making a home

one of the things i’m looking forward to in colorado is making a home for our family.

i currently have three things hanging on walls in my house and they are all in odd locations because that’s where the nail or screw just happened to already be and that got me thinking…

when we moved to thailand we assumed we’d be here a long time.  a really long time, but we’ve never had a timeline.  we didn’t really know how long we’d be here when we arrived and each year came with either the promise of another year or the threat that we could be moving.  that makes it hard to create a home.  i’ve never put a nail into a wall here.  if something happens to be hung it’s because there was already a nail in place to hold it.  for christmas decorations we used temporary tape type things.  nothing permanent.  nothing that left a hole that would require filling in when we left.  we’ve lived in three houses here and i’ve painted one room.  the kitchen in the current house.  but it still doesn’t feel like my kitchen.  it’s just a borrowed kitchen i’ve painted yellow.

a while ago (while i was cooking christmas dinner) michael and i had a fight over a ladle.  i was cooking and i commented that i would be glad to not see this particular ladle once we moved.  he said that we should take it with us, a new ladle would cost money that we didn’t need to spend.  his statement might be true, but my only thought was that this ladle belongs in a kitchen that is in a house that’s never been our home (i also thought ladles are cheap and if i want a new ladle i’ll get a new ladle.)  i think it might have been the first time we had to think about our return being more than just a move.  while a lot of the steps are the same as the moves we’ve made in the past – making to do lists, packing boxes, arranging logistics… all that fun stuff – there’s something different on the other end.  something that i’m not totally ready to embrace, but something that i know will be good.

i’m looking forward to making a home.  i’m going to paint walls (lots of walls, but not all the walls) and i’m going to hang pictures.





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.


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.


you know how way-back-when when someone had their vacation pictures processed and then forced you to look through them all? that might be what my tokyo posts turn into.

the goals for today’s outing where the tokyo sky tree and ended up with a bonus – the world beer museum.  we started with competently managing the trains – well, mostly competently.  we also learned that if 5 white folks stand in front of the train map looking lost some kind person will step up to help.  thanks kind people.


michael was in charge of today’s itinerary and i didn’t study it too closely.  the only real goal we had for today was the tokyo sky tree.  michael knew he wanted to go to the world beer museum at some point, but we hadn’t connected the dots, yet, so we weren’t aware that they were at the same location until we were at said location.

we started with the beer museum – well, we actually started out getting our tickets for the sky tree and then ended up with a three hour wait and since we had empty bellies lunch was where we started.


after lunch we still had some time to kill so we wandered the mall and took advantage of several photo ops.


then the tree.  the sky tree.

the first stop was 350m.

then we headed up to 451.2m.

the pictures from that high looked surprisingly similar to the ones from the level below – i can’t tell which are which.  but we did find a mirror.

after the sky tree we were all exhausted.  we picked up dinner to go and headed home.  we took the long way to the nearest train station.  or rather the second nearest, the nearest didn’t have a train going the direction we needed it to go in.  but while we were wandering we did come across two separate bicycle parking lots.  bikes seem as big here as motorbikes in chiang mai.

we also got a cool view of the tokyo sky tree.  i bet the view from up there at night is amazing.

we made it back to the apartment and tucked in for dinner.  what did we eat?  pork cutlet sandwiches.  they were on a must eat while you’re in tokyo list that google showed me, so when i saw that we could get them at the mall (the brand google recommended no less) we went for it.  they were good.  i’d put them in the comfort food category.  and there’s no shame in being comfort food.



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.


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.


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.


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 –


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

and this is love

I have spent the past week on a Thailand Compassion Sponsor Tour. You might recall I did this last year, too. But this year has been different for me – we now have a sponsor child in Thailand and I got to spend a whole day with him. I have many tales to tell and they will come, but I am going to start with this one.

It’s about a husband and a father. A man who loves deeply, unselfishly, and unashamedly. He is currently a single dad – but not by choice. His wife has made some bad decisions. I do not know her story. I know she chose a lifestyle that is not compatible with raising children. I don’t know why she chose this, but I know we all make bad decisions, some more serious than others. Her’s started with her leaving her family and has now led her to jail. It has left her children motherless and her husband alone.

Her husband is raising their 12 year old son and their 11 and 9 year old daughters. The children attend school and they attend to their chores. They help their father. They are the picture of dutiful. I am sure that they do this because they feel it is their responsibility, but it is more than that. In the short time I spent in their home I was impressed by the love they so obviously have for each other. And by their hopefulness for a better future.

The father is a construction worker by trade. It is what he has spent his life doing, but he is no longer able to work as he once was. He has lost much of his sight and requires a great deal of light to see the very little he is able to see. He might be limited in what he is able to do, but he does still work. In construction. Doing the tasks he is able to “feel”. The ones that the years of doing over and over have caused to become like breathing for him. This does limit his earning potential. Some money is better than no money, but it’s not the same as enough. He was the one who did the cooking for the family. Chopping and slicing and stir-frying take on an added degree of difficulty when you cannot see what you are chopping and slicing and stir-frying so his son has taken over the cooking. He sits with his son and instructs him. He teaches him recipes, techniques, seasoning. His son hopes to be a chef one day and is daily being mentored for this by his father. His daughters both want to be teachers. He encourages them both. He tells them they can be teachers – that they are not defined by their current situation.

His wife is soon to be released from jail. He loves her dearly and He wants more than anything for her to return home – to be a mother to their children. To be a partner for him. He wants her to be an active part of their family. He has arranged for her to have a sewing machine. He has arranged clients for her. He has set her up to succeed. His children see this. They know what she has done. They know that there is stigma attached to her having been in jail. They know that their father does not have to welcome her back. And they see that he wants her. That he loves her. That he has not given up on her. And still she has a choice to make. She can choose not to return to them. To leave them motherless and their father alone or she can choose to join them. But the choice is hers. It has not been made for her.

Meeting this family helped me process an issue I’ve been struggling with. For a few months I’ve been working through a crisis of faith. I’ve been wondering just what it is that makes me worthy of God’s love. I know the answer to this – head knowledge they call it. But knowing and feeling are two separate things and my belief and my feelings weren’t in agreement. After meeting this family I realized that the way that husband loves his wife is just a shadow of the way God loves me. The way that husband wants his wife to be a part of their family is what God wants from me. God’s not going anywhere and the only thing he has for me is good. Plans for my success. And it’s my choice, no one can make it for me.

do the kids have to make up flood days

it has flooded.  people kept talking about it.  saying it was imminent.  or saying it wouldn’t reach us.  we weren’t sure who to believe, but we knew who we wanted to believe.  we did all the flood prep we knew to do.  and then we waited.

i went down to the bridge nearest our house and checked out the water levels.  they were definitely rising.  but the whole atmosphere there was so festive that it was hard to take it seriously.  food vendors were out vending food.  people were out playing in the first of the flood waters.  there were so many people gathered taking pictures and chatting and not being at all serious that it made it easy to for it not to feel “real”.


i made several trips out to check on the progress of the flood.  and while it was inching it’s way towards our house, it wasn’t inching in a way that was convincing to us.

and then it started on our street.  and then it started at our house.  and it kept it up at our house.  and we started feeling like the flood was a real threat.



and then the morning came and we woke to this.


yes, that is our car.  the tan one, not the black one.  but it’s good that the black one is in the picture so people can see we weren’t the only ones to not move our car to higher ground.

we tried to figure out what to do.  we had no idea.  we moved some of our already moved stuff around.  and then the cavalry came.


our faithful househelp.  i’m not certain it was wise to drive the motorbike all the way down our street and nong patty, their daughter, seems to not be certain that even getting out in the flood is a good idea (smart girl).  they helped us move the fridge to higher ground and the washing machine.  then they noticed things that we overlooked.  and then they noticed something we didn’t see at all.


the snake is trying to swim out on michael’s side of the window.  if you could hear what’s happening right now you would be deafened by the squeels and screeches of jim and myself.  luckily, michael got the window closed so it couldn’t escape.

khao killed the snake.  first he stunned it by whacking it with that stick several times.  he broke the screen doing it.  he did ask permission to break the screen, i thought a no longer living snake was a good trade for a screen.

a second after this shot was taken the back wall was splattered with snake blood.  that smack made sure it was good and dead.  and that snake convinced me that i’m not the kind that’s made of the stuff to wait out the flood in our flooded house.  that and the fact that the toilets would no longer flush.  that just makes for all kinds of ookeyness.

our rescue came from the compassion thailand office.  they sent a fantastic crew of guys out to help move us to a hotel.  luckily, they’d just had 2 days of disaster relief training.  little did they know they’d get to use it so quickly.

michael and i made a trip to the house this morning to check on the dogs.  things were definitely better.


tomorrow we will be returning to start the big clean up.  we’ve located a power washer to borrow and have the family on board.  we might regret not getting to it today, but the amount of water just outside the door made it seem a bit of a daunting task.  

there’s a typhoon headed our way and rumor has it that we should be under water again by tuesday.  i’m choosing to continue with my optomistic ways and think it won’t happen.  maybe i’ll change my mind before the water’s lapping at our front door.  but, hopefully, it really won’t happen.