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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Life on Pichayanan | A Neighborhood Tour

We live at the very end of a side street of a bigger side street off the main road, kind of like a cul de sac except not in a development. (It really doesn’t make much sense until you see it in person.) During the day, to get a bit of exercise and to get out of the house, we go on walks. One of the joys of having a toddler is that he is always ready to go outside. And one of the downsides of a having a toddler is that he is always ready to go outside…regardless of the time of day and the temperature of the day.

Favorite times outside in this wonderful country of heat and humidity? Before lunch and before dinner…when, you know, it’s cool and there’s a breeze [eyeroll]. But I love the boy, and despite all the sweating involved, I also love the feel of the sun on my skin. And Estelle? She is our wonderful youngest child who doesn’t get much say at this point. So please enjoy this compilation of a mini tour, as guided by Louis ตะวัน (and note that you don’t see any neighbors because they, in their great wisdom, stay inside when it’s this hot outside):

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Most of these walks end up in a neighbor’s house. As in, we walk onto another person’s private property and are welcomed because…why not? We’ve much to learn about hospitality from this country we currently call home. Anyway this is just our little corner. There are many other walking routes in and around many other neighbors’ homes. And many many many little critters and creatures along the way. Sigh.

 

Life on Pichayanan | Mini Tour (round 1)

Ahhh…our daughter is going to join us earth side in less than a week! Her big brother is over a year and a half old now. Dan is scurrying and prepping and planning like a mad scientist for end of semester activities and getting things set up for paternity leave. I am…heavily pregnant. Just so heavily pregnant. Swollen with child. I get it. I got that phrase with the first kid, but man do I get that phrase with this second kid.

Louis is napping. I should also in theory be taking advantage of this time and napping as well. Or resting. Or whatever. I happen to be housing a very exuberant little girl who has been trying to join her family way too early for the last 10 weeks. She is not down with resting or napping at this point. So I finally dusted off my laptop and uploaded pictures from “the big camera” of our home. Well, the downstairs portion of our home. The next two floors will have to wait because I’m pretty selective of how often I go up and down those stairs these days.

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I love our downstairs. It’s where most of the partying happens. It’s where life is lived: where books are read, where goodies are baked, where meals are shared, where friendships grow and where kids run wild. There are challenges, obviously, in adjusting to things outside the comfort and convenience of the school gates. (Dan has an interesting walking “commute” that he’ll have to document and share — in short, he is crash learning/using Thai a lot and is the only farang in our neighborhood…so no pressure about first and second and nonstop impressions, right? I am being challenged with preconceived notions of my identity/worth in my current role as a quasi-work at home mom and could wax philosophical about that for ages.) But we are loving our home and are coming to embrace life on Pichayanan more and more.

 

Letter to Louis | Twelve Months

Dear Louis,

This letter is a month late because…how in the world are you already a year old??? I have been told, I have read and I have witnessed that saying about the days are long but the years are short, and I believed it as much as I understood during each encounter with the phrase. But, really, I said it to myself as a promise from birth to five months because those days (and nights) were looong, my sweet boy, and I needed that reminder to stop and breathe in the moments with you.

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I don’t feel like I blinked and you are suddenly all grown. Your active lifestyle and hands on personality didn’t allow for much blinking, Lou. Your little munchkin personality ended up being  the answer to my prayers of being a present and engaged mother — there was simply no way around it. For example, this morning we played blocks for 15 minutes together (complete with sound effects and knocking things over with a toy hammer) before reading through 4 books on rotation through 3 rounds. You happily sat on the bean bag with me and said “please” every time it was time to turn the page. You can definitely be independent in your exploring and playing, but are a child after your daddy’s heart with your great love for snuggling.

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And you’re a smiler. You really really are a smiler. (Unless it’s “happy hour” — that magical time before dinner and post-nap you may or may not have taken when your stink eye comes out to play.) Those smiles melt us, Lou. Because sometimes they just seem to erupt from your heart. I love that. It’s been a wonderful, challenging, bewildering, exciting, joyful, crazy year of growing up together. Much was learned about graciousness, patience, kindness, compassion and humility and love…how to offer, how to give, how to ask, how to receive.

I hope that you learn to use your loudness and bravery to usher grace into this world: may you color the days for the ones who only see in black and white, may you bear light into the dark and cold corners where loneliness and shame threaten to swallow souls whole, may you cultivate and nurture peace where there is brokenness and conflict.

May you be brilliantly and unabashedly you, Louis Taawanh…whoever you may be.

Love,
Mama

Christmas in Chiang Rai | Canary Natural Resort

Christmas 2014 (I know…posting about Christmas in April) had us staying in Thailand for the two-week school break. We knew we wanted to get out of the city and experience a slower pace of life for just a bit. After scrolling through Agoda and Trip Advisor, we stumbled upon the Canary Natural Resort in Chiang Rai. It looked so enticingly green, quiet and restful that I’m pretty sure our stay, flight and car rental were all booked within 48 hours.

And, oh man, it was wonderful. We are, after all, country mice at heart — so getting away into the actual countryside felt like a cool breath of fresh air, which is also something we got a lot of while up there. Who knew that the PNW natives would get cold up in northern Thailand? Certainly not us. There was a lot of sleeping in hoodies and socks, which is something we had not been doing for quite some time!

But. Oh, my. We loved it. It was what our tired minds and spirits were needing — respite from busyness and time carved out just for our family in an environment that invited outdoor exploration. We enjoyed our stay so much at the Canary Natural Resort that we’ve booked the Garden Villa again for the Songkran holiday. Anyway, here are pictures!

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(I’ll have to better photograph the accommodations when we’re there next week: private gate, wraparound porch, outdoor tub, windows everywhere.)

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Breakfast was included — homemade bread and apricot jam AND freshly roasted coffee from beans grown on a neighboring mountain. What?!? Fantastic. Meals and drinks were served in the main house building that had a view of the grounds.

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There’s also a resident white parrot. But we didn’t take a picture of it for some reason. And there are ATVs to rent. And more areas to roam. Did I mention that Dan drove us around while we were up there? Yeah, that made it another level of adventure for the Harris family.

 

 

Letter to Louis | Eleven Months

It’s been eleven months since we got to snuggle your new-to-the-world cheeks and look at your face with delight and wonder. Eleven months, Louis! Oh goodness.

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You are eleven months worth of passionate. You are a passionate young boy. You are passionate about food. You are passionate about wrestling stuffed animals. You are passionate about banging all the blocks against all the walls. You are passionate about not having your hands held. You are passionate about splashing water during bath time. You are passionate about feeding yourself. You are passionate about getting outside of our home to see people. You are passionate about exploring the tiniest of nooks and the dirtiest of crannies. You are passionate about snatching our glasses off our faces. You are passionate about book reading. You are passionate about cuddles. You are passionate about life in the scope of an eleven month old’s point of view.

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Now, passionate can be interpreted as being many things: stubborn, high maintenance, strong willed, defiant, high energy, dramatic. These are terms that may or may not be used, at times, to describe you. They are certainly astute descriptions, but as your father likes to wear rose-tinted glasses and I carry an idealistic heart, we think that your passionate ways also point to bigger facets of your burgeoning personality: determined, tough, tenacious, resourceful, independent, brave.

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We don’t think there is anything “wrong” with any of these traits. Because they may very well become parts of your personality that develop in you a character that loves big, dreams big and cares big. As you grow, learn and experience more of this world around you — as you use words, understand relationships and explore concepts in a practical way — the very passionate nature you have now (that has me falling asleep on the bean bag 30 minutes after your dad gets home and has your dad facing off with you over signing “all done” for 15 minutes after dinner) will carry you and fuel you through so much.

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And then? Man…I don’t know. But I hope we can keep up with you.

Love,
Mama

 

P.S. Your dad has been waiting for quite some time to put you in overalls without a shirt. And he was pretty excited to take your pictures this month of you in your ‘Dennis the Menace’ outfit 😉

Siam Ocean World

We went to Siam Ocean World in November one weekend; it may have been because we were having a staycation in Bangkok. (I can’t remember. It was like four months ago.) It had been on our list of “oh that would be neat to check out” since we first moved here, and timing + location finally seemed to have worked out for this to happen. Plus, Louis was of an age where he wouldn’t be asleep or just staring at his fingers the whole time.

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2 out of 3 of us liked the sharks. The one “no, thank you” vote echoed rather loudly in the tunnel, so there was quite the dash through to get back into bright lights. Dan’s theory: dim lights mean bedtime and the kid wanted us to know that he was NOT going to sleep.

Letter to Louis | Ten Months

Louis, you are ten months old!

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You are ten months of liveliness, of loudness and of lovableness. Snuggles are harder to come by because there are things to grab and pull and smack, Mom and so I’ve found myself moving a bit quicker when you start stirring post naps because you nuzzle against me in your sleepy state. And I get to feel your small but heavy body rest against mine while we read books on the rocking chair. I love those times.

You are growing. You have opinions and preferences. You also have quite the curiosity that has you banging blocks on different surfaces and also tentatively poking little fingers into the fan…you know, just to see. You are making your way to that one year mark with an appetite for life, noise and apple + cheese cubes.

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You also have a BEST friend EVER in the WHOLE wide world. This is how I imagine you would describe him if you could speak. There would be a good bit of shouting, lots of hand clapping and emphatic eyebrow raising. I am, of course, alluding to your dad.

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Oh, you two. My heart floods with all sorts of feelings, Louis, when I see you two together and think of your relationship. It’s a wonder, I tell ya. Your dad is usually the first person to see your big, impish morning grin; your first hour is your happiest time of day, and your dad knows how to squeeze every last bit of that time with you. He gets to pick you up from your bed for those first kisses and snuggles before he heads out to work. And what a sad time it is in the Harris home when he closes that door behind him to go teach.

Your best friend has left! Without you! This is usually when you also crawl to the front door and stand up to pound your baby bear fists against it, calling out “Dad-deeeee, Dad-deeee, Dad!” (Oh, yes, a very enunciated dad was your first word.) You miss him already, and it takes a good bit of distraction and play to get you to rally back to your explorer mode.

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But one of the best things about where we live and the work your dad does is that he can come home during his free periods or we can go see him for lunch. And then soon enough, he’s home again by 5pm for the second happiest part of your day, the couple hours that lead to bed time. There’s quite the playful reunion of wrestling and glasses snatching and beard tugging and raspberry blowing on your baby belly.

This relationship you have now with him makes both of us (your parents, that is) very prayerful and hopeful that it will continue to grow and develop so that you always feel safe and loved, that it would be natural for you to turn to him for advice and guidance in life.

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We love you, baby bear.
Mama

Letter to Louis | Nine Months

Louis, you love bread.

You really really really really really love bread. It’s the funniest, greatest, newest thing in our lives. I’ve started baking bread at home just so you can have the heels of the loaves to gnaw on. At first, it was for teething purposes and now it’s a full on love affair. Your belly loves the stuff…as evidenced by the fact that you’re nearly 22 lbs at 29 inches long. You are a sturdy, strong 9 month old.

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You are a master at pulling yourself up into a standing position. You are also slowly but surely venturing into the realm of object-supported walking. You gain confidence each day to lurch away from one piece of furniture to the next. You are also getting more coordinated and comfortable with getting up into a kneeling position or dropping down into crawl mode. You are working that core, boy!

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You are also turning into quite the mimic. Growls, facial expressions, gestures, sounds — you are like a little mirror. It’s the best. This is the age your dad and I have waited for and were most excited about. Have we loved you since we knew you were going to make us into a family of three? Yes, of course! But now…well, we like you alongside that love 😉 You are a mover now, wanting to be on your own to explore. And can self-entertain for minutes (not quite hours) with toys, books and storage containers. And you are quite the inquisitive, independent mischief maker. Oh, yes, we like you.

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It also seems that we’ve gotten a break from the wonders of teething (by the way, the process of getting chompers seems to be your least favorite part of growing up, though having those chompers has made you a happier eating camper) so there is much more laughing and silliness in our days. Case in point, you were an absolute ham when we went out to dinner tonight with your surrogate aunt, grandma and grandpa. You were waving your arms around, squinting your eyes, flashing your teeth, jabbering at the waitstaff and dancing in your chair. You come alive when there’s a cheering audience.

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I love when you’re silly. I also love when you’re still. Or busy studying the piece of rolled up tape on the carpet. Or when you’re cuddly and rest your head on your dad’s chest after an impromptu wrestling match. I love you growing into who you are, Louis. It’s a true wonder getting to be a witness of your life. (I’d write more, but then I would get teary eyed.)

Love,
Mama