Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 2016 - Two Part Two

A couple of days after Aya's birthday and just before our big pack out (more on that later), we had a very small party for Aya.  We just invited 3 families over for some cake and a play date.  It was simple and sweet and hopefully she enjoyed it. 

The birthday girl fell asleep at the table eating lunch a few hours before her party.

 With her buddy Joe!

Aya was very sweet singing to herself!

So far her twos have not been all the terrible!  We have lots of love for this lovely girl.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21 2016 - Terrifcally Two!

Today is Aya's second birthday, which is VERY hard to believe.
Our little baby!

It was probably the most low-key birthday we've had around here in a long time.  I think Aya is a little bit under the weather, actually, and so for some reason she slept all the way until 8:00 am!  That is very strange behaviour in this house, particularly because Grace and Noah were ready to celebrate her starting at 5:45 am.  Kristoffer, Grace and Noah had already gone to work and school so our usual morning birthday party was delayed.

 We had a quiet morning just Aya, Oliver and me :)

Then she went to school - made it just in time - and was happy to see one of her teachers, Vicky, who she adores.  But she is always happy to go to school, actually, and everyone was excited to wish Aya a happy birthday.
I came back at snack time with little cupcakes for her class - THAT was very popular, but I certainly learned that one cannot be too leisurely when distributing cupcakes to two year olds or else all hell breaks lose!

The teachers were sure Aya would want to go home with me after snack time but she said she wanted to play outside and said, "bye bye, Mama!  I go play now!" So I left her jumping around and came back later to get her.
Far came home early from work - a treat! - and we had our delayed little family birthday party for her before dinner. She received DORA gifts only (mostly from my parents, a few from us...her "big" present will be a new play kitchen when we move to America...but she doesn't really know/can't really understand that yet) and loved them!  She also got her own little suitcase for travel (on our last South Africa trip it was a big problem that she did not have her own suitcase!), which will come in handy very soon!

After a nice dinner, Aya was not at all interested in more cake, but the rest of us enjoyed our own yummy cupcakes :)  She did seriously enjoy all of the birthday songs we sang to her and she sweetly referred to herself as the "birthday girl" a few times.  

She went to sleep with a cough, runny nose and almost-a-fever (but wearing her new Dora shirt) who knows what day 2 of being 2 will bring for her tomorrow.  But I can say this about Aya at 2 years old today:  she is the feistiest, funniest toddler we've ever had in this family! She definitely thinks she is older than 2 and communicates very clearly, and constantly!  She loves going to school, she loves music and dancing, she loves running, she loves Dora & Diego (parenting FAIL!), she loves cats and dogs, she loves Grace and Noah and Oliver and Christopher and Mama and Far, she loves books, she loves puzzles, she loves melon and short, she is full of LOVE.  And she can throw one heckuva temper tantrum when she wants!

Kristoffer describes Aya this way, "she has a lot of personality, or character, in her walk!" And she really does!  She's a funny little thing - and boy do we love her!  Happy, happy, happy birthday to our beautiful, sweet, baby girl! I guess you're not really a baby anymore, Aya... but you'll always be MY baby!


Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016 - Easter Vacation? Back to South Africa!

Well, it already feels like a very long time ago, but on Good Friday our family travelled back down to South Africa for a week's vacation exploring a different part of the country than we did when we went to Cape Town in October.  We headed to the Eastern Cape this time to a lovely, smaller city called Port Elizabeth.  We spent three nights on our own at a very family-friendly B&B.  As has come to be our style, we packed a lot in in those few days.

We started out shopping (not nearly as much as normal, since we're moving!) at a nice, big mall!  Here you can see Kristoffer distracting the kids at a little place where you can fill your own little bag of stones while I was on an "Easter Bunny" mission at the grocery store.

Then we headed to the Something Good Roadhouse, which is a big, ocean side burger joint that has a great playground and a fun track for kid drivers.  Grace and Noah LOVED this place!  The food was good and the atmosphere was fun.

Next we visited the little museum that counts as aquarium, snake park, and history museum all in one. Compared to other aquariums we've been to, it was nothing super special. But it was a pretty good way for their age group to spend an hour:  sea turtle, seals, fish, snakes, dinosaur replicas.  It worked!  But none of my pictures turned out particularly great.

Some people attempted to swim in the pool at our B&B, but the water was absolutely freezing so it was impossible.  For the rest of their lives, I fear that our kids will have a hard time swimming in any water that is colder than a warm bath.  They have been totally spoiled!

They were exhausted and after it was time for bed, one of the ladies who works at the B&B stayed with the sleeping kiddos so Kristoffer and I could get out on our own a bit.  We were really tired, but tried to be cool!  We did not have a GPS (car company lied to us - they don't even have them!) and couldn't get our SA sim card to work, so we planned to rely on old fashioned maps, which we forgot when  setting out for dinner.  It was a bit tricky in a foreign city in the dark of night but did manage to find the trendiest (quite hidden) neighborhood in town for dinner at Two Olives.  We loved this place!  Great wine (we assume - we only could manage 1 glass each!) and amazing tapas style food. is the food in South Africa soooo goooood!?

Right when we got back to our B&B the Easter Bunny arrived :)  
And our kids were happy and chilly in the morning (totally refreshing after Dar's crazy heatwave).

Our little hunt was a great way to start the day before driving one hour away to Addo Elephant National Park for our last game drive in Africa (for a very long time, at least)!  Addo is a beautiful national park, and the third largest in South Africa.  In some way it reminded me of Nairobi National Park, except I think Addo was even more beautiful.  And we saw so much game right away.

They are very serious about their dung beetles
And we have never seen so many before (but they really do go for that elephant dung!)

On our safari, we saw tons of animals, including the most beautiful zebra, many different (and often sleeping) lions, water buck, reed buck, warthogs, meerkats, ostrich, turtles, and eventually (oh, thank God) ELEPHANTS!  The elephants were of particular importance since when we went on safari with Martin and Farmor, Noah and Far and Aya did not get to see any elephants.  So although we had a very long game drive and almost went home before we saw the elephants, we hung in there a little bit longer and it totally paid off. Not only did we see many elephants, but we saw elephants and lions engage in some aggressive behaviors.  Our working theory is that a pride of lions killed a baby elephant from a big herd and some elephants tried to drive the lions (already eating the baby) away.  It was FASCINATING!  And something the kids (not Aya) will actually remember!  So below are many shots from our day - it was wonderful!

(ice cream/rest stop break!)

Check out this video!

That was truly a memorably Easter!  
The next morning we walked around a bit and hit up a really fun playground (very cool slide - see below).

We said goodbye to the city for the rest of vacation, and headed to the family summer home of our friends from Dar.  They have an awesome place on the Krom River and we met them and another family there for some peaceful, relaxing, not-busy-at-all days.  True vacation!

The first night the kids gave a great performance!  Grace might have been the ring-leader (I wonder where she gets that from? Mom and Dad, do you have any ideas?), and it was hilarious and adorable.
Joe (2) - Aya (almost 2) - Grace (7) - Noah (5) - Anna (5)

Aya and Joe in the morning - bottle buddies ;)
 We took their boat, Country Rose, down the river to the big ocean.
It was such a beautiful beach with freezing cold water!

When our other friends arrived (one couple with a 1 1/2 yr old), the kids were super ready for a fishing trip.  This was my view from the house looking down onto the river.  Aya wasn't feeling well so she and I hung out at home while the serious fisher-people got down to business.  

Anna caught the first fish of the day!

Noah amazingly somehow caught a squid.  There is no picture of it - but apparently it inked as soon as it was put back in the water!  INKED!
 Grace caught the biggest fish of the day (that she didn't want to touch), and also 2 others...
 Noah also caught 1 or 2 more fish.  They had SO. MUCH. FUN!
(our poor friend Chris was super busy helping all kids with their catches!)

The next day we took the boat back to the beach for more fun - and there is no photo proof (that I know of...but Chris has yet to share pictures) but I did go into the freezing cold ocean (On a bet.  For a minivan.  That I won!), and it was super refreshing.  We went to another amazing restaurant, Big Time, located right on the water in some canals near our friends house.  So we boated over, let the kids swim in the very cold pool, and leisurely ate an amazing meal...which was particularly wonderful because Aya slept through all of it on the sofa!  Totally relaxing!

All week long, the kids had so much fun together.  
Little People, Big Shoes.
6 kids in total, but only 4 could fit in the tub.  
JH, below, couldn't quite figure out the scene and Aya wanted nothing to do with the group bath.
 Always a beautiful view on the Krom.
Grace and Anna became great friends - and wanted matching hair!  
Thank God our friend Ashley can do hair!
On our last full day we stopped by a beautiful lighthouse (that we didn't know was closed for renovation) and saw their rescued penguins.  

We watched some total surfer dudes hang ten.
 We walked on the rocks and in the rock pools.

 We went to The Rambling Rose Tea Garden and Coffee Shop.
One table had coffee; one table had milkshalkes.

And in the late afternoon we took a boat ride further up the river (I think) to a little quiet play spot.  Grown ups had drinks; kids had a dip.  What a life.

Our evening ended with a "family photo" (can't wait to get those from Chris!) and small dance party before the wee ones had to go to bed.  Adults enjoyed one last dinner together before our family headed out in the wee hours of the morning to begin our journery back to Dar.  (Between us, for some reason this time around our travel days this time were pretty rotten!)  For some reason, I just love this picture of people wanting to see the group pictures we took!  Look at little Aya!

This was a fantastic week for us.  For one, it reminded me of my childhood summers going to Lake Winnepesaukee with my family and my cousins.  Second, we had no Internet or cell phones and it was actually really refreshing to completely disconnect.  Next, Krom was one of the most peaceful places I have been in a long time.  Finally, any time kids have people to play with they are creative and imaginative and active and have so much.  Nature is such a wonder!  (Aya was the only one ever on the iPad really - but she was a little bit sick and not herself, so we tried to keep the peace.)  Especially heading to the craziest season of the year for us, we needed this peace and relaxation, plus we got to play tourists a bit at the beginning too which we enjoyed.  We are super grateful to our friends for inviting us down (they are the coolest, calmest people and the best hosts ever!) and we're so glad we decided to go for it!

Now we've been back in Dar for more than a week.  Within 28 hours of returning to Dar, Kristoffer travelled to the US...where he still is and will be for another week.  He'll come back for a few days and then head off to India for another two weeks, during which time we will have the movers come and pack us out so that our shipment gets to America around the same time we do.  The kids are a bit off without Far around at all (especially Noah), as am I, and there is a lot to do to prepare for moving.  In addition to working in DC right now, he (and my parents! and my sister!) are also house hunting as I type this and hoping to find a great place for our family to move in to where we can begin the next chapter of our lives.

Stay tuned!