29 November 2008

What a week!

After Jack having a weekend fever...

Monday - Jack's fever is gone! I kept him home from school just to make sure. I got sicker as the day progressed. Lucky for me, Preeya comes on Mondays and catches me up on my housework. (Really, everyone should have a chance to know what it's like to be sick in bed and have your laundry still being done. I felt SO spoiled.) Jane started with a fever at bedtime. Yay.

In addition to Preeya, I was thankful for having TWO kids who could happily play together and run circles around their mom who could hardly keep her eyes open.

Tuesday - I was worse, Jane's fever was bad, but Jack was off to school, thanks to Jeff who was able to take him and pick him up. Jack coughed all day and keeps getting nose bleeds. Poor kid! I canceled my violin lessons for the day.

I was thankful for... Jeff willingly staying home to keep the household running.

Wednesday - Jane was doing better, I was starting to recover, but Jack started with another fever. (I've never heard of this happening before!) No school for him. We read books, built forts, did school work, and read books even more. Before drifting off to sleep, Jeff and I had the following conversation:

Mindy: Hey, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
Jeff: Yep.
Mindy: Our leftovers are already gone. I'm half tempted to go buy another turkey, just for us.
Jeff: OK.
Mindy: (shocked) You'd feel okay about spending that much money AGAIN, just for turkey leftovers?
Jeff: You've saved at least that much by not leaving the house this week. Go ahead!
Mindy: Awesome.

I was thankful for... kids who can read books by the hour, and a husband who enjoys a good holiday meal. Twice.

Thursday - Jack's fever was better. Jane was better, and was anxious to leave the house for her first time this week. I took the kids to the market for a turkey for about 30 minutes, and then we were pooped. Jeff came home from work early exhausted from a sleepless week, and was not feeling well. We spent the day resting. Jeff decided we can't have turkey without pies (and he even cleaned up all his pie-making mess!), and our turkey finished roasting at 9pm. SO good.

I was thankful for... a husband who will carve that beautiful bird, and for Jack's long nap and a 6pm bedtime.

Friday - Jack woke up feverless. Jane was good. I had almost recovered. We decided to not cancel our plans to meet our friends. We got out, rode bikes around a gorgeous park, ate chicken on a stick, and had a great visit. We came home exhausted, but happy.

I was thankful for... kissing two "not hot" foreheads goodnight for the first time in a week.

After this week... I can officially say I'm thankful for our health. I certainly didn't fully appreciate it until I didn't have it for a while.

Another thing on my mind (of course, completely unrelated)... the U.S. Government. Say what you will, but when it comes down to it, it works. Our constitution makes it work. After watching what's happening here in Bangkok, I have never been so grateful for the organization of our government and how inspired it truly is. So, thank you to our American leaders for keeping things running. Even amidst all the problems (and there are plenty), there is still order, and that is something to be grateful for.

I've also been so grateful for everyone who's been so supportive of our time over here in Thailand. That would be YOU. So many people thought we were NUTS for moving here. It's been nice to have the support of our amazing family members from the start, and so many others along the way. It's been fun to get emails (or comments) from people I've been out of touch with for years! I've loved hearing from you, checking your blogs (unfortunately, my connection won't let me comment very often, but know that I've been checking in!), and hearing all about what you are up to in your lives! I've loved reading about careers, homes, new babies, holidays, birthdays, personal trials, and most of all, the everyday things you fill your lives up with, that we don't experience here. Thank you to modern technology that makes the western world seem much closer than it actually is. It's inspiring to be associated with such exceptional people!

We've loved every minute here in Thailand, but it wouldn't be the same if we hadn't had the chance to share it with people we love. So, please pardon us as we continue to reminisce on our time here for years to come. At least now you might even know what we're talking about! Thank you for your encouragement, excitement, and support. We are grateful for you, most of all.

26 November 2008


Sundays are always full days for us. This one, in particular, was quite eventful with planned events, and then there were fun little things thrown in here and there like Jack being extremely sick. Or, Jane wetting her pants. Or, how about Jane writing all over the non dry-erase wall with a dry-erase marker. That one was fun too. The main event was fantastic and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. After a long wait, one of our favorite families (I know I say that a lot, but they are all so amazing) was baptized on Sunday! They have been waiting for quite some time since there were quite a few legal things going on, but somehow they were resolved enough that they were allowed to be baptized, something they've been wanting for as long as I have been acquainted with them.

Like I said before, Jack was quite sick on Sunday morning, just like he was for most of Saturday, unfortunately, but we knew we couldn't miss the baptism, so we did our best to clean him up, take him along, and not let him get too close to the other kids. When he realized what we were making him go to church for when he was feeling so lousy, he totally lit up. He adores Abby and Mithu, the two youngest members of the family, and wouldn't want to miss this either. He knows it's a big day. Besides just wanting to be there to support our friends, I was asked to speak, and Jeff was actually asked to perform the baptisms for the parents and oldest brother, which he was very happy to do! How could we miss such an event? (If you're thinking we're terrible parents for taking sick Jack to church, you might be right. Jeff did take Jack home right after the baptisms which made for the shortest Sunday meetings for Jeff by about 5 hours!)

Here's the Velmurugu family before their "first birthday" as they like to call it. Also pictured are "our" Elders, Olson and Yeats (love these guys), Diva (who baptized the younger sons), Jeff, and Jane.

I first met this family back in June when seeing off my friend Mery and her family to Holland. Who knew a family that I met and visited with so briefly would soon become such a dear family to me?

It's an awesome thing to watch a family of such faith enter into the waters of baptism together. It's an important decision, and no doubt they will find strength in each other as they continue to learn about the gospel together.

I can't say enough about how grateful we feel for the experiences we are having here. The people we have come to know are absolutely priceless, and I hope by writing things down, we can keep things fresh in our minds for years to come.

22 November 2008

I'll miss...

There are certain things in Thailand I won't be too sad to leave behind. Walking on extremely littered walkways, or past indescribably smelly garbage on the streets, or being charged more with negotiable prices because of how I look. I won't miss that.

But, honestly, it's hard to come up with things I won't miss, because so many things here I don't think I could ever get enough of. One of those things is going to the Thursday market each week with Jane. I love wandering through with her, seeing many of our friends, and buying our usual purchases (sticky rice, popcorn, chicken for lunch that day, etc.) and seeing what else is there to browse through. Jane's generally an awesome shopping companion, especially in our regular places because she knows exactly where we're going and what we need. She stays right by me when it's most important, and is fascinated by a lot of things I might just wander past, like the live crabs, or the HUGE shrimp. She stops to look and entertains the vendors with how excited she gets. Very fun. I also will never get tired of buying my fruit like this...

Or my veggies like this...

Or riding home in the back of a truck while eating popcorn...

I'll miss that.

I won't miss all the goodbyes. Although, that's a part of life you experience everywhere. We just happen to experience it quite regularly here. I would never get tired of goodbyes that mean people we love will be living somewhere where they'll be much safer and happier.

We said goodbye to one of our favorite families this week. Nilantha and Chandrika have such a wonderful family, and we have felt so lucky to know them. Chandrika and I talked a while back and she teared up as she told me that she didn't want to see us go before them because she didn't want to say goodbye to us and still be in Thailand. I agreed that I would rather them go first, just to feel like they're being taken care of. We were all surprised, yet thrilled, to find out they were leaving SO soon, and we both got our wish of them leaving a month before us! We got a call today from Nilantha to say that they are in Toronto, happy and cold! I've grown to love each member of their family, so it was a fun evening for us all (including Jack and Jane who adore Yohanne and Dushan) to visit with them one last time before they started their new lives! I will never forget the pure faith this family has. I know this is a reason they have been so blessed in their lives to have such a bright future.

This is the whole gang. Brother and Sister Fernandopulle with Tamara and Romesh, Bishop and Sister Anderson, Jeanene Davey, Nilantha, Chandrika, Nilanthi, Dushan, Yohanne, and our family. I about lost it when I had to watch Tamra and Nilanthi (the two girls holding hands in the front) say goodbye. They have been so close, and I'm sure there's a good chance they'll never see each other again. It was breaking my heart. I love that it's so normal for close friends to hold hands.

I won't miss having to take my kids in an elevator so they can ride their bikes.

I will miss the gorgeous, year-round greenery they have here to enjoy while they ride their bikes around this very little track by our lobby.

I love when they ride together. Even if it makes me really nervous.

I will miss many of our friends. We've all been so blessed to have made some good, sweet friends here, and we'll really miss them.

We celebrated Jack's friend Aybrielle's birthday yesterday and the kids had a great time together! I've loved Aybrielle's family. They are all such sweet kids, and their mom has become such a dear friend who I look up to in so many ways. She planned this entire "candy land" party and pulled it off so well. It was adorable!

I will definitely miss having the missionaries over. We've never known missionaries like we know ours, because we've just never had a lot to do with them directly. Now, we deal with "our" Elders enough that we know who's calling when the phone rings at a certain time at night because they are so consistent!

We were able to have our American Thanksgiving feast Saturday with six Elders from the Bangkok mission. The families from the ward all volunteer to feed the Elders, and since it's not a holiday over here, we get to choose which day we celebrate. Jeff doesn't get Thanksgiving off, so we did it the Saturday before and it turned out really well. The food was delicious (I LOVE even just the smell of a turkey roasting in my home), and the company was even better! I won't miss cooking a Thanksgiving meal and looking outside to see NO SNOW. I miss the snow.

These Elders were good to eat their share of the meal, Jeff's delicious pies, and they even were excited when Jack wanted them to stay to play a few songs on the chimes! Jane especially was attached to Elder Pinvises, who ironically grew up in the ward we are in now. She dragged him from her room to Jack's room, and right before we sat down, she had convinced him and another Elder to help her make her crib into a fort. We've loved getting to know the missionaries here, and we'll definitely miss that close contact as we go back to Utah where there are thousands of families who want to feed them!

I love Thanksgiving. I loved waking up on Thanksgiving morning, as a child, knowing that no one had to go to work. I especially loved looking out the window first thing in hopes of seeing fresh snow. One Thanksgiving I remember waking to the first snow of the season and it felt like absolute magic. That year, we weren't traveling to SLC to gather with other family, we were making the meal at our home and hosting several students from BYU who couldn't go home for the holiday. Mom taught me how to make a beautiful cherry pie (don't ask me to repeat this now), which put me in even greater awe of her domestic abilities. There's no end to what she can pull out of her hat, that woman. I love my memories of gathering with family and friends and once the meal was prepared, we had nothing to do but enjoy the food and the company. How could we not feel grateful for all that the Lord has blessed us with during this wonderful, family-centered season? There's just so much to be thankful for.

I hope all you Americans have a fantastic Thanksgiving day this week! And, please, think of me when you do your 5am shopping the next day. I know, I'm missing all the fun!

18 November 2008

The big one is a... what?

Jack and I spent yesterday afternoon learning about American money. I had anticipated that this would be something totally new to him as we change currencies, but it still was a little shocking to be teaching my 5 year old what a quarter was. "Dollars" is not an uncommon word for him because we still do most of our dealings in U.S. dollars, not to mention traveling to Singapore and Hong Kong where they also have their own dollars, but the whole coin concept and how they each had a different name (not just an amount) was a new concept. It made Jeff and I wonder about what else we are going to need to catch our kids up on.

We've definitely got to work on his pronunciation of "mirror". Saying it the British way just doesn't cut it when everything else is American. The first kid that hears him prounounce it "mirrah", and actually knows what he's talking about, will think there is something seriously wrong. Not a great way to start out his American schooling experience!

He thinks he doesn't like milk (because admittedly it's not great here), cheese, or pizza. He asked me today if there was guava in Utah. Is there? I don't even know! And today he called me "Mum". Hmmm.... we'll definitely have some adjustments, and not just for Jack.

16 November 2008

Odds and Ends

This is a marathon of a post, but how could I possibly leave anything out?

The kids were waiting for our Sunday morning taxi last week and looking too cute. I love my kids.

Last Sunday, our friend, Ming Wei, came home from church with us for dinner and a good visit. I almost said "relaxation", but it's not too relaxing when our kids both want every bit of your attention. That's called "fun, and exhausting". (When Jane heard Jeff talking to Ming Wei on the phone the night before, she said, "MY Ming Wei?". She loves this guy.) The kids wanted to show off their current favorite super hero getups. Ming Wei thought it was hilarious to see Jane as batman. She definitely is cute!

We had a fun afternoon with my friend, Sukma, and her kids. Jane and Brandon have been best friends since they met, and even if their older siblings don't go to the same school anymore, it's nice we've still managed to all get together since we enjoy each other so much. It's funny to see now that Jane and Brandon are actually verbal with each other, whereas before they would just play and laugh and talking was completely unnecessary.

We were out yesterday and Jack saw a Jackfruit stand and wanted some. I took a picture because it was HUGE (sitting on the seat of the motorbike). And that's broken in half. We don't buy it very often, but Jack loves this fruit. I love vendor stands like this.

Once a month for the past several months, some amazing women in the ward have been hosting luncheons with some new-member training for many of our refugee families. I've been lucky to be able to go the last two months and enjoy several hours visiting with these sweet brothers and sisters. They are all so happy and helpful, and each one of them has quite a story. We pray everyday that they will all be placed in a country where they don't live in fear. I won't say everyone's names, but you might recognize some faces as these are some of my absolute favorite families, and they've kind of taken me under their wing (if you can believe that) and fed my family, particularly since I became pregnant. I learned today that there is a tradition in Sri Lanka. When someone is expecting, the other women make her "tasty food" to take care of her. These women have certainly done that, and I couldn't be more grateful! My heart aches to leave them!

Jane was having a hard day for some reason, but she found a new friend that she was very content with, thank goodness! That makes all of us happy!

Since one of the families has found my blog, they've looked through a lot of old photos I've posted in the past. It's been fun to see what stands out to them, as they point out Jack playing his violin in his underpants, Jane with her castle cake, Jeff next to his "look alike" Pepsi ad, and the picture of Jeff and I when we were married. They all started telling me how Jeff was the same and I was "very fat" when we got married. Anywhere else, with anyone else, this would never fly, but honestly, they're right. I've changed a bit, and it was nice that I could laugh about it with them.
Honestly, there's almost nothing they could do to offend me. I love the forgiveness that comes along with cultural diversity. Love it!

This month's gathering was at Alice Quan's home, probably one of the most absolutely super women I've ever known. I live in awe of her. Why I didn't get a picture of her... my guess is because she was checking on everyone else! This table has members of three different families.

This little one is probably the most petite little girl I've ever seen! I think she's nearing two years old. She is so content and quiet, but it was nice to see her in a little more calm setting than church, because she seemed to show off her cute personality a little more. Darling.

Everyone here was from Sri Lanka except Taylor (end of the table in white shirt), and the Kasendo family who are all from Congo. I have fallen in love with this family (and Taylor too, he's fantastic!). I'll write more about them soon when I get the pictures from Veronica's (the daughter, but you can't see her) baptism from today. They make me want to head to the Congo! I'll get there, or at least somewhere close by.

This week was one of the reasons I was so excited we got to stay even just a short time longer. We celebrated my favorite Thai holiday, Loy Kratong. It was a day FULL of celebration, as Jack's school did a little ceremony in the morning and then we celebrated in the evening with our friends.

I was the slacker mother who didn't buy the traditional Thai clothing for her kids. (I will before we go, but I just didn't find the right market and didn't want to pay the "farang" price from the mall). So, Jack was looking as American as ever while most kids were dressed up all Thai. It was really fun, and Jack didn't seem to mind, thanks to being an easy to please kid. I love that.

This is Jack's friend, Sonami. She's a year younger than he is, but they hit it off quickly and she's really been the only friend we've done play dates with at his new school because I've gotten to know her mother quite well. I hear that every morning she gets dressed in something "that Jack will like". She arrives with love notes and hugs for him fairly regularly. Jack does pretty well with the attention, but enjoys it most when they can just be silly together and play. Her mom decked her out, can you tell? Jewelry and all!

The day before, all the classes made their Kratongs, in preparation for the holiday. They all lined up, sang a special "Loy Kratong" song, and each took a turn floating their kratong on the pool with Mr. Bill.

Loy Kratong is celebrating the water in our lives. Each child respected the water with a wai, after letting their kratong loose. From what I've learned, we respect the water for the huge role it plays in our lives, and we also ask for forgiveness for all the pollution put in it. Also, there's something having to do with letting your sins float away with the kratong and turning over a new leave, so to speak. I might be way off, but this is the best I can do! Any clarification anyone?

The day they made the kratongs just happened to be the one day that Jane got to attend the three year old class because I was taking an exam proctored by the school administrator. They were SO kind to let Jane join the class for an hour while I tested, so I didn't have to arrange for a sitter. Jane LOVED it, and even participated in show and tell, showing off the pretty dress she was wearing that day (of course!). So, since Jane had also made a kratong, we stayed so she could float hers with her "classmates". She was in heaven, and so pleased with herself! She never stopped grinning. I'm honestly starting to see why people put three year olds in school here. Does that mean I've been here too long?

Excuse all the pictures, but she was just looking SO grown up! And these other kids looked cute, minus the finger in the nose. Nice touch though!

Teacher Jill was SO good to Jane, making her feel very welcome in her class. She's one of those teachers who is SUCH the preschool teacher that it's almost over the top, but it completely works. I could never do what she does, she's perfect for the job!

We met our friends, Heather, Jim, and Scarlett, at a restaurant I'd been wanting to try for a while, so that was nice. We had a nice pizza dinner, and the kids loved sitting up at the counter and watching the amazing guys with the pizza dough. They were awesome. I could barely take my eyes off them! They even gave each of the kids some dough and a roller to play with. Very fun.

We walked on over the park, where it felt like a huge football game had just gotten out because it was PACKED! On the way, the kids picked out the kratongs they wanted to float on the lake. Scarlett was leading the crew, checking out each little stand, then walking on until she found "the one". I think Jack was mostly just waiting for a "Scarlett approved" stand where he could be sure he was picking from the BEST! They both chose more traditional ones, and Jane fell in love with the duck. I'd never seen a duck kratong before, so I thought that would be fun. They were all thrilled!

Once inside the park, we ran into one of Jack and Scarlett's old classmates, Taj. It was fun for Jack to see Taj one last time before we go, so of course we needed a photo of these two clowns. Notice Heather in the background getting her "must have" photo of ME, taking a photo. I guess I do take a LOT of pictures!

I absolutely LOVE this holiday. It's one where everyone can enjoy it, no matter where you're from. It's easy and simple, and it's so beautiful. I wish there was some way to recreate this in the states, but how could you possibly do it? There are HUNDREDS of kratongs on that lake. It was so picturesque. I couldn't help but take a video of it in hopes that I can remember even better how impressive it was. These pictures don't do it justice.

Here's Jack sending his off. Thanks to the events earlier in the day, he knew exactly what to do.

Here's a little closer look at some. Most are made with a slice of banana tree trunk as a base, and banana leaves folded in special ways and decorated with any number of flowers. Each one also has a candle and incense on it. Some even put sparklers, which makes even more a sight to see! We did see some homemade ones that were quite impressive as well. Jim even made one, which was great entertainment as we watched it float a bit, catch itself on fire, and eventually flip over. But, he made it, so I'm impressed.

Here's the gang before heading home before bedtime! It was fun to hang out with Jim and Heather once again. It's just been too long, and Jack and Scarlett are always SO excited to be together. I miss them being in the same school, but it's nice to know we can still get together on occasion and keep the flame alive!

What a post, eh? Lots going on over here. We're trying to get in as much as we can, and enjoying every bit of it! Jack and I were talking recently about our move back to America. We remembered in one of our favorite books Alexander Who's Not-Do You Hear Me I Mean It-Going to Move, Alexander's father suggested he say goodbye to all his favorite things before they moved 1,000 miles away. He grudgingly goes around town to say goodbye to his favorite store, his favorite babysitter, his favorite dog, and so on. We've started to make a list of places that Jack wants to see one last time before the big move. He occasionally gets sad when we talk about leaving Bangkok, as do I. But, when we think ahead to what is waiting for us in Utah, we immediately perk up and get excited and begin the countdown once again. I am looking forward to all of us crossing our last things off our list before we go, in hopes for as much closure as possible. Maybe not too much though.

09 November 2008

I want to remember

The latest book Jack and I read together was "On the Banks of Plum Creek", which is the 4th book in the Little House series. I knew I would love this series, even though I'd never read any of them until just a year or so ago. I always loved watching this series on PBS when I was a kid, and I remember thinking "I want my kids to watch this show". I even went so far as to start a VHS recording of the episodes when I would catch them. Who knew I would be able to get an entire season in a box set that's not much bigger than one VHS?

I loved that show. I loved how plain and mischievous Laura was. I loved Mary's goodness, and her beautiful eyes. I loved the mother, Caroline, and to this day, I love that name. I especially loved Charles Ingalls. He was the handsome, fun, loving father who always did the right thing. Jack and I have loved these books. We've loved reading about the simplicity of their life. How happy they were just to have a sunny day when they didn't have to wear shoes. How much they looked forward to being able to eat the pig tail, and my favorite chapter (I think from the 2nd book) was one describing their simple Christmas. Laura and Mary were thrilled that in their stockings they each got their very own tin cup! They didn't have to share at the table any longer. What an amazing Christmas!

Jack and I read a chapter in this last one that made me wonder about myself as a mother. I'll briefly summarize (and hope I can remember it accurately): Laura and Mary are out playing on the prairie. They see the BIG pile of hay that Pa has gathered and piled for the livestock. Of course, why would it not be fun to slide down that BIG pile of hay? The girls spend the afternoon sliding down the pile, until there is no pile left, and they realize they've done something very bad. They wander back to the house feeling very guilty. Pa comes in and questions them about the hay stack. They admit they played in it, and Pa tells them sternly that they are NOT to slide down the hay stack any more. These are good girls, so they answer "Yes, Pa" and have every intention of obeying.

The next day, they are out near the hay stack once again. They see that Pa has piled it all back up and it is calling to them once again. Laura, of course, can't resist and climbs right up to the top. Mary's yelling at her to come down, and reminding her that Pa said, "no more sliding down the hay stack". Laura, being the mischievous girl that she is, reminds Mary that Pa didn't say not to "climb" the hay stack. Mary thinks about this, and can't tell Laura she is wrong, because she is exactly RIGHT! So, they climb to the top. (At this point in reading the story, I looked up at Jack who was sitting bolt upright in an absolute panic! I asked him "what's wrong?". Of course, he knows those girls should not be playing in that haystack! Good boy.) Laura and Mary begin to rationalize that Pa didn't say they couldn't "roll" or "jump" down the stack. So, these girls climb, roll, and jump down the hay stack until there is no stack left. They walk with their heads hanging low back to their home, waiting for their doom. Pa walks in the door, (Jack's practically chewing on his blanket at this point) and asks the girls if they slid down the hay stack. They honestly answer, "No, Pa! We didn't slide down the haystack at all!". After a little more coaxing, one of them answers, "we only rolled down it, and you didn't say we couldn't roll!". Pa walks over to look out the window, with his back to his girls. (At this point, I'm thinking, "Oh, they know better, let 'em have it, Charles!", very un-Christian like, I'm ashamed to admit). Pa suddenly starts laughing at his girl's responses. He isn't angry with them, and asks them in all seriousness if they want their animals to be hungry during the winter. After they realize the seriousness of the situation, they vow never to play in the hay stack again.

So, why was this story significant to me? It's because Laura and Mary are like most kids. They try to be good. They understand what is right and wrong. They know what their Ma and Pa have asked them to do, but they are just kids. Charles Ingalls remembers this. He hasn't forgotten what it was like to be a kid. He knows sometimes it's hard to make the right choice, even when you've been told again and again. He remembers the temptations, the excitement, and the adrenaline that kids have when they see what they really want. He remembers.

Sometimes I think I don't remember what it was like to be a kid. Sometimes I think just because I've told Jack something 10 times, he's going to do it just right. Sometimes I still can't believe it's hard for him to use a quiet voice in church, even after going to church every week for 5 1/2 years. I've forgotten what it was like to want to tell my mom something I'm excited about and forget that we are in church and use my BIG voice. I've forgotten how hard it is to resist sneaking just one extra cookie. I don't want to forget. I want to remember. I want to understand my children's feelings and weaknesses, so I can be more patient with them. I want to remember how I thought years ago, so I can know how to teach them why things are how they are. It scares me to think that I'm forgetting. I loved this chapter because I love that Charles didn't forget. He understood that Laura and Mary are good girls, but they are just children. He remembered what it was like.

Since this experience (especially after seeing Jack absolutely frightened of what their Pa was going to do to them!), I realized this important thing about myself. I've started to forget... but no longer.

I've always felt sad for women who have forgotten what it's like to have young children and are panicking every time a toy hits the floor. I've sworn I would never become someone who forgets what it was like to not be able to afford fabric softener. I want to remember how we used to donate plasma so we could buy gasoline. And how some days you have no choice but to wear a t-shirt with spit all down the front of it because that's how all your shirts are now. Or, how absolutely exhausting being a new mother is. I don't want to forget. I want to remember it ALL. I'm ashamed that it's started to fade after only a short time, but I'm determined to remember. Just since learning this lesson about myself, I've been able to laugh at things that would probably have irritated me, empathize with people who would have been easy to judge, and most importantly, appreciate my children for who they really are, not just who I'm trying to shape them into becoming. I want to enjoy their childhoods, just like I enjoyed every minute of mine. I refuse to forget.

02 November 2008

Halloween and more

Originally, the plan was that we would leave exactly two years from the time we arrived, which would have been last week. Thanks to everyone being flexible because of Jack's school schedule, we were able to stay a bit longer. Because of this, we're able to be here for a couple holidays THREE times, instead of just the planned two. Last weekend we celebrated our third Halloween in Thailand, and although it is a completely "American" Halloween, we were impressed by how many people actually got into it. The Japanese families in our building (roughly 80% of the tenants) decorated their doors WAY more than we did. Of course, because we thought we'd be gone, our Halloween boxes are in the bottom, back corner of our storage room. (Jeff was so relieved I didn't ask him to help me dig them out. We just got by with homemade decorations this year.) The Japanese moms at Jack's school (can you tell we live in the Japanese part of Bangkok?) almost all had some kind of costume, cape, or devil's horns on for his school's party. I was impressed! I thought for SURE I'd be the only one with any kind of a costume! Our first Halloween, which was two days after we arrived, we saw NOTHING having to do with Halloween. Obviously, we were living in a hotel, we knew no one, and we spent the evening at the mall getting dinner and were all in bed by 8pm. Thank you, jet-lag! So, you can bet I was feeling the "mom-guilt" for that one. Luckily, the last two years I've been able to redeem myself as far as providing a fun Halloween for the kids.

We went with Jack to school that morning, and Jane was SO excited because she knew she got to actually "go" to school, instead of just waving goodbye to Jack as he went into his classroom. So, the plan was for Jane to be Tinkerbell, as she had requested since Halloween was first discussed. I thought that was awesome since we already had the costume (thank you, Santa). Come Friday
morning, Jack's getting his Spiderman suit on, I'm putting on my Super Cape and mask, and Jane decides we need to be a super family, something that Jeff started a couple weeks back. He'd dress everyone up in capes and give us secret missions (e.g. rescue all the stuffed animals and take them into Jack's room into the super helicopter, A.K.A. the top bunk). Jeff's brilliant. Even Jane got into it. So she wanted to be Batman instead. Batman? Awesome, even EASIER! I don't have to do anything special to her hair! (Is it wrong to be excited about one less thing?) So, we were the "super family", and we were getting all the looks as we walked the 10 minutes to school.

I kind of like to see their faces too.

I volunteered to be in charge of Jack's classroom activity that all the other kids would rotate through. I was happy for a chance to be a "room mother" as my mom seemed to be every year I was in Elementary school. She was the coolest. And still is. I always looked forward to her bringing a huge smokey bowl of punch that no one could take their eyes off of. I thought about doing that too. You can EASILY get dry ice here, just order something take-away from Dairy Queen and you're set. I decided to keep it simple and stick to just providing sugar cookies for the kids to decorate. Next year, I think I'll go for the dry ice punch too. Way cool for six-year-olds. Anyway... we enjoyed Jack's general assembly with all the children. Then entered the best clown I've seen in Bangkok yet. And honestly, I've seen a lot of clowns. He was totally geared for six and under, not too squeaky or loud (some clowns have squeakers in their mouth and that's how they "talk". It's fun for about two seconds). He did magic, balloons, and was just really low-key funny. Jack and Jane were completely entranced the entire time. I loved watching them sit there together, laughing and looking so big.

It was fun to be involved with Jack's class and get to know the kids a little better. I think maybe three kids out of the fifty that came through had decorated cookies like this before. Is this an American thing? It was hilarious to watch the nursery class (mostly two-year-olds, give or take six months) come through. Are these kids REALLY in school? I know it's totally normal here, but I can't imagine sending my two-year-old to school for three to four hours a day!

Jack had a fun day at school and loved playing the games (pin the tail on the black cat, musical chairs, monster bowling, etc.) as well as eating chocolate fondue and other delicious treats. He was a little wired when he got home, so I was happy we had a few hours of down time before our evening began.

Even though our building was planning a huge Halloween celebration, we committed early on to head out to Nichada (the big American feeling neighborhood) to the Gibbons family's home for their annual Halloween party. They are so good to open their home up to us inner-city folks who would otherwise have a very non-traditional Halloween for our little ones. Jane was funny with her costume AGAIN! She certainly looked cute, but it was hard to convince her of how much she REALLY wanted to be Tinkerbell. (I just wanted ONE last use of that cute costume!). She loved it once it was on and Jack danced her around the house.

We rode the train to meet Jeff mid-way from his work. If the kids didn't already draw enough attention... my goodness.

We caught a taxi out, and half way there (it's about 40 min. out of the city) Jane started freaking out about her costume. So, before we even arrived for the party, she was wearing her pajamas I'd brought for her to wear on the way home. She was happy, so that's what matters, right? At least they had Care Bears on them!

The kids loved Trick-or-Treating, and it was definitely like a traditional Halloween. The kids walked up to each house (minus the scary ones for the girls), and got all kinds of good candy! Jane caught on after about two houses and was completely sold. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is only to her benefit! I wished I could have gotten a picture of all the decor; some of these homes went all out. Some of the houses were even providing treats for parents. Have you ever been offered a jello shot while Trick-or-Treating? I have. You just don't see that in Utah!

We had a wonderful evening with our friends, enjoying the Gibbon's beautiful home, visiting with everyone, letting the kids play, trick-or-treat, and watch fun Halloween movies. It felt just like home. Michele even cranks up the air so it's a little bit cold (luxury!), so we can enjoy our hot soup. It was awesome. I love this tradition, and have always been grateful for other friends (thank you Heatons!) who have provided a fun place to go after (or before) the kids do their
trick-or-treating where we can all unwind and enjoy each other's company! I would definitely like to keep this tradition going. Plus, I just love soup, but in this heat, it's NOT enticing to cook over the stove all day!

Here are all the little ones after they collected their loot. From the left: Alina, Narissa, and Anna Ungrangsee, Jane, Madeline Beck, Lucas Beck, Jack, and Isaac Beck. I don't know how we missed getting Sophia Gibbons in there!

It's been fun to see everyone's Halloween traditions through your blogs. Such cute costumes, fun parties, and cute kids! This is our last year to be out on Halloween without jackets, in sandals, and sweating. It's been fun, but like I said, I'm ready.

So, here's the question for all the parents. What do you do with all that candy? Every year until now, I've managed to recycle it back into the candy to give out, after my kids have had their night's worth. They've never noticed, they're always so sugar happy from all they've eaten that night. This time, we ended up with two buckets of serious candy! Do you eat it yourselves? Do you let your kids have free reign? Do you ration it out for each day? Do your kids ration it on their own? I've been using Jane's for rewards, and Jack hasn't questioned my authority over letting him choose a little bit each day, but that won't last forever. At what point do you just let them just have it without interceding?

Am I a mean mom?

I didn't get a good picture of Jack's class doing the cookies, but can you tell JANE enjoyed the process at home? This girl loves flour. She was eating it and spraying it all over the kitchen. Yes, very fun, until clean up time! We sure enjoyed all that hysterical laughter!

Jack's latest quiet time creation. This kid loves building stuff, and I love it because he'll sit and read, or play with Jane in his forts forever. He is so cool.

So, honestly, what do you do with your children's Halloween candy?

Six more weeks...

This week we hit our two year mark. October 29th. I can't believe it's really been two years since we arrived in Thailand. As I expected, the time has flown by. Since the day we got here, I knew 2 years could never seem like enough. There's just so much to see and do, so many things to experience and learn. So many places to visit. No way could one family do it all in two short years when we also need to carry on a real life!

So, our time is coming to an end. We have six short weeks left, and until last week, I was feeling pretty sick about it. I imagined myself being happy to be home for a while (of course, why wouldn't I love to see my family and enjoy the holidays???), then after settling in, feeling like I'm ready for another change. I always have felt bad for the families who leave here; very few want to, and many are worried about the culture shock of going back to their home countries. It doesn't matter if it's Japan, Canada, the U.K. or the U.S.A., there's a culture shock there. I've worried about that a little with Jane, as she's spent twice as much time in Thailand than she ever did in the U.S. If you've never lived away from home (wherever that may be), maybe this makes no sense. I've always dreamed of living abroad. I've always dreamed of living in a big city. I've always dreamed of traveling the world, especially with someone I love. It's unbelievable to think that it's all happening. I'd hardly dare ask for more, but admittedly, I've wanted to stay in Thailand rather than return to our other life so soon. Until last week, that is. Maybe it's the feeling of the oncoming holidays. Maybe it was having Fay here for a week, loving my children like only family can. Maybe it was Jack on Halloween night amazed that kids were riding their bikes in the street, right by their houses! (Imagine that!) Or, maybe it's me feeling ready to have my own transportation that I can actually STRAP my kids into! Whatever it is, I finally feel ready to come home.

I feel ready to have a house. I feel ready to have a yard for my kids to play in. I feel ready to mow the lawn. I feel ready to only go to ONE store and be able to buy all the groceries I need. I feel ready to have Sunday dinners with family. I feel ready for my kids to spend regular time with their grandparents, to play with their cousins, and to remember how awesome their aunts and uncles are. I'm ready to live in a place where it's normal to have your three year old home with you. I haven't really felt homesick since we've been here. A little here and there after a phone call with parents, but not like I feel now. I am actually looking forward to coming home. I'm happy about it! And, thankfully, so is Jeff. Saying goodbye to Auntie Fay did it for Jack.

Just watching him have to say goodbye to Fay broke my heart. He looked at me after she walked off with those big eyes and just teared up. He was homesick for family and he didn't even know how to express it. We shed a few tears together, then talked about the things we still have to look forward to before we fly out. We realized we're finally ready!

I'm SO thankful for my homesickness. I never thought it would come. I thought I'd be leaving a big chunk of my heart here with unfinished business. Now I realize, although a part of my heart will always be here, I'm ready to take the rest to my family I'm missing so much. So, although I'll enjoy this last six weeks in Bangkok, (and they will be filled weeks!) I know I'll feel much more ready to step on that plane than I thought. It will be hard, but how could it not be after all the growing up I've experienced here?

Living in Thailand has definitely been an adventure. I think the next chapter of our lives (part of which will include trying to remember how to be a Utah housewife) just might be our biggest adventure yet! Especially come May (drum roll please...) when we welcome the next baby Hillman into our home! As much as we would have loved to experience the medical care in Thailand, we are THRILLED that we will be near family when our little one is born! Even though our child will be born in Utah, we keep being reminded, as the news is getting out, our baby was "Made in Thailand", and not to forget it. Now, to think of a Thai name for this little one... any suggestions?

So, SIX more weeks of delicious, cheap pineapple and mangoes. SIX more weeks of cheap transportation and not having to use parking lots. SIX more weeks of sweating when you walk out the door. SIX more weeks with our Bangkok family. SIX more weeks of the language, smiles from strangers, all the delicious food, and living a life we'll likely never live again. It's been a wonderful two years, but the time has come, and I'm happy to finally feel ready.