Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Noel: 3 til 4

Dear Noel,

Wow, girlie, I love you so much. I know you might feel shorted in attention or blog posts or photos or whatever (since you're the middle child and all), but I love you. You are so funny these days. Your most recent hilarity is talking about where all of the food you ate for dinner went: your green beans are in your toes, your noodles are in your elbow, your chicken is *right here* in your tummy, and so on. You call pretzels "kretzels" no matter how many times we correct you. The other day you were so hungry and I told you that you were just going to have to be patient. You looked at me oh so seriously and said, "But my tummy doesn't know how to be patient!" We all bust up laughing at that. And you're just generally silly and funny, which just makes you fun.

You're very sensitive, still, and we're constantly working on teaching you when it's ok to cry. For example, if you answer my question, "Why are you crying?" with "I don't know," then probably, just probably, you are not crying for a good reason. You get very upset when you feel like people aren't listening to you, looking at you when you're talking to them, have hurt your feelings, or have criticized you for something (recently you've gotten very upset when I've told you that your words were not kind and could hurt someone's feelings, even though you were joking). You want so much to be a big girl and to be doing things the right way that you get very upset when frustrated and unable to do something as well as you want.

You, my dear, are so different than Lane in a lot of ways. Lane is incapable of sitting still and being quiet for more than about 30 seconds. You, on the other hand, can lay in your bed quietly for an hour at rest/nap time. The other morning you came out at 6:30 and asked if you could get up and were so disappointed when I told you to go back to bed that I decided to let you lay in the hammock instead. I told you to be quiet and lay down and look for airplanes. And you did. For 45 minutes, without making a sound. On days you don't take a nap you usually fall asleep at bed time within 3-5 minutes, because you actually lay still and close your eyes and then you're just out.

You love to play. You always want to play something and you almost always want to have things in your hands. We have to remind you to put toys down when you're, for example, going to the bathroom or putting on clothes. You are starting to enjoy coloring and drawing and doing "school pages" more these days. You still like puzzles but can end up very frustrated very quickly, so puzzles that are too hard are usually off the table for now. You love to be read to and love to snuggle up and listen to books. You have your favorites, but most any book will do. You know how to write most of your letters, can recognize them all (in capitals), and know most preschool-ish things. I'm exited to officially do preschool with you in the fall when Lane starts kindergarten and to work on some things with you that I just haven't had time to work on.

You are a great sister. You love both Lane and Raye, and frequently give Lane something she wants "just because I love you." This usually does not pertain to toys, but to privileges, like picking the prayer at dinner time or which book to read first. You don't usually want to give up what you're playing with! You love Raye, sometimes a little too much, I think. You get very upset if she doesn't give you "enough" hugs at bedtime, if she doesn't want to play with you, and so on. You want her to want to be thisclose to you any time you decide it's time to play with her. But you are a great helper and are loving and kind to both of your sisters most of the time...you are kind-hearted and like to see others be happy.

You are a much better eater than you were a year ago. The other day you actually ate your three bites of spaghetti with sauce without complaining about them, and while you wanted your other noodles with just butter and cheese, I was so thrilled that you didn't whine over your three bites with sauce! You are generally a good eater (the exception is things with red sauce, but you're much better than you used to be!) and especially love the crunchy things. Your words. Peppers, cucumbers, and anything else that's crunchy is a win in your book. You also love milk and would never drink anything else (except juice, which you don't get very often) if I didn't make you have something else occasionally. You are the messiest ice cream eater I've ever known, and if the ice cream is in a cone and we're on the street, I can guarantee that you cannot finish the ice cream because the bottom half melts and you squish it out of the cone before you can eat it. You don't know how to do it any other way.

Noel, you are such a joy. You're a challenge these days with your emotions, but we're working with you a lot to help you control them and learn when it is appropriate to cry and when it is not. You are usually obedient, although you tend to get very distracted and forget what you were supposed to be doing. You are sweet and love to help and be in on the action, and you love to play with Lane, as long as you can agree on what to play: you do not like being bossed around, but you can also be pretty bossy yourself. I love the dynamic that you add to our family, and I'm so grateful that I've gotten to parent you for these almost-four years, and I pray for many more. I love you.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Baltic Adventures (Part 1)

You may remember in my last Life Lately update that I mentioned that when we were in Istanbul we received new visas so wouldn't have to leave the country again for a visa run. Of course, life on this side of the world is never like you expect it to be, and a month or so after we arrived back in the country the government revoked Shannon's work permit, therefore rendering our visas null and void. So another visa run was on the horizon.

Since we were just in Istanbul, a number of the families we know with children who live there were gone for the summer, and generally summer in Istanbul is hot, and I knew that an 8-hour bus ride to Tbilisi with a 14-month old was not going to be preferable, I begged Shannon to let us go north instead of south to apply for our visas. He agreed, so I started investigating.

We decided to go to Helsinki via Tallinn, since neither of us had been to Estonia, and while Shannon had technically been to Finland before, it was a very long time ago and he didn't really spend any time there. So we investigated the visa application process in Helsinki, made all our reservations, packed our bags, and headed on our way!

The five of us in Tallinn.

We flew to Tallinn, Estonia, arriving on a Saturday evening. We went through passport control, picked up our pack-n-play and one bag (umm, we packed for five people in one bag. I was majorly patting myself on the back for that one), and grabbed a taxi. We checked into the Old House Hostel (only 10 minutes from the airport and right in the middle of Old Town), got everyone in bed, and crashed for the night.

One of the lovely ironies of raising children is that no matter how tired they are, they rarely sleep in if they go to bed late. So we were all up at our normal time of around 7 a.m. We got everyone dressed, packed back up, ate a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal that I had brought with us, and headed out on the town.

From our hostel we headed out the door and turned left, then right to work our way up to Town Hall. On the way we passed Goodwin Steak House, where the girls couldn't resist snuggling up to the cow statue.

Lane and Noel absolutely loved all the cobblestone streets and small alleyways, all the "princess towers" and "castles" that they saw. It was fascinating to them.

Our first view of Town Hall.

A better view.

My guy and my girls.

Town Hall Square reminded me of all the town squares I've seen in Poland, Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries.

We wound our way up to St. Nicholas' Church, which is also home to a museum.

Found it!

We walked down Harju street, checking out the gardens on our right while heading to St. John's Church.

St. Nicholas' Church from the...front? side?

We found St. John's Church and then, after checking the time, turned around and headed back to Town Hall Square.

St. John's Church

We knew that we didn't have a lot of time left, but wanted to go to the overlook, so we went hunting for it. We didn't realize that we passed up the best way to get to the top when we headed back to Town Hall Square, so we ended up doubling back, walking uphill the whole time.

But at least we got to check out St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral up close on the way!

And when we got to the top we were rewarded with some awesome views.

We looked around off a couple different lookout points and decided that we needed to head back to check out and head to the ferry port. We walked down a lot of steps, booked it back, gathered our stuff, and grabbed a taxi to the port. Even though it wasn't more than a kilometer or so away, we knew we'd have some very whiney girls if we tried to walk the whole way after our morning of sightseeing!

We got to the port, tried to get onto the boat but were told we actually had to go and get boarding cards (they didn't just want my print out of our reservation?). So I went to do that and then we hurried aboard the ship. We found a nook in the cafeteria where we stashed our things, we bought some lunch, and settled in for the 2.5-hour journey to Helsinki.

The bigger girls played in the play area most of the time, Raye took a little snooze in my arms, and we ventured up onto deck once or twice to see the sea and feel the wind. We pretty much just stayed put in the cafeteria because it was easy. And anyone traveling with small children knows that easy is always a bonus. Overall the ferry was an amazing way to travel, and other than having to lug our pack-n-play around, it was really easy. I think we'd do it again in a heartbeat...but maybe wait until we don't have to bring the pack-n-play. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

15 Months Old

At 15 months old Raye:

*says "oof oof" for a dog sound.
*loves to be outside. Just yesterday she brought me her sweatshirt, throwing it in my lap and grunting to go outside. She'll also bring you her shoes or your shoes, bring the girls their shoes, and so on, when she thinks it's time to go. When we're outside she is pretty content to walk around, chase birds, pick up rocks and sticks and pull up grass. When we're inside...she pretty much just wants to go outside. Or look out the window. But mostly to go outside.

Trying to be big like her sisters and climb up rocks.

*loves animals. I mean, there are not words to describe how much she loves them. If we're outside and she sees a bird or a squirrel she will chase them until she can't see them anymore, and if they're in a tree she'll stand at the bottom of the tree, looking up, and yelling/jabbering at them. If you pick her up she's content to just be at the bottom of the tree watching the bird/squirrel. She likes to pet dogs or cats, and she got to pet a sheep the other day and was in hog heaven.

Her face perfectly displays her excitement at being with the animals.

*says a few more things, although not consistently. We've heard her say "amen," "thank you," "I love you" (unfortunately for me only Shannon has heard that). And maybe some other things, too, but like I said, she's not consistent yet. She is very much a jabber-er and is constantly chattering, but we don't have any idea what she's saying.
*is a great eater. She especially loves most fruit, cooked carrots, and pizza.

4th of July outfit. Totally ridiculous, but I loved it.

*loves balls. She says "buh!" and just loves to have a ball in her hands. She doesn't really care about throwing them, but she loves to carry one around.
*loves to swing. There are lots of really great swings for babies / small children here in Finland so she's gotten to swing a lot and will sit there for 30 minutes at a time some days.

*will sit down when she comes inside and take her shoes off.
*knows where her belly button is and if you ask her where it is she will immediately lift up her shirt and start looking for it. If she sees your belly button she'll immediately start looking for hers, or sticking her finger in yours. If she hears "belly button" at all she'll start looking for hers, too. It's really cute.

Speaking of belly buttons. She loves to hang from this bar...usually she's grinning from ear to ear. 

*is very attached to her pacifier. We had already taken Noel's paci away by this point, but we just can't do it yet with Raye. While Noel only used hers at bed/nap time and if she was very upset or cranky, it seems to be the only thing that will help Raye calm down a lot of the time, as she is still quite the tantrum-thrower.
*is super sweet. She still has her moments (umm, almost any time she's told "no" about something or made to do something she doesn't want to do, like sit down in a chair), but overall she's very sweet and good-natured.