wherever you go


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Scotland

I think we got a pretty good glimpse of Scotland in the two weeks we were there. Miraculously, it didn’t rain very much at all, and our day trips included seeing Lochness, St. Andrews, Fort William, Mallaig (on the western coast), Glen Coe and the Rannoch moor, Rosslyn chapel, Melrose Abbey, Stirling Castle, Alnwick Castle, the Cairngorms National Park, and Edinburgh Castle. Highlands, lowlands, west coast, east coast, and even a little trip across the border into England!

Edinburgh was a great location to have as a home base. We walked (and walked and walked and..) everywhere. A few of my toes were unenthusiastic about all the walking, and a couple of them are just now recovering. Stephen’s suggestion: wear sneakers – real sneakers (aka – athletic shoes or trainers). Not that I could bring myself to wear them with my skinny jeans. Ha! I was wearing little canvas shoes, not something crazy.

But that reminds me: Jeans! I wore jeans the whole time and I loved it. There was one day it got a little warm, but otherwise I was happy in jeans, a long sleeved shirt and a light scarf. Ahhh….loved it. I miss wearing scarves.

Here is a quick run down of the highlights:
– bus trip to Rosslyn chapel, Melrose Abbey, and Alnwick castle with my mom and her friend
– bus trip to Inverness, Lochness, Glen Coe, Rannoch moor, and the highlands with Stephen
– day trip to Stirling Castle
– walked up to the Edinburgh castle
– trip to Saint Andrews to see friends and we had lunch at Anstruther Fish Bar
– Stephen and I walked for 1 1/2 – 2 hours to find the restaurant where we had our anniversary dinner. It took us 20 minutes to walk home.
– day trip to take a ride on the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig
– the house we stayed in was a perfect location, beautiful, and I felt right at home

I’ll spread the pictures and stories out over a few posts.

After all our fun in Scotland, Stephen had to go back to work, and the kids and I came with the Grandparents to Pennsylvania. We have been visiting family, enjoying thunderstorms, and I can drive!! Somehow, I haven’t been to Target yet, but give me a day or two…

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– Edinburgh castle –

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Bahrain

We stayed at three different locations for our three weekends in Bahrain.

The first was located right beside the yacht club where Stephen’s lessons took place.  It wasn’t close to anything else, but it with restaurants, a beach, pool, and room service why go anywhere?!  We had a smaller room: bedroom and living area combined, bathroom, and a balcony. The balcony looked into the marina, and a big yacht was right in front of us.  While Emery napped, Myka and I would read books, eat snacks, and drink iced tea (all which we brought with us to save on cost) on the balcony while we watched them clean and ready the yacht to go out.  Jet skis would zoom around, and the kids would wave at the riders.  The balcony got afternoon sun and was Hot! I would pick a different location next time.  It took a short walk to get to the beach and restaurants.  The kids loved the little beach area, but Myka was a little worried about the small crabs in most of the tiny sea shells. It was entertaining to watch them crawl about though!

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The second place we stayed was attached to a mall, so I had a completely different packing list.  There was a pool, and the kids loved the play area beside the breakfast buffet.  We did some shopping and besides one Major Meltdown (I think it was the worst fit Myka has ever had…and in public too.  And Emery joined in.  Lovely. but besides that…) the kids did really well!  I got almost everything on my list! This hotel was so comfortable and had a large kitchen area.  Because the other two places we stayed at had beaches and lots of outside activities, we will probably stay at this location if we visit during the summer because we will want to be inside where it’s cooler!

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And the third place we stayed was back on the beach!  It so happened that some friends were going the same weekend, much to my children’s overwhelming joy, and it made this weekend so enjoyable!  It cost more than the other two places, but it is a beautiful resort.  We had a spacious room with the bedroom and bathroom separated from the living room and dinning area.  The living room and bedroom had french doors which opened onto a patio, and we could walk right out to the pool and beach from there.  It was shaded nicely and Myka and I enjoyed our afternoon outside on the porch while Emery napped.  The pool had perfect areas for children with slight grading with plenty of water about 1 1/2 feet deep. There was also a splash area specifically for small kids.  The service was impressive: drinks brought to you on the beach, towels laid out on your pool chair… We had a rough time at dinner the one night (really slow service. Just getting our drinks took 45 minutes!), but other than that they were very attentive.

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You never know what you might see along the way…


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It’s a girl!

Myka was right.  The boys will now be out numbered.  I am so excited to start getting ready for another girl!

 

Here are some pictures and happenings from April.  First, some randomness:

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A budding photographer:

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I made Myka a skirt!

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And the last of a set of four plastic cups from Target cracked.  I loved them.  White on the outside, bright and colorful on the inside – it’s the simple things that make me happy.

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We played outside with friends:

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(Can you see what Emery is looking at?  A digger.  He loves scooping, digging, machines, trucks….)

 

And we went to Bahrain THREE times!  The packing and unpacking and prepping for each weekend trip was a little crazy, but it was a lot of fun.  Stephen took sailing lessons and the kids and I enjoyed the hotels.  We stayed at three different places; so much fun!  I’m putting together a post about the three hotels we stayed in, and there will be more pictures with that one.

 


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Flying With Young Children

I am sitting by a warm fire, Myka is reading a book near by, and Emery is napping in his room. Being in Pennsylvania is wonderful. I really miss Stephen, and I am glad it will only be a week until he is here too. Grandparents are amazing and I think those Grandmas actually Enjoy changing diapers! (At least, I’m going to continue pretending they do…) There is snow outside, we went to church this morning, and we will have a relaxing football filled afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our journey here was long. So very long. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t horrible either. I kept a list of the things we used or that I wished we had with us, so I could pack better next time. It’s been helpful to look back over those notes and think about what went well and what I want to do differently.

This was our itinerary:
6:30 pm on Thursday – 1 hour drive to airport
10:00 pm – 2 1/2 hour flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
8 hour layover in Jeddah
8:30 am on Friday – 13 1/2 hour flight to Dulles (Washington DC)
2 hour drive to our home away from home – the Grandparent’s house
6:00 pm – arrive!

The two hour time span we gave ourselves to get checked into our flight, through security, and to our gate worked really well. We didn’t have much time just sitting and waiting, but I didn’t feel rushed. We realized on the drive to the airport that the stroller was left at home. It was the first thing I wished we had! Emery wanted to run all the time and everywhere. We had two small suitcase type of carry-ons, a diaper bag, and my mom had a backpack. With the stroller we could have hung the diaper bag on the handles, one person would have pushed the stroller, and the other pulled the two carry ons. With Emery, containment is critical. I had a wrap, but I didn’t take the time to try it. Plus, he is super heavy. Even with the added challenge of keeping Emery with us, this first part of the trip went smoothly.

On our first flight we used crayons, notebooks, books, small toy cars, rice cakes, sippy cups for each child, two Ipads for movies, headphones for each child, and pretzels. I was Sure the kids would fall asleep on this flight. They didn’t. Not a bit. They didn’t even act tired. So they were quite tired, though in denial, when we got to Jeddah.

I over packed in preparation for our long, overnight layover in Jeddah. I felt like I was in limbo there. Maybe purgatory… We had to get our checked bags, so we had all of our luggage. We couldn’t check in until four hours before take off. We were stuck in the waiting area at the check in gates until 4:30 am, and I wasn’t going to move sleeping kids even if I could go somewhere nicer at that point. The seats were uncomfortable, the announcements were loud, and no one got a lot of sleep. Stephen suggested that we take our little play tent from Ikea. Best. Idea. Ever. The kids didn’t go to sleep in it. We tried that for about 45 minutes, but they just giggled and wiggled and did not sleep. We had to hold them and cuddle, and then they fell asleep. We carefully laid them in the tent. I had Myka and Emery’s blankets plus a couple extra ones. I used an Iphone and an Ipad to play white noise (rain, actually) to help block out all the other noises and keep them asleep as long as possible. They slept from 2:15 am until almost 6:00 am. I checked in at 5:30 while everyone else was sleeping. (Is it important for gate agents to see the person they are checking in? I’m glad they let the children sleep anyway.) Then an employee of Saudia Airlines came over to ask us why we were there for so long. They noticed we were there for a while and thought we had missed our flight or something. They ended up inviting us to the first class lounge, and we were escorted through security.

The most important part of the lounge: Clean Bathrooms! with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap! My mom was pretty disappointed in the bathrooms in the main part of the airport. They also had a ton of food and drinks. Too bad we were too tired to eat or drink any of it. That still makes me feel disappointed. I like free things. We were only there for about an hour, but Myka and my mom got some more sleep. We then struggled with Emery to the gate and headed toward the plane. This is when I Really should have put him in the wrap. And Myka was so tired; she was crying and whining a lot.

Sometimes, Myka has the worst timing. But really it’s my fault. I should have taken her to the bathroom in the lounge. As we exit security and are waiting in a crowded room to board the bus that will take us to the plane, Myka announces that she has to go to the bathroom. Before I can find out if there is one I can get to without going through security again, we start moving toward the busses. But actually we just all move to another room to wait for the bus. When I see that the bus is filling up and we may end up waiting for another one, I ask an employee if we could possible get on the first bus (I apologize to everyone we butted in front of). After much fumbling of passports we get on the bus, and then the bus gets to the airplane, but then we sit. And sit. And wait. And good golly could we just get on the plane already! Finally they open the doors and my mom and Myka hurry ahead. Now I have the two suitcases and Emery. I just don’t have enough hands. A very nice person helps me get my bags off the bus and onto the tarmac. It would have been ok if Emery could have managed the stairs on his own, but the height bothers him, so he was barely crawling up them. Until some other lovely people help me get my bags up the stairs. And then another lady carries my one bag through the airplane to my seat. Thank you, all you wonderful people. I can’t thank you enough, but I promise to help others whenever I can. When I have it together. Whenever that happens… Anyway, Myka got to the bathroom, we all got to our seats, and we were settled and ready for our long flight.

The kids didn’t sleep much on this flight either. Emery took two naps and Myka took one. They watched movies on the seat back tvs and played games on the Ipad. They each had a little backpack with things to play with, and Emery especially liked the small plastic animals Grandma Becky brought for him. Myka had many fits and mini melt downs before she finally slept at 3:30 pm. With a delay before take off, it was a good fourteen hours on the plane. That is a long time, and they did pretty well considering the circumstances. Having my mom with me was a life saver. I don’t know how I would do it without another person along to help. The three of us wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. How do people do this on their own?!

We were all shattered by the time we got to Dulles, but so glad to be back in the US. It didn’t take us long to get through customs, and we were soon being picked up by Grandpa Sands and heading towards a home and bed. It was pretty cold out, but it was great to see snow! We had the kids coats ready, but the car was warm and we got them inside quickly. I kinda appreciated the briskness in the air. Haha! They both fell sleep on the ride home. Myka didn’t ever really wake up when we got to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Grandma Gail held her, and she would stir, whine, and go back to sleep. Emery woke up all cheery and talkative, however. He had lots of questions. “What’s this? Oh. Chatter chatter. Plane! Laugh! Snow! Chatter…” He was charming.

Things I Will Do Differently:
– I always think I will freshen up at some point on these long flights, but visiting the bathroom on the airplane never makes me feel ‘fresh’. But I could have used a comb. I had one along, but it was in one of the bigger carry ons and was up in the overhead compartment. I didn’t get those down unless I absolutely had to. Next time I will definitely pack less, even with the long lay over. I had tons of snacks and hardly used any of them. Lots of activities, but we just stuck to the ones in the kids small backpacks. So we will carry less next time.

– I like the idea of carrying extra sets of clothes for an emergency or big mess, but I don’t think I’ve ever used the extra clothes I tote around. I realize this is like insurance.. The one time I don’t have extra clothes someone will throw up or spill a drink all over themselves. I find this whole train of thought annoying.

– Bring the stroller.

– Bring more books. When we were waiting for take off or landing and couldn’t have electronics out, books kept the children’s attention well. We borrowed some children’s books from a friend (a great idea!) and the new-to-us books really kept them quiet and still.

– I won’t worry about the kids sleeping or not sleeping. Our first night here they slept great, and we are pretty much on a normal schedule. I’m making that statement a little early; sometimes that jet lag hits a couple days after traveling. We will see how the week plays out, but so far so good.

– Be patient. Poor Myka. She was so very tired and was bursting into tears about everything and nothing. Maybe I should have put her in the wrap… I was always hurrying her along, but we were never late for anything. I could have been more patient.

Thinking about what I want to do differently makes me excited about doing it again. Is that crazy? Talk to me in six weeks, right before we head back, and see how I’m doing!

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New Friends and a New Year

January 1st is being overshadowed by our eminent travels.  I haven’t really thought about it being a new year or taken the time to shake off the old and dream about the new.  Once I am in Pennsylvania relaxing with family I’ll sit down to clarify my ideas about how I want this new year to be.  I’ll start by looking ahead and thinking about how I want life to be (or how I want Me to be..) in five or ten years; then I’ll back up and figure out the day-to-day practices and yearly traditions that get us there.

For now I’m packing and thinking about dealing with flights and layovers with my two kids.  I am So Incredibly Thankful for my mom and that she is traveling with us!  As it gets closer and I figure out more ways to deal with the challenges I’m feeling more at ease about the whole thing.  Will I ever be able to travel without it being a ‘learning experience’?

In between bits of packing we are still going outside and playing with friends.  We had a New Years Eve dinner last night with four other families here.  It is so good to have friends here that we can get together with, and all our children played so well together (with a few minor fits thrown in just to keep things interesting).  One family just arrived here a couple weeks ago, and another will be moving back to the US in a month.  It’s interesting forming friendships with all this coming and going.

Here are some pictures from our fun outside today:

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While I was in the Pacific Northwest I:

I’m working on a post about our last month and realized that this needed to be its own post. Here is a list things I did during my exciting, wonderful trip to Washington and Oregon.

While I was in the Pacific Northwest I:
– spent time with my god-parents – best people ever and you wish you had such amazing people in your life because they do things like bring an electric blanket to your hotel room and make it all cozy so when you go to sleep in a bed after traveling for 24 hours it is delightful, warm, and wonderful…I love them!
– renewed my drivers license. Who doesn’t want to go to the DMV while in town?! Actually, both my calls to the department of licensing and my visit there were hassle free and people were very helpful. It was quite painless.
– rented a car. Not so painless. Not only is it expensive, but they asked me questions like what my phone number was. That may seem like a reasonable question, but when you are just arriving from overseas, don’t have a local number, your phone doesn’t work because it’s from Saudi Arabia, and you don’t really have any other options then it is not an easy question.
– bought a SIM card for my phone. Now I have a working phone number in the US.
– had a girls night out just like old times
– had a play date just like old times except I didn’t actually have kids with me…
– drove myself from the Tri-Cities to Portland. Driving was so wonderful! It’s freeing and empowering to be able to go where you want when you want. I deal pretty when with the restrictions here, and don’t actually want to drive with these crazy people, but the ‘no women driving’ rule is just ridiculous. The drivers in Portland were so kind and gracious! They made room to let you into traffic. They drove close to the speed limit and didn’t crowd each other, so traffic continued at a good pace. They waited fairly patiently while stuck behind an accident for FOUR HOURS. They did. They are from Portland. I am from Saudi Arabia right now and honked my horn furiously the whole time. Just kidding. I was a little whiney but didn’t honk my horn even once. It was the evening before my flight home, and I really wished I was in bed!
– shopped and shopped and shopped! I didn’t really buy that many things, but the group of friends I was meeting in Portland were specifically getting together to do some shopping at the outlets there. On the way to the US I put my things in a carry on sized bag and put that inside a larger suitcase. Then I had the whole larger suitcase to put things in for the trip back. I still had lots of room, but I’m happy with what I purchases. I bought clothes for the kids, a couple clothing items for me, a bunch of books for the kids, food coloring, makeup, and fabric. I’m already starting my list of things I’d like to get while I’m home in January. It’s not that you can’t get things here; there are so many stores, malls, things to buy. But they either aren’t the quality I want or I don’t know the brands so I don’t know if they are the quality I want. And there are some things I just can’t find.
– I SLEPT. The best bed I slept in was at my god-parents and that lovely electric blanket was there. It was a sleep number bed and I may have to get one of those someday because that bed was a cocoon of loveliness. I want to live there.
– I wore pants, long sleeves, jackets, shoes that weren’t flip flops, and scarves. I loved it. I took my knee high boots along, but it wasn’t quite cold enough for those. I’m looking forward to wearing them in January in Pennsylvania. I enjoyed the brisk temperatures, the rain, and the mist. It was sunny part of the time and seeing the fields of growing things, things thriving, whether it was cows or grass or trees or crops it was revitalizing. I’ve missed seeing things growing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my dear husband for being so thoughtful, arranging this trip for me, and making me go.