Axel turns 5!


big joy



This time around, Axel has been aware that his birthday was coming up for a few weeks before D-day. Every morning leading up to it, he reminded us of his birthday wish: a Millennium Falcon (a.k.a. “Lenny Falcon”). Sometimes he’d push his luck and add a Tie Fighter and an X-Wing Fighter to the list as well. Needless to say, the Star Wars obsession is still strong with this one.

We had a birthday party for him at the local mini-zoo (such a great place, and a 5-minute walk from our apartment, too) and invited his classmates too! There were piglets and a peacock roaming around while we ate birthday cake. Receiving so many presents blew Axel’s mind. He carried around two of them the entire time we were there and enjoyed the Happy Birthday song. Towards the end of the party things were a bit shrieky and his manners left a lot to be desired. To be fair he did tell me about an hour before people started leaving that he was “very very tired and that it was time to go home.”


Since our last check-in 6 months ago, he has made a lot of effort when it comes to speaking French with me, and likes to discuss movie scenes (that one where Han, Luke and Leia are stuck and can’t get out! And the doors are coming closer! And the robot needs to hurry up and find the button!). He is doing well with English and German, with a lot of funny turns of phrases and some code-switching (switching languages in the middle of a sentence).


He enjoys new experiences as well as routines, and has a ton of energy. We are looking into signing him up to some kind of sport/group activity in the Fall. Though he  can now stay focused on a task for long stretches of time, he will occasionally get very frustrated, and lately, we’ve had more frequent instances of blow-ups when he doesn’t get his way. The other day, he was getting positively ragey while trying to cut some paper but wouldn’t just give up. After shredding a sheet of paper into a thousand pieces out of frustration he just grabbed a new one and resumed the thankless task with tears streaming down his face. [sigh] Being five can be tough.

He is quite affectionate and sentimental, though still skittish with people he doesn’t know well. He is getting very interested in my constant knitting and has requested (and received) a new sweater. He was at first concerned about his exposed tummy and lack of sleeves…


… but was satisfied with the result in the end.



Favorite activities of the moment include: drawing space ships, building space ships, flying space ships, discussions with his sister about whether a robot is R2D2, BB8 or R5D4… Climbing on things, jumping on things while making very unpleasant screechy sounds… We’ve been having fun outings at the pool and at the beach this summer, and there is no longer any fear of the water or getting one’s face wet.


Food-wise, he is a lot less picky than he used to be, and his favorite foods are pretty typical now: he finally loves pasta and requests it at every meal, along with meatballs, ham/salami, salad, quesadilla, gnocchi, pizza etc… There is still no love for cooked veggies for the most part, but anything raw and crunchy is popular.


These two are joined at the hip. Their relationship can get pretty intense and loud but they don’t like to be without one another. In fact, if Axel has to go to time out, Zora demands to join him there.



Zora is now 2.5 and Axel is 4.5, getting close to 5 years old, so it’s time for an update.


These two are partners in crime, and the crime rate has risen dramatically in these parts. Naughty, naughty.

Axel loves to get a rise out of his sister and succeeds beautifully in getting her to wail and shriek as he laughs maniacally. Zora knows how to push buttons too.  Both can dish it out; neither can take it.  Zora wants everything that he has and she constantly weighs what each one has received, be it treats or kisses, with a hawk’s eye.


After a blessed 18 months where we had no bedtime struggles whatsoever, Axel has recently started to turn into a Tasmanian Devil when it’s time for bed and we’re in for our now-routine, half-hour of yappy noises and complaints emanating from their bedroom, as we’re trying to eat our dinner.

Other than this unfortunate phase (let’s hope that’s what it is), they have been fun to be around, and their germafrenglish conversations are frequently hilarious. French is unfortunately still lagging behind German and English (as is to be expected since it’s the minority language) but they are both definitely on track now. Zora in particular is quite verbal and speaks very well, using correct pronouns, prepositions etc.

They tend to speak German the most when they are playing, but also when they fight:

“Mamaaaa! Zora hat mich geärgert! Neeeeein! Zora hat mich geschubst! Böse Zora!”


Both of them can be exceedingly polite and formal, saying things like “Thank you Mama that is very nice of you!” and they like setting the table and clearing dishes after a meal.

Axel has systems in place to preserve order and harmony around him: a certain method when taking off his clothes ensures that they are never inside out. And if his comforter cover gets rumpled he declares his bed “broken” and immediately tidies it up so the corners are squared away. A future career as a military drill sergeant perhaps?  Axel further wins the good citizen award with his fondness for clean surfaces throughout the home. He loves to vacuum, swiffer and squeegee the shower. And enthusiastically puts away toys.

It’s a good balance as his sister has a knack for making messes and destroying things but that’s the way most 2.5 year olds are, so we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. She is a very charming and affectionate little girl, who loves all things girly. But make no mistake, she is no shrinking violet.



She loves to sing Alouette and Wheels on the Bus and the Darth Vader (“Dark Later” and once “Dark Elevator”) theme and dances — perhaps we’ll try ballet classes next fall. Axel is interested in music as well, he likes Moonshadow by Cat Stevens and classical music. He loves going to the swimming pool and has his eye on the highest diving board. The “bouncy castle,” an indoor playground that we go to when the weather is bad, is always in extremely high demand as well. Baking is also always fun:



Another passion of the moment is puzzles. He is very fast and quite gifted in this department. He is starting to write his name and likes to draw some neat, precise faces such as this one:


Favorite movies include Star Wars (the original) still, and Ponyo.

We finally have a new car and both kids are very excited. Axel chastises his sister when she wipes her boots on the back of the driver’s seat.


We went to the beach twice last week-end, and the kids promptly stripped and waded in the water while some bundled up locals looked on.



Happy Birthday Zora!

Zora just turned two! She blew out her candles, with the help of her brother:


Personality: A high-energy social dynamo. She loves being around people, and lots of them. She really enjoyed having her aunt, cousin and Grandpa around recently:

FullSizeRender (8)She is very affectionate, but always moving, in action. “Go, go, go! she says.” She has very definite tastes when it comes to her attire. All she needs is a pair of tights and barrettes — perhaps rain boots if we’re going out. Definitely no shirts.


A bossy little thing, but she’ll try to charm everybody into doing what she wants first. If it doesn’t work, the tone will get urgent, then downright screechy.


Language: She seems to have no trouble at all with the 3 language thing. She mixes languages a little still. She can build sentences in all three languages and uses the correct pronouns and includes “small words” most of the times. She learns new words and expressions very quickly and her pronunciation is excellent. Unlike her brother, she is a little parrot and will repeat everything and learn quickly. Starting to count and name colors, and is working on learning her letters.

Play: She still likes bike riding and motorcycles, but she has found her nurturing side as well and is playing dolls quite a bit (she likes to throw them from a balcony and then kiss them better). She loves being read to, in particular she loves the Adventures of Polo and other story books.

Food: A good appetite but starting to become picky. Still loves eggplant, green beans, radishes, but most of all sausage and ham. Also likes soup and pasta and favorite junk foods include pizza and chicken nuggets.

Teeth: Finally her teeth are starting to come in in rapid succession (causing some crankiness) and she is starting to look less like a little chipmunk. The pacifier is now mostly for nighttime and naps, and she doesn’t seem to need an arsenal of them anymore.





These two are becoming joined at the hip, especially since they’ve started sharing a room. I did not think it could get much higher, but the noise level is now deafening, with Axel basically yelling everything (though the concept of “indoor voice” is starting to slowly percolate), and Zora perfecting the whiny shriek.
Axel has started doing some “parenting” with his sister which is really hilarious: “NO ZOWA, IT’S TIME TO SLEEP, LIE DOWN ZOWA” “ZOWA! THAT’S NOT A TOY ZOWA”

Zora at 18 months

It’s springtime, for Zora, in Germany.  And it’s her second spring, in her hometown of Greifswald. DSC_1249 Her love for pacifiers is strong.  She will keep three on hand if possible, and always takes a few extra puffs before relinquishing one.  She requires a minimum of two in bed.

Biker chick

A photo posted by Lisa (@axelzora) on

Last night she announced bedtime “dodo.”  Usually it’s down at 6:15 with a round of goodnights and bonnes nuits, then up again at 6:30 AM.  After lunch naps last some 2.5 hrs. Her favorite perch is on top of the sofa chair in axel’s bedroom.  It’s a bit perilous, and seems very proud to be up there.

IMG_6542 IMG_6540 Her personality is ever stronger.  She guards her dignity and doesn’t like to lose face, be ignored or rebuffed in any way.

Crazy for dogs.  But a little afraid of close encounters.  She met a little wobbly one last weekend that she named “cow,” for its round cow-like patches of black and white.  Likes ponies and ducks too.  The monkeys were a special attraction at the zoo recently.  She delivered a big speech to them.

Recently she found an empty box on the floor and pooped in it.  She’s generally showing a desire to potty train, and signals by placing her adapter seat thingy on the big toilet.  It really seems that she finds the diaper routine to be rather undignified.

Likes:  Having barrettes in her hair, story time with her dadda or mama.  Outings with her Pukylino (4-wheel kick bike), “Autos”, Battle of “no’s” with Axel – no, no… no,, no, etc.  Or an old-fashioned screech fest.

Dance, hug, hug, dance.


At school she is a bit fierce and strong-arms her way to the best toys.  But she’s also quite affectionate and popular with her teachers.

IMG_2833 German. Seems to have just a few words so far (mehr, guck, tschüss, hallo, auto…).  Teachers say she understands directions very well in German.

French. about 50 words in French, in a learning spree. Starting to put 2 words together for short sentences.

English.  3rd place.  Not many words here.  Not yet.  Soon.

Eating: not a very big fan of veggies, except in a ratatouille or stir fry. Doesn’t like purees. Unlike her brother she seems to like real food.  Loves axel-food too like chicken nuggets.

Loves lasagna.


A little update: Axel

Time seems like a rare commodity these days, but it’s time for a little update:

We’ve seen a lot of changes since last time, and welcome ones!


Personality: Still very strong-willed and wanting to do things a certain way. Enjoys rituals, private jokes (mostly sentences from Petit Ours Brun that he thinks are funny). Still loves his bears: Nounours, Tinky-Winky, Lala and Blanc. A very cuddly guy, who can never receive and give enough hugs (“Un calin!”). He still likes things organized and doesn’t mind putting things away.


Language: a marked improvement from a couple of months back, when we were starting to wonder whether the trilingual thing was getting to be too much for him. The frustrated/habitual screams have given way to rarer, much more tolerable low-grade whining. Yay! His French and English are slowly but surely improving, and German is rapidly regaining popularity (he was basically not speaking at all these past few months): his teacher says he now speaks more and more, and very importantly, now communicates easily with kids at school.


Socialization: Improvements in language and help from his classmates (“Axel, don’t scream!”) and an ever-patient and supportive teacher means that he now plays well with other kids (older kids in particular) at school. Since being in Kindergarten full-time, he also seems to be a lot more “épanoui,” like he’s enjoying his life and thriving thanks to school.

With adults he is less shy and is even starting to show a liking to social niceties and conventions when he is so inclined. His teacher says he insists on saying “Guten Appetit” every mealtime. He also makes sure to shake people’s hands before leaving school and says “Tschüssie” to all who are within earshot. In general I think he enjoys politeness (though of course as I’m about to publish this, he’s recently screamed in a couple of people’s faces as they were trying to say hello. Sigh.) When he helpfully hands me something, he systematically says “Merci Axel!” And of course he loves saying goodnight to his little sister when it’s time for her to go to bed.

Sleep: Beautiful. Bedtime is 8-ish, and is getting to the point where the slight fussing and endless negotiation is a thing of the past. And he generally sleeps until 6:30 or 7am. He loves his “real” bed and I think I can credit it for the huge improvement in his sleep. Very rarely naps at home anymore, sadly, but he will spend an hour in his room, more or less quietly.


Diet: Ugh. He is a very picky kid. I’d been hoping to slowly transition him into eating dinner with us, but though he inspects our food every evening, he refuses to sample it. So he’s still eating the usual handful of things. I think he’s the only kid I know who does not eat pasta. Well, not at home anyway. I think he’s easier to feed at school (but then peer pressure is always helpful). At least, one great thing that he’s learned in school is to take his plate back to the kitchen when he’s done. I’m impressed each time!

Learning: Still very interested in the mechanics of things, counting, letters… I think he might be ready to be taught how to read soon. We are thinking his Laufrad is now too small and he will be ready to join his bike-riding cohorts soon. We tried to take him to the pool (there is a great pool here, with jacuzzi, big slides etc…) recently but it was too overwhelming for him, though his sister had a great time. He is getting very good at doing things independently. Potty-training wise, all has been great, he now just uses the bathroom, which never ceases to amaze me. He also dresses himself alone without constant nagging (the solution for me was to take him into the bathroom with his clothes and wait until he was dressed. Not having distractions within eyesight made the process a lot faster!)

All in all, he is quickly gaining in independence and is turning out to be a very smart, contemplative, sensitive little boy, though still a bit suspicious of new-ness.


Zora we didn’t forget you

Yes, poor girl, your special one-year-post is happening only now that you are 13 months and a week old… I’m sorry. Let’s have a little recap:

Yay, you are an adult baby now! We celebrated, even though you ended up throwing your cupcake on the floor and grabbing the lit candle.

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Amazing Sleeping: Bedtime is 6:30-ish, fussless. I’ve been trying to push it back but you are like clockwork and start frantically waving your hand and saying “bah-bah” (bye-bye) at exactly 6:15. If we ignore you, you just pass out in a corner or walk around like the village drunk bumping into things. Wake-up is around 6-6:30am, which is pretty great. Keep it up!

Walking: Waltzing since 11 months. You now have a new incredibly cute walking stance, with your arms down and floppy and prosperous belly forward. You climb on and into everything and, just like the famous internet cat Maru, you try very hard to fit into the smallest possible containers.

photo (66)photo (68)

Under-achieving Teeth: You cut your first tooth at 12 months and 16 days, which is pretty ridiculous. And that was so much work that there seem to be no new teeth on the horizon. One tooth and done!

Food: Favorites are mortadella, sausage, cheese, fish, yogurt and gnocchi. Just like your brother, you dislike avocados and bananas. All in all, you’re not a bad eater, if a bit picky and very very messy. Still very fond of bottles, too.

Playing: You like your doll, but also cars/trucks/buses. Putting things in and out of buckets. Having very polite exchanges of objects with us. Trying to rummage in the trash, dumping things in the toilet and destroying books are also unfortunately some of your favorite activities as well.

photo (73) photo (70)photo (71)

Talking: You seem to be more eager to communicate verbally than your brother was, in addition to Ma-ma, Da-dee and Ack (that’s Axel), you are now saying the following: dodo (sleep), popo (poop), bah-bah (bye), tah! (tiens=here, take this), bibbib (biberon = baby bottle), bah (bain=bath), pah (pain = bread), botte (boot), pato (pantalon = pants), and probably a couple more that I’m forgetting.

Personality: Pretty social and charming, you are also quite loud and screechy sometimes. But most days you are quite cuddly and want to be carried around a lot. You are very determined and stubborn and also quite dramatic and funny.  You do a Miley-Cyrus tongue in photos.

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Sibling: Your relentless charm offensive has finally paid off: Axel seems to be tolerating, or even enjoying your presence more and more. After all, you think everything he does is hilarious and the best thing ever, and you mostly put up with his roughhousing. He is starting to police things you do, trying to push you away from the toilet (“c’est sale!”) and other forbidden things. There’s still some screaming over toys, but we’ve had a few golden moments of side-by-side playing or peaceful co-existence.

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: