our family in the Philippines live by a week. So, Matt really wanted to be sure to attend in 2014. However, I was about 35 weeks pregnant didn’t want to risk having a baby in the province. So Matt started contacting our brothers to see if anyone would be willing to come out to visit us and then go to Siquijor for the celebrations. One thing led to another and in the end we had 3 of my brothers and a sister-in-law coming out to see us! The boys stayed for 1 week since they had to return to school and work. My sister-in-law stayed for 11 days and we were able to have some girl pampering time together.

They arrived early Sunday morning and were jet-lagged the whole week they were with us. But, luckily they can sleep anywhere, like at the movie theater, restaurant & lounge (which my 17 year old brother did)

They arrived early Sunday morning and were jet-lagged the whole week they were with us. But, luckily they can sleep anywhere, like at the movie theater, restaurant & lounge

A morning of shopping at Greenhills where we bought knock-off purses and other souvenirs. And of course they got to see "lady-boys"

A morning of shopping at Greenhills where we bought knock-off purses and other souvenirs. And of course they got to see “lady-boys”

We had a nice dinner at The Peninsula and then went to the lounge to watch/listen to a live band

We had a nice dinner at The Peninsula and then went to the lounge to watch/listen to a live band

These guys flew to Dumaguete from Manila, and then took the hour long ferry boat to get to Siquijor

These guys flew to Dumaguete from Manila, and then took the hour long ferry boat to get to Siquijor

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Getting ready to take our cousin’s boat to Salagdoong Beach (on the way they snorkeled from the bamboo arms)

3-man jump from the platform at Salagdoong

3-man jump from the platform at Salagdoong

My 17 year old brother about to jump off the platform in the tree at Cambugahay Falls

My 17 year old brother about to jump off the platform in the tree at Cambugahay Falls

They enjoyed their time at Cambugahay Falls and made friends with the locals that were also spending the day there

They enjoyed their time at Cambugahay Falls and made friends with the locals that were also spending the day there

They played some basketball with cousins

They played some basketball with cousins

They enjoyed the decorations for the "Coconut festival"

They enjoyed the decorations for the “Coconut festival”

And they danced the night away with cousins and new friends

And they danced the night away with cousins and new friends at the village disco

Photo of cousins at the disco

Photo of cousins at the disco

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is now on the island of Siquijor and they were able to attend worship service and classes before heading on the ferry and plane back to Manila

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is now on the island of Siquijor and they were able to attend worship service and classes before heading on the ferry and plane back to Manila

Our siblings enjoyed our club pool and gym that we have at our condo

Our siblings enjoyed the pool and gym at our condo

After the boys left, my sister-in-law and I did some girl things...like attending a baby shower that they ladies from church threw for me

After the boys left, my sister-in-law and I did some girl things…like attending a baby shower that the ladies from church threw for me

And I threw a "Pamper Me" Party at our condo and had some friends over and each person had their own massage therapist for an hour

And I threw a “Pamper Me” Party at our condo and had some friends over and each person had their own massage therapist for an hour

My brother Robbie was also here, but had to stay in Manila with me since his online Master's Program started that week. But the kids were happy to spend more time with him

My brother Robbie was also here, but had to stay in Manila with me since his online Master’s Program started that week. But the kids were happy to spend more time with him.

We love spoiling our family when they come to visit us and to show them life in the Philippines. And they took full advantage of this opportunity to meet our extended relatives and see how ex-pats and locals live in this 3rd world country

We love spoiling our family when they come to visit us. And they took full advantage to meet our extended relatives and see life in a 3rd world country

A favorite phrase from my 17 year old brother: "I can't, I'm only 17!" And he posted this photo that lets us know he had a good time with us...now he just needs to learn how to spell Philippines, or at least use spell-check!

My 17 year old brother wrote this on a photo he took to let us know that he had a good time… now he just needs to learn how to spell Philippines, or at least use spell-check!

Blake has arrived

July 26th, 2014 2 comments

After years of not being able to get pregnant we decided to do “In Vitro Fertilization” . It wasn’t something I thought we would do in the Philippines, until we found Kato Repro Biotech Center. Kato was very professional and high-tech — overall we were very impressed. Our first appointment with them was in August and the last appointment was in December. Everything was really easy for us without any complications and we were successful on the first attempt (the doctor had quoted a 33% chance of success in our case). It was a great experience and the final result was our baby boy Blake!

Blake arrived at 4:10am on June 26 and weighed in at 7 pounds 13 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long

Blake arrived at 4:10am on June 26 and weighed in at 7 pounds 13 ounces and 20 3/4 inches long

My sister was at the hospital with us until 4am when she then had to leave to catch her flight back to USA...she missed meeting her new nephew by 10 minutes!

My sister was at the hospital with us until 4am when she then had to leave to catch her flight back to USA…she missed meeting her new nephew by 10 minutes!

Although we had been up for nearly 24 hours, we were so happy to meet our new son

Although we had been up for nearly 24 hours, we were so happy to meet our new son

Just over 36 hours old and we are ready to go home

Just over 36 hours old and we are ready to go home

Kalani and Mason couldn't wait to go to the hospital to meet Blake and hold him

Kalani and Mason couldn’t wait to go to the hospital to meet Blake and hold him

Now we have the 3 Amigos!

Now we have the 3 Amigos!

They may not grow up to look alike, but they start off as newborns looking like siblings

They may not grow up to look alike, but they start off as newborns looking like siblings (From left to right: Kalani, Mason, Blake)

Blake is now 1month old

Blake is now 1month old weighing in at 10 pounds 3.5 ounces and 22 inches

More photos of Blake here.

Categories: Family Tags: , , , , , ,

4th grade done…now on to middle school

June 6th, 2014 No comments

Kalani is now into middle school!  She had a wonderful time at the elementary school at International School Manila.  She was able to participate in music, art, PE, computers, etc. during the school day.  She also had after school activities throughout the year of circus skills, painting & drawing, Minecraft, gymnastics and “Children’s Music Theater.”  Elementary school also has “Sports Day” and also “International Day” for all of the kids to participate in.  She has made wonderful friends through school and is looking forward to advancing to middle school.

Crazy Hair Day

Crazy Hair Day

Gymnastics unit performance for PE

Gymnastics unit performance for PE

Learning about fractions

Learning about fractions

Children's Musical Theater is only for 4th graders.  Kalani got to be one of the narrators for the play "Ibong Adarna"

Children’s Musical Theater is only for 4th graders. Kalani got to be one of the narrators for the play “Ibong Adarna”

Sports Day for pre-school to 4th grade

Sports Day for pre-school to 4th grade…everyone wearing a custom made class T-shirt

The field is all set-up for the kids to run around, play as a team and have fun

The field is all set-up for the kids to run around, play as a team and have fun

Working together to get out of the human knot

Working together to get out of the human knot

She is pretty good at stilts

She is pretty good at stilts

Having fun cooling off with her classmates

Having fun cooling off with her classmates

Ready for swimming relays

Ready for swimming relays

Kalani with some of her classmates

Kalani with some of her classmates

Over 80 countries were represented in the elementary school this school year

Over 80 countries were represented in the elementary school this school year

Kalani had a fabulous teacher from Ireland for 4th grade and had wonderful classmates...here on International Day.

Kalani had a fabulous teacher from Ireland for 4th grade and had wonderful classmates. Here they are on International Day.

The "Pink Panthers" have now moved on from 4th grade to Middle School!

The “Pink Panthers” have now moved on from 4th grade to Middle School!

Categories: Family Tags: , ,

Bicol Region Roadtrip

March 3rd, 2014 No comments

A major benefit of living in the Philippines is employing a family driver! And we had him earn his paycheck this past weekend since he drove us to our last vacation spot that was 12 hours away. Kalani didn’t have school on Monday or Tuesday, so it was a perfect time for a 4-day weekend get-away. We left at 4am on Saturday morning and arrived in Donsol by 4pm. The drive down was beautiful with long stretches of lush green scenery with protruding volcanoes. There was a good 2-4 hours at least where we didn’t come across any McDonald’s or Jollibee fast food places because we were in such rural areas.

Day 1:

We left at 4am and slept for a while in the car.  But, when we were awake there was some beautiful scenery

We left at 4am and slept for a while in the car. But, when we were awake there was some beautiful scenery as we headed toward Donsol.

After 12 hours in the car the kids just wanted to hang out by the beach and especially on these hammocks. And luckily there were other kids from Kalani's school at the same resort so they all had someone to play with

After 12 hours in the car the kids just wanted to hang out by the beach and especially on these hammocks. And luckily there were other kids from Kalani’s school at the same resort (Elysia Beach Resort) so they all had someone to play with.

Also on our first day we went to see some fireflies. It was amazing to see thousands of these insects synchronize their flashes of light. It was like watching a bunch of “Tinker Bells” communicating with each other…or Christmas lights that kept changing their light pattern. However, none of our photos or videos turned out from the firefly experience.

Day 2:

We got down to the pier by 7:30am to try our luck at spotting a whale shark. Peak season is from March to May, so we were a week or so early. The weather was bad and we didn't have any luck.

We got down to the pier by 7:30am to try our luck at spotting a whale shark. Peak season is from March to May, so we were a week or so early. The weather was bad and we didn’t have any luck.

We then headed to Legazpi to try our luck on that side of the region, but because of the weather, we weren't allowed in the water. So we drove an hour to our second resort "Misibis Bay"

We then headed to Legazpi to try our luck on that side of the region, but because of the weather, we weren’t allowed in the water. So we drove an hour to our second resort “Misibis Bay“.

We spent some time swimming, playing table tennis and then everyone had a chance to play a video game

We spent some time swimming, playing table tennis and then everyone had a chance to play a video game.

Since we already paid to have a whale shark excursion at a location, we woke up early to try our luck again. And we had a beautiful view all the way to the pier of the Mayon Volcano

Since we already paid to have a whale shark excursion at a location, we woke up early to try our luck again. And we had a beautiful view all the way to the pier of the Mayon Volcano.

Matt and I got in the water twice to swim with a 10 foot whale shark. It may have been the same whale shark, but we were the only ones able to swim with it in the 2 hours we were on the water

Matt and I got in the water twice to swim with a 12 foot whale shark. It may have been the same whale shark, but we were the only ones lucky enough to swim with it in the 2 hours we were on the water.

And while we were suppose to be looking for whale sharks, we couldn't help but enjoy the view of the volcano

And while we were supposed to be looking for whale sharks, we couldn’t help but enjoy the view of the volcano.

After our whale shark experience we wanted to spend some more time in Legazpi, so we rented ATVs and headed to the lava wall of Mayon Volcano

After our whale shark experience we wanted to spend some more time in Legazpi, so we rented ATVs and headed to the lava wall of Mayon Volcano.

We took a small hike up to the 2006 lava wall of Mayon Volcano...then Matt took the zipline down

We took a small hike up to the 2006 lava wall of Mayon Volcano…then Matt took the zip-line down, but the kids didn’t want to try that so I walked down with them.

Apparently our day wasn't exciting enough since Kalani got stung by a box jellyfish. The resort had vinegar on hand (and I also had my own bottle that was used), the doctor was on sight and stayed with her for a couple of hours

Apparently our day wasn’t exciting enough since Kalani got stung by a box jellyfish in shallow water. The resort had vinegar on hand (and I also had my own bottle that was used), the doctor was on sight and stayed with her for a couple of hours.

She got stung on her leg and feet, but her arm was the worse with a tenticle wrapped all the way around her arm when we came out of the water. So one hand is scared and swollen

She got stung on her leg and feet, but her arm was the worst with a tentacle wrapped all the way around her arm when she came out of the water. So one hand is scared and swollen for the time being.

Day 3:

We left the Bicol region around 7am and again enjoyed the beautiful view of that area of the Philippines. 12 hours later we were at home nursing Kalani's wound

We left the Bicol region around 7am and again enjoyed the beautiful view of that area of the Philippines. 12 hours later we were at home nursing Kalani’s wound.

More photos our our Bicol Vacation here.