Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just A Quick Post

This is just a very quick post as Caitlynne and I are heading to the airport in a few minutes.  Christopher's team won one game yesterday (18-8) but lost the other game (8-0).  According to Kevin, everyone hit, pitched and field very well in the first game and then fell asleep for the second game!  I am happy they at least have one win under their belts and, most importantly, are having a good time.  Tonight, Kevin and Christopher are meeting up with friends of ours from Alice Springs who now live in Perth.   

Caitlynne and I are off to Singapore!  We are very excited to see "Wicked" and do some shopping (or at least a lot of looking!).  We are staying right on Orchard Road which is the central shopping district in Singapore.  I do wish we were going somewhere with cooler weather as  I certainly could use a break from the heat and humidity. 

Have a great weekend!  


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SEA Tournament

Not a great post to write... our team lost both games today (the first day of the tournament).  The first game was a huge loss (18-2).  All I know right now (thanks to a friend's facebook post) is that the second loss was "crushing" and the kids are super sad.  So, of course, I am now sad too.  I was hoping we would at least hold our own and not have these kind of losses on the first day.  It will be very hard for the kids to pick themselves up after this and focus on playing well the rest of the week.  

I will write more once I have additional information.

Have a great Wednesday!  

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Is It

We are in full countdown mode here for Kevin and Christopher to depart for Australia early tomorrow morning.  Lots of planning, organizing and packing!  Since I am not going, I am trying to prepare for every possible situation that they might find themselves in and pack accordingly.  Christopher's team had their last practice yesterday afternoon and everyone looks good. There are three Bangkok teams going - a Minors Team (13 & Under), a Majors Team (15 & Under) and a Seniors Team (18 and Under). The tournament is called the SouthEast Asia Youth Baseball Softball Tournament (SEAYBST) and our teams will be competing against teams from Singapore, Australia, Jakarta and Manila. There have been some scouting reports emailed back and forth between our coaches but I don't think our teams will really know for sure what they are up against until the games actually begin.  And, even then, the competition can change so quickly from game to game.  It is the baseball version of "any given Sunday".  The boys have been practicing together since before Christmas and work well together as a team.  We have 4 very good pitchers, 4 good pitchers and almost everyone hits very well.  Hopefully, everyone will have their game on this week and the team will do well!  (P.S.  It is no coincidence that Christopher and Eli Manning share the same jersey #.  That is what happens when you let your mom do the picking!).

Caitlynne and I will have a few quiet days while the boys are away.  Her school softball team has two away games this week and she also has a babysitting job one evening.  I have a lot of errands to run and am going to try and visit Say Jon (more on that below) on Wednesday as I will be unable to go on Friday.  

We FINALLY have a new laptop so I will set that up (without plugging it into the wall socket!) and have the recovered files from the "exploded" computer transferred over.  I ordered the laptop from Dell the first week in February but, unbeknownst to us, products with batteries cannot be sent via APO/diplomatic pouch.  However, no one bothered to tell us that our laptop was received by the APO/diplomatic pouch but was then sent back to Dell because of the battery issue. So, we were waiting (rather impatiently) for almost 7 weeks for something that was never going to arrive.  Last week, we finally figured out that the laptop wasn't coming and confirmed the refund to our credit card.  Fortunately, Kevin was in Japan on travel and saw the same laptop I originally ordered - but for $300 less! Obviously, he bought it and it was in our home Friday morning.  Yay!  I hope all of the recovered data and files will transfer over to the new laptop and I can pick up where I left off (blog, photos, music, etc.). The exploded computer used "Vista" which frustrated the heck out of me at least once every day (The.Worst.Program.Ever.).  Vista is incompatible with pretty much every program out there and it was a nightmare for me to send/receive files. The new laptop has Windows 10 and, since I have had an increase consulting work & projects over the last 6-8 weeks, it will be nice to have a system that I am familiar with and that is easy to use.  

I was assigned a new baby to care for this morning at the Babies Home.  I had planned to look after another volunteer's baby girl for two weeks but a lot of the children (and she was one) received vaccines yesterday and were off limits today. Since she was unavailable, the coordinator took me to meet my new baby.  
His name is Say Jon and he was born on November 14, 2011 so definitely still a baby (and I confirmed early on that he was indeed a he).  He had very little head control and is a couple of months  away from being able to sit up by himself.  He was very serious for the first 45 minutes we were together and just looked at me with these big brown eyes. He wanted to cuddle a bit and then we played "So Big" and "Airplane" and he began to smile. He even made a few little squeals when I held him up over my head. By the time I took him back to the nursery, he would smile whenever I touched his cheek or smiled at him.  All of our playing tired him out and he took a snooze on my lap.
So cute!  I hope this little guy is around for a while!

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Miles and Miles

The kids were off from school yesterday for parent-teacher conferences.  School was originally to be closed Thursday and Friday for the conferences but we have time to make up for the days lost to flooding so conferences were compressed into one day. Since the conference schedule was abbreviated, the teachers requested meetings with only certain parents.  We  received only one such "invitation" and it was for Caitlynne's math class.  I was a little worried about the meeting.  She had a horrible (non-existent might be a better word) math teacher last year in Miami and we were concerned that her lack of knowledge in some areas was becoming an issue.  Not to worry.  She is doing very well and her teacher enjoys having her in class.  There are a few concepts her teacher would like her to study some more before she begins Algebra next year and he gave us a list of her exact areas of weakness.  Kevin will have to take charge of that duty as I am still hyperventilating about her learning Algebra!  I never understood (and I am sure my grades evidenced this) how letters fit into math.  Yikes.  7th grade math is already difficult for me, what will I do next year?!?  

Since school was closed, the kids had a lot of activities planned with their friends.  I must have driven 50 miles yesterday, all within Nichada.  I felt like I was in & out of the car/golf cart all day and well into the night.  Whew!  On top of shuttling the kids here and there, I also had to take Sonder to the vet for an ear infection.  Since it is much easier to park a golf cart (rather than a car) in front of the vet's office (on a busy street right outside the front gate of Nichada), Sonder got to experience his first ride in the golf cart.  Actually, he got to ride in it twice because the first time we took him up to the vet, the office was still closed.  I have learned that the general rule of thumb in Bangkok is not to make an appointment (for anything) but to just walk in.  Walks in are given the same consideration has someone who has an appointment or reservation.  It is definitely a "first come, first served" mentality.  Caitlynne and a friend of hers came with me to hold onto Sonder in the golf cart and to help me in the event any soi dogs were around when we parked at the office.  Sonder sat very nicely on Caitlynne's lap and liked the wind blowing in his face.  This was my first time going to the vet and I was  impressed.  The vet was very young but thorough and he spoke English very well.  It turns out Sonder has infections in each ear as well as on one of his paws so we will be treating him for the next three weeks.  I couldn't believe that I paid less than $40 for the vet consult/exam, three tubes of ear antibiotic ointment and a bottle of special shampoo!    

Caitlynne had a fabulous softball game last night.  She hit the ball each time she got up to bat - she made it to first base twice, was tagged out at first once (but brought a runner in) and her last hit was a BEAUTIFUL line drive that went into left field and drove in two runs.  As catcher, she made an out at home by catching a foul ball that the batter had tipped.  It was a great night for her!  Between the community team and the school team, she is practicing or playing softball 5 or 6 days a week and it is clear her efforts are paying off.  Her school team has their first (and second) game this week - both games are away (really far away!) so I won't be going.  

Christopher had a double header this morning and his team won their first game but lost the second.  This was the last weekend of games to determine the standings for the play-offs which begin April 6th.  His team finished tied for first but, based on run differential with the other team, his team came out ahead so they will get a bye for the first round.  

His travel team leaves for Australia very early Tuesday morning and they will return Sunday, April 1st.  The tournament is organized so each team (there are five total) plays 6 games in three days to set up the playoffs on the fourth day.  It will be a lot of baseball and I am glad Kevin is going!  Christopher had two of his friends (also on the travel team) over this afternoon so they could work on completing the school assignments that they will miss while in Australia next week.  
Surprisingly, they settled right down and got to work.

Have a great Saturday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Good Thing

Great but sad (for me) news... Phaphitaya has been adopted and will be leaving to live with her new family in the Philippines on March 27th.   I was sad when the volunteer coordinator told me this yesterday morning.  However, I am so happy that Phaphitaya now has a family and a home and at least I can have two more visits with her before she leaves.  After she leaves, I am going to care for another volunteer's baby while she is on vacation for two weeks and, when she returns, I will get (yet another) new baby.  

I was just outside with the dogs and noticed how much our landscaping has grown in the last couple of months.

I posted this photo on December 6, 2011 of the view from my kitchen window.  
Compare it to the photo below that I took this morning...
I posted this photo of my Hokie Birds on October 16, 2011...
And this is the photo I took this morning...
The view from our balcony on September 9, 2011...
And this morning...
 The view from our front door on August 6, 2011...
And this morning...
Everything sure has grown in the short time we have been here.  I expect we will have quite a jungle once the rainy season begins.  I also spotted the first banana blossom & baby bananas on one of our trees in the front yard and will have to keep an eye on it as it ripens.  I am very interested to taste these bananas and see how they compare to those that we buy in the grocery store (which are very similar to the bananas sold in the U.S.).  

The fabric for the family room and dining room drapes finally arrived last Thursday.  I wasn't given a date when they would be finished but the seamstress works quite quickly so, hopefully, it won't be too long.  Both of the fabrics were just what I wanted and the colors were very true to what I saw online.  I was going to have valances made for the two kitchen windows (to match the dining room drapes) but I found ready-mades in the same fabric on line.  I calculated that it would cost more to order the fabric  online and have them made here so I ordered the ready-mades instead.  
Window #1:
Window #2:
 The fabric up close:
Our dinner this evening...mussels with some type of a vegetable saute.  PeePorn also made rice, a fruit plate and a salad.  Yum!  
Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Isn't she a cutie?  We had another great visit together on Friday.  She is always very curious about what is going on around her so I put her in the exer-saucer for a while and she was quite happy to watch the other children.  I think the younger children at the Home spend a lot of time in their cribs - at least until they get to the age where they can crawl or walk - so I am going to try to keep her upright as much as possible while we are together.    Her name is pronounced "Pa Peach Ee Ya".   

I feel like I never left the bleachers at the baseball/softball fields this weekend.  I am getting to the point where I am counting down the days (hours?!?) until the baseball season ends! Caitlynne had a softball game Friday night (ending in a tie) and Christopher had a baseball game Friday night (ending in a win).  He also had a game yesterday (another win) and played two games today (7 hours of baseball) with his travel team. They played against a Japanese travel team that trains through an academy here (read: eat, sleep and live baseball 24/7).  Christopher's team lost both games but they only lost each game by 5 runs.  Considering they were playing a very competitive and skilled team, I think they more than held their own and played well.  If we could have gotten our bats to wake up, the score would have been much closer.  Our defense was amazing and I think we only had two errors total so the team looks to be well prepared for Australia.  

Kevin left for Tokyo this morning and will return at the end of the week.  Then, he and Christopher leave on March 27th for the baseball tournament in Australia.  He has been trying to keep up with March Madness but the timing of the games is really off for us so we are relying on the sports section on (thanks Chris Cassidy!) for our updates.  

Yesterday evening, Caitlynne went to a birthday party for a friend who lives downtown. The theme of the party was "Red Carpet" and all of the girls got dressed up.  They do clean up nicely!
Have a great Sunday!  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chinese Guardian Lions

As I was taking photos of the orchids for Wednesday's post, I realized there was a new addition to the decor on the cabinet in our front entryway and it might be a good topic to post about. 
These porcelain figurines are known as Chinese Guardian Lions or Imperial Guardian Lions.  Westerners often call them "Foo Dogs".  Historically, these statues stood at the entrances of the Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy.  They date to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits.  I first saw a pair of these statues at one of the antique shops I frequent downtown.  Although they were not for sale, the owner did tell me what they were called and my search began for something similar to put in our entry way (this was before I even had the cabinet).  I also read a lot on the internet about their history and learned a great deal about the the beliefs attached to these Lions and their importance in Chinese spiritual life.

The Lions are always presented as a pair which is to symbolize "yin" (the female) and "yang" (the male).  In truly authentic Lions, the male will have its right front paw on an embroidered ball called a "xiù qiú".  The ball might be carved with a geometric pattern called the "Flower of Life".    The male is believed to guard the structure.  The female will have a cub under her left paw to represent the cycle of life.  The female lion is thought to protect those dwelling inside the structure.  Some statues will have the female with her mouth closed and the male with his open to symbolize the enunciation of the sacred word "om".  

The lions are traditionally carved from decorative stone, such as marble and granite or cast in bronze or iron.  The placement of the guardian lions in front of a residence was a symbol of a family's wealth or social status because of the high cost of the materials and labor required to produce them.  

According to feng shui, the lions must be placed correctly in order to ensure their beneficial effect. When looking at the entrance from outside the building, facing the lions, the male lion with the ball is on the right, and the female with the cub is on the left.

I have seen many of these guardian lions around Bankgok at the entrances to hotels, restaurants, and other buildings.  Since they are outside and exposed to the elements they are usually made of stone and tend to be one color (white).  However, some of the lions that are used solely for interior decorative purposes can be quite eye catching (and expensive).  Here are a few fancier lions...
The top pair of lions are offered for sale at $3,200 USD.  All of the others are priced between $500-$1500 USD.  Rest assured, I paid no where near those amounts for mine (as you probably can tell - they certainly aren't authentic) but they are just what I wanted for the entry.  

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

I was very excited this morning as I found the very first re-bloom on one of my orchids...
 A promise of more to come... 
 And another orchid even has some buds too!
Now, before y'all go thinking I have a brilliant green thumb, I must confess this is all the result of PeePorn intervening in my (very novice) orchid growing attempt.  There are orchids available every where you go in Bangkok and I don't think I have ever met an orchid that I didn't like.  Not only are they very cheap ($3 - $5) but the colors are beautiful and there are so many different varieties.  I bought quite a few orchids last Fall and placed them right outside our front door for the Eastern sun exposure (as is recommended).  I misted and watered (& talked to them!) only to see the blooms shrivel up and die within a few weeks. I was very disappointed because some of my friends and neighbors have orchids that have kept their blooms for months. I certainly wasn't killing them because all of the orchids had a lot of new green growth and several of the plants did put out stems with buds; however, the buds eventually turned brown and dried up so I wasn't doing something quite right. But what?!?

About 6 weeks ago, PeePorn told me that it was too hot outside for the orchids and we should bring them inside.  I was worried about the air conditioning negatively affecting them but she said it wouldn't be a problem.  She also told me she thought I was watering them too much and, since the gardener probably watered them too (I didn't think about that!), they were getting way more moisture than needed.  I have since learned that too much water = unhappy orchids.  So, here they all are inside the house...
We have quite a few windows with great exposure to the sun so it was easy to find "homes" for all of them.  They do make everything look very pretty and warm.  Since we moved them inside, PeePorn has taken charge of their care  - obviously with wonderful results.  I don't know what she is doing but they are thriving.  All of their blooms are staying on and the blooming orchids continue to push out new buds as well.  The orchid that had the re-bloom was actually given to us by some friends who left Bangkok right as we arrived and it is nice to see it back in bloom.  I think I have eight orchids from the original bunch so if I can get most of them to re-bloom, I will be quite happy.

Have a great Wednesday!  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Minor Miscommunication

Usually, Mondays are the day on which I pay bills, organize and file paperwork, respond to emails and deal with any "action" items that need to be taken care of.  If there is time before the kids come home from school, I try to run a few errands. Rarely have I ever scheduled something (even just lunch with a friend) for a Monday because I like to have the entire day (uninterrupted) to catch up on everything and get back in the swing of things after our busy weekends.  It is amazing how far I fall behind and how much new "stuff" piles up in my in-box in just a couple of days!  Since I now go to the Babies Home every Monday (and Friday too) from 9 -11 am, I had to adjust my schedule.  Now, I run my errands right after I finish at the Babies Home (while I am out and about) and then come home and tackle my office.  Although it has only been three weeks, so far, so good.      

I met my new baby yesterday morning!  Wilma, the volunteer coordinator, told me his name last week but it was a very long Thai name and I couldn't even begin to remember what it was.  I waited until Wilma arrived and, after she sorted it out, I walked over to his building to pick him up.  Such a sweet little boy!  He was born on October 10th so he is just about 5 months old.  He has his two bottom front teeth already and it was so cute to see that flash of white when he smiled at me.  We gathered in the activity room with the other volunteers and he pretty much ate and slept during our time together.   As he drifted off to sleep, he would suck on the index finger of one hand and, with the other hand, he would twirl the hair at the nape of his neck. So sweet!  Remembering the incident of the overflowing diaper from the prior week, I was very cognizant of his fluid intake.  About 10:30, I went to change his diaper only to discover that HE was really a SHE.  Talk about something lost in translation!  I really wanted a boy to be assigned to me, although I am not sure why.  Anyway, I am very happy that I have her!  Her name is Phaphi Taya.  I am sure she has some sort of a nickname so I will try and find that info out on Friday.

After the Babies Home, I stopped by ISB to watch Christopher participate in an activity for his  "Environmental Stewardship" class.  There is a movement at ISB to ban the sale of disposable water bottles on campus.  His class put together a booth with different displays and activities to educate the school community about the impact of plastic on our environment.  His teacher is very passionate about conserving our resources, reducing pollution & waste and recycling and has developed some really great projects to get his students interested and excited about caring for the environment.  In fact, his class last year put together a very successful effort to ban the use of plastic bags at the food market in Nichada which (I think) was a pretty big achievement for students.

The focus of yesterday's activity was to highlight to the negative impact plastic has on water environments (rivers, oceans, etc.).  These were some of the posters  and displays the kids put together.  
Here are a few photos of Christopher working at the booth with his friends...
Christopher's volleyball team had their first game yesterday which they won.  He did not get to play and, while I think he was disappointed, he has never played volleyball before so he wasn't too surprised.  At least he was able to see how the game was played and can focus on practicing and developing his skills. 

Have a great Tuesday!