Monday, June 29, 2015

And she wrote back.

We lost another tooth this week.

And because it is summer, and because we are reading and writing and doing other school-ish things to pass the time, she decided to write a letter to the Tooth Fairy.

Can you read it? Here it is again, up close:

"thank you for the mone [sic] you are the best tooth Fairy
Please write a letter back!"

There was much excitement in the house the next morning when it was discovered that not only did the Tooth Fairy write back, but she wrote back with a pink pencil! And with such beautiful swirly letters!! And with exclamation points shaped like hearts!!!

"Wow," she said. "The tooth fairy really loves punctuation."

That she does.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Christ the Saviour Cathedral

Christ the Saviour Cathedral is located on the bank of the Moskva River, a few short steps from the Kremlin. We chose Father's Day to visit because nothing says Father's Day like letting the dad choose the day's outing.

Technically, it's a brand new church, but it has a long history. It was originally built in the 1800s, to commemorate and celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte's retreat from Russia. But in 1931, the Soviets had it demolished. They planned to build a monument to socialism on the spot, but they didn't have enough cash, so eventually they decided instead to convert it into a gigantic outdoor swimming pool. Makes sense. I mean, there must have been a spectacularly deep hole in the ground where the church originally stood.

Famous old picture of the 1931 demolition. I don't know who, if anyone, gets the photo credit, but I find it sort of haunting.
Some people aren't fans of the cathedral, simply because it was very recently restored - in the late-1990s - so it still has that new church smell. I actually like it for precisely the reason of its newness. The Russian government didn't have the funds to rebuild the church, and so they called upon ordinary Muscovites to donate to the cause, and donate they did. I like the idea that it was important enough to regular Russians that they banded together and got the church put back where it belongs.

You can find some amazing photographs of the cathedral if you dig through the internet. Sadly, we didn't get any amazing photos - we discovered after we arrived that our camera battery was dead because somebody (*coughbartcough*) left the camera on overnight. So we had to resort to taking a few poor quality phone pictures. Oh, well. It's almost to the point where it wouldn't be a real family outing without some sort of camera malfunction. I'm already wondering how we'll screw up our much-anticipated vacation photos later this summer.

I have no idea how to caption this photograph. But if you look closely, you'll see all 5 of my loved ones up there.

Me n' K. Photo credit A.

Me n' A. Photo credit K.

Taken from the bridge over the river.

After wandering around the cathedral for awhile, we took Bart out for pizza at a restaurant on one of Moscow's little pedestrian side streets. I won't recommend the restaurant because, while the pizza was great, the service was incredibly slow. Bad news for the kids, good news for me: it took so long to get our pizza that I changed the name from lunch to dinner, and I didn't have to make dinner that night. But it was all kinds of hilarious to see my kids' faces fall at 6 pm when I pulled a Father's Day cake out of the refrigerator and called it dinner. What kind of kid is disappointed at the idea of cake for dinner? My kids, apparently.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Goodbye, Again

Can it really be that time of year already, when houses empty out as people head on to new posts, leaving the rest of us behind?

I feel like we just did this: just said the tearful goodbyes and hugged best friends for the last time, maybe ever.

For me, it isn't such a big deal this summer. Truthfully? I can count the number of people I'll miss on one hand, and even that leaves a few fingers behind for typing. Maybe it's me, or maybe it's just the way this post works, but I haven't really bonded with too many people here. In fact, in the past year, I've been invited over to someone else's house, socially, for something non-work related, exactly two times. Not for lack of trying - we've invited plenty of people over here. I think people here are too busy somehow, or too closed off. Or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places. Still, it's a stark contrast to Amman, where people floated in and out of each others' houses on a weekly basis.

It's different for the kids. Some of them have made fast friends this past school year, and saying goodbye to them is just so hard. There have been lots of tears shed over the past week. Just today, my youngest had to say goodbye to her "BFF," as she calls her friend B. I wasn't there when they said goodbye to one another - I didn't know exactly when the family was leaving, so I missed the traumatic goodbye scene. But she ran straight home and into my lap, cheeks flushed, eyes red with tears.

It never gets easier, the goodbyes. When I see my small babies hurting like that, and I know that we did this to them, that this transient life we lead did this to them, well, it just stings.

I know it's temporary. I know she'll have a new best friend within a few months, as will my other child, who had his own tearful goodbye this week. But even knowing that, it still hurts, because I can't make it better for them.

"Why do people always leave?" sobbed Ainsley, and how could I answer her? I don't know why, I told her. But I'm here. I'm not leaving you.

So we're circling the wagons as a family, trying to spend the long summer days together and hoping that in August, when the new families start rolling off of the airplanes into Moscow, there will somebody new for us to love.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Her last year of single digits. 

She's funny, kind, determined, stubborn, smart and frustrating. 

I love this girl.

She chose sushi and a pink chocolate cake for her birthday dinner. She says she wants to be a spy when she grows up so she can "fight bad guys."

Happy birthday sweet K.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

In which I brag about my kids...

This post is strictly for the grandparents, who like to hear on occasion that their grandkids are still as awesome as ever. The rest of you can skip ahead if you'd like.

June is a busy month. Lots of end-of-school-year craziness.

First up: Aidan's taekwondo belt test. He did great, and is now the proud owner of a yellow belt. He didn't love the class, but he liked it. We'll see if he goes back to it in the fall.

Two days later was the middle school band concert. This school has a terrific band. Actually they have multiple bands: beginner, intermediate, advanced, concert, orchestra. (It was a looooong concert.) Aidan hadn't picked up a clarinet before this year, so he was in the beginner band, but even they were seriously impressive. The music teachers at this school are phenomenal.

...bit of a photo bomb, but still awfully cute...

This weekend was Kyra's first ever swim meet. She joined the team somewhat reluctantly in the middle of the year, simply because her father told her she had to. Twice weekly practices after school exhausted her, but she's good at it and she enjoyed it. (Seriously, she's talented. Kid taught herself to swim, and the first time I enrolled her in a swim class, the instructor took one look at her, pulled her out of the baby pool and marched her over to the advanced class.)
Amazing pool this school has, with touchpad timers and separate areas for diving. Plus a splash pool for little kids who are still learning to swim. The swim program and coaches here are amazing.

She was sick all week before the meet - fever, cough, sore throat - but she rallied and was determined to go, cough or no cough.

Her first event: the 25-meter freestyle. See that small head below, in lane five, at the front? Yeah, that's my Kyra. She got first place.

(There she is, touching the wall and grinning.)

25-meter backstroke. In the far lane this time, you'll spot her little head up near the ladder - first place again.

25-meter butterfly. Lane 3. First place again.

She only got 4th in the 25-meter breaststroke. And by the time the 50-meter freestyle came around, she was out of steam. She placed near the back of the pack on that one, but then again, she was the youngest competitor, racing against teenagers.

She was quite happy with her results. She chattered happily and coughed the whole way home. I drove back to the Embassy, gripping the steering wheel tightly as I thought of the horrors of early morning swim team practices that await me in a few years if she continues down this path. My dear friends STJ and Mrs. Slytherin both have serious swim kids, and I used to laugh at them when they had to get up at 4 in the morning to drive their kids to practices. Not laughing now, am I?

That's it for now. We're all sick today, with sinus infections or ear infections or coughs and sore throats. My big plan for the day is to maybe get out of bed. Maybe. What can I say? I dream big.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What I Wrote/Am Writing

Been awhile, indeed.

If you don't know me on Facebook, then perhaps you don't know I wrote this article for the Huffington Post.

Go take a look. Like and share please!

As usual, I have perfectly legitimate excuses for not updating the blog as frequently as I'd like. For starters, there's the four kids and the part time job.

But also, I've been putting the finishing touches on a book. Yes, a book! And by finishing touches, I mean, it's written! But it still needs editing, a layout and a cover. I decided to go the self-publishing route, which means all of that craziness is on me. It's a steep learning curve, that's for sure.

I'll be back soon with more, on writing and life.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Victory Day in Moscow

Today, May 9th, marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Oh, sure, you folks probably grew up thinking it was May 8th. But not here in Russia. Something about, the Germans sent a guy to sign the surrender papers on May 8th, but the guy they sent wasn't high enough up the chain of command for the Russians. The Russians were all, fool me once, because Hitler had already said that the treaty Germany signed way back at the end of World War I didn't count, and Germany hadn't really surrendered back then, because the guy who signed on the dotted line for that surrender was a civilian politician, not an important military commander. So this time, the Russians insisted that the head of Germany's Armed Forces himself personally sign the surrender papers. Which he did, but not until early in the morning of May 9th. Hence the difference in dates.

Anyway. This morning we woke up bright and early to make the long, exhausting, 2-minute trek to the front of the Embassy building to watch the "parade." In quotes because it wasn't quite what you might have pictured in your head just now when I typed parade. There were no marching bands. No baton twirlers. Not a single float made out of flowers. Instead, there were tanks. And trucks bearing missiles. And more tanks. And airplanes. And then a few more tanks. All rolling down the road, just a few hundred yards from my front door.

The ground shook. You could feel the vibrations through the soles of your feet and up into your chest. The tanks kicked up dust and spewed out exhaust. Occasionally someone atop a vehicle would give a cursory wave toward the crowd, which waved back. But it really all seemed more serious than spectacle.

The main parade took place in Red Square itself, but there were no representatives from any western countries in attendance there this year. Given what is going on in Ukraine, that just wasn't going to happen. Anyone from the Embassy who wanted to watch either stood roadside or sat in front of their television sets.

One thing that always surprises me: many Americans don't seem to realize that Russia and the United States fought on the same side in World War II. I think many people my age grew up thinking of Russia as the Evil Empire, and our textbooks didn't go into too much detail about the Soviet Union's work to defeat the Nazis.

For Russians, though, the war was, and is, a big deal. They played a critical role in bringing about the defeat of the Nazis, and they gave so many lives to the effort. Somewhere around 60 million people died during WWII, military and civilian, of whom almost half were Russian. They lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-14 million soldiers, depending upon whom you ask, and about that many civilians. (As compared to the 400-450,000 U.S. military and civilians who died because of the war.)

Anyway. That's just an interesting little side note for those of you who may not have been aware of it. It wasn't until after the war that things really started going downhill in U.S.-Russian relations.

Today, though, Russians and Americans all crowded together in front of the Embassy to watch the parade go by. And when the last tank had passed, we Americans turned around and walked back through the front gate of the Embassy, headed for the first sunshiney barbecue of the season, on the other side of that big Embassy wall.

See those planes making the Russian flag up there in the sky?

ICBM, up close and personal. Creepy.


Please. Write your own stuff.