Movie Night

Literature and common sense tells us that when we raise our kids overseas, there are some important things we as parents can do to help them feel a sense of "home" and family.  Maggie and Ben (etc) will definitely be Third Culture Kids, meaning kids who grow up in a culture that is not their parents' culture, and yet they will be different than the kids growing up in their new culture (e.g. Burundian kids).  Because of this, there can be some potential identity issues.  So, one thing we can do as parents is to form family traditions.  This often shows up at times like the holidays.  Every year we...fill in the blank (decorate the tree, hang stockings, eat a certain kind of cookie, etc).  Or, every night we have family devotions.  Or some such thing.

Well, one thing I remember from my childhood was Sunday night movie night.  This may or may not have happened quite as often as I remember it happening, but in my mind, every Sunday night we as a family would gather around the TV to watch Wonderful World of Disney and eat popcorn/fruit/cheese for dinner on a picnic blanket.  And who says 3 and 1 yr olds are too young to start watching weekly movies? :)

So for the past 3 months or so, almost every Sunday night we have had movie and popcorn night for dinner. We started with the Sound of Music (it took us 3 wks since we only watch about an hour at a time), and followed it up with the Incredibles, Nemo, Ratatouille (right before our Paris vacation), Cars, Kung Fu Panda, and Bolt, among a few others.  The kids have LOVED it!  It's also been interesting for Eric and me to figure out what kind of movies are appropriate for our sensitive almost 4 yr old daughter...most Disney movies are actually too scary for her at this stage (the above picture was taken during a more "intense" scene in Finding Nemo--she is very sober and we had to continually encourage her that the shark does NOT eat Nemo's daddy and everything WILL be ok!).

It's also been fun for me not to have to plan this meal every week...microwave popcorn is usually found at one of the grocery stores in town, cut up some cheese and fruit, and voila!  It can't be that unhealthy, right? :)  We're hoping to keep the tradition going in Burundi, although we might have to get creative with movies to watch since there is no Wonderful World of Disney every week.  I think back to my favorites from childhood...Annie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Parent Trap, Pollyanna, etc...and hope that someday we can get a chance to enjoy these classics.


Toilet Paper Roll Art Projects

One day, Rachel told me she was saving a few toilet paper rolls, because "you never know when they'll be good for something with the kids."

So I took that idea, and drew 4 Sesame Street characters on them one day.  They were a huge hit, and Ben in particular liked to "wear" them like little gaudy cardboard wristbands, as he went around playing with other things.  So I did a few more, and Maggie enjoyed planning which character would be next.  

One day, she called out to me from the bathroom, holding an empty toilet paper roll, but instead of "Daddy, we need more toilet paper!" she excitedly said "Daddy, look!  The Count!" (our next planned character that day)  They have never seen an episode of Sesame Street, so this is good American education.

This led to the second project.  We love advent, but had neither wreath nor calendar this year.  So we asked our neighbors to save their rolls, and throughout advent, I would create characters from the Bible, and we would use them as props to tell various parts of the Christmas story.  We started with the Annunciation with just Mary, Joseph, and Gabriel.  Then we added an innkeeper and a donkey, and so on.  The kids really enjoyed it, and here was the finished ensemble: 

Over the holidays, my aunt and uncle gave Maggie and Ben a HUGE sticker book with Thomas the train characters and even stickers of rails and props for making your own tracks.  So, on returning to France (since the rolls keep coming, after all), we took to taping the stickers onto the rolls, and one afternoon made a map of Sodor on the back of an old poster.  Both kids enjoy it a lot.  One of Maggie's favorite activities is to line the engines up and flip the poster over to use as a "blanket" to put the engines down for their naps. 
We have a LOT of toilet paper rolls all over our house now...

Felt fairly creative until we visited a friend here who is making a to-scale model of the nearby chateau out of...gingerbread.  Very detailed and pretty awe-inspiring.


Christmas in Phoenix

The last time we celebrated Christmas in 2012, really!  We headed to Phoenix the evening of the 28th and made it just in time to catch the tail end of my cousin Josiah's rehearsal dinner (the wedding was the next day, the 29th).  The kids were tired but slept in until 5am, who could ask for anything more? :)

The next morning we opened gifts with my mom, brother Eric, and his wife Haidee (who had arrived from Japan a few days earlier for the wedding).  Fluffy wings, books, and some fun wooden toys were all highlights from Grandma.

Ben and Maggie also got some new music from Uncle Eric and Aunt Haidee:  Sesame Street and Raffi.  Classics!
 Uncle Eric was more than willing to engage in Maggie's favorite pasttime of reading books.  Both look entertained here...
 Eric and Haidee also got us some unique gifts from Japan.  Toe socks for me...
 ...and some "classic" Japanese fashion for Eric.  I guess a lot of people wear shirts with inspirational messages in English which are quite humorous (unintentionally).  Here is Eric's.  I love the "budge not inch" line.

Then a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception.  Congrats to Josiah and his new wife Rachel!  Now we have 2 Rachels and 2 Erics in the family.  Excellent.

We all got married!  And celebrated our respective anniversaries: Haidee and Eric (1, Dec 30), Eric and me (7, Dec 31), Josiah and Rachel (0!, Dec 29), and Nathan and Heather (4, Jan 3).

The next few days were spent relaxing, shopping, celebrating New Year's (we decided to celebrate at 4pm since that's when France turned over the calendar), and visiting with some of Eric's very good friends from college (kids' table, below).

In all, too short of a visit, but still fun and we wouldn't have missed it for the world!


Best of 2012

A few "Best Of" choices from 2012:


  • A Praying Life by Paul Miller.  This book is utterly unique among books I have read on prayer and has probably impacted me the most.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  Best Newbery we read this year
  • Josh Garrels.  I started listening to this guy in January, and my only regret is not posting a blog sooner to tell everyone to download his record Love & War & The Sea In Between while it was still free.  He is both musically and lyrically the most interesting new Christian artist I have heard in several years.
  • Light for the Lost Boy by Andrew Peterson.  No surprise there, but still excellent.
  • The Long Surrender by Over The Rhine, my favorite song still being "Only God Can Save Us Now".
  • Babel by Mumford & Sons
  • Les Misérables, my gosh that was great.