Carrie’s 11 and Carefree

Happy 11th Birthday, Carrie!

Oh what a year it has been for you! I could go through the laundry list of achievements and accomplishments you’ve reached (which are many!), but this year I want to devote this blog more to who you are as a person.

First off, you’ve got one of the most unique personalities on the planet, which is a good thing! You’re someone who can see the silliness in just about everything, and are the first to defuse a tense situation with a joke, funny face, or ridiculous accent that’s a cross between Russian and Italian.

This usually happens when I’m yelling at one of your sisters or Dad. Clearly, you are someone who does not like conflict, and use humor to put pretty much everyone at ease. It’s hard to stay mad when you hear that crazy accent you made up, and trust me, I try and stay angry.

You’re also someone who could use a little self-confidence boost every now and then. I see all of your potential, whether it’s on the soccer field, playing guitar, or working on your math homework with Daddy, but my wish for you is for you to see it yourself. Every now and then, when you don’t know I’m looking, I see you working things out on your own, sometimes singing a song, sometimes strumming your guitar, or sometimes figuring out a complicated fraction. I see the lightbulb moment and a smile cross your lips knowing you’ve figured it out. It’s at those moments I know you’ll do just fine in life. You just need to believe and have a little more faith in yourself.

You’re someone who does not like silence. At all. As I’m sitting here writing this blog, you’re talking to yourself while working on your homework, pausing only to break out in song (on tune, unlike me or anyone else in our family).

No where was this more apparent than our recent Tahoe trip over Spring Break. We normally paired up together to ride on the chairlift, and during that 8 to 10 minute ride up the mountain, whatever popped into your head came out of your mouth in a non-stop stream of consciousness.

While this could grate on the nerves of some people, it truly is music to my ears (most of the time). You know why? It kind of reminds me of myself. I too have been known to be something of a chatter-box.

We’ve got lots of similarities– good ones– I’d like to believe. You’re more willing than either of your sisters to join me on a hike, with little to no whining.

Just like me, you’re someone that doesn’t like to sit still, unless you’re on your iPad. At times, it can be a little exhausting, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. You kiddo, make life so much more interesting, fun and seriously bring a smile to just about everyone you encounter (except maybe Olivia ☺️).

I love you so very much and look forward to seeing you embrace all of your talents and let more people see what an amazing kid you are!

Love,

Mom

Erin’s 11!

Happy Birthday, E!

You’ve crushed your first year into double digits, kiddo. Way to go!

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This year you’ve been ready for whatever comes your way, be it school, soccer, or plowing through the entire series of “Lemony Snickets and a Series of Unfortunate Events.” As I’m a book lover too, I loved seeing your enthusiasm as you’d finish each book. You’d come into our bedroom way past your bedtime with the biggest smile on your face, talking a million miles a minute about how good the book was, and how you couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series.

And as Daddy is a huge lover of binge watching Netflix, he loved how excited you were counting down until the Lemony Snickets TV series became available to stream online. I got to admit, I took great joy in it too. I’m not sure what I liked more; the show (which was quite entertaining) or watching it with you. You find joy in simple things and it’s infectious.

At the end of this year, you’ll say adios to Adelante, a school you’ve called home for six years and move onto middle school. Middle school! I had to write that twice because I really don’t know how your elementary school career is almost over. I don’t want to say that it happened in the blink of an eye, but it really feels that way. As I write this in the kitchen, I’m looking at your 4th grade class photo hanging on the fridge, and I can’t help but smile. It brings back so many memories. From your decision sometime in 3rd grade to wear only shorts to school, a record that continues to this day, to your anxious excitement waiting for your report cards, you’ve re-written the code for how to do school.

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You’ve got a great posse of friends who have your back, and you’ve got theirs. I remember back when you were in kindergarten, making friends didn’t come easy for you. I even blogged about it, back when I wrote more than just birthday blogs for you and your sisters. You’ve come a long way since then, Erin. You’re comfortable in your own skin and you’ve found a great group of friends who like you just the way you are.

I think one of the reasons why they like you so much is for your kindness. You’re just kind. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got opinions and you don’t sugarcoat them. But….but. Those opinions are never expressed to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel bad. That’s just not in your DNA. You’re simply a keen observer of people and life and you share those observations in a very matter of fact way. It’s a great trait to have. I hope you don’t lose it. Too many people tend to tell people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Staying honest while at the same time staying kind will serve you well. I think our current President could learn a thing or two from you.

You’re good at expressing your opinions, but I’d love to see you express more of your feelings. That’s a hard one, I know. I’m not always good at that either. Happy and silly feelings, you show no problem. It’s the other ones you tend to hold tightly inside of you. But as the Frozen song goes, “Let it go.” Ok, maybe I should have saved that one for Carrie, not you, but you get the idea. I couldn’t think of a good Lady Gaga song that fit.

Now that your braces are off, how about doing your Mom a favor and show off your pearly whites a little more often?  You’ve got an awesome smile and I like seeing it without metal. Let’s just hope you don’t follow in your big sister’s footsteps and have to go for round number two.

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Erin, in this last year, you’ve made me laugh, smile and shake my head in wonder more times than I can count. While you’ve given me lots more laugh lines, you’ve also given me plenty more gray hairs. Thanks for that. As you move full on into your ‘tween years, I can only imagine what’s in store for both of us. One thing’s for certain. It certainly won’t be boring, not with you leading the way.

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I love you, kiddo!

Happy Birthday and I’m glad it finally stopped raining for your birthday!

Mom

 

 

 

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.

 

Texting Tween

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.

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Below, you’ll see the rules in black and white.

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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.

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

 

 

Spring Break in Cambodia Part I

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.

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Next stop, Cambodia!

 

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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.

Good Night!
Good Night!

The next morning we awoke around 5 a.m., grabbed breakfast, and then headed out to the Royal Palace. 

The Royal Palace
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.

All sweat and smiles
All sweat and smiles

 

Feeling hot, hot, hot!
Feeling hot, hot, hot!

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.

Away we go again
Away we go again

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.

Look Who’s 11!

To Olivia on your 11th birthday:

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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.

Look how young you look!
Look how young you look!

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?

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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.

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Mom

Bang Your Head

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.

You can always accessorize
You can always accessorize

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.

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To quote my friend, “She can totally rock it.”

Indeed she can. Indeed she can.