Shopping and Crying in Kohls

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Shopping and Crying in Kohls

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?

By |July 11th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|13 Comments


  1. shirley July 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Summer 1989: I remember shopping in Target for a 2-year supply of everything for 3 females soon leaving for Zaire. My cart was so full of multiples of so many things, a woman stopped me asked me where the hairdryers were. She thought I was stocking the shelves.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      This is great. Well, not great, but made me laugh at least!

  2. Heather Mahon Estey July 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    wow. And I think I have it bad when I have to plan ahead one season for three kids. I cant imagine 12 or *gasp* 24 months. And having to ship it all. Praying for you, Rachel.

  3. Daniel Maurer July 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Nice piece. Emotionally raw. Well written.

  4. Carolyn July 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    We wear local clothes in Afghanistan but bring shoes and underwear for everyone cause the cheap Chinese or Pakistani bras and undies are itchy and gross. Plus, we have winter (cold, brutal winter) so long underwear and layers that local clothes go over. I totally understand trying to guess sizes for everyone for every season for the next couple of years. We go out to Dubai, but who can afford Dubai prices?? I also bring a stash of taco seasoning, green chile and chocolate chips.

    And tampons. I’m the woman at Target buying two years worth of tampons.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Perhaps a bit person for a blog but since you brought up tampons…have you heard of the Diva Cup?

  5. Tim and Richelle July 14, 2012 at 10:17 am - Reply

    I identify a lot with what Carolyn said – although not the winter bit as we are in a hot place. Bras and underwear, swim suits, some shoes, hair brushes and bands, earrings that don’t make my girls’ ears rot… and we try and plan for 4 years at a time – 8 kids, 6 of ’em girls. sigh… people think i’m nuts… we also bring some seasonings, cream of tartar, ranch dressing mix, but mostly we’ve learned to get by with what we can find here.

    some people love shopping. i dread it after a few episodes of that sort of shopping.

  6. The Sons (and daughters) of Clark July 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Oh friend. I am so there with you. Barf. Sunscreen and dental floss are musts for us.

  7. Annie March 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    Hi, I just found your blog. It’s an interesting read, for an unwilling expat determined never to assimilate to her host country. I need to let you know something, though.

    Unless you killed six million people in the search for the right clothes you weren’t a clothes nazi. Using the term to refer to someone who’s excessively controlling belittles the true horror of nazism.

    In advance, retard, spaz and gyp are also really offensive words you should stop using.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones March 26, 2013 at 4:22 am - Reply

      Totally right Annie. Rebuke accepted and I will even go in and change that. Sorry to offend, without intention, but offense caused nonetheless.

  8. Katie April 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Rachel, I appreciate you capturing what is for many of us expats of the West are unusually stressful tasks which must be completed during our ‘vacation time.’ I am even more impressed by the grace with which you responded to Annie. I, in fact, am offended by her tone; ironically, she seems more occupied with belittling you than honoring other groups of people.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones April 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Katie.

  9. Krista December 14, 2013 at 4:31 am - Reply

    My husband grew up in Saudi Arabia from 1980 to 1990 and although they did come home every summer my MIL has told me stories of how he outgrew his pants and she had to add random fabric at the bottom to make them last until the next trip home! We went to visit there in 2009, but you could get almost anything you need now (except Cheeries, we brought those for our host family!) and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to guess and pack for a year… or 2! I have 4 small children and I try to buy ahead for them and sometimes I’m wrong… but I can always go shopping!

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