... when you only have 2 weeks left?
Here's what we've been doing.
An afternoon of biking around the Railroad park (Suan Rot Fai) with the Nielsen Crew. It was a beautiful, cool day to be outside, and definitely helped pull us out of our sick week! We sure love this family, and LOVE that they are all home schooled so we can see them in the middle of the day! (From the left: Ambrian, Jane, Jack, Aybrielle, Kambren, Kalin, and Reese).
Jane loved riding in the kid seat right behind my handle bars. I think she would have stayed there all day. I wish I could take one of these bikes home with me, or at least be able to rent one for 20 baht/day! How can you beat that?
Jack had a birthday party on Saturday with a friend from his old school. It was fun for him to say goodbye to old friends one last time. This is him during the clown's show. He really was fun, and Jack was really getting into it! I love watching the kid's faces.
We had a fantastic Stake Conference last Sunday. We have no building big enough to fit our Stake, so they always rent a huge ballroom at a big hotel. We arrived early for a rehearsal, and stayed late for another rehearsal, so it was a big day, and Jack was exhausted (we were waiting for our taxi). Surprisingly, Jane perked right up when I pulled out the camera.
We were lucky to have Napa and Dipu sit by us during the meeting, which made it so I actually got to listen to a lot of it! They are SO helpful, and Jane and Jack adore them both. Can you see that Jane is clutching chocolates in her hands? They always come prepared!
As we are preparing to be with all our family once again, we actually have family we have to say goodbye to in Bangkok! My cousin, Rikker, and his wife, Kao, have been so fun to get together with while we've been here. Although we haven't done it enough, we've always enjoyed all the time we've had together! Unfortunately, I didn't take very many pictures, but Kao put some up of our last several visits on their blog. She's much more on top of it! Now that Leslie is walking everywhere, Jane and Jack would hardly let her leave their sight. They were very "hands on" with her, and Leslie was WAY more patient than the average almost-1-year-old! Jane and Leslie were enjoying their matching jackets, which Jane happens to think of as a dress-up. Too bad that novelty is going to wear off pretty quickly when we have to wear long sleeves every day!
Wednesday was a fun and full day for us. I kept Jack home from school (seems like I'm doing that a lot lately, but honestly, he's five, so I'm not feeling too bad about it!) so he could have one last big day to play with his friends, Abby and Mithu. I invited three families from Sri Lanka over for lunch, before all our stuff gets packed up this week. My intention when we first started planning this was that these amazing women would teach me how to cook some of their delicious dishes, but it was clear when they got here, they were all business! They brought all the food and got right to work, and almost every time I asked what I could do, they would say, "No, no, nothing!". Maybe pregnant women don't do much work in their country. I think they probably did though because these women know how to work! It was so fun to watch them make this meal (and participate where they'd let me). I loved visiting with them and talking a little about their lives in their home countries. I could tell you amazing stories about them, but I think it's enough to say that these women have been through more than I could ever imagine. It's true that trials can make you stronger, and I'm sure that's a reason why these women are so exceptional.
I set my camera loose with everyone, and it was fun to see what pictures I had at the end of the day.
The kids had a good time all playing together, but I know little Sanjay was exhausted when it was time to go!
Here's the whole gang (minus Leon who had to run an errand and came back a little later) right before we sat down to eat. Can you believe all that food came out of MY kitchen? I loved that everyone just came in and made themselves at home. We had several watching Christmas and church movies on the TV, many in the kitchen, several at the computer, and some in the playroom. It was just a fun day. Did I mention that the food was delicious?
After a full day of company, we went to meet Jeff and his coworker, Yod, and his wife, Mookie, for dinner. They took us to a favorite Chinese restaurant that Yod's family has been going to for years. I thought the food was fabulous, but our kids were out of control! It took a while for them to settle in and finally eat, so we were very thankful for Yod and Mookie's patience! Luckily, Jack and Jane are both quite taken with Yod and Mookie, so it was a fun evening in the end! We went to an ice cream parlor afterward and of course, the kids have never been more quiet as they devoured their gourmet choices.
We were invited to a Christmas party on Friday night at the Ungrangsee's. Mary Jane was one of my very first friends here, and our kids just happen to get along really well too. They hosted a fantastic party with delicious food, Christmas carols (I had to hold back the tears when we started singing because it suddenly felt like CHRISTMAS!), and a rousing version of the twelve days of Christmas! Here are the hosts...
Mary Jane assigned each family to represent one of the days of the "twelve days". It was fun to see what everyone came up with. I think the best costume went to the Griffiths with "a partridge in a pear tree". Jeannie never does anything small, and this was no exception! It was classic. I want one of those outfits!
The kids were all having a really good time together. This is Sophia Gibbons, Narissa Ungrangsee, Jack and Brother Spencer who sneaked into the background. Very nice!
While everyone was mingling, I noticed how excited Stephen Quan was getting about the books Bundit's written. He's actually quite famous here in Thailand, but because I knew him before I knew he was famous, I just don't think of him that way! He's published several books, has a successful conducting career all around the world, and is currently part of a reality TV show here with kids auditioning for an orchestra (or something like that, I haven't watched because it's all in Thai!). Anyway, he's fun to talk with about all his success because he's confident but modest, and always excited about his next venture. We especially enjoyed seeing the cartoon drawings someone was working on for what looked like a Japanese style comic book. They couldn't find a picture to copy of him smiling, which makes perfect sense to me because I've played under his baton, and he is quite intense when he's working! They even drew Mary Jane sitting in the audience with one of the girls! Very fun. Does Jeff look like a giant next to these guys or what?
Jane spent some time redecorating the tree. For some reason, she wanted ALL the candy canes right there.
Jack's generally the active one in a bunch of kids, but I love when he settles in and just enjoys a good read, even amidst all the chaos! Emily's always good to sit with him and help him with new words. She is such a darling girl.
We all just really enjoyed ourselves at this party. It felt like a family Christmas party at home. Lots of friends, laughter, love, and celebrating. It was nice to finally feel like the season has begun!
I loved this picture of Jeff with the kids. He has been more than Super Dad lately. I never can give this guy enough credit. He has taken care of all of us for the last two weeks. Even though the kids are mostly over their sickness, I haven't been able to shake mine completely and several other things have started up. I've seen five doctors in the last few days, and am hoping with the medications I'm on now, things will get better. Jeff's been a rockstar through the whole thing, allowing me extra rest, time to myself, fixing meals, taking the kids, and whatever else I've needed. I have NO idea what I've done to deserve such a man, and really I don't think I do. But, I am learning to just be thankful for my blessings, and not to ask questions beyond, "what can I do with my blessings?" If you didn't already know, my husband is amazing.
Saturday evening I had my last Enrichment night with the ladies in the ward. It was another fantastic celebration of the season and of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a great turnout, and we took loads of pictures, but here are some women I haven't photographed much before!
The Filipino sisters shared some of their Christmas songs with us, followed by the Sri Lankan sisters, singing in Tamil. I didn't get a picture of the Sri Lankan sisters because I was videoing that one, oops!
I've talked a bit about these two sisters, Alice and Crisse, but I really can't say enough about them. We've worked together for the last year in the Primary and have grown to really depend on one another. They are dear friends who are absolutely inspiring to me. I can hardly bare to leave them and all our sweet primary children behind. At least I know they are all in good hands!
Today at church, we had to say goodbye to the Quan family. They are off to spend the holidays with their family in Boston, and besides Alice, Mary Jane and I meeting for lunch tomorrow, I won't get to see them again. I hate goodbyes, and like I said, I've grown quite attached to this family. They have opened up their door countless times to my family and the entire ward. I don't know how Alice does all that she does; Stephen works so hard, and both their girls are exceptional in so many ways. You should hear their piano/violin duets. Amazing! We'll miss them, but also know there's a good chance we will see them again. Thank you, Quan family!
Does this sound like an exhausting week? It was. After my nap on Saturday and before I sneaked out to my meeting (Jeff and Jane were also resting), I found Jack like this on the couch. He was exhausted, and obviously the whole family needed some down time. Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to slow down until we leave. Jack and Jane seem to pull through when we need it most, so I'm hoping we can find a balance this week between our tightly scheduled days and giving them a chance to recover when they need it!
Thanks to a fairly peaceful resolve of the airport crisis here, we are planning to fly out as planned on the 16th. I've never been SO happy we're flying on United, which just happens to be one of the few airlines who resumed flights the same week the protesters left. We've got movers coming on Thursday and Friday, and honestly, who knew it would still be SO much work, even when I don't have to pack boxes myself? We're feeling quite spoiled with that as it's allowing us to spend our time with people we love and preparing for our week long holiday on the way home!