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.

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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.

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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:

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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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…