Welcome to my blog!

I was thinking about starting a blog for quite a while but could not decide what to write about. My husband and I travel quite often because of his job. We always loved it even before we met. We actually met because my husband decided to take a job overseas and came to a place where I was, about 7 thousand miles away from him. His decision changed our lives for the very best!

I also like to cook but I don't think that I need a blog to document every meal I make. Only occasionally, maybe. We also decided to eat healthier so the blog will help me to keep track of our meals and weight.
That's how I eventually signed up for a blog and named it Veronika's Travel and Living.

Hopefully, I'll like blogging. We'll see.. ;)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brendan is 11 months old and other updates


Our little guy will be one year old very, very soon! He started crawling about a month a half ago and it sped up his movements a lot! He is everywhere now! Before when people asked us if he can sit up or pull himself up we said that we don't know as we haven't seen it. He was very comfortable just lying or sitting. Once he started crawling he made so much progress.

Actually, on October 17th he started walking on his own without any support. Of course, he falls when he gets too excited about walking or even running which always causes tears and lots of drama. Poor guy!

He loves when we read books to him, I read Russian books and Chris reads English books. He also loves watching The Wiggles and Baby Einstein videos.
Brendan is also our little traveler. He has already been to America twice and traveled to Greece with us in October. Maybe it's just his age but he is so good on flights most of the time which makes it easier for us to travel.



One of the highlights of our August trip to NY state was our hike up the Hurricane mountain with Brendan. Chris carried him in a special backpack up to the top. It took us about 1 hr 20 min. to climb up there and the view was really worth it. Brendan was so comfortable that he even took a nap! The path was VERY steep and it was kind of hard to climb it. Brendan was 9 m.o. when we did it! Chris figured out that he is the third generation of his family to climb it. It's pretty cool!

In October we went to Corfu Greece for a week and stayed at our favorite place. We had a wonderful and relaxing time there! It was the end of the season so it wasn't crowded with tourists and we were the only customers at our hotel.

The weather was great and we spent quite a few days at the beach enjoying the sun and the sea. Fresh seafood meals and local house wine are just the best especially when you have a one million dollar view! We had a great time especially Brendan. He loved being at the beach and playing with the sand. He even ate some from excitement :)






One of the biggest changes in our life is that we are moving from the center of Moscow further away to the south west. We have already found a new apartment which is way bigger than our current one (150 sq.m) but it doesn't have any furniture in the living room so we'll have to go shopping. It's exciting but at the same time it will suck to spend money on something that we'll need only for two or three years. At the same time it is a great location, near a big park which is perfect for our daily walks and has our favorite groceries and a couple gyms to choose from. We are moving next weekend. It will be interesting. In a way, I'm sad about leaving this apartment as it was the one we brought Brendan home to from the hospital. His first room was here, here he started walking etc. Oh well, it's time to make a change and we all hope that we'll be the same happy there as we were here.



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Updates



Obviously, I haven't posted here for more than a month. The reason for it was that we were on vacation and I didn't feel like updating my blog then we came back and I was busy.

Anyway, I'm back and here is the update. First of all, I made it to the states. The officer at the border didn't even ask me about my last visit to the country, instead he talked about the weather in Moscow and Florida and then said the usual "Welcome back home!". That's when our vacation started.



We had a whole month off. We planned it so that all the visitors come in the first part of our trip then they all leave and we enjoy our freedom. It was great to see Brendan's grandparents, uncle and aunt. When everybody left we checked into a hotel on the beach, The Ritz!





Our room on the 11th floor had an amazing view over the Gulf. We stayed there for 3 days. We joked that we took a vacation from our vacation. We enjoyed the beach a lot! Brendan felt so comfortable as if he was born on the beach. He loved the water and was very happy and excited about his new water experience. Every night we had room service for dinner after we put Brendan to bed. It was a genius idea as we couldn't actually go out with him as his bed time was at 7 p.m.

The rest of the trip we spent hiking, going to the zoo, parks, Botanical garden and the beach. I also did some shopping and bought some cute outfits!



Now the Green Card update. I had an appointment for my fingerprints which was required to get a new green card. It turned out that I had very dry skin as it was quite a challenge to get my fingerprints approved by a computer program. After 30 minutes of torture they were able to take my fingerprints. Weeks later I got a letter saying that FBI wasn't able to read my fingerprints and I had to go for the second try. I did go again which was two days before going back home. At the beginning of June I received a letter saying that they couldn't read the second set of my fingerprints and now they need a police statement from all places where I resided to prove that I don't have any criminal records. I have filed a request for such a statement and it will be ready on August 1st. It's the first time when I got stuck in the immigration process. Oh well, I just hope everything will work out and I get my permanent green card some time this year.

Now about our traveling and life plans. Our next trip will be in August and we will go to NY to see the family. It's exciting as Brendan will meet his second cousins and it will be interesting to see him surrounded by numerous children. Then we want to go to Greece to our favorite Corfu place some time in September just for a week. It will be our 3rd time there as it's our favorite vacation spot. Our next trip will be in December and we'll go to Naples, FL, and take my family with us! They cannot wait. My parents, my brother and his girl-friend will go with us. I'm super excited to show them our condo and just take them to our favorite places in Naples. My parents are doctors and they work A LOT! They like nobody else I know deserve some good vacation and rest in a beautiful place. As far as life plans, we want to start trying for the second baby when Brendan is around 1 y.o. We'll see how that will work out.


Some more pictures:



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I made it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We're going!


So we are taking off tomorrow, April 18th. I have some packing to do and figure out what to pack for Brendan to have on the flight. It's gonna be very interesting.

I'll post here what happens on the US border and if I'm admitted in the country.
I guess it will be exhausting 24 hrs of our lives especially when Brendan wakes up every two or three hours at night for the last week.

We really hope that we'll have our first family vacation. I cannot wait to get to Florida!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back to the Gym

As you can see by the title I'm back to the gym. Thanks to Chris, I have time to go to the gym twice a week. Of course, I can also go on Sat or Sun but I'm too lazy or tired to exercise on the weekend. Chris also works out twice a week. When he works out I walk Brendan and vice versa. So we're doing pretty well especially not having any helpers here.

So I started working out in February. First of all, I lost all the baby weight by Brendan's third week which was great. Now I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I was a little worried and frustrated about my workouts as I didn't go for a whole year and forgot how to do certain exercises and didn't know what is right to do when you are still breastfeeding. The gym offers you a free introduction class by a trainer, so I got one. She was a nice lady who had a 3 year old son so she totally knew what I needed. The gym also offers personal trainings and, of course, it's extra payment. For the first time in my life I decided to give it a try and have a few personal trainings with that lady.

It was a very interesting experience. It wasn't totally bad but it wasn't great either. First of all, in the future I won't sign up for 5 classes as 2 or even 3 will be enough for me. I like to work out by myself listening to my podcasts and music.

The advantages of having a personal trainer is that s/he shows how to do exercises right and tells you what to do so that you don't have to think about it. The time goes fast and you cannot be lazy or skip some hard exercises. What I did not like about it was that she wasn't tough enough with me. Maybe she was right that I should start slowly but I thought that I could work out a little harder. Another thing I didn't like was that she showed me only two new exercises, everything else I did I've been doing for years and got bored with them. I just thought that I would learn something new that will make my workouts more interesting. Nope!

As I said I like to work out listening to a podcast or music which is not possible with a trainer and it's fine with me. But I don't like wasting time on just conversations especially when I have a 4 month old baby waiting for me at home. I'm fine with a few words here and there but I don't like talking about life standing next to machines.

When I met the lady she seemed relatively nice and with it but after a while I saw that it's hard for me to communicate with her. Her comments were weird, view on life was strange, almost no sense of humor. In short, not my type of person. She is still nice and she tries her best, it's just like I say one thing and she says something totally random or comes up with the weirdest conclusion.

During our last class I was doing stomach exercises and was doing pretty well when she said: Oh, Veronika, how are you going to work out by yourself? At first, I thought that she was asking something about my baby based on her pity tone e.g. How am I doing something..? I thought that it was weird as if she was almost pushing me into buying more personal classes so she would get more money. My response was "easily, as I've been doing it for five years”.

Also I did not like when she tried to teach me how to deal with my husband. For example, she asked if Brendan woke up at night and if my husband got up to help. I said that Brendan woke up to eat but my husband didn't as he couldn't help him as I was breastfeeding Brendan. Especially, when he eats and falls back asleep. Her response was “still, he should help”. WTF? I asked her how would he help if everything our son needs is breast milk and besides, my husband is the only person in our family who works and provides for us. I don't want him up at night as he has to go to work in the morning. Again, the stupid response-recommendation was “he must help”. Whatever! I just want to work out and go home to my loving husband and our son.

One time I told her that I live close and it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the gym, and her comment was that it's not close. Well, I think that for such a huge city as Moscow it's F..ing close if you don't have to take a metro to get there, right? Then she asked me if Americans celebrate Women's Day, March 8th. I said that they don't as it's a socialistic holiday and that they have Mother's Day instead. Again, the stupid comment was that my husband should get used to it. First of all, he is used to it without your stupid opinion as he has been living here for almost six years and second of all why do you care so much and if you don't why do I need your opinion on that?

Don't get me wrong, she seems like an OK lady and she doesn't mean anything bad, it's just she doesn't get that I don't care about her opinion on my family, my husband and my life in general. If I decide to hire a personal trainer again, I don't think that I will choose her again. I'll get one of the machos :)


Our Little Lazy Guy :)




So finally on March 28th at 9 p.m. Brendan rolled over from his back on his stomach without our help! It was very exciting! We knew that he can do it as he was doing movements with his upper part of the body and his legs but never attempted to turn on his own until a few days ago. Good job, Brendan!

He is still a happy baby which makes us happy. He loves to laugh, especially when I play “Where is Brendan? Here he is!” game with him. He is just laughing out loud. It's hilarious to watch.

One of the latest problems is his eating. According to our pediatrician, he doesn't get enough food. The feeding became so frustrating as he eats for two minutes and then looks around for five and so on, but once I pump and give him a bottle he pounds it without any problem. I understand that it's easier to eat from a bottle but I don't want to give up breast feeding as it will be better and convenient for everyone to breastfeed him on our coming trip especially at airports and planes. I even bought a special cover which I started putting on to get him used to it. At first he tried to fight it and then he had fun hiding there and eventually concentrated on his eating. I'll keep trying. We also started giving him some formula to make sure he eats his 200 ml per feeding but he fights it too. Sometimes he eats it, sometimes he is not interested. Again, it frustrates me but at the same time maybe he is full and doesn't need more. Honestly, we don't believe everything our pediatrician says which means that we need a new one. This subject deserves its own post, so I won't even any more now.

One of the latest changes in his diet is that we started giving him porridge as his last meal before the night. I have to tell you that it's awesome! I mix it with breast milk, he eats 200 ml and it just knocks him out from 10 p.m. till 7 or 8 a.m. Pretty sweet! :)

Today we gave Brendan broccoli purree for lunch. At first he was surprised at an unknown taste and then started pounding it and ate about 180 ml. It was pretty cool.

Before we had a baby I was bored whenever people talked about their babies' porridges, feedings, pooping and other baby related subjects. But now my husband and I can talk about all of these without any problem and actually be excited about it. In a way it's really annoying but at the same time we try not to bring it up when we talk to other people.

Anyway, our lazy guy is definitely growing and learning to do new things. We remember him being just a few days old and not being able to move his head, and now he is very active and is aware of what is going on around him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plan B





is in motion. Yesterday I went to a Greek Visa Center and applied for a Greek visa. As I mentioned before we will go to Corfu if we find out that my green card is cancelled which means that I cannot go to the US. Chris has to leave Russia anyway as his visa expires and he doesn't want to go alone to Florida.

So I filled out a typical Schengen Visa form and attached all the possible papers you can attach: bank statement showing my balance, our marriage certificate, a letter from my husband saying that he is my sponsor, copies of my previous visas, medical insurance, a copy of my green card, a letter from work showing my salary and proving that I'm employed. It's also a Must to submit tickets and hotel reservation. We neither bought tickets nor reserved a hotel but Chris attached flight information from Expedia showing what flights we will take and e-mail messages he exchanged with a hotel manager.

I went to the Visa Center in the morning while Chris stayed home with Brendan. As we thought the only question they had was about the hotel reservation. The girl asked me if I was sure that the e-mail was good enough to prove that we would have a place to stay in Greece. I understand that it's a standard requirement but it's just so funny to assume and imagine that a married woman with an American husband and their 5 m.o. baby will deceive the Greek Embassy and make them believe as if we're going on vacation when in reality we want to go and stay there as illegal immigrants. In order to get a tourist visa one has to prove that he has enough ties with his motherland and he is going to a foreign country only on vacation and will be back to his own country and that is why you need to provide such evidence as return tickets, hotel reservation and bank statement.

Anyway, it's pretty cool that it takes only two days to get this visa, before it took visa centers up to a week to issue visas to Europe. In the worst case scenario it will be nice to go to Corfu and stay at our favorite hotel owned by a very nice family. And it's exciting to have our Brendan with us, it will be his first beach trip and our first family trip!
By the way, the main picture of my blog was taken there. The view is just so beautiful!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Travel Plans May Not Come True



I was VERY looking forward to our April vacation. Chris was going to take a whole month off which we planned to spend in Naples, FL, at our condo with our son. I was very excited about it, especially not being on vacation for more than a year. And this particular fact may turn into a HUGE problem for me.
I'm a foreigner married to a US citizen who temporary works in Russia. There are laws and special procedures for foreigners to marry US citizens. We have followed every single rule and did everything in accordance with the immigration laws to get married. We started with filing for fiancee visa in January 2008 to get married in November 2008. We got lucky and the process did not take long. In June 2008 after my interview at the US Moscow Embassy I got my fiancee visa. The most annoying part for me was going for medical exam and applying for a police statement to prove that I have no criminal records in the territory of the Russian Federation. It takes up to a month to get such a police statement so I had to apply in advance. In addition to medical records including my vaccination information and X-rays I had to bring different proofs of our relationship and true love such as pictures, letters from our colleagues and friends etc. The interview was easy as our story is pretty simple i.e. boring.

The next step after the wedding was to apply for a conditional residency (Green Card) which we did. It involved another interview, medical exam and a police report not to mention fees which are all around 500$. I got my Green Card in April 2009 and was very proud of being a resident even though I was a conditional resident. Conditional residency is granted for a period of two years after which you must file a petition to remove conditions and get a permanent green card. Only after that I can apply for a citizenship.
Well, I have filed my papers to the Immigration Services in February 2011 and got a letter saying that my green card is extended for another year and invitation for finger prints in Fort Myers, FL, for March 10th. Obviously living in Russia I cannot just take off and travel 24 hrs to go to this appointment especially with a 4 month old. So we sent a letter explaining our situation and asked to move the appointment to April as we plan to be there around this time and because my husband's R&R dates are very strict and specific.

We also plan to travel on the date when my current green card expires but with the extension letter from the Immigration I'm good to cross the border. We made a few calls to confirm that it's right and learned something that I thought wasn't that important. Now it's a HUGE problem! It turns out as a conditional resident I cannot spend more than a year outside the country. Well, I've been out of the states for more than a year because of my pregnancy and having a baby. Apparently, it cancels your green card. At the same time the law says that you may not be allowed in the country but it doesn't say that you will not be admitted in the country. From what I read in the internet it's up to the border patrol officer to make a decision either let you in the country or not, either you have abandoned your residency or you have not.

So I'm very upset that after all these years I may lose my status and have to start from the very beginning but the most upsetting thing is that we don't know if my green card is cancelled or not, if I have abandoned my status or not. And it's impossible to find out as we're dealing with two different agencies: immigration and border patrol. Obviously, in my opinion I haven't abandoned my status, I have more ties with the USA than with Russia not to mention that I gave America another American :) (yeah, it's my lame comedy attempt).

So far we decided to buy tickets and gather as much evidence for me as possible to prove that I haven't abandoned my status and that I have a very important reason for not coming to the US because of my pregnancy and having a newborn. My doctor advised me not to travel long distances when I was pregnant and after we had Brendan he was too small to travel overseas especially without his vaccinations.

I'm very upset about this situation. Nobody can help us because they don't know themselves. All we can do is go and see what they say at the border. The worst for me will be to turn around with a 5 m.o. and fly back to Moscow which is another 13 hr flight.

In despair I have applied for a Return Visa and was told that I cannot have two cases in process at the same time meaning my application to remove conditions on residency. A woman from the US Embassy told me that being out of the country for that long pretty much cancels your green card but said that she would make calls about my situation and find out what to do. In the worst case i.e. cancellation of my green card, at least I'll know the answer and maybe won't have to be tortured with my baby for 48 hrs straight flying back and forth. By the way, “the best” part about this Return visa is another F...ing police statement and another medical exam. Grrrr! At the same time if I get this Return Visa my chances for our family Florida vacation may be way higher.

We also have Plan B which is go to our second favorite place in the world – Corfu, Greece. I have decided to get a Shengen visa next week just in case my US residency is cancelled.

The worst part about this situation is that Chris' Dad will not see his grandson. He already has tickets and is very excited to meet Brendan.

What a horrible situation! Well, I still have about three weeks before our trip, we'll see what happens. By the way, Chris has no choice he has to leave Russia to get a new visa as his current visa expires at the end of April. Damn visas!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New pictures

I took a few pictures of Brendan when he turned 4 months. Here they are:









Monday, March 7, 2011

3 & 4 months





Brendan is almost 4 months old! At his 3 month appointment his weight was 13.6 lbs and height was 25.8. So he did not grow that much in height that month but did in width.
Brendan is a happy baby most of the time if he doesn't have stomach problems. It took us almost three months to develop a daily routine. Our day is usually like this:
9 a.m. - morning feeding;
10 a.m. to 11 a.m. - nap (usually from 30-40 min, rarely 1 hr)
11 a.m. - some naked time, we do some simple exercises such as stretch and move arms and legs, also tummy time and change in new clothes
12 a.m. - feeding
12:30 - 1:30 - play time (swing, play mat, singing and talking)
1:30 - nap
2 p.m. - feeding
2:30 to 3 p.m. play time
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. - walk
and then feeding and playing time
9 p.m. - bath
9:30 to 10 p.m. night feeding
10 p.m. - goes to bed
Of course, some days are different but mostly we stick to this schedule.
One of the new and greatest things he started doing is sleeping through the night! The record was when he fell asleep at 10 p.m. by himself and slept till 9 a.m. AWESOME!




Brendan smiles a lot even when people talk to him on Skype and when strangers talk to him. It's good to know and see that he is not afraid of strangers, we just don't know if it's normal for babies and if it changes later. We'll see.
Once a day he goes into laughing mood. I can always tell that he wants to laugh, so I play with him and talk in his chest or neck and he is just laughing out loud. It's precious!





Sometimes I look at him and cannot believe that he is ours. I remember how frustrating it was when I didn't get pregnant for some time and how terribly I wanted a baby. Now he is looking at me with so much love that when I think about those times it brings tears to my eyes. Of course, now it's happy and thankful tears.
Yes, I get very tired by the end of the day especially now when Chris is being busy at work for almost a month and a half, so temporarily Brendan is mostly on me. It's hard and sometimes frustrating but at the end of the day when he falls asleep I cannot wait for the morning when he wakes up again, I kiss him, put him on his boppy pillow next to me in bed and talk to him while having my morning tea or coffee. He is our dream come true! I wish all our Novembies who are trying to conceive get pregnant and experience the happiness of being parents!




Saturday, February 5, 2011

2 months update


Brendan was 2 months on January 12th 2011. He had his 2nd pediatrician appointment which discovered that he added 6 cm to his height! No wonder he added only minimum weight. So he measures 65 cm and weighs 5.2 kg.

As far as his progress, he says "a-goo" all the time when he talks to himself, talks to us, cries and even yawns. He definitely recognizes our faces and smiles to us. The new thing that he started doing was touching his hands a lot, putting them together, batting at toys, reaching for toys and grasping them, loves putting his fists in his mouth trying to fit both at once and drools a lot!


His favorite toys are The Bee and Mr. Giraffe.


I went for my post-delivery appointment and spent about 5 or 6 hrs there and after I came back Brendan gave me the biggest smile ever when he saw me. He was very excited and happy to see me. That's precious!

Brendan smiles every time Chris talks to him. He loves his Daddy. Chris is a great Dad. He takes good care of him. I can always rely on Chris when I have to go somewhere or just rest. They have great time when they hang out together!

Believe it or not Brendan has got his American passport. We filed documents to the American Embassy here in Moscow confirming that he was born here and one of his parents is an American citizen. We also went to the Embassy with Brendan and swore that everything we said is true. Two weeks later we got his passport in the mail. Pretty awesome! He is our little Russian and American citizen :) Check out his passport photo! This face is something! We couldn't even look at his picture without cracking up :) Now two members of our family have US citizenship and I only have a green card which expires in April this year. I have already submitted papers for its extension, hopefully I'll get it.
I'm very exited about our April/May trip to the states. We plan on spending the whole month in Florida, seeing the family and hanging out at the beach and our favorite places. Chris also surprised me with a hotel reservation that we have for a few nights. It's a beach front. He also made a mani/pedicure reservation for me. I cannot wait!


At our favorite restaurant with my parents and brother. Chris was on his visa renewal in the states.

Bath time!
After his walk: