The Ukraine I Know and Love

Today I went downstairs to wait for the boys to come home on the bus and busied myself translating - roughly, as my Ukrainian is very poor - a printed announcement that was taped to the front door of our building.

It said that the people who live in the apartment on the floor above us are in arrears on two of their property taxes / utilities to the tune of a total of 170 THOUSAND grivna (about 19,000 US$). Interesting, huh? I mean, interesting that among other things they're still living there with that kind of problem.

But even more interesting was the part of the announcement which said that because of this debt, the Kiev utility company will not be turning on the heat FOR THE ENTIRE BUILDING for the 2009/2010 heating season unless they receive payment in full.

Hmmmmmm. Very interesting indeed.

I do wish that I had posted more about our neighbors above us, because this really is just the culmination of lots of fun stuff. Like that the building super turned off the elevator button that goes to their floor because they owed maintenance fees or something. So they walk down from their floor to ours to catch the elevator. Doesn't bother us at all, but sometimes causes them an awkward wait for the lift.

We're trying to decide (amongst the other neighbors) if we should pass a collection plate around or show up at the debtor's door on the night of the first freeze with pitchforks and torches?

I'm competely not worried - we won't go cold. There's just so many levels of ridiculousness here: the residents, the utility company, the apartment building that wasn't set up to allow separate meters and valves for each apartment, the fact that there's a heating season...

Charming, really, in its absurdity.


Home Sweet Home

A long time ago, when David and I were engaged and living in different parts of the country, he sent me a love letter. He included a poem that said:

Although I conquer all the earth
Yet for me there is only one city.
In that city there is for me
Only one house.
And in that house, one room only.
And in that room, a bed.
And a woman sleeps there:
The shining jewel and joy
Of all my world.

When I was expecting Calvin, I wrote out this poem in lettering that matched the small things we had collected for his room and put instead, "my little boy sleeps there." In the same frame, I put my favorite picture of David when he was a little boy, sleeping with a baseball cap on, arm flung across the bed, cheeks all rosey. We still have the poem and the picture, hanging in Charlie's room now.

A week and a half ago, I was standing on a beautiful beach in Wales. The beach soothes my soul like nothing else and the ocean never fails to inspire me with awe and peace. I watched Charlie play in the sand with my friend, I gathered a few unusual shells, then I sat with Jane on the retaining wall as the tide came in.

Suddenly, as I looked out, it was so beautiful to me and I just started aching for David to be with me. I was thoroughly loving the moment, but it felt somehow sad to enjoy it without him.

It was then that I was ready to come back to Kiev. London was perfectly wonderful in every way (I have a post on that for later...), but suddenly I knew that I wanted to be with my husband and my little boys, sharing the world I have with them, rather than simply enjoying the beauty and wonder of the world and one of the greatest cities in it, without them.

So I've been back in Kiev for two days now. I'm tired and getting back into the swing of things and a little of the old humdrum, but now all the shining jewels and joy of my whole world are here.

Truly, there's no place like the one city, the one house, the one room where they are.


The Jane: One Month Old

Jane and I shared a birthday this week: she turned one month old and I turned 35 (gulp). Years (!). Old (sigh).

I was missing my boys and husband madly, but I actually really scored for my birthday: I saw Wicked with my sister Lesli a couple weeks ago when she was here (an early birthday treat). This week I went to Oxford, Stonehenge, Chester, and a beach in Wales with my babies, and came home to lots of sweet emails from family. I also happened to be visiting Nobody's sister who lives in England (and is the one who toted us around the English countryside), and she had a birthday cake for me! So, aside from the aging bit (which only gets to me on an occasional birthday, this year being one of those times...), my birthday was great.

Today is my baby sister's birthday! I was just a little older than Calvin when she was born, and she is the first baby that I distinctly remember wanting to care for and love on. I rocked her and sang to her when she was tiny, and I have loved and admired her all our growing up. I love it that she was almost born on my birthday. Happy Birthday, Jojiemo!

And now about The Jane. We are unabashedly girly when it comes to her, and Auntie S gave her this adorable tutufied onesie (the tulle on it is so surprisingly soft!), which I almost immediately decided would be Jane's first year outfit. (I accordingly took it upon myself to order the next two sizes in it so she can don it each month for a growing-up photo shoot.) And if you'd liek to, you can skip the following blah, blah, blah and go straight to the pictures...

Here's the background: I've been wanting to take monthly photos for the first year of each one of my kids and the closest I got was taking a picture every second of Calvin's life and then assembling a calendar for Henry, but the photos were never organized and even Henry's calendar is missing two months. I also wanted to find a cool toy or prop that would always be in the photo with Jane for a size comparison, but couldn't find anything that thrilled me enough.

In the end, I decided that the quilt my grandma made would be a lovely backdrop and the pictures will show how she changes and grows even without a size reference.

So we entertained ourselves with a little photo shoot earlier this week. I know I will eventually have to choose just one photo for the month, but for the grandmas, here is our one-month-old being pink and soft (in several pictures):

This shot is to show off her luscious arms:

This is Jane's "thinky" look. It is a little more intense at times, but she is a very serious girl. Her brother Calvin had this look on his face basically at birth. It took Jane a week or two, but she's got the intensity of figuring out the universe in her, just like him, I think.

The next two pictures are Jane being distracted by Charlie. I think she recognized and followed him with her eyes even before she knew me, but it is precious how much they are interested in each other.

(No babies or two-year-olds were harmed in the taking of this photo shoot. I stopped them before the arm of the sofa turned into a vault routine...)

And here Jane is modeling her Babylegs - the best solution for cold-weather dressing of babies ever. I love them and almost can't wait until the weather in Kiev really warrants them.

And this is Jane letting us know that enough is enough. No more photos, no more questions, please! She's very assertive that way.

Things are settling a bit now, and Jane is starting to console better and sleep a little longer at one time. It looks like we will be headed back to Kiev next weekend. I'm getting myself together a bit and hope to be blogging more regularly (as much for me as for anyone who might care to read) soon.

Happy September!