Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Victory Garden (или Скучаем по даче)

We have a large backyard - a third of an acre (I'm guessing about 12 соток?). But it's overgrown with ivy, brush, and tall pine trees (то, что кажется называется мачтовые сосны). The benefits are many - no need to mow grass, smells of fresh pine, lots of birds and squirrels. But of course as far as the entertainment goes, the backyard is useless - dark, uneven ground, no grass, lots of mosquitoes the size of a hummingbird.

At first we thought about doing something about it. But with one and a half jobs between the two of us and the scary economy, we decided to postpone this project until some unspecified later date. Instead, we're going to concentrate on a more manageable front yard.

The big plan is to take the old trees out - they are ridden with some desease anyway and plant fig trees and blueberry bushes instead. There's also some talk about a miniature pomegranate tree and flower beds. Of course, first we need to borrow a chain saw from one of the neighbors...

In the mean time, we decided to start our own vegetable garden. Oh, the dreams of self-sufficiency, even if for only a couple of weeks in summer. Is there such a thing as partial self-sufficiency? Not having to pay $1 for each red pepper, $3/lb for decently-tasting tomatoes, and $2 for each eggplant would save us a bundle. Plus we would finally have very fresh, great-tasting, organic produce!

But since the backyard conversion is out of the question, we started very small with 3 small raised beds right in the front yard. So we're gonna put some tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cukes, and some herbs.

We already cleared up the area (Mark was helping to pull out weeds). Chris put together 3 frames for the beds (again, with Mark's help). And I'm busy germinating the seeds. I used Chris's old Army T-shirt to soak the seeds in. So quite literally we are beating swords into plowshares (перековываем мечи на орала).

Now Chris is turning one of the beds into a cold frame and we're thinking about where to get cheap uncontaminated top soil (we don't have nearly enough compost to fill all the beds). So far it's a pretty expensive project! But Mark loves it and it promises to be a lot of fun (as long as we don't have another bad drought this year).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting ready for a parade

Mark loves to drum. This is his new thing! He grabs drumsticks and his plastic toy drum and says "Я банить" (барабанить) - I drum. And then he walks around the house doing just that - drumming. He especially loves it when someone else joins him in his little parade. As you can imagine, the cat is going crazy (and he thought that tail-pulling was bad).

The Big Neville

This is the Big Neville. It is missing a few wheels and some small details got broken off. That's what happens with a toy that gets carried everywhere, sent down slides, banged on many a hard surface, and launched down the stairs. Here's Neville's story.

Mark, barely 2 years old, knows the names of pretty much all the trains from Thomas the Train stories. His first most favorite train (MFT) was the green Percy. Soon it was replaced by a succession of others - Annie, Clarabel (he pronounces it Ka-bel), Salty, Rusty, Duncan, Gordon (Go-nooon!), James (Debs), Henry and, of course, Thomas. Thomas stayed Mark's favorite for quite a while.

Then, on his birthday, Mark got a big train with a light and sounds, from Arkadiy. Mark immediately named the train Neville. But of course, Mark already had another Neville in his toy box - a small wooden one. So to make it clear, Mark calls the new train the Big Neville (Bolshoy Neville). He carries Big Neville with him everywhere and keeps it by his bed. You think I'm making it up? Here are pictures:
First thing in the morning, getting ready to change the diaper.

Getting dressed:

Watching cartoons:

Having a mid-day snack (had to change the shirt):

Clay-modeling at an arts class:
Putting toys away and getting ready for bed:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More birthday pictures

Some more pictures from Mark's birthday weekend. The weather was great - unbelievably warm for February (oh, but we are paying for it now!). So we all spent lots of time outdoors - at the playgrounds and parks.

Of course, evenings were spent in the house, playing with all the new toys Mark got for his birthday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Birthday Bash - Mark is 2!

Ok, the original birthday bash was cancelled because Mark was sick. So instead of a party with 4 toddlers, their parents, and Mark's grandparents and uncle, we had to settle for grandparents, uncle and Mark's best friend - Maeli (and her parents, of course). But of course, it was lots of fun nevertheless.

The original plan was to have a train-themed birthday party. So that explains the cake. But the gifts weren't limited to just train stuff. Sure, Mark's got a radio-controlled train (from Grandpa and Grandma), which he promptly named "Debs" (James) and a small black train (from uncle Arkady). This black train, which Mark quickly started calling Big Neville (he also has a small Neville), edged out Thomas (unheard of!) and is still THE MOST FAVORITE train and is taken everywhere.

Other toys included the Pig's Barn from the Word World cartoon (Pig is Mark's favorite character!), a play kitchen (now Mark cooks kasha, soup, and muffins, all with lots of butter), a few Russian-language books, cartoons and Elefun (still unpacked this one). So Mark is super-busy and entertained with all these new toys! Thank you very much for all the toys!

On the day of his birthday, Mark woke up early and didn't nap at all. So he was ready to crash by about 6pm. But we had to keep him awake because we were expecting guests over - Sean, Stephanie and Maeli. Well, he barely stayed awake. But once Maeli came over, he's got the second wind and partied until 8pm. So he set a record for staying awake for over 14 hours straight.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Riding horses at Dead Broke Farm

For Maeli's birthday Stephanie and Sean wanted to take her to ride a pony. Steph found out that there was this Dead Broke Farm over in Durham Co where they had 20-minute pony rides for toddlers. Off we went. I didn't think that Mark would want to even sit on a pony. After all, he doesn't even want to sit on his little tricycle (even when I offer to push it)!

But I was wrong (you just never know with this boy). He loved sitting on a pony and petting it. Then he got a bit bored waiting for the ride to start. But once we took off, he just kept smiling bigger and bigger smile. And he sat well in the saddle too. At first, we had a problem since he kept holding onto his Thomas the Train and only used one hand to hold onto the saddle. But once he got into the ride (about 10 seconds later), he just gave me the train and placed all his attention on the pony.

And it wasn't one of those carnival rides either, where poor ponies go round and round in a circle like 100 times. No, this was an honest trail ride, first on the dirt road and then on a woodsy trail and back on the dirt road. When it was over and he was off the pony, he wanted to go again. This time, he got to ride a big horse! Again, he loved it! And afterwards he got to pet the dogs and the cats that live on the farm.

When it snowed

So the weather's been crazy lately. One day it's really cold, way too cold to even go outside. And the next day it's warm enough (low 50ies) that you see college students in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. But we did get some snow, lots of it actually, and it stayed for a couple of days. As a matter of fact, we had a big snow storm. Most of the places were closed and people were encouraged to stay home. I didn't need much encouragement since I really can't drive in the snow.

Mark hated snow at first. I took him outside and he immediately objected - it was too cold, too white, too snowy. Then again, he refused to wear his snow boots and mittens. Chris got a little blue plastic sled, shaped like a flying saucer and we tried to take Mark on a ride. He tolerated it for a little while only because he really did not want to walk in the snow. But every time snow touched his fingers or got on his coat, he whimpered.

In the late afternoon, after the snow stopped falling, we went to the school yard to let Mark sled down a small slope. Again, he did not like it, this time refusing to even sit on the sled. And he normally loves all sorts of slides.

But the next day, when I took him to the daycare, he warmed up to the idea of playing in the snow and even helped build a snowman. By the end of the third day, he kept asking to go see "sneg", bravely walked in the deepest snow under the pine trees, and tried having a snowball fight with Chris. But it was too late - the next day all the snow was gone.