Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carter's Perspective

Carter only wanted one present for Christmas, a "hard globe" (i.e., not an inflatable one). Santa Claus fulfilled this wish. As Carter was going to sleep on Christmas night, Erik asked him "Was there anything you wanted for Christmas that you didn't get?" Carter replied, "No. All I wanted was a hard globe."

Despite his modest list, Carter was lavished with other gifts. One of our favorites was a kid's digital camera. He has taken to recording the world from his perspective; all of the following shots are Carter's with no parental editing.

Our Tree

Grandpa and Nana Bistak

Cousin George

Daddy (Erik)

Mommy (Lea)

Grandpa H


Cousin Amelia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Our tree is up, Lawrence is now coated in powdery white snow, and the students are evacuating for the holidays - Christmas is definitely near. Carter woke us up early last Saturday to get the house in order. He couldn't sleep because he was so excited about helping (hence his hair and pajamas in the photo). Although we paused last weekend to decorate, we still have many things to do before we can enjoy the holidays. Erik still has quite a bit of grading, Carter has a day of school, and Lea has dozens of tasks waiting to be done.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Carter and his buddy Hayden enjoyed a Saturday romp outside. Hayden's mom, Jeannie, snapped these photos.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last year we were in L'viv for Thanksgiving, but this year a little bit of L'viv came to us. Thanksgiving 2008 featured no malfunctioning refrigerators or stove, and easy access to all of the necessary ingredients. Most importantly, we enjoyed the company of Lea's parents, as well as good friends from Russia and Ukraine (Margarita, Masha, Anya, and Nazar). Nazar was one of Erik's students in L'viv and is currently a Fulbright scholar at the University of Kansas.

By Herron family tradition, Erik reads a presidential proclamation in lieu of grace prior to dinner; this year's proclamation was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 Thanksgiving greeting to the American people. We dined on standard and non-standard holiday cuisine: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, squash, broccoli, daikon salad, and kim chi, followed by apple and pumpkin pies.

Carter was a helpful sous chef and enthusiastic consumer of turkey. In addition to the standard meal, he had second, third, and fourth helpings of turkey after dessert. He also entertained all of the guests with his special version of hide-and-seek.

As Erik's father, Thomas, reminds us: "we have a lot to be thankful for." Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"You Gotta Have Art"

Although we have lived in the Kansas City area for over seven years, we had not visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art until today. We introduced Carter to art museums during our stay in L'viv last year, and he enjoyed (or perhaps tolerated) exploring them when it was too cold and blustery to be outside. Carter was particularly intrigued by some of the surrealist and impressionist art in the collection. Monet's "Water Lilies" was an especially big hit since it "is like a really big TV!"

Of course, when Erik and Lea encounter art museums, the tune of the Detroit Institute of Arts' 1970s commercial runs a constant loop through their heads. Fortunately, we found a website featuring videos of classic Detroit ads for Faygo, Highland Appliance, and the DIA's "We've Got Art" advertising campaign. We highly recommend it as a great nostalgia trip for all Michiganders of a particular age.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Fall Down

Fall arrived quickly in Lawrence. Seemingly overnight, the temperatures turned chilly, leaves changed colors, and early last week the leaves dropped from the trees. Carter and Lea have been raking and collecting leaves for compost. But, the two of them paused for a little bit of fun, as Lea captured in these photos. Carter loves to jump in the leaves.

We still have alot of work to do because our lot has several large trees, but we have an extra helper this year!

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Gonna Eat 'Em All Up...

...just as soon as they turn blue." The immortal words of Buckner and Garcia truly inspired Carter's Halloween costume design. A few weeks ago, we asked Carter what he would like to be for Halloween. His response: "A Pac-Man power dot!" Did he want to be Pac-Man or a ghost? No, he wanted to be the dot that Pac-Man eats, enabling him to consume the ghosts. We were skeptical at first, attempting to persuade him to be something else. An astronaut or cat perhaps (since we already had those costumes)? No. We even tried to use his love of geography, attempting to persuade him to be a country of his choice. His response, "This year, I will be a Pac-Man power dot. Next year, I will be Indonesia." We eventually realized that the power dot was a conceptually brilliant choice. With a couple dollars worth of foam core, markers, velcro, and an exacto knife, Erik and Carter put the costume together.

Halloween started early in Lawrence, with special events at Prairie Park and the residence halls on the Sunday prior to the holiday. Carter and Erik wandered through the nature center trails, encountering characters from fairy tales distributing candy. Carter met mermaids, trolls, nymphs, witches, and Robin Hood (who went out of character to express his fondness for Pac-Man). Unfortunately, Sunday was cold and extremely windy. Poor Carter was chilled to the bone after the park, and was unsure of trick-or-treating at the residence halls. Erik convinced him to give it a try, and he was rewarded amply for this choice. Erik and Lea agree that he was rewarded too amply.

The young women of Corbin and GSP halls were charmed by Carter, lavishing praise on his outfit (it is definitely 80s-retro cool), snapping his photo, and giving him candy... lots of candy. Carter was thrilled by the attention, and became an expert at knocking on the door, saying "trick or treat," and holding out his plastic jack-o-lantern for prizes. By the end of the evening, Erik carried the pumpkin bucket because it was too heavy - laden with 80 pieces of candy. We know that there were 80 because upon his arrival home, Carter held a census. While we hoped to give some of it away on Halloween day, Carter knows every piece that he received and has set up a plan for when he will eat each piece.

Halloween day trick-or-treating venues were at school and in the neighborhood. Carter's pre-school invited all of the kids to come in costume and march in a parade. Carter's friends dressed as a robot, turtle, witch, spider, and other creatures. In the evening, Lea and Carter took advantage of the gorgeous weather to stroll from house to house, politely requesting candy. Erik stayed home to pass out treats. After an hour or so, Lea and Carter returned to conduct a final candy tally. The total? 110 pieces!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Man Herron

Erik turned 40 on Sunday, and we spent the day together harassing him and sharing some fun family activities. After a wonderful brunch in Kansas City, we went to a cider mill in Belton, where Carter enjoyed his first cider mill donut. We continued on to Deanna Rose Farm, one of Carter's favorite places. Then, we attended one of Erik's hockey games. We hoped to have a photograph of him in the penalty box (or as Carter calls it, the time-out box), but, alas, he was not tough enough (he only got an assist). We returned home for ginger-carrot cake.

We will continue to harass him for being old, although Carter is unconvinced that daddy had a birthday since he does not look any taller!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Azerbaijan Adventure, Part 8: Conclusion

As Erik's adventure winds down, he took a final long stroll through the city. In addition to seeing the standard tourist sites of Baku, such as the Maiden's Tower (photo above), he also spent time outside the city center. He stopped along the way, chatting with food vendors and shopkeepers. Erik spoke Russian with almost everyone, and was pleased to be mistaken initially for a Pole or someone from the Baltics. He had several interesting conversations, including one with young carpet vendors convinced that the US government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, and another with an Iranian store owner about the US Electoral College and politics in Iran. The latter conversation earned him an invitation to visit Iran!

He also talked with some street food purveyors. Azeri cuisine seems to be a true fusion food, combining elements of Turkish, Georgian, Persian, and other traditions. For example, Erik has tasted a delicate yogurt soup, as well as the heavy flavors of lamb organ meat (kidneys, liver, etc.) wrapped in intestinal lining and grilled. After thanking many of the people who helped him on this trip, Erik had a nice dinner with Elchin (eggplant salad and an Azeri soup with dumplings).

Erik learned alot on his trip, and owes his successes to his many friends in Baku. He hopes to return to Baku once again in the future (Inshallah)!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Azerbaijan Adventure, Part 7: Все на Выборы!

Erik and Arzu visited eleven polling stations in three districts of Baku over the course of election day. Erik set out before the sun rose to meet Arzu at the metro stop near their initial destination. They arrived in plenty of time to watch pre-opening preparations, including the official sealing of ballot boxes. That polling station was adorned with the blue, red, and green of Azerbaijan's flag, along with images of Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev's image was dominant, but not omnipresent (a bust of Aliyev glows behind a voter in a photo below).

As the polls opened, the first voters filed through. Although a young, uniformed man was the first person to cast a ballot, the "prize" for the first voter went to an elderly woman. During the Soviet period, and in some post-Soviet elections that Erik has witnessed, the first voter received a present and the applause of all present. Today's election was no different. The polling station director had a gift not only for the first voter, but for all voters casting their first ballot ever.

The occasion was festive, with polling stations blaring popular Azeri music (see the video above). At the polling station for a fine arts university, students played folk music and dressed in traditional costumes (see the photo at the top).

The Central Electoral Commission has announced a big win for Ilham Aliyev. Preliminary results indicate that turnout was 75.64%, and the president received 89.04% of the vote. Turnout varied across the country; the districts where Arzu and Erik observed had relatively low reported turnout (falling to 107th, 120th, and 122nd place out of 125 districts).