Friday, October 31, 2008

Article on New Architectecture in Kazakhstan

This article was just posted to one of the Kazakhstan email loops I belong to (yes, there are multiple!): It's a neat overview of some of the beautiful new building projects in Kazakhstan and well worth a read!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Pumpkins are Carved

I was trying to make up a "Night Before Christmas" type rhyme for Halloween... and then realized that it was all just too much effort and I'm exhausted and the boys' costumes are finally done and a Halloween poem is pretty much the last thing I care about right now. Ah, the familiar sleep-deprived anthem of the modern mom :)

Anyway, on this All Hallows Eve Eve, I figured I'd post pictures of our ever-industrious boys carving their own pumpkins! How did they get so big and independent?!?

Steve hollowed out the pumpkins and then the boys drew their own jack-o-lantern designs (here you see Ben's intense concentration as he designs his robot-faced pumpkin masterpiece).

Then Sam and Ben got out their trusty carving kits and set to work! They did a fantastic job, and each boy still has ten fingers and ten toes, so I consider it a very successful Halloween indeed!

And here's a photo of the pumpkins proudly on display on the front steps. Note the umbrella hat. When you've got a hat that cool, it just has to be featured in every photo! And, no, I don't know why the boys are pointing pretend weaponry (one plastic that shoots suction cup darts, one imaginary and I believe fully automatic) at their new pumpkiny creations. Boys are so weird!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Smile to Come Home To

I just had to post this too-funny photo. On Saturday night, Steve and the boys went to the Nickelcade and Ben came home with this precious treasure for the low low price of 300 tickets. He's been wearing it around almost nonstop ever since - who could resist such fantastic headwear?!?

Yes, I thought he would grow out of his "cheesy grin" several years ago, also. Oh well, it's still a wonderful smile to come home to!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corn Maze, part 2

On Friday, we visited the other corn maze (yes, there are two within 20 miles of our house) with the Jr. High youth group. I took the boys so that Steve could have some "quality time" with the Jr. Highers and I am proud to say that we made it through phase 1 (our corn mazes are broken up into two halves) so quickly that we hadn't even finished our kettle corn by the time we emerged!

It was a beautiful Utah autumn evening. Crisp and clear with a beautiful sunset reflecting off of the mountains. It's good to have reminders of God's majesty and beauty. Have I mentioned lately how much we love Utah?!?

We headed home early(ish) for movie night watching The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything and leaving Daddy behind to go through the haunted creature with the Junior High kids, but before leaving we did need to dedicate a few minutes to the ever-popular "corn box."

Yes, having your five-year-old completely buried in corn is every bit as dirty and dusty as it sounds. But you have to admit, it made for a heck of a photo!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two Interesting Kaz Articles

We recently ran across two interesting articles about Kazakhstan. The first is a Conde Nast Traveler article about touring Kaz and the second is an article about the Soyez capsule landing in Kazakhstan.

Oh, and no doubt you already caught this news since you're following articles on all things Kazakhstan with keen interest, but just in case you missed it, Lance Armstrong plans to race next year with Team Astana. Go Kazakhstan!

And Mongol came out last week, as highlighted in our "Don't Mess with our Daughter" posting. Wonder of wonders, it was even stocked in our local Red Box - can you believe it?!? It's a great movie, you should check it out.

Scared to Believe

Warning - this is another meandering post about Jamie's feelings about adoption and what I'm working through right now. The faint of heart (especially men) may want to skip this post in the interests of their own sanity :)

New memory verse, Psalm 27:13-14:
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord
This is the perfect verse for me, right here and right now - isn't it amazing how God does that? It's just right because I've been having confidence issues lately, trouble being confident in God's ultimate best for me regardless of what's in front of me.

The weirdest part is that my real struggle is that I don't want to be duped into thinking that God's really going to work all things for the good of those who love him. I don't want to be duped into living by faith. I know, it sounds extraordinarily stupid, but then I think if we stepped back we'd realize that lots of us struggle to believe that God could really be that good, that purposeful.

There's some craziness going on with adoptions from Kazakhstan right now - longer wait times, some families not being able to complete the process - and it has turned me very analytical. I've been yearning for a schedule - dates and times and "sure things" even though there's a nagging voice in the back of my head that reminds me that there are no sure things in this life, period, and that is especially true for international adoption!

So last Sunday I took some extra time by myself to work through my feelings and fears. And I decided that I actually don't want a good plan, I want a good God. I don't want a schedule, I want a daughter. And I don't want an itinerary, I want an adventure in faith. And that means that once again, I give God my heart, my trust, my faith. I don't need a backup plan and I don't need to protect my heart from God (whatever that means). The Creator of the Universe can be trusted with my trust.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Almost Ski Season (?)

Tonight was Warren Miller night in Orem Utah, and this was an especially important year because it was the boys' first Warren Miller experience. As is only right, there was a big feature on Utah powder and all four of us had our appetites whetted for the start of ski season! The boys were very appreciative of the big turns on the big screen and cheered most enthusiastically in true boy style for the sick tricks, especially the ones that ended in a yard sale (I'm practicing my ski-talk :)

After our little snowstorm two weekends ago, you may think that ski season is right around the corner, but Utah weather changes in the blink of an eye - here I am catching some rays and journaling to Sestra in shorts last Sunday! But that's ok, we'll enjoy the warm sun while it lasts because the powder will come soon enough. And I guess that the bright side of waiting longer for Sestra is that we'll be able to enjoy some turns before we head to Kaz!

ps - for those unfamiliar with Warren Miller (shame!), he's this guy who's made a ski movie every year for the last 58 years and his company tours around the country in the fall with the latest movie getting everybody psyched up for ski season. Here's a link to the Utah portion of this year's movie.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Combined Goodnight, take 2

After Saturday's trip to Ikea, the combined bedroom is nearly complete. Steve installed the "harder to decapitate yourself on" fan last week (note that we do not go so far as to say that the fan is "decapitation-free" - we figure that if the children really put their minds to it, they could still probably injure themselves on this fan, but at least they'll have to make an effort to lose an eye or break an arm). The reading light and shelf for treasures got installed tonight, so Sam's sleeping quarters are now up-to-snuff.

Ben's nook under the lofted bed is now wired with not one, not two, but three lights, two on a dimmer and then a separate reading light. As you can see, Ben likes to use the reading light as a spotlight for the treasures on his bookshelf, like Sestra Baby. Happily, this project has also jived with Steve's general preference that the more wires a project requires, the better the finished product is.

So, other than moving in Sam's pictures (his baby announcement, his Olympic pins, etc) and doing some organization of the closet , the boys' room is pretty well done! That's a good thing, because I think it'll be time to pick out paint colors and start working on Sestra's room fairly soon.

I have to say that the boys have adjusted remarkably well to the shared sleeping quarters. Part of the reason that we decided to combine rooms well before traveling is that we assumed it would be a rocky road, but to be honest I think that they're getting along better than they did in separate rooms. Sam hasn't suggested one time that he'd like to go back to his old room, and bedtimes are a lot smoother now than they were in two rooms. Those brothers never cease to amaze me!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Especially Fond of Me

I am fairly certain that God created this evening simply because he is especially fond of me. It's not because of anything I have done or could do or will do. It's simply because the Creator of the Universe is also the Creator of Jamie and he is just plain delighted with me. He's smiling because I'm smiling and I'm smiling because he is. I do a million stupid, exasperating, rebellious things every day and sometimes his perfect and loving plan is to let me experience the consequences of my actions. But tonight was all about his fondness. And it was beautiful. What amazing love.

I went to yoga and simply enjoyed moving in my skin. It was only my second practice in the last 12 months, and I was worried that I would leave feeling... fat and clunky. But that's not what my especially fond God had in store. Instead I simply got to enjoy moving and breathing and bending and being inside of my skin. I got to experience, marvel at the wondrous design of my body.

And then - what a fabulous surprise he had planned for me - the prettiest dress in the whole wide world was on sale at Ann Taylor! For forty dollars, before my coupon! What an amazing hug from him to remind me that I am not only God's daughter, I am his beautiful princess. And he can dress me in dip dyed plum silk and even do it for a reasonable price.

Then I went to Borders to pick up a baby shower present for my beautiful sister, Kristen, and wouldn't you know that a fantastic jauntily-striped journal was on clearance, with lines on both sides of the page, just like I like it.

And then I picked up my favorite southwest chicken wrap from the little cafe next to Ann Taylor and came home and sat in our backyard in the crisp fall air, watching the sun set on my mountain and the stars come out, eating my chicken wrap and drinking a glass of red wine and smoking a clove (yes, smoking is bad, but I'm fairly certain that I'll die of a hundred other things before my 2 cloves every 6 months catches up with me) and simply marveling at my sweet and beautiful evening. It was a love letter from my Creator, just for me, and I am so very grateful for it.

What's next? I don't know... maybe I'll pull out the banjo and sing some crazy banjo love songs to my God. It's been too long since I've done that. And we'll have a good chuckle together at my not-so-skillful banjo playing. And I think that would make him smile. And that would make me smile.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home Alone

This weekend is the holiest of the Utah year. Oh, wait, that's fall-back weekend. Ok, this weekend is the second holiest of the year - UEA! It's Utah Educator's Association weekend which, for the vast majority of schoolchildren in the state, means fall break! It's also affectionately known as "Utah Enters Anaheim" because so many families head to Disneyland, but I digress.

Traditionally this is the weekend for the youth group trip to Moab. For the truly bored, you can read about the 2006 trip, the 2005 trip, the 2004 trip. You get the idea.

Well, this year the group isn't going to Moab but is staying a little closer to home and, because I'm hoarding every precious vacation hour for Kaz, I'm home alone for a few days. Of course, this could be lonely if it was my normal state, but since I get so very little quiet time in Jamieland, I am so excited about the next few days that I'm almost feeling guilty about it. Almost.

I have so many ideas about how to spend my hours - quiet times, journaling to Sestra, yoga, cross stitch while listening to audiobooks (I'm almost done Eat, Pray, Love, which I'm really enjoying as a very thoughtful travelogue even if not gospel), writing some letters, finishing Teen Vampire Romance Novel #4 (aka Breaking Dawn, another guilty pleasure), coffee at Borders, walking in the crisp fall air, starting some of Sestra's photo albums, reading toddler adoption books, pining away for the boys (I had to add that one since Steve will probably read this entry before he leaves)... I don't know what to do first! Actually, I'm having so much fun brainstorming that I haven't locked myself in to any particular activity. I'm just enjoying the delusion that maybe I can do them all in glorious, quiet (and gladly temporary) solitude.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Snow!

The weatherman (ok, technically our little Apple weather desktop widget - who listens to a weatherman any more?) said it was coming and he/it was right - we woke up to a white pre-Halloween this morning! As much as I love snow and the heralding of another ski season on its way, I do have to admit that it was a bit of a shocker to see those big white flakes coming down. I was in shorts last week! But that's just how Utah is - Spring and Fall are just a couple of weeks that sometimes find their way between Winter and Summer. Of course, today's flakes were mostly melted off by the time we walked out of church, but for a few hours there it was beginning to look a lot like ski season!

With all of the clouds, it was hard to get a good photo of Timp today - here's the best picture I could capture of our local purple mountain's majesty. I have to admit, she sure does look purty all snow-capped.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Field Trip to the Corn Maze

On Friday, the AM and PM Kindergarten classes at Walden took a trip to the Hee Haw's corn maze in Pleasant Grove. Since it was roughly 1/4 mile from work, I joined them for the excursion and had a super-fun time hanging out with Steve and Ben. In fact, there were so many chaperones that we were only responsible for taking care of Ben!

Even with (or maybe because of) Ben's direction in the corn maze we made it through in record time, learning fascinating facts about corn along the way. We may look confused in the photo, but we made it through in fine form!
It was a beautiful autumn morning in Utah, and we enjoyed the cool air and warm sun and beautiful views of Mt. Timpanogos peeking out of the clouds, seen through gaps in the corn. It's supposed to snow this weekend - autumn in Utah is so stinking short! But I can't complain, colder temps means that ski season is coming soon!

The best part of the whole excursion was the giant slide - it was awesome! We got to the farm first thing in the morning and we were the only class there for a while, so there was no line and Ben went down the slide over and over and over again. It was basically kid heaven. Ok, I confess that Mommy and Daddy both took several trips down the slide as well - how could we resist a slide that cool?!?

Ben and Sam would like to blog now. Here's Ben's posting:
vczxasdeerrrrddcxdsaqaasxddddddddddddxxssassdsdfcvfg dddddddddddddddddcyegiuyufgfhjugj
nhiughrigtuhgrhtyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyymmmmmmmcccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccyyghgfdh hhhhh55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 55555555555555555555

And here's Sam's report, compiled from his exceedingly amusing reporter-like questions, mostly asked using the word "experience" with considerable emphasis, such as, "Tell me about your experiences at Hee Haw's" and, "What was your experience on the slide like?" The child never ceases to amaze me. And, yes, he typed this section completely on his own:
hee haw corn maze: ben and mom had a good time at the corn maze. ben said he did the slide 1000000 times before the corn maze. THE END

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dresses for Our Daughter

When my parents visited in September, they brought out two dresses for our little girl that I wore as a child. This weekend I washed and pressed them and it felt so strange! Maybe it's because we haven't purchased much stuff for her... not having an age, height, or weight does put a damper on shopping. I mean, we've bought stuff for the trip and furniture for her room, but somehow washing clothes that she'll actually wear felt strangely intimate, oddly real. I'm sure that makes absolutely no sense, but it's just how I feel!

The white dress is just shy of one hundred years old and originally belonged to my great aunt. It's almost overwhelming to think that our little girl will be the fourth generation to wear it. This is all starting to feel more real, yet still painfully distant. I'm telling you, adoption is a long, strange trip!

Here's my current memory verse, Jude verse 2, from The Message translation:
Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!
It's so good on so many levels. It's especially good for an impatient Mommy's heart.

We won't have any real adoption news until the end of this month, at the earliest. It "normally" takes around two months to get through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so "normal" timing would have us emerging from the MFA in late October. We'll be sure to keep you posted on any late breaking news. It seems like things are going a little more slowly than "normal" right now in adoptions from Kazakhstan, so we're learning patience and praying that our little girl comes both soon and exactly at the right time. Don't worry, God is smart enough to figure out how to bring her soon and in perfect timing :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Combined Goodnight

We've been talking about it for a long time and today we actually did it - the boys are sharing a room! I was a little concerned that there might be drama, since this is basically the fruition of all of Ben's hopes and dreams (he's the social one, in case you haven't noticed) and I expected Sam to be not nearly as enthusiastic, but everybody's handling the transition in stride. Sam took the top bunk, so that deal-sweetener definitely didn't hurt.

It was important to us for the boys to combine spaces well before we leave to meet Sestra. Mostly this is because we anticipate that there will be a "transition period" (and for brothers, I believe that this is always code for "violent period") as they learn to share space, and we wanted to have as many of the kinks worked out as possible before we add the additional complication of learning to be a party of five! Plus, now we can take our time getting Sestra's room ready without having to worry about disturbing Sam's sleeping quarters.

We still have a little clean up to do (rearrange the closet, add a reading light for Sam, modify the ceiling fan so that it won't decapitate him), but the beds are set up and clothes are moved, so the bulk of the work is done. This is definitely all because of Steve - I am only marginally more useful today than a pat of butter (don't ask me why, but that was the first image that came to mind). The boys were sick towards the end of the week and I think that I'm battling whatever they had because I woke up at 10, took another nap during Meet the Robinsons (I love that movie!), and spent most of the rest of the day standing around with the vague notion that I was supposed to be doing something but couldn't quite line up the synapses to remember what that thing was.

I did, however, find a new bedtime story today. I had $5 in Borders Bucks and a 20% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket, so I went over to our local Borders (spending most of the time standing around with the vague notion that I was supposed to be doing something - do you detect a theme?) and found this gem - an illustrated version of Forever Young. The lyrics to one of my favorite songs of all time, compiled in a children's book, illustrated with pictures depicting Bobby's life and legacy. Yeah, it's one that should grace every child's bookshelf.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sam the Entrepreneur

Thanks to an increased allowance, Sam has discovered that it's really fun to have your own money and spend it how you want - we have created a monster! He is now selling paper airplanes to anybody with a spare dime - it's hard to read the sign in this picture, but it says "paper airplanes 10¢ over 100 50 15 difrent models." Here he's showing off the "supersonic," one of his favorites.

I have to say, it's been great giving the boys enough money that they can actually save it up and buy stuff that is important to them. For example, they combined savings to buy Lego Batman for the Xbox 360 last week, and Ben used his own money to buy several books from his class's book order form. They pay for their own field trips and treats, like Slurpees or donuts. It's stuff that we probably would have purchased anyway, so we're not spending any more than we normally would have, and it's been great watching them learn that there are trade offs for every purchase.

And if anybody needs a paper airplane, you know who to call.


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