So my husband and I and our two little girls are currently living in a tiny village in West Africa. And these five things, small though they are, have made a big difference for us.

 

1 d-light Solar lights. We love the lantern and the disk lights. These are seriously awesome. We recharge them every day in the sun, and then we have about four to six hours of light from them at night. They are of great quality and last for years.

 

2. Sawyer water filter. This is a huge convenience. It attaches to any bucket and doesn't use electricity. You can clean it so it will last indefinitely. These filters come in various sizes, some don't and others do filter viruses. This system has been wonderful for us in reducing our digestive troubles.

 

3. A sleeper tent for my baby. Mine was purchased in Africa but you can find similar ones online. Basically it's a little pop-up net tent that zips up, and can be folded up to the size of a large dinner plate. SO much more convenient than a heavy pack & play! It doubles as a mosquito net, eliminating the need for a loose net which can be pulled into the crib and become a choking hazard. You can use it anywhere - nap outside if it's too hot inside. We travel with limited luggage a good bit and I love being able to put my baby down in a safe place, wherever we are.

 

4. The Village Medical Manual by Mary Vanderkooi, MD. These books are accompanied by a short course in tropical medicine (MMI) offered by Equip Intl. My husband took the course and we would highly recommend it. But even if you can't, the books are still a must-have. Obviously, we are not doctors. But the reality of life here is that often, medical care is far away or of doubtful quality. These books have literally saved my life. Also, it's wonderful to be able to double-check medicines, dosages, and procedures. Very self-explanatory. Highly recommended.

 

5. This last one is purely for mommy's comfort. We live in a hot climate and flip flops is where it's at. I used to wear just anything without a problem but pregnancies changed that to where my back and feet will be sore if i don't wear supportive shoes. Before we moved over this time, i was on a mission to find some sandals that would be comfortable, supportive, and also not too expensive and last a long time... (because let's face it, few of us tckmoms have trouble with having more money than we need, aye?) Well, I've found my answer in these Crocs Women's Kadee flipflops. They are super comfortable and I've worn them non-stop for six months and they still look practically new. I much prefer them over something like leather Birkenstocks because the mud, dirt and sweat they have to deal with here can ruin them quickly. I had Birkenstock brand plastic flip flops once but they wore out fast. So, Crocs flipflops is where it's at for me! Watch for sales on the website - I bought mine for just $13.99.

Do you have any items you would recommend for living in the bush?

Today's guest post is by Ellen Rosenberger. We welcome the input of our readers - check here for ideas if you're interested in writing for TCKmom.

 

Why is it called a “good” bye anyway?  What about it makes it good?

I looked up the word “goodbye” and was reminded that it originally was the phrase “God be with you” which, over the years, has become shortened to goodbye.  Interesting how the original intent was well wishes, a blessing, a prayer, a sending off with the best Person you could go with.

And yet, it is still not a favorite word of mine.  Especially when said to close friends.  Especially when there’s been a stream of goodbye’s to close friends and family in the past year and a half.  No matter what anyone says, they don’t get easier with practice.  Sure, we may get better at preparing for them and doing them well (which is indeed very healthy), but they are still not easy and hardly enjoyable.

Because it’s not merely a goodbye to a person.  It’s a goodbye to doing life together. No matter how quick a click of a button is for connecting on social media, it really isn’t the same as being in the same place geographically and experiencing all of the realms of life’s joys and struggles together.

I was thinking of these things on my way back from taking our good friends, Chase and Julie, to the airport this morning.  I thought about renaming the goodbye to any of these:

“sad bye”
“bad bye”
“deny bye”
“not-okay bye”

And yet, in the end, I know I can still call it a “good” bye.

Why?

Not because it feels good.  But because God is good.  Always.

And it is He who leads and shifts people.  Not only does He go with them, but He stays with me.  And how grateful I am that He can also handle my emotions and thoughts as I wrestle through the pain of goodbye’s.

And He even teaches me thankfulness for goodbye’s, knowing that all things pass through His hand for my life.  The good and the hard things.  And I can take it as an opportunity to thank Him for the reason that this goodbye hurt so bad -- because it meant that I enjoyed a relationship that was a gift from Him in the first place.

And so dear friends, (and others we love and have said goodbye to recently):  “God be with you”.

That’s not a wish or a hope.  It’s a statement.  And an assurance of His presence in our lives no matter how many physical miles separate us.

 

 

Goodbye

Our family has been in transition a LOT lately. Actually, my little ones have hardly known anything else. In the first two years of my older son's life, we moved seven times. In the last eight months since leaving W. Africa, we have lived in 4 different houses and taken four cross-country trips, never staying in one place more than 3 months.

When people find out how much we have moved and traveled, they often make comments about the children. Comments like "It's good that little ones adjust so quickly!" and "I'm sure all that transition is much harder on you than on them." or "As long as they have Mommy and Daddy, they're happy!" I've heard these statements, or similar ones, over and over again.

But honestly, they're not always true. Usually the people talking have never moved their family overseas - often never moved their family at all! They don't realize that transition really IS hard on little people. Our toddlers and preschoolers don't understand what's happening. They don't know what's coming next. They don't have a good sense of time, and don't know whether we're just on a trip or moving permanently. They don't know why things are happening or the reasons behind the changes. All they know is that their safe, comfortable world has completely turned upside down, and it's very scary and unsettling.

Certain personalities and also certain ages/stages have a harder time handling changes than others. It also seems that multiple transitions close together - or a prolonged period of transition - are much harder to handle. (We feel that way as adults, too, right?!) We found that our 3-year-old did an excellent job of handling our first move from Africa to the States, and the first cross-country trip that we took soon afterwards. However, it seemed that the second move a short time later - although only a few miles away - was just one transition too many, and we suddenly had a LOT of emotions and difficult behavior to deal with.

So what can we do to help our little people through transitions? I certainly don't have it all figured out, and would love to hear your ideas! But here are a few things that have helped us survive:

1) Talk about EVERYTHING. Even a very young child that is not talking yet can understand more than you think. Prepare them for what is coming. Explain where you're going and what to expect. Of course how extensively you do this, and how far ahead of time, depends on the age of your child! But we have found a HUGE difference in how our boys handle a new situation when we explained everything ahead of time. Tell them what the sequence of events will be. Tell them about new people they will meet and new things they will encounter. Tell them what kind of behavior you expect from them. And then remind them as you go along - "Remember when I told you about my good friend Nancy? This is the lady I was talking about! Can you give Nancy a hug?" or "Now we're going down the long tunnel to the airplane. Remember we talked about this tunnel? In just a minute we will see the airplane!" Do this with your 18-month-old too, not just your four-year-old. It WILL help!

kids transition

2) Give them grace, but keep your boundaries. Emotionally, your children are going through a lot, and you need to give them extra grace. You may see behavior that you've never seen before. Don't be shocked or angry, and don't be too hard on them. Remember they don't know what's going on, they're out of their comfort zone, they're scared, tired, hungry . . . give them GRACE and lots of love. But at the same time, remember that for little people, boundaries equal security. So don't just throw all your rules and expectations to the wind! Be reasonable - keep your expectations lower than normal - but don't add to their insecurity by allowing behavior that they KNOW is wrong.

3) Stay calm. I know this is easier said than done, because let's face it, transition is stressful for all of us! But we all know that children sense our stress. Even infants seem to know when Mommy is upset. Your impatience, anxiety, nervousness, or frustration will only add to your child's insecurity. Make a point of keeping your face pleasant and your voice calm, so that you can be a safe shelter for your little ones.

My fourth suggestion has to do with routines, but it's such a big one that I'm going to save it for part 2 of this article! in the meantime, do you have any tips or ideas to add to my list? Share in the comments below!

Last week we talked about some keys for helping our young children deal with transition. You can view the whole post here, but I'll review the points briefly:

  1. Talk your children through what's happening and what's coming next.
  2. Give lots of grace but maintain healthy boundaries for security.
  3. Stay calm yourself - even very young children take cues from your emotions and reactions.

So moving on to the last key on my list, the topic of today's post -

   4. Establish routines as a family and stick to them as much as possible.

Little people thrive on routines. (Big people do too, actually!) I am not talking about schedule. Waking up at 6am sharp and having breakfast at 7:28 every day of the week works great for some people in certain situations, but certainly NOT in times of transition! A routine, on the other hand, is whether you wake up at 6am or 9am on any given morning, you have a certain order of events to follow after getting out of bed. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

  • While you're having your devotions, your little ones have "quiet time" on their own blanket looking at books or playing with quiet toys.
  • When a child wakes up, you have ten minutes of snuggle time on the couch before jumping into the morning chores.
  • Snack time is a time of reading books with mommy.
  • Immediately after lunch, children go straight to bed for naps, no matter whether lunch is at 11:30am or 1pm.

These are only examples of possible routines, not suggestions of what your routines should be. The point is to have certain "events" in your day that are done in basically the same way every time, day in and day out. So as much as possible, you establish your routines during stable, normal seasons of life, and then stick to them as closely as possible during transitions. If you always read a book during snack time, then pack a book in your carry-on to do snack time in the airport. If you always snuggle first thing in the morning, then make sure you wake everybody up early enough to have snuggle time in the motel room, too.

 A few more points about routines:

  • Be sure to consider the seasons of transition that don't actually involve moving or traveling. For example, adding a new sibling to the family is a big transition for everyone! Try as much as possible to maintain routines through those times as well.

  • Focus on one change at a time. Don't try to introduce several new routines at once, or change more than one routine at a time. The point is security and stability, so make changes slowly.

  • BEDTIME - we have found sleep to be the single biggest challenge in times of transition and travel. Strange places and new beds often make for traumatic bedtimes and frequent night wakings. One thing that has helped with this challenge (it's not the magic cure - if you've found that please let me know!) is a 'set in stone' bedtime routine. It doesn't matter where we are or how late it is, there are certain "rituals" that we go through before tucking the boys in bed - including family prayers and special songs. This seems to give them a security and a calm-down time that makes settled sleep come more easily - at least, most of the time! We also carry a whole tote-bag of "stuff" that's necessary for bedtime in strange places (and at home) including stuffed animals, blankets, and even our favorite nightlight!

  • Sometimes there's just no way to stick to routines, and our children do need to learn to be flexible. Don't be too hard on yourself - or on them - if you are unable to keep your normal routines. But I have found that picking them up again as soon as possible is helpful in keeping everybody happy and sane!

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So what can you add to this discussion? Any routines that have worked well for your family? Do you have tips to share for establishing or keeping routines? Please join us in the comments!

Maybe you call it furlough, or maybe you call it home-leave or home-assignment. Whatever the term, it can be intimidating to look ahead. How do you prepare? Are you thinking of everything? How do you "live" in two worlds at the same time, planning and preparing for your months in the States at the same time you're wrapping up and saying goodbye in your host country?

Here are some resources that I found while we were preparing for furlough (and since we've been in the States) that have been a great help to me. Some are specific to furlough, some to permanent re-entry, and some just address transition in general. Also, if you haven't read the recent posts right here on TCKmom about how to provide stability for your children through transitions and how to survive a long plane ride with small children, you'll won't want to miss them!

This is a good planning-ahead article: 7 Things to Do 6 Months Before Departure

This helpful checklist focuses largely on the financial aspects of furlough planning: Home Assignment Checklist

If you're trying to organize a large number of speaking engagements, this might be useful: A Helpful App for Missionaries

More specific to permanently leaving your overseas assignment: 8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me and What {You} Ought to Know About Re-Entry

And for those helping children through all the changes: Little Lives in Big Transitions

What do you have to add? Any resources that have helped you with furlough preparation and transitions? Any personal words of advice for those facing it for the first time? Please share in the comments below!