Monday, May 30, 2016

to Tokyo to Denver

Ok so this is my new favorite way to get to America.  I mean, this was our shortest, easiest, best, smoothest trip EVER!  It helps that we stopped in our point of entry city, and also our connection was short, and our trans-Pacific leg only 10 hours.  And our youngest is FOUR!  Ha!  After a decade of globe-trotting with the infant-toddler-preschool crowd we've turned a corner.

The last time we flew to the States the kids were 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7.  Oh, and Matt wasn't with me :)

This trip their ages are 4, 5, 7, 8, 10.  Elementary-schoolers rock the airplane, that's all there is to it!

And on the approach to Denver I decided this is where I want to live.  Gorgeous snow-capped peaks at the end of a "short" trans-Pacific flight and I'm sold.

Waiting for us right outside of baggage claim  - my parents!

Don't we look chipper?  The boys each slept a few hours, the girls pulled an all-nighter, college-style. We stayed awake all afternoon, energized by Grandmama & Granddaddy and the hotel pool.

We've now been in Denver almost 30 hours and are headed for bed.  Tomorrow morning we start a road trip to North Dakota (this is the downside of stopping in Denver! ha!) but as our plans for the summer came together the jet-lagging-road-trip was the best option.  We will be back in Colorado in about a week and depart from Denver July 30th.

So excited to see ND family and friends soon, and hopeful that the road trip will be as favorable as the flights!

last day of school

Our kiddos stayed in school until the day before take off!  The little guys will be back at the same school, same class, same teachers when we return in August.  And the big three will stay at the same school, same class, same teachers, just a new grade level.  [This is typical Asian-style schooling... I'm not sure the reasoning behind it, but it is the way it is.  Julianna and Lydia are with the same teachers and same classmates they started first grade with - they spent the first two years in the same classroom!]

Lydia and her favorite school friend, Gu Yin.

Julianna and Chen YiNan.

I'm not so sure who Isaac's best classroom friend is... the boys he knows best are on the soccer team and he is the only one from his class on the first grade team.  But this is definitely his best friend at school - the only other white guy, Grady :)

and with those four pictures, the school year is over.  For my kids anyways.  The local kids will stay in class through early July, but we skipped town and headed for the airport!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

final preps

Wednesday we were out of the house almost all morning - I dropped a bunch of kids at a friends house and ran some last errands.

Then we picked up Kayleigh and Zeb for a sleepover :)  The original plan was for an afternoon bike ride but it rained all day long.  ugh.

so the kids played indoors (I went out with Alisa to celebrate my birthday) and after dinner all 9 of us enjoyed a massive game of Team Skip-Bo.

This morning the ground was wet but the skies were relatively clear.  I took the little guys to school and then we launched our bike ride :)

All too soon it was time to say "goodbye" and "see you in August"...

There have been some sad goodbyes.  But also plenty of anticipation about our summer in Colorado - these kiddos are ready to roll.

Luke and John Paul have both visited the States only one time, and were too young to really remember much at all (Luke 2 and JP 3 when we left).

Isaac and Lydia both have two trips to the U.S. under their belts and are a little more America-savvy.  I'm really looking forward to watching Isaac engage this time around, he is a voracious reader and has devoured stacks of biographies from the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  Can't wait to see him realize that we are "in" some of the places he reads about (and we do have a little side trip to Mt. Rushmore too!)

And Julianna, she's my America-pro.  Four trips already!  One short trip when she was 6 months old. Again (a year later) for Lydia's birth.  And then two 6 month stints in the States.  She's looking forward to re-connecting with some friends in ND, and she's constantly asking about prices of things in America... so curious about so many things.

Tomorrow is my big packing day.  Gotta get those bags zipped and ready to go.  Matt is off work for the whole day so between the two of us we should be able to crank out a lot of trip prep. In an ideal world we would be mostly done by mid-afternoon so we can just relax and enjoy our last hours.  We head to the airport Saturday morning for a short trip.  Should land in Denver less than 24 hours after we leave!

my birthday

Day TWO in a crazy, full week!  My birthday :)

I was mostly looking forward to my lunch date with Matt!

The girls made key lime pie for dessert.  yum!

our little team :)

At lunch we talked about highlights from the past year - it was a good one, with plenty to remember and celebrate.

big last days

Our last days in country have been packed full (and I'm not talking about our suitcases... which are still not packed full! ha!)  Monday we spent the morning at Polar Ocean World with our friend Amanda who is moving to America. 

Her departure is a tremendous loss for our whole family.  Her years with us were just a precious gift.

From there we headed straight to John Paul's final speech appointment. His SLP is moving away - she was only here for 11 months and we didn't start seeing her until November.  But Ms. Enri is a treasure, she connected with John Paul right away and he worked so hard with her.

His speech is now doing so great that he is no longer needing therapy (perfect, since with her departure we no longer have an available SLP).  He will need to be re-evaluated in a year to make sure that his progress is consistent with peers his age.  He still needs prompts with some sounds, especially /th/ and he swaps the /l/ and /r/ in a unbelievably cute way, but that's considered an age appropriate mistake that is naturally occurring in his age group so.... !!!!!   John Paul's speech is now 90% intelligible and consistent with his peer group!  Do you know how crazy amazing that is???

Monday evening I went to a good-bye party for Amanda and stayed up way too late for her last night as a guest in our apartment (sniff!) and then it was Tuesday.... My birthday :)  whew.  more later.

[i've been without a computer since the weekend and trying to get caught up now, but also needing to start loading some suitcases!]

Sunday, May 22, 2016

dinner picnics

My final days in country are always plenty busy.  So last week I put our family on a "mom's only cooking every other night" rotation :)  As long as we are willing to eat cheap local food we can eat out almost as cheaply we can eat at home (sometimes even cheaper!).

One of our meals last week was a fried rice picnic at clover field.

Walking distance from our apartment, plenty of space to roam, soccer grass aplenty.

big family perks - instant soccer fun

This was one of those "pass it to certain people in a certain order and see if you can beat your previous time" challenges.

We need more practice :)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

an early birthday with a friend

When we accepted the invitation to participate in our Colorado summer program we gained a lot, and we lost a lot.   Such is the life of the transient family.

One of the very first things Julianna realized was that she would miss her best friend's birthday, for the second year in a row (Kayleigh was in Colorado last summer!)

So Kayleigh's mom and I started scheming, determined we could come up with something fun and special to celebrate the big day, even if we did it a month early.

And on Thursday we took these two little ladies to the theme park!

It was so fun!  We scrambled to arrange child care for the kids we left at home (between the two of us we have 9 kiddos!) and enjoyed a day with our oldest daughters - just the four of us.

Kayleigh is a total daredevil and will ride anything!  Julianna, not so much.  Though she rode more roller coasters than on her previous visits!

Post-cotton-candy sticky sugar fingers!

Sometimes we moms rode too.  And sometimes we just sat and waited for them to ride. and ride. and ride.  

Turns out that a Thursday in mid May is low season :)  there was hardly anyone there!  Some rides the girls would ride over and over and over, without ever getting out of their seats!

It was such an amazing day!  Alisa and I had at least as much fun as the girls!  And they were so sweet, so excited, so happy, so "this is the awesome" and "I can't believe this" and "should we ride again?"

Happy Birthday Kayleigh.  and here's to another decade of sweet friendship for these two!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

wednesday's picture

Wednesday's picture.  

Luke, watching the dryer repair man.

We use our appliances heavily.  And it's hard to find quality machines.  It's looking like I'm about to kill my second clothes dryer.   argh.

Right now, in summer clothing, our laundry load is (relatively) light and I can make do hanging on racks around our apartment and using the dryer when it's working.  But I predict we will have something new before November rolls around.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

three days, three pictures.

Our chain of bikes crossing the street just got longer :)

Actually, Luke's been down to the river multiple times now, but this is the first time I've gotten a picture.

We love this weekend afternoon bike ride and it'll be one of the things we miss when we are not around this summer.  Luke hasn't made the entire 7 mile loop yet, but he's working hard and building up some endurance..... maybe he will do it this fall?

Monday noon John Paul came bouncing out of school with his star student certificate.  I'm so proud to call this boy my own.  What a gift.

And Tuesday... I'm working hard on getting us ready to start homeschool in the fall.  It's tricky to arrive in mid-August, and I know I better have my act (mostly) together before we fly next week.  So I beefed up my incentives system and Lydia sewed us a little pouch to organize our points :)  Crossing things off my list (slowly).

Next up, Wednesday's picture.  I just need to figure out what I'm gonna photograph today.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

finishing the conference

I spent Thursday and Friday at a homeschool conference.  It was the first in our city and the first I've ever attended and a really great experience.  Mostly I loved getting time to think about and process what it means to home school, and how to go about doing it.  And I loved doing it sitting with my friends!  

But I missed the five.  

I got home in time for dinner Friday and the kids were so curious about all that I had learned and we talked through dinner.  As I said goodnight to the girls Julianna said "I wish we were starting our next homeschool year right now!"  I'm glad for the excitement because she can be pretty fickle in her allegiance to school in general and homeschooling in particular  ;)

This morning Lydia and I went for a run.  I was thrilled she wanted to go with me (the girls haven't run with me in months, and I haven't run that much).  And then she ran her farthest ever - 5 laps around the complex.  That's almost three miles!  

thankful to school and run with this precious girl of mine!