Monday, 25 August 2008

Ben and Jenny

One of the things I'm often conscious of about having two kids is trying to make sure the younger one gets the same attention and opportunities as the elder did at the same age. Ben is a bubbly personality and very demanding. Jenny is a quieter character and is often happy to play second fiddle to Ben. If Ben had his way he would happily push Jenny aside and do everything himself.

Research shows that the eldest child in the family usually has the highest IQ. This is generally put down to the eldest child having the undivided attention of the parents in his early years while the younger siblings have to share the attention.

So I often find myself trying to remember what Ben was doing at Jenny's age. When he was three he was already good on the computer. He could use the mouse and find his way around internet sites to play little games. These days, they still like to play on the computer but of course Ben does it all and Jenny watches so she is really getting nothing out of it. This week I forced Ben out of the seat and let Jenny have a go. In just a few minutes she picked it up and was happily clicking away with the mouse. I guess all that time watching Ben wasn't a total waste.

It is interesting to watch the way they develop. In one way Jenny has a disadvantage with Ben in that Ben had my undivided attention when he was a toddler and I just cannot give Jenny the same amount of time. On the other hand, Ben is actually a benefit to Jenny because she does learn from him. He is a little chatterbox so she is always picking up language from him. He also likes to lead her on little games. Ben says Jenny is rubbish at everything except playing - he says she is very good at playing.

In the meantime, the English football season has started. What a disaster! Spurs have lost their first two games and with away to Chelsea coming next week we are at the foot of the table. It is early days and plenty of time to turn it around but I think the notion we might be able to break into the top 4 has already been exploded as nonsense.

I have never really been down on football before. I have always thought football was the best game in the world and never really had any negative thoughts about it. However, I have to admit the way the game has developed over the last few seasons leaves me feeling cold. It is actually the sport's success that is working against it. The sport is now so popular and creating so much money that the game has become secondary. The big money men have come in and their only motivation is profit. The richest clubs have set up the game so that no one else even has a hope of competing with them and most of the players seem to have lost any sense of loyalty to anything except money.

Still I have to say the sport itself is miles better than any other sport in the world so I will still be watching next week.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park

The kids had a great birthday. They had friends round and plenty of presents. They have destroyed most of the presents already. It took Ben one minute to break his new remote control car. I’m convinced his future is in demolition. We had a good collection of the local characters round for the BBQ and plenty of beer was drunk. It was an entertaining evening.

The next day I only had a minor hangover so we gave the kids a couple of days off school and went to Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park. A few of our Thai neighbours organized the trip. I have known most of them for a few years and they are all a good bunch so I was happy to join them. I have wanted to visit Khao Sok for some time anyway.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it turned out to be a great trip. Our group of 12 drove up in 3 cars. It is about 2 and a half hours drive from Phuket.

At the dam we hired a boat to take us across the huge lake to our accommodation. Our Thai friends arranged everything. While they did that, I chatted to a German couple at the pier. They were very unhappy. They had been quoted 5000 baht for the boat trip and two nights stay – twice what they had paid the previous year. They were refusing to go and the guy was sure the park had been taken over by the mafia. I really doubt that but there is no doubt prices have increased sharply in Thailand and that tourists are charged more than Thais.

We of course, were going to get the Thai price. We also had the benefit of savings of scale because we had a bigger group. It was 2,200 baht for the return boat trip (200 baht each) and 600 baht per person, per night for the accommodation.

The lake really is big. It took us an hour to make our way around the spectacular limestone karst scenery to the drop off point. From there we had a tricky half hour trek over a hill to a lake on the other side and then a short raft trip to our accommodation – a group of floating huts on the lake. I actually thought 600 baht per person was expensive for the basic accommodation until I found out that the price included three slap-up meals and use of the resort’s kayaks.

We had a day of swimming in the lake and paddling around in kayaks. The scenery is fantastic. In the evening the resort prepared us a fantastic meal and the food kept coming until we were all stuffed. After that, it was beers by the lake. The next day, breakfast, swimming, kayaking, lunch, swimming, kayaking, going home. It was all good fun.

The thing that amazes me is the way our two little kids get stuck into these trips. You might think that a lake in the middle of the jungle would be a bit scary for a 5 year old and a 3 year old – not a bit of it. The pair of them could not wait to get their lifejackets on and dive into the water. They were soon swimming around in the middle of the lake. Then they jumped into the kayaks and Ben was happily paddling across the lake. Even the trek over the slippy hill didn’t bother them. They both walked right across.

A group of huts floating on a lake is not ideal accommodation for two small kids. You do have to keep an eye on them all the time. The pair of them were just not phased and never slipped. I guess I was the heaviest person in the group as my foot went through the bamboo flooring a couple of times – I’m really not that heavy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Kids' Birthday

Well the Dengue is all clear and we are all well again. It took a good week or two after the symptoms had cleared before I really felt back to normal. It seems like there is a lot of Dengue around at the moment.

Today it’s the kids' birthday. Both of them. Ben is 5 and Jenny is 3. It is not a total coincidence that they were born on the same day two years apart. They were both born by caesarian so we had a little bit of choice about what day Jenny came out. Since she was going to be born within a few days of Ben’s birthday, it seemed to make sense to get her out on the same day. That way we only need one birthday party a year, no jealousy, no wishing it was their turn.

The kids are at school now. When they come back we will have a little party. A BBQ and a few beers. Shortly, I will go out and buy their presents. I think a new bike for Jenny and a train set for Ben. Maybe a few other bits and pieces.

Tomorrow we are planning on going to Khao Sok National Park for a couple of days. I think it depends on quite how bad our hangovers are but Pon is confident we are going. We have a few friends going and they have delayed the trip until after our kids birthday just so we can join them. I have fancied going to Khao Sok for quite a while so it should be a good trip (as long as the hangover is not too bad). We will have to give the kids a couple of days off school but that doesn’t matter at their age. In fact, I think I would have struggled to get them into school tomorrow anyway after the party tonight.

In the meantime, work have found another project to involve me with so it looks like they will need me for at least another couple of months which is good news. If only my internet connection wasn't so frustratingly unreliable at the moment. I use TOT's Silvercyber package. It is okay when it is running - nowhere near as fast as it shoud be but okay. The problem is it just freezes up so often. TT&T have just come into our estate and offered their own package - Maxnet. From what people are saying it is faster and more reliable so I think it is time to change.