sunshine on my shoulder, makes me happy

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It is the last day of March.
There is snow on the ground.
And fog in the air.
And I've had two glasses of wine.
And I'm missing Thailand.
And sunshine.

So if you need a boost of vitamin D, please allow my Southern Thailand pics to offer a few sunbeams to your day.

If the beach is your kind of thing:

Koh Yao Yai & an uninhabited island we visited

Or maybe you like hanging by the pool?

our hotel pool at Banthai Beach Resort in Phuket

Or maybe, like me, you like cruising around the southern Thailand islands on a long tail boat and asking your husband in disbelief twenty times in a row, how did we get here?  As he replies in equal disbelief and awe, I have no idea

island hopping day trip
i love you. 
please send sunshine to me in Pennsylvania. 
kop koon ka (thank you).
Forever yours,

Flour sandbox; YouCapture: Vibrance

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

With spring still no where in sight in northern Pennsylvania (its actually snowing as I type this) but the sun really trying its hardest to come out - we've now moved to the sunroom for every afternoon this week to play.  We are just aching for some vitamin D.  Earlier this week, when booboo was especially cranky and Bullet was especially barky and mummie was especially headachey... I took a cue from one of my favorite mommas and crafted up a flour sandbox for Greyson.  The sunroom is just a concrete floor, aka super easy to clean up, so I could've cared less when Grey started making a mess the size of Texas.

This week's You Capture challenge at IShouldbeFoldingLaundry is vibrance...and it wasn't that the room was full of color that day, or so much action happening, but that I could see the vibrance in his eyes.  His little brain motor was going about a mile a minute and he really treated that little flour sandbox like it was his real job. 

Browse more examples of vibrance here.

FSW - Frequently Said Words

If I had a most used word counter (like they do in facebook statuses at the end of the year), mine would like this on a daily basis...

I have caught on fairly slowly that the main job of being a mom is making people do things they don't want to do the whole day; most often yourself.  haha.

As you can see from the big word "ball" above, Greyson is currently in a ball obsession phase; which of course makes his daddy sublimely happy being the athlete that he is/was.  All day long he says, "ball," and points at anything remotely shaped like a ball (a cantaloupe, grapes, plastic easter eggs).  The problem with the ball obsession is that Bullet has also been in a ball obsession for his whole life.  So when Grey has a ball, Bullet tries to steal it anytime Grey pitches it across the room.  When Bullet has one of his balls, Grey will stick his whole hand in Bullet's mouth to pull it out (luckily for us, Bullet let's Grey do this without any snipping or growling.  Even though Bullet is in general a freak, we are very grateful for the way he acts towards booboo).  The ball obsession is also why we are having a ball birthday party!

We are also currently practicing the names of parts of the face.  Grey has nose down solid.  He can point to our noses, Bullet's nose, and stuff animal noses.  Eyes aren't quite there yet, but I'm a little thankful for that because I just got a full blown, straight finger into the eye socket this morning.  With tears in my eyes and a grimace on my face I forced out an enthusiastic, that's right, booboo, eye.  Oh, parenting.  Teeth is finally starting to sink in since I pulled back Bullet's jowls and pointed to his enormous spiky teeth and Grey thought it was the funniest thing on the planet. 

*If interested, my word bubble above was created by I came across their website at the suggestion of a magazine once and find it slightly addicting and adorable.  The suggestion in the magazine was to create word bubbles as gifts for graduations/mother's day/father's day/birthdays, etc.  So, you can create word bubbles that say the characteristics about the person (beautiful, kind, generous, patient, etc) 

It's fairly easy to use; you type in words you want to be included -any space will be considered the start of a new word.  The more times you type a word, the bigger it will be on the final bubble.   If you want to make a phrase, place a ~ (tilda) between the words in the phrase.  If you want to go back and edit your bubble, you'll have to start from scratch; so copy your word list before selecting "go" to make your bubble.  (check their FAQ for more helpful tips).

Thailand: Elephants

Monday, March 28, 2011

On our trek adventure in Northern Thailand, we got the chance to see one of Thailands biggest residents; elephants!  Before our trek to the hilltribe, our guide delivered us to an elephant sancutary.  We were encouraged to feed the elephants bananas (with the peel and all!) and then we got a chance to watch the elephants getting a bath.  It was really cool to see how much the elephants enjoyed getting soaked and scrubbed in the river.  One of the elephants seriously stared me in the eyes like a human for five minutes straight; I swear.  After the elephant bath - we were directed to the elephant auditorium where we got to watch the elephants perform their tricks.  The elephants worked together to move huge logs and then the baby elephant painted (!!) a picture of a tree. 

While at the sanctuary we learned a lot of interesting things about Asian elephants:
1. Asian elephants differ from African elephants in a lot of ways.  The Asian elephant, for example, has a head shaped like a rounded "M" while the African elephant has an upside-down "U" shaped head. 
2. Asian elephant ears are not higher than the elephants' head (but African elephants have ears that rise above their head)
3. Elephants have amazing memories.  If a person does something unfavorable to an elephant and then returns back - even after 10 years - the elephant will remember the wrongdoing and react cautiously around that person. 
4. The circumference of an elephant foot doubled is the elephant's height!  So, if you're ever walking through the woods and stumble upon an elephant track, you can measure the circumference of the track and then multiply it by two - you'll know just how big of an elephant you need to keep your eye out for!

Around the the 2 hour mark in our jungle trek, we began hearing noise like trees were falling down.  Our guide, Ponchai, suggested that maybe since it was burning season, the fire was burning down some bamboo trees.  But as we got nearer the noise, Ponchai changed his mind and told us that the hilltribe villages will let their elephants loose to go out and feed in the jungle.  No sooner did Ponchai telll us this, did one of our trekking companions say, oh yea, there it is.  We all looked across the river valley and there IN THE WILD was an elephant.  It was really cool and a little unnerving to see such a huge animal without any restraints.  Granted, it was about half a football field away - but its AN ELEPHANT.

After our night in the hilltribe, we even got to hop on an elephant's back and take a little hike through the jungle.  "Hop on an elephant's back" is really a very lighthearted way to describe our elephant riding experience.  In all reality, our experience was a little more anxiety-ridden and terrifying than we had imagined.  First, it's AN ELEPHANT, which means it is an enormous animal that up close and personal is actually very intimidating.  Second, our "driver" decided to bail ship after about 3 minutes of our ride.  He just hopped down and walked behind us...and by "behind us" I mean behind Brandon and I on the back of an enormous, un-guided, animal.  Third, it took us about 2 minutes afterwards to discover why the driver got off...our elephant had a sinus infection...and kept lifting his trunk up and blowing elephant boogies all over us.  Fourth, this wasn't just some easy, flat ride we took; our elephant (with us on her back) hiked both up and down hillsides rivaling the ones we had trekked the day before...thankfully with ease - even if it did look physically impossible for a being that huge to handle the terrain.

Even though it was more scary than we had thought it would be, it was still an experience that we'll never forget and we're thankful we did it.  We'll leave the elephant riding up to Reese Witherspoon* though.

*Reese Witherspoon is in the upcoming movie, Water for Elephants.  If you didn't yet, read the book!  Its a great one.

March Kindness: Thailand

Friday, March 25, 2011

Since we spent half of the month of March in Thailand, we decided that we would attempt to do our monthly kindness while on vacation.  While organizing the trip, I used a travel agency in the UK to book our day trips.  We booked one for the islands and then a 2-day Elephant trek and bamboo ride while in Chiang Mai.  The trip details included some brief information about the trek and the village we'd be staying in overnight; you'll begin trekking in Northern Thailand with a hike of between 2-3 hours to a village of the Palong people, where your guide will prepare a wonderful local meal for you. Your accommodation is simple - a small wooden hut, just like the villagers, with a mattress on the bamboo floor. A mosquito net is also provided."  We were really looking forward to the elephant ride and bamboo raft though, but thought, alright, hilltribe peeps sound cool. 

Little did we know, our time in the hilltribe village would be one of the best times we had while in Thailand (it is actually ranked as #1 thing we did in Thailand on Brandon's list). Kindness doesn't always mean donating money or goods (although we did do a bit of that in purchasing handicrafts from the tribe), but kindness is also learning about someone else's life. And its about learning how to play a children's game with seeds through hand motions when you don't speak the same language. And its about dancing and clapping in a congo line around a fire in the middle of the Thai jungle with strangers. And its about learning how to cook traditional food over a fire burning stove. And its about eating the feast that they prepare you because you know its way more than they ever eat on a regular basis. And its about recognizing that even though they have so much less than you - in a lot of ways that they have so much more.

We also didn't know, going into our trek, that we were going to get the most badass, Bear Grylls -esque, trekking guide.  Ponchai is a local Chiang Mai resident that works for the travel group.  Not only could he scaled the Thai jungle mountains without any breathing issues (at 55 years old, no less), he is also a vast sea of knowledge ranging from uses of bamboo, to obscure trekking trails, to (his favorite) orchids.  We got such an education on our 3 hour trek that started to wonder if there was going to be a test at the end!  just kidding; we really did learn so much and just about fell in love (and man crush) on Ponchai.

Bear Grylls - eat your heart out.

On our last day in Thailand, we had made a reservation to attend the Cooking with Poo cooking school.  Khun Poo is a resident of the Klong Toey slums in Bangkok and also a wife and a mother of two.  She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother and through the help of the non-profit organization; Helping Hands, she was able to open her own cooking school and catering service to raise money for her family and the community.  We spent Friday morning in her kitchen, with her assistant Noi, and learned to cook a four course meal; Green Papaya Salad, Vegetable Fried Rice, Chicken Pad Thai, and Thai Mixed Jelly. 

Khun Poo was absolutely the sweetest thing in the world and she was so happy to talk to us about how she got started the influence that Helping Hands and its founder; Anji, had on the way that she does things.  Poo said that people from Klong Toey would spend 13 hours a day working as hard as they could for 100 baht (which is about equal to $3 US dollars).  With Anji's guidance and assistance, Poo has her own website, been able to move her cooking school from her home's kitchen to a kitchen a few doors down, and now created her own cookbook!  Poo, Noi, and Anji are all headed to Austrailia for a book tour this July.   [Anji is an Aussie expat who took to living in the Klong Toey slums to start Helping Hands.  We didn't get to meet her, but she sounds like my new freaking hero, and Poo only had praise to say about her.]

One of the things that Poo said about Anji and cooking with tourists has for some reason been stuck in my brain since our class with her.  Its just one of those things you hear and can't stop thinking about for a long time; maybe my whole life.  But Poo said that one of the ways that Anji helped her cooking school be more successful was to suggest how to make changes to the foods she used to cook.  Poo said, "Anji said, no Poo, not too much chili.  Europeans don't like spicy like Thai peoples.  And before I used to put the chicken in with the fat and skin and hairs for the cooking school, but Anji said, that not how Europeans eat it...they like it with the fat and all that cut off.  So now, I cut it all off and make it nice before cooking school start each day."  And like a spoiled little white girl, I said, "eww, the hair!  I like it cut off too."  And Poo said, "Yes, that's because you eat for taste.  In Thailand, we eat for full."  And just like that, she opened my brain.

Kindness is being more open-minded.  Kindness is understanding others.  Kindness is not complaining about a little hair in your food.

but we're still booboo's parents..

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the spectrum that is parenting, I like to consider myself fairly liberal.  heh.  I do my best to keep Grey out of the dog dish, but I'm not stressing over the half pound of dog food he sneakily ate two days ago.  I'll brush off the visible dog hair from the cracker he threw on the floor before giving it right back to him to finish eating.  [Note:  I will proudly admit that I am, however, totally conservative and slightly manical about his sleep schedule].  And the most obvious example of my liberal parenting is that I left my 11 month old for 2 whole weeks and only "talked" to him on the phone TWO TIMES.  in two weeks.  I know.  I can hear mothers round the world gasping in unison.  But I am proud that my husband and I did that together.  I'm happy that Grey had the opportunity to spend a whole week being spoiled stinking rotten with each set of his grandparents.

But we're still booboo's parents and 2 weeks is a very long time to not see your child's smiling face.

We did great; B and me.  We giggled and flirted and made inappropriate jokes and said all the really bad curse words and didn't worry about drinking too much and slept on trains and didn't take showers for days at a time.  And all along the way we would say things like, I wonder what booboo's doing?  And, We need to bring booboo back here someday; he would love these elephants.  But we were still okay.

And then we got to the second Tuesday and we woke up with an ache in our chests.  It had been too long since seeing his tiny teeth in his mouth.  And too long since smelling that sweet baby smell that hides in babies' necks and hair.  And too long since having his little hand grip the back of our shirts when we carry him on our hips. 

And even though we were at the beach (for goodness sakes!) we still couldn't shake the booboo ache.  We had two too many margaritas at lunch and that helped ease the booboo ache, but it was still there.  We went to the pool and the couple sitting next to us had their 14month old son that looked creepily similar to booboo (with his curly hair and little nose) splashing in the water happily.  We got delicious Thai food at a hole in the wall restaurant outside the bus station and a little boy was laughing hysterically (just like booboo) across the street.  Booboo was everywhere.  He was in the playful smacks the little girl on the bus was giving to her mom's lap.  He was in the sweet soft hair on the head of the baby that his mother was so carefully cradling in the train station.

At one point on Wednesday, I said to B, I don't want you to think that I'm not having fun, because I seriously am.  I love being here with you, its just that I really miss booboo.  But that's not something you have to explain to another parent, because he gave me this look that said, i know, me too and then we both sighed and held hands on the beach.

When we finally got back to booboo, he was big.  Not just physically taller and had more wild hair than when we left.  But BIG.  I could see right away from his new facial expressions.  I guess it was happening little by little before we had left, but the difference was so noticeable after being away for 2 weeks.  He had changed from baby to child.  The change is this:  before we left, he was still looking at me with this face like, mumma what can i do to make you smile?  i love everything that you do because you are my mumma.  And now I get all kinds of faces from him, like:  i can hear you saying no, but i'm going to do it anyway.  dare you to try and stop me face.  And watch me do this! face.  Or, don't help me, I can do it by myself face.  Sometimes I look at him now and I swear I can see what he'll look like when he's 8 years old...and once this week when I was making him get out of the tub before he wanted to, I exaggerate not, he looked at me with the face of a 17 year old and I thought, good Lord, this little shit is going to be the end of me.

I looked to Brandon the other night and said, he's not a baby anymore; he's a child now.  do you see his face; its different.  And again, he looked at me like, i know, because that's not something you have to explain to a daddy. 

My only saving grace is that even though booboo is not a little mummie-pleasing-i'll-look-at-you-with-only-love-and-admiration-in-my-eyes baby, he still smells like one.  So until that smell disappears, (and please, Mary; Mother in Heaven, let that day be light years from now), I am going to bury my face in his neck and inhale until I am dizzy.

Thailand: train riding

We took full advantage of public transportation while in Thailand.  Rather than taking the more costly route of flying between our destinations within the country, we buckled down for train rides of sometimes up to 12 hours. 

Chiang Mai train station
 One of the best upsides to train riding was that we had the chance to enjoy the landscape of the country.  Since we may never have the opporunity to come back - we wanted to see as much as we could in the 2 weeks we had there. 

Trains also gave the opportunity for lots of reading time (for me!)  While on vacation, with all the train time we clocked - I was able to finish two novels and got fairly well read on our Lonely Planet Thailand.  (I read:  Body of Work by Christine Montross which was amazing, informational, and eloquent.  Serious recommendation.  Also finished Jodi Picoult's Songs of the Humpback Whale, which in regular Jodi fashion was captivating).

2nd class sleeper train tickets between Bangkok and Chiang Mai only cost us about $25 a person with AC.  We saved even more money (not on purpose) buy training it without AC on our sleeper train back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai (it wasn't that bad, but AC is preferred obviously).  The best part about sleeper trains is that you don't have to pay for a hotel thus saving you more money. 

What is a sleeper train you ask?  Well its a regular train by day.  And then at night, the helpful train man comes around and makes up top and bottom bunks with clean sheets and curtains when you are ready to go to sleep.  The bedmakers are super fast and efficient and could get the bunks prepared in less than 3 minutes. 

In general we enjoyed our time on the train, especially this time (more details about it, look here).

Things we learned on the train:
1. don't order train food; it ain't great
2. the coffee offered in the morning is NOT complimentary
3. don't drink the morning orange juice; first it isn't free, second its disgusting
4. Chang costs much less if you buy it at the station vs. buying it on the train
5. Choose your bathroom wisely (European vs. East)

baby love. YouCapture: Youth

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

With his first birthday only 16 days away, I want to document his tiny little baby traits while I still can.
baby tufts of hair

bum in the air sleeping<3

 your little hands wrapped round my finger and its so quiet in the world tonight.  your little eyelids flutter cause your dreamin, so i tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light.  to you everything is funny you got nothing to regret.  i'd give all i had, honey, if you could stay like that. 

oh darlin, don't you ever grow up. don't you ever grow up. you can stay this little.  oh darlin', don't you ever grow up, don't ever grow up, it can stay this simple
- taylor swift; "Never Grow Up"


This is my first You Capture assignment and I am already loving it.  I stumbled across this adorable blog while surfing the other day and instantly fell in love.  Each week she suggests specific "assignments" and challenges other bloggers to take pictures that fit the criteria.  This week's assignment was "youth," you can check out other pictures here. 

Booboo's 2 week vacation

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Booboo also had a 2 week vacation while we were in Thailand.  He had one week with his Grammie & Pappy Butch.  Followed by a week with his Abba and Chum Diddy.  Lets just say the child did not have a lack of attention.
Grammie and Pappy Butch bought a water table just for Grey's visit

The grandmas shared nice and even met up for lunch on grammie's week

Booboo got to play with Uncle Juice and got spoiled rotten

Laughing with Abba

Got to visit with Kuma, Morgan, and Mimi

grandparents sharing again, this time at Abba & Poppa's house:)

oh ya know, just reading the paper over breakfast

got to sleep on poppa when he was sick with an ear infection


got walks in the woods

clearly, the little guy enjoyed his vacation with his grandparents!
Booboo had a great time with his grandparents and we are so glad that he got to spend a whole week with each of them.  Thank you for taking such good care of my baby...even if he is a little spoiled now:)  heh, that's what grandparents are for though...Grey has the best grandparents.

like fresh air

Monday, March 21, 2011

that is what this vacation has felt like to my heart; fresh air.  I noticed a difference as soon as we got to the airport on Saturday morning.  We were waiting in line for the security check-in and B put his hand on my lower back.  for no reason.  he just reached out and intentionally touched me; held on to the bottom of my shirt; and we stood like that, not saying anything to each other.  It was the smallest, most insignificant gesture but it restarted a little light inside of my heart.  As minutes went by, I found myself leaning in a little closer  and putting my hand over his heart while I talked to him.  He attempted to make fun of my breakfast order because its so predictable and I thought, is that my husband flirting with me at 7:30 in the morning?  The thing that was so startling obvious was our moments of intentional touches; I'm not being inappropriate here, I mean we were reaching out to each other for no other reason than to be close together.  In normal life, between the dog and the baby and the errands and the chores, we have spent the last year and a half operating under the effort of chaos control.  Brandon's hand will glide past mine while we transfer the baby to each other.  I wipe away baby food from his cheek that Grey just threw on him.  He grabs my waist to steady me as Bullet pushes past me to get outside.  Most of the time, its unintentional...but only minutes into our trip, we slid right back into the small touches that make you feel like a teenager again.  We were holding hands without transfering a baby, he brushed away my hair from my face without any traces of baby food, I rubbed his back without having to wipe away dirty Bullet paws; just because we honestly wanted to be close to each other.

While on the way to Chiang Mai, we woke up on the sleeper train and got situated in our seats for about another hour before we arrived.  I had my feet propped up on Brandon's seat and was watching the sunrise over the northern countryside of Thailand.  Brandon was reading through our Lonely Planet Thailand book (yes, reading!!) and looked up at me and said, "Did you read here about the massage place in Chiang Mai where they only hire blind employees because they believe their other senses are heightened and it makes them better at giving massages?"...There I was, sitting on a train, in a country I've always wanted to visit, with the sunrise outside of the window, and my husband was reading to me about something he knew I would like to learn about...It was just about the most romantic moment of my life.

On the Friday before we came back home, we were both kind of pooped from all the traveling and we were missing booboo pretty bad.  So after our cooking class, we went to the park and layed around on our mat for almost two hours.  I read a little and B did some people watching.  We ate yummy chocolate sticks from the concession stand and teased each other about stupid stuff.  It was such a simple afternoon, but one of my favorite memories in Thailand.

But my favorite married moment in Thailand was on Thursday, we heartily celebrated St. Patrick's day on the sleeper train with multiple cans of Chang beer.  For some reason, most of the passengers wanted to go to sleep at like 7p, so since we were both in upper berths that night (the top bunks), we needed to comply with our lower berth counterparts and get the beds made up.  You'll notice in my train pics that the upper berths are a little small; so we are each in our respective upper bunks across from each other and drinking Changs and challenging each other in Scramble on the itouch.  Everything was hilarious (as it usually is after multiple beers and when you're supposed to be quiet) and when Brandon realized that he had all the snack in his bunk...he said, great, I'm going to be minced meat by the morning with all the roaches this food is going to attract in my berth. Well that was about the most hilarious thing I had ever heard in my entire life and we both started giggling so much that neither of us could say a word for at least 3 minutes. We just were staring at each other across the train in our upper bunks laughing hysterically while holding our own mouths since almost everyone else on the train was sleeping. oh my husband; my funny best friend.

and now, if you still haven't had enough mushy love story yet - please hold back gagging enjoy some _________* photos of us.
*please fill in your choice of adjective (silly/adorable/obnoxious/cheesy)

we like taking pictures of ourselves like we're still teenagers or something.  hah.  We missed booboo so much, but we will be better parents to him because we had this time alone together.  One of the best things we can do for him is love each other.  We have to work on it everyday, but we're happy to do the work.   Thanks for going on a real life adventure with me, Brandon.  I love you.

2 Weeks in Thailand Packing List

When we finally decided that we would be traveling up and down Thailand on our own, the thought of hauling rolling luggage was just too much.  So with Brandon's blessing, I went and purchased us backpacks from Amazon and we went on the hunt for suggested packing lists for 2 weeks in Thailand.  We collected some different packing lists based off of weather in March, gender, purpose of trip, and our own comfort...and then came up with the following lists.  We traveled to Thailand for 2 weeks in March.  We stayed in Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Phuket.  We traveled on our own (trains/buses).

Tabitha (girl)
2 short sleeve thin cotton shirts
2 short sleeve Nike dri fit shirts
4 pairs cotton capri pants
1 tank dress/bathing suit cover up
1 convertible skirt/dress
3 tank tops
1 long sleeve shirt
1 pair long pants
3 bathing suits
2 pairs of flip flops (only used 1 pair)
5 pairs underpants
2 sports bras
2 regular bras
5 pairs socks
1 pair sneakers
2 pleasure reading books
1 Lonely Planet Thailand book
1 Lonely Planet Thai phrase book
2 cotton bags (empty- used to carry small stuff to the beach/market/etc)
1 small purse for money/passports/itouch, etc

Brandon (boy)
4 short sleeve Nike dri fit shirts
2 pairs khaki shorts
1 pair jeans
2 long sleeve shirts (only used 1)
4 pairs socks
4 pairs underwear
1 tank
2 pairs swimming trunks
1 hat
1 pair flip flops
1 pair sneakers
2 hankerchiefs
1 PA Fish & Game magazine

Toiletries (carried between us)
2 bars of soap (donated 1 bar to the hilltribe)
1 small bottle of shampoo & conditioner
1 small bottle of face wash
contact solution & case
3 small packs of tissues
2 toothbrushes
1 hairbrush
1 small bag of make-up (mascara, lipstick, bronzer)
2 bottles of sunscreen (45 spf, 30 spf)
1 deodorant (we both use old spice)
1 togo bottle of febreze (best idea EVER)
4 ponytail holders
2 garbage bags (empty)
5 gallon ziploc baggies (empty)
3 small ziploc baggies (empty)
2 chapsticks

Technology (carried between us)
outlet converter
camera battery charger
itouch charger
2 cellphones (they were off the whole time to prevent roaming data charges)
headphone splitter (allows 2 headphones to go into the itouch at once)

Top five things that were most handy:
5. outlet converter
 - all the outlets that we encountered were the double round holes...which none of our regular American plugs fit.  But thankfully we had the outlet converter that allowed us to charge both our camera battery and itouch 
4. small packs of tissues
-were insanely helpful when using the restrooms in the train station and other locations that didn't have toilet paper readily avaiable.  most toilets were outfitted with a bidet which we are just not accustomed we had our own paper ready when we needed it.
3. Lonely Planet Thai phrasebook
- filled with commonly used helpful phrases (like, "where can I buy a train ticket?" and "how much does that cost?")  It also includes the phrases in Thai, so if you totally butcher the pronuciation and a stranger that is trying to help you looks at you like they still have no idea what you're asking - you can just point to the phrase in Thai in the book...that happened more than twice on the trip.
2. ziploc bags
-we took them empty and then used them to transport leaky contact solution to the hilltribe, put our camera inside of it for water protection while on the bamboo raft, and put extra snacks inside while train riding
1. small bottle of febreze
-without access to washing machines, we resorted to washing our clothes in the hotel tubs (using hand soap) and then hanging them to dry outside.  When you are sweating and trekking in 95 degree weather, the hand soap doesn't necessarily always cut it for the armpit odor.  Febreze made the difference between gagging ourselves on our own stench and forgetting the fact that we wore the same 4 outfits over the course of 14 days

"washing" dirty clothes in the tub

hanging clothes to dry - then spraying them with Febreze:)
Top 3 things it would have been nice to have
3. small bottle of laundry detergent
2. bug spray
1. baby wipes/wet wipes