It is my pleasure to introduce you to a very Smarty Mom, Christine Stone. Not only is she my neighbor, she is a dear friend. She has recently returned from India, where her family relocated for close to two years. Needless to say, I missed her, our street missed her and our kids missed her. She is one of those rare people that goes with the flow, is very accepting of everyone, is creative and genuinely has a “the more, the merrier” attitude. Christine was the first one out in the snow, playing with the kids and when my kids are upset with me, I’m told “I’m moving next door!” She is the terrific mom to two beautiful kids, Callum and Teagan and is married to Brendan. Let’s meet Christine.
Tell us about your adventure over the past two years?
Just over 2 years ago my husband called and said “ What do you think about moving to India for a couple of years” – I replied “Sure, why not”. Within a couple of months we packed up our house and embarked on an adventure of a lifetime.
How has living this adventure changed your life as a mother and your approach to parenting ?
When you live and travel in an environment that is so foreign to what you are used to, you tend to become really close together as a family and focus on the things that really matter for the well being of your children. I think I have always been pretty hands on but I now focus more on the fun we can all have as a family doing something new together.
Every family member tends to feed off each others frustrations and stress to the point that things sometimes seem more overwhelming than they really. It is really important, every so often, to take a step back and put everything in perspective. I also realized how amazing children can be adapting to new experiences and how much I want to continue to feed their sense of curiosity and awareness of the rest of the world.
What advice do you have for others that may find themselves in a similar situation?
You can make anything out of any experience, whether good or bad. It is a good idea to meet as a family first to get in the right frame of mind. You need to discuss all the pros and cons of the move but also be realistic about the fact that there are some things that you will not know or be able to plan for until you are physically in the new country.
Definitely do your research and ask as many people as many questions as you can. There are so many great resources on the internet and chat lines for expat families who have gone or are going through similar experiences.
Before moving, if possible, I would strongly recommend trying to take a “quick see” trip to any new location – this way you get the initial “shock” out of your system. It is very different experiencing a different culture/country when on vacation as opposed to trying to sort out a new “life” with young kids.
Mostly and very important – Take control of your move and do what you feel is right for your family. Through all the advice and people’s best intensions, I finally realized that sometimes it is OK to go against advice and follow your instincts.
What are some of the best things you will take away from your travels?
I learned a lot about myself and the need for control in an environment where you really don’t have much. I also learned to really look at and appreciate the environment that I was in without too many preconceived ideas or notions.
I felt it was important to really explore some of the cultural and historical facets of India. I enjoyed meeting with a lot of people and going on some great trips and experiences that are unique to that part of the world. I also equally realized that sometimes it is nice just to find a little place that feels familiar, even if it is just tracking down a “non spicy” hotdog.
Would you do it again and under what circumstances?
I never really anticipated we would move to India in the first place. Now that we are very happy and settled in Charlotte, I can “never say never”. I would be more selfish next time in how I want any relocation to take place and whether it is the best decision for our family as a whole. Also with the knowledge of hindsight, it is a lot easier to level a set of expectations of what a move of this nature “could” involve – personally and financially.
Do you have any must do’s/tips for families traveling overseas?
There are some great government sites like “passport health” that provide a lot of information with regards health precautions you need to take when going overseas. If you are shipping things over – have a small air shipment that arrives a lot sooner than a cargo shipment with some family favorites (kids toys, foods, some photographs). We arrived in India in November but our shipment was due after Christmas so I packed a small air shipment with a mini Christmas Tree, some presents and peanut butter!
Contact the American Embassy wherever you go – first to let them know you are in the country for any emergency events but mostly to make contact with the broader expat community. Most country embassies have got some great facilities for US families.
If looking at school options, do the same as you would locally – visit many schools before settling on the best one for your kids.
Ask for help …even in broken English, most people will try to help but you have to ask!
Now tell us more about your family.
What is your favorite family activity?
My husband Brendan and I have two kids. Our son Callum is almost 7 and Teagan is 4. Most of our family lives overseas – both of our immediate family are in South Africa and we have close relations in France and England. We try visit every other year but typically stay close to home.
We love to be active and play outside at every chance we get. Charlotte is a great location, close to the mountains and the beach. We enjoy both and we live on a cul-de-sac so we don’t have to go very far to find many little friends to play with.
Friday nights is Pizza and Movie night (even in India !).
What is your favorite activity without the kids?
Personally, I enjoy painting and even though it is fun to paint with the kids, every so often it is good to have a blank canvas without little finger prints.
Brendan and I try really hard to keep to a date night and love a good big screen action movie and if time allows, squeezing in a quick meal at Dean and Deluca.
What is your favorite restaurant to take the whole family?
We actually have lots of fun at the Red Lobster – it is messy but everyone is smiling throughout the evening.
Your favorite place to eat without the kids?
Nothing beats the atmosphere of Barringtons for special occasions.
What is your favorite park or community activity in Charlotte?
We do go biking at Reedy Creek and also head up to Latta Plantation for the Raptor Center and horse riding.
What is the funniest thing that either of your children has ever said to you?
A short while after we were settled back in Charlotte my 4 year old daughter explained how “I am going to marry Eammon but he lives in India now so it’s ok for me to have a boyfriend in Charlotte and that’s Clark” …she has since moved on from Clark but if this is an indication of teenage years …ayayai.
More practical is my son who one day when I was stressing in the car, he told me that “we are not lost, we are just on an adventure”.
The best birthday party you ever attended or gave for a child?
In India, we went to some great parties where children got to ride on elephants, camels, donkey carts, make pottery and even saw trained monkeys and snake charmers. But at the end of the day, the kids were most happy simply jumping in the pool with their friends.
Minivan or SUV?
SUV – I am a Honda fan …Brendan had to tear the keys of our CRV out of my hands to get me to upgrade to the Pilot. Now he will have to fight me again for the next car …I am a car lifer.
What is the best thing about raising your family in Charlotte?
The weather is great and there is enough of everything that you could possibly need – even if you have to plan or look a little more for it than in a big city. The location is great and the people are just so friendly. Kids can still be kids here and do not have to grow up too soon – I like that !
You could not live without?
There is not too much I really need except for my family but I am a sucker for collecting little momentos that remind me of significant people or events in my life – we have a colorful and eclectic household :0).
I wish someone told me sooner about…
The Shark Vacuum …it is great, lightweight and so easy to run over carpets and hardwoods for quick clean up and touch up before visitors come.
Thank you Christine.
If you have a Smarty mom that you would like to “mominate”, please email email@example.com.