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.