Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Picture Tuesday weeks 34 and 35

Kenna and Taryn are growing so fast.  Some of their 6-12 month clothes are starting to get snug this week which just seems silly.  Last Tuesday we flew to Muscat, Oman for 5 days of vacation.  The little ladies were so good, as usual.  Very few fussy moments and mostly just smiles and giggles.  We swam a lot during the first few days while we were at the Shangri-La resort.  The resort had some great pools and a lazy river too.  The girls LOVED swimming.  It's been a little while since they've been and it was like a whole new discovery for them.  We brought one little baby boat, which they loved, and they just smiled and splashed and kicked their little feet, so happy the whole time they were in the water.  They skipped morning naps a few times but we usually made the afternoon naps work.

Our last night in Muscat we stayed in a family tent on a sea turtle reserve.  We stayed up late out on the beach watching momma sea turtles lay their eggs and then we woke the kids up again at 4am to go see some more.  We brought them in their car seats so we'd be able to put them down and they would be able to sleep and they were the sweetest little babes.  They fussed just for a second and then they drank their bottles and cooed and smiled until they fell asleep under the stars.

They are getting VERY mobile this week.  It seems like Taryn just started crawling but today she came over to my lap, climbed up to her knees, and then grabbed my shirt and pulled herself up to standing.  WHAT?!  How are you standing up all by yourself?!  Too soon little baby.  She's such a cute little peanut it seems so out of place to have her standing up!

Kenna is moving more too.  She can get all the way across the room but usually she just aims for a toy or her brother and then rolls over on the ground hanging out for a while enjoying her prize.  Both babies are getting very wiggly.  Changing diapers this week is getting to be a full-contact sport.  We have to kind of pin them down with one arm so they don't roll over while they're being changed.

These little ones are also getting more noticeably attached to us and our attention this week.  They notice when we are in the room and if we are in the room and not holding them, they will both let us know that they do not approve.  If we walk past them and don't pick them up it really hurts their feelings.  It's funny, and also sometimes hard to have two little ones so upset when I have dinner to cook or vacuuming to do.  

Here are our sweet little girls at 34 weeks old.

And 35 weeks old.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Repat part 1: New England

It's way past time for me to start recording our first repat trip.  It was a whirlwind tour and we did so much in just 5 weeks in the states!  I already recorded the mess that was our journey over to the states at the beginning of repat.  I was horribly sick, Finny split his head open, I found out I had strep the morning after we arrived and spent the next day trying not to get too close to anyone.  It was a party.  
After I started feeling better we got back into a sort of morning routine again.  A very mild morning routine but one we had started during those couple of weeks at home in Rakah before we left.  I loved those couple of weeks.  It was too hot to do much outside so we just sort of hid out in our little burrow on our own.  All our friends had already left for repat so it was just us.  Every day.  We had the best little routine and we all got along.  I loved it.  So I was determined to try to maintain some sort of routine and to expect even just a half hour of work from my little guys during the summer.  Even if it was just for the sake of having something to count on regardless of where we were staying that night.  We just did a couple of workbook pages, a small chore, and then Tate did piano practice with me when we had a piano at our disposal, and just note flashcards when we didn't.  I'm so glad we did that.  It was not easy to fight the fight every day but now that we're back to practicing every day I'm especially grateful that we didn't let him slip as much as he could have in 6 weeks away from the piano!
One morning Auntie Amy let the boys help "weed" for their chores.  She said "you get to wear pirate boots!" and they were sold.  They put on their pirate galoshes and we all headed out to the beautiful green world that is her back yard.  
Going from the Middle East to New England is a bit of a shock for the system.  The shade of green all around you is unreal.  The boys spent less time weeding and more time looking for worms and bugs, but it was a valiant effort there for a few minutes.  I'm glad Amy let them "help".  She's so kind to us and our kids.  They just got back the day before we arrived from three weeks in Europe and visiting family so it was really a sacrifice for her to let us stay in their home for a couple of weeks!
I was not great at taking pictures of every day things while we were on repat.  I wished I had just got out my camera every time someone was holding one of our baby girls or reading to the boys or playing outside in the beautiful green.  But I was just so busy relaxing and getting over some serious repat shock that I didn't have the will to get out the camera.  I wanted to sit and watch and enjoy our family enjoying our family in this beautiful place we got to stay.  It's interesting looking back to recognize the arc of emotions I went through during our time in the states regarding this new lifestyle of ours.  I'm sure we'll get more used to the ins and outs as the years go by but this first year was a real kick in the pants in Saudi.  A lot of crazy things happened right after we moved there, I didn't feel very well, gave birth to twins, and we were still stuck on Rakah camp so when we left for repat it was hard to think of much positive to say about our first year.  Glenn and I found ourselves responding to the question, "what are the good things about living in Saudi?" with, "We get to go on amazing family vacations."  So basically the best thing about living there is that when we get to leave there.  But it's kind of true.  Or at least it was while we were living on Rakah camp.  I spent those first couple of weeks in New Hampshire and Boston having breakdowns in Target or in Market Basket with Amy (sorry Amy).  After shopping for food and trying to make meal plans based on what is available in Saudi Arabia for 9 months, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of good food there is to buy in the States that I just had a little sobbing fit.  Whew.  Those first couple of weeks, being able to drive again, eating delicious food, seeing my kiddos around their cousins and Aunts and Uncles who adore them, I just kept thinking, "How am I going to go back to Saudi?"  But as the weeks went by, we went to Utah, we had a TON of shopping and appointments to run around to, and then Glenn had to go back to work and I was on my own for a couple of weeks.  And by then I was actually ready.  Ready to go back to our own family space.  Ready to not have to hear Finn or Tate ask me, "Where are we sleeping tonight?"  Ready to dig my heels in again, especially knowing that we would be on main camp and I was ready to give that a shot.  Part of what made it easier was the anticipation of our Disney Cruise and knowing that living in Saudi made that opportunity possible.  I was really grateful that by the end of repat I was able to turn it around and feel ready to give it another go because those first couple of weeks, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get back on that plane back to the sandbox!
Back to New Hampshire, we spent a few days recouping from the trip and adjusting to jetlag which actually went much smoother than I anticipated.  Taryn and Kenna took turns waking up once or twice for a few nights but it got better after that.  Then on Saturday we decided to hit up a little farmer's market and then go visit Grampa Arthur at the camp where he was working for the summer.  The boys had a lot of fun admiring Nelson playing some of the games with such skill and ease.
The girls enjoyed the fresh New England air so much that they fell right to sleep.

I enjoyed making eyes at the piles of fresh produce.  Mmmmmm.
The boys' favorite game was this little table that had a plank that you hit with a hammer and it launched stuffed turtle toys through the air.  They probably could have stayed there for an hour playing with it.

We went to meet grampa at his island camp.  We had to take a little ferry across and the kiddos thought that was amazing.  The pictures I took of Arthur meeting the girls didn't turn out great because it was starting to get dark but luckily Glenn took some more while I was away.  Glenn sort of insisted that I spend a weekend with Mallory in New York City.  I felt guilty and didn't want to go after just a few days in New Hampshire but the closer it got, the more I realized that I really needed this break.  I needed to do some serious clothes shopping, I needed to eat some great food, I needed hours of catch-up time with my sister, and I needed to have some fun by myself.  It was so perfect.  And a blog post of it's own.
Here are some pictures that Glenn took while I was away.  He was a much better trip documenter than I was.  Kenna, hanging out with Grampa Arthur.

And some beautiful pictures swimming in the lake.  Seriously, could this place be any more idyllic?
Finny, showing Gregor the rock he found with his "big window goggles"
Gregor's the man.  Juggling two little babies.
Cope, Gregor, and Amy with our little crew.  These guys were so wonderful, as usual.  I get a little teary thinking about our time in their home this year especially.  They love our kids.  Truly love our kids and they love us too.  Gregor will listen with genuine interest to Tate talk about his latest career plan (running a monsters and mythical creatures petting zoo) for an hour.   Amy will make chores seem fun, feed them hot dogs every night if that's what they want, and snuggle babies like there's no tomorrow.  They are a genuine and generous group of people and I'm so glad we're related and that they allow us to crash at their place with our crazy little crew.

And a few more pictures of Taryn and Kenna with Gramma and Grampa.

I love that on their last night in the Andover Makechnie's home Gregor asked to read the boys a bedtime story.  Because he thinks their antics are genuinely hilarious and he wanted to be around them for a few more minutes.  What a great uncle.

The boys with Tennyson.

Cope and Amy with our four littles on the porch of their lovely home.  So dreamy.
The kiddos picked me up at the Boston airport on Wednesday afternoon and we were able to spend a few days in Needham with the Brendaen and Jill and their crew before we flew out to Utah on Saturday morning.  Staying with Brendaen and Jill and their little girls was so great.  They finished their basement and let us crash down there and it is a BEAUTIFUL basement.  B did all of the work himself and we were so comfortable and obviously, well-fed, as always in a Makechnie household.  Their girls, especially little Ella, were so incredibly helpful with our kids.  They're such good little girls.  Being around them makes me think, "Maybe having two girls is actually going to be fun and not just scary!"  
That first night we went to a beautiful swimming lake with the Makechnies and B even met us there after work.  It was a little chilly but that didn't stop the boys one bit.  We had so much fun watching them play while we snuggled babies.  Alas, I didn't take pictures.  There's always next year, I suppose.  
While we were in the Boston area, Glenn really wanted to show the kiddos Lexington and Concord so they could have a little bit of exposure to some American History.  They won't be learning about American History in their elementary school here so if they're going to hear the stories, it's up to us to teach them.  Luckily, we have family who live in an ideal place for American History field trips!  
Glenn told the kids the story of the first battle of the American Revolution.  How the British heard about military supplies that the rebels were collecting and marched to take them.  They were met by a small party of militia in Lexington but the militia were so outnumbered that, after a brief skirmish, they were forced to stand down.  More minute men gathered and shot at the British from the woods as they marched to Lexington and by the time they arrived at the North Bridge and were forced to retreat.

We toured Buckman Tavern, gathering place of the Lexington Militia.  Tate and Finn are getting very familiar with audio tours and LOVE searching for the numbers in each room, pushing the correct buttons, and gathering tid bits of information while listening to the commentary.  What good little kiddos.

This picture is hard to see but I thought the inscription on this home on the square was fascinating...and also very gory, "House of Jonathan Harrington who, wounded on the common, April 19 1775, dragged himself to the door and died at his wife's feet."  Wowser.
Finn was pretty confused all day.  He kept hearing about the soldiers who did, "right here on this green field" and he could not quite grasp that it happened a very long time ago and what that meant.  We walked out onto the green and he saw a man lying down on the grass, sleeping in the sunshine.  Finn stopped fast and said, "Mom, I see a dead body!"  Then he was looking at these leaves with his cousins and said, "Mom, I think that these holes were made with bullets."  Okay Finny.  Sure.  They probably were.  Sure. Sweet little kid.
I could not stop taking pictures of the inscriptions on the monuments.  The descriptions of the battles and the cause for which the men buried here were fighting were so powerful.  I especially appreciated the purposeful and frequent inclusion of God.  That they were defending not just their country, but God AND country.  Coming from a country where religion is law.  Where some men use their religion to justify horrible things.  And coming home to a country where God is forcefully being taken out of every public exchange, and mention of his name is viewed as inappropriate and in some cases, insulting, it was nice to see acknowledgements of what our country used to stand for and be reminded of some of the motivation behind its' creation.

We ate hot dogs.  So many hot dogs those first couple of weeks.  And Glenn and I were more than happy to let the boys eat as many as they wanted.  While they can.
The Andover Makechnies joined us in Needham on Friday night and even though we'd only been gone a couple of days it was a sweet reunion.

Oh the grass.  I loved and appreciated the grass in the US far more than I expected.  I wanted to sit on the grass and wrestle with my kids in the grass every day.

Nelson is such a sweet cousin.  He just keeps getting better every year.  Which is always hard to imagine because he's always been an incredible boy, but he does.  What a stud.
Family dog pile in the grass.
Friday morning we went to the Boston Aquarium together.  Alas, there were so many little ones to grab and to marvel with that I just didn't not take many pictures at the aquarium.  It was very busy and we didn't want to lose any little wanderers in the fray.  The boys loved the penguins,

and we met an enormous sea turtle.  The biggest we've ever seen.  And the sea lion show was pretty cool too.  The windows were right next to the tank and the boys got some very close-up views amid multiple potty runs.
After the aquarium we walked around the city a bit, making our traditional stop at Mike's Pastry.
Tate and Finn came in with me this time to pick our treats and Tate was immediately taken by the whoopie pie.  Now he says it's his favorite pastry.

Seeing our whole crew gathered on this spot every year around a few boxes of pastries is one of my favorite things.  We sit and make audible noises of pleasure while eating our goodies and then the kids run around and wrestle in the grass.  And some years we let them go crazy in the fountains because we are on vacation after all!

This year was a fountain year.

The boys loved every second of it.  I thought it was pretty fantastic as well.  Very happy little boys.
Our last evening in Needham was spent doing some more laundry, playing with sweet cousins and getting all packed for our trip the next day.

It was so fun to see the cousins love on their new baby cousins and play so nicely with Tate and Finn.  These first weeks started out pretty rocky with being so sick but after we got settled in a bit they were such a nice break with family who loved having us around and activities that were just right for our kids.  The perfect way to start our repat.  Thanks again Makechnies for all the help with our kids and for taking such good care of us.