Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was less than traditional this year. I guess that is usually the case here in the village…one year we had a Thanksgiving duck…another year two Thanksgiving chickens. But, this year was the most lacking in tradition. This year we had my pumpkin mole soup and pumpkin cake. We love my pumpkin soup, but it was strange to be fowl-less. No turkey, duck, chicken, or even turduckens in sight.

As I was mentally preparing for a small, low-key Thanksgiving, I wasn’t really wishing for turkey, cranberry sauce, or stuffing. I was wishing for someone that we could share it with. Other village Thanksgivings we have happily shared our bounty with friends. This year, though, they all couldn’t make it.

For weeks beforehand I kept thinking of the loneliness of the holiday. No friends (who know what Thanksgiving is). No extended family. No other Americans for kilometers and kilometers.

When the actual day arrived it wasn’t a bit sad. By God’s grace, the loneliness had dulled. As we created our Thanksgiving art projects, I was able to remember the many things we have to be grateful for. It helped my heart to see the boys enjoy themselves, and to throw their heart into being thankful.

Now we are in full-on Christmas mode. Bring on the Christmas music.

Minimalist Baby gear

We bring everything to our mountain home by motorbike. Because of that it has caused me to rethink what baby things are necessary, which things are nice to help keep our sanity, and what things are really only clutter.

  1. Somewhere for baby to sleep. We have a borrowed pack n play. All my babies have slept in them. I don’t love them because…ugly. But, I always end up giving in to the practicality. We also have a few sheets, blankets, a wool waterproof pad, and a mosquito net.
  2. Somewhere to bathe the baby. We have a plastic tub inside the shower.
  3. Baby food gear. For us it’s a small metal bowl, a camping spoon, a blender, and a pot. We don’t even need a bib since it’s warm enough to just strip him down. We just bought a sippy cup that he’s learning to use.
  4. A baby carrier. I LOVE my Ergo.
  5. Diapers. We use cloth diapers (Flips) in the village, disposable when we are traveling. We also have a plastic lidded bucket for the dirties, cloth wipes and bottom spray, and we already had a “diaper” sprayer.
  6. Clothes. We get away with a few rompers, a few long sleeve pajamas and pants, and a few pairs of socks. It’s nice not to need much.
  7. Toiletries. We have baby soap, saline spray, baby Motrin, a snot sucker, chest rub, eucalyptus oil, a thermometer, and Medicine Mama’s sweet bee magic.

Non necessities that we have because we were given them, or because it helps our sanity.

  1. Toys. Ez likes the plastic clip rings, his bear, and Duplos. Period. Well he also loves anything that isn’t a toy like potatoes, pot lids, string, or trash. But we have Sophie, other squishy toys, board books, and cars if he ever decides to play with them.
  2. High chair. Sure we could feed him on the floor like we did for the first while.  But it’s nice to have somewhere that he stays put.
  3. Baby hammock. This isn’t so much for me, as it is for the ladies who help around the house. They don’t like to hear a baby crying on his own in a crib, and they love bouncing Ez to sleep…the hammock is a win for them.
  4. Baby book. I TRY to keep track of the milestones that so quickly go wizzing by.

I realize that everyone’s definition of minimal is different, and that actually our baby gear is quite extensive compared to our neighbors. Baby prep in the village mostly involves buying a bunch of sarongs, some baby soap and eucalyptus oil, and maybe buying or making a baby hammock. The sarongs serve as clothes, blankets, diapers, and carriers for the first months.

Is there anything that I’ve forgotten? Any gear that you think we should add?

 Life. Daily.

What our daily life looks like in our village home.

Ezra and Jude wake up before the chickens. Literally. We sit Ezra in his high chair in front of the open door. He watches the dawn, and the chickens flying down out of their tree.

Jude reads cartoons in his bed until six. OCCASIONALLY he will fall asleep again.

Then it is time for Breakfast. On this morning we eat a sailors’ breakfast of “hardtack”, salted meat, and cheese. We are studying explorers in History. Ezra enjoys papaya, sweet potato, oatmeal, or rice.

Next it’s time to get ready for school. Which mostly just means brushing teeth, clearing off their desks, and folding their blankets. Then school. Dad teaches Bible and then Science. 

Then it is mom’s turn. If Ezra is napping, it is relatively easy to read through history, help Jude with his daily five, and oversee Grey. If he is not, it gets more complicated. 

Michael begins language study around eight. He might walk to the village, or he might have a friend come by to study with him. His schedule is another post for another day.


We usually finish school by eleven. I will either quickly prepare something, or if I have help, the ladies will. They will wash dishes, wash clothes (and the cloth diapers), mop, and cook. It is SO much nicer when they are around. 
After lunch the boys will often go swimming.


I might be able to get some language study in. Sometimes I rest while Ezra is napping. When it’s dry season we would probably go visiting. But, since its slippery, slick rainy season, we hang around the house. 

Our house becomes the play zone for all of the kids coming home from school.

It gets dark at six, we turn on the generator, eat dinner, and watch a movie. At eight we turn off the generator, and go to bed. Bed comes early in the dark jungle after a full day.

Greens and Whining.

One loves yellow rice. The other loves chocolate cereal.


For lunch the other day we had rice, cassava and papaya greens in coconut milk, and fried tempeh

If you are thinking “my kids would NEVER eat that, and would just beg for some pizza.” Yeah. My kids didn’t want to either. And there was wishing for pizza. 

After their daddy prayed and thanked God for the greens that we grew in our yard and the rice and fish that we were able to buy with the money He provides us with, Michael reminded the boys that the Israelites whined and wished for pizza too…or er…leeks. 

The Israelites were bored. Bored of the miracle that fell from the sky every day. Yawn. They only had to pick up the miracle from the ground. Yawn. God provided the miracle every.single.boring.day. Yawn.

It’s kind of hard to imagine that the thing the Iraelites called manna, and described as tasting like honey cakes would get boring. But, once it became usual they overlooked the miracle, the provision. 

I do the same thing…I overlook the miracle. I overlook the One that allows us to live and work in a simple, mountain environment. I strap on my big girl boots and figure that I am the reason we all survive. No wonder I end up becoming the Queen of Compain. Today I am remembering that God provides for us in miraculous ways. I am trying to be grateful for the manna. 

It’s not only my kids who need a spirit of gratefulness.

Stuck.

Have you ever felt stuck? Stuck in a time, a place, a habit?

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or the waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr.Seuss


When we came back to Asia, we were ready to get things done baby. Let’s adjust. Get back into language study. Finish language study. Do the “real” work. Get IT done. Bam. 

But as soon as we got within striking range of our goals, they all seemed to take a step backwards just out of reach. We had to stay in the city for security concerns, then we had to stay in the city until after the major holiday, then we had to stay in the city while Michael went to a teachers conference, then last minute Michael had to buy a ticket and fly to the capital city to have a visa problem fixed, then we had to go through the PROCESS of getting our driver’s licenses renewed…and then we had already been stuck in the city for a month.

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. God made everything with a place and purpose…Guilt is banished through love and truth….We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it….bits of Proverbs 16

All of the sudden most of the things holding us back cleared (I still don’t have a drivers license in hand), and we rushed to our mountain home. I can’t say that all of the frustration magically disappeared as soon as we left the city. In the mountains we have people around every day so we can easily hear their language and see their culture being played out in each tiny way. But, that doesn’t mean that the words and the customs magically seep into my brain and heart making me talk and act like one of my friends. It still takes intentional work. LOTS OF IT. I can feel stuck here in my babbling, stumbling version of their language. 


Now we are back in the city with more visa work, and two trips.

Will I CHOOSE to trust even though it looks like we are wasting time getting stuck here and there along the path. Will I trust that God is directing? I’m learning in the waiting places  that God has a place and a purpose for this too.

Adjustments

I felt the crush of people surrounding us, taking our picture.


I remember when we first landed in North America I looked over a sea of people expecting to immediately be able to see Michael, but he blended in with all of the other tall, light skinned people. It felt strange to blend in. 

We got used to it, though.

Now we are back to the crowds of darker and shorter Asians, and we stick out again. While we waited for a flight, the snack stand lady grabbed Ezra’s foot and then rubbed her belly (hoping his whiteness would “rub off” on her unborn baby). When our flight was called we stood up with the crush of people also wanting to get on the flight (no “zones” here). We felt so conspicuous with our overstuffed luggage, and our glowingly white skin. It seemed like everyone around us was talking about us (I could understand, but pretended I couldn’t). Several had their phones out taking our picture. After finally crowding our way onto the airplane, and sitting down, the kids in the row in front of us and behind us immediately stood up on their seats and watched us until take-off. Before long I noticed a cell phone pushed between the seats. When we landed and waited for our luggage we had ten teenagers surrounding the boys, teasing them into letting them take the boys’ picture. It feels so uncomfortable to stand out. 

It is taking some getting used to.

We were used to the sweat. We were used to the hunt that we call grocery shopping (four stores, a market, a roadside stand, and a bakery all to fill a simple list). We were used to the attention. We were used to the last minute plan changes and uncertainty. 

After being away for a year, though, it feels newly uncomfortable. It is hard to be uncomfortable. It is not fun to bear the weight of so many eyes. But, as we navigate life with seemingly EVERYONE watching, it reminds me to live an exlempary life in this world that isn’t my home.

Build your RAFT my son

Our family moves. A LOT. Friends come and go in our lives. A LOT. Changes happen. A LOT.

We have several strategies that help our family navigate the changes. If you move as much as we do, maybe they’ll help you. Or if you’ve never moved, but your kids are anticipating a change (maybe a school year with a new teacher or new classmates) maybe these strategies will help.

The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken gave me words that helped us solidify our process. The authors devoted a chapter to leaving well. They recommended building a RAFT as a process of saying goodbye. RAFT stands for  

Reconciliation | Affirmation | Farewell | Think Destination.

Jude will miss his cousins, house, and jumping on the trampoline.

Reconciliation. Right before this last move one of my kids was hurt by a close friend. “Mom he was mean to me” was hard for me to hear. But, keeping reconciliation in mind, I said, “sometimes when we are getting ready to leave it makes our friends sad, and when they are sad they can be mean. Forgive him.” They are still young so it’s easy to forget and move on. Even so, reconciliation is a very important step in leaving well. Being at peace with ourselves, our friends and family, and the place we are leaving is important. I don’t want my memories to be of how grumpy I felt in the hot weather, or how annoying the traffic was, or how irritating a person was…I want to be at peace.

A sweet goodbye present for Jude

Affirmation. I am a third culture kid who has a hard time opening myself up. Sure, I can have a million friends, but rarely will I have one that goes deep. Usually when it comes close to time to say goodbye, I insulate myself. I decided years upon years ago that I wouldn’t cry, and so I don’t. It’s hard to change these long held patterns, but I try to dive in to relationships even if I know that it will only be for a short time. I try to encourage my kids to let their friends and family know how much they mean to them before they leave. Each of us attempts to acknowledge our special friends, and the wonderful experiences that happened to us while we were with them.

A sweet scrapbook created by our friends


Farewell. Last time we left I had the boys give small gifts and goodbye letters to each of their friends when we said farewell. But, this time I had a hard time getting anything together. We were blessed, though, by special friends who created photo albums, painted pictures, and helped stuff the boys backpacks with fun things.

Enjoying treats from the backpack after a long trip

Think Destination. Before we leave, we talk about the benefits (and shortcomings) of the place we are leaving. We also talk about the place we will be going. This conversation often continues for weeks, even after we have arrived.  I often find myself saying “you know you don’t have to pick one place over the other. Both have good things.” Just yesterday Grey said, “There are positives and negatives about here and about America. Here we don’t have to wear seat belts, but it is hot and there is a lot of trash. In America there are lots of toys, even in all of the stores, but we have to wear seat belts.” 

Change is a hard part of our life. The life is still worth it though. We are doing what we feel called to do. Not only that, but the boys get to experience the wide wonderful world.

Birth choices

Mama + Ezra

A few hours old and snuggling with his mama.

 

When I gave birth two months ago it was a beautiful and powerful experience.

Sitting in my hospital bed, I thought a lot about the first world gift of choice. I had wanted to have a”natural” birth at home or in a birthing center. But, after looking around at the options, thinking about my husband and I’s own personalities, and counting our $$$ I decided that I would give birth in a hospital with a doctor. While we weren’t able to be in a birthing center like I had wanted, I WAS able to find a doctor who was chill with no pills. And, even if it was in a hospital setting, it was still a beautiful experience.

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We welcome you to the world little one.

 

Being waited on by the nurses and staff gave me a lot of time to sit and reflect. I was able to sink into the reality (and wonder) of becoming the mother of a newborn again. I was also hit by the fact that my experience was oh so much different than my friends’ in the village.

 

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One day after being welcomed into the world, a healthy baby boy is held by his father.

 

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Welcome HOME

We’ve been in the US for three months now, and still occasionally feel the jolts of reverse culture shock. I’m finally slowing down enough to put my thoughts to paper. 

Welcome

A few weeks ago our sweet friends threw a “welcome home” picnic for us. It was fun eating meatball sandwiches, sausage soup, salads, and cake with our close group of special people.

Several times different ones came over and said something to the effect of: “I know this isn’t really home for you…but…we didn’t know what else to call this party.”

To which I said, “You know, we call everywhere that we are at ‘home.’ We call hotels ‘home’, we call friends’ houses ‘home’…it’s the best way for us to appreciate wherever we’re at. And it’s easier just to call everywhere home without having to be specific. ” 

This is true..mostly. We do really enjoy this new home. But, we still feel the jolts of realization that we aren’t really AT home here (or maybe, anywhere).

I feel like I need to tell everyone where I am going, and what I am doing. Sitting at a ladies event, I got up to go to the bathroom, and felt that I should announce to the table that I was going to go to the bathroom (I stifled the urge). When going to the store I almost head over to my neighbors’ house to tell her that I’m headed out (she’s my sister-in-law so it’s not TOO weird).

I feel weird in situations where I would be expected to use my left hand. I still juggle my purchases to my left hand so I can pay with my right hand, or accept whatever someone is giving me with my right. Try paying a toll with your right hand!

I find it strange that Americans have such nice cars, but they let them get pretty dirty. Asians will wash their cars EVERY DAY.

I go to Wal-Mart, and find it incredibly weird to see people in their bathing suits (whaa?) or sweatpants and t-shirts. I know, I know it’s not weird, it’s Wal-Mart. But in Asia you dress up to go out, anywhere. I still ask Michael before going out “are you sure if it’s okay if I wear my jeans and a t-shirt?”

I’m relieved when I can enter a room, and not have to work it. In other words, in Asia I would walk into a room full of people, and have to shake hands and greet everyone. It was good and connected me with everyone, but I would also get tired of it. Here, I like the anonymity of walking into a church service, sitting down, and doing MY thing. 

It’s tempting to get comfortable here, to adapt and adjust, and to live it up here in this US home. But, my otherness reminds me to live in such a way that says “this world is not my home.” Even if we call everywhere home, it really isn’t. 

A blog I love to read, written by my long ago friend Jen, says it best.

Bowties and suspenders

Bowties and Suspenders

Sometimes their dad goes off to work in a helicopter. When he comes back, after a few days away, the boys are so excited that they put on their fancy clothes to go meet him. This picture brought to you by Third Culture Kid moments. PS Abby and Heather, their shirts are from you, thanks!