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February 4

Today marks the half-way point for visiting with Temirlan and Gulnaz. Yay! We can't believe we've been in Uralsk 7 days already! We're pretty well into a routine at this point...we know our way to where we need to go in the baby house and the caregivers know us and who we're there to see! Gulnaz was standing in a walker when we went to pick her up. She gave Mama and Papa a couple of smiles as she patiently waited to be changed into her outfit and handed over to us. (If you're wondering why she always seems to be in the same outfit, it's because she only wears those outfits when she's visiting us. They give them to us to wash and bring back when they get dirty.) There was an adorable little boy standing over in a large crib and another in a walker who came over to the door to check us out who we 'talked to' as we waited for our little princess. Now, off to see what big brother Temirlan was up to...

Just like the last 2 days, Temirlan came trotting over to the door raising his arms for Mama to pick him up for the ride down to the music room. (This is Mama's favorite part of the visit because Temirlan is so cuddly, holding on tightly to Mama for the trip to the music room. Once we get to the music room it's all race cars, blocks and cheerios, forget any cuddling...typical boy!)

Gulnaz was very active, actually crawling, scooting and twisting around on the sheet today. Whatever she had to do to get where she wanted, that's what she did. When she wanted up on our laps, she would crawl or scoot over in front of where we were sitting, then sort of try to roll up onto our laps. It worked! ...that's all she has to do and she gets put right up onto the lap of her choice. (Mama and Papa are so easy!) Temirlan sat down and started playing with the race car and the bowls and lids immediately. He patiently waits while we spread out the sheet on the floor and then picks a spot and plops down. Since he gets so obsessed with the cheerios once they're brought out, we decided to wait a bit with those and play with him with the toys first. He was having fun today playing with Papa with the dump truck and the blocks and, of course, the race car. He was a little more interested in Gulnaz today than he has been, looking her over when she would grab some of the blocks or when she would sit in Mama's lap. Papa had Temirlan on his lap and would touch Mama on the arm and say 'Mama', touch Gulnaz on the arm and say 'Gulnaz' and (well, you get the idea). After he went through the whole thing twice, Temirlan reached over and touched Gulnaz' arm. It was so sweet! We wish we could have gotten it on camera, but we both had our hands full. We could also get Temirlan to wave and smile at us, which was really cute, and we 'sort of' caught that on camera.

Destination: Daddy's lap...Mission accomplished.

Papa has bananas and now he also has our attention.

Hey, this is empty! What's up with that?

Hi Papa.

Eventually the cheerios came out and then it was all over. We were trying to teach him the concept of one at a time, so Mama kept feeding him one cheerio and saying 'one'. (Hey, it was worth a shot!) The funniest thing happened when the cheerios were all gone. He got up off of Papa's lap, handed the container to Liz (who happened to be standing there with her little boy), turned on his heel, waved at us and said 'Paka'. ...Hey, if there's no cheerios there's no reason to hang around! It really was time to go (our hour was up), but he's certainly gotten the routine down even better than we do! Due to some room schedule changes, tomorrow morning we will visit only with Temirlan and we'll go up to his room to play instead of the music room. So maybe he won't just eat his cheerios and run if we're in a different setting. It will be a good change of pace, anyway.

Papa, please tell her that I don't understand English so she'll quit saying 'one', 'one', 'one' and let me eat my cheerios.

Gulnaz had only one thing on her mind when we were with her in our afternoon visit and that was chewing everything in sight! She is teething and was putting everything and anything in her mouth. She must have worn herself out in the morning because she mostly wanted to just sit on our laps or cuddle on Mama's shoulder. When she wants to cuddle she does a sort-of 'dive bomb' thing with her forehead onto Mama's shoulder. Then she just relaxes and lays there and sort of lightly pulls on Mama's hair with her right hand, holding something to chew on in her left hand. (We think she is left-handed, by the way.) She also quickly figured out how to make the race car light up and took her opportunity without her big brother around to play with it a bit. (Temirlan has been pretty protective of the race car.)

Did I mention that I'm teething?

I can make the race car light up just like my big brother Temirlan.

Today was our last day of sharing the music room with the Lautmans, so we asked Assia to take a picture of all of us. Plus, we took a photo of all three of the babies together since they are 'playmates' in the same group. Amazingly enough, the photo of all of us had every single one of us looking at the camera, including the babies. All the babies and toddlers seem to love Assia and she can get their attention easily by speaking to them in their own language! The photo of the three babies is another story as they were mainly interested in each other, especially Nina and Gulnaz.

Liz, Lou, Harris and Nina
Mike, Lyn and Gulnaz

Hey, no fair, you have two toys...give me one.

Other adventures today...

Today at lunch we tried a new restaurant called the Evening Breeze right off Uralsk's main street (just a block north and another west from our apartment). We wanted a light lunch of soup and maybe an appetizer. They had an menu for English-speakers but it was a little more difficult ordering as it is a smaller place that probably gets fewer of us foreigners. We ordered Borsch soup and - let's go for it - an appetizer of...[drum roll]...horse sausage. Somehow our soup order got lost in translation because we ended up with the item right above it on the menu - the hometown favorite Uralsk soup (a good vegetable-beef-barley blend with a scoop of sour cream) which we actually had considered ordering, so that was fine. As far as our sausage appetizer, rather than like American sausage it was small, round, thin slices of meat similar to roast beef slices. It had higher fat content than beef and tasted a little stronger but in all not too bad. Now to let you in on a secret we think we discovered: in spite of all the mention of horse sausage on the internet, it seems to be uncommon at least in the restaurants we've visited in Uralsk and Almaty. In fact it seems to be more of a tourist thing rather than a commonly eaten food. I guess it may be different in other parts of the country, but the locals here we know seem to roll their eyes like we've fallen for the ultimate tourist story! At the end of our meal, when our waitress was clearing the table we asked for our check to which she promptly brought us...two cups of tea. I guess we still need to work on our Russian!

After eating at the Evening Breeze, we walked a bit south of the apartment and found a nice outdoor promenade area with many small shops and restaurants. We ventured into a couple shops including a children's store we call Pinnochio as it has a Pinnochio statue over the door. It is a bit colder today so we are staying inside tonight after a trip to our favorite little market and eating pelmeni dumplings with pasta sauce.

Mike in front of the Evening Breeze.

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