Axel’s 3

Happy birthday to Axel.

The kid is a real dude now.  Just for the record, also a total tyrant.  He flips out on a dime.  Let’s leave that at that.

The tri-lingual experiment is going OK.  His best language by far is still English.  His greeting to Daddo is “Hey buddy” and he finally says “good night.” He’s very happy to say goodbye or goodnight to Zora, but is also slowly warming to her presence. A lot of the French words he uses get promptly butchered/reinvented: cotissure (=confiture, i.e. jam), toggodan (=toboggan, i.e. slide), etc. He has to learn the alphabet and counting in three languages at the same time but that has been mostly fun for him, if slightly confusing at times. When he really wants to do something he will ask in English as well as French, many times over (“prendre une voiture! Take a car, I want to take the car!! Meine… take une voiture!”)

He loves reading “Cat in the Hat” and the other Dr. Seuss books, and can finish most lines.  He plays markers and reads books at bedtime with his dad.  Playing markers means he calls out things that he wants drawn, “big red sun,” “purple star,” etc.  Every drawing must begin with a big red sun, with sun rays, and a smile.  Recent variation of this is a big red star.

He isn’t really interested in watching cartoons, with the notable exception of Wall-e, which he could watch over and over. He sometimes will watch “Cars” but he gets scared by a couple of scenes (the delinquent cars bothering the truck and the tractors chasing McQueen and Mater). He only tolerates parts of Sesame Street (“Zami Treat”) mostly those that involve Elmo, Cookie Monster and singing about counting and the alphabet. For some reason he enjoys watching Conan (has for a long time), and enjoys a few of the opening theme songs of some of shows we watch (Louie is a favorite). He notices very small details: microscopic red bug on a granite tombstone, a sliver of the moon visible during the day… He loves lining things up nicely, which isn’t to say he is particularly great at keeping his toys tidy. He is 3, and full of contradictions after all.

These summer weekends have been sunny and we’ve been spending lots of time at the beach.  Axel’s favorite activity is collecting rocks, counting “one, two, threeee” and tossing them in the sea.  He also likes to be swung in big circles with his feet splashing in the water — “round, and round.”

He’s currently sitting and eating orange play dough next to the author of this post.

He remains obsessed with traffic lights (WAIT FOR IIIIT…. TURN RED! NOW IT’S GREEN!!!), and also with his bike…

.. and being pensive.

He graduated to Kindergarten (German Kindergarten starts at 3) recently and was put with a class of girl-giants.  He’s starting to interact with the other kids more, and calls out the name of one favorite.

Lots of naked time at home and at the beach, German style. Enjoys making a “house” with blankets on the couch and snuggling with his mom. Napping still happens every 2-3 days, but that’s about it. Most days, he just passes time doing handstands in his crib or climbing in and out of it.

He is becoming slightly more civilized and will say please, thank you and byebye when prompted.We are trying to train him to give shoulder massages on demand. Potty training is mostly over (a few recent accidents at Kindergarten notwithstanding). He can now put his shoes on by himself and can mostly get himself dressed (very slowly).

So that’s the Axel sum-up for now! A few pictures for the road:

9 months in Normandy

We just returned from a 2-week trip in Normandy (just the kids and me, Gabe had some work meetings to attend) and we had a really good time!

Zora turned 9 months while we were there. Here’s the latest with her:

Let me start with the most important thing from my perspective:

Sleep: Thanks to her grandmother, she is finally night-weaned! The first night was rough for the both of them but after that she mostly stopped waking up, or when she did she was able to go back to sleep without too much trouble, until 6ish in the morning.

I can’t express what a relief this is. Nights had become this dreaded time where I knew my options would be a) sleep very badly (5 hours of interrupted sleep — never more than 3 hours at a time) or b) sleep horribly (2-3 hours) if I also happened to struggle with insomnia. So this is amazing. We are now back in Germany and so far she’s been sleeping through the night. Crossing my fingers that this is the new normal! I’m starting to feel like a human again.

- Locomotion: she crawls! She can now go where she pleases, which means she needs less entertainment but more supervision. She cruises furniture and can stand unsupported for a few seconds at a time before falling down on her butt. She wants to walk while holding hands but her technique still needs some refining.

-Food: she eats much better. Loves to munch on bread and cookies (and strawberries!). Baby food and compotes are scarfed down very messily. She still won’t drink any type of milk-like liquid from any kind of bottle (water is ok) so it looks like we’ll be nursing for a bit longer. Her allergies issues seem to be gone, I’ve gone back to eating soy and butter, and so far no reactions. I’ll try yogurts, and cheese next.

-Teeth: none!

-Words: She says Dadada and Ma-ma (actually she said this to me very clearly for the first time just before I put her in bed the first night of night-weaning… coincidence?). It looks like she is also saying “no-no-no” sometimes when she’s shaking her head. Maybe I’m imagining things?

-Personality: she has a very sunny disposition and loves to be where the action is. She is a people-person. She is quite cuddly and loves to give hugs and “kisses.” When she is bored she can get quite loud and screechy!

8 months overdue

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8 months! It’s hard to believe that our Baltic Baby #2 has been around for this long already. I’ve been meaning to update this blog (her baby book is still desperately barren) but things have been so crazy that it hasn’t been a priority. But now I see that time is going by so quickly and I’d hate for her first few months of life to be a complete blur. I might have to do a few flashback posts to catch us up here.

So here’s the 8-months round-up:

Zora is a very mobile baby. She can pull herself up and goes round and round in her playpen making baby gorilla noises: She sometimes only holds on using one hand, and picks up random toys, like it’s no big deal.

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She’s has also recently started to proto-crawl, which means she can get on all fours (most recently teepee-style) and then usually try to propel herself, but mostly face-plants.

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Favorite activities include playing with her brother’s toys (button-operated music-making toys) investigating people’s mouths, fake laughing, saying “da-da” and “mmmmma!” and making lots of interesting sounds. She does a lot of enthusiastic high-pitch screeching that makes her brother go ballistic and screamy. It is a joy to be around them when they are both doing this at 6:30am.

She still has zero teeth. Nursing is still going (too) strong, especially at night unfortunately (we are down to 2 wake-ups on average, bedtime is around 6:30-7pm and wakeup is between 5 and 6am.). She is relatively slender and tall for her age, and looks a lot like her great-grandmother (mom’s mom’s mom).

She still doesn’t drink from any bottle and I mean ANY: we spend many Euros on all-kinds of fancy, boob-like bottles. She is not swayed. And she would sooner skip a feeding and wait for the real thing. She does drink water from a sippy cup occasionally now, so perhaps salvation is near. She likes to eat solids, but I wouldn’t say she is a great eater. She is pickier than her brother and seems to have a strange appreciation for bland, unsalted foods. Thankfully she is much much better at self-feeding, which is so nice and fun to watch:


Midsummer report

Here we are, back in sunny, windy Greifswald, after a very enjoyable week spent with my family in Italy (including both my brothers, which was a treat as I don’t see them much) — then another week, child-free (for the first time since last September!) in Paris.

Axel had a blast with his Mimi-Nono (the grandparent unit), did a lot of wild tractoring (he has a tractor in all corners of the earth) every day in the street of Bossolasco, and got his fill of the local playgrounds.

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Axel_best_slide Axel_playground2 Axel_upSlide Lisa_playground_2

He had his first taste of real ice cream in Ceva — he is finally free of his milk-protein intolerance, whew!

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He also really really enjoyed gnocchi with tomato sauce and parmesan at a restaurant in Cherasco where we all had lunch one day. Seems like he is ready to expand his food horizons!


Italian style


Italy was first and foremost a chance for Gabe and I to catch up on some sleep thanks to Mimi-Nono who generously took care of the early morning duty. Gabe and I were also able to eat out alone a couple of times and sample the simple and tasty food the Piemonte region has to offer. (Interesting factoid: this is where the Slow Food movement has its roots).

Evenings were spent at home watching Twin Peaks (for the 4th time in my case…), which everybody seemed to enjoy — even though Nono found it “really weird”, I noticed that he did not fall asleep once! A real endorsement ;)

Gabe and I then said our goodbyes to Axel, leaving him in his grandparent’s capable care, and headed to Paris for a week of museum-visiting, wandering, and burger-eating…

We found a nice US-Style diner called Breakfast In America and after a fantastic breakfast there, we came back to try their burgers, which prompted us to go on a burger frenzy of sorts (by the way, we thought the burgers at the trendy Blend were good, but too fancy-fussy)… There was also some fresh Vietnamese food on the menu, which I’ve been craving for months (and can’t be found in Greifswald).


In the meantime, Axel (miraculously) behaved amazingly well on the 12-hour car trip from Italy to Normandy:



After picnic at Lake St Jean de Maurienne


Snuggling with Mimi after long nap in the car

He was then reportedly very happy and sweet (save for one nap-less day) with his grandparents and uncle Gabriel. Here are some photos of his vacation:

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The trip back to Greifswald was a trial as usual, but then we had a very good time at the beach the following week-end:


To the beach we go!

As of last Monday, it’s back to school for Axel! And a big milestone on the horizon…


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September 1st… Fall seems to be arriving early in this neck of the woods. And school starts even earlier, in early August. Axel has now been attending a Krippe (daycare) part-time for almost a month.

It’s a pretty big change for him (and for me!), but they have a whole process that they go through here called Eingewöhnung (“acclimatization” or “familiarization”), which is a 2-week transitory period during which one of the parent is expected to be available and stay with the child, at least for the first few days. Perhaps they have something similar in the US or France? I have no idea, this is all new to me.

So the first day of school, parents (sometimes both parents) stay in a corner, trying to be as passive as possible, while the children explore their new surroundings and the Erzieherinnen (educators) go on a charm offensive to get the kids to warm up to them quickly. This goes on for a couple of hours, then that’s it for the day. On the third or fourth day, parents try going away for 15-20 minutes to see how each child reacts to being left with the educators. If there are tears, they try to comfort the kids, and if that doesn’t work, then the parent is brought back in and they try it again the next day.

The following week, the kids stay for a bit longer and the parents “disappear” for longer periods of time, until both educators and parents agree to try leaving the child for the entire time. Of course some parents simply can’t take time off to go through this process, so some kids have to deal with the new reality pretty abruptly. Also, reactions seem to vastly differ from child to child. Some kids understand the awful truth quickly and resist strongly, and spend a lot of time crying.

Others, like Axel, seem to whine mostly when their mothers are within sight, and apparently turn into complete angels when somebody else is in charge. So even though Axel is the youngest of the group (or maybe because of this) he’s adapted very quickly and has adopted the educators (and the new toys) without much fuss. Right now there are only 5 babies for 2 educators and an intern (a young man, Axel is best buddies with him already) — I’m told they are expecting 3 or 4 more children before the end of the year.

So all in all this has gone very smoothly. Axel doesn’t seem fazed by a third language being added to his day-to-day. The only problem we have is that he is forced to skip his morning nap, so he tends to be very tired when I pick him up. But I know all is well because when I drop him off in the mornings, he jumps out of my arms and excitedly toddles off without a look back… A page has definitely turned!

1 Year Post

Axel spent the last weeks of his first year in Piedmont then Normandy, making him a Mediterranean then English Channel (Manche) Baby at the time.

Mom's favorite.

Personal moment in private swimming pool.

Beach gnome.

Saint Aubin Sur Mer.

He turned one July 18th, and so we are now quite late in making this post.  Sorry.  Still, Facebook was informed on time, with a schmattering of (one) photos.

Axel almost feeds self.

You’ve got something stuck in your teeth.

The Chemery house in Normandy is decorated from top to bottom with delicate and refined collectables, dangling within Axel’s reach.  Though we eventually confined him to a sort of medieval wooden cage (a device which has been passed down through many generations), he had many opportunities to destroy things and so he deserves credit for his good behavior.

Axel contained.

Cage that has held 3 generations.

Axel computing.

Outside now.

Now we are back on the Baltic.  Greifswald is transformed in the summer by the influx of sunshine and German tourists — actually, from what we’ve seen, all of Europe’s beachy spots seem popular with German tourists.

What’s new since 11 months?  Lots of pretend talking.  Dances a bit and is starting to show signs of singing.   Spontaneous yoga sessions in front of washing machine (see FB).  Shakes head for ‘no.’  Hates naps and getting his nails cut.  Teeth count holding steady at 4; sporting a pronounced gap-look — almost space for a 5th between his top pair!

He’s still quite friendly with new people, though he doesn’t appreciate it when a stranger pounces on him with no introduction.  Indeed, who does?  Babies are people too.

Off the the beach.  Take care.