We’re now in the twilight of summer vacation and the start of school is just on the horizon, but there’s a sign of summer that will linger for months to come.
It’s these lovely tan lines my beautiful daughters sport every year. Thanks to months in the pool for swim team and two weeks spent on Minnesota lakes, my girls have some mighty deep and dark lines criss crossing their bodies. They’re lines I look at with admiration and envy. I know even if I spent twice as much time outside and slathered on baby oil (like I did back in high school), instead of SPF 50 sunscreen, I wouldn’t even get close to them. I am and will always be a very white chick. I’ve got two shades. White and red.
I remember spending an obscene amount of time laying out on my best friend’s floating dock in high school, and at the end of the day, the two of us comparing tans in her dad’s mirrored closet doors. Since we’re similar shades of whiteness, it was always a toss up who would come out on top.
These days I’m much more inclined to seek the shade instead of the sun. While I do envy my daughters’ Cambodian skin coloring, the fear of skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots keeps me out of the spotlight. It’s another reason why aging sucks.
The lines also serve as a litmus test of sorts. They prove they jumped into pools, jumped into lakes, and did some of the exact same things I did as a kid. For all the complaints and consternation that kids today don’t have the freedom like I did back in the 70’s and 80’s, these lines show otherwise, and for that I’m smiling big- laugh lines and all.
There’s no way I could ever forget today is your birthday and it’s not just because I gave birth to you. Nope. You’ve been counting down to this day for the last 47 days. That’s quite the countdown. I hope no matter your age, even when you’re as old as I am, you’ll always find joy in your birthday.
You’ve got a way of not only finding joy in the little things, but making that joy contagious. Seeing how excited you’ve been marking off the days until your birthday gave me a smile each and every night. Thank goodness, after a brief disappearance, the birthday countdown magically reappeared.
You can be fiercely independent, spending hours by yourself watching some terrible YouTube videos, but at least for now, you spend your weekends sleeping in the same bed as Erin. Sometimes you want to be as far away as possible as your sisters, but it truly is a sight to see the two of you curled up next to each other. How you two bed hogs manage to sleep an entire night without getting banged and bruised I’ll never know, but please don’t stop.
As loving as you can be with both of your sisters, you’ve got a temper on you, and you’re not afraid to let it loose. When you lose it, it’s a sight to see and hear. You scream. You cry. You throw things. When you’re mad at your sisters, you call them poopy heads. I hope that’s the worst you’ll call them, but I’ve got a feeling as you get older, the choice of words will change.
Last year, you struggled with reading in English. You’ve gone from getting frustrated as you worked on sounding out the words, to actually looking forward to reading to me at night. Your favorite books right now are the A to Z Mystery Series.
For many kids, the rainbow loom phase has come and gone. Not you, though. You’ve not only mastered the basic bracelet, you’re stepping it up by making everything from soda bottles to super heroes. The only problem? We’ve got tiny rubber brands all over the house. I find them in the strangest of places.
You’re one creative, smart, and charming kid. I’ve seen you grow and learn things at an amazing speed in this last year. You’ve surprised me in so many ways this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how you surprise me in your 7th year.
I know I say this every birthday, but this year I really can’t believe how quickly you’ve gone from a tiny baby to a beautiful ‘tween. Sure, some days when you’re rolling your eyes, slamming your bedroom door, and terrorizing your little sisters, time can’t move fast enough for me (and probably you too), but as I sit here writing your birthday blog, it does feel like like you’ve grown in an instant. You’ve grown in size too, although you have not yet passed me up, but I’m expecting it to happen in any moment.
As fast as this year has flown by, you’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things. First and foremost, you’re no longer an elementary school student. You made it to middle school!
You not only made it, you’re thriving. From running cross country and playing soccer, to getting elected to student council, you are a kid who’s a doer.
If given the choice, you’d participate in even more activities. Dad and I don’t give you that choice, not just because we’re worried about you wearing yourself out, we’re worried about wearing ourselves out.
You did manage to wear us down when it came to getting your own bedroom. You begged and begged for months. Your Dad and I finally relented when you came home with all A’s on your report card your first trimester of 6th grade. That proves hard work can bring you big rewards.
You’ve also entered the world of a texting ‘tween. It drives me nuts, but I do see the use in it, and there’s no shortage of amusement at some of the funny texts you send me. From misuse of know vs. now, to writing in emoticons, I will admit the texts do put a smile on my face. Plus, it’s a way to keep tabs on you, even if you’d rather be Miss Independent.
For all that independence, I see glimmers of altruistic acts of love towards your little sisters.
You carry them when needed and feed them with any number of your culinary creations. You’ve got a good heart, even with your sisters. You may not show it all the time, but it’s there. I know it. Your sisters know it too. Why else, when given the choice, do they always choose you to babysit them?
This year hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our differences and we’ve had our fights, but when all is said and done at the end of the night, there’s nothing more I love to do than tiptoe into your room and see you sleeping so peacefully. It takes me back to your newborn days. Days that are long since gone, but feel like they could have just happened.
I know you’re growing up, but try not to grow up too fast kiddo. You’ve got a unique and special sense of childlike wonderment. Try not to lose it. It’s a pretty great quality to have.
So on your 12th birthday, I have many wishes for you. I wish you lots of joy and happiness, but most of all, I wish for you to stay true to yourself. You’re an amazing person. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.