Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Shopping with a 2 yr old


Why did I wait until Dec. 23rd to go shopping, you may ask? Well, I'm not a very big shopper in general, but with David it is an all-day chore, and that gets tiresome. Last week's shopping forays were focused on a wedding that took place Saturday. So that brings us to this week...








...We set out about an hour before naptime and I figured David would have a snack and take in some sights before falling asleep in his stroller so I could concentrate. He started out on foot, but after just a few minutes he did his new thing where he is 'cared of footprints in the snow, and doesn't want his feet to touch the ground. So into the stroller he went.

Of course a few minutes after I had gotten him all settled in the stroller, we got to the bank which was located at the top of a staircase. My card doesn't always work in stores, so going without cash was too risky. I had to do the whole stair-stroller thing in order to use the ATM. So far, so good.

As we were walking toward the shopping mall, I was noticing the sun breaking through and how it was one of our prettier days in a while. I almost wished we could have just gone for a walk instead. And I probably would have rethought my decision, had I known what was going to happen!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Which traditions do you choose?


Just realized that this is going to be another ex-pat post! I guess there's nothing like the holidays to prompt some cultural analysis.



Bulletin Board Christmas re-do


It's harder to pass on traditions when it isn't reinforced by the world around you when you walk out the door of your house! I am genuinely happy for my new parent (or aunt/uncle) friends who are able to take the kiddies to pumpkin patches, dress them in turkey onesies, and sit them on Santa's knee...followed by a spring photo shoot in pastels for Easter! These are very positive, fun traditions. But since they are mostly driven by culture and a nostalgia for one's childhood, they can quickly go from inspiring to irrelevant once you live abroad or don't celebrate with your siblings anymore.

I know I have often written on my blog about making new traditions. Maybe I even write the same thing each year and then forget about it. But I'm new to making traditions while parenting, so I still have a lot of unanswered questions for this stage of life.

Today I was thinking to myself...how do you explain this whole "Christmas season" thing to someone outside the American/Western culture? I'm really wondering this. What are elves? Who is Santa? Why red and green? Why snow? Why is it important to get in the "Christmas spirit"?


Inside an Immigrant's Thought Process


It is really hard to get inside the head of someone functioning in a second language. I know this because it is my everyday reality, in contrast to the people around me!

I like to think of America as this place where anyone can settle down and lead a normal life, even someone arriving as an adult. But I realize that's a bit of an illusion. You never know what's happening behind someone's accent. And because receptive and expressive language acquisition can be different, you never know how intelligent someone is behind the accent...or how much of the conversation he/she is missing, while appearing to function as a native speaker.

Earlier today I was reading a novel about a Chinese student who came to the U.S. on exchange for grad school. She ends up being befriended by Christians and coming to faith...that's sort of the main plot, but I found myself thinking more about the logistics. The author did a good job of portraying some of the cultural nuances: tipping in restaurants, showing hospitality, etc. But I analyzed a lot of other aspects of what was going on. For example, how did the main character adjust to working in the university's dining hall? Did she know all the correct terminology related to washing dishes, etc.? Though the book is told from the heroine's point of view and we know her thoughts, I kept wondering what she sounded like when she spoke. Did she have a strong accent? Did she speak softly, or confidently? Did people respond to her differently than to a native speaker?

This fall marked 10 years since I moved to Russia! I am definitely "used to" living in a foreign country, but it is still a huge adjustment moving somewhere in adulthood. I'm sure my thought process is still so different from the average Russian's...at least in how I react to my environment. The other day I was checking out a few American news headlines and was struck by how I don't even read/watch the local news! Andrei does, and I wondered what different experiences we're having with processing what's going on in the world.

Meanwhile, there are certain areas where I still feel inept. Last week I was sick, and one night I lay awake knowing I needed to go to the doctor but being terrified of what was going to happen. I feel better now, but the site where I had blood drawn still has a huge, unsightly bruise. I don't know if it was a case of miscommunication or incompetence, but...ouch!

Anyway, part of the reason I'm bringing this up is that assessing my own perspective in turn makes me really curious about others. It is so commonplace to see migrant workers cleaning our stairwell, for instance. What's their story? We have some things in common and then some pretty big differences.

I'd better post this before it gets stuck in drafts purgatory...just wanted to share.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Fiascos in Felt


I love the way finished felt projects look, so colorful and pretty and homey! I haven't quite mastered the medium, though. I seem to do better with paper, but maybe I will conquer felt in this lifetime!

I started making a felt Christmas storyboard for David last year, and lost momentum. So I took it up again this year.

My requirements were:

-representational, but simple
-big and sturdy enough for David to handle
-removable pieces that could be moved around


Problems and Troubleshooting:

Last year I cut out some figures but found them too floppy. Maybe if they were smaller it wouldn't have been as much of an issue. This year I finally fortified them a bit.

Didn't trim the edges.



Not all felt is created equal...it doesn't necessarily stick to other felt (without adhesive), and depending on the thickness might also need a pretty strong glue to hold together permanently.

Removable angel toupee.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Anti-Flying


After going back to FlyLady time and again to see if I could make it work, I finally realized that it's probably not the best strategy for my personality type.

First I thought it was just the season of life or the fact that I have a toddler who will mess up whatever "zone" I've finished, turning 15 minutes of completed work into a new 30-minute job.

I also noticed that because I can't do all the rooms, and have to focus on the common areas, that preparing for guests will always involve cleaning the kitchen and neglecting the bedroom. I was so excited when FlyLady assigned the "master bedroom"....only to realize I had no time to do it that week as I needed to clean for guests.

"No-nonsense" can be good, but I put my foot down when she started talking about purging. "You don't need your school essays," she said. But I do. Okay, I don't. And my parents don't need them in their attic. But I'm not ready to throw everything away yet. That's a choice. And when she tells me to throw certain things away, she's making a choice for her own personality type, not for mine.

Maybe FlyLady would suggest scanning photos of the projects and artwork and throwing the originals away and then making each family member a memory book for that year or quarter, like I saw on one blog. But I haven't seen time for that allotted on the FlyLady calendar, plus she probably wants me to throw all my album-making supplies away.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Going Home


Advent is almost here, but somehow the Second Coming is on my mind more. I'm in this phase where I can't sing or listen to a song about eternity without tears welling up.

This includes Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons."

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more


And Brooke Fraser's "Soon and Very Soon."
I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I'll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon

It's not that these particular songs are the best lyrically or grammatically or whatever, but the overarching message is there.

And that's true for a lot of hymns that have a sort of natural progression through the walk of faith up to the day we meet Jesus.

From "How Great Thou Art" (Boberg/Hine):

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"



And "It is Well with My Soul" (Spafford):
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Once we get to those final verses, I can't make the words come out anymore, even though I try my best and want to proclaim them in faith. Even that song "I Can Only Imagine" might be a little overly sentimental, but it is the call of my heart at times. Will I be able to say something to Jesus, or will I be struck dumb, just as when I get to those words in the song?

Anyway, not sure why these particular words are speaking to me right now, but there it is.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One year later: another attempt


Funny story: I had all these unfinished Advent projects last year that I photographed and was going to write about, just to say...here's what I tried to do and didn't finish. I had even titled the post "The Advent That Wasn't." But it never even made it into my drafts folder, apparently. Or else it's there and I'm blind...anyway, here's a little Advent inspiration (or examples of what not to do)!


The postcard garlands that wouldn't stay up...






The Jesse Tree that didn't turn out to be very fertile...





A tipsy angel.../closest thing to a "Christmas Tree"




Felt figures I never finished cutting out...





The unfinished Jesse Tree symbols...





The scene of the "crime"





The lack of candle holders...





The toddler who didn't go to the Christmas Eve service. :)






Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Orphanage Update (Structural Changes)


My counselor friend from the orphanage came to visit us again the other day, and as always she updated me on how things are going over there. There are some big changes going on in how the orphanage is run and funded, from an administrative standpoint.

BEFORE:

-the orphanage was run as an institute of education (like a boarding school?)
-St. Petersburg orphanages had their own extracurricular classes led by onsite specialists (dance and music classes, academic tutoring, arts and crafts, etc.)
-orphanage counselors were by law (and academic background) considered educators and would therefore begin to receive pension after putting in 25 years of work in their field


NOW:
-the orphanage is a social agency
-kids are transported around the city (non-profit organizations lend a hand) to their extracurricular activities since the orphanage is a social agency and not an educational institution
-orphanage counselors are now considered social workers (despite background as educators) and will "retire" with everyone else, when they turn 55 (60 for men)

It sounds kind of funny to an outsider because in the U.S. at least, social work and orphans go hand-in-hand. While I have no doubt that orphanage workers received apt training through their School of Education degree programs, it had always struck me as strange that anything to do with orphans (foster care, host programs) needed to be addressed via the Educational Committee. And that any inspections were done through them. There are a lot of other nuances to do with paperwork, attestations, etc. Whether or not this is a good move in terms of monitoring the care of orphans, the short-term effects may not be so beneficial...

These changes will have an impact in terms of personnel. Nearly all of the counselors I had known at the orphanage will be leaving. Why? Because they are educators, and had been promised a pension after 25 years. My friend Galina is 5 years away. Another counselor I know only had 6 months to go. But if they stay on at the orphanage, their status gets changed to "social worker" and those benefits are lost (or downgraded). So those that had only a few years left are leaving to finish out their careers at schools and kindergartens...maybe to return, maybe not.

Who will be working at the orphanages? Most likely, a combination of younger social workers (who do not have enough years of experience to mind the loss) and older staff who are already getting their retirement benefits and working practically as volunteers. Galina told of one older academic tutor who is now listed as "housekeeping," because it just doesn't matter for her at this late in her career.

What about the kids? The orphanage is seeing a lot of troubled kids these days. It's uncertain whether intake is being handled differently (one girl is suicidal, yet was placed in a regular orphanage?), if they're hurting because of all the staff changes, or if it's just a sign of changing times. What will happen to them when the good educators leave and the new, inexperienced ones come aboard? Where is the incentive for professionals to work in orphanages? I didn't used to be of the "leave it to the professionals" mindset, but there is a certain skill set needed for working in an orphanage...street-smarts, too.

As for the extracurricular activities...it sounded annoying to me at first; to have the kids running all over town. But then again, that's what non-orphanage kids do. And they do have their own transportation. But still, the orphanage was always a place where you could see rich culture in action: artwork, amazing performances, and the most festive of celebrations. I wonder if they will be able to keep that up in the future.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Food Chronicles


I decided to look at what our family was eating to see if I could make some changes.


Breakfast: Omelets

Lunch: Homemade soup (chicken or pork w/ veggies using homemade broth), + sandwich (1 piece of rye bread with a slice of cheese or leftover roasted pork/chicken)

Dinner: Various kinds of meat+rice/pasta/potatoes +salad or other veggie

We have tea after every meal with a small treat of some kind (ONE piece of chocolate or ONE cookie). And snack on fruit or homemade croutons, etc.


Verdict: I know that I don't eat enough of some things, like fruits and veggies. But it's hard to believe that with 90% of our food made from scratch we could be way off the mark. People keep talking about the evils of grains and sugar and it's hard for me to believe that having a few slices of bread or a few cookies per day would be ruining my digestion.

A lot of women in the fitness discussion groups I frequent seem to talk about "real food" and "Paleo" all the time. So I decided to check out a new e-book written by a woman I'd run into before in the blogosphere. She blogs at http://trinaholden.com/blog/.



-My Thoughts-


Even though I am not sold on the "real food" movement, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, I rolled my eyes about all the "staying close to the source" and buying local everything and finding a raw milk source and whatnot. I wish someone would put out a book like this for urban life! And the dessert section is frustrating...I don't know where to buy sugar substitute or eggs that can be consumed raw.

But aside from the shopping side of the equation, Trina definitely has a knack for making things sound doable, and she assigns some simple tasks for those who like their checklists.

Here are a few sections of the book I found applicable:

1) Bone Broth

Making my own chicken broth seemed like a no-brainer. If I make soup, I use homemade broth, but I don't actually make it that often because I don't have stock vegetables on hand like onions, celery, and carrots.

"Your Real Food Journey" suggests: use bone broth in almost everything as a substitute for water; use it to boil your rice, pasta, etc. Again, that wasn't a new idea to me, but I'd never purposed to do it regularly. The life-changer was that she mentioned simmering just the bones. No soup veggies needed, just cover the chicken bones with water and some vinegar and simmer away for several hours. Then you have some broth you can use the next day for cooking your dinner. We eat chicken so often that I could definitely see myself doing this a lot.


2) Cultured Foods/Homemade Yogurt

Fermentation is a part of the Russian food culture, and I could see myself getting into it. "Your Real Food Journey" claims that fermented foods have special enzymes that can aid your digestion if you include them in every meal. Kefir and sauerkraut are the main ones around here, but the book has recipes like "Gingered Carrots" that sound edible as well.

As far as homemade yogurt, she suggests using some whey, which I'm pretty sure I could find in the supermarket here. The dairy section in Russian grocery stores is huge, and that includes cultured products. Hopefully I will make a yogurt attempt one of these days. If not, I can always just buy some kefir. Homemade is "better," but sometimes baby steps are necessary. Extra dishes have to be factored in!


So those are a few projects I'd like to try. As far as cutting out foods/food groups, well....the jury is still out.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Launch


I rejoined the worship team recently thinking it was going to be a Friday night/Sunday morning commitment...but that was before I knew about the worship night coming up (tomorrow). And obviously my family also wasn't expecting me to be at rehearsals 2 nights a week. Yeah, I might not do the worship night next time...but on the other hand, I got this kind of jumpstart back into church stuff. It's 2 evenings away from my family, but it's also 2 evenings of deep conversations and riding home in the metro together, just like old times. It's kind of like when David was a baby and Andrei would have a big workload or something...suddenly things were more challenging, but it also helped me to move forward and gain some new skills.

I mentioned the relationships, and what can I say...we all are still learning how to die to ourselves. But we're aware of that, and we're praying about it. I don't think there is a strategy for running a worship team that would allow us to be productive and peaceful and perfectly musical all the time. But for our worship to be an offering it will take sacrifice, it seems.

Another interesting factor is the size of the group. When a team is growing, we probably all think to ourselves at one moment or another, "Do I really need to be here?" Or maybe, "Does he/she really need to be here?" And it can be a delicate matter, especially when there are more than enough willing participants. But I realized that it's actually a relief to be "expendable," as it were. We can take turns without it seeming like we lack commitment. and no one will begrudge a sick baby.

The costumes and constant posting of pumpkin photos on social media remind me that I'm living in a foreign country...what are these fall festivities of which you speak? Tomorrow is just a "regular" day here...maybe with the exception of some parties. And worship night.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Prairie Life


If you're looking for some wholesome historical fiction about homesteaders, I can recommend the "Butter in the Well" series. I downloaded both volumes for free on my Kindle, though they cost a few dollars now.

The two books in the series are written in the form of diary entries, which the author based on various historical documents and other publications. They are fictionalized accounts of the lives of real Swedish immigrants. The first is written from the point of view of a young wife, and the second- that of her teenaged daughter.

The diary entries are all pretty simple and some are even mundane. We hear about which foods they are canning on a given day and which new inventions have come to town. Sometimes there is a list of people who are sick. Sentiments are included, but not always. The simple style makes it seem more realistic, as if a real person is just writing his/her thoughts as they come and trying to record things for posterity. Even though it isn't very riveting, it is convincing.

At the same time, there are often several entries in a row that talk about historical events or inventions, and you get the feeling that the author is trying to pack as many facts into the text as possible and then just connecting it all with a few imagined details. It can get a bit tiresome.

All in all, the series is very calming and educational. An enjoyable change of pace, and it was interesting knowing that these people really existed, even if the specific thoughts in the fictional "diary" never actually crossed their mind. It looks like the author (Linda Hubalek) has a few other similar series that I might check out as well.

And the characters of "Butter in the Well" ARE Christians, but there is nothing "preachy" going on in the narrative.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Two days in the courtyard


Didn't manage to get one of those perfect fall photo sessions, but I got a rainy day and a snowy day for you! :)


Pondering his next puddle...

"Cheese!"


"Mommy, no gyubs (gloves)!"

"Catch you!"

Hmmm...I think we will admire the view from INSIDE today!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Imperfections Reappear


Last Sunday was my first time back on the worship team. It had been about 2.5 years! I love singing and playing music, but I had forgotten how challenging it can be for various reasons.

Of course in my rose-colored memories, we would just show up and "get our praise on," singing our hearts out in perfect harmony. The reality though was that we had no sound equipment, few songs in common, and we practiced in a shared flat, which the neighbors must have loved! We worked hard then too, but I think there was a unique pleasure in having a worship team where there previously hadn't been.

Now the worship team is huge and we have so much equipment it doesn't really fit in the room...if you still want to fit the people in, that is. It takes a lot of time to carry around and set up and sometimes the singing sounds all wrong if one person's microphone isn't working right. We have a huge list of songs now but each one is disliked by at least one person in the group. Some people sing too loudly and others sing too softly.

There will always be something to complain about, but I realized that one of the biggest challenges of it all is relating to everyone. I wish we could just do our thing and not have to do conflict resolution. As I go home, I feel stung by Person A's criticism, resentful of Person B's inadequate song choices, and guilty about my own selfish reactions to it all (these are just hypothetical, but you get the idea).

It is hard to be in fellowship, and I pray, "Thank You, Lord, for helping us to sharpen one another." That's what it's about. We come expecting to be used and to make something beautiful, but we have to go through a lot of "stuff" first. Humility sometimes seems like an unreachable aim!

Friday, October 10, 2014

We've Arrived


So I guess reading to your child is one of those things that make you a model parent! You'd think so. I've seen all those photos on social media and Pinterest with the DIY nursery reading "nook" and the adorable shots of the parents (more often the mommy bragging about the daddy) with the newborn, "reading" a book together...so cute. I definitely thought we'd be that kind of family, but it turns out there is more to babycare than read-aloud time! I think I have one photo of myself reading to David in his first year, and I can't post it because it's a pajama shot...whoops.

But since around the time David turned two, he's suddenly been very enthusiastic about books! He likes to read whole stacks at a time and has memorized various fragments and where things are on certain pages. We didn't do anything differently...just kept making them accessible and he eventually got interested. In fact, I worried that I wasn't "modeling" book use enough since I read on my Kindle, but that doesn't seem to be a problem.

It's exciting to see how it goes hand-in-hand with language learning. And not just vocabulary, even certain grammar constructions. I like grammar.




I will admit I'm often looking for more time for myself, and I try to pare down the reading pile or cut the time short, or skip over certain pages, or hustle him off to bed so I can have some peace and quiet. Even in the positive moments we always have our own wants and desires and agendas. Even as we read, I have certain things I want him to see, or books that I want to be his favorites. I bought him a book called "Back to Bed, Ed" to encourage "good" sleep habits. He was interested in what the mouse family was having for breakfast...not their sleepy eyes from the kids' nighttime wakings!

Here are some of the things that go through my head when I hear those words: Mommy, READ....


"I'm SuperMom!"(right?)

"We're raising a genius."

"I hope he doesn't pick THAT book again."

 "I'm going to hide that one."

"I wish he would read to himself."

"I wish we could have silent reading and each read to ourselves."

"I wish he would stay on task instead of pointing to random things on the page."

"I wish he would pay attention to the moral of the story."

 "My throat hurts from trying to enunciate all these baby words."


Sad, right? But I love it, too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Excuses


About this time last week, a friend invited me (via Internet) to a birthday party for her 5 yr old. And I immediately began to form an explanation for why I wouldn't go. I never even wrote back...isn't that awful?

Do I say "no" too much? Is it bad if I am thinking of excuses as soon as the invitations roll in? What is it that I really want to say, other than "I can't make it"? That it's too hard to ask someone to babysit, or too far to travel in an already busy day? Should I put out a public service announcement to my friends that I might be busy for the next 5 years or so? But no, I don't want to do that. Sometimes everything lines up: my availability, health, and desire to take part. And then I have a good time and know that these opportunities are a priority too, of a sort.

So then the day before the aforementioned birthday party, a friend from church called. "Vika just asked me to her son's birthday party," she began...I was surprised, because Vika is MY friend whom I had invited to a few church events, and here she was reaching out to others in my church. "It kind of came unexpectedly, since the party's tomorrow," Sveta continued,"but...Liz, this person is reaching out. I wouldn't go by myself, but the two of us could go." After a brief discussion with Andrei, I called Sveta back and told her I would go.

But first, there was church...


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Survival Mode


We've had to scale back activities for the past few weeks due to the convergence of a few factors, including my head cold, Andrei's heavy teaching/conference schedule, and dreary weather. I guess I sort of alluded to it in the last few posts. Anyway, I did an assessment today and realized that I had let go of a lot of my goals and just a lot of self-discipline went out the window. I think it was okay to have a few "pajama" days, and that was a conscious decision-to not put too much on myself that would lead to exhaustion, during a time when Andrei needed to focus on other things. Taking naps during the day with David. But it is hard to get that momentum back, and I know that I will need to work hard at it as those gray winter days set in.

I've been mostly better for a few days and then I got these blisters on the corners of my mouth! Sorry if it sounds gross, but it's just another sign that my immune system was weakened, I guess. So I've been increasing the vitamins and probiotics again. I was preparing to head to worship practice this week, but when I thought about the mouth sores and needing to open my mouth to sing, or press my flute against the wound...well, that's pretty much a deal-breaker. It will have to wait.

I got into a fiction series this week (first installment free on Kindle and it's a nice length) about mother-daughter homesteaders in present times who live sort of in isolation. It's a Christian series with some good values, but it still manages to romanticize the homesteading life a bit. Who wouldn't want to make their own ice cream and hand-stencil wallpaper? Heh. It addresses the issues of time management, and that got me thinking...how is it that we do so little "manual" labor these days, yet we still never have enough time? Well, obviously a job and its commute will do that to you, but I feel like I never get anything done even being at home. Soap-making, are you kidding me? Where does the time go? And part of what gets me is that everything in modern life is so fragmented. I wish it could all fit together somehow. Why do I resent going outside for a walk? I wish it accomplished something...I wish we had a task to do out there, other than trying to get some exercise in order to sleep well. Why do we have to get exercise on purpose, instead of just naturally doing physical tasks throughout the day? But my big question for the homesteaders would be what they do with their children. Is it just more natural to have children wandering around as you do outside chores? Okay, they're all perfect angels and help out, but you have to teach them, and that takes time, and is more messy in the meantime. Is there such thing as abandoning farm chores because of a teething toddler, or staying in when you have a cold? The thing that sounds nice about homesteading is the "home" part. And I suppose many would agree. I like my modern technology, but I do get tired of the city, and its vices (as bottles shatter outside the window).

Another idea mentioned in the (first) book is that "every day should have its Sabbath"...I don't know if they borrowed it from somewhere or not. Basically, the lack of electricity forces you to slow down in the evening. And I'm sitting here tapping out a blog post at midnight because there is NO other time when I can work in peace. And the household chores still aren't done. But I'm not complaining. I'm just thinking about priorities.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Sniffles again


So I finally succumbed to The Cold that's been chasing us all this month! It kept flirting with me and then going away, and then settled in for a longer stay a few days ago.

When David was sick I tried to get him outside anyway for fresh air, but while I've been sick I just can't find the energy to get us both dressed and out the door.

So there has been a lot of junkfood-eating and cartoon-watching going on. And baking, because it makes me happy...even if the dirty dishes are still going to be waiting in the sink in a year or so.

This isn't a "domestic bliss" shot below, just one of those milestones where he's starting to do more things on his own. Maybe we never got to the point where he plays quietly at my feet while I cook, but at least we can do it together and make it a learning process!


Also, I am starting to get excited about Christmas. Maybe if I start working on Advent now, I'll actually finish something this time around?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The story of re-entry


I was pondering how I've readjusted to Russia on various occasions, and I realized that having a child definitely makes a difference. I've struggled to understand other ex-pat parents in the past, and now I am getting there myself.

Without kids (or a husband), I would arrive and hit the ground running. Back to the orphanage the next day, or getting called up to teach Sunday school because someone else was sick. Just kidding, that's an exaggeration...of course I had the jet-lag, and it's worse flying east than west! But I got into society...I had to.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday: almost 3 weeks after arriving, I got on the metro the first time, and went to church. When you delay re-entry, you are in a bubble of sorts. Maybe it is easier on your health to take one shock at a time, first getting used to your home-away-from-home before venturing out into your culture-away-from-your-culture. And actually, I was in domestic bliss-checking out the new shelves Vladimir put up in our kitchen; rediscovering cups and plates; setting up David's new toys and books....But there's more to life, isn't there? We are meant to go out and see people! We had colds though, so had to be quarantined a bit.

Those of you who hit the ground running and/or come on a short-term trip with a packed schedule: You get tired! You're immersed! You have to face your fears ASAP, because you can't wait a week to mail that letter or make that phone call. Short-term missions has its critics, but there is a vulnerability there that makes you seek God in every little moment.

Not sure where I'm going with this....marathon vs. sprint, perhaps? We are in a "slow and steady" phase of life, with occasional bursts of panic frenzy more intense activity...like this week, while Andrei has been teaching at two different universities and preparing for 2 upcoming conferences. But we're really thankful for where God has brought us so far and for whatever the future holds!

Another thought from today: Took D. to an athletic field to run around (please oh please go to bed earlier tonight) and we came across an middle-aged man (after an injury?) doing PT with a trainer. It looked like he was learning to WALK again. I hope this doesn't sound totally inappropriate, but I wanted to watch! Isn't it amazing to witness a healing process? Not to gawk, but to see how far a person comes. I peeked a little bit and noticed how hard they were working to take steps...we went to the store and came out and they were still training! I wonder what he went home and told his family...was it a triumphant day, or a setback? Sometimes it may feel like we are limping along, but aren't we advancing all along, thanks to the Great Physician?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy New Year


Blog post before midnight...ready, set, go!

I don't normally pay attention to New Year's resolutions, but something about September has me itching to make changes in my life.

Here are a few major goals I'd like to work on this school year:


1) Make a new Bible reading routine.

2) Continue healing my DR. (work on alignment)

3) Go outside with David at least 2x per day.


There are a few other goals and plans that I may or may not share on here.

Read more for some details about my recent endeavors...


Make a new Bible-reading routine.

God's Word is such that you don't really need any special equipment or even the perfect setting to dive in...but I still would like to find a format that works for me right now. I turn on an audio recording while doing chores; I open up the Bible while David is playing nearby...but it's only little snatches. There were a few days during jet-lag when David was still SOUND asleep late morning and I even got up before him...but those days are over. Anyway, I've come across a lot of blog posts recently about how to organize (or not) "Devotional" time, so it's been on my mind.



Continue healing my DR (work on alignment)

It annoys me that I didn't word that as a specific goal, but I'm trying to get my thoughts down quickly here. I have a few recently acquired clues as to ways I could change the way I use my muscles in various tasks. There are a few specific things I'm working on to correct my posture. Even as I'm sitting here typing, I move into a slouch about every 30 seconds or so and have to correct myself. Making even small corrections can immensely help my body recover from carrying a child (and likely having poor alignment for much of my life prior to that). I'm making this a priority.



Get outside with David (2x a day)

We've had a pretty good track record (for us) so far this month. We are up to going outside ALMOST every day and are working up to twice a day. Sometimes the second walk is performed by Andrei, which is also good. Maybe David's grandmother will also do it sometimes. But I can benefit from it, too. I am trying to no longer regard yucky weather or stuffy noses as adequate excuses. Apartment air can cause far more damage!

...However, we have a few obstacles. The first is just plain lack of motivation. I hate the ritual of getting ready and going outside and keeping track of David and trying to get him to behave and not take other people's toys and then coming inside and getting all cleaned up. I hate playgrounds, I hate grassy patches strewn with trash/presents from dogs, I hate teenagers on mopeds who interrupt naptime and almost run us over, and I have no interest in socializing with other caregivers who stare at me when I speak with David in English. Just being honest here...I'm working on this!

So that's the first obstacle...LOL. The second problem is trying to get out the door. I don't understand how mothers do it. David doesn't let me brush my teeth, change my clothes, or gather our bag. He follows me around asking for a hug or to read a book. So terrible, right? Well, it is if we truly both need fresh air and exercise. I have told him we're going out, but he just doesn't understand or want to cooperate with the getting ready part! Almost every time, I'm about to scream and drop everything and forget it all. Sometimes I do lose it. I don't care if we leave later than planned...it just feels like we'll never, ever be ready. And I also feel partly like the walk is a task I have to perform, so I can receive my reward of coming home and eating lunch and doing domestic things. So it's maddening when it drags on and my chance to perform the more pleasant tasks is slipping away. Meanwhile...my plan is to tweak the routine a bit so we get dressed earlier, before David is getting clingy. Plus get my clothes out the night before. I'm not sure if I will be able to find this magic combination, but we'll see.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

After traveling


Thought I’d wash some dishes dash off a quick blog post while I wait for Andrei to get back from paying for the Internet.

It’s 50’s here and rainy, a little different from the 80-degree weather we left behind. And I have a raging headache, though it’s subsided some. Still dizzy and thankful to be off the plane.

It’s hard to believe this is the country the U.S. is at odds with. There is such a disconnect between daily Russian life and all that hype in the media. I've heard there are increased anti-American sentiments, but I’m not sure if that would be applicable in our residential neighborhood …??? Also, the airport has been renovated and looks a little more modern, and passport control was a breeze. The only thing was that the lady inspector laughed, saying I didn’t look like my passport photo…

“Huh. No resemblance!”

Me, taking off glasses: “Is that better?”

“Okay, that’s better. This IS yours, right?” (showing me the passport)

Me, squinting: “I GUESS. It’s Elizabeth. I don’t have my glasses on now so I can’t see it!” I could have only handed her mine or David’s, and I assumed it was the right one.

She giggled. “Okay, Elizabeth, you can put your glasses back on now.” She typed (!) up a migration card, printed it out, and handed it to me with my passport/resident card. Whew!



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Crossing

Seems appropriate...
We're leaving in just a few days to go back to Russia! Suitcases are already bursting at the seams with plentiful contents.

Last week we had some fun sibling interaction time, and David got to see almost all of his cousins! We got a few photos, but not too many as it's an active bunch! With kids you often need both arms to give a hug or stop a fight, so the camera takes the backseat.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what changes have occurred while we've been away.

One thing I've gotten wind of are changes to immigration policy. It sounds like I might need official employment in order to keep my resident status. I can't even imagine what I would do about that. David is still young and I don't like the idea of needing employment just to stay in the country, especially when I have a family! Looks like we will need to visit an immigration lawyer when we get back.

I was looking forward to going back until this came up. I guess there are always ups and downs, and there also seems to be a paper trail no matter what country you live in!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Diastasis Recti: Summer Edition


The journey of healing continues...


The OB/Gyn I saw this summer wasn't very helpful in that she saw Diastasis recti as a "cosmetic problem" that could be treated only with surgery. Unfortunately, I think that's a fairly typical response.


Here are some other approaches I've been using this summer to work on this aspect of my health:



Exercise

Haven't done so well on this count; fairly consistent daily walks but not as vigorous as I'd like. Part of this is due to hot weather and not being able to go very fast. I also feel like with the stroller I obsess over whether I'm in the right "alignment" or not for core healing. So the exercise has probably been more about getting fresh air and Vitamin D than weight loss or toning.


"Tummy Team" rehab program

I started this 8-wk program shortly after we arrived in the U.S., and the very week I started was a challenging one with various setbacks ranging from David nursing a lot again to waking several times at night, etc. So in turn I needed to be taking naps as opposed to doing workouts, etc. That was quite frustrating, but eventually I was able to follow the schedule somewhat and work my way through the rehab points.

I haven't felt much of a result from the program, and that's a little disappointing. I'm taking it all in and incorporating some of the concepts, but it hasn't been a life-changer. So I hope to revisit it in the future, maybe even in the fall when I can get into a routine and work the movements into daily life in our apartment (ha ha, routines aren't our strong point, but we can always try).


Seeing a specialist

This was probably the breakthrough this summer out of all the approaches. My mom asked a local Pilates instructor if she had DR experience, and she said yes...and was telling the truth! I really enjoyed meeting her and having 2 sessions of working on my core with professional guidance.

I will say that all the work I've been doing for the past year+ has provided a good foundation. She was impressed by how I could do the breathing correctly and engage my core while doing some movements.

Some of the helpful information I received included learning how to adjust my alignment and also discovering that my split is actually pretty high up. Those are pieces of the puzzle that are hard to figure out long-distance. So now I have some more tools to work with as I go back to Russia.




I've been spending some time just going back to the basics and doing some breathing exercises with my hands on my stomach to feel how everything is working. And doing it over and over again until I feel the muscles going IN, not protruding out.

Each healing approach regarding DR has its own words to promote visualization, and I'm gradually adding all of these descriptions to my toolbox so that I can integrate healthy movements into my daily life.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mother and child moment


I've enjoyed some bonding with David this summer. Here we are checking out a fun fort near where my sister lives:



Don't forget to take pictures of yourSELF with your kids/family/friends,
especially if you're the one usually behind the camera! Makes for good memories...


David was really clingy especially at the beginning of our summer trip, maybe because it was a new place. He constantly wanted to be with BOTH of us. I guess he still does kind of tend to want to escape from one parent to go to the other. But he is a lot calmer now!

As I said though, it's nice to spend time together and be needed, because he is on that brink of toddler independence where he is often more interested in other people and not me. :)




Saturday, August 9, 2014

Relief of a sort




Hello, blog world.

David has been getting to bed at a more normal time for the past 2 days, so I finally have had an hour or two to unwind and catch up on correspondence.

...Now, where are those posts I was trying to write last month?

As I was mentioning to a neighbor, visiting here is always this conflict between wanting to be a hermit and wanting to see people and do certain things while I have the chance. And eat certain foods, but that need somehow doesn’t have any trouble being met!

The other factor is that of course people have different social needs, and we’ve all had to make some sacrifices to help each other have a moment with friends when we’re already tired, or a hermit moment when someone else wants an adventure. I’m not sure if analysis is even necessary…we’re all different!

New England offers some experiences that we don’t get in St. Petersburg, and David has had more outside time and seen a lot of wildlife that he doesn’t have access to normally. And he’s also splashed in the puddle pool and walked in the sand, things like that.

We’re headed back to Russia in just a few weeks. My heart is heavy thinking about deteriorating international relations and all the implications. And it is pretty painful just thinking about ordinary people suffering as a result. But we are looking forward to seeing our friends and starting a new school year. New beginnings always offer hope.



Friday, August 1, 2014

Amherst anniversary


Andrei and I celebrated 3 years of marriage yesterday! Life has definitely changed a lot, especially thanks to a certain little person.

For a fun "adventure," we took the bus into nearby Amherst, MA. It is actually a lot like my hometown, similar enough that I never go there, which at the same time means I've barely explored it at all.

Since we don't drive, we decided to use public transportation. In St. Petersburg there are a multitude of transportation options and they come every 10-20 minutes (more or less). And in this case it was one bus that came once an hour, though that might be just the summer schedule. Anyway, while we like public transportation, we would have to be pretty organized to use it around here, in order to be at the bus stop on the hour. When we were ready to go back we had just missed a bus, so had to wait about 40 minutes, and then the trip back took about 90 minutes. We didn't mind because we are used to a commute, and it was pretty comfortable to be able to just sit and read (or nap in one person's case) while in traffic. In St. Petersburg there aren't usually seats available, especially during rush hour, so it can be pretty tiring.

After lunch at a "Mediterranean" place, we explored a local bookstore and even made a few purchases. It is nice to support a local business even though I mostly read on my Kindle. And it earned Andrei's seal of approval. :) It was fun to be in a college town again after living in a big city where everything is so impersonal and spread out. Sometimes I miss the small town "character," if you know what I mean.

We still have some more adventures up our sleeve, even being halfway through our summer travels.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New England


So here we are almost a month into our trip and I haven't blogged yet!

My father said that a parent's definition of "vacation" is "taking care of your kids in a different place." So a lot of the adventures revolve around our toddler; not only taking care of his needs but seeing everything through his eyes, which can actually be very enlightening! And it's hard to think of anything else to write about at this point, so this is my fair warning.

Eventually I'll do some more specific posts on flying with a toddler and various aspects of parenting that we are dealing with this summer. I prefer to call it the "transitional" twos as opposed to "terrible." Just to be optimistic that way. ;)

Right now though I am sitting here sorting through photos. It can certainly be a big job, and I'm torn between the different options for archiving. I love the hands-on/homemade feel of scrap-booking and yet the practicality and durability of photo-books is something to consider. Certainly easier to get extra copies.



So, that's that. Back to photos!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can you say "packing panic" out loud 10x fast?


So, yeah...I had lots of posts that didn't quite make it to being published over the last few weeks. And photos that I don't have time to upload.

We just had our 3rd family birthday celebration in 2 weeks, and there was also a baby shower that I was heavily involved in, so it's been event-ful.

Things are up and down a lot and many times a difference of just one hour can make or break my day. I hadn't packed at all until this evening and then in a matter of minutes I was about 75% done...I just needed to be able to concentrate. Whereas David waking from his nap one hour earlier can really make me get behind.

David has been out of sorts and I'm never sure if it's just his age or if something is bothering him. He doesn't have any visible physical symptoms, but could be teething. I was literally in the middle of typing this (it's 1am) and he suddenly popped up in his bed and started calling for "Thomas," his new train (which is made out of hard plastic and has lights and sound effects). Ants in his pants...

I'm not sure what the plane ride is going to be like, and I'll have to test the theory, but it reminds me of being in labor where the details are fuzzy, you just remember that it's hard. :)

One more full day and we're leaving on Thursday.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New


I wasn't the only one who had a birthday last week. My sister Masha gave birth to a baby girl on Monday!






We're all thankful for her safe arrival.

As I was picturing Masha as a mother, I realized that my sisters and I all have children now: Emily and I each have a boy, and Masha and Nastia each have a girl.

While we might not have always been close growing up because of age or language or adoption, we now have something new in common. There are new "battle-wounds," physical and emotional, along with the joys of motherhood. And I have been feeling this a lot in general with my fellow women. Growing up and entering the workforce or moving away or getting married created some distance, but entering motherhood provides new ground for friendship. Of course this is true with my mom and other female relatives, and friends and classmates too.

And I certainly don't want to exclude that parenthood bond with my brother and his lovely wife, and their ever-growing family! :)

As far as my single friends and those waiting to be parents, I'm always encouraged by the discussions over at Kindred Grace (formerly Young Ladies Christian Fellowship). Lots of lessons to learn and things to think about in the greater community of God's family. I like having those conversations in real life, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Birthday time is crazy time


I'm back! I didn't really plan on a blogging hiatus, but I was feeling out of sorts all last week. Birthdays are hard work! Shopping, cooking, lots of interacting... but at the same time it's always sad when it goes by unnoticed... so I'm not sure what the "perfect" birthday would look like. Just glad it's only once a year, LOL!

(I was given a few beautiful bouquets, but didn't take a picture. Imagine a photo in this spot.)

We just have one week left to get ready for our trip to the U.S. In that time we will also celebrate Andrei's birthday (on Sunday) and then David's/Vladimir's in advance (theirs are in July after we leave). Oh yeah, and there's a baby shower on Saturday for someone at church. As I type this I have all these games pulled up on my computer that I'm trying to translate for a Russian audience.

Packing itself isn't such a big deal because we're going into civilization. It takes time, though. And of course there are all the last-minute tasks like cleaning the refrigerator, etc. But at least Nina and Vladimir will be able to check on our apartment while we're gone.

It's amusing scrolling down and seeing the post about how sunny it was a few weeks ago. Last week was rainy and cold! I didn't really mind too much because it's nice to be able to use the oven without giving it a second thought. But apparently I will always find an excuse not to leave the house.

I haven't been able to count on David's naptime a lot lately for performing various tasks. Either he doesn't sleep very long, or we have something going on during that time, like guests coming. So I always have a ton to do in the evening, and stay up too late, and feel drowsy the next day. Vicious cycle...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old Wives' Tales


I was looking for games for a baby shower for a friend of mine, and I thought it might be fun to look up some old wives' tales about pregnancy and design a trivia challenge.

Myths and legends are fun, right?

Well I was looking at this site expecting it to "debunk" the myths, but instead it offered scientific explanations for why they were TRUE.

And that made me realize that it wouldn't make for a very good game in mixed company. I will share them here for anyone interested, but take a pass if pregnancy is a sensitive topic for you.


Old Wives' Tales Regarding Pregnancy: Worth Taking Note (loosely translated from this article)

Things you shouldn't do:

1) Take up handcrafting (Sewing, Knitting, Embroidery), because it will result in a birthmark on the baby's cheek.

Verdict: TRUE! The birthmark part is hard to say for sure, but this kind of activity done sitting down is bad for the baby because of poor blood flow...


2) Hang laundry

Verdict: TRUE! Not only hanging laundry, but any activity requiring you to lift your arms above your head is quite risky. It could lead to miscarriage...


3) Cross your legs

Verdict: TRUE..blah blah blah (don't feel like translating)


4) Sit in a doorway or climb through a window

Verdict: TRUE! You could catch a cold, and a doorstep is too low to the ground, and window-climbing is too strenuous (well, yeah).


Okay, as I went through these again I realized that they were replacing the more pagan explanations (borders between things are always dangerous) with a more modern twist. So they do sound rather sensible, but I still think there are too many rules. Because as we all know, women in "the family way" are to avoid stress, and scaring them away from each and every activity is not likely to have a calming effect!

I'm sure some more examples have come up in conversation, but I think the weirdest one for me personally was that I was "supposed" to have a C-section because I'm near-sighted and the exertion would rupture my retinas!



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tantrum Terror


David is 23 months old! Such an...interesting...age.

Whatchu lookin at?

Okay, to start with the positive, the language development is fascinating! Just a month ago I observed that David was using more English than Russian, but recently his Russian has really been picking up. Good timing for us to take a trip to the U.S.! He definitely mingles the two languages, and sometimes he repeats the same word in both languages for emphasis.

He works really hard to find words that will express what he wants! For awhile now he has been saying "Syooda, syooda" (here, here) and points to his table or cup for us to give him something. He also says "BOY" to mean that the object is for HIM, or that HE wants some too.

And then the latest is that he figured out to say "need" in Russian, which is "NUZHNO." It is so funny to hear him asking for things (specifically SUGAR), saying that he NEEDS it. Last night he woke up and was calling for us and I heard him saying "Mama nuzhno, Mama nuzhno." Andrei went back in and settled him but then he woke up again and I couldn't deny him a little cuddle session...he'd better not forget anytime soon that he needs me!

He also tries to say "give" because he heard us saying it in Russian, but it sounds funny because he uses the wrong verb form. And in English he says "find," "do it," and "fix it."


Independence

Getting back to need...we're in the land of SAM...no, not the name, the word that means "MYSELF" in Russian (it's actually more of an "ah" sound...sahm).



"Shirt OFF!"

Emotions

We're definitely in tantrum territory and I'm learning firsthand what it's like to be the parent with "that child"....although it usually happens at home as we don't go out too much!

A few articles about "sharing" have been circling the Internet, and I've been thinking about that as well. But in general I would say that having your child throw a tantrum isn't as embarrassing as you might think. Yes, everyone will probably stare and possibly judge you. But when you're in "Mama Bear" mode, you don't really care. He is not hurt or scared, just a little frustrated. He needs to be distracted and/or comforted in the disappointment of not getting his way. Sometimes we use little bribes and sometimes we don't.

I guess it is harder to deal with the tantrums in the way you'd like when you're stuck in a metro car or airplane (gulp). Hence the bribes. But it still isn't the end of the world. Yes, it annoys other people and an apology might be in order, but I'm still not going to be mortified or ashamed that my child is acting his age. Doesn't he have a right to express his needs and wants?

Anyway, I know I probably sound like one of those "child-centric" parents, and I'm definitely not against training/discipline, but I still want to be my child's advocate. He can't quite do that for himself yet!

I'm Russian and I can rock florals AND tights. My mom said so.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Diastasis Recti: Failing Miserably


So I've been working on healing my diastasis recti for about a year now, and I haven't made too much progress. There's been a little physical/strengthening progress, and also a lot of gleaning information and interacting with other people in the same boat.

The last time I wrote I mentioned yo-yo-ing, which is still going on, and a lot of times I just feel huge (for a non-pregnant person) in general, with respects to how my clothes fit, etc. At least 3 people have asked me if I'm pregnant in the past few months, and that didn't do a lot for my self-esteem (let alone for our friendship, LOL). That is definitely one aspect of DR I'd like to leave behind. Ideally I would take the opportunity to raise awareness, but it's not always convenient, especially in an awkward moment.

David is mostly done nursing, and we'll see what happens to my body next. One person said that my body has gotten used to "eating for two" and therefore I'm eating too much or something, but I don't think that's true, just that my body has gotten used to hanging on to it? Another person said she immediately dropped the last 20 lbs once she weaned her child, and others said there was no correlation for them.

Anyway, the point is not to lose weight, it's to see if breastfeeding (whether it's hormones or metabolism or what) or bulk in the wrong places is interfering with the healing process, and tackling those issues might be the key to retraining the muscles.

Also, my splint is pretty much dead, which adds to discouragement, because it makes me feel like I've gotten bigger, even though the velcro can certainly up and die from frequent use, not because it's having trouble containing my body! I guess I will go out and buy another one, in my correct size. It might seem like a big expense, but compared to a tummy tuck it isn't much.

So once again I've been slacking a bit on the exercises, and I have this dilemma of whether or not to go ahead without the support of a splint. I'm feeling like I still need one, but I don't want to go completely stagnant while waiting to get a new one.

So that's the situation right now. I definitely have a a few strategies I'm thinking of, but nothing to share yet!





Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer in the City

(read to the end, because there are a lot of random topics covered here)


Too...much...SUN....I know I probably say that every summer when we have a heat-spell, and I wish the heat wouldn't bother me, because it surely is a blessing to see the sun after a gray spell. But it's hard to find a happy medium, because when the sun is out there is no escape...not until very late in the evening. As opposed to the very low sun in the winter, it's HIGH in the summer. You can't just wait a few hours for the sun to pass over and some shade to appear. It is directly above for many, many hours during the day. Whether you're going to the bus stop or the store, you have to be prepared.

Personally David and I stay in during this kind of weather. I feel guilty because I know Russian moms try to make sure their kids get fresh air every day. We get up and shut the windows and shades/curtains so the apartment won't heat up, and then we go through our daily routine, until we get a little relief and can let the air back in...but that might not be until like 10 pm. :/



Sickness

...Also, Andrei had the flu last week, poor guy. :( Thankfully it wasn't the worst case ever, but he still just felt really yucky. In the days he tried to get rest and in the evenings he helped out with David for dinner/bedtime, which was good because evening is crazy-time around here. Especially when we don't go outside because of the weather!


Cancellations

Last week was also sort of a bummer in that I had some plans that didn't work out. I know I've probably mentioned it before, but trying to keep up with people here is a scheduling nightmare. Not that my friendships are reduced to schedules, but I have lots of people I've been trying to see for a year or more, maybe even since before David was born, and it just doesn't happen! On Tuesday I had tentative plans with one person and she didn't write back and then it turned out she had a dentist's appointment and wasn't free. Then I had cleared out another block of time for a certain friend another day and was trying to figure out what to do with David and so forth since Andrei was sick, and then at the last minute my friend didn't have any money for the metro???? I'm not judging anyone here, just trying to illustrate the pace of life here. Everyone is freakishly busy which makes it seem fast, but at the same time you spend months and months trying to organize a certain get-together or run a simple errand.


Productivity

...and on that note, we had kept the entire month of June open to catch up on some things, and I'm finally starting to sort of come to terms with the fact that we AREN'T going to get much done. We are going to go through the same list, just slower. :) And no matter how we plan, those last few days (hopefully not hours) before our plane ride are going to be hectic, sigh.


Tears

I cried so hard in church today! First there were announcements, and then an engagement ceremony, which I got through, and then there was this testimony at the end that -BAM- left many of us sobbing. This woman got up to talk about the dental problems of her 3 yr old daughter, and I was already starting to cry because SHE was starting to cry, and anything with mothers and children makes me cry.  So as it turned out they couldn't find a doctor to see their daughter, and the child was crying all the time from pain (which I didn't know, just thought she was a particularly sensitive little girl), and they didn't have the money for treatment, and it was going to be under general anesthetic, and then they did find a doctor who did it all for free and without needing to use anesthetic and the little girl didn't cry at all! Which if you've ever been a parent needing to arrange medical care for your child, is just one of those gut-wrenching things. So it had a happy ending, but it was the WAY she told it that had us all sniffling. She was crying and laughing and we couldn't understand half of what she was saying! I could hear this woman behind me snorting, but I couldn't tell if it was from crying or if she was already laughing from the relief of knowing it was going to end well. I couldn't stop my own shoulders from shaking, and then all of a sudden it was over and we were dismissed. And technically we were supposed to be congratulating the engaged couple, but we were all trying to find some Kleenex and pretend we hadn't just been crying.


Misbehaving

Then on the way home we got yelled at personally by the tram driver for having the baby in the stroller. He wanted us to take the baby out and carry the baby and stroller individually up the steps before reseating the baby. I understand maybe wanting to avoid a baby-in-stroller-on-stairs scenario, but the second option doesn't make sense either. Let's say you are the only adult. You take the baby out of the stroller...now what? Who carries the stroller up the stairs? If you lift the baby up first, he could fall down the stairs while you're getting the stroller. Believe me, I've tried various scenarios in our apartment entrance. Anyway, David was asleep and we weren't going to disturb him. On the way out we got yelled at, too. The clear solution here is to DO AWAY WITH STAIRS!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

History in the making?


One of the things going on in Russia these days is a crackdown on smoking in public places. You can read about it here and here and here. The bill just came into effect this month.

Andrei and I were talking about whether or not it would make a difference. I'm definitely looking forward to dining out smoke-free. We always used to joke about how just a few feet (of air) separated the smoking and non-smoking sections. No walls or anything. Hello, second-hand smoke! We are definitely spoiled in this sense in the U.S.

Obviously businesses will want to follow the rules if they don't want to get strapped with a fine or worse. Today we were in the grocery store and the cigarettes were gone! That is, they were hidden from view.

But in other areas it will be harder to control. I look forward to standing at a bus stop on a chilly day and not inhaling cigarette smoke. But what do you do, perform a citizen's arrest on the person violating the new law?

Meanwhile, I would really like to get the smokers out of my building! Apartment living is like that...you have to put up with your neighbors' vices, and I'm sure they hear David from time to time. The neighbors above us smoke. During the cold months they do it in the stairwell and it seeps into our apartment. Then it gets warm and they smoke out the window/balcony, and it comes in through our windows. The cigarette butts get tossed down to the first floor or onto our balcony. Sure, you should have the right to smoke in your own home, but it's one neighborly nuisance I could do without. I've heard conflicting reports on whether or not smoking in the stairwells is off limits now. I think it's too much to hope for. But we're taking small steps, at least!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Seeking brothers and sisters


I was contacted at one point by a woman who visits the same group of invalids with whom I am acquainted. It was great to make a connection that had the potential for future collaboration.

So we became "friends" via social networking, and started to correspond, though never meeting in person. I was encouraged to see the work she's been doing.

Except for this one tiny detail...

...She's Russian Orthodox.

And you know, she might have even been there before when we visited. I kind of might have avoided getting acquainted.

Maybe I'm going to lose a few friends for even admitting this, but I'm not very good at mixing (in a religious context) with people of other confessions (that is, non-Protestants). In 10 years of life in Russia I still kind of shy away from deep relationships with Orthodox believers. There are certain topics that we have to avoid. And I realize that some of it is tradition and not really doctrine/belief, but it just feels like it comes between us sometimes. I'm not talking about casual friendship, or even good friendships with Russians who are nominally Orthodox, but when it comes to really partnering in the Gospel...is it possible? And if so, how?

Today I happened to see some caustic comments written by someone who is against adoption of Russian kids by foreigners. Thank GOODNESS Americans aren't allowed to do it right now, they added. My heart didn't respond very graciously and my fingers might have typed a few spirited comments of my own.

I was reminded that, to the rest of the world, we Americans don't do a very good job of minding our own business. And missionaries may or may not be the worst of the lot...we just don't give up, do we?

Unfortunately, politics do play a role in these issues. And I realize it partly bothers me because I am letting it. Perhaps I am too quick to take offense.

But this woman, the church worker...I saw what she wrote on her own page. Help the kittens, Help the invalids,...Laugh at America. And my heart seized up and I felt like a hypocrite writing to her cheerfully about field trips and birthday presents and massage therapy.

I went to bed last night pondering this problem. And when I was traveling home from church today, I saw her through the window of the metro car before the doors even opened. I knew this church worker instantly from her profile picture. In a city of 5 million, God sent her to my metro car to meet in person. It was unplanned, you see...in fact, I think I scared her half to death as I darted from my seat and blurted out her name. "It's Elizabeth," I said. "We've been corresponding..."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Missionary aims


This evening while brushing my teeth and analyzing the world's political conflicts, I found myself wondering...are there missionaries who enter a country where they LIKE the political climate? Does anyone think to him/herself, "This country is so beautiful, and peaceful, and the culture is ideal, and its people are wonderful too, except for the fact that they don't know Jesus, so I'll go serve there"? Isn't there always something we want to fix?

And a follow-up question to that: is it WRONG to want to fix something? Missions and social justice often go hand-in-hand, and Christ certainly calls our attention to the needy. And when we see social problems, we want to fix them, but we also want to find someone to blame. So we blame the regime. Isn't that how it goes?

I can't decide if that is a fallacy or not, to blame suffering on the government. Does it matter where the corruption lies, as long as it is there, in hearts?

Sometimes it seems like life won't get better without a revolution. But I want to teach a different message. I want to spread the hope of living well; of finding joy even when your wait for certain change goes on and on.

Doesn't waiting for change hold us back sometimes? How do we fight that? How do we help others fight it?



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Updates


Everyday Russian fare, J/K!
Only on occasion...
So I used up my blogging time this evening trying to type out a complicated recipe for my food blog. I love collecting and reviewing recipes, but I'm not very good when it comes to exact measurements and things like that!

I've restored almost all the content to this blog from my old blog design. Hard to believe it's been less than 2 weeks as I'm already used to the new look!


However, I'm still getting used to having 2 panels instead of 3. I like having everything right there, and I hate deciding what should be at the top! I feel like I'm having separation anxiety with my blog lists way down there at the bottom. I looked at some other blogs and it seems like they're the same way, but it feels like it takes forever to scroll down to those links!

One thing I haven't restored is the touristy/bureaucratic links I used to have. I wonder if I need them? If people have questions they can always email me.

A new thing is that I added a "button" (image/logo type thing) related to Diastasis recti (just realized that I don't have a label for those posts, but they come up if you put it in the search panel). It clicks through to my fitness site that I use, and serves as a colorful reminder for me to work on healing my body each day!

As usual I'm posting at 1 am, time to hit the hay!

Update on the update: I just realized that I'm still missing my FRIENDS link list, including Ruth and Ruth, so I will be sure to get that up again soon!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Wisdom


At our small group these days we've been studying Psalms, and then Proverbs. The past two weeks have been all about Wisdom.

It was interesting how many references I picked up on in daily life during Week 1!

The first one was an episode of the Cosby Show, believe it or not. We found some episodes online and have found that it covers so many aspects of American life, particularly growing up with siblings! Oh, that Dr. Huxtable....he seems to have a sixth sense for what his children are up to. The episode that day featured one of the children scheming about something, and struggling through the decision-making process. I think it may have been Theo wanting to take flying lessons? And then figuring out what it would cost, etc.

Then we were watching..."Cars." Yes, that's right, the Pixar animation. In fact, it wasn't even the real version, it was either a YouTube clip or a Russian compilation. There was this song..."You didn't follow my advice, you wanted to go your own way..." We had talked about that too in the context of Proverbs chapter 1.


28“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
    they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
    and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
    and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.


Then a new post came up on one of my favorite community websites, Kindred Grace (formerly Young Ladies Christian Fellowship). The article was called "How to Wisely React to Criticism" and I clicked on over. I guess I was still thinking along the lines of Proverbs and the need to seek and listen to advice. How do I respond when I receive constructive criticism? However, the article was more to do with responding to uncalled for comments, along the lines of Job's "friends," perhaps? A thought-provoking post, if you feel inclined to have a read.

Anyway, that was last week's follow-up "inspiration." This week we covered Proverbs 3, so we'll see what fruit develops.