the beginning of the end of an era

today is the first day aly’s last year of high school.  and – if no one in my family changes their mind – it’s also the first day of our family’s last year of traditional school.  i’m finding dealing with both has me feeling all kerfuffle-y.  it hasn’t been all that long since chan went through his last year of high school and i still remember how raw it was.  how all year long the coming change felt so close to the surface.  i’m trying to not protect myself from those feelings this year.  i want to fully experience this whole year with aly (appropriately, of course, i have no plans to go to prom).  i don’t want to fall into a been there done that attitude, either.  this is her experience and while it will have its similarities to chan’s it won’t be the same at all.

aly

at the end of the last first day of high school.

she and michael were in the states this summer and she toured college campuses.  she even found one she wants to apply to.  she also wants to apply to a college in japan.  so much change to come.  so little time to savor and no way to stop the clock.  i wouldn’t really want to.  she’s gonna have an awesome year.

along with her last year of school is our family’s decision to not send sam back to school this year.  over the past few years it has become more and more apparent that traditional school is not the best for sam.  we’re taking the road less traveled (so to speak).  he’ll come out of it with a high school certification and he won’t be shutting any doors he might want to walk through in the future, but for his well being – and the well being of our family – this is the best path we can find.  we are very thankful that the school will allow him to audit drama this year and that they have left the door open should he decide the classroom really is where he wants to be.  it’s scary for me.  i’m a rule follower and this isn’t how high school is supposed to be done.  (this is a little funny because we homeschooled our oldest two for several years, and that’s not how elementary school is supposed to be done.  even better?  it was my choice to do it.)  i also think it’s good that we live abroad as we are making this decision.  not that there aren’t plenty of people who support homeschooling in the states (i think that’s what you would consider what we are doing).  at this age it feels like it’s more sam schooling with a some parental oversight.  many of the non-american westerners around us have been very encouraging of our decision.  they’ve told us it’s not uncommon in their countries for how a kid is educated to change at this age.  it seems only us americans have a one size fits all attitude when it comes to education.

so big changes ahead for us and i’m just holding on to the knowledge that we’ll come out okay on the other side of all this.

yoyogi park

tokyo – day one.  (i’ve done the planning for this vacation with the help of the many people who have taken the time to rate must see attractions in tokyo.)  today we started with yoyogi park.  getting a late start (it was after 12:00 by the time everyone got up and dressed) wasn’t the best for being able to fully enjoy the goings on at yoyogi park, but we still had a great time.

we started our trip out hungry so first order of business was finding lunch.  which meant a walk out of our neighborhood for a little exploring.  right off the bat we came across a picture of tommy lee jones hawking canned coffee.  who knew?

then we found a mirror.

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we walked down ninja alley – that’s not an official name, but since we know we are staying in the ninja district michael’s certain this is where they did their ninja stuff.  just like michael.

a restaurant.  where we had to point and pray that the pictures were a good representation for what we ordered.

not one complaint – everyone left happy and full.  right now we’re all in agreement that japanese food rocks.

 

dr. pepper in japan – what the what??

  

we tackled the train system next.  i didn’t get any pictures of our struggles doing this.  it wasn’t overly difficult, but the language barrier was noticeable and it took a lot of focus to make sure we got headed the right direction.  but once we got where we were headed we came out of the station to see takeshita street and lots of people – including these gals who seemed to be just hanging out.

and then we got lost.  so we did lots of walking.  and this drove by us – i had no idea what they were but the guys got very excited.  from what i could gather from what the boys were saying is that they’re like life size rock ‘em sock ‘em robots.  i can see that they could be pretty cool.

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chan decided to see if he could help.  he took the map and had a seat – a wet seat.  he was a big help – laughter always lightens the mood.

eventually we found yoyogi park.  where we were greeted by some very friendly folks.  we grabbed a few free hugs and high fives, but they were so fast we didn’t get any pictures.

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finally we headed into the park.

it was beautiful.  and cool.  but not too cold.  just right.  there were fish to look at and turtles to watch.

and some not so fancy potties with worrisome signs.

barrels of sake wrapped in straw.  you can read about it if you want.

casks of wine for consecration.

and incredibly we came across the travelocity gnome.

it’s a little known fact that gnomes take all the get-up-and-go out of you.

eventually we did get up and go again.  and – amazingly – we found another mirror.

we finished at the park and headed out for the two other things on my list that we had to do while we were in this part of tokyo.  one was find the hachikō statue.

go us!  and the other was see shibuya crossing.  conveniently, that’s where the hachikō statue is located.

we were all exhausted and hungry so we ate at mcdonald’s.  that was chan’s choice.  he says you’re supposed to try mcdonald’s everywhere you go.  it’s some kind of travel law – or something.  i don’t know what i ordered, but it was pretty good.  everyone else ordered what they would have at any other mcdonald’s and they said it was better than they’d had before.  the only thing i’m certain of is that this extablishment had the best  fancy japan potty i’ve ever experienced at a mcdonald’s.

the button that looks like it plays music doesn’t really.  it plays toilet flushing sounds.  my guess is for discretion.

better with age

last year there was a post on the oprah blog that listed 24 things that get better with age.  24 seems an odd number.  25 would be better.  i’ve got an excellent idea as to what number 25 should be, but first the 24 from her list:

  • Ford Mustangs
  • A wheel of gouda
  • Sea Glass
  • A cast-iron skillet
  • Amish friendship bread
  • Cowboy boots
  • Scrapbooks
  • Single-malt scotch
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Ivy-covered walls
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Blue jeans
  • A rib-eye steak
  • Stereo headphones
  • Your sense of self
  • Love letters
  • Hardwood floors
  • Peonies
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Chinese century eggs
  • A baseball mitt
  • Diamonds in the rough
  • Your vocabulary
  • George Clooney (this one seems somewhat subjective)

and here’s my suggestion for number 25 -

10yrs

this could also serve as a reminder that 10 years is too long to wait to have pictures taken.

and now the catch up begins

no worries, i’m not gonna try to catch you guys up too much, but you might ought to prepare yourself for the next few posts to be about the mostly recent past – starting as recent as this past weekend…

michael was invited to train a course in muak lek, thailand.  the folks who invited him were kind enough to invite the rest of the family along, too.  c19 had other, more pressing, senior-y type things to do, but a16, s13, and i were game for a weekend at a resort and 24/7 air con.  the other thing we were all looking forward to was picking up krispy kreme donuts while we were at the don muang airport in bangkok – i’ll get back to that.

we flew into DMK – that’s don muang airport.  and were picked up and given a ride to muak lek – a few hours outside of bangkok.  we arrived after the dining room was closed.  but not to be starved we headed out to find some dinner and lucked into a little mookata restaurant – a thai bbq place where you’re in charge of your own grill.

after dinner we checked into our rooms (wish i’d taken a picture, we had a very nice 2 bedroom/2 bathroom with a living room cabin).  we quickly (there might have been a little drama) divided up boys’ room and girls’ room.  turns out brothers and sisters – when they are a 16 year old girl and 14 year old boy – aren’t so keen on room sharing.

michael had to be up bright and early to start teaching, but the rest of us slept in, then breakfast and an entire day of nothing.  i had a little work to do and some reading i wanted to catch up and some air-con i just wanted to soak up.  so it was sort of a day of nothing.

on sunday we got up, headed to worship and then the kids and i ventured out to chet saonoi waterfall.  it was nice and cool and very pretty.

Imagewe hiked around for a bit and then headed out to what see what google said muak lek was famous for – the milky way.  there are a lot of dairies.  big ones.  and farm chokchai is all set up for tourists.

2013-05-05 11.07.30the kids fed calves.  they had ice cream shakes.  really, really good ice cream shakes.  we felt a little guilty about eating burgers.  and we skipped the tour.  i was the only one really interested in it – it was 2.5 hours long and all in thai.  if we’d made prior arrangements english could have been arranged, but since my dairy thai isn’t all that good i figured the kids were right on this one.

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no matter how hard those helpful thai ladies pushed those cows wouldn’t move

and besides, i was coming down with a migraine.  and if you’re gonna have a migraine and take to the bed, it’s very, very nice to be able to do that in an air-conned room.

michael had to train a good bit of monday and then it was time to return to the airport.  michael was a little slow getting through security – he’d forgotten about the 8 pairs of scissors he had in his backpack.  but they were discovered and confiscated and then we were on our way.  we quickly located krispy kreme.  it was open.  and it was donut-less.  not one donut.  there was a little disappointment, but not too much.  everyone knows we’re only weeks away from the land of donuts.

we got home a little late on sunday night and kids returned to school on monday.

there was a little bit of melancholy on the trip as every so often someone found it necessary to comment on this trip for four being what next year would be like all the time.  (it’s possible i’ll work c19′s imminent departure into any posts between now and the day it happens.)

sort of like a field trip

…but without the adult chaperones.

this summer the kids headed to their grandparents’ house in america.  and to get there they had to fly. unaccompanied.  by themselves.  without parents.  i would say without adults, but one of them is an adult. (wow – i have an adult child).  but he’d never flown alone, much less with his siblings in tow.  to get to my parents house they had to manage four different airports, in three different countries.  but at least they were together.

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ticket counter in chiang mai

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security

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passport check

one of the airports was in frankfurt, germany.  where the drinking age for beer and wine is 16 and hard liquor is 18.  and since they were flying lufthansa that was the drinking age on the plane, too.  go c18.

they were there five weeks.  five weeks.  that’s a long time to be childless.  and it seems a long time for my parents, who have been childless for quite a while now, to have kids around.  but i wasn’t worried about that.  they all coped.  and they made memories.  and then they returned.

the oldest two returned together.  they left d/fw a little late.  which put them into washington d.c. a little late. a little too late to catch their connecting flight to germany.  so they stayed overnight.  the airlines put them up in a hotel and gave them vouchers for food.  but at 1am they decided it would be a good idea to head out looking for a 7-11.  i haven’t heard a lot of positive things about the streets of our nation’s capital.  but they were fine.  got some snacks.  made their flight the next day.  instead of germany they went to tokyo.  and instead of about 8 hours in the air they got to fly for 14.  and they got to spend the night in the airport in bangkok.  they arrived in chiang mai a day later than planned, but they arrived.

the youngest returned with michael.  they had flight issues, too.  but nothing major.  their biggest problem was arriving without luggage.  but the luggage had all made it by the time we picked the big kids up.

all three kids made great memories.  my parents were awesome.  they really tried to find something that each kid would enjoy. however… if the occasion every rises for us to send the kids to the states again, we will definitely ask permission before booking the flights.  but i sort of think this was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  next summer we’ll all be in the states and we’ll most likely be leaving one behind.  and then who knows what summers will bring.

USA, I mean AUS

I am going to Australia.  Alone.

I am going to hug koala bears, box with kangaroos and wrestle with wallabies (because I just know they are on every corner).  I am not going to watch toilets flush the wrong direction (because my friend says they just go straight down, no swirling involved).  And I’m going to hang out with Nicola – she’s a real dag.

She lives in Australia!  Where I am going!!  Yee Haw!  I mean Jingoes!

 

peek a boo

so… where do i begin.

i’m now the mom of a high school senior.  wow.  his brother and sister are now in the 8th and 10th grade.  we’ve completed the school year and we’re all none the worse for wear.  picked up report cards today.  pleased with those.  i’ve got some smart kids.

the last few weeks have been crazy.  non-stop activity.  plays, prom, finals.  and all that they entail.  but how quickly we transition because we’re already in summer mode.  there’s not enough food in the house (true).  there’s nothing to do (not true).  it’s hot (sort of true, it’s been hotter). the summer is already dragging out forever in front of us.   so what do we have planned?

michael has a trip to india and the united states.  and maybe sri lanka.  the kids are going to america and i’m staying here. by myself.  2 weeks alone.  haven’t experienced that in a long while.  and i’m hoping to visit a friend who lives in australia.  (squeeee!)  i’ve heard their toilets flush the wrong direction.  i might spend the whole trip just checking that out.  we can chat while i flush toilets, right?  and at the very tail end of the summer michael and i are headed to bali!  (and by tail end i mean we will be gone for the start of the school year, but the kids will be here and they’re the ones that need to go – so it’s all good.)

i learned something new in the past few weeks.  you can’t travel on a passport that is to expire within 6 months.  who knew?  (i’m sure everyone but me).  this isn’t a problem for michael or me.  but the kids’ passports all expire in september.  and they are traveling in june.  michael and i had to go together to get their passports.  c18 was good to go, he’s an adult, he didn’t need our help.  but, for the other two, it takes both parents to get a passport.  so we applied tuesday.  and they promise a 2 week turn around.  and the kids leave in 16 days from when we applied.  and we need to get their thai visas transferred into the new passports.  i’m sure it will be fine.