Monday, July 8, 2019

Bureaucracy update- Part 1


Currently compiling Russian visa applications for my kids. It feels way more relaxed than with a newborn (apparently I never told that story on here), but as always there are plenty of roadblocks.

I never posted about it, but in February we did a border run to Finland, and in the spring we also met with an immigration lawyer who said the kids could be added to my residency permit. So early one morning we dragged the kids out of bed, and set off for the Immigration Dept...Sophia threw up in the taxi...and it turned out the lawyer had been wrong. Technically, there is a by-law that lets you glue photos of your kids in your residency card (I have pages for it), but it's merely a formality to link you with them. The kids need separate residency permits.

So our options remained:

-keep doing visas every 3 years,
-get the kids their own residence permits, or
-apply for Russian citizenship

The visas are pricey and not the best long-term option, and we're not sure we want to get them citizenship. The main issue with residency (apart from the lengthy process) is that we'll have to declare income for everyone and make sure we have the minimum for each family member. I'm not working right now and my bank balance probably wouldn't cover all of us for the year, so we'll have to combine it with Andrei's income.

We'll have to do a round of medical tests for the kids and make sure we have copies and translations of everything. That would be true for citizenship, also. That's for temporary residency and then in a year or so you do it all over again to apply for permanent residency, which is valid for 5 years.

So anyway, I'm working on getting new visas so that we can enter Russia in the fall after summer travel, and hopefully that will get us through until we've gotten temporary residency for the kids. Kids' passports are valid for 5 years, which doesn't go well with a 3 year visa (the only other option is 90 days). Currently I'm having trouble filling out paperwork because the passport only has 2 years left on it and you're supposed to have 3 years + 6 months left.


I started thinking about what we'll have to get done over the next few years:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Release


Long post alert! Read on for some personal thoughts about organizing and purging.

I'm on track to be done sorting papers by the time we leave for summer travel this month. It's taken me about 6 months, so I guess it should feel satisfying.

Surprisingly, though, it doesn't feel great. I feel relieved to have freed up a little space, and to not have so many unsorted papers in storage. However, in many cases I didn't enjoy tossing things out. Many of the documents represented things I had worked very hard on. And others represented special memories, though weren't as hard to let go of.

Trying to sort in a central location and watch the kids at the same time...

I tend to keep things with sentimental value, but also for archival reasons. I simply like to keep a record and I like to sort through and go down memory lane. It bugs me if there is a chronological gap, so that is part of why I keep certain things. But to get more specific....

Things I found "easy" to get rid of:

-Sunday school teaching materials: I can always get more.
-Random artwork: If I don't remember who made it and the occasion, it doesn't hold value, unless I could use it to decorate.
-Sermon notes: I did keep a few print-outs of Andrei's sermons, but I came to the realization that the notes served their purpose at the moment WHEN I WAS WRITING THEM DOWN. I can go through and sort of make sense of them, but I'm a different person now...my 2010 self needed them then.
-Financial statements: Most things have an electronic record now.
-Hand-outs: They weren't given to me personally; too generic.
-Notes from former friends: I don't want to intentionally wipe them from my memory, but I don't need correspondence from every single person either.
-Sentimental items not easily identified (see random artwork): If I remember that so-and-so brought it back from Greece, I might keep it. But as the years go by I tend to forget, and don't feel as tied to those items.

Monday, June 10, 2019

More hospital memoirs


Life definitely got easier when I got the Most Unpleasant Procedure over with. The next day I got my drainage tube out, and THAT was a good day. No longer did I have it poking me all the time.

Now that I didn't have to think about all the extra appendages, I started to obsess about the wound more. As I didn't have stitching, did that mean there was just a big hole in my side? I didn't like to think about it.

That first weekend, my regular doctor had a day off and had suggested I get a dressing change with the doctor on duty. The Saturday surgeon poked his head in the room, saw that I was getting my IV meds, and told me to come find him for the dressing change. Ummm...okay? Come to find out, the doctors' lounge was wayyyy down a long corridor and I hadn't walked that far yet. On the way there I passed the kitchen, which meant I could technically fetch my own meals...more on that later. But it was so painful shuffling along and then I felt awkward entering the lounge in my pathetic state when there were professional people dressed in normal clothes, such as pants.

Speaking of clothes, Lesson #1 in socialist medicine: don't expect extras. And apparently hospital gowns are an extra. Remember how I had to strip naked before my operation? Well, I didn't have anything to wear afterwards either. I must have had underwear on, but I couldn't do anything like fasten a bra with the IV port in...so, sorry for the non-glamorous visual, but I was basically wearing underwear, a tank top, and a bathrobe from home that I couldn't close all the way when I had the drainage bag. Eventually Andrei did bring me some long underwear with an elastic waist. But, yeah..fashion was a challenge.

It was kind of an odd experience seeing other patients shuffling around in their clothes from home. You'd think it would feel homey, but it didn't. It felt awkwardly intimate. I didn't want to see everyone else's fuzzy bathrobe and slippers and dishes that they washed out themselves. It felt like summer (prison?) camp in some kind of twisted universe. Also, I really didn't need to see everyone else's drainage bags. But I'm glad my roommates (and husband) took care of me even though it was messy at times and they saw things they probably didn't want to.

So, the surgeon caught up with me at the Bandaging Room, took off the old bandage, did a quick swab, and slapped a new bandage on. Which had become unstuck by the time I got back to my room. Sigh. Did it really matter? Yes, it did...I had an open wound, after all. The doctor was gone, of course. I asked the bandaging nurse for a new one, and she said they "didn't have any more." Now, on Friday, after my drainage tube came out, she had carefully cut a bandage down to size and attached it with finesse. And now they had run out? It was time for Lesson #2: Buy your own supplies. When a friend was visiting that afternoon, she went down to the pharmacy for me and bought bandages...the same kind that had been used the day before. My roommate hobbled over and put it on for me.

From then on, I had Andrei buy bandages every few days so I always had a supply. Lest you think I was being taken advantage of, I saw plenty of other patients waiting their turn, holding their own supply of bandages. Sometimes the pharmacy downstairs even ran out and Andrei had to go elsewhere.

It doesn't seem like bandages are a large expense, but when the supplies end, patients buy their own. That's how it goes. And for many procedures, such as childbirth, it's expected that you will bring your own consumable items.



Friday, May 17, 2019

Little patterns


Hello! I got bored with my monthly survey, so I didn't do one for April, and in the meantime another month went by. I was reflecting on how we tend to rotate through different patterns of daily routines in our household. Of course there are certain patterns that I would prefer to see more often than others. But I thought I would share what a few of these are. Maybe I would describe a few of them as being "in a rut," but nevertheless there are certain seasons of life and setbacks that we can't always avoid.

1) The Stay Home/Productive Pattern

When Andrei is at work a lot and we don't have other plans, we sometimes stay home and do homeschooling and try to make a dent in the housework. I feel pretty calm on these days, and I think David would stay inside too if he had the choice. But sometimes we drive each other crazy, and throwing a little sister (who actually loves to be outdoors) into the mix can throw us into "cabin fever" territory. So a few days like that are perfect, but we definitely have to at least get some fresh air.

2) The Nice Weather Pattern

Last month, we finally had a thaw and enjoyed long runs of sunny days. We got into the habit of going outside once (or even twice) a day, for 1-2 hours. I would take the kids shopping with me on foot, or to the playground, and we even branched out a few times and met up at a park with another family. This was good, and David made lots of discoveries that made it feel like we were doing something right. However, those times outside definitely take us away from other tasks, and after a few consecutive days of being outside, I end up having a meltdown from being behind. And if we go on a long walk, then I physically don't have the stamina to stand in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes. It would be nice if I could start with a clean house and then just go outside and enjoy the weather.

3) The Up-too-Early Pattern

Pretty much what it sounds like! The kids and/or my husband get up earlier than usual, and then we have to go into survival mode to get through the day. Although it sometimes results in more screen time, we also might be forced to go outside since Sophia won't nap and it's the only way to avoid constant melt-downs when she's overtired. Audiobooks are another secret weapon that I've discovered this year.

4) The Up-too-Late Pattern

This one tends to affect the adults more than the kids. Either we sleep in and get off to a late start, or the kids get to bed late. Then we stay up late ourselves and are dragging the next day. And then stay up late again because we got a late start. Can go on for weeks!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Friendship after 30 and beyond


Andrei and I got together with some old friends recently and shared our mutual nostalgia for our friendships in our 20s, and current lack of adult friendships.

At first I was thinking it was some sort of parent-life thing. But one couple at the table hasn't had children and is having the same issue. We were all (except for the husband from Moscow) in a small group together about 10 years ago, led by Andrei. Of course we remember it as a Golden Age. Was it? I'll have to peek at old blog posts and see if I alluded to anything. I do think it was a fruitful period of Christian fellowship and spiritual growth, as well as liking to hang out socially. Something about the combination of regular meetings+openness+many of us not married yet, seemed to foster deep relationships. Okay, they weren't perfect, but even just going around the circle sharing honest prayer requests, and following through...that was something we could count on at the time.

But attending a small group now? Although our current church has a small group, we aren't able to commute during the week at this point. You'd think we'd be hosting, like we did before kids...but after the church conflict, it's been hard to find the emotional energy to make those kinds of commitments.

"I don't want to go and waste my free time listening to everyone talk about something that isn't interesting to me," was one person's comment. It sounds cynical, considering we are talking about Christian fellowship! But when you take away the relationship, that might be a good point. I can think of many Bible study discussions where several people went off on their own tangents and in the end it felt like we talked about...nothing. So if I were a newcomer, I don't know if it would make me want to come back. But when it's a regular thing and you really want to be there, you don't look for perfection.

If we're forced to let go of past configurations, we have to find a new format. But making new friends is so...tedious. Why is it harder as an adult?

I catch glimpses on social media of friends attending Bible studies or other gatherings of friends. So clearly, some of my peers still have the hang of it. Or...are they just keeping up friendships from long ago? Or forming connections naturally with colleagues, neighbors, or fellow parents at their kids' schools? Does it ever happen easily?

Monday, April 1, 2019

March Survey/Selfie

Welcome to April. We have arrived! Looking back at my February posts, it already seems like a long time ago! We are over the hump now and on to Spring. We might get more snow, but the daylight is here.





What I've been...



Reading: Little Town on the Prairie (read-aloud), First Art for Toddlers and Twos (MaryAnn Kohl), The How Not to Die Cookbook, The Well-Trained Mind, Teaching Through Movement: Setting Up Your Kinesthetic Classroom

Watching: Still Jeopardy! Thinking about giving up Netflix. There are a few shows I would still watch if I had the time, but maybe not worth paying the monthly fee.

Cooking/Eating: Went on a veggie kick, making more salads and things. Hard to keep up. Made some veggie Vietnamese spring rolls a few times, yummy! Keeping up with the Asian theme, I also made a simple lemon ginger soy chicken recipe a few times, really liked it. Oh, for Purim we made Hamentaschen.

Listening to: John Michael Talbot (Come to the Quiet), Kids' Praise.

Striving towards: Organizing papers.

Looking forward to: Spring, of course!

What David (6.5 years) is up to: Learning to sound out words, watching Wild Kratts, observing the ants coming out of hibernation.

What Sophia (2.5 years) is up to: Calling everything "mine," doing "ugga mugga" nose rubs like on Daniel Tiger (Mr. Rogers), changing her outfit every 10 minutes (often independently).



Your turn!