Friday, May 26, 2017

Photo Friday [187]

When I have started to feel a little tired or down this week, this mug that I found in a forgotten box while packing has helped me keep my attitude straight.  It was something I bought at a trade store here in PNG a few years ago.  

That's my motto for this last week of furlough-prep craziness:  "Keep Smile."

We started off our week on Monday by sending Brian off for (another) out-of-the-country trip.  He comes back today!

 Here is Greg photo-bombing a sweet moment between father and daughter.

There is the sweet moment I was trying to capture.  She was really sad about him leaving.  Turns out she thought that she was going to get to go with him, since we've been talking about all of us traveling on airplanes.  Next time, I promise!

A shot of the inside of the hotel in Bali, Indonesia where Brian was attending meetings.  Not too shabby!

He really was in a conference room most of the time, but he did get to go out and have dinner on the beach one night.

And he had to send me a photo of his dinner last night at the airport before flying overnight to Brisbane, Australia.  Why does he always tease me with photos of his meals when he travels?!!  We are very much looking forward to having him back this afternoon - not least because the part for our truck arrived, and so he can fix our vehicle tomorrow!!

 Meanwhile, I took my gimpy foot to a Papua New Guinean wedding this week.  They asked me at the last minute to take some photos.  I was told this would be a traditional wedding, and so I jumped at the chance to attend.  The only other PNG wedding I've been to was very Westernized.

The groom's family brought with them this food to offer to the bride's family as a bride price - including 13 live chickens!

The wedding was pretty casual, and involved lots of speeches, which is to be expected at any PNG event.  There was an explanation of traditional marriage customs from both sides, since the bride and groom were from different parts of the country, and wedding customs vary greatly from group to group.  After speeches from both sides, the bride was officially handed over to the groom's family, along with some tears.

Then the bride and groom sat in the middle of the circle for some more speeches - this time marital advice and exhortation from some respected spiritual leaders.

Finally, the speeches were done, and refreshments were served.

The thing that struck me is that much of the ceremony was about forging a bond between the two families.  In the U.S., we see marriage as more about the bride and the groom.  But in PNG, family is much more important.  A successful marriage involves agreement and support from both extended families.

I hear my washing machine telling me that it's time to hang out the laundry.  Until... well, maybe next Friday?  We'll be traveling that day, so no promises...

I'll try to get a picture of myself with some awesome first-world hamburger...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Photo Friday [186] + prayer request

I broke my toe.  By (unintentionally, I swear!) kicking the furniture.  Because that's exactly what I need in my life right now. 

An x-ray at the clinic this morning confirmed a clear (and thankfully uncomplicated) fracture in the fourth toe of my right foot.

 So I get to wear this sexy shoe for a while.  Herein lies the prayer request, or a few of them.

We have two weeks until we leave PNG.  Still a fair bit of packing/cleaning to be done.  Our truck is not working at the moment, and it'll be at least one more week until it's repaired.  Brian will be out of the country next week Monday-Friday.  At the moment, walking is awkward and kinda' painful, even with my sexy shoe.  According to my activity tracker, I've been averaging 12,000-15,000 steps per day walking everywhere - and that's on the days I don't exercise.  So I need to cut that down.    The good news is that I live in an awesome community of people that I can call up for help if I need it.  I can let my son walk to school with friends or ask for a ride to the market/store.  So that's a huge plus.  

My walking shoe is on loan from the clinic here, but I have to give it back when we leave.  So I'm currently looking at options to buy one online and have it delivered to the place where we will be staying in Brisbane, Australia.  So pray that that works out.  

So please pray for healing, for help when needed, for logistics and extra travel mercies.  It kind of messes up our plans for the few days we are spending in Brisbane, as most of the activities we planned to do involved a fair bit of walking.  Also not looking forward to hauling luggage and kids through various airports.  But, at least I'm not in a cast, eh?  Maybe God is trying to slow me down and to help me not be so self-sufficient all the time.

In other news this week:

Mother's Day!

 Caleb brought this home from preschool.  Apparently I look a lot older than I thought and most of his feelings about me involve food!!

And according to Greg, my hobby is "resting."  Well, now I will be doing more resting than normal I guess, with my foot!

These last few weeks are full of "lasts"....

 ...such as one last batch of homemade pretzels (on this side of the ocean at least).

And it really must be time to go, since I'm down to the dregs of my homemade PNG vanilla.

Until next week!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Photo Friday [185]

Three weeks until D-day (departure day), and this is where we're at:

She calls pigtails "tickles" and this day she requested "piggie tickles."

Do you see those pretty purple-ish patches on the hills there?  Yeah.  Well, meet "red grass" - also known as "May grass" since that's when it blooms.  It is the bane of any allergy-prone individuals (ahem... me.)  It's the time of year when we sickly types keep our inhalers close by and make sure we're stocked up on allergy meds and nasal spray.  

 Snowflake has set up camp under the garden shed... just far enough under that it's a big pain to try and reach the nest.  For two weeks she's be incubating 15 eggs, and guess what?  Muscovies take 5 weeks to hatch, and so the ducklings are due the day we leave PNG.  Bummer.  Thankfully we now know who will be renting our house when we're gone, and that family is willing to look after some cute, fuzzy ducklings until they can be transferred to a more permanent home in the village of a Papua New Guinean friend.

 I've done an inventory of my pantry and freezer and have made up a meal list for our last three weeks to use everything up.

This morning I had the boys help me pack a box of their "most special things."  This is a box that will stay in PNG, but which is  marked to be shipped back to the U.S. if for some unforeseen reason we are unable to return.  The concept was a little tricky to make the boys understand, but once they got it they were a lot more willing to pack up their most treasured possessions.  I let them pick anything that could be legally shipped back to the States, and most of it was not what I would have picked, but this was their box to pack. (And I remember having a treasure box when I was a kid that held things I'm sure my parents weren't that excited about.)

And Greg finished out the morning by making some more "passports" for the stuffed animals that he and his siblings plan to take with them on our trip to the U.S.

We've had some interesting conversations this week as we talk about our plans.  Some of the things that my kids remember about the U.S. have changed since we were last there.  

Me:  "Do you remember Uncle Ben and Aunt Meggin?  We're going to stay with them for a little while."
Boys:  "Yeah, I remember going to see where Uncle Ben works and having Nerf gun fight!  That was really cool!"
Me: "Umm... Uncle Ben actually has a different job now.  He doesn't work at that place any more."
Boys:  "Well, I remember going to their house."
Me:  "Umm... actually they have a different house now, in a different town..... but they DO have the same dog!"

(Thank you, Ben and Meggin, for having the same dog!!)

Until next week (... if I've had time and the presence of mind to take pictures!)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why I may not care if my child is rude... at least not as much as you think I should.

Today I saw my child's inner turmoil break through to the surface.  We were at the doctor's office (which is always a stressful experience for this particular child), and the toy he was playing with fell apart.  It was a little thing, easily fixable, but his eyes welled up with tears and it was all he could do not to cry.  Quickly trying to recover, he resorted to his fallback defense when vulnerable - becoming prickly, uncommunicative, and uncooperative.

You see, we are right smack in the middle of the big, horrible, capital T:  TRANSITION.

We are literally counting down to when we leave Papua New Guinea for furlough.  Someone on the street sees me carrying empty boxes home from the store and asks how long we have left, and I can immediately answer her with "Four weeks and four days."  Even though on one hand, life here continues as normal, with school and laundry and making dinner, furlough is constantly in our minds and in our conversation.  I have a to-do list for myself this week that is kinda' stressing me out, and I can tell that I'm not the only one in my family dealing with stress.

Now imagine you are two, four or six years old.  Mom and Dad keep talking about going "home" to America... except America isn't home to the kids.  America is kind of like some surreal place where we sometimes go for weird extended vacations before getting back to normal life.   Depending on which one of my three children you are trying to be right now, you either remember America fondly as a place where you get to do novel things and visit grandparents you like, or it may be a place you kind of remember, but not that well, and have mixed feelings about, or it could come as a complete surprise to you, since you were two months old the last time you were there.

OK, so mom and dad have bought plane tickets, and this America thing seems to be inevitable.  But now mom is telling you that she has to start getting rid of collected art projects and toys that you've out-grown.  And she's only going to let you take a very small number of toys with you... like only your top two stuffed animals!  And the toys and books she doesn't sell or give away are going to be packed away in boxes and you won't see them again for a "long time."   In fact, all of the personal belongings that make your house home are disappearing one by one into the attic storage room.  Mom and Dad tell you that another family is going to live in your house and look after your pets.  Another kid might sleep in your bed.  And then a few friends from school leave on furlough or "finish" and are suddenly gone from your life, and you realize that soon you are going to be that person who is in class one day and gone the next.

So, Transition has started already, and it's a long process.  It takes months on either side of a big change to fully adjust.  In fact, right about the time we start feeling at home in the U.S. is when we're going to enter transition again and start preparing to come back to Papua New Guinea!

As parents, we know that our kids handle transition differently.  Our oldest embraces change and swims along with the current just fine - at least most of the time.  In Kindergarten one of his best friends left on furlough, and we knew that we would leave before that family returned.  Our son just shrugged and said, "See you in third grade!"  He didn't see a need for tears.  I've seen him pick up friendships right were they left off when a friend returns after being gone for a season.

Our second is the complete opposite.  His personality is much more introspective, and he keeps his true feelings closely guarded and puts on a tough outer shell.  His default in a situation that makes him uncomfortable is to put on a scowl.  After our easy experience with the oldest child, it came as a complete shock to us when we took our second son on furlough the first time, and saw him completely shut down when confronted with a busy first-world city.  It took him weeks to get back to normal and to smile again.  At least this time we know what we are going into, and the stress is already showing with increased moodiness and anxiety (like in the doctor's office this morning.)

And our third is a wild card - we have no idea to expect.  At two years old it's going to be hard to decide if she's "just being two," or if it's the stress showing.

So, to come back to the title of my post, this is the reason why I may not care as much as you think I should if my kids act out.  I'm not saying I don't care at all.  In fact, it's because I care so much that I may not react they way you expect.  This is an incredibly tough time to parent through.  We are walking a fine line between wanting to show compassion and understanding to our kids, and yet at the same time wanting to stick to our normal parenting principles and expectations.  How do you decide what each situation merits?  When do you cut them some slack, and when do you lay down the law?  Add to that the stress of knowing that we are going to inevitably be in lots of situations where we really hope our kids will make a good impression - situations that are going to be stressful for them.  When we are invited to speak at a church, or to have dinner in the home of a friend or financial supporter, inside we will desperately be hoping that this won't be the time that our kids decide to fall apart.  Brian and I will be dealing with transition stress too, which, funnily enough, doesn't translate into limitless patience and wisdom in every situation!! 

I know that most of you reading this blog are people who are invested in our family and in the ministry that we do.  You care about us, and so that's why I'm being honest.  Maybe you are wondering how you can help.  Here are a few suggestions:

1.)  Don't expect our kids to love everything about America.  It really isn't home to them in the way that it is home to Brian and I.  Instead of asking them "Are you happy to be home?" ask them things like "What do you like about America?"  and "What do you miss about Papua New Guinea?"

2.)  Don't expect them to know or do the same things that "normal" American kids do.  Last furlough eating out was very stressful for us because our kids would not eat any of the foods typically served on the kid's menu.  They didn't like hot dogs or pizza or chicken nuggets!  They also were completely clueless on how to act in large crowds.  On the other hand, don't expect them to be weird.  They have grown up in a very different environment, but at the same time they are still just regular kids in most ways.

3.) Be gracious when they make mistakes.  They will make mistakes.

4.) Realize that there may be more behind their emotions than meets the eye.

5.) Try not to judge our parenting too harshly.  There will be times when we choose not to force our kids to do something when we know they are struggling - like attending yet another new Sunday School class in a church full of people they have never met before.  We will encourage our children to respond politely to strangers who talk to them, but we aren't going to reprimand them if they don't have a response or force them to hug someone they don't know.

6.)  Get to know them!  We will only be in the U.S. for ten months, but MKs are really good at making relationships quickly.  Don't be afraid to become friends with them even if you know that they will soon be leaving again.  Perhaps it will give them another reason to look forward to furlough the next time it rolls around.

We really are looking forward to spending some time in the States.  We have some fun experiences to look forward to, and we (at least those of us old enough to remember you) are looking forward to seeing you all again.  Just be forewarned that it may not all be smooth sailing.  It's important to us that our kids learn how to deal with grief and loss in a healthy way, and that means we will let them express what they are feeling, and we will try to help them learn how to deal with those feelings appropriately.  But please forgive us if it gets messy sometimes!