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Archive for November, 2010

Christmas Letter

The various branches of Ivan’s family require a Christmas letter every year, signed in triplicate and with accompanying picture and blog address. I wrote ours a few days after Halloween this year after receiving the first mass email request. I decided to wait a few weeks to post it on the blog (Halloween seems a little early…) but I’m afraid if I wait too much longer I’ll forget, so here it is. I left off the picture and blog address since you seem to know the latter already and the picture was not actually part of the original letter.

I think Ivan’s graduate school has been about the only constant thing for our family this year. Ivan finished the first year of his Ph.D. program this April, thus completing most of the coursework part of his program and moving into the more research oriented part. School has definitely been challenging and in a lot of ways we’re still adjusting to it, even after a year.

And now for the ups and downs and round abouts. The year started with us all together in our little apartment in Budapest. Ivan went to school and Rachel adjusted to the strange new country that would be home for a few years. The day after Valentine’s Day Rachel flew back to Texas to her parents’ house where she would stay until after the baby was born, the plan being that Ivan would fly back to Texas in April after taking his qualifying exam, about two weeks before the baby was due. Alas, it was not to be. Rachel went into labor while Ivan was taking his exam and a mere 22 hours after Ivan took the exam our little Evelyn was born. Needless to say, Ivan didn’t quite make it, and on top of that his flight for three days later was cancelled due to the volcano in Iceland. In the end Evelyn was a week old before Ivan got to see her. We have definite negative feelings toward volcanoes now.

Evelyn was beautiful and healthy and had to spend one day in NICU due to a little glitch in her breathing, but still came home at the normal time. She’s got beautiful blue eyes like her Daddy and grows like a weed.

Avery has had a fabulous year. She LOVES her little sister and is just now beginning to be a little sore that she has to share her toys. In March Rachel and Avery went to LA to visit Avery’s Aunt Linden and Great Grandpa Virgil and Avery got to go to the beach. I’m not sure that there ever was a happier kid. She chased the waves out and then laughed and laughed as she ran away when they came back in.

In June we all took a trip to Utah to see friends and family before heading back to Budapest for a few years. We were lucky and got to see Avery and Evelyn’s first cousin, Kevin. He was born a couple days after we got there. We also got to see Grandma Andrus and lots of Aunts and Uncles. We had a good time, but both kids were pretty darn ready to be done with the car by the time we got home. Twenty five hours in a car does not a happy child make, and that was just one way.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t make parents all that happy either.

We came back to Budapest in the middle of July to beautiful weather and lost luggage. It took two days for them to get us our bags and in the meantime our landlord informed us that he needed our apartment back and we would have to move. We took our time finding an apartment and moved about two weeks later. We like our new apartment better in most ways anyway.

Since then things have calmed down a little.  School started again in the middle of September and Rachel and the kids are back into the playgroup and rhyme time schedule that lapsed a little during the Summer. It’s so nice to have English speaking friends here to talk to and to do kids’ activities with. We’ve been able to travel a little. We took a day trip to a little town a couple hours from Budapest called Eger. There’s a castle there and some museums and it’s really a delightful little place. We went to Vienna for the first time for Halloween.

So as you can see, we’ve had a downright boring year. We miss all our friends and family and hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season.

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Evelyn – 7 months

Evelyn has two words for you: Alma Málnával. This is the food that we finally found that Evelyn would eat. We tried rice. We tried rice cereal. We tried rice cereal with fruit. We tried banana, cream of wheat, squash and potatoes and apple sauce. “No. No. No. No. NO!” She said. “I want alma málnával.” Or she would have if she could talk. Alma málnával is apples with raspberries. Just when I was about at my wit’s end and just after I had told everyone how Evelyn refused any kind of solid food I gave her, a friend let me feed some of her baby’s food to Evelyn and she sucked it up. You should have seen her little tongue go. So now we let her eat her alma málnavál (I love the way it sounds…) and we mix in rice cereal. Evelyn has achieved solid food-ness. yay!

She has also almost achieved crawling-ness. She scoots like a pro and gets just about everywhere that way, but the last week or so she has spent a little bit of time on her hands and knees rocking and I’m pretty sure yesterday her little knee moved, although she was under a blanket so I can’t be certain. I’m excited because, while crawling is rough on the knees of her clothes, at least it’s only rough on the knees and not on the chest and belly too. I’ve had to mop and sweep my floors a lot more frequently lately.

Evelyn also has finally conceded that perhaps a sleeping schedule is a desirable thing. She has gone to bed around 8:00 nearly every night this week and has been at least halfway consistent about a short morning nap and a longer afternoon nap. Since this is more predictable than she has ever been in her entire life and has lasted longer (I think) than any other sleeping pattern in her entire life, I have declared a celebration. In this celebration I go to bed early every night (nearly). In all likelihood this will change tomorrow and I’ll have to uncelebrate, but I’ll deal with that tomorrow. Sometimes I think I really must be doing something wrong to have such amazing not-sleeping kids as I do, but I’ve tried pretty hard to get them to sleep, so maybe it’s just their personalities. Unfortunately, she still doesn’t sleep through the night, but she only gets up twice usually.

With the exception of a few days here and there, Evelyn is a pretty happy baby now. She’s very interested in her toys lately and they’re usually totally soggy from being sucked on. She’s figured out how to scoot to me and grab at my legs and cry when she wants me. It’s funny to watch her follow me around the house on her little belly. She’s kind of like a little penguin. As you can see from the picture, she’s still pretty bald. She has a nice soft little head and we haven’t seen any teeth yet either. I’m alright with that, though. It hurts a lot more when they bite if they have teeth. And you can’t have an adorable toothless smile if you have teeth, either, although smiles with little teeth are pretty cute too.

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Rachel pointed me a recent article about the possibility that schizophrenia may be caused by a virus. Pretty weird, eh? But wait, there’s more. The virus might actually be part of everyone’s DNA (called a Human Endogenous RetroVirus) but something around birth triggers it since babies born in winter are more likely to develop schizophrenia. But the bizarreness is not over yet. According to the article the same retrovirus (HERV-W) is also active in people with MS.   The article claims that we have over 100,000 retrovirus sequences in our DNA making up over 40%. According to another source 8 percent of our genome is retrovirus DNA, but another 42% is made of retrotransposons.  My mind is still boggling.

Naturally, I began to wonder if retroviruses are involved in rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. However, according to two articles, of which I only read the abstracts, that does not seem to be the case. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. A newer study, however, “showed significant increases in HERV-K (HML-2) gag activity in RA patients”. I’m quite interested in the last article, but unfortunately the full text won’t be available until June of 2011, and I don’t think CEU subscribes to Clinical and Experimental Immunology. Nevertheless, I have added some further reading to my kindle.

If anyone knows of related articles (particularly longer, and targeted at a lay audience) I would be very happy to hear about then.  Or if you have access to the journals and want to send me the full text of some of the articles that would be great too.

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Avery – 29 months

Avery has a new friend. And not just any friend, he’s an imaginary friend. And not just any imaginary friend, he’s a dragon. Dragon appeared one day when we came home from somewhere and closed the door to our apartment. I can’t remember if we had to let dragon come in too, or if we had to close the door really fast so that dragon couldn’t come in and get us, but somehow dragon became friendly and now makes appearances now and again.

The other day I wanted Avery to go do something and she asked if her dragon could come. I said “sure” and that started a whole story about dragon.

“Dragon come with me?”

“Sure.”

“My dragon fine. He’s not roarin’.”

“That’s good.”

“My dragon in my hand.” (Shows me her hand)

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

By the end I had forgotten what I wanted her to do, which was probably her intent all along. Clever little stinker.

We went to Vienna last weekend to meet a friend from Utah. On Thursday I told Avery we were going to Vienna. A couple minutes later she asked “Go to Vennia’s house?” She loved Vienna and asks every other day or so when we’re going to go again to “Vennia’s house.” And we haven’t even taken her to the Butterfly Garden there yet.

In everyday news, Avery loves to sing. We go to a group that some international moms do every week called rhyme time and we sing little rhymes like “The Grand Old Duke of York” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It’s really fun and Avery loves it. We do some that I did when I was little and some I’m learning new, but Avery sings them all week long. Her current favorites are “Wind the Bobbin” and “Sleeping Bunnies,” although “Roly Poly” and “Five Little Cookies” aren’t far behind. We sing outside, we sing (quietly) on public transportation, we sing at home… anywhere is a place to sing.

We also started learning sign language a little bit this month. That’s been really fun. A friend told me about Baby Signing Time at signingtime.com and I checked it out a couple weeks ago. There’s a set of sample videos you can watch on the website and Avery loved them. So we looked on youtube and found some more. We’ve learned lots of signs: cook, Happy Birthday, more, Happy Halloween, girl, boy, and probably 20 or 30 others. I’d really like to buy the DVDs, but we’d never get them here and they’re $23 each (there are almost 20 of them I think). There’s a combination pack for $700! Maybe when we’re old and rich. But we’ve had a really good time and maybe I’ll find some more resources somewhere else.

Avery’s a cuddly little thing, which is really nice. She comes and lies in bed with us every morning for at least a few minutes and sometimes we all fall back to sleep for an hour or so. She comes and asks for kisses when she’s hurt or sad and sometimes even when she’s being punished. Sometimes she can be quite forceful about it, demanding a kiss when she’s had her cheek flicked for misbehaving. She loves to sit on my lap and I think she’s figured out that Evelyn gets to sit on my lap when she cries because sometimes when Evelyn is crying Avery will start crying hoping to get lap time instead of Evelyn. Sometimes they have to share my lap, which doesn’t seem to bother either of them much, as long as they can keep their hands to themselves. Avery likes to touch Evelyn and Evelyn has gotten good enough with her hands that she can grab things and loves to pull Avery’s hair.

So, she grows and grows,

When she’ll stop nobody knows,

She has tantrums and fits and her toddlerhood shows,

But we like her, so we’ll keep her I suppose.

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