Archive for ‘missionary kids’

February 15, 2018

We are family!

by mendibpng

Noah, Jacob, Ellie, Me and Jenny Beth, Feb 2012

I’ve often written about expat life and the hardships that come along with this life style. However, this post is not about hardships. It’s about community and how people have circled up to help the kids and me. Ben has been gone for two weeks now, and still has two more to go. He is consultant checking the books of James and Mark in nine languages, while I have stayed here at Ukarumpa with the kids as it was too soon after furlough to put our teens in the hostel and take the little ones out for a village stay.

I haven’t had a chance to feel overwhelmed or lonely or sorry for myself because our community has been here for me. From phone calls checking in, offers of childcare and meals, help with fixing our dog run, to the chief helicopter pilot arranging for Ben to make it back a week early in time for Noah’s play, the feeling of being part of a community has really made these two weeks go by quickly. I am not saying that everything is easy, but I am grateful for all of the little and big things that people do for me. I am a fairly independent person and it’s not easy to accept help. However, in doing so, I remember how much joy it gives me when I am able to help out a friend. And so the circle of giving keeps going here, over and over, time and time again. All of us expats are separated from relatives in our home countries and so part of the thriving happens when we stand in for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I know that this is a treasure I sometimes take for granted but for today (and hopefully future ones), I am full of gratitude.

Furthermore, I am grateful for the people whose jobs directly impact me and my family. These hardworking  missionaries and Papua New Guineans are running the schools, flying and fixing aircraft, fixing computers, stocking the store, keeping our internet running (oh how wonderful it was to talk to my college aged son yesterday!!) arranging for visas and passport renewals, and countless other jobs. All of these people are here to see the work of Bible translation going on in Papua New Guinea. So thank you from our family, and from the people of the Aitape West for your service.

I can’t finish here without mentioning our partners, friends and family back home. When I think about the host of people who are keenly invested in our work and in the lives of the other missionaries here, it is overwhelming.  You are an important part of the picture, so thank you.

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 

November 5, 2014

Noah’s furlough blog

by mendibpng

I am an MK (missionary kid) meaning my parents are missionaries in Papua New Guinea or PNG for short. PNG is an island in the Pacific Ocean just above Australia. It is divided in half. Half of the island is PNG and the other half is Indonesia. There is over 800 languages so there is a main trade language called, Pidgin or Tok Pisin. It is derived from tons of different languages, like English. Since it is an island, the coasts are hot and humid. The highlands are temperate and about 80 degrees year round. The north coast is about 2 degrees south of the equator and there is only two seasons; rainy and dry. There are two large missionary bases that I know of in PNG. New Tribes in the North East and Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands. Ukarumpa is one of my home towns. Its where I grew up, but I was born in the USA. My home town in America is Wheaton, Illinois.

I’m in America. My home town here is new and exciting. The leaves are in the middle of turning colors and dropping to the ground. Also everything is spelled different. (PNG is a common wealth country.) There are paved roads, contrary to the dirt and gravel rounds in PNG. Fast food restaurants are everywhere. Half of them we couldn’t eat at for a while, we usually eat tons of vegetables and a little meat. Mc Donald’s is mostly processed meat and grease. Not to say it doesn’t taste good but we weren’t used to so much meat and oil. The meat grown in PNG is usually expensive or tough and chewy: chicken and crocodile. There is a crocodile farm that mianly uses the crocodiles for  the skins, and so they sell the meat cheaply. It tastes like chicken but has a different texture. There is a small store in Ukarumpa that gives us all that we need. But the prices are going up all the imported things like beef, lunch meat, toys…ect. Now we can buy meat for sometimes 3 times less here in the US.

Walking on cross walks and being careful opening car doors are lessons I had to learn the hard way. It was so embarrassing, we were visiting our cousins when I opened the car door into another car next to use and scratched it. Lesson learned. The other time wasn’t so bad, because all I got was an angry car honk and a little bit of a talking to by not just one but three of my family members. (Older brother, younger brother and mom.)

Being a furloughing MK  is nice at times. I get to finish school by lunch most days. I get to see my grandparents and eat fast food. I get to eat meat which we can only get occasionally in Papua New Guinea.  I am privileged enough to get a tablet. It brings “friends.” I vaguely know a few people in online games. I started reading the ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Books rarely take me more than 3 days but it has taken me a couple of weeks and I’m rarely half way through. In my defense it combined all three of the books so if you split it up, I finished the first book, and I’m about 2 thirds of the way through. We visited our other grandparents in Florida and we went to Aquatica. We visited my parents friends in our car trip in Colorado. They went camping with us and taught us (or retaught us) how to fish. We later visited friends who went to a training course with us in PNG and their oldest, a little 6 year old’s first words to me were “do you like legos? I have The Lego Movie and lots of legos.” Here in Illinois we have gone to a wildlife preserve called the Arboretum where there are tons of trees, and we have taken tons of pictures. I can’t put any on here because I don’t have them on this device but I took one thinking that one tree was photo bombing the other tree. Ha ha haa. Any way we have visited a couple friends and all of our grandparents. We have had a ton of fun. Tomorrow we are visiting a Planetarium so I hope to have even more fun!!! This is how our year back in the States has gone.

Some tough things about home schooling include: few friends. I only see my youth group and neighbors. In Ukarumpa we are a small comunity of Christian belivers. We are a very tight community and everyone knows each other. I don’t get to do much and I often feel bored here. I am losing the calluses on my feet. I have to wear shoes everywhere. (I know it sounds silly but I hate shoes.) I don’t have a real math teacher so if I have problems I can’t ask the teacher for help. My mom is not really a math teacher and finds math hard.  I miss my friends and I try to write to them but I often forget, and I really just sit around all day playing on my tablet or reading or watching a movie all day. It is so cold so I can’t really do anything. My life is taking sharp turns. First I’m in a theme park exhausted and the next I’m sitting in my house waiting for something to happen. I don’t want to sound like a Puddle Glum but I am often bored out of my mind. These are some of the pros and con’s of being me in the States. I hope you have enjoyed my story about this year.

October 30, 2014

Life in America: by Ellie

by mendibpng

(photo by Ellie) Arboretum fall leaves.

Coming home to America is different then coming home to Papua New Guinea. It is a total shock when you go to restaurants and see how many choices on the menu. Or when you get overwhelmed by Walmart by so many things to buy. In Ukarumpa, there’s only one tiny little store with not a lot of choices. It runs out of things sometimes and it’s really expensive.

When you go to Papua New Guinea there are different rules, because it is totally another culture. Women have to wear skirts below their knees. Here we can wear shorter skirts or shorts.

Here we have the chance to do different things, like maybe swimming. If you live in Ukarumpa its not everyday you get to go swimming in a pool. But you might not get to swimming as much, but I did. Here, there are smooth roads; over there there are rocky and bumpy roads.

There, I have more friends because we are a close community so we get along very well. My friends are very close, I can walk to their houses. I do a special club with all the girls in my class. We play games and go outside every day.

Well in Ukarumpa, in PNG, also part of being a close community is welcoming everyone new. But here in America there is so many more people and you can’t go up to everyone and say, “welcome to America!” They might think your weird or kookoo. I feel shy here but over there I feel very funny. Here I’m serious, there I’m not. And here’s a tip. Don’t tell people about some gross stuff that you eat or do. They will stay away from you for the rest of their life. Or don’t eat off the floor in public!

Being a missionary kid means first goodbye to your home and your friends. Then transition….then you get over with it. I try to feel good about the things that are about to happen here in America. But when I trust in God he hears me and helps me through. I like this verse: Joshua 1:9.
By Ellie I Pehrson. (Or PIE. My initials spelled backwards)
Ahhh I love pie.

September 14, 2014

Furlough: some old and new thoughts

by mendibpng

(above) I saw these flags at Navy Pier a few weeks ago and found myself surprised at the emotion they evoked in me. I must have looked like a crazy person, yelling at Ben, “look at the flags. THE FLAGS!!!” and then I proceeded to take like 10 pictures in a row. Although I have lived overseas most of my life, my passport country is a big part of who I am. Coming back with our five children to the U.S. who are going through major transition similar what I experienced as a child is helping me appreciate the heritage I have.

Transition is tough. Furlough can be a significant stress because physically we are fighting jet lag and going through all of the emotions of grieving and letting go at the same time. On top of that, we have to figure out how to get everything from storage and get oriented to our new surroundings while our kids are falling apart. We did what we could to prepare our kids for our furlough year by talking about new things they would experience, and the older kids helped educate the little ones so that helped a little. But that was just the ‘prep-work.’

First, my disclaimers: these are just a few thoughts that I’ve collected from the last few furloughs and now this one….my apologies that it ended up being so long. Also, other missionaries will have their own lists and ideas which could completely look different. And, I planned to write 1-2 paragraphs but apparently the thoughts just kept coming! Sorry for the extreme length of this post!

Boundaries with Speaking Events
We don’t plan to attend or speak at any events right away. On our first furlough, we attended a missionary get together the day after we arrived in Wheaton. I can remember a huge panic trying to find something decent to wear, and ended up taking our 18 month old daughter to the event because she was having a hard time with transition.

Expectations and Stability
We asked ourselves really hard questions before we left PNG: what do we want to do on furlough and what is going to be realistic for our family? The truth is, we’ve been gone for four years and haven’t been able to take family holidays very often, so we’d love to go coast to coast and visit every friend and historical site. The reality is, we came home with very little margin and we all (especially our kids) need stability. So we had to scale down our expectations and work on compromises.

We’ve tried to be really positive about things we love about America. Leaving the home they love (and their friends) is hard for our kids, and part of the grieving process is letting go of (not completely) what they love and embracing things they enjoy here. With the older kids, we’ve had to balance required events and giving them a choice. In recent days, when we’ve given the teenagers a choice on an event (even ones that might seem like ‘little kids events’) they have chosen to do it, and have enjoyed themselves. Also, having preschoolers and teens means that sometimes Ben will take the older kids and I take the little ones to age appropriate events.

We’ve been giving the kids something purposeful to do. The first couple of weeks after we returned, Ben and I were busy trying to get ourselves sorted, getting driver’s licenses renewed, changing the utilities to our name, buying homeschooling materials, registering our oldest for online home school, etc. We expected our kids would just entertain themselves as they do in PNG. However, they had no friends close by and being out of their normal environment meant that they didn’t know what to do with themselves (besides ask repeatedly to watch movies) We had planned to start homeschooling after a family trip in August but I could see that some of our kids were struggling with lack of purpose to their days, so I started school earlier and had them write out a list of (non-screen) things they could possibly do on their own. Also, Ellie initially hard time getting into reading, so I’ve offered a reward for 10 chapter books she reads: going out for breakfast with Ben. Likewise, Noah wanted to increase his cooking skills, so he has a similar list going for new recipes he tries.

To avoid being overwhelmed in stores: we research online for items we need. This week I googled “top toys for 2014” From there I had ideas of prices and what might work–my goal was one or two small presents for each of our twins birthday this week. It turns out we had a coupon for Learning Express close to our house, and their prices were really similar to So we went there to see the items in person. We bought different things but I wasn’t overwhelmed at all because I already had an inkling of ‘what was out there.’

stained glass

Another thing we discovered is that we have to be really intentional about taking time as a couple…Ben and I left the children in the care of his very capable parents (thank you mom and dad!) for 3 days while we went to Chicago. We took this photo at the free stained glass museum at Navy Pier, that was one of my favorite things we did! We don’t always plan time for ourselves with having five kids and others we want to spend time with, but this is something we are working on more intentionally.

Other People’s Expectations
I’ve tried to steer myself away from worrying about other people’s expectations for us on this furlough. Ben doesn’t struggle with this but as a ‘people pleaser’ I have really had to make a conscious effort to stop, ask myself the truth and then be completely honest. Sometimes that means disappointing people (or dealing with my own perceived expectations of their disappointment) but as my friend Kay Bruner says “do the right thing and learn to live with a little guilt.” I love that.

Kids in Transition
We’ve been really open about each kids specific reactions to transition to family members or friends we might be seeing. One furlough I wrote ahead to people we would visit about each child, thinking it would help them understand what each kid was going through. (From comments I heard at the time, our kids’ behavior looked odd or unreasonable  to some people.) At the same time for us as parents, we’re still trying to figure it out and it can be really distressing to not be able to ‘fix’ our kids when they are distressed. Ben and I are learning, however, that overreacting to our kids makes things much worse! Mostly, they really need assurance and validation in the middle of transition.

Some examples from the last two furloughs and now the beginning of this one:

  • screaming for a week every time we arrived at a new place.
  • hiding or throwing a tantrum when it was time to go through leave taking…
  • finding a quiet/private space for hours (like under a table) and read
  • making strong statements about missing ‘home,’ like last week when one of our preschoolers said “I really miss my friends. I feel like they are dead.”
  • having potty accidents at every big transition. At first we were bewildered until we realized transition triggered the accidents…
  • daily crying and vomiting from stress
  • nightmares
  • more behavior issues from being tired and disoriented. It doesn’t mean we don’t discipline them, but we try to apply grace.
  • acting ‘unsociable’ when people come to visit[I’m not saying that all of our kids do all of these things all the time, these are just examples of a few things we’ve experienced through the years.]

Last thoughts….
There is much more to be said on this topic but I thought I’d get the ball rolling at first. This furlough is unique for us because we decided to home school in order to give ourselves freedom to travel. It turns out it’s quite a challenge and we’re trying to figure it all out, especially because we’re supposed to be spending time recuperating and preparing to go back to PNG. I guess it all comes with giving grace to ourselves as well in the midst of all the chaos.

Yesterday I read this verse from the Apostle Paul, “don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT) I used to think about this verse primarily about our physical needs but what if it also applies to our emotional, spiritual and mental well being? Can I trust God to give Ben and me the grace and wisdom to parent our kids through this transition? Can I trust Him to bring healing to our marriage and emotional well being while we’re doing the hard work of home schooling and transitioning to life here?


p.s. I thought I’d add a couple of book recommendations to this topic:

“As Soon As I Fell” by Kay Bruner. A few weeks after I arrived, I had the chance to read Kay’s memoir. I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants a glimpse into a life of a missionary who struggled with a lot of things that those of us who serve overseas deal with. I loved the message of hope she gives!!

“The Way Of Transition” by William Bridges. I bought this book on my first furlough and have read and re-read this book. It has been helpful in framing my thoughts about transition, which you can see mirrored here often on my blog.

“Expectations and Burnout” by Robyn Bliss and Sue Eenigenburg. Ben bought me this book last year for my birthday. I loved it because it explained how we as missionaries come to the field with expectations that we don’t even know we have (often they are only revealed when they are unmet!) As a result of reading this, I ended up writing a document about our project for new members (still in draft) so that we can help them transition to our team.

June 5, 2014

Sports Day 2014

by mendibpng

IMG_4380Sports day here in Ukarumpa is a community event. We went to watch Josiah (9th grade) do track and field events, while also catching up with friends. I feel that participating in community events helps ease the pending transition a bit for all of us.

I enjoyed watching the team events the most!
IMG_4927Many of the younger kids got into the spirit and cheered for their sibling’s teams (Alpha is Red, Beta is Blue). Noah (grade 6) and friends enjoyed painting their faces!IMG_5003Ellie and her fourth grade friends sold frozen juice pops to raise money for their girl’s club. It was a low parental effort (all we had to do was transport the freezie pops) and the girls had so much fun!IMG_5322After the high school events finished, the rest of the community had a chance to participate in 4×100 (and other) races. Our twins Jenny Beth (above) and Jacob (below) LOVED being able to run!IMG_5356

April 22, 2014

Dress Up Day: PNG style!

by mendibpng

My P.N.G. aunties first called us so that we could get bilased (decorated).


They started getting the arm bands and putting them on my little sister and I.

They stuck pretty flowers in the bracelets, I think it’s so cool how they got it all together and ready.

JB’s (Jenny Beth’s) turn!

Isn’t she cute? Funny, she looks tired! Look closely, see how fancy the beading is.


Even Jacob got to look beautiful! (hhhaaaa) Now look at his necklace’s pattern.


Look at this kind of paint! It comes out of a fuzzy pod. The seeds are red. They rub it, and it’s like paint!

Me too! I get a turn to get painted.
bilas 9

Now they get a turn to look nice in front of the camera.

bilas final

Here we are all together. They made a hard effort to get everything ready. I love my village!

Written by Ellie, age 10.

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January 19, 2014

Furlough Fever: TCK thoughts

by mendibpng

In June, we’ll be flying on a Kodiak airplane like this one on the first of six flights which will take us from: Ukarumpa–Port Moresby–Brisbane–Melbourne–Fiji–Los Angeles–Chicago, IL. It took us (well, Ben, actually) over four weeks to figure out each leg and which flights would be the most economical for the family.

We’ve been in PNG now for 3 1/2  years, having left the country only a few times for medical reasons to the closest neighboring first world country, Australia. As I’m going about my daily tasks and ministry, I’m constantly thinking about our return to the U.S., planned for July of this year. I started writing what I thought would be a short blog post but it turned out that I needed to make it into a series because I had so much to say. So this one is dedicated to my thoughts about our TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and the transitions they will face in a few months.
5kids1stBirthday sm
(above: This is what our kids looked like a few months after we arrived in PNG in 2010). When we left the U.S., our twins were nine months old, Ellie was five, Noah was eight and Josiah was ten. Now Josiah is in high school, Noah and Ellie are in primary school, and the twins are four! Here are all of them together at Christmas this year:
kids sm
I talked to my older boys about friends and relatives we want to catch up with when we reach the U.S., and one of the first things they started joking about was how people would say how much they had grown. It’s just a fact of life that if you are gone four years, your kids will look different and they will be that much less connected to All Things Related to their home country.  So a great deal of my thoughts circle around how to make the transition back the U.S. a happy one for the kids, and how to help them with grieving the loss of their home and close friends for an extended period of time.

I’ve spent many hours researching homeschooling materials for the kids and thinking through logistics related to schooling on the road. Our oldest needs a program that is accredited, while we have more flexibility with the younger ones. I am not quite sure how we will keep a routine while traveling and get work done. That might be something we’ll have to scale and adjust to as we get started. We have dreams and expectations of visiting some historical sites in the U.S. and spending time in national parks as part of our homeschooling experience.

Even though we live in the bush a lot of the time here, we don’t have the opportunity to do tent camping as a family. Our plan to travel on furlough involves quite a bit of camping as this is the most economical way to visit a lot of places with our family of seven. Some of the questions we have may become clear after we’ve seen what camping looks like with five children like, “how will we make significant amounts of food while camping?” It could be a blast….or…it could be difficult. I’m just going to add that to the list of unknowns, but I’m comforted by the fact that this is our first furlough without a baby in diapers. Plus, we can always find info and ideas on the internet once we get there!

I know that we can’t physically prepare our kids for everything they experience they arrive, but we want them to have the freedom to talk to us about anything.  It’s fairly common for Third Culture Kids to grieve the lack of belonging anywhere and to feel like strangers in their home country. (I know this because I am a TCK).  It’s also common for them to feel antagonistic about things that they don’t understand, whether it’s cultural differences or simpler things like the lack of autonomy and freedom to be outside as much as they are used to. Incidentally, the loss and grief side feels significant this time around because Josiah has hostel brothers and sisters who will be graduating while he is gone, and he doesn’t know when he will see them again.

So what are we doing to prepare our kids?

  • We’re talking with them and consulting them about our plans, so they don’t feel like everything is completely out of their control or that they are blind sided by decisions. The decision to home school, for instance, came easily for Ben and I, but we had to make sure that the kids were on board. My impression is that they are excited, even the ones who were reluctant in the beginning.
  • We’re showing them pictures of friends and family they will see so that it’s not a complete shock to meet unfamiliar people (to them, not to Ben and I.)
  • We’re planning to visit some of their former PNG friends/colleagues along the way so that not every single visit is a new encounter and those friends will know where we have come from.
  • We’re planning on significant ‘down’ time here and there, where it’s just us so that we can relax and not worry about being on our best behavior.
  • I’m planning on creating photo books for the younger kids of all of their favorite places and people here in PNG so that they have these to look at whenever they are sad and missing their home here.
  • We’ll create a scrapbook of our travels for the kids to remember all the fun places we’ll visit and wonderful people we will see.
  • We’re also talking about the fun food we will get to eat (grapes! cheese! Doritos! Portillos hot dogs!).
  • All of us are working on a ‘bucket list’ of things we want to do while in the U.S. (we might not get to everything but it’s a good way to find out what each of us values.)
  • We’re taking advantage of Wycliffe Connection, a program for our whole family, focused specifically on reentry. Some of our friends will be attending as well, which I think will make it very fun and relaxing!
  • We’re planning to have significant time with both sets of grandparents to strengthen those connections.

I hope that we will be able to be an example to our kids of trusting God and ask Him for wisdom for every small and large decision. We often use our family time to pray about the decisions we need to make, and we will continue ask God to show Himself to us in supernatural ways, rejoicing when He answers, as He did last week by providing all the money at one time that we needed for our return travel to the U.S.

As with most things in life, there are no set of rules or one good checklist that works for every family. There are just too many variables and too many different personalities to navigate. It all just boils down to the fact that we can’t plan enough ourselves or rely on our own wisdom for all of it. The only solution I can clearly see is just simply laid out in verses like this:

James 1:5-8 (NLT)
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

What about you? If you are planning a big transition for your kids, what kinds of things are helpful/useful to do? I’d love to hear comments if you have any to share!

December 14, 2013

Double Digits by Ellie

by mendibpng

(above) The fourth grade girls came to Ellie’s birthday party. Weeks before, Ellie asked me to help her plan the party, so we went online and chose a “Spy” Theme…although I did help her cut and paste clip art and ideas, she did all of the assembling of the invitations, decorations, etc. We agreed on games that wouldn’t take a lot of prep time too. She only needed minimal help to bake her cake (special cake mixes brought from Australia in Sept!) and to put the white icing on. She also did all the placements of the marshmallow fondant decorations. Here’s the rest of the story in her words. –Mandy
Before the party happened I made the cake. The picture shows me making it. On the cake it has a magnifying glass in the middle of it is a foot print.

That’s me! I love making funny faces. My dad and I decorated the haus win (gazebo) mostly with balloons and tablecloths. That’s mainly where the party took place. You can tell that I was really excited.
Here are my friends playing scavenger hunt. That was the first game we played. In this picture there is Amanda, Jasmine, and Alina. And my little brother and sister, Jacob and Jenny Beth.
Here’s me with my team. I wanted to get everyone so there’s more pictures. Right here is Tia, Judy, and me.
Now finally that’s all of them Anna and Rachel.
This was the next game, Murder Mystery. Someone is “it” and she touches someone while everyone is closing their eyes. The person that was just touched winks at people. Those people, or person, has to pretend to die, while the others find out who killed the other. And try not to be killed…
Oh no! I’M DEAD!!!
Next to me is my friend Judy. I read the first clue, so we could find other clues and find the cake. Everyone started charging up the stairs and into my room. Next we went into the living room where we found the last clue. After that we all started running to the place where we met.

After we had cake we started to dance to the music, and when the music stopped, we stopped… but it ended up as a balloon fight! We just started whacking each other with the balloons that were in the haus win. And if you found more balloons then you were lucky. I hope you enjoyed listening to this fun bday Spy Party story.

November 15, 2013

Thanksgiving is….stability for the kids

by mendibpng

The biggest benefit to being in one place for an extended period of time, aside from all of my own personal reasons, is that our kids are thriving. It’s not that they weren’t thriving before, but having months and months in one place affords a sense of Normal to their relationships to each other and to us. The older kids really give their younger siblings a richness to their every day experience. The little ones, in return, give the older ones a chance to maintain their childhood. When I came back from a run earlier this this week (on a day off from school), Noah and Ellie had made tents for Jacob and Jenny Beth out of blankets in the living room. Noah had set up a movie under the ‘boys tent’ and Ellie played dolls with JB in the ‘girl’s tent.’ Later the girls played hide and seek, and afterwards all four of them played with the army guys set. All of this happened without parental involvement or supervision. I don’t think my almost 10 year old and 12 year olds would stoop to those childish games if they didn’t have four year old siblings around. I love that!

Having stability has also given us a chance to address some underlying frustrations between the older set and the younger ones…the little ones nick off with the big kids’ stuff or generally do attention seeking things that drive the older ones crazy. We sat down for a family meeting a while ago and talked to the older kids about what was happening. Before we did this, Ben and I agreed that we should do the ‘say 2 positive things’ before addressing the problems, and I think that really helped. We also gave the kids time to say how they felt things were going and to talk about what bothered them the most, while we offered validation and perspective on their little siblings. We talked about strategies to handle stressful situations and in the following weeks, we’ve tried to encourage them to use those strategies. I often don’t like the results when we are trying to teach things under duress, which is usually all we can do when we are in constant transition. Having more time to deal with things regularly is really helpful!

In the recent months I’ve noticed moments of harmony that had been lacking for the last couple of years–our teenager actually seeking out and enjoying the company of his little siblings or all five kids doing something fun together at their own initiative, like a spontaneous dance party last week. There have been times when I’ve looked around my living room after school to find all of my children in the same place, just hanging out and talking to each other.

I love it.

I think, too, that all of the kids are thriving in school, not only because they are benefiting from the amazing school and teachers that they have, but also because they aren’t in transition so much. I’m not saying that we won’t put ourselves back into transition, or that we regret the life we’ve been called to, but I’m thankful for times like these–a ‘working sabbatical’ if I can call it that–where we’re giving ourselves time to enjoy stability.

September 14, 2013

“Stick with me Babe, I’ll take you to all the best places…”

by mendibpng



(Above) Jenny Beth on the airplane: she loved having a whole apple all to herself!

We left Papua New Guinea last week to take our twins to a pediatric dentist in Cairns, Australia. Our three oldest children stayed behind with friends.  All four of us faced a fairly big adjustment coming here, since none of us has been out of PNG for quite some time–especially Jacob and Jenny Beth. I found myself looking around nervously at night when walking down to the laundry room by myself (I would never walk anywhere alone in PNG!) and looking at the push button lock on my door–feeling a little unsafe, really, without a deadbolt! I still can’t help myself from turning the water off when I brush my teeth or while taking a shower. On the upside, it’s pure bliss to travel on really smooth roads, when the only ‘bump’ we feel is a speed bump near buildings or in busy areas.
The first day, we had no breakfast food so Ben took us to a sidewalk cafe’. Jacob and Jenny Beth had French toast with ice cream and bananas AND they were entertained by the cars driving by.

The dentist appointment on Thursday went really well. Jenny Beth had a bit of a hard time coming out of the general anesthesia but Jacob woke up more quickly. Thankfully, the dentist completed all of the work in one go, so we don’t need to go back. I didn’t realize until after the appointment was done how fatigued I felt leading up to it. The ‘not knowing’ must have been part of that. {Huge sigh of relief!}

So. What’s next? What do people do in Cairns when their medical things are done?? Since we have two three (nearly four!) year olds in tow, we have tried to balance going to parks/playgrounds/the beach with shopping. This is our only chance to get birthday and Christmas gifts for our kids as well as stock up on luxuries like herbal teas and spices.

We’ve been on the lookout for things that are overwhelming about the first world for our littlies so here are some of the things we’ve been teaching them:

  • You must wear shoes when we are out and about. We arrived at the mall yesterday only to realize that Jacob hadn’t worn any shoes at all in the car! Thankfully we ducked into a store and got him some $3 flip flops!
  • The proper way to ride an “alligator” (escalator) is wait until you see the step and then get on it right away. They tend to panic at the sight of it even though they love riding them!
  • Don’t sing loudly when in the grocery store or in a restaurant.
  • Look where you are going if walking in a mall full of people (we hardly ever walk anywhere where there are crowds of people!)
  • Don’t make loud comments about strangers In the first grocery store, whenever we passed someone, Jacob would say “do you think he saw us? Is he a bad guy?”
  • You can’t have everything you want in the store. Even though I warned Jenny Beth about all of the pretty things in the store (and that she couldn’t have it all!) she kept saying “pleeeeease, mama, can I have that? I LOVE it.”
  • Stay close to us (hold hands!) Again, we aren’t usually near large crowds in PNG.
  • Don’t pick things up off the [public] bathroom floor!! Oh my word!! I had forgotten public bathrooms!! We were leaving a pool when Jenny Beth asked to go to the potty…which was fine, but then she was touching everything, even some old band aids someone had left behind. I am sure the other women in the bathroom thought I was a teeny bit crazy!

I know this might sound like a huge list of ‘rules’ but it’s more me quietly telling them in their ears about this strange land we’ve come to. [With the exception of the bathroom one–I was trying hard not to shriek in public.] So far, they haven’t been put off by all the differences!

We have been enjoying some of the ‘perks’ of the first world, including fruit we haven’t had in a while (watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe, etc.) and food that we’ve either eaten out or at home.  When we had Indian food yesterday, I told Ben how fun it was, and he smiled really big and said, “stick with me, Babe, I’ll take you to the best places,” which is something he has said to me ever since we started dating.

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