Welcome to the World Baby Sullivan!

by Sarah Novak on April 6, 2014

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Great news!  I became an auntie over the weekend and Nia acquired her very first cousin (we’ve been practicing that word a lot).  Armin Allan (Ari) was born to Emily and Andrew on Saturday April 5th at 9:26 AM weighing 8 pounds 10 ounces and measuring 21 inches in length.

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I have nicknamed Ari “Angel baby” because in my 2 hours with him thus far I have yet to hear him cry.  Not only that but he’s incredibly alert and makes the most adorable noises.  This is one chill babe ladies and gentlemen.

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Emily’s labor was 10 hours in length (amazing) and she delivered him vaginally (also a miracle given how big he was and how petite she is).  The whole family is doing quite well.

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Today we brought Nia to meet Ari and short of saying “hello cousin” when she walked in the door, she didn’t want anything to do with him.  In fact, when we asked her if she wanted to touch his hands or feet she responded with a firm “no.”  She hadn’t been in the room but 10 minutes before she was putting on her coat and bidding everyone good-bye despite the fact that no one else had made a move to leave.

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I’d like to think I could trust Nia to be gentle with him, but I believe it’ll be best to keep him out of reach until he’s less fragile.  Case in point: On Friday she asked to see the baby so Emily lifted her shirt and she proceeded to whack Emily’s belly with her hand (quite hard too).  Oh Nia… it’s hard not being the center of attention anymore, isn’t it?

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It was such a gift to be here for this moment given how much we miss with our lifestyle.  I only wish Jenna could have been here too, but she is working on her PhD in Utah and couldn’t come yet.  I can assure you that I will be taking every opportunity I can get to hold this adorable little guy.

Congrats Sullivans!

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Nia’s 1st Day of School

by Sarah Novak on March 24, 2014


It’s hard to top the awesomeness of snow, but I think we may just have done it.  Yes, today was Nia’s first day of preschool.  As many of you know, my Mom started Lake Area Discovery Center, a PHENOMENAL early childcare center with 10 sites across the metro.  Happily, my Mom was able to get Nia a slot in the 2’s class.  That won’t start until Wednesday due to conferences, so in the meantime she went to hang out at Auntie Emmy’s classroom.


Emily’s classroom is for 4-5 year olds so Nia was significantly younger than the other children.  She used that to her advantage and managed to attract a whole gaggle of girls that followed her around for the morning.  Definitely not a shy one, our Nia…


The preschool has an amazing hot lunch program (no processed foods!) and Nia will get to enjoy that each day.  We were a wee bit nervous that she was going to drop her tray since she’s required to carry it herself.  With a little help from Auntie Em though (who’s 38 weeks pregnant, by the way) she was able to make it to the table.


And here’s Nia with her other teacher Ms. Patty, enjoying her lunch at the lunch table!


Nia stays til 1 PM and the kids are required to have quiet time on a mat from 12:30 to 1 PM.  Nia wasn’t understanding this concept at first but her 5-year-old-gal-pals came up with the idea of patting her back to help her rest.  Is that not the cutest thing ever???  Yay for school!

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Love at First Sight

by Sarah Novak on March 23, 2014

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Oh Minnesota, how I missed thee.  I did NOT, however, miss your below freezing temps!  Either you’ve gotten worse or I’ve gotten wimpier.

I do appreciate the snow though, purely for my daughter’s sake.  It has given her hours of delight in the last 24 hours.  So thanks.  I’d like to request one pretty snowfall with slow-falling flakes and then feel free to bring on the spring weather.  Do we have a deal?

Your fair-weather friend,

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OK, joking aside, the snow was a MAJOR hit.  Nia was only 5 months old last time she saw snow in DC and obviously has no memory of it.  So for Nia, this was her first glimpse of the white stuff.  Definitely love at first sight.

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My Mom had gathered snowclothes in advance for her since we didn’t own so much as a mitten.  Good thing too because it was the very first thing she wanted to do when we arrived at the house.  She was quite baffled by how many layers needed to go on, let alone the function of the clothing.  The very top photo is her first time touching snow.  She made it about 1 minute before she asked to come in.  Her cold tolerance got better each time she went out.

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She asked to go out again after nap so we opted for the deck where it was a bit more protected from the wind.  Never mind that it was already dark out – she didn’t care!  She also was hell-bent on bringing all her toys outside.  We finally convinced her to narrow it down to a basket’s worth of toys which included bubbles, finger puppets and barbies.

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Lo and behold, the first thing she did when she got up the next morning was put her boots on and declare that she’s ready to go outside (while still wearing her sleep sack).  Thank God we managed to hold her off for a few hours while the temps came up…  They’re talking about fresh snow tomorrow, so it’s very possible that her excitement level may reach new, unprecedented heights!

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Moving Shenanigans

by Sarah Novak on March 19, 2014


Hard to believe, but it’s pack-out time again!  The Novaks welcomed a 7 person moving team yesterday for our 5th pack-out in 5 years.  These guys must have eaten their Wheaties because DANG were they fast.  They had our 4200 pounds of stuff boxed and sealed within 4 hours.  Impressive, no?  I’m also quite proud of us for downsizing because we could have shipped up to 7000 pounds.


I always get a kick out of the custom covers they make for things.  You’ll notice the couch above on the far left.  Since we have quite a bit of Embassy furniture, we also devised a marking system to ensure that no Embassy Lima furniture was on it’s way to DC.  Let’s just say that our ingenious system involved copious amounts of orange tape….


When the movers went away for the night, the children played.  Nia was quite intrigued by the scale, while Nicholas immediately devised several games that incorporated the moving cart.  Here’s a little sample of what went on:


Day 2 was all about loading the truck.  Imagine our surprise when they began rigging this extensive pulley system to send the couches and bookshelves over the balcony railing!  It was nuts.  I was just waiting for our balcony wall to break off or something.  Thankfully, these pros know how to get it done and somehow everything made it downstairs in one piece.


I thought you might enjoy a video of this crazy process…

Now all that’s left is good-bye gatherings and suitcase packing.  It’s hard to leave Nick behind for 5 weeks but boy oh boy am I excited for some time in Minnesota.  In fact, I hope there’s snow because my poor gal has never had the opportunity to frolic in it!  Here we come Minne-snow-ta!


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Photobook: Year 1 in Lima

by Sarah Novak on March 19, 2014

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The End is Near

by Sarah Novak on March 3, 2014


Remember this shot from May of 2012?  Nia was only 7 months old and Nick and I were still pining for the Philippines.  Fast forward 2 years later and we’re closing up our time here in Peru.  WOW, right?  Is it just me or did that go REALLY FAST?

Curious about what’s next?  Of course you are!  Here’s the rough agenda: Nia and I are flying out in 3 weeks to spend some time in Minnesota because Nia’s getting her first cousin!  Nick will be leaving Lima in early May and we’ll all regroup in Bend, OR to spend a few weeks with Nick’s parents.  Around mid-May we’ll hop a plane and the 3 of us will have some time with my parents in MN (including Memorial Day Weekend at the cabin – YAY).

After a month of bonding time with our fams we’ll be getting our butts on yet another plane and flying to our new home, Washington DC.  We’ll be staying in temporary housing in Northern Virginia for June and July while we look for an apartment.  Maryland, DC and Virginia are all on the table for housing, though much of it depends on what preschool Nia gets accepted to (we’ve applied to 10).

We’ll be squishing into a 2 BR/1 bath apartment in DC due to the high cost of living there.  Unfortunately, this means that about 1/3 of our stuff needs to go so we can fit.  I’m cool with this, as I like being forced to live a more minimalist lifestyle.  The less attached to stuff I am, the better!

To do this we’ll be having – YOU GUESSED IT – a garage sale!  It is ridiculous how much joy I get from this simple pastime.

After the garage sale, the remaining 2/3rds (which they’ve estimated at 4000 lbs) needs to be split between suitcases (hand-carry), air freight and boat freight.  Hand-carry stuff obviously needs to get us through March, April and May.  The air freight will arrive in early June, so that needs to have toys, clothes and electronics we’d need those first 2 months in DC.  The bulk of it, the boat freight, won’t be delivered until August when we’re moved into our permanent housing.  We are required to pull all our stuff out of gov’t storage for domestic tours, so God knows what will show up from the warehouse.

The hardest part of this all is how time consuming it is.  I literally have to go through every item and think about when we need to use it.  That’s not all though – on moving day I need to make sure that the air freight and hand-carry stuff don’t accidentally get packed (don’t laugh, it happens) and that they don’t pack up Embassy furniture as well.  With a 6 person packing team that’s hell-bent on getting everything in boxes as fast as they can, it can be quite difficult to keep an eye on it all.

Another part of our downsizing has been digitizing everything paper that we had, including all our recipes/cookbooks and all of my coaching binders and notebooks.  Just to give you an idea, in the last month I’ve scanned in over 2000 documents (not pages, mind you, but documents), some of them close to 100 pages long.  It was a monumental task but WOW does it feel good to have everything online. We’re also in the process of digitizing our old photos as well and doing away with photo albums for good.

By the time we get all that done there’s not a whole lot of time left over for good-bye parties and last visits to our favorite local haunts.  It’ll be a whirlwind, no doubt.

Send us good energy peeps, we need to stay calm so we can get our Peru chapter all wrapped up.  Stay tuned for more updates!

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Blast from the Past

by Sarah Novak on February 11, 2014

8th Grade Graduation 1994

Ahhh, the memories.  This beauty showed up in my Facebook feed last week thanks to that “Throwback Thursday” trend that’s been going around lately.  In case you couldn’t find me, I’m on the far right in the second row.  This photo dates back to June 1994, when I was graduating eighth grade from a private Catholic school.

Some important things to know about this picture:

  1. I am sporting very trendy 90′s side-swept bangs.
  2. I am rocking a choker (also very popular).
  3. I was determined to wear a prom dress to my graduation.  My Mom initially gave a firm no but I wore her down with my relentless inquiries and got my $50 prom dress from Carson Pirie Scott.
  4. Yes, that is our entire class and we’d been together since Kindergarten (I joined in 4th grade).

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Soccer Class for Toddlers

by Sarah Novak on February 7, 2014


One of the things I will miss most when I leave Peru is a group called Miramoms.  This group grew organically from a desire to connect the Peruvian and Expat Moms of Miraflores.  While originally an email list, it has now expanded to include a website, Mom outings, Holiday parties and classes such as music and soccer (both of which we participate in).  We’ve been doing music class for a year and a half and that remains a favorite to this day.  Nia’s recently gotten big enough to join the soccer class that meets once a week on the Malecon.


The instructors have a doozy of a time with her because she’s a wee bit impatient and doesn’t like to do what everyone else is doing (note in the above picture that she’s chosen to use a hula hoop instead of the ball that everyone else is using).  You can’t fault her for enthusiasm though – you’ll frequently find her standing in the middle of the field shrieking with joy (never mind that she’s supposed to be sitting over on the edge waiting her turn).


I should mention that soccer class isn’t actually playing soccer.  It’s more about using soccer balls and running through mini obstacle courses.  It’s really quite perfect for the 2-4 year olds that attend.  God help whoever instructs Nia for her first organized sport….


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Friday Morning Music Break: The Red Hot Chilli PIPERS

by Sarah Novak on January 31, 2014

Red Hot Chilli Pipers cover Avicii's Wake Me Up

Not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, these Red Hot Chilli PIPERS are rockin it big time on the bagpipes to Avicii’s Wake Me Up.  I mean really, is there any better sound than a bagpipe?  I hope this wakes you up on this wonderful Friday morning!

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A Weekend Getaway to Paracas

by Sarah Novak on January 25, 2014


We took advantage of the long weekend for Martin Luther King Day and scheduled our final trip here in Peru.  We weren’t originally planning to do any more travel, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to a beach resort with 4 other couples who each have 1-2 year olds.

Paracas is a great weekend trip because it’s only 3-4 hours by car (depending on traffic).  We tried it once before when Nia was 9 months and it didn’t go well because we picked a luxury hotel that was more geared to adults and Nia struggled with sleeping in a new place.  Thankfully, our experience a year and a half later was DRAMATICALLY different.


We chose to stay at the uber-kid-friendly DoubleTree hotel this time around and with the non-stop attention of her little buddies, Nia was in toddler heaven.


When not hanging out with our friends, we enjoyed the view from our cute little terrace and of course spent lots of time in the pool.


Beach walks were a daily occurrence.  Take note of Nia’s new fashion trend.  Glasses on the face are now passé – trendy toddlers sport them around their waist!


There was an abundance of beautiful wildlife to enjoy on our morning walks.  What I was NOT expecting to see were jellyfish the size of watermelons.


Each morning we’d find large amounts of new jellyfish either floating in the water or washed up on shore.  Honestly, it was a bit disturbing to see so many dead in one place.  And we had to educate Nia not to touch them because they still can sting, even when dead.


Here are a few that were floating in the water near shore.


And here’s a jellyfish graveyard.


And finally, one especially beautiful one washed up on shore. 

It was a full time job paying attention to where you stepped on the beach and in the water to avoid getting stung.  Ironically, that’s not where the one injury came from this weekend.  One Dad in our party was wading in the water out at the nature preserve.  He felt something moving by his leg and in his attempt to quickly move away he scared a stingray and got stung.

Stingrays are different than jellyfish in that they actually inject a barb into your skin which emits poison.  Thankfully the barb did not get stuck inside him, but the pain was tremendous and when he returned to the hotel the doctor had to suck the poison out with a special machine.

For those who, like me, are curious about how to avoid stingray injuries, the trick is to shuffle your feet, not pick them up.  When you shuffle you avoid stepping on them and give them time to move away.  Stingrays don’t tend to attack unless they feel threatened (aka stepped on), so this trick helps minimize that.


Of course the weekend wouldn’t be complete without Nicholas trying out a new adventure sport.  This week’s pick was Windsurfing.  He found a package that gave him 6 hours of lessons over the 3 days.  Nia and I even got to go out on a little skiff and watch him up close one morning.

All in all we had a fabulous time.  I would highly recommend the Doubletree to families with kids of all ages.  For romance though, head to the Hotel Paracas down the road.  It’s hard to believe that we’re experiencing ‘lasts’ in Peru already but with our leave date in late March (early May for Nick) the end of this tour is right around the corner.  I know I’ve said this before, but time really flies in our crazy, wonderful life!  Ciao Peru!


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