Kansas Day commemorates the admission of the state as the 34th in the Union ( USA) on January 29, 1861. Schools have been marking the anniversary since 1877 by learning more about their state’s history.
The Simens family of four have been celebrating Kansas Day for many years – Why? I spent the first 18 years of my life in northwest Kansas. It is part of me. I wanted to keep this part of my history in my life. I have held Kansas day parties in American Samoa, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Honduras, as well as in California, Hawaii, and Texas. BUT, I have never held a Kansas Day party in Kansas.
Words of Wisdom
Global families often wonder what holidays to celebrate. They wonder what should be important for their children to have memories of or what events they should celebrate. Selecting holidays is never an easy decision especially in our cross-cultural families or for our families that have lived in a variety of locations. Whatever you choose to celebrate – make it a ritual. Celebrate that holiday every year no matter where you are or who you are with at that time.
This year – we will be doing a take on the pioneers who lived in Kansas. Several of our friends in Roatan will be meeting us on the pier for “Pie” and “Beers.” Thanks to Heather a friend from college, who told about this type of celebration and it seemed perfect for my annual Kansas Day party on Roatan.
Here is one of my favorite stories about Kansas, God, and a pet. (Sounds like a great country western song.)
God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel found him, resting on the seventh day.
He inquired, “Where have you been?”
God smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “Look, Michael. Look what I’ve made.”
Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, “What is it?”
“It’s a planet,” replied God, and I’ve put life on it. I’m going to call it Earth, and it’s going to be a place to test Balance.”
“Balance?” inquired Michael, “I’m still confused.”
God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. “For example, part of Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while another part of Europe is going to be poor. Over here I’ve placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of darker people. Balance in all things.”
God continued pointing to different countries. “This one will be scorching hot, while this one will be cold and covered in ice.”
The Archangel, impressed by God’s work, then pointed to a land area and said, “What’s that one?”
“That’s Kansas, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful rolling hills and prairies, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills, and the plains.” Then God Said, “This is Kansas, the center of America.
The people of Kansas are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, carriers of peace, and producers of good things. They will care about animals and have pets.”
Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, “But what about balance, God? You said there would be a balance.”
God smiled, “I did have to put a few idiots in other parts of the world.”
I always wonder how strong my own child’s sense of identity or “where they are from” will be since they have spent all of their lives in chunks of four or five years on different continents. As my one child said, ” I am 4% Australian since I was born there and lived there for a while. I am 25 % African since I have lived there a long time. I am 25% American since I spend most of my summer holidays there. I am 45% Indonesian since I lived there so long. Of course, I am 1 % Thai since this is my home now.” He had decided to map his timeline by months so it would reflect the summer months he spent in the USA.
On another note, I wonder how he will introduce himself to peers in college? Or more importantly, will he be able to find that small of group friends that have grown up like him, a citizen of the world.
But seriously, You have got to love most titles of Country Western Songs! Here are a few of my favorite:
Julia’s top 20 hits for any Kansas Day Party anywhere!
Please note these are not in any specific order, I just hit random and let the party begin!
1. Get Off the Table, Mabel (the $2 is for the Beer)
2. I Don’t Care if it Rains or Freezes, As Long as I Have My Plastic Jesus
3. I Just Can’t Get Over How You’ve Gotten Over Me
4. I Went Back to My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First Class Fool Out of Me
5. I’ve Got Tears in my Ears from Lyin’ on my Back in my Bed While I Cry Over You
6. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy
7. You Don’t Have to Call Me Darlin’, Darlin’ – You Never Even Called Me By My Name
8. At the Gas Station of Love, I Got the Self-Service Pump
9. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth ‘Cause I’m Kissing You Goodbye
10. It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night that Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long
11. Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens, and I Cried All the Way to Sears
12. I Was Looking Back to See If You Were Looking Back to See If I Was Looking Back to See if You Were Looking Back at Me
13. Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well
14. Your Negligee Has Turned To a Flannel Nightgown
15. The Last Word In Lonesome Is “Me”
16. Walk Out Backwards Slowly, So I’ll Think You’re Walking In
17. And There was Grandma, Swingin’ on the Outhouse Door, Without a Shirt On
18. How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?
19. She Got The Ring, And I Got The Finger
20. They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can’t Stop My Face From Breaking Out
What did you learn at your Grandma’s Kitchen Table? What lessons? What feelings come up when you remember what it was like sitting at your grandma’s kitchen table?
At my Grandma Wright’s kitchen table outside of Russell Springs, Kansas, I learned about family and love. Grandma spread the love by teaching us all to make pies! It almost seemed like a ritual. Family rituals are to make connections and show love. That is what she did. We’d head out to Grandma’s house, then pick some fruit or rhubarb out of her garden. Maybe go to the root cellar to get a jar of preserves for the pie. These types of rituals can be significant for all families but vital for global nomads.
I am an expert at making pies, mostly because I made a ton of pies in 4-H when I was young. I am a firm believer in the mastery of something when you are young, and you still think it is fun.
In 4-H, I did a lot of different activities. I raised sheep; JC and Casey were my pets until I sold them. This money went towards University, and I was only ten years old when I raised them for almost a year. I did public speaking. I did knitting (I still can’t cast off). I made clothes; I cooked more food than you can imagine and I even did leather work. Adults in the community spent time teaching us how to do things. We had pride in our finished products. We won ribbons, and if our projects were good enough we could take it to state and compete with lots of other children. My exposure to 4-H helped me get one of my scholarships to college.
I was the Betty Crocker award winner, meaning I had to take a written test about cooking and prove that I understood the concepts behind ‘cooking.’ When you are trying to put yourself through college, all scholarships are huge, and you are so appreciative to get them. I am glad I learned how to cook when I was young; I am delighted I was able to apply that knowledge into math, science and other aspects of the school. But I am most proud of is being able to teach my children how to make a pie! It all started around a kitchen table.
FIGT’s Kitchen Table
When FIGT was first starting out, they would meet around a kitchen table. Ruth Van Reken shared that when they were planning the third FIGT conference, John Aoun, Betty Mullin and Joyce Blake would come to her home every Monday night to work and plan that conference. They were all volunteers, and they found the value of the “kitchen table.” We are lucky that FIGT kept that concept as it grew.
- At #FIGT2019, I am honored to be able to present Bangkok 101: A Mother’s View vs Her High School Child’s View
Having lived five years in Bangkok with a teenager, I will cover three events where our perceptions differed greatly from mother to son. We will share the challenges of making connections in this city. Then the group will have a lively discussion on making and keeping connections and the importance of family traditions.
The good news is at all #FIGT conferences you can learn and share around the kitchen tables! Please note, no pie will be served at this kitchen table talk. The FIGT rituals of Kitchen Table discussions are to make connections, grow and show compassion.
Celebrating Christmas abroad
can be a
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.”
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 family – any location. Special memories made and shared. Christmas is indeed the time to connect. We often celebrate with rituals that involve food and fun memories.
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!
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.
What really happens when your child is tempted to engage in risky behavior?
We are all aware of the gateway drugs and their dangers but it seems as if there are other things almost as dangerous. Especially in the Holiday Season!
I am not a very “afraid” parent. I let my kids roam the streets of foreign countries. They have experienced tear-gas at large events where police threw canisters for crowd control. They have eaten ‘street food’ from unknown sources. But somethings I just can’t control or at times keep them away from harm.
I am worried about smartphones.
Did you know that our kids can get apps that say “Blow into your phone to smoke this cigarette!” You can have a beer, snort cocaine (they recommend using an old credit card or hotel key card to make it even more realistic), hit a bong, learn to grow marijuana, simulate Russian Roulette with this revolver. There are porn “wallpaper” options. I didn’t know all of this until I started to think about Christmas shopping! These things are out there. They are not a concern to my country or the businesses in my country. Why?
But then we do so really weird stuff –
Ban Hand Holding
A bill passed in Tennessee earlier this year declared hand-holding a ‘gateway sexual activity,’ with teachers facing firing for even demonstrating the action.
Ban – Hugging
The ban on hugging isn’t a one-off rule at a select school, but a trend. Schools in Portland and Florida started instituting these rules in 2010, while administrations in New Jersey and New Zealand took it upon themselves in 2012. For all, the reasoning appears to be the same: Respecting personal space and “unsuitable interactions” between students must be banned.
Ban – Best Friends
No more BFFs for you, British kids! At a few U.K. schools, teachers are preventing children from making “best friends” in an attempt to save others’ feelings.
What about banning Christmas…
Grinch, yikes? We’ve all heard of holiday trees instead of Christmas trees and those long December concerts (Not Christmas Concerts), but some schools have gone as far as banning any references to Santa and carols, among other Christmas-oriented terms.
I want my smartphone to help my life – not mess with young kids. I want teens to hold hands and be in love. In fact, I want their teachers to also be in love and show it! Not only do I want my kids to have BFF’s, but I also want to keep and share my own BFF’s. I want to keep Christmas as it has been for me – my whole life. I want to talk about Santa and sing Christmas carols. I want to sing “Mary’s Boy Child” and “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”
What would you like more of “under your Christmas Tree”?
1) Smart Phone apps and lot of calls for connections
2) Holding hands with someone special for a connection
3) Holiday cheer that connects you with friends and family
Two of my favorite Christmas songs. One from each end of the age span!
Notes: Photo http://www.google.com/imgres?q=evil+santa+claus
Out of the vault –
She was angry and sad.
I asked her “why” on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday? She said, “I am angry that the day will be over so soon and I am sad that I have to leave school.
This was not how I recalled my years in schools. I was always the first to leave and the one sitting eagerly in my seat for the last bell to ring so I could blast off for fun on being “out of school.”
So I wonder . . . Did my teacher’s not instilling my love of learning and my need to be in school or is her time off so dull that she would rather be at school than at home.
So I decided to ask her “why” again.
“I really like my friends, and I love my teacher, why would I want to miss out on what they are doing?” she questions me back.
“Won’t you do anything fun over the holidays?”
“Yes, we are going to go horseback riding and ice skating.”
“Won’t that be more fun than being in school?”
She summed it up in one word. No. School was more fun than riding a horse. School was even more fun than skating. She is five and school is MORE fun than these two activities. My first thoughts were, Your teacher is fortunate to have you in her class.
Then I realized the truth. Her teacher must be a great teacher.
“You are a lucky little girl to love school so much.”, I said.
Again she stated it perfectly. “I love my whole school day.”
Being a part of her universe, I am going home tonight glad to be a counselor and thankful that she is part of my school. I hope all the teachers, parents, children and counselors have a great Christmas holiday. People travel all over the world for the holidays, but we also need to be ‘happy’ to acknowledge where we come from.
Safe Travels if you are heading out of school this season.
To children who successfully navigate a lifetime of change, the world is a garden of exotic gifts, a house of treasure to explore and take in. Transferred from place to place, young and porous, global nomad children collect and absorb experiences. Their personalities become amalgams of those cultures they internalize and claim as their own. Perched for a while in a new environment, they experience each move as an occasion for growth, a chance to blossom in new ways.
From – Unrooted Childhoods -“ Memories of Growing Up Global
Out of the Vault
Not Wanting to be at the International School
It all started 16 months ago. Izzat walked into my international school. He did not want to be here. He had moved to a strange country. He did not speak English, and he wanted to be safe at home with his Mommy. He was five years old. This was his first school experience, and he was 5,000 miles away from what he had called home.
Izzat’s parents were eager to fit into their new location, and they wanted their son to fit into school. Izzat was scared he didn’t want to be here.
We spent the first ten days of the school year joined at the hip. Or I should say, as long as Izzat could hold my hand or my leg as we walked around the campus trying to do my counseling job. Many of the other students asked if he was my son.
I could get Izzat to go to recess because he liked to play with the balls. I could get him to go to lunch because he was hungry. As far as going to class, he had not bought into the fact that school meant ‘learning.’ He didn’t understand that school meant doing what the teacher wanted and being with a whole bunch of other kids his age.
Finally, he decided to like the smaller English as a Second Language class, and I was able to have periods of time in my office without Izzat. His parents were wonderful, but they did not know how to help him. His teachers were excellent, but they could not get him to stop coming to my office whenever he got stressed or confused. They were wonderful, but he just was not comfortable in their environment. His peers wanted to support him and help him, but he often would run away from them and seek me out.
It was a very long time to get Izzat comfortable enough to stay with his peers. We gradually went from mastering the comfortable zone of one activity towards another one. We were blessed that the Physical Education teacher asked Izzat to stay longer and help with the other classes where there were other five years old peers. This free time allowed me actually to see some of the other kids I was serving. Slowly the need to be by my side was replaced to be near the other adults in his school day. Gradually his ability to communicate in English became stronger.
When it was time for Izzat to start school his next September at our school, he acted like a real pro. He only stopped by once in a while to chat.
But That First Week of December was a Sad Time for Me.
Izzat ran across the playground, yelling in English for his friend to stop. Izzat said, “Wait for me!”
He grabbed my hand and squeezed it and then it quickly it became a full body hug. It was quick but intense.
He said, “Ms. Julia, I am moving to a new school.”
I replied, “I will miss you, when will you leave?”
Izzat proudly stated, “Before Christmas.”
Then he ran away to play with his friend as I turned to go into my office. He ran back. “I will really miss you.”
He was a child that has mastered making friends, learning a new language, being a risk taker and being bold. At our school, he had many houses of treasure to explore and take in. As he moved to his new school, I hope he took the lessons he had learned here. He had successfully navigated a lifetime of change in just 16 short months.
Christmas is always an interesting to time to reconnect with family and friends. Sometimes, when I least expect it, I get a note from parents I have worked with or from their children. Today as I was searching for a unique Christmas decoration, I ran into the letter I got from Izzat when he was going to get ready for his last semester in High School. I remember his small hand tightly clutching mine, and I wonder how big and strong his hands are today.
Sometimes Christmas memories make me cry.