Monday, March 26, 2012

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn...

my Stargazer lily shoot

To my amusement, something is coming up late in my garden...Treavor's Christmas present!

For a present last December, I planted five Stargazer lily bulbs in my garden. These lilies are Treavor's favorite.  Last year, while walking at a big market with Steph and her kids, we happened upon a merchant selling these bulbs, ripe with promise.  It was actually Steph's idea, to plant them for Christmas.  But, I stole her idea and promptly bought them.  :)  The merchant said that they would bloom in three month's time, so I planted them in early December and figured there would be plenty of time for us to enjoy them before we left for America.  

I researched how and where to plant them, settled them in the dirt just right, positioned them in perfect afternoon sun, watered them faithfully and keep them properly drained (I read that if they stay too moist, they will die, for sure).  For months now, I checked the soil for signs of life and even dug them up twice to see if they were even taking root!  I felt like a gardening failure, and a bad present-buyer, for even trying to grow something I had no experience doing.  But, a few days ago, I saw a blade of green hope popping up from the ground.  Today, three of the five bulbs have sprouted.  Joy and sorrow took me by surprise!

I feel joy; because something I planted and cared for is actually succeeding.  I feel sorrow; because we are leaving for America in 4 days, and we will probably not be able to even enjoy their beauty.  Someone else, probably my flower-loving neighbor I will entrust them to, will get to behold those awe-inspiring purple, pink and white splashes on its petals.  I have sowed, and someone else gets to reap the benefits.

The picture of words that I am painting above about my lily plants really spoke to me this morning as I thought about our work here.  I even started humming that famous 60's song "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)" know, the one that was basically copied out of Ecclesiastes 3:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

One of my five orchids that are sprouting new branches for future blooms

my orange tree's mini-fruits, not quite ready to eat

my jasmine flowers, on the verge of blooming and spreading an unforgettable scent!

When we left from America over three years ago, there were so many thing that we left that were in the middle, or right about to come to be; marriages, births of babies, changes in families, deaths of loved ones, divorces, people moving cities, leaders coming in and out of influence, political changes, etc.  We came here and "missed" these things coming to fruition. Some good, some bad...but it was change, all the same.

And now, as we have sowed into the nation and people of Thailand, into the lives of others, and endured changes in our own family, we are leaving for a season to enter back into another land that looks different than how we left it.  

I am leaving my Stargazer lilies, my orange tree, my orchids and my jasmine plants, all on the verge of blooming and bearing partake of the fruit of a season that we have been located far away from for years now.  Although we are leaving friends and work that is on the brink of intense change, there certainly is a season for everything.  Can we just have a season for breaking down and never for building up?  Or, seasons of laughing and never for weeping?  I am trying to prepare myself to be ready for whatever season is ahead.  Wherever we are going and whatever we are going to meet, God is already there.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

10 Things (Sounds) I Like Today

The very vocal Tokay.  One of the sounds I will miss (seriously!).  photo credit

Updating my status on Facebook this weekend led me to this post.  It is amazing how we connect sights, smells and sounds to our memories; cherished and not-so-cherished.  These are 10 sounds I am definitely going to miss while we're gone on our four-month adventure to the States:

1.  The nightly call of the Tokay gecko that lives at our house.  Click here to hear the sound.  This is the first animal sound Kyla ever mimicked and it is a hilarious form of entertainment to see her get excited and repeat after him every night she hears him.  I will miss the Tokay.  We will play his call sometime in the States to give her some form of comfort in uncertain surroundings.  

2.  The cow bell that plays during the concerts and events that happen in our area of town.  The clink clink clink of it is oddly comforting and a reminder that we are not in Kansas anymore.  Though, hearing its cadence all night would surely keep me up, so I am glad for my loud air conditioner.

3.  The Thai National Anthem.  Listen to it here.  It is played every day at 8am and 6pm on the television and radio (every station!) and through the speaker system of public areas.  Everyone who hears it is expected to stand, stop what they are doing, be silent and honor the kingdom of Thailand.  It is incredibly moving and meditative to stop and reflect on the people and the King of this wonderful country.  I will miss the ways Thais honor their government and fellow people.  It is a rousing song and quite a sight to see everyone pause to do this!

4.  The sound of the saxophone that plays every day on our street in our neighborhood.  A Korean man who lives two doors down plays Christmas carols and other random songs every day.  7am.  10am.  2pm.  Whenever!  There is no schedule he keeps - except to keep at it.  Hilarious!

5.  The sound of a Thai cook making som tam, a spicy papaya salad.  To make it, the cook uses a mortar and pestle to crush all the vegetables/fruit/spices and juices together.  There is even a popular song written with this sound intertwined with the music.  Watch some Thai kids sing it here.

6.  The fireworks that boom from the temples nearby.  At some funerals here, fireworks are set off to ward off evil spirits.  The same act occurs at temples frequently throughout the week.  Hearing the fireworks go off reminds me to pray for Thai people to be free from fear and to come to a knowledge of God and his power over the spirits that plague them.

7.  My neighbor, Grandma Cool, calling at the front gate.  She walks to to feed the fish in the canal every day and loves to drop by some Thai fruit or dessert for the kids.  I will miss her - our best neighbor!

8.  The voices of friends here;  the S-clan and others who call us, hang out with us, counsel us, encourage us and challenge us with their lives.  I will miss the familiar voices who call on the phone or laugh with us over lunch and trips to the park.  

9.  The hum and rumble and vroom of hundreds of motorbikes.  The drone of these slightly more dangerous, but oh so convenient means of transportation is a part of the every-day melody we hear from outside.  Just the sound of Treavor's motorbike coming down our street causes the kids to jump up from their play with excitement as they run to the door to greet him.  I love that sound.  That sound means help is on the way.  ;)

10.  And...of course...the Thai language.  When I first started listening to Thai, I would almost laugh because of the strange cacophony of sounds.  The 5 tones of Thai and the way it rises and dips in expression was a little comical to me...not to mention, confusing.  Now, it sounds like a song and I will miss this creative communication on a daily basis.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Foreigner! Foreigner!" : An Apology Ahead Of Time

Even Ronald McDonald makes mistakes.  At least he is polite enough to wai.  (photo credit)

With about two weeks left till we hit the States, I have been noticing more about my kids' and their lack of basic knowledge about American social cues/faux pas.  This has, thus, drawn attention to my own amnesia concerning what is acceptable or not when you are attempting to be a blessing in the States...or, at least, trying to blend in.

Forgive us, Father, we know not what we do.

I am simply apologizing ahead of time for the following possibly awkward scenarios:

1.  We have been living in a country where most people can't speak English.  This has led to a sense of being able to say what we please in our native tongue, in front of people, assuming that the other has little to no understand of what we're saying.  As long as I say anything with a smile or through clenched teeth, we have been getting away with rebukes, rude questions from the kiddos that we try and gloss over, and general remarks about appearance.  Plainly: I am so so so very sorry if my kids remark about your weight, skin color or other physical features within earshot of you.  You have been warned and I am already mortified.

2.  On the issue of appearance: wherever we go, it is complete acceptable for Thai people to yell out (or talk amongst themselves) about the "Foreigner!":  If you feel racially profiled by my kids at some point of our visit, please know that it is "normal" to us and is something we've just had to deal with and understand people's hearts.  Most of the time, it is just innocent talk.  We mean the same!  After living southern Thailand, we noticed that whenever we saw the token Westerner, that we would call attention to them by saying, "Hey!  Check out that white person!"  There is so much we have had to undo.  Not all the kinks are worked out yet.  I. Am. Sorry.

3.  Thai people can pick their nose or their ears in just about anyplace or situation.  My kids have followed suit.  Feel free to be grossed out.

4.  They have no proper American table manners.  Just last night, they passed cups in front of our friends' face, yelled across the table, got up and down as they pleased, talked with their mouths full of food and had to be reminded to wait until everyone was seated before we prayed and began eating.  I blame us for all these oversights...but a child simply remaining at the table for more than two minutes at a time is a little miracle here in our second culture.  Please extend the grace as we navigate the intricate art of table manners in the States.  Or, go ahead and teach them yourself!  I have forgotten so much already!  *burp*

5.  It is common for food to be deemed common property amongst friends and strangers who think your kids are cute.  If we go to the market, my kids get free snacks almost everywhere: hot dogs on a stick, random fruits, boxes of milk, and candy, candy, candy!  Kyla is already a little moocher.  It doesn't hurt that she's darn cute and has (rare) curly hair and white skin (see #2).  Oh yeah, and she's chunky.  Somehow, being chunky creates this incredible need in others to force feed your kids all the candies and cakes they can handle.  If you meet her or my other kids and they eye you and your singular bag of Lays, just know that it is pure instinct.  They are wondering, how exactly can we split that bag 4 ways?

6.  When we all kick off our sneakers at your front door, or even as we enter a store located on a street front, you may have to remind us that most people in the States don't actually do that.  For the few years we lived in the States after returning from a year in Korea, I felt so horribly wrong for keeping my shoes on in someone's house.  Asian conditioning will do that.  Hey, does anyone actually enjoy cleaning the floors all the time because of the junk shoes bring in?  Exactly!  Your housekeeping sanity could possibly be within reach if you make everyone free their toes and show off their holey socks upon entering your home.  It is worth a try!

Grace, grace to us.  Thank you, ahead of time, for giving it out if we get to see you in the U.S. of A. soon!  I plan to record some of our best faux pas stories and will excitedly use your response as anecdotes.  Let me know if you want to request a name-change ahead of time!  :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

These Two: Tan and Ko

One of my favorite pics from Tan and Ko's wedding reception.  These two are so fun!

This past weekend, our friends, Tan and Ko, celebrated their wedding...again.  Last May, they got married in Australia where they were living, but Tan's family wanted to celebrate them with an wonderful reception in her home town.  The place was packed!  Even though the reception was a four-hour drive away, we really wanted to go and support them and rejoice with them and their family!

It has been the BIGGEST joy to get to know them lately.  We met at a local worship gathering and Tan and I chatted as the kids ran amok all around us.  She expressed sweet thanks for families like us who move away from home and everything familiar to be able to love on Thais the way Jesus does.  When we met, I had been praying and praying for Thai friends here in our new city that we could eat with, play with, pray with, go out and share with, encourage and be encouraged by them.  Tan and her husband Ko are exactly that - great friends.

We watched them this past weekend as they served others like crazy.  They booked hotel rooms, picked up out of town friends, called a million people, texted instructions, help make and serve food and take a billion pictures with reception guests - all with smiles and servant-heartedness.  They challenge me with their laid-back attitudes and with their joy.  

I wish I got better pictures of them during all the festivities, but I just got a few of the kids.  But, I stole this one from Facebook:

And now, I can't resist posting a few pictures of the nuggets.  One day I will be at their wedding receptions...what?  *tear*

Kyla kisses the "groom" bear at a photo op at the reception

Huy simply couldn't resist kissing the "bride."  

The ipad saves the day again.  Unruly kids at a reception can never resist the temptation of the ipad.  

The favors we received - these cute salt and pepper shakers!

Pucker up!

Tan and Go!  Congrats!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Same, Same, But Different: My Latest Mantra For Homeschooling

Don't naively believe all the smiley faces you see on homeschooling curriculum mags.  Hey, I believe that most of those kids actually enjoy the work they're doing...but I have yet to see a cover photo of a mom pulling out her hair while her toddler scribbles in marker on the new couch, her preschooler sticking Play Dough in his ears and the elementary-schooler is seen sword-fighting everyone in sight after reading about Caesar's demise.  That would be one awesome and realistic photo of some homeschooling days.

Lately, I have been trying to ward off utter chaos with some good ol' scheduling and creative measures.  I have yet to bring out the straight jackets, but we're making some headway.  I am actually staying with my goals of finishing each scheduled week in...a week (goodness gracious!).  There is much rejoicing!

I have started trying to do little "same, same, but different."  What would a mom living in Thailand do if she didn't utilize that phrase at least once?  (This is a common Thai slogan that is a favorite in markets and on tourist t-shirts.  With a little Internet research, I learned that this is said all over Southeast Asia.  Who knew we weren't the only ones?)  Anyway, I am trying to (not all the time) engage each kid in a similar subject/activity, but with different levels of difficulty according to age.  Basically, a glorified way of being "fair" while still being purposeful.

Confused?  Here's an example:

For math, everyone gets worksheets and flashcards, even Kyla (OK, she gets scratch paper - who's telling?).  Even though she's not yet two years old, she is thrilled to pretend to write out her numbers and looks at those fancy little picture cards along with her big brothers.  She is a willing disciple.  And, a cute one.  

Kyla and her super-thick-heavy-duty-toddler-friendly flashcards.  And, a ridiculous face.

Huy and his preschool friendly number cards. What's with the crazy smiles, kiddos?

Finally, a real smile.  It is genuine, too.  He seems to likes flashcards!  His math cards are a needed step up from Huy's.

We have been trying out this method of "same, same, but different" for several weeks now, and it is really helping to avoid scenes similar to the one I painted at the beginning of this post.  We have been doing Bible, Art, Handwriting, Math, and Reading this way and it works for now.  I am simply too distractable, myself, to try and facilitate learning two different subjects at the same time.  I am sure it would be challenging for the kids as well.  My "one-room schoolhouse" will have to stay creative to keep things running well.  And, to preserve Teacher's sanity.  

How do you keep things running smoothly at your home's learning environment?  Homeschooler or not, comments are heartily welcome. Or, if you have any ideas to suggest for me to implement, I am all ears. Comment below!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What Three Years Will Get You

The day we arrived in Bangkok.  This is the best picture I could get out of my boys.  What a flight!  

Three years and a week ago, we moved here to Thailand.  To celebrate that milestone, I thought I'd compose a small list of the things that have become the norm for us.  There are probably a hundred more I am leaving out, but for me, these are proof enough to say that we have changed.  

What Three Years (living here) Will Get You:

- Not a great tan.  Surprised?  I finally understand Thais when they put long sleeves to go out in the sun. Skin cancer, no thanks!  And it doesn't hurt that for here, being pasty white is a thing of beauty.  No one has ever told me that I look sick for being so pale.  Instead of shelves of tanning lotion at the drug store, there are hundreds of different whitening products instead. 

- A stellar knack for killing mosquitoes.  My kids have started grabbing them mid-air and squeezing them in their fists.  You gotta watch out for the full ones, though - they leave quite a mess.

- Another kid.  Had to throw that one in there.  Kyla Jubilee is the coolest girl I know:

Kyla and her ridiculous hair.  

- Freedom from climate-controlled houses.  Yeah, there are some days when we have to turn on the air cons in our bedrooms or we'll keel over, but most days we're all content with open windows and doors.  I have yet to visit a house with central heat (what is a heater?) or air conditioning. Gone are the days of living at a perfect 72 degrees.  Oh yeah, and moving to Northern Thailand has definitely sealed the deal.  Finally, real seasons!  (Not just hot, really hot or sticky hot like we had in the south).

- A stronger stomach.  Is there an ant, a worm, or a stray hair in your food?  Just pick it out!  Keep on eating and keep telling yourself that your food is still OK to eat.  There won't be a health department coming to shut down the restaurant you're at.  And, you definitely won't be getting a free meal.

- Great friends.  There's nothing like moving away from being surrounded by your 20 best friends you've had since high school and college and all your family to help you be more intentional and vulnerable with new friends here.  They see the good, the bad, the ugly, the crying, the culture-shocking, the sin, the strengths, the ups and the downs.  And, they still like you.  Mostly.  

- Not so great friends: parasites (where's the bathroom?), worms (most likely have them), and weird skin diseases from sketchy water sources.  Oh, and wonderful things like Dengue Fever, Malaria and Japanese Encephalitis (three that are common here, but thankfully we have never experienced first-hand).  

- Understanding, compassion, a less ethnocentric view of the world...I could go on and on about all the deeper-issue things we've experienced since moving here.  There, I finally got a little mushy on you.

If you know us, or have ever lived in Thailand - what would be some of the things you'd add to my list? Comment below and join the conversation!

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