Travel is fun, they say

The good news is we survived the return to trip to Tbilisi and it went about as well as we could have hoped. The bad news is that jet lag with a 7 week old and a 2.5 year old is THE WORST. Thankfully it only took about a week for us to fix our sleep schedules but it was a very rough 7 days.

We flew out of Akron Canton, which is a small regional airport about 40 minutes from Orrville. Because we flew into Cleveland when we arrived, this was considered a cost-construct trip (since we wanted to fly in and out of two different airports, we were responsible for any difference in price – in this case it was $25 per ticket which was worth it to us). Akron Canton is closer, and it’s much more convenient because it’s just so small. I also liked the flight schedules better. The downside is that when you cost construct a ticket, you lose some of the benefits you might otherwise have received. In this case, we could have had a day room at the Hilton hotel in Munich during our 9 hour layover as part of our trip. I didn’t know if we were making a huge mistake by foregoing that option. We could have paid out-of-pocket for it but I heard the business lounge was really nice (and we did receive passes to that). Also, the Hilton is kind of a haul through the airport and the day room hours are 9am to 6pm. We were scheduled to land around 1pm and leave at 10pm, so I didn’t know how useful it would actually be.

We left for the airport at 2:30pm on Tuesday, January 24. As I mentioned in my last post, we received William’s diplomatic passport and visa to Georgia via FedEx at 10:30am that same morning. We like to live dangerously like that (no, actually we don’t, but the whole process is the biggest pain and it took 67 emails to get someone from the Georgian Embassy to help us out). We hired a van from HMC Car and Limousine to transport our luggage and JR while my mom drove me and the kids. Our final count was 8 checked bags, 1 convertible car seat (checked), 1 infant car seat (carried on), 1 double stroller (gate checked before each flight), 3 carry-on backpacks, and 1 diaper bag. It looks overwhelming but I felt like we had considerably less to carry after we checked in. Using backpacks was a game changer.

I’m also really happy with our double stroller. We used the Britax B Agile Double. It’s super easy to push, both seats fully recline for the kids to lay down, and we fit through every door we encountered. It also folds easily and quickly.

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Checking in at Akron Canton was super smooth and easy. There was only one other person in the entire security line. We were able to take our time and not feel so rushed which is how we usually feel during check in and security. It may have been my imagination, but all the employees were even friendlier than at other airports. I think this is how VIPs must feel while traveling. Maybe that’s why we enjoy this airport so much?

There’s a small children’s play area so we hung out there and let Abby play until it was time to board our first flight to Chicago.

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It was a small plane with a 2-2 seat set up and our seats were not across from each other, JR was one row up. It wasn’t a big deal since the flight was so short and both kids did great.

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We had an almost 4 hour layover in Chicago. We took our time walking to our gate and stopped for dinner at Chili’s. The area we were in wasn’t very crowded so we let Abby run as much as she wanted in hopes of tiring her out. Before boarding we changed her into PJs and hoped for the best.

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On this flight we had the window and aisle seat of one row and the window and aisle of the row directly behind it. I sat with William in his car seat and JR was with Abby in front of us. He inflated her 1st Class Kids Travel Pillow  (watching JR try to quickly and discreetly blow up the pillow is always amusing).

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As soon as lift-off we encouraged Abby to lay down and sleep. She tried and tried, and she would fall asleep for a little bit and then wake up. She was very tired (it was probably 11pm/12am at this point) and quickly became frustrated and upset. I asked her if there was anything I could get her or do for her to help her sleep and her reply of “I want Nana” about broke my heart. The plane was not full, so JR moved a few rows back and we let Abby spread out across the two seats to hopefully sleep better. I continued to sit in the row behind her with William, who to our amazement, slept almost the entire flight. He woke up about half way through for a bottle and diaper change, then went right back in his car seat and back to sleep.

Once both kids were asleep I decided to try the unthinkable and watch a movie. I only used one headphone so I could listen for them and kept leaning forward to check on Abby. Once when I started to look up all I could see were her two little feet in her pjs sticking out in the aisle from the floor. She had rolled right off the seat and was less than thrilled to find herself on the ground. Oops. I settled her again, and moved her pillow more to the center of the two seats to hopefully act as a barrier and keep her from falling again. She rolled off only once more so I suppose it was a limited success.

After landing in Munich we walked straight to the Lufthansa Business Lounge. We ate some breakfast there and then found a place to sit down and relax. We took turns showering- this was my first time showering in an airport and it was really nice. The bathrooms are spacious and clean, and they provided shampoo, razor, shaving cream, shower cap, towels, and a hair dryer. We knew we were going to take advantage of this so JR and I had each packed a full change of clothes in our backpacks. I felt like a brand new person after that shower! We let Abby play on the iPad while William alternated between eating and sleeping. The lounge was right beside a small kids play area so JR took her out there to play a few times.

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Overall, I’m glad we went with the lounge passes instead of the hotel room. It helped that the lounge was empty for most of the day and we were able to create our own little area to camp out.

The final flight was a little rough – we were all over it and in desperate need of our beds and our own space. Thank goodness for Daniel Tiger, a binky and a snack cup to carry us to our final destination.

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JR and I were so relieved to finally touch down in Tbilisi. Abby kept saying “are we in Georgia?  What’s Georgia?” As we waited for our luggage at baggage claim, the poor girl had her first accident in months. She was really upset so I tried to calm her down and rush her off the bathroom to change clothes while JR handled the bag collection and kept an eye on William. Once she was all cleaned up, we met up with our motorpool drivers and made our way to the cars (it took two vehicles to haul all of us and our stuff).

Let me tell you, installing two car seats at 6am after 30 some hours of travel, in the cold, is not fun. As I buckled William in I could smell a dirty diaper but I thought the best thing was to just ignore it and hurry home. Just as the cars started moving, Abby said she had to pee. Again. Awesome. The entrance to the airport (you cannot go back in through the area we came out of) was on the other side of the entire building. Did I mention it was 6am and cold? And that our baby had a dirty diaper? I did what anyone would do – I took her to the side of the parking lot and held her off the ground so she could go. I can only imagine what our drivers were thinking.

Finally we were in the cars on the way home. Abby sang every single song she knows at least twice. We pulled up and let her run into the house first and she was so, so excited. “My kitchen!” “My baby” “My flashlight”. Every toy delighted her. I wonder how much of all of this her little mind really understands, but she was definitely happy to be home. And so were we – we all slept for about six hours.

That six hours felt great but wasn’t nearly enough.  The next several days were our toughest to date, but everyone is back to normal now and we are so glad to be home!

 

Catching up

I had really good intentions of blogging while we were in Ohio for my maternity med evac, but as evidenced by my lack of posting, that clearly did not happen. The good news is I can blame my absence on the arrival of William James, born December 9, 2016.

He’s basically the cutest and we’re all adjusting to life as a family of four!

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JR says that William already looks “distinguished.”

How we spent the rest of our time at home:

  • We spent Thanksgiving with JR’s family and it was really nice. His sister and her husband hosted the extended family and the food was so fantastic, there weren’t ANY leftovers. That says something about the food, but it created a real crisis for me when it was 7pm that evening and I was searching for a hot meal. At approximately 52 weeks pregnant at that point, JR knew it was a serious situation and helped me find a place that was open so we could order carryout. If you’re ever in this predicament, Applebees is open on Thanksgiving. You’re welcome in advance.
  • My due date was quickly approaching in December and William showed no signs of making an appearance. After scheduling an induction date with my doctor, JR and I showed up at the hospital on December 9 ready to have a baby. My doctor was confident I’d have a baby by early that evening (in fact, she broke down the plans for the day according to meal times, we’ll do this at breakfast, this around lunch, and baby will be here in time for you to eat dinner – she really gets me). As much as we both said we had no idea if we were having a boy or a girl, clearly we were both expecting a girl because we were completely shocked when the doctor said “It’s a boy!”.
  • Some of the highlights of that day (aside from meeting our baby boy!) included Abby’s visit, being done with labor by 6pm and able to EAT, and my sister having Pizza Hut breadsticks delivered to the hospital for me (this is a birthing tradition for us) shortly after William’s birth. She’s awesome like that. Everything went perfectly, but the next morning both Abby and JR tested positive for strep throat. Less than ideal to say the least. JR spent the next 48 hours parenting from behind a mask.

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  • Once we had William home and settled, it was time to focus on Christmas! It was really wonderful to spend the holiday with our families, and Abby reveled in the attention. She was (is) completely spoiled but it was so much fun to see her excitement over Santa and all the presents.

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Taking a picture of two kids is much harder than one!

  • Abby’s reaction to Santa Claus. What a difference a year makes!

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  • We spent much of our remaining time going to a dozen appointments and working on the paperwork to take William home to Georgia. No joke – his visa arrived at 10:30am on the Tuesday that we left, with our flight leaving at 4:30pm. Nothing like the last minute!
  • Abby is really obsessed with him.

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Give William some space Abby! (said at least 100 times a day)

  • We’re so happy to be back in our house in Tbilisi and slowly life is returning to normal – at least a new normal. I’m planning to write another post soon about our travel back!

A few more pictures of my sweet babes!

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Randoms

Coming up with titles for blog posts is hard if you don’t have something specific in mind. So…I’ve got nothing for this one.

Here’s what we’ve been up to the past few days.

On Saturday, I went with a small group to Camp Bondsteel, the military base in Kosovo. It was about an hour drive, but worth the trip. I’ve never been on a military base before. They have a large post-exchange, which I think is like a commissary but I’m not certain of the difference between the two. I stocked up on snacks, chicken, and a few other household items (like ziplock bags. I never realized how much I love ziplock bags.). I don’t have any pictures to share, because when I thought about taking them I also thought maybe that’s illegal since it’s the military. I also didn’t ask anyone to confirm that suspicion because it could have been a dumb question either way.

We had a lazy start to our Sunday and then decided to walk around downtown for lunch and groceries. We were trying to find a specific restaurant called Renaissance II, but it was impossible. The directions say it’s hard to find and there is no signage (why not? no one knows), so we walked behind buildings, in alleys, all over the place. No luck. We asked 3 different locals and they’d never heard of the place, despite the fact that it’s listed as the number one restaurant in Kosovo on TripAdvisor. We gave up and had lunch at a cafe on Mother Theresa Boulevard, which is a walking street with lots of cafes and stores lining the sides.

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We were surprised at how many people were out and about that afternoon. It seemed like all the tables at each restaurant were full. People love to sit and drink coffee here, and have a tendency to do it multiple times a day for long periods at a time. This could finally be the year I start drinking coffee!

We also stopped to see the Newborn Monument. The monument was unveiled on February 17, 2008, the day that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Initially, the letters were all in yellow, and everyone was invited to sign their names. It was repainted with the flags of the countries that have recognized Kosovo as an independent country.

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Yesterday, we got exciting news that we have been unofficially approved to stay in our temporary apartment! We hope to have official word within the next week or so. Although we would have been fine with moving into our originally assigned apartment, this place is a bit larger, and we are already settling in, so we’re happy that we won’t need to move again. Once we have the rest of our things, I’ll post some pictures of our home.