Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dear Finn,

Dear Finn,
I'm writing this birthday letter to you a week late for the first time since I first started writing birthday letters because we were in Germany for your birthday!  You had a little birthday party with some friends at the beginning of December.  You wanted to have a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party and I think you had a lot of fun having a party with friends and having a day all about you.  On your 4th birthday you woke up to a hotel room covered in crepe paper and said, "Hey, why are there decorations in here?"  Then after a second you said, "Oh, I know!  It's because it's my birthday soon!"  And when we told you that it was actually today, your face lit up and I don't know if you stopped smiling all day.  We had breakfast, let you open your present (you really wanted a Jake and the Neverland Pirates we gotta work on telling time!) and then we were off to the mountain in Garmisch, Germany where you had ski lessons for the morning.  Finny, babe, you went skiing, in Germany, on your 4th birthday.  You wanted to make sure that your teacher knew that it was your birthday and I think he may have played favorites all day with you, my boy.  Then after resting in the room a bit and watching a movie, we went to dinner with the Berman family and made sure there were brownies with candles for you to blow out.  I hope it was a memorable day for you.  It's hard to believe that this is our life for the moment.  That you turned four in Germany and went skiing on your birthday.

You've handled the transitions of the last year like you've handled most tricky things in life: with a smile on your face.  You absolutely adore your new baby sisters, who arrived right after you turned 3, you didn't seem the least bit bothered by living on Rakah camp.  All the busyness of travel and repat was just another fun adventure to you, and moving back to Saudi to a new home on main camp, while confusing (you kept saying, "Remember when we lived in Saudi Arabia?" and we had to explain that we still did, just in a different house), didn't seem to throw you off too much.  Don't get me wrong, you've had your rough patches.  You can be really stubborn when you want to.  It seems like you go through phases once in a while of testing your boundaries just to see if we mean business when we set them.  When you get in one of your stubborn moods, you don't budge.  For anyone or anything.  There's no treat, no threat, no amount of time out, no early bed time that will make you change your mind once it's made up.  It's hard, but your ability to stick to your guns could be a huge asset when you're a grown up.  As long as it's directed in the right way.  But honestly, those little testing phases don't come around too often and they rarely come in conjunction with a big change in our family.  You take an awful lot in stride for a kid your age.

You adore your siblings.  You're always so excited when Tate comes home for lunch and want to fill him in on what you did every morning.  You love when he plays toys or make-believe with you.  And you love your baby sisters.  And they love you right back.  You can make them smile and giggle bigger and easier than anyone else.  You three have something special going on and it is magic to watch.

Since the babies were born you love to hear stories and see pictures and videos of when you were a baby.  Your little face lights up seeing what a cute baby you were and watching little videos of tiny you.  You also love me to tell you stories about when your Dad and I met, when you were born, and then sometimes you have specific requests like, "Tell me a story about when I was a jedi in star wars and I saved Disneyland!" or, "Tell me a story of when I'm a champion basketball player and Tyler Hawes needs me to help him defeat the evil alien basketball team!"  And, while too often there's a baby to console or a bottle to make or dinner to start, as often as I can I sit down with you and watch your expressive little face come to life as I tell you a story.  Your facial expressions are still deliciously unedited and I cannot get enough of watching your little face work.  Your face shows everything you're thinking and feeling in such an exaggerated way that I just burst out laughing sometimes.  I love that you are, for the most part, a very uninhibited boy.  I know that the days when you care what people think are coming, but I hope you always keep so much of the free little boy you are as you grow and don't let the world smother your light, fun self.

You've started to slow down on what you eat and how much this year.  You take a while to eat your meals and don't eat as much as Tate does.  You still LOVE fruit.  Pretty much any kind.  But the different varieties we get here in Saudi have made you a little more hesitant.  You used to eat your weight in grapes, but now, after getting a few seeds, you're not so sure about them anymore.  The same can be said for oranges and watermelon.  Those seeds throw a wrench in your enthusiasm for those particular fruits.  You would still eat 6 bananas and a few apples every day though if I let you.  You also love yogurt, chunks of cheese, orange juice, and you'll usually try most anything we have for dinner.  You may not love it, but you'll at least give it a go.

You've been taking a nap every afternoon at the same time as your baby sisters which has been a lifesaver for me and your little body has really still needed it.  Even when we've been traveling, you'll just get tired enough that when you have a second in the stroller or a taxi ride you'll just conk out for a while and wake up raring to go again!  I have a feeling that's about to come to an end though.

We signed you up for a little preschool here on main camp and you were supposed to start this fall but it fell through and you were so disappointed.  We've tried to get you in to the other couple of preschools on camp but they're all full in the mornings.  You were so excited to start school and you wore your new backpack all summer, telling everyone you met that you were going to be in preschool.  So you were sad when it didn't work out.  I'm actually really glad that I get one more year of having you with me all the time.  You're so fun and four year old preschool will come soon enough.  We've got a bunch of preschool books and a reading practice book to and you and I do a lot of little preschool practice while your sisters take their morning naps.  You're getting really good at reading and seem to be proud of your new skill.

You have some good little friends here in Saudi.  Abby lives just a couple of houses away and Ryan still lives on Rakah but he's moving soon.  You play well with your friends and there aren't many squabbles when you have buddies over to play.  You switch make-believe games when your friends want to change gears and it doesn't seem to phase you at all.  You share your toys and are always begging to have a friend over.

You're starting to develop a sense of how spiritual things fit in with your life and you ask some pretty fun questions sometimes.  "If I whine again then Jesus will tell Santa not to bring me presents, right?"  "When I get baptized then will all my bad dreams be washed away?"  "Why did Jesus make us talk and words come out of our mouths?"  You have a sweet testimony of the gospel and you always want to be the one to say the prayer.  Usually you say the same few things, but every once in a while you get a little more thoughtful and we hear things like:  "Please bless dad that he will be really strong and lift things!"

You're a very physical little guy. You love to wrestle with anyone at all, but especially your dad.  Your hugs are rough and usually end with a tackle, even sometimes for your little sisters.  You love basketball but you go through phases of playing it all the time, and sometimes you're a little bored with it.  You also love going to parks and swimming.  You took your first swimming lessons this year first from a lifeguard at Rakah and then from a YW in our group and you've just taken off in the pool.  You can stay afloat on your own, though it still looks a little frantic. You love being under the water and using your goggles and you're developing a good little front crawl.  You have a very natural command over your body and seem to feed on learning to make your body do new things.  You had your first little season of soccer on Rakah as well and you loved it.  Having your family come cheer for you, playing goalie or trying to kick goals.  It was all so fun for you!

Time keeps going faster and faster.  It's so bizarre that this is your second birthday since we moved to Saudi Arabia.  Four years since my tiny baby Finn was born.  It's so sad to see you get one year bigger.  One year closer to being a grown up Finn.  But while this watching my babies grow can sometimes be a bitter thing, it's awful sweet too.  Your third year was wonderful.  I loved every second of three year old you.  But I adore 4-year-old you so very much already and I'm so excited to see what you do and learn and how you change now that you're a big 4-year-old.  You're a great four-year-old, Finn.  You're a good boy.  A smart, kind, busy, fun little boy.  We're so so glad you're our little boy.  You're a light in our family.  A reminder to keep things light and happy.  A big help and a sweet friend.  Happy Birthday, my little man.

The world is yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Picture Tuesday, Week 46

Kenna and Taryn have adjusted pretty well to being home again and seem to love being in their own beds with their own blankets.  They sleep so well at nap time and seem to really love just snuggling up with their blankets and curling up for a nap.  It's darling, as is everything they do.  
They're still eating pretty much anything we put in front of them.  The only thing they've passed on is when I made baby food with peas and they were not going for that at all.  
Both Taryn and Kenna are getting braver at standing on their own for a few seconds but haven't shown any interest in taking steps yet.  And when we hold their fingers and try to get them to walk they'd just rather not. 
Taryn's fourth tooth broke through while we were in Germany and Kenna still shows no signs of having anything close yet.  Silly girls.  
They seemed to enjoy their first Christmas.  Santa brought them a little ball popper toy and some books.  They were, predictably, more interested in the ribbons and crackly paper than in the toys but it was still fun to watch them try to figure out what all the hype and squealing was about!
Here are our little babes, 47 weeks old!

Picture Tuesday, week 45

This Tuesday we are in Cologne, Germany! Taryn and Kenna have been amazing little travelers so far. They slept very well on the plane even though the red eye flight could have really thrown them off. They've been so good these first couple of days out and about in Germany. They spend a lot of time in the stroller and rarely complain. They just sit very still, all bundled up, staring in awe at all the lights and colorful booths. And when they're tired, the just fall asleep while their stroller bumps over the cobblestones. It's bliss.
Taryn has started clapping and we've even got her to wave a few times too. She seems VERY proud of herself when she shows off her new skills and seeing her face just beaming when she claps on command is so darling. And little Kenna is getting more and more bold about standing up on her own. She stands up with the help of a couch or someone's leg and then she's started to let go and balance on her own for a few seconds. She also seems to be very proud of herself even though I keep telling her that's not a skill I encourage yet! Slow down you two!
I'm posting this from my phone at 4:30am since the babes decided it was time to be up. Turns out a two hour time change is still an adjustment!  Here are T and K at 45 weeks old, sleeping all snugged in their car seat stroller as we wander Christmas markets!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Picture Tuesday, weeks 43 and 44

Kenna and Taryn were a little bit sick again last week.  Finn had a fever on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the day that we celebrated Thanksgiving, and they started getting mild fevers for a few days and coughs as well right after he did.  It wasn't too bad.  I had a pretty awful fever for a few days and felt miserable.  Tate and Glenn have yet to catch anything.  I hope that we're all getting it out of our systems before our trip to Germany next week!  I also hope that we have enough warm clothes to keep our little babies cozy and happy in the freezing temps!
This week Taryn cut her first front tooth and her second is VERY close to coming through as well.  That means she's got nearly four teeth and Kenna has yet to cut a single one.
They're both getting a little more snuggly and playful which makes for such a fun stage.  They're starting to lean backwards if they want us to let them fall backwards and then catch them.  They'll lean in and raise their chins for kisses that tickle in their necks.  When it's nap time and I sing them songs they'll lean their heads on my shoulder and sometimes when they're tired or just being sweet they'll snuggle their heads under our chins.  It makes my heart sing to have some tangible way to know that they love us as much as we love them.  They make the cutest little babbling sounds that make me think I'll almost be sad when they start saying real words because their little babbles are just so beautiful.
We have our Christmas tree up, the train on the ground and presents around the tree too.  For the most part they just ignore that entire corner of the family room.  Once in a while they crawl toward it and hesitantly check it out, usually with lots of glances over their shoulders at me.  When I tell them "no, don't touch", 9 times out of 10, they sit back on their haunches, pause for a minute, and then crawl away.  Sometimes they reach for it a few times before they crawl away, and once in a while I have to get up and redirect them but honestly, it's pretty astounding how often they just turn around and explore somewhere else.  How did we get such sweet little babies?!  It's awesome!
Here are our little darlings at 43 weeks:  Selfie mode is the only way I can get these babes to mostly hold still lately!

 Finn was dying to get in on the picture action.
 and Glenn took these for me today for 44 weeks:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


The flights to Barcelona could have been worse.  Once we got there Mallory and I were just so darn proud of ourselves for making it with all of our little ones and gear that we were on a bit of a high in spite of not having slept the night before.  We left SLC early in the morning and stopped at LA, then Calgary, and then on to Barcelona. On our very first, short flight to LA, RIGHT after the pilot announced that we had to stay in our seats for landing Finn told us he urgently needed to use the restroom.  Perfect.  So the poor kid had to try to hold it for about 20 minutes and he did not make it.  Luckily we had a change of shorts in his backpack so it wasn't a total failure.  Getting through customs twice with four tired kiddos was hard.  And that last flight across the ocean was on an air canada flight and there were no TVs.  And even though I had called and reserved the bulkhead seats so we could have bassinets and be able to put the babies down once in a while, they didn't give us the right seats.  It was rough.  Mallory, as always, was a miracle worker.  Making jokes and inspiring smiles when all the rest of us took turns having a grumpy minute.  Here we are on the other side.  TONS of luggage and four sleepy but pretty happy kids.  No idea what I would have done without her.  
We got in a taxi and our driver dropped us off at our rented flat.  Mal and I got all our stuff into our place and crashed for a minute.  Our apartment was rad.  It had three bedrooms one full bathroom and one little closet that they turned into a shower.  The main room had a couch, table, and TV.  We had a washer in the kitchen so we could do a couple of loads and have everything clean to start the cruise.  The owner even set up two cribs for us so we didn't have to bring pack and plays on our entire repat. And it was one block away from the Sagrada Familia.  It was perfect.
You know it's going to be a great place to stay when these are the stairs to your apartment.
And these are your keys!
We headed back out pretty quickly to find some lunch.  We walked around a bit before settling on a pizza place just down the block.
Right after lunch Glenn texted saying that he was on his way so we went back to the apartment and met him there.  We were all SO excited to see him.  It was a long two weeks apart!
That first night we took taxis up to Park Guell and discovered that all the tickets were sold out for the rest of the night.  So we found a little playground and let the kids get worn out for a bit before heading back to our neighborhood.  We walked to the Sagrada Familia to see if we could get tickets for the next day and sweet Finny passed out while Glenn was carrying him.  

It had been a LONG day with very little sleep the night before and he was just done.  Tate and the girls were troopers and stuck it out til the end.  We went back to our place and had dinner outside at a cafe called the Chocolate Box.  It was a very good choice and a place that we frequented the next couple of days!  Finn slept in his chair, completely out to the world while we ate dessert for dinner.  He woke up briefly to try on his Darth Vader pajamas that Auntie Mallo brought him for a surprise!  Tate's surprise was a minions seek and find book that he spend the entire trip looking at and Finn was so excited about his new PJs. 
The next morning Finn and Glenn went to the chocolate box to get us some breakfast.
And by breakfast I really mean palmeras, napolitanas, churros and chocolate, and gofres (crunchy waffles) covered in chocolate and whipped cream.  Yep.  It was ridiculous.
Here's a picture of our little main room.
That morning we decided to head to a festival in another neighborhood.  We got on the metro, changed trains once and then came up intending to ask directions to get to the correct block when we looked up and, oh, there's La Pedrera.  One of the bizarre and beautiful houses designed by Antonio Gaudi!  Well, don't mind if we do.  We got tickets and audio tours and explored this beautiful creation for about an hour.
 We started on the roof.  It's amazing how Gaudi could make even the functional parts of the buildings beautiful.
I loved how the rooftop went up and down in smooth waves.  Everything in this house was rounded and wavy.  Walls, ceilings, even the roof. We got a children's book later in the day about Gaudi that talked about some tenants of La Pedrera complaining to Gaudi about their apartment.  One woman complained that there was no where to hang a painting because all of the walls were curved.  And she said there was absolutely nowhere to put her piano.  Gaudi replied that perhaps she should play the guitar instead.  Ha!

After the roof we explored the attic.  The way Gaudi managed to create durable structures with such beautiful shapes was so impressive.  We saw one display that showed how he would hang chains in different arches upside down and then put a mirror underneath it to see what they would look like right side up.  Then he would use those as a model of the arches he used to support his creations.
Tate had fun making shadow puppets on the walls.

Last we explored one floor of the residences.  Everything was so unique.  I wish I had a brain like Gaudi's.  I have no idea what it must feel like to have completely original ideas of how to create a building and a space that is so beautiful and functional.  He designed every doorknob, every cupboard pull, and a lot of furniture too.  Based on how humans interact and how they use a space.  These knobs were designed by having people grip clay and then using that as a cast for pulls and doorknobs that fit perfectly into a person's hand.  So cool.
After La Pedrera we headed home through the subway and stopped for some pastries and Spanish tortilla sandwich!
We let the littles have a little nap and then we went to our afternoon tour of the Sagrada Familia cathedral.
It was astounding, humbling, and inspiring.  Such an amazing building.  Begun in 1882 and still under construction with no current completion date, it's truly a marvel.
The front facade was the story of Christ's birth.  Angels singing and playing instruments, doves, wise men, animals, and of course the holy family.  All in intricate detail.

The back facade was the story of Christ's betrayal and crucifixion.  The style of the two sides could not have been more different.  The side depicting his death was so austere, harsh and dark.

This picture is Pilot, contemplating his decision.  The expression captured in the simple lines of his faces is just so cool.
Finny was tired of me taking pictures of the church so he said, "Mom, take a picture of me!"  And this is the resulting pose.
The boys had fun playing "i spy" on the enormous doors.  They were covered with carved metal vines which were hiding tiny creatures like bugs, snails, lizards and frogs.  A busy's boy's dream.
The girls were very well-behaved overall during their first big cathedral tour.

The light streaming in from all the beautiful stained glass windows was so gorgeous.
A couple token selfies.

The square below is a magic square.  The sum of each row of numbers is 33, the age Christ was when he died.
The same square is in this scene, behind Judas betraying Jesus.
So much to take in.  We spent maybe an hour in the cathedral and the boys were SO done being reverent!  They tried their best but we needed to be done.
Kenna wore herself out as well.  Sweet little girl.
That evening we had tickets to get in to Park Guell.  But due to a miscalculation of military time, our tickets were at 8pm.  There was no chance of us getting in any sooner since the tickets had been sold out for hours so we took taxis to a restaurant that was recommended to us and had an amazing assortment of tapas to pass the time.
I couldn't stop taking pictures of the food.  Everything was beautiful and so delicious.  Perhaps with the exception of the squid below.  That's just for Glenn.  Though, it was pretty cool looking and the boys thought it was cool/gross to see Glenn eat the curly little tentacles!
Tate was thrilled with his mini-hot dogs.  We thought they might possibly be a little bigger...or maybe come with more than one.  But it's okay.  We just ordered more!  It doesn't take much to make Tate's day and finding tiny hot dogs in Barcelona made everything better for this tired kid.

Taryn, on the other hand, just needed her Auntie's arms and she was happy as can be.
After dinner we walked around, found a pharmacy to get some creme for some weird bite looking welts on Finn's legs, it's always something, right?  And stumbled into the Plaza Catalonia where the boys chased pigeons until it was time to catch taxies to Park Guell.
We'd watched videos and read stories about Park Guell and the boys were the most excited to see the mosaic lizard near the entrance.  It got dark really fast so we rushed to a couple of places where we wanted to take pictures but it got too dark for picture taking really fast.

Makechnie family pictures from the patio on one of the beautiful curved mosaic benches.  What a stunning view of the city!
These two sweet babies were little angels.  Being dragged all over a hot city all day long and they were so good.
On the way down the boys and I played hide and seek for a bit in the columns as the sun went down.  It got really dark and at the end we had to use my phone flashlight to see each other but it was a really fun memory.
That night we paid another visit to the chocolate box after the kids went to bed.  We had to give their chocolate and churros another go.  No regrets, yet again.
The next day we had to catch a taxi with all our gear at 11 to get to the cruise ship so we just had a few more hours to spend in Barcelona.  Tate and Finn were getting kind of tired of all the walking but we couldn't just sit in our apartment so we made a quick trip through the subway to La Rambla, a long pedestrian street with shops and markets to browse.  
We stumbled into La Boqueria which, after living in Saudi, looked like heaven.

It was a glorious fresh food market filled with meats, produce, breads, sweets, and lots of fresh cooked food too.
Mal, Glenn and I fantasized about living just around the corner and doing all of our grocery shopping at La Boqueria every week.

And just like that, our couple of days in Barcelona were over.  I loved Barcelona.  We should definitely go back and try to explore different areas.  There is SO much to see that we didn't get to in just a couple of days.  Our kids were exhausted after the long trip but they did pretty well trying to hold it together even with all the walking in the heat.  The food was incredible and the company couldn't have been more perfect. What a lovely start to our European adventure!