Enjoy the Summer

 

 

 

SAM_0313

This week I’m linking up once again with Velvet Ashes and their Friday “The Groove”. This week the topic is on Enjoy.

Summer is here and it should be easy to enjoy the break, but I’m actually finding it hard this year. Maybe it is the heat. Maybe the kids picking, picking, picking on each other- on me…. or maybe it is because we didn’t go visit family this summer. Or because our plans of moving didn’t happen…probably a mixture of it all dolloped with a topping of disappointment.

Last week I caught myself wishing school would start sooner.

I KNOW….CRAZY! Wait, you had that same thought? I’m not the only one?

Shame on you…I mean me. I mean, I only have a few more years left with these kiddos before they head off to whatever the next chapter in their life leads them. I’m not going there because I only have 6 more summers left with my oldest. SIX! 6! That is like almost counting down on one hand.

Okay, I’m not going there ~ but do you see what I mean that this wishing school to start up again has got to stop? The school year is crammed with homework, practices, quick breakfasts, and early bedtimes. Summer is slower mornings, no homework, and well many times just slower days.

So, how can we make this hot, humid, kid-fighting summer blues turned into enJOYable?

Find the joy in the simple, and then stop what you are doing and DO them….

  • water fights
  • boardgames
  • blowing bubbles…in the house
  • go to the library to read a book, or read a book at home together
  • sipping cold tea at sunset
  • watching the World Cup together at odd hours of the day
  • baking together – with the fan blowing on you at all times and a large cup of cold tea always full
  • hike, bike, anything outside together
  • swim or splash

Make memories – ponder these days because honestly they will slip by, sadly some may already have.

So, I raise my cold styrofoam cup of grapefruit tea and salute Summer. May it slow down enough to enjoy the pace, may it bring some memories that will bring a smile to my face this winter, and may I never forget that simple pleasures can be some of the most enjoyable things in life.

Your Turn: What have you done this summer to make it more enjoyable? Please comment below. I love to hear from you and get more ideas.

Book Review: PASSAGE TO PERSIA by Margaret A. Frame

PASSAGE TO PERSIA is a story of a young missionary doctor and her 30-years in Persia, or what is now known as Iran. Adelaide Kibbe became a doctor in the 1920s and traveled to Persia. Her story is woven together through her personal letters, diary entries, and mission/hospital reports. It’s through these accounts we see a young lady become a wife, a mother, and a widow – all while working as a doctor in a fairly rough country for women.

You can read my full review at the CLEW website. Just click here.

Coming out of Grief

I’m joining in today with Velvet Ashes in their Friday “The Grove” linkup. This week the topic is on what every expat knows well – GRIEF.

Grief comes in various forms for the expat.

  • Every spring we say good-bye – either we are moving or someone we know and have grown to love is moving.
  • We say good-bye after every “home” visit - each getting a little harder as we see our grandparents, parents aging.
  • We miss family gatherings for birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, World Cup parties, or whatever…fill in the blank.
  • Death of dearly loved ones – either family or tragic accidents

For me, those have been true – but as a parent to a child with special needs I seem to grieve regularly. I don’t mean it is there every single day all the time. No, my grief hits me when I least expect it. It sometimes hits hard like a punch in the gut. It is strong enough to bring instant tears – but not strong enough to leave me in a pit of despair. I wrote a story for the anthology MONDAY COFFEE & OTHER STORIES OF MOTHERING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. The section below, I feel, illustrates how grief tries to pull me down.

 I’m told that parenting a child with special needs stays difficult. It doesn’t just “go away.” I have found that to be true. Grief finds me at odd places. It finds me at the park where I see girls playing and laughing together while my daughter stumbles up the stairs to go down the slide. Grief finds me in the hospital holding the results from yet another developmental testing and I see she isn’t mentally where I thought she was. And Grief brings tears to my eyes when party invitations are passed out and she didn’t get one. Grief reminds me that she doesn’t have friends her age. She doesn’t seem to notice, but I do. I hurt.

Through all the grief and mourning, joy does come. It always does. It comes with a kiss and a hug. Joy comes with each new word she speaks. It comes when she dresses up in her cowboy hat, boots, and comes out swinging her pretend lasso. Joy comes from watching her love life in the way I sometimes wish I could.

Yes, joy does come after the mourning.

 

I read a recent blog post from another parent of a child with special needs and she stated it, too.

She is happy. She is totally fine. She doesn’t feel like she’s missing out. It’s not her dream, it’s mine.

Grief comes to everyone – unless you are a hermit who lives in a cave with no pets. As expats we must learn to go through the grieving process, to embrace it knowing that it will pass. And as a parent of a child with special needs, I’m learning that it’s okay to grieve – but that I need to not stay there. Here’s how I get out…

1. Count my blessings – you know that song, “10,000 Reasons”. I made a chart on the wall - but even just saying them out loud helps.

2. Sing Louder – speaking of songs, I put on praise music and turn it up real loud and usually break out dancing. It gets all of us into giggles.

3. Remind myself that my daughter is not sad – in fact she loves life to the fullest (most of the time). Just yesterday I used this…at the water park I started to feel sad because she couldn’t run off with the others to zip down the slide, but I looked up at her jumping in her life vest laughing and splashing around. She was fine – so I would be, too.

4. Take note of the gifts and talents that my children, especially my daughter with special needs, have. Not in a “I have the best kids in the world” kind of way, but in a “Wow, look how they are growing and giving to others” kind of way. (but, just so you know….I do have some pretty awesome kids!)

Your Turn: How has grief affected you? What has helped you through the process? Please share in the comments below.

Book Review: A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE

A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE, fourth edition

by Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith

Living the expat life can sound adventuresome, exciting, and honestly quite fun for most people. Most trailing spouses will agree that at the beginning, it is fun and adventuresome, but somewhere in the middle of maybe the third month or so the “vacation” is over. They begin to feel bored, somewhat useless, and possibly even depressed. Most left jobs and/or careers back in their home country to support their spouse or partner. This was the scenario for both Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith, authors of A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE.

Jo found herself on a plane from England to Dubai as a young wife. The first ten years were rough she says in her book, but she “developed…a career in my suitcase, a portable career that moves when I do.” Colleen, a career consultant, moved to the Netherlands shortly after she married a Dutch man. She gave herself time to learn the language, and then began giving career development training in Dutch. The two of them have teamed together to add and improve what Jo created over fifteen years ago.

In their book, they say, “a portable career is work that you can take with you wherever you go. It is based on your own unique set of skills, values, passion and vision and is not based in a physical location.” Technology has really paved the way for many to be able to make a career while they are traveling the world. “The only real limit is your ability to imagine and create it,” they say at the beginning of their book when describing more about a portable career.

A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE is packed with useful tools for anyone looking at the next step. It is divided up into three parts: Find Your Direction; Find Your Opportunity; and Putting it Together. The first part helps you find what you are passionate about to remind you what skills you already possess and can use. The second section takes those passions and skills and helps you discover career options. The last section encourages and directs you in ways to step out and make your career work.

This book is not a book you just read through. It is one that is to be used, marked up, and notes taken in. Jo and Colleen created a separate section called “My Career Passport” at the end of the book, which is a space to write out answers to the “homework” questions in each section. This new section makes it worth having the newer version. This version is also packed with so many resources that are available on the internet. One being their own called A Career in your Suitcase.

This book is definitely a must read for those who are the trailing spouse or if you are at a point in your life that you want to do something new. I found this book to be highly useful and resourceful.

Hospitality is More Than Hosting…thank goodness!

I’m trying something new this week. I’m joining in on Velvet Ashes Friday’s “The Grove”. This week the topic is hospitality.

I’ve never felt like I’ve excelled at hospitality. I’ve had to learn how to host parties and I’m not so good when unexpected circumstances are thrown my way. Ask my husband about the time we had invited the staff at school to an end-of-the-year party in our home. Literally, a few hours before they were to arrive I had to call the exterminator. Gathered around a large rectangular ceiling light were thousands of tiny termites…with wings. Did you know they could fly? I panicked. He stepped in and had all the tables moved outside. The party became a total outside only party. He’s my hero. Oh and the pesky bugs were taken care of the next day and all went back to normal.

After reading this post a light came on. Hospitality is not just about hosting dinner parties or having guests over for Kaffee und Kuchen. It’s about treating others in a kind and loving way. Duh! I “feel” THAT hospitality quite often from people around me. 

I traveled down memory lane to the many moves we’ve had in the last fifteen years of marriage, the difficult pregnancies, the “stormy diagnosis months“, and the “just because we thought of you” times in our lives. The people that I’ve met at various stages in my life and the friendships gained have been great – but I’m so thankful and feeling so blessed by the hospitality offered. You know who you are….

~ the family that let me live with them for a month so I could be near the hospital when I was pregnant with my oldest. (premie baby)

~ the couple who let me invade their apartment with my almost two year old due to another pregnancy issue.

~ the young couple who offered to watch our two children right after Jie Jie was diagnosed and using the feeding tube so that we could get away for our fifth year anniversary.

~ the two single ladies who watched our two oldest children so that we could travel to pick up our third from the orphanage – and how they helped our son make a “Welcome Home” sign for the door.

~ the lady (boss’s wife) who unpacked my kitchen and organized it for me while I went shopping for furniture.

~ the friend who watched my three little ones so I could attend a ladies conference.

~ that family that brought us homemade enchiladas and mango ice when Jie Jie was in the hospital for a week. Plus they picked up our other two from school!

~ that friend who brought by a huge stuffed Monkey for Jie Jie the other time she was in the hospital, so she wouldn’t be alone.Then sat with her so that I could slip out for a quick walk and use the bathroom.

~ that family that gave us their van for the summer to use because ours had no air-con.

~ that friend who read about fast-food being my BFF while we were changing apartments – so she brought over a huge fresh salad with so many toppings. It was truly the best!

~ that lady from church that we had just briefly met offering us to use their yard while they were away for the summer so our kids could play and we could enjoy private outdoor space.

This is hospitality…treating others in a kind and loving way. It’s like the homemade ice-cream that tops the blackberry cobbler that my mother lovingly makes each time we are back for a visit. Hospitality is sweet. It’s special. It’s given.

So, thank you to everyone who has helped me pack, move in, invited our “circus family” to your home. We have truly been blessed. I know I didn’t write every single thing, because well…you’d be reading for a few days if I listed it all….

Your TurnHow have you been blessed by hospitality from others? Share your blessing in the comment below.

 

TCK Mentoring – Sea Change

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen in on a webinar given by Sea Change Mentoring. This organization, founded by Ellen Mahoney, is designed for third culture kids from the ages 16-23, although they are open to reaching out to help children as young as 13. Read their mission below:

“Help international teens develop into happy and successful adults through the power of mentoring and our tailored curriculum.”

Ellen is a TCK herself. She shared her story with us of the time she returned to the US for university alone. It was a very hard year as she felt lonely and even depressed. She found out that she was not the only one – that many of her other TCK friends were also experiencing the various degrees of the same feelings. Throughout her life she has helped children. She began as a high school teacher, then began working with an online mentoring group in the US, and now is the Founder and CEO of Sea Change Mentoring.

So what is Sea Change Mentoring?

It is just that – mentoring third culture kids through all the change that they go through. The mentoring is currently being facilitated through Skype by professionally trained mentors that have overseas experience. They use a tailored curriculum for TCKs that was developed by a TCK. Some of the “units” that are covered are Building Strong Relationships, Healthy Good-byes, Career Exploration, Career EQ, Becoming Independent, and much more.

Why is this so important?

We all know that the expat life is much like sea waves, coming and going. Children may have a difficult time adjusting or connecting with friends. This program is designed to be a 2-3 year commitment allowing the mentor time to help the child go through changes, nudging them to build heathy relationships, as well as other issues they may be facing. And for those that are older, to help them begin to think about being independent BEFORE they are independent. We as parents can help, yes, and we should be involved in this process – but sometimes a third party that is standing on the outside can see the whole picture. Possibly even better since this person understands all the emotions that our children are going through. Sea Change works with the child, but they also communicate with the parents – which I found, as a parent, to be comforting. Sea Change was founded in 2012 and launched their first pilot program this past January. So, it’s fairly new – but I don’t believe there is anything like it out there for TCKs. If you have children in this age range and wondering how you can help them with adjustment, this might be a really good option. If you would like more information, you can click here.

**I just want to note that I did not receive anything for this review, but that it is solely my own opinion from what I learned about through the webinar.

All the Colours of The World: An Activity for Debriefing TCKS

Today I have a guest writer. I sort of met Christa in college *ahem* years ago, then re-met while living and working at the same school. She is from the US, but married an Auzzie, and is living there now. I asked her to share a tool that she uses when working with TCKs as they transition from one place to another. I know you will LOVE this idea. It’s simple, brings out conversation, and turns out beautiful.

Four years ago when our family was moving from China to Australia we went to a departure seminar led for all of the team members who were moving. We were very fortunate to have a culture in our team of giving those who were leaving a weekend away with caring facilitators to think through the leaving process and to plan our goodbyes.

We were also very fortunate that departure activities were thoughtfully chosen and prepared for our two boys. All weekend long they took part in facilitated activities that led them through a process of grieving and thinking through their departure.

Well I can say I am very thankful for the time our children had at that seminar and the lessons they took part in. There was one lesson in particular that was so special I have used it each time I am asked to debrief or talk with a TCK now. When I lead children through this activity I use scrapbook paper and photos but it was originally done with my children using fabric to make a pillow. The activity is so perfect because it is easily adaptable to using whatever materials you are comfortable with.

First, I ask parents to work with children to choose or print off four photos of their time in the host country they have recently moved from. I bring with me a large selection of scrapbook materials and paper. I asked children to choose a background colour and then explain for the next step we will choose two pieces of paper we really like and two pieces we don’t. While we are doing this I ask children to recall two things they really miss and they love about their host county and two things or memories they don’t like about their host country. We each share these memories with each other and it is often surprising even to the siblings what each child shares. Once we are finished sharing our memories we cut out frames for the four photos using the two pieces of paper we liked and two pieces we didn’t. We place our photos in the frames and onto the background.

After that is finished they use the other materials I have provided to decorate the page. I then ask the children to step back and look at the page. Do they like it? What do all the photos look like? Are there individual things they like and don’t like about the page they created? During this time I intentionally compliment different aspects of the page and I also draw out more discussion and details about their time in the host country. We finish up by discussing that even though we might not like some individual things about the pages they are beautiful as a whole and in that way they are just like our time in our host country. God has used the not so beautiful times, (referring to things they share that they didn’t like), and the beautiful times to create something gorgeous and unique in our lives.

The pictures shown here are of this activity which I recently did with our boys after returning from a visit to China. There were so many emotions during and after the visit I felt it would be good to work through our time by doing this activity. 20140613_111438There are also pictures of the original pillow they created at the departure seminar four year ago. The leader did the actual sewing for all the children. What a dedicated leader! Our children still take these on every flight.

Front side of the pillow

Front side of the pillow

Backside of the pillow.

Backside of the pillow.

I hope this activity can be as useful to you as it has been to me when helping kids talk through their feelings. It will always be a continuing process and no one activity or weekend will work through all of their feelings but it has been a huge help to us and helped us to remember all the colours of our time in China in a positive and realistic way.

Head ShotChrista and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China and lived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.

 

What I’ve Learned Raising a TCK with Special Needs

I’ve had the great opportunity to write about raising a special needs child for two different websites.
The first is about what I’ve learned raising a TCK with special needs. To read more about it click here.

My other article is a comparison on running a race and raising a child with special needs. It usually isn’t the race we signed up for, but it is possible to learn all the new rules. If you’d like to read more please click here. This is part of a promotion to sell a book, in which I wrote a story for.

Please feel free to share them with friends who you might know – my hope is that a few will be encouraged.

And the winner is….

I just finished up packing up my classroom for the summer. Summer vacation begins…in another two weeks for me. I signed up to teach some creative writing classes at a camp here – but should be fun. It’s camp, right?

I’ve so enjoyed this week of writing about transitions to celebrate publishing my 100th post and helping Valérie promote her debut kidlit book, B at Home: Emma Moves Again. I wanted to say thanks again to her for taking time to answer questions for an interview and for giving a signed copy of her book away to a reader. I also wanted to say thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway and supported it by sharing about it on various social media avenues. Thanks!

Now, for the winner. The signed copy of B at Home: Emma Moves Again by Valérie Besanceney goes to emmanuelle niollet. Please check your email for an email from me. Valérie can mail you the book as soon as we get an address. Congrats!

 

Helping Your TCK Say Good-bye

Yesterday I wrote about building your RAFT during the moving transition. It really is important to take time to do it and to be intentional to help your TCKs build their own. Children are not mature enough to understand all that they are feeling about this impending move. Maybe they didn’t have any say in whether the move was going to happen or not. Maybe they did, but their vote didn’t count – or at least that is how they feel. Either way, it is always good to talk about it with them – or at least try.

IMG_6176

 

Ask open ended questions – not ones they can answer with a “yes” or “no”. Ideas could be “How do you feel about….” or “What do you think about…” Whatever questions you ask, the point is to get them to talk about the moving process.

Listen, Listen, Listen – After you ask the questions, listen and take mental notes. You might be surprised what they tell you. Your child might tell you about an argument she was in with her best friend. Or maybe he/she might mention a favorite place they will miss that you had no idea was such a big deal to them. You might hear about the fears, the anger, and the grief that your child is going through.

Plan Good-Byes  – Sit with your child and make a friend’s list, then plan what they would like to do to say good-bye. Maybe they want a sleep-over, tea and cake party, or even going out and doing something – remember though to do what your child likes to do, not what you love to do. Oh, and take pictures – lots of pictures. Another idea is to have your TCKs write letters telling their special friends good-bye. It will help them process and give them the opportunity to say “Good-bye”.

Note Memories – Do something with the photos you’ve taken. Either make an album or allow your child to make their own album. My friend, Shelley, made her daughter a photo album when they went back “home” on furlough last year. She put in photos of her child’s home, desk, bedroom, favorite activities, and friends. I just took my daughter bowling with a group of her good friends. I took many photos, of course. I had a notebook that I had each girl write in. They could write a memory or whatever they wanted to tell Mei Mei. I told them to leave a page free and as soon as I develop the photos, I’ll put them in. Later after we move, I’ll give Mei Mei her book. Now, my son doesn’t want his friends to write anything – but we’ll still take photos of their upcoming campout and I’ll make some sort of album for him because I know he’ll go back and remember the good memories.

Use a Calendar – Remember to say good-bye to places and things. This could be favorite restaurants, night market stalls, tea shops, parks, swings, even a climbing tree or hiking trail. With all the good-bye parties and end of the school year activities time will run out if you don’t plan. Use a calendar to mark out dates to go and see whatever your children (and yourself) want to go to one last time. Again, TAKE photos. Seriously, after a few years – or even months – you’ll forget and wish you could remember.

Read books about TCKs – This one you could do anytime, but right now I’m holding a giveaway party with Valérie Basenceney, author of B at Home: Emma Moves Again. She has agreed to give one signed copy of her book about a TCK moving to one of you! Here is your chance to get a book for your child. You still have time to register – so click here and here (extra points). Other books that I’ve reviewed can be found by either clicking here or clicking on the tab labeled “Book Review”. It’s always good for kids to read about others to know they are not alone in how they feel, especially when it comes to moving.

These are just a few ideas, but I think the most important is communication. Remember that communication involves listening, not just talking. Sometimes I think as a parent it is easier to do all the talking and we forget to listen – or maybe it is just me.

Remember, only one day left for the giveaway. May 30th is the deadline, so go and enter the giveaway. It costs you absolutely nothing.