Yes, it’s time–it’s Ask Me Monday! I know, I know, this is the one thing you look forward to all week, but you have to wait until Monday. Because Ask Me Wednesday just sounds silly.
This week’s Ask Me Monday comes from my beloved sister:
What fond childhood activities or treats (I.e. Bike riding, ICECREAM/popcicles, Saturday morning pancakes) have been able to maintain or had to alter or had to abandon for the sake of being overseas? (I know I’m not a missionary momma but I’m good at being curious!!)
Traditions are really important to me. I really struggled when we first moved here with feeling removed from my traditions. Many of my traditions were food-related, since food and culture go together like peanut butter and…well, you get it. Here’s how my life has changed in this regard in the last seven years:
*Saturday morning pancakes. I got a copy of the More with Less cookbook when David and I married, so that’s always been my go-to. The ingredients are easy to get, and it’s simple enough to make a big batch of the mix and have it ready to go…or at least, it was, until we went gluten-free and refined-sugar free. Can I just say that baking gluten-free overseas has to be one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever faced?! Even what’s available is often outside my budget. But I love the tradition so much, and I wanted my kids to remember eating pancakes with me…so after a LOT of trial and error, I do have a pancake recipe now using coconut flour. And even David will eat them. That’s saying something, folks.
*Friday pizza night. My mom gave me an amazing recipe, which I loved…until I tried Chicago-style pizza when I was at Wheaton. Some tweaking, some adjusting, and it was pretty close…and then, the gluten-free lifestyle hit. But again, we survived! I actually think this recipe is genius: it has good flavor and the ingredients are simple. However, it does require more cheese, so I know it may be out-of-reach for some. It doesn’t always have pepperoni (the deli guy was out! Don’t worry, my kids’ faces made him feel terrible about it), but thanks to my Whole30, I know how to make sausage, and that usually suffices. As some may recall, my cast iron pizza pan is one of the things I can’t live without overseas. Below, you can see the gluten version I make for my guy, who eats gluten-free dinners six days a week without complaint. He’s so great.
*Ice cream and popsicles. We make our own. It’s the best. I make a chocolate coconut milk ice cream that we all love, and the best part is that you don’t even need an ice cream maker! The coconut fat freezes really hard, so even if your freezer is a bit wimpy like mine, it still comes out solid. But I do have an ice cream maker, which I also love, partly because you only have to freeze the can–you can crank it by hand when it’s time to churn–and partly because it doesn’t require any special ingredients like rock salt. So nice. I got this book of ice cream recipes for Christmas one year, and the mango sorbet is seriously amazing. We also make popsicles with mangoes and passion fruit or peach juice (or kombucha if you’re a hippy like me) using this popsicle maker. I like the size of the pops since they’re small (and therefore make less of a mess when they get forgotten on kitchen table), but several sticks broke and they don’t seem to sell replacements. We cut down some drinking straws and were good to go. No one keeps mama from her popsicles.
*Carving pumpkins. We did that this year! The pumpkin was green! And it wouldn’t stand up on its own! But we did it!
*Riding bikes. Trisha had also asked a similar question about how we get outside and go for walks in the city. And the answer is…we kind of don’t. This has been one of the hardest things for me about living here. I’m the kind who would take off and go to Tryon Creek State Park just because during the week. I love the outdoors. There’s a large, walled property at a church near here, and they have a play structure that we go to…but since you have to drive to get there, we don’t go very often. We tried to take bikes, but the path was too rough. So we bike circles around the car in the garage. And you know what? My kids are happy with that. That’s all they really know. We go on imaginary hikes where we pretend that the dogs are bears and their pee puddles are rivers we have to cross. Just keeping it real, folks.
And for myself, I pick a 5K to run when I go on furlough. I even register as early as they’ll let me, because I can print out the logo and hang it above my treadmill and promise the part of me that’s suffocating that it will breathe again. And yes, I hear how dramatic that sounds. I don’t care.
I think it’s a valid way to talk to yourself. There’s going to be things you give up, even if it’s just for a season. If you can hold out hope, there’s a lot that you can get back…but it takes time, effort and creativity. I wasn’t doing all this when I first got here. My first Christmas in Haiti, my tree was a piece of string I laced between nails in a concrete wall in a triangle shape. But I hung ornaments on that thing like it was a Douglas Fir fresh from the farm. And now I have a fake tree that I mostly love.
Traditions are what make us feel at home. They’re hard to lose. Here’s some that I really miss:
*Driving around looking at Christmas lights at night. Not a thing here.
*Sledding. Snowball fights. Snowmen. Watching snow fall while drinking cocoa. Snow. Snow. Snow.
*Fourth of July picnic at the high school and fireworks that fill the sky.
*Being able to go to the library. Yes, that was a tradition in my house.
But new traditions also make us who we’re becoming and help us bond as a family. Here’s some new traditions that I really love:
*We play the Wii on Friday nights. All of us. It is often an exercise in patience, especially for the big people, but even my two-year-old can skydive.
*We look at the stars on our balcony. The kids have recently decided we should do this regularly before bed. Living in one of the darkest countries in the world has its benefits.
*Around Easter, we buy a kite. We stink at flying them, but it’s local thing, and it’s fun to try.
*We tape up paper snowflakes on our walls all winter long. This year, my four-year-old even helped me cut them out. Subsequently, some of them are purple.
*We make soup joumou, a spicy beef-pumpkin soup on New Year’s.
*We write in a special book to record moments at Christmas and Thanksgiving. They both have a page for each year, and the Christmas one has questions to answer and a place for pictures.
Don’t discount the new traditions that are out there, waiting to be discovered, things that will be uniquely yours as your kids get older. It’s ok to look for replacement traditions when the old ones just aren’t happening.
You’ve got this, mama.