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Lost in 120 Hours

It’s been quiet around here.  Any guesses why?

a).  I’m terrifically bored and lack anything interesting to say.

b).  The kids are slave drivers and keep me too busy to blog.

c).  As the only people on the planet who never watched Lost, my husband and I (stupidly) decided to watch the entire show from episode 1 to episode [gulp] 120.

The answer is (c).

Crazy, right?  Believe me, we have regrets but we can only move forward at this point and make the best of it by consuming good popcorn and excellent beer.  This Lost madness has left little time for late night blogging. *

Truly, this admission is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever written on this blog!  Readers are leaving in droves now.

To woo you into remaining and to force myself to follow through, here are some upcoming posts:

  • When your doula is not invited
  • Hiring a doula as protection
  • A review of the Grovia trainer
  • Cedar turns three
  • “I will not have a homebirth.” Oops.
  • My continuing refusal to be a homeschooler

I’m certain you’re all on the edge of your seats.

Meanwhile, my old fallback:

Adoring: Cedar’s lisp.  Especially when she says, “Smell these flowers, mom.”  Flowers sounds like flylersh.

Listening to:  A mix of broadway and I-don’t-know-how-to-categorize Trampled by Turtles.  Norah fancies the first.  Especially Cats.  Cedar will dance and bellow for hours to the second.

Seriously.  Watch that clip.  It makes me fret that the fiddler is going to collapse.

Proud of:  Norah’s art.  She draws constantly.  She still isn’t very interested in reading but her sketches are amazing.

Never Leaving Home Without:  Hmmm, I don’t have many necessities lately.  A map app?  I’ve had some prenatals in unknown territories.

Learning:  for the 15th time, how to thread my sewing machine.  It is pitiful, really.  I only use it to sew rice socks.  Meanwhile, why are sewing machines so complicated?  We progressed beyond the printing press and the butter churn.  Why is the sewing machine still so complicated!  Also, I need to learn to knit again.  I was at a birth recently that very much needed knitting.  Remember, I never produce anything.  I only knit in circles.  Perhaps someone could cast on and get me started again?

Appreciating:  an amazing massage I received from Blissful Massage Therapy last week.  Hot stones, loving hands, and a listening ear.  My body and soul felt serene.  And I felt somewhat selfish when I left as if she had taken some of my stress into her hands.

Nostalgic about:  Autumn.  I realize it will come again soon.  Still I’ve missed it.  And each Autumn, I remember skipping school to drive to Highlands, NC with my boyfriend.  We would drink fancy hot chocolate, window shop, and dream.  We still return each year to buy a single Christmas ornament but it is different now.  And the hot chocolate shop is gone which has left a hole in our lives.

Reading: The Birth House, The Happiness Project, Stalking the Wild Asparagus“I Love You” Rituals, Rootabaga Stories, and a bazillion old books for Norah.

Buying:  building materials for Scott’s workshop remodel.  Wow, wood is expensive!

Drinking:  coffee, of course.

Working on:  organizational structuring and plans for Upstate BirthNetwork.  Norah will be attending a fine arts program which will give me a weekly day in the UBN office to work.  If I could work it out so Natalie would be there, too, then Cedar and Naima will play while the mamas work.

Wishing:  for a shorter commute for Scott.  Miles and miles he drives now that his office has moved to Mauldin.

Giddy about:  my friend who is soon welcoming her Airman home!!

Feeling:  a familiar dissatisfied tug.  A feeling of impending change.  Go back to outside-of-home work?  Sell the house?  Buy a yurt and move to an intentional community?  Go paleo?  Adopt a pygmy hippo?  Exercise?  Paint my toenails?  Put the kids in school?  Try a new recipe?

Missing:  oh, my sister, my baby sister.  I hate when she’s sick and I can’t be there.  It makes me walk about distracted and irritable.  And my nephew turned TWO!  And also, they are healing at that lovely spot in Thailand.  Really, I need to go take care of them.  And eat yummy Thai food.

Grumpy that:  I say “yes” much too much.

*NO LOST SPOILERS!  That would be cruel and too awful to comprehend.

Play, Pauses, and Tropical what?

I’m sorry I’ve been absent.

Life, you know.  Busy, but also lazy at times.  Beautiful and messy.  A July filled with birthday parties, sleepovers, camps, backyard snakes black and green, learning, meetups, birthy moments, teaching, a few meltdowns (me) and tantrums (kids).

Norah received her first kayak so we’ve spent some days paddling as a family.

School continues.   We do year-round to allow for slumps when we escape to beaches or mountains or simply spend days eating popcorn and watching movies.

There was a giant pause during the last two weeks when it was possible that I would go to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, or Singapore.  My brother-in-law‘s health was dicey and Noelle needed help.  Her sweet soon-to-be two year old was nursing like a newborn round the clock.  In the end, my mom was chosen to go to Singapore.  Her layover in Hong Kong coincided with Typhoon Vicente and after some delay, she arrived.

I have a bad feeling she’s going to inadvertently break a rule like spit out her gum and she will be  fined or caned.

Right now, it looks like my brother-in-law might have Tropical Sprue.  Have you ever heard of this?  Me neither.  I’m fairly certain it is something Ernest Hemingway coined.   Along the lines of malaise or consumption.  It is old-fashioned and tres missionary-esque.  Thankfully, it is treatable.

In the meantime, I attended a birth at which I was entirely superfluous.  While I want that to be the case, it is still hard to admit when I’m not at all necessary.  You know a birth is amazing when the doula isn’t needed.

Speaking of doulas, there is a local doula who needs to attend a birth in August to complete her certification.  Do you know someone who cannot afford a doula or would be willing to invite a doula to serve?

What else?  I have two spaces remaining for my Aug/Sept Hypnobabies class.

Come see me Saturday at the Blessingway!

Ordinary Days

Today was such an ordinary day.  The sort that I imagined when I became a mostly stay-at-home mom.

The girls jumped into my bed at 7:30.  I drank coffee.  They ate pancakes.  I made lists.

We went to the dry cleaners, the library, and the grocery store.

Note to self, when asking the 6 year old to dress the 2 year old, check to make certain the 2 year old is wearing underpants prior to walking into the grocery store.  Particularly when the 2 year old is sporting a tiny sundress.

Norah glammed out. Cedar sans underpants.

At the grocery store, I pushed that wretched cart with the red car in front.  One steering wheel was missing so I had to facilitate driving disputes through the entire trip.  I lasted six years before caving to that horrible shopping cart.

I digress.

There was some home-learning, lunch, and exercise.

I tried to do yoga but Cedar pounced on my back during downward dog.  I have a very sore wrist now.

I talked to a couple of friends on the phone, tidied up work appointments and schedules, paid a bill, texted breastfeeding help to a former client.

I even made cookies.

I cooked a big meal and delivered it to a family.  Picked up our produce from the co-op.

I made salsa, drank sparkling pink lemonade, and tucked children in bed.

Then I snuggled on the couch with my hard-working husband to watch Star Wars.

Such a very ordinary day.  I wore yoga pants and tennis shoes all day.

So unlike day before yesterday when I unexpectedly caught a baby in a couple’s bedroom.  My hand on her head as she scrunched her face and then drew her first breath.

You never know what the days might bring.  The ordinary days confuse and surprise me as much as any other.

I read this blog post today about how the days we fail do not define us.  Wow, I rest in that.  Days like yesterday when I was, as stated by the 2 year old, “the meanest mommy ever, ever, ever.”  Then I realize that none of my days define me.  Not my ordinary mundanes or the outstanding over-the-tops.

My identity does not come from my days.

My identity does not come from my days.  My kids.  My husband.  My job.  My success or my failures.  Who likes me or who doesn’t.

May I be ever mindful of this Truth.  And learn to rest in it.  Then perhaps I will scrunch my face for that big effort to take a new breath.

The old has gone.  Behold, the new is here.  

Clever as clever

When I was five,

I was just alive.

But now I am six,

I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six

now and forever.

(from “Now We Are Six” by A. A. Milne)

An update on Norah:

Truths

*  She has incredible self-discipline.  I’ve mentioned this trait before but wow.  At the Christmas parade, she gathered only the candy she felt appropriate.  Leaving pieces on the ground all around her as other kids eyed them.  While Cedar gobbled up as much as I allowed and then cried “CANDY!” all the way home, Norah admitted she had not eaten any because she hadn’t had dinner yet.  After dinner she ate a single peppermint.  One of many examples.  It truly is extraordinary.

*  Her favorite food is brussel sprouts.  Don’t look at me.  I hate brussel sprouts and following a vicious brussel sprout incident from my childhood, I vowed never to feed the evil things to my kids.  Her other favorite foods are raw turnips, green peas, and roasted okra.  But I cannot get her to drink much of anything besides hot chocolate.

*  She is smart.  In that sharp, scary way.  She has a no fluff learning style and prefers math, handwriting, and science to reading and history.  While I like to try out different methods and change my mind about everything, Norah wants all things to stay the same.  Forever.

*  She loves snuggles.  Cartoons.  Unlined paper.  Journey (yes, the band).  Playing her tin whistle.  Classical Music.  Pretending to be “mama” to her stuffed animals.  Her nature table.  Science lab.  Anatomy.  My iPad (especially the camera feature).

*  She adores art and has some nice pieces from museum classes.  She despises crafts at home.  I have learned that we cannot do crafts together.  Usually one or both of us end up crying.

* She wants to be an architect when she grows up.  And she is already an inventor.  She plans to open a business inventing things.  For those of you who didn’t see my facebook post, she plans to invent holograms so that Daddy and Papa won’t need to work.  The hologram will stand in.  When asked why Mommy didn’t get a hologram, she responded, “Mommy doesn’t work.”  She is designing a baby brother which she expects to animate using a placenta (presumably to be filched from one of my clients).

* She makes friends easily and is gracious with smaller kids.

The Questions (a sample of questions she asked in the last few days)

* Why do Buddhist monks like orange so much?

* What part of our body did God make first?

* Why don’t carrots have seeds?

* Do Buddhist monks like carrots?

* How are babies made?

* Who wrote Korobushka? (yeah, I had to look it up, too)

* Do we thank the farmer or God for this potato?

* Can we go to Cambodia for my birthday?

* Why is the sky different colors of blue right now?

* What is the difference between karate and kung fu?

* What do tadpoles eat?

* Where would I go if I were very small and got flushed down the toilet?

* Is Papa really doing magic when he drives with no hands? 

The Challenges

* Homeschool is harder than I expected.  More from personality.  Mostly mine.  It has revealed selfishness and impatience.  Ugly stuff.  Also, there is tension between being comfortable with letting her play most of the day and fearing that if I change my mind and send her to public school, she’ll be behind.  Because she plays most of the day.  I think play is where most learning occurs at this age.  Public school disagrees.  I don’t have a crystal ball.   Tension.

* Norah has a phenomenal memory for details.  I don’t.  She can remember what kind of car someone drives, what color pants someone wore (turquoise or cerulean), etc.  I’m much more into narrative and feelings.  Because I don’t remember as she does, she thinks she is smarter than me.  And has said so.  This issue adds to challenge number 1.

* And she is cautious.  Afraid to be alone.  Often helpless (perceived or real).  Complains of odd and specific ailments–“my elbow feels like my nose when it is about to sneeze.”

However, she is not cautious about science!  She has studied a sheep’s heart, given a pygmy hedgehog a bath, built a catapult, and touched all manner of slithery things this year.

Lately

I haven’t done one of these in awhile.

Adoring: my May clients. Two beautiful families. Their births will be extraordinary.

Listening to:

Proud of: my students and the amazing, outside-the-norm births they experience!

Never Leaving Home Without: My LifeFactory bottle filled with coconut water, chlorophyll, and lemons.

Appreciating: coffee

Nostalgic about: gluten. Oh how I miss it. I’ve been gluten-free for four whole days.

Reading: Little Women with Norah. The Easter Bunny is bringing her tickets to the musical.

Buying: Vitamins and herbs. This family is consuming some serious supplements of late.

Drinking: green tea. Trying to get three cups a day.

Working on: A new blog look. This one has long grown stagnant.

Wishing: Cedar would decide to poop on the potty. I threw away a cloth diaper the other day because I just couldn’t make myself clean it. Shhhhh…don’t tell anyone.

Giddy about: hmmm. I can’t think of anything. I need more giddy in my life of late.

Feeling: Heavy for my dear friend who will be sending off her Airman to faraway places.

Missing: my computer. It crashed last night. As much as I would like to say the iPad satisfies, it falls short in areas like blogging, creating Facebook events, creating documents, working with media files. I would like to insert a picture in this post. Alas, I don’t know how.

Grumpy that: my poor missionary sister in Cambodia gets to see Hunger Games before I do.

Chasing ants, geckos, and grace

My final post about the trip to Cambodia.

We went to share life with the my sister and her family. So let me talk about where/how they live.

They live in a third floor apartment at the end of a dirt road. The apartment is spacious and has a wrap-around balcony with a great view. Two bedrooms are air-conditioned. The rest of the apartment is hot, hot, hot! The kitchen is insanely hot.

All the doors and windows have bars because from time to time someone wanders up. Thievery can happen even with bars and we were told not to leave anything sitting out that could be pulled through the bars. One afternoon, we returned home to find we were locked out. So we slid Norah through the 5 inch space between the bars, coached her to climb on the refrigerator to get the keys, and unlock her very first padlock! She called herself superhero the rest of the day.

Yep, she really did fit through that window!

Noelle wages a constant war against ants. Upon arrival, we were taught proper protocol for food and crumbs. Namely, food scraps go into a bag in the freezer to await trash day and NOT in the trash can. Crumbs must be immediately swept up. We had to stay one step ahead of those watchful creatures. Here is a picture of the one set of shelves that is ant-proof. See the bowls that the shelf legs sit in? Noelle carefully organizes the packed shelves a few times a day.

The lizards were less of a threat but we were instructed to close cereal bags tightly and check the toaster before using it. Noelle’s had a few reptilian surprises. The girls, however, loved seeing geckos run about the house. The doors and screens were kept closed because of mosquitos.

They have a washing machine. The laundry is hung on the balcony to dry. Sometimes the wind blows too strongly and the laundry flies away. Sometimes they never find their lost items. Of course, shoes are not worn inside Asian homes. As a result, my feet always felt dirty and I was constantly washing them. Random cuteness:

They have riverfront property. In their backyard, flows the Smelly River. Mmmm-hmmm. And we knew precisely which way the wind blew from the smell. The smelly river is coated with a film of some sort and the banks are littered with trash. Everywhere fires burned, smelling pretty toxic. I’m pretty sure some sort of large reptilian monster lives in it.

Noelle and I took the kids on an evening walk along the river armed with rocks to throw at aggressive dogs. We got caught in the dark and I admit the rustlings in the grass and the shadows of rats were creepy.

They have a part-time househelper who is precious. She has the kindest smile and softest voice. And she cuts their fruit and meats into to tiny bite-sized pieces. I loved that part! She helps Noelle with the market shopping, food prep, and cleaning. In Cambodia, it would be offensive for a westerner to live there without employing a local. I enjoyed listening to Noelle and her househelper speak Khmer. I was shocked that the househelper wore sweaters and socks in the heat. We visited during their cool season. “Cool season” even though we were baking. And swimming in pools. Noelle says that her househelper is often surprised at foreign practices like putting children to sleep in separate rooms from their parents.

A few doors down from their apartment is a “training center” that is well-known for the trafficking of young girls. This exact facility has even been featured by a prominent American news syndicate. It is pretty clear from the bold sign out front that they are all about overseas bond labor. The owner is well-connected to a government official. It was heart-breaking to watch from Noelle’s balcony as girls arrived or departed with suitcase in hand.

And to be blunt, prostitution is so very visual. Sure it isn’t called prostitution. It has milder names like massage parlour, beer garden, karaoke bar, nightclub. But the truth of it is that a foreigner can order a child be delivered to his hotel room like he might order a pizza. It isn’t even all that expensive. Also because of a belief that sex with a virgin has special healing powers, the younger the child, the better.

So yeah, it got to me. And I was only there a little while. I knew I was going home. Noelle and Zach live there. They are raising their son there. It is their home. They have already had confrontations. When Noelle lived there before, human trafficking recovery was all she did. She saw police raping victims brought into the jail, she saw children re-trafficked, and she saw infants. Infants.

How? How do you muster the joy? How do you not turn tail? The evil is so huge, the statistics are too big, the corruption is massive.

So lest I give the impression that they live it up with their househelper who cuts fruits in bite-size pieces and their two air-conditioned rooms, let me be clear: they are doing some serious superhero work.

And they cling to every grace. They fast regularly, triple-check their every move, and keep accountability strong within their team. They crave our prayers because they know –know with a capital KNOW–how essential prayer is to their daily functioning.

They know –know with a capital KNOW–when they are not covered by it.

Noelle and Zach are about being good neighbors–loving people and pointing out grace where they see it. They sacrifice so much to do this work. Family, paychecks, friends, holidays, health-care, native language, car, home equity, nest egg, central air, snow, critter-free homes, reliable mail delivery/trash pick-up, and so much more. Why would anyone choose to do this job?

Love. A big, authentic, deep-in-the-gut love.

So please remember them from time to time. And maybe say a few prayers for them.  Maybe even support them with your dollars or send a care package.

Why can’t we have a tuk-tuk?

Traffic in Phnom Penh. 

After the initial shock passed, I began to understand how Cambodian driving worked.  Through my American lens, it should never work.  Every third car/tuk-tuk/bike should be an accident.  A big accident (*).  But in Cambodia, it works and here is why:  drivers yield.  There is a hierarchy.  Big trucks, SUV’s, cars, tuk-tuks, motos, bikes.  The little guys yield to the big guys.  The way I see it, Americans have some, er, entitlement issues.  No one should ever cut in line, pass us, slow us down, jam traffic, etc.  And we’re certainly not going to yield just because someone is bigger than us.  No sir.  What I observed was an absence of road rage.  I guess it happens here and there.  But if Americans drove in that sort of traffic every day, we’d implode or hurt someone.  

And to give you a snippet of what I’m talking about, here is a clip of our tuk-tuk making a left turn.  Notice no one in our party even notices the oncoming traffic.  Because we know it will yield. 

Now crossing the road on foot was a different story!  A nightmare sort of story.  Still, the traffic somehow always yielded and somehow we always made it across safely.  I may have closed my eyes once or twice.

When tuk-tuk riding wasn’t putting Cedar to sleep, she and Norah were interacting with other drivers.  Or Asher was throwing things out of the tuk-tuk.  Or everyone was partying with the grandparents. 

I also loved how kid-friendly both Thailand and Cambodia seemed.  Children were expected to be children –noisy, wiggly, clumsy, curious.  But in other ways, kids were treated with respect and expectation.  At the restaurants we visited, kids were served out of the same tall, unlidded glasses as the adults.  My girls fell in love with iced coffee with condensed milk.  And flavored steamers.

 

Norah was also welcomed and gushed over when she went to language school with Noelle.  Norah was able to go to two classes and Noelle’s instructor spent time teaching her Khmer. 

And the girls loved getting pampered at spa that provided skill-training and employment for at-risk girls. 

Noelle says it isn’t unusual for a server at a restaurant to pick up Asher and walk around with him when he gets fussy.  If that doesn’t work, they’ll start giving treats. 

I think I’ll do one more post about Zach and Noelle’s home and neighborhood.  Then back to regular birthy talk!  I’m working on a post about the Jedi Midwife and a little something about Dr. Polo Shirt.   

* If Noelle has never told you about the time she tried to drive a moto into a busy Cambodian street, you should really ask her about that…

Sharing life with the Slagels

This trip to Cambodia, we didn’t do any touristy things. I didn’t want to take the girls to the Killing Fields or Tuol Sleng. And I really didn’t fancy hopping another flight to visit Siem Reap and watch my littles climb all over crumbling temples. What I wanted to do was share day-to-day life with Noelle.  I have one or two more posts about these experiences and then I’ll be back to my usual blog chatter.

Century Plaza

There is a sprawling park/playground near the riverfront.  We went during the day to play.  There I learned Cambodia has real “playground police.”  We had a whistle blown at us multiple times for climbing on play equipment as adults — even to rescue Asher!

We went once at night for a picnic.  It was vibrant and so much fun!  There was a giant Zumba class at one end of the plaza.  At least 100 people dancing.  Exercise must be a government focus.  Along side-walks, it was not unusual to see exercise equipment free for use. 

A giant fountain was lit up and the water show was entertaining. 

But the real fun for our kids was spontaneous dancing.  A guy was doing karaoke on one side of the plaza.  We never did understand why.  Regardless, Norah, Cedar, and Asher danced for over an hour; weaving through the passing people.

At one point, the kids had a crowd of people gathered around them and a few other kids joined the fun.  You can’t see them well in this clip but you’ll get the idea. 

Russian Market

By far, my favorite part of Phnom Penh is the Russian Market.  Hot, crowded, dark, smelly, dirty.  Stalls packed tightly together.  Bodies squeezing past each other.  Haggling.  Lots of haggling.  Sounds like fun, yes?  Oh my.  The last time I went, I was newly pregnant and the fish stalls/heat/smells almost undid me.  But the fruit, oh the fruit!

Jewelry, scarves, fabric, household goods, fruit, chickens, fish, clothes, DVDs, shoes, bags.  None of it priced.  Here is how it goes:  I pause to admire a dress.  The seller (a girl of maybe 20 yrs) immediately “you like?”  “How much?” I ask.  “For you, special price.  7.00.”  At this point, I have a choice to move on or stay.  Let’s say I stay.  She draws me into her little stall and begins pulling out dresses from thin air and handing them to me.  “Oh you look pretty in this one.”  “you are so pretty.”  “this one for you.”  “I give you good price for this.”  “2 dress for 10.00.”  And at that point, this super saleswoman has done her work:  complimented me, made me feel I have to buy something since she unfolded so many items, and given me a bulk discount.  But there is still haggling to be done.  It really is fun because the prices are low anyway and the sellers are so sweet, smart, and sassy.  And if I didn’t like something or it didn’t fit, I could bring it back (no receipt!) for a refund.  Here is my dad buying a tool to fix something at Noelle’s apartment.  I don’t know how he found the right things!

Now Cedar hated the market.  Because everyone touched her.  Her hair, her cheeks, her body.  They wanted to pick her up.  They laughed when she screamed at them “Don’t touch me!”  And Norah hated the market because it was hot and everyone noticed Cedar. 

Emotions

One of the BEST parts of my trip was the last day.  I had a rough morning.  I got a facial at an NGO that employs women who have been pulled from the trafficking industry.  I cried a little knowing what this beautiful girl placing hot towels on my face had been through.  Norah was grumpy the whole time I was trying to relax.  We went downstairs for sweets and she threw a tantrum (!), kicked the plastic table with our coffee and smoothies.  I had to remove her and walk down a side-street until she calmed.  When I came back, Cedar had a tantrum and threw her large chocolate smoothie into the wall.  I cried.  So my parents took the girls and gave Noelle and I some time to shop.  But you know what we also did?  We sneaked in a quiet lunch at Cafe Yejj.  And I cried there, too.  Because I realized that emotional life in Cambodia is hard.  Evil is so visible there.  The heat is stifling.  Transportation is frustrating.  Communication is difficult even for someone who has learned Khmer.  Did I mention the evil so visible there?  And it brings out all your stuff.  All your issues bubble up and spill out.  My kids behaved very differently in Cambodia than in Thailand.  They were easily angered.  I was easily angered.  That is what I wanted — to share life with my sister.  I couldn’t understand this before.  She had tried to explain it to me.  Now I know, or at least I had a taste of it.  A bitter taste.  And I know precisely how to pray for Zach and her.   

The last quiet moment with Noelle before we left that night.  A sweet prayer, conversation, and tears shared over yummy food.

Welcome to Cambodia

Note:  I have no pictures from this part of our travels.  For some reason I wasn’t thinking about the camera.

Four weary adults and three kids flew from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. 

The immigration process was hilarious.  What seemed like thirty men in khaki uniform stood behind a counter.  The energy was high.  The communication was sketchy.  When my turn came, the stern fellow asked for a certain amount of cash, Visa pictures, and my passports.  I handed them over.  My passports were passed along the line of men.  I stood among the crowd of anxious tourists trying to keep my girls from running away and keeping tabs on my passports.  Suddenly, a khaki uniform tapped me from behind and said, “Are these your children?” showing me their passports.  I said yes and he handed me the girls passports.  I continued to wait for mine.  A man who could barely pronounce “john doe” held up a passport and butchered yelled the name to the crowd.  That lucky traveller stepped forward to claim the prize.  We all pressed forward.  Finally, my name was called and passport in hand, I reunited with my parents and Noelle.

The last time I visited, I forgot to have a Visa picture and the only other westerner on the plane gave me one of hers.  She was at least 30 years older than me with salt-and-pepper hair, glasses, and a huge nose.  The passport police never noticed.

Noelle secured two taxis.  My parents rode in one and we were in the other.  Noelle was careful to explain to both drivers that my parents did not know where we were going and that taxi should follow our taxi. 

It was rush hour.  Cars and tuk-tuks so close we could count the teeth of the person beside us.  Bicycles and motos slinking between the tiny passages between cars.  It was madness. 

Once Noelle’s teammate was on her bicycle when a car stopped on her foot!  She tapped the glass and asked the driver to please move forward.  Yikes. 

Transportation is one of the biggest challenges my sister faces.  She lives on a nameless dead-end dirt road.  She has no address.  She can only point and give instruction as the driver drives.  Imagine when she tries to have pizza delivered! 

At dark, we pulled down the bumpy ally and came to the dead end.  And noticed the other taxi was gone.  The driver said, “What?  They don’t know where to go??”  Noelle told him to call the other driver and give him instructions on how to get there.  He said he was lost and couldn’t do it.  So. 

I am left standing in the dark with my two girls and everyone’s luggage.  Noelle and Asher have gone with Mr. Taxi Driver to find my parents and lead them home.  Before she left, Noelle gave me keys to the padlock (!) on her third floor apartment.  A helpful man moves the luggage to the foot of the exterior stairs.  Does he live here?  Will he steal the luggage?  I don’t know.  I see some scrawny chickens, a sleeping dog, and dark houses.  I have no idea where I am. 

We venture up the bazillion stairs.  I assume I’m at the right place but I can’t get the padlock open.  Maybe I need to go up one floor.  The next floor up is dark.  Norah takes off running along the balcony and I hear “PING.”  Norah drops flat on the tile.  A piece of metal scaffold protrudes from the window and across the balcony.  Just at 6-year old nose level. 

Visions of flying back to Bangkok for medical care cross my mind.

But, after much crying (perhaps by both of us), we went back down a floor and managed to get the padlock open.  We were sweaty and thirsty.  I left the girls and went to drag one piece of luggage up.  The apartment was HOT!  After finding fans and lightswitches (and warm homemade pizza and banana bread left by Noelle’s househelper), we felt better. 

Better still when Noelle arrived with my parents!

Wecome to Cambodia.

ETA:  Here is some daytime footage of the bumpy road to Noelle’s apartment. This guy is one of Noelle’s usual drivers so he knew the way. 

The Thai Tooth Fairy

Our six year old, Norah, has an interesting arrangement with the Tooth Fairy.  For each lost tooth, she alternates getting money with getting sparkled. 

I would like to interject that while some of Norah’s friends get paper money, (“the green kind, mama!”) Norah gets the silver kind. 

We expected Norah to lose a tooth in Thailand.  But I wasn’t concerned because it was money time.  Not sparkle time.  I even had a plan to give her a U.S. quarter, Thai baht, and Khmer Riel. 

A few days into our vacation, Norah’s tooth was disgusting.  It was so loose, that when the wind blew, her tooth moved.  And she loved it.  She loved grossing everyone out.  Here she is singing and trying to make her tooth look as Nanny McPhee as possible:

Of course she couldn’t eat much with her tooth hanging loose.  So, she got sick.  And threw up in my cereal bowl at breakfast.  In front of the entire resort.  And since the kitchen staff didn’t speak English, I wasn’t about to hand them a bowl of puke.  I ran to the road and disposed of it in a public trashbin.  Then returned the bowl to the kitchen.  Gross. 

Scott and I sat Norah down and gave her dire threats and warnings if she didn’t pull the tooth.  We may have mentioned feeding tubes.  I mean, as a homeschool lesson.  Education is important. 

Regardless, she FINALLY pulled the tooth.  And happily announced just before bedtime that she had decided to be sparkled instead. 

We’re in a remote beach town community whereabouts in Thailand.  Where am I going to find glitter??

Around 11pm, I ventured into the dark resort dining room to make a press of coffee.  And I look around.  I see Christmas decorations.  I see seashells covered in silver glitter!  Hmmmm.  I rummaged around the dining hall and found a stash of glue and glitter!  What are the chances?  

Then the night security guard busted in to see what I was doing.  I smiled and waved gesturing to the glitter.  He didn’t speak English either.

Strange American.

Back in my room, I covered some of seashells I found earlier that day with glitter as a tooth fairy gift.  Then I carefully painted glue/glitter fairy footprints on Norah’s arms and cheeks.  And sprinkled gold star confetti from the craft stash around her covers and floor.  And certainly, I left a note from the tooth fairy. 

She was thrilled.  All was well.  The tooth was gone, the day was saved.  Her appetite returned.  My cereal bowl was safe.

I’m sorry about the puke story.  I really wanted you to feel how this tooth was affecting our vacation.  While gross, I maintain its relevance.