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January 31

Well, today was our third visit to the baby house and we were looking forward to visiting with both Temirlan and Gulnaz in the morning. Instead of the caregivers bringing the children to us in the music room, we went to each of their rooms to get them. First, we went up with the other couple (Lou and Liz) to get Gulnaz. (Their 2 babies and Gulnaz are in the same group.) We were given a hat for Gulnaz because the music room is colder than her normal room and they were afraid she would catch cold. She seemed happy to see us (in her own subtle way!) and we took her down to the music room. Next stop...Temirlan's group.

Assia (our interpreter) took Lyn up to Temirlan's room and told the caregiver in charge that Temirlan's mama was there to visit him (or something like that). Well, he immediately started crying which of course, immediately broke my heart. Not the welcome I was hoping for, but with any luck the goldfish crackers would work their usual magic once we got down to the music room. Well,...not exactly. He took the goldfish as usual, but this time he threw it on the floor! Same story with apple slices and cheerios: reach out to take it but then SPLAT!! On the floor it goes! He was not going to have anything to do with anything I would try to give him. So I just held him tight and he calmed down pretty quickly, but he clung tightly and was just plain old sad. Which made me sad. And made Daddy sad. (Gulnaz just watched, I don't think she was sad.) I was eventually able to sit down and interest Temirlan in some toys (and some goldfish). He actually smiled and laughed a few times and would kick over a stack of blocks that I would build. We also actually communicated just a bit when I motioned to the three cups of food, cheerios, goldfish, and apples, and asked him which he wanted. He pointed to the cheerios and immediately got his wish. It was good that we did have a few happy minutes with the blocks & cheerios, but he would always return to being somber and sad after only a few happy minutes. And although he let Daddy pop some cheerios in his mouth, he didn't sit on Daddy's lap today.

We left the visit feeling very down and dejected. We had planned on going out for lunch but just stayed in, both of us contemplating the afternoon visit. Would he be upset to see us again? Well, we will find out tomarrow morning because our afternoon visit occurred during his nap time and we spent the whole hour with Gulnaz. We talked with Assia and asked her if she had seen this before with 2-year-olds. She told us that actually we were lucky because a lot of them cry through the entire visit, at least Temirlan calms down fairly quickly. She also told us that when he is with his group he is proud to have a mama and papa (the children are aware even at this age that it is supposed to be a good thing to have parents). So I guess he doesn't mind us as long as we don't visit him! Anyway, we felt better after talking with Assia and realized that we just have to give Temirlan time to get used to these strangers who speak some weird language and give him goldfish. We were also told that 2-year-olds are very difficult at first because they are all so scared. We love him so much and just don't want to be the cause of his anguish!

Does that face just break your heart or what? (Note: I can't imagine why I'm smiling.)

This squeaky block makes me forget how sad I am!

Hey! Wait a minute. I have to share Mama's lap?

Both of our visits with Gulnaz were great. She really seemed to recognize us when we went to her room to get her. The hat that the caregiver gave us in the morning looked adorable as you will see below. In the afternoon, she got a lot of attention since Temirlan was napping. We put her down a couple of times to see if she would crawl (we know that she can crawl) but she was just content to look around. She studies things very intently and is very cautious before she will touch anything. Always the first time you show her something, she'll just touch it really fast with her hand flat and if it doesn't feel offensive to her then she will grab it. She just loved chewing on one of the soft squeaky blocks that the Lautmans had brought (she is definitely teething).

She would not take her eyes off of Daddy. When he was holding her she was touching his nose and face and sticking her fingers in his mouth (she must be a daddy's girl to get away with something as gross as that!). Then when he would hand her to Mommy, she would look back to make sure he was still there.

So far she is the calmest baby we've ever seen. She started wimpering one time when Daddy put her down, but otherwise she just studies things, touches them eventually and loves to be held. She is really sweet!

Isn't the hat adorable?

It was all about checking out Daddy's face today.

Yep, I'm a Daddy's girl all right.

Other details - Eating out & shopping (we know that everyone will stop reading at this point but WE want to remember what we did!). Last night was fun as we went to Chagala with the Lautmans and Dillards. We swapped tales about our kids, the 30-hour trip here with associated jet lag, and favorite places to go. It was a fun time but a very cold walk home. Our apartment is on a side street just a block or so from the center of town and Chagala is about 5 or so blocks up the main street. We plan to get pictures of the town next week.

Tonight we went to the Kamelot Restaurant. It has a King Arthur theme and many of the items on the menu have medieval-themed names. The menu is in Russian and English so that makes it easier to order. It is still a bit of an adventure however as not all items have a description. However it was a good adventure as everything we bought was delicious! Lyn got fish soup and monomakh salad made with fried potatoes, beef, and beets - sort of a potato salad. Anyone who knows Lyn knows that when she finds her favorite dish thats IT!! She gets it every time from then on. And I think she's found her dish here - she loved the salad. I (Mike) got a dinner which comes with a First course (soup or salad), Second course (main dish) and garnish (side dish). I tried Robin Hood soup: a rich tasty cream of mushroom soup with potatoes. Then I got brave and ordered a dish called The-Golden-Haired-Poultry-Maid's-Kindness which turned out to be chicken in a sort of Alfredo sauce. (The waitress tried to explain what it was when I ordered so I sort of knew what to expect). I also got the Mexican garnish which is mixed vegetables grilled with some mexican seasonings. Everything was fantastic!! We will definitely go back. We also made friends with the door man. He didn't speak English, but we had a sort of conversation about how much we liked the food. Uralsk is a very friendly town. Everyone we've met has been so nice to us at every stop.

Assia showed us how to shop yesterday as it's a little different. We have been in two stores in Uralsk: the Astana Mall and the "Little Market". In both cases, items are grouped by type (household products in one section, produce in one, meat in one, etc.) like at home. However here the sections are more like deli counters with a salesperson at each one. You pay for what you want at each section as you get it. The Astana Mall is a nice place to shop and we will probably go back often. It is a collection of small shops offering everything from baby clothes to food (can you tell what's on our minds right now?). If you have ever been to the North Market in downtown Columbus it is very similar to that layout only the Astana Mall has two (or maybe three) floors. Now that we are getting more familiar with using Tenge (1 dollar is about 135 or 140 Tenge) shopping has become fun. The Little Market is a convenience store about a block from our apartment. Between the Russian we know (numbers, hello, thank you, I would like to buy this, etc) and the English the salespeople know we can do just fine. We do have a couple of misfires though. We bought some ravioli-type dumplings and needed spaghetti sauce to put on them. Well, since we can't read the jar and couldn't say spaghetti sauce, I think we ended up with salsa! (picture below) I guess we'll be going back for chips tomorrow! Also, at our first restaurant in Almaty we ordered mineral water to drink. The waiter asked us (we thought) glass or no glass to which we said no glass - bottled. This confused him and he named 3 brands they sell. Following Hannah's (our 4-year-old niece) lead, I chose the last one on the list. Then the waiter said (we thought) that brand has a glass. We couldn't figure it out so we said that it was OK that that's what we wanted. The water we got was carbonated club soda. What we know now is that you order mineral water with gas (carbonation) or no gas (spring water). We had a good laugh at ourselves on that one!!

Below are some of our favorite items from grocery shopping. The bread (homemade-style bread with poppy seed glaze), salami, and cheese are especially good. See you all later!

Saturday's lunch.

It's not Diet Mountain Dew but it's as close as Lyn is going to get.

This looks like spaghetti sauce, doesn't it?

Special Note
In case you want to e-mail us and missed the updated info on the home page, we can only get e-mail at lynsnedden@yahoo.com and have not been able to receive any that were sent to lyn@thesneddens.com or mike@thesneddens.com.
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