Resettlement

So here we are.  Back home.  In “America,” as Logan calls it.

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The jet lag did them in, but otherwise they seemed to adjust quickly

For three of the five of us it’s a place we don’t know, so there is some adjusting to do. Luckily, those three are little, adaptable, and easy-going (for the most part), so the twenty-four hour travel journey, followed up by an international move, a new home, a new school, and new friends and activities didn’t phase them much. Yes, we miss Thailand (BIG time — and probably me the most), but the kids are really enjoying a change of pace and getting to reconnect with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. They are also learning a thing or two about the seasons, the concept of having neighbors, the luxury of having a back yard to play in, that there are public services like water fountains provided in parks and airports (and you can actually drink the water that comes from them), what real trick-or-treating is, what a chimney is and how Santa makes his way down it, what a postman (oh, and a mailbox) looks like.  It’s the little things, really.  Every once in awhile they ask for the beach, or to swim, or for certain friends in Bangkok.  And sometimes they ask for “gai thawt” (fried chicken) with “kaow niaow” (sticky rice).  But for the most part, they seem to have adjusted well.  It’s the times I get nostalgic and show them pictures of our time in Thailand that I can tell from their reactions that they miss it, too, but perhaps not in the way that I do.

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Logan was not phased by his first day in a new school and Kateyln assumed she was going, too

I found Thailand hard to leave on a number of levels – the warmth of the people, the ease of life, the year-round warm weather that allowed beach trips every month, the food, the ability to travel elsewhere in region so easily.  And then there were the people we had to say goodbye to – our friends, school mates, teachers, work colleagues and the people who worked in our home.  Uncle Noodle and the tuk-tuk tea shop lady along our street.  After all, we did see them nearly every day for almost four years.  I started to get emotional a day or two before we departed Thailand. I had an all-out emotional melt-down taking Logan to preschool the last day and saying goodbye to his teachers and other parents.  On our way back to the U.S., we stopped off in Oahu for a few days (highly recommended, by the way), and I continued to be emotional.  In fact, I didn’t really stop being emotional for a short time after that.  Now I feel adjusted, but still nostalgic for our time in Thailand.

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Definitely not in Thailand anymore . . .

It took me awhile to clear my head, but I finally realized why it was so particularly hard for me to let go.  Leaving Thailand meant leaving behind a stage in our children’s lives – a young and innocent stage, a stage of their “firsts” (words, steps, day of school).  It meant leaving behind the place where two of our daughters were born and a place that nearly fully shaped the first four years of our son’s life.  It meant that our children were growing up.  And I was learning that I was going to have to start accepting that. And that is one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with as a parent this year.  Not the tantrums, not the lack of sleep, not the constant demands of three little ones all at one time.  It’s the fact that they are growing up and things won’t be the way they are today come tomorrow.

The day-to-day of being a parent seems to go by so slowly, but the years go by quickly. So never forget to cherish today.  Live in today.  Be patient in solving their problems because tomorrow, it may be a problem that they can solve on their own.

Also, I am going to need to invest in Kleenex stock next year when Logan starts kindergarten.

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Of Dolphin Bay Resort and the iPhone 5s’ Slo-Mo Video

A couple of quick things while I hold a sleeping baby in one hand/arm and hunt and peck with the other.

1.  We’re at the famously kid-friendly Dolphin Bay Resort in Pranburi for the very hot Songkran holiday.  This place couldn’t be more accommodating when it comes to kids – a great, beautiful beach front with no waves (which is a stark contrast to Hua Hin’s lack of a beach front), kid-friendly pools, a water slide, kids activities, bikes with children’s bike seats — as well as children’s bikes — for hire, a fantastic play ground and lawn area to play sports, an old-fashion popcorn-making machine, ice cream always within reach, and best of all — lots of friendly families with lots of other kids.  If you have a child who likes to make friends and play with others, this place is for you (side note:  it also reduces the burden on you, parents, when your children are entertained by others — we have learned this slowly over the course of our three years of vacationing in Thailand).  My husband, who has graciously always woken up early with Katelyn (now almost two years old) and allowed the rest of us to “sleep in” until 7am, said that for the first time on a vacation, he did not feel out of place walking around the resort with a toddler at 6am.  Apparently, there were plenty of other dads doing the same.  Bingo.  This is the spot if you have early-rising toddlers!

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Super-awesome playground and lawn area for the kids

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Kate at Dolphin Bay in 2013

Quick note on the digs:  the rooms are not lux, but we were very fortunate to get into the newly-renovated two bedroom suite (features two bedrooms, a living area, two flat screen TVs, excellent wifi, two bathrooms, and a kitchenette).  It is plenty big for a family of five and is clean, nice, and well-equipped.  If you are on your way down, ask if a newly-renovated room/suite is available.  I believe the owners are slowly renovating all of the rooms.

2.  I wanted to test out the awesome, new slo-mo video function on my iphone 5, so I captured Walter and the kids going down the slide.  Check this:

Cool, right?

3.  Vacation success?  Now being two parents with three children under the age of four, we have only lost one child on one instance during our vacation so far.  Not so bad.  #parentingstandardsareslipping #zonedefense

A Gingerbread House That Avoided Pinterest Fail Status

As a child, I always wanted to decorate a gingerbread house.  So, when I saw a friend’s pictures of her decorating a beautiful gingerbread house in Bangkok with her daughter last year I made a mental note of it and contacted her last month to find out where she and her daughter designed that beautiful house.

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Now, you might be asking why I didn’t just bake my own gingerbread and attempt to construct a house that we could decorate at home.  I’ll tell you why. Because me making and constructing a gingerbread house would surely result in an epic Pinterest fail, kind of like this bad boy:  Gingerbread Fail.  So, to save me a lot of heartache (and my children a lot of disappointment), we made reservations this year to take part in a Gingerbread House Workshop at the Sheraton Grande.  It was the perfect holiday activity; not only for Logan, but for his grandmother and for me (and coincidentally, the first time any of us had ever constructed and decorated a gingerbread house).

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Using our box as a foundation

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Construction in progress!

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Almost ready to decorate!

Upon arrival, there was a place setting for each child with a paper box that contained everything that the child needed to construct and decorate his/her house.  A friendly — and patient — pastry chef then showed the children and parents how to construct the house around the paper box using gingerbread pieces and loads of icing (note:  I think Logan ate more icing than we used to construct the house –which, in both cases, was a HUGE amount).  After the chef helped make sure everyone’s houses were stable, children had free reign to decorate their homes with a multitude (I’m talking A LOT) of different types of cookies, marshmallows, candy canes, chocolates . . . pretty much any and all types of candy you can image.

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Ahh, to the best part — sticking the candy on

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Intense concentration

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Logan’s creative Smartie window decor

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The adorable candies provided for the rooftops

I would highly recommend this activity to anyone who will be in Bangkok and is looking to do some gingerbread house-decorating next year.  The staff at the Sheraton Grande was fantastic, I was able to choose my date and buy the workshop voucher on the hotel’s website, it was a very child-friendly event (complete with a visit from the hotel’s Christmas elephant), my three-year old loved it, and we brought home a beautifully-decorated gingerbread house.  No disappointments whatsoever and a new and fun experience for all – just how I like it.

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Gingerbread house decorating and a Christmas elephant? We’re sold!

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Receiving some Christmas love

And I’ll have you know that the gingerbread houses don’t last that long – we made ours at 1pm today and  the candy was already taking a hit tonight after dinner.  So much fun!

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Logan, proud of his creation

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Kate getting in on the action

Here is the link to the workshop online:  Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Gingerbread House Workshop.  I found that the hotel’s FB page and the Bangkok Events Calendar was also helpful when planning our outing this year.

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.

A Taste of the Thai Countryside

We have a lot of love for Bangkok, but lately we’ve all felt the need to get out of the urban sprawl and find some fresh air, places to run, and new things to do.  This past weekend we did just that – and it was excellent!  We visited a friend’s country home in Nakhon Nayok Province (about a 1.5 hour drive from the city) and spent the day riding ponies, playing with piglets, paddle-boating on (clean!) klongs, biking, running around, and taking in nature.  If you have the opportunity to visit the Thai countryside, do it.  It was a much needed respite from our classic weekend routine.  Below are some pictures from the day.