Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goodbye March, Hello April

I thought February flew by and then March came and went even faster. My mind is constantly running in a hundred different directions with all the planning and arrangements that have to be made for our move - the coordination and organization is almost too much for even me to handle (and that's saying a lot!).

Soon Jason will start rotating to Baku leaving me and the girls solo for ~3 weeks so things might get a bit quieter over here, but we'll be alive (hopefully) and well. ;-)

  1. Lunch date with Daddy and his girls when we had to visit the mall for visa photos for our trip to Georgia.
  2. Mom and Evy.
  3. The girls *almost* sitting up by themselves. Liv pretty much had it down at this point, but Evy wasn't far behind. Now they are both sitting up and pulling themselves up. :-/
  4. Liv's model pose with "blue steel" face. Bahaha!
  5. Madi drinking water from one of Mommy's starbucks cups.
  6. Evy playing with Hans while Madi was away at school. Shhh - don't tell her.
  7. Starting to practice her pulling up shenanigans. 
  8. Grandma arrived to hold down the fort while Jason and I visited Georgia and Azerbaijan.
  9. Liv not wanting to wake up for a bottle... even after she'd been unzipped and unbuckled. 

Evy laughing while climbing my lap. :-)

  1. Bedtime hangout with these three cuties!
  2. Sitting pretty and playing with the dancing bear - a Madi favorite as well.
  3. Courtney babysitting all three girls so the toddlers could go to gymnastics while Jason and I were still out of town. Talk about a rockstar!
  4. Babies playing together.
  5. Liv eating her lunch - she's serious about food and loves mealtime.
  6. Evy eating her lunch, but more playful and likes to laugh while she's eating, especially when Madi's there. 

Evy pulling herself to stand for the first time. Liv has also pulled herself up, but we haven't been able to capture it on video yet. 

  1. Smiling Liv!
  2. Madi loving on her sisters.
  3. Evy playing with cords while we were out of town - what happens with Grandma stays with Grandma... except when your friend Kara sends you the evidence. ;-)
  4. Madi and her bff Gabriel enjoying the sun after barnehage.
  5. Cutest little apple sisters.
  6. Zoey in a bag that she's not supposed to be in.
  7. CeCe on baby blankets that she's not supposed to lay on. (Notice a theme here ;-) )
  8. Madi with a mischievous look on her face after being caught drinking more than half of mom's iced coffee while we were busy putting the twins to bed. 
  9. Springtime dresses from our friend Chris.

And lastly, a surprise day home with all three girls. We forgot barnehage was closed Tuesday of this week after the Easter holiday and Jason called me from the school as I was driving to the grocery store. Might as well take all three, right? ;-)

  1. Suriving a first - grocery shopping with all three!
  2. Madi wanted Liv to sit next to her... then she kind of squirmed away when Liv wanted to snuggle - ha!
  3. Walking baby sisters for their nap in the rain. Madi loved puddle jumping!
  4. And finally, baby sister standing around. I love how Liv has her hand on Evy's shoulder! :-)
Goodbye March, Hello April!!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter in Berlin!

After all the traveling we've been doing lately, we had two requirements for an Easter trip: nonstop and no vacation days (for Jason obviously). After that we used more convenient flight times to choose Berlin. Everything is shutdown in Norway Thursday - Monday so it was nice getting away for a few days and seeing a new city.

We arrived in Berlin mid-day on Thursday and after dropping off our stuff headed to the zoo so Madi could see animals.

Our trips with kids sure have changed and the next day we headed over to Legoland and the Aquadom and SeaLife Center. We had some time to kill before they opened so we grabbed a hot chocolate and coffee from Starbucks.

Madi was exhausted after Legoland and fell asleep on the bus ride over to the aquarium and didn't wake up the entire wait while I carried her!

The Aquadom was an elevator surrounded by water and Madi loved it! Upon asking her what she saw, she answered "Nemos and Dorys".

Saturday was our last full day in Berlin so we wanted to see a bit more of the city and decided to ride the Hop On, Hop Off bus. We lucked out with sunny weather and babies who slept the entire two hours bus ride! It was a good way to get some history of the city and see quite a bit when you have littles who can't handle a ton of walking and adult sightseeing. :-)

We grabbed lunch at a delicious pasta place where they had the tallest high chairs ever. Granted, they had a section with barstool-type seating, but the chair Evy is in is still significantly taller than the one Liv is in which is significantly taller than the third high chair I found. We were sitting right by the entrance so got quite a few stares to say the least...

The apartment we stayed at had a wonderful park close by and we took advantage of the sunshine and nice weather to play outside a bit each day.

We flew back to Stavanger Sunday morning and had a quiet Easter at home with our girls.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter 2016

We arrived back in Norway after our Berlin trip on Easter morning. Once all three girls were down for a nap we got their Easter gifts ready. Thankfully my mom brought stuff from the US and I had extra goodies downstairs and a couple small things I picked up in Berlin for Madi. And let's be real - the twins' eggs are empty because, well - they are 8 months old and I'm a lazy parent. This backfired only slightly when Madi wanted to help them open their eggs. Whoops.

Madi didn't quite know what to make of the Pez dispenser, but she was thrilled to see Minnie Mouse make an appearance!

Happy Easter! He is risen! He is risen indeed!! :-)


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jason's Birthday!

Jason turned 31 last week and we celebrated with a very low-key evening (minus some screaming at cake time). I picked Madi up from barnehage early and she helped me make a cake for Daddy. The only candles they had at the store were pink or purple... so I opted to try the sparkler candle thinking it would be fun. Wrong. Olivia started crying and Madi had no idea what to think of it so I'll spare you the video that we took and just show you this screenshot from it. Bahahaha.

I also had time to make a collage of some photos of us while the twins were sleeping. I can't believe how young we look in some of the pictures, but mostly I can't believe this guy has stuck around with me for so long. ;-)

Jason - you are the most amazing guy that I know. You are incredibly hard-working, selfless, and patient. You challenge me to be a better person and are always there to support me. You never complain and you always help me with the girls and around the house without me having to ask. It's wonderful to watch you interact with your three precious girls. My love for you has grown deeper every year we've been together and I am blessed to be your wife. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Site Visit to Baku

In case you missed the news, we found out that we are moving to Baku, Azerbaijan! We found out towards the end of February that they needed to get Jason out to Baku for a site visit and handover before the local holiday of Novruz starting just before Easter. That didn't leave much time for planning! Fortunately my mom was able to take the time off and so we got to making all of the arrangements for me to accompany Jason on the trip.

Unfortunately it's not super easy to get a visa to enter the country. Our options were to visit the Azerbaijan embassy in Sweden (where the turnaround time was ~3 weeks) or the embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia (where the turnaround time was ~3 days, or so we were told). We arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia late Sunday night and ended up staying there until Friday afternoon. (You can read about our time there here.)

After we arrived Friday night, we had dinner with the family who Jason will be are replacing. They are a lovely family and have been amazing at answering emails with lots of questions about Baku for both of us. We saw their house and compound and got to know more about the city we will soon be calling home.

Saturday morning we met them for breakfast and they showed us around the grocery store and some of the city. Afterwards we met up with the relocation people to go house hunting. As expats, we will need to live on a secured compound. There are two main compounds in the city - Stonepay and Green City. We saw houses at both and were able to fit a great fit for our family at the second compound, Green City. I'm excited about the house and can't wait to share pictures once we get settled!

That afternoon we had a half day orientation around the city. Most of the time was driving, but we did get out and walk part of the Old City and see the Maiden's Tower. The buildings all around the city were absolutely gorgeous and unique. Jason was thrilled to see a freshly paved road and signs of the upcoming Formula One race being held there this June. ;-)

We had dinner with Jason's boss and his wife Saturday night in one of the three flame towers (picture below). Friday night when we arrived they were lit up to look like fire with the lights dancing on them. We had delicious steak and a wonderful time hearing about the places they've lived and what they've enjoyed about being in Baku.

I flew back early the next morning after being gone an entire week. I missed my girls and needed to get home for my mom to fly back to the US. Jason stayed a couple more days to see the office, visit the school options for Madi,  and start some handover.

We didn't get a ton of pictures since we were in the car most of the time, but we did capture a few during our orientation. Overall, it's going to be a drastic change living in a third world country and a significantly larger city than we are used to from Norway, but we are excited about the upcoming move in the next couple of months!

Maiden's tower - one of the most famous sites in Baku. It dates back to the 15th century and has been names a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The flame towers where we had dinner Saturday night. They are the tallest skyscrapers in the city.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Welcome to Tbilisi, Georgia!

Well the cat is out of the bag... we are moving! Our new home sometime this spring will be Baku, Azerbaijan and yesterday we got to visit the city and see some potential houses (more on that in another post!). However, getting a visa (permanent or visitor) isn't walk in the park the first time. We could have gone to the embassy in Sweden and it would have taken three weeks for visas... or we could go to the embassy in Georgia and it would take three days (so we were told...). Since major holidays are coming up in both Baku and Stavanger, we needed to try and visit before March 16 so to Tbilisi, Georgia we went!

My mom was able to fly in with barely a week's notice to watch the girls so I could accompany Jason on the trip. We are so incredibly thankful for her willingness (and braveness!) to watch all three girls by herself to give me this opportunity. She had a wonderful support system from our friends in Stavanger and I'm so grateful for the friends we've made that are willing to help with our children!

So last Sunday we boarded our first solo flight in.... goodness who knows how long! Once the shock of feeling like we left something behind (traveling is so light without kids), we had a great time re-connecting during our time in Georgia.

We spent a lot of time at the embassy... we had to get all of our paperwork turned in and then continually check on the status of our visas. Unfortunately Tuesday was an unexpected holiday and a lot of flight changes were made throughout the week, including extending my stay one more day since we didn't actually make it to Baku until Friday evening. (And even then I'm pretty sure the only reason we got the visas is because we literally sat in the embassy all Thursday afternoon and Friday morning and they were tired of seeing us - HA!)

In between our check-ins to the embassy we did a lot of walking around and exploring the city! Monday afternoon we took the cable car from Rike Park up to Narikala Fortress. We saw the Qartlis Deda Monument and the Narikala St Nikoloz Church.

We took the cable car back down and walked across the Peace Bridge before wandering over to G Vino for some delicious lunch and wine. Two things about Tbilisi - the food and wine are extremely delicious and incredibly cheap. We consumed embarrassing amounts of both throughout the week. :-)

That evening we experienced the traditional sulfur baths, located next door to our hotel. We both opted for the scrub and massage where four layers of our skin were removed and then poor Jason had cold then hot then cold then hot water dumped over his head. Needless to say I couldn't convince him to go back, but I would recommend trying it at least once! We rented a private room and had a sauna, a cold bath, and a warm bath all to ourselves for one hour. We visited one of the oldest in the city and the tile work was gorgeous!

The evening we had a late dinner at Schuchmann Wine Bar and Restaurant - it was by far the best place we ate at in Georgia and we enjoyed it so much we made sure to go there again Thursday evening. (The lack of food pictures is due to Jason making fun of me when I tried to take them - so blame him for not seeing the amazing white tomato soup, khachapuri, khinkali, kebabs, etc. that we enjoyed.)

Tuesday the embassy was closed so we made the hike to Freedom Square and continued on to the funicular that goes even higher above the city.

Halfway down the funicular is the Mama David Church and Mtatsminda Pantheon. We stopped to visit both and decided to finish the walk down rather than catch the tram the rest of the way.

That evening for dinner we Organique Josper Bar. We had reservations as the previous night when we tried to go they were out of meat... and then the entire kitchen closed for an hour and it was already close to 9 pm and we didn't want to wait. So we made reservations for the following night and showed up to be told they didn't have us down for a reservation. They accommodated us and we were grateful, but it was still frustrating. Then they told me they were out of burgers when I tried ordering the lamb burger and I watched three burgers go by to tables that sat down after us... Jason tried to order ribeye and they were out. We tried to order cheesecake and they were out. Overall, we still had some amazing food and a good experience and I'd recommend going here. But if you only have one night in Tbilisi we both agreed we'd recommend Schuchmann!

Wednesday we did a lot more walking (before checking in with the embassy again of course!). We headed to Metekhi Church and Vakhtang Gorgasali Monument across the river from our hotel.

Then we made our way to Cathedral Sameba, past the President's Residence, back across the river to the Justice House and then along the opposite side of the river to the casino and then back to the embassy.

Thursday I made Jason take me to the spa since we were still waiting on our visas. Afterwards we staked out the embassy the rest of the afternoon and Friday morning until they gave us our visas. Then we booked a flight leaving in three hours to get to Baku and raced off to the airport and on to our site visit!

Overall, we really loved Tbilisi! However, I think we would have enjoyed our time more if we didn't have the secondary reason for being there to get on to Baku. The food was amazing, the wine absolutely divine, and the city beautiful. The driving was horrid and I'm pretty sure we only took a legit taxi once (maybe twice), but it was a wonderful experience and a place we will definitely be visiting again since it's a short one hour flight from Baku.

(View of the Narikala Fortress from our hotel room during the day and at night)

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