5 Things Day Four: Table

I love to eat with friends. There is nothing like opening up the table and eating together, and right now I feel chock full of the goodness of eating together after this little run of birthday parties (Solo and Kai, more on that later) and guests. Five notable tables:


1. I already spoke of this one: a night when we were invited to go to a beautiful restaurant. I didn’t mention that when we arrived, the table was all ready for us with a sweet little Reserved sign on it. It felt very special.

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2. Chinua and I went away for a night for our anniversary. This is the second time that Leaf and Brendan have made this possible for us (once was here in Pai as well, two years ago). We took Isaac, but warned him, “Enjoy yourself, because this is the last anniversary get-away that you’ll be invited to.” We were able to leave him with Leaf and Brendan for a few hours on Saturday and a few on Sunday morning. I didn’t take pictures of all the tables or all the goodness on them because I was all wrapped up in my Superstar Husband, but there were smoothies and cheesecake, carrot juice and coffee and late at night, another cheese board with some wine. Good tables in and of themselves, but mostly because of the company (and lack of company, if you know what I mean).

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3. When we got back, on Sunday, Leaf had made a beautiful sweet potato, pumpkin and carrot soup, so we settled around the table again and heard the stories of all the fun things they’d done since we were gone. But we weren’t jealous.

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4. And then, on Sunday afternoon, I had invited some friends over to teach me some Thai cooking. I’ve gone to a few Thai classes, but they always teach the same things: curries, pad thai. That stuff is useful, but what I want to do is crawl right inside the philosophy of cooking in Thailand, the same way I was able to in India. I want to be able to wear it, to walk into my kitchen and cook blindfolded. It’s a tall order, but I simplified it by asking my friends to show me the usual things: the things that people cook everyday. So we started yesterday. They have young children, so there were three babies and four preschoolers, and all my older kids.
We cooked and I tried to learn the Thai names for different foods. And then we laid it all on the table and ate:
We made fried rice, mushrooms with basil, egg tofu soup, and fried tofu and green beans. My friend Su made pumpkin in coconut milk for dessert and that blew my mind. I am always looking for ways to improve my table, to understand cooking and food and this endless business of keeping my family fed. It’s a long project. And I hope to begin writing some more food posts soon.


5. And the last is not table but kitchen. My Superstar Husband has taken on the reorganization of our kitchen and he’s rocking it with all these hooks and pails. I passed on the pail idea to him for the random sauces that we need to use all the time, which I got from Pinterest, making it a completed Pinterest idea! Whoo! But only because he ran with it. The bottles of soy sauce and fish sauce and everything else were cluttering our countertop and therefore our life and our brains and our universe. Now they are nicely put away. I am very, very happy with him.

5 Things Day Three: ABC

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1. Lately in the name of trying to eat well and get more nutrients into my nursing mama body, I’ve been juicing with the beautiful juicer that my friends Christy and Ian sent me for my birthday. I make ABC juice, (apple beet carrot) with a little bit of G (ginger).

2. There is an older lady in the market here that I used to try to get to like me. I just wanted her to crack a smile, you know? But she never seemed to be very impressed with yours truly. Now that I speak Thai better, I know that it could have been because I was calling her older sister when I should have been calling her auntie. She’s much older than me, more than a generation, so… whoops! But I don’t know if it was that. I also don’t know why she’s had such a turn around, why she’s so friendly now, telling me I can leave my bags at her stall while I buy the rest of my groceries. Why, fruit auntie? Why?

3. Yesterday we were doing a little work in the meditation space when I left to go to the hardware store. I told Solo he could go with me and walked on ahead while he ran to get his shoes. I stood at the end of the lane, which is grassy and cut through with wheel ruts, waiting for him, and heard him shout to a friend, “I’m going with Mama and then I’ll be back.” His voice was so proud. He ran down the grassy land toward me, so cute and sunshiny, and it was one of those moments when I really feel how blessed I am.

4. Chinua mopped the kitchen after it flooded from the rain today. The floor is all shiny and clean, though it’s raining again so the mop might have to come back out.

5. Tonight we went to a beautiful restaurant with all of the kids and heard Chinua playing piano and singing. Brendan and Leaf danced a little and I ate and laughed with my kids and there was happiness all around. It’s good to put these moments in my pockets for more difficult times. These shining ones, you can pull them out later and rub them on your jeans and see yourself in their reflective surface. 

5 Things Day Two: Robot Heart

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1. The other day was one of those days when I can’t seem to get ahead. I ran from thing to thing, never finishing any job, I was unsuccessful at getting the baby down for a nap, and the older kids rollicked and shrieked downstairs while I tried. I desperately needed a shower, and finally locked myself in the bathroom, sighed, and turned the hot water on. I rubbed shampoo into my hair and then… I heard a voice. “MaMa!” the voice said, and it wasn’t one of my kids. It was Nuan, the lady who comes and helps with cleaning one day a week. It wasn’t her day, but she had been helping us clean up the meditation center the day before. I went to the door, but she was down the hall, still calling me. (I don’t know why she calls me Mama. Ma means come in Thai, so I kind of think she’s telling me to come, but I’m not sure.) I wrapped myself in a towel and stood on my front porch, soaking wet, hair full of soap. She wanted the keys to the kitchen at the meditation space because she had managed to get a friend to loan her the use of a truck to pick up some bamboo siding that we didn’t want anymore. I told her I would finish showering and then try to help her. It was the crowning moment in a morning that wanted to thwart me.

2. Later in the day, though, Leaf and I rolled out into the countryside on my scooter, driving away on a two to three hour escape plan. I left all the things that needed to be cleaned still, the unchecked things on my list. I let it be known that I wasn’t going to cook dinner, and we left! We drove past rice paddies in full green explosion, past purple flowering trees. We passed hills with clouds over them, bridges over rivers, graceful bamboo stands, tall chickens in villages, young monks in orange playing soccer. We had a long talk, we caught up, and we wound up in a little café with a tea and a smoothie in front of us. It was a complete turn around. My interrupted shower was in the distant past. I forgot all about it as patches of sun and cloud rolled over us on the motorbike.

3. That night, I snuggled with Leafy and Solo before we went to sleep. Here’s a little sample of our conversation:
Me: “I’m going to go, but I have put so much of my love in your heart that you always have it. If you need it, you can just reach in and find it, and say, ‘My mama loves me.’
Solo: (Puts his hand in his mouth to pretend to reach down his throat.) “I’ll reach down and pull out my heart and give it to you.”
Leafy: “Yeah, Kai said sword swallowers have to move their hearts to the side so they can swallow swords. We have a joke where we say that they could put their hearts at the back of their throats and take them out and give them to their girlfriends.”
Solo: “NO! To their Moms!”
Leafy: “Yes, but if they had a broken heart, and they took them out and really broke them, they would die.”
A short silence falls.
Leafy: “Unless they got a robot heart.”

(This is having sons. Talks of love take weird and delightful turns that always entertain me, especially when I’m really listening.)

4. Isaac is so close to crawling. He has this large radius, he can flip himself over and spin in circles, but he can’t get his belly off the floor and pull himself along, once he’s on his stomach. It will come, though, very very soon. He is a complete delight, the love of everyone’s life, the small smiling pile of cuddle that we all turn to, throughout the day. He has us all at his beck and call, including Brendan and Leaf or Maria and Issa when they come over. He is the chubbiest chubber, a slobbery, gummy smiled, delicious baby. How did we live without him?

5. Yesterday in the morning I left my house and walked over a bamboo bridge to get to the meditation space. I got a broom out of the kitchen to sweep the floor of the big building (we need to come up with names for these buildings) and pulled the cushions out. Brendan and Leaf and their son joined me. We sang and read Psalm 5 together. We prayed, I wrote, the birds sang around us. I’ve missed this, friends. This is an excellent new beginning.

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5 Things Day One : Buckets


Here we go September, breaking down all the doors with its new September-ness. Here’s something different I'm trying this September: Posts made up of Five Things. These things can be bits of grace, they can be funny things, they can be frustrating things.  These are the things you pull out of your pocket, at the end of the day, and arrange on your night table. These are the thoughts and memories you gather throughout the day. These are the things you paste in your journal. There are no rules, really, I just want to write about five things, to jog my brain and memory and not forget-- it’s the not forgetting that’s the most important— these years are an avalanche of challenges and gifts and I want to remember it all.

1. Leaf and Brendan, our Aussie friends who live in Northern India, are here with their son for a couple of weeks, and I am over the moon. I am always enlivened by being with them. They have the kind of marriage that inspires and embraces, they are the kind of people we can be serious with, laugh with. We have grown together more and more over the years.

2. Kai had his eleventh birthday party on Sunday and it was a blast. I cooked feverishly because that is my recipe for parties: just make enough food to heap on everyone and it will go well. Kai is eleven, you guys. Eleven! This growing up boy got the simplest Kindle for his birthday. Now we need a budget for books to go along with that Kindle! I’ll direct gift givers toward Amazon gift cards for this boy who inhales books. (It’s a good thing he’s a re-reader, like me. Although unlike me, he retains every bit of information that he reads in every book. I forget easily, therefore books are like new to me every time.) And there are also all the free classics.

I put Kai and Kenya in charge of the games and they came up with something that had a bag of shame. If you were selected, you had to fulfill a “fate” that was written on a little piece of paper. Brendan got the fate of having to eat a spoonful of salt, sugar, and chili sauce, and the shrieking and hilarity this caused was enough for a year’s worth of silliness. He really played his role well, flinching and squirming and being generally dramatic. The kids loved it.

3. We are working on our meditation space and I fall more in love with it every time I spend time there. Yesterday was a work day, and the plan was to get all the plants that I bought in the plant market in Chiang Mai into the ground. I placed plants where I wanted them and Ya, the old rice farmer who was helping us, dug them in. He worked all day and we got it all done. I’m thrilled. Chinua and the others also moved wood out of the way and burned the scrap wood. I love that place. It is so beautiful and already feels so peaceful and like a sacred space. I can’t wait to spend more time praying, singing, meditating, and eating food with guests there.

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4. Isaac got an impromptu cold water bath after a scary and traumatic event yesterday during our work at the space. He seemed hot in his clothes, so I ran home to get a t shirt. I laid it on the floor in the big building and took his clothes off, then put the new shirt on and picked him up to nurse him. He was crying like he really wanted to nurse but then he kept pulling away and crying more. This went on for a few minutes until I noticed an ant on the edge of his diaper! ACK! His shirt was full of biting ants. I pulled it off him and called for Chinua to get them all off with me and together we got all the nasty little bad ants off my poor baby. When I set the shirt on the floor, I must have set it in a swarm of ants and they all crawled inside the shirt.
He welted up and those things are painful! So we pulled a bucket out and put him in it with some water. Soon he was splashing happily, wildly even. He didn’t seem to react much to the bites after that (I’m allergic, so my bites swell a lot.) I was horrified, though, especially over those few minutes when I didn't know what was happening to him. Poor kid.

5. Yesterday Solo was “helping” Brendan pick rocks out of the ground by lying in the rock collecting bucket and requesting that the rocks Brendan picked be put on him. When it was time to empty the bucket on the pile, he lay down on the large rock pile and asked Brendan to pour the rocks on top of him. Which Brendan did, because he has all the patience in the world and doesn’t get grumpy pants with five-year-olds who are quirky as all get out and always want to do things the weird way. Oh, Solomon. We love you.

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You can play along with Five Things, if you want. Write them in the comments or link to your post. Follow Solo's example and be as quirky as you want to be.