The Silver Lining

Have you ever stopped to listen to the sounds in your home?  I mean really stopped — not just for a minute or two, but for an hour or two?  An hour or two when you focus on nothing else but listening to what your children say, how they interact, how they play, how they fight, etc.  I know as moms and dads to young children, it is nearly impossible for us to do this.  We are always right in the middle of the action – helping our children, watching out for their safety, abating their quarrels, playing imaginary games with them.  And if we’re not, we’re usually washing dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning up toys, making up beds – you know, doing all of that other stuff that has to get done at some point or another.

At 30 weeks pregnant this week, I had a tough time after my second glucose screening test (couldn’t keep the liquid down for more than 30 minutes the first time, so had to re-test).  The second test made me so sick that I vomited twice at the hospital – once at the thought of drinking the stuff, the second time just after my blood was drawn and while I was waiting to pay at the cashier’s desk – and then seven or eight times at home that afternoon and evening.  I felt awful.  But what this forced me to do — the silver lining, if you will — was to lay in bed and listen to what went on outside my bedroom door.  My husband (I thank God everyday for that amazing man) was able to come home early and play with the kids, feed them, bathe them, and get them ready for bed.  During this time, I heard so much laughter, some singing, a lot of great solo imaginary play, some fighting (mostly from Katelyn pulling Logan’s hair), some very insightful toddler observations, and some bubble-blowing in milk at dinner time (I know it’s not good manners, but it is so much fun!).  I realized just how much joy there is in our home, and I’m so thankful for it.

So on a day when you are down and out — or just down right sick and unable to get out of bed — tune in to the sounds of your home.  The love that family members have for one another is such a special thing, and something we should never take for granted.

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Lots of joy in the house this Christmas!

Toddle Joy’s 2013 Year in Review: Thank You For Being Such Awesome Readers!

Here is Toddle Joy’s Year in Review – it’s been a good one!  Many thanks to all of my readers!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The “Real” Santa

I can’t believe I am already reading books to my children about Santa, drumming up excitement about his arrival, and best of all, will be playing Santa early on Christmas morning.  What is happening?  How am I getting this old so quickly?  Wasn’t it not that long ago that I, myself, believed in Santa, and my parents went out of their way to climb a two-story house and jingle sleigh bells outside my window (which I never did hear, much to my father’s dismay)?

We’re spending Christmas in Bangkok this year and as I write this on December 17, we have already visited with four Santas.  That’s right, four  Santas.  Four Santas who did not all look alike (to be fair, the first and fourth Santa were the same guy, but still . . . ). We are, after all, part of an American community living in Asia, so I guess Santa diversity should be expected.  However, after telling my 3-year old that we were going to see Santa for the third time this year,  he asked me a very pointed question – “Is it the real one this time, mommy?”  You can imagine my surprise as I fumbled to find an answer.  “Well, sweetheart, none of these Santas are the “real” Santas.  They are all Santa’s helpers.  The “real” Santa comes on Christmas.”  I didn’t take me long to calculate in my head just what was going on in my three year-old’s mind:  why are we seeing so many Santas, and if there is one “real” Santa, why do all of these Santas look so different from one another?”

It is amazing how clever our little ones are.  Why should I for a minute think that my smart three-year old would think that all of the Santas we’ve visited with are the same person — and moreover, that all are the “real” Santa?  And if his questions continue to be so intuitive, how will my husband and I ever keep up?  Not just with mythical traditions like Santa Claus, but with all kinds of things in life that they are still too young to know about and understand the real reason for?

Parenting.  It is certainly not for the faint of heart, nor the creatively slow.

And by the way,  I can still remember clearly when someone divulged the Santa-isn’t-real secret to me.   It was during a ride home from first grade in the back of one of those 1980’s station-wagons with a neighborhood friend named Carrie.  Carrie Wood, to be exact.  My mom was so mad at Carrie she wanted to punch her in the face.

So good luck with those holiday traditions out there and don’t forget just how quickly the wheels in our toddlers’ heads are turning.

Here is our 2013 in Santas so far:

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Our first Santa 2013 encounter: AmCham Holiday Party

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Second Santa 2013 encounter: Logan’s pre-school

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Third Santa 2013 encounter: Ikea

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Fourth Santa 2013 encounter: Embassy Holiday Party

Creative Ideas Amidst Bangkok’s Protests

Bangkok parents:  If you’re anything like me, you’re racking your brains to figure out what to do with the kids in order to avoid the daily protests, deal with school closures, and accept the fact that the major malls and play areas are closed (can you really blame Central World after what happened in 2010)?

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Bangkok Protests 2013 – ugh!

So – I thought I’d throw some ideas out there for the creatively-challenged (which, by the way, definitely includes me).  Lucky for me, I have a love for Pinterest and I’m fortunate enough to have some wonderfully-inventive friends — so here are some ideas to get you through the dog days.

Getting Out

1. Good news?  The morning weather is now cool!  Another piece of good news?  For those of us who live next to Lumpini Park, the protesters have left the park area (after many months of being camped out on the park’s Silom-side), which means we can safely utilize the area without totally melting in the heat.  So, grab some friends, scooters, bug boxes, and fish food and enjoy these December days outside.  For those of you who live in Phrom Phong, the same goes for Benjasiri Park — enjoy this cool weather!

2. It’s December and do you know what that means?  Well, yes, besides wonderful — albeit some times very tacky — decorations on every corner, it is the month of the Plan Toys Factory Store (Sathorn Soi 10) big annual sale.  Protests haven’t extended towards Sathorn, so depending on where you are coming from, the area near the store should be clear.  The kids can play with all of the demo toys (including a huge train table) while moms and dads enjoy 50-80% discounts for wooden toys.  A great Christmas shopping activity!

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We hit the Plan Toys Factory Store sale on day one today!

3. Go to the play groups that are still open.  One of our favorites?  Tiny Tots Play Group on Soi Convent (Silom) at Christ Church on Wednesdays and Friday mornings from 09:30-11:30.  They have a large space and an AWESOME array of toys.  The set-up is always different.  Some weeks you’ll find ice and polar animal play, other weeks you’ll find a rack full of princess dresses, and you’ll always find old favorites like Legos, ride-on toys, kitchen and house toys, etc.  The church also provides a craft activity and music for the children.  The Wednesday play session has a religious component to it (bible story to begin), but the Friday session does not.  For more information, visit the Christ Church Bangkok Playgroup Facebook Page.  Due to renovation of the church hall, the next play group dates are December 11th and 13th.  The playgroup will close for the holidays from  23rd Dec – 3rd Jan.  Please note that this is a parents and babies/toddlers group only (no nannies).  Also, there will be a craft and used toy sale at the play groups on the 11th and 13th.

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Tiny Tots Playgroup on Soi Convent

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Kitchen play!

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Princess dresses by the dozen

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Ice play

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My sweet girl

4. Plan your own play dates with friends in your area and rotate houses/play areas one day per week.  I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of friends and we rotate homes every Wednesday afternoon for play.  This keeps the play venue fresh for kids and both moms and kids get some wonderful social time.  We planned the group so that everyone lives on the same block, which means our activities, as of yet, have not been affected by the protests.

5. Swim!  Yes, it might be a little bit more chilly out these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize your pool and enjoy fun water play activities.  We are in Bangkok, folks — enjoy the ability to swim comfortably during the winter while you can!

6.  Find walkable or sky-trainable Christmas activities in your area.  There are a lot of fun holiday activities going on around the city this time of year.  Try to find some in your area.  For example, we just went to a gingerbread cookie and house-decorating activity at the Plaza Athenee Hotel on Saturday afternoon.  Children decorated cookies until their hearts were content, enjoyed a wonderful Christmas buffet, took in a magic show, listened to caroling, visited with Santa, and played in and decorated a huge gingerbread house.  In the meantime, parents enjoyed two glasses of wine, champagne or beer and watched their little ones delight in the holiday cheer.  All proceeds from the event supported a children’s orphanage.

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Delighting in the tree at the Plaza Athenee Gingerbread House Decorating Event

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Receiving love from a Christmas elf

Staying In

7.  Tap into Pinterest and do some craft searching.  This one is not rocket science, folks.  Are you familiar with Pinterest?  If not, get interested now.  And within Pinterest, simply search for “kids’ crafts.”  You will be amazed by the awesome activities that pop up.  For example, here is a broad selection of Christmas activities offered:  Pinterest Christmas Kids Crafts.

8. Make your own play doh and let the kids go to town.  Okay, I confess that I was a bit scared to make my own anything (play doh, bubbles, etc.), but after seeing a friend do it super-successfully, I tried my own hand at it and it worked!  I made a couple of huge batches and the kids loved cutting, forming and playing with the dough.  I gave them a whole slew of cookie cutters in all shapes and sizes to use with the dough as well, which they seemed to enjoy.  One tip for Bangkok:  when you are done playing with your homemade play doh, store it in a closed container or plastic bag in the refrigerator to avoid mold.  Here is the recipe that I used (there are tons of recipes out there): Play Doh Recipe by Family Education.

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Home-made play doh (picture by FMO Crafts)

9. Colored rice sensory play.  This was another awesome idea by a creative friend of mine.  Instead of creating a sand pit on your balcony, why not try some colored rice sensory plan?  The good news here?  We’re in Asia, folks, so rice is everywhere!  Buy a few big bags, some rubbing alcohol, food coloring, ziploc baggies, and a big plastic tub.  Here’s a how-to:  Colored Rice Activity by Living In Gear.

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Colored Rice by Living in Gear (livingingear.blogspot.com)

10. Decorate.  That’s right.  Get the kids involved in some holiday decorating.  Put up the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the stockings . . . why not?

Now, that’s all I have in me right now.  Hopefully I gave you at least an idea or two.  Let’s all pray that these protests end soon and peacefully so that we can all enjoy the holiday season.  In the meantime, stay safe, and if you are looking for some updates on the protest/security situation, the U.S. Embassy Bangkok Facebook Page is a good place to start.

Traveling with Kids: A Completely Different Option from the 20+ Hour Journey

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Reading time in the Braunohler home

Do all good parenting rules go out the window during 20+ hours of flight?  Yes, they do.  Should you, as a parent, feel bad about that?  No, you shouldn’t. Bribe ’em, give ’em their favorite snacks, allow technology to entertain, use the aisles for sprint practice . . . here is a piece I wrote almost a year ago that will give you some ideas on how to cope with a long journey – Enduring 20 Plus Hours of Air Travel with a Toddler (Oh Yes, and a Baby)

That being said, we are opting to take our family on vacation to western Australia this year instead of the States.  Somewhere along the way, I realized that a 6.5 hour flight was probably more tolerable than 20+ hours of flight, and that a 1 hour time change would be much more manageable than a 12-hour one.  Go figure.  Farm stays, child-friendly vineyards, a beautiful drive along the ocean, wonderful hikes, dolphin sanctuaries, wombat, wallaby, and kangaroo-spotting . . . why have we not done this before?  We’ll let you know how it goes when we get back.  What are you doing this year for fall break?