Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Season

I've been thinking about how this fall feels really full and fast so I sat now to compute what  I have going on on a weekly basis. It felt good to list some things I have been intentional to cut out and feel less passionate about for activities that are closer to me heart. But I can tell at a glance that what I've added amounts to a lot more time than what I've subtracted. Since I'm an external processor I thought I'd post it here in case you care. What have you added or subtracted to your life this year? 

  • baking treats for Sunday School
  • greeting/ usher team at church
  • weekly volunteering at the kids’ school
  • sending out communication emails for mom’s group
  • tutoring 3 private students
  • leading weekly Mom’s Group

  • weekly Beth Moore Bible study (this is amazing)
  • teaching 2 weekly preschool playgroups (these are fun)
  • weekly rugby practice for Josiah
  • additional transporting of kids to school
  • maybe a new church . . .
  • organizing of mission trip of Philippino orphans TO Hong Kong this fall 
  • starting an online university program for Reading Specialist certificate
 And just because I love these photos so much, here is Josiah in his Rugby uniform. This has definitely been a fun addition for him and I can feel a little bit like an American soccer mom.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Going Chinese

Living in the Chinese culture is truly a fascinating privilege and persistent challenge in our lives. I still get a kick out of looking out my kitchen window upon ladies doing tai chi next next to their round baskets of fish drying in the sun. Sometimes old Chinese ladies walk by my house adorned in conical hats and carrying poles over their backs hanging with baskets of clams from the beach.That’s just fun. And of course we enjoy the festivals, like the four day weekend where we celebrated the Mid Autumn Festival. Our kids know mooncakes and lanterns more than trick or treating and pumpkin patches. 

 Annette made the lantern and mooncake at school
 Jason took this photo from our balcony. It was cloudy the night of the mid autumn festival, so this was actually the following night.

But as our kids get older, the effects of being raised as third culture kids  (not belonging to the culture of their passport country or host country- but a created third culture) feels more complicated. Josiah is very aware of his minority status as the only white kid in his class this year (although his teacher is a blonde American). He is very sensitive and aware of communication differences in cultures. We kept reminding him that he has a special gift for making friends everywhere and now a month into the school year, he has made a “best friend” in the class. That is really an answer to prayer. 

And then there is Chinese Language. Sweet Jesus. In Hong Kong we (I include myself in that ‘we’ very loosely) speak Cantonese. In school the children are learning Mandarin, which is a very useful language that I would love for them to learn. I used to think that kids absorb languages like water into a sponge. That if you just expose them at the right age they will learn by osmosis. This has not been our experience. From day one Chinese class for Josiah has been like trying to drink out of a fire hose. So much, so fast that he began shutting now. Now that he is in P1 they have added reading and writing. Remember Josiah is in Kindergarten and is just starting to learn to read and write in English. On top of that, he is expected to read and write Chinese characters AND pinyin (the romanized transliteration of Chinese) with 24 vowel sounds in different tones. As a former kindergarten teacher who knows the blood, sweat and tears that go into teaching kids 5 short vowel sounds this is totally overwhelming to me. 

Josiah is giving an “all about me” presentation at school this week and he chose to include an American flag because he is proud to be an American. We are certainly proud of him and hope that his international childhood serves to enhance his life rather cause him to need future counseling. (: 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Miss Annabelle Mei

Blogging is happening less and less for me these days thanks to other social media platforms and  generally life being busy!! But, I still love sharing in this space and the taking a moment to reflect on life as it whizzes by. And nobody is living in the fast lane quite like Annabelle!

Annabelle wears two expressions these days; a highly suspicious, furrowed brow OR an ecstatic, hands flapping, ear to ear grin. The more you're around her, the more you get rewarded with the later
Annabelle likes to be right in the middle of the action around our house. Like IN the middle. Like on the tiny stool with Annette in the kitchen, or clawing at my face to be in my lap during the story time or "helping" Josiah and Annette with the Lego tower or art project. Whew! She also has a current obsession with keys which has resulted in a few panicked searches for keys when trying to get out the door (:
She really turns on the charm for the camera and loves to receive one- on- one attention now. Her favorite activity with mommy is reading books, especially ones about animals. She likes to point to her belly button and nose and babbles a lot, although I wouldn't say she has a lot of words (mama, dadda, up, all done, more, one, two three etc)

This last photo cracks me up (ignore the fact she is in her bathing suit). I sometimes have her sit on the counter next to me while I wash dishes where she helps herself to jars of almonds, raisins, and fruit on the counter. On this particular day, I turned around to see her hand in the cookie jar, with three cookies in her hand and one in her mouth. Caught red handed!

The sweetest moments of the day are without a doubt at bedtime. As soon as I start singing "Jesus Loves You" she snuggles her head into my shoulder, then when I lay her down she blows big kisses with lots of "muah" sound effects. Melts my heart!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gifts from This Week

  Everyday is a Gift. I strategically hung this so it would be the first thing I see when I come in the house and the last thing I see before leaving. It is so easy for me to dwell on the rear shocks that need fixed on the car, my iphone screen which I cracked for the THIRD time, the fact I lost my voice (I mean gone) and the attitudes that need adjusted (often including my own) that I miss the gift of now. So in case I missed it the first time, here are some gifts from this last week. 
 Monday- the girls played together peacefully (at least for a moment)
 Tuesday: Annabelle works to smile for the camera now. These are her "cheese" smiles

 Wednesday: Annette loves to read in her bunk-bed which we just painted red
 Thursday: Annabelle wants to wear big brothers T- Shirt and Josiah has insisted on wearing his "explorer" vest around the clock. To bed, at home, on walks, he takes it off just before school and puts on over his uniform as soon as school is over. In his words, "you never know when you'll find a great bug"
 Friday: We had a pizza party on the roof to celebrate the end of a long school week. As Josiah bit into his slice of pepperoni, out came his front tooth!!! It was the perfect punctuation to his first week of school.
 I can't get over how much it changes his face
Saturday: Jason went night spearfishing with our neighbor next door. It was a nocturnal, amphibious, cross- cultural hunting experience! He left at 9:30 pm and didn't get home until 2:30 am!!! Jason only speared a puffer fish, which he couldn't keep because they evidently are poisonous. But the other men caught crabs, fish, octopus, cuttlefish and more. They graciously shared some of their catch with us.
 Annabelle was not impressed with the crabs

Sunday: but was a big fan of ice cream. This is how my kids' faces look every time we eat ice cream! 

May you have eyes to see the gifts in your everyday. . . .

Friday, August 15, 2014

Starting P1 and R2

Whew! We've officially kicked off another school year. Josiah is in P1 which is what the British system calls American "Kindergarten." Annette is in R2 Kindergarten, which is what the Hong Kong system calls American "Pre- School" (yes, very confusing) Adding to the confusion is the complicating factor that they are daily at different campuses for different lengths of time. But with a little help from friends and a lot of help from the car we are making it work. 

P1 is a 7 hour day which is a big transition for Josiah. P1 is also the grade that I used to teach at ICS. I LOVE P1!!! Josiah's lovely teacher, Mrs. Crook, was my co- teacher when I was pregnant with Josiah. So, technically Josiah has already been through 9 months of P1 (:  I never dreamed that I would be a P1 parent, it really feels full circle for me. So far he is loving all the "special" classes (computers, music, art, library, PE, mandarin), having 2 recesses and getting to occasionally see daddy around campus. 

Annette goes to school in the afternoon for 3 hours in Mrs. Ma's class (same teacher as last year). I am enjoying having time with the girls all morning long and it is amazing how differently Annette plays when Josiah's not around (think lots of dolls). 

 Not to be excluded, Annabelle has reached some milestones of her own recently, such as her first set of pig tails 
and working on her fine motor skills

Sunday, August 10, 2014

In our jet lagged state we lugged 450 pounds of luggage up two flights of stairs. Soaked from sweat we turned the key and gasped at the miniature size of our house. Weary from the journey, yet unable to sleep, I lay in bed thinking about this crazy life. My chest physically hurt at the pain of loved ones left behind and swirled in thoughts of "what ifs".

The next morning a warm breeze and beautiful 5 am sunrise over the water felt like balm to my soul. I started getting text messages from friends and the kids found delight in their missed toys. I unpacked, bought food, took and deep breath and kept going.

Although 8 years of this bi- continental way of life has started to feel normal, it never feels easy, and certainly not natural. I've struggled with contentment and wondered if we've made the right decision to raise our young family here. And while I value being reflective and intentional, playing "what if" games seem to steal joy and distract from the point. God has shown us so many times that it's not where we are, but who we are. And today he needs us to be here. Fully here. Stopping for our neighbors, engaging in our community and looking for ways to love.

So while I identify with the quote above I disagree that I will "never be home again". If anything this lifestyle reminds me to take hope in a better home. Better even than a big home with a grassy backyard next to Target (I miss you Target). We know our citizenship is in heaven where we can all be together in one place with the Father. That will feel like home.

Friday, August 1, 2014

California- Part 4

I'm taking a break from packing our NINE suitcases and FOUR carry- ons to throw up some final photos from the summer. We have been in America nearly 2 months now and our love tanks (and stomach tanks) are feeling filled up. Our last two weeks were spent in Redding, CA with Jason's older brother Matt, his wife Karina and their adorable dog "Jimmy". Together we spent time in the Trinity Alps, including a trip to Moonstone Beach and Redwood National Park. 

 Matt and Karina watched the older kids so Jason and I could do some intense hiking (back in "the day" we loved to backpack). As you can see from the photo we got into some rugged country. When we were still 4 miles from the car the thunderclouds rolled in and it started raining. Annabelle was sleeping in the backpack  through the rain (bless her) and once we got in our car it started hailing. I was really glad to get off the mountain!

On July 26 our family went up to Ashland, Oregon to support Jason on his 50K (that's 31 miles) trail race. He thought it would take him 5 hours to finish. At the finish line the clock flashed 5 hours and 0 minutes when Jason came into sight!! I was so proud of him for sticking with his rigorous training, through injuries and discouragement, and meeting his goal of completing an ultra marathon. We love you babe and are your biggest fans!