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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shh, don't tell the kids!!

After a week of waaaay too much screen time, very little exercise, too much overstimulation and not enough structure for our precious children, Mom has decided it's time for a little change of scenery. Don't get me wrong, we've had a blast with all the holiday festivities, lots of great food, and a wonderful visit from Craig's brother and sister-in-law. We've even taken in a movie, gone to a museum, and celebrated Dad's birthday yesterday...but now that Uncle Dale and Aunt Laura have gone home and Dad has gone back to work, the natives are bored and whining. New Year's Eve in the US isn't much fun for kids (in Kazakhstan, it's a big deal, much more like Christmas here). We will be staying home, having lots of appetizers and a late dinner with our good friends. For our brood, that plan is tres dull so I've planned a surprise for today that should delight and exhaust them.

Even though the temperatures are in the 20's today and we're expecting snow this evening, we're putting on our swimsuits and grabbing our beach towels. We're headed to Coco Key, an indoor water park where my bored darlings can hurtle down water slides, ride the lazy river in a tube, negotiate the water obstacle course, and get wet with wild abandon. If all goes well, we've play most of the day and return home with children too tired to whine throughout the loong evening...as Craig said, if they fall asleep before midnight, that's fine. Now the question is...who is going to keep Mom awake 'til midnight?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!

Well, the stockings have been raided and all the packages unwrapped...and Santa was good to us again this year. He left a note telling our kids that he was so proud of them for how hard they've worked to become a family and he left them all gifts that they could play with/use together now that they've gotten so good at sharing. There's a race car track and a magic set, along with some practical items which everyone will enjoy. Then there are the usual gifts of clothes, books, toys, etc. as well as a special dreamed of item for each kid (Madiyar wanted ice skates, Kate wanted a leather jacket, Aniyar and Max got Halo Wars megablock sets, and Tanya got her very own clock radio.) Mom and Dad gave the whole family snowshoes which we'll use in New Hampshire next month, part of our resolution to establish a family winter fitness routine. Dad got a new expresso machine and Mom got a new Kitchen Aid mixer, practical gifts again that reflect where our priorities are...a couple of good lattes and cooking with the kids are among our greatest pleasures.

However, our greatest gift this year arrived yesterday in the person of Craig's brother and sister-in-law. It has been such a delight for us to have family here to share our holiday, something that happens very rarely. Laura was a huge help with gift wrapping, both for our kids and for us and Dale kept the kids very entertained...not to mention that they're feeding us as well. Dale roasted a smoked brisket last night that made all of us barbecue lovers swoon but Christmas dinner promises to exceed even that. Chef Dale has been cooking all day...prime rib, rosemary bread, a mile-high apple pie, Yukon gold potatoes, and roasted asparagus are just an hour away...and I'm blogging instead of cooking. This is the life!! I wonder if Dale and Laura would be willing to adopt me...

This is Aniyar's and Madiyar's first Christmas in America and I'd say it's been a hit with them. As for me, I must be the luckiest woman on the planet...blessed with a wonderful husband and fortunate enough to have great friends and family. Best of all, our 5 kids are healthy, happy and home at last.

P.S. Christmas dinner was as delicious as it looks...and the leftovers were pretty darn awesome, too. My favorite was the incredible beef vegetable soup Dale made with the rest of the prime rib ...and he baked fresh bread to go with it. I didn't cook hardly a thing all week...Dale and Laura, you guys can come visit anytime!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas eve eve

Tonight we began our holiday celebrations in earnest, starting with cooking major traditional favorites...at least for our family. We stuffed and roasted a turkey, baked pumpkin pies, and made a big pot of borscht. (I have 4 kids from Kazakhstan so borscht is pretty much a given as we blend cultures and traditions.) It was also the last day of school for Aniyar and Max, our youngest kids, so we sent homemade cinnamon rolls out the door as teacher gifts. I love being able to cook and bake at the holidays...it fills our home with good smells and a warm feeling all day long.

Tomorrow, we will welcome Craig's brother and sister-in-law who are flying in for the holidays. Since Craig's brother Dale is a food scientist and a great cook, we're looking forward to some stellar food. Dale sent ahead some wonderful treats...barbecued ribs and brisket, prime rib for Christmas dinner, yummy appetizers and my favorite veggie..asparagus. The best part is that I don't have to get up at 5:00am to stuff a turkey on Christmas morning. Have I mentioned that I love this plan?

Why the heck did I roast a turkey, you ask? Well, traditions are funny things and in my family, we have turkey croquettes for New Year's day dinner...but that means you have to have a turkey and all its trimmings. Kate wasn't willing to give up the croquettes...so we now have the key ingredients for New Year's dinner while also anticipating prime rib for Christmas Day. Life is good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kate says we should join the circus...or the zoo

OK, we're not your average family most days...but lately, we've been even wackier than usual. Take tonight, for example. No, I'm not talking about holiday stress. I'm just talking about life in the looney bin...like this evening when somewhere between Tanya's basketball practice and a late dinner, our psycho dog, Nellie, ate 3 Christmas ornaments right under our noses. After that, we celebrated our dog Fletch’s 5th birthday with a peanut butter and bread cake for the dogs to share only to have Nellie get the peanut butter and bread stuck to the roof of her mouth so that we almost needed the jaws of life to unglue her. Then Craig and I suddenly heard Kate screaming as if being murdered. Don't worry, she's fine...but her glasses aren't. They fell victim to a rather violent pillow fight and are irreparably shattered...the other party to this pillow fight, Madiyar, retreated to his room and hid under his comforter after we delivered our standard lecture. (You know the one, "It's all fun and games until someone gets poked in the eye!") A chastened Kate slunk away to the shower and Craig and I settled down for all of 10 seconds before we heard Max yelling that he had gotten a Lego stuck in his ear...Huh? Yes, a Lego...he claimed he rolled over on it in bed and now it was lodged in his ear canal. Now you have to understand that I defer all things remotely medical to Craig since his father and ex-wife were both doctors...therefore, I called in my quasi-medical expert for the Lego removal. I was pressed into service as hand holder while the tweezer extraction took place and I was amazed when Craig withdrew a 2 inch long Lego from Max's ear canal. A brief but heartfelt lecture about punctured eardrums, hearing loss, and sign language followed...then Aniyar helpfully ratted his brother out, debunking the accidental nature of the episode and explaining that Max was digging wax out of his ear with said Lego light saber and Mom felt compelled to further comment on the real dangers of hearing loss. In the middle of all of this, Tanya wanted to know if she could go the movies with her friend Tyler...a boy. Gulp...hyperventilating...breathe, Mom...OK, Tyler's mom will chaperone so it's a go for Saturday. We'll squeeze it into the schedule right after Max and Aniyar's appointment with the doctor tomorrow...and Kate's appointment to get new glasses.

Now it's almost 11:00 and all the kids are finally settled in bed...for a while, anyway, it's quiet. I think I'll go sit by the Christmas tree for a while, maybe listen to a Christmas CD and wrap a gift or two. Tomorrow will be here before I know it...and it'll probably be even loonier than today…and did I mention the snowstorm that’s headed our way?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From Ded Moroz to Santa Claus

Aniyar and Madiyar are just about to round out their first year here in America; they've now celebrated every holiday except Christmas and New Year in our home. Our new sons are very excited about celebrating the holidays and are enjoying all the preparations. Here are a few of the things they've done for the first time:

Decorated gingerbread houses
With 5 kids, we had a whole village!
Shopped for gifts with their own money
The younger kids found some great deals at various holiday and craft fairs...and Mom and the teenagers made a couple of late evening shopping runs to Target and Kohl's...very exciting to be shopping until 9:30 pm.
Watched half a dozen Christmas movies
They liked Tim Allen's three Santa Clause movies
Discussed the existence of Santa Claus vs. Kazakhstan's Father Frost (Ded Moroz) and his granddaughter, Snegurochka, pictured above.
The discussion ended when the other kids told them what my mom always told me...
Non-believers are non-receivers

Wholeheartedly embraced the existence of Santa, his reindeer, and all the elves
I told you they're smart kids!
Picked out a Christmas tree with the whole family
No, it's not decorated yet...that's the next post! I did, however, enjoy watching Madiyar help his dad bring in the tree and set it up.
Learned Christmas carols and songs
Aniyar even sang in his first Holiday Concert at school...and of course, I cried; he's made such progress and he was so proud of himself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What were we thinking?

OK, I admit it...I didn't really think it through when we put our house on the market a couple of weeks ago. Oh, selling the house in favor of moving to a bigger one still seems like a great idea. It's just the logistics that have me down. Intellectually, I knew we'd be having open houses and requests for showings and brokers walking through...after all, that's what it takes to sell a house, right? What I didn't fully get is how hard it would be to keep the house clean and clutter free so that it's ready at a moment's notice to make a good impression on prospective buyers. After all, there are 7 humans, 2 rather large dogs and a rather smelly guinea pig living under our roof...and we all are very good at making a mess. As a result, I have spent much of the past few weeks cleaning carpets, tidying messy rooms, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, scrubbing bathrooms, and browbeating children to pick up after themselves on an almost daily basis....and no, that's not normal for us. (Tanya walked in after our first open house and said the house was so clean and neat that it was scary...speaks volumes about my housekeeping practices, I guess!) All of this is further complicated by the season...we're making gingerbread houses, wrapping gifts, and getting out our boxes of holiday lights and decorations. Packages are being delivered by Fed Ex and UPS...and our agent is gently reminding us that we need to keep the clutter to a minimum...sure, that'll happen.

As if the constant cleaning weren't enough, whenever we have a showing, we have to leave the house...common sense right? However, it means that I have to load whatever kids are home and the 2 dogs into the van and drive around town until I get the all-clear phone call from our real estate agent. Yesterday, Max ate his after school snack and did his homework in the front of the van while the dogs snoozed in the back. It was an hour before we could go home again...such fun.

On the other hand, our offer has been accepted for the house we hope to buy. The purchase and sale agreement is being finalized now and should be ready for signatures in a day or two. The girls have been inside the "new" place and are already discussing how to decorate their rooms. The boys are dreaming of a bigger basement playroom with a larger TV to play videogames on. Craig and I are dreaming of knocking out walls and adding a 3rd bath into the master bedroom. Now if we can just sell our house...sigh...time to tidy and clean again for the next showing.

Is this the doorway to our future? We'll see...