Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

Ava learns about colloquialisms

Van was being very responsible when we got home from the gym today. He went right in, took Pepper out of his box and headed outside for Pepper's potty training. It is so cute to watch Pepper run after Van, the literal puppy love is so apparent. Van had his hand on the very heavy reinforced steel door's handle, pulling it shut as he and his puppy ran out.  Unfortunately for Pepper, something caught his attention and he  decided to stop right before crossing the threshold to the outside world. Van tried valiantly to stop the momentum of the closing door, but found that his little body was no match for that very heavy reinforced steel door. Hearing the yelps of pain that filled the house, I ran towards the door. Van was not hurt, but his puppy's little paw was not so lucky. I picked Pepper up, and he crawled up my chest until he was nuzzling my neck, and he just cried and cried. It was heartbreaking. I was trying to calm Van down while at the same time assess the hurt factor of Peppers paw. Meanwhile Ava is sitting next to me trying to "help" by petting and kissing Pepper and asking over and over if he was ok. I told Ava that the best thing that she could do to  help would be to move back, so that I could see Pepper's paw without her bumping me. So Van said, "Yeah Ava if you want to help, move back and give Pepper some air." Her face lights up at the prospect of actually being able to help. So she quickly moves about 2 inches back and begins blowing air onto Pepper.

PS Pepper is still limping a little, but no permanent damage was done.

First day!

Van had his first day of First Grade today!! Being the awesome Mom that I am, I forgot to take pictures before we left the house... luckily fate stepped in and my camera just happened to be in my purse. Van was not excited at all over the prospect of another year of school. Jared and I have tried several different approaches to change his mind about school. We have tried to "it's better than sitting at home" approach. We have tried to psych him up about all the fun things that he will be able to participate in this year, including Swimming, Karate and baseball to name a few. We have even tried scarring him by telling him that if he doesn't go to school he can't be a Marine, but will have to be a garbage man instead. Nothing has worked. So he went to school today with the most unenthusiastic attitude the school has ever seen. His teacher however was unfazed. She has been teaching school for over 25 years and seems to be the perfect mix between stern and caring. She is very even tempered and lets the kids make their own choices and deal with the consequences. I am a BIG fan of that method. So hopefully we are going to have a good school year. Van has one of the biggest classes in the school with a whopping 9 students. To handle this large load, he has a teacher and an Aid. Hahaha

Van has become attached to his Mohawk. As weird as this may sound, I think that it is something that he needs right now. Ok, let me explain. Everywhere we go - Ava gets a TON of attention. I have mentioned in previous blogs that she gets gifts - flowers, candy, fruit - EVERYWHERE we go. I always feel a little bad because Van is standing right there and a lot of the time, no one says anything to him. The day he got his mohawk we walked into the Embassy and the MSG Marine says to him, "Wow dude!!! I like you hair!!" I swear Van grew 2 inches. He felt so awesome!  Then at the store people stopped and came over and felt his head and gave him the thumbs up sign. So although the original plan was to cut his mohawk off before school, we changed gears and let it stay!

Van's cute little desk!!
I love that he will still hug me in public and tell me he loves me before I leave!!
I am painfully aware that my days are numbered. 


For the most part, we have had a great time over here. For me, the transition has not been a big deal. There are some minor annoyances like the lack of basic supplies (brown sugar and corn syrup to name a few) and amenities (like public bathrooms at stores/parks), but for the most part these annoyances are superficial. I am learning to respect differences in culture and refining my skills of open mindedness and flexibility. 

The stresses of moving and living in a different culture have not been so easy for Van. He has had a really hard time adjusting, and has begun to show more outward signs of his stress. Instead of looking at all the cool things that we get to do here he tends to focus on what he misses in the U.S. Seeing the differences is easier for him than seeing the similarities. Not a day goes by that he doesn't talk about Maka and how much he misses him. After much deliberation on different ways that Jared and I could help him deal and work through the things that challenge him, we decided to get him a puppy. Studies show that pets, particularly dogs, help reduce anxiety and build self esteem.

"Unlike people, with whom our interactions may be quite complex and unpredictable, animals provide a constant source of comfort and focus for attention. Animals bring out our nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted. We can just be ourselves around our pets."
According to wikipedia:

A 2007 meta-analysis found that animal-assisted therapy is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.

  • Increase verbal interactions among group members.

  • Increase attention skills (i.e., paying attention, staying on task).

  • Develop leisure/recreation skills.

  • Increase self-esteem.

  • Reduce anxiety.

  • Reduce loneliness.

We have been hesitant to get a dog here because we already have a dog we had to leave in the US. Maka is an integral part of our family. A couple of years ago, Maka was attacked by a Pit Bull and almost died. Since then, he is very selective about which dogs he gets along with, and we didn't want to surprise him with another dog upon arrival home in 2 years. When we return home he will be almost 9 years old, and we were not sure how he would handle to addition to our family. We knew that a big dog was out of the question. So even though I have an intrinsic dislike of small dogs, we knew it was our only hope.

We took Van and Ava to the Vernasage Market to play with the puppies. Seeing the absolute joy on their faces was a nail in the coffin for our decision. We knew we would be getting a puppy. Of the dogs there, there were 3 breeds that we were interested in, so we came home to do some internet research on which one would be the best suited for our family. We decided to get the cute little snowball puppy, the Bichon Frise. We also decided that the Shih Tzu would be our second choice. (There were not a whole lot to choose from.) We went back to Vernasage the next day with our good friend Nune. With her there to translate and barter for us we new we would get a much better deal. We were all so excited until we got there and discovered both puppies we were interested in had been sold!! There was however a tiny little black miniature poodle. I'll be honest. I've never liked poodles, and Jared swore up and down he would never own one. But Nune has 2 poodles and told us all about how great they are. They are in the top 3 smartest dogs. They are completely hypo-allergenic because they don't shed at all. They are easy to house train (unlike the Bishon Frise, which was our only hesitation with wanting one) and are very loyal. Add to that, the kids were completely in love with him. Needless to say, we are now the proud owners of a 5 week old male poodle named "Pepper."

Van and his puppy! Don't ask why they sold us a male dog with a bow in his hair! 

Pepper, sitting in a Frisbee! 

Pot Bellied Ballerina

Ava's first real Ballet class was so awesome!!! She waltzed right in there like she had been going for months. When she wasn't captivated by her own reflection in the mirrors she followed instructions very well and she is surprisingly flexible. I had perma-smile the entire hour, she was just so cute! I loved her little pot belly in her leotard and her chubby legs with out-turned toes. I was the proudest Mommy in the world. 

These pictures aren't the greatest because I took them through the glass wall that partitioned off the dance room from the rest of the gym. Isn't she the cutest ballerina you've ever seen?!?

I took a couple cute video's of her in action, but they won't upload to the blog. So if you would like to see them visit my facebook page. (

Mutant cereal

Check out the size of these Russian "fruit loops." They are insanely large. 

Cultural Differences in Camping

We started the day off early, 6 am to be exact. Even though our camping trip was only 2 days long, the car was packed to capacity. The kids each had their own backpack filled with books and toys to make the 2 hour drive more enjoyable for them and for us. We met our camping companions at about 7:30: Mhkitar,  a local that climbs with Jared, and Mhkitar's Uncle, Aunt,  their 2 kids and another cousin, all from Belgium visiting Armenia for the first time. Because space was tight in their rented Lada Niva (a small 2 door, 4X4 car), Mhkitar asked to ride with us. Of course we acquiesced his request and I moved into the backseat with the kids. The next 2 hours were spent getting bruised ribs from Ava's car-seat knocking into me with every pothole we hit, trying not to throw up my breakfast with car sickness, and managing piles of toys and books on my lap. This task proved to be difficult with the winding road and the aforementioned potholes, but was nonetheless VERY important, for if Ava accidently touched one of Van's things, or vice versa, I turned into referee for the ensuing argument.

Upon arriving at Noravank canyon Mhkitar told us to pull over and showed Jared a multi-pitch climb he wanted to do.... right then... BEFORE "wasting time" setting up a camp spot. I stood, looking at the busy street and the river across it and was not super excited about the prospect of entertaining kids in such a  place, but Jared and I figured the kids could spend a few minutes stretching their legs and throwing rocks in the river. So Jared pulled out all our camping stuff  (tents, sleeping bags, duffle bags & food) in order to get to his climbing gear which was conveniently packed at the bottom. After re-packing the car they started up the cliff around 11. We had fun for the first hour or so. Van lost a shoe in the river, which I was able to rescue downstream, Ava fell and scraped her knee and they were both covered with a fine brown soot-like dirt from head to toe. To make the day even better add on top an awkward serving of language-barrier with people we had just met. Then the sun came out. Now we had a lot of things to talk about, such as how hungry Ava was, how hot Van was, how the sweat made Ava's ams itch and how cute it was that her tears streaked her dirty face. After another half hour of that, Mhkitars' family found their way to a different part of the road and communication efforts were halted. Finally by a quarter to 1 Jared reached the ground and was met with a hot, frazzled family. After re-packing the car for the second time our friends told us they would like to visit the Noravank Monastery. We conveyed that our kids were hungry and wanted to set up camp so that they would be more comfortable. Mhkitar assured us there was a great, shaddy picnic area he would take us to. Placated, we climbed into the car, and followed his directions. But we did not end up at a great shady picnic area. Instead we ended up at the Monastery.  Hmm that was weird. While the family explored the spacious grounds of the Monastery our kids hung out in the shade and talked about what they wanted to eat first. Ava wanted a peach - whole, not cut up; Van wanted a juice box.

After another hour we were close to having a car picnic. The kids had eaten nothing since the early morning we left our house, and it was now nearing 2 o'clock. As we were heading back to the car, Mhkitar's uncle spotted the little souvenir shop and suggested we all stop in for an ice cream. That was the first good idea I had heard all day! So we ate dessert before lunch and it never tasted so good!! After stopping at 3 different places we finally found a place with some shade where we could eat lunch. We were much happier once we had full bellies! At this point it was after 3. Mhkitar wanted to climb more, but we insisted that we needed to get camp up. So after some convincing we left Noravank Canyon and headed back to Hell's Canyon. Once there, things improved dramatically. We put up the tent, unpacked the bags and finally found our snacky foods. There was plenty of room for the kids to run, rocks to throw and sticks to break. The sun was hidden behind the facing cliff, so the flat was cool and comfortable. After a long, hot, frustrating day it was great to be able to relax and run around with Van & Ava. 
Around 7:30 the kids were wanting dinner. We packed tin foil dinners, so we knew we had to start the fire so that the we had coals to cook our dinner on. Well cultural differences came to play again. Armenians don't eat dinner until "evening," which means roughly about the time the sun goes down. Um, the sun doesn't go down here until after 9:30. With rough calculations, that meant eating around 10:30 by the time the coals were ready. Yeah, not happening. Jared tried to explain that the kids needed to eat before that, but we don't think that they quite understood, because they looked very confused when we started to prepare our dinners. But in the end it turned out fine, and the kids were all taken care of.  After dinner, there was climbing by headlamp. 
(Ava and her bum crack, watching the climbing)   
Of course no camping trip would be complete without smores! Mhkitar did not care for the smores, neither did his Uncle or Aunt. Their kids however thought they were quite tasty! 

Ava and Van had no problem falling asleep. They were really excited to sleep in the tent!

And they woke up happy the next morning!!!

After waking up we managed to get in some climbing. Even I managed to pull myself to the top of a 5.8!
Van's favorite thing of the whole trip was discovering that there were frogs in the stream!! He spent the rest of the morning doing catch and release, although I think the "release" was more of the frogs doing than his. 
This is the frog he named "Banana." He was heartbroken when Banana released himself.
All-in-all we had a really good time.


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