Friday, May 27, 2011

amblyopia



i really can't describe it
as any more than
sad and disappointing--
that inevitable day
when you have to realize
that your sweet, innocent, beloved child's
little body
is not as perfect as they announced to you it was
the day you gave it life
and it was lain upon your breast
all warm and swaddled.
it's the moment you pray for all nine months,
that that little thing
will just be healthy.
and even after it is,
that prayer remains with you
day in and day out
because heaven knows anything can happen
to these mortal bodies, even the little tiny ones.

the day we found out
she had a lazy eye
during a routine pre-school checkup--
one of those big blue
perfectly straight and
seemingly perfectly able crystal balls--
we were jaw-droppingly flabbergasted.
how is it possible?
how were we in the dark this whole time?

and we ran home
and googled amblyopia for days,
reading about what it meant
and what could be done,
just like all parents in similar situations do.
of course we were calmed a bit
to learn how common it is
and how treatable, at least at her age.
and also by milla's telling us,
"i get to get glasses?
это моя мечта!"
(i've dreamed of this!)

and that phrase that alex's father once spoke
rang through my head:
"let us hope that this will be the worst
we will have to face,"
which always reminds me
to keep things in perspective.
and when we went glasses shopping,
she said she only wanted glasses
like his glasses--
those tiny rectangular reading glasses
he pulls out and sticks on the end of his nose--
and i think they look great.
even when her chef hat
from french culinary day at school is upside down.

and speaking of france. . .
goodbye moscow!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

little americans



sometimes it surprises me
how un-russian
i think my children consider themselves.
being 1/2 russian by blood,
having only ever known living in russia,
speaking russian,
attending a russian school. . .
and only making a year-and-a-half-ly trip
back to the states to visit family,
and still,
when they are asked,
they proudly claim to be americans.
the only thing i can begin to point a finger at
is the fact that we mostly speak english at home.
and sometimes i wonder
how it would have been different
if we spoke mostly russian instead.
how do such young children
go about discovering and defining their identity?
especially when it comes to something
as complex as nationality?
and i wonder if our moving somewhere else
(someday!)
will change any of that.

in the meantime
we are neck-deep in preparations
and plan making
for summer trips.
last night at 2:00 am
as we were exploring every single option out there
we considered the idea of leaving tomorrow.
it was a good price!
but alas, i think we will wait until next week.

and now, friends,
tell me, who i can see in colorado or utah
in july or august?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


it was the perfect spring salad.


mango, radish and cucumber
drizzled with a little
honey lemon vinaigrette.

Friday, May 13, 2011

михалков




and if there's one thing the russians take seriously
it's poetry.
i don't know if it's the fact
that it's so ridiculously easy to rhyme words
because of the grammar construction,
or if it's pushkin's legacy--
but whatever it is,
it came as no surprise to me
that my 6-year-old's weekly homework
involved memorizing a 15-20-liner poem.

well that experience
served her well--
because this week
was the first poetry recitation competition,
and the first competition of any type
that we have encountered for our kids so far.

beyond the initial memorizing the poems--
avi with her 8-liner
and milla with her 4-pager,
which always stuns me how quickly
these little minds soak up these words
and commit them to memory--
came the actual realization that this was a competition.
how were we to prepare for such a thing?
for winning?  or for losing?
the whole process left me with a pit in my stomach.
what was i to say to them
to prepare them emotionally, morally?
do i take the approach,
"yes!  that's exactly what they want to hear!
you're going to win!"
or do i spend my time preparing them
in case of failure:
"now only some children will be chosen
to go past the first round,
but that doesn't mean you didn't do your best. . ."???
well, we spent most of our time
perfecting the poems,
merely because i wasn't sure how else to prepare them.

but when we entered the classroom
on competition day
alex and i gasped.
there, sitting in the middle of the room,
smack in front of the "stage"
were 3 judges.
3 judges, with big fat score cards to hold up.
not to mention
the white board with the children's names down it,
where the scores would be recorded for all to see.
should i have brought tissues?
consolation prizes?
how would they she take this?

well,
although milla opted to be the very last up there,
and after i breathed a sigh of relief
that she got up there at all,
we proudly listened
as she recited her whole poem
without a pause or mistake.
we beamed.
and although she skipped all the animation
we had worked so hard to instill
which surely would have given her that extra point
to get her into the next round,
she scored a 29/30.

did she even realize there was a scoreboard
or that certain kids were chosen to move on?
i don't think so.
was she pleased with herself?
yes.
tissues?
not needed.
except to wipe my own brow.
and the candy consolation prize was enough
to make everyone happy--
regardless of what was on that big white board.



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

may 9


it's been several years
since we spent the may holidays in moscow.

the ninth of may
is victory day in russia.
and to a boy whose grandfather
fought in that ugly war,
and who "grew up on war movies
and war songs,"
and to a nation whose grandfathers
fought in that war--
and to a nation who was devastated by that war,
despite an ultimate victory,
may 9 is a day of pride, of remembrance,
of solemnity and honor.

and as alex holds such fond memories
of being a boy led by the hand
to watch the victory day parade,
jaw-dropping at each tank that would roll down the street,
he's always had a fascination with them
and finally got to lead his own children
to watch the parade,
as his father once led him.


and so we watched them too
as they rattled down arbat street,
closing our ears and our noses,
loud and smoky were they.









then taking advantage of the rare opportunity
to get around the city so easily
(holiday traffic)
we made a whole day of the festivities.

after a leisurely lunch
we went to gorky park,
ambled around the boat pond,
let cotton candy melt in our mouths,
and listened and watched
as folks dressed in WWII military costume
played war song after war song on the accordion,
sang with tears in their eyes
("four years mama hasn't seen her son. . .")
and danced in the shade of the newly leaved trees.

we paid a visit to alex's grandparents then,
who had spent the morning watching the parade on tv.
we congratulated his grandfather,
as is custom to do,
and later he went into the bedroom
and pulled out his box of medals.


he doesn't talk about the war much--
but i have listened to his story
a few times
with such respect and admiration
for the courage demanded
and for the stamina it took to make it past
that beast that claimed 26 million russian lives--
as he's told how the notice of the loss of his brother
arrived the morning he was headed out himself,
and how what saved him on the front
was a lucky wound
which removed him from the front lines.


these days,
there aren't too many of the veterans left
to tell their story.
once in awhile
you will see one or two on the street
sporting their medals proudly,
and you can't but help
to think about the life they've lived,
the history they have witnessed,
and miraculously survived.





and you also can't help
but say a silent, solemn prayer of thanks
for the peace and safety
you get to lay down to sleep to
every night.


Monday, May 9, 2011




hope your mother's day
was as thoughtful and relaxing
and sunny and warm
and easy-going and meaningful
and full of surprises!

Friday, May 6, 2011

blossoms


now moscow
certainly is not
winning any awards
for world's most beautiful city
(thank you, soviet era),
but thank goodness
nature cuts us a break once in awhile
and graces the city
with spring blossoms.












Wednesday, May 4, 2011

breakfast


i don't break the mold in this area too often,
but it was a holiday.


avi had put in a request for muffins
not too long ago
and i had those blueberries in the freezer. . .
were whipped up that morning
along side the oatmeal.
they were about as good
as the title of the recipe suggests.

our breakfasts have definitely evolved
over the years.
back in the day
i used to be able to get away with
giving them oatmeal
while i poured myself a bowl
of my favorite grapenuts.
nowadays i can't even put a sprinkle of sugar
on my oatmeal without them noticing
and saying, hey that's not fair!

and for awhile there
i would wake up every day and decide on the spot
what breakfast struck our fancy,
but when the groans and moans
became too often and were giving us a rough start
to too many days,
we have settled in to a "breakfast schedule,"
which has drastically reduced
the amount of whining and crying
over what we are having for breakfast.

monday: oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon
(and a tiny sprinkle of brown sugar!)
tuesday: cold cereal with sliced banana
wednesday: cream of wheat with milk & raisins
thursday: eggs-- either soft boiled with toast
(a childhood favorite)
or vegetarian croque madames
friday: four-grain hot cereal with raisins
saturday: waffles or pancakes (ie sugar fest)
sunday: granola with yogurt & sliced banana

i have long gone back and forth
over the question about schedules and order
and what impact it has on family life
and especially my job as a mother.
but in this case,
the schedule was definitely freeing.

what do you think?
does a schedule free you or bind you?
does order simplify or complicate your life?




Tuesday, May 3, 2011

balcony




and now finally
only in this season
have we been able to get more use out of that
large enclosed balcony
than a catch-all
for the entire apartment
and a massive freezer
which has not only served
as an extension of our refrigerator in winter
but even managed to crack
a few of our 19-liter water bottles
during some of those suuuuuper cold weeks.

now the weather has turned favorable
and the kids have found themselves drawn to it.
and so i've had to focus some of my spring cleaning
in this space,
and with the ladder and the suitcases and the firewood
squeezed down on the ends,
they don't seem to mind,
with all that empty space in between--
it's perfect for races,
for rolling the empty water bottles,
for painting pictures,
and afternoon tea parties.