Some time in the early fall of last year (2008) my husband called his brother and invited our niece who was studying Russian in school to come for a visit during the summer. And his brother said, Well, can we all come?
I remember the night fairly well. I was ironing something at the time, and I'm pretty sure that I fell into a nearby chair and started to cry! Thomas' brother, wife and their 4 children might all come to see us?! Now, before you think that those tears were from feeling overwhelmed at having so many people come to see us and stay with us in our apartment, stop right there! I was overwhelmed, but with joy!
So Thomas helped them fill out all the documents that they needed. And so that I won't scare anyone else who would like to come and visit, I won't tell you how much paperwork there really was.
July 13 the 3 of us headed off to the airport to pick up the 6 of them, and yes, I cried (again, tears of joy!).
We got there early, so naturally I took a picture of us waiting...
...and they made it!
Unfortunately their first full day with us, Isaiah was sick with some random stomach bug, so he and I were not able to join the fun, but thankfully he got better very quickly!
Here they got to meet Peter the Great and Katherine by a statue of Peter on a horse. They went LOTS of places that first day, but I'll not show you all the pictures, you can trust me.
One night we got to do something that Thomas and I have wanted to do for a long time! We went to a big park not far from our apartment and grilled! Yummy!
Isaiah dived (literally) right for the chips.
We introduced the cousins to Russian playgrounds; this is the one directly behind our building.
And this is one in the big park where we grilled. Isaiah had sooooo much fun playing with his cousins!
We went back to the center of town again one day and walked by the Neva River on our way to Peter Paul Fortress.
And we got ice cream! (well, just about every day we got ice cream, actually, we love Russian ice cream!) The only bad thing about ice cream is that it doesn't last forever.
At Peter Paul Fortress we saw the tombs of the Tsars, and then Thomas rested in memorial of them. Ok not really, but I thought it looked pretty funny how he was trying to catch a few zzzz's while we waited for the rest of the crew.
And this was probably our favorite part of their trip, just hanging out in the evenings and talking and talking and talking. Poor Isaiah got so upset every night when it was time for bed because he had to say night night to all his playmates.
We went out to a town just outside St. Petersburg named Pushkin. We first had a picnic lunch (we got to do that a lot!) and the kids played on this huge playground before we visited Katherine's palace.
On the walk from the playground to the palace, we saw Lenin, so of course they had to get a shot with him!
And here is our Katherine (Kayti) with her palace. :)
And this is also where we learned the difference between a family with 1 child...
...and a family with 4 children.......and we decided that we could use some more organized chaos in our lives. :)
Enjoying the grounds around the palace.
Sunday we enjoyed a long walk after a yummy dinner after church. We also took advantage of a good photo opportunity.
Their last day with us, we walked back down along the Neva to hear the canon fire at noon, and then we had one last picnic before going to the Souvenir Market for some last minute purchases.
After shopping we found yet another great playground for the kids. This one had the first kid's swing I've ever seen in this country! Of course, it was broken, but it was in good enough shape for Isaiah to have some higher swinging than normal, and he was thrilled!
And the see-saw is always better with cousins, too!
Thomas and I are still talking about how amazing and wonderful it was to have our family here with us. Now someone from home can understand even better what life is like for us in St. Petersburg (without the language lessons, that is). After they left, our apartment was so quiet and felt so big, and I think I actually felt a little depressed. Isaiah kept saying his cousins' names at random times during the day, because after all this was the best part of their visit...