Last Wednesday night, the house resounded with falsetto yelps.

My husband was training his voice.

Dozens of voice training videos on YouTube tantalized him with amazing results. “Try this, Friend! You, too, can sound like Richie Sambora!”

Egor settled on his favorite few. He practiced interminably throughout the holiday vacation.

Thanksgiving day, he practiced the “Mee mee MEE mee mee MEE” voice exercise lampooned on old cartoons.

All day.

Every few minutes we would hear “Mee mee MEE mee mee MEE,” followed by throat clearing and another “Mee mee MEE mee mee MEE.” He took breaks to drink water and eat. The rest of the time he sang.

Concerned, my mother asked me if he was okay. I told her yes, it’s just his thing.

Sunday evening, my husband switched exercises.

WHOOO-ooooo-oooo,” he howled. “What’s that noise!” hollered Liev from his bedroom. “WHOOO-ooooo-oooo,” repeated Egor. “What’s that NOISE!” countered Liev.

This exchange lasted until my exhausted son fell asleep.

Last night’s exercise was, “EEEEEEE-uuPP.” “Papa! Stop that!” shouted Liev. And so on.

The good news is that Egor’s practice sessions signal a long-lasting cheerful mood.

The bad news is that in time he will realize his devoted practice will not give him Bon Jovi’s awesome mixed voice talent. Discouraged, he will abandon his training for another six weeks.

I like my husband’s ee-ups, whoos and mees. I even like my son’s half-hearted irritability over them. The swinging cycle of confidence and dismay flavors our ordinary suburban life.

Every cycle, my husband sings a bit better. Every cycle, the cheer lasts a little longer. One day, it will be all music.

Ham and Candle Party


Six days after the power outage, I’m still recovering.

Here’s one reason why.

Boredom, my private villain, requires impromptu festivities. We celebrated our second day without power with a Ham and Candle Party.

The purpose of the party was to feed Liev leftover ham. I included a grungy pillar candle to distract him from the idea of the leftovers. Since he asked about the candle several times over the past few days, it seemed like a perfect plan.

I bet you know where this is going.

I lit our big, fascinating candle with a butane lighter. Liev’s eyes doubled in size. Too dazzled to eat the ham, he quizzed me nonstop about the candle, matches, and butane lighter.

Several minutes of Liev not eating ham passed. Answering odd questions engaged me at first, but he began to ruminate. My brain ground to a halt after the fifth flammable gas question.

Tea, I thought. A cup of strong black tea would make butane more thrilling. So, I placed the lighter out of reach and poured myself a cup of tea at an adjacent countertop.

I turned around. The kitchen table was aflame.

In the seconds it took me to step six feet away, Liev ignited his napkin. Startled, he threw the napkin–onto a tall pile of art papers.

The papers whooshed up in flames, threatening to incinerate our rattan art box.

Genius that I am, I used a nearby roll of paper towels to beat out the flames. I did so without securing the roll, igniting a loose flapping towel (pictured above). Nevertheless, I kept on beating, eventually smothering the blaze.

I dashed the embers with my tea as a finishing gesture.

Next power outage, we will have a Ham and Flashlight Party.

Russian Elevator

Homemade Elevator 1

This is a homemade Russian elevator, posing next to the number wall in our gross motor room.

I intended to post this homage sooner, but alas!

Papa Sasha built a super cool elevator for Liev during the family’s visit last month. Two years ago, Sasha first planned to create a working elevator. I could not imagine how he could assemble anything indestructible enough to entertain Liev.

Heh. Russian ingenuity knows no bounds!

Sasha raided our toolbox, scrap lumber, and hardware for parts. After a quick trip to Home Depot, he deftly constructed a sturdy working elevator.

The device has been a favorite of Liev’s, especially at bedtime. The house resounds with Liev counting elevator floors at top volume.

ONE! Ddd-dddd-ddddd(←elevator sound effect).  TWO! Dddd-dddd-dddd.  THREE! Dddd dddddd ddddd.

Ad infinitum…

The white knob cranks the blue elevator box up and down. The design is very simple and very durable. If the cable breaks it is easy to replace. Awesome!

Ta-dah! Since this picture was taken, Liev added floor numbers in kanji. Our next project for Papa Sasha is hiragana stencils!

Japanese Language Fascination

We are on week four of Liev’s Japanese fascination.

Last Saturday was the All Japanese YouTube Day. At 8:00 a.m. Liev cranked the computer volume up to “stupefy” and shouted along to his favorite songs.

Downstairs, hubby ate breakfast and perused a guitar catalog. Clicking away on my laptop, I sipped tea. After the fourth repeat of “Ya, Yi, Yu, Yo, Yeh!” hubby and I exchanged looks. Some days are special interest days. You just have to roll with it.

Twenty minutes and a thousand “NOOs” later, I reduced the YouTube volume. T’s passion for Japanese, however, remained unquelled.

On the bright side, his video songs were quite catchy. By Saturday night, both Egor and I could sing along.

If Saturday was YouTube Day, Sunday was Kana Day.

Liev wrote Japanese characters all day. He wrote with a rigid fanaticism I have not seen in a while. By late Sunday afternoon, he filled up a 100-page notebook with kana.

He wrote kana on the basement freezer, the downstairs refrigerator and on the bathtub walls. If I would have let him, he would have covered the remaining walls, floors, and doors with hiragana and katakana.

Sunday night, previously cute Japanese songs were infinitely annoying.

Monday, Liev mercifully ended his YouTube fixation. This is because he had memorized every song ever sung on the Genki Japan Channel.

He sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in Japanese:

Mary-san no hi-stu-ji, hi-stu-ji, hi-stu-ji. Mary-san no hi-stu-ji, ka-wa-i-i ne?

In the bathtub he warbled the Japanese Question Song (who, what, why, where, how, etc):

“I tsu? Do ko? Do re? Da re? Da reno? Naze? Na ni? Douyatte? Dono kurai? Ikura? Arimaskuka? Dareni? Nanito?”

He produced the accompanying hiragana script in purple, pink and green bath crayon.

Liev’s mania surrounding Japanese will subside. I intend to let him enjoy his special time learning Japanese. With luck, he will develop an enduring love for the language that will translate into a genuine skill.