A TCK’s home

A TCK’s home

In the course of a year, we don’t travel a lot.  But when we do travel, it’s often epic trips, including several countries, states, many planes and even more beds for my children to sleep in.  I actually used to keep track of how many flights Isla had been on, but lost track around 30…. and I’m pretty sure that was before Ruby was even born.

We aren’t experts at all.  Our oldest is only four years old, and so I know her identity as a third culture kid is still very much developing.  She’s actually lived in the same apartment her entire life!  But we already see her struggle with who she is.  She finally understands that she isn’t Lebanese, but she can still be “from Lebanon” and traveling is definitely in her blood.

One of the things we do whenever we travel to help the kids transition… even if we’ll only be in that place for a few days… is let them unpack their things and organize their space as soon as they arrive.  I think it helps them settle a bit into the hotel, room, house, wherever and gives them a bit of ownership of their current “home.”

So the first things we did when we arrived to our vacation house in Cyprus was to let the girls unpack their things.  We stayed in a house that caters towards children, so we didn’t have to bring much with us besides clothes and a few of their toys.  Bed, baby gates for the stairs and pool, play house, toys were all provided… and all those things immediately became “my bed, my baby, my scooter, my stroller.”

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It didn’t really even cross my mind that 2 year old Ruby might be a bit confused.  I loved her sing song voice piping up from the back seat as soon as we turned into the neighborhood… “home again, home again, jiggity jig!”  And I should have gotten a clue when she got really concerned about Caleb turning in the rental car key.

But nothing prepared me for her reaction when the taxi pulled up to the door of our apartment in Beirut.  “Home again!” I sang out, and when I opened the taxi door and she saw where we were, she burst into tears!  Not the whiny, hungry kind of tears, but the truly heartbroken, sad kind of tears.  “No!  Want real house!”  She settled down a bit as we trudged up the stairs, but when we opened the door to our apartment, she sat on the floor in the entryway and just wept.  It was the saddest thing ever.

She’s fine now… Rediscovering her Barbies, stroller, dress ups and a random birthday card she got in the mail just before we left made everything better.  But we’ll definitely be doing a lot more verbal processing with this one in the future!!

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TCK in transition. But not really.

TCK in transition. But not really.

We’re taking a little vacation tomorrow.  So excited to have nothing to do but sit on the beach, swim in the pool and of course, take a trip to Ikea!

The girls are excited too… it’s been really interesting to see Isla “prepare” for this trip.  Our little TCK is getting to be a pro at transitions.  We’re so thankful that our organization takes the time to teach our kids how to come and go well, and how to find their identity when they don’t seem to fit anywhere.  But I think Isla is taking things a little overboard.

This trip isn’t a big deal.  A 30 minute plane ride and we will be gone less than two weeks but Isla just can’t comprehend that and she’s making her way across the transitions bridge.  She wanted to start packing her carry on a few days ago.  She collected all her dress ups, her jewelry and a picture of her with two of her friends from school so that “she won’t forget them.”

She’s so wound up about traveling that she is literally out of control of herself.  She can’t sleep, her emotions are all over the place, she’s just not herself.

When we actually do have big transitions coming up, we try our best to help her navigate them well… to leave well, to thrive in the chaos, etc etc.  But this?  This is just a vacation!  Not quite sure how to help her out here. Maybe some time in the sun is just what she needs.  :)

 

Summer blog series

Summer blog series

Well, we’ve been in Colorado for two days now.  Working on getting over jet-lag (party at 2am anyone?) and re-assuring Isla that the neighbor’s garage door opening is not actually a bear.

We’ve sufficiently overwhelmed ourselves by just one visit to Target and the girls have eaten their weight in blueberries and raspberries.  We’ve laughed so hard we cried when Isla realized that the Apple store doesn’t actually have fruit.  And Caleb is really enjoying clicking on a Youtube video and watching it right away.

I’m not sure how blogging will go this summer, so I thought it would be fun to do a little summer blog series… just in case I don’t write as often as I like.  So, the theme of the series will be ‘foods we miss.’

Living in another culture brings all sorts of changes and adjustments.  Some are easy, some take time, and there are other things that we will most likely never get used to.

One thing that has not been hard at all for us in adjusting to life in Lebanon is the food.  For one, we love Lebanese food.  We could eat it every day and not get tired of it.  Second, we can get almost anything in Beirut (if we are willing to pay for it, of course).  There are a few things that we miss, but overall it has not been a difficult transition.

And actually, when we are outside of Lebanon, we find ourselves missing certain foods….  which is what I’ll be blogging about each week (fingers crossed… now that I’ve said it I actually have to do it!!! :))

Baby friendly(er) Beirut

Baby friendly(er) Beirut

I wrote a couple of posts on having a baby in Beirut when Isla was just a few months old.  Even though they are a few years old, they are still some of the more popular posts on this blog… the result of many Google searches about traveling to Beirut with a baby.

While I still wouldn’t recommend Beirut as a great travel destination for families with small kids, I do see the city as a bit more friendly towards babies than I did two years ago.  Part of that may be my growth as a parent, part is likely that I am much more familiar with the city and its culture, and a part of it is how this place has grown and changed since Isla was a baby.

There are still no car seat laws.  You will see small babies sitting on their daddy’s lap as he drives the car, or wedged between mom and dad, weaving in and out of traffic on their motorcycle.  So getting around the city without a car can be tough.  Taxis are everywhere and cheap, but it means holding your baby on your lap with a driver who is not likely to be extra careful because of his precious cargo.  We have a car now, and seats for both the girls, so I don’t feel the tension as much as I did when Isla was a baby and a taxi was the only way we could get across town.

We do still walk more than we drive.  And the city hasn’t gotten much more stroller friendly.  Dodging cars, huge holes in the sidewalks, and stores and restaurants that aren’t stroller accessible make pushing a stroller feel like a full contact sport.  Add to that a walking two-year old… and you can see why I’ve become an ardent baby-wearer.  Definitely the way to go walking around Beirut!  This also comes in handy if you aren’t comfortable with your baby getting lots of kisses from strangers!

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Nursing in public is still not really done here… I’ve actually never seen anyone breastfeeding in public except for friends at our play groups.  But, I’ve discovered that as long as you are discreet, no one really blinks an eye.  It helps that Ruby is a super efficient eater… ten minutes and she’s done with her meal.  (And as a side note, there is also a great network of support now – La Leche League and a few other groups.  If you are pregnant or breastfeeding in Lebanon and stumbled across this blog, check us out on facebook!)

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Lebanon still has a super high rate of smokers, but there is actually a law going into effect this fall banning smoking in public places!  As a result, a lot of restaurants have already either gone smoke free or have divided the restaurant into smoking and non-smoking sections.  This was not the case at all a few years ago, when you were pretty much guaranteed a side of second hand smoke with every meal.

Speaking of restaurants, I’ve only seen one that had an actual changing table in the bathroom.  Which means you change your baby on the seat where you are eating (gross!) or the floor of the bathroom (grosser!).   Actually, Ruby is still pretty small, so sometimes I’m able to fit her on the counter if there is one next to the sink.  I guess if you have a stroller you could change baby’s diaper there.  The Beirut Souks downtown as well as the malls have changing tables in the bathroom, which is nice.

So, is Beirut a baby friendly city?  Eh, not really.  But, if you are here and you have a baby, there are ways to make it work!

Now, toddler friendly?  That’s another story altogether!  :)

(If you are interested, part 1 of Baby friendly Beirut is here, and part 2 here)

Last stop: Arizona

Last stop: Arizona

Our few days in Arizona were all about Isla getting in touch with her Hutcherson roots…

We had lots of good family time, more than one trip to Target, a fun time catching up with friends and supporters at our open house, and a chance to share a bit of our life with our church on Sunday morning.

Over the course of two weeks in three different states, we somehow managed to acquire 50 more pounds of stuff to bring back  – including some princess costumes for the girls.  When Caleb opened his suitcase here in Beirut, he discovered that those princess costumes are great at shedding glitter… so it’ll be a sparkly few days for us as we get settled back into every day life!  :)

Thanks for your prayers for our travels… first two flights were oh so very fun with a screaming, not sleeping baby, but we were soooo thankful to have an extra seat in between us on 4.5 hour flight from Paris to Beirut.  I went all Lebanese and about had a smack-down with the goofy gate agent who was convinced that our carseat was way to big for the plane (because apparently, she told me, planes in America are much bigger)… but we were finally able to convince her to let us “just try it out.”  Ahhh, bliss.  Isla slept for most of the flight, giving Caleb and me a much needed chance to close our eyes for a bit.

She’s now sleeping – hopefully for the next 8+ hours – and Caleb is snoring quite loudly, so I guess he’s out too.  So, I’m calling it a night.

Back to Beirut

Back to Beirut

It’s late and I’m tired and still not packed, so my Arizona update will have to wait until we get back to Lebanon…. but wanted to post something quick.

We leave Phoenix tomorrow morning… I’m really not looking forward to the three flights and 24+ hours of travel time ahead of us.  Isla has hit (and passed) her limit and is incredibly clingy and cranky.  So, I’m begging for your prayers!!!

Please pray for an extra seat next to us, that she wouldn’t resist her carseat, for smooth flights and connections, and that she would sleep!!!

Thanks much!  We had a blast seeing so many of you, and are bummed about those we missed this trip…  but are looking forward to getting back to work and life in Beirut!

Next stop: Dallas

Next stop: Dallas

And I thought our time in NC was busy…!  We arrived in Dallas Wednesday evening and hit the ground running.  We rented a car and drove straight to Scofield Memorial Church where we were able to share a bit of our ministry at their prayer meeting.  It was such a fun and encouraging time!  This group of people is amazing.  Every Wednesday night, they get together and pray for each and every one of their 50+ missionaries.  The youth group attended as well, so it was great for Caleb to reconnect with some of the kids he worked with.

Thursday we spent the day down at our old stompin’ grounds.  We were able to chat with some of our professors, I got my hair cut at my all-time favorite salon :), and we had a great Mexican meal with some dear friends and supporters.

Another super Mexican meal on Friday with the emcee for the upcoming banquet… and then the reason we are here: Stonebriar’s big missions event was Friday night.  The focus was the ministry that the church is doing with children around the world, so we were able to share a little about our ministry with the girls.  It was slightly intimidating having Chuck Swindoll and several old seminary professors in the audience, but it was such an amazing time.  It was so neat to see so many people excited about what God is doing around the world… to hear the children’s choir singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and realize that so many are thinking about and praying for our girls – it was an overwhelming moment for me.  It really was an incredible night.  Not only was Stonebriar able to raise a lot of money for their work around the world (including in Beirut), but many came up to me and told me that they were praying for the Safe Haven girls – which to me made the whole trip (including way too many hours on a plane with an awake baby) totally worth it!

Saturday was another busy day of catching up with people.  Breakfast with seminary friends, lunch with some of Caleb’s family, and dinner with some of Stonebriar’s missions staff (and, yes, we did eat Mexican food again!)

Today we were able to share with Titus II, a Sunday school class at Stonebriar that has been an incredible blessing to us.  Isla had a ball in the nursery, and it was soooo wonderful to hear Chuck preach (in English!!!!!  :)).  We had dinner with the missions committee, another super encouraging night.

Tomorrow more appointments and then we are going to take the afternoon to let the kids play and chill a bit.  Isla has been having lots of fun with our missions pastor’s little guy, Hudson (and his toys!).  She’s been a great trooper, but as evidenced by her clingy-ness today, is in need of a little break, I think.

Thanks sooo much for all your prayers!  Isla did pretty well on the flights from NC to TX… we were actually able to bring her carseat on one of the legs, which was great!  Keep those prayers coming… we head to Arizona Tuesday morning, and it would be great to have another empty seat next to us on the flights.

We’re missing our friends and the girls, but it has been soooo nice to be in the States, even for such a short time.  We are sooooo grateful for this great opportunity – it has been such a blessing to us!