Happy 9th Birthday Erin!

Happy, Happy, HAPPY Birthday Erin!

I know. I know. It’s your birthday, and I’m not at home to help you celebrate. For that, I feel terrible, but please know that I’ll be thinking about you all day. I hate missing your birthday and I know you do too. One of the many, many things I love about you is  you’re not afraid to say how you feel, and when I told you I’d be out of town on the day you turn nine, you made sure I knew how upset you were. I don’t blame you one bit.

While I may not be with you today, you can’t imagine the joy I’ve had seeing you grow, learn, and explore the world this last year. And what a year it has been!

This was the year you traveled outside the country for the first time, not once but twice!

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Sure, Cambodia couldn’t be more different than Switzerland and France, but you made sure to show your style in both regions. I don’t know anyone who can rock hats better than you. On both trips, we rarely saw you without the fedora or the beanie. You’ve also proved to be one awesome traveler…. with one exception. When jet lag sets in for you, it really sets in, and you want to sleep. Not even food can rouse you from a deep slumber.

Sleeping through a french meal and oblivious to the woman sitting behind you with the big bouffant hair.
Sleeping through a french meal and oblivious to the woman sitting behind you with the big bouffant hair.

Last year, you talked about traveling the world. This year, you can officially say you’re a world traveler. Now you’ve got bigger goals. You want to see the 7 wonders of the world. Will you take me with you when you go?

Speaking of goals….. you still love playing soccer, but now you’ve added another sport. Softball.

A true Diamond Diva
A true Diamond Diva

I love watching you take the field, playing just about every position, except pitcher or catcher. You’ve got a team spirit attitude and are not a kid who likes being the center of attention. That will serve you well in sports and in life.

You’ve been a pretty decent swimmer for the last couple of years, but in 2014 I forced you to do something you really, really, really didn’t want to do: join the swim team. I’m still not really sure why, but you tried with all your might to get out of it. You can be a stubborn kid, but I’ve got you beat. We eventually made a deal. You had to go to swim team practices, but I wouldn’t make you compete in any of the meets. You stuck to your guns, even when you saw how much fun your friends had swimming in the meets. But by the time of the last meet, guess who had enough of sitting on the pool deck? You!

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I was one proud Momma watching you face whatever fears you had about competing. Six months later, I don’t remember where you placed in your races, but I do remember the huge grin you had after you climbed out of the pool. I hope you’ll remember that as well.

Your dedication to doing well in school has not changed at all since last year. If anything, you’ve become even more motivated. You’re not satisfied to simply be at a 3rd grade reading level…. or 4th grade reading level….. or 5.6 grade reading level…. which is where you’re at right now. No siree… You want to be at a 6th grade reading level. I’m sure that has nothing to do with your big sister being in 6th grade, does it?

3rd grade is also where you start working on your times tables. I never liked being tested on this, but not you. You thrive under the pressure of me yelling out multiplication problems at you like a drill sergeant. I love watching you do the calculations in your head as you try and come up with the answer as quick as you can.

From experience, I know it’s not always easy being the middle child. At any given time, you may get left out. That’s why I was so excited that you and I got to go on a special trip to San Diego this summer for ComicCon.

This was not just a trip for fun. Nope. I put you to work to help promote Batkid Begins.

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Without a ton of complaints, you handed out what felt like thousands of postcards to anyone who would take one. Luckily, it was not all work and no play. You did get a chance to meet some cool characters and put your Lego skills to use.

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You have had quite the year, kiddo. Quite the year. And in the last 365 days, there hasn’t been one day that you haven’t done something that has made me laugh, smile, or sometimes shake my head in disbelief. I love you!

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Mom

Skiing in Switzerland

Leading up to our trip to the Swiss Alps, we had one sick kid on our hands, but I was hoping it was a case of food poisoning, not a stomach bug. By the time we left for Klosters, Carrie was feeling much better. Did we dodge the sickness bullet? I had my fingers and toes crossed that we did.

We arrived around noon and so far so good. We got checked into the hotel and the girls were ready to play in the snow. We lucked out and the snow had just started falling a day earlier. Klosters is a really cute mountain town, small enough that you can walk to the gondola, but big enough to find places to eat.

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Our hotel, the Piz Buin, worked perfectly for us. There was a long balcony outside our rooms and the girls promptly got to work trying to build a snowman. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cobble together quite enough for their vision of a snowman.

We then had to rent our ski equipment and get the kids and husband signed up for lessons. At this point, still no sign of sickness. Score. We had a couple of hours before dinner, so we started up a game of Scrabble. While some of us where scoring  big points in the game, it soon became apparent we were not going to escape another bout of sickness. This time it was Olivia’s turn. Just like Carrie, when it hit her, it hit her hard. Perfect timing for it to hit her, right after we bought her lesson, lift ticket, and ski rentals. I hoped for a miraculous recovery so she could ski the next day, but it was not meant to be, so she stayed with Auntie while the rest of us ventured out into the snowy conditions.

While the snow was much-needed and helpful, it made visibility a challenge.

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I promise. The Swiss Alps are somewhere behind me

The weather challenge also meant Carrie and Erin didn’t get as much out of their lessons as I would have liked. They stayed on the baby hill in the kids ski school all day and didn’t get to experience the gondola or trekking from the gondola to the ski runs. After  one day, Carrie decided she didn’t want to go for a second day.

The stomach bug that invaded Olivia’s immune system left after 24 hours, allowing her to at least ski for one day. As she said. “It would have really sucked to have come all the way to Switzerland and not be able to ski.” I couldn’t agree more. It also allowed Erin to get in another day of skiing and take a ride on the gondola.

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The smiles show how much they enjoyed their day on the mountain, but alas all good things must come to an end, and this photo meant the end to our time in the Alps.

The snow storm that blanketed the Alps also hit my sister-in-law’s town of Zug. It didn’t make walking to the bus station easy, but for 3 California kids, they were in snow angel heaven.

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Up ’til this point, we had not yet indulged in the best known Swiss cuisine, fondue. We saved it for our final night in Switzerland.  I had forgotten that one of the ingredients in fondue was wine, and at least at the restaurant we were at, they didn’t hold back  the booze. While it was fine for me and the husband, it was too boozy for the kids.

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This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’m so thankful we were able to share it with the kids. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel the world with the kids and I’ve got a feeling it will instill a lifelong love of travel in them. Erin has already said she wants to be able to see all 7 wonders of the world. I told her to start saving now for those trips….. and save enough to bring me along for the ride.

The Great European Vacation

Having family live in far away places has its benefits. Namely, breaking the travel budget to visit them and explore some really beautiful places. My sister-in-law’s stint in Switzerland will be winding down in the coming months, so it was now or never if we wanted to take advantage of seeing her and taking a side trip to France and the Swiss Alps.

We’re fortunate enough that the kids are old enough to stay relatively entertained by watching movies on the long flights. I definitely feel for the parents of young babies and toddlers walking up and down the aisles trying to calm their crying kids, while less sympathetic passengers give them the evil eye.

We arrived in Zurich, sleep deprived but excited. My sister-in-law met us at the airport and half of us drove back with her to her apartment, while the others took the first of many train rides.

On our first first full day in Switzerland, we traveled to Lucerne, which is about a 20 to 30 minute train ride from my sister-in-law’s town. It’s a beautiful town along the Reuss River, known for its covered bridges.

Chapel Bridge
Chapel Bridge

We strolled along the the river taking in the beautiful sights, while also trying to coax a certain 8-year-old out of her foul mood. Between the jet lag and being forced to wear a winter coat in December in Switzerland, this kid was not happy.

Not all smiles
Not all smiles

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Luckily, her mood improved after a Swiss inspired mac and cheese lunch, a trip to the Dying Lion Monument, and the neighboring Glacier Garden.

The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution
The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution

The Glacier Garden was just what we needed for the kids. It’s a park and museum, which allowed the kids to burn off some of their excess energy and put the middle child into a happy place.

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While the museum was cool, we all really loved the house of mirrors, even when all three kids bonked their heads by walking into mirrors.

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Lucerne was a great introduction to the beauty that is Switzerland and got us excited for our excursion to Paris the next day.

We took a 4 1/2 hour train ride to Paris, which was great, although the husband would argue that I spent most of the time looking at the French countryside with my eyes closed. He may have been right.

We began our tour of Paris with a trip to Notre Dame. It’s everything you’d expect. Massive, beautiful, and of course filled with kids who like posing in front of the historic church.

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We opted to wait in a long line to climb up lots of stairs to see the gargoyles. We bided our time by eating crepes and drinking hot chocolate. The wait was worth it, allowing us to see some stunning views of the city, even with the overcast sky.

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After this excursion, jet lag really set in and the two younger girls barely made it through dinner.

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They rallied the following day for the trek to the Eiffel Tower and climbing the nearly 700 steps for the first two levels. These kids were determined and step by step, they made it, with little complaint.

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All this climbing and walking made us hungry and thanks to a recommendation from the Rick Steves guidebook, we had what would be arguably our best meal of the trip. A dessert drenched in hot fudge can’t hurt either.

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We capped off this day with a visit to the Musee D’Orsay. I’m not much of an art aficionado, but this museum blew me away. I loved seeing all of the impressionist art. Plus, we went near closing time so the crowds were at a minimum. A bare minimum.

That definitely wasn’t the case when we headed to the Louvre the following day. We waited almost an hour just to buy the tickets, and once inside, it was packed. Jammed packed. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many people this place can hold, and as you can imagine, the biggest crowds clamored to take selfies with the Mona Lisa.

Selfies with the Mona Lisa
Selfies with the Mona Lisa

It’s true what a lot of people say about the famous portrait. It’s a lot smaller in person and not nearly as impressive as I would imagine. Still, the Louvre is a must do when you’re in Paris, so we were pleased we could check it off our to-do list.

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On our final full day in Paris, we spent time strolling along the Champs Elysees and doing a little shopping. Don’t make me try and pronounce it. My French is horrible. First off, we braved Paris traffic to take the perfect photo of the kids in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

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If we were to do holiday cards this year, (which we’re not) this would be on it.

We capped off our final night in Paris with another lovely dinner…. one which poor Erin didn’t quite finish.

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Surprisingly enough, Carrie chowed down at this meal, and at about 4 a.m. it all came back up when she got the stomach flu. Not the best way to end a trip to Paris, but pretty much something you should expect when traveling with family. Luckily, it was a 24 hour flu, so she rebounded pretty well for our final leg of the trip to the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, she also passed it onto her older sister.

That part of the trip will be saved for the next blog.

Adventures in Oregon

As summer vacations go, you can’t get much better than a road trip from Northern California to Oregon. Truth be told, when we planned this vacation with another family, I didn’t really know where we were going, other than Oregon. Two days before we left I figured I should probably take a look at where we were actually going. Our first stop on our road trip was to Crater Lake. Another admission. I thought Crater Lake was in California. I was wrong. It’s about 65 miles north of the border, smack dab in the mountains of south central Oregon. It’s also cold.  Cold enough that there’s still snow on the ground in mid June. For some people, like my family in Minnesota who endured more than their fair share of snow this winter, that’s just cruel and unusual punishment. For my kids and our friends’ kids? Pure heaven.

Snow fun at Crater Lake
Snow fun at Crater Lake

Yes, my middle child is sliding down the snow in a t-shirt and cowboy hat. If you look closely, you’ll also see she’s wearing Keens sans socks. Don’t ask. Sometimes it’s not worth the fight to try to get a kid to throw on a sweatshirt and socks. This was one of those times. She insisted she wasn’t at all cold, even if she tucked her arms in her sleeves during one of our hikes.

If you’ve never been to Crater Lake, I highly recommend it. I won’t get all Cliff Clavin on you, but I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version of  this natural phenomenon. Crater Lake was created about 7700 years ago when a volcanic eruption collapsed Mt. Manzama, which turned into Crater Lake.  The result is a sight to behold and photos don’t do it justice, not even panoramic ones taken with my iPhone.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island
Crater Lake and Wizard Island

I swear, I really didn’t photo shop the photo seen above here. It really is that blue, dare I say even bluer than Lake Tahoe.

As beautiful as Crater Lake is, it’s one of those places where you hike to the rim, look at the pretty scenery and then get out of dodge. At least that’s what we did. We had some serious vacationing to do in central Oregon, specifically in the town of Sunriver. Wikipedia calls Sunriver “a planned residential and resort community,” and it is all of that, but it suited our two families perfectly. Sure it’s a bit like living in Pleasantville, but given that we’re here on vacation, it doesn’t bother me. With the miles upon miles of bike paths, water park, horse stables, and marina, I’ll take it.

While you don’t have to leave the Sunriver compound, we did, and no, not just for the breweries in Bend, although I have to say we went to a couple of breweries with the kids for dinner, and the beer is not only great, but the outdoor atmosphere is a haven for kids and dogs.

The weather was less than stellar the first two days in Sunriver, with temperatures never getting out of the 50’s and a fair amount of rain and hail, so we explored downtown Bend, watched a movie, and hunkered down in the rental house. By the third day,  the sun returned and the temperature shot up into the 70’s, which was perfect timing, because we booked a mountain bike ride with The Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour.

This by far was one of the best parts of the trip. (Big props once again go out to our friends who found this tour and booked it.) The tour company makes it easy. They drive you up the mountain, and with the exception of the “Minute of Misery” you coast down 6 miles, stopping for nature treks to waterfalls and lunch.

Waterfall stop on the mountain bike tour
Waterfall stop on the mountain bike tour

 

The girls loved it, and a fall early on didn’t stop Erin.

It's just a flesh wound
It’s just a flesh wound

Full disclosure time. Yes, Erin and Olivia powered through the mountain bike. Carrie? She was attached to the husband’s bike.

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I’m quite certain had she been forced to power her bike on her own, I would have had a much different opinion of this adventure. Even so, after she went down one of the “natural waterfalls” which entailed her going briefly underwater, the child melted down. I went down first and realized the force of the water pushing her underwater might freak her out. I waited while she went down the rock formation. At first she was all giggles, then she went underwater. When she popped back up and I grabbed her, all I saw were her huge brown eyes looking scared out of her mind. It took only a few seconds before she started crying. This was the point where we were so thankful she didn’t have to ride a bike on her own. I guarantee she wouldn’t have made it.

Erin, that’s an entirely different story. She was all about the adventure. She not only went down that waterside, but also opted to step it up a notch and go down a steeper slide.

It looks scarier in slow motion. Really it does. I thought about going down this one too, but then wisely chose not to after seeing another adult looking pretty beat up after he finished. I already have plenty of bruises and can only imagine how many more I’d have on my bum if I would have followed my 8-year-old.

Plus, I was starting to dry off a little bit and didn’t want to be soaked for the final 3 miles of the ride.  The wet jean shorts and t-shirt didn’t seem to bother Erin or Olivia too much. They finished up the ride like true pros. While it was downhill, it wasn’t necessarily easy. They still had to stay upright on the bicycles while braking and navigating over sand and gravel. You know it’s a good trip when the girls ask when we can go mountain biking at home. I had to break it to them that at home we won’t have a bus to carry us to the top of the hill.

We still have another day here and are going to try a water activity, maybe kayaking or white water rafting. This vacation is a far cry from Disney, but one I’d do again in a heart beat.

Olivia Gets Promoted (to Middle School)

Six years after my oldest daughter first stepped onto the Adelante campus, she’s about to walk away with greater knowledge than I could ever teach her, and no I’m not just talking about Spanish and math. On her first day of  kindergarten I worried if the husband and I made the right decision to send her to a Spanish immersion school. Now I have no doubts. Yes, she’s fluent in Spanish, but she’s also learned about countless cultures she’d never have been exposed to if we enrolled her in a different school. And she never would have met one of her closest friends.

Together since kinder
Together since kinder

They sat next to each other on the first day of kindergarten and they were still sitting side-by-side at today’s elementary school promotion to middle school.

Still sitting together
Still sitting together

I’m so proud of these two girls and the rest of their 5th grade class for all they have accomplished.  They started out as these little kids barely able to read or make it across the monkey bars on the little playground, and blossomed into smart, funny, creative ‘tweens whose legs would drag onto the ground if they weren’t too cool for the monkey bars today.

An amazing group of faculty and teachers helped them grow and master the monkey bars and long division, and I’m so grateful to them for caring as much for our kids as we do.

One of Olivia's many great teachers, Maestra Austyn
One of Olivia’s many great teachers, Maestra Austyn

Leading the way was an incredible principal who moved on to a new job this year, but was swarmed by the kids when she came to today’s ceremony.

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This show of love says it all. The kids care about her as much as she cares about them. I cried while watching this scene. I also cried during the teacher speeches. And I cried when a few of the kids spoke.  I didn’t cry when she received her certificate, but that’s only because I was taking pictures.

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And while she’s walking into a whole new adventure called middle school, I’ve got no doubts what she learned at Adalente will serve her well in the future.

So here’s to Adelante’s Class of 2014 and my (mostly) sweet Olivia.

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1 down. 2 more to go.

 

Spring Break in Cambodia Part II

We arrived in  Siem Reap late morning, but didn’t plan on visiting any temples. Given that the husband was still not feeling great, we headed to the hotel, and were able to check in a little early. I love this hotel! Yes, the Shinta Mani has a pool,

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nice clean rooms, and a restaurant with cool outdoor swings,

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but the customer service makes it one of my all time favorite hotels I’ve ever stayed at. 

We spent the afternoon swimming in the pool, relaxing, and taking naps. As good as the kids have been, the 14 hour time change is pretty brutal. All three girls passed out after swimming, and when it was time to wake them up for dinner, none of them wanted to get up. It took lots of poking and prodding to rouse them out of bed. For dinner, we went to this huge banquet hall that served a buffet dinner (I know! But this time the husband stayed away from any and all raw seafood) and put on a traditional Cambodian dance show. This time it was Erin’s turn to fall asleep at dinner. 

The next morning was our first day to visit the temples.

Welcome to Angkor Wat
Welcome to Angkor Wat

It was also the first day of the Cambodian New Year. We knew it would be busy, but we had no idea just how many people would descend on Siem Reap. We got our first taste when we arrived at Angkor Wat, which is the biggest and best known of the Cambodian ancient temples. It was crowded not just with foreign tourists like us, but also thousands of Cambodians celebrating the 3-day New Year.

Preparing for the New Year Festival at Angkor Wat
Preparing for the New Year Festival at Angkor Wat

At 8:30 a.m. Angkor Wat was already packed with people. Thank goodness for our tour guide who helped us navigate through the masses. The guide peppered us with fantastic history of Angkor Wat, but most of it was lost on the kids, with the exception of Erin who listened with great interest about the wall carvings depicting war scenes.  Olivia may not have been into the history, but she was totally into the photography of Angkor Wat. That meant she didn’t want us taking any pictures of her.

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Angkor Wat wall carving

Two of the 3 girls willingly posed for pictures

 

Or maybe that was just her ‘tweendom coming out. After about 1 1/2 hours at Angkor Wat, the heat was getting to the kids and the husband, and the crowds were getting to me.

We decided to cut the tour short and resume in the afternoon with a stop at Ta Prohm,

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also known as the Tomb Raider temple because it was featured in the Angelina Jolie movie.

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It’s not just famous for the movie, but also for the huge trees and their massive vines that have grown in and around it. It’s interesting to see how much has changed at these temples in just five years. These temples were left untouched for centuries, but now that they have become tourist destinations, the wear and tear has taken its toll, so a big conservation effort is underway to restore them.

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That means removing many of the iconic trees, which if left untouched would cause Ta Prohm to crumble even more than it already has. The renovations also caused many areas that we saw five years ago to be roped off this time around. 

I’ve got to hand it to the husband. He felt terrible and should have stayed back at the hotel, but he didn’t want us to go alone, so he ventured out. In addition to the bad stomach, he had a bad reaction to the antibiotics, causing his glands, tongue and face to swell.  His mom gave him an Alka Seltzer to take for the ride, which in hindsight was probably a mistake. At one point, I looked back at him, and he had his head resting on the back of the seat. He was looking a little green and was groaning a little. I asked if we should pull over and his non-response gave me my answer. The driver quickly pulled over to the side of the road, and husband promptly hurled while his mom rubbed his back. She’s much more nurturing than I am. He said he did feel better, and made it through the tour of Ta Prohm. He opted out for dinner so he could get some peace, quiet, and some rest. When we returned around 8 p.m., he was dead asleep.

The next day, the husband thankfully felt much better, and we took a two hour van ride to Phnom Kulen, which is a mountain region complete with a reclining Budha, a river with lingas (phallic carvings) carved into the river bed, and a beautiful waterfall complete with a flowered swing. We came here five years ago as well, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. This time, not so much. It turns out, we weren’t the only ones with the grand idea to head up to the mountain. Since the Cambodian New Year is a national holiday, literally thousands of other people also ventured up the bumpy dirt road. At least we were in an air-conditioned van. Many people drove mopeds, carrying several people on it. Others packed so tightly into trucks, cars, and vans, it was a wonder they made it up the mountain. I was as awestruck at the number of people as I was at the Reclining Budha,

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and since I was one of the few Westerners at Mount Kulen, people looked at me awestruck.  People pushed and shoved their way to the top of the stairs to see the Reclining Budha,

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which seems the opposite of what you should do when paying respects to a Budha. We finally made it to the top, patted its head,

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and made our way back down. By this time, we were ready to enjoy the river and the waterfall, but the place was far from serene. 

A sea of people
A sea of people

There were people everywhere, along with their trash. At one point, a wooden bridge filled with people popped, and I was convinced it was going to plunge into the water. By some miracle, it didn’t. Knowing that to get to the waterfall, we would have to take a precarious hike, we decided not to push our luck, instead pushing our way through the crowds of people back to our van. There was only one problem. To get to Phnom Kulen, you take a dirt road that goes only one way. We had to wait for the police to stop people from coming up so we could go back down. That was supposed to happen at 12:30, but didn’t happen until 1:30. Then, with the thousands of people all trying to get out one way, it took us two hours to move a quarter of a mile. I’m far from a patient person, but the zen of the Reclining Budha must have had an effect on me because I didn’t lose it. I sat in the back of the van with Erin peeling and eating Kulen fruit, which are kind of like lychee, and have a sweet and sour taste. 

Kulen fruit
Kulen fruit

I’d compare it to a sour gummy bear with a big pit in the middle. By the end of the neverending van ride, I became a master at peeling the fruit and getting all the flesh off the pit. 


The kids wanted to head right back to the hotel after the van ride, but I wanted to check out another temple, Banteay Srei.

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It was just a small detour, and it’s a beautiful temple made out of sandstone well worth seeing. I’m sure when the kids are adults they’ll appreciate us taking them to yet another temple after such a horrific van ride down from the mountain right?

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After surviving the Phnom Kulen adventure, we decided to torture ourselves and the kids even more with a 4:15 a.m. wake-up call so we could see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Hey, everyone’s body clock is so messed up already, we didn’t see any harm in rousing them at o’crack hundred hours. This hotel is so kick-ass in its customer service that even though the restaurant wasn’t open, they set out pastries, coffee and tea, and sent us on our way with to-go breakfasts. The pastries were a god send for us because they placated the kids, and either they were on a sugar rush or so sleep deprived that they didn’t complain about the early morning adventure. Even at 5 a.m. it’s hot here. At least it wasn’t oppressively hot. At least not yet. By this time, we knew we’d have plenty of company at Angkor Wat, even at sunrise, and we were right.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise
Angkor Wat at Sunrise

The place was filled with amateur photographers who lined the moat leading into the temple. This included my budding photographer who’s face lit up as much as the sun did, as she snapped away on her point and shoot camera.

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As early as it was, I’m so glad we did this. It was truly a spectacular sight to see the sun rising up over Angkor Wat.

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We did a little more exploring of Angkor Wat

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and the kids did their best Apsara poses before we headed out.

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By this time, my shirt was soaked with sweat, and it was barely after 7 a.m. 

We still had to see the Bayon, which is a magnificent Buddhist temple filled with the faces of Buddha. IMG_9876

As iconic and beautiful as Angkor Wat is, the Bayon is my favorite.  There’s just something about seeing all those faces from multiple angles that captures my attention.

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Unfortunately it didn’t capture the girls’ attention as much as it did mine, and the only way we got them to pose for pictures was through threats of taking away privileges.

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If the girls would have had their way, we would have ended our temple tour after the Bayon, but I wanted to see a couple more, namely the Terrace of the Elephants and the Baphoun, which recently reopened after renovation. The kids didn’t get too far. They were hot and tired, but I got a closer look at Baphoun.

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After climbing and climbing and climbing I made it to the top.

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Well worth the climb and gallon of sweat that came out of me while trudging up the many steps.

By 9 a.m., we were hot and templed out for the day. I know I’ve written a lot about the heat and humidity, I don’t think I’ve experienced weather this steamy before. Not in Minnesota or Missouri in the Summer. Not even Corpus Christi, Texas. 

Even though this trip to Cambodia has been vastly different from the one five years earlier, it has been unforgettable. The girls have truly embraced their Cambodian culture and even said they would like to live here, although I think Carrie only wants to move here because she thinks she wouldn’t have to go to school. Once we told her she’d have to go to school here too, she was a little less than enthused. 
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6 and Sassy!

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To Carrie on your 6th Birthday:
You’ve been counting down the days for weeks. Every day you ask, “Mom, how many days until my birthday?” About 10 days ago, you stopped asking and just started telling anyone and everyone that would listen that your birthday is coming up. Well today it’s here…. well kind of. You get the benefit of celebrating early since we’re in Cambodia for your birthday.

You’ve had quite the year, filled with amazing milestones, memories, and a few meltdowns along the way. You graduated preschool and started kindergarten. Bit by bit, you’ve started reading in English and Spanish, although you keep reminding me that Spanish is easier to read than English. Have faith kiddo, at some point, probably in the near future, something will click in your brain, and reading in English will be a snap. You’re not just reading in Spanish, but you’re also starting to speak and understand it too. I’m mighty impressed with all that you’ve learned in school this year, mighty impressed.

Last year, you were still trying to master riding a bicycle. This year? You’ve got it down and can hold your own with your sisters when we go on family bike rides. You try with all your might to keep up with Olivia and Erin, but give it time. They’ve got a few years and inches on you. When you’re not riding on two wheels, you roll on four wheels with your new skateboard. I love watching as you push off and cruise down the sidewalk. At school, you’re a regular monkey who swings so much on monkey bars that you get huge calluses on your hands.

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You also manage to make me laugh on a daily basis. It makes all the laugh lines around my eyes worth it. You’ve even created an alter ego for yourself. Her name? Carrie Martinez and she’s from Cary Texas. She even has her own language.

While Olivia is all about taking pictures, you’re all about being in pictures. You are not shy about striking a pose whether we ask you or not.

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I don’t know where you got your voice, but you sing better than anyone in our family. As much as I love hearing you sing however, I’d be happy for you to let go of “Let it Go.” You can’t get enough of that song, and you go on YouTube looking for versions in every language imaginable.

You are one creative, sweet, and sassy kid, and I can’t wait to see what this next year has in store.

I love you!
Mom