Thursday, October 29, 2015

Back on the meds :-(

Haven't written in a while about Alex and dairy, because I thought we had everything figured out. I mean, the coughing is over (knock on wood) and what seemed like occasional heartburn was manageable with an occasional Tums. Last week she revealed that she has heartburn nearly every night (when she complains about it, it's almost always at bedtime) but she only complained to us when it was worse than just a little uncomfortable. After a conversation with our health practitioner, we started her on the bottle of Ranitidine we had gotten this summer in the USA "just in case." Less than a week in, she already says she feels much better.

We had thought butter was OK because it didn't trigger the coughing, but apparently it isn't OK. Our plan is for now, we keep butter and she takes meds. When we get back to the USA next year, where vegan margarine exists (because yes, margarine has dairy!!), we'll see about weaning her off. I am ever more grateful our next post is in Western Europe, where you can get soy yogurt and 3 kinds of non-dairy milk at the corner 7-11-type store.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

American History in a Box

American kids growing up abroad miss out on US history. Stories abound of children experiencing their very first year in a U.S. public school in their third, sixth or tenth grade, devastated because they don't know the Pledge of Allegiance or which states were the original 13 colonies. U.S. History in a Box fills that gap.

We ordered the K-1 set for Zoltan and the 2nd/3rd grader set for Alex. It has been a blast! It comes with a workbook of suggested activities and questions/quizzes, books to read, and puzzles and games.  We've been reading several of the books (on citizenship, the civil rights movement, the presidents, and native Americans) and playing with the puzzles and games. The kids even made up an awesome game using the U.S. map floor puzzle (each state is a separate piece, except for some of the smaller, New England states. We're OK with that):  the 6 year old steals 3-5 states, and the 8 year old has to guess which ones they were.  Given that she couldn't pronounce half the states' names when we first put the puzzle together, this is a great way to reinforce our nation's geography.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Just like that, the little blob Alex used to call, simply, "baby" is six!  His personality is deepening into everything we gleaned from his early years - stubborn, determined, loving, silly, and with "dance moves" to die for.

Today was the first day back to school after a week's holiday, so it was nice to sleep 15 minutes later than a usual school day - we drove the kids into school today to bring in the cupcakes.  He got the dinner of his choice - Burger King, complete with a crown and a toy (hilariously, the toy is a protractor, albeit Simpson's themed). Back home for the gift, cards (Bubby's made it last week) and the ubiquitous Bubby phone call because Happy Birthday must be sung.  He was happy to receive his batch of coupons, and he had asked me a month or so ago to remind him that he asked me to help him choose when to use them, so that he doesn't use them all in a month and then get upset when Alex uses hers. He had gotten pretty grumpy when Alex, who is quite a saver, used a couple of her coupons in September.

What did the last year hold for him?  He made good friends in Russian and English. He "graduated" from sadik, which is what would correspond to "preschool" except it is so much more.  He got his orange belt in karate and is so proud when he is one of the kids selected by their sensei to model the moves in the front of the room, or to interpret for Alex and our other friends who don't speak Russian.  He started big school, dispensed with naps for the most part, and made a best friend. He started reading and writing.  He has been exploring his rich imagination, causing his teacher and I to both marvel - during the parent teacher conference - at the plausible sounding whoppers he's told each of us. Must remember to document the story of a field trip that (allegedly) culminated in him swimming in an electric shark.

Happy birthday baby! I can't wait to hear what you think up next.

Monday, October 12, 2015


My baby girl is a big eight years old!  What did this year hold for her?

We made chocolate cupcakes with white frosting for her to bring to school and had more cupcakes at night as her birthday cake. Her favorite meal - chicken corn chowder - is back on the menu thanks to cashew milk.  She got to sleep late and I drove the kids to school, partly for a treat and partly in order to hand over the cupcakes.

At night she opened a present from her Grammy and Pappy and fielded a phone call from Bubby, who was not happy to hear the card she mailed three weeks ago still hadn't arrived. Alex was pretty happy with this year's batch of coupons - new additions being "one day she doesn't have to do any dishes" and "one movie and popcorn of her choice" - she and Zoltan have been having some serious difficulty lately cooperating on the movie choices, which we have started putting on during Sunday afternoons when they would normally have been napping. She got to use one of last year's coupons after dinner - 30 minutes on the tablet - and still has one more left!  We'll have to encourage her to be a little less parsimonious this year and use up what she has.

In terms of the last 365 days, some highlights include her very first sleepover (with her best friend, the weekend before said friend left post); returning to school and finding at least one best friend still around;  starting karate and dombra lessons (we bought her a dombra this weekend so she can practice at home); being allowed to come home from the bus on her own - using her key - and not met at the stop by the nanny.

Her maturity in all things other than matters relating to her little bother continues to grow and I sometimes marvel at the conversations we're able to have, or the ideas, thoughts, or conclusions she manages to think up. She still devours books and still wants to be a teacher.  One of the very sweet kids-working-together experiences is that she helps Zoltan with his spelling words each week, concluding the week with a quiz in advance of his test at school.

Happy birthday baby!!

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Back when Zoltan was in sadik last year, Sensei Talgat came every week to teach karate to the kids. A friend of ours also brought her son to the studio where he taught for additional lessons. Before we went home for the summer we brought Zoltan there, once for a lesson and once to test for his orange belt.

He is a completely different child on the mat. He is focused, hardworking, serious.  Today the kids went together for the first time, Alex in her white belt and with two friends who are also giving it a go; Zoltan was especially proud to be the interpreter and, as a more senior student, to help out.

The lesson is in late afternoon, so by the time they were done with the rigorous workout (I wanted to jump into class!) they were exhausted and starving. They ate dinner with practically no complaint - a rarity, especially for a new dish.  We're all loving karate!