Summer Camps for a TCK

Camping kids 3-a
Summer camps…Oh, the memories.

Swimming in the lake after tipping the canoe over…

Raiding the boy’s cabin and having our cabin raided…

Shooting the bow and arrow, sometimes hitting the mark…

Pounding wet leather keychains with my initials…

These memories took place at church, 4-H, and in FFA camp (remember I grew up in Small Town, USA). They were fun times away from home for one week, but I learned new skills, made friends, and began to practice my independence. I had to remember to change my underwear, brush my teeth, and all those things that my mom probably reminded me everyday to do.

Now, my kids are getting older and we have been looking at sending the oldest to camp. Living overseas sometimes makes it hard to find camps because either 1) there are very few or none in your area or 2) they are in the local language, which is fine if your child speaks the language well enough to cope for 24/7 for a week, but doesn’t workout if you just recently arrived.

As I’ve been looking around, I’ve actually discovered – probably because I’ve never looked before – that there are more and more camps geared towards those kids living overseas. You can google “TCK camp” and get a few hits. Here is what I found:

Thousand Hills TCK Camp - They only had a Facebook page, but they are a cattle ranch in Guizhou province of China.

OSCAR – is a site for Missionary families in the UK. They have a listing of many events going on for kids re-entering the country.

Camp Beyond – geared for older kids who want to experience America, who may not have a chance to do so otherwise. They target the Asian community, but I think it would be a great experience for anyone wanting to experience outdoor education. They have a Youtube video linked to this site that really shows what they do during their sessions.

This year we are breaking in slowly. We are not traveling “back” to the US or to Germany – so we are looking at a Bible Camp for GeGe that is put on here, on the island, during the summers. He is excited – I am too, but as I remember my list of memories I take a deep sigh and think, “Oh, what goes around may just come around…my poor mother.” HA!

Your Turn: Have you ever sent your child off to camp before? Share below your experiences with us.

 

What does a TCK do with St. Pat’s Day?

St Patrick's Day Parade San Francisco 2012

*photo by David Yu via flickr

Today was Saint Patrick’s Day. In Asia it is not really celebrated. So, for the past fifteen years or so, the day usually went by just like any normal day in March. Some days that was filled with reheated coffee and mountains of laundry. Other days it was a classroom of kids from all around the world. Some days in March I was putting sunscreen on my kids at the zoo. Other days I wore gloves while I taught because the small electric heater just didn’t put out enough heat.

As the kids got to be school-age, I still didn’t really pay attention too much because they were in local school. Then they started attending an “American” school. I  didn’t anticipate the holiday; I hadn’t worn green on March 17th intentionally in years.

This year though, my kids are older. They don’t attend an “American” school, but a homeschool-coop. Many of their classmates, though, are American with both parents being American. So, when my Facebook newsfeed filled with St. Pat’s parades and such I looked at the calendar and saw that it fell on a school day. I remembered some of the traditions, especially the one about not wearing green.

My mother-protection mode kicked in.

This morning I told them to wear green. They looked at me strange, but at breakfast I explained the holiday. Call it a crash-course in holiday tradition. I didn’t care. I just didn’t want my kids to get pinched because they didn’t wear green, but more importantly I didn’t want them to get pinched and not understand what was happening.

Results? I found out my kids were the ones to start looking for the ones who didn’t have on green. Can someone say, “Backfire?” *throws hands up in the air* 

Your Turn: Have you ever held a crash-course on holiday traditions from your passport country? How did it turn out? Please share in the comments below.

We’re moving back! How do we tell the kids?

In this two part series, I’ve talked (emailed) two families about how they have prepared their children for the move back to the parent’s home country. Notice I didn’t just write home country, as we all know our TCKs don’t always feel it is their home country. This first post is from a family with younger children and the other is from a family that has older children.

going&coming-6

I’ve been digitally following this family for over a year now. I enjoy Kim’s writing style and her photos capture the moments. I’ve known Kim for….we’ll just say many years. I think I was a newlywed and she one of the cool single teachers that let me hang-out with them. We have quite a few things in common. We both met the love of our life in Tianjin, China. We both taught grade 5. And we both have three kids all born in China. Her kids are younger than mine, but they follow the pattern: boy, girl, girl (and the third child is also adopted from China).

Kim and her husband, Patrick, just repatriated to the US almost six months ago. She blogged about her experience with the move and some about what she did to help her kids (ages 6.5, 5, and 3) with the transition. I knew I wanted to interview her about it because she just has wisdom pouring out from her. And don’t we all want to hear from people like that?

“We got a lot of advice. We knew about two years in advance that a relocation was coming up, but that such young kids did not need to know so far in advance.”

        The key is to balance two needs…

Kim and Patrick asked adult TCKs and early childhood specialists about how they should explain this move to their children. The consensus seemed to be within six months. Kim explains that the key is to balance two needs: 1) As small children, too much time with news of a big move was too abstract to be of any real benefit however 2) waiting too long to tell them increased the risk of them hearing it from someone else.

“Six months allowed for openness within our community for an appropriate amount of time, but did not burden our little ones with a hard-to-grasp impending move for too long.”

     Lasts, Losses, and Logistics…

As the community and the children all knew of the move, Kim and her husband began talking with their children about lasts, losses, and logistics. They made lists with their kids what they wanted to do one more time, or as Kim called it their “Tianjin bucket list”. Some ideas were fun places in the city they loved like the TV Tower, but many were typical day things they did like play-dates with specific friends or even certain foods from the local market. From this list, Kim and Patrick calculated around sixty days before departure and marked the items on the calendar. They were intentional to make sure that the kids got to celebrate the “lasts” that they wanted. I believe this is important because it gives the children a chance to say good-bye not only to people, but also to places.

Tip from Kim: Towards the end, limit the activities to only a few a day. They limited the kids to one activity/day. They allowed each other a few more, but then took turns watching the kids at home. I think this is great as it helps the kids to feel stable, especially as time gets closer to the end.

Losses are part of lasts, but still need to be talked about. Kim talked with her children about what they were going to miss: people, pets, places and possessions. She knew that this was important – even if it seemed silly, like the blender that stopped working right before the move, but apparently her oldest is a kitchen fan. Check out this post on saying good-bye to the zhou-maker.

Kim and Patrick also talked about logistics with their kids; from packing, shipping and flights. Kim said that the question, “How will that be different in Texas?” brought up all kinds of talks about what to expect in the new location. And her “Moving Book” she made helped with the transition for her youngest. If you don’t check out any of the other links, this one you just must look at. Seriously, a great tool to make for your kids.

“Preparing our family for repatriation was a huge job…one that we did with lots of help and advice, and one that we did imperfectly. Like any parenting endeavor, it is impossible to fully anticipate and fully meet the needs of every child.”

Kim, thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom with us. And though you may feel like it was “imperfect”, I do believe you did it with grace and wisdom.

Why do I blog?

BLOG IDEASWhy do I blog? Why does anyone blog, really? I’m sure for some it is a place they can put their thoughts down. I know for others it is a place to practice the art of putting words into a format to better their craft. For me? Well, it is a mixture really. I am amazed I have people who subscribe to read this blog. I really am. I mean there are many who blog these days – and they blog about anything and everything. If you think you have an odd hobby, I’m sure there is someone out there blogging about it – if not then they’re on Pinterest, for sure.

I was humbled again a few months ago when Jo Parfitt asked me to write a guest post for Summertime Publishing about why I blog. A real publisher asking me to write an article. For this reason, it took me awhile to put into words an article to submit. If you are interested in why I blog, then you can head here to read more about it.

Thank you for following me, for leaving a comment.

Book Review: Harvesting Stones

Harvesting Stones by Paula Lucas 

Summary: This memoir is about a Catholic farm girl journeying through Europe and the Middle East with her international photographer husband. To the outsider, including her family, everything looked perfect – even fairy-tale like. In reality, though, she was surviving a nightmare and protecting her three children at the same time. This is the inside look of a woman beaten, bruised, and trapped and how she turned her experience into starting two organizations to help expat women who are experiencing domestic abuse. These organizations are Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC) and Sexual Assault Support & Help For Americans Abroad Program (SASHAA)

My Take: I really liked Harvesting Stones. Though the first few chapters are a little slow reading, I do believe they need to be there to help you understand where Paula came from. After those chapters hang on because the ride she takes you on is, seriously one you won’t believe really happened. It is like something from the movies with all the twists, turns, and suspense. The difference is that after the movie, you can sigh and say, “Well, I’m glad that was just a story and not real,” but with this book it is real – and the sad thing is her story mirrors many other expat women. Women I may know by name, but not deep enough to know the hurts they are experiencing. This book forced me to open my eyes a bit wider, with not just the knowledge that there are women like this living overseas, but that there are organizations – people who care, support and help these women and children. I love how she describes how she was able to take the “stones” that were thrown at her and “harvest” them into something good. What a challenge to us all – to take whatever hardships we’ve been given and to harvest them into something that can help and encourage others.

* I received this book for review by the publishing company, Summertime Publishers. The views are strictly mine alone.

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The US Dialect Quiz and TCKs

Maybe you’ve seen the US Dialect Quiz roaming around on Facebook. The quiz is from NY Times and questions are based from the Harvard Dialect Quiz. Basically, you answer twenty-five questions about how you would say certain words or which word you would call an object. Then based on your answers a map is shown where in the US your dialect comes from.

Any expat parent that is not a citizen of the US can probably say that their child has “lost” some of their accent. I know this to be true because my German husband has an American accent. As a teacher I have seen students from other countries speaking with an “American accent,” this includes countries where English is the official language. I vividly remember many years back a little Korean first grader saying good-bye to her teacher in a southern drawl – no hint of a Korean accent. And now, I see it with my Auzzie, South African, and even New Zealand friends – their children have only a hint of their “home” country’s accent.

So, what about an “American” TCK – yes, they most likely will have an “American accent,”but even the US has many varied accents and even vocabulary words. I had two thoughts about this quiz: 1) I wondered if my accent/dialect would be different since I’ve lived overseas for sometime now and 2) if my children would be relatively close to my score. And then the question of just wondering where my husband’s accent/dialect fell since he has an “American accent,” but had only lived there for a total of four years for university (two years on the west coast and two on the east coast).

The results? I scored southern Missouri/northern Arkansas, which I’d call the Ozark region. I grew up in northern Missouri, but went to university in southern Missouri. So, okay I’ll take that.

I had my oldest take the quiz. He scored Washington state.

And my husband? St. Louis, Missouri. Maybe I have had an affect on him after all, or the east and west balanced out? Actually, probably neither.

My thoughts on this? I believe that my son’s language has been affected by his teachers and his classmates just like all other expat children. As I think about it, he has had teachers from Washington state and Canada. And I bet if I asked my husband, his accent would probably be because of teachers and coaches.

I’m not the only one finding this quiz to show a differences between child and parent, though. A friend of mine also discovered the same thing. She scored Texas and Oklahoma, while her son scored North and South Carolina.

So is this breaking news? No, but it may give us another example of why our kids don’t feel “at home” in the place we may call “home.” It is a tiny example, I know, but still an example.

How about you? Have you taken this quiz? Has your children taken the quiz? What were the results? Please share in the comments below.

Happy New Year! and the Top 5 Countdown of 2013…

Watched the show from our rooftop!

The New Year is rapidly approaching here in the Far East. Usually at this time of year I’ve chosen My One Word for the upcoming year and preparing for the celebration that we have as a family each year (not that the kids have stayed awake with us). Well, this year has been different. We have been battling the flu this past week. So I do believe the New Year would have slipped by without us noticing, but Social Media wouldn’t let that happen to me.

No, Social Media has become everyone’s best friend. He? She? Whatever…It reminds of of birthdays, updates us on breaking news, and of course gossip. This year though, I got an email from my web-host, WordPress, reminding me that the New Year was here and to let me know what my Top 5 Posts of the 2013 were.

So, without boring you about the “sick apartment” and what I have scrounged up to feed the family tonight – and maybe some games/movies I’ve picked out…I’ll just end with the list and a HUGE Thank you for taking time to read these mere thoughts of mine and for even posting comments.

Drum Roll….

5. Meeting a Famous TCK – I had the chance to listen to author Linda Sue Park! (And apparently this was right before another attack of the flu in our apartment….hoping 2014 leaves us with less Flu attacks!)

4. Awareness Week for Cri-du-What? Syndrome – Cri-du-Chat Syndrome is what Jie Jie has and I wanted to help promote awareness to it and the organization that has helped me and others gain support and understanding.

3. An Expat Special Needs TCK Parent – Boy, was that a mouthful of a title…

2. Make Sure to Say Good-bye – This was a tribute and a reminder that you just don’t know when it will be the last time – so make those good-byes good ones.

1. Combating Loneliness in Expatland – I’m guess I definitely not the only one…

So there you have it, the Top 5 at Raising TCKs. So, now to get onto my One Word for 2014…

Happy New Year!

Counting My ….

A few months ago we moved to a new apartment. There are things that I like about the new place. For one it is just a three minute walk from where I work and the kids go to school and it has a fair amount of storage space.

And I like this….

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

And this…

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it's too messy, just shut the doors.

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it’s too messy, just shut the doors.

But that is it – really. That is ALL that I like about it. I don’t like that the bathrooms are not big enough for a bathtub. Or that the living room is SUPER dark – think cave. And, please keep in mind that I am not new to Asia, but having six neighbors – and this is not including those living below or above us – living so so close makes me almost crazy. I’m talking so close that I can reach out and water the plants in the window of one neighbor and wash the windows of my other neighbor.

Don’t believe me? Check these out.

I can water your plants for you....

Our windows almost touch…and opposite side is the kitchen to another neighbor.

IMG_5413

I could almost wash the windows off my balcony.

This is what I’ve been whining about for the past few months since moving here. There have been other things that I’ve whined about, but this was what caught my attention to how LAME I had been. As soon as the photos started coming in from the Philippines, my head hung in shame. “At least I have a home….”

The whining had to stop. And it did for a short time…

And then Thanksgiving was approaching. And I was whining because our awesome plans to start a new tradition with the kids fell through. It was a week before and we had NO plans for Thanksgiving. Slight panic – then a friend at church asked us to join their family.

Last week was Thanksgiving and I had the greatest time in a huge church kitchen with a few other ladies to finish up the last touches for a gorgeous meal. I had the chance to pause for a brief minute and take in the beauty of family. The yelling as one uncle threw the long pass of a football, girls giggling about the baby, and the shrill laughter of the women in the kitchen (I’ll not admit to anything on fire, to which caused the excitement) – all of this caused a deep sigh in my soul. Not a longing sigh, but a grateful one. Grateful to have had time to cultivate friendships – to take time to stop and remember all that we should be grateful for this past year. It lit a fire in my soul to do this again…

IMG_4407

That is our “Blessings” Chart from last year. I wanted our family to give thanks each day for things that God had done for us. I wanted it for my life and I wanted it for my children as well – so every night after supper we each shared one thing. We did this for almost two months. So, we’ve started it again. The day after Thanksgiving I taped up a new chart…this chart.

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It’s bigger and I’m excited to see what we will be putting up there. I’m also excited, as I know that when I have to think about all my blessings, that my whining decreases and I my thankfulness increases.

I don’t know if you are like me – wanting to give thanks and to have a grateful attitude, but find yourself singing your own version of the country western song “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” If you are like me, what do you do to stay positive? If you don’t do anything, I challenge you to do this or something similar for a month – you may find yourself doing it longer like we did last year. I’d love to hear how it goes if you choose to do it. Please share your stories below. I’m so encouraged when you do.

Painting Pictures Series

Harbin, China Russian Orthodox Church

I’ve been married now for 14 years to a man who is a third culture kid. We definitely have our differences – like how often we should/need to rearrange the furniture. I have to talk myself into putting the effort into painting rooms of our apartment, for fear that he will come home and tell me that he wants to move….again. (This has actually happened. I painted one wall and he came home and asked me what I thought about moving…)

But, with all the differences I have learned so much from him about TCKs and how to relate to them. If you want to read about what I’ve learned you can go here. I’m a guest this week at Djibouti Jones in her series “Painting Pictures”. This has been a fun series from fellow writers that are TCKs or raising them.

Book Review “Expat Life: Slice by Slice” by Apple Gidley

Expat Life Slice by SliceExpat Life Slice by Slice

by Apple Gidley

Book Description: Apple Gidley is not only a TCK, but one that has parented and now grandparenting TCKs. She shares her life from the beginning in Africa with her pet monkey, to the various moves and boarding schools, to life as a young mother, and the challenges of elderly parents. She offers insights and tips throughout the book that all expats can use.

My Take: I received this book from Janneke, a fellow blogger-friend who writes at DrieCulturen. I was excited to read it after Janneke’s review because Apple has been an expat all her life. With a full understanding of the TCK experience, she shares her frustrations and excitement living and traveling around the world not only as a TCK, but also as a trailing spouse, or as she has renamed this group STARS (Spouses Traveling And Relocating Successfully). I enjoyed her humorous stories and related to many of her, let’s just say, interesting experiences. I liked this book because it wasn’t just a memoir of an expat life. At the end of each chapter (slice) she gives tips and thoughts that she calls the “Take Away Slice”. Although, I didn’t agree with everything that she writes, I do think it was a good book that made me think through some issues.

I must warn you now, I was inspired with a few ideas for posts while reading this book. So, you will be hearing more about this book later. So, I definitely recommend it to those who are about to venture into expat life, those who are in the midst of the adventure, or to even those who have left or about to return “home”. She has much to share.

Your Turn: Have you read this book yet? What were your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.