It’s hard to remember that Gabriel is not yet 4, considering he has already been planning his 4th birthday party for several months. There will be Ninja Turtle cake, and Ninja Turtle pizza, and lots of running around in the yard pretending to be Ninja Turtles.

With his language development has come the ability to negotiate, and as expected, he can be quite insistent. One of the funniest things he does, is when he’s asked for something and we say no, he’ll ask again. I remind him, “But Mama said no.” His response? “But I say YES!”

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A few weeks ago, I was looking for a weekend travel destination in Vietnam and started reading about Buon Ma Thuot in Daklak Province. My stipulations for a good weekend “getaway” are:

1. It should not take more than 5 hours to get there, all travel included.
2. It should not cost more than $100 to get there and back.
3. You can leave on a Friday evening and return on a Sunday evening.

With conveniently timed JetStar flights for about $75 round trip, Buon Ma Thout fit the requirements. Daklak Province is known for coffee production, dense jungles, elephant trekking, lakes, and waterfalls. That sounded like a nice contrast to city life in Saigon, so I booked my tickets and headed off without the kids for a weekend to myself.

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Although Ho Chi Minh City only has two seasons, wet and dry, I still think of the year in four seasons. Seeing all the recent Facebook posts of snow in New England has been a reminder that it’s winter, which is my favorite time of the year in Saigon. I’m sure this partly because there is no snow to be shoveled here! November is when the rainy season has ended, and the skies are clear. Early mornings and late afternoons are pleasant to sit outside, as the weather is warm but not humid. It’s the best time of the year for taking walks and enjoying time in the garden.

Just yesterday, I decided to explore my neighborhood a little bit. We’ve been living in this house for 1.5 years, and since we’ve been here I’ve been either pregnant or had health issues that prevented me from walking for more than 5 minutes at a time. What I found was a ramshackle little path next to the river that starts just two houses down from mine.

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Since my son Gabriel was born in 2011, I’ve been posting sporadic updates about my kids and their travels over on my Parenting blog. With the new blog design at Expat Heather, I’ve decided to now post everything all in one place.

At 8 months old, Arianne is really on the move. She isn’t crawling on her hands and knees yet, but she is getting pretty fast at the sniper crawl. She also loves to crawl up and over things, and we have to belt her into the baby walker so she doesn’t dive out in an attempt to grab a favorite book.

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This week our school is running a “College Boot Camp” for our grade 12 students while the rest of the school is away on field trips. We are doing a lot of different activities, and one of the sessions I am running is getting students to do some reading and research about the college experience and teenage life. The majority of our students are Vietnamese and are planning to study abroad in the US, Canada, Australia or Europe.

Here are some of the articles we’re using to spark conversation and further research:

1. The Dark Power of Fraternities

A lengthy piece of investigate journalism about the dangers and the powerful role of fraternities in the US college landscape. A challenging piece for college-level readers that exposes them to not only the social impact of these campus group, but also the legal, economic, and political sides of fraternities.

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