Monday, August 29, 2011

spending a lot of time in the bathroom lately...

Sorry for the slow-down in posting. Last Tuesday I got sick - well, I guess it started Sunday with a sore throat, followed by a sore tongue (weirdest symptom ever) and everything tasted odd. Then couldn't keep anything down for about 24 hours, just small sips of water or diluted juice. Also, euphemistically speaking, GI "issues." By Thursday I felt fine but Valerie was sick. All day Friday, all she wanted to do was lie down. Poor sickie. Thing is, I'd been building up momentum for another potty-training push that was supposed to start Thursday. But between me being sick and her being sick, it didn't happen. But she kept talking about it once she felt better (basically back to normal by Sunday afternoon) and this morning she turned down a diaper and.... (drum roll)... wanted to sit on the potty! This was a huge step forward for us so I decided to go with it, ditched my plans for the day, and spent all day setting the timer on our iTouch to go off every 20 minutes with a duck sound for the alarm. "When you hear the duck," she kept saying all day, "time to go sit on the potty!" We had two hits and three misses, but I'm just so happy that we're moving in the right direction at last. We'll see what tomorrow brings...

This is a detail of a dress I bought (second-hand, $15) to attend a wedding next month!

Cilantro growing in our flower-pot!

My and Valerie's toes

Sunday, August 21, 2011

little pieces of random

These are our fish. Technically, I guess they're Valerie's, since they were a birthday present for her from Shpresa's family - handpicked and carried to our home by her 13-year-old son. We haven't named them yet, although a few ideas I've had are: Picard and Riker; or Bob and Bob (from a Sandra Boynton book). Any other ideas? We have no idea whether they are male or female or one of each.

I think I almost killed them tonight, too - our water was out for a few hours this afternoon, and then later on I cleaned their tank and the fresh water I put in looked a little cloudy. A few hours after that I noticed one of the fish lying half on its side at the bottom of the tank (well, it's really a big glass jar with holes poked in the lid) so I immediately changed the water, using water that we buy to drink and not tap water. They perked up right away so I think they're going to make it.


Welcome to my office! This is a cafe near our apartment building where I often go to work. I sit at one of the two tables pictured here since there are two outlets handy for plugging in the computer. There's no wireless access, but there is an internet cafe next door if I do need to check e-mail or something on one of their computers.

I like this place for its indoor/outdoor feel, and it's off the main drag so it's usually fairly quiet. It doesn't get too hot, either, except in the middle of the day. They don't serve food, but I usually get a macchiato or juice to drink. The height of the table is not ideal for typing but it's ok.

The photo below is from another place I go to sometimes, a cafe called "Camelot." No wireless here either, but the service is very friendly and they do serve food which is nice if I decide to stay through lunch. The tables are bigger which makes it a good place to spread out if I need to. It does get very hot, though, since they get direct sun all morning long.

There are one or two other places I go to regularly but I don't have pictures of them yet.


Terry bought a second floor fan for our apt. today, and Gabriel was completely fascinated. He was not very happy when we took away the screwdriver, though. How cute is that pudgy little guy though? (Gabriel is pretty adorable, too, don't you think?) :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011


Gabriel has been imitating Valerie's spinning around. Midway through the video you can hear her saying "My [I'm] Gabriel - two Gabriels!" and then a little later "Gabriel laughing - Panther laughing."
Youtube version forthcoming.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cute babies

Remember those frozen blueberries I scored? We've been making muffins. Lots and lots of muffins. Also, blackberries are in season. So, more muffins. Yum.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

kid stuff

Gabriel is learning to sign! He can sign "hat," "duck," and "rabbit." He also makes appropriate noises for cats, dogs, cows, and frogs. He shakes his head vigorously side to side when he doesn't want something, or when we say "no." He's become very interested in books, and when he finds one he likes he'll stomp over to me or Terry for us to read it to him. He loves books with pictures of animals and babies. He's a great mimic and is already feeding himself really well with a fork. As soon as I bring over the oatmeal for breakfast he puffs out his little cheeks and starts blowing because that's what I do every day :-). When we say bath time he drops whatever he is doing and walks straight to the bathroom as fast as he can. He can kick a ball pretty well, too.

We're still working on sharing, but it's getting better. Valerie will sometime run past Gabriel, throw a toy in his lap and say "Share with 'Briel! Good blob [job]!" Something really clicked for her around the time G started crawling, even more so when he started walking. Suddenly they seem more like siblings, instead of the Queen Bee and the Interloper (well, most of the time anyway). When she wakes up in the morning or after her nap, I'll go in and leave the door open. Usually G is already awake, and he'll follow me into her room. When she hears him coming she sits up with a big smile and as soon as he appears in the doorway she starts laughing and says "Gabriel comes walking!" When G wakes up from his morning nap and I go to get him, she runs ahead of he to his room and knocks on the door saying "knock knock knock, hewo, come in!"

Here is a transcript of V's account of a play date we had a few weeks ago (she was Duck that day):
"Went Sammy-Beanie's house. Saw black doggie in house. Goes 'wa wa was WOOF!' Read big Brown Bear book. Saw pictures on wall. Played in swimming pool. Duck got all wet. Girl splashed you. Went to see toys, went to ride on lion [riding toy], went to sit on lion. Going RRRAWR! Went play toys. Duck ate food in high chair. Duck got milk. Good milk."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

buy local

Our street is lined with empty storefronts interspersed with small mom-and-pops. In the space of one block, there are two seamstresses, two small groceries, two fruit-and-vegetable marts, a butcher’s shop, an internet café, two regular cafes, two clothing shops, a used-clothing store, and a “dyqan ndryshme” – I suppose you’d call it a variety store? They sell laundry baskets, mops, plastic tubs, house slippers, clocks, knick-knacks, hair accessories, makeup, mirrors, sewing thread, scissors… it’s our own little micro-Wal-Mart. It’s easy to run down and buy a quart of milk or a bag of çubuk, or any of those random little things you need but don’t want to make a long trip for.

Here’s my problem – the food stuff, it isn’t always fresh. Every time I’ve bought produce, dairy, or meat, I’ve been disappointed. The rope of onions I bought one day all had rotten centers. The plums and nectarines grew mold overnight. The chicken breasts and ground beef sat in my fridge for just one day before I put them in the freezer, and upon thawing smelled bad and I had to throw them out.

And I feel bad, because I walk past the empty storefronts with big “FOR RENT OR SALE” signs in our building, and I don’t want these other shops to close for lack of business. But slow business is the reason their stuff goes bad – they probably buy the cheap, low-quality stuff to begin with, and then it sits too long because the turnover isn’t fast enough. So I feel like by not shopping there I’m contributing to the problem. But I can’t feed my family tainted meat or rotten fruit. So… I go around the corner to the nicer shops on the main avenue. And feel guilty walking past the local guy.

(Although I guess as long as I can avoid the Italian chain grocery store I’m still more or less ok.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Barnyard Dance!

Anyone remember the 2-year-old version of this?
(Look in the background during the last verse - 0:37 - and you'll see some boxers who were working out near us at the park. G was fascinated by them!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

food and foreigners

Continuing the discussion on expatriates and food... bear with me as I get a wee bit political. I've heard many people in the US criticize immigrants for failing to assimilate quickly, for clinging too long or too strongly to the language, customs, and foods of their country of origin. But the vast majority of Americans I've met living overseas do the same thing, to some degree or another. Familiar food is incredibly comforting when you're homesick. I remember a group of our cross-cultural students in Peru making a bee-line to the MacDonald's they found in Lima, bypassing the local sandwich shops. And although some expats do "go native" and take pride in enjoying the local cuisine, the reason they take such pride in this ability or preference has a lot to do with (in my opinion) that it's NOT the norm. In fact, when an expat does "go native" too deeply they often become subject to criticism from other expats. (Side note: why are immigrants in the US never called "expats"? Even those who are only coming temporarily to work, which is what we're doing here in Albania? Something to think about. I think it has a lot to do with power, privilege and class. But I digress. Sort of.) Anyway, it's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine and I'm a bit bemused by my own current fixation on oatmeal and Cheerios.

Did I mention that I spent $10 on two lbs. of frozen blueberries today? You can't get blueberries in the shops here, but apparently they do grow wild in the mountains near Tirana, and a woman picks them and sells them to American missionaries. I can't tell you how excited Valerie was to get them. She's been talking about blueberry muffins for ages (prompted, I believe, by a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book she has) and I told her Grammy can bring some dried blueberries from the States. We made some delicious blackberry muffins today (those grow all over the place here and showed up fresh in the markets a couple weeks ago), and tomorrow we'll make blueberry muffins. Right now both kids have purple-stained lips and fingers. And I feel silly for buying them, but... I really wanted them!

Ah, expat dilemmas.