28 February 2008

I'm sure... more than you need to know

My lovely sister, Joanna, has tagged me for a little questionnaire that is sure to tell you many things about me you never wanted to know. I'm the queen of too much information, and here I go again.

20 years ago - I was almost 8 years old (April 28) and was SO excited to get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was also practicing a LOT for my first time at the National Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho coming up in June. I was in Ms. Chandler's 2nd grade class and adored her. I remember her reading us books in Chinese and thought she was the coolest. I spent a lot of time doing violin, dance, playing with my friends, and I adored everything my perfect older sisters did. This is me on my baptism day. Isn't my dad a stud?

10 years ago - I was a Senior at Provo High School and ready to be DONE! Although I did love being in Student Government, Choir, and I happily quit the basketball team this year to spend more time with my violin. I had just finished my senior recital (a HUGE deal for me). I auditioned for Ricks College music department (10 years ago exactly) and was SO sick, but was blessed to still be able to pull it off. I was extremely lucky to have so many good friends at this time in my life who helped me learn to appreciate the little things. I also look back and am amazed at my parent's patience with me at this point in my life! I was a good girl, but definitely not a perfect child!

5 years ago - Jeff and I were in our wonderful little 1 bedroom cockroach infested apartment in Logan, Utah while we both attended USU full time. I was teaching 15 students, Jeff was working part time and donating plasma 2x/week, something I was also doing until we got pregnant. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Jack (and feeling good!) and was a few days away from giving my senior recital that I was very nervous and excited about. Also, Jeff was getting ready to graduate and the job market was terrible. We said countless prayers that we could find a job he enjoyed that would pay the bills. We were SO excited to start our family!

3 years ago - We were living in our cute little West Jordan home, certain we would be there for years to come, and loving the traditional family life. Jeff had a steady job he liked, we had one adventurous son, and a daughter on the way! Jeff was training for his first marathon and I couldn't have been more excited for him! I was playing with the Orchestra at Temple Square, conducting the ward choir, taking classes online, and loving that I got to stay home and play all day with Jack! Jeff was (and still is) the most supportive and loving husband ever.

1 year ago
- We'd been in our new apartment for almost 2 months after living 2 months in hotels in our new city, Bangkok! We were loving everyday adventures: trying new foods, finding new places to take the kids, exploring markets, and always meeting the most fascinating people! Jeff was called as Elder's Quorum President and I was called to serve as nursery leader. Jane was the perfect and most flexible little girl with moving to such a crazy city, and Jack was enjoying whatever was around the next corner. I had decided on a school for Jack to start attending and wondered how Jane and I would ever survive without Jack to entertain us all day! We were thrilled to be living somewhere that had never even crossed our minds! Bangkok was awesome, and much to everyone's surprise, we did not miss home.

This year - We started this year vacationing in Hong Kong, and it's been great ever since! Jack is loving school, has some really nice friends, and has progressed by leaps and bounds in his swimming class. Jane is a fish as always, loves her playgroups, her nursery class at church, and is my constant sidekick. To the mothers who don't know me at Jack's school, I learned today that I'm described as "the young one who always has her little girl with her". I love exploring new places in the city, finding new treasures at markets, visiting with other parents, taking the kids on outings, and working in the Primary. Jeff keeps busy with work, learning Thai, church work, and being a fantastic husband. We're both enjoying not doing yard work, car maintenance, and hardly any fix-it projects on our rented residence! We are feeling extremely blessed to have found so many dear friends half way across the world.

Yesterday - Gym. Practicing. Take Jack to school. I started out walking from Jack's school to the park, but got nervous when it started to rain and hopped in the first free taxi I could find. Jane and I enjoyed doing some organizing at home, then off to her swim class. I could hardly keep her in my arms, she just wants to swim away on her own! We went to Ocean World for a quick visit where Jack got to hold a snake all by himself, and Janie wanted to as well, but I had to protest on behalf of the snake (she gets a little excited!). We met Jeff for dinner, got the kids to bed, and Jeff and I curled up in bed to read Harry Potter.

Today - Dropped Jack at school and Jane and I headed to the Thursday market with Sukma and Brandon. We found lots of things we "need" and ate sweet popcorn in the taxi on the way home. Chatted online with both of my sisters (one of my favorite things!), and unclogged my toilet shoved full of toilet paper (without a plunger even!), compliments of curious Jane. Fun! Lots of emails and phone calls with Alice, the Primary President (this woman is amazing!). Took Jack to swim class, watched Hairspray, requested by Jack and Janie both, read lots of books, and put the kids to bed. Read and blogged until Jeff got home around 9:30pm from extra meetings for work and church. Now, I'm excited for him to finish dinner so we can catch up and get to sleep! OR, to read a little Harry Potter.

This year - We plan to head to Utah for 3 weeks in April (way excited!), then visit a few other places in Thailand before we head back to Utah for good in November. Jeff and I are planning to run the Salt Lake City half-marathon in April when we're visiting, and we wish we could find Jeff a full marathon in Bangkok in the fall that wasn't on a Sunday. I look forward to moving closer to family and back to a life where my kids have a yard to play in, car seats to sit in, and neighbors that speak English. Also, I miss Target clearance racks, Maverick frozen yogurt and the mountains.

As silly as I always think this "tag" thing is, I do enjoy reading other people's. So, on with the game.

I tag Vanessa, April, and Carol.

24 February 2008

Mid-term break

The great thing about being at a British Curriculum school is that they have these awesome mid-term breaks every so often... well actually, about every mid-term. They always come at a good time when I'm feeling ready for some extra time with my Jack, and of course, Jane is always thrilled to have Jack home more often. I never quite feel like they're long enough because our week just flew by!

We had originally planned to head to the beach for the weekend, but for several reasons, it fell through at the last minute, and considering we are all still recovering from sickness, we realized this was actually a blessing in disguise. Although, I'm still longing for that fresh air! Hopefully soon. Staying in town definitely had its advantages though. Jack stayed on his practice schedule, Jeff and I both got good runs in on Saturday, we ate healthier, Janie got extra sleep (rather than less) to help her lingering cold, and we got some very necessary shopping done on Saturday. So, here's the quick version on some of our mid-term break activities. Also, Jeff had a holiday on Thursday, so took Friday off too, even though we were still in town, so that was the HUGE bonus of the week. Two extra days together!

Every morning this week, Jack and Jane busied themselves with building all kinds of forts. This doesn't show any of them really, but it shows how happy they are doing one of their favorite things.

Another favorite morning activity: blanket rides. An advantage we've enjoyed about having all wood flooring. It was hilarious to watch them switch and have Jane pull Jack. That girl is tough!

Jane's first real bowling game. The ball took forever to get down the lane, so she made herself comfortable each time.

We met Jeff for lunch, and he treated us to ice cream. I love watching my kids eat ice cream.

Anutra and Bird came over for dinner. Jane's been asking for Khun Bird randomly for the last few weeks, so he decided to come with Anutra this week.

Lots of play dates. Jane and Isabelle after swimming and a picnic in their compound.

Jack and Dylan being silly while eating lunch and Omer's house. I think we counted 17 kids at this playdate. The craziest thing was, it seemed pretty calm! They have a BIG apartment!

Jane LOVES to paint, and painted so much on this little "hello kitty" it was hardly recognizable! But, she did have a good marble effect going, and she never stopped smiling. How fun!

Had a little swim in our FREEZING swimming pool.

We'd heard about a place called "YoYo Land" for a while, and decided to try it out. It was much bigger than we expected and perfect for our kid's ages. Funny thing is, not a yo-yo in sight (Jeff thinks Yoyo is the name of a monkey character seen all over the place, and I think he might be right)! Just fun rides, games, and a juggling show with a scantily dressed assistant. Interesting.

Jack loved these air guns. What could be more fun than shooting Ultra Man figurines for 10 minutes?

Jane chose to ride the cars, which I was sure would freak her out. They were really fast! She absolutely loved it and wanted more!

Jack loved the dinosaur dig where he got to put gear on and dig around for old dinosaur bones. He wasn't successful really, but sure loved that 30 minutes digging in the dirt!

They had this little log flume ride that I thought was darling. Again, I was sure Jane would freak out (I don't know why, she never does on this stuff, I just think she will because it seems more for older kids) but, she loved it of course! They let them go around twice, and they were both a bit nervous on the first "drop", but loving it on the second! I wish our pictures of the actual drop would have turned out.

The best bang for your buck were these soft playground areas that were HUGE. I took the kids in and they played for 30 minutes, jumping, climbing, rolling, and dangling off everything.

By far, our biggest adventure of the week happened on Friday. We wanted to try out this restaurant we'd heard so many good things about from many of our friends. It's called Log Cabin and has several different restaurants stuck together. Thai food, American Food, a bar, and a Japanese Tepanyaki style area. We decided to go wherever the play area was, which, I was excited to see, was by the Japanese part. I love Japanese food, and I always love watching them cook my food in front of me, something that is always SO expensive in the states, but relatively affordable here. They had a GREAT little play area, and we were the only ones in the place so far, so we were happy to have it nice and quiet. The kids played, and Jeff and I ordered while they brought high chairs and plates and silverware especially for the kids. As the assistant manager is taking our order, I notice a tiny bug on one of the plates, so I get a tissue and squash it and the guy takes it away, bringing a clean plate. That made me a bit nervous, but this was a relatively nice place (with a play area, very hard to come by!), so I was sure it was just a fluke. We continued to order, when I noticed another small bug on the counter. I squashed it and let the guy wipe the counters off. Getting a little more nervous, I reminded myself that I'm not a sissy, I can handle a bug or two, right? So, we're visiting, playing, and waiting for them to bring out the food to cook (the best part!). They brought out our salads, and the kids came to sit down. While Jack's saying he didn't order a salad, I dig into mine and eat a cucumber with delicious Japanese dressing. Mmmmm. Then, I look down, and right by all my sauces, there's a huge cockroach. Immediately having a memory rush of our cockroach-infested apartment during our college days, I jumped up and announced we were leaving. You'd think living in an apartment with cockroaches for 2 years would make me used to them, but after finding one in my cereal bowl early one morning, I just can't do cockroaches anymore. I was SO disturbed by this, I couldn't think of anything else but to get out of there! As we are packing up, the chef comes out ready to cook our meals. I tell him in English, which he probably didn't understand, that we are leaving and not to bother cooking the food. I moved the dishes so we could point out the cockroach. He just kind of shrugs his shoulders and turns away. I couldn't believe it.

We have eaten in some pretty scary places. We regularly eat from shops on wheels that are parked on the sidewalk for the day. We occasionally buy fruit from guys who cut it with their bare hands. We're not germ freaks, or we would never survive here! But, never, in any of these places, have we ever had bugs in or near our food. But, even if we had, at least we only paid 30 baht for it! What can we expect? But, here, in a nice, reputable restaurant, we are bombarded with bugs, and they responded so casually. That's what's scary! Jeff and I were dumbfounded and extremely disappointed that a potential favorite restaurant turned out to be our worst food experience in Thailand! We spent the rest of the evening trying to get over this one. We were in a new part of town and after that, not feeling very brave. We ended up at a Sizzler down the way that felt like a piece of home. Although, I still had the creepy-crawlies all night long.

Looking back, I think the reason it was so disturbing was because it was in a place I expected it the least. I have always thought of myself as one who could take stuff like that without acting like a complete "girl", but there I was, walking out of a restaurant because of a bug. What would you have done?

17 February 2008

We're from America

LOADS of pictures this week, which is a good thing. Less talking. A few hours ago, I took some pills to help my ear and sinus pressure, sore throat, and everything else that's wrong with me and it is making me so loopy. I think it may have been night time medicine. So, we'll keep it simple.

I turned on Beethoven's violin concerto while I was making dinner one night and the kids sat in front of the TV (which doubles as our stereo) and acted as conductors with the raw spaghetti noodles. It was fun to see them love this music so much. Particularly because this was MY piece that I practiced for hundreds of hours (literally) while I was extremely pregnant with Jack. This is also undoubtedly the most beautiful piece of violin music ever written. Never have I felt so spiritually touched with a piece of secular music. I hope my children will always think of me when they hear this beautiful concerto.

By they way, Happy Valentine's Day! We had a really fun day that Jack did NOT want to end! I prepared a little sack of goodies (fun underwear, light up tops, a "love" balloon, and a small book) for Jack and Jane, which Jack thought was the coolest. And Jeff, I surprised him with a bag of peanut butter M&Ms which I've been saving since November when Vanessa came. He was THRILLED, and I think a little surprised since we declared several years ago that we don't buy gifts for each other on Valentine's Day! I couldn't resist. Jack loved handing out his valentines at school, and I was surprised that there were a few others who were celebrating as well! Our complex had a little Valentine's party on the roof for everyone, so we went up for about 10 min. before we were chased out by the bugs (very unusual)! This picture isn't great, but it has all four of us in it, something that doesn't happen very often.

The view from the 33rd floor roof garden. I love this city.

We pass this man a LOT, and he's always sitting in the same spot making amazing things from twine. He wanted a picture with Jane this day, so I happily pulled out the camera. Jane wasn't quite in the mood, but he is always SO sweet to us. Notice she's in pajamas. I hadn't planned to leave the house again (this was the first day of me feeling awful), but we needed a few things from the store, so off we went. This man is a bit famous, I think. He's got newspaper articles that have been written about him, and pictures people have taken. He's also always smiling.

Two of my favorite sweethearts.

I love a LOT of things about my life right now: my perfect husband, my two darling children, and the fact that I don't have to worry about cleaning the outside of my windows! Jane was fascinated by this guy hanging from a wire, cleaning our windows. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. Of course, then the insides looked way dirty, so Jane and I had a fun morning cleaning all the insides of the windows. Who knew the sky was so blue?

Valentine's night, we met up for a quick dinner at the mall, eating what makes our kids happy, which just happened to be Burger King that night. Then, they each got to pick out a special desert, and everyone chose ice cream. Except for me, who chose to take Jeff up on his offer to put the kids to bed while I got a massage across the street. Exactly what my achy body needed. Did I say that I love my husband? Do anyone else's kids always want to wear costumes while they're out?

Jane insisted I get a picture of her with these mannequins. She always finds the ones making the weirdest faces, and they're everywhere, and she loves to imitate them. I guess I should be glad she hasn't noticed their hairstyles yet. Why are America's mannequins so normal looking? That's no fun!

We had a really fun afternoon with a bunch of Jack's friends at Dylan's pool. They swam like crazy and I had a fun visit with the moms and dads. I loved watching Jack and Scarlett walk together like this. They have been dear friends for almost a year now. She left for London today for 3 weeks, and we're all hoping it goes by quickly!

The BIGGEST event of the week was Jack's International Day at school. They started with a Parade of Nations, where all the children paraded around the school with their nation's flag around their neck. In this small school, there are 28 different nationalities. It makes for a wonderfully diverse group. Can you name all the countries?

Jack's class performed a Thai dance, where he got to wear this scarf around his head and bang a drum. WAY cool for an almost 5 year old! He LOVES playing with Kazuya.

These next three pictures were taken by a friend. Nice to have some from a better, "not holding a wiggly Jane" angle.

Jack saying, "I'm from America!" Did he have the most beautiful dance partner or what? He and Miya don't play together, but they certainly were a cute couple!

After the dance, they sang a Thai "hello" song, "Sawatdii krap".

Jane loves anything at IPC because it means she gets to play, play, play! These are the best swings in Bangkok. She's pointing out how silly Brandon is.

After the program, we got to go with Jack to visit 4 different countries to get his passport stamped, each hosted by a different classroom. There was Italy, India, England, and Thailand. Jack's class was Thailand, where they made these horses out of banana tree leaves. This was a HUGE hit with the boys. Teacher Fon is Jack's drama teacher, and we always joke about calling her Teacher "Fun" because Jack loves everything she does in class!

One classroom was "England". This was a HUGE hit with the parents because they had a small "parents only" section with biscuits and tea. The Brits were quite fond of the idea and made themselves right at home! These are three of my favorite people. Heather, Graham, and Kari. Kari's not British, but I still let her be in the picture.

The England classroom was also Jane's favorite. She colored a picture of Queen Elizabeth, and played in the rocket (which had nothing to do with England, just part of the classroom!).

Jack with Teacher Harmit. She has been a wonderful teacher and so easy to work with as a parent. I'm so grateful for a good, positive start with school for both Jack and me.

Everyone was supposed to bring a food that represents their country. What should I bring as an American? I actually completely forgot about it until the day before, and wasn't feeling up to some serious baking (unlike Sukma who woke up at 4:30am to fry up her Indonesian food), so I served up some delicious 7-11 Oreos! Lame, I know, but guess who's dish was empty first?

Saturday was another "not feeling great" day, but, it helped that Jeff basically took the kids for me while I got some things done. Brother Richard Bell, who Jeff home teaches, invited us a couple of weeks ago to the American Chamber of Commerce Ball as his guests. This man, I'm telling you, is really something. I was NOT feeling much like leaving the kids, dressing up, and going out, but it really was a fun night. I was sure I would be WAY under dressed in just a simple black dress, but I honestly felt just fine. There was quite a variety from elegant gowns to sombreros and ponchos (it was a "south of the border" theme). I was glad I didn't splurge on getting a dress made in a hurry!

I went out shopping that morning in search of some shoes, and what a joke that was (I'm a 10! Ha!). After hearing, "sorry madam" over and over again, I decided my casual flats will do. I would have rather been doing anything than shopping with the way I was feeling.

This is us all dressed up in the back of a truck taxi. What a chariot that was! After walking all the way to the train, we discovered we forgot the tickets! This sweet truck driver saved us by zipping us back home, then back to the train! While everyone was arriving in style, we were completely sweaty and windblown from the walk, truck, and train. Not to mention sick. I didn't exactly feel like Cinderella, but at least I had my Prince Charming!

They posted the colors to start off the evening, which was very touching to me. I LOVE being an American and am so grateful for the freedoms that we have, and that we can be proud of the sacrifices that have been made to make our country what it is today. We all toasted to the King of Thailand after the King's anthem, then toasted to President Bush (which seemed a little weird) after our National Anthem.

Bishop Andersen and his wife, Wendy, were also invited, so we were excited to sit with people we knew and loved, and really enjoyed some extra time visiting.

Jeff and I. You can see one of the waiters in the background with a mustache and cowboy hat on. This ball was planned down to the tiniest detail! We had a delicious 5 course meal with ballroom dancing entertainment, a silent auction, as well as a live auction, which I thought was great!

Brother Bell invited us to come to the ball, and it was really fun to visit a bit with him, and see him in his element as a thriving business man. We feel so blessed to know people like him who are extremely successful, yet do so many good things to spread the blessings around. I'm sure we only know a small part of the good this man does.

It really turned out to be a fun night, and I couldn't have been more grateful for Sally, who came to watch the children for us. I think we've gone out about 5 times together since we moved here (15 months ago), so it's a big deal for us to leave them. It was so nice to know they were in such good hands. Again, more blessings!

Apparently, I'm not so great at keeping it simple, loopy or not. One last thing. We have decided that Thai commercials are hilarious. We don't generally watch Thai TV, but like I've mentioned before, there are TVs everywhere here. So, we've seen this one on the train, and it's by far our favorite. We thought you might get a kick out of it too. Although we've seen it with subtitles, we think it's funnier without. Plus, you get a taste of what we go through every, single, day! Enjoy!

10 February 2008

Year of the Rat

I don't know much about Chinese culture, but I learned some things this week because Thursday was the start of the Chinese New Year festival! It's fun to be in a completely different culture where holidays are so different and to learn about some of them first hand. My good friend, Sukma, is mother to Sasha (in Jack's class) and Brandon (Jane's best buddy). She is from Indonesia, but her ancestry is Chinese, so it's a big deal for her family. She spent the entire day before (which was New Year's Eve) cooking specific foods, preparing gifts, and decorating the house. I think Goose and Duck are a very important part of the meal from what I gathered. She arrived at school the next morning with gifts for each of the children in Sasha's class, and Brandon even had one for Jane!

Sukma explained that for this holiday, it's customary for the married couples in a family to give little red envelopes to the young children with money in them. She didn't think it was appropriate to hand out money to children at school, so she put some chocolate coins in there, which Jane and Brandon immediately feasted on. What a way to start out a day! These two are two peas in a pod, I'm telling you!

Beyond the New Year, it's been SO fun to spend so much time with Sukma lately. I kept wondering at first why it was so easy to talk with her for hours, even when she is from somewhere completely different, and English is her 2nd/3rd language. Funny answer. She watches a LOT of American television! Apparently, her community in Indonesia goes nuts for anything American. Clothing, music, and especially movies and TV. So, because of this, her English is very good, she knows a lot about American culture and is usually explaining to ME about things I've never really thought about! She knows WAY more about TV shows and Hollywood stars than I do, which she loves to ask about. I'm afraid I'm a little disappointing when it comes to getting the inside scoop, but at least I got to tell her that not all the women in America are like the ones on Desperate Housewives! I'm glad I got to straighten that one out.

Sukma is amazing. Instead of coming to Bangkok and living a much easier, pampered lifestyle than she could have back home (like most expat women), she is the opposite. She came from a very privileged background and grew up with the works (maids, nannies, cars, drivers, cooks, excellent education, etc.). Now, she lives in Bangkok, away from her family and all the frills, to raise her children with just her husband, clean her own little one bedroom apartment, and cut costs wherever possible. I know, to all of you in the States, this seems normal to do these things, but to a LOT of expat women here, it is unheard of to do all of this without hired help, particularly when you were raised in this environment. Her parents come to stay and ask her to come home and live in their big home, drive the cars, use the nannies, etc., but she stays here because it is safer for her family. I admire her for taking the harder road that will ultimately be better for her children. I'm telling you, this woman is awesome. I'm so lucky to have her as a friend! Not to mention, Brandon being an automatic playmate for Jane at all school related activities. BIG bonus!

Wow, I really didn't plan on writing much tonight! She's just been on my mind lately. Here are some fun pictures from our week.

Our good friend, Mary Jane, just had her 3rd baby girl this last week. They came over for a playdate and the kids had a great time together. I loved this one of little Alina.

Jack and Narissa couldn't get ENOUGH of baby Anna. I think they would have sat there forever. What a blessing older siblings are! I love you, Vanessa and Joanna!

I didn't think this one was that good of a shot until I saw Narissa's face. She's always SO reserved, so I had to include it.

Ring around the rosies. It is fun to watch Jane play with the big kids this much, but then switch over to play with little Alina. Narissa was Jack's first friend here, and what a blessing she's turned out to be!

Jane was making her funny faces one day, but I liked this one, in between the funnies, the best. I love when she laughs at herself.

We spent a really fun night with Jack's friend, Dylan, and his family. I've done different things with Kari (CATS) and Graham (we take the kids bowling), but we've never all gotten together at once before, so this was a treat. We had a BBQ on the lawn at their townhouse and went swimming. It felt like we were home! The smell of the grill, kids running safely around the homes, the warm sun, the grass. All things we don't do a lot here (besides the warm sun, of course). It was SO fun to have a nice, laid back evening with good food, fun play, and visiting with such fun and interesting friends. We were maybe TOO laid back, I didn't get picture of Graham, Kari, or Isabelle!

Dylan and Graham were the first people we met at Jack's school on his trial day, and even though Dylan and Jack aren't in the same class this year, they still have a LOT of fun together! So silly.

Jane was really reserved in this pool for some reason, but she still loved playing with Isabelle (wish I had a picture of her!) and splashing around a bit. She especially loved the outside shower!

They were BEAT after the swim, play, and food, so they sat and watched playhouse Disney like this while the adults visited just a little bit longer. It was hitting Dylan a lot faster than Jack, obviously. We left around 7:30, but with a full afternoon like that, it felt like 10:30!

We were invited for dinner at George and Mary's again. We LOVE this family! Mary made some delicious Sri Lankan and Indian food that Jeff and I gobbled up way too much of. We remembered later that the reason she kept piling on more was because we were finishing it! We learned we needed to leave a little bit there, then insist that we were full!

The kids had a blast playing together, and it was so fun to visit with George and Mary. I couldn't believe that they wanted us to come over because Mary's been so sick, vomiting every day! She's pregnant, which we are all thrilled about, but it's been a rough start. I invited them to just come to us, so she wouldn't need to cook, but she insisted we come to their home, so she could cook for us. Amazing people! Notice the area behind this bike. That's the kitchen. The rice cooker (you can see) and there's also a small dish they use to cook over the propane cannister. No oven, no stove, yet she makes due. Through that door is a little sink, garbage and a faucet to wash their laundry.

Jane and Diran were being hilarious pretending to eat each thing individually off of this little Christmas tree. I wish you could hear their sound effects. Classic!

One birthday party this week. Just one, but for two people! Happy Birthday to Isaac and Lucas, two of Jack's best friends. It was just casual and fun, and the kids just ran around and played with each other. Very nice.

After the cake, the boys (Issac and Lucas, unfortunately I didn't get a picture of them both!) immediately started opening presents behind a big chair where no one could see them. Jack decided to join in the fun and see all the cool stuff. I was glad I caught them because it was hilarious to see how they reacted when they thought no one was watching.

This is Jack telling me that I'm calling Lucas the wrong name. He can tell them apart, but I still struggle! It shouldn't be that hard, I'm married to a twin!

Jane being super cute in her "Tinkerbell" party dress. Thank you to our Santa's helper from Virginia. This has definitely become a favorite!

We also had a fun time meeting our friends, Sasha and Liza, at Lumpini park. We haven't seen them since before Christmas, so this visit was LONG overdue. This scene was very typical of our time at this particular playground. Jack LOVES to push then jump on, and Jane is always yelling "faster, faster!". Most kids that get on with mine quickly hop off, but Sasha was loving ever minute of it. Where I get such thrill seeker kids, I will never know!

So, I guess we've just had a really great week with friends. I've been thinking recently about how different things are right now, from this time last year. Sometimes I don't know how I did it only knowing a handful of people, being in a new apartment and neighborhood, speaking almost no Thai, and having both kids with me all the time. Now, I feel like we've got a pretty good thing going. We have lots of friends to call on, we LOVE our area, we know a little more Thai, and having Jack in school has opened so many doors. I look back and the decisions we made back then, particularly where to live and what school for Jack, were even better than we realized at the time. Although it's a little commute for Jeff each day, our soi is fantastic. We have practically no nightlife (which we're finding extremely unique), good vendors and a few restaurants, we're close to the kid's swim classes, the hospital, train, and the mall. We knew very little of this when we chose the apartment. I liked Jack's school right away, but had no idea it was SO convenient compared to all the other schools, and it's turned out to be such a fun source of new friends and a lot of fun family activities, beyond just being a great school that Jack loves.

I guess as I've been thinking about it this week, I am realizing what a blessing it was to be so involved and excited about the "new-ness" of everything, that I didn't realize that it was really hard to be here, away from everything we know and everyone we love. It was hard. It is hard some days. It's also been worth it.