Monday, August 7, 2017

How to Pack for an Overseas Move

Yes, it's true! We are moving BACK to Australia, and this time I have my long-term Visa in hand!

But what to do with all this stuff? Right? Is it worth shipping it all? Do we donate or sell it all and start over? And when I started researching an overseas move, those were the two options that I found over and over. Ship it all for many thousands of dollars OR take what fits in the suitcases and get rid of the rest. But those options didn't fit for me. I needed, wanted, a middle ground. And that's what I've found.

We are taking four suitcases (three large to be checked, and one carry-on) plus one back pack each for daughter and I, and we are shipping a mini-container full of our stuff. How did I decide on what stuff? That is a really good questions, which I agonized over for about a month.

For that first month, I kept walking through the house trying to decide on what to get rid of. What had value that I could (hopefully) sell? What could I box up and donate? And it was OVERWHELMING!! Not that we have that much stuff, because we really don't, but when you have to make a decision about each and every single item in your home. It's just SO MUCH!

However, one morning I woke up and saw my dilemma from a different perspective - it didn't really matter what I was not taking. What was really important was setting up house once we arrive. Since some stuff was being shipped, I didn't want to get caught buying pots and pans when we HAVE pots and pans but they're coming 8 weeks later in the container. So first, I had to focus on setting up a basic home - a basic kitchen, clothing, a few toys for daughter, a few board games for all of us. I had to cover the basics so we weren't running out to the store on the 2nd day for stuff we NEED. And it all had to fit in the four suitcases.

Once I got that list written (I LOVE lists.), I was able to focus on what to send in the container. I could choose from furniture, artwork, boardgames, toys, store-bought stuff, hand-crafted stuff, again so MUCH STUFF. I needed a different question and came up with "What defines our family?" When people think about the Leach family, what do they associate with us? What defines our family time? That's easy - we read. We play board games. We love being outdoors. With these answers in mind, I was able to go through our home and choose what to take with us - some (not all) books, all our board games, a few small pieces of unique and functional furniture, a box of hand-crafted ( by family member) quilts, afghans, and pillow cases, pieces of framed art and photographs, bicycles, and the small kitchen appliances.

Now, I know you're thinking - kitchen appliances? but the electricity in Australia is different. And yes, I know that, but here's my thinking - For $50 I can buy a transformer to convert the voltage down to 110 which saves me from having to go out on day 3 and buying a new mixer, food processor, toaster, etc. Long term, they will probably have to be replaced, but they're not adding a huge amount to the cost of the shipping and they are used regularly.

When the shipping container arrives and we start unpacking these items, our house will instantly start to feel more like HOME. And that's my job as homemaker... to make a home for my family.

Everything that didn't make the two lists, gets sold, donated or just given away. And I didn't have to make a list! It's just what is left.

So now I have to run because the movers will be here tomorrow to load up the shipping container, and I'm not ready! Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right?!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's that Time of Year Again....

March, April, May always brings me into a time of self-reflection. Looking at who I am and who I want to be. Looking back and looking forward. How am I doing? Can I do better? How can I do better?

This year, along with my personal goals and achievements, my marital goals and achievements, and parenting goals and achievements, I am also looking at how I am doing in facilitating Isabelle's learning as we are home schooling. Overall, it is going well, but it isn't without its challenges with the largest one being not even a home schooling issue, but one of my own personal issues and how it is playing out in the realm of home schooling. And that is sequencing.

Sequencing, simply is planning. Putting a series of events into a proper sequence to achieve a desired outcome. During my stay in a mental hospital for treatment of clinical depression a year after a drunk driver collided, head-on, with the car I was driving, an IQ test was administered to me which included two sequencing questions. The administrator laid out four cartoon panels and my job was to put them in order within a set period of time, 30 seconds or a minute. I don't remember with certainty. I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it because I couldn't identify the first panel. I remember looking and looking at those panels, arranging and rearranging them, but I could not identify where the action began.

Identifying where to start is my biggest challenge as a homemaker, mom, and now home schooling facilitator. How do I start my day? What should I do first? If I do this first, when will I get to that? and that? and that? But it all begins with where to start. Finding the end of the string.

The accident I was in and its long-term effects are with me on a daily basis. It doesn't just sit in my past, 30 years ago, never to be considered again. That accident altered the course of my life 30 years ago and left me with long-term side effects which I live with the best that I can, but that will never heal.

Broken bones heal, torn tendons heal, knocked out teeth can be replaced with implants, dislocations can be relocated, lower lip tears can be stitched up, but the effects of a double concussion (front and back) as it was called then, closed head injury, or traumatic brain injury as it would be called now, those are long-term.

So this weekend, I spent some time with pencil and paper mapping out, again, my days. I included housework, meals, personal time, play time, and home schooling time. Somehow, some way, I have to make this work. I have to find that combination of tasks that slips into a comfortable routine that sticks.

In the end, life is about choices. I could choose to give up on home schooling and homemaking, re-enroll Isabelle in public schools and get a job outside the home myself, but I won't. I do believe the work I am doing at home has value and is important.

Thirty years ago, a drunk man chose to drive home from a party and changed the course of my life as well as his own. Life is about choices.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book of the Week: Home Schooling 101

Home Schooling 101: The Essential Handbook
by Mark and Christine Field

Coming at choosing which methods to use as your children learn Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, History, Art, Music, et al. from a Christian perspective, the authors have written a good and helpful book. Or if you're not looking for that Christian perspective, but just different techniques and curriculum which are available, it is also a helpful book.

But I am going to pull 3 paragraphs out to discuss. These paragraphs resonated with me and will have a strong impact on the rest of my years home schooling and parenting.

The next aspect of your child's language arts program is that of attentive listening skills. have you ever met someone who appeared to not listen when others spoke? They may have poor social skills, or maybe they never experienced the joy of being listened to as a child.
Children learn to listen through conversation. They talk and you respond. You talk and they respond. When children know that they are heard, they begin to desire to listen as well as speak.
A child learns to listen by being listened to, not talked at. Have you noticed how many parents talk at their children? For them conversation consists of a series of commands or a lifeless interrogation. If that is what children experience in conversation, how will they learn to listen?

Have you ever had what you thought was a conversation with someone, but when you walked away, you realize that it was all one way? They really didn't share anything about themselves. Or someone that talking with them always feels like a quiz session? I have one of these people in my life, and it is so incredibly frustrating. When we talk, they don't actually respond to what I've said, but talk about something else. Sometimes it is closely related to what I was saying and other times not. Now I realize it's because they aren't really listening attentively to what I was saying. 

This same person doesn't know how to tell stories or to talk about something they've read. It's always, "Hey, listen to this." as they read a passage from a book. If I wanted to read the book, I would read it. Don't read it to me. If you want to share something you've read with me, then tell me about it and then tell me why it's meaningful to you.

Conversation is meant to be a 2-way exchange of ideas, much like a tennis game. Not tennis drills with one person constantly drilling the other person with questions to be answered, but the answers not replied to.

Homeschooling 101: The Essential Handbook by [Field, Mark]

Overall, this is a good book for getting started in home schooling. For me, it's not a great book, but those three paragraphs have made it well worth the read.

What do you think?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Fun Day out at the Antiques Mall

What started out as a way for me to fill time while Isabelle was at Space Class at the Neil Armstrong Space Museum, turned into a fun day of adventures (and purchases) for the whole family.

During the hour I spent at the mall by myself, I found an old-fashioned sifter which  was the only item I went in looking for.

I do prefer this old style with the turning mechanism rather than the new ones with the squeezy handle, which tires out both of my hands long before I'm done sifting. This was a $7.50 win.

There was also an interesting end table and a set of dishes that I took pictures of to show Kenn. But it was time to go and pick up Isabelle, which I did. We went out for a diner lunch and because she hadn't been to the Mall for a while and we had time to kill before picking up Kenn, we went back to the Mall and explored a different area.

As we poked around the different stalls in the rooms, we came into a large room with an assortment of old children's toys and some games. And as it happens, we love board games. We play at least one daily and incorporate them into our home schooling plans. That said, there is one particular board game which really isn't a big deal to me -- Monopoly.

And yet, here it was... in all it's 50th anniversary glory...

wooden houses and hotels....

and a collection of all the retired tokens in metal. I paid a criminally high $15 for this complete set and only because of the metal tokens. Now I just have to psyche myself up to playing.

And we left just in time to pick up Kenn from his work day and brought him back to the Mall to see the end table and dishes. He was as intrigued by the table as I was, but said no to the dishes. Wait until you see the table...

What do you think? I opened the top drawer, intrigued by the idea of such shallow drawers. Is it some kind of a sewing table? I kind of hope so as it would help me keep a lot of my small bits and pieces organized.  But no!

Each drawer is actually a small table! Not as tall as a regulation tv tray, but SO handy for when you just need a little more surface space. And since we don't have a coffee table, there are perfect for our space! For $30, how could we not take it home.

And last but not least, a treat for Isabelle, a 1953 2nd grade reader she picked up and started reading while Kenn and I were poking around looking at the "boring grown-up stuff".

For $8, I hope she reads it more than just one time and given that she's already half way through, I know she is enjoying the stories.

This was a big buying day for me and as we continue decluttering and embracing minimalism, this doesn't happen often at all. But everything we purchased was 2nd hand, will be used regularly, and add beauty to our home.

I love the Antiques Mall almost as much as a good auction.
And a good time was had by all.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book of the Week "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling"

"Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling"
by John Holt

This book.....  oh this book...  is just amazing. It's taking me longer than a week to read because the author says such amazing things, such profound things....  about children, about child-rearing, about learning,....  that I have to set it down and process for a bit before I can return and take in more.

For example last night, in the chapter titled "Learning in the World", he shares stories submitted years ago to his newsletter by people who are experiencing learning in the world. What does that mean? We tend to presume, based on experiences, that learning only happens in classrooms under the direction of teachers, but that's just not true. And once you open up access to the world to people (little and big) who are enthusiastic about learning, have curiousity, the possibilities are endless.

I feel compelled to share one of the stories with you because this, to me, is a perfect example of learning in the world:

We live in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill about two miles from the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. Susan and her mother walk there almost every day, observing, playing, meeting people, going to movies, listening to music, and riding the merry-go-round. They see a fantastic variety of nature movies. . . . They know art and history museums exhibit by exhibit. Susan can drag you through the history of the universe, through natural history, on up to the latest mars landing. They eat lunch near the water fountain, see the latest sculpture, take pictures of their favorite spots, marvel at the beautiful spring and fall days. They attend mime shows, tape record jazz concerts, ride the double-decker bus to their favorite "explore gallery" where things can be played and jumped in. Tuition is very cheap, we all have fun, and we all learn a great deal.

Susan lives in a world of marvelous abundance; her resources are unlimited. She has not been "socialized" by school to think that education is a supply of scarce knowledge to be competed for by hungry, controlled children. She doesn't play dumb "Schlemiel," . . . Our home and neighborhood are like a garden full of fresh fruit to be picked at arm's length by all who want to.

As it should be! Life and learning are inseparable! That we believe they can be compartmentalized is our biggest error! We are so focused on specializing that we're missing the big picture.

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling by  Pat  John; Farenga - Paperback - 2003-04-01 - from CHG-PMD and

For anyone who has children in their life, in any way shape or form, I HIGHLY recommend this book. Children are little people with their own interests, their own thoughts, and their own learning. And this book can help you to recognize and facilitate that learning.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Frugality Bad for the Economy?


This topic comes up fairly regularly in certain frugal circles I'm in, and there is a fair amount of debate about it. So  this evening when I came across this article in Amy Dacyczyn's book "The Tightwad Gazette II" I was inspired to share.

I'm sort of a politics/economics junkie. Every weeknight I forgo Wheel of Fortune to tune into The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. The show's format includes a panel of experts on a given topic--who sharply disagree. When the topic is the recession, typically you can see a professor of economics from Harvard Business School duke it out with some guy who won the Nobel Prize for economics.
Though I'm not an "expert," one question I have been asked to comment on it "If I'm frugal, isn't that bad for the economy?"
It's true that plenty of economists believe we need to get that American consumer confident and spending again. This thinking, that we can spend our way to economic prosperity, leads some to believe that those people who don't spend money but save it instead, contributre to recession.
In fact, the reverse is true. Spending too much, and spending badly, got us into this mess. Frugality, in the long run, will get us out.
Here's why:
1. Former senator Paul Tsongas points out that business in America has suffered because of a lack of venture capital. Most businesses need capital to start up or to reinvest for greater productivity. This kind of borrowing is good debt, because in the long run it will create economic surplus.
Currently, there is a shortage of capital for two reasons. First, Americans save very little money, and second, what is available is sucked up by the federal government to pay for overspending. Americans typically save 4 percent of their total income, compared to Germans, who save 10 percent and the Japanese, who save 18 percent.
2. The average American has huge debts. To ask him to spend more to get the economy rolling is silly. It increases his economic vulnerability.
If that American declares bankruptcy, we all pay for it in higher costs from companies that had to eat the loss. If that person goes on public assistance, we all pay for it through higher taxes. And if chicken-hearted politicians are afraid to raise taxes, the government will have to borrow more money and. . . (see point#1).
3. The focus on spending our way to prosperity denies much deeper underlying reasons for the recession, such as the laws that make relocating manufacturing jobs to Mexico attractive for business. Consumer confidence will not bring back the thousands of manufacturing jobs we've lost in the last ten years. More people unemployed means the government pays out more unemployment benefits and--you guessed it--(see point #1).
To claim that we must borrow and spend our way to prosperity is shortsighted. We tried that to recover from the recession of 1982. The short-term economic gain was clear: More money was in circulation, which meant more jobs, and that meant more money, and that meant more jobs.
But that was false "prosperity." The government "created jobs" through military buildup and expanding its own bureaucracy. Developers borrowed money to build office complexes when there was no market for them. Confident consumers bought CD players and snowmobiles on their credit cards. By trying to accelerate a recovery artificially, by going into debt on a government, business, and personal level, we eventually lost economic efficiency, because a larger and larger percentage of our money has had to be siphoned off to pay interest on our debt.
I'm not saying that debt is always bad. But debt must give you value; it has to save you money in the long run.And I'm not saying you should never spend a dime. Clearly, some spending is essential for the economy. We all enjoy a higher standard of living because we understand the benefits of trading goods and services. Imagine if we all grew our own cotton to weave our own material to sew our own clothes. It's more beneficial to trade our labor with those in our economy who have learned to make clothing more efficiently. Even if everyone were a tightwad, there would still be an exchange of goods and services, but this exchange would be sustainable over the long term.
If you're not impressed by economic theory as expressed by a housewife from Leeds, Maine, I refer you to two books that say the same thing about our need to save to rebuild the economy. They are "United We Stand" by Ross Perot and "A Call to Economic Arms" by Paul Tsongas, which is available for a suggested $5 donation from the Tsongas Committee, 20 Park Plaza, Room 230, Boston, MA 02116. By the way, this is not a political endorsement of either of these men.
So don't rationalize spending because it's "good for the economy." And don't feel guilty about being frugal because it's "bada for the economy."
A healthy economy is made up of economically healthy citizens. If you make choices that are financially sound for you, they will probably be financially sound for the economy in the long run.

Another perspective, was given by Mr Money Mustache in his blog post from April 2012 --

What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book of the Week "The Tightwad Gazette II"

The Tightwad Gazette II
by Amy Dacyczyn

Amy was the Frugal Zealot who came on the scene in the early 1990s with her monthly newsletter, was interviewed for a local newspaper, and had her big break through when she appeared on the Phil Donahue show. That one appearance boosted her subscription numbers from 1700 to 40,000.

By the time she closed up shop, she had published the newsletter for 6 years, had published 3 books, and wrapped it all up with The Complete Tightwad which combined all 3 books and included highlights from the last year of the newsletter.

So it's all ancient history (oh that hurts to write). Why read it now? Because her ways of thinking about money, about reusing, about being frugal are gold. Sure, her references to technology are dated, and who writes letters to manufacturers anymore, but the techniques she used and shares in the books for making wise financial decisions are solid. And that's why she shared them, so we could learn to think for ourselves rather than just taking her word for what is a good deal.

The Tightwad Gazette II by  Amy Dacyczyn - Paperback - First Edition - 1995 - from Top Notch books and

And so yes, I do recommend this book or any of the Tightwad Gazette books you can get your hands on. I picked mine up at the library book sale and the thrift store.

What are you reading this week?