25 November 2007

Call me Miss Lazy

Anybody else have a FANTASTIC week? We did! We have had SO much fun with Mimi, Papa, and Vanessa, that it's hard to believe that an entire week has passed already. Actually, we have had so much fun, that I am completely exhausted. So, for anyone who actually looks forward to my blog, you will be a bit disappointed. I have high hopes that I can report on at least some of our adventures early this next week, but as for tonight, it's just not happening.

Here's a very short summary of our week together. We saw and interacted with amazing animals, visited the Ancient City, rode elephants, flew to Chiang Mai for four wonderful days, met amazing people ate delicious Thai food, and shopped 'till we dropped. SO fun!

Our sweet Jane has had a rough week. But, THIS day she was extremely happy, so we were making the most of it. She cuddled and kissed Jeff as much as she could, and we got such a kick out of it. Vaness snapped this picture, and I thought it was fun.

I think the elephants were the highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai! Although we rode elephants earlier in the week at the crocodile farm, this was a completely different experience! FANTASTIC! Isn't this picture great of my cute parents? This fulfilled a dream of my Dad's, which made it even more fun. The elephants were amazing. Mine was 34 years old, and you should see his tusks! Wow!

I love my sisters! Having Vanessa here was so much fun. Kind of still feels like a dream, actually. We've had so much fun visiting, playing with the kids, and exploring the city. Sisters are such a blessing. We missed you, Jo!

Talk about NON-traditional Thanksgiving feast! Actually our meal on Thursday was a disaster, so we decided to count this one on Friday as IT. The driver took us to an orchid farm on the way home from the elephant camp and it was amazing. Delicious Thai food, we were the only customers there, and amazingly affordable!

Stay tuned for more to come, hopefully in just a few days or less. We are having too much fun with our family to stop and sit at the computer! We've got lots to share from this past week, but for now, we're enjoying the moment.

18 November 2007

They made it!

Isn't family wonderful? I always knew that I loved my family, but not being with them for so long on a daily basis makes me appreciate them even more! What a blessing it has been to have Mom and Dad here this week! They arrived Thursday night around midnight and looked as fresh and excited as if they had just had a good night's sleep! Unfortunately, that's not really possible an an airplane, but it sounds like they did get to sleep some, which is a better way to start out a visit, I think.

Basically, our week did not begin until Mom and Dad arrived, because Monday-Thursday was pretty much spent in preparation for them. Until this week, I can't remember staying home for a full morning of cleaning/organizing. That's probably while my house needed it so badly! It was actually nice to go through some things and get rid of "stuff" that we don't use or need, in preparation for our house guests.

We started Friday off bright and early with taking Mom and Dad on their first tuk-tuk ride to drop Jack off at school. Jack loved showing them off on the playground and sharing his classroom with them. The morning was filled with Jane's swim class and a trip to the hospital for a part to Mom's sleeping machine. Not very "touristy" things, right? You're right, but my motto is work first, play next. We decided if Dad was going to get a suit made, we'd better get it started right away, allowing for any necessary fittings. This place was recommended to us by a friend, and is also the place where the missionaries all go for their stuff. So, we felt like we were in good hands. We hope. Here's the street this shop was on.

It was totally this back ally that no one would ever be able to find, unless they were looking. We pretty much went straight to the source for the best bargain. This guy does most of his business through expensive hotels, but we opted not to pay for the location and just pay for the clothes.

This is where the clothes are made, or somewhere like this. There were a bunch of different shops along this road, but I wasn't sure exactly where DAD's suit was going to be made. Interesting.

These sweet kids were playing and running around all over this shop street. They got such a kick out of practicing their "hello" on us, and LOVED that I was taking pictures of them that they could see after.

We ate Japanese for dinner, and went home to celebrate Mom's 61st birthday with a "Hello Kitty" cake! Do we live in Asia or what? We LOVE "Hello Kitty"! Jack and Janie were so excited about surprising Mimi with this. The whole way home, Jack kept whispering in my ear, "cake, cake, cake!". Is my mom cute or what?

I'm amazed at how well my parents are handling the jet-lag since they've gotten here. I guess it's easy to stay awake during the day when you've got TWO children that don't want to leave your side! Considering Mom was in the hospital with bloodclots less than a month ago, she's been especially amazing. We spent Saturday morning on a long tail boat for a canal tour, which we all really enjoyed. The bright stripes is actually the roof of the boat we took.

My family of four enjoying the boat ride. My kids LOVE boats, tuk-tuks, trains, etc. I think they get the love of transportation from Mimi. She's always loved it! Notice Jane's butterfly headband. I can't believe she doesn't get tired of wearing those things!

Mimi and Papa in front, enjoying the view. We saw lots of Thai homes along the canal, temples, hungry fish, a crocodile farm (where we just stopped to use the restroom), and my favorite, naked Thai kids swimming in the water! The joys of youth! I think one of the coolest parts was when the boat went through a lock, where the water has to even out, so they close off doors to level it off with us in it. Very interesting.

We had the boat driver drop us off at the pier by Wat Pho. I've written about Wat Pho before, but I'm not sure I've posted pictures. This was my 3rd time here, but still I really enjoyed a quick visit. It's quite stunning and very unique. It was SO crowded, so this is the best picture I could get, but we'll take it!

Just outside of the temple, before finding the bathrooms where you have to pay for toilet paper. Gotta love it. Isn't the architecture beautiful?

After one heck of a time finding a taxi, we finally got home with two sleeping children. We enjoyed a nice evening at home, while Dad and Jeff went home teaching. Like I said, I'm amazed at my parent's stamina after such a long trip. They are so good to be open to every situation, very patient, helpful with Jack and Jane, and I feel like they are really starting to see what makes Thailand so wonderful. That's really nice.

My sweet Jane has had a little cold this week, and therefore has had trouble sleeping. This, on top of a new sleeping arrangement made for some interesting nights. TWO different nights, Jeff, Jack, and I all ended up in Jack's room with Jane sleeping in her crib in our room with a completely empty king size bed. Ridiculous. So, last night, I decided I would try letting her just fall asleep on our bed, instead of her crib. Wow! She went to sleep (with glasses on) and slept better than she has in 3 nights! We've been putting off the whole "big bed" thing, just not wanting to deal with it yet, especially before our trips this month and next, but now are wondering if she might be ready? We're not sure, but we're at least open to it now. We'll see.

Want to win my children's hearts? Read them a book! Mimi and Papa figured this one out with their grandkids years ago. I love these moments.

Mom and Dad have been such good sports to try every different mode of transportation you can imagine! I always think of our ways of getting around as "like a ride at Disneyland, but not nearly as safe". Unfortunately, this is the truth, but it's what we do here. This is life, so what can you do? Smile and enjoy. That's what they've done, and it sure makes it fun. Here's Mimi and Papa and the kids on the way home the other night.

So, what's next? SO much! But, the best thing in the future will be the arrival of my sister, Vanessa! I'm so anxious to pick her up tomorrow night and let her join in on the fun. Can you believe she's leaving her four sweet children to come for a week? Thank you Andrew and Roseanne for making it happen! It's always been too long since I've seen my sisters. In my dreams, I have flown over my entire family so we could be together here. I guess that's the only bad thing about having such a wonderful family. It's just not always possible to all be together at once. But honestly, if that's as bad as it gets... I'll take it.

11 November 2007

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Friday

It's been a LONG week, to say the least. Monday morning, by about 8:30am, I felt like I had already had a weeks worth of events and emotions. I checked my email around 7am, to find out that one of my dear friends from the ward had passed away the night before. Then, around 8am, another dear friend called to tell me that after her unbelievable conception and roller coaster of 1st trimester, she had lost her baby. I was numb at this point, not knowing quite what to think, but of course, pressing on. As much as I believe crying can be good, I just couldn't even do that at this point.

Ruth was from the Philippines but was living in Bangkok with her Thai husband and 18 month old daughter, Sariah. She was one of the happiest women I've met here, always smiling and laughing about things. She had come over for play dates a few times, and has helped me in the nursery at church since I started. She came to my rescue when one of the little girls in there was going through a rough phase, and wouldn't let any of the farangs hold or play with her. Ruth was happy to take on the job and brought Sariah each week to help during the first hour before needing to do her Relief Society calling. Hearing the news of her death was, to say the least, shocking. But, I know that death is a part of life, and life goes on. I was honored to be able to help some with the funeral service, especially when Alice (my amazing pianist friend from the ward) and I were asked to play at her funeral. It was therapeutic for me to be able to play my violin and honor our sweet Sister Ruth in this way. People like her inspire me to focus on the positive and do what I know is right. Please pray for her daughter, husband, and mother as they go through a trying time.

I won't go into all the details of the rest of the grim part of my week, but it is always rough to watch someone you love go through something both physically and emotionally draining. Especially something as sensitive as losing a baby. Having a dear friend endure trial after trial, and me being able to do so little is awful. In truth, I haven't done much this week, but it feels like I have fit an entire MONTH into this one week, because my mind has been so occupied.

So, if you are still with me, I'll tell you that things did get better as the week wore on. I promise.

After the funeral on Wednesday, I went to pick Jack up from school. Not something I usually do, because he rides the bus, but I had him stay late so I could be at the funeral the whole time. I was waiting for him to finish lunch and visiting with my friend, Sukma, while Jane played with her boy, Brandon. These two are so darling together. I think Brandon can make Jane laugh almost as much as Jack, and that's really saying something! Sukma's daughter, Sasha, is in Jack's class, so I get to visit with her quite a bit, and we've had some playdates here and there. They are from Indonesia, but have been in Bangkok for several years. It's so fun to meet nice families through Jack's school. It really is a great little school community where people get to know one another and share experiences. It's been a blessing that we picked this particular school out of the many I looked at.

As much as I didn't feel up to it, I had planned with Graham, Dylan's Dad, to take the kids bowling again, like we did so many months ago. I didn't want to disappoint Jack, so we went, and I'm SO glad we did. Graham picked up Scarlett and we all met at the Paragon bowling ally. The kids LOVE to bowl, even Jane was getting into it by the end. This was exactly what I needed as a pick me up from the long week.

This was a typical scene. The kids did GREAT, although Scarlett, Dylan, and Jack get a little crazy together. At one point, there were even three balls in the lane at once. I started panicking and looked at one of the workers who was watching us, and he said, "no problem!". Wow! Every time I've been bowling here, there has always been at least one employee that just stands behind our group to help and watch. They really are helpful, and happy to do it. Thais have something they call, "jai yen", meaning "cool heart". It perfectly describes their temper of being laid back, accepting, calm, and patient. I am often thanking my lucky stars to be surrounded by people with "jai yen" when I'm out with my two little monkeys.

I had to share this picture of Dylan because I just love this kid. He cracks me up, and I constantly have to stop myself from hugging and kissing him because he reminds me so much of my nephew, Grant. Anyone see any resemblance? It might be more in his body language and voice, but he's one of my favorites!

We also spent a bit of time at Ocean World. Mostly just to hit the play area and get some Popsicles. Usually, at this point in the aquarium, there is a snake that my kids love. This day, there was a hedgehog instead, very cool!

So, here's the cool thing that happened while we were bowling. Graham happens to mention that Kari, his wife, has an extra ticket to Cats that night, and asks if I want to go. HELLO! I've been talking about going for about 4 months, yet due to my procrastination, couldn't get tickets on a decent night. So, I had given up that idea. Then, this comes up! I couldn't believe I was actually being rewarded for my procrastination by getting a night out with other women, and better seats than I could have afforded at half price. Nice! So, I ended up killing time at the Paragon, so I could meet Jeff there to hand off the kids (can you believe how awesome my husband is?). I met up with Kari and her friends and we had a great evening visiting and seeing Cats (which was quite different then I expected, but still really good). And, the woman I was sitting next to, guess where she was from? "A little town in Utah, called Logan", she says. Is that crazy? I told her about how we lived there, Jeff graduated from there, and I was still taking classes from USU. It's a small world!

While I was killing time at the Paragon, we found these Thai dancers who were putting on a show. I thought this was great! The kids were loving it too. Why do we not have American folk dancers in our malls? I would love to see a regular clogging/square dancing show when I go shopping on Friday nights. Who wouldn't?

Saturday was a really fun family day out. We went to the BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers & Babies International) 25th birthday party. This is an organization that puts together play groups, informational lectures on parenting, breastfeeding, and generally just provides a smaller community for mothers and families. It's a great organization, although I haven't been able to fit in a LOT of their activities, what I've done has been awesome.

The theme was super heroes and princesses. Jack was happy for another opportunity to wear his Batman costume out, and Jane got to wear this awesome hand me down from Scarlett.

This birthday party was a kid wonderland. We walked in and Jack got free cotton candy and watched the clown show. What more could he ask for?

I took Jane over to the fishing pond with her friend, Isabelle, who is the daughter of Graham (we took the kids bowling) and Kari (who I went to Cats with).

Jane loved this small version of a bouncy house, only for children under three. Perfect!

Jack was loving the soft toys and ball pit, not to mention the huge playground and full size bouncy castle! It was fun to let the kids play and visit with the other parents we'd met at other events or from Jack's school. It's amazing how in a city as HUGE as Bangkok, the family community of Farangs is quite small. Many times, I will see the same families at play areas, Ocean World, or other events. I think many feel a common bond because we are all away from home with young children.

We decided to try a new way home that we heard about. We walked along the klong on this pathway. I guess we could have tried one of the boats, but weren't quite sure how they worked, so we decided to walk as far as the kids would let us, then taxi on home. We watched the boats go by, saw a different side of the city, and felt it was a good little adventure.

I'm pretty sure this is how our mail gets delivered each day. Thought it was kind of interesting.

I thought this was sweet of Jack reading his Book of Mormon stories while he was eating his lunch after church today.

Today was the primary program. For those of you who are lucky enough to have been to primary programs before, you know pretty much how they go. The kids all go up, everyone gets all excited. The sunbeams are in the front row, waving to their parents and being silly. The older kids are being reverent, or at least conversing in subdued tones. Then, there's the few tall kids who are almost graduated from primary and look a little awkward, but add a LOT when it comes to the speaking parts and especially the singing. Then there's the sweet kid who sings his little heart out, occasionally hitting a right note here and there (I think this is my nephew, Grant, except in tune, am I right, Vanessa?). There are so many more typical things about these wonderful programs, and today Jack was one of them. He was "the kid" that suddenly speaks his part into the microphone VERY CLOSELY. It was awesome. He said his scripture, "Follow me and do the things which ye have seen me do, 2 Nephi 31:12, absolutely clear and without any hesitation. It was probably double the volume of every other kid. Needless to say, we were beaming and giggling all at once. It is the highlight of the entire year, and I have to hand it to all you Primary workers, it's a big job. Good work!

So, in the end, this week has been good. Thank you for enduring with me on this post. I started blogging to keep family updated on our happenings while we are away. But, it has gradually turned into something that we feel we will look back on years down the road. So, pardon my personal reflections, and possibly even sharing a bit too much. Although I don't write everything down, I feel I just can't let some things go undocumented to some degree.

Speaking of documenting, my parents arrive on Thursday night, late, and we can't wait. So, if I don't get a chance to post this week, you'll know why. Although I will do my best. I'm sure it is going to feel better than Christmas for Jack and Jane to wake up to them on Friday morning. We are looking forward to LOTS of quality time with them ANDVanessa when she arrives just 3 days later. What a treat this will be!

04 November 2007

Halloween and then some

So, I love Halloween. I love the candy, the decor, and I love how excited my kids get to dress up. Jane would almost hyperventilate when I would pull out any portion of her costume (she actually slept in her butterfly headband one night), and Jack has worn his costume every single day since we bought it. He glides all around the apartment, school, or playground (not flies...glides, because Batman doesn't fly, in case you didn't know). Money well spent!

We had a fantastic week, that was of course centered around preparations for the big night, and recovery from the big night. But, our week did start off with something totally unrelated. Jack's good friend, Kazuya, had his 5th birthday party at the school on Monday afternoon. It's starting to feel like we go to a birthday party every week now, but I'm not complaining because it's a GREAT place for the kids to run wild, play with friends, and I get to visit with the other moms. And, I love that everyone always welcomes Jane, even sending her home with goody bags, even though everything is geared for the big kids. They had a magician, clown making balloons, and I finally learned who "Ultraman" is. He's a Japanese cartoon character who Jack's been spotting all over town and was also the star of Kazuya's cake. I was so impressed. Taka (his Mom) had made the cake herself! Very rare, since very few people actually have ovens here, and if they do, most would rather buy it. If you look close, you can see me standing up taking the picture in the mirror.

Halloween was a pretty exciting day! Jack had school, and Jane had swim class, her favorite! She is getting to be quite an animal in the water. She loves to jump in through the hula hoop now, and always chooses the pink part to be on the top. She also loves to push off the wall, and try to swim to me, with little to no warning. I have to watch her quite closely because this girl has no fear!

We spent Halloween night at the Gibbon's home, a family in the ward. We drove out in a van with the Becks and we were happy that Sally came with us as well! It was a long trek out there, picking everyone up, and we hit quite a bit of traffic, but we got there just in time for the trick or treating at 6pm. The kids loved running from house to house. Jack ran and ran, but Jane decided to taking this approach: Walk up to the house, say "trick or treat", "thank you", turn around and eat the treat before another step is taken. This would probably be fine, except there were loads of people at each house. Imagine all the Halloween fanatics with all the decor (lights, tombstones, spiderwebs, dummies with their heads cut off, HUGE ghosts, etc.) like they've planned for this all year, but these people all live in one neighborhood. THIS is where we were. It was crazy and awesome all in one. I felt like I was in the States all over again. These families were even giving out candy they had brought from the U.S.! That night, we ate Snickers bars, Skittles, Starbursts, and Tootsie Rolls. ALL candy we can't get here. Crazy.

Here's Jane approaching a door with Sally. Notice the motorbike/scooter to the left. This is how a bunch of people get around this community. Most travel by golf cart, but there are lots of bikes and scooters too. We can definitely see the draw in living in this wonderful neighborhood, right around the school, with its own international market, lake, Subway (the sandwich shop, not the mode of transportation) and more! You really don't feel like you're in Bangkok anymore. I have to admit though, we love the city life!

We all gathered after a short while for some soup and salad while the kids played and enjoyed all their sweets. I don't think I've eaten soup since Christmas Eve last year. It was delicious, especially since Michele had turned up the A/C so the house actually felt a little cool! Good planning!

We loved these three girls together! Jane, Alina, and Madeline. They all just sat there, happy as could be!

Before we left for the Gibbons, we went down to visit the office staff because we were missing their party they were throwing for the tenants. We felt bad to miss it, but thought we at least needed to get some pictures with them. They are fantastic!

Jane enjoying the decor. I was impressed with how they celebrated Halloween here. Of course, it's all done for the farangs, but we'll take it! I actually felt like my kids had a "normal" Halloween this year. Mom guilt: gone. Well, for now.

Jane only kept her wings on for a few moments, so I had to snap what I could! By the time we actually got to the Gibbons, she was in her leotard and skirt. Whatever keeps her happy!

We got a sad letter on Thursday saying that one of Jack's teachers, Bic, had a family emergency and needed to go back to Chiang Mai. No one's sure if she'll be back at all, but we hope we'll see her again before we move!

I'm taking a general Arts Class at USU online right now. I couldn't believe I had to take an arts class, after all the music classes I've taken. I thought, "give me a break!", but it's actually been really fun! Jane and I went to our park on Friday morning to see if I could find any public art to write about. I was shocked, to say the least, with how much art was in this park that I'd never noticed before. I have run, walked, strolled, sat, and played in this park countless times. Besides the most obvious works, I had never noticed MOST of what was there. Because of this class, I'm starting to notice a lot more art that is everywhere. Very eye opening. Jeff and I liked this one of Jane running towards the water. Is this park not gorgeous? And, there's so much more!

Jeff and Jack decided to go and visit some friends from the ward on Saturday. We love these two brothers! We see them every Sunday, and every Sunday, I just want to take them home with me! They are from Sri Lanka, and have been here for a short time. They treated Jeff and Jack to lunch and ice cream, and had a really good visit. I was happy to hear today that they are coming over tomorrow for Family Night!

This x-ray is of the older brother's head one year ago. He was studying at an agricultural College in Sri Lanka when an army came in and started shooting. 5 were killed, 10 wounded. The older brother was one of the wounded, as you can see below. It's pretty amazing he survived. For safety reasons, we thought it better to not share their names.

We had a great Sunday today. We brought Sally and Diana (another friend of a friend that's here to teach English) home with us. We all took naps and had dinner. Jack treated us to some lovely dinner music to finish off the evening. Diana plays the guitar, so Jane took that opportunity to enjoy the fuzziness of Jeff's case. This girl loves anything soft, silky, fuzzy, lacy, or pink. What makes girls like this?

Well, Happy Halloween everyone! We've loved reading so many blogs this week with darling pictures of kids in costumes, skillfully carved pumpkins, and lots of candy! Now, on to Thanksgiving, right? I LOVE the holiday season! And, having family coming in just a couple of weeks will just top it off so nicely! Only thing we're missing now? SNOW!