Thursday, June 29, 2006

Boxes of joy

Ah, I love getting mail. It didn't use to be such a big deal, back when we lived in the states and everyday the little truck stopped in front of our house and unloaded flyers, bills and assorted catalogs interspersed with a few interesting things. But here? Mail is the bomb diggity, baby. I always get a little tingle when I go to pick up mail and see the little yellow card in my mailbox that means there is a box waiting for me. I shiver with anticipation while waiting for them to retrieve my box, or even better, boxes, because I know that no matter what is actually contained inside, I'm gonna like it.

We have had a bonanza of boxes these past two weeks. Packages for Blaine, mostly, for his birthday. I can't express to you how much it means to me that our friends and family back in the states take the time to shop, box, fill out customs forms and mail my little guy presents (and the girly got some nifty stuff tucked into most of the boxes as well.)

Now that we have an APO mailing address, I am trying to return the favor and ship stuff out from Georgia back to the states. I have been shopping at the little art markets, the wooden toy store (where the guy carves and paints everything by hand) and the bazroba, looking for little gifts to box up and send back as a thank yous to everyone who takes the time to send us things.

Just last night we opened a big box from my friend Donna. In it were great Spiderman gifts for Blaine, an adorable 4th of July outfit for Kyra, as well as other great stuff - including a fairly recent People magazine. I read the People magazine from cover to cover before bedtime - trashy gossip is in such short supply here. I will be passing along the People magazine - that's what we do here. We share the trashy gossip -even if it is weeks, months or years out of date (like the GQ with George Clooney on the cover that I just read that was about 2 years old).

So to you all, a hearty thank you. Georgia is much nicer with a side of Angelina and Brad and baby Shiloh.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cool and Cute

Can you stand it?


and cute:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

And so it's summer

And Blaine is out of school for one week. Just one. Then he goes to summer camp for the month of July at the same place he regularly goes to school. Then he will be out of school for all of August.

And in just two days of him being out of school this week, I have seen what August will be like, and it terrifies me. Seriously, this child is so busy and inquisitive and exhausting. God, I love him, but he is at warp speed for 12 hours each day. In the past two days, he has gone from chanting "mom, mom, mom, mom, mom" to throwing in an occasional "Jennifer" if he doesn't think I am responding quickly enough to his 8 millionth request to play Candyland or Dora or Thomas Tank or any one of the hundred games, puzzles and activities we have here for him.

Yesterday was Day 1 of his being home rather than in school. It was, for me, an exhausting day, but I'm also dealing with a bout of stomach flu that is wearing me down. Today I feel better, but now Blaine is wearing me down. So far today we have played outside on the swings, played outside with his remote control truck, filled the pool and played in the water for close to 2 hours, played the new Dora game, played Candyland and made thank you cards for everyone who came to his birthday party (which we are quite proud of, full of stickers, stamps and Blaine's handwritten Thank You - probably not quite up to some crafty card making standards, but we like them).

Now I only have a few more days to fill with activities that keep him away from the TV and the computer before I get to stick him back in school for another month. And I will need that month to plan what I am going to do with him in August - for his sanity and for mine.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Party's Over

Saturday we had a party for Blaine's 4th birthday. It was a great day for a party - the weather was hot, but not unbearable, we had the pool set up for the kids outside by the swingset, the grill was manned by David who served up hot dogs and hamburgers and I think everyone had a good time.

Last year we had only been in Tbilisi for a short time and didn't really know that many people, so Blaine's birthday was a real low-key affair, just David and I celebrating with him at the house. This year we had a bunch of friends come over to help us celebrate. The theme for the party was, of course, "Hot Wheels". Blaine is still obsessed with Hot Wheels - as a matter of fact, out of all the really lovely gifts he received at the party, the first ones he wanted opened and he has played with the most were the 3 Hot Wheels cars that David picked up in the Vienna airport on his last trip. Honestly, I don't think anything is as cool as Hot Wheels in Blaine's mind. He has Hot Wheels shoes, sunglasses, underwear, movies, and now, he has had a Hot Wheels birthday party. I ordered all the supplies from an online party supply store, so we had plates, cups, napkins, decorations all with the Hot Wheels logo. Oh, and we had a Hot Wheels pinata. What could be cooler than that?

Blaine didn't quite "get" the concept of the pinata. He knew that it was filled with candy and toys and that everyone would pull the strings* and the stuff would eventually come flooding out. He was very excited about it. But when the right string was pulled and the bounty of goodies poured onto the ground and all the kids dived in to collect the loot, Blaine just reached in, helped himself to one piece of candy and then ate it while watching everyone else make piles of candy and toys to put in their gift bags.

Of course, he is ready for another party and pinata. But, he tells me that he is done with Hot Wheels. This time he wants an airplane party and an airplane pinata. I've told him that he has to wait a whole year for his birthday to come around again. I don't think he quite "gets" that either. I think he would be just fine celebrating his birthday every weekend. I wouldn't be fine with that though. Not because of all the planning and effort required in putting together a party. But because I hate that he is growing up so fast.

*It was a non-violent pinata - no blindfolded kids beating at it with swinging sticks. Just a simple ribbon pull is all it took to open it. You just had to grab the right ribbon.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Boy is Four

Tonight is the last night that I will snuggle my 3 year old son before bedtime. Tonight is the last night that I will read stories to my 3 year old boy. Tonight is the last time I will kiss my 3 year old goodnight and tell him I love him. Because tomorrow morning he will be 4*.

It's been an amazing year for Blaine. He spent 4 months in the US with me, he became a big brother, he finally gave up diapers, and he started school. So much growing up and so many changes in one year. And he has handled it all amazingly well. He constantly surprises me with his adaptability and his compassion. He is a very mature kid most of the time. Then there are the times when he makes me (as he says) "crazy crazy crazy". I tell him that no matter what, even if he does make me "crazy crazy crazy" that I love him to pieces. And he answers, with a knowing look in his eye and his best Austin Powers voice "yeah baby yeah".

We waited a long time to have children. We waited a long time to have Blaine. He was worth every minute of the wait. I can't wait to see what the next year brings for him and for us. He makes every day an adventure and I can't imagine a better way to see the world than through a child's eyes.

Happy birthday Blaine. I love you.

*Blaine agrees that he is going to be 4 tomorrow. But, according to Blaine, his alter-ego, known as "Super Hero Blaine", is going to be 5. I'm only throwing one birthday party however. Super Hero Blaine will have to have his imaginary friends throw him a party.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I've been meaning to post this

We went out to a dinner party the other night at one of the nicer restaurants here in Tbilisi. It's a Russian joint called Matroyshkas and the food and drink (vodka, of course) are superb. Smoking is allowed. But guns are not. This place actually has a gun check. You know, like a coat check, except for weaponry. You give them your fire arm, they give you a claim check, and you get it back when you leave. Fascinating. But they are serious about this no gun policy, as evidenced by the sign on the door to the restaurant:

I am an addict

This post is very personal and heartfelt. I've been struggling with an addiction and I feel like I should talk about it. I've fallen off the wagon, so to speak, but I cannot help myself. I am a Mocha Frappachino junkie.

Georgia has a lot of great things going for it. Beautiful mountains, wonderful food, incredible hospitality, an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. But one of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of a Starbucks or anything remotely comparable to a Starbucks. I'm not a coffee drinker - can't stand the stuff actually - but I was addicted to mocha frappachinos. Frozen chocolatey mocha goodness. Bliss. My addiction started when we moved to DC. There are Starbucks every 5 feet in Virginia and DC. There wasn't a shopping center, mall, or dirt path up there that didn't have a Starbucks barista willing to offer me a fix.

I gave it up cold-turkey when we moved. Had no choice. You can get great coffee here (or so I'm told) but no frozen coffee. In a country where so many Western things have been adopted and copied (we have a mini-fake-dunkin donuts for goodness sakes) you would think that some enterprising person would cash in on the American fascination with double soy latte with a shot of skim blah blah blah. Or in my case, just a plain old Grande Mocha Frap no whip.

When I was getting ready to head back to the states for Kyra's birth, my pregnancy cravings overrode my logic and I spent one afternoon surfing the websites for the various airports where Blaine and I would be having layovers. I was mapping the locations of food shops, restaurants and, of course, Starbucks in each airport relative to our arrival and departure gates. I was a woman on the edge. I needed my fix. Like a junkie, I made my way to Starbucks in Heathrow airport and fed my addiction. I even went Venti because it had been so long. Blaine got a Vanilla Bean Frap (no caffeine for the 3 year old before international flights thankyouverymuch) and we blissfully drank our frozen concoctions before take-off.

But now we are back. And in the 4 months that I was gone, sadly no Starbucks or generic equivalent has popped up here in Tbilisi. I mourned the loss of my Frappachinos. I don't need one every day (truthfully I don't need one at all, but that is beside the point) but once a week? I would love to have one. I found these little packets of "IceCaffe" at the supermarket here. It's powdered mix and I was putting it in the blender with ice and milk and a heavy dose of chocolate syrup but it just wasn't the same. I equated it to giving methadone to a heroin junkie. It's close, but not the same "ahhhhhh". And then, thanks to a bake sale, my Mocha Fraps were given back to me.

Let me explain. We have many bake sales here. Fundraisers for various charities, committees etc. This particular bake sale was to help raise money for the playground that we are building for the kiddies. I donated a tasty lemon pound cake (really, it's divine) and I went to help out hawking the goodies for sale. The "gimmick" for this bake sale, because we have so many that people tend to get a bit bored with them, was the mocha frappachinos. Now, I figured someone had figured out my trick of doctoring the "IceCaffe" packets, but to my wonder and delight these were REAL mocha fraps. REAL. Like Starbucks real. How I marveled at the first sip. Oh, joy. Hallelujah! I was alive again! One of the bake sale participants, Amy (oh, how I love thee) had donated the mocha frappachino mix. I begged her for her secret. Where did she get this stuff? How can I get some for my very own? I.Must.Have.Some.

Amy must have thought I was crazy. But, c'mon, you are dealing with an addiction. There is no logic with addiction. She kindly explained that this lovely mix, called Frappe Freeze , was available on the internet. I rushed home and with shaking, caffeinated hands, whipped out my laptop and credit card and purchased my very own 4.5 pound tub of the mocha Frappe Freeze. And it arrived yesterday. I'm drinking one right now. I'm an addict. And I'm ok with that.