Monday, February 28, 2011

sushi maker

 i can't make claim
to more than one "as-seen-on-tv" product
in my possession.
and it wasn't so much "as seen on tv" for me
as it was "as seen in the mall,"
but for some reason this product was a must-have for me,
or so i thought 9 years ago
when it got put on my christmas list.
a sushi maker!
perfect for folks like me
who don't do the slimy fish anyway,
and couldn't work any sort of anything
with only a bucket of rice and a mat to work with.
the contraption,
is actually clever enough
and got a lot of use in our house--
back in the manhattan days.

why was it chosen as one of the very few items
carried across the ocean in the move?
i'm not sure
(ask alex).
and especially because sadly enough,
the sushi maker has been collecting dust
ever since he arrived in russia.

and what prompted our pulling the old box-o-plastic out?
well, the girls.
who else?
a sushi maker, mom?
we can make our own sushi?
yes, we can.
amazing, isn't it!
and more amazing was attempting
all those humorously-shaped sushi
that surely would have japan scoffing.
avi picked the big monster-sized rounds,
and milla, of course, the hearts.

heart-shaped sushi!
it can't get more
"as-seen-on-tv" than that, can it.

Friday, February 25, 2011


and just as the baby
is getting to the age and stage
when you "can't take him anywhere,"
the girls are getting to the age
where there's so many places to go
and new things to try.

this time took us to the bowling alley--
the girls' first time.

they had a ball.
and so did the parent
whose turn it was to bowl with them,
trying to avoid dents in the floor,
broken toes,
or children sliding down the alley
(the best was milla's ball that rolled to a dead stop
halfway to the pins--
and alex smashing another ball into it
to send it on it's way);
while the other parent got to entertain the baby
by walking around,
showing him the pool tables and pictures of the champions,
"playing" video games,
and looking at the fishies.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


now if you've never learned another language before,
the thought may never have occurred to you
that other languages
have their own "animal languages."
in other words,
russian animals "say" different things
than american animals.

a russian dog says gaf gaf,
and a sheep says baaay, baaay.
a bird says cheeky-reeky cheek-chee-reek,
and a mouse says peep peep.
a russian goose says ga-ga,
a rooster says ku-ka-ree-ku,
a duck krya krya,
and a pig says khru khru
(this one i will never agree with).

and the horse?
well, the horse says eeee go-go.

andreas could tell you this one,
because his first word
happened to be "go-go."

Monday, February 21, 2011

craft du jour

watercolor princess hats

by first wetting the watercolor paper
i was able to do away with
those magenta-colored lines
made on their papers after digging the brush
in their favorite color--
and we were finally able to get
a much softer, muted effect
with the watercolors
(even if milla still insisted on using
only magenta for hers).

we let that dry for a day,
glued it into a cone shape,
drew on the border,
and then glued in a few strips of ribbon.

and there we had it,
two cute princesses in hats.

and today after avi insisted on staying home from preschool,
she led me in an intense game of
"the princess hat game,"
which more resembled a version of
follow the leader,
while, for 10 minutes,
i had to follow her every move
of marching around the living room,
dancing, waving the hat up and down,
left and right,
round and round. . .
up on tiptoes, then as fast as you can. . .

you, too, can play the princess hat game!
it's very easy to follow. . .

Friday, February 18, 2011


she killed me last night.

she killed me with her words--
with her startling, shocking, surprising discovery.

"mama, andrusy hit me and now my tooth is. . ."
(and she paused, unsure of the word to use)
". . .leaning!"

"what are you talking about babe?"
and she gave her bottom middle tooth a yank.
"let me see that," and i grasped it
and gave it a little wiggle.

oh, no, please no. . . let it not be. . .
this day has not come upon me. . .
and dread, anxiety, sadness, no. . . despair
filled my soul
as i saw my baby, my first baby
slam the door on her babyhood.

i had long told her this day would happen to her,
she knew exactly what it meant.
her brow furrowed for a moment,
when i told her what was going on,
and then her emotion turned to excitement,
as she ran to dad to tell him the news.

while in the meantime,
that punch in my stomach
lingered all evening,
while there was buzz all around
with tooth fairies and tooth fairy dolls--
even avi insisted on sleeping with hers--
talk of what goodies the fairy would bring.
but all i could think about,
despair about,
all i could see in my mind's eye
were buck teeth,
big girls,
little high heels,
blue eyeshadow,
tears and boys,
terrible taste in music and style,
identity struggles. . .
and all else
that lay ahead for my little baby girl.

last night
she killed me,
with that little wiggly tooth.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

these five years

it was a dark, ugly day,
that day we moved to moscow.

as it was,
i had to be pulled out of new york city
kicking and screaming.
i, like many, had a love affair with the city,
and finally after three years there
had established everything just so.
that circle of lifelong friends,
the jewelry making,
the environmental health research opportunity,
the odd job as a styling assistant,
and with our apartment
and a new baby,
i was perfectly and blissfully happy and content.
and to be uprooted?
and to where?
and why?

the opportunity for opportunities.
a return to the motherland.

and so, like with most things in life,
we closed our eyes and jumped.


and i'm pretty sure
i was out of my mind
those last few days as we prepared to leave.
we had packed boxes for storage,
and we packed suitcases to leave.
and with a renter moving into our place
upon our departure,
we had to place every last pencil
and bolt and spoon
into one of those two categories,
cleaning out every nook and cranny
of our spacious (550 sq ft) apartment.
now, this, i would not recommend saving
for the day of departure,
though yes, we live and learn
(as a few dear friends witnessed,
who had shown up that day to save us).

while i pictured a leisurely morning
throwing the last few things into bags,
and cleaning the bathroom,
while alex ran downtown to pick up the plane tickets,
turned into frenzied madness.
my 14-month-old milla
came down sick during the night
and so not only did nobody sleep,
but she would not sleep nor be put down
all the next day.
needless to say,
the house did not get cleaned,
i burst into tears in front of a jerky locksmith,
and the taxi ended up waiting outside
for half an hour
before we even started loading.
now yes, that meant
that we were half hour behind schedule
in trying to make our flight.
and it didn't so much help
when alex finally showed up from downtown
picking up the tickets
(curse paper tickets!)
to realize that he afterwards had left them in a store.
and so after our frenzied load
and our hasty goodbye to friends,
we had to steer that taxi back downtown
to find the tickets.

now this is where i put in a plug
for aeroflot
who not only received us with open arms
(at least it felt like it to us)
as the flight was closing
when we stumbled in with our ridiculous bags,
oversized, overweight, and too many--
but who also waited on us
hand and foot
during the next 10 hours
as our sick baby screamed nonstop.

why, again?
why are we doing this?
why me?


and yes, the baby eventually recovered from illness.
but to land in moscow
and it's -20 degrees and gray, dark and dismal landscape
without a home,
without jobs,
without a car,
without friends,
and what seemed to me without purpose,
let's just say,
it was a bit of a rocky start.
not to mention
being thrust into the throes of morning sickness
and living on the sofa
soon afterward. . .

and so it was we were jumping,
and into the dark, as it were.


today the sun is shining bright,
despite the -4 on the thermometer.
and it's been exactly 5 years
since that jump.
i can't say that i don't miss new york
or my life and friends there,
but we have long since settled into this life,
with all its nuances and peculiarities.
we have made ourselves a home,
in which we're happy and content--
alex has established for himself a career,
i'm proud to say a self-made one,
as we sift through
and take advantage of those opportunities
that we came seeking.
we have since added two babies to our one,
the youngest of which
who is to the day
the age milla was when we made the jump over the ocean.
it turns out that my children
have known only russia as their home,
and know america only as a vacation spot
(with a big, big bonus of grandparents).
we've made plenty of friends,
and lost plenty of friends--
but so it goes in the expat world,
and even new york was anything but
exempt from that phenomenon.
i don't have the same things going on in my life
that i had back then,
but life is a river,
and my work is different now.

our plans to leave this place
are certain, but very fuzzy,
somewhere back there in the back of our minds.
and in the meantime we live,
we enjoy,
and we're pleased with
where the jump and the rocky road have taken us
in these five years.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

comfort food

the other day
i asked myself,
self?  why in the world do you bother
to keep checking the weather forecast?
i guess subconsciously
i just keep hoping.
as does avi.
"mama, i think there's not so many icicles today,"
"mama, i think there's something growing under there!"
but the cold, hard truth is,
it snows almost every day,
we rarely see the sky,
and temperatures have been sub-zero
for about a week now,
and there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

and so, my friends,
comfort food
has been on the menu for many months now.
today's lunch:
a potato, rosemary and fontina tart.

and we were quite content to spend the entire day
in the warmth of our own space.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

little angels of today

i'm not much of a napper.
there's too much to do in life
to waste time on naps--
is generally how i approach things.
but let's be honest,
there are those days. . . 
when my body just begs me.

i brought the kids home,
fed them
(with a prayer of thanks for the guilty pleasure
of a weekly
peanut-butter and jelly lunch),
and then began my scheming.
the first chore was to get the baby down,
which actually took rocking him to sleep today,
and i began to think we weren't off to a good start.
but after that,
the heavens began to smile down on me.
avi sat down quietly with some puzzles,
milla with some friend magazines,
and i explained that i was going to disappear to my bed
just for a bit,
and please don't disturb.
please. . .

and then i actually fell asleep.
for an hour and 15 minutes.
are my girls always angels like that?
not always
(of course).
but i went to sleep in the presence of angels
and woke up to the same ones.

the baby was still sleeping peacefully,
the house was still quiet.
milla had sat down to the table
with some markers and a stack of blank pages
"to make presents for her teachers,"
(катя, я тебя очень люблу.
катя, ты такая красивая. . ."
while avi had finished two puzzles
and then, in her room dimly lit
by a waning, setting friday sun,
had begun to prepare for shabbat.
she had spread a cloth out on her floor
and made a spread with four place settings,
had turned on her sukkot songs,
and was happy to see i had awoken
just in time.

and so we lit a candle,
prepared some tea,
and sat down to meet shabbat on that happy note.

and i said another thankful prayer
for the little angels of today.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

chore chart

okay.  so i finally got that one
checked off my to-do list,
that one that i had meant to do
by the first of the year,
but have not only been procrastinating
but also agonizing over for weeks.
why was i agonizing?
maybe because it's the first of its kind
around here,
and i debated about what to include,
and especially about whether or not
to begin an allowance.
is there a right answer?
i wanted them to understand that some things
are just expected,
but also i knew that money would be a motivating factor,
and that it will teach them
money management and all that. . .

i guess it was when i finally realized
that i wasn't trying to come up with a system
that would last until they're 18--
but just a beginning
and we will have to change it soon enough anyway,
that i worked something up.
something for a start.

i really liked the format
of the mod eco kids one that went around for awhile
until it disappeared.
so i included the first six responsibilities
that are just expected
and can have a movie or treat for a certain number
as a reward.
and then i will separately post a list
of extra chores
that they can choose from
and make a little cash if they want to.

and like i said,
these charts don't have a super long shelf life
i suppose,
as the responsibilities and expectations will change,
but it's a start.

what about you,
what works for you?
(maybe i should have asked you weeks ago?)