Ben’s Birthday

Last week, Daniel and Zion finished term 1 and had exams. On exam days they finish at lunch time, which meant that they had a half day of school right in time for Ben’s birthday on Wednesday, August 12. Ben went into the office for the morning, then we all went to pick him up and go out for lunch.

We had planned to try out a Mexican restaurant called Maya, but when we got there we learned that it is only open for dinner. We decided to go to a swank little Vietnamese bistro nearby called Phat Pho. The food was delicious and the service was great.

I could post this picture and leave you to imagine our glamorous life traipsing around Cebu and other Asian locales, sampling local cuisine in posh restaurants with our well-behaved 4 children in tow. But that would be a little misleading.
First of all, from the moment we got in the car, I knew I should have left Knox and Clementine at home. We have full-time help, so why not? Dining out with them is a hassle, at best, and this was our only chance to celebrate Ben’s birthday. Then when we ended up at Phat Pho instead of Maya, we found ourselves in a claustrophobic interior with tables meant for parties of 2, not 6. The tables were bar-height, and all the chairs were stools. We spent much of the meal telling Zion, “Don’t fall.” And, “Please please don’t fall.”  There were no high chairs, so Ben had to hold Knox on his lap. Zion and Daniel had snacked at school, so they were reluctant to eat, and we ordered way too much food. Clementine was fussy and grabbing at everything in a 3-foot radius (how is it that a 6-month-old with 9-inch long arms can suddenly reach something 3 feet away???).  I spent the entire meal alternating between walking the sidewalk with her outside or standing and bouncing her at the table, trying to eat pho ga (chicken soup) with one hand. I’d like to see anyone–Vietnamese or not–do that successfully.

It was difficult not to be frustrated by the end. I thought, Why do I do this to myself? It’s not as though Knox and Clementine will remember Ben’s birthday lunch. And I’m certain we all would have enjoyed the meal more without the babies there. And if I had it to do over, I’d leave the babies at home napping. However, Ben and I set a precedent long ago of doing things together as a family. And I’d rather occasionally regret bringing them along than someday regret leaving them behind. It’s about having a family culture of together-ness (sorry, I know that is so, so hokey). But hey, it’s true. It teaches the kids that birthdays are important, and that we celebrate them together. It teaches them that we can be flexible and patient, even when birthday lunch plans don’t go as planned.

After lunch we all went home and gave Ben some birthday gifts, most of which came from MUJI. Ben took it easy on me earlier in the week and told me exactly what shirt from which store in what color to buy for him. That morning as I was wrapping it I noticed I had bought it in size xs. You had one job. 

Then Ben had to work that night. But it was our first birthday celebrated in the Philippines, and I’m going to call it a win.


3 thoughts on “Ben’s Birthday

  1. Oooooh, Pho! How did you like it? Was it your first time having it?

    We were introduced to pho in Cali, but haven’t had it since we moved. Do you know of a good place to get it here by any chance? I made it once but its waaaay complicated and I’m not up for the challenge again. Plus I don’t think you can get things like fresh thai basil at any store around here.

    1. Yes it was our first time. I can’t think off the top of my head of any Vietnamese restaurants in Bloomington, but of course there may be one tucked in somewhere on 4th Street.
      I had just been googling pho recipes when you left this comment. It strikes me as the type of dish that doesn’t have to be extremely involved, as long as you had all the ingredients on hand. I mean, it’s essentially just chicken noodle soup, right? I would be pretty surprised if Thai basil can’t be found at one of the Asian markets. I grew it one year, but that only is practical in the warmer months. I like to buy weirder Asian ingredients at the Asian markets anyhow, because even when the other stores carry them in the int’l section, they mark them up all crazy. I mean, $4 for a package of rice noodles? No thanks.

  2. I don’t know of any vietnamese restaurants in btown, but there’s one restaurant that has a decent version of it on their menu. It’s called Mandalay; it’s supposed to serve burmese food but it looks more like eclectic asian to me. As far as thai basil goes, someone once mentioned that they got it at the farmer’s market, possibly from the asian guy. They might not have it anymore, but it’s worth looking into.

    Now that we’re in middle of nowhere NE Iowa, i am really jealous of all the asian food you get to enjoy! The nearest asian market is over 1 hour away in Minnesota :( love reading the blog and seeing the kids grow!

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