Saturday, April 30, 2011

Valerie pics

Playing on the balcony
Another attempt at an Easter photo: this is the dress she wore to church. I realize that her outfits aren't usually very well coordinated, this is because I let her pick out her own clothes. The pink and purple striped shirt is her favorite. However, I did use some persuasion to get her to wear the dress.
The Tuesday after Easter we did get around to coloring some eggs, sort of. I boiled four eggs and Valerie colored two of them with markers. We didn't really make a very big deal out of it but it was fun and kept her occupied for a quarter of an hour while I made dinner!
More Big Park buttercups - can't get enough!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A bunch of pictures

Again, in lieu of a real post, a bunch of pictures for our family fan club :-) I'm trying to catch up with myself now that Terry is back from Mongolia and Shpresa is back from Greece (family trip over Easter holiday). Just starting to come out of the headachy fog of sleeplessness, and able to use Valerie's nap time for something other than cleaning and cooking. (As these pictures load, I'll be working on sorting out more Albanian noun forms - masculine and feminine, singular and plural, nominative and accusative, definite and indefinite.) More pictures coming soon as I've been taking lots! I also put a bunch of them on Facebook so you can check in there if you're my FB friend!
Family self-portrait in reflective window

Cafe in the park with all the buttercups. Buttercups and a macchiato! Bliss!

Valerie looooooved playing "chase" with this little boy! He didn't try to talk to her or get in her space at all so they got along really well!

We have this booster seat on loan for Gabriel but Valerie likes to sit in it with her Baby. Here she's giving Baby a drink of her water - it was so cute.

I predict he'll be walking by 12 months!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter weekend

Oh rare and glorious day - both kids are napping at the same time... and I will use this rare and glorious moment to download some pictures from our picnic in the park today and post them here for you. That's how much I love you, dear readers all!
I had this notion to take Easter pictures of the kids in this meadow of buttercups (a scant 10-15 minute walk from our house - it's near the big artificial lake), but I didn't have the energy to try to wrangle Valerie into a pretty dress. I don't think I'll ever be able to match the over-the-top adorableness of Valerie's first Easter pictures but I'm still glad we went. Valerie was happy just sitting in the grass looking at all the flowers.
Here (above), she wanted me to sing "We Thank You God" (what we usually sing for Grace before meals), adding many more verses thanking God for pretty much everything I could think of - the flower and trees, birds and sunshine, etc. etc. That's why she's clapping, too (she always claps after we sing).
Gabriel kept trying to eat the flowers.
Happy Easter, everybody!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bits and Pieces

It's spring in Tirana, and the trees have burst forth in lovely shades of bright, pale green. Window sills are filling up with flower pots and the parks with little children.


Election season is upon us as well, and I saw both major candidates out schmoozing last Monday on my way back from my Shqip lesson. They are both very tall men, and that's about all I could tell you about them.


The other day I was out with the kids and I very conscientiously threw an empty chips bag into one of those little trash bins that hang up on a stand, but just as I dropped it in I saw that the bottom of the trash can had rusted out and my trash fell on the ground.

Cute toddler detail: Valerie refers to all trash as "yucky." She likes to peer under the stairs next door to our building and admire "all that yucky!" She's also learned to call it "pis" ("yucky" in Albanian).


After a balloon popped, Valerie said "All pieces fell off balloon."
When I was lying on the couch tossing a ball up into the air and then catching it, she said "Ball fall off hands, ball fall off ceiling."
When she lifted her feet off the floor while sitting in a chair, she said "Feet fall off floor."


A couple days ago Valerie dropped a doll over the edge of the balcony, and it fell down to the balcony below which juts out for a good several yards beyond ours. When I saw the neighbor's little girl playing there, I had a brainstorm for getting it back - I lowered a little plastic basket on a long piece of yarn and asked her to put the doll in. She did, and I pulled it up easily! I sent her down an orange, and she sent up a little toy camel (but I think she might want it back). Valerie was thrilled with the whole operation, so now we have the little basket permanently installed on the balcony. I hung the string over a laundry line and we now play "Baby Up and Down" many, many times a day.


I've often had people wonder where we're from. One time a woman came up to me and asked "Asia???" Others have thought I'm Turkish. Apparently we don't look like what people think Americans look like!

Oh, and apparently we've been here exactly seven months today. Wow!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a random assortment of photos

Consider it a basket of Easter candy, from me to you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Valerie update (Updated)

Valerie and Terry enjoying a picnic on the balcony

Speaking of language learning, Valerie has all of a sudden started using a lot of words in Shqip! She likes to play a language-learning computer game Terry got, that uses pictures to teach vocabulary and some basic phrases. I discovered months ago that she could recognize most of the words but it took until now for her to start producing them. So far she's been using:
  • domate = tomato
  • vezë = eggs
  • oriz = rice
  • patate = potato
  • tas = bowl
  • e verdhe = yellow
  • thikë = knife
  • pirun = fork
  • anijë = ship/boat
  • and all the numbers to 12 (an interesting tidbit - she doesn't say "seven" in English, whenever she's counting she goes "six, m-mm, eight..." etc. but she can say "shtatë" in Albanian just fine)
  • (Updated to add): Bukë = bread
  • ujë = water
  • qumësht = milk
  • pis = yucky
She's turning into a little chatterbox, too! At bedtime she'll spend some 20 minutes or so just talking about the day, and it's fun to hear from her perspective what stood out as important or made an impression. Like one day Gabriel lost his balance while cruising around the coffee table, and fell on his bottom and cried. He pulled a toy Noah's Ark down with him and it made a loud noise. For days afterwards she'd bring it up at random moments - "Blablirl fall down Noah's Ark."

She's a bundle of energy. She has also started skipping her afternoon nap from time to time - for a couple of weeks there, she only napped every other day. Right now she's on a daily-nap streak but I'm not sure how long it will last. The only upside is that she does fall asleep a little earlier on no-nap days.

I can't believe she's almost THREE!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Terry was supposed to go to Mongolia again this week, but due to a mix-up with his booking and ticket he ended up coming back home. It's nice to have him back so quick :-).

I've been wanting to post these pictures for a while now; the suit jacket is one Terry bought in the local market here for a trip to Kosovo. He went to accept an award on behalf of WV for their "Kids for Peace" program there. Doesn't he look snazzy!

I also wanted to brag a bit about his language ability - after visiting here for a month, someone told him he already spoke Shqip better than some expats they knew who'd lived here five years! I don't know where he gets the self-discipline to do so, but he studies for at least a half hour every night before bed, and has been doing so ever since we decided we were going to come here. He has several grammar books and some audio lessons, but lately he's been reading through children's books with a dictionary. His grammar and vocabulary far surpass mine even though I've been taking weekly lessons and he hasn't taken a single formal lesson at all. (My accent is better though!) I'm always impressed by what he can understand and say.

Now I just have to get him to model the pants that match the jacket!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Sorry I haven't really posted anything this week - I'll let Valerie tell you about it:

"Val-Val all wet, throw up in bed, Val-Val so sick. Poor Val-Val. Eat food Mama Dada on couch.* All that yucky."

Four times in ten days.

Terry finally persuaded me to take her to the doctor, who confirmed my suspicion that she has a virus, post-nasal drip --> coughing at night --> triggers throwing up sometimes. All we can do is wait it out and give her herbal tea with honey in it at bedtime (which she rejected last night). However, she went on to sleep soundly for 12 hours! With very little coughing! So that was a huge improvement. Gabriel is sleeping a little better too, after two weeks of waking every 2 hours (give or take an hour) through the night.

I'm just resigned to feeling mind-numbingly tired for, oh, another year or so, probably.

*When she asked for food after the second episode, we gave her bread and water. It was 11 p.m. and we kept the lights low so it made a big impression on her mind.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More Firsts

I'm calling it: Gabriel crawled for real for the first time today! Slowly and painstakingly, but definitely forward movement with a left-right-left rhythm. Also? He's started saying "Mama," and it really seems to be with meaning. Soooooo lovely.

I also forgot to mention in his 9-month post, that he's learning to manipulate his environment. He can shake a rattling toy for the pleasure of hearing the sound, and plays peek-a-boo with the curtain in his room. Also, long gone are the days of easy substitution when I wanted to distract him from something. He's very aware of what toys are around that he can see and knows which ones he wants. He can keep track of what I take away from him and watches where I put it. It's cool to see him learning but sometimes a little inconvenient!

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Gabriel is nine months old today! Let's see, he's working on crawling, pulling himself up to standing in his crib, and cutting FOUR new teeth at the same time - all across the top front. He's been sick again this week, coughing and stuffy nose had a slight fever on Monday. (I think it's the same thing we all seem to have right now.) So that's made him very slightly cranky.

I haven't done much with introducing new foods, as he proved to have an allergy to teething tablets, and then we found that he throws up every time he eats yoghurt. Egg yolks seem to be a problem too. But he loves potatoes, carrots, avocados, and bread, so that's mostly what he eats, oh yeah, and lots and lots of bananas with some rice cereal thrown in there for good measure. He would love to feed himself if he could, he always wants to hold the spoon and put it in his own mouth. And then he drops it on the floor.

Also, he's still nursing about 4x a day and 3 or more times at night because he's been sick so often.

It seems like he can distinguish Shqip from English and Spanish now - well, I don't know if he can distinguish English from Spanish because I speak both to him, but the other day when I started talking to him in Shqip he kept turning around to look at the door, like he expected Shpresa to walk in! That was cool :-)

I'd write more but I'm really tired.

Oh - p.s. - in the post below, the top picture is Gabriel and the bottom one is Valerie. When I put them side by side they do look quite different to me, and Terry thinks they look nothing alike, but when I first saw that photo of Gabriel I thought "oh, I didn't realize Valerie's walker had the same fabric as the one we have now?" and then realized it WAS the walker we have now, and it was Gabriel, not Valerie! So then I had to pull up the old picture of Valerie to compare the two.

Monday, April 04, 2011

comparisons 6: another double take

Can you tell which one is Valerie and which one is Gabriel?