Friday, June 6, 2014

A New Start....

We are finally in our new home, officially called the 'Ignatius Roga' or, Ignatius' House (after the man who once lived here) we are finally unpacked and settling into life in Paraguay.  It has been a bumpy ride thus far.  From living with college students (who knew how much fun that ISN'T when you have three kids), to blowing a lot of cash because the only place we knew to shop was apparently THE most expensive supermarket in Paraguay, to getting lost and exhausted in Mercado 4, oozing walls (cement walls + humid days =, really, that's a real condition), and a hot water heater design that requires flipping a switch and only gives you one temperature of water and ONLY in the shower (I boil water in a kettle for the dishes) it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. 
However, there have been loads of silver linings in the clouds here in Paraguay. 
1) We now know what 'pray unceasingly' really means.
2) The stunning realization that I don't know everything, can't do everything and really must lean on God for those times when I fail, miserably.
3) There is nothing that can replace the love and support of family and friends.
4) We are so blessed to have the family and friends we have.
5) Life is a journey, a process, and we are constantly growing...there is no one who is so perfect that growth and improvement is impossible.
6) When life gives you Lemons...put it on EVERYTHING (seriously, rice, cake, pie, chicken sandwiches....lemons should be their own food group in Paraguay).
7) In a pinch, if you mix hot water and honey and tell your kids it's a treat....they are thrilled (note to self: try this with other combinations of hot water and random semi-sweet natural treats). there are also a million other little things that we have learned, but what can I say...we have to choose between writing about our life or living it....for now, I am going to go live a little. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ch-ch-changes....the world turns, even in Paraguay

Life in Paraguay has been an adventure so far.  It has been almost a month since we arrived, and pretty much everything and nothing was as expected.  The language barrier is a much bigger problem than I imagined.  You know how people say 'Oh, you will be immersed, you will learn in no time' and we believe it?  Yeah...not so much.  I have learned you can literally go days with out saying anything to anyone if you really don't have a choice.  Ok, having 3 little people to talk to in English is probably not helping my immersion along.  Still, I have an appointment to start working with a tutor, so hopefully, this really is a temporary problem.
When I was told about food in Paraguay the response was usually something like...'Oh, they have so much fresh's delicious'.  That's true enough....but in my naive mind, I took fruit to mean produce.  Fruit, it seems, means fruit.  Bananas, oranges, guava, papaya, even apples and grapes.  Fruit, though, does not mean Vegetables.  There are some staples we have found consistently, potatoes, Manioc, onions, and usually tomatoes.  Other items are kind of hit or miss.  I know it's enthnocentric....but I really do miss going to the supermarket and having 100 different veggies available in a dozen different ways (froze, fresh, canned, steam - in - bag, etc).  On the bright side, though, my kids now eat plain white rice (something I have been trying to get them to do for about 3 years) and ENJOY it.  Plus, I am getting pretty creative with cooking.
When we decided to go to Paraguay, one of the hardest realities to face was leaving our loved ones in another country.  The reality of this consequence has really hit home in the last month.  I have missed my best friend's graduation from college (a feat 5-6 years in the making), I have been unable to offer any tangible comfort to a dear friend as she suffered the loss of her son, and as life moves on in the US with out us, we have come to realize how many people really don't need us, and we (ok, mainly me) have lost a part of our sense of self.  However, as our lives and world view changes (for better or worse) we are growing; together as a family, as individuals, and as global citizens. 
For these reasons, we are plodding through the hard days, and laughing through the good days, and are happy to go wherever this journey takes us. have seen the before pictures of 'our house'....look soon for the after shots...:)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A quick Pictoral update on our house

A few days ago I mentioned we intended to move into our semi permanent home in Asuncion (only semi permanent because we are meant to move to the Chaco in a few months).  Well on the day we were supposed to move, we saw the house:
 Bedroom 1
 Bedroom 2
 Living room
 Living room, from the opposite corner
So, I think the Patio is the most habitable.  So we aren't moving just yet.

A funny thing happened in Paraguay...

Really, a couple of funny things have happened.  I would like to say they all have something to do with cross cultural experience.  In reality, at least half of them are just mistakes on my part.  Here are a few highlights:
1) On our second day in Paraguay, I decided we should take a long walk around the neighborhood to get oriented.  We walked about 10 blocks down Avenida Espana, turned left and managed to end up on Avenida Mariscal Lopez (a major thoroughfare).  I was excited, surely we would see good stuff now.  After all, as we drove down the street the day before on the way out of the airport, the president's house and the plaza Gobierno whizzed by.  After about an hour on the Avenida, we stopped a lady to ask for directions back to where we were staying, Gral Santos.  She gave us a puzzled look (which I thought was due to my poor Spanish) and promptly informed us (in English that was much better than my Spanish...embarrassing) that Gral Santos was way too far away for us to walk and she would have to call her son to come pick us up and take us there.  On the bright side, both she and her son now have a 'silly American' story to laugh over.
2) A few days after arriving, we were picking up the language quickly (though sporadically) and when someone explained that Siempre meant always, I was excited.  Ever on the look out for a mnemonic device, I immediately realized that the my training as an Army brat would come in handy.  Siempre Fidelis is the Marine corps motto, it means 'Always Faithful' so I could remember it easily (you would think).  I got confused looks for about 2 days before I realized my 'mnemonic device' had gotten its wires crossed and I was instinctively saying Fidelis every time I meant to say always....doh!
3) While driving home with the Mareco family one night, Cristobal asked me what sentry means.  I explained it means a guard in the military.  He looked very confused and asked again, and I tried explaining a different way.  After we went back and forth a half dozen times he wrote down what he wanted explained, Centre.  What is the difference between a Center and a Centre?  Ahh, now I know the answer to that, but how would I explain, in my limited Spanish, that during the American Revolution Benjamin Franklin arbitrarily changed the spelling of English words to be different from Great Britain?  Honestly, it was not my most eloquent moment, I probably sounded like my 4 year old trying to explain a story she had been read, but I think he got the gist. 
4) Finally, my most embarrassing faux pas; we were visiting the President of the Disciples of Christ Church in Paraguay (of course something REALLY embarrassing has to happen when you are meeting the president of something).  She was very nice and her husband was talking to me in rapid fire Spanish (he later explained that a cultural difference between the USA and Paraguay is that the US attempts to prevent problems, Paraguay lets the problems roll and learns from them).  The few words I picked out were Paraguay, Guarani, Habla, and etc.
 Now, I my Spanish is currently at a 'barely adequate' level...I can discuss what I need to discuss in my profession, I can carry on a basic conversation, but it's so much easier if people talk to me like I am stupid...and slow, it helps to talk very very slow.  So, with the few words here and there that I picked out of the question, I discerned that I was being asked if I spoke any Guarani (an indigenous language spoken by virtually everyone in Paraguay).  Of course, I replied, 'No, nada'.  It was one of those everyone froze, crickets chirping moments.  They were all staring at me in shock, the President of the church was standing bent over in the process of pouring refreshments, frozen in time.  Finally, Cristobal, a pastor whose church I have been attending and whose family has graciously taken us under their wing, explained...He had asked if I liked Paraguay and the people of Paraguay. 
I couldn't help it...I laughed, really loud.  Leave it to me to say something so outrageous, even accidentally.  So I explained, I thought he had asked if I spoke Guarani and that I like Paraguay and the people of Paraguay and everyone unfroze and we had a very very pleasant visit.
There have been other, whoopsies and uh oh's, but I just wanted to give you a taste.  Entering any new culture is going to have a few hiccups, add in a language barrier and you are likely to have some funny conversations.  That's part of the joy and adventure of life outside of your comfort zone.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On the ground in Paraguay

It is fall here in Paraguay, and for the last week and a half we have been staying in a guest house of the Lutheran Church here in Asuncion.  It seems to house mostly college students studying at one of the many universities here in the Capital.  It has been a bit difficult to have 3 small children in such close quarters with people who need to study.  Trying to keep them quiet at night, or between 12:00 and 3:00 for the mandatory resting/studying/sleeping times, has led us all to some frazzled nerves.
Tomorrow we are supposed to be moving to Friendship Mission tomorrow.  There is an elementary school housed there, so I assume lots of kid noises during the day won't be a problem.  Then, at night, there is only one other family that we have to worry about disturbing, the Marecos.
The Marecos family has been awesome here...inviting us to dinner and even taking us to celebrate Mother's day with their family.  Maria (mother to Augustine, Facundo, and Flores, wife to Cristobal) even baked the most delicious cake for Anya's birthday.  They have been very gracious and friendly.
There have been ups and downs.  For the first 2-3 days, we had a banking snafu.  And there was (and still is) some cultural adjustments to be made, but I am very proud of how well the kids are taking it.
Look back here soon for posts on silly mistakes we have made, and hard lessons learned.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Up and down, up and down

Moving to Paraguay with 3 kids under the age of 10 is either the pinnacle of my awesomeness, or the depths of my idiocy.  Honestly, I think it's probably going to end up a tally in the awesome column, but at varying (you know, about 20 times a day) moments, it definitely feels like it belongs in the idiocy field.  I love my life.  I love my family, friends, church, homeschool co-op, town, state, car, house, stuff.  I love it all, and I am just going. 
When I went to school to study Anthropology I had visions of Indiana Jones-esque adventures in Amazonian jungles and German castles.  Then, I actually studied Anthropology and did field work and I realized that mostly I would be doing paperwork.  That's ok, though, because I love people and Anthropology is, at the heart, the study of people.  This opportunity to work and live in Paraguay was something I could never have imagined.  It's amazing, a blessing wilder than I ever thought to dream of. 
So, I am happy, ecstatic, to be going.  Somehow, though, in my imaginings I can't picture the day to day with kiddos.  What will it be like; I remember being in Mexico and seeing how differently children were treated.  I feel fairly certain that parenting in Paraguay will be different than in North Carolina.  If nothing else, I am enormously aware that we will be the 'they' in this we/they dichotomy, the outsiders, the (sort of) representatives of our country....that's a lot of responsibility rattling around in my parenting mind.
So, that's why my mood, my thoughts, my preparedness, and my energy are on what seems to be an eternal roller coaster.  Up and down, round and round, and where it stops...who knows.  One thing is for sure, ready or not, this time next week we will be in South America; our new home.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Busy Beavers...

So, we got our official date, our plane reservations are confirmed, and after waiting over a year, everything became very real very quickly.  All in all, things have been better and worse than I expected. 
The hardest and most unforeseen problem we have faced hasn't been what to take, or which bags to use, it has been the people we are leaving behind.  We prepared, of course, for the reality of leaving them.  What we didn't prepare for was the tsunami of last minute meetings, parties, farewell dos and etc.
In one way it has been amazingly comforting to have so many people want so badly to get their last greetings in.  In another way, though, it has been terribly frustrating.  People have their own lives to live, and we have to somehow mesh hectic schedules.  During routine times, this is accomplished easily enough.  With only around a week left to pack, get our house in order, give the grandparents enough time to last them a year or more with out the wee ones, and all the last minute minutia...well, finding time to squeeze in a few dozen fare-thee-wells has been frustrating to say the least.
My days are filled with packing, cleaning, more packing, wondering just HOW I managed to collect so much stuff that needs to be shipped off to the local charity shop, packing, trying to find where, in the chaos, I laid down the bundle of important documents to take with us, and, then, another box to pack.  Then there is the packing.
Hmm, I suppose we all know what has been foremost in my mind of late. 
The farewells and parties have had another downside; in that my wee ones seem to suddenly realize they won't see cousins and friends for a long time.  There have been a few tearful moments at these times.  There has been some erosion of careful preparations to prevent emotional trauma to little travelers.  There have been some gut wrenching decisions about who to see when and frustration at not being able to do everything we would like.
Still, on the flip side, these tears and frustrations only occur when there exists a slew of well wishers and loving friends who have taken time out of their lives to spend a moment with us.  All in all, I suppose it is better to sob our way through the week than for it to pass with little or no notice. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This is no game...

...but there are kind of games involved.  So, with our departure from the US looming on the horizon, I have been kicking into high gear with preparations.  Today, the task was to pack one of the big checked bags with items that we 'definitely' want to take.  In this instance, it was our board games.
I have kind of gotten a lot of flack about taking our games; but you have to understand, we use our games in homeschooling, for family game night, as boredom busters, etc.  Also, I remember trying to find a simple book in English while in Merida, Mx (a pretty touristy town with a lot of ex-pats from the US, UK, CA, etc.) and how difficult and expensive that was.  I can only imagine how difficult it may be to find games in English in Paraguay. 
So anyway, I decided today was the day we needed to pack up the games.  This wasn't as simple as it sounds.  Space is at a premium in our luggage, so superfluous boxes had to go.  That meant bagging up every bit and piece from every game we own (only about 20 +/-), pulling out all the game board, laying those flat in the luggage and then arranging a bunch of 3D baggies of junk on top and doing it all in the most space saving way possible. 
It took HOURS, and when all was said and done, the games are taking up almost the entire 62 inch piece of luggage.  To be honest, I am torn.  How badly do we need these games?  Do we need ALL of them?  Do we want them more than other things like loveys and blankets?  Ok, ok, we have already packed the blankets, but still, how important are the games?
Well, for right now, they are pretty important.  Games are a big part of our culture as a family.  My first Christmas as a single mom, I started stock piling games to play together as a family.  I may have had the only 7 and 4 year old who could play chess by themselves with out a helicopter parent telling them which pieces could move where.  We LOVE games.  So, unless something more pressing comes along, our largest piece of luggage will remain crammed with die, cards, tokens, and markers.  And we will anxious look forward to cracking open a board and christening our new apartment a home. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Modern Missionary

I received some wonderful news recently.  In 4 week my family and I will be drinking terere in Paraguay.  I was so excited when I found out we were finally going, I was shaking.  Not only do we have a date, but there were some last minute changes to what, exactly, we would be doing while in Paraguay.  We will not be working with Campamento Jack Norment, as we originally planned.  Instead, we will be working and living in Asuncion with the Mision de Amistad (Friendship Mission) and Comite de Iglesias Para Ayuda de Emergencia (CIPAE) (commonly called, the Inter Church Committee). 
There has been some mixed reaction to the changes.  My family and friends were very comfortable with the idea of me rusticating I a camp, but living in the capital city isn't nearly as popular an idea.  However, I am not phased by the changes one bit.  There are several reasons why I am unconcerned. 

1) I am trying to do whatever God wants and go wherever He leads.  Already he has made this change more wonderful and amazing than I could ever have dreamed.  If he has taken my one tiny step and propelled us this far forward, I would have to be crazy to refuse to just keep on following him.

2) Going to Paraguay, even agreeing to be a Missionary, has never been about me.  Don't get me wrong, there are certainly benefits I hope to enjoy about the situation; but, the real reason I am going is to be of service to others.  There are some unfortunate legacies to overcome as a Missionary.  The wounds left on the collective psyche by imperialism are still struggling to heal.  For that reason I don't particularly care whether I am working at a camp, or in a mission in the city.  My job, as I see it, is to accompany the people of Paraguay, wherever and however they want me to. 

So, this is a time of joy and excitement, but also of responsibility and thoughtfulness.  I ask you to pray for my children and I, that we are able to follow where God leads and live Christ-like lives wherever we end up.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A minor panic attack about homeschooling

I have homeschooled my kids their entire lives.  Even before I had kids, I knew I would homeschool.  I was 'homeschooled' through out middle and high school (I spent one semester in public high school, at my request, and excelled academically, but was bored witless and so transferred back into my homeschool).  I always attributed my academic resiliency to having been homeschooled (in reality, I was unschooled, though, I am not sure the term 'unschool' had been coined at that point).  Putting my own children in public school was never a thought I entertained.
Even when I found my self suddenly a single parent, I knew I would continue to homeschool; it is a non-negotiable parental decision.  When I applied with Global Ministries, I was really excited to see that they had already given 'homeschool' as an education option when they asked how you would educate your children overseas.  Yay!! I didn't have to explain or convince them that homeschooling was worthwhile.  There were some questions about the logistics of our family homeschooling.  Things like, 'How will you find the time to homeschool AND work with the partner organization?' and ' How are you going to get the books/curriculum you need to your destination?'  There were also some really encouraging comments like, 'Homeschooling, that's great, you will be able to travel easily with your kids while in Paraguay.'  and 'You know, once you get in country, your kids will become trilingual, because they will easily pick up Spanish and Guarani...especially because they are homeschooled.' 
Homeschooling is very important to our family, so as I have been preparing to journey to Paraguay, it is only natural that we should be considering the affect the move will have on our homeschooling.  Mostly, we try to stay positive; we think of the really cool natural science topics we might be able to observe up close and personal or the neat opportunities to see different cultural events.  A few weeks ago, though, I had a startling moment when I realized there was one major hiccup in our homeschooling plans.
We follow child led learning ideals in our homeschool; this means that when a child expresses an interest in a topic, as a family we facilitate opportunities for that child to indulge in learning as much as they like about that topic.  This means that we have no set curriculum....we just learn whatever takes our fancy. 
Generally, this type of learning is beneficial for travel.  I don't have any text books to lug around, there are no heavy notebooks and school supplies needed or pointless reports to be saved, we don't need to be still and studying at a certain time with certain tools.  There are two major necessities to our homeschool style, though, a computer (not a problem) and a printer (not a....wait a minute...).  Yeah, a printer, we would definitely need that to print out articles and worksheets and pictures and...we NEED a printer.  I love my home's great, it scans, prints, has wonderful resolution, it's easy to use and it is my best friend as a homeschool mom.  Let's face it, though, printers aren't really very durable.  I mean, you drop it, and you probably need to buy a new one.  How, then, could I guarantee our beloved printer would arrive safely in Paraguay?  The answer...I couldn't.  And, since a printer is both bulky and heavy, and there was no guarantee it would arrive and do what we need it to do, it didn't make the cut of things to travel with us in our checked luggage.
Now, here I am, a homeschooling mama with three kiddos who depend heavily on themed coloring pages, copy work, word jumbles, cross word puzzles, and a plethora of other printed materials.  The easiest solution seemed to be to buy a printer when we get to Paraguay.  So, I did what anyone would do, I hit the internet and looked to see if my local chain store shipped to Paraguay.  The brief answer to that is no.  Well, maybe I should just mail myself a new printer.  If I bought it and it was still in its original packaging, it should make it.  Brief  Ok, let's see what major chain stores with internet sites are IN Paraguay and then when I get there I can go buy a printer and take it home.  No. 
I like to think creative thinking can solve any problem.  I also like to think I am a creative person.  Apparently, though, not creative enough to tackle this problem; not yet, at least.  So, I did what I have been doing a lot lately, I let it go.
I don't know if we will find a printer in Paraguay that will plug and play with our laptop.  I don't know if we DO find said printer that it will be within our budget.  I don't know what we will do if we can't find a printer.  But, I do know that there is a solution, and we will find it.  It is pointless to panic over what something that MIGHT be a disaster; especially when there is really an equal chance that it MIGHT be an amazing blessing. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: What we are leaving behind

Family, friends, a home; these are the things we (as a family) hold dear.  Our extended family has recently become much closer (we were always close as a family, now we are more of a tight knit clan) after the loss of several family members a few years ago.  We have become firmly entrenched in the life and laughter of our church.  I have had the same best friend since I was 8 and we have never lived more than 15 miles away from each other.  The kids have made friends at our Homeschool co-op and through scouts.  In some ways, the hardship of leaving these people is the hardest and easiest task ahead of us.
It is hard because they are woven into the fabric of our lives.  These are the people we see every day or week, at least.  Weekend visits to Nanny and Papa (a routine part of our lives for years) will be no more.  The Front Porch Greeting in our church, where we go around the sanctuary and check in on each other, will continue on with out us.  Daily calls to my best friend to see how her kids are doing, how school is going, or to chat about our latest projects and passions, will (with any luck) be on temporary hold.  There is something wonderful to be said about relationships that you know will endure, people you know will not fail you.
There is also something cowardly about this life.  Don't get me wrong, I love my life; if I didn't love my life I wouldn't have the confidence to leave it.  However, when I first started considering working as a missionary, I tried desperately to convince myself I would be terribly ungrateful and a malcontent if I didn't simply enjoy the life I had been blessed with.  It actually kind of worked for a while...a battle waged in me; to go or not to go.  It was during this time when I was reminded of scripture; the story of the rich young ruler. 
In case you haven't heard this episode from the life of Jesus I will give you a brief synopsis (in my own words, as I understand it).  There was a wealthy young ruler who asked Jesus how to get into heaven.  Jesus responded that the man should follow the commandments.  The young ruler said he already did this and inquired what more he could do (how often have we all felt like this, like we are following the letter of the law, but somehow not the spirit)?  Jesus told him he could sell all his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Him.  The young man became very sad and left Jesus.
I am not wealthy by American standards; I live well below the poverty line.  So, to some, it may seem that I am not very comparable to the wealthy young ruler mentioned above.  However, I am wealthy in a lot of ways.  I am wealthy in family, friends, relationships and, more pragmatically, I am wealthy in comfort, ease, entertainment and security. 
It would be easy to stay in my comfortable home, surrounded by the love and warmth of my family and friends.  It would be easy to say I don't have a lot, and it wouldn't be expected of me to give up what I do have.  But God doesn't call us to do what is easy, or convenient, or pragmatic.  We are called to love like crazy, to come follow Jesus (who was also fairly poor in the Roman Empire, who left His home and family and hit the road, who didn't play it safe and stay in His carpenter's workshop building ploughs, tables and chairs).
So, we are leaving comfort and security and the world we know.  We are NOT, however, leaving the love, support, friendships and joy that we currently enjoy.  Instead, we are taking these things with us, and hope to share them whenever and wherever we can.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Passports

I have my passport, I had to get it a few years ago when I took a research trip to Mexico.  I don't remember much about the process...I went to the post office, they took a picture, paid a fee and a few weeks later I had a passport.
Getting passports for 3 kids, though, is not easy.  It's not just that they have three times the fees to pay for.  It's not that I had to drag three kids (aged 9, 7, and 3) to the post office and wait in line and have their pictures taken and wait in line again and etc.  It was the beauracracy.
There have been recent changes to regulations for obtaining passports for children.  This is mainly to prevent parents in a custody battle from fleeing the country with their children; this is a good thing.  For this single mom, though, I could have done with a little less need to prove I have sole and exclusive custody of my kids THREE TIMES. 
Luckily my lawyer had given me a copy of my custody decree when it was filed; so, other than one missing birth certificate, I had all the paperwork I needed already.  The missing birth certificate required a trip to Raleigh and $41.50 fee (it is only $24, which I thought was way more reasonable, if I hadn't needed it 'expedited').  To make that hour drive worth while, I took the kids to the North Carolina Natural Sciences Museum which is only a block away from the vital records office.
All in all, though, the postal worker was so helpful and kind; she double and triple checked everything and even put post-it notes on my application to be sure to remind the (state department?) workers to return all of my documents.  And, really, though it felt like it took forever it was only about 45 minutes (and that include pictures, reviewing paperwork, paying for and printing 3 money orders and making 15 different copies).
I will warn anyone who is thinking of getting their kids' passports anytime soon....bring extra cash; you will probably have a few unexpected fees.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Minor Miracles

One of the best things about preparing for the move has been the everyday minor miracles we have been having. 
I think everyone has these blessings everyday, but it isn't often we notice them.  As for us, we have found AMAZING packing boxes (wood and metal shipping crates made to ship army gear all over the place so super sturdy) to keep all of our stuff that will stay at home nice and safe.
We have found (re-found) the love and joy in our relationships with family and friends.  Even relationships that have been a bit neglected lately have been rekindled as everyone prepares to see us off and wish us well.  No one is very happy we are leaving, but they are happy for us.  And so many of them have stepped forward to help in various ways (donating boxes, an un-used loft for storage, the entire lower floor of their home to house us during transition, just loving us and spending time with us, and etc).
We have been able to bless others by donating a lot of the items we don't need/want to the local thrift store. 
There are load of other ways we have been blessed....too many to count, really.  There are also lots of other ways we anticipate being blessed; finding new friends, exploring a new country, coming even closer as a family, learning the joy of pen pals, and more.
I think we should all take more time to look at these minor miracles and thank God for everything he does for us.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Preparing for Paraguay: Downsizing

Here's the kids and I have a lot of stuff; and by a lot, I mean A LOT of stuff.  It's not that I am a hoarder (despite what my friends say) it's that I am resourceful.  I like to reuse and upcycle stuff other people discount.  So that means we end up with a lot of 'trash' that no one else really wants; and they certainly can't understand why its sitting in my house.
Honestly, I do use up a lot of these items, I make quilts and sew dolls for the kids and etc.  But, I can't take it to Paraguay.  In fact, in order to save on shipping costs, I am trying to only take whatever will fit into our carry on and one checked back (under 50 lbs) per other words...only what the airline will let us take for free. 
It has been a process.  We have actually been preparing for this for a few months.  In August we did a bit of a spring clean early; we went through toys, clothes, and etc and donated whatever we no longer needed/wanted to a local thrift store.  Then through the fall I went through household goods (mainly in my kitchen...I love kitchen gadgets and have quite a few) and got rid of a lot of bits and pieces; serving spooks and forks, potato mashers, extra knives, extra spatulas and such....and etc. 
Now, though, the time has come for the part of the process I have been dreading (and, yes, avoiding until after the holidays); we have to go through the stuff we like/love and decide what we NEED in Paraguay.  Sure, there is some room for a few things we just really really want, but first off we have to get things like clothes, shoes, homeschool supplies, and etc. 
So, I have 7 boxes, about half a dozen Rubbermaid bins, and a few old army foot lockers to pack up whatever we want to store or haul off to the thrift store.  I am a very sentimental person and I do have a few momentos I just can't bear to part with (like the teddy bear a friend brought to the hospital when Avery was born, the kids' baptism certificates, and etc); these items will go into the army storage boxes (for non army brats out there, these are wooden boxes with metal along all the edges and corners like foot lockers; they are used for shipping equipment and then often reused in con-ex and barrack lodgings) the hard wood and metal edges give us the best chance of these items remaining undisturbed by critters while in storage.  The Rubber maids will mostly hold any linens I decide to keep and kids toys; a good portion of linens will be going to the thrift store.  I hope a lot of the kids toys will make it to the thrift store as well, but I am willing to store them to prevent upset among the wee ones.
Oh, and as for where we will store all of this stuff....ah, that's where good friends come in.  It just so happens that a very good friend of mine recently bought his first home with a nice, big workshop.  He works on cars in the downstairs, but there is a loft that is under I am getting to haul my bits and bobs up there to sit around for free until we need them again.
So, wish me luck, as I start the final phase of downsizing.  I will let you know how it goes.