Monday, September 24, 2012

Redeeming Our Imaginations

Today is my "personal day".

Don't have one?

You should get one!

Treavor is graciously watching the three little nuggets today as I get extra sleep, extra time with Jesus, extra en-visioned and extraordinarily enjoyable time to myself.  Wow.  For an extreme extrovert (love the "ex-" words?  sheesh...) like me, I never KNEW that I'd need more time alone during the day.  You more secure introverts are shrugging your shoulders right now.  What's the big deal?  Right?

With the addition of children over the years, and the emotional pressures of living in a foreign country, I am finding that sometimes I just need just 5 minutes to myself every now and then.  Just to walk.  Just to read.  Just to dream.  Alone.  By myself.  With no noise.  And no one to have to be "responsible for" for just a few precious moments. 

Throughout my days, I am finding it more and more difficult to remember my first Love, too.  Jesus.  He is with me.  He is my ever-present Help.  He is my Father.  He is my Teacher.  He is my Strength!  These are truths - but they are easily forgotten when my mind is over-run, over-spent with other thoughts.

And, for me, with running a house, homeschooling, learning, cleaning, LIVING, it is too easy for me to lose sight of Him.

This morning as I prayed to be re-fueled yet again, He led me to remember a fun activity to waken up my senses to His presence in my every-day... 

A fun, sweet and very wise gal, Dorothy, once taught a group of women about it: using our imaginations to enter into the Presence of God...and to ultimately be ushered into the reality that He is Emmanuel (God WITH us!). 

How to Awaken your Imagination to the Presence of God: (the Cliff's notes, according to Alina's memory version)

1.  Get in a quiet, undisturbed place.
2.  Pray that God would free up your cluttered mind to hear His Voice only.  Pray that the enemies of our minds; the flesh, the world and the devil - would be silenced.
3.  Close your eyes.
4.  Picture yourself in a free, beautiful, undisturbed place.  (A field ripe with flowers, a mountain-top, an ocean, even a beautifully decorated mansion - whatever you like!)
5.  Now, imagine yourself in that place.  With Jesus. 
6.  Then, let the Holy Spirit lead you through a day, or hour, etc. with Him.  Keep your eyes closed and fix your mind's eye on what He looks like, what He sounds like, what you would do together.  Some people dance!   Some people just want to sit and cry.  Some people will talk and dream together.  Some will sit still and quiet.  It is YOUR own time with Him.

Today, I actually imagined Him with me in a "typical" day at the house.  Kids, husband and all.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Diaper changing!  He held my hand as we walked down the stairs to start the coffee pot.  He led me through a sweet time of worshipping the Father.  He helped me to bend down and get eye-to-eye with my kids.  He walked with me and the family as we went to order our lunch - teaching me how to share His love with the waitresses and neighbors on my street.  He was with me as I chose to be diligent with my hands and do yet-unfinished projects in my home. 

He was with me.  He was smiling. 

After finishing my sweet time of prayer...He reminded me that this doesn't have to be just a daydream. 
If I truly believe that He is never far, that He hears my every thought and plea for help, that He says that He is "enough," then my dreams can be redeemed and they can fuel my reality.  This isn't a "think it and it will be" sort of idea.  It is a renewing of our minds that His Spirit is literally with us and is HELPING us - wanting to talk with us - never wanting us to feel ALONE in life! 

That was God's original intent: to walk with us, as He did with the first man and woman.  They forsook this intimacy for their own gain, and they lost it all.

I want it back!  Do you?

Try it out today.  Get in a quiet place.  Quiet your mind.  Awaken your heart to His Presence!

{{{ this is a repost...hope you enjoyed it for the first time or read it to be encouraged again }}}

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dating By Motorbike

2012 Specifications Honda Shadow Phantom
Treavor's dream bike: the Honda Phantom.  This is not what we ride!

There is nothing more fun, nowadays, than driving off into the night on Treavor's motorbike.  Usually, that kind of thrill only happens once a month or so.  Three years ago, every week on our date night, we would hop on the motorbike and ride away to have coffee, go to a movie, or induce memories of middle school by playing video games at the arcade together.  We weren't together in middle school, but you get the idea...

Moving twice and adding another child changes habits and the hunt to find babysitters every week can be rough.  Most date nights, we just stay at home and hope the kids will leave us alone after bedtime so we can have a real, uninterrupted conversation!  

With being at home most of the time with three truly precious, and sometimes difficult children; homeschooling, disciplining, potty-training, feeding, etc...most of the time all I want to do for our date night is ride off and go somewhere we've never gone before because most of my life is more. and. more. of. the. same.  

Last night, some friends offered to watch the kids for us while we went on a date.  Uh, yes!  

Treavor took me to have coffee (salted caramel, you are my new culinary love!) and dessert.  Afterwards,  he asked if there was anything else I wanted to do while we were out.  I just wanted to drive off into the proverbial sunset and not constantly check our watches.  When you ride on the motorbike here in Thailand, you begin to notice temperature changes in the atmosphere related to where you are in the city.  Near the city center, it is the same hot and sticky "normal" that it is most days here.  But, as you travel to the outskirts of the city, whipping past slow moving cars and bicycles...and eventually getting more into the gets cooler.  Bearable.  Easier to breathe.  

So, we drove around near the mountains and took a "short cut" down a road we've never been down before.  Treavor's gas gauge threatened to leave us stranded on the side of the road, but my husband was sure we'd make it back to civilization before it would leave us high and dry.  He was right.  

The further down the road we got, the less the lights bombarded us on the road.  The air became sweeter, full of smells of jasmine leaves and magnolia blooms.  The pavement eventually turned to mud and we decided to turn around.  Instead of turning again onto the main, well-traveled road, we took another unfamiliar turn and decided to follow it wherever it went!  We ended up driving for over an hour and seeing a huge part of our city and countryside that we have never enjoyed before.  The night air was romantic and it was gas money very well spent.  

Ditching the car for the motorbike makes me feel younger.  It makes me feel like we haven't been married for an eternity, or, at least, that I don't feel like I am actually turning 30 next year.  For some reason, dating by motorbike makes me feel young and adventurous.  I recommend it!

We're needing some new date night ideas other than the cliche dinner and a movie.  Have any ideas to share?  Comment below!  I can sense the sparks flying already...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wild Week Day Three: Wildlife, Up Close and Personal

Elephants just might be number one on our list of favorite wildlife of Thailand.  You can read my post about them here.

Welcome to Wild Week Day Three: Wildlife, Up Close and Personal!  If you missed Day One or Day Two, click here and here to read those posts.  I blogged about food here in Thailand and there is probably something on the menu that would make you look twice!

But, today, we will take a look at the wildlife of Thailand.  I've never seen a tiger walk down my neighborhood street, or a Burmese python crawl into my kitchen...but we've had plenty of run-ins with the wild fauna of Thailand.  

Amphibians and Reptiles: 

We've killed cobras in our back (and front!) yard...I say we because I actually did help Treavor one time by holding (with a long pole!) a cobra captive up against a rock while he stabbed it with another sharp stick.  As it vainly struck at the air before it succumbed to death, I had this thought go through my head..."I cannot believe this is happening!"  You would too; especially if you're the type to (ahem) shriek at a cockroach in the bathroom.  Yes, it is true.  Cobra killers can be afraid of cockroaches, too.  I am just glad he wasn't in my bathroom.  I think we would have to move!

The cobra I helped to kill...(a little over 1 meter long)...

The cobra that Treavor killed all by himself!  This one was 1.5 meters long!  It put up quite a fight...

But we got the last laugh...or, maybe he did.  Anyway - we didn't have to worry about him crawling around the front lawn anymore!  

Last month at the Night Safari we got cozy with a native to our region: an albino Burmese python.

Want to read about more snake encounters while living here?  Read this post about the blind snake and this post about the one Jeshurun almost bit into.  Also, this website: is one of the best I have found for identifying everything that slithers around here.  If you're interested, click the link above! 

Other than snakes, we see salamanders, Tokay geckos, house geckos, and forest lizards daily...

Took this picture of a forest lizard three years ago while on vacation.  Last year, we caught a few and kept them as pets!

In our last home in the South, we had a few Tokay geckos living with us.  They are huge (can grow over a foot long) and since dangerous centipedes and scorpions are a part of their diets, I almost didn't mind them hanging around.  Once, I opened the kitchen door to find one searching for dinner, and several times, we saw them poking around the carport or making a racket in the ceiling.  One day while eating lunch, we heard what sounded like two cats duking it out in the ceiling above us.  Treavor opened the ceiling tile to have a closer look and found one Tokay exercising his territorial rights on another Tokay gecko.  After he killed him, he started to have him for dinner.  At least he cleaned up after his own mess...

(Pardon the grainy photo!)  This Tokay gecko was hanging around our vacation spot a few years ago.  This was the first Tokay we ever saw.  Funny enough, his nightly call is so common to us now that it was Kyla's first animal sound!

There are tons of other amphibians and reptiles here worth mentioning, but I am trying to keep these posts as "real-life" friendly as possible; "real-life" as in, things we didn't go searching for in our ordinary lives...but still happened upon us in a wild way.  One of the most common animals we have run into here are toads and frogs.  Our boys would capture them and play/observe/near-terrorize them almost every day when we lived in Krabi province in the South.  In our current suburban-y type neighborhood, Jeshurun misses seeing frogs around as often as we did before in the jungle.  I will never forget this cute tree frog that was hanging on my laundry one day:

Tree frogs are the cutest!

If you are interested in reading my post about the monitor lizard for my neighbor's dinner, click here!


Why do I have less pictures of mammals in my photo collection?  Beats me!  I think because I have a couple of crazy boys, I tend to get more interested in what they are; primarily, critters.  In a tireless search for mammals, I only came up with a few...some elephant pictures (like the one at the very top) and these below:

Run feeding the monkeys (three years ago!) in Southern Thailand

Near our first home, there was a coastal town that had a mountain that monkeys would congregate to.  The city even built a "play area" just for the monkeys to enjoy.  Local vendors set up shop with snacks for tourists and for the monkeys (for a fee!)...and we stopped there often to feed the monkeys and watch them play.  

The monkeys were so used to getting a free handout of popcorn, peanuts and fruit, that they would tug on our pants, like this guy, asking for more.  Hilarious.

Cows are often seen dozing on the side of the road or in a field.  Most of the time, they are tied up to a pole that let's them only go so far (and be far enough away from oncoming traffic!).

I (almost) wish I have seen a tiger here that wasn't behind bars.  I recently read an article about how the number of wild tigers here is close to almost nothing (200-250 tigers in the wild, 1,300 raised in zoos or other care facilities).  Tigers are just so beautiful and intriguing.  But, as you would imagine, I am thankful to not have to look over my shoulder every time we walk past a rice field or take a hike out into the forest.  It would give new meaning to the phrase, "speak softly and carry a big stick."

Although there aren't many tigers running wild, this temple in Western Thailand takes care of tigers and is basically a tourist destination as well.  I don't know if I am brave enough to walk around with full-grown tigers...even if they are "tame."  What about you? 


I posted once here about some of the critters my sons like to play with (or, at least observe from a close distance)!  Along with those I mentioned (dragonflies, weevils, beetles, ants, spiders, etc.), we have had some fun times with creepy-crawlies.  Once, we caught a praying mantis the size of Jeshurun's forearm!  We fed it bug after bug, and each time it struck its prey, it felt like we were watching National Geographic!  Millipedes constantly find their way in our homes, and ants are almost everywhere to be found.  I even had to put my bottle of Tums in the ant-safe food cupboard because they were trying to eat the whole bottle!  Maybe they had a bad case of heartburn?

We find snails this big (and bigger!) in our yard every day.  I throw them in the street when the kids aren't looking.  They eat my plants!  

A pretty caterpillar we found one day on a walk...

Lyssa Zampa moth - the size of my hand!

Another pretty moth that hung out on my plants one day.

Just this week, Run captured this metallic wood boring beetle to observe.  Thai artisans use their iridescent wings to make jewelry and decorate all sorts of art.  Beautiful!

There's simply too many wild things living here in Thailand to devote a whole post to all of them.  To experience some more, why don't you just come for a visit?

What's the wildest thing you've seen out in the wild lately?  (Even if your "wild" space is just your backyard.)  Please, give me some great stories to share with my kids!  What is normal to you might not be normal to them...feel free to share in the comments below: 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wild Week Day Two: "Eating Out" In Thailand

A row of roasted duck and chunks of pork and chicken ready to be served!

Welcome to Wild Week Day Two:  "Eating out!"  If you missed reading Day One about my trip to the market to survey some wildly-awesome and wildly-odd things, click here to read that post!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, don't expect this to be an exhaustive list of everything awesome or different you can find in a regular Thai restaurant.  I just grabbed by camera and snapped some shots when we went out to eat a few nights ago after meeting with our church.  But, this should give you a quick peek into the every-day of restaurant goers here in our country.  You could, basically, split the options in two vague groups of rice or noodles.  Yes, there are soups and vegetable sides...but everything is either served with sticky rice, yellow rice, Jasmine rice, etc...or rice noodles, egg noodles, etc.  You get the idea!  But, what about meat?  Well, here, why chop off the head or skin when you save time and cook it all together!?  

Roasted Duck (head)...they almost look sad!

A very basic dish - chicken (skin on) over rice.  A spicy sauce and curled blood cake (left) is on the side.  

Here's what Treavor had for dinner.  It is basically the same thing as above, but with fried chicken instead (and, a chicken broth soup up top).  No animal heads to be found here!  Too bad we didn't get the duck.  Or...maybe I'm OK with that!

Fermented, salty fish head.  Not the most appetizing thing to put over my rice...but I hear it is a common dish!

If heads aren't your thing...or you just want some curry or vegetables...there is almost always a set-up like this on every block in town:

Platters of prepared foods to go over rice are displayed in the front of this restaurant.  You can either order it to go or choose it to be poured over a plate of rice for just a dollar.

Eggs are a staple here just like everywhere else in the world.  These scrambled Thai omelette's look awesome!

This is another really common soup dish.  You choose the kind of meat (raw) or meat balls (everything from fish to beef to pork to mystery meat!)...then the cook dips it into a boiling broth with a mesh ladle...adds noodles and veggies...and you have a delicious, quick, made-to-order soup.

Then, you add any of the above (peanuts, dried chili's, sugar, fish sauce with peppers, you name it!) and the taste is how you want it. 

I ordered something similar...egg noodles with veggies, broth, sliced red pork and won tons.  It was on my table in less than a minute!  
This is on just about every table in Thailand and in just about every dish there is.  There is no escaping the fish sauce!
If you are thirsty, the wildest thing about drinks in Thailand is that they are so so cheap.  There aren't shrimp shakes or anything crazy like that...but there is Thai iced tea, coffee, thick and creamy...and if you can put it in the blender...just about any fruit shake you like.

Everything you see listed is unbelievably cheap - 10 baht is 33 cents, 15 baht is 50 cents and 30 baht is a dollar.   A fifty cent iced coffee with dinner? Don't mind if I do!

Variety is the spice of life!

Thai drinks would be lacking without this surprising ingredient...sweetened condensed milk!  It is a staple for iced tea, coffees and even some fruit drinks are enhanced with it.  I bet you'll never look at Carnation the same if you sample drinks made with this.
Need a quick bite because you can't sit at a restaurant?  Meat on a stick!  This is one of the thousands of street carts that make and sell food right on the sidewalk or the side of the street.  No health codes here!  :)

...or, seafood meat on a stick!

Yep...that is a raw squid that you see!  It is only 66 cents...but I think I'll pass...

The seafood grill...right on the side of this portable street cart/mini-restaurant.

I have to end this post with dessert (getting picture-heavy already...right?  your Internet browser probably hates me right now!).  Here is one popular option that I passed on the way home:

Rotee, or roti, is most every foreigner's friend and enemy.  Friend?  Because it is awesome!  Enemy?  Because your waistline will soon expand with your addiction.  Moderation is recommended.

First, the cook pulls out a lump of dough (like crepe dough) and she spreads it thin on her metal prep area.

Then, she flips it around like a roti artist.  I have tried this technique is hard to pick up!
Next, she puts the dough on a heated, oiled surface, tops it with my desired filling (I chose egg and banana)...

...and as it cooks, folds it into a neat little pocket of goodness.

It cooks for a minute or two and browns the outside.  So hungry!

She chops it up like a super-roti ninja...

Last, she tops it with an obscene amount of sweetened condensed milk (see?  i told you!  secret ingredient!)...

...and she adds chocolate sauce because I asked "pretty please."  All of that for $1.20!  That was more than I paid for noodles that night.  It was worth it.

I haven't even mentioned other Thai restaurant (and home-cooked) staples...Coconut Chicken Soup, Pad Thai, Chicken with Thai Basil, and the obvious, Fried Rice!  Click on those dish names for links to recipes/pictures of those or go here for a page of several different famous dishes.  

The kids are hungry for dinner and I think I have given you enough already to make you call your nearest Thai take-out - so, thanks for reading and experiencing more of the wild territory of Thai living (or, should I say, eating?).

See you tomorrow for Day Three of Wild Week!

After reading the last two posts, what is the most appetizing or unappetizing thing you've seen so far?  Share in the comments below:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wild Week Day One: To Market To Market To Buy A Fat Pig (Head)

For those of you viewing on your, that isn't rotini pasta - those are worm larvae for sale!

Welcome to Wild Week!  It is day one of introducing you to some of the wilder things about living here in Thailand.  Don't be expecting an exhaustive list of everything wild here.  Hey, I am a stay-at-home mom who doesn't get paid to expect a view of real-life rather than a travel guide to all of the Land of Smiles.

What's more real-life than a trip to my local market?  ( might either want to punch me in the face for rubbing it in about the perks we get here - OR your stomach might turn instead at the more...interesting options we have available)  

The fresh/prepared/cooked food side of the market

A salad bar in the market?  Why, sure!  But, I think I'll pass up the barley, taro, and candied fruits as toppings.  I bought my dinner here last night...

Lettuce leaves, tomatoes, carrots, apple slices and pumpkin...all for 80 cents!

This lady sells Som Tam, papaya salad...a family favorite (as long as it isn't too spicy)!

She uses a mortar and pestle to mix up the shredded papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, dried shrimp, shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and other seasonings.  Awesome!

Steam buns (with black bean, cream, meat and other types of fillings)!

Here's where you might punch me in the face...Thailand grows some of the most delicious fruit on the planet!  Recognize any of this?  Mangoes, apples, grapes...and, what else?

Some fruits (in the front row) you might not recognize...mangosteen (my absolute favorite fruit to eat here), dragon fruit, and rambutan.

Rambutan gets my vote for the oddest looking fruit.  But, our family loves it!  You should look for it at the Asian market in your town.

The mango sticky rice I bought last night - you top it with a sweet, coconut sauce and eat till you're fat.  Amazing!  This cost me a dollar!

Here, almost on every street and definitely at every market, you can find fresh cut fruit in convenient to-go bags for cheap!  These are about 60 cents.  Seriously?  Don't mind if I do!

If you can grill it, you can sell it.  Here are whole fish, banana leaf-wrapped fish, entrails (from what?), and bar-b-q'ed pork on a stick!

All sorts of snacks for sale...popcorn, cakes, cookies, chips - you name it!

Because the market is open-air, all sorts of flying bugs are attracted to the food - so people rig plastic bags onto fans swirling above the food and save their energy from swatting away food-spoilers.  Genius!

One of our favorite dishes, steamed fish with a sour lime, chili and garlic sauce.  Seriously awesome!  

Vegetables here are cheap and plentiful.

These are conveniently-wrapped packs of cilantro and chive onions selling for about 16 cents.

Fish, anyone?

All the curry and chili sauces you need to make anything Thai - sold in bulk.

Another family fav - fried fish with garlic.  The kids are currently having a fish-eye eating contest.  No surprise; Jeshurun is winning.  I actually tried fish-tail the other night and it wasn't too bad.  You don't waste anything here!  ;)

Tables and tables full of pork rinds.  The pig on the sticker looks unbelievably happy to become a snack food.

Onto the raw meat section...a pregnant, apron-clad woman was cutting up slices of cow as I entered.  Yum.

Various entrails.

Pig head or leg, anyone?

Fermented vegetables!  Surprisingly really awesome-tasting with curry.  

The infamous Durian fruit.  This fruit is so smelly (almost like something rotten), that it is not allowed to be consumed in some hotels and malls (because it would offend other customers)?  I have had it once, and that is enough for me!  Some say it is an acquired taste. 

I finished my market tour by purchasing half a rotisserie chicken for dinner last night.  A whole one costs just over 3 dollars, and they are delicious.  This place also sells fried chicken, chicken nuggets and other meat-on-a-stick.  

That's it for today!  I hope your eyes have feasted on some of the wonderful (and some, arguably, not so wonderful) wild things for sale at the market here in Thailand.  To each his own, right?

Tomorrow - I will post part two of wild (but ordinary for here!) food here in the restaurants and street vendors of Thailand.

(If you have a strong stomach and want to brave even wilder market foods, check out this article about an episode of Bizarre Foods from rural northeastern Thailand.  Just don't read it right before a meal - you'll thank me!)
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