Lisa Leonard Designs

raising kids in thailand

February 21st | adventures

Debbie was one of my close friends in college, and then after college we got even closer when five couples started a supper club–and those people became our main support group. Now the couples are a little bit scattered around southern and central California–but one couple, Debbie and Les, traveled way to Thailand. Debbie and her husband Les are raising their kiddos in a very different culture. It was wonderful to visit with them a few weeks ago and see how it works for them abroad. I interviewed her so you can get an inside peek into their family life as well!
Q. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
A. Misha: our ten year old super reader.  Sydney: our seven year old budding artist.  Lillie Belle: our four year old affectionate firecracker.  Eva: two and a half, so hide the nail polish, permanent markers and breakables!

Q. What are your three favorite things about Thailand?
A. 1) Taking a shower.  During hot season I take three or four a day!
2) Mango & sticky rice.  If you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll understand.
3) All my worlds touch here.  I was born in New Zealand, raised in Colombia, and spent my adult life in both California and Russia.  In Thailand I am surrounded by memories of my tropical upbringing in Colombia with the plant-life, fruits and weather, am working with Americans, send my kids to a bilingual school run and taught by New Zealanders and enjoy visits from our old Russian friends frequently, as Thailand is the number one tourist destination for Russia.

Q. What are a couple unique experiences your kids are getting by living in a different country?
A. Having a chance to experience life as an outsider is a gift.  I believe it will give them a heart of compassion and understanding for those they encounter in the future that may not fit in.  I hope that sacrificing ease and comfort for the sake of bringing justice and dignity to the marginalized and impoverished will grow a selfless worldview in them.

Q. As a mom, is there anything you feel guilty about?
A. I feel guilty when I realize I am more worried about people thinking I am a perfect mom with kids who behave exactly how I want them to, than I am actually concerned with loving my kids well and raising them in this messy world to hope in Jesus.

Q. Are there any new foods you’ve tried since moving to Thailand?
A. Yes!  And everything new I have tried has been delicious.  (I have to confess, I haven’t tried fried bugs, but I do firmly believe that if and when I do, I will think they were pretty good, considering they were…fried bugs.)  My favorite new dish that I have grown to love here is Som Tam. A salad made primarily from shredded unripe payaya, with tomatoes, lime juice, garlic, chilli peppers, fish sauce, and nuts – it is a perfect combination of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty.

Q. How do you relax and get refreshed?
A. A one-hour, ten-dollar Thai massage does the trick every time.

Q. What has been the hardest thing about living in Thailand?
A. Learning another language.  The actual language is fascinating and unlike any I’ve ever studied, but with a full life as mom of four I feel like I never have enough time or energy to devote to it.  Not being understood never feels good.

Q. What do you and your husband do for date night?
A. I throw on a helmet, hop on the back of his motorcycle and we head off to try out a new restaurant, walk the night market, or sit in a quiet café to talk over coffee.

Q. Anything else we should know about you?
A. I will be traveling to visit my thirtieth country this month: China.  With our parents in California (and mine retiring to New Zealand next year), a sister in Colombia and a brother in London, I am grooming one of my children to grow up and become a commercial airline pilot, because all this travel is killing our budget!

Debbie, thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with us! It makes me want to be more adventurous and experience life with my kiddos. I love you, friend!

Is there an adventure or experience you desire for yourself or your family? Please share!

23 Responses

  1. Whitney Hill says:

    Love this! Missing Debbie & Les. So glad you were able to go and visit them in Thailand, Lisa. Hope you are well!

  2. Kara M says:

    I had to stop at Mango & Sticky Rice! My parents just left for Thailand to visit my bro’s family. I’m sad that I can’t be on the beach with them all, but I really miss the mango & sticky rice meals…its all I eat while I’m there!

  3. Pam says:

    It was great to get the perspective of your friends a really lovely story.

  4. Brooke says:

    What a fun and interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nem says:

    I grew up in Thailand and it is definitely my favorite country. It was great to see the photos. Made me miss it so much. And som tom is one of my favorite dishes too.. aroy mak mak!! :)

  6. Darlene says:

    LOVE this quote “I feel guilty when I realize I am more worried about people thinking I am a perfect mom with kids who behave exactly how I want them to, than I am actually concerned with loving my kids well and raising them in this messy world to hope in Jesus.” Absolutely how I feel so many times! It looks like you had a great visit. One of my best friends is from Thailand and his mom can whip up the BEST food in an instant! Every time you visit she has to feed you something :o).

  7. LOVD says:

    Life’s journey is enough of an adventure for me:-)

  8. Marnie says:

    So cool!

  9. Sarah-Anne says:

    she is amazing. seriously. i’m just reading about her life in Thailand and missing America hahaha.

  10. sandra says:

    wow!
    what an amazing adventure.
    i give this family all the credit in the world!

  11. Rika toll says:

    As an American who just moved abroad, I love this post. Did your friend move for work?
    I read your blog daily. Thank for sharing your journey.
    Cheers from Darwin Australia.
    Oh and does your friend have a blog?

  12. kristin says:

    Loved this interview.
    Thank you for sharing, Lisa!

  13. Ashley says:

    I have a Lily Belle, too! How fun!! :)

  14. Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing! I also wanted to know if she has a blog? I admire families who have the guts to move and raise their kids in a culture that is so vastly different from the one they know.

  15. Linda says:

    I was so inspired by this comment of Debbie’s:

    “I hope that sacrificing ease and comfort for the sake of bringing justice and dignity to the marginalized and impoverished will grow a selfless worldview in them.”

  16. What a great post – thanks for the peek into life in another culture. My SIL is Thai and I love the country (and the food). It is such a difficult language – kudos to Debbie for attempting it!

  17. Nancye Y. says:

    Thanks for this Lisa….it was good to see pictures of our family that we don’t usually see! Also, good hearing a little bit more about how my daughter thinks :-) We look forward to visiting soon too.

  18. les says:

    Grandma showed me this blog AND I loved seeing how much my grandkids have grown….
    grandpa nez

  19. Cheryl says:

    What fun to get a little “day in the life of” with you guys…almost (but not hardly) feels like we got to visit too! Maybe someday……;)

  20. Doni says:

    I love being friends with this lovely lady. Can’t imagine doing life in Thailand without her. Also, that your friendship brought you all the way here so I could get to know you, Lisa!

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      I agree Debbie is pretty great–and you are too. So thankful to know you and your sweet heart. I’m praying for you guys! xxoo

  21. Debbie says:

    We don’t have a blog, but our dear friends Jason & Doni do, and they arrived here four days after we did. I’m pretty sure they would love you to stop by…

    http://weimers4thailand.blogspot.com/

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