Friday, April 7, 2017

The wounded

Woke up to news of U.S. airstrike on Syria. Ummm....not sure what the consequences of that are going to be!

Last night I was scrolling through FB and happened to click on a stranger's page that has a lot of friends in common with me. I ended up reading the pages of a family whose teenage daughter was wounded in this week's bombing.

As they attend one of the local churches here, a prayer chain had gone out, but now I had a face to fit the name.

Based on the posts I saw, it went like this:

-the teenager was helped out of the metro by a woman who heeded her request to go home to her parents, despite her injuries

-the girl only knew her father's cell phone number from memory, so they called her father, who called her mother to warn her that her injured daughter was about to show up on her doorstep

-they called an ambulance, which arrived in about an hour*

-the girl had some shrapnel on her leg and a ruptured eardrum, and required surgery

-her sister was having trouble getting to the hospital due to the transportation collapse, but a stranger picked her up and drove her all the way there

-the sister described an investigator coming into the hospital room and interviewing the wounded teenager and examining the blood on her clothes (to look for traces of the terrorist, the sister surmised)

-the mother shared about feeling relief that her daughter was showing interest in normal things, like food and manicures, even while still in the hospital

Often the victims of these tragedies are faceless to us, but when I imagined a terrorist's blood on my child (or sister!), I began to imagine what kind of thoughts might go through someone's head.

So, now you can kind of picture what the families of victims might be experiencing. The sun is shining outside (earlier today anyway), but the marks are still on their bodies for now.

*In St. Petersburg it is customary (and free of charge) to call an ambulance for minor illness and injury, as it is a way to get some medical attention without taking a sick person on public transportation. In this case many of the emergency vehicles had been mobilized to the attack site, and her injuries were not life-threatening, so an hour's wait probably wasn't too bad. See more in my Soviet medicine post from several years ago.

3 days later

Sophia is 8 months old today. It's hard to believe that the bomb was just 3 days ago. It doesn't even come up in conversation anymore and we are back to complaining about the same old things.

When I've taken the time to think about it, I've been observing how many encouraging stories there have been about what happened. I guess I have a few other tragedies in my mind, like Beslan and the Moscow theater hostage situations, and those seemed to be such a mess. Maybe you can't really compare the a suicide bombing much different from an accidental explosion, in the immediate aftermath? Certainly different from dodging bullets, but still a very panicky situation, it would seem...

Since there isn't much coverage on English-language news sites, here are a few things I've been reading about:

-accounts of how calm and organized the evacuation of the metro was
-bystanders/other passengers selflessly offering first aid
-people helping each other get around the wreckage and up the escalator
-the efficiency of the medical attention
-the efforts of the city to offer additional transportation options
-the countless offers of rides and even housing to help those who were affected by the metro being closed
-stories of heroes such as the train engineer, who did everything he was supposed to do under difficult circumstances
-and just the fact that all of these procedures were in place for emergencies

Anyway, it's late...just wanted to offer this side of things. There are memorial ceremonies going on, while the investigation continues. Many of the injured are still hospitalized. But for the rest of us, it's back to normal (sort of) life.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day after

Everything is normal. Nothing will be the same.

I spent much less time reading the news today, once I realized there was not going to be anything additional. The names of victims have been published, but I don't recognize any of them. There's been a new attack in Syria, with many more casualties-how very, very awful. :(

It feels like we're kind of isolated. Our friends and family around the world showed concern, but today it is back to business as usual. A CNN headline reads "As Russia mourns St Petersburg attack, Europe shows little solidarity." And I think I can finally agree. In the past, I felt that Russians were being too hasty to accuse the West of favoritism and/or bias, mourning one terrorist attack and not another. But I really noticed it this time. I was so sad for London, and many people were. But I do not know anyone in London. And yet, I did not feel that strangers were sad for St. Petersburg. There are probably people who haven't even heard, but that's okay, because I wouldn't pass a news quiz, either.

Some headlines tug at my heart more than others. We have to protect our emotions somehow, or we will collapse under the weight of daily tragedies around the world. But it is still interesting to see how we react differently to various news items, simply because they concern different countries or people groups. And we can't really force ourselves to feel compassion, even if we can recognize a situation that deserves it.

I scroll through Instagram, but the normal posts are too normal, and the sad posts are too sad. I want both! The condolences are formulaic, yet their absence is worse. Yesterday we had to hold it together, but when we had the chance to sit down and process, the feelings were already buried.

Andrei's students hinted at canceling classes today, but as Andrei pointed out, he had to answer to his superiors, who had not given any such order. So Andrei took the other metro line to work. He said that it was a very safe day to travel in the metro, as security measures were high. But rumors said that people had been advised to stay home. There was a lot of information being passed around, and it was frustrating that some of it was untrue.

Today was day 1 of three days of mourning.

Chance of terror

It has always seemed like terrorist attacks always occur somewhere else-even in Russia, they are usually in Moscow, or in some conflict zone. I never expected it here.

Too young to know what's going on.
14:40 The blast occurred
15:00 I knew Andrei was finishing his lectures, so I texted him to ask him to buy some bread so we could have sandwiches for lunch.
15:15 My MIL's phone rang (she was at our house), and it was Andrei calling to say there had been an explosion. The metro station nearest his work was closed, so he was headed to the other metro line.

I started notifying people that we were okay, and Nina called Vladimir (Andrei's father) to say he was safe. Vladimir started crying with relief.

I was about to burst into tears myself. I was mostly stunned into silence. David was full of energy and irritated that we were making phone calls instead of letting him play freely with Nina.

15:45 Andrei called to say he had made it halfway home but that the metro was being evacuated (seemed logical in case of other bombs, but obviously inconvenient). It's a bit disorienting trying to switch from underground to above-ground transportation, especially considering St. Petersburg is built on a serious of islands. I kept my phone nearby in case I needed to look up directions for him.

16:15 Andrei called to say that he had gotten on a bus headed to another metro station that had more transportation links.

I headed outside to buy some bread at a kiosk near our house. I felt numb, like I was sleep-walking. Our neighborhood looked the same, but people in the same city had lost their lives.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Survey/Selfie

Awkward photo. But there's blue sky at 5pm!
Currently up to 13 hours of daylight.

What I've been...

Reading: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (stay tuned for a book review)

Watching: Doc Martin season 7

Cooking/Eating: Challah

Listening to: Michael Card

Striving towards: Surviving my daughter's sleep regression.

Looking forward to: Easter and more spring days.

What David is up to: Making up new and creative dance moves! Surprised me, too!

What Sophia is up to: Eating (and pooping) stickers and other tiny, tiny things she picks up off the floor...yay for pincer grasp!

-Your turn!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Which Country to Call Home, Part 2

About a month ago, I wrote about our destination as an international family. You can read that post here. After I published it, a friend reminded me about Jesus (in Luke and Matthew) having "no place to lay his head." That is comfort that I have drawn on at times, and it's important to remember that nothing is certain and any of us could find ourselves homeless at any time. For families of mixed citizenship, of course the horrible thought (or reality!) of being separated may rear its head at times. This is something I don't think about too much, even though I can travel to many countries on short notice without a visa, while Andrei cannot. I will have to renew my residency permit soon, including passing an exam! David and Sophia are on visas until we figure out a longer-term solution, and those are never guaranteed either. And who knows what international relations will be like in the future?

So I had sort of written about things from the point of view of human emotions, though my trust is in God. The times of high stress with red tape come in waves, and right now we don't have any major deadlines.

We are in a time of peace. My spirit is at peace and I don't worry about the future. It's partly thanks to my faith and partly the season that we're in. Another season may have me freaking out, but I don't see that as a sign of weakness. I believe that God predisposes us as individuals to be anxious in some situations and stronger in others. I don't see the worry itself as a flaw. It's what we do with it. I'm not afraid of flying, or most travel. But the packing will have me losing sleep every time. Maybe God will take away that feeling of stress someday, or maybe He just uses it to keep me humble. I fully expect to be brought to my knees many more times in this life. When it comes to parenting, Andrei and I sometimes get anxious in contrasting situations. I might be totally calm while he's worrying, and vice versa. But we're both right, and we honor each other's concerns.

I've never liked to speculate. Ever since I was young, I never had any clear ideas about the future. I delayed my college entry decision until the last possible minute, and I declared my major on the last Friday of the last week possible of sophomore year. It was hard when people would ask, because "undecided" wasn't a satisfactory answer. And then people wanted me to make a guess anyway. But I didn't know the future. Then at graduation everyone wanted to know, too. Nope, I never planned to be a missionary. I suppose it is normal to ask these kinds of questions, to show an interest in someone. But....why can't "I don't know?" be an answer? I don't like to say I'm going to do something, if I'm not sure.
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. -Matt. 5:33-37

Maybe this is why I don't like to talk about it...I don't want to make a promise I can't keep. But the other side of the coin is that I love to make charts and plans and do the research on various leads. So while I might not reveal anything that is uncertain, chances are that I have plenty of ideas brewing, with all of the details mapped up. And I'm happy to share any KNOWN factors with anyone interested. But right now it is on more of a smaller scale; no major life changes at the moment!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Family life

I figured if I went to write a status report then everything would change. Sure enough, I was going to write about how David had been calmer lately, and then he was a bit out of control today. Oh well, I think in general he is getting used to having a younger sibling. In some ways it is just as I pictured: brother and sister doing funny things and entertaining the rest of us. Along with fighting over toys and pinching each other or whatever.

I noticed recently that David was playing by himself more and okay with me doing something else or even being in a different room. It's great if I can get something done without needing to turn on a show for him.

Sonya (Sophia) is army-crawling and even has callouses on her tiny toes from pushing off. She has become very interested in small objects. I have systems for keeping David's toys boxed up and out of the way, but there is always that one thing that gets out...and if there is one small object in the entire room, Sonya will find that one object.

I've felt that kind of bone-tiredness lately where you are kind of going on auto-pilot, totally exhausted. Definitely spacey at times and having a hard time forming complete sentences! Sonya is up a lot at night.  For a while she was waking up halfway through the night, eating, and then playing for like an hour. I often had to call Andrei to come take her and rock her back to sleep. So basically I would start out sleeping with David, then switch rooms and sleep with Sonya, and then go back and forth a few more times. The beds are on opposite sides so I kept getting confused about where the edge was! Basically like the newborn days. Sonya isn't playing as much at night but she still wakes up a lot and whines or moves around. I don't normally look at the clock, but there are a lot of disruptions.

Speaknig (whoops) of sleep, I had this whole plan to cut out computer time in the evening and go to bed earlier. I was going to be well-rested. I think Sonya started the shenanigans around the same time. So after a few days I was going to bed earlier, but behind on various correspondence, missing things like blogging, and still sleep-deprived. So now I don't know.

It will probably all be different a week from now anyway...and then different again the next week.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Middle March

Well, that week flew by! I guess it got taken over by Women's Day, a church function, and registering the kids' passports.

So, the run-down on our daytrip to Finland. It was boring, hooray. I didn't even take any photos except on the train.

We decided to give our beaten up umbrella stroller one last run (we ended up getting another one the next day), figuring we could ditch it and use a soft carrier if it fell apart. It held up, though. Sophia was alert for the train ride as it wasn't yet her usual naptime, but then went to sleep.

Everything went fine with border control. There were a couple funny things about the train such as it not having a baby changing station despite it being the family car. It was way easier having 2 adults, though the train ride was only 2 hours. I think the hardest part was getting on and off and riding the metro to the actual train station.

We went to the same small town in Finland and again I was struck by how quiet it was. Such a relief after being in a big city, like someone had hit the volume button. The weather was just as grey, though. And without big-city sights to provide a little color in the winter, I think it would be a little dull. Definitely pros and cons. I liked immediately noticing ethnic diversity-not that it's absent in Russia, just a different mix. The little stores downtown had so much character, and that's something I miss about living in a small town, buying from local artisans and things like that. If we'd been in a car I probably would have made quite a few purchases! But as it was, our budget went towards train tickets and lunch, and our hands were full from carrying emergency changes of clothing. Oh, and apparently I'm supposed to notify my bank a week before entering a new country, which I had failed to do.

We visited a nice restaurant that I had found on the internet. It felt a little odd being alone there on a Saturday, and I wondered what Finns do on weekends. Were they all out skiing? Home doing chores? Out shopping? But we just relaxed and enjoyed it as Sophia took her nap in the stroller.

We still had about 2 hours and decided to visit the Railway Museum. But once there, we realized we didn't have the motivation to even go inside. David was having great fun running up and down their handicapped ramp and was disappointed that we were leaving. But it was cold outside! So we went to the train station and sat in the waiting area, and David and I went up and down the escalator and elevator and staircase.

On the ride home everyone was a little cranky, of course. But I really felt for a lady sitting near us whose toddler had not napped. She tried the whole way to put him to sleep, and he was only getting drowsy at the end, when it was after 7 pm.

At the next opportunity, Andrei and his father went to the Immigration Office to register David and Sophia at his parents' address.

Now we need to look into getting them permanent residency so that we don't have to always be counting days in and days out. But I think it may be a long process-no fast lane even though they're Russian and I already have permanent residency.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Coming Up

It's off to Finland again! We have to do another border run.

Andrei got a visa this time, and they even gave it to him for 2 years. So, technically he's covered to visit other Schengen countries as well. I was thinking the other would be sooo much easier if he had a U.S. passport. We've never really had a pressing need for him to have U.S. citizenship, but if you add up all the visa applications, it would eventually pay off to go through the process.

We are going to try the same route as last time...yep, the train stop with 2 minutes to get off, where the door didn't open for me and David. But I'm guessing that only happens to me, so hopefully Andrei will handle the door and we'll be all set! Still haven't bought a new stroller though, so not quite sure how Sophia is going to get around. Less than 24 hours to decide!

Other than that, we're hoping for a non-eventful trip. No visa problems, stuck doors, sickness, etc. Okay, God? :)

I'll write about it when we get back. Although, if it turns out non-eventful, then it might not make for a very interesting blog post...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

It's getting real

It's an age of many transitions-6 months, that is (almost 7 by the time I post this).

I'd been looking forward to feeding Sophia "people" food, at the very least because she acts so offended when we eat in front of her! Literally, looks at someone taking a bite and starts sobbing. I started mixing up some purees for her, which she tastes sort of nonchalantly. However, now I think "do I HAVE to feed her?" just thinking of all the extra dishes and laundry it creates. I'm looking forward to table foods even more, when we'll just toss some of whatever we're eating on her tray.

Meanwhile, she is getting pretty mobile. She already crawls on her tummy like a pro and is much more determined about getting toys beyond her reach. The floor often seems like the safest place for her now, rather than squirming out of someone's arms. I don't think we bed-shared with David at this age-it's intense! She scratches and kicks, practicing her crawling moves. Time for a guard-rail, stat! Anyway, I think she's going to be a feisty one, so I'm bracing myself. I'm hoping David will be able to help entertain her sometimes. They are already pretty competitive. He commands us to look at him and listen when he is speaking. She hides under a blanket and waits for us to ask "Where's Sophia?"

I was looking back at my blog archives to see when David reached certain milestones, and found this fun post from exactly 4 years ago! Definitely the same things currently going on with Sophia, though she was born a month later, so she might be ahead a tad.

Some differences:

-I don't think of Sophia as fussy or clingy, as I noted with David. Maybe I'm just more relaxed about "getting stuff done"? Of course, David can help sometimes, too.

-Sophia stopped napping too, but I guess earlier on we figured out that she sleeps well in the baby buggy, especially in the winter. We put her in her snowsuit and open the porch window so she's "outside."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Survey/Selfie

What I've been...

Reading: The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

Watching: The Beginning of Life: The Series (on Netflix)

Learning: Biblical Greek 

Cooking/Eating: Too many baked goods, including these, these, and these.

Listening to: Easter hymns

Striving towards: Going to bed earlier and decluttering my life.

What David is up to: Counting, gummy anacondas, and everything glow-in-the-dark

What Sophia is up to: Army-crawling, opening/closing drawers, trying finger foods, playing peekaboo

-Your turn!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Perspective: Which country to call home

4 years ago, David was a baby and everyone was asking me if/when we were planning on leaving Russia. I wrote about it in this post.

Now they're asking again, in addition to wanting to know our specific plans for school!

Back when I was having trouble getting a visa to stay in Russia long-term, I remember this issue coming up: If I get a full-time job to stay in Russia, then I can't do the things I was doing before. I wondered if it was worth all that time and effort. Other missionaries were starting to relocate and move towards similar ministry, but in a neighboring country.

Why would we pack up and leave? Russia is our home. There are people to love all over the world, but it's not like you can close your eyes and point at the map to choose where to go next. There has to be more direction than that. I've moved before, so I know what it's like and I've dealt with all sorts of bureaucracy before. It wouldn't stop me. But in order to be willing to do that, you need to be passionate about making the change. You might be doing it for someone you love, or just a higher purpose in general. Sometimes it's a temporary decision that turns into a big move.

Right now we have relatives all over the U.S., as well as in St. Petersburg and Kinshasa. That's just family members, not counting friends. Moving to yet another location makes it that much harder to see each other. Plus you have many different languages at play. Which languages would the kids speak, and where would they choose to live in the future?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Urban Housewife and Proverbs 31

I was a bit bowled over by a blog post I stumbled upon. The blog itself seems like it has a lot of posts about conservative Christian homemaking that I would normally agree with, and I actually want to read more of her writing. However, the more I live abroad and gain perspective in housekeeping/family life, the more I realize that the suburban American Christian vision of a housewife isn't necessarily a universal ideal.

So with that little intro in mind, here is the situation. Someone wrote to this blogger (linked above) asking for advice on boredom and loneliness as a housewife. The blogger had a fairly-anonymous male reader write a response from a husband's viewpoint.

I guess my first issue is with the women who were supposedly commenting that they were bored. I can't even imagine having "nothing to do!" I can't imagine looking around a house that is already clean and wondering what to do next. Every once in a while I will hear a comment from a woman who took up a new hobby while at home with small children, or while they napped. Sure, I take time for a creative project, but if I waited until I did my "chores," I'd never have time for it. Throughout the post, the man discusses how wives can best use their "free time," and it's like he's writing in a foreign language. That might be just me, though.

I will say that boredom can also probably arise from being busy with something that isn't your favorite. I can definitely feel bored doing various tasks or even playing certain games with my kids. So in that case I agree that sometimes an attitude adjustment is needed.

However, I was a bit shocked by this man's harsh assessment of the "modern" woman:
"Whereas in decades and centuries past where the woman worked hard all day long at doing these types of beneficial household activities and ended up contributing so much more to the overall support of the household, nowadays, especially for the stay at home wife/mom, EVERYTHING is left to the husband to earn and provide for while the wives sit at home idle, suffering with loneliness and complaining that their husbands work too many hours."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Christian marriage really looks like

When Andrei and I were engaged or maybe newly married, I remember talking with a friend about how hard it was to find time to spend together as a couple. She had been married a while already and had a few kids, and kind of laughed a little in response. "I remember those days!" she said. And I wondered what other kind of marriage relationship there would be, once you're not striving to spend every minute of every day together.

One thing that happens sometimes if you're church members is that the ministry that might have brought you together in the first place often keeps you physically apart. You might fall in love with someone by seeing him/her serving others, but later that service is what keeps your loved one from coming home earlier. And your family life might be interrupted by ministry-related phone calls. Even weekends are often taken up by "church activities." When Andrei and I were dating, my dad once visited our church on a Sunday, and wondered if we had had an argument. We never even bothered sitting together at services because I would sing on the worship team and then go to sit down just as Andrei was getting up to preach or make an announcement. Half the time I would leave to go teach Sunday school and never even be in the room at all aside from dropping/collecting my coat.

We spent more time together BEFORE we were dating, going to McDonald's after church with our small group! We were all free to just hang out!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Making friends like it's your job

Being a mother has made me more isolated, but it's not what you'd think. Just as difficult situations can make or break a friendship, it's similar with parenting, especially in another culture. In my case I think I became somewhat intimidated by Russian mothers, and stopped reaching out. I mention Russian mothers because I think Americans are more individualistic, and can be more tolerant. But I am careful there, too. Just like with politics, I don't bring up certain parenting topics with American friends unless I suspect we'll be pretty much on the same page.

Anyway, when David was a few months old, I was talking to a friend from church on the phone. She'd had her second baby several months earlier. I confessed to her that the hormones were still getting to me. She said "really?" and I didn't know what else to say. I'd just assumed that there were certain maternal buzzwords you just had to utter ("diaper rash"...."teething"...) and another mother would automatically know what you were talking about. But our disjointed conversation made me feel like I was alone.

Pretty soon I didn't want to talk to anyone else about it, either. I didn't want to reveal how many hours a day we spent nursing, how David slept at night, how little we went outside for our fresh air, when we were starting solid foods, or how rarely we visited the pediatrician. And we dreaded the pediatrician, too. I suppose some people like to be reassured that their child is normal, but I resented having to even answer the questions. We have a pediatrician that attends our church, and I feel very awkward interacting with her, as though she is making an assessment just by looking at us.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What went wrong?

I was thinking about all the years I've been blogging, and noting how I stopped writing as much. That's true of a lot of blogs I used to follow as well. Even though we all say we don't have the time, I know one issue is privacy. And somewhat related to that, I find myself not wanting to be as candid. When I look back at previous entries, I want to feel casual enough to just write about my day, or share something I'm struggling with. But it doesn't come as naturally. And I feel nervous nowadays sharing what's on my heart.

I observe some pretty amusing things each day, but I'm afraid of just having a "mommy" blog. Yuck. And also bugs me when women bloggers write about and photograph beautiful things, but never share a word about their daily messes or parenting struggles. There has to be a little bit of real life in there. So, I'll have to let the words come, even if they are about the same old day-to-day the person currently gnawing on my laptop.

Friday, February 10, 2017

And then 10 years went by in a flash

So I was waiting around for an important anniversary, and now it's come and gone...oh well. If you look at the archives in my sidebar, my very first post was on February 5, 2007. Ten years of blogging! And it's not only the blogging that's interesting, so much as the living that was going on during that time period.

I'll be honest: I find anniversaries on other people's blogs pretty boring. So feel free to scroll on by, but in case you're just joining up and want to catch up on my missionary life pre-kids, etc, here is a selection of posts from each year.

(Side-note: have you ever printed and/or published a blog? Or just backed up the posts somehow? Wondering about a good format...)

-How to choose from just one of the 226 posts? I wrote about faith, culture, orphans, teaching English, Bible study, friendship, and probably food, too. A good representation of that phase is probably the post entitled The State of Things.  It's interesting for me to read about what has changed in terms of ministry opportunities here.

-Lots more thoughts about orphans and missions and life in Russia, but a special shout-out needs to go to my trip to Congo for my brother's wedding, definitely a unique experience. In this post I talk about going to the Congolese Embassy to get a visa, and that was just the beginning! Check out the tag "Africa" for notes about my trip.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Aspects of living abroad

So I wrote about grocery shopping recently and now I have something to share about the postal system in Russia.

I just completed an experiment in which I ordered some books online to see how long they would take to get here. I'm not sure about big cities in the U.S., but here it's like being back in college: you get a package slip in your mailbox and have to go to the pick-up window. Kind of exciting but a let-down at the same time because you have an extra errand to do before getting your package.

Post offices are pretty easy to find and ours is practically visible from our kitchen window (if you kind of crane your neck a bit). I've written before about how the hours can be confusing, but it turns out that the pick-up window doesn't have a lunch break.

A few weeks ago, the first part of my order came in. It had been shipped separately from Great Britain. The pick-up window is open until 8pm and it was around 6, so I grabbed my passport, threw on a coat, and headed over. I went around the corner thinking I had been sent there before to pick something up. Waited in line only to be told I needed to go to the other window on the other side of the building. Once at the front of the line, it turned out I was supposed to actually copy my passport info onto the back of the package slip, along with the date.

That was to receive one book, which had taken a month or so.

Earlier this week, I got the second package slip, marked Urgent. I hustled over, but when I opened the door, the room was filled with people and I didn't have that kind of time to wait in line. :( Everyone always complains about the lines at the post office, but I don't usually mind...must have come at a particularly busy time, though. I went back home feeling rather disappointed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


The baby stopped napping recently, or I should say she started fighting sleep. Too much to see and do, I guess! Andrei has always been the bedtime person and I've never really had the knack, aka patience/stamina. I'll have to look back through my notes from David but up until now we pretty much would give a pacifier to Sophia and she would go to sleep. And then for nighttime Andrei would rock her a bit. But now for naps she waits for someone to actually put her to sleep.

A couple of times Andrei wasn't home and she just kept crying. Finally I got out the baby carrier, which I had intended to use more, but then found out it can be hard on a weak core. But I think the most damage would be from doing a lot of chores while wearing the baby. Just walking around a bit wearing the baby (I've heard up until an hour) is okay, until your core muscles get weak and you start to compensate. So I decided to get it out and have it handy for emergencies. One of those came about the other day when Andrei was out, so I put her in the carrier and paced a little bit. Then finally I remembered that Sophia likes opposed to David, who doesn't really respond as well. There was even a period when I would put Mozart on and prop her up on a pillow with her pacifier, and she'd drop off.

Anyway, the song that came to me goes like this:

"Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us...that we may be called the sons of God!"

(if you know it, you're humming it now)

That song was just what was needed to calm both of us.

The next one that came to my mind was: "How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure..."

As I was singing it, I realized it isn't one of my favorites, rather melodramatic! But at that moment it fit the theme of the hour. I was thinking about how I needed the Father's love for ME, and also wanted to model it and receive it for my kids.

Later that same day, David was watching yet another cartoon on Netflix. It was actually a new one that had cropped up, involving a naughty baby chick named Chiro. David watches a lot of action movies and cartoons, yet he found THIS mild one scary! Sometimes he would press pause or hide. I observed what was making him nervous, and it turned out to be the moments when the chick's parents were about to discover his wrongdoing! Of course the screenwriters did try to build suspense, but I felt so guilty that David was scared about discipline! I hope I'm not TOO scary when I'm mad.

In the evening, I meditated on this issue of parenting and thought about how I have a lot to learn.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." -James 1:5

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Grocery haul"

(My phone takes long,
 narrow photos....don't
know how to fix that)
I titled this post ironically. We don't do that kind of grocery shopping around here. I'm trying to think of how to explain it. The style here is kind of a mix between minimalism (smaller living space and especially kitchens) and hoarding from the instilled fear of a deficit. So, I guess similar to couponing where you would grab up all the toothpaste on sale or something. But there's not a lot of sale items that we would need, and meats/veggies on sale tend to be already on their way out. So if we do get sale items they can be pretty random like a big bag of cookies or tea bags. We pretty much go out and buy the staples pretty regularly, or my in-laws bring food. Not always a lot of variation, but sometimes something really yummy like bacon.

Today I was on a walk and entered the store just as I was getting hungry for lunch. Suddenly, everything in the store looked appetizing, even non-food items. I was particularly drawn to some cute tins of tea, but already have tons of cute tins with nothing to put in them. Saw a bin of Twix and had to restrain myself. Luckily I only take as much cash with me as I need. I did pick up a few treats and then started drooling over some cute dishes, but didn't have the money or a way to get them home! Plus we don't have the space...but we'll see, I may have to send Andrei back to the store.

Anyway, here's what I ended up with for a non-essentials store visit (picture top right): some party hats that say Happy Birthday, some roasted sunflower seeds, some Oreos, and a Kinder Surprise egg for David as a reward for doing some chores.

Here are a few things that made me laugh...but did not tempt me to buy them.

A sausage keeper container thing. Did you know you need a separate container for storing pepperoni? Those cute dishes are right behind it....we certainly don't need more mugs, though!

Some really cheap tea that didn't get marked down correctly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My little boy

You know the joke (sort of) about how new parents look down at their baby and wonder when the "real" parents will show up? Only because it is such a great responsibility!

Confession time: I STILL feel that way, even though my son just turned 4.5 years old. How is he MINE? How am I old enough to have kids? (and some of my friends have teenagers) When are the real grown-ups going to show up and make the decisions and take him to the doctor and shepherd his little heart? I'm so glad I don't have to do it by myself. Because I'm winging it.

When I take the time to slow down, I wonder if I'm too late to enjoy him while he's still little. What if he doesn't need me anymore? I yell "I love you!" just to test it out, and he still says it back. :) I reach out for a cuddle, and he's still up for it. Whew. I can't carry him around anymore. And since I stopped trying to carry him around much about a year ago, it always surprises me when I put my arms around him and feel how tall and heavy he's gotten.

At night David often calls for me, since Daddy is with Sophia. I grab half the contents of my bedside table and relocate to his bed across the hall. Recently I noticed that he was making it until dawn by himself. But then I kept going in to join him anyway. Sometimes the neighbors were too loud on my side of the apartment, and sometimes I just wanted the company. I wanted to squeeze in as many cuddles as I could! Then when it got really cold this past week, we curled up together for warmth, and argued in the morning over who would turn on the light!

Having a younger sibling can make a child seem older, but David is still a little boy! He still has cute (mis)pronunciation and plenty of innocence left. "Come visit us sometime," say the guests on their way out. "Okay, I'll come tomorrow!" I'm a little bit scared thinking of the disappointments in life that will eventually come his way.

I hope he notices that I neglect the housework in order to spend time with him! I know it probably seems like he always has to wait for me to just do one more thing-feed the baby, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, turn on the washing machine, etc. But I really do try to relax and be present, even if I complain about the mess all along the way.

4.5 years ago I became a mother! I don't feel like I'm out of the fog yet, but I've managed to keep him alive so far. ;)

P.S. Totally forgot to dedicate a song to my birthday boy! Not really related to motherhood, but in honor of the Storks movie we've been watching lately, it's "Fire and the Flood" by Vance Joy.

Late at night when you can't fall asleep
I'll be lying right beside you counting sheep
Anywhere I go there you are
Anywhere I go there you are...

Thursday, January 5, 2017


A lot of people were commenting on how awful 2016 was. And I can definitely think of people near me who have lost loved ones very recently. Even as I type this, the names and faces float across my mind, and I lift them up to the Lord. A child...a orphanage director...a father. Sometimes it is just something that happens to other people, and sometimes it is closer to home.

He isn't doing it as much now, but David had a period this fall where he was asking me about death a lot.

"Mommy, I don't want to die, EVER." And I just say "I know." Because I don't want to trivialize the grim reality of death by saying something too chipper, and neither do I want to admit that it scares me, too.

But one day we had a talk about new bodies, and he kind of latched on to that idea. And by the next evening he had a new prayer request: that we would die soon, to see Jesus, to get new bodies, so that he could run fast and Nina could pick him up and play rough with him, etc. I felt like his uncomplicated understanding of it made it easier for him to change direction with his thinking.

I don't know if I'm too young for a mid-life crisis or not, but sometimes it feels like I'm at some kind of point of no return (over the hill?), where that old injury or whatever isn't something that's just going to go's here for good. Those hobbies might never fit into my lifestyle again.  This old brain might not bounce back (though it's still early postpartum). And sooner or later we do have to look to the future and think about eventually having new bodies. I wish I could have the pure excitement of my son as he imagines unlimited physical activity!

Will there be gravity in heaven?

Monday, January 2, 2017

We Made It, Part 2

We survived New Year's Eve!

It actually wasn't too bad considering New Year's Eve is one of my least favorite holidays. I think I'm warming up to it, but it's still hard to accept that the Russian New Year is my Christmas. So a lot of the excitement that I feel for Christmas is what they feel before New Year's. Whereas I feel nothing before New Year's, so I feel guilty for feeling nothing! If that even makes sense. I also don't like messing with everybody's sleep schedule and then having to get back on track. That must be an adult thing as I enjoyed plenty of all-nighters in my youth!

So, my in-laws came over around our dinnertime which is 8pm. I barely lifted a finger this time. I try to get the table set and create a generally festive atmosphere, but I can't handle a bunch of cooking and cleaning with small kids around. So they actually brought the food AND the presents, and I was (mostly) cool, calm and collected...MY gift to everyone. Seriously, it was a good plan. I was hanging the laundry while they were there, though...sometimes Andrei and I sneak around trying to get things done while the grandparents are around!

We had a tasty meal: chicken, oven fries (by Andrei), mushrooms in cream sauce, beet salad, and fresh veggies. Assorted storebought desserts.

We tried to get Sophia some sleep before the fireworks began, but she wasn't keen on missing the party. She definitely got a little over-stimulated.