The house is warming up. We got all the radiators put in yesterday. The new ones had a horrible chemical smell from the special paint (did you know that radiators needed special paint? Nope, me neither) but by today it had mostly passed.
The weather has been pretty miserable: snow, cold, more snow. Days are around -5 Celsius (low 20s Fahrenheit), nights get down to -10 or -12. It snows every day... not much at any time, but it adds up. I've shoveled the driveway twice, and am not sure I want to again.
Still, we're all okay. Keeping the boys in a pretty rigid routine, which helps.
Of course, now comes the weekend... two full days of unstructured time. How we'll get through this remains to me seen.
More in a bit.
So, single parenthood.
Claudia is gone for the next sixteen days. It's just me and the boys. Well, me and the boys, and Karine (who comes in the morning), Narine (who comes in the afternoons) and Xenia (the cleaning lady, three mornings a week). Cheap help: the dirty little secret of expat life. That's what makes this remotely possible.
Still, when the alarm clock goes off in the morning it's just them and me.
We went to the Embassy.
See, Armenians don't do Halloween. Have only the vaguest idea what it's all about. So if you want to bring your kids trick-or-treating... well, the US Embassy is where you go.
Now, the Embassy is a set of several large, blocky buildings set in a walled compound off the road to the airport. The general architectural style is... well, you know the Ronald Reagan Building in DC? Like that.
The way it works is, you come in through security, and inside there's a sort of campus arrangement of buildings around green space. (Maybe the campus of an evangelical engineering school, but never mind that.) Then you get a sheet of paper that tells you which offices to take your kids to. So you go from one building to another, riding elevators up and down, and stopping at offices where Embassy staff have volunteered to stay late and hand out candy.
Here's where the cognitive dissonance kicks in. At one level, this is pathetic and lame. The decorations are what you'd expect in government offices -- cardboard pumpkins, and such. The embassy employees are at best bemused. Few try to dress up; something about the office environment discourages it. The embassy compound is well-lit and not in the least spooky. There's no ringing of doorbells, no peering at dark doors. It's very bland and safe and a little sad.
At another level, it totally rocked.
The kids loved it. Loved it. David in particular was beside himself with delight. When you're three, it's all new. Wearing a cosutme! Other kids in costumes! Staying up after bedtime! People just GIVING HIM! CANDY! At one point he turned to me and said, "Daddy, I love this!" And he did.
Alan is a bit older but not old enough to be blase. He enjoyed going up and down in the elevators and looking into the different offices. He saw a lot of his friends. At the end we went to the Marine quarters and had soda and pizza in the lounge and they had "Shrek 2" on the big screen and, you know, it was all good.
And when it finally ended and we were going home, David turned to me, lower lip trembling, and said, "Daddy, I don't want Halloween to be over!"
So I guess it worked after all.
In case you didn't know, I really love a good sushi. My best friend Natalie introduced me to the money-devouring world of raw fish and I'm a lost case ever since. Our sushi outings are infamous. "We can always order more" is our credo.
Anyway, she gave me a sushi baby outfit for Jacob's birth. And I think he looks incredibly edible in it - but maybe that's just me.
See for yourself under the fold.
Jacob has been a blessing from the day he was born. He's generally very happy, cries very little, eats well, enjoys his brothers, loves nursing, and is just all around a joy to have. I've always felt he was my reward, extra easy, to make up for all the pain we went through with Benjamin.
He's also sleeping through the night. At seven months, I put him to bed at 7 pm and he goes to sleep within minutes, without any fussing. He usually sleeps until around 6 am. It's pretty much perfect timing - we can enjoy that morning cuddle and it leaves enough time to get everybody else up, dressed, fed and out of the door by 8:15.
This morning was different, though. He didn't wake up and call out for his morning snack as usual. I was actually okay with that - David had been up since 4:30 and every additional moment of rest was welcome. But it was getting late and I had to wake him. So I went over to the boys' room (they all sleep in one very big room). It was very quiet. The sun had just risen and the window was open - a slight breeze moved the curtains gently. It seemed very peaceful.
I walked over to his crib and was surprised to see him lie with his eyes wide open. I bent over the bed and said, "good morning, sweetie".
There was no reaction.
Alan has been going to the bakery to buy bread.
-- Oh, the bakery is just down the street. I mean, if you stand at the end of our driveway, you could hit the bakery with a rock.
And the street is not a busy street, at all. Yerevan may be a city of a million people, but our neighborhood has the look and feel of a village. There's not a lot of traffic. Kids play ball in the street, and people stroll slowly down the middle of it.
Still: four years old, barely.
We give him a hundred-dram coin (about a quarter) and he goes out the door and down the street. The bakery sends most of its product to stores, but there's a small window for local sales. If he stands on his toes, he can just barely reach the buzzer to summon the bakery lady.
The loaf is oval and flat and usually still warm from the oven. He needs both hands to carry it.
And that's all.
7/2/06 Alan spent a lot of time, and had a lot of fun, making simple circuits with a battery, two wires and a light bulb. Alan: How does this light go on? Mrs D: We have to make a circuit, what do you think we need? Alan: We need batteries and we need to put it together. He connects the battery to the bulb with a white wire. Mrs D: Now what do we need to do? Alan: We need to wait. He waits for a few seconds watching the light bulb. Alan: Maybe we need the red one. He replaces the white wire with the red one. Mrs D: What will happen if we use two wires? He connects another wire to the battery and bulb without help. Alan: We have made a circus! Mrs D: Well done, you have made a circuit. He continued to play for another 5-10 minutes making more circuits.When we got home, I gave him some of the chocolate cake I had made earlier that afternoon. He sampled (he's not a cake eater) and said: "Mmmm! Mama, that is the perfect cake." You gotta love this boy.
My daughter Olivia, who just turned three, has an imaginary friend whose name is Charlie Ravioli. Olivia is growing up in Manhattan, and so Charlie Ravioli has a lot of local traits: he lives in an apartment "on Madison and Lexington," he dines on grilled chicken, fruit, and water, and, having reached the age of seven and a half, he feels, or is thought, "old." But the most peculiarly local thing about Olivia's imaginary playmate is this: he is always too busy to play with her....It's a great essay. Read it, if you can find it. Now, my kids don't really do imaginary friends. They do imaginary monsters, oh yes. They talk with people on the phone - but those people don't have names and lives of their own. They are just people on the phone. Oh, and David likes to pretend he's a dog - or sometimes, that he's an octopus. I don't know whether that is healthy but it sure is cute. But today, today he had me worried.
(No. It's not a gun. It's a toy drill. That's way cooler, anyway.)
I'm sure he ate some of it too. Before you freak: it's home-made Play-doh. Flour, salt, oil and food coloring. Now I need to find more food coloring in Bucharest. Any ideas?