Tuesday, May 27, 2014

DIY: Airplane Activity Center and Pillow

We travel. A lot. I've mentioned this before when I posted our Travel Gear Favorites Part 1 and Part 2. And tomorrow we board a plan to fly to Houston with two new firsts: Madi is walking and we have bought a seat for her on the plane. I am truly terrified picturing her walking running up and down the aisles smiling and talking to strangers. Crossing my fingers that having the seat helps (not hinders) and also for a baby-friendly plane and crew, haha.

And to try and help with this new stage, I thought I would try to make something to encourage her to want to stay on our laps. I'm not creative enough to come up with this on my own, but I saw the idea on another blog and decided to engineer my own.

Speaking of engineering though - have you seen what happens when two engineers have a baby? Girl spent a good 20 minutes taking all three of these rings off and putting them back on, flipping them to be the correct way, and matching them up. I believe we have a future engineer on our hands!! (And I am thrilled because we all know engineers might get made fun of for being nerdy, but you always want us around when something breaks... ;-) )

So back to the tutorial... The Activity Center can be hooked onto the tray table in front of you via the elastic straps around the back. It could also sit in Madi's lap when she's in the high chair and potentially even double as a pillow once the toys are removed.

Here are the supplies that I used in making Madi's DIY Airplane Activity Center:

  • zipper
  • stuffed animal stuffing
  • ribbon
  • velcro
  • elastic
  • 2 pieces of material roughly 11x18 inches (from a couple quick searches the size of the tray appears to be around 10x17 so I had a bit of extra around for the hem and, gasp, I was a bit lax on the measurements figuring it's not a big deal if it's a bit large/small)

I sewed a zipper on and attached a keychain so Madi can pull it back and forth as well as a piece of ribbon and two pieces of velcro. I can attach toys to either the ribbon or velcro using hooks or our secure-a-toy gadgets.

Once those were sewn onto 1/2 of the fabric, I pinned the two pieces of fabric together (right sides together). I sewed around the edges leaving space to sew in the elastic as well as space to turn it right side out and stuff it. Then I sewed the elastic in place and closed up the edge I'd used to stuff.

Like I mentioned above, I plan to use it when we fly to the States tomorrow. Hopefully between the allure of a new toy and being able to change out what's on it she will be entertained for say, 10 minutes?! ;-) So we'll see how it works! Either way though it sure looks cute!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up: Busy, but Fun Weekend!

I suppose it'd be more accurate to call these Weekly Wrap-ups something like Weekend Wrap-up since that's what all the picture are from and about! But let's be honest, no one wants to hear about our mundane weeknights of work-eat-sleep and we make up for it with fun on the weekends! And this one was no exception. :-)

Maybe because it's the end of the year everything is happening at once? At least that's how it feels since we had three separate bbq/potluck gatherings this weekend and some errands to run! It was a pretty busy one and we are glad that we have a short week since we leave for the States on Wednesday!!!!!!!

Jason installed a swing for Madi this week and we spent Friday afternoon relaxing and enjoying the weather after a fun play date with our friends Kara and her boys Ty and Caleb (so much fun we forgot to take any pictures of them playing!!)

Saturday morning we ran some errands including a stop at the hardware store. I was surprised to get in and out so quickly since it was the best one Jason has found here to-date. And we got a great action shot of Madi running through the store with a paintbrush!

We had lunch with our friends the Stauzenberger's and Van Burkleo's and enjoyed the weather outside! 

We met up with them again for dinner and learned a valuable lesson. Food while sitting in the high chairs is not as delicious as food on the floor. Noted.

Sunday morning I turned my back for ten seconds while unloading the dishwasher and found that I had a helper...in her defense I did tell her she needs to start pulling her weight around here in the chore department. ;-)

Later in the morning we met up with our friends Sofia and Maurio and their little one Mia, who was in the hospital the same time as Madi born just two days later. We went to Soma Gaard and had a blast grilling, visiting the animals, and catching up with one another. And yes... that's my daughter kissing a sheep...

You ever chase chickens?!
The girls weren't too sure of one another in the beginning... but then they stole each others sippy cups and everything was cool. :-)

After a nap that afternoon (for Madi - I wish I could nap!!) we got to check out our new bike trailer! Our friends the Stautzenberger's are incredibly awesome and brought it over for us in their sea shipment! How amazing are they?! We loved the short ride over to our last event of the weekend and foresee many more fun bike rides this summer!

We're looking forward to the short week and getting to see our family and friends soon!!! Hope you've had a fabulous weekend and hope to see you in the States! :-)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Baby Travel Gear Favorites: Part 2

As promised, here is Baby Travel Gear Favorites: Part 2! If you missed Part 1 check it out here.

My husband and I live overseas so travel has become an integral part of our lives - whether it's back home to the States or hopping around Europe. Our daughter has been on 24 flights to date and will be up to 30 flights before she's one year old in June. As a result, we've come across some favorite gear that we've used and wanted to share.

This edition is mostly around feeding. We've traveled both exclusively breast-fed as well as formula fed so our picks are a mix of things used for both of them along with baby-led weaning for meal times.

Baby Travel Gear Favorites: Part 2
Feeding Equipment

Baby Travel Feeding Gear Favorites

  1. Dria Cover: This nursing cover is definitely my favorite. It's more discrete than ones with a plastic lip at the top and I always struggled with those. I also love that it can double as a car seat cover, a non-nursing wrap, or be tied around her when she's in a baby carrier. Very versatile!
  2. My Brest Friend green throw pillow: This is an inflatable travel pillow! It was great to have in the early stages of breast-feeding when I wasn't skilled enough to just use my arms and she was really tiny. It condenses to be pretty small. I also saw that Boppy has a travel version as well if you prefer that nursing pillow. I have both a regular Boppy and My Brest Friend and personally, I couldn't stand the Boppy. I felt like Madi was always flopping around on it whereas she laid flat on the My Brest Friend and it was more comfortable overall.
  3. CHICCO high chair: We bought this travel high-chair at the Stavanger Kids Sale here in Norway. We haven't traveled with it too much since most places have high chairs, but as Madi is getting bigger and we visit places where we are renting a house or apartment (like we did in Helsinki), than it's great! We are bringing this with us on our next trip to the States so we don't have to worry about our family buying a high chair. It's also a great spare for when we have guests over for playdates! 
  4. Munchkin Snack Catcher, 9 Ounce, 12+ Months: This may say 12+ months, but Madi has been using it since about 9-10 months. We gave it to her to play with and then showed her how to reach her hand in and grab. It took her just a bit of playing with it one afternoon and now she's a pro. I love that I can hook it onto her high chair or hiking backpack with one of the straps featured in Part 1 and let her be.
  5. Nuby 2 Count 2 Handle Cup with No Spill Super Spout: I guess these aren't strictly travel items as opposed to just general use items, but they are the cups we travel with as well. I have been trying a few different ones out and am not entirely sold on any of them. Madi has only recently (within the past couple months) gotten the hang of the sucking part. If anyone has suggestions of cups they love please let me know!
  6. Sinland Microfiber Fast Drying Compact Travel Sports: My only complaint about these is that I didn't discover them earlier! Madi had bad reflux as a baby (Did I really just type that? She is still a baby at just 11 months!) - when she was younger (like 4 weeks - 6 months) and we had to bring tons of burp cloths with us everywhere. Now I just keep one of these in her diaper bag. The quick dry makes it great for washing/rinsing when traveling and they are also great for drying her bottles. 
  7. The Miami Neatnik Saucer High Chair Cover Placemat: In my obsession with the site Zulily, I ran across this baby. And I have to say it's our favorite baby food utensil! We just put this in the high chair and voila! No mess on the floor. A key when you are doing baby-led weaning and allowing your child to feed himself/herself. This is definitely my favorite feeding item on the list! We used it all during our cruise and got tons of compliments on how smart it was. I've included a couple other options that are great depending on where you are going, but I would highly recommend investing in one of these!
  8. Summer Tiny Diner Mat: This is another great item for baby-led weaning. If we are traveling somewhere that doesn't have a highchair, then I can sit Madi on one of our laps and use this for her "plate". And along with that we use the next item on the list...
  9. Amazon.com: Sesame Street Meal and Play Mat: Baby: These mats were cheap and we have three or four of them. They are great for putting down on the floor when we are out so that Madi's mess is contained. If we are just snacking and have a high chair and don't want the full setup of her Neatnik, then we can put this beneath and be fine. It's also great for putting beneath a blanket when you are in the park, etc. or on the floor at the airport between flights. 
  10. Munchkin Powdered Formula Dispenser Combo Pack: As we moved to supplementing with formula, these have been key for all of our traveling - whether it's an airplane trip or just one to the park or playgroup here at home.
  11. OXO Tot On-The-Go Drying Rack and Bottle Brush and 
  12. Dapple Baby Bottle and Dish Liquid, Lavender, Travel Size, 3 Fluid: Both of these items have been wonderful to have when I've needed to wash bottles in the airport or on-the-go. I'd rather spend a couple minutes cleaning a bottle than have to carry 7-8 bottles with me for those long haul flights back to the States. There's so much other stuff needed that it's nice to minimize what's not necessary in transit. 
  13. Walla-Bib Travel Bib Set (Set of 3): These bibs fold up super small (as you can see in the picture) and are easy to travel with. They aren't the best for full meals, but when she's having bottles or a snack they're perfect. We have used them for dinners when we've forgotten others and they suffice. However, I would recommend my next item for everyday mealtime...
  14. Bumkins Waterproof Sleeved Bib: This bib is definitely my favorite! Typically at home we just put Madi in a diaper for mealtime so we don't have to care about her clothing, but when we are traveling (for instance at a formal dinner on the cruise ship where we need to take pictures afterwards and don't want our child to be naked in the dining room) they are amazing. It contains the mess, is easy to clean and quick to dry. Great investment for the baby-led weaning mothers out there!
So that's it on my list of favorite feeding travel items. I'd love to hear what you've found to be best to travel with and use for your little ones!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Madi: Eleven Months

- The biggest milestone this month is that you are walking!!! You took your first steps a few weekends ago while we were in Helsinki. All of a sudden you just walked from one sofa to the other leaving us confounded. And the fun hasn't stopped there! You are almost running now and have (in the matter of just the past few days) become a pro at (1) standing up on your own, (2) stopping whenever you want and staying upright, and (3) become a master at misdirection. We caught all three on video actually. You got up on your own, stopped partway to me, then continued walking to me, and at the very last minute diverted right to the toy. Talk about a heartbreaker! ;-)

- You have reverted back to not liking when Mommy leaves for work in the morning. You cry and whine (even if I hand you to Daddy for a few minutes) whenever you sense it's about that time. You still smile so big at Miss Sally and are fine within minutes after I leave, but you make it known that you are not happy I am going. It's making it hard for Mommy, but knowing you are happy and fun right after (as evidenced by Miss Sally sending pictures in response to Mommy's "How is she?" texts) makes things easier.

- You are still rocking just six teeth since Februrary. You have been chewing and drooling like crazy a couple different times making us think you were close to getting more and your gums are looking opaque like they are about to come through, but none have so far.
- You gave Mommy a good scare this month. We were playing in the living room and you were standing by the cat tower. I walked over to the computer to check something and was turned around maybe 15 seconds. When I looked back you were on the sofa!!! Talk about a shock! I caught a good video of you climbing it and doing a front-flip off as well. You were totally fine, but Grandma wasn't very happy with your gymnastics attempts (or perhaps her disdain was with Mommy recording it and not being a good spotter ;-) )

- You continue talking more and more and we love hearing the new sounds you are making! You have definitely got Ma, MaMa, Mmm, Dadda, Daddy, Madi, CeCe, Hi, and other unrecognizable babble down. You don't associate those with anything in particular still, but enjoy saying them.
- You continue to let us know exactly what you do and do not want to play with, eat, or do. You calmly pick up and drop on the ground all green items on your plate and wait for us to cave and give you meat and carbs. You yell at us if we take something you aren't supposed to have away or pull you away from a toy you are playing with when it's time to go do something else. You are quite vocal (a characteristic Daddy is glad you inherited from him ;-) ).

- You are such a ham! You love all the attention people give you and smile at them. However, stranger danger is in full effect. You will scream and pull to us if anyone so much as tries to reach out to you. But you will give them a huge smile afterwards when they stop trying. I know this is going to make our trip to Houston to baptize you next month so much fun...
- You continue to love waving, swinging, dancing, and have also recently figured out how to shake your head back and forth. You had fun having a dance-off with Daddy shaking your hips and bobbing your head back and forth the other night. We'll have to catch that one on video next.

Madison Rose ~
How is it that you are already 11 months?! I feel like it was just yestereday that I was writing your 10 month post!! Yet so much has happened and you've grown so much that I guess it was really a month ago, huh? You continue to be a joyous girl, smiling at everyone, and enjoying people-watching. We are excited (and a little saddened) that you are walking so early! It means you are growing up too quickly and we have to start being more careful, but it also brings a lot more fun to our lives! We're excited to take you back to the States next week and get to see family and friends for your baptism. (Although I am a little horrified envisioning you attempting to run down the aisle afterwards and tripping on your long baptism gown!). Thank you for being such a light to everyone you encounter!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up: Reunion and 17 Mai

This was a wonderful week! Madi and I survived being on our own, but were thrilled to have Daddy back home safely on Friday! Talk about a sweet reunion!

Oh sorry, did you think I meant Madi and Daddy? Don't worry, that was even sweeter. She smiled at him so big and walked right to him! :-)

We spent the rest of the day hanging out with Daddy and enjoying the sunny weather. And Madi would not let him go!

Saturday, May 17th is a Norwegian holiday, Constitution Day, so we headed downtown to watch the Children's Parade with Madi donning her very own bunad! She enjoyed waving and walking around and all the people. And apparently she is super cute because we had like six Norwegians ask to take a picture of her while we were there. I'm inclined to agree with them. :-)

Our fun didn't end there! We headed to a friend's house afterwards for a delicious brunch and to watch more parades from their balcony. Madi met her first doggie and it was love at first sight! Both Sader and Madi gave each other kisses and Madi kept walking around the apartment where ever Sader went! Guess it was quite the change from her kittens who always run away and don't let her touch them!

Afterwards we had two more engagements - a birthday party and BBQ. The birthday party was a blast and Madi loved (wait for it...) the engineering toy! A fellow party goer said they had the same one and it was to encourage engineering. Nice pick Madi, hehe.

Since Saturday was so packed with activities and going from one event to the next, we decided to take it easy on Sunday. We went to church and played in a park near our house because the weather was so fabulous. 

I hope the weather is fabulous where ever you're at and have a wonderful week!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Baby Travel Gear Favorites: Part 1

Since becoming an expat in 2012 and having my first baby, one prominent theme has formed regarding my opinion of the United States and the amount of stuff we have available: Unnecessary, but convenient.

There are lots of gadgets and gear that you can get in the States that you will not find here. (Or that you will find here, but four times the price...) When I was trying to do my baby registry on Amazon, I had a hard time navigating through all the options. I tried inquiring with friends who had babies and the answer I got from almost all of them was “We have one of each of those and [insert baby name here] liked/didn’t like it at different times.”  

The same has been true when it comes to baby travel gear for Madi. Some of the things we have acquired are unnecessary. But they are sure convenient! I had a friend recently ask about what things are good to have when traveling with a baby. We are no experts by any means! However, Madi has now been on 24 flights (and will be up to 30 before her 1st birthday) so there are definitely some products we've discovered and things we’ve learned that I thought I would share.

Baby Travel Gear Favorites: Part 1

Baby Travel Gear Favorites

  1. Britax B-Agile Stroller Black BritaxThis stroller has been amazing for traveling the cobblestone roads around Europe! We originally had a more traditional umbrella stroller (albeit a cheap one...) and it was horrible to try pushing it on anything other than nice, flat cement. And if you ask Jason it was irritating all the time because he would always hit his feet between the wheels. This stroller is the perfect compromise for us. 
  2. Buggyguard Anti-Theft Retractable Stroller Lock, Black :... and Hook for Stroller: We have used these when we have to go inside somewhere that doesn't allow strollers and we wouldn't be able to keep an eye on it. 
  3. SippiGrip: We have a couple different varieties of these type of gadgets. They are great for securing toys, cups, and snack cups to the stroller so we don't lose them when Madi decides to throw it out the stroller. 
  4. Playtex Diaper Genie On The Go Dispenser: This has been great for using on the go and in whatever hotel or apartment we are renting when we travel. They are lightly scented and do a good job of blocking odors. 
  5. Navy White Chevron Park Place Diaper Clutch: This clutch has a pocket for diapers and wipes and folds open to have a changing mat. It's easy to grab and make a diaper change run without having to bring the whole diaper bag and the mat allows me to not have to lay Madi directly on the changing table wherever we are. 
  6. Phil and Ted's Travel Crib: This bed was pricey, but worth it! It's light weight (only 7 lbs) and easy to setup and take down. We took this with us from Illinois to Texas to Colorado to Oklahoma last December and it was much easier to travel with than a pack and play. It does take up a bit of space in the suitcase, but we make sure to put it in the hard cased suitcase and then add heavy to that suitcase and still get up to the luggage weight limit so its size doesn't really hinder us.
  7. Swiss Army Knife 15inch computer bag shoulder bags Wenger backpack: AKA the world's ugliest backpack. Ours doesnt quite look like this because it was a free backpack I got at a technical conference, but it's close. I have tried to convince Jason to let me buy a cuter one and he refuses stating that the size of this bag is perfect and appearance doesn't matter - it's functional. Spoken like a true (male) engineer. I do have to admit that it's a good size and holds everything and great for traveling. Sigh. 
  8.  Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind (New Version): Personally I think this is an amazing gadget for adults! We've even used it in Madi's bedroom here before we got blinds because we are currently having 5:00 am sunrises and 10:00 pm sunsets...
  9. Amazon.com : Kel-Gar Snug-Tub Duck : Baby Bathing Seats And Tub and Munchkin Bathtub Grippy Dots, 6 Pack: We bring both of these with us and can use the grippy dots in the inflatable bath tub or the actual bath tub. So far the inflatable has fit where ever we have been (and considering this is Europe and the tubs are usually skinnier), it will work in most places! We were able to use this tub even before Madi was sitting up, but it definitely took two of us to bathe her since one had to be helping her sit. 
  10. Amazon.com BRICA Roll 'n Go Car Seat Transporter: I have to be honest. We haven't used this yet. I have heard mixed things about this one versus this one and we may switch and buy the other when we are in the States. However, having some sort of gear like this is critical for our next trip to the States in May because we have purchased a seat for Madi on the plane and plan to have her in the car seat. We only have one connection going to the States, but will have three coming back. There is no way we could carry the car seat through the airport for our connections so this will be super handy!
  11. Baby Bjorn Carrier: I think carriers was the most debated I saw in my baby registry research. People will swear by Ergo, Bjorn, Moby, depending on their needs. So like a good American, we have one of each. (And a handful of others we acquired second-hand). I have to admit that when Madi was really little, I preferred our Moby or just a simple sling (as this was usually much easier to get her into). However, as Madi has gotten older, we've grown into the Baby Bjorn. Madi loves to be able to watch what's going on and isn't a fan of facing me, even when she's really tired. She's a social butterfly and will fall asleep no problem walking around forward-facing. I did notice this the other day though on Amazon and the idea intrigues me since both the Baby Bjorn and Ergo are bulky to carry around. Anyone used the Ergo travel carrier before?
  12. KidzStuff UV Sun Protectant Hooded Onesies, White, 9-12 Months: I guess these are location dependent when we travel. We obviously didn't use it in Helsinki during our cold and rainy weekend, but during our cruise around Greece it was great! Madi wore it during our three hour hike from Fira to Oia and it gave us some peace of mind that she wasn't going to be getting burned. 
  13. And lastly, Lifeproof iPhone Case: Why, you might ask, is my iPhone case on this list? Because Madi has reach the stage where she wants the iPhone and since we FaceTime with our family back home, she's used to seeing it and holding it. I would rather have peace of mind that if she suddenly drops it, I don't have to panic. (Or when I accidentally drop it I don't have to panic...) The case does not add much bulk to the phone and is also waterproof. Definitely worth the investment when you have little ones involved!

I've got a whole other list of my favorite nursing / feeding travel gear so stay tuned for Part 2 coming next week!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Unexpected Kindness

I am not a kind person. Let me expand on that - I think I am nice to those around me and those I care about. I am not usually rude (we all have our moments though) and I think I am generally a friendly person overall.

Yet I don't go out of my way to be nice to people. Usually I am nice when it's convenient for me. A favor here and there, an errand that's along my way. There are exceptions of course, but those are typically for friends or family that we tend to be kind to anyway.

I'm talking about going out of my way for strangers. People I have not met. Showing grace and kindness to someone who passes quickly in and out of your life and you may never talk to or see again. We don't know how our kindness might touch that person and it's not something that comes naturally for me to think about how to reach out to others.

Our trip to Helsinki carried an unexpected, but appreciated reminder that I need to make an effort to be kind to everyone. All the time. And perhaps to make more effort to be kind to those people that I come into contact with fleetingly.

We booked a stay through Air BNB for our trip to Finland. I sent two inquiries about places, informing the owners of our 10 month old daughter. Our first choice wasn't available that weekend, but our second choice was. The owners contacted us after we booked regarding arrival time so we could arrange a meet to handover the keys.

I let the owners know that we were arriving pretty late (10:30 pm) and apologized for the inconvenient time. I also informed them that we were planning to take public transportation to the apartment so I wasn't sure exactly what time we would arrive, but I could call.

The owners emailed me back and said that it would be difficult to take public transportation and walk that late, especially with luggage, and could they offer us a ride. I was blown away by the offer and kindly thanked her, but declined since we would require a car seat and we preferred not to bring ours since it wasn't needed the rest of the trip.

A few hours later the owner emailed me again and said that she had asked some friends and found a suitable car seat for us. She hoped we'd accept their offer for the ride and to let her know. Wow!! I was amazed. And yet their kindness didn't stop there.

They met us in the airport and upon discovering our luggage was spending the night in Oslo they took us to a grocery store so we could buy diapers and baby food. She also caught me before I went into the grocery store and said they had stocked up milk, juice, yogurt, bread, and cheese at the apartment so to not buy those essentials. In the midst of being irritated about our luggage I found myself smiling at the amazing grace this couple who we had just met were showing us.

Along the drive to their apartment they pointed out landmarks, told us about the May Day celebrations that were to be taking place the following day, and told us a little bit about themselves. They are both physicians who like 30 km outside the city, but drove today so they could give us a ride. After showing us the apartment (and giving Madi some toys to play with during our stay!), they said to call if she got sick or we needed anything at all.

Helena and Juha are an amazing example of God's grace and generosity. I don't know if they even believe in God, but through their actions they have given me a lesson and gentle reminder that I need to be more gracious to those around. That I can make an effort to go out of my way to help someone, even when it doesn't necessarily fit my schedule. That I need to remember to be kind to everyone and to show God's love and grace through my actions towards others.

If you are planning to visit Helsinki, I would highly recommend staying in Helena and Juha's apartment. In addition to being some of the kindest people I have met, the apartment was pristine and the location perfect. It was a quiet neighborhood within walking or public transportation of all the major attraction. You can see their listing here.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up: Mother's Day Weekend

We came back this week from our trip to Helsinki so it was a short week of recovery for us. We were both busy with work Jason left for Houston Saturday morning and will be gone the next week. I was sad for him to miss my first Mother's Day, but since surprised me by celebrating the Norwegian Mother's Day back in February (and he's bringing me goodies from the States), he's off the hook. ;-)

Saturday morning, Madi and I met some friends from work at Soma Gard. It's an outdoor petting zoo and play area. There were a lot of people there, but the place is so big you can't really tell! Madi loved walking around and seeing the sheep, chickens, ducks, cows, and horses. She also loved jumping on the trampoline, but her favorite was by far the swing!

My first Mother's Day turned out to be fabulous! Although I did miss Jason, he had a few tricks up his sleeve for me. He sent me a beautiful flower arrangement on Saturday and I got cards from my family and a fabulous charm bracelet from my mom!

Then when I woke this morning I had the best surprise yet... Jason had created a wonderful video card for me with pictures of our family. I have watched it over and over again and start crying everytime I do. I feel so blessed to have him in my life and he is a wonderful husband and father! (Although I am not too happy about how high he is setting the bar for the upcoming Father's Day... haha)

Best. Present. Ever.

Later in the morning my friend Jennifer and her son Graham came over. Her husband was away at our church Men's Retreat so the two of us celebrated Mother's Day by cooking a fabulous brunch for ourselves and enjoying a play date with our little ones (who had to have whichever toy the other was playing with... ;-) ).

Madi and I had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend together! We are sure missing Daddy already, but thank goodness for FaceTime dates so we still get to see him while he's gone!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you fabulous moms out there and I hope you have a great week!


Mother's Day Letters


Thank you for being so amazing! You instilled in me values and morals through your own example in life. You have shown me what it's like to be a godly woman who trusts in the Lord. You taught me to work hard and strive to do my best in all things. You have always been there for me and have supported me in everything. Everything from soccer games when I was younger to getting into Mines and graduating with honors to navigating my way in the professional world and most recently helping me with this wonderful path called motherhood. I hope that I can build the same foundation for my daughter as you did for me. I wouldn't be the woman I am today without the sacrifices and hard work you put into our family. I am blessed to call you mother and blessed to have such an example and role model in my life.

I love you Mom! Happy Mother's Day!


Although it may seem a bit odd to write you a letter today, I wouldn't be able to celebrate being a mother to Madi on this wonderful day if you weren't in my life. Thank you for always being there for me, even when I'm not the easiest person to be around. You are incredibly patient, supportive, trustworthy, and loving. You challenge me to be a better person by your example. You are a wonderful leader, spiritually, financially, and emotionally, to our family. It brings me so much joy to watch you and Madison interact. I love you so much and I am so grateful to have you in my life. Thank you for making me a mother to our beautiful baby girl!



Thank you for coming into my life! I thank the Lord every day for blessing me with the honor of being your mother. You are such a beautiful and joyful girl! You light up those around you with your magnificent smile and your laughter is a sweet sound to my ears. I hope that one day you will know the amazing feeling it is to be a mother and to love someone so tremendously. It's the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had and I wouldn't change a thing about it. I'm so excited to spend this first Mother's Day cuddling with you!

I love you baby girl!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Helsinki Weekend

I promise we do more than just travel here in Norway... although it doesn't seem that way lately with our Easter trip to Greece and this past weekend's adventures in Helsinki! :-)

I reached out to a couple Finnish friends (Thanks Mikaela and Tuulikki!) for Helsinki tips and was promptly warned that we picked a special weekend to visit. We were arriving April 30th, the eve of May Day celebrations. The streets would be filled with fun-loving party goers wearing white caps (and sometimes brown depending on how old the owner is...) There would also be celebrations going on in Kaivopuisto Park on May 1 if we wanted to partake. So of course we did!

We met some friends from Norway who just also happened to be visiting Helsinki the same weekend as us and enjoyed a champagne brunch in the park amongst music and picnic tents - the perfect way to kick off our weekend in Helsinki!

After leaving the park we made our way around Helsinki to do some sightseeing. Most things were closed for the celebrations so we leisurely walked around the Market Square and visited the Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral.

We also walked up a street full of embassies and were excited to take our picture by the US Embassy, where we were promptly met from a security guard out of no where asking us what we took a picture of and if we got any security cameras in our shot. We definitely looked like a suspicious bunch carrying a bundled up baby and an Angry Birds balloon, but after we showed him our innocent emblem picture he wished us a nice day and we were off again.

We took a ride in the underground metro and headed to the Helsinki Playground, an indoor play area for children. It gave Madi a chance to stretch her legs and us an escape from the overcast and rainy weather (which unfortunately stayed with us the rest of the visit).

We met back up with Shaina, Ana, and Alana for drinks and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. We had a fabulous table right on stage so everyone could listen to Madi talk. :-)

We headed back to the apartment and put Madi to bed. Wait, what? This isn't an appropriate bed? Tell that to SAS who left our bags in Oslo and then lied to us about when they would arrive. It sufficed for two nights.  :-)

The following morning we got our luggage (and most importantly the stroller!) and headed to the Helsinki Zoo. We were so excited because it was Madi's first time going to a zoo and we love zoos so were hoping she'd love it too! And we were in luck! She enjoyed pointing at the animals, talking to the goats, and even growled at the lion. I see many more family zoo trips in the future. :-)

Madi fell asleep before we left the zoo so we made our way over to the Temppeliaukio Church (an amazing church built around rocks) and the Olympic Stadium. The games were held there in 1952 and you could see a great view of the city from the top of the tower!

Our child is most definitely Norwegian because girl will nap for a good 2-3 hours outside in her stroller.  She would fuss a bit going in (she hates to be restricted at all), but would settle and enjoy playing or watching everyone around her.

We decided to go to dinner that night since she'd gotten such a good nap during the afternoon. However, she was still pretty tired and a bit fussy, but let us finish our meal and get a picture with her serious face before heading back to the apartment.

On Saturday we caught a ferry ride over to the island of Suomenlinna. It's an inhabited sea fortress that has Swedish, Russian, and Finnish connections and has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. We spent a good bit of time there visiting the museum, taking the guided tour, and walking around the island coast.

She did not like being the cannon ball...


There was a playground on the island so we stopped over and let Madi swing, one of her favorite things to do! She would laugh when we ran towards her and loved being pushed.

After we left we made our way back to the Market Square area to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. Since I'd subjected Jason to Starbucks two three times already, we opted to try some place different and stumbled into a different cafe. The drinks and desserts were great and we got to hear some... interesting music and be entertained by Madi's dancing skills.

That night Madi decided she was tired of walking while holding onto something and took her first steps!! Sigh. I foresee a lot of running around chasing after her for the next, oh I don't know, 10 years?!

Sunday we visited the Helsinki Aquarium. Madi also went to one in Greece and we aren't quite sure if she's a fan of them... she seems to like looking at the fish, but it takes her some time to warm up to the dark atmosphere and the glowing lights. And by this time she was realizing that she can walk so most of our time there was spent walking her around so she could perfect her technique.

Gift shop swag.
While we waited for the bus Madi practiced walking in a giant marshmallow suit (a handy survival skill I'm sure) and we took selfies in our BA sunglasses.

I spent the rest of the evening punishing Madi for walking at 10.5 months. Suffice it to say she did not enjoy it - don't let the laughter fool you.

The last item on our sightseeing list was a Finnish swimming pool and sauna. We found one not too far away that had a separate splash pool for babies and visited there Monday morning. We decided to forego visiting the swimsuit-prohibited saunas because even though they are separated male/female, Jason and I just aren't comfortable doing naked in front of other people! So we can say we have visited a Finnish swimming pool and looked inside a traditional Finnish sauna. Done. :-) Pictures weren't allowed in the pool area so we couldn't capture Madi's excitement at the water slide or splashing around or walking back and forth in the pool, but it was definitely one of her favorite parts!

I begged Jason for Starbucks one more time and he indulged in what I'm ashamed to admit was my fifth visit during our trip!

Then we headed to the airport to catch our flights back home. I have to say one of the best things I have experienced in Europe thus far is the baby-friendliness of the airports. Almost all of the ones we have been to have strollers past security so you don't have to bring your own, baby rooms with microwaves, tea kettles, and nursing chairs, as well as play areas for little ones. We killed time playing with Madi in one of these lovely areas in the Helsinki airport.

Our sleepy duck completed her 24th flight (and 7th country!) and we headed home to put her to bed after a wonderful, but tiring visit to Finland!

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