Friday, February 23, 2018

homeschool week one: we did it!

Back to homeschool!  It was a sweet first week and I'm so thankful to call these people my students :)

As Matt says, "Enrollment is up at our little academy and we aren't adding any staff!"  So I've got a few things to figure out as we transition to 5 at the homeschool desks :) We walked into this week nice and slow.  Math, a little spelling/handwriting, and a whole lot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We started Charlie on Monday and finished before lunch today.  It was the perfect read-aloud start and exactly what is sweeter than a roomful of sibs listening and laughing together?

But read-aloud isn't going to get us through the entire semester, and we will be adding to the course load each week until we ramp up to full speed.  In the meantime I'm thankful for a few weeks to adjust expectations (mine and everyone else's) as we get started in this new phase.

With an imminent move (unless a miracle happens we are looking at moving to a new apartment by early June) I'm not making any major changes to the schooling layout.

My big kids moved right back into their desk area on the school porch.

These girls are tackling a huge math text this year!

And I set my two new students up at the kitchen table - strategically placed at opposite ends for maximum concentration potential :)

One thing I tried this week and I'm definitely keeping is that each boy is assigned a "sister" for the week.  My vision for this is that there would be 15-30 minutes of content (some days? most days?) where the boys work alongside a sister.  This gives me a chance to work individually with someone else, and gives the girls a chance to develop some teaching skills too (how to correct, how to encourage, how to challenge, how to motivate...).

Lydia already made up a little sight word flash card game for Luke.  And while there are definitely times that no one will settle for anyone other than Mom, both these guys are pretty smitten with the big sisters too.

Here's to week two!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

helping his mama

This boy right here?  He's one of my favorites!

And one day I hope God gives him the gift of making some other woman very happy when she realizes how his handy-man skills bless her household!  He cannot stay away from a tool!  And with his new birthday tool set he is ready to work!

Yesterday he tightened the screws on one of my homeschool filing racks.  He was proud as a peacock and walked around the house saying, "If you want something fixed I'm right on the double."  {his slightly altered version of "be there on the double" that I love more than the original.}

I was bursting with pride, my little guy already a helper.  Then I heard Julianna say "JP, I'm not sure momma wants you to fix that."  Yep, he still needs a little guidance and a tool-carrying John Paul is half blessing, half risk factor around this household. ha!  But I'm excited to see where this personality bent leads my little man.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Whew! We made it!

Almost 8 weeks after we moved out of our Grand Forks home we have finally landed somewhere permanent!  HOME AGAIN!

We got in mid-afternoon on Tuesday and the past few days have been super full.  Mostly of good things and happy re-unitings (with people and places and food and memories and roller blades) but also a few reality checks (has my washer always sounded like a helicopter? was the dryer really this slow? is the sky usually this gray?).  Oh, and Julianna's "I knew we were home when I smelled the air" comment.... "home" smells like air pollution?!?  yikes.

But mostly it's been full of amazing-ness, so good to be back.

It's also been full of roller blades :). And everyone loves it the most when Daddy gets out there too!

When they aren't playing roller hockey they are building Legos.

I've been baking (6 loads of bread and counting) and washing laundry (yesterday I finally got to the pile of clothes we wore in San Francisco in late January!) and shopping (hello empty fridge and pantry... going to need to fix that).  Matt's busied himself trying to register with the local police, pay our electricity bill, get cash from the bank, and catch up on the thousand details that get left behind when life hits the road.   Simple tasks take a long time, and traffic is crazy, and the internet is slow and we are re-adjusting our expectations to our current reality.  One day at a time!

{I'm going to back-post a few things from the first half of February so stay tuned!}

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Daddy days (in Bangkok)

So on the drive north we mostly slept

And also got a very discouraging phone call that Matt's flight was delayed.  Oh I was so so so sad.  And feeling like this was just not fair!  We hadn't seen him in 12 days and he was stuck at an airport!  

So we checked in and checked out our view (of the Chao Praya River) and went to get lunch and killed time in the room trying to watch the Olympics (no luck, but we channel surfed Thai and international television for a good long while before calling it quits).  And then finally! 

The boys were wrestling with Daddy on the hotel bed about six minutes after he walked in the door!  It was a great time reconnecting and our little ship just sails smoother with Daddy at the helm! 

The next morning we woke to gorgeous skies and a day to kill in Bangkok!  We bought some breakfast at 7-11 and found a quiet spot by the river to enjoy.  Then it was off to explore - Lumphini Park, a snake farm (I skipped this one but the kids and Matt watched them extract venom from poisonous snakes) and then a late afternoon skytrain to hotel river taxi adventure. 

It's a busy river and captures your attention.  I smiled all day just glad to be with my man again!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jan 31 - Feb 11 (aka we miss Daddy)

On January 31st the kids and I said goodbye to Matt and flew south.  He had many many days of work ahead, and instead of attempting to do hotel-conference-life as a (essentially) single parent, we decided the best option for the family was for the kids and I to re-locate to a retreat center.

These guys just get more fun as the years pile up.  One short flight and one long drive and we were there!  

We filled our days with swimming and beaching and card-playing.  It really was a sweet spot to be.  But man we missed Matt.  

Fruit shake consumption was at an all-time high!  The little guys zipped through their allowance in record time :) 

Apart from one rainy day we had hot sunshine day-after-day.  I suggested these guys cool off with a "water picnic".   Fridge chilled water is so refreshing! 

A highlight of our time here is always the other families - some old friends and some new acquaintances.  This year the theme seemed to be football :) 

We read so many books!  I read Esperanza Rising to the big kids at the same time I was reading The Worst Hard Time.  It was neat to read these two books - set in the same time period - simultaneously.  Both were excellent.  After Esperanza Rising the bigs and I got hooked on The Penderwicks! We laugh out loud - those girls are so funny!!  And I read Born a Crime (filled with crass language, but so insightful, I liked it despite the language issue) and Small Great Things (loved loved loved it!) too.  

These four girls were quite the pack - always together, always finding something fun to do!

The pool was our typical morning spot, and afternoons we hit the beach (with a late pool trip to help wash off all the sand!)

Hermit crab races :) 

and a pretty seashore with Thai fishing boat in the background :) 

Our days passed quickly and we slept like rocks and I was thankful to be in such a sweet spot.  And really thankful the day we loaded the van and headed to Bangkok, eager to meet up with Matt!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Jan 23rd and 24th, and again on the 25th before FINALLY!

We flew on January 23rd (San Fran to Tokyo), and by the time we landed it was the 24th and we connected to Bangkok.  Landed at almost midnight, slept 5 hours at an airport hotel (sigh), hit the hotel breakfast buffet and pool for a swim before we went back to the aiport for a final flight the afternoon of the 25th.

I feared it might have been pulling teeth to get everyone on that last airplane but they were SO FIRED UP to see their friends that I had to turn around and shush the big three (who were sharing the row behind us) several times on that last flight.  They were giddy.  Ecstatic.  Loopy.  Silly.  And so so ready to be with their people.

This is also the point on our journey where we started shedding luggage.  Left 6 pieces in storage in Bangkok.  Two of our bags were for other people and we happily delivered them and said goodbye for good!  Three other pieces were were able to send ahead to our city in China with friends who were flying that way.  If you didn't follow all that, it's ok :). Since moving out of our North Dakota housing I've felt a bit like I run logistics for a small company, and I'm not interested in keeping my job! ha! thankfully it's all gone fairly smoothly, though we do have a pile of dirty laundry in luggage storage in Bangkok, and I can't find my Bible (hoping it's with the dirty laundry?!?!) and I realized on day two that I only had access to one pair of pjs each for Isaac and John Paul and one bathing suit for myself.  oh well.

We were so happy to be with friends that we smiled through the jet lag :)

Amazing reunions with friends - yay!

and even a little hand holding on the escalators :)

I missed some boy friend pictures but oh it was sweet times for everyone.

The kids programming was amazing (always!) and we played so hard all day that we couldn't help but sleep well at night (mostly!).

The kids theme centered heavily on Roman times and several of my boys did not leave the hotel room without their swords and shields.  If there was any risk of ambush at the breakfast buffet I was going to be well protected by my sons and their weaponry :)

We were mostly out and about, long days for everyone, but I do love this one picture of a quiet morning moment, Luke and I the only two awake (except Matt, who was already up and gone).

Watching the morning sun shine in northern Thailand, not a bad start to the day!

Monday, January 22, 2018

January 22nd, hello San Francisco

Well it seems like forever ago but now that I have finally bothered to turn on my computer I think it's time to start catching up on the past few weeks!

January 21st we zipped the final suitcase and boarded our first airplane, Raleigh to San Francisco.  The return leg of our trip back to Asia had been booked and re-booked and re-booked again as flight times kept changing and I guess that's what happens when you book so far out, huh?  So the final iteration of our itinerary was my favorite, and it gave us a 36 hour layover in San Francisco.  Normally a layover with 14 pieces of luggage wouldn't be my first choice, but a *free* stop in such a fun city made it worth the luggage struggle.   We landed at 9pm local time, and I just considered it a head start on the jet lag journey ahead of us ;)  Luggage collected, hotel located, beds divvied up and we slept hard our first night in San Fran.

Back in Raleigh I had scoured the library for books about San Francisco, and we checked out everything from picture books about cable cars to travel guides to get ready for our day in the city.  [My favorite of all of them, Fly High Fly Low by Don Freeman is worth purchasing!  Such a good book!!]  So we woke up ready to see the sights!  Our hotel was in a great location and we could walk everywhere, except when we rode the cable cars :)

We were just a few blocks from Lombard Street, where we marveled at the steep twists and turns, walked down to the bottom and headed for the bay.

We wandered around the pier area for a while before buying some sourdough bread and walking over towards Ghiradelli Square to try out the cable cars.

The morning started off damp and overcast but by this time the sun was out and the skies were gorgeous.

Thanks to all our San Francisco book reading the kids had gotten off the plane talking about cable cars and Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge.

John Paul was looking for cable cars in the airport parking lot :)  Good thing we finally found one to ride!

We stopped at Union Square, wandered a few more city blocks and hopped another cable car line for the return trip to the pier area.  This conductor was really a treat - and since we rode to the final stop he was able to answer our questions, give a demo of how the brakes worked, and everyone got in a little bell ringing too.

After all that?  Clam chowder lunch and bike rental for seven please ;).

I was initially skeptical of this plan.  Bikes? In a big urban center?  across the Golden Gate Bridge?  But it worked out amazingly well.  We were able to mostly stick to bike paths, we got one tag along bike (John Paul and Luke took turns between the tag along and the smallest rental bike, and it was much easier to just have one free-wheeling little guy to keep up with).

The hill up to get across the bridge was long and steep.  And the bridge itself was even longer, and so so noisy!  It was a little intimidating, but thankfully the bike path was separated from traffic by fencing and the views were pretty incredible from up there!

In Sausalito we headed straight for the ferry dock and caught the ferry back to the San Fran side of the bay.

We had been riding several hours and everyone was glad for a chance to sit and rest, and it was starting to get pretty chilly.

Alcatraz was lit up in the sunlight, and the views of the city skyline were pretty impressive too.

Off the ferry on the other side we swung by pier 39 to check out the seals and then returned the bikes and drug our weary legs to In-N-Out burger for dinner and milk shakes.  Then up hill, up up up, all the way back to the hotel and YES! we slept great that night!

Friday, January 19, 2018

one more fun picture

We had a great time this night just adults out on the town.  

Turns out we aren't that spectacular at trivia, but we do enjoy appetizers and fun conversation, so that counts for something!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

wrapping up here

Well we are still waiting for visas.  sigh.  Actually Matt has a visa, but the kids and I are still waiting, and we are really hopeful we will hear something today.  Or tomorrow.  Because our flight leaves on Sunday and pretty soon this will be solidly into "cutting it close" timing.

I flew home from Orlando on Monday morning, after a sweet visit with friends and so grateful for the time God gave us together.  I was missing my little people!  Tuesday we hit the highlights in town - Chic Fil A, the library, and our favorite park.  It was a perfectly "life in America" feeling kind of day and we enjoyed every second.

Love love the library.  And the parks.  Chic Fil A isn't too bad either :)

Today it's snowing, and we might not be back to the park for a few days, but we do have a mile high pile of library books to enjoy.  In fact the bigs are all reading now, and I'm sitting with the little two who are engrossed in the audio version of The House at Pooh Corner.  John Paul keeps giggling - that Tigger is a pretty funny character!

But the time is drawing to a close and Luke is begging me to let him take a bath so he can play with his matchbox cars in the water.  With snow coming down and nowhere to go, I think he just might have a great idea :)

finishing up with the cousins

Well the end always seems to come and it did.  Time for the Columbia cousins to fly home (and time for Matt and I to fly to Orlando, but that's a different plot line).

We had such a great visit with Stephen and Jen and Raleigh and Clinton... and some of my favorite moments looked like this:

We did have matching boy cousin shirts... all five boys and they were personalized too. These scenes with all five boys dressed in matching and out on the town (children's museum, natural history museum, breakfast with Granddaddy) might have been my favorite!

Oh, and we continued to watch copious amounts of sports on television, and the men went to a WFU basketball game.

and while Matt and I were in Orlando Mom and Dad took the kids to see the Lady Wolfpack play basketball too.

We've got "how to have fun" all figured out :)