Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yep, it's Christmas. My favorite time of year. That is why I'm writing this blog. J will do good to remember to say Merry Christmas at all (poor boy). Our tree is up, our decorations are all over the apartment (although J did have to restrain me from buying more). It is so nice to see decorations up all over the city. I don't have pictures yet so I might post those later (and yes, there will be another Christmas blog).

For now I will just tell you what we have been up to. After our late Thanksgiving party, we settled back into our language studies and normal life. A few weeks ago a woman I know asked me if I would be willing to make some Christmas cookies for a party our family group was having. Of course I said yes! But I had to remember my promise to J that I would not go crazy in my Christmas baking this year. So I was stuck only making peppermint fudge, peppermint chocolate, peanut butter fudge (thanks mom), Russian Tea Cakes, and (of course) Christmas cookies. Nope. I didn't go crazy. Right?

But my instincts were right, as it turns out. When I arrived to help set up for the party, Connie (the woman who asked me to make cookies and the organizer of the party) was frazzled because she forgot her 250 cookies at her house. But, I saved the day with my many, many treats! When she saw it, she sighed in relief and thanked me for what I did. So, I guess I will have to always go crazy in my cooking because I just might save the day again. In fact, I'm sure she would have had a heart attack if I didn't show up with my treats. You could definitely say that I saved her life. So, in retrospect, it's clear - my cooking saves lives!. So, it only seems logical that I must always cook more because it just might save another life. Right?

I know. I might be a bit delusional, but a girl can dream, can't she? Anyway, J stayed home with the boys so I was able to enjoy the party without any interruptions (I have the best husband). I needed the break as Steven has officially entered the terrible twos. HELP! My beautiful, perfect son has been abducted and a something scary has taken his place. He does it all: scream until he turns purple, kicks, stomps his feet, throw himself on the floor.... the works. Any suggestions? We have tried it all: spanking, talking to him, holding him, spanking, time-outs, spanking. Nothing seems to help. Is this normal? I always thought children who act like this were spoiled. We are pretty strict with him but always try to show our love to him. Anyway, I'm open if you have any suggestions.

OK. Moving back to happier topics: CHRISTMAS! I fixed my first batch of eggnog yesterday and it was delicious (thanks, Gudrun, for the recipe). I'm also trying to fit in with the Russian culture as much as possible. I've decided to learn some of the Russian Christmas carols. The following is of me singing (or I should say trying to sing) a popular children's Christams song. Forgive me for hurting your ears. I messed up a few times but it was the best video I could get, so enjoy:

This is how it's supposed to sound, as performed by Дед Мороз and Снегурочка (Father Frost and the Snow Maiden):

Here's Steven in full "meltdown mode":

One of our few snowy days so far this year:

And just some cutesy Christmas pictures for your enjoyment:

So, that's about it for this week. Hope you have a great week and a Merry Christmas, and we'll see you again next week!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner!

I know, I know. You're thinking "Thanksgiving? Didn't that happen a couple of weeks ago? Why are we still talking about it?"

Technically, you're right, too. However, in an effort to catch up on my email correspondence, I've gotten way behind on blog posting. We usually try to post on this once a week, but as you can see, it's been two since our last post. It's just, well, I don't know - too much writing to do in too short of a time. By the way, if you're one of those we haven't written in a while and you're miffed, just drop us a line and we'll be sure to get back to you! Nothing makes us happier than seeing a note in our inbox. (See what I've done there? I've subtly made it your fault that we haven't written you? Wasn't that clever?)

Anyway, so, what have we been up to in the past two weeks? Of course, as usual, our days are occupied with language and culture study. I feel like maybe I'm finally getting past the plateau where I've been for a few months, so that's nice. However, we've had time to get into a bit of other things as well in that span. We had originally planned to have our Thanksgiving feast on the Saturday after the official holiday, but our family group was having their birthday celebration that night:

We went to that, which was a good time, even though it seemed to be rather more sparsely attended this year than last. The kids weren't really up for an hour and a half of sitting quietly through the program, so we ate and left.

Back at home, things are running pretty smoothly, with both kids seemingly now settled into the new schedule. Steven certainly knows how to relax:

And I promise we'll get to the Thanksgiving party, but I did want to prove to everyone that Matthew really is standing up now! At 7 months, he's pretty early for this, but he doesn't seem too bright about it sometimes (it's all well and good being able to pull yourself up, but when you lack the balance required to lower yourself without bumping your head on the ground, it's bound to end painfully.)

Since the big Russian holiday is New Year's and not Christmas, they usually don't put up their trees and such until halfway through December, if that early. I had originally made B promise not to put up ours until after the party, but when the party was delayed a week, she couldn't hold back.

She and Lena set up the tree during one of their language sessions, which made for a cultural exchange on what Americans do vs. what Russians do to decorate the tree.

The finished product is below. Interestingly, Russians weave their lights up and down instead of round-and-round the tree, which B likes better. Maybe it will be her decorating choice in the future as well.

Steven really likes being a big brother, I think. When we first brought Matthew home we worried that he would be jealous or resentful, but he has proven to be a really thoughtful big brother. He takes care not to play rough with Matthew, though occasionally he gets excited and forgets. Here he wanted to feed him after watching us do it so many times:
I think we ended up having 20 or so adults plus 4 or 5 kids for the Thanksgiving dinner in the end. The food, as you saw at the top of the post, turned out great. We were going to make it just a chicken dinner, since turkey is so expensive here, but B's language helper really wanted to experience the real thing so she bought us a turkey to fix. It was truly delicious! Everyone chipped in and made stuff, so this year B wasn't responsible for everything - sort of a potluck Thanksgiving.

After the meal we just sat around the living room and chatted. We were able to show them a few American traditions, such as sharing with everyone what you're thankful for ...

... and even breaking the wishbone (Julie won, but she forgot to make a wish, so I guess that particular bit of animism won't be affecting our lives this time around).

And that's about it. Sorry I don't have any new videos or Russian cultural notes for you this time around. Hopefully you'll make up for it by going out and researching how to prepare borshch or learning how to make a fur shapka or something.

I'll leave you with Matthew's post-Thanksgiving thoughts (he crawled his way under his Mom's bedroom table and fell asleep during the party).