Let's See If I Remember How To Do This...

Holy Moly. It's been a while, huh? So long I'm not even sure where to begin catching up. So maybe I won't catch up. We'll just start where we are.

Which is: back in the USA, homeschooling, getting settled, bustling around for the holidays, and always...always...trying to catch some extra zzzz's.

Now, don't get too excited about me being back here...I'm still trying to carve out my schedule and work in the me/writing time that I need to have. I'm also working on a laptop with a bum space bar and a mouse button missing, which is a recipe for early onset insanity. But I'll get it fixed and I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm wishing you all the best in 2011!!!


In Case You're Wondering...

We packed up and moved out of Kiev a little over two weeks ago, and flew 3 hours, then 11 hours, then 1 hour to Colorado. We're trekking around Colorado, Utah and Idaho until the end of this week, when we will return to semi-real life in Virginia.

We are having fun, haven't had too much jet lag, all caught and got over head colds, celebrated my birthday and Aunt JoJo's birthday, and are now having fun with cousins and lots of wide open spaces and blue, blue sky.

As far as the blog, I'm thinking through some changes while we're playing and I'll try to get back online and let you know what's up as soon as we've "landed" toward the end of this month.

Happy Autumn!


The Jane: One YEAR Old!!

Another month slipped by between posts. Good thing I have a baby to document, or this blog would be completely dry, huh?

We celebrated Jane's first birthday on Monday and she is delightful. She gives kisses, has lots more smiles for everyone these days, and is walking everywhere.

The tutu is officially outgrown, so we did her photo shoot in the adorable outfit Aunt Lesli gave her when she was born. She's growing into her princess queen status quite well.

Happy Birthday to my spicey little girl! We love you, Jane.


The Jane: Eleven Months Old

I think I caught a lot more expressions of Jane's personality with this month's photo shoot. It was a lot of fun.

Some things to know about Jane this month:

She wrinkles her whole face these days when she smiles.

She can courtesy laugh. There are few things that are more hilarious than an 11-month-old who will give you a cheesy little smile and a heh-heh-heeeehhhhh followed abruptly by a deadpan look.

She waves good-bye and does all of pattycake and understands how to give loves and kisses.

She still does not like strangers, but she's getting better and warming up to them.

She adores her brothers and they can make her laugh better than anyone.

She has taken a few steps already, but they are usually stealthy ones when no one is looking.

She will sometimes lay on her back or sit and flap her arms helplessly to show that she is just to upset to move toward you.

She tattles on and tells off her brothers in a very fierce way.

She can screech louder than any child I have ever met.

She is heavy - she looks all soft and actually even a little petite, but don't let those marshmallowey thighs fool you! The are filled with lead. She weighed 22 pounds at her last check-up.

She is absolute peaches and cream.

And here are the tutu snapshots for this month:

I got a little creative editing photos, and was rather pleased with this black and white that I made.

I can't believe there is less than one month left of her first year.


Just a Moment

A sudden awareness of fairly prolonged peace and quiet jolted me this afternoon while I was checking my email, and that familiar "uh-oh" feeling when things have been too quiet for too long spurred me into investigating, dreading what I might find...


Jane: sitting in the hallway, happily chewing on age-appropriate toys by the bedroom door...

Charlie: busy lining up cars and trucks on the rug in the playroom...

Henry: intensely enjoying MarioKart without screaming at his virtual opponents...

Calvin: propped up on pillows on my bed, reading a chapter book.

What's wrong with this picture?

The answer?


Amazing! Weird!


I just needed to appreciate and document the beauty of it.

P.S. You know what else happened today? Jane napped. Charlie napped. I napped. All at the same time. The big boys were quiet and got along and did not dismantle anything while we napped.

Today might be a good day to buy a lottery ticket or something.


Spring Reading Thing in Review

Wow! I can't believe it's been three months since I started my Spring Reading Thing goal. In some ways, March seems a long time ago. And in others, time has absolutely flown by. Summer is upon us!

My original goal for this spring was to read books (about one a week for the twelve weeks of the challenge) with one stipulation: each book had to already be on my bookshelf. No buying books to read! (We're moving at the end of the summer and our books take up about half our household allowance in weight already, I'm pretty sure.) So I combed my shelves and made a list of the ones I've been meaning to get to - some for a really long time - and made my reading goal list.

I read...about half the books on it. And then I departed from the list. A lot. Thanks to a little stash of light reading at the house where we stayed in Portugal and the free library here at the embassy, I found some other reads that distracted me from my original plan. Just a teence.

But here's the thing: I did read a little more than a book a week, AND I didn't buy any new books. So I mostly accomplished my goal, right?

In case you're interested, here's what I read from my original list:

Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry Poetry 180. I heart poetry. There are some gems here, and I thoroughly enjoyed perusing and dog-earing and re-reading some of the beautiful words here. If you don't do it already, I highly recommend checking out a good book of poetry every now and then. It's good for the soul.

Surprised By Joy Surprised By Joy. In true Lewis fashion, he gave me a lot of food for thought in this description of his childhood and adolescence. Made me fall in love with classical education more than I already am, and made me tease out some of my own philosophical and theological convictions. Nothing like reading someone who can masterfully articulate what you would like to say but can't.

The Venetian Mask: A Novel The Venetian Mask. For whatever reason, this book took me a while to get into, but I ended up liking the story a lot. A little far-fetched and a little too coincidental at points, but an intriguing read set in a period of history that I wasn't entirely familiar with - never knew much about Napolean conquering Venice. Kept Venice at the top of my list of places to visit.

The Enchanted Castle The Enchanted Castle. I've heard about this book from several different people as a great book to read aloud with kids. I don't know if my boys would be really into it as this point, but I enjoyed it - it reminded me of books I loved when I was a girl. I like the old-fashioned language, and the element of fantasy in this book was fun because it was written at the turn of the last century, before the era of cinematic special effects, and it charmingly depicts the real and the magical adventures of children.

Here's what I ended up reading instead / in addition to those on my original list:

The Railway Children (Puffin Classics) The Railway Children. I decided to roll with my new interest in E. Nesbit. This is not a fantasy but a great story nonetheless. I was surprised by the Russian/espionage element in it, since it was written before the Soviet Union. I also loved the wholesome family relationships and the friendships of the children with people in a small community. Again reminded me of the idealistic things I loved to read when I was a girl - all hope for decency and patience and kindness.

Hints on Child Training: A Book That's Been Helping Parents Like Your...for More Than 100 Years Hints on Child Training. Good old-fashioned ideals and, true to its title, hints for training children. I get on little kicks in this area sometimes because I so often feel like I'm not doing things quite right with my children. I liked this book because it helped me prioritize and feel a desire to understand children a little better.

Soon She Must Die Soon She Must Die. It makes me laugh that I read this. It was written in like 1985 or something and has some funny quirks because of that time period, but the premise of the murder plot is rather clever, the British element is cool, and the result of the murder gave me the oddest sense of frustration that I've ever had reading a book, I think because it's so based in a kind of futile reality. It was like that foiled, "Doh!" feeling. I really liked that things hinged on a work of literature (even though this is hardly a deep thinking type read), and the approach to the question of "for love or money?" is awesome. Totally great beach read. Which is what it was for me.

One Of Ours One of Ours. I have never heard of this title before, and I love Willa Cather. Three things that I liked about this book: (1) Cather's beautiful prose does not disappoint and she describes many feelings of living in small-town/rural America (even in the present day) nearly perfectly, including why many young people might want to join the military and yearn to do something great; (2) The time of the story is the eve of World War I, and because it was actually written in 1928, the description of the first World War is not colored by the atrocities that the world witnessed just 10 to 15 years later with the advent of World War II. It gave the first real and vivid account I've ever read of how Americans viewed and experienced the first World War,a s well as its scope and tragedy; (3) quite by accident, I realized that this is the book with the character for which my grandmother was named. The whole second section is entitled "Enid" and the dates for the novel's publishing fit with when my great-grandmother would have seen or read it and decided to name a little girl after it.

The Savage Garden The Savage Garden. This was a satisfying read while I was reading it, but I wasn't entirely pleased with how it ended, and I didn't really like the "all-knowing manipulator of events" element in resolving the mystery. The garden itself is really awesome and there are some great scenes and discoveries that make it a fun read, though, if you can suspend disbelief a little bit and just roll with it.

Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood Steady Days. I mentioned this book in another post. Really, really like it. Will refer to it often.

Sarum: The Novel of England Sarum. Um, I'm really on an English history kick and have pretty much read something from every era, so I was excited to pick this one up because I want to know all about Salisbury. But I didn't get to the actual cathedral part because I was frustrated by the historical fragments. It's decent writing and I might read it sometime in the future, but I quit about halfway through, which I hardly ever do, but some of the stylistic things just irritated me. It might have been just a timing thing, but I think I might also have been spoiled by Pillars of the Earth, which I read earlier this year. Now that is a good cathedral building story.

The Crediton Killings (Knights Templar, #4) The Crediton Killings. This crossed my English history and my recent murder mystery interests nicely. It was cleverly told and interesting. There are a few more of these in this series, but this was just enough.

Northanger Abbey Northanger Abbey. I have now read every Jane Austen novel. I really, really enjoyed this one because I think it reflects a younger Jane Austen, and it's a little more saucy and sarcastic, if not as deep, as her others. I will probably read this one again soon, because it made me laugh out loud several times. Not so much has changed socially since this novel was written.

And just for fun, here's what I didn't read from my original list:

Son of a Witch Son of a Witch. I think I reached my Maguire fill. I just couldn't get into this one. Maybe later, when I need a dark, quirky read.

Grace-Based Parenting - This was a plan to re-read, so I don't feel too bad about not getting to it.

The Cello Suites - Definitely still on my list. As soon as I'm finished reading a different book that I just gave David, for Father's Day.

ResurrectionCrime and Punishment Resurrection and Crime and Punishment - Can I really live in a Slavic country without reading some Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky? I thought not. But I think I just can't take any more fatalism and oppression and corruption than I'm already aware of on a daily basis. Maybe sometime when I'm a little removed from it and safe in America again.

Zorro Zorro. Not entirely interested in reading this anymore. I might just contribute it to the free library as a token of my appreciation for my spring reading.

The Pursuit of Happyness The Pursuit of Happyness. Loved the movie, wanted to read the real story. Still might.

Paradise LostParadise Lost - This has been on my list about three times. I think I'm addicted to having the goal to read this no matter what.

Special thanks once again to Katrina at Callapidder Days for hosting the Reading Thing! It's been great.


Just for Total Random

Charlie turned three over the weekend.

He was born three. years. ago. Man.

The main thing that I want to say about him is that I adore the way he says "orange:" it's "oh-zenj." Oh-zenj juice, oh-zenj slices, oh-zenj crayon. I will personally maim anyone who tries to teach him the "right" way to say it. I am that serious about him not growing up. Got it?

And now here's the total random part of this post, because I'm skipping to a different child. But maybe it is not totally random because I have mentioned the color orange already, which provides the perfect segway to these photos, taken about three years apart.

Henry three years ago, on vacation at the beach:

And Henry, this year, on vacation in Portugal:

We have found that Henry chills out best on an orange couch with electronic entertainment. It gives me hope that there are some things that babies don't grow out of.

Also kinda makes me want to buy an oh-zenj couch, so Charlie can tell about it and Henry can veg on it with his Fringies, forever if he wants to.

So, this post was brought to you by the number three, the color orange, and the Mom who doesn't want her babies to get "so big."



The Jane: Ten Months Old

Today is the photo shoot day for our Girl in residence, aka M.I.P. (That's either Most Important Person or Monkey in Pink. We're trying to decide.) She is 10 months old, and this month has flown. First, a few things about Jane, for grandparents and posterity:

Among her first ever smiles, I noticed that she did a distinctly girly thing: she grinned and then added just a smidgeon of a twinkly squint at the end. This month, the squinty smile has become exaggerated and she bestows it on anyone who makes her laugh. My favorite, though is when we all start laughing and she squints and courtesy laughs with us. She is social,. and she has social "skills" that my boys still don't have didn't have at this age. Don't think that doesn't scare the pee (and maybe a tiny bit of the introvert) right out of me.

In fact, because of her social skills, we had to move her crib out of our room to the room down the hall because she would wake so frequently in the night and want to snuggle and "talk" and generally waller with me. I would try to nurse and she mostly just wanted to "hang." She learned really quickly (with not too much crying at all!) about just sleeping at night once there wasn't Mommy right in the room to chat with or screech at, and we are all better rested.

And because she has her own room now, our bedtime ritual has gotten a little more structured and I spend some concentrated time with her before putting her down, singing and rocking. She sings along! I love it! She will lay on my chest and hum herself to sleep while I sing. She really likes singing and last week also started humming really loud when we sing hymns in church. It's truly delightful.

One thing I haven't documented before about Jane, is that a big eye watering yawn or a big sneeze make her smile and give a little sighing laugh when she finished with them. It's like she's proud of it, or it cleared her head or something. Also hilarious to see and I hope to catch it sometime on video.

Another interesting thing about her is her propensity for chewing on furniture. It's a little like the little girl in Series of Unfortunate Events - biting is her talent. One of her favorite methods is to pull one of the kitchen chairs around to the front of her high chair and just chew. She also likes the corner of one of the drawers on our coffee table. Um, yeah...

She continues to be a real Mama's girl, but will now play and love on Dad, which is very cute, and rather savvy, of her. Although she very clearly has moments when she only wants Mom, and she calls me by name in a low repetition: "Momomomomomomomomomomo..."

She has a definite screech button and knows how to use it. She knows how to get someone to come running to put her brothers in check. This morning she did it and as soon as she was in my arms, she leaned forward a bit and started yelling at Charlie (the offender) right along with me.

Jane and Charlie have a bit of a love-hate relationship, usually love, sometimes very, er, fierce love. I like to watch them together. It's going to be a fun dynamic in our house...

Yesterday, we received a great package from Aunt Joeli that included the most precious assortment of tiny bows and barrettes and headbands, so Jane is now accessorized. Boy, are we going to have fun!

So without further ado, here are the official tutu-fied pictures of Jane at 10 months old:

(First, not wanting to look at me or leave the curtain alone...)

(The next one is unfortunately without Grandma's quilt in it because Jane crawled off, but the look on her face is how she stopped and looked at Charlie, who was throwing a fit because he "never gets to be in pictures!"...Classic.)

(Her arms flap when her brothers come around to play and talk...)


My housekeeper calls Jane "hitrulya," which, roughly translated, is "clever/sly little girl." It fits. Jane has this whole world figured out and she's taking it by storm!