05 June 2014

Moving: The Stuff

Moving to an expatriate is like....

Hmmm...

What IS it like?

* Swimming to a fish *
Hmmm. No. I think fish probably like to swim. I do not like to move.

* Pulling a splinter out of an infected thumb *
Nope. Though it is a pain and there is some little relief afterward. But sometimes the scars from having to say goodbye to friends and places and things...well, they just stick with you bigger than that.

* a shell to a hermit crab *
That's not right either, but crawling in a shell and avoiding the process of packing sounds pretty good right about now. Or maybe even dreaming that moving could be way easier if they could just pick the whole house up instead of bringing out the boxes.

*Changing a poopy diaper to a Mom*
Maybe its just because I've done it already this morning...but I think I'm getting closer.  Changing a poopy diaper is no fun, but when it's done and over, the people involved are happier because of the lack of stink and diaper rash avoidance.  With moving when the packing is done and the stink of the last box is actually packed up, there is indeed, relief.  But like a kid dropping a deuce in his dipe, its just a matter of weeks or months before you have to deal with boxes again on the other end.

I'm starting to see metaphors aren't my strong suit.

We are in the middle of packing, y'all.

And by, "We are in the middle of packing." I mean that in 11 days the movers are coming to pack up our house and I have yet to do anything.
Moving in. 2011. Nearly 3 years to the day.
This is partly due to a lifetime of being a skilled procrastinator. Do understand that in my head I have EVERYTHING organized. Its all under control. No fear.

The thing is, because its already organized in my head, I'm really not that anxious about it. I'm excited about this summer and seeing family and doing some traveling. I'm just dragging my heels about up-ending our house. Life is crazy enough at the end of a school year and the kids are anticipating leaving in their own ways, sometimes, understandably, with some anxiety.

So maybe I haven't yanked everything off the shelves and walls yet because of that reason?

Moving in. 2011. So many memories made in this space since then!
 If the producers of Hoarders wanted to help cure people of their hoardom, they could ship them off to foreign countries, then make them move every 1 or 2 or 3 years and limit them to a 20ft container. They'd have no choice.

 It could be like a reunion show every season, "The Smith Family is moving again! Did they return to their hoarding ways? Can they get their belongings into the crate in time?"

Getting to downsize and purge crap that has been accumulated over the last 3 years is cathartic and healthy.

The moving company is a really good one and our stuff will be in responsible hands.

This type of organizing  (even though it feels like its UNorganizing things at moments its really not) is right up my alley.  Like decorating, but in reverse, but still in the same sort of category as decorating. And I love that.

So my only guess as to the delay in getting started is that pulling the stuff down is hard simply because it is the very thing that brings front-and-center the reality that we have to say goodbye. (even though we plan to come back! just not to THIS particular house) In a month's time, life as we know it today will not be continuing like it is today. No way to stop it.

Befores and Afters. Making a house a home.


But I'd like to not think about that goodbye part. And so we return to the procrastinating thing again.

Even though we like our house, our neighborhood, the relative developed country we live in...its the people we'll have to say goodbye to once the stuff is packed up that makes it the hardest.

But we've learned as well in the packing-of-house we've done over the years that saying goodbye IS important. Loss is loss. And not ignoring it, but embracing it and owning it and doing it well, is important to saying goodbye the best way possible.  Even, strangely enough, if you have to say goodbye to some inanimate objects in the process.

Today is a bit of a school holiday. The perfect time to really start sorting.  And, importantly....To let the kids do part of it. 

As much as I think materialism is one of the great evils of the world, at the same time, the emotions of parting with "stuff" and packing it away, throwing out the non-essentials (essential in this sense is totally in the first world definition), deciding what's "important" enough to keep is a huge part of the process. There is character building in that decision making- for the grown-ups and the little people- and helping us to confront our reality head-on and with strength.

While we go through the toy buckets and the bookshelves, we'll talk about what's to come.
We'll talk about what we loved that we're leaving behind.
Remember and prepare all at the same time.
Be sad maybe at points, but then be happy in the hopes and plans to come.

You HAVE to remember what's to come. This is key.

And simply acknowledge that even matchbox cars and a paint color might need a heartfelt goodbye for whatever reason.  Then rest in how good God has been to us in this house and all we have seen him do. That with every decision to leave something behind, we will keep coming back to the fact that we never have to pack him up, say goodbye to him, or leave him behind.  That he goes before us and is with us. Near.

And though tomorrow isn't promised, packing up our stuff necessitates looking forward.  We are so blessed to be excited about what's before us. Time with family and friends we've been denied time with. Places we're ready to see and explore. Memories we'll make in new places.

{sigh}

Ok. The suitcases haven't even seen the light of day and here I am going way too philosophical.  There's no approaching the sock drawer in this condition. (like we wear socks here)

So here I'll stop about all our stuff.

We are moving. It is happening.

And the stuff is starting to get packed in 3, 2, 1...

31 May 2014

Eleven at Eleven

My blog-friend Emily tagged me in her post. Seeing as how I was REALLY hoping to squeeze in one more blogpost this month, but don't have the brain power to form my own thoughts, this was a timely gift. Literally doing this at the 11th hour!




1. What is your favorite type of cheese? 

The last few times I've bought cheese just for the sake of cheese, it's been "Port Salut." A softer kind with a not-too-bitter rind. But honestly, cheese is so expensive here that the most often consumed kind is sliced American and one of the cheaper "feta" offers...however because that Feta isn't made in Greece, it's just called "cheese" on the box and you have to look at the picture to realize you're getting feta.  #firstworldproblems
2. What are you excited about?
UK vacay, bay-bay.

3. How did you celebrate your last birthday? 
I have no clue. I think one of my kids was sick? My husband and I share a birthday, so you'd think it'd be memorable every year???
4. What is on your bedside table?
Indeed, what isn't on my beside table? 
5. What do you order from the movie theater concession stand?
Popcorn and a drink. Because here in Malaysia they serve caramel popcorn as the standard movie theater popcorn. I wasn't a fan of popcorn til I moved here. Also, I totally sneak in candy from the "Tid bits" store, which is sometimes wrongly labeled "Tit bits." (true story) 

6. Do you have a garden? What’s growing?I'm going to answer this in the Malaysian British-English version of the question and not the American-English version in which it was asked.
My "garden" has grass for my kids to play on and I have some exora/honeysuckle plants along with some big leafy bushes to hide the gaps in the wall in my garden and provide a bit more privacy. I do have a rosemary plant that I grew from a cutting from one of my neighbors, but it is the only edible thing. See there, I didn't stay strong... couldn't resist answering like an American.
 7. Any summer plans?
See above.
Also.
Pack up our house and sort all our belongings into 3 piles... "Bring with us," "Sell/give/throw away," and "put in storage."
Bali for a week.
Like I said, above, but it bears repeating because we are WAY excited about it. London and Edinburgh.
Disney.
Ecuador.
Maybe Peru. 
8. Which TV couple(s) are you rooting for?
Hmmm. Sorry. I sorta think reality tv is ridiculous. Plus, we don't have that package on our satellite, so I wouldn't know anyway.
So I'm gonna go with my latest obsession and say, "Rory and Amy."
9. What’s the last thing you bought?
Papa Roti. Its a coffee bun? Coffee roll? Not sure, but we call them by the name of the shop that sells them. Ever so slightly crumbly crispy on the outside, hollow center with melted butter on the inside. I bought 3. (to share) 

10. What’s one thing you are passionate about?
Adoption. And Naptime.
 11. What are you grateful for this week?
Our neighbors. I usually work hard to never have to ask anyone to watch my kids for me. It's not a weakness to need that or anything, I just figure I'm their Mama and it's one of my top jobs.  But this week. Goodness gracious. I have needed our co-workers/neighbors/overseas family who live next door to help me nearly everyday watching the girls for awhile. A couple times they've even washed the dirty dishes in my sink!

13 May 2014

Bangkok in a Day (ish)

We went to Bangkok, Thailand recently. 

Anthony had to go. I didn't, but chose to anyway. I had a good friend who delivered a baby in Bangkok and my youngest 3 children had never been. 3 days and 2 nights in that continual concrete maze of a city.

Really though, we got in late the first night and left suuuuper early the 3rd day, so in actuality, we really just spent one full day there.
We opted for hanging with our friends over going to many of the usual tourist places.  Sure, we gave up prime photo-ops- Bangkok may be made of dirty concrete, but the Grand Palace alone makes the value of your "Bangkok" photo album on facebook worth a few likes and even some comments.

Alas, catching up with favorite people won the day.  An indoor playground so we could chat without sweating, lunch with mango sticky rice, naps, a taxi ride, dinner, followed by a boat and then a sky train ride pretty well filled up our day.
Oh. I should 'splain.
Our friends also have 4 kids, aged 6 and under. (Crazy people Birds of a feather flock together!)
Here's 7 out of 8 of them on the sky train. 
Indeed I love my life and all that my kids are experiencing as TCK's.  They have become good little travelers. 

But, lets go behind-the-scenes just so you can hear some of the things that never make it into photos:

We have meltdowns. Isaiah will. not. stop. kicking. the. seat. in. front. of. him. on. any. given. airplane.  On this particular trip, when we got back to Malaysia and headed toward baggage claim, Birdie stopped. She literally refused to take another step. The backpack she loves with ALL of her pint-sized heart had done her in. It was too heavy. She had gotten up too early. Had to sit in her seat for too long.  So while Anthony's arms were full of Birdie and other bags, it left me to keep Isaac and Isaiah from wrestling each other as we walked out of the terminal.  It was hot, too. (the heat don't play and neither do I.)


So see? Normal kid stuff.  So maybe I just want to clarify with this way-too-long tangent that kids are kids while you travel, and they can still be considered "good travelers" even with the occasional whine or need to be carried.

And so it goes, the wanderlust comes over you and you take eight children on public transportation in a crowded city of like a gazillion people. It's hot too. (The heat index is directly related, yea, even joined at the hip to the crazy-index. If one goes up....)  Like I said, our kids are good travelers so no particularly strange stories happened or anything, just the general mayhem of corralling little bodies and wandering, pokey little legs, and locals who are culturally obliged to touch cute children on the face. It was fun AND it was tiring AND we're good with all that. 

The above photos of the pink car are the best proof I can offer that 13 people can fit into an average-sized sedan. (12 of us + taxi driver =13 for the math-impaired)

We highly recommend doing any kind of travel you can with your family. Young ones too!  I would say that carload is proof that we're not the only ones who think that way, either!

Now, onto a very important item to note if you find yourself in Thailand:
Schweppes Lime Soda.

Trust me on that. Trust me with a capital AWESOME, trust me. 
On our boat ride I felt Ivy's first tooth!
We ended our night by taking the obligatory tuk-tuk ride. The guy overcharged us because he "didn't have change." The photo of Isaiah (and the photobombs from Daddy, Ivy, and Birdie in the side view mirrors by happenstance) was worth the price.  

I'd do it again too! We got to hold that sweet tiny babe, to congratulate our friends in-person, and to watch heads turn as that many foreigners with that many children traipsed around Bangkok.  Sure a lot of hand-sanitizer is involved as they touch every inch of public transport.  But it's real talk when I say our friends made the mango and sticky rice sweeter, the lime soda tangy-er, and the sun less hot.

Actually not. No. The sun was still very very hot. But our fellow crazies made it a little more bearable.  And to have gotten to go and experience another place as a family is sweet sweet icing on the cake!

06 May 2014

TCKs

TCK- (n) Acronym for "Third Culture Kid." A child who lives most of his or her developmental years outside of his or her "passport country." A TCK's culture is a blend of their parents' culture and that of the culture in their host country. It is neither fully the first nor the second, but rather a third culture, blended from both.

I will be using this term more often around here, so I thought I'd introduce it to you in case you don't know it.

Believe you me! This isn't some made-up word so that I can make my sometimes socially awkward kids seem special. 

This term describes my children well, along with many of their friends.
Here's the deal, y'all. We'll be landing in America in just a couple of months.  Our minds are beginning to prepare for that transition.
For real though, a good portion of my thoughts have to do with things like sales racks at GAP, Old Navy, and Target. And the taco trailer. Also Cracker Barrel and that there are Reece's peanut butter cups on hand at every convenience store nationwide. Boggles. The. Mind.

However!  Many many of my mental wanderings have centered on my children entering into full-on US culture.  "Who are they and what will it be like for them?" I wonder.

While Ivy will be 9 months old the first time she sets foot in her passport country and won't look a bit out of place, or probably even act like it (what a sweet baby she is!) Isaac, at 6 years old, and to some extent, Isaiah at nearly 5, are bound to seem strange at times to some of our friends and family. They've now spent long enough living in their Third culture, that it's beginning to gel.

Isaac was 3 before he realized he didn't have black hair like all the other kids in his preschool.  Isaiah loves BBQ sauce because we eat it with our chicken wings. They both think chicken-rice is just what you get to eat when you go to the mall.  Isaac says, "Libury" "Full-stop" and "Tidy" like his British teacher, but "really" and "million" come out like his Chinese-Malaysian classmates' pronunciation. Ivy's favorite people at church are Filipinas (and she is theirs, I'd wager.) Going to the doctor in a neighboring country doesn't seem weird to them nor does eating sweet potato casserole and Philly Cheesesteakchicken sandwiches.

There are elements of both worlds in their everydays. Sure, they will probably call money "Ringgit" when we get to America, but there's an ever-present element of being an outsider here too:

Scene- Birthday party for a local friend at KFC. We are the only non-Malaysians in attendance. Clown does a magic show and calls each child up for a trick. It's Isaac's turn.
Clown: "Hello boy. What is your name?"
Isaac: "Isaac."
Clown: "Hello, Isaac. Where are you from?"
Isaac: "Malaysia."
Clown: (laughing and confused) "No, I mean, where are you from?"
Isaac: (confused because he thought he answered correctly, says nothing)
Local Friends Speaking up for Isaac: "He's from here! He was born in Malaysia!"
Clown: (still confused, carries on with magic trick anyway)

That was the first time I witnessed him encountering his "TCK-ness."

So if it happens to him here, I'm curious to see what it will be like from the American side. 
Since my youngin's look American, they probably won't get the question too often, but answering the simple question, "Where are you from?" is one of the more tricky answers TCK's find difficult to come up with.  Yes, he LOOKS American. His accent is American (well, mostly) his passport and Social Security number are unmistakeably American, but is he "from" there?

I try not to let my patriotism get in the way of me marveling at this happening to our kids.  I thank God for the sojourning life he's laid out before them.  Others, very long ago, have lived like my children are living and it was due to the providence of God and his great love and plan... Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph... all sojourners in lands that weren't their own.  I trust that the same God who loved those 4 mentioned above, also loves and cares for my children...no matter how succinctly they can answer where they are from.

So yes, sometimes I think about their TCK lives in super serious, deeply meaningful terms. 

But, most of the time I forget that they don't know what I know about the USA.
Most of the time I forget that they don't feel what I feel about the USA.

But then they'll say or do something that brings it front and center.

For example:

Scene- All of our children have a backpack for the specific use of being their travel backpacks and carry-ons for trips.  On each one, I've sewn flag patches from every country they've been to. Isaac was holding his backpack, looking at the various patches the other day.

Isaac: "Ooo, look Zayah, here's the Malaysia flag."
Isaiah: "Yeaaahh."
Isaac: "And here's USA. I've been there."
Isaiah: "Me too."
Isaac: "And here's Thailand."

etc etc

"I've been there." is his what comes out about the flag of the culture and birthplace of his parents and one that weighs heavily on his life whether he realizes it or not. But in his young mind, he has as many memories of it as he does of Bali and Singapore.  He's not dismissing it. He's not elevating other places over it. It's just his experience. And the experience of tons of kids like him.

Granted, he knows his grandparents live in Florida and that Disney World is there.  All of our kids regularly watch our home videos and several of them are from us being in the US.  They are excited about going this summer, make no mistake. They know loving hearts and arms are there waiting for them. That's what makes them excited.

I know my fellow overseas friends can vouch for this. Its quite something to watch it unfold before your eyes! To hear things come out of their mouths that other folks who have lived abroad have said they would say.

But still. I marvel at it all the same, though I was told it would happen. So I thought all of you should know too. I'd read the Wikipedia link. It's quite helpful.

If you happen to encounter a TCK, (mine or someone else's) just know that they might not be able to answer where they come from. But my guess is that where ever you are, where ever you are from, if you get the chance to make a memory with them- or a dozen memories!- they still won't be able to answer where they come from, but at least they will know that where they have been, they've been loved.