Weeks 27-29: Home Alone
(06/25/06)

Although Greg went on his first business trip (to Korea) shortly after we moved to Singapore, he was only gone two nights, and it was in Asia after all, so it really wasn't that bad. A few days after my parents' visit, however, he was scheduled to leave again, this time back to Austin - a trip that would require an absence of 10 days. 10 days is a really long time to be all alone in a foreign country with two energetic children who just got out of school for the summer. To make matters worse, he had to jet off to Thailand three days before leaving for the U.S. for another work obligation. Since we had so much fun in Phuket, the boys and I decided to tag along.

This time, our destination was Khao Lak, a little town north of Phuket, that is bordered on one side by the Andaman Sea and on the other by a natural forest. Like Phuket, it was beautiful. But unlike the J.W. Marriott of our first visit, in Khao Lak, where the 2004 tsunami hit Thailand the hardest, the aftermath of that devastating natural disaster is still painfully evident. Although most of the rebuilding is almost complete, there is still construction going on all along the coast; and all of the buildings that aren't under construction are obviously brand new. Even our hotel was new. It would have been new anyway, since it opened just three months before the tsunami hit; but it was even more new when we got there, since the first floor of everything on the property was essentially washed away and had to be re-built. It would be almost refreshing to see all of the clean, shiny brand-newness everywhere, if not for the horrible reason for the newness, the effects of which you can feel, if not see, everywhere you go. Even on the road to the airport one is reminded of the strength of that tsunami - as you drive by a huge police boat that was washed inland by the giant waves and left where it finally beached, more than a quarter-mile from the sea.

Apart from the sadness of being in a land where so many lives were lost, we enjoyed our time in Khao Lak. The staff at Le Meridien Hotel was wonderful. They all treated the boys like they were royalty (which didn't do much to help with their little attitudes, I can tell you). And they all exuded not only the courtesy we have always experienced from the Thai people, but also a sense of gratitude, just because we were there. Perhaps it was because there were so few other people there - several of our meals were consumed in restaurants that counted us as their only patrons; each time we got in the giant connect-the-pools swimming system, we were the only ones. There were a few people on the beach - which was absolutely amazing - but the place was basically deserted. If not for the Dell group, and a few small families here and there, the hotel would have been empty. Hopefully, once travelers realize how far the reconstruction has come, tourism in that region will be able to return to its pre-tsunami levels. I get the feeling the whole town (and certainly all of the hotel's staff) is counting on it.

After a few peaceful days in Khao Lak, we headed home, and Greg left for Texas the same day. And I was alone. With two children. I must admit that I was very nervous about how things would play out during his absence, but we survived. Fortunately summer school started the Monday after our abandonment. The boys are having a great time - at what would more accurately be described as summer camp than summer school - and I still am able to get in a few hours of work each day. Plus, since camp starts an hour later than regular school did, we can all get ready for the day at a leisurely pace each morning, rather than rushing around the house like maniacs, trying to throw clothes on our bodies and food in our mouths before we have to dash out the door.

While I was home alone, fearing an unannounced visit from a band of black spitting cobras, Greg,  back in North America, spent the first few days of his trip working in Austin/Round Rock, where he got to hang out with neighbors and family. Then he moved on to more work in Chicago, where several college friends met up with him at the end of the week for a guys' weekend. I was, and am, very jealous. His late night phone calls, made after having beers and big fun with good friends, just about sent me over the edge.

But, like I said, things here went well without him, for the most part. The only remotely negative portion of an otherwise very positive single-parent extravaganza was a spell of tear-drenched fear that Cameron went through, several nights in a row, during which he worried about life and death and life after death while I tried in vain to calm him. Thanks to some wonderful advice from my wonderful friends back home, I think we are moving out of that panic zone little by little. Raising children is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, but it is also, bar none, the hardest. If only we had little manuals of what to do and say, and what to not do and not say, it would be so much easier. I guess we all are a work in progress.

Speaking of raising children, Greg and I are thinking about changing our parenting strategy, from man-to-man to a zone defense. Specifically, we are considering adopting a little girl from China and bringing the kid-count up to three. Many of you know that this is a topic that has been on the table for some time - several years in fact. Although we previously have discussed it only at very high, theoretical levels, we are now actively "thinking about it." The boys are completely on board. Cameron has been asking for a little sister for longer than I can remember. Alec, initially, found the concept quite distasteful; but he recently changed his position, and is now requesting a sibling as well. Obviously, we would never take a step like this based solely on a sister-order placed by the boys that may have more to with missing our dog, Ben, than it does with wanting to add to the family dynamic. But, their feelings are a very important part of the decision. As are a thousand other factors. We'd love to hear from any of you that have any experiential advice, or just some general thoughts to offer, on the subjects of either adoption or raising girls. Would I have to buy little dresses...?

Take care,
Shannon et al.

 note: we forgot the digital camera, so the Khao Lak shots were taken with a crappy disposable camera ...

 

Le Meridien Spa & Resort

 

Cameron & Alec

     

Alec at the pool in Khao Lak

 

Cameron at the pool in Khao Lak

Cameron, Shannon, & Alec on the beach in Khao Lak

 

Ben

the Sears Tower in Chicago

 

Greg and his buddies at Wrigley Field