Thursday, July 30, 2009

New England Teacher v. Moscow Teacher

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I actually liked them all. I am so odd, literally split in how I think... I could equally picture myself in either footwear to go to work. Part of me still identifies with comfy cool shoes for teaching in America, while I'll automatically reach for the sexy heels for teaching in Moscow (and my heels are still WAY tamer than those of my students and colleagues). 

The dichotomy is also evident in my suitcases... Without realizing it, I packed "Moscow" clothing for the summer here. I basically packed what I'd worn during summer camp with the school in Italy, not realizing that "that's not how you dress" in suburban America... A few quick trips to the Gap and Banana Republic factory outlets remedied the situation... 

Any other expats out there experience this? It goes much deeper... I literally feel different in the different countries sometimes... 

Another Anal Shopper!

Oh... How many times have I dreamed of whipping out my colored pen (usually green, a nurturing color, instead of red...) so I could correct grammar mistakes in public signs? The girls were so embarrassed that I took a picture of this... 

What a Busy Girl...

I've kept meaning to post these lists I found from while we were in Colorado at my in-laws' home...  Natalia and the boy next door made them, adding where they would do each thing.They were INSEPARABLE, filling their days without the constraints of adults' schedules, wandering back and forth between our homes. That was HUGE for my kids; living in cities all their lives, they've never had the freedom to just go outside without a parent (and the other sibling)... Read carefully to the last item on that first list... We're in for it!

1. Very early exercise.
2. Mornings hot tub.
3. Play with dogs.
4. Get a soda.
5. Get a snack.
6. Watch TV.
7. Play at Andy's.
8. Mini games.
9. Go to bed.
10. Sneak to Andy's backyard. (!!!!)

I like the "secret agents" in the list above...

Enjoying treats from the ice cream truck, a true American experience...

Natalia had so much fun with those sweet boys who live next door to my in-laws...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Filling the Days (and Boxes) to Fill the Shelves (and Minds)

What a mess... This is what my mom's living room currently looks like... I couldn't start boxing it up until I'd finished buying what needs to go back to Moscow. As any expat knows, it's an art to get a box no larger than 62 inches in volume filled with precisely 50 or 70 lbs, not a bit more, and not a bit less.

I thought I'd have all kinds of free time while the girls are in camp... Instead, I've been so busy doing "work"--but it has been fun.

Let's just say that Barnes & Noble has probably never had a customer get so much mileage out of the educator's discount card...! I carefully (i.e. spent a full day) choosing these books to enrich the curriculum in the elementary school. The poetry books and Mad Libs will also be used in the middle school. Some will be used in class, some read independently, some read and then acted out by the kids. Behold 32 lbs of books:

Then... Here's the really fun part... I've put together a library of educational games to be used in the classroom by all of our teachers. I used many of these the past year, but didn't want to have to keep carrying my kids' games back and forth. The other teachers also kept begging me to use them as well, or to bring back whatever I could...

Here are the games for the elementary school:

And here are the games that will be shared by teachers in grades 4-11:

I figured, if I'm going to bring back extra boxes for the school, I may as well do it once and for all and be done with it! I did so much research in choosing them, imagining how they'll be used, what skills they'll reinforce... I bought duplicates of the most popular games so it'll be easier to share/use them with larger groups. I'll get reimbursed by the school, thank goodness!

My colleagues (and the kids) are going to be GIDDY when I crack open those boxes... I know that a few of them will be like children on Christmas morning!

I'll be glad once everything is all boxed up, though. It has been a tremendous amount of work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unintended Hiatus

Yeah, I'm back in "Blogland." I never intended to go for three weeks without writing... It just kind of happened. I've been sick and simply exhausted since arriving in the USA, only now feeling peppier... I look forward to getting caught up on everyone's blogs and to sorting through old emails now that the girls are in camp for a few weeks.

Glassblower of Murano

While in Italy, I really gobbled up the beautiful glass work... Whether it was the beautiful necklaces made of Murano glass beads, or chandeliers hanging in royal palaces, I loved it all. I was able to bring some necklaces home with me, my two favorites being these below:

Antica Murrina Cancun Necklace Multi
Antica Murrina Frida Necklace Multi-Silver

My Murano jewelry is so pretty and I love it! I'm so thankful I was even able to get it; we were on such a tight schedule of sightseeing that I barely managed to run into the shop in Rome while the kids were all browsing in a shop featuring wooden toys à la Pinocchio. 

As for the chandeliers? Um, no. They didn't quite fit in my suitcase--or budget.

I was, however, able to read all about them--and the history of glassblowing in Venice--in a delightful novel, The Glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato. I loved it.  Read it and you'll be transported to Venice in the days of King Louis XIV and the glorious era of Venetian glassmaking... I couldn't put it down as the modern-day heroine discovered her ancestor's secrets and developed her own talent. 

The Glassblower of Murano

Here is a video I found on youtube of Caserta, the palace in Naples where I took the pictures above.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Happy 4th of July!

The girls have certainly been "pursuing happiness." In fact, they're out doing that right now while I'm, um, packing up our suitcases (and not blogging). 

I'm amazed at the array of amazing playgrounds to choose from in America... It's not just Portland, although we've found some FANTASTIC spots here. Every city we've lived in America has great parks, playgrounds and places for children... Places that are cheerful, functional, safe and often eco-friendly. Places that engage children into the tween years.

We have some great parks in Moscow, too... But the top American ones are in a whole other league...

Here are some scenes from our favorite playground in Sandy, Oregon. My aunt and uncle were instrumental in getting it built and I thank them whole-heartedly!

You can't tell from my pictures, but the swing areas for small and older children are separated by a fence; there's no way little kids can inadvertently step in front of older ones who are pumping high. Genius!

Can't you just picture parents hanging out there, with some coffee and/or infants in tow?

Even Grandpa got in on the act!

Friday, July 3, 2009

You Can't Take the "Moscow" out of the Girls...

So what have my kids loved most about their time in Oregon? (Other than playing with their cousins and being with their grandpa, of course...)

Having a snowball fight! On July 3rd, no less! I don't think these girls could ever live in a tropical climate after their Russian childhoods... We had intended to go hiking near the top of Mount Hood; the trails, however, are still completely covered in snow! I'm glad we did this; I still remember how magical it was to play in the snow at Crater Lake in Oregon in the middle of the summer when I was six or seven.

It's not quite fair to label their play a snowball "fight"; it was more of a "Let's clobber Grandpa while he just stands there!"-sort-of-a-deal! 




I LOVE this picture! Look at the expressions on Natalia and my dad's faces!

Quote of the day? That would go to Natalia, as she cried in indignation: "Hey! This snow is so cold on my hands!" Really. Never would have thunk it...

Last, but not least, the girls had fun "meeting" Smokey the Bear... I remember always seeing him in my "Ranger Rick" magazines as a child. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hello from Oregon!

Had fun at Cannon Beach yesterday! It was COLD, though... Soooo much colder, surprise, surprise, than in Naples... 

We're almost over the jet lag. Eleven hours are MUCH harder to adapt to than our usual eight! The twenty-six hours of travel time are painful. Really.

We're having fun, though. The girls are having such fun with my dad and with my cousins' young children.

For those of you that were keeping my friend's mom in your thoughts, she passed away last Monday and was buried on Saturday. It's so, so sad. My poor friend and her family...

On a more personal note, my own mom was in the hospital on Thursday! It turns out that she has shingles! She's now at home recuperating. I wish I could take care of you, Mom!