We're Not the Only Ones

Yesterday at the park, Charlie and David stopped on a bridge to watch a family of ducks. Baby ducks all in a row behind their mom have to be among the cutest things on earth, and Charlie knows that already.

When he sees something cute or small, his voice gets cute and small and he was exclaiming, over and over in his dimunitive baby duck voice, "Babies! So tyooot! Baby ducks! Tyyyyooooooot!" He squinted his eyes and smiled and scrunched his shoulders to further demonstrate the tiny cuteness while pointing with his pudgy little finger and tugging on David to get him to "yook!"

Just then two young professional women came over the bridge and stopped to listen and see what he was looking at and one of them said to the other, "I'm gonna have to get married soon or else get real serious about in vitro." Her friend looked at her a bit incredulously and said, "Why?!" And the first woman gestured emphatically at Charlie, as if to say, "How can you not want children when you see something like this?"

It made David laugh and when he told me about the exchange, he said, "I guess we know with at least one of our children that it's not just us who think he's irresistibly adorable."

I'm also glad it's not just in me that he inspires the desire to have a baby. Makes lumbering around expecting my fourth a little more tyoot. Maybe.

If I could just get my little ducks to follow me all in a row...


They Call Me Madame

It's lovely. Because it's English and I don't have to psych myself up to ask for something in Russian in the stores - I never realized the minor momentary stress that gives me every time.

We are in London! The boys were superb on the flight, we caught a train into the city easily and rode in the awesome black cab the rest of the way to our place last night, and spent the morning in Regent's Park (only a block away) today. I had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Sooooo good.

There's no A/C in our apartment, which is a little bit miserable indoors for me, but the weather isn't unbearable outdoors and I am loving the cleanliness and order of this city, even though it is definitely busy and noisy.

I'm taking pictures and we are getting settled in, so I'll get posting more in the next day or two. We're going to be sight-seeing a lot while David is in town with us, celebrating Henry's 5th birthday, observing the 4th of July in Britain (which makes me laugh!) and I get to meet my doctor for the first time this week. Stay tuned....


The Ostrich Farm

One of my Saturday get-out-of-the-house efforts brought us to Kiev's ostrich farm. Yes, there is an ostrich farm. With a small bird / random animal zoo. And a restaurant that features healthy ostrich meat dishes.

We saw the ostriches, saw the small birds and random animals. Did not try the ostrich meat. Uuuhhh....Maybe next time.

But here are some pictures from our day out.

This is a baby ostrich. I liked the pattern of stripes and spots in their feathers.

They are about this big (below) when they are a couple months old. (They hatch from eggs that are about the size of a rugby ball.)

They were so cute because when the crowd arrived at the fence, they all came running full speed out of their little hut, flirted at the fence a bit, looking side ot side and cocking their little heads at people, then ran full speed back in. They did it about four or five times while we stood there. They're so little and curious compared to the bigger ostriches.

This is a teenager ostrich. Their eyes are really bright and big and they have amazing eyelashes. They give inquisitive looks that are a little disarming, because they are otherwise such an awkward, kind of strange creature to look at.

This is the big daddy ostrich.

I was trying to capture how tall they really are full grown, but it was tricky. Basically, when the ostrich would stand with his neck fully up, he was taller than Henry on Megan's shoulders. That's really pretty tall when you're up close.

I'm really enjoying my child carriers, by the way. Makes for a much easier day out.

Aside from the ostriches, there were a great variety of birds in the little zoo - peacocks, beautiful pheasants, interesting varieties of chickens - as well as sheep and goats. All of which the kids could feed. Calvin got to feel a peacock peck. He didn't like it so much. I wasn't able to get very good pictures of the birds because of the cages, so we moved on.

And then suddenly there was a very large (and I think very old) camel in the field beyond zoo. Camels seemed big when we were in Egypt, but not quite as big next to the Pyramids as this one did in a green field in Ukraine.

But truthfully? I think the favorite animal at the farm / zoo was the calico cat. My boys go to mush over cats. I'm allergic to them, but it becomes almost irresistible when I see how Calvin and Henry get so gentle and soothing with a soft little animal, and how Charlie kneels to look closely and then tentatively touch their backs. The boys seriously spent about fifteen minutes just petting and following this cat around. Maybe a baby sister could be like a pet cat for them?

My personal favorite of the random animals, though, would have to be the guinea pig. Because it was trying to chew out of its cage and because it has hair just like Calvin's.

And that was our day at the world famous Kiev Ostrich Farm. If you ever need a place to roam or a day out of the city, it's not a bad place to go.

Give the healthy ostrich meat a try and let me know how you like it. You just can't tell me that it tastes just like chicken.


The E Space Story

The keyboard came! It's fixed. So to celebrate, here's where I admit total negligence and frustration. And certain puppy dog traits of my children. All in one post.

A few weeks ago, on a day before my right-hand girl came to live with us, naptime hit. Unfortunately, it was a day when Charlie had napped earlier than usual and so was awake when I was absolutely ready to crash and burn. But it was also a day when I knew David would be home early, in about twenty minutes.

So I set Charlie up with a pile of Kaplas on the floor by the couch and Henry up with a movie and I laid down with Henry sitting behind my knees and the sound of blocks being dumped and stacked and knocked over. I just needed to rest.

The problem is that I actually fell asleep and lost track of listening to where my children were.

I woke up what seemed like five seconds later to find David home. And he told me that he found Charlie sitting at the laptop. And that he had removed every last key from the keyboard.

I spent about forty-five minutes snapping back all the easy keys - the letters and numbers and most of the auxiliary keys, comparing the keyboard to a picture online to make sure I put the keys we never use in the right places. The smaller function keys and the space bar and a couple others that had additional metal hooks to match up underneath were beyond my patience and a couple of the letters wouldn't just snap on, so I left them for David to tackle with his tiny screwdrivers.

He spent an additional thirty or forty minutes doing the more technical re-attachment of the keys. Except for the space bar, which had a broken plastic hook where a little metal bar was supposed to fit into, all was back to normal.

But the next day, the space bar popped off and remained a little shifty. And the "E" key came off while the boys were playing on Webkinz world. Didn't bother them because the Webkinz don't require much typing.

Aaaaannnddd....Calvin enjoyed chewing on the "E" while he helped Henry decide what to buy from the Webkinz curio shop.

The thing is, when I saw it, I knew what and how it had happened - totally mindless bending the plastic and gnawing without thinking, "I have a keyboard key in my mouth." It just felt good to gnaw on it. Or something.

I didn't take a picture of the mangled "E," but if you've ever had a puppy, I know you can picture it. That's exactly what it looked like.

David was furious. So I had to remind him of the puppy comparison thing. He's the one that has made it on other occasions anyway. Like the holes in Henry's shirts. But that's another story.

I was a bit more calm, but very, very sorry, because it's really my fault - snoozing when there's a loose laptop around and two possible minutes for the two-year-old to find it and discover that the the keys come off. And then - the very next day! - not monitoring my boys' computer use more carefully to make sure that they are not teething (at age six and a half) on keys that pop off the keyboard.

Honestly, someone should put me away, dontcha think?

But hopefully after three weeks or more of keyboard handicapped-ness, I have learned my lesson and will more carefully consider aaalllll the possible consequences of trying to sneak in a nap.

Of course, now I have back up help to subsidize my nap taking. So nice. And I will be able to squeeze in some more blog posting, too. Happy days are here again.


Packing Up and Wrapping Up

The end of Spring? Can it be? Yup. Tomorrow is the first oh-fee-shull day of summer, and we are gearing up for our temporary birthing move to London. We fly out this week, so I'm making decisions about what to pack, what we'll do and see (besides the doctor) once we get there, and what a newborn really needs for the first six weeks. I keep reminding myself that it's mostly diapers, onesies and mum's milk, and also that I will be in a place where the baby things I'm accustomed to will be more accessible than in the country where I currently live, but still...I obsess, make lists, and try to think through it all.

But I've also been getting in some more reading and realized that with the end of the season and our upcoming departure comes the end of this year's Spring Reading Thing!

I definitely want to post a wrap-up on my most recent reads and the challenge in general. I had an original goal list of twenty-two books, and my plan was to choose from that list and read one book a week, or thirteen books total, during the challenge.

I ended up reading eleven from my original list and nine others that caught my attention. So, I guess I accomplished the goal! I think I departed mostly from my list because my brain was tired and I needed some more relaxing reads. Then I also needed some help in home management and getting a little perspective on some problems with my kids, so I checked out some books that would help me get a grip. Overall, I'm glad I read most of what I read. I do plan on keeping the unread books on my list and working through them sometime soon.

(I posted reviews a little infrequently of what I read - here and here and here, if you are interested.)

I can't choose a favorite book that I read. I can choose three, maybe: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (for interesting things I didn't know about World War II and the charming way it is written), Boys Adrift (for spot-on assessment and advice on what boys need in today's world), and The Shadow of the Wind (for poetic writing and suspense). I also really liked The Uncommon Reader (mostly for its premise, but also for the witty, tongue-in-cheek commentary and British humor).

I was most disappointed in My First 300 Babies and Parenting with Love and Logic, maybe just because of where I am in parenting, or maybe because of expectations that were too high. I just didn't find the gems I was hoping for there. I also didn't get as hooked on Harry Potter as I thought I would. I enjoyed the first two books, but didn't feel compelled to keep going. I think I am spoiled by the movies and by the fact that I have all six books all at once - the space between publishing stokes the flame, I think.

My reading branched out into quite a lot of fantasy this spring, which I have never really gotten into. I'm not sure it will turn into reading any of the more "classic" fantasy or really loving the genre, but it was a lovely and interesting escape lots of times over the last couple of months. We'll see where it goes from here...

The best thing about all the reading I did and the Spring Reading Thing was feeling again that I can fit reading into my life, that it is truly one of the most enjoyable things to me (as cliche as that is when someone asks what I like to do), and that whether I'm reading to escape or to learn, it makes me happy because it keeps my brain and my heart alive. The challenge helped me get back into the swing of reading after being a little burned out from my Master's studies. I don't want to stop now!

Today you can stop over at Callapidder Days and link up with other bloggers who participated in the Spring Reading Thing. It's a great way to find recommendations for your own reading and find other readers. Thanks, Katrina, for hosting this challenge. It made my spring great!


FYI, in the past couple of weeks, I've topped off my Spring Reading Thing with the following books:

The Five Love Languages - I've had about thirty people tell me to read this, and I have to say that it really is a great resource and includes some wonderful ideas for expressing love effectively. It speaks to a lot of issues I see in relationships and it really made me want to do better at both expressing love the way the people I care about need it and recognizing and appreciating love from people the way that they are trying to show it. It also made me want to get the Five Love Languages of Children for some more specific ways to find out what makes my kids tick and how to make them feel more loved and secure. So, I did. But I haven't started reading it yet.

Unaccustomed Earth - I enjoyed this collection of stories. I found them a bit sad and somewhat haunting, but really enjoyed the style of the writing. It peaked my interest in India and Indians in America, and also made me want to read more of Jhumpa Lahiri's books.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby - Just needed a refresher course. I've read this one at least three times since Calvin was a baby and although it has serious editing deficiencies in the order and presentation of some of the info, man! It is a serious help and lifesaver. I believe in healthy sleep as a way for both parents and kids to be better and more responsive to each other and less harried in general. Calvin was the only one of my babies who has ever "cried it out" and that was very short-lived and only because we didn't start when he was a newborn. Don't get me wrong - we still have kids who come into our bed in the middle of the night sometimes and we still have nights or time periods when bedtime and sleep gets a little messed up, but bedtime and rest are all in all very pleasant and great times for all of us, and I recommend this book for the scientific backing and also the reasonable approach to correcting sleep habits. This is also one book that helps me make it through the first two or three months of a newborn's life - not because the newborn sleeps through the night already, but because I cand read and understand how the sleep rythms and nap patterns usually evolve and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

First Light - Sir Nottaguy, this one barely arrived from Amazon, so I just started it. I like it so far. Thanks for the recommendation!


The Month of the Honeydew

My blog is verging on the pathetic - I'm only posting about being pregnant and reading, it seems like. Blame it on the keyboard (which will be replaced tonight!!!) I do think it's funny that weeks 33 through 36 are the month of the honeydew. Funny because my life is the life of the honeydew - David is never short on things I want or need him to do (replace the laptop keyboard). But I'm sure he will agree that I'm getting a lot more feisty, if not noticeably more demanding.

Also funny because honeydew doesn't seem quite big enough for the way I feel. I actually am not putting on weight as quickly (knock on wood) in these later weeks, but I feel a lot of growing and stretching. This month our baby is 17.2 to 18.7 inches tall and weighs 4.2 to 5.8 pounds.

She is a wiggly little thing, very active at all times of the day. It seems like before I only felt the boys move in the early morning or at night, when I was still. This little melon kicks and rolls all the time and causes some very disconcerting sensations sometimes while I'm walking or driving.

Calvin is most interested in what we'll name her but doesn't talk about her a whole lot lately.

Henry seems to be playing with the idea of its being a real person "in there" - he makes up elaborate tales of how she is running around and how she just really wants to get out. He has also said things to me like, "Mom. Mom. Mom! I need you and Jane to listen to me. OK?!"

I've been feeling a little "enough already" apathy lately, but in general we are enjoying the anticipation and gathering baby things. One of my friends at church gave us homemade snuggly soft blankets for the baby last week and I can't wait to snuggle her up in them.

On the belly-aching front, I haveto report that the heartburn that I feel like I could die from has begun.

And my heels hurt. Wierd ailment, very painful to get around. I think it's from the weather changing, wearing socks less, and lots of walking and standing on hardwood floors. They are really really achey. I've never experienced it before and I'm strongly considering the merits of a foot massage / pedicure. Anyone know some good home remedies?

Amidst all the little nothings and the honey-do's, we're getting ready for London. I only have one more dr. appointment here in Kiev, one more Sunday, three more days of school for Cal, seven more sleeps.

We can hardly wait and in some ways going to London has eclipsed the impending arrival of a newby. I do like having multiple things to look forward to. It makes time go a little more quickly. But I keep getting sidetracked, too. Ah well.

Summer fun is on its way in more ways than one.


Charlie is TWO!!!

Still without a functioning keyboard...but it's my baby's birthday.

We partied like it was for a two-year-old. That is, he opened a little gift from each of his brothers and one from Mom and Dad first thing this morning, he carried the birthday card from his grandma around for about an hour during the afternoon(loved the kitty on the front), and we had cake after dinner.

The candles worried him because they are "hot"(he whispers that word) and they will "buhn."

Our rendition of "Happy Birthday" worried him even more.

Since typing is a chore, I just want to say that as fast as his first year went, I can't believe two have already passed now.

If there was ever a child who was Pure Joy, it's this one. I don't just say stuff like that, either.

I love you, ChaCha. May all your little wishes come true.


E scuses

I don't have a proper space bar. Or an "e" key.

There's a story to go with that. But as you can imagine, it is difficult to blog without "space" and "e."

Extremely aggravating, in fact.

I mean, I can make spaces and e's appear, but not without some whackity maneuvering over the little sensors that lie below where the key buttons usually go. It slows me way down.

I'll try to get some patience and adjust my typing skills to fit my impaired laptop sometime before the new keyboard arrives from amazon, but if that doesn't happen, at least you know that it's my computer that is kapoot, not me.

At least not me entirely.


Happiness Isn't Happiness Without a Violin-Playing Goat*

A couple weeks ago, I kept hearing a baby cry. Like a brand-new, lamby baby cry. I heard it in the day time quite frequently, and sometimes even at night I would wake up hearing it, thinking it might be one of my kids, then realizing that it wasn't in our house, and besides, my kids are too old to cry like that.

I finally decided that maybe our neighbors upstairs (who have quite an interesting group living there) have a new addition to their family.

It was surreal, though. Close enough to make me very concerned about it, but far enough that I had no idea where it was coming from exactly or why no one was doing anything for it. Seriously - it was the kind of baby cry that would make one's milk come in. I started thinking I was going batty.

Then our downstairs neighbors starting complaining about the goat next door.

It hadn't even occurred to me, but sure enough, about the same time I was hearing the phantom baby cry, a goat had moved into the garden next door. Our neighbors are straight across from the garden, and we are up higher, so the cry was right in our neighbor's windows and a little more distant for us.

We live in the middle of Kiev basically, amongst high rises and business buildings, but there happens to be one (more or less) single family home right next door with an avid gardener who works almost constantly on her little plot of land. And she had a goat there. Who cried a lot.

We had even seen the goat on our way out of the parking garage before, and joked that they had needed a lawn mower, so they brought in a goat. But I didn't know my crying baby delusions and the goat were the same thing.

I wish I had taken a picture from our balcony of the goat and his keeper (an old guy who sat in the backyard in an office chair drinking kvas) before they went to graze elsewhere.

But they've moved on now and I have to say I kinda miss them. It's just not the same without the goat next door, even if he did push my mothering instinct buttons a little too often.

(*Do you know the painting and the movie my post title belongs to?)