Friday, November 22, 2013

Good Bye to Thailand

As I was looking through the entries in the journal I keep on my computer, I came across this entry I wrote shortly after we returned from Thailand.  For posterity, I have to include this entry, even if it repeats much of what I shared before:

Thailand July 1-11 2011

Long layover in SLC overlooking the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains, excited and weary for the long flight ahead.  Watching movies together on plane, pretty good airplane food.  Layover in Tokyo - it is surreal being in my ancestors homeland.  Another long flight to Bangkok.  So excited to see Todd's parents in the middle on the night in Thailand.  Our first view of Thailand is in the pitch black, it looks like a metropolis, not a jungle.  Their home is large and nice, our bedroom is nice and cool.  I read until 4am, can't sleep, Todd can.  We have church at 9am.  Met Noi, very nice.  We went to church and got the first real view of Thailand.   It is wet and green.  A city in the jungle.  Our glasses automatically fog up when we exit an air-conditioned building or car.  The church is in a small building where sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and Relief Society all taking place in the same room.  The families are all so cute.  We had missionaries translate for us and then members for the other meetings.  The lessons were great and the same lessons being taught back home.  I felt the spirit.  I also felt how much Janis loves the people there and how much they love her.  We got home and snacked on cheese, crackers, and delicious Thai fruit.  I needed a nap and while I napped it poured heavily.  Todd woke me up for a yummy dinner with the whole family.  I am jet lagged. 
The next morning we went to the Floating Market, the Snake Farm, and the Rose Garden.  The sun in Thailand is much closer to the Earth than in Arizona.  It is warm and humid!  We met Italian tourists at the Rose Garden and it was fun to see Todd talk with them.  We rode and fed an elephant, held and kissed a snake, and watched an elephant and Thai cultural show.  The people here seem so nice.  The snake performer - you pay with your money, we pay with our lives.  
We went to an enormous mall where we bought some souvenirs.  It is amazing how huge this mall is, Bangkok is swarming with people, cars, traffic.  We went to the beautiful Jim Thompson home.  The gardens and his home are beautiful.  The restaurant was delicious, but Noi's is just as good!  Noi showed me how to make Coconut Soup.  We went to workout at the gym, went on walks with Noi and Janis.  We got manicures and pedicures at a nice salon.  It was so relaxing, a nice treat.  Went to the Big C, like Wal-Mart, which has a food court in the bottom floor.  The street food trucks serve drinks in plastic bags, and they eat a ton of pork.  We went to Que Pasa's for "Mexican" food.  
We went up to the mountains, road trip!!  We saw wild deer and a wild monkey at the state park, although no wild elephants.  Thai girl took a picture with us, I guess Americans are a rare picture opportunity.  The country has beautiful green, rolling hills with giant, golden Buddhas sitting atop of the mountains, or fields.  It is eerie looking to me.  We went to a meeting house, which is similar in size to our seminary buildings.  We spoke to missionaries there.  Their enthusiasm is inspiring.  Janis knitted a blanket, Todd snoozed on and off.  We went to chok-tai - hamburgers.  These were delicious.  It was funny how American West it looked.  We heard there was a "haboob" back home, it made the Thai news!  
We went to the Grand Palace with Mike, it is overwhelming, so intricate and beautiful, but it is a lot of information to take in.  We went to the reclining budda, huge and again, eerie, not my favorite thing.  There was a grade school on site, and I loved seeing the students in their adorable school uniforms.  I love school!  We went on a boat across a muddy river to the Temple of the Dawn and climbed the stairs to the top.  It offered a beautiful view of Bangkok.  The weirdest thing about Bangkok, to me, is how flat it is.  We could see out forever it seemed. (It was a really long road trip to the mountains the day before).  
We went to a park in downtown Bangkok where President Hinckley dedicated Thailand for missionary service back in the 1960s.  The park was beautiful, very similar to what we have at home, except for the free exercise equipment!  It is like gyms in the middle of the park, free to the public.  There aren't heavy people here in Thailand. 
The traffic is crazy and the drivers are defensive, Janis doesn't drive here.  Being in a taxi is like an amusement park ride at times.  
We went to Ayyutia, which has ancient ruins.  It is cool to look at, but also sad, because they are in ruins due to war.  It was extremely hot this day and we stayed anyway to watch an Elephant show.  The best part happened before the show though, an elephant kissed Janis on the cheek and then grabbed her chest!  They have cute personalities, yet I can't forget that they are huge animals, some with sharp tusks, and they are roaming right next to us.  How can that be safe at all?  One tourist, Australian I think, asked Todd to video her dancing with an elephant.  She fed it bananas, soda, and kept hugging and kissing it - this massive animal.  Yet, a bee was swarming around her and she got so scared of that bee that she dropped her drink and ran away from it.  I couldn't hold back my laughter.  Sure, I wouldn't want to get stung by a bee, but being trampled by an elephant is way more scary to me!  The show was great, elephants make great dancers.  They have better rhythm than I do, that is for sure.  
After we sweated almost to death and were dirty and smelled like elephants, we left Ayyutia to go to a shopping mall.  Getting to the mall was fine, no real traffic, but finding a parking space was another story.  It seemed like there were at least 20 levels in the mall parking garage.  It was worth it though.  When we got to the mall, Mike treated us to ovaltine and a pastry.  It doesn't sound good, but it was great!  First, watching them making the ovaltine was a great show, second, it was absolutely delicious.  We came home and started packing up to get ready to go home to our kids in Arizona.  I was sad to leave, but ready to see my kids again!  We had pizza for dinner and we tried to get some sleep before leaving in the middle of the night for the airport.  
We left Thailand the way we came, in the dark.  It is a beautiful country, with even more beautiful, gracious people.  I can see why Mike and Janis love it so much.  This was a trip of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful to Todd's parents for treating us to a fabulous time.  Most of this country flooded shortly after we left and that makes me so sad.  I often wonder what beautiful sites I visited are now ruined.  

Autumn Appreciation 2011

From my journal:
 It's bizarre, I get anxious when the school year starts.  I worry about the kids, about their school work, the routine, the good-bye to lazy summer days.  Yet, these things are exactly what we need after a few  months off.  That is the wonderful, amazing thing about life.  The cycles it brings.
I took this selfie right after I got the phone call that I was an aunt again!  My brother, Gavin and his wife, Karly, have an adorable little boy, Tanner.  We were so excited!
Actually, autumn doesn't come until school has been in session for about 9 weeks, but in Arizona, we create our seasons instead of the weather!  This "autumn" started with a fun  visit from my good friend Marsha and her family.  We spent the entire last day of summer at her hotel's poolside.  It helped keep my back to school blues away!  The first and second day of school, I volunteered in the kindergarten class, with Alyssa's old kindergarten teacher.  I saw "The Help" with Marsha, which was a great movie, as good as the book it was based on!  The second day of school, we had a pizza party with Marsha's family and the NFL football season officially started.  We finished off the week with a girl's night - with Marsha and Stephanie, and another pool party. 
Harrison is in fourth grade, Alyssa in first.  They love their teachers, Mrs. Clifford and Mrs. Doutrich.  Harrison is also in ALP for math and language.  He is doing quite well, as is Alyssa.  I have enjoyed volunteering in their classrooms through art masterpiece, parties, and just helping with centers. 
Harrison has entered the exciting  world of soccer this fall.  His coach, Brother Whaley, is a great motivator.  I am happy that Harrison is having fun with it.  Harrison is continuing in Cub Scouts and is a Bear this year with Sisters Moody and Schmidt.
Harrison's Fourth Grade musical - "Arizona"
Alyssa is a Daisy Girl Scout and I am her leader along with Tamara Noel.  She loves it and we have had fun together.  This fall, we participated in the Veteran's Day Parade along Mill Avenue in Tempe.  She turned six this October!  I can't believe how grown up she is becoming.
We had a few trips this season.  Todd and I took a last minute trip to Vegas for Todd's 5 year Law School reunion.  Vegas was just how I remembered it.  We stayed in our old neighborhood and it was sentimental to see our old haunts.  Law School was a wonderful time for us.  We learned and grew a lot.  My babies grew up there!  Vegas will always have a special place in my heart.  The strip, however, does not! 
A few weeks later all four of us went to Salt Lake City for the ASU/UofU football game.  We stayed with Trevor and Whitney.  It was a fun, relaxing trip.  We had great food, enjoyed cold weather, and saw extended family too.  The best part was lying in bed with Whitney watching reality tv and totally relaxing.  It was just what I needed!  On the way back home, we stopped at Cove Fort and The Mountains Meadows Massacre site.  We drove through St. George and Vegas - again!  It was nice to get away for a few days as a family.
swinging at Liberty Park
anytime we take a picture of Harrison he loves to flash "Go Devils"
what a cute playground
with my sweet boy
with my sweet girl

climbing around

  Todd read about Mountain Meadows and wanted to pay his was very a very solemn visit.

Fall Break was fabulous.  It kicked off with the Utah trip.  After our return, we had an Apple Store field trip with Wolf Cub Scouts - of which I am still leading - and made music videos.  We enjoyed a park day, a movie day, and other relaxing days.
The cute Wolves dressed up to rock and roll!
This fall, Todd and I have been having fairly regular lunch dates on Tuesdays.  We love it.  We are boring and generally go to the same place, Rubio's.  They know us there now.  It is a great time in our life to have the freedom and ability to spend time together in the middle of the day.
Halloween was celebrated in mass abundance.  I think we had a total of 9 parties!  Overkill?  Absolutely!  The best part was Halloween night.  We set up a monster laboratory in our driveway, BBQ-ed hot dogs and had macaroni and cheese - Karly's family tradition.  We met our neighbors thanks to the "lab".  It was a missionary attempt, but we were blessed by having fun meeting the neighbors.  Karly and I took the kids trick or treating, while Gavin and Todd manned the lab.
My birthday was celebrated in mass abundance too.  It is a little embarrassing.  I am a lucky, lucky girl to have so many family and friends who want to celebrate with me.  The best birthday gift was the cooler weather that finally graced us! 
Do you want to know what else was celebrated in mass abundance this fall?  ASU football.  Todd has gone to the majority of their games, and for awhile I thought he was their good luck charm.  The luck has run out though as their winning streak has fizzled.  I won't go to a game while it is still ridiculously hot, I don't like football or the heat.  I did accompany Todd to the Homecoming Game, and enjoyed the free food and limitless supply of Diet Coke....One of the benefits of being a Sundevil Sponser! 
Thanksgiving was wonderful.  I love how we focus more on our blessings this time of year.  We have so many.  After some health problems I have had in the past, I am especially grateful for my body, my health, and the ability to exercise.  Thanks to my friend, Stephanie Pratt, I have been inspired to run again.  We started by meeting at Tempe Town Lake and walking its perimeter, 5 miles, every other Saturday.  She signed up for the turkey trot, a 10k, on Thanksgiving.  I decided to do it too.   I ran every step and felt great!  I had a runner's high all Thanksgiving Day.  I am thankful to be running again.
I am so grateful and appreciative of my life.  I have so much.  My family is my greatest joy.  Todd is a great husband and so supportive of me and my endeavors.  He loves me and loves our children and isn't afraid to show it.  Harrison is so smart, funny, and a great help to me.  He is a deep thinker and has caused me to think of things differently.  I enjoy spending time with him.  Alyssa is a diva with a heart of gold.  She is smart and thoughtful.  She is learning to read and write.  She writes copious notes in  her notebook all the time.  I always wanted a family and the family I have been blessed with is more amazing than the one I dreamed of having.  I couldn't ask for anything more.  As we move from Autumn into the Christmas season, I plan on carrying with me my thankful heart. 

My sister-in-law, Janette, and I took our kids to a pumpkin patch before Halloween.  Oh boy, it was fun, and super hot and sweaty.  I think that pumpkin patch farmers should stay open all winter.  It is just too hot to really enjoy fall festivities in October!

"Riding" horses

Cute, sweaty kids

Enjoying the petting zoo

Going on a ride

Cousin fun!

More Thailand Pictures

 The Floating Market reminded me a lot of the shops in Nogales, Mexico.  All of these little shops were lined up on the canals.  Most of the shops sold the same goods and would try to sell us their products for less than their competitors.  The whole time you are on a little boat being guided by its own captain.  When we would float by shops, the owners would stick this hook like contraption to our boat and pull us to their shop.  All transactions take place without us having to leave our boat.  It was a very unique shopping experience.

These temples  were everywhere.  

All of the boats to take people around the market

This sign says "Cobra Show Thailand".  The show's announcer let us know that these snake handlers were risking their lives performing for us.  Indeed, snake handlers at this location had been killed.  This was pretty crazy.  Janis had us sit in the front row saying that we were totally safe., not necessarily.  There were hardly any barriers between us and the snakes.  I stayed in the front row for a while, but when the jumping snakes came out, I high tailed it to the last row!

See Todd and Janis and the snakes not too far away?

The snake garden also hosted crocodiles!  My mother-in-law has sat on one before.  I need to find that picture!

The Rose Garden was very beautiful and a lot more peaceful than the snake garden!

Riding the elephant was fun, but slow.  We got to feed this guy when we were done with our ride.  Elephants are pretty sweet for being a two ton beast!

I went to the restroom and came back to see Todd holding a python!  I was roped into holding him too!  I kept on telling myself that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and do things I wouldn't ordinarily do.  So, snake holding and kissing happened!

These elephants were performers.  These little babies were so cute.  They were very friendly.

This is Thai fruit cut up to look like flowers.  So beautiful.

Enjoying some ice cream and hoping it will cool us down.

Todd thought this stray cat looked picture worthy.  The song from "Lady and The Tramp" was playing in my head....."We are Siamese if you please".....Thailand used to be Siam.

Grinding rice

Rice paddies

Thai Ox


Elephant show....this is where Todd met the Italians.  Every trip we go on Todd comes across Italians and gets to use his rusty Italian language skills.  We have got to go to Italy some day!!

The Thai Cultural Show.  This show portrayed Thailand's beautiful history.  It was very interesting!

These beautiful dancers pulled me onto the floor.  I am pretty shy and introverted, but going with my trip's mantra, I went for it and tried not to be too awkward!

Our view from our bedroom.  This day we went into downtown Bangkok to the Jim Thompson house.  He was a textile designer and architect.  His home was gorgeous.  His story is interesting.  He was in Thailand working and then just vanished.  

We went to The Big C - it is like Wal-Mart and they had a food court, which of course featured a McDonalds!  The McDonalds over there does not offer Big Macs and such, they serve Thai food, fast.


The Capitol City, with Todd's Dad.

That is the Temple of The Dawn above.  Todd and I climbed to the top.

These worshipers looked so hopeful and beautiful to me.  Shame on me, I took a picture of them as they were praying.

The "sleeping Buddha" enormous.

These school kids were too adorable.

I was really excited to see Monks.  I shamefully took a picture on the sly.

The Temple of the Dawn

Small view of Bangkok from the top of the temple

There's Todd'd dad down there.

More views of Bangkok

We ate lunch on the side of this river.  It was pretty good.

This park is in the middle of the city.

We went out to dinner and the owner keeps these exotic birds outside the restaurant.

Noi and Janis

People use elephants as transportation there!

The mission office

We went on a day trip up into the mountains with Todd's parents so they could do some mission business.  This was a church building up there.

Todd's parents took us to this cute restaurant that was "American Cowboy".  They served great
 burgers, fries, and shakes.

We went on another day trip to an ancient city.  They had an elephant show there too.

Ancient Ruins

Todd and I loved traveling to Thailand to visit his parents.  We were so happy to come home though!  That was the longest we had ever been away from our kids.  This trip did spark an interest in traveling more and we have been traveling more since then.