Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reveling in Friendship

Lovely, lovely days here with our dear friends Pierre and Sharon. Yesterday, we headed out to the island of Koh Kret, a little treasure so close to our house. Idyllic is the only word to describe the bicycling we did around the tiny island, and it rates as the most peaceful bike ride I've ever taken. Food stalls and fields of green all around. On a slightly humorous note, this is the same place we visited when my mom was here in October, but we left from a different pier. Our rented boat cost us 50 dollars, and the ride was about 30 minutes to get there. This time, we went to the correct pier, the cost was 7 cents!, and the ride was 2 minutes. Live and learn.

We also caught up with more old friends from Ecuador days who also teach here. Sojo spent most of the after-dinner time playing with everyone's toes under the table. Off to Koh Samui for 5 days tomorrow morning. Dale's mom and niece will join us there on January 1. Yippee!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hanging with the Locals

One of the downsides to living in a 'planned community' (yes, I know, even the word is a bit freaky, but our neighborhood is called such) is that we don't often get to interact authentically with local Thais. But lucky for us, we got to hang with the locals the other day when all the workers and maids at our apartment complex had a holiday party on the grounds. Our nanny, Momo, asked us to come, and we wound up being the only farangs (what Thais refer to as foreigners) there. It brought me back to my Ecuador days, another country that has the same magic as Thailand for me. Loud music, tons of food I'd never seen before, and a great celebration. I'll let the pictures tell a bit about it.

A very cool dish that is basically a pop of flavors in your mouth. You take one of each-- peanut, slice of raw ginger, red onion, shalloty thing (?), and a dried shrimp. Stick them all in your mouth and chew. It's pretty yummy, as long as your dried shrimp is a small one. It was recommended to me to skip the hot chile, and I heeded the recommendation.This lady just killed me. She kept bringing me plates of food I didn't recognize and insisted I eat it. She reminded me of my grandma Moury so much, which I know sounds bizarre due to her being Thai, but I hardly notice when someone has Asian features anymore. There was some spark in her that I remember seeing in my grandmother. I also love that she insisted I take this picture of the potluck buffet. She is also in the midst of some hip-shaking dance move. Happy people partying. Momo is the second from the left in the back row, next to the woman who reminded me of grandma. Many of these ladies are women we hang out with on the playground after school everyday with Sojo. They are so kind, and I really loved seeing them in a different setting with their hair down, so to speak. A real treat. Sojo had a great time as well, mostly playing chase with her baba on the playground, but she loves Thai food and will eat most anything. Gotta love that!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Pink Christmas

the traditional "coming down the stairs or hallway" photo from my childhoodWhile it seems that the majority of the U.S. is having a white Christmas, ours was pretty mellow and contained a lot of pink. The only thing Sojo asked for from Santa was a pink watch, and my parents arranged for Santa to send one from Arizona on his behalf(wink, wink). Only problem was her package didn't arrive until the 23rd, so we panicked and bought our own pink watch that we stumbled upon in Chinatown the other day. Two pink watches won't hurt.

Missing the joy of extended family today as we are so far away, but it was a sweet little Christmas for the three of us. She seemed to enjoy the few gifts she received: a new monkey shirt to replace the too-small favorite one, some wooden farm animals (oh, how I wish I never bought anything plastic and got all wood to being with!), and a few odds and ends, most of which had Hello Kitty! somewhere on them.

Sojo made a beeline for the Santa cookies.

Sporting the new monkey shirt and the 2 pink watches
and perhaps the new tradition in our household, the Christmas breakfast of tom kha gai.
Happy holidays to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Early Christmas Gift

I love all the music in our house, and Dale has mentioned more than once that if Sojo picked up the keyboard or the drums, we could have a rockin' family band. Yea, I don't think he's kidding either.
Hence the early Christmas gift of shakers and a mini dinosaur harmonica all for her. To say the harmonica was a hit is putting it lightly. The 'monica' is the instrument of choice first thing every morning. I am now entertained by both Dale and Sojo, although I must say Dale is a lot more skilled than Sojo at this point. A lot more skilled.

Loving the new breakfast find downtown, enough to sneak down again the other morning for some crepes and coffee and some serious lounging. Delightful.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vaca Time

Settling into a lovely three week vacation here.

A pile of books checked out from the library, a yummy breakfast discovery downtown dripping with tropical grooviness, and a whole lot of nothing on our plates for the next week. Then it's off to the island of Koh Samui on New Year's Eve with friends Pierre and Sharon coming from Turkey and Dale's mom and niece coming from the U.S.Basically what Dale and I envision retirement to be like, with lots of guitar thrown in for Dale.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Show

Yesterday was complete joy watching Sojo at her performance. And, as usual, she cracked us up with her free spirit ways. Dale made a great video of the show, but we are having some technical difficulties loading onto Blogger, so we went to YouTube. Poor quality, but you still get the idea of how much fun it was. The love from the teachers was so evident in every space of the preschool. We are so glad she is a part of the goodness there.

After the show, I realized we didn't have a change of clothes for Sojo since she came in costume, and the school asked for the costumes back before we left. Reason #800 why the tropics are great--just shed those clothes and head home on the bike in a diaper. Of course, eating a favorite Chinese steamed bun along the way makes the ride even sweeter.
And now for our feature presentation...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Mind of Her Own

Sojo's preschool class is having a holiday concert on Friday, and the kids are supposed to wear a costume for it. We first heard of the costume, and Sojo's aversion to said costume, via email when it was mentioned to us that Sojo is, and I quote, "not digging the costume, but no worries. She can just wear white that day."

So we did some parenting stuff like mention how cool costumes are, point out how Winnie the Pooh wears a costume and he loves it, wouldn't it be great for Sojo to wear a costume. Sojo's answer every time we mentioned the dreaded costume was, "Sojo no like wear costume. Too small." Had me wondering what the costume was all about, and maybe it was too small. Perhaps an easy fix to a bigger size?

Cut to the next week when the preschool newsletter arrived, and I see a picture of two kids wearing the costume. It's easy to see it's not small at all; in fact, it's a baggy white costume. Hmmm...try again with the "wow, look at all your friends smiling and wearing their costumes for the show. Wouldn't that be fun for Sojo?" Same response--"Sojo no like wear costume. Too small." It is probably worth mentioning that the newsletter had a sentence about what to wear if your child refuses to wear the costume. Yup, that would be for our girl.

Cut to today...the principal of the preschool pops into the library to say hi and mention that they decided to send home the costume with Sojo today to see if maybe wearing it at home will get her more used to it. She told me not to stress if she won't wear it, which we are not. It's more comical than anything, and I'm sure my mom is getting a kick out of yet another karmic payback for me in the parenting department. But I do have this vision of her having to wear the only white she owns at the moment: highwater, too-tight pants and a shirt that is not only riddled with stains but is so small her belly hangs out.
When I got home this afternoon, I oohed and aahed about the costume, especially the super cool bells sewn on (I personally LOVE clothes that jingle, even as a grownup). Forever surprising us, she put it right on and was in love with herself wearing the costume for a long time this afternoon. Lots of admiring herself in the mirror, some spinning dance moves to get the jingles going and overall costume love.

Now let's hope she feels the same costume mojo on Friday for the big performance. I do have a Tide stain stick just in case she changes her mind.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This stage of learning to pretend is so magical, and I love that she calls it 'tending. And there is lots and lots of 'tending going on. Take tonight, for example. Our after dinner routine of late includes shedding extra clothing, eating a small candy cane and listening to Christmas music while dancing around. Things got even wilder than usual in our house (ha!) when Sojo donned her fancy shoes and tiger hat to head off on a pretend adventure around the dining room table--she informed us she was going to see snow of all things. And what do you know? It was right there behind the chair the whole time. So, of course I taught her how to make really huge fake snowballs for us to throw at Baba on the couch. Oh, we got him good! Please also notice the new fashion accessory: the "Spirit of 1776" armbands that she is sporting. These are the new 'special bandaids' we are putting on her wrists to prevent scratching. It's just gauze and tape, but for some reason, it's working like a charm. She says, "can't open it...special bandaid" and they managed to stay on long enough today to let some wrist healing begin. Yeah for cheesy arm protection and kids who fall for it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Full Circle

A little over ten years ago, Dale and I met in the Miami airport, both teachers heading to work at an international school in Valencia, Venezuela. Venezuela was a land of eternal sunshine, beaches, cold beer and hammocks. Many a nap was taken in those days on a huge hammock Dale had in his living room, and I often think that the world might be a more peaceful place if we all spent more time in hammocks. It's hard not to feel good and relaxed and full of perspective in a hammock. We put one up today in our "yard"- from the photo, it looks like we are fully in the jungle but there is a path right next to the hammock. As both Dale and I took a few minutes each to chill with a book and a beer, a bunch of kids were running by with water guns and asking if we saw so-and-so and yelling and screaming and doing all that good stuff kids do. I guess it's the parenting version of a hammock. Feels very full circle to be back in the tropics with sunshine, Dale and a hammock.

And this one. Someone decided she really wanted to try to pee in the cup for the doctor. I was almost peeing myself watching her try. Nope, nothing came out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Everyone Gets a Shot

Sojo was due for one more shot, so we headed back down to the hospital this morning for a quick visit with Dr. Somyod. Happily, Sojo digs him and is open to his prodding. We also decided to ask about the testing for the melanine that was found to be used during the time Sojo was in her orphanage (grrrrr!!!). Our job is to take a urine sample and have it checked, which, even though she is completely asymptomatic, is fine with us. Only problem now is finding a way to get a urine sample from a kid who isn't into the potty at all. That being said, when we explained what we had to do in the taxi, she was ready to give it a try right then and there.The best part of the doctor (besides hearing Sojo say, "shot in the butt, please") was coming home and watching Sojo pretend to be Dr. Somyod for a while. Every single stuffed animal took turns getting a shot in the butt as well as a prick test on the finger and a listen to the heartbeat. ezcema update: it's yucky right now, the doctor says she might just simply have it no matter what, and we are due to start another elimination diet next week to see if we can isolate some of the factors causing havoc.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Family Reading Time, Take Two

It's amazing what just a few months will do in the stillness of a child. Family reading time is a little slice of heaven for me: sun streaming in, Sojo's tiny voice reading all the parts she knows, my man right there reading his songwriting book, and me trying hard to concentrate on my own book when I all want to do is bask in my sweet family.

Playing around with a cool program called Picnik.Easy-to-use and fun to add things to photos.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tiger on the Loose

No worries, grandparents! No tiger sightings to add to the now weekly elephant visit to our neighborhood...

but Sojo is certainly loving her Chinese tiger hat lately and is acting the part of the growling tiger. I love this hat that we found in Guangzhou when we first met Sojo and brought her to get her US visa. We were cooped up in the hotel on a rainy afternoon and Sojo was going stir crazy, so I walked the streets with her while Dale did the paperwork at the Embassy. I came upon this hat in a random store, and it so beautifully crafted that I could tell that it was different than the factory-made ones sitting next to it on the shelf. I forked out the extra money and am so glad I did. Seems like it falls into the 'pass on to your own kid' category of an item. The girl in the photo is our sweet friend Georgia. She's six and plays with Sojo in the nicest way. We adore her, as does Sojo. Almost every time Sojo sees her on the playground, she squeals with delight.

And by sheer coincidence, I had brought home a book called Tiger on a Tree from the library that day. Could not have been a better thematic ending to the evening.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hot Wheels and Midriffs

Dale's ultimate kid game is Hot Wheel tracks, and he is constantly building some sort of ramp for Sojo to put her cars down. This weekend, he found the perfect Hot Wheel tracks at the hardware store (electrical conduit), and I must say they are way cooler than the cardboard ones he made before. Sojo felt the need for speed, I guess, and decided to wear her bike helmet while racing.

And midriffs...Sojo's nanny, Momo, bought this outfit for her this weekend. I guess she felt that someone had to step up and give the kid clothes in the style other than bohemian, and this is one of those outfits I never would have bought myself but I loved by the end of the day. I especially love the buddha belly hanging out and the bizarre photo of her in motion. Always in motion, that girl.We had a glorious long weekend because of the King's birthday. Here's a sneak peek at just one of the many colors we started to put on the walls to add some funkiness to the place.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Third Culture Kids

Third Culture Kids is a term I've been hearing more and more over the last few years. According to David Pollack, his definition is "a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background." In a nutshell, it's military kids, missionary kids, Sojo, and our next President. In fact, the new Treasury Secretary is a graduate of our school here in Bangkok. Pretty cool!

There are pros and cons of being a TCK, but a friend sent this article that is very interesting and illustrates both the benefits and challenges of being raised outside of one's home country. Makes me wonder a bit if Sojo, being Chinese, fits into some sort of 4th Culture Kid category.

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Tis the Season

Our first Christmas tree as a couple and as a family. We've been super low-key all these years about Christmas when it was just the two of us, but it's quite fun getting it ready for Sojo. In the effort of still keeping it simple, we have only a few ornaments on the tree and we'll add to it as the years go by. I grew up with a box of ornaments I love that are cloaked in memories, and I am due to take those from my parents' house and bring them to our house for the next Christmas. But, for now, we start our own story.

This year, we each have elephants for our first year in Thailand,and a little something special. We discovered it the other day as I was unpacking the very last box from our move. It's a doll dressed in traditional clothing from Sojo's tribe, the Miao people. Kimbra, I'm 99% sure you gave this to us when you came back from picking up Mimi, so a big thanks again. Sojo loved the doll, and it even sat at the table and ate the infamous tom kha gai with us the other night. Tonight, when we had just finished putting on the ornaments we have, Sojo brought the doll over and wanted us to put her on the tree. Hmmm...too big to hang on a branch....how can we do this?...then sudden brilliance followed by a fierce welling up of emotions for me. It is the most perfect angel for the top of the tree, a constant reminder of Sojo's heritage: a people who believe the butterfly is the mother of all creation, hence the "horns" worn on the head, a people who drape themselves in silver jewelry and who are vibrant and colorful, and, most importantly, a people who gave us the gift of this fabulous kid. Awash in gratitude.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tom Kha Gai

Hands down, Sojo's favorite Thai meal is Tom Kha Gai, a delicious chicken coconut soup. She could eat it every night, she makes it at her play kitchen, and now there is one more connection to Tom Kha Gai. We were looking at some of her Chinese books the other night, and she said, "this tom kha gai books." Took me a while to figure it out, but, I think that in her two-year old experience, both these books in Chinese and her favorite food are words in a foreign language. So, in her world, anything not English is Tom Kha Gai. I love it!

Rockin' out in the shower the other night. Microphone in hand, good acoustics in the bathroom and an impromptu dance session. She stopped dancing for a while...so glad the moves are back!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Out and About

Another weekend has flown by, and we tried to be outside as much as possible. A quick recap of the highlights:

Elmo was pretty popular in our house for a while, and then he was forgotten for some time. He is now back in fashion and is a constant companion, even on our bike ride.The discovery of a new-to-us playground in the area. We renamed it the "dangerous metal playground" and won't be going back. Shocking how quickly we can analyze a playground for danger/edges/fun factor. I'm thinking metal pieces jutting out is never a good thing. Sojo's shoe obsession continues, although just in the last 24 hours, she insisted on wearing the SAME color of Crocs. This weekend, she discovered a pair of flip-flops on our playground and shuffled around in them happily for quite a while. This is sad news to Dale, who despises flip-flops, while I would wear them each and every day if I could. Perhaps a small pair under the Christmas tree...come on, Baba, please?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Couldn't Resist

It's been a few weeks now that the weather here in normally sweaty Bangkok has morphed into something dangerously close to glorious. Riding my bike tonight, it was so breezy and gorgeous that I could have used a light jacket. Even the swimming pool at teacher housing is not crawling with kids anymore, and it's because the outside temp. is only 82 degrees F--only, HA!. I know, I can hardly believe myself how lame that is, but it's all relative. If Sojo suggests swimming now, sometimes we try to convince her to go to the playground instead because the water is pretty cold. Ok, really most of the time we try to convince her.

Even though our 'swimming season' is on a short hiatus, I couldn't resist posting a pic of that little butt that was very visible at the pool until recently.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Protest in the Air

It's not always horses and muffins and sunshine here. There are days lately when the sweetpea tries to push every single button possible to get what she wants. And we are fully in the stage of some serious crying when things don't go her way or when she is frustrated. Take, for example, when we were downtown the other day. Bangkok has some pretty snazzy taxis that are hot pink or orange, so we waited in line and wound up getting an orange taxi totally by chance. Well, Sojo really likes the pink taxis and it got that she was crying so hard in the taxi that her head was in her hands sobbing. Seriously, the drama was both alarming and hilarious at the same time. My friend Kimbra once said, "Just love her through it," and it stuck with me as the perfect parenting mantra.That being said, I hope it doesn't make me too evil to have caught her in full-protest mode last night. Those tears! A random sidenote that I find fascinating is that Asian eyes are shaped in such a way that tears tend to float around in there a while and then almost pop out like a cartoon character.

Speaking of other people protesting, we are fine while the protests are going on here in Bangkok because we live out in the suburbs. This one is a bit more dramatic than the others since the protestors have taken over the international airport. We have friends from Singapore that are supposed to arrive tomorrow night for a weekend with us, but I'm thinking that might not happen. Hopefully it will work itself out soon. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and this feels so out of sync to have such upheaval.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Fun

Just a short bike ride away from our house, there is a small horse farm, so we headed out there this weekend for a mini-adventure. A teacher at school owns it, so it was no problem to wander aimlessly through the stable area checking things out. Sojo was fascinated by the horses, especially the ones who wouldn't pay attention to us. One poor anti-social fellow named Piper got many extra hellos from Sojo because she wouldn't take the hint. Highlights of the 'venture' were touching a horse's nose, the blowing he did on her hand, and seeing horse poop for the first time. We've been told that when we come back next, a pony ride is in order. Yippee!
On a botanical note, I've been coveting a neighbor's purple orchid for some time now and found one for myself recently at a weekend market. Just the perfect splash of color outside the window to make me smile every day. Look at those roots!Preschool update: Rather hard to get an answer to "How was your day?" with a 2 year old. The day we saw the elephant, the only thing we heard was that she ate crackers. Today we got that she and a boy named Noah climbed (?) high on the playground and it was 'a little spooky.' Spooky is one of our favorite words from Sojo. She usually uses it when she enters a dark room, but when she said it today, it makes me think it's when she's feeling a bit scared. I love how she is becoming more able to articulate her emotions.