It’s a boy!

»  mark    17 Nov 2005 @ 07:25    

Today was the long awaited doctor’s visit in Logan where they did an ultrasound of the baby, and radiologist announced pretty conclusively that we have a healthy baby boy in there. It was all quite exciting and the ultrasound photos seemed to come out more clear than last time, even if our little one didn’t pose as well as Maya did.

At the same time, neither Olya or I were surprised. Both of us have had impressions with Maya and with this baby as to the gender of the child, and Olya has actually had dreams both times (before she was pregnant with Maya) wherein she saw a child, presumably ours, and both times has been right on. Some might call that premonition. I prefer revelation, and feel grateful that our Heavenly Father has helped to prepare us for the challenging times that are coming.

Among the regular skeleton shots, the radiologist humored us with a couple 4D pictures that really give some shape and depth to what you see. There really is something special about seeing your fetal infant moving around, heart pumping, legs kciking, etc. to give you new appreciation of the miracle of life. We’re thrilled to have this child and now look forward to relearning everything we thought we knew. At the same time, we hope that Maya will be a loving, accepting sister. She does love attention and has gotten all of it up until now.

San Rafael Swell

»  olya    13 Nov 2005 @ 23:21    

Not far from Price, Utah, before you get to the famous rock formations of Arches and Canyonlands, is a place called the San Rafael Swell, with beautiful rock formations in its own right. We had never been there, but based on positive reviews by our neighbors, decided to check it out, and had a wonderful time. The drive (3 hours) was a little long for Maya, but we took some fun pictures.

Streamlining the immigration process

»  mark    12 Nov 2005 @ 09:31    

The journey through immigration to the United States has been a long, and at times, painful one. Well, I don’t know if painful is the right word. Most of the steps we’ve had to take went somewhat as planned, and some we were able to accomplish much faster than the government promised. I guess the hardest thing has been the changing regulations, agencies, and the sheer volume of material, so much of it repetitive, that we’ve had to gather.

For example, one form may require copies of important documents like marriage certificate, social security cards, etc. and 1 year later another form is asking for the same stuff. Don’t these people talk to each other? The quick answer is no.

That’s why when I erroneously submitted my passport as part of an application instead of a copy of it, the then Immigration and Naturalization Services refused to give it back. All documentation submitted with a case was closed with the case. That was hard for me to grasp. I figured they could simply photocopy the pages they needed in the first place and send back the original, but they declined, even after I asked my congressman to intercede.

As time has gone by, the processes seem to be slowly improving, though. The INS has changed its name twice in the past 3 years, and although the large Homeland Security umbrella, it seems to be working to make things easier on the participants, welcome change indeed.

For example, gone are the days of going to the regional office and waiting outside the door 30 minutes before they open to hold onto the 15th-person-in-line spot so you can rush inside when the doors open and get a number that will allow you to present your forms within an hour or two of arrival. Now, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has a slick interface to schedule an appointment. Yes, we can choose the day and hour and walk in the door and get called right in. We did this Thursday and were in and out in 10 minutes flat. Incredible. A new record for any form or process we’ve encountered in 4 years.

I can only hope that other changes in policy and paperwork are equally accommodating and forthcoming. Although we are almost through the entire process (Olya now has permanent legal residency without condition – a citizen in almost every respect except right to vote or hold office in national elections), a smoother process benefits the applicants, the employees, and the country.

A thorny path and complex forms did nothing to endear immigrants to their newfound homeland before and certainly did not curtail people from navigating the system. The US needs these people to be productive, law-abiding, and loyal. Making the process easier and more efficient may be the best way of showing them that they have left behind the tangled bureaucracies of most of the world, and have indeed come to a better place.

Our little helper

»  mark    11 Nov 2005 @ 07:16    

Maya has really started to be a good helper around the house. Or rather, she can be if she wants to be. At the same time that she has grown to be able to do many things to help out, such as carrying diapers to the trash, picking up toys, etc. she has also grown fiercely independent and loves to tell us “No!” I thought we had until she was 2 years old to fight those battles, but like it or not, those days are here.

Often she will tell us even though she wants what we have. In the past, she has always enjoyed getting her bottle of milk before bed, but now when we offer it, she refuses and runs away. Then she runs back in the room to claim the bottle, as long as we don’t hand it to her. She can be a real challenge one hour and a gem the next, we really don’t know what to expect.

But we like to take pictures of her in her gem-like state, such as these where she is helping around the house. Fortunately, there are many of these times and for that we are grateful. She has a good heart.

The art of cutting a toddler’s hair

»  mark    8 Nov 2005 @ 21:31    

I admit that I do not possess the great talent required to cut hair, but I’m glad my wife does. To be honest, the first time I had my hair cut in a real barber shop was at the Missionary Training Center in 1996. Up to that point, my parents had always assumed that responsibility.

They were amateurs, sure, but they did a decent job, and my admiration for their patience increased a great deal after we attempted to cut Maya’s hair recently. I always wondered why young children always have long fluffy hair in their earliest pictures. Perhaps it just seemed to me that parents liked it that way. But if you have a kid as squirmy as our daughter, you know differently. The long hair is not a tribute to Einstein but a reflection on the fact that we have had no success in getting our girl to sit in one place steady enough to trim her ‘do.

That changed, though, when we discovered the real secret to cutting kids’ hair. Distraction mixed with informality. Don’t even think of putting them in a special chair or on a stool — they know something is up. So we sat together on the couch reading storybooks when Olya took the scissors and, sitting behind Maya, started clipping away.

Maya thought Mama was just combing her hair and didn’t feel the scissors much, especially as I made all kinds of gibberish sounds and kept flipping pages frantically to hold her attention. The end result was quite good. We got hair all over the couch, but it was a small price to pay for the satisfaction of seeing our unruly daughter look a little more ruly.

Is that a costume?

»  mark    1 Nov 2005 @ 06:59    

Most American parents get pretty excited about Halloween, whether because their kids are excited or they themselves love the holiday. For some reason, it just doesn’t click with Olya and me. I don’t recall it ever being my favorite; quite the opposite. Though I enjoyed dressing up and didn’t want to be left behind, I think I wrestled with my mother most years to decide on a costume and t hen to actually wear it.

So I guess I haven’t been the most supportive parent when the holiday comes, and Olya thinks it is rather pointless. But we do enjoy seeing Maya dress up and we like costumes that are friendly. Since Maya has outgrown the strawberry costume she had last year, we decided she could go as a little Chinese girl, dressed in a lovely red silk costume. I don’t know if it is ethical to impersonate those of other nationalities at costume parties and major events, but I suppose that requires some imagination on our parts, and can be somewhat educational.

George and Barbie Miranda invited us over to a party for some people in the neighborhood, so Olya borrowed some scrubs from George, and I did my best impression of an Uzbek, complete with my long chapan robe, colorful knitted cap, and the smelly, wonderfully-natural wool socks I bought in the bazaar in Tashkent that look like the old lady knitted them right off the sheep. Nothing odd about that dress in many parts of the world, but it of course draws attention here. But not so much. One of our neighbors came dressed as a nice Arab sheik, having spent a couple years living in the Middle East. So it was nice to see one of my own kind.

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