Like most children, Lucy has been out of school for the summer. We kept her busy in July with various day camps that her school offers, but we knew that we would need to fill up August with something to keep all of us from going crazy. We’ve done a good bit of travelling since we moved here last year, but haven’t done any travelling within the country, so we decided to spend the time visiting a few cities and villages in the Czech Republic. So the first weekend of August we packed a few bags and caught the train to Loket, a small village on the eastern edge of Bohemia, close to the German border for a few days of relaxing, sightseeing, scootering, and an attempt at canoeing.
We’re in Prague! As you might have guessed, our last six weeks in the United States kind of got away from us and we dropped the ball on the rest of our “How to Blow Up Your Life” series. But make no mistake: Our lives are now officially blown up. The whole story of our last week would be quite long and scattered, so I’m going to share just a few of the highlights of our trip and the first week in our new home. Part one is the part where I wasn’t sure if we were going to actually make it.
I’m going to answer the “why” question first, because it’s the one we’ve been asked most frequently. It’s also the question that I understand the least. Some people ask it because they want to know if there’s a specific reason we’re moving to Prague, and I totally understand that. But some people ask it because they don’t understand why one would want to uproot everything and live in another country. The only answer I have for this later group is, why wouldn’t you want to live here?
In the Spring of 2013—just short of two and a half years ago—January and I made a decision to make a pretty major change in our lives. All of the reasons that went into this decision are kind of complex and hard to explain fully, but we knew that for us this change was something important to us and something worth working hard to achieve. In the months and years since, we’ve been working tirelessly to make this particular dream a reality and today I’m pretty excited to share our plans with our friends and family.
Andy travels to DC for work about four times a year and I try to accompany him on at least one of those trips to spend time in the city and the amazing museums. Some of my favorites are the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, The Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Here you can review 12 ESSENTIAL HIKING ITEMS to be prepared for the best road trip with your loved ones.
This time we tried to time our trip so we could see the cherry blossoms in bloom, but with the unseasonably warm weather of the past few months they bloomed early and we barely caught the tail end. Most of the blooms were already gone :(. Oh well, next year, I suppose.
Lucy accompanied us on this trip so I planned an itinerary meant to keep her entertained. We ate a lot of fun food, visited the National Zoo chock full of “PUPPIES!!!” (Lu’s word for animals of all kinds), and spent a lot o time jumping on hotel beds. All while Andy slaved away at his office in Arlington.
I had also planned to visit the National Museum of Natural History, but Lucy was having a rough day on day two so we just took it easy taking walks and visiting a nearby park full of actual puppies and a playground.
We are heading back to Columbus this afternoon and looking forward to sleeping in our own beds away from the exceptionally loud slamming doors of the Ballston Holiday Inn.
*All photos taken with the iPhone 4s and processed with Instagram and Camera+
Visiting Taiwan in 2009 was an unexpected trip and not one marked by much sight-seeing. My sister had been in a scooter-to-car accident and had to have knee surgury to repair the tendons in her knee. Most of the time I spent there was in a very tiny hospital room watching Hitch over and over on the American movie channel. Once Julenna was back in her flat, I did manage to take a few walks around Taichung to explore a bit and take photos but most of our time and energy was spent trying to get her better.
The trip happened to fall over my thirtieth birthday so after Julenna had been on the mend for several days, we hired a car to take us to Sun Moon Lake. It was a really fun way to travel, not having to worry about bus schedules or iteneraries. Our driver made a special effort to make sure Julenna didn’t have to hobble very far on her crutches which was very sweet. On the way we stopped at a beautiful temple and toured the prayer gardens then made our way to the lake. It was a lovely way to spend my birthday.
Julenna decided to come home to Ohio for a few weeks to finish healing so she flew back with me. Our flight was out of Taipei so we spend my last two days in the capital city. It rained most of the time we were there so my camera didn’t come out of its waterproof bag much, but I managed to take a few photos of the market.
When I got home all the photos from the last half of the trip were completely missing. I was so bummed since that was the only time I had really been able to sight-see. Recently I was cleaning out my hard drives and getting rid of old RAW photos when lo and behold, THE LOST PHOTOS!!! I was so excited and relieved to see them again. Not that they are anything mind-blowing, but they were important memories I would hate to have no record of at all.
Camera Geek Note: At the time I was shooting with a D200 and a back up D70. The D70 was much lighter and just as reliable so I left the D200 at home and relied on my 50 1.8 and 18-200 3.5-5.6. I no longer own the 18-200 and have since upgraged my camera to the D700 and my 50mm lens to the 1.4. It was so crazy to edit photos from that camera now that I am used to seeing the D700’s spectacular depth of color. It made me want to write love letters to my camera (and its FX sensor). I LOVE YOU D700!!!! U + Me 4-EVA. Or until I upgrade to the D800 ;-).
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 🙂
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I’m sure you have gathered by now that I am completely and totally obsessed with Instagram. I LOVE it. Like, LOVE LOVE it. 4-EVA. This past weekend we loaded up Team Soell minus Gus and the kitties and headed to Philadelphia for a little visit. We’ve been wanting to explore the city for a while and so we decided a little trip for my upcoming birthday was in order. Lucy travels like a pro and handled the eight hour drive so well. I decided to leave the Big Camera in it’s case and captured our trip mostly via iPhone.
Our Hotel was in the Rittenhouse square area and we spent time mostly exploring the Bella Vista and Queen Village Neighborhoods. We didn’t really get to any of the touristy historical stuff, I guess we’ll have to go back soon!
We enjoyed our trip so much. The weather was beautiful, we got the chance to meet up with some local friends, and ate some really delicious food. A weekend well spent.
Coffee We Loved: Shot Tower
Desinations We Loved: Italian Market
Most years, compiling my year-end musical retrospective isn’t too difficult. I fire up iTunes, sort everything by the “date added” field, and pick out ten to twelve tracks that really defined the year for me. This past year, however, I came up with 25 tracks.
I really only have two hard-and-fast rules when putting this playlist together: 1) The songs have to evoke a strong memory from the past year 2) Don’t add more than 12 tracks. I’ve learned over the years that exceeding twelve tracks is the quickest way to make a playlist that falls short somewhere. There’s always a dud song that kills the pace. This year, I’m throwing that rule out the window, and I think it’s paid off.
If you would like to listen to the Team Soell 2011 Retrospective, titled Lucy & the Council of Elephants, you can listen below. If you’d like to take it with you “to go,” you can download it in MP3 format. What about you? What are you best tracks of the year?