Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015 - Don't forget the parents!

Trying to get back into blogging after a pretty decent absence, I think I've got you all caught up on the kids.  But what about Kristoffer and me?  With Aya starting to sleep better at night (except for last night of course), giving us one long stretch even if she wakes up waaaaayyyyy too early for the day, we are starting to come out of the fog of sleep deprivation.

Kristoffer is always quite busy at the World Bank; luckily his work is very interesting and he seems to enjoy (most of) it. It's only three weeks into the school year and I've already been substitute teaching a few days a week.  It's great for me to try to fit in some classes between playing with Aya and carpool drives to and from different schools.  We are still waiting to find out about a possible relocation to America in the near future.  After our long holiday away, life in Dar seems pretty sweet these days so we don't feel quite as desperate to leave Dar as we were feeling (again, when we sleep deprived) in the spring and in June.  It's amazing what some home leave can do for the expat spirit.  Having said that, we are quite sure that we don't want to live here indefinitely, and so we are patiently waiting to hear what the World Bank tells us and to figure out a plan from that point on. 

On our minds lately is the upcoming Tanzanian election, scheduled for the 25th of October.  Campaign season officially began on Sunday.  This election seems different than other recent Tanzanian elections because there have been politicians from the ruling political party who have controversially defected to other political parties.  Even though it is a multi-party system here with different parties forming coalitions, it seems very much that people are focused on the individual candidates.  Policy platforms or political ideologies do not really seem to be at play - there might not be so many differences between the candidates.  But the main guy who is running against the ruling party was actually a member of that party for DECADES and only defected when he was not chosen to be their presidential candidate.  And he took some other people with him to the other side and is now running against his former peer. 

So, while the election is expected to be free and fair and without unrest in its aftermath, our experience in Kenya seems to have left us with a bit of PTSD related to African elections.  We definitely seem to be feeling more nervous than everyone else around us.  We are considering taking a trip at the time of the election (although the school break happens two weeks BEFORE the election - so annoying!) or at least hunkering down at home for a few days when it happens.  When we moved to Kenya in 2007, we assured our family and friends that we were moving to one of the safest democracies in Africa! Less than 3 weeks later, we were in the midst of a very different story unfolding and it had a pretty big impact on us.  Of course we hope it will be different here and all will be calm, but we aren't counting the proverbial chickens before they hatch, if you know what I mean.

Kristoffer and I have made some new friends recently - or at least we've become better friends with people we've known here for awhile - and we're having a lot of fun hanging out with them. So that is also nice and refreshing change here, even in this season of us feeling like we're still waiting to figure out what happens next.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015 - Noah's Turn!

After waiting very patiently for the last two weeks, Noah (now 4 1/2 years old) went back to school yesterday!  And for his last year of pre-school he's going to a new school. It's called Reader Rabbits and among people we know in Dar has a great reputation for giving kids a very positive introduction to academics (reading in particular).  We're lucky that one of his best friends for the last years made the switch to this school too, so they could start in the same class today. He was so excited, as you can see...

And when I picked him up at the end of the day, he was an eager chatterbox telling me all the things they were learning (about modes of transportation and the letter "S") and that he ate his whole lunchbox and he gets to go to the library everyday and on and on and on...Just. So. Excited!

More on Noah these days: He is in a Lego-obsessed stage right now (thanks for that, Far).  He thinks about and wants to play with Legos morning, noon and night. He is becoming a more confident kayak-er with Far, which is fantastic...we're hoping one of these days we can get him to focus a bit on swimming!  He is currently having speech therapy sessions for a minor articulation disorder that we hope will improve a lot throughout this year.  Noah is such a sweet and funny little kid, but we also think he could benefit from making some friends who are boys this year, as his life seems dominated by the ladies (except for Far, of course!): 2 girl friends, 2 sisters, me, and Oliver.  We really hope he has a great year and enjoys all of the learning he seems to crave.   


Friday, August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015 - Sweet Sixteen

These days, life is a little different for our Aya, who is 16 months old today.  We stopped nursing two weeks ago...on August 6th.  She was the same approximate age as her siblings when they also stopped nursing (15 1/2 monthsish); for some reason, because I nursed Grace for that amount of time it seemed to me that is how long I should nurse the other two as well.  With Aya, who is notorious for not sleeping at night and wanting to nurse every time she wakes, I was quite ready to stop and was mostly just waiting for our long-haul summer travel to be over.  But, of course, this is a huge milestone for me and our family with Aya as the youngest and final member of our family.  So while I've been grappling with the reality (and hormones) of knowing that there will be no more babies for us, Aya has been grappling with the idea that she can no longer nurse from me.  She was not nearly as ready to stop as I was.  

Having said that, she is doing remarkably well.  For three days up until I stopped I kept telling her, "Only xx more days until there's no more Mama's milk...Mama won't have any milk for you're a big girl now!"  I said it over and over again so that when Friday came and the supply chain was broken, she wouldn't be totally shocked.  But of course she still wanted to nurse the first few days (and occasionally still).  During the day it was much easier to distract her when she was hungry.  She still wanted to nurse for comfort, though, which was harder to placate.  But she managed to get through it.  Night times have not been great but are finally starting to get a little better.  It has been a hard few weeks for Kristoffer at night (my job for the last 16 months) and she has done her fair share of CIO.  But last night, for example, she slept all the way until 4:15 this morning.  That is an early start to the day, though, so would be great if she would give us one full hour more of uninterrupted sleep.  Anyway...I feel like we're finally on the right path.  The great news is that she goes to sleep brilliantly - loves her bed time routine and points to crib saying "night night" at 6:25 pm every night like clock work.  Just brilliant!

So these days, instead of Aya nursing from me, she is drinking toddler formula or cow's millk from a cup or a bottle.  Sometimes she feeds herself, or sometimes someone else feeds her:

I have been less emotional than I expected to be (considering that I had a very hard time when I stopped with Noah...) which is a good indication to me that it was the right decision.  After 6 full years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I am certainly excited for the next stage of my life and for our family.  I am a baby person by nature, always have been, and of course there will always be a part of me that will just love a little baby.  But our family is complete and it feels great to be in that place now.  When we're done with diapers in another year I'm sure that will feel extremely liberating as well!

So, as part of being a big girl, Aya keeps us on our toes!  She is very busy, very stubborn/determined/ persistent, and very smart.  She wants to be just like the big kids - mimicking their every move.  Whether it's on the iPad, at the table, or among our toys - she is doing EVERYTHING that they do.   I think for her age she's pretty good at following routines and directions.  For example, she uses sign language to say thank you as a way of telling us she is done eating, and then she takes her plate to the kitchen to clear the table.  She can get a cup or bowl or spoon for herself when it's time to eat. And she is becoming a more well-rounded eater, I would say, since we stopped nursing.  While perfectly proportioned, she is our "chunkiest" baby for sure :) 

Aya has stopped trying to eat Lego, which means that she is allowed to be with the big kids when they are building.  She still needs to be supervised, but it has gotten much easier.   Grace and Noah can easily design a game to play with her, with the only problem being the competition between them over who she gives her attention to the most.  Her language is blossoming and it is very fun to hear what comes out of her mouth.  Even when it's still nonsense, she is very chatty.  We actually watched some videos of Noah at the same age the other day, and it surprised us how much she acts and sounds just like he did.  People often say that she looks just like Noah and sometimes she has facial expressions that are truly Grace.  They still love her to pieces and every night she hugs them "night night" before she goes to bed.  Sometimes I get a little teary seeing our three together - it is just a wonder to observe their relationships and their natural love for each other.  

When she's not shouting "Mama!  Aya!" She might be saying "taka taka" (trash in Kiswahili) or "mambo", a Swahili greeting that she mastered two weeks ago.  Her favorite thing in the world seems to be cats, or "catty" as she calls them.  She can make almost all animal sounds correctly when you ask her what the animal says.  She also now has some B words: ball, bubble, bog (book in Danish).  She has a very sold head shake for no and can say "nej nej nej" (no in Danish).  She can also nod her for yes.  "Me-nee" seems to be what she says for "I want" and also for "minions" (go figure!).  She can say and loves to eat CHEESE.  She often brings me my phone and says "Hi Nene" when she wants to call my mom, and last week when she saw my Dad on Facetime I said, "say Hi Pops!" and she replied, "Hi Poo poo!"  Speaking of poo-poo, Grace and Noah have taught her to say pee-pee, poo-poo and bum-bum.  So that's lovely.  They spend a lot of time playing the "Aya, say this!" game. 

So, basically, we're really enjoying this little girl with a big personality.  She is a FULL toddler, complete with the occasional inexplicable temper tantrum (this morning, for example, she wanted to wear 2 pairs of socks at the same time and melted down when I put one pair on top of the other pair.  Where else was I supposed to put the second pair of socks?  She only has two feet?!). At the same time, she is the best baby hugger I think we've ever seen...she gives you a little pat on your back when she hugs you, which might be her most charming little mannerism.   For us, the best thing about Aya is that is she happy.  With us, with Oliver, with her siblings.  When she isn't super tired or super hungry, she's just a fun, happy little girl who is growing and developing perfectly.   It is a real joy.

Our Aya Karen, at sweet sixteen months old!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015 - More Denmark!

Sheesh...remember how I did not take so many pictures in Denmark?  That's because, luckily!, Hans did!  Thank you Hans, as always, for documenting our time with you so preciously.  Tusind tak!  And here is a bit more about our holiday in DK...

including a visit from Tommy, Mirja and Leander (who came from Germany)


on Farmor's side :)  It included a big breakfast, a small hike, a big lunch, a game of rundbalt (which is like a modified Danish baseball), and some fun at an indoor swimming hall extravaganza.  What a great day!

Such a great picture of everyone - except sorry that Hans was taking the picture!



May the Force Be With You ;)