Since We've Been Home.....

Well, the past six weeks or so since we've been home have been filled with family and friends and school and work and regular life. All good things. It has also been filled with sad tears from kids missing Thailand, feeling so grateful for opportunities to experience cool new things together as a family, some serious photo book making, and some MAJOR research and dreaming of possible future trips. Literally, they will pull out the globe, find the tropic of cancer and tropic of capricorn and spin. This is followed by Google research and subsequent book check outs from the library to further explore options!

I mean, they are on a search for more water like this. I can't blame them, really!



Cooking Club happens here in a few weeks and, no surprise, we will be making Thai food. I best get my cooking hat on and get to planning and practicing. I do not proclaim to be a great Thai cook. But there is no time like the present to start practicing!

I will say this. Travel brings more perspective than anything I've ever done before. I was the girl who hadn't even been to Eastern Washington when I left to college. My travels growing up were minimal. So once I started traveling as an adult, it's like the world became my oyster. I value learning about other parts of the world. I value trying new foods and communicating in other languages and always being humbled. I love the reminder that there is a whole lot going on out there outside my little dot on the map! And I want that for my kids! And I am seeing how it is shaping their perspective of people and the world.

So this blog post is all about the little nuggets of wisdom or a-ha's I've overheard or come upon through discussions since we've been home.

1. Nate learned that not everyone with white skin speaks English. I'm not joking. I don't think this little thought ever even crossed my mind until he said something off the cuff about it. We met lots of travelers from France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Republic of Georgia, Spain, etc, etc. Some spoke a little English, but some did not! Huh, what a great thing to learn. Awareness!

2. A few nights ago on the way home from somewhere, I quietly drove and listened to Audrey school Nate in the subject of karma. Oh boy, did he get an earful for whatever he did to her! She clearly was paying attention during our temple tours and learnings about Buddhism. Karma has come up many times since our return, and I'm pretty sure it's here to stay!

3. My kids are hilariously open to flying for as many hours as they need to to get anywhere. In fact while researching possible future trips locations, they quickly google flight times. 4, 6, 8 hour flights...please...so easy!

4. My daughter and two of her besties are currently saving for their Thailand trip after graduation. They are a little torn, because they realize they should also be saving for a car and college, but they are just moving along in stride and saving! I'm not joking on this. It's how these girls think. And I love them and love hearing them chat about their plans. If anyone will follow through - it's these three!

5. Experiences. I would much rather experience something together as a family than buy anything. And I am pretty sure that feeling is unanimous in my house!

6. I think the kids may be able to coordinate the details of our next trip....by themselves.

7. I thought Nate forgot, but the other day he wai'd a lady (possibly Thai) when we passed by her. A wai is the bow that all Thais do when they greet, give thanks or say goodbye. It made me double take and I didn't say a word to him. So awesome.

8. Thanks to the Thai Hut in Gig Harbor - my kids and husband will always have a place to say, "sawatdi" and "kop kun" (hello and thank you).

9. Elephants. Gendreaus are in love with Elephants. In fact the Easter Bunny even brought an elephant treasure in their Easter baskets. Nate was floored that she (the Easter Bunny is a she in case you didn't know) knew of his new-found love of all things elephant.

10. Before we left - there were a few hot topics/fears that had surfaced with regard to traveling so far away to a place none of us had been before. Things like "will I get malaria?", "what if we get sick from the food?", "what happens if I accidentally drink the water?", "what if there are terrorists?". I'm not kidding....5th graders lay it out on the line. So for my kids....traveling to Thailand, having the time of our life, problem solving when we needed to, not getting Malaria, meeting the coolest people, not getting sick, loving the food, and not running into terrorists was a confidence booster for sure!

I think for me, my take-aways were many. But first and foremost, a reminder to show gratitude and remembering to keep it simple. It's easy to get caught up in the go-go-go and the sometimes crazy 'thing focused' part of our culture. So I have found myself saying on several occasions (more than my usual), "really?.....not there...not interested....don't need it....go play outside....we are good just where we are" a lot.

I love our country. We are a melting pot of so many different cultural influences. We are lucky on so many levels and in so many ways. It's the little things - like turning on the water and drinking from the tap. It's access to medical care. It's being acknowledged by our government as contributors of our country. It's about having good jobs and access to education. I don't want to ever forget to acknowledge those things as blessings,  and I don't ever want to forget the people around this world that don't have access to the same things. They deserve it as much as we do!

So for now, I end. I like letting thoughts simmer after a trip.

I have finished my big-gigantic photo book and it's "in production". The photos are many and the memories will last forever.

To Audrey, Nathan and Todd. You three are favorites in the world. You rule!






Happy day!

-Stacy

P.S. If you'd like to peruse/find the other Thailand blog posts......here you go
****Thailand Blog Post #1
****Thailand Blog Post #2
****Thailand Blog Post #3



If you ever go to Thailand.......

I knew the second I arrived, I would reserve an entire blog post for this place. 




Last spring when we started planning this trip, a friend was traveling Asia. She posted a picture of her and an adorable elephant, and the rest was history. I emailed her immediately to find out where the heck she was. We checked out Patara, watched every video on their website and fell in love with their program and their elephants. As we got closer to our trip departure date, we enjoyed watching elephant calf after elephant calf arriving at the farm....knowing we would soon get to meet them in real life! 

Chiang Mai has to be one of the coolest cities I've ever visited. I loved everything about it. Patara is a beautiful hour long drive outside of Chiang Mai. As we headed out of the city, we drove through these small towns in awe of the simplicity and beauty of the Thai culture! Our day at Patara also happened to be my fabulous husband's birthday. I mean, does it get better than that? Riding elephants through the jungle on your birthday?!!!!  
I think not! 

But this day was much more than riding elephants. As we quickly realized in our travels, one needs to be very choiceful about where you experience different things in Thailand. Especially elephants. As we learned from Pat (the amazing owner of Patara) the elephant population has decreased nearly by half in the last 40 years in Thailand. Elephants are often overworked and not well taken care of. Pat's dad actually started Patara in 1968. Pat was raised with the elephants and a commitment to love them and care for them and help grow the population. I saw quite a few elephants on our trip, but the elephants that came around the corner that morning were the most happy, smiley, healthiest looking elephants I'd ever seen! We proceeded to learn more than I could have ever imagined about this gentle, strong animal. How to know if they are healthy, how to know if they slept well, why and how to clean them, how herds grow together, the aging process, commands for positively reinforcing them, feeding them....you name it, they taught us! And yes, I squeezed my elephants poop to find out how hydrated she was - she was well hydrated! 

We were assigned our elephants for the day early on! Every elephant has what is called a "mahout" - essentially a handler that is with them all day and all night. They never left our side. In fact the snazzy outfits we wore were the same attire of the mahouts. 
They had us wear the same so the elephants perceived us as a safe person! 

Meet our elephants for the day! 

Audrey and Jing

Nathan and Prai Na


Todd and Man Kanin


And this is Bun Jun. She has a 3 month old sweet girl named Arin.
I was lucky enough to hang with them for the day!

 If you ever go to Thailand,
you must put this amazing place on your "to experience" list! 

So let me just share my fav highlights of this day!!!

Meeting the elephants and and just loving on them. 
Are you kidding??? CRAZY and so awesome! 
When we took breaks, Jing would always mosey over to come find Audrey. 
I think her heart melted about 100 times on this day!


Remembering when Pat said "trust in the footsteps of the elephant....they will never falter". He was right and as I sat on top of Bun Jun's head riding through jungle (imagine their ears are like a seatbelt),  I closed my eyes and repeated his words. You see, Arin is Bun Jun's 3 month old baby girl. She joined us on the walk and was like any other baby - running all over. Bun Jun would constantly keep watch! There were a few times we had steep inclines on either side of us, and Arin would run by. Bun Jun would literally turn her head (with me on top) which ultimately had me hanging over the steep incline! YIKES! 
Thank goodness for Pat's words!!!! Her footsteps never faltered. 

We learned so much about bathing and cleaning elephants....why we do it and the best way!
Was I kind of freaking out that I was in the water with elephants.....yes. 
Did we all love it.....YES!


Learning how to get on and off an elephant. 
Note: This is no easy feat and my dismount did involve sliding down her trunk!
Notice how they lift their foot? Elephants are so smart and so teachable. 
AMAZING!





Baby elephants!  3 months, 6 months, 28 days. Cutest I've ever seen. 
Those baby trunks! And they want to play like a puppy! 
Of course when a 200 pound one month old elephant comes at you to play like a puppy,
it's a little different! HA! 


 Turning around and seeing Nate trying everything he can to "encourage" his elephant, Prai Na, to move a little faster. Elephants are not fast.
They are slow and steady. 
In case you don't know Nate very well, he likes to be the line leader! 
FYI, Nate and Prai Na were well matched. It was pretty hilarious! 

Watching Audrey and Jing. Two peaceful souls perfectly matched for this day. Initially, Audrey wasn't sure if she wanted her own elephant or to ride with either myself or Todd. We talked and I told her it was absolutely her decision. I often remind my kids that they should never let "feeling scared" keep them from trying something new.....because they might just miss out on the coolest experience. Well,  Audrey told me soon after we arrived that she would be riding her own elephant that day! HOORAY! It was perfection. 
And reading her journaling from this day pretty much makes me melt! 

 Half way through our day, we arrived upon this huge opening where we had one of the best meals of our trip. We hung out with the two other families in our group (one from Lithuania and one from China). The elephants just roamed around and came to visit. The BEST! 



 Todd Gendreau, I hope you had the best birthday ever. 


Even if you don't go to Thailand - go follow Patara on Facebook and watch their videos on their website. I literally cry. I am ridiculous, though, I know! 

Phew, so glad to have this blogged and forever documented. What a day! 

Happy Wednesday! 

-Stacy










Just Love.....in B&W!

This fabulous family session reminded me of why I completely love photographing people in their own space.

It was simple. It was playful. It was comfy. It was them!

I also learned on this day that I was totally meant to meet this trio (and was crazily surprised we hadn't crossed paths before)! But I am SO glad we did.



Hello dimples all around!



Snuggling on the couch sets up the best moments.

Tyson is 12. 
I loved him. 
He is seriously handsome!

Oh Nate - you look like such a proud big brother!!!!


It was such a good day! Kristi your family is the best!!!!!!

xoxo

-Stacy

Nate's Thoughts On Thailand

                                                                So, I found this in Nate's backpack. 
                                                                                      I love it. 
                                                                            More than anything. 



Happy Sunday

-Stacy

Scriven ~ Chadwick ~ James Families! Could I Love Them More?!!!

I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but within a few months I had the Scriven Family in front of my camera twice! WIN FOR ME! One of my favorite families in life!

Now, add Dan and Martha (Kate's mom and dad) and the James crew into the mix, and we have nothing but fun here!

I can definitely tell you that apples don't fall from trees. Dan and Martha are amazing in every way and, well, their girls are equally as extraordinary.

Now, these cuties are a fabulous foursome......loving - funny - gorgeous - basically super-awesome!


Todd, you melt my heart sometimes. 
I think you secretly love getting family photos!

Really, Grace and Kate?!?! 
I believe this needs to be giant on your wall! 

Fast forward a few months and the rest of Kate's family arrived for some fun! 
What a perfect way to celebrate a dad's milestone birthday! 
I asked when they last had a picture of just the four of them. 
Let's just say it had been a while. 
This day I became a serious fan of the "core unit" photo. 
Doesn't matter how old you are. These are so important! 


James Family 
You five and this light = Perfection!

Love

And let's end with this fabulous shot. 
I was taking a pic of the grandparents and the grandkids and told these rascals behind me to get the party started so we could have some good smiles. 
Then I turned around and saw this. 
It's one of my favs from the day !


Sometimes I feel so lucky. And I feel so grateful for each photo in this post. 

I love moments. They are the best. 

xoxo

-Stacy

"11"




Dimples.
Kind.
Smart.
Intuitive.
Hilariously witty.
Creative and strong.
Lover of Skittles, soccer and back-walkovers.
Avid reader.
Lover of Thailand.
Snorkeler.
Such a good cook.
So decisive.
Friend for life.
One of my favorite travel buddies ever.
And she's 11 today.
Whoa.
On our recent trip I kept finding myself in these great conversations with her and thinking, "Seriously, I can't believe we are having these conversations and I'm so glad we are."


Getting older pulls at my heartstrings, but experiencing her fabulous character as she evolves into this special young lady is awesome! 
Happy 11th Birthday Audrey! You are majorly loved!






xoxo

-Mama

Thailand

Me, at this very moment.....sucked into reading cool quotes about travel!

My fav so far...."One of the great things about travel is you find out how many good, kind people there are in the world!"

To say we loved Thailand  just doesn't really do the whole experience justice. It was so good for us....for our family....for our hearts.

A few of us Gendreaus are suffering from "fernweh" at the moment!


My sweet girl has it the worst. She would go back tomorrow.....she'd live there....and enroll in an International School. I'm not kidding. But in retrospect, all that is the Thai culture is so her.....quiet, peaceful, calm, loving, uncomplicated, kind...it was the perfect cultural fit!!!! And she misses it - we all do! And I am so grateful we were able to experience it together. She is forever changed and so are we!

I'm not sure how many posts I'll write about our travels. It always takes me some time to decompress and let everything settle when I get home. That's the greatest thing....you don't always realize how something impacts you until you are home and back into your groove.

I know for sure, Todd's birthday at Patara Elephant Farm will have it's own post. I'm sure Audrey and Nate in Thailand will be another.

But for tonight I'm going to share what I loved about our trip and this beautiful country full of so many beautiful people and experiences. So sit back and get ready to breathe in some Thai fun!


I loved watching them enjoy the view!



We loved the temples and learning all about the Buddhist religion!



We loved chatting with the monks. 
And I'll never forget the monk that wanted to practice his English with Nate. 
In general, Nate's interactions with everyone he came upon were hysterical and so fun to watch.
And watching both my kids pick up the basic Thai words and use them daily was awesome!!!!
And the smiles and hugs that came in return - priceless!

I loved just playing!
(And P.S. - thanks to Audrey I showed up in photos on this trip) 

We loved the Elephants!
And I loved Nate's smile because of them!




I loved watching Audrey on day #2 sign this silk in a temple in Chiang Mai. 
Audrey LOVED the temples. 

Thai Coke Light
I love international pop cans! HA! 

I loved watching people get around. 
You never know what you'll see!

These are tuk-tuks. 
And we loved them!

My traveler. 

 We love the Phi Phi Islands

I loved that our long tail boat guide helped Nate catch a tropical fish in an empty bread bag! 

I loved watching her!
And if you look closely in the photo below you'll see the tropical fish in the water!

Long Tail Boats
All those ribbons and decor on the front - for good luck. 

Monkeys
They were everywhere

I loved watching my kids snorkel and become slightly obsessed with it! 

Sunsets. 
Railay Bay. 
The best I've ever seen. 

Limestone cliffs that knock your socks off. 
AMAZING!

I love this. 
This was basically him all the time. 
I'd literally pull him up out of the water to take a photo. 

The water. 
Are you kidding? 
Prettiest I've ever seen! 


And my Todd. 
Best dad - always fun.
I loved our quiet moments together!
I'll travel anywhere with you, any day of the week!!!




 I loved watching her do handstands on the beach as the sun went down. 

Three words. 
Thai Banana Pancakes
(topped with chocolate)
AKA - Thai Roti
New fav dessert for sure! 


 Pretty sure this was the favorite place we stayed. 
Huts on the beach 
Monkeys
Nicest people
Quiet, relaxing, getting up every morning to watch the sunrise with Audrey.
Then ending the night in a beach chair staring up at the skies watching the stars. 
Totally perfect. 

Best reading happened on our bungalow deck. 

 Nightly soccer games with kids from all over the world who spoke all different languages. 
Play, smiles, and soccer are universal! 

The food. 
Don't even get me started. 
Like nothing I've eaten here. 
SO delicious. 



 I loved roadside markets. 

And I loved that we hopped in the back of this truck to drive up to the hill tribes in Chiang Mai. 

These kids spoke no English. 
But Nate brought a bag of jolly ranchers to share with whomever he met.
It was clearly a hit! 
Nate learned quickly how to make friends even when you speak different languages. 

I loved hiking to the coolest places!

I loved our guide, Seng. 
He taught us about medicinal plants on our hike, made the best food at the waterfall, and made these fantastic bamboo pop guns for the kids (imagine the best spit wad shooter you've ever known). 
Sadly, security at Krabi airport deemed them as un-passable. 
Oh well, they had fun while they lasted. 

Thanks Audrey for rockin' the photos on this crazy experience!
Fish Spa. 


And the crazy moment someone puts a tiger on your lap!!!!!
WHOA!

Her heart in the sand says it all!!!! 


There are more stories to tell......like Todd feeding monkeys in the jungle then being surrounded by about 15 monkeys wanting bread.....hunting monitor lizards in the park in Bangkok.....Nate and the markets (lord help us).....an international playdate with friends from home in Phuket.....Audrey's insights and post trip planning to travel with her friends after high school...the boys catching a Muay Thai fight...there is so much to share. But it will all come in good time! 

Since we've been home I've had many people ask me if I felt safe traveling with my family in Thailand. I posed the question to the kids the other night. They looked at me as if I had just asked them the craziest question they'd ever heard. "Mom, of course we felt safe, we were in Thailand!" 
I will say, "ditto".  As I said to a friend earlier this week - in Thailand there are millions of mom's just like us loving their kids and loving on ours when they have the opportunity! I'm not going to lie and say there weren't parts of me that were nervous about different aspects of traveling across the world with my kids. But the cure for that - traveling across the world with my kids! 

Signing off from the house with the globe on the kitchen table because my kids are obsessed with researching our next trip! Always good to dream!!!

xoxo

-Stacy