Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Jonathan met Santa Clause a couple weeks ago. Not some impostor, though... he met the real Santa, the one that's leaving presents at our apartment five days from today. Who knew his arms were so long and hairy? ;)

Well done, Thanksgiving Point.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!

We have some amazing news:

Fabio accepted an offer from the University of Wisconsin 
and we are moving back to the United States this summer!

Madison, Wisconsin, to be exact. 
And we couldn't be more excited. 

We've just been waiting for the right opportunity to open up: a position that would be continue to be great for Fabio's career in a place we would want to put down roots and raise a family. We're generally picky people, so it was kind of a tall order, but Madison feels like the perfect fit.

We can't wait to be closer to our family, to have hot water in our kitchen, to shop at Target and Costco, and to be in a place that felt so, so right when we visited. We're excited to live in the Dairy Land (We LOVE cheese!). We're excited to be in the midwest where people are so nice and thoughtful and hardworking. We're excited to have a house and a yard and a garden. We're excited to have four seasons. I could go on about a hundred more things, but we won't subject you to the entire long, long list.

We will say that most importantly, of course, we think Jonathan's going to make an amazing Badgers fan.

(He flexes his muscles when we say "Go Badgers!")

Bottom line: if you are hoping to use us as a base for amazing Asia travel, you better get on it. As always, we'd love to have you!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Watermelon Chairs

A couple months ago, I came home to these honeys:

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is, in fact, a chair with pink upholstery and black seeds printed on, patterned after the inside of a watermelon. Two of them, to be exact.

I had an assignment one night at our church, and I left Jonathan and Fabio home to hang out for a couple hours. I thought maybe they would read some books, watch one of Jonathan's little movies, or maybe go on a walk or play on the playground by our building. Instead, they bought furniture. Bazaar, ugly furniture.

When I walked through the door, Fabio greeted me with an unusually proud smile, then stepped aside so I could see his victory.

"Look what I bought today!"

At this point I thought he was pulling some sort of joke, so I played along.

"They are amazing! Where did you find them?!?"
"Our neighbors downstairs were selling them. Only $30 for the set! And they even helped me carry them up to our place. Pretty awesome, huh?"

It was at that point I began to come to the awful realization that he really was proud of himself and he really did buy them... on purpose. So I ask the million-dollar-question:

"Where are you planning on putting them?"
"In the family room..." he answered as if it should be obvious.

Not the answer I was hoping for, although the odds of him saying "the garbage!" were admittedly slim.

"How about the patio instead?"
"Well... I guess, but then we wouldn't use them as often."
Our usage of these probably has very little to do with location, I think to myself.

But Fabio was flexible and sweet, and agreed to move them to the front patio for him and Jonathan to enjoy.

It didn't take long for Fabio come home from work one night and say, "Katie, those are the ugliest chairs I have ever seen. Why did I buy two of them? And why did you let me put them on the patio?!?"

We laughed for a really long time and then I called Good Will. They do home pick-ups for furniture here. On the online form to request a pick-up, there is a space for a description of the goods you are donating.

"One California King bed frame, one small box of gently-used baby boy clothes,
and two pink watermelon chairs."

The guys came to pick the stuff up, and asked what, exactly, I meant by "pink watermelon chairs." I pointed, their eyebrows raised. They chuckled, nodded, and took them away. 

And the age of telling people coming over for dinner or birthday parties, "You'll know you're here because there are two pink watermelon chairs on the front patio" came to a close. I have to admit, though, I definitely got my $30 worth.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Called "Bed-head"

Any way you look at it ...

bedhead's what it is, 
and I can't get enough of it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A One Year Old

Dear Jonathan,

You turned one today, and I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. You are growing up to be such a sweet boy, and I am so proud of you. You are so good at sharing, so eager to pray (you always fold your arms when we buckle you into your high-chair or when you see us get out the scriptures), so quick to give me a snuggle or a kiss. You are usually even generous with your “shy” smiles to all your adoring public in the eight countries you’ve been to in the past twelve months (Singapore, Malaysia, United States, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand).

Last night we had your birthday party, with some of your baby friends: Livvy, Anni, and Sage. You had a lot of fun, especially as we sang “Happy Birthday” to you, and you ate your very own little cake. You and your friends played some of your favorite games: pulling tape off the wall and pushing pom poms into old “puff” containers through a hole I cut in the top. I had a lot of fun watching you smile and laugh and show off just a little bit.

It was an eventful weekend, and you are making the transition from baby to toddler so fast! On Wednesday you took your first step while we checked out of our hotel in Thailand, on Thursday you learned how to turn off our fridge, on Friday you opened our freezer for the first time, and today you undid the velcro straps on you shoes then climbed up onto the couch for the first time.

You love, love, love music. You love it when I sing to you: “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” during diaper changes, “Give Said the Little Stream” while you eat, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus” just for fun, and “I am a Child of God” or “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus” at bedtime and when you’re sad.  You could sit (or stand) at our piano for a long time, playing your songs and listening to me practice. Even your toys have assigned songs that go with them: your monkey for “Monkeys on the Bed,” Elmo for “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and of course your current all-time favorite is your little music player that plays four or five clips of classical music. You like to fall asleep holding it to your ear, and you can tolerate just about anything if you have your thumb and your music player.

You love to hold onto and stroke my ponytail, especially when you’re sad or nervous. You reach for it almost every time I pick you up, and you twirl it in your hand until you feel better. Sometimes you reach for it just to make sure it’s still there. I guess I won’t be cutting my hair short for a few years, and I certainly don’t mind. I love to feel your chubby fingers run through my less-than-glamorous hair-do.

You are quick to laugh when you’re around people you know… and it’s a big belly laugh that leaves you gasping for air.  You think it’s so funny when I say “lady bug bug bug” as I kiss your little neck rolls, or when I dance silly dances, or suddenly sing a part of a song really loud. You like to play peek-a-boo with me and squeal with delight when I'm surprised to see you appear from behind a chair or your bib. You think it’s funny to push Dad’s head around in every direction, and to flex your big muscles for us. You love to sword fight with me, especially when I die dramatic deaths ending with my tongue hanging out… and whenever you pick up your inflated sword you stick out your tongue in anticipation.

You love cars and trucks and wheels. You have a little red car that runs when you touch the top and you chase it around the house. You have a red car-shaped inner tube that you like to relax on the beach in. You watch contentedly from your car seat as trucks, and motorcycles, and cars of every color pass by your window. You turn your toy cars over to spin the wheels as fast as you can, and you’ve turned almost all of your round toys into wheels of some sort, zooming and bouncing across our white tile floors while you studiously watch their variety of paths and patterns.

You still love your books, and you are happy for (literally) hours to sit with us on the big comfy chair in your room and hand books to us one at a time to read to you. You're also content to sit by your pile of books and just turn the pages yourself, sometimes even talking to yourself while you do. Your favorites are the books that go with a song, because the only better than a book is a book that we sing to you. If I could only find a book with a song about red cars…

You are starting to pick up some sign language. Your eyes lit up with the realization that when you sign “more” you get more of whatever food you were eating before. Your delight only increased when you successfully applied it to other things you like, such as me singing, Dad reading to you, and getting dunked under the water.

You love the water. You love to swim, to take baths, to splash and play in any circumstance. You speed-crawl from wherever you are in the house and whatever you are doing when you hear the bath water turn on. You can swim in the pool by our house for as long as I’ll let you, and the only thing that makes the terrible experience of me putting sunscreen on you acceptable is if you can see the ocean or pool that's the end of such unbearable means. You aren’t picky, though. You're equally happy with a bath or to run your hands under the stream of the kitchen sink as you are with Singapore’s mega splash pads and Thailand’s tropical beaches. That’s how you are about almost everything, though: happy and easy to please. You are such a sweet little boy: you’ll fall asleep anywhere, and try anything I give you to eat. You are so eager to please, and it shows in every aspect of your happy little world.

We’ve also recently discovered that you love dogs. You always squeal and babble away in delight when we stop to look at the hamsters in the pet store, but dogs are an uncommon sight in Singapore, so it wasn’t until recently that you had your first encounter with a dog at a park. He licked your hand and your face, and you smiled and clapped and kicked your legs in total joy, until we had to pry you away from him so his owner could get back to his picnic. A couple weeks later, you saw a little poodle while we were swimming with your friends. We helped you pet him, and he licked the water off your hands and face. Your smile was so big I thought your mouth would have to tear to open wider. You started to say “Dog! Dog! Dog! Dog! Dog!” And with that, your fourth word was “dog,” preceded only by “Dadda,” “Mama,” and “Wow.” As the dog walked away, you “walked” with your hand on the pool side as far and as fast as you could to follow him, and then shouted “DOG! DOG! DOG!” until he was out of sight. You love dogs. Looks like your Dad is going to have to get a puppy one day after all!

This morning I woke up next to you snuggled up to me, with your soft skin and your flawless sweet face with your thumb half in your perfectly shaped mouth. Your hair was a matted mess. Your breaths were deep and soft, and you made a little hum as you exhaled your warm, sweet-smelling breath. I pulled you in a little closer, realizing that your “little-ness” is passing by, and while you will always be my baby, you won’t be a baby much longer. I just wanted to freeze that moment, and keep it forever. You are everything to your dad and I, little one, and we feel so blessed to have you in our lives.

Thank you for making me a Mommy. You are worth every minute and more. Happy Anniversary, Jon!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

27 and Thailand

Last weekend I turned 27. This is the first year my age caught in my throat as I said it... not because I think 27 is particularly old, but more because I realized I'm in my late twenties and I really am supposed to be all grown up and responsible by now. And so with that on top of the fact that this year was my "golden" birthday (turning 27 on the 27th) and I just really love birthdays in general, the celebrations were especially lengthy and festive.

I treated my birthday twin to lunch... between the two of us we're 30 this year.

Then Fabio surprised me with a Chocolate Tasting class,

and then my boys took me to one of my favorite restaurants, Wild Honey, to have breakfast for dinner.

And then, of course... when you're feeling like adulthood and responsibility are officially upon you, what else do you do but book a weekend beach get-away to Thailand with your family on a whim? It's really the only natural thing to do, I think.

When went to Khao Lak, on the Andaman Sea, and it was perfectly beautiful. Our first full day there we met an elephant on the beach...

so Jon fed her an apple.

Khao Lak was one of the most devastated areas in the 2004 tsunami. There's still a huge boat 2 kilometers inland that was a kilometer out at sea when the tsunami hit and was swept up the hill into the jungle. The local people there remember it and it was interesting to hear them reflect.

So why, you may ask, would one choose to go to a place that is so prone to total destruction at a few hours' notice?

Well, for this:

And this,

And this, too:

Fabio even had another birthday surprise up his sleeve when he booked a special surprise candlelight dinner on the beach for us at sunset, while Jon watched Barney in Thai with Grandma in the room.

Fabio was quite the romantic little devil this year, which is especially impressive when you consider that on my first birthday after we were engaged he gave me a weird backpack and asked, "So what do you feel like doing?" as we climbed into the car that night. Fortunately he is a very fast learner!

Oh yeah, and our last day there was Halloween... so Jonathan was a shark and we were his victims, for about six minutes. Then we all took off our bandages and fleece shark jackets (poor guy!) and jumped in the pool.

Happy Halloween!

We basically spent four days on the beach, at the pool, drinking fresh fruit smoothies, or taking naps. Since it was a special occasion, we even got Shirley Temples at the pool bar... and the bartender gave Jon his own little fruit juice "mocktail"! It was adorable.

Pool Bar Buddies

And with that I said, "Come and get me late twenties, however significant or insignificant you may really be!" I wouldn't change a single thing about my life right now--I have everything I ever hoped for, and so many things I would have never dared hope for. Twenty-seven is going to be a good year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Siem Reap, Cambodia

When I was 19 years old, I stumbled across a list of "100 places you should see before you die." Among the Eiffel Tower and Niagara Falls was a place I had never heard of before: Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archeological Park. The pictures were haunting and exotic and I spent the next half-hour avoiding my Physical Science 100 homework by learning more about these beautiful temples in the jungles of central Cambodia. Eventually the nagging presence of my PS book called me back to the present, but as I memorized the effects of different light wave lengths (something long since forgotten...) I resolved that someday, somehow, I would see the Angkor Temples even though I still wasn't entirely sure where exactly Cambodia was on a map.

Six years later, I moved to Singapore which I quickly learned was an hour and a half flight away from Cambodia. I was thrilled, but the conditions were such that an eight-month pregnant woman's visit there was definitely not advisable. Then there was the horrible outbreak of a mysterious child-killing disease there this summer, and we decided to push Cambodia down the family travel to-do list indefinitely. But that Fabio is not one to watch a long-held dream of his wife's go unfulfilled, so when my Mom was going to be visiting the same month there was an amazing travel deal to Siem Reap he concluded the stars had aligned. We booked a quick trip and I left my little angel overnight for the first time since I got back from the hospital.

And I finally got to see those mysterious temples that had fascinated my freshman soul. But not just see, since Cambodia isn't really worried about things like "liability" and "safety" and "preservation of historical treasures" yet. We climbed, touched, and explored unsupervised to our little hearts' content. Oh, and I took a lot of pictures. A lot.

First, we visited Angkor Wat: the huge (1.5 km by 1.3 km mote), iconic temple that I saw that fateful night of wasting time in my dorm. It was way, way better than I ever imagined.

Then we went to Ta Prohm, which is a bit more dilapidated and completely overgrown with huge trees and jungle flora.

Then Bayon, which was our favorite favourite favorite. (No matter how I spell that word now I think it's wrong... thank you, living in conflicting British Colonies.) Anyway. Our bias towards this temple was only slightly influenced by the little monkeys that jumped on our car at the gate, so our driver stopped and let us feed them.

They were just so cute!

And Bantay Srei, made of pink sandstone and incredibly intricate detail.

But we were surprised to find that the most amazing thing about our trip was not the temples at all... but the Cambodians themselves (they call themselves Khmer).

Cambodia has one of the most tragic, horrific modern histories I know of, with their own government slaughtering and starving almost a third of their population so recently that most Khmer adults remember it. They hoard their rice and use U.S. dollars, living in fear that the nightmare they somehow survived will rekindle at any moment.

I won't go into the deeply upsetting details today, but just know that if there was ever a society that would be justified to be hardened, bitter, jaded, or unfriendly, it would be this one. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.


We ended every night we were there with a half-hour foot reflexology for 
$3 from this lady and her friend. She could not believe how big Fabio's feet were. 
They both just kept laughing, especially when she tried to soak his feet 
and they didn't even fit in the little tub she had.

This is how they cut the grass at the temples to keep the grounds nice... with a sickle.
I'm going to laminate this picture and put it on our lawn mower when we have a yard.

Jumping from trees into the flooded rice paddies after working in them all day.

Again and again we were struck by their industry, their optimism, their focus on family, their kindness and friendliness in general. Maybe it's because they were stripped of everything and forced to start over, maybe they just have a culture of optimism, or maybe they have just learned all life's lessons the hard way... probably a combination of all of those and more things that I just can't begin to understand. Whatever the cause, we were touched. And humbled. And we wanted to be a little bit better from meeting them.

Oh, and their children are beautiful, just adorable and beautiful. I was in love.

We took half a day for a "quad" (ATV) tour through the countryside, and we had a blast... Especially when we were caught in a huge, torrential rain storm and got soaking wet and covered in mud when we had to drive through mud and water up to our waists through rice paddy trails to get back because the roads we came on were flooded. I have no idea how our ATV's made it, and I can't imagine what the "flooded" roads were like if we were avoiding the flooded areas. Everywhere we went, when the kids heard our engines they would come running from whatever they were doing to wave and give us high-fives. So sweet and cute!

It is just a beautiful country, and I'm so happy we got to enjoy it together.

We somehow found the very well-hidden Siem Reap congregation of our church.
It was really, really sweet to worship with our Khmer brothers and sisters.

Oh yeah, and that baby I was so worried about leaving? He didn't even notice we were gone. Thanks, Mom, for helping him have so much fun he didn't even care when we walked through the door until we gave him the bright wooden elephant puzzle we brought back for him.

The trip was so, so, so much more than my freshman mind could have ever imagined or hoped for. I wish I could put it into words, but I just can't. The moral of the story? Sometimes wasting time instead of studying light waves turns out to be time well spent.