J Simens.com

Four, no Five! Sentences All Parents Can Say Daily to Build Resilience


Parents are always asking me what they can do to build conversations with their children.  I always tell them to keep it simple.  Here are my top five sentences to use with children of all ages.

Jsimens valentines
Jsimens Happy Valentines Day
  1. Talking about school. Kids will talk more if you ask them about their job (school) than if you ask about them. “How’s school?”  This involves gathering information, listening, and problem-solving.”How was your day at school?” takes the focus to just them and this can be hard.
  2. Keep it strength based. “You tried so hard at ___ your perseverance really paid off.” If parents focus on their child’s strengths instead of where they are lacking, the child is more prone to share and talk to their parents.
  3. If parents value cooperation – Teach cooperation – give it a name, “I appreciate your cooperation,  or following directions,  or planning activities and joining in activities.” Children will often respond to things their parents ‘value’ if they understand what you value.
  4. Teaching self-control is often an area of concern for parents. Instead of saying “Don’t …” try ” Remember the rules” This allows your child time to re-correct his behavior and teaches him/her so much more about how they function with others.
  5. Problem-solving is a great skill to pass on to your children. When there is a problem, don’t solve it for your child. Say “Let’s figure it out.”  Looking at a problem as something to address rather than an obstacle helps kids want to talk more to their parents.

    Expat’s World Full of Heart


    These are my top five.  What works well for your family?  Please leave them as comments below so we can all become better communicators with our children.

Let Me Tell a Story about When I Was Little . . . Said the Four Year Old


Some things would make moving easier . . .

Some things would make moving easier . . .

“Everyday” is the perfect time to have your child share their life!

Connections

Children love stories and hearing interesting stories about family members or friends help children feel more connected to those around them. Children love to listen to stories about when they were younger as well as stories about when their parents were little kids.

A Look Back at This Year

Now is the perfect time to have your child reflect on what they did last year. For a child who is four — thinking about what they were like when they were three allows them to rejoice in their growth. Now is the perfect time to also work on helping your child understand his/her emotions.

If your child gets stuck working on an emotion, take that same feeling from your childhood and expand on it, so he sees the rich language and expressions of your childhood event.

Sometimes the more complex an emotion is, the more likely that you might need to share that feeling from your childhood for your child to understand. Also, this allows you to connect with your child.  If your child can understand how you felt when you were his age, it builds on family connections.

Your child can develop better listening skills and learn to ask questions during story times. You children hear new words as they listen to stories, which can help build their vocabulary. Children who listen to lots of stories learn how stories work. They learn that characters solve problems and how stories begin and end. This helps them understand other stories they will read later in their school years.

I Learned a Lot

I found out that one child was afraid to swim when he was younger but now he smiles when he swims in the big pool.  One girl used not to be able to paint and now that she is big five-year-old she can mix colors. She said her face used to be sad, but now it is joyful. One often silent boy told me how when he was little he could not build Legos and now that he was four and 1/2 he could build great big towers.

Children love to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown.

Expat Children Can also Tell Interesting Versions

Some of the international kids that I work with added these comments:

  • When I was little, I didn’t speak Mandarin, but now that I am big I speak Thai.
  • When I was little, I lived in Italy, and I didn’t like noodles now that I am big I eat Thai noodles.
  • When I was little, I could dance the Bali frog dance, but now I can also do Korean Dances.

I have to say; you just have to love the thoughts and comments from expat children. Expat children like to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown. Then let them share this knowledge with their extended family.

My Favorite Free Digital Storytelling Tools

  1. Capzles
    Create multimedia experiences with videos, photos, music, blogs, and documents.
  2. Comic Master
    Create your graphic novel, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions.
  3. Slidestory
    Slidestory allows you to combine picture slideshows with voice narration. Each picture in a slideshow has an accompanying voice narrated mp3 audio file, optional tags, and text caption.
  4. Adobe Slate
    This lets you turn your next newsletter, report, invitation, or travel adventure into a visual story. Create your Slate story and share the link anywhere.
  5. Sock Puppets
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos and share them on Facebook and YouTube. You add puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds and start creating. Hit the record button, and the puppets automatically lip-synch to your voice.

 

 

Our Kids: Filtering and Connecting will be hard to do in their lifetime


CCK minority puzzle

Out of the Vault:

Talking to Parents at International schools is the very best way to spend the day!  We had an excellent turn out at ISB of Parents, Teachers, and Staff.  Then I got to do a very small presentation to interested students in the High School. Every one of those kids had an exciting story to tell about their life at a TCK or CCK.

I was fortunate to return to International school of Bangkok this week to share my passion about our global nomads.You can view the Prezi that we covered here.  Use your right arrow key to advance through the presentation.  You can read some of the transcripts of the presentation below this Prezi.

This is one of my favorite quotes -it is off the blog Third Culture Kid life by James Mitchener.  On his blog, he said, “Third Culture isn’t so much the experiences you had, but the way you adapted to each experience at the time you had it. We aren’t TCKs because of where we have been. We’re TCKs because of the way we absorbed the cultures of the places we have grown. Even now that I have left Hong Kong, I still relate to it closer than any other place I’ve lived. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back, an idea that can easily make me sink into quite a severe depression, but I do know that I will carry the culture of the city and time that I lived there for the rest of my life.


Of course, that would make sense to a Self Aware Third Culture Kid. While I have been a TCK since I turned 4, I didn’t know it until I was 15 or 16 years old. And even then, I didn’t understand it until I was 17 or 18. Why? Because I have known no other life.”

My World

Having worked with over 8,000 families as they move around the world. I am aware of many of the concerns parents have as well as the issues the come up with our cross-cultural kids. I used to always talk about third culture kids but as I see more and more children the term I am more comfortable with is often cross-cultural kids or global nomads.

I raised two children in the following countries, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Switzerland, Thailand and a small part of the time in the USA. They are not like anyone in their extended family. They are not even very much alike as siblings because they didn’t share several years of their high school with each other.

Filtering – Connecting and Choosing

The topic that I want to share with you and cause you to think about is will our children have trouble with filtering – connecting and choosing in their lifetime.  I believe that they will.

Identity Development

To understand the international school child, we need to see how they form their identity. There are five steps of global nomads identity development.

  1. Pre-encounter is just living life as you all know it (wonderful holidays-excellent learning experiences) My children’s education took them to trips to Greece, France, Buthan, Russia and even a week with the elephants. This was their normal everyday life.
  2. Encounter – can be at any time, but if often when kids are off on their own living their own life without mom and dad around for support.
  3. Exploration -This is the time to try new thing – explore. Change friendships back and forth.
  4. Integration – Embrace parts of their cultural identity form the place they have had exposure to.
  5. Recycling – most global nomads talk about this happening in college, but that is because this is often the first time they are entirely on their own, and this is also a high time for self-reflection.

Wen’s excellent project on identity development

Here was a great project made by Jessica Wen at Maryland Institute College of Art. She worked with other TCK or CCKs on the topic self-identity. Each person’s story was made into his or her own mini accordion book.The covers were all marked TCK – the idea is that each child, on the surface looks just like an ordinary person with an average background,  however, once the reader opens the book you start to see the unique international perspective this person has.

Why “corporate” needs to get involved

I knew that working with parents would help a lot of families but I wanted to see how we could help more and more families, so I had to go corporate. This year I have taken a year off from being a counselor and have been busier than any “retired” person should be. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at an event in Hollywood during the summer. It was a blast. The outcome of that talk was a book called Ready, Aim, Soar.  The editor said “life in the 21st century is volatile and unpredictable. Unprecedented advancements in technology are transforming the global business environment as well as everyday life, making many traditional practices and techniques that guaranteed success in past decades no longer viable today.”

I hope more and more corporations understand that their global children are as important as their employee.

Understanding the needs of our children in this world is very very important.

Understanding your filtering – The filtering processes are key and often very hard to do. It takes a real knack to be able to zero in on what’s most important. I ask families to focus on the stuff that success is made of: emotions, confidence, interaction skills, thinking. I even like families to think about, attacking and defending arguments, also problem solving and cultural knowledge. I feel we all will have a real challenge deciding on what to focus on for real growth in their family. Filtering will be paramount. For example, a family might come in with the overlying concern about their child’s lack of friends. But the family is missing the larger picture of their own connection time with each other. A family must connect while the kids are young because it gets harder and harder to make authentic connections as children get older. Yes, they do have a concern about the child’s friends, but they need to filter out things that are surface level concerns and not the real issues.

Unsure of how to connect – Social media for sharing is a continuous process in so many people’s lives, but it does not have the same effect as a close one to one contact. Our kids are so connected (600 + Facebook friends) but are these real close connections? Then we have another concern…Many kids might use facebook or tweeter to talk about personal feelings or situations that would have been disclosed privately in the past and only to people in their physical, social circles. Now it is worldwide news. Online disclosures can make a person feel raw. Kids have to know where and how to move forward. What is also key is how you are going to connect with your child. Start habits that are going to build in lifelong skills. Don’t fight technology – connect!

Issues of choice – trying to instill your own values at times runs up against the values of the people your kids hang around with. It happens with adults too. As families absorb more and more cultural norms of other people, they might move away from their core beliefs. The option of choices of values will clash if people are not careful. I love Michael Jospehson from the Institute of Ethics, he says, “The longer you wait to adjust the trajectory of a rocket that is going off course, the more severe the adjustment will have to be.” This is so true for our children.

Tips that might help your child

Please use “Foreign” carefully in your child’s vocabulary. When we use it to describe a policy or use it as ‘foreign policies,’ this is acceptable. When your child (or you) uses it referring to a person, it is not acceptable. Calling a person a ‘foreigner’ is offensive to most people in the world. If your child has this mindset, it automatically sets them that the other person as an outsider. It makes it seems as if that someone doesn’t belong. You wouldn’t want your child to be referred in such a negative way. Most kids just want to fit in regardless of where they are living. Help them out by not letting them use the word foreign too often.

Please limit ” Overseas” as a standard word in your global nomad’s life. Remember they don’t cross-oceans each time they travel to a new country. Many people prefer the term ‘abroad’. Nowadays, more and more people use worldwide or abroad in lieu of saying ‘overseas.’

If you are coming from the USA, do you kids a favor and don’t let them use “America” as a common word. When we refer to “America” as a country, some people around the world can get very confused. Do you mean, North America, Central America, or South America? It is wrong for your child to think they are from THE America, it seems so negative. It seems acceptable for citizens of the United States of America to refer to their country as America, but when your child is abroad, it is seen as ethnocentric and in poor taste. Teach your child to say “the United States.”

Introduce “Yet” into your family

Kids love to announce that they’re not good at something. They usually do it just after they try something new and challenging, and they say it with finality as if issuing a verdict. “I’m not good at math! I’m not good at volleyball.”
At that moment, your mom instinct is to fix the situation. You say, “Oh yes you are!”

HINT  – This never works, because it puts the kid in the position of actively defending his or her ineptitude. It’s a lose-lose. As a parent, ignore the instinct to fix things. Instead, just add the word “yet.”

Add the “yet” in a matter-of-fact tone – “I’m not good at math becomes You’re not good at math yet.”

“I’m not good at volleyball” becomes “You’re not good at volleyball yet.”

The message is: Of course you’re not good because you haven’t worked at it. But when you do, you will be good. “Yet,” tells a clear story about the value of effort and struggle, and that story is aligned with the way the brain grows.

An Expat’s Job is to Flutter Around: Hectic or Peaceful, That is Up to You


wing-flapping rates - 50 times per second

Wing-flapping rates – 50 times per second

Happy Groundhog Day, it is a popular tradition celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2. Weird Holiday in my mind and I never got into celebrating it – ever.

I am sitting on my patio watching the hummingbirds feed. Roatan is the kind of place you can just sit and watch hummingbirds. I wish our kids were with us but one has a new job and one is still in college. We want them to be successful doing what they are doing.

 

Planning Ahead

As the Easter holiday season approaches all the Expat’s in the world might be thinking about their family. It is amazing how some people are in a hectic frenzy while others are taking a very peaceful voyage.  I am talking about how we go about getting our offspring all in one location or how we decide on where we will spend the holidays. It is not an easy task.

I find myself caught in a “groundhog” type of day. (This refers to the movie where Bill Murray has to relive February 2 Groundhog Day over and over and over hoping to get the day right) I flip between flight tracker of my son’s travel from Honolulu or my daughter’s trip from Los Angels and a peaceful movie about pollination. Looking at a live flight tracking map of an 16-hour flight is just not that much fun. I find Louie Schwartzberg’s : The hidden beauty of pollination much more exciting.

The connection between the two events – you might ask?

It is sometimes the little things in life we take for granted. It is the connection of nature’s tool for survival, we will protect what we fall in love with. Pollination is a love story that feeds the Earth. It reminds us we are part of nature and we’re not separate from it. Having a child reminds us that we will try to protect them even if we know that by tracking their flights we can’t really “help” in any way but we are connected.

Raising expat children reminds us we are not separate from our families, we are intertwined on Earth.

Schwartzberg said, “What motivated me to film their behavior was something that I asked my scientific advisers: “What motivates the pollinators?” Well, their answer was, “It’s all about risk and reward.”

Like a wide-eyed kid, I’d say, “Why is that?” And they’d say, “Well, because they want to survive.” I go, “Why?” “Well, in order to reproduce.” “Well, why?” And I thought that they’d probably say, “Well, it’s all about sex.” And Chip Taylor, our monarch butterfly expert, he replied, “Nothing lasts forever. Everything in the universe wears out.”

And that blew my mind. Because I realized that nature had invented reproduction as a mechanism for life to move forward, as a life force that passes right through us and makes us a link in the evolution of life. Rarely seen by the naked eye, this intersection between the animal world and the plant world is truly a magic moment. It’s the mystical moment where life regenerates itself, over and over again.

I see expat children returning to their families current home as a mechanism for life to move forward. We are the links that form the family. It is truly a magical moment when you see these global nomads reconnect with their families in airport terminals around the world.

The following video shows both the power of doing something over and over:

 

Photos:

http://images.travelpod.com/tw_slides/ta00/af8/ad6/hummingbird-roatan.jpg

Valentine’s Day does not have to only be about LOVE


Not all classes or kids want to talk about “Love” on Valentines Day.  Try these positive and lively emotions instead:  Amusement, Delight, Excitement, Happiness, Joy, and Pleasure.

An added benefit is the pictures are from around the world and all ages of people so kids can connect to something. It is also with the music, “Believe in you.”  So a positive message is being sent out to everyone on this special occasion. I feel all children need to know more ’emotion words.’  Enjoy!

Share stories of Caring/Love

Each time a child describes an experience he has had, he constructs part of his past. This adds to his sense of who he is. Every story your child tells, or acts out through play, or writes contributes to a self-portrait.

I love to show teachers and parents how to use storytelling to strengthen their classrooms and their families. Did you know that being an expat puts in you a category that would make up the fifth largest nation in the world?

Anthropologist worst or best event ever: Expat Family Collection of Life at the Dinner Table


The “Ring of Fire” is a fantastic zone!  It has over 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Living in Indonesia, I often wondered what would happen if there was a cataclysmic event in my own expat home. What would my ‘collection’ say about the people living in this space and time?

 Anthropology is the study of humankind, past and present.

What makes me wonder about my expat anthropologist nightmare is how disconnected it might have seen to Pompeii. When we went through the city of Pompeii in Italy, it was interesting. The town was laid out under the 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It had a complex water system, an amphitheater, and even a gymnasium. It was fascinating to see how this collection of ‘life’ happened. I was very impressed with their daily family life.

When I first got married in 1987 (31 years ago), I wanted to create a wedding registry that would give me the perfect table setting for my entertainment pleasure. Not really, but I was told that I needed to do this! My husband didn’t have a strong opinion of what we needed. I asked the bridal registry assistant for help.  I remember her wise words.

First, think about how all these different types would fit – not just into your current décor, but the look of your dream home.

How would I know that this meant either a two small bedroom home in Pleasant Hill, California or the 7,500 square feet home in Jakarta, Indonesia?  Or was my dream home in Balikpapan where the whole back section of my house opens up into a tropical garden. Or was it my beachfront home on Roatan where I just watch the movement and behavior of the sea life out my front door? What is my dream home?

 Second, plan for the future.

I am sure this wedding planner had never dealt with an expat! How would you possibly know how you’d entertain 20 years from your wedding?  Should I include chopsticks because we are going to be living in Asia?  Should I ask for more spoons since they are the primary utensils used in Southeast Asia? Or should I ask for caviar spoons? A lovely set of spoons made out of mother of pearl, gold or wood but not silver since it would affect the taste of the caviar. Or did I want/need sporks, sporfs, or spifves? These are different combinations of a spoon with a fork or knife.

 Then she asked me to analyze my skills.

She asks me to think about the dishes I would love to make. Would I want fishplates?  Huge pasta bowls? A turkey platter for Thanksgiving dinner?  She forgot to ask me about ethnic food! Would I be serving tapas?  What about sushi? What about a bowl that is fit for the feasting of water buffalo entrails? Maybe I would need a large enough tray to put several baleadas on it in Roatan. Or the perfect bowl for Goong Ten in Thailand.

Goong Ten is a beautiful Thai dish that means, “dancing shrimp.”  Yes, they are alive! Goong Ten are small transparent little shrimp that are mixed in a metal bowl with a special sauce.  They make a very active salad!   I like the saltiness and the pleasant ‘crunch’ of this salad.

Finally, she asked me to imagine a dinner party.

I am sure she never had this combination in mind!

  • Appetizers and pre-drinks – miniature glass beer mugs from Australia to hold shots of whiskey
  • Soup course- Lovely bowls from Lombok Indonesia – the Sasak pottery
  • Soup tureen – Beautiful work of art from the Hof Pottery in Australia
  • Round platters that work well for meat – from the Lekki markets of Lagos, Nigeria
  • Oval platters that can hold anything from bread and cheese from the heart of the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Dessert plates – from Royal Heritage line in Indonesia
  • Tiered serving tray – from the truck stop in Colby, Kansas
  • Dessert sterling silverware with ‘Spider Orchids’ from the John Harris collect in Western Australia

 

Dorothy and the Scarecrow sit under the Balinese Dancer by the Royal Hertiage Flatware - Kansas Day Party 2014

Dorothy and the Scarecrow sit under the Balinese Dancer by the Royal Heritage Flatware – Kansas Day Party 2014 in Balikpapan, Indonesia

 

Expat's collections on the dinning room table our hard to explain.

An Expat’s collections on the dining room table are hard to explain to some people.

 

Sunflowers, Pie and Friends - what more does an expat need?

Sunflowers, Pie, and Friends – What more does an expat need?

Being a serial expat leaves a lot to the imagination and even more for an anthropologist to sift through.

One of the best exports from the state of Kansas is its talented youth.  William Allen White wrote “A song for Kansas Day.”

Wandering children of Kansas away,

By mountain, by desert, or sea,

Feasting or fasting, at prayer or at play,

Whatever your fortunes may be,

Open the doors of your hearts to the breeze.

Prairie winds never are still,

Hark the surf in the cottonwood trees,

the breakers that boom on the hill.

Open your soul’s windows – let in the sun –

The prairies sun gay with delight.

Where’er your wondering pathways have run,

Come home tonight.

Land Locked or Water? Torn between two loves.


Roatan sunset“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” – Lao Tzu

 

As 2018 starts, I recall several conversations that I have had with family and friends. These conversations are as varied as the locations that they have taken place in.

As we left the two lane county road that was paved to enter a dirt driveway, I knew I was almost home. Or the place I’d call home for 18 years. Our rental car pulled into the driveway, the dust rolled over the top of the car and settled on our windshield and top of the car doors.  This was to remind us that we were land locked in Kansas. As we slowly opened the car doors the fine light dust settled on our hair, arms and even lips.  I was home. As we sat in the car, I tried to answer the questions of “Was it fun here?” and “Why didn’t you ever come back to live?”, the list of questions my children had was long. It is amazing how many questions can be asked when the earbuds are out and the entertainment off.   I answered each question with as much truth as I could.

Later that year, we find ourselves in the middle of the Caribbean sea with little land insight. The sea water stings our newly acquired bug bites as the sun starts a slow burn our cheeks. The mild wind blows our salty coated hair again and again into our eyes. Once again, unplugged, the questions started coming.  “Why did you pick a global lifestyle?” and “Was it hard living alone in your twenty’s?” Once again I tried to answer each question with as much truth as I could.

The hardest thing that an Expat has to deal with is the constant reminder that the life we have chosen becomes… by default… the life of our children.

In a family, we are not all the same and we do not all have the same feelings, dreams or wishes. Also throw into that equation that a child never has any say in what their ‘plans’ are. As an expat mom or dad we are just hoping we made the best choices we could at that time in our lives  and that through connection and communication our family thrives.

Three things to help with an global life and family

  1. Invest in experiences, not things.
  2. Invest in time with family. Appreciate the members in your family by learning their stories. Ask them questions and find our more of their history.
  3. Be grateful. A ritual of gratitude is a great lesson to pass on to your children. Gratitude rewires your brain for happiness.

I hope 2018 is wonderful for all the global nomads out there.

Crayons - around the world

Happy New Year 2014

 

Celebrating the Universal Spirit of Christmas: What I Learned From My Global Life


An Expat's tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

An Expat’s Tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

Celebrating Christmas abroad

can be a

once-in-a-lifetime treat!

Here are my 12 favorite ways we have celebrated Christmas.

1. With my friends from Brazil – they shared the myth of the animals discussion about the birth of Christ. Then their children acted out a rooster crowing “Christ is born,” an Ox saying “Where” and the sheep answering “In Bethlehem.”  These were the cutest kids ever. Our Turkey dinner turkey was served with white rice flavored with walnuts.

2. With my friends from Vietnam. As an old French colony, Vietnam is the home of one of the largest and most active Catholic populations in Asia. Our holiday celebration was several weeks after New Year’s Eve. We celebrated “Tet,” the Vietnamese holiday for the Lunar New Year. I thought the green wrapped sticky rice cakes were too pretty to unwrap but we did unwrap the Chung Cake, and it was lovely. We also enjoyed the beef braised with cinnamon. They called it Thit Bo Kho Que.

3. With my friends from Italy – First Sunday of Advent where we shared a lovely dinner. Their children told us about lighting candles in their windows to guide baby Jesus who will deliver gifts. The story I loved the most was told by their six-year-old about the candy cane coffee cake. He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus, but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheepherders staff or

He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus, but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheepherders staff or cane”  It was white for the pureness of Christ and red for the blood he shed for sins. If there is green on it, it is a reminder that Jesus is a gift from God.”

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

4. With my friends from Germany – they shared with us their unique items they got from the Christkindlmarkt!  In Bangkok – Seems like we have many of the same Christmas traditions which did make sense since our Christmas roots are from Germany. I still have the manger scene from that party. I do believe the Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was the best I have ever had. I was impressed with the punch (Feuerzangenbowle). It was hot mulled wine, high alcohol-percentage rum, and open flames. What’s not to like about that!

5. With my friends from Russia – Father Frost visited on New Year’s Day where we had a tree lighting festival and exchanged gifts. We had pickled cucumbers to “go with vodka” and the largest bowl of caviar placed on chipped ice that I have ever seen. They had made Kozulya,  cookies in the shape of a deer, goat or a sheep. They are traditionally enjoyed during the first days of the Christmas season.

6. With my friends from Turkey, we celebrated December 6th the Feast of Saint Nicholas as the beginning of the Christmas season. We had Turkish coffee and Kaymakli Kuru Kayisis (cream stuffed apricots).

7. With my friends from Chile, we shared “monkey’s tail” on the island of Bali.  At first, I was worried but then found out that Cola de Mono (monkey’s tail) spirits with coffee, milk, and cloves. Yummy! We also had a Chilean Sponge cake that was flavored with cloves and nuts (Pan de Pascua).

8. With my friends from Korea – Did you know Korea is one of the largest and fastest growing Christian population in Asia? We had the best night singing Christmas carols. Loud and, again and again, our favorites ones. It was the first time I saw a Santa in a blue Santa suit. He is known as known as Santa Harabujee) or Grandpa Santa.

9. Spending Christmas in Spain was an enjoyable experience. With our friends from Madrid, we saw many life-sized manger scenes and the first time we celebrated the Eve of Epiphany (January 5th). The Three Wise Men placed gifts in the shoes our children left outside of the hotel door. The hotel manager asked us to join in this tradition.

10. Our son, Grant after visiting the Czech Republic told us of the festival of Saint Nicholas on December 6th and the Three Kings Day on January 6th. That sounds like a whole month long of fantastic food and fun. I did like the gold-colored sweet Christmas bread – (vánočka or štola).

11. On Rarotonga, Cook Island we went to midnight Mass, and all the children were dressed in white and looked like angels. Their singing was magical.

12. With familyany location. Special memories made and shared. Christmas is indeed the time to connect. We often celebrate with rituals that involve food and fun memories.

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad – Booklet by Jennifer Schnoebelen

 

 

Embrace the “global-ness” we all have and share a part of our life with your quasi-family you have collected during your time abroad.

 

 

We are now celebrating the holiday season in Lake Tahoe.  I have several friends from the past and newly found friends. In fact on the timeline of life, we have only just met but who knows we might run across each other around the world as we all celebrate with our nuclear family in our chosen place to spend Christmas this year.

I have been so lucky!  I have had many once-in-a-lifetime unique treats!

Notes:

To do List in regards to Christmas and food:

  • Brazil  and try Rabanada (French toast)
  • Italy and try Panettone in Milan, Pandoro in Verona, Panforte in Tuscany and Prosecco in Veneto.
  • Germany and try a Christmas Stollen (Christstollen)  a fruitcake with bits of candied fruits, raisins, walnuts and almonds and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Try a Pfefferkuchenhaus – a gingerbread house decorated with candies, sweets and sugar icing (in reference to the gingerbread house of the fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel)
  • Cuba to try Crema De Vie – Cuban eggnog, made with condensed milk, rum, sugar syrup, lemon rind, cinnamon, and egg yolk.
  • Denmark to try Æbleskiver – traditional Danish spherical pancakes (a type of doughnut with no hole), sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with raspberry jam. To also try Julebryg – Christmas beer.
  • Jamaica to try black cake – a heavy fruit cake made with dried fruit, wine, and rum.
  • Lithuania to have a Twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper – twelve dishes representing the twelve Apostles or twelve months of the year.

 

 

Is Christmas a Mandatory Holiday at Your Home?


Santa hat on Globe

jsimens- helping families worldwide

The older people are, the more likely they are to celebrate Christmas as a mandatory holiday.

I used not to have to ‘think’ about how we would spend Christmas. I’d have a quick chat with the family, and we’d discuss several options, I’d book flights and off we would go.  Then years turned into where we had to coordinate two college schedules; a VISA or Kitas card extension (legal document to stay in a foreign country plus online VISAs for our travels) and an aging dog.

One year the Airlines must have loved me! One ticket had to be changed two times before December!  When I went on-line to recheck everything I would start to panic.  What had I forgotten? Entry Permit for Indonesia for both children – check upon arrival, Australia VISAs online and approved for our trip – check.  Multiple hotels and transits – check. Wine tours, Sydney Tour, New Year’s Eve plans – check. It was a great holiday taking the kids back to their birth country and well worth all the planning necessary.

This year will be much simpler. All of us are living in the USA, and everyone is planning on coming to Lake Tahoe to visit our home.  No extensive travels or international hassles until 2018.

Being an expat increases the likelihood that somewhere along the rental car line you will have a ‘concern.’

When we returned to Western Australia, I booked a nice van for my family to travel in. I was somewhat worried they won’t like my Indonesian License or Kevin’s Thai License, but at least we did have one child with a USA valid license, so I assumed this would not be a ‘concern.’

It is always so confusing for the rental car agent to deal with us.  We are living here, a credit card from there, insurance from a different place and licenses from other countries. In hindsight, this is when it might have been a good idea to have a “loyal” program so that the database would show you as being a consistent person.

Today I drive with a USA license, and it scares me that my photo will remain the same for another eight years.  I am sure I will not have aged at all in these upcoming eight years.

Being a parent increases the likelihood someone will put up a Christmas tree.

 Every year we try to have a Christmas tree put up where we are at Christmas. When we are home, it is easy. When we are in a hotel, it is not so easy. When we are on a beautiful tropical island, not easy at all. By now, my family is one that thinks outside the box.

Christmas in the Caribbean Sea

Here is a photo of our tree – one year on a tropical island. Grant made it.  Yes, sixteen red solo cups made our lovely little tree. It was just perfect on Christmas morning when we had our stockings casually draped on the floor waiting for the anticipation for the kids to get up and open their Santa stockings. We did this in the wee hours of the morning, but as the kids got older, we are just hoping it to happen before noon. Amazing how tired young adults can be after finals and a long semester.

As we all get older and the kids get older, the clutter of wrapping paper and the massive display of gift giving is getting smaller and smaller. We are not giving up consumerism totally, but we are all on the same page. We have a lot of beautiful things already in our life, so we just give the most precious gift of “time.” It is an excellent feeling.

We value time together, excellent food and exceptional sunsets.

My family has been lucky enough to spend Christmas in a variety of locations due to our jobs working abroad. Because we are a global family, traditions are necessary to keep. One tradition we have is the kids Christmas stockings being placed under our Christmas tree each Christmas Eve hoping Santa arrives. The stockings have a special meaning to our family since they were cross stitched and made by their Aunt Jennifer and  Aunt Jackie.

What is more important is the place where the kids hang the stockings – it must be under their Christmas tree. This is hard to do if you are not spending Christmas in your own home. Now that my kids are both adults, Santa has arrived in Australia, Borneo, The Cook Islands, Canary Islands, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Honduras, as well as multiple locations in the USA.

A look back at a special times

The one Christmas tree that makes us all still smile is the one my son made in the Cook Islands. He had been in the hotel lobby watching the hotel staff get all of their decorations set up for the holiday event. They showed him how to weave flowers into strips of leaves and drape them over the vast tree in the lobby. He then went out into their gardens and collected enough natural supplies to decorate the Christmas tree in our hotel room. There was only one small problem. We didn’t have a tree!

He took every pillow and cushion in our hotel suite and fashioned a pyramid in the corner of the room. He draped all the leaves and flowers over this pile of cushions and proudly announced that it was our “Christmas Tree!” He then went and got the stockings and put them at the base of the cushion tree. We all remember how it was the rest of that day and night waiting for Santa!

We had to watch TV as we were sitting on a brick hard couch without cushions. We tried to sit on the balcony to watch the ocean but found the rattan chairs without any cushions unbearable. The hardest thing was trying to get his older sister to go to bed without a pillow. My husband and I were able to pull our pillows off the “tree” for our bed after the kids went to sleep and before put them back before Santa arrived.

One year our creativity was not hard to do. We were staying at a beautiful B&B in Scarborough, Western Australia for Christmas Eve. I was hoping they would have a lovely tree up.  If not, we planned to find a small tree and tape it to our picnic basket as we head out to the beach.

This year, we have our Christmas tree permit in the Lake Tahoe Basin on our table, strings of lights on the floor and ornaments in various boxes. Now, all we need is a boy from Honolulu and a girl from Los Angeles to show up so they can go cut down the tree and drag it home.

We love our holiday rituals at Christmas.

Family reunions are important because they allow the family to create rituals that connect the generations. Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual. Some children may resist being involved in such rituals. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner, and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought.

I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time, and one fundamental way to do this is to have family reunions. Christmas is a great time to do this! We will be spending another tri-generational event this year.