Friday, August 31, 2012

Our flight back to Saudi....and settling back in...

It was a weird feeling when we were getting packed up and ready to fly back to Saudi....I was ready and actually excited about going back....home! 

Yes...I now call Saudi my home or at least my temporary home. It has taken a long, and mostly difficult year of transition but I was excited and ready to come back. Mostly because I wasn't the new person. I knew what to expect, I did the whole year of figuring out who my friends were and who I connected with. I knew what works for me and what doesn't. I learned that the more I venture out shopping and dealing with errands, the more frustrated I get living here and that I don't mind staying on camp for weeks at a time....never thought that day would come. And mostly I have found a good routine and practice of focusing on the blessings and positives of my life here while acknowledging the negative and bad parts and not giving it power over my outlook. So, with all the many lessons I learned over my first year, I was ready to head back and jump into life in Saudi and make this year the best it could be for me, my family and my marriage!

But to get back to Saudi we had another long and very dreaded flight with my two travel companions. Although this one did not have the vomiting episodes of the flight over to the States....we had a cranky and tired Graham who refused to sleep for the first flight. I was one of those people! I finally had my first experience with a screaming and crying kid who wouldn't stop. Not fun! But I will say that people were a lot more sympathetic to me than I thought they would as I really do, I probably thought it was worse than it was and two, I was trying everything and I think they could see it and three, after a little bit I really didn't care what people thought....I just wanted him to go to sleep!

I have figured out several things that set us up to fail on the flight and will for sure consider them when booking future flights. First, the flight didn't leave until 8:30 PM which is not a good time. When we leave at 1:40 AM...the kids already have a good bunch of sleep under them and so are not miserable and it is still too early to awake so they will fall asleep easily.  Or if you leave early evening around 5:00 PM, the flight's meal service and routine coincides with bed time easily. This flight didn't get done with meal service/dark time until way too late so Graham was over tired and not having sleep time. Second, I booked the bulk head seats in the middle so we could have three together and not have anyone in front of me and have him kick the seats. But the disadvantage of that was the amount of distractions being in a major passageway and not have the corner of the window with not much to look at...there was never enough quiet to settle him down. Things learned for sure...

After much work, some tears on my part, lots of praying and trying everything....he finally fell asleep in my arms and then I put him on a makeshift bed on the floor. Graham managed to sleep the last two hours of the seven hour flight. I did have to inform a well meaning flight attendant that under no circumstances would I be moving him off the floor even if it was a turbulence issue. I did however agree to move him if she asked all of the people around me who had to listen to him for the past two hours if I should move him and that if they all agreed I would. The flight attendant got some looks from the nearby passengers and left me alone. 

I then realized I had completely neglected Peyton, which she was fine and had been watching movies and asking flight attendants for stuff when they walked by all on her own...she is pretty awesome when it comes to traveling. I tried to get her to try and go to sleep but she refused and since she was being content with watching movies and totally fine so I decided not to mess with it and leave her alone. Peyton was awesome during the flight as always but did decide during descent that she was tired and tried to go to sleep and I bribed her with a teddy bear from the London airport if she stayed awake until we landed and fell asleep in the stroller as there was no way I would be able to carry them both off the plane. She slept immediately in the stroller during my layover/transit in London so I ended up having to put Graham in the carrier the whole time and run to my next connection via trains and buses and making sure to buy the promised teddy bear from Duty Free on my way, which made me a little sweaty and gross but we made it, got on the second flight where Peyton continued to sleep the entire time and Graham slept for all but the last 90 minutes but the pipe cleaners, shoe laces and binder rings from the Dollar Store entertained him until we landed. 

Then we had to go through passport and baggage collection which was a nightmare because two of our bags didn't make it through. I had to to all the paperwork while all we all wanted to do was go see Daddy was which was my bribe for the second flight and this baggage delay was not going well....mostly for Graham. Peyton was incredibly helpful in trying to describe our bags to the people and being really patient....until....she found out that one of the bags was her car seat. Then she melted down and at that point I just sat on the floor, put my head in my hands and prayed for this to end soon. Meanwhile the porter I tried to handle to help me was being useless and missing the bags I did have so I decided to do it myself and told the baggage people I would be there tomorrow night for my bags and I was leaving. I pushed the baggage cart in front of me, Peyton was sobbing walking beside me and pulled the stroller with Graham behind me and went to find John. was finally over....until December!

The kids both talked non stop the whole way home and were overjoyed to see John. We went back to Bahrain the next night (a two hour drive each way) and successfully claimed both the missing car seat and the other missing bag which ended up being an important bag that held most of the treasured items of Peyton's which is why I didn't start unpacking until we had all bags to avoid the questions of where things were. After finally getting home we worked on getting over jet lag which thankfully was easy since John had several days off and he wasn't haven't to get over it as well and then we were back into the swing of swimming lessons, ballet, friends and Peyton's Fourth Birthday and subsequent party.....and preparing for our first visitor, Grandma Martha!

Overall, the whole travel with two kids solo was hard this time...both ways. Graham is just at that bad traveling age and it was no fun. Peyton was awesome which makes me have hope as I would honestly travel anywhere and on any flight with her if I only had her. She is easy! Graham is a nightmare and requires too much stuff, and at the same time is not entertained by much. My hope is that in December since I will have John both ways it will easier and by the time I have to fly solo again Graham will be much easier....he will actually be around the age Peyton was when we moved here which wasn't too bad. I do want to rave about a car seat adapter/strap thing I used which was a lifesaver! 

It attaches your car seat to your rolling carry on which was a huge help getting on and off the plane and through the airport. I also had the rule that everything must fit in the rolling bag....Peyton's backpack, blankets etc so all I had was that to worry about and I would just load and unload while onboard instead of carrying stuff everywhere. A must have for traveling moms with toddlers who need car seats!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summertime in Canada

Our time in Canada was filled with lots of swimming and playing in the lake, spending time with Gi Gi, eating ice cream and enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery. 

Pretty much as soon as we got to the cottage Peyton was stripping down and looking for her swim suit and life jacket. They both love the water so much and had a blast walking around, playing in the sand and enjoying the lake. One day I found a inflatable boat and pulled them along the shoreline which they loved. Peyton and I also swam out to the deeper part together which was fun until I encountered large amounts of sea weed which I hate and freaked out! I don't like the lake...I like seeing the bottom but I tried hard to not pass my fear unto Peyton as much as possible!


While we were there my mom threw Peyton a surprise birthday party with my Aunts and Grandma. She was so surprised and loved that she was getting two birthday parties! She loved the cake, decorations, made everyone wear their party hats and thought it was pretty awesome!

She also got a pair of Stompeez Slippers at her party from my parents. She had seen them on TV all summer long and wanted them so badly. It really was the first thing that she has really wanted and asked or specifically.  All summer she would run and get my mom to watch the commercial and was so hoping to get them for her birthday. She would run around the house singing the commercial and it was pretty amusing to watch her explain what she wanted and how to order them and the whole process.

We had the traditional summer camp fire one night before bed time and roasted marshmallows. 

And we went to a theme park called Santa's Village one day and the kids sat in Santa's lap and Peyton talked up a storm with him. She has changed so much since the last time we were there in July of 2010 and it was fun to see it through her eyes now and also see Graham experience it all for the first time. Santa's Village is by far not the most impressive amusement park but it holds lots of memories for me growing up and my mom even worked there as a teenager one summer. 

We rode the Ferris Wheel which Peyton LOVED and Graham was concerned about. Peyton kept wanting to shake the Christmas Ball we were in which didn't make mommy or Graham very pleased. And we had to ride the airplanes several times and she just was in love with the rides. Made me think she would love Disney and riding the bigger rides. She has no fear!

There was a place to make the kids dress up in random Christmas clothing and take pictures so I let Peyton pick everything out and had them sit on the sleigh and take their picture. Would have been a better picture if John and I participated but since I was solo I didn't want to make him jealous!


We could have been at Santa's Village much longer but it was pretty hot (which I thought was funny since in about two days we were heading back to much hotter) and I was kind of tired of being solo with the kids and managing it all so I decided to end it when everyone was happy and head back home!

The best part of the trip though was spending time with my grandma. I was so nervous about Graham warming up to her since he is pretty shy and nervous in new situations but the first time we went over there he just walked straight in, gave her a big hug and a kiss and loved on her. He just seemed to know that she was a good person and someone he should love on. He loved calling her Gi Gi and would know as soon as we would pull into the driveway that we were going to see her. He would love to sit and be rocked (which is so not like him) and would start the songs for her to tell her to sing to him. He was such a cuddle bug with her which was very out of character but so sweet to watch.

Peyton also loved Gi Gi and loved talking about she was there as a baby and telling her stories. What I loved the most was knowing that Peyton will remember this time with her in some way and she was able to have some time with her as a toddler. She loved listening to my grandma sing her songs and then Peyton would entertain by telling stories and explaining things.

A great way to end our very long time away from Saudi and I am so thankful for the time and finances that allowed me to take the kids to Canada for a week and stay in a cottage on the lake and create fun memories with them, my mom and spend precious time with my Grandmother.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Off to Canada...the trip there

The last part of our trip home to the States was a trip up to Canada to visit with my grandmother. I was really excited about seeing my grandma since I didn't get to see her last summer because we moved to Saudi and even more so, I was excited for her to meet Graham. And spending the summer in the Muskoka area brings back so many memories of my summers growing up and it is so much to experience some of the same memories with the kids there!

Our trip from Bellingham to Seattle to Buffalo and then to Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada was a pretty big adventure itself with two hotels, two flights and some driving to get there. If you were traveling solo it probably would be nothing but with kids we took things pretty slow and rested overnight in places to make it easier. So, since Bellingham is about 90 minutes from Seattle and we had a super early flight at 7:00 AM, we packed everything up and spent a night in Seattle to make things easier. That night we went to Rainforest Cafe at a nearby mall which Peyton loved and Graham was a little concerned about the moving animals. I hadn't eaten at a Rainforest Cafe since high school so it was a change for me as well. 

The next morning was our flight which went fine. A 5 hour total flight is nothing! We did travel for the first time with my mom so I am not sure if she would say it was nothing but overall it went well. She kept laughing at the amount of stuff I have to travel with, being the last one off the plane and how slowly we move throughout the airport so we had some fun laughs on the way!

We arrived in Buffalo, rented a car and drove across the border to stay in Niagara Falls which was a zoo. The last time I was in Niagara it was in February with no tourists. The summers are very different and it was wild. I would never recommend anyone going there during the summer. Way too many drunk people, bachelor parties and overall craziness. We stayed at the Hilton in hopes that a nicer hotel would weed out some of the party people but instead had a load bachelor party next door and then a prank fire alarm pull at 4 AM. Not fun and an awful night in Niagara. The view of the falls from our room was pretty awesome and we got to watch fireworks from our room which the kids loved. We also went out to eat that night and Peyton loved the ballon animals/swords and all the noise and music at Magaritaville and Graham was terrified. 

The next morning we gladly left Niagara and headed up to the cottage that we were renting for the week and more importantly to see my grandma and the kids GiGi! 

And it wasn't too bad watching sunsets like this from the dock for a beautiful!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mommy and Me Photo Session

While we were in Washington I wanted to take the time and have a photo session done of me and the kids. I would have loved it to be a family session but I felt that even if John wasn't able to make it that I should still take the opportunity to have images of the kids and even more so, pictures of me and the kids! I feel like I am never in any pictures with the kids and hate that! I wanted to capture this time when they are young and have memories of me being around! 

I searched online and found a photographer, Jennifer Morrow Photography, that had the style and look I wanted for these, carefree, sweet....and we talked through email and finally met at our session! She was so much fun and we had a great time and even better came out with some beautiful images that I am in love with! Hopefully John can partake in the fun next time!

So thankful to have these and for the chance to do this!



Friday, August 10, 2012

Diving Board

This summer Peyton has been taking swimming lessons pretty much every week we have been here. She started at the community aquatic center which was great and she had tons of fun but she really needs structure and I was finding that it was too much fun for her! She loves swimming but will just goof off and not learn if she doesn't have some sort of structure in her lessons. So I looked around and found a private swim club here that she started at this week and will do until we head to Canada. It is in a big pool as opposed to a baby pool which already helps with her not jumping up and down and being silly and I love that it has one main teacher and then an assistant for each kid in the class. I wish we had done this place earlier! 

On Friday was Fun Day (combined with some swimming) which was great! It was really helpful for me to explain that we are going to have to pay attention and work hard during the week so you can have a whole day of fun in the pool!

The first thing they did was jump off the diving board.....

They also went down inflatable slides, played with beach balls and had fun! I loved it and so did Peyton!

Also....check out Peyton's new shoes! She ALWAYS wears crocs and I can never get anything else on her so I was so excited when she agreed to wear these TOMS and she actually likes them! It certainly helps that she has the same shoes as Mommy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vacation Photo Catch Up

There are so many other things and events that we have been attending or places we have been exploring that don't really warrant their own post so here is a collection of things we have been up to!

One day we went up to Canada to visit my cousin's wife and their kids. I thought we were just going to play at their house and we ended up going to the beach which I wasn't prepared for but we still had a blast. Peyton had her swim suit from swimming lessons earlier in the morning and I had a spare set of clothes for Graham so he just played in his clothes. The beach area was gorgeous! Surrounded on all sides by mountains and just so pretty. It was a wonderful afternoon of playing, talking and enjoying conversation with another mom of young kids which I have missed being here! We had a great time! Graham was a mess but it was so worth it!

We have also been enjoying my mom's dog Bailey, a labradoodle. She has been amazing with the kids and has helped with them both missing our dog while we are here. We have taken her to a pond area to go swimming, a dog festival and I even took her and the two kids for a couple mile walk along the waterfront. Lots of fun!

One afternoon we wanted to take her swimming and so we headed out after Peyton's swim lessons. We thought the kids would hang out on the shoreline and look at rocks or watch Bailey swim BUT they both got into the water, clothes on and all and swam around without a care in the world. It was not that warm out that day and the water was freezing but they love the water so much! Lots of laughs!

While we were on our walk along the waterfront we saw an interesting event of riding your bike down a steep ramp along the pier and then onto a ramp to propel you over the railing and landing into the bay.    Peyton thought it was the coolest thing ever! I was surprised that anyone would be crazy enough to attempt it. There were people on bikes and even scooters doing it!

We went to an arts festival in a town near us and they had a fire truck there for the kids to explore. Peyton has been fascinated about firefighters and goes back and forth between wanting to be a firefighter or a veternarian. She loved meeting the firefighter and looking around.

We have been playing in a baby pool at my parents house several times. We have to wait until the hottest part of the day and make sure it is in direct sun otherwise it is a little chilly and I have to bring a couple buckets of hot water from inside to warm it up!

We are LOVING our time in Washington! We are falling in love with this state more and more everyday and only wish John was here to enjoy it with us!