Friday, July 18, 2014

Parenting in a new culture

So now I'm a parent.... in Indonesia. And the biggest stressor in my life is still raising two littles, rather than cultural adjustment. It's interesting trying to figure out this parenting thing, though, in a new culture. I was very relieved when Judah's little four year old friend Khansa from across the street threw a total fit and was dragged back to her house by her Dad. It was the first time I've seen a kid here throw a fit! I have felt like Indonesian kiddos rarely fuss, and our toddler is super fussy, so.... that's fun. 

Perhaps the biggest cultural stress for me is actually the way Indonesians comment constantly on your kids and parenting. It's partly just the way they make small talk. They comment constantly on your state of being at the moment - what's in your hand, the child you're holding, the direction you seem to be heading, where you're coming from. In the US we talk about plans for the day, what you'll be doing or at how work is. My teachers have discouraged us from asking people what they will do that day, "They don't have plans. They are not like Americans. They will do things that day but they don't have a plan. And you don't ask what they are going to do at work, because you already know. They are going to work. Nothing more." Such a different mentality than the West!

In any case, because they comment on my being at the moment and I am usually out with one or both kiddos, my neighbors comment constantly on my kids. In the US we take those comments very personally, as criticism. I'm less likely to be offended but very likely to be insecure, especially since I generally feel like I don't know what I'm doing anyways! I am, however, fully soaked in the Western medical perspective that we get sick when we are exposed to germs, and therefore that my kids are sick because they are exposed to new germs.  My neighbors, teachers, everyone is absolutely convinced that both of my kids have been pathetically sick this week because:

1) I do not cover them up, they are too cold. "Masuk angin" or "the wind has entered" them. Elly regularly wears onesies (it's regularly 80-90 degrees and very humid), and even though I've taken to putting her in pants and then long sleeves to assuage their worries, they still worry about her lack of socks or a hat. I just cannot win!

2) We take walks at night. They're clearly getting cold and .... masuk angin. Poor kids, their parents should keep them inside!

3) It was really windy out for a couple of days, which clearly caused a lot of sickness, but then we took our kids out in it without being fully covered so.... masuk angin.

4) I give the kids baths (though not often enough - kids here are bathed at least twice a day), but afterwards I don't put on this warming oil stuff that is ubiquitous here. Minyak telon. It's not so different than the essential oils movement in the US (insert my skeptical face here) but includes an oil that has a slight warming like icy-hot does. So - it warms the body. As soon as Elly got sick our child-minder starting putting minyak telon on her all the time. Because... masuk angin.

I tried to explain to my child minder and a neighbor that in the US we believe that the kids get  sick from being exposed to new...... they jump in, nod sympathetically, and say, "Yes, they have been exposed to new temperatures and are still getting used to the weather here." I mentioned that we would keep our kids inside to keep them from exposing other kids or being exposed when a sickness is going around, and they looked at me blankly. But then I posted about this on facebook and had friends living around the world say that it's the same where they are... so maybe the US is missing something?

I seriously can't go out with a kid without having their lack of appropriate attire being commented on. So, I am trying to understand that here people parent in community rather than as individuals, and I should be unoffended. I am also dressing Elly in longer clothes and making Judah wear shoes outside of our gate (going barefoot is NOT okay here, that's a Papuan thing, and we are not in Papua yet). 

My mom helped prepare me for some of the communal parenting mentality, particularly the way they will sweep Elly away, walk off with her, and I'm not supposed to worry! It's great in some ways. They really care for kids here, and so unlike some other cultures, we never fear for our kids safety when they are with Indonesians. Or at least, we don't need to! I am trying to appreciate instead of worry. When we're shopping with two kids and a store employee takes Elly to the other side of the store, just be incredibly thankful that I am able to shop.  When we are eating and the restaurant owners take Elly to the kitchen, just be thankful I can eat in peace. And in the past couple of days, when two neighbors took Elly and told me to go home and get things done and pick her up later, I had to tell myself to treat it like a free babysitter/grandma, and just take advantage of it. I AM thankful! It's also SO DIFFERENT than what is okay in the US.

As for fussiness, well, I have no solution. At three and a half Judah is excessively fussy and other than just continuing to discipline and guide him, I am at a loss! I'll take tips from any culture for that one! Thing is, I can't discipline him publicly, it's very inappropriate. Our child-minder is also not likely to discipline - kids are pampered until ... well, I'm not sure what age. In any case, it means the hours we are all at home together are pretty intensive in boundary and rule setting and enforcing to try to counter the times when we're out or he is watched by our helper. Thus... the hours we are at home are exhausting for me.

It's the end game, right? It IS worth it because this stage will end and it will result in a more mature and disciplined child, right?

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Hi friends. I just wanted you all to know that I have been blogging at

WE ARE FINALLY IN INDONESIA! That link is a site set up for those that are supporting and praying for us and our work overseas, and we are trying to keep the up to date with our lives and transition. The very best time to write about how different your life is is when the differences are new and you are freshly processing. So, for now, I'm primarily writing there. I'll be back here eventually! I have several draft posts from our travels I will post.

A few random comments:

- I am in the honeymoon stage of adjustment. After the initial week of jet lag, culture shock, and general disorientation, I have settled into, "I cannot believe I get to live here." I drink it in. I hate to talk about it, though, because those around me in language school are in other stages of frustration, loneliness, and sometimes even depression.

- In the US I had to force myself to be social a lot of the time. Here, at least at the beginning, I am out every chance I get, eagerly chatting with anyone who will chat with me. That may change with time, but it does also speak to the fact that I am very comfortable being a foreigner, and much less comfortable in my own people group.

- I am super thankful to have a head start on the language. I don't particularly like challenges, so being at the point where I have some but also have the vision of being very fluent and competent eventually makes me super motivated to learn. I am loving it.

- My three year old. Ya'll. Mothering a toddler makes me feel like a bad mom. Whew. It wears you down, the constant discipline of this stage. God help me, in complete seriousness, love and guide my child well. Doesn't help that it feels like Indonesian kids rarely fuss, and my toddler is excessively fussy.

- It's Ramadan. And we are in the midst of national Presidential elections. And the World Cup. It's been a really big first few weeks here.

Below - the entrance to our house. It looks like we're in the middle of pure greenery, but we're actually surrounded by other houses.... there's just so much green you can't tell! Our area is on the outskirts of town, with some relatively wealthy families and some very poor families around. We love the neighborhood and are getting to know our neighbors. 

Anyways - follow us over at the other blog for stories of transitioning to Indonesia.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On Looking For Online Community (and Xanga Nostalgia)

I am guilty of romanticizing the past. In this case, I romanticize Xanga. Remember it? The first big blogging platform? The blog you can't remember the password for but is probably still there somewhere in the interwebs, set on private?

Xanga is where I started blogging, to keep up with friends and then just as a way to write about life. What kept me going and pulled me in, though, was not just the blank web page to fill with words, but the community. I think that's what made Xanga great in its day. A ton of people were on it and, like Facebook, you were able to see friend's new posts pop up, see when someone had replied to a comment, and generally be notified of communication so you you could communicate back. Because of that, I got to know the bloggers I followed and even though I don't think any of us are on Xanga anymore, those Internet friends because just... friends... we keep in touch and I forget that I've never actually met them.

And that, friends, is what is frustrating me about blogging these days. Things have changed. Some of the bloggers that I read back in the day have become actual professional writer/bloggers that are writing books. The rest rarely post or have shut down completely. It feels like blogging has moved on to business, and the day when it was used mostly by people like me, just your average Jane looking to write about life, feels like it's passing.

I blog to write about life and process, but at the moment it's missing something. It's missing community. I don't want to write in a vacuum. I want to communicate, to be in a "neighborhood" of people also writing about life. It's not that I want a ton of followers, I just wish for interaction, you know?

Commenting is a problem. Everyone has different blog platforms and we all are trying to guard against spam comments, and so you have sign up for various comment systems, or fill in captchas, or sign in with your facebook or twitter account. Thing is, I follow a good amount of blogs, and chances are that if you're reading this and have a blog, I read yours. But I probably don't comment, or at least you don't think I do, because it happens ALL THE TIME that I try to comment on blogs and get errors or it won't go through, and I give up because I didn't have anything all that important to say anyways.

So, I miss the days of xanga, when it was easy to comment and was notified of replies automatically.

Social media is not my only community, and certainly in-person community is more important, but I do think that we look for community in just about everything we do (sports, jobs, church, hobbies, etc). If I blog, I would like to blog within a community of bloggers.  I feel like the community aspect of blogging is dropping, and I miss it. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

10 Favorite Baby Gear Recommendations - Especially for Living Small and On a Budget

This is a list of my favorite baby gear, now that we've been through it two times. It's especially geared to people living small, on a budget, and on the go. Also, I buy nearly everything from craigslist or places like Once Upon a Child.

1. Vibrating Bouncers (bed for the early months!)
We have had one of these for each baby. In the first months, both of our kids were soothed to sleep and kept asleep a lot better when the vibration was on. Because of that and because they are so portable and small, our babies primarily slept in these right next to my side of the bed for the first few months. I could feed them and then lay them down easily without getting out of bed. Perfect for the exhausted early weeks! I always wanted to try the Fisher Price Rock n Play, but never got the chance.

2. Sling
There are a couple of months at the beginning when baby is too little for just about any carrier (didn't like the Ergo infant insert). I was rescued by a sling, where I could put baby in and out quickly and take it on and off quickly (the Moby is WAY too complicated, IMHO). I had one I found at Once Upon a Child, but I really envied mommas with a ring sling.

3. Baby Carrier
Babies sometimes just want to be held. That either means you get nothing done and die of frustration, or you use a baby carrier. For me, with both babies, that has been the Baby Bjorn. Someone gave me a used one with my first baby, and despite trying other options I keep coming back to the Bjorn. Why? First, because it fastens in the front, so I can (with a little skill) put it on with just one hand. Secondly, because the baby can be front facing. Both of my kiddos wanted to look around and fussed when I put them in facing me. The Bjorn was perfect. I will use an Ergo in Indonesia now that Elly is 6 months and we need to take her on a motorcycle, but the Bjorn is all I've used up until now.

4. Miracle Blanket
I swear by swaddling. Both of my babies calmed down and slept longer when swaddled. As the weeks passed, they learned that being swaddled and given a paci meant sleep time. I love the Miracle Blanket. It wraps and stays well without anything velcro, and the babies look like little burritos. (Note - Elly is in a Boppy in the photo, but really that was an item we barely ever used)

5. Medela Pump and Bottles
I ended up having to pump with both kids, first time around because I went back to work and second time because my daughter had a cleft palate. The Medela Pump in Style Advanced is top of the line, and I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I was given a bunch of used Dr. Brown's bottles but I didn't like them because of all the extra pieces. I've also tried a few other kinds, but I ended up getting full Medela bottle systems because then it integrates well with the pump. The only other brand I wanted to try was Tommy Tippee, but having to pour from pumping bottles to baby's bottles is just one extra step and extra dishes to do. Also recommended: hands free pumping bra and Target's Up and Up milk storage bags (much stronger than medela or lansinoh brand bags).

6. Play Mat
I didn't think a play mat would be important, but it is. Although there are only a couple of months where you child plays with it, it's a crucial developmental stage where they are learning to reach, use hand eye coordination to grab things, and can only really do so with things directly overhead. Sometimes you can sit and play with them, but a play mat allows for a lot more free play time.

7. Johnny Jumper
I don't see these around a lot anymore, but we got just as much mileage out of our old hand me down Johnny Jumper as we did out of the play mat. Once kids can sit they want to move but can't really yet. The jumper lets them develop leg strength, be a little independent, look around, and be totally adorably excited. So fun. Before you get one, make sure you have a door frame you can put it on. We had one apartment without frames around the openings between rooms, so there was nothing for the jumper to hold on to.

8. Bumbo
We have an old one without the tray or strap, so it's probably not safe, but it's safe enough for me! This is great as they learn to sit up because it provides so much support around them. Again - allows you to get some things done without holding the kiddo (am I sensing a theme here?). I set up my daughter in the kitchen and then make dinner. As long as she can see me and isn't too tired, she's generally okay to sit for a while.

9. Stroller
For a stroller, definitely start with a snap-n-go and a car seat that pulls out and snaps into the snap-n-go. This allows you to have a sleeping kiddo stay asleep as you transfer them in and out of the car, to church, the store, wherever. It's also light-weight and easy to open and fold up. It fits into any car.

Eventually you want a real stroller. Well, we couldn't ever afford the nice ones I wanted to try (Bob), but got a lot of mileage out of a very very old and ugly jogging stroller that we used for family walks in the country. Before living in the country, a jogging stroller would have been useless. Other than that, we just used a cheap umbrella stroller until it died, and that was just fine. Small and portable is what you want most places anyways! Now that we have two kids, we are loving the Baby Trend Sit N. Stand. It's the lightest and easiest stroller for two that we've found.

10. Bed
Like I said, our kiddos start off in a bouncer. Because of our small space, we have never had a bed. First we used a Pack N Play, one with a changer on it too. That was really nice for our mobile lifestyle, because Judah was used to it being his bed, and didn't have trouble falling asleep in it when we traveled. With Elly we used a Contours Bassinet. 

I found it on craigslist and have loved it, it's even fairly cheap new. It is a moses basket that can be carried from room to room, and it sets inside a standing bassinet that is super cute. Below are storage baskets, on the side is a diaper stacker, and stashed underneath is a changer that you pull out and set on top of it all. We have used all aspects of it and it fits perfectly in the corner of our very small space.