Friday, March 17, 2017

Chisinau

Chisinau is a beautiful city.

By the lake, when it was frozen:


At sunset, from the window:







Thursday, March 16, 2017

Languages and cowboy hats

If you are thinking of skipping this post: DON'T!!!!!!!!!!  The best thing you will ever see in your entire life is at the bottom of this post and you have to read it to find out!!!!!!!!!!!

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Something Jesse and I do a lot here in Moldova is play "Guess the Language." Because Moldova is a small country, a lot of things are imported. Most of these are in Romanian, Russian or Ukrainian, but we see a lot of products in German, and some in Bulgarian, Slovakian, Bosnio-Serbo-Croatian, and English. 

When we had McDonalds the other day, we spent way too much time studying the back of the package, trying to play "Guess the Language." I can't remember what languages we spotted, but there were at least 8!


And now.....


......for what you've all been waiting for...........








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A Moldovan flag cowboy hat. 

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And now that you've picked your jaws up off the floor/stopped laughing/have recovered your sanity, I will tell you that we found this in the Moldovan equivalent of the dollar store, and no, we did not buy one (yet). 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Miri draws!

Miri likes drawing. By "drawing", I mean she requests us to draw things and then she takes a pen in her tiny little hand and draws little bitty squiggles all over the paper.


Sometimes these squiggles are used to fill in faces on the people she requests (always "Niko! Mama! Dada! Mee-um!")


I'm not sure if these squiggles are meant to me in imitation of writing letters (which I suspect), but they certainly are created carefully and in great abundance. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dyetski Sahd

(Kindergarden)

School is a great place for Nikolai. He speaks an incredible amount of Russian now (sometimes he randomly starts saying things in Russian and I don't understand him!), he gets to play with friends, he does crafts and projects and learns all kids of stuff. It is still, by far, the thing I'm most glad we did when we moved here.

Every now and then his awesome teacher Veronika (pronounced "Vare-oh-NEE-kah") messages pictures of what they did that day. What follows is an assortment of pictures she's sent. 


Planting onions in jars, so they can watch them grow:


Doing their "papers" (as Niko calls them)--usually, little worksheets teaching them a letter, number, pattern, poem, etc with lots of coloring involved. 


Painting a present for their dads (which they cut out of dough that they mixed and baked):



This last one is from their Christmas performance, but I've misplaced all my photos/videos of it so this will have to do. Dyed Moroz (Father Frost) came to their performance and not only did he play games and sing songs with them, but he had the coolest coat EVER:


Monday, March 13, 2017

Early Spring

On Sunday, the sun was shining and the kids were restless so we packed a picnic and perambulated to the park. 

I also planned a little 4 senses hunt, and we spent one minute each noticing what we could see, hear, smell and touch.


Miriam's little thinking finger on her chin is so cute!!!


Nikolai had a really good time with it, though by the fourth one he mostly wanted to watch a little soldier bug walk on some grass. That was ok too.


We didn't stay out long (a certain 2-year old needed a nap), but it was a nice little outing that was just what I needed. And Miriam's little outstretched hand in the photo below exhibits what she always needs:



Hooray for (early) spring, that makes us feel alive and brings joy into our hearts!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Three sillies

The title of this post is misleading. It's probably more accurate to say that all 4 of us are quite silly (after all, Jesse reads philosophy for fun), but the Three Sillies is the title of one of my favorite children's books. Basically, I wanted to create a post of some random pictures me and the kids being silly, so there you have it. 

One afternoon, Niko and I built a tower that was taller than he was:


Miriam is, of course, still very messy:


Nikolai gathered some blue toys one day and said, "Vot, sinii!" ("Look, Blue!")


Nikolai helped me pour the ganache on Miriam's birthday cake, and then he helped remove the last of the ganache from the bowl:


Nikolai brought home his first (and probably last) homework from preschool last week. He was supposed to color all the objects that started with "а" and "у" (pronounced "ah" and "ooh"). This happened to be on an evening when Jesse was out for work, so I was responsible for helping him. Obviously, I don't know which objects start with which letters, so helping him was composed of me, looking up words on google translate, and then quizzing him to see if he knew what the words were (before informing him). Honestly, it was actually pretty fun! Where's my coloring page Russian homework?


Finally, Miriam has been taking her clothes off a lot lately and we've been spending a fair amount of time chasing her and wrestling her back into clothing. The other day, she was putting up quite a bit of fuss over getting her shirt back on and, not wanting to fight with her, I put the shirt on my head and chased her around instead (obviously).



I'm not sure it was much easier to put the shirt on her in the end, but at least we had some laughs!

Embroidery: done!

Waaay back in October, I bought an embroidery kit at Chisinau city day, and guess what: I finally finished it!!! 


It didn't take me the whole 4 months, of course--but it did take a fair amount of time. 


I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Perform!

Twice a year, Niko's preschool class puts on a little performance of poetry, songs and dances to show off what they've been working on for the last few months. This time, they recorded all the performances and sent them to us, and I'm posting them here to share with all of you!

They're all in Russian, but don't worry--we can't understand them either 😉

Their performance coincided with the celebration of the start of spring as well as Women's day, so most of the songs are either about springtime or about moms or grandmas. 

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Also, the glamorous blonde is Nikolai's incredible teacher Veronika (pronounced "Vehr-oh-nee-kah") (and yes, every Moldovan woman I've met looks normal most days but also knows how to suddenly become incredible glamorous on a moment's notice. It's a skill!). Veronika only speaks Russian and Romanian and my Russian is getting better but still spotty, so we have this awesome relationship where she tries to tell me things about Nikolai and I sort of understand, and if it's really important she just messages Jesse. Ah, such is our life!

For Women's Day (which is sort of celebrated as mother's day here), they had the kids make these adorable little cards to the moms, and the kids wrote "I love you mom" inside in Russian. I have mine hanging up on the wall here and I love it so much. 


Ok, back to the adorable videos! 

I don't know the woman who teaches them the dances, but she is incredible. She got ten 4-5 year olds to reliably do some choreography! 

(Also, in this video Nikolai is on the back left corner, until the middle when he runs to the front back corner.)

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I love this next one because the little nonsense song is one my mom always sang with me as a kid and I've sung it to the kids since they were itty bitty. I've never heard it anywhere except from my mom, and now, from this random music track in Moldova!

(Niko's on the second to left in this one, and the kid in the red on his left cracks me up!)

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This song is about how much the kids love their grandmas.

BUT funny story, Nikolai didn't understand the word "Babushka" and so when they were practicing this song at school he said "I don't have a Babushka." Ha! Bless his heart, when we watched the video together and I told him what Babushka meant he was mortified. I told him I'm pretty sure his teacher knew he didn't understand!

Also, in case you were wondering if kids shout-singing is universal, this video proves that it is!

(Niko is on the second to left here)

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Finally, here's a poem Niko memorized, dedicated to his mama. There was another recording of this in his fancy clothes, but the audio in this one is better so I included it. I can actually understand some of this one! Basically, he says that he loves his mom more than flowers and candy and loves to spend time with her. So sweet! 

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It's so fun to see what they've been working on at school and to have these videos! I love watching him dance and sing so much, and I know I'm going to really love watching these in the future when he's not so small anymore!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Who knew 2?

Last week Miriam turned two!

And guys, two really suits this kid.


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Just look at that little glare, hidden under her bangs!!!

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This is blurry, but this face is so classically Miriam that I had to keep it.

Her birthday was quiet--just presents and cake--but it was good to celebrate our Miri.


Those multicolored blobs objects around the edge are fire trucks modeled after the trucks on her favorite "Tuck jammies!!!" They sank into the ganache more than I expected, rendering them a bit unrecognizable, but Niko helped her notice what they were and then all was well (also, after Niko's cake being so pretty the one I made right after was doomed to not be as pretty--but at least the chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream inside was delicious!)


I really love pictures of kids blowing out candles. Do you?


And of course, this is how messy Miri ate her cake: 


At two, Miri is incredibly verbal (the other day Jesse mentioned a friend of his wanting to have kids soon, and Miri, unprompted, turned to him and said "I love kids!"), loving, curious (her new favorite word is "Why?!"), smart and musical. She loves doing anything and everything with Nikolai, eating with great gusto, listening and dancing to music, and watching "Dan-oo tie-gah."

My favorite thing she says is when she is playing with toys and quotes the dragon from the book Paper Bag Princess, and growls "Eat-oo a-morrow!!!" (Originally, "I'll eat you tomorrow!")

She is also completely potty trained (day and night, with minimal accidents--more about that another time)! Much like her brother (and, I suppose, her mother), she is loud and stubborn, though slightly more pliant than both of them. 

Miriam, happy birthday! We love you so!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day!

I know it's not a holiday for most of you, but it is here! Niko had no school and Jesse had no work, so I did enough homework to get by and then called it a holiday too.

By about 10 am the kids were bouncing off the walls so we took them to the park. I was holding Niko's hand and Miri kept insisting "Mama hand! Mama hand!" (despite the fact that her father had two perfectly good hands) so I ended up towing both kids. It's really, really sweet, but it's also a bit like being a tugboat--both kids need quite a bit of tugging to keep them going. 


I call this photo, "Two out of two kids prefer "Mama hand.""

It was a really great morning--the kids were having a great time and the weather was in the upper 50s. Despite this, all of the children at the park were still wearing coats and hats, except Niko (who didn't want to wear his hat, and frankly didn't need to). When we saw another child not wearing a hat, he turned out to randomly be American too!


This tree was GIANT!

The kids are unevenly matched for the see-saw but they love it, so we help them out:

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After we had been at the park for a bit, a carousel off to the side of the playground starting playing the kid-equivalent of the kind of pop that's really popular here, and Miriam dropped everything and started dancing:

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After the playground, we spent awhile walking around in the sunshine (and remembering what it felt like!)


Speaking of sunshine: Though I've lived many places that were very cold, sunless and fairly dreary in the winter, this is the first winter where I've really felt like I experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (basically seasonal depression). Like many forms of depression, I didn't realize until it was over. Spring started creeping in here, with fresh breezes and more sunshine, and suddenly I felt like I was ALIVE again. Honestly, it was a little scary how good I felt when spring started--I thought to myself, "WOAH, I feel AMAZING! But this isn't sustainable!" It felt a little manic, to be honest. But that feeling subsided and now my brain is back to feeling a realistic sort of good, but with way more optimism than I was able to muster through the winter. 

I don't think it's that I don't like winter (I love it!) but not seeing the sunlight was not good for my brain this winter, especially given some of my circumstances this winter (not speaking the language, trying to learn it to get better but anxiety making it difficult to practice, etc). But it's been good for me to realize that SAD is likely what I was experiencing, so I can look out for it in the future.


Back to the park!



I love this "Suvenir" graffiti


Basically, we tried to make it a perfect morning for the kids--buying balloons (which 97% of the time we say no to) and even going to McDonalds (Niko's favorite mixture of food and consumerism) after all our wandering. 


In the middle of saying something


And in the end, it ended up being a pretty perfect morning for us too.