Sharing Your Past with Your Kids

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Photo credit: hey Tiffany! via flickr

This is the second part of the Sharing your stories. If you haven’t read the first part click here.

As you probably know my husband is a TCK/MK. He grew up on the island of Taiwan. A few weekends ago he was out with my son doing what father and sons do – jump off tall rocks into the ocean, snorkel, scooter lessons on the backroads, and sleep under the stars – literally.
The thing is, they were in the exact location where one of the many famous stories my husband shares of his childhood took place – Nixon Rock (The rock really does look like Nixon’s silhouette, go back and check out the photo!)

Here’s a brief story: A group of high school guys biked from their “hometown” to the beach village of Kenting. It took them 2 days to travel the approximately 300km. They spent the weekend jumping off of this rock. This rock is legendary among those who have lived on this island – there are legends and horror stories from this rock. Really.

But the story really isn’t the point. The point is, my husband got to share the experience with my son that weekend. They both climbed up the side of the cliff and jumped off. Our son experienced a bit of my husband’s past – the stories came alive (though the son may not have realized it).

I know I’ve shared before the importance of including our kids or being apart of something that we do. I’ve also shared the importance of sharing our stories with our kids – and not just our own personal stories, but those family stories that are passed down from grandparents and parents.

This time, I want to challenge us as parents to go even farther – to actually go back and show the kids these places that you talk about so much. Pictures help to tell the story, but visiting the actually place – to feel the coral cut into your fingers as you climb up the cliff, to feel the smack of the ocean, and to see the the fish and taste the saltwater – yes, to experience a little of what we did or where we lived growing up is definitely something we should share with our children.

Maybe you are like me and grew up in one location near most of the extended family. Plan and be intentional to show your kids those places where the stories that you share took place. Go back to that creek, amusement park and ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, or wherever your most memorable fun childhood experiences took place.

I know, maybe you are a TCK yourself and moved around too much. Or it cost too much to make the trip with everyone. I get it. I know that my family is blessed to be living on the same island where my husband grew up, but I challenge you to try. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year – but try to do it sometime before it’s too late to take them.

Plan it.

Save for it.

Do it.

You won’t regret it.

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Sharing Our Stories

The longer I live overseas and raise TCKs, the more I firmly believe my husband and I must tell stories from our childhood. We must connect them to our family “back home” in some way. I also am coming to realize the importance of getting the stories from our parents when we are back with them. These stories are like a tapestry that is woven together to make a beautiful rug to hang on the wall.

I’m a mono-culture kid and knew my grandparents (well one set) VERY well. I spent countless summer days out on the farm searching for adventure with my cousin in the back woods. We were explorers looking for fossils in the creek bed – lost in our own world. We helped gather the eggs in the extremely pungent smelling hen house, stack hay in the barn, and feed any orphaned lambs that ended up in the house. My life was drastically different than my children – but they love to hear stories about that life – especially if they involve mom getting stuck in the muddy garden and having to be pulled out with a 3-wheeler (those were the days before the ATV), only to loose said boots.

And though my husband’s life is similar to my own children – he is a TCK; there are some differences…like furloughs in Germany where he went to a very small country school and learned how to buy cigarettes (those were the days they sold them in vending machines on the street); or the time they returned to the field and he sat in class for months staring blankly as he didn’t understand anything the American teacher said. Stories connect the past with the present.

That’s why I think it is important to learn the stories from our parents and grandparents. Take the time to sit and “interview” them when we have those opportunities. Make the most of those few weeks/months we have with them to hear their stories.

Summer is approaching and many of you will be headed back to visit family. I challenge you to sit down and write out some questions you are curious about. Write them down….you’ll forget them if you don’t because we know how we get all caught up in the cuteness of the baby nieces and nephews to remember what it was that we wanted to know. And as you are listening to the stories, record them – make a video or write it down. Then share them with your kids…I believe it is one way we can link our children to their extended family that they see every few years.

Stories help us explain to our children who we are and ultimately who they are – and possibly help them see that their own stories will only add more color to the weaving pattern of the family tapestry of life.

Need some help getting started on questions…here’s some I thought up:

  1. What is your fondest memory during your childhood days?
  2. What was school like for you? Did you go to a public school? a country school?
  3. How did you get there? Any story you can remember about a time going to school?
  4. Did you date (insert mom, dad, grandma, etc)? How did you meet?
  5. Ask about important historical events that would have happened during their lifetime and ask what they remember of that day….how did it affect them?

Joy…sometimes you just have to choose it

Christmas is supposed to be a time of great joy – time with family, gifts, laughter, food – oh, the food, and the time when many celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yes, Christmas is the time for joy, but sometimes it’s just not all that joyful or peaceful. I find that can be true for the expat. Like…

It is hard to be a single living in a foreign country during this holiday. I remember…

It is hard living in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday. December 25th is just another workday, just like all the rest.

Some years the entire family is sick… (I’m sure we are not the only family that can relate.)

You grew up in a place where “White Christmas” was not just on a postcard, but now you live in the tropics where it is warm all four seasons. Or you grew up where Christmas was spent celebrating on the beach and now you need to wear three layers in the house because the radiators just don’t kick out enough heat to your liking.

And the family Christmas picture. To take one that has everyone smiling and looking at the camera is next to impossible. My photographer friend posted on Facebook their “other Christmas pictures that didn’t make the photo for the Christmas card” to show all the drama behind the perfect shot that did. (We haven’t even really tried this year yet…that is on my list to do this week.)

This year we went “home” for the holidays…home to my husband – well sort of “home” since he’s a TCK. Honestly, we’ve all had some culture shock moments at one time or another. We’ve been upset or frustrated sometime during this holiday of peace and joy. Yet, at each of those times for me (yes, I’ve had multiple) I have found myself having to make a choice…to choose frustration, anger, or to find and choose JOY. Let me give you an example.

Germany is known for their Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets). They are beautiful, full of food and crafty trinkets to buy. It was on my list to do while we were here. Oma found one that was nearby. Perfect! Except, we had also planned for that day a visit to an aunt and a little shopping to kill time before the market opened. All this, and our kids were still on jetlag! We had taken the train, so we were bound by the train schedule. We had given ourselves less than an hour to eat and roam around the lit-up booths. I was disappointed, but decided not to say anything.  Instead chose joy and thankfulness as I grabbed my mug of gluehwein (spiced wine, or what I call Christmas in a mug) and marveled at the scene around me. I was surrounded by beauty – white lights outlining the buildings, the market stands, the trees; Christmas music playing; people laughing and smiling; and my kids enjoying their second round of warm waffles because you know bribery helps during those times of jetlag. Yes, I could have stood there angry at the less-than-perfect situation, but instead I wanted to make a memory that I could look back on and smile.

We did end up catching the later train, so we could have time to eat in a relaxed manner and enjoy wandering around and looking at each booth.

Here are some pics of that magical evening:

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Life-size nativity set up on a staged area.

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Can you see the remains of a castle on top of the hill? One of the many things I love about Europe in general…all the history!

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Kids with Oma finishing up the first round of waffles. Notice my cup of gluewein on the table?

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*This post was inspired by Velvet Ashes’s The Grove and their theme of Joy.

 

Allowing Bravery

This week I was challenged to start writing again – 5 min. a day. To set my alarm and to write. It’s baby steps, but I believe it will push me forward. So, this weekend, I’m linking up with The Groove, over at Velvet Ashes. I haven’t linked up with them since this summer, but this week’s theme challenged me. It’s on Bravery.

I read some really good posts that challeraged me (challenged-encouraged?) One was finding bravery in the Bible and the other was on the practicality of bravery – that full-force out-of-this-world bravery. It all starts with baby-steps. Yep, you should go and read those two posts now. You can thank me later.

But….they got me thinking. At midnight – okay 1am, I’ll be honest. I know I should have started that 5-min. alarm a few hours earlier…

I always wanted to be married to a brave man. One who wasn’t afraid to go out and fight for me and the kids. Someone who would do what is right even when it was hard. A man willing to obey God completely. A man of integrity.

I got what I asked for. He is all of that – and I’m so thankful…most of the time. I say “most of the time” because you see, there are times that his bravery calls me to be brave – and that just doesn’t always “feel” cozy and safe. In fact, it feels more like a couple of liters of icy-cold soda poured over my head on a freezing-cold day. It’s extremely uncomfortable, makes me shiver to the bone, and it’s sticky.

But, as his wife, his help-mate, I should be encouraging and well, helpful. I should be a support during those times when he needs to be brave. But the biggest question that loomed over my head tonight was simply this:

Do I give my husband permission to be brave?

Do I allow him to do the hard things? How do I react when he confronts me on issues? What is my facial expression when he gets a new idea to try at school or for our ministry – that I think is too much work? What do I say when he tells me he’s looking at property, new apartments, and/or a new “job”?

Do I immediately tell him “NO way” or do I listen completely and humbly to what he is saying. Do I let him stroll easily in obedience or am I pulling and yanking his arm to slow down because either I’m afraid or just down-right don’t want to do it?

Challenging isn’t it? I’m challenged to not let my first reaction be a negative one, but to instead, respond. To stop and listen completely. To pray about it, to seek God’s wisdom – especially on the major issues that require bravery. Although, I am finding out from experience that bravery isn’t always a move. It is obedience to God ~ even in the small stuff.

How about you? Do you allow bravery in your home? I didn’t even start with the kids, but do we allow our kids to be brave? 

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.

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.

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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…

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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.