Monday, November 11, 2019

Roommates, Part 1

A year ago, I was sick with appendicitis, which was hard to diagnose and difficult to recover from! You can look through my "appendicitis" posts and read more about it.

There are a few more things I was going to share about my hospital stay, and one of those topics is my Russian hospital roommates. I had trouble finding the time to write this post because I had so many different roommates during my 2-week stay, so it will take some time to describe them all! I ended up having to split it into two posts.

Getting Admitted

As soon as I was admitted to the ward, I got that "summer camp" feeling. Let me explain: in my teen and young adult years I spent each summer in a Russian summer camp with American mission teams. And Russian hospital wards give me that same kind of feeling: the worn but crisply ironed bedding on the creaky mattress, the rules and daily schedule, the cafeteria food, and the communal environment!

I already explained a little bit about my 3 roommates when I first arrived on that Friday evening. One had been released "for the weekend," one was near to being released, and the other, Olga, had been sent there with a herniated disc because her ward did not have room.

Now, the room had 5 beds and one was empty. A 5th roommate arrived in the middle of that first night, sometime after I stopped wondering if surgery was imminent and had managed to fall asleep.

That was Friday. On Sunday was my operation.

And on Monday, my first day after surgery, 3 of the ladies were discharged, leaving me and Olga, who was in the bed next to me. When a nurse came in to do a count, we begged her to send us some ambulatory roommates. That way we would at least be able to eat. The cafeteria lady had come to check on us a few times, but it wasn't her job to remember who needed food delivered. We had to fend for ourselves.

The Young Ladies

In the middle of the night, we got our wish: 3 new young women. Younger than I was, anyway! The two on the other side of the room bonded and spent a lot of the next few days chatting. They were friendly, but didn't realize the shape I was in and didn't offer to do a lot, so I usually had Andrei get the food when he was there. When he wasn't, Olga would help me to the bathroom and wash my dishes out for me.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Wayward Blogger

I made it up to 20 posts for this year! I'm a little sad that it isn't more. When I look at my statistics, I see that 2016, when Sophia was born, was my lowest number of posts. And then last year. If I don't have an emergency before the end of the year, I will hopefully add a few more little snapshots of our life here in St. Petersburg.

I would love to blog at least weekly. I've mentioned before that I like to update often, because I like to see how certain themes play out. I can share my plans and then see how they come to fruition. I can share about my problems and then write about how various prayer requests have been answered.

But, it doesn't always happen. And, blogging is a bit dull nowadays, which is another topic. In the world of Instagram "personalities" and v-loggers (spelling?), a lowly non-monetized blog will not get many readers, but I still enjoy recording my thoughts.

By the way, I have 2 Instagram accounts now. One is for daily life and the other one is for homeschool posts. I'll see if I can put a link to the second one on my blog here somewhere.

Meanwhile, I was looking at the main topics I've blogged about over the last 12 years. Culture and Daily Life are my most frequent labels, and I would love to keep up that trend, as those are the topics I always sought to share about, for people near and far. Should I be proud that Bible Study is up there too, or perhaps dismayed that I haven't used that label for a while?

After that I see Holidays, Family, Inspiration, Photos, and David (my son). However, it would be interesting to do a then vs now comparison, observing how Orphans were at the top 10 years ago, and Motherhood is getting to the top of my current life.

I have another detailed hospital post coming up, as I continue to reflect on my emergency appendectomy from last year.

Thanks for reading! And please introduce yourself if you haven't yet. :)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Friends and family

Just finished our 5th day in a row of guests.

But... I think we all probably have different things in mind when we imagine inviting someone over for a visit. In Russian culture a meal is often involved, and a huge spread is not unheard of. When I was single and would visit families during the day, often they would feed me the food they made for their own families, but would not hesitate to offer me the entire contents of their fridge out of generosity.

By the way, Russians will keep offering you food even if you say no. I suppose it is more polite to refuse in order to not seem like a pig...I have a hard time getting used to that, especially if the food is really good. ;) If you don't want me to eat all your food, don't keep offering me seconds!

Back to cooking. If I waited until I had the time/energy/skill to cook a big multi-course meal, I'd never have guests over.

So, this is more what it looked like:

That time I decided to vacuum...

Day #1: A friend from church needed some company and we agreed to meet during the day. The night before, it had snowed, and the kids really wanted to play in it. Instead of cooking or cleaning, I took them outside. Then I fed my friend some yummy homemade soup that my in-laws had delivered to us the day before.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Homeschool round-up: Month #1

I was hoping that school would provide a good structure for our day after summer travel.

Read on to see how our first month went!

Week one:

I was right. I fell in love with our new daily routine. I got up early enough to cook breakfast to eat with Andrei before he left for work. Then schoolwork with David, which we managed to finish in an hour or 90 minutes. After that, outside time.

Home from the walk in plenty of time to eat lunch, then finish up any remaining read-alouds. And...the day was still young! I did dinner prep and sometimes we went outside for another walk before dinner. The kids were getting little to no screentime because we were reading books for school all day, which inspired imaginative play.

We had friends over.

We would wash dishes gradually throughout the day and pretty much stay on top of it (we don't have a dishwasher).

In the evening I would get to bed early, exhausted and still a little bit jet-lagged.

Then we hit some roadblocks and it got harder:

Saturday, October 5, 2019


The other day my kids were listening to a YouTube playlist and in an otherwise normal list of kids' songs I kept hearing the lyrics "we've got the whole world in our hands." My son is quick to point out where something deviates from the Bible stories he's been told, and said "It's not WE, it's GOD." (he gets confused about the concept of Mother Nature, too)

I didn't really want to criticize the song, but here my son had pointed it out, so it was discussion time.

Song background: Although we may sing it traditionally as a children's song, the original song was an African-American spiritual. Interestingly enough, it was my (Russian) husband who introduced me to Mahalia Jackson, whose recording of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" is one of the more popular ones.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the altered lyrics likely had a connection to environmentalism. So I talked about that a little bit. It doesn't contradict the biblical idea of Creation, merely reminds us that the earth is God's precious creation, for us to protect as we can.

P.S. When I finally went ahead and looked it up, I found that a children's book came out a few years ago to this effect. You can look up "We've Got the Whole World in our Hands" by Rafael Lopez.

Since everyone was talking about Greta Thunberg and the Climate Summit last week (2 weeks ago?), it has been on my mind.

When I take a minute to contemplate, I don't think I'm really comfortable with putting ourselves in place of God. It's because the earth is the Lord's that we should care about it at all, not because it is completely "in our hands." I want so much to be a good steward and also reflect Christ in the way I care about the environment. However, an alarmist approach really turns me off and I don't want to live in fear. I'm glad there are activists and I'd be fine with making some changes to reduce consumption. I haven't actually talked to my kids much about this topic, but I'm sure it will come up!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Towards a bilingual education

Andrei and I argued about bilingualism years before we even started dating.

He wasn't convinced true bilingualism was really possible, and I was determined to have a bilingual child in order to prove him wrong. I don't think I actually expected that we would marry each other, but I guess the thought of cross-cultural marriage didn't seem so far-fetched.

Of course, I'm oversimplifying the discussion. Here are some of the issues we argued about:

-Young children will get the two (or more) languages mixed up. I've seen clear evidence to this NOT being the case. Kids do mingle languages, but this happens when they either are missing a vocabulary word in one language, or a word is just easier to say in one of the languages. There's a more scientific way to say this, but basically it's selective, not a moment of confusion.

Although our kids insert the "other" language into their speech sometimes, they also have no problem distinguishing between the two. Case in point: Both of them, when still speaking only a few words, called us Mommy/Daddy or Mama/Papa depending on who they were talking to. Sophia will call me "Mommy" in English, but complain (ha) about "Mama" to Andrei. Same with "Papa," she will call him that to his face but turn around and tell me what "Daddy" is doing.

I guess that didn't really prove my point. Another example might be when David is talking about bugs and uses the Russian name for a bug because it's one he hasn't encountered in the U.S. or English-language nature shows. He's not confused, he just doesn't know the word.

-Bilingual kids will be behind their peers. I actually use this excuse a lot to go slower with school work. I don't completely agree because I think David in on par with his peers in many subjects. Even precocious in certain contexts. However, I will admit that if you run the numbers, it's hard for bilingual kids to receive the same input. If they are conversing 12 hours a day, in two languages equally, they will have only 6 hours of language acquisition as opposed to children who are exposed to one language. That's just the way it is. And it might not matter beyond a certain age, but there certainly might be manifestations in a younger child.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Bureaucracy Update- Part 2

We are back in Russia with new visas for the kids. As usual we met obstacles along the way.

Children's passports expire every 5 years, but you can't travel within 6 months of expiry. So 4.5 years maximum. Meanwhile, Americans can get a Russian visa for 3 years maximum. So it's a constant brainteaser trying to make things match up!

David and Sophia are 3 years into their passports, yet we applied for 3-year visas again as that was the best option for us with two years left on the passports. We were in touch with a visa agency and requested that they issue the visa for the maximum possible time period, within the terms of the passport. Visas cannot be transferred into a new passport.

It all seemed pretty clear and I worked hard to complete the visa application before arriving in the U.S., so we could submit it to the Russian Consulate as soon as possible and enjoy our summer break! A significant goal here was to submit early so we wouldn't have to pay for expedited processing, one of the few occasions this would be possible.

Within a week, we were hearing from the visa agency that we had a problem. The kids' visas were expiring in September since we arrived in Russia on those dates last time due to Sophia's birth. But we normally need to arrive in August due to the school year beginning. Turns out, the Russian Consulate will not accept applications more than a month BEFORE the old one expiring. So, we had to hit that window of submitting a month before for processing time, yet not more than a month before to be accepted. Since we were early, they had to put our application on hold.