Wednesday, December 7, 2016

a few more from early December

After school snack buying ... are they ACTING like the locals or are they just LIKE the locals?  A few recent conversations with my oldest have me more and more convinced that while she might look like your standard Caucasian 5th grader, there is a lot of Asian-flavored blood running through those veins!

Tuesday morning laundry... sheets and towels.  I only wash kids' on an every other week rotation (this week was girls' room), but my bedroom every week :)  [mom perks]  Add in our guest laundry and it's often 4-5 loads just to get through those piles.  (Our guest room is a hot spot, and while I obviously wash during the week if someone leaves and a new guest is coming in, if there are weekend guests and no one right on their tail, I'll wait til Tuesday.  Goodness knows Monday has enough laundry woes of it's own!)

Bbottom of this pic is the piles of Monday laundry waiting to be folded, the stuff on the rack waiting to dry, the laundry in the rack (bottom right) waiting to be put away.  Nothing glamorous but a big part of my reality!

Oh no, another kid, another lost tooth!  This front tooth of Isaac's wiggled and waggled and caused plenty of crooked tooth smiles for almost two weeks before it finally bit the dust.  Cuteness.

I love that our world is so walk-able.  We walk almost everywhere.  We walk all the time, every day, off to different places to see, to buy, to visit.

And hardly a walk goes by that something notable doesn't happen.  Yesterday?  This truck, parked right outside our gate.

Ducks and chickens, squawking and flapping and attracting all sorts of attention from our family (but no buyers, whew!)

I'm off to preheat the oven and get some dinner cooking....

whew, it's December

It's already the second week of Advent!  We're adding to our wall calendar in the morning and reading in the evening and last night we again assured John Paul that he won't be lighting any candles by himself.  sigh.  Seems Advent can't fill every desire of every heart; at least not in our home.  But the upside of those unfulfilled desires is that we might get through the season without any catastrophic candle-related drama! 

We've battled some nasty polluted days recently, but the sun is sometimes out too, and these trees are just beauty.  And they are everywhere!

Safely crossing busy streets is a big city skill and these guys are proud to be released from the requirement that they must hold someone's hand.... Keeping your feet next to Mommy's feet, that's the way we roll.  [Except here they are showing Daddy their new found freedom - check out those feet!]

In the afternoons I almost always sit at the kitchen table with these two and we do some "table work" before we start reading books.   We color.  We paint.  We stamp.  We cut.  We glue.  Monday we made Christmas trees to add the the front door decor.

The wrapping of gifts is in full force and the Sharpie is once again the perfect gift label-er! This year I am adding gift tags to a lot of gifts, but for my little people the Sharpie is the trick.  Luke picks all his gifts for his siblings and most of them come from the convenience store at the entrance to our complex.  The wrapping and labeling is a highlight, and also, his hair really is that white!

I've got another post with some pictures of the big kids coming right up!

Monday, November 28, 2016

one huge weekend

So our Thanksgiving came, and went.  And I took zero pictures. sigh.

We ate with dear friends, a crowd of 50 plus people, and what a fun sweet day together.  I made a huge pile of food to contribute... including 300 sausage balls that Matt helped roll on Wednesday evening), plus baked ham, scalloped corn, and rolls.  Lydia made broccoli salad and Julianna made a gorgeous apple pie.  Fun to have the girls ready and able to contribute to the food spread!  

Isaac has a new found love for roller hockey and a hockey stick is now on the top of his Christmas list.

Matt might be scheming to get a stick for himself (these guys are currently playing with broom handles!)

Friday morning the friends started rolling into town.  Anna is a special treat for my girls - she grew up here, and I love to see the light in the girls' eyes as they find more and more commonalities between her childhood and theirs! What a special friendship for them!

and the only other photo I managed to take - Luke with a snowman ornament we created Friday afternoon.  Our house and hearts and hours were full all weekend long.  And it was wonderful, also intense and busy and exhausting, but wonderful.  If only I had taken a picture :)

This morning it felt good to get started on a 'normal' week.  And it felt good to get a handle on the huge pile of laundry in front of the washer!  So grateful our Christmas decor is up and our first Advent candle is lit and we are two nights in to our Advent read-aloud (this year Tabitha's Travels).

Oh I do love the holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

those pre-dinner moments

What to do when the troops are hungry, the dinner is cooking, and the Momma is busy in the kitchen?  

A few nights ago I scrambled for a quick idea and invited kids to make menus for our Mexican Rice Bowl dinner.  Basically they just listed all the potential toppings for their rice bowl and added appropriate decor.... then we taped them up near the table area :) 

This is my version of homeschool kindergarten :) 

Rice. Beans. Salsa. Taco seasoning....  He didn't get too far through the toppings list, but his sweet little letters are so fun!  [Check out all the many ways to write an S.]

Working at the kitchen bar on a little project keeps people close to Mama (key at this time of day, huh?) and keeps the hands busy and not so focused on the growling tummy.

So a few nights later, Lydia was back at the bar, this time creating sandwich order forms.

As you can tell, it wasn't the fanciest of evenings for sandwiches.  sigh.  Feeding this crew exhausts me, and some nights this (supplemented with baked sweet potatoes, and veggies with hummus) is the best I've got.

I took a quick picture, uploaded to my computer and printed.  Everyone filled out their order and I even kept them by the griddle to keep track of sandwiches, then served with the sandwich slip tucked under the sandwich.

I often feel like a short order chef, this just confirmed it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

is it ever too early?

It's beginning to look a lot like


I love to get the decor up on Thanksgiving weekend.

But with schedules around here, that tends to leave me disappointed.

So we put it up before Thanksgiving.  And since Thanksgiving is early this year, that means we put it up in the "teens" of November.  I'm perfectly ok with that!

Luke is thrilled.  "I can't stop looking at the tree," he says.  And several times a day he comes up to me and whispers "Can we go shop for Isaac's present now?"  I'm not sure why he's so fixated with getting his gift for Isaac wrapped and ready, but it's on his mind constantly!

I'm currently out of wrapping paper though, so I've put him off with the wrapping excuse - for now.

John Paul loves a ladder.  Adding a Christmas tree just upped the excitement level about six million notches.  He was giddy.

The big kids are really into the ornaments and which ones came from where, when, who, and all the stories.  Makes it really fun.

Now everyone is eager to get started on Advent.  I'm thankful for a few more days to round up the needed candles before next Sunday.

Now the living room has that perfect Christmas glow and we are ready for the season to begin!  (or maybe it already has!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

more mountains

The next morning we woke up, found some breakfast, did a bit of souvenir shopping (yak horn anyone?) and loaded the van.  Matt said he had parked it "right inside the city wall".  I just wasn't expecting this....

Friday morning we headed farther north, and farther into the mountains.  We left town at about 9500 ft, drove up to some higher grasslands at the 11,500 ish levels, and then started our descent.  Our next two nights would be spent at about 8000 ft and it made a big difference in temps!  No snow and we shed our outermost layers.

We lived with a family who operate a homestay - as in, we stayed in their home.  The grandma cooked breakfast and dinner.  That's Luke, just inside the front door.

The gate behind Lydia is the entrance to their courtyard (appropriately adorned with a few chickens, one somewhat ornery rooster, a black and white kitten, stacks of kindling and vegetable garden).

According to Isaac these cliffs are the "best part of their house" and also "the reason he wants to move there".  Left out the gate, past the firewood pile and up the cliffs.  Boy happiness.  All five kids spent hours working on these cliffs.  I was never entirely sure what they were working on, or working towards, but the pull was irresistible.

Our first afternoon we explored the mountain behind their house.  Grazing yaks, goats, sheep and horses added excitement to our upward trek and the sun baked hillsides were gorgeous.  We also had enough time to scour the area for walking sticks and Isaac picked up a bone (that our hosts identified as goat, though I'm not sure how).

Top of the hill.  Views of three snowcapped peaks (west, south, east).  And both of us in WFU gear.

Lots of great space to roam and explore.

"Home" for dinner and by then it was ooooooo chilly.  The main room of the house is heated by wood stove, the rest of the house is not.  Shared beds (big sis + little bro) plus piles and piles of blankets kept us warm.

The next morning the boys were back in the courtyard, waiting for breakfast and ready for more mountains.

We hired three horses and let the kids do a little riding on the way up.

Time for a family picture.

Everyone really enjoyed these horses.  Our 'guides' were three older villagers, and we could only communicate decently with one of them (these people are from a vastly different language group, and I understand exactly 0% of their language, nor did I ever even hear a sound that seemed familiar, even though I intently listened to two of them talk for a good chunk of time, hoping to just pick up on one little syllable worth of meaning).

We hiked back down and John Paul was proud as a peacock to carry his Daddy's pack.  And he carried it long and far.  He's a stout little guy, and more of a plodder than his mountain goat like older brother, but no one can deny that it's a strong 5 (almost 6!) year old who carries a pack that size down the mountain.

Also, the trail was pretty perfect.

Dinner for hungry and dirty (in all the best ways) house guests was served.

Last farewell picture of Lydia with our host grandma in the courtyard of their home. 

Sunday morning we started the long drive home (except hallelujah! we made it home in just over 7 hours, instead of the 8 we were anticipating).  The trick:  don't stop the van!  ha!  But seriously, we pulled off to the road side a few brief times, took care of our business and kept on rolling.

Our road trip hours were mostly filled with audio books.  The much enjoyed favorite was a Henry Huggins (Beverly Cleary) audio collection that I downloaded before we left home.  4 (5?) titles and we flew through chapter after chapter.  Though I'll be ready to upgrade our audio maturity level a notch or two, for now I'm grateful for this ... that we found great listening material that appeals to all in our little brood (it's not every book that can engage a 4 year old and a 10 year old).  Also, I might be a bit embarrassed to admit how many times Matt and I found ourselves chuckling at Henry, and his infamous neighbors Ramona and Beezus, and the general clamor on Klickitat Street.  [The kids were surprised to learn that Matt and I had both read some of these books as children.]

On the drive home we all talked about going back.  But we also passed a few new places we'd like to explore.  Hmmmm....

northern mountains

So we just got back to town after an incredible trip to the mountains north of here - the eastern end of the Himalayan range.

And during one of our long stretches in the car I got so excited thinking, "This is really just the beginning, our best years of family travel are definitely ahead of us!"

Last summer in Colorado Matt and I realized that if we wanted to live healthily (body, mind, soul) in this big (often grossly polluted) city - when neither of us are really 'city people' - then we needed to figure out a way to leave the city more often.

So this fall, right in the middle of the November crazy, we took a trip.  The timing was a little insane, and Matt left at the crack of dawn Monday morning, bound for the airport, but it was way worth it!

Wednesday afternoon we drove north.  We start heading into mountain territory about two hours outside the city, but this trip our first destination was 6 hour drive.  The first two hours are on four lane divided highway where we pretty consistently hit about 100 km/h (60 mph).  The last four hours are roughly half that speed :)

We finally arrived at our hostel-like destination a bit after 9pm.  It was inside the old city walls, which were all lit up at night - so pretty!  and a nice sight after hours on the road.

I had to hop out of the passenger seat to help Matt maneuver into our parking 'spot'.  There's nothing quite like hopping out of a warm car in the dark and spotting the snowy patches on the ground to help you realize really quickly how under dressed you truly are!  The outdoor temp was about 30 degrees, and everyone was tired and we mostly just focused on finding the place, getting to our room and getting everyone into the bed!

The next morning we got dressed in many layers (which we didn't take off for the next four days - ha!) and went out looking for breakfast.  Then it was off to the nearby national parks for the day.

Beauty.  Everywhere.

Off to visit Zhaga waterfall.  The viewing platform at the base was a popular spot, but the long climb up the waterfall and back down the other side didn't draw much crowd.  Nice for us :)  All those young sets of legs can climb stairs!

(looking down the waterfall)

Obligatory family shot at the base of the waterfall.  I hope the smiles in our Christmas card pic turn out better than these.  sigh.  And without a fancy lens we were only able to get about half the waterfall in the picture... but it's the thought that counts.

Next we headed 20 minutes down the road to a different park.  Lucky us, this one was widely discussed at the previous spot as "dry" and "not so pretty in the winter".  Matt had to talk the attendants into selling us tickets.  But Matt is an expert at these kind of conversational turns and with tickets in hand, we traipsed in.  For the next three hours we were alone except for a small group of maintenance men we passed halfway up the trail.

And beauty beauty beauty.

In the sunshine we felt "warmish".  In the shade I put on mittens.

{Eating lunch next to a small lake with an eerie green color.  Some of the lakes had thin sheets of ice on top, but nothing frozen solid - yet.}

After a wonderful afternoon with plenty of snow play, a few miles of hiking and even a lukewarm hot springs (which prompted a bit of conversation.... "Luke" - warm?) we drove the half hour back to our hostel and walked down the road for a quick dinner.


It was an earlier take on bedtime than our previous night, and we rested well.  good thing too, for we had more places to drive the next day!