YoungLife Thailand

We have become good friends with the Vechprasit family in the last couple of years. They also happen to be the folks heading up YoungLife Thailand. And they’re our neighbors, too! How random, right 😉 Well, in acknowledging just how too well things have aligned themselves for us to be more intentional in the relationships we make while here, our family has entered this new (school) year with the commitment to be as supportive and involved as possible with the literally down-the-street YL crew.

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What does that mean? It means as much as we are trying to assimilate to life abroad we are also more fully embracing being native-English speakers and engaging with the youth in this language area they themselves are learning at school and in anticipation of their future work opportunities. It means baking monthly birthday cakes. It means baking cookies in this humidity and heat. It means going on camps and day trips. It means really trying to learn who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family — and using both the strengths and weaknesses tools for love and generosity and hospitality. It means stepping out of our respective comfort zones and being challenged to grow in ways we could have never concocted ourselves. It’s been tiring and beautiful and always always always worth it.

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Recently Dan went on a one-day trip to Ratchaburi with a looooooot of high school students who he has never met before from a school he has never stepped foot in and proudly wore the awkward badge of farang. To say I was and am proud of this man of mine is quite the understatement.

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And, really, if you know my more introverted people-watching better half who prefers not being in the limelight on a personal level, you can definitely understand just how outside of his comfort zone this trip was. But you can also probably imagine how much he rose to the occasion and gave it all he got. What a guy!

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We just celebrated our four year anniversary…and where we are now versus where we were all those years ago when we were in the “technically not dating but kind of seeing each other but are just friends and maybe more but not that but yeah maybe that and I don’t know” stage is so much better. We really have no idea what we are doing 68% of the time, but it’s so much nicer being bewildered and still committed to whatever may come together.

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Happy Birthday (month), Dan!

To say that Dan likes to be the center of attention would be a bold faced lie. I think if there were to be a movie made about him, he would still push for his role to be secondary. The guy just isn’t into much fanfare when it comes to him. But I know he can get feeling forgotten in some regards over here. It’s hard standing out (as something to stare at or held up to observe) but not connecting completely…language and culture differences can do that.

But one of the best parts of being here is that we have befriended amazing folks, and they love celebrating and connecting and doing life together. And who better to make feel extra special and loved in the great month of March then the bearded man in our midst who shares a birthday with Chuck Norris?!? 
In the Harris home we celebrate a birthday for a month because how can you possibly fit all that quality time and all the potential new experiences in a day? In a week? Is it a bit overboard…yes, yes it is. But it’s also fun. And with a month you get to do all sorts of things that would usually be put on the back burner. It also just puts you in the mindset to just go with it for the next four weeks. And so things were planned, things were schemed and things were enjoyed!

He saw movies with friends who could stay quiet during a movie and truly enjoy the viewing experience. We would do surprise visits to his work and pick him up at the end of the day for random family outings. He went out with friends (The Revenant). We went out on dates. We stayed home and lounged. He pet llamas with Louis. He snuggled with Estelle. He drank IPAs with me (Paulaner Garden Restaurant and O’Glee). With the help of his coworkers and students, I threw a surprise party during his homeroom period (baked treats from On A Sweet Note). And the sweet nature-loving man chose a pool villa for me to whisk him away for on the last weekend of the month for us to be together as just a family in the quiet and peace of Khao Yai National Park (Kirimaya Muthi Maya).

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Wai Kru, Round Two

Every year a Wai Kru ceremony is held at GES, during which students pay respect to their teachers. Wai means to bow and involves bringing your hands together as if in prayer. Kru is teacher 🙂 Thai culture esteems educators very highly, and this traditional ceremony is an opportunity for students to show their gratitude and to also formalize their relationships with their teachers at the beginning of the school year. Kind of like starting things on the right foot, if you will.

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Much of the ceremony is steeped in symbolism. Students often present floral arrangements with specific things — the eggplant flower stands for respect because the tree in bloom has bending branches much like how a student wais a teacher, the bermuda grass stands for patience and growth, popped rice represents discipline since the rice must be heated up to pop and then there is dok kem which has the same name as the Thai word for needle, implying that the student will be sharp-witted.

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Dan’s homeroom kids definitely went an untraditional route and gave their teachers floral leis, which are usually given to singers and performers. That definitely got a laugh out of the director of our school and had the emcee jokingly giving the kids a hard time. Though it is a serious time, the Wai Kru ceremony at GES is more infused with warmth than formality in hopes of that being a reflection of the kind of nurturing student-teacher relationships the school wishes to establish.

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These were pictures taken by the 2nd shooter at the event. And my helping with the marketing for GES gives me quite the access to school events and picture 🙂 Plus, Louis was being extra alert (too good to nap) that day so I got to take Instagram shots for all the ceremonies and make social media updates throughout the day for work. And now, here is the obligatory picture of the little mister watching on as his daddy was on stage…we are obviously thrilled to be there haha

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First Day of My 2nd Year of School

The first day of school was good. It was much more fun than it was last year because I had half an idea of what I was doing this time around. It didn’t hurt that my first class is biology and I only had 6 students in it; they’re also going to be my homeroom. I told them that since I had half as many students than I did last year, I could  make it twice as hard for them.

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Second class of the day is environmental science with Grade 12 — these are students I didn’t have before, so it was nice to see a new set of faces in my room. So far they seem like a good bunch. They’re surprisingly quiet for high school seniors.

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Third class of the day is chemistry. This is my homeroom class from last year, so I already know I don’t like them. Just kidding. I had them scheduled for four hours for the first two days of the school year so I knew I had to do something fun to keep their attention. First lab of the year was the chemistry of cookies. I don’t know if they learned anything. But we ate delicious cookies.

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Dan the Dreamboat Dad

It is a joy to partner with my husband in this nonstop, hard, beautiful, magical, messy and confusing work that is parenting. I love Dan. And I want to celebrate how nurturing, hands-on and involved of a father he is to Louis._DSC3061

Of all the things that I love about Dan — and there are so many — right near the very top of that lengthy list is how methodical he is. Weird, I know. But, I really really really love how methodical Dan is in how he listens, in how he speaks, in how he thinks, in the things he does…in the way he lives life. He is bound and determined to figure out whatever has caught his attention in that moment and will not leave until he sees it through.

He is focused at whatever thing he is doing with or for Louis. And I must confess that I easily slip into an administrative/coordinator mindset way to often, drumming up lists that need to be done in my mind while doing a task at hand that happens to involve Louis. (Doesn’t the last part of the sentence sound icky and sterile? It is.) I learn how to be a better parent by watching Dan. He parents differently than I do – duh, of course he does! And I want to be more like him as a parent. Why? Because his methodical-ness (is that a word?) means that he is present.

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When he’s giving a bath, he talks and plays with Lou as he carefully wipes down his chubby little body, making sure that all those folds get soaped and rinsed. He isn’t trying to get the bath done and over with as soon as possible so that he can put him to bed so he can watch the next episode of Modern Family or scroll through his Instagram feed. That time together is sacred and he is present with his son. When Dan is trimming his nails after bath time, he is focused and intent…taking as much time as needed to make sure that those little fingers are neat and tidy and unable to scratch that little, sweet face.

I’ve washed a counter crowded with dishes, folded 2 baskets of laundry and cleaned up after the bath in the span of time Dan takes to finish the nail trimming. It seems ridiculous that it would take that long, but it’s not ridiculous and Dan doesn’t take “too long”…it’s just that hes’ so present in the moment that he reads reactions and responds, taking needed breaks to look to the comfort of our child and taking not so needed breaks to kiss very kissable cheeks.

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He’s not multitasking to get through the day; Dan makes memories with Louis. He makes memories that get stored away and treasured, memories to be unpacked and shared with Louis when he is old enough to laugh along with us. Dan tells made-up-on-the-spot fairy tales as he changes diapers; he hums songs and dances to music that isn’t playing to soothe away cries; he puts on silly faces and makes funny noises in front of the mirror to get smiles from a gassy boy; he giggles as he coaches his son how to push and grunt his way through a bowel movement; and he has awesome Popeye forearms for bottle feeding and burping!

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Oh, Dan is funny.

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Thank you, Dan, for being an example to me for the kind of parent I want to be. Thanks for changing poopy diapers at 6am, washing the breast pump for the umpteenth time, walking around in the hot Thai weather with a fussy baby, folding onesies and burp cloths and swaddling wraps, getting your chest hair pulled by little fingers and little toes, comforting a crying babe with steadfast patience and cuddling a cooing babe with a wealth of love.

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I am proud to be your wife. I am thankful that Louis has a father like you, ever pressing towards the hard things in life to grow, leaning on Abba to get you through your days. Danny, you love us both so very very well. You are a wonder. We are blessed to have you in our lives.
Happy Father’s Day to the funniest person I know.

Somebody Turned 31…

March was Dan’s birthday month and it was a fun one to navigate here. Gracious as ever, he didn’t expect anything to really happen in the midst of end of school year busyness or month 9 of pregnancy. What a silly goose. Of course he was going to be celebrated and loved on as much as possible!

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Birthday dinner right along Chao Praya

We went out to eat at The River Treehouse and got quite the spread of food to nibble on while live music was played. It was such a nice outing after a week of work for him. He got to eat and drink his fill for sure!

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Further adventures in homemade food for the mister

Because I started working from home in March, that meant I had more at-home time to try out more recipes for this and that. Dan definitely has a sweet tooth but is also a fan of anything homemade. As he likes to say, “The sweat and resentment makes it taste better.” Haha. During this time, he would come home for lunch and one of our meals was tortillas from scratch, cheesy beef filling and a tart cabbage slaw. We’re going to be making our own tortillas for sure now.

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Another BKK staycation for the books

He also got whisked away to Bangkok — hey, traveling is hard in the third trimester — for a weekend getaway at a swanky hotel where room service was definitely used and we lounged in a comfortable king sized bed while watching (laughing at) Thai soap operas!

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That’s definitely a gorilla. And maybe a witch doctor poacher? We’re not entirely sure of the series plot…but we do know the storyline involves battling flying wizards, hordes of jungle zombies, an indestructible robot vampire and hypnotized chicks being saved by a wannabe Indiana Jones. ‘Twas the life.

Graduation Day

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The graduating class of 2014!

There were actually 16, but one student was missing on graduation day for a university interview.  I had 11 of these students in my class twice a day for the entire year.  I’m not sure who learned more this year, but I know that this group taught me a lot about teaching, patience, and that I am not as cool as I thought I was.  It was great fun spending my days with this group and I look forward to seeing where this class goes in the future.  Congratulations students!  Great job.

Last Month of First Year

March was a whirlwind of work responsibilities. The end of the school year saw Dan giving finals, putting together report cards, planning class parties, writing student case files and compiling grade level/curriculum binders for the Ministry of Education. Since I will be transitioning into a part time position next school year, my days were taken up with organizing and writing materials for programs I had headed up this past year so that folks who would be absorbing those duties would know what to do!

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Pictures from the year with SGA kids from various school events

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Dan hosted a game night with his homeroom class

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We made mac & cheese, chicken wings & cookies for them AND they ordered food from BBQ Plaza in addition. Hungry teens!

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I had a end-of-year Reading Club party and this little miss wanted to leave this sweet note 🙂

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Due to pregnancy aches & pains, I had to start working from home mid-month…BUT these 8th graders went into cahoots with one of our administrators and came up to my apartment for a surprise visit that made my day!

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Taking a class pictures of his first homeroom class on their last day of school together.

Chicken Dissection Lab

As a warm up for the BIG lab of frog dissection, I set up a lab for the 10th graders to dissect chicken wings as a way to review the skin, muscle and bone unit we had just wrapped up. Good thing the local grocery store just sells packs of the wings so I didn’t have to go hunting around the open air food market down the road.

None of these kids have handled raw chicken before. Crazy! And the boys were more skittish than the girls were about handling the wings and blades. What a bunch of sissies…here are pictures that I got Leslie to come up to my room to take. It was a successful lab day for sure

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