Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Do We Do the Right Thing?

Today, after an awesome day of going around town and doing various things to celebrate my mom's b-day, something unexpected happened.  As I was preparing my kids for bed, I noticed a tiny plastic frog on the floor.  I picked it up and recognize it to be one of the toys they played with at a museum we went to earlier.  It turned out that it was a team effort and both of my oldest kids were guilty of this deed.   After having a long talk and lecturing my kids on how wrong it is to steal things and what happens to people when they steal things came the verdict for their inexcusable behavior.  They are to write a note of apology to the museum staff, return the toy to the play room and personally apologize to the staff member for their wrong doing.  After they felt asleep, I was left in my office to think about this incident and doing the right thing.  I started questioning why do people choose to do the RIGHT thing? I think that there is a lot of attention being paid to why people do the wrong thing but I am yet to engage in a conversation of what makes people do the right thing. 

Today, when you took your groceries through the u-scan register, why did you pay for all of your items? Early next year, why will you report accurately on your taxes even if that means having to pay back the money you don't currently have?   Is it because of the fear of the consequence that could follow if you get caught doing the wrong thing ?   Are you terrified of jail or of what prison time can do to your criminal record?

If you believe in life after death, did you do the right thing because you are afraid of going to hell to spend your eternity? 

Yes, prison and hell scare the heck out of me and rightly so.  Without law enforcement there would be no order.  Because of law enforcement, we slow down on the freeway and obey other laws even if we don't like them.  We do the right thing and we get honored for it by not having to pay a fine: the reward which most of us only begin to appreciate after having to pay for our inattentiveness.  Without hell, sneaky people that were able to allude justice on Earth would never have to pay for their crime. 

My question to you my readers is this:  Are human beings able to do the right thing purely because it is the right thing and serves fellow humans well and not because of the fear of consequences?  If by some magic powers your were advised that you can engage in any act of immorality under the sun and would never have to pay for it in any way, would you do it?  Would others do it? 

I don't know if I my kids understood my point tonight.  I wanted them to understand that even though they didn't get caught, they took something that doesn't belong to them.  They took something that wasn't earned by them or their parents and that is a crime against humanity no matter how small of a damage was done.  

 Most importantely, I want them to grow up understanding that what makes people noble is not the acts of righteousness that they commit in view of people watching, but it is those acts that might be never discovered.   This is a whole other topic I would like to someday think through. 

Doing the right thing is not glamorous and is often inconvenient.  Human beings gravitate toward whats evil and we fight this battle daily.  Sometimes we come out winners.  Other times, unfortunately victory is forced upon us. 

~~Would love to hear your thoughts on this...

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity

"The Nativity"

Among the oxen (like an ox I'm slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox's dullness might at length
Give me an ox's strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some wooly innocence!

~C. S. Lewis

Merry Christmas!!! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Deliberating Directions

Over the last two weeks I've had a rollercoaster of emotions.  It began when we suddenly realized that we can no longer afford our bad investment mistake fancy house. I mean we could never afford it, it just that up to this point with God's grace we've managed to make the payments.   When I look back at these several years, it amazes me that a part-timer and a self-employer of a tiny business has managed not to loose this place to a bank during the height of a recession.   God's grace, again.  However, that might soon change.  When it finally hit us, I (my husband probably as well, but he expressed it in a more silent way than I did) went to stage 2.  Panic.  Everything from where will we go to where will be our children's new school be hurricaned my brain.  When a possible leaving situation was negotiated, I went to stage 3.  This stage is probably part of one's survival mechanism.  It is responsible for deliberating one's alternative options.  Should we try to sell this place or rent it out?  Should we try to modify the loan (again) or should we find ways to increase our income?  All these different directions; which one should we take?  As my brain was exploding from all this thinking, I found my self in church during worship.

Now, I have to be honest that I have always believed that it is individual's responsiblity to get him/her self out of the mess that they have created.  Personal accountability is high on my list.  So what I was seeking that morning was wisdom and peace to come from my God whom I know not to be the Santa Clause he is often perceived to be, but a loving father that sometimes lets his children fail.

So, as I was praying with tears coming down my face and  worship music in the background, I was seeking direction.  And by the time the worship was over, I am happy to report that I got what I really needed.  Peace.  No, God did not engage in my business endeavors.  But he spoke to my heart saying that I already have soooo much and a house is so insignificant in comparison.  He reminded me that I have healthy, loving, smart, beautiful children.  He reminded me that I have supportive, generous, talented, loving, caring, husband without whom I cannot imagine my life.  I was raised in a two parent family with parents who instilled so many great values in me and have supported me through education and who love my children enough to spoil them crazy.  I have my sister who is my second (to my husband) best friend.  All of my needs are met.  And. it. doesn't. matter. what happens to the pieces of lumber that hold the roof. Period.

So we are starting our walk one direction at a time and if all of the roads come to a dead end, then we'll be packing our bags.  If/When that takes place, I want to remember that day when panic turned to peace and feelings turned to reason and future contemplations were replaced with treasuring the present.

I want to internalize this and have it be the way of life and not merely an emotional spur. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Private Setting

Hello there, my occasional readers.  In a few days, I will change my setting to "private" so the only people that will be able to read my blog will be readers I invite.  So, if you would like to read my blog, please write me an email at jantonov2000[at]yahoo[dot]com and I will send you an invite.  I am doing this for several reasons:

1) I share quite a bit of my private life here and it something freaks me out that I have no idea who is reading my blog.

2) Other times,  having my blog open to the public restricts me from writing certain things I want to vent.

Looking forward to hearing from some of you,

Bye-bye the rest of you!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Tree, Small Chiristmas

This year, we have decided early on that we are celebrating Christmas small. Not that we were ever in a financial state to have elaborate Christmases before, but we did spend a good portion of money on gifts. However, I noticed this pattern of having this empty "This is it?" feeling the evening of Christmas day. The disappointment was in no way to refer to the lack of gifts got in return, but that the month long hassle of gift, decoration and clothes choosing and shopping were all because of one day; no, more like a few minutes of that day. Instead, this year we want to celebrate the season and really take the time to reflect on the significance that the birth of Christ has in our lives.   We also want to focus on spending time together as a family going places and doing things instead of me being gone for hours at the time navigating through crowded malls.

A couple of months ago, I asked my children if for Christmas, they wanted gifts or to go places as a family. They all said they wanted to go places as a family.  Their answer was surprising but pleasing to us.  One of the places we love a lot is the Great Wolf Lodge.     The place had a special promotion going on so I solicited several families to join us there.    This will probably be the largest thing we do this season. Other activities will be free or cost little.  Yesterday, for example we took them to the Grotto's Festival of Lights.  I got a great deal through a timely Groupon (again) so a family admission with three hot chocolates cost us $18.

Waiting for a puppet show. 

 Babe chasing goats.  The sugar from the hot chocolate kicked in right about here.  He was attempting to catch and kiss every goat that would let him. 

Doing fun things for less is that much more enjoyable.

Some other things we want to do this year is take kids to a famous street in an established neighborhood where every house is lit up every Christmas.  We will probably do the Follow the Star again this year with them.  The kids love it every year.  This place makes Christmas come alive for them.  Both of these activities are free.  We also want to make it to a couple of Christmas concerts.  We really loved The Singing Christmas Tree a couple of years ago before we had the boys,  but having 5 attendees now might be a bit spendy.  We could probably do it if we sit in less than desirable seats, but then the kids would probably not see the stage well.  Besides these activities I want to make and decorate sugar cookies and drink many hot chocolates all while listening to as much Christmas music as I am able to tolerate.  Singing carols and watching Its a Wonderful Life is also on the list. 

And finally, we want to start a few new family traditions.  We had our first attempt last Friday.  We had a clever idea to drive to a national forest and choose our own tree.  This action was the result of last year's disappointing tree my kids and husband brought home  which they chose in the dark.  It looked hideously small and sorry in our high ceiling living room as few honest relatives cared to comment.  I couldn't wait until Jan. 1 when I almost independently dragged it outside to the curb.  This year, besides many obstacles such as forgetting our warm clothes in a bag in the driveway (don't ask how we managed to do that), getting there when the ranger station was closed for lunch, driving a truck which kept on dying on stops, and then getting all soaked as it was raining, we got our tree.   Keeping all these things in mind, it is understandable why we hurried up and got ourselves this:

Notice the humble gifts below made by our daughter. 

We think the tree is cute and worth the $5 permit we paid for cutting it.   The honest loved ones who did not go through the pain of getting this thing in to our living room called it less desirable names. 
But everyone agrees that it is way better than this:

 Portlanders, what are you doing this Christmas season? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You might have seen this before....

I showed this clip yet again to my students during the last few minutes of class as I've done the last 5 years I've worked there. Some get the humor and some don't. I show it anyway.

Have a great giving THANKS time with your friends and family!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Power of Crowds

Hey, whatcha doing this Friday?  Waking up at wee hours, perhaps, to get great rip offs?  Last year at around this time, I have articulated my best Black Friday tip here.  Basically, I don't do Black Fridays.  There is something about that good ol' saying that says "Best fish swim upstream" that appeals to me especially on this day.

This year, my belief was further confirmed by this article which talks about some Black Friday myths.  With all the buzzz in the media around this day, it is hard not to feel pressured into checking out whats out there.  Everyone seems convinced that if they don't go they will miss out on something major.    Ahhhh, the power of crowds!

But hey, I know of a place where the power of crowds works for good!   If you haven't yet discovered Groupon, you might be missing out on some REAL deals.  Kid you not!  This year, I've used a Groupon to get an awesome deal for a pumpkin patch and have another Groupon waiting for us to use at the Aviation Museum. I have been tempted to buy more than twice, but in the interest of trying to be good  was able to resist the  temptation just fine!   The savings here are real with no strings attached. They have various deals on spas, restaurants, museums, various stores and many other places.  The deals are all local as you give them your zip code and they customize the deals for you.   Right now, they are having a Groupon for Nordstrom Rack.   $25 gets you $50 to spend at any Nordsrom Rack in the United States by December 31, 2010.    So, if you like this place and plan to shop there for the things you or someone you know NEEDs, click on the link above and sign up!  Note that the deals usually expire within 24-72 hours.  So go do it now!  Or not :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vintage Me?

Because it usually takes me a list a couple of years to get "in the loop" of whats in, I think that I have finally begun to appreciate vintage inspired clothes, accessories and other things.   I have discovered Ruche, an online vintage style boutique and am really liking their stuff.  Right now, I have my eye on:

I usually ignore Black Fridays, but this time I might just take another peak at this website and buy something as the stuff there will be a whopping 15% off with a promo code.  Out of the three things I posted, which would you buy if you were me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Those of you who belong to any kind of social networking site should get a kick out of this song I heard while listening to the Prairie Home Companion on NPR yesterday. I am still not sure about how I feel this program but this song definitely shines some light on the ridiculousness of some of the uses of those sites. The audio link below plays the entire program, but this song is the first one they play.

I've been unwanted before it's true
And uninvited a time or two
Today I'm feeling unusually blue
I've been unfriended by you

The hourly updates on your activities
Your joys, your pain, your sensitivities
All of the parties you have attended
No, I've been unfriended

I had twenty-nine friends, an old high school buddy,
A couple of guys from Adult Bible Study,
Neighbors, and cousins, a high school classmate,
And then one morning I had sixty-eight.

The list of your friends: 3000 and growing
Three thousand folks who think you're worth knowing
You're a popular person, you don't need me
You've got Carla and Nicholas Sarkozy

Unfriended, where can I go?
Back to the people I used to know.
The women at church, the guys at the bar,
They could try to unfriend me but I know where they are.

I offered you friendship when I saw you online
I thought you'd become a true friend of mine
You posted a comment, I thought we were close
But now I am toast.

I feel like I'm back in my high school cafeteria
And I get the cold shoulder and I'm sent to Siberia
And no one will talk to me, nobody, none,
I once was befriended but now I am Un.

How could you do it, just delete my name?
I'm not a left-winger, nor an old flame,
I'm not a stalker and you're not a star,
But now I'll expose you for the jerk that you are.

You know it's inevitable that we will meet
In real time on an actual street
I'll be so cool — OMG — how sweet.
And I'll look away as I press delete.

Unfriended, boogers on you
You and all the friends you knew
Have just been unfriended too

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Travels in Siberia

What do you know about Siberia?  That it is a distant land where dissidents and convicts were sent to and that it is famous for its prisons and sub zero temperatures? Oh ye and where polar bears roam free from shore to mid continent of Asia.  Hmmmm. And that the place is barely noticeable on a world map.  Yep, a tiny little region that is hardly known to anyone younger than age 50.

My faithful readers, please don't feel bad if you nodded to all of those statements.  I was born in Siberia but know so little.  But...

I want to tell you about a book that I had whole  fourteen days (thanks to the limit of days put on by local library) to read.  I first read about it in Reader's Diagest magazine and couldn't wait for my library to buy a copy.   When it arrived I was the rightful first borrower and really enjoyed the first 90 pages that I was able to get through before returning it.  I really really enjoyed reading this book.  Not only because Ian Frazier talks about his travels in a land I was born in, but because he also writes about Siberia's history, natural resources, current events all from a perspective of a foreigner with a sense of humor.  

While my short description of its content might sound dry to someone, I guarantee you that it is not at all boring or over descriptive.  It is descriptive enough that I imagined my self right there traveling with him (although I doubt I would ever have enough courage to travel to Siberia's s far Far East to the land of Chukotka or eat fried seal liver). 

Again, I enjoyed reading this book even at the expense of not staying up on my reading the textbooks.  I AM growing tired of textbook reading  and even if reading this feeeeels wrong, the Siberian in me says that it is definitely worth my time!  So, to Barnes and Noble I go where it is on sale now as by the amount of holds my library has on this book it is evident that I might not get the book back in one piece.  Heather, Juliya, Luba, other book worms let me know what you think of this book if you ever get your hands on it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Its that time of the year...

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year.  I especially like early Fall here in Oregon when leaves are turning colors and the weather is warm but crisp and one craves taking extended walks followed by slow sips of good coffee. Sometimes we get lucky and have many days like this.   The day we took these pictures was a nice break from the pouring rain that we had for a few days straight earlier in the week. 

I was so glad we were able to fit in this photo session with my wonderful sister, between dental appointments and parent-teacher conferences even if the place turned out to be not very exotic: local park we go to often!  But these pictures turned out to be great.  Thank you, Julie!  

I love the colors in both of these pictures...  
 My little boy making sure my sister did not leave her camera case behind. 

Too bad my husband was working that evening... His absence is especially evident in this picture where an empty seat prevents it from being a perfect family photo.  Maybe we can Photoshop him in?  What do ya think, Julie?  :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Everything

Maybe its the way he holds the guitar strings, or maybe its the position of his little foot or the expression on his face that shows his love for the guitars.  Or maybe its him wearing his underwear exposing his little toddler legs or the fact that no one posed him for this picture.  Or maybe its everything about this picture that I love.

Note to self: Must. Frame.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When I am Not Very Crazy About Russian

Before I write this post, I want to set the record straight:  I love being and speaking Russian, am proud to have been born in Russia and love many things that have their roots in Russia.  My blog title even embeds the word Russian. OK.   But lately, I found myself being irritated more than once when I am put in Russian-speaking category by various public organizations.  Since my daughter started school, school correspondence has been coming in Russian.  I don't even understand half of those words.  Especially those terms that have been "Russianized" as they do not exist in the Russian language.  The school's automatic phone calls about certain events that go on in the district also come in Russian.  This would have not been so bad if I didn't use to work with the lady who is making these phone calls and of whom I am not very fond of.   But that's more personal.  And most recent thing is me being matched up with a Russian speaking case worker who is currently working on my kids' insurance and who acts like the she herself is financing it.    I am sure there are about 10 thousand people who could utilize her bilingualism, I am not one of them.  I don't want to come on as proud, but hear me out state workers:  I get the law that says information you send out has to be accessible to its readers, but please don't try so hard.  Just because my name is very Russian and my first language is Russian does not mean that I need your help understanding material that is written at 5th grade level! 

The truth is, I have a complicated relationship with the Russian language.  My fluency of it measures that of a 6th grader.  I love using it and strongly believe in bringing up my children bilingual.  Hearing someone educated manipulate Russian language is like music to my ears.  However, I can not hold sophisticated conversations nor articulate my point during argumentative discussions in Russian.  Thus, if I cannot use English with that person to make my point; I struggle to be convincing. 

Anyhow, I might just be a snob or I don't know.  My few faithful readers, what do you think? 
P.S. Anonymous, I welcome your honest replies :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

One of Our Favorite

A similar sign as one above greeted us once again last weekend.  I don't think I have ever blogged about this place even though every single outing here could have been written about.  This trip of ours was the best out of the many we took here.  Here is a short story of this little place and how we spent our time there.

Around Government Camp there are of acres and acres of wilderness.  One of the Fed projects to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression was to build a beautiful lodge, called the Timberline Lodge.  Here is how it looks in the winter:

Well,  this is not exactly the lodge we stay in, but we visit it often during winter month to sip their house $5 (gulp) cocoa here:

Our place is a little cabin built for the workers (and maybe by the workers them selves) who worked on the beautiful lodge above.  The owners of that cabin are one of my husband's good clients who trust him to keep the keys from this lodge.  These people are beyond nice.  Once in a while they email us and ask us if we are thinking of heading up there anytime soon.   Its a cute little place with a kitchen, dining area, cozy living room, two bedrooms and a loft.

photo taken by one of my kids :)

 Besides having everything one would ever need for their stay in this lodge, it is also located right on the river.  

My favorite part is that there is no reception there.  So Internet and cell phone use is off limit.  There is no cable of coarse either though a collection of good movies exist.

It feels different and very good not to be plugged in.  Though our family has long ago turned off the TV, my husbands cell phone rings all the time and I am often found by the computer.  The days without all of that seemed long, but enriched with lots of conversation (my sister and her husband joined us for our stay and my parents came for a few hours), game playing, mushroom picking, wood chopping, going on walks, magazine reading, drawing pictures of things we see there, delicious, homemade goodies eating and plain old chillin'!

Every time we come out here, I cannot believe that we get to enjoy this without paying a dime.  Well, almost.  My husband is the handyman for this place.  If something needs done, he does it.  It is great for us because this work does not take a long time and its great for them not to have anyone come out this far to fix little things.  This has worked well for us.   I look forward to coming here again sometime in the future.  In the winter, we like to go sledding with the kids and come back to the lodge to warm up by the fire . In the summer time, we sit by the river a lot and have gone on hikes near by.  Autumn, I think it my most favorite because of how beautiful it is there with the leaves changing colors and mushroom picking and eating! Look at the size of the thing! 

Here is another one of its kind we found on the side of the road. 

This seems to be a kind of borlet mushroom, but I wasn't sure enough to try to eat it!
Speaking of eating, my baby girl learned how to make scrambled eggs.  I found her feeding the family in the morning as I was dragging my sleepy self from the bed. 

All in all, we feel truly blessed to be able to enjoy this place, it is one of our favorite places to be.   I think about this every time I get out from our stuffy, city filled air car and breath in the fresh air that is there.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Needs to Happen

As of lately, I find myself daydreaming about what life will be like when I am all done with school.  I first entered college in 1999 when I graduated high school.  I began wanting to become an accountant.  I loved math and thought a job in a cubicle where I would hump over a pile of paperwork doing computations of sort will suit me just fine.  After taking a few business and accounting classes I realized that this job is so not for me.   For the first time in a long time I felt stupid!  Though I passed the classes with good grades,  the elderly accounting tutor became my best friend for those six months.  I found the tasks of accountant incredibly tedious with no room for error.  Being an second language learner  I was not used to the idea of "no errors allowed". 

As I was taking those classes, I was also working at the high school I graduated from.  I was tutoring ESL students and found that I loved helping them and seeing how they learned from me.   As I kid, I always wanted to be a teacher.  But the prospects of going to school for YEARS only to become jobless did not appeal to me.  People, just in case you don't know this: getting a teaching job is quite difficult especially these days when districts are cutting teaching jobs everywhere.  As a student teacher in our district expressed last year finding a teaching job is like winning the lottery these days.

Anyway, because I was starting to hate accounting and love teaching, I decided to give it a shot. 
Fast forward to almost the end of 2010, I still love teaching. But,  I have been in school for 8 years (part time) not counting the 3 year break I took after I got my bachelors and a teaching degree!  I almost forgot what life was like when I was not in school.  Now that I have one more term left after I complete this one, it is time to start imagining the completion of this big task of mine.

What needs to happen when I am done is this: me paying more attention to the people I care about.  This means my husband, my kids, my husband's and my immediate and extended families.  This means reconnecting with my friends and remembering birthdays and cards (Vera, you're my inspiration for this one!).  This means paying more attention to the families in church who are in need.  I want to be there for my nieces' sport activities and remember to call and send gift packages to my family in Russia.  I want to host more dinner parties and be available to attend others'. 

All of these things I want to be able to do, God willing beginning next summer.  Too much time has been spent on bettering MYself and taking care of my needs.  It seems selfish.  A former student of mine once asked me whether I want to be remembered for my accomplishments or my character.  I answered, "My character" even though I was currently very busy working on my accomplishments.

What needs to happen is me living up to the answer I gave her and the silent promise I gave to myself.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our New Friend

Our new friend left us this week.  I have to admit that she was a true pleasure to host.  Contrary to my views expressed in the previous posts, she has seemed to genuinely  enjoy her stay with us as articulated to us by her program coordinator.  We did a few fun things together.  We took her site seeing around Columbia Gorge and went several malls.   I left the mall with a pedicure newly polished nails that I paid a whooping $12 for, she bought a few souvenirs from a local store.  What both of us enjoyed the most were garage sales.  This was lady's 4th time in America so she knows whats up!  Discovering our common hobby allowed for some fun shopping together.  Another fun thing we did together was make sushi.  After begging asking her a million times, she nervously gave in. Apparently she only makes it about 3 times a year she said.  I think my daughter enjoyed helping her more than eating, and she looooves to eat sushi.

I know that the secret to great sushi is the quality of rice.  She bought a mix at an Asian store that made our rice taste just like the great restaurant's!

Some of final product: notice how perfection was not our goal here...  making it with  love was!

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Exposing My Family Affairs

A temporary member of our family has finally arrived. I have hinted earlier that we are expecting someone to join us this Fall. Well, she is here and is resting now. Only she is not exactly suited to be our daughter as she is about 29 years my senior. She comes to us from Japan and will be with us for the next ten days studying English and hanging out with us. I have to be honest and say that her presence in our home is more awkward than I have expected. And she is not at fault at all. She is very pleasant, nice, patient and helpful. It is the younger family members of ours that are begging for some spanking. Or maybe it is their parents that are in need of discipline. Over the last three days, it has occurred to us that our dear offspring have been deprived of very basic lessons in manners. From making fun of the lady's name to goofing off during dinner to forgetting basic table etiquette such as keeping one's legs below the table and wiping one's month with a napkin instead of a t-shirt all while conversing in a language she did not come here to learn, the first impression of our family must have been a lovely one. She has now heard me more than once saying "Excuse my children" and will soon pick up on how to say "Behave your selves, now!" in Russian. 

Now that we are on hosting individual number three in our home (a Ukrainian pastor for two months, a German friend of a friend, and our current visitor), we have thoroughly understood one obvious fact: while it is easier for adults to act like someone they are not, kids have a hard time being fakes. Though we try to stay real, I have noticed that with other people present in our home my husband and I have to be more conscious about our demeanour, our word choice and the tone of voice we use to speak to each other and our kids. To our shame, we realize that a lot of the time the pleasantness feels a bit unnatural to us. This is not to say that we are rude when we address each other, but we feel this constraint to act out our family's norm.

Maybe what we are feeling is normal and expected when exposing one's daily deeds to people outside the family circle. However, hosting a few of these outsiders this summer has helped us take a look at our family from the perspective of our visitors. Though all three of our visitors have been kind enough to keep their opinions about our lovely family to themselves, I can't help but to remain confused about what things should be kept the same in our family (even if they appear strange to others) and what things we need to work on improving. As parents, teaching our children to be themselves while conforming to the norms of the society has probably been the hardest task so far. In fact, I cannot say that I, an almost thirty year old adult has mastered it myself.

But, one thing is clear: exposing your family's business to others is awkward and feels unnatural.   Not that we have much to hide, but some things need to be dealt with within the family, exclusively and having other people watching alters a person's behavior for the good and the bad.

I am glad she is only staying ten days. Not because she is a burden but because I am burdened with observing how our family operates on a daily basis. Until this summer, I considered my family to be fairly functional, loving, caring, supportive. Outsiders have (however silently) both validated this fact and opened my eyes to many areas of growth. And for that, I am thankful to their temporary presence.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Photo by Juliya G.

Isn't he the cutest thing you've ever seen? Ever?  Of coarse he is!  Even though he is chatting all day long now and is finally potty trained (thank heavens!) he is still such a baby!   Yesterday, my Russian boy told his older brother, "You're not the boss of me!" in English.  I almost fell of my couch.    I love his sense of humor and his baby face. Heck, now that he is sleeping through the night, I love pretty much everything about this little man!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Seven: Part 2

This post is a bit overdue, however, I have learned that if I don't write down things I need/want to remember, I will probably forget them.  Such became my brain after three pregnancies and six sleep deprived years.  Anyway, I think that seven was celebrated awesome. It took me a few years, but I have finally realized against all Russian culture expectations that it is really is OK to invite just the child's friends and not friends' parents and their x number of siblings.  It also really is OK to serve one or two big dishes that the kids will actually eat instead of cooking up many dishes and salads to please their parents.  This year, the new way of celebrating kid birthdays worked very well.  I will no longer have to dread these parties and actually look forward to celebrating future birthdays. 

The party began a day early when some members of the birthday gang showed up at my doorsteps with their little backpacks.  Though their overnight visit was unexpected, my panic state was tamed when I saw that most of them arrived with big sisters.   Big sisters are good, very good.  They helped me clean up and took the crew to the park so that I could decorate and have a few minutes of peace before the party.  They also got the little girls dressed up and made their hair and did their make up!

Even the little guy got a make over!

They looked so cute.  Everyone else arrived on time and the party began with eating yummy food. I kept it simple with homemade burgers, a few salads, and shrimp fettuccine.   One of the big plates was a sushi plate that grandma bought per her only granddaughter's request.  It was a popular dish!

After that the girls played a few games ideas for which I stole borrowed from the Internet.  It was actually awesome to facilitate the games for a change instead of spending the entire time in the kitchen serving and cleaning up after people!  Here is one where the girls were divided into two teams and had to carry a boiled egg in a spoon a short distance and then drop it in the buckets. 

Another good one was a nail painting circle.   The girls circulated the nail polish around while the music was one and stopped to paint one of their nails when the music stopped.  I bought two bottles so that the game would not drag on.  Girls were so cute! 

Nicolas who wants to do many things his older sister does first joined the circle but then was shamed into the corner to be the DJ for this activity. 

Abby was such a good girl on this day.  I feared a little attitude and bossiness to come from a birthday girl, but she actually exceeded my expectations. She is very picky with clothes and is forming her own interesting style.  She got a lot of clothes, some of which she didn't like, however, while opening the gifts showed appreciation to the girls which made me feel pretty good. 

At the end of the day, everyone was safe and sound and exhausted.  The guests took their little crafty bag with a prizes home.  Little girls are fun.   Parties are fun too if kept simple, fun, inexpensive, and small.  Happy b-day, big girl!  And congratulations to Mama who has learned how to celebrate many more to come!