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Monday, June 30, 2008

Some pictures from today

We ended up talking a walk after all, it was muggy outside and we both got really warm. I walked up a hill, trying my best to find the church, but I could not.
Amanda is sleeping, and I am trying to get sleepy, watching some TV shows I missed when I was in Ukraine.
So this is Miss Amanda in her Ukrainian stroller. :o) She is wearing Kara's hoodie and Meghan's and Kara's old clothes, she looks good in them though. I can't wait to get her some new things bought just for her! Especially some shoes that fit, she is in a 4, those are 5's, she is wearing two pair of socks to keep them on. She also wears 18-24 month clothing, 2T swim on her skinny body. Her pants fall off of her, only the leggings and one pair of jeans stay on.
Carol asked me if the apartment was nice, yes, it really is, very clean, pretty colors, but I have always loved blue and gold together. There is a small washer, I am in heaven because I do not have to wash clothes in a tub this time. There is also a drying rack and an ironing board. Still I had 3 meals a day in Ukraine, so there are trade offs.

Fun with Skype and Amanda

What did we do without this wonderful service (thank you Estonia). We talk and see each other two or more times a day. During our conversation today Tom snapped some pictures of Amanda laughing and playing while she sat in my lap. Most of the laughs came when I took the wires she was trying to pull out away from her.

We are spending another quiet day here, we both just woke up from a nap, I was trying once again to read "Memory Keepers Daughter" and fell asleep. I intended to go out with Amanda after lunch but her rubbing at her eyes showed me the time before the clock did, I reluctantly put her down for her nap knowing full well our chances of getting out and about after that were nil. After we woke up, I looked out and saw that the clouds have overtaken the sky once more. I can smell the rain in the wind blowing through the open window.

Now I blame Tom for our lack of site seeing opportunities, he calls right at the perfect time for us to leave nearly every morning. Not so ideal a time for him, it is past midnight there and he is visibly worn out, Meghan and Kara can do that to a person LOL. I cannot fall asleep here until there is as little light as possible, after midnight, so waking up before 7 is difficult, but it would be the best time to talk for Tom. I would hate missing talking to him in the morning, so what can we do? We cannot leave after we hang up because it is close to lunch and nap time. If Amanda gets over tired she begins to cry miserably and I cannot do that to her or to me, it upsets me to see her sad.
We may go downstairs to the bakery to get something fun to eat with dinner; maybe I can entice her with something cheesy and sweet, a little bread? All she seems to want to eat are sweets. So fruits and yogurts, rice cereal if she is in the mood, starches all, though there is limited protein in yogurt. Wish I could sneak the Ellecare into her food. We have plenty of time to introduce a more varied diet once home. I am hoping we can make more soups and such, weaning her off of so many sweet foods is going to be a challenge though, if she is anything like her sister in her determination NOT to do what we ask of her.

Right now Amanda is playing with her dolls and jabbering and giggling, such a sweet little baby girl, and yes, even at 3 she is very much a baby, the delays from Down syndrome do this to our children, they stay young at heart so much longer than typical children as well. You all would love to hear the sound of Amanda's chuckles, I am so blessed to have this special little one in my life!

Dawn, you were right, life will be interesting when the two of us get home, and Charlotte, I am truly enjoying our time together before the chaos that can be home. I am a little down, I have always gotten homesickness when away from family, but I am OK. I find so much happiness everyday here. Thank all of you for your comments.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Correction on Amanda's birthdate

The information we received said she was born on March 25th, she was actually born on the 26th.

Dawn, I agree, her feet are adorable, very slender and soft. She stood up a few times to day, I would say she is a good 6 months away from trying to walk.

Amanda's adjustment

She was up and down today, very clingy, following me everywhere, but also wanting to be left alone. Heavens I feel somewhat disoriented myself, so I can understand her confusion.
She does love this drawer under the stove and played with
it for a long time laughing and throwing everything out.
She has such a sad cry, poor little girl, most of her crying is associated with eating though. Kara did the same thing to me, nothing was fast enough, and half of what I tried was rejected. I miss the dining hall in Vorzel, 3 hot meals a day cannot be beat, right now we get one, or I should say I get it, Amanda refuses to eat it. I add fluids to all of her soft foods, so she is getting plenty now, she has quite a limited diet, I continue to try to add new things, she refuses most of them. She is eating three meals a day though. Meghan is apicky eater too, I am used to it, but Meghan also has fat on her body, Amanda does not.

I wanted to show a video of how she crawls. Tom took his cameras home and they had the sound, it is too bad, because you can't her her squeal with delight as she crab crawls to me.

She is adorable, and so unknown, she is like a puzzle with so many missing pieces you cannot solve it. I will have to search for each as the months march forward. Some I may never find, she has spent 3 years living somehwere else, I just hope we can see the bigger picture soon.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The end of another day

Despite the phone calls and Skype, adoption travel is quite lonely after your spouse returns home, there are endless days where you are in a foreign environment with people who cannot or do not speak to you. It is especially hard on someone like me who is forever searching for a new people to meet and learn about. I have an innate curiosity about people and yearn to know their stories. Sadly most people just want to be left alone.

There is a bit of a chill in the air tonight. The rains came on suddenly this afternoon and wet unprepared people; I and Amanda included. As we walked the path to the mall to buy the few things Amanda will eat the rain began. Of course the umbrella I brought to Estonia was back at the room. The clouds looming overhead and tension in the air that precludes a rain storm had me feeling ill at ease for most of the afternoon, so I was a little anxious venturing out. Perhaps it was due to the fact that it was not an entirely pleasant walk. There were very few friendly people, they don’t generally smile at strangers here, they are not a culture that smiles a lot any way, not as hard-faced as the people I saw walking in Ukraine, but sober like them.

People were walking in twos and threes conversing in Estonian; many stopped and peered at Amanda, did a double take, grabbed sleeves and pointed. Were they saying “Look at that older woman with a baby?” or discussing her disability? It is unknown to me what they were discussing, but it did make me feel badly and rather lonely. Not one person sharing the sidewalk with us made overtures or displayed any friendly curiosity about us, maybe we just blend in? I did not expect them to, my weeks n Ukraine taught me not to.

Tom had reported that the workers at the American consulate told him to be careful when walking about, there was a lot of unrest and it was not entirely safe for us here. I am not certain what he means, as I have not witnessed this at all, people walk about working, selling, shopping, eating, and do not act threatening in any way. He did mention it was worse at night? I guess when there is night…

All the same I find it makes me wary to venture out of the apartment, and I also get my hackles up when they point and stare at Amanda, it makes me want to remark: “It is because of these feelings you have about these precious children that I am here, to give her a life she could never have in your country”. But is it fair for me to make a judgment like that? I know that decades or conceivably centuries of being told to hide and discard that which is different is hard to abandon. It seems logical to me that a belief system must be questioned, discussed, and found to be deleterious before a society (or a person) would make the move to change it. Though I think perhaps things will change here to a more positive place for people with disabilities as I saw a young woman with cerebral palsy walking with a friend, I wanted to applaud, it is a beginning!

Still sometimes I just want to shake the people awake when they look at Amanda like she is a freak show attraction. It depresses me to deal with it, and it makes me so angry. How can they see ugly or different when all I can see is the beauty of this little girl, the delicacy of her features, her sweet and pure spirit; Can’t they feel her longing to be loved and cherished?

At times I think too much, I think the rain has me feeling melancholy. I did get a visit from one of the young women who work here, she was showing me places to get souvenirs, she also told me about the zoo, how to take the Tram and encouraged me to ask for help if I needed it, I think I have grown exceptionally weary of asking for help, seems for 6 months straight it is all I have done.

After I finished my shopping I saw the rain coming down in earnest, I searched all over the mall for an umbrella and finally bought one at a souvenir shop, it was $11 (110 kroon), and I thought it was not a bad price considering. I used it to cover Amanda on the way back to the apartment, it was a peculiar site, and her little feet clad in her dressy white shoes; the only shoes we brought from home that fit her. It was funny how they stuck out from underneath the huge umbrella as she kicked them in excitement. It was all you could see of her. She kept trying to stick her head out to see where we were going. She loves the walks, and giggles and squeals as we walk along, which may be another reason why we get stared at!

I managed to step into a puddle of water and drench my feet and just washed jeans. Jeans that take 12 hours to dry here! I did not mind the rain so much; I have always loved walking in it and it was a warm rain. Many people were walking through it without umbrellas. It wasn’t until later this evening that the air grew chilly.

After our wet walk we tried to enter the apartment building with our purchases and could not manage the door. A young man held the door for us. He spoke to me in Estonian but when I said I did not understand he switched to English. I envy them the skill to speak more than one language and feel America does a great disservice to her citizens by not teaching them to get along in other countries, or perhaps parents should start when children are very young.

The young man asked if he could help me carry the stroller up the stairs and I declined stating that I would use the elevator, only after he left did I remember the stairs that led to the elevator. I had two large bags of groceries and did have a hard time carrying everything up. Next time I say yes.

The elevator door would not close because the bags were in the way; it is a very small and we barely fit in it. Riding in the elevator makes Amanda nervous and she goes through her litany of soothing rituals as we travel up to the 5th floor. I can’t tell you the relief we felt when we finally stepped through our apartment door.

We are at the end of another endless day, Amanda went down at 9:30 and it is now 12:15 PM. The sun is finally down enough for the outside lights to come on, I am thankful to the clouds that are blocking the sunlight, it feels like night here for the first time since we arrived. A perfect time to go to bed and sleep without the intrusion of the sun; I should not have taken that 2 hour nap, I am not sleepy! I would also sleep better if the people in the room next to me would stop talking loudly in the alcove and slamming doors, most younger people do not go to sleep until very late or should I say early in the morning.

Tomorrow if it is not raining, Amanda and I will venture out, I will brave the stares and we WILL have a good day, I cannot stay cooped up in this apartment, as pretty as it is in here, I am going stir crazy

A better day today

Not meaning to be indelicate; but my girl seemed to have improved spirits once she had a BM. Constipation is something she struggles with ( lots of kids with DS do). The lack of fluids contributes to her problems, and because of that she has BM's that resemble rabbit pellets. I am getting more fluids in her by watering down favorite foods, I figure I have to try something, she will not drink from a bottle or a cup, but will from a spoon occasionally.
So after she perked up considerably, laughing playing by throwing her shoes off. She did not seem interested in the toys I brought for her, I was upset I did not bring more things for her to play with, but our suitcases were stuffed full, we had no more room.

What tickled me the most was her responding with huge smiles whenever I called her name, and what a sweet smile she has!
She picked up her Navajo doll and began to sing to her, play with her, and hug her. I was so worried she did not play with toys.
She sat on the floor behind me and played, giggled, and was content. I was so happy she was feeling better. I snuck alot of the pictures, you can see her responding with smiles when called her name.

She is taking a nap, I think I will join her.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bound to happen

Amanda is just not all that happy with me today, could it be the tooth brushing? Maybe it was taking her out in a car again? Or the panel that covers the radiator falling and hitting her on the head ? She likes kicking them because they make a cool noise.(A pillow blocked most of it, but she has a small lump) Trying to get her to eat more food, so far we have managed yogurt, pureed fruit, and bananas mixed with apple juice. She has rejected warm cereals, pasta, milk, potatoes, and Ellecare. Maybe it was giving her a bath? Half the day she followed me everywhere, the other half she pushed me away. There were smiles, hugs, and giggles too.

I just adore the look on her face, it makes me laugh every time see it, unhappy baby. She hates the camera, funny Meghan was the same way, but Kara is a HAM. Actually Amanda is more similar to Meghan in temperament than she is Kara.

I think it is normal adjustment, she was in the Orphanage for 3 years and now she is here, and I was worried about her being taken away from her home abruptly, I don't even know if they have been telling her she was getting a new mama and papa, but she seemed to take it all in stride until today.

She is such a pretty little girl, but oh my, the faces she makes are priceless. I can't wait for her bangs to grow out, it keeps her hair out of her eyes, but is a harsh look on her delicate face.

I met a man from Phoenix AZ adopting sisters today, they are beautiful girls, and they look so happy to be going to their new home. We shared a ride to the passport office, think we can share facilitation fees for that too? (wink)
For those families asking about children they hope to adopt, I tried to ask questions about them today but Igor was busy and could not talk. He has three families here right now, so he is working very hard. As in Ukraine with most people who helped us there, he seemingly runs everywhere, walking so fast I run to keep up, I thought I was used to chasing Yelena. No wonder they are thin and fit and I am not, perhaps I should try walking as fast as they back home, doing that while pushing a stroller should do it.
Amanda played a bit and she wanted to be held a lot. I can tell she is scared and sad, but she is curious too, and she has been all over the apartment checking things out.
Of course I did not expect her to love me or even like me in 5 days time, and I understand her behavior, but it can hurt a little when they do not return it right away when you have loved them from afar for so long. My only experience with this is with Kara, and it did take a good 3 weeks for her to really warm up to us, some days she would crawl away and leave us siting where we were, but it was not until she came back to Peremoga with me that we truly began bonding, so I should lighten up and not expect miracles, right? I truly don't, I just want her to be happy, content. We have a while for that adjustment to be complete.

Another thing Amanda has in common with Meghan is strabismus, Amanda's eyes do what Meghan's did when she tried to focus; one eye would turn in and the other would focus, but they could not do this at the same time. Dr Stidham (may he rest in peace) who was Meghan's pediatric opthamologist, said that eventually Meghan was lose the sight in one eye if her condition continued. So she had the surgery and it was successful, but he did say she would likely need tweaking, and she did, unfortunately Dr Stidham was murdered and was never able to do this second operation. Seems Amanda will also need the surgery, but while I had utmost trust in Dr Stidham's expertise and surgical skills, I am not impressed with the other doctor in town we saw. I find him impersonal, harried, and I guess when he said that Meghan needed a correction for appearance sake, but why bother, it was not a functional issue, we were put off by him. As if she did not care about her eyes wandering a little because she had Down syndrome? To be fair, other parents who take their kids to him love him.

We got the Passport paperwork in, we can expect to get that next week. Amanda has her immunizations (worried about mercury, but I can't say no, and that irritates me, this is her long term health I am talking about) on Tuesday, we pick up the passport on Wednesday as well, and later that day we have an appointment for her exit Visa. I think we will have all of her paperwork to return to America by Friday, amazing how simplified this process is here. I have non-refundable tickets, not the changeable as we could not afford them, though we can change them for a fee, there is always a fee. I wonder what the charge would be to change them if we indeed could come home earlier? Although I do think I will enjoy site seeing and would love to take photos to remember Tallinn, I want them for Amanda as she gets older, where she was born is always going to be important to us, we will make sure she knows about her home country.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sleeping angel

I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on our blog, it means a lot to have all of you sharing our journey with us. Amanda is our 8Th child, should have seen the judges face when we said that! Sometimes when you are the 8Th (or 9Th like I was) people do not celebrate as much when you come, regardless of the way you enter the family.

So thank you again for caring enough to read and post comments.

Exit medical exam done

Amanda saw the doctor today, I got a height and weight, but it does not convert correctly, because if it does, my 3 year old weighs 10 pounds? I don't think so. She is tiny though, very very little, but not 10 pounds. 4.7 kilos, that is what the doctor said.

She has been ill one time, with a respiratory infection, and that was in 2005.

She needs 3 vaccinations, so her exit medicals will be $200. Exactly what I put aside, so I am pleased, it could have been so much more. We do have to go back next Wednesday the vaccines however, as they were out of one of them. We still need to exchange our USD for kroons. I will need 1996.00 kroon for the medical exam.

She still has a VSD and has not had any surgeries. It does not appear to cause her issues, the cardiologist who had seen her earlier this year did not want to follow up for 3 years with her, so I am hoping it is small. First thing to do once home is set up an appointment with her pediatrician and cardiologist.

Something that always struck me about her pictures was the size of her pupils when exposed to light, they remained very dilated, since she has been here they have gradually begun to react more normally, they do not constrict to a pinpoint, but you can see more of her pretty blue irises. May have been allergy meds she was on, she appears to have some allergic responses, sneezing, runny nose.

Her ears are clogged with wax, so we need to go to the drug store and buy something called REMOWAX to get it out, the doctor cannot see her eardrums. I noticed the gunk in her ears when I was editing pictures of her and saw it there. She is feisty, this will not be pretty.

She has perked up, a little more playful, and enjoying exploring our two rooms. She has played with a toy (threw it everywhere, but progress) and she is coming to me to be picked up. She came to me and smiled, put her arms up, I picked her up and was rewarded with a hug. She is learning I will take care of her, and that feels good. It shows she can attach to another person.

Self soothing behaviors abound with our sweet Amanda. Teeth grinding, blowing air from her nose forcefully (watch those boogies fly) making wheezy sounds, like Darth Vader, yes, exactly like that, but when he was dying. (sorry to be graphic, but it is exaclty how she sounds)Her lungs are fine though, a little mucous, but the doc said she is OK. She does these behaviors in sequence, and it is how I know she is feeling overwhelmed.

Then there are the raspberries, the mama, uhm uhm, and the finger on the lips and bebebebe. LOL. She does these when she is happy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We are proud to announce

Amanda Kristelle, our newest daughter.
Adopted on June 25 2008, Tallinn Estonia
Goodness, we are so thrilled and honored to be accepted as her parents by Estonia. Igor said today he has know her since she was tiny and he never saw her like she is after only days with us. Love from parents makes a difference to all children, but children with Down syndrome flourish with the attention and love. We vow to do all we can for our newest baby girl.
Look at Amanda's tiny little hands, she really is a delicate little girl. I can't wait to learn more about my new daughter, another adventure in learning who this sweet little angel is.

Right now Tom is at the American Embassy filling out his 1-600 portion and handing over his POA. I want to be brave about it, but I admit the thought of his leaving has made today bittersweet. I know it is only 12 more days, but let me tell you, it is difficult not to be with your spouse for that long, not to mention the rest of your family. Still, Amanda and I will have time to bond more and it will help on the long flight home. I can't wait to get her home to meet her family.

We did it, with prayers and help from so many people, we are her parents, PTL.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zen baby

She looks like she is meditating, so wise, so serene...and with that, I am saying goodnight, it is midnight and the sun finally went down, though there is a thrum of music penetrating the windows, the celebration just a little ways away. Tom already feel asleep. Time to wash dishes, pick up, and head to bed.

Amanda went to sleep almost 3 hours ago.

End of day rambling

This is Tallinn Estonia on the longest day of the year, it was 8:30 PM when I took this. Midsummer's Night celebration is today, I think we will be staying here, Amanda would not like the chaos, one small step at a time, no need to overwhelm her. I am a little bummed about missing it, but hey, we came here for Amanda, not a vacation, her comfort is more important!
Both are views above are from our 4th floor window

Daddy putting on Amanda's shoes, we took a walk to the mall to buy some food.

Amanda does stand, but does not cruise furniture or crawl up on anything, good thing, because she falls off, so she does not know how to crawl down either. She does stand well with a little pronation.
Doesn't she look pretty? Yes, these were Meghan's, my Gymboree friends will recognize the line, lets see if they can name it in the comments section, and Marsha, thanks for the onesie she is wearing. I did not buy very many new things because Meghan had enough clothes for 5 children and all of her things were practically new. Plus, we were saving to adopt, so that meant no shopping. I left so much home I wish I had brought, but she can wear those things later. I am going to have fun dressing them all in pretty things and showing them off, my 4 beautiful daughter, though Julia will choose her own clothes. LOL
We walked to the mall, got stared at, maybe because I was wearing a long floral skirt?? Some folks looked twice at our Amanda, well, we are used to that in America too. Amanda did not like the walk that much, but she liked the bath she had after her dinner less. She looks fresh and clean. She is in her jammies and ready for bed. Rocking and singing behind me, she really is a rocker, we will need to do some brushing when we get home. She loves massages, so I think she will love brushing too. (feather-soft brush, it is for kids with sensory issues)
We are nearing the end of another day, tomorrow is our big day! Tomorrow Amanda officially becomes our daughter (praying). I am so tired, it is hard to adjust to this new time zone, I napped with Amanda today already, I think I will just get used to the time zone and have to come home!
I promise we will get pictures of me with Amanda tomorrow, I take the pictures, so it is always me behind the camera.

Getting to know you...

Remember "The King and I" and that song? We are experiencing that with Amanda and her country. I don't think we will ever be able to get to know "all about" Estonia, but from the pictures above, there is beauty underneath the mystery. It will be fun learning "all about" Amanda, she's already a sweetie! She will make our lives a little richer day by day!

Day two with Amanda

Amanda went to bed without complaint, even though she refused to eat dinner, but waking up in a strange place was hard on her, she was scared. We cuddled with her, made her oatmeal and hoped she would eat it, no, she did not want it at all. She drank a sip of juice.
We changed her and tried to feed her more food, she refused, turning her head away and pouting. More cuddling and getting her dresses. She is a tiny girl, very fine-boned, but not bone skinny, though I am sure she will get a little chubbier once home. We were getting worried about her not eating though.

We went to breakfast and tried to feed her pineapple yogurt, and that she did eat, she did well sitting up in a high chair and ate the whole thing plus half of another. We tried some cereal, she gagged on it, and juice, she drank a few sips from a spoon and stopped. At least we know she will eat yogurt. Now to find more things, we know she can't live off of it, but she needs calories.She definitely has the rocking thing going, and has a raspy breathing she does along with it, other times she says mama ma, or other vocalizations. She is very vocal. She can pull to a stand, will walk a little with us, and hates shoes. She is beginning to smile at us, but it is hesitant. We are still strangers to her, with time we know she will be OK.

Amanda loves the mirror, she had a great time looking at herself , I thought these pictures were precious of her. She is such a quiet little girl in many ways, but she is not shut down, she just seems confused. She has a cute voice, and the prettiest little hands ever. It struck us that there was no single crease across the palms, no missing finger bones, she has an artists hands.

She is settling down for a nap, the orphanage staff said she hates to nap, but I think she is a little stressed, so she needs more sleep. We noticed she has terrible teeth, she grinds them and they are yellow and her gums do not look very good. We will get her to a dentist ASAP.
She has an abundance of waxy build up in her ears, we did not bring anything to clean them out, so that will have to wait until we get home. We need to shop, but it is still raining, I think Tom will need to brave the walk alone again, at least now he knows exactly where the store is. I have yet to walk out and about.

She looks like she is praying, we hope she is saying "Dear God, thank you for sending me a family" we are thanking God for her, and tomorrow at 2 PM Estonia time, she will become our eighth child and fourth daughter.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We have Amanda with us

We are so grateful to Igor for taking us to the orphanage to see Amanda. I packed her duds because I had a feeling "going to see" meant taking her with us, and it did. She was so scared when I removed her clothes to dress her in the things we brought, and she clung to me for dear life as we exited the orphanage. The car terrified her, she began to cry as we left, but mama rubbed her head and soothed her. Once we got in the room, she began to relax and now she is playing with keys. She loves throwing things too, oh boy, so does Kara, can we say here and now that my house will never be clean again!

They were feeding her when we got there, she was eating from a spoon, very soft foods, but she ate them! I brought bottles too! So far she won't drink from a cup or a bottle though, probably wants juice. They told us she will not drink milk and really likes sweets. That combined with teeth gnashing may mean some major dental issues, Well, she will see her doctors when she gets home.

Tongue thrusting is more than an issue for her, she has a tongue Gene Simmons would envy, she can lick the bottom of her chin with it.

Tom will go to the store after the rain stops, it is pouring here, and on their holiday! Kind of sad for them, but maybe tomorrow will be better, the bonfires are tomorrow, we were hoping to go.

Amanda vocalizes a lot, babababa, mamama and some other fun sounds. She also makes a wheezy noise that at first is alarming, but is seems to be a verbal game she plays. Again with the doctor, they can listen. We expected to see a scar on her chest from her heart repair, but they must have repaired it through her femoral artery.

I don't think we need to say that she is adorable, because she sure is. She crawls a way I have not seen in a long time, kind of a butt-scoot crawl. We will upload a video later.

We are so happy, she is finally with us, she is all we dreamed she would be and more. Please pray all goes well in court Wednesday, because this angel needs to go home with mommy and daddy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

We are here

The view from our apartment window and from the plane on the way here.

Whew, long flights are exhausting.

We had Jelena ( pronounced Yelena) here at Romeo apartments call Igor for us, he did not answer. She was uncertain whether we could pickup or even meet Amanda because tomorrow and Tuesday are a national holidays here in Estonia, you can read about it below. I am so tired that I can't see straight, I think Tom already fell asleep. This will be short.

6/21/2008 - 6/22/2008 Midsummer's Night
Countrywide, Estonia Celebrated throughout Estonia, Midsummer's Night is the celebration of the Summer Solstice which marks the longest day of the year. It is an ancient practice which dates back to pre-Christian times and has many rituals that are closely associated with nature and the hope for a good harvest in the autumn. It is a time to be with friends, family and loved ones and is usually celebrated with a big meal during the day before heading out to one of the many public parties which involve traditional dances and more eating, drinking and singing. Bonfires are also lit which is a ritual that links back to the old tradition of cleansing and warding off evil spirits

My three little girls

My three little girls
Finally got all three to smile at once