Latest Goings On

We are still in Thailand.  I am about done with living out of a suitcase!

Cameron left us late Wednesday night (the 19th), so the girls and I have been hanging out waiting for the big homeschool conference to start.

It started yesterday with a bang at the beautiful resort pool.

That pool bang created a weird, very pink infection in the eye of my sweet Ellie.

So, this morning, I put some drops in her eye and sent her to class.

For testing.

Awful, I know.

But, you see, one of the main purposes of this meeting is to have all the kids tested so that we, as teacher mamas, can know where we need to step up our game.  They test the first two days and play the last two.  Not bad.

But, at lunch, after the testing, Ellie complained that her eye hurt and laid her head on the table.  That’s when I knew the red eye meant a little more than too much chlorine.

It isn’t pink eye.  But, we don’t know what it is, so we are hanging in our room for the afternoon in hopes that it will clear up on its own.

I mean, after all, we are in another country from the man we love most, in order to assure the education of the girls is top notch.  So, join with me in asking that Father lay His healing hand on Ellie’s eye, so we can get back to learning how to be better at this thing called homeschooling!

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Galloping in the Sand

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On our first day at the beach, the girls spied these gorgeous animals just waiting to be mounted and galloped across the white sand and blue waves.  They patiently waited until the timing was right, then off on an adventure they went!

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Faith rode on Fancy, Gracie had a horse that, despite numerous attempts, we could never understand its name, and Ellie rode Snow White.  The girls got to control the horses (ponies) on their own, but when I asked Ellie about it, she said she tried to make the horse go one way and it didn’t work.  So, she tried to make it go the other way, but it still didn’t work.  I’m not real sure how much control they actually had, but sometimes the illusion of control is all we need.

It was a picturesque, dream-like afternoon (half hour) of riding through the water to the sand bar, trotting on the beach, and giggling together with the best friends they will ever find.

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Swensons

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I mentioned Swensons in a previous post then realized that most people won’t know what that is, so I thought I’d share a little glimpse of its goodness.

For those of us chocolate ice cream deprived people, any place that serves good ice cream reminiscent of Braums becomes a fast favorite!

Cam, obviously, is displaying his personality is fine form…wonder where Ellie gets it.  Huh.

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Lest you think…

Cam and I were talking, thinking, pondering about what you all must think of the adventures we have had in Thailand.  How by all appearances we are living it up and throwing money and budget to the wind.

I want to give you some truth about this country so you know that what has been entrusted to us has not been squandered away on horseback riding, massages, and ice cream.

Thailand has things that are incredibly cheap.  They also have things that we just look at because the cost is so exorbitant.  You can argue for cheaper prices and walk away if you still find they are too much.  Examples of prices:

Horseback Riding on the beach, 30 mins:  $11

Massages, 1 hour:  $8

Fried Rice:  $2.50

Pad Thai:  $3

Soda:  $0.45

Ice cream at Swensens:  $4

DQ Blizzards:  $1

Tubing on the beach, all three girls:  $16.50

Auntie Anne’s pretzel and lemonade:  $2

Krispy Kreme, dozen:  $8

Doctors visits:  FREE

Taxi rides:  $1-3 depending on far we go

Starbucks:  $4 grande

We have eaten breakfast and lunch in most days (cereal and sandwiches) to save money so that we can eat out in the evenings.  The grocery stores here are FABULOUS!  They carry more American favorites than China does.  Thai people love sugar, so we can find things like Double Stuf Oreos and Fruit Loops for the Thai prices instead of import prices.  Food has a pretty big range of price, depending on the type of food.  American chains, such as Outback and Tony Romos, were twice the price as USA.  We didn’t eat there…

Because we are here due to our visa, our lodging is provided for us.  We had to pay a little extra to stay at the beach, but we were given a very generous gift for Christmas (thank you Cory and Shawna!) that allowed us the opportunity to use the time as vacation time and have a few treats.  Grandparents have also given the girls their own spending money to have a little fun with while they are here.

I know this seems like such an odd thing to write about, but I also know that it is easy for people to think that life here is easy and posh.  I want to assure you that it isn’t.  We are not overpaid to sit on the beach.  We cannot normally afford to buy whatever our hearts desire.  You are not giving in order to fund our vacations.  We have still been doing some work (in the form of emails and logistical things).  We have taken the time to reflect on His provision and blessings and realigned our hearts with the work He has for us back home.  We know we are living a life unimaginable to most, and by all appearances it seems to be the best kind of adventure!  While it is fun and extraordinary, it is still life.  Full of all the ups and downs and longings and joys that you yourselves experience.  We would love to show you first hand…so, come visit!!  🙂

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Starfish Adventure.

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Yesterday, we had the opportunity to go visit the very first friends we made in China.  The friends that rented our apartment for us and made sure we could survive.  The ones that held our hands when language learning was getting the best of us and encouraged us that we can do this!  The ones that made such a difference in the hearts of my girls.

Priceless friends.

They are here in Thailand for vacation and stay about 45 minutes from where we are staying.  So, Cam rented a car with his international license, and the adventure began…on the right side of the car and the left side of the road.  I kept thinking we were driving head on into traffic…my arms were clenched and my feet pressed into the floor.  I wanted to scream at Cam to “Get on the right side of the road!!!“.  He only forgot once that the right side of the road was not for driving on…

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The beach out there was full of starfish.  FULL.  These are the first starfish any of our family has ever seen, caught, felt.  The girls were giggling and running and digging.  It was such a peaceful night, packed with wonder at His creations…both animals and friendships that endure.
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Taste of Hua Hin (mostly)

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While we were in Bangkok (before the beach), we found a fun bowling alley in a local mall.  I love the black lights in the middle of the day.  I also loved how clean this place was!

Our family will never hold bowling records.  Ever.  Ellie kept breaking out in dance moves (see middle picture).  She was way more interested in the lights and music.  Gracie holds the title for the longest gutter ball streak.  Faith dug the “granny throw”.  And I somehow always end up with one sore butt cheek and arm the next day from my awkward stance.

We may not be graceful, but we sure had FUN!

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The beach.  Ahhhh.

I know we live on a beach, but it is different here somehow.  Cam and I had heavenly massages on the beach while our girls played in the surf.  Don’t worry.  We had eyes on them the entire time (even the people rubbing us were watching them).  It may rank as one of my top ten moments.  And I plan to repeat it later this week.

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The girls really wanted to ride this tube.  Because, well, “remember that one time we rode the tube with Colby and Caleb (their cousins)?”…of course I remember.  And we miss them.  And if this makes us feel close to our family, then by all means, let’s throw caution to the wind!

My worry, however, must have been evident in my voice, because this nice older British woman stopped and asked me if I was worried.  Ha!  “Are those your three most precious possessions?”, she asked.  She stuck around and watched them, then wished me a happy and safe reunion before leaving with her husband.

Sweet lady.  I love friendly people!

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We finally, after a week, got to ride on a tuk-tuk.  The girls had been begging!

And do you see that?  BATH & BODY WORKS!!  In Thailand (Bangkok)!!  I saw the sign and about flipped out.  I was squealing.  The girls were squealing.  Cam had no choice but to take us.  But we were in for a rude awakening as prices were as much as triple USA prices (Those soaps are on sale 2 for $15).  We at least got to smell the wonderfulness though, and that was so, so, so worth it.

My girls.  I love to watch them interact.  They were waiting on me and Cam to finish our lunch and found a mirror to play in.  They were having a race to see who could get their sunglasses flipped onto their face the fastest.  They giggled and encouraged and praised one another.  And my heart just about exploded.  They aren’t just sisters.

They are best friends.

I pray it will always be so.

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Food.

I could just stop there.  We love it.

The girls got sodas in glass bottles, and apparently, you can’t take the glass bottle with you. So the lady poured their drinks into a plastic baggy and stuck a straw in it.  Whatever works.

Coffee.  I love it.  I go to bed so I can wake up and drink it.  I drink water so I can reward myself with coffee.  Our condo has no coffee pot.  It is the worst kind of torture.  And Starbucks isn’t conveniently located.

What is a girl to do?!

I dug through my backpack and my Bible bag and found about 10 packs of instant latte mixes, from Starbucks VIA to Nescafe brand.  Not bad with a side of pool and Jesus in the mornings!

And that coconut you see?  My new favorite thing.  It is fresh, young coconut ice cream.  It is the perfect mix of sweet and fresh and yummy.  And the shell it is served in just bumps it from great to awesome!

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My girls can be super girly, but when faced with frogs or crabs, they turn into catching machines!  That have used water bottles, glass bottles, and even the lenses of goggles to catch these little crawly creatures.  There is never screaming, only pure focus.  Now, them walking across the sand where the crabs are burrowing and scurrying is another story entirely…

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We are having a great, relaxing time here.  We have walked for miles, tested out food (found some winners and one MAJOR fail that reappeared in the middle of the night…), explored the mall.  We have had Survivor-a-thons, feasted on Double Stuf Oreos and Schweppes Manao.  Some have slept late, some have gotten up early and enjoyed the breezy balcony.  We have laughed and giggled and have truly enjoyed being together.

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Taste of Bangkok

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On the drive from Bangkok to the beach, we passed a parade of all these beautifully decorated horses.  The people were loud and happy, playing music as they traveled.  We asked the driver what the party was about…

He told us it was for the new monks.

SCREEEECH! went the happy dance I was feeling.  Heartbreak took its place.   JESUS is the answer here, y’all.

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We took a detour to the floating market on our way to Hua Hin (the beach resort town we are in).

What a neat experience!

We stopped at a coconut sugar farm and saw how they make coconut sugar (they burn/boil coconuts).  We got to try fresh coconut sugar water.  It was so gross.  Ha!  I dumped it behind a tree 😉

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The water was brown but didn’t smell, thankfully.

The women all wore these fun straw hats, but I am sure it was for protection not fashion…although I think they rocked them!

The little fish were in massive quantities!  The girls got to feed them bread and watch them go berserk.  It was insane, and a little scary, I must admit…the excitement and squealing caused the boat to rock precariously more than once.

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We didn’t get many good pictures of the shopping because Cam was enamored with the boats, and he had the camera.  They were pretty awesome boats though…

He tried to sneak a picture of this old woman and her puffy cheeks, but she was onto him and threw him the peace out sign.  Ha!

The picture on the far right is a tiny, tiny, glimpse of the shopping.  Our boat would pull up to the side of the shop and we could buy whatever we wanted.  Honestly, it was incredibly overwhelming because they were peddling HARD.  They were putting stuff in your face and if you inquired about a price, it went into overtime.  I kept telling myself, “avert your eyes.  Do. Not. make eye contact.”  We didn’t buy anything.  Nothing.  We don’t qualify as the good tourists.

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Our boat driver stopped and cut all of us ladies flower from one of the bushes along the river.  Sweet guy.

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Efficiency

Healthcare efficiency.  It truly isn’t just a thing in our imaginations!

I love healthcare in America, don’t get me wrong.  I feel safe and cared for and rarely the need to question diagnosis or treatment.  The same can’t be said in China.  In fact, I do my best to avoid the doctor there.  Just so no freaks out, we do have access to American doctors in a nearby city if needed.

Now, in Bangkok, healthcare reaches a new high.

Y’all.

I got online and made some appointments for our family before we left China.  I made

  • dentist checkups and cleanings for all five of us
  • vision exams for us girls
  • pediatrician exam for Faith
  • Skin doctor exam for Gracie and myself
  • lady doctor for myself

ALL for the same day.

We started at 8 am on Tuesday, and had everything done by 7pm (including a 2 hour wait for bloodwork to return).  It was an incredibly long day, I won’t gloss over that, but it is done!

The hospital is super organized and FAST.  There are multiple Starbucks on site, a bakery, a McDonalds, and a local food court.  Wifi is free and waiting rooms are plush and clean.  A pharmacy is attached to each specialty, so while you pay, they prepare all your prescriptions for pickup.

I had heard people rave about how great this hospital, Bumrungrad International, is, but I just always kind of dismissed it thinking “it is still a hospital!”  I have now become one that raves.

And in case you are curious, we are all healthy.  We did have to have 2 cavities filled, but they did it right after the cleaning, with no wait.  Gracie and I still have to wear glasses, and Faith still has acid reflux (she now has some medicine to help ease that pain).  Gracie’s beauty marks are just that, beautiful.  Nothing to worry about.  And my uncontrollable emotional outbursts will hopefully be a thing to laugh about (not that we don’t already) once all the vitamins I needed are doing their thing.

*Bragging moment*

Our girls were fantastic!  We left the house before 7am and returned at 7:45 pm,  The girls didn’t complain, argue, or whine.  In fact, they played and giggled together all day.  I love my girls without condition, but their attitudes really swelled my heart up.  I feel like the luckiest woman ever to get to be their Mama.

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It’s not true!

As we walked down the street yesterday morning to our destination, we encountered an act of worship that left me both stunned and brokenhearted.  A woman crossed the road in front of us, heading for a monk robed in bright orange cloth.  When she reached him, she removed her shoes and stepped in front of him.  She spooned rice into the covered dish he held in his hands, placed a bag of fresh food on his plate, then bowed lowed to the ground with her hands pressed together.  I watched as a young man dressed in normal clothing took the offerings and stored them in a large bag he was holding for the monk.

We passed on by, but the image in my head wouldn’t go away.  I began to pray that they would see Him.  That they would encounter Jesus in a life altering way that left them no choice but to abandon all the false worship they were practicing.  Emotion clogged my throat as the realization hit me that this was normal for them.  That this is all they know.

It proved to be more normal than I had imagined in the next few moments.

As we neared the end of the street, I noticed another woman bowing low to the ground, praying.  There were a few women standing near her, but she was alone in the middle of the sidewalk worshipping something.  My curiosity got the best of me, and I looked over my shoulder after we passed, only to see that same monk walking toward the women, following the steps we had just walked. The other women began to prepare themselves to offer him sacrifice and worship.

Again with the vice grip on my heart.

We walked over the sky bridge to get across the busy intersection, and I noticed below me even more women praying.  They were holding bags of food in their hands and had their shoes off in readiness.  There was a table set up nearby that they had stored their purses so they could be focused on their worship.  We were just steps ahead on the path of the monk.  I wanted to turn and scream,

IT’S NOT TRUE!!

I am filled with so many questions.  How had it come to this?  What reward were they seeking, and how was their worship beneficial to anyone other than the monk who got a load of free food?  Why would they stand and wait for this mere mortal dressed in garish orange when the True God was already right beside them just waiting for them to acknowledge Him?  It hurts to think that the reason they participate in these rituals is because they don’t know any better.  They have no idea that Jesus died for them.  That removing their shoes for a man doesn’t mean he is holy…that the only holy ground is the ground Christ Jesus is on.  That Jesus doesn’t require food sacrifices, that He simply wants our belief and love.

Oh how I wish for an easy, all compassing way to spread His Truth through this land.  That the idols and altars set up in front of every place of business in Thailand would be torn down.  That we could make a difference somehow in the month we are here.

Use me Lord Jesus, use me.

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Sweet Taste

As I write this, we are in Bangkok, Thailand on a visa trip.  That means, for those of you who don’t know, that we have to reapply for a new visa to stay in China.  We can’t do that IN China, so we have to leave the country for the process.  It takes up to two weeks, and we get to hang out here exploring a new city.

We traveled all day yesterday, and finally arrived around dinner time last night.  I had a horrible migraine (pray for these please…travel always seems to bring them), so after finding my medicine, I took a short nap, then we ventured out.  We found an incredible Lebanese restaurant that had us all moaning in satisfaction!  We ate shawarma chicken and beef, naan, pita, hummus, curry spring rolls, and a Lebanese salad.  Then, we topped it off with Baklava!  Seriously.  We will be going back.

As Gracie and I walked to the bathroom,

*sidenote:  Bathrooms in Thailand are such a treat compared to the ones in China!  No squatties…no pee on the floor…they smell good…have toilet paper…and SOAP!!

Anyway, back to what I was saying.  We were talking about how privileged we feel to live this life.  Sometimes the days are rocky, with tears and hurting hearts, but we always know that we are being obedient to His calling.  Then, other days, we just feel so lucky to be experiencing the world in such a big way.

This morning, as I read my Bible in the quiet of the house (my phone didn’t get the memo that Thailand is earlier than China, so I got up way too early!), He led me to Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!

I couldn’t help but to feel His goodness today.  He is good EVERYDAY, but the days that I rest in Him, allowing His peace to fill all the crevices of my heart, are the days that I am filled with thanksgiving and a sweet, sweet taste in my mouth.

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