Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014

A bit behind, but not too much.  Here is a recap of our last week.

On Sunday the 19th we had some of the missionaries and a marine come eat with us after church.  There were nine of us plus Justin and Ryan.  We had tacos and fajitas, which was a good choice because it helped keep the boys occupied at the table with their food as well.  We had pineapple upside down cake for dessert and there wasn't any left the next day.  I decided that I will make another one for my birthday because for some reason because I didn't get my fill.  Funny how I hadn't made one in forever and now I keep craving it.  The boys are always excited to have people come over for dinner and we had a good time eating and talking.

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day so Rob didn't have to go to work.  The boys went off to school and he was able to enjoy watching some football from the previous night.  Justin came home from school anxious to go to Monika's birthday party.  Seemed like forever until it was time to go.

Monika's party was the most extravagant birthday party for a 7 year old that we have ever attended.  We got there at 6:00 (the time the party started) even though we are in Armenia.  Oops.  Not even Monika's family was there yet.  We walked up the stairs to the party room, tracking the dirty, wet snow from our boots.  So lovely on the white tile and quite obvious who is tracking it in.  Of course there was someone there ready with a mop to clean up after us.

There was a lifesize Monika cut-out over by a spring background.  Later I saw her get her picture taken next to it.  It was like she was twins.  Between the children and adult sections was an open area in front of the stage.  Balloons covered the floor and provided a fun activity for the children.

Yep, just us hanging at the party.  Already got the
funky light thing going on though.
Slowly people began to arrive.  More and more children played with the balloons until they had all been popped. Adults were shown their tables and the children theirs.  They had pizza, popcorn, sodas, and a variety of snacks at their place.  In addition, there was basically a mini candy store set up for children to choose lollipops, cake pops, chocolate, pudding, and a variety of other sweets as they wanted throughout the evening.

One of the girls in J's class.
That's the birthday treat station behind the boys. The mini sized
Monika cut out is on the right side of the picture.
 I wish that I had been able to take pictures of more of the guests without being obvious.  Many of them reminded me of a cross between models and people dressed for a theme party of some sort.  In addition to the professional photographer there were two people with video cameras capturing the event.  Evidently, Monika is on a TV show here in Armenia and part of her party will be on the show.  Some song was played and she made her way from the stage, around the room, being filmed as she walked around singing and posing.  Later we saw some home videos of her and some clips from her TV show.

Sweater dude is one of the guys taping the party.
I had to get a shot of this kid though.  I have NEVER seen
a kid in the US dressed up like this.
Short dresses like this one make me glad that I don't have daughters to dress.
While all of this was going on, we had plenty to eat being brought to our table.  There was a variety of Armenian food, but I stuck primarily to the meat, lavash (bread), and cheese since it was all something I recognized and knew that I liked.

The adult tables
One of the children's tables.

A clown, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh joined the party to dance and play with the children.  Not long after two more juggling clowns arrived.  I thought they had a gypsy fortune teller hired as well, but she ended up being the parent of one of the children attending.  Oops.

We left at 8:00, though some people had just arrived.  I noticed that the children's tables were being filled with platters of chicken kabobs and French fries.  I guess that is why Ryan's pizza had been cleared away while he was asking me if he could have another treat. The treat ended up tasting like stale breakfast cereal flavored with strawberry Nestle Quick, but he didn't seem to mind.  He hadn't liked the pudding, which had a consistency that suggested quite a bit of gelatin or something in it.  I thought it might be able bounce like a bouncy ball if you shaped it right.  I couldn't quite figure out the flavor either.  Not the typical US birthday treats.  It is fun to be able to try them, even if they aren't always to my taste.

Birthday girl (in blue) with her mother and siblings
Justin with the birthday girl

That's my crazy little Ryan!

No alcohol at the children's tables, but plenty of soda.
Ryan thought he was going to throw up when he got home.

It was very interesting to get to go to Monika's party.  My children certainly have been to a variety of parties from super low key to extravagant.  It is nice that at this age they don't seem content with all of them. 

The rest of the week was pretty dull by comparison.  I wanted to place a grocery order, but gave up when I saw they were out of milk, eggs, chicken, ground beef, cheese, butter, and produce.  Nice.  They did have potatoes and onions, but not even carrots or cabbage.  I am glad that we have a fridge and a freezer in our garage so we can stock up on things.  The alternative would be to eat like the locals, but I don't know how fatty meat and heavy breads would work for us day after day.

On Friday, J's school had mother son night so he and I left Ryan with Skyler to babysit while we headed off. 

After taking a picture of us, we were able to find a table and play some games for awhile.  Justin chose to play Battleship with Noor, a new boy in his class.  I played with Noor's younger brother so that their mother could help Justin and Noor figure out the game which was new to them both.  Justin opted not to make a picture frame, but continued to play games until treasure hunt time.

I could not keep up with Justin on the treasure hunt.  He was running around quickly and we were the first to finish. He got to choose a bag filled with goodies, pencils, balloons, an eraser, and a noisemaker.

Next we gathered in a circle for dancing.  The first dance was the chicken dance.  Justin hid behind me and then wanted to sit out for the rest of the dancing.  He didn't know the chicken dance and was sure that everyone was going to laugh at him if he did it wrong.  Uh, yeah.  I don't know what professional dancers he was watching, but I he would have to do something pretty major to call attention to himself.  Perhaps if his pants ripped out or he took a nose dive.  Oh well.  We sat and watched the others dance.  Luckily it was only about 15 minutes.

Next was food and a show.  We had pizza and juice.  This was the most exciting part for me because it meant that I didn't have to cook dinner.  Ryan had a sandwich and Rob could have leftovers.  Yay!  We watched a rather horrible show about a little engine that could, but not THE little engine that could.  When it was finished, they showed clips of all of the boys who were there that night.  They each said what they like to do with their mothers.  As this started, the boys started to hide under chairs, cover their heads with their coats, or pretend in some other manner to be embarrassed.  My son asked if he could go sit by Charlie and his mom.  It was very cute, but I guess Justin was expecting some major special effects because he was disappointed in how the video turned out.

We walked home and Justin was very excited to spend some time with Skyler since Rob was working late and still not home.  I explained that since I was home they did not need to be babysat, but needed to get ready for bed.  Justin was devastated that Ryan got to spend time with a babysitter and he did not.  So unfair.

Got the boys in bed and Justin let me know what a sad day it was for him.  School "wastes" most of his time.  His teacher ALWAYS gets to decide what they are going to learn and when.  She also makes him infer a lot when his brain would like to be busy doing other things.  Rough life, huh?  Then mother son night had not lived up to his expectations.  I am sure that my birthday will be a big disappointment to him as well.

Speaking of birthdays, Justin did not understand that grown ups are not generally as excited as children are about birthdays.  The way he sees it, he still has plenty of birthdays left to celebrate, but I am getting old and don't have too many left.  Nice.

Saturday brought a fear of a tornado.  No, Justin, it was a plane flying by, not a tornado.  And no, I don't even think Armenia has tornadoes.  Then he freaked out about scorpions.  He didn't want to take a bath because maybe a scorpion would come into the bathroom and climb in with him and sting him.  Are there scorpions in Armenia?  Yes.  Have we seen any in our neighborhood or house yet?  No.  He wanted to know all about scorpions and what would happen if he were to be stung, blah, blah, blah.  Rob found a picture to show him.  I was thankful that he didn't click on the link about the five year old Armenian girl dying from a scorpion bite.  I had just assured Justin that would NOT happen.  Now I just need to hope that he doesn't worry about a tornado bringing scorpions and having them fly all around us.

Justin continued to worry.  The new boy in his class did not have a notebook for French class and the teacher told him to get one.  Could we buy Noor one?   I said that his family could take care of that.  Justin worried about the cost of notebooks and if the family could afford it.  I said they could.  How did I know?  Well, his dad works at the Embassy too and makes enough money to buy a notebook.  Of course Justin wanted to know how much people who work at the Embassy get each time they go to work.  Sigh.  Is it any wonder I get more gray hairs each day?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 19, 2014

The boys are both back in school and things are returning to normal after a long Christmas break.  Justin was nervous about going back and it was like the first day all over again.  He was even concerned that he wouldn't know where his cubby was or who was in his class.  Since his birthday was during the Christmas break, he was able to take cupcakes in on the first day back.  That meant that I carried them and went all the way to his classroom with him.  That helped him to settle down a little bit.

Ryan was jealous that Justin got to go back a day before he did.  He was also excited to take in birthday cupcakes.  I got pretty sick of making cupcakes, but at least that is done with for awhile.

Friday the 10th I was able to finally get Ryan's hair cut.  He no longer looks like an unloved dog.  Of course with the dry air and the need for hats, his hair is still quite interesting much of the time.  We went with Jack, Charlie, and Nune (their nanny) to get their hair cut while Nune's sister watched Justin at our house.  When we were done, Charlie got to play Skylanders with the boys for awhile and of course they had fun.

This week the boys had a snow day on Tuesday!  We got 6-8 inches of snow and the roads were deemed unsafe for staff and students.  Luckily they have the teachers call in such cases because I never would have thought about a snow day.  Since we walk to school, road conditions are not a thing I think about.  I also don't know what is and is not unusual snow accumulation here. 

Rob had a two hour delay to work, so he did the driveway. 
Good exercise, but his back paid for it later.

Ryan wanted to run around the yard and look for buried toys.

This is the plow that comes around our community to do off the roads. The nice
thing is a little tractor (the one that pulls the garbage trailer) comes by later and makes
sure the driveway isn't blocked from the snow the plow has moved.

I have no idea what Justin was doing.

I made a path through the backyard so it would be easier to cut through
on the way to school on Wednesday.

The kids can sled on the hill during recess so Justin has been taking in a sled each day.  It is kind of a pain to drag it back and forth, but the kids have so much fun.  When we go to pick Justin up, I try to go a bit early so Ryan can get some sledding in. 

Justin's class was studying world religions as part of their social studies curriculum.  He made a little book about Islam with illustrations that are, in my opinion, priceless. Rob and I cracked up over the charity and the fasting pictures.

Faith: Muslims believe in Allah and love Allah.
Drawing says I love Allah!

Prayer: Muslims pray to Allah 5 times each day.

Charity: Muslims give things to poor people.
Drawing shows someone receiving a car!

Fasting: Muslims do not eat when the sun shines during Ramadan.
Drawing shows sad faced figure looking at drumstick in the day,
smiling figure looking at drumstick at night.

Pilgrimage: Muslims go to the holy city of Mecca.
Justin's class has students from many different countries and of many different faiths.  I like that he gets that exposure.  One day he was asking me which country is the best and I told him that people usually love the country that they are from.  During our discussion it seemed to click with him that just as he loves to visit family in the States and spend time there, his peers have other places they like to go.  He has friends from the UK, Russia, Armenia, Germany, Vietnam, Korea, India, and other countries.

Wednesday I went to my monthly book club.  I dread going out in the cold dark night, but I always have a good time when I am there.  I volunteered to host in March so I need to choose out a book soon.

Thursday was the PTO meeting.  Again, not a lot of fun to go out in the cold dark night, but it is a super short walk at least.

Friday we got my teaching supplies and some other stuff that had been in storage since Rob and I left Maryland for China.  Now I get to go through it and see what I want to keep.  I think that there will be a lot of things that I am ready to throw out or donate.  Yay!  Less stuff!  We didn't know how this overseas lifestyle was going to work for us so we pretty much put everything in storage since it was paid for.  Now all that is left in storage is our furniture.  I think a lot of that can be donated too, but we really don't want to get that all shipped out here.  Perhaps someplace we will. 

This week I also finally put up my fourth shadow box.  The nail has been waiting for it since about August.  Oops.  I have another empty one and think that in the future I will group them differently.  Two have things that belonged to my grandparents, one has things from Namibia, and the last has things from China.  I have some things from Japan to put in one and some things from Zimbabwe for another.  I have some smaller frames that I want to put some Thai things in.  Not sure how I want them displayed in our future homes, but for now I am happy to be putting small keepsakes and souvenirs somewhere besides a box.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!

This week the boys had another play date with Charlie.  I am so happy that there is a nice, polite friend who lives in the neighborhood.  You really can't find a nicer boy than Charlie.  When Nune called to see if they wanted to go over, I told J that he needed to make Charlie's thank you card first.  What a great way to get him to quickly make a card without complaint.

After they had been there for a couple of hours, I called to see if they were ready to come back home.  Nune said they were playing nicely and she sounded like she thought I was crazy to think they would be done.  She asked though, and Justin was ready to come home.  We walked home and he went straight to his room.  After a bit he came downstairs and was ready to be with people again.  He talked about how much fun they had and wanted to know when they could play again.  Being around people just seems to take a lot out of Justin and he likes to be alone to recharge.  He can't always monitor when he needs time alone so I try to be aware of his needs.  If he goes too long without alone time to recharge he can get quite ugly to be around.

We celebrated the new year by going to bed at the usual time.  Aren't we wild and crazy?  I am happy to report that 2014 has brought warmer temperatures our way.  By warmer, I mean RELATIVELY warmer.  Outside it is hovering around freezing and indoors our heater can keep the house warm easily enough that it sometimes cycles off for awhile.  I am enjoying our heat wave and hoping that we don't go back to the single digits again.

On New Year's Rob made a turkey for dinner.  We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole.  My favorite part, as usual, was the leftovers.

I got to talk to Meredith on Face Time and then I told J and R that I had talked to her and that she and Jordan got back to New York safely from their travels.  Justin wanted to know how come we always have to go visit people and no one ever comes to visit us.  We talked a little bit about Rob's job and how one of the benefits of his work is that they pay for our airfare to go back to the US.  We talked about how expensive it can be to travel otherwise.  It didn't take long for Justin to start crying and begin to worry about Meredith and Jordan.  If they don't have enough extra money to visit us, they must be poor.  Meredith teaches, so she doesn't get paid in the summer.  He wanted to know what Jordan does at the museum and how much money she makes.  Is there a way she could do extra work, like give tours, so they could have more money?  What could Meredith do in the summer so they can get money?  How can he help to supplement their income?  I tried to explain to him that while they don't have lots of extra money, they have enough for a place to live, food, etc.  He wasn't completely convinced.  Then he started to worry about Cho, Amy, and cousins.  Can they afford to buy new toys and clothes?  Since we are ahead of them (time zone thing) next year should he leave things out that Santa could take to them when he gets to Oregon?  Could we somehow give them some money so they are okay?  His other brilliant idea is for them to talk to their bosses about giving THEM money to come visit us.  Rob's job pays for our airfare, surely their employers would too if they explained that we live in Armenia.  Poor sweet boy.  When he grows up, he will ask his workers where their families live and give them airplane tickets so they can visit family.

I hadn't realized that January had so many birthdays in it.  Justin told us on the 2nd that it was Super Frog's 11th birthday.  He and Ryan celebrated along with Super Frog and some of the other stuffed animals during the day and after dinner we sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed a birthday cherry pie.

The next day Ryan informed me that it was his dolphin's 12th birthday.  He and Justin spent the morning making presents with construction paper and tape.  Luckily, we had only eaten half of the pie the day before.  We stuck the candle back in again, sang Happy Birthday, and finished off the pie. 

Some of the construction paper projects from Super Frog and Seahorse Dolphin's birthday.
 Not a lot of exciting stuff happening in the Weber home.  Christmas break will soon be over and I will be back to taking the boys to and from school.  Sometimes they were obnoxious to have around, but sometimes they could be angels.  I bet that I will get more done once they are back in school though. :)
Getting along so they can play on the iPad.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

December 29, 2013

Two weeks to write about this week.  Even with Justin's birthday and Christmas, we have not done a lot.  The weather has been very cold.  The locals all say it is the coldest it has been in a long time.  I have heard that it is the coldest since 2000 and that it hasn't been this cold for over 10 years.  Not sure who is right, but I get the idea that it is cold!  You know it is bad when Moscow is warmer than we are!  We have our heat running 24/7 and it can't get the house above 65.  This morning it was 1 degree outside when I woke up.  And yes, we are talking Fahrenheit and not Celsius!  Needless to say, I have not gotten outside with the boys as much as I had planned to during the course of their break from school.  We go outside only if we are walking to a nearby play date.

Justin had his 7th birthday.  He is growing up!  He got the Skylanders game he wanted from Grandma and Papa and that was all that was important to him. He and Ryan were ready to play!  He requested homemade pizza and snacks for dinner and got to choose the movie we watched.  We ate way too much and then topped it off with cake and ice cream.

Happy Birthday to my big boy!
Justin's friend, Charlie, was supposed to come over the day after J's birthday.  Of course Charlie was sick.  Only fair I guess since Justin was sick on Charlie's birthday last month.  We rescheduled though and the boys had a blast playing with new toys.

Christmas Eve in new Skylanders pjs from Grandma.  This was the best pic I could get of the two of
them by the tree.  In many of the pictures one boy was climbing on the other.  Boys.  Sigh.
Christmas Eve after the boys were in bed I heard Justin running around.  He was pacing the hallway and shouting yay along with some other things I couldn't understand.  I went up and he was sound asleep.  I took him back to bed and ended up staying in there awhile as he kept leaping up and talking.   One time he even smacked me in the face with his stuffed frog.  Let's hope he isn't going to start sleepwalking again on a regular basis.

The boys were allowed to wake us at 7:00.  If I heard them BEFORE 7:00, I would delay that time by 5 minutes for each offense.  If they went downstairs without us, there would be no present opening that day.  Justin went through all of the possible exceptions to the rule with us.  I think he got every possible scenario of WHY those rules might be broken without consequences.  They got us up at 7:00.  Waiting for the day when they enjoy sleeping in too.  7:00 isn't too bad though.

Showing off some of the loot from the stockings.
The boys take so long examining each thing they get.  I suppose that is a good thing.  It's funny how when they zero in on something they are so focused that they don't notice anything else.  If they are looking at a slinky in the stocking they are so into it that they wouldn't notice an elephant walking in.  Eventually we got through the presents though.

Merry Christmas, Daddy!
After checking out what Santa brought, the boys wanted to have Mom and Dad open the presents they had gotten us.  They are enthusiastic givers as well as receivers.

Is it a baguette? 

Yay! A cool umbrella so he doesn't have to share with Mom.

Purple Minion!  The new sleep buddy.
The boys got many of the things on their list including a wii u.  Good thing we decided to get the wii u as our wii died the day before Justin's birthday.  We actually let them have the wii u early since Justin's birthday present from Grandma and Papa was a wii game.  We thought that would just be sad to have a present you couldn't play with.  We have Super Mario wii U and Super Luigi wii U. Now we need to figure out some other cool wii u games to get.  For now the boys are wrapped up in their bday skylanders.  With the cold weather they have been getting LOTS of wii time because I sure don't want to go outside with them!

Cuddling and watching a show after baths.
It is so cold that the boys hate getting bathed.  I don't blame them.  They get to hop out of the tub and wrap a towel around themselves and then a blanket.  From there they get under another blanket or two and watch some Dungeons and Dragons cartoons while they warm up.  Then I lotion up their scaly skin and they put on pjs.

Must organize Skylanders.

Must be like brother and organize Skylanders.
 The boys enjoy their Skylanders figures as toys without the wii as well as with the wii.  They have been keeping busy with their various presents.  Justin has enjoyed trying to make paper airplanes using the patterns in the book he got.  The boys both got their own tape dispensers and Justin got some construction paper. You can imagine the creativity (and mess!) that has caused.  They have been having a good time though.  
Christmas post present opening and pre clean up.
The minion escaped once Ryan fell asleep.
On Friday we went out to dinner for a work party.  We rode with Erin and Jorge from across the street.  We were in our first accident in Armenia.  It was only a minor one, and good practice for when we are in an accident of our own.  When you are in an accident, you leave your car right where it is.  We were driving down a road that has two lanes each direction and were blocking a lane and a half.  That means that cars are passing on both sides, across the double solid lines into oncoming traffic on the left and as best they can on the space in the right.  You basically hope you don't get rear ended or hit on the other side as you wait.  Mobile patrol (the people who check up on our houses and help out in situations such as accidents) didn't take too long to arrive and parked about 10 feet behind us.  That made me feel more confident that we wouldn't get rear ended.  It isn't like traffic can move very quickly.  It took about an hour for the insurance adjuster (the adjuster is the key person here, not the police), mobile patrol, Jorge, and the guy who crashed into us to work things out.  The guy who hit us claimed it was our fault because he was signaling to get over.  Uh, yeah.  He was in the middle of two lanes.  While that is a common occurrence here, it doesn't make it right.  So now we have been through the procedure and will be able to negotiate it more smoothly when our time for an accident comes.
We got to the dinner late and a lot of the food had already been eaten.  Armenian fare isn't necessarily my favorite.  I confess I would have rather McDonald's, but that would require leaving the country.  The chicken and the buckwheat were fine and bread is always (or at least usually) safe.  As much as I enjoy cilantro in my food, I don't eat it plain.  There were many untouched plates of cilantro so I guess the other Americans aren't too into it either.  Didn't notice if any of the Armenians chowed down on it or not.
Roberto is taking my picture.

The sun is watching me in the bathroom.

I SO need a haircut.  There is so much static that my hair often sticks to my face. Not sure what I can do to it though.  I think some of the layers need to grow out before I can do anything decent with it.  I suppose that since I usually have a hat or hood on when I leave the house no one sees me or cares.

Jorge says don't eat olives and lemons together.

Guy playing traditional Armenian instrument.  Later there was singing too.  Armenian restaurants have the music so loud that you have to shout to hear the person next to you.  Great if you hate the people you are with I guess.  Perhaps it is a way to get people to move out of the restaurants so they can seat more customers...
The boys were so happy that we went out because Jorge and Erin's daughter babysat.  They adore Skyler and have even asked if she can be their new mom.  Hmmm....  Luckily she is only 13 and is not interested in being with the boys full time.   They are going to miss her when she moves this summer.  In fact, when they heard that she was moving to the US they wanted to know if we would be able to go visit her when we are in the States.  Uh, no.  I hope that another good babysitter moves in.  I suppose we could always hire a nanny who is available.  Many of them enjoy making extra money in the evenings when they are not working.  I doubt we would find a nanny as good at the wii games as Skyler is though. :)

Better post this now.  It is already January 2nd.  I tried working on this blog a few other times this week, but the blogger site kept freezing up for some reason.  Ugh.  How obnoxious.  At least I can blame it on technical issues this time. I should go do something so I have something to write about next week. :)