This week has been busy and crazy, and we've loved every minute of it! As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, so we've got plenty this week.
Our week started out with a visit Monday evening from our wonderful friends from Sweden, the Norin family. (Check out my Friends and Family post from last month). We were so excited to see them back in Bangkok when we got to church on Sunday and were happy they had time to come over for another visit. They have spent the last month living on an island in Malaysia and had one last week in Bangkok before heading to Hong Kong, New Zealand, California and UTAH!
The boys had so much fun together! Jack loved every minute with Oliver and Alvin, we could tell by the hysterical laughter heard all night! It was awesome. Jack really hasn't laughed that hard in a long time, besides the last time that they were here, of course.
I loved Jane and Ben together, even though they really are too young to actually play together. I think their blonde hair is so similar, especially the curly wisps around the face and in the back. Although, Ben does have more hair than Jane, which might explain why people still occasionally ask if Jane is a boy (doesn't matter how much pink, or how many clips in her hair), and Ben gets mistaken for a girl occasionally.
We all sat around their computer for some time looking at pictures of their island adventures and then listening to some Swedish pop stars. We absolutely loved our time with the Norins. They really are a wonderful example of the kind of family we hope to be. We hated to say goodbye, not knowing when we would see them again, so we invited them over for dinner again on Wednesday, and were happy they could fit it in! They are all exceptional, and we feel blessed to have had them in our home. Our hope is to one day make it to Sweden!
Jack, Janie and I went swimming for the first time since we moved into our new apartment. It was awesome. Jack is a little hesitant because it's been a couple of months, but I could barely keep Jane from diving in the deep end! Afterwards, we discovered that they love to shower. Jack occasionally gets in, but Janie never has gotten in with him, so it was a treat. They had a blast, and I practically had to drag them out when it was time to get ready for dinner!
Friday was a fun day for me and the kids. Anutra invited us to come with her and one of her English classes from the University to the Ancient City. Her students were giving reports on different sites in the Ancient city in English, and I think she wanted a native English speaker there. I really thought she was inviting us because she tells her classes about Jack and Janie, so she wanted to show them off, but I realized within the first few minutes that the presentations were being made specifically to ME! I got to ask questions and talk with each of the students about what they presented on, as well as visit with the other teachers. It was a fun day for the kids and I. We love Anutra, the Ancient City, and having 15 excited baby-sitters wasn't too bad either!
Jack noticed the microphone at the front of the tram about half way through our day. He thought this was the best. So, he started out singing "I'm a child of God" and "ABC's" and ended with phrases such as, "Next station, the floating market!" I was amazed that everyone still thought he was adorable after hearing his voice, very loud, for a very long time. He was pretty hilarious.
This day was also Janie's first day in her whole life where she didn't have a nap at ALL! The bus dropped us off in Bang Na, quite a ways from home, and we caught a taxi the rest of the way. I thought I was in for a taxi ride from you know where, but it was really one of my favorite long taxi rides ever (it took us over an hour to get home, and this is already in the city, with little traffic!). The kids played SO cute together, the driver thought they were hilarious, and Jack is getting really good at "I spy". Janie went down at 6pm that night, and slept until almost 8am. She was amazing! Hopefully, we won't have to do that one again though, I don't want to press my luck!
Saturday was a fun day of normal Saturday things: cleaning, shopping, and being together. We were excited because we had friends coming over in the evening, and Jack could hardly wait! Our friends, Mike and Emily, are returning to England next week because they are expecting their first baby. They have been married less than a year, and decided they wanted to spend their first year together teaching English in Thailand. We decided before they returned home, we needed to get everyone together to wish them well! It was a VERY fun evening. Lots of food, good conversation, and friends!
From the top left to right: Mike and Emily Maitland, Kaddi and Shane Strate, Mary Jane and Bundit Ungrangsee, Joel and Som Selway (on the couch), and Jeff and I. This was a self-timer picture, so you should all be very impressed. This is such a diverse group of friends, and everyone here has a story. It's fun to visit, and we all loved playing CatchPhrase together. You really don't realize how much you depend on your culture until you play a game like that with people who are NOT Americans! Emily had a really hard time describing "I love Lucy" (she'd never heard of it!), and Joel had NO idea what a "Caboose" was. Anybody know what a "Hat Trick" is? I had NO clue! I don't think that's cultural, it's just my inexperience with hockey, I guess!
We got together earlier this time than last, so we could get the kids to bed a better time, but really, we just spent more time visiting! But, the kids loved it. No problems with these kids, they get along GREAT! I think it's a pretty good mix of ages. Starting from the left: Jake Strate with Jane (Jane's first boyfriend, she LOVES Jake!), Narissa Ungrangsee, Cyan and Cyrus Selway, Megan Strate holding Alena Ungrangsee, and Jack.
The kids announced at one point that they were putting on a puppet show for all of us. They brought it out into the family room, and took turns presenting their wonderful stories which consisted mostly of whisperings behind the curtains and a few puppet fight scenes by the boys. It was pretty fun, and I was glad to seem them enjoying our puppet theater so much!
A special treat was that the Ungrangsees brought a favorite Thai dessert of Mango and sticky rice with a coconut milk topping. It was SO sweet and delicious! Mmmmm... I am hoping to learn how to make the sticky rice so I can do it myself!
Our crazy week didn't end at bedtime on Saturday, Sunday was also filled. We had our normal church meetings, where Jeff taught Priesthood, and I worked in the nursery with my friend, Kaddi. After the meetings, there was the baptism of a fellow from India. His cousin, Sancho, was baptized just 3 weeks ago, and they both simply glow. Jeff was honored to speak at the baptism and described it as the "the most amazing baptism ever". I haven't gotten all the details, because we haven't yet had a chance to really visit, because our day didn't stop there. I let Jack stay in the baptism meeting, while I took Janie out for some space before we headed to the Bishop's house with his family for dinner and Jeff's ward council meeting. We got to spend the afternoon with Sis. Sampson and their daughter Leslie, eating an amazing meal of meat and potatoes (beef! can you believe it?), and playing with their toys while Jeff was in his meeting. It worked out for us to get a ride back into the city around 5:30 with Bro. Andersen in the bishopric, who we adore. We think of him as our kid's pseudo-grandpa while we are away (there is a picture of him unscrewing the chair to get Jack out, at our Thanksgiving feast at their home). It was fun to spend time with so many people from the ward, even if it did make for a very busy Sunday.
If you are a Frog and Toad fan, you might recall the story about "the Letter". Toad talks about his "sad time of day" when he waits for the mail, although he has never received any. Well, I had a "sad time of day" today. As church was ending and I was maneuvering through our very narrow hallways packed full of people, I heard wonderful music and quickly saw a big screen with pictures of familiar faces on it. The youth were preparing for a fireside broadcast in the cultural hall and the music was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. I walked in, with Janie in my arms and was completely caught up in seeing MY Orchestra playing with the wonderful choir, and I wasn't in it. Seeing all those familiar faces and recalling the feeling of entering that wonderful Conference center to those voices, was overwhelming to me. When I saw Jeff, I couldn't hold it in any more and broke down in his arms. I knew there were sacrifices when we chose to come to Bangkok, but I don't think I realized how much I would miss serving in the Orchestra. I miss playing beautiful music, being surrounded by exceptional musicians, and feeling that extra spirit when I am sharing my testimony through music. What a wonderful organization, and it was such a blessing to be a part of it for that 2 years. So, these wonderful memories caused me to have a "sad time of day" as I recalled them all and was sad that it will be another 2 years before I am able to participate in it again. Like Toad, it was unnecessary to think about the possibilities of receiving a letter, or getting to play in the orchestra again, which makes us sad, but sometimes, you just have to mourn for a while and then move on. Toad went through this each day until Frog finally sent him his letter. I hope I can be done with it now and receive my "letter" when I return home.
Thank you all for keeping in touch and caring for our little family. We love you all!