Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today was a bad day for naps, but the up side is everybody went to sleep early. I had the luxury of an afternoon nap, though, myself, because Shpresa was here to watch the kids for a few hours.

With all the rain lately, it seems like we go to the park about once a week instead of twice a day like we used to. I've had to come up with some rainy-day indoor activities - al
though Valerie is pretty good at that herself. Lately her fun has been playing pretend games with her toy animals - she changes their diapers, bathes them, feeds them raisins and juice, puts them in our shoes and drives them around, and of course hides them and pretends she can't find them.

One thing I started is a home-made Advent Calendar - I decided just to start Dec 1. Every day I will cut out another little picture and tape it to the tree. I haven't drawn 25 things yet but I have about 2 weeks' worth here. I'll put up the manger on the 24th and add the Baby on the 25th (so, out of chronological order a little bit since the shepherds and wise men didn't come til AFTER he was born... oh well).

There's a lot of Christmas stuff appearing in shops around the city, but I noticed it's all secular - trees, lights, snowmen, reindeer, Santas, etc. - nothing referencing Jesus at all. I wanted to get a nativity set but I guess I'll have to make my own - actually the idea for this "calendar" came when I started thinking how to make my own creche. If/When our shipment comes we have some Christmas books in it that I can use as well.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Today and tomorrow are holidays here, celebrating Independence Day here in Albania. Here is a nice news article with a short digest version of Albanian history. So far things are pretty quiet in the city; a lot of people take the long weekend to visit family in other cities - much like Thanksgiving in the US. I guess tonight there will be more festivities.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Wow, I didn't mean to let a whole week elapse without posting. My goal was to match the October record of 16 posts - an average of one every other day! Don't think I'll make it this time.

Anyway, Terry is currently in Cambodia for a week, and I've re-initiated sleep training with G., which we never quite picked up again after the hiatus when he got sick. I'm in it for keeps this time, full throttle, and it's actually working.... so far.... just about 30 hours in so I shouldn't really start bragging yet. I'm doing the Baby Whisperer method again.

I do have to say last night wasn't easy, as he woke up MORE than he normally does (from 4:30 on it was every half hour... so I don't know that I actually slept much from that point on) but he's been going to sleep much faster. The other goal is nursing more in the day so he'll nurse less at night.

So, I'm going to call it a night even though I don't feel like I've written anything particularly interesting here...

Love to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers - probably most of you :-)

I'm feeling a little nostalgic as I think of everyone all over the US eating a ton of good food today, hopefully in the company of loved ones.

It's not a holiday here but we're getting together with some expat missionaries tonight for a(nother) meal.


Ok, so I never posted this but it got saved as a draft - I was going to write a long thankfulness list but right now I'm too tired so it will be short.

I am thankful for:
  • My babies
  • My husband
  • Loving family scattered around the world - Mom, Dad, Anita, Rosanne, Dot and Vern
  • A warm, safe place to live
  • The pleasure of reading a good book
  • The sky
(I know, all obvious and boring but hey - it's true)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Someday my Shqip will come

Today marks my 500th post on this blog, and TWO MONTHS in Albania!

Whence the pun in the post title? (Shqip is the Albanian word for the Albanian language; the q is pronounced like a shch).

When I was a little kid in Peru, people used to talk about their barrels coming. It was common practice to ship barrels of stuff I presume on an actual boat when moving overseas for what was then assumed to be a career-long or even life-long commitment to another country, another culture, another people. We even had barrels one time, I think sent down to the jungle from the mountains? I should check with my folks about this - all I remember is that we had some dolls and toys that came around Christmastime when I was 4 or 5, and they had undergone some water damage but were generally ok.

We are still waiting for our shipment to come, four boxes of stuff (mainly all my academic texts, plus about 50 books for Valerie, more of her toys, clothes for Gabriel to grow into, and sundry various other random things). It's all tied up in bureaucratic red tape as far as I can tell, mainly on the receiving end. Hopefully it will come before Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Early Thanksgiving

We had a really fun evening tonight with Phil and Mel, two of Terry's coworkers who arrived in Albania about a month after we did. Also present for the festivities was Kristela, an Albanian coworker who lived in the US for 5 years and was waxing nostalgic for an American holiday.

Phil and Mel (I got the impression it was mostly Mel!) knocked themselves out with some fantastic holiday fare including candied nuts, a ball of goat cheese encrusted with cranberries and more nuts, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, baklava, pumpkin pie, carrots stewed in the turkey broth, gravy, and of course turkey. Christmas music played in the background and after eating we watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Valerie liked watching Snoopy clown around with Woodstock, but was VERY VERY UPSET when Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie Brown.

I didn't really grow up with Thanksgiving being a big part of our family life but it was still fun to hang out and eat good food and participate in a long-standing expat tradition - recreating Thanksgiving overseas.

Phil very kindly took this picture of the four of us, a rarity!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

rainy day (bien shi)

(Today was actually very bright and sunny; I uploaded this picture a few days ago and scheduled it to post on Saturday in order to spread out my posts so you wouldn't get 2-3 in one day.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ku eshte dhemb?

... and this morning, no tooth. So weird.

Here is a picture of our ugly, skinny baby.
He's going to hate me for this someday...!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Gabriel cut his first tooth today! He's been drooling incessantly for awhile now, soaking through multiple bibs every day and chewing on his little fisties. So it wasn't a huge surprise. Just a fun one :-) He is not quite 4.5 months old today.

(Just for comparison's sake, Valerie was almost exactly 6 months old when she cut her first tooth, exactly two years ago. Already he's trying to one-up her!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Right Now

Valerie is walking around holding various books saying "Val-Val reading - miss page!" Gabriel is kicking around in the stroller grinning every time I look at him, and Terry is in Kosovo possibly having breakfast.

Valerie's favorite toys of the moment are:
  • a little accordion thing I folded out of paper, she calls it her "cute baby piece [of] paper"
  • a brush for cleaning the floor shaped like a lady bug
  • a green paper bag full of clothes for Gabriel (dump them out then put them back in)
  • a mop
Gabriel has learned to roll over!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hands full

Sorry things have been a little slow around here again; a little virus has been running through our household, starting with Terry, then on to me, Valerie, and finally Gabriel. Valerie had the lightest touch, with only a few hours of fever. Gabriel had me a little panicked when his temperature went up to 101 degrees F and he threw up. I know now it's not that high but at the moment I was scared - mostly because my cell phone went through the wash last Saturday and we haven't managed to get it replaced yet, and I couldn't reach Terry on Skype. I thought I was going to have to haul both kids to the clinic by myself, right at Valerie's naptime... I did reach Terry, finally, and he came home and I called the doctor on Terry's cell. The doctor is American and actually attends the same church we do and was very reassuring; he said just to watch and wait. We have some infant Tylenol that we brought from the US and we gave him that with the doctor's ok, and sometime during the night his fever went away. He was still a little fussy the next day but now is fine.

So, before that hiatus, sleep training was getting off to a good start. We'll resume tonight.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Pa Visa

Tonight we were treated to a gorgeous fireworks display, which we had a fabulous view of from our 10th story apartment. "Ne Europe Pa Visa!" were the signs all over the city - as of today, Albanians can travel throughout Europe without visas. Shqiperia is proud.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Four months!

Gabriel is 4 months old today!

People here LOVE him. He's precisely the kind of baby people love anyway - chubby, happy, friendly - but there seems to be a culture of baby-appreciation here that is particularly effusive and demonstrative. Every time we go out, at least one person will stop to admire him and say "Mashalla," a word of blessing. It is not unusual for random people - usually young women - to ask me for permission to kiss his fat little cheek.

Valerie gets attention too - everyone wants to pinch her cheek (you can imagine she loves THAT! Our little agoraphobe/xenophobe/misanthrope...) - but Gabriel elicits shrieks (I'm not exaggerating) of admiration from older women and even indulgent smiles from hip young teens. And he eats it up! He smiles and laughs at everybody, and loves getting passed around at Terry's office.

He really likes sitting up and looking around, and prefers to ride in the Bjorn facing out. I think soon he is going to start rolling over. I don't know if we are giving him enough tummy time - I do it when I remember to.

And in honor of his 4-month mark, we are officially starting sleep training tonight. Wish us luck...!!!

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted much this week. The EU went off Daylight Savings Time last Sunday, and consequently Valerie's been waking up at 5 a.m. all week... compounded with Gabriel's fondness for night waking (every 2 hours until 3 or 4 a.m. and then hourly... or more, depending how gassy he is) plus Terry's insomnia - it's been kind of a rough week. But sunny! So thankful for that.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Two weekends ago we took a family excursion up Mt. Dajti, which has a national park overlooking Tirana. The trip via cable car (do check out the link - there are some fantastic photos) was exhilerating - it seemed to go on forever as we went up and up and up. Valerie was fascinated watching the cable cars coming down the opposite direction (she said "bye" to each one in turn). Terry enjoyed the panoramic view of Tirana and the surrounding area, and I was entranced by the glimpses below into intimate small spaces - olive groves, terraced fields, old crumbling farmhouses with tiled roofs, villas with grapevines, and rampant new construction of apartment buildings going up in strategically beautiful locations. Gabriel didn't seem to notice anything particularly unusual happening from his vantage point in the Bjorn. :-)

The cable car takes you to a beautiful national park that also has a posh (but apparently inexpensive) hotel and nice restaurant. There was a big playground in pretty good shape and horses that you could pay to ride around on. It was cold up there so I kept Gabriel close. A young woman came up to me and asked permission to kiss him on the cheek! (He is very popular in Albania, it won't be long until they name a city park after him I am sure!)

We also saw old military bunkers built into the hillside in the forest, a relic of times past.

If you are ever in Tirana, I highly recommend the excursion.