Sunday, March 22, 2015

a birthday party and out to the farm

Saturday morning started with a birthday party for Isaac.  He chose this really cool indoor climbing challenge course place.  It's a bit tricky to describe but essentially the kids get a harness and helmet and then are free to roam the different levels.

Friday afternoon the boys and I went over to check it out (it's in a new mall just a short walk from our apartment) and the staff let Isaac and John Paul go up for a test run.

They both loved it!  The place is well designed - as the kids get more comfortable on the equipment they can continue to challenge themselves... even the same 'section' can get easier or harder based on how they approach a certain obstacle.

And of course with the helmet and harness, Momma is free to just watch and enjoy :)  Plus the staff is keeping a close eye on everyone, and making sure the harness ropes are properly secured.  Pretty sweet.

Isaac and his buddy Grady (in their matching soccer jerseys), getting ready to head up :)

There was a contingent of six (and almost six) year old boys, and also a herd of siblings.  I'm already getting the "when are we going to go back?" questions - the girls really loved it, and John Paul did amazingly well.  He's definitely on the young side but that's never really stopped him before :)

Around lunchtime we packed up and headed out to our friend's farm in the countryside outside our city.  We've been there multiple times and it's so fun for us to have this little retreat outside the concrete jungle.

The peach trees were flowering and the skies were unbelievably blue and the sun was hot and the day was just about perfect.

This is in the same area where Matt has taken the kids camping - they hike up to the campsite from the farm house.  It's really a treat for our kids to "go back to" familiar places.  Their lives are full of new - which is a tremendous blessing, and they get all kinds of unique experiences - but there is also much joy in familiarity.

Luke and his Daddy.  Peach blossoms and mountains and blue skies.  (and a cell tower, ha!)

birthday # three

Luke.  Three years old.

I love it!  And we love you!

You are definitely the baby.  You know it, and you like it, even if you do insist you are BIG.

Celebrating YOU just two days after your big brother's birthday means you know just what to expect when you're big day rolls around.

Three is going to be a good one for you, I just know it.

You're gonna get a whole lot better at a whole lot of things (including helping Mommy in the kitchen).

But I'm not sure you are going to get any better at smiling.  There just isn't any room for improvement - you, dear boy, have mastered the smile :)  

A day of partying wore you out - look at those tired eyes!  

You are such a precious little one.  Already so big.  Happy Happy Birthday Luke!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

the little boys first day

Momma and the sisters were in tears before they ever got their shoes on.

Julianna said, "Now I know what you mean when you say that you're sad we are growing up so fast".

But the little guys?  They charged out the door, ready for action.

John Paul rocked both days.  So confident.  His teacher was surprised on day 2 when he marched right to his seat.  "He remembers?" she said.

And when I heard her comment I thought, "You're absolutely right he remembers, and he remembers just about every minute detail of everything that happened yesterday.  And if he saw you put away your cell phone, he remembers where you put it.  And if he watched you unlock the supply cabinet he remembers what key you used, where you store the key, and which direction you turned it in the lock.  So yeah, he remembers his seat."  [Ask me how I know all this!  ha!  John Paul has surprised me so many times I stopped counting.]

Luke was a bit teary at drop off on day one (better than I feared) and I was prepared for day two to be a tough one.  But he did well.  I still have a sneaking suspicion that the bottom might drop out and we will start seeing a lot of resistance from the littlest bro.  Time will tell.

Big bro Isaac is proud to share his school with the boy-pack.  And the girls (who cried hard yesterday) were thrilled to escort the little guys today.

They'll be there Monday Wednesday Friday mornings for the spring semester.  And though I've walked this road long enough to know that fluency in a second language is a hard hill to climb, I'm excited for this solid start up the mountain for the littlest of the pack.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I think I'll be six now

But now I am six, 
I'm as clever as ever, 
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.  
(A.A. Milne)

Six!  All the birthdays seem like big ones.

I'm grateful to have this boy in my life, grateful for the one who first made me a mother-of-sons.

Lydia's gift was a kite.  And Isaac was crazy excited about it.  We experienced just enough success to satisfy our desires and are eager to try again (with Daddy's help, on a windier day).

To lead this pack of boys is no small task.  Isaac is perfectly suited to the job.  God knew.

She knew when she bought it that her kite-gift was special.  And she was right.

[He got loads of other treats from the sibs, including a pack of mentos (Luke) and a highlighter (part of Julianna's gift).]

Lunch date with Daddy.  Every time one of these rolls around I'm mostly jealous for MY birthday lunch date :)  Ha!  But I'm also delighted to hear Matt walk in the door, looking for his date, and the smiles as the birthday boy heads out the door.  Such a sweet way to celebrate the birthday child.

He is very attached to me, this Isaac.  Very.  Wants to be near his Momma.  The feeling is mutual :)

Seriously precious.  We are getting SO. MUCH. OLDER!!!  In the past three months we've gone from "5 kiddos, ages 2 to 8" to "5 kiddos, ages 3 to 9".  The jump is not lost on me!

Getting ready to sing.

And to finish off the evening, a fresh start to another read through The Chronicles of Narnia.

Happy Birthday dear Isaac, Happy Birthday to you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

more Tak pictures

It's my last night in Thailand.  I leave for the airport at 5am tomorrow and will be with my family mid-afternoon!  yay for a short trip!

I have one more post of Tak pictures.  It might be a small town, and it's certainly not a tourist destination, but it really is a pretty place to live.

Town is full of narrow streets like this one - even in the dry season it's beautiful!  [and yes, hot and dry too!]

I really liked this older style Thai house.

Dad has a picture of himself and some of his students in front of this Buddhist stupa from 40 years ago.  Seemed most appropriate to take another one :)

And the riverfront area is just gorgeous.  It's not fancy, and the town doesn't have a lot of money to invest, but they are making the riverfront area a priority.... a sweet spot for residents to gather.

The Ping River is wide, and the water level low this time of year.  It's headed south to the Gulf of Thailand.

We were there at sunset.  It was captivating.  The water level is quite shallow near the banks (dry season, remember?) and the water was full of children, playing hard.  Oh they were having such a good time!

After the sun set we turned our bikes south again and headed back towards the main area of town for dinner.  This is one of the (very few) stop lights in town.

And this is the lady who made me some papaya salad.  I really dislike papaya, but I love this papaya salad, and it's never better than when it's made street side in Thailand.  Ate it again today :)

This morning (Saturday) we drove back to Chiang Mai.  And tonight I'm headed to bed with an early alarm set for the morning.  I'm eager to go home.  But I'm also so very thankful I came.  It was just a terrific trip.  Such an incredible experience, for all of us.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tak: day 1 (dinner) and day 2


Dad and his old friend Pirrom.  [Pirrom and his wife Muchilin were Mom and Dad's next door neighbors and dear friends.  His wife died 9 years ago.]

When Pirrom texted his daughter (who now lives in Bangkok with her two children) and told her that his old friend Paul had returned to Thailand the daughter responded and said "He's a legend.  The man who taught you how to make French Toast!"  Pirrom still remembers how to say "pancake" in English.  Which is especially impressive when you realize entire English vocabulary consists of about 20 words!  

We ate dinner at the fancy restaurant in town.  Also joining us was one of Mom's old students!  She heard Mom had been on campus that morning and knew it must have been her old Peace Corps teacher - and it was!  She even found herself in a class photo with Mom!  

After a late dinner (deliciousness), a solid night of sleep and a slow-starting Friday morning we headed out on bikes for Dad's campus.  Now town is not large, but the bikes are definitely the best way to get around.  We covered every square inch of this town (or at least it felt like it!).  We LOVED these bikes (free from our hotel, no locks necessary, it's just that kind of town). 

Right after we arrived on campus the phone rang.  Mom's old best friend!  [We had already been making phone calls before we left the hotel, trying to track her down.]  Siriporn lives in a nearby town (about 90 minutes west on the Burmese border).  But right now she is in Bangkok for personal business.  And she will be able to meet Mom and Dad in Bangkok in June!!  I hate that I won't get to meet her, but this whole trip has far exceeded everyone's expectations, I cannot complain!  

On Dad's campus we sat in the back of a graduation ceremony (the school year ended this week) and met a few of the current foreign teachers, and then wandered around looking for something Dad recognized!  The first year he was a teacher his classroom was a bamboo pole pavilion with thatched roof, no walls.  Needless to say, that hut is no longer around!  The school has grown and is really impressive.  

We ran into some older teachers who gathered around to look at the photos.  These photos are such a big hit!  People LOVE them!  The man on Dad's right taught with Dad (same years) and remembers Dad.  Several other teachers recognized many faces in the photos. 

Dad at the front gate.  The building behind him was built while he was teaching.  He actually used it his second year here.  At the time it was a concrete structure with open walls.  They have since added walls but Dad knew exactly what classroom he had taught in!  

We ate lunch with some of the current foreign teachers (from Burma, the U.S. and Guatamala - quite the eclectic group!)  Late afternoon we went down to the riverfront area to bike around and watch the sunset, then headed for dinner.  I'll have to blog those pictures tomorrow.  The whole day was, once again, just incredible.  

I still can't quite believe we actually found so many people who remembered Mom and Dad.  The schools are still here.  Their house (brand new when they moved in) is still standing.  The town has changed in many ways, but there are still plenty of things that Mom and Dad recognize.  

It is truly a beautiful place and I can easily see why Mom and Dad loved their years here. And I am so so so glad I came!  

Tomorrow morning we drive back north to Chiang Mai.  We'll spend the afternoon and evening there, then I fly out early Sunday morning, headed home to Matt and all the little troops!  My parents will stay here in Thailand for a few more weeks, then more travels in SE Asia, then to China in mid April.   [They are spending six months in Asia, and loving it!]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

one. incredible. day

Last night's sunset.... I took this out the airplane window flying north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  I still can't quite believe that I said goodbye to Matt and the kiddos and LEFT THE COUNTRY(!!!!)  but I did!

Mom and Dad were the first faces I saw as I exited the arrivals area.  We did what everyone who walks off an airplane in Thailand should do - EAT!

Early Thursday morning we loaded up and headed south for Tak, the town where Mom and Dad taught English as Peace Corps volunteers almost 40 years ago.

Three and a half hours later we pulled in the gate of the girls' school (where Mom taught and they lived on campus).  Dad had done his google earth research and knew the house was still standing.

The second person we talked to (who now lives next door to their old house) started looking at old pictures.....  And this is incredible but.....

less than a minute later he recognizes someone!  Dad's best friend Pirrom from Thailand days.  AND, he knows where he is living now (he used to live on the other side of Mom and Dad's house) and has his phone number so.....

we called him!  Can you imagine?  {and made plans to meet him for dinner... which will be a separate post}

We all sat together in a little porch area by his house and I kept thinking, "I can't believe this is happening.  How do you walk back onto a campus you haven't seen in 38 years and find someone who knows someone you knew?!?!"

After the morning's excitement we ate lunch by the river (gorgeous).

We headed back to campus where we found the head of the foreign language department (who loves Peace Corps and also had a Peace Corps English teacher!)

Showing the old pictures to some current students.

Mom and Dad's house

In front of the school gate.  The school has more than doubled in size since Mom taught there.  It was an all-girls school then, co-ed now.  Dad taught at the boys' school across town.

Late afternoon we walked around town.  It's not a big one :)

Clearly, some of the buildings were older than others :)

and then we headed out to dinner.... which will wait til tomorrow because it's too late now!

We are still on the search for Mom's good friend.  It's a bit of a treasure hunt, we run into people who know her, and just later this evening found out what school she teaches at, in a town an hour or so down the road.  We might be heading there tomorrow to look for her.