When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


1/26/15

My Favorite Things

No matter how lovely the foreign land, international travel with small children is innately stressful.  No longer is losing your passport your biggest concern.  Now you must keep track of multiple passports, carry an array of snacks (because who knows where or what you'll eat next, and hungry kids are not happy kids), and find diaper changing areas in places where they simply do not exist.

While we absolutely loved our recent trip to Bali, a certain inevitable amount of physical and mental strain was present during the entire trip.  I didn't even realize it was there until we landed at Changi Airport.  Coming home to Singapore felt like, well, coming home.

I noticed it the minute we departed the plane.  A familiar terminal.  A spotless bathroom (complete with pristine changing table).  An efficient immigration process.  We had been in the airport enough times to find our way to the baggage claim area easily.  We got our carts, bags, and headed for the taxi queue [line].  After a very short wait, we were on our way.  A smooth, safe ride [during which the driver obeyed all traffic laws], and we were home.

The following day was a rainy Sunday.  It was a little slice of heaven.  I found we were doing lots of little things we used to do back at home in the States.  Wandering from room to room, I actually began humming "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.  Only instead of "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" it was…

the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies



the sound of rain on the windows and cartoons on the television



Christmas PEZ dispensers being emptied at record speed


little boys hard at work, silently creating new realms made entirely of Legos


a new chapter in our latest [1950's] Hardy Boys adventure



Ahh…This was familiar and relaxed and fun.  I was so grateful for our beautiful vacation, but I was even more grateful for the unexpected gift I was given upon our return.  The gift of home.  

1/19/15

Bali - Part I

I have been trying to write about our trip to Bali for weeks.  There are so many wonderful things I wish to remember that it's too much for one post.  So here is part one of our series...

We had the privilege of visiting Bali over the kids' Christmas break.  If you are anything like me, when you hear "Bali" you think gorgeous, exotic, faraway island.  Well, yes, yes, and no.  Thanks to our relocation, Bali is relatively close…It is one of the thousands of islands that makes up the Republic of Indonesia, located northwest of Australia and south of Singapore.

We stayed in a town called Ubud (pronounced oo-bood) in the south central part of the island. Words cannot capture this place.  It was incredible.  Lush and wild and wonderful.  Frightening at times (especially on the roads and in the Monkey Forest), but so beautiful it made my heart ache.

I was giddy with excitement as the plane landed on the runway.  My head whipped around trying to take it all in.  Even the kids were wide-eyed as the bus took us from the tarmac to the building.  I thought they were enjoying the scenery, but no….They were more interested in the people.  Loudly, "Mommy, why is there a ninja on our bus?" "Honey, that's not a ninja, that's a Muslim woman."  Perhaps we should have had some cultural training before we arrived.  *Sigh*

As we neared the airport, I was struck by the beauty and intricacy of the architecture.  I wish I had snapped a few shots, but we were too busy herding children, locating luggage, and trying to get two cabs to take us to the hotel.  My heart was racing as I piled into the car with two kids and lost sight of Aaron and the other children in a cab behind us.  I couldn't reach Aaron on his cell, our driver spoke broken English, I couldn't remember the name of our hotel, and I didn't happen to have any Rupiah (local currency).  My excitement was beginning to give way to panic.  Just breathe. 

I repeatedly asked the driver, "Did my husband tell you the name of the hotel?"  "Yeah, yeah."  I couldn't tell if he understood me or just wanted me to shut up.  So I shut up…and prayed.  Visions of the movie Taken flashed in my mind, but I pushed them aside and instead focused on the road in front of us.  Big mistake.  Apparently traffic laws in Bali are merely regarded as suggestions.  Our driver weaved in and out between cars, motorbikes, stray dogs, and spent a great deal of the time on the wrong side of the road.   Okay, maybe looking out the window was a better option.

Wow!  Bali was barely-contained nature.  It was evidence of man peeking through wild rain forest in the form of statues and temples around every turn.  It was impossible to tell if the structures were ancient or recent given the way moss and foliage crept over anything and everything.  It was terraced rice fields dotted with gatherers bending to the earth.    Women carrying baskets on their heads while balancing babies on their hips.  Motorbikes everywhere, many carrying small children on the front or rear, zipping around so quickly, my heart caught in my throat.  Roosters pecking in the dirt and stray dogs stretched out on sidewalks, oblivious to passers-by.












I was intrigued by the plethora of small, square baskets that appeared to be everywhere.  On the streets and sidewalks, on shrines and statues, on thresholds.  If there was a flat surface, it had a basket on it.  They were made of woven coconut leaves containing colorful flowers and food.  I learned they are called Canang sari and are daily offerings made by the Balinese to express thanksgiving and praise to the supreme god of Indonesian Hinduism.  Clearly, the Balinese were a thankful people!  And why not, they obviously lived in paradise!  (By the way, I totally stole the image below off the web…didn't get a good shot of these baskets myself!)  

Partially clothed statues caught my eye, as they stood perched at gate and temple entrances.  Sometimes grinning, sometimes scowling, but always modestly covered from the waist down by a checkered patterned cloth.  It is a simple pattern of white, black, and gray.  Apparently the solid colors stand for good and evil, and the blended areas stand for the belief that sometimes things are neither good nor evil but a blend or the two.   



I was just in awe of the beauty of the place.  Long, tapered bamboo poles lined the streets, bending at the top and drooping over the road like natural street lamps.  Only instead of lights on the ends, they had rounded baskets, filled with more offerings.  They are called penjor, and the offerings were for the spirits of deceased relatives.  It turns out we had arrived during the Balinese holiday of Galungan.  During this time it is believed that ancestral spirits revisit their earthly homes and are offered hospitality via prayers and offerings.


What an amazing ride!  I felt like I had landed on another planet.  I couldn't wait to see what else was in store!

1/18/15

You are...

Right now you are asleep on the couch.  You woke early from nap, snuggled in my arms, and drifted off again.  You are no longer a little baby.  You do not sleep well in my arms.  You fidget and wiggle until I lay you down where you can stretch out comfortably.



You are long lashes and crazy, sweaty, little boy hair.  





You are scraped knees, evidence of a many walks and tumbles.



You are rounded toes and thumb in mouth.  









You are precious, and you are mine!  And oh how happy that makes me!


I tiptoe upstairs and peek in another room.  I see you in a few years…

Even longer!




Toes still deliciously plump.



The same scraped knees, only now it is essential they are covered in multicolored bandaids.  
No problem, buddy.



You are still thumb in mouth, but you are growing.  Tears sting my eyes.  What a lovely little guy.



My eyes travel around the room.  I see your afternoon absence in a few years.  A bed without a nap.


A closet full of Legos - waiting.  



You are not home, but this is still your home.  You are learning and laughter and friends in the street.  

And while I'm so very happy to be a witness to this progression, I will not yet allow myself to think about the day when your home will not be with me.  Right now, I will sneak back downstairs, sit on the floor in front of the couch and thank God that I can just watch you breath and grow.