Monday, June 27, 2011


Wow, I really meant to post more last week! I got a kick of energy for doing dissertation work, and Valerie went on a nap strike, so those two factors together meant less blogging.

One of the really fun things about Ohrid was all the boats. I don't even have pictures of all the different kinds of boats we saw; this is the boat we took across the lake to Sveti Naum.

Valerie was completely thrilled watching people going for rides on the rowboats in the river near the monastery. She talked about it incessantly and started playing "boat" with her little bear in a basket, with spoons for oars. I will still find her lining up her stuffed animals in a shoe box, all leaning over the edge to look down into the pretend water to look at fish!

I don't have a picture of the smaller boat we went on for a tour around the water's edge, just 20 minutes along the shoreline, but thoroughly enjoyable as perhaps you can tell from my facial expression in this picture.
I developed a little obsession with photographing this boat, which we could see from the balcony of our hotel room. The colors of the water were just so beautiful, and the grapevine so iconic. Our hosts would sometimes breakfast underneath it.
This shot reminded me of a quote from The Princess Bride: "probably some local fisherman out for a cruise... at night... through eel-infested waters" (I did actually see an eel swimming through the water one day, and there were eels on some restaurant menus, but I don't think they were of the shrieking variety).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This is Car Samoil's castle overlooking the city of Ohrid. If you know me at all... I had a princess fetish since I was four years old and had a story book about Maid Maleen. In early elementary school I read every copy of Cinderella I could find. In high school my friends and I dressed up in medieval costumes and had a Tolkien club. In college, my friends and I dressed up in medieval costumes and called ourselves the Court of Logres.
Somehow, as my social conscience awoke more fully in my early 20s, I started to lose interest in this romanticized notion of medieval times and stories, but there's still a part of me that enjoys it (I have, after all, watched the extended Lord of the Rings DVD trilogy at least 7 times...) If nothing else, it's exciting to imagine what life was like when this castle was built, and to try to picture what the surrounding countryside might have looked like and what this edifice meant to the people who lived there. Old stuff is cool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A little stuck

I hardly know what to post about since we've been doing so much the past few weeks - what would you like to hear more about? The kids? Our trips? Life in Tirana? My dissertation? My knitting? (Yes, I do have a project on the needles... suffering from second sock syndrome)

I will confess that I was in a bit of a doldrums since losing my wallet on the way to Vlora, but our time in Macedonia seems to have cured me - at least for the moment! Ohrid is absolutely beautiful, but at the same time being there reminded me of how much we've acclimated here in Tirana. It was disorienting to understand nothing of the language (Macedonian), and to have to keep calculating currency conversions in our heads. Every time we heard a snippet of Shqip in passing (apparently some 20% of Macedonians speak Albanian) it was like light bulbs going on - a sense of understanding and relief. In that sense it was nice to come home as well, at the end of our trip.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Taste of Ohrid

moonrise over the lake (photo taken from our hotel balcony)

castle overlooking the old part of the city - just at the bottom of the picture you can see a bit of the old amphitheater as well (behind the solar panels!)

Just a few pictures - we took about 130 so this is just a tiny sample...

Gabriel (and Valerie) loved playing on the balcony of our hotel room overlooking the lake. Look who got his hair trimmed before we left!

G took a six out of eight naps in the sling. I got a good workout! (And yes, his legs are slathered in sunscreen!)
We took a short boat ride around the shore near the old part of the city (more pictures of that coming soon, I promise)
And of course, the castle! Very, very cool.
We took a longer boat ride to Sveti Naum and wore everybody out!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

space holder

Some cute pics, sort of apropos of nothing.

We're leaving tomorrow morning for a family vacation at Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. It will be a new country for all four of us! I've been wanting to go there ever since I saw pictures a friend posted on Facebook about the time we were deciding where to go for Terry's sabbatical/leave.

So probably no new posts in the coming week but I'm sure lots of new pictures when we get back! I haven't even finished telling you about Vlora yet!

Well, I'll catch up someday - and if not, it's just blogging after all.

Have a great week everybody!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Offspring updates

Often, out of the blue, Valerie will look at me all seriously and say, "Saw Gabriel sitting in the high chair." Oh the trauma of sharing life with a younger sibling! (I say this with love, Rosanne and Anita!) She reminds me of the old lady in Cold Comfort Farm who "saw something nasty in the woodshed" when she was a little girl and never let anyone forget it; in fact, she used this phrase to browbeat people into doing whatever she wanted them to do. We got the high chair for Gabriel but I'd say Valerie uses it about 3x as often as he does. If he so much as touches it when she's in it, screaming banshees come flying out of the woodwork. Teaching her to share is probably our parenting challenge #1 these days.

On the other hand, sometimes apropos of nothing she will run over to Gabriel and throw a toy in his lap and say "Good job sharing with Gabriel!" so something, at least, is sinking in.

Valerie is also learning to spell! We use the alphabet cards Anita gave us, or the wooden blocks, or alphabet puzzle, or old-fashioned pen and paper, and I write words as she dictates. Then I'll ask her to identify which one says "Mama," which says "sun," etc. She knows Val-Val, mama, Dada, sun, and cat. And, randomly, hole. She can pick out the letters to spell Val, mama, and sun by herself!


Gabriel is so full of laughter! We should have named him Isaac maybe! He laughs and chortles when he gets the hiccups, one time so hard that he actually spit up. Fake-sneezing is another thing he finds hilarious.

He's also getting more and more interested in doing and exploring. It's pretty hard now to distract or divert him from something he wants to play with, which makes that whole "sharing" thing that much more urgent. Electrical outlets, plugs, appliances, drains... lovely baby toys, from his perspective!

He's learned to shake his head "no" and to wave hello and goodbye as well. And he's really good at peek-a-boo - yet another completely hilarious game as well! (I guess his propensity for laughter strikes me particularly because Valerie is so serious. Even when she's having a lot of fun she often doesn't even crack a smile. Although it is possible to make her helpless with laughter, you just have to hit it pitch-perfectly. Playing catch with a beanie baby monkey and failing to catch it every time is a good one.)

I may have to cut his hair after his birthday, since it's long enough to get in his eyes and I don't think I can get away with clipping it back like I used to Valerie's.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

11 months!

Gabriel is 11 months old today! I feel like he is turning from a baby into a little boy right before my eyes. My brain is so foggy right now I can't even remember what I was going to write about this month. He's eating lots, getting quite heavy, and just on the verge of taking his first steps. He cut his seventh tooth while we were in Vlora. He's a total flirt - loves playing peek-a-boo with complete strangers everywhere we go and gets sad if people don't respond to him. People here think he looks very Asian. Sometimes I can't believe this gorgeous, bright-eyed little baby boy is mine. I'm so lucky to be your mama!

Vlora: Just a Taste!

Here are a few pictures of Vlora to whet your appetite - truly a seaside vacation city of merit. I'll post more pictures here in the coming week and on Facebook as well, but here's a small tasting to give you an idea of what it was like.
view from our hotel balcony (above: looking right; below: looking left)
Terry had a nine-day work trip there, and we went for about four days over the weekend (Thurs-Mon). He was off Saturday and Sunday so we had a chance to explore the surrounding area a bit. Crystalline azure seas, fresh fish, and not quite the start of vacation/tourist season yet.
walking to the shore from Orikum, south of Vlora
Terry comes back tonight and then is taking a few days off to rest at home before we go on vacation next week, so more travel coming soon.
Valerie standing on a deck chair throwing rocks into the sea

Monday, June 06, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to Dot and Vern!

(I took this picture during our Christmas 2009 celebration - the gift they are opening is an ultrasound picture of Gabriel which was how we told them we were expecting again!)

home again

Back from Vlora, very tired, but had to catch up on my social networks before going to bed!

I feel like a rock star not only for nursing Gabriel multiple times on the bus ride home, but also for successfully changing his poopy diaper on said bus! It *almost* makes up for losing my wallet on the bus ride out. Oh Tara, I had forgotten how completely sucky it feels to lose your wallet. I'm sorry I wasn't more sack-cloth-and-ashy when you told me about yours last week!!! I only had a debit card and my driver's license in it as far as plastic goes (I never use my credit card here so I stopped carrying it around - I don't use my license either but I always feel better having some form of ID on me), but I did have a big wad of cash. I think it fell out of my cargo pants pocket at some point during the trip, and in the maelstrom of Bjorn-backpack-bag of toys-toddler wrangling when we got off the bus, I didn't notice until we were in the taxi headed to the hotel. The driver took me back to the bus station right away but it was too late - it was gone, gone, gone.

Anyway, we did have a good time in Vlorë, of the beach variety, and I'll post some pictures soon. It still feels good to be home. The kids are wiped out and sleeping hard right now. I should be too!