We will keep in touch – a promise!
When we told my parents that we would be moving to Tennessee from Illinios they were happy for us, but also pretty sad. Not only was I, their daughter, moving 500 miles away, but I was also taking their grand kids with. With that, a promise was made. “We will keep in touch, I promise!”. Now that we have moved to Sweden, that promise must be upheld even more! Being away from home now for 5 years, we have gotten pretty good at figuring out how to keep in touch when we just can’t plan a physical trip. The following are the top 6 ways in which we stay connected with family overseas.
This one is huge for us! We have our Skype account connected to our Xbox One and therefore we get to talk to family through our T.V. They sit in their living room and us in ours and I kid you not, many times I hang up and feel like we were just there. They are all but life size in my living room. Due to the time difference, we plan our Skype ‘dates’ every weekend. My kids can show them their new dance, or a ‘cool move’, a school art project, or even just a new fun toy. We even Skyped during my brother and sister-in-law’s gender reveal party for their first baby so that I could find out the sex right along with everyone else. If you can’t be together in real life, it truly is the next best thing.
My son loves playing video games. If he could, he would probably spend the whole day playing them. He always wants someone to play with him. I think this is mostly because he knows he can dominate most people in the gaming world. Although I have zero experience patrolling a combat zone via the Xbox One (or real life for that matter), he insists that I should play with him. This is apparently how he bonds. Whatever works, right? With the use of our Xbox Live account, him and his Grandpa (who is on the other side of the world) can log into the same game and they can play against each other. With their headsets on, they can talk just as they would if they were sitting beside one another on the couch. Trash talking is just as good, maybe better, when you are thousands of miles apart from one another.
Post Cards and Letter Writing
I know this is so old school and some my find it to be too time consuming, but there is something so wonderful about getting letters in the mail. Even as a grownup, getting mail (minus the bills) still makes me a bit excited. It’s like opening a Christmas present. Who’s it from? What did they say? Oh, the card is so pretty! Their handwriting is so neat. You know, as the receiver of a post card or letter, that writing that message took time, which means that you mean something to this person; therefore, it means something to the receiver of the letter. Of course a nicely written email is always appreciated, but it doesn’t have quite the same feel to it. If you are going to be sending post cards to little kids (or any young-at-heart adult) these Disney postcards would be perfect! I’m a sucker for a beautiful shot of landscapes so these are right up my alley. *hint-hint*
Photo Books or Prints
Another thing that might be a bit outdated for some, is sending physical pictures to people. Some people are not on social media and even if they are, there is just something more personal about getting a hard copy of something.
For example, my husband’s grandmother is not on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. so she doesn’t see all of the fun pictures that we post of the kids and the different activities that we’re enjoying. She really appreciates when we send her photo books, or even just a few printed out photos of the kids. It’s always fun to see those pictures displayed proudly in her home when we come to visit. I’m horrible at remembering to do this! I’m working on getting better though.
Walgreens makes it super easy to get your pictures together, plug them into a book, and have it delivered to their home. If you’re in a pinch you can even have it auto-fill the book with a bunch of selected photos.
If even that seems a bit too daunting, you can look into the FreePrints App which will allow you to send up to 85 free photos a month. I’m not sure what the quality is, but with Walgreens I’ve never been disappointed.
I often forget I’m on the other side of the world when I can pick up the phone, hit call, and hear someone’s voice within seconds. That is until I realize that it’s 3 in the morning their time. Oops! Otherwise, making a phone call is just as simple as it was when we lived closer. I normally use the call feature on Facebook Messenger. With a good internet connection, it works perfectly. I have even set my kids up on Facebook so that they can use Messenger to chat with family. You yourself may not be comfortable with putting your kids on Facebook, and that’s fine. I monitor their friends as well as their usage and it works just fine for us. I love that they can call or video chat with my parents whenever they want to.
I can barely remember what life was like B.A. (Before Amazon). Here in Sweden Amazon still isn’t that big. I know, I know…it’s crazy! But, being that we are in Sweden and my family in the States, having Amazon ship to them is huge! When I look at the calendar and notice that a birthday or big event is coming up, I log into Amazon and have a present sent their way. It usually makes it there in about 2 days. If you are in a pinch you can sometimes get same day delivery for a bit of a charge. The best part of Amazon is that you can find almost anything at all!
Keeping in touch with family is so important for us. We want to enjoy the experiences that we’re having here, but we really don’t want to sacrifice our relationships in the process. Using all of the above mentioned items makes it easier to stay close with them all while living abroad. Of course, nothing compares to a big hug from your niece, or an unexpected meal when you’re having a bad day; but with the help of technology, it can get kinda close.