Friday, May 30, 2014

Isla is One!

Dear Isla, 

You have seriously been the most perfect baby I could have ever asked for.  From the moment you entered our lives, you have brought us nothing but joy.  When I think about the past year, and try to come up with one thing that was difficult about your 'baby-hood'...the only thing that comes to mind, is that you had a hard time in the car for a few months.  That's it!  I remember reading about the different 'types' of babies in the book, Baby Wise.  You would be classified as an angel baby.  I was once skeptical that these types of babies even existed--you have proven me wrong.  And it's not like Sawyer or Violet, were hard.  In fact, they were mostly great.  But you, my sweet Isla, have taken great to a whole new level :).  Daddy and I often joke that you are the favorite.  We know, of course, that we love all of you so much and equally.  But we are so grateful to you for having made this past year that much better and that much easier.  There was a lot going on for the Larson family this past year.  We moved to Germany when you were only 3.5 month old.  You slept in my bed with me for much of those first 4-5 months, because we were always on the go.  I worried, at first, that I might spoil you too much and make the transition into sleeping on your own and sleeping through the night much harder.  Again, you proved me wrong!  Once we moved into our house in October, you were happy as a clam to have your own bed in your own room.  I can count on one hand the number of times you've cried when I put you to sleep for the night (over the whole year!).  You started crawling somewhere between 6 and 7 months.  By 8 months you were pulling to stand.  Around 9 months I thought we might have a walker soon. You were cruising around the furniture and occasionally standing on your own.  Well, here we are at a year and you are not anxious to take those steps!  You can do fact we've seen it many times.  1, 2, sometimes 3 steps.  But that's all you care to do.  And honestly, that's just fine with me.  It's kinda nice not to have to chase you around yet :).  I know it's coming, and we'll be excited when it does, but for now we will just enjoy a baby who's not running away from us yet!  

Isla, you are so snuggly.  You have always been.  If anyone holds you to their chest, in an upright position, you will immediately put your head on their shoulder.  If Daddy or I are sitting on the floor or on the couch, you will crawl up to us, and lie your head on our leg.  It is your way of showing us love.  And I can't think of anything more wonderful in the world!  In fact, just the other day you were not feeling well and having a hard time sleeping.  Daddy took you in the room and sat on the bed with you.  A few minutes later I came back in with some medicine and found both of you sound asleep.  It was so, so sweet.  

You are a fabulous little eater.  Nursing is winding down.  I just feed you occasionally at night and in the early morning, but as the milk supply dwindles, your interest is dwindling as well.  I'm kinda sad to stop nursing you.  I just love that time we have together. I think you have almost eaten anything that I have offered you, with the exception of milk.  Not a fan of that, yet.  You spend a lot of your time in the high chair.  Often because there are too many dangerous toys/objects laying around from your siblings and I can't think of a safer place than the high chair.  We love to see you sitting in there, all chill, like you are the queen of the place.  You usually lean back and look super relaxed while eating your snacks.  It's pretty funny.  Your long, narrow fingers are so adorable and I love to watch them pick up little things like peas.  And you have recently discovered your love for ice cream.  You LOVE it.  The cold doesn't seem to bother you, and you will gobble down a whole chunk of ice cream with no problem.  I think it must be the Larson have a couple of aunts who share that same love.  ;)

Speaking of genes, you are our smallest baby so far.  So slender and petite.  Most of the headbands I made for Violet as a baby don't fit your head yet.  You have very feminine little ballerina feet.  Often pointed.  You haven't hit the 20 pound mark yet, either.  You are still riding in your baby car seat!  Ha!  I keep meaning to get you a bigger one, but frankly, you just don't need it yet.  And you seem to be content in there.  About a month ago, we were worried you were starting to get car sick.  You threw up in your carseat at least 3-4 times over a couple of weeks.  It was not fun for anyone.  But I think it was just due to the congestion from your cold, and you had been gagging on some of that.  Once the cold cleared up, no more barfing.  Thank goodness!

You don't do a whole lot of babbling yet.  Laughing, yes.  Babbling, no.  Oh but you can squeal....and your daddy and brother invoke a lot of that.  I told the doctor at your 1 yr check up that you weren't saying any two syllable sounds yet (mama, dada, baba).  He told me to tell him if it didn't start by 15 months.  2 weeks later, you suddenly said 'buh-bye' when we were saying goodbye to some of our friends!  And then you said, 'mama'!  It was so unexpected and so stinking cute!  I could have died it was just adorable.  I'm excited to hear more of that from you.  

Isla Bea.  I don't know if you will always go by your first and middle name.  But for now, it seems that we call you both equally.  Even our friends call you Isla Bea, a lot of the time.  I love it.  It just seems fitting.  And in the back of my mind, I am always reminded of your unique and special entrance into this world.  You came at a time of sadness for our family.  Your great grandmother passed away the same day that you decided to come.  She was a wonderful woman whom I loved so much.  Your daddy and I debated on your name, long and hard.  Somehow, we stumbled across the name, Bea, which means bringer of joy.  You truly did that.  In our time of sorrow, you brought great joy.  And you have continued to bring us joy throughout this year.  The name also makes me think of my own mom, whose nickname is 'Bina'.  She is a tremendous example to me and my relationship with her is one I hope to emulate with you.  

I think the more kids you have, the harder it gets to see your babies growing up.  It almost seems like denial on my part.  You are still such a baby in my eyes.  I remember thinking Sawyer was so old when he turned 1.  I guess it is just perspective.  When I force my mind to see you as an almost toddler, it makes my heart throb.  Part of that throb is a little twinge of sadness to see that baby in you going away, but the biggest part is joy.  I think of the joy that I have felt in watching your siblings grow and develop, and I feel the same way as I watch you become your own little person.  I am so excited to get to know the person that you are becoming.  What I have seen so far fills me with great hope and love.  You have a special spirit, my Isla Bea, and I feel so blessed to be your mommy in this life.  I hope you always know how much we love you, and how much your Heavenly Father loves you.  Here's to many, many more years of joy with you, Isla.  Happy Birthday!

Love, Mommy

Weight  17.64 lbs  (5%)
Height  28.35 in  (27%)
Head Circumference  44.25 cm  (27%)

We had a wonderful day spent celebrating with our birthday girl at home.  Sawyer and Violet were so excited for Isla to have her first birthday!  They really made it so much fun for her.  

She may or may not have been slightly gagging from the elastic under her chin (tears starting to well up!)...the hat stayed on for about 3 seconds.  Guess I made it a little too tight!  Whoops!

Such a happy little Woogie (another name we often call you!)

This was the day I found them sound asleep together.  It's horribly blurry because it was pitch dark in the room...but I love it so much.

Poor Isla was way too tired by the time we actually let her have the birthday cake.  She was grouchy and whiny.  She eventually realized what she was supposed to be doing, poked around in the cake, and sat back in her 'chill in out' stance in the high chair until we finally took her to the tub.  Funny girl.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sawyer Turns 5!

Dear Sawyer,

My cute little kookey boy.  I am sitting here looking at a progression of pictures from your life, one from each year since you were born.  I can't believe how grown up you look now!  Seeing you as a newborn all snuggled up in my's hard to believe that was you!  You were such an amazingly good baby.  Especially as my first, I couldn't have asked for more.  You slept so well, right off the bat.  And you were just so mellow, so calm.  Hardly ever fussed unless you had a good reason for it.  But somehow I knew, that the wheels were just turning in that cute little head of yours.  I had the feeling that you were just observing...collecting information...getting ready to strike.  And as soon as you figured out how to crawl at 6 months, you were off!  Then it was pulling up to stand at 7 months, and before I knew it, we had a 9 month old walker.  I remember not being able to keep you off the counter tops as a toddler.  You were like a monkey with a constant surge of adrenaline running through you!  I always had to keep a close eye on you.  One time, daddy was in charge and mommy was at the gym, and you took your little buzz lightyear car and pulled it up to the front door, stood on it, and unlocked the door.  You went down 2 flights of stairs in the apartment complex before some nice man picked you up and found your daddy who was frantically running around calling your name.  That was around 18 months old.  At 3 yrs old, while visiting my German relatives, you figured out how to open some kind of window that most adults don't even figure out...and you almost managed to burn the house down.  Those are just a few of MANY stories we have of you that depict your wild, creative, and smart personality.  You definitely gave your mom and dad a workout at all times!  But all the while, we knew that underneath all of that energy was a very tender heart.  A well-meaning little boy who was just curious about the world, and wanted to learn everything he could about it as quickly as possible!  And today I look back on the past 5 years with nothing but fond memories.  Lots of laughs.  Lots of hugs.  And lots of learning and growth.

Today I look at you, Sawyer, and see a super cute kid who is still full of energy, but learning how to control it more and more everyday.  You show this energy in many ways.  Playing with your sister, Violet, for example.  The two of you run around and laugh and cry and sometimes fight.  But you play hard, and I love it.  For some reason, things always get out of control at bedtime.  The bunk beds suddenly become forts made for climbing and jumping rather than sleeping.  But when the lights go out, you know its time for sleep.  And you set the good example for Violet, that it's time to go to bed. You are such a good brother.  You and Violet are the best of friends.  And you are in LOVE with your baby sister, Isla.  You can be in the middle of a tantrum, and suddenly notice Isla on my arm, and your face starts beaming and you start cooing and coddling her!  It is actually pretty funny.  Instead of 'Squirrel!!!' it's, 'Isla!!!'...  And Isla gets super excited when she sees you, too.  You sometimes play kinda rough, and we have to remind you to settle down, but she seems to be ok with it.  And you take pride in making Isla laugh.  You always tell us that you are really good at making babies laugh.  Sawyer, you just have a lot of love to give.  Whether it's via hugs or a chokehold, it's the thought that counts ;).

Primary is getting easier for you, although you told me this morning that church is pretty boring because all you do the whole time is just sit there.  Sitting there is not easy for you.  But I know you are trying.  And that makes me happy.  We didn't go to preschool this year.  It just didn't work out with our transition to Germany.  And I know you are getting kinda bored at home and looking forward to Kindergarten next year.  You tell me all day that you are bored and always ask for something else to do.  That is--when you aren't playing the Wii :).  We limit your Wii time to 1 hr each day.  It has become an amazing source of behavioral reinforcement with you.  When you make bad choices, you lose Wii time.  We always warn you beforehand, and you almost always make the right choice when Wii time is threatened.  Speaking of obedience, you try very hard to be obedient.  When you do play the Wii, you set your own kitchen timer.  Usually for half an hour, because you want to save the last half an hour for when Daddy gets home.  Daddy is your hero.  You two are peas in a pod.  I love the bond you are forming with him.  You have even been going on campouts with him and all of the boy scouts lately.  I am so glad you have such a good daddy who loves you and wants to spend time with you whenever he can.

You amaze me constantly with your mind.  You are just so observant, and your memory is incredible!  You can easily tell me which direction we need to be going when driving in the car on a familiar path.  You recognize road signs, lyrics and songs, store names, etc.  You see the smallest details in things that I would never notice on my own.  And if something has a button or a gadget or some kind of mechanism, you will want to know how it works and why.  That's probably why you love Legos so much.  You have no problem retreating to the play room and sitting with your Legos for long periods of time.  Sure--it might be a complete disaster up there, and I might be going a little bit crazy trying to come up with a good solution for our Lego mess, but it keeps you entertained and gets your creative juices I'm happy!

You don't really care too much what you wear.  I pick something out and you put it on.  No complaints.  You even let me experiment with your hair.  You are not, however, the fastest mover when it comes time to get ready to go somewhere (another daddy trait, perhaps ;) ).  We are working on it, and hopefully it gets better by the time we start school!

You have somehow become a pickier eater with time.  I think you are afraid of smells and appearance of food.  Meats and random sauces are especially terrifying to you.  But if you close your eyes and eat something, you usually like it.  We have to set a lot of timers and enforce a lot of rules to help you become a more adventurous eater.  Dinner time is usually a struggle, but we are getting there.  And really, I can't complain too much because when I asked what you wanted for your birthday dinner you replied, "vegetables!!!'.

You have always been a funny kid.  You get that from your Daddy, for sure.  You constantly say things to make me laugh.  When we asked you what you wanted for your birthday, you said "a star wars lego set..but it HAS to have a light saber in it.  I'm not even kidding.  It HAS to have a light saber".  Ha!!  You are even starting to talk like your dad.  I love hearing the phrases you pick up and your interpretation of them.  You have a pretty good sense for sarcasm and jokes.  We recently bought you guys some reading lights to put by your bed.  Every night when we tuck you in, you do silly faces.  It's something you came up with by yourself.  You turn off your light, and in the darkness, you get your silly face ready.  Then, you switch on the reading light and shine it right on your silly face!  And we all laugh...  It's pretty great, actually.  I like that game.  But we have to limit it to 2 silly faces,  or else it will go on forever.

Some other things about bedtime lead me to what I love most about you, Sawyer, and that is your tender heart.  At your request, we started reading the old-school children's version of the Book of Mormon books to you every night.  We make sure to read at least one page every night, no matter what time, because we want you to know how important reading the Book of Mormon is.  And you love it.  I mean, if we start reading with out you because you are still brushing your teeth, you are NOT happy.  I feel like you are really starting to understand some fundamental principles of the Gospel.  And just today, you were telling me that you only had 3 more birthdays until you got to be baptized.  Your faith is so strong.  Daddy and I are always so amazed by this.  You have had a few blessings during the last year, and you really believe in the power of the priesthood.  One night, you were experiencing some discomfort and I had given you medicine and was trying my best to comfort you, and you said you wished Daddy was home.  I told you he was just down the hall, sleeping in his bed.  And then you asked if Daddy could give you a blessing.  Since then you have asked for them on several occasions, and Daddy is always more than willing.  You also have faith in the power of prayer.  You know that you can turn to your Heavenly Father if you are hurt, if something is lost, or if you are upset.  The power went out the other day and you secretly went up to your room and prayed, asking Heavenly Father if he could please turn the power back on so you could finish a level on the Wii...then He could turn the power back off if He needed to.  Ha!  I loved that!  Later you decided that the prayer didn't even work, and we had a talk about how and when and why prayers are answered.  I think you understood, or at least you were able to let go of your frustration.  We love your faith and your pure testimony, Sawyer.  And you give some of the best prayers I have heard in my life!  On the cruise, one night, you prayed that the boat would not get bumped by a shark.  Thanks, buddy...I really didn't want to get bumped by a shark, either.

Every night we tuck you in and we ask you what your favorite part of the day was.  Daddy always asks you to tell him something good that you did for someone that day.  You always have great answers for this.  We are so proud of you and the boy that you are becoming.  We know you are a special child of God and we feel so blessed that Heavenly Father has entrusted us with your sweet spirit.  As much as I miss that little baby Sawyer, I love watching you grow and learn, and I love that you are really becoming my little friend.  Thank you for always telling me I look pretty.  Thank you for wanting to be just like your daddy (not that you had a lot of choice in that ;) ).  Thank you for taking care of your sisters.  And thank you for always bringing joy and laughter into our family.  We love you more than words can say.  Happy 5th Birthday, Sawyer!

     Love, Mommy

Weight  43.65 lbs (70%)
Height  45.12 in (89%)
BMI  15.08 (38%)

Sawyer wanted a Lego cake this year.  He decided that, instead of a party, we would go to Legoland to celebrate.  Unfortunately, the timing for a Legoland trip didn't work out for us until June.  So we are still planning to go, but in the meantime, we went to a smaller theme park that is closer to us.  Our friends came along and we had a fun day.  We are looking forward to Legoland in a couple of months!  On Sawyer's actual birthday, we had friends over for dinner and cake.  He was a little discouraged that I only used two lego guys on the cake.  He had brought down a whole pile of his lego creations the night before, for me to decorate with.  It was way too much stuff for the size of the cake. So after we took a picture, I let Sawyer and Violet add some more guys.  They had fun with that.

Holiday Park with the Barons...
(I'm gonna pretend that I let Sawyer's hair get this long to give him some height for the rides, lol)

He was pretty proud of himself...
(and again, really needing a haircut)

Life on the Boat

This was our first experience with a cruise.  We really had no idea what to expect, and we really didn't do much research, either.  We just packed up our stuff, got in the car at 4 am on Tuesday morning, and started driving down to the port city of Genoa, Italy.  It was about an 8 hr drive.  We made two short stops, but tried to keep things quick because we had to start boarding at 2 pm.  I had almost no sleep the night before, so the kids and I snoozed for the first few hours while Nate drove.  That made the drive so much better and seem so much quicker.  Nathan even brought the Wii in the car, so Sawyer could play on the gamepad.  Between that and movies the kids were happy as clams. Isla is the most difficult in the car, by far.  She isn't yet entertained by movies, and she just gets bored back there.  I brought some toys along for her, and also thought about bringing the little reach in snack container.  She actually loved having that and it kept her busy.  Overall, she did really well on the drive.  We got there a little before 1.  About 5 minutes before pulling up to unload our luggage, Sawyer got car sick and puked.  Luckily, he gave me enough warning and I was able to hand him a paper bag that had had donuts in it (ok so there was still one donut in it).  98% of the barf made it into the bag (thank goodness!).  So we pulled up to the dock where they had a curb-side check in type thing going on.  We frantically began unloading our bags, trying to stuff our car snacks in, and get the kids out.  A friend had warned us that they make you pay for water on the boat, so last minute we threw a bunch of water bottles in the trunk.  We were also trying to stick those into our luggage as quickly as possible.  It was a little chaotic.  10 minutes later, Nate left me on the curb with the kids and went to park the car.  When he finally found us again, I asked him if he had remembered to throw out the barf bag.  Oops.  That was going to be fun to come back to (agh!).  So we checked in and got settled in our extremely small interior cabin. Two twin beds separated by a small isle, and two fold down bunk beds above those beds.  Any remaining floor space was taken up by Isla's packnplay and our absurd amount of luggage.  Let's just say, our living conditions with 5 people in a small room were not ideal, but we managed.  It took us a little while to figure out all the ins and outs of boat life.  We had no idea that there would be suggested dress codes each night, and we hadn't brought anything dressy, so we felt kinda silly at dinner on gala night.  We later learned we could have just gone to the buffet instead of the restaurant.  haha.  And they had plenty of water at the buffet area.  We only had to pay for water at the restaurant.  Our classy bunch ended up bringing our own water to the restaurant.  I'm pretty sure our waiter hated us.  lol.  They had a kids' club on the boat that did fun things with the kids.  Sawyer cried the first day we left him there.  He complained that no one knew English.  He was kinda a punk about going there for the rest of the trip.  There was a pool, of course, but it was still freezing cold.  The weather was great, although at times windy and chilly.  Not quite warm enough to swim all day.  When we did go swimming, the kids played in the hot tub the entire time.  It was a little tricky trying to entertain our kids and take care of Isla (naps, etc.) on the boat everyday.  Our days at sea were not my favorite.  We did decide just to let Isla nap in the room by herself, and would often go eat in peace while she slept.  We took the video monitor with us so we could check on her periodically.  It worked out great.  They had a cheesy show every night.  We went to a few of them...that was one of Sawyer's favorite parts of the trip.  The kids came down with colds half way through the trip (which we later learned was a hand foot mouth epidemic that had been going around our nursery at church for fact they are canceling nursery today because they finally sanitized the whole place and they want to quarantine the room for a bit).  Anyways, we had some fun times, but mostly we just looked forward to getting off the boat.  I know it would have been much different had our kids been a little older.  I have also learned a lot about cruising that we will look for in our next experience.  I will pay much closer attention to port times.  We had way too much time in Casablanca and not nearly enough in Barcelona.  The cruise line we traveled with isn't too fancy...but they were super cheap and the kids were free.  So we seriously can't complain!  We had a lot of fun...about as much fun as you can expect to have when traveling for 8 days in foreign lands with 3 kids under 5.  The drive home seemed to last forever (about 11 hrs instead of 8 thanks to traffic and potty stops), but we were so happy to be home.  We will definitely try the cruise thing again, as it's the best and cheapest way to see a lot of different places in Europe with our whole family.  We were grateful to go and now have lots of fun memories and pictures to look back on.  
Pool time is exhausting

The lighting was horrible in the restaurant, but this is where we would eat a 'fancy' meal...and this was on gala night.  I at least had some casual dresses for the girls.

On this night the kids went straight from kids club to the show.  They made cute little batman headbands with them. 

Eating outside with Nathan...Isla was sleeping and the kids were in the kids' meal :)
I have to say that I did love being out in the middle of the ocean.  Pretty amazing.  And I we didn't have any trouble with sea sickness (except for the night that we left was horrible and we all went to bed asap to avoid feeling sick!)

Walking through all the sunbathers was always fun.  We were like sardines on that deck!

I seriously love Violet's expressions!  This one was just because of sun in her eyes...but still!  So dramatic!
Lookin super cool with a mermaid barbie tucked in the back of his shirt

face painting day at kids club

There was a lounge with orange-lit tables.  Isla loved walking around those things.

They pretty much ate a hot dog or pizza for every meal.  oh and french fries.

Nate was our adventurous eater on the trip.  This one was squid.  Yuck.

We loved our housekeeper, Jose.  He spoke Spanish with Nathan and was so nice to our kids.  He made this Easter bunny towel on Easter.  The kids loved it.

Getting off of the boat.  One last family picture!

Looking for our luggage

Loading and organizing the car.  We found some weird bean thingies that we had bought on the side of the street in Malaga.  I still have no idea what they were.  They were very salty.  Not bad, though.