Sunday, October 9, 2011

Catching up with the Carders

Well, there is much catching up to do! I'll just get right to it since it's been so long since I've posted. Lots has happened so here's an update on what's going on with our little family!

1. Ella

Sweet little Ella, this girl is just getting funnier and more amazing everyday. Now that she is three she thinks she is pretty big. She is just so sweet and is pure joy. She is so compassionate, wants to help, loves her friends and family and is just doing great! Health-wise she is great. She is eating good and we're still working on her weight. I had gotten kind of lax about really counting calories but her GI doctor gently reminded me at our last appointment that it's something I really need to continue to be vigilant about. Soooo, what does that mean? Yep, we started back with the ol Benecalorie and Bluebell ice cream nights again. :)Honestly, Bluebell should get a hold of Ella, she could really do some good marketing for them for the kids-who-need-to-gain-weight community. Anyway, she is good but she is very small and it's just something we need to keep working on.

At the end of August when Ella turned 3 she graduated from Early Childhood Intervention since they only serve children from birth to age 3. I asked them if they could just continue Ella's care until she is 5 but they said no. :) They provided dietician, physical and occupational therapy for the last 3 years! Oh my, talk about a hard day for me. It was bittersweet saying good-bye to these precious ladies. Since Ella came home from the hospital when she was 2 1/2 months old they were in our home every week. Sharon, Diane, Michelle and Chrisse became some of my dear friends and walked this journey we have been on with Ella in a very special way. They not only provided amazing care physically for her but they have cried with us, laughed, prayed and encouraged us every step of the way. They have been with me and cried with me on some of my darkest days and I will never forget how they believed in us and in Ella and all that she could do. They worked so hard! They went above and beyond in taking care of Ella and unfortunately I will compare her therapists to come with them because they were amazing! We love you ECI!!

So, now we are therapy free!! For the first time ever Ella has no therapy appointments. It's very weird but it is great just letting her be a little girl and play and enjoy life. We will re-evaluate how things are going probably in December as far as therapy and if we feel like she has regressed we may need to seek out some private therapy but for now her doctors say to give her a break and just let her be. Thank you Lord! So, we have had a fun time watching Ella take her first class ever, gymnastics!
She loves it and it's fun to watch her bop around with the other kids. At the same time, it is hard to watch her at times too because as great as she is doing, when you put her in a class with other kids her age it is a reminder to me how small she really is and that their are alot of things she struggles to do that the others do easily. I hate to even say that because I know there are so many other children who have much more severe struggles than Ella and it just sounds like I'm complaining, which I'm not. I want to be sensitive to that but I'm just saying that even on her best days physically there are some limitations due to weakness in her core because of the omphalocele and her shoulder. It's just hard for this mommy sometimes even among my thankfulness I can't ignore the fact that we live in a fallen world and because of that we have to face things like omphaloceles and deformities. I hate it but thank goodness for the hope of heaven right?? Anyway, so Miss Ella Hope continues to be a bright light and just a joy to our family and we're enjoying this time where we have less doctor's appointments and no therapy. We are so blessed!

2. Eva

And then there's Eva. Man, this girl also continues to make us laugh daily. She is one funny cat! I love being with my two girls, two pieces of heaven I tell you! Eva turned 5 in August and we decided to wait another year before starting kindergarten since she has such a late birthday.

We are enjoying our time together at home and she and Ella love being together!

Eva is such a good big sister to Ella, she takes great care of her except for the moments she chases Ella down for the sole purpose of trying to terrorize her by putting her naked bottom on her. Where does she come up with this stuff?? Sometimes I don't know if I should be disturbed or laugh, even though it is really funny to watch. I should get it on video to show her later when she is 25 because it's quite humorous but I don't really want to encourage the behavior. Shocking, I know, coming from someone who enjoys bathroom humor but I'm thinking this isn't necessarily something you want to egg your daughter on in doing to her sister.

Besides the naked bottom chases, Eva is just getting so big and she doesn't miss a beat. She is very observant, kind-hearted and loves making others feel special. She is asking more questions about Jesus and heaven and is really enjoying learning which just warms my heart. She is just so fun to be with and has quite the sense of humor and creative spirit. I love her so much!!

3. Moving/New House

Well, as I briefly mentioned before I think we sold our house that we had lived in the last 10 years at the end of July. We moved in with my parents and have been living with them since July. Bless their hearts! They have been amazing and rearranged their house so that we could all have a space. So sweet! I just feel bad for them as they are tripping over toys and their nap is interrupted by a little person standing next to them asking 20 questions. :) But, we did find a house that is in the same neighborhood as my parents, just 2 minutes away and we will be moving in probably in the next week or so! We are so excited! It's an older house so for the past 3 weeks we've been doing alot of work over there, some of it ourselves and the majority by our friends and contractor Jeff Polk and Trine Owen. They have done an awesome job! We've had walls moved, floors redone, and painted, and painted and painted! We can't wait to move in!

Rick demolishing all the tile! What a job...

The girls "helping" paint their new room. Yes, it is hot pink. Wow, remind me next time I want to paint a room with any color in the red family to think again. 3 coats later and we were good to go but good gravy it took awhile! I'll post some before and afters later because the transformation of this house really is great, it looks so different! Even though we loved our old house we are looking forward to a new place and a new beginning. We feel immensely blessed by how the Lord has continued to provide for us and we are looking forward to what purposes He has for us in this new house, neighborhood and community.

Other than that we're just waiting for my sister Ann to have her baby boy, Dax any day in Thailand. I can't stand not being there, makes me so sad. You can check their website on my link above for more on their lives in Thailand. We are soooo excited about our new nephew's arrival and can't wait to share pictures of his sweet face when we get them! And we're also looking forward to this guy's birthday! Tomorrow is Rick's birthday, Happy Birthday babe! We love you so much and are so thankful for the daddy and husband you are. We love you! And, don't you love solo pictures? Rick always takes random pictures of me when I'm not paying attention and I have some terrible look on my face or I look really awkward so I don't mind posting a glamour shot of him. :) More updates to come!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Birthday Girls

Wow, it's the end of August! I've managed to go pretty much most of the summer without a blog post. I've got a lot of catching up to do! There is so much to blog about...we sold our house, we're living with my parents, bought a house, the girls birthdays. I will post about all those things and I did start a post about it all but I've kinda been in a writing funk lately. But, today I'm feeling the flow and have some thoughts I want to get out. I'm in one of my reflective, serious moods so watch out. :) You know how I get sometimes. It's all hitting me this month as it always does since both Eva and Ella both celebrate birthdays. Eva turned 5 on August 2nd and Ella turns 3 tomorrow, August 31st!!

Wow, I can't believe it. God has given us more than we could've dreamed, asked or imagined when He gave us Eva and Ella. I want to share some thoughts on both of the girls and I want to start with Eva because that is really where this journey began for our family. Many people know Eva's story but many don't and I don't think that I have shared it here before although I have alluded to it several times. I thank God numerous times for what He has done in the lives of both of my daughters but especially on their birthdays I am more reminded of His faithfulness, healing power, hope and life that He has given us. So I share this with you because I need to be reminded daily that He is faithful, He loves us dearly, He offers hope and healing and He can be trusted. I hope that by reading about what the Lord has done in Eva and Ella you will be encouraged and reminded of these things as well.

In January of 2006 we went to the doctor for our first ultrasound. We were very excited but our excitement quickly turned into our worst nightmare when we heard the doctor say that something was wrong with this precious life growing inside me. We learned that Eva had a life-threatening birth defect called a cystic hygroma. A cystic hygroma is a malformation of the lymphatic system which causes excess fluid to build up in the body until eventually it causes the heart to stop beating and the baby dies. On our ultrasound you could see Eva's sweet little body and a large fluid filled sac that started at the back of her head and went all the way down her back. Typically cystic hygromas are located in the neck region but hers was very large and went the length of her body. It looked like a big bubble attached to her body. After seeing my doctor, technicians and a specialist it was confirmed again and again that it was a cystic hygroma and they told us that 95-100% of these cases end in fetal demise or miscarriage. So at best, we were looking at maybe a 5% chance of survival and IF she survived the outcome was terrifying to hear what kinds of health problems she would face. The doctor patted my leg, handed me a tissue and said she was sorry. They told us they didn't know how long I would carry the baby, it could be a few days or a few months but the outcome was not good. We were told to come back in 2 weeks so they could monitor any changes so we left the doctor's office devastated, very sad and without hope.

I spent the next several days on my couch or in my bed crying, praying and really I wasn't even sure what to pray. During that time some of my very dear friends came over to visit, to comfort, to pray with me and to just walk with me through this. Rick also had talked with some of his very dear friends and our friends began praying for healing for Eva. To be honest at the time I had never thought to pray for healing. It pains me to say that because my relationship with God has changed so much since then and I can't believe how much I underestimated Him and left Him out. I don't know why, I guess because healing wasn't something that was talked about much in the circles I was a part of, I had never seen it happen (even though it happens all around us) and this situation with Eva seemed so hopeless. Hopeless by the world's definition, not hopeless for God. I didn't even give God a chance to speak a different way, I just believed what I had been told which was that this baby was not going to live.

After visiting with friends and praying Rick and I both started praying for healing for Eva. There was new hope for the first time since we found out the news of her cystic hygroma. We prayed daily for healing and our friends also joined us in that prayer. I remember one afternoon several days before we were to return for a check up I was sitting in my living room talking to God, listening to Him and writing in my journal. I was just pouring out my heart to Him and in a moment of silence as I was listening He told me clearly that afternoon that He had healed my baby! The God who dwells in unapproachable light spoke to me and He healed my child. How do you respond except with thankfulness and a desire to give Him all glory and praise!! I believed His words to be true and thanked Him for healing her and knew without a doubt that in that moment she was healed. I remember the moment as clear today as it was five years ago. I remember where I was sitting, how I was sitting, the moment He spoke her healed and how my body and heart felt. I waited in anticipation for our upcoming doctor's appointment because I knew that God was about to show himself in a big way when all would see a perfectly healthy baby on the ultrasound. The night before our appointment friends gathered around us and covered us in prayer. I walked into the doctor's office the next day with confidence, peace and no doubt about what the Lord had done with Eva. The technician and our specialist examined the ultrasound carefully and found no evidence of the cystic hygroma, it was completely gone! Our doctor exclaimed, "There is a God and He is good!" when she saw the ultrasound. We all cried tears of joy in thanks and praise to God for the miracle He performed in Eva. Rick and I left her office in tears but this time they were not tears of sadness but tears of overwhelming joy and amazement at the love of our God.

Little did I know that this journey with Eva of learning more about who God is and that there is nothing that is too hard for him was just the beginning of a refining and strengthening process in my faith walk. Everything with Eva set the stage in a sense for what was to come with Ella even though I didn't know it. I remember when we went in for our first ultrasound when I was pregnant with Ella. I was 8 weeks pregnant and very nervous because of what happened to Eva but everything looked normal so we sort-of breathed a sigh of relief. Deep down though I was still anxious and when we went back to the doctor at 4 weeks later I asked to have another sonogram. My doctor assured me that everything was fine and we didn't need to do one but to make me feel better she would do another ultrasound just for my peace of mind. Well, it was like reliving the nightmare with Eva all over again. It was the same room, same doctor, same dreaded words again that something was wrong. This time I was so hurt, disappointed and angry. I couldn't believe that this was all happening again and that God would let it happen. I really had no words I was just angry, hurt and sad.

After we got over the initial shock of the news that Ella had an omphalocele we obviously prayed daily even up until the end of my pregnancy that God would heal Ella. His answer to that was no and even though I don't understand why He chooses to heal some and not others I do know that He is trustworthy no matter what. As I think back to the night Ella was born 3 years ago I am overwhelmed by what the Lord has done in our life. My words are just not good enough to describe my thankfulness for how much He loves us and for what He has brought us through and given us. The night of Ella's birth was not the sweet, beautiful, perfect, special time that every mother hopes for when they give birth. The night she was born was the scariest, hardest, emotional and most traumatic time Rick and I have had in our marriage so far.

On August 31, 2008 I went to the hospital because I had been having severe headaches and upper abdominal pain for two days. It was three weeks before my due date and we had no idea that this would be the day that Ella would come into the world. After running some tests it showed that my blood pressure was sky high and my doctor told me we were going to do a c-section that night. They took me down and starting prepping me for surgery when I had a suffered a seizure due to eclampsia. This is very rare and I got sick so fast that none of us saw this coming even though I was being heavily monitored by doctors. After the seizure I remembered nothing from that night except what Rick has told me. I was completely out of it and he remembers talking to me as they were rushing me down the hall for an emergency c-section and he says that I was unresponsive and lifeless, my eyes were glazed over. He had no idea what was happening or if Ella and I were even going to survive. It makes my heart hurt to think of all he went through that night! I, of course, do not remember any of this and it took a long time after Ella was born for Rick to even talk to me about it. I would ask questions about that night but it was just too hard for him to relive it all so it took time before we could really talk about it. That night at 7:30 pm Ella Hope was born. Rick was not able to be in the delivery room due to the severity of the situation and I of course was put under so I in a sense was not there either. Rick caught a glimpse of Ella when they wheeled her out in her isolette on the way to the NICU. He saw for the first time her beautiful face and then the reality of what we had been trying to prepare for for months. There it was, her sweet little face then the rest of her body wrapped in a plastic bag and through it you could see a dark mass covering her abdomen which was the the sac holding her liver, intestines and stomach.

That night was the start of this seemingly very long and hard journey that we have been on with Ella for the past 3 years. So as I think about her being 3 years old and all that has happened in her short life I am just overwhelmed with the faithfulness and love of our Lord. My mind wanders to and relives those moments that I can remember from her birth and the days that followed in the hospital and I hardly have words for it. But more than that my heart just goes straight to God and wants His Glory to be made known for how he has brought us through some very dark valleys and only by His grace, mercy and love are we who we are today. He gives us life and light through his Son Jesus and I am blown away at his everlasting, unending love. When I look at Eva and Ella I see two little pieces of heaven here on earth and wonder why I am so blessed that He entrusted them to me. Through our joys and struggles with both of them I have learned more about God and what this life is really all about. Our hard days with Ella have given me perspective and I'm glad for it because I see the world different now than I did before August 31, 2008. We have all been changed through the gifts he has given our family in Eva and Ella.

Eva's name means "Life" and Ella's name means "A bright light." So fitting aren't they? I think so. :) So, on this night I thank God again for life, for my daughter's two precious lives and for His light that shines in the darkness and is NEVER overcome by it. Thank you Lord!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adventures in Thailand: Food, Family, Fun

We had lots of good food and family fun during our time in Thailand. My mouth is just watering for more good Thai food. We had such a fun time playing, swimming, eating, talking, touring around Phayao and just being together. We'll start with a recap of some of our food experiences. Soooo good!

This was our favorite restaurant in Phayao. It sits looking out over Lake Phayao and has great food. We feasted on lime slushes (my fave, Sonic's got nothing on these! They are awesome!) passion fruit slushes, lightly battered morning glory, rice, chicken wrapped in banana leaves, stir-fryed vegetables, some soup Derran ordered that had fresh shrimp with the eyes, legs and tails still on them. I did not partake of this one. I'm not a seafood girl and the last time I tried something that Rick told me was "not fishy at all" I started dry-heaving in the restaurant. Awkward. So I passed on the soup because I didn't want a repeat dry-heaving experience and I just don't eat things that have eyes staring back at me out of a bowl.

This was our other favorite little place to get food. It's just a roadside stall set up outside of Lotus, which is the Thai version of our Wal-mart store. They make the best smoked chicken, sticky rice and som-tham which is a salad type dish made from thinly sliced papaya with lots of added spices. Delicious!!

Who needs a grill when all you really need is a metal barrel or trash can cut in half, something to put it on and some hot coals. Walah! You've got the best smoked chicken in town. I wish this guy was set up outside my Walmart, I would go there every week!

Making the som-tham. Yummy!

Ann ordering our food

While we were there we got to be a part of their team's taste-testing their brick oven pizza. Hallelujah! The Carders loooove pizza so we were more than happy to test out some different kinds of pizza. Ann and Derran and their team are opening up a pizza restaurant in Phayao this summer as part of their ministry and work there. You can read more about their ministry and vision for the restaurant by clicking here. So amazing!

Derran and Rick manning the brick oven ( their team built this oven themselves, very impressive!)

Ann helping measure out the cheeses

Chris making a pizza

Eva and Ella loved the pizza!! Delicious!

One night we were there we had a fun gender reveal party for Ann and Derran's baby number 3. We were so happy to be able to be in Thailand when they found out what they were having and we celebrated with a fun party and lots of yummy food...brisket made in the brick oven, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, corn and lots of cupcakes! Click here to read about the party and to see a short, fun video of the big reveal!

The girls favorite place to eat was KFC. Why would you eat here when you've got all this great food around?? Every so often when they kids had just had enough peanut butter and jelly (which is all Eva ate the entire time we were there, I don't think she tried Thai food once) we would take the kids to KFC which is inside Lotus, their Wal-mart store. Let the stare-fest and rubbernecking begin. Oh my goodness! It was just too much for 4 little blonde and blue-eyed girls to be walking around when there are really just a handful of foreigners in all of Phayao. People would stand at the window in crowds to stare and take pictures of the girls while they ate their lunch. Hilarious! Either the girls didn't seem to notice or they are experts at ignoring people. The drew lots of attention on our many trips to Lotus!

At the end of our trip we spent two days in Chiang Mai before we left and had lots of fun there. More to come about that. But we also ate at some great places, one being a Mexican food restaurant of all things. It really was so good!

Mexican food in northern Thailand...who knew?

Of course it wouldn't be a trip to Chiang Mai without stopping at Dunkin' Donuts a few times! Mmmm. Love it!

Our other favorite place was a restaurant called Lemon Tree. I was in heaven with my lime slush and stir-fryed vegetables. Yumm-o!

This picture makes my heart swell! Can you believe it?? Here is little Ella Hope Carder across the world in Thailand eating Thai food! Is this the same child that almost 3 years ago was laying in a bed in the NICU waiting for her stomach to be put back in her body? Is this the same child who had a feeding tube for most of her short life so far? Is this the same child who didn't eat anything and vomited everything for the first year of her life? Is it?? I'm in awe and a big lump is in my throat just thinking about it all and thanking God for what He's done in Ella's life. I could never have imagined that Ella would be able to sit at a table in another country, feeding tube free, no safety nets and eat Thai food. God is so good! Let this be a testimony to the goodness of our Lord. Wow!

On to family and fun! We played alot at Derran and Ann's house and the girls just had a great time building pillow forts, playing baby dolls, having tea parties and swimming. Lots of good cousin time, that will have to be another post.

Swimming and playing in the water in the front yard. Pretty much consisted of Eva hogging the water hose to wash her bike, Brynn and Ella just having a great time and Meg sulking in her tub of water. Hilarious!

When we weren't swimming we went to the market, walked around the aquarium and of course took many trips to Lotus. :) I guess if you don't have a Target to stroll around then Lotus is the next best option.

Eva checking out the goods at the Phayao market

Rick checking out the dried fish. Shooooey! I love Thai markets because you've got the umbrella stall right next to the fresh shrimp or you can pick up a new watch and at the same time get yourself some dried squid or fish at the vendor right next to it. Love it! I don't love the smell though. They've got anything and these fabulous shoes!

Are these not the greatest?? If you can't tell they have like big toes with claws on them. I spotted these on a grown woman at Lotus and told Ann I needed to know asap where we could buy some. I think the lady at the market probably thought I was crazy since I bought 10 pairs in different colors. Guess what friends and family got for souvenirs from Thailand? That's right, "Dragon shoes" as the girls called them for everyone! It's so funny because you will see grown men at the mall, on their motorcycles, at the construction site and they will be wearing pink "dragon shoes." Awesome!

Here's the circus all walking in to Lotus for a little KFC. So cute and what a sight!

I love this one of Ella! Precious with her little umbrella and heels!

And here we are at the aquarium. Fun and interesting...

Aren't the fish beautiful?? Wait, can you not see them? Is this not hilarious? Ann took us down to this outdoor underwater tunnel part of the aquarium to look at some dirty water and maybe catch some shadows of a fish as they swam by. Oh man, so great. You cannot see the fish at all. You might get lucky to catch a glimpse of a shadow of one if they swim close enough to the glass every once and while. I'm telling you if you're ever in Phayao, the outdoor section of the aquarium is a must-see! :)

Oh, such good times! We are missing Thailand so much everyday. The girls talk about Brynn and Meg and how they miss them everyday! So thankful for such great memories together.

You better not be tired of Thailand stories because we've got elephant rides and more cousin time still to document!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adventures in Thailand: Transportation-Safe or Not Safe?

Yes, transportation in Thailand gets a post all it's own. Now, you know us Carders and how we are known for apparently being safe as evidenced by our numerous safety plates that we own. Do I need to remind everyone about our safety plates?? Well, getting around in Thailand I would say that safety is out the window on many occasions. I don't know, you decide safe or not safe?

1. Side-saddle to the Salon
Safety Precautions: none besides my kung-fu grip on Derran's shoulder and an extra tuck in or two for my skirt so it doesn't fly up over my head
Safety status: semi safe but did not feel so safe

So, this is the second day we are in Phayao. We are a little jet-lagged and I'm needing to wash my hair. I had been putting it off because frankly folks, I've got a lot of hair and it just takes a lot of energy sometimes to wash, dry and style it. And, it has some natural curl and can be very big...Rick lovingly calls me Tina Turner. I'll come out of the bathroom after blowdrying it at night and he'll say, "Whoa, hey Tina, nice hair." Thanks Rick. Anyway, so I didn't feel like doing my hair so Ann tells me I should go to their little beauty salon and the lady there will wash my hair, give me a head massage, dry and style it for me. She had me at head massage...that sounds like a fabulous plan! Especially since Ann's adapter wasn't working and the hair-dryer and flat-iron wouldn't work anyway since the voltage is different. Rick couldn't understand why I would go and pay for someone to wash my hair for me when it's something I could do myself but I kindly ignored him. :) I was focused on the head massage. Anyway, so then Ann kindly volunteered Derran to take me on the motorcycle. This is funny because I later found out that Ann hasn't been on the motorcycle in over a year but she sure was Johnny-on-the-spot ready for me to take a ride on it the second day I was there AND in a skirt! Thank you, Ann. Thanks.

Aaannnd these are the children's faces as they are watching me leave on the motorcycle. Utter confusion. If that doesn't say it all I don't know what does.

So, Derran takes me to the salon with a little stop off at 7-11 for a coke...which he held in his hand WHILE driving the motorcycle. This adds to the safety concerns already in place. I am just thinking while we're going: don't fall off, try not to lose a flip-flop, Dear Lord please don't let my skirt fly up, ease up your grip on Derran's shoulder, don't fall off, I really hope no one hits us, why didn't I think to wear a helmet?, don't fall off. Derran is a great driver by the way! We made it to the salon in one piece and I got my hair washed with a great head massage, dried and styled for oh...around $3 including tip!! So great! However, before you think I am that vain and care this much about my hair I will tell you that the rest of the trip I did my hair myself and just went with my Tina Turner do for two weeks thanks to no hair-dryer or flat-iron. I must say that it was kind of refreshing not to fix my hair everyday, maybe not so refreshing to look at but it was great with me!

2. Best Friends Forever
Safety Precautions: helmets...good job boys!
Safety status: Who cares because this is an AWESOME story!

This is how Rick and Derran cruised around town on most days. They would take the motorcycle to the office, to run errands, to rescue Ann's misplaced and stolen iphone! Ok, this story is great. This is the third day we are in Phayao and Ann misplaces her iphone that she has only had for two months. By the time she remembers it is too late. We searched for it close to their house but did not find it so thanks to Find My iphone App we pull up the GPS on their computer. We see her phone icon and it's MOVING!! Someone has it and it has now become a stolen iphone! Rick and Derran jump on the Hog and take off to go track down the perp. Ann and I stay at home with the girls and keep our eyes glued to the computer. For you 24 fans out there it was totally like 24. :) Ann and I felt like Chloe back at CTU watching the satellite feed and giving the boys instruction while Derran and Rick aka Jack Bauer and friends were driving like bats all around town trying to find the target. Anyway, so the perp and Ann's stolen iphone show up on the GPS at 7-11, BAM! Derran and Rick are there and start questioning bystanders, searching the bathroom, searching trash cans. No one's giving any info but they know it's there! Well, so the GPS shows that it hasn't moved from 7-11 for 40 minutes or so which made us all think someone is either standing there with it in their pocket or it's stashed on a shelf somewhere. Come to find out if the phone is moving too much or too fast or something the GPS wouldn't update until the phone stopped moving enough so it made it look like it was at 7-11 the whole time but in fact it wasn't. Very confusing but we learned quickly what was going on, don't you worry!

All of a sudden, finally Ann and I see that the satellite updated and the phone is on the move again and it is now in another part of town! So Derran and Rick jump on the motorcycle again and chase it down to a business school and of course no one there seems to know anything about a missing phone which is weird because as they are talking to people at the business school three guys take off on motorcycles and all go in different directions. Very suspicious! The phone then shows up in a neighborhood somewhere but the boys can't track it. So, they come home and we're all feeling a little deflated but still watching the computer screen for any satellite updates and hoping that maybe, just maybe this isn't over. We're sitting around talking for awhile when wouldn't you know the satellite refreshes and the perp with the phone is on the move AGAIN! This time it was headed into the market area in Phayao which could only mean that they were headed for the cell phone store in the market to sell it. Aaaah! Here we go again, we're shouting for the boys to Go!Go!Go! and they hop back on the motorcycle and drive like crazy down to the market and cell phone store. Will they get there in time to stop the perp from selling it??

No! They don't but don't despair my friends, this isn't over. Not with Derran's mad interrogating-Thai-speaking skills. First, Rick tries to scope out the scene so he walks into the cell phone store first trying to act like a clueless American and asks, "Iphone 4?" to which the lady replies that they have a second-hand iphone 4. So now Derran walks in and asks the same question and the lady tells him no, they don't have one. Oh, tell me lies tell me sweet little lies! Meanwhile the owner of the store is basically hiding in the back trying to buy his time so he doesn't have to talk to Derran but finally decides to come out after sweet-little-lying girl can't keep up their lies about the fact that they've said they did not just buy an iphone 4 when it fact the GPS shows it's in their store. Anyway, long story short, after police and jail time are thrown into the conversation, xeroxed pictures of the perp's drivers license are suspiciously passed across the counter to Derran from the store owner and he's told multiple times to just "Go find her" to get his phone back Derran doesn't cave. He stands his ground and doesn't buy into the lies meanwhile doing all of this in Thai. The owner finally admits to having bought the phone for several hundred dollars from a girl claiming her aunt gave it to her and that he has the phone. After much more conversation Derran gets the phone back which has already been wiped, puts it in his pocket and walks out the door without having to pay a thing to get it back.

This whole drama story began around 1:30 pm and Rick and Derran didn't get home until 7:30pm but they had the phone in hand! Unbelievable. All day this went on, motorcycle chase around town, interrogating multiple people, the lies, the deceit, police and jail threats. I'm telling you it was one crazy day. We thought they would be exhausted when they got home and they were to an extent but Rick's face and response when they walked in the door was hilarious. With wide eyes and a huge smile he says, "This is what I'm talking about! This kind of stuff never happens in the States!" Hilarious. Then we all re-hashed the story and got all the juicy details from what really went down at the cell phone store. It was awesome and will not be forgotten! Thanks for losing your phone Ann, it made for some great memories! :)

3. Get in where you fit in
Safety Precautions: seatbelts...sort of
Safety Status: safe...sort of considering the circumstances

So this is pretty much the set up for getting places when we were in Thailand except with the four girls in the back just squeeze Ann and I back there too and we're golden. Ann and Derran have a four door truck so most of the time it was 6 people in the back sharing seatbelts and kids on laps and the other two people in the front seat. I mean, just look at this picture and how seatbelts are all funky behind the seats so as not to strangle the little ones and are pulled as far as they can go to strap across two people in the middle. Who needs a carseat? This works great!

At least they all have a Coke Slurpee from 7-11 to make them happy. That always helps when you're squished, hot and sticky in a car full of people right? Rrrriiiight.

4. Night Time Vespa Ride
Safety Precautions: helmets
Safety Status: double not safe

Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder right? Don't be fooled, this is Thailand, you never know what you might see or ride in. One of Ann and Derran's team mates, Chris and Tonya Fikes have a Vespa with a side-car, which is hilarious and fantastic. Well, I was dying to take a ride in it so Chris drove us home one night so we could take a spin in it.

As if Rick and I squished in there together isn't bad enough, let's add Eva to the mix shall we? Just when you thought things weren't so safe to begin with why don't we up the anty by carrying a small child on our lap. I mean hello, what were we thinking? My ridiculous leg is hanging out because it can't even fit in the side car but let's take Eva with us, this will be fun! Good night in the morning! The first two minutes of the ride I thought, yeah, this is fun and then soon after that I was just thinking, this is just plain irresponsible! Ella was riding with Ann and Derran in the truck and the three of us were riding in the side car at night on the main road/highway that runs through town to get back to Ann and Derran's house. Eva was having a blast laughing and flapping her arms like a bird and I was just praying that we wouldn't fall out and that no one would hit us. People were passing us and laughing which is interesting to me considering the things Thai people do and put on their motorcycles. It is very common to see a family of 4 or 5 people on one small motorcycle. The dad may be driving with a toddler in his lap while the mom is holding a small infant and another toddler...none of them will be wearing helmets. Not kidding. You will see dogs on the motorcycle or maybe a woman leaving the market with bags of vegetables hanging from the handle bars and crates piled high behind her with food. It is beyond belief! So the fact that they were laughing at us is funny to me, I mean, I know we look ridiculous but still. It was another fun memory!

5. Two's company Three's a crowd
Safety Precautions: helmets
Safety Status: safe?

Three is definitely not a crowd if the third person is sweet little Meg Reese with her cute ladybug motorcycle helmet! Is she not the most precious thing? And probably the bravest one out of all of us. She loves to ride the motorcyle with her Daddy!

6. Who needs a carseat anyway?
Safety precautions: must stay seated at all times
Safety status: I'm thinking not so safe

At the end of our trip we spent 2 days in Chiang Mai which is about 2 1/2 hours away from Phayao. One of our dear friends that lives there, Robert Reagan graciously let us stay at their house and borrow his car to cruise around town. It is a pick up that has a covered back with bench seating. Fabulous! The girls loved riding around town in it. We did make Ella and Meg sit in the front in the carseats for some of the time but they got to ride around with the big girls in the back too. Umm, so probably not very safe considering it's basically letting your small children ride around in the bed of a pick up truck all day while you cruise around town, go out on the highway and drive up a mountain for 45 minutes but hey it's a different country so there are different rules. :)

We all loved it and it was a nice break from being squished on top of each other in Ann and Derran's truck.

7. If you like Pina Colada's and getting caught in the rain
Safety precautions: none
Safety Status: not safe

Well, there were definitely no pina coladas but there was rain on these two poor boys stuck in the back of the truck. On our way to Chiang Mai from Phayao we only had one car for all of us plus all of our luggage. We were flying out of Chiang Mai to go back home so it was tricky figuring out how to fit all of us in Derran and Ann's truck and all the luggage. Well, Derran and Rick drew the short straws so they sat back in the back with all the luggage for the 2 1/2-3 hour drive on a small, very curvy highway through the mountains from Phayao to Chiang Mai. Lots of bonding time! And lots of prayers on my part for their safety. It rained for a lot of the time but they were good sports. They look happy right? I mean, what were our options? Eva was already on my lap in the front seat, Brynn was in the back between Meg and Ella in carseats for once so there really wasn't anything else we could do. All I can say is it's just making memories!

8. Take me on a Tuk-Tuk Ride
Safety precautions: none except holding on tight
Safety status: I don't know, depends on how you feel about riding around in a car that only has 3 wheels, no doors and has motorcycle handle bars for a steering wheel

If you are ever in Thailand or another Asian country you must take a ride in a Tuk-Tuk! No doors, no seatbelts, open air which is great when you're sitting in hot traffic at a standstill. I mean Tuk-Tuks would make Chinese fire drills SO much easier wouldn't they? You wouldn't have to mess with the whole door thing. Anyway, we took a ride around town in Chiang Mai just so the girls could experience it. It was so fun.

Such fun memories! Glad we are all safe and no one fell off a motorcycle or out of a car. Can't wait for more fun times with you Reese family!!