Happy New Year from the Trotters in Cambodia! As usual, I’ve got lists of the best stuff from this month, including a Christmas section, a Third Culture Kid section, and a Home School section, so be sure to scroll through everything to find what you want. ~Elizabeth
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My family attended this play at one of the international high schools in town. It was the perfect way to kick off our Christmas season.
More regular dates with my husband. I am so much happier when I get away regularly to talk with my husband. And now that our oldest is of babysitting age, we can go to our favorite coffee shop (Joma) more often.
The Sparrow. Our co-op performed an original play based on the story of Robin Hood. It explored themes of power, oppression, and poverty, and the students themselves gave input into the script. I loved the community nature of kids and parents working together on a project and the way it empowered my kids, each in his or her own way.
The Moms. “The Moms” are the women of our home school co-op. They are kindred spirits. We share both the experience of cross-cultural living (which is a powerful bond in itself) and the daily experience of teaching our children. There is no one like these women, and time with them is sacred and holy (not to mention fun).
Rogue One. We watched this on our family Christmas outing and followed it up with ice skating at the mall. Rogue One was a good, funny story with no bad language, no gory battle scenes, and a strong non-sexualized female lead — two years in a row on that count for the Star Wars franchise.
Boxing Day. I was invited to a Boxing Day party at some friends’ house, and one of the things we did was sing Christmas carols, yes even the less well-known ones, AND all the verses (the host is apparently a verse snob like myself). Of course the feasting and conversations were fun too, but the highlight of the evening was the singing.
BOOKS, MAGAZINES, AND ONE PODCAST
I did not finish any of the books I began last month (maybe next month??), but here are the best things I did read and listen to this month.
Poppy by Avi. This story about a brave, intelligent little mouse is funny, adventurous, and fast. This was my first Avi book, but I might be hooked now.
Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales. I love Beatrix Potter, don’t you? But I recently realized I hadn’t ever read them to my girls. So we cracked open this treasury and read them aloud this month. Truly, Beatrix is as delightful as ever. In fact, I think her work is even richer for adults than it is for children.
Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson. We think Grandma’s Attic books are better than Caddie Woodlawn (which we read in November) and the Little House books (which got me hooked on reading as a child). These stories are filled with the misadventures of Mabel O’Dell, and practically every chapter has us laughing. We read them years ago but revisited them this month.
The Man Who Lit The Dark Web by Charles Graeber in Popular Science. When I finished reading this article, I said to myself: THIS is the most important story in this magazine, not the Mark Zuckerberg whose famous face graces the cover and who wants to change the world by immersing us all in virtual reality, but the man who discovered the atrocities of human trafficking while fighting terror in the Middle East and whose subsequent journey led him to organize teams of coders and computer scientists to more efficiently and effectively fight the sale of human flesh. I don’t know if this man (Chris White) is a believer or not, but this is the kind of work that pushes back the Darkness, and I’m thankful for it.
The Eternal Argument on the Bibliophiles podcast. More big ideas to chew on from the people at Center for Lit.
POEMS AND POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS
Don’t Ask Me About My Christmas Traditions by Amy Medina. Simply perfect.
Reflections on a Christmas Poem by Adam Andrews. Read the poem by Anne Ridler.
Immensity Draws Near for the Sake of Love by Missy Andrews. Again, read that poem. This one’s by John Donne. (By the way, Adam and Missy Andrews lead the Bibliophiles podcast at Center for Lit.)
Sounding the Seasons by Malcolm Guite. As you know I’m really into poetry these days. It really is the densest and most efficient form of language, beautiful and soothing and searing all at once. You’re gonna want a hard copy of this book. But the following poems aren’t just good for Advent, they’re worthy prayers the whole year long.
O Sapienta (Wisdom)
O Adonai (Lord and Master)
O Radix (Root of Jesse)
O Clavix (Key of David)
O Oriens (Dayspring)
O Rex Gentium (King of Nations)
(The Latin ‘O Antiphons’ were the basis for the hymn ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel.’)
A new musical version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by the ethereal Audrey Assad.
THIRD CULTURE PEOPLE STUFF
I Signed Up For This by Anisha Hopkinson. So good!!
Moving abroad will fix all of your issues . . . . and other lies by Jerry Jones. Funny (par for the course with Jerry) and true. Reminds me of Marilyn Gardner’s You Take Yourself With You (And Other Important Things About Living Overseas), which is also worth a re-read if you have time.
You and me: teen sweethearts on a wild 20 years together in the Kingdom, an article in the Phnom Penh Post about a married couple I’m acquainted with here in town. Such a sweet story, and describes so well the importance of Third Culture Kids connecting with other Third Culture Kids.
Nobody Knows by the Lumineers. I heard this song in the movie Pete’s Dragon. My kids have been watching this movie for a while, but I had never taken the time to watch it until recently. Its themes of longing and belonging surprised me, and its soundtrack is sublime — make sure you also check out Something Wild by Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon (but skip the official music video as it alters the meaning somewhat, and just stick to the lyrics video I linked to).
Anyway, back to ‘Nobody Knows.’ Something about the folksy sound of this song drew me in, and then of course, there are the lyrics: “Nobody knows how to say goodbye, seems so easy till you try.” It’s so true — missionaries often need to receive special training in how to say goodbye well. Or what about this line: “Nobody knows how to get back home. We set out so long ago. Search the heavens and the earth below, nobody knows how to get back home.” Words for a global nomad if ever I saw any.
This month I was also privileged to read and review an advance copy of Marilyn Gardner’s upcoming book Passages Through Pakistan. Marilyn is a writing friend and Third Culture Kid who grew up in Pakistan. Although on the surface my TCK story diverges widely from hers, I found myself relating to so much in this book. I cried a lot, and laughed some too. I also got a kick out of how she told her story chronologically while also arranging the chapters around forms of transportation. Such a clever writing device. I’ll share my official review on here when the book gets closer to publication!
In Remembrance of Me, a communion song by Cheri Keaggy. This song was in my head a lot this month. Personally, I think Free Indeed did this song better a cappella, but I can’t find their version, so you’ll have to settle for Cheri’s own version. Such beautiful lyrics.
The Creed by Hillsong. Yes, I’ve shared this song before, but this month when we sang it in worship, I was struck all over again how crucial these beliefs are to our lives and faith, and how important it is to repeat them again and again to our children (and to ourselves), to talk about them when we are at home and when we are on the road, when we are going to bed and when we are getting up.
Everything We Need by the group Acappella. These lyrics are straight out of 2 Peter 1:3, and I grew up on them. I just happened to hear it again as we were sharing some of our Acappella CDs with our kids on a car trip. And I really needed the reminder.
The Final Word by Michael Card. There’s no one like Card for theological richness and depth. He’s kind of like Malcolm Guite — a theologian and poet who turns phrases in such a way that I instinctively know they’re true, even though the words and ideas are new. Read his lyrics here.
BITS OF SCRIPTURE AND CREATION THAT CAUGHT MY EYES
“Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”
(You can read why it impacted me so much here.)
The ministry of Does God Exist publishes bits of information on different aspects of creation. These links are about the beautiful lotus flower, which is considered sacred here in the East. Its self-cleaning abilities have inspired scientists. It’s also a very hardy plant.
PARENTING AND HOME SCHOOL STUFF
And while we’re on the subject of pithy wisdom, check out my old camp counselor Laura Hamm Coppinger’s excellent (and funny) post Don’t Buy Stuff.
Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I’m nearly done working through this book. Occasionally it makes homeschooling feel like a too-heavy spiritual burden that my husband and I have to carry all alone, but most of the time it lifts the burdens. A few big takeaways:
- Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and it is going to require sacrifice. (I have found this to be true; homeschooling is a job, and I am a full-time working parent, apart from any outside ministry I might add to it. Accepting at the outset that lifestyle changes will have to be made is helpful for coping with those changes.)
- If you think homeschooling is a burden and not a blessing, then you are not free. (I have been on various points on this spectrum and know this statement to be true. I’m currently and have been mostly in a place where I think it’s a blessing, but I know the other side, and it’s not fun.)
- As homeschoolers we do not have to follow the educational systems of institutions. (A good reminder as I tend toward scholastic snobbery even as I struggle to keep up with the workload I’ve assigned myself. My children’s education does not need to look like mine!)
- The book also reaffirmed our family’s choices to read lots of books, both together and alone. (That was basically nice confirmation of what we already do.)
I also re-read Sarah Mackenzie’s much more accessible Teaching From Rest this month. One reviewer says she the book is a quarterly read for her, and it may become so for me too. But do yourself a favor and get a hard copy. Kindle is only second best in this case.
(For future homeschoolers I also always recommend Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum as it explains all the relevant educational approaches and helps you choose one based on your and your kids’ personalities.)
I’ve processed the educational and mothering ideas in these books in various forms here on the blog too:
Home School Burnout Part 1: Unrealistic Expectations (the first in a 4-part series)