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February 19

Well, here it is Thursday, February 19, and the exact thing happened which we didn't want to happen...The last few days are a blur and we'll never remember what happened when because we were too tired to update our journal every day :( That's what two toddlers will do to you I guess! I'm going to try to remember some of what transpired since Monday right now while Temirlan and Nikki are taking their afternoon naps. Yes, that's right, they're both sleeping at the same time, Papa is out on a sight-seeing excursion to the National Museum and Mama has some free time. Yee-Ha! I should be washing dishes, picking up toys or packing, but this is more fun! Let's see...

On Tuesday, Sasha (our driver for the week) took Mike to buy a few key items. Sasha knows the best places to buy everything here and Mike got some great deals. First, was an umbrella stroller to replace Temirlan's snugli which we were never really sure if we had on correctly. Temirlan LOVES riding in the stroller. He doesn't like being put down when we're out and about, and he's too heavy (26 pounds we found out today) to be carried all around. When Papa brought it home we tried it out inside and Temirlan laughed and laughed as he rode around the apartment. The second item was a walker for Nikki (no exersaucers here). She loved being in a walker at the baby house, so we figured she probably missed tooling around in it. Well, at that time she was still being really fussy and only wanted to be held...so the walker was not a hit with her. It was a hit with Mama however because she could put Nikki in the walker to feed her baby food. It's the next best thing to a high chair really...sort of a 'low chair'. Anyway, the third item was another snow suit for Nikki as the other one was so thick she couldn't bend in it. This one is too big also, but it's not as thick so she is not as miserable when we go out (misery is all relative, you know). So these items, along with lots of baby food and plum juice (the next best thing to prune juice), promised to make life better here in Almaty. Of all the items, the plum juice seemed to prove the most valuable because we think the root of Nikki's fussiness was, how should we say this, she needed some 'regularity' in her life which the juice provided. And ever since Tuesday afternoon, she has been back to her old self.

We had decided to take the kids to Central Park where there are monuments and a cathedral on Tuesday afternoon thinking that some fresh air might be good for all of us. The plan was to go around 3:00. ...Well, our plans were thwarted. Around 2:00 it started to rain, which turned to sleet, which turned to snow. On Monday it was in the 50's here, but when we decide to go to the park it turns to blizzard! We ended up going to the Pamctop (Ramstore), a 3-story mall (kind of like City Center in Columbus only smaller) to try out the stroller. It was great to get out of the apartment even to just do laps around the mall. Best of all, we got a pizza and some monomakh salad to bring home from the food court. We had a great evening at the apartment with the kids. Mike was playing crawl-and-chase with Temirlan and Nikki decided to get in on the fun. We couldn't believe the squeals that were coming out of this 10-month-old! She was having a blast and chasing Temirlan as well (which he didn't really care for, but he couldn't stop laughing anyway). Mama was worn out, so she just watched and tried to get a few good shots with the camera that mostly didn't turn out because everyone was moving so fast!

On Wednesday, the most notable thing we did was go out souvenir shopping at the Tsum store and the Green Market. Our agency arranged a babysitter for a few hours so we could do this. The Tsum store is a large three floor department store with department store type items (appliances, music, etc.) on the first two floors and the whole third floor dedicated to souvenirs. It was great! We walked around for quite a while looking at all the cool stuff and taking in the atmosphere (and I must add enjoying our first 'free time' this week!). We bought a couple things including a Kazakh silk painting from a little shop on the third floor called Silk Road Paintings (check out the link to Silk Road Paintings we included on the travel journal page or just click Silk Road Paintings web site.. They have some nice things from all the Silk Road countries). Next was the Green Market. It is a large indoor/outdoor market of food and goods. As you walk through the market, vendors ask you to sample their food hoping to make a sale. There are especially large sections of fruit and dried fruit, vegetables, salads, flowers, and meat. The Russian cabbage salad (similar to cole slaw but tastier) we tried was excellent. They also had honey from all over--Kazakhstan, the other Central Asian countries, Siberia, etc. We wanted to buy! buy! buy! and take everything home but we may already have to sacrifice a few items we brought to get everything packed! The market is in two levels with the main (ground) level having higher quality produce. The underground level is more of the same type of goods but in tighter quarters. Sasha told us it is a tradition to munch on something while walking through the market and bought bags of pistaccios and almonds. It was a great afternoon of taking in the sights!

The babysitter watching the children while we were out is a caregiver from one of the baby houses here and the children loved her. Since she can speak Kazakh to Temirlan, it was fun to watch her talk to him. She would tell him things to do (like 'open the book', 'turn the page', etc.) and he was very responsive. When he can understand what you want, he seems to listen very well. She also was asking him where his ears, eyes, feet, and all that kind of stuff was and he passed with flying colors! At the end of our shopping spree we went to a restaurant to get take out for a non-dumpling dinner. Believe it or not, there's a mexican restaurant right down the street from our apartment! Of course, we knew we were going to try it out as soon as we saw the sign. Well, it was no Casa Fiesta, Vaqueros or Chile Verde but it was spicy and it tasted good! No chips and salsa though :(

This morning we had to take the children to a medical clinic to be evaluated as part of the requirements for the U.S. Embassy. The challenge for Mama was to have everybody fed, clean and dressed by 9:30am. I got up around 6:30am to accomplish the task. Of course, Nikki had to prove her newfound regularity a few minutes before we were supposed to leave. I'm not complaining though, as I've found that I prefer a messy diaper to a fussy baby. Everything went well at the clinic and we were done within an hour. We came back home for lunch and then Mike was off on his excursion. I'm sure he'll have lots to tell about the National Museum. He was really looking forward to going there, especially with Sasha who seems to know everything there is to know about anything around here! Our plan is to go out to dinner (our first restaurant experience with toddlers) to an Indian place that Sasha recommended. This should be interesting... :)

All in all, Temirlan and Nikki seem to be adjusting well. Temirlan has normal 2-year-old behavior and cries when he doesn't get what he wants. It doesn't help that we can't explain why he can't stick his fingers in the electrical socket or pull a heavy plant pot off the shelf. We think he's doing great, so much better than we expected. When he wakes up in the morning he gets the cutest little smile on his face when he sees us. I think that means he's glad to be here! Since Nikki's main 'problem' has been solved, she is doing great as well. (Although she is still teething.) She is back to being inquisitive and smiley as well. We want to thank our friends and family for their prayers for the children and for us...they have made all the difference! This has been an amazing and wonderful experience...to God be the Glory!

Spiderman goes mobile.

Nikki, Lyn and Jar Jar Binks at the Ramstore.

The Ramstore. Yes, that's an ice-skating rink inside! (Too bad we forgot to pack our skates.)

Catch me if you can...

Winnie the Pooh gets in on the action, too.

Temirlan was determined to open this jar of food he found in the backpack.

Look at that determination!

Nikki patiently waits to leave for the medical appointment (in her new 'bendable' snow suit).

Temirlan waits to leave too (but not so patiently).

This is a message we all need at this point...Sasha told us it says 'Hang in There, Summer's Coming!'

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