Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trip to the mountains

Today we drove up to the mountains to do a little hiking. The mountains here are even closer than in Calgary. We had to drive only about 25 minutes from our house. There is a big lake up there (called Big Almaty Lake!) and a river of snow melt that comes down the mountain. We drove up as far as the car could take us and then hiked around.

Here's Olivia at the start of our hike:

Part way up we found a spot on the river that was relatively calm. Most areas had only rapidly moving water. The girls took off their shoes to get in. It was really cold but I dared Emily and Marcy to walk out there for a photo:

Here's Emily's look of pain after coming back out of the water:

We stopped on the way home to have some local "plof" which is basically rice pilaf but for some reason they had none (have to get used to that.) But, we drank some local brew, found out they make a pretty good pizza, and the girls got some milkshakes so everyone was happy. We'll have to go out for "plof" again another time.

While Almaty is not the most picturesque in general, if the mountains are in clear view it's actually very nice. This photo was taken just around the corner from our house. We'll try to enjoy the views and the weather while we can!

Off to school

The girls started school on Thurs, thank goodness. Only so many times you can go to the grocery store and walk around the block before everyone gets really bored. All three picked out their outfits the night before, separately, but ended up dressed alike. It's our first time with no uniforms and it should work out okay as long as I can keep up with the laundry. It's nice to be able to walk to school again. Long gone are my hour and a half round trip commutes to school in the morning.
The other big event this past week was the arrival of Snuggles. It was NOT uneventful. I went to get him at the airport at 8am (his flight arrived about 4:15am) and left the airport at 11am empty handed. He finally got released to Ivan the driver about 4pm. Apparently he and his kennel weighed more than 50 kg requiring more paperwork and money and the paperwork was not in Frank's name and he didn't have a dog passport. But, everyone is happy he is here now!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Welcome to Almaty

We safely arrived! I discovered that Blogger is blocked in Kazakhstan. Apparently someone posted some negative opinions about Kazakh government and they cut the site off. I tried to access via proxy but can't post there. So, have to use Frank's computer for blogging from now on.
We arrived early Sunday morning, tried to sleep, failed, hung around, napped, then headed out to eat and explore a bit. We went to an area called Kok-Tube where they have a cable car to the top of a small mountain, a luge ride, animals, and carnival games. We ate at Noodles where you can get noodles from all over the world (except alot were not available - apparently a typical occurence at restaurants.) We made it through the evening and are almost over jetlag now. Our last couple days have been organizational in nature and will continue to be. Testing tomorrow and school starts on Thurs. I'm ready for them to be off and not yelling MOM! through this big empty house where everything echoes. Enjoy the photos and I'll post again soon!
This is Almaty in Russian

Here are the girls with Ivan, our driver, on the cable car

A view of Almaty from the top
(not cloudy, that's pollution!)
Riding the luge built into the side of the mountain

Final note: We had nice hot sunny weather on Sunday and then my weather jinx kicked in. It rained all day on Mon (first real rain since June) and today it was relatively cool, maybe 65. I bring it where ever I go.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And she's off!!

Yesterday we moved Madeline into the dorm at Hockaday. It felt alot like moving her off to college with new bedding and lists of what she still needs and fitting everything into one small dresser and closet. But, her room is alot nicer than any dorm room I ever had and the housekeeping chart was surely not something any college dorm room would have. She will be "graded" on such things as bed made, dirty laundry only in a hamper, clothes neatly hung and shoes neatly organized in the closet, desk and dresser tops kept free of clutter, all food items securely stored in covered bins, no dirty dishes left in the room, books and paper put away or neatly organized on the desk. This will be much tougher than anything she ever had to do at home!! Here she is on her neatly made bed which will have to stay this way:

We were all anxious to meet her room mate. She is Fangfei Li (pronounced Fong-fay but she said call her Fay.) She comes from Beijing and is at Hockaday for a one year exchange program. While I have felt bad about leaving Madeline at boarding school I realize that she will have it pretty good. We are here for most of her first week, we'll be visiting Dallas, she'll come to Kazakhstan, Christmas will be spent together, and she has family and a house around the corner. Fay got here two days ago with two suitcases, will stay with a host family for all school breaks and won't see her family again until May. I think Madeline will be okay.

Frank worried about her all night and called first thing this morning to see how things went. She was racing off to cheerleading and didn't have time to chit chat. I think she is pretty unconcerned about making us feel comfortable with the whole thing!! She did say she's going to have a hard time getting used to sleeping in a twin bed. It's a tough life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my 41st birthday. I won't try to hide my age since it is clearly displayed on the cake photos below! About a week ago I bought a kids cooking magazine at the grocery store. We've actually made a few things already and the recipes are quite good. They had a "Candy Land" cake that Olivia marked as something she wanted to make. I said, "Absolutely not!" So, guess what I got for birthday cake? Wowa (my mom) took the girls shopping for ingredients, helped them mix the batter and icing, and then oversaw the decorating (the most difficult part because even though I begged for my birthday that they cooperate with each other there was still fighting.) As long as I didn't have to be in charge I was all right with a cake of this magnitude. Here are the bakers/decorators:
And a close-up of the Candy Land creation (includes starbursts, candy canes, dots, m&ms, tootsie pops, marshmallows, peppermints, reese's cups, ice cream cones, lots of sprinkles and icing):

The Rehagens came over for cake which was served late to accomodate Emily's soccer camp. So, she went home with three kids on a sugar high at 9:30pm. Sorry!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spectator sport

For the past two years I have been coaching Marcy's soccer team. That means during games I'm coaching all the players and not necessarily always paying attention just to Marcy and certainly not taking pictures of her during the game. Last week at church some family friends invited her to play on their indoor team for the few weeks we are still here in Dallas. It was nice to just watch her and I got to take photos. Here she is in action:

Here's Marcy with Abigail and Maeve. She knew them both from preschool and, since it's a small world anywhere you go, they are also cousins whose grandparents live across the street from us. So, we see them when we are home during breaks.

And now for the truth: I like being coach. Marcy didn't want to listen to a word I had to say about the game. I wasn't the coach and I was just supposed sit there and watch and not tell her what to do. But, she started out the first game playing like she was embarrassed to be out there. I had to say something!!

Since there's been alot of soccer watching the past few days, here's a photo from this evenings FC Dallas game that I took Marcy and Emily to. It was a little nicer than Thurs - only 96 at kickoff. FC Dallas won 3-1. Philadelphia played most of the game down a man as the goalie got a red card and was ejected early in the first half. Certainly the first time I ever saw a goalie get a red card. We stayed after the game to get some autographs which is why Emily is trying to show the back of her shirt which she got signed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

FC Dallas

FC Dallas (Dallas' Major League Soccer team) played UEFA champs Inter Milan last night in an exhibition game. I knew about it all summer and really wanted to go. I finally bought tickets yesterday afternoon. Olivia didn't want to go and Marcy didn't want to miss golf lessons so I took Madeline and Emily. It was HOT - 102 degrees at kickoff at 8pm! But, it was fun and the game ended in a 2-2 tie which was a great result for Dallas.

Our seats we in the bleachers directly behind the FC Dallas fan club which included drums and chanting and flags waving and standing for the entire game. This was fun for a bit but Emily couldn't see too well and it was hot - we just wanted to sit. Here's what our section looked like after Dallas' first goal. It pretty much looked this way the whole game minus the fireworks.
The FC Dallas mascot (whose name is Hooper) came over to visit the rowdy section during halftime so Emily went to meet him. She had to fight off a bunch of enthusiatic adults to get her photo taken.

At the end of the game the whole team came by the rowdy section and gave high 5s to the fans lined up along the wall. Emily raced down there and squeezed herself in to get the high 5s. She said that was cool except the players hands were sweaty.

Emily has a Kenny Cooper FC Dallas jersey from last summer. He doesn't play for the team right now as he is on loan to a European team. But, he is a local boy (Jesuit grad) and the guy who teaches my bootcamp class is Cooper's friend from high school. He said he would get Emily an autograph the next time he sees him. She would be so excited! I ended up buying tickets to Sunday's game as we were leaving the stadium so that Emily could go again and Marcy could get to a game. Should have gone earlier in the summer as well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Break down

No - not me, but everything else. (And I might be next.) I've already had a flat tire this summer, a plumbing clog that required it to be snaked from the roof through the air vent, the washing machine leaking inside after every cycle so you have to turn off the water to it every time, and the connector for the pool sweep went bad and had to be replaced. Yesterday the pool pump went out, the last few days the A/C in the Volvo comes on while the car is off and parked in the driveway, and the cable guy has been here for 7+ hours trying to switch us over.

Nothing ever seems to work smoothly.