He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ramblings on kids and culture shock

I think sometimes as adults living overseas, we don't always think about the "little things" that our kids may miss out on or not understand when we come back to the states.  Yes, the big things are always in our minds- missing precious time with family: birthday parties, holidays etc.  Other small things at least for me are in my mind- things like playing team sports, beach trips, Chick-fil-A.  I have to constantly remind myself that for the most part, the things that I'm worried about them missing, are things that I miss FOR them but they may not really ever know that they are missing out on.  Yes, the US of A is a fabulous place, but so are lots of other places around the world.  Our kids are getting a fabulous world view through their overseas experiences.  Actually, one of my big prayers for our time in the states this go round, was that the girls would have a fabulous time with family and friends in the states, but that they would truly miss our overseas home and look forward to going back. I've been so thankful to see how God is answering that prayer.  It does my heart so much good to hear Naomi describing "my home in Lebanon" to her cousins or to hear the girls say they miss the food or the beaches or our friends or various places around the country.  OF COURSE, it's never easy to leave family behind.  There will always be tears at the airport no matter how long we've stayed or how long it will be until we come back- two months or two years, goodbyes stink and always will.  We do what we can to prepare our kids for the emotional roller coaster, but a big part of it is just accepting those emotions as a part of the life we lead. 

We also do our best to prepare our kids for the "reverse culture shock" they will experience when we come back to the states.  Jason is better at this than me having experienced it himself as a child.  He remembers coming back to America as a 6th grader for the first time in 4 years and having no idea who Michael Jackson was (in 1985)- not good for a 6th grader trying not to stand out... For me, some of the biggest reverse culture shock that I experience is in the grocery store- specifically the cereal aisle and the frozen food aisle.  WHO KNEW there were so many cereals??!!  Oh my word!  And the freezer section!  I avoided it completely my first month of grocery shopping- entirely too many choices!!  Frozen, pre-made PB&J's??  REALLY!?   Sorry, I digress..  

Anyway, We knew that there would be challenges for the girls- especially for Abbey and Maddie in 6th and 4th grades.  We did our best to prepare them for the fact that they would be different than the other kids in various ways but that different does not equal bad.  For the most part we have been so pleased.  They have shown such maturity and have done such a good job of just jumping right into things.  We've had lots of firsts like basketball games, softball games, science fairs, spelling bees.  It's mostly been a lot of fun!  Thankfully, the culture shock that the girls have experienced has mostly just provided  good laughs for us all.  Here are a few examples...

During their first few weeks at school (in early October), either Abbey or Maddie came home from school one day and said, "WHO is Ole Miss and WHAT is the SEC??"  ( They know Justin Beiber but I didn't think to educate on college football in the south....  oops)

Naomi kept talking about wanting some "peetoes"....   (cheetos)

We have thunderstorms in Beirut, but mostly it's just heavy rain.  For the most part, the thunder and lightning are way out over the Mediterranean and we don't really hear it.  Plus, the city is so loud anyway, that I don't know if we would hear it.  A few weeks ago during a pretty big Memphis thunderstorm, there was a huge clap of thunder just after the girls had gone to bed.  Abbey, came running in to the living room and said, "Mom, was that a bomb?"  (No, sweet Lebanese girl, not in Memphis, a gunshot maybe, but not a bomb)

(A little background for this one- one of our favorite places to eat in Cordova is called Fox Ridge Pizza)  In early February, Naomi came home from school and in very excited and animated Naomi style began telling me about her day.  "Mom" she says, "We have to look out for the fox ridge!"  Huh?  "The fox ridge is going to tell us when spring will come!"  AHH!  Groundhog day!  Didn't think to tell the girls about that somewhat random American holiday!  Me- "you mean the groundhog, Naomi"  "YES, the groundhog!"  Sweet girl- too many new terms to remember! 

A few weeks ago Naomi and I were having some quiet mother/daughter time after school.  The big girls were at various sports practices and we were sitting at the table painting and coloring.  "Mom," she says  "Did you know that in a few weeks we have to watch out for the little green man who will try and get us?"  again, HUH?  Thankfully, my mom was there and she quickly realized that she was talking about the St. Patrick's Day leprechaun!  And, yes we all remembered to wear our green so nobody was "gotten".

There's one more story that I can think of from our tornado adventures a few weeks ago, but I think I'll save that for a separate post.   Mostly, we've learned (and I think/hope the girls are learning too) that just like with culture shock overseas when you're learning a new language and new culture, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and enjoy certain moments together as a family.  We are constantly learning whether in this culture or another and we might as well have fun with it!

Farm Girls

I'm sure I've mentioned on here before how very thankful we are to essentially have the best of both worlds between my parents in the city of Memphis with the zoo, childrens museum, plenty of parks close by and Jason's parents living out in the "country" outside Rome, GA on what we've all come to affectionately call "the farm".  For spring break, we headed to the farm for the week and were blessed with beautiful weather and the girls had a blast exploring the great outdoors.  That first picture is standing on Papa and Nana's front porch looking down over their property.  The building halfway down the road is Papa's barn where he's also built a tree house and swing set for the kiddos to enjoy.  The pastures begin just across from the barn and contain all of Papa's animals- cows, goats, ducks and the much loved fish pond.  Jason says it's more like a petting zoo than a farm which suits all of the grandkids just fine. 

Jason traveled for 4 days in the middle of our time there and during that time if they asked once, they asked 57 times when they were going to be able to go fishing.  That's kind of been Jason and Papa's thing together to take them down to the pond to fish.  I will be the first to admit that although I truly do love fishing too from my years going to the lake with Memommy and Granddaddy, I am absolutely no help practically.  I can't bring myself to take a fish off the hook once caught (ESPECIALLY a catfish) and I can't for the life of me bait a hook with a cricket or minnow (the bait of choice).  Go figure, I have no problem putting a worm on but those wiggly little crickets completely freak me out (could have something to do with a certain someone putting a handful of live crickets down my bathing suit back in our dating days when I was a good 100 yards from the house and privacy of a bathroom where I could strip down to remove the handful of wiggly crickets.  I'm just sayin.  For that reason I don't feel much guilt when he whines about having to bait the poles of all 10 cousins...).  ANYWAY.  Fishing.  The girls begged all week to go fishing and were thrilled when Friday afternoon came and we loaded up the Kabota (transportation of choice on the farm along with the four wheeler)
..and headed down to the pond.  

Of course, all the animals followed.  When they see Papa and the kids they think food.  This is why Jason has taken to calling it a petting zoo- mostly out of frustration when he is legitimately trying to fish and his line is being attacked by ducks or even cows....
(the cows aren't shy)
Finally got all the poles ready and it was time to fish!
Somehow I managed to only get a picture of Naomi.  In truth, Maddie was the real trooper, catching 4 fish all by herself.  Naomi "caught" 2- read as, she held the pole for 2 seconds (basically long enough for this picture) thus making it "her" pole so she claimed the 2 I caught.  

It was just much more fun for the rest of the cousins to climb logs and wade in the pond water with their farm boots...

For Jason, this did mean that he was actually able to enjoy some fishing apart from baiting hooks and removing fish since most of the kids lost interest so quickly.  He and Maddie even had a little contest going.  They both caught 4 but we decided Maddie won, because we kept all of hers and he threw his back...

Another favorite farm activity is feeding the animals.  The girls are always anxious for Papa to get home in the afternoons so they can go with him down to the barn and help feed the cows, goats and ducks.  Especially now that there are several calves and kids (baby goats).  

Abbey's pointing out how all the animals come running from the bottom pasture when they here Papa call..
Goats.  Not my favorite.  They're stinky and not so cute.  But the girls love them and have even named several.  I believe there is a Maisy, possibly a Madge.  Okay, so the little ones are sort of cute.
All the animals waiting for their feed...

This is a view from the pasture where the girls were feeding the animals, looking back up at the barn (and "playground") and the house in the distance.

The girls spent hours outside at the barn with their cousins.

Such a fun week!!  And just so you don't think Nana and I were completely absent from all activities...

We stayed busy inside.  Nana in the kitchen..
 Occasionally the kids would make their way inside and we would entertain them.  Or, better yet, listen to them entertain themselves.  Naomi and Cousin Caleb are quite a pair!

As for me, I was pretty much a lazy bum all week.  Reading, resting, Nana and I did do some shopping for baby girl which was fun.  My pride almost prevented me from posting this picture but I decided "what the heck".  Here's the reason for my laziness...
One, seriously large belly (thank you Abbey Joy for taking this lovely photo).  

And I have 6 weeks to go!  Scary huh?


I love, love, love springtime.  Love it.  And this is our first spring to spend in the states since 2003 so we're taking advantage of all the fun.  I played softball growing up and loved every minute of it- it's just such a perfect time of year and spring/summer nights are the perfect backdrop (especially now when it's not too hot yet...).  Anyway, all three girls are playing softball (t-ball for Naomi which I'm sure will merit several blog posts just by itself- she and her cousin Sarah Ann are going to be on the same team- should be loads of entertaining fun).  Abbey is the only one who has already started and so far is loving it.  Her first game was Monday night and considering she has NEVER played before, I wasn't all too sure how things were going to go and I was somewhat nervous.  Not because I was afraid of her embarrassing herself or anything, just because I know how ultra-competitive she is and I so wanted it to be a good experience for her.   Thankfully in sitting in the bleachers and talking with some other parents, we discovered that there are actually several girls on the team who have never played before.  And their coach is super patient and so sweet so that helps. 

 Here she is waiting for her first "at bat"

And here we go...

She hit a double!

We were so proud!  (and of course would have been even if she hadn't done anything but she was beaming ear to ear)  Granted, she swung at a ball that was a good foot above her head but she knocked it out of the infield and got around to second.  I think she even shocked herself- definitely have some base running mechanics to work on as she almost got tagged out while meandering around second base.  Oh, but then a few minutes later her coach sent her in to steal home when a ball got away from the infield, and she almost got thrown out but she plowed right into the catcher, knocked the ball loose and got her foot onto home plate (that part only happened because every in the stands was yelling at that she had to touch the plate!).  I think she was in somewhat of a state of shock that she had just knocked someone else to the ground!  
What a great first day at the ballpark!