This one hurts

My grandpa passed away on Saturday. He was 80 and his health had been declining for several years, but still it hurts.

My grandma wishes to have the services as soon as possible, for closure and her own well-being, and I completely understand. Our home leave travel plans are for us to depart this coming Saturday but we can’t get home in time for his funeral, and it hurts.

My grandparents let us live with them during our R&Rs, home leaves, and maternity med-evacs to Ohio. They welcome our loud, busy family into their home for weeks and even months at a time and offer us housing, food, a car, their cell phones, pretty much anything they can to make our stay a little easier. Talking to many other families in the Foreign Service, we know how lucky we are to have such a strong family support system whenever we go home. I am beyond grateful that we were recently home with them for over three months during my pregnancy med-evac and I spent a final Christmas with my grandpa. I have photos of him holding both of my babies when we brought them home from the hospital, and I have this picture of him holding them both at Christmas. I’ll cherish it forever, but it still really hurts.

My grandpa believed in hard work and teaching us the value of a dollar. He went with me to purchase my very first car, a 1992 Honda Civic (my dream car!). I think it cost around $3500, and I only had half of that. He paid the rest up front for me, and then went with me to the bank as I took out a small personal loan for the rest. The man was generous to a fault, but it was also important to him that we all worked hard and learned that nothing comes for free. My mom loves to tell the story that he made her build – like literally from scrap – her first car. When my sweet Civic had a flat tire and I was clueless on what to do, Grandpa was my first phone call. And while he happily changed my tire for me, he also insisted I sit right there beside him to learn for myself. He could make a teachable moment out of just about anything. I’m grateful for the many life lessons he shared with me, and though I’ll carry them with me always, knowing he isn’t here to do the same for my kids, hurts.

My grandpa was a proud U.S. Army  Veteran and served in the Vietnam War as a Green Beret. He was assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in Vietnam. As he was riding in a helicopter on a resupply mission over enemy territory, the helicopter was hit with several rounds of antiaircraft fire, burst into flames and crashed. He was shot and severely injured with burns all over his body. Despite his injuries, he led himself and two surviving crew members to safety. For his strength and bravery he was awarded the Silver Star and a Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster. He was still hospitalized when he received his medals and had no recollection of it. In 2011, when we told his story to Senator Sherrod Brown, he graciously hosted a Medal Ceremony for him in our hometown. In addition to reading his citation and officially repinning him with his medals and awards, Senator Brown presented my grandpa with an American flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in his honor on September 11, 2011. It was such a special day for my family and gave us an opportunity to thank my grandpa for his service and sacrifice.

 

Grandpa spent some time in the hospital this past Christmas, and for a few weeks he was in a transition care unit as he regained his strength. I spent a few afternoons with him, just talking and playing checkers. I wondered if it was appropriate to let him beat me, but then that wasn’t an issue because he beat me twice. I think he might have cheated. Grandpa loved telling jokes, often at the listener’s expense (read: me) and he had such a deep, happy laugh. I can hear him saying some of his favorite phrases like “Bullshit” and “Aww Hell No!”  He was funny, loving and kind. He was unquestionably the head of our big family and someone we all turned to for advice and wisdom. I knew this day would come and yet I can’t believe it happened.

I’m so proud to be his granddaugher and of the wonderful life he lived, and I believe he is in a better place now. I’m thankful that he knew how much we all loved him but still, this one is going to hurt for a while.

Make new friends, but keep the old

Many, many moons ago I was a Girl Scout, and I remember singing that song at summer camps. I think about those lyrics quite often in this crazy overseas life. Making friends is one of the best and worst parts about the foreign service. In some ways it’s great because I like meeting new people and I’ve already been so fortunate to make new lifelong friends. On the other hand, making new friends can be intimidating and awkward. You’re starting completely from scratch at each new post, just hoping to find someone (and if you’re really lucky, a few someones) that “gets” you.

I know I’m lucky to have the friends that I do. Some of my earliest memories include meeting and becoming best friends with Ashleigh in Mrs. Lehman’s first grade class at Maple Street School. She was so cool and I knew I wanted to be just like her. Almost 30 years later, Ashleigh is still one of my dearest friends, and while we no longer fight over who gets to ride in the front seat, I still kind of want to be like her. I’ve written before about my hometown group of girlfriends and how much they mean to me. We’re reuniting again in just a few weeks and I can’t wait to see them. I also have a fun date planned with my very best friend from college, and some of the awesome people JR and I met in law school are making the pilgrimage to Orrville in July for a cookout. I’m counting down the days until these visits!

When we decided to live overseas, saying goodbye was hard. Staying in touch means making time to see each other when I’m in Ohio and that often requires months of advance planning, but my friends are pros at this and are no longer surprised when I email them 6 months out asking them to set aside a date for some quality time while I’m home. We email, text and call as often as we can and we’re grateful for the time we have together. Still, I miss out on birthdays, get togethers, play dates and other fun things. I’ve asked them to stop having fun without me but no one seems interested in that request.

Arriving in Kosovo with no job and no friends, I knew I needed to find my people quickly. And thank goodness I did. Without Amy and Jessica, I probably couldn’t have made it through that first tour. It helps so much to have someone else who knows exactly what you are going through when you experience the highs and lows of the foreign service. Our time in the same country (actually, on the same continent as we’re on 3 different ones right now) was short-lived, but thankfully they’re just a gchat and a few time zones away.

I dreaded starting over once again in Georgia. I know I’m a broken record about this, but the first few weeks and months in a new place is really draining on me. Before we arrived I was emailing with ET, the wife of one of Justin’s future work colleagues. She offered to answer any of my questions about life in Tbilisi, and while I initially tried to reign in my crazy, I let it all fly after just a few exchanges. I could tell instantly by her responses that she was my kind of people. When we landed and I had no phone, no car, and definitely no friends, she swooped in and I loved her from the start. Our husbands and kids became friends, and they introduced us to more of their friends, and it all seemed so easy and comfortable. We expected to have 3 years here together but they left early for a great new job offer. Happy for their good fortune but sad to lose them, we enjoyed our last few weekends together and finally got around to taking pictures. Amazingly, in the year+ that we spent together, ET and I didn’t have a single photo of the two of us until the night before we left!

Our girls


Our farewell photo shoot

I was fortunate to have other girlfriends still at post when I returned after having William, so I didn’t have to start all over, but there were some new arrivals and potential friends to be made. Constantly putting yourself out there to make new friends can be tiring. Most people assume I’m an extrovert, but I definitely have introvert tendencies. I also struggle with social anxiety sometimes and worry about silly things when I meet someone new. Should I send her a Facebook friend request or is it too soon? Can I wear yoga pants to your house?  Do you like dessert? Were you team Noel or Ben, Big or Aidan, Brandon or Dylan? (The correct answers are Ben, Aidan, Dylan.)

In the beginning I’m questioning myself constantly. It’s a huge relief when I can do things like send a mid-morning text saying I need to vent and then show up at a friend’s house and she has mimosas ready (thank you, Marisa) or respond to an invitation to come over with “Okay, I’m coming over but I’m still in the clothes I slept in” (thank you, Bridget).

Friendships and goodbyes have been on my mind as we enter another summer transfer season. Some of our great friends and their families are departing, including the above mentioned Marisa and her daughter, K, who is Abby’s best buddy. These two are full of mischief and giggles, and it’s been so much fun watching them grow up together the last two years.

 

As Marisa keeps reminding me, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon. So to my amazing friends all over the world, I’ll see you soon!

 

Don’t Take it Personal

I’ve been singing Monica’s “Don’t Take it Personal” (so easy to sing along…It’s just one of them days, that a girl goes through) all weekend. It was just one of those weekends where I was up and then down over everything, big and small.

First, the weather has been super frustrating. We had a few days of sunny warmth, then came rain, then came the wind. The wind here is no joke, I’m not sure I’ve talked about it much but it can ruin your plans, and even your weekend. We wind up stuck inside because the wind is blowing so hard it’s really unpleasant going outdoors. Abby is a very dramatic child and she will run up to us, with tears in her eyes, that we have to move all of her outdoor toys to the garage or else they’ll blow away. Sometimes JR goes along with it, other times he tells her to stop being silly, of course her toys will be fine. Unfortunately we were wrong about the new little slide we put in our backyard, because it slammed into our fence and spent several days laying in two pieces in our yard. Sopo put it back together but it blew over again yesterday so we’ll see how long that thing actually survives out there.

When it’s not windy or rainy (or both) it’s been cold. Like really cold. The kids’ rooms were down to 64 degrees for a few nights. You might think we should turn on the heat, and you’d be right. But there is some weird quirk with our heating and cooling system where you have to submit a work order and ask the Embassy workers to come out and turn off your heat and turn on your AC at the start of the summer. It was getting warm at the beginning of May so we went ahead and did that, and now it appears we jumped the gun a bit. JR pulled a few space heaters from the garage and we plugged them in around the house. Mostly I wanted to warm up the kids’ bedrooms, but I was too paranoid to leave them on upstairs overnight. So this morning – when they both treated us to early wake-ups at 4:30 and 5am (why God, why?) – their rooms were 64 and 63 degrees. Not ideal.

JR is a control officer for a VIP this week, which means a significant amount of extra work for him. A control officer handles all the details of a visitor’s trip – they coordinate motorpool and attend all the meetings, they prepare briefing binders with all the necessary memos and background paperwork, they pick up the visitor at the airport and escort them to their hotel and to all events, and they’re on call for anything that might come up at the last minute. I wasn’t surprised when he told me he had to work late Friday, but my intentions of making pizza went out the window and I thought we should just order in. Apparently many others had the same plan because Dominoes said it would be a 2 hour wait. Back to Plan A of making pizza myself (although Sopo was still there and very kindly offered to make the dough while I played with the kids.)

When JR made it home that night, he said there had been last minute changes to all the paperwork and the binders weren’t completed correctly, so he would need to go back into work Saturday morning. In addition to driving to the Azerbaijani border to pick up the visitor and take her to her hotel that afternoon. Awesome. William and Abby have been waking up earlier and earlier, and when I first heard William Saturday morning, I reached over to shake JR awake and say my favorite words “your turn.” But he was already off to work. By the time he got home later that morning, I was already over the whole day (at 9:30am!) and told him we would most certainly be ordering Baan Thai (one of my favorite delivery places here, one of the few that can consistently find our house and we can order in English) that night for dinner.

I realized while he was gone that we were going to run out of William’s formula. His formula has been a constant issue for us since we returned to Tbilisi. He seems to be reacting to something in the Similac and Target versions we have tried, so we finally found a German brand, Hipp, and a specific type of hypo-allergenic formula that seems to work for him. We usually have to try a few grocery stores and pharmacies to find it, and then they often only have two boxes at a time. A box lasts about 3 days. So now it’s Saturday night, it’s POURING down rain, and I have to run out to the grocery store as soon as JR gets home because we need formula. I went to Goodwill, the German grocery store closest to us, and they didn’t have it nor did the pharmacy. You know the feeling when you run out to the store to get ONE THING, and they don’t have it. I was so frustrated – over the weather, over everything.

We finished up the formula we had left and I ordered a few different brands/types on Amazon, and Sunday morning sent JR to Carrefour hoping he’d find a few boxes. He texted me that they had 8! I instructed him to buy them all. He actually left a few just in case some other family was running around in the same predicament. Now we’re at least set for a few weeks.

It was not my  best weekend. We had another work event, spouses included, on Sunday evening which wound up being quite enjoyable but it was just a tiring weekend. But in an effort to end on a good note, all that rain led to these beautiful rainbows!

See you in Scotland, Part 3

Previous posts about our trip: Part 1 and Part 2.

Whitebridge

We set out Wednesday morning, waving goodbye to Oban and hoping beyond hope that we could avoid car sickness as we drove to our next AirBnB in Whitebridge. I spent a lot of time mapping out our drive and searching for the perfect place to stop that would allow Abby to eat and play before returning to the car. William is a rock star in the car at the moment so it was all about Abby. The first part of our drive was beautiful and easy, and we stopped for lunch in Fort William at a place called Crofter’s Pub. Then my mom and I took the kids to the Nevis Center (think a big community rec center) that had a huge indoor play space. Our girl was in heaven. JR initially balked at the idea of spending our limited vacation time at a play place, but he knew Abby needed to have fun too and frankly, she wasn’t all that impressed with the rainy Highlands so far.

JR explored Fort William while we played and played. It was exhausting but exactly what we wanted for her before we drove the remaining hour to our cottage. Or so we thought. Shortly into our drive, our GPS told us to go left over Spean Bridge. Unfortunately, there was some type of accident so they had placed “Diversion” signs and had a few workers standing there telling us we could not go left. We didn’t have an alternate route planned, so we asked one of the men if staying right/straight would lead to Fort Augustus (we named this larger town because Whitebridge is so small) and he said “yep”. We didn’t have much choice so we stayed on the road. I looked down at GoogleMaps on my phone and started panicking. There appeared to be no other roads to turn left on anytime soon. I also knew, from hours of research and planning this trip, that based on the route we would take from Whitebridge to Edinburgh when we left in a few days, there may not be any other route for us.

The bottom left is Fort William, where we began. Spean Bridge is circled in blue, and that’s where we faced our detour. Instead of continuing about 40 minutes straight up to Whitebridge, we had to follow the route lined in red. It was a 2.5 hour detour. TWO AND A HALF EXTRA HOURS IN THE CAR WITH A BABY AND A TODDLER PRONE TO VOMITING. I was displeased.

Amazingly both kids did great in the car, and as we finally approached Whitebridge it started to sprinkle even though the sun was brightly shining. I turned to look out the window and saw this incredible double rainbow. I took it as a good sign that we were almost there!

We made it to our little cottage in the middle of nowhere, and I cannot say enough about this place. It was exactly what I pictured and hoped for when we planned our trip. The property was lovely and there was a creek perfect for throwing rocks just a few steps away.

 

The next morning we set out for Fort William to take a boat cruise on Loch Ness. The tour was an hour long and made all the more enjoyable by Abby calling over the side of the boat, “Nessie, Nessie, where are you?!” I asked where Nessie could be and Abby wisely guessed the grocery store.  Loch Ness was much larger than I imagined and very cool to see. Although we didn’t actually see Nessie, I’m confident she was lurking nearby.

  

We had lunch in town and then my mom took Abby to a small ceramics place to let her paint.

We dropped JR and Abby off at the cottage for naps while my mom and I drove to Inverness with William. Really she just wanted to try out driving, so we made a few loops through the city before returning home. I can’t say enough how beautiful it was just driving through the countryside. We were constantly stopping to take it all in.

  

Once we had the whole group together again my mom suggested we take a short drive to a nearby waterfall, the Falls of Foyers. I was led to believe we would park our car and voila, the waterfall would be right there. In reality there was bit more walking/hiking/stair climbing involved, which would not have been so bad except for the 17 pound baby strapped to my chest. Still, it was beautiful and well worth the effort!

 

The next day we drove around to the other side of Loch Ness to visit Urquhart Castle. The castle is set right beside the Loch and though mostly ruins now, we had fun exploring some of the towers and walls that remained.

Abby was still calling out for “Nessie” even at the castle. My mom and I made sure to get a picture for our local paper in Ohio, the Orrviews!

JR and I had a date night in Inverness and stopped in the small town of Dores on the way home to visit this little beach area. Once again, it started sprinkle just a bit but the sky remained clear and beautiful.

Back at the cottage Mom and Abby made use of her extra suitcase weight with craft time and a little kite flying.

The next morning we said goodbye to our little place and started the trek back to Edinburgh, stopping at Blair Castle along the way. We used our break to explore the grounds (we skipped the actual castle because we mostly wanted to be outside stretching our legs) which had deer, horses, a playground, a great little cafe, and tons of space to run around.

 

Back in Edinburgh, we were less than thrilled to realize our last apartment was up 3 sets of super steep, very warped stairs. JR deserves a medal because he carried most of the luggage up (and back down the next day) all by himself. The apartment was the most modern and maybe the largest we stayed in, and I wish we had more time there because it was set up really well for us. But it was our last night in Edinburgh so we set out quickly to walk around and eat dinner. The plan was to finish eating then take my mom and the kids back to the apartment, help them get settled, and then JR and I were going back out. I hadn’t had much time to myself during the trip so after dinner I asked if they wouldn’t mind doing that part without me and JR could just meet me at a bar later. Because my husband and mom are both really great people, they agreed and I set off on my own for a bit.

JR met me at The Dome and we had drinks before moving on to another place I’d read about called Voodoo Bar. Meh. It was trendy and youthful and I’m not really either of those things. As we were walking away, I saw another bar that was featuring live music. I LOVE live music and I love a good cover band, so I wanted to check it out. While we ordered our drinks the guy on stage began playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and I was sold. We stayed there the rest of the evening and I pretended I was back at the Lodge Bar in Columbus. We sang along to “500 Miles”, “The Gambler”,  and “Mr. Brightside.” I got a little too excited when I heard him start singing “Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.” The crazy thing is the entire bar was singing along and going nuts for John Denver. It was an unexpected and fantastic way to cap off our night.

The next morning my mom flew back to Ohio and we made our way back to Tbilisi. Abby would not sleep on the first flight and she was completely exhausted by the time we landed in Istanbul. She passed out in her stroller and I started worrying about how she’d do on her next flight home. I asked the gate agent if there were any empty seats and maybe we could switch so that Abby had a window seat (my logic is she has more space/can sleep better up against a window, but when we sit in a row of 3, William’s car seat has to be the window seat). The most amazing airline employee ever gave us two (TWO!) full rows to ourselves in the back of the plane.

If I were planning the same trip again, I would have either added one day at each spot, or removed Oban from our itinerary to save on some of the packing/unpacking all the time. But if the weather were nicer and we were able to go on our planned island boat tour, it could have been the highlight of our trip. Who knows? We would also love to visit other parts of the country because it seems like we barely scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer. We had an incredible time, and one more huge thank you to my Mom for coming with us and helping us make so many great memories!

 

 

Three!

Another year has passed and we are now the proud parents of a three year old. Abby is funny, kind and very talkative (she must get that from her Dad). We think she is exceptionally smart and beautiful, but we’re probably biased. She makes us laugh all the time. When she is in trouble and we threaten to take something away, she has a killer pout and will immediately say “but ___ is my favorite!” You can insert literally anything in the blank and if we’re saying she has to listen or we’ll take it away, it suddenly becomes her favorite thing ever. When she sees us watching her about to do something she shouldn’t, she’ll say “Don’t look at me, okay?”

She loves singing and making up songs, usually a variation of something from Daniel Tiger. We’ve been dealing with a little bit of separation anxiety when I leave for work in the morning, so our solution is to talk about it. That’s what she asks for each morning before I go, “can we talk about it?” We sit on the stairs and I remind her that I have to go to work, but that I’ll be back at the end of the day. I say “why will I come back?” And she will sing the Daniel Tiger song “Grown ups come back, at the end of the day, grown ups come back.” The best part is she recently added “to see little girls” at the end, and now we’ve made a big joke as she adds a few more lines “to see little Williams, and Abigails, and little Sopos.” It’s adorable.

She loves William and plays with him gently about 90% of  the time. We have to remind her that he is little, but mostly she sings to him and says things like “It’s okay William, sister is right here. You don’t need to cry buddy.” Here’s a video of her singing to him that makes my heart explode.

We had been talking a LOT about saying goodbye to the binky again (round 2.) We had two different tactics, one was trying to get her to agree to throwing them away and being ready, and I was also secretly poking holes in them before bedtime. Per the internet, if you poke one or two holes and gradually increase the amount of holes in the pacifier, it loses it’s effectiveness and kids just don’t want them anymore. So we started doing that, but then one night Abby was being particularly difficult about bedtime and I called JR upstairs for reinforcement. He found me outside of her room furiously stabbing holes in the pacifier as if it was a voodoo doll. “What happened to gradually?” he asked. I just glared at him.

After deciding to throw away two of them a few days earlier because they were “broken”, on the morning of her birthday she threw away her last one. She didn’t cry, although we did offer her chocolate as a temporary distraction. Bedtime that night was really rough, and the second night was still pretty bad although better than the first. On the third night Sopo put her to bed because we were out to dinner, and of course she went to bed without so much as a peep! Bedtime is still a bit of a struggle for us, but I feel 97% sure we’re done with the binkies. No, make it 90%.

We celebrated her birthday twice, the day of and with a party this weekend. When she woke up on Wednesday (her birthday) she called out from her room “Is it my birthday? When is it going to be my birthday?” I went in and reassured her that it was in fact her birthday and now she was officially three. She requested chocolate chip pancakes so we went downstairs to make them together. JR put together her big gift from my parents the night before, a Paw Patrol tricycle, and she was so excited to see it waiting for her downstairs. We felt like we’d given her a pretty great birthday morning, but then Sopo arrived and put us to shame!

The funny part is her stating at the end “That’s not a bone cake!” because for a long time she has repeated her request for a Paw Patrol bone cake with sprinkles. I visited a bakery here with a picture and hoped for the best. The baker did not speak English, but I had Sopo on the phone trying to translate for me and the bakery also had an employee who spoke English helping us. Whatever was said worked because I could not believe how perfectly the cake turned out! Now, it was about three times larger than I pictured, but is too much cake really a bad thing?

We lucked out with perfect weather for her party and enjoyed the afternoon celebrating with friends. The best part of all was my sister, Jamie, arriving early Sunday morning to make it in time for Abby’s party! Thanks to everyone who celebrated with us from near and far!

See you in Scotland, part 2

Catch up on the first part of our trip here.

Oban

Monday morning, JR and my mom went to pick up our rental car at the train station in Edinburgh while I stayed back at the apartment with the kids. It took way longer than any of us were expecting and I started to worry. With no way to contact them I wondered if they’d already been in an accident – perhaps forgetting to drive on the opposite side of the road. Finally, they pulled up and we began the extremely difficult task of fitting all of our luggage into the minivan. Here’s the thing, I tried to pack light, I really did. But we still had way too much stuff. Add in my mom’s suitcases and we just did not have the space. Yes, suitcases, plural. She could not fathom the kids not having Easter baskets in Scotland – the horror! and she also packed a million activities for her and Abby to do.

JR did a great job of driving us quickly out of the city and it didn’t feel like driving was much different (easy for me to say, sitting in the back). The kids took naps and we made plans to stop near Loch Lomond on our way to Oban. Everything was going great at this point. The scenery was beautiful, the roads were narrow but in great condition, and we were feeling good! Abby woke up shortly before our scheduled stop and she started complaining about being in her car seat. Not totally unusual for her, and we aren’t in the car for long periods of time in Georgia so I tried to reassure her that we’d be taking a break for lunch soon. We stopped at the Kilted Skirlie, which has nice views of the Loch and is also located next door to an aquarium. There was a small little carnival-like area set up outside that had some rides, so Abby enjoyed that.

She wasn’t that hungry at lunch but I convinced her to eat a few more bites of pasta with the promise of ice cream (two things I would come to regret). We stopped by the rides again briefly before we left and then we were back on the road. I figured the kids would nap for most of the 2 hour drive to Oban. I was wrong.

About an hour in, Abby was awake and complaining that her stomach hurt. I didn’t think too much of it, honestly. I offered her my phone so she could watch a show in hopes of distracting her, and when that didn’t fully do the trick, I gave her a binky – a surefire way to make her happy. She was still telling me she wanted to be out of her car seat. A few minutes passed and my mom suggested we turn off the show in case watching it was making her feel worse, and we encouraged her to sing songs and look out the window. Suddenly, she was vomiting. A lot. She was sitting behind the passenger seat, William was in the middle, and I was on the other side. I leaned over him, resting my hand on her chest when she started throwing up. I sort of tried to catch it? I didn’t really know what to do, I think she has only vomited once before in her life and it was definitely not in the car. I told JR to pull over, but we were basically in the middle of nowhere on a very tiny road.

She continued to throw up as he pulled up beside a small B&B. My mom ran to the door and asked the owner if we could come inside to clean her up in a bathroom. The woman was super nice and wanted to help, but said she didn’t have any available bathrooms we could use since all the rooms had guests, so she offered  her kitchen area instead. Abby was very upset – a combination of being covered in puke and not feeling well – as JR carried her inside to start cleaning her up. My task was to find a change of clothes for her in the mess of suitcases crammed into the back of the van. I managed to yank out a pair of pajamas and a spare blanket. Meanwhile, my mom was trying to clean the car seat and throwing soiled clothes to the ground, including my jacket and Abby’s blanket (that Paw Patrol blanket was so disgusting I would have preferred to throw it in the trash, but Abby would have lost her mind). The car seat was a mess. Everything was a mess. I carried the pajamas inside and found Abby had calmed down and JR said she was just fine after he got her dirty clothes off. The very nice lady had offered her a Capri Sun, a warm washcloth and a towel. She passed me a plastic bag for our dirty clothes, along with a bucket of soap and water and a rag to clean up the car and car seat.

We did the best we could in cleaning and decided to flip Abby’s car seat forward-facing for the rest of the day. I’m a big proponent of rear-facing (read more here and here) but my heart was breaking for my poor girl and I would have done anything to try to make her feel better. (She’s rear-facing again now that we’re home and I hope to keep her that way until she outgrows the height and/or weight limits for her car seat). We still had an hour to drive and needless to say, I did not have the most positive outlook. She did throw up once more about 10 minutes down the road, but she managed to get almost all of it in a plastic bag so we had minimal mess that time. She then fell asleep for the rest of the drive.

  
Before and after shots. Also these chickens showed up, because why wouldn’t there be chickens to laugh at our predicament??


To the owners and staff of the Glengarry House B&B, thank you a million times over for helping us!

When we arrived in Oban, we were tired, smelly, and over it. I was also really cold because my jacket was in the bag of soiled clothes. While we love using AirBnBs, one downside is you can’t just waltz in like you would with a hotel. You need to link up with the owner to exchange the keys (although a few places we’ve used have key boxes which is much more convenient). Well, to connect with the owner you need to call or text them, and we didn’t have a SIM card for the UK. So we arrived at our place and I’m running around like a crazy person, in and out of nearby stores, trying to pick up wifi so I can get in touch with the owner so we can get into the apartment. Not ideal. Some kind ladies let me just use their phone so I called the apartment owner and she showed up about 5 minutes later.

We were SO relieved, Abby especially, to be done with the car! And our apartment was really lovely and right in the center of town. Once we settled in a bit, we walked down to a restaurant called Piazza for dinner. It was delicious and had great views. Worn out from our exciting day of travel, we called it an early night and spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our apartment.

Our second day in Oban was supposed to be a highlight of the trip for JR and I – we had planned a full day boat tour of several nearby islands. Unfortunately, it was too rainy and windy and the tour was canceled. We were so disappointed! Although I can’t personally recommend it, if you are in the area I would definitely look into Staffa Tours. With no plans for the day, we set out walking along the water front for a while before finding the Oban Chocolate Company. Now that was a trip highlight! We ordered the ultimate chocolate fondue and enjoyed every bite.

 

 

 

The weather didn’t look to be improving, so my mom took Abby to an indoor play place called GoBananas while William and I napped at home.


It doesn’t get any sweeter than this!

JR did his own little walking tour around town.


Pictures of the Oban Distillery, McCaig’s Tower and looking out over Oban

Later we met up for drinks. Luckily no one was bothered by William hanging out with us.

Yep.

Back at the apartment, Abby helped my mom color Easter eggs.

We picked up dinner on our way home at Oban Fish and Chips (super quick and delicious – highly recommend!) and spent another evening relaxing at the apartment. Oban was a nice stop, but I think the weather and our troubles getting there prevented me from really loving it as much as I would have otherwise.

To be continued.

 

See you in Scotland!

That’s how we ended our last video chat session with my Mom before we both made our way to Scotland from Ohio and Georgia, respectively. Deciding on our second R&R plans was not an easy task. We’ve barely settled back into life here after our med-evac to Ohio, and we now have a 4-month old and a toddler. Not the most ideal time to take a vacation, but we charged ahead. Visiting Scotland was a bucket list trip for JR and I, particularly a road trip to see as much of the country as possible. We’re not out to win any parenting medals so we quickly realized the only way we could have the trip we wanted and enjoy ourselves would be to bring someone else along – enter my wonderful mother!

We were able to spend 9 fun and busy days in Scotland last week all together and it really felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Possibly because I’d never again want to take a Scottish road trip with my two young children. It was challenging and often exhausting, but also full of laughter and great memories.

Edinburgh

We met my mom at the Edinburgh Airport Saturday morning. Abby was calling out “Nana, Nana” as I pushed the stroller through the airport. William, life of the party as always, was passed out. The kids did really, really well on both flights. Because we were flying Turkish and we connected in Istanbul, we were subject to the new electronics ban which prohibits any electronics larger than a smart phone in your carry-on bag. Our default entertainment plan while flying is to let Abby have free reign of the iPad or Kindle Fire, so we were less than thrilled to learn of the new policy. It all worked out fine, first because we loaded up our iPhones with some of her favorite shows and also because Turkish is quite kid-friendly and helpful, and they had in-flight entertainment available on both segments of our trip.


Snuggling on the plane

After a few hugs and hellos, we made our way to our driver and vehicle. We hired Sun Transfers and we had no complaints about the service we received picking us up (our return trip was another story). Although we were initially told our AirBnB would not be available for early check-in, the cleaning service advised us they were nearly finished with the apartment. That was great news and allowed us to unload our stuff before walking to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar for lunch. Everyone was in need of a nap so we made quick work of the food and then returned to our apartment. The location was fantastic, just a few blocks south of the Royal Mile, which was our first stop after naps.

 

We were in Scotland, so we expected a lot of rain, but we really lucked out, especially that first day. It was sunny and beautiful.  We walked along the Royal Mile, visiting shops, watching street performers, listening to bagpipe players, and of course JR stopped for his first pint in Scotland. It started to get a bit late and we needed dinner, so we made our way back towards our apartment with plans to find either a quick place to eat or carry out. There was a Pizza Express nearby and it looked very family/kid friendly, so we decided to eat in. Probably a mistake. William woke up from his nap and was just not having all the noise, they brought Abby a huge glass of milk that she promptly spilled everywhere, and it took forever for them to take our order. It was also pretty expensive for a meal that I’d call just decent, but pizza and pasta are about the only two things Abby is sure to eat for dinner right now so it worked for us.

 

We spent the next morning at the Edinburgh Castle. We took a wrong turn as we walked towards it and wound up having to climb what felt like hundreds of steps, but the views were worth it.

 

  

William was asleep in his carrier and my mom went off chasing after Abby while JR and I did the free guided tour. The tour just walks around the outside of the main buildings and only lasted about 45 minutes, but it was informative. JR wanted to visit longer, so my mom and I took the kids to the Princes Street Garden to find a playground. The walk there was so nice, although the hill was a bit steep, but it weaved back and forth through these bright yellow flowers. The park and playground were the perfect end to our morning.

 

In the afternoon we visited the National Museum of Scotland. It was fantastic for kids – so much to see and do, Abby really loved it.

We went to the Whiski Rooms for dinner, and while they did a double take when we tried to enter with our huge double stroller, we found section in the back that could fit all of us and our stuff, and we enjoyed possibly my favorite meal of the trip! My fish and chips was delicious and JR sampled haggis for the first (and last) time. Let me save you the Googling: Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and cooked in a sheep’s stomach. All together now: Yum!

To be continued.