Thursday, May 19, 2016

Getting to Baku

We arrived in Baku Thursday one week ago, but for a moment there I wasn't sure we would arrive at all. We didn't get the girl's visas in time for our scheduled May 5 departure and so Jason went on ahead with the cats and some of the suitcases. We had to re-schedule with another date and picked the following Thursday hoping we would get them in time. Jason's boss had no problem with him flying back to accompany us for the trip. However, it takes a full day of travel (three flights) to get from Stavanger to Baku (and vice versa) so by the time we got word late Tuesday afternoon that the visas were ready and being mailed to arrive Wednesday there wasn't time for Jason to fly back and accompany us.

I had the idea for him to meet us in Frankfurt which is the longest leg and would mean that he would be there to help with customs clearance and collecting all the baggage. The first two flights were just a 45 min to Oslo and a 1 hour, 30 min to Frankfurt. I knew that I could handle those by myself.

We have the most amazing friends. Kemi and her husband Jan Erik gave us an extra suitcase, helped load baggage, and watched the girls Wednesday afternoon. Joy and Ron met us bright and early at the airport with all of the ridiculous amount of bags and helped unload, watch babies, put on luggage tags, plastic wrap suitcases, and get them check in. Tim and Sandy met me at the house to help get the girls ready and load the last bit of luggage and also accompanied us to the airport to help get us off. There is no way I would have been able to do that on my own. It took 3 vehicles and 5 adults y'all. It's a good thing we had so many hands on deck because when I went to check in they told me I wasn't allowed to fly...

So here's the airline rules for anyone not seasoned with air travel with littles. You are allowed to travel with a child and two infants so long as at least one infant is in an FAA approved car seat. A child is considered anyone over 2 years old (when they aren't allowed to be a lap infant). I know these rules because I have flown before with all three girls and booked the tickets that way. We purchased a seat for all four of us and planned to bring both car seats on the plane. No problem right? Wrong. Apparently SAS doesn't know their own policies. (Side note - super unimpressed with SAS - it took Jason over an hour to check the cats in because they screwed up their reservation and then they did the payment wrong and he almost wasn't allowed to board in Frankfurt. Add the hassle and rudeness we experienced with their representatives adding the cats reservation and now my hassle, we are through with SAS airlines and that's now two of the three Star Alliance that I refuse to fly any more. End side rant.)

After arguing with me that I was trying to travel with three infants and having an SAS representative tell me she was a grandmother of twins and I was being unsafe and putting my children at risk, I was pretty fed up. Someone somewhere must have been praying for me because God is the only thing that kept me from losing my cool I was so irate and frustrated. When they finally confirmed that I was correct and I was allowed to fly they told me they couldn't promise that Lufthansa would allow me to board in Oslo and that while they don't recommend or condone my choice to fly with all three solo I would be allowed to check in and board if I wanted. Damn straight I will take that risk and be done with you SAS. All in all it was over an hour and a half this mess took. So then we could finally check in our 16 pieces of luggage (which had been sitting at the check in counter blocking like four lanes - HA!)

Besides that little hiccup, I can honestly say that everyone was amazing during the actual travel. The SAS flight crew, the Lufthansa flight crew, and the passengers on all the flights. They helped me carry luggage and car seats on board, helped with Madi, and were all amazing. Again, huge answers to prayers from all those who had been praying for safe transit. We had a tight connection in Oslo (where again SAS screwed up my request for assistance by giving us a wheelchair instead of a cart like I had asked), but we made it to the gate with a little time to spare. Jason was able to meet us at the gate in Frankfurt and it was smooth, but exhausting to arrive in Baku late Thursday evening.

We got through customs and gathered our luggage fairly quickly and were off to our new home! I am so glad that we were able to get on the flights and that Jason was able to meet us in Frankfurt. I was pretty exhausted by that point from the early morning and check-in drama and ready for our family to be reunited! Here are the few pics that I snapped during the travel. All three girls were incredibly well-behaved (love our seasoned travelers). :-)


First Week in Baku

Well y'all - it's been one week in Baku. I wish I could say the transition has been seamless and easy - that I haven't burst into tears five out of the seven days we've been here, that I didn't miss Norway and being able to drive myself and make a quick run to the store or friend's house easily, that having three at home isn't hard work and that I don't seriously miss barnehage and our old routine, that we haven't had any issues with the house that have been frustrating to resolve. But none of that is true. It's been hard. I know that in the long run these little things will be forgotten and seem trivial. I know that things will get easier as we go along and get comfortable. The logical part of me knows all of this, but the emotional part is having a rough go. Just being real.

But - there's always positives. The people here have been so amazing! Everyone has been friendly and helpful and kind in answering questions, including us in playdates and activities, lending us things we need, and taking me on a much-needed grocery shopping orientation. Huge blessings. Today I attended a women's Bible study and the host's daughter watched all three girls for me. I needed that break more than I realized and when we did a unique activity and washed each other's feet and prayed over one another I lost it and the tears came (again). I needed those prayers and that fellowship. God is so good in providing just what we need at the right time.

So now that I've poured my heart out and been honest about the hard part of the transition, here's some of the fun parts. We have a wonderful community and a great park super close. We've been out exploring the park and the soccer fields and going for wagon rides. The twins have loved having their big sister home with them to play and I have enjoyed my extra time with Madi even though it's made for very busy days having all three by myself. So here's some of the joy we are experiencing in our new home. :-)

1. Madi loving on CeCe. Those cats missed her!
2. Madi pushing her baby sisters on the swings.
3. The girls had a blast! The house behind is not our house, but we are just one to the right and ours is identical on the outside.
4. Matching pink jelly shoes.
5. More park fun.
6. View of an old platform from the rooftop terrace of the house.
7. A ridiculous day of steps. By the end of the day it was at 39,602! This was last Friday when I was unpacking our 16 pieces of luggage. HA! It's also the result of having three floors now with the bedrooms on the top floor and the living room and kitchen on the first floor!
8. First wagon ride!
9. More wagon ride. The girls all loved it. :-)

1. Testing out the chicken and roasted veggies.
2. Happy babies!
3. Delivered Starbucks. Jason worked late and then left early for a meeting downtown (which is right by Starbucks) and dropped this beauty off to me on his way back to the office. Lovely!
4. A surprise gift basket from a fellow twin mom in the neighborhood. So sweet.
5. Evy smiles! A friend lent us an activity cube and a jumperoo - both of which the girls are ecstatic to have.
6. Liv smiles.
7. Playing in the park.
8. More park fun.
9. Madi helping me pull the wagon.

And because I know y'all are dying to see the inside of the house... here's two quick iPhone snaps. You'll have to wait until we have our stuff and are more settled for a full house tour. ;-)


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Halfway Through May

Well y'all - we are halfway through May. And guess where I'm posting from? Baku!! We finally got the girl's visas last week and made the long flight out here Thursday. We almost didn't make it out of Norway (that deserves a post of its own), but in the end everything worked out and we arrived late Thursday night - exhausted, but excited to be together again. :-)

We had a fabulous time the beginning part of May while we were still in Norway so here's a recap of those first couple of weeks.

The girl's and Jason's residence permits for Norway expired May 1. That landed us with an 18 hour trip to London where we literally stayed at the hotel and flew back early the following morning. The trip was so short that at the airport in Stavanger they printed and accidentally gave us Jason and Evelyn's London to Stavanger boarding passes instead of the reverse. Yikes! Jason let me go off shopping for the few hours we had Sunday afternoon and I headed back to the hotel just in time to join them for dinner.

We didn't get the girl's visas in time for our schedule May 5 flight. Unfortunately things are crazy busy for Jason and so he needed to get back. He took the cats and three suitcases and got moved into the house to await our arrival.

The weather was unusually warm the second week in May and we spent a lot of time outside enjoying it!

And seriously, how cute are these two??

Our amazing friend Sandy spent a whole day with me and the girls. It was great to have help and adult company! We visited Sandved park to enjoy the beautiful weather.

We had a Starbucks date and enjoyed walking around downtown.

Our final day in Norway we visited the beloved Leo's Lekeland with the Kolesar family. We barely saw the oldest three and both Levi and Liv protested naps and instead played together and got caught giving kisses. Aw, young love. ;-)

It was a hard and sad goodbye at the end - especially when Kara's oldest boys started crying. That set Kara and I off. :-(

We had such an amazing last couple of weeks in Stavanger and it was hard to say goodbye to so many amazing friends we've met over the years.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Family Photos in Gamle Stavanger

I knew before we left Norway that I wanted to do family photos in Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger). It's a picturesque area downtown with old white houses and a perfect backdrop for family photos to reminisce about this dear country that will always hold a special place in my heart. Now as we prepare to leave Norway tomorrow (exactly three and a half years to the day) I wanted to share those photos.

Norway was our first expatriate assignment and we didn't know what to expect when we moved here. We were pregnant with our first daughter and excited about all that lay ahead of us - new jobs, the opportunity to travel around Europe, experience a different culture, etc. Never did we imagine that when we left we would have two more daughters (ha!), would have visited over 20 countries, and would be moving to Azerbaijan instead of back to the US. It's been quite the adventure!

We have truly been beyond blessed during our time here. We have met so many incredible people and been loved on by so many. This stage of life (with three littles under three) feels like a take and take rather than a take and give and that's hard for me. I know things will calm down soon and we will have an opportunity to pay it forward because my heart yearns to repay the kindness and love we've received by so many here.

Norway will always have a special place in our hearts and we hope to return here one day with our daughters and take them on the same beautiful hikes we did and hopefully meet up with old friends. Until then we will have so many wonderful memories of the adventures and great times we had during our three and a half years here! :-)

And my personal favorite. :-D

A special thanks to Lineik Photography for capturing these amazing images with her patience and talent!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Evelyn and Olivia: Ten Months

We are living out of suitcases right now and as a result you might notice some differences between the nice semi-professional photos we typically have and this month's photos ... no chairs (packed), no bows (in Baku), no onesies (be thankful I has any white onesies to put them in), and only my iPhone to accomplish this. I'm just surprised I actually had the blocks, stickers, and faux fur mats!

Here's your 10 month update (which I will probably add to later once I have Jason's help remembering everything!) -

- You both still only have two teeth, but act like you are teething all the time.
- Sleep is great. You go to bed on your own around 730 pm and sleep until anywhere from 630 - 730 am. You still take two naps a day and don't quite seem ready yet to transition to one.
- Liv has been a bit clingy at times, but in general both of you are really good with strangers or when I am not around.

- Both of you talk, but seem to do so at different times. In general, Evy is more easy-going throughout the day and Liv a bit more high maintenance. However in the mornings, it's swapped. Liv will happily play and hang out in the crib while Evy starts whining sooner for breakfast.
- You both love finger food and pouches and baby food. We've had to be more careful reading labels and making sure Liv doesn't have egg, but it hasn't been too bad so far.
- Shortly after Daddy came back from Baku you both began going from crawling to sitting up on your own. Now you do it constantly and it's fun to watch. I don't remember Madi ever doing that when she was little, but she really kind of skipped crawling and jumped to walking.
- Speaking of walking you both are moving left and right when you stand and will hold on with one hand and swing to look at things, but haven't taken steps yet. I did catch Liv going from one toy to another standing but both were within reach.

- Liv loves to shake her hips and bounce to music. She smiles really big and it's precious!
- Evy is happy in general and loves to laugh. She also loves to yell "Dadadadadada" at the top of her lungs.
- Liv has said "Mama" and "Baba" but no other words yet from her or any from Evy besides "Dada".
- Liv also likes to pull her foot up out of the high chair and rest it on the tray. Such a little lady. ;-)

I haven't gotten any stats for the baby books so I'll have to try and get those this week!

Evelyn Grace

Height: TBD
Weight: TBD
Head: TBD

Olivia Ann

Height: TBD
Weight: TBD
Head: TBD


Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day 2016

Somehow my husband has missed all three of our children's first Mother's Day. Coincidence? That's up for debate. ;-) However, I still had a fabulous day celebrating with my three cuties, but missing my husband far away in Baku.

I woke up to this sweet post on Facebook from Jason -

We had unusually warm and sunny weather in Stavanger over Mother's Day weekend and so we spent most of the day outdoors. We walked the twins to sleep and then Madi and I kicked the soccer ball around, played "on the beach" (i.e. sand volleyball court), and laughed. A lot. It was brilliant.

After naps the girls were all smiles and we just hung out together.

And then I shamelessly got my oldest to wish me Happy Mother's Day on camera. And she wouldn't stop saying it. #overkill. HA!

And then I remembered that it was the twins' first Mother's Day and there's a page for that in their baby books... By that time it was almost 7 pm and close to bedtime. I looked a mess and there was of course no one around to take a picture... so Stingerie girls selfie for the win. #secondandthirdchildproblems

All joking aside, it was a great Mother's Day although I would have loved to have had my husband there with us. These three are sure a handful (and it's only just beginning), but I love them so much and love being their momma - I wouldn't change a thing! Happy Mother's Day to all the fabulous moms out there!!


Thursday, May 5, 2016

April Wrap-up

So remember how I used to do Weekly Wrap-ups? Yeah me neither. It's been that long. And having Jason gone most of the month of April leaving me alone with three under three for three weeks didn't help. It was a very slow and very long month in so many ways. There was a definite lack of time for blogging and extra exhaustion, but obviously plenty of pictures that I probably took as proof to Jason that I kept them alive (especially after Olivia's hospital incident just a couple days after he left).

We had tons of support from friends in Stavanger (you know who you are and hopefully I have thanked you in person even though I know I failed to write you all thank you notes :-( ) and I would not have made it without their support. So let's get going on with these cute girls and our April Wrap-up! :-)

1. Madi loving her Olaf spoon from Ms Joy and Mr Ron.
2. Liv loves the banana!
3. Evy does too. :-)
4. Baby Benetton (outfits courtesy of Ms Daphne).
5. This girl loves to laugh!
6. And this girl loves to snuggle her mommy. (And mommy doesn't mind at all ;-) )
7. Jason's last day of work at Baker Hughes Norge.
8. Madi and her new guitar.
9. First fort with Daddy. She loved it and slept really well on the floor mattress.

1. Liv loves to snuggle on people, blankets, pillows.
2. Baby crew. We all started with one kid when we met and now we all have two. Or three in our case with the 2-for-1 special we got.
3. New umbrella stroller for future travel in the Middle East.
4. Daddy snuggling his girls before heading to the airport to go to Baku for three weeks.
5. Survived first bedtime with all three and celebrated with wine and ice cream.
6. Olivia's allergic reaction to egg landed us in the hospital for the night.
7. Dinnertime.
8. Bathtime.
9. Madi hugging one of the BFFs, Gabriel. She had many playdates with him during April and we were so grateful for her to spend time with him.

1. We had sunny, but cold weather and took the opportunity for a walk around Stokka.
2. Madi feeding the ducks and swan.
3. Hans enjoying the sunshine. ;-)
4. Climbing at one of the new training stations along the jogging path.
5. When you've got older siblings, you wear Build-a-Bear accessories.
6. Someone woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to sleep with Mommy. It happens so rarely that I didn't mind her snuggles and company.
7. Madi singing "Bjørnen sover" at gymnastics in her Cinderella tutu.
8. Beautiful Sunday dresses, but not in the mood to smile for a picture.
9. A much needed girl's night for my last Bunko Babes. 

1. Standing. The newest trend.
2. The result of bad or no afternoon naps. Two of them fell asleep in a 10 min car ride. :-/
3. Cats are still alive. ;-)
4. Enjoying the sun and her trampoline!
5. Spring flowers in bloom around the garden.
6. Sweet Evy.
7. Diaper party before bedtime. Note how everyone is in need of a diaper change.
8. Climbing pillows. And everything else around her.
9. Madi walking Hans and Kitty while I walked baby sisters.

1. CeCe snuggles.
2. Zoey snuggles.
3. Happy girls!
4. Visa pictures for Baku - first up, Madi.
5. Evy. Or is it Jason? Impossible to tell! Bahaha!!
6. Liv. Surprise!
7. Mommy and Madi coffee date before church.
8. Madi loving on Olivia.
9. Baby sisters wanting to hang with their big sister.

1. More gymnastics fun!
2. Baby #1 out cold for a nap.
3. Baby #2 out cold for a nap. And naturally these were taken at two different naps because why would they both sleep simultaneously?! ;-)
4. Evy frustrated that the circle is attached to the walker.
5. A magic bottle of wine and my favorite candy appearing on my doorstep when supplies were low. Thanks Kara!!
6. Trouble under the table.
7. Ready to go get big sister from school!
8. See above. ;-)
9. Hats a little big... haha.

1. Sushi date with Ms Chris before she headed to the US and won't get back before we move to Baku. It was hard to start saying our goodbyes this month thinking that we will be leaving Norway soon.
2. Madi and her other BFF Indira had fun running around the mall and having lunch together.
3. Beautiful flowers from Gabriel's mom Annie when they came over for dinner.
4. Last Sunday at NSBC. Totally spaced getting a picture of the family... #bloggerfail. But at least we got one of these lovely ladies! Ms Daphne and the babies.
5. Ms Lisa and the babies.
6. Dinner with good friends Liza and Adrian and their son Silas. Liza was amazing providing meals and support to our family the whole time we've been in Norway!
7. Family Starbucks date after an amazing photo shoot in Gamle Stavanger (pics to come soon!)
8. Ms Sandy with the babies. Another fabulous friend who was there for me multiple times while Jason was gone. So blessed to have such amazing friends!
9. Jason playing with his girls.

1. Sunny, but cold walk to pick up Madi from school.
2. Madi catching a ride home on Daddy's shoulders.
3. I had always wanted to do a 38 week in, 38 week out picture. That happened while Jason was gone... and I forgot and didn't realize they were actually past 38 weeks #momfail. So we took this after he was back and a couple weeks after the 38 week mark, but whatever - it's still cool. And man, I was huge!!
4. This is where Zoey spent most of the three days the packers came.
5. Can't believe we are moving and all our stuff is packed up and on its way to Baku!
6. New favorite hangout since basically all of the living room furniture is gone.
7. Goofball.
8. Dachshund babies hanging out.
9. Much needed girl's dinner with two of my closest girl friends - Hilary and Courtney. They've been amazing support and I'll miss them and our littles hanging out together.

1. Pornstar martini (basically a passion fruit martini) and the best drink I've had in Norway.
2. Taking the shot of champagne.
3. Dessert - churros and macaroons.
4. A fabulous girl's night with Daphne, another close friend who I am going to miss terribly when we move.

Overall, it was a really fabulous April... but a really hard one as well. It was challenging to go three weeks without Jason and both Madi and I really felt his absence. I am so grateful for all the support we received from so many wonderful friends. They helped me with bath times, bedtimes, watching them so I could run errands, took them for playdates to give me a break, brought us meals, prayed for us, and encouraged me that I could do this. It started to really hit me that we are leaving this truly amazing network we have established here. 

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