big girl birthdays

Another birthday post full of pictures for family and friends to see how we celebrated Talia turning 6 and Elise turning 4.

We happened to be in Thailand for Talia’s birthday doing our last trip out to finalize some paperwork, so we thought we could have fun celebrating there.

2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (7 of 32)We went out for a special birthday breakfast and let her choose whatever she wanted from the menu.  She chose waffles and a smoothie.2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (1 of 32)We bought a couple gifts and a few balloons. I’m so glad it doesn’t take much to make something special for our girls! 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (2 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (3 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (4 of 32)Trying on her new hat. 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (5 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (6 of 32)She requested lemon meringue pie, after hearing it was one of Mommy’s frequently requested birthday desserts and we were actually able to find it by googling local bakeries!  2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (8 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (9 of 32)Instead of parties, we often like to do a birthday outing. So we gave her the choice of going to the zoo or going ice skating.  Ice skating it was! 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (10 of 32)They were pretty excited to try it out for the first time… 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (11 of 32)Talia did end up a bit disappointed that she couldn’t twirl and spin like a figure skater. Ha! 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (12 of 32)With Pingu’s help, Talia was able to make some progress and started moving on her own.2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (13 of 32)In the end the girls got tired of the skates and Ryan ended the hour by pushing them around as they stood on the back of Pingu’s skis, until their socks were soaked through. 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (14 of 32)


A couple months later and it was Elise’s turn.  We had an idea to set up a surprise tea party after the girls went to bed.  The girls often come down early in the morning to use the bathroom and Elise has been known to go scavenging for something to eat. So, this time we made it easy.2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (15 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (16 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (17 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (18 of 32)Something the girls had been looking forward to for MONTHS was having a second attempt at a sister sleepover when Elise turned 4 (as it didn’t go so well when she was 3 years old). This time… Success!  2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (19 of 32)For Elise’s birthday outing we decided to take a picnic and go swimming at the waterfalls, but the weather dropped by 10-15 degrees that weekend, so we changed the “swimming” to “hiking.” The water ended up being a bit high anyways and may have been tough to swim in.2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (20 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (21 of 32)It was pretty cozy to get to wear sweatshirts for the first time this season. 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (22 of 32)The hike ended up being a big adventure and loads of fun.   The girls did great!2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (23 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (24 of 32)We even hiked straight up one of the waterfalls! We didn’t even know this path existed, which made this birthday hike all the more exciting and memorable. 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (25 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (26 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (27 of 32)We started a new tradition with this colorful “birthday” hat from the night market.  Elise loved it! 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (28 of 32) 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (29 of 32)Daddy entertained us with his own version of the Lao candle dance2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (30 of 32)Elise thoroughly enjoyed the show! 2015-11-16 birthdays by Melissa Crossett (31 of 32)We forgot to buy wrapping paper, so made do with some construction paper.  Guess which one was from us.

If you missed Isla’s 1st birthday, you can see that here.

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baby turns one!

This post is primarily for family and other Isla lovers to see pics (a little bit late) of the birthday girl. 

We kept the day pretty simple. The night before we all picked out some handmade gifts at the night market, and the rest was done during her morning nap, the day of: hanging up a few decorations, making a quick DIY birthday crown and a special birthday meal/”cake” all in one.  Honestly, one year olds don’t know what’s going on and we joked that if we did something that Isla would love, all we’d have to do is just lie down on the rug and spend the morning playing with her.  But, we had to do something “birthday-ish” especially now the the big girls are older, and of course to have some pictures to show Isla when she grows up. 🙂 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (4 of 29)Mixing up the coconut pancakes2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (3 of 29)

And setting out the gifts on a perch.2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (5 of 29)Getting Isla up from her nap. 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (6 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (7 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (8 of 29)2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (1 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (2 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (9 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (11 of 29)2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (10 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (12 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (13 of 29)She wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, so big sisters helped her get started. 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (14 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (15 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (16 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (17 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (18 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (19 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (20 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (21 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (22 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (23 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (24 of 29)A little party entertainment by The Dancing Reflector.2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (25 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (26 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (27 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (28 of 29) 2015-11-03 baby turns one by Melissa Crossett (29 of 29)Talia and Isla modeling their night market clothes.

It was a great simple birthday party – the only complicated part was trying to take pictures/video and get food on the table with only two adults in the house!

Happy birthday to our sweet, affectionate, happy little girl.  You’ll always be our baby.

learning to dance

After some bouts with poor internet, we’re back to posting again! I have a lot to post from the past few months, so hopefully I’ll have time to share them with you.

Talia recently performed her first traditional Lao dance that she learned at school! We were all invited to come to the Teacher’s Day celebrations and watch her perform. After rounding up the appropriate traditional dress and doing her hair and makeup, which she was pretty excited about, we headed out in a Tuk-Tuk.2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (1 of 2)I’m not sure why, but after over 5 years of living in Southeast Asia, we still arrive to events on time. Amateurs. 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (2 of 2)2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (1 of 17)Once others showed up and things got rolling, Talia had help putting on her sash and a special crown. 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (2 of 17) 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (4 of 17)At first Elise followed Talia around everywhere, including right onto the “dance floor”, so I had to remind her that she wouldn’t be performing with her big sister.  2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (5 of 17)Some of the younger kids recited some poems and did small performances first. 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (6 of 17)Then Talia and her classmates were called up to get their flowers and get ready to perform. 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (7 of 17) 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (8 of 17) 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (9 of 17)  2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (12 of 17)Initially, she had been unsure she’d be able to learn it since the other girls mostly knew the dance already. But, after a few pep talks she took it very seriously, and did a great job.

Here is a short video:

2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (13 of 17)

Next the 3-4th grade girls performed their dance which included candles. Talia can’t wait to do that in a few years!2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (14 of 17) 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (15 of 17)Another poem recitation.. 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (16 of 17) 2015-10-21 kids Lao dance Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (17 of 17)

Followed by snacks and lunch. Here is Talia with her friends.  Can’t wait for our girls to learn more dances!

Elephants! (tour guides part 3)

I have a minor obsession with elephants, and up until now have never been on one for more than 5 minutes, so I was super excited that we were planning on taking our guests to an elephant camp! We figured with two more adults helping out, we could manage our three children for the event.

2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (3 of 25)We found a great deal for a new elephant camp outside of town and decided to give it a try. They took us out in their van, and after an introductory speech about elephants and a welcome drink, we went over to meet and feed the elephants. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (4 of 25) 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (5 of 25)We then loaded up and trundled off for our 30 minute ride. We took three elephants – one kid on each. Our particular guide, was very happy to take some pictures of us.  He ended up hopping down off the elephant and taking dozens of pictures, to my surprise later when I looked back through them.  Good thing it’s a digital camera!2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (1 of 25)To his credit, he got some great shots, like this one. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (2 of 25)And some “creatively framed” ones, as well (above).  At one point we got a little nervous, because he wandered so far away taking pictures of scenery and everyone else, that we ended up alone on our elephant, and our elephant got to doing her own thing.2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (7 of 25)The ride was fun, although rather short. But, that actually turned out to be a good thing, because it was blazing hot out that day! 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (8 of 25) 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (9 of 25)After the ride, we spent a little more time with the elephants at the feeding post, and one of the elephants was pretty interested in Isla and ended up slobbering snot all over her baby carrier!   2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (10 of 25)By far the best part of the day was bathing the elephants. I guess they got pretty dirty on our little walk.2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (11 of 25)I think the elephants enjoyed cooling off as much as we did.  Riding mine in the water, was like riding a bucking bronco! Of course, I have no experience on a bucking bronco, so I may be being a little dramatic.  2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (12 of 25) 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (13 of 25)The mahouts (“elephant wrangler” to the layperson) said that only one person could go at a time, so the girls waited on shore. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (14 of 25)I again got ditched by my mahout and ended up riding solo.  A little adrenaline makes the experience that much more exciting! 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (15 of 25) 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (16 of 25)We explained to the mahouts that our girls don’t know how to swim yet, but they still wanted to have a turn bathing, and they reassured us that they’d take good care of them. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (17 of 25)Getting sprayed! 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (18 of 25)And again. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (19 of 25)Ryan’s brother and Elise were the last to go in. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (20 of 25)

Nothing better than a clean elephant!2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (21 of 25) 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (22 of 25)Elise got her turn washing her elephant.2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (23 of 25)She also got a good soaking. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (24 of 25)The girls absolutely LOVED it, and wanted to get back in right away. 2015-09-21 elephant riding with kids in Luang Prabang by Melissa Crossett (25 of 25)We got to say one last goodbye to the elephants before heading out.  Elise left in tears, because she hadn’t had enough time with the elephants.  I’m sure we’ll be back sometime in the future, because Mommy’s as fond of these massive creatures as the kids are!

What’s your favorite animal?

Kuang Si Waterfalls (tour guides part 2)

Another item on our list as tour guides, was to take Ryan’s brother and sister in law to enjoy the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls.2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (1 of 13)It’s always fun to watch the bears in the sanctuary on the way in. 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (3 of 13)First, we walked to the top to see the all the different pools and the big waterfall, and took the chance to scout out our options for swimming holes. Tip: get there early to beat the crowds and you can have a pool to yourself! 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (5 of 13)2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (6 of 13)The water is always pretty chilly, but a hot sunny day made it quite refreshing. It’s perfect for kids, even if they can’t swim yet, because there are lots of shallow areas to play and enjoy the slippery banks.  2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (7 of 13) 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (8 of 13)An added bonus of these waterfalls is that this is the native habitat for the famous “fish spa” fish, so the dead skin from your feet gets cleaned up while you wade around.  Nibble, nibble, yum, yum!  Ryan enjoys watching unsuspecting newbies get nibbled for first time. Wait for it…!2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (10 of 13)The water has minerals in it making the water a turquoise color and forming a rough buildup on rocks and logs, making climbing and exploring super fun and easy. 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (11 of 13) 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (12 of 13) 2015-09-30 Kuangsi waterfalls with kids by Melissa Crossett (13 of 13)We enjoyed a couple hours of swimming, then packed up to get some lunch near the entrance of the park before heading back home.

What is your favorite waterfall to visit?  Could your feet use a fish spa?

Mt Phousi (tour guides part 1)

2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (2 of 11)We were so excited to have some family come visit us for a couple of weeks this summer!  Aside from lots of relaxed time (and late nights!) catching up at home, it gave us the chance to see Luang Prabang as tourists again.  Ryan was able to take a few days off work, and we also made the most of the two weekends during their visit.2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (3 of 11)The temps were HOT! So, we went swimming a couple of times, and tried to cool off in the AC between outings.  2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (4 of 11)In the middle of Luang Prabang is Mt Phousi.  One evening we decided to make the climb at dusk to show them the view from the top of the town. 2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (5 of 11)It’s a LOT of stairs, but the kids love it and race on up ahead.2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (9 of 11)We were all dripping with sweat by the time we reached the top (along with everyone else!) but the views were worth it. 2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (7 of 11) 2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (8 of 11) 2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (10 of 11)Our kids were part of the attraction for a crowd of Asian tourists, but they didn’t seem to mind. We had fun people watching, as well as enjoying a beautiful sunset over the river before heading back down. 2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (11 of 11)2015-09-30 Mt Phousi with kids by Melissa Crossett (1 of 11)It’s also fun and much cozier during the winter!

What mountains have you climbed?  Have you ever become the tourist attraction at a tourist attraction?

Mekong River Cruise – downriver

I hope you weren’t holding your breath for the second half of our river cruise! If you were, you would be dead by now so wouldn’t be reading this warning! Life has been a bit too full for blogging this summer.  We recently did this same river cruise for the second time, so these images are again fresh in our minds. 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (32 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (33 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (35 of 62)Since we already experienced the villages on the way up, we opted for running and playing on the beach on the return trip. 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (36 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (37 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (38 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (39 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (40 of 62)The girls did great taking naps to the sound of the river rushing by. 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (41 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (42 of 62)  2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (48 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (49 of 62)When they needed something different to do for a while, the girls listened to audio books and sang along with the Frozen sound track. 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (50 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (51 of 62)Water buffalo 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (52 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (53 of 62)At one of our stops, a boat crew member bought a monitor lizard.  Looks like the crew will have a delightful feast tonight! 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (54 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (56 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (57 of 62)We even got to see some elephants along the way!2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (59 of 62)A downpour of rain made for some cozy cruising. 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (60 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (62 of 62) 2015-06-08 mekong river cruise by Melissa Crossett (61 of 62)Arriving back home!

You can see part 1 here. What did you do this summer?