Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grand Forks: 4 cousins together

Nara, Misha, Sebby, Harry

Staying in Grand Forks with my sister, her husband, and her two kids has been a blast. Of course, coming under the pretext of "helping Tanya with her new baby" is a bit ironic, since I come also with my two energetic boys to throw into the mix. There have been a lot of crazy moments, but for all of the hassles of car seats, the fighting over toys, and the inevitable messes that kids make, there is always the warm feeling of family. The four cousins together. During moments of frustration, Tanya and I usually share a glance that expresses universal motherhood - "Our kids are wonderful, but sometimes they really drive us up the wall."

Tanya and I keep the kids (and ourselves) busy by trying to get out and go somewhere every day, as well as doing quiet artistic projects or interesting activities in the yard. Grand Forks has plenty of fun things to do, especially with so many parks, the many miles of bike trails, and the nature provided by ponds and rivers. Aaron has been getting in quality time with the kids too, including lessons on fire-making, nail-pounding, and fishing. Aaron has been teaching Misha even more things, such as how to use a hatchet and how to use a lopper.

We joke that Harry, the newest cousin, is the easy one, filling his days with sleeping and eating. It's the other three that take all the work! But the three older kids have gotten in sync with each other more and more, and often they play for over an hour in the basement, happy as can be. Lately we hear the most amusing comments drifting up the stairs, coming from their game of "house." ("I'm the daddy, and I say it's not night!" - Sebby) Sebby and Nara are quite similar, both outgoing and mischievous, so they also know exactly how to push each others' buttons. After they've been apart from each other for a few days though, Nara is quick to jump all over the boys for reunion hugs, which are joyfully returned.

What have we been up to? In early summer, we created this Bingo board of things we wanted to accomplish. We have done almost all of them already!

My nephew and niece.
Grandma and Grandpa with four grandchildren!

Everyone has to hug Aaron at once.

Grandpa and Misha grinding coffee.

Attending the Turtle Festival at Turtle River

Fishing pointers from Grandpa

Cast and reel.

On the bike trail
Admiring nature.

Splitting wood.

Eating s'mores!

Roasting hot dogs.

Ice cream picnic in the front yard.

Enjoying the willow tree in the backyard.
Tanya and I enjoy Misha's and Sebby's innocence about things that most Americans take for granted.

Funny moments:

- When Tanya asked Misha if he would like a s'more or just a plain marshmallow, Misha asked, "What's a s'more?"

- When Tanya's garage door opened automatically, Misha exclaimed, "How did you DO that!?"

- While driving down the street, we saw a tall, fan-style sprinkler. Sebby was amazed. "What IS that?" he asked.

- We realized that Sebby hadn't been flushing any toilets because he didn't know where the flusher was. In Bishkek, most flushers were a button on the top, not a lever on the side!

- "I want to swim in the ..... the cat pool," - Sebby, trying to remember the name of the kiddie (kitty?) pool.

- Tanya went through a lengthy explanation of the difference between aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins, after which Sebby summarized with confidence, "And Bud is my sister!" 

The boys still use Russian words, and once in awhile I hear them talking in Russian to each other, especially if they're playing football (soccer) or calling each other names.

"OK, I guess I'll just go basikom," (barefoot) - Sebby, unable to locate his shoes.

"I'm walking on my pyatichki," (heels) - Sebby, showing off his funny walk.

"I'm going to make a .... um, how do you say 'lesu'?" (forest) - Misha, searching for an English word.

"I found a shishka," (pinecone) - Misha at the pond.

We celebrated Sebby's 4th birthday with caterpillar cupcakes and a play-date with Nara's friends, and then we celebrated again a few days later when Grandma and Grandpa came up for the weekend.

Sebby has been waiting and waiting to be four years old. Early on in the summer, when my mom introduced the boys to one of her co-workers, she casually rounded up Sebby's age. "Misha's 8, and Sebby's 4," she said. At this point, Sebby turned to me and said, wide-eyed, "Mom! I'm FOUR?" I explained that he wasn't quite four, but that soon he would be. "But Grandma said I'm four!" he told me, quite sure that Grandma must be right. Finally, on the morning of his birthday, I told him it was his birthday. "Tomorrow I'll be four," he said. "No, today!" I corrected. Then he got incredibly excited. The day had finally come!

Misha made him a lot of cute presents, including a cardboard robot that wiggled his limbs, some origami prizes, and a handful of marshmallows wrapped up in paper. Sebby loved his presents, the cupcakes, and the kiddie pool with friends.

When Sebby was born, and Misha was four years old, I remember Misha asking me, "How old will I be when Sebby is four?" And I had explained, "When Sebby is four, you'll be eight." And now they are. Four and eight.

Opening the marshmallows.

Misha's presents for Sebby.

Fun on the bike trail.

The kiddie pool

Playing in the rain.

Spaghetti eaters.

Delicious stir fry!

The crib that Grandpa made years ago.

More birthday celebrating!

Happy birthday, dear Sebby!

At the farmer's market

Gardening with Grandma

Bed time

Sebby loves the kiddie pool.

Practicing reading in Russian

Playing in the tent from Grandma Kate

An Ushu demo by Misha

Hanging out in the back

Another shot - Grandparents and four grandkids, at the bakery

A trip to Cabella's


I love chalk...

Watering the flowers

Nara with Amanda and Dave and ALL of her cousins!



Mmm Mmm monster cookies.

Absorbed in painting

Smiley pancakes

Sebby in the clouds

Pizza night with lots of cousins, including Kylie and Landon.

Aaron handles a story time to rival the library.

In the tent

A village Misha and I worked on using things from nature.
A trip to the chocolate shop

Practicing with hammers and nails.

Sebby and Nara, intent on their work.

Playing at the pond.

Misha, searching for tadpoles (and also for turtles, fish, snails, etc.) 

Sebby looking so big.

We find ponds such a rewarding place to play!