Keep the questions coming, ladies!! And please don't be shy to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments. You don't have to be an expert - just share what you've done and why it worked (or didn't work) for you!

Question:

How do you all pack for a 3-year stay overseas? Do you pack 3 years worth of stuff for your kids?? How do you even predict what sizes they will be, etc? I would just love to hear how others do this. Any tips at all are welcome...

My Experience:

I don't have a lot of experience in this area, as I've only done it once. But I do remember well the hours I spent agonizing over each packing decision. I was a brand new mom with a three-month-old baby. I didn't even know what kind of things my baby would need in the next few months, let alone how to pack for the three-year-old he would be before our return to the States! It was completely overwhelming to me.

I did not pack clothing for the whole three years. I packed clothes up to size 18month and figured I could get the rest somehow. :-) Luckily for me, my firstborn was a little guy and wore those clothes until he was almost 2, so I had lots of time to have more sent over from the States and also shop for clothes in our local markets. My second son (who was much easier because I already had all the clothes I needed!) was wearing 18mo by the time he was 10 months old, so that would have been a different story if he'd been the first! In our situation, we were able to get some things from the States at least once a year, and we also had used clothing available very cheaply locally, so it wasn't a problem at all that I didn't bring 3-years'-worth of clothing. I also received some hand-me-downs from other missionary moms, which was a huge blessing!

What I wish I had done differently is plan ahead for toys, books, and educational activities. For some reason in all the other practical worries, toys just weren't even a blip on my radar screen. I guess I thought my boys could grow up happily playing with nothing but sticks and dirt? :-) I wish now that I had thought ahead to how to entertain my little ones as they grew. Obviously a bunch of expensive, battery-operated stuff probably won't be practical for moving overseas! But I do wish I'd brought some practical toys that could grow with my children and teach coordination, imagination, etc. Plus some good children's books, and a few puzzles and games!

I haven't reached the homeschooling stage yet, but that is the next hurdle for me. How do I plan homeschool curriculum for three whole years in advance? But maybe that's a topic for another post!

Let's hear from our readers! How did you know what to pack? What do you wish you'd brought - or are glad you did bring? Please share tips and advice!!

******

I need your help! I am writing a post on planning for childbirth overseas, in response to a reader question. However, my only experience is giving birth in my host country. I would like the input of a reader who has traveled back to her home country or to a different, more-developed country to give birth. If you are willing to let me interview you for the article please send me an email!

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  • Great questions that I don't know if I have the answers to! With my babies, I found that they wore very few clothes (sometimes none at all!) because our climate was SO hot and humid, and they got bad heat rash if I dressed them like I would in the States. So they didn't need a large wardrobe at all. As they got older and wore more clothes, they were also a lot harder on them. They got things dirty very fast, and could rarely wear a pair of pants two days in a row! But for everyday, my boys could wear much older, rattier, and stained clothes than I would ever let them wear in the States. So it worked to pass clothes down from older to younger, the younger one just looked a bit shabbier. :-)

    We did wash almost every day, which meant we could get by with about 2-3 sets of everyday clothes (for each child). But washing so often (and drying in the hot African sun!) is also hard on clothes! If you have no other options (no local markets/stores selling clothing, no way to get more sent over from the States) then you might want to be more prepared. But if there are other options in an emergency, then don't overpack! You'll want the space for other things!

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  • Great advice thanks... any tips on what kinds of toys?

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  • For pure entertainment, my boys (might not help you with girls!) spend hours and hours playing with matchbox cars and Duplo blocks. Those are the two toys I don't know how we would survive without. :-) But what I am just getting into is the world of educational toys. I love anything made by Melissa & Doug - their puzzles and games are simple, sturdy and educational (but not usually lightweight . . .). Think about (try to guess!) where your children will be developmentally in 2-3 years. Will you be teaching them ABC's? Then bring a set of foam letters or an ABC puzzle. Simple math problems? Maybe you'll want a small set of math manipulatives. Will they be old enough to do craft projects, sewing, painting? Then bring appropriate supplies for those activities. Obviously you'll be limited to just a few things, but a few is better than none!

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  • When I was packing in preparation for our three years in Ghana,I thought I packed quite lightly. We were very motivated to live in the culture and shop their supplies. We were a family of eight, so that was one reason to pack as lightly as possible and also we had never lived overseas so we were quite ignorant. We basically took our clothes and school curriculum,good reading material, and some carving tools (to keep our boys busy) for one year. Since the mission was already established, our house was fully furnished which made it much easier for us. The things I regretted not taking was
    1.more toys, and educational activities
    I did take some (We played alot of games as a family in the evening) I wish I would have let our children take more of their special toys to Ghana. When we came home, they had out grown them and I sensed a bit of disappointment.
    2. Plenty of new, comfortable underwear for you and your husband that will last you until furlough (and teen age children) In Ghana you could buy for the younger children so easily,but the adult's underwear was flimsy and quite uncomfortable.It was too embarrassing to ask someone to buy some of our private/intimate supplies. Be sure to take some good smelling perfume as what they sell on the street smelled cheap. So stock up ladies!:)

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  • Yes, underwear is something we didn't bring enough of! Great advice!

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  • Hi, Melissa! I had the same dilemma when I moved last year. I wasn't sure what is the best solution - to take my daughter's toys or not. Then I decided to take just the best of her stuff and the rest to keep in some friend's house.

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