Baby / Family Fun / Life Abroad / Summer / Travel

Our Trip to Barcelona + Traveling with Littles

July 19, 2017

We recently returned from a week in Barcelona and had the most amazing time. Barcelona is one of those dreamy cities that you feel like you could wander forever and never get tired of.

We visited a bunch of the “must-see” sites and ate our weight in tapas and pintxos, and I’m already plotting our return — I couldn’t get enough of Barcelona! KC and I both at one point were devising a plan for him to do a secondment with his firm in the city (the one hitch being that KC doesn’t speak Spanish… which is sort of a must. Ha.) But with the gothic architecture and countless skinny alleyways just begging to be explored, how could you not want to spend more time there? 

For those of you wondering how traveling with two little ones was — it was actually great. Prim and Lark were amazingly well- behaved on both flights (Prim even slept on the flight over — serious win) and they adapted to their new surroundings without a second thought. We played fast and loose with their schedules and they took it all in stride like a couple of pros. Traveling with kids is of course never as easy-going or stress-free as I really prefer my vacations to be, but I have to admit that the kids were really good on this trip. Even though they’re both so young (newly two and four months at the time of our trip), they both adapted well and I think really enjoyed seeing a new city. That’s Prim running around in the background of that picture above ^^. Some guys had just come though and done a sort of tumbling/street dance performance while we were having dinner and Prim felt inspired to go run around do some dance moves of her own after they had passed through. She was quite the hit with a lot of the locals. If you’re considering traveling with kids, my advice is do it. I am pretty structured and type-A (KC I’m sure is laughing out loud at this — “pretty structured??”) and I have to admit that the idea of yanking the kids out of their comfort zones and subjecting them to an unfamiliar city and upending their schedules totally stresses me out. BUT, since we are in Europe for a finite amount of time (or, at least that’s the plan for now… ha!) I have embraced the idea that we will be traveling with our kids a lot. We have four more trips planned before the end of the year and may be adding a fifth. I have also learned that taking these trips and pushing them outside of their routines seems to be a good thing overall. I like to think that it’s not only opening their eyes to new places, people and things, but also making them more adaptable to life in general.

If you’re wondering what we bring with us travel-wise, here is the general list. (Keep in mind that your child’s needs will vary based on their own age and home life and this is just what worked for us.)

European airlines tend to have stricter carry-on rules and more fees for checking bags than US airlines do, but that said, some things are non-negotiable when traveling with little ones. We luckily have been able to find flights that allow us to check a stroller and carseat for free, so in addition to that we check one large suitcase with all of the stuff for me and the kids and a travel crib (we love our BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light). We bring three carry-on bags: a small suitcase (verrry small. Europe!) with KC’s stuff in it, a backpack I use as a diaper bag with stuff for the kids, and a travel bassinet.

I brought four thin paperback books for the kids, a teether for Lark, and Prim was allowed to bring her small Jellycat lion and her baby doll. Aside from that, we brought our iPad loaded with a couple Disney movies and Prim’s headphones, and that’s it entertainment-wise.This is our travel bassinet. I found it super-cheap on an online family market here in Amsterdam and it’s been awesome for travel because it folds up into a bag the size of a standard diaper bag (similar here — on sale!). I brought it with me when I traveled with Lark to the US also and was able to have her sleep in it on one of the flights, as I had two extra seats next to mine. She will likely outgrow it before our next trip, but since Prim is now sleeping in a toddler bed, we will be able to transition Lark into the travel crib and put Prim into a regular bed with our travel bed rail.

About 2 months before we moved to Amsterdam, we shipped our regular stroller with all of our other things to the Netherlands. Since we needed an interim stroller and wanted something compact for travel, KC started researching umbrella and travel strollers. He happened to come across the Babyzen Yoyo, which was in basically zero US stores at the time and I had never even heard of. After some intense online-sleuthing, KC determined that this was the stroller to get for travel, as it folds up suuuper small (seriously, TSA is always like “WHOA that’s small!” whenever I have to zip it through security) but also has a pretty legit suspension system, making it ideal for handling all of Europe’s cobblestone streets.

At the time, I thought it was a little insane to spend so much on a second stroller; but now that we’ve taken multiple trips with this stroller and had a second baby, I am so glad that KC insisted on this purchase. Though it folds up smaller than an umbrella stroller, it has the options and amenities of a full-size stroller. We’ve added the carseat adapters (ideal for traveling with a baby less than 6 months old) and the ride-on board, which is perfect for P. Prim is able to sit or stand on it when she feels like it (or when we force her to — 2 year olds!) or we can pull the board up when it’s not in use (see the picture of KC with both kids and the stroller above to see the board pulled up).  And of course I can’t live without the Solly Baby Wrap. It’s so light and versatile, it’s perfect for travel. It can be balled up and shoved into a suitcase or diaper bag, it works as a lightweight blanket in the stroller, as a makeshift nursing cover, and it’s light enough to use in hot weather. Not to mention that the Spanish ladies were all totally obsessed with my wrap (and Lark in the wrap for that matter). I was stopped so many times on the street to have conversations in broken Spanish and English about my wrap (and its contents 😉 ) — clearly Solly needs to start some kind of global expansion program here.

We loved you, Barcelona. Someday I will be back to walk your streets and drink all the cava.

PS: If you have any travel-related questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll respond. 🙂

Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 5 months

July 16, 2017

Sleeping: Lark is now sharing a room with Prim and has been sleeping really well. She’s up once or twice at night to nurse and naps like a freaking champion. She is regularly woken up by Prim in the evening when she goes to bed (let me tell you, it is HARD for a 2 year old to do anything quietly) and 90% of the time Lark can get herself back to sleep. As much as I would like Prim and Lark to go to bed at the same time, it’s proving not to be feasible right now as Prim goes to bed at 7:30pm but Lark can’t seem to make it past 7pm. Oh well. We’re still in the adjustment phase of room-sharing, so I am trying to remember that things will settle eventually and we will get to a point where it will be a little bit easier.

How we’re adjusting: You may already know that we just got back from a week in Barcelona, and I have to say that I am super impressed by how well the kids did. The flights were successful (no meltdowns!) and both Prim and Lark adjusted to their new surroundings seamlessly. We played fast and loose with their schedules while we were away and they handled it like a couple of pros. I’ll try to write up a post about our trip and what worked for us travel-wise soon!

Lifesavers: Lark was gifted this little stuffed lamb lovey (I guess the Dutch word translates to “cuddle cloth” which is, um, ADORABLE) before she was born. When I started sleep training, I started giving it to her when she went to bed so she would have something familiar nearby when she woke up (since she refused to take a pacifier). She is obsessed with her “lamby” now, and nuzzles it when she wakes up and is trying to get herself back to sleep.

Latest trick: Lark is continuing to wiggle her way across the floor and is actively grabbing every toy in sight. She has some amazing stamina when it comes to tummy time — she can hold her head up forever without having to take a break.

Sweetest things: Lark now reaches out to grab my face when I come close to talk to her or kiss her. She no doubt gets it from her older sister (who I have to admit, gets it from me!)

Favorite thing about this age: Lark is so interested in everything that’s going on around her. She watches Prim intently, and it’s so sweet to see her readily recognizing people now (like when KC comes home and she breaks out into a big grin). The best thing is coming to get her up from her crib in the morning or after a nap — she gets the biggest smile on her face and starts cooing wildly like she’s filling me in on all the things she’s planning on doing during the day.

Motherhood / Primrose / Toddler

Motherhood Update: Prim at 26 months

July 9, 2017

Prim’s selfie game is strong, and she has far too much personality for just one person.

Saying: Prim charmed everyone in Barcelona during our recent trip to Spain. Everywhere we went she would yell out “HOLAAAA!” to pretty much everyone we saw. We also ate a lot of Spanish olives on our trip (which of course Prim loved), and she adorably calls them “holas.”

Prim’s Favorite Things: Prim is still quite attached to her baby doll and stuffed lion (both came with us to Barcelona). She is also a big fan of a coffee/tea set KC picked up on a recent IKEA trip (have you checked out IKEA’s toy selection? It’s kind of amazing!)

Reading: Song and Dance Man, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, In the Night Kitchen, King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, and Corduroy.

Latest trick: Prim is now, for all intents and purposes, potty-trained. When I had strep and she had pink eye last month, I decided to take advantage of our self-imposed quarantine to explore potty training. Prim took to it amazingly well and, aside from her nap and bedtime, is now diaper-free. I have been so amazed by her ability to recognize and respond to cues at such a young age, and it’s pretty nice having only one baby in diapers these days!

Favorite toys: We found a kids table with two chairs at an outdoor market recently, which was such a steal at €49 for the set. The table and chairs are classic Dutch school designs from the 1960s and Prim has been loving having a special little space for tea parties and art projects.

Sweetest things: We recently moved Lark into Prim’s room, after they shared a room while we were on vacation in Spain. We also transitioned Prim into a toddler bed (because she was climbing out. Oof.) and it has been so sweet to see her take these “big kid” steps in stride. When Lark occasionally fusses while going down at night, there’s nothing sweeter than hearing Prim talking and singing to her in the monitor. Even if the whole day has been challenging and full of mom-fails, those little moments make me feel like I’m doing something right with these girls.

Favorite thing about this age: Prim sings CONSTANTLY and knows full songs now. She is obsessed with the music from Beauty and the Beast, and hearing her break out into the opening song randomly throughout the day is just the most adorable thing.

Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 4 months

June 16, 2017

Wiggling her way off the blanket already (and always looking to see what her big sister is up to).

Sleeping: Lark hit the 4 month sleep regression early and hard. Starting a week or so before I headed to California (I made a quick trip with Lark a few weeks ago to surprise my sister for her birthday), Lark started to wake up more in the night. Since I was going to be traversing time zones with her, I decided not to sweat it. In California she adapted fairly well, doing one 5-6 hour stretch, but then would be up about every 2 hours after that. And of course just as she assimilated to the new time, we headed right back to Amsterdam, where sleep continued to decline. After many bad weeks and things getting progressively worse, I started doing some gentle sleep training, which I’m happy to report has been working out quite well. Her naps are phenomenal, and while bedtime is still a little bit of a struggle some nights, she’s cut down her night-waking to once a night most nights (though, not last night! Gah…)

How we’re adjusting: Sleep has been a struggle for the past month, which tends to be hard on everyone. I contracted a particularly nasty case of strep (probably at least partially due to my lack of sleep) which made all of last week miserable. Luckily, having been through the whole sleep debacle before with Prim, I’m addressing issues earlier with Lark, which is proving to be helpful and less intense. (We did hardcore sleep training with Prim at 7 months after she had been sleeping poorly for soooo looong.)

Lifesavers: I recently purchased a sound machine for Lark, since I noticed that she was being woken up by every little noise, and of course then had trouble getting back to sleep. The sound machine has been amazing so far, and I think will be especially helpful when we eventually move Lark into Prim’s room. I’m sure they will inevitably wake each other up occasionally, but having the white noise helps muffle some of the noise at least.

Latest trick: Lark has rolled from her back to her belly, and is soooo close to rolling belly to back now. She has also figured out how to move across the floor a bit through a series of wiggles and kicks. It’s hilarious to watch her rotate across the blanket like a clock arm, ending up on the hardwood floor somewhere.

Sweetest things: Lark now takes all her naps upstairs in the crib (as opposed to the crib in our living room or in the carrier) and I have a monitor downstairs to hear when she wakes up. She sometimes wakes up crying, but often wakes up now and enjoys a little solo time in her crib, squealing and chattering to herself. Hearing her high-pitched calls over the monitor downstairs is so, so cute.

Favorite thing about this age: Lark is right in between the sort of “new baby” phase and the mobile phase. She’s clearly trying to move and grab things now (no doubt envious of her very busy big sister), but still maintains a lot of that “new-babyness” that’s so sweet. I love that more of her personality is coming out, but I have to admit that I really enjoy the fact that she isn’t too big or busy to nap on the go in the Solly wrap yet (it’s just so sweet, and such a short time that they do this!)

Life Abroad

A Tour of Our Amsterdam Apartment

May 17, 2017

I finally got around to taking a few photos of our apartment, in case you’d like to see how we’re living out here in Amsterdam!

We have a 3 bedroom flat that spans two floors above a woodworking shop. Not having residential downstairs neighbors is great — the shop is closed in the evenings and on weekends, and they aren’t bothered by the sounds of life with kids (aka Prim running laps around the apartment). We have a private entry from the street, which is awesome because we can store our stroller downstairs (lugging two kids up these Dutch stairs is quite enough).

Up the first flight of stairs is the living space, which includes a living room, dining room, kitchen and outdoor terrace. Upstairs we have 3 bedrooms, a small laundry room with washer and dryer, and a bathroom with separate toilet.

Our flat is located on a quiet street in the heart of de Pijp neighborhood — it’s super close to the city center and tons of great sites, stores and restaurants, but we’re lucky that we don’t live on a loud and crazy main road.Our street at sunset. Sometimes the light here in the evenings is just insane!This is a photo from last June of our front door. The plant out front was in full bloom and it looks like it’s going to be blooming again any day now.This is also an older photo, we’ve since picked up a couple of toddler chairs which we purchased secondhand for €10 — such a steal.Someday I will have a kitchen with more than a small slice of counter space. Not today though.Look at that tiny Prim! This big shelf in the living room helps store and corral all the toys.Our outdoor terrace is so nice on warm days — we felt so lucky to find an apartment with outdoor space.The view from the terrace feels pretty “Dutch.” I love it.Lark’s crib, which will eventually be moved into Prim’s room.Prim’s crib (which is usually full of books and many other stuffed animals. The girl loves her “stuff!”)Prim’s room and the guest room (below) both have these built-in desk things that we tried to get the landlord to remove before we moved in. He didn’t want to remove them which was kind of annoying (they take up so much space!) but the one in Prim’s room actually works well as a changing table at least.Our guest room (slash where we fold clean laundry — ha).Our room (which is so hard to photograph due to it’s A-frame construction).The outdoor terrace through the seasons.View from our front windows.View from our back windows (in winter, obviously).This is the Amstel River, which is just down the street from our apartment.And this is part of Sarphatipark, which is a 5 minute walk away.

We feel pretty lucky to have found such a great flat in such an awesome location. When the weather is nice, I feel like I could live here forever.

And seriously, we have a guest room — what are you waiting for??