Thursday, December 1, 2016

Things I Learned This Rainy Season

Since moving to Thailand nine months ago, I have lost seasons as I've always known them. There is no summer, winter, fall, and spring here in the tropics. Rather, we have hot season, rainy/monsoon season, and "cool" (aka not-quite-as-hot) season.

Hot season comes in April and May. School is off and the smallest exertion makes us sweat buckets.

June through October or November is rainy season. We get almost daily rain and some wild thunderstorms.

They tell me cool season has started and will run up into hot season. But, with highs around 90 degrees + humidity, it's still hot to me!

What did I learn this rainy season?

In Bangkok, September is dragonfly month.

One day in September, while watching my little girls play at our neighborhood's dinky little playground, I looked up and saw dozens and dozens of dragonflies flitting around just a few meters over my head. For the next few weeks, while walking down the sidewalk, I would occasionally look up and there they were: hundreds of dragonflies. Then, after a couple of weeks, they were gone. I look forward to dragonfly month next rainy season.

We all need awe and wonder in our lives.

For Thanksgiving, I wrote about allowing our gratitude to turn into awe and wonder over the mystery of what the God who gives us all good things must be like. Many people really connected with this idea and expressed their need for a life lived in adoration of God.

My three-year-old is fairly athletic.

My first-born, Grace, took 15 months to learn how to walk. At that point, she was already speaking in two to three word sentences. From that point on, I assumed she was a smart, not athletic kid.

Six weeks ago, we got our hands on a tricycle and little bike with training wheels. She had never ridden a trike or a bike before. Nevertheless, on day one she mastered the trike and on day two she was pedaling the bike everywhere. I remember watching in shock at how quickly she learned it.

Here's to not labeling very young children, but rather giving them opportunities to try all sorts of new things and allowing them to surprise us.

I missed cooking.

For the first six months after moving to Thailand, I rarely cooked and we relied on super cheap, super yummy, super high sodium street food to carry us through. In August, I began cooking simple, healthy meals for my family of four again. I really enjoy being able to do this again for my family.

I am learning to ask God throughout my day what it means to be faithful to Him in the present moment, and I am learning to ask Him for the strength to do it.

Sometimes being faithful means tackling a pile of dishes (we don’t have a dishwasher) and practicing new Thai grammar while my kids nap. Sometimes, especially when I notice anxiety creeping into my soul, being faithful means setting aside my language study for half an hour to brew a cup of tea, pray, and rest.

I am so grateful that God doesn’t call us to be successful. In most areas of my life, success isn’t entirely within my control. Instead, He calls his followers to be faithful people who rely on Him. With His help, that’s something I can do.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

From Gratitude to Adoration

"I'm thankful for my husband and my kids. I'm grateful that we're all healthy. I'm thankful for my house, my friends, my books…"

This was how I used to pray when I reflected on the good things in my life.

Then, a couple of years ago, I came across two sentences that changed the way I view the gifts generously dumped across each year of my life.

"Gratitude exclaims… 'How good of God to give me this.' Adoration says, 'What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!'" -C.S. Lewis

Moments of joy and things that are beautiful are just distant and brief coruscations (glimmers and sparkles) of the indescribably awesome Being who is behind it all.

Now, in addition to thanking God for things, I am drawn into awe and wonder over who He must be.

When I enjoy the simple goodness of watching my two-year-old swinging ("Higher, higher!") and singing every nursery rhyme she knows at the top of her lungs, I thank God for my healthy, second-born and I wonder in awe, "How good and playful must the Being be who thought up children and swings and songs?"

When my eyes close and my brow furrows in concentration to hear the subtleties within the richness of a new piece of orchestral music, I thank Him for music and I wonder in awe at the richness of the creativity of the Being behind it all.

When I walk home from the market, see storm clouds coming, and hear the sound of thunder rumbling deep and powerful like a growling cosmic dog, my pulse quickens as I realize this is just a glimmer of the most powerful of storms and the most powerful of storms is just a far-off coruscation of the power of God.

When, in the middle of a busy day, I tell my husband my back hurts from scrubbing black mold off the walls the day before and he massages the sore spots, I thank Him for Michael and wonder, "How tender and good must be the Being who thought up the tender, loving care of a good husband?"

This Thanksgiving, by all means, be thankful for all you have. Then, marvel at how all those things are but a brief glimmer of the good, good Father behind it all.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Don't Do It All

This month, I tried something new -- writing on someone else's blog!

My friend, Bethany, has been hosting a series on her blog where different moms share their strengths (what they DO) and their shortcomings (what they DON'T DO) because "in this age of Mommy Wars, what we really need is a reminder that none of us can Do. It. All."

This week, she's featuring me. Click here to read all about my strengths/shortcomings as a mama.

Click here to read other contributions from other mamas. You will be challenged and encouraged!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Things I've Seen Thai People Do While Riding a Motorcycle

It seems that almost everyone here in Bangkok rides a scooter -- young, old, male, female, and even pets go along for the ride. I've compiled a list here of all the crazy-to-me, normal-to-them things I've seen Thai people do while riding a scooter.

Even food stalls are often attached to a bike for easy transport.
To properly imagine each of these scenarios, you need to keep in mind that most people aren't wearing a helmet and many of those who are leave the straps unbuckled, dangling below their chin. All of these examples are on moving motorcycles weaving in and out of cars, trucks, and buses on heavily congested roads.

So, here we go. Things I've seen Thai people do while riding a motorcycle:

I've seen teenage girls riding together, one driving and the other braiding the drivers' hair. I've seen toddlers sitting between their parents' knees, slumped on the handlebars, fast asleep. I've seen a woman carrying a sleeping newborn hop onto the back of a friends' scooter for a quick ride down the block. I've seen moms driving with kids my kids' age -- the little one on her lap, the big one sitting behind her mom, arms wrapped tightly around mom's waist.

I've seen motorcyclists drive on the wrong side of the street straight at me and my car. I've seen motorcycles squeeze through small spaces next to my car that I didn't even realize were motorcycle-sized. I once noticed a motorcyclist trying to squeeze between my car and another while I was stopped in heavy traffic. I opened the window, pulled in the mirror, he nodded his thanks, and drove on.

I've seen people transport large, heavy bags of rice or concrete or who knows what. I've seen people transport fans, blades whirring in the wind. I've seen people transport their Thai iced tea or coffee dangling in a bag from the handlebars. I've seen large dogs sitting on their owners' laps like a child and small dogs sitting at their owners' feet.

I've seen women very dressed up for work in tight skirts and high heels riding side saddle on a motorcycle taxi while texting on their latest model iPhone. I've seen people talking and texting while driving, too. I even witnessed two small accidents where the phone went flying to the ground and hit the pavement in three or four pieces.

Not like the US, right? Though, I think the US is the oddball country as most nations I've been to are more like Thailand. It's fun, crazy, dangerous and someday it will all feel normal.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Presidential Race

In my twelve years on Facebook, six years of blogging, and seven months on Instagram, I don't think I've ever posted about politics -- I just don't like thinking about, talking about, or writing about politics. But, the absurdity of this Presidential race drives me to it.

I'm sure you've already read and heard many opinions, so this will be brief…

I remember last summer when I first heard about Trump's infamous "Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists (and maybe some are good people)" remark. Having had many Mexican and Mexican-American friends, acquaintances, classmates, colleagues, supervisors, and clients; having walked with one very close Mexican-American friend through her journey of going from undocumented status to documented status; I felt shocked and offended at this racist and untruthful comment. At that moment I counted him as unfit to become a party nominee, much less President of the United States.

Over the past year, he has spouted an entire canon of racist and misogynist comments and lies that are as shocking and harmful as "Mexicans are rapists." I am deeply convinced that he is a horrible man who is only out for himself. 

I have been appalled as I've watched him successfully woo half of the US population.

My shock reached an all-time high this summer when I found out that the vast majority of white evangelicals support his candidacy for President. As a white evangelical who is not voting for Trump, I am in the minority. This is absurd to me.

Today, I went to the Bangkok post office to drop off an absentee ballot with my vote for Hillary Clinton for President. She is far from perfect, but in this 2016 race, perfection is not my standard. Preventing a Trump presidency is. So, I gladly cast my vote for Clinton.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cora - Two Years Old

Every year around my kids' birthdays, I've written a few paragraphs about them -- an attempt to freeze the stage of childhood they are in before it slides on by. They are my favorite posts to re-read.

The recent loss of three little ones who we loved has reminded me in new ways of how precious, precious, precious every little child is.

Cora is no exception.

Even with loss and grief nipping at my heels, a rambunctious, full of life, just-turned-two, toddler is underfoot. So, I pause to savor her.

What is Cora like these days?

Cora is very sweet and snuggly. She loves sitting in a lap and reading a book. After her evening bubble bath, we often tuck her into our bed. She lies there snuggled under the sheet in our 90+ degree bedroom looking out the window watching the branches of the tree out back sway in the breeze. When Cora gets hurt, all she wants is to be be scooped up in a parent's arms, her head on our shoulder, snuggling away.

Cora is also a very playful, silly, goofy girl. Cora loves rough housing and she loves the adrenaline rush of a free fall (that ends without getting hurt, of course). When I put her down for a nap, I sing, "Goodnight bunny-wunny. Goodnight Cora-bora." She laughs without fail every time at the silly, messed up words. Sometimes at dinner, Michael and I will get to laughing over a funny story from the day. Cora is too young to get the humor, but when she sees us cracking up, she joins in laughing too.

Cora's favorite things these days include...

Peeing on the big, white potty just like everyone else. Not the little, green, toilet training potty. Cora has started going on the toilet a few times per day. Whenever she is successful, she beams a goofy, proud grin. I couldn't find undies that fit my tiny girl, so I bought her 100% cotton newborn diaper covers. They fit great.

Whining. Whew. We are working on getting her to stop this one.

Wearing her things. Almost every day, Cora tells us, "Cora want her things." By this she means a butterfly purse, owl bag, doctor kit, and bead necklace. She puts them all on and says, "Cora is ready to go to the flower shop." Then, she takes them all off and does it again. Cora has never been to a flower shop nor do we talk about flower shops, so I don't know where this comes from!

Building towers with duplos and magnetic blocks.

Wearing Mr. Potato Head's accessories. When she does this, we call her "Professor Cora." She calls herself "Pwofessuh Cowuh."

Flowers. Cora picks a flower or two whenever we go out. She holds onto them surprisingly long. She once fell asleep in church lying across both our laps with a crumpled flower clutched in her hand.

Helping out around the house. Her favorite little chores include picking up toys (may this stage last forever!), throwing things away, and getting things in and out of the fridge.

Her gray bunny/blankie and pacifier. The dentist here told us to stop giving her her pacifier when she turns two. Not happening.

Her big sister, Grace. I remember when Cora was a little baby, she would lie on her stomach all day, head held high in the air watching everything her big sister did. At seven months old, she surprised us by saying, "gah! gah!" every time Grace entered the room, so we count "Grace" as her first word. This love for her big sister has continued. She (usually) lets Grace boss her around, she likes playing tag with her, and she likes giving toys and food to her. These days, their sibling relationship brings Michael and me endless joy.

Our family. Cora loves the concept of our family. When one of us returns from work and the four of us are reunited, Cora sings, "Mommy, Daddy, Grace, and Cora" to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," pointing to each of us as she says our names.

Cora, mommy and daddy love you so much. You are perfect for our family. It is such a joy to be your parents!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Life in Our Corner of Bangkok

I've always wanted to lug my camera around my neighborhood with me to take high quality DLSR pictures. But, I usually have a kid or two with me, am in a rush, or just feel too overwhelmed to do anything more than iphone pictures. Also, being very tall and very foreign, I feel like I stick out enough without a large camera in front of my face, so I've always felt a bit too sheepish to do it.

My sister and brother-in-law visited a few weeks ago. My sister didn't feel the least bit sheepish, doesn't have kids, wasn't overwhelmed or in a rush, so she took lots of pictures of our stomping grounds.

Here they are! 

*Photo credit on every single picture: My sister, Andrea.*

Our girls at the top of the "concrete hill" down the street where they love to play.

The large street that we live off of. Can you believe that jumble of wires on the poles?

Grace goofing in her Uncle Jason's arms while I buy sweet soy milk, 25 cents per serving, comes steaming hot in a bag which I'm sure is not BPA free! We buy this at least three times per week. Behind Grace and Jason you see the ornate gateway at the top of the street leading down to our neighborhood's nearest temple.

Huge pots of various soups and curries. The front right one, not so good. The front left one, we've eaten dozens of times.

This fish is stuffed with lemongrass, encrusted with salt, and grilled. It is so moist and fresh. And comes with a big bag of the spiciest sauce. When we moved here, I could hardly add any of it. Now I can spoon on a fair amount.

Our pad Thai guy. He cooks it right there scooping each ingredient from the plastic buckets in front. We order seafood pad Thai from him a couple of times per week. Just ordered it for dinner tonight. $1.15 per plate.

Our night market. People come to shop here after work to buy dinner pre-made and/or ingredients to make their own dinner. We do the same multiple times per week.

Fruit for sale.

This woman makes some of the best fried chicken. Puts KFC to utter shame. Yum.

Ordering grilled pork skewers and sticky rice for breakfast to fuel up before heading out to tour the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. All three places are worthy of a Google Images search.

Andrea and Jason drinking Thai tea. It's always handed to you in a bag with a handle. This is so you can dangle it from your scooter handlebars for the ride home.

Riding home on a song teaw -- a pickup truck with two benches and a roof. 25 cents per person per ride. The kids ride free. When you want to get off, you press a button on the roof, the truck stops, and you drop 8 baht into the driver's hand. Not a safe way to get around town, but very cheap and fun.

Preschool girls.

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