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Jan 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daniel! 4 years already?

Not sure how this happened, but Daniel just turned 4. Really?
Time surely flies!

I am very excited to see how Daniel has grown in 4 years, and how much fun he is right now. He knows so much and understands a lot. He is starting to show passion for nature and building things. We can really have good discussions with him, and he sometimes comes up with much better ideas than we do. In most cases, he is very caring, especially around his little sister - although he also likes to play rough and needs to be reminded that he is stronger than he thinks he is.
He is still very active and loves trying new things. He loves to climb (everywhere if it was just for him), he is able to swim without fins and just learned to bike without training wheels on the eve of his 4th birthday. We were so proud!

Daniel is still interested in reading and he understands how to decipher words. It's still a slow process for him and doesn't make reading quite rewarding yet. On the language front, Daniel has now really become trilingual. His German at home is completely fluent, and he is able to make basic French sentences when needed. He still doesn't show much interest in talking to me in French a lot (although he might say something here and there), but when visiting our French family, he can now easily talk to them. It's still very rudimentary language, but it's working nevertheless. So exciting to see that 4 years of trying to teach him French are paying off.
Now I need to be careful to continue speaking French, even though English seems to be the easier language when he responds in English and I have to explain complex things. It's become a mental challenge for me. Oh well, now it's a challenge for both of us.

We had the birthday party at the same place as last year, at Safarirun, and it was a good choice again this year. Everyone had fun and it turned out to be an easy birthday to organize.

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Jan 13, 2012

New school transition

Daniel and Charlotte love their school. Over time, they have made great friends, gotten to know all the teachers, and are very comfortable in their environment. Daniel's level is particularly interesting because they do a lot of fun activities and field trips, incl. going to the theater, library, etc... and he loves it.

Despite this, my husband and I made the decision to move the kids to a new school that will be much closer to home, and a lot more convenient for our commute. Not sure if it's a better school, it might not be. But the time saved in commute for the kids is hopefully worth it. We had been on the waiting list for a while, and got a new spot for Daniel right when my work relocated to a not-so-convenient location. So the decision had to be made. We knew the old school routine wasn't meant to be for ever anyways since most of Daniel's friends were going to go to Kindergarten in the summer, while Daniel still has one year to go.

Even though it was the right thing to do, I agonized over it for several weeks, dreading the time when we would need to explain it to Daniel, and fearing his reaction on the first days of school. Even worse, Charlotte didn't get a spot yet, so she is still going to the old school- without big brother for the first time.

By coincidence, Daniel had recently started complaining a lot about having to spend a lot of time in the car to go to school, and he asked to go to a closer school. Good timing! We told Daniel about the new school a week before he would leave and showed him the school and new commute over the weekend. First, he seemed to be excited about the shorter commute, but got sad very quickly when he realized that his friends wouldn't come with him. This was a roller-coaster week, where he went from being excited to sad to really upset for no apparent reason.

Thankfully timing helped since we had our 2-week winter vacation between schools and a birthday party coming up in January. So Daniel could say Good Bye to his old friends while looking forward to his Europe trip first and to seeing them again at his birthday party. By the time he came back, he had had a little bit more time to digest. Also, my mother in law had come back with us, and she had a plan to make the transition easy, being able to stay in the classroom longer, and picking him up early to play outside.

The first days were rough. It didn't help that we all had jet lag and Charlotte got a lot of attention since she came back with an ear infection. There was a lot of sadness, insecurity and tears. But by the time Daniel's birthday party came around, 1.5 week later, Daniel had invited new friends to the party and he was ready to say Good Bye to his old friends. (this is what he himself said). He quickly started talking about his "best friends" and all the fun they have at the new school. The teachers' reports seem to point to a happy and active kids, typical Daniel. So all seems to be pretty good already.

Interestingly enough, Daniel seems to have tried to forget about his old friends, probably as a way to process the new school. When picking up Charlotte one day, we ended up going to his old classroom. Daniel hid behind me the entire time, not even talking to his old friends. Definitely not typical Daniel. This was surprising to me at first, but quite understandable in hindsight.

On her side, Charlotte is still not as familiar with the new routine. She doesn't understand yet the concept of schedule, and she is always surprised when Daniel doesn't join us in the car. She is so sad to be in the back of the car by herself, especially for such a long commute. but she cheers up when she sees her teachers and friends in her classroom.
We are hoping that she will soon get a spot in the new school as well. She would have to go through a transition at school in the summer anyways. This will be yet again a difficult time, but I am hoping she will adjust like her brother.... and I hope I will too!

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Jan 12, 2012

Winter update

I know, I know, my updates are not very frequent these days. So here is hoping to catch up a bit.
First, with a recap of our Europe trip over Christmas, which was really great. By now Daniel is used to traveling, changing environment and language, and he knows the entire family pretty well. He had a blast!
I was a little bit more concerned about Charlotte, since she had been somewhat difficult during our summer trip (although I realize I didn't write about it much) and our Europe trip with Daniel at the same age had had its tough moments as well (although I only mention the issues at the end!) As a side note, it looks like I might mentally be denying the bad memories since I barely write about them!

Back to this last trip, Charlotte actually did great. She got oriented right away, enjoyed the many activities that had been planned and played entertainer for the family. She still doesn't say much, but her laugh and good mood is contagious. And yes, this time this is really what happened. I am not ignoring bad memories.

In Germany, we were lucky enough to get snow on our first morning home... and thankfully the kids barely had jet lag this time around, so we were up and outside to enjoy the few hours of snow. Daniel in particular had the greatest time. He tried skiing in the little alley by the house and thought it was the best thing ever!

We also tried ice skating, which turned out to be quite difficult for both kids, but still was a lot of fun. We also (re)discovered the "Bergbahn" and the Christmas market (which was mostly about the carousel for the kids), and discovered a great indoor pool with slides and lagoons. It felt like paradise!

In France, we also enjoyed the Christmas festivities in my parents' town, which included reindeers, Christmas fireworks and a tiny but cute Christmas market.

Overall, we didn't get great weather, so had to manage with indoor activities. But between playing with all the toys they had gotten for Christmas, meeting the cousins and some indoor activities, the kids had a lot of fun.

The only drawback from not seeing the sun in 2.5 weeks is that we all got sick one way or the other. Charlotte even got an ear infection right on the way back from Europe (poor little thing was so unhappy when we were landing). This was a blow in the vacation where we were expecting to rest and enjoy family. But the nice weather in California soon made up for it, and now we just have the good memories.

And next year, we might try to celebrate our winter break somewhere in the sun!

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