Monday, April 25, 2016

Baltic Adventures (Part 3)

Family photo across the Neva River from Peter and Paul Fortress

Well I am quite behind on blogging about our Baltic Adventures, but here I am. We'll see if I can remember how things went almost nine months ago.

We arrived into St. Petersburg in the early afternoon. After negotiating for a taxi we found our way to our hostel. We stayed at Hostel Club Chao Mama and it was so nice for a hostel. The only drawback was that we had to walk up two long flights of stairs, which was quite an ordeal with our 1, 3, and 5-year olds, 2 carry-ons, stroller, and duffle bag. But our room was big and beautiful and the girls loved the bunk beds. We made them sleep on bottom and while they were so bummed about that, we were very glad when Noel rolled out of the bed in the middle of the night that we had followed our gut and made them sleep on bottom!

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Same church, different angle.

Trinity Cathedral

I don't remember the exact order of things...we may have made everyone lay down for a bit, but I think we hit to the streets pretty quickly. We walked from our hostel up into the main area of town and grabbed a bite to eat. It was a relief to be back where we could afford to eat out! We ordered burgers and sandwiches and tons of french fries. Then we headed back down the way we had come and got seats on a tour of the canals. Shannon had been to St. Petersburg before and it was something he highly recommended, especially since we only really had about 24 hours there. He said we'd be able to see all the main stuff this way and not have to walk everywhere. It was a good decision.

St. Petersburg is beautiful. It does not feel like Russia one little bit. It reminded me of Western Europe, of Italy, of the coastal cities in Poland, of Maribor, Slovenia. Not Russia. Clean, gorgeous, fun restaurants and cafes everywhere, etc. I'm so glad we went for the day.

Lomonosov Bridge

St. Issac's Cathedral

Anichkov Bridge and Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace

After our tour of the canals we headed back to the hostel, but not before stopping to buy some snacks, water, and ice cream. We got settled for the night and after what was not a great night's sleep (something about five people in a hotel room) we got up and headed out to look for some breakfast. We walked for forever. But I was looking for something special, the perfect place to eat a breakfast that would also appeal to our kids. We stopped in a few places but they were either too fancy (oatmeal or eggs with all sorts of strange ingredients) or too plain (same ole same ole breakfast rolls that we can buy here). So we kept looking. And we finally found it. I wish I had taken pictures but I think we were so hungry that we weren't looking at anything except the food! We found a great cafe that had pastries and delicious coffee. We ordered two baskets of pastries, four large Americanos, a bowl of oatmeal, and probably some juice for the girls. We ate and had coffee and felt like we were in a fancy place in America. It was awesome.

The Winter Palace, home to the Hermitage

Palace Square 

Alexander Column in Palace Square

Peter and Paul Cathedral

After breakfast (near the Winter Palace) we walked towards the palace and looked around, headed to the water and took some pictures, and began the walk back to the hostel. We packed up and got a taxi to the airport, which is when we realized just how royally we had been ripped off on our ride from the train station to the hostel. I don't remember the prices, just that the trip to the airport was a lot longer and about 1/3 the price. We had negotiated the taxi from the train station down as far as we felt he would go. Live and learn, I guess.

On the way to the airport all the girls crashed in the cab. They were so tired but such troopers. We caught our last flight home and were so, so glad to finally make it back with 3-year visas in hand!

Monday, April 11, 2016

23 Months Old

Attacking her sister. A favorite these days.

I'm late. Again. Can't believe my baby, and likely my last baby, will be two in 20 days!

At 23 months old Raye:

*has her two bottom molars. They're not all-the-way popped through yet, but definitely on their way and her mood improves the more they come through.

*loves to sing, do puzzles, be read to, build with Duplos, and play with play-doh. Those are her favorites. Her favorite songs right now are "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep." She sings, "Baa, baa, black sheep have you any MORE!"

What a hoot. She loves, loves, loves play-doh.

*has an ever-expanding vocabulary. She regularly speaks in sentences and although a lot of the words in the sentence are not clear, enough of the words are clear that we can understand what she's trying to say: "Uhh uhh song a bus a beep a baby" = "I want to sing the song about the bus and the horn and the baby." Some of her most-used phrases these days: "Watch dis!," "Mama's turn. Way's turn.," "Help Wayne/Wel.," "Four-tee-tee" (means hide-and-seek).

*can count to 12. She usually does it when someone else has started counting and then she'll finish up with all the numbers she knows. She doesn't itemize things yet.

*is still taking about a 3-hour nap during the day. At night she goes to bed around 7:30-8:00 and usually wakes up around 6:30. She's still in a size 6 shoe and is in all 2T/24 months clothes, but I pulled out the bag of 3T stuff the other day. Some of her 2T shirt sleeves are too short already.

*has reached the "I do it!" stage. She wants to do everything: put on her clothes, go to the bathroom, climb up and down stairs, wash her hands, and so on. Of course she can't do a lot of these things too well yet so ends up asking for help. It's frustrating.

*still loves to be outside. She loves to hang from bars. She loves to swing. Yesterday we walked to the store and she pulled a neighbor's toy truck with a string attached the whole way there and back. I think we'll be buying her a pull toy and a couple of large balls for her birthday. She loves to climb, chase after animals/birds, hang from monkey bars, attempt to balance on the barrier between grass and the sidewalk or road, and of course, play in the dirt.

She's quite the character and is so good most of the time. She definitely has her moments and is still learning boundaries, but overall she's not whiney, is obedient, and loves her sisters. She is a joy to have around and I'm so glad I'm actually getting to enjoy her. This is my first time with an almost-two-year old where I haven't been either exhausted from pregnancy or having a newborn. It's pretty nice.