Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween over before it began

We celebrated our Halloween early here in Sofia and boy did we celebrate.

T was sick on Thursday and still a bit Friday morning, so missed school for two days. But, wouldn't you know it, his fever was gone and he was feeling so much better by Friday evening - just in time for the Embassy Halloween party. My boys dressed as clones (big surprise). T was dressed as Commander Cody and K went as Captain Rex. Each office in the Embassy basement decorated their doors and handed out candy. On the main floor, there were treats and a haunted house. K was spooked by a few of the adults in costume; he kept staring in astonishment at the big scary wolf. T and his friends kept going to the Haunted House (3 or 4 times I understand). K went once with me and then tried to follow in T, but came out crying for his Mommy because he was too scared without me with him!

The next day was the Halloween party at T's school. What an event. Cars in the parking lot decorated their trunks and so the kids went Trick-or-Trunking. There were Halloween stories, pizza, treats and games too. In addition to selling juice and soda for the event, as typical for our new school, beer was on sale as well - that still always surprises me. One parent came dressed as a pumpkin man with a pitchfork. I don't know how he could stand it, but he put a big carved pumpkin on his head and walked around that way for the whole night. Boy was K staring at him trying to figure that one out!

Our last event was at home. We have 9 families currently living on our compound. So, in talking with the other American Mom in compound (who happens to be the owner) we thought it would be fun to trick-or-treat on compound. This actually came about on one of our morning walks. She told me that T had invited them to our house for a Halloween party. I was completely surprised, as we had no such plans. We talked and decided with the Embassy and school events that a party at the house would be overkill. So, the other Mom said she had the e-mails for the other families on compound and we could arrange trick-or-treating for everyone instead. Great idea!!!!

Today is really Halloween, but we are so done!!! In the last two days the boys had 3 different events and came home with the MOTHER LOAD of candy. I don't know how we are going to get rid of it all. When we left Virginia, I had a big bowl of left over candy from all the parties and Halloweens that we had to give away before we moved (of course, all the chocolates had been eaten first). Now, we begin again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning our colors

So, we've been trying to teach K his colors and he does know the difference between his colors, only not the correct names. So, here is the K translation:

Cookie Monster = blue
Elmo = red
apple = green
banana = yellow
orange = orange (this is where it all began)

He is, at least, consistent with his interpretation. Now to just get him to insert the correct names.

Now to prove that we are not totally slacking with our child, he can count to 5. And, if you ask him to help set the table. He counts and brings 4 spoons all by himself.

Given the above, I am happy to say that K will be starting real preschool soon. We've been on the waiting list since December 2009 and a spot just opened up for him. Yay!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank Goodness for Babelfish

So, yes, ok, we have a housekeeper. I pay about $80/week to have her come 12 hours/week and it's great, mostly. You see for the last few weeks we've been sick A LOT and so I started worrying that this coincided with Tamara's start date with us. Now Tamara is a Russian living in Bulgaria for many years. We share absolutely no common language. So, expressing my concerns is difficult. But, then I remembered Babelfish on Yahoo. It does not offer translation from English to Bulgarian, but it does offer translation from English to Russian.

So, in English, among other things, I wrote:

Be sure that the cleaning rag you use to clean toilets is NEVER used on anything else and put all cleaning rags in the dirty laundry at the end of the day.

Now, I'm not saying she was doing that for sure. But, I really do wonder. And, instead of only one cleaning rag in the dirty laundry at the end of her day, I now see two. So. . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Potty Training Woes

Potty training T was so surprisingly easy that I decided I would use the same method for K. With T, we never pressured. We put kid potties in all the bathrooms and encouraged him to use the potty before bath time and always told him how proud we were of him when he went potty. The first time he went to the potty on his own initiative, Thomas the Tank Engine (aka Daddy at work) called him to say how proud he was of him too. At that time, S had a private office with a door that closed, so it was easy for him to make that call. And, to this day, T remembers that special call from Thomas! Even better, two weeks after that Thomas call, T came home from preschool and said, “Mommy, throw away all my diapers.” He never used another diaper again, not even at night. He was ready and he knew he was ready.

I was so hoping that K would come to that point as well. Well, K has not yet gone potty without me directing him to try. We've gone through a lot of laundry and failed attempts, but trying to keep it positive and not pushy, always telling him how proud I am of him when he does go potty! Still, I’m anxiously hoping that he soon will try on his own initiative so Star Wars Clone, Capt. Rex (aka Daddy) can call and tell him how proud he is of him. And, hoping that the Capt. Rex call will have as much of an effect on K as the Thomas call had on T.

Of course, now Daddy’s office does not have a private door, so everyone will hear him on the phone with K. S is a bit worried about that. I told him he can take his cell phone to some isolated corner outside to call K if he's that worried. However, so many in his office also have little ones, so I really think they would totally get it. I’ll let you know how that goes when we finally do get there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Craving Chinese Food!

First and foremost, before discussing our latest (and admittedly trivial) dining discovery, I would just like to say what an absolutely wonderful miracle it is to see the progress of the rescue of the Chilean miners. I cannot even imagine being trapped under the ground or having a family trapped like that. I have never heard of a case where miners have been rescued after such a very long time and yet, miracle of miracles, it is happening. Thank G-d!!!!!!!!!!! All our thoughts and prayers to the miners and their family members!!!!

So, now our more boring, less miraculous day-to-day stuff ...

The other night the neighbor kids were over and their Dad came to visit with S. In addition to being the parents of T’s best friend in our compound, the Dad is actually one of S’s contacts. As they are Bulgarian, we asked if they knew of a good Chinese food restaurant in town, as we've been craving it for weeks. Of course, our neighbor went home and told his wife our plan and she, like me, decided that Chinese food sounded so much better than staying home to cook. So the two families made their way to town for Chinese. The original restaurant suggested no longer existed, so thank goodness they were with us. We followed them onward to another in town. We went to the upstairs portion of the restaurant and there were tons of fish tanks by some open tables, but they absolutely would NOT let us sit there. They put us at a round table on the other side of the restaurant. I was really starting to worry that perhaps this was the one non kid-friendly restaurant in the city. Soon the restaurant had a few other families present too, so thank goodness! The food was pretty good, don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I do have it programmed into Richard for future reference. To the dismay of the wait staff, the kids kept getting up to see the fish tanks. Luckily our table was not the only one with this situation. All in all, it was a lovely evening. Maybe next time, they will put us by those fish tanks though!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Skate The Snake

This is a story about our T and his friend Skate the Snake. Skate was the imaginary friend created by T when we lived in East Timor. T was 2 ½ years old when Skate first appeared in our lives. It’s kind of a funny story how T met Skate. You see, in Dili (just like in Rio) there is a huge statue of Jesus atop a hill (called Cristo Rei). So, on nice days, we liked to walk to the top of the Cristo Rei hill. According to T, he met Skate on one of those walks. Why I found this so funny is that my little Jewish son met a serpent on his way walking up to Jesus. The imagery of it all is too much, anyway. . .

The thing with Skate is that I do believe he was really needed by T at the time. At first Skate was just a friend who would play with him and help him “fix.” T loved to fix things, especially pretend AC units. Then the evacuation occurred when T was almost 3 years old. T and I stayed back home in the US for 3 months, while his Dad had to be in Timor. I started hearing more and more about Skate during this time. But, it was when we returned from evacuation that Skate really came into his own.

We were allowed to return to Timor after 3 months apart from S, however events in Timor were not always calm. We always received texts to stay home when chaos started. But, there were rock fights, rocks and poison darts being thrown at people and their cars, and most terribly, Timorese “houses” being burnt to the ground by rival gangs. Seriously, Timor was the only time in this career that we actually put an American Flag on our car so as to not be targeted.

There was a lot of discussion about events by everyone and, unfortunately, sometimes kids heard things parents did not want them to hear. One day, T heard a teacher’s assistant talk about her house being burnt down. Suddenly, Skate had to move into a secret house, under our house. Apparently, Skate's house had been burnt down by bad guys and T wanted our guards to keep Skate and his family safe. It was a rough time. We loved Timor for its beauty, the WONDERFUL friends we made, the awesome SCUBA diving and we still miss so much about it. But, definitely, for a short time, there were some real negatives and T picked-up on them. Things did calm down, I became pregnant with K and then suddenly Skate’s Mom was pregnant too. Clearly, Skate was something positive for T. When we moved to America, after Timor, Skate became less and less mentioned. I don’t hear about him anymore. But, if I ask T about him, he does remember him fondly.

K is for. . .

K is my youngest son and this post is all about him. He's not been so happy with the "going to school" situation. He wants more than anything to go with his big brother. As much as K is attached to and wants to be with Mommy, big brother TRUMPS ALL. Unfortunately, hubby's job will not pay for K's school until he is in kindergarten. And, big brother's school wants 665 Euros/month (about $920/month) for K to attend half-day preschool. So, unless they are guaranteeing him a life time of happiness and success (including guaranteed admission to Harvard), I am not paying over $900/month for 1/2 day preschool!!!! For goodness sakes, that doesn't even include lunch!!!! And, sorry my European friends, but yes I do hope your euro tanks against the dollar and soon. I can dream, can't I? But, I digress . . .

We decided to try something new for K. He now goes to an activity center. He is so attached to Mommy that the idea of going to school, even for a short time, is devastating to him. His friends absolutely love it and I'm hoping with a few more times he will feel the same.

Lately, at home, K has taken to crawling around like a dog and barking. We think it's pretty cute, though not sure our dogs agree. He only does it at home. He also loves to do a lot of imaginative play with his stuffed animals. So, his imagination is really active these days! The other stranger thing going on is that he tells on his brother or the dogs for things they did NOT do. The other day he turned to Sophie (one of our dogs) and said, "Sophie, na ah, I am NOT a monster." He said it as if she really just spoke to him. Perhaps calling K "our little Cookie Monster" is not such a good idea afterall. But, he loves cookies and Cookie Monster, so. . .Or he'll tell me that Sophie just told him this or that. Now, if she starts telling him things like "give me meat" or "take me to my boyfriend Ruskie" then perhaps I will start wondering more about Sophie. But, until then, I believe this is K's imagination. Of course, K is also saying things like his brother just pushed him when brother is nowhere around, so I'm not sure what is going on with all of this. I do remember his big brother, at this same age, having an imaginary friend (Skate the Snake). K doesn't have an imaginary friend, but certainly seems to be using his imagination.

So, someday K, when you read all of Mom's postings about you and your brother I hope you won't hate me for sharing these things. But, it's kind of cute. And your kids (someday far far far in the future) are going to get such a laugh from it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Hockey Time

We did not know exactly what to expect when we came here in regards to hockey (actually in regards to most things). The season started a few weeks ago and boy are they serious about it. Even the young kids are "encouraged" to attend 4 days/week (two after school days, Saturday and Sunday). We just cannot do that, but T goes on the weekends for sure and then tries to go one day/week if his Dad gets home in time to take him. It's a big commitment, but he seems to love it still. His team is entirely Bulgarian. Most kids don't speak English very well and T is just starting to learn Bulgarian. Luckily, Coach does speak English! T is doing very well. They end practice with a 3 on 3 scrimmage each time. Last scrimmage T made 4 of the 5 goals for his team. He's made one friend, who doesn't speak any English, but T says they figure out how to communicate with each other. Very proud of him for just jumping in and making it work.

The other day, our neighbors were asking about hockey. They are Bulgarian, live in our compound, and have spent many years overseas. In fact, both their kids were born in Brazil (not a lot of ice hockey in Brazil I imagine?). Their son is the same age as T and is one of his best friends. Surprise, surprise he's interested too. We so hope that interest stays as it would be wonderful for T and for us (I can envision carpool arrangements right now).

Now, of course, K wants to play too. He cannot start until he is four years old. But, K can already ice skate, has his own pair of skates, and is pretty steady on his feet for a 3-year old. Oh, is this really going to take over our lives? I can just see it now, not only will our bids be based on school quality, but on whether or not ice hockey is available in country (oh wait, those were already the considerations for bidding on Bulgaria). S and I barely even skate. How did this even happen? Well, we wanted our boys to find something they love and be involved in a team sport. They just picked one of the more dangerous and expensive ones, should I really be surprised? Oh well, at least there is no checking yet!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Just another day in Bulgaria. . .

So, after having this blog for awhile now, I've decided to take off some restrictions. Since inception, I've had it set-up so that search engines couldn't find it. Basically, the only way to know about it was if someone told you about it specifically. I'm loosening the reigns a little for now. Though I go back and forth on this. We will see. . .

Yes, I have some breaks between postings. Day-to-day life seems rather mundane when put down in writing. I figure who wants to read about our mundane happenings. But, for a few of you who are interested in what our day-to-day life is like, here we go. . .

Co-curriculars have been assigned. This is our first experience with co-curriculars and we are very excited. They are essentially after school extra-curricular activities, but required for all. And, thank goodness, T was able to get into Karate. He wanted it so much and I was so afraid every other kid would want it too. His other co-curriculars are "Fun with Dough" and "Fun with Music." He's very happy with all of his choices. I wish they had "Fun with Dough" for K at school. I have to say "Fun with Dough" is almost as bad as "Fun with Moonsand" when I'm the one who has to clean it up. Always nice if the boys get their desire to play with such things fulfilled at school.

So, yes, I now do have someone coming to the house 3 mornings/week to help out. With two dogs, two active boys and their friends, I need all the help I can get. The house looks so wonderful when Tamara is done. But, within an hour of the boys both being home, it's a friggin pigpen again. At least it's a disinfected pigpen. I have to figure out how to get my three year old to take out only one toy at-a-time and put toys away!!!! What a messy monkey. BTW, if anyone knows of a garbage can that can stay accessible to little kids, but not to garbage-hound dogs, we would love to hear about it.

Now for K, that messy three year old, I’ve decided to reduce his days/week for nursery to only 2 mornings/week, instead of 3. Also, we are switching his days so he can be part of their once/week music program. And, I will take him to another activity center for a more structured program once/week. I think he and I will be much happier with this arrangement.

Now, that I've finally figured out K's schedule, I can finally sign-up for language lessons. And, boy do I need them!!!! I'm tired of guessing about exactly what it is I am buying, ordering, reading - it's not always easy to tell. And, it would probably be good to read exactly what the road signs are telling me!!!! Something like "bridge out" might be good to know!

So, now that S has a Blackberry for work, we get to see him so much more. He usually comes home at a decent hour, in time for dinner with us. But, it also means he is on the damn Blackberry day and night. With the Department being seven hours behind us, he's getting messages all the time. Still, glad to have him home more! And, at least, when he is waiting the two hours for T to finish with hockey practice, he can do some work.

S has two work trips coming up. The first trip is to Prague. The other trip is to Budapest. Oh, how I wish we could go. But, I just cannot take T out of school so soon, so often. At the end of October, T has a week break from school. Damn the government for not coordinating their end-of-fiscal-year "better spend the money NOW" conferences with T's school schedule.

And, that's the mundane day-to-day scoop from Bulgaria.