Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Category: The Move

The Healthy Eaters Guide to Lindt Truffles

Lindt LINDOR Truffles

Before moving to America three years ago, I thought I ate well. I thought I ate clean. Weet-Bix for breakfast, salads or salad sandwiches for lunch. Lots of fruit. Dinner was variations of meat and three veg, cooked from scratch. There were no prepackaged sauces or meat products in my home. Well done, me. Thank you for your congratulations. Disappointingly, not long after arriving in America I discovered that I was not as healthy as I first thought. Apparently there was this “crazy” fad in America: organic food. Food grown without pesticides. I was resistant. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt chocolate truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty.

After a year or so my new friends made me feel guilty helped me to realize that it really wasn’t very healthy to ingest poisons designed to kill bugs. So I joined an organic co-op. Yay, me. Thank you again for your congratulations. I had now arrived at the pinnacle of healthy eating. I was organic (most of the time). Then I came across this article. It told me that I was not as healthy as I thought. We were consuming too much added sugar in our snack food and sugar is bad. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

Once I recovered from my sugar coma, I set to work eliminating added sugar from our diet. This proved difficult. Apparently sugar is in everything. And if there isn’t sugar, there is corn syrup. I read in this article that corn syrup is worse than sugar. I felt worse. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

I refused to be discouraged. This would not defeat me. The first step was to eliminate the worst of the two evils: corn syrup. I began to read the back of labels. I was informed. But removing corn syrup drastically reduced snack options. We were healthier though, and I was in control. There was no need to resort to Lindt truffles.

And yet, we weren’t totally clean. There was still unwanted sugar in our snack food. We eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, but children have to have crackers with their snack, right? It came to me. I would create my own crackers. I would bake lavash bread. It would be deliciously crunchy. It would be great for dipping in hummus. It had good grains. It had flax, oat bran, and whole wheat. It was healthy. And then I read this article. It told me soy is bad. What do I find in the lavash bread’s ingredient list? Soy protein, soy flour, and soy oil. Oh, and it’s a carbohydrate. And apparently they’re bad too. I am overwhelmed.

There is only one solution.

Treasured Memories

Mother & Daughter

Photo credit: Sjoerd Lammers

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but one year, while still in primary school (elementary school), I went to stay with my grandparents for a couple of days. I loved staying at their house. Pa spent almost all day in his garage listening to his AM radio, reading the paper, and tinkering with his woodworking stuff.  Nan pottered around in the house and her garden. This particular year I had a special project I wanted to do for my mum’s birthday and I needed Nan and Pa’s help while I stayed with them. I wanted to make my mum a jewelry box decorated with the shells that I had collected from the beach. Pa helped me make the box. He showed me how to glue and nail the sides, and how to apply the stain once the box was assembled. Nan then helped me line the inside of the box with beautiful red velvet, and we then glued the shells around the outside. It looked fantastic. Mum loved it. She still has it all these years later and still speaks of how precious it is to her.

A couple of months ago, my mum came to visit us from Australia for the first time. It had been three years since I had seen her face to face. That is a long time between hugs.

Having such a lengthy absence from family is difficult. There is a sense of separation from our day to day lives. As helpful as Facebook and technology are in keeping loved ones involved and up to date with what is happening, they can’t perfectly replace actually being there in each other’s lives. The benefit of a lengthy absence, however, is that when you are together, you are more intentional about your time. So during this 6-week visit, we made the most of it.  We went to Disney World, a life long dream of my mother’s. We went to Kennedy Space Center, visited parks and springs, went to our favorite restaurants, and introduced her to our favorite people. She met her newest grandson for the first time and helped us celebrate his first birthday. She was here for Easter lunch, and I was able to spoil her for her birthday. These were very special moments—moments I will treasure.

Amazing as these outings and activities were, they are not the highlight of her visit for me. It was the time spent at home with her that I will treasure most. Mum spent many, many hours with my children. She taught them to make scones, she read them stories, and they baked hot cross buns for Easter. She made dolls with the girls out of wool. She taught my oldest to design and sew cushion covers on a sewing machine. She wrote songs on the piano with my musically inclined middle daughter. She baked cupcakes with and read stories to my youngest girl, and had lots and lots of cuddles and outside adventures with my toddler son.

Mum spent time enriching my children’s lives with the skills and knowledge that her grandmother had passed on to her. These are the moments I treasure in my heart, just as my mum cherishes that jewelry box I made with my grandmother all those years ago.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Missing you already and I look forward our next visit together.

What are your treasured memories of your mum?

Reflections on a Year Abroad

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Not long ago we hit the first anniversary of our move from Australia to the U.S. I can’t believe it has been a year already. Time has flown by and yet so much has happened in one year it’s hard to keep it all straight. So what do I think and how do I feel after a year of living in Florida? Well, the short answer is I still can’t believe we are here.

I still marvel at how perfectly God prepared us for our move to the U.S. Moving half way across the world to a place we’ve never been, to live and work with people we’ve never met has the potential to provide an array of challenges. And yet God was preparing us, even before it was an idea in somebody’s mind (which is a blog post all on its own), so that the challenges we faced were not as difficult as they might have been.

The biggest challenge was, obviously, moving away from family. In the year that we’ve been here there has been a baby born, a wedding, birthdays without all the family there, and tragic events. In all these circumstances I have not been able to be involved with and offer my support in the way that I’d like. I haven’t got to hold my first nephew or be there to give he and his sister their birthday presents from their adoring Aunty. I haven’t been able to give a hug when family was sad. This has been hard.

And yet God has reduced the impact of those separations by supplying technologies that allow us to communicate face to face with our loved ones. I have cried with, face to face, those that are sad and going through a tough time. I have seen and heard my nephew coo and ga and cry and make all those cute little noises that babies make. I was able to attend a wedding via FaceTime (albeit a little groggy at 3am in the morning). I have seen the new chooks wondering around Grandpa’s back yard. We have still been able to share in those everyday moments. Obviously it’s not the same as physically being there, but it has reduced the sting of separation a great deal.

As well as still being able to be involved in our families lives, God has also brought people into our lives who love us and invite us to share in their lives. These friendships that we have developed since being here are such a blessing. Wonderful godly people who generously give of themselves to meet our needs. Whether it be with a meal, an ear to listen, babysitting the kids so we can have a date night, advice and explanation when we are unsure about something, and just generally supporting us.

I have found Americans, on the whole, to be extremely polite. It has taken me some time to get used to being called “Ma’am.” They always hold the door open for you, always say “you’re welcome” and service people in stores and restaurants always do their best to help you and serve you with a smile (except maybe at Walmart ;)). “Sir” and “Ma’am” are slowly making their way into my vocabulary although using them still does not come naturally to me and knowing the appropriate time to use them I have also found challenging. I will have to teach this etiquette to my children but not really sure how to yet. I might need some lessons!

This past year was an election year in the States. This, although not in a big way, probably presented me with the greatest culture shock that I have experienced since being here. I greatly admire the conviction that many displayed as they fervently discussed the issues, wearing their political heart on their sleeve as it were. Yet I am more of a “keep my opinions to myself” and the typical Aussie “She’ll be right mate” kind of person. This election seemed to be extremely emotive, which I found to be a little overwhelming at times. Something I’m sure I’ll get used to as I continue to acclimate (a new word I had never heard before coming to America) to life here.

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I am constantly amazed by how beautiful it is here. Sure, there are areas, like anywhere, that are not so nice, but on the whole it is very lovely. There are so many springs and national parks, and trees, trees, and more trees! It seems to me that developers have taken a lot of pains to create neighborhoods that are pretty, pleasant, and peaceful. Tree conservations are everywhere and so are the birds. Bright red cardinals, majestic hawks and cute little wrens. We have just moved and our new house backs onto a tree conservation. It is very pretty and a wonderful place to provide a Charlotte Mason education. After a year I still marvel at how God provides for our every need and often our wants, including a house with a tree conservation, something that was a huge desire of mine to aid in our nature studies.

We had the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country when we went on a road trip in the middle of last year. We went to Memphis, St Louis, Lafayette, Washington DC and Charlston. Each place was unique, and as we drove through 17 states we were thrilled to see so much of the farming countryside, the spectacular mountains as we drove to DC, and the amazing architecture of DC. I can’t wait to go back. Later in the year we explored further south, to Miami and The Everglades. This country offers so much to see I can’t wait for the next road trip. Oh, and there’s Disney. Need I say more?

So how do I feel about the first year in this country? Extremely blessed. It is a wonderful part of the world and a wonderful people. A year ago we had no idea what was in store for us or if we would even like it here. But I am pleased to say that God has abundantly met our needs and our affection for this country grows the longer we spend in it. So come visit sometime.

Preparing My Children for the Big Goodbye

Preparing to move to the U.S. from Melbourne, Australia was a daunting task. There were many, many things that needed to get done, organised, and prepared.

My husband’s job was to organize getting our passports, visas, aeroplane tickets, and any other legal stuff that needed to be done so we could live in America. My job was to organize all the material stuff necessary to move. It was also really important to me to prepare the children as best as I could for the massive change—to help them understand that their grandparents wouldn’t be around the corner, so to speak, and that they’d be leaving their friends and making new ones.

Thankfully my children were still very young (5, 3 and 2 years at the time) so the change for them was not as difficult as it might have been had they been older. Even so, change is still hard for anybody and preparation was important if the adjustment to a new country, culture, neighbourhood, and church community was going to be smooth.

So these are some of the steps we took to prepare them.

  • We talked a lot about how exciting it will be to go on a plane. And not just one plane, but three! This was their first time on an aeroplane so this was all they talked about and couldn’t wait till it was time.
  • We talked about how it was an amazing adventure to somewhere we’ve never been before. We would be explorers! We would explore animals, flowers, and trees that were different to Australia. We would see the shops that were the same, the ones that were different, we would drive on the other side of the road! We discussed many other differences we would experience as we thought of them.
  • Disneyworld! (What more can I say?)
  • We had fun talking about the words that Americans use for things that are different to the words Aussies use. For example, trash & garbage/rubbish, bathroom/toilet, sidewalk/footpath, elevator/lift etc.
  • We explained that we would still be able to talk with our family face to face with FaceTime and Skype. We practiced this with their grandparents in the few weeks leading up to our departure to get both grandparents and the children used to it. This worked really great. It was also really helpful because it gave us time to instruct the grandparents on how to use the technology before we left.
  • We explained that we would be able to write emails, post photos on Facebook, send things in the mail, to continue to share our lives with our family and friends, and they with us.
  • We explained to them that it will be sad to leave our family and friends as they won’t be near us to come over and play, and to give us cuddles. And its ok to be sad. It’s ok to miss them. We felt it was important for them to understand that we were moving far away and that they would feel that loss. I didn’t want them moving with the expectation that everything would be exciting and happy all the time. That would not have been fair as it would not have been reality. I needed to prepare them for the emotions they would feel and let them know it was ok to feel them and express them.
  • We told them of the many families in America that were excited that we were coming and were ready to be our friends. We would not be alone or lonely, we had friends in America that we just hadn’t met yet. This helped immensely, especially for the eldest who was the most aware of the fact that she was leaving her friends, and worried that she wouldn’t have any.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we told them God was with us. The God that we love and serve in Australia is also in America!

These conversations didn’t just occur once. We said these things over and over and over again so they would understand and feel content and peaceful about what was happening. And do you know what? It worked. They knew what was going to happen. They knew what to expect. They made friends quickly and got used to the FaceTime and Skype calls with grandparents. What a blessing to be able to still see our family even though we are on the other side of the world.

Did they get sad? Yes, many times. There were many tears in the first few weeks, especially from the 5 year old. But not despair. She knew she would miss people, she knew she would get sad, and she was ok with that. She was prepared for the adventure, and all the ups and downs that went along with that.

What experiences have you had moving with children?
What strategies (if any) did you use to help your children with the transition?

“A Man’s Steps Are Determined by the Lord”

When my husband first spoke to me about the possibility of us moving to Florida, he was scared. He was really excited about the opportunity but was expecting me to respond swiftly and succinctly with a flat out “no!” “absolutely not!” and that that would be the beginning and the end of the discussion. But to his surprise, and relief, that is not how I reacted. Instead I sat there in absolute shock repeating the words, “you’re kidding? They want us to move there? Why? You’re kidding? Really?” etc. And as the reality of his words settled more in my mind it was as if all of the fragmented pieces of our life suddenly fell into place. All of the study, the change in direction, the change of the change in direction, the places and people we were led to, the heart ache and the tears when doors seemed to slam in our face; were slowly making sense. It was God’s providence.

“A man’s steps are determined by the Lord, so how can anyone understand his own way?”
(Proverbs 20:24)

As I began to look back at the path our life had led, I could see all those difficult moments. The moment when we had to leave a church, the moment when my husband, after four years of seminary training, came to the belief that God was not calling him into the ministry, and many other life altering decisions that we have made. I could see now that in those difficult moments God was in control, and has always been in control. He had been, even in those difficult times, especially in those difficult times, directing our path and continued to do so. This opportunity to move continents, while a daunting prospect without a doubt, especially with a young family, was also exciting because it was the direction that God was leading us.

Better Late Than Never, Right?

Hello…is this thing on? As this is the first post on my first blog, I guess the first thing I should do is introduce myself. I’m Tania. I am a Reformed Christian, devoted wife, mother of three amazing girls (6yo,4yo,3yo), and I homeschool my eldest daughter in the style of Charlotte Mason. I have started this blog because recently my husband and I, and our 3 girls, sold everything we owned, left our family and friends behind, and moved from Melbourne, Australia to Florida, U.S.A. We made the big move for my husband’s work and ministry. Hence the name of the blog “mum” to “mom,” as that is now what I am in the process of becoming; Australian mum to American mom. As we live and raise our kids here, there is going to be a bit of blending of cultures so we can live happily here in a new country. Hopefully this will be interesting, helpful, and sometimes amusing to read about.

When we first found out that we would be moving to Florida, I had decided it would be really great to blog about the move. You know, the lead up to the big day, all the drama that occurs before, during, and after such a dramatic change in our lives. And how we continue to adapt to living in America. Well we’ve done the big move and we’ve been living in Florida for over 6 months now and I’m only just starting the blog. Oh well, better late than never, right?

Yet not only will this blog be dedicated to blogging about our move and adjustment from Australia to America, I also intend to write about our homeschooling journey—the why’s and the how’s, the tears and the joys—as well as other stuff that I’m passionate about such as cooking, and anything else that might take my fancy.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you.

P.S. The last time I wrote anything of this length was before I was a mother of three. I’m a little rusty so bare with me.

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