Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Highlights

Every year I like to go back and do a re-cap of each month with something particularly memorable that happened. I'm still planning to do that in this post, but I feel it would be dishonest if I just carried on like this wasn't a challenging year for us. In fact when I saw this meme popping up all over Facebook I couldn't help but relate. :-/

There was a lot of uncertainty about where we would end up back in March when Jason's contract in Norway finished and neither of our companies could guarantee us a position in the US. We opted to take the concrete job Jason had been offered in Baku and while I knew it would be different and the adjustment to staying home full-time would be hard (I miss working!), but I greatly underestimated just how hard.

I don't want this post to turn into me complaining about the year - suffice it to say that things have been challenging and unfortunately I haven't handled the challenges very well. I wish I could say I was handling them with patience and grace and trusting in God's plan for us, but to be frank I haven't. I've spent the latter half of the year being angry and upset and annoyed (some justified and some not). I am tired of hearing people say that God puts people in Baku for a reason. I know it's meant to be encouraging, but I'm not there yet. I know that our 2016 was nothing compared to the challenges others faced in the year and I am trying to keep things in perspective.

I have a lot of work to do in 2017 on my attitude and my heart and I pray you'll stick with us as we hope for a smoother year. I am grateful that we have found a new house to move into after the new year, that my husband has a stable job during this economic downturn and that he continues to work so incredibly hard for our family. I'm thankful for our three beautiful daughters that are so full of joy and laughter and overall in good health.

Here's our #2016bestnine -

And the monthly highlights for 2016 -


We returned home just after New Year's having spent a month and a half in the US with the girls visiting family. Big Sis-Little Sis: LOVE these girls and their friendship! Madi is crazy about them and it's precious!


We had trips to Lisbon and Manchester and enjoyed dressing up the girls for Valentine's Day.


We were finally able to share the news of our move to Baku and we were able to go on a site visit to Georgia and Baku together because my mom flew in last minute to watch all three girls. It was the longest we had been away from the girls and enjoyed our time together, but missed them.

We celebrated Jason's birthday and spent Easter weekend in Berlin and celebrated when we arrived back to Norway late that morning. (I'm noticing a trend in these pictures - ha!)


This month was challenging. Jason was in Baku starting his new job and I was back in Norway with all three girls. I had massive support from our amazing church family, which was critical when Olivia landed in the hospital with her egg (and nut) allergy. I wasn't able to blog much during the month, but I collected some great pics for an April Wrap-up.


We had some amazing family photos taken in Gamle Stavanger during Jason's short visit back from Baku. Our house got packed up and shipped out, but since we didn't get the girls' visas in time Jason had to return to Baku. Unfortunately he missed the twins' first Mother's Day and I ended up flying solo halfway to Baku once we did get the visas the following week, but we all survived!


Jason times his new job just right to make the first year of Baku hosting the Formula One race (coincidentally over Father's Day weekend - easy gift giving!). We had a fabulous Princess party for Madi and spent lots of time outdoors enjoying the pool, sun, and playground.



This was a busy month for us! We had received our shipment towards the end of June and got the house sorted. We also started exploring more of Azerbaijan with a holiday weekend in Naftalan. We celebrated the Fourth of July and Madi proved she was potty trained. Our biggest celebration was the twins' First Birthday and I was so happy with how everything turned out! Shortly after the party we flew to Germany and met up with friends from Norway for a week long road trip.


I think the lack of blogging for this month could partially be attributed to the fact that we had two new walkers in the household making things significantly more chaotic. ;-) Jason and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary and enjoyed an evening out on the town just us.


Madi started at her new preschool this month and we adjusted to the routine of taking her to school and picking her up. We also had another weekend away and visited Ganja. I continued to fail in my blogging (a trend that you'll notice carried the remainder of the year) so a September Wrap-up was in order once again.


We got into a routine of school and after school activities and the time passed quickly. Madi celebrated Halloween the week before and we took a trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the actual holiday.


I caught up on blogging for the month of October - ha! We also attended our first ball - the Marine Corps Ball - and enjoyed getting fancy for an evening. We spent the US Thanksgiving holiday and my birthday in Phuket, Thailand enjoying the sun, but battling hand, foot, and mouth disease for half the trip. #goodtimes We had some precious family pictures and video taken (thankfully before the sickness set in). I moved from bi-monthly to once-a-month wrap-ups only getting a November Wrap-up done, yikes!


We were blessed to have my mom visiting basically the entire month. She arrived shortly after we returned from Phuket (and fortunately weren't contagious anymore!) The month was filled with sleepovers, gingerbread houses, safaris, games, and sightseeing in Baku. We had a relaxing and fun Christmas.

Goodbye 2016 and here's to a fabulous 2017! Happy New Year!

Highlights for 2015 2014


Thursday, December 29, 2016

December - That's a Monthly Wrap-up

In keeping with my recent trend of Monthly Wrap-ups, we've got December ready. Hopefully I get back on the blogging wagon in January and can at least so bi-monthly updates??

1. Green City ladies Christmas dinner just after we returned from our trip to Thailand.
2. A Mommy-Madi date with Starbucks
3. How does she look so grown up?!
4. Ready and prepared for my mom to arrive at the beginning of the month!
6. I helped host a baby shower for a sweet friend.
7. Madi was less-than-impressive in her school play. :-/
8. But she perked up for Santa!
9. Fun trip to Wonderland and gift exchanging with her BFF before they left for Christmas

1. Playgroup with the twins and Grandma!
2. Night time shenanigans.
3. And cat shenanigans. Anyone in Baku want a cat?!
4. Madi loved playing in the snow and making small snowballs with the modest dusting we had.
5. We got a night off to attend the BBG ball and thanks to Grandma we got to spend the night at a hotel!
6. Evy and Daddy laughs.
7. Seriously though - anyone want a cat? We'll keep the car seat.
8. Evy starting on her daily chores. ;-)
9. We had a rough day in the middle of the month - my ATM card got stuck, the wall fixture burst and water was pouring into the bathroom, the boiler leaked and put water all over the garage and living room, and then Olivia accidentally had egg white and we got to take a trip to the emergency room. Fortunately she didn't have a full anaphylactic reaction, but it was a comically horrific day.

1. Exploring the Christmas markets in Fountain Square.
2. All three girls love the Ferris Wheel!
3. A Starbucks stop to warm up and snack on popcorn.
4. Grandma and Madi all smiles shopping together!
5. Papa Jeff finally arrived and the girls were excited to see him!
6. Madi teaching Evy animal sounds.
7. & 8. New bathrobes. :-)
9. Movie time as Madi introduces Papa Jeff to Brave.

The day after Papa Jeff arrived we had tickets for the circus. It was quite the experience and the girls loved seeing the animals. They were so excited!

Jason was able to take the Monday after Christmas off and we spent it exploring Baku. We started with a traditional Azeri breakfast in Old City followed by a visit to the Maiden Tower. Afterwards we walked around Fountain Square and the Boulevard. It was a long day, but a fun one!

We made sure to visit Wonderland, the indoor play area, while Grandma and Papa Jeff were here. All three girls enjoyed climbing around and I learned it's best to try and get a group photo in the beginning rather than wait until the end.

It's been an amazing, but far-too-quick December and we aren't looking forward to having to say our goodbyes to Grandma and Papa Jeff in just a few days. We're so thankful they've been able to visit and I think we've done a pretty good job keeping them busy and entertained. ;-)


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Card 2016

I'm going to be honest - I dropped the ball on Christmas cards. I had full intentions of sending a "We've Moved" postcard. I designed it, had the addresses ready, and then ??? And then next thing I knew it was Christmas card time and I was coming up blank. I wasn't even going to send one and then my OCD kicked in and the idea of having a missing year of Christmas cards now that we have littles motivated me to get on it even though they will be incredibly late. 

As usual the cards were designed by me and I enjoyed making them (I use Adobe Illustrator). I decided to try a different printing company this year only because they offered a mail service that allowed me to not burden my mom with the task of stuffing and sending them since we didn't go back to the US for Christmas. The only catch is they only send US domestic so my mom will be sending a handful of them after they arrive so they'll be even more late (sorry!). Hopefully the quality is still good, but next year I will be more on top of it! (The blank portion on the back is for the addresses since it's a postcard mailing.)

Past Christmas cards: 2011 2012 (apparently we skipped this year since we had just moved to Norway and didn't have our stuff yet, but we sent a "We've Moved" in the new year) 2013 2014 2015


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas in Baku 2016

We had a wonderful Christmas weekend! We've been fortunate to have my mom here for most of December and her husband Jeff joined us a few days before Christmas. It was wonderful spending the weekend with them and the girls have been having so much fun with them.

We got our tree setup and all the presents (gratefully wrapped by Papa Jeff!) arranged the night before Christmas (to avoid cat and toddler destruction).  Jason and I stuck to the rule of four with the gifts and I'm glad. It made shopping easier and manageable. :-) There are some other traditions we would like to start in future years, but I've found it to be a bit challenging being overseas. 

We made our big meal on Christmas Eve, which included a honey baked ham brought from America and homemade blueberry and pumpkin pie. I was pretty dang proud of being able to make that period, but I also found a way to make it egg-free. #winning  

And... it's basically impossible to get a good picture at this stage with our littles. So we will settle for the in-focus, but Madi sticking her tongue out option. #atleastwearealllooking ;-)

Sunday morning we made breakfast and enjoyed watching the girls open their gifts and start playing with them. After the girls' naps we got dressed up and headed to a Christmas brunch at the Hyatt. It was nice to have a meal made for us and the girls were adorable in their dresses from Grandma and Papa Jeff. 

 We hope you had a very Merry Christmas from the Stingerie fam! 


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Swimming and Tennis and Football, Oh My

We kind of went a little crazy this fall in terms of extracurricular activities for Madi (at least in my opinion). They've all finished now and I have to say it's a nice break to not be shuffling to her activities regularly (and I can't imagine the craziness that will happen when all three are involved in extracurriculars!)

Masi had swimming on Mondays, tennis on Thursdays, and football (soccer) on Saturdays. She enjoyed all of them and had good/bad days of course, but we are trying to narrow down where she should focus in the spring because I don't think we want to have her doing all three activities again unless she chooses that.


This was definitely our most challenging extracurricular activity, most likely because I think I encouraged her to do it. She went from barely wanting to be in the water over the summer to spending hours there so I wanted her to get some basic lessons so she'd be more comfortable and it would be easier to take all the girls to the pool. She's improved dramatically in terms of her stamina in the water, holding her breath, kicking her legs and moving her arms, and jumping in the water. I'm hoping that she chooses to continue with lessons, but I've decided not to push if she says she doesn't want to continue them. 


I have to admit we were both a bit skeptical when we thought about a 3 year old playing tennis. However, she went from missing the ball entirely to actually being able to hit it sometimes off of a bounce! Her teacher was incredibly patient and good with the students and the sessions were small (only three kids) so more manageable and one-on-one. 

Football (Soccer)

We were disappointed to find out there were no English-speaking football teams for Madi's age and so we decided to start one ourselves! We called the team Baku Blasters and held practice every Saturday for kids ages 3-6 years at the football pitch in our compound. We had anywhere from just a couple up to 8 kids every Saturday and Jason worked really hard to prepare fun drills and games for the kids to play each weeks. The twins tagged along as well, but towards the end of the season it was next to impossible to keep them off the field since they wanted to participate as well! We are hoping to organize the Baku Blasters again in the spring. 


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Evelyn and Olivia: 17 Months

You girls are just so much fun and your personalities are coming out in so many fun (and sometimes challenging) ways. It was a tough month with you both contracting a pretty brutal case of hand, foot, and mouth either in Baku before our trip to Thailand or soon after we arrived in Thailand (there's a 3-6 day period before symptoms show so we aren't sure where you got it). You had a fun time in Thailand though and have been enjoying having Grandma here since the beginning of December!

- Both of you love spinning in circles. Evy also loves dancing, but appears to have inherited our lack of rythm as she just kind of waddles side to side and flaps her arms. It's still pretty adorable.
- We sing a few praise and worship and nursery rhyme songs every night before bedtime and Evy has started bobbing her head and mouthing sounds that I swear almost sound like the words while we are singing.
- Evy has started saying "Peas" for "Please" and Liv has a few times, but prefers to just softly grunt and make a give-me motion with her hands.
- Both girls are starting to say "bye bye" and Liv has even started to say "Hi Daddy", "Bye Daddy", and "Hi Momma"
- We've gotten a couple more teeth this month. Just a couple left and you'll be finished! I need to count, but I'm afraid of getting bit - ha!
- Both of you are mastering the stairs and don't like to crawl up them anymore and prefer to just hold our hands or go solo and use the handrail. This has greatly increased trying to get from the third floor (bedrooms) down to the first floor (kitchen and living) and vice versa. Thankfully your dad has the patience to walk with you. ;-)
- You both love to give kisses and hugs to Daddy, Mommy, and especially big sister. You also have loved giving them to Grandma since she's been here.

Dear Evy,
You are so friendly and don't typically mind when strangers pick you up. You also will walk up to people and raise your arms to be picked up. You are still showing your kindness by helping bring toys to your sisters and seem to be the mediator. Except for when you grab a toy and run off. ;-) You love stuffed animals so much and snatched a Mickey Mouse one that Grandma brought and haven't let him go since. You also really love doing the hot dog dance at the end of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You are quick to give kisses and hugs and have shown us you have a bit of a sweet tooth. When you don't get your way you are very vocal about it and we are starting to see sassy toddler behavior in both you and Liv. You and Madi love to laugh together and you love to be chased. We typically run circles around the living room every evening chasing you. You are such a blessing and wonderful part of our family!

Dear Liv,
You are still our snuggle bug, but you've started showing your sassy side as well. You know what you want and like to say "no" but shaking your head and making an "unh" sound indicating you don't want it (whether it's food, toy, drink, etc.) You also love to be chased, but instead of running away you start to run and then turn and run towards us and sit down to be tickled and laugh. You still have eyes only for your panda bear and have all three sleeping with you nightly. You still call both cats "ZoZa" or "ZoZo" and love to say "meow" whenever you see a cat in books, movies, etc. You are a bit more calm than your sisters usually and will play peacefully solo for a decent bit of time. You don't like it when I leave the house and you've started calling me Daddy, but then quickly switch to Mommy after I tickle you and say "I am your Mommy!". We love having you in our family and you make us laugh with your sass.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Family Photos in Phuket 2016

The second full day of our trip to Phuket we scheduled a family photo session for the morning at our hotel. It was still a bit hot for my taste, but convenient to have them taken without having to travel somewhere and fortunately it was before the twins started to show symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Our photographer, Poom, had been recommended by a friend here in Baku. He was incredibly patient and great with the girls.

Here are just a few of my favorites, but you can see all of them on my Facebook album here.

Poom's assistant Surajee also put together a sweet video from our photo shoot. Honestly, I'm surprised we got any photos at all because these girls do not stay still for long - ha!

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