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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
After this excursion, jet lag really set in and the two younger girls barely made it through dinner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The girls loved it, and a fall early on didn’t stop Erin.
Full disclosure time. Yes, Erin and Olivia powered through the mountain bike. Carrie? She was attached to the husband’s bike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We held off as long as we could could. We really did. Here’s the thing about ‘tweens though. They can just wear you down. So, after much begging, much pleading, and many promises from our 11-year old, the husband and I finally relented. We now have a texting ‘tween. With limits.
She’s been using one of our old iPhones for awhile, but it’s basically an iPod touch. There’s no phone number or data attached to it, just wifi. The husband did some research and decided to install the Pinger app, which only works with wifi. It’s baby steps, but still feels like a ginormous leap into the great ‘tween technology unknown.
Could we have waited? Of course. Should we have waited? We’ll see.
The husband and I did make ourselves feel a little bit better about our decision by crafting a texting contract and making Olivia sign it.
It’s now got prime real estate on the refrigerator next to the class photos and works of art.
Below, you’ll see the rules in black and white.
We wrote it knowing full well she’ll break the rules and her fingers will twitch from texting withdrawals. It didn’t take long. Two days to be exact. This time, it was a small infraction, and it’s now in my possession for 24 hours.
Wish us luck with our first foray into ‘tween texting. We’re going to need it.
We spent the final two and half days of our trip back in Phnom Penh, but not before a great birthday sendoff in Siem Reap for Carrie. The Shanti Mani once again went above and beyond in its awesome customer service by decorating a swing in balloons for the young birthday girl and giving her a cake.
She was one happy camper!
We then boarded a plane again and headed back to Cambodia’s capital city. Stomach ailments seems to be a recurring theme for this trip, and this day hit me and Olivia, so we stayed back at the hotel while the husband took the other two kids on a culinary adventure. Leading up to this trip, Erin talked a lot about wanting to eat a bug while in Cambodia. Apparently a boy in her class saw a TV show where people in Cambodia ate bugs, which prompted one of her friends to dare her to eat one. If you know my daughter, you know she’s almost always up for a challenge, especially if it involves food, so a cousin took them to the Central Market in search of bugs.
They saw lots of food at the market, but alas no bugs. This didn’t stop them though. They were on a mission, and they were going to find and eat bugs. Eventually, they found a couple of kids selling all different kinds of deep fried bugs along the river.
Now they had to choose which bugs to consume.
Erin tells me they chose the crickets because they were the smallest. Knowing they had to document the event, the husband had his cousin videotape it as proof.
Misson accomplished! Erin apparently even asked for seconds.
When that girl likes something she really likes it. Case in point? Her hat that she only took off her head when sleeping.
After much bargaining and negotiating at one of the many souvenir stands, Grandma Meak bought it for her on our first day in Angkor Wat. She loved that hat, and not only used it as an accessory, but also as a wallet. She kept two Riels (Cambodian currency worth a few cents in American dollars) under it. I’ve got to say, few people can rock a white straw hat like this girl. It works a lot better than using headbands to cover up a botched bang cutting job I did several weeks ago. She even wore it for her little sister’s birthday party, which her grandparents so generously threw for her.
Yep, that’s how we roll. Two birthday cakes in one day.
While birthdays are celebrated virtually the same way around the world, other things are vastly different. Take zoos for example. The one we visited in Cambodia was nothing like I have ever seen and neither was our drive. Much of it was a dirt road, or the road was only half paved. It’s amazing to me how rural the country is just a few kilometers outside of Phnom Penh. On the drive to the zoo, my father-in-law explained more of the history and politics as we passed by dozens of garment factories.
The only thing similar to the zoos in the U.S. is that most of animals are caged. Most. Not all.
Take a good look at that photo. That momma monkey and her baby escaped their cage and no one cared. Part of me thinks they’re not really part of the zoo and set up their home here because they know people will feed them.
We saw plenty of people feeding the animals through the fences, but there were no signs warning visitors to avoid feeding them snacks. Even when the animals were fenced into enclosures, we got up close and personal.
No zoom needed get get good shots of the elephant or any other animals at the zoo for that matter.
It also looked like the animals for the most part were in their native elements. There was no sanitizing the zoo. There were animals and that’s it. Well except for the trash. There was lots of trash.
But you know what? The animals didn’t seem to care and from the looks of things, neither did the rest of the visitors.
Our final night of vacation ended with a river cruise on the Mekong and Tonle Sap. I don’t know what it is about being on the water, but it makes everything feel at least a little bit cooler.It also helped that we hopped on the boat at sunset, making for some pretty spectacular photos.
Even with the illnesses, the long flights, and continuing jet lag three days after we’ve returned, it was all worth it. I’d do this same trip again in a heartbeat. I’m so proud of the kids who embraced their Cambodian culture and hopefully sparked a life long love of international travel.
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,
nice clean rooms, and a restaurant with cool outdoor swings,
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.
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.
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.
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,
also known as the Tomb Raider temple because it was featured in the Angelina Jolie movie.
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.
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,
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
We did a little more exploring of Angkor Wat
and the kids did their best Apsara poses before we headed out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After climbing and climbing and climbing I made it to the top.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We made it! I wasn’t entirely convinced it would happen, when 16 hours before we were set to embark on an 18 hour journey to Cambodia, I came down with the flu. It was awful. I woke up and could barely get out of bed. I had aches. I had pains. I had chills one minute and was drenched in sweat the next. With our flight not leaving San Francisco International Airport until 1:40 a.m. on Thursday morning, I had planned to work on Wednesday. I quickly realized if I had any hope of getting on the plane with the rest of my family, I’d have to call in sick so I could get some potent meds and sleep. The husband took pity on me and not only finished the last-minute packing, but also sat with the three girls on our first leg of our flight from SFO to Taipei. That allowed me to pop a nighttime cold and flu pill and sleep on and off for a good four to five hours. When I woke up, I was far from 100%, but way better than I was when we left our home.
The girls so far on this trip have proven to be travel warriors. That’s not to say we haven’t had our fair share of whining and fighting, but given the long 18 hour travel journey, the 14 hour time difference, and the oppressive heat and humidity, they have surprised and amazed me at their resilance and all around good attitudes. When we landed at Phnom Penh airport it was 10 a.m. Friday morning, and 8 p.m. California time. The girls and us had no concept of time, but we were all excited to have made it all in one piece. The husband has countless aunts, uncles, and cousins who live here, and many met us at the airport. I tried for a time to remember all their names and how everyone is related, but eventually gave up. From the airport, we went to lunch, and somehow everyone stayed awake and made it through the meal. Then we headed to the hotel and the girls got a second wind and went for a swim. When we came to Cambodia five years ago with Olivia, the time jet lag eventually caught up with her and she never made it through dinner, so we opted to go for the hotel seafood buffet for dinner this time around. Carrie followed in her big sister’s footsteps, and never made it to dinner. She slept in the chair, while the rest of us ate.
The next morning we awoke around 5 a.m., grabbed breakfast, and then headed out to the Royal Palace.
It was grand and opulent, but unfortunately, some of the more ornate rooms were closed off to the public. It was also hot and humid, and Cambodian custom requires visitors to the Palace to wear sleeves and shorts have to go at least to the knees. I’m not sure if the kids were too jet lagged to complain, but they obliged wearing the long pants without complaint.
We also checked out the Cambodian History Museum, but the kids were less than impressed. They may have had more appreciation for it, if the museum was air conditioned, but the only time any of them perked up, was when Erin saw the weapons room. By this time, the kids were ready to get out of the heat, so we headed to lunch at another relative’s restaurant. Many other family members met us there and our family pretty much took over the entire place. This was about the time the husband started feeling sick. I originally thought I gave him the flu, but nope, it wasn’t the flu. It was food poisoning, likely from eating raw oysters at the seafood buffet one night earlier. At least he made it back to the hotel before feeling the full effects. The poor guy was down for the count, and we were scheduled to get on another plane the next morning for Siem Reap. A doctor who came to check him out wanted to hook him up to an IV filled with fluids and antibiotics, but he opted for oral antibiotics and sleep instead. By morning, he still didn’t feel good, but was well enough to get back on a plane.
We were hoping the worst was over for him and he’d be raring to go when we explored the ancient temples. That’s where we would begin the second phase of our great Cambodian spring break vacation.
In years past, I’ve looked back on the amazing year you’ve had. This year though, I’m changing things up. I’m looking at what you have to look forward to in these next 365 days, and I’m convinced you’re going to make the most of the 525,600 minutes. Yes, there really are that many minutes in one year. It’s also a great song from the Broadway musical Rent.
It’s going to be an EPIC year. In just a week, you’re going to get to show your sisters around Cambodia. I’m sure you’re going to relish in the role of tour guide, and even if you don’t remember much about the last time you were there, you’ll act like you do.
Just remember to be easy on them. It’s brand new for them and they may be a bit nervous.
This year, you’re also going to graduate from elementary school. Yes, graduate! In just a few months, you will have made it through six glorious years at Adelante. You will leave with lasting memories and a fluency in Spanish. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at how easily you embraced the challenge of learning a new language. Now if you could only master your spelling. Then, you’re going to be off to Middle School. Middle School! It will be a brand new school with brand new friends. Sure, it will be an adjustment, but you’ve proven time and again you can handle new challenges.
You’ve done great so far adjusting to the many changes your body has started to go through, (well, except for that eyebrow shaving incident) but I promise this is the only thing I’ll write about puberty. Ok, you can stop rolling your eyes at me now.
I’m 100% certain you’ll continue cooking in this upcoming year. Well, that is if you actually learn how to clean up after one of your culinary creations. As I write this, Dad is cleaning the kitchen after you made your own birthday cake. Baking your own cake?
Way cool! Leaving a trail of sticky powder sugar everywhere? Not cool.
I know you’ve been campaigning hard to get your own room. You’ve written requests and begged and pleaded. Time will only tell if Dad and I relent, but you know what you have to do to convince us. It’s all about the number 4. Lots of them!
You’ve surprised me plenty in your 10th year and I’ve got no doubt that you’ll keep me laughing and occasionally yelling in your 11th year too.Happy Birthday, kiddo! I love you more than you’ll ever know.
A hair stylist I am not. It’s obvious after you take one look at my out of control frizzy curls. On weekends I throw it into a puff-ball ponytail, and during the week I walk around with wet or damp hair for a good part of the morning. But this post is not about me and my bad hair. It’s about my daughter’s, and it’s all my fault. Let me preface by saying I meant to only trim her bangs. They were long and getting in her eyes, and I wanted to save the fifteen to twenty bucks I’d have to spend to take her to a professional. It’s just bangs, I thought. I can do this.
We walked upstairs to the bathroom and I pulled out some scissors. Erin, in all her wisdom was talking me through the bang cutting. “Mom,” she said. “You need to comb the bangs away from the rest of the hair.” Right. Now where was the comb? I remember seeing it downstairs next to the big-headed Barbie, so I sent Erin down to get it. In hindsight, maybe I should have experimented on the Barbie’s fake hair before snipping my daughter’s real beautiful brown hair. She returned with the comb and I set out to work. I grabbed her bangs between two fingers and cut. Easy. No problem. Until I looked at what bangs remained. They were a good 1/2 inch above her eyebrows. Erin took one look at my face and turned to look in the mirror. First she laughed. Then she cried. Then she ran downstairs and flung herself on the couch sobbing. I ran after her apologizing over and over. It was no use. I asked what I could do to make her forgive me, besides never cutting her hair again. Ice cream she said. Smart kid. I then found headbands and bobby pins and explained we could pin or put her hair back until her bangs grew back.
I also took her to the drug store to buy some head bands.
The ice cream and new head bands seemed to do the trick. She even let me take a picture to show my friend Vicky, who also cut her daughter’s hair.