Summer with Aly

We left New Zealand for America.  We were going as a family of 4 but we’d be returning to Thailand as a family of 3.  Well I’d be returning alone and 2 weeks later Michael and Sam would follow.  Aly would stay in America.

I’m not going to catch up to all that happened while we were in America, but here are some photos of the stuff we did with Aly this summer.

She graduated!!

Hi.  It’s been a while and a lot has happened while I’ve been away.

Our biggest 2015 news?  SHE GRADUATED!
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Academically? She definitely deserved to graduate.  But when it came to get out of bed and actually making it to class?  Well, that’s a different story.  Luckily for her it’s the school’s job to enforce their requirements and they aren’t so keen on doing that.  Go class of 2015!!

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In all seriousness – I am incredibly proud of her.  This third culture kid thing we signed her up for isn’t so easy and she has just plowed on through with very little complaining.  Senior year is hard for these kids and they know it and we know it and there’s nothing we can do about it but to bravely keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Hopefully, in the next few posts, I’ll catch up on what’s going on with her and us since her graduation.

**Spoiler alert – In January she’ll start uni in Japan.

seven years

Seven years ago today the kids and I arrived in Chiang Mai and began fumbling our way through the ins and outs of living here.  The only thing that is still the same as that day is that we are still pretty much fumbling our way through.

So what are we all up to now?  Chan is 20 and living in America, he’s taking a semester off from college and working.  We’ll see where that leads.  Aly has just started her last semester of high school, she’s applying to colleges and trying to decide just where it is she wants to go.  She’s trying to decide between Japan and the U.S. – that’s a big decision to make at 18.  Sam is now 15.  He’s currently studying for his G.E.D.  We’re still investigating how to make that happen.  He goes to school for Drama and is enjoying that very much.  Michael’s still working for Compassion, that’s who we moved here with 7 years ago.  He still travels a great deal, but maybe it’s slowing down a bit for the time being.  He’s also finishing up his Master’s Degree.  He’s worked hard to keep all those balls in the air and he’s done a great job.  I’m still rehabbing from my hip surgery.  Things are coming along, but it’s slow going.  I’m coaching CrossFit classes and have even been able to do some of the workouts.  That’s progress!  I’m currently working to lose my rehab weight.  Rehab eating was lots of fun, but the pounds I gained aren’t helping my hip.  I’m doing a Whole30. I’m almost half way through my 30 days and am seeing positive results.  If you’re interested I’ve started another blog keeping tabs on what I’m eating and what I’m doing during these 30 days.  I’m not sure if I’ll continue it past the 30 days, but we’ll see.

What does the future hold?  We’re not sure.  We know we’ll be back in the U.S. this summer for a few weeks, but we don’t have any plans to move back.  It’s kind of the same time line we’ve had since we moved here, we just don’t know.

Seven years has passed crazy fast.  We fumble through fewer things, but also find more things to fumble through.  I think that might be a never ending struggle.

2009

2009

2011

2011

2013

2013

2013

2015

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.

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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.

ryogoku and akihabara

we’re still rocking the can’t get ready and leave the apartment before noon thing so snackfast (that’s snack/breakfast – you know, just a little something to tide us over until we could find something more substantial) today came from the local 7.  and everybody seemed pretty content with that.  s13 & michael had american dogs or, as we call them in america, corn dogs.  the rest of us went the sushi route.

but one thing impressed us all –

yes, that is a ketchup and mustard packet.  so smart.

after lunch we were off to the train.  not sure what was different about today, but there were many school girls and their moms in the terminal – those uniforms and bags are so cute.

we managed to get tickets to the correct stop without any help at all today.  we didn’t look even slightly confused.  once we got to the station we went in search of the sumo museum and on our way we came across more bicycle parking.

we might have made a wrong turn out of the station and ended up going the long way around to the sumo museum, but a little more walking never hurt anyone, right?  once we got there we were sad to discover that there was an invite only kimono exhibition going on at the arena – and we didn’t have invites.  however, we could still get into the museum and the gift shop.  we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but we did get a few around the museum.

after the sumo museum we found lunch.  i’m not a huge fan of chinese food, so this wasn’t my favorite, but it was okay.

with full bellies we were off in search of yokoamicho park and the tokyo memorial hall and the great kanto earthquake memorial museum.  the memorials weren’t huge, but they were meaningful.

  

after yokoamicho park we made a quick jog across the street to kyu yasuda garden.  this wasn’t on the itinerary for the day – we just dumb lucked into it.

i also discovered that not all potties in japan are fancy japan potties.

the squatty potty hand rail is a nice touch.

after some relaxing in the garden we headed back to the train and, if i were kind i’d stop this post now, but our day continued and so must this post.  next stop – akihabara (this was a selection made by a16) – anime central, just one of many in tokyo.  today i learned that anime is not just for kids.  i ended up in comic book store where i am 100% certain i was the wrong gender and the wrong age for entrance.  shocking!

  

 

 

we also discovered maid cafes.  i mean we discovered their existence – we didn’t actually go in one.  i’m not sure i get the novelty of them.  but some folks must, because there are more than one.

  

 

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.