Friday, December 30, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

This year, I read and finished 20+ books. Here are my five favorites.

I've included at the bottom a couple honorable mentions and my two kids' favorite books of 2016. I always love to hear what others are reading, so if you've read a good book recently, please share in the comments.

Fun fact: after compiling the top five list, I noticed they were all written by women -- two Brits, one Nigerian, one Asian-American, and one Canadian.

And shout out to my husband for making the graphic.

Happy reading!

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life is the first book of the wildly popular, twelve book (and counting) Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series. The author built up so much suspense, I lost a lot of sleep while reading this one! Engrossing, suspenseful, well-paced, lots of twists and turns. And her sumptuous descriptions of food made me hungry almost every time I read.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca, a mystery/romance/gothic novel, was an instant success when it was first published in 1938 and today is considered a classic. I found the first fourth of the book a bit slow, enjoyed it after that, and then for the last fourth of the book, I again lost a lot of sleep and could not set it down. I can't tell you why because that would ruin the mystery, but I found it engrossing, dark, disturbing, and wonderfully written.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is a love story that explores many big themes including feminism, culture, immigration, race, and power. The reader follows the main character, a wealthy Nigerian woman, as her life takes her from Nigeria to the U.S. and back again. The book was engrossing and very well-written, though I did not like how the love story turned out and at times it felt like the author was pushing her agenda rather than just telling the story. But, still the book stuck with me. I found myself thinking about it long after I read it.

Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh

This nonfiction parenting book explores some of the pitfalls of American culture's version of parenting and compares these pitfalls to other, often better, parenting practices around the world. Utterly fascinating. This book helped to broaden my perspective of what parenting can be like, though I would have preferred it if the author had examined more than just a few countries and socio-economic classes to make it a truly global book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling; illustrated by Jim Kay

This was my fourth time reading this book, but my first time reading the illustrated edition and it was just magical and beautiful. Bonus: the illustrator's re-imagining of the characters helped me finally get that Ron Weasley actor's face out of my head while I read. DO NOT get this on Kindle. Purchase it or borrow it from your library and enjoy the visual art in its full-sized glory. Chamber of Secrets is also available illustrated, but I haven't gotten my hands on it yet.

Honorable mentions:

The Martian by Andy Weir
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Grace's (3 yrs old) Favorite Books:

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer
What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz

Cora's (2 yrs old) Favorite Books:

High Five Magazine created by Highlights
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

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.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Remembering the Pals

Over three years ago, we sensed that God was inviting our family to move halfway around the world from the USA to Thailand for the big picture vision of sharing the hope we have in Christ with Thai people and for the more particular vision of working with a nonprofit that restores women coming out of prostitution. In our social network in Southern California, we didn't know any young families doing anything like this.

Enter: the Pals

Last summer, our family attended a two-week training in Colorado with our missions organization, WorldVenture. I remember we were running late on the first day of the training, so we slipped into the back of the room and sat down at the first table we saw next to another couple that looked about our age. We introduced ourselves, found out that they were Jamison and Kathryne Pals, they were indeed our age, they had two kids our kids' age, and they were headed to Japan.

We were thrilled to meet another young family who shared our passion. (Though, after getting to know Jamison, I must say, his passion far exceeded ours!) We instantly clicked. We sat with the Pals through all the training sessions, hearing each other's vision for moving to Japan and Thailand, swapping parenting stories and advice, and praying for each other.

By the end of the two weeks, the quality of their character, the gentleness and patience of their parenting, and the passion they had for Japanese people to find joy in Jesus deeply impressed us. We felt close to them and hoped to keep up with them over the years. I remember feeling giddy when we found out that they felt similarly about us. We said goodbye and went back to our homes in Minnesota and California.

Over the past year, Kathryne and I have kept up a sweet friendship thanks to a few Skype/phone calls and numerous emails. I remember when we moved to Thailand last February, I had very little margin and my kids were struggling quite a bit with the adjustment. Kathryne would always remind me to rely on God for strength hour by hour. I remember one time a couple of months ago when things were particularly hard, rather than reminding me to rely on God every hour, she told me to rely on him for strength each minute! I believe this was the key to her gentle, patient parenting -- she constantly relied on God for strength.

Last fall, Kathryne found out that she had a large cyst growing in her lower abdomen. At the same appointment, she also found out that she was pregnant. As I prayed for God to protect Kathryne and her baby, I marveled at how a tumor and a baby could grow right next to each other, vying for the same space. For me, it became a parable of life: evil and death so often share the same space with joy and life. The suffering and brokenness of this world so often intertwine and overlap with the great joys of life.

The surgeons successfully removed the tumor and six months later, baby Calvin was born. The parable continued: Yes, one day all evil and death in the world will be removed and Life will be fully born.

On Monday evening here in Bangkok, Michael and I saw Jamison's mom's Facebook post: "Dear friends, our hearts break as we let you know that our son, Jamison, his wife Kathryne, Ezra age 3, Violet almost 2, and baby Calvin, just 2 months old were all killed in a car crash yesterday (July 31). They were travelling to their final month of training before going to Japan as missionaries. They were stopped at a construction site when a semi rear ended, rode over them, and consumed their van in fire. They are now in the presence of our Lord. Job 1:21"

In my life, I have never been slammed with so much shock and grief at once. The evil, death, suffering, and brokenness of this world was at hand; it had taken five people that we loved; and the pain cut so deep. And I constantly remember that the loss we've experienced this week is just a fraction of the loss that their parents, siblings, grandparents, and closest friends are feeling.

And yet, even now, next to this malignant tumor of grief and death I see joy and life starting to form.

Numerous news stations and newspapers have sent the story of their love for Christ and their hearts for Japan far and wide. Some people have expressed the desire to go to Japan in their place. Jamison and Kathryne's parents are saying "no" to bitterness and are extending forgiveness to the truck driver. Jamison's wise, eloquent words on his blog, Joy of Japan, are being read by thousands upon thousands of people.
** 8/7 update - Their story has easily stretched to hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions. People.comJohn Piper's funeral prayer **

The sorrow of losing this precious family is still so fresh. We were looking forward to years of friendship and co-laboring in Asia. Yet there are inklings of the joy and life that is to come. I am reminded once again that, just as the doctors extracted that deadly tumor allowing Calvin to grow and be born, one day, God will remove all brokenness, suffering, evil, and death in this world and a joyful, life-filled new heaven and new earth will be born. And this time, nothing will ever take it away.

Someday, we will all be reunited, and we will share and hear stories of how God worked this tragedy out for unimaginable good. I cry and grieve because the death of loved ones hurts, and yet I cling to these promises with great hope and expectation -- someday death will be swallowed up in victory!

Jamison's blog:
My favorite post on his blog was when Kathryne wrote: click here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

48 Hours at the Beach

Five months of Bangkok had me wound up tight. On Friday afternoon, I found out Grace's preschool was closed for a Buddhist holiday on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so we hightailed it to the beach.

I remember beach vacations pre-kids -- spreading a towel over the lumpy sand; pulling a novel out of my backpack; reading, snuggling, and chatting while listening to the waves and feeling the breeze.

Nowadays, our three-year-old and one-year-old come along. We slather the sunscreen on thick, build sand castles, help our preschooler overcome her fear of waves, hope the toddler doesn't poop in her swim diaper, hunt for seashells, and poke a dead jellyfish (One finger! Gentle!) -- thanks, Dory and Marlin, for teaching me that the tops don't sting.

In the midst of all the work and play, play and work that is vacation with little kids, we managed to all return feeling refreshed. This is the good, hard, blessed, tiring, joyful life of raising children.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Things I Learned in June

I moved from the U.S. to Thailand a few months ago, so I learn approximately fifty new things every day. Here are just a few of the things I learned in June...

Playgrounds in Thailand have all the unsafe but super fun equipment that's long been banned in the USA. Things like merry-go-rounds and see-saws. And my daughters love it all, of course.

Tropical storms are fun! The thunder rumbles deeply and sometimes cracks so loud my heart drops. A single storm can bring dozens of bolts of lightening. The rain falls on our car park's tin roof so forcefully, I have to close the front door to be able to video chat with my parents. When a thunderstorm rolls in, the wind picks up and the temperature cools. After a storm, the air remains cool but becomes oppressively humid and we all sweat buckets. I am loving it all. Except the sweating buckets part.

The Thai word for "socks" is "foot bag." Perfect!

Trying to buy a car in another country is a time sucking, frustrating experience. Thank you, Lord, for easy to use public transportation.

I'm intimidating. I've noticed that when I walk toward a Thai man, he often gets a frightened look on his face and will sometimes even back away! This doesn't always happen, but it's happened often enough for me to notice. 

Why do some men act this way? Are they afraid of me? Am I misreading them? What are they afraid of... that I'm going to start speaking English and they won't understand? Why don't women act this way toward me? 

Street food is ruining my taste buds. I eat Thai street food once or twice daily. Almost every dish I eat is either sweet, sour, salty, spicy, or some combo of the above. Now, when I cook old favorites from life in California, they taste really bland. My husband and I dump on salt, red pepper, even spicy fish sauce to try to bring our old favorite dishes up to our new taste bud standards.

I'm not the only girl with a huge crush on my husband. My one-year-old is obsessed with him too. If I try to take her out of his arms, she screams at me. Daddy's girl through and through.

When I study Thai, I should always pull the eraser first out of my "keep clam" pencil bag. I make so many mistakes. But, that's how you learn, right?

This exists. A few weeks after I took this picture, I sent my daughter outside to put her shoes on. (Shoes are stored outside here.) When I went to help her, I saw one of these nasty critters about a foot away crawling right toward her little hands and feet! And did I mention they're poisonous? In the tropics, always look before you send very young children outside by themselves. Which leads me to my next lesson...

Always look before you pee. The news recently carried two stories of snakes slithering through plumbing into people's toilets. And they weren't garden snakes. No, no. One was a 3.5 meter long python and the other was a one meter long cobra. The python even bit a man's... you'll just have to read this article. Yikes. Always look before you pee.

My three-year-old is brave. When my now three-year-old was three months old, she became very anxious around strangers. Her fear grew and grew until she would scream and cry with anybody but me. I remember when she was one, we tried to get her to accept the church nursery and she cried so hard she threw up!

By God's grace, a lot of hard parental work, and good old-fashioned passage of time, she has mostly outgrown stranger anxiety.

Last month, she started attending Thai preschool. Everyday, she walks half a mile (in this hot, humid climate!), bulky, much-too-pink backpack bouncing on her back, all the way to school. She stays three hours immersed in a language she cannot yet understand and a culture that is so different from our own. She has cried a few times, she tells us she doesn't like it, and yet she keeps going. She has learned to be brave! I am so proud.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Riding the Roller Coaster of Toddler Emotions

As I raise my kids, ages 3 years and 21 months, I notice that any given day can oscillate rapidly between them being ridiculously cute, to moody, to silly and playful, to screaming in rage, and back to cute again with shocking speed. Sometimes the monster moments and the melt your heart moments come right on top of each other with hardly a breath in between.

I recently stumbled upon this vignette of motherhood and toddlerhood that I wrote about six months ago when Cora, my second kiddo, was 15-months-old. I think it captures the often-overlapping challenges and joys of parenting.


Last night, Cora was a hot mess.

She had napped well in the afternoon -- almost three hours ending at 4:30. However, by 6:30, our little firecracker was completely melting down. There were moments where she bowed low, forehead plastered to the ground screaming. Toddler D-R-A-M-A.

I gave her some space to see if she would just get over it. I tried to hold her. I tried to play with her. Nothing worked, she continued to cry hard. Finally, I took two deep breaths, scooped her up, and began her bedtime routine early.

As I carried her upstairs, brushed her teeth, and gave her a pacifier and blankie she calmed down realizing that bedtime was just around the corner.

I dressed her in striped green and blue second-hand baby boy pajamas. Her hair, now that it was finally released from her top-of-the-head firework hairdo, was loose, sticking up straight and wild. Her dark brown eyes were content and heavy and regularly drooping closed. She held her pacifier in her mouth just below her tiny button nose rhythmically suck, suck, sucking. She clasped her gray bunny blankie with both delicate hands holding it up to her nose, breathing in the smell and feeling the soft, gray fur.

I scooped her tiny body into my lap. I barely felt her there, not because she's so tiny (though she is) but because I am so used to her being there I don't even feel it when she is. We whispered our way through Goodnight Moon.

I pressed her little hands together between my hands like a Cora hands sandwich with Mommy hands bread. I prayed for her and she listened enraptured looking at her hands pressed between mine.

Then, we sang a little song and off she went to sleep without a tear.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

These Are the Days Of

I have a habit of always looking ahead and asking, "What's next?" I often think things like, "Once my kids are in school, my life will begin." Or, "Once I am conversational in Thai, I will have arrived."

I forget that there is never a point when "real" life begins or a point where I've "made it." I forget to recognize the small things (good things, great things, and hard things) in my everyday life.

When I notice myself straining ahead to the future, I stop, grab a pen and journal, and make a "These Are the Days Of" list to draw me back into life as it is. Here's today's list:

These Are the Days Of...

My entire life lived in a compact corner of a city. Within about five to ten minutes, I can walk from home to:

  • Work
  • The coffee shop where I meet up with my Thai tutor
  • Dozens of food, drink, and dessert vendors
  • Two pharmacies
  • A veggie market
  • A fruit market
  • Two convenience stores
  • Two 20 baht stores (the equivalent of the American dollar store, except everything is 50 cents)
  • A car mechanic
  • Two hair salons
  • My daughter's preschool

As we go about the same stalls and markets and greet familiar faces day after day, I begin to feel like I live in a village, not a large, crowded city.

Noticing fine lines around my eyes and on my forehead. In ten years, I'll probably look back on photos of myself and think, "Darling, that was NOTHING!"

Learning to split things 50/50. As we pursued moving to Thailand, the thought of being a monolingual, stay-at-home expat mom/wife made me die inside. So, my husband and I decided to spend equal time studying Thai our first twelve months or so. Splitting our language learning, childcare, chores, etc. roughly equally is a crazy juggling act, but it's worth it.

Feeling weary every evening from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Immersion in a new culture, learning a new language, taking care of little kids, walking everywhere in crummy sandals…each of these things alone is enough to make a lady tired. Taken together, I find myself weary by the end of the day every day.

Eating fruit all day, every day. Miniature bananas, sweet pineapple, crispy rose apples, fragrant mangoes. Still haven't tried durian.

Learning patience. I wish I could become instantly conversational in Thai. Learning a new language just a few new sentence structures and a few new vocab words at a time is slow, hard work. Like raising children. Like building a lasting marriage. Like anything worthwhile.

Eating out daily. In the U.S. my family went weeks without eating out because it was too dang expensive. Now, we eat out every day because it's affordable and delicious. For example: a large, grilled, salt-encrusted, lemongrass stuffed fish with brown rice and veggie soup costs about $5. It feeds our whole family. It's one of the more expensive meals we buy. This is one of the huge perks of life in Bangkok.

Living in a dirty home. In the middle of all this, the last thing Michael and I ever want to do is clean. Our house is usually dirty. Especially the kitchen floor. Yuck. Note to self: look into how much it would cost to hire someone to clean the house for us.

~ The idea of making a "these are the days of..." list came from Emily Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday.

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