Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Introduction to School

Today was Stafford High’s New Upperclassmen Orientation and then its school-wide open house.  I decided to take Penny to both, as I felt it would be great if she could meet other kids entering upper grades who were in the same boat she was.

On the way over, I told Penny that her goal for the time at school was to talk to 5 new people.  She thought I was crazy.  I knew she would meet at least 3, as I had contacted an acquaintance in town whose daughter is in 12th grade and whose son is starting at the high school this year in 9th grade.  The other 2 AFS students in town were also going to be there, one of whom she had met and one of whom she had not met.  I met both of them and was impressed by both girls.  One is from Norway and the other Finland, but they seemed pleased to see Penny.  Penny is going to be in 12th grade and the other two will be in 11th grade, so they will not share many (or any) classes, but my friend’s daughter may share a couple of classes with Penny, so I’m glad we were able to connect and she can look for a friendly face.

The orientation was sponsored by the school’s Link Club, and had many student ambassadors who were on hand to greet new students.  They played a bunch of silly games that forced them to interact with each other, doing things like “Tell the other person what you did today from the time you woke up till now in 30 seconds”.  I’m sure that got lost in translation and all the fast talking went right over Penny’s head, but she did a good job of singing and playing the silly games.  I lost track of what they were doing after that, as a couple of the teachers took us parents on a tour of the building.  The high school is huge.  Seriously, my entire school that I attended from K-12 would fit in one wing of that place.  When we got back from the tour, I felt as if I had no idea where we had been or where we were going.  I almost sat down and cried!

Shortly afterwards, Penny arrived back from her tour and she was given a phone number from one of the student ambassadors.  Now she has someone she can call any time she needs help.  They served the kids pizza and then the open house began.  We looked at Penny’s schedule and decided to divide it by floor and by wing.  I explained to her that all the classrooms starting with a 1 were on the first floor and all the rooms starting with a 2 were on the second floor, and then we started with the first floor rooms.  We met her government teacher first, a very nice man.  I had letters from AFS that I gave to each teacher, which they were happy to receive.  Mr. Miller told Penny about the text books and the supply list that he wanted her to have.  We progressed very similarly from classroom to classroom, and the teachers along the way helped us when we got lost.  Every single one of her teachers had a connection to Thailand somehow.  Her English teacher had a sister who was an exchange student to Bangkok.  The creative writing teacher had a previous student from Thailand.  The history teacher had worked with a bunch of Thais, and knew a bunch of curse words.  He said one of them and Penny blushed and burst out laughing.  It was hilarious.

Eventually we got done and went back to the cafeteria to buy Penny a school t-shirt.  We got information on the athletics pass so she can decide if she wants to buy one for cheaper than it would cost her to go to the games and pay for them individually. 

On the way home, we were both just exhausted.  I hate crowds, and the school was CROWDED like crazy.  Penny was overwhelmed by the language and fast talking and trying to find her way around and all the interaction and information.  She handled it like an absolute champion, and I am extremely proud of her.  All the teachers were great and told her to let them know if she doesn’t understand, they will be happy to chat with her after class or whatever she needs.  One offered to give her extra notes so she doesn’t have to look up and down at the white board while he is talking…

As we were driving home, Penny said she wanted to get home to her best friend Leah :)  She asked if she could stay home with us now and not go to school, and I told her that I was pretty sure she’d be bored and all she was going to learn from me was that she does not want to be a housewife.  She replied, “I want to be a housewife!  You go to school and I will be a housewife!”  I was actually a bit envious, listening to some of her teachers today, about all the great things she’s going to learn.  I promised to help her with her reading at least ;-D  Since she hates reading and I love it… 

I think she is going to have a great year.  I hope she will put herself out there and really make friends and have a blast.  She took the first step, which is the hardest.  I told her that this is her destiny, and as scared as she may be, she should embrace it with two arms, since it won’t come her way again.  Here’s hoping!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Baking Lesson

This past Friday, we didn’t have a whole lot to do, so I decided to give Penny her first baking lesson.  Penny calls me “Cookies”, a nickname my husband gave me years ago.  It came about when I bought him one of those giant chocolate chip cookies when we were dating.  Before Penny arrived, we were chatting on Messenger and she gave me quite the interview about what kind of cookies I like.  (I decided finally that Hershey Kiss cookies are my favorite).  Before she left, Penny’s mom Linda told her that she should learn some baking techniques from me so that when she goes back to Thailand, she can make them some treats.

I went through the cupboards and found that I had enough ingredients to make Chunky Chocolate Jam Bars, a real favorite in this house (probably my second favorite cookie!).  I decided that bar cookies would be easy, since the bake pretty uniformly and it would be fun.  Penny was excited about it, so we agreed to meet in the kitchen during Leah’s nap time!  This is the recipe we followed, making only the slight change that instead of using raspberry jam, we used the strawberry jam I canned earlier this year after spending way too much time in the Pick Your Own fields at Westmoreland Berry Farm.

Penny is a very precise chef, so consequently, the cookies came out very well.  One thing we are learning about her is that she hates to waste anything.  And she only uses exactly what she needs to use.  When she cooked dinner for us the other night, she made exactly one chicken breast for 3 people.  Needless to say, The Chief and I were rooting around afterwards trying to find a little something else. :-D  She was also scandalized when I asked her to dump out a half a container of milk that had gotten old and gone bad.  She agreed it smelled funny and the color was not good, but she was very upset we couldn’t do something with it.  I have a few items in the fridge that she’s been hanging on to and when school starts next week, I am cleaning house.  I just don’t want to upset her in the process!

Anyway, she was extremely deliberate while measuring out the ingredients.  After she’d measured out exactly 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal, there was about a tablespoon of oatmeal left in the container, and she wanted to put it away.  I told her it wouldn’t hurt anything if she tossed it in with the rest of the cookies, so that’s what we did.  We had to decide what went against the grain more—using more than she needed or tossing a tablespoon of something in the trash.  We erred on the side of utilitarianism.

Teaching Penny some baking was very useful.  She got to try out using my stand mixer, and we got to have a lot of dialogue using numbers and fractions and food items that we might not have discussed otherwise.   We got to talk about foods she likes and dislikes and things that her mother likes and dislikes and The Chief and I like and dislike as well.  Unfortunately, I forgot that Penny does not like oatmeal, a key component in these cookies, but oh well!

Penny got warm with the oven on, something that is quite rare.  Usually she is wearing a sweatshirt and long pants to counteract the effects of the air conditioner.  Here she is, having stripped off one layer of clothing to reveal her much beloved “Child of the 80’s” t-shirt.  The shirt cracks me up in that Penny was born in the early 90’s for a start, and it has a Bob Ross “button” which says something about setting fire to the happy little trees, a decidedly un-Bob-Ross-like sentiment.  Given that she does not seem to know what her t-shirts say and that it just seems to be cool to wear English sayings on things, I would gather this is one of the “coolest” things in her wardrobe.  And I happen to love it as well!  Oh yes, the above picture is of her measuring out coconut.  I’m forgetting the point of this post!

The sole point of miscommunication we had while baking was in getting the bottom crust ready.  I told Penny to eyeball about half the mixture into the pan.  She thought I wanted her to use 1/2 a cup of the mixture and press it into 1/2 the pan.  But we worked through that and she made a beautiful crust.  Here she is preparing to spread the jam over it.  (Baker’s hint:  if you decide to make the recipe yourself, I always spread the jam on the crust and then top it with chocolate chips, instead of sprinkling broken chocolate bar over the crust and then attempting to cover that mess with jam.  The cookies come out just fine and are way easier to make!)

Here is a picture of Penny’s finished product:


Let me tell you, people, she was not happy to learn we had to wait for them to cool off before we cut into them.  We wound up putting them up on a baking rack so they would cool off faster, but after about 30 minutes, the wait was unbearable.  Leah was awake, so I brought her downstairs and then we cut into them.

This is not a great picture on account of the fact that somehow a fingerprint got on my lens.  I’ll give you one guess how it got there.  Was Penny proud?

You betcha!!!  What did Leah think?

“Thanks anyway, but I’d rather eat some dried cherries.”

Later that night, we fed some to The Chief, who pronounced them an overwhelming success.

P1080157 In October, we’ll be making some delicious pumpkin cookies and in December at the holidays, I always go a bit cookie crazy!  So Penny’s culinary education will continue.  I have my doubts that anything will quite add up to Texas Toast in her book, but we will see!  Cooking with my “daughter” is everything I dreamed it could be!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tour of DC

Recently in reading other families’ and students’ blogs, I’ve been kinda bummed about the fact that I don’t have cool pictures of us running on windswept beaches, enjoying the natural beauty of deserts or pristine forests, or of Penny surrounded by hordes of adoring fellow teens.  She is gamely following along with whatever game plan I come up with, which frankly most of the time is the spur of the moment, but I felt like I needed to do more somehow, because although 3 weeks is a long time for her to be here before school starts, it is slipping away, and I knew I would look back and think, “I wish I had done X, Y, and Z” those first weeks.

So yesterday I got up and we were sitting around and I told Penny to prepare herself for a little trip that evening.  I am famous for my trips around the DC monuments at night, and I decided we needed pictures of Penny in front of imposing memorials and breath-taking fountains, with her unhip host mom if nothing else! :-D

We left home around 8:30 last night and got to DC around 9:15.  Driving around in the dark, I got slightly lost and we wound up on the opposite side of the Capitol as I intended us to be.  However, we were actually on the front, I think, so it worked out well.  As we pulled up, I thought she would be blown away by the nearly supernatural glow of the white dome of the Capitol in the DC darkness, but instead, she was giddily squealing over our proximity to the Library of Congress.  I was thinking, “Really?” and she begged me to pull over so she could take a picture.  I couldn’t stop where we were, so I pulled around the corner and we were lucky to find a parking space literally right in front of the Capitol and right next to the LOC.  We got out and I had to fairly sprint to keep up with her as she exclaimed how excited she was to see it.  I said, “The Library of Congress?!” and she said, “Yes!  You ever see the movie The Day After Tomorrow?”  I guess it is prominently featured, I haven’t seen it! 

Shockingly (to me anyway), Penny had no idea what the Capitol Building was.  I explained that it’s the seat of American government where the senators and representatives meet to set policy and make laws, blah blah blah, and then I realized that I wouldn’t recognize whatever the most famous government building in Bangkok was if I fell over it.  So I guess we’re even on that score!  To her credit, Penny was impressed by the building as judged by the number of “Oh!”’s and “Very nice!”’s she uttered while wandering around in front of the building.  Her primary concern however, was getting pictures and in the dark, neither of our cameras was doing a good job!  UGH! 


This was as good as it got!!! 

We went over to the other side of the street and got a picture of what I guess is the Supreme Court building, but honestly, I have no idea, it was late, we didn’t see signs, and I took a guess.  It looked like the Supreme Court to me.  Then we hopped back in the car and drove to the other side of the Capitol to try and get more pictures, but none of those came out either, so we gave up and made our way to the Mall. 

Our first stop was the World War II Memorial, one of my two favorite places in Washington DC.  On the way we saw The White House and drove past the Washington Monument.  Penny is afraid of heights but feels confident that she will someday before she leaves go to the top of the monument anyway.  We walked all over the WWII Memorial and Penny snapped a zillion pictures.

Penny, a proud new Virginian!


A self-portrait in the lights of the Memorial


Penny poses like this last picture constantly.  Recently, a host mom posted a blog called "Sign Language" on her blog about what different hand signs mean in different countries.  So I decided to ask Penny if she knew what this two fingered salute meant in the US and if it meant something in Thailand.  She said in Thailand, it just means, “Don’t I look cute?”  I explained in the US it means “Peace” in a kind of hippie context.  She didn’t much care about that. Haha!

After that, I told her we would walk to the Lincoln Memorial.  It is a bit of a hike, but she is young and skinny and I am old and fat, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem for her.  Of course, this is the kid who asked me how she was going to get to the bus stop, which is at the top of the street, exactly 2 houses from here, and when I suggested she was going to walk, her eyes got as big as saucers and she said, “Oooooh!”  But there’s really nowhere to park near the Lincoln Memorial any more, even for those of us cool enough to sport handicapped tags, so walk we must!  We walked along a semi-lighted pathway, which was lined with Porta-Potties for the upcoming tea party rally this weekend.  As we finally got close to the Lincoln Memorial, we saw all the pavilions up for Glenn-Beck-A-Thon 2010, and Penny made the mistake of asking, “This is for some kind of rally?”  Only on account of the fact that Asians really do switch their R’s and L’s when they speak, I had to ponder for a second what she meant by “This is for some kind of Larry?”  But I realized what she meant and then it popped into my head what was going on, and so I said that it was and she was interested to know more.  Without putting too fine a point on it, I think Glenn Beck is a gas bag, so I attempted to indicate my feelings about the whole thing without being disrespectful in case Penny is quite conservative, which I doubt that she is really anything based on the conversations we’ve had about politics thus far (when we picked her up, she was wearing a shirt that read “Political Minded”.  I asked her if that was true and she asked me what it meant.  I explained and she said, “Oh no, I just like this shirt.”).  The whole thing seemed a little over her head, which was fine with me and if you want to know what I told her it was, you’ll have to look on my Facebook album in the comments section :-D  And don’t say you weren’t warned if you happen to be a great lover of the tea parties and Fox News.

Anyway, as we were walking up to the Memorial, which was drawing Penny in like a moth to the flame, two men stopped us and asked if we’d like our picture taken together.  Of course!  They snapped two for sure, and we were just thrilled to have a mother-daughter shot on our big night out.

P1080105Penny announced that she wanted to climb the steps, not take the wimpy elevator up to the top, and I am proud to say I made it! Once we got inside, she was so impressed by the statue of Abraham Lincoln.  We had tried showing her the battlefields in Fredericksburg and explaining the Civil War, but let’s face it people, if you were 17 and not an American, would you be all that interested in an internal conflict that went down 150 years ago?  So we are educating her little by little about American history, but since she is about to take both US history AND government in school, she will come out well educated.  Heck, I might even read the books just for fun.  It’s been a while!

P1080113We left the Memorial and I took her to the Korean War Veterans Memorial which I think freaked her out a little bit and then the Vietnam Wall.  She was starting to fade out a bit (by now it was well past 11), but she did gamely cross the little bridge onto Independence Island and then we finally made it back to the WWII.  She was starting to sniffle and shuffle and I asked her if she was OK and did she have it in her to have one more visit to my ultimate favorite spot in DC?  She said, “No” but she said it laughingly, and I really didn’t know what to make of her response.  She said, “I cannot walk in a straight line.  How far is it?”  So I told her it was across the park and we would drive there.  She didn’t disagree, so I went for it.

Once we got there, though, I realized I had pushed her a bit too far.  Disappointingly, none of the fountains was turned on, so it was a bunch of rocks and statues in near darkness.  I took her down to the Tidal Basin to see the city, and she walked through the memorial, but her heart was not in it.  Oddly, though, on the way back, she perked right up and wanted to take pictures with all the statues!

P1080119 P1080120

She was interested to know who Eleanor Roosevelt was although she didn’t care too much about who FDR was.  I got her back to the car, and almost immediately, she was out cold. She perked up when I put the radio on and Katy Perry came out of the speakers, but other than that, she was the kind of tired when your head flops forward and scares you, but you just keep putting your head back and sleeping anyway.  We got home at about 12:45AM, and I think she was asleep before she hit the top of the stairs.  I, on the other hand, had to pack lunch for the mister and check in on the wee one before bed.  I may be old, but apparently, I’ve still got boundless energy! ;-D  Penny did make me promise that I would take her back to DC this week, particularly to take pictures of the LOC, so we are hoping to get up there on Wednesday.

Taking Penny around DC was a special time for me.  Not only did I get to see the delight in her eyes as she took in our beautiful and historic landmarks, but I realized in walking around and thinking about my feelings about what was going on around me (the rally, people stopping to ask me for directions, watching other people enjoy the sights, strangers saying “good evening!” [which Penny finds hilarious, by the way]), that I am really proud of my country and to be living here.  I disagree with a lot of crap going on this country right now and I have a lot of issues with the way it’s being run and the way it has been run, but I don’t live in fear of saying so, and we enjoy great freedoms.  It is truly a beautiful place to live and visit and I look forward to loving our country even more as I travel with Penny this year!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Week Nearly Gone?

It has been almost a week since I blogged and another week has gone by.  I can’t believe it.  The first week was very slow.  We were all getting used to each other and feeling each other out.  This week has been more fun.  Of course, we had a teenager issue to deal with, but I think we worked it out well and unless I see signs that things are still happening that we haven’t agreed to, I think Penny has learned we’re not as clueless as we appear to be!  Parenting is definitely not for whimps!

Penny has cooked for us twice now, two different Thai curries.  One she made for my birthday party.  It was a good bit spicy to us, but she didn’t mind it at all.  Tonight’s curry was milder.  She took some down to the neighbor afterwards, so I hope they enjoyed it as well.  She has a very generous heart and seems to like all of my adult friends, so I hope that she will find kids she enjoys and I’m sure she will be just as generous to them.

This week she got to experience the Fredericksburg Pub.  She loved it there and thought the physical building was just beautiful.  I was totally bummed that they don’t do trivia any more!  But we had a nice meal with friends anyway.  I also took her out to the Westmoreland Berry Farm today.  I thought it would be nice for her to see a quieter part of Virginia.  She found it “beautiful” and “peaceful”. 

She continues to eat well.  We go through literally pounds of grapes every week.  I bought a bag on Sunday and it was gone by Sunday night. It cracks me up.  She also buys a couple of bags of Pepperidge Farm cookies each week.  This week she is sampling Milanos. 

Her English is steadily improving.  She brought an electronic dictionary with her, but it has not been working and we have been unable to make it hold a charge.  Our neighbor who is an electrician is coming over tomorrow to have a look at it, and if he can’t fix it, we will go to a local bookstore and get a paper dictionary, which Penny’s mother told her to bring in the first place.  That cracks me up—I never used to listen to my mom either.

We have cute miscommunications in addition to the ones that are obvious.  Penny has a bout of sneezes every single morning, and as is the custom, I say “Bless you!” after every sneeze.  I asked her, “What do you say in Thailand when someone sneezes?”  Her response was “Achoo!”  That just cracks me up.

Penny and I have been burning up the Wii playing Super Mario Brothers.  We also have learned Phase 10, as I mentioned, and tonight I taught her Skip Bo.   She loves Yahtzee and the C, L, R dice that you play with candy.  She is a bit of a fiend and a card shark, so I have to keep a tight eye on her, but her glee is unmistakable when she wins.

I am making a list of movies she needs to see while she is here.  She has never seen Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Forrest Gump, and The Princess Bride.  We started watching the first season of Lost.  She says she does not want to watch it at night any more!  But then she says she does not want anyone to know that because she wants to be thought of as brave!  :-)

Appearances are a lot to Penny.  Today she asked me if I think she sleeps too late.  I said that I thought she was fine and she could sleep later if she wants to, but she said she is afraid it will be bad manners.  I pointed out that I take a nap in the afternoons and that could be considered bad manners, which she vehemently disagreed with, so we agreed she can sleep however late she wants until school starts.  I suspect that she will still get up between 8 and 9 just in case.  She is also worried about what kind of friends to make and asked what kind of friends we want her to make.  We just told her to trust her own judgment.  I hope that she will start to form friendships when we go to the new student mixer, but I suspect she is like me in making friends slowly and deliberately.  We’ll see!

This weekend coming up, Penny will have her first meeting with the AFS liaison.  We will go bowling with friends on Friday.  Next week will also be busy with an open house at school, my physical therapy appointments, a game group at the local library, and hopefully a trip to DC.  I want to show her DC by Night, as I think the monuments and sites are impressive as hell at night.  I need to convince her to stay up late. :-D

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fun and Games

Penny has been here officially one week now.  When you stop to think that she will be here 10 months, or roughly 40 weeks, one week going by is significant.  I’m not counting in a bad way, mind you, it’s just that I’m aware that very soon the time is going to fly by and we will think, “Where did the year go!?”  It has been an interesting week.  I had visions of what I thought would happen, and none of that has occurred, and we are just fine with that. 

We had Penny’s first real bout of homesickness on Wednesday.  Of course, I wanted it to go away immediately, but it was something that had to run its course.  We sat together on the couch and she cried for about 3 minutes.  I hugged her, and it was over.  Just like that.  She seems fine again. 

Thursday, we had Victoria over again to babysit while I was at physical therapy.  They had a nice time together, but I think they are both a bit on the quiet side, so it was more or less that she just went home and that was that.  I hope Penny can find people she can talk to or listen to while they do all the talking.  I suspect in that regard she is a lot like me! :-)  I’m more of a listener.  Two listeners together makes for a very quiet household.

P1080010 After my PT, we went over and met Cindy and Wendy and the kids for a late-morning bowl.  Penny assured me she was a horrible bowler, but I came in dead last behind her, a 7-year-old, and a 9-year old.  She had a good laugh over that one.  Afterwards, our little crew went over to the Massaponnax Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  There is a woman who works there named Deborah whom we all adore.  She is so cheerful and friendly and helpful and always buzzing around getting us drinks and whatnot.  Last week we went to CFA several times hoping that we would be able to see her there, but she wasn’t there.  We all got nervous that she had quit, but in fact, she was just on vacation.  So I snapped a picture of her with Penny.



Thursday evening, we did go to the youth group at my friend’s church.  The girls who attended were all much younger than Penny, one of the leaders was sick, and the girls were all in and out and roving between different activities, so it wasn’t much that allowed Penny to get actively involved in forming friendships.  We stayed for about an hour and a half, and played cards with several people, which was pretty cool, as now I know we can play cards together.  In fact, I went out today and got Phase 10, as that’s what we played at the youth group and tonight Penny and I played it and had a great time.  We even tied at the end (didn’t keep score, just decided to see who could get through all 10 phases first and we got through them at the same time!).  Penny likes to play Uno, and fortunately we have Braille Uno cards, so Mike will be able to play with us at some point.

Today, I went walking with my neighbor as I do every morning, and then Lisa and Daniel came in for about an hour and we played with the kiddos.  Leah fell asleep immediately afterwards and then I went and picked Mike up early from work for an appointment.  When we got back, Leah was still sleeping, so we grabbed some McD’s and fed Penny.  I went to lay down for a few minutes, but Leah immediately woke up!  So we fed Leah and then I decided to take Penny for her first trip to Target.  She had asked me earlier in the week if Walmart was the most famous department store in the US, and I explained that it was one of the most famous stores, but that Target was just as famous.  While they have Walmart in Thailand, they don’t have Target, and Penny’s friends had all advised her to shop at Walmart.  I wanted her to at least have been in a Target, so today was the day.  We drove over and gave Mike some quiet time in the house.  We walked all over the Target, which turned out to be great since they have gas grills on clearance, and I am sorry to say that ours has died, so I was able to find one I really liked.  We picked up a few items—Penny got a notebook for her first two days of school (we will go buy her school supplies after she gets her syllabi on the first day) and some snacks, and I got some glasses (all ours seem to have broken) and the card game, juice, and ketchup.  Plus I had plied Leah with fruit snacks to keep her quiet during the trip around the store, so I had to pay for those!

On the way out, we hit Starbucks, but that was lost in translation as to exactly what Penny wanted.  She wound up with an iced latte, but in fact wanted a coffee frappucino.  So now we know for next time.  She found the latte bitter, so I tried mixing in some sugar, which helped a bit, but it was definitely not what she wanted.  We talked about other options and together figured it out for next time.

When we got home, we hung out for a while.  I have some family issues going on at the moment and wanted to talk to Mike, but that didn’t really happen.  Leah was dancing around and Penny was chasing her and we were busy with two active kids!!  So finally, I tried to think of what we could do to keep busy, and decided we were going to go to Chuck E. Cheese.  I asked Penny if she liked arcade games and she said she didn’t know, so I tried explaining skee ball and she said she thought it was OK, which was close enough to good.  :)  So we trooped over there and got a pizza and token combo and spent 2 1/2 hours there.  Leah was terrified of the rides in the toddler room and consequently wouldn’t leave my side much, so I didn’t do much playing, but Mike and Penny played a lot of skee ball, Penny is a champion basketball player, and we all played some video games.  We left with a bunch of tickets and still a good number of tokens for our next trip.

P1080022P1080025P1080024(see where the basketball thing says “Wow! Wow!”?  Yeah, she was awesome.)  

We got home and I put Leah to bed and Penny and I played a round of Phase 10 and then decided to watch a movie.  We agreed on The Holiday, which is one of my favorites and we watched it with the subtitles going, which allowed Penny to write down words she didn’t know and we talked about some of them.  I was not exactly thrilled to explain “Holy shit!”  Hahaha  I told her not to use that one.  And also “ass” I think was in there.  She’s been advised not to say that either!

So Week One is done.  It has been filled with moments in which nothing has happened and we’ve sat and stared at each other without much to say and also with moments that have been jam packed with laughter and chatter and fun.  Tomorrow Penny will prepare Thai food to bring to my birthday party, which is tomorrow as well.  Sunday we haven’t got any plans.  We talked about going to New England next week, but I have PT and a hair cut scheduled on Thursday, Mike has a blind guy appointment on Friday, I have an open house for a toddler class on the following Monday, and Penny has school open house on Tuesday.  So the timing doesn’t work out.  I’d like to take her somewhere to do something, but I need to work it out.  We’ll see.

The big challenge for me has been dividing my time between my two girls.  Unexpectedly, Leah has a big problem with me sharing my time with someone else, and of course, Penny needs my time and attention while she gets settled into a new home and new country and new routine. Even if we are all in the same room together, I feel as if I’m trying to perfect a wild and crazy juggling act.  I think it is working out fine, and I hope I am meeting the needs of them both!  Then I need to think of my husband, and of myself.  Tonight I’m taking time after what has been an extremely bad day personally to decompress for a while.  Everyone else is upstairs, and it’s 11:30PM, but I want a few minutes to get rid of this headache and try to shake the emotions I’ve got going on.  It makes me think about other moms and how you handle getting on with your day for the sake of your family when you really just want to curl up into a ball and hide for a couple of days?  Ahhh, stress, my old friend! How I haven’t missed you in over a year! :-D

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Registering for School

Today we had Penny’s school registration appointment.  It was a time for her to go and meet her new guidance counselor and to select classes.  It was a pretty straightforward procedure.  They had a basic schedule set up for her, but it turns out where school is concerned, Penny was actually quite happy to voice her opinions!  She did not want to take art or computer classes, no thank you.  So she switched into creative writing and marketing.  Now she is pondering switching from marketing to drama, her thinking being she needs to talk more.  So we are going to encourage her to join the drama club, as she wants to be in business someday and a marketing class might be more valuable than a drama class.

AFS Virginia gave us a letter to print out for each teacher, so those are now ready since we know her teachers’ names.  There is an open house at the school on August 31, and just before it is a mixer for new students entering grades 10-12.  I will take her to both so we can try to learn our way around the school and she can meet a few people.  She has acquiesced on attending the youth group tomorrow night, so that is good!

That’s the latest and greatest!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping Lines of Communication Open

I have been brainstorming ideas to keep Penny busy while she settles in here and starts to meet people.  She is very shy of trying to meet new friends, so we are going slowly in that arena, and I understand her misgivings, I would feel the same!  She says Americans talk very fast and she does not understand us half the time.  So we are trying to slow down as much as we can and not talk over each other, which I suddenly am aware of us doing.

Today, I decided we would go to the pool.  Our neighbor, Lisa, is a member of a local pool and she gets us guest passes to use.  So I called her and asked if we could go today and we decided to have a picnic lunch and go use the pool.  I got Leah ready and Penny said she was ready too, but that she was not going swimming.  I said, “you aren’t!?” kind of surprised and she said, “No, it is too hot.” 

This did not make any sense to me.  If I were able to get in the pool right now, I would be living in it, but the local pool has no stairs, only ladders, and since I am recovering from a dislocated elbow, I have no way of getting myself out of the pool once I am in it.  But I just let it go and she said she would like to come and have lunch anyway, so we decided to go and let Leah swim.

However, I figured there was more to the story and I was right.

While Leah, Lisa, and Daniel were in the pool, I sat with Penny, who told me that in Thailand, no one starts swimming until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon at the earliest, and often not until the evenings.  It is considered far too hot to be outside, so they do not swim until later in the day.  I explained that here, we consider the water to be the best way to cool off during the hottest part of the day, and so most people start swimming in the morning and spend their evenings inside because it is considered too dark to swim at night.

Penny also mentioned that Thai people like to have very white/pale skin, as pale as can be.  When we were watching the DVD of her classmates at home, one of the girls was sitting in the sand where the waves were washing up on shore, rubbing her legs vigorously with sand.  Soon, another girl followed.  Then Penny came into view and did the same thing.  She explained that they all believed it would lighten their skin.

I explained that in America, many people spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to achieve perfect tan status, the darker the better.  I told her that this year, with spending more time outside with Leah, I am the tannest I have ever been and am proud of my color.  So we decided to compare arms.  And guess what?  Penny is still darker than I am!!!  We were cracking up. 

Penny is a great sport.  I’m glad we can share our country’s opinions about things like this.  I am learning a lot from her and I hope she is learning a lot from us.  This is what I pictured our exchange experience to be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Second Full Day

Today was our second full day with Penny.  She was up early before any of us, and was on the computer by 7:00AM, which made me a little wary that maybe we’d be developing a problem.  Compounding that, I received a letter from TMom (as I’m calling Penny’s mom in Thailand) asking me not to let Penny on the computer so much. 

leahshirt I decided it was more of a boredom issue, so after breakfast, Penny gave Leah some gifts and then I got the family together and we took Penny on a tour of our town.  There is not much about the Civil War and Colonial America that interests a teenager, particularly one from another country, but we muddled through.  I may take her on the town trolley tour sometime in the next three weeks before school starts.  We’ll see.  Afterwards, we went to Wegman’s to show her a great grocery experience, as she wanted to get some things for when she cooks for us for my birthday party on Saturday.  We had a bit of a struggle finding all the ingredients, so finally we agreed to go to the Asian market tomorrow.  She did get a microwave “Taste of Thai” meal, which was good because I was getting nervous that she did not eat very much at all. 

P1080009 We got home and she fixed the Thai food and I tried some.  It was definitely on the spicy side!  But she loved it and ate it right up and remarked how good it smelled.  It must be hard to be faced with everything, right down to food, being so different.  Tomorrow we will invest in a bunch of those things if it will make her happy.  She is definitely a teen.  At the store, she asked if we could get some sweets, so I agreed.  She chose skittles, Andy Capp potato chip thingers, and Sour Patch Glow-Worms.  I have never in my life eaten an Andy Capp potato chip thinger, and it took a girl from Thailand to make sure my life did not pass without the experience.  As you might expect, Leah loved them.  Penny said, “I love American junk food!” :-D

We got done with that and I decided it was game time.  I got Mike upstairs and we broke out our CLR dice game, which we played for Swedish fish.  Penny beat us twice. :-)  Then we broke out Yahtzee, and guess what?  She defeated us again.  As Mr. Miagi would say, “You beginner luck!”  It was not even close.  She had something like 260 points and I had 180 and Mike had 210 or so.  Crazy! 

Then she asked if I would let her use the stereo, by which she meant the DVD player.  Her friends at home made a DVD for her, so we put it in and she sat on the sofa and laughed and tried to explain what was going on.  Suffice it to say, there were a lot of kids unleashed on a beach resort in Thailand, and they were having a blast!  Then the DVD cut to her school and all the kids made messages for her to say how much they loved her and would miss her, and two of her teachers even were on there. By the time it was over, I was in tears, but Penny was just fine.  It made her happy.  I went upstairs to collect myself and Mike told her we had made a DVD of Leah’s first year, so she asked to see it and we watched that.  Then we had lunch and I asked her about the Wii. She said no.

Here’s the thing.  I think AFS must tell these kids that saying yes all the time is not going to work out.  So consequently, Penny says no. :-D  Here’s what no means:

1.  No
2.  I do not want you to go to the trouble on my behalf (in answer to such things as “can I fix you a drink?”)
3.  I do not know what you are talking about
4.  Maybe

So for now, I’m not taking no for an answer.  When she said no about playing the Wii, I said OK, and I went upstairs to play, since Leah was napping. About 5 minutes later, Penny came in and sat to watch.  About 2 minutes after that, I handed her a Wiimote and asked her if she wanted to play.  We played Raving Rabbids for about 20 minutes and then we played Super Mario Brothers for Wii for 3 hours, and laughed our heads off.  We took a brief intermission to cook dinner together (cheesy orzo and shrimp scampi) and after we cleaned up, back at it!  We were making so much noise Mike was afraid we’d wake up Leah! 

Finally, Penny admitted she was tired, so we said good night and she went up to bed.  Meanwhile, I emailed an acquaintance down the road who I know has a daughter at Stafford High and she is going to see if her daughter will meet up with Penny and introduce herself to some other people.  They host a lot of foreign students, so I know she has experience.  Another friend has offered to introduce Penny to the kids in her youth group, and on Tuesday our neighbor in the back is coming over to babysit Leah and meet Penny.  So I think she will start to feel much less lonely.

Meanwhile I will continue to make some plans for our time together for the next 3 weeks, because after that it is going to go quick.  I’m trying to decide if I can squeeze in a trip to Rhode Island/Boston or not, with my physical therapy schedule (probably not, darnit!).  I will take her to DC a couple of times, we’re taking her bowling and to trivia, the mall is nearby, and we’ll see what else I can come up with.  She is a great gal with an amazing laugh (I already know I am going to miss that laugh like crazy), and today was a real icebreaker, so I am happy that things are continuing to go well.  :-) 

Tomorrow is spaghetti day.  We literally have 10 pounds of tomatoes dropped off by well-meaning neighbors and friends.  (Seriously, I do NOT need any tomoatoes, ok?)  Penny says her special food is spaghetti, so I’m going to try my hand at homemade marinara sauce.  We are also going to the Asian market, as I said.  It should be a great day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Penny Is Here!

P1050129 Yesterday was the big day.  I got tired of cleaning around 1:45 and got Leah dressed and ready.  I did a quick run through of the house to make sure everything was as good as it could get and then we headed out.  I only had to turn back once to put some lights on because I figured we would get home after dark with the way traffic was looking.  I had started monitoring traffic reports around noon, and already it was bad coming south, but what I hadn’t expected was that traffic in and around Fredericksburg got bad heading north!!  Consequently, we took a bunch of back roads and headed to Stafford via Route 1.  When we finally popped out onto I-95, it was fine.  We made it to Oakton in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, so it really wasn’t too bad at all.  Leah hadn’t napped at all, and she slept for about 45 minutes of the time, but she didn’t sleep the whole way and got crabby right as we got into Fairfax.  Consequently, we stopped en route at a Giant, where I changed her diaper and let her walk around for a few minutes.  Then we got to the church.  We were the second family there.  I had hoped to meet Penny without my brace, but a few minutes of chasing Leah around the sanctuary convinced me I needed to go back to the car and put the brace on.

All the AFS volunteers fell in love with Leah.  We were greeted by Jerene, who has been a volunteer for over 50 years, and she said Penny was an absolute doll, speaks excellent English, and was very excited about her little sister.  We waited while the other families arrived (ironically, we and the family from Charlottesville were the first ones there and everyone else was late!).  Finally everyone arrived and they decided to commence with the event.  There was a small ceremony where they had the students walk in and talk about what country they were from.  When Penny walked past us, she tapped my arm and said, “Hello Susan!” with a big grin on her face.  It was an exciting moment. :-D  All of the students had drawn their flags on the paper.  There were many Scandinavians this year, no one from South America, and 3 students from Asia (Penny and 2 Japanese girls).

P1050131 They made a nice speech about how happy they were that we were their families and thanked us for hosting and then Jerene said “Students, find your families!” and the rush was on.  All the students came forth and found us, and Penny came right over.  We exchanged hugs and gave her the gifts we had brought for her, including a journal to record her thoughts and memories of the year.

P1050133 Then we were allowed to leave.  I wanted to get a family picture before we departed, so I asked one of the volunteers to get one.  I had to swivel a bit to get Leah kind of looking ahead.  Leah was not sure what to make of the entire operation, including of Penny, but she soon warmed up to everyone.

P1050135 We asked Penny if she was hungry, but she said no, so we decided to go straight home.  (No does not always mean no, though, just as yes does not always mean yes!  We are learning!)  It took us two hours.  We really did well getting from Oakton to Stafford, and then it took us roughly 40 minutes to get from just north of Aquia to Courthouse.  I was freaking out.  Leah was freaking out, screaming and crying.  Penny fell asleep for a while, but the screaming got her up.  We did the best we could and once we got past Courthouse, we were home in 10 minutes.  Total travel time was 2 hours on the dot.  I hate sitting in traffic.  And trying to introduce someone to their new home via a massive traffic jam, it just got me so anxious, that I was a bit off for a while. 

Once we got in, we took Penny up to her room to drop off her bags and we put Leah to sleep.  I ordered some pizzas and chicken wings and we decided to let Penny email her family and post a message on Facebook to say that she was here and safe.  The pizzas arrived and finally I relaxed a little while we ate and chatted about Thailand.  I told Penny that if she felt up to it, on Saturday Leah had been invited to a birthday party for her friend Alex who just turned 4 and we would go if she was awake and well.  She said OK, and then helped clean up.  (She is extremely helpful and has already been learning sighted guide with Mike!)

Afterwards, we asked if she wanted help unpacking, but she said no, she would do it and then she went up and did that.  She went to bed around 9:00 and was up at 9:00 this morning.  She says she is not feeling any problems with jet lag, and I think it’s excellent.  She seems to have adjusted well to our time zone!!  It helps that she had 2 days here already before we picked her up.

We left around 11:00 to go and pick up a gift for Alex and then went over to the mall.  Penny met Cindy and Wendy and Amanda, three of my girlfriends who she has been communicating with via Facebook.  There were many small children around and Penny got right down on the floor with them.  She is excellent with children and Leah is madly in love with her.  We had pizza and chicken for lunch (I told her I was afraid she would think Americans didn’t eat anything else!) and then the party was over, so we went to the play park in the mall for about 20 minutes but all of us were tired, so we came back home.  It was around 2pm.  I decided to put Leah down and take a nap myself, and Mike also fell asleep, but Penny asked if she could use the computer while we were all sleeping.  I didn’t mind as we were not doing anything as a family, so she did that for a bit and we all passed out.  I woke up around 4:30, and got Leah up, and Penny and I took her outside to play in the swimming pool.  She soon got tired of that, so I took her for a walk and Penny declined; instead she came back inside to see Mike.

When I got home it was time to make dinner.  I was going to attempt to make homemade marinara sauce, since Penny said her special food is spaghetti and all our neighbors are giving us their extra tomatoes this year.  But on my walk, our neighbor said he would drop some of his tomatoes off tomorrow, so I decided I will make that tomorrow.  I pulled out kielbasa and pierogies from the freezer and decided to treat Penny to a real Polish meal.  As I was pulling everything out, she inspected it all and timidly asked if there was still pizza left.  Hahahaha  I said yes and if she didn’t like the Polish food to please feel free to eat the pizza!  But I am happy to say that she reported she liked it very much.  She kept Leah entertained while I cooked and Leah just loves her to pieces. 

After dinner, I got Leah to bed and then I asked Penny if she would like to talk about the host family-participant questionnaire that AFS suggests you go over once when they get here and once about a month later.  She thought it was a good idea, so we all sat in the living room and went through several pages of discussion questions.  I know it exhausted her, but I also feel it was good in that it really opened up the lines of communication between us.  We talked about what she wanted to get out of her year here, had a hilarious conversation about dating, gave her hard and fast chores to do so that she doesn’t feel she has to do everything, which is what she has been doing, and just had a great chat about everything.  It helped me feel more relaxed and I explained that yesterday I had been very nervous and she said she could tell.  :-D  So I think today we are on better footing for sure.

Then she said she would like to go upstairs for a bit and I said I would be downstairs watching TV.  She took a shower (she has been showering 3 times a day!) and then came downstairs with T-shirts for us that her father had selected.  They are so cool.  We are going to put them on tomorrow and take a picture.  Then we said goodnight and she went to bed.

So that’s where we stand now.  Tomorrow we may go up to Woodbridge to meet my sister and her family, but that depends on my sister’s schedule.  Tuesday, our neighbor’s daughter will come over to meet Penny and watch Leah while I go to physical therapy and Wednesday we will take Penny to get enrolled in school.  Thursday we will meet up with Wendy and her kids to go bowling and go to lunch. 

After my initial nervousness has worn off (I even called my mom), it has been a wonderful experience thus far.  I am really looking forward to this year and seeing how our relationship develops with this special young lady!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Countdown: Less than 24 Hours

I am feeling pretty good about where we sit right now.  Today was a big day.  I had my latest doctor’s appointment, and things are looking good for my elbow!!!  I am going to take my brace off when we meet Penny for the first time.  I think it will be a nice surprise for her.  My arm is really improving, and I may be fully out of the brace by the end of the month.  We’ll see!

While I was at the doctor, Stanley Steemer was here.  Melissa housesat for me while they cleaned up the carpets.  Our basement carpet seriously looks like new.  I never knew it could look so good.  AMAZING.  Our bedroom and upper hallway came out nicely too.  I didn’t get any of the other carpet done, because that was the nastiest and I figured needed it the most.

I got back and we took the car over to a detailing place so I could have the juice stains removed.  They offered me one dandy of a package to clean the car, but considering it would have cost more than the carpets in the house, I politely declined and just paid for a vacuum and shampoo.  They said it would take a while and I should come back, so I hopped in Melissa’s car and we went down to Fredericksburg Lanes and hung out with our friend Wendy and her kids.  We had lunch with her and our friend Cindy and her kids and then came home so Leah could have a nap.  I wanted to put the finishing touches on Penny’s room while Hurricane Leah slept, and Melissa suggested we decorate the door, so we came downstairs and got out tons of paper and the Cricut and started going to town, cutting out stars, flowers, hearts, and Penny’s name.  Ultimately, we calmed down and only put her name and flowers on the door:

P1050122We were so impressed with ourselves.  I think it looks super-cute and it sort of hides Mike’s nameplate which is permanently attached to the door from when it was an office.  (see it under the “enn”?)  We used the stars that we made to decorate the bulletin board and scattered the hearts on top of the dresser.  I put the finishing touches on her room (roses) and took some pictures.  Here is Penny’s room!

P1050128 P1050124 P1050125 P1050126 P1050127

Leah was up and helping by then, so she climbed up and played with the bear that we plan to give Penny tomorrow when we pick her up:

P1050123She was more interested in the flags than the bear, so I had to re-attach the flags later on.

Afterwards, we hung out downstairs until the car was ready and went back to pick it up.  It does look rather nice without all the juice stains all over the seats.  It is still damp inside, so tomorrow after the rain is done, I will open the windows and let it air out and dry.  By then Mike was home, and we all went to dinner and then Melissa went home.  I’ve finished decluttering the main floor of the house, and vacuumed the living room.  I still have a list a mile long, including:

  • Putting “stuff” back in the car (maps, bungees, etc)
  • Dusting Penny’s room
  • Cleaning up my desk
  • Putting the toys back on the floor
  • Scrubbing toilets
  • Talking to my parents

I am happy that my parents are former host parents and I can rely on their wisdom.

We are leaving at 2:15 tomorrow afternoon and will get to Oakton around 3:45, hopefully.  Then we’ll meet Penny, and head home, hopefully on the road by 4:30.   We plan to stop in Manassas at the Golden Corral for dinner (we figure it’s pretty good quality and Penny can try a ton of different American foods) and hit Fredericksburg hopefully before 8pm.  Traffic is brutal here in the DC area on Fridays in the summer.  I’ll be monitoring the situation carefully and we will decide what to do.  Then we’ll get Penny in and settled, and I imagine she will probably pass out cold, although maybe she’ll be too excited to sleep!  I wonder if I’ll get any sleep, wondering if she needs anything.  I didn’t sleep at all the night we brought Leah home.  Maybe it’ll be the same with Penny!

I have enjoyed hearing from Penny’s friends today on Facebook.  They all want to be in touch with her and I have explained AFS’s rules about no contact with people from home for a month.  I promised to pass along any letters or messages to her, but other than that, we wouldn’t take phone calls or email or anything right now.  Once she is settled, she will certainly have time to make up for!  I have also heard from Penny’s mom who says it is suddenly very quiet at home and she has to get used to it.  That made me a little teary-eyed.  Today was Mother’s Day in Thailand, and Linda is an inspiration to me to let your children do what they need to do to have the best life possible.  I often joke that Leah will live at home till she’s 40, but I know sooner or later, she will have a moment she wants to spread her wings and fly.  I hope I am able to do so with such grace as Linda has shown.  I am also enjoying all my fellow host families’ blogs and Facebook posts. :)  I’m so excited for all of us and the coming two days when we meet our kids!

Good luck, everyone!!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Departure Day!

Penny's mom, Linda, sent us some pictures of Penny's departure from Thailand. It looked like quite a festive occasion, as three years of work on Penny's part (she applied for an AFS scholarship 3 times and on her third and final chance, she was awarded one!) culminated in a departure full of friends and family and other students coming to their host families. I love their green shirts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thailand and the US: A Comparison

Part of the excitement we feel in hosting Penny is the opportunity to learn about another culture by literally having that culture live in the same house.  We have read up on Thailand and find it a fascinating and beautiful place. Here are some interesting comparisons about the US and Thailand:

The population of Thailand is nearly 66 million.  The population of the US is over 307 million.  That means the population of Thailand could reside in the US 5 times over before catching up. 

Thailand is nearly 200,000 square miles.  The US is 3.6 million square miles.  18 Thailands can fit inside the US.

In Thailand, the GDP per capita is $8100.  In the US, it is nearly $46,000, over five times more!!  More than 80% of Americans live in metropolitan/urban areas, while only about a third of Thais live in urban areas.  Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, has 7 million inhabitants.  Washington DC, the US capital, has less than a million.

The adult literacy rate in Thailand is 93% and in the US it is 99%.  The life expectancy for Thai men is 65 and for Thai women is 72.  In the US, it is 77 for men and 81 for women.

Thailand is 11 hours ahead of the US’s Eastern time zone.

The color of both flags are red, white, and blue.  Thailand’s colors stand for the monarchy (blue), blood of martyrs (red), and Buddhism and purity (white).  The US’s stripes represent the 13 original colonies and the blue field of stars represent the 50 states.

Just some interesting facts about a place I’ve never even considered going that is now going to be so important in our lives!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thai Dining

As part of preparing for Penny’s arrival, we decided to try eating at a Thai restaurant while my dad was here.  I had sent Penny’s mom Linda a link to a menu for a local Thai restaurant and asked her to suggest some dishes for us to try.  She sent a whole list back, but when we went over to that restaurant, it was closed!!  So I remembered seeing a restaurant on Route 1 called Garnjana Thai and told my dad to drive over there.  (Click here for a review of the restaurant in the local paper.)

We explained to the proprietor that I was hosting a Thai student soon and that we would like to try some of the Thai dishes that her mom had recommended to us.  He gave us quite an explanation of Thai food and of American reactions to Thai food.  He made some suggestions and then  let us decide based on Linda’s recommendations, which were closely in line with the owner’s.

P1050096Our host between courses, reading the NY Times

P1050098 We started by ordering two different kinds of soup, Tom Kha Gai and Tom Yum, as well as an appetizer of spring rolls.  My dad is eating the tom kha gai, a soup with a coconut milk base and a hint of lime.  Of the two soups, it was the one I liked the best, although I did not especially care for either one of them.  I think just on account of it was too hot for soup maybe.  The tom yum is the traditional Thai soup, and is a hot and sour soup with lemon grass, shrimp, mushrooms, and cilantro.  I loved the mushrooms and shrimp, but not the broth, which is weird because it seems like all things I would enjoy!

P1050101One of the delicious mushrooms in my soup!

Leah was starting to get antsy.  So I asked the owner if he would bring us out some rice for her to eat.  Let me just say this:  the 50 pound bag of rice we bought earlier that day* is not going to last long.  Leah breezed through one bowl of rice in under 2 minutes and through a second one in no time flat.  She L-O-V-E loves rice.


P1050104See her scraping the bowl?  You’d think I hadn’t fed her in a week!  The owner came over and we asked for more rice.  He said, “Wow!  I didn’t think she could handle one bowl!”  We admitted that neither did we, but surprise surprise!  It was hilarious.

Leah also tried the soup, but I think it was a little too spicy for her, because she started sneezing!


For our main meal, we ordered two different entrees. One was lad na, a traditional rice noodle dish.  The noodles can be prepared two different ways: fried or a broad, boiled noodles.  The owner said that Americans tend to prefer the noodles fried, so we agreed to eat them that way.  We had it made with beef.  The second dish was called panang.   It is a traditional curry dish with bell peppers and coconut milk.  We had it with shrimp.  They were both very tasty dishes, but we were practically scrapping over the panang!  It was ridiculously good.  I will definitely be eating that again!

P1050105 Afterwards, we were so full, we could scarcely think about eating dessert, but we decided to soldier on.  I ordered sticky rice with mango and coconut milk and Dad had homemade coconut ice cream with fried bananas.


I loved the ice cream and the rice both.  (I don’t do bananas, so I skipped trying them, although it strikes me that if one is forced to eat a banana, deep frying it is probably the way to go.)  It’s hard to describe how delicious everything was.  It is definitely a foreign cuisine to how we typically eat in my very meat-and-potatoes American home, although I fancy myself pretty adventurous in trying new foods.  The blends of spices and ingredients were amazing.  We were very lucky to have the owner spend literally a couple of hours with us, teaching us about Thai food and he said he would remember us for next time and adjust the spices accordingly.  (He explained that most Americans find Thai food quite spicy.  I asked for our food to be a little bit milder than they might ordinarily make it, and my nose was still running by the end of our meal!)  Penny has been hard at work learning to cook with her dad before she comes to the US, and I for one am extremely excited to try the dishes she has been learning.  She has even learned a special egg dish for Leah’s enjoyment!


*Penny and I talked about food once on MSN Messenger and she said that she just doesn’t feel full if she doesn’t eat rice at all three meals.  I asked what kind of rice she wanted to eat and she said jasmine rice.  Our local grocery stores all carry little boxes of jasmine rice, but I knew that in that quantity, I’d need to find a bigger supply than that.  Consequently I went down to the Asian market on the far side of town and presto!  They carry jasmine rice in 50 pound bags!!!  I brought one home and Leah decided it was pretty darned cool that a bag of food was as big as she is!

IMG_0062 IMG_0061Hopefully we will have plenty for a while.  But if not, I know where to get more!  If you are in my house visiting, the red “trash” can is not for trash—it is a rice storage container.  Thank you!