Monthly Archives: October 2009

Third Culture Kid

Last week Joel had a simple assignment: Make up a city and paint a picture of it. We had just learned about differences between the ‘country’ and the ‘city’ and what kind of buildings he might have in a city. So Joel paints this:

I really like it, don’t get me wrong. It’s a Picasso-ish seaside metropolis with twin towers apparently (I guess those explanations of Sept. 11 really stuck from last month!) I think Anna even got in on the gray shading of the East Tower. Anyway, I hung it up and his last assignment was to name his city.

So, what do you want to name your city Joel?


Africa is a continent. Are you sure that’s what you want to name your city?

Yup. Africa.

So, here’s the city ‘Africa’ by Joel, a true TCK (third culture kid). For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is often used for children raised overseas where they are not entirely IN their passport culture, nor entirely IN their local culture, but somehow in a THIRD. One that is made up of other TCKs with a dash of different cultures and traditions thrown together. It has its inherent difficulties, but can be an incredible heritage. So why not a city named Africa?

Oh Happy Dog!

Okay Carrie, I know I am about 6 weeks late on keeping my promise of dog pictures, but better late than never, right? We are proud dogsitters of two puppies. I should know their breeds but don’t. I’m not that cool. All I know is Kali is made for Norway, lives in the tropics and was bred to look like a lion. Most of our visitors are convinced she is part lion.

Above Kali lounges for James. She loves a good excuse to lounge. Oh look, it’s sunny! Time to lounge. Wait! it’s getting dark out. Time to lounge. Wow, my tummy’s full. Time to lounge. You get the idea. Kali is a professional lounger. If only I could say the same…

And here’s Moshi:

He is the opposite of lounging. Shall we say lunging? Twenty-four hours per day Moshi carries around one of 3 different chewable toys begging someone to throw it far and high. Okay, maybe only 22 hours per day. He has all the energy Kali doesn’t. I’ve seen him nap a few times, but usually he’s sticking his cute little nose in the front door begging for a playmate. He also loves chasing airplanes, which is remarkably endearing in a dog. I suppose it’s not that different than chasing cars. He can do 3 laps around our house trying to get that plane before it’s out of sight! Moshi will run laps with the boys, but our kids definitely prefer the patience and cuddles of Kali the lounger, aka ‘Kali Kali Big Dog’.

No this is not a dead dog! She’s lounging!
Anna made her a little more comfortable by sharing her beloved pink polka-dot baby blanklet (like we were worried about keeping her warm!). She really is one of the most sweet-tempered, patient ‘lions’ I’ve ever met! The boys quickly discovered how fun it is to put huge grasshoppers for a ride on her back. I think I saw her eat one once…

You know she’s thinking, “Why do I put up with this?”

A Seventh Birthday

James had a great day on his birthday.
We decided to stick to routines and still have school, but snuck in a few treats and surprises along the way. Some mornings the ‘men’ in our family go for an early walk and stop by the neighbor’s beignet shop on the way home to breakfast. Now, for those of you not living in New Orleans or elsewhere in la francophonie, beignet [ben-yay] are deep-fried chewy donut holes. The bagel-bites of donut holes?
You can imagine why that makes for a popular kid snack around town! So James got to skype with Grandma and Grandpa, and get fresh hot beignets for breakfast!

Anna will now model for you how we like to eat them best: Rolled in powdered sugar!
(James had already finished his when the camera was found. This is the coarse organic sugar from town here put through our wheat flour grinder once. It turned out halfway between ‘American’ granulated sugar and real powdered sugar. Close enough for me!)


Here’s the birthday boy eating his breakfast of champions… granola and yogurt… goofing off because the camera has appeared…

It’s not like there are store-bought cupcakes to bring to your class snack time in rural African homeschool. So we made monster peanut butter cookies with pieces of chocolate bars inside. These were still warm for snacktime too… (I think Hoppy is jealous…)

Like my impromtu ‘Burger King’ crown? James did. Guess that’s what matters!

In the afternoon once a week he has an ‘extra-curricular’ class with a friend. For his birthday they played all sorts of games that were new to James like:

…pin the tail on the donkey! And:

…a scavenger hunt in the yard!

One box of presents from ‘home’ didn’t arrive due to airplane troubles, so in a heroic effort to compensate, Kent and I each wrote James a ‘chapter book’ with original titles like
The Story of James
detailing his first six years of adventures (the photos seem to be the best part), and The Pasmus*** family in the humorous fiction category.
Here he holds one book with one of the better camera smiles:

How have SEVEN years gone by? Where did this guy go?

My 7-yr-old little man loves Star Wars, LOVES loves Star Wars. After years of Thomas the Tank Engine cakes, we have entered a new galaxy. Last year I bought an X-wing and stuck it on top of his cake with star-shaped candles. Perfect. Well, there is no store in town with Star Wars toys and I have a decent secret stash to pull from, but when I asked what he wanted for cake (thinking chocolate or white cake…) he answered, “I want that one scene from Episode 6 where C3PO and R2D2 are walking in the desert just before they come to the big door.” Whoa. Wait a minute. Why did I ask? We couldn’t find their actual action figures, so I ended up printing C3PO from online and freehand drawing his buddy (held up by Candyland figurines!). So here’s the sandy desert scene I could muster (hint: cinnamon sugar makes the right Star Wars sand color):

At his party: “James, your cake looks like a moonscape!”

“But it’s not the moon, it’s Tatooine, Luke’s planet.”

He’s a hardcore fan. I doubt I will ever get the Candyland pieces back…

Happy Birthday to James!!!

In our family the birthday girl/boy gets to choose the dinner menu, and James chose macaroni and cheese with steamed carrots. So our friend went to buy carrots for me at the local farmer’s market and came back with this:

It looks more like a weapon than a vegetable!
James and I had to laugh when I tried to fit it in the fridge! My friend said that she’d never seen anything like it, but that several farmers were selling them from different farms.
Was there something different about the rain last month?

Let’s just say we had plenty of leftover steamed carrot. Singular.

In the evening his new best friend Amooti and family came by for cake and presents.

Seven years.

A beautiful mind. A kind heart.

And many more years to use them to his Maker’s glory.

We love you James!

Anna + art

There’s nothing spectacular about stick figures. When I took Elementary Art Education class they taught us the developmental stages of ‘art’ beginning with stick figures. The first ‘stage’ had large heads with limbs coming directly out. Both boys drew those first. Not Anna. She skipped that and headed straight for ‘normal’ stick figures at age 2.

A couple weeks ago I saw her trying desperately to cut paper with plastic pretend scissors. She was actually succeeding even though there was no blade whatsoever. So I caved in and gave her safety scissors. She usually sits at her toddler table next to my desk during school. Feels official. So she sat there through school all morning cutting little strips of paper. The school room looked like a tornado had hit! The next day I challenged her to cut AROUND the pictures on the pages. Sure enough she started cutting different shapes out!

Our friend Kathleen said she taught kindergartners who couldn’t do that! I don’t know how exceptional 2-yr-old cutting of objects may be, but I know there are lots of art supplies in our future…

The First Real Haircut

Well, since moving to Congo Anna has really needed a haircut.

I was originally planning to be a ‘purist’ about long hair, and didn’t want to cut her hair -ever. But God gave us a little girl with enough hair for 2 people. Kent and I were always told we had thick hair, and now Anna seems to have doubly-thick hair! Even when I put it up she gets so hot and sweaty with all that hair. I finally caved in and cut more than her bangs.

So here’s her First Real Haircut: I took off about 3-4″. Her baby hair had ringlets (another reason to avoid chopping them off), so I didn’t notice until I cut it that her hair was almost down to her waist! Ack! (She’s only 2 and a half…)

Of course, she got to watch Wallace & Gromit while I was snipping away…

…and the new do! Doesn’t she look older?

I’m still missing those baby ringlets,
but there will be other fun things about this new toddler Anna to enjoy.

The 2 meter nap couch!

Here is the sofa we designed and had local carpenters build (next door actually) extra long so that Kent can actually stretch out on the couch and take a nap. Yes, at over 6 feet tall, he needed a 2-meter couch. One of his favorite things is to stretch out on the couch on Sunday afternoon, and he has endured many a short or horrible couch over the years. It is handcrafted from local mahogany, and was carried 50 yds to our house by 4 men to the front yard where you see Kent and our friend Faustin sitting. I guess they’re technically sitting on the driveway…

They left it there in the sun as Kent wanted to re-sand it and give it another couple coats of the darkest varnish we can buy. All work is done outdoors in all kind of weather and conditions, so often paintbrush strands, bugs, dirt and other tiny things get shalaqued right into the finish. Yeah, good to do your own finishing. I guess I was hoping for a black-ish color, but the red in the wood shines through. Indoors it does look a shade or two darker. Now I need to buy thick foam mattresses, cut them up in the right dimensions and sew slip covers for cushions. Then use the extra foam pieces cut up really small to make throw pillows. I’m hoping we’ll have a ‘real couch’ by Christmas, but it’s not looking like a sure thing. For now, the Thermarest is a decent substitute, and weekend napping has commenced. =)

Math-U-See, Math-U-Do

Our bouncy, baby Joel grew up and as his Kindergarten teacher/Mother I’ve recently discovered that Joel seems to be kinesthetic learner. I vaguely remember jokingly calling him ‘my satelite’ because while I stand around talking to people, he literally walked in circles around me. It was fun when he was 2… The traditional classroom would probably ‘do him in’ with all that sitting still in your seat! We have practiced the Ten Commandments on Sunday afternoons for years, and Joel can finish the sentences if we start them. He knows them all at some level. And yet, could not say them independently. That is, until… we drew stick figures and put them on the floor and had him jump and say each one! Now he doesn’t need any help at all!

One day during school I found him doing his ‘easy’ +0 facts like this:

Well, as you can imagine handwriting is tedious to say the least. Handwriting Without Tears has been fabulous and lived up to its name, but writing eventually pervades every subject in school. We’ve used Math-U-See for 3 years now and really love it! So Joel is in Math-U-See’s Alpha book this year (Gr. 1 ish) and got to writing his numbers in order 0-100. This lesson was tough last year even for his bookworm elder brother, but asking Joel to SIT and WRITE from 0-100 must have looked like death. The first day after an hour of struggle we were at 27. Ouch. The second day we tried poster paper and markers (that’s fun, right?!). We got to 53… with marker on the wall. Ouch.

This kid doesn’t need Math-U-See, he needs Math-U-Do! There are great manipulatives and he is learning his math concepts and adding facts really quickly when he can start off my building them in blocks, but writing 0-100?! No way. With James I forced him to make it through twice and called it good enough. But Joel didn’t seem to have place value down quite as sure, so the 0-100 exercise should be good (is it 36 or 63?) I finally came up with a way! In Reading we had success with the alphabet by laying out all the letters on cards on the floor and organizing them, so why not with math?

I spent a few hours creating 0-100 color coded cards (in his HWT number font), and voila! Happy kid.

(Okay, so he whined and needed help the first two times, but after that he couldn’t wait for mathtime!) I think I have a new product for them to sell! 0-100 cards with the correct blocks colored on the back (and nicely laminated and all of course). Then there were tons of other games we could play with them like ‘pick a random card and build it in 10 seconds!’ Happy kid. I’m sure someone out there has a much cooler name for that one. Or ‘pick a row and turn them all over and read them’…

I’m just beginning to unlock the ‘key’ to happy kid Joel’s learning style, but hey!
Happy (learning) kid.

My Genius

I guess I knew Kent was a genius the first time I saw him.

We were sitting in Dr. Carlson’s Morphology & Syntax class, both taking it for ‘graduate credit’. He raised his hand to ask a question from the front row, while I hid in the back frantically taking notes. Sad but true, I didn’t even understand his grammar question (never mind the answer!). I’m proud to say that I passed that class with a higher grade on the final exam than Kent, but it was him who really understood ominous grammar concepts like: Split-ergatives, copulas, and deictic centers. I just knew how to take tests.

Fast forward a year when we were off to do field research in rural Kenya where Kent sat chopping up foreign tones, vowels and verbs. Seeing him get so excited about finding a pattern in the instrumental or dative made me realize 2 things: 1) I am really not a linguist at heart. While I love many aspects of our work, I will surely never be a famous grammarian. And 2) Kent really wasn’t showing off his intellect for my benefit in Morphology class, he really does think in big words.

Years later God gave us James, who has inherited a bit of his father’s beautiful mind. To see the two of them interact lately has been a bizarre mix of awe and fright. This morning they discussed amphibian parenthood while passing a puddle of tadpoles. Yesterday over breakfast (after James asked for 2 dolphin-shaped chewable vitamins) Kent and James built a chart of all possible vitamin combinations and calculated the probability of getting the two animals he so coveted. I tried not to roll my eyes. Why should I be surprised? They had a great time, and now instead of complaining about not getting what he wants, James will check out how his probability stacks up. Thankfully, Kent let me talk him out of starting James on Homer’s Iliad just yet. After all, he IS still six years old for one more week. Sheesh! Why rush childhood??

No, what I’m really blogging about, and what has impressed me most these past few months, is how Kent can apply his genius to completely unknown and foreign things and conquer them. It’s more than the male need for spontaneous adventure. He has next to no experience with home-improvement projects (hey, we’ve never stayed anywhere long enough to fix things!). And yet he has figured out how to re-plumb this house (let’s not downplay the wonder of running water!), rewire our electricity to run on 3 parallel systems (city power, solar batteries or generator), and build furniture. Case in point: His first woodwork, our new mahogany dining table:

And all this in a place without Home Depot!

[Yes, that is a paint brush sitting in gasoline in a Quaker oats can (the local paint thinner).]

Guess this genius is coming in handy!

(‘Red-Green’… ‘If they don’t find you handsome, at least they’ll find you handy!”)

Looks like I got the best of both worlds.