Thursday, August 29, 2013

Edward turns 3!

This was the year of the snail. Why? Well... it's complicated....or rather just a long story.

A tiny snail in Edward's hand.
It all started late last fall when we found a snail and decided to keep it inside until Spring. It was called Malcolm The Snail.  Malcolm The Snail was very friendly. He would spend countless hours climbing on the various kitchen utensils and on the Lego and in/on toy cars.

In time Malcom was joined by a few other little snails and slugs. We found an apple where snails and slugs appeared to have deposited eggs or perhaps the eggs had be deposited in the ground near it. Either way, the apple had a few tiny slugs and a tiny snail in it, which co-habited with Malcom The Snail. Eventually the tiny snails and slugs were released.

Us when LouAnne and Paul visited.
After Malcolm The Snail, Edward developed a deep fascination with all snails and slugs (he temporarily enjoyed studying caterpillars and family of spiders as well).  We have a special Snail and Slug Jar, which does not fully close and lets some air in where he can keep a few snails or slugs for further study. He would also sometimes take a selected few slugs and/or snails on his bike for a ride. We try giving them different types of leaves and pieces of fruit and see what they enjoy most, and a few days later we release them. The conclusions of this on-going in-depth study (so far) are that we have found two types of snails that live in our area: black snails (they are stickier) and brown snails and, of course, the black slugs are the stickiest of all, and even the brown slugs are stickier than any snail.

Planting flowers.
The onion caterpillar.
We also have a very small garden in which we planted flowers, tomatoes, herbs, beans, and even a few potatoes. The beans grow over everything and snails sometimes eat parts of the flowers, but it is all natural. We also live next to a very nice neighbor who has a green thumb and  sometimes brings vegetables over. One day he gave us something he called "ceaponi", which turned out to be bulbs of flowers. It took us awhile to figure that out. I thought it was a type of onion for a few days.  Oh.. and next to the green pen on the right you can see a huge caterpillar that grew in our onions in the past winter. We studied it in a jar and later put it outside, but we are unsure if it died or turned into a butterfly.

Car drawings.
When we were not studying snails or other creepy crawlers (we even had baby spiders on our balcony), we were often in parking lots or on the street staring at cars. Edward learned the names of most cars and we learned them with him. I have never cared much about cars in the past. My interest typically focused only
The artists and the Easter eggs.
on the car I was driving at the time. By the end of last winter Edward (and all of us) could distinguish among different types of cars: Fiat, Ford, Renault, BMW, etc. Now that he knows all the cars that go by pretty well and I confidently answer questions on the subject, his interest has started to vanish. See picture above with car creations; explanation by the artist: the blue car goes up hill and is small because it's far away.  We also had cars drawn on eggs for Easter.

Edward and Ira.
Space Ice-cream.
Many other things happened and it's hard to remember them all. I am going to attempt to describe some of them in random order below.

My PhD advisor came to visit to finish a paper with me. He was also kind enough to spend some time with us. This is a picture of him and Edward. Neither Edward nor David have a PhD yet, but their future remains open. And we ate space ice-cream. It is a dry, really sweet dust. It's, of course, not cold at all despite the name. We bought it the second time I went to the European Space Agency, but it's available from other sources.

With LouAnne and Paul.
Edward's grandparents from the US (LouAnne and Paul) visited us for a few days. They took Edward to Luzern for a day where he ate ice-cream in a gondola and to a wild-park where
In the gondola over the Black Sea.
they could see many animals. He really loved the gondola. So, when we went to the Black Sea in Romania this summer we had to take the gondola again at Mamaia.

Drawing on the beach with Mama.
In the sand castle Dad made.
A pony at the Constanta zoo.
Trained Black Sea Dolphins.
Edward  loved the Black sea so much that he was called a "Sea Duck" by a passing older gentlemen. When the sea was quiet, he enjoyed spending long hours in the shallow water pretending to swim by walking on his hands. When it started to be more stormy, he enjoyed jumping over the waves and, of course, playing in the sand with his dad.

We stayed with my mom's cousins, Uncle Lulu, which is a short-name for Iulian, and with Tusa Dorina. His middle name is Iulian just like Edwards' and it was very important that they met. When we were not swimming, we ate amazing food cooked by our hosts. The 7 days spent at the Black Sea were all nice and sunny. In addition to going to the beach every day, we went to the Delfinariu and to the zoo.

Uncle Lulu,Tusa Dorina & Mom.
The entrance fee for the Constanta Delfinariu & zoo was comparable to what we paid in Zurich, but the zoo was even nicer than the one here. So, we were pleasantly surprised. The enclosures for the animals were large, new and well-built, and the animals seemed happy. They offered rides on horses for a small fee and the acrobatics of the Black Sea dolphins were beautiful to watch. There was also a nineteen year old sea lion who could walk around with a ball on its nose and many, many animals including ostrich. Neither of us have never seen an ostrich live before. I would prefer to have all these animals in a big park instead of a zoo, though. They did have a lake with black swans, and the pony was left to wander about.

With Great-grandma Marieta.
When we left, Uncle Lulu drove us to Galati where the kids met their last Romanian great-grandmother. She told us many stories.
Us with Tusa Gabi and Andreea.
She lives in a small apartment because her house was taken by the communists just before the revolution, but everything in it is hand-made by her or her mother including the carpets, the pillow cases and the pictures that hang on the walls. My father's side of the family was very artistic and oriented towards detail. They could make amazingly beautiful things starting from furniture to carpets to clothes. We also met Tusa Gabi and Andreea who were passing through Galati on their return from the Black Sea. The last time I saw Andreea, she had been in first grade. I was in graduate school at Cornell when I went with her parents to the end-of-school year celebrations as she finished first grade. Now she is a beautiful young woman in her teens.

We then went to Timisoara for ten days where we spent time with my father and with Welsh friends who were visiting.  David and Edward played with a very cute little girl named Ceinwen and her slightly older brother (also named David). My father bought baby chickens and gave two of them to the children to care for.

Chasing Bubulina.
A day before Edward's birthday we went to visit family friends in Clopodia where the children saw goats, a rabbit and played with a friendly hen named Bubulina. Edward loved Bubulina and Bubulina tolerated Edward. She was after-all a grown hen and had been a mother. She had laid on 10 eggs out of which came 9 little chickens. I was very impressed since she is so little and, of course, extremely
Edward and Bubulina
friendly. She sleeps with her family during the cold winters. We took a walk through the village and saw the village play-ground, the newly renovated orthodox church, and went by the palace owned by Romanian nobility before the communist era, which is yet to be renovated. It is rumored to be on sale for one million Euro. It is interesting to think that an un-restored building in Clopodia can be worth than much.

The next day we met my cousin, Delia who brought
With Delia in the park.
Edward lovely presents as did Ceinwen's mom. Delia took Edward and David to the park while we went to the hair dresser she recommended. She 
In front of my grandparents home in Lugoj.
took some pretty cool pictures of Edward playing ball! It's good to have nice cousins who love children!

We also went to see our house in Lugoj, which belonged to my grandparents. It retains some of its majesty and beauty, but it needs work. The angels over the windows are just as I've always remember them. This is still the house I have most often seen in my dreams, and I hope we'll find the time to fix it so that my children will some day see it theirs (or I suppose somebody else's children depending on the always very uncertain future).

Hiking at the very top!
In the snow.
Driving through the mountains: the kids did an amazing job rock climbing - although you will have to zoom in to see the two smaller people in the image on the right. We did not quite reach the clouds, but they enjoyed playing in the snow and were very excited about our car being higher than
Cows and children.
In the Alps.
the gondolas. There was even a glider that went by us.

The road we drove up on.
The children in the Alps.
Lunch Stop.
After we descended a few hundred meters, we saw cows!  We did not expect them this high up. While it was still windy and cool, the snow was gone and there was plenty of grass. However, the fence was not electric as it is typical here, and so there was a human  who seemed to be looking after the cows ... and a really cold and green looking lake. Edward and I put our toes in it to test the temperature. The water was very clean, and it had the color of the small trees, bushes and other vegetation around it.

We are now back to spiel-group, school and work!