Mtatsminda Park

We took Abby to a small amusement park that overlooks the city called Mtatsminda.  The drive took about 30 minutes from our place and parking was frustrating because we didn’t know exactly where the entrance was located or where we should go, just that it was by the park.  You can park at the bottom of the mountain and take the funicular up which would probably have been a more convenient option in hindsight.  We skipped it thinking it would just delay our arrival and I wasn’t sure how much Abby would care about the funicular, but we’ll definitely try that route next time.

The park was larger than expected, and it was hot so I became quickly annoyed when we couldn’t figure out where to buy tickets for the rides.  After walking around for a bit, JR came through in the knick of time by locating a ticket booth where you purchase a card and can put as much/little Lari as you want on it.  We also stumbled upon a map of the park at that point, which also included ride prices – very helpful!  They ranged from about 1-5 Lari.  Abby is still a bit small for many of the rides there, but we found a few that she really enjoyed.  The flying bumblebees and the carousel were big hits. She did not understand why she had to exit after the ride was over and it took a lot of explanation (and crying) for Abby to agree to exit the rides. I think JR took her on those bees at least 3 times.

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They also had a few smaller arcade-style rides including cars that move and play music which she enjoyed.  Her favorite by far was the trampoline though. It was just a small kids trampoline with the netting around it, and I have no idea how much they charged us or how long you are supposed to “ride”, but she jumped forever.  She loved it.

We took a break for ice cream and this was probably the highlight for all of us.  Abby’s eyes were so wide when she grabbed the cone, and she made us laugh while she made a mess eating every single bit of that ice cream. It had cooled down a little by this point and we really enjoyed the people-watching and the view of the city.  We did encounter some trouble during our bathroom break.  The restrooms near the kid area had Turkish toilets.  Not my favorite thing under any circumstance, but particularly less so with a newly-potty trained toddler.  We improvised and lived to tell about it (note – apparently there are regular toilets in the cafe near the funicular.  Clearly, the funicular would have solved many of our problems.)

We had a really nice afternoon and we definitely plan on going back!

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The Secretary, My Mom and a Baby

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Tbilisi on his way to the NATO Summit at the beginning of July. JR and I weren’t involved in the logistics of his visit, but it was really interesting to see just how much goes into every detail of planning a VIP visit at the Embassy and in the city.  Embassy employees were invited to a short meet-and-greet with him before he departed and we went to see him.  I had no idea I was such a huge John Kerry fan until I saw some of these pictures.

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My smile could not be any bigger. Clearly, I am smitten.

After a fun 4th of July weekend (that included my first trip to the Hard Rock Cafe in Tbilisi – we now have a Hard Rock here!), we only had to wait a few more days for my mom’s second visit to Georgia.  I already wrote about us ditching her immediately so we could enjoy a quick trip to London, but luckily she had 2 full weeks here so we were able to spend some quality time together.

We went out to dinner with friends and my mom – who is a pickier eater than me (and that’s really saying something) – shocked us all by trying quail.  One minute we’re chatting and the next I look over and she’s nibbling away on some grilled quail.  I was impressed!  She said it tasted pretty good, but I’m not quite ready to try it myself.

Most of her visit was spent as “Nana”, which is all she really wanted, although she also enjoyed some lazy afternoons at the Zurgovani pool.  On her last weekend, she helped me (okay to be fair she did most of the work) host a turkey dinner at our house for a few friends.  I ordered a turkey back in the fall before we had plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we spent both holidays with friends and didn’t need to prepare our huge bird.  I had no idea when we’d use it and this seemed like the perfect time, especially considering I’ve never cooked a turkey.  We had a minor crisis when we realized the “turkey bag” I thought I had was actually a cellophane bag and those are apparently not the same thing at all.  The bag burst and we thought our turkey was doomed, but my friend Elizabeth came to the rescue with an extra bag that was in fact designed for cooking a turkey, and we were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner!

My mom would have been content to spend all of her time in our little gated community just enjoying Abby’s company, but we made a last minute decision to drive to Kazbegi, home to Mount Kazbegi and the small village of Stepantsminda.  The drive took us just under 3 hours, which would have been a bit shorter but we had to stop many times for cows in the road.

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We checked into Rooms Hotel and had a picnic lunch on the patio, enjoying the perfect weather and gorgeous views.  JR and I wanted to see the famous Gergeti Trinity  Church, which sits high on a mountain overlooking the city (I never know the distinction between a hill and a mountain.  I’m from Ohio, so they all look like mountains to me).

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You can hike up to the church, or drive in your own car or pay a taxi or guide to take you.  Surely you can guess that I was not interested in the hiking option.  Instead, we hired a guide to ride in our car while JR drove us up the mountain. It was a really rough drive.  Our poor car and my poor stomach.  But the church and the views were absolutely worth it.

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We met up with my mom and Abby back at the hotel for some relaxation and dinner before heading in for a peaceful night of sleep.  Or so we thought.  Apparently, it was the opening night for a brand new club on the other side of the valley and the thumping base played ALL.NIGHT.LONG.  I’m not kidding, you could still hear it at 8am. We woke up a little grumpy but wanted to enjoy a few more hours at the hotel, so we had breakfast together and then spent over an hour at the indoor pool.  Abby’s attitude towards pool time is hit or miss (heartbreaking for this former Orrville Otter and my husband, a Black Oak Swim Club record holder) but she was totally into it!  She “swam” up and down the pool and jumped into our arms over and over again.  I was sad to check out and look forward to another visit, hopefully without the club music!

Before we knew it, it was time for my mom to head home.  Our goodbye was a little easier this time because we know we’ll see her again in about 11 weeks, when we head back to Ohio to await the arrival of baby #2 in December!

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London!

JR and I just got back from a wonderful quick trip to London.  I don’t think London gets enough credit – all the parks and green space, the fascinating history, the people are exceedingly polite, and for JR’s benefit, there are pubs on almost every corner.

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JR was also appreciative of the “people respecting the queue” since it’s sometimes lacking from our everyday lives abroad.

My amazing mother perfectly timed up her summer visit to Tbilisi so that JR and I could take off for a few kid-free days.  Traveling to Tbilisi takes 3 flights and a LOT of time.  She left Cleveland around 7:30pm on a Sunday, quick layover in DC, a 9ish hour flight to Munich + a 9ish hour layover there, and finally she landed here at 4am local time on Tuesday!  As a show of our appreciation, we promptly left her in charge of Abby just 24 hours later. In case that wasn’t enough to deal with, Abby started feeling sick right before we left.

We took a quick trip to the med unit and left with a Nebulizer and some breathing treatments.  Hey Mom, welcome to Tbilisi, here’s our sick toddler, we’re out!

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(Abby was fine, just a bit of a cough that went away after a few days.)

Really, all that quality time with Abby was the highlight of her trip.  My mom made friends with everyone she met, people on the plane, the electric cart driver at the Cleveland airport (no really, they’re on first name basis), and all of our neighbors. She kept herself busy holding picnic lunches in our yard, making Froot Loop necklaces with Abby’s friends, fruit popsicles and bead bracelets, and the list goes on and on.  I have no idea how we will entertain this child now that she is gone!

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Meanwhile, we had a beautiful 3 days in London and probably my favorite trip there to date!  We saw Book of Mormon (hilarious, highly recommend), visited Westminster Abbey and the Churchhill War Rooms, wandered around Carnaby Street and through the parks, and did a day trip to Oxford (and a walking tour there with entirely too much walking, in my opinion).  JR’s favorite parts were the history of Oxford and, of course, enjoying a pint in J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis’ favorite local pub, The Eagle and Child.

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British food doesn’t get the recognition it deserves and we probably ate more than was necessary.

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Can’t wait to go back!

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Paw Patrol to the rescue!

Somehow I let a whole month pass without even attempting to write a blog post. Oops!

May was a wonderful month here. There were multiple local holidays, including Memorial Day, so we had long weekends and several short weeks. Glorious!  Instead of doing something really cool, or travel to a beautiful destination, we made the adult decision and took advantage of the first long weekend to try the 3-day potty training method with Abby. We debated the idea for a bit but she was showing signs of readiness so we cleared our schedules, read helpful tips on the internet, and purchased supplies.

The first day was absolutely terrible. The book we were trying to follow recommended having your child spend the whole day indoors, completely naked/bottomless, and you watch them like a hawk every second to catch them going to the bathroom, then whisk them off to the potty. Constantly watching your child is actually exhausting and tedious. By 10am JR and I were looking at each other and wondering how we’d survive the entire day. JR kept a running tally and by the end of the day the score was Abby 7 and Parents 7. A 50/50 split but that’s still a lot of Clorox and we were not mentally prepared.

Luckily, we turned a corner on day 2. We threw out the idea of going naked and went with some “big-girl” underwear. Abby is a huge fan of the show Paw Patrol, so we gave her some special Paw Patrol underwear and made a big deal about keeping them dry. Suddenly things started to click for her!

Yeah Paw Patrol!

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Of course, there were still a few accidents that day but nothing like the catastrophe of the first day.

Day 3 was even better and we couldn’t believe how quickly Abby took to the sudden change. After about a week it felt like we could safely say she was potty trained (we’re using pull-ups for nap and at night, although sometimes I think she could skip those, but I’m not willing to risk it and deal with the potential mess).

Another big milestone for our girl – she turned 2! We celebrated by having a joint party with our friend’s daughter. I didn’t get any good pictures of the birthday girl, but there is a video of Abby on my lap while everyone is singing Happy Birthday, and at that exact moment she stuck her fist in her cake. It didn’t mess it up too much, but she was furious that her hand was covered in frosting. All eyes were on us and I didn’t have any way to clean her up, so I first tried to wipe it off in my hand, and then I resorted to sticking her fist in my mouth and licking the frosting off myself. Put that in the “sentences I never expected to write” column. The party was great fun and thanks to the hard work and creative mind of my dear friend Elizabeth, minimal effort on my part! A win all around.  :)

Over Memorial Day weekend, we met up with friends of ours and their two kids in Borjomi, a town about 2 hours away. Shortly after we arrived at the hotel, it started pouring down rain while we ate lunch. Abby took a long nap (and so did we) and when she woke up we went down to the pool.  She was totally uninterested, but she sure did look cute in her swimsuit! The rain stopped so we spent some time walking around the hotel grounds and playing at the playground before heading downtown with our friends.  It’s a smallish town but there is an amusement park, cable car, and some restaurants and cafes.

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We hopped on the cable car and enjoyed beautiful views of the city and waterfall. On on our ride back down the attendant wanted to smoke, and being so thoughtful to the children and passengers on board, he just stood with the door partially open and blew his smoke outside -while the car was moving. A great comfort, really. Below is a picture I found online that illustrates the open door, now just imagine it looking that way as we traveled back down the mountain.

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We had a nice dinner in town and then returned to our hotel for a fantastic night of sleep. We splurged on the deluxe suite so Abby’s pack n’ play was set up in a separate room and that meant peace and quiet for all.

Since we were off on Monday for Memorial Day and we still had our nanny working, JR and I drove to an ancient rock/cave town called Uplistsikhe (good luck pronouncing that!), a few kilometers away from the town of Gori. It’s one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia and dates back to the Early Iron Age which is around 1200-550 B.C.E. (thanks Wikipedia!).

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Most of our time has been spent enjoying the warmer weather (although this past week has been all rain and cold) and playing outside. When it was finally warm enough to bring out the water table and our baby pool, a few of the neighborhood kids came over to play. We set up the other pool and even more kids showed up. We had a great time, but made the mistake of storing the pools on our back patio. The wind here is insane, and it’s especially bad in our neighborhood because we’re up on a hill. The little round pool blew away one night and hasn’t been seen since!

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Family, friends and Dairy Queen

I’m always a few weeks tad behind, but here are some highlights from our R&R in Ohio:

  •  Being around friends and family reminds of just how much I miss them. Life is great in Georgia, but I had so much fun while we were home.
  • The radio. You don’t realize how much you miss it!  There were so many great songs on the radio, but most importantly, I’m a full-blown Belieber now.  If you aren’t listening to Justin’s Bieber’s “Love Yourself” you are missing out.  I also love this cheesy “Stand By You” song by Rachel Platten. I was driving alone singing that song and having an emotional moment and thinking how much I loved JR and I would totally stand by him, and as the song says “I’d walk through hell for you.”  But then I thought to myself…eek.  Hell would be so hot.  My feet would burn so quickly!  So maybe not quite that much?

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  • JR had a week long training in DC, and on his way to Ohio he stopped in Gettysburg, PA for the night and toured the battlefield next morning. There’s a great tour guide program that allows you to pay a very reasonable fee for a private, certified guide who you pick up and they’ll actually drive your car for you as they show you the sights.  He said it was one of the best historical tours he’s ever been on and highly recommends it.  http://gettysburgtourguides.org/guided-tour-rates/
  • My grandparents wanted to take all nine – yes, NINE – of their great-grandchildren to Build-a-Bear for Easter.  I do not totally understand the pull of BAB, but kids love it and it’s insanely expensive so hooray to the company owners.  A $35 limit per kid was set, but of course my Mom was all “well, if Abby needs something additional I’ll just pay for it.”  Mmhmm.  She’s 2, I don’t think she actually needs anything.  Abby picked out a cute cat that we like to think reminded her of Annabelle and enjoyed the stuffing process.  Then it was time to shop for accessories.  My Mom would not hear it when I insisted the cat did not need an outfit because she’s a cat.  Next thing I know, I’m buying TWO pairs of sparkly flats for the cat.  Two, because she has 4 paws of course!  Okay, but it was all worth it when Abby put on these fake glasses and danced around the store. 
  • We had our first ER visit.  The day before we left, Abby had a cough in the morning that sounded much worse when she woke up from her nap.  My mom thought it sounded like croup, and we didn’t want to take any chances before traveling so we made our way to the nearest Urgent Care.  Which was closed.  At 4pm on a Saturday. What is the point of an urgent care??  That left the ER as our only option for her to be seen that day, and ultimately I’m glad we went.  The doctor agreed that it was probably viral croup and gave her a dose of steroids before sending us home.  She seemed totally fine the next day, thank goodness!

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  • American roads and highways.  After driving in Tbilisi for several months (think Mad Max Fury Road meets Mario Kart) we were amazed with the driving. Nobody driving the wrong-way on the highway, everyone in their lanes, stopping at lights, even blinkers for goodness sake!  At our first 4-way stop in Ohio, another driver politely waved us on and JR said “Can you believe how nice that man was? This is amazing!”
  • Many people we meet think we live in the state of Georgia.  Even though I always try to say “we live and work overseas in Tbilisi, Georgia” hoping the “overseas” part will tip them off, we still confuse people.  A nurse at the doctor’s office asked if I was local and when I said “No, I actually live overseas in Tbilisi, Georgia, near Russia” she said “Oh, so you drove up here then?”  Well, not exactly.  JR had a similar encounter where he told someone we live overseas in Georgia and she replied,”Goodness, I bet the South is having better weather than we are right now.” It’s understandable that strangers are confused, some of our own family and friends still think we live in Russia.  To be helpful, see the map below.  Georgia borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and the Black Sea.

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  • The Price is Right.  Enough said.
  • We have some really nice grocery store options here, but there is still something that blows my mind when I see the cereal or bread aisle at Buehler’s.  So. Many. Options.  Also, every single fruit or vegetable is practically without blemish. It’s overwhelming and amazing.
  • My sister came home the first weekend we were in town to see us and take care of some wedding planning.  I was super excited for cupcake tasting with her, and I also went to her florist appointment.  The wedding stuff made me nostalgic for my own big day, so I made my whole family watch our wedding DVD – the ceremony and the highlight reel – just to get everyone in the spirit!
  • At one point JR was looking at our credit card statement and said “How many times have you been to Dairy Queen?”  I told him to stop judging.lay-off-me-im-starving-gif
  • I was on the hunt for a pair of sandals for our nanny’s son.  One night JR said, hey we have some down time, why don’t we run to Target and you can get the sandals and I can pick up some beer. Note that this was my first trip to Target in about 9 months.  $204 later, we walked out of the store with a six-pack, no sandals, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I really, really needed.

That sums up our R&R –   family, friends, Dairy Queen, explaining where Georgia is located, and overspending.  It’s a long haul to return home but we’re grateful for the opportunity to do it.

We’re Back!

We made it back to Tbilisi last week and our return travel was light years better for everyone involved.  There were some struggles but overall, it was a much, much better experience.  Looks like my sister can still have her wedding in October!

There were many advantages to the return journey.  For one thing, we flew out of Cleveland at 6:15 p.m., as opposed to our Tbilisi departure which was originally scheduled for 5 a.m.  JR and I were able to sleep in and take our time closing up the suitcases, and then we enjoyed a nice Easter lunch with my family.  Abby even had a nap before we left for the airport.  We all started out in better moods, and much more rested.

The better moods were quickly changed when we checked in at the American Airlines counter for our first flight to Chicago.  The attendant told us our bags could not be checked all the way to Tbilisi, so we’d have to pick them up at baggage claim in Chicago and RE-CHECK them before boarding our flight to Istanbul.  This meant that instead of just going to our next gate in Chicago, we would have go to baggage claim and wait for our bags, then make our way to the Turkish counter, recheck our bags, go through security again, and then find our next gate.  JR repeatedly asked them why we had to do this but they just said that since American Airlines didn’t have an “agreement” with Turkish Airlines, we would have to get our luggage to Turkish ourselves.  JR didn’t think there’d be enough time in Chicago to do all this but we figured we’d deal with the problem as best we could when we landed.  And deal with it we did.

As soon as we landed in Chicago, we hustled to baggage claim.  JR paid for two luggage carts, and even then it was difficult for us to maneuver because I was pushing Abby in her stroller while JR had to push one cart with each hand.  The first thing we had to do was find a spot to open Every.Single.Bag and rearrange our items because the weight limit for American Airlines, which we had planned for, is 50 lbs, while Turkish Airlines only allows 44 lbs per bag.  Thankfully we had enough extra space in our last two bags that we didn’t have to throw away anything (I was really fearing for my 5 packages of bacon and 4 pounds of frozen cheese at this point, but they made the cut!).

Next we had to transport ourselves and said luggage from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5.  Easy peasy – we’ll take the tram!  Oh wait, you aren’t allowed to take a luggage cart on the tram.  After the first employee said it couldn’t be done, the next one said they’d make an exception for us and she also helped push one of the carts. Upon arriving at Terminal 5, we were greeted by a lengthy but not terribly long line at the Turkish counter.  At this point Abby was asking for water, she had finished her sippy cup and we didn’t have any bottled water with us.  There wasn’t a vending machine in sight.  Since we had a 2.5 hour layover, we assumed we’d have time to eat dinner and relax before boarding.  But like most things when traveling, we were wrong.

Once we rechecked our bags, we had about 90 minutes left so we felt pretty good about the situation.  Until we saw the largest security line JR or I have ever seen.

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I was a tad unhappy.  So much for our leisurely layover, at this point we were concerned we wouldn’t make the flight.  I felt especially bad for Abby.  We use the layovers for her to run around, stretch her legs and burn energy, and she was confined to her stroller almost the entire time.  She was not pleased.  By the time we collected our things from the security checkpoint, we heard the last call for our flight over the loudspeaker.  I told JR to run ahead so they wouldn’t close the doors on us.  We made it, but we were annoyed and frustrated. Running through airports is becoming a family tradition.

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The great news is that the flight itself was pretty great.  We settled in to our seats and Abby started playing with the in-flight entertainment system.  We fed her while we waited for dinner service (huge thanks to my Mom who helped out by packing us peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, apples and cheese – this was way better than all the snack/junk food we packed ourselves).  We’ll always try to remember to bring fresh food with us from now on. Shortly after we ate, we laid her down between us and like magic, she fell asleep.

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She slept off and on this way for several hours (so did we), and then she started getting uncomfortable.  We could tell she needed to stretch out a bit more, so I moved to the window seat and JR took his Kindle and walked around/stood in the galley while Abby and I slept.  It was really  nice, I was able to stretch out some more and she was laying flat across the aisle and middle seats. We probably slept like this for almost 3 hours.  She rolled off onto the floor at one point, but she barely cried and was quickly asleep again. In fact, we woke her up when we had about 45 minutes remaining in the flight.  #MAJORWIN.  The overnight flight made a huge difference.

Our layover in Istanbul was just over 2 hours.  It’s a crowded airport with not enough seating.  Not my favorite.  Our time passed quickly enough and finally we were on our LAST flight home.  We landed in the pouring down rain and freezing cold, but all six bags, although wet, made it and we were safely at home about an hour later.

My general advice on flying with a two year old:  Don’t do it.  Okay that’s probably not fair, everything worked out fine in the end but definitely be prepared for a less than relaxing journey!

 

Never again

Picture this.  It was 11pm on a Wednesday night and JR and I were headed to bed.  We were leaving for our R&R back to the States on a 5:15 a.m. flight, so we had our alarms set for 2:30am, and motorpool scheduled to pick us up 45 minutes later.

JR received this text message:  We’re sorry, your flight from Tbilisi to Munich has been canceled.

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Awesome way to start our R&R.

I called Lufthansa directly while he phoned the Embassy hoping to reach one of the ladies who handles travel arrangements.  While the Lufthansa guy was telling me we needed to wait until Friday to fly out, JR had much more luck with Khatuna from the Embassy’s office.  It took almost an hour and several phone calls, but she was able to reroute us on a flight to Warsaw at 5:50 a.m. and then a connection to Munich that would put us back on our original itinerary.  Huge thanks to the travel office for helping us in the middle of the night. An additional flight was not desirable, but manageable.  The catch?  One of us needed to be at the airport 3 hours prior to our departure to confirm and pick-up our tickets from the Lufthansa counter. Since the entire flight to Munich had been canceled we knew that others were probably trying to catch the Warsaw flight and we did not want to lose our new tickets.

At this point it was midnight.  We had the option of all 3 of us leaving our house at 2am and waiting much longer at the airport, or one of us could drive to the airport right then, pick up the tickets, and drive back home and (hopefully) get a bit more sleep. I drew the short straw, so I cranked up the Taylor Swift and made my way to the airport in search of the Lufthansa counter – which doesn’t exist. Because of course it doesn’t. I talked to security and waited in a back hallway for the “office” to open.  Once the staff did arrive I waited while they had a chit chat and a cup of coffee before they were able to assist.  I was fading fast when they printed the tickets, but I was in a great mood because we had managed to overcome this big hurdle and surely we’d have smooth travels ahead.

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Our flight to Warsaw was uneventful.  The last minute change somehow gave Abby and JR premium class seats, and he very kindly allowed me to sit a few rows back and sleep most of the flight while he dealt with Abby.   We were late leaving so we landed at 7:20 – the exact departure time of our next flight.  The airlines sent a representative to meet us and a few other passengers and they rushed us through customs, security and the airport to the waiting plane.  This time we all had premium class seats and once again, we foolishly thought the worst was behind us.  Who would have thought the Polish have the best customer service?

In Munich, we found a small play area for Abby and spent over an hour there letting her burn off some energy.  It was relaxed and we were feeling good. We took our time walking to the gate for our next flight, and on the way we heard our names called over the loudspeaker.  I was confused because we had more than 40 minutes until take off, but we picked up the pace and walked up to the gate agent.  She kindly informed us that JR was not booked on the flight.  Abby and I had tickets, but during all the changes earlier the previous night/that morning, somehow JR was added to a Lufthansa flight leaving several hours later.

I was panicked.  That’s actually an understatement, I was internally freaking out.  For weeks now we’d been operating under the new plan with all of us flying together to DC.  To have this sprung on me moments before we were supposed to board was not okay. As JR calmly explained the mix up to the gate agent, I was going through our carry-on bags and separating our things in case we couldn’t fix it.  After what felt like forever (but was probably only 5-10 minutes) they acted like he would be able to go with us, but the other employees were insisting that Abby and  I  board immediately or we would miss the plane.

I pushed Abby as slowly as I could, but before long we were at the end of the jet way and the flight attendants were asking us to board.  I told them I was waiting for my husband.  Again, this wait felt like forever because I truly didn’t know if he was going to be allowed on the plane.   I’m not sure I’ve ever been so relieved to see his face as I was when he finally appeared.

Now came the hard part.  The 9 hour flight with an almost two year old.  We settled in and hoped for the best, and to her credit, she did really well until about the last 2 hours.  But that last two hours was really awful.  We tried every trick we knew to get her to sleep or at least calm down. She was exhausted (at this point she had probably slept for a total of 3-4 hours the whole day, and it was still Tbilisi time for us, so about 10pm and well past her bedtime).  She was screaming and crying and really could not be consoled.  She would snuggle up and close her eyes, but less than a minute later she’d be at it again because she couldn’t get comfortable. She kept saying “night night, night night” and I felt like the worst mother ever, because my poor kid just wanted to be in bed sleeping.  Although I had though it to myself several times, this was the first point where JR and I actually said aloud to each other “never again.”  We are never, ever doing this again. (Note that my sister is getting married in Ohio in October, so never again means we’ll have to find a way to cancel or relocate her wedding).

We finally landed, and bless the kind people who sat around us and told us what a great kid she was and how she did so well on the plane.  Seriously, I was so tired and stressed and just plain sad in that moment that their nice words nearly made me cry.

DC was the final stop for JR, and I started to mentally prepare myself for doing the final leg of our journey solo.  I thought we’d have more time together, but quite quickly after we left the plane we had to head in opposite directions.  We said a quick goodbye and then Abby and I made our way to customs.  I had to take her out of her stroller for her passport picture, which she hated.  Then we waited at baggage claim for our 3 checked bags.  When I had pictured this part of our trip I thought JR would still be with us, but since he wasn’t I had to make do and I gave Abby my iPhone to watch videos while I waited on our bags and loaded them on a luggage cart.

Pushing the luggage cart and stroller simultaneously was no easy feat, but we managed.  We rechecked our bags and made our way through security and then to our gate. We only had about 20 minutes before boarding so we used that time to buy some water and stretch our legs.  The plane was outside on the tarmac and as I took Abby out of her stroller, another passenger offered to help me.  I think he meant help with my bags, but at that moment Abby tried to take off while I collapsed her stroller so I asked him to grab her hand so she didn’t run under the plane.  He held on to her while I put the stroller on the luggage cart and I thanked him profusely.  Meanwhile, JR was in another part of the airport waiting for his luggage that never arrived.  He had work meetings the next day, so as soon as he made it to his hotel he had to run out and buy a shirt, tie and pants.

The flight to Cleveland was only 50 minutes.  50 minutes!  We can do this, I thought.  Then we sat on the plane for an hour waiting for fuel.  Never again, I said to myself for the 100th time that day.

It was snowing and freezing when we touched down in Cleveland, but I didn’t care.  It was great to see my parents waiting for us.  Abby fell asleep in her car seat on the ride home, and barely woke up when we changed her and put her to bed. My mom and brother took the monitor so I could sleep as much as possible, and I actually felt well rested the next morning.  Once I showered and ate breakfast, I settled on the couch and watched Abby light up as she played with my parents.  She kept running to them and hugging them, calling for them anytime they left the room.  All I heard all day was “Nana!!  Papu!!” And pretty quickly I thought, yeah, we’ll do this again.

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