пʼятниця, вересня 29, 2006

little girls, country lyrics, and (apparently) bubbliness

Today is Teachers' Day in Ukraine (well, actually it's October 1st, but we celebrated today). This meant that classes were 30 minutes long (and wasn't that a hoot!) so that at noon, we had a concert by the kids and then they went home and we all had cake. Some of my kids gave me cards, the 4th form gave me a rose, and Dasha from 6A gave me a chocolate bar. :)


I've made friends with the 2nd form girls lately (see post "Make Way for Ducklings"), and so they run up to me and hug me when they see me on the playground. On Wednesday, the 3rd form girls came up to us in the middle of the hugs and wanted their hugs. It soon broke into a yelling match:

2nd form girls: Our Miss Sally!
3rd form girls: Our Miss Sally!
2nd form girls: Ours!
3rd form girls: Ours!
2nd form girls: Ours!
3rd form girls: She was ours first!

And, of course, I had 8 or so little girls clinging to me as I strove to detach myself. Fortunately, one of the teachers walked by, saw what was happening, and told the girls to let go. :)


Speaking of little girls (Miss Hannigan from Annie: "Little girls, little girls, everywhere I go I can see them..."), I have now had four neighbor girls come visit me at various points for cookies, Uno, coloring pages, and homework help. I think they'd be over every day if I let them. I told them yesterday that I was busy, and besides, I didn't have cookies, and Katya told me that cookies weren't necessary.


I'm doing American country studies with my 10th form on Fridays, and I've been planning a lesson on American music (which, due to today being Teachers' Day, will be next week). I wanted to introduce the kids to some country, especially as a lot of it has storylines they can follow, but I just had to chuckle and sigh at the amount of idioms I kept running across as I listened to lyrics.

Her daddy said, "He ain't worth a lick / When it comes to brains he got the short end of the stick."

Now tell me, how do I explain that to kids who have trouble with basic English sentences? :)


I got a package from Brockway today, complete with window screen, cheesecloth, and flyswatters. What I truly loved, though, was a batch of cards from my church family there. I started reading through them and was crying by the third card. It was encouraging to hear from all these people who saw me grow up and who wanted to let me know they were praying for me.

Of course, I also laughed at moments, and even had a momemt of bewilderment...two different cards described me as "bubbly". I don't think I'm bubbly...maybe I was when I was younger, but I think I've gotten more serious over time.

Do you all out there in cyberspace think I'm bubbly?

вівторок, вересня 26, 2006

bits and pieces, odds and ends

Tanya and I had a lovely time Friday night: junk food, listening to music, and watching Firefly. It was, in short, a slumber party, complete with the phrase, "There's this guy..." uttered by Tanya.

And we slept in until 10:30 the next morning and then had breakfast at a coffee shop, where Tanya ended up with something that we dubbed "Waffle Pizza", because that's exactly what it was.

On Sunday, I went to the Ks' church for a harvest festival. Apparently most Protestant churches in Ukraine spend the month of September visiting each other for harvest festivals. It was 3.5 hours of church (thankfully, lots of music and very short sermons), followed by a big meal on tables outside. Then I brought out my digital camera, and all of us young unmarried women (ages 14-23) took pictures of each other by the big display of produce at the front of the church. If I get a chance to be somewhere where people understand flash drives, I'll have to upload some pictures. (My ladies here at the post office, while they smile and joke with me, don't really understand flash drives and groan when I ask to use mine.)

My 7th form boys are fascinated by my blue sticky tac that I use to hang things on the board with. One of them apparently grabbed a wad of it, and none of them will confess as to who.

While buying an airmail envelope and getting Tif's package of magazines just now, I met Natalia, a woman who's a little older than me and who worked for a year as a teacher in Germany, much as I'm doing now. She teaches at the pedagogical college in town and also helps run a course for adult learners of foreign languages as well as a course for children of veterans from the Russian-Afganistan War. She wants to know if I can help with the children's course, which would be a lot of fun, but I suspect that my director will say no. (Technically, it's my decision. But my director doesn't realize this, so it's her decision. I guess. If you want a rant on this topic, email me and I'd be happy to oblige.) The best part of the conversation, though, was when I was having trouble forming sentences and finally just said, "I can talk about food very well. And I can say, 'Sit down,' and 'Be quiet,'" and Natalia just laughed, because she understood from when she'd lived in Germany. She has also been to Cologne, so we reminisced about the beauties of the Dom.

Three little neighbor girls came to visit me last night for cookies, juice, and Uno (two came last time), and one of them brought her English homework. I suspect I may end up with half the kids in the building eventually...sort of an after-school program, limited to one night a week, because my cookie budget can't handle it! (Or my sanity...or my free time...)

четвер, вересня 21, 2006

home again

So I spend four days in the nation's capital, which has excellent email access, particularly in the Peace Corps office...and somehow, I never have time to update my blog. Quick recap of the trip.

I had a great visit to the Malkos...much good food from Mama Luda, the best cook I know in Ukraine, a chance to realize that it's almost been one year since I first arrived there, and the joy of being able to talk with them all in Ukrainian. (Sasha: "I am astonished at your Ukrainian." Sasha likes big words in English.)

And then I rode back to Kyiv Sunday afternoon in a very crowded marshrutka (small bus/large van), standing the entire way, surrounded by men who seemed to be rather intoxicated and who were arguing about whether the window should be open or closed. (I was in the "open" camp.) I visited City on a Hill, one of the GCM churches in Kyiv (Eric and Cindy Thomas are there), and was pleased that I was able to follow along with the Russian sermon. (When I got there, people were setting up and there was take-out pizza for those doing so. It reminded me of Riverview.)

The conference itself was great. It wasn't about techniques for teaching, but rather PC wanting our feedback on PCVs in small towns and primary schools in conjunction with a new group of trainees arriving soon. I felt proud to be a PCV as I sat there and listened to people who were passionate about teaching, about our role as PCVs, about ways to train/encourage Ukrainian teachers. Sometimes I get discouraged and feel like people are here mostly for a good time or the cultural experience. But this was a group who cared about the work we are doing here, and it was a privilege to be a part of it.

Plus, we did have fun...we all went out to dinner Monday night, and then I hung out with Greg, Seth, and Seth's Ukrainian fiance Olia, all talking about language and culture and teaching.

Tuesday morning, we had a meeting at the office to give PC some feedback on their plans for the next PST. Then I went out for pizza with Shannon and Greg, returned library books to Kyiv-Mohila Academy (whom I love, as they don't give me late fees and always ask me for mini-reviews), and wandered around forever before I found a Christian bookstore that Eric Thomas had given me directions to. But I finally found it, and bought a book of praise and worship songs in Ukrainian.

Yesterday was sleep/catch-up day, and today I was back at school, facing three rather wild classes of kids who hadn't had me all week and I didn't know exactly what they'd covered while I was gone. But we survived!

Tomorrow after school, I'm off to Kharkiv to visit Tanya, my friend who likes L.M. Montgomery and Firefly, as she is staying there currently for work and we're planning a slumber party.

Random interesting fact: Driver's Training is not required for Ukrainians. It is recommended, but not mandatory, so it is possible to simply purchase a license.

This may explain why, on Tuesday morning, our taxi full of PCVs saw someone driving on the sidwalk.

субота, вересня 16, 2006

I actually slept on the train!

Arrived in Kyiv at 7:14 this morning. I traveled 2nd class on the train instead of 3rd class this time, and it was decidedly an improvement over 3rd class...the bed was more comfortable, and it was much quieter. For roughly 20 hryven more, it's worth it.

I ran into the mom of the one family who I know who I thought didn't want me teaching their kids on Thursday, and, sort of nervously, I asked her what had happened. ("Nelya Ivaninva said that Oksana Yaroslavivna said that you said that you didn't want me teaching your kids...is this true?) It turns out that there were some miscommunications, they'd had a bad experience with Nelya and thought that we were a package deal, and that they didn't have anything against me. Which makes me feel so much better about the whole situation, as my feelings had been hurt. Relationship restored, and all is good in the world (at least all is good in this situation). I think that God had His hand in the whole situation...although I'm sad I lost two classes, the kids I have now I think will be more inclined to work hard and learn English.

Yesterday was the Day of Health, otherwise known in the US as Field Day. Everyone from 5th form on up walked about a mile or so out into the fields at the edge of town, over a bridge, and ended up at the edge of the woods. Then there were sports competitions and football (US soccer). Each class had its own campfire, and we made kasha, which translates as "porridge", but is really cooked grain with meat and potatoes and peppers and egg and who-knows-what-all-else thrown in there. It was delicious...I asked for the recipe, and everyone told me that it's never as good when you make it at home as opposed to in the woods.

I hung out at the 9b campfire (Nelya's form) for most of the time, chatting with our zavuch (vice-principal), who had to once again rewrite our schedule, as two teachers are going to be gone for recertification courses. She's worked at our school since 1969, and told me that when I go back to the US, I should find a school where I like my coworkers and stay there, rather than hop from school to school.

I also hung out with the 6a form, who shared cookies and lemonade with me and insisted that I try their kasha, which they assured me was the best. They were yelling cheers back and forth with the 6b form about who had the best kasha, so I helped them do some in English. And then they said, "Let's sing in English," so we sang some of the songs that we sing in class. It made me so happy that they wanted to!

The one weird part of the day for me was the gender separation. When the gym teacher told the kids the plans for the day, she said, "Boys play football. Girls cook kasha." I asked Olga Ivanivna, the other English teacher, if the girls were going to play football later. She said no, but that they could play with the boys if they wanted to. Of course, none of them did. It didn't seem fair...girls can play football, and boys should know how to cook kasha as well.

Oh, and we have a supermarket in Balaklia now! "Supermarket", in Ukraine, is a grocery store where you don't have to ask the woman behind the counter for everything but can instead take it off the shelves yourself...basically like a US store. It's very nice, and I'm sure I'll shop there a lot, but I felt a pang of sadness and curiousity as to what the next 20 years will bring to Ukraine. Is the move away from the bazaar to the supermarket an indicator of a culture that interacts with each other less?

пʼятниця, вересня 15, 2006

to speak English, please

So I'm sitting in an Internet cafe in Kharkiv, waiting for my train to take me to Kyiv (and then by bus to Zgurivka tomorrow!), and three people (Tara from Quiz Bowl, Erica from Brockway, and Wan-Lin from freshman year) all started IMing me. Much fun to catch up with people.

Inevitable Y kid stories, because I love to tell them. Hopefully you all enjoy/put up with them as well.

So I get there yesterday afternoon, and Valery comes into the living room and informs me that he has started a school with all the younger kids as students, I am the English teacher, and that I am expected to come teach a lesson when he rings the bell. The bell rings, and I go read the kids a book I'd brought. (I read to the kids a lot, usually in English. They like the pictures and the attention, and I live in hopes of encouraging education.)

Oleh has decided that he likes speaking English (w00t!) and kept bugging me to speak English with him last night (the post title is from him...I need to figure out how to explain infinitives and when not to use them). I'm so glad, because he seems to understand the concept of the Commuicative Method of language teaching...you take what you know and speak, not worrying about errors. Plus, he likes hanging out with me. I have high hopes for his language development.

Nadia and I were talking about the kids yesterday, and about what it was like for her growing up school-wise. If I was following what she said correctly, as a Christian, she wasn't a member of the Communist Party, which pretty much ruled out most higher education and "better" professions. She said that because of this, Christians generally were thought of as ignorant and poorly educated, and she's glad that her kids have a better chance than she did. (FYI, she worked in a factory making clothes, which she did enjoy, but they moved to Balaklia because of Chernobyl, there weren't clothes factories here, and now she has 10 kids, which keeps her rather busy.)

I owe Mom a post about the Day of Health today at school, but that will wait until I get to Kyiv sometime over the next few days, as this keyboard is sticky and I'm tired of typing.

вівторок, вересня 12, 2006

Me like English.

Occasionally, I realize that while I'm experiencing something, I'm mentally starting to write the blog post for it in my head. Unfortunately, I tend to forget a lot of them/don't have time to write them, so many incidents in my life are lost to posterity. But at least you all know I'm thinking about you!

On Sunday, the Y family (minus the three oldest kids), Nadia's brother Tolia, his daughter Yula (age 21), and I all piled in their big blue van and drove to Merefa, a town just south of Kharkiv, where there is a large Protestant church of the variety that the K family attends (very conservative), as it was the church's 45th anniversary and Nadia wanted to go visit with friends and family members who would also be there.

Oh, my...there were at least 1,000 people there. The service was in a tent, but people were on benches outside the tent and spilling out into the street. We were in the last group, and as we had 7 small children, it ended up being a rather difficult day. Things had started off just fine, with Valery asking, "Are we in Merefa?" as soon as we left the part of Balaklia he knew. The whole drive there (1.5 hours) was peaceful, as all the kids stared out the windows. But then, as Nadia didn't want to lose any children (apparently she once lost Valery at such an event), we ended up taking the kids back to the van and staying with them while the adults took turns going and listening for a bit, occasionally taking a few children with them. At one point, Tolia was turning the van around, and 4-year-old Snizhanna was convinced that we were leaving without Mama and started shrieking. I asked Nadia at one point if it had been a good day for her, and she was like, "Um, well..." I felt bad for her, as she had expected less people to be there and never managed to see most of the people she had wanted to see.

And then we all piled in the van and came home, and I stayed for supper and helped with English homework...to an extent. Vlada and Oleh had to write me letters about themselves, which prompted lots of questions about what exactly I wanted them to write. I told them to write about themselves, their families, what they do, etc. The results, when I collected the 7th form's letters yesterday, were amusing. Oleh's best lines: "My father works in the garden. My mother to works in the garden." (well, they don't work outside the home, so I guess it's true...), and "I have four childrens. They small." in reference to his younger siblings. Vlada's best line was, "Me like English." Vitaly (10th form) had to write about his family for Nelya, and I knew we were in trouble when he asked me how to spell his name. (School is not his thing, and English less so.) But I explained plurals, the verb to be, and helped brainstorm content. He's a great kid, but I'm happy I'm not responsible for attempting to teach him English.

Valery (3rd form) gave us the best laugh Sunday night. Vitaly, Viktor, and I were having supper in the living room, and Valery brought in tea. I said thank you, and kidded him that because he was a waiter, he should bow. He looked at me and said, "I'm not a waiter, I'm a Ukrainian."

School is going well...my seventh form thinks it's hilarious when I say "six," because it sounds like "sex," which is a cognate. I'd forgotten middle schoolers' joy in anything that sounds remotely suggestive. And apparently a lot of words in English sound like bad words in Ukrainain, so I am told. Oh, joy...

I'm off to Kyiv this coming Monday and Tuesday, as I have a PC conference/planning session on PCVs in primary schools and small community schools, both of which I am qualified to comment on! I may try and go early and visit the Malkos in Zgurivka, but we'll see what travel/housing options I have.

Big news of yesterday: Nelya now has an email address. She wanted to email a former co-worker who had sent her a business card that included an email address, so we set up an account. She's adapting to technology quite well, as today she wanted to check her account again and was quite miffed that her friend hadn't emailed back yet.

Two of my neighbor girls, Katya (5th form) and Eula (4th form) came over for cookies, juice, and Uno yesterday. The visit went well, they took to Uno like fish to water, and they have requested to come again. :)

Oh, and apparently there will be hot water in my building starting October 15!!!

четвер, вересня 07, 2006

make way for ducklings!

Still alive, although I can tell my stress level by the amount of communication I have with other Americans. This week's total so far is 4 trans-Atlantic phone calls (I only called twice, two of them were people calling me), 2 in-country phone calls, 5-7 text messages (I forget...), and two times on the Internet in 4 days of teaching.

Thank goodness the first week of school only comes once a semester!

Tenative teaching schedule:

3rd form (1 class per week as Nelya's helper)
4th form (2 classes)
6a form (3 classes)
7th form (3 classes...it's a large class [22 students], so Nelya's taking about 7 of the lower-achieving students in the hall or another room)
8b form (3 classes)
10a form (3 classes per week, plus one American Studies class every other week)
11a form (1 class...Nelya's taking them once a week for intensive grammar...mwuhahaha)

And I think it'll be okay. The 7th and 8th formers are overjoyed (the comment one of them made to me about Nelya as a teacher is best left unposted, but let's just leave it at that), they're excited to work with me, and I honestly think I might be able to accomplish more with them than with my 5th and 9a forms (although I do feel a slight pang of sadness watching them walk down the hallway). We repeated the "good student/bad student" activitiy today in both groups, and it went over well. Now, if they will only take it to heart... :)

I made friends with the 2nd grade girls (who I don't teach) yesterday. I know Liza Y, of course, and we were chatting on the playground yesterday on break when several other girls came up to us. One of them is Alla, who is the school secretary's granddaughter, and who made friends with me this summer ("Do you have a cat? Where are you from? Where do you live? Do you have a friend? I have a friend. Her name's Alina...") Liza took one of my hands, Alla took the other, and the other little girls linked on with them. It looked something like this: xxXxxxx (I'm the capital X.) I suspect we must have looked like a mother duck with her ducklings. The girls had just had their first English lesson on Tuesday, so they all asked me, "What's your name?" Then Alla asked me where I was from. When I said America, Liza Y looked at me and said, "You're from America?"


Ah, to be 8 years old and unaware of life's small details. (I am reminded of a passage in Lois McMaster Bujold's science fiction series about Miles Vorkosigan [FYI, very good sci-fi...Bujold is the Dorothy L. Sayers of her genre] in which Miles comments that, as the emperor had been his foster-brother, there was a subliminal connection between "emperor" and "someone to play hide-and-seek with". I occasionally wonder if the Y kids will in future connect "American" and "someone who reads stories and plays games with us".)

The bugs in my schedule are being worked out, and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for Halyna Konstantinivna, our vice-principal, who is in charge of scheduling classes. I watch her work at trying to bounce things around and how she keeps it all in her head, and I am truly amazed.

Please keep me in your prayers, everyone. I try so hard to keep a good attitude and not snap at people, but it's been a rough week. One more day until the weekend!

вівторок, вересня 05, 2006

my worst first (second) day of school

Um...wow. This has the potential to be a really long post. ("Like your others aren't?" you all ask.) Or, really, more of a bi-polar post, as emotionally speaking, I've been all over the map since last Friday afternoon.

To go back to last Friday...while I was on the Internet, Luba called me. She owns the store I frequently shop at, and I tutor her daughter Julia in English. Luba was calling to tell me that there was a girl from Kyiv in her office who wanted to meet me, and could I please come over? So after finishing my computer stint, I headed over to Mria, the store/cafe, and met Tanya, who is a tuberculosis educator for WHO (World Health Organization, connected to the UN) who had been working in Balaklia last week, and who is fluent in English like very few people in this country. As we were chatting, we found a shared love of classic literature, women authors, the TV show Firefly...and...Anne of Green Gables. We both had things to go do, but she came over to my apartment in the evening and we watched 3 episodes of Firefly until 1 am, when I walked her back to the hotel and she got chewed out by the manager for being late. We hit it off really well, and she's going to be back in town at the end of September, so we have another Firefly evening planned.

Saturday, I was running errands when it started to downpour (which it's been doing off and on for the last week). Not wanting the roll of wallpaper I'd bought to use for my classes to get wet (we're low on posterboard or large sheets of paper here, so I use the back of wallpaper), I ducked into one of the secondhand stores I occasionally shop in. Well, as the only native English speaker in town, I was in luck. This store gets shipments of used clothes from England, and occasionally English books as well, which they brought out for my benefit. I picked up a bunch of kids' books, a couple random things, and a 1908 copy of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan! As many of you know, I love beautiful old books, and this one definitely qualifies. It has a green cover with red, blue, and gilt on it, and the inscription on the inside front cover reads:

London City Council
Wix's Lane School
Awarded to
Christine Archer
For Good Conduct and diligence in work
July 1908 A. G. Fal[can't read the rest], Head Teacher

On the back cover there's a gilt stamp with the words, "Prize Awarded by the London City Council".

5 hryven. 1 dollar. And I'm the only person in town who would particularly want it.

Yesterday, however, was rough. Really rough. It's complicated to explain, but apparently there's at least two families in my school, one of whom I know personally and fairly well, who don't want their kids in my classes, and therefore, I'm not teaching the 5th or 9th forms this year. Which hurts, because a) I've worked with those kids for a semester already and had felt like some progress had been made; b) it's unfair to the kids whose parents don't object; and c) I really wish that the family I know who objected had said something about it to me before I heard it at school. Plus, I have schedule conflicts where I'm apparently teaching two lessons at the same time three times per week (well, when schedules are done by hand, problems happen), the master schedule for the school was lost yesterday (or something else was lost), people were yelling at each other about my schedule, and I ended the school day by breaking down in tears in the vice-principal's office.

(It is my opinion that a one day seminar on communication and spreadsheet design would solve a lot of problems at my school between the staff.)

But today was a better day. I got to teach my 6th form, who I love, and we talked about good pupils and bad pupils. I had drawn large pictures of a "good pupil" (book and pen in hand, "I [heart] English on his shirt, a halo on his head) and a "bad pupil" (frowny face on shirt, cell phone in hand, devil horns on her head), and we put up post-it notes with the qualities of both students on the respective papers. The kids liked it, and it was a good way to present my classroom expectations.

I also think I may end up with one section of 8th formers and the 7th form. I sat in on the 7th form lesson today, and when Nelya asked the kids if they'd want me to teach them, there was an overwhelming cheer. It's a fun, large, wild class...if I can ever get them to listen to me, we could do pretty well. Oleh and Vlada Y are both in there, and that could be fun as well.

I felt so bad for Oleh today. He knew the answer to something Nelya wanted translated from Ukrainian into English..."to clean room" was the basic phrase. So he said that (having whispered it to me to make sure he had it right), and Nelya got after him for having bad grammar and asked him how he thought that made me feel, to hear my mother tongue spoken poorly. I wanted to burst out, "But he knew the phrase! And you didn't have to prompt him, he volunteered to say it! And I'm just happy to hear anyone say anything in English!"

I think this is going to be a more challenging semester than last spring. But I'm hanging in there!

пʼятниця, вересня 01, 2006

happy first day of school!

Happy first day of school in Ukraine! I have to say that I'm impressed by the way they do it here...there's a ceremony the first day honoring the 1st formers (so little and cute and nervous-looking!) and the 11th formers (so big and not-nervous-looking!) and welcoming everyone back to school. Then the teachers meet with their classes to discuss rules and schedules, the kids go home, and the teachers have a party. That's all. It began at 9 am, and by 12 I was on my way home, laden down with bouquets of flowers and leftover goodies from the party. Definitely better than having classes your first day back!

What does baffle me about Ukrainian schools, however, is that we don't have a schedule of classes yet. We're going on a day-to-day schedule until our assistant principal gets the real one done (by hand, not on a computer!), and until today, I didn't even know what classes I'd be teaching. Apparently this is normal. My 6th form also isn't going to have textbooks for the first month or two (Mom, those pen-pal letters from you are going to be a real blessing and a week's worth of lessons!), but I think we'll be okay.

For the record, I think I'm teaching 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 11th forms, plus one hour a week extra lessons/olympiad prep for the older forms. And occasionally helping out with the 3rd form, because I love them to pieces (Dasha, Alina, Valery Y, Roman K, etc.). I attempted to see if I could teach 3rd form instead of 11th, but since the 11th formers bought the British textbooks that I use with them, I have to keep teaching them. Darn.

Andrey and Ira's visit was very nice...I made pizza and a chocolate zucchini cake, and both turned out well. This was the first time I'd ever really talked with Ira, but I knew I'd like her when, upon entering my living room, the first thing she said was, "Oh, all the books!" and went over to inspect my bookcase. And was disappointed that my books are primarily in English. (But Andrey borrowed my Winnie-the-Pooh with Russian footnotes; Ira commented that he hadn't wanted to read it in Russian.)

Yesterday we had our pedagogical conference at school (translation: teachers' meeting). Highlights included the increased cost of potatoes and how this was going to affect school lunches, which are important because we don't know if the kids get fed well at home; the poor showing that our school does on tests; that we have one girl in 10th form who does very well in all subjects; and the music teacher showing a letter he had gotten from a former student who is now part of the President's honor guard or something. Serhii Danilovich commented that he had taught the kid how to march, and who was the director to say that we're doing a bad job of teaching the kids? (This point of view, although understandable, seems to fail to take into account the difference between music and mathematics.)

After a lot of curious looks from both parties, I've been making friends with the neighbor kids in my building, who have decided I'm an interesting person because a) I'm from America and b) I talk to them. Dima (6th form) wanted to know if I'd ever met Eminem (because we're both from Michigan...the answer, by the way, is no), and Eula (4th form, looks like Lexie Schiller) wanted to know what apartment I'm in..."So I can come visit you!" I think I've been accepted. (Note to self: make sure to have cookies on hand and dishes washed.)

And, because I don't think I'll be on the computer before Monday, a happy September 4th birthday to Jason (22) and Vlada Y (13)!