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February 6

It is an unusually overcast day here in Uralsk (the first one since we've been here) but it was a sunny day inside the baby house! This morning we got to spend some time with Temirlan and his 'classmates' in the sports room and we had fun!

At first he came over by the door near us, preferring to be with us rather than play with the other children! He wanted Mama to pick him up and he had the biggest smile on his face as he was being held. He called out to the other children and waved at them all. He was so proud to be with his Mama and Papa...he wanted to make sure everyone saw him. We also got some big laughs out of Temirlan for the first time. Turns out he loves the same manuever that Hannah and Amanda (his cousins) both love so much. (You know the one...as you hold them you let them lean backwards and sort of upside down.) He laughed and laughed as Mama played this game with him. Meanwhile, Papa was talking to one of the other little boys and Temirlan wasn't sure what to think of that. Assia said she thought he was jealous and didn't want to share his Mama and Papa. In a while, he wanted down and started playing on some of the equipment around the room.

In their sports room there are bars to climb on, an area filled with balls to jump in, a swing, and lots of cool-shaped mats (like a donut-shaped one the children could actually sit in the middle of and roll back and forth). The floor is mostly covered with thick mats (which are kind of hard to stand on for adults, by the way). Temirlan climbed the bars with the help of one of his caregivers...he's a strong boy! They also have a hand-trapeze type thing (can't think of the name) that he grabbed onto and swung on. You have to be strong to do that, too! We didn't get many pictures because we were busy with the children (there were a total of 7 children in the room including Temirlan). We will be visiting in that room more next week and try to take some pictures of the room then. Most of the children wanted to hand us things and play with us.

After Temirlan had played for a while he remembered something...when Mama and Papa are around cheerios must be near. He went over to our bags which were leaning by the wall. He peeked in one of the bags, but was not quite brave enough to go digging (yet!). With the other children in the room, we knew we couldn't bring out the cheerios, so we distracted him a bit until it was time for the others to go back to their room. He was not sure what to think when everyone else was getting their shoes on and leaving except him. Like we mentioned yesterday, routine seems to be a big thing for him. It was cute when one of the other boys handed Temirlan his shoes like 'well, put your shoes on and you can come with us'.

The rest of the visit was spent quietly munching cheerios, bananas and goldfish. After such an active time you need to re-energize! When he was eating Assia asked him if his snacks were tasty...he shook his head adamantly 'YES!'. He just loves those snacks! It was time to go and Mama got to take him back up to his room (another first). Paka, Mama!

What Temirlan doesn't know is that for the first time we will actually get to see him in the afternoon as well (uh-oh, another change in the routine!). We are going to the baby house later than usual this afternoon so that we can visit him after he gets up from his nap. We will see Gulnaz this afternoon, too, but we will have to take her back up to her room mid-visit so she won't miss her nap! As we all know, naps are important and not something to be missed!!!

Look at me! Look at me!

I love this game, Mama!

I...am...Iron Man! (Note: In Kazakh, Temirlan means Ironman)

Time to refuel.

This afternoon it was back to the music room. Ah, familiar territory. Still, we were wondering what Temirlan's reaction to an afternoon visit would be! We picked up Gulnaz first, who was sitting out in the middle of the baby room all by herself, quiet as could be, in a walker. She made a little happy face to see us, but didn't 'walk' her way over. She seems quite content to let someone else do the work of carrying her over. We know she could do it on her own, just like she can crawl when she sees something she really wants and it's out of reach. Anyway, a couple of smiles later and we were off to get big brother Temirlan. He came trotting out of his room, no problem, lifting his arms for a ride down to the music room. We laid out the sheet, spread out the toys and it was time to play! Gulnaz is just mesmerized with Temirlan and she spent the first part of the visit just keeping a watchful eye on him. He doesn't seem to think much about her, he just looks at her curiously once in a while. Unless she happens to pick up a toy that he wants, then she gets his attention really quick!

We asked Assia to take pictures of the four of us, so she took those early on in the visit. We have to bring photos of the children and one of all of us to court, so we wanted a good one of the four of us. (I think we have enough of the children to choose from, what do you think?) The visit went along smoothly with Temirlan playing with some trucks and Gulnaz chewing on everything in sight! Of particular interest to Gulnaz was Daddy's jacket zipper. The end of it is made of a soft rubberlike substance...a perfect teether! Gulnaz became obsessed with grabbing a hold of that zipper to chew on it. Daddy gave her toy after toy which she would toss to the ground and continue after the zipper. She wouldn't fuss, but she wouldn't stop either! She gets such a serious and determined look on her face, it's hilarious.

We had initially been told that Gulnaz would have to go back up to her room for a nap halfway through our visit. When we picked her up in the afternoon, her caregiver told us we could keep her with us as long as she didn't fall asleep. She never even came close to getting sleepy, there was too much going on and she wasn't about to miss a thing! The big event of the afternoon was when the photographer came to take Temirlan's passport photos (Gulnaz' photo had been taken last week.) The photographer had tried to take Temirlan's photos last week as well, but Temirlan had screamed and cried and the photos could not be taken. We thought that maybe since we had been taking photos of him for the past 9 days that he might not be afraid this time. WRONG! Turns out that last week they just didn't have the manpower it takes to get his picture. It took four of us (the photographer, Assia and both us) to finally (after almost an hour!) get the photo needed. Mike held Temirlan on his knee while Assia and Lyn stood in front of Temirlan to block his view of the photographer. When the photographer gave the word, Assia and Lyn stepped to the side simultaneously, Lyn slipped a cheerio in Temirlan's mouth and SNAP! the picture was taken. It felt more victorious than scoring a touchdown in overtime! Time for some high-fives!

There actually was good that came out of 'the ordeal with the photographer'. Temirlan actually chose to go to Mama and to Papa, too, for comfort during this trauma. We were able to hug him and calm him down and he can't even understand anything we're saying! We felt this was great progress with him. Gulnaz was a little angel the whole time this was going on. Just sitting on the sheet playing (chewing) away. At one point the photographer tried to show Temirlan that it was okay to get his picture taken, by using Gulnaz as an example. He sat her down on the little chair and she just sat there like a little princess, with her hands crossed on her lap, still as could be. He took a few shots of her and she never moved. I wish we had a picture of that, but we were kind of busy!

Everyone's looking at the same time! Yay!

Temirlan, I'm watching you!

It's a toss-up...Who's having more fun?

Magna-Doodle pens can also be used as teethers...

...and so can Daddy's jacket zipper!


What Else? Food
Look out...we found a new favorite for lunch. We went with Assia to 'the bakery' for lunch today and it was awesome. They had these meat, cabbage and mushroom filled pastries (sort of like a calzone without any sauce) and they were delicious. Better yet, they only cost 60 tenge a piece (which is approximately 45 cents). I say stock up on these for the rest of the trip. (I love a great deal.) The bakery also had lots of sweets, of course, and we had some little cakes as well. We were going to get vanilla milkshakes that Assia recommended but they were out of those. There's always next time. (And believe me, there WILL be a next time!)

We had a couple of errands to run after our afternoon visit then we stopped to visit with the Lautmans and Dillards at the Chagala and then it was off to dinner at Kamelot. We both had Druid's Wisdom (a pile o' mushrooms sauteed with onions in a creamy-butter sauce). As with everything else we've had there it was wonderful. It was a lot more crowded than usual, maybe because it was Friday night or maybe because we were there later than usual. Right before we left, a musical trio started playing in the corner of the restaurant: a piano, a violin and an accordion. We have also been lax in mentioning one of our favorite things about Kamelot...at the end of the meal you get a stick of Juicy Fruit. You really start to look forward to that stick of gum after dinner!

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