Thursday, April 23, 2015

Snow Flakes

It was cold and lightly snowing one evening while going to a friend's house for a church activity, and I admired how beautiful the snowflakes were on my coat.

Another Glorious Sunset

5 March. 7pm.


My family gave me tulips for Women's Day! It was so wonderful to have a little bit of spring in the house!

James's Class Women's Day Production

James's class put on a Women's Day production for the moms and grandmas. My friend, Yulia, who has twins in the class, and I went together.

I was touched when I got there and James asked his teacher for a chair for me. My feet were feeling particularly bad that day. There were not very many chairs and most of the women stood.

James had memorized a part, and I thought I had recorded it, but apparently I pressed record when I thought I was turning it off, so I have a video about 3 minutes long of my lap. I was so disappointed!

The boys handed the girls in their class a flower and gift bag that the school provided. 

Honestly, going to these class parties at the children's Russian speaking schools is one of the more uncomfortable things for me to live through. I feel on the spot (being the weird foreiner), yet a total wallflower ('cause I don't know the language) all at the same time. It's completely overstimulating, yet boring and lonely. I just squirm inside the entire time.

Then, James always wants to volunteer for me to participate when moms can come up to play games. He did this in Moscow, as well. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do and I have never liked getting up in front of groups anyway. It's admittedly sweet because James loves me so much and is so excited I'm there, but it's so embarrassing. This time he asked me come up for a game again and how could I disappoint him? The moms were all supposed to be blindfolded and then try to find their own child out of a small group of students. They had me go very last -- probably because they didn't want to deal with getting me to understand (thankfully Yulia explained). I was so hot with that scarf wrapped around my eyes! When I found James and finally pulled the scarf from my face and enjoyed the blessed cool air, I realize that my brand-new, organic mascara got all over in my eyes from the perspiration. I probably looked like a racroon. Classy!

At the end, everyone was invited down to the cafeteria for a "tea party". Basically, it was sugary juice and what seemed like an endless supply of sweets. The majority of the table was covered in packaged, premade foods. I had recently decided that I was going to go off sugar to see if that helped reduce the chronic pain in my body, but I couldn't tell anyone that and they were all very concerned about me eating and putting food on my plate, then asking me to take some of the excess home when it was over. I was so thankful for the bananas and the blini (that wasn't too sweet).

Despite all that, I'm glad I went and that I was able to support my sweet boy, James. That's the most important thing. And, it was definitely a growing experience for me, which is good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Anniversary Dinner

Kate came up with the idea to make a "restaurant" for our anniversary dinner as a gift. She worked and prepared for it for several days, making plans, and designing decorations and menus. She got her brothers to help on the day of our anniversary.

Their restaurant was called the "Blue Butterfly".

Jon and I didn't realize that Kate wouldn't start making ANY of the food until we were sitting down at the table and had ordered. We thought she would prepare most of the food ahead of time, so Jon stayed later at work than normal, waiting for a call to say dinner was ready. Suffice it to say, we got dinner a lot later than we would've liked that night. (I'm sorry to admit this, but this was one of those gifts that someone gives you because they want to, not necessarily because it something you would want. It was pretty painful to have to sit at the table the entire time and wait for the food to be cooked. Plus, Kate had us all eating together in the end, so it didn't feel anything like a date.)

Our waiters (don't you love their bow ties on their sweaters?)

Live entertainment while waiting for the food

Group hug -- so adorable!

*I'm sad to say that apparently I didn't get any pictures of Kate that night, even though she was the brainchild of the whole evening. :-( She was cute, though, and tried to muster up as much professionalism as she could.

Thank you to our sweet lambs for the thoughtful evening!

Anniversary Lunch

To celebrate our 14th anniversary, Jon took me out to lunch at the Korean House restaurant here in Astana. We love South Korean food, and this restaurant did not disappoint! I only wish I could've shared the experience with my parents and brother, since they have a special tie to South Korea and have spent some time there. Being at the restaurant also made Jon and I miss our dear friend, Spring, who we met in Moscow and is from S. Korea.

Our delicious food!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Flying Back to Kazakhstan

Sigh. It's never easy when vacation is over, especially when you have to say goodbye AGAIN to family!

Our trip back home was, thankfully, uneventful. We are so grateful to iPads, in-cabin entertainment (I don't know how many times our children watched "Big Hero 6"), crayons, and stickers (and, for Jon and I, super-nice neck pillows)

This trip I wanted to make sure our children's ears were better protected. So, we got rid of everyone's earbuds and bought fairly nice headphones. I figured if they were nicer headphones, they wouldn't need to be turned up so loud. I think we all enjoyed our new headphones and, bonus, we didn't have to untangle earbud cords!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was just after we passed through security at the Salt Lake City airport. We were getting ready to go up the escalator when we noticed that somebody's hat was left at the bottom. We asked the people in front of us if it was theirs, but it wasn't. James got so, so worried for whomever was missing their hat -- he such a compassionate little guy! So, James, Kate, and Bruce found a quiet corner in the airport and together said a prayer that the person who had lost their hat would be able to find it. Kind of corny, but SOOOO sweet!

And, here is William at the airport in Astana pretending to be in jail.

Haha! We can't resist that cute face!

Last Days in Utah

We spent the last part of our trip to Utah with Jon's parents. We, of course, had an excellent time!

The kids had fun playing with Grandma's educational toys 
(and Grandma's noisy, singing toys.) ;-)

Grandma and Grandpa took the children to the Snow College science building to show them the great displays. Here are the cool rocks! 
*I'm so proud that my children are already determined to go to Snow College -- it's a great school!*

I took this picture for my sister at the science building since we found out how much we both love elephants.

Jon, Kate, and I got to see a production of "Pirates of Penzance" at Snow College. Thanks, Dad and Mom!

We HAD to go visit YoCrazy, a self-serve frozen yogurt place, twice to help curb my intense cookie dough ice cream cravings (you just can't get cookie dough ice cream in Russia or Kazakhstan)!

And, although I was a party pooper, the kids loved going out in Grandma and Grandpa's hot tub, even when it was snowing!

Visiting the Manti Temple

The Manti Temple is where Jon and I were married 14 years ago. It's a beautiful place! While we were visiting family in Utah, we took the children to the temple grounds and we had a wonderful time together. We showed the children the spot where Jon asked me to marry him and we talked about other special stories that happened to us around the temple. Our little lambs had such a wonderful time and they still talk about "when we visited the temple".

Friday, April 17, 2015

Meeting Baby Hazel

Another thing we were looking forward to doing while we were in Utah was meeting our new niece (and cousin), Hazel! She is Jon's oldest brother, Jason's daughter. We all instantly fell in love! What a sweetie! :-)

Everyone HAD to have a turn holding her.