February 2013


Introducing…our newest toddler.  A walking, talking person.  Can you imagine!??!

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  • Walking, yes.  And climbing and sliding and dancing and even some crazy attempts at running.
  • Talking, too!  Last month’s silence was replaced by a blabbermouth and signing everything.  “UP!” is her clearest articulation (Momma closely follows), but all sorts of syllables come out of her mouth.  My favorite is her word for bread, which looks and sounds like she is gagging on the said subject. Brrlaugh.  Lots of signs too – please, thank you, sleepy, hungry, water, more (using just thumbs – cute!), I love you, hat (see also: glasses), bird, etc.
  • Bookworm.  Hazel’s favorite activity for a while has been to empty the bookshelf.  Now, she spends endles time emptying it one book at a time, taking them down and “reading each one”.  She will grab a book and perch in the story chair and read to herself.  Or babble through a tale.  There are 2 books she can “read” completely.  “Moo, Baa, La La La” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?”.  These she completes through animal sounds.  I should mention her animal sound vocabulary is extensive, from sheep to rhinoceros, with differentiation for large and small dogs.  My favorite is fish.
  • Happiest Toddler on the Block?  Last month she was certainly in contention.  She is still super chill, loves to play independently and is generally happy, but there is a bit of feistiness coming out.  If she wants something, look out.  She’s going to let you know and will make a big fuss until she gets it.  This little window to her personality is telling, it has stubbornness written all over it (where would she get that from?).
  • Eating & Sleeping. Current status is: nursing is still on.  It was touch and go for a couple weeks while I was away, then she refused, then I stopped, then she wanted it.  Anyway, not sure it is a large part of her nutrition any more, but she still goes for 2-3 sessions a day.  She still eats very well (still with only 2 teeth!), but has become a bit more picky and can’t handle it if there is something more appealing on the table (brrrlaugh, for instance).  The sad news in the sleeping front is that Hazel is dropping the morning nap, and currently takes about 20 minutes only in the stroller each morning (forced, to keep her sane through lunch).  With Miles dropping his nap too, this means I end up with no momma time.  Night sleeps are solid 11-12 hours, for which I am very thankful.
  • Activity!  A step above getting lugged around to all of Miles’ activities, Hazel is now participating in her own.  She loves to swim, floating around in a simple little swim ring, singing songs in the water.  Music is such a joy, she loves to “sing”, dance and act out songs (Humpty Dumpty, This Little Piggy), and play instruments.  We are hoping to get some classes going with some baby friends for each of these soon.
  • Nicknames.  Hazel has moved on from the “Bazel” name of yesteryear, and is onto some new names now.  Among them: Little love, Lovely Bones, Hazel-Tale, Hazy Lou, and Baby Thing.  I love it when Miles comes and informs me: “Little Love is awake!”  Speaking of…the time to update is over!
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I love this photo.

(Tim will not love that I posted it, it is only a “two star”, although it is a great photo of Grandma Linda.)

Anyway, I think it pretty much hits motherhood on the head.  Or lack there of.  Sometimes, I feel like I am just a body – a holding, cleaning, feeding, cooking, picking-up, lugging, washing, comforting lap.  There are times I miss having adult conversation, or being rested or focused enough to have one when the opportunity arises.  And at times I miss thinking about difficult issues and solving complex technical problems.  Basically, I miss using my noggin.

At the same time, I am pretty proud of that body, my pedestal for an expensive, over-educated brain.  I am proud of the things I can physically do, from carrying 3 bags and 2 bikes while holding 2 hands into the elevator and down to the pool to pushing a double stroller loaded down with one kid and the market’s worth of groceries with the other kid (who got evicted due to tender fruit she would squash) in the Ergo on my back, to market and back before 8am.  And that I can run, and swim and play with ease and without pain.

I think it’s a common mom complaint that our longest word for the day was 3-syllables and we “solved” a complex cycle on the washing machine, but I want to turn it around and be proud of the daily physical accomplishment of a mom.  Just for a minute, before I crash this old bag of bones into bed.

(Also, another apology to Tim for use of this unprocessed photo – I can’t blame you for missing my head, it seems way up there compared to these shrimps I am walking with!)

Grandma Linda came to visit for one month!  She started off celebrating Miles birthday, then had a special week with Hazel while the rest of us skipped the country.  They had a great time learning each other’s routines, playing toys, reading, reading, reading, and going up to Coffee Bean for Grandma’s caffeine fix.  When we got back, Miles and Linda bonded over more books, toys, and some special outings to the zoo and fireflies.  Linda stayed for my birthday and hers too, and we did a cooking class (which Miles came along to as well).  The Chinese New Year fireworks were just starting when she had to go back to cold Colorado.  It was truly a great visit, and we miss Grandma Linda!

Tim and I had each been to Siem Reap (pronounced ree-ap) before.  I had arrived by boat, and remember being picked up at a dusty dock by a motorbike driver named Vy who was holding a sign with my name on it.  The guesthouse I had stayed in the night before in Phnom Phen had called ahead and arranged for me to stay at his buddy’s place.  I spent the next 3 days cruising around behind Vy, visiting temples and talking endlessly (even while driving) about his experience with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  The food was not remarkable (I ate $1 ramen with vegetables for almost every meal) and was unimpressed with the town, but the temples and people shone. The first big hotel was under construction at that time in 2002.

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We flew in this time, and were also met by a driver with a sign.  This time we hopped aboard an air-con Mercedes mini van bound for a boutique hotel.  On the way, we passed countless hotels, all with names like “The Angkor Empress” and replica statues of gods of Angkor.  There were Korean hotels surrounded by Korean restaurants, Japanese hotels with Japanese restaurants.  Town features a pub street with very cheap beer and wood fired pizzas on most menus.  Signs boast “since 2004”.  Luckily, we breezed past all this and were deposited (one of us asleep) onto the fan-cooled, open-walled reception of Siddhartha Boutique Hotel.  We were assigned a tuk-tuk driver, ordered decent room service while Miles slept off the journey, and relaxed into a rhythm that would take us through our time in Cambodia.

Miles and I chilled beside the salt-water pool in the afternoon while Tim took our tuk-tuk the 5km to the temples entrance and caught sunset.  He’d pick us up and drop off the camera and we’d head into town for dinner.  Back home and in bed early so Tim could head off for more photo-ops at sunrise while Miles and I had breakfast, the driver would come back for us and we’d all visit temples together until lunch.  Lake-side very passable lunch at one of the restaurants within the Angkor area, then Miles would pass out on the tuk-tuk again and we’d get dropped off at the hotel for rest & swim before sunset opportunity came around again.  Funny how two days can make a routine.

20130126-IMG_4731Even with all the development in hotels and the town, Angkor temples are on such a grand scale they were not in any way over run.  We could find little corners to ourselves even at the most famous temples, and I found I enjoyed them much more this time around.  Miles, not so much.  Suppose he is not at an age for that kind of appreciation.  What he did love was our driver Theo (actually Theaux, pronounced Thurrr, but he couldn’t quite get that), the tuk-tuk, and especially the air conditioned toy store I found as a respite from the crowded markets where the shopkeepers constantly touched his hair and drove him to swinging blows in their direction.

My birthday was the last day of our trip, and we started celebrating early as we would spend most of it waiting or flying.  We went out for a BBQ dinner (yum!) and Tim asked “what should we do for momma’s birthday” to which Miles replied (and quickly retracted): “ride bicycles!”  We hitched onto his idea and went back to the hotel hoping to arrange it.  At 9pm, we requested bikes and they were waiting for us at 8 the next morning.  We whipped through the temples in the morning and around the lake, ending our stay in Siem Reap on a definite high.  The drive back to the airport was on a back road, skipping all the crappy development that had stained our arrival.  We were ready to be home, but not yet ready to leave.  Perfect.

Sign of a good trip: I came home planning our next one.  Sri Lanka in September, here we come!

Back to traveling as a family of 3!  Hazel sat this one out, while Tim, Miles and I spent 8 days between the cities of Luang Prabang, Laos and Siem Reap, Cambodia.  This was a much-anticipated trip (we booked last July!), and a direct itinerary copy from our good friends who did the trip last June.  They had such fun, the expectations were high, but were surpassed by leaps and bounds.  Going with only one kid made it even more of a vacation.  (Tim did bring his baby along, but she was very quiet and good.)

20130122-IMG_3522First stop, Luang Prabang.  Laos was a new country for me and Miles, Tim spent a day or so here on his banana pancake travels in 1999 but didn’t really remember much about it.  LPB is a pretty chill place.  It is small (walkable to everywhere), and there are no big hotels or restaurant chains (yet).  Each day started with the alms giving: a processional of 200 saffron-robed monks collecting the staple sticky rice and other small food offerings from believers who line the streets at dawn.  First we would hear a deep drum, then a pot banging, and the monks would soon come barefoot and silent along the road, opening their metal pots discreetly to accept the offering that would make up their two meals for the day.  Very photogenic, very serene.  By 7:15 it was over and we were settled in the garden of our guesthouse ordering omelets, baguette and coffee for breakfast.  Temps were in the 60s (brrr!) and life felt pretty good. Can you see why we liked it here?

We had two outings planned.  The first was so wonderful, I could have gone straight home after and called it a trip!  It was a “rice experience” put on by the cooperative farm called Living Land Lao.  After 7 years of living in Asia, we finally learned everything there is to growing and harvesting rice.  We germinated seeds, guided a plow behind a water buffalo (one member of our party rode the buffalo), stood knee deep in a paddy to plant seeds and weed, used a sickle to harvest the grain, beat it free of the stalk, removed the husk with a pestle-mortar, sifted it and steamed it.  Then ate it. The guides were fantastic, enthusiastic local young lads (with heavily muscled calves) who loved Miles and took him on as a little mascot.  Certainly a highlight.

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Halfway through our stay, our two-year-old turned three!  For his birthday, he rode an elephant.  And fed the elephant.  And continued to talk about it for the next 2 weeks.  Guess what Miles’ trip highlight was?  We’re going to have a rough time keeping up this level of birthday in the future!

Tim loved the photo ops, Miles loved the elephants, we all loved the rice…my personal highlight was the food.  Who’d have known, Lao food is spectacular!  As I mentioned, the staple is different to other parts of Asia – it is rice, but sticky rice that is formed into balls in the hand and used to soak up the delicious sauce of the dish.  Other key components to the cuisine included buffalo meat, smoked eggplant, tamarind, lemongrass and bitter greens. Oh bitter greens, how I’ve missed thee!  There is also a noodle soup called khao soy that is served all day, even for breakfast, which is a spicy broth with rice noodles, pork mince, and lots of fresh herbs mixed in.  Yum!

We were happy and had full bellies and memory cards, but it was time to go.  Miles had a nearly-tearful goodbye with the guesthouse receptionist (his best buddy in the red shirt), who came in on our last day just to see Miles off (it was his wedding day, can you imagine!).  Time for Cambodia!

Last Sunday night we drove up to the beach for a few hours of sand, volleyball, sunset and dinner.  What a great end to the week!  (Photo credit to Tim’s boss)

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