A confession…

I am that woman who balances twenty boxes of shoes at the register in Payless. Four pairs of shoes per person. The same shoe in incrementally larger sizes for the kids.

I am that woman who, in late August, needs two carts at Target.

I am that woman who needs to drop off her purchases mid-shopping trip because she can’t carry them all.

I am that woman who cries and makes unreasonable demands of her husband in the middle of Kohls.

I am an American expatriate, wife to one and mother to three, returning to a developing country in east Africa in less than two months.

I am a little crazy because I am that woman who will not go shopping for another 12-24 months and I need to plan ahead.

The problem is that I don’t know whether it will be 12 or 24 months. If I knew it was going to be 24 months, I would have had more shoes at Payless, another cart at Target, and fewer tears in Kohls. Because knowing is half the battle.

But I don’t know.

I don’t know how big Henry’s feet will be in December. I don’t know how fast Lucy will wear through the seat of her swim suit. I don’t know whether Maggie will be a shorts girl or a skirt girl next spring.

Thankfully, I do know some things, now that I’ve done this all before.

I know that whites will turn gray in the first wash. I know that certain fabrics will get funny fades and stains by the second month. I know what kind of shirts are best for 115 degree weather. I can guess at the wear and tear on sandals and swim suits.

And I know that even if our luggage doesn’t arrive, we won’t go naked.

Last Wednesday I did the first of many returning-to-Africa shopping trips because we had a great coupon for Kohls. We filled two carts and marched to the changing rooms where my family filled each room. One by one they tried something on and stepped out. I looked to see how much growing room they had, how much it cost, and checked our list. Then I vetoed or okayed.

Then I asked Tom whether we would be back next summer or not. Whether he would be back this winter to fulfill some degree requirements or not. He couldn’t answer and I started to get a headache. I pulled string cheese and fruit snacks from my purse (tip to expat mom shoppers – bring snacks) for the kids and tried not to cry. I also tried not to think about the money. This was for five people for one (or two) years. And it really wasn’t all that bad, we made tough, frugal choices and none of us will go naked.

What would you make sure to bring on an overseas move?