Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sophia in Africa

Sophia is 4 3/4 years old. :) She loves pink, her friends, doing art projects, collecting things, and preschool. Some things she doesn't like are getting her hair done, quiet time, and doing things for and/or by herself. Probably almost all of her life she remembers has been these 6 month moves. Overall, she gets excited for each move and has settled well into each new location. For a few weeks before a move and about a month after a move, however, we've noticed she is VERY emotional. She whines a lot and throws a lot of tantrums - in addition to the ones she does regularly. (I feel like she whines more than the average kid... does everyone feel that way or am I a pushover parent without realizing it?) Even though I know the HUGE changes associated with moving are what causes her excessive moodiness, it doesn't make it much easier for me to stay calm in the moment!

Despite her current cranky phase, she is a very good girl. She has a loving heart, cares about safety, and always wants to do what's right. She loves fun, silliness, and asking questions to learn more about her world. Lately, Russ has taught her to say her personal prayers. So in the few nights I get to put her to bed (Grace won't let Russ put her to bed, only me, so most nights I am with Grace instead of Sophia), as we kneel next to her bed and she silently says her personal prayer, I take those 30 seconds to say my own personal prayer, exclusively to thank the Lord for my sweet Sophia and pray for Him to bless her. It's always a really beautiful way to end even her crankiest and most frustrating days.

When I took pictures of Grace for her 2nd birthday, I also wanted to get some pictures of Sophia in her African dress in Africa! We love our blonde hair, blue-eyed 4 year old!

 Some of the "Sophia's choice" poses....

Grace Turns 2!

Grace is adorable. She has a big personality in that little body! She's snuggly, a total momma's girl, wants to be a "bee girl" and do whatever "sis sis" is doing. Strangers often comment on her light blue eyes and super curly hair. When she wakes up in the morning, one of the very first things she does is request to wear a "church dress". She has a tiny riding car she zooms around on with incredible energy and speed. When she doesn't leave the house on that, she's usually pushing her baby doll in a stroller. She often plays "mommy" to her baby and is so cute - cuddling it, singing to it, tucking it in, and giving kisses. Grace also screams when she wants things and hits when she gets mad. She freaks out when she thinks someone is even close to taking her toys (second child, problem!). She talks pretty well and the things she mispronounces are adorable. There's a lot more I could say about this 2 year old, but I'll sum it up by saying I can't imagine our lives without her!

When the kids are too little to have an opinion on their birthday party themes, I center it on things they like. This year was being outside (sunshine/summer). There really aren't too many places to get off camp and go, so it was a pretty quiet day. We watched cartoons, Russ came home for lunch, Sophia helped me decorate during Grace's nap, we played, and then had two families over for dinner and cake. I am ashamed of the sparse decorating job, but when you live in a different country - you have to make due!

Imagine "Grace is Turning One" really says "Grace is Turning Two" - I originally planned to do this party theme last year :D

Cake and party favor bags. Grace and Sophia helped me bake the cake the day before, and later that night, I frosted it. Grace came down, saw it, gasped, and said, "Happy Birthday cake!!! I get bowl." She was not very happy when I told her she had to wait until the next day. 

I had big plans for making Grace a shirt with a sun appliquéd on it with a skirt made with matching fabric. Welllllll I decided to commission a Nigerian lady here to do it for me. The shirt is 100% not what I was expecting, and she told me there wasn't enough fabric to make a skirt (....don't know about that...) so maybe what I wanted got lost in translation. BUT Grace still loved her "Happy Birthday shirt" and that's what matters!

 Grace had to pull herself away from her new toys to say goodbye to her guests! 

 The kid table at dinner. :) You can tell by the tiara that Sophia secretly thought this was *her* day. She opened all the presents and cried about the unfairness and how she would never get to play with ANY OF THE TOYS, EVER, and told us we needed to go to the store and get her all the same ones. (drama!)

 And it just wouldn't be a true representation of Grace if we didn't get at least one picture of her making a strange face. 

 I finally got some 2 year old pictures of Grace this week. I wanted to take them with all of the tropical African foliage before we move this week.

 She was excited to hold the 'S' :D

 The dress is definitely getting too small for her, but she has a mind of her own and rejected what I wanted her to wear. Still cute to see a bit of those baby thighs, though. :)

 The first few minutes of pictures, she was cooperative. This was about the time I'd say, "Grace, let's go over here" or "Can you do ___?" and she'd very sweetly say, "No momma."

Taking a break to pick some "ra-foos" (flowers) 

She posed and made silly faces all on her own 


I love those squishy baby cheeks! 

The big girls were trying to help me get her to laugh 

In an effort to get Grace to smile, we had a "contest" to see who had to prettiest smile. Grace saw right through that trick! The three big girls look very pretty, though! 

I wish I were as talented as my friend, Stephanie, who took pictures of Sophia when she was around 2. She was SO good at not only taking beautiful pictures, but helping the kids feel comfortable and show their personality. Grace has SO much personality, and I know my pictures didn't do her justice. 
I did try to re-create a pose Stephanie got of Sophia... 

But when I asked Grace to put her hands under her chin like I remembered Sophia did in the picture, my result was:
hahahah Have you seen a more bored / "why do I put up with this?" face!? This girl! 

She may not have cooperated as much as I'd hoped for pictures, but she's adorable and we love her! She makes me laugh all day long. 

#21 Nigeria - Life in Pictures (Month 6)

TWO MORE DAYS! These past 6 months have gone by quickly in hindsight, as these rotations always do. This was not my favorite place we've lived, but I truly do appreciate all the experiences we've had. We learned a lot about the culture (both interesting, good, and annoying :D) and met such a great group of people here on the compound. That's been the best part of all of these 6 month rotations - all the wonderful friends we've made! Here are pictures from our last month in Africa!

Out on a walk with some super-stylish girls! 

Harley: the first dog the girls have ever liked!  

Another wonderful girls' lunch without kids! That's one of the biggest luxuries I'll miss about being here.  

Russ is able to walk to work (it's connected to the compound), so we meet him sometimes on his way home. 

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Our best friends in Nigeria. We are going to miss them! Sophia learned their phone number, and the other girls learned ours, so when they're not actually together, they're usually calling each other multiple times a day to plan their next playdate. 

The whole dinner party for the evening! Everyone we've met here is so nice! 

We had another CRAB ENCOUNTER! The first one happened to Grace and I, and this one happened to Sophia. It's so creepy the way they both hung out right at our door! Luckily, this time the gardner was nearby and bravely fought him off for us :D

 MONEY EXCHANGING DAY! It has been weird to deal completely in cash (or, more accurately, Naira) these past 6 months. I can't say it's helped me budget any better than I already did, but I have had anxious moments at the grocery store, worrying I hadn't brought enough money with me. I'll be glad to use my credit cards again.

The helicopter pad is RIGHT across the street from our house. We've probably only seen about 10, but it's pretty exciting every time - especially for the girls.  

Russ cleaning/repairing the church and grounds with the elders quorum. Our car is in the background. It was probably the only car at that activity - only about 6 families in the ward have their own cars to bring to church. The rest walk or take public transportation, but they're still there every week: in rain, flooded roads, or oppressive heat! 

Almost every single person we ever even exchanged small talk with at church asked us for jobs or financial assistance at some point (and always asked for $200 or more...from people they didn't even know!). It definitely got uncomfortable sometimes, but we paid a generous fast offering each month and the bishop also counseled us early on to send people who ask for money to him. In addition to that, Russ spent DOZENS of hours on the weekend and in the evenings helping members work on college applications or write resumes since most needed money because work is hard to come by. He has a more kind and giving heart than I do, and although sometimes was frustrating for me, I am happy to have such a generous husband.

Russ's work group gave him a beautiful send-off dinner at a restaurant in town. Several of his co-workers gave very complimentary speeches about him. Everyone especially mentioned how kind, friendly, helpful, and calm Russ is (I thought it was particularly interesting they noticed that specifically because Nigerians are not calm people. They get very fired up!). Several of the ladies told me I am very lucky to have him, one noting that he is not like "an African man" because he always called me before doing something. :) I also thought that was funny since I never realized that was atypical behavior. They gifted Russ and I with matching, custom-made Nigerian outfits (he's wearing his shirt in the picture), gave wood statues to the girls, and... us another enormous cake!!

 Look at those happy girls! I love this picture! Russ's boss joined us for this one, and can we take a minute to notice how HUGE my tummy looks!? Sheesh!

25 weeks pregnant last week. I'm not sick, tired, or sensitive to smells anymore (THANK GOODNESS), but my stomach feels really stretched uncomfortable, my ribs are uncomfortable, bending down is an awful lot of work, and I still have 3 months to go!! :'( Grace finally understands there's a baby on the way, and Sophia likes to hug and kiss my tummy after family prayers each night.

Sophia asked me to make newspaper hat, mittens, and scarf for "Buildy". I was pretty proud of my work (I had to google how to make the hat, and I was reminded of Tyler, who surely would've known how to do it WITHOUT google).

Grace finally decided she likes the pool....on our last week here. Hopefully we find a pool she likes in Bakersfield, too!

I'll take a better picture later, but look what showed up at our house this week!? THE LEAVING LION, all dressed up to represent California. :) The girls love having it in our yard. Grace roars and says, "Hi Rwar" every time we go outside.