A week to go...will it get done?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

With Christmas only a week away, Santa has a lot to get accomplished!  Santa has to think up a creative way to tell the boys about their upcoming trip.  I think he may be planning on having them open up a box at certain times with little clues about where they are going.  Mrs. Claus better deliver this year too after bringing the boys a super delicious homemade Death Star cake last year.  Yep, the boys assured me that Mrs. Claus's cakes are the very best that they have ever had and I need to get the recipe.  So, hoping she will live up to their expectations again this year!

Now, I know Santa will be very busy getting ready for his big night, but at our house we will be having a house full of kids over a few days before Christmas for a Christmas Movie night complete with Homemade cut-out cookies, homemade hot chocolate & popcorn. So excited to have those kiddos over for some holiday fun.  We usually have anywhere from 7-15 kids over!

When we moved to Thailand 3 years ago, we decided to invite a few families over for Christmas Eve dinner.  I didn't want to be home alone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and thought it would be fun to have a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with other families that will be around.  We usually invite a new group each year and we will be doing the same this year too.  I love doing this, but again, the cooking situation (small oven and one burner) does seem to cause a lot of prep time.  This weekend I will be prepping food and baking.  We will even be having a ham (you do not want to know what a 4 pound ham costs here in Thailand!)

I  would still like to go ice skating (for the very first time!), have the boys pick out gifts for each other, check out the Christmas lights at the mall, let the boys get a special treat of Starbucks Hot cocoa, and a few more Christmas crafts thrown in.  Whew...I feel like I need to sit down after that list.  Just. Breathe.

I love Christmastime and all the excitement that surrounds it, but I need to remember to take a breath and just enjoy it.  It is already going by way too fast.  I will get everything done and so what if I don't. It really is about spending time together with friends and family and savoring the day. I need to try not to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself and just relax and enjoy.  This is a lesson I am really trying to learn this holiday season.  My boys won't remember me doing all of these crazy activities, but they will remember the time I have spent with them. The holidays don't need to be stressful.  Next year, I am going to have a much simpler Christmas.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with your family and remember to enjoy the moment.  Merry Christmas!
Seeing Santa for the first time in Thailand!
 Making ornaments
Frosting Cookies
Our Elf, Stinky Piper, that has been visiting our home for the past 6 years.

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Stuff...Can I really get rid of it?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lately I have been stressed out and unmotivated.  I have growing piles of stuff that are starting to consume my whole house.  Now, if you would stop by, you may not think my house is too out of control because all of the piles have their own nice little space, but there are piles on every counter top and table you can see.  Stuff is really getting on my nerves.  How did it get like this?

When we moved here 2 years ago, we left almost everything at home and came to Thailand with 11 suitcases. Most of the suitcases were packed with school supplies, as I had no idea what I would be able to find here.  When we moved in and unpacked, our house was still pretty empty.  It's not so empty anymore.

This is where the problem began.  We do not have a dishwasher and clearly I am lazy because I seem to keep buying more dishes so that I don't have to do dishes after each and every meal.  It seemed like a good plan until my entire counter top is covered with dishes and then I have to spend and hour trying to get them all washed.  My thinking was completely wrong.  I need less.  I need fewer dishes, so I will only have to spend a couple minutes washing them and then my work will be done and my counter will be cleaned.

I am not one to buy something every time I go out. And my kids do not get presents unless it is their birthday or a very special occasion, but still, our house is being taken over.  I'm positive those piles of papers and mounds of legos multiply over night.  I want less.  I'm ready to rid our house of anything that has not been touched in the last 6 months. If it is not serving a purpose in our house, it must leave. I need the stress of out of control clutter to be one less silly worry that is in my life.  I have been feeling this way for a few months now, but still have not really acted upon cleaning out my house because when I look around it just seems a little too overwhelming.

Thankfully, I am not the only one feeling this way. A friend invited me to join a "de-clutter your house before Christmas" group.  Perfect timing.  Seeing these other women share photos and stories is so encouraging.  I am not failing as a mom, wife, house cleaner...I cannot do it all.  Because honestly, when I look around my house I feel like I am failing.  Why couldn't I just put the dishes away?  Why didn't I organize that bookshelf?  Why is there still a pile of DVD's on my desk when we haven't watched DVD's in over a year?  If I have less, my house won't get out of control.  There won't be added stress in my life and I will have hours of my life back that would have been used up by cleaning. I am so excited about being a part of the "de-clutter" group.  I'm ready to simplify my life and have less stuff.

If your interested in doing a massive de-clutter on your house, let me know.  You can join the group and be encouraged by other women who will cheer you on to a life that is a lot more freeing.  Thank you Haley, for including me on this mission. (oh, and I will post before and after photos once I get started!!)
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A huge surprise for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.  It's all about the gift the boys will be getting for Christmas this year. I love Christmas morning...watching the boy's faces light up when they see that Santa has found his way to our house all the way in Thailand.  (The first year we were all a little concerned about that.) What I don't love are the toys.  Thankfully Santa doesn't go overboard, but even after a few present a piece times 3 house is out of control.

After last Christmas, Ben and I had a talk and decided that instead of presents they boys would be receiving a trip from now on. Birthdays are all about them and they can get gifts, but Christmas is about spending time with family.  I don't know about your kids, but mine rarely play with their toys unless it is legos.  I feel like we have a million tiny pieces tossed all over the house, but no one can play with them because are not nice and organized in the play room.  I am completely over toys!

I thought a trip would be a perfect gift and might be a little more meaningful for all of us.  We are in a wonderful location to visit many of the surrounding countries, so we might as well take advantage of it while we can.  I won't give it away until Santa comes to deliver his scavenger hunt explaining where we are going, but I'll give you a few clues.  It involves two different countries, one may make us feel like we are in a scene from Tomb Raider, and the other is supposed to be the "Happiest Place on Earth." I can hardly wait!!  It's going to be a Christmas to remember for sure!

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How we celebrate Thanksgiving in Thailand

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's that time of year for family gatherings, yummy meals, and traditions.  I love the holidays.  I was really nervous about moving to Thailand and trying to figure out how I could recreate our holidays here.  I did not just want any of our holidays to be "just any old day" and be forgotten.  I didn't want to feel depressed around the holidays and I wanted to make sure the boys would have great memories of how we spent our time celebrating together. So, I began my mission of bringing the holiday season to us.

The first year was really hard.  I had no idea where to find a turkey for Thanksgiving.  My oven is the size of a small microwave.  I only have 2 burners (now only one working burner) to cook on.   Sweet potatoes are not orange here, they come in a variety of colors from purple to white to greenish-gray. There aren't any holiday specials on the TV.  How would my boys experience Thanksgiving without Charlie Brown or football? I'm kidding, but because of all of these obstacles, it made me get pretty creative.
 Britton's Mayflower
 Lincoln's Mayflower
 Greyson's Mayflower
 Cinnamon playdoh turkeys

 Lego Squanto
Pilgrim hat & Turkey

I started preparing Thanksgiving  food two weeks before the big day.  I try and make the same traditional foods that we would have back home down to my Great-grandma's dressing, sweet potato souffle, and apple pie.  It takes a lot of searching for these foods.  Grocery shopping in Thailand is like a scavenger hunt. One grocery store will not have all the ingredients you need.  I usually have to go to at least 2-3 stores to find all I need.  I managed to find all goodies for our Thanksgiving dinner.
 Cranberry smoothies & Turkey Sundaes
 Rice Crispy Turkeys
Apples & Dip

This year, we spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving with lots of crafts, themed food and movies on the topic.  I absolutely love theme food, we we had plenty of turkey themed snack this week. Thanksgiving Day is a little different here.  Ben still had school, so the boys and I had our own Thanksgiving celebration.  They even had turkey and pie for their lunch!  (This was something the boys asked for again this year after doing it last year.  The turkey had popcorn in it and the pie had a pumpkin cookie in it.)  We watched The Peanuts' Mayflower Voyagers and all discussed what we are thankful for.

The following Saturday was our family Thanksgiving celebration.  I managed to squeeze that  8 pound turkey into a tiny pan in my tiny oven.  I made way too much for the 5 of us, but at least I won't have to cook for a few days.  It was lovely spending time together as a family.  The boys cracked up over the Thanksgiving Mad Libs we worked on.  We even managed to finish off our night by watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It was really a wonderful day.

 Lots of lego fun

Holidays require a lot of time and effort here, but I am so happy I do it.  I love that the boys are already requesting some of the activities we have done in past years.  I love that they are experiencing their own holiday traditions.  Now on to Christmas and one of my favorite traditions,The 25 Days of Christmas. If you want to see what we will be up to during the month of December, check here.

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25 Days of Christmas Activities

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love traditions and adding at least one new tradition every year.   A few years ago we started the 25 days of Christmas activity countdown. It's a little more work here because 1.It is still 90-100 degrees everyday and 2. We live in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas. (Although, you will see quite a few Christmas trees up.) The boys and I love doing our crafts and activities everyday. December 1st kicks off our activity calendar and I can hardly wait.  So, here is our list of what we will be up to during our 25 Days of Christmas.

1. Start new Lego Advent Calendar ( The boys don't know they are getting a new one this year!)
2.No fireplaces in Thailand, so we are making a Flameless Firepit
3.Stick Ornaments
4. Snowmen handprint on Canvas
5. Hopefully making balloon snowmen if I can find white balloons.  Love this one!
6. Watch Polar Express with Hot Chocolate
7. Go see Frozen
8. Have a Snowman breakfast
9. Make Snowball Soup for friends
10. Make paper ornaments from Hobby Lobby Packet (I was thinking ahead when we were back in the States this summer!)
11. Write letter to Santa
12. Make Popsicle Stick snowflakes
13. Paint snowman ornament from Hobby Lobby
14. Go ice skating
15. Make gingerbread house
16. Make snow playdoh
17. Make cinnamon ornaments
18. Make reindeer food 
19. Make Grinch cookies and watch The Grinch
20. Go see Christmas lights at the mall, pick out gifts for brothers, hot chocolate at Starbucks
21. Wrap brothers gifts
22. Make cut out cookies
23. Camp out by "fire" and Christmas tree
24. Read Twas the Night Before Christmas, put out reindeer food and cookies for Santa
25. Christmas movies & Brunch

I cannot wait.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!  Do any of you do a Advent calendar or activity countdown?  I would love to hear about them!
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Thanksgiving...Same, Same...but different!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I checked the weather today because it actually felt pretty cool out.  My phone said 91 degrees, feels like 102 degrees!  Well, my internal thermometer is way off because I was pretty sure it had to be in the low 80's.  I am never going to be able to live in a place that has temperatures below 70.  I'm sure I would freeze to death. Now my dilemma is, how do you make it feel like Ohio in November, when you live in a place that you're fairly certain is located on the sun?

Every holiday I go a bit overboard.  I try as hard as I can to re-create the holiday we would be experiencing as if we still lived in the States. It is a lot of work and I am usually yelling at myself for putting this ridiculous amount of pressure on myself, but in the end I am so thankful I have taken the time to do this. I also love throwing my own personal touch to each holiday. We will start off the morning watching a recording of the Thanksgiving parade, followed by Thanksgiving mad libs and balloon Turkey races, Thanksgiving lunch, and football at the pool.  I already have half of the Thanksgiving dinner prepared and in my freezer.  I will figure out how to squeeze a turkey into my small convection oven.  I only have one working burner, so that will take a little coordinating, but I am determined we will have that Thanksgiving feast.

The holidays can be a tough time for expats.  Thailand doesn't feel like our home during the holidays.  We are not gathered at our parent's house eating a wonderful dinner and watching football (American football, that is.)  My boys won't be running around  with their cousins after an overload of sugar from all the yummy desserts.   My kids won't have the same memories I have when I think back to my childhood during the holiday season.  But what they will have are their own holiday traditions.

I am determined to give our boys albums full of memories.  It's okay that it's not the same as my childhood.  We are doing it our own way and I love our little family Thanksgiving in Thailand.  But, could you do me a favor?  If you see our families over the holidays, could you give them a little hug and let them know we do really miss making holiday memories with them too?  Thanks ~

Some cute Thanksgiving decorations that my mom sent to make our Thanksgiving a little more festive.  Love this silly turkey!
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What about me? - One of my Struggles with Homeschooling

Monday, November 25, 2013

I don't know what my problem has been lately.  I cannot get caught up or motivated to get caught up. I think being a SAHM/homeschooling mom has finally caught up with me.  Before I even had kids, I knew I wanted to stay home with them.  So much that I almost didn't go to college and may not have had my parents not pushed me to go.  I became pregnant with my oldest  while I was doing my student teaching.  He was due 3 months after I was finished with my college program.  My plan was falling perfectly into place.  After Greyson was born, I started watching a few other children in my home and that became my life for the next 4 years.  Two years after Greyson was born, Lincoln was born.  I continued watching other children and loved that my boys were around other kids every day and because of this I was able to stay home with them.  But, this can be a pretty secluded life.  Of course I talked with all the parents during drop- off and pick-up, but that was about all of my adult interaction for the day.  I could tell by year 4, I was getting burnt out.

I started a couple of businesses and was able to stop baby-sitting and focus on the next path our life was going to take, homeschooling.  This was something I never imagined I would ever do.  I had crazy sterotypes about what homeschool families are like, I was worried about what our friends and family would say, and I was worried about getting the kids involved with other kids.  Thankfully, I found an amazing homeschool group and all of my worries and concerns disappeared.  My first true year of homeschooling, I was pregnant with Britton, which caused me to stop teaching the boys for a bit, but I still knew this was the right choice for our family.  We were getting involved in our homeschool group with art clubs, lego clubs, loads of field trips, geography clubs, karate class, and so much more.  Things were falling into place yet again.

Then we decided to shake things up a bit and move across the world to Thailand.  I was really nervous about homeschooling in a new country.  I had no idea what supplies I could get. Would I have library access? Would it be easy to take the boys on field trips?  How would I get them involved? It was really stressful at first and because of that Lincoln ended up going to preschool at the school Ben teaches at.  I felt like I had failed.  After you make the decision to homeschool, you are all in and it is really hard to go back on that.  Especially when you feel like people are just waiting for you to come to your senses and put the kids in "real school".

The next year, Lincoln had Kindergarten at home and I was so relieved to have him back home with us.  We finally had the boys involved in after school activities, found them a music teacher, they were in art & lego clubs...things were going great for them.  This year is the same and we have them involved in a few more things that we are really excited about, but during all of this great transition, I feel like I have been left behind.  I have been so concerned about making life full for the boys that I forgot to think of myself.

For the past 9 years, I have been mom/teacher for 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Somewhere in all of this I forgot how to just have fun with the kids.  I am so used to teaching them all the time, that I can't seem to turn off the teacher switch.  This isn't good for them and it isn't good for me.  I have really needed to take a step back and look if this is the best for all of us.  I know homeschooling is still the right choice.  I also believe the right choice is to have a little time away from the boys.  I'm needing a new focus or hobby.  I need more time out of the house to breath and not be yanked on. I need more time out with adults to keep me sane. I really need to start focusing on me again.

Now, I know that may sound like I am saying I don't enjoy time with my boys or that I am being selfish because I need time way.  Absolutely not.  I love spending time with my boys, but too much time is not good for any of us.  Usually, when I am not being the best parent it is because I have not gotten out of the house by myself in quite sometime.  It has taken 9 years for me to finally realize all of this.

I just want all of those insanely hard working SAHM and Homeschooling moms to know, it's okay to take a break and admit you need time away.  You are not failing at all.  We just cannot do it all, all the time. We need a vacation from our jobs, and it's just a little more difficult when your job is your family. The saying, "When Mom isn't happy, no one is happy." is a true statement.  So, as of today,
I am deciding to have more time to myself. I am going to pencil 'Me time" into my schedule, so I can be the best mom that I know I can be.

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The Magic of Loy Krathong

Sunday, November 24, 2013

There are quite a few holidays here in Thailand, but most of them are holidays that we do not participate in.  Mostly, because they are Buddhist holidays and I would feel like I am imposing on a private event.  But there are two holidays that we love to participate in, Loy Krathong and Songkran.

Loy Krathong was last weekend.  It always takes place on the full moon in November. The purpose of this holiday is to make a krathong (float), light a candle for the gods and float all of your bad luck and worries away.  I love this holiday...I think it goes back to when we were fleeing from the floods our first year in Bangkok.  I remember watching  a travel show on Loy Krathong before we moved to Bangkok and absolutely fell in love with the beauty of this holiday.  Then, our first year while we were staying away from Bangkok during the floods, we had the opportunity to let lanterns go on the beach. When I look back on our time in Thailand, I know that moment on the beach with Ben and the boys and letting all of our worries and anxiety about our new lifestyle float away will have left the biggest impact on me.  I was standing on a beach in Thailand, which I never imagined would be possible in my lifetime, and experiencing pure peace.
Letting lanterns go on the beach in Rayong, 2011

So, the full moon was approaching this month and we decided to get ready for Loy Krathong by making our own "green" krathong.  Many of the Krathongs that are made are beautiful but a lot of the bases are made of styrofoam and material that is terrible for the rivers, ponds and fish.  So, we went to a friends house and collected flowers and leaves and used rice cake and salt dough bases.  This was such a great project and we will do this again for sure next year.  I love how the boy's krathongs turned out.  They were beautiful and so special for the boys to release.

We headed out to our neighborhood for the Loy Krathong celebrations.  We found a nice little spot on the quiet side of the lake to release the krathongs. The boys were so excited that they actually stayed afloat.  We were hoping the fish got a nice little dinner from our "green" krathongs.  We finished the night watching a great fireworks show and and will hopefully have a year a wonderful luck.

Releasing the krathong in the water

 Krathongs being sold at the celebration. 
The lake in our neighborhood

Now, the day following Loy Krathong is not so beautiful.  The rivers and ponds were completely covered in krathongs.  I read a local newspaper article that said they were removing over 800,000 krathongs that were needing to be cleaned up.  A few houses even caught fire after the floating lanterns caught on fire and landed on the homes.  It's sad that such a beautiful holiday and can turn into such a mess.  With that said, it is still my favorite Thai holiday and I have a great feeling about this upcoming year!

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Chiang Mai, you have changed me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

When I plan a holiday, I usually book our flights to leave in the evening so we have one last full day. This can be a little tricky because we have to check out of hotels and then have to lug around our luggage.  I had asked our hotel for a late check-out, which was no problem at all.  We had a nice relaxing morning at the hotel.  The sky was so clear and we finally had a good view of the mountains.  We took rides in the swan boat that Greyson had been begging us to do since we first arrived in Mae Rim.  It was silly and corny, but the kids absolutely loved it.

We hired the taxi driver that had taken us up to Mae Sa to drive us to the airport.  He was so kind.  He waited for us to drop our luggage off at the storage lockers at the airport and then took us back into Chiang Mai city.  The storage lockers were wonderful.  It was so nice to not have to drag our luggage over uneven sidewalks in Chiang Mai.  We spent a little time shopping and the boys were treated to leg & foot massages.  They had walked so much over the past week and they are getting a little spoiled on holidays.  Every time we go away, we let them get a foot massage.  I know, they have a pretty rough life.

Our flight didn't leave until 10:30 pm, so we took our time in the city and after dinner headed back to the airport.  I was exhausted from our jammed packed week, but also really sad that our holiday was coming to an end.  Something happened while we were in Chiang Mai.  We have traveled a lot around Thailand in the past 2 1/2 years.  I love visiting new places, but never before had I felt the huge desire to see as much as I can.  That all changed during this trip.

I have been bitten by the travel bug really bad.  I cannot  stop searching for places to see and new countries to visit.   We already have 4 countries planned or in the works for the first part of 2014.  I have been following quite a few families that have made it their job to travel.  Some work part-time and travel part-time, and some have been traveling full time for a while.  What an amazing lifestyle.  My eyes have really been opened to giving my family the experience of a lifetime.  I do not consider myself a risk-taker at all, but I am starting to lay out a plan that could one day, help us spend a lot more time traveling.  I'm ready to push past my comfort zone and  see a little more than Thailand.  I know most would laugh and say that we have already taken a huge risk by leaving our lives in the States to live in Thailand, and while that was true at the time, now this is our life and home.  I'm getting antsy and ready for our next big adventure.  So, thank you Chiang Mai, for giving me a week that may be changing the path our life takes yet again.

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