27 May 2007

A small miracle...

The majority of our week was spent recovering from our computer crash early Monday morning. Yes, very exciting, but slightly devastating. We have wanted a new computer for a while now, but just couldn't justify spending the money if our computer worked just fine. We thought, “if only our computer would just not work, then we would feel okay about buying a new one”. We didn't actually pray for this, but obviously someone was aware of our true desires and now our hard drive is toast. We recovered almost everything, but weren't completely prepared, so it has taken quite a bit of time to get ourselves back to where we were, and accept the loss of several pictures I failed to burn to a disk the night before. Ouch. But, my genius husband got us all set up with a nice, new, computer that he's very excited about. As for me, I can't really tell the difference, but it works, and that's what I care about. Although, we did discover that calls with Skype work wonderfully now. I guess our poor connection over here did have something to do with our old computer!

Our other highlight of the week happened yesterday. We found a Mexican restaurant a few weeks ago that we were SO excited about. We decided to try it out for dinner, and both give it the “thumbs up!” on everything but the food. Why is a place still wonderful when the food lacks so much taste, you ask? 1) it's close to home, less than 1 km 2) we were the only people in the restaurant, so we didn't have to worry about our crazy kids bothering other tables. Janie walked up and down the stairs at least 100 times 3) being the only people in the restaurant meant that the staff played with the kids some, which was awesome. Jack was helping one of the waitresses cut some coupons up or something for the last 15 minutes. If there's something he can destroy, he's in. 4) It was fairly cheap for farang food. And, it was MEXICAN food. It felt like home! That is definitely the cuisine I miss the most here. It's hard to come by, and still the tastes aren't quite the same, but we'll take it. I can safely say that the first fast-food place we go when we get to Utah will be Taco Bell. So, laugh if you will, about my excitement in finding a nice, quiet, kid-friendly place with good service, even with not the most fantastic food, but those characteristics are hard to come by over here. It's a challenge every single day to find places we can take the kids, where we can all relax. So, maybe not the best food (don't get me wrong, some of it was great, just not everything), but it's a place to go where we all leave smiling!

So, instead of trying to come up with more exciting (yet not really) things about our week, I thought I would share an experience we had last week.

Tuesday mornings I take Janie to her swim class around the corner. I intentionally didn't put on my wedding ring because I knew I was just going to get in the pool, so I left it on the vanity where Jeff and I had both put our rings and watches the night before (which we've done every night for 6 ½ years). After swimming and a shower, I went to put it on and discovered it missing. I was sure it had just fallen down behind, or got pushed into the closet or a drawer or something. We have wood floors, so it could have easily gotten kicked away. So, I searched the whole bedroom, under the bed, behind night stands, under draperies, blankets, clothing, etc. I looked everywhere. Finally, after calling Jeff, I was sure he would find it within 5 minutes after getting home for the evening. He is amazing, if you didn't know. So, I went on with my day. That night as I read to Jack, Jeff looked and looked, with no luck. I felt pretty sick about it, but tried to stay positive, thinking it would just show up in the laundry or something.

Wednesday morning when I also couldn't find Jack's Tae Kwon Do uniform I thought I was going to lose it. I was sure I had taken it out of his backpack from the previous week and put it in his closet, like I always do. I hated to send him to school without it, picturing him being singled out for having the mom that forgot. So, after searching every nook and cranny for my ring and Jack's suit, I was sure I was losing it. I called his school just to see if it was there for some reason, and after they assured me they had kept all the uniforms from last week, I felt much better, but not really, because now I was doubting my memory! My friend came over that morning and told me her “lost ring” story and how she had recovered it from a church parking lot weeks later, which calmed me some. But, I couldn't stop thinking about my own Mother who lost her beautiful wedding ring in the house when I was little and we never found it. She was always sick about it, and now I knew how she felt. I kept thinking, “I can just wear my wedding bands until we can afford a new one. Maybe for our 25th anniversary?”. Very depressing thoughts. Jeff kept assuring me that it is just a thing, and he's right, but that thing is the most sentimental thing I've ever owned. I've never prayed so hard for a thing before. At this point, my ever-calm husband, wasn't calming me anymore. I was sick about it and couldn't do anything.

Thursday morning, I had the idea to bait Jane, who we suspected may have taken it. I put another one of my rings (don't worry, not one that I cared about) in the exact place on the vanity where I was hoping I had left it. I watched her play in my room that morning while I got ready to see if she would take it and stick it in some magical hiding place she had discovered. She didn't come anywhere near it. So, I decided to get out for the day and hope to forget about it. Janie and I decided to try a new market we had heard about. We walked to the train, went 4 stops over and walked quite a ways down another soi to get there. All the while, Jane sat in the stroller playing with her hair clip she had pulled out as soon as we started our journey. When we got to the market, I walked up and down the isles looking, buying a few things, and letting Janie interact with all the vendors. She wanted out, so I let her get out and push the stroller some, and run around. One lady was particularly aggressive with wanting to play with Jane, so she came running to me. I watched her coming and was relieved to see she was playing with what I thought was her clip (we go through so many of those things!). But, as she grabbed my legs, she handed it to me and I saw that it wasn't her clip. It was my ring! I was so shocked and relieved I could barely hold back the tears. The lady saw what she handed me and I'm sure she thought, “what kind of mom would give her baby a diamond ring?”. I couldn't tell her what had happened, but really didn't care. I was so relieved to have my ring back, it wasn't until that night that Jeff and I really realized how much of a miracle it was. We think it had been in the stroller all along, but thinking of how many places along the way that it could have been dropped. I was especially grateful when on the way home, Janie was holding a used book in the stroller I had bought her and she dropped it maybe a half-dozen times just getting to the train. Why I was so blessed to have my daughter not drop my ring as we went up and down those awful sidewalks and busy market isles, I have no idea. Why would the Lord answer my prayers for a thing? Who knows why things like that happen, but I've felt like this is one of those experiences I should remember for times when things don't go my way. Not everything works out how we wish they would. But, every once in a while, heaven smiles on us, and it does us some good to remember that on a rainy day.

20 May 2007

Another week.

Our week has been fairly uneventful as we continue to find our groove with Jack being in school. He tells random people we meet how he loves school so much, but doesn't like the bus very much. In fact, on Monday this week, he wouldn't get on the bus without me! So, Janie and I hopped on with him and caught a taxi back. I hadn't gotten a chance to shower or change since my run that morning, so I wasn't really too excited to make an appearance at his busy school, but luckily, Jack isn't to the point of being embarrassed of me yet. The rest of the week, he rode the bus just fine, and even was disappointed when we took a taxi together on Friday morning when I came to be the "secret reader". We think he gets a little bored on the bus, poor kid, so we are working on some fun things he can do with his time.

Here are some random pictures from the last two weeks...

Last Saturday, we went to Storytime at the only English Library in Bangkok. It was fun to be there with our friends from church, and meet so many more. The highlight was when we walked in and Jack just lit up! He saw his favorite friend, Scarlett, from school! The day before, her mother had called to discuss how our two were so fond of each other, and we planned a play date. This was a nice surprise for Jack to get to see Scarlett and for me to get to visit with her mother prior to our actual play date later in the week. Our good friend, Joel Selway, was the reader this day, which Jack and Janie loved. Cyrus and Cyan (his children) are sitting at his feet. Every time Joel speaks about anything, he sounds like he's reading a book, so he is a particularly good story teller. There's nothing like a heavy, British accent!

Jack came home last week with a kite he had made at school. He tried flying it in our lobby, but was unsuccessful, so we took it to the park last Saturday and had a great time! This park is about 1 km from our home, and is absolutely beautiful. There are two different playgrounds, lots of nice grass, turtles tanning around the water, and lots of nice people to visit with.

Janie and Jack were enjoying the pigeons this day, and at this particular time, Janie had at least one other person photographing her while she went up and down the steps. This part of the park reminds me of some places in Europe I visited several years ago.

Monday night, our friend, Sherri, came over to cook for us. We met her at church several months ago, and she was so sweet when Jeff's parents were here to show us around (she's a tour guide by profession). But, we haven't seen her since! So, to repay us for treating her to a meal (which really wasn't us, it was Mom Hillman), she wanted to cook for us. The rain was so bad, which stops traffic almost completely at times, she didn't get to our place until 7:30, so we sat down to dinner at 9pm! She was so apologetic, but what are we going to do? Be mad that she made us dinner? The only sad thing was that she didn't get to see the kids!

This is the famous Scarlett I was talking about. She was the other "new kid" on Jack's first day. He came home one day and said, "this girl told me she didn't want to be my friend". Then the next day, it was a completely different story. He talks about her everyday now. Some days I skip the "who did you play with today?" and just ask, "what did you and Scarlett do today?" Are you wondering why Jack is in his church shirt and bow tie? He found this and wanted to put it on so he and Scarlett could get "married". She even put on one of Janie's pretty bracelets to look more the part. They were hilarious together. They played for 2 1/2 hours without a problem. I can't wait to have them over again, or better yet, go to their house. They have a yard and a garden to ride bikes in. Sounds like heaven!

Her parents have quite a story to tell, which I loved hearing all afternoon while they played. To make a long story short, Scarlett is a miracle child, Heather didn't want to miss her growing up, so they dropped everything, meaning Heather quit her job, and now Jim (Scarlett's Dad) only works part time online, and they can do just fine because they live reasonably in Bangkok, which is much more affordable than London. I love their dedication to their family and wanting to simply be together. They made sacrifices so they could enjoy this precious time together. What an awesome family.

This is Heather performing the marriage ceremony, which was the only way we could get them to say goodbye. Janie was giving her brother away, if you were wondering.

After Jack and Scarlett started playing together so much at school, Heather said she could hear Scarlett starting to talk "American". Oops. I can only hope Jack will adapt to Scarlett's British accent instead!

This little tricycle sits on our patio most the time, but occasionally makes it in the house. It's been the favorite activity this week. Janie can't quite do the pedals, and Jack is way too big for it, but they are getting really good at taking turns! What are siblings for, right?

13 May 2007

Mother's Day

How could I let this day pass without paying tribute to my wonderful mother? Many of you know my Mom and how wonderful she is, so I write this knowing fully that I could never adequately describe all she has done, does, and is.

When I lived at home, I knew that I had a great mom. She was on top of everything: driving kids around town, church callings, chore charts, practicing, lessons, school activities, yard work, yummy dinners, even better desserts, managing our family band, etc. She was the first one in the bleachers for my basketball games, my campaign manager when I ran for class officer, and the ultimate party planner. She attended every violin lesson until I was 14 (that equals roughly 528, and that's only for one of her violinists), countless hours of practicing, recitals, rehearsals, violin camps, and concerts. She was great!

Then, I moved to college. I missed my Mom. I realized then, that cooking wasn't easy like Mom made it seem (and mine didn't taste good either!), you really can't find things when there isn't a place for everything, and most of all, I realized that home doesn't feel like home without a Mother. Still to this day, I don't know how my mom makes her house so welcoming, or how her roasts are so good. How does she make her home glow at Christmas time? How does she get everything hot and on the table all at the same time for 30 people (all except the veggies which seem to always get forgotten in the microwave!)? How does she know how to sew, write poetry, dance, teach violin, entertain the grandkids, decorate her home, find amazing travel deals, work full-time, AND be a Mom?

I am constantly amazed by my Mom. My goal is to one day have some of her talents. I think of her everyday as I go through the ups and downs of motherhood. I love singing "I love the dishes..." (set to "I love the mountains", it's a winner, believe me!) as I work in the kitchen. I love pretending like I'm daring and adventurous in a big city, like I know she would be. She inspires me to try new things, invite random people over for dinner, and continue with my education. Yes, as you now know, my mom is not only great, she is exceptional. She has inspired so much of what I do as a mother, and makes me want to be my best. So, thank you, to my amazing mother who really has made a difference in the world by making ME want to also make a difference, by being a wonderful mother. Mom, I love you.

It doesn't end here...

Shortly after I turned 20, I met Jeff's family and fell completely in love. Thank goodness Jeff fell in love with me (lucky for Jason, Scott and Sam!), because after that first meeting, I knew I had to be a part of that family .

Like any family, the tone is set by the Mom. I had no idea it was possible to have the best in-laws after already being blessed with the best family in the world. But, it happened. My mother-in-law is the sweetest I know. I love that in addition to accepting me as a daughter, she has also become a dear friend. I have felt so loved and welcome because of the effort that she has made. I love that I always have positive things to contribute when the "mother-in-law" issue comes up with friends. She is selfless and loving, and has done an exceptional job with her 5 children. I love that she works in the temple, cans fruit, sews, is super organized, gardens, and goes to school. Thank you, Mom, for being who you are. I have so much to learn from you and am grateful everyday to be a part of your family. I can only hope I can welcome Jack's future wife (WAY down the road) into our family like you have welcomed your daughters-in-law.

I feel surrounded by wonderful mothers everyday, through my own mothers, amazing grandmothers, exceptional sisters, and outstanding friends. Thank you for how you help me strive to be better. I sure love and miss each one of you.

Happy Mother's Day

06 May 2007

Normal. Ahhhh.

A lot of good things happened this week, although not a lot of photos until the last few days. This can be a good thing though, if you understand that it means we are starting to have more "normal" days, that don't inspire a lot of picture taking. I enjoy "normal" occasionally.

Jack is still loving school, as expected. He comes home with a new book everyday, and an extra one on the actual library day. He loves his computer class on Fridays, and all the fairy tale stories everything is focused around this month. This week was "Jack and the Beanstalk". So, instead of "run, run, run, as fast as you can, can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!", from last week, we have gotten, "Fee Fi Fo Fum...". He and I finished Matilda the other day and Jeff started reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle with him yesterday. He would read these chapter books all day if we could!

As a side note, an added bonus of Jack being in school has been that I've gotten to know some of the other mothers in the building. Several Japanese mothers meet the bus with their children at the same time every morning. It's been fun to visit with the ones that speak English, and at least greet the ones who don't. I get a bit jealous of the Japanese community that we live in (this part of Bangkok has been called "little Tokyo" by some), because everyone shares the same culture and language, plus, our whole soi is filled with Japanese restaurants, clubs, spas, etc. I feel like by visiting, even just casually, with some of these women, it's helped me to make a dent in understanding my community a little better.

Janie had her first swim class this week, and we had a blast. The swim school just happens to be right around the corner, so it is super convenient, something that doesn't happen too often in this big city. It's 30 min. of songs, toys, games, etc. It took her some time to warm up to a new pool, but it was fun for her to be with other kids her age, and of course, she loves the water. I look forward to Tuesday for another swim session together.

While we are talking about school, I thought I would mention that my Finance class I've been taking online is all done! It wasn't the most demanding class, but actually was the most life-changing class I have had in a long time. I loved it, and in case you were wondering, my grade couldn't have been much better! Yay for school! (Note from Jeff: my genius wife got a 97% in the class. Beautiful and smart. Hide your jealousy, if you can).

We went to Ocean World on Friday and saw the Mermaid dive show again, but this time, it was the big one! Janie was completely enthralled, even during the parts in Thai. As you can see, Jack was a little less enchanted, but still enjoyed it. I'm in love with those cheeks.

Most expats in Bangkok have a driver and a vehicle to get them around the city. Meet my current driver and his vehicle...

Jack was such a good helper Friday on the way to Ocean World. He told me just to bring the small stroller, because he was going to walk. It's a long way for a 4-year old, but he did it and pushed Janie a good part of the way as well. If you could see the sidewalks, you will understand why this is so extraordinary. I loved having my hands free, Janie loved the extra eventful ride, and Jack loved being in charge.

Anybody have a guess at what Jack's doing?

This is Jack's impersonation of a starfish. Nice, eh?

Saturday morning, we met up with Faa and a new friend, Hector, and drove about an hour out of the city to Anutra and Faa's favorite temple. It was a unique temple in that it wasn't ornate like many of the Buddhist temples. It was very simple, basic, with nothing fancy or flashy. Anutra spent two weeks, and Faa 9 days, at this temple last month to study and meditate, so it is very dear to them both. Anutra wanted us to come this particular day to see the ceremony where men become monks. Most Buddhist men spend at least a short time being a monk at some time in their life, so it's a very big part of the culture. It's also a very proud moment for parents, to see their sons become monks. Anutra says that they believe that if your son is a monk, you can hang onto his robes all the way to heaven.

It was held in a big, shady area where a bunch of blue tarps were put down. Families were sitting there visiting and playing while we waited for it to begin. Chickens were roaming free all over the grounds. The kids thought this was great. It felt like a big family picnic.

This is Faa, Hector, Anutra, and Bird. Hector is also employed by Reuters, like Jeff, but the company is so big, they'd never met. He came from Columbia, and is a past student of Anutra who also enjoys experiencing the culture. It was fun to visit with him about Bangkok and all of his travel experiences. The kids really started warming up to him, especially on the way home. We hope to see him again sometime.

These are the men preparing to receive their first set of robes during the morning ceremony. This set is 3 pieces. In the afternoon ceremony, they receive another set which is 5 pieces. Everyone who comes to the temple to meditate and learn wears white (notice Anutra is wearing white above because she was spending the weekend there for the same reason). The monks, leaders, and audience were all chanting/singing something in the Bali/Thai language that their tribidal (their bible) is written in. Then, the leader spoke to them, giving them advice on being a monk and life in general. Very interesting, but I'm sure I would have learned a lot more if I could speak the language!

This is Janie doing what she does best lately: working the crowd. She wanders over to perfect strangers and has them eating out her hand in no time. This scene is not uncommon. We even had a perfect stranger come over to play with her and say, "show friend". He picked her up and took her to show her off to another group. We made sure to keep our eye on her, but she really was in heaven with all the added attention.

Are these curls the cutest things or what? As much as I want to cut her hair, I can't bare to cut these off yet! You can't see the ones around her face in this, but they are adorable.

This was my favorite part of the temple grounds. This was a small walkway that led to a building where people learn to meditate. All these little houses are for individuals who come to meditate at the temple for the weekend. They are tiny. I went to look in Anutra's and it is basically a mat on the floor and a small bathroom. The whole thing isn't even as big as our bed. This whole area was very simple and peaceful. While I don't share the Buddhist's beliefs, I definitely agree with the value of places like this where you can leave the busy life behind, and focus on what really matters.

After the morning ceremony, there was a huge pot-luck feast. There were rows and rows of yummy Thai food. Unfortunately, I don't enjoy the spicy stuff, so it was a challenge finding what I was sure I would be able to enjoy, but what I did find was wonderful. Thais definitely know how to eat. Their food is delicious, and there is always plenty!

Overall, this temple experience was enjoyable, but it made for a very long morning for the kids again! We left around 12:30, but didn't return home until 2pm, so it was a late nap for Jane, but she held out amazingly well! Amongst hundreds of people there, we were the only farangs, which makes us feel extra grateful that we have a friend like Anutra who will expose us to unique experiences such as this.

Today was an exhausting and wonderful Sunday. We had a busy day at church, as usual, then this afternoon, the missionaries came over! We realized that we'd never had missionaries over for dinner, so this was a special treat because we have awesome missionaries in our ward. It was so fun to visit and get to know them each better. We look forward to many more meals and experiences with them!

Starting from the left: Elder Ames, Elder Mortensen, Elder Torrealba, Elder Olsen, Sister and Brother Thevenin. (Jason and Heidi, do you recognize Elder Ames from your Lindon ward? He thought Jeff was Jason when we first met!)

Jeff's looking forward to going out with the missonaries tomorrow (he has the day off, another Thai holiday!), to participate in two appointments with investigators.

We've had rain almost everyday this week, it's been great! It's almost felt like April in Utah! I really needed a little break from the heat, which this temporarily gave. But, after all that moisture, when the sun finally does come out, wow, it feels like a sauna! Even still, the rain is very welcome. I've loved every thunder cloud, lightening bolt, and even the brief power outages we've had. Bring it on.

Until next week...