We've just finished our second month of travel in Europe, which means that our daughter Lisa has spent one ninth of her life overseas! She turned 18 months old a few days ago, but we feel like she's aged a year since we left. She has shed so much of her baby fat, and looking back at our photos from even a few months ago it is hard to recognize her. Now, more than ever we can see that she is turning into a person. Her own person with her own personality. It's a joy to watch, but of course, there are challenges...
We've been sort of surprised by what has been easy and what has been hard while we've traveled. Before we left for Croatia back in January, we were so preoccupied with how she would sleep. Sleep wound up being easy. She falls asleep on the bed and we sit next to her writing our posts and editing our photography. She might have to go back to her tent if we stay in a place with a smaller bed, but for now, cosleeping is working just fine.
Baths have been a challenge. Before our trip she used to love playing in the water. Nowadays so few of our apartments have had a tub, and she's getting too big to be bathed in the sink, so she wondup getting a standup shower, and she hates it. Our currently place in Kotor has a bath tub though, and she loves taking a bubble bath in there. We also find ourselves going through baby wipes very quickly. When Lisa goes outside she runs around touching everything, and we're always cleaning her hands before she puts them in her mouth (hopefully).
Her favorite meals:
Rice lentil soup, vegetarian pizza, Pasta/noodles of any kind, roasted baby carrot, grilled corn and gnocchi
Her favorite snacks:
Crispy chickpeas, Brie on bread with honey, cut up pears, apples, orange, grapes, pomegranate seeds, greek yogurt with honey, pudding and animal cookies.
She has three square meals a day with a light fruit snack mid morning (if we wake up really early for photoshoots) and a larger snack after her afternoon nap.
As recently as two months ago it was often hard to tell when she was hungry. She'd get upset but we just kind of had to guess what was bothering her. Now, even though she doesn't know the words "I'm hungry," she knows that we sit at the table when we eat. She'll walk over and pat her chair (the one with a plastic mat draped over it), looking up at us with those adorable eyes. If she does this at an outdoor table as we walk outside, we know it's time to either pull out a snack or head home and start cooking.
Weather and work permitting, letting Lisa play outside hasn't been too hard. Finding a playground in Europe is easy, and we try to let her play in one at least every other day. If there isn't one nearby, she's always happy to kick a ball around the old town square with Dannie or me. Sometimes we know she gets bored, especially when Dannie and I are catching up with our work. But she always reminds us to take breaks and just go outside and play.
Of course, sometimes work is fun too. Lisa loves going out and exploring the cities with us. She loves chasing the pigeons and cats as we chase her with our cameras. She loves climbing on stairs, so we wind up doing a lot of photoshoots while nervously ascending or descending a mountain of steps. She loves attention, so our photo shoots are often interrupted while she soaks up the adulation of some passerby. Dannie and I never understand what they are saying, but Lisa understands the universal language of baby-talk.
Speaking of language, the words are coming faster and faster these days, and it's obvious that she understands more than she says. When she talks it's usually to announce that she has seen something she recognizes like a cat, a dog, a bird, a boat, a flower, and so on. Some words she says in English, and others she says in Chinese, others are are just random sounds that she has assigned to an object. Cow is "moo moo," Cat is "mao mao" (Chinese), Bottle is "Baba", Boat is "boat," and for some reason, flower is "nya nya." Sometimes she gets bossy at the table. She points at the ground and yells "Down! Down! Down!".
She also understands some commands, like "give this to Mama," or "put that back on the table." When we sing her favorite songs, she does surprisingly complex dances, sometimes even doing her best to sing along in her own babbling fashion. When she gets tired, she pats the side of the bed and says "nigh nigh," by which she means "night night." She doesn't quite get the concept of posing for the camera yet, but we get by with a mixture of prompting and her natural grace.
Our favorite moments come when we meet other families with children. Sometimes they are travelers like us. Sometimes they are locals, enjoying an afternoon with their kids. Lisa will stop and stare at the other children, and for a moment we worry to ourselves that we haven't given her enough exposure to kids her age. But then the other kids will smile at her and she will walk over and they will do their little baby greetings and run around together. Once we've made sure the parents don't mind, we talk with them about parenting, travel, everything that comes with them.