But what do you do all day?

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This was a serious question I got from one of my friends. I guess it was a reasonable question. Of course, I had classes for about four and a half hours a day (two two hour classes and, depending on the day, a fifteen minute to a half hour break), and an hour each way on the bus. But maybe you want an idea of what our days were like.

On a weekday I’d wake up with the kids around 7, and then I’d get them dressed and fed, and then my father in law would take us to drop off the kids at school. Then he’d drop me back off at the apartment and I’d eat breakfast, do any leftover homework, and go to the bus stop. I’d take an hour to get to school, drop off my coat, and learn some Russian. Then take a bus back home and, depending on the day, I’d have just enough time to go drop by the little grocery store by my house, eat something, and then either walk to get the kids or go with my father in law to pick them up. Then in the afternoon I’d play with them a bit and do homework, feed them and go to bed.  That was the winter schedule, because in winter the days were super short, like sunrise was at 10:30ish and sundown was around 5 or 6. By 8pm it felt much later, but the thing was that since we were all sharing a tiny room together, if I wanted them to sleep, I had to “sleep” too. So around 8pm  I’d get us all ready for bed and I’d have to lie down and shut off all the lights and either go to sleep or play on a kindle, trying to hide it from the kids if I could. At the time, I thought it was really annoying. But, as all annoying things do, that time came to an end, and things got much worse, from a bedtime perspective. Guess what time it is in this picture:

playground211am? 3pm? Maybe even 6pm? Nope, that picture was taken at 9:30pm on May 1st. Bright as day, kids laughing and playing on the playground outside our window. Try getting kids to sleep when it doesn’t get dark till almost midnight in summer. Towards the end of our trip it wasn’t even a thing to hear kids at the playground at 10 or 11pm. Luckily, my summer classes were changed to a later schedule and I could take the kids to school around 9 or 10 depending on the day because they’d be up so late at night.

nightThat one was taken at 10pm. In April.

On a weekend, we’d spend at least one day at the mall, Mega, and one day cleaning and doing laundry. We went to the mall because the poor kids were cooped up in the apartment all the time and Mega had two indoor playgrounds that they could run and play with other kids on.

mall playgroundPLAYGROUND3They also have this great double-decker bus thing that we rode on a time or two:

mallmall2 Also, they had more food there, in a big walmart-type grocery store. One or two days a week I would have a few extra hours to take the tram to the other Mall, Raduga (Rainbow) Park, which had another large grocery/department store I liked better. It had great pizza (more on that later) and Reese’s, and Pringles, and a relatively cheap toy section.

radugaI never really took the kids with me to Raduga Park at first, although it was really family friendly and had one of those great trains for kids to ride around the mall in. But Mega was where the indoor playgrounds were and, besides, my kid loves trains so much that we’d have to be riding that thing every time. So, I’d go there for grocery shopping on my own until spring came and we realized that the whole Park part of Raduga Park was quite literal and there was this amazing park behind the mall. I had always known that there was an area in the back where there was a ferris wheel, and a huge snow slide in the winter (too big for kids like mine, though). But I had thought that that was all there was, and so didn’t really give it much thought. But when it all got green I took them to check out that area because they had a couple big blow up slides and some fun ride on toys.

raduga3 raduga1 raduga 2Then, we realized that there was also this big lake and waterfall, and a bunch of hiking trails.

ferris ferriswalk waterfall waterfall2There was also this really great playground that the kids loved, horse rides (literal, living horses this time), a roller skating rink, and the most amazingly cool in-the-trees playground called Mowgli.

cool1 cool2mowgli cool3 cool4So, that’s where we spent most of our time when it got warmer (though not in that awesome Mowgli thing, since the kids were too young). Like I said before, when we weren’t mall-ing I was home with them doing laundry and cleaning up the room. The laundry was quite a chore, though (did I mention this already?). They had a tiny washing machine but no dryer and the washing machine was only big enough for a small load and so the rest had to be done by hand. Everything got hung up after and in summer when the heaters got turned off it took a little over a day to dry out.  It took a while.

We also took a trip to the line between Europe and Asia, which was cool. “Trip” mostly means here that my father in law drove us about 20 min.

line1 line2 line3 line4We also went to the zoo.

zooalbino zoo1Tiny swimming pool for a polar bear, huh? And how awesome is that peacock?

So, what did we do all day? We went to school, did homework, and tried to go places as much as we could.

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