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Lego-lisiousness in Legoland!

Sol 86

As I sit up on my 9th story perch in Ho Chi Mihn City

HCMC Writing Spot

 

I am reflecting on our time in Malaysia. There is so much to write about here in Vietnam and I will get to that but, first want to revisit our adventures at Legoland in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.

Going to a theme park was not part of our original plan but, the opportunity came up, our kids LOVE Legos and the boys were struggling with a bit of homesickness.

The Lobby of Legoland Hotel

Now, do we run off to a theme park every time we are sad…no but, it sure doesn’t hurt to go that extra kilometer (see what I did there with the metric system reference?) to soothe ourselves a bit.

LEGOLAND HOTEL

Legoland Malaysia was pretty sweet. I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was a teenager but, I imagine it is like the ‘happiest place on earth’. We decided to stay at the Legoland Hotel which has themed rooms with scavenger hunts, Lego characters walking around, life-size Lego mini figures, characters walking around and LEGOS everywhere to play with. Big blocks and little blocks.

There are daily building contests and workshops as well as a character parade in the lobby. It was so sweet to see joy on so many faces. Not just ours but, the plenitude of families from all over. There were families there from India, China, and all over SE Asia. We were definitely the minority as we would nod hello to another ‘Western” family from time to time.

Breakfast and dinner buffets were a cultural lesson in itself. So many options of food from standard Western choices to a plethora of Eastern ones too. Did you want Dim Sum with your pancakes? Or French Pastries with Chinese Congee porridge with dried fish on top? Or a traditionally poured spiced chai, watermelon juice, white coffee or full cream milk?

Out in the park, did you want to swim in your hijib or swimsuit or use the body dryer (like a giant hair dryer for your whole body) after getting wet on a ride? Did you want to pray when the call to prayer happened or have a dragon fruit smoothie?

Prayer Spot in Park

All of this while being surrounded by Lego figures?

Our room was the Adventure theme which the boys picked out. It seemed very appropriate for our current journey. Maps and decor from an Egyptian papyrus abound.

Huge ‘Body Dryers’ and all the teens getting dry.

Because we are family half filled with introverts we spent plenty of time in the room. While it was our first place without a kitchen during our travels we did order room service which, amazingly didn’t cost more than the restaurant and the delivery folks refused tips only wanting you to put in a good word at the ‘opinion kiosks’ around the place.

A scooter accident portrayed at Mini-land

THE PARKS

The rides were fine. Oakley tried his first roller coaster and was thrilled. The most impressive areas to me were the Minilands where replicas of iconic places around Asia are constructed to impressive, minute detail. Even the scooter accidents with media and police presence on the street. I could have spent hours here. It was super hot so, we melted as we perused even with the welcome mister machines nearby.

The Star Wars exhibit was stunning with a room dedicated to each episode including the TV Clone Wars. We are Star Wars family so, we loved this geeked out to our hearts content.

They have a water park as well and it was also fine. A lazy river bobbing with big legos you can attach to your floating device. A ‘Build a Raft” float as it were.

In any case, it was lovely to have a big family time in what felt like a big playground. I heard ‘Everything is Awesome’ more times than I care to count but, it was worth it. We did let the boys get a few, small Lego sets to take with us on the road as nothing beats the blues like a couple of hours of Lego play.

A BALANCE OF TRAVEL AND FAMILY

Our travel journey is of where we are going but, it is also richly in the details of our relationships with our kids and between my husband and I. We are a collection of varying personalities and we all need different things to fill our batteries. We discover that more and more as we move along.

Family outings are my favorite and seeing the world whiz by in my window really fills my cup but, I know Oakley and Kelvin need more down time. Canyon too at times. I do too in my own way. Writing is actually very, very helpful for me to sort my head.

I get worried about the things we are doing or not doing and if we are keeping the kids on track in school. Do we communicate enough with family and friends. How do we sort out the time differences and make connections.

Accepting that we can be doing a once in a lifetime thing and still feel rather lonely and miss down time tucked in our oversized duvet back in Oregon.

It is all a balance. And we are working on it day by day. Okay, okay….enough about our inner-psyche.

Next, we headed to Singapore for a couple of days before heading to Vietnam. More on that in our next blog.

As always, thanks for reading and following!

I’m still in love with my Chef Husband but, it was nice to met Lego Chef!

The Deathstar!

The bathrooms at Legoland

Mini-Legoland

Ha! Love the sense of humor!

Fresh Seafood at Legoland?

 

family travel marriage memories mom blog Parenting relationships round the world travel travel travel blog

100 Days to Departure. It’s like a countdown to a due date.

Here it is…a marker many look to as progress towards or away from an event. We have reached our 100 days to departure date. Since we grew this idea of living overseas, we have been wrestling with the possibilities of whether it would happen or not. Like most people, we like to wax poetically about the things we could do as parents or as adults. 

Taking the step to make a plan actually started a couple of years ago. With my background of internationally living which had accumulated to five years by the time I married Kelvin it has always been perculating in the back of my mind. We had originally had the idea to live overseas in another country for a year. To live, work and learn in that community. We were heavily looking at Belgium as our place of destination. In December of 2015, when Kelvin got the news of his upcoming walking papers for his job  we really started the wheels in our heads.

Last year after attending the World Domination Summit (again, I would highly recommend it), where I attended an academy on long-term travel with your family by Tsh Oxenrider who pens The Art of Simple and  Stephanie Entre who has traveled around the world with their FIVE children. You can follow their current trip in Central America on Instagram.Gurr(small)_20090620_034 This academy opened the world of possibilities for us to repackage our trip, ideas and come up with an alternative plan (note: not to be confused with alternative facts).

So, last summer the round the world plan was born. We have been carefully tinkering away with the plans for this journey for nearly 10 months. Like a long overdue pregnancy. Currently, we are not setting a set schedule of designations and what we are doing on ground in where we are going. We have a basic start and have about the first month set up.

A lot of our work has been in wrapping up our life as we know it in here in Portland, Oregon. Gurr(small)_016_20090823Changing jobs, leaving schools, packing up, preparing goodbyes and selling belongings. We still have a lot to do but, we have a couple of Homeland style planning boards with tasks that we are following up on.

So today, Mother’s day, is our 100 day to go mark. I am enjoying a homemade breakfast from my sons, pondering where we will be next year and if where we are even celebrates Mother’s Day!

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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Minimalist Packing, Like the Name Says – Simplifying Expectations

This week in Portland, Oregon we got hit with a whammy of a snow storm.IMG_1218 All this snow has given us a lot of indoor time and aside from playing chess with my work schedule (seeing which clients could come in when), sitting by the roaring fire and playing competitive games of Qwirkle we have also been dreaming a lot about our travel plans.

In the planning for our trip, I am taking a lot of notes about some of the subtler areas of preparing for travel that may not be as exciting (although I find it tandilizing) as a destination search but, certainly just as important for a successful trip. Two areas I have been reading about are in the packing and minimalism.

I want to be a better packer in any of my travels. I don’t like spending time worrying that I am missing something and therefore, can’t really tune into my experience. You know what I am talking about; the FOMO (fear of missing out).

I first heard about this at The World Domination Summit that I have attended for four years. An amazing gathering of like-minded individuals that want to live “an exceptional life lguiueqplhw-inbal-marilliin a conventional world. I would recommend learning more about this gathering and community here through Chris Guillebeau’s website. I am certain I will write more about his community and work as we go along  but, I digress.

Two things I am excited about are these travel helps aka hacks. Smaller bags and unique packing tools to help one take everything in on a carry on (I have yet to master this) as well as help you find things more easily. Diane Smith of Kid   has some great suggestions in her 8 Hacks in Traveling with Kids. Their website Kidtripster is a fun overall site to visit. Who would have thought the travel cubes would be so helpful! Also, love the silicone liquid carriers.

The other awesome resource is Tsh Oxenreider whose site The Art of Simple has some fun places to poke around in to feed your desire to become more ‘simple’ as well as soothe your travel bug. I really like her list on a packing list for women.

Tsh and her friend Stephanie Langford gave a great presentation at the WDS Academy last summer on how to travel for six months or longer. fhblheica-k-clem-onojeghuoI was so inspired by their work I came home and told my husband about the possibility of changing our trip of a year-long move to Brussels to a Yeear Long Round the World trip. And here we are planning it all!

Thanks Tsh and Stephanie! I am sure I will reference them again but, here I tip my lightweight, crushable travel hat to them! More to come!

 

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Parenting, Marriage and Hopes and Dreams

As my husband and I approach our 14th wedding anniversary, I pause and look around me at the changes that have transpired and where we are today. I am struck at the difference of our family of four from the two of us, with our hopeful and shiny faces of yore. I was 33 when I got married and thus, look at my life in thirds.

The first third, infancy, childhood and young adult time. The next was the era of the single girl to woman phase with earning degrees, traveling and a host of poor decision making and the lessons that followed. Then to the last third, learning to create a life with another person with intentions of making the ‘right choices’ together, growing in our careers, succeeding in making a family and moving forward with parenting highs and lows.

I am struck, with a bit of fear, when I look forward to the next 15 year block. What choices will we or I make that have a ripple effect on the future. I am 47 now and in 15 years, I ‘ll be 62. The age my mom was when she died. A tiny piece of me worries that this may be my last series of chapters so, I better make them good ones. Every day I struggle with choices  that effect me; what I eat, what I drink and what I say. Questions of, Did I exercise? How much sleep did I get? How am I handling stressful situations so, they don’t bite me in the backside later?

With clients we talk about the HALTS; Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and Stressed/Sad. These are things that we can control, in some measure, in our life. We often feel overwhelmed by events happening around us and we try, frequently, with all our might to control things we can’t: other people’s thoughts, feelings, actions, desires, words. In HALTS we can look at a situation and see what areas that we may be able to make some changes or at least, gain some leverage.

When I look at the next 15 years, I feel I do have a better understanding of what I can and cannot control. I also need to remember that when I am in a mood, I don’t always remember this helpful information but, perhaps I am more likely to access it having had some years practice. Read: we are all imperfect! So, coming back to that block of time. How do I want it turn out? Am I okay with the choices I making, big and small? I make mistakes but, do I feel okay about that as well?

I was struck by a review of a new book by Maria Semple called Today Will Be Different. This character, a mom, wife and professional tries to find ‘A Basic Amount of Dignity’. I love that sentiment. 9780316403436_custom-6f05dbe55c3c89ca57eaf0d25423b88bc014eade-s300-c85That the small choices we make everyday can have small but, longer effects. We often look around us in exasperation and think, “How did we get here?” and think of the roads or choices not taken. We think big change only comes from big changes.

Well, I’d like to think that small changes can have a ripple effect as well. If I have a green drink this morning, my body will feel a little bit better and I will feel that I’ve gotten a start on one of the many ‘shoulds’ that come up for me (eating enough fruits and vegetables every day). But, more I feel, at that moment, that I have made a small difference. I can be a tiny bit happy and satisfied that I made a healthy choice. Also, challenging the first of the HALTS – Hunger.

So, here is to change, the anniversary and next 15 year block (one of many, I hope). Also, here’s to green smoothies.

Expectations Grief and Loss Parenting Pregnancy loss

The Heartbeat That Lasts for a 100 Years

Nearly every night, my husband and I snuggle with our two boys as they drift off to sleep. Our nightly rituals include each of us saying ‘no bad dreams’ a certain number of times of our choosing and listing things we have gratitude for that day. Simple things that happened, we saw or experienced that gave us a little smile or a moments pause and remind us that there is a little good every day everywhere, even on the really crappy days.

As I am listening to the breaths of my youngest son stretch out as he succumbs to sleep, I have my arm across his small chest. In that position, I feel his heartbeat steadily thumping through his Batman pajama top. Sometimes, while we cuddle I think of the things I need to get done (dishes, work, laundry) and then I bring myself back and focus on that heartbeat. I am reminded of the time when we first heard our first living child’s heartbeat.

Over the course of a couple of years, we had experienced three miscarriages and in our awareness of this new pregnancy we were so worried that this pregnancy would be another that didn’t ‘progress’. Such a perfunctory word to hope for while experiencing our anguish and trepidation. I remember the mix of joy, worry, excitement, terror, love, fear, and hope pinged around in me like a quad shot latte. I  was truly scared. Almost every moment of the day that I remembered that I was pregnant and had a growing baby inside me I would then plunge into worry in the pit of my stomach.

Then, that day, 10 weeks in, we heard the heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump, thump…rapid like a rabbit hopping. images-5We had gotten to the stage of heartbeats before but, something about this heartbeat struck me and held me in such an odd moment of time. The thought of this heart beating for a long time stretched out in front of my mind. I imagined that this heart would beat for over a 100 years. The thought wasn’t just hope, that was there too but, it felt like it was fact, a truism, the future. Almost like pictures on a screen.

That baby did grow and was born nearly nine years ago. As I scurry around in my everyday busy-ness I to try to slow myself to appreciate the moments of snuggling with the growing babes, now really young boys, and listen to their breaths and heartbeats. It gives me hope and it helps ground me, reminding me that no matter how far behind I get on my to-do list, these breaths and heartbeats are still going. Those moments that I take the time pause in that mindfulness is so peaceful for me.

I still count out the years of the babes whose hearts stopped beating, wondering what they would be like at this age or what pajamas they would be wearing tonight. images-2I send a silent kiss to wherever they are and hold a tiny piece of their souls in my heart.

This experience touched me today as I think about my own expectations of motherhood that are constantly shifting and being redefined. The gift of reflection, acknowledgment of loss, change and growth help me adjust my bigger, unwieldy expectations back into bite size pieces. And, hopefully, that continues to ground me.

Resources for Pregnancy Loss include:

Brief Encounters – Resource for Pregnancy/Infant Loss

MISS Foundation – Support for Grieving Families

 

 

 

 

 

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