Category: Daily Life

Preparing to Leave

I apologize ahead of time to anyone reading this blog post, as it’s more of a brain dump than anything else. But if you are curious to know what’s up in our corner of the world, read on!

The Phoenix Alliance. We’ve found that starting a foundation from the ground up is such a learning experience. We work late into the night after tucking the kids into bed, then upon falling asleep dream about things like ethical storytelling and beneficiaries needing a home and graphic design and everything else. When we wake up there always seems to be more work than the day before. Thankfully we have had several awesome people join our volunteer team lately and that has already helped significantly!

Homeschooling. We’re in the final stretch of our school year, and about to promote a ninth-grader, seventh-grader, fifth-grader, and second-grader. The last few weeks are always challenging, but through God’s grace we were able to get ahead in our studies this year and will not have to carry into the summer! The kids have all become passionate about languages thanks to living overseas, and between the three girls they are all working on improving their Thai and learning Lahu, Norwegian, Japanese, and Latin.

Packing. Oh the packing! It’s interesting what you find inside suitcases that have been sitting in the corner for a couple of years. Every single one had to be thoroughly cleaned from dust, spiderwebs, and gecko poop. We found THE most fantastic way to pack and move stuff overseas three years ago, with Walmart rolling storage crates. They are $20 each, and pretty much the maximum size “suitcase” that the airlines will allow. Some of them have been back and forth to the States a couple times and are still in pretty great condition. I can’t recommend them enough for travel.

Selling. If it’s too big to pack or not extremely necessary, it’s getting sold. There are days when I’d just like to put everything by the side of the road and let people help themselves! Not even kidding, in the last couple of weeks I’ve had people ask if I would deliver a 20 baht item to the other side of town, sell things for less than half of what we’re asking, mail 50 baht items to them, and more. We’re so thankful for the wonderful people who understand how busy you are when you are moving and come to us!

Our foster son. While I’ve wanted to give updates on our pursuit of bringing him home, it has been a long journey filled with discouragement. We are being helped by a local ministry that works with the Lahu tribe as we navigate the many requirements. He has a wonderful family to stay with while we continue to pursue every last option from the States. Please continue to pray for God to work in this situation.

Visa requirements. Our last visa was an education visa, and required me to take language classes several times a week. After our first year abroad several well-meaning friends asked, “So, you’re probably fluent now, right?” My only response to that was to laugh, probably  a bit hysterically. We’ve met plenty of people who have lived here for over ten years and still don’t speak the language. The Thai language is hard, people!

 

All the goodbyes. Ugh, goodbyes are the worst. And Thai people are so wonderful. It has been hard saying goodbye to so many who have touched our lives so much in the past three years. The picture below is with our mechanic. (It says a lot about the state of your car when you’re that close to your mechanic, am I right?) But it has seriously been like this with all of our Thai acquaintances and friends. Even the friend chicken ladies down the street cried. (Possibly because they’re losing a big portion of their income now that our gargantuan family is moving away, but we’ll pretend it’s for other reasons.) 😉

 

Tomorrow we will be down to two weeks left in our adopted country. We will try to do another update soon!

 

News, Finally!

Nine days. That’s how long it takes to get biopsy results in Thailand. It could be the same elsewhere; I don’t know. But it has been a long nine days.

I knew right away when they said my appointment was between 1:00 and 3:00 today that I was most likely in for a long wait. We were shocked the first time we tried to go to a doctor here and realized it’s common to show up and be seen in the order you have arrived. Two hours waits are not unusual. With that in mind, I showed up at the hospital at 1:00 on the dot.  I started to feel hopeful when I saw no one else in the waiting area. After a quick blood pressure check I had to go sit back down in the waiting room, and waited, and waited some more. After a while a nurse came out and I thought This is it!  But no, she was only coming to ask me if I wanted to go home and come back in an hour. Yes, seriously. I couldn’t believe it. I told her we live too far away from the hospital to do that, and I’d just wait. She looked properly horrified by this, and told me that the doctor was eating lunch and would be gone for a long time.

Thankfully, within about fifteen minutes the nurses seemed to collectively take pity on the foreigner and one of them came over to me. With great trepidation I watched as she pulled the results out of an envelope and pointed to the three little words: no malignancy seen. It was a grand moment, one that definitely should have been celebrated with balloons and streamers and hamburgers (our biggest western-food craving most days). But instead I smiled at the nurse, texted our people, and gathered up my things to go.

We’re thankful for the prayers of everyone and especially just knowing that we weren’t alone, although we are physically thousands of miles away from home. I realize women everywhere go through this, but there was just something about it happening in a foreign country that made it more disturbing.  We’re thankful that God is always in control, he gives peace in all situations when we ask for it, and for good health!

Full House, Full Hearts

Do you ever feel that other people are gifted in an area you will never grasp?  I certainly have. Hospitality is a topic I’ve always ignored at women’s retreats, figuring it wasn’t my forte. My friends who enjoy arranging flowers and have multiple sets of matching china can rule over that domain. My giftings? Well, I have no idea. But I know it’s not hospitality….right?

God uses a variety of circumstances to shape our character. Despite my feelings about hosting people, I had to get over my discomfort years ago when Bubba required a therapist to spend hours each day working with him in our home. In the beginning it wasn’t someone we chose, and the program required that she take notes on his behavior and our handling of said behavior. Although the goal of the program was to help families learn better strategies for raising their special needs children, it was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. I already felt laid bare by the fact that someone was seeing how clean (or not clean) I kept the house, but then to add behavior assessment to a mom of four young children…it was a refining time to say the least.

As Bubba grew older, we had more than one therapist come to work with him.  I gradually became more comfortable having non-family in the home. So comfortable that we didn’t mind at all taking on a live-in volunteer nanny/school helper when we first moved to Thailand! Our home at that time had five regular bedrooms and two rooms designated as “maid’s quarters,” so there was plenty of room for the seven of us.

After G came to live with us it was yet a further stretching, as we became accustomed to a new culture in our home. I don’t wash dishes the Thai way, and there was a bit of tiptoeing around each other as we navigated what we each preferred. Such as the doors being left open constantly, letting all the outside things become inside things. We assumed this was from growing up in huts that didn’t have doors. When her brother joined us, we adjusted further by working to use more Thai language, keeping in mind that they were also adjusting to an entirely different culture.

We moved to a new home last summer, with just three bedrooms.  It was yet another adjustment but the village we are in now is very peaceful.

The recent development with our sweet friend, whom we have referred to as Nan, has led to not just her and her little one moving in, but her husband as well. They are both working extremely hard to afford their own home in the village. They are not seeking what you might expect from a young married couple in a first-world country. They are saving to build one-room hut. With the average Thai salary being 13,500 baht per month (about $430) and young workers earning closer to 6,000 baht (less than $200), it takes a long time to save for even the simplest of grass huts. Our hope is that we can help them save money more quickly by sharing our home.

Oh, we do look back on that seven room house and laugh at home much room we had compared to the three rooms we have now!  In case you are new to the blog, you can read here about our reasons for moving.

Just last week Ethan and I were talking with Nan, and she mentioned that her 16 year old little brother was graduating from high school. (Thai schools offer early graduation at 16, followed by vocational college, or regular graduation at 18 followed by University). She then mentioned that he is a ladyboy. Ladyboy culture is glorified here in Thailand, with a seemingly endless stream of young men dressing and acting as women and saving for gender reassignment hormones and surgeries. Ethan and I casually talked about what we’d do if Nan asked us if her brother could stay with us. Would we allow a ladyboy into our home? This would take “hosting” to yet another new level. But we realized that it would be an incredible opportunity to share Christ’s love and minister to this young man, and we both agreed that we’d say ‘yes’ if the situation ever came up.

Almost immediately after that, and I suppose not surprisingly, Nan asked us if her brother could stay with us for a little while. We had to laugh as we said yes, knowing that God has softened our hearts and prepared us in advance, opening our eyes to the ministry he has in mind for us. Mai bpen rai.

I’ve been reflecting lately on how God has worked in our lives in so many ways over the years. I would never have thought I’d become so comfortable hosting people, let alone people so very different from what I am familiar with. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned. I hope this will encourage someone.

It can be awkward, but that stage passes quickly.  

Where do we start? From everyone’s laundry hanging out in full view constantly, to trying to be polite when your houseguests are cooking with smelly fish paste, we are challenged daily. But as time passes, we find that the little things don’t really matter. Only when we hold onto our own ideas of what we think life should look like do we feel disappointed by our present reality. Letting go is incredibly freeing and joyful.

You don’t have to be rich to be generous.

We are certainly not rich. In fact, our finances sometimes make no sense at all and we just trust God to be the faithful provider He always is. We are so incredibly grateful for that provision! When God has proven Himself so ultimately trustworthy, who are we to hold onto what we are given and limit who can be blessed by it?

Being hospitable doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect.

This was a big misunderstanding for me for so long. It’s human nature to want to look our best around people. But God doesn’t ask for that; in fact I believe that people feel more welcome when they see our imperfections shining through. Yes, my hair can look crazy in the morning. Sometimes our trash overflows, and sometimes there are smells that take concerted effort to identify and eradicate. Sometimes we don’t have the perfect attitude, or say and do the perfect things. But that’s real life, and it’s okay.

God may have a different idea of who we are are to open our hearts to than we do.

It’s no secret that our family is passionate about adoption. For years we’ve dreamed of filling our home with little ones who need a family. Emphasis on “little”, as we had decided (ha ha) to not adopt anyone older than our youngest child. However, God has brought some little and some not-so-little ones to our door. I’ve learned that hospitality is not just for the attractive and desirable; it is for those who need hospitality.

 

Though we are far from being model hosts, I hope that this will encourage anyone who has ever struggled with this area of ministry.  May God bless you as you step out… and let others in.

 

The Trials of Doi Hang

I never imagined that an innocent, pleasant afternoon like this one would make me see the world in such a different way. I gazed up at the gorgeous turquoise sky; the scent of fresh cut grass around me brought memories of summer days I’d forgotten. Walking bicycles out of a long rocky driveway with my tenacious and determined older sister, we set off into the wilderness, and began, an unanticipated adventure into a rice farming village that had recently become our home. At first, we effortlessly peddled our faithful bicycles along a quiet stretch of road. While we were not at home, we took the chance to admire fruit trees and overgrowth of pure jungle. Our destination? A Buddhist temple on a mountain. Not necessarily being my idea to go, I was confused as to why my sister would want to go to a Buddhist temple. A thought shot through my brain, “Gunya is a Christian, because she loves Jesus with all her heart. She may have followed the Buddhist practices two years ago, but certainly not now.” I thought. “So, why in the world does she want to go hike a mountain just to see that?” In short- I was very confused. You see, Gunya is Thai. Raised in a tribal village where she worked for her meals, she experienced things people never imagined possible. So when she saw that slope shooting up into the distance, standing right up in front of us, she had absolutely no intention of slowing down.

The idea, in my head, of a calm afternoon bike ride, quickly charged downhill. Or should I say, uphill. Neither Gunya nor I could force our tired limbs to pedal further, so we continued on by walking our bikes up the hill; with heaving breaths we trudged up. The peak was just ahead, with one last overly dramatic war cry we reached the top, air forced itself into my lungs, I helplessly looked at my sister, she had a fiery determination in her eyes, and all my hopes of turning around at this point, shattered into millions of pieces. Then like lightning, we skidded down the other side of the hill. As I unwillingly took on more of these monstrous slopes, I found myself completely in awe at my sisters never ending perseverance, no matter what we faced she fought as hard as she could to keep going, I took a look at myself and realized, if I was here on my own, I would have given up back at the first hill. “I should really do things like this more often.”  I said to myself.

Our next trial—the ‘death hill’

We screeched to a stop, my hair was blown in all directions from the previous monsoons of wind and tsunami sized hills– no exaggeration at all. We were waved over by some local Thais, out of pure exhaustion; we dropped our bicycles flat on the muddy ground and drug our feet to the confused, but smiling faces. The air now felt humid and harsh, the sky was turning to a cloudy grey. Rain? Would it even matter, my skin already feels like I ran through a football field full of sprinklers. YUCK.

We approached the kind-hearted locals for directions, which they cheerfully provided, sending us on our way refreshed by their kindness I stepped around facing one of the biggest  mountains, and biggest challenge yet. My eyes practically jumped out of their sockets when they saw the narrow, dark road shooting straight up to who knows where. Again, I reluctantly looked to my sister. That fiery eye determination thing was getting annoying. My legs started to feel like two wet noodles attempting to knock out a water bottle…or a rock, a rock. That sounds more courageous. With a mouse’s war cry, I hesitantly followed Gunya up the mountain. Luckily, the kind new friends had offered us to leave our weary bikes by a banana tree. Unluckily however, that meant we had to walk the dangerously steep slopes. We admired the terrifying drop off on one side of the road, plummeting down and leading to certain death. “Great.”  I thought sarcastically.

After an hour, we reached our destination. Red faced and exhausted, I took a breath of the fresh, cool mountain air. Every part of me hurt. I heard Gunya squeal with delight, looking at my surroundings; my heart beat faster as I noticed, we didn’t come all this way for a temple. I gasped in awe of the simply breathtaking creation in front of my eyes, every ounce of effort, and every forceful step, led to this. And in that moment, I regretted nothing. A gorgeous sunset stretched across the horizon; the sky was a soft orange with wisps of fiery red. The lushes green hills and tiny lime colored rice fields. An indescribable feeling of joy and God’s love for us washed over me, and all I could think was, beautiful. If my sister had never been so completely determined, and pushed both me and her past our limits, we never would have experienced this amazing creation of God. Never before have I seen God so clearly, and understood just why, he called the earth, ‘good.’ A quiet but powerful surge of peace and His never ending love exploded in my heart. And all I wanted to do was share it.

I admire my sister’s patience, her perseverance, and amazing faith. I learned that you have to work hard and stay strong to reach your goals, even if you don’t quite know what they are. God has beautiful plans for each and every one of us; sometimes it just takes a difficult challenge to get there.

  • written by Spunky, age 14

So Much More

A few nights ago three of the kids and I were in the downtown area of Chiang Rai, planning to head home and play some family games. Our plans changed unexpectedly when I got a call from G, saying that a girl she knew needed an urgent ride to the hospital.  G was over by her college, so we hopped in our sometimes-trusty missionary-mobile and headed that direction. Unfortunately the Saturday night market was in full swing and many of the roads were closed to cars, which meant we had to zigzag our way across town while not knowing just how serious the problem might be. When we finally made it to G, she quickly jumped in the front of the car to direct me to her friend’s place.

We drove down the dark, crowded streets in that area, until G grabbed my arm and said, “Turn here!” I couldn’t turn unless I wanted to hit a night market roadblock, so I parked the car illegally and turned on the emergency lights. We dashed down the street on foot while motorbikes swerved around us (no sidewalks).

We were nearly to the end of the street before we took a sudden left down an even darker alley and then walked into a small parking area for motorbikes. A few items of clothing dangling off a line were the only indication that this was actually a residence. I followed G through a cramped dirty hallway until she reached a door and started knocking. When there was no reply, she opened the door and we went in to see a young girl lying on the only piece of furniture in the small room, a bed. Her skin was pale and it was obvious that she had been crying from the pain.  She couldn’t walk, so I watched as G bent over and lifted the girl onto her back. We exited the building headed back the way we came, G bent over with the weight of the girl on her back and me forging a path through honking motorbike drivers. When we made it to the car and carefully slid the girl in the back seat, she cried out in tremendous pain.

We dropped the Thai girls at the hospital and headed home, as we couldn’t help further with our limited language skills and we had no useful background information on her. We later found out that the girl, Mint, had a large tumor on her abdomen. She had been incapacitated for four days, stuck on her bed in pain and with no one to care for her. Mint is only sixteen years old, living on her own. She’s barely scraping by while attending trade college in the city.

This, again, is an example of what so many kids here are up against. There are no government social programs and very, very few churches around to look out for kids like this. In most cases the parents, if they are even in the picture, do not have the resources to help. So at just 16, Mint is left alone to make adult decisions and take care of adult problems. And if she can’t do it, that’s it. She is left to succumb to a medical issue or tempted into a life of exploitation to survive. She couldn’t afford to call for an ambulance (they are all run privately and are quite expensive), and we were the very first connection she had to a car!

Our hearts broke for this young girl, and it was a reminder to me of how badly missionaries are needed here. Ultimately we want to see people restored to Christ by becoming disciples. But to do that, often we first have to meet a desperate physical or emotional need. Mint is not a runaway, hiding from her parents or hooked on drugs. She is just a normal Thai girl, trying her best to learn a trade and get a certificate so she can earn a meager living.

Someone interested in serving on the mission field recently asked me if our work basically took place between 9-5. I laughed at how “our work” has such a broad definition sometimes that we could never really quantify it that easily. Partly because “our work” is really God’s work. Sometimes that means writing emails and attending planning meetings, and sometimes it means just being available to love the people God puts in our path. Whether it’s driving a new mother to her family’s village or rushing a young girl to the hospital, acting as surrogate parents or providing a bed for a few nights, helping enroll someone in classes or providing some pedal bikes for safe travel to work, or whatever else might come up. It’s all “our work” here. And while we’re never really off work, we do have our downtime. We know that to be effective we need to rest when we are able. This is what it means for us to be the hands and feet of God.

As for Mint, we are happy to share that someone was able to get up into her village to alert her parents, and her mom is now helping to take care of her. Please pray with us for her continued healing.

Someone interested in serving on the mission field recently asked me if our work basically took place between 9-5.  I laughed and thought of how it resembled that in the beginning, but has since morphed into what it is now.  We have our downtime, and know that to be effective we need that, but we are often called into helping someone.  Whether it’s to move a girl back to her village, or take someone to the bus station, or be surrogate parents, there is always something going on outside of “work hours”.

We pray to be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever he leads us.  It’s tiring sometimes but ultimately so rewarding to help those who need it so much.

As for Mint?  We are happy to share that someone was able to get up into her village to alert her parents, and her mom is now helping to take care of her.  Please pray for her continued healing.

 

 

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

As a way to celebrate our two-year anniversary of serving in Thailand, I thought I would share some of our favorite things we’ve enjoyed in the last twenty-four months.  This post contains affiliate links, which means if you use our links to purchase from Amazon we receive a bit of money!

So drumroll, please . . .

 

GAMES.  We are a family who loves games.  Before moving to our house in the village we didn’t have a kitchen.  We’d often visit a local restaurant with amazingly low prices, but long waits.  So we took up the tradition of playing games while waiting for dinner.  Here are a few favorites:

Anomia We were first introduced to this game in a board game cafe in Bangkok, and the kids begged for us to get it.  Anomia works well because we all have random information swimming around in our heads; the trick is to remember it more quickly than your opponents!

Wits & Wagers Family  A gift from grandparents last year, Wits and Wagers is a low-pressure numbers guessing game to play with friends or family, or both!

Tenzi  This one is perfect as an icebreaker and can be played when there’s a bit of a language barrier since it’s a simple dice game.  Up to ten people can play as well, making it great for large gatherings.

No Stress Chess We finally decided to take the dive into learning chess for the character and critical thinking lessons it would offer.  We haven’t been disappointed, but a little surprised that the kids kicked our butts after a few short games.  It’s ideal for people who haven’t played before and want to learn.

 

BOOKS.  There are way to many too list between family read-alouds and personal choices, but some stand-outs from the last two years would include the following:

God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue by Daniel Walker.  This eye-opening book is hard to read, but so good to understand the difficulties involved in rescuing victims.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  We read this while we were stuck on Bangkok’s freeways, paying tolls, ironically.  It’s hilarious, and perfect for families with kids of differing ages.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn.  I’d love to own a copy of this someday.  I’d never read a cooking technique book that had some many interesting stories in it.  Maybe it’s a new genre?  (Or I’m woefully behind.)  Either way, it’s so good.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.  When I asked the kids what books stood out to them from our school readings, they thought this one deserved to be on the list.  Written in the 1930’s, the book tells of the kids in a family and their wild adventures in their neighborhood.

Redwall by Brian Jacques.  This book was assigned reading for an online class Spunky took last year, but she loved it so much we decided to read it as a family.  Little did we know that we’d fall in love with the book characters and make plans to read the entire series!  Spunky even put on a feast based on the book for her class project.

Church Behind the Wire: A Story of Faith in the Killing Fields by Barnabas Mam.  Being geographically close to Cambodia, as well as working within the borders of the country has sparked an interest in their past.  If you’ve never read anything about the Cambodian genocide, this is a good place to start.

 

VIDEOS.  

Timothy Keller on YouTube.  Since a friend introduced me to one of his books last year, I’ve been a huge fan.  His online sermons are great to listen to while watching the sun rise.

The Bible Project, also on YouTube.  We love everything in this series.  It’s not really made for kids but ours liked it so much they’ve requested it again and again.

 

PODCASTS.

The Briefing by Albert Mohler.  Absolutely essential for Christians who care about current events.  I listen to this with Spunky, now fourteen, but don’t think our younger kids are quite ready for some of the subject matter.

The School of Podcasting.  Why I ever started listening to this I don’t know, but I’m immensely glad I did.  This show is interesting and full of information, and we just may have to start a podcast from Asia.  Who’s interested?

The Read-Aloud Revival This one has been around for a while and I’m sure many are familiar with it, but if not it’s a great podcast to listen to if you’re looking for new book ideas for the kids in your life

 

“For pleasure has no relish unless we share it.” — Virginia Woolfe

We hope you’ve enjoyed the list and maybe find something new to enjoy!

Half-Birthday Memories

When Ethan and I were young and married and the girls were tiny, we were lucky to have an older couple in our lives who were a great example to us of the kind of parents we wanted to be.  They had us over for dinner one night and we were blown away by the sweetness, intelligence, and maturity of their three daughters.  We had many discussions about homeschooling and parenting, and among the ideas we stole from them was that mom would plan birthdays, but half-birthdays meant a special date with dad.

Since that point, the girls have always had a tiny celebration on their half-birthdays.  They dress up nicely and go grab a special drink or ice cream and tell Ethan all about their current dreams and thoughts on . . . everything!

 

Calico was so excited for her date with Dad she ran straight for him as soon as he was home from work.

 

 

The outing included a joint coloring project.

 

As happy as it makes me as a mom to see our girls loved and treasured by their daddy, once I look outside our home my heart breaks for the abundance of little girls who don’t have that.  A dear friend here is teaching a new class with our girls in the learning center, and as a way to introduce her class she shared a little bit about her life with the girls.   While looking at her pictures, one of the young teens said, “You have such a beautiful life; not like mine.  My parents gave me away when I was two.”

It’s hard to fathom parents giving away or selling their children, but the problem is all too common here.  As a family we’ve determined to open our arms to as many of them as possible.  We want to walk beside them; teaching them that Jesus is their strength and salvation.  We want them to see a healthy and loving family, and give them hope for their futures.

 

 

 

 

Moving to a Village

In just one and a half months we will have lived in this country for two years.  In that time, we have lived in three houses and one hotel (for the first two weeks).  This was not what we planned, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball!

Our first house was great, and too expensive.  However, we had been staying in a hotel and house hunting and had trouble finding something that would fit our large family in a reasonable budget.  As anyone can guess, staying in a hotel adds up quickly.  We lived in that house for two months while we looked for something we could afford.

When another missionary family moved in October of 2015, we moved into their house in a super interesting neighborhood; a  neighborhood with quite a history.  At one time it was full of beautiful, western-style homes, complete with a clubhouse and pool.  This was approximately thirty years ago.  In Thailand, it is customary to build small spirit houses on every property.  The purpose of these houses is to give a place to the spirits so they won’t roam around.  Buddhist Thais offer food and drinks each day to the spirits.  A tragic accident happened while the neighborhood was still under construction; a small child drowned in the neighborhood pool.  The neighborhood spirit house had not been built yet, and the widespread belief was that the spirits were angry and had caused the accident.  Families moved out immediately, and it’s difficult to get Buddhist Thais to enter the neighborhood for repairs or maintenance even now because of the stigma.  So the homes are beautiful, but old and in bad shape.

One day recently, I looked up to see a dark-colored stain spreading all over the ceiling of our kitchen.  Some areas were almost black.  We contacted the landlord immediately.  A week went by, and during that time water started breaking through in one area.

 

When we first started  to notice the bulge from the water.

A few days later.

At this point I was starting to get worried about the black mold I was seeing through the hole.  Bubba was having pain in his joints again.  (You can read more about the cause of that HERE .)  We were all feeling slightly sick, after months of perfect health.  Was there a connection?

While waiting for the landlord to get back to us, we started talking about the idea of moving to a different home.  We had been so happy in our home, despite the difficult plumbing situation and other problems.  It was close to town, affordable, and fit our ever-growing family.  But the cost of repairs had been adding up and there were constant plumbing problems.  (As a side note, when I once asked the local expat group where to find a plumber the immediate response was laughter.)

The eventual result of the water damage.

We set out to look for a home within our price range, not expecting we’d find anything.  We found a sweet rental agent who was amazing to work with, and as a parent she understood our concerns about the mold throughout the house.  Within a week, she had found a home that worked.

A view on the drive to the new home.  Breathtaking.

It’s a smaller home; three bedrooms.  A bit tricky with six kids, but we’ve found a way to make it work.  When we walked through the home we could see immediately that two of the three bedrooms would be ideal for the master.  As it turned out, we ended up choosing the smallest bedroom for us.  The other two just made more sense for the kids.  🙂  The four girls are all sharing one room but the configuration works well.

It has been such a relief to be somewhere where we don’t about the kids’ health.  We’re not concerned about water mixing with rat excrement and pouring into our kitchen.  Oh, and …. WE HAVE A KITCHEN NOW!  What a world of difference that has made for our family.  I never realized how much I missed having counter tops.

Our last neighborhood was mostly expats due to the stigma surrounding the neighborhood.  We are now in a Thai village, and most of the villagers speak only Thai.  It’s great!  They are patient with our attempts to communicate and always smile and wave when we drive by.  We look forward to making friends with the precious Thai people around us.  Since our language skills are still somewhat shaky, we may be putting that kitchen to good use making food to share with neighbors.  (International sign of friendship: homemade treats!)  No matter what, we are thankful for this home and look forward to seeing how God continues to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Mothering

Or more accurately, Thoughts on Mothering a Child Who Speaks a Different Language.  But that’s a mouthful, so I’ll leave it as it is.

I’ve found myself lately to be revisiting feelings I had when Bubba was in his most difficult years.  The feelings of not being good enough.  The feeling that God should have chosen a better mom; perhaps someone with more experience with special needs kids.  This time around my doubts come from my identity here as a foreigner.  My Thai language experience is lacking.  I don’t always understand the customs or rules of the country we live in.

How do I tell our new foster son that we’ll be here for him when he’s sick?  When he has a special award in school?  How do I express how very grateful I am that he always washes his own dishes, or plays Uno with Calico?  It never feels like a simple “thank you” really expresses it.

In times of doubt I flash back to a radio ad that often played around the time we were preparing to move here.  In an effort to get more people to sign up as foster/adoptive parents, there was a whole series of ads that told of parents making mistakes.  These people were far from perfect.  The slogan was, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.”  (Can I insert a Praise Jesus!?)  In these times I feel a little bit better about not remembering to get his regulation brown school shoes for two weeks, or constantly having to use Google translate for more than a basic conversation.

We are learning more each day about showing love in a variety of ways.  Big smiles, homemade treats after school, high fives, pull-up contests (that would be with Ethan, not me!), inclusion in all family activities, and teaching him how to ride a clutch motorbike.  I pray we are filling his heart with what has been missing from his life before this.

And when I take a moment to lift my eyes away from my own shortcomings, I see the beauty that God has surrounded us with: six unique blessings.  I’ll never be a perfect person — and that’s okay.  And maybe with LOTS of practice and self-discipline, I’ll someday be able to speak the same language as all of my kids.

 

Furlough Fun

Although costly, it was an amazing gift to have to come home to renew our visas.  We tried to soak in as many moments as possible with with friends and family.  (Below: Bubba and his baby cousin; the girls being silly with Grandpa.)

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Our hometown library has an amazing program that lets kids check out American Girl dolls for a week.  The kit comes with a couple of outfits, a doll bed, a book, and hair styling supplies.  It has been Calico’s dream forever to check out the Samantha doll and her wish was granted while home!  Here she is taking her doll for a walk.

 

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Staying with Nana and Grandad meant having access to a community pool, which was utilized as often as possible by the kids.  In Thailand we have a lot more days that lend themselves to outdoor swimming, but not very suitable or inexpensive places to go.

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Being back in Idaho meant that we had to visit our friends at Sunriver Ranch!  We came right after some baby pigs were born.  They look super cute in the picture but their squeals were unbelievably loud.

 

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A big triumph that our whole family celebration came when Bubba finally learned to ride a bike!  It has been amazing to watch him enjoy this new measure of freedom.

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Our girls had the amazing opportunity to visit the Oregon coast with Grandpa and Grandma while we were stateside.

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Lots of outdoor time in the beautiful Idaho summer!  We loved catching up with friends from near and far.

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Our 15th anniversary was celebrated in Chiang Rai, but our 16th was in Boise.  It was a time of relaxation and even a run in the foothills. (Below: stopping at the top to look out over the city.)

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We talk a lot about missing American food over here.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of our visit was seeing everyone’s interpretation of a “good American meal”.  We enjoyed steaks, hamburgers, pot roast, pizza, fried chicken, and all the sides you can imagine.  It really made me wonder, though, what represents a good American meal to you?