Our sweet Aya, our only American born baby, landed in Dar for the first time when she was 6 weeks old, to no hot water and a very moldy house, if I recall correctly. But she soon got used to life under a mosquito net, doting big siblings and their friends, being hot pretty much all the time, a very attentive staff (Oliver & Christopher), frequent blood tests, baby music class and swimming pool play dates, and weekend mornings at the beach. She experienced two long beach weekends, two safaris, and two trips to South Africa. Just over two years old when we left Dar, she had also gotten used to spending weekday mornings at her lovely preschool - The Schoolhouse - with adorable friends and loving caretakers. Although she went there for only 5 months, they were wonderful. We tried to keep her routines in place towards the end - she had a week of no school before we left so she went to a few hours of "camp" with Oliver and mostly just hung out with Oliver while I was running around like a crazy person. She does not remember these days, and I suppose that is what makes me the saddest: Grace and Noah will always remember things and people about their life in Dar, but Aya will not. She had a great life there, so we'll have to remember it for her. Her last few weeks in Dar looked like this:
Aya got her first hair cut!
(not much to cut at all - just a clean up job, really)
Croissants on the beach, saying goodbye to friends.
Last day at Aya's wonderful pre-school!
She did a weird tongue thing in all of the pictures, but was a very happy girl at this school and adored all of the women who cared for her there.
(or Rosie Rosie, as Aya called her)
Her future's so bright, she just had to wear shades...
And the hardest goodbye of all (at least, for me), with Oliver.
And then it was time to leave.
The greatest thing about being two is that really, despite all of the things you love, you pretty much just need to be with the people you love to feel that everything will be okay. So Aya just carried on being charming and sweet when we moved. She instantly loved to play with the neighborhood kids outside, particularly the 14-yr-old babysitter next door. She had never been a good sleeper in her entire life, so switching to a big girl bed when we got to our new house didn't cause any disruption. She loved being in a big bed, but continued to be a terrible sleeper. The research I had done on pre-schools for her here initially turned up a few good possibilities, but nothing that we liked nearly as well as her school in Dar. A neighbor told me about a wonderful school nearby that would most definitely have a waiting list, but she thought we might want to check it out. As luck would have it, another little girl had given up her spot the same day I called the school and so Aya was fortunate enough to get in for this past school year (they strive for gender parity, and all of the other children on the waiting list were boys!). The Outdoor Nursery School is a play-based nursery school with a focus on nature and outdoor play. It has a very Scandinavian feel to it, and so was really the perfect fit. Two-year-olds can only go two mornings a week (it was weird for both of us after five mornings in Dar), so it was a surprise to us how much Aya learned and developed in that short amount of time. She grew very attached to her teachers and to the 11 friends in her class, many of whom joined a soccer team with her this spring.
Aya did gymnastics with me once a week, and became great friends with a super cool little girl in our neighborhood, Lucy. She also became a big fan of going to the public library! And if you were to ask Aya today who her best friend is, she would very likely say "Bethy". Beth is the big sister of one of Noah's friends from his class who lives in our neighborhood; she is 11 years old and just graduated from 5th grade. She took a liking to Aya very early on, and they had a standing play date once a week for much of the school year. Aya was a big girl and would even go to Beth's house by herself (Beth's and Lucy's moms have become my friends, along with many other lovely women in our neighborhood) . Amazing! What a joy it has been to see Aya change so much this year. She potty trained in early March and turned 3 at the end of April. She also started sleeping through the night (consistently! finally!) at that time. About 6 weeks ago we dropped her nap because her night time sleeping was regressing again, and now that she isn't napping and has very full, busy days she is the best sleeper she has ever been. I can definitely notice the difference in my own energy levels because I am finally sleeping through the night regularly (for the first time in...eh hem...8 1/2 years!).
Here are many favorite moments from Aya's first year in Maryland:
Little Aya's first performance in our basement, the first time we had family over to our house:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5STzIGf8zzU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
First day of school.
Teeny tiny pony tail!
She had a big Doc McStuffins phase...this would have been her Halloween costume but was more appropriate for Dar's October weather than for Maryland's.
Aya loves to play with her cousin Ally!
She also had a Minnie Mouse dress phase - where she wore this for days on end,
even in her sleep.
Then again, she often likes to wear odd things in her sleep...note, the headphones:
Aya's first pumpkin for Halloween:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/46UyqT0BjFM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Speaking of Halloween, we opted for a warm lion (simba) costume.
It was ch-ch-ch-chilly for her, but she loved the parade and party at her school, and trick-or-treating. You'd never have known she was a total rookie :)
When Farmor and Hans visited, Hans was teaching Aya to play UNO.
I love how serious she is in this picture!
She had her first sledding experience:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5Na_SSdzATM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Aya LOVED her weekly gym class, and now that soccer is over she is asking all the time to go back to gymnastics!
Beautiful Aya Karen on Easter.
Aya first celebrated her birthday at school.
(Grace had to miss a field trip because of her tonsillectomy post-op recovery, so she got to come to Aya's school with me. Aya was THRILLED and kept telling everyone "this is my big sister!")
She is right in the middle of her biggest phase yet - Paw Patrol!
(Never thought anything could top Dora, but I was wrong!)
And at home, she turned 3 on April 21st, with great joy and celebration.
A casual playground party with her friends from school was the way to go!
Nene and Pops arrived from Massachusetts, just in time to celebrate.
One of her birthday wishes was to have a sleepover with Grace and Noah.
Out riding her new wheels...
Nene and Pops took Aya to Build-a-Bear for her birthday gift...she loved it and, no doubt, chose a Paw Patrol pup: Skye, this pup is ready to fly!
Playing Rock Star on wii at Uncle Mark's house when we visited Ohio.
She loves to dance to pop music, but also to jam to heavy metal!
Aya's soccer season was very sweet:
(in theory I'm opposed to participation trophies at every age, but it was actually adorable)
Her last day at school, finishing up her year in the "Pine cone" class and moving on to the "Sassafras" class next year (5 mornings - whooo hoo!)
With Mrs. McCormick
And Mrs. Baker
Aya loves to have her nails painted! Look at that smile!
I think Aya has had the year of greatest change; when we left Dar, she was still our baby, but now she's really a "big girl" with a big vocabulary, big heart, and big personality! She is known in our house for saying funny things (she might be repeating out of context what she has heard one of us say) like, "I'm so frustrated!" when she's really happy about something. She's also known for giving great hugs (even around the neighborhood) and being super loving and friendly. She thrives on attention from her big siblings and loves to play with them, but also has an incredible imagination and ability to play by herself. She is a wonder and a joy, every single day (even though her threenager phase totally shows up her terrible twos). I often ask her if she's my best friend and she'll almost always say, "No! Far is your best friend! I'm your lovie-love." I'll take it :)
Remnants of Aya's life in Dar still show up in her speech, calling trash "taka taka" or motorcycles "piki pikis," for example. And she'll insert "Tanzania" at unpredictable moments, like when she sang "Frosty the Snowman, who lived in Tanzania..." at Christmas time. She can sing most of the Tanzanian national anthem (I sing it to her almost every day) and the "Jambo Bwana" song, and she can count to 10 in Kiswahili by herself. But those are small things; I know they won't last forever and she will soon forget ever having lived there. It is our job to remind her of her first two years of life, on a charming little peninsula that sticks out into the Indian Ocean...8,000 miles away.