Sunday, April 30, 2017

Currently Loving...

These days, I'm currently loving...


Get it on your phone, take some selfies with friends, and run them through the filter. You will laugh so hard! Here are my husband's results - normal, woman, 30 years older, and with a smile pasted on. The old Michael kills me! So so so weird.

My kids' school pictures

At the start of every school term, we walk our girls to the local photo shop owned by a Chinese-Thai man. The shop is old and dark and smells strongly of incense. Piles of paper and supplies cover every surface and there are idols and amulets everywhere along with two of the oldest most yellowed photo printers I've ever seen. He ushers us into the dark, back corner of the shop to take their mug shots school pictures. Their faces clearly show how they feel about the whole thing!

I put these photos through FaceApp. The app must be made just for adult faces because the results were - yikes.

The Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

I got my hands on my second Gamache murder mystery novel (#4 in the series). I'm enjoying it so much just like I enjoyed the first. I love the author's descriptive writing and the way she builds suspense.

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

The author has lived in the Middle East almost all his life. He takes well-known stories from the four gospel accounts of Jesus' life, teachings, and miracles and explains them through Middle Eastern culture/worldview. The chapter on Jesus' birth (spoiler: he probably was born in a home, not a stable or a cave) and the entire section on interactions with women (spoiler: he's radical, awkward, and empowering) are two highlights. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to do a deeper study of the gospels with culture at the forefront.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Monday in My Life

Every week and every day is different, but here is one Monday in my life...


Wake up and try to go back to sleep. But can't. Zone out on my phone for a few minutes before getting out of bed.


Appear downstairs where my whole family is just starting breakfast and find out that Michael feels pretty sick. The girls were sick last week, I got it a couple days ago, and now Michael has it.

During breakfast, we call my brother-in-law to wish him a belated happy birthday. With the 12 hour time difference, we have very limited windows where our girls and family in the US are all awake, so when Jason and Andrea don't pick up, we just take a video of us singing Happy Birthday and send that instead.


Michael drops the girls off at The Well's daycare program. We're in the long, hot season school break right now and our nonprofit org runs a daycare so women enrolled in their program or employed by The Well can continue working. Our kids go about three mornings a week. Great Thai language immersion!

While Michael drops them off, I head to the pool to swim laps for 15 minutes, shower at home, see a missed call from Jason and Andrea, so I call them back and we squeeze in a little catch up right before their evening church small group starts up.


Find out Michael has decided to try to push back our Thai lesson to later in the week because he just doesn't feel good. Fine with me because I haven't prepared for our lesson yet. 

I clean up breakfast dishes and then go run errands around my neighborhood which always entails a lot of walking and sweating. I pay the fees for the new school year starting in May, stop by work to schedule a meeting with a woman who I'm doing a project with, buy a bunch of bananas from a street vendor, and run into a friend and chat for a few minutes.


Return home. Check some emails. I feel so tired from running errands in the heat, I prepare a large snack / small lunch before I head out to pick up the girls.


Pick up the girls from daycare. Both of them are cranky from heat, hunger, and tiredness. One of them is really disobedient too. I pile them into the single BOB stroller, big girl in the normal spot, little girl sitting on the footrest. They whine off and on the whoooooole way home. We pick up Thai style grilled chicken and sticky rice for lunch. When we get home we eat it with the bananas I picked up earlier.


Down for naps! Well, Cora sleeps, Grace plays alone in our room for a little over an hour. I sit down and detox from my kids' whiny-ness. Then, review some Thai.

This afternoon, Michael is watching the girls. We do lots of trading back and forth of who's working and who's "on the girls." My work hours come out to about 18+ and his to about 22+. Altogether, we work 40+ hours per week.


I overworked last week, so I decide to use my afternoon to try out a new, "expensive" hair salon recommended by my American friend, Judy. In the chaos of the past 18 months, I've only gotten my hair cut once and I desperately need many inches chopped off. I get a little lost on the way there, but eventually find it. I get my hair washed (including a head massage), cut, and styled. And I love the final result! I think I've finally found my Bangkok hair salon! Makes my life here feel even more like home. Total cost: not even $9.


Drive home. The pressure of the seatbelt across my lap makes the baby kick. Hi there, little one! I see a plant store with gorgeous potted flowers I've been eyeing since we moved here. I stop and look at them. Standing in the sun in 100 degree heat is making my brain fuzzy, so I decide not to buy this time, then head the rest of the way home.


Get in some good work time preparing for my next Thai lesson and then sending off an email to prayer supporters.


The girls watch Daniel Tiger on PBS while Michael and I cook an extra yummy meal - homemade hamburger patties with sauteed onions and white wine sauce, snap pea and cherry tomato salad with oil and vinegar dressing, boiled potatoes, and a "banana milkshake" (aka spinach, bananas, and milk blended for the girls).


Michael cleans up from dinner (a big job with all the cooking and no dishwasher!) and I bathe the girls who are 100% sweet, cute, and playful.


I see the tiredness in Grace's eyes (remember how whiney she was earlier and how she didn't nap?) so I put them to bed early. We clean up a bit more and then watch the most recent episode of TLC's Nate and Jeremiah by Design featuring our friends and former pastors Janelle & Allen! We have trouble with our internet being slow and our VPN not working great, so it takes well over an hour to watch the 45 minute show, but it is so worth it!


Get all ready for bed and then start a Chief Inspector Gamache mystery novel that I just downloaded to Kindle yesterday. Such a fun series!



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tropical Birds

Allow me to pay homage to the tropical birds outside my open bathroom window.

I rarely see them, but when I do, they are small, yet all day their piercing songs slice the humid air forcing all to hear regardless of whether or not they are listening.

They come and go finding food, where? Finding water, where? Finding shelter, where? All the while singing, squawking, screaming their praises. There is nothing I do that lures them and nothing I do that scares them away.

I often stop mid-morning or mid-evening to just listen.

Our bathroom window opens up on an overgrown, empty lot. Just beyond the lot is this alley. Hidden in those branches and sitting on the wires are all kinds of tropical birds.

Monday, April 17, 2017

14 Thoughts at 14 Weeks

1. At our 11 week ultrasound, the doctor took a look at the gender and felt quite certain it was a girl.

2. Three girls?! We laughed when we found out.

3. But, can they really tell that early?

4. My belly has been touched and rubbed at least a dozen times already. And I'm not even that big yet. (I'm sure this is just the first of a long list of pregnancy related culture shock I will go through!)

5. Well, I suppose my bump looks like I'm almost halfway through pregnancy already.

6. When I look at my two hands / two arms / one lap and when I look over at my squirrely (and sometimes downright disobedient) two kids, I wonder how I'm going to do it with a baby in tow.

7. But, then I remember: moms have been doing this forever. And sometimes with more kids and/or even littler kids than I have. It'll be far from perfect, but everyone will survive.

8. Many days, sometimes several times a day, Grace asks me, "Mommy, are you still preg-a-nant?" I answer, "Yes, but the baby won't be here until after Cora turns three."

9. Sometimes, Cora looks down at her large toddler tummy and says, "Mommy, I'm preg-a-nant, too." She then tells me the baby will be born in a couple of hours or tomorrow or next year and that she will name her Grace.

10. I recently learned that pregnant Thai women avoid caffeine like pregnant American women avoid alcohol. I’m going to have to sneak my lattes.

11. High heat/humidity and first trimester nausea don't mix well. But, the nausea is done and gone.

12. I'm really tired all the time.

13. I think I've started feeling the baby's kicks. Strangest, most comforting feeling ever.

14. I've always wanted three kids... we're excited!

Friday, April 14, 2017

How to Wash Your Clothes When You're New to Thailand

Before moving from California to Thailand a year ago, we were warned by many that learning how to do life in a whole new culture would suck up most of our time. 

They were so right! All of our high ideals for language learning and getting out to meet Thai people were overridden by meeting basic survival needs for at least 1-3 months. (Even today, we are more limited than we would've imagined before moving here.)

Here's just one example.

How to Wash Your Clothes When You're Brand New to Thailand
In 20 Not-So-Easy Steps

1. When you first arrive, crash at your husband's aunt's house for a couple of days. She does your first, small load of laundry for you. ขอบคุณมากคะ่ ("Thank you very much!")

2. Move into your house. It has all the hookups but no washing machine.

3. Hear from a neighbor that there is a laundromat down the street.

4. Send husband out to use his couple hundred Thai words to figure out where said laundromat is. 

5. Find out that "laundromat" is a generous word for the single washer in someone's shop. It seems to always be full with someone else's clothes.

6. Be so busy figuring out more important things like getting food and wifi that you get dangerously close to running out of clothing for your whole family.

7. Take a family trip via taxi to Big C (Bangkok's rough equivalent to Super Target) to choose a washing machine.

8. Be completely overwhelmed by the choice because the machines are quite different than in the US.

9. Give up and go home.

10. Hear that there's a washing service in the area and ask about it.

11. Later that day, a man motor-scooters down the street with a rod for hanging clothing attached to the bike. Find out that that's the washing service. He uses the small "laundromat" that's always full.

12. Find out he charges 50 cents per item.

13. Look at the pile of dozens of items and decide to just hand wash a few things to carry us a couple more day.

14. Go back to Big C with your bilingual, ex-pat friend to help you buy a washing machine and schedule the delivery. Buy a drying rack and about 50 other needed items too.

15. Wait a couple of days for the delivery.

16. When the guys come to install the washing machine, find out through lots of pointing and sign language that they can't finish installing it because there is dried glue-gun glue all over the sawed off drainage pipe. Dang.

17. After they leave, jankily shove the drainage hose into the drainage pipe and try washing a load anyway.

18. It works. Hallelujah.

19. The drying rack can only hold one medium-sized load at a time and each load takes several hours to dry, so do one load of laundry every day until all your clothes are clean. This takes about four days.

20. Enjoy having clean clothes. Though, because you recently paired down to just the essentials (hello, international move!) and because your family goes through four outfits a day from sweating so much (hello, tropics!), learn to permanently do laundry one load at a time, two times per week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Conversation Between a Toddler and Preschooler

Both my daughters are talkative. The last few months, they've started having lengthy, strange conversations between themselves. The other day, I sat them down for their snack and recorded a few minutes of them talking. Here's a one minute snippet of that conversation between my 4-year-old and 2-year-old.

Cora singing: "The more we get together, together, together. The more we get together the happier we'll be." [over and over]

Grace: "Louder please"

Cora: "Ok!" [starts singing louder]

Grace: [a split second later] "SSSHHHHHHH!!! I don't want to hear you!"

Cora: [confused] "Do you want it loud?"

Grace: "No. I want only Jesus to hear you."

Cora: "Well, Jesus isn't here."

Grace: "Yes! Yes he does."

Cora: "No, he isn't."

Grace: [with firm conviction] "Yes, he does hear you. He hears even when people… even when I don't hear you."

Cora: "Excuse me, Grace."

Grace: "Yes, Cora?"

Cora: "Watch this."

Grace: "Ok, I'm watching."

Cora: [loud nonsense words]

Grace: "That's goobledygock."

Cora: [more nonsense]

Grace: Cora, can you please switch back to your English hat? It's English hat time!
(Grace and Cora claim to speak three languages - English, Thai, and Goobledygock. When they switch languages, they call it switching hats.)


Now imagine that level of conversation minute after minute, hour after hour, and you have a pretty good idea of what you hear on a "quiet" morning or afternoon at home. We are endlessly entertained.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I've Never Read the Whole Bible and That's Ok

I am the slowest Bible reader in the world. I still have never read the whole thing. I recently finished reading, studying, and meditating on the book of Isaiah. It took me five years.

Photo credit: my friend, Dani Larson
Why am I so slow? 

Well, for one, I stop and start. I would study Isaiah for a few weeks or a few months and then take a break to connect with God a different way -- going for a walks, writing, reading a good book, staring off into space. Then, after a couple months, I would feel ready to dive back in, so I did, and loved it, but inevitably got bored or my mind got too full, so I again took a break.

I also get stuck. There were so many passages in Isaiah that made my jaw drop and my heart melt under the brilliance of the truth. When I reached these passages, I was often stuck on them for days or even weeks. I could not move on. I would ruminate and think and meditate on them basking in the truth at all angles. The Word is rich and flavorful and sustains my soul. Sometimes, a bite enters my mouth and I savor it. Sometimes for weeks!

I used to feel guilty about this tendency to consume the Bible so slowly. My mind would think things like, "I've been a Christian who can read for over two decades, shouldn't I have read the whole Bible several times by now?" or I would compare myself to my husband who has been inductively studying the Bible for years. Almost without a break.

I remember one day while hiking with my husband through the dry, yellow Claremont Wilderness Trail, I explained these burdens to him. I felt pressured by the American Christian culture of having a daily "quiet time" where you read a different passage of the Bible every day. For me, that felt like an obligation. I usually didn't enjoy it.

And, thank God for husbands, he told me that a slacker-Christian wife was not what he saw. He said he had the tendency to consume gobs of Scripture without allowing it to change him. He was often in awe of the way I soaked in passages for a long time, and he saw them change me from the inside out. He said he saw my heart and mind as a stone tablet and truth was getting chiseled onto it. It was a slow, very slow process, but once the truth was written, it was near permanent. 

Since that day, I have embraced my slowness. I open the Bible as I sense the Spirit leading. I read as I sense the Spirit leading. I meditate as I sense the Spirit leading. All of this is very slow. I doubt I will ever do a "Read Through the Bible in One Year" plan. And, I no longer feel guilt. I feel free to be the way I am, and God graciously uses the way I read Scripture to continually form me and change me.

Has the traditional "quiet time" form of connecting with God ever felt like a burden to you? What creative/unusual ways do you hear from, learn from, or connect with God? I'd love to hear in the comments.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Kids One Year Ago and Today

We are only 13 months into life in a new country. From what the old-timers tell me, we are still in the very beginning, often rough stages of adjustment to a new language, culture, and home. But, still, it is so good to recognize the progress our family has made in feeling comfortable in our corner of Bangkok.

First family picture in Thailand taken in the outside kitchen of Michael's
aunt's house just a few hours after our plane landed.
Our daughters had no idea of the enormity of the change they were going through!
Over a year ago, in the week leading up to our big, international move and the two weeks after, 18-month-old Cora would not leave my arms. She sat on my hip all day, every day. If I set her down she cried. She watched our house in California, which she'd known since birth, slowly get gutted out as everything she knew went in the trash, sold on Craigslist, or into storage. Most of her toys and books disappeared as they were packed in boxes to be shipped to Thailand.

Then, one day, we got on a plane and arrived in a new very hot, humid place filled with the noises of tropical birds, barking dogs, and noisy motorcycles. She continued to live in my arms for another two weeks.

Whenever Cora saw a motorcycle or a Thai person, she buried her head into my shoulder. Motorcycles were too loud. Thai people were too threatening to her, always wanting to hold her and touch her. Bangkok is full of motorcycles and Thai people, so whenever we left the house, she closed her eyes and buried her face into my shoulder hiding from the world. For two whole weeks!

Both Cora and three-year-old big sister, Grace, threw some massive, category five tantrums during those first few weeks. They were induced by jet lag, no toilet paper in a bathroom, a slippery chunk of mango jumping out of chubby hands and landing on the dirty ground, finding seeds in their oranges, and other things. The whole nine yards. Screaming, flailing, whole body on the ground mom-and-dad-why-did-you-bring-me-here tantrums.

For the first couple of months, Grace completely and utterly refused to speak Thai. She would not say "hello" or "thank you" in Thai when we told her to. She was in utter rebellion and it was sometimes rude and embarrassing.

But, they've adjusted. (They had to!)

Wearing tutus and walking to a friend's house for dinner.

Picking up lunch from street food vendors and biking it home.
The category five tantrums are few and far between. And they are not caused by moving overseas stress anymore. They are caused by normal, irrational toddler and preschooler things like being way too tired before a nap and a parent forcing them to try to pee so they don't wet the bed while they sleep. You know, things like that.

Both girls speak dozens (maybe hundreds? don't keep track.) of Thai words. And they understand far more than they speak. Grace still sometimes refuses to speak Thai, but that's ok. We see her listening and learning and slowly making progress.

Now when we walk through the streets of Bangkok. They each hold a parent's hand. They hardly notice loud motorcycles passing just a couple of feet from them. 

The Thai strangers who used to scare Cora are now our friends and neighbors. They don't fawn over our kids as much anymore because they're no longer a novelty. But, when they do get special attention, our kids ignore it. Or sometimes Cora performs and flirts and sings and speaks Thai to feed the attention. What a difference from just one year ago!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Writing to Share

Over the past couple of years, I've written more and more, but shared less and less of it here, on my blog. I'm not sure why that is.

I write in my journal on my laptop when my fingers need to fly to keep up with my thoughts. I write in cursive with an inky pen, stream-of-consciousness style in my large black "morning pages" notebook. I write out slower, more meditative thoughts, prayers, and lists in my moleskine journal. I brainstorm, calendar, plan, and vision for my life in my big blue bullet journal. And, occasionally, some of it ends up here but the vast majority of my writing stays tucked away. I'm mostly satisfied with this.

My laptop, morning pages journal, moleskine journal, bullet journal, and the crowning glory, my "keep clam" bag filled with inky, colorful pens.
But, I do miss sharing my writing frequently here, more than once or twice a month. I find satisfaction in refining something I wrote, sharing it with you, and sometimes hearing how it caused you to laugh or to think or to try something new. Art of all types is meant to be shared.

So, during the month of April, I’m going to post about ten times. Most of it will be old writings I've dug up. Some of it might be new. Some of it might just be pictures or quotes. Who knows!

I will count this as post #1.

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