Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Ok, I do know it's been a while. As usual, things are just getting out of hand crazy-busy here. I only get to work in the evenings, after Mark is in bed. So that's what I do. Then at the end of my very long day, I'm way too tired to even think about writing a quick post, much less about uploading pictures (takes too long). Besides, we don't even take that many pictures any longer.

But of course, with all the holidays, we got some nice pictures. First there was a party at Mark's day care. If you don't know, it's a small at-home daycare and all the children there speak Russian. They had a giant Christmas tree nicely decorated with hand-made ornaments. There was a puppet theater, lots of crafts, a small tree for kids to decorate, and even appearance by Снегурочка and her favorite северный олень.
Mark didn't care much for most of it though because right away he got to a big red choo-choo train that was set out under the tree. He ended up playing with that train for most of the party.
Then there was Hannukah. We went to a special Hannukah story-time at a local Barnes&Noble where a rabbi told the kids a Hannukah story about a boy making latkes. The story was fun, but the best part of it was that rabbi Aaron juggled through it. Hard to explain, but it was really great. Next year (yes, he does it every year) I'll be taking a video.
Mark's gift for Hannukah was a big Melissa & Doug easel from Grandma and Grandpa. Mark helped Chris put it together. Boy, he absolutely loves his easel now and finally draws with crayons (and chalk). We're going to do some painting soon as well.
Then, of course, was Christmas. Mark helped Chris make some gingerbread man cookies. He's really good at mixing things up. Sure, he's got plenty of practice helping me make his most favorite food of the moment - muffins. Every day he asks for more muffins. He actually learned to pull up a step-stool to the counter and climb it to get to the muffin tin.
Ok, back to Christmas. Lots of gifts. Mark's got a big pop-up book about trains which he now wants to read 5 times in a row, every day. That was a gift from Great Grandma Phillys. He also got a Thomas the Train book with lots of buttons that make train sounds. Plus Mark has a set of 4 minibooks about Thomas from his Grandpa Ron. And Mark got a pig from Word World (he loves watching Word World and Pig and Dog are his two most favorite characters).
Then on the last day of Hannukah Mark got a little green train from Thomas the Train set, Percy. Mark's been carrying it around with him ever since and quickly learned the train's name. Oh, and for the New Year's gift, Mark is getting a couple of DVDs with Thomas the Train cartoons.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Halloween 08

This year we weren't going to get any costume for Mark because he absolutely hated all different costumes we tried. But then at the last moment, Chris went out and bought a train engineer costume, since Mark is really into choo-choos now.

Of course, putting a costume on brought out a 30-minute-long temper tantrum. But then we went over to our friends, Sean and Stephanie, and Mark always loves going there. His little friend, Maeli, was also loudly objecting to her batterfly-princess costume. So they made quite a loud duo. Sean was dressed as The Cat in the Hat and acted totally goofy. He kept making up silly rhymes every time someone would ring the door bell. Like one of the rhymes was "I'm the Cat in the Hat/ Eat this candy; it'll make you fat."

After having a bite to eat, we all went out for some trick-o-treat fun. We walked around the neighborhood, looked at a couple of funky haunted houses and lawns decorated with big inflatables. And we saw large crowds of other trick-o-treaters. Actually, Steph's neighbors kept count and said that they had 77 kids stopping by that evening! Crazy!

Well, Mark and Maeli didn't care to walk much, so instead they rode in the little Radio Flyer wagon which we all took turns pulling along. We even took Sean's dog, Maple, with us since it wouldn't be fair to leave her all alone in the house. That was probably the only time in the recorded history, when a cat was walking a dog! The entire procession - Sean in his costume leading Maple, followed by Chris pulling the wagon with the kids in it, and Steph and me bringing up the rear looked pretty funny. The kids got lots of complements and candy. Of course, as they are too little to eat candy, we got to eat it all (after putting Mark in bed). Loving it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

NC State Fair 08

Ever since our move from FL in 2006, we go to the State Fair every year. In Daytona we had the Daytona 500 and the Bikeweek with all their hustle and bustle and craziness. And here we have the State Fair. It is really fun, there's lot of fried food that is bad for you and pretty bad in general, and it is just as expensive. So apart from not seeing or hearing stock cars or Harley bikes, we notice hardly a difference. Ok, ok, so Daytona 500 does feature a fly-over by F-16s.

So this year we went there with Mark and with our friends, Sean and Stephanie and their little girl, Maeli. And while there, we met up with Matt and Amy and their toddler, Ford. Of course, because of the little kids, we couldn't stay as long as we wanted. And we didn't go on any rides other than the ones in the Kidz Fun Park. And we barely got to see the agricultural exibits. But it was still lots of fun.
Mark walked almost all the time! And he loved the grilled italian sausage with peppers and onions and roasted corn on the cob. But most of all, he loved the Fun Slide. Now, the Fun Slide was very tall and scary.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's party time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things we do here, in Raleigh

What do Mark and I do during the week? We do lots of cool stuff. Usually we follow some kind of schedule, but of course things change and we try to stay flexible.

Mondays are our nothing-special-scheduled days. Sometimes we have playdates and other times we go to the library. Other times we go to the science museum in the Downtown.

We recently started going to the Russian day-care on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mark is the youngest child there and there are usually 4-5 others. At first I was worried that he'd hate it, but I was so very wrong. He really loved it from the first day. Well, he already knew the teacher; it's the same woman that teaches his Saturday class at the Russian school. Other kids are Alex, 5; Alexei, 5; Varya, 5; her little sister, Tasya, 3; and Ella, 3. So Mark is the baby. When I come to pick him up, the kids say "Baby, your mommie is here!". But they all like him and treat him really well. I think he gets along with all of them.
He loves watching the boys doing cartwheels and running and jumping around. And he doesn't just watch and laugh; he tries to imitate them too! He even started doing sommersaults (with my help, of course). He likes the youngest of the girls, Tasya. She can be a bit bossy, but he holds her hand and they walk together and even talk! So now he repeats some of the things she says and in the same tone of voice; things like "come over", "here", "there", "what's this" - in a very bossy way. Another thing he repeats after her is "ouch!" - he loves it and laughs every time he says it.

Anyway, another thing Mark does now on Tuesdays and Thursdays is swimming lessons. Of course, Mark is much too young to learn swimming, but he learns to not be afraid of water. Chris takes him to the pool in the evenings. I don't go, so I don't have any pictures. But I've heard good things about the lessons.

On Wednesdays I now take him to the Tumble Bunnies class at a YMCA. It's a bit far, but it's worth the trip. A couple of his little friends go there too. The instructors set up a mini-obstacle course that changes each time. Mark does very well, even on the balance beam. And then the kids play with a big parachute and that's absolutely Mark's favorite thing!

Then on Wednesday afternoons we have physical therapy. Mark is doing great now. He's really improving. He goes from sitting to standing to laying down without thinking twice. His balance is much better now; he crawls and climbs and goes down the slides; he twirls around and bounces; he can almost run; and he climbs up the stairs really well. We still have plenty of things to work on though.

On Fridays we also have a free day. Again we have playdates and go to the museums and parks. We try to have a arts lesson at least once a week now that Mark likes drawing with crayons and doesn't mind playdough as long as he gets to use the Fun Factory. And we try to go to the children's museum called Marbles. Also, we go to the Pullen park where we ride carousel and the train and now the boats.

A half-day at the farm

Actually, it was even less than half-day; it was more like an hour or so. I took Mark to the Russian school in the morning and then he slept for 3 hours. That’s what he does – during the week his naps are only about one hour long, but on weekends – 3-hour naps aren’t uncommon. And so we had a late start. The farm was pretty far away – on the other end of town. Also, the directions we got from Google weren’t exactly right and we kept driving back and forth looking for our turn. Finally we got to the farm at about 4pm. But it was a lot of fun. First we had Mark go on the hay mountain. He wasn’t very excited about it though, probably because there were too many other kids climbing, running, jumping and acting crazy. But he did crawl through a very long tunnel under the mountain.

Then we took him to the hay maze. I thought he wouldn’t be very interested in it, but it was just the opposite. He loved it and kept wanting to go back. He even went into the maze on his own! Then we went to the larger corn maze, but it really wasn’t all that. And most corn was already picked. And plus it rained the day before, so the ground was very muddy. We got out of the corn maze with only a couple of ears of corn and went to feed the animals. This farm had a small petting zoo with goats, pigs, and chickens. Except of course, you couldn’t pet the pigs because they bite. And since so many people go through and pet and feed the animals, they really couldn’t care less for our corn. They did love the dry corn stalks though. But what they liked even more was the fresh grass. All the goats and sheep ate all the grass in their little enclosure. So they were just too happy to got even the smallest blade from us. That’s how we kept them coming over. Otherwise, they would just stay away.

But pretty soon it got boring anyway and we went to pick cotton. Cotton-picking is a lot of fun when you only do it for a few minutes. The plants are very beautiful and it’s pretty amazing how much cotton can you pull out of a single flower (or whatever it is called). Mark really got into it. I guess he really liked that for once he was encouraged to pull and tear something. I decided to use the cotton that we picked for crafts, but so far we haven’t used any. Anyway, just as we were done picking cotton, we saw that the hay ride was getting ready to leave. We hurried up and jumped on a hay wagon. Of course, Mark simply loved it. We sat all the way in the front where he could see the big tractor. He thought that was the absolutely best thing ever, even better than cotton. Unfortunately, the girls that sat next to us didn’t think so; they kept throwing corn at the driver. Mean!

Finally, it was time to go to the pumpkin patch. Our admission price included picking one pumpkin per paying adult. First we went to the patch and tried to find a pumpkin still on the vine. It wasn’t that difficult, especially after we moved all the way to the back of the patch. But all the pumpkins were pretty small. So we let Mark find one and we picked it. But then we felt like getting 2 tiny pumpkins just wouldn’t be fair. Instead, we went back and picked another, larger, pumpkin from a ready-to-pick pile. Mark was getting tired and cranky; it was getting cold and dark. And there was really nothing left to do. It was clearly time to leave.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bear Mountain

I love Bear Mountain! It's so close to my parents' house - only about 10 minutes away and an easy drive. And most of the time it's absolutely beautiful. If you go early enough in the morning, you might be the only person at the summit. And on a clear day, you can see the downtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building from the summit.

During this visit, I went to Bear Mountain not once, but twice. The first time, with my brother who took a day off to spend with me and Mark. We left the house pretty early and stopped for breakfast at one of the bagel shops in Pomona. Then we drove up to the summit along an empty winding road covered in yellow leaves. After spending time at the summit, we drove down the mountaint to the lodge and walked to the little zoo there.

The zoo was great! It has a nature trail with lots of interesting information. Even my brother admitted that he learned a lot of new things. And we saw some pretty cool animals, even a couple of bears. The only thing that sucked was that I had to carry Mark most of the way since he refused to sit in a stroller and got tired less than half-way through the walk.

The second time, I took mom to Bear Mountain. We wanted to set out early in the morning, but I overslept. Then it was time for Mark's nap. Then - lunch. Finally we left at around 1pm. Of course, there were tons of people at the summit, but this late in the day there was no haze and the views were stunning! Mark didn't care though. He picked up a big stick and spent the entire time running around a big rock and fighting a clump of tall grass that grew at the side of this rock.

But check out these golden retrievers we saw on the way back to the car! Aren't they cool?! And I can't get Mark to wear sunglasses or a hat.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Apple Picking in New York

What can be more fun on a warm sunny day in early October than going apple picking? Going apple picking in New York, of course! Luckily, there's a great little family farm, Conklin Farm, that has Pick-Your-Own on weekends. And it's less than 2 miles from my parents' house.

So off we went to pick the apples yesterday. Actually, the first time we went there was last week. But the weather was perfect, Mark was refusing to take an afternoon nap, and I wanted to get out of the house.
Oh boy, apparently many others had the same idea of going apple-picking on a sunny afternoon; the place was packed! It doesn't hurt that they also have a store on premises that sells everything from fruits and veggies to spices and preserves, a pumpkin patch, and a Kids' Zone with inflatables and slides.

We didn't plan on picking a lot of apples, so we only took 1 plastic bag. But of course how could we pass by huge, ripe apples with their glossy red cheeks warm from the sun and smelling like heaven! And so we picked and picked - red apples, yellow apples, red and yellow apples, apples hanging from the branches and apples from the grass, apples from big trees and apples from dwarf trees... And after our bag was full, we simply picked a few pretty ones, wiped them off with our T-shirts, and sunk our teeth into them. Mmmm, so very good! Mark ate a whole big apple - a record for him! All in all, we picked close to 20lbs of apples.
On the way back, we stopped by the farm's store. It was absolutely packed with shoppers and smelled deliciously of freshly-baked apple cider doughnuts. We picked up some fresh cider, corn, and doughnuts and hurried back home to the feast.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mark's first parade

Even though we had some bad weather Friday evening and Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon was great. So we went to the downtown for a Raleigh Wide Open festival. Besides, it was the weekend of official opening of a new convention center with its uber-cool shimmering wall (thousands of pieces of moving metal forming an ever-changing picture of an oak tree; and it's lit at night too!). Fayetville St was closed to traffic and instead had vendors set up selling food and trinkets and advertising their businesses. There were several concert stages as well. In the convention center itself we got a short tour of the place and then went downstairs to the exhibit floor because they had a huge International Festival going on. I lost count of how many countries were represented through little food kiosks, information booths as well as dance and music groups, but definitely a couple of dozens. City and state services were there as well. So Mark got to check out a police car and a fire engine (of course he LOVED both). And at the end of the day there was even a parade, a short one though.

Museum of Life and Science

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mark and Monkeys at the Zoo

Hooray-hooray, we are going to the zoo today! Actually, we just got back. It was Mark's first trip to the zoo. Frankly, I understand why kids under 2 get in for free - otherwise it would be a total waste of money. Mark wasn't much interested in the animals. I think it was because most of the animals were a) behind the glass, like the pythons or b) far away, like the elephants or c) sleeping, like the lions. The only ones he really liked and paid attention to for a little while were meerkats (ok, so they were super-cute). He did like the zoo overall - ran around for a while, was interested in trees, flowers, water fountains... In fact, he was so engaged that he forgot to take his nap and started getting very cranky. So after about 2 hours at the zoo we got back to the car and headed home. Mark fell asleep 1 minute into the car ride...
And he stayed asleep for about 25 minutes, until we stopped at the apple orchard. Our plan was to drive up to the store, I would go in and get the apples and then we would continue on our way, without waking up Mark. Sure thing... it didn't work as planned. The babe woke up the second we turned off the road into the parking lot and he was ready for action. So we all got out of the car, grabbed a couple of baskets and wandered off into the orchard to pick some apples. And then we sat in the shade of the huge trees cooling off (it was a very hot day today), swang on a tire swing and tried (unsuccessfully) to climb up the tree. Best of all, after paying for all the apples ($1/lb - a bargain worth driving for), we even bought some fresh apple cider slushie (the best idea ever). And it was tons of fun for Mark since now he drinks out of the straw.

So Mark spent most of the rest of the day running around, climbing up and down the furniture, screaming his head off, saying things like "aisee-yaisee", "woooooow", and "trheeeh" (we don't know what he means, but it sounds very important and fun).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Busy Summer

Ok, so I haven't posted in almost 3 weeks. But that's because, as usual, we're very busy here. I can't really think of any particular project we're busy with, just lots of small daily stuff. Although we did go to a Mediterranean-themed BBQ party at Sean & Stephanie's and then had a little cook-out of our own the following weekend.

Mark's got a couple of new toys, quite a few new scratches and bruises, and he's kissed a girl! He finally weights more than 20lbs, but just barely - 20.48lbs to be exact. And he grew a bit taller and is now full 31 inches. He tries to run, climbs stairs whenever I'm not watching, and absolutely loves sliding down the big slides (ok, I have to go with him). No talking, but a lot of pointing, tagging at clothes, and babbling. Favorite games include chase, peek-a-boo (he actually hides now), and a game where Mark is a bull and Chris is a bull-fighter.

A couple of weeks ago I took Mark to the Russian school. It's only a part-time school - once a week for half a day. Most kids in the youngest age group are still much older than him - 3-4 year-olds. He didn't care much for learning new things mostly because he didn't want to sit down even for a second. So I had to take him out of the classroom and to the playground. Still it was a good experience because he got to be around kids and adults who spoke Russian. So we'll try to go again every Saturday, if only for an hour.