Loving Kids That Are Not My Own: Part Four of Tracy’s Story

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{This is Part Four of a series that started with this post here and then Part Two, here and Part Three, here. Click the links to read those if you missed them and then come back here…}

I lay alone in my bed with the sheets covering my eyes. The bedroom door is locked; I am not wanting to open the door into the chaotic life that awaits me.

I hear sounds: children playing, laughter, and chatter. But there is no strength arising in me.

All I want is to escape this place. I hate my life right now.

The battle of my mind begins:

“Why are you so depressed? You should be happy!!”
“Take hold of today; don’t let it go to waste. There are good things in store.”
“Stop fooling yourself!! Pain. Grief. Sadness. That’s what you feel. THOSE feelings are as real as the skin on your body.”

I get tired of fighting the thoughts and I decide I NEED coffee.
Time to put on my survival gear and face the day.
I open my door.

3 energetic children greet me. They are ready to entertain me with their imaginary play. Their faces are filled with joy and excitement. MINE is the exact opposite.

I just need coffee.
This is my life.
Embrace it.

That day marked a week since Joshua entered our lives.
Forever.

One of the most heroic Dads came to Caleb and I, humbly asked us to receive Joshua into our family. We were shaken to the core with broken hearts as this Dad explained the situation. Joshua’s dad was unable to complete his adoption and had to make a hasty return to his home country. His wife was dying and he needed to be with her and care for their family. Joshua couldn’t go with.

Joshua was 6 years old, slightly older than my son.
His smile never turned into a frown. His energy abounded…so much so, it drove me crazy.

“Doesn’t he feel sadness? Pain or loneliness? His whole world changed in a day!”

This was my mental struggle.

“Who could not love Joshua!?!? He is so happy and peppy! What’s wrong with you?!?”

But I didn’t feel like I loved Joshua.
So I drank more coffee as I tried to drown out the cheerful noises of the children playing around me.

Then the pep talk started….

“I can be his mother. I can do this.”
“His mother would want me to love him like she did.” The thought of her hits a painful nerve so deep inside of me. “She is dying without her son!!!!”

My heart’s desire was for Joshua to be reunited with his Father and Mother. Only a miracle could make this happen. We needed a miracle.

So I prayed. I hoped. I believed.

One day we got a call from a friend stating he solved Joshua’s visa problems and that he had a plane ticket to America for Joshua leaving that night. We gathered his personal belongings and packed them into two suitcases. We had a tearful goodbye with Joshua but, knew this was the day we had believed for.

Our prayers were answered.

When Joshua arrived home with his family, his mother only lived a short 12 hours afterwards. She must have been waiting for her son to come to her side.

We haven’t seen Joshua since our goodbye that day. But his life impacted us. Forever.

Receiving Joshua into our family came like a whirlwind. I was unable to mentally and emotionally prepare for this.

It revealed things in my heart that I didn’t know were there.

We can love even when we don’t feel like it.
Even when we hate it.
Love still brings us through.


tracyfamilypicsquarecropI’m Tracy. A dream of mine is to have my own trendy, vintage thrift shop. I love fresh flowers. I have a collection of scrap papers, ribbons, wrapping paper, and random things for whenever the occasion calls. Click here to read the rest of my bio…

 

The Song That Brings This Season

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I don’t think I truly understood until this year.

Without my knowing it, the past years of my life have been singing out a cadence…a tune…a rhythmic beat, almost.

To me, it sounds something like this: “The New Year! Make goals! Plan your life down to the minutest detail! The potential is unending! (then) Maybe back off a bit. You are a little too idealistic, New Year, let’s just find a rhythm that works…wow, look at the pretty life that is Spring bursting all around me. (then) I think I need Summer. I need hot, sticky days saved by ice cream and swimming parties and trips across country. (then) The air is cooling. Expectant, and donning new clothes, students return to classes and buildings and come out to the turning leaves. Bonfires tickle the air with their aroma. Football games, marshmallow roasts and hiding indoors when there’s a touch of bad weather. (then) School breaks. Mid-terms. Weeks upon weeks off from school. Family gatherings. Feasts of food that give you a coma. Pause. Reflect. Escape. Enjoy. Rest.

Then that (almost) same exact year would start over again. For every year on repeat. And, instead of boring me to pieces, it brought me a rest inside that I could settle into; a routine for my whole life.

But when you move overseas, you step into another people’s song. This song has its own rhythm. Its own beat. Its own cadence. And sometimes I feel like the awkward kid at the middle school dance who just can’t jump into the crowd who seems to know all the steps by heart.

Sometimes you just need a break.

I am not going to talk about me-time or beach vacations or silent retreats. I am referring to the breaks that we know as: the Holidays.

Although my hometown in Texas didn’t get snow blizzards and such, I still remember the Fall as the coziest time of the year. Fall doesn’t call you to rush to get out of bed, to start new projects, to add more “busy” into your schedule. In my eyes, it does the opposite. It calls you to watch the turning leaves, to sniff the air for evening bonfires and casseroles, to cozy into those tucked-away sweaters and scarves and fuzzy socks. Fall and the beginning of this season calls me to quiet my heart more than normal. And sometimes, hope for that meeting to be canceled so I can enjoy an unexpected quiet night at home with my new book and a piping hot cup of tea.

We need these breaks. These breaks in the fast rhythm of our year.

If you come from a home culture that is like mine, you might just be feeling it right about now. Your Facebook feed was just assaulted by kids and their adorable Halloween outfits. You might have been noticing everyone as they frequent the football fields and trade sandals for scarves. And, although the song and the rhythm of where you are at might not being following suit…it doesn’t mean that you can’t either.

To initiate this change in rhythm, I roasted a pumpkin the other day and it just felt SO GOOD. We brought out our stored-up “winter clothes” (if you can stretch to imagine a chilly 70 degrees as winter here in the tropics). And, I just called a friend today to talk about our annual Thanksgiving potluck. These are all things I am initiating to do in order to maintain some semblance of internal-order for myself and my family’s sake. Sometimes as expats, in an effort to acculturate, we throw away pieces of who we are that no one is asking us to. 

What have you begun to do to initiate the season ahead? Share your traditions, your recipes, your struggles and your great ideas in the comments or over at our Facebook page. We’re all ears!


Alina ProfileI’m Alina. Wife for eleven years. Overseas mama for six years. Lover of Jesus, people, chatting, laughter, coffee (never black)…and my list of loves could go on and on.  Click here to read my full bio.

Your First Year Out – Take It All In

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Kanom Gin fixins

That day.  Flying in over Bangkok and seeing all the white-washed row houses, dirty water marks streaking down.

As we exited the plane, the heat hit us in the face. “Wow, it’s hot here!”, my nine year old mumbled.

“It sure is!”

 “Mama, why are there only vegetables on the table? Where’s the meat?”  he asked.

“I’m not sure…and shrimp with the heads and eyes still attached. Dried fish bones in…This looks a little freaky. Maybe we should try a different restaurant.”

It took us about two years before we could eat at a Kanom Gin restaurant, but now we love it and want all of our visiting friends to love it too.

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To Go. Thai Style.

The markets still excite me. I remember driving by my first market.

I was awe struck. I felt like I was a character in one of the many books I had read that described overseas living. I was now in a third world country about to write my own story. This small town girl was living an international dream.

The tea shops on the side of the road. You could tell a tea shop by the stacks of sweetened condensed milk cans. Tea is a phenomenon in Asia. They love it. You can drink it at any time of day. My favorite time to drink tea is in the morning with Thai donuts and then again around 2pm when my motor is just about on empty.

In my first year, I took it all in. I was an explorer. Tastes, colors, sights, and sounds. It all mattered. It all made an imprint. It was totally different than anything I had ever experienced before.

I loved it.

I hated it.

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I remember driving through our city for the first time and seeing the idols.

No words.

It felt like I had stepped into Bible times. All those stories I had heard my entire life were now real to me. There were idols everywhere. On all the mountains, in the city, in the village.

E V E R Y W H E R E

And to see people on their knees with incense in their hands and bowing down was like, “Whoa!”

I mean, you don’t want to watch, but you can’t stop staring. “Am I seeing things? Is this really happening?”

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There were alters and incense, and offerings. OH MY!

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In your first year, as you are pressing in to learn a new culture and a new way of life, take it all in. Try not to judge things too harshly.

Just take it in.

Appreciate where you are. If I could do it all over again, I would spend much more time as a learner than one who is trying to critique my experience by looking through my previous life experience.

We went on road trips often. Every three months we took a long weekend to explore. We went to see temples, waterfalls, and beaches.

Now, you might want to go get a cup of tea and linger long on what I’m about to tell you.

Maybe not.

I can only tell you my advice for a first year Overseas Mamas. 

  1. Have fun!
  2. Take it all in.
  3. Chill out.
  4. Take lots of pictures of things that seem strange, because before long it might seem normal.
  5. Document what you’re feeling but don’t talk about negative feelings too much. Write it down.
  6. Try not to “vent” to your husband about all the things you hate. You don’t want to plant seeds of discontent in his heart.
  7. Try not to say “stupid.” These people are “stupid.” That was “stupid.” “This place is stupid”
  8. Don’t try to keep your “American” (or, whichever home country) routine. Make a new routine for your family. (Don’t try to make big elaborate American meals like you did in America. Go get some take out and talk with a national.)
  9. (For hot culture climates) Buy and air conditioner for your bedroom. Trust me!
  10. (If you are in a place without one…) Buy a dryer. Did you hear that? Buy a dryer! It will save your life and your sanity and the life of your clothes! It took me 8 years before I realized that I should buy a dryer. For some reason, it’s seems taboo to have a dryer where I live. Not sure why. I LOVE MY DRYER!!! I CRIED THE DAY I GOT IT!!!             In rainy season, you’ll write me an email and thank me.
  11. Take a weekend trip to a waterfall, beach, or mountain every three months.
  12. Try not to “escape” with English movies! Embrace your country.
  13. Focus on language.
  14. Have fun.

I’m sure there’s lots more that I could add and others may give different advice, but that’s mine advice and I’m sticking to it.

Love, Amber


Hi! MAmber's Profiley name is Amber. I’m the wife of one man. The mother of six sons. The MIL of two precious young women, and a ‘Mimi’ to our Bella Rose, who is half Thai. I love living in Thailand and can’t imagine my life anywhere else! Coffee and Jesus are what wake me up in the morning and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cling to His grace, as most days I’d be lost without it. Click here to read my full bio.

{photo credits: All the pictures in this post are the author’s own}

Delectable, Easy (and Addictive) Pumpkin Spice Syrup: Recipe

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Kristi’s Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar (white or brown)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Combine all ingredients, bring to gentle boil and boil for 10-15 minutes until syrupy.
Use for lattes, steamers, baking, etc. Keep your syrup in the refrigerator if you live in a warm climate. Will keep for a month…if it lasts that long!

Happy Fall to you all!

{photo credit: Alina and her vanilla steamer…with this exact recipe drizzled (OK, dumped…) on top!}


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My name is Wendy. I am from Northern California but have called Thailand home for 15 years. I am currently plotting on the acquisition of a Pomeranian dog and a small flock of pygmy chickens. Click here to read my full bio.

Not Your Poster Child For Holiday Homemaking Overseas

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Around this time of year I go back and forth between two extremes:

Crazy-about-the-holidays mama who bakes pies, puts up the twinkling lights and fake holly around the house, and keeps her iTunes on “Holiday Classics” for two months straight.

And…

Boycotting-Christmas-gift-giving-in-a-rage-against-materialism mama, letting the nearest foreign restaurant cook my holiday dinner instead of slaving away for hours over cranberry sauce and stuffing, and refusing to take out the fall decorations because I just can’t even.

It always depends on the year, the season of life we are in, our budget and my energy at the moment. But, what it really comes down to is the fact that I have pretty much escaped the holiday hustle by being literally a world’s travel away from extended family and an oppressive marketing and media campaign to buy, buy, buy and decorate, decorate, decorate and create, create, create a magical holiday feel in my home.

I am left with a choice.

A choice to decide what I want to have as the holiday culture for our family. While others may (rightly) moan and groan that Hobby Lobby and Target aren’t down the corner, I basically have to be mindful and work HARD to create a home, a table and a heart that takes my home culture from there to here. Where I live. Where I lead my family.

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing what things you can do to give up the holiday hustle and make meaningful memories that bring life into your home overseas. It may look like pumpkin pies and turkey hand-print art, or it may look like refusing to buy that overpriced imported turkey and opting for fried duck instead because it is local and cheap. Or, you most likely will land on a happy medium between the two. The point is that you are in control of what you do and that is how it should be. 

Mama, how have you celebrated these fall/winter holidays in the past? How does it clash or compliment your overseas life? What kind of traditions have you started in your host country? Comment below to get the conversation going!


Alina ProfileI’m Alina. Wife for eleven years. Overseas mama for six years. Lover of Jesus, people, chatting, laughter, coffee (never black)…and my list of loves could go on and on.  Click here to read my full bio.

{header photo cred: creationsplash}