"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Church

So, today is going to be one of those lazy days!  Its after noon and I am still in my PJs.  Nick is leaving for Moscow for 2 days, and I am a little nervous about being left by myself, but I’ll be fine.  Isla is into everything.  Right now she’s trying to put on my Uggs!  She’s so funny.  She has been imitating everything.  Trying to put on shoes, trying to brush her hair and put on make up, and anything that even remotely resembles a phone she picks up and starts carrying on a very long and animated conversation with it!  She will also repeat “Hi! (pause) Hi! (pause) Hi! (pause) Hi!” when she wants my attention.  She is a mess and I love her.

My only goal for the day is to (maybe) go for a walk along the promenade and hand wash a couple of delicate things that I didn’t get to Friday… I’m not very ambitious today!  Hopefully I can get this blog out and get busy on my final Toro review.

So, we didn’t realize that Sunday was the Russian daylight savings, so we completely missed the Baptist church here at 11 AM.  I was so embarrassed, but Nick went and sat in the back.  One of the Calvary Chapel members, Vladimir, also goes to the Baptist church, so he stayed behind to tell our driver where to go.

Calvary Chapel is held in a Lutheran Church here, which is why the service doesn’t start until 2 PM.  I personally like that fact, since there will be many weeks that Nick only gets Sundays off, and this way he can have one day to sleep in!

We arrived with Nick’s coworker Gale, and everyone was so welcoming and friendly.  The pastor is Ilya Gromov, and his wife, his brother, and his sister-in-law all speak English very well or pretty near perfect!  His wife, Ira, is a little 90 lb spitfire.  She came right up to me and gave me a huge hug, and I was so touched.  I have been called a “pint sized explosion” in my day, but now I happily and un-begrudgingly pass the title onto her!  I think that we are going to be good friends.  I was surprised by the number of people who spoke English!

Isla sat with us during the singing part of the service and for the introduction.  I made a mistake because I gave her some of her favorite cookies at the start thinking that that would keep her occupied, but she quickly learned that all that she had to do was screech for the cookies and I would hand her one to keep her quiet.  They did not so much keep her busy as unleash her inner cookie monster!  She is her father’s child.  We will try a different approach next week.

We actually recognized one of the songs, even though the lyrics were in Russian.  I am going to ask for a photocopy of the songs so that I can practice singing them in Russian before hand.  I can sound out the words, but it takes me a while.  Nick however jumped in and started singing with gusto… this from a man who rarely sings in the English service at home!

One the sermon started, I sent Isla in the back with rest of the kiddos.  She was the youngest of them all, but even with that, I am so glad that she will have other kids to play with and that can hopefully teach her Russian.  Ira sat in-between Gale and Nick and translated the sermon.  I couldn’t really hear so I just sat there with my bible and tried to pick out a word or two.  I have to admit that I teared up for a little bit over the generosity and kindness that we were welcomed with!  I wasn’t so sure that people would be so welcoming after some of the churches that we attending in Louisiana before we found our home church, Church of the King.  Both Ilya and Ira worked with American pastors in St. Petersburg and Moscow, so they are well familiar with Americans and our oddities.

We went and got Isla after the service and Anya, the pastor’s sister-in-law said that she was the “best baby ever.” :)  Isla does very well with strangers and new situations because she was always put in the nursery in church in the states.

We were invited for tea and cookies after the service, but we couldn’t stay long because we had told the driver to pick us up at a certain time.  Next week, we won’t have him pick us up until 4!  I didn’t want to leave.  Anya even invited me to the ladies bible study, but I think that I need to learn a little bit more Russian before I brave that.

I did get a chance to meet the German pastor of the Lutheran church who spoke enough English to communicate.  He was quite an odd character!  He apparently has an American passport, but considers himself Russian (even though he’s also German), and a very patriotic Russian.  He has a sister that lives in Orlando, and she is a very patriotic American who is the head of the Orlando chapter of the Republican party!  He also speaks just about every language under the sun, including Farsi… I am sure that I will get to speak with him more and more.

However, my favorite part of the day… as we were leaving the pastor (or someone, I need to clarify who specifically with Nick) asked Nick “Oh by the way, do you play basketball?” :) God does provide and attend to every little detail, even the ones we don’t think are that important!!!  Nick was so sad to give up his Wednesday night basketball when we found out we were leaving Lousiana (“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”).

And when we got home, I made the mistake of leaving my bag on the floor.  Isla promptly found it and pulled out her cookies.

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And proceeded count them out.

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Before she put them back in the bag! Confident that she had enough cookies to last her a little while.

DSC_0943 Now who does that remind you of?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Against the Wind

Against the BORA winds that is!!!  Nick and I have been getting quite the taste of the famous bora winds since we arrived in the middle of the season.  They are basically hurricane force winds, but without the hurricane!  Yesterday we took another walk along the promenade in the opposite direction of the way that we took the other day.  I didn’t realize that there was so much that we hadn’t seen!  The entire way to the end was spent fighting the wind, and it was good exercise, but it wiped us out!

This is how Isla survives the bora winds!  We could not keep that hat perched a top her adorable head for some reason.  I kept pushing it up, up, up, but it kept going down, down, down.bora islaAfter we walked along the promenade we went and ate at a little pizza place that our friends Ryan and Virginia found that was close to where our apartment is going to be.  It is the most kid friendly restaurant that we have found (in spite of the fact that it does not have a stroller ramp!) so I think that we will be eating there a lot.  There is a play area with a kids table and chairs, very unusual for here.  When my mom comes in May (YAY!) I am going to have her bring a little point and shoot camera so that I can take more pictures of my life here… while still blending in of course.  It is not normal to document all of your days minutia here the way that people do in the states, so I am thinking that I might draw attention to myself if I lugged around our Nikon every where.  I might still get some stares taking pictures with a smaller camera, but I will try to do it without being conspicuous.

After we were done eating, Nick and I went back to Tabris to get a few things and headed back to the hotel.  We did a little bit of exploring, and I think that we are going to have fun discovering this city.  I hope that we never stop exploring it as long as we are here and don’t just go to the same old places all the time.    I have been dissatisfied with Isla’s diet since moving here and staying in a hotel, so at the grocery store, I picked up some black berries without the price.  When the cashier rang them up they were almost $10 (shhhhh, don’t tell Nick!)!!!  I didn’t want to deal with having the lady take it off our bill, so I just kept them.  I won’t be doing that again unless its a special occasion!!!  But at least Isla enjoyed them immensely.

DSC_0932 DSC_0933 DSC_0934 Here she is saying mmmmmmmhhhhhh!!!!

DSC_0935We forgot that we had a company dinner so we did not make it to the play that the pastor invited us to, but he understood completely.  I don’t think that he even made it since we did not go.  After dinner, Nick and I vpned to Dallas on our computer, so we were able to pick up a little bit of American tv!!!  That was so nice, and much needed.

Friday, all that I did was laundry.  All day. And I still wasn’t done!  My friend Virginia graciously allowed me to come to her house and do our laundry, and I spent from 11 AM to 6 PM there, and I still have two more loads to do.  The washers and dryers are really teeny here, and so far this is the only thing that I think will make me long for home (besides thinking of friends and family OF COURSE!).  I will miss my beautiful giant washer and dryer that could handle a king sized comforter, but that’s ok.  I have plenty of wonderful compensations here.

After laundry day, Ryan, Virginia and Gale (another coworker of Nick’s) came back to our hotel room and played a card game called Frustration… and frustrating it was!  It never ceases to amaze me the creativity that goes into designing card games.  All decks of cards are the same, yet there are so many ways to use it!!!

Today we got up and went to church, but that one will get a post of its own later.  I am a little too tired to do it right now, but all that I can say is that God is GOOD!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crispy Hot Dogs! Extra Crispy Hot Dogs!

So, last night we finally got around to eating the hot dogs.  When I took them out to make them out of the package I thought… gee this hot dog has a really weird casing.  Could it be plastic?  Nah, it couldn’t be.  Probably just because Russians have different methods of wrapping up all of the leftover meats that go into hot dogs.  I called to Nick (who was giving Isla a bath) my suspicions, but he thought it was probably just a different, less refined, casing too.  So I proceeded to cook up three hot dogs, one for me, two for Nick… they looked a little crispy, a little weird.  But hey, this is Russia I thought… so I took a little nibble.

Sure enough.  Our hot dogs were covered in plastic. Gross. 

Hot dogs have the same casing in the US as they do in Russia.  They are just packaged a wee bit differently. Double plastic.  So I threw away the first batch, and started over.  You live and you learn, as my mom always used to tell me.DSC_0931 Yesterday was also beautiful, so Nick and I took Isla for a walk on the promenade. 

***A side note, please look for a post in the near future entitled My Toro, My Love.  I now feel like I can officially finish my stroller review!  The trilogy will be complete.***

Nick and Isla on the Promenade

The promenade runs the length of the port of Novorossiysk and it is very pretty and very long.  It was nice to get out and get some exercise.  I have a feeling that we will be spending a lot of time there during the summer.  I am so glad that we moved to the warm part of Russia!

The little get together was semi cancelled as my friend who threw it accidentally broke her ankle.  Poor thing.  She is the guinea pig for testing out Novo’s medical facilities.  She is on her way to Moscow right now to get a cast put on.  She got an x-ray here in Novo, and she said that when they put her temporary cast on they took her up to a room that was filthy and dark.  The table that they put her on had gunk on it!  The facilities are pretty bad here, but luckily there are two Doctors coming on two week rotations who will get their own apartment and medical equipment for minor emergencies like this one, and for major emergencies Nick’s company has a special medical life flight service available called SOS (I think) so we should be well taken care of in case anyone was worried.  We did end up meeting at Rena’s apartment, but it was pretty brief.

Today I am off to do laundry at Virginia’s apartment.  I know that I should be saying “flat” but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I like British/European terms for things for the most part, and I’ll even use them when I’m “in Rome”, but for some reason the term “flat” has always annoyed me… I am not sure why.   Maybe it will grow on me.

In Isla news… she is consistently signing please!  She signed please before she turned 11 months, but only once.  Yesterday she started signing please all over the place.  Not at the right time or anything.  She just mindlessly signed please as she played.  Today I worked with her a little bit and with prompting, she will sign please when she wants something.  We still have some work to do to get her to sign please without prompting when she wants something, but that will come with time and consistency.  Who says you can teach an 11 month old manners?… BABYWISE, that’s who!  Also she slept from 8 PM to 7 AM without interruptions.  Whoo hoo! 

I also wanted to say thanks to everyone for your emails and comments.  They really make my day and make me much less homesick.  One of the reasons that I have always loved blogging is that in addition to allowing me to scrapbook my life (I have a terrible memory), it also allows me to be a part of a little community that I can go to for advice and/or opinions when needed.  Now it has also become a great source of encouragement and comfort when I am far from home!  Please keep blogging about your lives and emailing us.  I have been racing through all of your blogs during my little excursions to the hallway and I can’t wait until we are in our apartment so that I can write proper responses to things.  I love all of your blogs.  I always feel like I should leave a comment, otherwise I feel like a lurker or stalker, although I have lightened up about that in the last six months.  I want to get back in the habit, especially being so far away.

One more thing.  I recently started following this blog No Greater Joy Mom and also No Knots, and both of them have mentioned this little boy Kirill.  He is in the Ukraine and has downs syndrome, and recently a judge has told the American family that planned to adopt him that they cannot have him and that they should go and adopt a healthy, “normal” child.  When I head this originally, I was totally devastated for that beautiful boy and for his brokenhearted family.  I took it as the end.  But then both blogs reminded me that it is never over because we serve a righteous, fighting kind of God.  So please pray, pray, pray for this family and this boy.  This is the evil world that we live in that serves the father of lies.  But we don’t have to be downhearted because God tells us to “be of good cheer, because [he has] overcome the world!”  You can read more about it here.

Love,

Stori

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Update

Oh no!  Guess who has figured out how to open her puff’s container???  I usually let her play with it, but after today, no more or else Mama is going to have a huge mess on her hands. Smart girl.DSC_0935 DSC_0936 DSC_0937 DSC_0938 DSC_0939 DSC_0940 DSC_0941I swear I dress her everyday, but we are scraping the bottom of the barrel clothes wise and I don’t want her to get her clothes for our get-together this afternoon dirty.  My friend Virginia is letting me come over tomorrow and do laundry!  It is badly needed, and hopefully will get us through until we are in our apartment.

Last night we skipped the hot dogs and went out for dinner to an Armenian/Georgian place for dinner.  I was feeling slightly brave since Isla had done so well the night before and napped so well that day and I was getting cabin fever.  The food was delish, but I accidently left my to-go box in the car this morning… boo.  No leftover potato kebob for me!  I love potatoes.  Luckily they had a highchair at the restaurant.  Isla does really well in those situations (for a baby – she still managed to knock my napkin and eating utensils on the floor), but I think that this is just not the season of our lives to be eating out a lot.  The restaurants here usually don’t have high chairs and are filled with smoke!  I don’t think we’ll be eating out as a family much once we get into our apartment.

Little Frances did so well once again last night!  We put her to bed at 9 PM once we got back from the restaurant and she slept all the way through to 7 AM. Go Isla! Go Isla! Go Isla!  I am letting her nap until she wakes up this morning because this afternoon, we are going to Rena’s house along with all of the other expat wives.  I may bring my camera and see if I can get pictures, but I don’t know.  We don’t know where our camera charger is… :/ and I need to save my battery for pictures of Isla for the grand parents.

This picture is just to prove that she is sleeping in her own bed again and to provide my mom with fleshy Isla pics!  Also, I am glad that I didn’t load up on fleece pajamas for her because it is so HOT in the hotel at night hence the diapie jammies.  The heat is centrally managed so the only way to control it is to open windows, and then I freeze when they are open, so we keep them closed and sleep light.

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Isla at bath time!  Her two little Chiclet teeth are precious, but I wish that she would get a few more in.  I am a little obsessed with this cutie pie!DSC_0934I think that’s it since last I blogged.  Hopefully no is getting tired me going into my day ad nauseum.

Also, I just finished Radical by David Platt, and I am in the middle of Crazy Love by Francis Chan (purchased on my new Nook! I love it, but the irony of reading these books on a grown up toy has not escaped me). Heavy stuff.

My love to all,

Stori

Ps.  In the meantime, could you all be praying that the Holy Spirit would descend upon me and allow me to speak in tongues… the Russian tongue that is! Thank you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Supermarket Run = Success!!!

DOH. I did it again.  Windows Live Writer is a pain in my boo-tay.  I don’t know why it doesn’t have an automatic save and/or prompt you to save when you close out of it. But bottom line, fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  I will rewrite this post once again.

We met with the Pastor at the Calvary Chapel today, and he was super nice, and he spoke perfect English.  Props to my husband for finding his contact information!  He lived with an American missionary family in St. Petersburg, where he is from for two years and he does a lot of work with Calvary Chapel out of Spokane, Washington.  His wife also speaks English so I cannot wait to meet her!

He invited us to church this Saturday and also told us about a few other Protestant churches in town.  One of them, a Baptist church, meets in our hotel on Saturdays at 11 AM.  The Calvary Chapel doesn’t start until 2 PM, so we are going to try to attend both of them this weekend.  For the record, I am rooting for the Calvary Chapel!  I sincerely hope that Nick and I can dive right in and serve in some way.

He also invited us to a play this weekend.  I think that I have already seen the play in college.  My BFF Emily and I went on a heinous double date that involved the play and then dinner afterwards.  We took a trip to the bathroom and tried to plan our getaway, but when it came time to execute the plan, we both started laughing hysterically.  I don’t think we fooled the two boys that we went out with…  But back to the play, it’s not my type of evangelism, but it takes all kinds and it will be interesting to see it in Russian.  Hopefully we can find a babysitter for Isla!

Nick accidentally dropped his cell phone in the lobby and he couldn’t find it before work, so I had to make a stop on my way to the supermarket to take it to him.  It was really cool to see where he works and to meet the few of his coworkers that were there.

As for our driver, he doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak any Russian, but we manage somehow.  Occasionally we need to call in a third party to interpret for us.  His name is Nicolai, which makes it easy for me to remember!  He keeps a Playboy magazine and a bottle of Vodka in the pouch behind the Driver and Passenger seats… I would be worried that he’s using the BMW for illicit purposes after hours, but today I found that he had gone and tightened Isla’s car seat on his own initiative.  It is in there tight!  It is not going anywhere and he even used his own papers to level it.  I was touched.

I am so proud of myself that I managed a trip to the grocery store all by myself!  With a baby.  Its not really saying much since the supermarket is very high end for Russia, think Whole Foods compared to Wal-Mart, and it accepts credit cards.  I am not ready to brave the local farmers’ market by myself yet!  The check out lady did not want to accept my card.  I told her that I didn’t speak Russian, in Russian, and she gave me a disgusted look and called over her manager.  I don’t know what the problem was because the manager told her to go ahead and swipe the card, and sure enough, it worked fine!  The supermarket is only 100 ft away from the apartment where most of the families will be living, so its good to have such a nice place so close.

One random thing… the supermarket is two story and to get to the second story, there is a people mover (like the things you have at the airports… I don’t know what they are called) on a ramp, and when you go on it with your cart the wheel lock.  Its pretty cool.

I am trying to really go with the flow when we go to the supermarket.  I don’t go in with many expectations so I can declare every visit a success!  The first day Nick and I bought cherry juice instead of cranberry juice and sparkling instead of still water; and you know what?  When you mix the two, they taste like a liquid cherry jolly rancher!  I can’t wait to make our new cocktail for my mom when she comes to visit.  My plan is to just decide what to make for dinner based on what I find at the market and/or grocery store that day until I am more comfortable with the names and brands.  In the mean time, its fine if I accidentally buy the wrong thing.  Its part of the fun.

Tonight we are having hot dogs for dinner!  That was something I recognized and knew how to make in a microwave. :)

Isla is doing so much better with sleep!  Last night we put her to bed at 7:15 PM, and she slept until 9:15 PM.  Nick and I decided to get her up to play with her since we thought it might keep her from being up at 2 AM.  We put her to bed at 10 PM, and sure enough, she slept until we woke her up at 7 AM!  She will be back to 7 to 7 sleep patterns in no time.  She has been napping great too.  I can honestly say that I would not be handling this transition as well if I didn’t have these down moments while she is sleeping to collect my thoughts.  I love having a Babywise baby!

I think that is it for now!  I have to sneak out fast since Isla will be up any minute since I had to retype this thing.

Lots of love,
Stori

PS.  This one is for the grandparents.  I walked out while packing the other day, and big girl had climbed in to help on her own initiative!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Novo News!

Well hello there for the SECOND time!!! I wrote this all up on Live Writer to run out into the hallway to publish, and somehow I lost it.  The temptation would be to type up a much shorter second version, but detail, details, details are what the parents have asked for and details, details, details are what the parents are going to get!!!

We have now been in Novo for two days, and other than feeling totally overwhelmed the first night, I have been all smiles since then!  This is a very exciting time, and I serve an awesome God. :)

The flight over from Moscow to Krasnodar was pretty uneventful except that we were accompanied by Rena and Dave, the couple that showed us around our first visit here.  Dave works with Nick, and we are completely indebted to them!  They have been such a huge help with getting adjusted and settled, and they were a big help in the airports trying to navigate everything with a baby and all of our luggage.  Hopefully we won’t have to travel with that much gear again!  Rena and Dave both adore Isla, and she gets a big kick out of them, so I am sure that we will be spending a lot more time together.

As for our free Saturday in Moscow, this is what we ended up doing:

DSC_0966-1 I am totally ashamed that we did not get out and sightsee and take advantage of the time that we had there, but I know that we will have plenty more opportunities to visit in better weather, when we speak more Russian, and we are not totally exhausted because our jetlagged baby kept us up all of the night before! (Excuses, excuses, I know!)

In other Moscow news, guess which big girl learned to drink from her sippy cup?

DSC_0972-1 Sunday night our friends Ryan and Virginia invited us over for pizza (yum yum), and then we just went back to Hotel Novorossiysk for the night.  Since our apartment won’t be finished until April 1st, we are staying in a little apartment like room here!  Here are pictures if you are dying to know where we are staying… in other words if your first names happen to be MELODY or LISA, otherwise, its probably not that interesting.

Our kitchenette-ette:DSC_0974-1The living room:DSC_0976View from entry way:DSC_0977   Our bedroom:DSC_0981 The study:DSC_0978The bathroom (four times the size of our kitchenette-ette):DSC_0980  Cute baby:DSC_0950

Yesterday Isla and I hung around the hotel, and then we went to McDonalds with Nick!  Talk about surreal.  I never dreamed that I would go to a MacDonalds in a chauffer driven BMW in the middle of Russia! We arrived to eat our greasy, American fast food in style.  For the record, we will not have a BMW when we get our permanent car, but we will keep the driver.  The reason, people drive crrrazy eights here, and we can’t even understand the signs, and we couldn’t communicate if we were ever pulled over by the police!

We ended up leaving MacDonald’s and went and ate at Cafe Aroma instead where I had a Greek salad and chicken noodle soup… so delicious.  We also ate out last night at an Italian place with a real Italian chef and I got another Greek salad and Nick and I split a pizza.  I am going to get so fat off of the food here!  Not because its fattening, but because its so delicious and I want to eat everything.  Its all freshly prepared and so light, and not at all processed or heavy.  I hope we get to go out again tonight!

After we ate lunch, Nick and I went to the local Hypermart, Lenta, which is like Wal-Mart, only it has a Sam’s industrial feel.  We bought some food, in addition to some cleaning things.  This morning I went and I looked at our apartment, and I hung out with Rena for a little while, and now Isla is taking a long nap, and I am just resting and catching up on blogging!

Isla has not done well with the time change, but last night seemed like she was doing a little bit better.  She was only up for two hours, and we managed to get her back to sleep with out getting her up and playing with her and she spent most of the night in her pack and play.  I think she’ll be back to sleeping through in a couple of days, especially since we can get her on a routine in Novo and we don’t have to share a room in this hotel like we did in Moscow.  She can nap in peace and in her own bed, which Mommy and Daddy like A LOT in spite of all of the adorable pictures! And the cuddling, I love cuddling.  I love those two.

DSC_0942I will try to update as I can, but I mentioned before its hard because I have to leave the room and go out by the elevators to access the internet.  I am excited to get into our apartment, but in the mean time, I am enjoying staying in a hotel and having someone else make my bed and clean my bathroom!

Talk to you soon!

Stori

New Apartment

We don’t have very good signal from our hotel room, so I have to go into the floor elevator area to check email, ect.  I wrote this on Live Writer, and I am just sneaking out during Isla’s nap to publish!  I don’t know how much you will be hearing from me over the next few days, but I will try to keep you posted the best that I can.

I was able to go and see our new apartment today for the first time, and it is BEAUTIFUL!  This has been such an exercise in trusting God to provide.  When we found out that we were moving to a foreign country, I felt like the one thing that would be important to our happiness here was the home we had.  I wanted it to be sanctuary since ever time we went out, especially at first, things would be a struggle since we don’t know the language and everything is new.  I am ashamed to admit it, since God is our refuge and our strength, not homes or things, but I really wanted a nice place to just come and be with my family when things got stressful here. 

When we came for our pre-assignment trip, I learned that almost all of the apartments are in the same building and one of two layouts, but owned by different people.  Because of this, they were all finished differently.  For instance, our apartment as 1 1/2 baths, almost all of the rest have 2 bathrooms, etc.  Some of the apartments were decorated crazy, and I mean LOUD colors, all shades of blue, purple, ect.  Now I like color in its place, but I was so worried that ours would look wild when it was done.  Every time I started to worry about it, I would intentionally NOT worry about it and turn it over to God.  I tried to remember to be thankful that we were able to serve him in such a unique way and be thankful that we would have a nice and NEW place to live!

After visiting the apartment today, I am just overwhelmed by God and his goodness and his love for me!  He does provide.  He is so generous, and as he promises, he is the giver of GOOD GIFTS.

Just check out my HUGE kitchen!  Its nicer than my kitchen in the states, no lie.

Big Kitchen The living room:Living Room The master bed room:Master 1 Master 2 Master bath/laundry room:Master Bath Isla’s Room:Islas Room Half Bath:Half Bath Half Bath 2I know that on blogger I have been mildly freaking out over not being able to pick out our own couch, and it all goes back to when Nick was in graduate school out in California.  We lived in married housing in a furnished apartment, and it was cute enough, but the couch was just a tiny little loveseat that Nick and I could sit just so on, never mind cuddle or snuggle at all.  We only had to endure that for a year, but I never planned to have to put up with that ever again, and certainly not long term (like the 5 years we could possibly be in Russia).  When we bought our first couch (the big brown one), I made sure to pick a BIG, soft one that we could both rest comfortable on, either snuggled up together or separated in case we didn’t feel like playing sardines.  Well guess what folks… our new couch is not only DARK BROWN to match our pillows and rug, but is also looks like its big enough for a good date night in!

big brown couch Now for the best part!  Oh, God is also so funny and has a wicked sense of humor.  One thing that you have to know about me is that I hate ORANGE.  Hate it.  When Nick and I were dating, one of the reasons that I knew that Nick was the one for me is when we were having a discussion about why we chose to attend Texas A&M and he said to me “You know, I didn’t have any particular attachments to A&M, but I just knew that I could never attend a school whose colors were BURNT ORANGE.  No matter how good of a school it was.  Ugh.  Its the ugliest color.”  I had always said the same thing about UT, and even Aggies thought that that was a silly reason to NOT attend a school.  It was also hilarious to me coming from my super manly, not at all metro-sexual husband!  No offense to you Longhorns out there, but orange is not my color.

Favorite movie quote of all times: “Whoever said orange was the new pink, was seriously disturbed.”

Rena (who was coordinating all of the apartments) asked me if there was any requests that I had about the apartment.  I was intentionally trusting God as I said, and I went back and forth on whether or not I should ask to bring our couch, etc, but in the end, I decided that I would not make any requests because I was trusting God.  He would provide and he was so good and be thankful for what I had. 

My only request was please, NO ORANGE.  “I can’t live in an orange apartment for three to five years”, I said, “I will slowly wither and die!”

Well ladies and gents… I present to you… OUR MASTER CLOSET!OK Closet Yes, that is a bright orange closet in the middle of my beautiful neutral apartment!  Dave calls it Oklahoma orange, and not Texas orange, lol. I am calling this my JOY CLOSET, it makes me laugh just to think about it.  I know that God put this here to remind me that he has a much bigger purpose for my time in Russia than to worry about what I will eat or drink, or what I will wear, or where I will live.  He always provides!

Anyway folks, I hope that you enjoyed a sneak peak of our new place!  I can’t wait to update with pictures once we are moved in.  Then again when our air shipment comes in.  Then again when our sea freight comes in.  Hopefully you won’t get bored!!!

Lots of love from Russia,

Stori

Monday, March 21, 2011

I don’t know why…

…but I REALLY want to see this!

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

We are in Moscow!

Hey, what’s up?

We have been in Moscow for about 30 hours and have done nothing but sleep, eat, then sleep some more!  I can’t believe that its been almost two Houston days since we left.  This is has been a faassstttt almost 48 hours!

Our trip over was pretty uneventful, except that I couldn’t sleep for some reason; I think its because I can’t turn off my Isla detector and I am always listening for her in situations like that.  Isla did great!  She slept most of the flight over since it happened during her regular night time sleep.  She alternated between her carseat (in her own seat) and cuddled up with me!  Our seats turned into a fairly wide bed with place at the top left for my head and my bottom right for my feet.  Isla started out in her seat, but then she cried out at one point so I moved her over to cuddle with me.  About an hour later, the flight attendant came rushing over in a panic saying “Where is Isla? Where is Isla?” because she couldn’t see Isla as she had huddled up near my feet (she moves a lot when she sleeps).  I don’t know how the flight attendant knew, but she got to me right before the worst turbulence I have ever experienced in my life happened, so I was able to move Isla up by me and under my safety belt.  After that, Isla couldn’t get comfortable trying to sleep with her infant seat belt attached to my belt, and I didn’t want to her to be able to move around anymore, so I just moved her back to her seat and there she slept for the rest of the flight!  I got a chance to watch a sanitized version Black Swan, which was pretty good, although not Oscar-worthy IMHO.

I have gotten so spoiled since Nick’s company has paid for business class seats up until now, but from here on out, until we get home for good, we are all in coach!  Boo.

It took us about two and half hours to get to our hotel because of Moscow traffic, and we passed out once we got to the hotel at around 5 PM (Russia Time).  We woke up at 10 PM and ordered room service, and tried to go back to sleep off and on until about 5 AM.  I am trying to keep Isla in bed during the night, so she alternates between her bed and our bed.  Most of the time she plays between Nick and I.  She likes to throw herself on us, and with her Dad she will bite him, pull his hair, and smack his face to wake him up.  She underestimates what a deep sleeper he is!  She also talks and babbles and coos a lot.  We finally got back to sleep at 5 until 8, when we all got up and went for breakfast.  We got back to the room and got Nick dressed for the office and I laid Isla down for her nap.  I had big plans to wake her up at noon to help get her adjusted to the time change, but Nick came home after less than an hour since there was nothing for him to do and we all crawled back into bed and slept for another 6 hours!  It was a set back, but I figured that I better sleep while Isla sleeps, and family naps are so much fun!

After that we got up and went and ate with one of Nick’s coworkers, then came back to the room to set up our web cam, and I Skyped with my mom for about 45 minutes.  We got Isla back to bed, and here I am writing this boring old blog post!

So that is what we have been doing for the past 48 hours!  Tomorrow I will probably hang around the hotel while Nick goes and gets his work permit and sets up our Russian bank account, and then Saturday we are going to go and do a little bit of sight seeing and Sunday we head off for Novo!  We got some bad news that our apartment won’t be ready until April 1, so we will be in a hotel until then, but at least we will get to see it.  I will take pictures of the progress and post them because I know our parents will be dying to see them!

My friend Virginia has just moved to Novo this past week, and if you are interested to see what someone else there is experiencing, you can check out her blog on my sidebar entitled Pura Vida!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An Early Bird Birthday (And My Longest Ever Post)

I started planning Isla’s birthday when she was 4 months old. The reason… I am not very good at planning parties and I wanted her first birthday to be special and I knew that I would have to put a lot of planning into it to make it good. I know that I have mentioned to this before, and maybe one day I will sit down and write out our infertility story, but there is something about waiting and waiting to get pregnant that makes you want to celebrate every single milestone to the point of ridiculousness! Here is an example:

Me: Nick, do you think it would be too much if we had a projector up showing pictures of Isla’s first year at her first birthday party?

Nick: I think that might be a little much, yes.

Me: So you don’t think I should do it?

Nick (backtracking): I didn’t say that, I just said that I thought it might be a little much.

One of the saddest things that I had to give up when I found out that we were moving to Russia was being able to have a very special first birthday celebration because originally we thought that we would be moving in January. But as our move date got pushed back and pushed back, we started thinking that maybe we could do one just a little bit early! Once we had a set date for the move, my mom and I decided to throw an early birthday for Isla together. I sent out evites since we really only decided 2 weeks ago and there wasn’t time to send out real invitations. I really wanted to use one with an owl since I had already bought Isla’s special birthday dress with owls, but they didn’t have one. I found this one, and I thought that it was cute since we were “early birds” by celebrating her birthday over a month early!

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I have to give 100% of the credit to my mom for throwing this together in 2 weeks! She did an incredible job. Cookie is so loved and appreciated by us. She came up with all of the food items, and I would describe her ideas as nothing short of inspired!

  • armaDILLo pickles
  • pulled PORKupine sandwiches
  • BEARclaw potato salad
  • DEERcorn muffins
  • CHIPMUNK potatos (potato chips)
  • RABBIT food
  • BIRDSnest bowls filled with trail mix
  • OWLive deviled eggs

The theme was Woodland Creatures, which blended well with my parents’ place. My mom and dad bought 36 acres in Magnolia, TX when I was in junior high and finally moved out here about 7 years ago. We call it The Thistle Patch! It is also where Nick and I were married, and it is one of my favorite places. I am so happy that we were able to celebrate Isla’s first birthday here. I hope to celebrate almost all of her birthday’s here in the future. There is a beautiful pond where the kids can fish, a Rainbow play set, and a horseshoe pit for some adult fun. It is also where my gazebo resides Smile.

Here are some of the decorations/food that my mom made. The only thing she didn’t make was the cake, which we bought from a local bakery. My dad and Nick made the tree stump cake stand from a tree.

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I intentionally tried to keep the guest list small, just family and special friends, but even so, we had a turn out of almost 40 people! We are so blessed to have so many family and friends that love us so much. We asked for NO GIFTS since there was no way to get them to Russia at this point. Even if we hadn’t been moving to Russia, I was seriously planning to ask for people to donate to The Smile Train rather than buy for Isla. Her Cookie and Boo (and Mommy) keep her well supplied with toys and clothing! A few people did bring a couple of small things, and my absolute favorite was a memory book from my Sister-In-Law. I absolutely love it, and I plan to give it a post of its own to do it justice.

Here are just some of our dearest ones!

This is my Nana, and Isla’s namesake. I call her “Big Frances”, even though she is only 4’10’’. Smile

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Grandpa Jim! These two are just two peas in a pod. How is it that they managed to make the same expression in both pictures?

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Beautiful Boo, and Mema and Papaw too!

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Grandpa Wann spent the entire party wearing Isla’s flower bow because of course she ripped it off and he gallantly saved it!

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For the record, I bought THREE different owl bows to match her dress off of Etsy, and somehow they all got lost in the move!

Beautiful, beloved friends!

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My sis! She’s so beautiful, and by the way she is expecting a BOY. The Thistlethwaites are rejoicing… we just love our little boys (and girls too!).

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Sweet Ella… can you believe I didn’t get a single picture of her mama, my dear Emily? Arg!

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Me with our Hallie. She and Isla are going to be best friends!

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Little Bear. He is such a serious little guy most of the time, so I love this picture of him!

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Kendall and Aiden. They are such HAMS!

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All of Boo and Grandpa Jim’s parents, children and grandchildren! This picture is special.

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Aunt Tiffy and Hallie. Halie is still little enough that her head feels like suede when you touch it!

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Birthday Buddies! Uncle Steelie (my brother) and Isla. They are both tax day babies. It took Isla a little while to warm up to Uncle Steelie for some reason. We love him bunches though, and I have a feeling that this is one those pictures we will laugh at when Isla is older.

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Fun fishing with Brady and Barrett!

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And many more… please note that Uncle Cory (on the left) has been deliberately shunned from getting an individual picture because of all of the intentionally horrible pictures that he took of various family members throughout the day!

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My favorite part was the smash cake. Isla did so well! She fell out of her chair before we started because I walked away without thinking to get her smash cake, stupid Mommy. I felt so bad, but she recovered quickly and she didn’t seem phased at all by everyone singing Happy Birthday to her! This was one of those moments that I will treasure forever. I am tearing up just thinking about it right now. I love my little girl with all of my heart, and I loved watching her dig in and have fun and get dirty. We borrowed the cutest wrought iron table and chairs from my niece Kendall, and my mom attached balloons to them. At times, they blew into us, but I still thought that they were cute tied to Isla’s chair.

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Barrett decided to come and help Isla out! Tomorrow is his real second birthday and as an experienced birthday boy, he had to show Isla how it was done! I love how intently he’s staring at the cake in this picture.

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Kissing cousins Smile. Barrett is the sweetest little boy in the world!

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After I got Isla cleaned up and changed into something different, there was still plenty of time for FUN stuff, and I got a few of my favorite pictures of Isla! She did NOT get her own little car. My mom has one that she keeps at her house for my niece and she put it out for the other kiddos to play with. Isla saw it and all of a sudden she was 11 months going on 16! She loved it.

Here she is, leaning against her little hot rod. Is this little girl too cool for school or what?

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More Grandpa fun time!

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Pawpaw was a no show to the party until late! Everyone kept wondering where he was, until my mom realized that he had fallen asleep in their bedroom and no one had known to wake him! I know that this will be something we laugh about for a long time.

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Nick making Hallie laugh! What a special memory that we were able to capture. I am so thankful for our camera.

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I love these two! They are my everything. This was part of Isla’s present from Cookie and Pawpaw, a little baby swing. It stays at the Thistle Patch though!

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WHOA! Slow down daddy!

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There is only one way to sum up the way that I am feeling right now! “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY!” Nicholas and I have been very blessed in our lives, but our greatest blessing is Isla. I am so thankful that God chose us to be her parents, and it was so special to celebrate her with the people we love the most today!

Love,

Stori

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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