John:

Many of you have asked about the school girls' 'French Maid'-like uniforms. Yes they ARE going to school in those outfits. But these are traditional dresses and nothing more! As Inna explained to us, they were the school uniforms from the previous Soviet era, and as a tradition, they wear them for the first day of school; the boys wear suits. Yes, I've tried to convince Anne to buy herself a traditional Kazakh school uniform; you know, for the sake of the kids, and for them to be familiar with their Kazakh traditions! Oh yes, and it's also a tradition to bring teacher a bouquet of flowers for the first day of school, as well.

We found out that in Russian, Winnie the Pooh is pronounced 'Vinnie pookh'. Inna was wondering why the author chose 'pookh', since it means 'down feathers'. Pretty funny, I thought, but then I guess that's better than what 'Pooh' means in English! Does anyone know why the author would chose either 'Pooh' OR 'pookh'?

We got out to the Rainbow last night. Boy, they have some mean kabobs! And boy, it was nice to get out. It was our first night out since we got the kids, and it's given me back some energy! It's only been two weeks with the kids, which isn't all that long, I know. But something about being cooped up in this little apartment and not being able to get out and around seems to magnify the feeling of being trapped. Still, I have a great deal of respect for the full time parent who stays at home with the kids all day. Wow!

Maria babysat for us again. She is sooo good with the kids! And she has done some really nice extra things for us. The other day she brought us a jar of homemade borscht soup, tomato sauce, wild strawberry jam, and a bag of vegetables and seasonings for salad. Another day, she stopped in unannounced and delivered two pairs of hand knitted socks for the kids (they're wearing them in the picture below!). She tried to explain via gestures and Russian that she had a son she had lost; she pointed to Daniel, then her own belly, and became tearful. Later, Inna told us that she had a grown son who had died, but she didn't know how he died. She still has a grandchild and daughter-in-law, but they moved to Germany after he died. We think she's very much a maternal person, and she's taken a liking to the kids, especially Daniel, because of this. We printed pictures of her with the kids and us with the kids for her to keep. She got excited, kissed the pictures of the kids, and while pointing to their pictures, said 'I love you!'. This was the only English we've heard from her other than 'Hello!'.

Anne:

I think we may have mentioned that we are both currently reading a book called, "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path."  The idea is how to keep yourself mindful and spiritually balanced with the pressures and activities of everyday life.  I was thinking today as I washed a huge load of laundry in the tub (exceeding our clothespin capacity), and hung them up as it started to rain (again!), that I am going to write the sequel to this book:  "After the Laundry... the Laundry!"  With two babies there is always an unending supply, not to mention our own clothes that can only withstand so many wearings before they get funky.  I will say that it has become sort of a Zen-like activity, though.  There is a simplicity to the washing, rinsing and waiting (2-3 days) to dry.  I have to pay attention to it, plan when the next washing needs to be.  And there's something satisfying about sitting here and looking out through the lace curtains to see the clothes hanging out on the balcony.  Even if it's raining!

As John said, we had a nice evening out last night.  We met Inna, as well as Paul and Amy who are newly arrived here from Tennessee to adopt Aliya.  There's something about those grilled kebabs with a big mug of the local beer... I'm sure made more delicious by the mere fact that we had a couple of hours out of the apartment with some adult conversation!  We had fed, diapered and pajamaed the kids before we left, but they didn't give Maria much of a break.  She said they didn't fall asleep until about half an hour before we arrived home.  They slept well, though, and were extra perky this morning.  Maybe they enjoyed the change of scenery, too!

First manicure!

Cranky Daniel!

Yet so peaceful when he sleeps!

Maria baby sits and the kids wear her home-knitted socks

Anne's art shot of Maria's gift from last night