Raising Children with Special Needs When You Live Overseas

 

Forest, Hope, Radiant, Zen, Sunflare

“Your daughter has a rare genetic syndrome called Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, and she needs a feeding tube.”

My dreams, my desires to live overseas, seemed to shatter with that diagnosis. The past 10 months all made sense. This was the reason she was hospitalized in Beijing for bronchitis at 3 months old. This was the reason for choking almost every time she nursed. And this explained why, just a few months before, she lay limp with pneumonia on a large hospital bed in the middle of China next to six other children with some sort of lung infection. All of this led to me flying alone with her to the U.S. for medical tests. This was the reason I sat in that small clean consultation room with a doctor I barely knew.

Was this going to be the reason God would end our time overseas?

And then the haunting question, How am I going to tell my husband Uwe half way around the world on the phone?

To date, that was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make.

When Uwe and our oldest son (20 months) arrived in the U.S., we believed our time overseas was over. At that time we only knew of one other family living overseas with a child with special needs, but our daughter seemed to have more medical issues. As we consulted with surgeons, therapists, and doctors, not a single one hesitated to tell us to go back. This was incredible to us because we, like so many others, didn’t think it possible that families affected by disabilities could live and work overseas. So with a list of diagrammed exercises, extra feeding buttons and bags, and a feeding machine, we returned to China. Uwe went back to work as principal at the international school, and I began therapy with Matthea. Life changed, but God had not. He was still good. He was still providing.

Our story isn’t unique. There are others like us. Last week I was able to interview eight families ministering overseas who also have children with special needs. All of our stories seemed to share the following three themes.

You can finish reading over at A Life Overseas

Advertisements

Book Review & Give Away: LOVE, AMY: A MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA

LOVE, AMY: AN ACCIDENTAL MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA41ayswdy0ul

by Amy Young

Summary

Amy Young shares her life as a single English as a Second Language teacher in China. Her early years in China (mid-nineties) were spent at the Sichuan College of Education. This memoir is shared through her monthly newsletters to her supporters in the United States. This was an interesting time to be in China as the country was changing drastically from a poor quiet country who opened it’s gates wider to “foreigners” allowing more “western” influences to try to take root. The reader has the chance to “see” China during those transition years. Amy’s letters are fun and humorous as she relates the cultural differences in a loving way. She shares her traumatic experience of almost dying in a Chinese hospital and how she recovered and then chose to return afterwards. But, this book isn’t just a memoir, it’s a ‘how to’ book on writing newsletters. Amy shares how to write a better newsletter from what she has learned and from others who have read/written countless newsletters written by others.

My Thoughts

When I first heard about Amy’ health issues in China, I wanted to know more. Here was someone who also experienced trauma in China and not just survived to tell about it, but thrived and returned. Someone I could relate to. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it wasn’t just a memoir – though I do love reading memoirs of people who have lived overseas. I felt that her addition of a ‘how-to’ manual for writing newsletters was a brilliant idea. After reading her book, I still think it’s brilliant, but also I’ll add inspiring. I vowed to never write another newsletter again – but instead to write heartfelt letters, with stories and fun unique ideas for interaction –  not facts and a report.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is in a position of writing newsletters. You’ll be inspired and challenged to write them in a different way. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even like writing them.

The Give Away:

Amy has graciously offered to give away one copy of her book, LOVE AMY, AN ACCIDENTAL MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA.

OPEN TO ALL READERS! If you live in the US, she’ll send a physical copy of the book, but if you live overseas she’ll send a digital copy. 

DETAILS:  Just simply leave a comment about why you’d like to read this book and your email address. I’m still “old school” in many ways, so I’ll just put names in a hat on July 7th and have one of my daughters pick out a name. I’ll make the announcement later that day and contact you via email to let you know.

DEADLINE:  July 7th at 10PM (let’s do US Eastern Time, as it is exactly 12 hours difference for me. So, easy to remember.)

Now, go comment and share this post with others. =)

Homes Remembered…the expat life

TCKs struggle with the sense of home. If you raise a TCK or work with them – or really had any conversation with one that is semi-deep – then you already know this. It is not some life-changing news to you. If this is new to you, then I suggest that you read this, this, and this to get started – and then I’d Google it for more information.

Though I’m not a TCK, I feel as if I’ve lived long enough overseas and have moved often enough that I what I used to call “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. Now, this doesn’t bother me so much as I’m older and mature (most days) and have learned to make “home” in whatever place we are at that moment. If this is something you struggle with I just read this great post from an adult TCK. Click here to read it.

What does bother me is that as I am getting older and we continue to move, that I am starting to remember stores or streets that we shopped at but can’t always remember what city/country it was in. For instance, I was shopping at a Costco here (I know, so spoiled!) and while shivering in the walk-in refrigeration section I was visited by a memory of the past: Ge Ge sitting in a shopping cart in the middle of a huge refrigerator room while I frantically picked over the meat and veges because he had on shorts and a T-shirt and the elderly ladies were starting to scold me for not putting enough clothes on him. I stood, still shivering, in that Costco refrigerator giggling and trying to remember what store and city/country I was in…after coming to my senses and before I turned blue, I grabbed what I needed and zipped out of there. Later, after my brain returned to normal temperature, I remembered where we were at…Metro, Wuhan, China. This is just one of many times where I was trying to remember some street, store, or event from another city/country.

Am I the only one that has moments where memories come to mind from days gone past and can’t remember where it took place? Is this just how it is for expats after years of moving around? The normal everyday places where we once called home become a foggy distant memory that visits us during trips to Costco, a market street, or even in a smile from a stranger at the post office?

Share your stories below in the comments section. I know I’m not the only one.

The Leaving Series: If you’d like to be a guest writer, I’m running a series on leaving. More detail can be found here.

An Expat Kind of Lantern Festival

Last week I went to the Lantern Festival with my youngest daughter. We saw many intricate designs. What interested me more than the historical pieces of the festival, were the poetic journey of a man traveling away from home – away from his home country. They seemed to reflect what many of us, as expats, could possibly feel at different seasons in our lives overseas.

I’ve written out the translated poem from Chinese to English (don’t get excited, it was there on a sign and I had taken pictures). They also provided what they called a “Poem Appreciation,” but was like brief summary of the meaning of the poem. I’ve also written that below the two poems.

So, enjoy the pictures of the life-sized lanterns and the poems that describe the scene of each picture.

 

20150306_184803 (1)

 

Za Shi “Poem”

by Wang Wei

You, who have come from my homeland,

Ought to know well the happenings back home.

On the day of your departure,

Pray tell – Have the plum blossoms outside your window bloomed?

Meaning:

Such is the joy of the man in a foreign land to meet a fellow countryman. Yet knowing not where to begin his enquiries. He starts off by asking after the smallest of things, subtly revealing his deep love for his homeland.

 

20150306_184913 (1)

Hui Hsiang Ou Shu “Returning Home – A Random Musing” by He Zhi-Zhang

I left home a kid and returned an old man,

My accent is unchanged yet my hair has turned white;

A child who meets but does not recognize me,

Laughingly asks “Where do you come from?”

Meaning:

People age easily, yet their homeland remains unchanged. Returning to one’s homeland after decades abroad, one cannot help but feel familiar yet distant at the same time. An innocent remark from a guiltless child draws attention to the poet’s complicated feelings in a poignant yet humorous manner, leaving readers with a lasting and profound impression.

Don’t you just love that no matter what country some one is from, they understand some of the same feelings you may have towards “homesickness” and missing friends and family?

 

 

Jetlag Blues – The Empty Fridge Saga

The summer is over and Sue and Kris are making their way back to expat-land. They’ve said all their good-byes, they’ve packed-up those suitcases with precious cargo of things they can’t easily buy, and they’ve prepped on-flight entertainment for their three kids. The flights are long, the layovers almost as long – but they somehow seem to arrive in their home with all thirteen pieces of luggage and their three kiddos. It’s dark outside and everyone is tired – no exhausted from the lack of sleep. With fingers crossed and prayers said, Sue and Kris put their three kids to bed and then collapse on their own bed. A few hours later, which really seems like only five minutes, the children start waking up….hungry. Sue notices her stomach is rumbling as well. She looks at the clock, 1am. Groggily she walks into the kitchen and begins to search for something….anything to eat. The kitchen is bare, the cupboards show a little hope – a pack of lemon flavored Ritz crackers. “Will this last until morning when she can get to the market?” she asks herself.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to this scenario. I can remember even digging in the carryon bags in desperate search of airline snacks or rolls for the kids to nibble on until we could get to a store. Fortunately, we now live in Taipei – the land of 7-11’s and other 24-hour convenient stores, so I just send Uwe out at odd hours to hunt and gather food for the ravenous crew. On the RaisingTCK Facebook page I asked readers what they do during these times and guess what? I’m not the only one who makes 7-11 runs in the middle of the night.

Others listed great ideas which I will post below…

1. Neighborly Love: One great idea is to ask a friend or a neighbor that is around to buy a few staples to put in your fridge. Of course, they will need to have an extra key, but usually this person has a key for those times that you lock yourself out of the apartment/house. *Table-turner: If you have a key to a friend’s place, why not buy a few staples and put it in their home as a “Welcome Back” surprise. Trust me, you will jump up a few notches on that friend ladder for sure!

2. Stop and Shop: Most airports have some sort of convenience store where you could pick up some crackers, rolls, water, or other snacks to tie everyone over later. If that is not an option, if time and location allows it swing by a store to pick up those staples. It may seem like a pain at the moment, but it might just make that first night of jet-lag bearable for all.

3. Stock-up – As another reader shared: she stocks up on UHT milk and cereal. UHT milk is that boxed milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If that is not an option, then look at what is sold that can be stored in cupboards over the summer and stock up those things. Of course, this needs to be planned out – so this idea may need to be tucked away in your mind for the next time you take a longer trip.

4. Bake and Freeze: If you trust that your electricity won’t go out and if you have a large enough freezer – you could bake quick breads or simple meals and put them in the freezer to use that first night or even week as you struggle with jet-lag. *Table-turning: Make a meal or something to take over to a friend/family their first night back. With email and Facebook, it is pretty simple to find out when they arrive.

I’m sure there are other ideas – like raiding the precious treats from the luggage that you were planning to save for special occasions. Please share with us what you have done to help you through that first night of jet-lag…because none of us like “The Empty Fridge Saga.”