Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dear Tate,

Dear Tate,

Wow.  You're 8 years old. I'm baffled.  I feel like you were my tiny (to me.  You were nearly 9 pounds but you felt tiny to me) little baby boy, snuggled into my shoulder with teensy dimples in your squishy cheeks.  And then I just blinked and now you're 8 years old.  You're a tall, silly second grade boy and while I really wish I could watch you grow again, I think you're a really fun boy and I know that the next year will be a new kind of wonderful.  Different from the previous 8 but just as great.

Oh my Tate, you are one of a kind.  You've got this love that almost glows from your skin.  When you're excited about something everyone knows.  You can talk about a new show you like, book you've read, lego set you built, or fact you learned incessantly.  Sometimes it gets a little difficult to listen to and we're trying to learn where boundaries are of how much content to share in conversation before you let the other person have a turn.  But it's hard for you because you are absolutely lit up by things you love and the thought of not talking about them or sharing them with those around you feels like putting a damper on a flame.  

It's fun to watch you really get in to certain subjects and watch your brain soak it all in like a sponge.  Lately it's dinosaurs.  You come home with books about dinosaurs from the library and can spout facts about an enormous array of dinosaurs and it seems like you just memorize everything you've read about them.  Right now you want to be a paleontologist.  But I'm pretty sure you're convinced that paleontology the way you would do it, means bringing dinosaurs back to life Jurassic park style.

 Your brain is a remarkable thing.  You remember the tiniest from years and years ago, like the color of the snow cone you had when we went to the circus when you were three, that came up a few weeks, what?!  You can quote movies and books in detail, that's always been a talent of yours.  We do little presentations on different things we're going to see in our trips and you're getting very good at finding interesting facts to memorize and share in a composed, professional manner.  It's really darling.

You are patient and kind with your little brother and sisters.  You and Finn are such good buddies.  I hope that never changes.  Once you're done with your after school work you can disappear into your room building legos or playing with toys, or head outside to ride bikes with him for hours.  You get along really well and seldom fight.  It's SO nice as a mom to see you be a good big brother.  Being the first in our family is a lot of responsibility because you're doing everything for the first time and it's so nice to have such a kind boy leading the pack.

At the end of last year you seemed to be a little stuck on math.  We worked over the summer on helping you become more fluent with addition and subtraction but honestly, I think something just clicked for you in second grade.  Math isn't as hard for you to understand anymore.  Your teacher, Mr. Bremmer, gave you your highest grade in math last trimester.  You're still an excellent reader and sometimes we have to get you to slow down a little bit and work on how to retell what you've just read but you can read really quickly and love getting in to a new story or series.  The latest you finished was the Spiderwick Chronicles series.  You got the set for Christmas, and read the last one on the way home from Disney World in January.  You still love Harry Potter and we're reading the fourth book together at night when we get to bed on time.  Your only challenge in school is keeping your quick mind in check and staying really focused on what your teacher is saying.  It's hard for you to stay focused all day long but you're aware and working on it.

You love legos and mini-figures.  You're riding your bike without training wheels but I think you still favor your scooter.  You're getting better every day at the piano.  You play very well and are getting better at figuring out notes and rhythms in new songs.  It's really cool to see things click in your brain and watch you work on a tricky spot until you get it right.  You like having a little more distance from me during practicing so I made you a little technic checklist so you can do it by yourself and check it off while I'm in the other room and then I help you with songs.  But even then, I can help you with a step or a spot and tell you, "Okay, now you practice it a few more times" and leave you to do it and you will.  You're really enjoying having a little more responsibility and independence and once in a while you'll stop me to let me know, "Mom, I can do that."  Right.  Of course you can.  You're 8 now!

You're still a pretty picky eater.  Your favorite foods are hot dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, and all breakfast foods.  You eat some sort of sandwich every day for lunch because we just have to make sure you're fed before you go back to school.  Dinner is the meal you still eat the least because it's usually a lot of vegetables but this year you've made huge strides in being willing to try a couple of bites of everything.  That was not a possibility last year.  Now we can ask you to take a certain number of bites before you can be finished with dinner and, while it's not easy for you, you'll oblige without too much fuss.

You have a tendency to get stressed out by being timed or feeling rushed and you leap into panic mode right away when you feel pushed to be faster than your normal speed.  You recover and backpedal sooner and more automatically than you used to and I can see your little brain trying to figure out how to match your feelings to the real size of the problems.  It's a tricky balance but you're trying to figure it out and it's getting easier.

This past fall you did a basketball clinic every Saturday for a while and we added soccer in there once a week too.  Neither we a deep love for you, but you went without complaining and tried your best.   We think its important for you to keep trying different sports because you can learn a lot from being physical and playing on a team so we're glad you're giving it your best. You still love to swim and you can run too when you want to.  We went on a few training runs for your Disney World race, that didn't end up happening because of lightening, and you could keep up for a whole mile without complaining and still have steam left.

You're getting to a great age to be able to discuss more serious topics with us.  It's a cool thing to see as a parent when you are able to have discussions about the gospel or friendships or cultures with your kids.  It's like I have more in common with you every day as you grow closer to being an adult.  Which scares the daylights out of me, but it's pretty cool too.  You're a cool kid.  You seem to really love visiting new places.  It's exhausting, but you don't complain much when we're out adventuring, which is SO helpful since we've got three younger than you and at least one of them usually is complaining!  In your 8th year we've been to Spain, the UAE, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria and all over the US, most recently Disney World.  It's unreal the places you've seen in just a couple of years living abroad.  Your dad and I love being able to share this life with you and your little brother and sisters.  But you might be the most fun to watch as you take in the sights and new food and new art and stories because you can understand them and appreciate them more than your little siblings.  Disney World was wonderful and tough.  We were tired and jet lagged and your three siblings kept randomly throwing up.  But you were a trooper.  You rode some really big rides and liked them.  Some of them still made you a little bit nervous but it was, again, really fun to be able to ride rides that I really like with my kiddo who really likes them too!

Tate, I love you.  I've said it every year, but you and I share something special on your birthday.  You're my first little one.  Your big day is my big day too.  I hope you remember that as you get older and the years get trickier.  I'm only as old as a momma as you are.  I'm trying to figure out how to do my job just like you are.  And I'm going to make a lot of mistakes but behind them all is so so much love for you.  I am so glad you're the big brother.  You're a great example and you think with your heart.  You see people who are sad and lonely and you reach out.  You try to make the world better and happier.  You're starting to recognize the spirit and be conscious of your actions.  You're a gift and I'm so grateful that we get to figure this whole being a kid/being a parent thing out together.  I love you, kid.

Happy Birthday!  The world is yours.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Dear Taryn,

Dear Taryn,

Wow.  You're two.  Where did those two years go?!  It feels like seconds ago that I was looking at your sister, getting rubbed down and wrapped up across the room and waiting to see if you looked anything like her.  When I saw you for the first time I couldn't believe how tiny you were.  So small.  So perfect.  So beautiful.  You were such a quiet baby.  You let us know if you were upset, but that didn't happen very often.  It seemed like you and Kenna had a deal worked out.  She'd let us know when you needed something and then we'd take care of it for both of you so you never had to get upset.  And that's still kind of the trend around here.  You're starting to cry a little more and tell us when you want something specific or you just need some love.  But for the most part, you're pretty content to let Kenna do the talking.  

You're getting to be a good little talker.  You say a lot of words but aren't stringing many together yet.  You really don't have to though.  Kenna will talk for you.  You LOVE birds which you call, "CawCaw".  You love to chase them and make them fly.  I think it makes you feel tough.  Your first word was "Momma" but I think it was because I said it to you ALL THE TIME, determined that I had to be someone's favorite.  But I'm pretty sure most of the time Dad's still at the very tiptop of your list.  You and Kenna have him absolutely wrapped around your tiny fingers.  

You're a pretty even keel little lady.  Kenna pushes you around sometimes.  If you won't give her what she wants she can pull your hair or hit you and you usually just take it and then forgive her so quickly with a smile and a hug when she comes to apologize.  It's amazing how quickly you little people let go of things.  You haven't learned to hold on to hurts and it's a quality I admire so much.  I find myself thinking, "She'll probably be a little more wary this time" after Kenna has smacked you or you've fallen off a chair, or wrestled too rough with Finny.  But nothing seems to phase you for very long.  You roll with the punches and shake off your battle wounds really quickly.  Sometimes you get your feelings hurt and the instant tears and expression of such deep hurt on your face just breaks my heart.  But again, after a little love, you're pushing me away, ready to get back to the playing.

You LOVE your siblings.  When any of them give you a hug or a high five your face absolutely lights up.  You love going to the door to wave goodbye to Tate in the morning as he gets on the bus.  You love climbing all over Finn during his reading practice, or playing with marbles or at a park with him.  Your brothers are both incredible with you but I think you have a special bond with Finn.  You and Kenna are getting better at being kind to each other as well.  Just in recent months I've seen you run to her side when she's fallen and wipe tears off her cheeks while telling her, "oh cye" (don't cry).  Or insisting on give her a hug before you go to bed for naps or night time.  And whenever we get you out of bed or give you vitamins or snacks, or anything really, you immediately say, "Kenna", to let us know that Kenna needs to be taken care of too.  Of course, you also immediately volunteer "Kenna" when I say, "Who wants to get out of the tub first?" or "Who wants me to do their hair first?"  You love your sister.  You're a pretty special little pair.  You're both so different but you just get each other.  You know how to make each other mad but you know how to comfort each other too.  It's a beautiful thing.

You're a smart little princess, Miss Taryn.  You love to get in to things and seem to take special pleasure in getting in to things, over and over again, that you know are off limits.  You've climbed on the piano bench and then onto the keyboard of the piano to stand on your tiptoes and reach a marker on the top of the piano so you can color with it...on the keyboard, your toes, the floor.  You climb onto the computer desk so you can play with the keys or to get another marker to color on the computer or keyboard.  You LOVE to help yourself to snacks in the pantry and you're so sneaky and quiet that we usually don't catch you until you've had several handfuls of whatever you were after and when we walk around the corner you grab another, shove it into your mouth, and THEN run away.  It's funny that such a delicate, gentle little lady can be so unapologetic about getting in to things you know you shouldn't over and over and over.  

You are a funny girl.  You're very timid and shy when you first meet people and big crowds of people make you especially clingy and snuggly.  You can give a death stare with your serious eyebrows that will warn off the most determined of would-be fans.  You're intimidated at first but you eventually warm up and once you're in the mood you can be a total goof.  When you're feeling silly and want to show off your facial expressions are like magic.  They're SO big and hilarious it's like you're a cartoon.  I love it so much.  It's so happy and silly it's contagious.  You've got a tender little heart and you can get scared pretty easily.  Loud noises or just things that are unfamiliar will shake you to the core.  When we went to the zoo in Madrid we got you too close to some baby chicks and your whole body trembled in fear and you clung to us like you feared for your life.  It was so sad.  

You love music but you're much more shy about it than Kenna.  You like to listen to it and ask for me to play certain songs in the car but you have to be in the right mood to sing along.  You love music from the Sound of Music, Tuppence a bag is another favorite (maybe because it mentions birds and you love birds).  You've got a very quick little mind and you'll pick up on tunes and words quickly.  If we leave off the last word to a phrase in a book or a song you can finish it, but only if you're in the mood.  

You can be a pretty picky eater.  I feel like you're getting trickier in the last few months since you got really sick around Thanksgiving.  Grandpa Arthur came all the way to Saudi Arabia to visit us and the first day he was here we spend most of the day in the hospital with you and K getting fluids in IVs because you'd been throwing up for a week!  Since then there have been good weeks and not so good weeks with you and food.  When we travel your dad and I are very aware of how picky you are and how hard it is to get you to eat and drink enough that we feel like you're doing okay.  You'll pretty much always drink my breakfast shakes with does much to ease my mind, and you like bananas and pizza and raisins.  But honestly, most other things are a "sometimes" with you.  Some days you'll be in the mood for applesauce or soup or pears and others you'll just spit them right back out or refuse to open your mouth for them at all.  It's curious and a little stressful when we're traveling, but you're gaining weight and seem very happy so we just try to roll with it and let you keep figuring this whole food thing out.  One thing that you always love, however, is "cannie" (candy).  Finn and I still quote this one time when you saw me opening the cupboard where we keep the candy jars and you got so excited that your arms got stiff at your sides and you flexed your whole body and with wide excited eyes screamed, "Cannies!!!!!"  I don't think you've ever met a candy you didn't like.

This year your two favorite shows are Little Einsteins which you call "pat pat" because the characters pat their legs to get the rocket to fly, and "EsAnna" which is what you call "Frozen".  I woke up a few days ago to you singing, "Ehh GOOO  Eh Goooo!" (Let it GO  Let it GO!) at the top of your lungs in your crib.  It was so darling to hear you singing first thing in the morning.  What a perfect way to wake up!

We've been on the move a lot this year.  We traveled to Spain, Dubai, the USA, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, and then Disney World just a couple of weeks ago.  This year has been a completely different animal than last year because traveling with you two has become infinitely more tricky.  You don't love staying in your stroller for long periods of time.  You don't nap well or for very long when we're out and about all day.   Our trips to Austria and Disney World were especially tricky because you and Kenna kept randomly throwing up and it was so very stressful trying to figure out what was going on.  Maybe you get motion sickness or maybe you just throw up when you're super tired, but whatever the reason it's awful and I hope we can figure it out! 

It was really fun to see you interact with your family in Disney World.  You love your cousins but have a very sensitive spot in your heart for "baby Senny" who is barely more of a baby than you are.  She was very patient with your unending adoration and being showered with hugs and kisses.  You warmed up quickly and were soon giggling and goofing off with your cousins and the rest of the crew and it was sweet to see you recognize how these people are different because they love you like only family can.

You are a very physical little miss.  You seem to take pride in being very strong.  You're always looking for something to climb.  You hang on things and lift your legs up to your tummy and just hang there like a tiny gymnast.  You're very independent at the park.  You don't need to be able to seem me or need my help at all and you're constantly trying to just walk off of places that are way too high for you to be able to walk off.  You love being outside in our cul-de-sac or playing at a park and you love the swimming pool too but get a little bugged when you get water in your face in the pool or in the bath. 

You love stories and we never go to bed at naptime or bed time without at least one.  It's just not possible.  Your current favorite is "Fancy Nancy".  You think it's so silly.  

Taryn, baby, these two years of being your momma went so fast.  I loved you something fierce from the first time I saw you.  I could tell that you were somehow both calm and self-assured and also really strong.  You're a little marvel.  You hug with your whole body.  You smile with your whole soul.  You're a beautiful little miss and while I wish these two years could have passed just a bit slower, I know that what comes next for you is going to be pretty special and I feel immeasurably lucky that I get a front row seat in your life.  I love you, Taryn.  I love you so so much.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.  The world is yours.

Dear Kenna,

Dear Kenna,

My goodness, I can't believe it.  You're two.  I've been so nostalgic all day thinking about everything that was happening at this time two years ago.  You cried so hard when you came into the world.  You were so mad but only for a little bit.  By the time you were carried over to me you were calm and quiet.  You just had to make yourself known.  That's been the trend with you much of the time.  You make sure we know if you're hurt or sad or have a need we can fix.  But once we know and we hug and kiss you, it's usually all better pretty quickly.  

You've had quite the year, Miss Kenna.  You've grown and learned so much.  You talk SO much.  Last year it was just a word or two and now you've got complete sentences.  You love to learn new words and parrot like a pro.  Just a couple of days ago I made some poppyseed bread for an after school snack and after you had a piece you wanted "mo mo pease?"  I tried to distract you and said, "Let's have a banana first, okay?"  You stopped for a minute, and said, "First....and THEN I will have more cake!"  And in that little pause I saw your mind working out, "Hey, I know what 'first' means now and I'm gonna use it!"  Your little mind is so quick and your dad and I both love to watch the wheels spinning behind those beautiful chocolate eyes of yours.

You're getting much better at being patient with your sister.  You've got a pretty quick temper sometimes and learning to share or take turns is SO hard when you're little.  But you're figuring out that hitting and pulling hair hurts.  You're usually the one dishing out the smacks between the two of you but a couple of times lately I've watched you be so quick to regret your swats and apologize and hug Taryn right away because you feel sorry that you had a mean impulse.  It's actually pretty impressive to see one so little start to understand empathy even a little bit.  You and your sister can talk and sing across the room from your cribs.  You can hold hands and dance and snuggle up briefly to share a book.  You're still pretty independent but those moments when there's an unprompted hug or snug are becoming more frequent.  You two love each other and you just get each other.  You know how to push each other's buttons but you also know how to comfort each other and that makes my momma heart smile.  You're so very lucky to have each other.  You love your brothers too and it's sweet to see you play with them and seek their approval.  They both adore you and it makes them so happy when you say their names or give them hugs, or see them off on the bus to school.

You can be a little stickler for the rules.  You try to make sure that Taryn is not getting into trouble and you run to tell me when she is...unless you're joining her.  I was around the corner the other day when I overheard this conversation between the two of you:
Kenna: "Teh-in a tubble?"  Taryn, are you getting in trouble?
Taryn: "Yeah"
Kenna: "Dit down." (Taryn was on a chair getting into my diaper bag)
Taryn: "Okay"
I think there's something about having responsibility and being in charge that really makes you happy.  You've started saying, "I help you!  I help you!" several times a day.  You love to stir things and wipe things and do any little part of a job I'll let you do.  You take such pride in helping.  It's darling.

You LOVE music.  You've always perked up when you hear music but this year you've started dancing and singing.  Your favorite is probably "tuppins a bag" (feed the birds from Mary Poppins) but you also know all the words to "Sing-a Wain" and "Do way meeee" and "cuckoo" (So Long, Farewell).  But honestly, I think if we listened to any song for very long you'd pick it up and fall in love with it.  You love to sing and prompt us to applaud after a phrase and the smile on your face when we tell you it's beautiful would make flowers bloom.  It's so sunny!

You're a pretty good eater but I think you're getting pickier as you get older.  You and your sister have wanted to be more independent and eating more big kid food way sooner than your brothers did.  Probably because you see them eating normal food and you KNOW there's a difference!  You're pretty good with fruit but don't like many vegetables.  You chew up and spit out food you don't like very much.  You favorites are probably pancakes, pizza, bananas, and maybe raisins.  If something looks or smells too different we can't even bribe you to put it in your mouth. 
You've been introduced to a couple of shows for little kids this year!  That's the tricky thing with being the littlest.  Usually if we're watching TV, which isn't very often, it's something the boys like.  And as a result, for the most part you haven't been interested in TV yet.  But this year you've really liked "Little Einsteins".  You call it "Pat Pat" because they pat their legs to get rocket to fly.  You answer the questions and follow the characters directions.  It's adorable.  And most recently you've discovered "Elsa Anna" (Frozen).  You really like Frozen and you'd watching it every day if we'd let you.

You've been all over the place this year.  We traveled to Spain, Dubai, the USA, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, and then Disney World just a couple of weeks ago.  This year traveling has been an entirely different challenge with two moving toddlers.  You don't love staying in your stroller for long periods of time.  You don't nap well or for very long when we're out and about all day.   You're getting tricky to feed while we're out and about.  For the first year it was all formula and a few small things but now you're eating real food and you have many opinions about which foods you want!  And there's something going on with you and your sister getting sick while we're on vacation.  Either we've just had rotten luck during our last two vacations, or you and your sis get motion sickness or maybe you just get sick when you're super tired.  I don't know but our trip before Christmas to Austria and after Christmas to Disney World were riddled with random vomiting.  Hopefully that trend doesn't continue because it's super stressful to have little ones not feeling well when we're out of our element and we're not sure what's wrong. 

You loved being around your cousins and family in Disney World.  It was fun to see you old enough to play with them a little more.  You adore your cousin, Senny and couldn't leave her be.  You reacted to Uncle Cody's teasing and flirted with Uncle Trevan and snuggled up to your Aunties.  You take just a minute to warm up to people but once you do you can be a total ham.  You're so funny when you're showing off on facetime or in person.  Your little personality is just bursting with fun.  You love girly things.  Toy makeup, jewelry, princesses and sparkles and twirling in dresses all make you light up and it's just so cute.

You can be a little sass and you're learning to throw a first rate tantrum.  You know how to scream really loudly and when you throw yourself on the floor with so much drama I just can't keep the giggles back.  Luckily they're mostly when you're tired or when you're trying to tell me something very important and I'm not understanding it quickly enough.  Most of the time you're a pretty happy little miss.  
You LOVE being outside.  You love swimming or "riding your bike" which means pushing some sort of little vehicle around the cul-de-sac while your brothers are riding.  You love going to parks and climbing and sliding.  You're a very active, physical little lady.

You love stories and whenever I'm sitting down you'll hurry to get a book and sit with me.  Finn and I do a little reading time every morning and it's so tricky sometimes when you just want to be right in the middle of it.  You're a little monkey just climbing all over us while he's trying to look around you to get a glimpse of the words he has to read.

Kenna girl I can't believe you're already two years old!  You were so tiny.  You and your sister were such teensy little babies.  I'd never seen anything so small before and I couldn't believe how much my heart just swelled with love for these two tiny people.  You're a strong, smart, lovely little person.  I love you so much it's just unreal.  I didn't have any idea how much fun it would be to be the mom of two little girls but it's such a dream.  It's busier and has way more ups an downs than it did before, but man, I love being your mom, Kenna.  I love watching your mind work and seeing you learn how to direct that spunk and spice of yours and love with your enormous heart.  

I love you so much.  And while I wish time would slow down a little bit, I'm also really excited to see what happens next because, little lady, you are going to light up the world.

The world is yours, little birthday princess.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dear Finn,

Dear Finn,

Oh my boy, you turned 5 today!  It's so crazy to me that you grew two years older living here in Saudi.  In some ways it feels like our normal lives are on hold while we're living here but you, you came here as a 2 year old boy and now you're 5!  You're so big!  It's been another wonderful year of you, Finn.  You're such a great kid.

This year you visited Spain, the U.A.E., Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Austria.  It was a busy year but as always, you're the one who rolls with the punches the easiest.  This year you started preschool.  Here they call it K4 and your teacher, Ms. Yeary, adores you.  Your best friends at school are Michele (pronounced mick-elle-ee), and Muhammad.  You  love going to school.  You have afternoon preschool which means we still get to play with you in the mornings.  We do a little reading practice and some workbooks and a couple of chores and then have play dates or read books or go to the park or library.  Sometimes you help me get dinner ready or bake something fun.  You love to help me in the kitchen and you're a fun little sous chef.  When it's chore time you rarely complain and your favorite it putting on the funny yellow glove to clean out the toilet.  You love that.  You ride a little K4 bus to and from school and your neighbor friend, Abby, usually sits right beside you.  You've never once asked to stay home or expressed hesitation about going on a bus or going to school.  You were so ready.  I'm glad you like it and seem to be really thriving.

We have a little play group set up with friends from the ward.  You guys are the most dreamy little buddies.  You get along great.  You can all play make-believe for hours.  You're such happy, fun friends together and it's a blast.  Abby, Benny, and Emerson are great little kids and it makes me happy to see you getting along so well with good kiddos.

You've gotten a little pickier about food this year.  You're still a little fruit-lover and could eat fruit all day.  You love pears, bananas, apples, strawberries and raspberries and peaches.  You're not as big a fan of oranges as you used to be.  You'd pick a piece of fruit over any cookie or other treat pretty much always.  You're not big on sweets, which is great, but kind of a doozy when I need to convince you to do something and you won't take a bribe!  You generally don't love meat.  It seems to take you an extra long time to chew it and you don't love that.  Your favorite foods are fruit, peanut butter sandwiches, mac and cheese, and pizza.  Classic.  We spent last week in Austria and we'd be eating dinner in the markets and I was surprised how difficult it was for you to find something you wanted to eat.  You weren't feeling well so that definitely factored in, but I've never considered you a picky eater and I think you're starting to develop a few more "don't like's".  As long as you stay willing to try things we'll be just fine.

You tried basketball for the first time this year.  It was a little clinic with practices once a week and your Dad was one of your coaches.  Technically you're supposed to be in Kindergarten before you could play but they let you play anyway.  You held your own in that group of Kindergarteners and 1st graders.  You tried your best, ran hard, and worked the whole hour.  The only thing that was hard for you was dealing with not being the best at everything.  It's hard for you to see someone else doing something better or any time you consider yourself to have "lost".  We're working on that. We're really proud of you.

You just finished a season of soccer as well.  You were a good little soccer player.  We kind of had the opposite problem with this soccer league in your age group.  The other kids your age did not have your desire to play and compete.  So the practices were not as much soccer playing as you would have liked.  Still, it was fun to see you take pride in kicking the ball in the goal and being on a team with your little uniform.

You're still a little fish in the pool.  You swim by yourself with no fear at all.  We still have some work to do on technique but you can swim under the water and down to the bottom and take care of yourself just fine.  You like jumping off the side or the diving board and making up games with Tate.

You have great control over your little body.  Physical things come very easily to you so when you have to work a little harder at a skill it sometimes frustrates you.  You wanted to learn to ride your bike without training wheels one day last month so your Dad took them off for you and he explained how it works and then let go of your seat and you took off.  And never had a bad fall.  You learned to break and start up again right away.  It was just another example of how easy it is for you to get your body to do what you want it to.  You've got this coordination that is almost magical.

You are a smart little kiddo.  We're working through the 3rd collection of Bob Books for your reading practices and you're getting better and better at reading words and putting together sounds quickly.  You have a good memory, love music, and can't sit still when you hear a good song.  You've recently discovered you like to do crafts so even though it's not my forte, we're trying to do more crafty things together because you enjoy making things.

Finn, you have a big heart.  You're a kind soul.  You feel for others when they're hurt.  You try to be a good friend and take care of your buddies.  You're an obedient kid and while you test the boundaries occasionally, for the most part you are a good listener and obey right away.  You like to enforce the rules and often remind your friends if they're not wearing a helmet or speaking kindly.  We keep working on not being in charge of other people, only of yourself, but it's hard for you not to speak up when you see a friend not wearing a helmet!

You seem to have a pretty good balance of feeling a little badly when you make a mistake but you can shake it off when we've had a little chat and not let it ruin your life.  I'm glad you have a conscience.  It makes things a lot less complicated as a parent!

Your siblings love you so much.  You and Tate have a great friendship.  When he's done with his work after school you can disappear in your own world until bed time either in the house or outside in the cul-de-sac.  I love that even though you and your brother are very different, you're just best buds.  It's the sweetest.  You still have Taryn and Kenna wrapped around your finger.  They want to be right beside you everywhere you go.  If you go out to ride bikes, they better be going too.  If you are reading with me, they're crawling all over you while you're sounding out the words.  If you're in the bathroom, they're right next to you.  You're so patient and loving with them.  You make goofy faces at them to cheer them up.  You hold them when they're sad.  You just get them and it's beautiful.

We love you, Finny.  I'm going to miss you so much when you are gone all day in Kindergarten.  The selfish part of me wants to just keep you home with me.  I love being around you.  You're fun and kind and your facial expressions light up the room.  You are such a blessing.  The perfect little brother for our family and man, I am so glad you were born 5 days ago today.  I'm going to miss little 4 year old Finn with his picture poses and enormous facial expressions. But I'm going to be okay with all the changes that come with 5 year old Finn too because you are ready.  You are SO ready to be 5.  You're going to absolutely tackle everything you come across this year of your life and I'm excited to be your cheerleader.  It's a role I think I'll have a lot in your life.  You love it when we cheer for you, and I am more than happy to cheer you on in everything you do, little boy.

We love you so so much, little Finny.  Happy Birthday!

The world is yours.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Atlantis, Dubai

The week before I left for NYC Glenn decided it would be fun to skip to Atlantis for a long weekend.  We had so much fun there last year and he thought it would be a fun way to celebrate with Mal and have a little break.  After much discussion we booked hotel rooms and planned our little getaway.  Mallory flew SO far to spend just a few days with us but hopefully it was worth it!
Finn and Tate were SO excited to see her.  His ninja poses for pictures are the best.
They couldn't stop touching her and talking to her as we got our luggage and rental car set up.  It was darling but also very sweaty in that heat to have two people constantly all over you.
 That first day we got checked in and then hit the water park.
The nice bell boys were so kind and gave the boys a ride on the luggage cart.
The girls did so well in the water park all day.  They'd walk around in their life jackets and then just get fussy when they were tired.  They didn't usually fall asleep until we were headed back in and they were in the stroller but they usually rallied after a snuggle or a little veg time in a tube while we floated the lazy river.  When they were tired Auntie Mallo was always happy to give them a little snug.  They took just a few minutes to warm up to Auntie Mallo and pretty soon they were diving into her arms and out of mine.
The next morning we hit up local meetings and wrestled our little ones for an hour and then headed to the mall to explore while we waited for our time slot to go up the Burj Khalifa.  The mall was incredible, as expected.  Everything in Dubai is so polished and elaborate.  We saw so many stores and restaurants that we've never seen in the Middle East.  We ate lunch at Cheesecake Factory and got cake at Magnolia Bakery.  It was delicious and amazing.
When it was our turn to go up the Burj we waited in a line that moved decently fast but was super long.  Luckily we got pulled to the front of it because we were wrestling our two little ladies.  No strollers were allowed so we carried or chased them the whole time and I think the security guard took pity on us.  For which we were VERY grateful.  The line would have easily gone on for another hour before we even got into the elevator.  The elevator was a spectacle all on it's own.  It had music and lights and made Finn a little bit nervous because they talked to us about how our ears would pop since we were going so high so fast.  He did not understand how ears pop and it was apparently a scary image for him.  He spent the whole time at the top saying that he wanted to just take the stairs down and not the elevator so his ear wouldn't pop.  Poor little man.
The elevator is the fastest in the world, shooting us up 124 stories in one minute.  You can actually go up to the 160th floor but it cost a lot more so we decided 124 floors was plenty.  The view from the top was amazing.  When we got back to the hotel we showed the boys the clip of Ethan Hunt climbing up the side of the Burj and they got a kick out of it.  It was SO high and the view was really unique.  Seeing the limits of the busy city and into the dusty haze of desert beyond.  I was nervous having my four little ones press their faces against the glass but not one of them had the slightest hesitation.  Taryn and Kenna particularly loved being put down and smushing their little faces right against the glass and looking down.

Kenna was still sporting some medical tape over her cut she got while I was in NYC when she took a dive off some steps.
It's always nice to have Auntie Mallo around for many reasons.  One of them is that she is really good at capturing great photos of our crew and it's nice to be in the pictures once in a while instead of just behind the camera.

After the mall we went back to Atlantis hung out for the evening.  We'd been out all day so we just had a chill evening and got the kids to bed so we could spend a full day in the water park the next day.
Saturday we played in the water all day.  It was perfect.  Not too hot at all this time and the lines were pretty manageable.
We crowded in a golf cart instead of walking ALL the way to the kids zone.
Little Miss T was getting pretty tired.
But as long as we stopped for french fries once in a while everyone was just fine.  

The girls wore life jackets and I loved it.  It gave me another second to grab them if they tipped over.  They loved the little kids water slides and would go down the smallest one that was easiest for us to plop them right at the top over and over.  They also loved the little zero entry area that fed into the lazy river.  They'd find tubes and pull them around and try to climb in and out of them over and over.  They're little fish and I'm so grateful because we spend a lot of time in the water in our family.

Around lunch time Glenn offered to bathe the kiddos and put the girls down for a nap and let Mal and I hit up a couple of rides on our own.  We had a blast going on the biggest flume ride which drops you out of a tube.  I was so afraid.  I'm such a baby about body water slides.  And we waited a very long time to ride the biggest tube ride as well and it was totally worth it.  So much fun and so nice of Glenn to let us have a minute to ourselves.
After a little play time we got out and got dressed for dinner with our friends, the Bermans who happened to be there that weekend as well.  We stopped and explored the aquarium before we met them for dinner.  It was even more fun than last time because this time the girls got to really enjoy it as well.

 And amazing Auntie Mallo read bed time stories to both little girlies.

The next morning was our last.  We hit up the buffet and met up with Katelyn and Whitty.  Katelyn had been gone all weekend so this was the only time we were able to meet up and she was SO kind to come see us so we could catch up for just a little bit.  Little Whitt is just as cute as can be and Katelyn will always be my hero for the strength and compassion with which she lives this expat life and all the kind words of advice she's given me throughout this experience.

The breakfast buffet was delicious.  Finny was very proud of the design he made with the wrapper of his baby bel cheese wheel on the table.  

We got another few hours in the water and then had to head in to shower and check out.

One last parting shot before we left.

The boys were both being very sweet with their sisters for a minute.

Finn called this glass sculpture in the lobby "the Beautiful".  He loved it and kept pointing it out to Mallory as "the Beautiful!"  It was darling.

This picture symbolizes the beginning of the end.  As Glenn was checking out and getting our rental car and bags all set Tate started to moan that his tummy hurt and he was tired.  We thought he was just hungry and told him we'd get him some lunch as soon as we got through security at the airport.  Little did we know it was much worse than just hungry.

Mal took this picture of sweet T asleep in the car. I love those little cheekies!

We set out in the car and lost our way a few times on our way to the airport.  It was a very confusing place to drive and didn't seem to have simple ways to correct once we missed an exit.  But eventually we made it to the airport and by the time we did Tate was crying.  He didn't seem to really understand what was happening yet either.  He just couldn't stop crying.  We weren't sure if he was really sick or just tired and being whiney but when we asked if he was sick he would tell us "no, I'm just hungry."  So we'd tell him to buck up and we'd get food once we got through security.  We made it to security and said goodbye to Mallory as she went her way to find her gate.  By the time we were walking down the terminal trying to find our gate Tate was moaning and crying really loudly that his stomach hurt.  And it was about now that we regretted all the different tactics we used to get him to stop whining and complaining.  Ooops.  Bad parent moment.  He spent about an hour curled up outside the bathroom crying and moaning but never threw up.  I took the other kiddos and got food and then when our flight was going to board we helped him make his way to the gate where he promptly threw up all the tylenol and pepto and whatever else was in his stomach.  The gate agent told us we'd have to call the medical staff and that they wouldn't be able to allow us to board.  They said they'd book us on a later flight once he'd been checked out.  So we waited and some EMTs came to check Tate out.  I went to the medical room with him in the cart and the rest of the family followed behind us.  It was just not a great experience.  The doctor said he probably just had a stomach bug.  He was very abrupt, not gentle or kind to Tate and couldn't look me in the eye.  Tate said his stomach didn't really hurt any more but he was SO weak and just not feeling well so they had him lie on a cot and gave him liquids and pain killers through an IV.  It was so different than it would be in the states.  The nurses barely spoke to me let alone to Tate.  They were going to stick the IV in him without even talking to him first to explain what would happen.  And it was like that every step of the way.  I had to stop them and ask for an explanation of what was happening and then tell Tate what was going on and why.  It was awful.  After a while Finn, the girls and I left to walk around the terminal for a while.  Glenn called while we were out and said the doctor recommended that they take him to the hospital.  Finn was complaining at this point of feeling cold and sure enough, he had a fever too.  So we got him in another bed at the clinic while the doctors were figuring out what to do with Tate.  They gave Finn some tylenol and after half an hour when that didn't work they gave him a suppository just to get his fever down so he could leave.  It was so strange to have so little thought of how theses little kids would be affected or how they'd feel.  They just wanted their symptoms to go away so they could get them out of there.  The doctor decided that Tate had to go to the hospital to rule out appendicitis.  Even though they'd been pushing on his stomach and he didn't show any signs of appendicitis at all, he said he wouldn't let us get on a flight without him being checked out first.  That if we did try to get out of there he'd have to write a note that said we were leaving "against medical advice" and they probably wouldn't let us board.  What we really think was happening was that the doctor knew there wasn't anything serious wrong with Tate, but he didn't want to keep him there and watch him for hours so he sent him to the hospital instead.  It was such an ordeal.  We talked to a man in the luggage department from the clinic phone.  I told him that if we were going to be staying over night we needed our luggage so we could change clothes and have the two pack and plays for the girls.  He gave me a phone number and told me the best way to get the luggage would be if we stayed in the airport hotel.  He said to have the front desk at the hotel call him and he'd arrange to have the luggage sent.  By the time Finn, Taryn and Kenna and I got to the front desk the story had changed to "I will try".  And over the course of several phone conversations waiting to put the girls to bed because we were promised our luggage, it became, "well, you'll have to come down here and get them and even then I don't think it will be possible.  It's just not done.  We can't get them out of the secure area."  It was awful.  He was so rude and it was so typical of ME culture to tell you the best possible and then let the situation degenerate until you figure out the actual truth.  Just tell me from the get go that I won't be able to get our baby cribs and we would have dealt with things entirely differently!  It was infuriating.  All the while, Glenn's at the hospital and dealing with doctors and nurses there.  Then my phone runs out of battery so I can't contact him and don't even have the name of the hospital and don't have a charger.  Good times.  

The girls had a good time in the hotel bath.

And the suite we ended up in, after changing rooms 2 times, had a massage chair so the kids loved that!

Before my phone died I texted and spoke to Katelyn again and she was such a sweet support.  The next morning she even offered to bring us some supplies.  Toys and toothbrushes and snacks.  She was so wonderful and gathered a bunch of things to help raise our spirits but what she, and I didn't know was that the airport hotel was actually behind airport security.  So she couldn't get in.  And I couldn't get out!  AND my phone had lost battery so we didn't have any way to contact each other!  I felt so awful that she had gone to so much effort to reach us and turn this experience around but she couldn't even get in to us!
Here's poor sweet Tate in the medical clinic.
And on his way to the hospital
And snuggling with Glenn on the hospital cot.

Glenn and Tate got back in the morning.  Tate had thrown up a couple more times but turned around after some IV fluids and medicine.  Poor kid.  He was absolutely miserable in the hospital and had some great quotes while lying in bed moaning in pain and nausea.  "When will death come?!"  "Someone rescue me from this horror!"  "How can I take this any longer?" "I don't know what's wrong with me!  Death!  Someone save me!"  Glenn and I had a good laugh reading over these very eloquent desperate quotes later.  Sweet kiddo.
What a scary experience to be taken in an ambulance and spend the night in a foreign hospital with nurses and doctors who don't have customer care skills.  Once Glenn got back I used his charger to charge my phone and give Katelyn a call to commiserate. She was such a great listening ear and sounding board through the whole thing, bless her.  When Glenn and Tate got back to the airport the airline wouldn't let them back in without booking new flights.  So on top of everything, after the airline told us that they would re-book us because it was a medical issue and they wouldn't let us board, the made us pay for all new same-day flights.  It was horrible.  Truly awful.  I'm so glad it's over.  
We flew into Bahrain and Tate was still not doing great in the back seat of the taxi on the way home.  We were worried a few times that he might throw up again.  When we finally pulled up to the house he said, "Oh sweet freedom is mine!"  But when it took us a few minutes to unload suitcases so we could get him out of the car he started crying again and said, "Sweet freedom, where have you gone?!"  Poor little kid.  It was a very traumatic end to a glorious weekend.  We were so glad we were able to celebrate with Auntie Mallo and spend some time in the water and exploring a new place together.  We love the Atlantis!  Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, we're not speaking to.

Mallory's Graduation

I was SO lucky to be able to jet out to NYC to help Mallory celebrate her graduation from NYU.  I'm so so glad I was able to be there to show her how proud I am of her and see her graduate in Radio City Music Hall.  It was beyond surreal and I'm indescribably proud of her.  I arrived the day before her graduation and we spend a few hours shopping and eating delicious food, of course.  We made a quick stop at this little supermarket near her apartment.  She calls it the "Jesus Market" because it's always blasting Christian rock music and has this tasteful sign on the door.  I love it.
 The next morning Mom and Dad arrived and we met up for a delicious brunch at Vinyl and a quick visit to NYU campus before heading back to shower and change for the graduation.  It was so amazing to walk in to Radio City and find our seats in this gorgeous, historic theatre and wait for MY SISTER to walk in with the purple-clad graduates.  So cool.  

 The graduation ceremony was great.  Fun speakers and just the right length.  Then I got all teary watching Mallory strut her stuff across the stage.  I can't really express how proud I am of my little sister.  She's been through an awful lot in the last two years living in New York City and going to a very difficult and prestigious graduate school to earn a degree that will allow her to help people as a profession.  I'm just so proud of the woman she is and everything she has overcome.  It was a beautiful experience to be in the room when she graduated.  One I'll not soon forget.
 Dad, Mom, and I with the graduate!
 Radio City Music Hall.  Unreal!

We celebrated after graduation with the best Indian food ever at Bengal Tiger.  So many good choices were made there, as per usual.
 The next day we met up at Central Park and found some bikes to rent for a couple of hours.  It was blissful.  The few hills were a nice little workout and the rest was a gorgeous breeze in our hair in one of the most lovely settings.  There was much picture taking and some conjecturing over what might be happening behind some crime scene tape.  
It was my favorite activity.  It was so much fun to hang out together while getting a little exercise and seeing so much of the park.  I'd do it again in a second.
 After the park it was lunch at the Halal Food truck and then cake from Magnolia in Rockefeller Center.  
 Next was a brief jaunt downtown to check out our favorite shoe store, Shoegasm and a few other spots before rushing back uptown to make it to our show.  
Alfie Boe was starring in Finding Neverland and we had to see him.  It was SO fun to see this show again and the company was pretty great too.  Mom and Dad were even patient enough to wait after the show with us to see if we could get Alfie's autograph.  Alas, he snuck out another door.  He must not have known we were there.  He would never have left us hanging like that if he knew we were there. 
Our last morning we met up and went to the 9-11 memorial museum.  It was so wonderful.  They did a brilliant job of taking you back to where you were and reminding visitors what was happening at the time.  The individual stories tied in with survivors, victims in the towers, fire fighters and passengers that wove together to give an overall timeline and picture of the day and aftermath was really well-done.  So powerful and painful at the same time.  This was a piece of the steel from the exact spot on one of the towers where the airplane struck.  It was horrible to think about how much impact it carried with it to twist this enormous piece of steel like it was just a piece of ribbon.
 Every exhibit really was so beautiful.  This one might have been my favorite.  The remains of many victims are behind this wall and the artist created this mosaic by painting hundreds of times his memory of the color of blue the sky was on the morning of the attacks.
The museum was so beautiful.  There were hundreds of deeply personal glimpses into the lives of the victims with items found in the rubble afterward and somehow, miraculously, traced to individuals and returned to the victim's families sometimes months afterward.  A beautiful tribute to the lives lost and the heroes proved and national sense of pride and unity that resulted from the senseless violence. 
After the museum Mal and I ran to Shake Shack to grab some lunch which we ate at the memorial before rushing back uptown.  I had to pack and Mal had to run to her first job interview!  Which she ended up getting a couple of days later!  
It was a great weekend to explore NYC with Mom, Dad, and Mal and to celebrate Mal's amazing accomplishment.  Thank heavens for my sweet Glenn and dear friends who stepped in to help with the kiddos so I could skip town for a few days!