Monday, March 31, 2008

Asheville, NC

Last Friday we felt especially fed up with our current situation and in need of some R&R. And since we always wanted to go to the mountains, we saw this as a great opportunity for a little weekend get-away. The plan was to drive to Asheville on Friday and come back on Sunday. Easy enough... Well, as usual, the experience was nothing short of enlightning since amoung the things we learned was:

1) You get what you pay for - ok, so it's an old one. But we always hope to beat the system, to stick it to the man, to get the deal, to pinch pennies, to earn a buck by saving a buck. In the end, we end up checking out of a truly crappy and not especially cheap hotel room and checking into a slightly more expensive, but much nicer hotel room. And in between these events, there's a "your call is very important to us"-fest as we're attempting to get full refund for the cancelled night at a crappy hotel.

2) It ain't gonna rain no more, unless... - well, NC is in extreme draught right now. Local weather man here in Raleigh has been promising rain for a few months now, but the damn mother nature just wouldn't cooperate. The most we got out of these forecasts were some light sprinkles lasting 15 minutes or so. So we didn't bother to check the forecast or to pack rain jackets. And that's when it rained! Apparently, when the man in front of the weather map in Asheville says it'd rain, he means it. Hmm... So, on Day 2 we did buy an umbrella. Of course, it stopped raining right away. But now if you see a couple walking under a huge red umbrella with "Biltmore" logo on it, you'll know it's us.

3) Biltmore Estate is awesome even in bad weather! Sure, we had to take turns walking around the castle itself. One of us would stay with Mark and the other one would madly dash through the rooms while listening to an audio tour. Then we'd switch. And sure, there were lots and lots of stairs and not enough ramps both inside the house and on the grounds of the estate. And sure, it was cold and rainy most of the time. But it was still AWESOME! I just wish we had enough time for the "behind the scene" tours. One of these tours takes you into the rooms closed to the general public and then up onto the roof. And the other tour shows the electro-mechanical contraptions that helped power and run the estate.

4) Cold, rainy mornings in early spring can be absolutely enchanting. The Blue Ridge Parkway is empty. As we stop the car and turn its engine off at one of the many observation points, we realize how totally quiet it is all around us. Thick fog drifts up the mountains and we can't make out where does the fog end and the milky white sky begins. Yet the views of the valley are clear and we can see all the little houses down there. And a faint sweet smell of early blooms is drifting over it all. I'm sure summer and fall are gorgeous up in the mountains. But turns out, the in-between-season is not bad at all!

And to top it all off, we had some really good barbeque, North Carolina-style. I don't ever eat BBQ because it's pork, but at the Barbeque Inn they had the chopped beef option. And boy, was it yummy! Mark loved it too, almost as much as riding on a pig. And the day we got to Asheville we were walking around the downtown and saw quite a lot of interesting food places. Unfortunately most were very busy. So we settled on the Mellow Mushroom pizza place (not to say that it wasn't good). The cool part was that inside the restaurant they had all sorts of fun sculptures, including a huge carved bear. So on his trip to Asheville, Mark got to ride on a pig and on a bear.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Pictures from NY Trip

Aunt Irina (без кактуса) and Mark

Most of the stuff happening at the grandparents' house happens in the kitchen. So it's a good place to be.

Another good place to be is at someone's house if this someone has a small child (tons of toys!!!) and that child is not in the house at the moment (say, spending a day with her own grandparents).

All play and no work can be very tiresome.

A family portrait, on a budget. What are we going to do when my brother gets married and we can no longer fit on one couch?

Ok, it's been fun, but Dad, let's go home!

Pictures from NY trip

Chris takes Mark on a tour of the Rockland Bakery (the place is AWESOME!)

Last snow of the season and first real snow in Mark's life.

Grandpa Yuriy is feeding Mark.

Grandma Rita shows Mark the little tomato plants (on the window sills).

Uncle Arkadiy and Mark.

Finally, someone is there to take a picture of the three of us!

My brother Arkadiy (on the right) is a shishkebab genius!!! My cousin Pavel (on the left) is aslo pretty cool.

Aunt Sofya and Mark enjoy each other's company.

Bubbles are so much fun! Just ask Chris, Mark and Alysa.

Alysa and Mark are playing and Arkadiy is attempting to supervise them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Holidays in NY or Home for Purim

Since neither Chris nor I have a job yet, we figured it'd be a good time to go to NY for an extended visit. Plus Dr. Singh was in town and my parents insisted on showing Mark to him. So, fine, we dropped Xander off at the vet for boarding, packed our bags, packed Mark's stroller, suitcase, a box of toys, a pack of diapers, several bottles, lots of snacks, a couple of warm coats, you get the picture, and took off. We left on Tuesday evening, hoping to drive as far north as the D.C. before Mark would wake up. Yeah right! We barely made it into Virginia when he woke up and started crying. So after much ado we were forced to call it quits at about 1am and get a cheap room in Fredriksburg, VA (all expensive rooms were booked). Not like we cared much for anything other than a warm bed.

That's the thing about travelling with little kids - you're always on their schedule. And since they don't really have a schedule, you're completely at their mercy when it comes to things such pit stops, hotels, even getting gas (if the Jr is asleep and you still have a quarter tank, no way you'll pull into a gas station!). All we were trying to achieve was to cover as much road as possible while Mark was asleep. That's when I seriously started thinking about buying adult diapers for the next road trip.

Anyway, when it comes to stopping for the night, all we really care is a bed, preferrably king or queen-sized, a warm room, and maybe a complementary breakfast. The hotel on the way up fitted the bill; it could've been a bit better if a queen-sized bed instead of a double, but still - not too shabby for only $40. But man, oh man, did we get into a s**t-hole on the way back! This time we stopped for the night at about 1:30am just south of Washington, D.C. I guess the bed was made out of some spare particle board and a few concrete blocks. And it was tiny (I doubt it was even a double bed). The bathroom door wouldn't lock or fully close. The remote control was glued to the night stand. And I wouldn't be surprised to be woken up in the middle of the night by an army of hungry roaches.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. So we finally got to NY on Wednesday. Mom and Dad were home and we spent the rest of the day with them. Thursday and Friday were kind of slow and we didn't do much because it was very cold and windy and we didn't have enough money to go shopping. But on Saturday my brother was throwing a party for us and, most importantly, for Mark. So we spent the entire morning cooking. Then the afternoon was spent introducing Mark to the family. Of course, he got shy at first. But after a while he was doing just fine. And he got lots of new toys that kept him busy.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Тест на Trinixi

Почти 12 ночи, а я еще не сплю. А че, ведь на работу завтра не надо! Покопалась на разних страничках и нашла вот тест на Trinixi и вот результат:

Волшебное здание вашего внутреннего мира (Триникси)


1. Ваш выбор демонстрирует то, чего вы хотите достичь на данный момент.
Замок - богатство
2. Ваш выбор символизирует образ жизни, к которому вы стремитесь.
Дверь - ровная и безопасная жизнь.
муж - человек, которого ты увидел открыв дверь, является именно тем,
которому ты можешь абсолютно доверять и положиться на него, когда у тебя возникнут проблемы или нависнет смертельная опасность.
4. Лестница демонстрирует какова ваша любовь.
Винтовая лестница - обозначает яркую по эмоциям, бурную по проявлениям, но при этом великолепную любовь.
5. Количество ступенек, пройденных по лестнице.
27 - означает количество усилий (попыток), которые вы приложили для того, чтобы добиться желаемых любовных отношений (любви, которая присутствует в вашей жизни).
6. Размер комнаты показывает насколько вы рискованный (авантюрный) человек.
Большие джунгли - рвануть автостопом к морю или в другую страну для вас не проблема, вы настолько рискованны, что сначала сделаете, а потом подумаете.
7. Цвет стен в комнате говорит о вашем характере.
Желтый или оранжевый - радостный, веселый, живой, энергичный.
8. Форма стола показывает как вы справляетесь с различными жизненными ситуациями.
Бесформенный стол - вы нерешительны и не уверены, при принятии решений часто колеблетесь.
9. Фрукт символизирует, что именно в ваших новых друзьях или знакомых имеет для вас первостепенное значение.
Вишня - меньший размер фруктов показывают, что для вас в первую очередь важен характер такого человека, нежели какие-либо внешние атрибуты.

Пройти тест!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's going on?

Why haven't I been posting every week like I used to? What's going on here, in Raleigh? How's the weather? What's new with Mark? Here are the answers to all these and other questions (and new pictures too).

The weather is very nice. Today was warm enough for T-shirts! Our sickly crabapples are about to bloom and trees and shrubs all over town are blooming. Dahlias are in full force. I'm surprised that I haven't seen any tulips though. That's strange - why doesn't anyone grow them here? We thought we'd be busy with the landscaping this year, but once again things got in the way... First of all, we're still in an extreme drought here in NC. So no outdoor watering, landscaping, pressure washing and other fun stuff. Yet car washes are still open and people still use them. Go figure!

Another reason for not doing landscaping, or much else around the house, is because right now neither Chris nor I work. Well, Chris is finishing his degree (yes, he will be done in just 3 weeks). And I... To make a long story short, I do not work at my translation agency any longer. I'm not going to get into details here, but hey, tell everyone you know to NOT use my former agency for any translation/interpreting work. ForeignTranslations ( SUCKS!

So Chris and I are both staying home for now. Of course, we're actively looking for new jobs. But I'm only looking for a job that would allow me to work from home because I can't think about putting Mark in a day care.

Anyway, I thought that since I don't have to spend 8-10 hours each day working for some butthole, I will have plenty of time to do all sorts of things. I envisioned a clean house, yummy lunches and dinners (Chris does breakfasts), long strolls with Mark in the neighborhood parks, and in general, finally catching up on things. Yeh, right! I don't know how, but I manage to accomplish even less now than when I was working. Ok, to be fair, the dinners are yummy and I do go on long walks with Mark. But somehow the days fly by and I get very little accomplished. It's a mystery!
Mark is doing well. He is a very confident cruiser - insists on walking everywhere. But he does not want to walk or stand on his own yet. So he stands holding to things - furniture, handles, my legs - and when he's ready to move, he says "ma" and holds his arm out. Now he's trying to sit up from laying on his back. So we switched from the changing table to the floor. Still, it's a major hassle since at a first hint of impending diaper change he attempts to scoot away and when we catch him (and he's very quick with his scooting now), he cries his eyes out. Sometimes giving him a small toy helps, but most of the time he just cries.

For a while now he's been eating all sorts of solids, including finger foods. Now we're on to a new stage - he must not only see, but touch all his foods. So before he takes even a small bite, he insists on being allowed to stick his hands into the bowl and touch the food. And I thought feeding was messy before. Now the kitchen looks like a major hurricane went through it. And Mark sits in the middle of it all, covered with food from head to toe, smiling. Same with milk and juices - first he drinks, then he plays which consists mainly of spilling stuff on the high chair and on the floor. Too bad Xander doesn't drink milk - he is missing one hell of an opportunity.

Recently we taught Mark to clap hands. He doesn't like it very much though. What he does like is our reaction to it - we get giddy with excitement, stop everything and hug and kiss him. So what he does is he claps his hands once and then watches us. Although I caught him clapping hands when he woke up in the middle of the night and got bored. He also points to everything! He knows when we ask "where's a lamp", "where's Mark's nose", and "where are toy's eyes". And he knows when we ask in English and in Russian! In general, if he likes something or is interested in it, he points to it and says "eta". If he wants something, he points to it repeatedly and says "na".

Another development - he now gives toys and books to me and Chris. It used to be impossible to take things away from him. It still is unless he wants to give it to you. But when he does, he doesn't just let a toy go. Instead, he gets your attention and then hands the toy to you. And he can be pretty generous!

Last weekend Kelli and I went to the Farmer's Market. Afterwards we had a playdate at our place. Her son, Louis, is 15 months old now. It's really fun to watch him and Mark play. Ok, most of the time they don't even notice each other. But last time, Kelli gave both some Cheerios. So Louie proceeded to feed them to Mark and Mark really liked the new game. So we hope that they will be best buds when they get a bit bigger! For now, I wouldn't mind having Louie feed Mark his lunch and dinner since he's having more success with him than I do.