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Trying to wake up

Happy Solstice! Although I have been focused on celebrating Advent and the Birth of Christ, I breathe a sigh of relief when we are on the other side and the days are starting to get longer again. We did a little Hanukkah dinner, too, meditating on the wonder of the Light that stayed.

(I came in to write about being tired....and discovered my computer was drained of energy, how ironic! Trying not to be mad at The Person who goes around plugging and unplugging things.)

(The Internet is being slow, too...but at least I can write!)

A few years ago, I read a book about Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Then last winter (earlier this year, apparently) I wrote a post here about my findings.  https://lizinstpete.blogspot.com/2019/02/sleep-and-sad-can-you-ignore-weather.html

Side note: Winter Blues (Norman E. Rosenthal) is worth reading for the case studies alone. Many of us will recognize ourselves in those mentioned...

"The physical difficulties start first: eating more, slee…

December doldrums

Excited to be writing my 28th post of 2019, making this only my second-least productive blogging year. :) That's still more than 2 per month-not bad, right?

So, how has December been treating you? Are you on as much of a roller coaster as we have been?

December started out with a few inches of snow, fluffy and beautiful for the first Advent. It was so nice!

Speaking of Advent, I managed to get out the candles and a minimum of other decorations just in time. I couldn't find the Jesse Tree ornaments, so I had my son coloring a print-out. He did great! Speaking of print-outs, I used to search for Advent (and general Sunday school materials) back 10 years ago, before Pinterest was really used, and before people monetized their blogs. Maybe there was less on the Internet then...so not as much to choose from, but at least it was free! It actually took me a while to find a sheet of really simple Jesse Tree symbols to print out in black and white. I understand that monetizing is pret…

Bureaucracy Update- Part 3

Getting the kids registered long-term in St. Petersburg, Russia

News from last time: The process has been streamlined, meaning we can apply immediately for permanent residency for the kids, skipping the trial residency. And, processing time will be 4 months, not 6. That will come in handy...

Big application deadlines. I was trying to get this done by the end of the year, because then there are 2 weeks of holidays, and we need everything to be processed by summer, and we also have to do a border run soon.

I had a time cushion in there for unforeseen circumstances. That cushion is now gone.


1) There was a typo in our passport translations. We can only get them done when Andrei has the chance to go there before/after work, since it's not near where we live. So the translations took a few weeks when they probably could have taken a few days. Even if Andrei had noticed the mistake on the spot, it would have taken an extra day or two to redo since they have to notarize it and bind it spe…

How was your New Year's?

Looking at everyone's fun photos, I was suddenly hit by the realization that American Thanksgiving is a LOT like NEW YEAR'S EVE in Russia.

I've always compared American Christmas and Russian New Year's, because there are obvious similarities. Russian New Year's Eve is like a secular Western Christmas: snow, gifts, yummy food, Father Frost, nostalgic films, a Christmas tree, school vacation...basically the same holiday, right?

It would seem. In fact, I've seen "Advent calendars" come on the scene in Russia recently. Protestant families might celebrate Western Christmas, but others use an Advent calendar to count down the days until New Year's Eve. A completely secular thing!

Back to Thanksgiving. I'm struck every year by how meaningful it seems to be to almost everyone I know back in the U.S. Of course, there is that special American feeling of kicking off the winter holiday season...

There's a big meal with lots of prep, time spent reflec…

Homeschool Progress Report-fall semester

We're 1/3 (!) of the way through our first full-time homeschool year and I still haven't written about the academic side of things. To be honest, I haven't known what to write because I wasn't sure anyone would want to read about it. However, I have a few friends that homeschool and never talk about it much, which is always a mystery to me.

So I thought I would lift the veil a little bit...



Curriculum

We use Sonlight curriculum for History, Bible, Literature, Language Arts, and Science. The HBL is typically coordinated in a unit study: This year is Introduction to World Cultures and you can look up the booklists on the website.

The curriculum is literature-based, so each subject has a great selection of literature that we read from and discuss a little bit. I did have the rich literature selection in mind when I purchased the boxed set. However, my kids are a bit spoiled and I've always made sure to have quality literature on hand, including wonderful children'…

Got a package...

Note: I'm not advertising anything here, just sharing a glimpse into our life...


When you live abroad with a different grocery situation, there are times when you live without certain things and just improvise...and times when you go to great lengths to obtain them!




For example, around this time of year there is usually a big discussion about sourcing pumpkin puree and turkeys. Hypothetically, I usually go for homemade pumpkin puree and whatever cut of chicken or turkey is on hand at the store. But, we're not actually celebrating Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is a long workday and we're out of groceries, so I might ask Andrei to pick up some pelmeni on the way home!

Meanwhile, certain baking supplies are hard to find, too. For example, our store doesn't always have baking powder. It took me a long time to figure out that Russians often just add some vinegar to baking soda to make their pancakes rise.

Chocolate chips are another item in short supply. For many years I simply cu…

Roommates, Part 2

(Continued from previous post)

Then there were 4. Until the end of my stay, the 5th bed would be empty.

Around this time, they were easing up on my meds and I was out of the woods but uncomfortable. The two younger ladies were getting discharged and it was down to me and Olga again.

(Although I had found the younger surgery patient dramatic, I later ran into her in the hallway when I went in for a dressing change. She was readmitted a week or so after going home, though assigned to a different room. I felt badly for judging her. They never did find a specific cause of her stomach pain, though...maybe she was there just as a precaution in case there was a complication with her incisions.)

I was now getting out of bed and going to the bathroom by myself. I made myself walk a little, because I was supposed to, but it was hard.

Then we got a new roommate.


Connections Lady

Our new roommate was rather heavyset. This was relevant to her situation, but in order to avoid offense, I will call h…

Roommates, Part 1

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

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


Getting Admitted

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

I already explained a little bit about my 3 roommates w…

The Wayward Blogger

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

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

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

By the way, I have 2 Instagram accounts now. One is for daily life and t…

Friends and family

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

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

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

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

So, this is more what it looked like:


Day #1: A friend from church needed some company and we agreed to me…

Homeschool round-up: Month #1

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

Read on to see how our first month went!



Week one:

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

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

We had friends over.

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

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


Then we hit some roadblocks and it got harder:

Climate

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

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

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

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the altered lyrics likely had a connection to environmentalism. So I talked about that a little bit. It doesn…

Towards a bilingual education

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

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

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

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

Although our kids insert the "other" language into their speech sometimes, they also have no problem distinguishing between the two.…

Bureaucracy Update- Part 2

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

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

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

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

New low-key church

It's been about a year now since we merged with another church congregation.

An interesting thing about this new church is that I would describe the majority of the members as introverted. A few people have actually come out and said that they don't want/don't like new people. You might think that sounds funny coming from Christians, but you have to give some points for straightforwardness. Tight-knit church fellowships can be very inward-focused as we seek to strengthen relationships.

When we were in talks to join our churches, along with the anti-social comments were several declarations that the other church hated "projects."

So, I guess in general you could say that we are drama-free. And that's probably a good environment for healing from the trauma that we've experienced in separating from our former church family.

Andrei and the pastor share preaching responsibilities, and I think that's been a relief for both of them. Both of our families hav…

Bureaucracy update- Part 1

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

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

So our options remained:

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

The visas are pricey and not the best long-term option, and we're not sure we want to get them …

Release

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

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

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


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

Things I found "easy" to get rid of:

-Sunday school teaching materials: I can always get more.
-Rand…

More hospital memoirs

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

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

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

Little patterns

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

1) The Stay Home/Productive Pattern

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

Friendship after 30 and beyond

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

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

But attending a small group now? Al…

March Survey/Selfie

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





What I've been...



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

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

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

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

Striving towards: Orga…

Hobby pruning

I promised myself that if I did some paper sorting I could do a new blog post.

Remember hobbies? When I got married I swore I would never let myself forget how busy I was when I was single. And by that I mean look down on unmarried men and women as if they had lots of free time on their hands. We all have plenty to keep us busy. And who made it a virtue to be busy, anyway?

But, I will say that I was SHOCKED to open up all my old notepads and skim through them. Detailed notes from sermons, grammar from studying several languages (mainly Greek, French, and Italian) for FUN as well as formal Russian courses. Notebooks full of Bible passages and questions that I had written down meticulously. A Calligraphy instructional guide along with several pages of my attempts. And of course there were all the notes from lesson planning for teaching English, and different ministry projects I was involved in.

Although looking at the notes made me jealous of my past self as if I had lots of free time,…

Spring cleaning /KonMari/ Changing seasons

This was going to be a short and sweet "everyday life" post, but it ended up taking me a long time to explain a few photos!

Do you do spring cleaning? There are always a lot of projects around this time of year.

Some of my projects aren't so fun. In my Konmari tidying (using the term very loosely), I'm done with my own clothes and books and need to tackle papers. I got all the important documents out of the cabinet and they're sitting there waiting for me, but tonight I decided to blog instead. :)


Another category is old CDs. I already discarded some that required older versions of Windows. But I have to go through all the ones that might have files and photos, even though I probably have already copied a lot of them to an external hard drive. It's going to be tedious going through each one. I guess I'd better really discard the CDs this time so I don't have to sort them ever again! I'm keeping some music CDs for now, though.


February Survey/Selfie

So it's been a whole year since I did one of these. Not that it's a bad thing, just feels like time flew by!


What I've been...



Reading: Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Series, "The Out-of-Sync Child," "Tired of Being Tired," "The Well-Trained Mind," "Mere Motherhood," and The Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie books (with David)

Watching: Jeopardy! on Netflix, Disney's Chronicles of Narnia, Madeline (animated)

Cooking/Eating: Too many baked goods! Bagels, blueberry muffins, chocolate cake, etc etc etc. I need more winter veggie possibilities...end up resorting to frozen ones and just sauteing them.

Listening to: Audiobooks, Mozart, and the occasional worship playlist.

Striving towards: Too many goals!

Looking forward to: Getting done with colds and doing some spring cleaning and getting ready to start Lent.

What David is up to: Saying cute things, carefully constructing arguments, defending himself against his si…

Sleep and SAD-can YOU ignore the weather?

Last year I was all about fighting the winter slump. I read at least one book on SAD, which primarily focused on light therapy. I schemed about changing the light fixtures in our apartment, and bought various "happy" lamps.

The happy light I bought (Phillips?) turned out to be the wrong voltage and my father in law fixed it up for Russian use, but it's the kind of thing where you want to have it sitting on a table near you, and I have 2 very curious/destructive kids. So I haven't wanted to risk having it out on a table, and there it sits in the closet! :(

I also got 2 "sunrise" alarm clocks. They're off-brand because I wasn't sure if I would like it (and again, things get broken quickly around here). I've tried them a few times and even though they claim to brighten gradually, I'm pretty much awake with the first hint of light, and then it feels like I'm at the dentist's or something with a bright light in my face. So, it doesn'…

Weekdays on the surgical ward

How I survived abdominal surgery for a ruptured appendix in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

Continued from Part 3...

I survived the night! The nausea was constant. I expected that from the anesthesia, but the medications must have contributed, too. What medications, you may ask? Actually, they never told us. The doctor would tell the nurse and at certain times of day, the IV pole would be standing there with our last name written on up to 4 bottles of fluid.

I tried telling myself that I could make it through since I had survived two rounds of morning sickness. I remember vividly the morning sickness with Sophia: 7 weeks along, and I knew it would be a good 3-4 months of it. Each day was agonizing and dragged on. This case felt just as long. And my nose continued to be sensitive.

Plus, now I had this gaping wound in my side, with a drainage tube poking me! It was like...morning sickness plus C-section recovery all in one?

The day after my surgery was Monday, an…

A tender heart

Andrei and I were having an intense discussion. I was crying. I think it was the second day of it, and when you live in an apartment, nothing gets past the kids (or neighbors-not that there was anything to be concerned about).

David was desperate to cheer everyone up. He ran up, forced himself between us, and shoved a book about the Nativity in our faces. He turned the pages, pointing to each picture depicting the birth of Jesus.

He thought that the birth of Christ would be the thing to put a smile on everyone's faces. Wasn't the Nativity enough to make everyone's problems melt away? It should be the correct answer, right? We did kind of turn the corner after that and had everything cleared up with a little more discussion.

Before bedtime, I went into David's room to assess the situation since the kids had been playing in there. There were a bunch of books on the bed and I wondered why the kids had gotten into the books. It wasn't something David would normally do …

Trying out homeschooling again

I will get back to hospital life soon- it takes some time to remember and organize my thoughts.

You guessed it, our schedule changed again and now we're starting over.

I might be repeating myself, but also have some fresh speculations about homeschool life. First of all, as you might have noticed, I've been dragging my feet about committing to a formal school day. And I'm also kind of reluctant to join a "community." There is so much information out there! There are lots of great blogs, and Instagram accounts. I look at Instagram posts (of homeschoolers) and see lots of comments asking of materials, "where'd you get that?" Obviously I don't ask the question myself because it wouldn't be sold in stores here or delivered to Russia. But there is still a moment when I think "I want that too...but I don't NEED it." The materials we have at our disposal are just right for us. But, it may take a little more creativity or perusing the…

In the theater

"But Mommy, an operation is better than dying," my 6 yr old likes to say. We have an open dialogue about death and the afterlife. However, there are a few topics I've avoided so far, such as childhood cancer. :( We've talked about how God knows the number of our days, and David prays for people not to die "before it's time." But I have a feeling that in his mind, the time to "go" is at least after you have grandchildren. And given all his phobias, I've been hesitant to bring up the topic of all the accidents that could happen (except in the case of his baby sister possibly choking).

A few minutes after I signed the consent form, a gurney came squeaking down the hallway and careened its way into our room, forcing the door open. I was told to take everything off and climb on.

While I was getting undressed, the orderly took the blanket from my bed and used it to line the gurney. I had to leave my glasses behind and everything. Maybe it was be…