Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Yep, I'm a big honking geek

I have fallen in love, sort of. I've said before the Russian language has gotten its hooks into me in a bad way, and the love affair seems to only be growing, maybe in light of our impending breakup (at least temporarily). After a recent lesson on Pushkin wherein my teacher impressed upon me his significance to Russia and why he is THE poet of the country my current dream is to read (and most importantly, duh, understand) him in his mother tongue. The more Russian I know, the more Russians I speak with, the more certain I am that no translation between these 2 languages can ever properly capture the essence.

I am also once again signed up for the distance learning, but this time there is a new course - Consular Russian. I'm learning the language and idiom necessary to talk to visa applicants about their plans to visit the USA. And I am loving it.

I had said that if I passed the language test in December I'd slow way down, and it is true I no longer do much homework, but ...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sennaya Ploschad haul

In the regular grocery stores right now, we can choose from apples, pears, oranges, and mandarins. And some globe grapes that aren't worth the necessary de-seeding for the littles.

Today we ventured to Sennaya for the first time in a long time. We got: 2 kilos kish-mish grapes; 1.5 kilos finger bananas (first time ever seeing them in Piter!); 1 kilo mandarin; 1 mango; 2 kilos granat; 2 kilos apples; 1.5 kilo pears; 1 kilo plums; and 1 fruit item I had never seen before but described to me as like an apple and sweet (1 piece was 1/2 kilo). Veggie-wise we didn't get as much, but still the kilo of zucchini, half kilo of winter squash, pack of snow peas will get us partway through the week.

Because the kids get up so early, we're in and out and back home by 10:30am, so no traffic, no parking troubles. It's a good day, and I can't wait to gobble up the fruit salad.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ice skating @ Elagin

Both kids have been talking about skating lately. This is due partly to the partial thaw then re-freeze of the city a few weeks ago, which rendered all sidewalks mini-rinks. But, as Terry is hell-bent on getting Zoltan into hockey, the day will have to come sooner or later that he dons skates and hits the ice (hoping, of course, not to really "hit" the ice too hard or too often).

Elagin island - already our family favorite place - has a free, open, outdoor ice rink. I think in the summer they just call it "ground" or maybe "pond". Terry and Alex already have skates, so for the price of 400 rubles to rent skates for Z and me for an hour, the family had a great morning! Both kids said they wanted to go again, although Zoltan said another day - not again today.

 Lunch ended up taking forever so we didn't get home until deep into normal nap time, and both kids had fabulous naps. There's nothing like fresh air and exercise :-)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

That's our flag!

There's some big international soccer tournament thing going on soon. Posters and billboards are up all over town. There's one on the way to detsky sad.

As we walked past the other day, Zoltan stops to look at it. He studies the row of flags at the bottom, which indicate the countries that will participate.  He gets excited, points and yells "That's OUR flag mommy! The bottom left."  Yup, the one I figured he was going to notice. It's red, and white and blue. One stripe of each. For the Russian Federation.

I guess it's better than last summer, when he yelled at the top of his voice upon seeing any flag at all (mind you, this was in Washington, DC) "Look mommy, a flag of Russia!"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Things to come?

Last night at dinner Zoltan put the opposite end of his fork into his mouth, drew a breath, pursed his lips and blew out. I was astonished, so he did it again before I could say anything.
"Did you see adults doing that outside?"
"YEP. It's my blowing stick." Big smile, so proud.

Now, he could have seen this outside any office building in the USA, or quite frankly any weekend at his grandfather's. Please, please, do not let my boy pick up smoking when he gets older.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

One Little Word

This phenomenon has apparently been going on for several years but I'm only hearing of it this year. I'm not exactly au courant in general so why would this be different?

One word, that is meant to be a theme for your year. It can be something you aspire to, something to remind yourself of, something to think about. You determine what it means to you.

At first, I hesitated to write anything about my word on the blog. It seemed too revealing, too much information put out into the world for strangers to know (the irony will be apparent in a moment).

So ... here it is. My word for 2013.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Puppet show

Our last "big thing" for the long week was a trip to the puppet show with a friend. The show was a riff off The Nutcracker, with a similar theme of a girl loves her Christmas gift nutcracker, dreams of him being real and there's a fight with the mouse king, but there the similarities end. The theatre did a great job of moving between puppets and actors, and employing some other media forms - at one point we saw a very short film about the history of the animosity between the nutcracker-prince's family and the mice. It involved kielbasa.

After the show there was the obligatory Ded Maroz sighting, and the actors were available for photos. The children also did some singing and dancing and as usual, although my kids knew the songs perfectly, they had no intention of joining in. No worries, they were happy spectators.

Christmas Market

There's an annual Christmas market held off Nevsky for the weeks surrounding and including the January holiday. We went last year, but the kids were small and we had gone at night and in the end we didn't stay long and didn't do much.

This year we went early in the day, which was a benefit for many reasons. The crowds were much smaller. We noticed the honey stalls and got to spend some time tasting the various kinds, although as usual we bought the white honey. Oh goodness will we miss Russian honey when we return home!

Then off to the rides. They had a merry go round and a few other preschooler-appropriate rides. Alex definitely has the thrillseeker in her, she'll go on all the roller coasters with Terry one day. Zoltan was visibly thrilled on the train ride. I think I see train adventures in our future - a stop in Jim Thorpe for sure during home leave!

 We were all starting to get cold, so each kid got to choose a treat and off for home we went. We didn't notice Zoltan fall asleep, but he still had a piece of his cookie in his hand when he awoke back home. It was just the thing to keep him happy as we had to wake him, get him out of the stroller and out of his winter gear. Unfortunately, it seems the 10 minute nap so refreshed him that he didn't sleep during naptime. Rough all around.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


The science museum in the mall is still awesome, and the kids again were entertained for the entire 2 hours we were there until everyone started getting hungry and grumpy. It is small, though, and our annual trip is probably often enough.

One surprise hit was that Zoltan loved the planetarium show. We sat through it 3 times. He also couldn't get enough of the exhibit where he got to "make a crater" by pressing a button that released a "meteor" onto a flat dusty ground. Boom! about a hundred times. The magnets were their usual hit, with each kid returning to that exhibit a few times.

There's also a huge foam ottoman-height seat that we let Zoltan bounce around on. Because we don't have a bouncy castle as home he could use or anything.
 Of course we got no photos of the things the kids loved the most, we were too busy doing stuff with them.

Tropical Butterfly House

Not too far from Sadovaya, in the middle of a block and otherwise unremarkable except for the butterflies painted all around and above the door, is a tropical butterfly paradise. Kept at 28 degrees Celsius (steamy warm for you Fahrenheit folk), the butterflies are thrilled and the patrons are warned not to use their cameras for 10 minutes to let the fog steam off.

The downside to the trip is that I only remembered that Zoltan is afraid of butterflies that morning, after we already promised Alex we'd go and quite frankly, both Terry and I wanted to see it. In the end, Zoltan spent about 3 minutes in the butterfly area, then spent the rest of the hour or so there eating his snack and playing with his cars in the outer area, accompanied by me and Terry in turn. The extra down side is because it was only Terry and Alex, nobody got the photo of his handing the butterfly off to her (which I could at least see) or when a butterfly walked from his leg up to his chest (which only Alex witnessed).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Big Boy Bed

For the last few weeks, Zoltan has been begging to sleep in the big bed. Unfortunately for spontaneity, he has a bad habit of falling out of bed during the night and the configuration of his room was not conducive to helping his stay put. Today we finally moved the room around, got the bed against a wall and packed away the toddler bed.

Our baby is growing up!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The best laid plans

We planned to go to the Butterfly House today, or whatever it's precisely called in Russian. Alex was so excited, one of the girls in her class had gone and told them about it. We got all the snacks and toys together for the trip, got the kids on the potty then into their car seats, and ... my seatbelt won't extend long enough to buckle. It's been finicky for a while now but never life-threatening. We're having a ridiculous thaw right now, temps over freezing and everything is icy (Russia, you should be ashamed of yourself showing such warm weather!). Given that driving here is like driving in Philly, nobody thinks it's a good idea to risk Mommy's life so we abort the plan. New plan for the day: Terry tears apart the car to see if he can fix the seatbelt and a few other things he's been meaning to get to while he's there.

A while later he comes in with the car part we need to replace. He writes down every bit of info he thinks I might need, tells me where there's 2 car parts stores nearby, and wishes me luck. The first place just says no they don't have the part. At the second place I think to ask where I could find it after they also tell me they don't have it. The guy tells me a bunch of things I don't quite understand, but I am pretty sure the gist is that "People go to mechanics to get this kind of part replaced. It is very difficult to do it yourself." At least, I caught the word for "difficult" and in the context, he must have been saying something like that. He asks me what make of car it is, then points to a stack of flyers like what you get at the grocery store, all about car repair shops or car parts.

Of course, this being a holiday, the place Terry tried to go to is closed. Our plans may get a bit restricted in the next few days without the car. The good news? Everything we actually need is within walking distance.

Oh Piter, there are so many things about you I will miss dearly when we leave.