Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Yesterday Chris took the day off from work and we all went to Kva Kva Aqua Park. I took a lot of video to give you an idea of what it's like; you have to actually see it to understand how amazing the place is! We all had a WONDERFUL time. We recommend it whole-heartedly!!
We're the people on the slides in the video. Katya was FEARLESS. She went on one LONG slide from the very top that turned out to be pitch-black inside. I went with her, riding on a double inner-tube. Natalia loved the playground (in the water) and the wave pool.
We had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant there afterwards; turns out the chef (a Russian) spent three years making pizzas in Italy and we had fun speaking Italian and comparing where we'd lived in Rome.
The only negative was how long it took both to get there and to get home... How I wish we could wiggle our noses and be transported as easily as they did on Bewitched!
Monday, August 27, 2007
So why would anyone shop there? The prices are fantastic. Best in the city. The quality is outstanding. Everything is ultra-fresh because of the rapid turn-around. The selection is extremely broad, including many foreign items. They tend to have pretty much anything you'd want on any given day (but, of course, there's always the day when they're out of that one key ingredient and you're stuck going elsewhere afterwards...). It may take half the day to get in and out of there, but that's better than making four trips to other places instead. As long as you can go without any children, it's worth it. I wish the carts were bigger, though--or had a bottom rack so you could fit more in. (If you're going to go through all that effort, you want to stock up as much as possible to prolong having to come back...).
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Today we went back to Sokolniki Park with Chris; he had never been there. The girls wanted to see more of the horse expo and they were eager to use their scooters on the labyrinth of smoothly paved paths. This was our first full day with Chris since returning from America; we had last Saturday together, but the kids slept for half of it.
The first thing we saw was the chess area. There were hundreds of people (mainly elderly men, but we spotted some women and folks of all ages). It's certainly no revelation that chess is "huge" here in Russia; but actually seeing the crowd gathered makes quite an impression. You can find similar scenes in parks throughout the city on any pleasant afternoon. There's a chess club at Katya's new school and I've signed her up for it; I hope she'll enjoy it! We figured that the discipline and logic skills would be good for her--and the game has a "coolness" factor since she saw Harry, Hermione and Ron play "Wizards' Chess" in one of the Harry Potter movies...
The kids went on one pony ride again, we walked through one expo hall and found a nice horse t-shirt, then we went outside for some superb scooter riding and a stop at the amusement park. Chris and Katya went on a few rides together; they loved the "bumper boats" and "kangaroo flying cars". It's nice when the four of us are there; Katya can do more "grown-up" rides since I can stay with Natalia. Both girls loved the inflatable climbing tower. It was NOT easy and they enjoyed the challenge.
Both girls went on the harness trampoline, too. They did that once before last year at Victory Park and LOVED it. They go soooo high! I must confess: I'd like to do it next time! This is probably the safest ride (other than the inflatable attractions) at the park. The men who work the ropes and levers actually pay close attention to what they're doing.
We got ice cream and then headed home... Chris is pretty exhausted after his two months of non-stop work. Before leaving the park, however, I managed to take this close-up photo of the Ferris Wheel pod that I wrote about yesterday. It gives me the chills to see that the little boy in this picture isn't even holding onto the rail in the center--and his mother is relaxed and smiling! And, oh, doesn't that dinky chain across the "door" instill such confidence in you???
(Parental disclaimer: I had purchased our tickets for the Ferris Wheel before seeing the ride up close. I was also utterly exhausted from jet lag and two months of parenting on my own. By the time I noticed how unsafe the ride was, we were already sitting down and it had moved VERY quickly past a point at which we could change our mind and get off. You can't just have them stop the ride the way they would in America. I made a conscious decision to remain calm so my kids would--thus keeping them safe).
Saturday, August 25, 2007
This weekend there's a huge international Horse Expo here in Moscow. Great timing, no? I read about it in Passport magazine and scrambled to find tickets upon our return last Friday. I lucked out; I apparently got the last set of three tickets to any of the shows--and they were in the front row. (That sounds so easy, but it could have been easier... Some tickets are available online, with delivery, but these weren't--unless you were willing to pay $180 instead of $90. After tracking down the tickets--trying many different places, by phone, I had to spend two hours going into the center and back to pick them up using the subway--no parking in the center, so no point in going by car).
We almost didn't make it there; both girls have been pushing the limits with their behavior and it has been utterly exhausting mentally to keep them in line. They always fall apart when we go the USA and back, but this time it's worse because of unexplainable bad jet lag. I have a hard time keeping my cool when I'm so sleep deprived (because they're not sleeping well and keeping me awake). The HYSTERIA this morning over wearing their matching horse shirts was over-the-top, too. THEY initially picked them out, but then changed their minds--I wasn't going to let them keep switching outfits. They had their choice and made it--and they HAD to be in bright matching outfits since we'd be in a large crowd and I was on my own with them. Having them dressed that way (in bright and matching clothing) makes it incredibly easier for me to always know that they're right by me. I was on my own because Chris was in London on business; he got back to Moscow tonight after we got home.
In any case, the expo is called "Equiros" and it's the 9th Annual International Equine Exhibition in Moscow. There are over 7 huge pavilions filled with anything related to horses. The whole affair takes place at Sokolniki Park, a wonderful park in the north of the city. It's lovely!!! The market near the park is well-known as "the" place to purchase a good bike at the best price, and inside the park you can find amusement parks, playgrounds, horseback riding, various sport terrains, woods and the expo center.
I then let them go on two rides at the amusement park. We went on the Ferris Wheel as a family--but NEVER AGAIN. I didn't realize until we were already in the pod--and it was too late to get out--that there were no seat belts and the no real walls. The music was too loud for the man to hear me--and stop the ride. It had never occurred to me that there would be no restraints--this ride made the Ferris Wheel at Gory Park look almost "American" in it's safety standards. (You'd think after living here for three years, I'd have gotten a clue and would know by now never to "expect" anything... I will now!!) I truly don't think I've ever done anything so terrifying in my life; this was worse than flying in an old Ukrainian airplane in July. We all held on tight and I kept the girls happy and calm; if Talia had had one of her fits of anger, she could have fallen out. I was so, so glad to get OUT of that pod.
As we left the park, Katya commented on the beautiful pink sky. It was breathtaking! Both girls said that Sarah, our beloved former neighbor in Connecticut, must really be enjoying Heaven since it's so pretty there; I almost cried listening to them talk about how much they missed her, but how wonderful it must be for her with all the other angels... Katya also wondered if Sarah's cigarettes were making more clouds.
The whole drive home was nice; we all loved driving by the Kazan Railroad Station. I'll go back there and take pictures sometime; it's in one of the most architecturally interesting areas of the city. We had fun during the drive listening to the soundtrack of High School Musical 2 on my ipod :-) (We missed the premier of the movie on the Disney Channel by one day and look forward to getting it off of itunes this fall!).
Thursday, August 23, 2007
In any case, I'm writing today about these contrasts, and the contrast in types of cars, because of an article someone sent me this week: "7 Bentleys Stolen in Moscow this Year." In it, I learned that there are over 1,300 Bentleys in Moscow; and the Bentley dealership only opened in 2003! (Look below to see a picture of the building in the center of Moscow that houses the Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati dealerships. Note how it is attached to a centuries-old traditional Russian archway--through which horses used to pass... How's that for contrast??) There are so many Bentleys, in fact, that the mega-rich have had to find even more exclusive cars to distinguish themselves from all their Bentely-owning peers: viola all the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maseratis that have recently appeared on the city's streets. (Mercedes and BMW's are so ubiquitious that they don't even merit inclusion in the "status car" category).
This article was particularly interesting to me because it mentions "a woman in her mid-20s, who said her sky-blue Bentley Continental was taken overnight from a parking space near her apartment building in central Moscow." Hmm. There's a young woman in our building who got a sky-blue Bentley Continental earlier this spring... and I haven't seen her car in front of the building since we returned from America. The article also says that her car was valued at $340,000. WOW. (Cars cost much, much more here than in other countries because of the steep import taxes; our two-year-old used Camry cost more than a new one would have in the USA).
Here's hoping that all of the Range Rovers, Hummers and Bentleys in our neighborhood continue to satisfy thieves' sweet tooths; our Camry would be so bland in comparison...
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I had to include this clip of Natalia crossing the "logs" at the Recreational Center in Golden... The complex is amazing! We love the pool area: there's a large lap pool with a diving board on one side, and a graduated kids' pool/huge water slide on the other. The girls have always been afraid of the log crossing because it's very hard--and most people fall in within seconds. Talia tried it once, fell, then got up and tried again--only to practically run across each log to the other side! An impressed group of older kids clapped for her and she felt like an Olympic athlete.
How can you not love Beatrice (the pug) and Bravo (the golden retriever)? The two of them are incredibly sweet together. Katya and Natalia love to play with them and really miss them (and my mom's dachshund, Streusel) when we're in Moscow. This clip is sweet, but long--I put it up here mainly for the girls to see--and their cousins and grandparents.
Katya and Natalia love animals. Natalia, in particular, still talks daily about the dogs, horses, kittens and goose that she played with while in America. (My in-laws were feeding their neighbors' animals while we visited--that's how Natalia met the sweet kittens and Zoe, the goose). It will be great to get them a pet some day... No matter how much of a bad mood are in, as soon as they see an animal, they start to smile. Katya has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning--but she didn't mind when her grandmothers' dogs aided the process!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The girls were thrilled to each have a private lesson at a nearby stable. They had been inspired en route to Colorado by seeing the girl in a wheelchair who was coming to spend a week riding horses--thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation. A family friend whose daughter rides arranged for the girls to each have half an hour of instruction. Needless to say, they LOVED it. Have I opened a can of worms with this one??? I think they would gladly ride every day... They learned how to saddle the horse, steer, post and trot. An added plus was that Prince, their pony, was speckled like Steps High, the horse from the Kaya books they have been reading. Natalia will be ecstatic when she opens up Steps High from her Grandpa Portland on her birthday!
Monday, August 20, 2007
I photographed the eagle and airplane at Mir Dyetstva, where the girls and I spent a congratulatory "Yay, we made it back and our apartment is almost in order" afternoon/early evening. We had a delicious meal and then I was able to just slump into a chair with good coffee and a good book while the kids played--supervised by someone else. (There's no school yet, our babysitter is away until September, and Chris is working around the clock to meet a big deadline--after which he has to fly to England until Sunday). As usual, we had a wonderful time there. Katya made a leopard and Natalia made a girl on a swing--who she kept hidden--because she wants to give it to Katya for her birthday (How great that she thought ahead to do something for her sister!).
This particular trip back to Moscow has been especially hard. Chris ended up not being able to join us in Colorado, so I couldn't send anything back with him. Then my taxi driver was physically unable to help me unload, so I foolishly went ahead and just did it myself... All of it, 9 pieces of luggage (including 3 boxes and 2 suitcases weighing 70 lbs, our carry-ons and the no-charge bag of car seats)... All on my own. Out of the van, up the steps to our building, up the steps to the elevator, and into our apartment... My legs and inner arms are dotted with deep brown bruises from the box corners--but I'm feeling better. I must admit, it's fun to shock misogynistic Russian men by how much I'm able to lift. I am strong. I'm not, however, twenty-years-old any more... Luckily those same men didn't see me curled up on the bed!
I feel so Russian when I'm able to say, "well, it wasn't THAT hard, because it was harder when..." All I have to do is remember doing the same travel when the girls were two and four, and suddenly the present seems like a piece of cake. (At age two, though, Natalia wasn't able to ask incredibly embarrassing questions in front of entire waiting areas at the airport... Questions I'm not about to write here, but you can e-mail me and maybe I'll fill you in! Hint--it's even worse than the "MOO!" incident that won me a prize on Rachael's blog!)
When you live in an apartment with no storage, for everything you bring IN, an equal amount of stuff has to go OUT. We use up our American "foodstuffs" such as salsa, Annie's Mac 'n Cheese, maple syrup, chocolate chips... Outgrown English-language toys and books get passed on to happy expat friends... And many needy people are helped by everything we donate. What a process it is, though... Unpacking means going through every area of the house--when you're fighting jet lag and just wish it were DONE. I try to "weed out" everything we don't need any more before we leave--but I'm not nearly as merciless as I am in my "it's-been-over-two-days-since-I-really-slept-and-I-need-these-boxes-unpacked-NOW-so-I-will-find-the-space-so-help-me-God" state. The end result feels great, though... A clean and orderly home that's well stocked.
When we come back in August, it also means I've finished:
- Shopping for the kids' current year clothing until next summer (I'll buy most of their clothing for the following year when it's on sale after this Christmas, though). Needs will arise here and there, but it's pretty much done... I don't need anything, either.
- Choosing and procuring the girls' birthday presents, many of their Christmas presents (in case unexpected illness would force us to cancel our holiday trip to the USA), all of the favors and party supplies for their birthdays, and random presents to give at other kids' birthdays. Having to plan for special occasions so far in advance lets me just enjoy them when they arrive!
- Picking out all the books Katya will read this year in English. It's too bad she can't experience the joy of regular visits to the library--where she could chose her own books--but she'll be very happy with all of the beginning chapter books that await her... Nancy Drew Notebooks... Beginning Cam Jamsen books... The Magic Tree House series... and many, many more.
In short, it means I'm pretty much done with errands until we return to the USA. It's a great feeling! Sure, there will be times that I'll wish I could run out and get something--but since it's not possible, I won't!
Oh... about that pesky thing called jet lag... Instead of sleeping, look what the girls started doing while I'm on the computer:
They're camping--roasting marshmallows and telling stories--with their Molly and Emily dolls. They've been listening to the Molly series of books on my ipod and are inspired to delve into imaginative play again. I can hear them talking about how many fish they just caught and are about to cook over the campfire :-) I'm glad that I can be happy about their creativity--and about how well they play together--instead of focusing on the fact that it's 12:45 a.m.! Hey, this is better than Sunday morning when Talia was up for the day at 2 a.m.--and there was nothing in the house to eat, so we went to the Starlite Diner for waffles at 3 a.m. You get some interesting looks from the nightclub crowd when you show up at that hour with a four-year-old!
Added the next morning: The girls couldn't fall asleep until 2:50 a.m.!!!! Even though they were in their beds! A few minutes later, Chris got home from work... I swear, this time the jet lag is worse than it's ever been before. I wonder why... They slept until 1 p.m. today. I hope we're not in for another night of giggles, protests and partying... I'd take them outside and utterly exhaust them, but Katya fell yesterday and hurt her knee (holding off on bringing her to the doctor until I can see if it'll just go away on it's own)-and it's uncomfortably hot outside (inside, too, for that matter...).
Monday, August 6, 2007
I couldn't resist, and I went over to ask the girl what her wish was. (Since they were all wearing the foundation's buttons, I figured it was ok to ask). She BEAMED up at me and declared with a HUGE SMILE, "I'm going to ride horses for a whole week on a dude ranch in Colorado!!!!" Her family was equally excited.
It made my day. Katya and Natalia were moved by her wish, too--and that it was being granted. We live in a pretty great country...
Handicapped and sick children are often abandoned in Russia... Little is done to help improve and prolong their lives... Social stimga is so strong that most families "hide" their "different" children away... I've heard cases of neighbors not even knowing that there's a handicapped child living on their floor; the child has never left the apartment.