It’s official: We’re allowed to stay in the Czech Republic through August! A lot of people have asked us what the process of being allowed to live long-term in Prague looks like, and while I’m not a superstitious person I wanted to wait until everything was completely finalized before writing much about it. I’m happy to say that day has come, and we have officially been approved for our first long-stay visa here in the Czech Republic!
Planning to move our family overseas has had its share of challenges. The whole “what am I going to do for work?” thing was certainly no small decision to maneuver, but you might be surprised at what else was high on the list: Figuring out what is required when moving your pet to a foreign country.
When Andy and I first learned we would be going to Prague for my cute little best friend’s wedding, the biggest point of stress was how in the world would our seven-month-old Lucy do on a plane for that long. How she would make the adjustment to a timezone six hours ahead was a close runner up. Having made many an international trip as a childless person, I know what people are thinking the minute they see a baby on your hip and to some degree I can sympathise. However, babies are people too and you can’t just board them or stick them in a cage in the luggage compartment when you need to travel so we all must learn to have a little more patience in public spaces [end mini rant].
I scoured the internet for any tips or product recommendations I could get and thought through every worst-case-scenario I could imagine, but there is just no way to anticipate all the things you may find yourself needing. My biggest piece of advice for parents traveling internationally is to stay relaxed, roll with the punches, and try to channel your inner MacGuyver. Difficult situations will arise (like forgetting a formula scoop from the land of ounces on a train ride through the central european countryside) but you will live to laugh at yourself. Getting tense and critical of your partner will only make things worse. Your baby will feed off of that negative energy so it’s best to just try to stay positive and do what you can with what you have.
Ask ten traveling parents for a list of their essentials and you will get 10 different lists, but these were the things we found most helpful:
1. Ergo Baby Carrier: This is one of our favorite purchases period, but it was espcially useful on those long flights. We tried every possible sleeping arrangement we could with her but putting her in the carrier and letting her sleep against our chest was by far the most successful. We heard a lot of good things about the bulkhead bassinet, but Lucy would only sleep for 10 minutes at a time without waking up either from the bathroom line noise or someone bumping into the bulkhead itself. We spent a lot of time standing in the back of the plane bouncing her so she would stay asleep. The hood kept the little Irish grandmothers at bay who just loved to get right in her face and talk very, very loudly. My other favorite feature is the zipper pocket. When you’re wearing your baby on your chest you can keep all the things you need quick access to in the pocket!
The carrier also came in handy when Lucy had just had enough of her stroller (this happens quite often). It can be worn on your chest (recommended until your wee one has excellent head control) or on your back and is very comfortable. Most of the baby’s weight is on your hips so you don’t have all the pulling on your shoulders like you do with the more popular Bjorn. They do have an insert for newborns, but I liked the Moby Wrap best when Lucy was itty bitty. There are a few different models but I chose the organic because the fabric was so soft. We bought ours at Sprout Soup but they can be found at Buy Buy Baby or numerous online sources.
2. Teething Bling Necklace: Lucy LOVED to play with this necklace. It kept her entertained in her carrier so I could keep my hands free for toting luggage or showing our travel documents. I ordered mine on Amazon.
3. Piyo Piyo 360 Bottle: Words cannot express how much I LOVE this bottle. Lucy was not one for reclining once she could sit up, so bottle feeding became a real struggle around five months. This bottle gave her (and me!) some freedom to feed herself. The handles are a great size for tiny grips and the 360 straw meant she didn’t have to tip the bottle for drinking. The straw is flexible and there is a weight at the end so no matter what position your little one is in, it works. Genius. They are made by a Japanese company and I found ours on Zulily, but All Modern carries them all the time. Because TSA and their respective international counterparts are a giant pain in the tushie, if you are bottle feeding your infant I recommend putting the bulk of your formula in your main suitcase (still sealed) and bringing individual packets of formula on board. We used Enfamil Individual Packets and they came premeasured for 4oz so it was easy to just fill the bottle with water and pour these in. It also eliminated the need for a scoop which can be tricky business on a bumpy airplane.
4. Sophie: This toy is over fifty years old and there is a reason she’s been around that long. The design is genius. Babies LOVE her. Your fellow passengers may not love her squeaking feature, but it has to be preferable to a crying baby, right?
5. City Mini Stroller: We absolutely love this stroller. It has a smaller footprint than most sturdy strollers and it was super easy to get on and off of public transit. In some cities you are required to fold your stroller before boarding busses/trains/subways. The City Mini has a handle on the seat (where your baby’s bum goes) where all you have to do is pull up and the stroller collapses. No extra buttons or levers, just pull up and walk away. We bought ours locallyat Petit Green and they were so helpful. You can also find them online.
6. Hunger Games Series Audio Books: I had already read the series, but wanted something to keep me entertained while I was bouncing Lucy to sleep in the aisles of the plane. Watching a movie wasn’t an option because she wouldn’t sleep very long if I was sitting and music just wasn’t keeping my attention. An audiobook was a perfect fit and Hunger Games is easy to follow and fast paced.
7.Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water: This is the one thing we DIDN’T bring and I wish we would have. Lu’s tummy was very unsettled after all that traveling and once we actually arrived in Prague she had painful gas issues that kept her from sleeping very soundly. Luckily our hosts had friends with babies who could make recommendations because we would have been lost trying to hunt this down in another language. Also in the Czech Republic all medications must be purchased from a pharmacist so we couldn’t peruse shelves of products to look for it. Mommy’s Bliss brand seems to work the best for Lucy. We’ve used it since she was a newborn.
8. Secure a Toy: These are great for keeping your twenty-dollar Sophie secured to the stroller or high chair. Once a baby can throw an object, a baby will throw an object so these will save your sanity and your back.
***Honorable Mention: An iPhone. My phone is my favorite baby distracting tool of all 🙂
It seems like every September since your mama and I got married has been extremely busy, and this September is no different. This particular September is one that we have been both looking forward to and dreading for quite some time: your first international trip.
Even before you were born, we knew that we would be taking the trip to Prague to see your mamas best friend Tasci get married. We had plenty of time to get prepared for the trip, but I don’t think any amount of time could have fully prepared us for the ups and downs, the highs and lows, of traveling with an eight month old.
Fortunately, we got most of the “lows” out of the way in the first 48 hours. And really, none of it was your fault. For an eight month old you really handled things about as well as you could. Unfortunatley, air travel just isn’t the mode of transportation best suited for any kids, even ones much older than you. Our flights to the Czech Republic met us with delay after delay after delay. Fortunately, we never missed a connection, but all that waiting definitely took its toll on your limited patience.
Gadgets to keep the adults entertained, Owl Pacino to keep Lucy entertained.
Jet lag has never been much of a problem for me in my limited travel experience, so I naively assumed getting you on schedule would be a simple matter of keeping you awake for that first day, exhausting you thoroughly, and then putting you down to sleep when your “new evening” came. That first day in Prague, however, was quite an adventure. You simpley refused — refused! — to sleep. Even after having been awake for 36 hours with no more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time between, any attempts to put you to bed were met with resolute defiance and screaming. Around midnight, we officially gave up; You spent the following six hours in a carrier, bouncing up in down in the dark living room of a house in the suburbs of Prague, as your papa listened to all of the mix albums loaded up on his iPod.
Apparently, that one night of unrest was all you needed. The following day, and the subsequent two weeks, you were an absolute delight and put up with all of our travels. From Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge to Wenceslas Square and the metro, you were happy just about anywhere we went and were content to just sit and look at everything there was to see. And I think the attention that everyone in the restaurants and shops paid you didn’t hurt, either. There’s nothing European shopowners love more than a cute baby!
The trip back went a little smoother — I think we learned a lot on the trip out there, but I’m also sure you learned to be a lot more patient with us as we continued our travels. After our flight landed in New York, we were approached by many of the other passengers on the plane who complimented us on what a sweet little girl we had! Usually, being stuck with a baby on an international flight would be considered one of the worst things in the world, but you somehow managed to charm everyone on that flight.
Slowly but surely, your incoherant babbling is transitioning into what sounds like real words, and it’s kind of amazing. People talk about babies “first words,” but I have no idea in the world how we’re supposed to know exactly when you’ve gotten that first word out. We can tell that with you, it’s going to be something of a continuum, continually practicing until you officially get it perfect. You’re just about there with “mama.” Whenever you see your mama, you start whispering “ma” with varying degrees of silence between them. With a little coaxing, we can get you to string a couple together to get it closer to an actual “mama.”
You’ve got a little ways to go with my name, though. I have no complaints — there’s nothing more amazing than walking into a room, seeing a little eight month old girl turn to you and with a big smile yell “bopbop!”
I have to be honest, though, this past month hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Each day, we can see you getting closer and closer to full-on crawling, and I think that nearly realized freedom has awakened a strong desire in you to explore. Putting you down to sleep used to be a simple matter of turning on your musical lamb, setting you down in your crib, and closing the curtains. This past month, though, things have gotten a lot more complex. Getting you to admit defeat and shut your eyes at the end of the day often requires giving you a bottle to sleep with and many, many butt pats while you mumble and squirm. Really, though, once you do get to sleep we can usually count on you to sleep soundly until at least 5am, which is about all we can ask. Even when you refuse to go back to sleep at 5 or 6 in the morning, you’re pretty happy and cheerful. How you do that without coffee is beyond me.
Keep it up, little one. Soon you’ll be crawling, and then walking, and then there will be no stopping you.
All my love,
Now that we’ve been home for a couple weeks, we are starting to look through our photos from our recent trip to Prague. Some days we took iPhone photos, some days we took the point and shoot along, and a couple days I ventured into the city with my precious D700. I told Andy at the beginning of the trip it made me sad that I wouldn’t be able to always have my Nikon with me but I can only take care of one baby at a time and leaving Lucy behind just wasn’t as easy :). Below are some of my favorite iPhone captures from Prague and Andy will be posting his very soon.
(All images are taken with the iPhone 4 and processed with the Cross Process App).
About this series: One year ago, January and I took our eight-month-old daughter, packed up a few bags, and headed overseas to attend the wedding of her best friend in Prague. Although the trip was very well photographed and tweeted, the trip left us without enough energy to actually blog about it afterwards. On this, the one year anniversary of our trip, I’m going to finally write about our journey. Enjoy!
Prague. We’re finally here. We started our journey at Columbus International Airport and a mere two flights and sixteen hours later, we’re halfway around the world and ready for two weeks of sightseeing, relaxing, and celebrating as Tasci and Honza get married. Overall the trip went prett well, but it wasn’t without it’s stressful points. We tried to do a pretty job thinking things through and planning the best ways to make international travel with an infant as easy as possible, but we did learn a few lessons along the way.
I’m notoriously nervous about airports. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person in the world who actually shows up a full two hours before flights, as the TSA recommends. The first leg of our trip wasn’t even international, but we still showed up way, way in advance of our 11:50am departure. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that this flight ended up being delayed. The time between flights wasn’t a big deal — we had about five hours to kill once we got to JFK — but Lucy did get a little figety just hanging out in the airport for that long. Fortunately, we had charging cables for our iPhones to keep January and me entertained, and a nice collapsable stroller to keep Lucy happy.
But we did make it to JFK, and with plenty of time to spare to catch the second leg of our flight directly into Prague. The one big piece of advice we received — from numerous people — was that if we were traveling with an infant we had to make sure we got the bulkhead bassinet seats. If you’re unfamiliar with this, I’ll explain; Most large airplanes, as you probably do know if you’ve flown cross-country or internationally, are kind of divided in half with a restrooms in the middle of the plane. Directly behind where the restrooms are is a row of seats with considerably more legroom. There are also bolts and straps on the wall that these seats face where you can mount a small cradle large enough for a baby to sleep in. “That would be amazing!” we thought. “We’ll book a flight that takes off in the evening, put Lucy down to sleep, and by the time we land in Prague she’ll be awake and happy and ready to go!” What they don’t tell you about the bulkhead seats, though, is that throughout the entire flight you will have people waiting to use the restroom leaning up against that wall, waking your kid up after they have been asleep for maybe — maybe — fifteen minutes.
Lucy wasn’t very happy about this, so January and I ended up taking turns with her strapped our chests, standing in the back of the plane. While I wasn’t able to enjoy any of the in-flight entertainment, I did basically see every scene from Bridesmaids playing on one screen or another. I pieced the order of the scenes together in my mind and, let me tell you, that is one confusing movie.
After eight hours of this, we touched down at Airport Prague Ruzyne where our vacation could finally begin. Lucy really was a trooper throughout the whole trip, and while it ultimately took her a day or two to get onto European time, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience travelling with her. A couple of things I would have done differently, however:
- Don’t try to leave late in the day, hoping your baby will sleep the whole flight. Just leave as early in the morning as you can.
- Don’t even bother bringing a book or magazines to read. That’s just not going to happen.
- Did I mention that the bulkhead bassinet was total crap? It was, but that doesn’t mean the seats weren’t awesome. Tons of legroom. So definitley request the bulkhead seats — which they specifically reserve for parents traveling with infants — but don’t expect that your kid is actually going to sleep in that thing.
Some things we did do right, and I absolutely recommend:
- If you have an iPad or iPhone, throw some videos on there. I don’t care if you’re an adamant “my kid will never watch TV” parent, just do it.
- If your infant is of teething age, grab one of these teething necklaces for you. Yes, you. Mom, Dad, I don’t care. Both of you should wear one. With all that change in air pressure, your infant is going to want to chew on things to soothe the ear popping.
- Speaking of ear popping, we did get these EarPlane earplugs for Lucy to wear during takeoff and landing. I’m not totally certain how well they worked, but they’re cheap, so why not do whatever you can to make the flight as painless as possible?
- Formula: If your infant is taking formula, and you aren’t tied to a particular brand for some reason, we had a good experience with these single-serve packets of Enfamil. The TSA, for understandable reasons, won’t let you take opened containers of powder on a plane, so if you don’t have individual packets like this you do stand to waste a lot of formula when you have to leave it behind on the return trip.
- Gate check a good stroller, especially if you’re going to have a layover. You may be able to get a nap in between flights, which will help a lot. We couldn’t be happier with our collapsable, travel friendly Citi Mini Single, for what it’s worth.
- On a related note, get a gate-check stroller bag. I’m about as cheap as they come, and I was a little hesitant about spending the $15, but I’m really glad January talked me into it because if we hadn’t, ours probably would have come out of the flight from JFK to PRG in pieces. $15 very well spent.
Next up, getting onto a European sleep schedule and seeing the sites!
After 2,258 miles of varying degrees of weather, all of which worse than where the journey began, we find ourselves back in our cozy home in Clintonville. While we do miss the warm California climate, it’s definitely nice to be back. As a quick recap, here are a few things we learned along the way.
- In California, it’s quite common to actually see the sun. Every day.
- Bad driving habits in California actually transcend the automobile. Even when walking nobody pays attention to anyone else, and if you aren’t an aggressive walker you’ll never get out of Whole Foods in less than 2 hours.
- Some of the best tasting food can be bought from a truck.
- Running is so much more fun when there’s pretty stuff to look at.
- Churros aren’t nearly as good as you remember them.
- The 405 really is as bad as you’ve heard.
- Satellite TV is the worst idea ever. Ever. I’m looking at you, DirecTV. Horrible.
While we learned a lot about California, we also forgot a lot about Ohio. It’s all come rushing back to us in the past 12 hours:
- In February, socks are never optional. Even for those “quick trips” out to the car.
- Ohio drivers are actually quite impressive.
- In Ohio, it’s actually possible for two people to eat out for less than $40.
- We have so many awesome friends in Columbus.
Thanks to everyone for all the concern over our travels through this last blizzard. We can’t wait to see you all again once this snow melts and we’re able to get out of our house.
While our place in Venice is a bit further away from the beach, we’ve discovered that we’re basically in the heart of the Venice nightlife. Last night, we got our first glimpse into what a Friday night in Venice can be like, and it can be pretty goofy.
Our Friday night was pretty tame — Hong Kong chow mein and long-life beans from Mao’s Kitchen, half an hour in the hot tub, and a DVD screener of Up in the Air, courtesy of one of our neighbors who is “in the industry.” We were asleep by 11:30.
It was a little hot, so we left the window by our bed open as we slept. All the good Venice bars — or at least the popular ones — are within a half a mile of our house, so I was understandably woken up several times by passers-by enjoying their evening. Around 3:30, though, I was woken up by a voice that was very, very close. Just outside the window, in the alley next to our house, I could hear a gentleman talking with a couple of girls he had picked up about the hot tub on our porch. “See it? It’s over there, in the ground. Yeah, with the cover on it.”
That was the extent of the conversation, as they stumbled their way back toward the apartment in the back half of our building. Another hour — and most likely more alcohol — emboldened them to come back for another look. “I’ve been in it, it’s really warm!” said the upstanding young gentleman. “You know, this place isn’t even being used right now.” I could see where this was going. “They rent this place out, and it’s winter. I mean, who wants to come to Venice in the winter?” After another ten minutes of this sort of logic, he finally convinced the girls that they should absolutely climb over the wall and get in that hot tub. This is the point in which I had to make a decision: I could either nip this in the bud right now by turning on the porch lights, or let it play out a little longer and have a little fun. I obviously opted for the later.
Now, to be fair, I’m only making the assumption that these guys were drunk. I would make the initial assertion that anybody awake at 4:30 on a Saturday morning in Venice can’t be too sober. Add to that the fact that they convinced themselves that the house must be empty because “it’s winter.” Yeah. Who would want to go to southern California in the winter? Finally, there’s the state of our porch. It’s far from a mess, but it definitely gives the distinct impression that someone is staying here; One chair has January’s swimsuit draped over it, another has my sweat shirt on it, and the table has Gus’ leash sitting right there. But we’re clearly not talking about the brightest group of people that southern California has to offer.
Once this fine young gentleman convinced the ladies to at least stick their feet in the tub, he began the arduous task of trying to convince them to strip down and get in completely. This did not take long at all for the first girl; I think she had her shirt off before he was even able to finish the sentence. The second girl took was a lot more steadfast in her resolve to not take off her clothes in a strangers hot tub with a guy she just met. What a prude, right?
It was about this time that our brave protagonist decided to call some other friends and tell them to bring wine, and I decided that I had let it play out long enough. To be honest, I was hoping that by flipping on the porch light I would be initiate a frenzy of activity as people scurried to cover themselves and get the hell out as quickly as they could. What I got, however, was the only other possibility: the “deer in the headlights” reaction. As soon as the lights snapped on, three heads snapped immediately toward the door, mouths agape and eyes as big as saucers. Nobody moved for a full ten seconds. I finally had to stick my head out the door and inform them that it was time for them to go home. The gentleman — such a class act — could not get off the porch fast enough as he left the girls to take care of themselves.
This morning I woke up and went for a really good run on the boardwalk. On my way back up to the house, I passed these two lucky ladies on their walk of shame. We made brief eye contact as I offered a nod and an acknowledgement of “ladies.” They quickly turned their eyes down to the ground and continued on their way.
I’m not going to make any apologies for the fact that I’m wearing shorts right now. I’m aware that most of my audience is buried under half a foot of snow right now, but it’s not like I’m responsible for that snow. Look, I feel about about your situation, but I’m not going to pussyfoot around the fact that it is gorgeous here in southern California right now. And I’m not the kind of man who throws the word “gorgeous” around without second guessing himself.
It was all worth it: The five days packed into a car with an anxious border collie, the instant coffee, the frozen tundra of Nebraska and Iowa. They were all worth it to get here. Since arriving Tuesday evening, the sun has been consistantly shining as we’ve been enjoying the 70 degree temperatures. We did have a strange fog roll in from the coast yesterday afternoon, but that settled down over night and I’m back out in the “office” again today. In case you’re interested, here is what my office looks like for the next six weeks.
I feel that I should also report — or perhaps confess — that of our three evenings in Venice, I have visited our local In-N-Out Burger three times. They do have great burgers, but I actually have gotten a bit addicted to their “grilled cheese” sandwich. It’s basically the same as the burger with everything but the meat. Fantastic, and I can at least remotely convince myself that it’s “good for you.” Or at least “better for me.” Right?
The place we’re staying at has turned out to be a pretty good choice. It’s definitely smaller than we’re used to, but it’s set up fairly efficiently so we don’t feel like we’re crammed into a tiny studio, even though we really are. The owners are coming out this weekend to fix a few cosmetic things this weekend, but once that’s taken care of we’ll be sure to get some pictures to post.
Gus is having a really good time. In the picture above, you’ll see a door off to the right; That’s the main door to the apartment, and we generally just leave that open all day. The porch is entirely walled in, so Gus is free to walk from the inside to the porch at his leisure. He typically splits his days evenly between sleeping in the sun outside, tossing his tennis ball around, and barking incessantly at the skateboards he hears rolling by on the sidewalk.
We’re only about six blocks away from the Venice boardwalk and beach, and will probably end up spending a good part of this coming weekend out there. Look for some more pictures Monday, and until then try to stay warm!