Friday, July 30, 2010

Our Thailand Adventure: Jumping Rope

Our Thailand Adventure: Jumping Rope

What We Did

One of the things I enjoy about taking photos is that it acts as a record of what I did on a certain day.  As I was loading the photos from our trip into Lightroom, I was reflecting on some of the things we did. 

This trip was pretty kid focused, and overall, I think they had a great time.  In addition to spending time with family and friends and going on a shopping spree to spend banked Christmas money, the kids got to do a fair bit.  Generally we stayed in Cincinnati, but did make a few day trips.  Here are the highlights:

Kings Island (twice)
Kings Island is an awesome amusement park with something for everyone.  It boasts some great roller coasters as well as the top rated non-Disney kids park.  Jacob was tall enough to ride all the roller coasters and Nalin could ride a fair number of them.  Aleena could ride the all the rides in Snoopy Land as well as some in other parts of the park.  I think this was the highlight of the trip for the kids.  I enjoyed the coasters too.  Yaow, however, is less adventurous than Aleena when it comes to thrill rides, so I don't think this was her favorite part.

Mammoth Cave

We are lucky to live three and a half hours from a world heritage site and national park that boasts the largest limestone cave system in the world. 

Cincinnati Children's Museum
The Cincinnati Children's Museum does a fantastic job, and the kids love playing there.  It was especially nice because my friends Joe and Bill brought their children as well.   

Indianapolis Children's Museum
This has been ranked the top children's museum in the country, and not without good reason.  Its four floors of attracts have something for everyone.  The highlight for Jacob was probably the rock wall climb, while I think the girls really enjoyed the Barbie exhibit and dress making workshop.  The fact that they were the only two in it meant they got a lot of attention.

Cincinnati Reds Game
I didn't expect that I would get to take them to see a Red's team that was atop of their division this summer, but indeed I did. 

We visited a number of parks while we were back, including Sawyer Commons, Devou Park, Woodland Mound (water play area) and Juilif Park. 

Cincinnati Zoo
We visited the zoo twice as a family, and the kids attended it once during summer camp.

Summer Camp
The kids spent one week attending a summer camp in Anderson.  Four of those days, they spent part of the day at Coney Island water park, and the other day they visited the zoo.  This was not only nice for the kids, but also for me as well. 

July 4th
We celebrated our first July 4th back in the States (for the kids anyway) in two years by visiting the Anderson Parade and going to the Cincinnati Pops' Red White and Boom concert and firework show.

Butterfly Show
We arrived in town just in time to see the Krohn Conservator's butterfly show. 

Of course we ate.  In addition to mom and dad fixing a Thanksgiving feast, we dined out quite a few times.  Our choices included Frisch's Big Boy, Red Robin, Jersey Mike's, White Castle, Chipotle, IHOP, Red Squirrel (surprisingly Jacob's favorite place), Chuck E Cheese, several Mexican restaurants, Cracker Barrel, Larosas and more. 

By the end of the trip, I was ready to come back.  And although they said they weren't, I think the kids were as well.  Now only a week before school starts.  Yeah!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jumping Rope

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Aleena and Nalin each received jump ropes as part of the Cincinnati Public Library summer reading program. One afternoon, they were making use of the jump ropes in our driveway.

I converted this photo to black and white using Lightroom and then ran a noise reduction program. i like it, but I wish I had one without my car in the background.


The eleven hour time zone shuffle is truly a wonderful thing to experience.  And by wonderful, I mean it really sucks.  Okay, its not really that bad, but its hardly fun. 

I generally try to deal with jet lag by getting on a regular schedule as soon as I can.  We got home last night around 2:00 a.m., but I didn't get to bed until almost 4:00 a.m.  I woke up this morning around 8:00, and plan to stay up until at least 8:00 or 9:00 tonight.  I managed to get in a light workout today, as one of my goals when I get back is to lose a lot of fat.  I've been slacking on watching my diet and exercising over the past few months, particularly when I was in the States.

This method generally gets me on a regular schedule pretty quickly.  I'll usually be pretty tired in the evening, but I try not to nap until I get adjusted. 

The kids do not follow daddy's guide to overcoming jet lag.  The girls were up early (if they really went to sleep at all), but by 11:00 a.m., they were both out and are still sleeping as of 5:30 p.m.  Jacob only woke up a few minutes ago.  They don't have school for another nine or ten days, so long as they don't wake us up in the middle of the night, its fine if they adjust their own way. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back in Thailand

We made it back to Thailand early this morning, a couple of hours late, but safe.  We got held up in Detroit for an hour while they rebalanced the luggage in the plane.  After we took off, they showed our arrival time in Tokyo of 6:10 p.m. local time; thirty minutes before our scheduled departure to Bangkok. 

Thirty minutes to connect in Tokyo is a huge problem, because while the walk to the new gate is not that long, you have to go through security again.  There was no way we would make it unless they held the plane.  I asked a flight attendant, but she didn't know if they would.  She did tell me that there were a lot of people connecting to Bangkok and that would probably weigh in favor of the plane waiting for us.  For eleven of the twelve hour flight (we were on the plane a total of fourteen hours), I didn't know if we were going to have to scramble to find a new flight, or worse case scenario, spend the night in Tokyo.  An hour before we got into Tokyo, they announced that Delta was holding the flight for us. 

It was nice to not have to run through the airport in hopes of making the connection.  If they had not held the plane, we would not have made it  We boarded ten minutes after the scheduled departure time.  In addition to the delay in waiting for us and loading our luggage, the Bangkok flight had to wait because there were many flights trying to leave at the same time.  At that point, however, I really didn't care about the delay, as I was relieved that we actually made our flight.

Tim was waiting for us when we arrived.  We didn't have a way to contact her about the delay, so she waited about an hour and a half. 

I had a lot of fun in the States, but I'm glad to be back.   

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Yesterday my brother took Jacob bow shooting in the backyard. Jacob really enjoyed archery classes in Thailand and Eric bow hunts, so it was a nice match.

Jacob is actually a pretty decent shot. The other good thing is that he is fairly conscious about safety.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Coco Key Water Park

Took the kids to Coco Key Water Resort today.  The water resort is adjacent to the Crown Plaza Cincinnati North hotel in Sharonville.  The kids really seemed to enjoy it, but I thought it was okay.  This indoor facility doesn't actually have a pool to swim in.  It has some water slides for kids of different ages and a place to splash and get wet, as well as a lazy river where you can float on a tube.  Compared to the larger outdooor water parks, it kind of falls short.  I guess in the winter, however, when those parks are closed, it migh be a good option.  

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I took a photo of the kids with their cousin Maria at the family gathering.

Family Gathering

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Today we went to mom and dad's for a family gathering. It was nice seeing my uncles and cousins. I don't think the kids recognized everyone, particularly Aleena.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cricket is Terrible

The last couple of times that I came to the states, I ended up borrowing my mom's cell phone while I was here.  She tends not to use it very much, and it saved me a little money.  This time, however, I decided to get couple of phones; one for Yaow and one for myself. 

My plan was to get some prepaid services for the time we were here, and then take the actual phones back with us to Thailand.  That way before we returned next time, we could reactivate the phones and have phone service immediately upon entering the country.  It would have been very handy to have had phones two years ago when we had to get in touch with my parents to tell them to pick us up in Dayton instead of in Cincinnati.  I called my buddy Dave collect, and the company billed him $40 for a 2 minute call.  He refused to pay.

I bought a Net10 prepaid phone with 5 hours of talk time for Yaow.  Net10 charges ten cents a minute for a call.  For myself, I went with a Cricket plan that had unlimited minutes for $45 a month.  Yaow's Net10 phone was easy to set up and start using.  Right from the beginning I had trouble with the Cricket phone.  When I followed the instructions to use the prepaid service card that I had purchased, it didn't work.  I had to call their representatives and speak to a non-native English speaker who seemed to be paid by the word and not by the hour.  He was able to apply the credit to my account, but it wasn't a good sign of things to come.

Coverage on the Cricket network turned out to be very poor.  Although their coverage map showed my house and my parents house well within the coverage range, I was frequently roaming.  When I tried to make calls, I would frequently receive an immediate busy signal.  I also didn't realize at the time that I was being charged for the roaming.  Not knowing is my fault, but not providing coverage where you advertise it is their issue.  I had a $5 credit on my account after I paid the first month plan, and apparently it was used in roaming fees.

I missed a lot of calls with Cricket.  I would look down at my phone to make a call and see that I had 3 messages.  This was a bit surprising since I had the phone with me the entire time and I hadn't heard it ring. 

I knew my policy was coming to an end soon, so I went on their web site to make a payment to extend my service.  Although the service was bad, it would only be for a few more weeks.  Unlike the Net10 plan, where I was able to add time to Yaow's account in a minute, Cricket does not have a way to pay online.  You have to buy a card from a retailer or call their representatives.  I decided to call, since the last time I bought a card I had to pay anyway.  After a few minutes with possibly the same speed talking representative as before, I interrupted and asked him to speak more slowly.  Of course he spoke very, very slowly, perhaps out of spite.  I tried to make a payment, but had maxed out the credit card that I was using.  The one I was using had a small limit, but I hadn't activated any other of my credit cards.  I hung up, paid off the balance on that card, and activated some additional cards that had been reissued when I was overseas. 

I thought about calling Cricket back and adding enough time to get me through the rest of the trip, when I received a message on my phone saying that my service would expire in a week.  I thought it was to expire the next day, but there it was in a text.  One week left.

This morning when I went to make a call about my insurance, I had the message that there was not sufficient credit on my account.  So I tried to make an payment via telephone, and after going through the entire process, I receive a message that the credit card charge did not work for technical reasons.  So, I went to Walmart and bought another Net10 phone.  I was going to try to port the number over, but I didn't know if it would work because I didn't have active service with Cricket. 

My advice is that if you are considering Cricket Wireless, look into some other options.  The coverage map did not accurately reflect the actual coverage, and their customer service and lack of web support made payments more difficult.  

Insurance & Zip Codes

So I was wondering why I hadn't seen the renewal policy for my home and insurance policy.  I had called my agent when I got back to the states, and she told me it had been renewed.  I was waiting for the bill, but then it slipped my mind.  So I called my agent who did some searching, but then discovered it was going to be canceled next week for lack of payment. 

I decided to attempt to pay online, but it said that my policy number and zip code did not match.  Called back my agent, and she told me the zip code related to my policy.  I had changed the billing address to my brother's house some time ago.  Since he moved here over six months ago, the post office stopped forwarding the mail.  That's why I never saw my policy or statement.  Fortunately I was able to make the payment online and avoid cancellation.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cincinnati Children's Museum

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Today the kids and I (and Yaow) went to the Cincinnati Children's Museum with my friends Bill and Joe, along with their children.

Joe and Bill both have family passes to the museum, and were able to get all five of us in with them. It was really nice not to have to shell out up to $50 for the museum. Angie Smorey, who works at the museum, joined us for lunch.

Of course the kids had a great time. Jacob mostly played by himself, while Aleena and Nalin played with each other, and also some with Bill's daughter Jordan and Joe's daughter Anna. They also played a bit with Bill's sons. Overall, the kids had a lot of fun.

The museum is located in the Union Terminal building, a Cincinnati landmark, and a great photo opportunity.

Mammoth Cave

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Tuesday, I drove the kids and Yaow to Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave is the world's largest limestone cave system, with 392 miles of connected caves. It is a national park and a world heritage site. People come from all over the world to see it.

Its a three and a half hour drive into central Kentucky. The drive down was pretty unpleasant, as it was raining most of the way down.

At one point, a car a few hundred feet in front of us went careening across the road, slamming into the guard rails and spinning around at least once. If we had been ten seconds earlier, it could have been bad.

I had purchased tickets ahead of time. Our first tour started at 10:00 a.m., and I was worried that we would be late getting there. When I got to the ticket window ten minutes before the first tour was to start, I saw a clock that showed it was ten till 9:00 a.m.; Mammoth Cave, unlike Cincinnati is in Central time.

We took the Historic tour and the New Entrance tour. The kids liked both tours, although Aleena was pretty tired by the time we started the second. She really didn't like when they turned off all the lights to show total darkness. We fixed that the second time by having her just keep her eyes closed.

On the way back we stopped at the Cracker Barrel for dinner. The service and food were actually both really good.

We arrived back home by 8;30. Seven hours of driving and four hours of walking up and down stairs and through caves made for a pretty long day. Still, it was fun.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sawyer Point and Devou Park

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Today I took the kids (with Yaow) to Sawyer Point and Devou Park. We stopped for lunch in between at the combination KFC/Long John Silvers in Newport. God, no wonder why we get fat so easily here.

The kids enjoyed the parks, although I think we were a bit tired and grumpy. They were up late on Thursday night from Kings Island, and didn't go to bed until 9:30 last night.

While we were at the park, a woman asked Yaow how she had such beautiful children. I'm not sure that it was meant as an insult, but I might have taken it that way. "Look at me, of course they would be beautiful." Of course Yaow failed to point to me as the obvious answer.

While we were at Devou, a wedding party came for photographs. The photographer was there early as the wedding party was lost. I'd laugh at them, but I've had issues finding the Drees Pavilion before. In any case, the photographer was watching me take photos of Aleena. She made some suggestions to Aleena on how to pose. My first instinct was to get annoyed and take it as a challenge that I wasn't doing something right, but surprisingly, I got over it pretty quickly. I think that part of the reason that I didn't feel "threatened" is that I'm getting a lot more comfortable with taking photos. I'm not a professional, but I have a fairly decent idea of what I am doing.

Of course, I did get annoyed with the kids towards the end. I wanted to take a group shot, and they weren't cooperating. They really weren't that bad, but I think I was tired and less tolerant of shenanigans.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kings Island

I think today was the kids favorite day since coming back to the U.S. for the summer.  We went to Kings Island (KI) today.  For those of you not from the Midwest, KI is an amusement park just north of Cincinnati.  It has some really great roller coasters as well as a nice area for smaller kids branded with the Snoopy.

Jacob was fortunate in that he is now tall enough to ride all the rides at KI.  Nalin can ride most of the rides, including The Beast, but cannot ride a handful of rides, including the new Diamondback coaster.  Aleena can ride all the rides in the Snoopy area, and some rides in other parts of the park.

We started the day with Jacob and I going together, and Nalin, Aleena and Yaow together.  The girls were in the Snoopy area, while the guys rode the Crypt, Vortex and the Diamondback.  The Diamondback was my first real coaster in a while, and man, that first downhill is really something.

After lunch, Nalin joined Jacob and I so that she could ride some bigger rides.  One almost forgotten gem of a coaster is the Racer.  Its been there for a long while, but we were able to ride it three times in a row without any wait.  Nalin got her first taste of The Beast today.  She was pretty nervous about it at first, but after the ride she said that she loved it.  We also tried out the Drop Zone, which is billed as the higher and fastest gyro drop.

We met up again and Jacob and I went back out.  Our intent was to hit a few big rides, but there were some distant storms and a few rain drops so a lot of the rides were shut down.  Still we got to give the bumper cars a go, and played a few rounds of the ghost shooter game (similar to Disney's Buzz Lighter year attraction).
Shortly before the park closed at 10:00 p.m., we went to our van, ate a very late dinner and watched the fireworks.

I left my slr at home and used the waterproof Canon D10.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White and Boom

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
The girls got their face painted before the music started at the Red, White and Boom. Jacob played some games while I chatted with some old friends that I ran into there.

4th of July Weekend

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
On Saturday morning, we went to the Anderson 4th of July parade with Eric, Heather and Ethan. The kids had a lot of fun.

Jacob was running around taking photos when his old cub scout den went by. The mom of his friend Ben saw him, and asked if he was Jacob. Soon after Jacob was marching along with his old friends. After the parade, we walked over to McDonalds for lunch.

In the afternoon, I set up the Slip N' Slide in the front yard. Nalin, Aleena and Heather seemed to have the most fun.

In the evening, the kids played with some sparklers. I set up my remote to take a photo every ten seconds. It was kind of cool to see the lines of light. I want to play around with it more later.

On Sunday, we hung around the house during the day relaxing. Mom, Laura, Tom, Trevor and Theresa came over for dinner. After dinner, we went to Riverbend for the Red, White and Boom symphony and fireworks show. Eric and Laura's families went as well.

The show as fun. We sat on the lawn, so the kids could run around while the music played. They really liked the fireworks part of the show.