"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Shink?

shink

Ok, so the above is part of the floor plan in our Novorossiysk apartment, namely the two bathrooms. The top is clearly the master bathroom with a tub, toilet and sink. The bottom… well we aren’t entirely sure what it is! To the right we have a toilet, but the left looks like either a GIANT sink or just a shower, but that would leave the bathroom without a sink, which does not seem very hygenic. Do you think its a combination shower/sink?

Not sure… and trusty google has let me down! Maybe you can help?

Bad Good Good

Isla is currently still sleeping and it is 8:30AM!  She woke up last night and nursed around 12:45AM, so I expected her to sleep in a little bit, but not this much.  She is still congested and threw up again yesterday so I am just glad that she is getting some healing sleep.

Yesterday I was so excited because we got our information package about Novorossiysk.  We have now seen the floor plan of where we will be living, its a 2 bedroom, possibly 2 bath (the floor plan isn’t clear if its a 1/2 or full), and we got a list of the furniture provided.  I am glad that we won’t have to bother moving our things, but also a little sad to say good bye to my furniture for potentially 4 years!  That is a very long time.

We also found out that there are about 12 families moving with us, who will be sharing our apartment complex, which is lovely because we will have an instant community and support group.  The only downside is that there is only one other young couple, and they don’t have kids, so no instant playmates for Isla!  The rest of the couples are closer to my parents ages, I think.

I was a little bummed to learn that Sochi, where they are having the 2014 Winter Olympics is actually 8 hours away, not 3 hours away, so I am not sure when we will make it over that way.  Its not that far distance wise, but the roads are either under construction – which means traffic, or not very good roads.  We have been advised against doing much traveling on public transport, but its ok because we will be provided with transportation by the company… plus I have my stroller for short distances!  The city itself seems quite safe, so we can go out and explore as much as we want.  There are many grocery stores within walking distance and Nick’s office is within walking distance.  It has some really neat museums and things to see and do not too far.  There is even an Aquarium in Anapa that we can take Isla too!

Nick also ordered Rosetta stone last night, and we are going to get serious on learning Russian.  I am quite nervous.  I picked up Spanish fairly quickly when we lived in Venezuela, but this is a totally different ball game!  We have to completely learn from the beginning since its a different alphabet!!!

Uh oh, sweet baby is up!  Got to go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Toro, Toro

When I set out to find the perfect European travel stroller, I had no idea what I was getting into, and it appears that I didn't even really know what I wanted, other than I wanted it to do everything. I toyed around with the idea of sturdy umbrella, a jogger, and possibly even spending the money to get a single to double convertible stroller. It soon became apparent that from my long list of MUST haves, a few factors were going to be very important to consider:
  1. I am a total weenie. My current Chicco Cortina stroller that I thought was soooo heavy, actually only weighs 23 lbs, which is on the lighter side of a mid-weight stroller... strollers can get MUCH heavier. I did not know that. I supposed I could continue to beef up my guns, but I think carrying a growing girl will do that on its own.
  2. It definitely had to fold small, not just for utilizing subways, but we found out that Nick's company has already selected and furnished our apartment in Novorossiysk. We have not seen pictures or layouts, but the ONE fact we do know that our oven is only 17" wide, which does not inspire much confidence that it will be large enough to store a big stroller. Space is going to be a premium, I think.
  3. We have also found out that we will not be allowed to drive in Russia. That is ok, but that means we will be utilizing taxis, mass transit, and walking much more than I had originally intended.
  4. The Wheels were going to be so important. After conferring with several sources and informants, good wheels in Europe are very important. Apparently not all developed nations are created equal, and in Europe the roads and sidewalks are not the smooth, milky way ribbons of asphalt that we have here in the US of A. Vacations days spent forcing small, rubber wheels over cobblestones, rubble ruins, and unpaved roads were going to make for a very sore Nick! Here he is pushing a Peg Perego Aria, which has decent, but not off-road tires to the tank at his Grandparents Ranch. A quick trip the tank was doable with street tires, vacation days spent lifting the stroller over every little bump was not.
One good thing came out of our rough and tumble walk to the Tank. Isla's comfort is not something we really need to worry about, she can sleep through any stroller ride, no matter how bumpy :). I love this picture of Isla and Bear!
So we checked out the umbrellas, but none had the big, pneumatic 12" dream tires I dreamed of. We checked out jogging strollers, but they were so much money and I didn't really want to spend that much on a stroller that was only good for one baby, plus, with the exception of the Bumbleride (20 lbs exactly), they were all pretty heavy. I felt like if I bought the Bumbleride Indie, then I would need to get another little umbrella to go with it for when Isla and I traveled alone, which I didn't want to do for the price of an Indie.

Finally I decided to check out the single to double convertibles, expensive, but worth it for two babies, but they were soooo heavy! I LOVED the Baby Jogger City Select, but that one was already a whopping 28 lbs as a single set up, and by the time you added a second seat it got really heavy. It had a great, easy fold though. The only other possible single to double was the Phil and Ted's Vibe, which came in at 26 lbs with a double set up, but Nick hated it, and this review here pretty much had me convinced that the Baby Jogger City Select was much better for me. Plus, it was absurdly expensive, and you had to buy a ton of extra things on top of it to make it functional for what I wanted a stroller to do. I decided that I wasn't ready to make the leap to a convertible until I knew what our family would look like, even if it meant spending more money overall. Plus, there is a part of me that wants to wait and see what new things these stroller makers come up with in the next few years. Perhaps we might be lucky enough to get a Joovy Caboose Ultralite with pneumatic tires if we are willing to wait :).

I was at one point convinced that the Baby Jogger City Mini was the stroller for us. It is light weight and I LOVE the one handed fold, but upon in person inspection, I hated the wheels and I refused to compromise on them. Plus, even though the up front prices wasn't that bad, you had to buy every single little accessory, including a bumper bar, so it was not as cheap as it seemed for not being exactly what I want.
And this my friends is where I left my search this past weekend. I had several people suggest I wait until we get to Russia, but thanks to the internet, I have a pretty good idea of what Europeans are using and what is and isn't available... in Europe, strollers are serious business since people walk everywhere there! There were only a few brands not available in the US that were somewhat popular there, and then they were absurdly expensive. Plus, we have a lot of travel coming up in the next couple of months, and I would like to have my travel stroller for those trips.

Disheartened, I was mindlessly flipping through stoller reviews, and I decided to check out the Stroller Queen's website, when I stumbled across her 5 crown rating selection of strollers. And there at almost the beginning was the Micralite Superlite with its gigantic, back tires! It was like manna from stroller heaven. Plus, upon closer inspection, I realized that it weighed a mere 14 lbs. It also had a one handed fold, awesome accessories, and from what I could tell, handled super smooth.

The only thing I didn't like about it was the tiny canopy (remedied with a sun cover accessory at additional cost) and the mesh seat. Sure, it would be perfect during the summer, but even with an additional fleece liner, I was afraid that it might not be warm enough for those freezing Russian winters.

I decided to check out Micralite to what other strollers they carried, and it turns out that they make the Toro in addition to the Superlite! Apparently, I had already read several reviews, including each and every review on Amazon.com, and had somehow dismissed them without realizing that I had struck stroller gold. As I read and reread reviews, I got several cases of Deja Vu, and I don't know how I kept missing this stroller - The One as I like to call it :). It was even mentioned on the above review comparing the Phil and Ted's Vibe with the Baby Jogger City Select, and I didn't pay attention to it!

The Toro is a little pricey, but I have been able to find several good deals on it, and it already comes with all of the accessories that I will need, so I shouldn't need to purchase anything additional, although I probably will... :). I got a very good deal on it, and I am hoping that it is not too good to be true!

I still went back and forth between the Toro and the Superlite, but I found out that Nick will have to spend at least 10 days in Moscow in February and I am going to move heaven and earth to make sure that Isla and I can join him, and just then I was convinced that that mesh liner was not enough to keep Isla warm... rumor has it the winters in Moscow can be pretty brutal!

This is why I chose the Toro:
  1. It is only 19 lbs. Even weenie me can manage 19 lbs one handed.
  2. It has a one handed fold, and it folds small. It folds much smaller than our current stroller, and it can stand on its own when folded. My current stroller does that, and I love that feature.
  3. It travels well, in fact it comes with a travel bag (additiona cost), and can be wheeled like luggage! I have often wished that my Cortina had that feature. Its such a natural thing to try to do when you have something with wheels that stands upright.
  4. It has a full recline.
  5. It can be semiclosed to fit through tight spaces with a child in it. This is not recommended by the manufacturer, but it was mentioned in several reviews, and I am sure I will end up doing it.
  6. It can be used in snow! I found the Stroller Queen review for the Toro, and it definitely moves in snow well.
  7. You can buy extra pneumatic wheels to replace the front wheels for when you are going seriously off road! Why don't all strollers come with this?
  8. It has the best optional accessories that I have found on a stroller. They are so well thought out, and you can easily get by with just the accessories that it comes with (like the muff and the rain shield). It could possibly be used for TWO kids, depending when W-2 comes along.
All in all, it seems like I have found our stroller. Of course I need to test it out and then I will write an additional review. I really had to take a leap of faith because I was unable to find this stroller to test it out anywhere in person, plus even though I have done a lot of online shopping, I have never bought something that costs this much money online. So I am saying little prayers until it shows up in the mail!


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all! Here is a very sweet, but very sick Isla in her Turkey bow.

Poor little Isla Frances is very sick; its her first real illness. We got back from visiting Nick's parents and grandparents in Temple yesterday, and she was acting a little off. I should have known that something was off since she slept the whole way from Temple to Magnolia. Normally she screams after more than an hour in the car and rarely sleeps. Here she is on the way to Temple on Monday... on that trip, we finally had to make a stop at Sonic since she was so fussy and I took off her clothes since I was afraid that maybe she was hot. She immediately took to the wheel; she knew exactly what to do! The break did NOT work, but we eventually got her back into her carseat. I can't wait to try a bigger carseat, I'm hoping she'll like a convertible car seat better than her infant carseat!


Isla finally threw up later in the evening last night, and has been running a fever ever since. We decided that she needed a quiet day at home so Nick, Isla, and I are hanging out at my parents house while everyone parties in Kingwood at my cousins', Sherri and Terry, house. Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday since its one of the few times of the year that I really get to see our extended family, but I don't mind missing it one bit. There are worse ways to spend Thanksgiving that to spend it with your two favorite people who are also two people you are most Thankful for! And as a bonus, it appears that HGTV is having a House Hunters marathon all day.

We had a great time in Temple. Nick's sister and BIL, and our nephew Barrett were visiting too, so we got spend some time with Little Bear. We stayed at Nick's grandparents' house, which is very special to Nick and I because it is where we both realized that we "liked" each other :).

While there we had so much fun hanging out with everyone. While there Isla engaged in a game of "Ultimate Raspberry" with Nick's Papaw. She would not let him get the last one in; she was determined to win :).


video

In between chit chatting, we also took a nice long walk down to the tank.

It was a wonderful blessed time with family!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rolling with the Family

The last post I did was our 200th post! The last centennial post, I couldn't think of anything to write so I just made a little proclamation. I'm so glad the 200th was about Isla :). I mean who else would it be about?

We have been at my parents for about two days now! We got in Friday night while my parents were at a wedding, and after Isla went to sleep, we watched House Hunters International for 3 hours straight! We tend to become zombie-like whenever that show is on, but after 3 hours even we were a little restless.

I swore I wouldn't overeat this Thanksgiving, and to prepare, I even brought the Deceptively Delicious cookbook along with some frozen purees... I don't know why I even bother! I have already had Schlotzky's, Whataburger, eggs, bacon and/or biscuits both mornings, tacos, and this afternoon I begged Cookie to make me some cookies! Nick is going to have to roll me out of Houston next Sunday... but it wouldn't be a holiday if I didn't slip into at least one food coma!

Saturday Nick and I went stroller shopping with my Mom and sister and it was very disheartening. I know I mentioned how much I love my current stroller :). But I want to say it again, I really, really love it. It has a full one handed recline, big basket, big canopy, and is just so perfect for my life right now. I just know that our lifestyle and needs are going to be so different once we move, and our stroller will have to adjust accordingly.

Clearly Isla loves it too! Here she is at the Dump, sleeping so sweet.

The shopping was very disheartening and none of the strollers seemed right so I left feeling quite bummed. I have since gone to the drawing board and I have a few new prospects. One of which we might have to buy without actually demonstrating since I can't find a local retailer that sells it... we'll just have to see! Once we make our final decision I am going to do the review to end alllll reviews though.

Today Nick wasn't feeling well so we just hung out at the house, and later in the afternoon we left Isla with my mom, and Nick, my Dad, and I went to go see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. LOVED IT! I wish that Warner Brothers had done the previous movies as well. Although they did kind of sexy it up in some places, which I thought was unnecessary. I am just so tired of smut in movies, and it makes me uncomfortable to watch it.
It was so good though, it scared me to death in some parts, and it made me cry in others. I knew all the was going to happen and I still cried... especially when Dobby dies, but he died a free elf! Oh my goodness, I cried and cried. I can't wait until Isla is old enough to read Harry Potter, but it is going to be a while because those books are not really for kids... oh my gosh, it was awful in the beginning when Charity Burbage is hanging in the air like puppet at the table with all of the Death Eaters!!!!

That's it for now. Nick and I are back to watching House Hunter International now... wow, I want to move to Brittany France :).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Isla Frances is 7 Months Old!

Happy Birthday Little Frances… can you please stop growing up so fast now? Thank you!

So, crazy that my little girl is already over the halfway hump to a year! Where has the time gone? I wish that she would slow down a little bit. I don’t want her to stay a baby forever, but would it be so bad if the baby phase lasted 3 or 4 times longer than it does right now?

Eat/Sleep Habits

Well as you know, I overcame my reluctance to give Isla solids… there were a few tears on my part! But after that, it has become a lot of fun although I do miss the super quick feedings that I had grown accustomed to. Also, I am not really comfortable yet feeding her in public, so on those days I usually just give her 2 milk feedings, and it seems to be working.

So far she has tried: peas, pears, carrots, butternut squash, avocado, apples, rice cereal, sweet potato, and cauliflower. She seems to like to eat everything except the avocado and apples on their own. She is such an adventurous little eater! Even if it is obvious she doesn’t like something on the first try, she will give it several more tastes before she really makes up her mind.

Here is a video of her trying apples for the first time! We had already tried it several times before I decided to torture her and give her a little bit more apples just so that I could get her face on camera! Needless to say, I will be buying much different apples from now on to make her applesauce..

video

She is still sleeping through the night, although she has been waking up a little bit early for the last 4 days. I was so proud of our daylight savings transition. I had slowly moved her routine so that her wake time was an hour later, that way on daylight savings she would wake up at her normal time of 7; it went off without a hitch! Cue her 7 month birthday and now she’s waking up even 2 hours earlier than her wake time before DLS… I think she will be back on track before long though. Also, her nap schedule got back on track only to get completely derailed for some reason again. I am not sure what to do, and I am thinking that we just (semi) abandon the routine because are going to be gone so much before we got to Russia. We have Thanksgiving, which we are in Houston for for a week, a quick trip to California in mid December, Christmas, Disney World in January, and a possible trip to Russia in late January… there will be a lot of routine disruption! I will continue to do my best to respect her and her sleepy times when we are away from home though! I try to make sure that she gets at least one good nap in a day. Even if I can't be home for both naps, I feel good knowing that she gets at least one solid nap in at home.

Activities

- Talks to the dogs. You think I am joking? I am dead serious. I need to get a video of it, but any time she hears a dog barking in the distance, she snaps to attentions and makes a little clipped whoo sound. Then the dog will bark again, and Isla will make another quick whoo. She will continue doing that until the dog stops barking and then she will whoo whoo a couple more times just to make sure the dog is done talking to her. We can sometimes get her to mimic us when we make the whoo sound, but she always does it for a puppy dog!

- Makes a fishy face! We love it, and it cracks us up. She started doing it on her own, but now we can do it back and forth. She loves it when we fishy face at her.

- I am beginning to notice that she has a kinship with animals because she also still roars like a lion. Jessica can vouch for me because she has heard Isla do it. This is something I need to set out to get on camera.

- She is crawling. As of writing this post, she can go wherever she wants to go, but on Saturday October 30th, she took her first few inches of crawling, could only go a couple of inches at a time, and all of a sudden on November 17th she started going a few feet, and now she can go for longggg stretches.

video

- She plays fetch with herself :).

- For a while she was really into doing a perfect downward facing dog, but that seems to have passed!

- She still loves to blow raspberries, but now she has realized that it is a lot more fun to blow raspberries on something. One day she was on the couch with Nick and she proceeded to go to town making noises on his leg. She did it for over 20 minutes, so I was able to get it on video!

video

- She has started trying to pull up on things! She's can get to her knees and that's it.

- She can say "bye bye" and wave "bye bye." It actually is more like "bah bah" and she doesn't so much wave as move her hand a little bit and stare at it when she say "bah bah", but I think its pretty cute so I'm counting it. Her Granny taught her how to do it!

- She is saying "bah", and sometimes says "mah" and "eee". She makes a lot of babble noises which I LOVE. They are so sweet!

- She is not signing back yet. But I think she understands "eat milk" because she always smiles and laughs when I sign this, even when I am not actually saying the words!

- Blanket time is going really well. We think she is beginning to understand us when we say "No, no, stay on the rug." We are not 100% sure.

- I need to get back to being disciplined about play pen time. She really needs a bigger playpen, and I have been shopping around for one. I haven't been doing play pen time because we have been traveling soooo much, but I need to try to do it anyway.

- She looovvvess to bite her Dad's nose... HARD, but he encourages it so its kind of his fault :). He gets a big kick out of it, even though he says it hurts.
- Also, watch your feet when Isla is around! She loves to go after feet, in shoes and out of it. There have been a couple of times that she has been playing on the floor while I have been doing something on the computer on the couch and all of a sudden I get a serious pain in my toe! I look down and there is Isla biting my toes... HARD! How can a baby with no teeth and no signs of teeth coming in have such a hard little bite!

Personality

- She is still such a little sweet pea! That is all that there is to say about it :).

That is all that I can think of right now. When I get home in a week, I will repost will the picture I took of her with her bear! I may update it with anything I can think of. She is our little angel, and we are so in love with her!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moving Forward at Warp Speed

Its amazing that we just got the news of our move last Wednesday because I can’t believe everything that has already happened in just a little over a week!

Nick’s company lined up all three of our physicals today, and it went about like I expected… which is to say that I expected it to a be an inefficient free-for-all and take about 3 hours.  It was pretty much an inefficient free-for-all of being shuffled from room to room while the staff performed all of our tests without any real process or structure or order and it took about 5 hours.  By the end of the 5 hours (at almost 2 PM) we had all reached our limit and were starving since we hadn’t been able to eat since 8 PM Wednesday night (except Isla of course), and we were ready to get the heck out of there!  The staff was sooo nice, but with a little bit of planning they could have had us out of there in less than 2 hours.

There were only a couple of things worth mentioning.  They needed to collect a urine sample from Isla, so I nursed her and just for fun I held up my water cup to see if she would take a sip.  She did and she thought it was the funniest thing!  She kept going in and getting a little bit of water then she would crack herself up.  It was so cute.

All of our results came back normal except that my EKG showed a borderline abnormal arrhythmia, which I am not too concerned about since your blood changes with pregnancy and breastfeeding.  I am going to get it checked out after Thanksgiving.  And then there is one thing that I am probably the only person who finds it interesting, but I have always thought that I had terrible depth percept and it was confirmed today!  I don’t know if you have ever had a depth perception exam, I didn’t even know that they existed, but I had to take one today.  Basically I only got 3 out of 8 circles right (I even sort of guessed on the third), which means my depth perception is very bad.  Eagle Eye Nick (you should see him skeet shoot!) of course got a perfect 8 out of 8!  Not very interesting to anyone but me, I know :).

There was a very bad part about today that made both Nick and I very upset (not to mention our Isla).  Nick’s company sent us to the normal place where people from the company go for physicals, work injuries, etc, so this place is used to caring for adults.  His company has several mandatory tests that they require before going overseas, and one of those requires that blood be drawn.  Stupid me, but I did not have any experience with drawing blood from infants but I knew that Isla had had foot pricks when in the hospital.  I was waiting for the Doctor to come in and perform my physical, but I got bored waiting in my room it was taking so long, so I decided to wander into a few rooms over to where Nick and Isla were.  When I got there the Doctor (same Doctor I was waiting for to perform my exam) was in the middle of trying to take Isla’s blood, and she was very upset.  It was so sad, she wasn’t even fighting, just laying there screaming/crying.  They had first tried the bend of her arm, then had moved onto trying a vein in her wrist, and were in the middle of wrist when I walked in.  Of course her veins are tiny, so they were having a hard time finding one, and she was screaming and Nick was trying to calm her.  When I got there, Nick moved over while they started on the THIRD location and I worked to calm her.  It was horrible, the Doctor and nurse were very unsure of themselves and kept trying to pass the job off onto one another (seriously, the Doctor said “You are taking the next one!” to the nurse).

It quickly dawned on me that these people had no experience drawing blood from babies, they DID NOT KNOW WHAT THEY WERE DOING, and Nick and I both said "That’s it; that’s enough.” when they were digging into her arm in the third location.  We were so angry.  Not with the people at the clinic, they were very nice and said that they had to try since it was a “mandatory” test required by Nick’s company, but with the medical office of Nick’s company.  Nick called the medical office and told them we not going to put Isla through that test and that any further tests that needed to be run on her could be run through her pediatrician, with people who were skilled at working with infants.  His company also wanted a TB “bump” test, and we called her pediatrician who said they did not want to perform it on someone so young.  Nick wrote a firm letter to several people, and thankfully the medical office waived the test for Isla.  They really need to reconsider what is/isn’t “mandatory” and make sure that they send people to the correct facilities.

My sweet baby bounced right back after a just a few cuddles (the Doctor performed my physical with Isla on my chest!) and she was back to her sweet self.  It times like this that I hate being a first time mom, and I always ask Isla’s forgiveness for me being such a amateur and making her my guinea pig.  Next time I will know better and speak up faster, but I think I just have a knee jerk reaction to trust medical professionals.  I am so lucky I have such a sweet baby who doesn’t rattle easily!

We have received information on how the company will help us sell our house so we are in the process of getting that moving.  We also have approval to take a trip in January to visit Novorossiysk… we are not really sure how that will work out.  They strongly recommend that I go, but I am not comfortable taking Isla half way across the world for less than a week with the huge time change, nor am I really comfortable leaving her (probably with my parents) for that long either.  Milk isn’t really an issue though since I have enough saved up for her to be given a bottle.  We would love some prayers in that area on what to do!  I know what my mom thinks we should do :)… the prospect of having Isla to herself for almost a week is making her a little nutty and annoyingly persistent :)!

We have also received an small list of what is/isn’t easily available in Novorossiysk (like Peanut Butter, chocolate chips), which I am so excited to have!  It is going to mean one fun Sam’s Club trip before we pack up our shipment.

The great stroller search of 2010 is going strong, and it has become an obsession with me!  There are so many cool things out there.  I will update more once I have seen some of them in person… and now I have to go because I have so many things to do (not the least of which is do Isla’s 7 months post – 3 to 4 days LATE! Ahhh, I am such a bad mommy!)!!!

We are off to Houston tomorrow for Thanksgiving!  Isla has the cutest Turkey bow :).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Fun Stuff: Shopping for a Travel Stroller

I know that in about six months I will be sitting all by myself in Russia, we will be a long way away from Christmas, and I’ll be boo hooing because I miss my parents and sister and family so much and sad because Isla will be growing up so fast away from her grandparents… its inevitable that that time is going to come, even though I am sure it won’t be my entire experience. Knowing that, right now I am just trying to enjoy the this super exciting, blessing filled time while it lasts! I know that God is the giver of good gifts and will always look out for us, but you can’t be on the mountaintop all the time. But for right now, there are a lot of fun things to think about and do!

One thing that we plan to do while in Russia is take advantage of all of the places to travel to and visit while we are there. We are close to Europe, North Africa, and Middle East, and I definitely want to do as much traveling as we can afford to do and work into Nick’s time off, plus still be able to come home!

So the topic that I am trying to gracefully segue into (and doing a terrible job) is that we are going to need a new stroller! Our current stroller is the Cadillac of strollers and perfectly suits my needs as an SUV driving suburbanite mom. It is seriously the best stroller for mall and Target shopping, it has a smooth ride and reclines to flat so Isla sleeps in it as well as at home and I can store a ton of purchased articles in the bottom. The down is large and heavy, and I don’t know that I will even be able to fit it into whatever vehicle we are given, let alone use it by myself in airports or use it to maneuver in a crowded touristy city or narrow aisles in tiny little European stores… friends, it just ain’t going to happen! Even Nick is on board with buying a sturdy new stroller, and he hates to spend money.

I was totally inspired by the Daigneaultimate Stoller shopping experience (read about it here, so thorough!)… I had never thought about putting so much thought into buying baby things, but thought is needed when traveling halfway across the world with a little baby.

So, in true engineering fashion I set about making a spreadsheet to help me keep track of all of the features that we want versus the models that I have been looking at. Oh how I LOVE a good spreadsheet!

stoller spreadsheet

After that, in true girl friend fashion, I thought that I would solicit the advice of any friends who care to weigh in, even if you don’t have a child, but you have heard things from friends… please weigh in. I am especially interested in advice on friend who use strollers in crowded cities, subways, and traveling on airplanes.

Some features I am thinking about:

  1. Light weight and small – This means that we are pretty much in the umbrella stroller territory. I would like for it to be able to fit into an overhead compartment on an airplane, and be able to lift it myself when I am traveling without Nick.
  2. Narrow width – This might be something that is silly, but I want it to be as narrow as possible so that I can easily maneuver through narrow places.
  3. Quickly and easily fold – You never know what sticky situations you will get into and need to close it fast.
  4. Recline – At first I thought that I needed a full recline, but the truth is that Isla is a tummy sleeper, and when she wakes up and she is flat on her back, she cries. She does not cry when she is only slightly reclined, so probably we need some reclinability, but not lay flat reclinability.
  5. Smooth Ride – In my head, I picture us walking as a family through cobblestone streets in Germany, with Nick and I smiling, laughing happily and generally looking like American idiots, while Isla sleeps soundly in her stroller. This means we need locking front wheels, front and back suspension, and tall sturdy wheels. Nick is very interested in the wheels of our travel stroller.
  6. Protection from the Elements – At first I didn’t really think about this, but as I was doing my research I thought, “Oh dear, Isla will need some protection from the elements for those rainy days in Pareee (Paris – but in my head I pronounce it all Frenchy and drag out the eee as in WHEEEEE)” or “We don’t want the sun to get in her eyes when we are strolling around Rome in the summer time.” (Please understand… at the moment I am living in fantasy land, I am sure reality will not be quite like what I am picturing) So I am thinking a large canopy and rain protection is a must have, plus cold weather protection. I am still looking to see what generic element protection we can buy that might fit onto a stroller if it doesn’t come with that.
  7. Shoulder strap – I am not sure when we would be carrying this with a should strap, but it seems like it would be good feature to have, even over a handle so we can keep our hands free. Some come with a case that you can put your stoller in with a strap, but it seems like the times we will need a stroller strap, we will not want to take the time to put it into a carrying case.
  8. Some nice to haves – Adjustable handles - but neither of us are very tall so I think we’ll be ok. Kids bar, food or snack tray – that will be great for Isla to keep food and drinks while we are out. Good storage – all come with some storage.
  9. Low cost – I don’t mind paying a little extra if it is a really good stroller, but obviously I don’t want to be in the $500+ range.

Basically our three general categories at Isla’s comfort, portability and maneuverability. Right now I am investigating the following strollers:

  • Maclaren Triumph
  • Maclaren Techno XT
  • Bumbleride Flite
  • Peg Perego SI
  • Combi Cosmo
  • Uppababy G-Luxe
  • Inglesia Trip
  • Inglesia Zippy
***Update: I have added the following strollers into the running (and into the spreadsheet)!***
  • BabyJogger: City Mini
  • Joovy Kooper
  • Bugaboo Bee (but probably not - so expensive)
  • Phil and Teds Smart
  • Mutsy Spider

We are going to Houston the week of Thanksgiving and I plan to take a day to go on the hunt for this perfect and elusive stroller. I can’t really make up my mind nor do I want to spend the money until I have seen these strollers for myself!

But in the meantime, I would love some insight from parents who have lived or heard about international travel and/or city living with a baby, or who have some general good ideas!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Low Key Night with Losch Family

Last night after our Passport Adventures we invited a family that we love over, the Losch family! Justin and Julie are so much fun, and the Losch kiddos are always a blast. We decided to just have pizza and keep it low key, Isla was so tired from our full day that she fell asleep at the dinner table!

I love moments like this.

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PB120071The Losch’s youngest and only boy, Miles, provided the entertainment!

Miles showed us his sweet eyes…

…and Miles danced for us!

Miles got into mischief of one kind…

… and another!

Frodo finally just got confused and laid down, and didn’t move for quite some time until someone came and took the blanket off of him.

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Frodo eventually got tired of all of the attention and went and laid down in his bed; Miles went and wrapped the blanket around him and put Isla’s Violet bear in with him! It was the cutest cuteness I have ever seen, but Frodo moved before I could take a picture :(.

Uh oh, Miles met his match in the Exersaucer and got stuck!!!

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If Miles ever shows up missing, I should be the first one checked out! He is so fun and cute, and I just want to keep him forever!!!

Nick and I had such a good time chit chatting with the Justin and Julie over dinner! I am so thankful for them. We met the Losch’s through a small group, and I fully believe that God put Julie in my life to help me understand His Word better, which led the conception of Isla! She gets part of the credit for bringing my baby girl into the world :).

All of the girls (besides Isla) Brenna, Me, Julie and Kaylie…

PB120091 It was a fun night, but sad because these are just a few of the people we are going to miss from the wonderful Northshore of New Orleans!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Begin at the Beginning

Nick officially sent in his acceptance letter today and so now things are really going to start happening!

I admit that I am excited, but I am also a little bit nervous.  I walked around all day Thursday with a big old nervous knot in my stomach.  I’m usually up for an adventure :), but its still nerve wracking and there is so much to do!  I am trying very hard not to get ahead of myself, and just take it one step at a time.  There are still very few concrete details that we know yet.  We have a start date for Nick, February 15th, but that’s about it.  We don’t know where we will live, if/how where we live will get decided, how much of our own things we can bring, or any major details.  As the “home maker”, these are all of the things that I want to know, but I have to be patient and let this unfold.

Today Nick and I set out with the goal to get Isla her passport and figure out how to update mine.  I still have never updated my passport with my married name, and it also about to expire.  We found online that we would both need go and apply for Isla’s passport and I needed to send mine in by mail, although I assumed that I would be able to turn it in with Isla’s. I thought that it would be the easy, easy to get done, especially since I was so prepared!  I was so wrong, and I am hoping that this is no indication of how difficult everything else will be to get lined up.

Basically my day went like this:

  • Go to CVS to get passport photos.  This took forever because the guy helping me kept leaving to take care of other things.  He also tried to cheat me out of my $5 ExtraCare bucks!  Ha, I would not let him get away with it. 
  • Nick was supposed to meet me, but he got tied up at work, and at 2 I had to prod him to leave work so that we could make it to the Post Office before 3, when the passport processing closed (ugh, government employees).
  • Make my way to the Post Office to get a passport.  I did not know where the PO was, but I found it and arrived there 20 minutes shy of 3.
  • I wasn’t sure if I should go up to the window or wait for Nick, but I went through the line anyway.
  • Thankfully I did because I was able to learn that there was no passport processing person there that day, they had called in sick, BUT that I could go to the Covington courthouse about 1 mile away and they stayed open longer than 3.
  • As I was walking out the door, Nick walked in, so we caravanned to the Courthouse.
  • At the courthouse, I accidentally called the passport agent “Sir”, and the passport agent was most definitely a Lady. Arg… we were not off to a good start.
  • She primly informed me that I could not turn in my passport renewal with her, and that it would have to be done by mail.  When I asked her if she wouldn’t mind reviewing it to make sure every thing was right so that it wouldn’t be sent back to me, she basically pulled the “That’s not my job” line and even when so far as to say that “it is your (as in my) responsibility.” Ok…
  • She then informed me that both Isla and my passport photos that took so long to get would not be acceptable.  My picture was off center, and Isla’s was too dark, but that I could get out photos retaken right there for double what we had paid at CVS.  Thankfully Nick was there and said to go ahead and do it because we could just expense the cost of the passports.  “Expense report”… music to my frustrated ears!
  • After that, I have to give the Passport Agent credit because she did warm up… what can I say?  I have a cute baby!  Even though it was time for Isla to eat and she had only had a 20 minute afternoon nap, but she of course got busy working her charms and making people fall in love with her!  The passport agent did end up being very nice, and things did start to turn around from there.
  • We did manage to get everything processed, except mine, which I will mail tomorrow.
  • I sent Isla home with Nick and stopped by CVS and got my money back on those stupid photos!
  • Then I went to Target to get the stuff to make my “Official Move Binder” so that I could stay organized.  Am I the only person who can stay organized easier if my organizational stuff is pretty?  Nick does NOT understand it… I have to say that men pick the weirdest issues to push!  Yes, we have a free ugly white binder already in our study and I spent $3.50 on a pretty new one… just let it go. 

Here is my lovely organizational binder, complete with notebook, folder, and pouch folder!  I can’t wait to get it filled with all of the minutia of our move… I am a person who loves minutia :).

photo (4) photo (5) photo (6)

Reviewing that list it doesn’t seem quite as crazy as it was, but I think its just harder to roll with the punches when you have a baby.  I felt so bad that Isla didn’t get to eat until over 30 minutes after her regular mealtime even though she was being so good.

Next on our list, we have to get physicals and medical clearance to move to Russia, and we will be able to engage the moving company about our selling house and figuring out how we will find a home in Russia!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Wannderers: Russia Edition

So I don’t know how to say this other than to just say this, so… WE ARE MOVING TO NOVOROSSIYSK, RUSSIA!

WOW. Feels so good to finally get to share that information. We found out several weeks ago, but we didn’t want to say anything until Nick got the “official” hand off letter from his company.

We knew that a job move was imminent and the truth be told, I thought it would be Houston, was hoping we would stay here, and I never even entertained the thought that we would receive an overseas assignment. Nick did apply for this position, but we never, ever thought he would get it! I hate to admit that I sold my hubby short, but I totally did. Nick did not think he would get it either. He just applied to get his name out there to show that he was interested in moving overseas because we knew that we eventually wanted to go, but we didn’t think it was in the realm of possibility due to Nick’s age and experience level. I completely underestimated him! Nick was even pulled aside and told that it was uncommon for someone on his level to receive an assignment like this, so I think that that speaks pretty highly of Nick. He has a tremendous work ethic and he’s so smart, and I’m thankful that people recognize it.

I was in total shock when he called me and told me the news. I could tell from his voice that something GINORMOUS was up, and he asked me if I was still up for moving with him to Russia! I had to sit down. After we hung up, I walked around in a daze, and I wasn’t allowed to tell our families for 24 whole hours. That was difficult. Surprisingly, they took it better than I thought, considering that I am taking Isla half way across the world from them! For the most part they are happy for us that we are able to have this experience even though they will miss us.

So the past few weeks I have been a touch preoccupied as I am sure you can imagine, but I am not worried, just so excited over what God has planned for us in this move. I just know that His hand will be covering us, and especially Isla, through it all as we work out all of the details and logistics of moving half way around the world. I know He is the reason that we are going, and I am so excited to get to be an active part in global body of Christ!

We’ve got to get down to H-Town!

A few weeks ago, Isla Frances and I decided to take a little trip to Houston for a whole week. Originally Nick was supposed to come with us, but his work trip got cancelled at the last minute so he was left at home :(. It actually worked out ok since he was studying to take his Professional Engineering exam a week later, and was able to stay completely focused on his studies. I was ostensibly supposed to go for work purposes to get some one on one working time with my Dad while my mom watched Isla… but I actually ended up getting about 3 to 4 hours LESS time in working than I do staying home. My social calendar just filled up too fast!

We also found plenty of time for my mom to have her little Isla photo shoots that she so enjoys (and I enjoy the pictures). I really think that my mom is talented because she always captures such great pictures, and it isn’t just because she has a great camera… she really has a knack for it!

DSC_0747Isla and I flew in late on Sunday, October 17th and she was a little doll on the plane. She has now flown 6 times and acted like a little gem each and every time!

We had something planned almost every day and the best part was getting to see Baby Ella FOUR times :).

Here is my Mom, Isla, Annie and Baby Ella!

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Baby Ella, isn’t she a beauty?

PA221116We got to spend a lot of time with family, which was wonderful! Isla got to spend tons of time with her cousin Aiden and she loved him, especially because he would let her pull his hair.

Here is Isla, Aiden and my Nana (Isla’s great grandmother and namesake, Frances) at Papasito’s, where we met family for dinner on Tuesday night.

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Owww, let go, let go, let go!

PA191044Here is my Aunt Mindy and Uncle Ty (they are not married, Mindy is married to my Uncle Brent). Aunt Mindy just became a grandmother last month when Shane Michael was born!

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My mom and sister!

PA191055Isla also got to spend time with her Boo, Aunt Tiffany, and cousin Barrett! Barrett is such a funny, precious, little busy boy. He’s talking like crazy we had such a blast spending the morning with him and his Mom.

Here is Boo with her grandchildren (except Hallie, who will be arriving in December!)

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Aunt Tiffany and Barrett playing with Isla!

PA211085Here are Isla and Barrett together! We tried to get a picture of the two of them in the wagon together, but Barrett wasn't interested… ahhh, he just hasn’t spent enough time around the Stage Cookie. A few more days with my mom and she’ll have him whipped into shape and smiling and posing with the best of the supermodels!!!

DSC_0730 I love the shots of Barrett showing off his Herculean strength!

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We also made it up to College Station for a brief visit. We were trying to see Kendall, my niece and her dad, my brother Steelie, but when we got there, Kendall had developed a fever quite suddenly on her way home from school, so we weren’t able to spend more than a few minutes with her before her dad took her home. We did get some shopping in at Aggieland Outfitters (even though they are so snobby in there!) and I got the cutest little Aggie outfit for Isla!

Bloomer shot:

DSC07043 Front shot:

PA221114I was also lucky enough to get to meet up with some of my favorite people! Henry and Krista of Borchard Bliss:), and the newlyweds, Kristen and Matt Wells! I had so much fun, I left Isla so I was able to relax and chit chat, and my mom, dad, and nephew all loved having Isla to themselves!

PA221124Our last full day, Saturday, we headed up to Conroe to spend the day with Nana and Uncle Ty. We went to Isla’s first pumpkin patch also, and sadly it was pretty picked clean, but that was ok!

I love this shot of Aiden and Isla at the pumpkin patch. We had several different outfit changes while there :).

DSC_0702After the pumpkin patch we headed out to Lake Conroe on my Nana’s boat! We got just outside the marina and I made my Uncle turn around and let Isla and me off because the water was just too choppy for a baby and everyone was getting splashed.

PA231127The next day, Sunday, we went home to Nick, which is always the best part! We love him so much, and we are just not right without him. Thankfully he was able to use the time while we were away to study, study, study for his Professional Engineering Exam.

It was a fun trip, and I loved spending the time with my family. They are the best!

Friday, November 5, 2010

6 Month and Family Photos Are In!

The same photographer that did Isla’s newborn pictures and designed her birth announcements also did her 6 month pictures a few weeks ago!  We decided to get a few family ones in while we were at it and the proofs are finally in.  I LOVE THEM.

newborn and 6 months

Kelley Cook of Simply Joy Photography is amazing, and I highly recommend her if you live anywhere near southern Louisiana!  You can check out her blog here.  She is so creative… guess how we did the picture below of Isla in the little sling?  First Kelley took a shot of just the branch with the sling hanging from it with a blanket inside to give the appearance of weight.  Then she set up two tripods with a rod across them and took a shot of Isla in the sling with her Dad holding her up from the bottom.  Then she photoshopped the whole thing together!  It turned out incredible.

Nick and Isla

Cuuuttee

Cute 2

little gremlin  

Mommy and Me

thumbsucker

And my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE from the entire shoot!

my favorite If you want to see the rest, go to http://www.kelleycookphotography.com/home.  Then click on clients, Baby “I”, and enter password “beautiful”.

Isla did pretty good until the end when we did the family portraits… she was DONE by then.  That’s why all of the pictures are of her sucking her little thumb :).  I sincerely hope that we are able to use Kelley again, she is the best baby photographer that I have ever seen and always has the neatest ideas.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Solid Girl

So Isla tried her first taste of rice cereal last week Monday (October 25th) ! We decided to wait until night time to give it to her so that her Dad could be there. It was a humbling experience as I had a little bit too high expectations, and was determined to start with high chair manners, but it was FUN and I am glad that I got starting solids over with as I had been dreading it!

Here is our first try at solids and high chair manners… as usual, the joke is on me! :) I love the looks on her face when she looks at her Daddy behind the camera!

Clean up after our first attempt.

The second time was the charm! It took us a minute to get started because we thought we might be able to catch the elusive “Fishy Face” that Isla makes so adorably. This video just captures me as a parent in a nutshell! I seriously panic with each new milestone because I take everything so seriously, I fail and I think, I can’t do this parenting thing, but then I calm down, have a good laugh at myself, we try again and the whole family ends up having a good time!

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” :)

We are going to get serious on other foods in the next couple of days!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweepers of the House

Some people may be thinking that I am sitting in my house looking like the cat that ate the canary this morning.  That’s not the case… my reaction to the Republican sweep of the house… meh.

I have really been trying to be disciplined about sitting this election out.  I voted and followed the issues, of course, but I signed up for Charles Stanley’s 140 Days of Prayer, and for the most part, I have been a prayer warrior for our country and not any particular party (which is the best thing to do, but also the hardest for me to remember to do) and nothing else.  Its hard for me to remember that God is in control of our country, he picks the leaders, good or bad, and I have been trying to be focused on that.

I do not really consider myself a Republican, I’m a Conservative and I am a huge fan of the Tea Party movement.  I believe in honoring our founding father’s original vision for this country.  This is how it goes:

  • There is a GOD.
  • GOD creates people who are born with RIGHTS.  RIGHTS come from GOD, NOT GOVERNMENT.
  • GOVERNMENT has a tendency to infringe on those RIGHTS, but is a NECESSARY EVIL.
  • Therefore it is necessary to limit GOVERNMENT in order to avoid infringing on GOD GIVEN RIGHTS.
  • That is why we have a CONSTITUTION to LIMIT the REACH of GOVERNMENT.

That’s it in a nutshell, and also why when you have a President who has little reverence for God and completely disregards the constitution, like Barack Obama, you know you are in serious trouble. 

America is unique AND exceptional in our traditional respect for God.  It the only country in the world founded on the principles that God, not Government hands out rights.  In the words of Ronald Reagan, if we are not “One Nation Under God, We Are a Nation Gone Under” because once the Atheists get their way, and God is even further removed from our country and government, we will start to look like a 3rd world communist country because there will be nothing to stop people who want to use government to gain wealth and power through the taking of people’s money and freedom.  This is not the establishment of a state religion, which is prohibited by the constitution, but rather the acknowledgement of power greater than ourselves and the Government.

This vision should be party neutral, but unfortunately Democrats completely disregard it.  Republicans aren’t always the best at remembering it either, which is why I am not getting overly excited.

There were a few Republicans that I was definitely rooting for that did not get a win, most especially the election of Star Parker for congresswoman for California’s 37th district.  She is a smart, honest Christian woman, who should have unseated Laura Richardson who is a total embarrassment to our country.  Richardson is famous for fawning over Fidel Castro last year and gushing about how Cubans do have “shoes and ice cream.”  Ugh.  I can’t believe our President allowed the Congressional Black Caucus to go to Cuba and fuss and coo over a mass murderer without so much a reprimand… maybe its because Obama actually admires men like Fidel Castro?  Oh well, you can’t fix stupid.

Also we are stuck with Dingy Harry Reid for another 6 years as well as Barbara “Don’t call me ma’am” Boxer.  Disgusting.  They really think that they are better than everyone else.  They won a popularity contest and have never done an honest days work in their lives, but still think that they are deserving of our undying respect.  They and their Democratic ilk are also in collusion with the Unions, which I totally despise and thank for ruining our schools, our automotive industry and every other industry that they have managed to card check their way into.  Oh, now that is a topic that makes me mad so I am going to move on!  

There were a few bright spots!  Even though Star Parker in congress was the ONE THING I REALLY WANTED TO HAPPEN in this election; it was exciting to see TWO other black Republican congressmen elected for the first time in a while.  I have been pulling for Marco Rubio for a long time, and Nancy Pelosi is OUT at the Speaker of the House :).  Chet Edwards – OUT :).

At this point, I am just going to sit back and see what happens, I’m cautiously optimistic and always hopeful, but I am not expecting much without a serious heart change in our country.

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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