Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Motels and milestones

I couldn't really blog for a few weeks because I was spending my evenings (which start at 11 pm) looking for lodging for a 25-person family reunion in New England next summer. I like the challenge of a little online research. But it's actually hard looking for accommodations for such a large group. I even polled FB but no one had any specific suggestions. I found lots and lots of nice vacation rentals that seemed to cap out at about 20 people. Many houses had 6-8 bedrooms, but with 7 adult siblings plus parents (and all the men in my family are tall) plus spouses and kids, a queen bedroom for each family unit was not exactly sounding like a situation that would lead to peace and harmony.

Also, it turns out that October is not too early to book summer accommodations. Some places seemed to be still updating their rates, but lots were booked either from earlybirds or returning customers. And since I had to run ideas by everyone else, it wasn't possible to really jump on those properties that seemed to be filling up fast.

We seem to have found a solution, but I wonder what would make it easier for the next time. Do I really think I know what would work for everyone, or am I only thinking about my own preferences? Do we HAVE to be near the beach? The map was dotted with tons of choices "off the beaten path." But what is a summer vacation without the sea? And what would we all do on a country estate for a week? Or in a ski lodge? Everyone says "we just rent a big house and all pick rooms when we get there." Yeah, but HOW? But even if I had the perfect formula, each kid/adult will be a year older the next time and it will all change. Anyway, we're hoping my dad will be well enough to make the drive and join us for the week-long getaway.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A journal entry

This week so far:

-Andrei is working double-time this week in 2 different universities. So we're seeing less of him. On the other hand, we've been having lots of adventures on our own.

-It's been unseasonably warm. So we've been going outside a lot. REALLY hot in our apartment, though. I wrote about the heat coming it's full-blast and up to 60 or 70 outside with the sun BAKING us. The weather is luscious, being baked isn't...but we will probably see colder days very soon! In the meantime, I cover myself in cool cloths to sleep, lol.

-On one of our walks, we first met a grandmother with her 2 yr old granddaughter. The little girl was enthralled by David and we learned that she has a big brother at home. Then we were taking a peek at the ducks and bumped into the one neighbor that we're sort of friends with, also with her granddaughter, whom she had taken out of preschool due to difficulty adjusting. I realized later that I find the grandmothers easier to talk to than other mothers.

-I've been experimenting with aromatherapy. Tried diffusing clove oil without really testing to see if I like it. I thought it would smell Christmasy, NOPE. Smells like toothpaste or cinnamon gum, blech! Maybe blended with something? I even offered it to a friend and she was overwhelmed by the smell also!

-Took David to his speech class this week. 1 hour each way pushing the stroller was a workout! If I had more time I could write a long description of our whole journey there. I was explaining to a local friend lately how mentally exhausting it is finding exact addresses here in St. Petersburg. I find the transportation easy to use, but actually getting inside the building is so complex! Where is the building number? Where is the entrance? Which entrance do I need? Floor, apartment number? Words can't do it justice! Maybe I will do a photo journal the next time this happens.

-I've been behind on housework for WEEKS. I had a friend over today and was going around to each room cringing at the clutter! I was barely dressed when she arrived and still sweeping the crumbs away as she sat down at the table. I have a lot of thoughts brewing about eliminating clutter. So tired of moving everything from room to room! However, I did pull out the vacuum today and get 2 rooms done, feels like a small improvement if short-lived. We also had at least 3 yogurt spills today, I think.

-There was a school (technical college) shooting in the Crimea...actually part of Russia now, but regardless, SAD! :( It will be interesting to see if a gun control dialogue here will proceed any differently from in the U.S.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's your hygge style?

The seasons are changing and I'm taking whatever measures I can to keep the increasing gloom from infiltrating our household. Aside from spiritual inspiration, there are of course many ways to make an environment feel more cozy.

I think I've been putting "fairy lights" up since I was a teenager!
Good to know they're hygge-worthy. ;) 

I think it's partly nostalgia that triggers all those seasonal associations year after year. The sound of crunching leaves reminds us of a favorite fall recipe, or a Christmas song brings us back to the place we spent Christmas as a child. Along with that, there is more research nowadays to demonstrate that not only traditions, but a certain type of lighting and other details actually alter our brain, and arranging the environment the right way can help battle conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I can't remember when I first heard the actual term "Hygge," but it wasn't yet the hot trend it is at the moment. I think it appeals to a lot of us because it combines our cozy traditions (a favorite type of drink, music, aromatherapy, etc) with those household touches we have on our wishlist but maybe haven't been able incorporate yet: all-white furnishings, hand-made decorative pieces, etc.

I definitely think it's worth it to do all you can to create a comfortable environment, especially if you live somewhere with limited hours of daylight in the winter. But I also notice that Americans (and probably other Westerners too) tend to borrow an idea that's meant to make life SIMPLER (working with what you have), and turn it into a trend that becomes materialistic. For example, in rural Scandinavia it would make sense to use tree branches and other elements of nature in decorating, but are city dwellers meant to spend a great deal of time tracking down these materials? "Simple" woven baskets are presented as humble, but are actually quite costly to purchase. If we don't knit/embroider/ etc, should we covet those pieces, or rather turn to the artistic talent we do possess? In other words, do I want my house to look like a magazine cover/Pinterest article that features a house in another country with a different climate, decorated by inhabitants of another culture? Some days, my answer may be yes! On the other hand, while my IKEA list hangs out waiting for the biannual shopping trip, there are things lying around that I just may be able to use.

That's my introduction to what I thought would actually be a fun exercise. I've been comparing a few of these decorating trends/tendencies. Which one or combination would you pick? I'm undecided, but I'll share my thoughts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The coldest week of the year

I think around this time of year if I'm blogging actively, I tend to write about the germs going around, the days getting shorter...and of course, the wait for the heat to come on in our building (in addition to the beautiful fall foliage, of course).

Getting progressively colder outside.

The city turns the heat on-we have no control over what temperature or when, and once it's on, it will stay on at mostly full blast until April or so. At least, that's the way it seems. I did an internet search for what date it usually comes on in St. Petersburg-of course it is always a big topic of discussion here. The first week of October seemed to be the average.

I'm not sure how it works in the U.S.... I know individual families can decide when to turn the heat on,  but are there any restrictions, or could you turn it on any old day, like in the summer, for instance? I forget. I know that if you are in charge of your family home thermostat, you must keep a budget in mind. That's one question that we don't have to deal with! The heat is calculated according to the size of our apartment, and maybe by how many people are registered to live here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The school year so far

As usual I have many huge topics in my drafts folder, and I'm not sure when I will be able to sit down and finish those off. But no one wants to read long posts anyway, right? So maybe it's better to write about everyday life.

Home education:

David is 6 years old, kindergarten age for Russia but in U.S. he might be in first grade by now. At any rate, he's not going anywhere at the moment. It's partly the school system and partly his complexities. Let's just say he thrives most in a one-on-one environment (as opposed to the rumored 30-person class sizes at local schools). Although I wish he had more friends his age, I can also think of many wonderful adults in my life whom he would find very entertaining. It's just a matter of being open to the right opportunities. So, we aren't really worried about socializing him. It just might look different.

We thought about signing up for more classes at the cultural center down the street. But David did not seem eager about it. And since he's only 6, he's still within his rights to say no. ;) But we did decide to prioritize speech therapy at this point. There are many times when I've thought other parents were overzealous in terms of helping their children develop, but in this case I guess it's not just naturally going to get better. The exercises with a professional are clearly helping. A Canadian friend was helping David with his English last year, and he's added some sounds that were missing before. Meanwhile, he goes to a Russian lady now for speech therapy, and always gives a positive report when he comes back. I'm trying to picture myself as a child, going to see a lady for tutoring...I think I would have HATED it. I would have much rather stayed at home and read a book. But she obviously knows what she's doing, and he must enjoy the attention. They are working on pronunciation, reading, and pencil skills-all in a 30-minute session!

So...if we end up homeschooling for a few years (beyond preparation work we're doing now), I might just decide to employ some tutors OR find a group to join. I'd always pictured myself just preparing the subjects myself and presenting them. But I'm coming to accept that 1) I'm NOT an expert in all areas and 2) Other adults sometimes get a better response from my child.

On a side note, I've been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason. I like that there are lots of resources online, makes it quite doable from abroad. However, I'm just kind of exploring at the moment.

That's about all I have time for!

P.S. I decided it would be fun to fiddle with my blog theme to reflect the changing seasons. Everyone was saying a lighter background is better, anyway. Well...back about 10 years ago, I used to do all the changes to my blog design from scratch. Search around and find out how to change the html, etc. Just now I decided to switch the header photo, and it took about an hour getting it to the right size! I'm used to taking photos with Instagram squares rather than something long and narrow. And sadly, the quality is lost. That must mean my phone doesn't take very good photos...certainly nothing that could be enlarged to go in a frame. Very sad! I'll have to investigate further. And do something about my poor header. Another day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Flying, continued

 I suppose I'd better finish my tale!

We made it to the hotel with all our baggage and family members, and tucked in for the night. I set my alarm for breakfast ahead of the 11 am checkout.

The kids slept in fairly late and we let them since there wouldn't be anywhere to put Sophia down for a nap preceding our 7 pm flight. I waited and waited and finally just went down to the lobby to get breakfast since we clearly weren't going to all be ready.

On the way up with the breakfast, I asked the concierge about the airport shuttle as far as the 11 am checkout. Well, the "last" shuttle was at 10 am. Until 4 pm. Huh. I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one...11 am checkout...shuttle until 10 am. It was too late for the shuttle, anyway. I headed back upstairs to finish packing.

We were downstairs and checking out by 11, and the hotel mistakenly put the charge on my debit card. Nope, DELTA will be covering that one! Luckily I caught it and got them to fix it. Meanwhile, they ordered a taxi for us.

From bits of conversation that I'd overhead, this hotel was a relatively new branch and they were still ironing out the kinks. We were certainly glad for accommodations.

We headed to the airport first (the cab driver was great) since we wouldn't be able to get far with all our suitcases. The terminal was a totally different scene this time. I first went and inquired about checking our luggage. There was no room where we could store them temporarily, but they could be dropped off up to 6 hours ahead of our flight.

Next I went to the machines and started checking in. I hadn't had a chance to try it at the hotel. As usual, I went through the whole procedure and got an error message. But in this case there was an actual agent standing there ready to help people who had questions. She took our passports and visas and checked them all and got us boarding passes. If there had been such an agent the day before, we could possibly have made our flight. Of course, it still took time and would have been more difficult at a busier time of day, but we were able to obtain information and results more easily.

We hung around until we could check our bags, and then we were free for a few hours. I had just connected with my second cousin, exactly my age, who lives in the area. She was still on summer break from teaching elementary school and cleared her schedule to hang out with us! After a little investigating, we found the public transportation pleasantly easy to use, and were meeting up with her at the aquarium in no time.