July 31, 2010


Prior to moving, Rocket Man and I made a few electronics purchases. He eats toast every single morning as part of a balanced breakfast. Therefore, we (and by we I mean mostly me) perused the internets in search of a 220V toaster. Why? Um, because we'd really rather not have to use a transformer with our own toaster.

Obviously we would not do this with everything. The fact that he uses it every morning weighed heavily in the pro buy-a-toaster column. We would have purchased it at the local (ish...it was almost an hour from our house, but still in "Houston") East/West store, where all sorts of 220V things are sold, but the prices there are through the roof.

One thing that can be said about the local store is that everything we've purchased there actually works as it should...

...as long as the slow-cooker we bought there works...haven't tried it yet.


We're unpacking boxes last week and we open the toaster - you know, the one that we paid more than normal for and had shipped to our house, etc. etc., and the Nanny frowns and shows me the cord.

Um, yeah. It's not 220V. Not even close. Our families back home could make use of it, sure, but not us.

     Dear toaster,
          Your plug us unacceptable to me.

Today we open up our 220V vacuum. The one that says 240V on the box, but says 220V-240V on the appliance itself. We have to use an adapter plug so that it will fit into the outlet, but that is no big thing.


It does say 220V-240V.


It turns on for about two seconds, makes a little pop (and there might have been a spark) and that is it.

     Dear vacuum,
          Your behavior is unacceptable to me.

At least the vacuum was not pricey. Then again, perhaps that is the problem.

Our plans for the morning? Go to a local appliance store to get a bread-maker and toaster and to at least take a look at the options for vacuums. The only concerning part is that usually vacuums over this-a-way aren't all that great, as evidenced by the one currently in our abode.


My child went to bed a little after 8:30.

Rocket Man and I unpacked and put away all of the bathroom items after that.

At 10:15 we participated in the general get-ready-for-bed routine.

He fell asleep by 10:30.

I did not do so until well after midnight.

Miss Thing woke up at 3:20.

Now?  She is crying incessantly about everything.

I am so sure this is going to be a great day.

July 30, 2010


When we first arrived here on Sakhalin, most of the families with children were M.I.A.  We had a few toys for Miss Thing, but only those that would fit into a tiny carry-on, so not that many really.  Boredom was a pretty major factor in casa crazypants.  Add to that the fact that we were fairly loopy due to the jet-lag and, well, it was a bit rough.

Thankfully, there is a playroom up at the community center that we could head off to whenever we just needed to get out of the house.  Right beside it is the gymnasium.  One Saturday after eating brunch in the restaurant, we headed to the gym to play basketball.

Miss Thing was OH SO EXCITED!  She threw the ball and she kicked the ball and she chased the ball.  Then, after she finally got the ball ("I get it!  I get it!"), she would run and shoot the ball.  This is an activity she still enjoys (although now if Daddy is there she tells him that she needs help to shoot so that he will pick her up) and we play from time to time.

This video was taken the second time we ever went to play basketball, one day after her second birthday.  She is much better at catching the ball on the roll these days, but she enjoys herself just as much now as she did then.

Pop-Pop Giggles

Just before the final race-to-the-finish of moving, Pop-Pop and Grammie came down to visit us in Houston. They came over Easter weekend. We had plenty of fun and they assisted us with some outdoor-type cleaning as well. The cars were washed...a little early, since we didn't sell them until the first week of May, but at least the insides were super clean. Grammie and I cleaned up some outdoor play things that had been lent to us by some friends. Note to all: we miss everyone!

That afternoon, once all cleaning had been accomplished and Miss Thing had taken her nap (and I had successfully not let anyone know I was pregnant, cause boy howdy did I feel awful by that point), Miss Thing and her Pop-Pop had some fun.

Why is my child naked? I have not a clue. I believe it is just because she wanted to be and therefore: naked. Anyway, the following is a fabulous video of the two of them playing:

As you can see, it doesn't take much to get her going!

July 23, 2010


I just logged into the email associated with this blog and saw that my one unread message was "Your friends think you need a vacation."

Oh really?

Who am I to argue with that one? I'd love to go see somewhere new. Of course there is that small thing of needing to plan something...


Thanks to a friend and my nanny the kitchen is about 95% unpacked and put away. The other 5%? In a box somewhere...probably one labeled "Bedding; Master Bedroom" or something equally silly.


We have found and unpacked a large number of the chica's toys and this means that for the first time in a looooooooooooong time she came downstairs and wanted to play instead of immediately attempting to turn on the television.

Small improvements, people.


I have already had a request this morning to "Open boxes, Mama?"


Rocket Man didn't come home last night until 10pm.

I am assuming it was just a great day at work.

In addition, he left his badge here yesterday morning, so he called me at 9-something (I was in bed) to ask how to get into our neighborhood without it. [There is an entry gate and you show your badge to get in quickly and easily.]

He called back about seven minutes later to tell me his keys are on his badge, so please leave the door unlocked.

So yeah, I didn't go to bed until he got home.


While the kitchen is mostly done the rest of my house is a disaster.



Miss Thing enjoys playing with the rolls of tape, small level and assorted screwdrivers lying (for now) on the table beside me:

"I do it."

"This one's better."

"I fix it."

"Try again."

"Mama? I working, Mama"

"You working, Mama - onna computer."

"Bracelets! I wear them! I got all the bracelets, Mama" [tape rolls]

"This one makes one bracelet, this one makes two bracelets, this one makes three bracelets, this one makes four bracelets, this one makes five bracelets!"

[Followed immediately by counting the SAME items over again:]

One, two, five, six, SEVEN BRACELETS!!!"

[She likes to keep us guessing.]


Now apparently there is a Mama screwdriver and a bunch of kid screwdrivers. The babies are looking for their Mama; she is giving the babies kisses and so forth.

Screwdrivers; who knew?


That is it for this morning. To recap, my child is entertained by the stuff from boxes; our house is a disaster. Oh, and she apparently has an imagination.

July 22, 2010


...to my own little corner of Hades.*

The temps are down and the hinges won't singe you, but man oh man is it a torturous place to be.**

*Please do not misunderstand; we will eventually be glad to have our things...I'd say about a week or two after we've finally unpacked and found a place for it all. Until then, it is a rather unpleasant experience as any of you who have recently packed up your entire house and then unpacked it a few months later are well aware.

Unless of course you are a two-year-old. Then it is mighty exciting. And causes you to exclaim about boxes to everyone you see. Also, it may cause you to demand that boxes be opened right before bed as if we should continue doing so throughout the night. You might also deem it necessary to peer out the window in search of more "peoples" on a "big truck, Mama" to bring in more boxes...as if it will now happen every day just to entertain you. Let's not forget the fact that it is exceptionally overwhelming to open boxes with your own toys and things in them and this makes for a grumpy little kid.

So, yeah. The stuff is here. Whenever we get it all sorted, I'll finally post some photos of what our place really looks like. You know, now that it will feel more like our own.

**For those of you who feel inclined to declare that it is our own fault that we have to unpack again, since it is we who chose this life, please note that there is a bit of sarcasm in this post. Also of note is the fact that we are well aware of our choices because contrary to popular belief we do think them through and yes this is one of the things we deal with. It is absolutely worth it. It does not mean that we have to love this part.

July 20, 2010

Ready, Set, Go!

Our Saturdays are usually pretty routine. We wake up and lounge around for a little while. Miss Thing watches some Pooh Bear (bae-ah) or Mickey (never woulda guessed, eh?) while I check things out online and attempt to wake myself up. This is especially true of late since our somewhat good sleeper has become a not-so-great one and it is kinda killing me.

Rocket Man usually wakes and does his morning routine, which consists of reading, tea and work email. Again, imagine that.

We usually try to talk to my parents on the webcam for a little bit (man does that thing suck away the internets...we pay by usage here) and then anytime after 11:00 we head up to the community center for brunch.

Rocket Man and I eat breakfast and Miss Thing almost always chooses "Peanut Butter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" for her meal.

Then? Oh, then. We do what Miss Thing has termed: Play Basketballs.

At first this actually meant going into the gym to shoot some hoops...Rocket Man and I for reals and Miss Thing for pretend. She's pretty good for a two-year-old.

Nowadays "Play basketballs" just means go to the playroom and RUN with Daddy.

Below are two videos. The first is the two of them running around the ping-pong tables (hello, corner, please take my eyes out) while Miss Thing squeals. Usually she yells "Let's run!" the whole way.

Video two is one of my favorite because she tells Daddy to "Ready, set, go!" and then enjoys his running before she realizes that she should run too, and her facial expressions are priceless.


July 18, 2010

Monopoly Money!

Technically, they are Roubles. Russian money. But seriously, folks...it's pretty much like playing monopoly. I mean, you can do the conversions in your head...and go crazy with that, or you can just purchase what you need and be done with it.

I believe the current exchange rate requires something along the lines of dividing the Roubles by 30 to figure out how many U.S. Dollars it is.

Um, yeah.

So you can see how I want to constantly do that while shopping.

Okay, so I do the math on imported items, since they tend to cost quite a bit more than your Russian items. Examples include all of your European imports like Spanish olives and Italian olive oil (holy smokes is that expensive) and things like Peanut Butter (I believe it was nine dollars for a smaller than the small U.S. jar size). Yes of course we buy some of those things because they don't have them in a Russian brand...that I know of anyway.

I would like to tell you here that the canned peas here on Sakhalin? They are WAY better than those at home. Like, wow. As in they actually taste good. We all gobble them up and yum. And the fresh fruit? Mmmmmmm.....

Moving on to the real point of this post, the money.

The photo above shows a five-, two- and one-Rouble coin as well as a fifty- and ten-Kopeck coin.  One Rouble is divided into 100 Kopecks and apparently the one- and five-Kopeck coins exist, but I have yet to come across them.  There also exists a ten-Rouble coin, which I have had (but of course spent) and it looks a lot like the euro coins in that it has a center circle of silver and an outer ring of gold.

The Rouble coins have a two-headed bird on them (I know not which kind nor what it stands for) and the Kopecks have an image of Saint George slaying the dragon.  This is supposedly where the Kopeck got its name, since he is holding a spear and 'kopye' is spear in Russian.

The bills...banknotes...are different from most I've seen because they do not have photos of important people on them.  Instead they show photos of landmarks and statues (granted, some of those are people) throughout the country.  There are bills for five, ten, fifty, one hundred, five hundred, one thousand and five thousand Roubles.  I have never seen the five-Rouble note and I've heard and read that it is not all that common because it has been replaced by the coin.  The other that I have yet to come across is the five thousand-Rouble bill; this is not because I have no need for it (things cost a lot here and thousands of Roubles are a normal expenditure in the grocery store) but simply because it appears that the ATMs do not give them out.

The ten-Rouble note is a brownish-green (or greenish-brown?) color.  The front shows a bridge crossing the Yenisey River in Krasnoyarsk, a major Siberian city.  The river ranks fifth for longest world-wide and comes from the Arctic, which makes me think that I would never want to be in it.  The back side of the bill shows the Krasnoyarsk dam which is the city's major landmark.

The fifty-Rouble bill has a museum theme.  It gets the blue treatment, with a hint of purple thrown in for good measure.  The front displays a sculpture found at the foot of a Rostral Column located at the former Stock Exchange in St. Petersburg.  Apparently those columns were oil-fired navigation beacons in the 1800s.  Imagine that.  The goldish building behind the sculpture is the Petropavlovsk Fortress which was established by Peter the Great and eventually became a jail for political prisoners.  Today?  'Tis a museum, of course.  The back shows the entire Stock Exchange building, also a museum - that of a naval variety.

This red-brown tinted bill shows another sculpture, a horse-drawn chariot of Apollo (god of Arts).  This one is located on the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow   Once again, the back shows the whole building.

I think that this is one of the best-looking bills.  As you can see, it is the five-hundred-Rouble note and it is done in violet with a hint of blue.  The front pays homage to Peter the Great with an image of a monument built in his honor as well as that of the sea terminal in Arkhangelsk (in the north) complete with sailing ship.  Since he ordered the creation of a state shipyard there in 1693, this is appropriate.  The back does not follow suit like the last two bills; it shows the Solovestky Monastery founded in the 15th century.  It used to be a major spiritual center and pilgrimage destination and is now a World Heritage site and museum.  It once served as a prison camp.  Today, it is more peaceful with a few monks living there.

This one is also rather nice to look at.  One-Thousand-Roubles is a blue-green that reminds me of tropical waters.  The front displays a monument to Yaroslav the Wise...a guy I've not heard of.  He founded the city of Yaroslavl (imagine that) located 250 km from Moscow.  He apparently reigned for quite some time and managed to turn Russia into a cultural and military power in the 11th century.  You can see a chapel of the city's Kremlin behind him and the reverse side shows his Church of St. John the Precursor.

The five-thousand-Rouble note (sorry for the lack of photo) is an orange-ish red color and pays homage to Nikilay Muravyov-Amursky.  He was a Russian statesman and diplomat in the 19th century.  He played a major role in the expansion of the Russian Empire towards the Pacific Rim.  The monument to him is located in Khabarovsk, a major city in the Russian Far-East...so as close to where we are as you can get via the moolah I suppose.  The reverse shows the bridge in the same city that carries the Trans-Siberian Railway across the Amur River.

So there you have it, a lesson of sorts in Russian money and a bit of history as well.  I have some South Korean dinero and will eventually have some Japanese as well methinks, so perhaps we can compare and contrast.  Hope I didn't bore you!

July 9, 2010

This message goes out to you.

To whomever called my house today at four a.m.:

To my daughter, who got up today well before six a.m.:

To my husband, who told me at nine p.m. the night before he left that he would be gone for an entire week:

Your timing is most unappreciated.

July 5, 2010


We've been in Seoul since Thursday evening. I had to come here for some medical testing (for the pregnancy) that they cannot perform in Yuzhno. I plan to blog a bit about our time here, but until then here is a little taste of what we've been up to: