Zoo Lights

December 23, 2016

Every year, the Reid Park Zoo puts up hundreds of Christmas lights and opens it's doors at night to visitors.  Since we are on a mission to do everything (family friendly) that America has to offer, we knew we had to do this at least once.  We had a picnic dinner at a nearby playground, bundled the kids up against the 45-degree weather (island babies!), and headed over to see some lights.

First stop- s'mores!

Korea: Catching Up With Good Friends

December 22, 2016

We stopped in Seoul on our way home from Thailand and while we there, we made a trip an hour south to visit some good friends from Kwaj that had been stationed there.  Their family was only on the island for about a year and half but during that time, Fire got to be best friends with their daughter A.  That brought our families closer together and M, A's mother, and I got to be good friends.  When she and her husband decided to look into adoption, we were able to help them through the process.
  Back in Phoenix, when our trip was starting out so horribly, it was friends like these that D and decided we just couldn't miss seeing.  I'm so glad we pushed through all that and went on the trip because the day and half we spent with them was one of the high points of it all. 

We missed our train and the kids had to entertain themselves in the station while we waited for the next one

Life Lately, in Pictures

December 20, 2016

We've been staying busy here, finishing up the school semester, ramping up for Christmas, and enjoying as much of American life as we can.  Here's a little slice of what we've been up to lately:

  Sky loves the Sound of Music so I took her to see it on stage for her birthday.  We had lunch and ice cream together first and it was so great to spend time with just Sky.  She's hilarious and asks the best questions!

Jesus Loves Me

December 19, 2016

This boy is in the throes of the terrible twos pretty badly right now.  There are times when I just want to shut him in his bedroom until he grows out of it and I have my sweet boy back and then he does something like this and my heart melts. 

  You bet Jesus loves you, sweet boy, and so do Mama and Daddy!

Sky's 7th Birthday

December 18, 2016

Sky turned 7!  Who said she could get that big?!  This has been a great year for her.  She's grown so much as a person and is really coming into her own.  She's doing great in school, has made lots of friends, and is excelling in gymnastics.  A lot of the behavior issues we were working through when she turned six have passed and we're seeing more of her personality come out.
  We celebrated Sky by having some of her friends and our family over for dinner (always ramen!), cake, and presents. 

Thailand: Back to Bangkok

December 16, 2016

After a quick flight south from Chiang Mai, we were back in Bangkok for the day before flying to Korea.  We spent the day doing things we knew the kids would enjoy: the aquarium and the Children's Museum.
  The aquarium is actually in the mall and I took Sky there when we were here a few years ago.  All the kids love aquariums so it was a big hit this time too.  We didn't get many pictures because the kids were all over the place and it took both of us to keep up with them!

Our driver tried to teach the boys the "wai", the traditional Thai greeting, while we were getting tickets.  This is the best version:

Thailand: Chaing Mai Zoo

December 14, 2016

  We spent the morning before flying back to Bangkok at the Chiang Mai zoo. It was a great experience but nothing like we expected. We thought we would be wandering around as a family looking at animals (you know, like an American zoo) but apparently that's not how you do things here. The zoo is huge and set in a wooded, hilly area near the university. We had a driver and a guide for the day and we drove between each of the animal exhibits. At most stops, there was animal food for purchase and you could hand feed the animals. The kids thought it was great! I have mixed feelings about zoos in general but for some reason, being able to interact directly with the animals made this one seem more friendly.
  If you're in Chiang Mai with kids, this is a good option. I would plan to spend the whole day there and bring a packed lunch because there aren't any restaurants in the zoo and nothing nearby is "child friendly". Oh, and bring lots of small bills so you can feed the animals!

Playing Catch Up: Making the most of Saturday

December 12, 2016

I found this post from the end of September with all it's pictures and none of the words.  Things were pretty busy then and it looks like I just never got it finished.  I usually let posts like this go but it was a really fun, busy day.  I love that there are so many new and different things to here in Tucson.  Kwajalein was great for our family but there was no way we were going see a soccer game, a children's concert, a reptile show, and then do a drive through the desert there.

  If you ask Fire, he says he loves soccer and wants to keep playing but this is how he looks every Saturday

Thailand: Tourists For The Day

December 11, 2016

Once upon a time, D and I were young and childless and we traveled A LOT.  Both together and separately and we got really good at seeing the world and meeting people where they live, away from the air-con buses and tour guides.  At the end of each day, we'd study our guide books and decide what to do the next day.  If the weather didn't cooperate or something went wrong, we'd just do something else.  It was spontaneous and (mostly) fun.
  Fast forward to our family now.  We've learned a lot after traveling with kids for the last six years and at least for our family, spontaneous (mostly) doesn't equal fun anymore.  We've come to the other side, at least a little bit, and embraced the buses and guides. D and I could do it on our own but it's more fun for everyone if we don't.  So for our full free day in Chiang Mai, we hired a guide and driver from Blue Elephant Tours and spent the day after the wedding playing tourists.
We rode elephants:

Playing Catch-up: Halloween

December 9, 2016

We returned from Thailand just in time for Halloween.  I arranged our trip that way on purpose because I wanted the kids to experience a real American Halloween.  Our neighborhood goes all-out when it comes to decorating and the kids loved seeing new things show up in yards every day.
  With all the renovations going on at the house, I told the kids that we were going to have to use the costumes we had in the dress-up bin and I was pleasantly surprised when they were fine with it.  Even Sky, who can find a way to get mad about pretty much nothing, was fine with pulling out something she'd worn dozens of times before.  Sky was a purple princess for school and a beauty queen at night, Fire was an alligator, Water was Batman, and Earth wore the skeleton pajamas that Water wore last year.
  We only trick-or-treated up and down our street before the kids were done but they had tons of fun handing out candy to other trick-or-treaters and playing with light sabers and glow sticks in the driveway.  It's so much fun to watch the kids have fun!  
  Sky and a friend at the bus stop

Thailand: Wedding Time!

December 7, 2016

M and P, the kids' godparents, were married in the courtyard of the resort that we were staying at.  It was lush and green and the perfect setting for an intimate wedding.  Sky was the flower girl and Fire was the ring bearer. 

Decorating for Christmas

December 6, 2016

I love decorating for Christmas!  Most of my boxes of Christmas things have been in storage for the last seven years so I was really excited to unpack them and make our house really shine for the season.  Unfortunately, it's still a bit of a construction zone around here so I couldn't go all-out, but it was still nice to bring a little Christmas cheer to the house.

 We put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving.  D put up the lights and then we let Sky and Fire put the ornaments up one night before bed time.  We only put up the durable ones and as you can see, only the lower two-thirds of the tree have ornaments.  I was going to rearrange them after the kids went to bed but he thought it was cute so we've left it this way.  The stockings are on the wall just like they were on Kwaj- no fireplace here either!

Thailand: Art in Paradise

December 5, 2016

  There was nothing planned for the morning of the wedding so we spent it together as a family in Chiang Mai.  A friend told us that their kids had loved Art in Paradise so we decided to check it out.  I had a back-up activity planned too because I didn't think the kids would like an art museum very much but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  It wasn't just an art museum- it was a visual arts museum, the kind you can touch and be a part of.  The kids thought it was hilarious to stand in the paintings and have their photos taken.  They raced from painting to painting and didn't want to leave when we reached the end.
  If you're headed to Chiang Mai with kids, you should definitely stop at Art in Paradise!

Thailand: Chiang Mai

December 4, 2016

  After a night and day in Bangkok, we headed back to the airport for a quick flight up to Chiang Mai.  We'd always heard wonderful things about the city in the northern, mountainous area of Thailand but had never been there ourselves.  The kids' godparents were getting married at a small, family-run resort outside of town and we were able to get a great deal on a bungalow there.  Normally we like to stay closer to activities and restaurants but the chance to be close to our friends and have a whole house for the kids won out.
  The grounds were park-like and the kids had a really good time exploring them.  It was great to be able to let them have some freedom to roam and explore.
Throwing rocks in this pond was a big hit

Kitchen Renovation Update

December 2, 2016

We're so close to finishing this project!  I'm an avid HGTV watcher so I know that renovation projects often cost more and take longer than the original estimates but I was not prepared for the extant to which that would happen in ours.  Thanks to a combination of planning errors, unexpected issues, and scope creep (I'm looking at you, D!), this five week project has turned into a three month one.
  We've come a long way from the builder-standard kitchen we started with and the empty shell we had when we left for Thailand.  So far, the floors are done (I'll be doing a post on finished concrete floors soon) and all the cabinets are in.  The counter top material was on back order because of the holidays but our contractors took pity on us and put down some plywood for me to use for now.  They've also loaned us a sink a faucet so I'm actually able to use the kitchen.  It's so nice to be back to cooking the way we like to.  The dark cabinets look great with the floors and the slate-finish appliances.  I can't wait to see it all put together once the counters go in next Tuesday!

From the family room through the dining area to the kitchen

Little Planes

December 1, 2016

A friend from D's work has been asking him for some help on his plane and he invited all of us out to the airfield to see it.  I was expecting to see Cessna-size airplanes and was surprised to see  stripped-down ultra-light planes instead.  The kids loved the "little planes" and fought over who got to sit in them.  The boys loved seeing the engine strapped on top and Sky kept admiring the paint jobs (there's a discussion about built-in gender identity there...).
  D's friend's plane isn't quite ready to fly yet but there was another pilot at the airfield that day and he offered to take D up for a short flight.  D was really excited and even got to fly the plane for a little while. 
  We love exploring Tucson and finding this little airfield and it's "little planes" was another great experience for our family.

Our Charmed Life. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.