Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Arosha — 4 Years

Birthday balloons and a lightsaber.Нашему фантазёру, баловнику, лазателю по заборам и деревьям, любителю девочек и компьютерных игр, мелодраматическому хныкателю, высокому блондину, красавчику и просто любимому сыну уже 4! С Днём Рождения, Арошенька! Расти умницей, не болей, будь счастлив! Мы тебя очень-очень-очень любим!

Ароша очень ждал свой День Рождения. Последние недели две он чётко знал сколько именно дней осталось до его праздника. Еще он хорошо запомнил, что родился он в августе, хотя конкретную дату обычно забывает.

Morning "almost" surprise.Наши дни очень похожи друг на друга. Мы много гуляем на улице — хорошо, когда есть кто-то из его подружек — каждый день читаем книги, играем в “пьяницу” (причём Ароша жутким образом мухлюет, но я ему это позволяю) детскими картами, спим, едим, играем на iPad. Ароша очень любит смотреть как Даня играет в Star Wars, а я в Hearthstone. Мы, конечно, очень ограничиваем его время у экрана, но практически каждый день он минут 30 тратит на это занятие. Причём, что интересно, в моей карточной игре он хорошо знает что какая карта делает, знает все классы игроков и тому подобное. Когда он придумывает сам какие-то игры, то часто интегрирует какие-то элементы из обоих этих компьютерных игр в свои фантазии. Ну, например, что он маг и у него есть лайтсэйбер и что он нападает на “плохих” и их побеждает. Вобщем, типичные мальчишечьи “войнушки”, только в реалиях его жизни.

Birthday ice-cream cake.Всвязи с такой любовью к Star Wars, мы купили Ароше в подарок лайтсэйбер. Сабля очень понравилась, и Ароша вот уже несколько дней с ней всё время дома играет. Еще мы купили ему новый двухколёсный самокат на замену старому трёхколёсномы. Выбор пал на Razor Cruiser. Пока у него не очень получается на нём кататься, но это дело времени.

Battle.Еще мы записали Арошу в школу, которая находится напротив нашего дома. Сперва его туда не взяли, а взяли в другую, на Манхэттен Бич, но на прошлой неделе из нашей школы позвонили и сообщили, что всвязи с большим количеством желающих, был создан еще один клас pre-K, и если мы хотим, Ароша туда попадёт. Мы подумали и решили, что несмотря на то, что школа на Манхэттен Бич лучше, преимущества нашей всё же перевешивают. Во-первых, сюда намного удобнее добираться — максимум 5 минут пешком. До другой школы пешком занимает 40-50 минут в каждую сторону, а машину я не вожу. Дедушка согласился отвозить Арошу, но для этого ему надо каждый день в течение года планировать вокруг Арошиных занятий. Ну, и последнее — в нашей школе занятия с 8 до 14:30, а в другой – с 11:45 до 14:15. Думаю, что 6.5 часов школы (которая, вобщем-то еще не школа, а больше детский сад) для всех нас подходят больше, чем 2.5. Надеюсь, Ароша сможет быстро адаптироваться и выучить английский. До начала учебного года осталось меньше месяца. Кстати, Арошина подружка Рэйчел тоже пойдёт в этот класс. Надеюсь это облегчит для него процесс адаптации.

Balloons.Еще Ароша что-то снова немного приболел ко Дню Рождения. Ничего такого серьёзного — немного повышена температура, немного сопли, немного кашель — но мы перенесли празднование на неделю. Анюта, похоже, тоже заразилась. Надеюсь, они успеют придти в себя к следующей субботе.

Arosha with his lightsaber.Мы, правада, купили шарики (в этом году этим занимались дедушка и папа), праздничный торт и шашлыки, так что Ароша всё же почувствовал себя именинником. Но всё равно хочется, чтобы к нему пришли в гости его подружки и он получил даже больше удовольствия. Дедушка и бабушка в этом году на Арошин День Рождения как раз улетели в отпуск, но они успели его увидеть и поздравить до отлёта.

Making faces.Ароша очень любит природу — всё растительное, всё живое (вклучая жучков, червячков и гусениц) и неживое (камушки, палочки). Мы 9 августа ездили на ферму, и там собирали ежевику, баклажаны, помидоры, кукурузу, чернику, персики. Так вот кто же был самым лучшим сборщиком урожая? Ароша! Особенно много он насобирал ежевики — она была первая на нашем пути, и энтузиазма было еще через край. Причём, несмотря на то, что мы советовали Ароше часть ягод собирать прямо в рот, он упорно хотел собирать именно в коробки. Анюте, кстати, на ферме тоже понравилось. Она всё перепробовала, но особенно много сьела ежевики.

Kids.Ароша любит знакомиться со всеми на улице. Обычно он подходит к понравившимся детям и начинает спрашивать как их зовут. Естественно, по-русски. Некоторые отвечают, некоторые игнорируют, некоторые говорят грубости (“не твоё дело”). К счастью люди из второй и третьей катогории Арошу не смущают, и он продолжает быть очень общительным.

Serious business.Ароша очень много болтает и средне слушает. Когда ему звонили и поздравляли его с Днём Рождения, он не давал людям на другом конце трубки что-то особо сказать, а перебивал их и рассказывал о себе.

P.S. Мы измерили Арошин вес и рост — 41½ фунтов (19кг) и 45½ дюймов (116см).
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Стихи

Ароша выучил стихотворение ко Дню Рождения бабушки Оксаны. В прошлом году мы делали ей открытку, ну а в этом хотелось удивить чем-то новым. Стихотворение Ароша выбрал сам, и на заучивание ушло 4 дня. Он до сих пор иногда сбивается, но в принципе помнит его неплохо.

А еще мы наткнулись на старое видео, где Ароше год и 4 месяца. Мы никогда его не ставили потому что для нас оно было слишком обычным. Теперь вот смотрю и поражаюсь, сколько он всего знал, понимал и мог сказать.
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anna — 10 Months

Us on grandma's birthday.Вот Анютке уже и 10 месяцев. Она такая славная и весёлая! Утром меня неизменно встречает её смеющееся лицо.

Анечка всё лучше и лучше ходит. Она часто пытается увеличивать скорость. Еще не бегает, но, думаю, скоро у неё получится. Она неплохо залазит на горки, поднимается ползком по ступенькам, ходит по наклонной плоскости вверх и даже вниз. Вобщем, умница. Все очень удивляются, когда узнают её точный возраст, ибо двигается она как годовалый (а то и старше) ребёнок.

Eating.Анютка очень любит каши, особенно овсянку. Гречку и пшёнку она тоже ест, но они более сухие, и, наверное, поэтому меньше нравятся. Еще она всегда с удовольствием ест чернику, бананы, варёную морковку. На днях она с огромной скоростью трескала помидоры и сладкую картошку. Вобщем, репертуар увеличивается. Я ничего не пюрирую, и покупное пюре из пакетика она тоже есть отказывается, за исключением мангового.

Arosha with flowers for grandma.Грудь Анюта стала брать намного реже, в среднем выходит около 3-5 раз в сутки. В идеале я бы хотела прокормить её до 1.5-2 лет, но не знаю как с такими темпами получится.

Mama with kids.Она неплохо говорит ма-ма-ма-ма-ма-ма-ма, но пока только когда хочет сама, а не по заказу. Но это явно относится ко мне. Еще, когда она чего-то хочет — например, чтобы Ароша угостил её мороженым — она издаёт громкое “аааа”.

А вообще она приносит мне очень много радости. Конечно, и Ароша тоже!

Anюta.Ароша, кстати, обожает играть в игру, в которой я делаю вид, что у меня нет детей, а он потерял маму и решил выбрать меня своей мамой. Ну и потом еще радует меня, что у него есть маленький братик Ари (или иногда он говорит маленькая сестричка Анюта).

Aroshka.Мы очень много гуляем на улице каждый день. По 3 с лишним часа утром и 1.5-2 вечером. Анюта, кстати, очень любит шарики с водой. Она их лопает. Надо отдать должное Ароше, он никогда не против, чтобы я надула первой ей, да и всегда готов поделится с другими детьми на площадке.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Anna — 9 Months

Anюta. 9 months old.Вот нашей малышке уже и 9 месяцев. Она уже ходит. Еще, конечно, не очень уверенно, но с каждым днём всё больше и лучше.

В последнее время я с детьми по будням часто хожу на Manhattan Beach. Идти туда примерно полторы мили в каждую сторону и занимает это у нас примерно 40 минут. Конечно, немного утомительно, но с другой стороны — это неплохое добавление к физической нагрузке. Ароша проходит такое расстояние без проблем, остановок и нытья.

Должна сказать, что они оба очень любят воду. Арошу невозможно вытащить из океана, хоть он и довольно прохладный. Анюта тоже как может быстро топает к воде и очень любит ходить по ней и шлёпать руками.

Они также хорошо играют в песке. Вообще на пляже весело — там обычно есть наши старые или новые (пляжные) знакомые. Мне можно поболтать, а для детей и компания есть, и дополнительные игрушки.

Brother and sister.Единственный не очень приятный момент, это мытьё под холодным душем. Но выхода у меня нет, потому что они под конец с ног до головы покрыты песком. Анюта плачет всегда (и трясётся от холода), а Ароша через раз. Я думаю, что от всей этой холодной воды они только здоровее будут.

Мы стараемся выходить на пляж пораньше, быть там в 9-9:30 и уходим с песка где-то в 10:30-11.

А вчера мы всем семейством ездили на Coney Island. Ароша очень любит кататься на разных каруселях и колесе обозрения. Всё прошло хорошо, хоть было и жарко. Анюта тоже прокатилась на колесе обозрения и на одних каруселях. Не могу сказать, чтобы это вызвало какой-то особый восторг, но и неудовольствия она тоже не проявила.

А на прошлых выходных мы ездили в зоопарк на Staten Island. Было неплохо. Ароше, конечно, там понравилось больше. Он стал вообще как-то больше замечать разных животных и интересоваться ими. Анюта, которая часто пищит от восторга когда видит собак или зверей на ферме, была к зверям в клетках развнодушна.

Strawberries.А еще неделю назад мы ездили собирать клубнику на ферму. Ароша набрал, наверное, фунтов 5. Он даже есть её на поле особо не хотел, а хотел собирать. Анюта тоже там ползала и пробовала ягоды. Я знала, что у неё после этого обострится диатез (что и случилось, но не в очень сильной форме), но не дать ей пожмякать и попробовать клубнику я не могла. Клубника, кстати, в этом году не очень сладкая, потому что было очень много дождей.

Анюта уже неплохо может пережёвывать пищу. Зуба у неё по-прежнему два, но это её не останавливает. Она пока не особо любит овощи и фрукты, а предпочитает хлебобулочные изделия и мясо. Еще Ароша её как правило угощает мороженым, которое он ест практически каждый день. Она, ясное дело, сьедает немного, но радости испускает на все 100 порций.

Picking strawberries.Вообще дни сейчас длинные и тёплые, так что на улице мы проводим очень много времени – 5-7 часов каждый день. Мне, конечно, тяжеловато это чисто физически выдерживать иногда, но на то оно и лето.

Книжки я Анюте читаю не так часто, как Ароше, но она слушает как я читаю ему, и, думаю, этого достаточно.

Спит она днём два раза — минут 30-40 на утренней прогулке, и часа 2-3 дома. Ночью просыпаетя 1-2 раза, но меня это не напрягает.

Анюта очень общительная, много улыбается и с удовольствием идёт на контакт и с детьми, и со взрослыми. Мнногие малыши на площадке любят её, делятся с ней игрушками и хотят покатать на качелях.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Anna — First Steps

Today our daughter took her first independent steps. She is 6 days shy of 9 months. I’ve heard of babies walking this early, but never thought that I’ll have one of those!

She started to stand unsupported a few weeks ago. She also started to cruise around furniture some time ago and is getting better and better at it.

And overall, she has such an amazing personality. Laughs and smiles pretty much at everybody. I can’t get enough of her!
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Shenandoah

Shenandoah National Park.Our vacation started on Wednesday evening. Just as planned we left home after Danya finished his work. I think it was a good thing that we left when we did — even though we did not drive all that many miles, but finishing packing and getting out of the house alone saved us good two hours for the next day. Nothing is fast with two little ones.

Shenandoah.After a 3 hour drive we arrived to Hershey, PA at around 11pm. Our hotel, Hampton Inn, was located on Chocolate Avenue, which really amused Arosha. There really is nothing much I can say about our stay there — we just spent the night, ate breakfast and moved on.

There is an amusement park in Hershey, but they were still closed for the season. The only memorable thing for me are the lampposts on Chocolate Avenue — they were made in the form of Hershey kisses.

Skyland Resort.We stopped at Harrisburg for a tour of the state Capitol, ate a pretty decent lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s and then proceeded to Shenandoah.

In Shenandoah we checked in and went to get some dinner at the local restaurant, which had two sections — the main dining area, which was very busy at the time, and the bar. We decided to eat at the bar, even though their menu was much more limited. I ordered a salad, which was pretty much the only thing that I could eat with my diet. Big mistake, as it turned out.

Big Meadow.It was close to Anюta’s bed time, so I gobbled the unappetizing plate of wilted greens, droopy tomatoes and weathered onions. My head was starting to hurt and I felt tired overall. I left the boys to finish their meals and ran to the room to feed Anechka and put her to bed.

Danya and Arosha decided to take their equally horrible tasting meals to go and joined us shortly. By that time not only I had a horrible headache, but felt nauseous. I think I yelled at poor Arosha for being his overly active self and had to run to the bathroom to throw up.

Big Meadow fog.Long story short, I was throwing up half the night. This summoned an anxiety attack in Danya and his stomach went all crazy on him. To make things worse, Arosha kept falling off the high bed he was sleeping on (and he had no such issues in the hotel bed the night before). The only thing that made it all better in my eyes was that is was happening to me and not the children. I could not imagine how much worse it would have been if this was happening to one of them.

Climbing tree.To prevent Arosha from falling down again — he fell 3 times before we did something — Danya moved his bed to the wall and went to sleep on the other edge. This worked well for Arosha and not so well for his dad since our little unit kept trying to push Danya off in his sleep. The next evening Danya put two beds together so that Arosha will at least have the whole bed to move around.

When we got up on Friday morning, I was all better and so was Danya, although this incident brought a bout of evening anxiety feelings for him. Too bad it had to happen.

Under the tree, while Arosha is climbing.There was a small and expensive breakfast buffet in the hotel, which was not included in the price of the room. We decided that it was not worth it and got some oatmeal and yogurts instead and went to see the park right after.

When we were driving from Hershey, we saw nature waking up — lots of trees with fresh green leaves, lots of trees and bushes in bloom. This was not the case higher up in the mountains though. We’ve been to Shenandoah in November before, and I have to say that at the end of April everything looked about the same if not worse.

Luray Caverns.We’ve decided to go to the Big Meadow since it was the most memorable place from our last trip. Before our vacation I was imagining it all covered in mountain flowers. Ha-ha, so silly. There was not even a single green grass spear. Oh well. It was still a nice experience. We started walking towards trees in the horizon and walked into the cloud of fog. The weather was grey and grim, but at least it was not raining. Yet.

Arosha found a big tree with a lot of brunches at the bottom and he kept climbing up and down. He had so much fun! Danya also climbed up and down ones. Anюta just sat under the tree and played with dry grass and pine cones and stones and pretty much everything that she could find.

Donation pool.After a while we headed back to the car and kind of got lost. The fog was everywhere and the Big Meadow was … well … BIG! I did not take us too long to find our car, but it still felt like a little adventure. I have to confess thought that if Danya was not there it would have taken me much longer to find the way out.

Just as we got into the car it started raining, so all other hikes had to be canceled. We decided to drive down to Luray and visit the famous caverns instead.

Car and carriage museum.The drive was OK. It kept raining on and off, the children were asleep. When we arrived to our destination and Danya got out of the car to get something from the trunk it started pouring really bad. My poor husband jumped into the trunk to stay dry. I think he spent around 15 minutes there. Don’t think it was too comfortable, but it beats walking around in wet clothes.

Luray.When the rain got a little lighter we ran to the entrance and bought tickets for the tour. Unfortunately in order to see caverns one has to get a tour, there is no such thing as just walking at your own pace. The tour duration was a bit over an hour and I was a little anxious as to how children will handle it.

Caverns.The caverns themselves were nice. I’ve been to similar caverns twice — ones in Crimea, Ukraine and ones in Carlsbad, New Mexico. All of them are quite impressive, and even though the novelty wears off, it was still interesting to see all the rock formations. The unique thing about Luray Cavers was The Great Stalacpipe Organ. It was interesting to listen to it and I hope that the vibrations will not harm ancient stalactites in any way.

Arosha seemed to like the caverns too, although he got tired of the tour by the end. At some point he was asking Danya to take a picture of each and every rock that entered his field of vision. It was cute and a little annoying at the same time. Anюtka was not too impressed with the caves, but she did not throw any bad fits, which is already good.

Big Meadow in fog.We finished our Luray trip with the tour of the automobile museum. Danya found it to be relatively interesting and Arosha wanted to be done with it as soon as possible.

Skyline Drive. Shenandoah National Park.We drove back to the lodge and ate dinner at the local restaurant. It was much better this time. Danya and I have decided that it would be better to leave one day early — it was not one factor, but everything together: cold weather, lack of laundromat and hot water, horrible beds. Luckily, lodge’s stuff did not give us any hard time at all. So next morning after another round of yogurt and oatmeal we left for Tennessee.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains. View from Clingmans Dome.Great Smoky Mountains National Park was on my list of to-visit places for a while now. I spotted it on the map for the first time during the spring-summer of 2010, when we were thinking of our last vacation before our kids started arriving — Alena was well along into her pregnancy. At the time we decided that it was too late to try anything as ambitious as 1,400 mile trip at the minimum.

Zoo at Natural Bridge.Later that year we went to Shenandoah for a week’s stay with my parents and our brand new family member. From that moment on I kept mentioning Great Smoky Mountains from time to time and we kept deciding that it was too early to do something like that. This spring I brought it up again and somewhat to my surprise Alena agreed.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.Not only would this be by far the biggest drive for Arosha in his life — although he has shown himself a great traveler during our Washington State trip. And not only it would be the first trip with Arosha without my parents, no. We also had a tiny new unit who wouldn’t even be 7 month old by the time our trip would start.

Sugarlands Visitor Center.Keeping all the above in mind we planned the trip in such a way that we would make several stops on our way to Tennessee and back to give our kids some breaks from long drive days. Our original plan had a single stop in Shenandoah for three nights and two full days of relaxation at the park before driving another 400 miles all the way to Gatlinburg.

Newfound Gap road.But since we decided to leave Shenandoah a day earlier (more on that in Shenandoah post) we figured we’ll just split our drive into two 200 mile sections instead of a full 400 mile jump. But to our surprise our kids were so good that we ended up making it all the way to the end in one day, thus adding another great day to our best part of this vacation — our stay in Great Smoky Mountains.

At the top of Clingmans Dome.On our way we had two breaks — one was a detour to see natural bridge instead of which we ended up visiting a zoo. Kids had a lot of fun there. Arosha fed goats, llamas, giraffes and camels among the things that I remember. Llamas were making all kinds of sounds while gobbling up the treats and both of our kids found them to be by far the most amusing bunch. As a result llamas got most of our treats.

Same location.Our second stop was for a lunch at some local BBQ place where I got 1/4 (or was it 1/2) of a rack of ribs which were double the size of the normal rack that I’m used to seeing. Good thing I wasn’t greedy and didn’t order the whole thing. It was interesting, but it took much more fighting than ribs usually take. Not fun. We were tired after.

Conquering the fear of heights.So we kept driving and driving and our kids kept being totally content, taking naps and at some point we figured that it no longer really makes any sense to spend a night elsewhere but our final destination. Only when we got off the main interstate and started driving via a local road with traffic lights Anюta started to get annoyed and started crying. Luckily it was only for the last 5 miles of our drive.

Observation tower at Clingmans Dome.On our way to Gatlinburg we were greeted by a neighboring town of Pigeon Forge. We always imagined that Gatlinburg would feel a lot like Bar Harbor near Acadia National Park or like Port Angeles by Olympic National Park or even like Ashford near Mount Rainier. Pigeon Forge though was nothing like. The best analogy that I can think of is the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but bigger — everything is covered in flashing neon signs, mini-golf courses, houses of scary mirrors, Guinness record halls and so on and on and on for miles.

On the way down.To our relief Gatlinburg was a lot more toned down, yet still not a serene and cozy town we expected it to be. We were glad to find out that our hotel is located on the edge of the town and on a top of a decently sized hill. The location was so great that it was only a third of a mile away from one of the entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Stopped on the side of a road for one of the numerous trails.The hotel itself, as I wrote earlier, was not what you would expect to find near a national park. This one was a fifteen plus story building bustling with activity. We were lucky enough that they had a room available for our first unplanned night — we did check via their website before driving all the way there. But reasonably enough they had no upgrade for us on such a short notice.

Us at Laurel Falls.The room was on the first floor. When they asked us whether we preferred to just stay in one place or we would like to get our upgrade for the rest of the nights we inquired what kind of upgrade it would be. — We would put you on the 15th floor. — How many are there? — Fifteen. — We’ll move!

Thus our Tennessee stay has begun. Hotel and our room were great. Breakfasts were included. Lunch and dinner menus were reasonably priced. Pools were fun. And Great Smoky Mountains National Park was right beside us for us to explore.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Laurel Falls.Now after my not-so-short introduction on to the park itself. In the park we visited four major scenic places or destinations, two visitor centers and did a number of smaller hikes in the forest by just pulling off the road and taking quite trails.

On the way to Cades Cove.Our very first stop was by a standard national park entrance sign. We saw some people taking their pictures by the sigh and I kindly offered to take a picture of all of them. The nice people offered to take our picture as well and I confessed that it was my plan all along.

Woodpecker.After that we stopped by Sugarlands Visitors Center to put together a plan of actions for the next five days. We also got our passports stamped. Arosha now has his own passport with a pretty nice collection of stamps already. Too bad we didn’t buy it for him back during our Northwestern trip.

Taking a break from all the driving.My conversation with a ranger about places to see and hikes to take was interrupted by loud howling cry. Arosha was all in tears and at first we got very scared that he hurt himself somehow — he really only cries that loudly when it really hurts. Luckily it was not that — turns out he was playing under the stand (desk) with his pasport while I was talking and somehow managed to drop it into that stand.

Meadows at Cades Cove.A bunch of rangers gathered around, but only to find out that stand is solidly built and attached to the floor and there was no way to get inside of it. Arosha was terribly upset and couldn’t stop crying. Several rangers tried to calm him and tell him that they will save his passport. They ended up taking their stand apart and extracting the passport. From that moment on Arosha was much more careful with his collection of stamps.

Old aqueduct.We put off the destinations that we discussed with the rangers to other days because there was one place that I’ve read about before coming to the park that I really wanted to visit — Clingmans Dome. Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies and it has a 45 feet observation tower build on top of it offering unobstructed view in all directions.

Old mill.This is the destination that we ended up visiting tree times, but did the hike to the top only twice. So on our first day our first trip up there was on a relatively clear day. But from the top there was still significant haze. However the views were magnificent.

Bear cub!The hike itself is only half a mile long, but it is very steep. Alena had to carry Anna in her arms as she didn’t want to sit inside her ergo (which was the case for pretty much all our hikes), but Arosha had no issues doing the hike on his own.

The whole family. Mama bear with 3 cubs.Several days later we came here again. The day was very foggy and we were hoping to get above the clouds. It was not meant to be. Clouds were too high and when we started our hike we ran into a couple coming back down. We asked them if the visibility was any better at the top and they said it wasn’t at all, so we just turned back.

Wild turkeys.And several days later we got up here again on a cloudy day. Even though we did get above the clouds the cloud cover underneath wasn’t as thick as I was hoping it would be. We made the hike to the top again and did take a bunch of nice photographs. So overall I have to say if you’re going to see only one place in Great Smoky Mountains this is the destination to go to.

Fog at Clingmans Dome parking lot.One our second day we went on a hike to see Laurel Falls. The trail was three mile round trip with a pretty modest altitude change — non stop climb up to the falls and descent on the way back. The trail was paved, but there were several signs warning of danger as there were fatal accidents on this trail before. The path was laid right along a steep cliff and children had to be protected and supervised at all times. So while we were hiking up I was firmly holding Arosha by his hand.

Trail to Clingmans Dome.We passed by several small streams on our way up and Arosha loved them. As did Anyuta. Arosha found some branch with a bunch of leaves on the end and started dunking it into the water and then “washing” everything around him. He kept pretending that he had this awesome broom and kept talking and talking about it. At one point the end with the leaves just fell off. That fazed him for all of 2 seconds when he declared: “I just pressed a special button and my broom turned into a vacuum cleaner. It works even better now.”

Thick fog.The waterfall itself wasn’t big or anything, but since waterfalls seem to be our favorite destination in any park — we liked it. The trail led us to the bottom of it and it was falling on the huge boulders right in front of us. Arosha started fishing with his “vacuum cleaner” and when Alena let Anna touch the water she turned into a little speedy propeller with her arms flying in circles.

Another random trail to nowhere.Eventually Arosha managed to slip and fall in with one of his shoes into the water. However that wasn’t enough. Soon enough he ended up knee deep in the water with both of his feet. And we had no spare pants, socks or sneakers. I fished him out quickly enough, but his feet were all soaked. We had to go all the way back like that and we had to listen to Arosha’s whining about how it was horrible and not fun at all.

Riding an old log.When he would switch to crying we would try to cheer him up by saying that all people only saw the waterfall, but he actually was inside of it and that it was quite funny. He kept disagreeing and protesting claiming that there was absolutely nothing funny about his tragic situation. Later on when he was all dried off in a new set of clothing he did admin that maybe it was a little bit funny after all.

Wonderworks at Pigeon Forge.So after our mandatory stop back at the hotel (to get dry clothing) we got back into the car and drove to Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a place with a bunch of old houses and farms and things like that, but the main attraction for us was the fact that apparently that was the best place to spot wild life. And that indeed ended up being true. We did see a total of 8 bears, a whole bunch of deer, wild turkeys and a really good looking woodpecker on that day.

Climbing.Our first spotting of a bear was actually not far from the entrance to the park itself. We saw a whole bunch of cars stopped on the side of the road going in the opposite direction. I did an SUV maneuver through the median, put on my big lens and got out of the car. I couldn’t spot the bear myself, but soon enough some kind folks did point it out to me. It was far away enough that I felt it was safe to get Arosha out of the car and show him the bear. He did see him too.

Snowboarding.In Cades Cove we just kept driving very slowly and looking around. Alena spotted a woodpecker on the tree, but by the time I had my camera in hand he already jumped off. I did get several nice shots of him still.

Urtica burn. Luckily we avoided Poison Ivy.Our kids fell asleep on the way there and got some rest on the road. Then we stopped at some gift shop where we discovered yet another stamp (we got one at Clingmans Dome too) and an old watermill.

Trail to Grotto Falls.Arosha played with the water throwing all kinds of stuff into an old aqueduct, pretending to be cooking some soup which had about 50 different ingredients. We saw some wild turkeys, but one guy scared them all off before we had a chance to take a picture — we did find some more on our way back that did pose for us.

Grotto Falls.The best way to spot a bear is to see for a bunch of stopped cars and a bunch of observers with cameras. Thus we spotted a mama bear with two cubs, but they were quite far away. I could see the black dots through the camera, but not much more. They were sitting in the open field when suddenly a deer ran out of the woods and stopped. After realizing that it probably is not the best idea to be handing out around the bears the said deer disappeared in the woods even more hastily than it appeared.

Walking behind the falls.And several miles later we saw a whole bunch of cars again. I got out of the car and went about 50 meters into the woods. And there I saw several photographers taking pictures of a mama bear and her three cubs not far away. That’s where I got my best pictures of the cubs climbing the trees. Needless to say that was pretty exciting.

View from behind the falls.On the next day we went onto another trail. This one was located on a scenic road that started right around the back of our hotel. The trail was to Grotto Falls. This one was also about three miles both ways which Arosha also hiked without any problems. However this time we were much more careful around the waterfall itself in order not to have to do the hike back in a half wet condition again.

Gatlinburg. View from our hotel.The trail was also very scenic as any other trail. But the waterfall itself stands out because you could hike under and behind it. I actually carried Arosha under it because it was a sure way for him to get a shower otherwise.

Over the clouds at Clingmans Dome.We also spent half a day in Pigeon Forge and went to a weird place called Wonderworks. They had an upside-down building and all kinds of weird things inside, but overall it ended up being pretty boring. Arosha tried climbing a special mountains, but he didn’t seem to like that at all, and couldn’t really grasp the concept of having a safety on him and why he needed that at all.

Observation tower path.On our way back we stopped for a lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Cuban restaurant. And we saw a beaver on the side of the road. At first time we went by him too quickly so we made a U-turn and came back and he was still sitting on the side of the road. But as soon as I touched my camera he split with the speed of light — so no picture.

Wildflowers.And on our last full day we again went to Clingmans Dome, which I wrote about above and after that went on a trail through the woods the start of which was literally one third of a mile away from our hotel. Just a nice quite trail that runs along a mountain river and no people around.

Trail by our hotel.On our way our way out of Tenseness we crossed the whole park and came out on the other side in North Carolina. We stopped at another visitor center on that end, bought some wildflower honey for ourselves and our parents and walked around the old farm that used to be located near it.

Newfound Gap road.And that’s pretty much it. We picked a very good time to visit the park as everything was in full spring bloom. Everything about this stay was great. The only regret is that parents weren’t with us. They surely would’ve liked it a lot as well.

By Oconaluftee Visitor Center.P.S. All pictures are posted in chronological order.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Anna — 8 Months

8 months.Can you believe Anna is 8 months already? Doesn’t it seem that just yesterday she was still 3 or 4?

She is turning into such a delightful little human! Her personality shines through more and more every day. Anechka loves company, but does not need to be in the center of attention all the time. Often she can play by herself as long as we are in the same room. I don’t think I ever experienced this with Arosha — he always wanted constant interaction!

Suddenly standing.Anюtka started to crawl a while back. She can move pretty quickly around the apartment. She usually follows me wherever I go — kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. She crawls kind of funny. If Arosha looked like a giant lizard, she looks like a crab. Her arms and one leg are in the regular crawling position, but another leg she puts not on the knee, but on the foot. Not sure if my explanation makes sense, but we’ve made a video, so it’s easy to see. I call her my little crab from time to time.

Teeth proof.Anna smiles a lot. Especially if I am around and she feels safe. She is not afraid of strangers (again, if I am around), but does not like when someone other than me is holding her. She can tolerate Danya or his mom for a short periods of time, but that’s about it.

She loves to pull herself up and actually started cruising a little bit holding onto furniture. I wonder when she’ll start standing by herself.

Cruising.She can say “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma”, and I think that often she means it. When I am away and she wants to find me or is tired of crawling and wants me to pick her up, she often would do that “ma-ma-ma” chant.

Annushka loves animals and birds. When we went to the farm, she was laughing so much while looking at ducks and horses and sheep. She also was really fascinated by pigeons the first few times she saw them. Each time they flew, she laughed.

Exploring.She is still breastfed. She does not eat too often — sometimes her breaks during the day are 5 hours long. She wakes up 2-3 times during the night to eat, but I really don’t mind. We are loosely following baby lead weaning, but she barely eats any food. She likes trying what’s on our plates, but usually spits out everything. She figured that she is not a fan of quinoa, buckwheat or avocado (my morning staples at the moment).

More cruising.Anechka seem to like Arosha very much. She often will lighten up when he gets up in the morning (usually an hour or two later than her) and crawls to him. She does not like when he is pulling her down from behind though — and Arosha likes doing that. He seem to like her a lot too.

Arosha at a farm.We went to the allergist on Friday to see if he can identify anything that might be causing her eczema. The doctor did a skin test for 60 different allergens and all results were negative. I can’t tell you just how relieved I was to hear that. He prescribed a hidrocortisone cream and it helped to clear the worst things up. I don’t know how long her skin will stay more or less OK, but now I have hope that she’ll just outgrow this condition. I feel really bad for her when eczema flares up and she keeps scratching and scratching and scratching.

Early May.Just to sum it up, Anюta is such a delightful little girl. I adore her and love her with all my heart. And of course I love our son just as much!
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So our Tennessee vacation is the thing of the past. What left is a bunch of fond memories, hundreds of colorful pictures and of course stronger family bonds.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee.To be completely honest, I was quite nervous beforehand. Danya and I never traveled alone (without parents) with Arosha, let along with two small children. Plus there is Anюta’s eczema, my gluten-dairy-nut-soy-eggs-you-name-it diet, eating out multiple times a day with an infant for almost two weeks, cloth diapers which need laundry every other day, and 400-miles-a-day drives. Oh, and staying together in the same room with two little children, who go to bed at different times, was also on the list of things that made me anxious.

Our travelers.It all turned out better than expected! Apparently, our kids are born travelers! They handled long drives just fine — Arosha was either talking, listening to Russian rock music or sleeping; Anюta was either playing with her toys or sleeping. Rarely did they complain or cry. During long drives we made sure to stop every few hours, so that everyone can stretch, run around and get some rest.

Car travel. Stop in Great Smoky Mountains.Danya downloaded a whole bunch of audio books for Arosha to listen to in the car, but we listened to them very little on account of Anechka. Every time Danya turned on a story, usually read by a man, she was crying after a few minutes and did not calm down until the recordings were off. Interestingly enough, the exception to this was when the story was told by a woman. Anna had no issues with music and songs as well. She is a pretty sensitive child, so my theory is that she was getting scared of strange men that were suddenly talking and talking in our car.

Sleeping arrangements. Pillow barricades for Arosha.Cloth diapering on the road was a little annoying (when is it not), but totally manageable. We mostly stayed in Hilton branch hotels, and all of them had guest laundries. The only hotel that lacked both laundry and hot water in the room was the Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah National Park. There I had to hand wash diapers in ice cold water and then dry next to the radiator. We also had to finish drying some inserts on the dashboard of our car — luckily it was a very sunny day, so it only took an hour or so. I did not even try using disposables in fears to irritate Anna’s sensitive skin. By the way, she does #2 on the potty every morning pretty consistently, so I rarely have to deal with soiled diapers. Not that they disgust me — I think nothing my kids do at this age can — but it’s still nice to catch even a little break.

Drying cloth diapers.Anюta’s eczema was getting worse little by little throughout our trip. She had almost clean skin in the beginning, and was all covered in red itchy spots by the end. I am still not sure what causes it — probably food sensitivities — but at least I was able to rule out cat allergy, which is a huge relief. I think that she definitely has a reaction to bananas, but the rest is still questionable. I keep maintaining my diet to the best of my ability, although by the end of the trip I ate some gluten and other things which I try to avoid.

Double Tree restaurant.Both kids did great at restaurants. Arosha loves going out and we never have issues with him. He loves hamburgers and french fries, so he had his share of those, but majority of the time we ordered him healthy things like vegetables, grilled chicken, wild salmon, soups, hummus, rice and beans. He also developed a fondness of oatmeal for breakfast. He usually hates it at home, but brown sugar and raisins really made the difference it seems.

Shenandoah. Skyland Resort.Anюta was as easy in restaurants as a 7 months old baby could possible be. I started following a baby led weaning approach with her a few weeks prior to vacation, so she loves holding pieces of food and munching on them. For breakfast I was giving her apples, melons and even a piece of bacon ones (I know, not good). For lunches she was usually munching on steamed vegetables or grilled chicken — I realized though that I have to ask them to not season vegetables and it made my food more delicious. She does not swallow much — food is more for tasting and playing for now — so getting proper nutrition was not a concern.

Best toys.I also am happy about the fact that our children seem to really like and enjoy nature. Arosha loves being outside and he always can come up with some game to play — he pretends to be fishing, or sweeping, or building a fire and such. He found a great tree for climbing in the Big Meadow in Shenandoah and could not get enough! He hiked one and a half miles each way to two different waterfalls in the Smokies, he also had no issues with steep road uphill to Clingman’s Dome, although we had to stop for rest more than ones.

Anna playing with the grass.Anюtka also loved being close to nature. Sometimes, when I was taking her out of the car and she saw how beautiful it was outside, she laughed out loud out of sheer delight. I let her play with sticks, stones and the likes. She also really enjoyed playing with the water near Laurel Falls. I carried her around either in ergo or just in my hands since she prefers to be forward facing. We took our City Mini stroller, but have not used it a single time.

And of course it was so good to explore new things with Danya! We see each other a lot since he works from home twice a week, but on vacations its a different quality of together time. I love traveling with him, with our children. I will write more about the nuances of our trip, but for now let me just say again that I am very glad that it all went so well.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tennessee Trip Highlights

Time really flies. It’s been more than a week since our vacation has ended and I, as usual, am having trouble figuring out which way to go about these posts. So I decided to just pick out some general categories about the whole trip and then split off location specific notes into separate posts.

Hotels


Throughout our trip we stayed at five different places. Four of those places were Hilton properties. We did not take advantage of our points for any of these since we’re saving them for our November trip, but we did get the full benefits of our Diamond VIP status.

Park Vista by Double Tree. Gatlinburg, Tennessee.All Hilton properties are great. Clean, big rooms, nice blankets, good breakfasts. I would rate them all at four out of five starts with the exception of one. The hotel where we spent six nights — the longest and most important part of our vacation was just superb and by far the best one of our trip. It was Park Vista by Double Tree (Hilton property) located right on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Our hotel. 15 stories atop a hill.Everything about it was great. The hotel itself was located on top of a mountain located right in the middle of a forest. We got upgraded to the top, fifteenth, floor. We had a balcony with a great view of Gatlinburg and the mountains that surround it.

View from the inside.This hotel had a very nice breakfast included with a chef that would cook hot to order meals. We also took advantage of the on property restaurant practically every day. Once we ate directly at it, but mostly we would order some dishes to go to bring up to our room and had our dinner while Anechka was tucked in for the night in the same room.

Other Hilton properties that we stayed at were located in Hershey, Pennsylvania — right near PA capital of Harrisburg, Chapel Hill, North Carolina — not far from NC capital of Raleigh, and the last one was located in Arlington, Virginia — right across the bridge from Washington, DC.

Skyland Resort at Shenandoah National Park.Our only non Hilton hotel was a lodge located right inside Shenandoah National Park. We did stay at the same lodge at the end of 2010. However because we had to reschedule our trip we ended up having to take the only left over room. It was located in a different part of the lodge (cabins are all over the property) and was somehow way below the standard that we are used to.

Double Tree at Gatlinburg.Floors we were not covered with carpet and cold. Beds were small, mattresses were old. Arosha kept falling off the bed throughout the night. Hot water would run out before one could take a quick shower. There were no laundry facilities and we couldn’t do without them because of Anna’s diapers (more on that later). And it smelled like … — well, it just smelled.

The only thing that it had going for it was the fact that it was located right in the woods and we had a nice porch where Arosha could play with leafs, sticks, stones and all other things he loves playing with. And the restaurant was nearby as opposed to the other cabins from which one had to climb atop a rather steep hill to get to it.

Arligngon, Virginia.Overall this contributed to us cutting our Shenandoah stay one night short. We ended up adding the night to our Tennessee stay which proved to be a very good move on our part.

Pools


The hotel in Tennessee had probably the best pool we’ve encountered during all our previous travels. It had a pair of shallow pools for kids, a hot tub, and an adult pool with a two story high slide leading right into it. Arosha loved it. I would put him between my legs, we would lie down on our backs and slide down right into the water. I have to admit that it was quite fun for me as well.

Pools at Gatlinburg Double Tree.There was another smaller slide leading into the kids pool, but it was a tube going through the wall. It was pretty dark inside and only on our last day I managed to talk Arosha into trying it. He had to go through it alone as I would not fit into it. So when he was ready to go in I told him that I’ll run down to the pool and catch him at the bottom.

The first time by the time I got there I saw a huge splash and Arosha managing to get above water on his own. Naturally he wanted to go again. On the second time by the time I got down to the pool I heard yelling coming through the tube:
– Ready??
– Ready.
– Ready???
– Ready!

Water slide.The next thing I see is Arosha flying through the tube with complete terror on his face. He splashes down into the pool, jump out with with complete ecstasy written all over his face. Again! Third time went very much like the previous run. Same “readies”, same terror, same happiness.

Alena also took Anna out to the pool. She also enjoyed it along. Alena would hold her in the water with her head above it and they would “swim” around the pool. One time Arosha and I talked Alena into trying the slide. We practically had to coerce her into it. Eventually she reluctantly agreed.

Another view of the slide.When she got up there I told Arosha — now listen to this! And then we heard multiple high pitched yells, screams and howls. She did end up liking it too. I’m glad we made her try.

Our other pool experience was rather sad. While we stayed in Arlington we decide to go to the pool. Arosha got all dressed, all prepared, totally happy. We all also got dressed for the pool. Then we couldn’t figure out which floor it was on. When we went down to the lobby to inquire where it is it turned out that this was the only hotel of our stay where there was no pool. It was a complete tragedy for poor Arosha. So much preparation and anticipation and such a fiasco. He was crushed. That will teach us a lesson for the future though.

Our Car


Our car has served us admirably. I’m really enjoying the “utility” part of our SUV. The cargo space easily fit a pair of large suitcases, a stroller and a good number of smaller bags and purses, while still allowing us to pull a cover over them.

Shenandoah fog and our car.The ride was comfortable and higher vantage point makes for a better trip — you can see more. Distronic made driving for 2,000 miles easier on me. Our car fully loaded with four people and a lot of cargo came out with a very respectable MPG of 26. That’s with mixed highway and city driving. We had to fill up only 4 times and that’s considering that we never waited for it to fall below 1/4th of the tank. Diesel rules.

One thing to note is that while I feel rather well driving Mercedes in and around New York it felt a bit awkward everywhere else. It attracts too much attention and really stands out. Something like Chevy Tahoe would feel somehow safer and more comfortable in that respect.

Another trail.However while before I never wanted anything to do with SUVs now I’m a big fan of an SUV as a family car. It is safe, heavy, stable and allowed us to easily park in all kinds of “off-road” ditches while in the parks.

Kids


Our kids did great. We feared that 400 miles in one day was not doable without many problems. Our original plan was to split it into two days when we left Shenandoah one day early. Turned out it wasn’t a problem at all. We kept planning to stop at 200 miles, 300 miles, but they just kept doing well. Only towards the end a little amount of crying ensued from Anyuta. Arosha had zero issues at all.

On the trail to Laurel Falls.The totally love nature. We could not drag Arosha away from anywhere. Sticks and stones, rivers and puddles. Arosha’s kind of paradise. Anyuta also was very happy to sit on the ground and taste grass, flowers, sticks and just plain good old dirt.

Arosha did great on hikes. We did numerous long hikes on steep trails that were about 3 miles in length and he walked them on his own without any problems. Anna on the other hand refused to sit in her ergo for the most part and Alena had to carry her. I don’t know where she gets the strength and energy. Us driving our stroller around was totally pointless. We haven’t used it once.

Nature fun.Sleeping in one room was perfectly fine too. We thought that’d all have to go on Anna’s schedule and go to sleep at 8pm. However once Alena did put her to bed we could still sit around and do other stuff. Arosha could watch some cartoons or all of us would go through our pictures we took throughout the day. Or we would eat dinner using bathroom sinks as dinner tables. It all work out rather well.

Laundry


Now this was a first for us. Because Anyuta is allergic to disposable diapers we have to use washable cloth ones. And as a result we had to do laundry every other day. Shenandoah was the worst. No laundry facilities and the closest town was 30 minutes away. Hot water would run out. Alena did hand wash them in the cold water.

View from the window of our Gatlinburg hotel.We dried them everywhere. Radiators, tables, TVs and so on. The best place though goes to the dashboard of our car while the car was sitting in the sun and we were away on a walk of some kind. Other hotels did have laundry facilities, yet it was still quite annoying to say the least.

Food


Food was … boring. This country is full of steak houses with very little variety. By the end of the trip we could not look at steaks, burgers and potatoes. We did eat at a nice Mexican restaurant once and one Cuban hole in the wall place. While in Washington we ended up running into a completely random and cheap Chinese place that was in China Town which was well reviewed by New York Times as it turned out. By most evenings my appetite for any food was nowhere to be found so we mostly ate from the appetizer sections of the menus.

Bullfish Grill at Pigeon Forge, Tennesssee.One thing that worried us slightly was the fact that Anyuta would always cry before at any kind of a restaurant. But Alena figured out a perfect solution. She can sit very well in a high chair on her own. Alena would put a plate in front of her and would put all kinds of non-choke hazard vegetables on that plate — string beans, broccoli, slices of carrots and so on. Anyuta would reach out for them and taste them. That kept her occupied rather well and would could eat in peace.

Overall


Overall it was a really nice road trip. A great vacation with an exception of one nightmarish night in Shenandoah. I’ll explain in more detail later. Otherwise we got very lucky with the weather, spring was in full bloom and we’ve seen a lot of beautiful and interesting new places. It was fun for all four of us and it was not as hard as we thought it would be. It actually wasn’t all that hard at all. Our kids are great.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Trip

Анюта.We’re getting ready for our first road trip with kids and without Danya’s parents. A bit scary, but still exciting!

I’ve been packing bags pretty much all day long — luckily Arosha was occupied. First, he went to the beach with his grandpa, and then he went to the barber and then a car wash with his dad. I only had to care for Anya. She is in a pretty good mood today, since her eczema is a little better.

Ароша.I followed the advise of my friend Volha, whose younger daughter also gets eczema in the diaper area, and just put her into Arosha’s old (barely worn) cotton panties. She used to be bare, but now that she is kind of mobile, I can’t always assure that she won’t be on a not 100% clean carpet with her bare lady parts. So far I really like using the panties. I put her on the potties every hour or so, and oftentimes she goes.

She also sprouted two teeth in the last few days!
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Little Battles

Danya at four and a half month with his dad.I just wanted to write a few words about how we’re doing in the last week or so.

Anюta’s eczema is not going anywhere unfortunately. Some days she is better, some days she is worse. I am not sure if my diet helps any. Last Saturday I ate an egg, and on Sunday she had a horrible rush on her face. Coincidence? Who knows, but I am scared to try eggs again. Today I took some probiotics, which are not dairy free, and in the evening she was screaming for half an hour and scratching her face all the time. Coincidence? Probably, but no dairy for me in the near future.

I am at my wits end with this thing, but what I am realizing is that this thing will not magically go away. At least I know that I am doing whatever I can to help her.

In the meantime, I’ve lost 3 pounds in the last two weeks. I am hungry, sometimes more, sometimes less, pretty much all the time. And how I miss my rye bread and butter! During the last few months I was finishing a package of butter (250 grams) every single week, and now even though I try to compensate with olive and coconut oils, it’s just not the same. I weight 158 lbs right now by the way, which is much better than what I had with Arosha at 6.5 months postpartum.

Alёna.On another note — my carpal tunnel syndrome has completely gone away. Took awhile, but luckily I am back to normal. No more night sweats either.

I have to confess that I absolutely hate cloth diapering at this point. The thing is that it takes so much effort on my part, and her diaper area is still red most of the time. And believe me, I’ve done stripping (by hand too!), and use things that are supposed to get rid of ammonia and mineral deposits, and I change her diaper every 2-3 hours around the clock, and I give her A LOT of diaper free time. In fact, in the last week or so, during the day she only has her diaper on while napping or when we’re out. I have so many poopy and wet towels to wash every day, but it beats her screaming in pain when I touch her diaper area. I am afraid to try disposables again since they gave her even worse allergic reaction.

On the bright note — Anюtka recognizes her name. We realized it a week or more ago. She also is mastering crawling. She can move kind of sideways, but very slowly and can’t always control where she is going.

Anюtka and her red face.She is in general a very happy and easygoing baby. Unless stupid eczema is really bothering her.

I give her some solid foods to try. I follow baby led weaning approach — no purees. My friend Volha sent me a BLW book with recipes — I think I’ll try some of those. I am eating super healthy anyhow (lots of baked vegetables and poached chicken and quinoa and such), so giving her some of the food I cook for us comes naturally. She enjoys trying things and so far I think her favorites are zucchini and chicken. She gagged a few times in the beginning, but seems to be doing better and better with each try.

Oh, and I think Anюta is starting to look more and more like Danya. A lot of people commented that she looks like him, so we looked up some of his old pictures, and I think the resemblance is obvious! I see both of us in Arosha (but I think he looks more like me), it will be interesting to see how she’ll turn up.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Caumsett State Park

Caumsett State Park on Long Island Sound.Yesterday was a first truly springtime weekend day this year. The day was so nice and warm that it was the first time we could be outside in a park without our jackets. We decided to visit a state park located on the north shore of Long Island that was recommended to my mom by a coworker — Caumsett State Historic Park.

Stables.All of us went, so we had to take two cars. Even though it’s only 48 miles away it took us a bit on the long side to get there — all the traffics and such. Arosha was as always a good traveler, and Anyuta did pretty well also, although she did “complain” from time to time.

Arosha and Daniel in front of main estate house.The park was created on the lands acquired by state from an estate of Marshall Field III that he in turn put together in 1921. The park is pretty sizable as far as estates go.

Kids in daffodils.The road to the park was quite picturesque as well. I really long for a 70-200mm lens lately, no pun intended. Throughout the day we saw 3 large eagle nests with a pair of eagles in each and a large white heron.

And grandpa too.The signs of spring were all around. A lot of trees are budding, Magnolia trees are covered by fresh flowers, but out biggest discovery the the day was a large number of fields covered in blooming daffodils.

Arosha.Arosha was running in front of us all and when we happened upon the first of these fields could not stop asking if we were happy that he led us to such a beautiful place.

Picnic towards the end. All the food is already gone.Our hike culminated in a nice family picnic on the blankets in the middle of a large field not far from the main estate house. That event totally put Arosha’s excitement level over and top and off the scale — he kept pointing out numerous aspects of how picnicking was great, amazing and awesome.

Flowers.The total length of our round-trip hike ended up being around three and a half miles. However while we might’ve walked that much Arosha did twice of that since he was running non-stop back and forth and to the sides and all around. He picked up numerous sticks of varying sizes, jumped into ditches, climbed onto large stumps and so on.

Arosha and woodpecker.At one point he found a stick with a sharp short branch at the top coming out of it. He proclaimed that it was a woodpecker and we had to wait for “them” while they go and find some food in nearby trees. He proceed to go from tree to tree pecking at them and pretending to look quite surprised by the fact that they were unable to get anything out of a tree trunks.

Anyuta riding around.Anyuta slept some, but mostly she was exploring the park while sitting in Alёna’s arms and looking around. She enjoyed touching flowers and grass with her hands — I remember Arosha was a lot more cautious of the grass in his first encounter and wasn’t quite sure of what to make of it. Anyuta seemed to like the sensation of touching it.

Lunch break.We spent five hours in the park. We left home at 11:30am and came back at 7:30pm. On the way back Arosha went into “recharging” mode for a change, and Anyuta actually stayed awake looking and playing with her toys. It ended up being a great spring day.

Blooming daffodils.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

On the Topic of Eczema

Anna.It’s been a pretty tough week. Anюta’s eczema has gotten worse, to the point where it seem to really bother her. She has it pretty much all over the body, but it’s worse on her face, legs and diaper area. Our pediatrician has prescribed some steroid cream, and it seem to help with flair ups, but obviously it can’t be used on a daily basis.

I bought some moisturizers and also use whatever else we have. The full list of the things that try includes coconat oil, Angel baby bottom balm, eczema creams by Aveeno, Babyganics and TruKid; Aquaphor and Cetaphil. Moisturizers do help a bit, so I guess I’ll keep applying them at least twice a day.

I also made some drastic changes to my diet starting from Sunday. No dairy products, no wheat or rye, no eggs, no soy, no nuts, no citrus fruit, no seafood, pretty much no sugar. I also try to limit meat because I read that it can contribute to inflammation. I also avoid any kind of berries, but blueberries, tropical fruit, legumes and tomatoes. I am not sure yet if there is any effect, but her face has gotten a little better. I did use the steroid cream on it twice since Sunday. I guess, we’ll wait some more and see. I think that if she has an allergy/sensitivity to any of the things that I have excluded, it will be obvious in about two weeks.

I am also struggling with cloth diapers. I think because I use so many things on her bottom (I try to use cloth diaper friendly stuff only), they have gotten less absorbent. Also, I am not sure how good of a job a washing machine does since I only use detergent in pre-wash cycle in order to get that extra rinse. I had to strip them, and I did it by hand. I used seventh generation dish washing liquid, and also a Funk Rock powder from the Rocking Green company. I also switched detergents from Tide Free and Gentle to Rocking Green one. The diapers are a bit better now, but I try to soak them and handwash them a little before going down to the laundromat. To be honest, I can’t wait for her to be diaper free! I put her on a potty every day, and usually I can catch a pee or even a poop, but obviously, these things are accidental. It’s a good thing that she does not mind sitting on the potty. Arosha was very much against it at this age, and believe me, I tried. I hope that in the worst case scenario she’ll be in diapers until two, but maybe we’ll manage to transition sooner.

Sitting.I still miss my mom very much. I called her a few times, but she does not have internet or a land line in her new home, and calls on a mobile phone in Belarus from Skype are around $1 per minute. With these crazy prices I can’t talk to her as much as I would like to.

Arosha also got sick. Nothing too bad — a fever for a few days, runny nose and cough. We started using nebulizer with saline solution right away and I think it helps some. He only had the horrible barking cough one night and now it’s just a regular one. Anechka has some nasal congestion too, but it’s not serious.

She started to sleep really bad for the last 5 days or so. She used to wake up ones or twice to eat, but now it’s a whole different story. On bad nights she wakes up every 40-60 minutes, on good nights, like today, she woke up 3 times and was awake for about an hour in the early morning. I don’t know what is the cause — a growth spurt, teething, eczema, less absorbent diapers, developmental leap. Maybe, it’s a combination. My only solution is to take her to bed with me. Good thing we have a spare bed (she does not really fit in ours with the both of us) in a small room. We bought it for Arosha a while ago, but he still sleeps in his converted ex-crib.

The good thing is that it’s finally getting warmer. We still need jackets, but lighter ones. The nature awakens. The first flowers are sprouting and starting to bloom. I hope we’ll have a nice and long transition period, since summers in NYC are too hot and humid for my taste.
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stoller Progress

Anna in a sitting stroller.Today we tried Anyuta in our sitting stroller for the first time. She did a test-drive and it seems she’ll be moving to it permanently soon. It also means we have finally started to get rid of things that we kept around for the time when number two would arrive. We’ll be giving away quite a bit of stuff from about now on.
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