Saturday, August 20, 2016

first day of school

In addition to being Lydia's birthday, August 15th was also the first day of school for a lot of little people around here!

Even though we had been in country not quite a week we wanted to go ahead and get the little guys back in preschool.  Routine is good, and they were talking school, walking by school, thinking school... so off they went!  John Paul is always-a-rockstar at this.  Luke is always-needs-help at this.

The first week Matt took them!  Yay for this because it's just way easier on everyone if he does the drop off and he really set us up for success.  By the end of the week Luke was getting his groove back.

The little guys will be four mornings a week at school this fall.  We call Thursday 'break day' and they stay home to "help" me school the big kids.  I think we'll also use Thursday to go to the library because it's going to end up being a bit lighter on content than the other days regardless!

and, awesome mama that I am, I only got photos of 60% of the kids on the first day.  oh well.

Homeschool also started last Monday.  We tend to take longer breaks in January/February and I don't want to be schooling well into next summer, so we got going!

Lydia and Julianna school together - 5th grade this year!  I'm so excited for the year ahead and we had a sweet first week.  Of course it's easy to have a good first week but it's still a nice start!

Isaac is back on the school porch too, and we are doing an American History curriculum (all three of them together) that I think we are going to really love.  And not too many changes so much of it looked familiar to most of us.  So that feels good.

It's another few weeks til local school starts for the big three.  I'm so thankful for more time before that big rock gets thrown in our little pond.  These weeks I'm working up energy for the local school commitment! ha!

Well, that about catches me up to where we are today.  This is just a wild and wooly time of year for our family on so many different levels.  And I've tried to get several posts up this week and been thwarted by bad internet (aka the thorn in my blogging flesh!)

We're hosting a bunch in the next days, and had a big group today too (but our overnight guests don't even land til 1am, late night for Matt, I'll be in dream land by then!)

the day of the birthday

Just a few more pictures from the actual DAY of Lydia's birthday (which was also our first day of school, and the first day of fall chaos for Matt - ha!)

with the little brothers, neither of whom was able to wait until her birthday to give her their gifts! ha!

Probably the top sibling gift is the new hula hoop from Isaac and Julianna. There has been a whole lotta hula hooping going on around here!

lunch date with Daddy!

and then home for some cupcake baking and more icing - oh dear, so much icing!  We finished up the leftover icing from cooking decorating and then splurged on yet more icing: chocolate!  You only turn 9 once, right?

{and this is one of my favorite family pics ever - so much happy and a bit of each person's personality too.  Plus John Paul is looking at the camera which is always worth celebrating!}

our neighbors came over for the cupcakes and singing,

and the birthday drew to a close.  Til next year, sweet Lydia.  Happy Birthday!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

a party for Lydia

The morning of her party day - she's looking so NINE years old to me!

It's good to have a sister.  Well, most of the time ;)

And one more pre-party picture.  She looks like me, huh?

And then the party guests came, ready to decorate cookies.  This was such a fun activity for a group of girls!

Butterflies, tulips, stars, hearts, and all those other fun girlie cookie shapes.

All of these girls have spent the majority of their lives in China - some we've known for years, others are newer friends.

And it was such a blessing to get to spend an afternoon with them celebrating our Lydia.

We had at least a dozen icing colors, and plenty of candy for toppings.

a sweet afternoon!

and the little brothers?  skillfully re-directed on an away-from-the-house outing by Matt, but returning in time to do a little cookie work of their own.

Happy birthday Lydia!

Monday, August 15, 2016

one week back

We did a decent job of trying to cram a whole lot of stuff into our first week back! ha!

It's sweltering hot, highs in the upper 90s and the 'feels like' is well over 100 and the humidity, well, lets not talk about what it feels like to walk through wet air, huh?

We've been to the pool once, and hopefully more trips in our future, but it's been a busy week and I just haven't gotten over there much. yet.  We have a few more weeks before local school starts so our afternoons are free for the pool.  [But we did start home school today, and the little guys went back to local preschool... more on that later.]

The big event of the weekend was Lydia's birthday party!  Wednesday we decided on a a "cookie decorating party" and Friday we baked a huge batch of sugar cookie cut outs.  Saturday we mixed up a dozen icing colors and Sunday afternoon the party was on!

When I look back at everything that's happened since we landed a week ago it seems crazy.  But really, the days were smooth.  I slept well - ha! but I'm thankful for the days we had in Thailand to re-adjust to Asia time and life and heat and this is home.  So it feels right to be here.

Actually, as of this month we have lived in this house for 37 months... which is longer than we have ever lived anywhere else, ever, in our entire marriage.  Of course, we haven't technically lived here all 37 months because we spent the spring of 2014 in the U.S. and we tend to travel in longer chunks, but really, our furniture, our home, our 'main place' has been this apartment! for over three years!

I'm hoping we set a crazy long record in this place.  We'd love to live here for a decade.  But in our line of work, that's highly unlikely.  And recent events have driven that reality home in some pretty harsh ways.  So we'll enjoy the days and weeks and months and years here - and stay as long as we can!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

this is HOME

This is what it looks like when we travel :)

Headed towards check in on Monday morning.... we've got five potential luggage cart pushers (Luke and JP are desperate to push those carts but it's just not a wise-safe-viable option for now!)

And we are B-I-G fans of the buddy system.  A big plus a little makes a whole lot of sense!  There isn't a long-term pairing for buddies, usually we'll just pick for the day.  And they really get into the buddy thing - often with a buddy cheer, a name for their pairing, everything.  It's pretty awesome.

Monday it was Julianna helping with the luggage, Isaac + Luke and Lydia + John Paul.  We were traveling pretty heavy this time around so Matt and I had luggage carts too :)

On the plane we don't sit according to the buddy system.  We sit where Mama tells us to sit :)

I almost always choose seats so that we have at least one aisle-window pairing with an empty seat in the middle.  If the empty seat gets a passenger then we can swap around, but if the empty seat stays empty.... :)  This time Lydia and Isaac were debating whether they should swap for aisle-middle or middle-window when the cabin door closed and they realized they had the entire row to themselves.

[I was between Jul and Luke, Matt with JP across the aisle from Julianna.]

Friends picked us up (in two vehicles to help with luggage - including the person who borrowed our car all summer!) and we were home.

with a welcoming committee!

Our house looked like the day we left.... i'm so grateful, especially because different people were in and out of it all summer....

We hit the ground running.  Today I planned like crazy - we start homeschool on Monday!  And Matt's on the road a bit this weekend and students are rolling into town and I even managed to serve three meals at home today!

This is Home.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

four years HOME

This amazing little guy just celebrated FOUR years home with his forever family!

Commemorating this day gains significance as he understands more of his own history.  His is a complicated story with unbelievable grief and loss to bear.  And yet he smiles.

John Paul is an overcomer - his life story, his medical challenges, the way he has loved and lost and chosen to love again....

We are crazy grateful to call him son.  And he fits perfectly into our little tribe.  I cannot imagine a day without him.

And speaking of "fits into the family", here's the family fitting into a Tuk-Tuk.  In a very Matt-like adventure we took a water taxi (two, actually.. had to change boats in the middle of the journey) and then a Tuk-Tuk en route to the zoo.

It was a great place to celebrate our boy.

Today is our last day in Bangkok and tomorrow we fly again - destination: HOME.  For everybody :)

Friday, August 5, 2016

travel and our first few Asia days

Sunday morning our Colorado summer came to an official close.  We said goodbye to our apartment, and my mom and dad, and loaded a shuttle bus for the airport.  

We checked our luggage (this is my favorite part of air travel! ha!) and headed towards security where we met up with our friend and travel buddy, Kris. 

We got to our guest house about 1am and went to bed.  We decided to wake everyone for breakfast (not too hard since you could smell coffee cake - yum!) and it was Day 1 Bangkok.  

This is what the morning looked like....

And then we met up with some friends (which involved a crazy crowded rush hour ride on the sky train) and by the time dinner was over Luke lost the battle with jet lag :)

We loaded into a car and JP was out in milliseconds.  The rest of the kids managed to stay awake for the drive home and everyone was in bed by 8:30.  [Of course by that point Luke had been asleep for over an hour already!]

Day 2 we walked to the hospital (everyone had medical appointments) - pretty great walking commute along this canal, huh?  The water taxis are working class transportation.  Matt took the boys for a trip too.  

Happy girls - lots of smiles despite the sleep deprivation.  at least most of the time - ha! 

Day 3 we met up with friends again and the big girls all went to Kidzania.  Kidzania is a big hotspot for kids in Asia and the girls were thrilled to go - and now they want to go back!  (minimum age is 8 to enter without an adult.)

One of the perks of international life is that you never know when you might run in to some good friends in Bangkok :)  so fun for our two families to get some time together! 

And the boys ... goofy at lunch. 

Day 4 and we are off to a great start.  Everyone is sleeping great (thank you Jesus!) and I'm glad for these extra (unexpected) days to be together as a family, at a sweet guest house, before we re-enter the big country.  

Tomorrow is John Paul's Gotcha Day!  He's hoping for a trip to the zoo - and I think we'll be able to oblige :)  

one last hike

Any summer, every summer, in Colorado needs a finale hike.  

And we got ours :) 

Dad watched the kids while Matt and I conquered Twin Sisters.  The best part about this hike were the incredible views of Longs Peak (over my right shoulder).  We hiked Longs 13 years ago! 

I just love being on trails like these... especially early morning hikes with chilly starts and hopes of a summit before 10am.

A massive rain storm in 2013 caused this devastating landslide that took out part of the trail.  It was staggering to see the amount of destruction caused!  wow!

We ended up scrambling up the landslide, which was hard hiking.  On the way back down we found a trail that skirted around the edge of the destruction, and at one point we cut straight through the middle of the landslide.

View from the top.

Pretty nice huh?  Love hiking with Matt and love this great farewell hike!  We love Colorado and we WILL BE BACK again!!!  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Julie (& Caroline, Will and Eric!)

HUGE treat to have my cousin and her kids come visit us for a few days!  It was just what the doctor ordered... all our friends gone and here come new friends!  

Julie and her husband just moved from Hawaii to Kansas (military family) and their shipment of furniture hasn't even arrived yet!  So she loaded her kids in the car and drove TEN hours to come see us!  Yay!! 

I haven't seen Julie in five years, her littlest, Eric, was a teeny baby last time we were together, and we didn't have John Paul or Luke.  

When we were children I spent countless hours with Julie and her siblings.  We were together constantly, at the beach, the lake, her house, our house, other cousins' houses, my granddaddy's house.  We were just together.  a lot.

And it was so good to be together again.

They arrived mid-afternoon and we played and cooked and ate dinner and then Matt and my Dad returned from a big hike just in time to watch the boys (5 of them!) while the girls and Julie and I went for a bike ride around campus.

The next morning we said Hi to my mom on FaceTime and then headed out hiking - to the Poudre Canyon and one of our favorite hikes.

This is just a great, kid-friendly, walking in the river kind of hike.  Matt did a lot of mountain biking back in this area too.  

The kids and Matt engineered a great dam.

Then we headed back to the cars and down the canyon to a great picnic spot for lunch.  We have eaten out of this cooler so many times this summer! yum!

Back in Fort Collins we headed to City Park.  The girls had ridden through the park the evening before and were anxious to go back to play on the play ground and climb trees.

We even fed some ducks.

and took a really awesome group photo on the swing!

(left to right Caroline, Julianna, Luke, Lydia, Will, Isaac, Eric, John Paul)

The girls winding down a bit before dinner...

And the following morning?  Nowhere we'd rather take our guests than Rocky Mountain National Park!

We drove Trail Ridge Road

parked for some snowball battling...

more awesome photos...

And finished the day with a hike up to Emerald Lake.

Despite some initial reluctance these kids turned out some remarkable hiking!

And the hike was worth every footstep!  Great views and lakes and just perfect for our crew.

and my favorite picture from the whole weekend -

Julie and I have a LOT of history.  So thankful to share these days with her and her kids!