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How To Move Your Family Overseas

by Amelia on August 13, 2009
category: Practical Tips,Travel

We are moving to England in one month.  One month!  I am excited but our checklist seems to be growing instead of shrinking.  To move a family overseas there are a lot of details and things to take into consideration as you decide what to bring.  We are moving there for 4 years while my husband gets his PhD.  We’re moving into  furnished family housing through the university so some of the complication of buying furniture is lessened.

Here are some helpful tips we’ve either learned or done along the way:

  1. Start working on getting your Visa early.  And ask someone who has filled one out to help you if you need it.  Visas are complicated and take a lot of time to fill out. Depending on your reason for moving overseas the Visa application will vary.  We are going on a student Visa so we had to provide proof that we could pay for the first year of school in cash.  That may mean borrowing money from the bank, friends, or family so you can have cash in your bank account.  If you are planning on moving for work then I’m sure the process is a little different.  Jon had to make an appointment at a consulate to get his fingerprints taken for the Visa process.  After he did that he had exactly 2 weeks to get ALL the correct paperwork in.  Like I said, start working on the paperwork part early because you don’t want anything to go wrong when you are working on a timeline.  If things go wrong, and your Visa is not approved due to paperwork issues, you have to start all over (including paying for it).
  2. Work on getting your passports early.  Enough said about that.
  3. Don’t buy your plane tickets until your Visa is approved and you have a known date approved for your arrival.  It just makes moving abroad easier.
  4. Consider bringing a combination of duffle bags and crates instead of suitcases for your plane trip.  We bought 5 tickets so we have an allowance of 10 checked bags.  We opted for duffle bags because they hold a lot and are light, which means we can stuff more in without the weight limitations of a suitcase (ever noticed that they weigh a lot on their own without clothes in them?).  We purchased some crates that can be locked after going through customs.  We haven’t gone through a “dry packing run” yet (see next point) but we are planning on using the crates to pack some toys and other large items that may do better in a box rather than a duffle bag.  Keep a list of things other than clothing that you are bringing with you to go through customs in case you need it.
  5. As your move date gets closer, try a dry run pack to see what changes you need to make with whatever you are planning on bringing with you.  Stock up on space bags to have more room for your clothes.
  6. Learn about the weather in the country you are moving to.  England’s weather is much more mild than Texas–or Pittsburgh for that matter.  We acquired a lot of good winter/cool weather clothes while we were in Pittsburgh but I have recently learned that the summer weather in Durham (city we are moving to) is more like Fall weather.  Our friends who live there have posted pictures of themselves wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts or sometimes t-shirts.  There have been a few warmer days where they have worn shorts and short sleeves.  Knowing the weather helps you decide what clothes to pack.  It would be foolish to take up a lot of packing room with Texas summer clothes when we will need clothes for cooler weather while living in England.
  7. Go online and check prices for things like clothes and shoes for kids and adults.  At least in the UK, clothes and shoes are very expensive.  We will take advantage of using the charity shops for clothing, or waiting until we come back to visit to buy clothes for the kids.  We talked to a friend who lives in Whales as a missionary and she said to make sure that we get our shoes for the kids in the States before we move.  The quality of shoes and what you pay for them doesn’t compare to what you can get here in the States.
  8. Investigate weight limitations for luggage on the plane so you can decide if it is “cheaper” to pay for overweight bags or shipping them ahead of time.  Shipping things to the UK is not cheap so we are planning on going over the weight limit if we have to.
  9. Plan on taking advantage of the 2 carry on items per person.  Even though it will be difficult to get down the aisle carrying the 2 carry ons the kids are each allowed we will be taking advantage of that and carrying on valuables, important documents, and items necessary for traveling on a long plane flight with 3 kids.
  10. Having a friend who lives in the country you are moving to helps a LOT.  If it is also someone who moved to the country then that is even better.  We have friends who moved there the year before we did and they have been life savers!  They have connected us with other families who have finished their degrees and selling their stuff for cheap.  We have bought several kitchen items and a few pieces of extra furniture.
  11. Check online for the different stores and their prices so you can plan a budget for repurchasing the things you need once you are there.  We are planning on bringing a set of sheets and a towel for each person in our family but my friend who is there has also found a place that sells sheets for cheap.  We may decide to buy an extra set of sheets for the kids when we are there. Find out about the country’s version of “good will” so you can hit those when you arrive to purchase goods and save money.  In England they have many “charity shops” where you can buy appliances, furniture, clothing etc.
  12. We sold most of our furniture when we left Pittsburgh.  (For those of you who don’t know, we left Pittsburgh in June and came to Texas to spend the summer with friends and family before leaving for England.)  We decided that paying for storage while we were gone was too expensive.  We got rid of a LOT of stuff other than furniture and there was something quite freeing about getting rid of so much stuff (I digress).  I kept all of our kitchen stuff, dining room table and chairs, china cabinet, and beds.  When we come back we will have a lot of things to rebuy–but we are essentially trusting God to provide for us when we return.  We know a family who had a friend from church that owns a storage facility and gave them a super discount on storing their belongings while overseas.  We asked around our church hoping to get lucky in that regard so we wouldn’t have to sell so much stuff and rebuy it later but that didn’t work out.  Some people ship all their things overseas with them.  The Dean President of my husband’s seminary moved here several years ago only planning on staying for 4 years but now they are here indefinitely.  They brought everything with them even though they were only planning on being in the states for a few years.  It is an option if you want bring all your stuff with you.
  13. Before you leave the States, take everyone to get eye, dental, and well-visits at the doctor.  Depending on the country you plan on moving to, the health care system is probably very different and it is good to get in those visits before moving.  Get online and learn about the health care system in the country you are moving to.  You’ll need to find out if you will qualify for their national plan or if you will have to budget for health insurance costs.
  14. If you are planning on bringing electronics like computers or your Wii (haha!  We are totally bringing ours) then you’ll need to investigate getting the appropriate plugs for them.  In the UK the voltage is different not to mention the shape of the plugs so you need voltage converters and plug adapters.  Some electronics are set to work at a higher voltage and have the converters in them so you just need a plug adapter.  It’s confusing, I know.  That is why you need to investigate!
  15. Bring movies/music for your family in those cd storage books.  Saves on space!
  16. Buy a Rick Steves travel book about the country you are moving to if it is available.  It will help you discover all kinds of fun things to do in your new city and it often has some money saving tips on travel.

I may have to make this a two part series because there is so much to plan when you move overseas!

I know at least one of our readers has moved overseas a few times (Sharon!).  Have any other helpful tips to add to this list? Know anyone who has moved overseas?

Breastfeeding: Making More Milk

by Amelia on August 6, 2009
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),Feeding,Health and Fitness,Pregnancy

The International Breastfeeding SymbolIn honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to highlight a book that offers hope, encouragement, and information that will help women overcome some of the devastating issues of low milk supply.

The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk by Diana West and Lisa Marasco has been an eye opening book for me.  As someone who struggled with a low milk supply while breastfeeding, not once but twice, I found this book amazingly helpful as I read it. I heard about it from another birth teacher.  Oh, how I WISH I had known about this book after our third baby was born almost two years ago!  (It wasn’t written 6 years ago when my first was born) I don’t know that all my breastfeeding problems would have been solved but it would have offered me some peace and answered several of my questions.  I love nursing and it is a real struggle for me that I have had so much trouble feeding and sustaining my babies on breastmilk alone.

Making More Milk explains the biological process of how breastmilk is produced.  It  explains how hormones, the mother’s physical development, the baby, and the mother all work together to make a plentiful supply of milk.  This book covers  more detail than any other breastfeeding book I’ve read about problems that can effect milk supply.

This book is FAR more than a “just pump and you’ll increase your milk supply” solution to milk supply problems.  It covers in detail ideas about how to make a plan for managing milk supply, preventing low milk supply, altervative treatments and possibilities for treating low milk supply. It is the only book I am aware of that was written specifically for women who have difficulties with milk supply.  Each chapter has helpful information and things to consider when dealing with milk supply problems.

If you had trouble breastfeeding with a previous child and want to try again but are nervous about trying because you are scared you’ll run into the same problems, I highly recommend this book.  If anything, you will probably gain a better understanding of WHY you have milk supply issues.

Have you ever heard of this book?  Struggled with low milk supply? Scared to try again?  Tell us your story!

Confessions About Being 9 Months Pregnant and Waxing

by Amelia on July 30, 2009
category: Health and Fitness,Humor/Random,Pregnancy

Being a mommy is great, but feeling pretty all the time for our men isn’t always easy. I have a wonderful friend, named Beth, who is pregnant with her third baby.  She is due any day now and sent me a comical story that actually happened to her just a few days ago.  I thought it was a humorous look at some of the things we do to make ourselves feel pretty.  I asked her to be a guest writer for this week and share her story with us.

I’ve known Beth for over 10 years now.  We lived together for two years in the late 90′s before my husband and I got married. Beth is an amazing woman.  She is honest, loving, authentic, and the kind of person who makes you feel safe to open up to.    Her children are fortunate to have such a great woman as a mother.

Here is a little about Beth:

mom-and-alinaMy name is Beth Hernandez. I live in San Antonio, TX with my husband and three children, ages 5 (son), 2 (daughter), and soon to be born son! In general, I am what many would consider an extreme extravert, though God seems to be balancing that more lately. Though my husband and I feel most at home when our house is filled with people and our schedule is busy, we have learned to set a few emotional boundaries to keep our health and relationships stable! By trade I am a secondary Math, Science, and English teacher. Currently I am a homemaker who tries to keep her toe in the broader Education field through tutoring and short term, very part time contracted teaching positions (like a summer program called Jumpstart through the University of Texas system or some private school affairs). I home school my oldest kids, which is great fun! I love to read and share what I’ve read with others. I enjoy writing, and I am learning to share that with others. My husband and I are an active part of our church community.

Confessions about being 9 months pregnant and waxing…

Some ideas are better left un-tried when one is 9 months pregnant. Case in point: waxing one’s belly. Background on this adventure may or may not be necessary, but just in case, when I was in my early and mid twenties, I thought it extremely important to have as little body hair as possible. The reason for this is that one never knew when one would meet the man of her dreams, and potentially run away to get married very spontaneously, or if one would find herself in the hospital stripped to her undies for some terrible surgery situation wishing all that hair wasn’t so thick and exposed. (By the way this is the same logic for wearing matching bra and underwear sets!) An added bonus for hair removal was that I was always prepared for spontaneous swimming situations (though I can’t recall if those ever really happened spontaneously). So I engaged in the painful ritual of waxing certain “bikini” areas when necessary. I’m sure I had a formal process for this feat, though it eludes me at present.

The truth about getting married—even if one does run away to Lake Tahoe very spontaneously to do so—is that eventually one falls into a comfortable routine with her dear husband. This is especially true after having children. Now please don’t interpret this as not looking my best for my husband; I continue to make the effort to be as beautiful as possible for him. Realistically though, as the budget got tighter, things like waxing gave way to razors for cost purposes, and some days making the extra effort to remove all the hair was not as important as taking time to deal with the emotional and spiritual needs of my young children and actively loving my husband in many good ways. I also began to realize, in the particular case of my own husband, that my hair removal process on the whole was more for my security and self image than his pleasure.

Having exposed all that, I come to today. Today, I am 39 and ½ weeks pregnant with our third child. My belly is extended farther than I care to describe. I have been bemoaning the hair on the lower section of my belly since it fell exposed under my maternity blouse to my 2 and ½ year old daughter when she ran to hug me last week. She said it was “pokey” when her cheek rubbed against said belly. I’m not sure that this “pokey” hair is terribly noticeable to the average adult, but small children “tell it like it is,” and I felt that shaving was just too dangerous a venture at this point (due to limited visibility and coordination—which may have been a good reason to forgo the waxing, as well). So when I went to Target today, to buy a few household items, I stopped in the beauty section to find some wax. I decided I owed this “indulgent luxury” to myself. It had been about 5 years since I subjected myself to the torture, and had clearly forgotten the painful process.

Tonight, after everyone in the house was asleep, I removed the wax and sticks and directions from the package. I read them carefully, noticing it was not exactly as I remembered, but things change some in 5 years. I microwaved the wax container for 30 seconds, which should have deterred me then and there. Our microwave does not like certain items (like butter, and apparently wax). I had to flee the kitchen for fear of my life as what seemed like lightning bolts erupted inside the 15 year old monster microwave. When the timer beeped, I tiptoed back into the kitchen, carefully opened the door, and pulled out my wax. It seemed the right consistency, so I continued with the process.

Back in the bathroom, I set up a mirror on the toilet seat, so I could see the underside of my belly, and began applying the sticky goop in the direction of hair growth. My first mistake was probably spreading the wax on too thickly. My second mistake was leaving the box of fabric strips on the floor. When I leaned over to grab one, my belly stuck to my leg, the wax container fell to the floor, and the spreading stick began to drip all over the toilet seat. As I pulled my leg painfully off my belly, I began to laugh, realizing this is the stuff sitcoms are made of: images of “I love Lucy” and “Anne of Green Gables” dancing in my head. My dear husband sat up in bed at this point to see what on earth was causing me to make such a racket! He rolled his eyes when he saw me and lay back down probably wondering about his choice in women.

Determined, I continued in this venture. I stuck the fabric strips on my belly and pulled. OUCH…OUCH…OUCH! The great unfortunate point here was, again, mistake number one: I spread the wax on thickly. I succeeded in removing no hair but still subjecting my belly to deep pain. (Which by the way should have put me into labor, but I am under the firm suspicion that this baby is too wise to the outside world and has decided he’d rather spend his days warm, well fed, and safe in his current cramped quarters!) I tried again with new strips, only to realize that though I was raw, I still had hair because I had pulled the strips in the wrong direction! Here, wisdom entered my heart and I decided to give up this disastrous adventure. Sadly, mistake number two came back to bite me. Along with the fabric strips, the “soothing oil” was on the floor in the box. I can’t tell you how many places I had wax after finally getting the little bottle from the floor. I might have saved myself the trouble. The oil did not do a great job of removing all the sticky wax from my body (see mistake number one). Between the failed waxing job and scrubbing frantically all over with soap and a scrubby after applying the oil, I am now raw and hairy and unsure of why we subject ourselves to such torture as women…I don’t think I’ll attempt waxing again, unless I can afford a professional and some REALLY GREAT WINE!

Thanks for reading my confession…I felt keeping it to myself would only be self indulgent.

–Beth Hernandez

Okay Mom Crowd, Welcome Beth this week and share some of your stories that happened to you!

What To Do About the Tooth Fairy?

by Amelia on July 23, 2009
category: 5 – 12 years (kid),Health and Fitness,Practical Tips

2361445339_1a0f638f9fEvery kid goes through the rite of passage of losing their baby teeth and growing into their adult teeth.  They also go through that awkward phase of having big and little teeth cluttering their mouths.  My oldest discovered his first loose tooth today and I find myself thinking back on my own childhood.  

My mom made a tooth fairy pillow for me.  I remember her doing all the needlepoint and sewing the pillow together.  She kept it all these years and gave it to me last year anticipating that I may want to use it for my own children as they go through this particular rite of passage.  Seeing the pillow brought back memories of falling asleep excited that I would wake up with the tooth gone from the pocket in the pillow and that it would be replaced with some money.  I don’t remember exactly how much money I got back then but I do remember pulling out a few quarters from the pocket.   I remember that I tried as hard as possible to will myself to wake up and wait for the tooth fairy to come.   I thought she might be as pretty as tinkerbell and I wanted to get a glimpse. 

I know that some parents pretend that the tooth fairy is real and make the tooth fairy exchange a lot of fun for the kids.  We’ve never gone down this road before so I am currently figuring out how I want to approach the tooth fairy mystery.  I’ve read that some parents forego giving money to their kids and instead give crayons, pencils, or some other treat.  

Possible Choices:

  • Money
  • Special Coins (Like a dollar coin, half-dollar, Sacagawea)
  • Crayons
  • Stickers
  • Pencils
  • Candy–sort of ironic since you really have to start paying attention to teeth cleaning!
  • Dentil Floss–although I doubt that would be as appreciated as money :)

After doing some research, I found that there are several websites where you can buy a special tooth fairy boxes, banks, books, pillows, and baby tooth memory albums. (You have to check out that last link!!) I had no idea there were so many products that parents can purchase!  I even found a website that has sample letters you can leave your child from the tooth fairy that encourages him/her to keep doing such a great job brushing his/her teeth because she loves collecting nice shiny teeth.  

What fun memories do you have of the tooth fairy as you grew up? What traditions do you have with your children?  Are you going to pass on the tooth fairy tradition?  Tell me what you thought about that baby tooth memory album!


**photo courtesy of sappymoosetree

“Mommy, I Want RHINO$!”

by Amelia on July 16, 2009
category: 3 – 5 years (preschooler),5 – 12 years (kid),Practical Tips

What do you do if your child comes to you and wants _____ that you think are too expensive?


In our case that is shoes.  Our 5 year old saw a commercial for a brand of shoes and was convinced that the shoes would help him run faster.  He has recently grown out of his old shoes and does need new ones.  When I looked up how much the shoes he wants are I thought, “No way am I paying for those!”  At first I wanted to tell him that we were not getting those shoes because they are too expensive.  I knew that answer wouldn’t really make a lot of sense to him and would probably make him angry.   My husband reminded me that it could be a good life lesson and that we should think about approaching it from a different angle.

My husband asked me how much I would normally spend on shoes for the boys.  I told him and we came up with a strategy to help the 5 year old learn about managing money.  We also wanted to guide him and help him make a decision that he could be happy with.

We looked online with the 5 year old at the shoes he wants.  We did tell him that the shoes cost more than we want to spend on the shoes but that he did have some options. We told him that we would pay for a certain amount of the shoes and that he would have to come up with the rest of the money. We asked him if he would like to know what other kids do when they want something that costs more than they have.  He said, “Sure!”

We said that some kids:

  • save up their birthday money and use it to buy something they want
  • ask their parents, grandparents, neighbors if they have extra jobs they can pay him for
  • choose to buy something less expensive that is within their budget
  • wait for it to go on sale

He thought about it and he either wants to save some of his birthday money or do extra jobs to make up the difference.  As soon as he can pay up then we will happily take him out shopping.  We feel good that he is learning about how to live within a budget and work hard for the extra things he wants.  We shared that we have to make those same decisions when we want to buy things that are cost more than we have in our budget.  We feel like it is a real world learning opportunity for him–he’ll have to make lots of similar decisions about money as he grows up.

We look forward to using this strategy more as these situations come up more often in the future. I think he’ll feel good about participating in buying something that he wants.  If he figures out that those shoes won’t actually make him run faster then he’ll also learn another good life lesson.

How do you handle it when your kids want something that you think is too expensive?  What do you tell your kids?

**photo courtesy of   flickr’s plasticrevolver

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