A Coffee Chat

photo(23)I feel like there were a bunch of things I was going to talk about today…but then last night, I did not sleep well–like, at all–and now everything has gone plumb out of my head.

I did have a productive day yesterday, though. Between catching up on some work for SOLD, doing three loads of laundry, washing dishes that had piled up over the previous day with T being sick, and various other little chores, I managed to get in quite a bit of walking…which, turns out, if done in little spurts and increments, seems to help keep the swelling down in my feet. Then again, it might also be why my back and hips were sore all night.

My goals for today are a bit more cerebral. If I can get enough brain cells to function, I’d like to:

– Practice Thai, since staying at home so much does not give me much chance to hone my language skills (It does, however, keep me at lower risk of catching dengue, so that’s good–seriously, so many people we know got it this year. This season is rough! I never read Dante’s Inferno, but I’m sure there must be a special circle of hell reserved for mosquitoes. And if there isn’t, well, there should be.)

– Read up on what the heck is going on in Syria. I’ve been out of the news loop more than I care to admit these days. Good for my sanity; not so good for my engagement with the rest of the world. A friend of mine linked to this Washington Post article on FB, which I found enormously helpful. Now I just want to read up on various viewpoints of what people anticipate the consequences of and reactions to air strikes are likely to be.

On a more personal note, a few years ago, Toby and I had talked about making a trip to Syria. Some friends had been there and said it was one of the most welcoming countries they’d ever been to (and their trip was during the GW Bush years, mind you)–that far from shunning Americans, the Syrians were excited to meet them and welcome them into their homes for tea and conversation. Now I’m really bummed we didn’t make that trip since it looks like tensions there are unlikely to abate any time soon.

– Then if I feel up to it, I might do some gentle yoga. Probably not a full session, but just a few poses & stretches to strengthen the muscles around my hip joints. They’re ridiculously open and flexible these days, but I can feel that the added flexibility needs to be supported by more muscle strength.

In other news, I came across this recipe for Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider cookies and want to bake them, like, RIGHT NOW…but the recipe calls for Alpine Spice Cider Mix, which, I don’t even know what that is. I’m guessing it’s a powdered mix to make hot apple cider, but whatever it is, I’m pretty certain there is no such thing here in Thailand. I wish I knew what the ingredients were because if it’s just a bunch of spices I could probably approximate it myself. But there’s probably some apple flavoring in there somewhere, which means I’d have to figure out what to do with liquid apple cider in a recipe that calls for it dry. Also, I found the exact same recipe on a different website, and one says it makes 16-18 large cookies, and the other (with the exact same measurements for ingredients) says it makes 51 cookies. (!) I really had to laugh. I like the way the first person counts her cookies–you can eat three and call it just one!

For anyone who likes to see this sort of thing, I made another quick clip of Baby Keller on the move. You can definitely see his movements more clearly these days, since, at 38 weeks, he’s significantly bigger. And this clip has the added benefit of not having a soundtrack of the Sopranos cussing in the background!

Before you go, I’d like to share this quote I saw pinned on Pinterest:

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

Image from: http://aliedwards.com/2013/02/ae-heart-soul-hands-free-mama-kind-over-matter.html

The quote seems widely attributed to Carl Jung, but for the life of me I can’t find the original source so I can’t verify it. Anyway, it really stuck with me, not for being a new sentiment, but for so succinctly capturing one of my heart-felt beliefs and general orientation towards life. It also came at a time when several conversations I’ve had or things I’ve read have, without plan or intention, all kind of coalesced around a similar idea–does that ever happen to you? I haven’t really worked my way through it enough to articulate what I’m thinking about, but it’s something to do with valuing experiences and people over things, choosing to be open to life and expand into it over shying away from difference, that giving our kids the gift of courage and resilience is more important than providing them with the trappings of safety, and how lucky I feel to have found a life partner who feels the way I do about these things. The way I’ve written it here maybe sounds like these are either/or dichotomies, but I believe they’re more like ranges or spectrums of values. But it would be incredibly challenging, I think, to share a life with someone with whom one was fundamentally incompatible on these issues.

It’s funny, too, how people can surprise you. Some people you’d think would be up for freewheeling outside the comfort zone end up not, and those who can appear shy or even fragile end up being some of the strongest or bravest people you know. Not that any of it is a front, per se…I think people are just brave in different ways.

Okay, now I’m rambling, it’s officially time to stop. What’s going on with you? Anything on your mind lately?

A Coffee Chat


Who says coffee and cookies do not a balanced breakfast make?

The big news around here (for me, at least) is that I’ve hit the 37-week mark of this pregnancy, which means the baby is technically considered full-term, even though his due date is still about 3 weeks away. So if he decides to come early, most likely all would be fine with him.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel really ready for his arrival. Mother Nature is so smart about these things. Where I used to be terrified of it; now, I’m like “Bring it!” I’m actually even almost curious to discover how I’ll do through it, like it’s the next big adventure. While I’m not in a rush for him to come (he still needs a little more time developing!), I am definitely ready to not be pregnant anymore. I’m ready to have my body back, even if it will sag and droop in places it didn’t use to do. I’m ready to be able to sleep on my stomach and not feel little fingers and toes squirm in protest. Although the baby and I will still be joined at the hip (or boob), I’m looking forward to being able to at least set the weight down from time to time–or pass it off to his father (heh heh).

I’m ready for a stiff cocktail.

Even if I still can’t have many of those either, what with breastfeeding and all.Analog(2)We had a visit with the doctor on Friday and all is right on track: baby hasn’t dropped yet (which is an approximate sign of impending labor), but he is head down (which is a very good thing) and he’s an estimated 3 kgs (6.6 lbs). The swollen feet I complained of last week were all considered within normal range for this point in the pregnancy, and actually the swelling seems to have gone down a bit over the past couple of days, which is a relief. I had read that weight gain can come to a stop, or even drop a little bit in the last month of pregnancy…I was skeptical, but it seems to be true, as I’ve even lost a couple of pounds this week. While the baby is still getting bigger, apparently the weight loss is due to reduced amniotic fluid as the baby fills out the belly. (It’s definitely not from the baked goods I’ve been consuming…though, wouldn’t that be nice.)

So that’s cool.

The other bit that makes me happy is that we had a chance to have friends over for a visit this weekend, and they brought their beautiful new 2-month old daughter. We were really curious to see how Dot would act around the baby as she hasn’t spent any time with babies before. Kids, yes (ever since she was a wee pup, I made a point to bring her to SOLD with me every chance I got specifically so she would learn to be good around kids), but the youngest child of her acquaintance has been about 3 years old. We were afraid she might bark or be nervous, but she did absolutely nothing of the sort. Her demeanor spoke of nothing but pure curiosity…all she wanted to do was sniff little Kate’s feet. She was very gentle around her (and of course we kept very close and watchful in case she wasn’t). She gave the baby space, was respectful as Kate slept in the bouncer on the floor while we ate lunch, and really seemed both fascinated by the baby and to understand the need to be delicate around her. We were very pleased, and are hopeful that this will bode well for when our little bean comes home.

_TMK0948-2On a quieter note, Toby and I have been feeling a tiny bit homesick for California these days. I don’t know if it’s because of the baby coming, or in spite of it…if it’s due to the time of year, or due to the likelihood that we would have traveled somewhere by now if I weren’t pregnant…but we’re thinking of home and our friends there. California is spectacular at this time of year too, the lazy hazy dog days of summer shift as the airs turns crisp towards fall and everything smells and tastes of pumpkin spice.

I miss wearing jackets. I miss socks.

And a couple of our best friends are expecting their first babe too–due on the same day as ours! They’re the kind of friends who, when we lived around the corner from each other, we would pop by for impromptu visits, or invite over for pie just because. As our pregnancies come to an end now, I feel a sadness that we’re not together, that we must share this time from so far away.

Well, all this talk of California is also making me crave Mexican food! I think that’s what I’m going to do for lunch today!

What’s going on with you? Are you feeling the hankering for autumn too? Happy Wednesday everyone!


A Coffee Chat


So I’m a day late with this post…I spent yesterday at my mom’s house helping her select curtains. Their house is finally coming along and starting to look more like a home! It’s exciting, and I love being a part of the decoration planning committee.

But when I came home and, after cooking dinner, contemplated writing a blog post…I shut off the computer and watched The Sopranos instead.

However, had we actually met for coffee, I’d tell you that I’ve officially crossed the 9-month mark. The countdown until Mister Bean’s arrival is well underway. And man, am I feeling it. I hadn’t had much of a problem with swollen feet or hands through this pregnancy, but this week, it’s definitely kicked in. I can keep it more or less under control as long as I lie on my left side and drink plenty of water, but sitting with my feet on the floor or standing exacerbates it. Even sitting and just keeping my feet up doesn’t really help.

Meanwhile, I’m putting together my packing list of things to bring for the hospital. Everybody says to pack well in advance since you never know when the baby is likely to come…but I’m looking at my list and almost everything on it is something I use daily or regularly. And since I travel light and frequently, all my toiletries and such are already in easy-to-grab travel bags (or are already in my purse) so it never takes me more than 15-20 minutes to pack for any trip of a week’s duration or less–and I’m pretty sure early labor lasts quite a bit longer than that. Even our essential documents are all in one thin binder I put together when we first moved to Thailand. So I’m looking at what I can pack in advance and all I’ve got is:

- diapers
- baby outfits
- receiving blankets (including one to bring home to Dot to help her get acclimated to the baby)
- diaper & nipple creams
- wipes
- maxi pads
- IDs, documents
- a few clothing items, but not all of them, as I still wear most of what I’ll need
- tissues*
- bottled water*
- Tylenol*

* Apparently our hospital charges for every little thing you use, and while the overall bill is about 1/10th of what it would cost in the U.S., we can cut down on costs by providing a lot of things ourselves.

This is not nearly everything I plan to bring. I’m not sure how everyone else is able to really get packed in advance. I guess I’ll just make sure my list is as thorough as I can make it so once labor starts, it really is easy to grab (or have Toby grab) the remaining items without having to think about it.

For fellow mamas out there…what kind of snacks did you pack? I plan to bring some apple juice…would PB&J sandwiches be a good idea too? The only recommendation I have is for healthy items that are easy to digest….so I’m not sure what would be best, especially of stuff that doesn’t need refrigeration. Got any suggestions?

Anyway, aside from all that, things are going pretty well here. Mostly, I’m just trying to hunker down now and get as much rest as I can, especially with the swelling going on.

Are you sick of hearing me talk about all this baby stuff yet? Haha, well even if baby is on my brain, I’m still looking forward to hearing what’s going on with you. What’s going on in your corner of the world? I’m all ears.

A Coffee Chat

photo(15)I probably shouldn’t be having all the sugar and caffeine in this iced frappuccino-type drink, but I am SO going to after the day I’ve had.

Let me back up and explain. My parents took possession of their house on Friday (YAY!) even though it’s not quite finished yet (BOO…), and while we should have been celebrating, we had to deal with bureaucratic a-holes at a local district office (I think I’ve mentioned before how much I hate bureaucracy in this country). Then my mom slipped and bunged up her ankle, and things that were supposed to be delivered weren’t delivered, and then it was a holiday on Monday, so everything shut down…let’s just say it’s been a rough start for them.

Anyway, they’ve been schlepping their things from our house to theirs, and I’ve been reorganizing our stuff and cleaning…and bending and squatting and lifting more heavy things than I probably should…I can’t help it! The nesting instinct is strong. It’s a dilemma: to nest, or to rest. That is the question.

Either way, last night I paid for it. I clearly overtaxed my hips and was in pain most of the night. When I woke up this morning, I felt better, but my groin muscles have still been very sore and tender. Sitting is okay, but standing, walking, or shifting positions in bed is problematic.

So, despite still having a tall list of things to do, I conceded defeat and decided to spend today resting–which I did do for most of the morning. But then, we had an appointment to meet with an advisor about renewing Toby’s visa (normally we do it ourselves, but it’s quite a process–and there’s that whole bureaucracy thing again–and his visa comes up for renewal soon after the baby comes so we’re thinking it might be worthwhile to hire someone else to handle it for us this time around). And it was a quick meeting, but there were a series of minor inconveniences that are too tedious and trivial to really name here, so after a quick stop at the grocery store and the gas station, we were ready to just get back home.

Except, when we finished pumping gas, our car died. We had to call my dad to come rescue us (lucky for us, they’re so close now and have their own car!), and despite the fact that Toby is supremely busy at work today, he’s now stuck taking the car to the shop to find out what’s wrong, since he tested the battery and it’s not that.

Always something, right?

In other news…there’s this:

photo(14)Spotted while we ate lunch today. Yes, that IS a pig’s head. At least we know our food is fresh, right? I think?

Oh well. Could be worse. The good news is I’m 35 weeks pregnant today (a week away from 9 months!). For the uninitiated, pregnancy is about 40 weeks long, but a baby is considered full term after 37 weeks…so, things are getting close now!

And really, life can’t be so bad when there’s this truth:

photo(16)So I’m gonna’ go get lost in some happiness. How about you? What’s going on with you?




A Coffee Chat


If we were meeting for coffee today, I’d invite you in to my home, and it’d become immediately apparent that everything is in a state of transition. There are boxes waiting to be used or broken down and stored. There are baby items out and organized, but shoved in random corners as they wait to be put in their final place. There’s all my parent’s stuff waiting to be transported over to their new home. And somehow, in the midst of all this, I keep trying to create pathways and maintain a functioning home.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. My parents have been spending every day this week over at their new home, getting it ready, with the promise of being able to move in within the next week or two keeping them motivated. It’s been a trial for them too as there is always some fresh disaster to deal with, like the workers pouring paint down the bathroom drain, ruining the drain, and causing it to need to be replaced, or the girl who came to sweep up the construction dust deciding it was a good idea to just shut the doors to various rooms instead of sweeping up in them. (Out of sight, out of mind?)

My parents come home each day and collapse in front of the TV, clinging to the life-giving force of their beers.

Just a few more finishing touches and the crib will be ready.

Just a few more finishing touches and the crib will be ready.

In other news, if we were really meeting over coffee, I’d have to tell you about this couple I met this weekend. I went shopping at one of the big local supermarkets to get diapers and wipes and a few other items that I’ll need for myself during the hospital stay and postpartum healing period. As I was perusing the newborn nappies, a worried-looking couple came up to me and asked me for my help selecting diapers. (Don’t ask me how I manage to look like I know what I’m doing with any of this…I don’t know!) I think they might have been Burmese, or maybe from one of the local ethnic hill tribes, because although they could speak Thai, they clearly couldn’t read it. The wife was asking me about a type of diaper and what age-range it was appropriate for, and I explained to her that it depended on the baby’s weight. Before I knew it, I was going through the whole baby section with them, trying to explain to them in my less-than-perfect Thai things like the difference between laundry detergent and fabric softener.

The whole time, I felt so sorry for them, because when you look down the baby aisles here, everything DOES look the same. By packaging alone, if you can’t read, the detergent is indistinguishable from fabric softener, as is baby wash from shampoo or lotion or oil. They asked me which detergent to get, and things got even more complicated when, following my knee-jerk reaction, I suggested they use one that is perfume-free in case their baby is sensitive or allergic to it. But I wasn’t sure which brand was the best because, truthfully, I bought Woolite because I used it in the U.S. and trust it to be gentle enough for use while our baby still has that sensitive newborn skin–but that’s only available at the expensive grocery store and cost about three times what the other detergents cost.

It reminded me of when I first moved here and what it was like to look at all the unfamiliar brands and have to re-learn how to shop. As bewildering as that was though, I didn’t have nearly the kind of stress they did because at least I could read English, and a lot of the packages have at least some English on them. Between the English and the pictures (and maybe a little help from the English-Thai dictionary in my phone), I could figure out most of what I needed. The only time I recall having to ask a clerk for help was when I was looking for a detergent without perfumes for myself because the one we had been using was making me sneeze.

I mentioned this episode to Toby and he speculated that our advantage and relative ease also came from having a basically normal middle-class upbringing: that we could tell what various products were because we were already well used to buying them and have had plenty of exposure to the differences between things like liquid detergent and fabric softener…unlike the experience of someone who might have only ever bought the generic laundry soap available at the little village convenience store.

I wonder how much that is true. Maybe it’s a poor assumption on our part. Either way, this episode stood out as a poignant moment to me, a kind of eye-opener to simple challenges others face in situations we might easily take for granted.

I made a little mobile to hang over the crib

I made a little mobile to hang over the crib

Anyway, all in all, things are chugging along here. I’ve been reading birth stories from a book on natural childbirth to reassure myself that things can and do go well, that my body is built for having babies, and that it’s possible to have a positive experience of it. More and more, my trepidation is turning to anticipation for that first moment they lay my little man on me, tummy to tummy, skin to skin. I don’t know for sure the whether and how of getting there. One never knows how these things will go. But I am starting to really look forward to getting there.

A Coffee Chat

_1050334It’s gone. My energy. It has been sucked away into a void somewhere, and I’m back to my first trimester self when even contemplating doing anything more taxing than zoning out seems insurmountable. I make myself do things, but it’s exhausting. On the plus side, I can drink coffee this time around so that takes the edge off. However, I’m also carrying almost 20% more weight in the form of baby, so that probably evens out the equation.

So if we were meeting for coffee in real life, you’d probably tell me I need to get a second cup. And I’d think you’re probably right.

Dot loves to curl up on our footstools. I don't know how that's comfortable.

Dot loves to curl up on our footstools. I don’t know how that’s comfortable.

If we were really meeting over coffee, I’d have to tell you about this real douchenozzle jerk not nice guy we met the other day. Now, as an expat living in Chiang Mai, there are three basic social groups of fellow expats you’ll generally run into: missionaries, backpacker-types on extended stay, and sexpats. And loath as I am to generalize about any particular crowd, I would say the sexpats are almost invariably obnoxious on every possible level. Not only do they come with the express desire to find cheap sex in the short term, and a subservient, young woman to take care of them for the long term (because they can’t take care of themselves), they’re almost all over 50, white, male, with a heavy colonialist superiority complex, incessant complainers about the country they’ve chosen to inhabit and its people, disrespectful, and rude.

Not to mention they fuel the sex industry, including underage girls and boys.

You could say we try to avoid these people. However, my dad happens to know one such man: a guy who used to come to our family’s restaurant in California and lives in Chiang Mai off and on (he had come out to marry one woman and ended up marrying her mother instead–I don’t even want to know the details of that story). They agreed to meet up for beers, and after imbibing said beers, they ended up spontaneously deciding to extend the visit at my house. I woke up from a nap on the couch as they came inside. This man promptly plopped himself down, and spying the bag of chips that Toby was snacking on, reached his hand out for the bag to ask for some, and said, “Thanks for offering.”

We might have, sir, had we been given the chance to. Although, at this point, I was already less inclined to provide any encouragement for him to stay because who does that?

Meanwhile, Dot was edging her way around this guy, with a kind of growl-bark deep in her throat. I’ve mentioned before that she is way more protective of me now that I’m pregnant, but she is usually very good about not barking at people we’ve let into the house. She’s not a yapper and somehow she has figured out that people invited into the home are welcome. Not so with this guy. Still, she wasn’t actively barking…just registering her suspicions, and this guy looked at her and said, “Well you’re an angry little shit, aren’t you?”

“Not angry. Just protective,” I said, though I really wanted to tell her that her instincts weren’t far off.

Then this guy announced that he’d heard Toby was a computer whiz. Toby modestly responded that he wasn’t a whiz, just a software designer, designing iPhone apps and such. So the guy says, “You’re going to have to show me how to download movies onto my computer and upload them to my TV.” We’ve barely met you, guy, and you come into my home, demanding my husband take time out of his busy schedule to show you how to pirate movies? I do fail to understand why some people think professionals in the tech industry are just itching to be everyone else’s unpaid volunteer tech support, but demanding free (and illegal) service from someone you just met hits a new level of uncouth.

He then asked Toby where he was from, and when Toby replied, “Atlanta,” the guy proceeded into a long spiel trying (and failing) to make fun of the way Atlantans say “Atlanta.”

All of this happened in the space of approximately 10 minutes. Any one of these incidents would be just awkward in isolation, but when he flung them out there one after the other like that, I began counting down the minutes until he might leave. Add to that a crass attitude, a clear sense of entitlement, and horribly off-color jokes, and it made for a real painful visit.

I’ve encouraged my dad to make friends with other expats out here, now that my parents have moved here, but man do I hope he steers clear of the sexpat crowd.

Anyway, it’s taken me about an hour and a half to write this post since I’m having so much trouble focusing. How about I turn it over to you? Tell me, what’s going on in your part of the world? Have you met any colorful characters lately?

A Coffee Chat



I am 8 months pregnant today.

I was recently reminded that in just 5 weeks, this baby will be considered full-term. I feel like there’s still so much to prepare before his arrival, and that ideally, I’d have it all done by the end of August because the baby can really, healthily, come anytime in September. I think being physically prepared for him to arrive will help a lot with being more emotionally ready for him.

At least I hope so. It could be that once I have everything in place and finding the perfect doilies to line the baby shelves or getting the right bottle sanitizer no longer consumes monumental proportions in my head, I’ll have nothing left to do but focus on trying not to freak out about the birth.

We’ve started taking childbirth preparation classes. There’s a really fantastic community of midwives and trained nurses here who routinely welcome pregnant families into their home, ply them with fresh home-cooked goodies, and hold classes on labor & birth, postpartum care, and breast-feeding–all from the goodness of their hearts. They won’t even accept donations, except of the kind they can pass on to future new mothers. They make themselves available should you need help when the big day comes, and they’ll even come to your house and help out with any issues you might have with breastfeeding afterward. I kind of expected to feel more lost, alienated, or alone out here as an expat…but I don’t feel anything of the sort when there’s such a wonderful community and resources available. And I’ve heard so many times that, in the experience of mothers who gave birth in the U.S. and then gave birth here, they vastly preferred giving birth here because the doctors here aren’t so concerned about litigation as in the U.S.–which means they are more hands off, letting you do your thing as you feel best suits you, until you need them. Then, when you’re actively pushing, the doctor will be there to help you much more than is usual in the U.S.

Not that there aren’t drawbacks and things you have to watch out for here, as practices on various things differ. It’s just good to know that the birthing experience here has been so positive for so many women.

I’m trying not to be too freaked out by everything involved–our first class was quite graphic about what all the body has to go through and do. But it is comforting to know that, for the most part, the female body was made to do it, and mostly, my job (and Toby’s job) is to just help it along, and do things to help make sure I’m not getting in my own way. Our second class focused on showing us that there are a variety of techniques, all geared towards making the process as efficient as possible and to help deal with whatever situational cards we’re dealt. So that makes me feel like this thing might be somewhat manageable.

In the meantime, there are things I have to think about here, as an expat, that I wouldn’t be so concerned about if we were living in the States. Beyond passports and citizenship documents (which should be pretty straightforward, actually), I think about the implications of our plans to travel back home in the next year or so, or to Europe to visit the grandparental units there. We have plans to spend a full month in the U.S. next year, and then a full month again in Europe the following year. With so much time spent abroad, we’ll not only need to get our kid vaccines for diseases prevalent here, we’ll need to research and request vaccinations required in the U.S. and Europe, and figure out what’s a good schedule to give them to our kid and not overwhelm his little body.

But even that’s not such a big deal.

However, there is one thing that keeps tripping me up. It drives me nuts, to no end. It actually makes me angry–probably disproportionately so.

And that’s the car seat. For someone who habitually travels light (physically and emotionally), who was carried home from the hospital in her mother’s arms, and who distinctly remembers playing freely as a child in the back of her dad’s VW when we drove anywhere, the car seat represents more than just an inconvenience. It’s a burden, an infringement, governments poking themselves in where they don’t belong.

It’d be one thing if the car seat was small, light, or easily packed. I could also be more inclined to shrug it off if car seats were anywhere near cheap, so we could just buy one when we arrived. No. The car seat is a veritable exorbitantly-priced beast, and there’s no guarantee it will fit well in whatever cars we use when we arrive in the U.S. or Germany. And when we travel to the U.S., it’s not like we just go to L.A. and that’s it. We have people to visit in L.A., central California, northern California, South Carolina, and if we can afford the time & extra flights, Florida and Atlanta. So we’d have to keep lugging the damn thing across the continental U.S. The irony is if we were traveling to Thailand instead of from Thailand, it wouldn’t even be a concern since, with moms riding on motorbikes with their babes tucked in slings here, the whole car seat concept is kind of optional.

I’m not saying I don’t care about our kid’s safety. I just buck against being forced to do something when there are no convenient alternatives. (Why aren’t car seats more travel friendly??) But, as my husband points out whenever I complain about this, we knew our days of easy, light travel are over for the foreseeable future. We did sign up for this, after all.

I’m sure that, by the time the situation actually arises, I’ll have gotten over it and accepted it as just the way things are. Since Toby & I usually pack light enough we could share a suitcase between the two of us (even with gifts for friends & relatives), we do have room to spare to bring stuff for the little one.

Anyway, I’d better get over it, or give up on travel for the next 5 years.

So…this coffee session turned out to be one huge venting spree…sorry about that! Your turn now. How are things going for you? If we were meeting for coffee, would there be something you’d want to vent about too?

A Coffee Chat

Toast with greek yogurt and raspberry jam

Toast with greek yogurt and raspberry jam

Happy Wednesday, everyone! And for me, it’s a happy Wednesday indeed because our shipment of stuff from the States has arrived! It’s a bit complicated because all our stuff for our baby, plus some household items, came with my parents’ things that they brought over to move into their new house…except their house isn’t done being built yet. So they had to pile up everything in the living room of their new home, completely open to the workers still coming and going all day long, not to mention exposed to all the humid air and construction dust. Not ideal…


(And I think my mom is almost as excited about all the baby stuff as I am, so it’s okay.) And Lordy, is it sure a lot of stuff. A. LOT. OF. STUFF. Playard, car seat, strollers, and crib, and high chair, and too many other items to name. There is easily three times as many things for this kid of ours as what Toby and I brought in total when we moved to Thailand. I think we’ve also quintupled our plastic consumption with this child.

Needless to say, I’ve been busy trying to figure out where to store all this dang stuff and scratching my head over how to put various playthings together. I think I need to be a baby Einstein myself to work out how to construct that baby Einstein jumper thing (a contraption which I must say I find kind of terrifying).

Books from Toby's & my childhood

Books from Toby’s & my childhood

I complained on Facebook about how unstackable and unsortable baby bottles, sippy cups, and their various accessories all are…but I think I need to revise my earlier statement to concede that their defiance of easy organization is surpassed only by baking pans. But I’m still going to squeal inwardly in delight because, after 2.5 years of making do with Asia’s lack of equipment, all my good baking supplies are here. Springform pans, tart pans, bread pans….all here! (And I won’t complain too much about how they don’t stack nicely because PIE. I can make PIE.)

And my wedding dishes are here!

_1050304Pardon me a moment while I just revel in this excitement.

_1050305Ok, just one more and then I’ll stop.

_1050306I’m amazed and thrilled they survived in one piece (thanks to my mom’s fantastic packing skills). We did have one box of things where half the contents shattered…but we just won’t talk about that. {whimper. sigh.} All in all, it’s amazing that most everything that matters made it across the great, wide ocean in spectacular shape.

My view as I prepped for a SOLD workshop, Chiang Rai

My view as I prepped for a SOLD workshop, Chiang Rai

In other news, Toby and I went up to Chiang Rai for the last workshop I’ll be holding for the kids this year. I will still put together workshops for them, but I think I’ll be handing the materials over for someone else to run, as it’s getting more difficult for me to make the trek out there. (And I don’t feel particularly comfortable being a three-hour drive away from my doctor & hospital as I near the end of my pregnancy–and the nearest hospitals up there are, how shall we say it? Um…not recommended.) I’ll try to go up for a visit around Christmas, but for the rest of this year, I’ll be doing all my SOLD work from home.

Toby had to do a border run over to Burma for his visa, and as the border isn’t far from Chiang Rai, he came with me on this trip. It was really nice having him with me too, and I think everyone else was relieved I wasn’t making that drive alone as usual.

Anyway, that’s all the excitement going on around here. Tell me, what’s going on in your neck of the woods?


A Coffee Chat

IMG_0120My husband is a collector. He collects rocks and gems and fossilized bits. He collects Hot Wheels (but only the cool ones). He collects photos from artists he admires. He collects mementos and pieces of nostalgia. Me, I don’t really collect things. Even mementos…with a few rare exceptions, I might hold on to things for a while, but then when the mood strikes, I purge and out it goes. I travel light.

But I recently realized that there IS something I would collect when the time is right. Something I never fail to “ooh” and “aww” over, something that always makes me happy when I see it. Can you guess what it is?

Beautiful coffee cups. If I had some space where it would be practical to get a nice curio cabinet to keep them safe in, and I knew we wouldn’t be moving too often (and thus wouldn’t have to worry about packing and shipping them all), I would start collecting coffee cups. Not just any ones, mind you, even of pretty ones. It would be a carefully curated collection. And I’d probably keep my collection on the down low as I wouldn’t want to encourage people to buy mugs for me because I’d be a total snob about my collection and wouldn’t want a bunch of random ones taking up space.

I figured out this is what I’d collect when now, a year later, I realized I’m STILL kicking myself for not buying the stunning, gorgeous, hand-painted latte mug I found at an open air market in Krakow, Poland. It was a little bit expensive and I talked myself out of it then, thinking it was probably a ubiquitous tourist item. Nope. Haven’t seen another like it since. Kicking myself, I am.

IMG_0131Anyway, we had a lovely weekend getaway for Toby’s birthday. I made ginger pecan cinnamon rolls as a surprise for breakfast in bed. I used this recipe and just added chopped up bits of crystallized ginger, pecans soaked in a smidgen of maple syrup, and some grated orange zest before rolling them up.

Then we went to a resort called The Nest, aptly named as it is nestled just below Chiang Dao mountain. There’s plenty of rock climbing, hiking, cave trekking, temple viewing and other fun activities around the area. What did we do? We slept. And ate. And read. But mostly slept. We did visit one cave, but seeing as how I’m 7 months pregnant, I pretty much just popped my head in and then waited outside while Toby explored a little deeper. The sleeping part, though? That was tops.

IMG_0144And this weekend, we’re off again! We’re headed to Chiang Rai as I need to do some work for SOLD. I’m running some workshops on how to manage conflict within interpersonal relationships, which will hopefully expose the kids to examples of healthy relationships and introduce them to the values and strategies they can employ when problems crop up.

I got the idea for this when fellow staff members saw how conflict between the kids and their parents can distance them from loved ones and leave them more vulnerable to traffickers hoping to prey on them. Culturally here, women aren’t always valued equally as men, and, socially, there are few positive examples of equal, mutually respectful, and loving relationships between men and women. All of these factors contribute to the kids’ susceptibility to abuse, feelings of worthlessness, and lack of personal agency.

By teaching the kids how to create relationships built on trust, equality, and mutual respect, and to approach conflict as a means to strengthen relationships through honesty, openness, and collaboration, I’m hoping to continue teaching the kids that they are valuable individuals who deserve respect and love, and that they have the ability to choose how they respond to complex situations. They are not just passive victims, but active stewards of their own lives.

Photo by Rachel Goble. Available for purchase at: http://thesoldproject.storenvy.com/products/1793326-power-meditation  All proceeds go to supporting SOLD's prevention work.

Photo by Rachel Goble. Available for purchase at: http://thesoldproject.storenvy.com/products/1793326-power-meditation                   All proceeds go to supporting SOLD’s prevention work.

Speaking of SOLD, we have some big news! We’ve just premiered a brand new video–it’s a short, couple-minute clip, but we’d love it if you’d take a look at it and feel inspired by its message of hope. It’s called “Travel With Us” and we hope it’ll serve as reminder that none of us travels alone–and that we all can be part of something larger than ourselves.

Check it out here: http://thesoldproject.com/travelwithus

Okay, my coffee’s growing cold now. There’s a lot to do today as I need to run some errands to prepare for my workshop this weekend, and this week is a busy one because (aside from the launch of our video and a couple of other big developments we’re working on at SOLD), finally after all this waiting, my parents’ new car is ready so we can go get it AND the shipment from the U.S. has arrived in Bangkok and will be here on Friday. Of course, my parents’ house isn’t done being built yet, so where we’re going to store all this stuff is a question…but at least there’s forward movement and things are starting to fall into place.

How’s your week looking? Is it a crazy busy one too, or are you getting in some good summer vacation time?

A Coffee Chat

_DSF1332It seems for most pregnant women, the first trimester is the hard one, with the nausea, food aversions, sudden hormonal changes, and burgeoning aches and pains. I was pretty lucky in that regard, sailing through with little of any of those complaints.

I have a feeling it’s the third trimester that will be a challenge. If you and I were really meeting over a cup of coffee, I’d confess to you that this is where I’m starting to struggle. I seem to be a lot more hormonal these days–easily angered, easily brought to tears. I clumsy and slow, off balance in more ways than one.

Sleeping is getting difficult again. I’ll find myself sitting up wide awake at midnight or 1 a.m., trying all my best tricks to induce drowsiness. But the minute I lie down, various discomforts crop up: acid reflux, the baby starts squirming around, and I can’t find a position that doesn’t strain something. If I lie on my back (which I’m not supposed to do), there’s too much pressure from the baby’s weight (hence why I’m not supposed to do it). If I lie on my side (like I’m supposed to), it somehow squeezes the baby and he starts fidgeting. If I lie at a sort of 45-degree angle, as I had been doing up until now, it starts to pull at the muscles just below my belly. And the baby starts squirming. Last night I fell asleep curled up, upside-down on the bed, with my head at the foot and my feet at the head, because somehow flipping around that way discombobulated the baby enough so that, if he was kicking around in there, I didn’t feel it so much.

_1050213The other cause for concern these days is that dengue fever is going around like crazy. I don’t know what it is, but this year the mosquitoes are out in force, passing around the disease like it’s their job. (Maybe it is their job? I hate skeeters.) Dengue fever is awful–it’s known as “break bone fever” because it makes you feel like your bones are literally breaking. And the real shit part of it is, once you get it, you’re more susceptible to it in future. The antibodies your body builds up in defense, instead of helping you fight off the disease, turn into little life rafts or Trojan horses carrying the disease to whatever part of the body it wants to go to. At least that’s what my husband told me.

Oh yeah, and it can kill you too.

We know so many people who have gotten it this year, and news reports are full of how the number of cases keeps rising.

Being pregnant means my immune system is weakened too. So even if it weren’t for concern for the baby, I’d still have to be extra careful to cover up, use mosquito spray and coils every where we go, and kill all the buggers on sight.

IMG_0039But life isn’t so bad, even with all my kvetching. This week I’ve made a lot of progress on preparing the next workshop for the kids at SOLD. It’s coming together, and I’ve reached the part where I get excited (as opposed to nervous) about how it’ll go. I’ve also gotten back into more disciplined writing practice, which always makes me feel better.

And it’s my husband’s birthday this weekend. We’re going to check a new place we haven’t really been to before, one that’s nestled in the mountains and has a bunch of caves and temples to explore. Chiang Dao is supposed to be beautiful, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

I also plan to bake some goodies for Toby. I won’t tell you what it is just yet–it’s a surprise–but I will divulge that it involves ginger and pecans. And cinnamon. Planning surprises for him always makes me excited.

So if you and I were really meeting for coffee today, I’d thank you for letting me vent. I feel better now. If we were meeting for coffee, what would you tell me today? Do you have anything you’d want to vent about too? Please share, I am, as they say, all ears.





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