Paris, Je T’aime!

I am someone who grew up loving the movies and reading books. And my exposure to reading at an early age had me dreaming of places, cities and sceneries to visit  and one of the cities I have imagined and dreamed of visiting is Paris.

If you asked my 16 year old self about dreams- she would tell you she is a dreamer and she believed in all of them coming true. In fact she was so idealistic that she kept a journal of her dreams. And If you asked my 23 year old self – she would say getting a job made her a realist – You have dreams and some of them just stay that – dreams. Now moving on to present day – and you ask my 36 year old self what has life taught you? I guess she would say – Keep your faith firm, choose goodness and kindness and life will teach you that never underestimate the power of your dreams.

I have visited Paris three times over the last 3 years – Based on my humble beginnings, I sometimes pinch my self and ask if every visit was indeed real or am I still stuck in one of my day dreams

Each visit has a special story – My first one in 2014. I was alone, for work. I went during spring time – when the city is in full bloom. You can imagine how giddy I was and how I was whispering WOW  where ever my eyes roamed.

The second one was was in Winter of 2015. I was with my husband, celebrating our “honeymoon”. The City of Love made me fall in love all the more.

The third and most recent one was Summer of 2016, now a family trip. The city was bustling with tourists like us and my husband and I had our hands full with our 2 kids. One a 9 year old girl who enjoyed every minute of it like a fairy tale and the other a 3 year old boy who thinks Paris is where he can run after pigeons, bruise his knees and where Lightning McQueen Lives.

No matter how many times I get to see this exquisite place, Paris is and will always be mesmerizing. From evening walks along the Seine river, to getting a taste of the best of the arts and culture in the Louvre, to the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower at night, the neatly manicured and charming gardens, the near uniformity in height, facade and roof of the pretty buildings, the romance, the beautiful language, the irresistible patisseries of salon de thés or cafés you see in every corner, to Montmatre; which is just as picturesque as it must have been to the painters such as Monet and Renoir, to Audrey Hepburn’s hopeless romanticism in all her movies whenever she is seen walking around the city, enjoying what each Arrondissement has to offer.

There is so much to see and experience – There is no denying the charm, the sophistication and the allure that only The City of Lights can offer. Paris to me will always be one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Indeed, Dreams do come true but nothing would be possible without God Who sustains and provides. Wishing everyone the gift of happy adventures and God’s endless blessings!

 

 

 

For My Aedan

My Dearest Aedan,

It’s amazing how time flies! You’re turning 3 in 2 days! Where did time go? It seems like yesterday when we were announcing to your big sister that she will soon have to share us with a baby brother or sister. Although her reaction was not of joy(only child for a while problems!), she still welcomed you with open arms. The moment she saw you though, when you decided to come out of my tummy on the evening of  Labor Day of 2013 (literally) was a different story. It was the purest of love and joy especially when she held you in her arms.

Seeing you grow up is one of the most amazing experiences in my life. At 15 months, we were surprised to find out you started reciting the ABCs on your own, in their perfect sequence. Funny enough, we found out that you can read letters while we were having our usual family day at the beach  on a weekend when you began pointing at the signboard and reading out the letters, then numbers. At 2, you basically can say the Alphabet and numbers 1- 20 backwards. Then shapes and colors, animals, then vehicles. I knew what an Excavator and Back Hoe was because of you. At 30 Months, we started to realize you can read simple and common words on your own. From Dog to Street to School. We try to downplay it but there’s pride always and we enjoy each moment because people are already freaking out that you can read.  Imagine my reaction – because all these you learned on your own. I feel guilty that Me and Dad have to work long hours but we do what we have to do because this is our world’s way of surviving and providing for you and your sister’s needs.  We try to make up and create wonderful memories whenever we can, and forgive us if we sometimes lack time or work from home or have to run work related errands when we were not supposed to.

I hope that as you get older, you keep your faith firm,  and use your God given talents well. We are not the perfect parents, in fact, Dad and I, always agree that we are very relaxed and chill. We are not the type of  parents who push you to be number 1 but instead just want you to enjoy each moment and be the best you can be. Be competitive but always be gracious in defeat and humble in victories. Be kind, because not many are and the world needs more kind people. Be happy and be positive, try always to look at the brighter side when things don’t go your way. Stand up for what you believe in and stick to the friends who have your back, especially the ones who are loyal regardless of your eccentricities. I know things are easier said than done and I wish I can spare you  of all the hurt but that’s not how it’s supposed to be. You get hurt, sometimes life gets you so down, you get betrayed but never ever doubt the power of hope, faith and love. These hurt, pain, failures are life’s way of molding you into a better, stronger, wiser person and as well as teach you to strive for success and appreciate victories and blessings.

There are things I couldn’t thank God enough for and you are one of them. I am thankful that He entrusted me to be your mother. It is not an easy job, my heart is literally walking out of my body worrying about you and Ate’s future but it is all worth it and it is one I will never take for granted. You will grow up, be mature and be your own person but  I will always remember Your voice that cries mommy when having a bad dream, or just because I am not there to hug you when all you want before sleeping is “mommy hug” or give you  your “magic pillow” – You who always make me feel like I am the best and most lovable person in the world and that my arms and hugs are always the safest place to be in. and you always make me feel that my heart could burst with so much love.

With God’s Grace and Blessings, time will come and you will fall in love with another woman (imagining this, my boy, is now breaking my heart, trust me) and should Mommy not agree or has many not so nice things to say about the girl who stole your heart – Laugh it off. Mommy is being her usual possessive self – to her, you will always be the baby boy who had the biggest wet kisses and most loving hugs, who had twinkle in his eyes every time you run into her arms when you see her come home from work. And after so many reasons, mommy still acts blind and gives you a hard time – understand that giving you up to another girl and letting that girl win – is one of her worst fears. But don’t get me wrong – Mommy wishes for someone who could love you back, with heart so pure, like how she loves your Dad. And I am sure, you would know, who is worth it and when and how to fight for that lucky girl – because it is in your blood. You can always ask Dad for advice and I can only pray that  May she love you more than Mommy ever did.

You will always be my baby boy. There are things in my life that I am not proud of – there are things that I wish I could have done differently – but also, there are things I will never regret having, will never stop loving and proudest of – and you are one of them, Mommy’s Top 3 – You, Ate, and Dad – bound together by God’s infinite love.

I love you beyond words my Aedan – and Mommy and Daddy will be here to encourage you to follow your dreams – Be it an Astronaut, Doctor, Pilot, Lawyer, Engineer, Scientist, Priest/Pastor, Singer(!!), Metaphysicist, NBA Player, next President of the Philippines, the guy who wants to put up his own restaurant by the beach, or maybe another dude who wishes  to travel the world backpacking – You can be who you want to be – the sky is the limit – But for now, I will enjoy our moments living your toddler dreams – a blastastic time with Miles in Tomorrowland, driving a monster truck around town,  racing with Lightning Mcqueen, flying with Jake in Neverland fighting pirates  or fighting dragons with your sword protecting your kingdom. I am more than happy to be that crazy, giggly sidekick, who in between battles couldn’t help but steal a kiss, snuggle or just squeeze you until you say, stop it Mommy, no biting!

Happy 3rd Birthday my handsome boy! God bless and protect you as the world is yours to conquer!!!!

With so much love and more,

Mommy

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38 in 10 Days

A couple of weeks back, we had a conversation about you turning 40 in 2 years. The conversation went from hilarity to nostalgia – on how we look forward to growing old together – imagining how we both look with gray hair and wrinkled skin and if the “drive” will always be there, to recalling how life has made us mature yet always child-like. We had questions like will we still be fighting like kids by then? Will we be fortunate enough to see our grandkids and congratulate ourselves for raising good children?

You are definitely looking more mature, put on weight, daddy tummy very evident, white hair starting to be more and more visible and hairline that seem to recede by the minute- yet, like fine wine, you taste errr get better with age and look more handsome ( ayos!)

 
I remember I first met you when you were 25, I was 23 then and of course I had no clue that you would be the person who would show me the real meaning of Love and one I vow to grow old with. You gave this vibe that you are a good person, a bit shy but had a very open aura and gave me a  smile that reached your eyes. You were nervous/nagpapacute and made sure I saw your anting-anting – Your dimples, that could give today’s Alden Richards a run for his money.

We became good friends that after work conversations over fast food dinners turned from work to everyday life, own lovelife and dreams and for all we know, we were talking about our unexpected and alarmingly out of nowhere love for each other.

The start wasn’t easy – You made me feel bliss and fear at the same time. You made me embrace all my weaknesses  and face them – You showed me I can love with all my heart and could lose it a million shattered pieces. But most important of all, You have proven that you are ready to give up everything for me and face the world with uncertainty.

 
And as I celebrate your life, as you turn 38 in 10 days, I celebrate the times when we were at the lowest of low, and found means to go a step or two higher, the times when we had nothing to having something, from uncertainty to making the biggest decision to change your life and fight for love regardless,  to building dreams and achieving them together, to raising a family together, to becoming the best father you can be.

I am thankful that you always stood by me – even if you have seen my worst – mood swings, defiance, stretch marks, from small to large size, morning breath, loose underwear, and all.

Thank you for making me build my dreams with you – praying there are more projects to finish, hopefully more places to see, strong and resilient during tough times, and not too complacent and arrogant with tribulations, always humble and gracious, steadfast in faith, raise good and God-fearing children together, fervently hoping that the Lord bless us both with good health as we grow old together.

I will always fight tooth and nail for you. I love you beyond words… So, here’s to asking God to guide you and protect you as we go through … and on this wild journey called life together.

Let’s say Cheers and let’s not make a big deal that you will be 40 in 2 years, shall we?

Your domineering, annoying, hard-headed, naughty  yet will  always love you even if you are equally the same and more,
Lovely (pun intented) Wife

To The Little Lady Who’s 9 Today

My Dearest Thea,

Today, you are officially 9 years old. As you close your eyes to make a wish and blow your birthday cake candles, I am quite sure you are sending the fairies to an overdrive. For one, they fear that on your next birthdays, you may not remember them at all. Two, you are becoming more and more your own person that Dad and I are now struggling to reason with you. This year is the last single digit birthday you’ll have. We sometimes wish time is slower as we want to enjoy your tweenhood  and prepare more for what’s to come on your teen hood. (Please don’t misinterpret this as us dreading your teenage years, PLEASE? 🙂 )

How did time fly so fast? You were once this preemie baby who came out a month too soon. I still remember even with my wildest fears, you had the loudest cry in the hospital. You kicked your blankets like crazy even at 2.1 kg when this huge baby boy beside you was just behaving like one move will cost him his life.

I know you are starting to build your dreams – from being a teacher, doctor to currently a fashion designer who wants to study in London. Again, let me remind you that you can be who you want to be. You can keep your dreams (and standards) high, but your feet placed firmly on the ground. Mistakes, setbacks and life trials will come but never forget that Mommy, Daddy and Aedan will always have your back.

Ate, always know that we loved you first. And that your smile always brightens up our house and your sassiness always gets Dad scratching his thinning hair.(haha) Never ever change. Always focus on the good, be kind, believe in the power of your dreams and most of all, say your prayers when waking up and before going to sleep. In our eyes You are the best daughter and the best big sister to Aedan. God could not have entrusted us a better daughter and it’s because of you, that Dad and I, sometimes daydream of having another baby girl who loves to kiss, hug and giggle and bring more color into our world – just like what you and Aedan are doing.

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As you get older and see the real world – may your spirit continue to be fierce and your disposition always positive and happy – and if the time will come when you get hurt by people and circumstances you have no control over, may your faith guide you and  God’s love be the light you always hold on to. The world may go crazy but know that Daddy, me and Aedan will always be your biggest supporters.

Happy 9th birthday my Althea Margarette! There are and will never be enough words to explain how much we love you. My daily prayer is that – may God continue to protect you and bless you as you grow older.

Love,

Mommy

Honeymoon Dream Part 2 – All Roads (or Air Traffic) Lead to Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice, Italy

The sins of our last night in Amsterdam, had to be cleansed. And the perfect destination for it had to be — Rome.

Reeling from the previous night’s Red Light District Escapade, we woke up at 5am to make sure we were in the airport at 6am, our flight departs at 8am. It was -1 degree Celsius when we went out of the hotel. We were smart to have booked somewhere close to the Centraal Station that we didn’t have to worry about taxis or rushing to the airport, with bitter sweet feelings we had to say good bye to the beautiful Amsterdam and agreed to come back again in the future, with only Netherlands in our travel itinerary.

Flying from Amsterdam to Rome during winter gives you this crazy beautiful view.

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So we arrived in Rome with Amsterdam stories for the rest of our lives. Upon arriving at the Fiumicino Airport, Italy gave us the Pinoy feels. I cannot explain how and why, but to have people coming at you, offering taxi drop off just puts you off. Anyhoo, being newbies, we agreed to share one taxi with fellow tourists. The way to Rome from the Airport sort of reminded us of the Philippine Express way (haha). We even had comments like, Uh, is this really Italy?  I guess Amsterdam’s charm really got the better of us… BUT… upon entering Rome… we got our arses whipped so bad…. It was like going inside a Museum only this time, we were not walking but we were using a car to go around it. The structures just made us stare in awe and say… No wonder they call Rome the Eternal City and yes, all roads lead to Rome.

We dropped our luggage at the hotel and rested a bit. As usual, we stayed in a hotel close to Roma Termini for touristic reasons – We need to dash. The weather was better compared to Amsterdam at 6 to 10 degrees Celsius and the sun was out.  After  an hour’s rest we decided to go out as we were dead hungry for – you know it – Pizza, Pasta, Gelato, Cold Cuts, Cheese, Cappuccino and yes Vino. I was ready to order my tagliatelle al ragù, Quattro Formaggi and Vino Rosso, (Blanco or Rossato.) Here are some photos – And yes, the Quattro Formaggi was divine.

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After our first ever taste of Authentic Italian Food,  I was super excited to conquer the Italian streets, armed with my basic Italian learned from a Chef I used to work with during my Hotelier Days – I can easily open a conversation with Ciao! Senore, Come Stai? Tutu Bene? Grazie Mille, Arrividerci and Prego! (Yup, I try waaayyyy toooo harddd!!!)

It was cold but how can you say no to Gelato? We had to….

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We again took the Hop on Hop Off Bus to make seeing all that we can easier. Rome was exquisite in the best sense of the word, especially during sun set.

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Being in Rome on a Sunday, we made sure that our first stop was The Vatican. We were fortunate to be there for the last mass. It was in Latin and sitting there, even not understanding anything felt so right.

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Stepping in Vatican – was a catholic girl’s ultimate dream come true.  Upon entering the St. Peter’s Basilica– I made sure I knocked at the door 3 times and just whispered – You know the desires of my heart Lord, – It is always Your Will and not mine that I trust, I only ask You to please keep all my loved ones out of harm.  There’s  a certain peace and calmness that I felt. Maybe it’s the holy spirit welcoming me inside God’s biggest house on earth. The first thing that caught my eye was Michaelangelo’s Pieta. It was mesmerizing.

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The ceiling, The altar – EVERYTHING. I am out of words to describe not what my eyes have seen but what my soul has experienced.

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After Mass, we decided to go back to the hotel and rest –  we literally had 36 hours (sleep included) to enjoy Rome.

We woke up very early the next day. We had breakfast at the hotel and confirmed – what Starbucks? It was in Italy that we tasted the world’s best coffee. In fact, I had 3 cups of Cappuccino. My husband and I – we reminded each other – we will be trembling for the rest of the day if we have any more.

Our first stop was the Colosseum, It felt eerie to be going inside something that have witnessed so much of history.

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We went to the Roman Forum, and went back to the Vatican, walked through Castel di Sant’angelo and for lunch we went to see the Trevi Fountain and ate more Gelato and Pizza. The Trevi Fountain was unfortunately being restored but still – we tossed our coins over our right shoulder – hoping and wishing as the tale suggests – that we will come back to see it again and in its restored glory.

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From the Trevi Fountain, we walked to Piazza Spagna or Spanish Steps and rested there, people watching  until sunset. It was chilly as the winter wind really seeps through your bones especially in the evening.

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We went back to our hotel to end our Roman Holiday – we will definitely come back in the not too distant future, fingers crossed.

We woke up at 5am as we needed to check out and dash to the Termini Station to board the train going to Pisa at 6am.  Pisa is 2 hrs and 45 minutes away from Rome. It was a quick stop because we planned it to be Rome to Venice only but what the heck – How often can we be tourists? We want that Dorky photo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa too! Italy trip can’t be legit if we don’t see the Tower.  🙂

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It was raining when we arrived but still enjoyed the Photo Ops. Pisa is a town in the Tuscany area of Italy. It looked like a dreamy little village to me. Most tourists go there on a quick stop, see the Tower and go to the Tuscan Area’s most popular tourist spot – Florence. Our travel from Pisa to Florence was an hour via the Regional (local) Train, we arrived at the SM Novella station and walked for about 10 minutes towards the Magnificent Cathedral. We didn’t get lost because you can see the infamous Dome from far and you only have to follow it. Due to time constraints, I can only take but a few photos as we found our way to the Cathedral which does not give justice to the beauty of Florence. It was a more compact version of Rome.

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I regret that we were only able to explore Florence or Firenze for 3 hours. We were lucky the lines were not so long that we were able to see the Florence Cathedral or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and see its famous Dome and Giorgio Vasari’s painting of the Last Judgment. We stood in awe beneath it for about 10 minutes. Wide eyed.

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Our Pisa and Florence stop overs made us really thankful of luggage deposits in train stations. At least we didn’t have to drag our suitcases in those cobbled streets. We took a quick lunch – sandwich and coke – while walking back to the Firenze SM Novella Train Station to go to one of the places I have always dreamed of visiting – Venice.

Travels are not complete if you don’t have fun and fail stories to tell – and us, pretending to be seasoned travelers – took the wrong train and went back to Rome! We felt so stupid and frustrated because we missed the Venice Sunset. We had no choice but to take another train going to Venice which cost us thrice the fare we paid 3 months back. It was good in a way because we were able to rest and sleep. As they say, train your mind to see the good in every situation.

We arrived in Venezia Sta Lucia station around 10pm which meant that the majestic floating city is now half asleep, and being winter, most likely everyone, even tourists, could be gone. It was so peaceful and serene when we arrived. It was cold and windy but the late night lights added romance to the air.

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Our hotel was a five minute walk from the station. The owners kindly welcomed us and advised us to rest so we can go and see Venice at dawn or sunrise but we still decided to go out  and have dinner. Only a few restaurants were open but we were lucky to find one just a short walk from the hotel.

The next day, we were surprised to see that Venice is flooded. It sort of put us off but still, we wanted to enjoy and explore the city to see the popular piazzas and maybe ride a gondola. Still, we were able to see the famous landmarks and enjoy the view.

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Venice was our last stop for our 3 nights and 4 days in Italy.  We loved every minute of it. My husband had started to imitate the Italian accent in a sexy way that I am falling in love with him more. He kept saying Bella, Ti Voglio Bene( I love you a lot) which I guess he must have googled or something 🙂  Unfortunately, the Italian Job had to end. We know we haven’t seen the best of Italy, our stay was just too short but I am sure we will come back to see it again.

And on to part 3 – our Parisian Dream 🙂 I am lucky to have visited Paris once for training in 2014. It was a dream come true to see Paris twice and take my Amour de ma vie to the most romantic city in the world.

Honeymoon Dream Part 1 – Amsterdam

“I dream of travelling the world with you, go on adventures, take photos, be happy and kiss you in every city of my dreams”

But in the real world – it is not that easy my dear. But maybe we can do it once in a while. And we did.

I admit that at the start of our relationship, The Hubs and I, all we wanted was to be together, we did not have any plans or relationship goals going into our partnership. All we knew then was we love each other and we will surely do anything and everything to be together. Having been together for 11 years, married and with 2 kids, you always have to take things into perspective. You have priorities, bills and more bills. However, considering all that we have been through, we thought of rewarding ourselves with a Honeymoon/Adventure. It is something we hoped to do when the kids are done with college but we felt, having the little wedding celebration with our family last July 2014, we owe ourselves this – our dream honeymoon. The Euro Adventure of our dreams. It was a 9 days and 8 Nights Escapade –  Plenty of memories that will keep us smiling until our old age. We took the trip from 30 January to 07 February 2015.

And here goes… the first of a four part series, recalling the four countries, 6 cities first ever winter travel of our lives/official honeymoon trip as Husband and Wife.

Honeymoon Dream Part 1 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the places I have always dreamt of visiting – because everything about it looks so beautiful in photos. And the books I have read with Amsterdam setting intrigued me all the more – the liberal views on tabooed topics, the beautiful building architectures, the romantic strolls in canals, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Anne Frank, the works.

One week before our trip, I was already refreshing Yahoo Weather literally every 30 minutes because on our day of arrival it was predicted to snow. And having grown in the tropics – snow is like unicorn and pixie dusts – you will never know it’s real until you see it. So upon touch down at Netherlands’s Schiphol Airport – this scene greeted us.

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I was whispering in hushed tones – Wow, Whoa! SNOWWWWWWWWW.  I was crazy teary eyed! (yup, I am a weirdo!)

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Here we are after getting our luggage, about to board a train going to the city.

So we took a train from the Airport to Amsterdam Centraal. We booked a hotel close to the central station because of our crazy itinerary. It is quicker to go and dash to the airport. Travel time to and from is around 15 minutes. Our Amsterdam stay was for 2 nights and 2 days.

Stepping out of the train station, our first ever winter experience has begun.  3 degrees Celsius at 12 noon greeted us as we set foot in Adult Disney Land (no pun intended haha).  After check-in, we immediately wanted to go out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the beautiful Amsterdam. First stop – we went to say our prayers and gratitude in St. Nicholas Basilica which is a 2 minute walk from our hotel. It’s the only Basilica in Amsterdam apparently. And as always, upon entering, you experience the calm and peace and immediately, with God’s grace, we were sure the trip will be an amazing adventure and one we will always look back to as we grow old together.

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After the church visit, the Amsterdam adventure begins. We kept reminding each other – what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam. We looked for a place to eat to sample local cuisine. and of course, drink some spirits because the temperature is not going up anytime soon. We badly needed to take something – in fact anything – to keep our body warm.

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After eating, we immediately did the tourist route – we took the Hop on, Hop Off bus. There’s just so much beauty and awesomeness around and the husband chiming in – Are we going to the Red Light District now? Are we? Are we?????? ( I still can hear the excitement in his voice to this day – SMH).  It was starting to rain but still we were able to capture a few photos.

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Since it was almost 5pm, and during winter months, everything just goes dark so easily and the tour bus stops at 6pm, we decided to go to the Heineken Museum. (Yup, more beer). I am a not beer drinker but there’s something about the freshness of beers in Amsterdam that I drank it like coke. (LMAO) We were so busy enjoying the whole – How are Heinekens’ made – when I looked at the window and it started to snow. I was transfixed with the whole thing that I was so speechless. This moment was the realization of one of my childhood dreams. I immediately told the Hubs – we have to go out. We have to go catch snow drops! Maybe I can eat them to know how they taste? This feels like Christmas all over again. I was ecstatic bordering on crazy. (haha)

So we went, catching snow drops and realizing in hurts when it touches your skin. We were catching the snow drops from all angles even if hurt my eyes. We wanted to enjoy the moment because, there we were – he who turned 37 a week back, and I about to be 35 in May – never saw or experienced real snow – so how can we let the moment pass? Locals on their bikes, walking, rushing to go home looked appalled at us. Because there we were – so happy and playful acting like we won the lottery and there they were – just wanting to go somewhere dry and warm.

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The only decent “while snowing” photo

When it was all over it was chaos – we were shivering to the nines and we couldn’t catch a taxi to go back to the hotel. It was already 8pm, which means 10pm on our Dubai body clocks, and having traveled a 7 hour flight in the morning meant that our body just wanted to rest. We were waiting for public transport to come when a fellow Filipino heard us and invited us for coffee. We gladly accepted as we were desperate for warmth. He took us to his store, one of the few Filipino stores in Amsterdam and a few more Kabayans were there for a meeting. We regret however that we were not able to take photos with them. We left their house and the temperature was down to 0 degrees Celsius.

The next day, we went out very early to experience the Amsterdam sunrise and see the Zaanse Schans.

We went for a quick walk to enjoy the morning sights and sounds. The place is magical just when you know everyone inside those pretty houses are just about to wake up or having their coffee.

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The experience just spelled romance – I felt so in-love.

We then took a train to Zaanse Schans, a quick 30 minute travel to experience the old windmill town of Netherlands. We still saw a few drops of the previous night’s snow.

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So this is how snow feels like… Oh shoot, I just grabbed dog poop!!!

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We walked for about 10 minutes when the smell of freshly cooked cheese just came at us. We knew then that we are close. And the view to the bridge leading to the place literally takes your breath away.To say that the place is magical is an understatement – the snow, the sun shining on a freezing morning, the frozen canal, the old town charm – everything was just mesmerizing.

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We went back to the Centre during lunch time. It was time to see the Museumplein. The place was too crowded for our liking. Everyone wanted to climb the I Amsterdam sign.

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We visited the Anne Frank museum, walked to  enjoy the views of the Canals until the Dam square. Stopped for a quick coffee and went to rest a bit because we were saving our energy for the best part of the tour.

After  an hour’s rest at the hotel, we stopped by the sex museum for more fits of laughter. D*ck you say? Oh, they got plenty that I am no longer shocked. (disclaimer – Due to the fear that my kids may one day read my blog, I am not going to post any of the graphic photos that we took! Hahaha)

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We quickly had dinner and went to the most intriguing place of all – The Red Light District. To say that I was in for an adventure is an understatement.   It is a place I will never forget. All kinds of Hash were there – lollies, cookies, beer, whatchamacallits. We went to window shop for a bit, and the tales I have read are real – They were like live Barbie dolls waiting for someone to buy them or knock so they will open their doors and close the windows and lights. One, actually winked at my husband while we were walking. My husband – the naughty person that he is – gamely pulled my hand and gave the “doll” the “3” number sign, to which she nodded, looked at me with a devious smile in her lips. I was laughing as we quickly rushed out of her sight, we passed by more of those dolls,  saw people in some corners looking as if they are up in the clouds,  some were showing things “live ” for a fee as we looked at eyes that seem to have no feelings.  It was one  to read those things on paper, but experiencing them first hand makes me feel overwhelmed. Humbled even. You question why and how… but even around the area where in most cases you don’t feel safe, I felt ok while roaming the district. I didn’t fear for my life. It boggles me to this day.

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That wraps the Amsterdam leg of our trip. We went back to our hotel, packed our stuff. We had to prepare for an early morning flight to Rome – the Part 2 of our Honeymoon.

12 Years, 12 Things

imageDecember will mark our 12th year as a couple. Twelve.  Fudging. Years.  I can’t say we have been together long enough but I can guarantee that we both want it for the longest time possible. Point is – “May Forever!”.  In fact, our conversations about staying together til we are gray and old include promising to be patient – until we have turned semi-deaf, slow-moving, wrinkled, all gray and semi-blind. I guess we are aware that as we get older we will get in each others’ nerves in the funniest and most awkward of ways that it is now starting to manifest. Bickering you say? Check! Irritating? Another check!! Annoying? Oh, definitely! But after all these aso’t pusa moments – we always end our day forgiving, forgetting and laughing about it. And It feels good.

So, as I look back on the years that passed. I decided to write the 12 things/behaviors/qualities that stand out as we approach our 12th year of togetherness.

  1. We love. In the cheesiest way possible. I giggle like a teenager over the simplest of things. Be it a Surprise Cheeseburger from McD when I attempt to diet, to one red rose he bought from the supermarket, or a random flower he picked in a park (That’s not allowed!!!) – just because, to simply looking at me with those I-can’t-explain-look- in his eyes when he hears a line from a song on the radio he feels he can relate to (latest case – OMI’s Cheerleader hahaha). I say to myself – Oh shoot, my husband really loves me.  And I also say to myself. Damn girl, you’re so easy to please.
  1. We pray together. There’s peace knowing you have someone who prays WITH you and FOR you. There are times when I get frustrated over things or I repeatedly stress over life’s trials but having someone who prays for you makes everything manageable. The oneness of our faith makes everything a lot easier, and our faith has helped us overcome struggles, move mountains and trust in the Lords’ Will. And as we always remind each other – “Nothing we have is because of luck or chance but because of God’s Grace and Favor.”
  1. We are One. Us, together with our kids God has blessed us with, are always a united front. We solve problems together, we will stand up for each other and we want the best for each other. And no matter what happens, we have each other’s backs.
  1. We find and give time. It’s cliché that you can never get back time and we know that. Although sometimes, we tend to get pressured by work, we are always conscious of family time or daddy and mommy time. As they say, your presence is most treasured and no amount of money can buy that.  It doesn’t have to be big – we occasionally go on fancy dates as a couple,  but also, we also have quick 30 minute coffee or ice cream dates. We spend time with the kids during our days off be it a beach breakfast or movie time at home or eat out and have fun in parks and malls. We travel as couple too and as a family.  Indeed, we build happy memories because of finding time.
  1. We accept – Flaws. Imperfections. Faults. Because no one is perfect. Because sometimes you unknowingly hurt even the people you love without meaning to. Because it’s beautiful to have someone who accepts shortcomings. It is added security to your well being to have someone who knows your deepest darkest flaws but still loves you and will not change a single thing about you. It is awesome to have someone who annoys the heck out of you but you can never resist.
  1. We laugh. Laughter is an important part of the relationship. We know when to have fun, have adventures and crack crazy jokes when needed. I can be fuming mad over something but my husband will suddenly say something that makes me laugh and the trouble just goes away. We involve the kids in tickle and giggle feasts and also make funny faces, act dumb when needed.
  1. We forgive quickly – because we know how to say sorry, acknowledge and realize faults and admit mistakes. Life is too short to be fighting over something that has happened. What’s important is we know we are not perfect and we learn from our mistakes, and make an effort not to repeat the same again.
  1. We have goals – because there’s nothing like dreams together as a family. To work on, to inspire us and to work hard for. The kids are still young to be involved with family goals but our eldest, who is turning 9 this November, is starting and she always says she wants to be a fashion designer and study in London. We bounce ideas off each other, advise, and keep open minds.
  1. We are grateful – for anything and everything. As a couple, we always remind each other to look at the brighter side when things happen and shake us. But for everything – we are and should always be thankful. We always look back and say, we have prayed for blessings and God has given, gives and will give what is best for us.
  1. We protect each other. I have to admit there are times, when my actions are immature but always, my husband, though will not tolerate, shows me, I can always improve and do better. We will always be ready to put our life on the line to protect the ones we love.
  1. We trust and give each other space. We allow each other to have coffee meetings or night outs with each other’s friends. I remember my husband was telling me one time that his friends were admiring how I didn’t even call him once when he had a night out with them. I think this helps in giving us time for ourselves and also a time to miss each other.
  1. We move forward – regardless of what’s been said or what’s been done. There are past events that fuel you to be better not bitter. There are words and moments that you would rather forget because remembering it will not do you any good. In life, you can only make things better if you forgive, forget and let things go. Move forward and focus on the present because it is where God wants you to be.

On a last note, we are and will never be the perfect couple. Our golden rule is that we won’t document our arguments or post spur-of-the moment hatred on social media. That would be crazy.  I admit we also have moments when we want to rip each other’s head off and throw it down the window (haha) but we give each other space to cool down and always make sure that we will not go to sleep with hatred in our system. We have always agreed not to involve anyone when it comes to marital problems, instead, we talk it over – just the two of us – no parents or best friends involved.  I guess, it helps that the past 12 years, we always thought – it is US against problems. We will both overcome them as a team and we will hold on to each other no matter how rough the seas get, but of course, with a lot of Divine Guidance and Prayers.