Code Yellow's 2009 in Review

I haven't been as prolific blogging this year as I have been before, but this year has been amazing for me, so I thought I would put a little recap up for the last day of the year before we move forward into a whole new one.

(But first: I added a couple posts from earlier this month, for the grandmas: Jane's four month photo shoot. And Calvin's birthday post.)

January: We started 2009 in Ukraine (after moving here three months earlier) and started getting our heads around expecting a fourth baby. Wow.

February: We traveled to Egypt - a dream come true for David and an unforgettable experience for all of us.

March: Waited for spring

April: We learned we were having a GIRL, and knew for sure our lives would never be the same!

May: We took a little road trip to Khamenyets Podilski and saw some of the great old fortress ruins in Ukraine. It was fun to drive through small villages and get out of the city a bit.

June: We invited a wonderful young American volunteer teacher to stay with us after her semester ended. I needed help with the kids and someone go to London with us since David wouldn't be able to stay the whole time. Megan became such a great addition to our family - I thoroughly enjoyed her, and the boys, especially Charlie, loved her. She was the best combination of peacemaker and wrestler and teacher and friend. She intuitively saw what needed to be done and just did it, including a lot of dishes. I still miss her. Charlie turned 2 and at the very end of the month, we left for a three month stay in London and awaited Jane's birth.

July: Henry turned 5 and we spent Independence Day in our favorite colony (Britain) and enjoyed a beautiful summer month in London.

August: The boys went back to Virginia with Auntie S on the 9th and Jane arrived on the 10th. Kinda sad timing, but the boys were beyond thrilled to be back in the States for a while and when they came back, they brought my sister Lesli along. It was so great to see her! I also got to see Billy Elliott, Les Miserables, and Wicked while in London - something I totally didn't think would work out. It was fabulous!

September: The boys started their school year back in Kiev and I spent a few more weeks in London with Jane and Charlie. A friend and her daughter watched out for us and even took us on a roadtrip to Oxford, Stonehenge and a little beach in Wales. It was perfect. At the end of the month, I took the littles back to Kiev and our whole family was finally together agian.

October: My sister Joeli came to Kiev to live! We love having her here.

November: We settled into the grey cold of Kiev and hoped for snow. It didn't come, but we were also busy planning for the holidays and enoyed a Thanksgiving with the International Rotary Club.

December: We took a Christmas trip to Munich that was beautiful and Christmasy and perfect. Joy to the world! And just in time for the new year, about two feet of snow and a good amount of ice and slush has covered the streets and rooftops. It FEELS like a Ukraine winter now!

This year has been full of so many blessings and adventures. I am so happy that our family has been healthy and feel so fortunate to have such precious kids and a terrific husband. I know I am truly lucky to be able to be at home with my children and be able to watch them grow. I love seeing the world through their eyes and being taught by them every day.

I look forward to the prospects of 2010: We'll be back in the good ol' US of A sometime in the summer or fall for at least a year, I'm going to dive into homeschooling, and we might even buy our first home. I'm especially excited to see my parents and grandmother as well as David's family and to get together with my brothers and sisters for some fun times - it's been way too long!

I wish you and your family a wonderful celebration tonight and all the best in 2010!


A New Traveling Tradition

On our way to Germany, the boys tired of the in-flight entertainment which they had packed themselves in their own backpacks...(they learned a few things about what will come in handy on a plane and what will not...) So I got out my in-flight entertainment, which I rarely get to on a flight with the family, and which consists of a notebook and pen.

I asked them, "What do you think we might see while we are in Germany?" I prompted them with things I wanted to see, things that aren't in the guidebook, things that weren't necessarily what we would or should see - trying to keep it somewhat whimsical and unexpected, with a few Christmasy things and a few stereotypical Bavarian things, to preserve the flavor of the trip.

For the whole week, the boys would point out things that were on the list that we should cross off and things that they thought we should add to the list because it was fun or unusual. We ended up seeing almost everything on our list, and it passed not only the time on the rest of our flight there, but some considerable time as we walked around the markets and rode the train to Nurnberg and Bad Toelz and the bus to Neuschwanstein. We talked about our list and got excited about seeing things wherever they happened to be.

(One rule that evolved was that we could use sculptures or tapestries to find some of the items, but not advertisements or photographs - everything had to be more or less "real." That made it more fun to cross things off our list, and a bit like "I spy" when we were in museums and castles...)

I think we just might make a list like this any time we travel. Perhaps I will make it a "take a pic" list next time, because some of the things we saw really should have been photographed, and I think the kids would enjoy either taking the pictures with disposable cameras of their own or occasionally getting to snap pictures with Mom's good camera. We'll see...

If you're interested in pictures of what else we saw and did, you can check out my album on facebook. We really enjoyed our trip as well as our list!

Anyway, here is our Munich list. I think it tells a lot about our adventure, too. Items with an asterisk indicate those that we didn't see, but still hoped for. Any guesses as to which items were added by whom?

three little pigs

an angel with wings made of feathers

a fish

a golden star (we actually saw 28 of them, Calvin kept the tally)

a silver bell

a big blue ornament (more difficult to find than you would think)

someone on stilts*

a wooden baby Jesus (woodcarving in Oberammergau is amazing)

a metal baby Jesus (we counted one made of gold)

a sailboat (the Deutsches Museum has quite a collection)

a cuckoo clock

a real, live baby lamb* (not one included in the live animal nativity we saw in Nurnberg)

a red train

a snowdrift taller than Dad* (although we did some serious playing in the snow!)

a knitted scarf, hat and mittens that all match

a soldier

a rooster (part of the mosaic on the floor od King Ludwig's throne room)

a golden bed (Calvin thought of adding this and then was not that impressed when we actually saw one!)

candles that clip on a tree

a castle made of gingerbread (actually, it was made of marzipan...but quite impressive)

a castle on a mountain (we saw two, and one palace on a mountain)

a fountain (it was frozen, but still spitting water out of its mouth - most of the other fountains were covered with little wooden huts to protect them from the cold)

a big black mean stray dog*

someone riding a bicycle (in the snow!!)

a lady with a red fur coat

a sweater crow like in Kiev*

a menorah

a ruby or sapphire (amazing collection in the treasury of the Residenz)

a butterfly ornament*

a Santa Claus with a real beard (who happened to be riding a bicycle in the snow!)

a sausage that looks like this: (a drawing of a spiral)

a tower

a rocket

a bird smaller than Mom's hand

a man wearing lederhosen*

a grandma with red cheeks

a building with purple stripes (the stripes were created with Christmas lights)

an elephant

a bridge in the mountains

a horse-drawn carriage (we rode it!)

a fairy

a man in a turban

a snake

a big frothy mug of beer

a 5-mile tunnel (going 190 miles an hour on a bullet train!)

orange Christmas lights

a feather pillow as wide as Calvin's arm span*

a string of jingle bells*

a music box

a drum

a man with a Peter Pan hat

a serving wench (ours weren't as buxom and young as one might like, perhaps)

a monster truck (three!)

a camel

a four-horned goat (which WAS included in the live nativity we saw in Nurnberg)

a giant Christmas tree


Where Did Everything Go?



My blog?

Everything has gotten away from me. Facebook highjacked my blog, but as for the month and the year and most of my sanity, I have no idea...

We spent Christmas in Munich. Just got back tonight. Pictures and more later. It was wonderful.

Jane turned four months old, learned to roll over and scoot pretty much wherever she'd like to go, and celebrated her first Christmas. She has also completely overwhelmed her dad because she refuses to be consoled by him. It's sad because he is so loving and has always been able to handle the other babies, and she will have none of it. It's strange for me to have a baby that is soooo into me and only me (and sometimes Aunt Jo). A bit exhausting as well.

The older boys have two more weeks off of school for the holidays. That makes six weeks off in the last two and half months. On one hand, it's nice - I really enjoy them, and I haven't lost my motivation to homeschool next year. On the other hand, it's a lot of work coming up with things to occupy them and pacify them and contain them. I think urban apartment living is the main problem. So we'll have to solve that sometime in the new year.

I'm working on catching up with everything and finding everything, including some time to blog more regularly.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a new year filled with wonder and joy...in case I don't find my way to the blog again before 2010 is upon me.


The Jane: Four Months Old

She's celebrating her first Christmas this year!

Her boots are courtesy of Auntie S. This little girl is going to be so hip, even with a fashionly clueless mom, thanks to her very stylish extended family.

Jane is so intent and aware...

Always thinking and trying to figure stuff out...

This month, she realized that her hands were hers. However, she still used one to catch the other and put it in her mouth.

She likes the lights and ornaments, and she truly is crazy about red. (They say that babies especially like red, but out of my kids, she and Calvin are the only infants that really seemed to be attracted to it or to fixate on red things at all.)

More and more of her (very strong) personality is coming out. FOrtunately, I think she is also developing a little sense of humor.


A Note By Any Other Name...

Calvin and Henry were playing some kind of secret note passing game yesterday in which they would write funny notes to one another and have Charlie deliver them and then they would laugh and laugh over the silliness of what their notes said. I wasn't privy to any of the contents of most of the notes, and I'm pretty sure they contained potty talk (because it is HILARIOUS to write "poopy," you know), but the boys were having fun and it was keeping Charlie occupied as well, so it went on for quite a while.

I'm not sure if Charlie tired of being delivery boy or if Calvin just suddenly had an idea, but he brought me a Fanta bottle with a rolled up note stuck in it and whispered, "Give this to Henry when you see him." So, I complied and handed the bottle to Henry when he came into the kitchen.

He opened the bottle and unrolled the note and read it out loud at the kitchen table:

Dear Henry,
You are a rose to me. I love you.
From: Mom.

And Henry looked up with a big smile and said, "Did you write this, Mom?"

He was so happy to get a nice, non-potty-topic note that made me so sad to tell him no, that Calvin had written it to be tricky. So I added that it was true, he was a rose to me. Then it made me laugh, because who tells anyone that they are a rose? And how did Calvin even think to write a note from me and then so easily get me to deliver it? And did Henry really think that I might have written it when it was obviously in Calvin's handwriting? And then I realized that Calvin's trick really was tricky. And funny but a little sad, and that's what made it such a good trick. The stinker.


My First Baby, Seven Years On

Oh, Calvin. My beautiful, beautiful boy. You were first to show me the miracle of being a mom and first to make me love like I didn't know I could. You are smart and strong and healthy and happy and inquisitive and tender and serious and intense and loving. One of my deepest joys is watching you grow and one of my greatest satisfactions is seeing the amazing boy you are. And the way the years are flying by, I know you won't always be my boy, and I won't always get to mother you, but every birthday you have is one more year that I am blessed to know you and have you in my life. Happy Birthday, my sunshine.


More Jane: Blessing Day

These pictures are on my facebook, but I wanted to share them with my friends (and dad, grandma) outside of Facebook.

Jane was blessed yesterday and here is our little after-church photo shoot.


Potty (Training) Talk

I wait to potty train until the boy has the verbal and/or motor skills to understand and be able to do most everything that needs to be done. (With the exception of wiping - that motor skill doesn't catch up for a good long time...) But I think it's important for the boy to be able to communicate that he needs to go and for me to be sure that he is understanding what's going on.

So I think it's time to start potty training Charlie. He had a brief removing-of-his-own-diaper phase, but now he is really into announcing each time he "goes" in his diaper. Only he says things like, "I just went peepee on the table" (because he was sitting on the coffee table, fully dressed, at the time) and "I just pooped on my train track" (again, just sitting on the train track). He thinks it's hilarious when I come bolting into the room to make sure he didn't really...

My favorite, however, is when he announces proudly, with a sly little giggle, "I just burped in my diaper!!!" We usually call them toots, so he came up with the burp analogy on his own. And since he is my third boy and I have resigned myself to regular conversations about bodily functions until they are married and their wives can listen to them, I laugh every time he lets us know he "burped."

At any rate, I'm pretty sure he knows and can verbalize what is going on well enough to train. Sigh. Not my favorite thing...Although getting down to one child in diapers again is a nice thought.


Dr. Cal

Last night I had a strange attack of a fever and chills and body aches and was certain that I was on my way to a serious illness of some sort, just in time for the swine flu quarantine to be lifted and the kids to go back to school.

I was in bed trying to get warm when Calvin came in, unable to sleep, and wanted to snuggle. He asked me if I was OK and I answered that I didn't feel so good and (in my not serious tone of voice) maybe I had swine flu.

Calvin: If you had swine flu, you would have a lot of symptoms. Like you would have a headache and a fever and you would be coughing and sneezing and maybe even throwing up.

Me: Hmm. Well my whole body hurts and I'm pretty sure I have a fever.

Calvin: (unimpressed) That's only two.

Me: My head just hurts really bad and I feel like I'm freezing. Kiss my forehead and see if it feels hot to your lips.

Calvin: Yeah, it's pretty hot. But you can't really know if it's a real fever unless you actually take your temperature, Mom.

Me: Are you a doctor or something?

Calvin: No. I just read a lot of non-fiction books.


Dryer Full of Pink

This sight just made me smile tonight. You know laundry is my arch-nemesis, but it is kinda fun to open the dryer door and see it full of baby girlness, all Drefty smelling and softy soft.

I also loved this the other night. Henry is my note-writing, loving and appreciating boy. And it makes me smile that he always puts "realy" and "serislee" at the end of his declarations. He wants there to be no doubt that he means it.

Jane has definitely turned thumb sucker. She can almost console herself and it's adorable to look at besides that.

In other random tidbits, I now "have a Facebook." I don't know what I was thinking. I'm too old for peer pressure to be a driving force in my life, but there it is. I couldn't ignore the incredulity of everyone in the modern world my friends any longer.

I am really happy that it has connected me with my two older cousins, who are part and parcel of most of my childhood memories. And I will try to be up on it and answer back, Uncle Scott. (Although I don't want you to quit reading and commenting on Code Yellow Mom!)

One other thought is that maybe my blog can become my substantial, "real writing" (witty, succinct, meaningful, addictive to someone besides me) effort, and my facebook can be the random keep in touch stuff that my blog has become. I'd like that. Although I've not been very good at either since putting my social network self out there. (Life is what I'm doing when I'm not online.)

And speaking of blogs, my sister has launched a blog (I'm good at dishing out the peer pressure myself!) and you should check it out. She is cute and related to me and if that's not enough, she is telling all about HER life in Ukraine and tattling a little on me. Undeniably Gypsy. Go tell her Hi and let her know that even though my kids often smell bad, they are still the cutest nephews and niece in the eastern hemisphere.


The Jane: Three Months Old

Time is flying - I just barely posted Jane's 2 month photo shoot, and not much else in between. That would be because my life is mostly about Jane. She's got my number.

Other than baby doodling, we've also been homeschooling. It's like a trial run for next year, which is a good thing, I guess. The boys are doing well and the school has (or at least the boys' teachers have) done a remarkable job setting up a distance learning program online so they don't fall behind in their progress and don't have to go to school for three extra weeks in the summer. The only part I'm not liking is the scanning of the work they do at home to send in to their teachers. My attention span is lacking or something.

Calvin and Henry miss their friends. I am getting a feel, though, for how they will function for homeschool and what things I need to do so they get social and physical stimulation in. It hasn't been as rough as I thought, so I won't complain too much about swine flu nonsense, which is the reason we are basically locked up at home, but I think we will all be glad when we can get out and have the routine of going to school again.

But without further ado, the reason for this post: Janekins.

She is a magnificent night sleeper - usually from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and last night from 9 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. (and right back to sleep after feeding, which is why I am blogging right now...) We can't seem to get a daytime routine of naps and feeding and playing going, but the nighttime rest helps a lot to compensate for the snuggling, holding, rocking, soothing that goes on for most of the day.

Jane startles easily. And by startle, I mean that her face registers complete panic and she holds her breath and then wails until she feels secure again. That's been fun with all the boys home all day. Everything about them is loud and sudden. Jane doesn't like it much.

I do love how she looks at me...

She has started finding her fingers and thumb to soothe herself. It is pretty adorable. She puts her whole hand on her forehead and slides it down her face until her thumb slips into her mouth. She sucks for a second until she accidentally pokes her own eye with her still extended fingers. Then starts the process over again. We'll have to work on it a bit.

In general, she spends a good amount of time trying to figure out her arms. She was literally born with her hand on top of her head, and she still puts it there a lot. Lately she's been pausing to look at her arm as it makes its way up and she studies her hands a lot. It's funny how interested she is in it - it seems to be a longer phase of doing this kind of thing than the boys had. The whole time we were trying to take pictures, she had one or the other of her hands in front of her face...

She is starting to have longer times of playing or looking around without crying and that is nice. We're also getting a lot more smiles out of her. Her personality is showing more and more...

She continues to be a champion breastfeeder and is definitely not missing out on any of the good cream...

She seems to be getting so big, but she is really still such a tiny little thing.

Her babyhood seems to be lasting a lot longer than my other babies. That is a good thing, because sometimes I can hardly remember when they were tiny and that makes me sad. The baby years are the hardest for me so far, but they really are so fleeting, and then gone forever.

And although I feel like I'm seeing and appreciating a lot more of her baby-ness, three months has definitely flown.



The boys were off for a week for fall break last week. And now, thanks to ridiculous swine flu panic they get three more bonus weeks at home. Just in time to go back for two weeks and then have three weeks off for Christmas. I really should have just started homeschool this year...

But anyway.

Here are some pictures of our Halloween fun. The boys helped me and Aunt Joe paint the backdrop for the embassy kids halloween party and they were super excited to be ghosts. (After a week of trying to figure out how to do a mummy costume that would stand up to the "I've got to go pee...NOW!" test. We never figured it out...)

Aunt Lesli sent Jane her first halloween outfit...

And another mom here swapped me baby costumes so that her daughter could be Eeyore this year and Jane could be a screaming jack-o-lantern. Super cute.

It made me miss the U.S., though. Halloween just isn't the same, since there's no explaining what kind of holiday Halloween is or really why we "celebrate" it. It kinda misses its mark in a different country. Ah well. We did get a bunch of American Halloween candy from the commissary and we ate chili and watched a spooky movie at home. We'll do some real trickin' and treatin' some other year...


The Jane: Two Months Old

I didn't post it!! I took the pictures and edited them and then...my brain! Where is my brain?!?

Anyway, about Jane at two months...

She continues to prefer (and now demand) me above all others. Although my sister Joeli (who just moved here!!!) can get her to be calm, and a professional grandma in our branch can settle her quite well. She has added a little girly scream to her cry now. It's cute and scarey all at the same time.

She also already tries to get her brothers in trouble with her zero-to-hysterical tendencies. I will walk out of a room where one of the boys is cooing and talking to her and she's totally happy, then suddenly I will hear her scream and hold her breath and start crying like crazy so I rush back in thinking that the brother did something to her and expect to see the bouncy seat overturned or teeth marks on her face or something. And then I remember - she doesn't wind-up fuss. She just lets you know right away when she's done being pleasant. Poor big brothers.

If I didn't know it before, I definitely know it now: a baby is born with personality and preferences and character traits. Jane is spicey and baffling. At two months.

She is growing fast and I already had to retire a few of her littlest clothes because she started looking like she was exploding out of them. So sad.

Her little bit of hair is decidedly strawberry blonde in hue and her eyes are very much like Henry's - blue/grey/green. Her looks surprise me all the time - I took it for granted that I would have a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl. She has beautiful porcelain skin and is soft and squidgy all over.

And now for the pictures. She does smile - mostly for me, occasionally for her dad or brothers, but never for the camera. But who needs to smile? Those thighs speak for themselves...


To Jane From Henry

(On an orange piece of construction paper folded in several directions. The "J"s are backwards with giant dots on the top of them...He gave it to me to give to her to help her stop crying.)

you'r very couht jane

I. love you jane



You Should Live Here: Moonbounces

We're getting into our routine again here in Kiev. That includes at least one trip a week to a park or playground. We went to Marinsky Park on Saturday, which was really beautiful. But it did make me miss London a bit.

One of the very, very best things about London is that they have amazing parks. Beautiful gardens, paths, fountains, ponds and lakes. Green. Clean. Perfect. We spent a lot of time in Regent's Park and some in Hyde Park, St. James, and Kensington Gardens. I love not only being outside and strolling through the parks, but I love the atmosphere, the people, the feeling that is there. The boys loved feeding the huge variety of birds (although Charlie did equal parts feeding and chasing) and discovering the playgrounds, which were safe and clean. It's the little things, you know. So nice.

But almost every time we left a playground or park in London, Charlie would start a steady repetition: "Ah wanna doe on moonbouse...Ah wanna doe on moonbouse..." It took me a while to figure out what he was saying and why it always came up when we were leaving a park. Then I realized it was: "I wanna go on the moonbounce."

(We call them moonbounces - I'm not sure what they're called in general. In Northern Virginia, people not in our socioeconomic bracket rent them for backyard birthday parties and they usually are just a contained place to jump like mad inside a huge air-filled cube. The ones here are the same huge inflated things, but they are slides instead of air-trampolines, and they usually have some kind of chicken/barnyard theme to them. Do you call them moonbounces, too?)

Yeah, they don't have moonbounces in every (or any?) park in London. But they do in Kiev. For less than $1, your child can climb, bounce and slide like crazy for ten whole minutes. Charlie loves the moonbounce and apparently considers it an integral part of his going-to-the-park experience. The other boys were discerning enough to appreciate London's parks for what they were, but Charlie felt they were distinctly lacking.

But now all the boys are thrilled to be back in the land of the moonbounce parks. Considering the state of the playgrounds and the broken-glass-strewn paths in a lot of the parks here, the moonbounce is heaven.