Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mud Puddles and Galoshes

For the past several weeks, Sebby has been asking me about riding his scooter, to which I continually responded, "when the snow is gone." February has been surprisingly warm, though, and earlier this month, as we were walking home from school one Friday, Sebby remarked with great joy, "The snow is gone!! I can ride my scooter, yeah Mom?" The snow was indeed mostly gone, with just a few patches of ice left here and there, and I couldn't bear to crush his overflowing enthusiasm, so we went upstairs to our apartment, dug the scooter out from its hiding place, carefully retrieved Misha's bike from the top of the closet, and headed outside. Since then we have been out walking / scootering / biking a few times while the sun has been warm enough to chase away the chill in the air.

Baby blue galoshes
Sebby's Spiderman galoshes

Misha's old winter boots gave out mid-season, so we ended up buying these blue-with-white-polka dot beauties (there were not a lot of options). They are actually perfect for the sloppy, melty weather. When we realized Sebby's boots were also full of holes, I got him a pair of his own galoshes, which he loved so much that he kept gushing, "Thank you for my boots, Mom! Mom, thank you for buying me boots!" all the way home on his first walk wearing them. "Now I can go in the water, yeah Mom?" I said yes, now you can. And he sloshed his way happily through each and every puddle, much to the horror of every woman watching him on the street. When other mothers told him not to splash in the puddles, as other mothers in this country will inevitably do, Sebby replied, "Nyet, mojno! Eti botinki rezinovi!" (No, I CAN! These are rubber boots!)

Cruising over a snow pile.

Brothers wheeling away.

Little gloved fingers.

The sidewalks and roads are full of remarkable pot holes, which fill up with muddy water as soon as the sun peeks out and melts a bit of ice or snow. This makes for lots of opportunities for Sebby to get remarkably dirty. One day, just as we had cleared the school gates and were heading for home, Sebby managed to fall just so in a huge mud puddle. His whole back and side were coated in sticky mud, not to mention his once-white scarf, his hat, his mittens, his pants, and his boots. He was a walking mud-boy all the way home (but he still stopped to splash in the puddles).

Earlier this month, we had fun celebrating Josh's birthday. The boys prepared board games while I made a carrot cake.

Misha made this sign all by himself!

Happy birthday, Daddy!
 We also managed to fit in another ski trip this month, our fourth one with all three of us. These last two times, I have felt like I have gained enough control where I can truly enjoy skiing without the fear of not being able to stop. Misha and I can even do the fun snow-spraying hockey stops now! This last time, Josh got back on a snowboard and got to the point of being very comfortable on it again.

Josh on the board

Misha cruising down

Josh and Misha

Misha all bundled up and skiing with confidence

Misha waiting impatiently for me to finish taking the picture so we can ski down.

Mother and son on the ski lift

The view as we ski: the tops of the mountains peeking out of a bed of fog.
 Unfortunately, after skiing, Misha caught a pesky bug and spent most of the week sick at home, which he has now passed on to Sebby and Josh. The one bright spot of the week was that he lost his loose front tooth.

An early, unsuccessful attempt to pull out the tooth.

I love the gap-toothed smile!
I've long been awaiting the moment when Misha would have a big gap in his front row of teeth - and that time has come! I'll be taking lots of cute smiley photos of Misha in the coming week. His second front tooth is loose now as well.

In other news, we have decided to get Misha started with violin lessons. I found a violin teacher through the mother of Misha's classmates who also take lessons. We're borrowing (renting, but very cheaply) the most adorable violin - the smallest size that is made. Our teacher comes right to our house twice a week for short lessons. Since Misha himself thought it would be fun to try, and since Josh and I have long been meaning to introduce him to instruments, note-reading, and music in general, this seems like a good opportunity, especially because private lessons are so cheap here. He has only had two lessons so far, but he's eager to learn. Even if he only gets in a couple months worth of lessons, it's a skill that can transfer to other instruments and other areas. And yet another benefit is that his music lessons are all in Russian, so it's a language lesson at the same time. (Sebby watches with interest and is already asking for his own violin...)

Fun around the house ...

 Misha and Sebby devised their own big-bubble-makers out of cardboard, and we found the boys in their room happily blowing beautiful bubbles.

In Sebby's preschool, the children string bright plastic beads or various macaroni noodles onto strings, so we have made our own noodle chains at home. The cats find it entertaining as well.

 Misha and I worked together to draw and color a Captain Underpants scene on the back of one of Sebby's puzzles.

 This clay magnet kit turned out to be a really fun project. Sebby's ladybug is on top, with Misha's underneath, and my bumblebee to the right.

 Sebby has had a great deal of fun going around the whole house discovering what his magnetic ladybug can stick to.

 Josh and Misha playing a game of Magic, with Sebby observing.

 Horsie rides from big brother. Sebby also tries to give Misha rides, but I told him he couldn't do that anymore!

 Sebby loves to trace  - pictures, shapes, numbers, letters - so Misha and I created homemade stencils for him from cardboard. We somehow made the entire alphabet.

Sebby, busily tracing his letters.

And singing the alphabet song :) 

It's always a pleasure to see Misha reading a book to Sebby. Sometimes it's an English book, and soemtimes it's a Russian book. In this case, it's the Russian version of Winnie the Pooh, based on the 1969 Russian cartoon which shamelessly imitates the English original. 

 Misha is very good about doing his homework. Sometimes Josh and I help him with Russian, when he has to make sentences using certain combinations of letters. For example, he had to think of sentences using the letter sounds ch-k and ch-n (чк and чн). After considerable thought, we came up with "Ya tochno znayu chto eta babochka" - I definitely know that it's a butterfly. His handwriting in Russian is getting quite good - better than mine, I'd say! In math, I'm surprised that they're doing "uravnenie," as Misha says, or equations, such as 15 - x = 12. The curriculum seems to be fine, but there is definitely more emphasis on memorization here than in America. America's math curriculum is moving much more toward the mentality that there are many, many ways to solve a problem, and it tries to get students to be creative and use what they know to come up with an answer, then share their ways of solving it with others. In the wake of the Soviet system, it is commonly accepted here that there is only one correct way to solve problems, and each problem needs to be written in the exact format that the teacher wants it to be "correct."
 Helping clean up ...

Another project - a board game for Sebby, featuring several animal talents that you can "train" for, such climbing abilities from the monkey, night vision from the cave cat, swimming from the fish, and camouflage from the chameleon.

Sebby loves playing games, from Crazy Eights to Memory (which he is getting amazingly good at) to Sorry.

Kid Talk:

I was playing Crazy Eights with both boys, and Misha was the first to go out. Sebby and I continued the game until he beat me. "I lost!" I said. Misha piped up reassuringly, "No, Mom, you didn't lose. You just won third!"

You can't stop me! I'm a lucky boy.” - Sebby, playing Sorry

You! You! sorry yourself!” - Sebby's advice when Misha was looking for a good opponent to “sorry.”

I saw byeli! and oranjivi! and look at that sviet!” - (white, orange, color) Sebby watching fireworks.

"We're druzia, right Sebby?" - (friends) Misha 

"I want the sparkly cheese." - Sebby, asking for parmesan cheese on his noodles.

Sometimes while talking on webcam, Misha momentarily forgets an English word. When my mom asked him how he learned cursive, he started to say, "I just looked at mom's writing and I ...." He stopped, looked at me, and asked, "How do I say poftaryat?" (copy/repeat) 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ushu and Pizza

On Wednesday, Misha attended his first Ushu competition. It turned out to be really fun for him, as he was with several other boys and girls from his class, competing with other children from other schools. There were about 60 competitors, from elementary through high school, but they were all first-year students of Ushu. After changing into their outfits, the children were registered, grouped by age, and led up to the competing area. There, the groups moved around to several simultaneously-running stations, performing kicks, blows, the "18 forms" of traditional Ushu, and other tasks as judges rated them. 

Misha and Aidai performing kicks for the judges.


After the competition, the various clubs posed for photographs. Here is Misha with his club, Asman (meaning "Sky").

Twins Yan and Pasha, Timur, and Misha are in the same first-grade class and the same Ushu club.

Everyone performs their favorite Ushu moves.

All the competitors pose for a group photo. (Misha's in the bottom left.)

In this video, Misha performs part of a traditional sequence of Ushu moves, called the 18 Forms: 

After the photo session was a prompt award session, in which every child was a given a certificate with their point total on it and a sheet of cool Ushu pictures, and the top scorer in each group was named. I thought it was very nicely done, with the focus more on the spirit of displaying what they have learned rather than on who wins or doesn't win. Misha really enjoyed himself. Afterward, two other moms and I decided to go out for pizza with our boys. It was a really entertaining afternoon: three moms, plus four wild boys running around playing tag inside of a mostly-dead pizza place. Here we are: Baktigul (Kyrgyz mother of three from Bishkek), me, and Alesia (Russian mother of twins from Tashkent).

Baktigul, me, and Alesia.
Alesia has an American husband (but her twins do not speak English) so she has spent some time in America and was telling Baktigul some of the great American traditions. "Americans don't slave away in the kitchen every time guests come over," she said to a surprised Baktigul (imagine all of this in Russian). "Everyone just throws in $20 and then they get a Chinese take-out menu and order some of this, some of that, and then you have it delivered, and it comes in all these little boxes! And in the summer, they just do the grill - and they don't even have to do dishes because they use paper plates!" I laughed, because that's pretty much the case.

We had another funny discussion about names, stemming from the hullaballoo that Misha's name caused the judges. Russian names are always, always formed the same way: First Name, Otchestva (which is your father's first name), and Last Name. The most polite form of address to a person is to call them by their First Name and Otchestva. For example, Sebby's teacher is Galina Vladimirovna (which means her father's name is Vladimir) and Misha's teacher is Anastasia Nikolaiovna (because her father is Nikolai). Last names are not included at all. In fact, I don't even know the last names of my children's teachers. Since Russian names are such a mouthful, I find it hard to remember them. And poor Sebby - he simply calls his teacher "Galidirovna." Kyrgyz names are usually written one of two ways - the Soviet way which tacks on an -ov or -ova ending to the last name, or the Kyrgyz national way, which uses uluu or kyzy ("son of" or "daughter of"). Though the uluu/kyzy endings were popular following independence, the Russified names are now seen as more internationally friendly. Anyway, getting back to the story about the judges, they were baffled when they saw a child registered as Michael Adilet Kula. They insisted that there was a mistake. There's no way a "Michael" would have "Adilet" as an Otchestva. Misha's trainer had to explain, many times, that it was not a mistake, that was simply his name. Americans don't have otchestvas - just middle names. Baktigul, like most people we meet here, was quite surprised that we can arbitrarily choose our middle names. "But don't you call doctors and teachers by the first name and otchestva?" she asked. I said no, we simply say Mr. or Mrs. Last Name. And Alesia couldn't understand why we picked Adilet, a Kyrgyz name, for Misha's middle name, even when I explained that Misha was born in Kyrgyzstan. (Kyrgyz people, on the other hand, always light up with a proud grin when they find out Misha's middle name.)

(Side note: All these funny discussions that came up reminded me of a birthday party I went to last fall for my friend Marina. "Tell us something else funny about America!" she had urged, then completed her own request: "Oh, I know! They pull out their wisdom teeth when they're 18!")

In addition to cultural differences, we spent a good deal of time talking about - what else? - kids. Violin lessons, chess lessons, sibling rivalry, C-sections, birth weights, speech therapy, homework, girls vs. boys, favoritism, spoiling, etc. After several hours of snacking and sipping our cokes, beers, and tea, it was time to pick up Sebby at the sadik and attend a general parent meeting there. I use Russian every day, but this day was almost pure Russian from 11 until 6. It was very satisfying.

Pizza time - Yan, Misha, Pasha, Timur