Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

How we stay in touch

How do you stay in touch with family members who live very, very far away? Well, we're not exceptionally good at it, but here are the ways we help our kids remember who their grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles are.

1. Blogs. The girls each have a blog. Most of their cousins have blogs. It is so nice to be able to log in and see pictures from our family members in the US whenever we want.

2. Videochat. That's what we call it in our house - maybe there's a better name for it? Technically, we use Google Hangout, via our Gmail accounts. We don't do this as often as I would like to. Our kids (and some of the cousins) are still at the age where it holds their attention, but after a while they just start typing crazily on the keyboard and making faces at the camera and running around the room. Still, it's good to see each other, even if not much meaningful conversation goes on.

My favorite recent videochat experience was on Wednesday morning when we videochatted with Grandma Walker (my mom) as well as my brother and his wife and three kids (maybe only two were present, though - I couldn't really tell through the chaos of excited kids) and beloved dog. I had the videochat going on my laptop so when Miriam's bus came, I followed her out the door and all the cousins got to see her get on the bus. Priceless.

3. Spying on us at church. I think it's mostly only my family who does this. The services we attend in Sharjah are broadcast over the web to isolated pockets of Mormons who don't have access to a regular congregation. My parents know the URL and watch the beginning of our meetings sometimes - they can see us walk in and greet friends and play the piano or whatever.

4. Cards/packages in the mail. This doesn't happen that often, since mail from the US to the UAE is both expensive and slow. But every once in a while, we get an envelope "package" with stickers or small, lightweight, thin crafts for the girls to do. Jeremy's mom and sister Sarah are the ones who usually put these together. It's always a happy day when we get a letter from the US.

5. Weekly emails. My family recently started this one - each week my parents start a general mass email to me and my siblings (and a few of the older grandchildren) talking about anything, everything, or nothing - just whatever. Then everyone pitches in over the week until a new one starts. For me, it's all nicely stacked up in one conversation in Gmail. It's a nice way to hear news from my siblings without anyone feeling like they have to start their own email just to share a small piece of news or a good experience from the week.

My friend Anna (an American living in Germany) posted a great keep-in-touch strategy on her blog that I would love to try: videos of grandparents reading a story. What a great idea!

Even though we don't see each other in person every year, the above strategies keep us from feeling like strangers when we do see each other.

The nanny life

November 16th, outsourced