Monday, July 25, 2016

the friends we made

This group of little ladies ran close all summer long!  So fun to see them grow to love one another -

A few more minutes all together on the morning of the day that everyone started leaving...

(not sure where my little guys were when I was taking these photos!)

and the girls with one of their leaders from the summer!  They had such amazing staff who invested countless hours in relationships with my kiddos - I'm so grateful!

By the time the final final hugs rolled around these girls were silly-sad-silly.  Couldn't really figure out what they were feeling and how to respond.

We watched a few more heavily loaded vans pull out of the parking lot this morning and now it's officially JUST US still here at the apartment complex/commune.

In a way, it's good to be left.  We are often the leave-ers, the go-ers, the ones who pull out of the drive or board the airplane.  It's helpful to experience life on the other side of the picture, the ones left behind.

We had a few tears, and a few harder moments, but also sweet to watch them all play together, just the five, for the first time in almost two months.  And then we went to play putt putt golf and ride bumper boats.... so it all turned out ok in the end :)

Early early tomorrow morning Matt and Dad are leaving to south west to a trailhead and an attempt to summit a 14,000 peak.  It'll be me and the kiddos holding down the fort here and waiting on my cousin Julie to arrive with her kiddos!

Tonight I'm thankful for all the amazing friendships from this summer (and wondering why I didn't get pictures of me with the moms of these great kids - because they became sweet friends for me!)  I'm thankful that we have a few more days before flying out to Asia.  Thankful that wherever we go and whatever direction we head, the 7 of us stick together.

(pic of the two of us walking in to the building where we had class all summer)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

it's over (our last week)

Our final week of training is over.  The weeks here just flew by - and we have had a blast all summer long.  Thankfully we still have exactly one week before our flight, and I've got a bit of packing today (and we are expecting a visit from my cousin Julie and her kids!!!).

This morning I started in on the shopping.  Our summer schedule was so full that I had not made one teeny bit of progress on my "list of things to take back to china with us".  But today I shopped hard, and pretty much finished my list!!  When I got home and unloaded the loot Matt and I decided to go ahead a pack two bags.  Feels good to have a bit more loaded and zipped luggage.

Then he left for a long mountain bike ride (his knee is healing nicely and he'll get the stitches out in just a few more days).  And the kids played hard in the courtyard.  There were several sad goodbyes this morning and then again this evening. Oh the harsh reality of a transient lifestyle - we really get attached to the people we are with and it's so hard to say goodbye.

We joked often that life here is a bit like living in a commune (not like I know what a commune is like, but...)

And life in the commune is pretty nice :)  But the commune is emptying out - and by tomorrow noon almost everyone will be gone.  I'm sad to see them go but also looking forward to a bit of quiet and a slower pace for the next week before we head to the airport.

The kids were part of an evening celebration earlier this week.

It was a really special time.

The big three all had speaking parts and Julianna sang a solo!  She was nervous and did a great job!  So proud of her :)

Costumes for part of the show ..

Some of these people we will see again, and some we might not.  Most of the kids best buddies from the summer don't live anywhere near us!  But our paths might cross again one day and we would love that!  And I'm so thankful that we are soon returning to a land we call home, with lots of dear friends who are waiting for us and sending us "come quick" and "hurry back" text messages!

last weekend at the farm

Fort Collins is full of fun things to do and last Saturday we went to a small farm on the north side of town.  

Everybody loved feeding the animals.  Chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, cows, ducks... pretty much your standard farm stuff :)

Lydia really surprised me - she's not a huge animal fan but she loved the baby sheep and goats.

It was a HOT day, but not so bad in the shade.

And we finished the morning's activities with some horse riding.

A really nice way to start a Saturday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

mountain bike fun (and pain)

A huge highlight for Matt this summer is surely the biking.  He has had a blast and ridden several times a week - mostly early mornings but also some late afternoon/evening rides.

But it all came to a crashing halt last Friday night when his brakes failed on a steep downhill switchback.  He got a deep gash in his knee (thankfully nothing worse!) and, after the initial nausea and shock wore off he was able to ride three miles back to the trailhead and call me with the "can you meet me at urgent care?" message.

It wasn't what we had planned for date night, but we were blessed to be in America (where he quickly and easily got the needed 11 stitches) and - since he was still filthy wet and muddy and bloody from his ride - we decided a quick dinner at Qdoba couldn't hurt :)

The sun was setting and I couldn't resist getting a picture of him with his ear glowing.  John Paul's ability to "glow his ears" at sunset is epic in our family.  He has the best. ears. ever.  And if you don't think you can even have "good" ears then you just haven't enjoyed John Paul's to their full extent yet.  So this night, night of the stitches and derailed dates... and Matt with his glowing ear, and a big smile.  And I love this man.

more grandparents pictures

A few more pictures from our time with both sets of Grandparents....

Our apartment wasn't designed to seat 11 but we made it work!  Each bedroom came with a dresser and a desk so we moved the desks to the end of the kitchen table and greatly expanded our seating capacity.  And both mom and Jan worked hard to get lots of food on the table!

And another picture from the night we celebrated Lydia's 9th birthday (still a month away, but worth celebrating multiple times!)

and the kids were so glad everyone was in town for this part of family weekend..

So fun to watch them sing together!

These kids have become great friends this summer, and we will miss them dearly as we go our separate ways this weekend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

just in the courtyard

Although our weekends are mostly full of mountain fun we do spend a lot of time just hanging out in the courtyard between the apartment buildings.  The community this summer is definitely a highlight of our time here.  I love green grass full of running children and adults lingering at the grill, talking at dusk, waving from one porch to another.

These boys, looking tough...

and our Luke, who attached himself to this family and hasn't looked back.  He picked their 12 year old Luke and 14 year old Emma as his "first best friend" and "second best friend" early in the summer.

and, lucky Luke, he has endeared himself to them and gets more snuggles and laughter and fun than any four year old boy I know.

We all dressed up as cows one evening and headed out for free dinner at Chic-fil-A.  This is a big deal in the south and something that we have never been a part of (because no one gives you free dinner if you dress like a cow in Asia!)

It was pretty much crazy fun.

[Please note that John Paul is moo-ing for the picture.]

And I have a pic of Grandma dressed like a cow too!

And one last "around the courtyard" scene.....

John Paul watching the mailman.  If this photo had sound you would hear the mailman patiently explaining his actions and John Paul asking "why?" about 75 thousand times.  I don't think the mailman gets too many opportunities to explain his job, and he was remarkably patient with Mr. Why (aka John Paul).

and part of the mail fascination... our pile of boxes!  I've done quite a bit of home school curriculum ordering and friends have shipped stuff to our place by the box-load, so we had a big 'ole pile of cardboard in our bedroom!

Our luggage allowance is large, we didn't bring much home, and this weekend I started loading (at least for our friends - I haven't dug into our stuff yet).

A big part of our visa paperwork is behind us and we are expecting to be able to leave on our originally scheduled flight (July 31) so there are more duffel bags in our near future!

pioneer living outdoor museum

On Sunday afternoon Dad and Matt and Luther went white water rafting!  Such a fun trip for them!  (and no pictures, because.. well, white water rafting)

So Mom and Jan and I took the five kids to a pioneer living outdoor museum.  

My mom had read about this place (next to the downtown library) and it was really neat.  Several different pioneer homes have been moved to the site and meticulously restored.

Washing laundry was probably the highlight of the day for everyone (it helped that it was sweltering hot and the laundry water felt nice and cool!)

Everyone got to make a cornhusk doll too!

and several of the kids dressed up in pioneer days clothing (though I'm not sure how John Paul chose this particular get-up!)

Fort Collins has been a great spot for these types of experiences, and we are grateful for our days here!

Trail Ridge Road drive (july 9)

This is one special road, and it was awesome to do it again with both sets of grandparents.

But before we began the uphill drive ... a stop at the Alluvial Fan.

These kids love a mountain stream.  They built dams and diverted water and had a blast!

Grandma and Grandpa watched the kiddos while Dad and Matt and I hiked higher.

There's a lake 7 miles from the trailhead feeding this crazy gorgeous powerful waterfall/stream.  We would love to go see it one day -

It took a bit of scrambling for Dad and I to get up here -

Mom and Dad and Luke - all in sun hats! 

After a bit more water play we decided to head higher!  There is an old one-way dirt road that is only open late in the summer (after most snow melts).  Plenty of switchbacks, no guard rails, limited capacity and absolutely gorgeous.  

{check out this view from the rear window!}

Before we got to the top we decided to stop for lunch.  This was about 10,000 feet (I think) and not technically a picnic spot, but just a wide place in the road for parking and a trailhead.  So we grabbed lunch and huffed uphill.

Dad got to be the lucky "carrier of the cooler"!

And the spot we found was enjoyable. 

and the hike back down to the car easier than the hike into the picnic spot.  thin air plus uphill walking makes it tough! 

We loaded up for a short drive to the very top.  At this point over 12,000 feet!  Super high.  Above the tree line and above snow patches (in July!) and just beautiful in every direction.  

once at the visitors center Dad and Matt and I did the final walk up to the highest spot! crazy to look down on the tops of so many mountains!

and some great family photos too. 

Then on the drive down (the paved road this time) we spotted elk.  and more elk.

and some of them were VERY close to the trail!

A great day - and great memories with the grandparents... all FOUR of them!