Monday, July 2, 2018

mountain vacation part 1

For years Matt has suggested that we try to vacation in the big country.  And for years I've thought, "you have got to be joking".  The idea of trying to go on vacation inside the cultural stress that hovers every day seemed impossible.  But then, three years ago, we found a little mountain spot (and stayed in a hostel) and I started to think that I could relax, really relax, here.  

And the summer after that we spent in Colorado and we both felt like we needed to find some healthier ways to decompress while in country if we really want to keep thriving over the long haul.  So we renewed a desire to find some ways to get out of the big city, into the mountains, and find some restful spots within a reasonable drive.  [And I still don't love the drive - oh those roads can be a little too hairy for me - but we do it.]

Then last fall I heard about this new spot, gorgeous high mountains (second highest in the province, the tallest peak in the area is 20,000ft), not too far from us (4 hours on a good traffic day), and a sweet little guest house too. So we tried it out in May and fell in love.  And scheduled a 5 day trip in June! 

The guest house has 8 rooms and two yurts (large Mongolian tents).  This trip we stayed in a yurt and it was perfect for us.  They also allow us to pitch tents on their lawn so for a few nights Matt and some kids slept out in the tent.  The rest of the nights we squeezed into the yurt ;) We can still put a lot of people in a small space if we need to - ha!  

We left Monday morning and ran into a little traffic problem about halfway up the mountain!

By the time we turned down the steep driveway to the guesthouse the kids had the windows rolled down and were hollering for the guest house dog.  They were thrilled to be there! That night we roasted hotdogs and S'mores and the big kids stayed up late playing Bang with Matt. 

Tuesday morning we set off on a hike we enjoyed during our May trip.  Several great trails start right at the guesthouse.  The mountains were so much greener and the peaks had significantly less snow.  Oh, and the rivers were raging with all that snowmelt. 

Just such beauty to enjoy. 

And my favorite person to enjoy it with :) 

It had been a long and challenging two weeks leading up to and during the move.  I was so so grateful to be away from it all with this man. 

And just when John Paul's spirits were flagging and he needed to rest he discovered this animal skull.... spirits revived!  He carried it all the way back to the guest house and propped it outside our door for the remainder of the week (no, we did not bring it back home with us).

And that's it for the first full day.  More in the next post....

sports camp

The week after we moved in all five kids participated in a 3 day sports camp for expat kids in our city!  It was the perfect break from moving stress and I was so grateful for the sweet staff who really served our children in meaningful ways.

Luke and Lydia came home with camp awards on day 1.

And then day 2 three more kiddos brought home awards :)

This is my fav John Paul smile from this summer.  He was just thrilled to be recognized as Player of the Day!

Julianna was one of just a few tween girls at camp and sports aren't always her first choice but she had a great attitude and really enjoyed herself!

Camp was on the 12th floor rooftop of a downtown shopping mall.  Not where I went to sports camp as a kid, but it works!

And with the end of sports camp we started packing for a mountain trip!  woohoo vacation!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

we did it! MOVED!

Once again I've been away from the blog- and I'm heading out of town for the next week.  But I will be back in July! Promise!!

We did move, and it was a lot of work, and that's one of my excuses for lack of computer time!

The move happened in stages (I'm still not sure if that was a good plan or not, but it's what we did, and it worked).  The kids and I started moving stuff upstairs (from the 2nd floor to the 8th floor) on Tuesday - the same day that workers moved our curtains and our air conditioning units.  Cool air and privacy drove us upstairs  - ha!

The first day we moved what we could carry, and it was a lot!  My kids worked so hard!!!  And that night we slept on our mattresses in the new house - but no bed frames.... too heavy for us!

The rest of that week we gradually moved things upstairs.  More and more furniture, and using a moving cart we got some pretty heavy stuff moved too.  The girls and I did the kitchen one day and it went great!

Luke was my most faithful helper!  I am not even kidding!  He worked so hard and pushed this little cart so many trips!

And he - and everyone else - is loving this favorite spot in our new place!

then on Saturday Matt led the charge and we had tons of people show up to help!  It was such an encouragement to be surrounded by so many friends who sweated and carried and just generally loved and served our family so well.

So it was a little wild for a while but we did it!  MOVED!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

weekends are for sleepovers

Every weekend, it seems, most every weekend.  And we love it - kids here, kids there.  I'm happy when the house is full and fuller.  Last Friday we had 8 kiddos under this roof and it makes for a busy time ordering dinner (thanks Matt for handling this one while I took the photo!)

This restaurant is just a block or two from our house - pick the meats and veggies you want, they drop it all in a big spicy pot and cook it to perfection.  The trick is in the picking of the meat and veggies, everyone has their favs and likes to ensure their selection is well represented in the stash! 

What could be better than 3 well-armed sons?  A few friends in tow.  I never fear for my safety when I'm out with this crew.  

And the next morning? Nerf war.  This (and legos) is an all day every day kind of event around here.  I encourage them to aim clear of the kitchen, but every now and then a stray bullet bounces off my rear end :) At least they claim it's a stray bullet!

This next weekend we hoped we would be moving, but it's postponed, again.  Sigh.  So I'm guessing there will be sleepovers, and I'll happily tuck in the extra kiddos (and yes! we send our kids to other houses too). 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

my birthday celebration

With Matt back in town and the conference over it was time to celebrate ME :) 

Luke had been especially anxious for this day to come and we started the party early with gifts before breakfast!  He is smitten with me and I'm loving it!  

And this son, John Paul.  Recently I've been having "I can't believe I get to call this boy mine" moments and I think it just comes in waves, the crazy gift of this child.  Also, he knows I like chocolate. 

Older, wiser, more mature, yet still young enough to hold hands with his mama and doesn't fall asleep without a kiss.  9 years old is pretty perfect for this guy.  

Her gift for me was a key lime pie and I exercised all sorts of restraint to wait until dinnertime to dig in!  This girl is really turning a leaf, seems so mature and taking on all kinds of responsibility and handling it well and man, she is a treat!

Yep, almost as tall as me.   Maybe by her next birthday? Or mine? Or maybe a bit longer?  I think both of the girls will eventually pass me in height.  Being her mama is one of my favorites, even on the days when the tween-teen transition is in full force! 

and how did I miss a picture with my man?  Lunch date and all the ways he serves me every day!  I'm just happy to be his.  On my Happy Birthday. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

my birthday week

My birthday week was a biggie!  Matt was traveling, our dear friends were visiting, and the bi-annual homeschool conference was happening.  Whew!  It was a lot of juggling and irregular schedules and hugging and laughing and late nights and joyful smiles.

I'm so thankful that my girls have such great friendships!  These girls are special. 

Thursday before the conference started Friday (and the day of my actual birthday) I helped host the conference keynote speaker who held writing classes for our children!  It was amazing!  Andrew Pudewa is a big deal name in the homeschooling world and I CANNOT believe that our kids were in a class with him and that I got to host him that day!

I've used his curriculum with all three of the big kids and the little guys will start in the next 12-18 months!  Yay for IEW and the kids felt like they were meeting a celebrity!

Mr. Pudewa is truly a master teacher! I love teaching and I love teaching writing and I felt like I was an understudy in the classroom as I watched him Thursday. 

I got home late that evening and collected the kids from their various spots (yay for friends who helped cover me on the kids during the day! - it was a team effort) and then I got everyone in bed and a few minutes later heard footsteps in the hall.  

Without even looking up I said, "Luke, get back in the bed."

"But Mom, I have something to tell you."

"Well, you can tell me in the morning."  {we all have nights like this, right?}

"But Mom, I lost a tooth!"

"Ok buddy.  I'm glad you told me.  And let's get a pic of that sweet toothless smile to send along to Daddy and aren't you growing up faster than I wish!"

And then I launched into the conference and Matt got home Friday afternoon and I was relieved to have kiddo help and I loved every minute of the conference.  Mostly I'm just in awe that I get to walk this homeschool journey with such sweet friends who are IN IT WITH ME and I'm so grateful that I get to teach my children at home.  What a privilege.

oh, and Matt?  He spends a lot of his travel time back and forth to the same destinations. So it was special that on this week, though he was away, he was enjoying a brand new spot.  And it was a good one to be enjoyed!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

curly heads and plates of noodles


As the weather gets warmer and the girls get sweatier these two just look more and more alike.  Without a height difference they could pass for twins.

And when they are both tucked over a plate of noodles?  Priceless.

Friday, May 18, 2018

new desks for the little boys

In our new apartment we will have a school room!  And in that school room the little boys will have desks!  This is a big upgrade from their initial spot at the kitchen table and everyone is excited for them!

We ordered little desks and - obviously - opened them up and put them together as soon as they arrived.  The boys were ecstatic.  We don't really have a spot for them in our current apartment, but I put them on the back porch (where the lighting isn't super great, but it's only for a few weeks).

I've loved watching their new excitement for school now that they have their own spot.  It also really streamlines the morning for me and they are so cute together, especially when comparing math work - ha!  Little bro is pretty motivated to catch up to John Paul and I'm totally ok with it because I like when siblings can school together, so much easier for me.

and in just a few weeks we will finish (mostly) for the summer, but the desks will be moving upstairs, and come this fall everyone will have their own spot in the school room!  yay

apartment update

Progress!  Interior doors were installed yesterday.  Next week is wall paint and then flooring.  The following week should be kitchen (countertops, cabinetry, etc) and bathrooms (toilet, sink, the works).  We set a tentative move date of June 9th.  And I think we will make it :)


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Four Sisters Mountain

We live right on the edge of the world's most impressive mountain range.  And you'd never know it.  Roads are bad (but improving!) and most of the area is remote and isolated and national/provincial investment in creating and preserving natural areas is limited.

But we are getting out more.  And loving it.

Monday we bought a car top carrier.  It arrived Thursday late afternoon and we loaded it that night!  Matt was going to be out late on Friday and I didn't want to load the car at midnight, so we decided to just leave it parked in the parking garage (which we can barely squeeze out of with a loaded car top, but if you drive just right you can make it!).  Then Saturday morning we were on the road at 7:15.  We were expecting a 4 hour drive and made it in just a bit less, which is always a nice way to start a trip.

Oh, and the car top carrier meant we could bring some camping gear!  Our van is pretty small, and without the car top carrier we can each pack a few changes of clothing and that is it!  Exciting for us to have more packing options now!

We met our friends up there and did a little hiking before an afternoon rain storm sent us running indoors.

We had a room at this guest house, and also a tent on the lawn.  It was perfect!   The guesthouse is at 10,000.... so it was good to get a short hike in on Saturday because we wanted to try something a bit more aggressive on Sunday morning.

There are a lot of goat herds in the area, and also yaks that are grazing at higher elevations during the summer months.

The trails were nicely maintained and the bridges were super cool!  We crossed the river multiple times :)

Saturday night we decided to axe our first plan (hotdogs over the fire) and drove into the little town for dinner.

By the time we got back the rain was gone and the mountains peeking out of the clouds and just the right spot for S'mores!

Saturday we started our hike with gobs of energy and snacks and excited children!  It was a perfect day!

We had a blast!

We were back at the guest house in time for a mid-afternoon lunch of roasted hotdogs and a second round of S'mores.

This was the view from the guest house, looking towards the hike.

Wherever we went we enjoyed the company of Huan Huan, the guesthouse dog.  She was amazing, and charmed all of us.  I'm not much of a dog person, but if we lived out in the sticks I would want this dog for my own.

Hanging out around the guest house was a treat too.  Rivers to wade in (but not too far in, it was icy cold snow melt and flowing fat!), and rocks to throw and sticks to gather.

Happy Happy Happy.  Everyone was just so happy.

Sunday evening the weather was dry and Matt and these little guys slept in the tent that night!  So fun for them! Their first tent camping and it was a huge success.

Monday morning NO ONE wanted to go home.  NO ONE.

We sat by the river, and sat by the river, and sat by the river a little longer.  But eventually the vans were packed and we started the road back home.  First up was crossing a 12,000 ft pass - we crossed it on the way in but it was overcast and cloudy.  On the way out?  Well, the views did not disappoint!

The highest peak below is 20,510 feet!  That is crazy high!

I could have spent the first two hours of the drive home hanging halfway out the window taking pictures.  I'm not sure we could ever have a day so clear or so beautiful again.  It was perfect :)

Big city life isn't a super great fit for either of us.  Honestly, I think most of our kids would be happier living out in the sticks.  But that isn't in the plans for us right now, and in the meantime we are making plans to head back out to the mountains at the end of June!