The Month of the Squash

Squash, really? I guess so, as long as the squash is bigger, heavier, and much more wiggly than an eggplant. Our baby girl, in weeks 29 through 32, is 15.2 inches and 16.7 inches from head to toe and weighs 2.5 to 3.8 pounds already. According to our ultrasound this week, she is already head down. She is very active and I've been able to feel and see tiny elbows and/or knees moving around, at all hours. We had a 3D ultrasound so I got to see her little profile, but I can't figure out how to freeze the frame and post it (they give it to us on CD here), so you'll just have to wait until she's out in the world for your first picture!

When I was three months pregnant with Calvin, I thought I was getting big, having just "popped out" and all. Then I went full term plus one week and learned what huge was. I didn't make the same mistake with the other two pregnancies - it wasn't until at least seven and a half months along that I allowed myself the thought that I couldn't imagine being any larger or tighter. I still learned that indeed I could, but still...

This time around, wow. I think I am carrying totally differently or something because everything is tight and heavy already and we have at least ten weeks to go! Yikes!

But despite my tremendousness, I am actually feeling better right now than I have the entire pregnancy. I think getting some darling little girl clothes in the mail from my mother in law and perhaps having a leveling of hormones has helped some. My weight has stayed the same (yay!) and I have lots of energy and am nesting like I have never nested before.

In the last two weeks, I have: officially and finally packed away Christmas stuff (the house hasn't been decorated still all this time, it's just that the holiday decorations were piled and untouched in a mostly forgotten / ignored corner, nagging at me all this time...); sorted through all the boys drawers and made lists of what they need for summer and back to school so we can get that all lined out before I enter newborn land; packed up several bags of donations of toys, books and clothes for the homeless and an orphanage; washed all the bedding in the house and made the beds up fresh and beautiful (bought all new pillows because ours were older than most of our children and grungier than all of our children put together - how does that happen?); gathered up all our office and art supplies into one area and am planning to make a art/writing/"inventions" center for me and the boys so that markers, crayons, paste, staples and recyclables aren't scattered all over the house all the time; completely cleaned our master bedroom so that it is peaceful and relaxing instead of a total dumping ground...and I'm not finished yet! It feels great!

We've also recruited a mother's helper for me - one of the young women in our church branch who has been here for a semester volunteer teaching English is going to stay an extra month with us in Ukraine and travel along to London. She'll be my right hand girl until the end of July. The boys like her and she is very even-keeled and sweet, and I am soooo looking forward to being able to rest every once in a while or go on errands in peace.

I've started gathering little girl clothes, and was so excited about the things David's mom sent that I was telling my Russian tutor about them but didn't know the names of the clothing. She told me to bring them and she would teach me all the words, that would be our lesson. As it turns out, there aren't Russian words for things like "onesies" and "sleep and plays" - because they don't have those kind of things! Really, they don't. And it was so funny to see my tutor in awe of the way things were made, how soft the fabrics are, how well sewn, how in America we think of things like cuffs that can fold over tiny hands so the baby won't scratch her face, and we sew fabric behind the zippers so it won't pinch the baby's skin, etc. She saw the label on the onesies and asked if it was a designer brand. Gerber. She just couldn't get over how wonderful all these little basic things were. I love them, too. They make me happy.

And what else am I thinking of in this month of the squash?

One thing is cloth diapering. My grandma will think I'm nuts, but we are actually thinking it is a very practical and viable option. Diapers here are much more expensive and much lower quality (so we go through more) than in the U.S. for one thing. We do have the option of ordering through the commissary, but orders are only once every three months and it's hard to gauge how many of what sizes a growing infant will need over the next several months. Plus, they are more pricey that way as well. Cloth diapering one child would pay for itself in about four months. If we cloth diaper two children, it will be even less time than that.

Another (admittedly odd) thing that tips me in the direction of cloth diapers is that there are people who go through our trash almost on a daily basis, looking for salvagibles. We've started seperating out bottles and bags and plastic containers to make their lives easier, but I still feel bad that they have to touch and smell our dirty diapers in the process. And that makes the reality of rotting, nonbiodegrading yuck from us sitting in landfills here, in a country where most of the population potty trains their children well before age one (that's another thing altogether) and already has serious environmental issues, something very compelling to think about.

So, I ordered a two-pack of one-size pocket cloth diapers and have been trying them out on Charlie. I think I can do it. I think I want to do it. I need to be tutored a little more, especially when it comes to an older baby's diapers, but it's not that difficult - cloth diapers have come a long way since complicated folding and jabbing with huge safety pins and stained plastic covers! We have a fabulous washing machine. Call me crazy, but I think it's a go.

I've also been thinking a lot about breast feeding. It gives me huge stress. HUGE stress. Not so much that I will not attempt it, but enough that I already feel like crying. It is just not easy for me, ever - latching on difficulties, engorgement, thrush, pain and uncertainty, not really having the luxury of lolling with an infant at breast until they feel like they are fed enough. I know those it comes easy to cannot fathom what my problem is, but it is truly rough! I'm just really not looking forward to it. Plus, because we weren't entirely planning on having a baby in Ukraine, my great breast pump is in deep dark storage in the USA and buying a new one would be dumb. But it just makes me feel better to have one as a back up. I don't know. Formula here is outrageous (deciphering ingredients and prices), so I don't want to go there already. It's just stress.

And finally, I've been thinking, "Oh yeah, I have to give birth." On the one hand, I've done this three times before, so I'm not so worried. On the other hand, um, giving birth is a pretty huge deal. Usually by now I'm all psyched up and prepared for going natural like I've always wanted, but I haven't done so much of that this time. It kinda hit me day before yesterday - this baby will have to be born. Somehow. And even though I've done it three times before, I think, "Wow." And also, "Yikes."

And that, my friends, is the long and short (mostly long) of the month of the squash. Oh, except for that Henry told me the other day that he doesn't like me anymore. I asked him why and he said, "You're just ruder, with a baby in your tummy."

Yeah, well. Get over it.


Ketchup: On Reading Challenges

You know how sometimes your favorite red condiment stubbornly refuses to come out of the bottle onto your burger or dog? You shake it, you use a knife to move it along, you shake it some more, you squeeze the heck out of it, only to get a very unsatisfactory "sphflllttt!" and a few little red splatters? So you repeat the process and then almost without warning, "PLOP!" an enormous blop, enough for two burgers and three dogs, lands on your plate and probably a bit down the front of your shirt. Yeah? Well, welcome to my blog today. And bear with me...this is Ketchup Post Four (of Four).

First of all, I've surpassed my goal for the Spring Reading Thing, which was to read on book a week for the thirteen weeks. The goal date isn't until June 21st, but I got on a roll reading like crazy and finished more than thirteen books already.

Huge thanks to Katrina at Callapidder Days for hosting the Spring Reading Thing! (Click on the Spring Reading Thing button to go there for more info.) I look forward to her Fall Into Reading later this year.

This last week I started nesting like a mad woman, and we leave for London in a month, so I'm not sure how much reading I will squeeze in before we go. But here are a few comments on the books that I've most recently finished:

My First 300 BabiesThis came highly recommended from a couple different sources, especially for bringing a newborn into busy families. But I wasn't twenty pages into it before I thought I would gouge my eyeballs out. Three children into parenting, I firmly believe in "something has to give." I'm all about structure and routine - nothing contributes more to pleasant temperament and general health of mom and children - but this book was just a leeeetle over the top. I didn't feel like it could work in the 21st century for one thing, and for another I felt like it was forceful and rigid, especially for newborns. I definitely prefer (and can unequivocally recommend) Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child as a better sanity and life saver than this book. I find myself admiring the author but at the same time completely discouraged by the methods she described.

Parenting With Love and LogicLove the principles behind this parenting theory and believe they are solid. However, the "real-life" examples fell totally short and left me feeling like the whole idea was for the parents to constantly remind the children how much they are an inconvenience. It was just the flavor of it that got to me. Unfortunate, because truly, the foundational concepts totally jive with my understanding of choice, consequences, responsibility and trusting relationships. I just needed a better demonstration of how it works on the ground.

Bonnie's Household Organizer I will keep this book forever. Simple ideas, simple implementation. Published in the 80s but still very helpful and inspiring without being fly lady intense or Polly Perfect overwhelming. I've already done a couple of the things and feel enthusiastic to add more. Great suggestions for laundry, money, dejunking, and helping your kids learn to help. I can totally understand why I've read about this book on so many blogs and in other books. I'm glad I now own it.

Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your ChildrenI just love Supernanny. This book is not rocket science but I liked the consistent review of things to say and do for different situations, and the underlying feel of love and patience for children. A light and helpful read. Kinda helped me get a grip and put things in perspective. Although I still think time-outs do not work. So we'll figure something out.

Sailing to Sarantium
and Lord of Emperors These books hooked me. Lots of decadence, debauchery and tense adventure, they made me want to know more about Byzantium and to become a mosaicist. I liked getting lost in the story. A lot.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyJust read it. It is precious. And I might just have to go to Guernsey while I am in England. I never knew that the Germans occupied these little islands in the English Channel, so it was fun to learn more history. The whole book is written as a series of letters between the characters and you fall in love with every one of them. The heroine is peppy but real, and I came away with a strengthened admiration for those who lived through World War II. it's a quick and endearing read that you should totally do.

I was looking over the list of books I ended up reading and almost all of them fell into three categories: Parenting, Fantasy, or Books About Reading Changing One's Life. Kinda funny that it happened that way. The parenting books mostly fell flat for me (maybe because I feel like I need some REAL help right now?) and Fantasy is a genre that surprised me this time because I've never gotten into it before (all you have to do is say, "Lord of the Rings" and my eyes irrevocably glaze over), and I think for just pure enjoyment and soul satisfaction, Books About Reading Changing One's Life really do it for me.


And now, a month late: How did my Read Together goals go? Well...

My main goal was to make sure each of my boys was getting something at their own level for their individual enjoyment during bedtime reading. We started the month out with Calvin reading Harry Potter with David. I would choose a few board books to read with Charlie, put him down to bed, and then read a book or two to Henry.

Partway through the month, some friends loaned us The Tale of Despereaux and I started it with Henry, even though he has lost interest before in chapter books. Despereaux entertained him thoroughly UNTIL Calvin caught wind of what we were enjoying just as he finished Harry Potter with his dad. So he started sitting in on the Despereaux reading. It seems that Henry, more than anything, wants one-on-one. So he started asking his dad to read to him while I finished Despereaux with Calvin.

At any rate, both big boys are now regularly getting individual reading. Charlie gets read to every time one of us sits down (if there is a lap, he will bring his little self and at least on book - if not ten - and demand, "Weed!"), so he is getting plenty of book time. I think I will work on bedtime reading with him a little more later.

I also wanted to say that finding books especially appealing to Henry has been a lot of fun and based on some of the ones we read during this challenge, he has asked for books for his birthday more than anything else! He's fallen in love with the Scaredy Squirrel books, as well as Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy - all recommendations from you when we started our goal. So, thank you!

And thank you to Jennifer at Snapshot for encouraging us to read together! (Sorry to be so lame on the follow-up posts...but we were still participating!)


And finally - if you are still with me, or read this post in the first place, bless your beautiful hide - I'd like to know: What is one of your favorite "escape" books ever?

Ketchup: On the Weekend of Castles

You know how sometimes your favorite red condiment stubbornly refuses to come out of the bottle onto your burger or dog? You shake it, you use a knife to move it along, you shake it some more, you squeeze the heck out of it, only to get a very unsatisfactory "sphflllttt!" and a few little red splatters? So you repeat the process and then almost without warning, "PLOP!" an enormous blop, enough for two burgers and three dogs, lands on your plate and probably a bit down the front of your shirt. Yeah? Well, welcome to my blog today. And bear with me...this is Ketchup Post Three (of Four).

We went to Kamanyets Podilsky the first weekend in May - David had a four day weekend for a Ukrainian holiday. We actually stayed in Khmelnitsky and took a couple day trips from there. The towns and places we saw are very close to the border of Ukraine near Romania and Moldova, about a six hour drive from Kiev.

One of my favorite things was seeing the countryside, farms, villages, fields, the slower and more simple life, a part of life that is so much less ostentatious than Kiev.

We spent one day at Kamanyets Podilsky and nearby Khotin, both fortresses that were part of the medieval protection against Turkish slave raids about 900 years ago. We also learned of a really amazing battle that took place at the fortress involving elephants and camels. The boys were enthralled with the walls and hills, the giant well in the center of the fortress, and of course the dungeons. My leg muscles have been very crampy (I know, eat more bananas) and the heights and precarious ladders made me feel like something or someone was going to fall out, so I waited a lot while the boys ventured up, down, through and around. Still, it was great.

Our second day was spent at the little village of Medzibizh, a historic Jewish settlement that is where the founder of Hasidism lived most of his life. The village was exterminated by the Nazis in World War II and there are only two Jewish families left in the whole town now, but there is a synogogue where many Jews make pilgrimages to every year. There are also ruins of a 700 year old synogogue there as well that are now part of a fire station. The most fascinating thing about the town, though, were its old Jewish cemeteries. They date back to the 16th century.

We also had a wonderful time stumbling upon ruins of old churches - some Catholic, some Russian Orthodox, all of them hundreds of years old. I loved the flowers growing through rocks and touching the stone, marveling at the patterns in the brick and how amazingly thick the walls were.

Overall, it was wonderful to be in open space. The boys could climb and explore to their heart's content - nothing is off limits. I could have wished for more things to be labeled and explained (I am so spoiled by the Smithsonian museums!), but it was also just fascinating to stand in buildings that have stood there for almost a thousand years.

Here are a few pictures from our adventures...(Sorry I'm not labeling and describing them in detail,and they are in mixed up order. I just want to post and be done! Hope you enjoy anyway.)

Ketchup: On Sofievsky Park

You know how sometimes your favorite red condiment stubbornly refuses to come out of the bottle onto your burger or dog? You shake it, you use a knife to move it along, you shake it some more, you squeeze the heck out of it, only to get a very unsatisfactory "sphflllttt!" and a few little red splatters? So you repeat the process and then almost without warning, "PLOP!" an enormous blop, enough for two burgers and three dogs, lands on your plate and probably a bit down the front of your shirt. Yeah? Well, welcome to my blog today. And bear with me...this is Ketchup Post Two (of Four).

I'm enjoying my camera and I love my kids and we took a nice little day trip a few weekends ago to Sofievsky Park, so this post is mostly pictures of our day. The park is about a two hour drive from Kiev.

It was once the landholding of a Polish noble and he designed and built it as a gift of love for his wife, Sofia. It's over two hundred years old and parts are in various states of restoration after being passed from department to department during the Soviet era.

Many of the trees were still bare, but the paths and the opportunity to wander and climb, plus a very cool boat ride "under the earth" to the top of the park and back were wonderful for us and the boys. It was warm without being too hot - a perfect day. I would like to go back again sometime when there are more blooms and more green.

The rocks and caves were a big hit with the boys...

Charlie walked through a little crevice between a rock and a tree and came out with a cobweb sticking to his arm. He was completely perplexed because he couldn't see it or get it off, but he could definitely feel it: (His expression in the last pic cracks me up!)

When he wasn't vanquishing cobwebs, he was playing peaking games from his ride as we were trekking around...

Here are some shots from a wonderful huge hollow tree where we spent a lot of time climbing and taking pictures in the knot holes...I love my boys' eyes.

Charlie climbed the tree...
Dad climbed the tree...
Mom climbed the tree (just to reassure herself that there are still things in this world bigger than she is)...
Henry and Calvin climbed the tree...
We also took a boat ride on a canal that goes under part of the park to the higher area. The boat goes through a tunner barely wide enough for it to fit and the pilot just uses a long stick to push off the sides as we go. It was mostly black inside except for an occasional skylight cut into the thick rock walls above. I caught David looking up into one of the light holes. The people behind him were taking pictures of the light. I think it looks like a modern dance pose.
On the path by the lake at the top there was another fun tree to climb and play in...

Charlie did some exploring on foot...
Lots of bugs, cracks, dirt, and little puddles. That we must stop and look at...

By the end of the afternoon I was leaving the climbing and exploring a little more to the boys and just wandering a bit on the paved (flat) paths, taking pictures of spring. This is one of my favorites:

Calvin sulked that it was time to go "so soon" and took off down the path ahead of us...
And Charlie's grin speaks for all of us. It was a fun day.

Ketchup: On Easter

You know how sometimes your favorite red condiment stubbornly refuses to come out of the bottle onto your burger or dog? You shake it, you use a knife to move it along, you shake it some more, you squeeze the heck out of it, only to get a very unsatisfactory "sphflllttt!" and a few little red splatters? So you repeat the process and then almost without warning, "PLOP!" an enormous blop, enough for two burgers and three dogs, lands on your plate and probably a bit down the front of your shirt. Yeah? Well, welcome to my blog today. And bear with me...this is Ketchup Post One (of Four).

(They're maybe not interesting to anyone but me, but I wanted to record them anyway...)

So, yes, I know Easter was weeks ago. I'm not completely loopy. Just a little.


I didn't get organized enough to celebrate Spring the way I wanted to on March 22nd, but I did get it together to have quite a nice Easter week this year. Actually, we celebrated a lot of Easter, because we did our Easter things based on Easter in the States, and Ukraine celebrates (in a big way) Russian / Ukrainian Orthodox Easter, which happens a week later. Overall, I think it was meaningful to the boys, and it's something I'd like to continue and build on each year.

We managed to have some fun and colorful parts of our celebration and some quiet, spiritual parts as well.

The Fun (and/or Cute)

I found egg coloring kits here and was really excited about that. David deciphered the directions and went at it with the boys. The colors turned out so much more vivd than any other eggs I've ever colored (Ukraine does it better than Paas?!) and I especially liked how the brown eggs we colored turned out so rich looking (the rust, deep red and purple colored ones). Calvin made one that looked like the Ukrainian flag (top row, third from either side).

We went to the Marine House for an embassy Easter egg hunt the day before Easter. It was a freezing day and Charlie didn't really understand the concept of finding eggs. He also didn't have a parent who ran and picked up handfulls of eggs for him to demonstrate the concept. Oh well.

He did learn to enjoy a good egg or two, though. One of his biggest tantrums to date (and he truly does not have many of those!) was over an egg. He was asking for one and because I was too slow, he got the carton of colored eggs out of the fridge himself.

I took one out of the carton for him and peeled it, put him in his high chair and gave it to him. He lost it. Crying, flailing, throwing of the boiled egg. I could not figure it out. So I took him out of his chair and let him writhe since he was not telling me what it was about and I had gotten him what he wanted. (He says, "Egg!" pretty clearly and had gotten the eggs out himself, after all.)

Finally he settled down and with crocodile tears and snot, snot, snot, came to my leg and said, "Egg! I do it!" Aha. A little bid for independence. He got another egg out and walked over to the trash can, where he stood and methodically peeled the shell off and took a very satisfied bite out of the end of it when he was finished. Just watching those fat little hands prop the egg on that fat little belly to allow for easier peeling...

(The last egg picture is one of the reasons I l-o-v-e love my camera. I just do. It's cool.)

The Beauty

Some time ago, I bought a book called "A Christ-centered Easter" by Janet and Joe Hales. It provides ideas for observing the week before Easter with your family, and has suggestions for adapting the plan for any age group, as well as songs, activities, and recipes. I didn't end up using the book this year for much more than a springboard for simple discussion with our kids, since they are young and some of the activity supplies were hard to come by in Ukraine on short notice, but the book has some nice things in it for building up to a wonderful celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Mostly what I did was organize pictures from the last week of Christ's life, starting with the Sunday before (Palm Sunday), based on the accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I made strips of paper that labeled each of the days of the week. Each night, we posted the day wordstrip and talked about what happened on that day in the earthly ministry of Jesus (with the help of the pictures), why it is important to us, and what we can do to follow the Savior's example or rejoice in his teachings.

That sounds really fancy and uber in-depth, but I promise that except for the Jerusalem dinner, nothing took more than twenty or thirty minutes, and most were just ten minutes or so before stories and bedtime. We're dealing with the attention spans of the six and under crowd, you know.

I was remiss in taking pictures of our Easter wall (where we posted everything), but I thought it might be mildly interesting to post what we talked about each day during the week. (Plus I need to remember for next year...searching the blog is so much easier than searching or recreating from stuff in my house!)

Most of the pictures I got from the LDS Gospel Art Kit. Anyone can use the Gospel Art Pictures, found online here - they are wonderful aids for talking about the stories in the scriptures. We used the brief summaries that are printed with each to keep our little discussions brief and interesting, then just asked questions about main ideas. There are also wonderful sources of Old and New Testament artwork in lots of other places.

Anyway - here is what we talked about and/or did each day of Easter Week:

Sunday - Jesus' Triumphal entry (Palm Sunday); We read the summary on the back of the picture and then talked about why the people were celebrating Jesus' arrival and how waving the palm fronds and laying their clothing on the road before him was a way to show how much they loved him. I had colored five big palm fronds on a piece of butcher paper and each of us chose one and wrote beside it something they could do to show that they love Jesus and want to follow him. We taped it to the wall in our hallway for a reminder. David - I will be more patient; Calvin - I will listen to my mom and dad; Henry - I won't yell; Traci - I will read my scriptures each day.

Monday - Jesus Cleanses the Temple; We read and talked about the picture and then talked about why Jesus wanted Heavenly Father's house to be clean. We also talked about how really special things happen (people are healed, Jesus can teach us) when the house is put in order and people are not doing irreverant or sinful things there. We talked about things that Jesus might want to cleanse from our house if he visited and about ways that we could make our house one where we could experience special things and feel His presence here.

Tuesday - Jesus Teaches; We used the picture of the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate him teaching, but mostly talked about the parables he taught during this last week. (The Bible accounts aren't entirely clear on the chronology of Tuesday and Wednesday, but he did share some of his most famous parables during these two days, and we know that he was in Bethany for part of the time, so we divided the parables and the visit to Bethany between Tuesday and Wednesday for our discussions.) We played "Memory" - I drew very simple pictures on index cards to represent five of the parables Jesus taught (two pictures of each, ten cards total), then placed them face down on the table. The boys took turns choosing cards until they made a match and then we told the story and talked very briefly about what Jesus wants us to learn from the parable or story. The boys already knew most of these stories, so they told them to us as much as possible.
Wednesday - Jesus in Bethany; We used the picture of Christ talking to Mary and Martha and talked more about his friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, that this was the same Lazarus who Jesus had raised from the dead. We talked about Jesus and his friends and more generally about friendship and worship, that Jesus considers us his friends.
Thursday - The Last Supper and Gethsemane; We had a Jerusalem dinner using mostly foods that Jesus might have eaten. We used a low table and sat on cushions around it, and the boys helped set everything up.

After dinner, we talked about the events in the pictures of the Last Supper, Jesus washing his disciples' feet, Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, Judas' kiss (and the soldier's ear! you can't leave that out when you have boys!), and Peter's denial. We learned the words "deny," "betray," "believe," and "follow," and talked about how we can believe and follow and how even today we need to be careful to make good choices so that we are not denying Christ or betraying Him. (Calvin really "got it!")

Friday - Jesus' Trial and Crucifixion; We just talked about the pictures again and how this fulfilled prophecy and was part of Jesus' mission on earth, but that of course his friends were sad and scared and didn't completely understand. We talked a lot about the earth shaking and the darkness, and how everyone was unsure what would happen now...left a little suspense. Henry made the sweetest comment of the whole week on this night: "I know why Jesus did this. It's because he was the ONLY on who had enough love. I already know that."

Saturday - Jesus' Burial; We explained about the tomb and the rock and how Jesus' friends tended his body, and about the guards placed outside the tomb so that His body couldn't be taken or people couldn't claim that he was resurrected if He really wasn't.

Sunday - He is Risen! We talked about the miracle of the resurrection and then about all the people who Jesus showed himself to: Mary, the men on the road to Emmaus, his disciples, and even crowds of people. Why did Jesus make sure that so many people saw him and touched him and even saw him eat real food? So that they all could witness that He lives, and that because He lives, we all will live again!

I really loved taking the whole week preceding Easter Sunday and focusing on the Savior. Just the little moments when the boys understood or really listened made it worthwhile and I hope we can do it every year. It made the miracle and gift of the resurrection even more wonderful to me on Sunday morning.