Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 15, 2013

This week Justin continued his love of creating things out of construction paper and tape.  Keeps him busy, but hard to find places for all of his creations.

The boys had a great time in the snow.  We were all feeling well so they had the opportunity to enjoy playing outside.  It looks pretty enough, but it gets old fast.  I hate having to put on the layers and pulling off wet boots and having my entry floor dirty and wet. :(

Sun!  Unfortunately, clear skies mean it is colder. :(

The community has someone do off our driveway.  They don't do it all the way, but they do it enough that we can get in and out.  Sure glad I don't have to shovel the snow.  Brrr!

Ryan at school.  When I went to pick him up, he couldn't figure why I was there.  He couldn't believe that it was already time to go home.  He had a lot of fun playing in the snow with the other kids.

J and R had fun playing out in the back yard.
 My book club meeting this month took me to my first Soviet era apartment building.  It was an experience!  Once buzzed in, you enter into a lobby(?) indoor courtyard (?) that reminded me of the kind of parking garage where you would be afraid to park.  It was dark until we got over near the elevator and the stairs and finally got the automatic lights to sense us and turn on.  Here is the elevator, which evidently smells really badly in the summer since it is next to the trash chute.
 This is an apartment on the ground floor.  I loved the exposed wiring, etc.  Nice, huh?  Anyway, the apartment I went to was nice.  It was a smallish size two bedroom for US standards, but cute and a fine place to live.  Definitely larger and nicer than some of the places my sister has had in New York.  No offense, Meredith.

Evidently, the apartments are redone and some are small studios while other people have taken over all of the apartments on a floor and made them into a large place.  Heating and water conditions vary according to apartment as well.  The building, as others I have seen, is really ugly on the outside.  It amazes me to think of what the apartments used to be like and what a depressing place it must have been to live.  I guess some of the places still are.
Ryan got to have his preschool winter performance.  He has been SO excited for it.  It was a nice little show.  The teachers are very kind and hard working.  They love and care for and about the children and it shows.  The parents are great about helping to make the preschool a good place to be.  They are generous with time and resources.  It will be sad to have Ryan leave in the Fall when he is ready for kindergarten.

On Friday, Justin took cupcakes in to school.  His birthday is over the break so he can't take in cupcakes on his actual birthday.  It just so happens that his teacher has the same birthday as he does.  Justin took in cupcakes and a present to celebrate HER birthday and will take in cupcakes for HIS birthday after the break.  He has a great teacher and he really likes school because of her.
Now the boys are on winter break until January 7th.  It might be long.  They alternate between playing really nicely together and fighting like cats and dogs.
On Saturday, Rob and I went to a Christmas bazaar and then out to lunch.  I bought several wooden ornaments. There wasn't much else that interested me.  Lunch was fine, not great, but it was good to be out of the house without the boys.  They were at home with Skyler.  They lover he babysitting so much that they wanted to know if she could be their new mommy.  I'm glad that they are happy when we leave them.  I wish Skyler could be their mommy when they are sick or up in the middle of the night.  I doubt she wants the job though, especially since the mommy job doesn't pay.

There wasn't really anything to take a picture of at the Christmas bazaar, so I took a picture of a statue we walked by so I had a picture of something. :)
Tonight we had the missionaries over for dinner.  It was fun to have them here and they seemed to enjoy having some American food and conversation for a change.  We had Christmas cookies to give to them.  It was amazing that I hadn't eaten them all myself.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

December 8, 2013

This week was not as busy as I had anticipated.  Monday as I walked Justin to school, he pointed out the rare sunset.  I told him that it was actually a sunrise and asked him why he thought it was rare.  He said that we don't see one very often so it must be rare.  Yep, we are getting to that time of year when the sun doesn't rise quite as early.  I look forward to the days growing longer again so we don't see the sunrise.  Guess that will be some time away still. 

We decorated the Christmas tree.  The boys were very excited to see it up and to rediscover ornaments from past years.  We really don't have a lot of Christmas decorations other than the tree.  That is probably a good thing as the boys continuously play with the Little People nativity and the musical snow globe we do have out.  It is fun that they are so excited for Christmas.


Tuesday was Ryan's 5th birthday.  How did my baby get so big?  Well, I guess he has always been big, so how did he get so old?  Justin made many birthday decorations for Ryan and was excited for him.  We have had problems getting our mail, but fortunately Grandma mailed Ryan's presents very early.  He got presents from Grandma and Papa and a book from Justin.  We are crossing our fingers that his birthday presents, Justin's presents, and the Christmas presents arrive.  Many arrived in Dulles around Veteran's Day, just haven't gotten here yet. :(  Anyway, Ryan was VERY excited about getting his Skylanders, so once he opened that I think he would have been done with presents even if he had had more.

Ready to open his presents

 Do you think he is excited?

Getting in some Skylanders time before J has to go to school

Ryan wanted a butt cake, but I refused.  I made him a 5 cake instead
 On Wednesday we had some friends over for dinner.  They moved on Saturday so it was good to have a little bit of time with them.  Ryan will miss Cyrus at school and over at the house.   It was fun for him to have a friend right across the street.  Ryan is about 1 1/2 years older, but he enjoyed being the older kid for a change.

By Thursday my headache and just not feeling quite right turned to feverish.  Yuck.  Lucky for me, even though it wasn't a regular school day for Ryan, the teacher asked if he could be there so he could do a special activity.  I spent the morning in bed.

On Friday Ryan wasn't feeling well either.  I started to take him to school and then brought him back.  He was really whiny and it wasn't just the four hours of sleep he had for the night.  By the afternoon he also had a fever.  We had some good cuddle time at least.  Cyrus came over with his mom and brother to return a few things.  We took some pictures before saying goodbye.

Doesn't Justin look freakishly tall in this pic?

Saturday was the day of Justin's winter concert at school.  He had been talking and talking about it.  We were all well enough to go.  He was a cutie and did well in both of the things he was in.  Unfortunately it was hard to see him very well.  I will upload the two video clips to youtube for Grandma to watch.

I saw Justin and Ani's Mesopotamian city on display at the school.

Justin and Ani before the concert.

Justin and Ani waiting for the dance part to start

He is on the stage near the bottom middle
The hour at the school wore me out and made Ryan cranky. 

On Sunday we woke up to our first snow and Ryan was so excited.  I had to take a picture because it was funny how excited he was over nothing.  It did start to snow again later and we got a measureable amount.  Ryan and I stayed home from church and rested up.  We both no longer have fevers and seem to feel much better.  I hope we are ready for the last week of school before Christmas break.  I also hope we get mail!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

December 1, 2013

I can't believe that it is already December!  November went by pretty quickly.  The weather is definitely colder, particularly at night, but we have yet to see snow.

More leaves ready to be picked up!  These are some I did, but the community crew came and raked some as well. 
Cyrus' family is leaving on Dec. 6th, so this week the movers were busy packing them up.  Ryan was thrilled to have Cyrus come over to play after preschool so that he wouldn't be underfoot.  Ryan is starting to get a little bit sad about Cyrus leaving.  Even though Cyrus is only 3 1/2, the boys get along pretty well and he lives right across the street! 

J and R playing with Cryus in the rocks.

When our mail arrived on Monday, I was happy (for once) that we hadn't gotten very much. Everything had gotten very very wet from sitting out on the tarmac for heaven knows how long and it was absolutely soaked!  Unfortunately, my book order was one of the things that arrived.  About half of the books were quite wet.  I dried them off as best as I could.  While many aren't pretty, they can still be read.  Justin could hardly wait for some of them to be dry enough to read.

I had a fan blowing on the books all night.  It seemed to help.
Thursday was Thanksgiving.  Rob and I went over the many Thanksgivings we have had since we have been married and realize that very few have been traditional.  Those that were usually were only because we were in the US with family.  A big Thanksgiving meal for the four of us (with only two of us really eating much of it) seemed a bit much.  We decided that we will do the whole turkey thing over New Year's when Rob has three days off.  Instead we did what we did for our first Thanksgiving--pizza and pies!  Of course it isn't like Papa John's delivers here, so Rob made homemade pizza. :)  We opened our pizza stone (Christmas present) early so we could have the best pizza possible.  I made cherry and pumpkin pies.  We also had chips and onion dip.  Justin came home from school and we had an early dinner together while we watched one of the Shrek movies on TV.  Definitely not the Thanksgiving most people picture, but it was relaxing and we enjoyed it.

Friday Rob and I went out to the mall to see a new grocery store.  We rarely go to the mall because there is nothing there that we would want to buy.  It is easy enough to get to though, so we went to see if the grocery store was any good.  It has nice wide aisles, but it isn't any better than the closer store in terms of stocking products we want.

The mall on Black Friday.
Either they haven't stocked yet for the day (but they have been open at least an hour!) or they are out of a lot of produce.  Neither thing would be unusual.
In the evening we had a 6:00 PM dentist appointment for Ryan.  He had been complaining about a tooth when he ate.  Sure enough, he had a cavity in a back tooth.  We spent an hour an a half at the dentist getting it taken care of.  I was SO proud of him!  He was nervous going in, but he was brave and very well behaved.  The pediatric dentist doesn't speak much English, but someone else came in to talk with us and explain what needed to be done.  While working on Ryan, the dentist often told him that he was a good boy and that he was being brave.  Sometimes she just spoke in a soothing voice in Armenian.  I was standing right there too and tried to distract him when he looked like he was getting upset or scared.  The bill came in at under $40 and it looked just as modern as the dentist we go to in the US.  Yay!  Not that I hope we have to go in to see her a lot, but we know a dentist for the boys now.   Justin was playing on my phone in the waiting room or I would have taken a picture.

We went to KFC for dinner because it was dinner time and KFC was just up the street.  We ordered Ryan ice cream and pineapple juice so he wouldn't chew on his numbed cheek.  Looks like he did that later on in his sleep anyway. :(

On Saturday I went with Ryan to a birthday party.  The girl's birthday is the same day as his so I was hoping it wouldn't upset him that he isn't having a party.  He enjoyed the party and doesn't seem to care that he isn't having a party.  I said that he can take cupcakes to school and that he and I will spend the day doing things that he likes to do.  Maybe a party next year...

I was also able to get an all important video clip of Justin giving me permission to give him hugs and kisses even when he gets older.  I already had one of Ryan.  These things will be important for me to have in the future.  I keep getting an upload error, so here is the link.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24, 2013

I thought that winter was coming, but we had another little bit of "warm" weather.  It was fun for the boys to be able to run around and play in the yard (without coats) while I raked up some leaves.  It was nice to see them getting along with each other.  I suspect that in the back of their minds they realized that playing nicely was one of the best ways to avoid being drafted into raking duty.  Later in the week, Ryan did help though.  By help I of course mean that he was outside with me with a rake.  I do not mean to imply that the work went faster or more smoothly. :)

The trees that line the streets belong to the community we live in and are cared for by community employees.  That means they rake those leaves and collect them.  These seem to be the same people who pick up our trash three times a week.  I have noticed that the women do the work while the men do very little.  I see the tractor with trailer driving around to collect the trash each week.  The women go digging through all of the trash cans, pulling out the trash and carrying it to the trailer.  The male driver sits in the tractor, idling as he waits for them.  Okay, so perhaps it isn't really practical for him to get out and hop back in over and over as they move along the street.  When they are raking, however, he spends a lot of time just sitting there as he waits for them to rake the leaves onto a tarp and haul them into the trailer.  Rough life for him.

I am also throwing in a random picture of clothes drying outside of a city apartment.  I know my mom enjoys seeing things like that.

Ryan's school had a parent meeting on Wednesday and Justin's school had a PTO meeting on Thursday.  That meant that I was gone during bedtime.  Kind of nice to be away during the whole bedtime routine.  It is really nice to live so close to both of their schools and be able to walk out the door 5 minutes before the start time.

This week Justin's school had their foreign language performance.  Justin is taking French and was very excited to be able to show off his skills with the other kids in his class.  The kids did a good job and were very cute.

Ryan was quite proud of his Sunday fashion sense.  What a cutie.
Yeah, it wasn't a very exciting week.  That is probably a good thing though. :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013

This week I am once again playing catch up.  Last Sunday afternoon, Justin fell asleep during his quiet time.  Now quiet time is something that I need much more than the boys, so for one of them to fall asleep during quiet time is quite unusual.  I tried to wake him up and noticed that he was quite warm.  I took his temperature and it was almost 103.  I decided to let him sleep.  When he woke up, he wasn't feeling well, but that was easily resolved with some Tylenol.  Unfortunately, he was not at all tired, but plenty needy.  He also stayed up very late.  Being the good mother that I am, I went to bed and had him wake me up when he needed me to change the DVD he was watching.  I kept him home from school and it about killed me.  The time he rested gave him super energy.  Maybe I accidently gave him Tylenol with speed or something.  I could hardly wait for school the next day.

So, the past two weeks have been a blur.  It isn't because so much has been happening, but rather because what happens is often routine and doesn't seem much worth noting.

With the kids having their birthdays AND Christmas next month, they have been busy making lists.  I love the spellings they use. :)  The lists are prominently placed on the refrigerator and as they see each other's lists, they often add to their own.  Uh, yeah, like you are really going to EACH get a wii u.
Justin's list

Front side of Ryan's list

Justin's school finished the astroturf playground project.  Ryan enjoys playing on the playground while we wait for Justin to get out of school.  We have been enjoying the mild weather this year.  Mid November and no jacket!  Unfortunately, it looks like that is going to change this upcoming week. 

Justin was very excited that he got an award in school.  His school grades academic skills and what they call success orientations.  Personally, I think that it is a poor system.  It appears that it is easier to get good academic grades (every child can succeed at high levels, right?) than to get the top "grade" in success orientation behaviors.  It looks like grading and ensuring all students can achieve at high levels means we have to keep dropping standards.  Vanity sizing keeps telling me I am getting skinnier.  I guess US grading systems are going to make all of our kids brilliant.  In the meantime, at Justin's school, it is very difficult for students to be honest, work well in groups, show concern for others, etc.  Huh.  I would have thought these were things that we could expect of students regardless of academic abilities.  Shows what I know.  I am proud that Justin demonstrates concern for others, and I really think that he does.  I think he is a very honest child and a poor speller, but his report card, based upon the standards, shows the opposite. 
Note: I think that Justin has a wonderful teacher, I just think many schools are going overboard to make average students think they are geniuses.  What is wrong with being average academically?
 I finally got my driver's license on the 8th, but I haven't driven yet.  We have one car, I can't think of anywhere I really want to go, and I don't know that driving here is something I look forward to doing anyway.  The Embassy helps to make this an incredibly easy process.  It took longer to get to the police station than to get the license. 
I was amused by their driving course.  It was laid out very neatly in a grid-like manner with lines clearly marked on a smooth, even surface.  In reality, lines, if there are any, mean nothing.  Roads have potholes as big as my kids.  Mini bus and taxi drivers are even worse than the average drivers, stopping suddenly or quickly pulling in front of you even though they have the horsepower of a snail in molasses.  Cars break down frequently and become yet another obstacle in the roadway.  Unfortunately, roads are laid out in bizarre patterns and are street signs are rare.  I think anyone who can drive to the police station and get there in one piece should be granted a license.  Perhaps if you can drive on the "civilized" course you are denied your license because it bears no resemblance to reality.
Justin and Ryan are also busy planning every last detail of their birthdays.  Here is part of Ryan's schedule.  He has written things on individual pages so he can rearrange them as needed.
I really need to post some things to my other blog outlining some of the activities I do with the boys. I keep putting it off until I have time to catch up.  The longer I wait, the harder it is going to be.  I need to just sit down and do it soon without worrying about when I did what.  Here are a few things that the boys have been doing lately.

 Justin continues to invent complicated games that make no sense to anyone but himself.  He likes to get commitments that we will play.  Here is a sign up sheet he made for his Plants vs Zombies inspired game.
sinnitsher = signature
 Justin has been writing stories and of course Ryan has insisted in getting involved as well.  He tires of the actual writing part quickly and will often dictate to me.  As an almost 5 year old, he is not a particularly gifted artist.  I loved this picture though.
Leaves are falling off of the trees.  Ryan and I looked for leaves both big and small.  These were big enough for me to wear on my head.
 I needed to find some buttons to sew on a shirt.  Ryan and I ended up playing with buttons for almost an hour.  This is the kind of thing I love doing with him.
 Ryan and I also worked a bit on telling him. He was excited for a play date and wanted to quickly get through things like lunch, quiet time, and picking up his brother so it would be time sooner.
 Ryan and I read a book about shadows and then tried out some things in the dark bathroom.

 Saturday was a surprise baby shower for some of our friends.  The baby isn't due until January, but they are moving early next month.  Justin and Ryan enjoyed the fact that the baby shower was a family affair.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

November 3, 2013

Justin went back to school this week.  It was good to get back into our routine.  Of course since I couldn't sleep in, the boys were much quieter in the mornings.  Grrr...

Justin won an award for best fantasy book (really a story) in the school contest.  I don't know what the age categories were.  I knew there was a contest, but I hadn't know that he had actually been using his free time at school to work on his story.  Unfortunately, by the time I retrieved the story out of his backpack, some of the pages were missing.  I never told him because I figured he would have a fit.  He was so excited about receiving recognition for his writing that I didn't want to ruin the mood.  The story was based on one that he had written last year in kindergarten.  A man buys a bag of jellybeans and one by one they escape from the bag and cause some sort of trouble.  A lot of their mischief involves noises such as bam, pow, ow, and boom.  In the end, the man is able to enter a secret code into the computer to make them normal jellybeans again.  I was just thrilled that he wrote and used lowercase letters appropriately instead of all caps.

It was a busy week to prepare for all of the Halloween festivities.  I was not foolish enough to volunteer to be in charge of the Fall Festival at J's school, but I did try to help as much as I could.  That meant assisting with decorating and making up over 200 treat bags.  I am glad that it is over.
Wednesday at about 3:00 AM I found Ryan standing by my bed crying.  He had thrown up on his hand and foot while trying to get to the toilet.  He had been complaining about his stomach on and off Tuesday, but in typical Ryan fashion he generally complained when it was time to do something.  We had some bile and raisins come up again, but Ryan is pretty good about getting it into the toilet or a bowl so there was minimal mess.  Because he had thrown up and been up since 3:00, I told him that he could stay home from school and rest.  He cried and promised that he would be good at school.  I explained that if his tummy hurt he shouldn't go.  He acted like I was crazy and told me that his tummy didn't hurt anymore because he threw up.  I let him go to school.  He seemed fine except for not wanting to eat.  We went to the Embassy for trick or treating and he continued to act fine.  We went to the Marine House to watch a movie and have some treats and he was excited for popcorn.  He chowed down and the promptly told me that he didn't feel well.  We went outside and he puked on the lawn.  Poor kid.  He wanted to go in and have popcorn, but I said it was time to go home.  Such a mean mom!
This is Justin in what he calls a dancing zombie costume.  The wig didn't last long because it was hot inside the Embassy.

Ryan got another year's use out of the alien costume.  People thought he was adorable.

Here are my boys getting ready to get their candy and sit down for the movie.

On Thursday I made cupcakes for Friday's Fall Festival and went to Justin's school to help decorate.  When Justin got out of class, we came home to get ready for Halloween.  We went to the little community party, but didn't stay long.  Ryan was enjoying the games, but Justin was annoyed that they were speaking Armenian most of the time.  Imagine that, speaking Armenian in Armenia!  I told him to just watch what the other kids were doing to know how to play the games.  They were translating too, but Justin was just not that into it.  The boys were both a bit tired from the previous night and excited for trick or treating in a couple of hours, so that didn't help either.
Zombie cupcakes with bones

Some of the decorations ready to be put up.  Dagny MADE all of them by finding patterns online and cutting the pics out of tissue paper.  I think there were about 60 of them total!

These boys are impossible to get a picture of because they are always playing around.

Here's Ryan the pirate and Justin the skeleton.

Ryan got into the games and the dances.

Could it be Justin participating?!?!
FINALLY after Rob came home it was time for trick or treating and the party and Cyrus' house.  The boys were incredibly loud and hyper as we went through the neighborhood looking for houses that were participating in trick or treating.  Even though Armenians typically don't celebrate Halloween, there are enough expats in the community that it has caught on.  I was out with the boys while Rob stayed home.  Our house had over 100 trick or treaters which is MANY more than we had in the US.
Hansen's house the day of the Halloween party.

My knight and Batman out trick or treating.

Back home with some treats. :)

Friday was Fall Festival day.  I went over to help with final preparations and then back home with the boys to rest a bit before the big evening.  I was hoping they would rest too since they had a late night on Halloween, but they were pretty excited.  We went back to Justin's school and the boys played games, ate some treats, and went through the haunted house TWICE!  Before I went through with them, I told Ryan that if dressed up people jumped out and made noises to scare him, he should just roar right back.  He did and he came out wanting to go right back in.  Daddy took them back in while I did a few other things.
My cute Luigi!  The mustache didn't last long.  He said it hurt and it sure did leave a mark!

Mario's mustache didn't last long either.

Aren't they cute?!?

J did well on the egg walk, but Ryan wouldn't try it.

Waiting in line.

Ryan made it across the spooky swamp.

Finding prizes in the haystack.

Waiting to fish for a prize.

Pumpkin bowling

Pumpkin bean bag toss.  It took Ryan MANY tries, but he didn't get up and he finally got one in and won a prize.

Justin's teacher (Honest Abe) had the kids eating apples off a string.

Friday's party ended with a bonfire.  Rob took the boys home while I helped to clean up.  Another late night for the boys.  Saturday was a chance to have a laid back day.  The boys rode bikes and scooters outside and played a little basketball with Dad.  We had breakfast for dinner so everyone was happy.  So far it looks like we are going to have a calm week coming up.  Yay!