Thursday, November 09, 2017

Halloween 2017

This year was the first year we actually did something on Halloween.  It just so happens that I am not a big fan of this particular holiday so I can’t say that I missed it over the last couple years.  We moved to Germany 5 days before Halloween.  Anton was just 2 and a half years old so has no memories of this fun-filled night at all, other boys remember the idea of walking around and collecting candy.  Halloween is not a German holiday - there are very few people trick-or-treating on the streets, and most of the costumes in the stores are scary as opposed to fun.

This whole introduction now actually leads to a story.  We live about 30 minutes away from the American military base (and a rather large one at that), so I decided that it’s about time Anton gets to enjoy Halloween how it’s meant to be in the States.  Andrei and Ilya refused to go without giving me any reasons and even after some persuasion they still opted to stay at home.  Anton, however, was super excited by the prospect of walking around and getting candy so off to American housing we went.  Mind you – we changed the clock a week before Halloween so by 5:30 it’s DARK outside.   Trick-or-treating is from 6 to 8PM and it just so happens that in the morning Anton woke up with “sudden muscle spasm” and we started out the morning with the trip to ER. 

From what I heard the crowds this year were one of the biggest they’ve seen in a while at the particular housing complex we went to but as I was pulling up, I realized that it WILL be an experience for him.  It’s hard to explain it and I tried to take a picture but I am not sure it really shows the true picture of the crowds.  Absolutely insane crowds, lots of decorations, and lots of extremely friendly candy givers. Kids, teenagers and adults were all dressed up.  Note on decorations - it was kind of funny to see because as soon as you cross over to the German side, not a single light on any lawns or in any windows.  To be fair, however, there were many Germans trick or treating as well.  Anton and I didn’t hit every house, in fact we probably went to less than 50% of the homes but he was still super happy.

P.S.  Andrei and Ilya said they want to go next year.  Chris handed our less than 1 little bag of Hershey kisses .

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Random update

Unbelievably I have had no time to write here at all because life has been extremely exciting and busy.  Bullet point version as a quick update.

  • Andrei and Ilya joined Cub Scouts and it has definitely added a new level of complexity to our life but they are enjoying it. Andrei went on his first camp out and a night time hike (with Chris) which went from 9PM to midnight.  No flashlight in the forest! 
  • Part of the scouting does involve a fair amount of paperwork but I am almost caught up on that.
  • We are busy trying to navigate secondary schools for Andrei because it's that time of the year when open houses are happening and application will have to be made soon.  Chris seems to be having a hard time understanding that now is the time when we have to pick Andrei's track which will be STEM. I'll try to write separately on that because it's actually an interesting topic which deserves its own topic.
  • The amount of tests and homework is slowly getting a bit overwhelming and we are trying to figure out how to handle it.  Andrei has German and English tests today, music test next week and for music he has to know notes (half, quarter,etc), their notations and pauses plus Beethoven's biography.  Ilya has English and social studies next Wednesday.  That's in addition to weekly German and math quizzes that he already has.
  • Ilya knocked out his tooth on vacation and we have several dental appointments.  
  • Andrei was getting allergy shots on weekly basis, now it's monthly.  Thank god!
  • Anton had "sudden muscle spasm" which has been incredibly painful and we ended up going to ER for that because he was crying in pain.
  • Speaking of Anton - his schooling for next year will deserve a separate post but for now let's just say that I have no idea where he is going to end up next year.  In ideal world that will be our local elementary school but they might be of a differing opinion.  
I am sure lots of more things are happening but for now this is good. My plan is to update this at least once a week, hopefully twice from now on because well ... life is happening and we are not going to remember it in some time unless we write it down.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ireland, Cliffs of Moher

The most amazing time we had in Ireland was on the Cliffs of Moher. 

We opted for a guided tour through Doolin Cliff Walks and did not regret it one bit.  The tour included 5 of us and a young American couple.  The guide was amazing in helping to coral and guide the boys, even holding their hands when it was getting bit too close to the edge. (The Cliffs rise between 120  meters (390 feet) to 214 meters (702 feet) above the sea level so it's a bit high!) There is really no words to describe the walk but it’s spectacular. 

When you turn away from the water, you see this

Picnic time- after the guided tour, but still very much on the top

Monday, September 25, 2017

Our week

Lately, life is really busy and stressful.  So to explain a bit - it's busy because we have 3 active boys with various levels of needs and desires - here is a break down of my week.  And this is a pretty good week with Chris while working late a couple of days but in town to help with some night time stuff.

  • Ilya to school by 8:00 (he had to learn a very short Russian "poem"over the weekend)
  • Anton has extra German lessons from 9:35 to 11:15 to which he needs to be taken to and then taken to kindergarten.
  • From 14:30 until 16:00 Andrei has special reading therapy.
  • Pick up Anton and Ilya. 
  • Ilya to school at 7:30
  • Anton to speech therapy by 8:00
  • Anton to kindergarten by 9:00 
  • Andrei speech therapy from 13:45 to 14:30
  • Then I rush to get Ilya from school and take Ilya and Andrei together for their math tutoring
  • Get Anton from kindergarten hopefully around 16:30
Wednesday - my peaceful day!
  • Ilya to school by 8:00
  • Anton's German from 8:35 to 9:15
  • Meeting with Andrei's teacher at 13:00
  • Get Ilya around 16:00
  • Ilya to school by 8:00 
  • Andrei to pediatrician for his weekly allergy shots at 15:00 and sit around the office for around 45 minutes to make sure that he does not have any kind of reaction
  • Run like the wind to get Ilya because ...
  • I should leave our house around 17:10 to get Andrei to his cub scout meeting at 18:00, Ilya does not have it this week.  Will be back around 20:00.
  • Ilya to school by 8:00
  • Anton to extra German from 9:35 to 11:35 and then to kindergarten
  • Andrei will be home around 13:30 (I think!)
  • Anton's kindergarten closes at 13:00
  • Andrei and Chris are going to dive class from 17:30 and back by 22:30
  • get ready for my friend to come from Munich! 
  • 3 English school classes
  • 3 swimming lessons
  • and 1 art class
If you are still reading this - in addition to their regular daily homework, Andrei has math test and Ilya has English test on Wednesday.  They have their daily extra math from tutoring as well.  Andrei has to learn trick words, finish writing some kind of a story, read "reader book",  and finish answering all the questions for the story they read in class in English school.  Ilya has to learn a spelling sheet, do a word search, read an English book, and review some of his previous words for English Saturday school.  He also has a list of ongoing German words that he needs to be learning. Oh yeah, Ilya also needs to draw some flowers so that he art teacher can help him figure out what he is doing wrong.  Because we threw away everything he drew before!

I am also trying to read about 100 pages of information (in German) regarding schools for Andrei for next year because open houses are coming up and we are receiving very conflicting information about what to do. 

I am sure that I will also have to do laundry which is unlike anything that most people imagine because machines are rather on the small side and it's not rare for me to do laundry for 2 days straight - start first load around 7:00 and keep going until around 16:00 and do the same the following day. 

Friday, September 01, 2017

Our plans for the future

Our current lifestyle is rather interesting.  We are not (im)migrants, we are not military, and we are not fully expats. Our kids do not go to international school, they go to local German schools; we have to deal with German government services yet our knowledge of German is rather limited (we make it work nonetheless).

This week we said goodbye to our friends who are moving to Israel by the end of the week.  It sucks for us but we are happy for them.  It took them about 4 months from "we might go" to "leaving on Sunday."  More or less the same time frame our move happened.  Partially because of them, partially because of wanting to have less stuff, we have been clearing our stuff - file cabinet, baby/toddler books, some random stuff. 

The question that while is not always on our mind, but comes up regularly enough is how long are we planning on staying here.  According to our original plan, we were not even supposed to be here in Germany as I type this up on September 1 of 2017.  We were supposed to move back this summer.  At this point, we are taking it one school year at a time - right now Andrei is going to finishing Grundschule (4th grade) here and Ilya will finish 3rd grade.  Are we staying here for another year after that?  Only time will tell.  But definitely stay tuned for our explorations in next steps of our children's education- it will be an exciting ride :)

Here is the thing though - we have enjoyed watching our kids grow up here.  They are getting an amazing experience, learning to be a bit more independent than they probably would of been had we stayed in Pittsburgh, they are speaking,reading and writing in German and Ilya also in Russian.  We have traveled to so many incredible places.  Life here is not always easy but it seems like it's certainly worth the troubles.  And we probably would of have "troubles" in Pittsburgh as well.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

First week of school

Last week was first week of school for all 3 boys, so before I forget I wanted to get it written down.  I will get back to our USA vacation as well as our Ireland vacation and our spring break ... you get the idea.  So from youngest to oldest... 

Anton did a really good job going back to kindergarten but he is speaking a lot of English to his teachers.  Adjustment is a bit slow; however, he is having lots of fun :)  He is probably in his last year of kindergarten but we will have to see how his "matures" this year because the elementary school principle has to interview him and decide whether Anton can sit through 4 classes a day! Anyway, Anton has a little more work to do this year as his is officially a Vorschuler and very proud of it :)  He will be going to Vorlauf class 3 times a week where he gets extra German lessons, he will be going to to recorder lessons (not sure how often) and he will start preschool classes after the fall break in October. 

Ilya started 3rd grade and the school is getting a bit harder for him this year but he is also understanding a bit more of what he wants and does not want.  For example, as much as he liked Logic classes he no longer wants to stay at school until 18:00 to take that class.   No more dancing or theater either.  He has 7 kids in his class this year including 1 additional boy!  Ilya has more or less the same classes as last year with the addition of social studies in German as well as Russian and additional math class in Russian.  He will will take additional art class at school and he started German tutoring with his German teacher.


Andrei's 4th grade has been fairly uneventful so far.  He has the same classes minus religion.  After speaking with his teacher, we decided that the amount of work required for that class is not what Andrei currently needs.  

All 3 boys will attend English school and swimming classes on Saturday.  Ilya will also attend arts and crafts as well as art class on Saturday.  

First week of school last year:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Our time in Pittsburgh ...

We had a great time in Pittsburgh even though the ending did not go exactly as planned, and the time went by too fast.  We visited with some friends but not everybody we wanted, we enjoyed playground and pool time, gone fishing, did homework and some yard work.