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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Relief from concrete: Finding Peace at Mae Sa Waterfall

After our full day at the Umbrella and Silk Factory, we left the city and headed up to Mae Rim.   Mae Rim has quite a few attractions, but we headed there for the peace, quiet, mountains, and waterfalls.  We stayed at Away Suansawan Chiang Mai, Centara Boutique Collection.  We hired a Songthaew to take us there and the driver knew where Mae Rim was, just not our hotel.  It should only take 45 minutes at the most to get to Mae Rim, but after at least 10 stops to ask for directions and over 1 1/2 hours being in the back of a pick-up we ran in to a wonderful expat that was able to point us in the right direction.  So thankful we crossed paths with that man because I was beginning to think I may have booked an imaginary hotel.

The hotel was beautiful.  We were welcomed with drinks, but that was about it.  I was disappointed at how unfriendly the staff was.  No one really smiled or were even willing to help us.  That was surprising after the amazing service we usually get at every other hotel in Thailand. Our room was pretty amazing though.  It was a villa that had two connecting rooms and two bathrooms.  Probably one of the nicest hotels we have stayed in. We are used to cramming 5 people in 2 beds!  My only other major complaint was that one of the sinks was broken and the other bathroom's toilet stunk, but we were not going to let any of those minor issues ruin our time away from the "Concrete Jungle". I was just so happy to see some green space.

 Our Villa

Relaxing in the back of the Songthaew (pick-up truck)

Mae Sa Waterfall

The first full day up in Mae Rim, we hired a Taxi and went to Mae Sa waterfall.  We got there in the morning and it wasn't busy at all.  If you get there mid-morning, vendors will be making food and will pack a lunch for you in a basket and give you a mat to lay out on the ground.  This waterfall is a ten tier waterfall.  We went during rainy season so the waterfalls were coming down pretty hard.  This waterfall isn't beautiful blue water either, it's a muddy color.  There are a few of the tiers that you can swim at, but me being the crazy worrier, would not let the boys do anymore than put their feet in the water.  Who knows what could be hiding out in there?!  But, this was complete paradise for the boys.  Climbing up rocks, digging in mud, and crossing bridges...what more could three little boys ask for? They were having so much fun.  We decided to climb to the 6th tier. The boys tried to talk us into going up either further, but I just kept thinking we have to walk all the way back down.  I think it might have been a little too much walking for a 3 year old.  

Being at the at the waterfall  really made me miss being able to take the boys to the metro parks back home and have them bike on the trails.  I never realized how lucky we were to have a beautiful park system in our city until we moved to Bangkok.  There is not a lot of green space.  Being at Mae Sa Waterfall was so refreshing.  Where ever we end up next will need to have a little more space for the boys to run and play.

After our trip to the waterfalls, we had our taxi driver take us to a place to eat.  He dropped us off at a type of food court.  I am pretty sure we were the only foreigners that have ever stopped by because we were getting quite a few looks.  We are used to be watched, but it felt like we had a spotlight on us. I loved that most people were surprised that Ben could speak Thai and seemed to be even more excepting once they knew we lived in Thailand.  We had a delicious lunch and then headed back to the hotel to swim and the boys finally were able to check out the silly playground that was on the hotel grounds.

After dinner, our neighbors from Bangkok, who were also up in Chiang Mai, picked us up and we headed back to the Night Bazaar.  The boys were giddy with excitement to see their friends and we all had a great time.  We were able to find a few more goodies.  I hate shopping but love markets.  The Night Bazaar is so much fun.  I look forward to heading back there again someday.

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Finding beauty in umbrellas and worms- Day 4 Chiang Mai

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I love seeing how things are made.  When we go on a holiday, I am usually searching for some kind of tour or cultural experience that will teach us something new.  I'd like to believe I do this because of my love of learning, but most likely it is the homeschool mom in me. I really feel the need to teach my boys something new on every trip we take.  This has been one of the most rewarding parts of living abroad and homeschooling.  We have been able to give the boys experiences I never thought imaginable.  It also helps when the stars just seem to align and we are able to take a "field trip" that would line up perfectly with our upcoming lessons.

Borsang-Umbrella Village

Day 4 in Chiang Mai was our teaching day.  We headed out that morning to Borsang, Umbrella Village. When you are up in Chiang Mai, you will see a rainbow of paper & silk umbrellas.  They are beautiful and even more stunning because they are hand made.  We didn't have a tour scheduled at the factory, so we just walked around on our own.  Each station has a sign that explained the process of making the umbrellas. After you make it through all the stations, you end up at the painting station.  There are local artists that will paint anything for you..hats, cameras, phone cases, sunglasses...anything you want.  This was our favorite part.  We didn't know that they did this, so we didn't bring anything along with us.  The boys ended up getting paintings on the back of their ball hats, I had the front of my camera painted, and Ben went into the gift shop and had a couple wooden games painted.  We were all amazed at how quickly the artists painted. It was so fun to watch.  The paintings were all done on donation.   I love that we have these keepsakes for the future.

Thai Silk Factory

After leaving the umbrella factory, we headed over to the Thai silk factory.  They are not too far apart.  I was excited about heading there because I knew the boys were going to be learning about Ancient China and how silk was discovered in the upcoming weeks.  Honestly, I had never really thought about how silk was made.  I knew silk worms made it, but what I didn't realized was that it was from the cocoon, not the worm itself.  The factory had little stations set up showing each phase the silk worm goes through, how they pull the silk thread off the cocoon, dying the thread, and then finally using the loom to make the fabric.  The boys were very interested in the process and thought it was pretty cool that a little worm could play a huge part in making beautiful fabrics.  I love when we plan a field trip and it turns out so much better than we had imagined. It was great to learn a little about the history of silk in Asia.   The factory had a beautiful gift shop, but most of the items were very expensive.  We now have a much better understanding and appreciation of how silk is made.  

We had a full 3 1/2 days in Chiang Mai city and were ready to get to our relaxing part of our holiday.  We were heading up to Mae Rim, which is about 45 minutes outside the city, to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the mountains, waterfalls, and nature.  Chiang Mai city did not disappoint at all.  
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