Monday, December 31, 2012

The Paper Trail

If you’re an American and plan on giving birth in Laos my advice is take lots of photos and save all your receipts.

What they don’t (yet) tell you on the US Embassy website. Although the kind folks at the embassy 
said they will be updating the website with this info. In the meantime..

As of December 2012


If you gave birth in Laos, this is the list of paperwork you need to submit to the US Embassy to report a birth abroad pass on American citizenship. 

Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad

An affidavit of physical presence from the US Citizen Parent. (They give you this at embassy)

Evidence of the US Citizenship of the American parent. One of the following:
US Passport
US Birth Certificate
Certificate of Naturalization
Consular Report of Birth Abroad
Or a certified true copy from a notary public of one of the above.

Original identity card or passport of Lao citizen

Original birth certificate. – In Laos you need both from hospital AND from District Office.

Supporting evidence of child’s birth – hospital prenatal records, receipts, sonograms, photos of mother while pregnant.

Evidence of termination of any prior marriage (divorce decree or death certificate)

Marriage certificate AND supporting evidence of relationship – wedding photos etc.

Transmission Requirements – Evidence of residency in US prior to child’s birth. (I brought my high school and college transcripts.

If mother or father is US citizen, evidence that mother or father was with Lao parent during conception. Rental receipts, matching Lao / US immigration stamps, airline tickets, etc.

Appearance of child at embassy, so consular can verify existence.

Fee for paperwork in Cash.

Best wishes! :-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Lao Lullaby

River is sleeping. So, it's a good time to add a post...and his Papa is in Pakse for  few days working on an upcoming Art project.... Good point is mama doesn't have to share her laptop... ;)

It's sung to the "Where is Thumbkin?" English song.

Actually, there is a Lao version of Where is Thumbkin, which is where I adapted the lullaby from.

The Lao Thumbkin Version (This is the version we sing at the school I work, maybe you know another)

Kneepo yu sai? Kneepo yu sai?  (Thumb, where is?)
Yu nii neh, Yu nii neh. (Here)
Suk sabaidee bo? (Are you well?)
Suk sabadee bo?
Pai gon der (I go first.. bye)
Pai gon der

River's Lullaby version:

___(insert child's name) _____ yu sai? ______ yu sai?
Yu nii neh, Yu nii neh
Suk sabadee bo?
Suk sabadee bo?
Non lap dee (sleep well)
Non lap dee
Dting dang dong (doesn't mean anything, just sound...)

I think it works ;) But then again maybe River is non kiidtua koi... lying about being asleep....555

Herbal Baby Care - Best gas remedy ever!

It's an herbal "roll-on". The main ingredient is Feruala foetida (botanical name) Asafoetida (English) or Ma Ha Hing in Thai. It's a roll on you can apply a little baby's belly in gentle clockwise circles and wait for him to let out the gas. ;) It was recommended to me by a Thai grandmother and although I was a little nervous to try it, I've used it a few times in the past month with River.

In Thai Herbal Medicine Asafoetida is considered a "hot" herb. Traditionally a poultice would be made of the  resin from the roots.

You can learn more about Thai Herbs in the book "A Thai Herbal" by Dr. Pierce Salguero, my former teacher and friend. You can purchase MaHaHing in Laos at most pharmacies for about 27,000kip.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

KICKSTARTER | Lao American Poetry Book

Love this project, had to share here :)
The more funding it gets the bigger the collection published will be and the more illustrations it will have.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

[Baby Play] Sensory Bottles

We've been settling into our routine since I last posted of -  mommy being back to work at the local Montessori school, daddy painting nightly between 5pm and 2am and juggling how life is with a now 3 month old baby.

Living in Laos, I've found baby toys are either too expensive because they are imported and sold at stores that cater to moms who obviously don't live on a teacher's salary ..or.. there are toys that make the Naturalist  / Montessorian in me wince because they are cheap plastic, busy with too many colors, bells, and cartoon logos.

So, on the weekends I often find myself looking for ideas and making things.

The sensory bottle idea I found on one of my favorite sites: The Imagination Tree

The basic idea is to take a small water bottle, fill with interesting objects for baby to look at, then super glue the cap on.

Our bottles

1.) Sticky rice and black tea. (Makes a nice color contrast and River likes the sound of the rice. I also like that both the rice and the tea were grown by his Lao grandparents.)

2.) Pale green marbles, pink glitter and water.

3.) Crinkled blue tissue paper, bits of cotton, yellow paper "suns" and bright blue hearts. (I had a little weather theme going on in my head on this one.

Rives loves his sensory bottles. I keep them in a small bamboo basket and plan to make more and rotate them out. They also help keep him interested in "tummy time'.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Language mayhem

La and I made a pact that he would speak Lao and I'd speak English with our little man. However, I am realizing I haven't been speaking English at all with River..gotta work on that. Otherwise his chance of picking up English is quite small considering his father and I are the only ones around him that speak it. 

Just feels rude speaking English when everyone else is speaking Lao. :D 

Would love to hear from other Lao / English families... (yeah I know that's a strectch of a request condsidering how much of the world doesn't speak Lao... but...

Wondering how other bilingual families work it? Comments appreciated. ;) 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

it's a tiny bug...

and it bothers me..... lalala. We have a song we sing in the preschool I teach at about mosquitoes. The mozzies get smacked in the song. With good reason.

Right now I am on a daily smash and destroy all mozzies mission. I've been MIA because I'm just getting over Dengue Fever. Yeah, tomorrow River is 6 weeks old and I've spent a week and a half of it flat out with a stupid tropical mosquito spread fever. (Has made me reconsider what I think about the snow and ice of NY...) Well..... rainy season isn't over yet... so another month of living with the anti mozzy 'nets... :/

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our birth story (the short version)

Wed. Aug. 22nd our little boy arrived, his name is River (named after the Mekong River..) 

Although most of my expat friends thought I was crazy, I had a natural non-medicated birth in a Lao hospital. But Lao hospitals, perhaps because the lack the resources of the hospitals in the West are actually very accommodating to birthing mothers. I love my doctor :) My labor was 11 hours, most of it walking and standing, squatting letting gravity do it's thing. Meditations and visualizations helped more than I can say with working through the pain. Only during the actual delivery did I lay down. I also was able to have both my husband and my doula in the room with me and La was able to help "catch" River.

Since I was one of the first foreigners to have a baby at this hospital, soon afterward River was celebrity with the nurses and their cameras. :D I must admit, language was the biggest challenge. I'm not 100% sure I'd give birth in a hospital again where I can't freely communicate. (Being fluent in a language is one thing, but hospital speak is it's own language.)

After River was born we stayed in the hospital 1 night then came home to grandma and her postpartum care. (Hot herbal baths and Herbal teas.) Originally I was going to also observe the 2 week tradition of laying near the fire (literally) but for me personally, I wanted to be the one taking care of my baby at all times. Also, to be honest, I wasn't fond of the idea of sleeping in my outdoor Lao kitchen, the same place we found a cobra 2 months ago. :/ If I could have been indoors, then maybe. 
This photo is making the traditional herbal bathwater. Mom's bath for at least 15 days with this. (no soap, no rinsing.) We also drink medicinal teas to help promote milk flow during that time. No cold drinks allowed. There are also food restrictions, but these vary according to province. Khamla bought be special free range chicken from the neighbors that I ate with ginger and sticky rice. I did however consume some "falang" (western food) during this time.. after all this girl needs a pizza now and then. ; ) 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meet River!

If all has been quiet on the Frog and Moon front it's because Wednesday August 22nd our little man arrived after 11 hours of labor. (Wonderful natural childbirth in Lao hospital, but that's another post...when I have a little more time)

3.2 kilos
Current hobbies: Feeding, Sleeping, Pooping, repeat........ :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pre-Natal Herbal Medicine - Hmong Style

Hmong herb vendors outside Talat Sao (Morning) Market, Vientiane. They set up everyday and are quiet popular with the locals. Actually most markets have one or two traditional medicinal vendors, however this area usually has around 8 or 9 set up.

Yesterday I had go pay some bills and couldn't resist looking. Ended up buying one for making birth easier, but only because I felt bad that La was taking so many photos.  Since I've already got a huge supply of traditional Lao herbs from M, my mother-in-law, I picked the one I could plant. :-)

This woman had medicine to help birth easier, medicine for more milk and medicine to poop easier after  childbirth... along with medicine women who want to conceive. 


(And yes, I'm in the b/w polkadot dress... again.... at 39+ weeks it's one of the few comfortable things I can wear..)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Montessori Monday - LAOS! Giveaway for your Asia Continent Bags!

Back in July I started making Continent Baskets for our school. These baskets hold items relating to each continent, including maps, stamps, money, books, small treasures...all things to explore. I had a great time making them with our teachers, and hope in the coming school year to add to them. (I also hope to transition from paper covered baskets to fabric bags like the ones from Counting Coconuts)

Recently, I had another Montessori teacher in an online forum I post in ask "Excuse my ignorance, but where is Laos?" It's not the first time I've been asked that. It's between Thailand and Vietnam. Depending on your map, it's purple or grey on the Montessori Asia puzzle.

Because I love this corner of the world so much and want others to know about it too..
I'm offering a small Montessori GIVEAWAY from Laos!  

There are 2 options.

1.)  For those of you that would like a little small "something" from Laos to add to your Montessori ASIA continent bag / basket / box drop me a line at kellyinlaos (at) gmail with your mailing address and I'd be happy to send you a postcard. It'd be really nice if you wanted to do the same and send us one. (hint hint)


2.) If you are interested in doing something more exciting, I'd be happy to do a TRADE with you and send you a few small traditional Lao items in exchange for somethings from your country.

No expiration date on this one. :-)

With love from Laos!

Living Montessori Now

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Goodnight Grandpa

I've been mentally processing this for the past few weeks. My maternal/paternal grandfathers passed years ago, and now my other "grandfather" has passed. This is the second time since I've been in Lao someone close to me has passed. Times like these the space between feels very very large. Ironic that I'm now living in his homeland, and he was living in mine.

Thank you for teaching me about Lao culture.
Thank you for making me laugh with your antics. (Yes, of course, we can collect frogs from the local park..)
Thank you for making me try snake soup.
Thank you for trusting me to help you with your medicine and mail.
Thank you for opening my eyes.

Sleep well.
Grandpa Khammanh

Monday, August 6, 2012

Little Picasso

My nephew painting in his dad's studio. He painted the one above the one he's working on too. They live next to us and he was proud to show off his new creations.
Wonder if little River will be doing the same in a few years?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Creating Baby's Space - Montessori Style

So, in a few short weeks I’m going to be a mom. Oddly enough, before I moved to Laos I never envisioned myself having children. I liked them. But they were for other people to have. Maybe living here it’s impossible not to feel the call of motherhood, as the culture loves children so much. Not to mention there are 3 routine questions you are asked by every stranger: How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children?

Now that I am finally on maternity leave, we have started setting up a space for River. All  my  Montessori training is coming out in River’s spaces. He won’t have his own room in this house as there just isn’t the space. (We are in the process of building a house.) There is an extra bedroom here but La uses it as his art studio, and we both agree it’s too important to confine oil paints, thinners, cutters, chemical smells and all other supplies that make a parent cringe in a safely locked no baby entry space.

We are doing co-sleeping, so I’m setting up that area for him. He won’t actually sleep in the same bed as us, but next to the bed on his own little mat. I’ve never personally been fond of cribs, as to me they look a bit like zoo cages, but in Laos, they are even more unheard of. There is no debate here about co-sleeping; it’s how every baby sleeps and you’d be called a bad parent by locals to try otherwise. He will also get his own mosquito net, which I have to buy this week. Yes, they make baby size models.

In the main area of the house, I’ve set up one bamboo shelf for his supplies that we need to use everyday. I was going to keep it in our bedroom, but with MIL coming to live, I need it to be accessible to all. There is also a soft woven fabric mat for the floor and I will buy another small bed mat this week. La’s friend at Vientiane frame shop is making us a big mirror Montessori style, for the wall. That way during tummy time he can explore his environment and himself. La is painting the story of the frog and moon also to be hung low on the wall to introduce River to artwork. I plan to make a simple mobile, hopefully have that finished also in the coming week.

There is just SOO much info on the web about Montessori parenting, but I have a few blogs that continue to be sources of inspiration:

Sew Liberated - This is my all time favorite go to blog for Montessori / creative parenting. I've read her for years for teaching inspiration and now I see it as Mama inspiration. 

One book I have found really helpful with regards Montessori and Infants is: 
Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three 

Photos to come, I’ve got a lot of work to do first!! Ha, maternity leave. OK, I’m not teaching in a Montessori pre-school of 41 for the next 3 months, but it feels like I have an even bigger task with 1 soon to be newborn!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lao Baby Names (Revisited)

Well River is due in about 20 days and we are still working on a Lao name for him. Again.

I posted on a Baby website the following about finding a Lao name....

"We're having a boy and are giving him an English first name (River.. think Mekong..not the actor) a Lao middle name and a Lao surname. My DH wants MuokSao as a Lao name (means morning mist) but I'm not 100% on that one. "Sao" means morning but if pronounced wrong means girl. (Lao is a tonal language) So, I'm sure my American family won't say it right..." actually.... most of the time I can't even say it right!

Most Lao names are given by monks at the temple. Well, some background on our family. Khamla is Tai Daeng. -Red Tai ( It's an ethnic group, not related to Thai. Oi, call him Kon Thai not Kon Lao and you R IN TROUBLE!) ; ) Tai Daeng live in Northern Lao, near the Vietnam border. (You know, that area the USA was busy bombing the daylights out of during the American War or Vietnam War. La's family lived in the caves, farmed at night.. River is going to have an interesting family history for sure. Anyway))  

More about Tai Daeng from :
According to Patricia Cheesman in her book Lao-Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan, “Tai Daeng translates as Red Tai but actually refers to their original homelands in the district of Muang Daeng in Vietnam [and] many arguments have been presented as to origin of the name: the Red River, the red funeral blouses or the red waistbands on the women’s tube skirts…The Tai Daeng are one of the largest Lao-Tai groups in the northeast of Laos, having migrated into Houa Phan province from Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam, in the 19th century and the currently make up about 70% of the population of the Tai groups in Houa Phan province.

Your thinking.... Kelly, "WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH LAO BABY NAMES?"  Well, allot really. La's family isn't the temple going sort, there isn't even a temple in his hometown village. (Most Lao names are given by monks) La himself has never even actually given alms etc. It's not his culture..even though, yes, he is "Lao". His family is Phi which another whole blog post...(Not all Americans are the same right?) All his siblings have given their children small nature names: nok/bird nuu/mouse mhek/cloud mangon/dragon .. and unlike many Lao, these AREN'T their nicknames.. it's their full first name. Needless to say, we are keeping religious beliefs out of naming the wee one. 

But both of us would like something a little more formal than officially calling our son Mapanoy (little wolf) or Muu noy (little pig) etc. As a nickname fine, but not an engraved on US passport kinda deal. 

Ugh. So 20 days. (Because thank the USA for having these amazingly complicated "report birth abroad" forms I still need to fill out to make sure "luk sai pen kon american" (baby boy can be an American citizen) 

Top 100 Tai Daeng or Lao baby names.... I haven't found a copy of that bestselling book yet. Anyone have one I can borrow? 

Monday, July 30, 2012

DIY Lao Style: Coconut Bubble Wands

One of the things I love about living here is how much I've learned. I've always liked making things versus buying things, but I'm always impressed with the things "every Lao country kid already knows".

Seriously, we made these at the Montessori school I work at and everyone thought it was great fun. However, when I was telling La about them later that evening, he was a little less than interested... " next time I'll show you how to make paintbrushes"....... anyway, for those of us raised in a more ready-made consumer culture.. here's a fun afternoon project.

Gather some coconut fronds 
(Any strong yet bendy plant material works, I was born in the Adirondacks, I'm thinking ferns would work? Let me know...)

Strip off the "spine" of the coconut frond. You'll want to use the end near the leaf tip, as it's more flexible.

Tie in a knot, depending on the size bubble you want to make. If you are not adding any corn syrup or veggie glycern to the bubble mix, keep the loops small or the bubbles break easily. (ie.. frustration). Clip off the excess coconut.

Bubble wands are ready for action!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baby name reveal!

Living with an artist, my world is always a little bit more colorful. Sometimes, good (I have more orginal oils decorating my walls than the MET) sometimes...well... let's just say I've tried both navy  blue bath towels (you still see the white paint) and white towels ( you see..everything) ... and more than one articles of my clothes has been giving a "splash" of color.

However, cool things are coming home from work to find one's bathroom mirror painted with "K.La love Kelly and River" (La uses K.La as his signature because there are just too many Khamlas in this city...ignore the English, it's his 2nd language) I thought it was pretty cool so I took it outside to take some photos and reflect something more beautiful than my Lao style bathroom. ; ) Of course, I wonder what inspired painting the bathroom mirror.......... ?

Tada. Yep, it's been decided... the wee one's English name will be River. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Oh my mangoes!

Well, it's been long enough since I've posted. I'd thought I'd be writing up a storm during my pregnancy, but honestly I haven't been able to find enough (OK, make) enough time. I'm working up until August 4th with an August 22nd due date. Mind you, that work involves 30some little ones at the Montessori school I teach at here in Vientiane. :) So, by the end of the day, when I come home I usually find myself horizontal and asleep by 7:30. (Get sleep while I can!)

Today La and I joked about my mango intake (it's still Mango season) and we decided to do a little math. I know I eat a lot of mangoes (and make yummy icy mango shakes, minus all the sugar and condensed milk the shake shops here add ) but....... get this........ on average I (as in 1 person, eating for 2 but still 1 person..) consume 15 -20 KILOS of mangoes a week. For all you American folks who like me, still have trouble with conversions, that something like 33 POUNDS of mangoes a week! Should I worry my little wee boy is gonna come out orange? ^-^

In this photo the mangoes are 8,000 kip a kilo, but in reality most places you can by the "not beautiful" ones for about 3,000kip a kilo. ( 8,000kip = 1USD)

Are mangoes traded on the stock market?

But other than Mango shock, all is well here in Vientiane Mamma-to-be Land. I think we've gotten most everything on our to buy list. Life in Lao is much simpler, so we haven't acquired as much. Waiting to see what more to get after the wee one arrives. Grandma ('Em.. La's mom) is coming to live with us to help out for 2 months). Right now La is taking evening English classes (he's OK, but with someday going stateside, he wants to improve) so I have a little free Kelly time.. so hopefully, I'm get back in the blogorama routine.

With love from Laos :)

At 35 weeks pregnant 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Medicinal Plant Garden at the Institute of Traditional Medicine, Vientiane

Photos from my recent visit to the Institute of Traditional Medicine  (Run by the Ministry of Health, Lao PDR)

Offerings at the Institute include: A small traditional medicine clinic, herbal sauna, pharmacy and medicinal plant garden.

(Note: I picked the worst month of the year to photograph the garden, apologies. We are in the middle of our hot & dry season here in Vientiane. I will try to do more photos during rainy season.)

Bixa Tree

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things we do

We haven’t bought a TV yet since we moved into the family house.(The house came empty..$ ouch!) 

But between preparing to have a baby, building our own house, La finishing up 8 years of Art school and myself finishing another level of Montessori studies along with keeping up with my herbal studies and day to day working, I don’t think we've really missed having one.

When we do have free time, it often leads to a project. This is the latest.

La saw a garden shop locally selling these Nam Tok (waterfalls) recently. He went back a few days later and took photos then proceeded to come home and decide he could do it for a lot less. Besides, anyway for him to have more little fish ponds he’s up for. He spent the next week of late afternoons sifting cement, building, rebuilding, breaking brick and creating this water fall. 

Then we went to a fish supply store and for 500baht (about 15USD) bought the pump and filter. We added fish from another little fish pond we have and transplanted some baby papyrus from another. So, all in all the project cost us under 30USD (1000baht). 

It’s quite relaxing on the hot nights we are having now to sit outside with a glass of tea and listen to the water babble and watch the fish swim.

Although, being about 98F daily here now I wish it was big enough for me to swim in too. J

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prenatal Nutrition - Lao Style

Fresh Coconut - cocos nucifera

On my last visit to the Mother & Infant Hospital here in Vientiane, the above was one of my "prescriptions". (I will note, a prenatal vitamin and calcium was also included on the list.) Fresh coconut juice to be consumed daily. My husband (who is Lao) seems more intent on making sure I drink my daily dose of coconuts than my prenatals.

However, there is actually quiet a bit of science to this logic. (I'll leave you to google details, as there is a wealth of info online about the benefits of coconut.) The basic truth is Coconut has long been considered a nutritive tonic amoungst the Southeast Asians. It is often prescribed by traditional doctors for cases of low immunity and low energy. (Source: A Thai Herbal - Pierce Salguero) Something this mom to be is both of. :) Not to mention, it is just plain yummy. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

a new chapter


Welcome to the first post from Frog & Moon!

I'm Kelly and I've been living in Laos since 2009. I'm also a soon-to-be-mom, due in August 2012.
This blog is to share my love of Laos, all thing DIY, Art, Plant Medicine and Montessori.

(painting by Kristina Lim) 

A little background on Frog & Moon. The story of the Frog and Moon is a folktale in Laos. It also happened on the night I found out I was pregnant, so it's rather special to me. (and here I thought everyone was lighting fireworks and shooting at the moon because of my good news... j/k) 

The tale of the Frog and Moon goes something like this:

"The folktale tells of a giant frog that tried to eat the moon. This in reality is how the Lao explain a lunar eclipse. The disappearance of the moon is taken as a bad sign, so Lao people make a great effort of scaring the frog away from the moon. They fire their guns into the air and make as much noise as they can. The frog is frightened by the noise and it releases its grip on the moon and it is restored to its original shape."

So the moon stays the moon and the frog goes back to eating what frogs eat and in the end all is quiet again when the people put away the noisemakers. 

But for me, my life won't quite be the same as before the frog tried to eat the moon. :)

I look forward to sharing and learning as I start this new chapter. 
With love,