22 March 2016

Third Culture Kids

I spent a lovely morning with new and old friends, hearing stories and discussing raising third culture kids.

Definition: A third culture kid is a child who does not live in their ‘passport’ or ‘home’ country. They take their parents culture and combine it with the culture of the country they are living in. This melds two cultures into one, creating a unique third culture that the child grows up in.

This is an obvious side-effect of our decision to live overseas… I have four third culture kids!

This is not a new topic for me. I’ve thought about this for years, I’ve read the book on this topic, and Mike and I have always asked many questions of families that have gone before us to learn from their experience. But it was good this morning to hear from some new friends… one  who was a third culture kid fifty years ago, one a young woman who is a third culture kid but now living back in her passport nation, another a mother who raised three third culture kids, and others like me, who are in the throws of raising a small swarm of third culture kids in their homes as I type!

However in the past my own experience with third culture kids was more connected to things like my kids being shocked that there are metal boxes in the store that stream out cold and clean drinking water for anyone to drink from, trying to learn to throw toilet paper in the toilet after throwing it in the trash can for many years, and being scared from automatically opening doors at the supermarket. (These were some of my children’s challenges as we moved back to the U.S. after many years in our previous African country).

But now my kids are older and things are getting more real up in here.

Reading a book is one thing. Hearing stories, listening to experiences and asking questions is infinitely more valuable. Here are some of my takeaways (I think I’m really just processing here today..)

1. It’s important to be intentional with my children. On this topic and on so many others. I would like to spur more conversation around this topic as God brings opportunities to help the children process their experience, which is different from many other children in their school and in their life.

2. Watch my tongue. My kids are forming ideas about culture (our own and our host culture and even other nationalities) all the time. And I better BELIEVE they are listening to how Mike and I talk about cultures and people from all nationalities. I need to WATCH. MY. TONGUE. They are learning from me.

3. There is no silver bullet. Some kids turn out great, others struggle. There is no perfect formula and there are no guarantees. However, as my Dutch friend reminded me… there are no guarantees for young people NO MATTER WHERE  they live or how you raise them. This is not an isolated challenge of raising third culture kids... this is just life. We parents try our best and must trust the rest to God. This is true around the world in any possible scenario.

4. There are many good things about being raised overseas. There are also many challenges. I cannot live life seeing all the things I think my kids are ‘missing’ out on in America. Yes, they are missing out on some things, but they are also very enriched in other areas. I must step back to see that perspective. A great antidote for this is modeling gratefulness in all things.

5. I would like to pray more. I also might like to put together some sort of short material that I could share with others who would like to specifically pray for my (or anyone’s) third culture kids. It’s a unique challenge and I feel that some certain and specific prayers for them would be so very valuable. It can be heart wrenching to watch my children hurt and struggle because of the life decisions Mike and I have made. A strong prayer covering for them might take away some of my guilt! *gulp*

6. Focus more on biblical worldview in kid language (I have no actual idea how to do this). Different cultures have different values and beliefs. But the Bible is our standard around the world and is the perfect lens to view all cultures and make value-based decisions.

7. Try to understand, at a child’s level, what it means to live in a place where the painful realities of this world are not necessarily far removed. Riots, police barricades, helicopters flying overhead, child beggars, etc are not odd sights or unusual topics of conversation for our family (although I assure we are very safe!). But my children don’t live a super cushioned life. This isn’t good or bad, it’s just different and it might require some careful conversations.

 

I’ll just list here the beauty vs. challenge topics that we discussed today with an example that I’ll make up. I found this helpful…

 

Beauty: Expanded worldview (Celebrating Christmas in January as the Coptic Christians do, instead of on Dec 25 as we do in America… people do things in different ways!)

Challenge: Confused loyalties (Which is the ‘right’ day to celebrate Christmas?)

 

Beauty: 3D reality of the world (Seeing the pyramids for real!)

Challenge: Painful awareness of reality (Blockades around the pyramids for protection, many beggars hanging around)

 

Beauty: Cross-Cultural Enrichment (Becoming comfortable greeting friends in Arabic and kissing cheeks upon seeing a friend)

Challenge: Ignorance of Home culture (Getting confused on the appropriate way to greet a friend back in America, and then feeling embarrassed about it.)

 

Beauty: Adaptability (Learning to accept that others arrive late, and becoming comfortable arriving late yourself in the Arab culture.)

Challenge: Lack of balance or true value system (Find that in America its not acceptable to be be two hours late… so the child wonders “Is it right or wrong to be late?” “Should I or should I not be late to this or that?” “Who is right and who is wrong?”)

21 March 2016

Spontaneous Salon Day

Recently my kids got inspired to do hair.

And this is a game during which a mother can be ‘playing’ but not have to do much besides sit on the floor.

So I was in!

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I had two personal stylists. What more could I ask for?

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The results were stunning.

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They were so proud.

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And they proceeded to take photos from all angles so that their masterpiece would be well documented.

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Meanwhile, Sweet N was working hard styling her baby brother…

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14 March 2016

The Circus Paradox

I call this circus paradoxical. It’s because during my time there I was equally as fearful as I was entertained.

Fearful in the sense that I was THE WHOLE TIME plotting exit strategies for myself and my four children should any of the following happen:

1. Tent falls down

2. Wild animal gets loose

3. Any sort of circus contraption becomes unattached from it’s attachment apparatus and come flying towards us

This was REAL folks. Adrenaline was high… taking my fear and entertainment level quite high with it. Crazy how that works, eh?

Anyway, so the story is that we saw a big red tent going up near our temporary flat a couple months ago. Eventually someone stopped by and found out that it was a circus! (From Italy?)

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There were two shows nightly: 5:30 and 9pm. Entrance fees were the equivalent of $5 (cheap seats) up to $20 (‘box’ seats). Soooo we picked a night, grabbed a couple friends, layered up (temps got cool in the evening) and ventured out.

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After we purchased our tickets we had to wait in a holding tent of sorts. You know, so they could basically gather enough people before they’d bother to start the show.

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It was already cold! Mister B got my hat and I wished I had worn double socks.

Once inside we were ushered to our ‘cheap seats’ which were actually in the front row of a side section.

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Here’s our crew. So fun. Luckily we also had the best seats to access the snack bar, which offered super cheap and delicious popcorn. Yes please!

The folks below paid for box seats. I felt a little sorry for them, as it didn’t quite seem worth the extra cost.  They were only 10 feet in front of us.

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The place didn’t exactly fill up.

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Like, at all. Lots of empty blue seats there…

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And here is the fancy curtain that some acts came out of and the cage path that the animals would enter from. (gulp)

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The first ‘act’ was a clown who attempted to entertain the ‘crowd’ with a beach ball and a balloon. His clown counter-part kept popping the balloon with a needle. Over and over and over. And over.

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Sorry the pictures are so bad. The lighting was awful inside and I was tempted to stop snapping. In the end I kept with it and I’m glad I did.

Because now I have proof. Ha!

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This (above) is the clown’s clowny side-kick.

Please let the real show should start soon. It’s already past bedtime!

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The first act was lions and tigers. I was dreading this part. This part of the world doesn’t have the best reputation for caring for wildlife of this sort. I knew I’d cringe. And. I. Did.

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The lions and tigers did typically circusy lion and tiger type things. Stood on two legs…

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Jumped through flaming hoops and the sort.

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This special tiger (below) also spent much of her time staring down the nice family with the toddler that had paid extra money to sit up close. I was very uncomfortable about this. I wasn’t the only one that noticed because at one point a staff member came and had them scoot back a row.

You know, cause if an unhappy and hungry tiger got loose with her eye on a toddler, then an extra row of chairs is really gonna make a difference.

Oh my word I was so scared. And I was laughing my head off. And cringing. And calling myself the worst mother of the year for keeping my children here. Frankly my feelings were confusing me, ack!

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The lions and tigers, besides reluctantly and lazily performing their tricks also took turns growling and swatting at their trainer. One time it was part of the act. All the other times IT WAS NOT. Mr. Trainer seemed unphased by this behavior. But I was growing in nervousness and planning my family’s exit strategy. Between outbursts of laughter, of course.

Once the lion and tiger act was over (SO thankful!), they came to dismantle the cage.

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Turns out the angry and disobedient lion and tiger cage was comprised of many rectangular sections, merely tied together somewhat loosely with some thin rope. Dental floss perhaps, my friend said? This guy just nimbly climbed around the circle untying knots quickly with his hands.  And then there was the very animal proof (?!) rope net on top, also tied on loosely with some more thin rope.

I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t know that DURING the lion and tiger act.

Deep breath.

What’s next?

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We had this very nice (and safe) islander juggler guy who did some typical juggling…

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… and some cool juggling on these here tilted boards. Never seen that. We liked him. Good job island guy.

Then we got a glimpse of circus announcer man. We had been listening to him and not understanding a thing, of course (it was all in Arabic).

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But we laughed when we saw him! Looks like he sauntered in off the golf course and happened to be handed a mic, so he just began to announce for a circus. No big deal. 

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Next up was this crazy balancing-on-top-of-all-kinds-of-stuff girl. The man behind her kept adding more things for her to balance on top of and she just kept balancing like a champ.

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Way to go!

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Then this lovely dancer with a hula hoop (which eventually turned into like 50 hula hoops). Pretty cool.

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Time for some audience participation. Mike has a history of being chosen for stuff like this and he plays along so well!

Not many pics here of what happened (because picture taking was replaced by video taking and side-splitting laughter)… but they put him on a pedestal in the middle of the ring and had him tuck a scarf or something in his pocket.  Then with great flare the clown started pulling the scarf out of his pocket, and of course it was scarf after scarf after scarf… and finally out came a pair of pink unmentionables. Ha! It was hysterical. Wouldn’t have been nearly as funny if it wasn’t my man out there. But it WAS my man out there and we were all really tickled!

Next up was this:

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The tight rope.

Uh oh.

Pardon me, but where is the safety net?

It’s nonexistent.

Whaaaaaaa?!!

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And that black bag over head looks like she can’t see through it but she really can, right? RIGHT?!!??

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Luckily they did fine and no one fell. Even doing this crazy pyramid thing.

Wow. And. Whew.

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Lil’ A wasn’t really into sitting in her chair. What else is new? She spent much of the time literally running circles around our row of chairs into the row behind us.

Up, over, down, over, up, over, down, over, up.

You get the idea.

I worked hard to keep my eye on her in the dark in case I needed to implement an exit plan. (Dead serious here).

But she did occasionally find something in the circus more interesting than her circuits and would stop to take a gander.

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Oh lookie there. He stepped in from the golf course again…

INTERMISSION

No, not for you, sorry. This post isn’t over yet.

But it was intermission for us. How did we know?

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Well because Barney and a seemingly cute, but in reality angry lion cub were brought out for our picture taking enjoyment. For an extra fee, of course, which I found out when we went up. Letting my child pet that wild animal was probably  a lapse in my best judgement… because after we walked away he was growling and swatting just like the big lions and tigers.

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See? Yikes. That’s not a cute wittle baby cub like we all want to believe…

Intermission over. Thank goodness.

Next up was the most adrenaline pumped act we experienced. At some points I was barely breathing. My heart was beating wildly.

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What do you call this thing?

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It all started very innocently. This contraption got hooked up to the ceiling of the tent. That meant I had a few minutes to to review my life-saving exit strategy for both of the possible events of  tent falling, and that of flying object coming loose from attachments! Time well spent, for sure.

Then the guys got the thing spinning and were running like little gerbils in their gerbil balls. Haha, that’s clever.

Then they started doing jumps and stuff and therefore ‘falling’ inside of their circle on the way down. (This is very hard to describe).

Then one of the guys climbs on the OUTSIDE of his circle.

No no, please don’t do that.

Still spinning. Still jumping. Still falling outside of the circle and landing with the circle. (I’m sorry, my descriptions are awful, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about).

BUT. THEN.

Then one of the guys pulls out a jump rope.

A jump rope. Please no.

And he’s jump roping on the outside of his spinning circle at very high speeds.

And then he…

T R I P P E D

…and my friend and I, in unison, let out screams at the top of our lungs.

I mean I haven’t screamed like that in years.

It was terrifying. And SO very exhilarating! (Such a paradox, it was, see what I mean?!)

The guy was fine, even he probably planned his trip to elicit such reactions from the crowd (Yeah… we were suckers, apparently).

But it didn’t matter. These guys were still crazy. But talented I guess? Mike kept saying “Yeah… they should stop doing that… it’s really not safe” and I truly kept wondering if I was really going to make it through this circus without having to carefully navigate the parental waters of debriefing a child who has watched a traumatic injury happen right in front of their ever-loving eyes.

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This act caught Lil A’s attention. Can’t blame her there. You couldn’t pull your eyes away from the madness if you wanted too!

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After the tripping jumprope man charade was over and I got my voice back, we settled in for a calm and fear-free performance of another juggling-something-or-other. I mean, who cares at this point. At least someone isn’t going to fly across the tent into the empty blue seats and break their back.

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Then some lovely aerial arts.

Nice and safe, thank you.

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Then we had some contortionists.

Classic and as awe-inspiring as ever. How do they DO that with their bodies? I’ll never know.

But just when we think we’re home free…

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Out comes the motorcycle that I had feared would ride inside that rickety old iron ball I had noticed sitting in the corner of the tent.

It was all fun and games until they brought out a second motorcycle to join the first.

Whyyyyyyy???

No, please don’t.

*side track*

I feel like in North America or Europe you can enjoy these sorts of acts a bit more, without the whole fear aspect. We generally know that lions are treated okay in western circuses, and that the stunt artists have nets, and that the motorcyclists attempting crazy stuff like this have really been trained and are professionals.

But here, you get the idea they just try to rustle up whatever entertainer they can and then force some sort of act on them that they’ve seen on YouTube or something. These people are mostly not professionals, and you have no idea if they’ve actually had proper training or not. They might just be an island juggler and then one day they’re like “Our tight rope walker quit (or he fell, heaven forbid!)… so here’s your balancing pole… up ya go!”

Know what I mean?

*end side track*

So anyway, the motorcyclists didn’t hit each other (probably because I was praying for them) but who knows what sort of damage their lungs sustained because those bikes would DEFINATELY would not pass the emissions test. (cough cough)

And the big finale was…

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… when the still-alive motorcyclists pulled into the center ring (there was only one ring, actually) and pulled off their helmets and one was a female!

Haha, GIRL POWER!

And the crowd went wild!!!!! Or not so much. But it was a nice try with that little trick at the end there circus people…

That was it. The end.

I was truly so relieved at the end that didn’t have to attempt my emergency exit strategies and that we were all safe and sound. Really I was. Not in a joking way. I was TRULY thankful that we had finished without incident.

Exhale.

I was exhilarated, and exhausted. And thoroughly entertained.

It was definitely a night to remember, and possibly the best $5 I’ve ever spent for entertainment.

Thank you Milano circus, for not injuring or killing anyone (including ourselves) in front of my children’s innocent little eyes. I’ll love you forever for that.

13 March 2016

Big Bed Around-the-World Snoozer

Often times my babies (N here and A here) have woken up in the early morn for a little breakfast. So generally I just bring them into bed with me and go back to sleep with them by my side. An hour or so later, when I wake up… baby remains in the big bed and gets to sleep in like royalty!

This stage only lasts as long as the serious rolling holds off. With B, it’s still working and I love it. He’s done it from the start, all through our transition… meaning he’s snoozed in several big beds with us during his short four months…

Starting in Colorado before we left our own apartment…

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And then our dear neighbor’s apartment that we borrowed for our last week before the move…

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And then our temporary flat upon arrival in our new country (we were here for 6 weeks)

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Now our own place that we hope to call home for a long time!

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He is a treasure.

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