For Marlene

11 Feb

Last week I was reminded that I no longer blog. I can’t promise I’m going to do this more often, but for those of you still reading, here’s an update!

IMG_2782E~ is now in high school. Yikes! So far high school has gone well. He started the year with Marching Band, which we all loved. Marching Band is a big deal here. The season was full of morning practices & competitions & football games & hanging out with great kids. When season ended, the letdown was a bit much, so he joined the swim team. I was pretty conflicted about swim team. It was a huge time commitment (3.5hrs of practice every day, plus school breaks) & E~ isn’t fond of being busy. I was picturing having to drag his butt out of bed for 3 months at 5:45am for morning practice, listening to him cry every night about not having time for anything HE wants to do, & I was fearful he’d lose too much weight. He had finally stopped looking like a naked Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. In the end, we let him make the decision & he made the right one – he joined the team. It was a great season. He rarely complained, found time for homework & Lego’s, & ate like a horse. The biggest benefit was an attitude change. The swim coach is big in positive thinking & our little Eeyore is no longer our most negative child. Maybe by the time he’s a senior, he’ll be more positive than negative 😉 One can only hope.

IMG_2990G~ is a big 6th grader. And by big, I mean he’s a full inch taller at the start of 6th grade than E~ was at the start of 8th. He wears a size 12 shoe at age 12. If this kid isn’t taller than his dad, we’ll be shocked. G~ was very ready to move on from the neighborhood elementary & has loved everything about Treetop Jr. High except the bus. If there’s a club to join, G~ is in it. His favorite class is band & he’s excited for Jazz Band to start in 7th grade. G~ swam for the neighborhood team again this year & is still playing soccer. Currently he’s playing his last year of Upwards Basketball. As always, G~ is more swagger than skill, which makes him hard to watch at times. In fact, he told me once it would be hard for him to decide between playing varsity basketball or being in the pep band. I bit back the laughter & said it sure would be. Sorry kiddo, it’s pep band for you!

IMG_2773T~ is in 3rd grade. She is back in the same classroom with her bff, EL~ which is great. T~ swam her first season with the ‘hood swim team & loved it. I think we’ve raised some fish. She loved swimming the butterfly & can’t wait for season to start in June. T~ played softball this summer & hated it. She was ready for ‘real’ softball & instead got another year of ‘everyone gets a hit & a base & no one gets out’ She was frustrated by it, as were we. The bright side is we may have no one playing ball this summer, which would be awesome. T~ is a huge reader & we’ve had to ban books from her bedroom at nighttime & from the bathroom. T~ is also playing basketball for Upwards again. She is by far the quickest kid on her team – she’s always the first kid back on defense. I think she’s finally getting the game & it’s fun to watch her. If nothing else, T~ will always play her hardest.

What else? J~ is still at the same company. I finished another season at the apple orchard & will start seed filling for J~ in the next month.

I know! We got another dog. Mostly because we’re nuts. Our friends in IL have this amazing golden retriever named Stella. They had been hoping to breed her & we were first on the list for a Stella Puppy. It took forever for Stella to get pregnant & we are not patient people, so in February of 2014 we got Kenai, the Ginormous Puppy. IMG_1239He was 100lbs at a year & as tall as my hip. He can counter-surf without his front paws leaving the floor. He is a lot of dog.

On our last day in Saigon, we got a message from Stella’s owners that she’d had puppies & they were saving one for us. I blame jetlag or trip re-entry, but we said yes. In March of 2015, we brought home Junie. Junie is a much smaller dog but very devious. She sees fences as a challenge rather than a containment device & heaven help us when she’s bored! Good thing she’s cute!


So there you go Marlene. That gives a little bit of what we’ve been up to since last winter. Nothing too exciting – Just living the dream!



Lamenting the Passage of Time

27 Jan

Recently, J~ & I took E~ to the high school for an informational meeting on freshman registration. So many big feelings about this. I kept looking at him thinking “how are we here already?!?”

This kid is now 14. He can legally drive in our state (due to archaic rules that won’t ever be changed because RURAL RULES! How will we survive if our pubescent children can’t drive big, heavy, people-killing machines to school while texting friends they will see in a few short minutes if they happen to arrive at school safely??). Where was I? Getting older.

Do you remember the long days with your littles? The days that weighed so heavily on your hands? The days when you couldn’t wait for nap time. The days when all you seemed to do was clean up messes, feed little people who made more messes, & try to find enjoyment in those messes? Do you remember wiping yet another butt & long for the day when no one will need you to wipe them? Do you remember teaching your kid to ride a two-wheel bike? The first day of preschool? How much you cried on the first day of Kindergarten?

And now here we are. Preschool & Kindergarten are long gone. The two-wheeled bike sits in the garage barely used because it’s cooler to walk. Butts get wiped by their owner & occasionally even get clothed in fresh undies. Messes still get made but now they clean them up on their own, unless you count the prompting 😉 Days rush by between school & activities & lessons & homework. Now we rejoice when we can all eat supper together more than 3 nights a week.

I find myself aching with nostalgia for those long days of littles. But more than that, I find myself grasping at the current days, wishing they’d stay just a little longer. High School will be over in a blink of an eye. Way before we’re ready, our house will be empty. Go ahead, roll your eyes because my oldest is only 14. Or you can take this as your warning! Your kiddo will be 14 soon enough & you’ll find yourself fighting the urge to grab that mom in Target with her cartload of littles, & tell her to enjoy it because *sob* before she knows it, they’ll be in high school.

I’m going to be a mess on the first day of high school & pretty much all days after that.


Post Trip Funk

11 Jan

I knew there would be a let down, but compound that with stupid cold temps & you have a depression going through the house.

We all feel it. The kids say at least twice a day that they want to go back & two of the three have plans to live in Vietnam. The other one wants to live abroad too; he just doesn’t know where he’ll settle yet.

Things we miss about Vietnam that are not weather related:

  • Fresh vegetables – we’re so over carrots & celery & broccoli. Give us some sauteed pumpkin greens & banana flower salad.
  • Fresh fruit at every meal. Watermelon & dragonfruit for breakfast. Mango for lunch. Pineapple for a snack & the tangerines were to die for.
  • Driving around on motorbikes
  • We’d rather walk around motorbikes & diners & carpet cutters on the sidewalk than unshoveled sidewalks
  • Our friends. We are all missing the CP family. We had a tight bond before but now it’s even tighter.
  • Coconut coffee
  • Pop at every meal <– that’s the kids. I don’t miss pop.

We need something else to think about. But not anything that we need to think about like getting back to training the dog & swim meets & basketball practice & school projects & regular old boring life.


I wonder if J~ can get a trip to Puerto Rico scheduled for work yet this winter…


Why Is It So Dry Here?

2 Jan

I feel like I’m breathing sand. It’s so dry. My skin is cracked & dry. My throat hurts. My nose is bleeding. I miss humidity.

Re-entry has been going well. The first night we all slept 12 hours. Last night it was about 4. Our meals are all mixed up too. I’m hoping things will start feeling more normal soon. The kids don’t start school until Tuesday so we have some time.

I’m ready for a nap.


HOME, 12.31.14

1 Jan

It’s weird to arrive home 3 hours before you leave.

The flight from Narita to Chicago was long. We were all pretty beat but T~ was the only one who could get comfy enough to sleep. The rest of us watched movies (Boyhood, The Giver, The Maze Runner for me) & tried to nap.

We arrived in Chicago around 1:30. We had to go through immigration but that took no time at all. After finally collecting all our luggage, we found our shuttle to the van & were on our way home!

It was a long drive. It’s only 4 hours but J~ & I were exhausted, E~ was feeling sick – it made for a long drive. We eventually arrived home around 7:30. The dog was excited to see us but not overwhelming in his enthusiasm – sure signs of a good dog sitter. We intended to unpack a suitcase of two to find a couple of the more delicate souvenirs. In the end, all the suitcases and the backpacks were emptied & their contents either in the laundry room or on the table. We won’t be eating at the table for a while.

The kids were so excited to be back home. They no longer seemed tired. J~ & I were done. We finally headed to bed at 10. The kids had instructions that they normally just dream about – eat whatever, watch whatever, play whatever – just do it quietly so I can sleep. The kids went to bed at midnight & slept for 12 hours. J~ & I slept for about 12 hours too. I sort of feel normal but I’m already looking at the clock trying to decide how much longer I can stay awake. I’m shooting for 8pm.

I have so many things to say about the trip & Vietnam, just not tonight. I will do my best to get them blogged about soon.

Thanks for coming along on our Epic Vietnam Adventure!


Narita, 12.31.14

30 Dec

We made it to Japan! Our flight from HCMC was uneventful. We tried to get some sleep but only T~ was able to get comfortable enough to sleep.

We had a 10hr layover in Narita so we decided to leave the airport & get a Japan stamp in our passports.

There’s a temple in Narita that is easy to get to. Just change some money to Yen, buy train tickets, stop at Starbucks for breakfast, figure out how to work the entrance gate, board the train & voila! you are in Narita!

We walked through the town to the temple. It was good to get out & stretch our legs a bit. The temple was a fine place to explore but we preferred the gardens.


As the morning went on, we were all finding it harder & harder to put one foot in front of the other. It was time to head back to the airport while we were still somewhat functional. On the way back, we were looking for lunch and found lots of places to eat eel but not much else. The eel was okay. A little fishy for me. E~ really liked it though. The rest of us were looking for something a little less authentic so we settled for pancakes at the airport. And then naps.

We boarded our flight for Chicago at 5 & settled in for the long flight home.


HCMC, 12.30.14

30 Dec

It’s our last day in Vietnam. We’re all sad to be leaving tonight.

We went to the pool early today (9 is early when you’re on vacation). We need to be out of our apartment by 12 so we need to cram a swim, some showers, & packing in before check out.

Packing wasn’t too bad. We are only overweight on one suitcase and that’s probably only by a pound or two. We’re hoping the airline won’t notice since we don’t want to repack if we don’t have to. I thought we did a good job of not bringing too much extra clothes, but as usual, we had plenty of clothes we never wore.

After checking out of the hotel we found a little place for a Banh Mi lunch. Banh Mi is essentially a sub sandwich but better. Lots of fresh veggies & a spicy chili sauce instead of mayo. It was delicious. After lunch we were picked up for our tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. Our goal was to find something that will fill up the afternoon. We met our goal but that’s about all I can say about that excursion that is positive.

The drive to the tunnels took a long time. I think the tunnels are less than 30 miles from our hotel but it took at least an hour to get to the edge of the city. And then it was another 30-40 minutes to the tunnels. The tour was supposed to include an English speaking guide. Our guide might have spoken English but we’ll never really know since he never really talked to us. He gave no explanations at the exhibits. Anything we learned was from listening to another groups guide. We spent a lot of time being herded from one thing to the next, not ever really learning about what we were seeing. The longest part of the tour was the stop at the shooting range/souvenir shop. The kids did not enjoy that. The shooters had ear protections, we did not. It made me plenty nervous to be within spitting distance of a bunch of tourists shooting off AK-47’s.

After losing our hearing, we were herded to the actual tunnels. T~ freaked out after about 10ft into the first tunnel so we backed out & waited for our group at the exit. She stayed above ground for the second tunnel & I was able to go in that one. After the tunnels we had tapioca (did you know it’s not just pudding? It seems like a cross between at banana & coconut) & tea and then were herded onto the bus. The bus turned around 3 different times because the drive back to HCMC wasn’t going to be long enough or something like that. We finally got back to the hotel after 7.

Here’s a couple of pics from the tunnel ‘tour’.

He escaped!

He escaped!

Looking into a tunnel.

Looking into a tunnel.

After a quick supper of Pho we, we headed back to the hotel to change our clothes & get a taxi to the airport.

It’s so hard to believe that the trip is over. Not sure how to feel about that.