What a year 2016 has been. During the year, we have been in eight different countries and seen some stunning sights around the world. Our boys have grown so much, and we have all learned new and wonderful things about this world we live in.
Here for his annual post, Derek has the Swanson Family's Year in Review for 2016.
2016 has been a great year for the Swanson family. We added 6 new countries to our family map, moved to a new apartment, adopted a kitten, and watched as the boys grew.
We turned our focus to moving apartments in May, leaving the KFC Building for Al Shaheen Towers, above the Choithrams Grocery Store. The new apartment included parking, and was equally close to the Corniche, while providing us with nearly twice as much space. The move was able to happen about six weeks early, which meant that we were not moving in before the end of the school year. Prior to moving in, the apartment was painted, cleaned, and had general maintenance, so it was very comfortable to get situated.
In June we were finishing the school year, and left for our European summer adventure, which lasted to the end of July. It was Ramadan at the end of the school year, which meant that we had to make some minor changes, such as making sure that we didn't eat or drink in public, made sure to keep the car stereo off, and dressed a bit more conservatively than usual. One of the highlights of Ramadan was getting to go to an Iftar buffet, which is where the fast is broken. The variety of food, and the ambiance was unlike anything that we had previously experienced. Soon after school finished, we boarded a plane to Munich, Germany, to begin the summer fun. In Germany, we hit Legoland, checked out the Neuschwanstein Castle, and toured downtown Munich. Then we rode a sleeper train to Amsterdam where we saw the canals, the Resistance Museum, and met lots of our extended family. After a week in The Netherlands, we took a train to Paris, France where we enjoyed a remarkable bike tour of the city. We spent the remainder of our summer spending more time in Croatia and a little time in Rome. We fell in love with the Mediterranean lifestyle and are already plotting ways to get back to the area. After a flight back to Munich, we returned to Abu Dhabi to settle a bit more into the new apartment before the school year started.
Before the summer was up, we adopted a new kitten, an orange Arabian Mau, that we named Sandy, went to the Emirates Palace for a golden cappuccino, and made sure that we were ready for the start of school.
For the Eid holiday, we decided to make our way to Muscat, Oman. Muscat is about a six hour drive from Abu Dhabi, so we packed the kids into the car and drove through the desert for a five day stay. We saw dolphins, explored some new cities, and spent lots of time swimming! Later in October, the hockey season started, where Derek was playing for a new team, the Yas Island Bananas. We also attended the Fall Festival at school, where Owen and Oliver were part of a parade, had snacks, and played games. Oliver continued swimming lessons, Owen played basketball, and Becca coached Owen's team. Additionally, Owen started playing soccer for a local club, with one game a week, and one practice a week.
In November we camped near the Omani border, including S'mores, a zip line, and dune bashing. Becca continued her graduate work, Owen was playing soccer with passion weekly, Oliver built the Burj Khalifa out of boxes at school, and I helped to compete in the robotics nationals.
Oliver's birthday started off December, with him turning five years old. Oliver is obsessed orange, Star Wars, and reading. It's great see his imagination come to life. We were able to have a great set of family photos captured, then we welcomed Oma and Opa, Scott and Mary, to Abu Dhabi. Every day with them has been an adventure, with fishing, a tour of the Grand Mosque, a trip to the Burj Khalifa, and more, we had a great time finishing out 2016.
Although every month finds us with loads of activities, have dinner as a family nearly every night, we make time for play with the boys, and read together frequently. Family is important, and we make sure to treasure each other often. We are proud of how much the boys changed for the better over the last 12 months, and we look forward to how 2017 will be better.
Day 13: We drove back out to the Al Wathba area to show off the Wetlands Reserve which is home to thousands of flamingos every winter. We had a nice 3km walk around the reserve and saw quite a few flamingos. We spent the afternoon resting--the boys have been going pretty hard every day while Oma and Opa have been here.
We know Christmas is approaching quickly because our Elf on the Shelf, Snowy, has been up to shenanigans. The boys love discovering the elf's antics each morning but are equally as excited to open their Star Wars Lego advant calendar. Oliver told me the other day that "December is the best month ever!" Ah, to be a child around Christmas time...
In addition to all the usual Christmas hulabaloo, the excitement around our house has been enhanced by the anticipation of some upcoming visitors. My parents get here in less than a week, and the boys are insanely excited to see them. They have been working hard to get the house ready for our first visitors in Abu Dhabi! There are so many holiday decorations in our house now that I'm not actually sure where my parents will put their suitcases.
After a gorgeous night in the desert, we headed back to Abu Dhabi to check out the National Day celebrations. We got to see an incredible air show over the corniche and then watched a sliver of a firework show from our balcony. Happy 45th National Day!