Minimalist Baby gear

We bring everything to our mountain home by motorbike. Because of that it has caused me to rethink what baby things are necessary, which things are nice to help keep our sanity, and what things are really only clutter.

  1. Somewhere for baby to sleep. We have a borrowed pack n play. All my babies have slept in them. I don’t love them because…ugly. But, I always end up giving in to the practicality. We also have a few sheets, blankets, a wool waterproof pad, and a mosquito net.
  2. Somewhere to bathe the baby. We have a plastic tub inside the shower.
  3. Baby food gear. For us it’s a small metal bowl, a camping spoon, a blender, and a pot. We don’t even need a bib since it’s warm enough to just strip him down. We just bought a sippy cup that he’s learning to use.
  4. A baby carrier. I LOVE my Ergo.
  5. Diapers. We use cloth diapers (Flips) in the village, disposable when we are traveling. We also have a plastic lidded bucket for the dirties, cloth wipes and bottom spray, and we already had a “diaper” sprayer.
  6. Clothes. We get away with a few rompers, a few long sleeve pajamas and pants, and a few pairs of socks. It’s nice not to need much.
  7. Toiletries. We have baby soap, saline spray, baby Motrin, a snot sucker, chest rub, eucalyptus oil, a thermometer, and Medicine Mama’s sweet bee magic.

Non necessities that we have because we were given them, or because it helps our sanity.

  1. Toys. Ez likes the plastic clip rings, his bear, and Duplos. Period. Well he also loves anything that isn’t a toy like potatoes, pot lids, string, or trash. But we have Sophie, other squishy toys, board books, and cars if he ever decides to play with them.
  2. High chair. Sure we could feed him on the floor like we did for the first while.  But it’s nice to have somewhere that he stays put.
  3. Baby hammock. This isn’t so much for me, as it is for the ladies who help around the house. They don’t like to hear a baby crying on his own in a crib, and they love bouncing Ez to sleep…the hammock is a win for them.
  4. Baby book. I TRY to keep track of the milestones that so quickly go wizzing by.

I realize that everyone’s definition of minimal is different, and that actually our baby gear is quite extensive compared to our neighbors. Baby prep in the village mostly involves buying a bunch of sarongs, some baby soap and eucalyptus oil, and maybe buying or making a baby hammock. The sarongs serve as clothes, blankets, diapers, and carriers for the first months.

Is there anything that I’ve forgotten? Any gear that you think we should add?


I felt the crush of people surrounding us, taking our picture.

I remember when we first landed in North America I looked over a sea of people expecting to immediately be able to see Michael, but he blended in with all of the other tall, light skinned people. It felt strange to blend in. 

We got used to it, though.

Now we are back to the crowds of darker and shorter Asians, and we stick out again. While we waited for a flight, the snack stand lady grabbed Ezra’s foot and then rubbed her belly (hoping his whiteness would “rub off” on her unborn baby). When our flight was called we stood up with the crush of people also wanting to get on the flight (no “zones” here). We felt so conspicuous with our overstuffed luggage, and our glowingly white skin. It seemed like everyone around us was talking about us (I could understand, but pretended I couldn’t). Several had their phones out taking our picture. After finally crowding our way onto the airplane, and sitting down, the kids in the row in front of us and behind us immediately stood up on their seats and watched us until take-off. Before long I noticed a cell phone pushed between the seats. When we landed and waited for our luggage we had ten teenagers surrounding the boys, teasing them into letting them take the boys’ picture. It feels so uncomfortable to stand out. 

It is taking some getting used to.

We were used to the sweat. We were used to the hunt that we call grocery shopping (four stores, a market, a roadside stand, and a bakery all to fill a simple list). We were used to the attention. We were used to the last minute plan changes and uncertainty. 

After being away for a year, though, it feels newly uncomfortable. It is hard to be uncomfortable. It is not fun to bear the weight of so many eyes. But, as we navigate life with seemingly EVERYONE watching, it reminds me to live an exlempary life in this world that isn’t my home.

Build your RAFT my son

Our family moves. A LOT. Friends come and go in our lives. A LOT. Changes happen. A LOT.

We have several strategies that help our family navigate the changes. If you move as much as we do, maybe they’ll help you. Or if you’ve never moved, but your kids are anticipating a change (maybe a school year with a new teacher or new classmates) maybe these strategies will help.

The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken gave me words that helped us solidify our process. The authors devoted a chapter to leaving well. They recommended building a RAFT as a process of saying goodbye. RAFT stands for  

Reconciliation | Affirmation | Farewell | Think Destination.

Jude will miss his cousins, house, and jumping on the trampoline.

Reconciliation. Right before this last move one of my kids was hurt by a close friend. “Mom he was mean to me” was hard for me to hear. But, keeping reconciliation in mind, I said, “sometimes when we are getting ready to leave it makes our friends sad, and when they are sad they can be mean. Forgive him.” They are still young so it’s easy to forget and move on. Even so, reconciliation is a very important step in leaving well. Being at peace with ourselves, our friends and family, and the place we are leaving is important. I don’t want my memories to be of how grumpy I felt in the hot weather, or how annoying the traffic was, or how irritating a person was…I want to be at peace.

A sweet goodbye present for Jude

Affirmation. I am a third culture kid who has a hard time opening myself up. Sure, I can have a million friends, but rarely will I have one that goes deep. Usually when it comes close to time to say goodbye, I insulate myself. I decided years upon years ago that I wouldn’t cry, and so I don’t. It’s hard to change these long held patterns, but I try to dive in to relationships even if I know that it will only be for a short time. I try to encourage my kids to let their friends and family know how much they mean to them before they leave. Each of us attempts to acknowledge our special friends, and the wonderful experiences that happened to us while we were with them.

A sweet scrapbook created by our friends

Farewell. Last time we left I had the boys give small gifts and goodbye letters to each of their friends when we said farewell. But, this time I had a hard time getting anything together. We were blessed, though, by special friends who created photo albums, painted pictures, and helped stuff the boys backpacks with fun things.

Enjoying treats from the backpack after a long trip

Think Destination. Before we leave, we talk about the benefits (and shortcomings) of the place we are leaving. We also talk about the place we will be going. This conversation often continues for weeks, even after we have arrived.  I often find myself saying “you know you don’t have to pick one place over the other. Both have good things.” Just yesterday Grey said, “There are positives and negatives about here and about America. Here we don’t have to wear seat belts, but it is hot and there is a lot of trash. In America there are lots of toys, even in all of the stores, but we have to wear seat belts.” 

Change is a hard part of our life. The life is still worth it though. We are doing what we feel called to do. Not only that, but the boys get to experience the wide wonderful world.

Chicken Knowledge

“Chickens. They have wings, feet, necks, beaks (peck, peck, peck, peck).
When they are laying an egg they say, “ge, ge, get it out.”
–J man explaining what he knows about chickens (but, the ge, ge, get it out joke is originally from his brother)

We have an eager young hen.
Several months ago she layed about eight eggs. We re-appropriated seven, thinking that perhaps she would keep laying. Being eager, our hen did not keep laying, instead she decided to sit on her one lonely egg.

She had picked a prime nesting box for her eggs. The hot real estate was soon invaded by other hens who mixed their eggs in. Soon the eager young hen had quite a few eggs under her…but with different setting times.

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How to pass the time


Our family gets to spend a crazy amount of time together. Michael is often around the house, studying language, or working on projects.
To some of you that might sound like heaven, and to some…not so much.

Anyways, awhile ago we had to do our first long-Daddy-away-stretch.
Everything went really smoothly; not because I’m such a fantastically patient mom OR because my kids are little angels. OF COURSE NOT.
We had a lot of people ready to help us…our neighbors said I could send the boys over if I need a break.
We also had a plan for every day.
Every day, we’d reach into an activity jar, and pull out what we were going to do that day.

Here’s how it went:

  1. A sleeps countdown chart
  2. Treasure Hunt I made clues the G could read by himself. The boys followed them until the last one…in my bed there was a “treasure” bag for each of them full of whatever “treasure” I could scrounge up…straws, stickers, balloons, candy. Here are the clues:
    • Under the coconut tree
    • On top of the TV
    • In the tomato cage
    • By the soccer goal
    • On top of the big rock
    • In the generator shed
    • By the tall papaya tree
    • On the table
    • On the porch
    • In my bed
  3. Make a doll…er soldier house. I drew up several plans, and let them pick how they wanted to do it. We found a doll house on Made by Joel that fit their vision. They also drew up their own plans, of how to include an elevator, secret entrance, etc.
  4. Continue work on the soldier house. Apparently making things out of wood is harder than Michael makes it look. We picked out our wood pieces, planed them, and then cut them to size with a hand saw. We even had to rip a few pieces since all of our wood was hand slabbed, and nothing is a standard size.
  5. Sausage roast & swimming. We called our neighbors over to enjoy some sausages with us. They contributed corn and sweet potatoes. And we made some biscuits to roast on sticks. We still reminisce about how fun that was.
  6. Obstacle Course Like most boys their age they like competing; throw in a physical aspect, and they love it. To keep 4 and 7 year old feelings intact, I had them compete against themselves, trying to better their own personal times.
  7. Finger-painting J used a paintbrush instead of his fingers, he inherited Michael’s innate ability to stay clean no matter what.
  8. Potato print fabric
  9. Camping I was pretty nervous the whole time, even though we were right behind the house (I like having Michael around to explain the night sounds). The next morning we at oatmeal out of our tin cups.
  10. Greek masks (for history) I already posted about these.
  11. Make a swing. Once again tough with no pre-cut lumber, and not pre-fab hardware. We made do, and it works.
  12. Try to get more done on the soldier house. Still weren’t able to finish.
  13. Go down to meet Daddy.

We are looking at another long-Daddy-away time…though this time it’s only a week. And, then maybe another ten days at the end of the month. We’ll have to make another activity jar, do you guys have suggestions for easy activities that boys would like to do in the land of no libraries or play dates?

Mama Made: slingshot bag

Confession: way back when I wrote about the trappings of boyhood, I made a fake prop bag (by draping a belt next to a cleverly folded cut off from my jeans) to sub in for when I actually got around to making the real thing.

Well, I finally made the real thing a few weeks ago, and it couldn’t have been easier. I should have done it months ago.
Here’s a slingshot bag modeled after the bag that most boys around here carry. It’s handy for stashing, yes slingshots, but also perfect small rocks, endless amounts of rubber bands, and maybe a bottle of water. Now that the big boy is spending most of his waking moments up in a tree, it’s just right for slinging it over his back, before he heads up.

the cut-off from an old pair of jeans (I made myself a pair of shorts, at the same time…tricky)
the leather strap from an old purse
brightly colored thread

First, cut off a 2-inch wide section from the top of the jean leg. Then turn the jean leg inside out, and whip-stich the top closed.

Take the 2-inch section and fold it in quarters so there are no raw edges hanging out. Whip-stich the edges. Sew onto the top of the bag, making a tab. Clip the purse strap to the tabs. Stitch triangles (or any other favorite design) on the front.

A Fall Party (without Fall)

We happened to be in town when the expat community had a costumes + candy party.

We were a bit low on costumes…our costume “closet” is still up in the mountains…but we were able to scrounge up a Captain America(ish) and a pirate costume.

When G saw these pictures he said, “I’m so glad that we did this one, I look just like Captain America.”
Yeah not so much, but I do love making him happy.

Too bad Mr. Pirate took off most of his costume in under 3 minutes. He actually looked really cute…eye patch, hook (thanks mom-mom and pop-pop), my batik head scarf… One thing he wouldn’t let go off: the fake tattoo sleeve things. He loves those.

He played the fishing game non-stop.

Sometimes it’s tough being in between big kid and little kid.

It was a fun chance to celebrate the non-existent fall, get too much candy, play games, hang out and speak English, and wear costumes (for a few minutes at least).


We unexpectedly spent a few days in the capital city to arrange our son’s passport. We stepped from village life into a bustling, modern, expensive city. We often felt out of touch, out of step, underdressed, and a little “anachronistic.” Here are a few other things we noticed that were like us, a bit out of context:


the bajaj (3 wheeled motorcycle taxi) next to the jaguar.

the food cart selling .50 noodle soup outside the door of the 5 star luxury restaurant.

the street kids playing on a pile of cardboard, while the kids of diplomats and businessman climb a brightly colored play structure next door.


the cheap clothes markets down the road from the burberry and gucci and diane von furstenberg filled malls.

the rough tenement houses around the corner from the multi-million dollar mansions that made it into the pages of international design magazines.

the bamboo scaffolding on a glass and steel high rise.

eating fried rice for breakfast, and then eating a $10 plate of risotto and duck


our boys squatting like they are in the village, to get a better look at the expensive toys in an upperclass toy store.

me carrying j while most of the families around us have a nanny for each kid. we ate at one restaurant where one nanny fed the kid, while the other one gave him a drink.

It was a fun trip even if we felt a bit bewildered. I know, though, that we will enjoy getting back home.