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Home Schooling in the Wide Wild World

Sol: 149 One of the challenges and biggest worries I had about this trip was the continuing IMG_4034education of our kids. I was really, really concerned that we would mess them up or get them really behind. I’ve expressed this on this blog and the sentiment takes up entirely too much space in my head.IMG_9725

It has been an adjustment to our parenting to add in the responsibility of our boys’ education along with the other parenting tasks: keeping the kids alive, feed and so forth. I’m a big follower of Dr. Laura Markman of Aha Parenting. An approach of empathy with limits in parenting has helped me as I process this.

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So, when talking to our kids about choices I often tell them or ask them to tell me what my job is as their parent. The mantra is that I’m to keep them “Happy, Healthy, Safe and Clean”. This helps when I have to explain a difficult decision or boundary that is unpopular with them (or me!).

IMG_9283Then add in the schooling and it is a whole new role. Yes, we have been teaching them since birth but, the structured approach of making sure the boys are ‘on track’ has been an interesting one.

The boys attend a Montessori school back in Oregon (We love Harmony Montessori!). We plan on returning to the school upon our return. In fact, it was a big bargaining chip when planning this trip that we would bring them back to a place they love, feel comfortable and back with friends.IMG_8743

In the meantime, we are the teachers. This big, wide, world is a great teacher. Now, 140+ days I see a lot of change in with the boys. They have always been curious but, they have found some comfort and connection in the places we staying and have grown in the discomfort.

It’s not so much about ‘touring’ but, about finding ways to do what we do in everyday life in Oregon on the road wherever we are. Eating, Laundry, Sleeping, Groceries, Food preparation (sounding like a child friendly version of The Shore?). It is a lot about routine and making sure people get their own spirits soothed.

IMG_8758With Kelvin and I, it doesn’t always work out as we are the only adults around to care for the kids but, that it is another post altogether.

So, the boys have found interesting ways to play, relax and learn. We have an established routine now. The first two months this was really hard at times as they are not used to us being the ‘teachers’. There was a lot of discussion on expectations and how they are learning (discussion would be a polite renaming of some of those discussions).

They are not expected to know things when learning. They are learning! It’s okay to not know and make mistakes.IMG_8948.jpg

Some of the tools we use include the Monday-Friday daily routine. We write out the schedule. It usually consists of the following which we write down and they follow in their Common Place books.

For Example: Today is Thursday, January 11th, 2018. We are in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Journal Writing
  • Math – 2 pages
  • Writing/English – 2 pages
  • Cursive practice
  • Cultural lesson – language, history, currency, religion
  • Research or Field Trip discussion.

All is mixed with breaks, wiggle it out, free draw, coloring, reading or even a short dance party.IMG_5713

The Common Place book is their notebook to write down the school list but, also words they are learning and lessons. It also holds all the doodles, drawings and cartoons that get made. We have been getting notebooks to write in a we move along. We also shipped some filled books home for safekeeping.

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Oakley has gone to making his own toys using boxes from cereal or crackers we buy. It is amazing what a pack of colored pencils and paper can bring.

Last Christmas we got the boys Kindles and we choose ones without internet access (only Wifi to choose books). These little lovelies have been the true companions. The boys curl up with their books for hours. It is a great time filler that feels good as a parent.

Also, their reading has improved so much with it. Yes, there are a lot of graphic novels, cartoons including several Calvin and Hobbes books but, it is reading. In fact, Calvin and Hobbes is how Canyon turned to love books.

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Canyon’s stats for 2017

We complied their stats at the end of the year and Canyon had read 55K pages and Oakley 42K. Their reading time adds up to just over two weeks for Canyon (371 hours) and a one week for Oakley (172 hours). That is amazing. I feel better about how we are doing this.

[caption id="attachment_3378" align="alignleft" width="124"]IMG_0409.jpg Oakley’ Stats for 2017

Now, we are reading the Harry Potter books. I am reading them out loud and Canyon is chasing us with his own reading. Some of the best memories of this trip are being curled up on a bed with

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the boys and reading.

So, as we move into the next months we look at our learning and take stock of what works and what doesn’t. There is a real rhythm to our work. We are finding our way.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Waiting for a ride in Ubud.

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Oakley drawing in Hawaii

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Australian money session while camping.

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Homeschool while house/pet sitting in Brisbane, Australia. That’s Kody there!

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Canyon’s dream journal!

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20 Observations in Vietnam – Scooters, Coffee, Critters and More

Sol 109

Going into our fourth week in Vietnam. Arrived in Hanoi by an eighteen hour overnight train from Da Nang. We have found a place that is the nicest and most comfortable we have stayed in in awhile. The washer machine actually dries clothes too. We haven’t had that since Australia!

It’s the Christmas season and we are adjusting to being in a place that is not full of our usual holiday extras. I’ll write more about that later but, firstly I wanted to share some thoughts and observances I’ve had since arriving in this amazing country.

Things I have noticed in Vietnam. A random list.

1 – People selling things on their motorbike will have a recording      announcing what they are selling and will play it over and over while driving around. You can flag them down and buy whatever it is they have. Usually, it is some meal. The scooter may even have a glowing hot oven on the side.

2 – Vietnamese people really, really like kids. Our boys are smiled at and coddled over almost everywhere we go. Oakley being least likely to want attention does have some discomfort in this and for Canyon, it depends on his mood. Sometimes he laps it up. Other times, he gets exasperated. It must be similar to what it is like if you are a famous person in other cultures. They are consistently told they are ‘so handsome’! People (usually a woman) will drop whatever she is doing and come over to touch their cheeks.

3 – There is construction constantly going on somewhere. It never ends. Never, ever, ever.

4 – There are at least 30 different ways you can get your coffee. They certainly give Starbucks a run for their money.

5 – It is easy to forget this is a communist country but, remember when you see the political posters everywhere, very little advertising (except outside a local cafe) and handing over your passports every time you stay somewhere new.

6 – The Vietnam/American war was not that long ago and there are plenty of reminders of this intense history. Yet, for the Vietnamese it is a blip on their several 1000 year old history. There seems to be no hard feelings about the war.

7 – The beaches here are amazingly beautiful even in the rainy season.

8 – If it floods, we are told, ‘you just go to the 2nd floor’. Not a lot of worries about that here as it seems to happen a lot.

9 – The garbage/refuse system seems to be is that people just put their bag of rubbish on the street and someone will come along and pick it up. It seems randomly coordinated but, bags don’t stay long. And, as I cringingly found out, sometimes a rat will be getting his take on the trash as it sits there.

 

10 – The bread here is amazing and likely has to do with the French colonial influence. The mini baguette is a staple for many breakfasts with eggs and are sooooo airy inside and crunchy on the outside. Delightful.

11 – Scooter, motorcycles and mopeds are EVERYWHERE. People can carry almost anything on a scooter and the bikes are often driving right into people’s living rooms for the night for safe keeping.

12 – This is a tropical country so, you get to see some big, little critters. In the last days, we’ve had a cockroach in our flat (which Oakley terrifyingly mistook for a tarantula) and many, many in our train carriage, a super fat rat (my phobia) munching on our buildings refuse pile, the praying mantis that guarded our bathroom for a week and would leap on your feet when the water flowed (to have a drink?), beautiful butterflies, dragon flies and your requisite flies, ants and mosquitos that come around pretty frequently.

13 – The blend of traditional (straw hats, bicycles) to the high tech (smart phones everywhere, apps on tablets to order drinks or check you into your berth on the train) is fascinating to observe.

14 – If you want to buy something you will need to bargain for it. Even in the markets the granola bars or bottled water will change prices depending on who is working, what is going on with the weather.

15 – Massages in Vietnam are a whole body experience. The masseuse will literally climb onto your back and legs will use their feet, knees, elbows and hands to work out your kinks. It is not for the faint of heart and if you have any IT band issues consider them ‘worked on’ after they are done with you. You will be sore for days to come.

16 – You are strongly discouraged from any public display of affection with your loved ones. With parents to children it is okay but, a very, very big no no to kiss or canoodle in public.

17 – You will have to get boiled or bottled water for any tasks or thirst. Much like everywhere in we have encountered in SE Asia. You are not encouraged to drink from the tap. We are in the habit of going to the bathroom with a bottle of water to brush our teeth and if water is set on the table while we are out, the boys immediately ask what source it came from. Don’t take your clean, tap water for granted!

18 – You can get any item of clothing made in a couple of hours for a very reasonable price. The tailor work is impeccable and remarkable. You dream it, they will sew it.

19 – You can buy outdoor gear that would put REI and Sportsman Wearhouse to shame. I found the exact Osprey backpack I got for my birthday at the market and I cringed when I say that I paid 70% more for it in the States. Shoes, coats, backpacks are all really marked up when they leave the country.

20 – The confluence of religions here is notable. It is a communist country and we were told that if you have a religion you were discouraged to apply for a government job (or at least say you don’t have a religion). Yet, there are a number of Christian charities that operate cafes hiring people with disabilities. People practice any number of various religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism to name a few.

I have many other observations to share and will but, first wanted to share these thoughts from my perch in Hanoi. Until soon. Be well and thanks for reading.

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Lego-lisiousness in Legoland!

Sol 86

As I sit up on my 9th story perch in Ho Chi Mihn City

HCMC Writing Spot

 

I am reflecting on our time in Malaysia. There is so much to write about here in Vietnam and I will get to that but, first want to revisit our adventures at Legoland in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.

Going to a theme park was not part of our original plan but, the opportunity came up, our kids LOVE Legos and the boys were struggling with a bit of homesickness.

The Lobby of Legoland Hotel

Now, do we run off to a theme park every time we are sad…no but, it sure doesn’t hurt to go that extra kilometer (see what I did there with the metric system reference?) to soothe ourselves a bit.

LEGOLAND HOTEL

Legoland Malaysia was pretty sweet. I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was a teenager but, I imagine it is like the ‘happiest place on earth’. We decided to stay at the Legoland Hotel which has themed rooms with scavenger hunts, Lego characters walking around, life-size Lego mini figures, characters walking around and LEGOS everywhere to play with. Big blocks and little blocks.

There are daily building contests and workshops as well as a character parade in the lobby. It was so sweet to see joy on so many faces. Not just ours but, the plenitude of families from all over. There were families there from India, China, and all over SE Asia. We were definitely the minority as we would nod hello to another ‘Western” family from time to time.

Breakfast and dinner buffets were a cultural lesson in itself. So many options of food from standard Western choices to a plethora of Eastern ones too. Did you want Dim Sum with your pancakes? Or French Pastries with Chinese Congee porridge with dried fish on top? Or a traditionally poured spiced chai, watermelon juice, white coffee or full cream milk?

Out in the park, did you want to swim in your hijib or swimsuit or use the body dryer (like a giant hair dryer for your whole body) after getting wet on a ride? Did you want to pray when the call to prayer happened or have a dragon fruit smoothie?

Prayer Spot in Park

All of this while being surrounded by Lego figures?

Our room was the Adventure theme which the boys picked out. It seemed very appropriate for our current journey. Maps and decor from an Egyptian papyrus abound.

Huge ‘Body Dryers’ and all the teens getting dry.

Because we are family half filled with introverts we spent plenty of time in the room. While it was our first place without a kitchen during our travels we did order room service which, amazingly didn’t cost more than the restaurant and the delivery folks refused tips only wanting you to put in a good word at the ‘opinion kiosks’ around the place.

A scooter accident portrayed at Mini-land

THE PARKS

The rides were fine. Oakley tried his first roller coaster and was thrilled. The most impressive areas to me were the Minilands where replicas of iconic places around Asia are constructed to impressive, minute detail. Even the scooter accidents with media and police presence on the street. I could have spent hours here. It was super hot so, we melted as we perused even with the welcome mister machines nearby.

The Star Wars exhibit was stunning with a room dedicated to each episode including the TV Clone Wars. We are Star Wars family so, we loved this geeked out to our hearts content.

They have a water park as well and it was also fine. A lazy river bobbing with big legos you can attach to your floating device. A ‘Build a Raft” float as it were.

In any case, it was lovely to have a big family time in what felt like a big playground. I heard ‘Everything is Awesome’ more times than I care to count but, it was worth it. We did let the boys get a few, small Lego sets to take with us on the road as nothing beats the blues like a couple of hours of Lego play.

A BALANCE OF TRAVEL AND FAMILY

Our travel journey is of where we are going but, it is also richly in the details of our relationships with our kids and between my husband and I. We are a collection of varying personalities and we all need different things to fill our batteries. We discover that more and more as we move along.

Family outings are my favorite and seeing the world whiz by in my window really fills my cup but, I know Oakley and Kelvin need more down time. Canyon too at times. I do too in my own way. Writing is actually very, very helpful for me to sort my head.

I get worried about the things we are doing or not doing and if we are keeping the kids on track in school. Do we communicate enough with family and friends. How do we sort out the time differences and make connections.

Accepting that we can be doing a once in a lifetime thing and still feel rather lonely and miss down time tucked in our oversized duvet back in Oregon.

It is all a balance. And we are working on it day by day. Okay, okay….enough about our inner-psyche.

Next, we headed to Singapore for a couple of days before heading to Vietnam. More on that in our next blog.

As always, thanks for reading and following!

I’m still in love with my Chef Husband but, it was nice to met Lego Chef!

The Deathstar!

The bathrooms at Legoland

Mini-Legoland

Ha! Love the sense of humor!

Fresh Seafood at Legoland?

 

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Our Bali Excursion is Winding Down, Our Life Long Love Affair is Just Beginning

Sol 61: Coming up on three weeks in Bali. We’ve had some highs and some lows. The awe at the constant beauty around us has not waned. It seems every time I look up I see something unique, amazing, delightful or a bit different and quirky.

The bargaining never stops.

New Kite Flying Friends

My husband is tallying a list of ‘things I have seen being carried on a scooter’ and it just about contains everything possible. I’ve seen tiny, tiny babies nestled between ma and pa, panes of glass being held aloft, piles of branches, sticks and grass, complete mini-stores where one might make a meal or sell you a plethora of snacks. All of this wheeling by you.

Dewi makes the best meals!

The places we have stayed have been varied from an estate/villa such as the place we are at now to a house in the middle of a more tattered neighborhood where our point woman was amazing. She arranged for our boys to fly kites with her sons and made the best Nasi Goreng.

Emade, our amazing driver from Ubud. Email him for driving at nyoman.wati72@gmail.com

We ended up leaving early though as we found a dead bird under our bed and a bird nest above our son’s bed in the thatched roof that was less than sanitary. Bird poo on your sheets and pillows? We had to draw the line somewhere. The host (whom we never met) told us by email ‘that is nature’ and I am inclined to think it is but, it doesn’t have to be on my son’s head.

Dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

We are getting more adaptive in the heat. I wouldn’t say more used to it. You can see why people have plunge pools to dip into and wash off the heat of the day.

Monkey back rubs at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

We can see Mt. Agung from our current house and she is still resting. We are grateful for this but, also are acutely aware that there are several thousand people still living away from their homes out of the evacuation zone in refugee camps. This is heart breaking and a struggle.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Our boys have adjusted to mom and dad being the guides/teachers for the interim.

They are adjusting and we are soaking up our last week here as Friday, we head to Malaysia

There are very typical Bali experiences I am committing to memory. I share 10 of them with you here.

  • the sweeping up of all the flowers that fell overnight with a broom made of palm leaves.
  • the sweet smell of incense and tiny offerings that show up before most doors or walkways.
  • the low, guttural mooing of the cows with giant bells around their necks.
  • the assortment of flying bugs some bedazzling with colorful, sparkling wings and others just larger than I have ever seen before.
  • houses with open walls that get transformed in the evening to a closed in space with the pull of a curtain.
  • the frogs that take up residence in the bathrooms or guarding the end of  our bed.
  • the offer of a 100 cab, scooter rides if you are merely standing on the side of the road.
  • the vibrant color of fruit smoothies that rival any modern painting
  • the intricate carvings in wood and stone that are done with a hammer by the roadside
  • the absolute kindness of most people who wish to see you well.

Canyon warning the rabbits they may become pets or someone’s dinner.

Nothing like seeing a structure that is over 600 years old when your own country’s european settlement history started after this temple was built.

My new favorite Pringles flavor?

Doorway to our current bedroom.

Boys paying respects by wearing a sarong and really looking good while doing it!

Night food market.

Grilling the meat and using the fan to bring in the customers as well as spread the smoke.

Kelvin in his element with the cutest photo bomber in the back!

Tenenungan Waterfalls

Reading Kindles while waiting for a ride.

 

Family photo

A huge shout out to our friends Robyn and Mark who hosted us a couple times in Australia. We want them to know we so appreciate them!! Happy Wedding next month!

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A Lush, Green Paradise, a 15 Year Anniversary and 20 things I have noticed.

We have arrived in our first country during our round the world journey where English is not the mother tongue. Even more than that, the surroundings are unlike any we would encounter in our home in Oregon.

We had a few hiccups to get us here. I spent so much time sorting out the information about the visas I missed that tiny line about how you must have a proven departure plan before they will even let you on the plane.

So, we were at the Brisbane airport Jetstar check in counter (for the first time) and I hurriedly bought four tickets on a ferry to Singapore. I was punching the details of all our passports into my iPhone screen hoping that the credit card I am using would work to buy the tickets. And what’s more, that we will be able to use them.

The port is a place about 1000 miles from where we were staying but, it IS in Indonesia! Thanks so much to the airline representative who helped me do this rather than be forced to buy another airline ticket. Times four!

Earlier, we had already experienced not being picked up by our pre-scheduled Uber ride and frantically had to book another taxi to get us to the airport. I dislike that kind of scramble to the airport.

While we were checking into our flight (after I bought my ferry tickets) they had a lock down at the JetStar check-in counter. I felt like we were at a cooking contest as they yelled out for everyone to step away and hands up from the computers.

For several tense minutes, we all stood around and scrolled through our phones to see if there was some new information about Mt. Agung, the aged volcano currently smoking in Bali. Nothing. Just a false alarm and after a short while we all got ticketed and sent to the gate. The duty free gin never looked better!

It was about a 5 and a half hour flight and the pilot said he was getting updates on the volcano every five minutes and we would ‘act accordingly’. No sure what that means but, okay. He’s in charge.

Onward, a flight with some movie watching and an occasional peek out into the darkness with the hope to see a glimpse of the magical land we were winging toward.

We arrived in Bali and the humidity hugged us like a damp sweatshirt. Wandering through the airport to the immigration hall that had ceilings about four stories high I knew we had arrived.

My Dragon Fruit Smoothie

A friend arranged a pick up (thank you Drew!) and we were mesmerized by the steady of stream of motorbikes that swarmed around us as we motored down the narrowest of roads in the dark. It was like being with a bunch of ants. You just went with the flow.

Asking for prayers for the people in evacuation camps from the Mt. Agung volcano watch area

The next day we headed up to Ubud, known for its rice patty fields, cultural dances and, most recently, the popularly of Eat, Pray, Love. And currently, a spat of downpours that wipe the humidity from the air and feed the rice.

In Bali, tourism accounts for about a third of the economy so, there is always someone to help you with your questions, desires or plans. That is certainly the case in Ubud.

We are staying at a place I found on Airbnb as I wanted to have something set for the celebration of our 15 years of marriage! Whoo-hoo! This home is a dream, it feels palatial. It was a splurge to our budget at $42 a night. 

So much swimming around my head. More to process and share.

Here’s my my list of 20 things I have noticed after arriving in Bali in the first day and a half.

Three Little Monkeys Sitting on a Bench.

 

 

 

20 things I have noticed since arriving in Bali.

1- There are scooters everywhere and they hold such a variety of people carrying a multitude of things.
2- A rice field walk with Drew was awe-inspiring. We saw people working, rice-growing, ducks, giant spiders.
3- The spiders can be very, very, very big. With bodies as big as a hummingbird.
4-People are very, kind and helpful.
5- The roads are very narrow and have various surfaces, rarely a sidewalk and gaping holes about every 25 feet. Makes for an interesting stroll.
6- It is very humid and the rain comes in downpours.
7- Butterflies, moths, are frequently flying around. They are black, blue and many colors.
8- The beds come with mosquito netting and it looks so romantic.
9- People carry loads on their heads to free up their hands.
10-Geckos, lizards are all over the place. We counted 24 outside our place last night.
11- Ducks can be pets and hang out in the rice patties during the day and get walked home at night by following a flag on a pole.
12- Our place has a little pool and it is delightful.
13- The dollar to Rupiah exchange is 13,435. So you can feel like a millionaire when things cost 60,000 Rupiah and you can buy it with ease. That is the going cost of all four of us getting a ride to the center of town, equivalent of about $4.45.
14-It is hard to figure our what everything costs with such big numbers.
15-There are offerings nearly everywhere for most everyday activities. You find these beautifully folded offerings and incense in the most delightful places.
16-If you order Western food it will look differently than you expect.
17- It is really quiet when you get away from the roads.
18 – There are chickens everywhere. They are like wild mice (aka rats).
19-Alcohol is rather expensive.
20-You need to drink bottled water. Even to brush your teeth.

More to come. We will be here for at least two more weeks. More adventures to be had. More plans to be made. Let’s hope that volcano behaves.

Family Commute

Cooking oil for sale at grocery. Makes a lot more sense to take it home and put it in your own container.

Local boys using a fish to fish.

A Royal Bathroom

Happy, jet lagged boys in a field.

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3 Cats, 3 Dogs, 3 Chickens, 1 boy who turned 10 and a Volcano Watch.

Sol 42: We are in our last week in OZ! I didn’t know was the nick name for this wonderful country as every time I hear that I think of a prison drama on HBO but, never you mind.

Last week, we went a different direction by splurging on passes to the amusement park of Dream World and White Water World .  This is out of the ordinary for us but, one turning 10 is a pretty big deal too.

We have never been to Disneyland but, this may count as a good alternative. Kelvin and I have not been to any Disney park since the 1980s so, we don’t have a lot to compare it to.

It was fun, some crazy rides and loads of old school favorites. Also, not so crowded so all introverts in the family adjusted well. We packed our lunches and easily headed to the car to eat or carried what we needed with us.
For an eight year old and newly minted ten-year old it was the ‘bees knees’. My words, not theirs. Theirs included ‘This is sick!’ and ‘What the ‘bleep’ (yes, they say actual word bleep).

These sound bites don’t sound so good in print. It felt good to be in a place with a bunch of other kids too.

There are few amusement parks where you can see Kangaroos, Dingoes, Bilbys, and lizards that are all over the place. They might even visit your picnic lunch (the lizards, not the Dingoes!).

Oakley’s favorite place was the Lego Store as you walked in. This sounds like the ‘liquor store’ when spoken by a native Aussie so, my confusion was apparent. And disappointed to having no wine with the Legos. But, alas.

Canyon starting his Chauffeur career.

Canyon, our ever-present water hound, was pleased with all the water slides and joyous drops from up high. He even learned to drive a little.

Kelvin took a lot of photos (you should check out his blog at Degrees of Kelvin to see some of his perspective on this trip.

He always shows us sides of the trip we hadn’t seen and close-ups with all the birds and animals. All of us had a great time, we had a couple of day pass that we felt was very affordable.

Which was good as Oakley had a fever the first day and he and I hung out at the house with the dogs for the day while Kelvin and Canyon adventured.

Canyon bringing Mossimo back as Oakley looks down from the bedroom.

The dog and chicken sit is going well. There are three dogs with varying personalities and one is blind so, we carry him down the stairs to wee/poo. The house is called a Queenslander so, it basically built on stilts.

It is a single level for living but, the bottom is like an open spaced garage/washroom/storage room. Fresh eggs every morning is a plus as well.

We also have been getting in our last swims in the Australian seas as well as trips to the pharmacies, book stores and other supply places we might not so easily access on our next leg.

We have been finding our way with the world-schooling. It is a rhythm that we are all trying to balance. Kelvin and I take turns ‘teaching’ or ‘guiding’ as in the Montessori way.

We did Skype with the classroom and that was helpful for the boys to see some of their friends and realize that they are far behind or missing big events.

Yes, there are doing cool things in school but, it’s not like the boys are left out. As they check in with their reporting of their adventures. This helps with the home/friend-sickness that comes up from time to time.

Did I mention that volcano? The last couple weeks there is has been a lot in the news about Mt.Agung’s volcano activity.

List to report to the class.

We have talked with ex-pats that are there and contacted several places and we are getting the go ahead to proceed.

Even the Balinese Tourism Chief asked folks to not change their plans and to still come to Bali. We are not planning on being in place near the Mt.Agung so we are going.

We don’t currently have flight plans to leave which is for the best as we can pick and choose when and where we go next.

We have accommodations for nearly three weeks and will keep a keen eye on what is happening.

The last couple days are connections with long time friends. Staying in their wonderfully comfy, clean house warm with lively conversation, tasty meals and, as Oakley ferreted out, more Legos.

We did tip our hat to OZ at Sky Point , one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere. It was a great way to get some perspective when getting ready to leave an area.

The views were unsurprising and there were many, many pods of Humpback Whales breaching, slapping and altogether frolicking out in the ocean. Oz is truly friendly, beautiful and ginormous. We will have to come back.

I think this just might be Kelvin and I in Lego form.

Kody helping Kelvin even though he is blind and deaf he knows good food when he smells it. So do the Geckos that climbed in the window to peek at the activity.

On the job, walking the dogs.

Canyon is trying three new things in each country and it was Sushi for his birthday. A new love for him (and a delight for me!).

Dinner with Deb, our first Trusted Housesitter host and a friend for life now. She has also offered Canyon an opportunity to come back when older to sit again.

 

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We are Doing it! Location Independent at Last!

I’m sitting under a Plumeria tree and a cactus-like bush listening to the roosters crow and I think, we have really made it. We launched on the road on Wednesday and now it is Sol Four. It is a down day as we work to figure out our travel/international life. We are officially Location Independent.

First Plane Ride They Remember

We are figuring out how to manage our online Traveling Mailbox where we ‘receive’ our mail everyday. Still sorting out the ends of our responsibilities in Oregon. Paying the last of our utility bills this way gives a whole new view of mail sorting, for sure.

I went for a sunrise walk and Kelvin went to the farmer’s market for dinner supplies. The boys are adjusting

to our schedule of writing, math work sheets and reading, reading, reading on their kindles.

It will take a bit to sort out the best balance to assure we keep up with our goals and living tasks (remember that I have been worried about getting enough learning in?). I feel confident we will figure it out.

So, the first days. The boys took their first plane ride that they remember, an afternoon swim with Green Sea Turtles, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor(free!), take out at  Barbeque Kai

We made it!

(local recommendation) where you get an amazingly yummy cheeseburger for $2.75 and many locals came in after the local high school footbal game to get theirs too. I felt we were in the right place.

We are really trying to keep our budget in check by making pack lunches and snacks. We are trying to spend about $40 a day (after accommodations and car rental). We know that Hawaii is likely to be on of the more expensive places in our trip. We brought a zillion Cliff Bars, a jar of Adam’s No-Stir Peanut Butter and have wandered the aisles of local grocery stores to get some basics.

We are staying in a house (AirBnB) and have a kitchen, washer, and while it is cozy we love the lizards in the yard and the three-minute walk to the beach. Our neighbors rock out to reggae, zoom by on their scooters (one holding his beloved chicken) and hang out their wash as we nod to each other across the fence.

Last week, at the last-minute, I realized we would not be able to make it to the airport in time by bus (none leaving at the needed 3:30am) so, rather than endure a costly Uber ride we rented a car from Turo .

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles

It’s like Airbnb for cars. For $17 a day we have a trusty Toyota and the owners meet us right outside baggage to deliver the car and an offer to meet up later in the week for a swim at the North Shore. I don’t think that can happen at Hertz.

So, the next steps. I am wrestling to sort out my to-dos, wants and needs. I am trying to follow my own advice in setting a low expectations so I don’t get overwhelmed with the FOMO. Here is to the next steps.

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Moving on Out! Lightening up the Load! On the Road!

We have been counting down the days until we fly out on the 23rd but, we realize that our first big departure day is tomorrow when we leave our house. We have been scurrying around for weeks trying to get all in place. The packing, sorting, donating, selling, scrapping and now, the cleaning.

For me, it feels like one of the most emotional parts. Packing up our lives means going through all the things that are around us daily. IMG_3120The regular coffee cups, the choices of shirts to wear, the boys Legos, that favorite pillow or cuddle blanket. Even going through shampoos, a lucky necklace or board game. We have been reducing our possessions to the smallest of piles to take with us.

 

The pack list is rather minimal. Pack what you can carry. IMG_3129
We still have some honing down to do and we will, however, it is certainly a fraction of what we have had access to everyday.

I have been impressed to see how our kids have been coping with the change and they have shown us, over and over again that they are very resilient kids. Most kids are. They live in the moment better than most adults. They are playing with what is in front of them even if it has been reduced to that last box of Legos and their Kindles.

These last days we have been feverishly cleaning surfaces and taping up boxes. Now the pod is gone (much to our

Good bye Pod!neighbor’s relief, I am sure) and our halls echo with our voices, we are aware that it is really us that makes a home. We ever we are, we will be fine.

We did have one of our two Bon Voyage parties. We had a give away area where folks sorted through some of the items we couldn’t yet donate or dump. It was a fun night where we also drank some of those really nice bottles of wine we have been saving for how long? Literally decades for some of them.

Lightening up the load. Today, we take our kitty to her new home with a long time friend, Ace. We pass the keys over to our patient renters. We return that final batch of library books. We use that borrowed vacuum for the last time.Growth chart measurement! Last for awhile We check the mail. Return keys to my office, measure the boys growth on the wall for that last time for a while and return that leftover dish from our Bon Voyage party.

Tonight we sleep the last time on our pile of blankets on the couch and the last bed left  in the house.

Tomorrow we drive to Idaho for a week of visiting family and friends. Our renters move in and we are officially on the road. Our journey in the contiguous 48 States starts our journey.

Bon Voyage! IMG_3077

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I’m Not Gonna Throw Away My Shot!

Days are counting down and we are on the move. This week we are wrapping up tasks. A big one has been getting our inoculations for this trip. I truly thought this would be pretty straight forward to plan and execute. Ha!

I wish, wish, wish I would started this one a couple of months ago. I found out in mid June that our insurance, which was ending on 30 June, actually does cover a lot of travel shots. Amazing as that isn’t usually the case. So, I was trying to wrangle the best schedule to get our shots in before our insurance ran out. The rest has been cash pay (ouch). IMG_2970That price tag smarts more for me than the pain of the shots, although, my sons will beg to differ.

We got about half of them in before paying out-of-pocket. Actually, cross your fingers for us as we are still awaiting the reimbursement from the insurance company after I submitted a 20+page claim on June 30th hours before our insurance ended at midnight. Please, please, please.

The other challenge has been the timing of all the shots. Japanese Encephalitis has one shot then, 28 days later, the booster. Each shot is $330. Gulp! You can do the math. It hurts my head too much.

Typhoid has one shot ($149) effective for two years or a series of four live-virus vaccine capsules ($40 per person with insurance) taken on an every other day, eight-day regiment, effective for five years. They have to be on an empty stomach that doesn’t allow any warm drinks (read NO coffee) and nothing to eat or drink for approximately two hours. Kelvin, Canyon and I figured out the way to go was to take the capsule at 5am and go back to sleep. Oakley had the shot and was none too pleased to be singled out for that one.

Then the Hepatitis series for Kelvin and I, which runs about $159 but, FREE with insurance. When I lived in Hong Kong in the 90s I had a series of shots but, I cannot (shockingly) find the paperwork on those details. Bummer for me as I got to have some of them again. The kids (and now all kids) have the Hepatitis shots as part of their normal childhood regiment so, no extra bargaining there. And it’s covered by their insurance. Yay!

Yellow Fever, about $159 a shot, is also a live-virus shot which requires someone specially trained to administer. Also, the batches here in Portland, Oregon would sell out in a day so, you had to ‘reserve’ your doses. Never knew, we had such a hot market for real estate and Yellow Fever vaccines.

Figuring out where to get them administered was hard. That became tricky as we ended going through Walgreens Pharmacy to get them all sorted. Other places charged a lot to administer (upwards of a $25 per shot fee) and an in office fee per person which could be just $200 for us to walk in the door.IMG_3024

These stand alone places (and even one connected to Providence Hospitals) refused to bill insurance even after I had arranged a conference call with my insurance (BCBS), them and myself on the line. They stated that most insurances don’t pay and I had my insurance company telling them they would if they would just bill for it. They refused. My last conversation with that medical office did not highlight my best, adult problem solving conversational skills. Sometimes you meet people who are very regimented and rigid (what’s that, Kelvin? You know someone like that?).

Also, when you vaccinate young kids you need written (read not phoned in or electronic) prescriptions for these shots so, had to go to pediatricians office to pickup or have them post them to us. Those pediatricians frequently can’t administer the shots as they don’t have them in-house and are somewhat reluctant to order them in as the transport of live-virus stuff gets tricky.

I had my patience tested many a times and collectively, I likely spent about eight hours on calls and research to find the right place. Then came the waiting times at Walgreens. We knew that store’s employee codes and all the aisles after three visits and approximately six hours being there. IMG_3025The folks there were mostly great but, with each day new people had to be told what we were doing and I was beginning to feel like I was in a Groundhog Day movie.

We would have an ‘appointment’ to get our shot. This was a loose term I realize and often we waited up to two hours to get everything written up, processed, paid for and administered. Kelvin and I broke all our screen time and sugar rules to get it done. Our sensory kids were nervous and at times it was achingly painful to have to negotiate with a screaming, sweating eight year old. I may apply for SWAT tactical hostage negotiation work later in life.

So, we are basically set in that department. One more thing moved to the DONE column. I know you can’t really put a price on avoiding a life threatening diseases. My advice to anyone out there thinking of traveling like we are. Sort this earlier as it takes longer than you think, you might get some of it covered by your insurance and budget for it. It is not cheap. And I am pretty sure this isn’t covered in any healthcare coverage being bargained over in DC.

 

 

 

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Before the Lemonade there is the Lemon

All of this travel and life planning is full of excitement, fear, anxiety, trepidation and wonder. However, all of this wouldn’t be happening but, for the fact that Kelvin is losing his job of 13 years. Today is the day that becomes an absolute reality.

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This morning he went in to grade the last group of students in the restaurant, yesterday having the last restaurant opening of the curriculum.

Kelvin has been working at Le Cordon Bleu (and previously known as Western Culinary Institute) as a chef instructor, primarily running the student restaurant called Technique, for over a decade.

We have had a lot of happy memories there, celebrating births, graduations, mourning loved ones, birthdays and just a good night with good food. Friends and family joining for amazing meals and bright-eyed students nervously applying their skills.

He taught the practical class where students would put all their newly honed skills to work in creating a live restaurant. Imagine opening a restaurant with new staff every six weeks. He has done it with pride and tenacity.

Five years ago we did the numbers of students he had taught after the restaurant closed to the public and then it was over 2200 students. Five years on it would make sense that number has multiplied. IMG_2030

We are sorry this chapter has come to a close. As most people do, we have chosen to make a new path out of the end of this one. We are grateful that Le Cordon Bleu has given us a lot of notice (18 months) and some help to send Kelvin on his way. We will miss the people, students, experiences and community.

I give a shout out to my very modest husband who has worked tirelessly and devotedly to make an impact student’s minds in the culinary world. He has an amazing mind for menu planning, restaurant management and price point evaluation and culinary insights and application.

I still get nervous from time to time to cook for him. Not because he is a harsh critic but, because he knows his stuff. He gets calls from family and friends for a bit of quick advice and is always modest and ready to help.

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Newborn Canyon and the Chefs

So, please tip your chef’s hat to Kelvin today. To ‘Chef Gurr’ as he has been called by thousands of students. After that celebratory drink after work come on home, hang up your apron and let’s get going on our new path.

We will be traveling the world and soaking up all the culinary delights along the way. Watch out world. Stay tuned to his space. Something amazing will pop up from his mind when set down again next year. Need a consultant anyone?

 

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