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!