I think it is pretty hard to top how awesome Aya is right now. To get the tough stuff out of the way - she is still a terrible night-time sleeper. But that's about it! Everything else about her is wonderful. She is on the verge of walking, but I think it is much more her own decision not to do it than a lack of skill. She is a super-fast crawler and cruiser. She can stand and balance for a long time, picking things up or lowering herself carefully to sitting. As of today, she can go backwards down the stairs all by herself (we've really been training her on this one) so we will breathe a little easier. Video below :)
Many of her old loves remain: family (especially siblings!), water, music, motion, small animals, chatting chatting, and being where the action is. She is really independent, and seems a bit stubborn where there is something she absolutely wants. She likes other babies a lot. She adores Oliver, our nanny/housekeeper, and also really likes Christopher, our cook. She now has 4 teeth (boy they seem to be coming slowly with this kid...). Still takes 2 good naps a day.
New loves are crawling upstairs over and over and over again, and playing/singing "This little piggy...", "Jolly Go Ride to Boston" and the "Wheels on the Bus". And books! She used to not be into books at all. Then she was only into two very specific books ONLY, and only if I was sitting in the rocking chair in her room. Now you can hear her "reading" in various rooms at different times of the day from a wide selection. And she has self-selected a new bedtime book that she crawls over to and brings me for her bedtime routine. The animals from "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" by Eric Carle are painted on the wall in her room, and lately she enjoys saying goodnight to each of them before sleeping. My favorite new thing she does is give me a kiss me when I request one - it's just too cute.
Aya consistently says "Mama" and "Hi" (inconsistently she'll say something that sounds like "night night" and one time we swear she said "cat"!); she is also very good at waving goodbye and clapping her hands liberally for all (or no) achievements. Actually, she claps a lot when nursing. She recognizes the signs for "milk", "more", and "all done", but is not doing them herself yet. Ays is a decent eater - probably not that the world's best, but better than her siblings I think. It helps, I'm sure, that we are MUCH more relaxed the third time around. I'm actually so relaxed that I haven't had her weighed in a couple months (but probably should do that this week. My goal is to continue nursing Aya through July. We will likely be traveling that month and NO WAY will I willing give up breastfeeding before what feels like endless hours on an airplane with a toddler.
And - just because I cannot resist - here is a bit about how Aya's favorite way to spend her free quiet time. She LOVES this little spot between our stairs and bookshelf. She puts toys in there, she likes to stand there, lay there, "hide" there. I think it's hysterical. She keeps going back there, over and over. It's her special spot and I love it!
Eleven months of our littlest love, and she just keeps getting better and better.
Will it really be her birthday in one more month?! Now THAT is hard to believe!
Close to four weeks ago we went to Nairobi overnight without Grace and Noah. I needed some medical tests that couldn't be done in Dar (even though they were not invasive or unusual tests). Last week we received the good news that all results were normal and I am AOK :)
I have to say, though, that it was REALLY WEIRD being back in Nairobi. Since we left three years ago, so much has changed. They have built these enormous super-highway-fly-overs to divert traffic out of the city center. The Chinese had started these roads before we left but now that they are complete, wow. It gave Nairobi a whole new feeling of being a bit more modern and developed. Because we wanted to try out the new highways, we took the diversion to our hotel instead of going through town. We could see parts of Nairobi that we had never seen before, but it still took us an hour to get to our hotel. Had we gone through town, it would have taken 2 hours I'm sure. Unfortunately, traffic still seemed crazy. In and around the parts of Nairobi where we lived and where we were visiting (namely the hospital), there were just so many cars, so many people. In addition, there was just construction everywhere. We could see new malls, apartment building, office buildings, and hotels. Development everywhere. We went into one mall - one of our old stomping grounds, if you will - to get some medicine that I needed from a pharmacy, and were really surprised to see all of the new international brands they have there now. Both the mall and the hospital had also changed in terms of security. There was a very heavy feeling around us.
And really, when we lived there, I think I didn't realize how stressful it was! It was just what we were used to - part of our everyday life. But after being away, yikes. It was really stressful! Worrying about the traffic and security was quite a burden, and we were only there for 30 hours. Even though we had a good four years in Nairobi, it made us grateful to have gotten out when we did. Especially as we drove past the shadow of the Westgate Mall. There was an enormous pit in my stomach when I think about all of the hours we spent there.
One thing that was VERY impressive was the new airport! Wow! How I wish they had that airport finished when we lived there. It was so bright and clean and modern, compared to the old one which was dark and stuffy and dirty! I really enjoyed the 90 minutes we spent there and would not mind traveling through there again in the future.
Kristoffer especially enjoyed talking to our drivers to/from the airport. It was a little bit fun to show off our Kenyan knowledge a bit and ask some questions about the Kenya of today. We tested our memory trying to figure out how to get places from where we were. We did not drive by our house or anything like that...would have been too weird I think! And we only had the chance to see one friend (thank you, Colleen! That was a treat!). It was an odd throwback of sorts and made me realize that someday in the future...the FAR future...I think it will be really cool to bring our kids back to Nairobi and show Grace and Noah where their lives began. As much as it has changed these last three years, in the future Nairobi will be unrecognizable to us. Until then, we are still here in Dar. It was nice to come back to this place, which is comparatively slow and "quaint" and much more relaxed. What a trip!
Yesterday was Grace's sixth birthday party! There was a lot of hype leading up to this "event" ;) It was a great day and she was a happy (if also a bit bossy) birthday girl...we all had a lot of fun, but Kristoffer and I are also glad it's over. Having Christmas and two birthdays all in a row tires us out and we all need a break from presents and treats I think! So...Grace wanted an "Elsa" birthday party. She's pretty dismissive of the other "Frozen" sister (Anna) but we managed to sneak a lot of "snow" and "Olaf" into the day too.
First...the setup! We haven't done themed food in the past, but this time we tried a little bit. We had less cooked food than at Noah's birthday because a lot of that kind of stuff did not get eaten. We mostly stuck to basics that we knew the kids would like.
Forest Trolls (Chicken and Apple Meatballs)
Puffed Snow (Popcorn)
Mixed Snow Men (marshmallows, raisins, pretzels, carrots!)
Snowflake and Snowmen Cookies
(our cook baked the cookies for me, I did the decorating)
Marshmallow Pops - my big achievement!
Displayed to look like flowers in vases...these marshmallows were dipped in white chocolate and then coated in Elsa-blue sprinkles. The kids loved them and all 30 of them were devoured!
We also had some Olaf posters ready for a fun photo shoot.
And our "go-to" for all kid parties...coloring/craft stations! If there is ever down time, or an activity that somebody doesn't want to participate in, there is always this fall back to color or create.
We thought tt was also cute (and slightly educational) to have a "snowball" estimation jar. All of the kindergarten classes at Grace's school have an estimation jar (not sure if it's daily or weekly?) so I thought they might like guessing the cotton balls in the jar. Unfortunately, later in the day someone knocked over the jar and it shattered into a million pieces (note to self: next time use a plastic jar!) and then we forgot to check to see whose estimate was the closest. So it was a great idea, if not perfectly executed.
Our little Elsa...this is probably the "girliest" you've ever seen Grace! She is usually wearing dinosaurs or dragons or TMNT t-shirts with leggings. She looked pretty and was very eager to open her presents!
How many Elsa's came to Grace's party?
I believe there were 5 (out of 13 kids)! Here some of them were estimating...
Then came many "snowball" games! My parents gave Grace a bucket of "snowballs" for her birthday...and they were a perfect way to focus our party activities.
We had them knocking down cup towers with the snowballs...
...and they had to buddy up to throw the "snowballs" in the Frozen party hats!
Then we had our "Olaf" photo shoot!
After each person got their picture taken as Olaf, everyone threw "snowballs" at them!
They had a great time!
(just a few out of the 13 Olaf shots below...)
There were many spontaneous snowball fights, and lots of creative play in our playroom. We discovered how LOUD and ENERGETIC a group of 6-year-olds can be! And we have a new respect for Grace's teacher.
How many Elsa's can you fit in one trampoline?
Then came the usual treasure hunt (our kids consider this mandatory!).
Kristoffer always get pretty creative!
Just after the treasure hunt the estimation jar got broken and I had to clean it up instead of taking pictures of the hunt. I don't even know where they ended up finding their goodie bags! But this smile on Grace's face tells me she was pretty happy about it :)
We finished with a beautiful Elsa cake (hired out! not homemade!) that tasted delicious too!
Woosh - there were even some more "snowball" fights as people were going home...we were exhausted! But the birthday girl seemed pleased with how everything turned out, and she was very appreciative of our efforts ("Great job, Mama!" she told me). Lest you think we completely forgot our third child, that is only partially true. She was with Oliver the whole time - at the party, but on the sidelines. There was so much chaos that I think she would have been easily trampled, and there was so much stuff on the floor by the end of the party that it wasn't a super safe baby place! But once most people left and she was set free, she was incredibly happy to be moving about on her own! Her first birthday is next on our list...but not until the end of April!
Once again, happy birthday to our Gracie...who said to me this morning at 7 am..."I am a little stressed because I just can't decide what kind of party I want to have when I turn 7!" You will not be surprised that I immediately kicked her out of my room! EEK!