• Stella Wren – The Growing Pains of Being (Almost) 2 Months Old

    Everyone says having a baby changes your life and I’m a total believer now.  Stella has been the best thing to ever happen to us, but also the most difficult endeavor we’ve ever taken on. I thought that the actual birth process was hard, but in comparison to the next (now almost) 8 weeks, the… [Continue Reading]

    Stella Wren – The Growing Pains of Being (Almost) 2 Months Old
  • Springtime in Seattle

    I feel fortunate to live in a place with such beauty.  Upon moving to Seattle in late winter, I was really eager to get out and begin exploring my adopted city, especially when the weather started changing for the better.  I started first in my neighborhood – West Seattle / Alki Beach – and then moved… [Continue Reading]

    Springtime in Seattle
  • Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

    Two years ago, Bobby and I traveled to The Netherlands specifically to see the famed tulip festival.  Unfortunately, we were a little trigger happy and showed up a bit too early to see any blooms.  Today, we made up for our disappointment by visiting the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival near Mount Vernon, Washington, about an… [Continue Reading]

    Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
  • The Southwest’s Best – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon and Zion National Park

    We spent our last weekend before “the great move north” (AKA Seattle, the final leg of this tortuous PCS) on the Northern Arizona/Southern Utah border.  We planned to go to Page, Arizona to tour the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon, probably the most famous slot canyon in the world, but decided to tack on Zion National… [Continue Reading]

    The Southwest’s Best – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon and Zion National Park
  • Tour de (Southern) France

    I haven’t blogged much lately because Bobby and I have been spending most of our last few months of our Olmsted journey here in Firenze.  We officially have just 4 weeks left.  Yikes! Last week, however, we took our last “international trip,” a five-day trek through southern France.  Initially, I wasn’t very excited about traveling… [Continue Reading]

    Tour de (Southern) France
  • Greece Sailing Trip 2014

    We returned to Greece to sail the Dodecanese Islands for the second time.  This summer, however, we took off from the port of Kos (instead of Rodos), and traveled north to the islands of Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos, and Lipsi.  We took the “road” a little less traveled this year and ended up with a very… [Continue Reading]

    Greece Sailing Trip 2014
  • The Croatian Coast

    After Bobby took over duties for the last few blogs, I figured I should get back to my normal blogging routine (although he is a better writer than me)!  Last week, we took a ten day trip down the coast of Croatia, through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then back to Italy.  It ended… [Continue Reading]

    The Croatian Coast
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp

    Where to start?  Last year, Bobby and I visited Dachau Concentration Camp and it was a sobering experience.  However, our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau was even more horrifying. It is commonly said, due to the robust rail network built by Nazi Germany, “all roads led to Auschwitz.” It became the number one extermination camp for Jews,… [Continue Reading]

    Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp
  • Reykjavic Adventures – Whale Watching & The Blue Lagoon

    We’ve officially made it to Iceland, our 30th country since this Olmsted Scholar experience began (almost) two years ago.  It’s been quite an incredible journey.  After leaving our car in Oslo, we booked a late flight into Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.  Our first day, we took a tour with Elding Whale Watching, the oldest… [Continue Reading]

    Reykjavic Adventures – Whale Watching & The Blue Lagoon
  • D-Day in Normandy

    Being an American, and especially an American who has a family member in the military, there are several historical/military sites that are sacred.  These places give us perspective, give us a better understanding of our past, and allow us to be thankful to live in the best country in the world.  One is the Normandy… [Continue Reading]

    D-Day in Normandy

7 Months with Stella

This past month brought more major changes, as Stella and I ended our stint in Korea. We traveled back to Seattle, where we are waiting on Bobby to finish up his remote assignment. Although the first 5 or 6 days back took some adjustment, the Bean did so well and got back on her schedule of sleeping 12’ish hours a night.  She also adjusted to sleeping in a *real* crib and particularly loves the mobile above her bed.  This month, Stella sprouted her first tooth, figured out how to sit up for a few seconds at a time and started saying her first word – “ma-ma” – to my delight and Bobby’s dismay (ha!).  She continues to love bath time and tried a few new foods this month – peas, green beans, apricots and mango. She didn’t love the peas, but doesn’t mind when I mix them with other foods. :)

It’s sad to say, but Bobby and I didn’t do much for Christmas this year. It was Stella’s 1st Christmas, but we wanted to wait until we got back to the States to get her any new toys or large items. I figure she didn’t know the difference just yet, but I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.  She did have some cute holiday attire though, so we just did a few photo shoots to commemorate the event.

Gearing up for Christmas

Gearing up for Christmas

On Christmas Day, the guys had the day off and Bobby’s office decided to spend it at the bowling alley.  There wasn’t a whole lot to do on base, so we figured “why not”?  We had a great time and Stella really enjoyed watching all the commotion around her.  I didn’t get a photo, but her friend baby AJ was in attendance too.

Bringing holiday cheer to the bowling alley

Bringing holiday cheer to the bowling alley

However, Stella and Baby AJ did get a photo shortly after Christmas in their matching bear suits.  It’s crazy to think that she was actually that small at one point. (Actually, she was even smaller!)

Twins!

Twins!

Baby it's cold outside!

Baby it’s cold outside!

Before leaving, Stella had a last minute date with her best bud Ollie.  We took a trip to Lotte Mart (Korean “Target”) and indulged in some donuts.

We wore the little people out.

We wore the little people out.

Stella worked on her muscles by sitting up in her chair and playing in a borrowed activity center.  The activity center ended up being a huge hit, so Mimi bought Stella one when she returned to Seattle. The thing is like a Bentley; it has all the bells and whistles a little one could want. She has flashing flights, music, 4 toys and has figured out how to rock back and forth and turn in circles. We’ve created a maniac!

Calling the shots from her executive chair

Calling the shots from her executive chair

She was a bit overwhelmed at first and played so hard she lost her sock

She was a bit overwhelmed at first and played so hard she lost her sock. (This is the borrowed play gym)

Check out those lights. She's enthralled.

Check out those lights. She’s enthralled. (The new version).

The activity center causes all kinds of great faces.

The activity center causes all kinds of great faces.

She used her last few days in Korea to spend time on her beloved play mat, since we didn’t have room for it in our suitcase.

Happy girl!

Happy girl!

Dad played dress up with Stella at Lotte Mart.  I think we have a fantasy film mini-fan in the making.

One tough girl.

One tough girl.

Of course, we took a few last walks with our friends Stephanie, April, Beth and Ollie as well. Stella continues to love her car seat and long walks in the stroller.  Soon we are going to have to get a convertible car seat though, as she is getting too heavy to carry in the infant seat!

Ducks lips!

Ducks lips!

DND...I'm growing (and dreaming about something sweet!)

DND…I’m growing (and dreaming about something sweet!)

She's up to something....

She’s up to something….

Baby blues

Baby blues

We also enjoyed some bath time snuggles the night before we left Korea.

:)

:)

And we were super sad to have to say bye to Dad at the airport. I like to think of it as a “see ya later” instead.

So long Dad! Catch ya on the flip side!

So long Dad! Catch ya on the flip side!

Stella was really excited to see Mimi and Granddad in Seattle though. Even though she only slept about 4 hours (out of the 10) on the flight, she was all smiles and laughs for her grandparents. We spent the next few days getting on the right time zone, playing in the bath and examining her new toys.

Mimi was happy to see the Bean!

Mimi was happy to see the Bean!

Happy girl in the bath

Happy girl in the bath

And she reads like her mama in the bath

Taking after her mama

Poor octopus can't get out of Stella's death grip

Poor octopus can’t get out of Stella’s death grip

She loves her new crib!

Nap time in her new crib

We also had the pleasure of seeing Aunt Debby.  Unfortunately, we got together to watch the Seahawks play and they lost.  I keep telling myself that there’s always next year…..

Go Hawks!

Go Hawks!

Stella came home to a whole new closet of clothes that now fit her, so she got to wear a new outfit almost every day for Mimi and Grandad. The downside of that means that she is growing WAY too fast. We have several drawers of things she can no longer wear. :(

Look, I can fly!

I can fly like dad!

<3

<3

Day 4 of her activity center and having a blast!

Day 4 of her activity center and having a blast!

My new bashful fox sweater

My new bashful fox sweater

We are continuing to work on Stella sitting up.  At her 6 month appointment, the doctor said that she should be able to sit for a couple seconds by herself.  She technically *can*, but it’s not consistent and really likes to fling herself backward or falls over to the side. When she does sit on her own, she uses the “tripod” stance to keep her torso up.

Big girl sitting up on her own

Big girl sitting up on her own

7 month photo shoot. No hands, mom!

7 month photo shoot. No hands, mom!

Studying her shoes, her newest fascination

Studying her shoes, her newest fascination

Tired from all that sitting up

Tired from all that sitting up

All dressed up with no where to go (well, we did go out for Stella's birthday lunch!)

All dressed up with nowhere to go (well, we did go out for Stella’s birthday lunch!)

She continues to grow at an alarming rate. Stella is drinking 24-28 oz of milk a day and 4-6 oz of fruits/veggies two times a day (morning and evening). It’s crazy to think that she was barely on the growth chart when she was born and now she’s almost in the 70th percentile for weight.

7 months!

7 months!

Stella’s Half Year Birthday

She really likes the seat

We made it!  I’m not going to lie; I feel like these past six months have been the longest of my life and we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  This past month, we have seen some major improvements and hit some big milestones.  First off (…drum roll please….), Stella started sleeping through the night!  She generally makes it 10-13.5 hours without waking and when she does wake, she is able to self-soothe and go back to sleep quickly.  Some nights are better than others, but this is a huge leap from waking every 4 hours. She also started rolling all over the place.  She has rolled from her tummy to her back since she was itty bitty, but just started consistently rolling from her back to belly.  She even stays on her belly for a bit, especially if the iPad is on and she can watch some animated tunes. We introduced solids this month as well and it’s been fun to see Stella’s food preferences. I think all of this has led to a happier baby.  She actually laughs most of the day instead of crying, which is making this mama jump for joy!… [Read More]

The Land of the Rising Sun – Kyoto Part One

It's pretty stunning

Bobby and I booked a hotel in Kyoto for five days, but made it six when we accidentally left Tokyo by train a day early.  I must say in all our hotel stays, that was a first. Luckily, our “sold out” hotel had an opening for the additional night (for 150% the cost, of course), so we didn’t have to search out somewhere new to stay.  Six days may seem like a lot of time in one city, but Kyoto was a good one to have a little breathing room. I think you could stay in Kyoto for three months and not see all the temples in the city.  There really are *that* many…. [Read More]

The Land of the Rising Sun – Tokyo Edition

The 3 lanterns

Before leaving Korea, we made a short list of places that we would like to visit.  Although we won’t complete it in time, we marked a huge one of my dream list by traveling to Japan two weeks ago.  We can’t really travel like we used to – changing hotels and cities every day or two – because we have a baby in tow.  We have to respect some semblance of a routine for Stella or we will be in for a difficult day, so we made the decision to base ourselves in two places -Tokyo and Kyoto.  We flew in to Narita International Airport and one of Bobby’s friends, who is currently stationed in Japan and lives in Tokyo, picked us up.  We spent 2.5 days in the capital city.  Even though I expected Tokyo to be just another big city, I was pleasantly surprised.  We ended up really enjoying ourselves and preferred Tokyo over the Korean capital city of Seoul…. [Read More]

Stella Turns 5 Months

LOVE!

This month was not one of huge milestones, but rather, subtle changes that no one other than Bobby and I would probably notice. Her sounds got a little more developed.  She now tracks toys and movement like a pro, often getting upset when we walk out of the room.  I suppose she feels abandoned, although we constantly reassure her we are coming right back. :) Stella certainly recognizes our faces in a crowd and often grumbles or coos to get our attention.  She is still fascinated by the television and we regularly show her animated nursery rhymes on a loop via YouTube. She loves the bright colors and songs…. [Read More]

A Weekend in Seoul

Jogyesa Temple garden filled with chrysanthemums

When Stella turned 4 months old, she was up for her second round of immunizations.  I switched over her Tricare insurance plan so she could be seen at Osan AB, where a pediatrician is on staff. Osan AB is north of Kunsan and is only about 30 minutes from Seoul, so we figured it would be a great opportunity to see the city.  Stella should at least get to have a little fun if she has to be poked and prodded, right?  Of course, the clinic on base is only open on weekdays, so Bobby decided to take a Monday off and we spent the long weekend together.  On Saturday, we went to the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (air show), we walked around and saw the sites on Sunday and poor Stella received her shots on Monday…. [Read More]

Stella is 4 Months Young

I love seeing my feet from above

This past month has been really fun and really trying at the same time.  The first two weeks, Stella was happier than she had ever been.  There was minimal fussing, she slept 10-11 hours with only 1 wake up and she seemed to be getting over the colicky hump.  She hit several important milestones and I was feeling somewhat accomplished as a mom.  I could finally make my baby smile…and even laugh!  The second two weeks, however, I felt like we took a pretty large slide backwards.  Stella entered into her “4 month sleep regression,” which meant that for several nights she woke up every 1-2 hours.  On top of that, she was even fussier than normal, which on the scale of 1-10, her crying, out of control behavior reached about a 12.  No matter what we did – fed her, put her in the swing, played with her – she cried.  The only thing that seemed to calm her down was taking walks, which was very similar to her behavior in her first 8 weeks of life.  I will say I’m really happy that we witnessed that Stella could in fact be a happy baby, although it made the bad days seem that much worse…. [Read More]

CNN’s 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea

The most famous view from the stone bridge across the pond

While doing some research on places to visit while we’re in Korea, I came across an ex-pat’s blog that proved to be very helpful.  She listed the sources she used to find travel ideas, one of which being CNN’s 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea.  I’m always intrigued by lists, as they generally provide a clear cut “check-list” of things to see and do and it’s easy to keep track of what you have seen and what you haven’t.  I must admit that my Korean geography is pretty sketchy, so I had to look up most of the locations to see how far they are from Kunsan AFB. Of course, I learned a lot along the way, which is always nice.  I found three places on the list that are within a two-hour radius, a “must” if Bobby doesn’t want to take leave / ask permission to be gone.  So, we started there.  The three places seemed to be pretty close to each other, so we set off early in hopes to see all of them on one Sunday afternoon…. [Read More]

Jeonju Hanok Village

:)

Hanok Village in the town of Jeonju is home to more than 800 traditional Korean “hanok” houses and represents the largest cluster of hanok in Korea. It’s a bit like walking back in time because while the rest of Jeonju is pretty modern, Hanok Village stays true to historic Korean culture and customs.  In fact, many people rent traditional garb and walk around in bright, colorful period outfits/dresses.  It is quite touristy, with small trinket shops and street food vendors lining the roads, but I believe we were the only people from the western hemisphere in sight. We spent the day perusing the village, looking at the architecture, tasting some of the local treats and people watching (my favorite!)…. [Read More]

The 4th Trimester is (Finally!) Over – Stella is 3 Months

Working on a dimple

I realize that the title may take some of you off guard.  I feel like sometimes I’m wishing my child’s life away when the days are hard, hoping that the next day, next week or next month might be easier.  Several people have told me the “4th trimester” is the most difficult and I can only hope so. :) I think the first three months are the hardest for a lot of parents for several reasons – 1) there is a steep learning curve 2) you suffer from extreme fatigue 3) the baby’s systems (digestive, sleep cycle, etc.) are all maturing / getting sorted out and 4) mom’s hormones are still raging.  The good news is, I can definitely see improvements with Stella over the last month.  She is becoming much more interactive, which makes parenting very rewarding and fun and although she still cries a considerable amount, her acid reflux is under control and I know it’s not a cry of pain, but instead just her way of communicating…. [Read More]