May 24, 2009

Two years of Zion

Zion is now two. We celebrated his birthday here at the Juniper Tree in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The day began with opening gifts shipped from his grand- parents in America, which was very exciting for both boys since our little bungalow has little for them in the way of entertainment. I decorated his seat in the mess hall for dinner, and after the meal, the owners' children, Eliot and Jemima, brought out a pink-and-white frosted banana cake with two candles on it, courtesy of the ladies in the kitchen.

Happy Birthday, Zion Daniel. We have likened you to a small tornado, a stick of dynamite, a tough little dog that yelps in the face of the big dogs, completely without fear. When you see an obstacle in front of you, you climb over it. When you see a challenge, you devour it with great joy. You are a strange and awesome mix of strength and tenderness. Though you are not easily shaken, your heart is quick to give out love. You smile all the time and love to kiss and hug and cuddle. You are, in fact, the most cuddly child anyone has ever met. You are a goer. You do not like to stay home, nor stay put. You want to explore, you want to play, you want to be where the action is. If your dad and I are hugging, you need to be right in the middle of us. You adore your big brother and you are very excited to meet your little brother. You are a treasure.

We are so thankful that you were given to us - to raise and to love and to watch with amazement. Bless you, dear son. May you grow to love your Maker, and may you always live life the way that you do now.

May 17, 2009

Stinky trunks, multicultural swimming, and R&R

Its not easy being this pregnant this close to the Equator. Partly because I have to see myself in a bathing suit every afternoon in order to keep cool, which isn't very good for the self esteem (did you know that at 8 months pregnant the body sinks like an anchor?) and partly because the only comfortable maternity attire in this weather makes me look like an elephant under a sheet.

Speaking of elephants, we visited the an elephant camp the other day, and it was FASCINATING! They train the elephants to play soccer and paint quite beautiful paintings with their trunks. An elephant's trunk, by the way, is a strange combination of dry and oily, with long, sparse hairs all over it. After an elephant's trunk has been wrapped around your neck, you smell a little like animal dung and you want a shower more than anything.

Today is Zion's 2nd birthday. I will later post pictures of the mess-hall birthday party he will be having this evening. The little Thai ladies in the kitchen are baking him a cake. Daniel is golfing this morning. I hope he doesn't pass out from the heat. The boys are cranky today because we stayed up too late last night scoping out the wares at the Sunday market and eating fabulous Italian food at Girasole's with our Dutch friends and their two kids. The man who runs the restaurant is a real Italian, with thick black eyebrows that make him look like a cartoon character and the top buttons on his shirt undone to reveal his graying chest hair beneath. It started to storm so we head home in an open-sided taxi truck in the rain. Quite a night.

The other day at lunch, Daniel found himself engaged in an after-meal conversation with a woman from Bangladesh and her British husband, and an Indian woman and her German husband. The topic of conversation was television and it's devastating effects. Today, our boys swam in the pool with two little Finnish sisters who are being raised in Nepal. Finnish is the most beautiful language! Sunday morning we visited an Australian fellowship whose members were so excited about being there that they literally cheered when it was time to pass the offering.

I am so thankful that our boys get to interact with people from all over the world, people who are in Asia for the same reason we are, and who are also in Chiang Mai for some much-needed R&R.

May 13, 2009

We're here!

Well, we actually arrived a week ago, but have not got the internet working yet. We are really loving the Juniper Tree. It's really nice and REALLY HOT. Though we run the AC in our room continually, somehow I sweat 9-10 gallons of water every day. Kayla's mom sent us the Swiss Family Robinson a few months ago and we loved it. We often talked about what it would be like to live in a tropical place with so many trees and animals. We don't talk about that much anymore.

Chiang Mai also has a Sizzler resturant - which I think is the equivalent of our Western Sizzler in Van Buren. It is AMAZING - today I had a hamburger and Kayla got some sort of chicken with sauce on it. The salad bar had some chocolate moose that Zion would have eaten his body weight in had we not cut him off and jumped in one of the truck-like taxis (Tsong Taos) to get home.

(I swiped both of these pics off the web, we'll post some of ours soon.)

May 05, 2009

Around the lake and back again

Last week, I was crazy enough to accompany three of my friends on a bike ride around the lake that is south of our city. I knew I was in trouble when Josh told me to meet him at 6:15am for a 45 minute "warm up" ride before we joined the other guys at the lake. I was thinking, "I can't remember the last time I rode a bike for 45 minutes, much less 'warmed up' for that long!"

We estimated 120 kilometers (about 70 miles), and 8-10 hours. Around 10am, my only hope was to survive. I really didn't think I had any more in me. Thankfully, my friends were kind enough to slow down their pace with out mentioning it at all. Sometimes, even when I was clearly out of breath, they would ask me questions. The talking helped take my mind off the task at hand.

What we thought would be 120 km, soon turned into 130, a 140, and finally a 145 (90.11 miles to be exact). Here you can see 71km on my bike computer. Later, we stopped for dinner around 3:30 or so, and I was absolutely exhausted. From the restaurant everyone went their separate ways, and I finally made it home at 6:14pm, a full 11 hours and 59 minutes later. The last five kilometers I was going so slow that old women were ringing their little bike bells to get me out of the way, but I did it. I didn't walk one foot, I stayed on that stupid bike for hours and made it home.

That night, I told Kayla that I would never do anything like that again. After a few days, I want to go again soon. Though I hated most of it at the time, there is something about doing something that you really thought was impossible for you. Now I wonder if I could go 100 miles. This time though, I'm gonna buy some of those biking shorts with the pad in the bottom. Maybe multiple pairs, and wear them all simultaneously. Oh yes, and sunscreen. Lots of it.

May 04, 2009

One sweet year

Our first year here is two days from over. Though the end of the school year is many weeks out, we are leaving to have our baby so this is goodbye for us. Our relation- ships with our friends have come a long way, from that first awkward meeting when we all stared at our feet, jet-lagging and nervous and completely discombobulated, to the hip-hop baby shower (pictured here) for our unnamed son who is lovingly called "Punch Out" by our friends (after Harrison "Punch Out" Ford, Daniel's nickname for his favorite actor). We have become a silly bunch, teased for our family-like affections for each other. We've had sleepovers, played win-lose-or-draw, wrote songs for each other, and had dress-up parties. Our kids love these people, these dear friends, who have truly become family away from family for us this year.

Cristina, we will miss you so much. Go out there and make the world a better place. We know you will. Your genuineness will be sorely missed around here. Your laugh will be missed, too. You bring such joy to the room whenever you are in it. We love you so much!

Leeann, we will miss you so much. Keep bringing those who are on the outside into the fold, whether it is here or elsewhere in the world. We know you will. Your energy and love for life will be sorely missed. You are a light in the darkness. We love you so much!

Amy, we will miss you, too. Though you will still be nearby, we know it won't be the same. You are such a strong and beautiful part of what has made life here great for us. We will miss being a regular part of your life. Please come around as often as you can!

Here's to a wonderful first year in East Asia, and to wonderful friends, and to blessings (and trials) beyond what we expected. And here is to all that lies ahead.