“Rise of the Guardians” and my TCK

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

My son just watched “Rise of the Guardians” a few nights ago with some friends. He came home and told my husband that it was a funny movie, but he had one question.

Who is the Sandman?

This could seem like a funny question, maybe even a dumb question to many parents. I mean, in today’s age kids have the opportunity to watch cable TV, Movie on Demand, Netflix, etc. One would think that they would be up-to-date on all the stories and fairy tales from their “home” country, right?

This is not always the case – and we need to remember that as parents. We can’t assume that they know everything about our home country. And with that assumption, we can’t assume that our kids will figure it out or transition well if/when they move there.

How can we help them?

I think the best way is to inform them that although they may look like everyone else, they will be different. Actually, they probably have already figured that out if they are in elementary school and have made the return trip to visit family. Although they may know this, do they know how to cope with it? Can we teach them how? Can we encourage them?

I think we can.

1. Clueless does not equal stupid. I believe this is an idea that many TCKs may battle with as they enter the “home” country and not know what everyone else round them seems to know. It could be TV shows, it could be an expression/idiom, or even a name of a candy. They will feel stupid, but they need to remember that they are not. We can help them by reminding them that they are going to experience it and that this situation is normal. They are definitely not stupid.

2. Laugh – Laughing brings healing and can soothe the heart. Learning to laugh at ourselves is not always easy, but it can be done. Kids need to see that everyone messes up and are not perfect. Maybe you can share with them a time you messed up culturally when you were home – because let’s get real, even we forget what “home” is like. Just this summer, I had trouble counting money in my home country – It’s moments like this that I want to use as a model for “marking it up” as a living-overseas moment for me. For them, a TCK moment. Nothing more.

3. Bridge-people – You may have heard this term when you first moved overseas – you know the person that can help you understand the new culture better, be the bridge for you. I think this is needed for older children who transition into their parent’s home country. They need someone around their age who can help them navigate the teenage/university cultural differences. Someone who has been there and can relate to them, possibly another TCK or mentor who understands the issues of TCKs.

Whoever thought that the one to bring sleep and good dreams would turn out to be the one that stumped a TCK. Thanks Sandman for helping me remember that though my kids live in a world of technology, they still will not get all of my home country’s culture.

Your Turn: What have you seen from your children in regards to “missing out” on the home culture and helping your children cope with this transition issue. Please share in the comments below.

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Nontraditional Holiday? Why not?

For the ‘American’ part of our family, the big holiday is coming up quickly. You know, Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, pumpkin pie, and all the rest of the good stuff. In the past we’ve celebrated with fellow expats (aka adopted family) gathered around our own table or their table – or even larger gatherings where we rented space at the international school to feast.

This year is different.

This year we did not buy a turkey. I did not make stuffing. I didn’t even make a pumpkin pie. In fact, we are not even going to be home for Thanksgiving. We are leaving and taking a much needed mini vacation.

How do I feel about this? Actually, relieved. I’m not stressed about putting food together . I’m not worried about how Jie Jie is going to act/react at the gathering. I’m excited. We haven’t vacationed as a family in quite a while – like two years. We’ve gone to the US and visited family, but we didn’t go anywhere to shut off completely as a family. We’ve had stay-cations  but we tend to work anyway. We need to go away with books and games. I can’t wait -(actually, by the time you read this we will already be gone).

Why be nontraditional when this is the time I should be teaching my children about “their home” culture?

1. The thought of being away from family is too much this year. This is what one of my friends told me as she related their plans for the Thanksgiving break. They were planning to not have a huge feast at their home as they have in years past, but instead go to a different city and help at an orphanage with a group of other expats. I thought this was a brilliant way to fight the holiday blues. Go and serve others. And with that they are teaching their kids empathy for others.

2. The thought of doing anymore work is going to kill me. This is me, I raise my hand waving my white flag. I’m tired and the thought of cooking and prepping makes me swoon. And we have an “I Am a Hero Game” that we will travel six hours for the day before, so we decided to add time away and explore a small island off the main island.

I totally agree that holidays are a great way to teach kids about your own home culture. It helps them relate and understand where they came from. I understand that and agree. I get the full blown celebrations with all the fun crafts, food, and pre-recorded football games. I have done this – except the football game. We are European football fans, not so much the American football. So, my kids are not going to get a turkey this year. Will they survive? YES.

We really went wild this year – we put up our tree before Thanksgiving! We usually do this the weekend following Thanksgiving, but I wanted to come back to a decorated apartment. 

So, Happy Thanksgiving to you all! If you are eating turkey and pumpkin pie I wish you well as I sit at the beach reading a book and watching the kids play in the ocean. I’m thankful for time with my family.

Your Turn: How do you celebrate holidays? Do you go all out with every tradition? Do you ever do a nontraditional type of holiday? Please share in the comments below.

*If you’d like to read more about raising TCKs, please subscribe at the top right. You can also join us on Facebook.

Language and TCKs

“Which language should we speak at home with our children?”

“Which school should we send our children to? Language is important, but I’m afraid my child will forget or not master our ‘mother tongue’.”

As an expat parent, I’ve asked those same questions. As an international elementary teacher, I’ve heard those questions from parents about their own children.

They are legit questions, ones that should be addressed from the get-go when deciding to live abroad with your family. When I was pregnant with our first child my husband, being German, and I decided that I would speak English and he would speak German. Let me just say this, in theory it was a great plan, but for our family it didn’t happen. My husband rarely spoke German anywhere. His working world was in English and Chinese. His world at home with me was in English. He didn’t think about speaking German unless he was talking with his parents, but even that was a mixture of English, German, and a bit of Chinese. Please know that I do know of families that spoke dual languages and it worked wonderfully for them. It just wasn’t for our family. If you have a mixed family, this is definitely something you need to discuss as a family – which language(s) will we speak at home with our kids?

Schooling affects language as well…

Yes, which school do we send our child to? Local? International? Home-school?  These are questions that you definitely need to discuss with your spouse. Something to think about though, is what language do you see your child using as an adult? Is it your mother-tongue? your husband’s? English – if that isn’t your mother-tongue? As an educator, I can’t say this strong enough – Whatever language(s) you decide your child will be educated in make sure your child masters a language – and what I mean is they have mastered both speaking and writing. If your child cannot fully function in one language, they may never be able to fully express their feelings.

Once GeGe was almost pre-school age, Uwe and I discussed what language we wanted him to be educated in. We wanted him to be able to speak Chinese well. We had planned for him to attend local school until Grade 2, with me home-schooling him in English to keep up his writing. We chose this grade level because we knew that he would most likely go to an English speaking university. The English writing begins to expand quickly to paragraphs in grade 3. We didn’t want him to fall too far behind and not master English. Well, this plan didn’t workout for us. He attended only Kindergarten at the local school, then in grade 1 we switched over to the international school, but requested that he be in the same Chinese level as the native speakers in his homeroom. This worked out well for him. Our decision to pull him into the international school was due to the fact that Jie Jie needed to start school and her school was not at the same school. They were not really even close to each other and there was no way for me to get them both to school. GeGe could go in early with my husband, and I could take JieJie.

We speak English in the home, so these questions were not so difficult to answer, but for those expat parents whose language at home is not English this decision must be weighed out carefully. And many times a sacrifice of the mother-tongue happens. The language spoken by the parents is learned, but not fully mastered.

When raising kids abroad, the question about language is huge. It’s one that every expat parent must think through and discuss with their spouse. It is a question that my in-laws had to make over thirty years ago when they decided to send their very young children to the American school versus the German boarding school that was located in a different country. And it will be the question that probably my children will have to make should they choose to live abroad with families of their own.

Your Turn: What language do you speak at home? How did you make the language decision about education? What school do you send your kids to or did your parents send you to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’m really interested.

This post was inspired by a blogpost I recently read about raising kids overseas. She is a TCK herself and understands the advantages and the disadvantages of living abroad. She listed questions one should ask when they begin to think about raising TCKs. The one suggestion that she gives to expat parents is to READ. Read books, articles, and blog posts about and authored by adult TCKs. If you are not currently following DrieCulturen, you should. Great resource!

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The Working Mama Weekend Saga~

I just joined the work-outside-the-home Mamas Club this fall. I am working part-time as a teacher for a small bi-lingual school where my kids are now attending. It has been both wonderful and challenging. If you are in this “Club”, then you know exactly what I mean.

It’s a Wonderful Life…

I LOVE teaching. I forgot that I loved it. I have been out of the classroom for about ten years now. I was a bit intimidated at first, but I really do love everything about it…being in the classroom, doing projects,sparking interest in learning (occasionally get to see this), planning the lessons, and yes even some grading (I’m a little odd though).

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a SAHM (stay at home mom), but the kids are now ALL in school. Jie Jie even has a teacher and goes half days – which is why I’m part-time ~ and I’m okay with part-time. Part-time is E.N.O.U.G.H. Really.

It’s a Crazy Life…

I am part-time, but my Mom and Wife duties are still full-time. I still take Jie-Jie to therapy twice a week. I still have meals to cook. About Thursday, the laundry becomes Mt. Darks, Mt. Lights, and Mt. Whites. My floors and bathrooms still need cleaning. Life is crazy. My weekends are bogged down with housework and lesson plans. I feel like I’m just surviving at times.

I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive.

You, too? We can thrive, I just know it. I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers, but here has been my weekend saving trick. It will blow your mind. It is so cheap, so easy to find (okay, you may have to look under a bed or in a closet), and some of the time easy to use.

The Children…yep, I’ve recruited the kids to help out with the chores. They can vacuum, fold clothes, clean the bathrooms, dust, and take out the trash. Some of these chores they get paid for, like taking out the trash. The others they don’t – it’s just what they do as part of the family. Kids learn valuable life skills while doing chores. And we all want them to be able live on their own when they graduate from high school, right? Right! And since your TCK will probably not live that close to home after graduation, all the more reason to teach them a few skills while they are still under your roof.

So, get those kids geared up to grab the dust rag and help out around the apartment. Sound difficult? It is, but giving them the option of going to friend’s house or having friends over afterwards motivates them pretty quickly.

So, here’s to the weekend. Hope you are able to get outside or do something you enjoy to do that is not on the “To Do” List.

Your Turn: Have any tips of your own that helps lessen the work on the weekends? Please share in the comments below.

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Public Transportation and Children, including Special Needs…

crowded bus

*photo by nats’ photostream at flickr.com

Imagine getting on this bus with Baby in the front pack and Toddler trying to free his hand from yours. You help Toddler climb the giant steps up, only to find the bus crowed with no seats. With Toddler in front, you tighten the grip of his wriggly hand while you grasp with the other hand the hand grip swinging from the ceiling. The bus lurches forward. You stumble a bit. You close your eyes praying for your lives and cursing yourself for taking the bus. Then someone smiles and gets up so Toddler can sit. You stand swaying back and forth, or more likely jerking forward and backward while bouncing Baby, who at this point has started crying. Somehow the bus gets more crowded. Your stop is coming up. You begin planning the exit strategy in hopes that you don’t loose Toddler and don’t crush Baby. Then, the Mommy Panic Button is pushed – what if Toddler doesn’t get off with you? What if he gets lost? 

Imagination or Real?

Maybe you didn’t have to imagine this because you just experienced it this week AND to top it all off you are in a foreign country. I’m pretty sure I have had this kind of a day. It was WAY too easy to write for me to have imagined it all up.

Transportation Holder

When our son became old enough to have his own transportation card (like a debit card for buses and subways) we bought him a holder that went around his neck. All the kids now have one. Jie Jie just got a new one for her recent birthday.

photo.JPG

“But a transportation holder isn’t going to help…”

No, just having the holder and the card are not going to help. I agree. That is why we decided that in case we should get separated from our kids, they need to have our phone numbers in the holder as well. So, we have my husband’s business card with his cell number inside, too. This card is written in both English and in Chinese. The dual language is important – not everyone can read English, so the language of your host country needs to be on the card as well. The kids know they are to ask someone to call that number if for some reason they find they are lost.

Special Needs Addition

Since Jie Jie is a special needs child, we have added  a little more information to her holder. We also have a card that states, in English and Chinese, that she is a special needs child who cannot speak or have anything by mouth. Then both of our cell numbers are on that paper as well.

I’ve been thankful that the kids have not had to use those business cards to call us. Tomorrow morning we will climb those steps again and face the crowds. We take the bus to school most mornings. Even though the kids have gotten really good about staying close and paying attention when it’s time to get off, I feel a little better knowing they have our numbers in their holders in case something does happen.

Your Turn: Do you use public transportation with your kids? What has been your experience? Share your story below.

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How to Prepare for Typhoon Days (or other stay at home days)

Typhoon Guchol Approaching Japan

photo by NASA

It is typhoon season, and once again we are about to get hit with not one, but possibly two nice sized typhoons.

Typhoons can complicate life. They mess up plans to go out and play. They cancel school and work, which is usually welcomed in this family. They cause some city-wide panic as everyone runs out and buys all the instant noodles at the grocery store. We can learn from the locals, though.

Be Prepared:

Typhoons are predicted days in advance, so there is time to be prepared. You can go out and buy the extra staples like milk, eggs, bread, instant noodles, extra water, candles, batteries, etc. I advise that you do this, but this is not what I’m talking about today. No, today I’m talking about something I always want to do, but never get to it because of my “To Do” List.

Preparing Fun with my TCKs:

Usually, I clean the house during a typhoon. I’m home and can’t go out. The kids can play in their rooms or watch a movie. I can get SO much done because we don’t have to go anywhere – we can’t go anywhere.

It hit me yesterday as I looked at my soon to be 11-year old son. I’m “wasting” valuable time cleaning when I could be spending time with my kids. They are going to be at an age where they may not want to play a board game with us, and then too soon they will be off to that place called university.

YIKES!

Be Intentional!

I cleaned the whole apartment yesterday. Today I am planning the “fun” with the kids for the typhoon that will hit sometime in the next day or so. We will play board games, do some crafts, and probably bake together. I want to be more intentional with my life and this is one way I can do that.

I have found that my kids share things on their mind while playing a board game. We discuss questions they may have. We find out what they are thinking about. We laugh at jokes. We find out how creative our kids are, or not. We explore. We experiment. We bond. Bonding is what I want and to get that the vacuum, the mop, and the “To Do” list must be put away.

Your Turn: How about you? How do you prepare for those snow days, typhoon days, or other vacation days when the kids are at home? Please share in the comments below.

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Packing Problems? A Quick Fix

114/365: April 24 2007

Photo by ::d::’s photostream via flicker

It is that time of summer when we all travel back to our homes overseas. Many of us are getting our kids ready for the new school year. We’ve bought new school clothes, maybe even some supplies that are hard to find in the country we are now living in.

I have just returned from such a trip and as I re-packed our belongings I realized I had a problem.  I have this same problem each time we visit family. It doesn’t matter if it is in the US or in Germany, I struggle with this.

The Overstuffed Suitcase Dilemma                                                          

Please tell me I’m not alone in this. I followed my own tip, “Stash It”, when I packed to go to the US this summer. I thought that having that extra bag would be enough. I even packed clothes to take that I knew I’d leave behind and not take back, which would leave more space for the new clothes and gifts that we acquired while there. Sadly, I still had the Overstuffed Suitcase Dilemma. Fortunately, though, I found a solution.

Plastic Storage Bags

I have used these oversized shrink-wrap storage bags to help me pack up winter clothes and blankets in our apartment, but I’ve never used them for packing suitcases. If you’ve never used one before, they are really great. You simply put the desired clothing or other clothed-based material into the bag and zip it up. Unscrew the cap, and then place the hose of your vacuum cleaner on the opening. Turn your vacuum on and let it do the work. Once the air is out, put the cap back on. It usually shrinks it down to at least half the size. Take a look at what I did for packing.

Before

After: One blanket wouldn’t fit.

The Important Tip 

The one thing you must remember is that the weight doesn’t change. My pile of lap quilts my sister made still weighed five pounds after I bagged it, but I had a whole lot more space to use.

Your Turn: Have you ever used these storage bags for packing suitcases? Do you have other tips to share on gaining more space (I know, don’t buy anything to bring back. HA!) Please share in the comments below.

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Making Change

Change

photo by spcbrass via flickr

I was standing in the check-out lane and opened my wallet to see that I had about two handfuls of change. I am headed back overseas in a few weeks, so I want start getting rid of the excess change. As the cashier began to ring up my items I noticed that the there were a few people standing in line behind me waiting patiently.

My heartbeat picked up.

My hands started sweating.

My eyes darted into the wallet trying to make out what kind of change I had, so I could quickly pull out what I would need.

A few seconds later, the cashier told me how much I needed. What? I didn’t hear him. I frantically looked at the register to get a read and asked again for the price. He told me.

I handed the bills and began to dig for the coins I needed. My fingers were not working. The coins kept slipping from them. Finally, what seemed like five minutes, I got the exact change and handed it to him. I know I heard a sigh from the person behind me.

The cashier handed me the receipt. I apologized and quickly made my exit.

I’m in the country I grew up in, yet counting change causes me to stress. What in the world? Here is what I think it is…

1. The money is foreign. As expats, we live outside the country for at least 11 months or longer ~for me it’s been 2.5 years. The money has become foreign. We are used to our RMB, Yen, Euro, or Pounds and have forgotten what “home” country money feels like. If you’re a TCK, it may all feel foreign and familiar at the same time…

2. Identity problems. I’ve lived in Asia for over a decade and there is so much grace when I don’t get it right because I don’t look Asian. As for going to Germany, I look the same, but as soon as I open my mouth the people there understand and have shown me grace. Being in the US, I look and sound “American”, so they are so confused that I can’t count change, don’t understand the debit card scan, or whatever the “new-to-me” procedure is in public places. If you’re a TCK, is this how you feel all the time?

So, how to beat this? I guess I could “play” with the money before I get back to just get a feel for it. Instead, I just keep shopping and using cash OR I skip the cash part and use the debit card. As for the identity problem, I’ve thought about putting on an accent at the checkout, but mine is terrible and I’d probably start laughing at myself and blow it. So, instead I just take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay and normal ~ my friends all have the same problem and we will sit with our tea/coffee at the end of the summer laughing about the “trauma at the grocery stores” and how we “survived the cereal aisle”. 

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Keeping the Culture: US Independence Day

"Uncle Sam's Birthday. 1776- July 4th 1918. 142 Years Young and Going Strong."

Have you ever worried that your TCKs are going to forget or not know your home culture? Are you afraid that they are missing out on all the cultural festivities and knowledge about where you are from? That they are just not going to understand their heritage?

My kids are third culture kids(TCKs). Most of you have read my bio so I won’t bore you with details. In case you haven’t had the chance here is a shortened summary. I’m from the States, my husband is a German MK, and our kids are growing up in Asia.

Sometimes I wonder about the above questions. I know they are getting a great education. I know they are learning so much about the world by living overseas and going to school with children from all over the world. I’ve read books and have attended conferences to learn more about these resilient kids. I’m following blogs of top experts on the subject and even blogs by adult TCKs to gain more understanding. I do all of this and still I wonder.

I’m sure you do too, or you wouldn’t be reading this post.

So, what can you do to pass down your heritage to your kids?

Celebrate the holidays. Yep, this is one way I am doing it. Independence Day for the US is in a few days. I’ve had the opportunity to read part of this book to my girls. I’ve planned crafts and activities to do with them as well.
Since we are in the US, we will get with family and grill and celebrate together. We might even be able to shoot some fireworks off ~ I say might because it is so dry it might not be safe.
The years we have been out of the US for the 4th of July, I have had to be more intentional in celebrating. Sometimes, we’ve been able to attend parties hosted by the embassy. Other years we celebrated with just a few friends around the grill. And there has been a few years where it was just our family. But, no matter what, we brought out the red, white, and blue.
If you are a US citizen and wondering about some free simple activities that you can do with your kids, here are some ideas that I did this year with the girls.
1. Printed out simple readers that they colored and made into books. Click here for site.
2. Printed out some worksheets of the flag and the eagle. Click here for site. Note this site has some things for older kids as well.
3. Free coloring sheets here.
4. Glitter glue fireworks.                                                
Click here for the website.                                5. Blow-Paint fireworks here.
Super Easy, little messy. 

Your Turn: Do you celebrate your home country’s holidays with your children? If you’re a TCK, did your parents teach you about specific holidays from their home country? Was it helpful, why or why not? Please comment below. I would LOVE to hear your ideas, thoughts or if you have other activities to share, please do!

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The All Time Hated Aisle

Cereal Aisle

photo by Rex Roof via flickr

Can you guess what the all time hated aisle for any expat is? Okay, the photo gave it away if you were wondering.

I don’t have solid research on this, but I believe this has to be one of the top 5 places expats hate to visit in the US. I have this theory because, having lived overseas for a-hem several years now, every expat I have talked to gets the same look and pretty much says the same thing, Oh, I just stand there for hours looking at all the choices not knowing what to put in the over-sized cart.

What is it about that aisle? I like lists if you haven’t noticed, so here are my lists of why cereal aisles make us tense up.

1. The aisle is a mile. Have you noticed this? I mean it is the entire length of the aisle and at least 4 shelves high. The pure size of it overwhelms me.

2. The number of choices. So, the aisle is a mile long and each shelf has rows upon rows of every kind of cereal you can imagine. Take for instance a simple flaky type cereal. You can get it bran, frosted, fruity, low-fat, and, and, and. And if you know what type of flake you want, then you have 4+ brands to choose from. I’ve gotten used to only have, at the most, five choices to choose from. Period.

3. The shouting of words. I’m a writer, so words tend to jump out at me. The cereal boxes are no different. I feel like the boxes are shouting their greatness, their newness. “Low-fat!” “Low-carb!” “Healthy Eating!” “Great for the Heart!” And that doesn’t even cover the “prizes” that are inside ~ which my kids have now figured out. I think having lived overseas I can’t always read what the boxes are shouting, so it is like they are on mute. You think?

So, what to do about this “problem”? I haven’t totally figured it out. My plan thus far has worked out fine. I tell my mother what kinds of cereal we “like” and let her bring them home. Then when we need to buy more, I search for the exact same box ~ if the kids liked it that is.

Your Turn: Do you like the cereal aisle? How do you tackle it when you are back in the US? Please share in the comments below.

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