June 25, 2015

Potty Training - The Adventure Continues

We are three weeks in now and have spent what probably amounts to hours sitting with her by the potty, but it's going well!  She still has accidents when we forget to take her to the bathroom, but the incident free days are starting to outnumber the accident days. I feel like we'll probably be in this phase for a few months, or more, before she really gets it and we can say she's officially potty trained. But I'm not complaining! Our last box of diapers has about 20 left and I'm thinking I won't have to buy another when it runs out - hallelujah!


We've had her stay in panties during naps for the last couple weeks and she's done really well, so now we only use diapers at night, and more often than not she wakes up dry. I also noticed that she was starting to loose interest in the little M&Ms we were using as rewards, so I switched to Pez and that has been HIGHLY motivating for her. Now the trick will be weaning her off candies :)

She still likes to take a few "friends" to keep her company

June 23, 2015

These little piggies had roast beef

I love these little feet, but they are impossible to find shoes for. I've been on the hunt for a few months and every option I've tried on her has failed. Flip flops make her cry because her second toe overlaps with her big toe. We've borrowed shoes from her cousin and I've bought and returned several pairs from the store, and I can't get her foot in a single one of them. Why are all little girl shoes so narrow?

Love these little piggies, even if they drive me crazy


We're down to water shoes and rain boots as the only footwear that still fits. Which one do you think would look best for church??

June 12, 2015

Downpour

Last Saturday Sophie and I went on a walk to get the mail. The sky was dark and on our way back some raindrops started to fall. We hurried inside and a minute later the skies let loose. Sophie immediately put on a "rain outfit" of slippers, scarf, and hat and begged to go outside to play, but I decided this crazy storm was a little too big for her.

Video: I know some people see storms like this often, but this is a big one for Utah!



We opened up the front door so we could watch and listen to the rain. I had to hold her back a few times when the urge to run outside got too strong. 


I've always loved thunder storms, but now I love them even more because it turns my little girl into koala. Thunder makes her just a little bit scared and this is one time that she likes to have  me close.

June 10, 2015

So long diapers...

We are one week into potty training and I haven't had this much anxiety about anything since she was a newborn - how long has it been? how much has she had to drink? can we risk a trip out of the house?? BUT, it is going well!

Last week I was off work and I decided to go for it. There are a hundred methods out there for potty training, but I just switched her straight to panties and we've been figuring things out along the way. She had eight accidents the first day and cried for her diapers, but we stuck to it and things have gotten better. We've had only one horrible incident so far (panties went straight into the restroom garbage) and are now down to just one, and sometimes zero accidents a day.

I have to stop our play and take her to the potty 90% of the time, but I'm hoping with practice she will learn how to tell on her own when it's time to go. To keep her motivated she gets to bring a small toy with her to the potty, receives a mini M&M after each successful trip, and we bought her some Frozen panties at the store. We are still using diapers for naps and night until our current diaper box runs out. We are so proud of you Sophie!

She's a big kid now! 
(Only we can't say it to her face, because she is very literal and says that she is a little girl and mommy and daddy are big)



June 9, 2015

Coming Home

It's never fun coming home from vacation, and the travel back from Europe is exhausting. We left the ship just after 7:00 am and, even without delays, didn't make it home until 10:30 that evening - add in the 9 hour time change and it was 24 hours of travel. It's good to be home though and get back into the routine of things. I am over my jet lag and all caught up on laundry so life is good!

I'm never good at sleeping on planes, but one of the times that I did fall asleep I woke up to the flight attendant asking me if I wanted "reindeer or cheese". My groggy mind wasn't ready to make a decision, so we got one of each. It was a pita with butter and then reindeer or cheese. Dave took the cheese and I took the reindeer one, which sort of tasted like a combination of salami, beef, and some smokey flavor. 


Dave catching a nap during our layover in San Francisco


In San Francisco I turned my phone back on after a week and received a voice mail that our car had been involved in a parking lot accident. I don't know how you do this much damage pulling out of a parking space, but at least the guy turned in his insurance information to the front desk so we are not having to bear any responsibility for the repair. 


My amazing visiting teacher picked us up at the airport since our car needed a tow. Insurance is giving us a rental car while ours is in the shop. It's a Dodge Charger and I feel very awkward driving it around with Sophie since the only other Charger in the neighborhood belongs to a bachelor. 


The best part about coming home was picking up our Sophie girl on Sunday morning. We really enjoyed our trip, but it was hard to be away from her for 10 days.  She seemed so big was talking so well. She did well with her babysitters, but was glad to have us home. 


June 8, 2015

Baltics Cruise - The Boat

On this cruise we had two days at sea - one on the way out and one on the way home. I love these days.... it's so nice to have nothing you are supposed to be doing and it really helps with the jet lag. It took me a few days before I finally lost the overwhelming urge to fall asleep in the middle of the day.

Since we were sailing through Northern Europe, it was often too cold to spend much time out on deck. We played mini golf a few times, but mostly stayed inside to play games, eat, and attend some of the ship activities. We also went to a few of the evening shows which included a stunt bike rider, a juggler, a quartet, and a production singing and dancing company.

We saw a movie in the theater and went to napkin folding, general trivia, logo trivia (below), Who in the World Am I, Where in the World Am I, name that tune, classic rock trivia, flags of the world trivia, the Sudoku challenge, crossword challenge, and a darts competition.



Our two victories were surprisingly the crossword challenge...


And darts! I placed 2nd out of about 20 people and was pretty proud of myself. Always fun to discover a hidden talent!


Our room attendant was fabulous. I know cruise ship employees work insanely long hours with hardly any breaks, but she always had a smile, greeted us by name every time we passed her in the hall, and took good care of our room for the week. At the beginning of the trip she left us the usual towel creations, but on the final day we came back from dinner and found we had a new roommate. Notice Dave's glasses on his head and my slippers for his feet :)


The food, as expected, was great. Dinners are always the best, and I don't think Dave ever had a meal with fewer than six courses. His largest was nine - 4 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 2 desserts. Get it while the gettin's good!


For our final lunch they brought in an enormous apple pie with vanilla ice cream - yum!


Picture of a picture - dressed up for the first formal night


Second formal night - do we look any fatter?


My good looking, single brother. We picked out a wife for him on the ship and my mom was having fun imagining hosting a "Love Boat" reception. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. 


My amazing parents. We had so much fun on this trip with you - thanks for letting us come along!

June 5, 2015

Baltics Cruise - Helsinki



Our final port stop was Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Although Helsinki was founded in the 1500s, Finland has only been a country for just under 100 years. The area spent centuries under Danish, Swedish, and Russian control before gaining independence. And maybe because it is more modern, or maybe because there were people out playing lawn games, walking dogs and pushing strollers, but this is where I think I would be most happy to live of all the places we visited on our trip. 

Our day in Helsinki was good, but short. The boat was only in port for half a day, and our guide books were accidentally left behind so our sightseeing didn't have much direction. There may have been some really cool things to see in this city, but we only came across a couple of them. 

First stop was the Uspenski Cathedral, an orthodox church. We got here a bit too early, however, and had to go kill some time in the market square while we waited for it to open . The market is located right on the harbor and sells traditional foods, handicrafts, and souvenirs. We enjoyed looking, but everything was pretty pricey (especially after visiting Estonia and Russia) so we didn't buy anything. 


Looking out at the harbor. If we had more time in Helsinki, I think it would have been neat to take a boat out to see some of the islands around the city - there are thousands of them!


Back to the Uspenski Cathedral - decorated down to the last inch


At the Helsinki Cathedral, a Lutheran church. It was built in 1830 and is still used for regular religious services, but is also open to tourists. It's location up on the hill makes it so you can see it from all over the city. 


Although Lutheran churches have simple interiors, they often have beautiful organs and this church was no exception. 


After seeing the churches we stopped at a McDonalds to borrow their WiFi and check in on things at home. My brother found out his car had been broken into, which put a bit of a damper on our day. We would also find out a few days later that our car had been involved in a parking lot accident while we were traveling - bummer. 


There is nothing special about this train station, but I will forever remember it as the location where a seagull swooped down from above and swiped a rice crispy treat that my mom was just about to put into her mouth. Crazy!


Getting back on the boat for the last time. We had one more day aboard while the ship cruised back to Copenhagen. 



June 4, 2015

Baltics Cruise - St. Petersburg



I am still trying to decide what I thought of St. Petersburg. It's an incredible city, full of cathedrals, grand palaces, gardens, museums, and theaters situated right on the river Neva. It also has a brutal history, however, that can overshadow the splendor. It was built by peasants who died by the thousands, has been through several revolutions, survived German occupation for three years in WWII during which 1 million people died, and there are rows and rows of Soviet era apartment blocks that just look depressing.  I just couldn't imagine living there, but maybe with time it would grow on a person.

Normally we self-tour, but for our day Russia we went on two shore excursions through the ship. Americans entering Russia are required to have a visa, although this rule is waived if you are on a ship tour. Even with the tour, we still had to go through a strict passport control process where we were issued a temporary visa to use for the day. St. Petersburg is also an enormous city and it would have been very difficult to see much on your own. I was glad we had a dedicated bus to take us around.

Tour #1: Bus trip around the city center with stops at the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and a souvenir store.

Peter the Great, the man the city is name for. This statue was created using Peter's death mask so he either had a really tiny head or the sculptor was way off on his body proportions. 


This cathedral in the Peter and Paul fortress was the first building in St. Petersburg. We could not go in because it was a holiday and it was closed to the public. Almost all the Russian tsars, including Peter the Great are buried here. 


The St. Petersburg Mint was built in 1800 and is one of two mints in Russia. It is still producing coins and medals. 


At the edge of the fortress overlooking the river Neva. The fortress was never used to defend the city, but instead housed a garrison and a high security prison.  


The church of the Spilled Blood was built in traditional Russian style as a memorial to Alexander II, who was murdered by terrorists on this spot in 1881. It fell into disrepair after WWI and was used as a warehouse and garbage dump and was almost torn down, until a restoration project began in 1970. 


St. Isaac's Cathedral, built in 1858, is the largest orthodox cathedral in the world. The dome is plated with pure gold and is the 4th largest cathedral dome in the world behind the Pantheon in Rome, St. Paul's in London, and the Duomo in Florence. 


We saw lots and lots of apartments like this on our bus tour


Tour #2: Bus trip through the city to Peterhof Palace and gardens. We toured the gardens and the returned to the city by hydrofoil boat.

The Peterhof Grand Palace and Grand Cascade Fountain. The Peterhof was built by Peter the Great as his summer residence in the 1700s and grew and expanded under successive emperors. It is often referred to as the "Russian Versailles" and is one of the most visited places in Russia.


The Grand Cascade is made up of 64 fountains and 200 statues. The fountains are unique in that they are fed by gravity and no pumps are used. Gravity is able to sustain the fountains for up to 10 hours of use each day. 


In addition to the Grand Cascade there are acres of gardens with over 150 fountains



You can see our lovely earpieces in this picture. Everyone in our group had one, and our guide used it to communicate with us while we wandered the gardens so we didn't have to stand right next to him. It was nice to be able to have some freedom, and if you started to hear static you knew you had wandered too far and needed to head back. 


Our guide warned us to be careful of pickpockets at least 10 times. They also had warning signs posted around the gardens. I guess it's a big problem in the area, but luckily we didn't have any trouble. 


One last look at the Peterhof before we headed to our boat to take us back. The canal from the palace flows all the way out to the Gulf of Finland.


June 3, 2015

Baltics Cruise - Tallinn



Our second stop was Estonia, a small country with just over a million people. Estonia has a long history of occupation by other nations, most recently Russia, but has been independent for the last 20 years and seems to be doing well. We visited the capital city of Tallinn, whose Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.

A wall and series of towers was built around the city of Tallinn starting in the 1200s. Over the next few centuries these fortifications were enlarged and strengthened and many of the towers, gates and sections of the wall are still intact today. This "Old Town" is now a very charming place to visit.

We entered Old Town through the Great Costal Gate, which is connected to the Fat Margaret tower on the left. Sadly I didn't take a picture of Fat Margaret, a tower that is as wide as it is tall. 


Our first stop was St. Olav's church, which was at one point the tallest building in the world. It was originally built in the 12 century, but it has been rebuilt several times due to damage from lightning strikes and war.


St. Olav's is a Lutheran church, and so the interior is mostly white and plainly decorated. 


We climbed up the tower to a viewpoint. The stairs to the tower are very narrow and steep and must be shared by those going up and down. I was glad we were one of the first groups to go up, because it was pretty difficult to pass people going the other direction when we were on our way back down. 


We had a great view of Tallinn from the top


Some of the towers and wall that surround Tallin


Like Stockholm, Tallinn's Old Town had lots of colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, little shops and restaurants. 


The town hall and town square. In the square is also the Raeapteek, a pharmacy that has been in operation since the  15th century. We paid a visit and were glad to see that they now carry modern remedies instead of sun bleached dog feces and burnt hedgehog powder. 


We then left the merchant buildings of "Lower Town", and climbed up Toompea hill to "Upper Town." You can see Upper Town in the first picture, sitting higher than the rest of the buildings on a stone wall. The Upper Town has historically been the seat of power for the city. 

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a very grand building and popular tourist destination, although it is disliked by Estonians. The cathedral was built during the Russian Occupation and directly faces the Parliament building, and thus is a symbol of Russian oppression. 


As an orthodox cathedral, every inch of the interior is ornately decorated. Quite the contrast from the Lutheran churches. There were several tour groups in there with us and they all seemed very eager to participate in the custom of lighting a candle. It was a little unsettling to be in a big crowd of distracted tourists, walking around with fire. I was glad to leave without having my hair or clothes burned. 


Our "Onion Dome" pose


We found this guy near the cathedral


After the cathedral we went across the street to Parliament (the pink building) which is connected to Toompea Castle. Three of the four towers of Toompea Castle are still standing, and the biggest one, Tall Hermann, is behind us. The flag on top shows the government currently in charge of the country, which is Estonia!


Our final stop was Kiek in de Kök. Kiek in de Kök was an artillery tower built in the 1400s, and now it houses a museum about Tallinn's military from medieval to modern times.  There are cannonballs from 1577 still embedded in the tower walls, which are 13 feet thick. 


Trying out some restraining devices. Although I'm smiling, I actually felt a little panicked because the collar was locked on, but I had to hold myself up with my hands or I would choke because I was too short. 


Military hats from different eras that my mom was very hesitant to put on, but luckily no one got lice. 


An enormous cannon that was probably close to 15 feet long


Modelling a surprisingly heavy flak jacket


Farewell Tallinn - we enjoyed our visit!