Saturday, July 12, 2014

Braces Off!

In the middle of the pack out, something else monumental happened: Elise got her braces off!

Eleven months of dedicated rubberband wearing, tooth headaches, and vigilance payed off.  
Here she is just moments before removal:
We wish we could report that the removal was without incidence. But, we live in a 3rd world country, and the removal was pretty archaic. Unfortunately, I didn't know what to expect (even on 1st world standards) since Elise is the first to have braces in our family. 

Here's how they remove braces in Indonesia:
Step 1: Have patient bite down a piece of cotton. Hard.
(Please note that Step 1 did NOT include any anaesthetics or glue softening gel.)
Step 2: Dentist holds tooth pliers firmly on individual brace which is still cemented to the tooth.
Step 3: Pull individual brace from glue on individual tooth...without anaesthetics or glue softening.
Step 4: Repeat on every single tooth.

Needless to say, Elise only got through Steps 1-3 a few times before breaking down into tears because of the pain. I made some quick phone calls to find out if this was the "normal procedure." But I couldn't get through to anyone, and we were packing out, and we were leaving in just a few days, and three braces had already been ripped off her teeth. 

We had very few choices, and in the end Elise toughened through it. She learned that if she bit REALLY hard on that piece of cotton, it seemed to lessen the pain.

I cannot describe how difficult it was to watch my child practically be tortured. All I could do was stand next to her and let her squeeze my thumb. 

She took lots of breaks where she would wipe away her tears and get a quick drink of water. 

Once the braces were removed, they polished off the glue on her teeth...again without administering any anaesthetics. 

Can you see the exhaustion in my child's face? 

Elise now has a beautiful smile and a great story about third-world dentistry to share. We just hope the event hasn't scarred her for life!

When I asked her to describe the event in three words, she said, "Painful, Horrific, and a Relief!"

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Happy Place and a 20th Anniversary

Before the moving mayhem, Owen and I took one final escape to Bali to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. Although our anniversary isn't actually until this October, we couldn't think of a place we'd rather celebrate than Bali. 

My happy place is Sari Organik, sipping a Pink Treat drink while looking out over the rice paddies.

As an added bonus, we met Owen's cousin, Katherine, and her husband, Bruno at my most favorite restaurant on the planet. So fun to be with family on the other side of the world.

My other happy place: a morning run along the rice paddies of Ubud. I did not have my camera with me, so my words will have to suffice.

We cross the suspended bridge over the river. Vines dangle from the trees like an immense green curtain. Following the narrow path through the rice fields we catch glimpses of mist stirring and settling along the plunging cliffs.

While running through the village, we pass a store where round woven baskets are strung together and look like a bunch of grapes. Violet flowers pour over the stone walls, surpassing any manmade color in vividness – luminescent and florescent in the morning sun.

A man plants his rice field, wading knee deep in black mud. A plastic bin floats behind him holding the seedlings.

Women do their washing in the canals, white suds on the dark soil.

Ducks bathe in a flooded rice paddy. They bristle, flap, plume, and chatter with each other in clearly a social event - the image brings to mind Romans in a bath house.

A woman bathes in the roadside canal, she keeps modest with a sarong. 

A banyan tree with woven tendrils. Some branches are as thick as a trunk, some as thin as strings, together they make a fibrous tapestry.

In another village, country flags for FIFA World Cup decorate the main road. One small boy – maybe six or seven- wears a Messi shirt. We exchange a thumbs up.

Muddy paths – I have to keep my eyes on the trail more than I would have liked.

And my favorite moment...we take a wrong turn that leads off the main road. We stumble upon a view of a cliff terraced with rice paddies – a hidden paradise. Natural fountains trickle water from pool to pool. It is almost too beautiful to behold. I breathe deeply, count my blessing, and continue running with Owen. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Confessions of a Stressed Out Mom!

I don’t deal with stress very well. The muscles in the middle of my back clench until I feel like I’m carrying a backpack full of bricks all the time. My erratic sleep pattern includes late nights and 3 to 4 AM wake ups. My chin looks terrible. And my mood swings are monumental - ranging from bounce-off-the-wall-highs to sobbing lows. Oh I am fun to be around!

To keep my psychosis from getting out of control, there are a few coping strategies I employ:
  •        Morning prayer and scripture study are a must.  
  •        A daily call to my Mom (who has been through many moves and is a fabulous sympathizer). I love to hear her say, “In three days from now, it will all be finished, and in a couple months from now, it will all be a mere blur.”
  •       TV Free-for-all zone. Normally, I'm pretty restrictive with our TV time. Not during packout. The kids can watch as much television as they want. I'm not even keeping track.
  •       Looonnnggg runs. As in 8-10 mile runs. I start at about 6:30 (and earlier on the mornings I wake up at 4AM). I run along with the morning traffic through the neighborhoods of Kemang. Usually at about mile 6 the stress floats away and the backpack of bricks disappears. I cherish those moments of clarity when I remember my priorities: family, love, goodness, Indonesia, and gratitude.
  •       Caramel Popcorn. I have a weakness for sweets, especially cinnamon rolls, warm chocolate chip cookies, and pies. But my kryptonite is caramel popcorn. (Curse you Katie for introducing me to heaven in a bowl: kettle corn, marshmallow caramel popcorn – it is soooo addicting!). I usually make a bowl ALL for myself every other day. I don’t know how many calories a batch has, but it probably equals out what I burn during my long runs. It's a vicious cycle -- run, eat caramel popcorn, run, eat caramel popcorn -- but it seems to keep the crazies from taking over.  
I’m not kidding when I say I make an entire batch for myself. Let me recount a typical caramel popcorn episode in my house:

Amelia: Is that caramel corn for you or for us to share?
Me: It’s for me. (I hold the bowl protectively against my torso and try to keep my voice calm. But it comes out as a low growl.)
Amelia: Okay. I’ll just wait until you’re done. (She backs away cautiously.)
Me: I can make you a separate batch. (Trying to salvage my dignity.)
Amelia: Like you did yesterday?
Silence. Dignity is un-salvageable.
Me: Yes, Amelia. Exactly like yesterday.

And that’s it. My stress busters: prayer, Mom, TV, running, and caramel corn!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Crazy Times

I have a teenager's chin (blemishes!) I keep waking up at 4AM and can't get back to sleep. And my house is a disaster. What is going on? Pack out!

Nirvana didn't last long...once we arrived home we spent every waking moment purging, sorting, filing, and de-junk-afying the house to get ready for the packers. 

On the night before the packers came, we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning. Things got a bit silly. My favorite exhaustion-induced-delirium moment was when Elise cleaned out the swim closet and found these treasures: broken mosquito zapper, snorkle goggles, and one-armed Dora. 
By the time the packers arrived, we were ready, but I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack. The fear that we would exceed our weight limit was overwhelming. 
Eight hours later we weighed the air shipment boxes. We were 30 pounds over! Panic! We quickly unpacked two boxes, reshuffled items, and pulled out some non essential kitchen items. 

Here's our air shipment ready to go! 
Throughout all the chaos, Elise and Amelia have been such amazing helpers. Elise's most common sentence: "What can I do now?" They also kept me laughing. Everything in the house needed a sticker indicating if it was staying, in air shipment, or in sea shipment. Elise expressed her heart's desire by wearing this sticker all day: Stay.

I only had the laugh-turn-to-sob breakdown once. And of course, Elise caught it on video. Don't know if I've brave enough to post it. It's definitely the ugly cry. 

We're 2-3 days away from being finished...hopefully my chin and sleep-deprived body will recover in time to face the 24 hour flight and jet lag. Ahhh overseas life!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Yogyakarta Final Day

The whole reason we took this final family adventure was because Elise's school trip to Yogyakarta got canceled because of the hostile political environment surrounding Jakarta International School. The fee for the school trip was refunded to us...and so we used it to do the trip as a family.

Elise wanted to see Merapi (the volcano which erupted in 2010) so we drove to "base camp" and rented a jeep. To our surprise, Charlotte was the most exstatic about the jeep ride of all the kids! Only minutes into the ride and she started to sing at the top of her lungs, "We're on a bumpy ride! Going up the volcano!" It was as though she were starring in her own broadway musical. The serenade lasted a full twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of pure bliss.  

 In stark contrast to Charlotte's mood, we toured the remains of one of the villages destroyed by the volcano. A spoon cemented to a melted glass cup. Ash everywhere. The skeleton of a motorbike.
 Clouds shrouded the top of Merapi, but the kids enjoyed "exploring" the lava field.
We ended our day by going into the actual city of Yogyakarta to the lovely Phoenix Hotel. Wow - what a beautiful hotel! Harkening back to the Dutch colony days, this is a step back in time.
 The kids enjoyed an evening swim in this lavish pool.
I anticipated access to lots of restaurants, but was disappointed. By the time the kids were cleaned up from their swim, we were starving (definitely the low point of the trip) and the hotel restaurant was extremely pricey. We broke down and got a Happy Meal for Charlotte at nearby McDonalds and ordered pizza for the twin at Pizza Hut - not exactly the cultural experience I was looking for.  I couldn't bring myself to eat the fast food, so Elise and I decided to eat at the hotel. We ordered a minimal amount of food: shared an appetizer, soup, and dessert. The service was soooo slow -- one of those upscale restaurants where the dinner can last for a couple hours -- and we were soooo hungry. We ate all of the complimentary bread, and Elise even ate the interesting sauces because she was famished. When the waitress finally brought the small appetizer I think I actually said, "Please just bring ALL the food, now!" (I get a bit testy when I'm hungry).

With semi-full bellies and a much less-full wallet, we retired to bed. Truman and Owen stayed up until 11pm to watch the Germany vs. USA World Cup match. They ordered room service and even though the program cut off after only the first half (ah Indonesia!), they had a memorable time together.

All in all, Yogyakarta was a wonderful getaway. The only thing I would have changed would be to have Madi with us. But she was in Virginia trekking and camping. We missed her very much and can hardly wait to be reunited as a family.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Yogyakarta Day 2 - Borobudur

The sunrise over the 1200 year-old Buddhist temple makes the entire hill and valley appear like jewels cast in an enormous crown. The structure is as large as a hill. I love the stories about the Buddhists who dedicated their life to the temple's creation. Black volcanic rock hewn from the mountain was cut, hauled, and stacked...all by hand. Participants fulfilled their duties as an act of devotion.  

We climb the stone stairs, level by level, and marvel at the carved reliefs on each of the 2600 panels. (Okay the kids got a little bored with the guide's detailed information, but they were super troopers!) The panels depict the life of Buddha. Buddhists come here for learning as well as worship. I am in awe of the incredible feat - to think of the labor, skill, and dedication poured into its creation. 
These bell-shaped structures (stupas) contain a statue of Buddha. Locals say the mountain (in the background) resembles a reclining Buddha. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but in person it is quite remarkable.

I'd like to think the joyful leap in the picture below reflects how happy the kids were to be here at the beautiful place, but chances are, it also reflects their relief that the guided tour was finished.

We ate dinner at the Manohara Hotel (where we had stayed when we visited with Granddad and Nana). Indonesian dancers entertained us. The girls in pink and lime dresses were enchanting, their fingers bent back with almost inhuman-defying flexibility. The men reenacted a fight. Their curved kris knives were decorated with a plume of fresh white flowers. With each knife strike tiny white flowers showered the stage, filling the air with a sweet perfume.

At the recommendation of my dear friend, Dawn, we stayed an elegant hotel only a short walk to the temple. Everything oozed of tropical paradise. And I realized the combination of beautiful manmade and natural creations could indeed bring me to reach Nirvana.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Count Down: Yogyakarta Day 1

With only 9 days left in Indonesia, I'm going to try to blog everyday.  For today and tomorrow: our final family adventure to Yogyakarta!

Our first stop was Prambanan - the beautiful 9th century Hindu temple. 

 Monks descended the stone stairs, and although they were visiting as tourists like us, their presence added a cultural, authentic feel to the scene.
Although the kids thought the temples were "very cool" - the ATV rides were the highlight of the day. 
Truman was so excited he didn't want to pose for any pictures. As soon as he got the go-ahead, he pressed the gas as far as it could go. He was a daredevil around the curves and couldn't stop smiling.
 Not everyone loved the ATV rides - Amelia was a bit anxious to get off. 
The tandem bikes were more Amelia's style.

Not pictured: My Epic bike fall! While dismounting, my flip flop (already broken from when I caught the tip on a stone step) got stuck in the pedal. Over went the bike, and I went with it. I landed on my back, my feet up in the air, catapulting my flip flop a good ten feet away. Amelia gave it a "10"!

We biked to a Buddhist Sewu temple. It is an 8th century structure. Because most of the temple was discovered in ruins, the restoration project is expansive. It's like a giant set of legos. Some of the temples are still only piles of stones waiting to be reconstructed.