The O'Byrne Fam.....Love them!!!!

These four are some of my favs ever! Sometimes you know you were just supposed to meet! This is definitely one of those cases. It started with Krista a few years back. She is the fabulous owner at Hoopla Events and an event coordinator, extraordinaire! Well, then I met the rest of her core people, and I loved them just as much.

So this day, we decided to venture up to my neck of the woods and grab some family photos.

What I love about Krista? So much - but I totally love that in the "thick of it" (which is what I call the phase of life with kids 5 and under...with work....and life....and all that)....she never misses a chance to photograph the heck out of her family! And I am SO glad that I often get to be the photographer!!!!!

Love you O'Byrnes!

Enjoy your weekend!!!!


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 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 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 my favorites in the world. You rule!

Happy day!


P.S. If you'd like to peruse/find the other Thailand blog 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 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. 

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! 


Just 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!!!!!!