Wednesday, September 17, 2014

James Graduates from Detski Sad

I wish I would have written a post about James's Russian detski sad graduation back in at the end of April when it happened, but I didn't. That was during my "blogging break". I missed blogging about a lot of great stories. :(

The graduation was about a month and a half before we pulled James out of school for the summer (we could have technically left him in all summer long, but I like to give my children a summer break). Unfortunately, because the graduation was so early, James assumed that that meant he was done with school right then and there, so it was quite a chore to get him to school every morning for over a month after that!

The graduation was cute, but very long, especially for a group of 5 to 7-year-olds. I don't think Americans have the same length of attention span as Russians.

The children in James's class did some performances for the parents. (James was very distracted by the balloons on the ceiling.)

James is in the back with the blue shirt.

I thought it was funny that the children sang a song about saying goodbye to toys (in school). James was very indignant about that because he thought that meant he was done with all toys permanently, even at home.

Jon stayed home to watch William, but Kate came with me to support her brother (she had just gotten out of school and she was still wearing her school uniform).

Bruce's class also came in to perform for the graduating class. We *had* sent some dress clothes for Bruce to wear, but for some reason his teachers didn't change him. I don't know whether he had just woken up from nap or what. 

James receiving his yearbook, graduation gift (a slap on watch), cute medal, a single rose, and a balloon.

My poor, neglected boy needs a haircut!

James's yearbook is like a children's board book. It's such a neat yearbook with a lot of great pictures, and SO durable! We will treasure this keepsake! (He is especially proud of his medal.)

After such a long ceremony, we were ready to head right home, but little did we know that they had prepared a snack for the children as well. More waiting!...

James has now started "first class" here in Astana, Kazakhstan. He seems excited about his teacher and his new friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bruce pulled out his own tooth

After breakfast one morning, Bruce got upset about something and sat in his seat at the table stewing while wiggling his tooth. Suddenly, he gasped happily and held out his tooth for us to see. He pulled it out all by himself! It was a great mood booster; he was so proud!


This summer we invited our friend, Spring over a lot. We knew time was running short, and we wanted to spend as much time together as possible before our move. Bruce and Spring have a special relationship. We miss you, Spring!

Hiding Spot

We had a long, L-type couch that rounded around the corner and left a large space behind. When we first moved into that apartment, we filled the space with items we didn't know where else to store, like suitcases and flattened boxes. However, once the movers had taken most of our stuff away, the space was now open and free. The corner was a perfect spot for the children to go back and "hide"and play. They loved it! Too bad we couldn't have left that space open the whole time we lived there.

(You can see the detail in the wallpaper, but sadly you can't see the gold sparkles in it. It might sound tacky to have sparkles in the wallpaper, but it was really pretty.)

Breakfast Fort

Our apartment's kitchen window in Moscow faced East, so in the morning the sun would shine right in on us as we ate breakfast. We only had a sheer curtain, so it didn't save us much from the intensity of sunlight. Poor Bruce had the worst of it. 

One morning, however, Bruce decided to take matters into his own hands and make this fort from cereal boxes to shield himself from the sun.

Kate turns 10!

Since Kate had such a big birthday party last year, I had expected to keep this year's birthday simple. However, Kate would only turn 10 once, so I offered to let her invite one friend. She chose her good friend, Izzy, from church. And, since Kate has been really enjoying American Girl stuff, and all of the girls in the books turned 10 on their birthdays, I thought it would be fun to have the theme for the party be "American Girl".

Well, the "one friend" ballooned into two more families which added four more children, making a total of nine children and six adults. I still kept things fairly simple (for me) for the party and Kate helped a lot.

Kate helped me decorate. She set up this display with all her dolls and even made them party hats. The dolls are wearing traditional Russian headdresses that Kate made out of paper.

The party started with lunch. We ordered Domino's Pizza. (One thing that really helped me to keep things simple was that we'd already shipped most of our stuff out and we only had the bare necessities.)

We got cute straws with puffy paper fruit on them. I think Kates was a pear.

Izzy came first thing in the morning and helped Kate decorate cupcakes along with her brothers.

Make a wish...

We even made teeny-tiny cupcakes for the dolls. We didn't really use them except for taking this picture. People loved eating the tiny ones, though.

Present time!

One of the families we invited over was our good friends, the S's. They have three little girls. Their oldest daughter (E.) and Kate are good buddies. I was so touched to find out that when E. heard that it was Kates birthday, she really wanted to *MAKE* Kate a ragdoll. She did most of it by hand, with help from her mom on the dress (if I remember right). Isn't that the sweetest, most thoughtful thing?! Kate had just finished reading the book "Little House in the Big Woods" and decided to name her ragdoll Charlotte.

The other family we invited were some Russian friends we met through James's detski sad class. James and their little girl, Liza, became friends, and then the family would often invite us to their home. We felt strongly that we should reciprocate and have them to our house finally. Their oldest daughter made this for foil doll for Kate.

I could kick myself, I didn't get a picture of the gift Izzy gave Kate. It was really cute! She got an activity bag with a horse on it, and inside were yummy American snacks, a homemade tic-tac-toe game, and some really fun stuff for art.

Jon's and my surprise gift to our sweet birthday girl was two American Girl mini dolls. When Kate first opened the gift bag, she wasn't exactly sure what they were. This pic is when she finally figured it out. 

Most of the birthday guests, but we're missing four.

Kate made a game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Horse. Of course, I forgot to set aside the eye mask for a blindfold, it was already packed up and taken away, so we just used a dishtowel.

Some other activities we did for the party: an American Girl bingo game, American girl wordsearch, and coloring.

After all the other party guests left, Kate and Izzy played dolls, then we ate dinner together, and afterwards we watched the new American Girl movie "Isabelle". We had a lot of fun having Izzy spend the day with us. 

Hair salon

So, our "simple" birthday for Kate turned out much bigger than expected, but it didn't take too much planning, was not too expensive, and it ended up being a lot of fun. 

Happy 10th birthday, Kate!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why We Confiscated Calvin and Hobbes

Our children have enjoyed our Calvin and Hobbes books on and off in the past, but at the beginning of this summer they discovered them again and absolutely loved them, especially James! 

Of course, when something is "loved" by our children, that also means it gets very well-worn. Too well-worn! Some of the books were beginning to fall apart -- corners getting crumpled, pages falling out, covers coming off, etc. We do not have a super nice set of books, but at one time they *were* new!

Jon and I would often remind the children how they needed to take care of the things they loved. But, it's a hard concept for young children (like my boys). On the other hand, these books gave James and Bruce hours of entertainment; it was wonderful!

Unfortunately, Calvin is not the best example for growing children. That goes without saying, I think. Thankfully, some of the stuff being said or done by Calvin would go over their heads, but then again, the incredibly talented drawings often explained it all. The boys often never needed us to read to them. The pictures alone would send them into ample giggles.

Jon and I would occasionally put the books in "timeout" if we found them left on the floor or not put away properly when they were done reading. But, the "last straw" that made me confiscate them for the remainder of the summer happened one day in early June.

Our family had gone to Izmaylovo Estate to get family pictures. This is something I had been waited to do for a long time, and I take family pictures very seriously. It takes a lot of effort and energy with our size of family to do pictures nicely, so I was really hopeful that something would work out. Most of the pictures were unusable, and in the end there was only one good picture. Unfortunately, in the ONE good picture of our family, James looked so silly! Later on, as we were returning home, James and Bruce asked if they could make silly faces in the picture, and I finally figured out what James was doing.

Family pic

Waiting at the bus stop

The culprit

Did you find the two faces of Calvin that James was mimicking? I bet at one time James had held the book in front of the mirror at home and practiced these faces. What a goof!

You know, James may look silly in our family picture, but I don't really mind anymore. James is just in an extra silly stage of his life and his personality shines through in that picture. That's pretty cool.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Russian Princess Kasandra

Our lovely Kate in her fancy, traditional Russian dress at Tsaritsyno Park. 

(Kate's dress also came with a silver vest, but it was too big for Kate. We got the dress large so that she could grow into it which made the jumper longer, and the shirt was fine, but the vest wanted someone a little more...bucksome.)


Last summer we went with some good friends to Tsaritsyno Park and had a really wonderful time. It was beautiful! They mentioned that in the evenings the fountain had lights and music, but it was under construction at the time. Ever since then, I've wanted to return.

Tsaritsyno estate was purchased by empress Catherine the Great and she had a palace built, but she died before it was finished. They never actually completed it until recently.

We stayed up WAY after the children's bedtime to wait for dusk/sunset to enjoy the fountain.

The fountain, and palace in the trees 

On our way home, the children were full of excitement and energy from our fun outing. As we walked across a bridge, I noticed an older lady behind us yelling, but didn't think anything about it. However, when I looked back again, I wondered if she was looking at us. I asked Kate if she was yelling at us and she said yes. The woman apparently didn't like James's volume. I know James can be loud, but we were OUTSIDE and I hadn't even noticed his voice among the large crowd of talking people around us. The lady had dyed purple hair (which isn't uncommon among the older ladies in Moscow - seriously), and I joked, "I don't think someone with purple hair should be yelling". To that, Jon replied, "I don't think someone with purple hair should complain about others being *loud*."