Sunday, January 11, 2015

Only two months to go until we have a two year old running the house! What is our spunky monkey up to these days?

EVERYTHING. She is constantly busy, and I don't think she has stopped talking long enough to take a breath in weeks. She is also developing a vivid imagination, and I really love watching her play. Here are a few moments and quotes from our little bug:

1. "Frogs'll eat 'em." We aren't really sure where she picked this up, but she constantly throws food on the ground (outside, in the house, at restaurants) and assures us that the "frogs'll eat 'em." My best guess is that the origin of this habit is her catching me throwing crumbs from her carseat onto the parking lot ground. She was upset and wanted the crumbs back, so I told her the birds would eat them and I'd give her fresh crackers at home. We've never, ever seen a frog in Japan, though, so I'm not sure how that evolved. However, I am about to go buy some frogs to clean up all the food under the dining room table!

2. The "-ing" ending. She has figured this one out (or two thirds of it, at least) and is now overgeneralizing in very cute ways. She dropped a water bottle off the patio the other day (5 floors up, no big deal), and was so proud of herself she grabbed Elmo to show him. "Lookin', Elmo! Avery droppin' da bottle down dere!"

3. "Already did." This is her excuse to get out of everything. It's time to clean up? Already did. Go potty? Already did. While technically this may be true, we're struggling to get her to accept the fact that she may be have to use the toilet, clean her messes, and take a nap more than once in her lifetime.

4. "Fish stars" are favorite. She is learning her shapes and she especially loves stars, which can ONLY be referred to as Fish Stars. Christmas was especially fun because of all the fish stars on the trees. Every day was, "Lookin', mommy, a fish star on a top a da tree! Avery helpin' daddy put a fish star on a top a da tree!"

5. "Songin'." Avery looooooves to sing now. She does the ABCs, twinkle twinkle, head & shoulders, the wheels on the bus, Old MacDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and baa baa black sheep. My favorite is that she refers to it as "songin'." "Wissen, mommy, Avery songin' ABCDs!"

6. "Baby/Avery." For the longest time, she referred to herself only as baby. Now she finally refers to herself as Avery, but now all baby things are Avery things. So kittens are "Avery kitty cats" and puppies are "Avery puppy dogs" and baby fish are "Avery fish."

7. "JapaKNEES!" Avery has figured out that not everyone talks the same out here. I've been trying to teach her basic Japanese phrases for awhile, but she just didn't care. Then we ran into a preschool class on a field trip at the park by our house last weekend, and she had so much fun playing with the kids. She realized they weren't speaking the same language and kept repeating to them, "nashi masu, nashi masu," which is her attempt at repeating the Japanese recording in our elevator. On the way home from the park, I explained that they were speaking Japanese, and tried again to teach her some phrases. By the time we got home, she was really excited about JapaKNEES (she touched her knees when she said it and shouted the KNEES part), and was making some respectable attempts at "konichiwa," "ohio gozaimasu," and "arigatou." Now whenever she sings, "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" she remembers her JapaKNEES and starts telling me "konichiwa" and talking about the kids at the park.

8. "Elmo Jean." This might be my favorite thing ever. We call her "Avery Jean" more often than not, and a few nights ago as I was leaving her room at bedtime I said, "I love you, Avery Jean, goodnight." She responded, "Goodnight mommy. Goodnight, Elmo Jean." Ever since, she has been referring to Elmo as "Elmo Jean" during tender moments between them (when she puts him down for naps and or if he gets hurt). It is the sweetest thing.

9. "Bun Cakes." It's what she calls bandaids. Not much else to say, but it cracks me up every time.

10. "Prisints" She loves everything about presents. Between Christmas and a few recent birthday parties, she has embraced the idea of gift giving (and receiving). Bows are her favorite. At least 4,000 times a day, she gets one of her treasured bows and sticks it onto something (usually a book) and proudly gives it to me and says, "Happy birthday, mommy!" The correct etiquette, if you are wondering, is to respond with, "Happy birthday, Avery!" and NOT with "thank you" or anything else (the nerve!). Sometimes we wrap up her toys just so she can carry a "prisint" around for the day; she helps me wrap them and put the bows on, and rips them open at bedtime.

11. "Makin' a zoo." Her favorite game these days is to build an enclosure with her blocks. Then all the animals from her Noah's Ark toy go inside, and then the plastic food from her kitchen is fed to them. She usually tries to charm me into giving her real water to give the animals, too. Her elephants and zebras have been living on a steady diet of corn on the cob and eggplant these past few days, while the giraffes get the "broccoli tree." Then they usually snuggle for a little bit before taking a nap.

The beach and the park are still perpetual favorites, or course, as is talking to Grandma on facetime and operating the Keurig.  If Avery could be granted one wish, I think she would wish for unlimited access to the step stool and the cupboard where the sprinkles are stored. If I could be granted one wish, it would be for her to stay this age forever.


Friday, January 9, 2015

If you are a Facebook friend, you probably saw that we recently took a last-minute trip to Cambodia. We only had about a week to plan our trip, but we scrambled and managed to procure all the proper visas and vaccinations just in time. We had an amazing time. The weather was perfect -- nary a drop of rain, cool and comfortable from dusk to dawn, and great swimming pool weather all afternoon. We saw pagodas and temples, we rode in tuk-tuks and braved the craziest of traffic, ate curries and noodles, saw exotic animals, met wonderful people, and made plenty of time for sunbathing splashing poolside. We did the tourist thing through-and-through, and loved it.

But we experienced a lot more than that, too, things that are harder to capture with a facebook album of vacation photos. We visited the killing fields of Choeng Elk, saw kids digging through heaps of trash looking for something to sell or something to eat, encountered people missing limbs from landmines and suffering the consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases. As a tourist, I didn't feel right shooting photos of naked children or disabled and disfigured people begging, but even without pictures that is what I will remember the most from our trip. It was really humbling to witness firsthand the kind of lifestyle that people all over the world are living. Cambodia is a gorgeous country, and an amazing place to visit, but they are without a doubt still a developing country in the recovery stages from a violent and tragic recent past.

A rural gas station
One of the most sobering things we did was visit the killing fields at Choeng Elk just outside of the capital. It's a memorial for the people who were executed during the Khmer Rouge genocide in 1975. The killing fields were previously an orchard, and are still covered with beautiful fruit trees and vibrant flowers; there were chickens peacefully pecking around, and no noise but the sounds of birds and the wind. The juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the scenery with the human bones and teeth that are being unearthed is impossible to reconcile. The site has not been fully excavated, so when it rains more remains are continually uncovered. As we walked along, we had to be careful not to step on bones and pieces of clothing that were naturally emerging from the ground. It feels too recent to call it "history," and it was not an easy place to visit.

Despite the sadness and tragedy of recent events, it was encouraging to see the recovery the country is making. As part of the the Khmer Rouge's mission to create an agrarian utopia, they abolished schools and medicine, and executed all professionals and educated members of society. Without engineers to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, politicians to rebuild a government, doctors and nurses to treat the dying, or teachers to instruct the children, recovery was all but impossible without outside help. Fortunately, it is receiving just that: it has the second highest number of active relief organizations in the world, behind Rwanda. It was wonderful to see so many local and international NGOs in action, familiar ones like World Vision and local ones we'd never heard of; and despite the tragedies of its recent past, Cambodia felt like a hopeful place.

This kid and his sisters were cleaning up the mess left by some park visitors, but he got distracted playing a game of hide and seek with Avery and me.

If you are up for some more scrolling, here's a look at our itinerary:

 First, lots of traveling! Other than being scared during take off and landing, Avery did great! She learned the word "scary" right away, and when she was feeling nervous, she always said, "Avery little scary. Sit on daddy's lap?" He didn't mind that at all, of course. We were super lucky, too, that most of our flights were not full. We didn't buy Avery her own seat, and on 5 of the 6 flights we took, we ended up with plenty of extra space to spread out.

We had an overnight layover in Taipei. We got a hotel close to the airport and let Avery stretch her legs at a park (while Paul and I chugged coffee to stay warm and awake) before another full day of traveling.

 After our night in Taipei, we made it to Phnom Penh without incident. Avery snoozed on the plane, so she was ready for some site seeing as soon as we dropped our bags at the hotel. We walked along the river to the Royal Palace, which was stunning.

As beautiful as the Palace is, however, it is not indicative of the state of the rest of Phnom Pehn. There is a small area where the Palace, embassies, universities, and banking district are, and it appears that a disproportionate amount of government money goes into that area's upkeep. The rest of the city looks a lot more like the background in the picture below, with a lot of heaps of trash rotting in the sun, stray dogs, cows, and chickens to complement the scenery.

PS: How Avery managed to fall asleep on this rickety, loud tuk-tuk, I will never know. But I do know that my back was killing me for days after.

We set aside our second day in Phnom Penh to visit the Phnom Tamao wildlife rescue center. They are staffed with local and international veterinarians, zookeepers, conservationists, and all sorts of volunteers. They rescue injured and illegally traded animals (elephants in particular get attacked frequently for damaging crops, and some become victims of landmines), and are working on rehabilitating and releasing hundreds of species back into the wild, as well as educating people on how to live side by side (safely) with animals.

On the way there, we stopped at a local market to pick up some fruit to feed the animals and some water to keep us hydrated.

We bought water from this store; these kids were helping their mom on their day off from school and were so sweet! The only English they knew was, "bye bye," so they said it to us about 3,000 times.

As much as Avery loved feeding the elephant, her real love was the monkeys! The little one sticking his head out of the fence (below on the right) was just a few days away from being released into the jungle with his mom and family; he kept escaping through the fence to explore, but always returned when his mom yelled at him. Avery loved to hear the "monkeys talkin'." 

Playing with the monkeys was really fun, but they were anything but gentle! They jumped onto us from 15 feet up, pulled on our ears, stole my hat, and went through all our pockets. We didn't feel comfortable letting Avery in to get tackled by them, but they happily let her pet them through the fence. The babies liked touching her hands, and Avery talked for days about the monkeys giving her high fives and giving the monkey a back rub.

Clearly, she was totally wiped out at the end of the day! 

On our third day in Phnom Penh, we just had a few hours in the morning before our flight, so we visited the Choeng Elk killing fields and then headed to the airport for our 45 minute flight up to Siem Reap, the home of the Angkor Archeological Complex.

We bought a 3-day temple pass, which allowed us to see about 10% of the 400 square kilometer complex of gorgeous jungle temples. Our strategy was to get up early, eat a quick breakfast, and see the temples before too many tourists got there and before it got too hot.

We then made our way back to the hotel so the toddler could nap; afternoons were divided between the swimming pool and exploring the town.

Avery was a ridiculously easy target for vendors at the markets! Outside of bedtime negotiations, this kid doesn't know how to haggle and happily accepted everything she was handed and then asked me for "money, please!" 

They had free wi-fi, but the dishes were washed in two tubs of water on the sidewalk.

We all have our favorites from the trip. I really enjoyed seeing contemporary Cambodian life and learning about their history and recovery. I also loved the unrestored jungle temples that were inseparable from the trees and flowers. Paul liked the large, grand temples with the advanced architecture, and the cheap beer. Avery loved the monkeys, elephants, and swimming pool. 

....and this Christmas tree. She wanted to open the presents, and was unhappy she couldn't. Sometimes it is hard to be a toddler.


© Sand, sunshine, and sushi All rights reserved . Design by Blog Milk Powered by Blogger