Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ronny's pizza

We entertained Paul's study advisor over the weekend, and this is what we had for dinner: American style pizza. I'm not sure who Ronny is, but apparently he loves hot cars and fast pizza. And he delivers.

For about $30 we got two huge pizzas that we (read: everyone but me) have been eating all week. It was absolutely worth the money to have everyone fed and happy with no effort on my part apart from meeting the delivery guy at the bottom of our hill to show him how to get to our house.

It really was American pizza no compromise.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's for dinner?

I don't know what my problem is, but I am having the hardest time figuring out what to cook here! I could probably get most anything, but it is a major pain to haul it all home from the store (we live up a huge hill). I have all the staples but every day I look at my cupboard of rice, noodles, beans, flour, sugar, oil...and I have no idea what to make.

Plus I don't want to make stuff that takes a ton of dishes (I'm the dishwasher) or time (I'm busy hanging out my laundry on clotheslines).

But don't you love this? My fresh chives from the market came wrapped with a pussy willow branch. wrapped so well I could hardly get them out.

So. What do you cook that is easy and doesn't take a lot of ingredients? Please share!

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Six months old!

Jude turned 6 months old on Sunday. Love this boy!

Could someone feed him already? He is just wasting away.

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Going to church in Tbilisi

There are two branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tbilisi. I have only been to one of them, so i can't speak for the other one. In our branch, there are about 30 people, mostly men--totally different than the branches I attended in Russia-- full of women, old and young, and very very few men.

The branch president is Armenian (one of paul's mission companions btw) and the relief society president is Russian, but most of the members are Georgian except for a few americans teaching English or working at the embassy. thus, as you can imagine, Language is an issue. Mostly people speak in Russian (I'm doing a dance of joy, but its not so great for the kids or other Americans) and they have a headset for anyone that needs English. One girl that speaks all 3 languages translates and you can listen on a headset. If the person speaking is an English speaker, they will have someone translate into Russian. So, sacrament meeting is mostly in Russian, Sunday school was in Georgian with English translation, and relief society was in Russian with English translation. Paul said at least a third of the branch is Armenian, so they spoke to him in Armenian. Crazy. Four languages.

Nobody brings kids to church here. One girl came with her mom for maybe the last half hour of the last class, and she just stayed with her mom. Side note: she and Luke are exactly the same age, except Luke is one day older. We will have to bring a cake or something for their birthdays.

Anyway. About kids at church. Jude was doing some baby gurgles and chewing on his hands loudly before church started, and one of the missionaries said, "it's so great to hear kids at church again!" We feel more than a little conspicuous every time one of the kids makes a peep, but what can you do. They drop stuff. They don't sit perfectly still. Jude fusses. They are kids.

Primary consisted of a craft brought by the senior missionary couple and a little lesson from Paul while the kids played with toys. They have a nice little Primary room with a kids table and chairs, a rug, and toys. But it's pretty clear that nobody brings kids to church here. Maybe we can help with that. We will at least get them used to our kids!

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Spring is coming to our backyard

We rented this place in large part because of the huge yard. When paul got here there was nothing growing.

And now things are starting to pop up and out and unfurl:

We have some backyard friends too. This one lives at the bottom of our stairs.

Meet Shy Guy, our cat. (she's a girl. and she belongs to the neighbors.) liam loves to carry her.

The boys love to feed her. We feed her all our scraps. Like the boys' leftover soggy cereal bits in milk. Crusts of khachapuri (her favorite--she is Georgian, after all). Rice. Cake frosting. Etc. Yesterday i had cooked up some bits of bacon that i found at the market and was saving for something yummy...and luke came in all excited to tell me that they fed Shy Guy a really good precious bacon! fed to the neighbor's cat! I guess it's a small price to pay for the hours of entertainment she gives them. And doesn't she look content?

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another outing

Today was the Perrin grandparents' last day in Georgia, so we went out to visit some things outside of Tbilisi.

We went to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. Really the only thing to see there is the Stalin Museum.

Georgia's famous son: Josef Jugashvili, better known as Josef Stalin. You may not have known that he was not even Russian but Georgian.

The museum is a sort of unwitting monument to Stalin's legacy: a grand marble staircase but freezing cold building with no heat or lights on. The whole place has sort of a reverential feeling toward him. Like any parent would do, they choose to focus on his accomplishments and gloss over the rest. After all, he was a cobbler's son who went on to form and rule a massive world power for a quarter of a century.

Next we went to nearby Uplistsikhe, a cave city. Upali was the name of a (zoroastrian?) god; tsikhe means castle in georgian--thus uplis-tsikhe = god's castle.

They had a secret tunnel down to the river

and all kinds of rooms and storage and prisons and places for animal sacrifice and whatnot. You can google it. I'm not a tour guide. And I am somewhat skeptical about all that "this is where the guests would stay..." sort of stuff.

It was windy and so so so freezing. I kept my hands warm in my personal 20 lb heating pad named Jude.

In case you're wondering how we traveled, there are no minivans for rent. We hired a driver and piled into the back seat. Here's Super Grandma Chick with all 3 boys on her:

And here's Jude loving life without the car seat. Yep. Just on our laps. We just passed him back and forth. Buckled a seat belt around my lap and his, and called it good. Bonus--I could feed him anytime he got fussy without having to stop the car.

Last stop was Ananuri, which is one of my favorite places Paul and I visited when we were here 2 years ago. It's a castle complex with churches and towers and the whole bit. It overlooks the Zhinvali reservoir which was mostly empty. The winter snow hasn't melted in the mountains yet.

We climbed up to the top of the tower through 5 or 6 floors of little rooms that looked like this:

Luke made friends with a dog that climbed up the whole way with us.

went to the churches with us too

The carvings on this church are fabulous. Here's the Tree of Life

After this we stopped at a famous restaurant just outside of Tbilisi in Mtskheta. We had a whole feast of Georgian food including their specialty, lobio (bean stew served in cute little clay pots). They also make delicious khachapuri. Thank goodness for this ubiquitous cheese bread you can find everywhere--the boys love it. It's like having pizza, and it's on every menu, at every restaurant, and on every corner.

Well, friends, that's all for now. After a week of being up with the boys from midnight to 5 am, I think they are finally getting adjusted. Last night they were asleep at 11:30 and STAYED ASLEEP. Hallelujah. Off to bed myself now.

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Location:Gori, Upliststikhe, Ananuri

The Knights of Kobuleti

We've been showing Paul's parents around a bit this week and had some fun adventures.

I made the boys some capes so they could be knights and explore like in the Chronicles of Narnia. We call them the Knights of Kobuleti--the name of the street we live on. So they wanted to wear their capes to go visit the castles...

This is at the Narikala Fortress that overlooks the Tbilisi Old Town.

Thank goodness for Grandma and Grandpa--we went down a pretty steep rocky path and needed some help to get all the knights safely down.

Next we went to the Botanical Gardens, which are tucked back behind the mountain that the fortress sits on.

The boys loved watching the river from this bridge:

And I was so happy to see that forsythia is in bloom! Hooray for spring!

There is a subtropical climate here--check out these palm trees. We felt right at home!

And that's all for the day.

Farewell from the brave knights of Kobuleti.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy birthday, sweet Liam!

A little family event in the midst of getting settled in Tbilisi: Liam turned 4 today! (and his cousin Katie turned 5! Yay for birthday buddies!)

For his special day we went out to explore the city with Grandpa. We made friends with a baker--he let the boys watch him put the loaves into a big round clay oven, then pull them out with a special bread hook. We then ate the freshest, crackly, yummy bread as we kept walking. We stopped at a little stationary booth and Liam chose a spiderman notebook, while Luke chose a new marker.

Then we went to a store called Goodwill that is the closest georgian equivalent of a SuperTarget. Lots of western style things, lots from Germany. I was in search of one very specific thing: oregano. Liam asked for pizza for his birthday dinner, and I had not been able to find oregano anywhere. I thought spices would all be available here (they were in Russia ten years ago...) but they only use like three apparently. Coriander, pepper, and thyme are at every store. Random. Anyway. I know the Suspense is killing you--did she find oregano or not? The answer is yes! Goodwill did have a section of German spices and for 7.5 lari (about $4.50) I got my 12 grams of oregano. Hooray! Incidentally they also carry SOYMILK. So happy!

We explored some more and found a candy store selling really good gummies of every kind. We headed back toward home, making one final stop to get the boys an ice cream cone (bribe for coming out on this excursion in the first place) and a birthday cake for Liam. We actually found a really tasty chocolate cake with real whipped cream filling.

They boys were great little walkers, being careful at every street and learning to cross the road fast to get out of the way of the cars that always have the right of way. I know how to find my way around a little bit, and we made it out and home with no mishaps.

Once home, I made pizza sauce from garlic, real tomatoes and the precious oregano, made the dough, grated a huge block of cheese, and we had ourselves a pizza party. Then cake and presents. Fortunately I had brought a small box of legos here from home (the only thing he really wants). They are available here but at 4 times the price--and I think they ate overpriced in the US. After dinner we played some fun spiderman games, had spiderman noisemakers and the boys captured the villain (dad). All in all I think it was a pretty good birthday for the little man.

Look at this adorable, happy little guy! I feel so lucky to get to be his mom and see this sweet face every day of my life.

He is so funny and so full of life. Always climbing and running and hopping. I love all his cute little sayings and his raspy little voice. What a little man. Love you, Liam!

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jet lag and kids don't mix

It's somewhere around 6 am. I don't really want to know exactly what time it is. Here is how night 2 is going.

9:00 kids bathed, in jammies, playing with legos. Not too riled up, nobody is running laps around the dining room table (that was last night). But they refuse to go to bed.
11:00 pm Paul gets kids in bed, reading books quietly.
11:30 pm feed baby, put him to bed in pack n play. Big kids fall asleep.
12:00 am go to sleep ourselves
12:30 am baby wakes up. Calm, soothe, back to bed. Protests pack n play. Wants my bed. Horrible habit to start but I need sleep. He can stay tonight, right?
1:30 am big kids are up! hooray! Not sleepy at all now! They are out playing legos. Liam falls and somehow crashes on his bag of legos? At which point i make him go to his room to play so he doesn't break anything in the house. Luke goes to sleep.
2:00 am baby is awake! Fun! Jolly! Wants food...I try pack n play again but it's a no go so he's back next to me. Justifying: he'll sleep longer this way, right? Actually no. He fusses every few minutes and only falls asleep when I put him on my tummy. Don't know what time it is but now I am fully awake. So i write a blog post. And feed the baby. And am still fully awake. Which is good, because then i hear luke crying in his sleep. And that means only one thing: we are in for a night terror session.

4:30? 5:00? Liam is somehow STILL awake when I go in to help Luke. Luke is sort of sleep crying/whining because he needs to go to the bathroom but can't wake up enough to get up and go. Sometimes if I get him up in time, he will just go potty and then go back to bed. No such luck here--the potty was unfamiliar and he wound himself up for a good hour's screaming. Wouldn't go, wouldn't go to bed, wouldn't let me go, etc. It's something that used to happen almost every night, but hasn't happened for probably a good year or so. Finally i get him to calm down and just go pee. He is so happy and huggy he wants me to snuggle in bed with him.

I get in between the boys (they are sharing a big bed) and they hug me and kiss me and just give all the cuddles a mom could want. They tell silly what if jokes and giggle and we have a lovely time. Luke reads us a little story and they snuggle into their covers. Hopefully they are asleep.

I think its 7 am now, but, like i said, I don't really want to know. Getting light out. And baby is getting squirmy and probably will wake up soon. I think it's just about daddy-baby bonding time, don't you?

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How to take your family on a 30 hour trip

We made it through the 3-leg trip and are finally here in tbilisi!

The run down of the trip:

We had a fabulous time at my brother's house in Chicago, staying there long enough to pack in lots of cousin play time as well as a trip to the local children's museum-- not to mention my brother's marionberry pie, my friend mari's cupcakes, and Chicago hot dogs. Awesome.

Our next adventure was the flight to Warsaw. Paul's parents flew into O'hare and we met up at the international terminal there. Our flight left at 10:55 p.m., which worked out great. Luke sat with Grandpa, and they both slept the whole way. Chick sat with me, and we managed the other boys pretty easily. Liam slept on the floor, and jude slept in a bassinet attached to the bulkhead in front of us.

As a side note, Lot airlines, while adequate, lacked a bit in the service area. I didn't get headphones. Our tv didn't work. And I ordered vegetarian/vegan meals due to the dairy allergy of mr. Jude, and they came 20 minutes after everyone else's, and with country crock margarine. Really? You couldn't have put some strawberry jam in there? The regular meals came with a kit kat for dessert but mine had not even so much as a starlight mint. But those minor things aside, we did indeed fly through the air at 35,000 feet at insane speeds and cross the atlantic ocean in relative comfort, and with sleeping kids to boot.

Next was our layover in Warsaw--an 8 hour beast. We contemplated going to a hotel room, but the boys had slept, so there was no way they were going to give us any rest there. We found a lovely little play area in the airport and set up camp there. They had a kid picnic table and a play house in an enclosed area. They opened up their backpacks and played there uninterrupted for the entire time. The ENTIRE time. That is some serious playing stamina. The worst part about Warsaw was the food. No real food. Only a couple of cafes selling packaged sandwiches (with butter and cheese, so i couldn't eat them, and the boys wouldn't touch them). My brother sent a couple of hammer bars with me, and they totally saved me. I also found some bagel chips at a magazine stand, and that was it for the day.

The last leg of the journey was the flight from warsaw to Tbilisi, leaving at 10:30 p.m. By now we were pretty hammered. There was no jetway, so instead of "gate checking" the stroller and carseat, we had to haul everything down a flight of stairs, onto a shuttle, and onto a small plane. I literally could not have done this without the perrins' help, and even then we needed some help from kind Polish strangers. Chick was carrying Liam (asleep) and the baby (not asleep), Yves handled all the tickets, passports, and Luke, and i had 4 carryons plus the stroller and carseat. Did i mention it was freezing and super windy? Yeah. It was fun.

Once on the plane, we had room to spread out, with plenty of empty seats on the plane. Liam went to sleep and so did Luke. Too bad Jude was a pill and wouldn't sleep or settle down. He did get a fan club of about 8 Polish men tho. He was wearing a fuzzy reindeer snowsuit and they kept calling him a little yeti. And they all gave me the chocolates from their meal. So that was nice. But i spent the whole time walking the aisle with him.

Finally we landed! At 5 am! And Paul met us and we were so happy to see him and be done traveling! we shoved all our bags into two taxis and drove to our new home and hauled all that luggage up the hill (more on that later) and unpacked enough to be able to go to bed and crashed.

All in all, it went well. No delays. No mishaps. No lost luggage. Or even damaged luggage. No inconsolable screaming children. So, better than i hoped for, but still one heck of a trip.

Stay tuned for next time: jet lag with kids, and other things you shouldn't try at home.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

bon voyage! with 3 kids!

i'm not going to feel bad about the fact that i haven't posted since before my 5 month old baby was born. we've have a crazy great few months with our little baby j. we've done surgery for pyloric stenosis and then dealt with his  dairy seafood nut egg allergies. and horrific reflux. and skin allergies and horrific diaper rash.  and then there were the holidays and travels and lots of laundry. and flu. and our paul in haiti for 3 weeks. but that is all behind us. 

and now we are off to the republic of georgia! yes! it's a country! by russia and turkey and armenia and azerbaijan. i'll even give you a link to wikipedia so you don't even have to look it up yourself. and here is a fun site about the city we'll be living in: tbilisi. it has mountains and quaint old balconied homes and a river and hot spring bath houses and oh so much to explore. 


after 5 years of planning and working toward a dissertation, paul is finally. getting. it. done.  he started planning this project while still attending classes, in baltimore, in 2006.  after several moves, 2 more kids, a war between russia and georgia, and 3 different research proposals, we are finally back to his original plan to study the health of internally displaced older adults in the republic of georgia. i'll get into more of that later. 

first, the journey! on saturday we will head to chicago for some time with my brother and his family, then meet up with paul's parents for the big flight to europe. after a layover in warsaw, we will have one more flight to take us to tbilisi. that's a lot of travel. don't you think it will be fun? don't you want to come too?

it's going to be great. and i'm going to blog. so add us to your google readers, folks. i promise to post.