Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Our Spainiversary {Year 1}

We have officially been in Spain one year.  One year ago yesterday we left our hometown of Seattle and got on a plane to start our insane adventure of living abroad (we arrived in Spain one year ago today).  We have had an amazing year and while it was also an extremely tough year, we are oh so happy we made the leap of faith to move to Spain.

So why was it such a tough year?  Well.... we had a rough start.  Those first few weeks (and even first few months) were some of the hardest of my life, even harder than the newborn stage, but still so worth it.  We have also been so ridiculously sick this year.  We are being exposed to new germs and also have a toddler who brings everything home!  Trevor and I have both had some pretty nasty illnesses -- nasty colds, a summer time flu, various stomach viruses.  And Serafina has had all these as well as some common (yet totally awful) children's viruses.  We know with the Peanut starting Spanish school we will be exposed to even more nasty stuff, but we just keep telling ourselves that we will all be (hopefully) immune to everything by the time we leave Spain.  And then of course the insanely steep learning curve of living in a different country where you don't speak the language (and for us, the learning curve of being civilians on a naval base).  I feel like we often take one step forward and two steps back when doing things around here -- both in our town and on base, but it has forced me to be patient and take things a little slower, something I really suck at (despite being a teacher).  I do need to write a post about being a civilian on base because it has presented some challenges -- nothing that is deal breaking by any means, just often things require a few extra steps.

But even despite our challenges, we seriously love it here.

We have made some incredibly amazing friends who have become our family here -- the best is that our kids all get along and are best buddies and it is just adorable to watch.  We get to experience a very different culture from the one we are so used to in the states.  Many things are done differently here (not bad different, just different) and more often than not, we find that we love the differences.  There are many times where we shake our heads and say "oh Spain" but we just laugh it off and embrace the Spanish culture.  We get to experience raising our child in a different country and culture, including going to Spanish school and swim lessons in our town.  I love that we are all learning Spanish.  Hearing Serafina speak Spanish is just about the cutest thing ever (in my opinion).  I love when she tells me "no totar momma" (no touch) or counts in Spanish.  We have made so much progress over the past year -- while it may take some planning and thought, we can usually communicate our way through various situations.

And most importantly, I love that we are showing our child the world.  While yes we have responsibilities and a house and a job, and and and.... we still take the time to travel and see other cities and countries.  Traveling overseas with a toddler can be extremely challenging, but we make it work.  Each trip gets easier as Trevor and I get better at figuring out what we all need and as Serafina gets older.  And Serafina won't remember these early trips, but we have picture proof she has been to some amazing places.

I had a friend recently told me it takes you six months to figure out if you are going to like it here and then another six months to get used to it and that could not be more true.  We knew we liked it at six months but I finally feel like one year later, we are settled and have a handle on things.  And I can't wait to see what the next year holds!

And a few of my favorite pictures from the past year --

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Peanut is Two

Well, technically she has been two for two weeks now.... But we didn't have her well child check up until the other day thanks to a very awful case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (seriously, I do not wish that on anyone -- it was awful) and I wanted to include her current stats.

So here is an update of our sweet and sassy Peanut.  I figured it might be fun to use the same form I used for her monthly updates the first year of her life on my old (and private) personal blog.

Nicknames: we still call her Peanut -- she calls herself Sheena (even though she can now say Serafina) which we find hilarious -- it has stuck around now for a good 6 months so only time will tell if that is a new nickname or not!  Most of her friends shorten her name to either Sera or Fina -- we have no preference on either.

Looks: she is finally, finally growing hair and it is blond in the summer and light brown in the winter and curly!  It cracks me up looking at pictures when we first moved to Spain and seeing how bald she was -- literally all of her hair has grown this past year!

Eating: eating anything and everything except broccoli (despite letting her try it all the time and cooked different ways).  Her favorite foods are: strawberries, blueberries (which she calls "boobies"), cucumbers, lentil soup, tacos, spaghetti, olives (preferably Spanish olives), black beans, oranges (she calls them "orange juice") and anything mom or dad are eating

 she will sleep through the night (usually 11-12 hours) and then take a 1-2 hour nap each day in the early afternoon -- with having such a busy January, she's struggling to get back to her normal sleep routine but we will get there!

Health: oh man -- where to begin!  We had a rough (ROUGH) year with being sick.  Thank you Spanish germs and the heat/humidity that allows all those germs to grow and stick around.  So she's had HFMD, Roseola, two ear infections and various colds.  Luckily between all those illnesses she is super healthy and happy -- AND no longer allergic to eggs!  She hates them, but at least she isn't allergic anymore!  She weighs 24.5 pounds and is 2.9 feet tall -- tall but still tiny!

Saying: she is still talking up a storm and putting more and more words together to form sentences -- and repeating everything anyone says (including swear words -- oops)!  She is starting to grasp more complicated sentences and questions which is really fun to hear.  Her favorite phrase right now is "I like...." and then whatever it is.  She has quite the sense of humor and will often do something then tell everyone "that's so funny."  Her Spanish is really coming along too -- and she just started Spanish nursery school (yes, I am totally freaking out -- but she will do great and it will be such a great opportunity for her to know a second language).

- Legos, blocks -- anything she can stack or build (this has been a long time favorite and doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon.  She is such a little engineer and it is quite fun to watch her)
- numbers -- she loves numbers and can recognize quite a few (when we travel, we have a tablet for her and she has a numbers app that is loves)
- baby dolls -- she loves her baby dolls and is such a cute little mommy to them (feeding, changing, rocking to sleep)
- books -- she still loves to read and will often sit with books in her chair and read to herself (she has a few books memorized which is pretty funny to hear), current favorites are any Sandra Boynton books; Brown Bear, Brown Bear; all the Chris Houghton books and the Little Green Peas books
- animals -- girlfriend is an animal lover, she is obsessed with any and all animals (real or stuffed animals, she doesn't care!)
- water -- she loves swimming lessons and shower and baths and anything related to water, we can't wait for the weather to warm up and hang out at the beach this summer
- baking or helping in the kitchen -- she demands to "mix" (what she calls baking) almost daily, she loves standing on the step stool, helping me bake and of course her favorite part is taking a little taste of whatever we are making
- songs -- she loves to listen to songs, specifically any song from Singing in the Rain, but she also loves to dance to just about anything!  She loves nursery rhymes and sings a few which we think is just adorable 

loves baking, hate wearing an apron

she could wear her cap and goggles all day if we let her

What Else: Not a lot of dislikes -- just like any other toddler, she hates being told no and throws quite the tantrum when she doesn't get what she wants.  She is very independent and loves to try things on her own but can get pretty frustrated when she can't do something (often then yelling "help me please").  She can be very stubborn and strong willed and does not forget things easily (or ever).  She is also very social and loves playing with her friends -- she has made some very good friends so far and it is just the cutest watching them together.

It has been such an incredible year watching our sweet girl grow and become her own person.  She cracks me up daily while also testing my patience.  We have loved showing her the world, even if she won't remember it -- we have picture proof that she has seen and done some pretty amazing things thus far!

apparently coloring requires a headband

Monday, February 6, 2017

Travel Tips {How to Plan a Trip}

We have taken numerous day trips, a few weekend adventures and are adding some longer adventures to our travel list.  But no matter what, we always do some sort of planning prior to taking off.  I've gotten a few questions from friends about how we go about planning our trips so I figured I'd throw a post together.  So here is your (disjointed) guide in planning a trip with a toddler!

1) Pick Your Destination
When we first got to Spain, we wrote down our top five travel destinations within Europe -- where we for sure want to go before we leave Europe.  Trevor and I actually did this separately but surprisingly most were the same!  We also wrote down a top five list for Spain as well given that these destinations were slightly easier to get to for us and we want to explore this gorgeous new country of ours.  So, with these places in mind, we get to our planning.

Day Trips -- we usually pick towns 1-2 hours a away and go from there, a lot of word of mouth from friends who have taken day trips, use a few Facebook groups, and we use this book that has great day trips from our town (I have heard good things about this book too) -- both are older so keep that in mind.  Our day trips are pretty relaxed, but we do at least read up on where we are going and where to park!

Longer Trips -- for places we fly to, we often use Skyscanner to look for flights.  It's a great website to look at the airport you want to fly out of and then find cheap places to fly to by using the "everywhere" function -- and you can look at flexible dates too which allows us to travel fairly inexpensively.  While we use Skyscanner to search flights, we always book directly through the airlines since they often have less restrictions than using secondary sights.

In terms of actually picking a place to go, we attempt to cross places off of our list, but also look at the time of year and what is happening -- we purposely chose to go to Germany in December to see the Christmas markets, but our dates were flexible so we looked for cheaper dates to fly.  And we try to do more of our traveling in the spring/fall because its often cheaper.  Of course we have tried to do more traveling before Serafina turns two and we have to pay full fare for her (budget airlines charge a flat fee of $20-40 per flight for a lap infant).

And finally look at the fees associated with your tickets.  There are tons of budget airlines in Europe and all have varying rules for their extra stuff.  A 20 ticket sounds amazing, but look at the fine print.  Some airlines allow for free child gear and some don't.  All of them charge for bags, seats and priority boarding -- with a toddler I definitely recommend getting seats and priority boarding, it just helps with the craziness of flying.  But also look at the non-budget airlines.  When we flew to Germany, it ended up being cheaper to fly with Luftansa (bags, seats were included) rather than flying a budget airline.  

2) Places to Stay
We actually often book our accommodations last after figuring out the town/city's layout, transportation and the various activities we want to do.  But when looking for accommodations, we tend to have an idea of how much we want to pay and then go from there.  Obviously some cities are going to be more expensive than others so we usually do a quick search to figure out the average price.  We use a combination of hotels.com (nice because you can get one night free after collecting ten nights within a year) and also Air BnB.  Both have their pros and cons -- we tend to like apartment-hotels the best because you get the convenience of a hotel but also have a kitchette which allows us to cook a simple dinner or keep food easily (plus it means we go to the local grocery store which I absolutely love doing in a foreign city).

Some things we always look for when booking places to stay: free wifi, close to the sights we want to see, ease of getting to and from with the public transportation, the neighborhood, free breakfast (if we aren't staying at an apartment), family friendly and then we also read reviews and the fine print.

3) Mode of Transportation
This one gets a little tricky because there are a lot of factors involved (and really only applies to the longer trips).  We've taken a variety of transportation to get various cities and once in our destination, we've also used a variety of transportation.  In Ireland we rented a car but also made sure to stay close to a train that could take us into Dublin one day.  In Madrid, we used the train to get there and then only used the subway once, the rest of the time we walked.  Germany was a bit of a disaster, but we took trains, subway and trams -- and we learned a valuable lesson: trains and toddlers actually don't work out so well.  Without any luggage, trains and toddlers work great, but when you are carrying luggage and dealing with a toddler, not so fun.  So, after Germany we decided that our next multi-city trip, it would be best to rent a car -- and actually probably more cost effective.  Renting a car in Europe can be done fairly inexpensively, especially if you go with a European company and go in the off season.  While train travel can be amazing, it can also be expensive, especially in countries where trains are a very efficient way to travel.  If you're driving, make sure you find a place to stay that has parking available (preferably free parking) and look into bringing your car seat (or renting one).

4) Activities
Then the fun part -- figuring out what you want to do in the cool new countries and cities you are visiting!  With a toddler, it helps to plan and know what you want to do, but not over plan because, well, you have a toddler!

We use a combination of Rick Steves and Lonely Planet for travel guides.  Rick is great for in-depth guides to popular cities -- we often read his museum guides or city walks the night before so we have an idea of what we are seeing (since reading a guide book with a toddler running around don't always go hand in hand).  The downside to Rick is that he really only shares places and cities that he likes and they tend to be more popular.  And this is where Lonely Planet comes in!  Their books are huge and don't always go in-depth, but they do cover more cities which has been pretty helpful for us in Spain as we tend to go to the more obscure, tiny towns on our road trips.

We have learned (the hard way) that it is best to have an idea of what you want to do/see each day.  This includes: where places are located (and how to get there), hours (and the best time to go) and if you can figure out how toddler friendly the place is (can you take a stroller or is a carrier needed) and also some simple places to eat.  For us this means we usually have a spreadsheet or simple written down information so that when the toddler is crazy, hungry and tantruming -- we don't lose our cool too :)  Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country totally clueless with a not so happy toddler.  If we already have an idea of what and where we want/need to go it makes things a little easier.

We always plan our must-do activities in the morning while attempting to leave the afternoon free.  With a toddler, we are always up in the morning so we can typically make it to museums and other places at opening time.  And our mornings are typically better before full-on toddler melt downs occur once our Peanut is so O.V.E.R being carted around to various places.  We do our best to do activities in the morning that Trevor and I want to do, head back to where we are staying for a nap or a break and then attempt an activity for the afternoon that is more child friendly -- parks, kids museum, walking around, etc.

And that's it!  It sounds like a lot of work, and it is -- but for me, it is also a lot of fun -- I love learning about the places we plan to visit and the things we will get to see and planning out our days.  And when you've done all this planning -- BE FLEXIBLE!  Things never go according to plan, even if you don't have a toddler in tow, so be flexible and you'll have a blast!

our Peanut patiently waiting for the Metro
(best toddler activity ever, just riding the trains)

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