Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year / С Новым Годом

Happy birthday to me!

What an auspicious start to my birthday. Piles of dirty dishes and laundry. Squabbling children. The conversation with Alex this morning went like this:
Me: What do you want for breakfast?
A: Muffins
Me: We don't have any defrosted. I'll take some out but they are frozen solid and won't be ready until lunchtime.
Me: So what do you want for breakfast?
A: Muffins
Me: Do you want to try to eat a frozen one?
A: No.
Me: So what do you want for breakfast?
A: Muffins

It got even "better" when, after a lot of screaming and crying actual tears she tells me we have some in the cabinet. Because I love the sound and sight of her screaming and crying so much I'd lie to her about having any defrosted when we had some in the cabinet? I don't think so.

Naptime: Zoltan won't sleep, calls for me every 20 minutes and is hysterically crying because I keep telling him to go to sleep.Finally, I tell him to give me 10 minutes and I'll be back to let him get up. I show him what the clock will look like. I go away and pour a drink. 10 minutes later I dutifully poke my head in and hear that most glorious sound - deep even breathing.

And, I have my one little word (heard about this for the first time last week and already loving it!); I ate some ice cream from the Last Pint of Haagen Dasz; and my birthday roast duck is in the oven. We have plans for tonight that should be fun and the baby monitor seems to be working again after a week of constant interference.

And I live in this beautiful city

And sometimes the kids are like this

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Practice for January holiday

Between our wonderful surprise of Terry getting the 24th off, to the kids not feeling 100% and later having doctor's appointments, the kids and I just spent 6 days together (Terry was there for 4 of them). In between the fighting, chores, cooking, eating and naps, we managed to...

paint toes

work on puzzles
make a popcorn string for the Yolka
  read books
 play with the new train set

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The Russian word Ёлка can mean either a decorated evergreen tree (much like a Christmas tree, but in celebration of New Year) or for a children's event that at some point in time takes place around such tree.

Like last year, we got ourselves a little tree for the house. Unlike last year, we also went to the other kind of  Ёлкa. It was held in a former palace, which is now called unofficially the "Children's Palace" because all the citywide afterschool cultural stuff (dance, instruments, choirs, etc) are held here. It's a pretty sweet deal, nothing like it in the USA, kids get free instruction and it's open to all city kids.

Anyway. We walk in, strip off the millions of layers between the kids and their adorable outfits, everyone changes into their indoor shoes, and we take a few photos in front of the first sparkly flashing tree sitting in the lobby area (after watching a couple of Russians do the same). 

Then upstairs where a couple of ladies are leading the kids in singing and dancing what I can only assume are somewhat traditional New Years songs because Alex knew all the words. The kids, of course, didn't participate but were happy to watch. One of the helpers told another mom that the next room was quieter if she wanted to bring her kid there, so we did too. More trees, this time all white.

Then the performance.  The "seats" at the front were a sea of golden bean bag chairs. 

I was annoyed the one lady refused to let Zoltan sit with Alex, she assured me he would definitely cry unless he was with his parents. We ended up in the first row of proper chairs, and there were some bean bags there too, so it wasn't too bad. We watched ... well I'm not exactly sure what it was. It started with Snegurichka (a.k.a. Snow Maiden. She's Father Frost's granddaughter and helps him with his gift-delivery to good children duties) supposed to meet up with Ded Maroz (a.k.a. Father Frost) but he wasn't there, then she seemed to get imprisoned and there was a mischievous character.... well there was singing and dancing and sparkly costumes and the kids sat still for 45 minutes watching it - not a major feat for Alex who is used to longer performances but I was happily surprised about Zoltan. 

That's Snegurichka and Ded Maroz in the middle there.
  After the show we got let out into a series of rooms with games and things to play with and on. A huge slide that looked like a snake. A little play house like what you might have outside in your yard. A stack of large foam "blocks" like at Gymboree.
 We played for a while but the kids were already tired and hungry so it wasn't more than 30 minutes. Then to collect our presents - big boxes of candy - and home.


We had a party the other night. It was an amazing demonstration of how ingrained some habits have become. Zoltan did a pretty good job of playing on his own most of the night, but right around 7:45pm he came to me and asked me to read him a book. When nothing happened after the book, he asked for another. It was like he knew this was when we read books, then go to bed. He ended up staying up another hour then went to bed without any complaints. He was ready!

Alex was less a slave to her biological needs. However, by 10pm she could barely fight it. Rather than go to bed, though, she lay on the couch with a blanket. Our neighbor's 8 year old decided that looked good and accepted a blanket and the other couch (mind you, that one had been trying to go home to go to bed for at least 1/2 hour!). As the party was a "right after work" thing, by 10pm things were well wound down, with only our neighbors left. Socializing after we leave Post will never be as convenient.

Of course, even after the last folks left, people were in the building's hallway chatting and petting our new neighbor's amazing dog. I even let Alex out after she was in her Pjs and teeth brushed. If all dogs were like this one, I might fight Terry less on getting one. Transporting them all over the world would probably be the thing that stopped me - thankfully he also hates the idea so the fight for the pet is pretty well deferred til retirement.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It was like her Kryptonite

My daughter is pretty amazing. She can watch the nurse give her a shot (I close my eyes). The other day, when a cart loaded with headless carcases rolled past our path, her question to me was "What is that?" and when I explained they were animals to be cut up for food and judging from their size I thought it might be lamb, she said she thought they looked more like pigs.

She's also a crafty girl. Loves a good project. We thought she'd love the paper making kit we bought for Hanukkah. Oh, wow, was that a mistake.

When we poured the watery pulp into the tray and started working with the screen to get the layer of paper properly flat and squeeze out the extra water, she gagged. Gagged!

So Terry and I moved quickly, and it turned out there was only enough pulp for 2 pages anyway. I'm proud of our creation ... but I don't think we'll be repeating the process for a long, long time.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Last weekend we were finally all healthy enough to go enjoy some winter fun! The hill at Tavrichesky isn't really too big or steep, but it's perfect for the preschooler.
 Zoltan's sock kept slipping down so he made us take off his boot, which always brought the sock with it, and adjust. Several times. I have to put in a pitch for Kamik now, every time his feet were toasty. More than I can say for my Bogs (which have served me well for 3 winters here so far so I don't want to dis them too badly). It was around -20C that day so we had to be pretty bundled.
Do you see the sunrise-y glow on the building there? yeah, it was around 11:30am.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My kids are super perceptive, except when they aren't

A few weeks ago, Terry trimmed his hair and beard after the kids went to bed. The first thing Alex said to him when she saw him the next morning was "You don't look like you."

This week, I had about 9-10 inches (INCHES!!!) cut off my hair while the kids were in school. I went to each kid's holiday performance, got home, had dinner. Only while talking with Terry about taking a photo of the super short haircut while it was still all cute and styled did Alex finally realize my hair was shorter. This was about 2-3 hours after she first saw me post-haircut.

Yeah, I think we know who's special and who gets taken for granted around here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Alex's Poem

This is why we wanted to put Alex and Zoltan in a Russian preschool.  Their ability to speak Russian and sound very close to a native is amazing.  Especially to me who is having such a hard time learning this language.  Seeing Alex easily recite a poem in her non-native language is truly wonderful to see.  Zoltan also had a poem for his class' Prazdnik and practice the poem to point that he was very good at it.  Unfortunately he was not interested in performing for an audience.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmukkah Miracle

I am sitting at #17 on the Consular register.  That slot - according to the shadow register - would be the "oldest" 5.47 on the list. The only possible meaning: I  PASSED RUSSIAN!!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In the spirit of giving ... or not

We have decided the last night of Hanukkah is "donation night".  Instead of giving the kids toys, we handed them the envelopes from the organization Bubby donated to in their names. We talked about doing what we can to make sure every person has enough food to eat, or warm enough clothes, and mentioned a few of the places we've donated to in the recent weeks and the different ways they help people. I reminded Alex of a few weeks ago when we boxed up old toys and clothes and filled the car to the brim to donate them to the IWC Bazaar. We talked about the good feeling we get when we know we've helped someone.

As we talk, her face gets sadder and sadder. Finally, I asked what was wrong.

"I want a present."
"So you aren't sad about all the little children who didn't just get 7 nights of presents?"

I guess 5 is a little young to get it. We'll try again next year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Auntie Heather & Uncle Howie's Hanukkah presents arrived in today's mail. This was a bit of a Hanukkah miracle, as tonight the kids got pajamas from mom and dad. Zoltan was handed his package and said without even opening it yet, said "I don't like this one".

I think they may need a lesson in gratitude and appreciation. Maybe spending some time with no toys other than a red pencil and a blue pencil might just be the trick (as a friend's aunt had during the Soviet days).

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like winter ...

We finally got enough snow and some time to get the kids outside playing in it this weekend. Maybe next weekend will bring sledding?

I've got my life back!

The downside to the language exam being over, is that I am 95% sure I didn't pass. I now know what I need to focus on, as well as hoping and praying that if rumors are true that the level I need to pass is about to increase to S-3 from S-2, that it doesn't happen before I re-take the test in June.

I'll report back to confirm when I get the results, which should be somewhere between a week and 3 weeks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah

The first night of Hanukkah went astoundingly well. I made latkes for the first time (fondly remembering the time my husband's sister kindly made them and I was not able to give any advice, not having ever done it myself). The kids were almost as excited for the candle lighting as they were for the presents. They loved the Hanukkah song I sang and wanted to hear it again.

And the presents! Tonight came courtesy of Bubby, whose gifts are the only ones, save ours, that have arrived.

There was even a little something for us ... a gorgeous new sheet & comforter set that was a joy to nap in.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Alex's new favorite colors

So last night Alex announced that she has new favorite colors. Red and green. Being the time of year that it is, and being the Jew that I am (and she is, although she doesn't understand anything about it yet) I hold my breath after asking her why those colors.

The answer: because those are the colors apples are.

That's my girl! Well, that's actually more like Terry's girl, but why quibble.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


until my language test. It's next week. My Russian teacher today gave me a mock interview, guessing at the types of questions I may get on the Real Thing. After incorrectly conjugating the very first verb I ever learned, then making the same wrong-case mistake with one of the most common words in conversational Russian three times in a row, I have decided this: I need more exercise and meditation, and not necessarily more studying.

And if the exam goes as badly as things went today, I can always hope and pray the removal of the grandfathering clause that lets me get my points at a mere level 2 rather than 3 waits another 6 months, although the rumors are growing that it is imminent.