Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Colors on Campus

I grew up in Utah and autumn time could be pretty there, especially up in the mountains. Later, when Jon and I were married and starting a family, we lived in upstate New York for 7 years and autumn was absolutely gorgeous!!! The rich, vibrant rainbow of autumnal colors were mesmerizing and addicting. After enjoying such breathtaking beauty for so long, it was a bit of a disappointment to move to Moscow where the fall colors were duller, and now to Astana where they are almost nonexistent. Especially where we live on campus, there is not a mature tree around and the small trees seem to struggle to survive in their current conditions. I don't think the trees get much water in the summer, so when fall comes around the leaves go from yellow-green, to a dull yellow, to brown. Sad.

There was this one spot on this one tree near campus, though, that showed off some true autumn spirit this year! Way to go, little guy!


Jon and I soon discovered that it was very difficult to make decent homemade candy with the sugar purchased both here in Astana and in Moscow. It is just not refined enough. We usually end up getting some burning at the bottom of the pan from the impurities. Recently a friend, who works with the Embassy and can get food shipped here, wanted to reduce her food storage and offered to sell some of her American sugar. We got a couple cans to save specifically for holiday candies. Below is a picture of sugar in Astana on the left and American sugar on the right.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Projects and a New Buddy

Here are a few more pictures that were forgotten on my iPad and then I will be done, I promise (maybe)! Also, a little side-note, I DO have pictures of my side of the family, but some of them are not comfortable with sharing pictures on the Internet, which I respect. That's why there are no pictures of my family, but just know that I still love them! :-)

Kate wanted to do a building project with Grandpa Peterson in his wood shop, and so they built a candy jar dispenser together. Well, then of course ALL the boys wanted to have one, tool! What a cool project, right?! Here's William proudly showing off his candy dispenser with corn-free candy (because he's allergic to corn syrup). However, those stupid square candies really didn't want to come out of the dispenser -- whoops! Why can't corn-free candy be easier to come by?

Here's a video of the boys "helping" Grandpa build their candy dispenser.

More pictures of William and Pipsqueak. Remember, Pipsqueak was a neighborhood dog that visited the children several times. He didn't have a name tag, so the children gave him a name.

Notice Kate, James, and Bruce in the hot tub in the background just realizing that Pipsqueak had come to visit again!

 I love how sweet the children were with this little dog.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Peterson Reunion Water Fight

(I found some pictures of our trip to Utah on my iPad that I'd completely forgotten about, but I don't know how I could've forgotten about them! Fun times! Below is July 29th.)

One afternoon at the Peterson Reunion, Grandpa pulled out some water squirters and a great, friendly war commenced. The only adults that participated with the grandkids were Jon, his dad, and both his brothers, Jason and Jeremy. I was one of the party poopers that did not participate, but I had fun taking pictures from the safety of the second floor balcony.

Jon getting James right in the back!

Cousin Alex looking for someone to squirt.

Brucie getting his daddy.

William refilling. Look at that mischievous face!

And, here's why he had such a mischievous face -- he squirted me right on my shoes! All's fair in love and war, I guess! I LOVE how he aims with one eye closed!

Brevan squirting Will right in the face.

High-tailing it outta there!

James getting Jon.

Grandpa and Kate getting James.

Jon trying to escape from Breven and his triple squirter.

Jon's revenge refill, and Brevan realizing his soon-to-be fate.

Kate smiling and running casually from Uncle Jeremy. He wouldn't...

AHH! Right in the back! (I love that I caught Kate's reaction!)

Kate as "Granny"

(I found some pictures of our trip to Utah on my iPad that I'd completely forgotten about, but I don't know how I could've forgotten about them! Fun times! Below is the week of July 20-25.)

My talented sister-in-law, Jenny, teaches acting classes in the basement of her home with an impressive stage/sets/costumes, etc. and she invited Kate to join an Acting Workshop this summer. Kate tried out for parts over FaceTime while we were still in Astana. She got the part of "Granny" in the play "Mama's America", and Jenny emailed the script to us which we printed and Kate immediately started practicing her lines. 

Kate had four days of rehearsals in Utah (one day off for Pioneer Day, a holiday in Utah), and then three performances in one day and a cast party. Kate truly loved the experience and really enjoyed being a part of something -- something American, something she didn't get left out of because she wasn't Russian, something in which she could make friends, and something she could practice her budding interest, acting!

Thank you SO much, Jenny, for giving Kate this memorable opportunity!

(Sorry the pictures are a little grainy.)

Kate in her Granny makeup.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


(If you just want the short story [because the post below is long and detailed] -- we got a dog! Now, you can just flip through to the pictures towards the bottom. You're welcome.)

For *15 years* I've been waiting patiently (and, frankly, sometimes impatiently) for a dog, after leaving my sweet lab mix, Ashlee, with my parents when I left for college. The plan at the time was that I would take her back when I was in a position to, but, not even considering the fact that I was a student, then a new wife, and later a new mom, we never-ever lived in an apartment that allowed dogs during that time. And, anyway, after a few years, I could see that she'd become my mom's dog, and that was OK. Ashlee was an angel dog, and she was there when I needed her most and then when my mom needed her most. My grandma, when she was not doing poorly, even (politely) demanded that my mom leave Ashlee with her when she was off doing errands. Ashlee was good company for my grandma who was often lonely.

For those of you who have had a special relationship with a dog, you KNOW that there's nothing that quite matches that friendship, that loyalty, that love. There are all sorts of incredible and special relationships in our lives, but a dog's love is something unique. You can't know unless you *know*, you know? If you don't, I'm sorry for you. 

I missed having a dog.

Jon and I often talked about our future dog. We've talked about several different preferred breeds throughout the years and handful of fun names, but the timing was never right. When we moved to Kazakhstan, however, and I found out they allowed dogs in the apartments, my "doggy-hunger switch" got turned on big-time! Why pass up the opportunity? Unfortunately, Jon was concerned about having a dog in another country. Yes, even a second-world country. I know, of course, he had some good points to his concerns. Heck, I shared most of his concerns!!! But, I REALLY WANTED A DOG! (Insert whimper here.) 

Yes, yes, I wanted a dog. I wanted a buddy to pet, follow me around, play with and teach tricks, and wag its tail at me. But, beyond that, I wanted a dog for the children. I felt our children would really benefit from having a dog. Pets relieve stress and anxiety (boy, do we have a lot of that!), can be a calming influence, they teach responsibility and compassion, are a companion you can count on, and they can help with allergies.

Ideally, during this apartment-living period of our lives, we wanted a dog that was small, didn't shed, didn't bark much, was trainable, didn't need to be taken for long walks, and (since it gets so freakin' cold here) I thought it would be nice to have a dog that would just use a whelpping pad in the winter so it wouldn't need to go out when it gets dangerously cold. Personality wise, I wanted a dog who was friendly and social, liked to play with the family, but could also be calm and snuggly, and a dog who needed us as much as we needed it. My friend said it sounded like we wanted a cat. No. No. No. I do not want a cat! First of all, I'm allergic. And secondly, to Jon and I, a cat is independent and aloof, and isn't very playful.

After we returned from our summer holiday in America, and after A LOT of research, I felt confident and determined and decided the exact breed we wanted. I found two breeders with puppies available that were supposedly in the area, and then had our friend, Yulia, who could speak Russian, contact them. Unfortunately, these breeders were NOT close by and I was not willing to have a puppy shipped to me unless I had met it, at least one of the parents, and the breeder first. Especially with the high cost they were charging. 

No sweat. I concluded that it really was for the best. With homeschooling starting up, it really wasn't the best time to get a dog, especially a puppy which takes a lot of time and effort!

I had been praying that Heavenly Father would prepare the right dog for us at the right time and that we'd know it. Only a week and a couple days later, we went to a Back-to-School party at the U.S. Embassy and someone had brought their toy poodle. A toy poodle was on my list, but at the very bottom with three questions marks in parentheses. I was always told poodles were highstrung and rubbed their backsides across the floor leaving pooh streaks. I also wondered if, with their curly hair, poodles wouldn't be very soft to pet, and a soft dog was important to me. I was not sure a poodle would be for us. However, I asked the man (a marine) a lot of questions and asked if I could pet his dog, Tiger. Tiger WAS soft and everything the marine said about his toy poodle was impressive and matched most of our needs. This tough marine admitted that he never imagined himself a poodle kind-of-guy, but he's now completely converted. :)

Just out of curiosity, that evening I checked Kazakhstan's Craigslist-type website and found a black toy poodle, "three" years old, and already trained. What?! To be honest, Jon and I really didn't want a puppy anyway; we preferred getting an older dog. We felt all the work it took to care for and train a puppy wasn't worth how cute they were. As far as we knew, though, there wasn't an animal shelter here, so we just assumed we'd need to get a puppy. So, this black toy poodle seemed too good to be true. 

With help from Yulia, we contacted the owners. They were selling the dog because the mom was about to have a baby, and the oldest daughter, to whom the dog belonged, was at school all day or doing homework, and the mom couldn't take care of him with the new baby. They were anxious to meet up and offered to even come to our home within an hour or so that evening, but it was already almost bedtime, so we decided to meet the following day. 

We met up with the Kazakh family at the Bayterek. I had thought we were just going to meet, talk and ask each other questions, and decide if we wanted the dog and if they wanted to give him to us. Obviously, at that point, we hadn't purchased anything for a dog, but we soon found out that they were planning to part with him that very day. I guess the mom had taken time off work to meet us. I said, "Oh, but we don't have anything for a dog. We don't have food for him." They responded that that was nothing to worry about -- he liked human food. Well, of course he likes human food! What dog doesn't?! But, I don't want to give my dog table scraps! The family also advised us not to feed him too much "because he'll poop big". I was speechless to that. That just sounded like the silliest thing to me! "Let's starve our pet so he has small poops." No, way! (And, he WAS underfed!)

We were impressed with the little guy. He was bigger than what we had thought a toy poodle would be, but still small. He was quiet, submissive, and very friendly. He loved the children's attention and loved belly rubs. We asked her what dog items would come with his purchase. I had hoped she would have brought a bag of whatever dog food was left over, maybe some favorite toys, etc., but no. He came with what was with him: an ugly leash, a worn out harness, and his pet passport. (When Jon and I looked in the passport, it said the dog's birth date was 18 Sept. 2013. I guess that makes him 2 and not 3, like they originally told us.)  When the Kazakh lady asked if we would like him, Jon and I looked at each other and Jon said, "If we have to get a dog, I think there will never be a better one." So, we took him home with us on the bus. They sold him for 15,000 tenge (or 60-ish dollars).

You'd think that I would've been elated, over the rainbow, and through the roof with happiness, wouldn't you? I would've thought that, anyway. However, on the bus ride home I went into shock. We now owned a dog! We didn't have anything for him at home yet. What if he wasn't a good dog? What if we regretted getting him? What if...? What if...? What if...? It's a big responsibility. A big investment; not just of money, but time and commitment. One thing I've learned about myself, is when something big happens, I NEED to process it. Like an old computer, audibly crackling on a blank screen as it processes before moving on, I sat quietly on a seat in the bus in deep thought, with maybe a frightened hint in my eyes, while everyone else on the bus (Jon, Kate, Yulia, and the boys) talked and laughed and petted the dog. I know, it's weird. I can't even explain it. Thankfully, I recovered. ;)

I'll just come out and say it. I am NOT a poodle puff person, and neither is anyone else in our family! Our poodle will never have puffs in his fur. Never. When we bought our toy poodle, though, he had puffs on his feet, one at the end of his tail, and a weird one at the top of his head which made him look like Kramer from Seinfeld (see above picture). His poodle puffs really hadn't been cared for, so they just looked messy and snarl prone. We could also tell that he probably hadn't had a bath in a while, so that was the first thing we did when we got home: give him a bath. And, because I disliked those puffs so much, I cut them off before I even thought to take a picture. I do feel sorry that I forgot to get a picture of him in his funny puffs, but oh, well! 

The dogs Russian name was Tishka, but our first order of business (after the bath, of course) was to pick a new name for him. Unfortunately, all six of us couldn't agree on one name. Some of us would like one name, but the others wouldn't, and vice versa. And, even though we had a long list of dog names, still none of us could agree. At one point, however, all the boys really wanted to name him Butler. However, I think it was only because the name had the word "but" in it (insert eye roll). We don't even say the word "butt" in our family, but they've heard it enough on the TV to know what it means. Admittedly, I had spent the night before in some silly, restless hours of sleep trying to come up with the "perfect" dog name, but I hadn't really shared them yet, deciding in the morning that they probably weren't good. Anyway, in exasperation that our new dog had gone so long without a name and that it was seemingly so difficult to pick one, I suggested, "What about Griffith or Griffin..." I was going to give one more suggestion, but I was completely cut off with a unanimous, "Yeah! Griffin!" Before anyone could change their mind again, Jon and I quickly latched onto that unanimous moment and decidedly, announced, "Ok. His name is Griffin, and that's final!"

Kate took care of Griffin that afternoon after the bath, while Jon and I made dinner together. She babied him, carried him around, and smothered him with affection. I think because of that, he quickly got attached to her. Not just a I-like-you attachment, but a I-can't-live-without-you attachment. It seemed a little unhealthy, and honestly, it was a little sad for the rest of us who had also been looking forward to getting a dog. No worries, though, once Griffin began to feel more comfortable with our family, he's come to like all of us (though, he's more cautious around Will because he's not the most gentle).

Poor, pathetic Griff, waiting sadly at the door for his Kate to get into her pajamas.

Kate drawing Griffin

The following day after we got Griffin, we went to a pet store nearby. It was really hard to find at first, but when we finally found it I was disappointed that it was so tiny! I was shocked because a few people had said it was a "nice" pet store. However, it was like entering into a narrow walk-in closet. Only one family at a time could actually fit in the store. We were only able to find a few items on our list, but at least we were able to get dog food, which was the most essential for our starved, underfed and bony dog. We also found a dog bed (expensive, but low-quality), and it was fun to see that he liked it enough to actually use it.

I laugh when Griff rolls on his back for a belly rub. He is so long and lean, he just looks funny.

Again, Griff is acting sad and pathetic that Kate is reading on the balcony and didn't invite him in.

We finally found an AWESOME pet store across town. It's a bit of a challenge to get to, but so worth it! We were able to find everything else on our list and we were really pleased with the quality of what they sold. The boys wanted to try Griffin's crate. Griffin was not crate trained, so we're working slowly on getting him to like using it.

Griffin resting near William and wanting a belly rub.

Whoa, picture overload, right! Haha! I can't tell you how long it took to load all these pictures from my phone to the Blogger app. This is already a long post, so I will end here, but I will just say quickly that we are more than pleased with having Griffin join our family! He's actually an even better dog than we could've imagined and we feel so blessed!