Friday, May 31, 2013

Packing and Moving

I find it a great irony in my life that our lives are pretty mobile and yet I really stink at packing. In fact, I despise packing. What tends to happen is that I panic about the amount of stuff we have accumulated and I dream of chucking it all in the bin and live out of a backpack. Which is neither practical or really fun. Ok, maybe it is sort of practical.

Here are some things I've learned about packing.

1) Stuff is just stuff. You can chuck most stuff in the bin and never even miss it. In fact, I think that stuff just weighs us down. We don't need as much as we accumulate. It is easier to keep things clean and organized without so much stuff.

2) I tend to WAY over-buy clothes. My kids have more clothes than they could ever wear. I need to curb this tendency to buy so many clothes. Also, my children have grown a lot this year. I'm trying to hold out on buying new clothes for a couple more months. Unfortunately, my oldest son looks like he wearing capris (or manpries?) when he puts on his pants. He'll live and so will I.

3) Making memories and spending time with friends is more important than sorting through everything. We're making sure to get our goodbyes in.

4) My house is a disaster and I'm learning to accept it and let go. I can't do everything I need to and keep it all clean. I'm very grateful for my helper who cleans three times a week.

5) Moving is stressful no matter how much you prepare for it.

How do you feel about packing and moving? 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Links and Posts about Traveling

Here are some worthwhile reads about traveling with kids.

I wrote this post a few years back about vacationing on a budget with kids. It's definitely worth reading.

Vacation on a Budget

My friend at Handsfullmom has nine children under the age of 15. She wrote this great post about traveling with kids.

Successful Traveling with Kids

Enjoy. If you have read articles dealing with this subject, please link to them in the comments section.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Travel with Kids

In my post about life being a daring adventure, my friend commented about my bravery traveling with my kids. I responded with a lengthy comment which never got saved or posted. Clearly I had a lot to say, so I thought I'd turn it into a full length blog post.

Traveling with kids hasn't been so much an act of bravery as much as it has been a matter of necessity. I rarely have the luxury of family to take my kids. And so they tag along wherever we may go. Here are my best tips about travel with kids.

1) Plan your itinerary with your children in mind.
Kids have different tastes about interesting activities and they certainly have much shorter attention spans. When going to a special place, make sure you include outings that will interest your children. Accept that you won't be able to spend hours and hours staring at a special painting in a museum. Enjoy the energy and enthusiasm kids bring to exploring new sights. You'll appreciate the perspective they bring to the experience. Six years ago I went through a section of the Louvre Museum in Paris with my three-year old son. I let him take the camera and will never forget the perspective he had of the art. I could see how the museum looked through his eyes.

2) Inoculate your kids to travel through shorter expeditions.
I trained my kids to enjoy and behave in museums with short, frequent trips to a small museum in Sweden. This museum had it all with rats in barrels (showing the ship trade in Sweden), the creepiest skeleton of a giant crab, suits of authentic medieval armor,a technical museum that included lots of machines and cannon balls. Trips to this museum were inexpensive and were always a welcome outing when the rain drove us inside one too many days. Something to consider is that many museums today are designed to be more interactive and appealing to kids. Many museums offer a kids trail that includes a fun booklet and worksheet. At the Westminster Abbey, our kids had to find different things in the building, including graffiti marks on the coronation chair. We learned a lot from completing the activity and the kids were thrilled to earn a chocolate gold coin when they successfully completed the treasure hunt. Let your kids get really involved with the different exhibits.
If you like hiking and camping, take your kids on shorter outings so they'll be more prepared to cope with longer stretches of camping. Make sure that you emphasize the adventure and togetherness of the outing.

3) Prep your kids with information and context so they will understand what they are seeing and enjoy it more.
Before a trip to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. my kids watched an animated series produced by PBS called Liberty Kids portraying the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. My kids understood the significance of the Liberty Bell and loved Benjamin Franklin's printing press because they had context to the events which provided meaning to them.
Before our trip to Egypt, my boys read the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan which cleverly teaches Ancient Egyptian history and mythology through a modern fast-paced storyline that is relevant and interesting. My boys were able to understand the meaning of some of the pictures on the walls of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They had so much to discuss and offer as we toured those ancient sites.

4)  Plan food and rest stops carefully.
Nothing ruins a trip like tired, cranky, whiny kids. To avoid this, make sure you get as much as rest as possible. Pack lots of good snacks along the way. Research local restaurants so that you have plenty of options when the crew is ready to eat.

5) Enjoy the special time you have as a family to explore together.
Kids grow up and move away. You won't have many years to travel with them. So enjoy it while you have it. I'll never forget standing in an olive grove in Jerusalem with my young son as we talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I'll never forget the excitement of riding camels with my kids in the shadow of the Giza Pyramids. I'll never forget being surrounded by a crowd of Egyptian kids eager to take my daughter's picture. I'll never forget riding bikes with my boys on the Island of Ven between Sweden and Denmark. I have some wonderful memories to treasure exploring interesting places with my children.

What are your best tips about traveling with kids? What keeps you from traveling with your kids?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Comparisons: Medical Care

In an effort to finish documenting my life here in Saudi Arabia before we move back to New York (in less than two months!- Gasp!) I thought I'd write a few posts dealing with the differences between our Saudi lifestyle and our New York lifestyle.

Medical Care in New York

Scenario: Two of the five children have fevers and sore throats.

I call our pediatrician's office and they schedule an appointment, usually that day. Office hours are between 9 and 6 p.m. If after hours, I can call the doctor and they will make a suggestion whether to visit urgent care or the E.R or wait it out till the next day. I drive the kids to the appointment where they wait in the waiting room for a few minutes and then see a doctor. The doctor who knows all of our family by our first names, examines the kids, runs some tests, and then gives me a diagnosis. If necessary we are given a prescription. I drive to the local pharmacy to fill the prescription. We go home and dose the children and wait. Children get better and all is well.

Medical Care in Saudi Arabia

Scenario: Two of the five children have fevers and sore throats.

Husband and I debate back and forth the merits of going to the doctor. Toddler is out of his mind cranky and screaming. We have to wait for the right hours to go to the doctor. This means from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Then we have to wait until after 4 p.m. The ER is available if needed. Husband battles traffic for a long while. We arrive at clinic. It is closed. We finally find the ER entrance. We fill out paperwork and then sit and wait. And we wait. Finally, the doctor calls us back and briefly examines the children. The doctor says the illness is not serious and sends us home. Another day of constant tears from the toddler. This time doctor says the child is worse and does some tests. A prescription is written and filled at the pharmacy. Husband drives home the family and feels exhausted by the traffic.

Saudi Arabia does have good health care at times. It's just that it can be uncertain. I never quite know what I'm going to get when we go to the doctor. Also, my husband has to drive us or we have to arrange for the compound taxi service to get us there. And then there's that whole "closed for prayer" thing that really messes with your schedule. And this is why we avoid going to the doctor if possible.