September 2012

Officially an earthling: Nine months in, and now nine months out.

  • Communicating.  Hazel has started signing!  Her current ASL vocabulary includes: more, all done, water, what?, and sleepy.  She also waves hi, bye-bye and claps for herself at every opportunity.  Vocally, she clearly says dada and mama (or it might be ma for Miles), and I swear I have heard (ba)nana, bye, hi and (wa)water.  She also clearly has the pick-me-up sign down, and lots and lots of head shaking for no and bouncing with kicking feet and flailing arms for yes.  Pretty fun to have her talking to us this early.
  • Moving.  This girl is off, and up, and cruising.  Her crawl is quick, but still employs only the right foot as a propellor with the left knee shuffling along.  She stands up at every opportunity, especially to see what interesting things are going down the toilet.  She’s let go a few times, standing independently for a few seconds before plopping down.  I doubt she will be a 10-month walker like her bro, but she may surprise us.
  • Temperament.  She started off in this world kicking and screaming (and screaming) only to calm down and be super chill for a few months.  She is still pretty mellow, but has added a very nice element of happiness to her every day, giving us lots of smiles (more often than not-finally!) and even some great kisses.  She is fiercely determined in certain situations and her protests are infrequent but not to be taken lightly.  A metaphor: when she encounters a stacked tower, she will not Godzilla the thing, but will carefully remove the top block leaving the structure shorter, but in tact.  The look of concentration on her face is priceless.  Must break out video camera.
  • Eating.  OK, this girl is big.  Her limbs have slimmed down a bit, but her bald head and belly still scream “buddha”.  She loves her food.  Pretty much everything goes right down the hatch, so I can’t even call out favorites, although she does get pretty excited for some nori sheets (seaweed).  I give her a good mix of spoon feeding and self-feeding (when I don’t feel lazy to clean up).  She’s vegan, making the usual exceptions for butter, bacon and breastmilk.  She is still nursing strong 5 times a day, and chugging a bottle of expressed milk before bed.
  • Sleep.  No big changes, except we learned she really sleeps best at home.  Six nights away turned her back into a newborn in terms of waking up during the night.  Back in her bed and she was right as rain in no time.  Wondering how next month’s trip to the states will go…
  • Still…No teeth and not too much hair.  Maybe next month.

With Tim as the photographer, and always behind the camera, it’s a bit hard to get good family portraits on vacation.  I like this one, cheez and all:

Not only is he the photographer, Tim’s an artist!

The next two photos are two sides of the same coin called “traveling with kids”.  I can’t decide which is better, but both are so so accurate it hurts.

Idyllic Life.

Tim is not in the photo, but I am actually communicating with him through my eyes. 

When the Grigers started planning their Malaysian vacation, we knew it was a good opportunity to get something really fun on the calendar.  We’d spent the last few months not traveling, so the anticipation made for a lot of excitement and high expectations.  This was our second visit to Borneo, and what we experienced greatly exceeded our high expectations.

We flew from Penang to Sandakan, a city on the north east coast of Sabah and famous for being the starting point of the Australian death marches during WWII.  We didn’t stay in town long.  Our guide picked us up early the first morning and took us to Sepilok, an orangutan rehabilitation center about 40 minutes drive from town.  We spent a few hours learning about the apes and walking out to a feeding spot.  Unfortunately, only one of the long-armed primates met us there, but he impressed with his yogic poses and acrobatic feats.

From there, we drove down a construction-site studded highway (Miles was in heaven) to the Kinabatangan River.  This deep red muddy river was previously heavily logged, but recent times have brought rehabilitation to the jungle along with protection for the virgin areas remaining.  It is said to be the highest concentration of wildlife in Southeast Asia. Our accommodation was a 5 minute boat ride across the river to an eco lodge built on stilts in the jungle.  There were just 12 huts and they served all our food.  The staff was great, the rooms spacious and cool, even when the power was out at night.  We couldn’t figure out how it was so cool in the jungle, but it truly was pleasant.  Even the mosquitoes weren’t horrible. Each day, for 2 days, we took a morning and late afternoon cruise along the river, it was almost as if our schedule was planned around naptime.  For me, there is nothing better than being on a boat first thing in the morning.  Miles called our wildlife guide “driver man” (this trip proved there really is a “man” for everything).  Driver man was a serious birder, and knew all the secret spots for finding animals.  Luckily, another rider on our boat (half a couple who had to join us – sorry for them) was also really good at spotting.  We saw proboscis monkeys, pig tailed and long tailed macaques, lizards, birds (so many birds), snakes, and fish.  I loved how the animals seemed just as fascinated at seeing us as we were seeing them.  There was no aggression from the monkeys that I expect in Penang, which was a great change of pace, and they were so fun to watch.  Amazing to me was how into wildlife spotting even the kids were.  Miles is obviously at an age where he gets excited about animals, but even Hazel found herself entranced watching the monkeys play in the forest.  For us parents, watching the kids rivaled watching the wildlife.

Our next stop was the highly anticipated “Turtle Island”.  Actually called Lankayan, this tiny spec out at sea can be circumnavigated by foot in 20 minutes.  Sea turtles had been coming here for centuries to lay their eggs and that is just what we came to see.  I was nervous about the boat ride, but the 90 minute trip out there was smooth.  I don’t know how, but all the kids fell asleep on the ride.  They pretty much fell asleep every time we got on a boat or in the car, which was nice.  Anyway, we got dropped off at the end of this jetty that had a dive shop and a helipad.  The dock was built out over a coral reef.  The sun was shining, the water clear clear blue and we felt we landed in paradise.  The little cabin we had was privately secluded in the jungle, but just a step to the beach and 5 minutes walk to the gorgeous new open air restaurant out on another long jetty.  The resort itself wasn’t very ready for kids (in fact, we had to sign waivers to get our under-2s out to the island), but with a beach and sea turtles, who needs high chairs?  The three days we spent were filled with playing on the beach, eating delicious food, snorkeling and of course sea turtles.

The first night, we were feeding the kids dinner around 6pm and a staff member came to inform us a nest was hatching.  We ran to the hatchery and saw not only one, but 4 nests of about 90 turtles each hatch at sunset.  Miles was over excited, exclaming “another baby turtle!” “so many turtles” and “my babies!”.  The staff were sweet and let him get right in front, touch a turtle, help carry the bucket of scurrying turtles down to the sea, and help tip it out to watch them make their way to the ocean.  These little guys are amazing to watch; they know where to go.  I won’t mention the baby reef sharks that patrol the shoreline at dusk.  This amazing phenomenon happened each night at sunset and two mornings at sunrise.  We did not tire of it.  We also had a very similar experience to the turtle book we’d been reading for a few year (thanks, Auntie Elaine!).  In Baby Turtle’s Tale, one turtle hatches late and has to make it down the beach and out to see by himself.  One afternoon, Miles was having a rough patch so we went to see the nests.  Lo and behold, a late baby turtle!  We called the scientists and they helped us release the turtle.  I splashed around to avoid reef shark incident.  Miles saved a turtle (and it saved his mood)!  Unfortunately we never saw a momma nesting (after dark, the beach was off limits unless you put out a sign asking the staff to wake you.  We did not put out the sign), but one morning we did wake to find an obvious track from  a momma turtle right in front of our cabin!  I realized then why everything is built on stilts and there are raised walkways. A walk around the island that morning showed at least 10 turtles who had come ashore the night before.  Then the best part – I donned my snorkel and mask and went out for a little swim, and ran right into a huge turtle!  I followed it for 15 minutes until I tried to swap with Tim and lost track of her.  Still a highlight.

Finally, it was time to go home.  We were all pretty ready for our routine again.  Amazingly, every transfer by car, boat and plane was on schedule and there were no major meltdowns or illnesses (Hazel gave us a scare with a throat infection the day before we were scheduled to depart, but we were able to get her in to the doc in time and she was fine).  We had such a good time traveling with our friends and having all the kiddos together.

Who needs women’s magazines to tell you how to dress when you have a 2.5 yr old?  Some recent classics:

“You goin to yoga, momma?” (No, I was going out for dinner. Should I change?)

“You got sum’pin in you eye, momma?” (that’ll be makeup)

“Momma, you got litta-bitta beard on you leg?”

“What’s that smell?” (My new jasmine essential oil perfume, Miles.)

“Woah…what’s THAT? Can I touch it just a little bit?” (Hot rollers, and since they are now cool, go ahead.)

We’ve spent the last 5 months in Penang. Our passports have remained in the safe, and nary a boarding pass has crossed our palms. We’ve slept in our own beds, every night.  The kids took every nap in their blackout-curtained rooms.  The sun has risen at 7am and set at 7pm Malaysian Standard Time every day.  Miles, our traveling teether, even managed to squeeze out two teeth at home (guessing he couldn’t hold those molars back).  If you’re used to reading our trip reports, you might think the last few months have been pretty boring.

Not so.  It’s been almost like a vacation, but one where the kids sleep much better.  (The fact that we live on a tropical island may help it feel like a vacation a little more).  The relaxing summer has been really nice: Tim and I have splurged a bit more on nights out and babysitters, and we’ve really enjoyed regular breakfasts by the pool, spontaneous trips to the beach, and a bit of hiking in the jungle.

The travel drought ends Thursday, when we board a budget plane once again for Borneo and enjoy two days of orangutan river safari followed by four days of sea-turtle-marine-sanctuary-middle-of-ocean island time.  Adding to the mix: two good friends from Austin and their 16 month old.  As much as we loved the time “off”, I am ready to wield my passport again.  Here we go!