Don’t Leave Home Without These

When we move overseas, we’re not backpacking. We’re setting up a new home. We’ve done this often enough that our packing list is a spreadsheet. We’ve learned that certain household items are worth carting across the world. These can help your transition go more smoothly, too: Read more


15 Signs you may be a Canadian in South America

Expats are a rare breed of bird. The particular combination of homeland and adopted country color their feathers. After driving 2,000 mile (3,500 km) to find jacket weather, I reflected on qualities that Canadians in South America might share. Now, as we wrap up our own South American adventure, it’s time to share.

1. For months, you insert French prepositions into Spanish sentences. ¿Querés jugar avec moi? ¿Vamos  après la escuela?

2. Tears are shed in your home because your kids miss snow that much. (Yes, really.)

3. You ration your maple syrup supply.

4. You have a maple syrup supply

5. You burn your lips every time you sip mate. Every time!

6. You consider the heated pool too hot for real swimming

7. Your family are the only ones at the party who don’t adore dulce de leche. This happens often.

8. Late dinners kill you because your kids don’t sleep in.

9. Your kids are on the only ones not on the playground at midnight.

View from Campanario Hill in Chile, the Andes in the background, two lakes in the foreground with a ridge covered in evergreens between the two. A third lake is tucked back in the mountains.
The cool mountain air calls to you. You might jump in a lake despite the numbing effect! – photo by Thomas Fields on Unsplash

10. When your husband takes an impromptu dip in a mountain lake, it’s just him in his skivvies and a triathlete in full wet suit.

11. Your peanut butter stash weighs more than your baby.

12. You are willing to cross a mountain range to find shopping and prices like home.

13. When you skate, it’s on ice. And it’s a very big event.

14. Your kids splash in puddles after rainstorms. Local kids gather at a safe (read, dry) distance to watch the spectacle. They are impressed pneumonia does not ensue.

15. You drive 18 hours or more – each way – to find jacket weather. Every summer. With four kids. And it’s worth it. The chill in the air. Fire in the fire place. Pine stands. Mountain lakes. So worth it.

What sets apart the expats in your corner of the world?


Best Places to Learn Science and Math

Sometime around 1900, a ten-year-old girl chased her younger brother and sister up a tree to escape a flash flood. To prevent losing their grip and falling into the water below, she kept them awake all night, reciting times tables. Two things struck me as I read this account of Jeannette Walls’ grandmother: (1) our kids (and I!) are very coddled compared to yesteryear; (2) You don’t need an iPad, or even paper, to learn your sums and multiplication tables.

With that in mind, let’s talk about some hands-on math and science. Read more

Keeping Up with Your English

Many of you kindly shared with me your challenges recently, and educational resources for kids rose to the top. If you missed this, I’d love to hear from you too. I’m asking what topics are most relevant to you and what challenges are most bothering you, so as to better focus my writing to meet the needs of my readers. You can let me know here.

I will post a few times this week in order to share some of the resources we’ve found helpful in these areas: English, Math & Science, Observation & Social Sciences, Travel as an education.

Let’s start with a story, since we’re talking about English today: Read more

How Not to Book Last Minute Travel

When my husband’s grandfather passed away, we were living in Argentina. There was no question whether he would travel home for the funeral. We just had to decide how many of the five of us would make the trip. And we had to decide fast.

We don’t live near an international airport – on either end. With the very best connections, travel time from our home in rural Argentina to our Canadian home is 20 hours. Many routes take closer to 30 hours in transit.

This left us with less than 12 hours to book flights and get on a plane.

Just three hours before takeoff, my husband and girls were in a cab, en route to the airport. I was on the phone, still trying to get their flights confirmed.

This was our first time booking international travel in such a hurry. It was intense. Here are a few things we learned:

Read more

3 Things Keeping Me Sane

I’m solo parenting four kids going through a big transition. My default is to put out the fires. Feed the mouths. Clean the clothes. Rush to the appointments. Wipe the tears.  I quickly find myself stuck in a reactive posture.

And if I focus on today, things can look pretty grim.

As we transition to life back in Canada, these are a few things helping me keep some perspective: Read more

Three Versatile Just-In-Case Items to Carry on Every Trip

Any backpacker will tell you to leave the just-in-case stuff at home. They’re right. Don’t carry those fancy shoes and tailored suit for months on the off chance you might get invited to a wedding. The toy, the book, the extra pair of pants, even the extra socks can be left behind.

You can get by. Or you can buy.

I make an exception for three small, but oh-so-handy items. Read more