27 July 2008

This is the life!

I know I've probably said this too many times, but it is SO fun to have Jack home for the summer. I love having a relaxed schedule, having my kids together all day, and being able to do whatever we want, even if it takes us all day! School definitely divides our day in half so everything is either before 12:30, or after 3pm (Jane's nap). Anyway, it's nice to have a little more freedom, especially since Jane can go without a nap occasionally and still hold it together. At least as well as the rest of us anyway.

We chose to visit the zoo this week, something we haven't done for several months because it's such a time commitment! For this very reason, the summer is the perfect time to do it. Particularly since it's starting to cool down some. Every time we've been to the zoo, the kids have asked to do the zoo tram. I've always said, "oh, probably next time". Not so much because of the cost (it cost less than $1 for all of us), but because I've seen how fast it moves. Not very. Since we had all day, I thought, why not? We hopped on and it gave us a tour of the zoo we already know very well. Or so I thought. We discovered a whole new part to the zoo we'd never seen before and we were thrilled! We found an awesome playground, pheasants (which Jack was fascinated with since we recently finished "Danny, the Champion of the World"), many exotic birds, and a small amusement park for kids. Jack was especially excited about the dinosaurs by the playground. They are a little silly in pictures these days.

They loved this carriage, just like in Cinderella!

Having a big brother certainly has influenced our little Jane's personality. I'm sure she'd be different if she was the oldest, just like I'm sure I would be different if I didn't have two amazing older sisters. In Jane's case, her amazing older brother has taught her, among other things, how to be a super hero, sword fight, and do Tae Kwon Do. I'm really not sure which of those she was doing here, but you can see a hint of her "tough guy" face.

The reptile cave is always a favorite for us. The snakes are so amazing. I never thought I would enjoy reptiles so much, but Jack has made me into a big fan. This snake was sitting in the back of the cage when we first walked up, then it immediately started slithering towards the glass. It came right up to Jack and slithered all along the glass until we walked away. I was sure it was going to speak parseltongue to Jack. I know, I'm a nerd, but if it was going to happen anywhere, it would be here, and it would be with my Jack.

The zoo of course, was a fantastic day out. Our one disappointment was entering the Nocturnal House (Jack is fascinated by nocturnal animals), and finding there were no bats this time! Luckily, he got over it pretty fast and enjoyed what was there. Did you know Porcupines are mostly nocturnal? I had no idea.

Jack is becoming quite the little violinist these days. I've been so proud of him as he's been excited about learning each new song and especially sharing each little thing with Jeff every chance he gets. It's been SO fun to teach Jack, but honestly, it wasn't always so positive. There were a couple of days when I was daydreaming about throwing his violin off our 15th story balcony and watching it crash on the street below. He wasn't enjoying violin, and I was frustrated and out of ideas. I wanted to give up more than anything, but I knew that would teach Jack that when things are hard, you just give up. That wasn't exactly the lesson I wanted Jack to get out of learning an instrument. So, one day, out of pure frustration, I was inspired. I sat down at the table and hastily made a "super powers chart" in hopes to motivate him to want to practice, instead of just enduring it. The rules are, Jack can earn 2 super powers if he practices with a good attitude and works hard. Once he reaches "invincible" (at the top, because of course, invincible is the ULTIMATE), he can shop at "Mommy's store" because only invincible people are allowed to shop there. Pretty simple concept, yes? I had no idea if it would even make a difference, but now looking back several months, it's SO clear that that day was the turning point for us. He loved that silly chart from day one (you can see that from all the greasy fingerprints covering it!) and still tells everybody about it. Now he's reminding ME that it's time to practice. He's excited to play his songs for everyone, learn basic theory, and he loves when he gets to learn something new! It's been SUCH a relief to me to get past the struggle and now we are enjoying that time together like we did in the beginning! We're now on the new and improved chart because the other one was getting so worn. This one has 15 super powers on it (instead of 10), and when he is invincible, not only does he get to shop at my store (for little games, toys, or treats), but he gets to wear a super hero badge around for that day. Who knew something so silly would make all the difference in the world? Anyway, Jack requested this week that I take this picture of him with his violin. I guess the reason I shared this all with you is because this picture reminds me of how far we've come in a year. Jack's learned so much, and not just about music. He's learned how to buckle down and get things done. He's learning not to quit, and he's learning that even when things are hard, you can still do them! He's learned a lot, but I have to admit, through this last year, I think I've learned even more.

Here's the new chart. Super powers vary from Invisibility to Super Hearing to Force Field. What would you want on YOUR super powers chart?

One of Jack's big accomplishments this week was visiting the dentist. I'm ashamed to admit he hasn't been since right before we moved to Thailand. I just haven't made it a priority, and fortunately Jack's teeth haven't suffered. He had a wonderful visit and the dentist said his teeth were looking great! I'm really hoping this is a sign that he'll have his Daddy's teeth, not mine! Jack loved holding the mirror and watching what they were doing, and when they gave him the fluoride treatment, he got to hold the clock and watch to tell them when it was time. We were all impressed when the dentist let him and Jane pick balloons afterward and she blew them up with her air blower tool, then twisted them into impressive looking swords. This woman is a perfect person for pediatrics! I was so grateful it was such a positive experience for all of us.

Yesterday was the biggest adventure of our week. Scarlett turned five this week, so we got together on Saturday to celebrate. We met at the skytrain in the morning and rode it down to the river. We all hopped on the Marriot Resort boat (Heather had it all planned perfectly!), and the kids all loved the ride. Where else would they let the kids take turns actually steering the boat? From the back, I'm sure it looked like the driver was drunk, but we were all having a great time!

Since most of our friends are still in their home countries for the summer, the group was small, and I personally felt like it was perfect! There were just the four big kids, and they got along amazingly well the whole time. This is Omer, Scarlett, Ori, and Jack. Turns out, Ori's family is heading back to Israel on Thursday, so this was a good farewell day with Ori and his Mother, Shira, who is wonderful.

Right before we met everyone at the train, we ran into a shop buy Jane some goggles, as was requested by her new swim teacher. She's never had goggles and I thought it would take her a while to adjust, but we could hardly get them off of her. She wore them most of the way there, and through a good part of the meal too! She insisted on only pink, pink, pink!

When we arrived at the Marriot resort it was, of course, amazing! Marriot really knows how to do it right. This place was incredible. Anyway, Heather had arranged with the new Italian restaurant for us to come in for lunch. We had our own little area where we wouldn't bother anyone, thank goodness, and the kids even got to play with dough and "make" their own pizzas. This turned out to be a perfect activity for this group. They rolled, cut, and floured for ages. Jane especially enjoyed rolling and eating it. When I make bread or rolls, I have to watch her like a hawk, or she'll be in picking at my rising dough!

Once they were done with the dough, the wait staff (I couldn't even tell you how many were there just for us, because there were no other people there until the end; it was perfect!) cleaned everything up and helped the kids make forts with all the pillows and bean bags they had set out for them. Somewhere in there, we sat down and had a really nice meal of pizza and pasta. The food was beautifully presented and it was delicious! Then, we headed to the pool!

We really didn't get many pictures of the pool because we were enjoying it so much. We all got in and swam like crazy. Jack and his friends are all excellent swimmers so they had fun goofing around together, and Jane even remembered how much she likes to swim. She put her goggles to full use and I could barely keep her above water. I've never swam at a five star resort before, so this was quite the experience. They were bringing fruit around to snack on, the towel boys brought you towels as soon as you sat down, and honestly, it was just gorgeous!

The kids were spoiled with delicious pool-side ice cream just before we decided it was time to wind things down. Jane was exhausted, but doing surprisingly well!

Why not share and enjoy TWO flavors, right?

Omer and her Dad headed out by Taxi, but the rest of us rode back on the boat (the way they've designed this whole "Marriot Experience" is brilliant!) to the train. It was an excellent day out with family and friends. Heather and Jim in particular have been such wonderful friends. Every time after we've been with them, Jeff and I talk about how impressed we are by their positive attitudes about everything and their love for each other and just life in general! They are fantastic examples to us of living life to the fullest and not worrying about things that don't matter.

Jane was enjoying looking off the back of the boat on the return trip. I love her sweet profile.

Jeff spoiled me that night and took the kids home to put to bed while I went and got a wonderful foot massage. Our time here is growing short, so I'm determined to get the most out of every minute here! I know I'd never be able to do it in the States, so for now, I'm going to really enjoy it! And... I do.

We were so happy that Ming Wei and Stephen Griffiths could come home from church with us today! We've had Ming Wei over a few times, but Stephen, although I've worked with him a bit in Primary, hasn't been over to visit yet, so this was a treat. They've become quite the pair lately because Stephen can speak Chinese, so he's constantly translating for Ming Wei. The kids were thrilled to have them over, particularly Jane who asks for Ming Wei on random days and calls out his name every time she spots him at church. They had some good play time, then we enjoyed a taco dinner. Mmmm... Mexican. We've missed good Mexican food since day one, so it's a treat when we decide to afford the ingredients for a simple Mexican meal!

These guys are both so great and I'm so glad we could get to know Stephen better. The hard part is, when Stephen's here, Ming Wei of course uses him to translate what he's trying to say. I know that Ming Wei can speak English, but it's just so convenient to use the translator! When he comes over on his own, we communicate just fine, it just takes a little while. Anyway, I'm hoping we can have Ming Wei over more frequently so he can practice his English on us. He's a really wonderful person with a lot of insight and a HUGE heart. I have no doubt that is why Jane loves him so much and won't sit by anyone else at the dinner table!

We were asked today if one of the reasons it is comfortable for us to live overseas is because we're not very close to our families. We expressed that we are both extremely close to our families, and I think that's part of the reason we feel comfortable living away. We know our family and friends will always be there for us, even if we live in Thailand! What a blessing it is to feel everyone's support during this adventure. Although we miss you every day, we feel so blessed to feel your love as we receive emails, phone calls, IM, packages, and get to read your own family blogs! Thank you for making the effort to keep us in the loop. Hopefully, when we return to Utah, we'll all feel like we haven't missed a beat!

20 July 2008

7-11 is HOW FAR?

This post is super long with LOTS of pictures. I just can't stand to leave anything out, as you'll soon see!

We decided very last minute that we wanted to spend our holiday weekend (Thursday was Asamha Bucha Day) outside of the city. Having just recently spent a bit of time in the mountains, we decided on the beach. Especially because we knew we could easily get there in a number of ways. (We've found transportation to be the biggest dilemma when you don't own a car!)

One thing we still hadn't done is take advantage of the train system, which we'd heard was great! We decided to head towards Hua Hin, a touristy beach town we visited about a year ago, but the hotel we found was about 30 km south of the city. We realized the night before that besides getting to Hua Hin, we didn't know how, exactly, we were going to get to our hotel. We've become a little more relaxed about our transportation needs lately. We figured we'd just play it by ear.

Here's the Hua Lamphong train station at about 7:30am. I think train stations are so fascinating. I think it was the best place I've found yet for people watching. It was filled with Thais and Farangs alike.

This is waiting to get on. Jack thought it was so cool to see the big train come right up to where we were standing. I'm always so impressed with public transportation that just keeps things moving along! It's there and people use it. Why doesn't everyone have this?

We lucked out on the train because within 5 minutes, Jack had met a kindred spirit named Kate. She was on a daddy/daughter weekend to Hua Hin, so the entire train ride, Jack and Kate laughed, read books, and played games needing very little attention from any of us! We enjoyed visiting with Kate's dad from the UK for a good 2 hours of the train ride. I've never met anyone who makes friends as quickly as Jack!

We arrived at the Hua Hin station only about 1 hour later than scheduled. The kids loved the ride though, so why would we complain? This station was pretty unique in its design, and while we waited for our next leg of the adventure, we watched as they filmed a movie right there on the platform!

Jane found some swinging doors (like to a saloon) at the station, and apparently there was a friend behind them. She'd stick her face in and come out with a huge grin each time.

Like I said before, we didn't know how we were getting to our hotel, but once in Hua Hin, we discovered that for only 12 baht for all four of us (about 35 cents), we could all ride a bit further and get to, what we thought, was a lot closer to our destination. This is where we went wrong, but I'll get to that in a minute. This 12 baht train ride was definitely the most unique experience of our trip!

We piled onto this train (and I mean piled, at first we didn't think there was any room!), and tried to get cozy while everyone looked at us like they'd never seen white people before. There really was standing room only, but when this lady on the right, (looking at the camera) saw the kids, she stood up and wanted us to take her bench. This was very nice of her because this train was crowded and very HOT! I was worried about how the kids would do in this environment and wondered if we'd have done better just to hire an expensive taxi to take us out there, but this turned out to be their favorite part of the trip! Jeff and I are in awe at how our kids adapt to things here! This picture is not fantastic, but I included it in hopes that you can get an idea of the number of people on this train!

Another thing we loved was that at each stop, people would come by selling food to people through the windows. At one point, a guy actually walked through the crowded cars selling sticky rice and grilled pork. Of course, Jane just had to have some. Whoever thought of this idea had quite the entrepreneurial mind, because people were buying it up!

So, back to the transportation issues. We arrived at our indended stop, and once we were off and the train drove away we realized we were in the middle of nowhere! We thought at the very least, there would be motorcycle taxis to take us to our hotel. There was not ONE in sight! No taxis, no tuk-tuks, no trucks, nothing. We puttered around laughing nervously trying to weigh our options. There were a few shacks and one tiny food stand around the station, then there was a lot of dirt and a (sort of) road. We thought of getting back on the train going the other way, or calling the hotel and seeing if they could send a car (which I'm sure would have been pricey!), or just start walking and hope to see a taxi, which was our naive thought! Luckily, we happened into a good samaritan who spoke fantastic English, possibly the only one in a 10 km vacinity, and had a really nice car and driver. I couldn't put the pieces together, but honestly, we didn't care! She offered to take us to our hotel and wouldn't even accept payment. I'm really hoping we have an opportunity to pay this one back somehow! Our options were getting pretty limited until she showed up! We realized even more what a blessing she was as we drove the 15 km to the hotel and saw nothing on the way. If we would have started walking, we would have been in trouble! So, maybe next time, we'll figure out at least how to get to our hotel before we leave home. Maybe.

Jack couldn't wait to get to the beach, so as soon as we could, we headed out! It had just rained a bit, so we were a little worried about jelly fish, so we mostly stayed on the sand. The kids didn't mind though. They found a huge mountain of sand and played as long as we let them. They were climbing, jumping, digging, and making rock piles, and loving every minute of it!

We stayed at the Bacchus Home Resort which was a simple hotel right along the beach. Our main priorities when picking a hotel is that it's cheap, we can walk to the beach, and it has a nice pool. Everything else is just a bonus! This pool was fantastic and SO clean!

My kids are in heaven in the water, so what's better than heaven? Heaven with ice cream! They are so spoiled!

The one thing I didn't believe in the reviews I'd read about this place, was how remote it was. The question to decide how remote is, "was there even a 7-11?". In Bangkok, there is a 7-11 on every corner, so the fact that we had to walk for about 20 minutes to get to one was crazy! This was us on our first quest to 7-11 so we could get some snacks and hopefully a slurpee!

There really was nothing around besides other resorts and a few food shops that even made us nervous. We ended up eating in the hotel restaurant on a day when we weren't feeling as brave as usual. The good part was that they had my favorite: Massaman curry. Delicious!

The highlight of the entire trip for me was on Friday morning. We went out to the beach and discovered the tide was really low and you could see a huge sand bar way out in the water. In this picture, you can barely see Jane on the right, and Jeff (yellow shirt) and Jack to the left. We all walked out there and found so many cool things!

We found several dead crabs, but this one that Jeff found was still alive and kicking! We let him go quickly after the kids got a good look because he didn't seem like he was kicking as hard as we would have hoped!

From a distance, this jelly fish looked like a plastic bag, so we were shocked when we discovered what it really was. In Germany I saw jelly fish, but they were NOT this big. There were countless tiny ones all along the shore of this sand bar that Jack pointed out to us. We hadn't even noticed them before!

As always, my kids love the hermit crabs, and we found a lot of these!

Of all the things we found, by far my favorites were the sand dollars. I've never been to a beach where you could find whole sand dollars! They were everywhere, so we started a good collection, which unfortunately I didn't get a picture of. Jack and I were in a really wet area at one point and I reached into the sand and pulled up a whole handful of them, only to discover that they were still alive! It was fascinating to see the little hairs/legs all over their bodies and realize that they really are living animals! Of course, we put the living ones right back, but I felt so lucky to be able to see them first hand. I'd just never thought of sand dollars as anything but an empty, dried out shell before. I was in awe!

I loved this shot of the shore, the clouds, and, behind the tallest trees, our resort. It was a gorgeous day to be out together!

Jeff and I have discovered that we like going to the beach, but mostly just when we also have a hotel and a nice pool to come home to. We've totally gone soft since we've had children! But, now that we know what we like, we can easily make it happen! We swam and swam and swam! Jack was an absolute animal in the pool! He kept swiming across it, practicing his backstroke, retrieving stuff on the bottom, and was getting pretty brave with his diving! He's only just started to learn diving technic in his swim class (which is already beyond my current knowledge), but he wasn't afraid to try it out! He never wanted to get out!

Jane was a bit more reserved in the pool this trip. She's become pretty reserved anywhere outside of her lessons lately, but still has a great time playing with the toys and occasionally retrieving Jeff's goggles off the bottom for him. We bought some sand toys that came with this boat. Jane and the boat quickly became inseparable.

We swam until we literally couldn't see anymore because there were no lights in the pool! It was beautiful to swim at night with the hotel lights, the waves crashing, and the palm trees against the deep blue sky.

We insisted everyone have a nap one afternoon so we could still enjoy being together. We've realized that NONE of us do well when we're tired. We slept better on this trip than we have in ages, it was wonderful! Maybe next trip we could work it so I could actually sleep with my husband!

Jane insisted I take this picture of her with "little Jane". All the little statues were either her or Jack.

On Saturday morning, we knew we had to check out but were still unsure about how to get home! Seeing as there were NO taxis or anything of the sort around, we decided we'd have to use the hotel services. We paid for their "taxi", which was really a covered pick up with two benches in the back (called a song taew), to take us to the local bus station. This worked out really well as we only had to wait about 30 minutes for the next bus, and it was cheaper than the train! This is the kids in the song taew on our way out of Pranburi!

Our kids, for some reason, are fascinated by busses. They liked the train too, but Jane in particular, sleeps really well every time we get on a bus. It took her less than 20 minutes to fall asleep for two hours, through numerous stops and even a bathroom break. She was an absolute angel when she woke up!

The kids loved reading books, Jeff and Jack told stories, and they watched Lightening McQueen together. I thought it was heavenly, as I got to dive into a new book I've had for a week!

One thing we don't understand about the busses in Thailand is why we never seem to get off at the same place. Two different times, we've been let off at a bus station, and we have no idea where it is! Luckily, there are plenty of taxis to take us wherever we want, but it's still disorienting to not even know where you've been as you drive home.

We had another good Samaritan experience in the taxi on the way home. We were all doing just fine until Jane started to throw up all over herself and the back seat of the taxi. I was terrified at what the taxi driver was going to act like, as I've heard they are pretty testy (for Thais) when their taxis are abused. He quickly saw what was happening and pulled over. I got Jane out and cleaned her up, poor thing, while Jeff jumped in the back seat to start the clean up process. I apologized to the taxi driver as he was watching us in action. He responded with a smile and "mai pen rai", a common phrase meaning "never mind". I was so grateful we had such a sweet and understanding driver, when he had every right to be upset about his nice taxi! He even helped Jack find a place to do his business while we were busy with Jane. We cleaned it up the best we could, and the driver did his best to get our sick girl home quickly! It was some crazy driving, but we were grateful! We couldn't thank him enough for how kind he had been, and he seemed like it didn't bother him at all. Why are we continuously blessed to meet such selfless people as this?

Jane acted just fine after her incident, and we enjoyed a nice, quiet Saturday night at home. We really love getting away together, but as Jack puts it every time we walk in the door after being a way for a bit, "it feels SO good to be home!".

The normal part of our week

Our week was fairly simple because we were gone for a good chunk of it! We left for the beach Thursday morning (a different post entirely), so other than that, our week seems pretty ho-hum.

As I mentioned in last week's post, we had the Lee children over to play for most of Monday while Rachael and David worked with the movers to get everything packed and on its way to the States. Jane and Jack were really looking forward to having friends over for the day, and I was hoping the novelty wouldn't wear off too soon!

They all played extremely well together and definitely were never bored! They read books, made forts, dressed up, and ate lots of snacks. If I was concerned about anything, it would have been Jane and McKaila getting along, but they were suddenly best friends. Phew! It felt good to be able to do something like this for a friend. It seems like in Utah, I kid-swapped fairly regularly. That was just something you could do to help each other out. Here, nobody seems to do that because most people just have nannies to take care of the children. If you don't have a nanny/maid, someone might offer the services of theirs. Thanks to the odd circumstances the Lees were in with just having had to fire their help, I was able to do something that to me seemed totally normal: watching a friend's children for them! Having a nanny/maid just will never seem completely normal to me!

Since the Lees were all packed up by Monday night, but not leaving until Friday, we thought it would be a good idea to have them over for dinner. It was our last night all together, and I couldn't believe the kids weren't sick of each other by then! Jane and McKaila sang to each other in their "microphones" forever! It's never fun to say goodbye! Good luck, David and Rachael!

I think I've mentioned before our "chicken lady" that we buy dinner/lunch from a lot of the time. Her chicken stand is just outside of our complex and she is always so sweet to take good care of us! She knows the kids like the wings, and she knows not to make my som tam too spicy. This day, I went to order it, and while we waited, we came back to our complex to play on the new swing set. These swings make me super nervous because they're so close together, but the kids love them!

This is our new church building I mentioned before. We are still loving the new building and all the added space, despite the extra time it takes to get there. I know I've said it before, but our ward is awesome!

Here's a better view of the building with a steeple and everything! We feel SO spoiled!

I know, our week was not too exciting as far as our time in Bangkok goes. The contrast to the rest of the week makes me appreciate both sides of it even more!

13 July 2008

Summer fun

So, it was Jack's first week off of school and how much fun was I? Not much! By Tuesday night I started to feel a bit more normal, and by Thursday, I was almost back to my old self. I still tried to do most of the things I had planned for the week, although mostly tried to stay closer to home.

I decided it would be fun to really focus on some of the things that fascinate Jack, throughout the Summer. He loves to look things up online, but I've felt like we haven't had enough time to really learn enough about the things he wants to, so the summer is the perfect time! This week we learned a lot about Volcanoes. We have an awesome book about them, we made volcanoes on paper, colored pictures of volcanoes, watched eruptions online, and the highlight by far was making our own out of playdough and making it erupt over and over and over again. I'm scared to think what will happen when I decide we need to throw it away!

We started researching bugs, and even found a fun and informative bug book the other day that we've loved! Jack's the driving force behind all this stuff, but I'm loving it just as much as he is. It's fascinating to learn about a ladybug's spots, how many stomachs an ant has, or why wolf spiders are our friends. Who knew?

Our friends, the Lee family, recently found out they have to move back to Washington D.C., and they leave this week! They've only been here for less than a year, and the news was sudden, so I definitely wasn't ready to see them go! Rachael has been a good friend since they first arrived. She's one of those people who is just easy to be friends with. Easy to talk with, easy to get together with, and easy to relate to. They're leaving a big hole in our ward, but we're hoping their new ward will appreciate what they're getting!

Jack is always SO excited to get together with the Lee's because he LOVES Cameron. He always wants to hold him, walk with him, and make him laugh. Cameron is such a happy kid and just smiles and laughs at everything Jack does! Jane and McKaila are a lot closer in age than the boys, but they really don't get along for the most part. This picture was taken when we had dinner together this week, and we were all shocked at how well they did that evening, because normally there is lots of screaming, spitting, and pulling. To say the least, they don't bring out the best in each other. Sad, but true. I'm hoping this night was a turning point, as I'm watching Cameron and McKaila tomorrow while the movers are packing their stuff! This picture reflects well how much fun they had together that night.

Remember Narissa? She and Jack have been such close friends since the first day they were together. On one of my very first posts, I have a picture of them sitting together in a car cart at a grocery store. They have always gotten along perfectly and never seem to get sick of each other! Anyway... Narissa's family moved into a new place and it is beautiful! The pool area is better than any resort I could imagine. There are several different kiddy pools with fountains, a water slide, and a lazy river. It's amazing! We went over last week and again this week and we always have a fun time with them. Jane and Alena get along really well too, but unfortunately I didn't get a good shot of them. I think this is one of my all time favorites.

The next day, we had Jack's other girly friend, Scarlett, come spend some time with us. They ended up swimming in our pool in their underwear. It was so fun to watch them be so silly together, but also how grown up they've become in just their one year of school together. I wished I'd taken a picture of the two of them this time. Jack's been so blessed to make such wonderful friends here!

We packed in our playdates this week, if you can't tell! Jack's friend, Kazuya, is moving back to Japan next month, so we are trying to get in some fun playtime before he goes. It's a little bit of a challenge when he's in summer school almost full time everyday (which is pretty common here), but we took him on Saturday while his mom was working on moving stuff, and we loved having him with us! He is SUCH a good kid! We went to this fun new bookstore/library in the mall, which had an awesome area for the kids. This picture's terrible, but it kind of shows the idea of this wall of honeycomb-like structure with the tall bookshelves. They loved climbing all over this to get books.

Jane found a little "pod" for her and her friends to read in. It was pretty high, so I had to lift her, but she thought it was the best.

Kazuya is such a great kid. He and Jack are super silly together, and both really affectionate, so it was fun to see them walk with their arms around each other, hold hands, or wrestle. I love this stage, and I am sad for when it fades and they are too cool for that!

It still amazes me that here in Bangkok, I have family! Isn't it such a small world? How many of my family members are living overseas? Very few. Yet, two of us are living in the same city! We've loved spending time with Rikker and Kaw over here. It's especially been a treat to watch them go from a young married couple, to pregnant, to parents of an infant, and now experienced parents of a 7 month old! Their little Leslie is so darling and happy! They just returned from the States two weeks ago, and since they left Thailand her schedule's been off, but you'd never know it based on our experience with her tonight. She was an angel the entire time they were here, even with Jack clobbering her the whole time! I don't think he got more than three feet from her the entire evening. He loved holding her, getting her toys, crawling with her, and all the slobbery zubbers he could get! I thought this was a good one of Rikker and Kaw, but Jack was making funny faces (I wonder where he gets that?) and little Leslie's eyes were closed!

Here's one where you can see her big, beautiful eyes and cute grin. Rikker and Kaw are such sweet parents and it will be fun to see what character traits Leslie develops from the both of them. There are certainly plenty of good ones to choose from!

I've been thinking a lot this week about how our time here is quickly drawing to a close. We're starting to attempt the planning of our last several months here as we try to fit in the things we have yet to do. Thailand is not a huge country, but somehow two years hasn't been enough time for us to see it all when we have to worry about actually living, not just being tourists! It's hard for me to think about closing the door on this chapter of our life. I'm so grateful for what a fantastic opportunity this has been, but in many ways, it's made me hunger for more. Until our time here, I didn't realize it, but I was like a person who's never been outdoors before. Traveling during my college summers gave me my first peek out the window. Living abroad has let me get out on the porch, smell the air, and feel the wind. From the porch, I can see for miles and miles all the things I have yet to see and experience. There is just so much out there for us to see, so many people we haven't met, and before I was here, I don't think I realized it.