Fantastic Five: April, May, June, July & August

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Ode to the the past fantastic five months… (with like a thousand pictures, just to warn you).

Dear April,

Spaseeba, spaseeba (thank you, thank you): we finally started to say ‘do svidaniya’ to big snow drifts and ‘prevyet’ to unearthed grass! However, you could have kept the sick bugs away from..everyone. It is not great to be that popular, seriously. But you did lead us on a short getaway weekend to Sapporo, Japan! One day you must make a comic strip about Americans at Costco stuffing their suitcases full of granola bars, beef jerky, string cheese, popcorn, avacados, pesto sauce, plastic press n seal wrap, wax paper, ziploc bags, and a huge bag of chocolate chips! We also had our first taste of authentic Ramen noodles and I am HOOKED.

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Dear May,

You BLESSED month bearing a ginormous amount of boxes, packing paper and missed toys and treasures! Humbled and blessed to set up house with our things and put up something on the barren walls! Hannah was thrilled to finally try out her Christmas present.  Things started really greening up and a new world was appearing in Sakhalin.

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…and all this just in time for us to say peace out. After the unpacking we packed for a big trip home. Go big AND go home, we stopped for 3 night stop in Tokyo on the way! I’m still in awe at the millions of people who can crowd on the subway and how it was a terrible decision to bring a double stroller. Very, COOL to see this jostling, happenin’ place with it’s ancient temples, great sushi, panda bears, endless shopping, cute little ladies on bicycles, gorgeous trees, and a lot more squished into three days. Hannah and Eli were treated like super stars with lots of flash photography. Regardless of their fame, traveling with two exhausted children was kind of a challenge.

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Now back to the states!!! We survived another super duper long flight by praying a lot. We celebrated by eating at Chick-fil-A at least once a day for a few weeks, and don’t forget the beloved trips to Walmart and Target–practically just to sight see in wonderment all those conveniences I took for granted.

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Dear June

Hello Utah summer, we love you!  You treated us well, June. In a nut shell: spending much needed time with cousins, eating crawfish, celebrating our continuing miracle child with no need for a planned surgery, meeting TWO sweet, new babies, much needed lunch dates with Mom, a.k.a. Gwamma (ZUPAS!!!), breathing in delicious mountain air, Eli’s first haircut, all that splendid family time, grandparent love & spoiling, and introducing Eli to his love-at-first-sight: a four wheeler.

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Dear July,

PACKED is probably your theme. Packed full of fun, travel, change, last minute shopping trips and loads and loads of packing and unpacking and packing. We squeezed in some last minute family fun full of hard good byes. Colorado was beautiful and a lovely way to celebrate the Independence of our country by getting down in the dirt and rocks?!

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Oh hey, why not stop in Hawaii enroute back to Russia? Ok, sure, twist my arm!  My breath is still taken away by Hawaii’s beauty. We needed another week month there! And you know what? That crazy time zone differences did WONDERS for jet lag back in Russia! Totally amazing. 5am mornings are very doable compared to the 2am wakings wide-eyed and ready to run a marathons that would have happened otherwise.

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Dear July (can’t say good bye yet) AND August,

Back in Yuzhno, we were delighted with all the lush green! What a new world that had come alive. While I will forgive you both (sort of) for your lack of sunshine, you meshed well with each other. Congrats on providing us with some perplexing bipolar weather!  But rain or shine, warm or cold we managed to get back in the groove of our lovely little life over here!

Thank you for the play dates, beach trips, afternoons at the park, Hannah’s first soccer lessons, Eli’s passion with basketballs (or any balls), campfires, fresh fresh crab (insert picture I need to get from my other half) and trying to squeeze my babies more every day. Any mom falls into bed at night (if she can make it there) with exhaustion in every part of her soul and at every stage of momhood. I’ve been tested to the max but at the end of the day, I love those sweet little babies with more of my soul I thought possible.

With that said…. I was purely thrilled to take a ladies trip to Japan (without kids)! My my first solo excursion out of the country. Woot woot! And to blessed Costco!! We basically spent an entire day of traveling for one hour of shopping at Costco, seriously. And it was great. Oh the things we crazy women will do for bulk snacks and Kirkland brand baby wipes!

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Update, it’s still winter here.

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Zero energy for a creative title! Time is like on roller skates or something, cuz I am seriously doubting the calendar right now. Almost April?! No way. And my blogging goal has been low on the totem pole…

But yeah, way. Here we are. These two generally-happy-busy babes are just growing way faster than I can say happy spring winter!

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In case you were wondering, there is still plenty of snow over here (wish I could send some of it home!!). We’ve had a few teases of lovely warm days where things really started to melt. Then everything turns pretty slushy yucky and you have to convince your three old that dirty gray snow is not okay to eat. (I think she’s already afraid of yellow snow, thank goodness that sunk in. haha.)

We love going on walks around the neighborhood in the afternoons.  They (meaning the compound employees) work very hard to keep the sidewalks super clear, which is super nice. I think I’d go crazy shoveling snow and chopping ice all the live-long day!

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A few weeks ago we took Hannah snow shoeing for the first time. She was less than thrilled. I think everyone could hear her screaming. Poor thing. I’m still not sure what was so traumatizing!  This path is just across the street from our house.

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Then another few weeks ago, Jake and I managed to slip away to the slopes.  After dusting my snowboard off so to speak, I had a good few runs without falling. Haha! It was great. The mountain here is just 20 minutes from us and not very big. We were home in time for naps.

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K, I had to take a picture of this. Who has used or heard of a T-bar lift? Because it was SUPER hard and totally embarrassing. I almost fell over on my face twice and made all the 50 Russians in line behind me mad and ramble some wonderful sounding words. I’m real glad I couldn’t understand and just stared blankly at them. Whaa? Russians like to cut in front of you anyway, so they were happy to leave me behind while I got up my courage to try for the third time and WHEW. I did it. But I’m still having nightsweats at the thought of doing it again! Heh.

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Things were really melting for a while it seemed, but we just had a great long snow storm on Tuesday–it didn’t stop snowing or blowing all day.  It made for a slow morning for the buses the next day so Jake didn’t have to leave until after the kids woke up!  Eli obviously wanted to go with him. He has turned into quite the Daddy’s boy!

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Here’s a random picture of how we stay in style and keep our wet, slushy boots from getting the floors all dirty in various public places. Kind of like a shower cap, except for your feet of course. Nice, eh?

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Other major, important, big deals that have happened around here is Hannah potty training and starting school!! We hit potty training head on for few weeks and bam bam, she was ready. (What a night and day difference from last summer.) Not entirely accident free but she’s doing awesome.

So, my big girl started attending the International School of Sakhalin Nursery’s class (like preschool). She goes every day and loves it!

How did she get this big? *sob*

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The layering was is a bit of an adjustment. Oh snow pants how we love you and the pure frustration and screaming you can cause! Not to mention those stinkin’ mittens when you can’t find your thumb! Waahhhh. School sure does wear her out, though!

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I’ve got a carpooling system worked with two other moms & their two sweet kiddos and it is working great so far.

Well, let’s talk about the transportation around here!  Driving myself around this part of Russia would send me to an early grave or at least give me an ulcer no doubt, thankfully I don’t have to (it’s not allowed for any of us “expats”).  Russian-employees of the company get to do all the driving.

So. If you want to go somewhere, you call “dispatch” and schedule a car, tell them where you want to go, how many are going, how long you will be, etc.  I’ve learned it is best to call hours in advance, or even the day before.  Also, if you want the driver to wait for you while you run into the store, for example, or leave a car seat in the car, or something, you set all that in place before with dispatch. And then if you are out and about and need to go some place you did not request prior, you gotta call the dispatch folks again and they will tell the driver and hopefully it will work. (Have I lost ya, yet?) I haven’t had too many problems, thankfully. I was super intimidated about the whole thing at first for some reason, but I think we’ve gotten used to it.

I have learned a few things.

Hannah’s car seat is a TANK.  I appreciate the safety aspects of Diono car seats, and how compact it can be but it is NOT ideal for lugging in and out and in and out and in and out all.the.time!

Be flexible. Sometimes you can’t always get a car when you need to (but this hasn’t been too bad for me either).

Don’t worry about making small talk with the drivers because oh yeah, I can’t. I don’t speak Russian. And they don’t small talk anyway. I’ve got my few Russian words that are necessary. Hello. Ready. Let’s go! Please wait. Good bye. Thank you!  (Though I am trying to learn more.)

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Sorry I’m lazy and will fix the size/placing of pics later. That’s I have energy for right now, peeps. Stayed tuned though, I promise I will post again soon.. I have oodles of pictures y’all are dying to see I’m sure.

Peace out!

Lovely Little Russia Home

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We have been in our lovely little Russia home for two weeks people!

Haaapppppy day oh happy happy day.

It’s spacious and I don’t know how we’ll fill all the cupboards and closets! We couldn’t be more grateful and feel more blessed to say farewell to the suitcases for a while.

First thing Hannah wanted to do on move-in day was go upstairs and find the toys. Sadly there were none to be found, but she was thrilled enough with her own big special bed!

Onto the pics of the house!

Our house is the door on the right.

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Entrance/mudroom:

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Looking in from the mudroom: IMG_7729

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Now looking left: Maybe this is confusing, but on the left is the staircase, on the right is the formal dining and the far right is into the kitchen, far left is into the spacious laundry room (sorry no pic, it’s always laundry day). And of course the backdoor..

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Hello kitchen!IMG_7739

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Obvious staircase to upper floor: The little door below is a pretty awesome crawl space/toy closet (or fun slamming mechanism for Mr. E). And don’t forget the fancy toy box out of cardboard.
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Upstairs: There are 4 bedrooms… (Two each side)

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(Not that it matters to anyone…this extra night stand will go somewhere else.)IMG_7745

Right now E is in the bigger room because he is actually in the spacious closet. I think this will eventually be Miss H’s room/play room. But the poor lad has had such up and down sleep, and we are finally somewhere I can let him fuss a little bit.  So the closet is where he will be heard the least (hopefully). I know, I know, call me a terrible mother.. but after a year of us both not sleeping, it is TIME to sleep!!!

And you know what?

He loves his little closet room.

Shhh, don’t tell him but he is sleeping great!!

I’ve also noticed he sleeps better in the dark, so yeah, I even put the chair in there to rock him a little (see, I’m not so bad, right?). I’m really kicking myself that I didn’t put our room-darkening curtains in our air shipment. IMG_7727

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Our room–bike is a nice accessory, yeah? 🙂IMG_7725

Sorry no pic of Hannah’s room since she was sleeping when I took these.

The furniture is provided by the company. They also include other essentials like dishes, towels, bedding, etc. Most of our personal things/decorations are coming in our big sea shipment.

Our air shipment arrived around the time we moved (great timing) and we had some of our own essentials. During pack up, unfortunately some things got shifted around and didn’t make it into the right pile but it’s just stuff, right? We’re hopeful our sea shipment will arrive in a month or so, but I’m not counting on it. There is a big strike (check it out) on the west coast and TONS (literally) of shipments are just sitting there! Wow.

In closing, our big announcement: Eli has taken his first few steps!! He’s not on the run yet and I can’t seem to catch anything on camera, but he’s pretty pleased with himself!!

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Ps–Anyone have any fabulous interior design kid-friendly wisdom of house to hide all those eye-sore computer cords??)