Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2014 - One Sweet Face

Sorry (Mrs. D!) for my absence on the blog these last few weeks.  Kristoffer's mom and Hans are visiting so we've been having a lot of fun.  But 2/3 of the kids in this house don't sleep through the night, and I have also had a sick stomach.  So all of that has not left so much time for  blogging, and not nearly enough time for sleeping either.

But our little lady is 3 months old today!  While the camera rarely shows it (she goes into "zombie" mode when the iPhone or camera appears!) she is one big smile these days.  Last Sunday (July 13th) Aya really belly laughed for the first time and has done it once since then.  Even more exciting, this past Saturday (July 19th) she rolled over from her back to her front for the first time.  The coolest part was that my mom was on FaceTime with us watching her and so she saw the whole thing. Aya has done it several times since then, even getting her one stuck arm out from under her (no video yet!). The problem with this new skill is that she is doing it in her sleep and in her little co-sleeper (attached to our bed like this), she doesn't have enough room so gets a bit stuck or twisted and wakes up.  I then need to resettle her back to sleep.  Argh - more wake ups than before?  No thank you!  So last night we started the transition to her big crib in her own room.  She put herself to sleep in it at bedtime and slept in there for 4 hours before her first wake up.  At that point I brought her back into her co-sleeper, but thought it was a good first effort.

She doesn't go to the doctor for more shots/stats until next week, but it is clear that she is growing well, as her little chunky thighs and arms aren't fitting into everything these days and many of her footed pajamas are too short.  Aya eats well from me, and will also take a bottle of pumped milk easily (a very wonderful change from her big siblings).  

Her favorite things remain: her swing, her binky, her big sister, and her bath time.  Whatever you do, don't take away her bath.  This girl will start fussing between 6:00 and 6:30 and will not calm down until you put her in her warm bath.  She knows this is bed time, and afterwards she eats, burps, gets a story, and goes to bed for her "long" sleep.  In this coming month we are mostly just hoping that her first stretch of sleep gets much longer.  

We're loving this girl and as she starts to be able to "do" more, we know that she is adding new and exciting energy to our family.  It is hard to believe that we're a quarter of the way through her first year...and with all of Aya's firsts I am emotionally aware that they are also "lasts" for us.  That is the beautiful cycle of life I suppose, and I am so very grateful we're experiencing it all again with Aya.

Here is Aya's sweet little face these last few weeks.  And try to spot the picture that ISN'T Aya!

Meeting Farmor for the first time.

 Big bro is always ready to "handle" Aya!
 First long-weekend away to South Beach (Tanzania, not Florida)...more on that later.

 (Not Aya - but Aya's first monkey sighting!)
 Family photo on our mini-vacation...Aya did not get the memo to be a little bit silly!
That is her MOST serious expression.

 Hans and Aya called each other to plan their outfits :)
 Classic Welsien Baby Hotel Sink Bath Picture! 
(about 6 weeks older than her siblings were for theirs!)

And today - our lovely ladies!
 Can't get enough of this girl...we love her more every day!

Keep up the good work, kiddo!

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 - Every Heart Beats True ('Neath the Red, White and Blue)

It's one of my two least favorite days to be an expat.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...there's just something about The Fourth and Thanksgiving that makes me really believe you should be IN America to celebrate them properly!  The best we could do around here was to sport our American wardrobe.  So I present to you...
Miss America,

Uncle Sam,

 and our biggest Firecracker!
(who has been sick for three days with a bad sinus infection and is on her fourth round of antibiotics in a month. ACK!  But she's still smiling!)

I know I haven't lived there in a long time and I know she is a flawed, imperfect lady...but she is still mine and I am still hers.  God Bless America, land that I love.  


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 2, 2014 - Baby Life

Aya is 10 weeks old now, and living a pretty good life.  She has been to the beach 3 times.  During her first time, below, she loved the cool breeze.  We definitely brought Aya back to Dar at the right time of year.

She was really loving a little time with Rose every day, but now seems to like Oliver pretty too.  
Here you can see the changing of the guard...Rose introducing Aya to Oliver.
The big siblings are always around, loving on Aya!  
Aya specifically responds really well to their voices and has gotten quite good at following them with her eyes.

She has also gotten used to how silly her Far is!

I need to start taking more selfies I guess of me and Aya because I have no pictures of the two of us - but we are together a lot.  At night time, since she had that virus, she is not doing as well as she was before the virus.  The last two nights have been 4 or 5 wakes/feeds :(  She sleeps well and often during the day - often putting herself to sleep on her playmat or snoozing in her swing which she just loves.  As long as I avoid her trigger foods, she is not fussy at all.

Aya is very smiley now and also chatting more and more, although I haven't caught a good conversatiom on camera yet.

We can't wait for Farmor and Hans to meet Aya when they arrive in 9 days.  Their visit will be the highlight of our third summer in Dar!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1, 2014 - A Good Goodbye

Yesterday we said goodbye to Rose.  First on Friday night her fiance, Marsh, arrived from Kenya to help her get back home with all of her stuff.  It was nice of him to come pick her up.  Then on Saturday afternoon we had a goodbye party where she could invite all of her friends to send her off.  It was really lovely - all of her friends wrapped her in kangas (African cloth) and offered her words of wisdom for her marriage.  They all got to meet (and question) Marsh, and he gave a speech to them saying he had no idea she had such a wonderful network here in Dar.   She also presented us with a painting of our family that she had hired someone to paint for us.  It was a very thoughtful, special gift that we will always have.  On Sunday night we took Rose and Marsh out to dinner with our whole family, and yesterday we said goodbye ahead of their very early departure this morning.  

All of these events were a way of helping Rose and the kids and us process her departure and celebrate the next phase of her life.  While sad to no longer have her here, we are very happy for her.  Kristoffer, Grace and Noah are so far doing OK.  Rose and I were the ones crying last night!  We are happy, too, that we found a nice woman, Oliver (pronounced with a Boston accent!), to replace Rose and Rose was able to train her for a few days last week.  Two days in and so far no complaints. Fingers crossed that it keeps going well!  Aya likes Oliver a lot and the big kids are starting to interact with her a bit more too.  I am sure that will take just a little more time.

Here are some pictures that I don't think Rose minds if I share.  We wish her all the best in the next chapter of her life. Safari njema, Rose, na nashukuru sana.  Hongera!

We gave Rose a framed copy of this picture and will display one in our house as well.  It is important to me that the kids will not forget someone who was such a big part of their formative years!

Rose with the three women who used to be nannies for Grace's best friends.  In our first summer here they spent a lot of time together and became good friends!
With a couple more of the "dadas".
 Everyone at the party!  
(Christopher the cook to the left...Rose's fiance, Marsh, to the right.)
 The Happy Couple...ready to get married!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014 - Two Months Old

Out littlest lady is two months old today.  After a week of not feeling well Aya is back to her normal sweet self, which is a little bit smiley these days (we still have to work for it, but she is getting more generous with the smiles).  We were thrilled on Thursday night when her fever had passed and she was no longer screaming when she was awake.

At a doctor's appointment yesterday, she weighed 4.9 kg (10.78 lbs), was 55 cm long (21.6 in) and her head circumference was 38 cm (14.9 in).  She received 3 more vaccinations (boo!), one of which really made her scream, but she recovered well from them.  I am happy that she is back to nursing normally after a 3-day hiatus.  During that time I pumped a lot of milk so Rose has given her a couple of experience they both seemed to enjoy as you can see below.

We are starting to feel a sense of rhythm to Aya's days and nights, and hope to have her routinized a bit more in the next few weeks.  She is still a better sleeper than the big kids were (except when she was sick).  She is pretty sweet and Grace and Noah still enjoying interacting with her very much.  As you can see, they are helpful as well.

We are loving this girl, especially as she is more alert and responsive now.  The big kids (Kristoffer included) can't wait until she "can do something" (Noah's words).  Aya loves her bath every night, to hear music, to feel motion, and to be talked to.  Happy two months, Aya!
Custom-made jewelry...from Noah with love!

 Napping in her big girl crib.
 This past Monday...
 Her second bottle ever, and her first bottle with Rose...

 Someone was feeling better (Thursday night)...
 Friday smiles :)
And two months old today!
 (she was really constipated after being sick...sitting up in the boppy with some head support finally did the trick!)

Gracie LOVES to be with Aya!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19, 2014 - Moving On

So I haven't written about it yet because it is a hard thing for me to write about.  But it's time to let you know that Rose, our housekeeper and nanny for the last almost-4 years, is moving back to Kenya and getting married next month.  We only have her with us for a short time remaining, and this is very big news in our world.

We are very happy for Rose (who I know often reads this blog...Hi, Rose!) and think it is a great next step for her life.  We never knew that she would want to stay with us in Tanzania as long as she had, and we are so grateful for the time she has spent working for our family.  

But at the same time, I credit Rose's presence and help for much of my sanity living in East Africa these last many years.  Our transition from Nairobi to Dar was very smooth, in large part because of her.  So I am particularly and quite selfishly sad that Rose is leaving because I do believe she is irreplaceable.  I am sure we can find someone else to work for us (working on that currently...) and we'll even find someone who we like and does a great job.  But she will not be Rose.  And considering that she is probably the person on this continent that I have the spent the most amount of time with consistently in the last 6 1/2 years combined I feel it will be a hard goodbye.

Grace and Noah took the news well and are talking about it a lot.  Noah asks her everyday, "Rose, did you get married yet?  When are you going to Kenya?"  Grace is telling everyone she knows that she has to get a new "dada" [means sister in Kiswahili and is used for a nanny/housekeeper] "because my Rose is moving back to Kenya to get married."  (Please note how much I love it that she calls her "my Rose.")  I am sure the sadness of the situation might not occur to them until after she leaves and doesn't come back.  Luckily, though, this lifestyle has helped Grace and Noah become pretty good goodbyers. I am sad on another level, though, that Rose will not be here with Aya...especially because they already get along so well!

But mostly, as I said, I do feel really grateful that we were lucky enough to find a woman who has really loved our children these years - especially because we never intended for her to be our nanny (note that we hired her to be a part-time housekeeper but on her first day working for us I was admitted to the hospital with complications in Noah's pregnancy and - ta da, Rose became our nanny just like that!).  When you live so far away from your own family, it is a blessing to have some extra love around for the little ones.  We have so many great memories of and with Rose, and she will always have a special place in our family's story. 

Rose is leaving at the beginning of July and next weekend we will through her a little goodbye party here to send her off.  I'm already crying - ACK!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18, 2014 - Dar Strikes Again

Well we were only back for two weeks before the first sniffles.  And then the coughs.  And then fevers.    Grace and Noah both got sick on Saturday and by Sunday morning it was obvious to me (Dr. Mama) that Grace had a sinus infection and Noah had the croup.  We went in to the see the doctor to find that my diagnoses were correct but that they both ALSO had ear infections.  We got drugged up with antibiotics, inhalers, nasal sprays, etc.  Great.

Until the baby got a fever!  So now we're on Day 5 and while the big kids were cleared to go back to school, Aya still has a fever and is not herself at all.  Not eating well, fewer diapers, poor sleep, lots of screaming and/or moaning.  Her blood test yesterday showed it was viral, not bacterial like the big kids, so she is spared the antibiotics for now.  But wow...we hate to see our baby with a fever feeling so miserable!  Hoping the madness ends today.

All of this is just to confirm that we are officially back in East Africa - the land of infection (at least for our kids!).  Argh!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014 - Happy Far's Day!

While I could not be with my Dad today, I have been reflecting a lot about him on this Father's Day.  Because both of my grandfathers died before I was born, I find it to be an extra special gift that my father has been around all three of my kids in their very early days.  It is not something I take for granted, this wonderful Pops my children have and know and love...perhaps because I always wished I had had one.

With Grace...
With Noah...
With Aya...

We don't call him the baby whisperer for nothing!  As much as I appreciate what a great dad he is and has always been to me, in my parenthood I appreciate him even more as a grandfather.  Thank you, Dad - for unconditional love and support and great stories and advice!  And for the beetles! 

It should also go without saying, but I will say it anyway, that Kristoffer is an exceptional father.  Especially during the last three months when we have been separated and he has been a single parent for much of the time, he has just been amazing.  He knows our kids so well and has such great parenting values.  I know exactly why I wanted to have a family with him - he is just brilliant at it.

With Grace...
With Noah...
With Aya...

It was great to be parented by my Dad.  It is great to be parenting with Kristoffer.  That's all there is to it!

On this Father's Day - when both of our big kids are pretty sick (ear infections, sinus infection, croup!) and we spent some time at the clinic (of course! this is Dar!  and we've been back for two weeks!) - Kristoffer got some time in on the sailboat even though he did a lot of work around the house.  And he got in a little Lego "play time" at home too...

(below is my new favorite picture - two kids sleeping, one on the iPad almost sleeping and Far building a Lego airplane!)  
He is Super Far indeed!  
Happy Far's Day!