Saturday, June 27, 2015

Misha turns 10!

Happy birthday, Misha! On April 6, our not-so-little boy turned 10. And we're pretty sure he's the best 10-year-old around. 

For his birthday, we decided on a classic party in our apartment park with hot dogs, cake, lemonade, and old-school games like a water-balloon toss, an egg race and a three-legged race. On the evening of the party, we were greeted with swarms of kids. Misha had invited several kids from school, but only two of them were able to make it (Allison and Denise). We could hardly turn away the eager faces of all the kids who watched us setting up, so we welcomed everyone. It was chaotic and loud and crazy - but it turned out quite well, especially considering we hadn't been counting on a group of 15-plus.

We started with an Easter egg hunt, and moved along to a water-balloon toss:

Then the egg and spoon race, using big soup spoons first, then normal spoons:

And then the three-legged race, thanks to some masking tape:


And onto the food! Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and cake...

Somehow during the course of the all the events, someone had fallen into the cake and left their handprint. 

Singing, cake and presents!

By the time the party was over, it was already quite dark, and we went home to give Misha our own presents: a real Newton's Cradle and a plasma ball. He loved them.

A few other random pictures:

Owning a snake means we get to play with cute little mice, if only for a short time.

Like an ancient Greek play, I will show you only the effects of the violence, not the violence itself: Slither the snake, after fitting the mouse all the way into his mouth with only the tail sticking out.

Here are a few cute ukulele videos. We have really been enjoying it, and Misha has improved greatly since these first clips:

"Happy Birthday, Dear Grandpa" - the first song Misha learned so he could sing it for Grandpa's birthday.

Misha performing "May There Always Be Sunshine" in Russian and English.

Sebby knows some chords too!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Visitors from the North

And now for the highlight of 2015 so far: a much-anticipated visit from Tanya, Nara and Harry! The boys talked about their upcoming arrival for days, slyly convinced me to buy extra little toys in the checkout line because they were "for Nara and Harry," and even helped us clean the house.

March 12-24 was a whirlwind of fitting in the best activities we could come up with. For us, that meant parks, nature walks, fountains, the beach, strawberry picking, cooking and baking, and learning to play Tanya's ukulele. From the very first day, Nara and Sebby stuck together like glue, as if they just knew they were supposed to be best friends. They giggled under the covers with a glow-in-the-dark snowflake when they should have been sleeping. They shared toys impressively with not too many meltdowns. Whenever Sebby came home from preschool, Nara ran down the steps to meet him, declaring, "Sebby, I missed you ALL DAY! Did you miss me?" And of course he said yes.

Misha adored his mini-me, the nearly-two-year-old, red-headed Harry. He loved his little voice when he talked, especially the way he said "yep!" and "oh!" Misha was also the teacher for the whole group - he spent one day with Nara making origami and birthday crafts for Tanya. And he learned at least 10 chords on the ukulele within a day, proudly showing them off to us: this is C, this is C minor, this is A, this is A7, this is D... and we immediately decided that he deserved his own little uke.

After so much cool and rainy weather, the Houston area decided to bestow an invitingly sunny day, as if to say to Tanya, "It's always like this here." We seized the day to do a beach trip to the small, local beach (especially because Nara had already told her friends back home that she was going swimming in Texas.) It was perfect - sun, sand, and digging toys. Misha immediately set to building sand structures, including a protective sand wall meant to guard our towels and bags, which had gotten drenched in an unexpected wave that we watched surging up the bank with interest - until it engulfed us. The water's chill only deterred adults - the children were perfectly content running in and out.

Sister Selfie!

And of course, the bayou, one of our favorite places around here.

The Marsh sisters pose by a sign describing the Marsh Rabbit. Stay tuned.

Such a sweetie!

Our seemingly boundless energy at the beginning started to waver by the end, as we had chosen the longest trail available. :)

Picnic break!

We found him! The Marsh Rabbit!

Fabulous home-made stir-fry with peanut sauce.

Apparently, the Lion King is more stressful than we had realized.

Ukulele strummin' in the park.

The Reds

Another must-do: strawberry picking at Froberg's Farm.

And Challenger Park:

Nara and Uncle Josh

Bird watching.

The Clear Lake Nature Center:

Isn't he great?

Trying out the bird blind.

Heat + Humidity = Exhaustian

We made SO many monster cookies - perfect for picnic snacks!

Little Explorers


Frozen Yogurt - another must. The spinning globe and fountains always accompany this trip.

Hanging at Home:

Technology just brings people together.

Hide and Seek with Sebby and Harry

Tanya popping out a delicious cream cheese flan, as if she does this every day. (Not unlikely.)

Walkie Talkie Team 1: Come in Team 2!

Roger that. 10-4.

The Nassau Bay peninsula nature park:

Recent rains made swinging quite interesting.

Cool dude.

Misha whipped up his own fishing pole from twigs and grasses.

Before their departure, we celebrated Tanya's birthday with chocolate zucchini cupcakes and homemade gifts from the kids.

And squeezed in a little pre-Easter fun:

Trying out the new ukulele!

And Nara mastered Sebby's bike.

The brothers.

The next day was an early wake-up call to load up the car and say goodbye. It was a great visit - and we hope to see you again MUCH sooner next time.