Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For the birds

Yesterday Natasha and I made bird feeders while Zoia napped.  I got the idea online at Unschool Preschool - if you have young kids, you need to add this brilliance to your bookmarks tab; she's a toddler-mothering genius. 

Anyway, the project is super-easy.  You just give the kid a pipe cleaner and some Cheerios and let them go nuts.  I don't know whether stringing cereal on a pipe cleaner is something all two-year-olds are capable of, but I have to admit I was pretty impressed with my daughter's skills.  Just look at that concentration!

Will the birds eat the Cheerios?  I'm guessing not. (Also, what birds?  I think they all flew south already - it's cold here!). But N liked the concept of the birds "nyum-nyuming" her creation and this was a fun activity for us to do together.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Panic buying and some crafting

Just two hours before we had to leave the house for Dulles Airport to catch our flight home, I was racing up and down the aisles of AC Moore, frantically trying to determine what items I needed to round out my holiday crafting supplies.  The girls were home napping, but needed to be roused, fed and changed.  Clothing needed to make its way out of the dryer and into our suitcases.  Beds had to be looked under and couches moved to locate missing hair barrettes and toys.  First things first, though - I had to take care of the pressing matter of whether gold or silver wired ribbon would look better on my Christmas wreath.  (And as it turns out, I didn't even use the ribbon).

Panic buying.

I think most of us who live the expat life have experienced this at one time or another.  I imagine it was worse when I was a kid and we didn't have (also, I'd hazard a guess that the term "snail mail" was coined by a user of the APO back then). Here in Moscow, I'm told, you can find just about anything for a price.  I'm sure that is true, however, I don't have the time or inclination to hunt down things like pipe cleaners if it is going to involve two hours in road traffic or a 45-minute journey on the metro.  Also problematic: I hate paying for shipping.  And my Amazon Prime membership is pretty much worthless now that they have stopped free two-day shipping to APO and DPO addresses (if anyone from Amazon is reading this, take note that you now get a big thumbs-down from me and probably from a lot of other people in my shoes).

So during our R&R back to the States, I bought.  And bought.  And bought.  We filled up two new suitcases with my purchases, and I still had to mail a couple boxes back to the States.  Trader Joe got a lot of our money.  So did Target, and AC Moore, and Michael's.  I had decided the girls and I needed to do more crafty activities together, so we're now all stocked up on googly eyes, pom poms, craft foam and of course, pipe cleaners, to name a few items.

I also decided I needed to make a Christmas yarn wreath for our door.  When my first attempt turned out looking more like a lifesaver than yuletide decor, I panicked.

Would I be able to find the items I needed to turn my craft dream into reality in Moscow?  Better hedge my bets.  And that is how I ended up back at AC Moore four hours before our flight back to Russia.  I bought stuff to make the finished wreath, and a few things that didn't get used.  Sorry for the lighting.  I'm not a great photographer and the natural light here is kind of lacking when I think to take these photos.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jet lag

Well, we're back in Moscow after a great vacation filled with family, food and shopping (stay tuned for a post about the expat phenomenon of panic buying).  But all good things must end, and, in their place, we have jet lag.

I've flown internationally with babies five times now.  And I have come to the conclusion that I am either incredibly dense, or that there is really not much you can do to get your kids over jet lag.  Each time, I have a plan.  Usually the initial plan involves waking the kids up somewhere close to their normal rising time.  And usually, it doesn't work.  No matter how much I engineer their schedule during the day, they still get up at 2 a.m. ready to play.  We expose them to sunlight (well, what sunlight there is in Moscow this time of year - not much).  We feed them at the traditional meal times.  We keep the room dark and discourage playing in the middle of the night.

Days later, still, 2 a.m. seems to be a good time for a party.  So then, around day three or four, I usually vary the plan.  I tell myself that "sleep begets sleep," or some such nonsense from the gospel of child-rearing experts. I stop waking them and let the, sleep as much as they like.

And, surprise, surprise, they still wake at 2 a.m.

Usually, after about a week, and just before I think I can't possibly take one more night of awful sleep, jet lag is over.  And it's not from anything I did or didn't do.

And I know that we're looking at about a week of terrible sleep, yet I still woke the girls up this morning (they had screamed more or less from 2:30 to 6 a.m.) at a relatively early hour.  They took good long naps at the appointed hour.  And I find myself hoping against hope that they'll sleep at least until 5 a.m. tomorrow.  Wish us luck.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo

Last Monday we took a trip out to the Henry Doorly Zoo here in Omaha.  My husband has been talking about this zoo forever.  Apparently it's the "best zoo ever."  I was skeptical.  After all, I was raised on the National Zoo in Washington, which is a pretty awesome zoo.  Plus, it's free.

So we went to the zoo.  These pictures are of the indoor jungle.  That was pretty cool.  The National Zoo doesn't have an indoor jungle.   But the National Zoo does have fantastic outdoor exhibits.  We didn't get to see the outdoor exhibits at the Henry Doorly Zoo (nor the indoor desert, which might have tipped the balance more in Omaha's favor). 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A journey across the sea, by the numbers

We arrived in the U.S. six days ago, but I've only now summoned the energy to blog about it. 

Miles traveled: 5,200
Hours in flight: 13.
Hours in airports: 7.
Hours in transit to and from airports: 1.5
Hours slept by Z: 3
Minutes slept by N: 45
Minutes slept by M: 8
Minutes slept by J: 15
Diapers changed: 14
Cups of coffee drunk by M: 6
Toys packed in the carry-on: roughly 78
Varieties of snacks packed in the carry-on: 12
Future vacations canceled once we realized what the flights entail: 1
Last-minute decisions to carry-on a car seat: 1

Checking in at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.

Somewhere between Moscow and Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Airport.

Contemplating the next 13 hours of travel.

Somewhere over the Atlantic.

We spent a large portion of our trans-Atlantic flight trying to get the girls to sleep.  That was largely a failure.  Predictably, the girls fell asleep once we hit the security line at Chicago O'Hare.  At that point, it was about 11 p.m. Moscow time - they had gotten up at 5 a.m.  And then we had to take them out 15 minutes later to go through the TSA check.  Which was fun for exactly nobody.

We learned that, no matter what you do to make a flight better, traveling that many miles with two toddlers is just never going to be easy.  Also, N's eczema flared up like I haven't seen in 18 months, whlie on the plane.  I don't know whether it was stress from lack of sleep, something in the air, or something gross on the seats and blankets, but it took three days of OTC cortisone cream (which we usually don't use) to ease her pain.  As a result, we decided to give up on the idea of going someplace warm for a week in February.  You have to fly at least 10 hours to get anywhere beachy from Moscow at that time of year, and it's just not worth the stress on her body.  Sob.  Goodbye, Sharm el Sheikh :(

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The dirty secrets of motherhood

Having been at this for two years now, I am definitely not an expert.  But I have learned a few things.  Secrets.  Dirty, dirty secrets that no one tells you when you are pregnant.  I don't know whether they are taboo, or what, but I'm going to share them.

1) The terrible twos don't actually start at 2.  Around here, they begin at 15 months or so.  Just FYI, so you're not caught off guard like I was.

2) You will eat previously chewed food.  I know, it's gross.  But you'll do it.  In my case, the first time was while at a holiday party at someone-important's home last year.  I was holding Z when N came up to me, chewing something.  She then spit it into her hand, as toddlers do (see item #1), and handed it to me.  I was holding a baby who, it dawned on me, had just done a big pile of stink in her diaper, in a crowded room in a fancy home, with no trash can or toilet in sight.  So what did I do, but pop that partially chewed piece of cheese into my mouth, and wipe my hand on my skirt.  Which brings me to #3.

3) You will wipe your hands on your clothes.  Even when you (see #4) ...

4) ... wipe your children's runny noses with your hands.  Yes, you will do this too.

5) And sometimes, you'll wipe your hands on your children's clothes.  You'll think, well, her jeans are already filthy and going in the wash tonight anyway.  And you'll wipe snot, or regurgitated cookie, or dirt, or whatever, on your toddler's pants.  And hope no one saw you do it.

6) You will touch poop.  A lot.  Not on purpose, hopefully, but it will happen.  And at some point you will even get used to it.

So there you have it.  The dirty secrets of motherhood.  You are welcome.