Thursday, November 13, 2014

Living in a Glass House

The other night we had some people come over for dinner, some locals. More specifically, one of Shannon's employees and his wife and kids. I'm always nervous about having people over for dinner, because the food we eat is not like the food they eat here. If you go to someone's house here they will fill and refill your plate over and over again, whether you want them to or not. They will kill the fattened calf, so to speak, and put out a crazy big feast for you. Which really, if you think about it, is a little embarrassing. And then you're left with the question of how to reciprocate.

So when we lived in Istanbul some friends mentioned that they would always try to have people over to their home first, before they got invited somewhere. Because then they could set the stage for what was normal, for how things were to be reciprocated. They would serve a normal meal with normal food and normal portions, and then a normal dessert and of course tea and coffee afterwards. And I thought, wow, that's a great idea.

So I made a huge pot of chicken and vegetable stew, sliced some bread, and had made an apple pie for dessert. We always tell our guests that we don't (and won't) heap portion after portion after portion of food on their plates because we don't do that in America and aren't comfortable doing it, but that there is obviously plenty of food and if they'd like more to please help themselves. And we offer, but we don't force. Our guests each ate one bowl of stew. They commented on how they didn't think Americans ate things like that (probably because every time they've been guests in a foreigner's home they've been served the "fattened calf.") We served the cake they brought with the pie I made (and the mandatory store-bought candy) and tea and coffee. And they left with a loaf of pumpkin bread and a jar of my homemade jam, leaving us with half of the biggest cake I've ever seen here.

And that night, as Shannon and I were washing dishes we discussed how in America we loved having people over. I loved playing hostess and cooking and baking. But here, it's just uncomfortable and awkward. We never feel like people actually have a good time. I never know if they really like the food or if they're just being polite. We never know if we're doing the right thing by not heaping loads of food onto their plates or if we're really offending them. Should we send home leftover cake when there's no way we'll eat it all, even when they refuse it? How long do we wait after we serve dinner before we serve the tea and coffee, because no matter how many times we explain that it doesn't mean we want them to leave, it just means that our kids expect dessert immediately following dinner, they still leave 30 minutes later.

What do they think of our huge (for here) apartment? Our girls' 80 million hair bows? What does it say to them when we live in a nice apartment but I serve them chicken stew when they come for dinner instead of the spread they were probably expecting? Does it speak well of us because now they're off the hook for giving us a huge spread, or are they angry because they think we don't value them enough to prepare the feast? How does this impact things with Shannon being his boss?

I've was a nanny before for a well-off family when I was in graduate school. I noticed when they bought "extras." I saw receipts around the house sometimes for hundreds of dollars on makeup or thousands of dollars on a bookshelf. I saw the food in their pantry, the out-of-season produce in their refrigerator. The products they bought, the clothes in their kids' closets, how frequently they washed clothes and ran the dishwasher.

We have a nanny come into our home five mornings a week so I can go to language class. And I wonder what she thinks about the food in my refrigerator. The clothes in my girls' drawers. How frequently I do laundry, change the sheets, vacuum my floors, clean the toilets. What she thinks of the toilet paper I buy, the laundry soap, the dish soap, the individually-packaged tea bags. The flour in bulk but the always-expensive avocados (for Raye). Does she think I'm wasteful? Extravagent? A good manager of my home? What does she think of my children and how they behave? How they eat? What they eat?

And I feel like I live in a glass house for all to see. And it makes me uncomfortable.

Because as much as I know that we are not extravagant (at least not for Americans), that I clean as regularly as I can manage, that our intentions are pure in not serving the fattened calf, and so on, it doesn't much matter if they don't see it, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6 Months Old


Dear Raye,

Three days ago you turned six months old, the big half-a-year. Time sure does fly. Every time I start to get frustrated that you're not on more of a schedule yet I remind myself that another six months from now you'll probably be sleeping longer at night, you'll only be taking two naps a day, and so on. I'm much less stressed out about your loosey-goosey schedule than I would have been with Lane or Noel. Which is nice.

Snoozin' on the bus ride to Georgia.

Raye, you are such a sweetheart. You're still quite the happy and content baby, but within the last week you've started to get your two bottom front teeth, so they're giving you some trouble. You've been a little cranky about that, but overall you're still happy. You're still sleeping alright at night...I'm ready for you to sleep past 4 or 5 in the morning, but I feel bad for you because I know that your teeth are bothering you, so I usually cave and feed you and then you go back to sleep. You do usually at least sleep straight through until that early morning feeding, though, so I'm grateful for that. You're nursing about six times a day, still, but you're content so I'm not worrying about it even though I'd love to work you down to four or five. 


This month we started feeding you more solids and you are a fan. You do not like the texture (at least I'm assuming it's the texture) of the rice cereal here. You pretty much don't like anything pureed. So instead I'm cooking things in small chunks and you're chowing down. You love zucchini, bananas, and avocado. You'll eat plain yogurt and homemade oat cereal but your face is so funny because it's obvious you're not really a fan. You're still pretty slow at eating so I feel like you spend most of your day either sleeping or eating, because you still want to eat, it just takes you forever to gum things since you don't like them pureed.

Chillin' in Tbilisi.

This month you got another stamp in your passport as we traveled to Georgia. We took a bus and you did great. You were a trooper the whole trip, taking naps while I carried you in the Ergo and missing out on most of Tbilisi, but you didn't seem to care too much. Your infected hangnail is much better now and while we're still waiting on the fingernail to grow out, you're not sucking on your fingers/thumb much anymore (you prefer the paci, yay!) so you're not having to wear a sock on your hand 24/7.


You also have started to sit up a bit on your own but are not too good at it yet. You are usually trying to look at something so end up toppling over. But you can sit up well in your highchair and do well if someone is sitting behind you. You are also pushing yourself up into a "girl" pushup position but you're not trying to push yourself around much yet. I think it has to do mostly with the fact that we have wood floors and you're wearing pants because it's cold, so you just end up sliding around. You push yourself up much more when you're in the living room on our only rug. You roll all over the place, but you prefer to be on your tummy and to play on your tummy. You like to look at the world, chew on your toys, and sometimes yell at them.


You are such a sweetie-pie, Raye. We all love you so much and we all love to see you smile and interact with us. I'm so excited to see your personality develop even more and to see your relationship with your sisters deepen. You will surely all be thick as thieves.

I love you, Raye, and am so grateful for you.

Love,
Mommy

Monday, October 27, 2014

Georgia On My Mind

A few weeks ago we needed to leave the country in order to renew Raye's visa. So we made a reservation on airbnb.com, bought some bus tickets, packed our bags (2 duffles and a pack-n-play...not too shabby for five people for two weeks!), and headed on an adventure! For the record, Georgia made country number seven for Lane at 4.5 years old, number five for Noel at 2.5 years old, and number three for Raye at 5 months old.


Adventuring!

Eight hours after leaving we arrived in Tbilisi. Some friends of ours met us at the bus station and took us to our apartment. We ate fast food chicken for dinner and were all (yes, me and Shannon, too!) in bed by 8:30. The road in Georgia was very, very windy and Lane and I were not feeling well for the last half of the trip. Raye was a trooper and took a few naps, and even Noel fell asleep in Daddy's lap for a few minutes. But we were all exhausted and crashed early.




Family photo in Tbilisi.

On Saturday we ate traditional Georgian food for lunch and then went to Carrefour, a big grocery store. It was so strange to see the mixture of products I'm familiar with from living here or in Turkey...a combination of Russian and English and Georgian on the boxes, and so on. It's always still strange to me that I understand as much as I do but am frequently confused as to which language it is, unless it's English.


A perfect example of the mixture of languages...Turkish on the cup, Georgian on the tray liner, and Ukrainian on the burger wrapper.

Sunday we spent filling out our paperwork for new visas, and Monday we got Raye's photo taken for her visa application, got the applications turned in, spent some time at a park, and hit the sack, ready to just enjoy our time in Tbilisi while we waited for our visas.





We went to the zoo, and while it was not the cleanest or the most modern zoo, it only cost five lari for admission, or about $3. They had good animals and the girls enjoyed themselves.


My favorite sign at the zoo.



We rode the Metro a few times and walked around the Old Town area a bit.





We ate McDonald's and Wendy's, as well as American pizza, real Indian food, and Turkish food.




Raye slept through a lot of our excursions.

We found lots of fun parks for the girls. We attended an International Church one Sunday, spent some time with old acquaintances of Shannon's (and their five kids, three of whom were girls right at our girls' ages) a couple of nights, and took the gondola to the top of a hill for a walk around an old fortress.




Tbilisi is an interesting combination of OLD architecture, modern architecture, and Soviet architecture. This is the Bridge of Peace.


On the gondola. The girls loved it.



We survived a week in our 2-bedroom apartment with hardly any hot water, and the whole time with only a stovetop and a handleless pan and two pots for cooking. It was definitely not the most comfortable situation in the kitchen so we ate a lot of sandwiches and noodles with butter and cheese. So when we picked up our new visas on a Wednesday evening we were ever so glad to buy return bus tickets for Saturday. And Saturday evening as we were tucking the girls into bed they kept saying, "It's so good to be home."

And it is. 

Lane: 3 til 5

Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote a post about my oldest and what a hilarious hoot she is. So lest I forget...



Lane,

You, my dear, are hilarious. About a month ago some friends brought by some dress-up clothes that their daughters have long since outgrown. You wear them every day. Seriously, the amount of laundry that I have to wash has been drastically reduced because you usually don't wear real clothes. Just a dress, some tights, a tiara, bracelets, rings, and necklaces, and of course princess shoes. All matching, which to you means they are the same color. You pretend to be a princess, a princess kitten, a princess elephant, and so on. But always a princess.



Speaking of matching, you love for things to match right now. Which pretty much means that you want them to be the same color. You do not like it when I tell you that you can't wear pink pants, pink socks, and a pink shirt all at the same time, because, "But mommy, I want to match!" [insert extremely whiney voice here.]


You thought you looked so awesome with the hat, headband, and sunglasses. You also had a bow tying your two braids together in the front at one point...

Your vocabulary and understanding of how English works is, umm, funny. For example, you keep asking me if things "matter." Like, "Do these socks matter?" I don't know how to explain to you what exactly it means when I say, "It doesn't matter" about your socks... And today you were asking about the cost of things...I was explaining to you that my wedding ring(s) is expensive and that you couldn't play with it. You asked what expensive meant and I said that it cost a lot of money. So then you asked if the iPad cost. Umm, yes, it cost a lot, but my ring(s) cost more. What about the couch? Did it cost? You're so funny.


You still love bugs and frogs.

You love to do crafts. Love, love, love them. We've done three in the past few days and you are in hog heaven. Today you made an owl and the other day we did fingerprint trees. Your tree looks better than mine. You're four. I'm 34. Not fair. Your love for school stuff has dropped off...you still like to do it but I think you only like the easy things...you don't like it when I actually make you work to do something correctly, or to follow the lines more precisely, and so on. So we're taking a break until I get my wherewithal and get us into somewhat of a preschool routine. Until then, you know everything you need to know in order to start kindergarten next year.


Your artistic skills continue to grow. This was in April just three months after you turned 4.

You have turned into a great big sister, Lane. Just a little over a year ago you still did not like Noel. We'd ask you if you were glad to have a sister and you'd always answer, "No." But now you two are like peas in a pod. Granted, you fight a lot, too, but you have so much fun together. You're partners in crime, thick as thieves. You're best buddies. And it makes me so glad that you have each other. And in about 1.5-2 years and Raye'll be in on the action, too. You and Noel thoroughly enjoy each other and you play well together. You argue like all siblings do, but overall...I'm so, so happy with how you love each other.



You're also getting a lot better at listening and obeying and we do not have to discipline you nearly as much as we used to. You do still get spankings (usually for just pushing it too far...taking our grace at bedtime, for example, too far and refusing to be quiet and instead asking for twenty million things as we're closing the door) but generally you are obedient (maybe reluctantly) and helpful. You like to tell me, "You're my best mommy." And you lavish the love on us in the mornings...saying that you've saved some snuggles for the other parent.



Lane, you're a sweetheart. You love to color and paint and run and climb, to watch TV or play the iPad (we never let you do these things as often as you want!), and to "tie" things. You love a challenge but cry easily when you're embarrassed over doing something wrong. You get upset easily over things that are frustrating you but conquer new things (zippers, buckles, etc.) regularly. You're doing things now that just a few months ago you balked at (brushing your own teeth, always putting on your own clothes, always feeding yourself). You try new foods (once again, maybe reluctantly, but willingly) and eat what you are given, usually without much complaint. You're fully in size 5T clothes and I think you're approaching 40 pounds. You love to help me in the kitchen. You love to coo at Raye and make her laugh. You love to dance, although I think you inherited your daddy's skills in that department and not mine, sadly. You're a pleasure now more than a pain and I'm so thankful for the girl you are and are becoming.

I love you,
Mommy

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Months Old

Dear Raye,

Another month has gone by and you'll be half-a-year old before I know it. Five months...it's gone so quickly. You are seriously the most chill and relaxed baby ever. And everyone says so.

This month has been a fun one as you've started vocalizing and playing with toys even more. I don't remember when your first laugh was, but you've been doing it for awhile now. You love for us to "get" your neck or your ribs and will snicker and laugh. You love it when we talk "baby talk" to you and will just grin and coo and try to touch our faces. You found your feet and have put them in your mouth a few times, but mostly you just like to grab them and look at them. You also like to examine your hand and then slowly bring it to your mouth to chew on.



You're still sucking on your thumb or fingers but will take the paci if you can keep it in. You're just not going looking for it after it's fallen out. Hopefully soon you'll actually prefer it and keep your fingers out of your mouth. You got a hangnail this month that got infected and now we're having to keep a couple of socks taped to your hand to keep it dry so it can heal. It's like torture to you because you love to have your hands in your mouth! But it's looking better and hopefully in another couple of weeks you won't need to keep the socks on your hand.

I weighed you this month and you weigh 16 pounds. Sixteen! But you've only gained a pound since we left America two months ago, so I'm glad to see that your weight gain is slowing down and that maybe the clothes we have for you for this winter will actually fit you this winter!



This month we gave you some rice and oat cereal, but you were definitely not a fan of them. In fact, you blow raspberries to spit them out. So I think we'll just give it another few weeks before we try again, because after four tries of rice and four tries of oats, you were still just spitting them out. I thought that maybe you were needing some more calories because you kept waking up in the middle of the night. But in the end we decided to let you cry it out for a few nights to see if it helped, and lo and behold, it did. Now you go to bed around 7 and sleep until 5 or 6, and I feed you once at around 10. You might wake up and cry for a few minutes in the middle of the night but for the most part you are sleeping much better. And we all feel better and more rested because of it.


Your first taste of rice cereal.

You are a drooler and a spitter. You spit up so much it's amazing to me. I think it's because you prefer to be on your tummy now and the pressure from the floor on your tummy just pushes the milk back up and out. I'm excited for you to learn how to sit up so that maybe you don't spit up as much. And you love to put everything in your mouth...toys, fingers, burp cloths, all of it. So there's a lot of drool going on around here, too.



Raye, you are so sweet. You're such a sweet baby. You really love your sisters. Noel loves to hold you and Lane loves to make noises in your face and watch you smile. I love to snuggle you after your 10 p.m. feeding when you pretty much just sleep on my shoulder. And Daddy just loves to hold you and talk to you. You are a good listener, after all. We love you so much and are so glad you're a part of our family.

I love you,
Mommy


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Life Lately

I keep telling myself that one day I'll actually write in this little space of my own. And it just keeps on not happening. But one day, when I'm not studying a language 20 hours a week and when I don't have a not-sleeping-well-at-night baby, perhaps I'll resume. Until then, if you're holding your breath that there will be posts here more than once or twice a month, keep holding it, because I doubt that will happen anytime soon. But one day it will. Just not today.

So, a bit of life lately.

1) A new home. Shortly after arriving here we began to look for a new apartment. We found one quickly and got all moved in the day after we signed the contract, and we had our internet up and running by two days later. We have a huge place (for here), almost 1200 square feet. It's three bedrooms and a storage room, and two bathrooms, which is practically unheard of here. The kitchen is a little lacking in the comfort department but I can make due. And our living room / dining room area is a little cramped but once again, not a big deal. Overall we're very happy with our place and it's turning out nicely. I haven't done much to make it feel "homey" yet but we have gotten most of the kinks worked out of the rest of the place, so hopefully soon I can get to the finishing touches.


The sunrise out our living room window.

2) Sickness. Seriously, two weeks ago I woke up absolutely freezing. I took a shower and went to my language lesson like usual (well, usual for the previous three days) but by the time I came home I had a huge headache. I let the girls watch television all afternoon while I just moped around in misery, and I went to bed at 7:15 that night, right after I had nursed Raye. I woke up the next day feeling better, but then on Monday Shannon woke up with the same thing. And mine seemed to come back. Add into it a mild case of mastitis, a hangnail-turned-infected-finger on Raye, and colds that we all got right after moving here and it's been a long six or seven weeks.

3) Packages! My mother-in-law did some shopping for Lane for some fall/winter clothing since there was nothing out when we were looking in July and August. So she sent some fun packages with clothes for all the girls and new Auburn hair bows and sticky-back velcro (for do-it-yourself window screens) and a cheese slicer for me. It was a load of fun opening the packages. Thanks, Sharon and Milton!


Whoop whoop for new clothes for the girlies!

4) A visa run. Raye's visa expires in about a week and Shannon's and the girls' expire at the end of this month, with mine to follow in early November. So tomorrow we're taking a little trip out of the country.  We should be gone about two weeks and then will (hopefully!) be coming back with brand-new visas valid for three years. Until then…we'll just be road-tripping it with three kids in tow. Loads of fun. At least we'll get to see someplace new, and we don't have to check any bags or deal with airport security!

5) Parenting. Ok, maybe I shouldn't go here, but just in case there's some mom out there who has some kids fairly close together and is feeling like she's drowning…I hear ya. I was totally there. I think I had about 3.75 years of parenting…stress. Like, major stress. But stick with it. It passes. Kids get a little older and start to actually like each other and play together and life gets easier. So I feel like life now is actually easier, parenting-wise, than it was a year ago. And I have an extra kid now! So hold out hope and stick with it.


Me and my girls.

So there you go. A bit of life lately. And now, I'm off to continue what is so characteristic of my life: packing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

4 Months Old

Dear Raye,

Two weeks ago you turned four months old. We've had a pretty busy couple of weeks so I haven't been able to write to you until now, but better late than never, I suppose.







This month has been a pretty big one for you. You learned how to roll over from your back to your tummy a few days before you turned four months old. And just like when Noel did it, you spent the better part of a couple of days rolling from back to tummy and then whining or crying about it. But you're getting better at actually enjoying tummy time, and you've decided you like to sleep on your tummy most of the time. Since you learned how to roll to your tummy we decided we had to break you of your swaddle, and that was rough going for a few days. Rough, I tell you. But we made it through and we're all happier for it.



This month you got your first stamps in your passport as we traveled across the ocean. You were a champ at jet lag and did pretty well recovering from it. You can go at least 7-8 hours at night without eating, but you certainly don't usually do it…most nights you wake up around 12 or 1, and then again around 4 or so, and again sometime between 6-8. We're working on getting you on a loose schedule now that we kind of know how life is going to look, but it's slow-going.


One of your first international flights.

You are still a big baby and I've pretty much packed up all your 3-month clothes and have pulled out all your 6-month things. And they just fit you really well, which I'm a little in disbelief about. You weighed 15 pounds before we left America. Fifteen. Eek.

Last weekend we went camping. You spent the nights bundled up in your snowsuit laying on your back and you couldn't roll over. So it took you about 4-5 days to remember that you know how to roll over. It was really pretty funny.





This month you learned how to "work" some of your toys. You learned how to hold onto and shake a rattle, how to hold onto Sophie the giraffe, and how to kick your legs to make the toys dangling over your play mat shake. You learned how to clasp your hands in front of you and how to grab the pacifier to take it out of your mouth. Sometimes when you're on your tummy you'll push yourself up a bit and I can see that scooting and crawling are in your near future.



You are so cute, Raye. You're such a joy. Other than not sleeping all night you are such an easy baby. You love to be held, love to look at your sisters, love it when we sing to you, coo at you, talk to you, and so on, love to sit in the swing we borrowed, love bath time, love to be on your play mat, and love to eat. The only things you do not love are having a dirty diaper and being too tired or hungry. I am so thankful for who you are already, as you make it easy for me to thoroughly enjoy you when I can and to not feel guilty for not doting on you when I don't have time. I am so grateful for you.

I love you,
Mommy