Paris Part 2: Disney and Con Air

Bright and early Tuesday morning, we made our way to Disney Paris. After going through the scenario of an early-morning train ride with the kids and my parents, we wisely hired the driver from Allonavette a second time and were dropped off close to the front gates around 9:30am. Technically the park opens at 10, but we were told the gates may open up to a half hour early. I know Disney can be quite divisive, but my family and I are firmly in the “Disney lovers” camp. JR on the other hand, not so much. He played along for the sake of the kids and even smiled once or twice for pictures.

We walked to the back of the park to start the day in Adventureland. Instead of being excited by Dumbo or the other rides, Abby asked when she could see a princess. We were right beside the Princess Pavilion and the sign said you could meet Snow White with only a 60 minute wait. I tried to discourage her, thinking no way would she want this to be the very first thing we did, but she was determined. So in we went. To her credit, she did not complain once while we waited every minute of that hour. I’m not certain how there were already that many people in line for a 60 minute wait but she was thrilled to meet Snow White.

Meanwhile, JR was living his best life, riding the Tea Cups and It’s a Small World with his in-laws and William. William is quite the talker these days and loved pointing out some of the animals on the rides.

After our princess encounter, we joined everyone else for a few rides before sitting down for lunch. We’d packed peanut butter sandwiches and snacks for the kids, but assumed we could buy cheap, quick-service food at the park. Well it was available but it definitely wasn’t cheap and it tasted pretty terrible. The only food place close to where we sat down was serving some version of a sausage, with some funky red sauce (not even close to ketchup) and fries.

Ready to tackle the afternoon, we made our way to Fantasyland to find Pirates of the Caribbean. I was so disappointed to see a sign saying expecting women couldn’t ride, so I kept William with me while everyone else went ahead. Abby said this was one of her favorite rides of the day and even JR said it was fun!

Then it was time for the Halloween Parade! The parade was a little underwhelming. They danced and sang, but there were only a few floats. They spread out and stopped and did their performance and then it was over. We walked to a Pinocchio ride, which is when William woke up and basically lost his mind. JR saved the day by whisking him off to the carousel – although he was very displeased when that ride ended. Luckily my mom and Abby were in line as well so he joined them for another round.

Oh so conveniently located near almost every ride was a store selling overpriced Disney goods. My grandma sent both kids a little spending money and it was burning a hole in Abby’s pocket. I left her alone in the store with my mom for about 15 minutes, which was apparently plenty of time for a purchase and complete outfit change.

The rest of the day passed quickly. We rode a few more rides, watched two more parades and a short show, and had a very sub-par dinner. Around 6 or 7pm JR and I were ready to call it. My parents could have gone on for several more hours, I’m sure, but by the time we boarded the train to go home it was clear we were all spent. The train was completely packed, we were really lucky to get seats because it was about a 45 minute trip back to the city. Overall, I’m really glad we went!

The next morning JR and I took the kids to Monmartre to ride the little train around the neighborhood. The kids loved it. We rode it up to the Sacre Coeur (one of my very very favorite places in the world!) and we enjoyed the view and some snacks. We told the kids the story of how we sat on those very same steps on New Year’s Eve in 2013 when I was pregnant with Abby.  They weren’t that impressed and were only interested in their snack cups. On the way back they took turns napping in their strollers as we walked through the neighborhood.

Leading up to the trip, Abby was insistent that she wanted to not only see the Eiffel Tower at night, but that she wanted to go to the top. We kept an eye on prices for Skip the Line tours, but they were expensive and I’d read that you could wait hours if you just showed up without a ticket. We thought she might be satisfied by our trip to see it when we arrived, but the girl would not be deterred. My parents offered to take her that evening and Abby will still tell you it was one of the best parts of her trip. She called JR and I a few times from the line from my Mom’s phone, just to keep us updated, and she was absolutely adorable. She also just HAD to wear her “best” dress (the new Minnie Mouse one she purchased and wore the day before).

Thursday was our last real day. JR spent the morning at the Catacombs while my mom and I took the kids to a playground. My parents offered us a final date night in the city and we weren’t about to turn that down, so we rushed out of the apartment before they could change their minds. We walked over to St. Germain and enjoyed a few hours of walking without strollers and backpacks full of kid supplies. We had a very French dinner (fondue for me, rabbit for him) and then enjoyed one last crepe that can hopefully tide me over until our next visit.

 

Friday was departure day for everyone. One downside to our AirBnB was that it had a 10am check out, and we couldn’t do a late checkout (or so we thought) because they had another booking that day. Our return flight didn’t depart Paris until 9:20pm, so we rented a day room at the Hilton near the airport. Our room was huge, and they also brought in a pack n play for William. The hotel had a small pool which claimed to be heated but wasn’t exactly warm and the kids loved it anyway. We all took a long nap, watched some French cartoons, ate dinner at the hotel and then took the free shuttle to the airport.

As we boarded our flight, there were 3 policeman at the door of the plane. We walked to our seats in row 15 and I think there were probably about 25 rows total on the plane, with a 3-3 configuration. I was getting the kids situated and JR was across the aisle. He stayed standing looking at the back of the plane, and you could hear some commotion back there. He said he thought they were arresting someone. I tried to look but couldn’t see much, but now that I was paying attention I could definitely hear someone’s muffled yells. After about 10 or 15 minutes of this, I asked JR why they weren’t just getting him off the plane? I also wondered if they were going to take him out a different exit because he sounded quite unhappy and I didn’t want him walking past us on his way out. JR asked one of the policeman closest to us what was happening and when he would be removed. The man said “oh no, he’s staying on the plane. He’s being deported. Don’t worry, no violence, 3 policeman will fly with him.”

Uh huh. That “no violence” thing was not super reassuring when this man was screaming in Georgian like he was possessed. Like the mature adults we are, we made a few jokes about being on Con Air and wondering when Nicolas Cage would appear. JR called me “hummingbird” a few times and kept asking “why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box?”

Thankfully the guy eventually quieted down once we took off and the flight home, overall, was fine. William passed out in my arms and Abby eventually fell asleep in her seat. I knew from our experience in London she would be a beast when it was time to wake up and get off the plane. I handed William to JR and starting waking her, with the promise of cookies if she would just wake up and walk off the plane herself. She did, and when we got on the bus to take us to the airport William woke up and started saying “Cookie? Cookie?” And that, my friends, is why my children were on the floor of the Tbilisi Airport eating cookies at 5am a few weeks ago. Because it’s all about survival.

Paris Part 1: Direct Flights and Crepes

Sometime last year, I was at an Usbourne Books party and saw the cutest book about Paris so I purchased it for Abby. I love reading it with her, and started to fantasize about taking a family trip to Paris. We were planning to use our last R&R tickets to visit Ohio this November (we haven’t been home since last summer, which is the longest I’ve been away since moving overseas), but those plans were scrapped when we learned we were expecting baby #3! Knowing we’d be heading home in January for a maternity med evac, that left us with no plans for this fall and suddenly, my Paris dreams weren’t so far fetched.

I thought it might be a stretch to convince JR, but he not only agreed, he also suggested we invite my parents along! The new direct flight on Georgian Airways to Paris was a big selling point. We aren’t located that far from the major European cities, but there are very few direct flights, and the connections/layover times are not desirable. For the flight to Paris, it left at 3:20pm on a Friday. In the afternoon. As in, daylight hours. Practically unheard of in Tbilisi, and such a strange feeling for us to be boarding a plane in the middle of the day!

We decided to bring two single strollers instead of our Britax double. I thought we might struggle with the side-by-side stroller walking in the city, and since my parents were with us, we might split up and each need a stroller at some point. I also learned my lesson when taking Abby to London – she gets very whiny about walking too far (no clue where she gets that!). When we landed in Paris, I was annoyed but not totally surprised to learn our gate checked strollers would be delivered at baggage claim. You know, because when you gate check, you don’t do it so you can have the item as soon as you get off the plane, but what you REALLY WANT is to wait until the absolute last items have come off the baggage carousel to track down an airport employee so you can wait another 15 minutes for your strollers to be delivered.

Aside from that, our travel was uneventful and we had a driver waiting for us at the airport for convenience and our desire for car seats for the kids. We hired Allonavette, and we were very happy with their service. The driver had a large van, with comfortable and spacious seats, and most importantly, two installed car seats. He dropped us off at our rental apartment in the Marias district and the kids passed out immediately. I was able to almost completely unpack. I’ll put in a plug for packing cubes again. They are a game changer! I pulled the cubes (Abby’s clothes, William’s clothes, pajamas/bed stuff, toiletries, outerwear, and my clothes) out of the suitcases and put them in drawers or closets. It’s so nice to get the suitcases put away and feel a bit settled right after arriving someplace new. While I was doing that, JR ran out for a few groceries. It was almost 11pm by then, but my superstar husband still found me a crepe and brought it home for me.

The next morning we woke up ready to explore. We took a walk along the Seine over to the Ile Saint-Loius (where JR and I stayed during our last visit when I was pregnant with Abby) before making our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Abby was really excited, but kept asking when she’d see the Eiffel Tower. We let the kids chase pigeons in front of the cathedral before making a loop around the building. It’s a small park with 3 little things for kids to crawl on.

 

We returned home and waited for my parents to arrive from the States. Our apartment was on the 2nd floor of a busy street, with huge windows that opened to a faux balcony – great for fresh air, terrible for child safety – and the kids loved waiting to see Nana and Papu pull up in their taxi. After an afternoon of naps and relaxing, and helping Nana unpack her suitcase full of goodies, we walked towards Les Halles, a large shopping center that has a renovated play area beside it. The place was packed! It was probably 80 degrees, and there were kids everywhere. It was a great spot to let the kids play, and I wish our apartment had been a bit closer to it (it was about a 20 minute walk). At Abby’s insistence, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, trying to time up our arrival with sunset and the lights turning on. I got that one way wrong, but Abby went nuts when she saw it from the distance. I loved her excitement and enthusiasm when she saw it for the first time and it only amplified the closer we got to the tower. Also, to the entrepreneurial geniuses who now walk around the areas near the Eiffel Tower selling wine by the bottle or glass – GOOD ON YOU, BUDDY. Excellent idea.

I had big plans for our Sunday, but woke up feeling terrible. After weeks of every member of my family having strep throat, it was finally my turn. I sent JR, the kids and my parents off to the Louvre with plans to meet up later. Well you know how plans work. The Louvre was packed so they skipped ahead to the Tuileries Garden, which I promised them would have a great playground. Turns out the big play equipment was roped off and being repaired.

They managed some fun anyway and both kids were ready for a nap. Well, kids and dad.

That night we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and then made our way slowly down the Champs-Élysées. Our whole group perked up when we saw a Five Guys (you know how I feel about American hamburgers!). It was crazy expensive but delicious. My parents offered to take the kids home for baths and bedtime, so JR and I stopped by Frog Revolution to sample some local craft beers.

On Monday, we walked back to Notre Dame first thing in the morning. It’s nice to get there before the crowds and lines start to form. JR, my mom and Abby went inside while William and I enjoyed pain au chocolates outside. An older couple could not stop staring at William – must have been that blonde hair – and started taking a bunch of pictures of him. I figured it was harmless, but did find it a little strange when the woman even came close to pose beside him while her husband continued snapping away. This face though, I get it!

We walked to Sainte Chappelle, one of my favorite sights. It was great to visit a second time, because it was partially being renovated during our last trip. Then I lead everyone on a longer than expected, warmer than expected, walk to the Luxembourg Gardens. Fear not, I told them, it will all be worth it when we arrive at this magical playground I’ve read about online! Here are some of the photos of what we expected to find:

Image result for poussin vert paris Image result for poussin vert paris

The reality, after an additional 10-15 minutes of trekking through the huge, but beautiful, park grounds, looked nothing like that. The play structures were removed, the ground was dug up, and the whole area looked like a field of dirt. I’d been promising Abby a trip to the best playground in Paris, and I honestly wanted to cry! Funny how the internet neglected to tell me the playground was being completely renovated. Ugh. Abby took the news in stride, much better than me. JR asked what I wanted to do instead, and I said just order me an Uber, I need a nap. And so he did. My mom and I took the kids home while he wandered around a bit longer, searching for things far more interesting than the next playground.

Back at home, my parents made a second attempt (and were successful!) to visit the Louvre while the kids and I napped. When everyone was together again at the apartment, they offered to cook dinner for the kids so JR and I could go out. I was super excited to try a fondue place, Pain Vin Fromage, so we set off. JR was not overly impressed but man…cheese, ham, bread…I was in heaven. The restaurant was teeny tiny, and the manager was horrified that we didn’t have a reservation. He said we could stay as long as we finished by 8:30 (no problem pal, that’s my bedtime) and he stuck us in the furthest corner table he could to prove his point. Really this just allowed me to feast on my melted cheese in private, so I was fine.

Halfway through our trip, I was feeling better so we made our final plans to visit Disney Paris on Tuesday! To be continued.

 

 

 

3 days in London

When I realized I would be heading back to London for a quick 3 day trip, I somehow convinced JR that I should take Abby along. I’m so glad I did, because I don’t know when we would have an opportunity like that again and it was pretty cool traveling with just her on a girls’ trip to London. Well, cool and a touch exhausting. It’s hard to be set up for success for any trip when you have to wake up at 2am and leave for the airport by 2:45. Abby popped right out of bed (the idea of going to bed with her clothes on just thrilled her) but had a harder time than expected saying goodbye to her Dad. She perked up during the car ride and our first flight, but tiredness set in once we arrived at the Istanbul airport for our layover.


All smiles on the first flight

If you fly out of Tbilisi and connect anywhere, you have to go through security again. It’s a huge hassle and particularly awful in Istanbul, where the security line was backed up as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t even a line to join, as the spot where we were backed up was just a mass of people trying to get ahead of each other. It was hot, we only had an hour to catch our next plane, and Abby was already over it. Splendid. Luckily, I made eyes with an employee (I told JR that during this trip I really perfected a look of exhaustion and desperation coupled with kindness) and we were ushered ahead, skipping the ENTIRE line. Victory! I convinced Abby to take a nap during the second flight, and then had to cajole her along at Heathrow because it was a lot of walking. I debated bringing the stroller but figured it would be unnecessary and man, was I wrong. I hoped we could get into our room right when we arrived, but we were still too early and early-check in wasn’t an option. After a quick lunch I went to my favorite burger place that I insist on visiting each time I’m in London and then took her to get pasta. When we returned to the hotel the room was finally ready. Abby gets really excited about hotel rooms. Her face was priceless when we walked into the super simple room, she couldn’t wait to pick a side of the bed, pull things out of the backpack, and of course, jump on the bed.

Over the next few days we enjoyed the Big Bus Tour, the London Eye, and several great playgrounds. I like the hop on, hop off bus tour because you can see a lot at once, and it’s also a nice transportation option to get to the different sights and parts of the city. For the London Eye, if you enter the ticket office, go directly to your right and use the self-service kiosk to save time, as the ticket line was quite long when we arrived. I considered paying more for a Fast Track ticket, but opted for a standard which was still expensive. Fortunately, the line moves quickly and we probably waited a total of 20 minutes, and we were kept moving almost the whole time.

Jubilee Playground is located directly behind the London Eye and I would say it was perfect for kids 4 and up looking to let off some steam. There was another small playground just a few minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace, located in St. James Park. It had restrooms for children, picnic tables, and a small food vendor outside, and would entertain toddlers and more. The best playground in my opinion was located in Hyde Park, the Diana Memorial Playground – and is perfect for all ages. We absolutely loved this place and would have stayed much longer, but Abby had woken up around 5am that day and was in need of a nap. All of the playgrounds were fenced in and well-maintained.


Jubilee Playground


Playground at St. James Park


Diana Memorial Playground – our favorite!

On the way to dinner one night, I saw Hamleys Toy Store up ahead and made a critical parenting error.

Me: Abby, we’re about to walk past a super expensive toy store. We can go inside and look, but we can’t buy anything. Do you want to look or should we just skip it?
Abby: Let’s go!
Me: Okay, we can, but remember, we really cannot buy anything in this store, okay?
Abby: Mm hmm.

60 seconds later…


Of course I didn’t let her buy this! How would I even get it home? Plus it probably cost 200 pounds.

But then she saw this bear (wearing a purple dress and a crown) and gave me puppy dog eyes and I couldn’t say no. I’m weak.

We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, and she was very entertained by the animals and sounds of the faux rainforest. Dinner was expensive and not particularly tasty, but she enjoyed herself.

From her point of view, the highlights were drinking hot chocolate, the playgrounds, ICE CREAM!, and staying in a hotel together. When we went to bed that first night she gave me her biggest smile and said “This is just like having a sleepover, Mom!”.

We were both happy to get home to JR and William, but I loved the one-on-one time with my sweet girl.

Marvelous Malta

While my mom was visiting, JR and I took a quick trip to Malta where we spent 5 glorious days lounging by sea, napping, and eating a lot of ice cream (mostly just me on the ice cream). Malta wasn’t really on our radar until some colleagues mentioned their upcoming trip and the short travel time. I found a good deal on tickets from Tbilisi and worked hard to convince JR that it was a necessity.

We stayed at a great hotel in Valletta, only a few minutes walk to the city walls. The Grand Hotel Excelsior was a bit dated on the decor, but the service and location were fabulous. Honestly, anytime I can order drinks and food from my lounge chair, I’m a happy camper. The proximity to the city center allowed us to walk there for most of our meals, and to enjoy the beautiful streets and views from almost every turn. The city is really hilly, one minute you are on a gradual decline, then you make a turn and have to walk up 100 steps to get to your next destination.

 

Anytime JR and I go on a trip, I have to remind him – constantly – that I can’t keep up with his pace. He could walk for days, uphill, downhill, carrying bags or children, sweating or freezing, it doesn’t phase him. Me? I like a casual stroll with my purse in 74 degree weather. In the shade. We signed up for a full day Game of Thrones tour and it was really great, minus the whole walking a lot in extreme heat thing. The tour guide, Malcolm, was an extra in several scenes in Season 1-3, so he had a ton of great inside info on the show and filming tvs and movies in general. Apparently Malta is really popular for filming. It was cool to see many of the places they filmed, not just because of the connection to the show, but the tour also took us around the island to see the ancient walled city of Mdina and other great spots. JR was delighted to learn they filmed Robin Williams’ Popeye there in 1980.

Valletta was full of shops, people, and outdoor cafes. We found a great spot for dinner one evening, complete with a nice little guy singing along to his guitar. Anytime someone is playing live music in front of me, preferably covers of my favorite songs, I’m content to sit and sing along. Even if the setting doesn’t really call for that, like on this particular night when no one else was singing and the guy was playing songs I didn’t know. After a few of those, he played Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis and I started humming along. When the song was over I whooped a little too loudly and JR shot me a look.  BUT THEN, he played Teenage Dirtbag and I just could not help myself. JR shrunk down in his seat and sipped his beer while I helped the guy out with my less than stellar vocals. Apologies to the rest of the restaurant patrons!

We loved our time in Malta but we were also happy to return home to the kids. Part of me looks back at my mom’s time here and I think, what did we even do while she was here? But then I can list off all the things she did with the kids – swimming, making crafts and Froot Loop necklaces, making popsicles, planting a small garden for Abby, throwing a princess party for the girls in the neighborhood, water balloon fights, face painting and more. To my momma (hopefully you still read these?) – we can’t thank you enough. We love you!!

 

 

 

It will be fun, they said

Actually no one said that, I just wanted to make sure my mom left Zurgovani at least once while she was visiting, so I made reservations for one night at Lopota Lake. JR and I took Abby to Lopota with some friends a few years ago, and I thought it would be a nice trip to make with my mom and both kids. And it really did seem like a nice idea – that is until we actually started driving.

(Important backstory. First, JR stayed home, for multiple reasons, so my mom was the navigator while I drove. Also due to a slight error in judgment, my cell phone spent some time in water last week and is on the fritz.)

We borrowed a phone from our friends for my mom’s visit, and I planned to use the Google Maps on it for directions. Almost immediately, we missed a turn. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a huge deal but in Georgia, you can’t really just turn around. You have to keep on going until you’re finally able to make a left, then you need to take about 5 more lefts before you’re back on track. When we corrected our mistake, I looked down at the borrowed phone to realize it had about 50% battery life left. Not great for the start of a 2+ hour road trip. And it didn’t bode well for us that we’d been on the road for about 20 minutes and had barely made it out of town.

The first hour was relatively fine. William slept, Abby watched a few shows on the iPad. Then William woke up and he was less than thrilled to be a) awake earlier than usual and b) stuck in his car seat. When he started crying, Abby started crying either in sympathy or just to torture me more, take your pick. This was also at the time the road turns into switchbacks that last forever. Both kids were terribly upset and I was regretting every life choice that led me to be in that car at that moment. Just then I heard the unmistakable sounds of vomit. Abby helpfully announced “William’s throwing up!”. Awesome.

I was panicked because there was no immediate place to pull over, as we were halfway up a mountain. Around one of the curves I saw what looked like a large space to park, so I pulled over and glanced around to see a truck, a van that looked deserted, and no one in sight. Just as I opened my car, my mom yelled “bees!”. Because the spot I picked to stop was a bee colony. Of course.

We drove a bit further down the road and pulled off at spot that was just large enough to get me out of the way of traffic. It didn’t feel all that safe but we didn’t have any other options at that point. I opened William’s door and wanted to cry. Mind you, he was chipper at this point, feeling pretty good apparently. But he was absolutely covered with vomit. The car seat was covered. And do you think I learned my lesson from Abby’s carsickness in Scotland last year, and had a spare outfit, paper towels, wet wipes and plastic bags ready to go for an easy clean up? No, I did not.

My mom and I carried him to the opposite side of the car and stripped him down, then cleaned him with wipes. My mom then did her best to clean out the car seat, but it was soaked. I decided to just keep him in his diaper because I thought he might puke again and we only had two other outfits for him for the trip that were conveniently buried at the bottom of our 27 bags in the trunk. We laid a thin pair of pants down between his poor little naked body and the wet car seat and when I started to strap him in, the screaming began again. I felt TERRIBLE. Abby also started crying – AGAIN – because she felt bad for William and had decided she no longer wanted to be in the car. We had a full hour left to drive and no end in sight to the switchbacks. I wanted to call JR and beg him to charter a helicopter and put me out of my misery. But we soldiered on.

Both kids fell asleep eventually, and we had about 20 minutes of relative peace just as we arrived at Lopota. The resort is spread out, so after you park you can walk down a little ways to the administration building to check in, and once you’ve done that, they have bellhops who drive trolleys and large golf carts around to move you and your things to your room. There was a separate small building before the check-in for the gift shop. My mom had William in his stroller, just in his diaper (come at me, bro), and Abby walked into the check-in area with me. She was bored quickly because there was a long line, so I sent her back out to wait with my mom. More waiting, more waiting, then Abby came back to show me the very overpriced but adorable hat she conned my mom into buying for her.

As she was coming in I saw a flurry of activity outside – I could see out the two large windows on either side of the door, which was also open – that a large 4×4 ATV looking thing had crashed into the building we were in, about 10 feet away from us. It had also very clearly hit or run over a person, although I couldn’t see that part because it was happening below the window, but I saw a small crowd gather to push the ATV back off the person and trying to offer help. It scared the crap out of me. In the split second it happened, I looked down to make sure Abby was at my side and that I could see my mom and William out the other window. I didn’t know if it was a child or an adult that had been hit, but I really feared the worst. Thankfully, the adult employee who was hit was okay except for scrapes and bruises, although she looked very shaken. My mom saw it all happen and said that two young kids – Abby’s age – were playing on the ATV which was parked on an incline with a rock in front of the tires to act as an emergency break. The rock moved, the ATV started rolling down the hill and no one could stop it until it hit the woman and the building. Ugh. Very glad no one was seriously injured.

Despite all of this, we actually had a really nice time once we settled down. The family size/triple rooms are huge. We requested a ground floor room which is perfect because there is a nice large patio and we were right in front of the main pool that we used (there are I think 4 at least on the property now).  We enjoyed a few long walks around the lake, stopping at the Kids Club which had some toys, drawing space, and a large sandbox.  Both kids loved feeding the ducks. Lopota’s food doesn’t impress me, and it’s expensive, so we packed a lot of snacks. I was dreading the ride home, but thankfully an Embassy colleague recommended a different route. It added about 20 minutes, but it was relatively straight so that was a huge help. No puking and minimal crying – I’ll take that as a win!

  

 

3 down, 1 to go

It’s hard to believe we’ve lived in Tbilisi for three years already and we have just one year left. Four years seemed like an incredibly long time to live in a country I knew nothing about and a city I could barely pronounce before arriving, but now I’m afraid our remaining time will pass by too quickly. Abby had just turned 1 when we arrived – now she’s four and we have added sweet William, so things have certainly changed for us!

 
Note that the recent picture above was taken at Carrefour. Yes, she wore a dress, a play tutu, necklaces, fairy wings and a tiara to the grocery store. I’ve given up. 

One of the best things about a four year assignment is that we haven’t had to worry about bidding in several years. Our grace period is over now and I’m already feeling some anxiety and stress about the bidding process this fall, our options, and the uncertainty ahead. I know there are no perfect posts, and I also know that we’ll deal with whatever comes our way.

Two weeks ago, Abby had her last day of preschool. Her class held a little celebration, singing songs and showing off their achievements for the year. We’re so grateful to Ms. Natela and all of the staff at QSI for instilling a love of school and community in our girl. Onward to the 4 year old class next year!

QSI has a summer camp program that Abby is attending for the next two weeks, but in July we’ll be spending more time at home because my mom is coming back! We are so, so excited for her visit. I’ve mentioned many times that it’s not easy traveling this far, but this will be my mom’s 4th trip to Tbilisi and we’re so thankful that she loves to visit us. I told her that I had a few simple tasks for her during her time: 1) teach Abby to swim, 2) teach Abby to use the brakes on her bike, and 3) get William to stop whining. She laughed and said “okay that’s week one, what else?”. We’ll see how that turns out!

Most of our summer days are spent playing outside and at the swimming pool. William in particular is loving summer – wearing what JR describes as “tasteful tanks”. Here are a few more pictures of our summer days!

 

 

 

 

FOUR

We have a four year old! Actually we’ve had one for a few weeks now but the fact remains, she’s 4!

For her party, Abby once again had a very specific cake request. She wanted a Minnie Mouse cake with bows. We browsed online and found a picture for the local bakery, and they replicated it exactly! Didebuli in Digomi does a fantastic job with cakes. Our bounce house is going on its 3rd or 4th year of life and showing the signs. Recently it popped a big hole (apparently 7 kids is the breaking point) that JR was able to repair before the party with some heavy duty glue and strips of canvas. Abby had a great time with all of her friends and was as thankful as a four year can be for all the presents.

We are excited to see what this year has in store for Abby and our family. Three had some really, really rough moments where we learned that Abby is fiercely determined when she sets her mind to something, whether that is staying up for hours at night and fighting bedtime or insisting on wearing not just one, but two skirts (tutus, as she calls them) every single day.  Dropping her nap six months ago made a huge difference for us and made our bedtime routine relatively enjoyable again. As for the issues with her outfit choices… I mean here is a sampling of what she would prefer to wear if left to her own devices. We’ve reached a sort of compromise that she can pick her own clothes on the weekends, and for school days she picks either a top or bottom and I do my best to convince her to wear a somewhat matching piece.

With this new birthday came a new haircut! I do miss those long beautiful curls but brushing it every day was not fun.

Abby loves school, her teachers, and playing with her friends. We’re trying to give her some independence to play outside by herself and she loves that. I’m very thankful for our neighborhood and all of the parents who let this wild group of kids run up and down the street, in and out of houses, without a care in the world. My heart aches when I think about leaving this place. For now, we’re soaking up every minute of laughter and fun!

 
Outside fun and a semi-orderly line at the neighbor’s house while waiting for water balloons

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Love those smiles!