Weekend Links

Wow!  The weeks are really flying by now.  Schools here go through the end of June, so I always worry that June is going to last FOREVER, but it is going quickly this year.  Like in the US, so much is jammed into the last weeks of school.  This week, we have 2 birthday parties, dance recital, school sports day, and I’m sure at least one more thing will be thrown into the mix. Here’s hoping for calmer days ahead!

Speaking of summer, I loved this reading list for 7-9 year old boys (and girls).  Hopefully I can convince my son to read a few of these!

No doubt you have read about the comments made by Nobel Laureate scientist Tim Hunt. The responses by female scientists on twitter have been hysterical. #distractinglysexy

Men and maxipads.  Absolutely hilarious, and good social commentary as well.

And related to the above, Panties that could change the world.

Why I Love Peppa Pig.  A great post about what makes good children’s television, and why that matters.  For my US friends, Peppa Pig is a children’s show in the UK/Ireland, about Peppa and her family.  (Also, just stumbled upon Everyday30.com this week.  A great site, especially for UK moms/mums.)

Concrete advice about Raising a Powerful Girl.  Most of the time, I feel like raising boys is straightforward and that raising girls is fraught with challenges. (I’m sure I’ll feel the opposite at some point!)  I loved how these suggestions helped steer the conversation away from appearance, and towards self reliance and confidence.

Have a great weekend everyone!

xRheagan

Photo Credit

Things to Know About (my) Expat Kids

Ask any parent why they decided to move overseas, and “for my kids” usually ranks at or near the top of the list.  “A chance to expose our kids to different cultures and experiences” is one of the main reasons parents choose to take an expat assignment. It was definitely near the top of our list!  Raising third-culture kids (TCKs), i.e. children that spend at least a portion of their childhood outside their passport country, presents a unique set of challenges. In many ways, expat kids are just like any other group of kids.  But in some ways, they are very different from their peers back in their home country.  Like all of my posts, this one is written from mainly my personal experiences of parenting young kids in the expat environment.  Some expat parents will find different challenges…

1.  They are worldly, yet naive.  They can navigate public transit systems, different languages, cultures, and quickly become politically savvy. (My 7-year old has very pointed opinions about US transportation policy…)  They understand that their current home may be different than their passport country, but they may not be able to fully appreciate those differences.  Our kids are easily overwhelmed by the buy-buy-buy consumer-oriented culture in the US.  If I walk into Target, I love seeing all the choices and selection!  But my kids quickly shut down.  It is too much for them – almost sensory overload.  On the other hand, they are genuinely surprised to find out that their peers in the US may have NEVER left America, or flown on an A380! (The latter is particularly shocking to Isaac.) They cannot comprehend why American kids don’t travel internationally like they do.

2.  They can be great on long international flights, yet a two-hour car ride can seem like forever.  To make the trip from our home in Dublin to Amarillo, Texas – our hometown, takes 3 flights and appx 22 hours doorstep-to-doorstep.  (In the expat world – this is a comparatively short trip.) Generally, my kids are GREAT on the long-haul flights.  They know the security drill, how board the plane, put their headphones on, and settle in the long flight.  They may watch Doc McStuffins ad nauseum, but they are much better behaved than some of my adult seatmates.  At the same time, a two or three hour car ride with them can take FOREVER. “Are we there yet?  I need to go to the bathroom. Why can’t we watch a movie?” and on and on and on!  It is all in what you are used to.

3.  They are incredibly resilient, and their bonds with their siblings are very strong.  There’s nothing quite like uprooting your kids, and throwing them into a country where they know no one to encourage resiliency!  I won’t lie – the transition is really tough.  On the other hand, their bonds with their siblings strengthen during this period.  Isaac and Liesl are very close, and I attribute most of this closeness to the fact that for the first 6 months or so, the only playmate they had was each other.

4.  They can easily assimilate into different cultures – almost like chameleons.  Expat kids grow up shifting between cultures, as they travel home, to other countries, and back to their country of residence.  They may meet many kids in their school that are also expats, but from a different country entirely.  Once they get the hang of it, they can blend into most any group, and easily take on the characteristics of that group.  When we were in the US last summer, I thought everyone would find Isaac and Liesl’s Irish accents so cute.  Only one problem. Within 24 hours of us returning to the US, their accents were GONE.  I was shocked at how fast they were able to switch back to “American” English. They had both completely adjusted the tone of their voice – almost subconsciously.  The only thing that gave away their expat-ness was their vocabulary for different things, “car park” instead of parking lot, “lift” instead of elevator, “to mind” instead of “to watch”.  But even those linguistic differences quickly disappeared.

5.  They are scarily, eerily good at saying goodbye.  This is probably the strangest one to experience.  It is written about in expat parenting books, and although you can be prepared for it – seeing how quickly your kids can say goodbye to friends and family and move on with life is both rewarding and scary.  To my kids, they don’t seem to notice the physical distance between themselves and their cousins, or the time spent apart.  Partly because technology has made the world much smaller.  It’s hard to miss your cousins when you can Skype with them whenever you want.  When we are saying goodbye at the airport, I’m usually much more emotional.  Is it because I know how far the distance truly is?  Or is it because I wasn’t accustomed to saying goodbye as a child?  Seeing the detachment that expat kids can show makes you worry – will they ever have a sense of home?  Will they be able to put down roots as an adult?  At the same time, it makes you proud that they understand that saying goodbye quickly and often just comes with the territory.

What are your thoughts?  If you are the parent of an older TCK, are the challenges different?  What should I be looking out for?

P.S. If you are considering moving abroad with kids, or having a child while living overseas, I highly recommend reading Third Culture Kids. Some people give the book negative reviews saying the book itself is too negative, but I think that more information is always better than less. I also really liked that this book did not assume that every expat family was financially well-off.  It covers a variety of situations from corporate expats to military families to missionaries.

Last Minute Weekend Links

Happy weekend everyone!

As Sunday draws to a close, I hope you had a great weekend.  Ours was busy, but Brad and I celebrated our 12th anniversary with a very random date last night – a cocktail club, an event at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and then a trip to the local fish & chips joint, aka “the chipper”.  We had loads of fun – and a chance to enjoy a long Irish summer evening.

While I get ready for the week ahead:

” a commercial spectacle on an enormous scale, revealing some disturbing truths about what we value and admire in women”  Whatever your thoughts on the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner transition, read this piece. A great article that highlights some of the issues that were lost in the media frenzy.

Photo Oops?  These are cringe-worthy, but funny.

Parenting got you down?  Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself to recharge.

This video will make your day. Where are these guys when I have a flight delay?

I took this picture as a part of the #1day12pics challenge.  It is held on the first Saturday of the month.  The goal is to take a picture every hour for 12 hours.  It is harder than in looks!  I made it to 10 yesterday.  Won’t you join in next month?

x Rheagan

London!

A few weeks ago, we took a quick trip to London.  Can you believe that we have lived in Dublin for over three years, but hadn’t been to London yet?  My sister and mother were going to be in town, and my brother-in-law would be passing through London on his way back from the middle east, so we decided to take a long weekend all-together in London (minus Brad, who was in the US for a conference).  We flew out on Friday, and back on Monday, so we didn’t have a ton of time, but we certainly packed in the sights!  A few highlights:

Friday afternoon:

We took in Hyde Park.  I love urban parks in Europe.  Quiet, sophisticated, relaxed…there is just something about the parks in Europe that is missing from US parks.  We had lunch at the Lido Cafe near the Serpentine Lake, and then found a chicken coop, playground (shocker!), and then an adorable ice cream truck.  The weather was cool, but felt so much warmer than Dublin without the brisk wind off the Irish sea!

Saturday:

Did I mention that we forgot that it was a three-day weekend in London?  Ooops.  Luckily, the kids wake up at the crack of dawn (and the dawn cracks early this time of year…) We made it to the Natural History Museum before 10:00am.  We had to walk through what felt like miles and miles of empty queues, but the museum staff said they queues would be filled before noon.  We spent about 2 hours looking at their awesome dinosaur exhibit, and their life-size model of the blue whale.  There was so much more to that museum that we didn’t see – I’d love to go back.  As we left, I looked back towards the entrance, and sure enough, there were people queued to enter.

In the afternoon, we went back to Hyde Park to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.  If you are visiting London with kids, I can’t recommend this playground enough.  (And we have been to plenty of good playgrounds.)  It had an enormous pirate ship in the middle of an even bigger sand pit.  It also had play structures for older kids and little kids, plus picnic areas, a cafe, toilets and changing facilities.

Sunday:

We got a later start on Sunday, as we had brunch with Taylor and Evan, and then decided to take the bus from Marble Arch to Westminster. It was a regular London bus – I can’t remember the route number, but it was like a mini-tour of sights in London!  We saw Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square – where we saw one of the more memorable sights of our trip.  As we were making our way through the square, a group of men came running through the intersection clad in nothing but multicolored briefs. “Look!! Mom!! Those men are running in their UNDERWEAR!”  And to every person who has asked, “What did you see in London?”  my kids have answered, “Men running in their underwear!”

We saw the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben, but the crowds were absolutely HUGE.  So we quickly decamped to see the Tower Bridge, which the kids really enjoyed.  We ate lunch at a wonderful restaurant – Perkin Reveller.  Great food, lovely design, and wonderful service – especially for the kids.  Near such a major landmark, and in the height of tourist season, I had decidedly low expectations, but it was a great stop.  Highly recommended!

Sunday Evening we rode the London Eye.  Naturally, it hadn’t rained all day…until about 30 minutes before we rode the Eye.  Sigh.  The views were still great, and the kids liked riding in the pod.  (Pro tip:  Paying for the “Fast Track” tickets is worth it.  Instead of waiting in a loooooong line, (in the rain!), we collected our tickets and waited about 15 minutes before boarding.)

So there you go – a very quick trip to London! We packed in a bunch of sights, some good family time, etc.  One thing I realized over the course of the weekend is that the kids are not ready for a “walking” city like Rome or Paris.  I had to haul the stroller up and down the stairs of the Underground, and as much as Patrick insisted (loudly!) that he could walk, he just isn’t ready for walking-sightseeing.  A few more years perhaps!

Friday Finds – June Bank Holiday!

Hi Everyone –

I hope every one has had a great few weeks. I had family in town, and then we spent a long weekend in London. I’ll have a post next week about our wild adventures – like seeing this charming sign in Marylebone!  This weekend is a three-day weekend in Ireland because Monday is a bank holiday.  The American in me is hoping for warm days, backyard grilling, and enjoying the summer sun.  But this is Ireland.  And nothing says “summer bank holiday” like cool temperatures and wet and windy conditions.  It should make for fun times all around.

While I spend the weekend cursing the weather, hopefully you will get some enjoyment out of these links!

Love the snark in these new words from Urban Dictionary.  Expand your vocabulary!

I live in a UNESCO City of Literature, and I have yet to visit all of these bookshops.

What Estate Agents Say vs. What they really mean. Ha!  As someone who lives over on this side of the pond, I have heard these more times than I can count.  My personal favorite was a home we looked at that was advertised as “not overlooked to the back” (i.e. no neighbors directly behind the home.)  What they really meant:  “Backs up to a PRISON!”

Since we aren’t going to the US this summer, maybe I should plan this road trip instead.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

x Rheagan

Mother’s Day Weekend Links

Happy Saturday!

Sorry for the one-day delay for Friday Finds.  Plenty going on here, just like everyone else.  Mother’s Day in Ireland was nearly two months ago, so beyond my social media, I don’t see any mention of Mothers Day.  I had to buy my mother a generic, yet pretty card because I forgot to buy her card in March.  (Sorry Mother!)   It’s like trying to buy Christmas cards right now – they just aren’t available.  If you celebrate Mother’s Day, have a wonderful day!  If not – you should still have a wonderful day!

Putting the “Tex” back in “texting”.  I am getting these emojis as soon as they are available!

Probably guilty of too many of these.  Sorry Natalie!

Good news for those of us highly-educated moms with three (or more) kids.

Some thoughts on why some men and women fake an 80-hour work week, and how they do it.  I have more to say on this topic, but I think I’ll just leave it for now.

I loved these Empathy Cards.  Such a good way to put a bad experience to good use.

And in honor of Mother’s Day – “7 Things Good Mother’s Do That I’m Not Going to Do Anymore“. Banish the guilt!

Have a great weekend everyone!

x Rheagan

Image via Pinterest.

May Day Friday Finds

Happy May Day Everyone!

It is May Day here in Ireland, and we are headed into a bank-holiday weekend!  Although May Day is technically today, the bank (national) holiday here is on Monday.  May Day is part International Workers’ Day – most similar to Labor Day in the US, and part celebration of spring in Europe.  Of course, you wouldn’t really know that by the weather here.  It was about 45-50F (8-10C) for most of the day, with a brisk north wind to really make you wish you were some place warmer.  Sadly, the weather isn’t expected to improve until Monday, but I’ll keep my hopes up that the Met Office is wrong this time!

While I dream of warm spring weather, here are a few weekend links:

That’s one way to get potholes fixed on your street! (NSFW) Ha!

The key to success is trusting yourself.”  And having a classic wrap dress.

How far would you go for a Nespresso? 😉

Thought-provoking, piece about teaching in an at-risk school.  Really loved this. And apparently it was also picked up by The Washington Post.

People who work 70 hours/week are no more productive than people who work 55 hours/week.  How to use weekends to your benefit.

Womp-womp. Cheesy jokes – great for kids, and anyone else.

I snapped this picture in Temple Bar a few weeks ago.  Such a great juxtaposition of new versus old! Have a great weekend everyone!

x Rheagan

Cloth Diapers

At the risk of compromising my “modern mom” street cred (let’s be honest, most of that is already gone by this point), today I’m writing about a subject I get a fair number of inquiries about:  cloth diapers.

I am a low-effort parent, but I used cloth diapers with all 3 kids and loved them.  They were cheaper, worked well, and saved me from running to the store in the middle of the night for more diapers! The summer Isaac was born, there was a terrible heat wave in Texas.  As a result, he got unbelievably bad diaper rash.  My friend loaned me a few cloth diapers and recommended that I try them.  The diaper rash healed within a few days starting the cloth diapers, but we kept using them because they were cheaper than disposables, and worked just as well.  We used the same ones again with Liesl, and then with Patrick. (Despite the claim that cloth diapered kids potty train earlier, we have found that this is not the case with our kids.  Patrick just turned 3, and we haven’t even started training him yet…)

The internet is full of tons and tons and tons of information about cloth diapers, but it’s really hard to know what works for you until you start.   This is a super long post, but hopefully it will give you enough information to get you started.

Getting Started:

For newborns, my best advice is to wait a few weeks until you have settled into a routine, and all the meconium is out of the baby’s system before starting with cloth diapers.  Usually their umbilical cord has fallen off by then, which is also handy.   It can help to borrow a few diapers from someone else to uses cloth, just to see what might work.  If you don’t know anyone, I would just buy 1 or 2 of a few types, and see what works for you.  You can always buy more later.

I never bought any fancy equipment for my cloth diapers.  I bought two small flip-top trashcans, one for trash and disposable diapers, and one for cloth diapers.  When the trashcan is full, I know it’s time to run a load.  Then, just begin to use cloth diapers instead of disposables.  I really didn’t find them to be too much additional work.

What I use:

I started using cloth diapers with Isaac when he was about 2 months old.  I primarily use FuzziBunz, but I also use BumGenius, and some prefold diapers as well.  The FuzziBunz I use are the ‘perfect size’, NOT the one size.  This means that I have a set of small, medium, and large diapers.  Update: Apparently these are unavailable until June!  In any case, I recommend going with a perfect-size diaper rather than a one-size diaper, especially if you have a small or skinny baby. The “one size” diapers were just too bulky for me when my babies were small.  The FuzziBunz is a pocket diaper, which means it has a cloth insert that you put in the pocket in the diaper.  I really like this diaper, and it was held up very well.  All 3 kids wore the same set of diapers. Patrick is currently using the large set, the mediums and smalls are in storage.

I also have a few BumGenius extra-smalls and smalls and I really like those as well.  The XS fits newborn and small babies really well.   I also used some prefold diapers with covers.  These are the ‘old school’ cloth diapers, but I find that they work very well once you get the hang of it.  With prefolds, you can ‘customize’ the fit, which helps with skinny legs.  The prefolds also come in sizes, and I used Thirsties and Bummis wraps.  Instead of pins, I used a Snappi to keep the prefold diaper on. I wish I had started prefolds earlier.

Washing:

Washing cloth diapers is a bit of a ‘dark art’.  What works for some people doesn’t work for others.  Because cloth diapers are so absorbent, you need to use a low-residue laundry detergent on them.  Otherwise, the residue will buildup in the diapers and they won’t be as absorbent.  I use Ecover.  The diapers should be lined dried, if possible.

When I don’t use cloth diapers:

I am definitely not someone who is 100% in the cloth diaper camp.  I used disposables at night with Patrick and Liesl, but I didn’t when Isaac was a baby.  He wore FuzziBunz at night and was fine.  (We were also very poor graduate students at that point, so I didn’t want to spend the money on disposables!)  Now, I value my sanity/sleep more, so I use disposables at night.  Besides nighttime, I also used disposables when the kids were in daycare or with a babysitter.  We also use disposables when we are going to be away from the house for several hours, or when we are traveling.  I always keep an extra gallon-size ziploc bag in my diaper bag to carry home dirty cloth diapers.  (You can buy really cute waterproof ‘wet bags’, but again – when we started using cloth diapers I was really cheap!)

Here are some websites that are helpful:
The Art of Simple – Cloth Diapering  This is a great resource about different diapers and what works.  .

Diaper Pin – provides reviews about multiple brands

Kelly’s Closet – online retailer

Finally, a disclaimer.  I am a big believer in the ‘whatever works’ philosophy.  If you find something that works for you and you and your family are happy with it, by all means ignore what I have written and stick to what works for you.  There really isn’t any “best” solution out there.

Friday Finds

Hello all!

I met a friend for coffee this morning at this tiny, but amazing, coffee house.  I loved this poster they had tacked to the wall.  Life would probably be more enjoyable for all of us if we had more talking and less wifi.

The weekend is upon us.  Do you have any plans?  After a crazy week, our weekend is almost completely activity-free.  I feel like the weekends are either one extreme or the other – super busy or super quiet.  The weather was beautiful all week long, but the rain has returned just in time for the weekend. Oh happy day.  All that greenery and verdure has to come from somewhere, right?

Kids & Family

Do your kids watch Doc McStuffins?  It’s made right here in Dublin and just won a Peabody award!  Congrats to Brown Bag Films!

My kids love poetry.  Did you know that April is National Poetry Month in the US?  (I didn’t.)  This is a great article about using poetry with kids.   We enjoy reading poems at bedtime.  The ones by Robert Lewis Stevenson are some of our favorites.

Technology

Are you apart of the “Oregon Trail Generation“?

Is Intel just throwing money at the tech industry’s diversity problem, or will it move the needle?  Only time will tell.

Expats & Careers

I feel like I’m in the middle of reinventing my career plans (see this post).  Apparently it’s a theme in expat life.

Is becoming the trailing spouse the graveyard of ambition?  (The title seems negative, but I found the post to be really good.)

I have followed Zoe Rooney for awhile.  I loved her thoughts on soft skills and web development.

 

That’s all from me.  Have a great weekend everyone!

x Rheagan

Technology Tools for Expat Life

Many of the questions that I am often asked about living overseas have to do with technology and connectivity.  How do you stay connected to people in the US?  How do you call home? Move money back and forth? Get your mail?  Technology has DEFINITELY made living overseas easier.  Like everyone in the US, we use Google chat, iMessage, and Viber to text internationally.  I love being able to text my siblings just like I would if I were back in the US.  Once you get past texting, the recommendations are less clear.  We have gone through a fair bit of trial and error before landing on these suggestions. I thought these tools might be helpful for those considering a move overseas or an international assignment.

Mail

Some expats have their mail sent to a relative’s house, or have a relative or friend check their PO box.  If you don’t have a relative to do this for you, (or you would rather not), consider using a mail forwarding service.  I know several people that use US Global Mail, and have been very happy with the service.  They can provide you a US address for shipping, bills, etc.  You get a PDF scan of each piece of mail, and then tell them what pieces to send to you or discard.

International Phone Calls

We primarily use Skype to call/video chat with friends and family in the US.  In addition, we paid for a Skype local (US) phone number, in our parents’ area code in Texas.  You can set it up to forward to your international phone at no charge to the person calling you.   That way, we can always give a US phone number to people who need one.  Our skype number is forwarded to Brad’s Irish cell phone.  We also get email notification when a voicemail has been left on that phone number (which we can access online.) Sometimes the call forwarding doesn’t work perfectly, or we get a notification that we got a voicemail, even though the phone never rang, but it hasn’t ever been a major problem.  It can also be helpful to give to vendors that require a US phone number.

Calling while in the US

Expats tend to take longer trips home than most people.  When we come to the US, we try to stay at least 3 weeks.  If you are taking a long trip back to the US, you don’t want to pay international charges to use your non-US SIM card. Solution: embrace the pre-paid SIM card!  I think that pre-paid cell phone service has an unfair bad rap in the US – as in only teenagers, drug dealers, and those with dodgy credit use pre-paid service.  But it is a great option for expats!  We use a pre-paid T-Mobile plan when we are in the US.  It provides both Brad and I with US cell phone numbers, and  we just switch out the SIM cards, and away we go.  This helps us avoid costly international charges, and our friends and families can reach us via our US numbers whenever we are in the country.  We top up at least every 90 days so that we can maintain our US numbers. (The most difficult issue with this arrangement is keeping up with the *tiny* SIM cards!)

Smartphones:

We use unlocked smartphones so that we can use both US and Ireland SIM cards.  Electronics are generally cheaper in the US (no VAT!), so buy the phone you want before moving overseas. On the other side, phone plans are much cheaper in Europe as compared to the US.  You can easily find a monthly plan or a pay-as-you-go plan.  In fact, Brad and I still use our pay-as-you-go plan, because the company will direct debit the monthly payment, and there are never any surprises about the bill.

Banking:

If you are like us, your US expenses don’t end simply because you are living overseas. Getting paid in another currency adds to the complexity.  You still need to do online banking, pay bills such as credit cards, mortgages, or student loans.  Or perhaps you want to buy something from a US merchant and have it sent to a destination in the US.

VPN – If you haven’t done so already, pay for a virtual private network (VPN). You can set it up to give you an IP address in the United States (or any other country, for that matter).   This will come in handy when you need to access US-specific sites that are not accessible outside the US.   We use WiTopia personalVPN Pro, and have found it to be very reliable.

Currency exchange.   If you are living overseas, at some point, you’ll either need to move dollars to your current country, or vice versa.  For that, you can use a wire transfer through a bank, which can be very expensive, or a currency exchange service.  We use XE Trade to move euros to dollars to pay US expenses that we might have, or to move money into savings accounts in the US.  It isn’t instantaneous, and takes a few weeks to set up the accounts (to prove you aren’t laundering money!), but it is reliable and fairly efficient at moving money between currencies.  There are other foreign exchange services, but we have found XE Trade to work best for us.  Also, it pays to check around for terms and conditions of different currency exchanges.  The best service for your needs may be different, depending on how much money you are looking to move around and into which currencies.

Hopefully these tools will make an overseas move smother, and a bit less frustrating.  Did I miss anything?  What other questions do you have about living overseas?