April 9th, 2014

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It is hard to believe that nine months have passed since Max’s birth.  He is becoming such a big boy with a big personality!  Here are a few nine month stats for him.

Weight – 18.739 pounds (8.5kgs)

Height – 68 cm

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Max is a busy, busy boy!  Always on the go and moving, even when he should be sleeping.  That is right folks, he is still a terrible sleeper!!  He taking roughly two naps a day, a short one in the morning (30-45 minutes) and a long one in the afternoon (1.5-2 hours).  But even that is hit or miss.  He is regularly waking up between 5:45 and 6:30 in the morning and we try to get him in bed between 7 and 8 at night.  Although, some nights he wants to play until midnight!  Once he is asleep he will sleep until around 9:30 or 10.  Most of the time I can get him back to sleep right away, but occasionally he will be wide awake for a couple of hours.  He is up and down all night long, with his longest stretch of sleep being 3 hours.  One day maybe he will sleep more.  At nap time he is starting to "put himself to sleep", meaning I rock him for a few minutes and then lay him in the crib.  At which point he will cry until he is asleep.  We can sometimes do this at night, although often we will have to rock or nurse him to sleep.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 279

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Max is crawling all over the place and pulling up on everything.  He is regularly cruising along furniture while holding on.  And a new trick he learned this week was how to stand on his own without pulling up on anything.  He will start by sitting on the floor and then move into the downward dog position.  From there he will stand straight up.  He is so proud of himself when he does it too.  The kids at the hostel think this is so great and will clap and cheer for him each time.  Sometimes when we are clapping for him he will bounce up and down, almost like he is trying to dance.  He can hold this position for quite some time, but hasn’t figured out how to move his legs to walk without holding one to something or somebody.

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I have mentioned it before, but he is absolutely in love with his big sister.  Mikayla can get him to laugh and smile in a way that nobody else can.  He loves being in her presence.  And she loves being with him, most of the time!

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He is into everything.  We really have to watch him these days.  Some of his favorite things are tearing up paper (much to Mikayla’s dismay) and digging through the trash (kind of sounds like we are raising a puppy :-/ ). tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 330

Max loves to play Peek-a-boo.  He has even started moving the blanket up and down to play with us.tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 357

We are working on waving and clapping with him, but so far he just looks at us like we are a bunch of idiots (which might in fact be the case). 

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Max definitely knows his name and will turn towards the person saying it almost every time. 

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Max is making lots of noises too.  He can string together the sounds mama and dada well.  He has also perfected the blowing of raspberries sound.  He really likes to show off this skill when he has food in his mouth!

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Still no teeth for my boy, but he loves to eat regardless and is great at "gumming" almost any food we give him.  A couple of weeks ago he ate all the chicken off of a chicken leg plus veggies!  I am afraid once he gets bigger he will eat us out of house and home.  He loves to feed himself and will often turn down purees.  Some of his favorite foods are fruits of any kinds, especially bananas, avocados and butternut squash.  He also loves Puffs, although our stash is dwindling.  He tried couscous and quinoa this week and really seemed to enjoy both.  Smoothies are also one of his favorite foods.  He can suck well through a straw.  Other things he has eaten and enjoyed are meats (we joke that he is a Swazi man because they love their meats), orange veggies (carrots, butternut, sweet potatoes), green beans, broccoli, bread, and cheddar cheese.  He is not a fan of yogurt though, you should see his face when we offer it to him, pure disgust!  He tried some black beans and chickpeas the other day and enjoyed those, although we try to limit his intake of legumes because he is already a very gassy boy!  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 078

He is 100% a momma’s boy and wants to be around me all the time.  If I leave the room he will crawl after me or cry until I return.  Although if I can distract him long enough to escape he doesn’t seem to notice, only when he can see me go.  He will still easily go to others, especially the staff and kids at the hostel.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 097

At nine months Max has traveled to four different countries.  I was in college before I could say that!  He was even able to visit his home country, the United States, for the first time in January/February.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 363

Our little Max loves to give out kisses, open mouth kisses that is.  He will lunge at your face with his mouth wide open and "suck/kiss" your cheek or chin.  It is very cute if I do say so myself.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 372

He has such a funny disposition too, he is either hot or cold.  Meaning one minute he is as happy as can be laughing and playing and then the next he is screaming his head off!  Crazy how quickly he can switch from one to the other!

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In less than three months we will be planning this big boys first birthday party!!

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Tags: , , | Posted in Life, Parenting |
January 7th, 2014

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I think this picture says it all.  Pops with a smile
on his face while hanging out with his family.

My pops, my dad’s dad was a great man!  He was always full of laughter and fun.  He was also quite the jokester.   The world lost a wonderful man when he passed away this morning.

A few years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a terrible disease, that took him away from us mentally before he was physically gone.  I have had time over the last few years to reflect on his life and what a wonderful man he truly was.

I wanted to share some of the great and funny things he would do with his grandkids to show them how much he cared.

When I was a kid my siblings and I would often head to his house for weeks at a time in the summer to hang out.  In the back of his house, both in North Carolina and Kentucky he had a small wooded section.  We would play back there and collect firewood for camp fires.  Many summer evenings were filled with sitting around the fire.  He also always had a garden.  I remember how he would go to the garden and pick green onions and munch on them while harvesting the rest of the veggies. 

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I have been very fortunate to spend time with both sets of grandparents in my life as well as most of great grandparents.

When you would yawn and he was nearby, he would immediately stick his finger in your mouth!  A terrible trick, but so funny at the same time.

If he was sitting next to you during a meal he would ask if you had ever played motorboat.  Then he would proceed to stick his finger in your food, wiggle it around and say motorboat, motorboat, motorboat!

He would often grab your nose and ask, "Want that any longer?" If you answered yes, he would respond with, "how long?" and pull your nose.  If you answered no, he would respond with, "well then I will take it" and pull your nose.  It was a lose, lose situation for you and a win, win situation for him.

A classic riddle he would do was the two birds named Pete and Repeat.  It went like this:  There were two birds sitting on a fence, one named Pete and the other Repeat.  Pete flew away, so who was left.  We would immediately say repeat, at which point he would start from the beginning.  It was an endless cycle!

Pops was always finding money.  Everywhere we went he was looking on the ground and in machines (pay phones, quarter candy machines, vending machines, etc).  And it never failed, he always found something.

Pops taught me everything I know about people watching.  He could sit and watch folks for hours!

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Saying goodbye to Pops before our big move to Africa.

Playing school was another of his favorite games.  This is a hard one to describe in writing, but I will try.  He would have you fold your hands together and then complete various "school" tasks.  Such as, spelling, math and even music.  When it came time for music he would squeeze your hands hard and when you yelled he said it was singing!

My Pops always worked at the newspaper.  I remember many days making the trip to the office with him to see how things operated!

If you haven’t noticed I love to take tree pics with my kiddos, this is yet another thing I get from my Pops (in combination with my Grandma of course)! 

My pops was a wonderful man and these are just a few of the many things he did to make his children and grandchildren smile!

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Pops with his great granddaughter, Mikayla. 
He loved all his grandkids and great grandkids.

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Tags: | Posted in Life |
January 6th, 2014

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Happy half birthday little boy!  It is hard to believe that six months ago Max joined our family.  He has added so much (and taken away a little sleep ;-) ) to our family.  Here is what he is up to these days.

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Max has become an independent sitter. He still occasionally topples over, but for the most part he is sitting up firmly on his own.  He loves to sit in the middle of his toys and play and throw them across the floor.

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Max adores his sister.  Seriously, he lights up whenever she is near.  She is also one of the few people that can get a belly laugh out of Max.  Mikayla can do this simplest thing, like blow raspberries at him and he is rolling!  It is so precious.  And everyone comments on how much he loves her.

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Max has started to show a little separation anxiety from me.  If he is handed off to someone other than Ben when I am in the room he looks around for me and will often cry and lunge his body towards me.  I guess this is what happens when you spend 24/7 with a baby!

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Max is also still rolling all over the floor and can pretty much get wherever he wants to at a pretty quick speed by doing so.  He isn’t crawling yet, but he arms and legs are pretty strong so I would say it wouldn’t be long before this happens.

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Speaking of strong legs, Max has some serious strength.  He loves standing up when supported by your hands.  He has also started grabbing your hands and pushing up on his own.  I wouldn’t call it "pulling up yet", but that is mostly because he doesn’t have the control of his legs yet.  He definitely has the strength, but he can’t quite figure out how to maneuver his legs in the directions he wants them to go.

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We started Max on solid foods at the beginning of this month.  It was a little early (we didn’t start Mikayla until after six months), but he was nursing so frequently and so active we felt that he was hungry and ready for it.  We were right too.  He took to eating solids very quickly, like a matter of days.  And now whenever he sees a spoon he starts opening his mouth like he wants to eat.  It is so funny.  So far he has had avocado (big fan), banana and butternut squash.  We have also snuck him a few bites of potatoes, hummus, and mango.  Right now he is only getting one meal a day, but he seems to love it!

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Sleep still proves to be an issue with this boy.  He just doesn’t seem to like to sleep, no matter how tired he is!  He is still very much a cat napper and waking up frequently during the night.  He will typically take a nap in the morning and one in the afternoon and maybe a quick one around dinner time.  But none of the times are consistent and lengths vary!  I am not  a super schedule oriented person, but it would be nice to have a little more structure to his sleeping schedules so I can plan the day accordingly!

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Max takes comfort in you standing and walking with him.  If you are sitting with him he cries, but as soon as you stand up he is A OK!  It is only a little annoying ;-) !

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Max is also still chatty.  He loves to make noises and of course laugh and coo.  He has also started to blow bubbles on a more frequent basis.  Daddy also gave him a small hair trim this month too.

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Max took his first trip out of Swaziland this month when we went to South Africa for a mini vacation before Christmas.  He also celebrated his first Christmas (he was not very impressed)! 

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Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
January 5th, 2014

We had a big year in 2013 and 2014 is looking to be just as busy and promising!  Here is a quick recap of what our year looked like.

January

We spent a lot of our January hanging as a family of three, growing a baby and playing with some awesome Christmas toys.  Mikayla played princess soccer quite a bit this month.LOW 6 and 7 and spider 012

February

February marked our first official visitors with a visit from Ben’s cousin Jana and her friend Olivia.  We had a blast showing them around our neck of the woods and prepping for our March visitors (Ben’s parents).  I also celebrated the big 30!

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March

Ben took a trip to Ethiopia for work and Mikayla and I hung back at St. Philips.  We had fun learning about Dr. Seuss and prepping some more for Ben’s parents.  We spent a couple of weeks hosting his parents and showing them around Swaziland and South Africa.  We also had a pig roast in honor of Sr. Diane’s birthday (70), my birthday (30) and Mikayla’s birthday (4).  We even threw in a princess theme for Mikayla!

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April

In April we dyed Easter eggs with some friends and went on a hunt around the yard with the eggs.  We also celebrated a very special girls fourth birthday.  Since we had her party when Ben’s parents were here we just had a mini celebration at the house.  She was very excited about her big present which was her first bike!

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May

In May we worked on making the final preparations for Baby Kickert.  Mikayla also got creative in the kitchen and made a very special birthday cake for her daddy who turned 31 this year.

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June

June was pretty quiet and I was pretty large!  We laid low this month and did a lot of creative play at the house.  You can see Mikayla hanging out in the laundry baskets pretending to be a animals in a cage!  That girl has some serious imagination!!  We spent this month anticipating and guessing when Baby Kickert would make his grand debut.

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July

This was probably the biggest month for us as a family as we welcomed Maxwell Simo Kickert into the world on July 4!  Mikayla was so excited to be a big sister.

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August

We didn’t do much of anything in August except snuggle with our kiddos and try to get some sleep here and there between feeding and wake cycles!  It went by so fast and so slow all at the same time.

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September

We took Max on his first hike up Execution Rock this month.  He slept most of the time so not sure how impressed he was.  Mikayla continue to amaze us with her ability to hike to the top and bottom all by herself.  She is getting so big!!  Speaking of Mikayla, she also started her second year of preschool at home this month.  It took us awhile to get back in the school routine once Max was born.  Mikayla, Max and I took advantage of a holiday with Katie, Bravo and his boys and took a walk to the river for a picnic one day.  Everyone had a blast.

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October

Mikayla practiced her photography skills this month by shooting some pictures of her brother and taking a special walk with daddy to take pictures in the bush.  We also busted out the pool because we had some hot spells.  Max was not so impressed with the pool!  And of course there were lots of snuggle sessions with Max!

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November

We hosted another Thanksgiving meal with some of the Cabrini staff members.  This year we had maintenance and transportation staff over for the big holiday.  The picture below was the highlight of my day.  Fodo, a maintenance staff member, took Max and was really engaging with him. This is unusual for a Swazi man to take interest in a young child.  Typically, the father won’t really look at the baby until they are around six months old.  So this was huge!!

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December

We took a family vacation, with Katie in tow, to Nelspruit for a week.  We spent the week eating lots of food, shopping and enjoying some time away from work.  And of course, we had a great Christmas.  We spent this year at our house, which was a bit unusual for us!  Typically we are away or traveling during Christmas day.  We also had another pig roast on Christmas Eve which was a lot of fun. 

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There you have it folks, a quick look back at our year!  Like I said earlier, it was a busy one! 

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Tags: | Posted in Life |
January 5th, 2014

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas at home, including our annual family photo shoot (we were very tired so we didn’t take as many pictures  as we usually do)!

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Tags: , | Posted in Life, Parenting |
January 5th, 2014

December went by in a blur, partly because I think we stayed so busy! 

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Ben won the daddy of the year award when he played in the rain with Mikayla this month. She had so much fun getting messy with her daddy.

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I spent the first week or two prepping for camp and helping out with it while Ben finished up last minute reports and end of the year work stuff.  Max even made his debut as baby Jesus during the camp play.  He was not so thrilled about this and cried through the whole thing!  After the staff Christmas party we hit the road for a week of fun and relaxation in Nelspruit.

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Decorating sugar cookies at camp.  Both students and staff had a blast with this!!

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Simo and Simo hanging out at the Christmas party

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Max as baby Jesus

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Jabu and Max

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Max hanging out with Bravo

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Max hanging around while we decorated the Christmas tree.

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Max "placing an ornament on the tree".

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Hanging with Katie and Max at the Christmas party.

We spent a few days just the four of us hanging out in Nelspruit eating junk food, shopping and not cooking!  We actually went to the grocery our first day and spent over $100 bucks on junk food and candy.  Totally spoiling ourselves.  Then Katie joined us and we continued the trend.  We ate at some really fancy and yummy restaurants like Orange and Saffron.  You can read an article about both of them here.  We were also able to start and finish all of our Christmas shopping (nothing like a little last minute shopping)!  And of course we took a couple trips to Kruger National Park to "see the animals".  I am hoping to post some of those pictures soon.  Mikayla and Ben even hit up a water park that is in Nelspruit one afternoon while Katie and I shopped.  She had so much fun and that was all she could talk about that evening.  Ben said she was really brave and went down the big slides all by herself.  That kid never ceases to amaze me! 

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Sibling bath time fun!

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Don’t you wish you were this flexible?

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Max wasn’t sure what to think about the rhinos at Kruger.

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Family photo time!

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Max’s first dip in the pool.  He was not a big fan, but to be fair the water was freezing!

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Mikayla loves jumping in the pool!

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On the 22nd we headed back to our house to start prepping for our Christmas festivities.  I spent the 23rd making the annual batch of cinnamon rolls and even made a gluten free batch for Katie.  I also cleaned the house because over the next few days we would have a houseful!  Ben had some friends come in that evening, Chris and Kara, and they stayed through the 26th.  There were also a few other random visitors hanging around the mission that joined us over the next few days.

On the 24th we had a pig roast to celebrate Christmas Eve.  It was a hot day, not sure I will ever get used to it being hot over Christmas.  We had a lovely time and invited pretty much anyone who was still around the mission for the Christmas season.  I think we had between 15-20 folks over for lunch/dinner that day.  Plus I think of all the pig roasts we have had, this was the best cooked pig.  It was so tasty!!

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The next morning was Christmas, so of course Mikayla woke up extra early ready to start the fun.  We had our annual family photo shoot and then opened up packages.  Mikayla was so much fun this year.  She was so excited and appreciative of each and every gift.  She would exclaim things like, "this is brilliant" or "marvelous" each time she opened something new.  We spent the rest of the morning playing with gifts and then hosted a big breakfast for Joe, Katie, Chris and Kara.  It was a fun and relaxing day.  We also managed to play a little Settler’s of Catan that evening. 

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Mikayla talking to Lylah on her brand new Doc McStuffins cell phone.  She thinks she is big time now!!

And that pretty much wraps up our December and our 2013!  January and February will be busy months of traveling (we head to the US in just two weeks)! 

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December 8th, 2013

Max continues to grow and change everyday.  Just when we think we have him figured out, he throws us a curveball and we have to regroup! 

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Mikayla still very much loves her brother and is always trying to love on him, hold him, kiss him, and blow raspberries on his belly.  She is so cute when she talks to him because she sounds just like Ben and I do when we converse with him.  So sweet.

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Sleep still continues to be an issue for this big eyed boy!  Seriously, this past month has been a hot mess for us!  One week he is waking every hour and refusing to nap during the day.  One day he went the entire day, until 3:00, with only half an hour of sleep.  Needless to say we were both ready to be crying at that point because he was so grumpy.  Luckily, he took an hour nap at that point and was ready for bed by 7:00.  I guess he just doesn’t want to miss out on anything, even at night time!  One day maybe…

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This kid is a mover and a shaker!  He is constantly rolling around and reaching for objects.  Once he grasps ahold of something it immediately goes into his mouth, no matter what it is!  The other day he got ahold of some paper and in it went.  We quickly scooped it out though, so no worries.  Mikayla has gotten really good at watching out for this and yelling at us if he is about to grab something he shouldn’t have.  His little legs are getting so strong too.  The other day we were at a meeting at the hostel and he was pushing his legs against a heavy wood table and actually pushing it forward.  The staff were cracking up at him.  One staff member even said, "He is active"!

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He has this funny way of moving about on his back.  We refer to it as the reverse inchworm.  Mikayla used to inch along on her belly and look just like an inchworm.  Max chooses to complete this action on his back.  He arches his back and then pushes off with his feet in such a way that he is able to scoot along the floor fairly quickly.  You really have to watch this kid.  You can get a little glimpse of this movement in the picture below.  I am still trying to capture a good video of it.

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Max has started to sit up on his own more and more.  You still have to really watch him because he can go very quickly from sitting to falling on his head!  And let’s just say he is not very happy when his head smashes on the floor!  He loves to be sitting up though.  We took a trip this month to a little play place that is in town.  He loved sitting in the ball pit and playing with the balls.  He actually got mad when I tried to take him out to play with another toy. 

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Photo credit to Mikayla.

Max has also gotten extra chatty this month.  Once he gets going "talking" it is hard to stop him.  And he has also found his "voice", meaning he can get really loud when chatting.

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I love the face he is making here!

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Max with his "Grow With Me Owl".

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Chilling with his big sis!  He seriously loves this girl!

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Ben decided he had enough of Max’s crazy hair and trimmed it up a bit this past month.  He snipped a little off the top and around the bottom (most of the dark hair).  It has already grown back out though!  He keeps joking he wants to give him a buzz cut, but so far I have been able to persuade him otherwise!

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We didn’t start Mikayla with solid foods until she was six months old, but as much as this boy eats I think we will be starting him sooner rather that later.  I am sure that will be a messy and fun adventure with this kid!

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Photo credit to Mikayla.

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Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
December 1st, 2013

I am not sure where November went, but it flew past!  One day it was October and it seems like the next November was finishing up.  It won’t be long now before our big trip in January.  December is already shaping up to be a busy month with the hostel’s Christmas camp/party, mini holiday getaway with friends, Christmas and New Years!!

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I love this "selfie" of me and my girl!

Since we missed out on Halloween in October we trick or treated in November.  You can read all about the kids costumes and evening here.  It was a fun night and I loved watching Mikayla share her candy with all her friends.

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Hanging out with some friends, watching a movie on the porch.

Speaking of holidays, we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of our staff members again.  You can read about our first year here.  This year we invited the maintenance and transport departments to the feast.  And once again, a feast was had!  There was so much food.  Of course it all quickly disappeared and everyone got to take home a hearty take away pack!

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The feast!

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Feast continuted.

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Dessert spread

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Some guests

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Katie hanging with Mikayla

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Staff member from maintenance department holding Simo.  One of the highlights from the day.  Traditionally Swazi men have little to do with young children, so this was huge that he wanted to play and hold Simo.

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Post Thanksgiving snuggle session on the porch while watching a storm roll in.

And since we are on the topic of food, Mikayla had a first in the food department this month.  One morning she wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast, but she wanted to make them all on her own.  She did everything but turn on the stove and scoop the eggs on her plate.  She was so proud, and I think she did an awesome job!  She really is growing up way too fast.

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Max had a first this month too…his first overnight!  Oh dear, it was a bit of a mess.  I will leave it at there were four kids, all 4 and under (two under the age of 1) and not a one of them wanted to sleep that night!  The babies took turns crying throughout the night.  If one wasn’t going the other was!  And the two older kiddos also had a little trouble sleeping and had some bad dreams.  Needless to say we were all exhausted the next day, but still had a lot of fun playing!  We took part of our trip into town to go to a local play place called Neverland.  Mikayla and Max actually had the whole place to themselves so they played and played and loved every minute of it.  You can actually drop the kids there and come back to get them, so I left Mikayla to play and Max and I went to the grocery store.  It was much easier to shop without having to keep up with Mikayla!  All in all it was a great couple of days away from the mission, and despite the lack of sleep, everyone had a great time!

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Unfortunately, November was not kind to the Kickert’s tummies.  We all three came down with some sort of stomach bug at the end of the month.  Ben had it the worst, but Mikayla was not her usual peppy self for a couple of days after.  Luckily, we were feeling mostly better in time for our annual Thanksgiving feast.

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Max was not quite sure what to make of all the picture taking while he was sitting on his own.

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Sibling Love

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She wanted to wear the towels like mommy does after her shower one night.

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Tags: , , | Posted in Life |
November 28th, 2013

The Adkins side of my family has a tradition with taking pictures in trees (You may have caught on to this from past posts).  Max is still a little young to be sitting in a tree on his own, but we tried our luck last night and came up with a couple of decent shots. 

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Look mom, I’m flying!

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Unimpressed.

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And a little scared!

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What, you don’t hang out in a tree everyday?

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Tags: , , , | Posted in Life, Parenting |
November 27th, 2013

We have been a little obsessed with playing Boggle as a family lately.  Ben and I have even been keeping track of score totals and how many games we have each won.  (I won’t brag here about who is winning that contest though!)  But I do want to take the time to brag on Mikayla a little bit. 

She loves to play Boggle with us, but never really writes down words.  It started with her just writing down any letter that she knew how to write.  Gradually we were able to convince her to write down letters she saw on the board.  Then over time, she took it upon herself to write actual words using some of the letters she saw.  Here is her most recent attempt at writing some of those words.  We were both very proud of her attempts!

Max 5 month photo shoot 012

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