Sunday, February 18, 2018

Zoe Turns 1, January Adventures in Cambodia 2018

January was a month when a lot of things hit at once. I know I can usually eek out a blog post between the kids, and the part time job, and the house work, and the Bible study, and the homeschool, and the working out, but this time it just wasn't happening. But that's for another post. Today I want to celebrate the good things that happened this January.

On the top of that list, is our sweet Zoe turning 1!!!

I remember when our first child turned 1 and had a party with lots of relatives and gifts. By the fourth child you realize that 1) you don't really need that much stuff and 2) they're not going to remember it anyway. There's always the drawback of missing family while abroad, however.

We tried this astringent tasting fruit at the market again.

We found a really cool place with a great swimming pool and playground where you can go for free if you buy food. That’s why Talia has rosy cheeks here, she’s a water baby who will stay in the pool until you make her get out!

The playground was really nice too.

It’s next to a golf driving range, so everything is covered with a net roof to catch stray balls.

The kids really enjoyed it and slept for a good 2 hours when we got home! Ben was at an Environmental Summit in Singapore for five days because the group of students needed the principal along for the trip abroad, so napping children meant more sanity for me!

Ben came home really impressed by Singapore! It was clean!

It had great museums.

And he especially liked the Singaporean chicken and rice!

I’m glad he’s back home!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Winter Break Shenanigans: New Year in Cambodia 2018

Winter break in Cambodia has been a mixture of busy and relaxing.

The kids got money from Grammy this December. They’ve been talking about learning ukulele, so it was the perfect time to get one. (It’s also a small enough instrument to fit in the luggage.)

We put a rear-facing car seat in the tuktuk. Sometimes she likes it and sometimes she screams. It’s a good thing to get used to.

The kids have been out of school for almost two weeks now. They enjoyed getting things like French toast for breakfast since we’re usually too busy for that (and it has too much sugar! Here, Ezra is licking the powdered sugar spoon.)

It wasn’t all sugar, though, Ben made this awesome supper of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and asparagus one evening! Delicious!

We were able to take the kids to Kid City for the first time! The older ones loved Clip ‘n Climb and Zoe enjoyed Toddler Town.

We visited the “park” and since there were no play places, the kids invented their own. We enjoyed being in the green!

Friday, December 8, 2017

6 Years with Elias

It’s hard to believe that this guy....

Used to be this sweet little answered prayer!

For his 6th birthday, Talia and I filled ice cream cones with white vanilla cake batter and sprinkles!

His class was really excited to eat them.

Especially frosted with chocolate icing and sprinkles.

For home, Talia and I experimented with turning yellow cake batter (with sprinkles) into a tie-dye cake.

Elias loves all the colors, so sprinkles and tie-dye seemed appropriate.

It turned out fairly well!

Cutting into it was pretty impressive for him. His “wow!” made me smile.

It was really fun, we might have to do it again sometime.

We are thankful for six years with Elias. His stubbornness, silliness and sweetness are his defining marks. He has really taken off in reading this year! He loves his baby sister in the sweetest way. He has adjusted to school and not had any trouble going this year. He’s always teaching me new things he learned from Khmer class. We are glad he’s part of our family.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

3 Recommended Restaurants for Families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Part 1


Lot369 is a little pricey compared to other restaurants in Phnom Penh, but by looking at their menu, you can see why. Some of that money goes into paying a fair wage, plus they offer foods that are hard-to-find in other restaurants. When compared to restaurants in the U.S., it is still extremely affordable. Here are some of the options:

Here is a coconut milk, turmeric latte from Lot369, as they were out of cashew milk. It's great to see non-caffeinated warm drinks available.
We saw the lemongrass and ginger kombucha; but there were several other flavors.

Lot369 has vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. They have an environmentally-sustainable mindset. They had re-usable coffee cups for sale if you wanted a drink to go, bamboo straws and recycled plates and cups. The furniture was made from pallets. We chose to eat in the upstairs room, because it was connected to......

The all-too-rare-in-Cambodia kid's playroom! It was amazing to sit and talk with Benjamin while the kids were enthralled with new-to-them toys for a good while. Going on dates in an international setting with kids can be tricky, so this was a great find! They have kids-eat-free day on Thursday, so we’ll have to try it again.

At Kilik bakery and cafe, you can buy the drink of your choice, averaging at $2 and receive two pastries free. In addition, they bring a free cup of iced/hot Jasmin tea. This means we can order two drinks for adults and one or two (they are BIG) for the kids to share, and get enough pastries for everyone! With the tea thrown in, it's a great deal. Our favorite pastries include chocolate croissants, apple bread, banana bread, berry filled pastries and cupcakes. They have recently started offering sandwiches as well, so we can get out of there with lunch for under $10. (That's insane with a family of 6). Plus, the staff is friendly and competent, and there is comfortable seating. Kilik also has an air-conditioned meeting room closed off  from the main seating area if you need that kind of space.


The Cyclo cafe was an interesting place. They have several seating options, including an outside area up stairs.

It was almost part museum, part cafe. The boys enjoyed modeling the rickshaw. This is a really fancy rickshaw compared to the ones we see near the riverside that are often a beaten up red or green color, or like this one.

Cyclo cafe has many drinks around $2, and they are a good size, too. This was a framed Cambodian stringed instrument. it is similar to the one played here. In the bathroom, there were these sprouting seeds. They are similar to these avocado seed sprouts, but I couldn't tell if they were for sure. What's your best guess?

So, if you are looking for a sustainable variety of food, great value, or a cultural experience, these places are a great place to take a break and recharge with family. We hope you try them and enjoy them as much as we have!

(This is not a sponsored post. We only share it because our first month in Cambodia, we pretty much lived off of peanut butter because we couldn't 1)find food, and 2)find our way back home from said food, and 3) it was frustrating to find affordable options that were good for a family of our size, hygienic and tasty.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving: Ben, Friends and Food

Thanksgiving abroad can be depressing if you don't actively create your own celebration; even better if you add friends. Last year we didn't really know anyone (especially from the U.S.) to celebrate Thanksgiving with. I was also really pregnant and we were saving for the baby. A turkey is pretty expensive here, so we just had a simple dinner at home. This year, however, was better!  Friends from my bible study group got together and had Thanksgiving. The five families who were there all had a few kids each, and they had a blast together running around outside in the (rare-to-find) garden play space. We enjoyed chicken, stuffing, salad, broccoli and cheese, quiche, and many desserts along with great conversation.

Thanksgiving also fell on Ben's birthday this year. I find that appropriate! Not because he's a turkey, but because we are thankful for him. ;) We celebrated a day early with apple bread and sweet potato pie. I also made him cinnamon rolls the next day to take to the Thanksgiving feast, and made sure he got one. Ben likes plain vanilla ice cream most of the time.

At the store we had to dig through flavors like sweet corn, taro/yam, cheese, durian, jackfruit and ruammitter, before finally, at the bottom, we found plain vanilla! Vanilla ice cream with apple bread is amazing.

I'm thankful to not be pregnant this Thanksgiving but rather to have all of my children where I can hug them. I'm thankful for my husband who takes us on so many adventures. I'm thankful for you, because if you're reading this, you're probably family who cares.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rain, Guests, and Interviews

When it rains, every once in a while, it comes in under the roof with strong wind and seeps down the walls, pooling in the boy’s room.

Since he reads himself to sleep and then kicks books off his bed, this book got really soggy. I tried to help it dry in the toaster oven. Rainy season is supposed to be finished, but it still rains fairly regularly.

Some friends from New York came through and we made them Khmer curry.

The kids loved playing, reading books and then watching a video about the cargo ships prompted by the book.

The next morning we got them breakfast from our favorite (fresh) street vendor. I noticed they used a type of rocket stove to cook the rice and boil water for tea.

The kids (and I) were excited that our guests brought chocolate! Thanks!

In other news, we are interviewing for several places and some of the feeling of being in limbo may be lifted or prolonged depending on the results. Until then, we’ll appreciate the time we have in Cambodia.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Goodbye Grambo

When we scheduled a visit for Zoe to see family, we were fortunate to be able to squeeze my cousin’s wedding in! It’s these sorts of things that we normally miss. Today I will miss my grandfather’s funeral.

This guy taught me how to fish, and took us for rides on his pontoon boat. Sometimes I even got to steer. He had a great batter recipe for fried fish. Grambo took me to the driving range, and man was whacking a golf ball as hard as I could, fun! Once I got to go on vacation with Grambo, my grandma and my cousin.

I’m not at all the only one who got to do things with him. Here he was teaching my brother to fish.

He was the guy looking out for people on that side of the family. When Parkinson’s slowly took away his physical abilities, he got better at listening. Many of his grandkids went to him for advice. He showed us that it didn’t matter what one could DO; being there and holding the space as a caring influence in the family was enough. Physically, life is about reductions, and that he was a good example of, but spiritual life grows exponentially to life’s reductions, and I think he showed that too. We’ll miss him.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Water Festival 2017: The White Elephant

Water Festival is a big deal in Cambodia. The kids and Ben got a whole week off of school for it. We wanted to go somewhere with more nature than we have normally, but not drive for hours trying to get there.

Ben decided to take us to the White Elephant hotel on the edge of town. It’s about 15 minutes driving if you have traffic and has plants everywhere. It feels like you’re in a garden.

The kids loved the river-shaped pool best of all, especially since in had a bridge going over the middle. Elias got on the bridge and we threw the ball back and forth over it while he tried to catch it. Since there weren’t many people, it was a good game.

I enjoyed trying new Asian foods. The cashew chicken was amazing and is now my new favorite dish!

The kids liked exploring the garden and finding statues. There were huge statues of a camel, dolphin, dragon and this horse. The White Elephant is definitely a place I would recommend, especially for families.