Monday, January 31, 2011

Separation Pains, and Shots

Not all things are easy. Dragging four children into the clinic for third-round vaccinations isn’t pretty. In case they hadn’t figured out the procedure on the first shot, they now understand it through and through. And Puck wants nothing to do with it. My sweet little guy! How else do you protect yourself from typhoid and Japanese encephalitis? (In case you're planning a trip to Cambodia, here's the CDC's list of recommended vax).
And a heartbreak. Today we said our goodbyes with our long-time nanny. She is like a third grandmother in our family. We have been helping her transition to another home so there’s no interruption to her income. But it’s not as simple as changing front-door keys and switching her commute, as anybody knows who’s bonded with kids. I see her hide her face in her sleeve and her chest heaving big cries behind her arm. I am so sorry for this good-bye. Puck opens the window to press his face into the screen as she is walking away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Helping Hands in Phnom Penh

There are a few people who reach out of the blue and offer a helping hand, even though they don’t have to, and I cannot say thank you enough for all their kindness. A young lady at the Phnom Penh office is pulling so many strings behind the scenes for us. I didn’t realize it until just now, but she is chasing down apartments, talking up babysitters, and booking our airport pick-up. Even now that TJ has departed on his travel, this is not a one-woman show. I am so grateful and comforted by the help I’m already getting in Phnom Penh. I can’t wait to meet all these people!
The Yahoo Group for expat parents in Cambodia is also turning out to be a great resource. It's how I connect to other parents about babysitters, kids' activities, parks and playgrounds in the city.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Relocation Stress

Moving isn’t easy, but getting this family ready for relocation is creative stress. It’s giving me a chance to think about what it really takes to make everybody healthy and happy for six months, anyway. And that’s not too much. We’re banking on the economy luggage allowance, and planning everything around that. I’ve got a spreadsheet with columns corresponding to checked luggage items. Is this process going to drive me crazy?

A huge relief—we have confirmed the kids’ registration at a Christian school in Phnom Penh. Logos International School. I click through the photos online and see smiling Khmer and Indian and Chinese and British and American kids. I can’t believe they have open spots for all four of our children! I feel blessed. The principal called me here in the States. That was very kind. Already I feel like we’re connecting to a community like us, people who want to embrace the world with eyes wide open.  I’m glad, too, for the kids that they will be at a missionary school and not one of those elite international schools. It bothers me that people who practice development work raise kids in cloistered tea-parties. Seems like the price of those places would attract a weird combination of international-aid-preppies and mafia kids. Oh well. Everyone has his own place. And we’re still feeling around for ours.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Assignment: Cambodia

Well the best way to get a perspective on other people and places is to pack your bags and go there, and that’s what we’re going to do this year. I have to admit that the idea of an adventure has been cooking for some time. Several months ago I started seeking opportunities for an overseas assignment with my boss and other departments. Getting all the gears to turn in unison in a bureaucracy is maddening, especially when you’d like to have some kind of heads up for your family.
Today they have finally confirmed it. My employer is putting me on a temporary assignment to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’m thrilled! We've just got the confirmation that we're moving--and the date is only a few weeks away! With butterflies in our stomachs, my husband and I shared the news with the kids. The sad part is that TJ is not going. His job is sending him overseas, too, but nowhere nearby. We will have to get our hugs and kisses over skype.

The news has been a shock for the extended family, but not for the kids. They are happy adventurers and pretty excited to try something new. Ernest ran to the kitchen to check the map. Cambodia. Seems like the farthest place from here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year and New Adventure

Life's a spiritual journey for everyone, but it's an even more curious journey for moms.

Maybe it took me having four kids to realize that they're each funny observers capturing their own take on the world. As I'm watching them grow up, I see that their vantage points on the world around them define what they see of others and of themselves. And so I feel like I have a special role to guide their frame of view toward parts of the world that make them wonder, reflect, and learn.

So that's what my blog is about. This isn't an advice column on mothering--because I mostly mother by the seat of my pants. It's not a travel journal, either, since when we go places, I'm the one chasing after the kids and counting heads, and I don't get much chance to read the little signs. I'm trying to be a spiritual person, but I don't pretend to know much about that, either. I guess it's a few shots in the dark at teaching my kids about the world, opening their eyes to new things, and trying to awaken their spiritual identities, even as I'm not sure what those will be.

As for me, I'm a development specialist working for an international aid agency, and my husband, TJ, works on international development, too. We eat our milk and cereal with maps hanging around the table. We read bedtime stories about little children in Ethiopia and India and Vietnam. We study foreign languages and take business trips all over the place, and we imagine that our kids will someday do the same. And even though the past few years in Washington DC have been pretty serene--making babies, setting up house, doing our jobs, and managing kids' homework and sports practices--we envision putting more road beneath our feet in the future.

Instead of cooking up another baby this year, I'd like to cook up an adventure for our family. I hope you enjoy reading about our journeys.