Monday, December 16, 2013

Survey/Christmas Giveaway Winner Announced!

You really should check out the goods at The Open Arms Shop


Last week, I opened a Christmas Giveaway here on the blog.  Saturday at noon, Central Time, the giveaway and the survey involved officially closed.  THANK YOU for stopping by and for giving me your thoughts about this blog and answering some questions about yourself.  This information is truly gold for me as I look to the next year of blogging and plan to write about things that you are actually interested in rather than things I just happen to be excited about.  

Hey, I can get excited over bugs, write lame poetry and take an obscene amount of pictures...but maybe you're not looking for that...or maybe you are?!  Time will tell as I write and share more in the coming year.  Your opinion and your thoughts matter to me.  Thanks, friends!

If you skimmed over that last paragraph to just know who won...then wait no longer...

The winner of the Christmas Giveaway is...


CARRIE!  

Carrie, please shoot me an email at ordinaryalina@gmail.com to let me know whether you would like to receive a scarf (red or white) or a kilo of some awesome coffee from Hillkoff.  Also, let me know the type of roast you prefer.  Are you a dark roast kinda girl or someone who likes keeping life and her coffee a little lighter?  I will never know...unless you tell me.  THANKS!

As for the rest of you who come to read...there will be more opportunities to win goodies that I will most undoubtedly offer.  Who doesn't like a giveaway?  Stuff for free?  I'm game.  

But, of course, until then...I will be living life here in Thailand and telling you all about it and about the people and places we live around.  Keep dropping by!


Blessings!
Alina

ps, if you are still interested in taking my survey (a whopping FIVE questions)...let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. I would really appreciate it!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

GIVEAWAY - Just In Time For Christmas! - A Survey


Who doesn't like a GIVEAWAY?

This week here at Ordinary Life in the Wild, I am hosting a giveaway just in time for Christmas.  If you have read for years now, or are visiting for the first time, you are welcome to join in the fun!  By fun, I mean a bribe of sorts...

In order to get a better idea of what my readers (that would be you) enjoy whenever they visit here, I created a poll!  And, while most of you are busy with your...well, busy lives...I thought I would give you a little incentive to fill out the survey form and enlighten me a little bit in the process.  

Of course, you can always fill out this survey to bless me with no strings attached...but it would be more fun to win one of these instead:

A handmade scarf made from recycled t-shirts...by refugees living in Austin, TX. And, in pretty holiday colors...(click here to read more about the makers at Open Arms)




Or, a kilo of coffee from these people at Hillkoff coffee in Thailand (our every-day choice to fill our mugs!!):





So, what do you have to do to enter for a chance to win one of these awesome gifts?  Fill out the form below (please be truthful and please please enter at least your first name so I know who to gift once this is over!)...by noon on December 14th (this Saturday!).  Thank you SO MUCH for helping me become a better blogger and giving me an opportunity to bless you, my readers, in the process! (If you are having trouble with the survey through my site, click here for direct access on PollDaddy).


Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Young Family's Search for a Meaningful Holiday Overseas

Who let these crazies out of the house like that?


It's that season again.

No, not the rainy season or the hot season or the cold (OK, mildly cool) season here in Thailand...the holiday season.

For us, after the rains stop drip dropping (mostly), there come cooler days and a vague resemblance of Fall.  I wake up in the morning, chilly, donning fuzzy socks and dreaming of hot coffee to warm me up.  My husband, from Illinois, would disagree with the degree that I deem this "chilly" morning/evening weather, but then he used to walk out in the snow with a t-shirt.  Hard core, I get it.  I am not.

But with the weather changing, and despite the fact that snow is something that only happens here along with pigs flying, our minds shift to the holidays; American holidays.

Suddenly, without skipping a beat, the annual Thanksgiving Day banquet is planned. My culinary contribution is usually not much, as my close friends here have that area covered much better than myself.  And, then, like in the States, the day right after Christmas brings thoughts of ornaments and cookies and carols and Elf.  You can't have Christmas lately without Elf, right?


Last year's Thanksgiving celebration at the S-clan's house

But, without being surrounded by the American culture and influence of the holidays, our little family is left to decide for itself about how to celebrate this season.  And, lemme tell ya, I am happy to be left out of Black Friday, fruitcake and the Chipmunks singing "O Holy Night" on repeat.

On the other hand, so much of what we feel during this season is all that we see and hear around us (in the States).  Neighborhoods are lit up, carols fill the air as we shop for milk, and Santa is suddenly everywhere we see in ads and decorations.

But, what do you do when we live here? In Asia. In a Buddhist nation.

With every year that passes, we realize that the holiday culture we will be experiencing is the one we create ourselves. Instead of letting extended family and TV commercials and Target toy ads determine what enjoy in this season, WE are the determining factor.

Here is what we have been doing over the past few years to make our overseas Christmas feel just right for US:




:: Food, lots and lots of glorious food.  When the temperature drops (or, at least when November hits)...out comes the pumpkins, cinnamon sticks, sugar cookies and comfort food. Over the past four years, our best experience yet in this area has been in the current city we live in.  For a price, you can get just about any ingredient to make what you need (mostly, but you still have to make from scratch).  One Christmas morning, we had breakfast tacos with handmade flour tortillas...just because when you live overseas, any special food makes it a special day...even if you don't necessarily equate breakfast tacos with Christmas!

:: Music.  Before the days of iTunes radio (we can't really get Pandora here)...this came in the form of our own albums, the borrowing of others, and YouTube Christmas play lists.  Just hearing the classics throughout our home makes us a little nostalgic, AND realize that most of the songs are so foreign to our kids.


This year, Mrs. Tawni came over to help us overload the tree with ornaments and Mr. Mike came to oversee the eating of cookies.  He had to make sure they were fit for eating, I guess.

Huy called dibs to put on the star.  He was beyond thrilled!

:: Decor, of course.  Now, I am not the craftiest or best home decorator (just ask my family)...but the only "seasonal" decor I have is at least Christmas stuff.  A few days ago, we pulled out the table-top Christmas tree, the box of ornaments we have been collecting since we married almost a decade ago, our two nativity scenes that some dear friends sent from the States, and some lights (that blink incessantly so as to make me want to lose my mind!).  For the last few years, some friends have come over to deck the tree and have a hot drink together.  Loads of fun!

:: Focus on giving, not getting.  Though we do buy a few things for our children and for each other to open on Dec. 25th, we don't have wish lists, or pretend to be Santa's middle-men.  It is so exciting to get new things given to you in this season (hey, I LOVE gifts! we aren't pretending to be non-materialistic!)...but we have tried to steer our minds towards what we can give instead.  I used to be plagued by buying meaningless or pricey junk for others in a veiled attempt to be generous...but instead of that, we try to pray about whom to give to each year and how to do it.  Some years we give World Vision gifts or items to support the eradication of human trafficking and poverty.  We visit a local orphanage on Christmas Day (for a few years now), bring some things along to bless them, and play with the children there.  Perspective can be a great teacher.  

:: Celebrating Advent/Jesse Tree. For the last three years we have been counting down December days by reading various prophetic passages leading up to the birth of Jesus.  All throughout the Bible, there are shadows and hopes of the Messiah's coming.  It has been so wonderful to draw all these stories together for us and for our kids as we prepare to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.  I used to use Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional...but this year she is highlighting this study instead of her original one.  Also, YouVersion's Bible app has Advent reading plans to follow.  I am reading She Read's Truth's version and our family is going through the Countdown to Christmas reading plan.  

So, these are just a few ways we expats are trying to make the holidays something special to us.

What are some ways that you make your Thanksgiving/Christmas season meaningful? Expat or not, I would love to hear your traditions and ideas...feel free to comment below.

Blessings,
Alina



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Fly

The very plane that brought us to Thailand almost 4.5 years ago.

This imperfect post below is a result of taking a blind leap of exercising my writing skills through Five Minute Fridays. Hundreds of other bloggers around the globe take just five minutes every week (ok...maybe I am not that consistent!  but...working up to it) to write for only five minutes on a one-word prompt that Lisa Baker gives at her site.  Interested?  Click here to get the details.

_____________________________________________________

Fly...

I get two kinds of mental pictures when I hear the word, "fly."

Picture one:

Soaring...freedom...puffy white clouds and an endless sky.  Maybe even Superman makes an appearance in this mental picture.

Picture two: 

In order to reach my family and friends who live across an ocean or two, I have to fly.  I have to spend a zillion dollars and plan for months and FLY to be able to see them, reach them.

One picture elicits incredible freedom and exhilaration and aaaahhhhh...a sigh of relief.

The second represents a barrier of time and space and a wall between locations on this big and wide planet.

They represent wanting to fly towards space and be away from people for moments upon moments...and in my more homesick and people-sick moments...flying represents my need and craving for the people I miss.

Fly...

STOP

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tying Strings With Tickle Fights

Kyla, my smiling beauty, mid-tickle-fight.


Lately, I have been trying to perfect my ability to tickle-fight.

If you have kids, or just even an annoying or immature co-worker, then you understand that sometimes leading people can wreck your good attitude.

Even though I have four little blessings, sometimes amid whining and making lunch and messes and dirty diapers and noise, I sometimes forget that they are in fact little blessings instead of little terrors.  Can't relate? I know I am not alone.

So, in an attempt to war against the bad attitude (mine) that is just waiting to creep out from under my peaceful exterior, I have tried to make my kids' smiles come out instead.

I read once in To Train Up a Child about "Tying Strings (click for a short video)."  The basic idea is to tie "strings" of fellowship, joy, smiles, laughter, great memories and great love, with your kids (or anyone else, really).  You can do this by creating experiences and emotions that draw your heart and your child's heart together; as if they were tied to each other.  Because we all know that there are times when the strings we tie are then cut apart.  

Strings are cut with angry words, a roll of the eyes, too many "no's", sarcasm, and not enough time to look them in the eyes and engage with them.

I can list all of the above so easily not because I just see it in others, but because I see it in myself.  So, I can choose to re-tie the strings I have cut with smiles, loving touches, turning off my iPad and making eye-contact, listening to the rambling stories and about a million things more.  I am sure you can think of a few to add to the list.

And, every day, I have committed to tie more strings than I cut.  To keep them close.  To keep their heart connected with mine.  When they grow up, what is going to keep them from breaking free just as soon as they're able? ...The strings that I tie today.
  
So, bring on the tickle fights.  They are an instant attitude-breaker and a joy-bringer.  Try it!  Or, tie some different strings of your own (and share some of your ideas in the comments below).

Blessings,
Alina



Saturday, November 9, 2013

10 Easy Steps For How to Draw Attention to Yourself in Thailand

These tips have come from my own (embarrassing) personal experience, and from watching other foreigner's personal experiences as they live in and visit Thailand. 

If you ever find yourself hopping a plane over here to our neck of the woods, you'll thank me, or not, for sharing these tips with you: 


10 Easy Steps For How to Draw Attention to Yourself in Thailand 



1. Be really, really loud. A lot. In public places. Especially when in a conversation with someone else.


2. Have white skin. Works every time. This is especially effective if paired with blond hair and blue eyes. Mercy on your soul if you have all three. You might have just become the most popular person in the room. Ever. 


3. Show a lot of skin. Sleeveless shirts and shorty-shorts are a must to accomplish this attention-getter. 

4. Have lots and lots of babies. Any number higher than two will shock others regularly and cause them to think you run a preschool in your own home. 

5. Forget to use a straw when drinking out of a bottle or can. Hey, didn't you ever read the article about the bacteria on the tops of those containers? Drink from a straw and live. (And you simultaneously avoid awkward dribbles of Fanta over your chin. It just makes sense.) 

6. Pick your teeth in public. Don't discretely cover you mouth, either. You lose points for that. 

7. Wear your shoes inside. 

8. Spit, loudly and with great distance. 

9. Hug your spouse/significant other in public. Better yet, a smack on the lips will really turn everyone's heads. 

And lastly... 

10. Whatever you do, don't smile. Keep those smiles to yourself. Everyone will be very sweet and concerned for your welfare. They will tell you to just forget ("mai ben rai") your troubles and cheer up. But, if you sincerely don't want the masses confused by your permanent frown, then cure your melancholy nature and just take a look around you. You are in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and it's people's own smiles are too contagious to resist. I dare you, just try.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Truth



Truth

No more hiding.

Ever since I chose to walk in truth instead of keep everyone in the dark, everything under wraps…I have no more reason to hide.

Sure, I might disappoint someone, but at least I am walking without chains.

Because, you see, keeping lies and fibs and half-truths creates chains that seem unable to be broken. Another un-truth leads to another which leads to another. I was tired of the cycle.

Whenever I found out that He will continue to love me, continue to be faithful, continue to not turn away His gaze…I could finally get real with Him, myself and with everyone else. Instead of walking in darkness, I chose the brighter path, though narrow.

Yes, there are consequences. I don’t have to seem to be as shiny and as orderly and as perfect as I wanted everyone else to see me as. I am just me. Broken. Needy. Ignorant. Desperate. Dumb, even, sometimes. I need someone to show me the way instead of me thinking that I already knew it.

He lead me into all Truth. Jesus. And now, you can, too.


STOP

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I didn't even want to post this because it isn't perfect. There are incomplete thoughts and so much more that I could have written. But, when I considered the whole nature of trying to walk in the truth of my imperfection and the whole vision behind Five Minute Fridays, I had to post it anyways.  

This year, I have committed to myself to be more genuine whenever I write here at Ordinary Life in the Wild.  Thanks for giving me a chance to get real.

Blessings,
Alina


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Back to the Blogosphere

This beautiful girl was a good excuse for taking a break from blogging.  Charis Tirzah, you are worth it!
photo credit: Katie Friesen photography


Let's face it.  It has been awhile.
  
Since I becoming pregnant with our fourth precious child, Charis, my blogging almost screeched to a complete halt.  Hey, halts are good sometimes.  Seasons change, like Ecclesiastes 3 proclaims, and slowing down is pretty natural.  Besides, a woman's got to nap when she's making a human being.  For me, nap time was usually blog time.  You understand.

Now that the lovely Charis is here, I feel like the fog in my brain has lifted and I can think clearly again.  Though, my "clearly" is relative.  If you know me well, I am pretty spacey as it is.  

But, where my blogging online quieted, the blogging in my brain got louder.

You see, there is another voice that seems not be quieted.  Call it another personality...my creative side...whatever.  I have tried to turn it off for months, but I can't!

When I would visit a new place, discover new wildlife here, laugh at some ridiculous thing my children did, or discover a fun new thing in our home-school day...I would dream up the way I would blog that experience back to you.  I have had an inner dialogue with my Blogger page and although I wasn't typing it into the computer, I was imagining how I would share it with the world if I simply had time and the mental space to do it.  There are countless things that I could have shared in these past months, but I chose to say "yes" to others things that were rightly vying for my attention.

After much prayer, I am convinced, though...I simply have to blog.  In this season of life, it is a way for me to share with all of you about all the things that happen in our lives that get lost in a Facebook feed or drown in the ocean of an email inbox.  Even if I don't get the same amount of reads that I did before this year's hiatus, I can at least hit "post" and offer up that blogging voice to whomever has the time and interest and space to read about the ordinary things that make up a big part of our every day.

Thank you for reading and for sticking with me.  

Blessings, 
Alina


Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

I stumbled across an opportunity that has captured the attention of hundreds of other bloggers every Friday.  It is called Five Minute Friday.  Basically, it is a chance to write for just five minutes, with a certain writing prompt in mind.  It is a chance to just create and think without paying too much attention to making it look pretty (i.e.: no editing, back-tracking or second-guessing allowed!).  Sometimes all I have is five minutes to write, anyway, so the idea seems to be right up my alley.  Want to read more about how it all got started?  Click here to go to lisajobaker.com to get the skinny.

And, if you want to join in, you still have time left (it'll be Friday in the States for at least another 19 hours or so!)  Click here for the writing prompt...

Present...



GO

I would like to say that I am always here.

Always engaged.

Always ready; with divine wisdom and discernment poised in the arsenal of my mind.

But, sometimes...I'm not.

Sometimes, like you, I blip out.  I zone out.  I day-dream out...of my situation...of the conversation.

I wonder what it was really like to be the Savior.  Can you imagine what his inner dialogue was?  Did HE ever daydream?  Did he ever zone out of the conversation and star off into space.  I can't imagine so...

His dialogue with the Father was ever-so consistent, ready "in season and out."  Oh, how I long to have that kind of focus.  I have never seen myself as ADD, but sometimes feel that way. God has brought me down a long road of learning how to be engaged...to stop preparing my next statement, question, or rebuttal (while the person I am supposed to be communicating with is just trying to get their own thoughts across their mouths, out of their heads and into the air).  Can you imagine?  To not always be thinking of how to answer...but being there just...listening?

Listening to Him.

Listening for His reply.  Only His.

That is what present is.

STOP

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Visa Run: AKA, paying our quarterly dues to the powers that be...


The river separating Burma and Thailand, my view from the walking bridge on the last visa run.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Every three months, we make a run for it out of Thailand.  Well, a visa "run" to be more precise.  For reasons I still don't understand, every quarter of the year we have to leave the country to get our passport stamped.  When I post on Facebook, "headed to Burma today," I am usually not sight-seeing or on some humanitarian excursion...I just going for the stamp, people.
 
I happened to have my camera in my purse a few days ago when we had to take another run for the border...so you can have a glimpse into what we see on our four-a-year trips:
 
Coming up on the border!  That big blue building ahead is where the Thai immigration offices are.
 
So, from the city we live in, we travel about three hours to the Thai/Burma border.  Since the kids don't have to cross the border like Treav and I do, we take turns.  We will take them shopping or out to lunch or just sit in the car with them.
 
The point of no return.

 
Inside the immigration office.  I had no idea that Burma...er, Myanmar...was a half hour behind!
 
After passing through immigration and getting my stamp out of Thailand, you walk over a bridge that separates the two countries.
 
On my way out, I caught this cutie playing while her momma was begging on the side of the bridge.
 
A bystander on the Burma side down by the river.
 
Like most places, even the bridge had food carts with all sorts of fried ware.
 
Here are all sorts of vegetables fried in batter and oil.  I passed on this...
 
Welcome to Myanmar...almost!
 

Outside Immigration...and no, that's not be in the yellow shirt.  I don't really need a photo op with Immigration officers to complete my life here on earth.

 First, before I was "officially" stamped into Burma, I entered a small room where the Myanmar Immigration officers take my picture, ask me for the $16 fee and then ask me where I am going.  I, actually, have never been further than this point right here.  Lots of people cross to visit the cheap markets on the other side...but the kids and hubbie are waiting for me...so shopping will have to wait for another day.  So, I answer them that I am just headed right back to Thailand, so the formalities cease and I am free to go.
 
On my way back to Thailand...and this is my lovely view on the walk back...
 
Even with as dirty as this water is...I have seen people swimming and crossing it without a care.  Saves the $16 fee, I guess! 
 
The cutie I saw before, and her momma, begging on the other side of the bridge...though the tourists across the fence didn't seem to notice her.  I didn't have even a coin in my pocket, so a smile and a prayer was going to have to do for today.
 
Of course, there's a photo op here at "The Northern Most (Part) of Thailand"
 
One of the many signs I see on my way back into Thailand.
 
This one highlighting human trafficking.  Mercy, Lord.  This picture represents the reality of thousands in Thailand each year. 
 
No, I didn't change my name to Sorn...this is one of the examples I could look at while filling out my arrival card for re-entering Thailand.
 
These two Burmese woman tried to offer me a sample of their fruit wine...until they saw the bump on my belly.  Yeah...don't think it would be the wisest food sampling right now for my "condition."
 
On my way back to the car, with Treavor in the car with our three lovely munchkins, the endless markets were kind of calling my name.  But, I decided to be a good wifey and pass them by.  If you look closely, the market on this side street goes on and on up the street.  There is everything from nuts, silver and gold jewelry, souvenirs out the wazoo, to Angry Birds games, cheap (and pirated) DVDs and CDs, etc.  On every street for blocks, there is cheap stuff to buy.  This is one reason why people frequent the border towns.  Everybody loves a good deal.
 
The endless markets of this border town.
 
The "Misty Mountains," as we called them.
 
On our way out of town, we prayed again for the nation we reside in, and asked God to bless this land.  The view of the mountains outside our car windows was break-taking.  A cloudy day had turned them into an eerily beautiful backdrop for the endless fields and roadside restaurants we were zooming by. 
 
In another three months, we'll view these mountains again.  Going four times a year is a small price to pay for getting to live here, getting to love on Thai people and getting to receive so much more in return.
 
Thankful.
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Richy Rich Land: I wish I were making this up


Treavor and I were mall-hopping the other day while on a date.  On the way to boarding the escalators, I walked by this lovely display advertising a housing development on our side of town...

 
I had seen this display before, but had my camera handy this time.  The first few times I walked by it, I did a double-take at the name...really?  Richy Rich Land?  I still laugh out loud when I see it. 

Our city has every level of style and standard of living.  While some of you may still think that all Thais live in incredibly rural abodes, there really is a precedent for everything here.  I have visited friends in one-room shanties and others living in high-end homes with private ponds and multiple possessions busting out of every available storage place.

The home we live in is comfortable and in a gated-community...so I am not writing this to point fingers at foreigners OR Thais who live in pretty places.

I think it is mainly the name of this living community that gets me every time.  It is unashamedly ostentatious and gives me a good laugh when I see it.


If this is a "real-life" model of a house in the Richy Rich Land community, then I think I would invest in black-out curtains if I wanted to get any sleep at night!
 
Every Richy Rich Land house comes fully equipped with a Benz.  Or, at least, they look extra good-looking in the carport.

You never know what you're gonna see here. 

Thanks for stopping by to take a look at an ordinary day here in a very extraordinary land.

Alina

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Moth Emerges!



He emerges!

 
Let's just call this post "December in June" instead...because this epic (in the mind's of my boys!) event happened last December, people.  Last year.  Call me a procrastinator, if you please.  I have already come to terms with that label.  Its OK.

If you remember this guy...



...then you might actually care that he started to transform (click the link for pics)...and then died a terrible death.  His chrysalis was eaten mercilessly by ants and we were all so sad. 

But, his cousin (we assume) left another chrysalis in the back yard and we eagerly scooped him up and adopted him into our little family.  This time, no ants came and we kept him safe in an orange crate just in case he decided to skip town in the middle of the night without us viewing his departure.

So...

Our caterpillar...er...moth...on the day of hatching.  Safe in the orange crate.


...it was fun to find his cousin waiting for us one day last December after he emerged into a new world.  No longer a weird-looking alien caterpillar...but a beautiful, breathtaking, hairy green Hawk Eye moth.  (And you wonder if I have embraced the world of Mom of Boys with my loving description of this guy.  Yes, it is just as fun for me!)

Two happy boys!

The Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar's wings were still a bit wet (and couldn't be used for flying just yet), so the boys were able to take off the lid and observe him for a little bit before they found a shady tree to set him on.  They kept oohing and aahing at his color, how fuzzy he was, and they were commenting on his "fake eyes" on the back of his wings.  After reading enough Usborne science books and bug manuals in our home school, they knew these "eyes" were for scaring away predators hungry for a moth snack. 

See his fake "eyes" right above his head?

The Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar's chrysalis

Getting to hold this guy, without him flying off, was the highlight of their week!


Thanks for letting me give you a peek into the every-day, ordinary things that happen in our house.  Maybe, soon, I can get to sharing things that aren't six months old.  Maybe

Have a great week!

Alina

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...