30 March 2007

And we're off...

It's not often that I post my blog early, but today is special because we are leaving town for a few days and won't be back in time for my Sunday night entry. So, I decided before we go, and take all kinds of amazing pictures, I should share some of the ones from this week that I loved.

We had a very FUN week celebrating Jeff's birthday, along with all kinds of crazy meetings, trips all over town, and so on. It has not been the relaxing "together" week that I had planned for more reason than one, but it still has been a lot of fun.

Jeff and I enjoyed a few hours to ourselves Monday afternoon, which was his main birthday surprise (we had a friend come over and watch the kids and they had a blast!). The surprise on Monday was not what we were doing, but just that we were doing something, just the two of us. We wandered the streets, stroller free, and enjoyed a grown-up lunch together accompanied by foot massages. So nice!

We went to Central World for bowling, which I am sure we haven't done since Jack was a baby. In his day, Jeff was a pretty good bowler, so I thought this would be fun for him to remember the good ol' days. And, it didn't take him long, he was great! Just as we suspected, Jack loved every minute of bowling too! They had bumpers that would swing up just for his turn (much to my dismay).

This scene was about 3/4 of our bowling experience. I loved to watch how excited Jack got as it got closer and closer to the pins. I remember my SO cute brother, Jesse, bowling when he was about this age and the ball losing momentum in the middle of the lane. It brought back good memories to see Jack enjoying it like Jesse used to.

After bowling and our favorite pizza, Jack discovered a new area for kids to play in, so we spent some time there, letting the kids pile these big rings up and knock them down with their new friends.

On the way home, we took the train, as usual, then because it was so late, we took a truck tuk-tuk the rest of the way. The kids love this kind of vehicle. It's like a tiny pick-up truck with a cover over the bed, and two little benches. They are always available at the end of our soi, so they are very convenient when we are in a hurry and can't walk it. We took a few pictures of all of us, so we could remember our fun evening together. We finished off the evening with an amazing ice cream cake at home. Mmmmmm. Just as Jeff anticipated, the cake was MUCH more than we could eat, so he's been feasting on it all week long. He makes me sing him "Happy Birthday" each time he gets it out.

This is our darling Jane on the way out the door to church on Sunday. I couldn't resist taking a picture of her doing her wai in this little dress. Unfortunately, you can't get the full effect with a still shot, but she still is quite the beauty!

Yesterday was Narissa's 3rd Birthday, one of Jack's closest friends. We went to her home to celebrate, and the kids had a great time playing games, fishing for prizes, and eating no bake cheese cake!

Well, we are off to Hua Hin for the weekend, and will return on Monday afternoon. We are excited for a break from school, work, pollution, phones, normal life, etc. We are looking forward to relaxing on the beach, seeing new things, and being together with good friends!

25 March 2007

The BIG 2-9

Guess who's birthday is March 26th? You guessed it, Jeff's! If you didn't know Jeff's birthday was on the 26th, you probably also didn't know that Jason, his twin brother, will also be celebrating! So, Happy 29th Birthday to Jason as well, we love you!

I think it was 2 years ago that I declared all our birthdays official holidays, so that means Jeff gets the day off. He has meetings pretty much all day today, so I am more ecstatic than ever to spend the day together tomorrow. (Especially since last year for his birthday, he was here in Bangkok without us, celebrating by himself. Lame. ) As I was thinking about what to write about my sweet husband this week, I realized that there are so many things that I LOVE about Jeff that other people probably don't even know about. So, in honor of the birthday boy, I am sharing just 29 of the many things I love about Jeff. Don't worry, I'll keep it from getting too mushy.

1. I love that he loves the craziest rides at amusement parks (and will do them over and over with me.
2. I love that he is simple, what you see is what you get.
3. I love that he is a one man circus act: juggling, balancing things on his chin/toe, yo-yo tricks, you name it.
4. I love that he chooses to be home, even when I give him a night to do whatever he wants.
5. I love that he has amazing common sense.
6. I love that a common, and very true, phrase in our home is "Daddy can fix anything".
7. I love that he knows how to work (yard work, housework, programming, the list goes on.)
8. I love that he supports me fully in my time and thought consuming ambitions without complaint.
9. I love that he values education.
10. I love that he loves to exercise and keep fit.
11. I love that he gets along with everyone.
12. I love that he can get ready in the morning in 10 minutes (if you don't count the 20 minutes it takes him to put on his socks while he thinks about genius ways to fix his latest bug at work).
13. I love that he makes up stories with Jack every night before bed.
14. I love that he puts family first.
15. I love that he feels like he only needs just enough shirts to get him to laundry day. Why would anyone need more?
16. I love that he is a man that brings home flowers and takes out the garbage (without even being asked!).
17. I love that he loves going to the Symphony.
18. I love that he is so dedicated to learning and using Thai.
19. I love that he is non-judgmental of other people and situations.
20. I love that he will voluntarily look like a lunatic just to make me and the kids laugh.
21. I love that he will teach me computer things over and over until I finally get it.
22. I love how much he loves his family.
23. I love that he is so patient.
24. I love that he appreciates other cultures and sincerely wants to learn about them.
25. I love that he plays the banjo.
26. I love that he can't remember names.
27. I love that he likes to read for fun.
28. I love that he could be Father of the Year.
29. I love that I thought he was perfect when I first met him, and after being married for 6 years, I realize he is better than I could have ever imagined.

I know I shouldn't go on to number 30, but one of the lesser known facts about Jeff is that he is quite the goof. If you have never been on a vacation with him, you may not know that he rarely just smiles for a picture. It took me a while to realize that it's not that the camera just catches him off guard. All of the weird faces are on purpose. Here is a glimpse into a few such moments.

On the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Of course, he does this one we are taking the picture of ourselves, so I can't see what he's doing.

The morning of the Salt Lake City Marathon. Does he look ready or what?

He took this series of photos just to see my reaction when I found them on the camera. I still don't know how he makes his face do some of these things.

I think he practices when I'm not watching.

The Hillman boys got a kick out of this one, with the antenna on his head. Janie laughs her head off at Jeff's different faces. The best is watching Jack try to duplicate them!

Rockefeller Center. We probably won't be here again for years and years, and this is the picture we have to remember it by. I love it.

This is one look that makes Jeff so fun for Jack to photograph. I'm pretty boring when compared to Daddy's funny faces.

Walking the streets of New York with Clark (Vanessa's 3rd).

If you could see the turtle better, you'd see that his lips are just like Jeff's!

The first morning of our Disneyland trip, and I can hardly keep from skipping around like a 5 year old. Jeff really was excited, he just likes my reaction when I see the picture on the camera. I guess he really likes getting a good whack to the belly.
The best thing about this picture is that he was trying to make a funny face, but while laughing at Dad Hillman's reaction to it, Dad actually caught a REAL smile. Good job, Dad!

And I couldn't resist posting this one because this is such a typical Hillman moment. Although they really don't use "potty humor", they think it's pretty funny to tease Mom Hillman, who is planning on her headstone reading "no potty jokes!". Thank goodness, she is such a good sport! (check out Jack's face!)

So, if you know Jeff, you will probably get a kick out of this. If you don't know Jeff, then you should. He really is my "perfect boy" as I called him when we first started dating. Who knew you could improve on perfect?

If you have any other "lesser known" facts to add to my list, do tell. Or feel free to offer birthday wishes! 29 is a big deal, right? My goodness, he's only got one more year until he's officially an old man!

19 March 2007

Father and Son

I apologize to our regular Sunday night readers for this being so late. We have had quite the weekend and for more reason than one, I was not feeling up to sitting in front of a computer on Sunday night! I'm still not feeling so great. I must be getting sick or am just severely over-tired. Either way, I still wanted to get this up, so thanks to Jeff, there is actually something fun to see!

But first... a few more words from me.

While the highlight of the week was the Father and Sons outing (which Jack has talked about EVERY day since we knew it was coming up), there were also a few other highlights we thought were noteworthy.

I spent Thursday morning with Jack and his friends at the zoo. It was a lot of fun, and the monkeys that I love so much were talking once we left, so we all loved that. (They are Gibbon monkeys and make the best animal sound ever. Anutra tells us that it is the woman calling to her husband. When you think of it this way, it's pretty hilarious because after the "woman" starts yelling, it gets all the others going really loud and they all start yelling around at once. I love it. If you've ever seen the Jungle book movie (not the cartoon), it's like those monkeys that guard the treasure. Good movie, by the way.)

Jack, Jane, Narissa, and Cyrus all had a great time together, as always. Although before 10am, we were all soaking wet (from sweat) and the kids were all white from all the baby powder we kept loading on them. Whatever helps!

As I waited to meet up with Som and Mary Jane, we played on these little arcade toys and I loved this one of the tuk-tuk. Janie loved to drive this one because it wobbled a little on its own, so she almost got the full effect!

The snake and reptile cave is a nice, cool place to take the kids for a break. Mary Jane and I were dying when we saw what was in the cage of this huge snake. We were just hoping he would get hungry, but he was already so swollen looking, I think this was the second course, so we didn't get to see much of a show. Can you tell what it is?

Jeff and Jack left Friday morning (sad to have them be away from me for the first time in how long? I missed them like crazy! I think I'm more attached than ever), and on Friday afternoon, I got a call from my friend, Kathrine, who lives on an island down south, Koh Samet. I talked about Kathrine last month when we had her and the kids over for dinner. She was coming into town for church, like she does once a month, and needed a place to stay. She and the kids arrived Saturday afternoon around 4pm and stayed until Monday around noon. If you can imagine 4 children under 4 in our apartment for 3 days...wow. We had quite the houseful, and we had to give the kids breaks from each other occasionally for everyone's sanity, but overall, everyone had a good time.

The bathtub was one place where for some reason, there was less screaming, so we did this several times during our time together. Do my kids look WHITE or what? It was really fun to visit more with Katherine, and more and more I admire how dedicated she is to attending church with her children. Even if it takes them hours on a bus, boat, etc. to get here. Her story is amazing, and I can't believe how well she handles it all. Certainly, an exceptional individual.

At church on Sunday, Jeff met some visitors, like we do EVERY Sunday (which we love), and he came into the nursery and told me that we were having guests that night. I have given him permission to invite people over anytime and I'll do my best, so I am always happy when he actually takes me up on it. Thank goodness, we already had a houseful, so it wasn't much more of an issue to add two more! Unfortunately, Amy and Eric couldn't come over until later, so they missed dinner, but we were so excited they came over just to visit for a while and eat Jeff's homemade cookies.

Like I've said before, everyone here has a story, and these two were no exception. They have 3 young children (who were in California with grandparents), and are on spring break from Stanford where Eric is graduating with his MBA in June. They just really enjoy traveling, so they've been to South America, Italy, and now Thailand and Cambodia. It was fun to fill them in on some of the things they have and will see here. Especially with Katherine there, who has been here for MUCH longer than we have, so she was much more helpful when it came to culture and traditions. We got the kids down and had some time to visit like real adults, it was awesome. We were so grateful that they would come to our home and share a little bit of their experiences with us. I love meeting people from all over the world, there is so much to learn and everyone has so much to offer. It's things like this that make me think that I could live abroad forever. Don't worry, Mom and Dad, I'm sure it's not really going to happen.

Well, here's my handsome husband with a briefing on their adventures as Father and Son:

Jeff here. Hey! Wait! Come back! I promise this is just temporary!

For the Father and Sons outing this year, we went to Khao Yai, a beautiful national park Northeast of Bangkok. Jack and I traveled there with the missionaries and a few members in vans hired by the ward. Others came in their own cars later in the evening. Over 100 Cambodian members and investigators were unable to come after a crackdown by the Thai government last week that put most of them in jail. The future of the Cambodian branch, as well as the Cambodian part of the mission, doesn't look very good at this point, but the missionaries still managed to be positive and have fun on the trip

We stopped at a gas station for a few minutes to rest on the way to the park. I think this sign is hilarious. Mom, avert your eyes now to avoid being disappointed in me.

The real surprise was what we found when we followed the arrow on the sign. This is pretty typical in our experience here so far. The cleaning ladies at the Reuters office frequently mop around the feet of individuals using urinals in the men's restroom.

You can't tell from the picture, but the area to the left of the urinals was wide open, with nothing to stop anyone from walking right through.

These are a couple of friends Jack made during the outing. Patrick and Ali. Only about half of the kids spoke English, but that didn't stop them from having fun.

We went on a short hike after we arrived Friday night. Ali carried Jack almost the whole way. I couldn't believe how patient Ali was with him. Jack would just run up and jump on his back, yelling “horsey ride!”. Ali smiled through the whole thing. Jack hasn't had opportunities like this to just run around as much as he wants, without danger of traffic or store displays, for quite some time, so he really had a blast.

At the end of the hike, we spent some time at this observatory. It overlooks a lake and a salt lick where a wide variety of animals usually gather. We must have scared them off with our less-than-stealthy approach, but it was nice to look at anyway.

Friday night, one of the older boys from the ward made a bow and arrow out of some sticks and packing tape. Jack, of course, thought this was the coolest thing he had ever seen, and the boy was kind enough to let him try it out. Saturday morning, Jack spent quite a bit of time digging through a pile of sticks. When he had selected the ones he wanted, he found a left-over piece of packing tape from the night before, and asked me to tie it on his bow. That's all I had to do, and he had a bow that worked just as well as the one from the night before, which had since lost its spring. Everyone at the outing loved Jack. At one time or another, almost everyone commented on how smart he is, or how fun he is. At Church the next day, he got quite a few smiles from members and investigators who didn't know him as well before.

After dark on Friday, we all got in trucks equipped with spotlights to go out looking for wildlife. After seeing lots of deer and even more nothing, I was about ready to head back.

That's when we saw two wild elephants, one of them right on the road. It is one thing to see these huge creatures in a zoo, or even in the closer settings we have experienced in Bangkok, but it was really cool to see them in the wild. Jack loved it. He manned the spotlight for most of the trip, and asked non-stop questions. Luckily, everyone loved it, especially Elder Ensign, the missionary who's lap Jack is occupying in the picture above.

This last picture is of a monkey that we saw in the trees right next to where the vans were parked before we left for home. This one came and took a couple of bananas we set out for it. It is pretty amazing how quickly they peel and eat a banana. I don't think I can do anything as well as they can do that. (note from Mindy: you should see Jeff juggle or use a yo-yo, he's way better than a monkey!)

Mindy: I found this video when I was going through some old pictures and thought you might enjoy it. It was taken over a year ago in the family room in our West Jordan home. I can't remember why Jack had SO many snacks, but he sure was chomping while he told this story. Also, you should note that the memory space was running out on the camera, hence the hurried feel at the end. Also, we added a less gory ending than most storybooks tell. I can't believe he was only TWO in this!

11 March 2007

Germs? Nah!

We have had a wonderful, very low-key week. It is one of the first weeks that we haven't had company for dinner at least once! It was a nice break, but now we are ready to get back to our normal busy life. Although, I have realized over and over again since we arrived here, that our life is busy in a completely different way. It takes a very long time to get anywhere here, so everything ends up being completely exhausting and time-consuming. But, I have not been nearly as consumed by callings, planning, rehearsals, school, activities, etc. as I was before. It's been nice to realize that doing less actually makes me be able to enjoy the things that I am doing a lot more. My real joy is found in being with my amazing husband, and two adorable kids!

On that note, Jack and I got to go on a very special date on Saturday. Jeff and I have realized how fun it is to have one on one time with each of the children, so we are now taking turns taking Jack and Janie out at different times. It is always fun for all of us! Jeff took Janie shopping and Jack and I got to go to a very anticipated movie, Charlotte's Web. When Jack and I first started reading chapter books, this was our first and he loved it, just like I had hoped. Then he received it as a gift from Santa, so we read it again! He loved it even more! The movie didn't open in Bangkok until just this month, and this was the first chance we had, so it was very exciting!

We had some lunch, then went to Central World (Trade Center) to the NICE theaters! And wow, they were nice!

This isn't a hotel, this is one of the lobby areas! There were people just sitting around reading newspapers! They brought Jack a special cushion to sit on so he could see the screen easier, and the concessions were the same prices as the grocery store! Jack loved the movie and got so excited as each character came out. I was impressed that the movie was straight from the book, with just a couple of added characters, but even several word for word phrases. Of course, there is a lot of wisdom in this book, I highly recommend it. I kept watching Jack's reaction to each event and character, especially near the end when Charlotte died. I could see it hit Jack when he realized what was happening, and he turned to me with tears in his eyes and asked, "why does Charlotte have to die?". The movie dwells on this a lot more than the book, so it hit him pretty hard. He cried softly in my arms for the rest of the movie. I was so touched that Jack understood and was sensitive to this, but it also made me cry to watch my son discover something 3 year olds don't usually think about. But, it did give us an opportunity to talk about some very important things, so it was turned out to be very positive. He is definitely just a little boy in every way, but he seems to understand some things amazingly well. Anutra talks about how Jack is an old man in a young body because he is so bright. I definitely agree after this experience.

Jack and I caught a truck taxi on the way home from the train, he thought this was the coolest. They are actually easier to find on our soi than a taxi, and a little bit cheaper, and Jack was exhausted, so we decided to do it as a fun treat.

Saturday evening, we all had a fun time with our friends eating MEXICAN food! That is definitely the cuisine we have missed the most, so we were thrilled to find out that there is a Mexican restaurant out in the suburbs by the Strate's home. We got together with them and the Selways for dinner and finished with desert and games at their apartment after. We traveled for an hour to get there and 1/2 hour back, just to be with our friends. How many times have we NOT wanted to drive out of West Jordan for this same thing, thinking it's too far? This is definitely changing our perspective on things! Every second in that taxi was worth it! We are so grateful to have friends that we enjoy so much, and the kids get along so well!

This is Jane playing with Jake while the adults were playing games. She LOVES Jake, and he wants a baby sister so bad, so this works out really well. Every time I am with Jake, I just want to take him home with me! Janie had fallen down the wood stairs onto a tile floor not long before this picture was taken, so Jake was sure a big help! Luckily, Janie is the toughest girl I know. I guess having an older brother and parents that like to wrestle encourages that a bit. I actually started teaching Jake violin this week, so I am happy to have that time with him each week. He is just a good kid, inside and out.

Earlier in the week, we had the monthly luncheon with the "city sisters" from the ward. There were 5 of us, with 5 kids. Mary Jane, Som, and I met earlier so we could let the kids play before we ate lunch at the Emporium. These three are quite the little trio. Here they were playing one of our favorite games, "red light, green light".

Jane and Jack love this play place at the Emporium. We come here fairly regularly to burn excess energy, and let them play with new kids. Jane watched Jack climb the pole one time, and since has LOVED to hang onto it and drop off onto the padded floor. She is a little monkey, always wanting to dangle from things! One day, at the Children's museum, there was a booth on bats. There was a bar that you could hang on and a timer to tell you how long you hung on for. I put Jack up there, and he held on for 19 seconds, which I thought was pretty good! Janie ( 2 1/2 years younger) hung on for 14 seconds! And, I think now, she could do a lot longer! It's pretty exciting when they can just roll around on the floor and have it be comfortable, because carpet is rare here. Our entire apartment is hardwood and tile, and we don't have rugs yet, (the main reason I let my little monkeys jump on the beds). So, here they can fall all over and not get hurt. Janie has also perfected her somersault, and loves the zipline, which she loves to slide down by herself. She surprises all of us daily with how adventurous she can be!

Janie, in general, has really grown up just in the last 2 weeks! She is talking and signing more than ever. She is hitting the "parrot" stage, where she will repeat (or at least try to repeat) almost anything. She has the sweetest little voice, and I love how well she can communicate with her words and signs. I didn't realize it until someone pointed it out to me, that she is really learning three languages at once. She says several Thai words, many English, and does just as many, if not more, signs. She seems to just pick whatever is easier in whatever language and use that. Sometimes it's a combination of two. We are thrilled with how well she is picking up on any of it! She is such a little sweetheart, and gets SO much attention wherever we go. All the staff here stops whatever they are doing when Janie or Jack walks by. They hope to get a Janie greeting, "ku kah!" (her version of hello in Thai) with the traditional wai. Everyone melts, including me!

This video is the traditional home movie. Bad photography, unnecessary talking, and not everything went like it should, but it is priceless to US! If you are one of those parents who worries a lot about your kids and germs, this might drive you crazy. I am a pretty laid back mom, and my kids have awesome immune systems, maybe this is why? We took this last month sometime, but thought you would still enjoy it. I LOVE watching my kids interact and enjoy each other like this. There is nothing like having a sibling! So, thanks Mom and Dad for giving me three!

06 March 2007

Makha Bucha and Sattahip

This week has been so filled, my usual Sunday blog isn't even up until Tuesday! We returned yesterday from a weekend outside the city, so I'm just getting things pulled back together! Check out this belly... isn't she simply irresistible?

More details on this to come...

The bad part of the week was that I didn't take pictures of as many things as I usually do. Monday evening, my cousin (actually first cousin, once removed, is that right?), Rikker, and his wife, Kao, came over for dinner. It seems so crazy to actually have family here in Bangkok, but we were so grateful that they would come over and visit! I attended Rikker and Kao's wedding, but hadn't seen them since, so this was a treat for us. It was so fun to visit, especially when they know SO much about the ins and outs of Bangkok, which are endless. They will be here for 6-7 months, but we hope much longer!

For the last few weeks, I have been researching schools for Jack to attend starting next month. They take schooling here very seriously, particularly in the expat community. It is common for one year of an 8 year old's schooling to cost more than Jeff's entire University education. I find this a little excessive, but admire the dedication to education. I visited 7 schools, and chose one that I was particularly impressed with and felt would fit Jack well. They invited him to do a “trial day” on Tuesday, so this was big for all of us.

Jack was THRILLED to go to school, but I, on the other hand, hardly knew what to do with only ONE kid! Janie and I went and dropped Jack off at 8:30am, and had the whole morning to ourselves. Jack didn't hesitate about me leaving for even a second, which I was 99% excited about. Janie and I had fun putting together puzzles, reading books, shooting hoops, and taking naps (okay, maybe that was just Jane). I was SO excited to pick him up after school, and even got to talk to another parent who has been very happy there. Several of the teachers came up to ask what school he has attended before. It's very unusual that a four year old hasn't been going to school for at least one year, most have started at two! I was happy that he felt at home there, and made some good friends. We are starting the paperwork, and Jack will start going every day, 8:30-12:30, the week of his 4th birthday (April 25th). Every day seems like a lot, but there isn't one school here that doesn't require 4 year olds to attend every day. I was just glad I found one that gave me the option to go half-day, that was unusual! Like I said, they take it very seriously! Have to get ready for those prep-schools, right? I just hope Jack can have a good experience, and enjoy seeing English-speaking friends every day.

We had a fun play date Wednesday morning with a woman, Anna, I met at a play place at the mall. She is from Sweden and has been living in Bangkok for roughly a year. She has a 2 year old, and is expecting her second in 2 months. We had a great time playing with the kids, visiting at her apartment, not too far from here. It was nice to meet someone else wonderful from Sweden (like the Norins, are they all like that?), and also visit with another mom that speaks perfect English!

Thursday, Jack's friends came over to play. They were all on our bed chanting “3 little monkeys” for at least 15 minutes. I loved it!

This might seem silly to all of you who have friends across the street, or 2 houses down, but one of the highlights of my week was meeting 2 people in my building who speak English! One is a woman from New Jersey who is expecting in September. The other is a Japanese woman who stays at home (can you believe that?) with her daughter who just turned three. Her daughter did just start school, but it's SO nice to meet another stay-at-home mom! It was a treat to be able to visit with someone in English in my very own building! That's 3 new friends (counting Anna from Sweden) in one week who are moms and they speak English. It's a record. What a blessing!

So, on to the weekend! We left early Saturday morning to meet up with Anutra, Bird, and Bird's brother, Boy. (This is in front of their home, about 30 min. out of the city). We were off to Sattahip, a city 2 hours out of Bangkok and right on the shore! We were SO excited for a change of pace from the city life. It was our first time out of the city for more than a few hours, and we were excited to take some deep breathes in the clean, salty air! They were so nice to invite us to stay with them on a Navy base in Sattahip because they have a connection through their friend who is currently an officer in the Navy. So, we got super cheap accommodations, and first class tour guides!

The roughest part, no doubt, was getting there and back. Bird drives a medium sized pick-up and we fit all seven of us in there. Yes, seven! It was not comfortable at all, but we endured it because we love being with our friends, and it was a great way to see things that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to see. There's no way we could have gone to a place like this on our own. There's no public transportation, and we would have had one heck of a time communicating! Going with Thais is the only way to venture off the beaten path like this. We loved it. We really prefer not to always be in the main touristy areas because we like to see where real people in Thailand spend their time, and how they live. The resorts are not geared towards Thais because they are relatively very expensive. Although, we might still have to try one out, just once, before we leave.

So, we spent both afternoons at the beautiful beach in the wonderfully warm water and amazing sand! A couple of observations while we were there: I didn't seen even one woman in just a bathing suit. Everyone was wearing clothing instead of swimsuits, or at least on top of their swimming suits. So, we did too! I would have stood out even more if I would have just been in my swimsuit and shorts! In all the hours we were there, I counted three other foreigners. All three were wearing speedos with HUGE beer bellies. Jeff said it was officially 3 ½ because of the size of one of them. We noticed that people at this beach actually swim! Anutra thought it was crazy when I told her that a lot of people go to the beach simply to sunbathe. Everyone here is either in the water, or the shade. Many had long sleeves or long pants to cover their skin from the sun. I loved that people of all ages were playing in the water like (and with) their kids! Anutra, Bird, and Boy all ran into the water as soon as possible and just played! It was great!

Jack and Janie loved the beach. I think they would love it if we went everyday. Janie mostly loved the water, and Jack mostly loved the sand. So, they were both happy! We hope to head back to the beach in the next month, or maybe for my birthday! It was beautiful!

Saturday night, we went to the Temple to worship in honor of Makha Bucha day, the reason we had a 3 day holiday. Anutra and Bird taught us what to do as we held our Lotus flower, incense, and candle and walked around the temple 3 times. The three times around, as well as the 3 sticks of incense symbolize Buddha, the Tribidal (their scripture, containing words of Buddha), and the monks. Very interesting.

After our walk around the temple, we went to the market for dinner. We found a vendor that serves a favorite dish of the kids, so we planted ourselves there. We ordered way too much because Janie didn't eat much, and Jack laid his head down on the table and fell completely asleep while eating his first bites of chicken!

Think we did a little much this day?

This type of vendor is very common here, and we eat this dish regularly. It is called Khaaw men gai, and is boiled or fried chicken over rice cooked in broth with a yummy soup. Very delicious and kid friendly.

We walked around the market place for a while during the day and had fun looking at all the shops. We found a shop with silly toys and Anutra bought this for Jack. He would blow something and the side things would pop out. She spoils my kids regularly with things they love, but I would never buy them, so it's a pretty good arrangement. We were quite the parade walking down those streets, being so white! Janie and Jack must be SO tired of greeting in Thai, although I have to admit, Janie continues to get cuter and cuter every time she wais. The attention is well-deserved!

We walked out onto this pier to look at these boats that Bird worked on years ago. He attended the Navy academy, and has since been working for the Marine police. Jack loved the boats, but unfortunately they were all locked because of the holiday weekend! Bird and Anutra are hilarious together. They are like a couple of kids... but forty. I love it. Isn't that water just beautiful?

We spent a lot of time just relaxing in our rooms, and we all loved this. The kids had a chance to unwind, so they could be ready for our next adventure. Jack and Jeff also enjoyed practicing with Jack's slingshot and going on "lizard finding expeditions" as Jack calls them. They would find several every time, mostly right there in the lobby! These little lizards are everywhere. We've even had some in our bedroom at home, 15 stories up! From what we hear, it doesn't matter where you live, you will have lizards! They are pretty innocent, so it's usually just exciting when we spot one on the draperies!

I was so impressed at what was available at this beach to rent! You could rent beach mats, kayaks, or pay 50 Baht for a ride on this thing behind the boat. Anutra is such an adventurer and was excited to get us all in there! We were all going to go, except Jeff and Janie, but the driver was worried about Jack, so he and I ended up in the boat instead. But, after seeing how rough the water was, we were glad we weren't out there!

It was so fun to be with Anutra, Bird, and Boy and just to get away from normal life for a while. They were so great to expose us to new things, and of course, Anutra taught us new Thai words every chance she got. The problem is remembering them all! We feel so blessed to have found friends who have taken us in and showed us how real Thais live! We loved seeing their home, and Anutra's mother's home on the way back. We loved eating Thai food everyday, for every meal (even breakfast!), in Thai style. I certainly couldn't keep that up though, Thais eat a LOT! But, I can see why, the food is fantastic! We are having a hard time knowing how to ever pay people like them back for what they share with us! I can only hope that someday they will come and visit us in the States and we can show them how Americans live!

I apologize for this blog entry and how thrown together it must feel. I didn't have the time I usually do to organize my thoughts. Hopefully next week!