Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back in Kyiv to Start Year 5 (gasp!)

Yep.  Back in Kyiv to start year 5.  Really hard to believe it has been so long.  Gio was not even 2 when we moved here.

It has been an easy return to life in Ukraine.  The weather has been spectacular, school began without a hitch (Gio LOVES Kindergarten!) and only dear Pepperoni seems very unhappy to be back.  Poor cat is quite depressed to be apartment-bound after a blissful summer of freedom to roam outside.

Gio is in a combined K-1 class this year.  This happened suddenly at the end of the summer due in part to the crisis here in Ukraine which meant many many families chose not to return to Kyiv.  With the school enrollment down over 80 children some budget cuts needed to be made.  When the new Kindergarten teacher decided not to move here at the last minute the decision was made to combine the Kindergartens and 1st grades into three K-1 classrooms.  We are thrilled with the arrangement as Gio has always gravitated to older children but there has certainly been some unrest at the school, especially among the 1st grade families.  I understand their concerns but I am a big fan of multi-age classrooms and the three teachers at PSI who are tackling this challenge are truly excellent.  Gio was lucky enough to get Ms. Nicole who was his preschool teacher last year so the transition to "big kid" school was especially easy for him.

Right now he is obsessed with math, loves his daily reading homework and has even found a girl version of himself- a new 1st grader in his class.  They have become best friends and spend every snack time together.  Adorable.

On the flight back from Italy.  Yep, those cheeks have not deflated in the slightest.  Poor girl has been battling some heavy teething pain almost constantly since July.  It took two months for her 4 molars to come in and now she has two lower incisors making their debut.  We will BOTH be relieved when teething slows down for a bit.  Hopefully that will be soon as she now has 12 teeth.  Seems like enough for now!

Second day back in Kyiv and I feel instantly back to "reality".  Here men are obsessed with mesh shirts.  It was about 60F on the day I saw this gem in front of me on the metro.  I will spare you the front view (think lots of chest hair poking through.).

As we had 3 days to wait before our boys returned to Kyiv (road trip!), Maria and I had
a lot of time to reacquaint ourselves with our neighborhood....
...and to rediscover toys.
Maria was missing her brother a lot.  
Poor Gio arrived late on Monday night and early Tuesday morning we were off to the first day of school.
I am not sure if this look is nerves or sheer exhaustion.

Gio and I have special Mamma-Gio time where we do Legos together.  We started off September with a big haunted house project.  We work on it when Maria naps and before bed.  Pepper ALWAYS come to join us.  We suspect his love of Legos come from his time with his first family, the McDougals, who were Lego maniacs!
And when he is not on the Lego table he likes to snooze in Gio's pjs.  
Gio had his first fancy hair cut.  This might have been the very first time in his life that his hair was properly washed.  
Pepper's newest veggie obsession?  Corn.  
Sometimes entertaining a 1-year-old can be challenging.
Fortunately the washing machine works every time.  

This is the gang from ECU that moved up together into Ms. Nicole's class.
They still spend much of recess together.  I adore this gang.  (The two surrounding Gio are twins!)

First ever brother-sister bath!
Papa walk
Maria never lacks for company at her meals. 
She feeds Enzo directly.  He does not object.  Pepper just steals directly from her plate.  He is a bit naughty.
First a bite for me....
...then a nose tickle....
...and then some for you....
Maria became mobile this week.  After 13 months of being able to set her down and finding her in the same spot when I looked again, suddenly I have to really keep my eye on her!  Fortunately her crawl is still very slow.  One favorite destination: our magnetic garbage can.  

Baby swings really do not exist here.  Maria had done more than a few face plants in the sand before I finally had the idea to use a bungee cord to tie her in.  Now we can enjoy swinging again!

We had our first book club of the year.  I have been a member of this group since I moved to Kyiv.  In the typical way of ex-pat life, only 3 of us remain from the original group I joined in 2010.  Luckily there are always terrific new people to invite into our crowd.  This month we read "Orphan Master's Son."
I adore this group.
It is always a highlight of every month (and one of the few times all month
that I get to be without little ones for 2 solid hours!).
Breakfast smile.
More Lego time (with Pepper, of course).
Gio came home on Friday very very excited about his new math toolkit.  He has spent much of the weekend playing the games inside.  As a former math teacher I am thrilled to see this enthusiasm for numbers!

This is all I have to report for now.  In early October Paolo heads to DC for the Bank's annual meetings.  Gio, Maria and I will join him on October 18th for a two week stay.  It is hard to believe I have been away from the USA for a full year!  I cannot wait!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The End of Summer: Ciao, Italia!

Well, the dreamy summer in Italy has come to an end.  Maria and I returned to Kyiv Friday night (her 21st and 22nd flights!).  Paolo and Gio are in the midst of a 3 day drive with Enzo and Pepper.  They just crossed the border into Ukraine and will arrive here tomorrow night. Tuesday morning Gio begins Kindergarten!
Below are the last images of our time in Italy.  I am counting the days until we return at Christmas!

Gio spent a great deal of the summer naked.  He really had a few months of complete freedom with friends in nearby houses that he could visit independently (no roads between the houses), no wake up times (11AM was a common time to emerge), very few baths and easy access to popsicles.  What more could a boy ask for in a summer?  He did learn, the hard way, that jumping naked on a trampoline is NOT a great idea.
Gio is still very much my first baby.  How I love his snuggles.
I will miss them when he becomes to "cool" to sit in my lap. 

Ready for tennis.  Just first need to figure out this walking thing.

Enzo sporting his new Dartmouth collar.   
A view from the hill.
Gio and his friends have a great time playing hide-and-seek around these hay bales.
After a 5 hour hike with Papa and Enzo.

My furry boys enjoying their last days of freedom before the return to apartment living.
Never one to miss a meal....
....or dessert! 

A rough day in Parma.  Maria needed her kidney function evaluated due to her urinary reflux condition.  The test involved injecting radioactive material into a vein.  Unfortunately it took 5 sticks (and two doctors) to finally find a vein.  Poor Maria collapsed once the torture was over and slept for much of the 3 hours we had to wait for the scans to take place.  
This shop would NOT go over well in the USA.  Yes, horse meat. 
Once recovered from her ordeal in Parma, Maria woke the next morning fully recovered.
Sadly, this was our final day in Italy.

Friday was a bit complicated.  I dropped Gio at Aunt Luisa's house then drove with Maria to Bologna.  Paolo met me there (he had flown in from Kyiv).  We exchanged the car keys and while Maria and I flew off to Kyiv (via Munich), Paolo drove back to get Gio and pack up the car for their departure on Saturday.  I am an obsessive list maker, and Paolo is a BIT forgetful, so I made a long one of all the things he needed to remember to pack.  Note #6.  Yes, he is that forgetful.   
The mole will be quite pleased that we have left.
She can now work away at destroying our lawn in peace.
Maria was in this state for most of our late flight from Munich to Kyiv, much to the delight of our fellow passengers (and yours truly). 22 flights completed in her first year.  She has quite a ways to go to catch up wtih Gio who has racked up 144!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 6: Leaving Sardinia, Swing Set & a Birthday!

It has been a busy week here!  We finished our week in Sardinia and came home to prepare for Maria's big FIRST birthday!
Maria meets a blueberry gelato cone in Sardinia.  It was a happy discovery!

We spent a few more days on the beach.  Maria wore more material on her body
than the rest of the outfits on the beach combined!

Gio was very rarely out of the water (snorkeling is a new passion).  Here is a rare moment on dry land. 
On the ferry ride back to Livorno.  Vacations are exhausting!
Maria was so hungry once we returned home that she insisted on having the entire bowl of pasta.  

Gio and Maria were very excited on Wednesday morning to see the big birthday surprise being installed....
A sandbox....
...and a swing set!
Time to drop Gio at camp.

Bath toys are not just for the bath, right?!

Birthday morning snuggling.
What a difference a year makes!
Her first ever birthday card!  Thanks, Grace & Family!

First cupcake ever....
...and the verdict...


...need another taste....
so so.  This is all she ate.  Clearly she did NOT inherit her momma's sweet tooth!
Birthday swinging.
She would happily do this for an hour (and has done so every day since!)
Enzo is a big fan of the sandbox.
We do try to keep Pepper away (there is a cover to keep it from becoming his litter box)!

Cupcake rejected but a popsicle?  Score!
These are helping Maria who has been cutting 4 molars for the last two weeks.  Poor thing!
Saturday afternoon and time for the big birthday party!
This entire cake is made of gelato!
Maria ate none of it but we all managed to finish it anyway.  Yum!

She drank it all!
This is Paolo's final week in Italy.  Maria and I will return to Kyiv on August 22.  Paolo will fly back here that day in order to start the drive with the boys.  It is sad that our time here is coming to an end.