Monday, August 31, 2009

You Know It's Almost September 1st When...

...the huge white Russian schoolgirl hairbows appear everywhere!

The "bow" section at our local accessories store is suddenly filled with an enlarged "all white" section. I've seen them in all kinds of places. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures tomorrow! Natalia cannot wait to start 1st grade and spent this morning organizing her school supplies.

They make me think of you, Annie! I'll be sure to get more for Nastya and her friend.

(Katya will be staying home because of her pneumonia, unfortunately. She's not well enough yet to return to school. I'll bring her to the doctor in the afternoon for another round of x-rays). 

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is NOT chocolate cake, although it's extremely delicious! A friend made it for dinner this week, explaining to me that it was made from flour ground from the "cheryomsha," what I took be a fruit, from her town in Siberia. 

Believe me, it's yummy. It's also crunchy. She made the icing from sour cream. I love getting to try completely new things!

Imagine my surprise when I looked up the word on the internet, learning that it translates as "ramson," a wild relative of chives, a type of wild garlic! Not only do I love it,  but so do wild boars and bears!

Лук медвежий

Friday, August 28, 2009

A New Use for Tub Tints!

Every so often you go to take a shower (or bath), and the water comes out orange. Or nearly so. It's quite disgusting. Sometimes you can just let the water run for a while, and whatever was in the pipes clears out. Sometimes it doesn't. 

And you need to bathe anyhow. 

I frankly just shut my eyes and forget about it. 

The girls don't. "If the water ain't clear, they won't go near"... 

Enter "Tub Tints"!

Crayola Color Bath Dropz - 3 Pack

The girls have simply been excited to be pampered with orange baths this week, thinking they have been a big treat since Katya has pneumonia. They're, uh, not quite right!

These colored tablets turn water that looks like this:

...into this!

And they're NONE the wiser!

"Yay!" for moms with leftover preschool supplies...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something's Missing!

Talia lost an upper front tooth seven days ago and has been tickled pink about it ever since. 

The circumstances, however, weren't so cheery. Still suffering from jet lag, she was crying, fussing and generally having a hard time falling asleep at 11:30 p.m. I asked Chris to go calm her down, to help her fall asleep.

So he pulled out her loose tooth. Uh, yeah. Go figure. The ensuing blood didn't exactly work as a lullaby. The excitement, however, put her over the edge and she slept well until morning.

Mothers' ideas of how to put a child to sleep sure do differ from fathers'!

Natalia was  very excited that the tooth fairy yet again brought 1,000 rubles (kind of a tradition in our family, ever since the "fairy" was caught off-guard and only had a 1,000 ruble note), with the understanding that the money would be spent to pick out toothbrushes and toothpaste to donate to the orphanage. She can't wait until we can take her to Auchon, the big French discount store where we can get the most "bang for her buck"!

Poor Katya...

She got sick after returning from the USA, actually developing double pneumonia... She may very well miss the all-important first day of school next week (truly a huge deal, NOTHING compared to the first day of school in the USA), not to mention her birthday a few days later...

She cried and cried at the prospect of having to stay home; she's been counting the days until September 1st, jealous that I've been "at school" for two weeks now, while kids still aren't allowed to come, too...

You can't tell from this picture how sad she has been, however... A new webkinz  and some Brady Bunch dvds are softening the blow. 

Everything's Apples

Many streets in Moscow are lined with apple trees. It's lovely... You can see many people happily helping themselves to some free fruit, particularly around the university where there are plenty of hungry students on a tight budget! 

It makes me think of a podcast I heard on NPR the other day, about the bounty of blackberries in Seattle. They talked about while many love the luscious rich berries, for most of the year the prickly bushes are an eyesore and hassle. 

Hmm.. So here are all these apples that fall to the ground before someone happily picks them. The city tries to stay on top of the "rotten apple situation," having neighborhood workers gather them and remove them before they attract bugs and vermin.

Then again, before we know it, we'll have our first frost and you won't be able to go outside without a warm coat...

p.s. Here's a sign you might want to pay attention to. "Oкрашено" means "wet paint" (or "painted"). 

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I realize that I haven't posted since getting back to Moscow... I also am horribly behind in replying to any emails sent to the address linked to this blog, emails from people who have come across the blog and asked me questions about it... I feel so guilty!

The main reason is because I have been too busy to even sit down and use my computer. (We also had no internet last week). I have been working very, very long hours. When Chris got home Friday night, I went back to work and got home at 1:30 a.m.... When I haven't been engaged professionally, I've been completely dedicated to getting the apartment in order before the school year officially starts and to doing things with the girls. (Katya has also been sick, which has meant a lot of late-night mothering duties). 

The other two reasons are more confusing, and the third is rather serious. 

I used to blog because I desperately needed a creative outlet. I felt energized by it. Now, well, I need to focus all that energy on my job... Any energy I dedicate to it right now will have a direct impact on the outcome of my goals for the whole year. That's why I was willing to basically forfeit my summer vacation to work while in Connecticut. 

If I have a free moment these days, I have a l-o-n-g list of things that I could be doing to get myself--and the school--ready for the semester. I'm also now responsible for mentoring others, including a handful of new faculty members, and any guidance I can give them in the opening weeks of school will help to set them up for success throughout the year. 

Right now my job takes precedence over my blog, whenever I'm not caring for my kids. And exercising is also more important so I have energy for everything.

The third reason? That serious one?

Well, I feel limited in what I can blog about right now. I would LOVE to write about all the ideas pouring forth, all the programs I've conceived of and am in the process of implementing... Such things really excite me, and I'm running on adrenaline about them! 

The problem is... well... that I can't write about them right now. I can't write about anything that could end up getting coverage elsewhere on the internet, anything that would make it really easy to track down my kids. I'm not being completely paranoid; others are already publishing details I would keep private in light of my blog exposure. Moscow is not that big a place... It's just not wise. I'd rather be safe than sorry. 

I was approached this spring about appearing in media that circulates world-wide, based on my blog and my teaching in Moscow... Such exposure is way more than I had ever wanted, than I had ever conceived possible when I first wrote about my kids on the internet... And now I can't go back in time and do it differently.

I don't want to suddenly turn this blog private. I do, however, need to rethink how I use it... And I'm thinking of creating a second blog that would be private (i.e you'd need a password from me to read it), one in which I would feel free to write about teaching and my professional life. If I keep having to squelch such posts, posts I'd love to write about what has me most excited these days, then I risk losing interest in blogging altogether.

As for this blog, I envision shorter posts that feature little snippets of Moscow life, snippets of my kids' lives as expat kids here. I also realistically know that I won't be able to do much posting until the school year is underway... 

In the midst of all this activity, however, I'm happily exhausted. I'm really loving my new job and all the possibilities that come with it. 

Welcome to the Blogosphere!

In the midst of all the flurry of activity surrounding heading back to Moscow and getting ready for the school year, I've neglected to welcome a new blogger to our quirky blogging world...

I never would have "thunk" it! I'm so impressed by her determination to conquer new technology and to have fun with it.

This is where it all started, when we were visiting Rachael, my friend who first convinced me to start a blog: 

We all sat around the table, working on our blogs or pathetically commenting on each others'! Rachael and I worked hard to help my mom get started, creating her header and putting together her sidebar. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Loaded Up!

We made it back to Moscow rather uneventfully and I'm now in the midst of unpacking... And sorting through everything in the apartment to make space for the new stuff. So far I've gotten rid of all games and books that the kids have outgrown, adding them to everything I brought back to start the school's collection of English books. 

This is what the elevator looked liked yesterday as I set out to deliver books and educational games to the elementary and high schools... I then brought another big load of more materials...

My thighs are covered in deep bruises from the box corners. Yuck. But it's soooo worth it to now have all these great resources here!

Today was my first day back at work; it felt great to pop in for just a morning meeting and then head home again. 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oh, Mamma Mia!

American Idol, watch out!

I'm quite ill with a sinus infection, so my mom offered to take the girls off my hands for the evening. She had a copy of Mamma Mia that she hadn't seen yet (nor had I), and made a movie night for the girls. I was still really busy choosing and buying more books for the school library, so I left to spend a few hours at the bookstore.
The problem? Hmm. The movie. Other families had raved about what fun it was, but I vaguely knew the premise, about a daughter inviting multiple former boyfriends of her mom to her wedding in the hopes of connecting with her father. Hmm. Not exactly child-appropriate content. But then again, was Grease?! I remember seeing that when I was little, loving all songs, and having NO clue about the larger plot. Grease was such a cultural landmark in my childhood--I remember all those songs by heart to this day--and I thought the kids would be thrilled to hear all the musical numbers by Abba... (They have danced to Abba songs in the past at their Russian kindergarten and loved them).
The musical ran last year in Moscow, and it was immensely popular. Many families I know took their kids to it. I didn't, because, well... I couldn't quite fathom going to a musical translated into Russian, especially when the songs are well-known in the original. (Then again, we did go see Beauty and the Beast this year, and it was phenomenal). I really needed an evening without the kids to get all this last-minute stuff done, so I figured, "Sure, sounds great."

In the end, I figured my kids would simply pay attention to the cool scenery of Greece (where we might go on a school trip next year) and to the fun music. They did, of course LOVE the music and island setting... But they also picked up OH so much more...

My mom first realized that she might be in for it afterwards, when Natalia declared:

Natalia: "I just loved the part when the girl told her mom 'I don't even care if you slept with a hundred men; you're my mom and I love you!'"

My Mom: (She surely then thought to herself that I was going to freak out! She also was probably praying that Katya wasn't going to offer some up some "gem" of her own...)

Katya: (Eager to add her two cents, of course, and right on cue...) "And I loved the part where you saw the man's butt behind his apron!"

Oh..... At times like this, there's a whole lot to be said for the 100% control I have over my kids' media exposure in Moscow... They pretty much only watch DVDs that I personally choose and buy...

At the end of the day, however, I bet the movie's plot did go right over their heads... And I bet all they'll remember is the fantastic time they had dancing in the kitchen afterwards with their grandma. (I also have SUPERB video of the three of them shakin' it once I got home, but out of deference to my mom, I'm not posting it...)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beware of Birds!

"Hi! Can you see me?"

I know that most postmen look out for overly zealous dogs...

Ours needs to watch out for the mamma bird who made a nest in the mailbox beneath ours! 

If you look carefully, here you can see Mamma resting on top of all the boxes, surveying the scene before deciding it's safe to go get her babies some food.

Here she is arriving with some food for her babies. At least someone is cleaning up the neighbor's yard! (Tee hee...) She has managed to gather quite a bit from there!

This is what the nest looks like. I think there are two babies inside.

Here they are with their mouths wide open!

You really do need to be careful when you pull up to get the mail; if you surprise the mother, she flies straight out! I wonder if she's almost flown into anyone's car! I know she sure has given my mom a fright... When the girls and I arrived two weeks ago, she was still putting finishing touches on her nest. Katya and Natalia wish we had managed to see the babies when they first hatched.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"This is the best job, ever!"

Natalia was thrilled to be given an important task this morning. A very important task. 

She refilled the glass Victorian candy dishes.

She would like to work a whole lot more.

Isn't this the prettiest home? The kids feel like "Samantha" from the American Girl books... They keep recognizing furniture and dishes from her stories. Cecelia used to own an antique shop and the house is filled with the most interesting objects!

Talk about a Full-Service Host... And an Unpaid Advertisement for "Shout" and "Oxy Clean"

I just had to take a picture of Cecelia last night as she sat on the floor, squirting "Shout" stain remover onto my kids' blackened shorts, socks, shirts and even underwear... I wanted to do it myself, but she smiled and insisted that she truly enjoys getting things clean... (Um, so glad we brought some really nice hostess gifts that we knew she would like a lot!)

We can now get Oxy Clean in Moscow; when we first moved there, I used to have to bring it back... I even smuggled some in among the items we initially shipped in 2004; I concealed it in Costco-sized bottles of baby powder. 

I am truly amazed at how clean our laundry emerged! Behold! These socks were black on bottom!



Country Kitchen (A Meager Sampling)

Rachael always joked that when at her mom's, you eat, clean up from eating, and then start planning what you're going to eat at the next meal. She didn't exaggerate!

Bob baked bread and pies, even doing all the clean-up, too! I don't think that would ever happen in my house...!

Cecelia made the yummiest marshmallows. I'll have to make them with the girls! 

Here are some other things we've had since arriving:

taco salad fixings with raspberry lemonade

snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies

homemade raspberry and mini chocolate chip ice cream

homemade marshmallows, later roasted and used in s'mores

eight loaves of wheat bread, blueberry pie, pumpkin pie, peach pie

homemade corn chowder (the kids helped pick the corn from the field)

I've missed taking pictures of the blini we had for breakfast, maple walnut ice cream (made from their own maple syrup), and eggplant low-cal lasagna. YUM!

The Katyas and the Gunny Sack Gang

No, it's not some strange rock band... It's all of the americangirlsinmoscow and alwayswanted4 siblings together for the first time! 

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know about our connection, but for those of you who don't, here it is in a nutshell: Rachael and I met in May of 2007 when she was in Moscow adopting her daughter Katya. We've been friends since! She, her mom (Cecilia), her Katya and her older son (Jack), all joined us in Moscow this past May for Victory Day. 

This weekend we ALL have met up at Cecelia's in the countryside in upstate New York. 

We are eating like royalty (Cecelia and Bob grow most of their own food and they are both AMAZING cooks) and having a ball!

Got Dirt?

Black hands, among other body parts, from a day of playing outdoors in the dirt, in an abandoned barn, and in a pile of charcoal.

Homemade marshmallows, charred just enough, from being roasted over a bonfire... "Black" could also refer to the wonderful Hershey's chocolate that melts just right...

'Nuff said. That was a LONG bath with LOTS of scrubbing!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bizzarr-o World... Oh, No, I Mean, Sheremetyevo Airport...

I took this picture when we left Moscow for the USA earlier this summer... Security was beyond lax, jarringly so... No one looked in anything we checked, and they didn't even really pay attention when our bags were scanned. Didn't have to explain any of the electronics that usually elicit multiple examinations...

Then we got to the pre-boarding area, where liquids were actually allowed. Not only were they allowed, but they were also available. In this vending machine. Available to all. At least for once the cans of beer were outnumbered by non-alcoholic choices!

Then you land in New England, were no alcohol is sold after 8 p.m. and not on Sundays. Funny, I started to add "even to adults," only to realize, "Oh, yeah! In America we only sell alcohol to adults. No need to clarify!"