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!


You Should Live Here: English in Cyrillic

You wouldn't think it would take so much time and so many starts and stops to get one little post up. It's all in my head...just can't seem to get it down on virtual paper. Or maybe the biggest problem is that it's all in my head. Ah, well...

One of the reasons Kiev was on the top of our list of foreign posts was that David and I both have Russian-speaking experience. David speaks excellent Russian, and I understand most everything that is said and can speak enough (in a pretty darn good accent, if deplorable grammar) to get by.

Language is an interesting thing and I love that in most countries of Europe, most people speak at least two languages, and one of them is usually English. (Ukraine might be the exception - lots of people study English, but it is not common by any means, and speaking it is a lot different than reading text book phrases. I've had a few occasions in which store clerks have gotten really ugly with me for not speaking their language, even when I was making my best effort.)

I think it's a little sad that most Americans don't ever learn a second language and that they are even resentful and unhelpful to people who don't speak English. The way things are said in another language can be so beautiful and sometimes more precise than in one's native tongue, and language helps a person understand culture and other people's way of looking at the world so much better. It's also a delightful experience to participate in a conversation when two people try their hardest to understand and to be understood - if we gave all our conversations that same effort, amazing things would happen.

Having said that, I have to say that I haven't been very good at teaching my kids any Russian or Ukrainian while we've been here. The school does offer it in first grade, so Calvin has had some exposure to it, but up until the other day, I thought he had pretty much only learned how to say hello, goodbye, a few colors and animals, and how to count.

There's a "mini-market" that opened a few months ago on the corner about 50 yards from the front door of our building that I occasionally go to for a soda or snack. I guess you could consider it the Ukrainian version of a 7-11.

If only they had Slurpees...but I digress.

So the other day, I needed some refreshment but the babies were crazy and I was not dressed appropriately for going outdoors, so I decided to see if Calvin was game for a bit of adventure. To my surprise, he was totally up for going to the mini market by himself to get me a soda, and some ice cream for his brothers and him.

Then suddenly I got nervous. He's a smart and capable boy, but I decided he needed some survival skills in case anyone started speaking to him and he didn't understand what they wanted him to do or whatever. (My boys have been known to get really frustrated about the communication thing, and I suddenly had visions of little American boy imploding when all the lady was trying to do was tell him his total.)

I was halfway through my advice to just start speaking English back to whatever they say so that they know you can't understand, to smile and hand them the money, and if that fails, just put the stuff down and come home without it. He looked at me with a look only Calvin can give and said, "Mom. I'll just say 'Я не понимаю русский.'* It's not a problem."

All rightie then. No worries.

He came back, pleased as punch, and was hero of the hour for bringing ice cream and soda and the correct change back. And I learned that those first grade Russian lessons do amount to something. Calvin can read any word he sees in Ukrainian or Russian, and it is funny to hear him pronounce things in a near perfect imitation of native speech.

And as Calvin learns to incorporate Russian into his communication skills, Ukraine is learning to incorporate English into lots of things. I've been amused on more than one occasion how many English words are used these days on signs and in Russian in general. The most amusing if when they take an English word and turn it into an authentic part of native speech by adding the Russian grammatical ending. (Like the verb "to park" - they take park and add "ovaht" to the end, and voila! A new Russian verb: parkovaht! Even though they do have a real Russian word that means the same thing. Hmmmm....)

Just for fun, I've taken a few pictures in the hope that you will also get a kick out of English in Cyrillic. I'm starting to think that if you learn as much as Calvin knows (or at least the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, "please," and "thank you,") you'll totally be fine in Kiev.

Wanna take a car for a тест драйв? Pronounce: tyest drah-yeev and remember to roll your "r!"

McDonald's signs are my favorite. There are words for most of the food items on the menu, but because of the charming "Mc" branding thing, in Ukrainian they keep the whole English word and just spell it in Cyrillic. The thing is, if you don't pronounce it with a Ukrainian accent (i.e., the way it's spelled), the person taking your order will not understand you in the least. I promise. So...

чiкен рол. Say it, "chee ken rrrrrohl."

бiг тейсты. They left out the 'n' for some reason. So just say it, "Beeg Tayeesty."

мкфлюры кiткат. Say it, "McFl-you-ry." And it's not "KitKat" even though it might look like it - it's "KeetKaht."

мкменю - "McMyenYou" - that's what a meal deal is called. So, you order a биг мак ("Beeg Mahk") Menu or a дабл чизбургер (Dah-ble Cheezburrgerrr) Menu, or a мкчикен (McCheeken) Menu, or a филе-о-фиш (Feelyeh-oh-feesh) or чикен макнагетс (Cheeken McNah-gets) Menu. That is, if you want a large фрай (frrry) and drink to go with it. (An interesting note on the McNuggets spelling - there is a letter in Cyrillic that makes a "ts" sound (like the z's in "pizza", but when they tranliterated it they used the "s" sound and "t" letters separately. It's funny, and I'll tell you more about it in a minute...)

Would you like to advertise on this биг борд? You can put anything you want on a "Beeg Borrrrd." Just call 489-5555.

Here's some брикет ("brrreeket") for your барбекю ("barr-byeh-kyu"). And an example of using an English word (grill) and putting the Russian declension on the end, since the briquettes or for the grill, it's грилив ("greeleev"). So cool.

My favorite for Calvin to read: супермаркет ("supehrrrrmarrrrket").

роллы. It's plural for "roll," so it's "rroley." (They're crazy about sushi here, btw - signs for roley everywhere...)

коктейли. It's not one cocktail, it's a bunch: say it, "Kohk-tyeh-lee."

Eрнст енд янг. I like how they provide the transliteration right on the building for you.

хелло раша. This makes me laugh every time I see it because they are making fun of themselves a little bit. Say it, "hhhelloah Rrrahsha!" (with a really hard -guttural? - "h"), and be sure to emphasize the "ah" sound in Russia. Bet you never knew "Russia" rhymes with "Sasha" did you? (P.S. The "ah" sound at the end of hello is not pheonetic at all, and is very slight, but it's how they say it and how they answer the phone.)

ланч меню. Say it, "Launch Myenyu."

сайт. Say it, "Site." You can buy the empty lot behind this fence by calling this number.

тип топ сервис. Probably the best thing in Kiev. Literal roadside tire repair. You seriously just pull up onto the sidewalk in front of this one. And what's it called? "Teep Tohp Sairrveece." Truly.

пицца папа. Say it, "Pizza Papa." Remember how I told you about the "ts" letter? That's it, twice, in pizza. But it's inexplicable to me why two "ts's" are needed in Russian pizza. It takes two z's to make that sound, but it should only take one "ц," right? Maybe they're just trying to compensate for making you think you can really get good pizza in this country.

мiстер снек сендвiч-бар. "Meester Snek Sendveech Bar." If you need a snek or a syendveech, this is the place. Also a fun one to hear Calvin read.

And here's a couple others that I didn't get pictures of, but are pretty common around town:

паркинг: parrrrking. Really emphasize the "g" with a slight "guh" breath at the end and you'll be saying it just right.

сайдинг: siding. Again with the g at the end. Lots of the big hardware megastores have begun selling сайдинг - a whole new concept in exteriors. I think it's especially funny to transliterate words with "ing" at the end.

йога: yoga. It's relatively new to have these kind of classes, but it's become a bit of a craze here now.

And now, for the word that started the whole concept for this post:

камтугеза. This one was brought to me in a newspaper first, by my Russian teacher. She said that she had no idea what камтугеза meant until she started saying it over and over again to herself and trying to puzzle it out. You try it: "Kahmtugyehzah... kahmtugyehzah... kahmtugyehzah..." Do you know what it says? Give up? It's "Come together!" The best ad campaign for a radio station I've ever seen. By the way, don't you love the "Radio Roks", too?

The only one that might possibly be better than камтугеза is the name of an actual financial institution here in Kiev: брокбизнесбанк. Say it, "Broke Business Bank." Heh. If that doesn't amuse you...

And now, just for more fun, let me send you on a little linky treasure hunt: My sister posted about two great links she found all about Kiev, which you can find on her blog. They are super references and might be of particular interest if you are living or planning to live in Kiev sometime. Clickety click to read some great things that other people have noticed and written about this city and Ukraine!

*That's, "I don't understand Russian," with first grade grammar. :)