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It's beginning to look a lot like...???

I had just decided it was too windy to take David outside, so I was getting ready to put him down for a nap at home. Then some rays of sunshine unexpectedly began peeking through. The next thing I knew, there was a rainbow. Not looking very snowy here these days!





Not to Be

So my computer broke! Yep, the fancy-schmancy one I just bought this summer.

No, I didn't get upset! It happened at the end of a difficult day/week, in the midst of watching Sesame Street on DVD, reading Christmas board books, playing with the electronic keyboard, coloring on the floor boards, and making a dent (so to speak) in the pile of dishes. Did I really care that I wouldn't be a slave to my computer that evening? Not really.

I do still have my old one! It's sluggish and needs to be reformatted. But it works and can access the Internet! I'd been having trouble installing my printer, saving documents, and using the touchpad on the new one. First World problems? Perhaps.

Anyway, I just wanted to write that I don't know if I'll be getting around to those posts. You know, the ones about how I haven't finished my Advent calendar yet and it's halfway over. Part of me wants to "rise" to the challenge of having a broken computer and try to publ…

Creative Expression

Three Biographies

Just wanted to mention three people whose lives have inspired me lately.



1. C.S. Lewis-Last month we observed the 50th anniversary of his death (which coincided with the death of John F. Kennedy). Andrei and some of his colleagues at the St. Petersburg Christian University held a conference devoted to various Lewis-related topics. It was fun to hear from people that had studied his work and life so intently. And to be in an academic setting for a day. :)



2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer- I finally finished reading the biography by Eric Metaxas! It was a great read. And long, obviously. How long have I been talking about it? Since sometime last year? I recommend reading it, even if you've already read other biographies.


3. Fred Rogers-Looks kind of funny in this list, doesn't he? When I read Lewis I often have trouble convincing myself that he wrote in my native language! But Mister Rogers had a gift for explaining things simply. Can today's kids even relate to his slow pace? I put …

Family

It's late here and I still want to work on Advent a little bit, so I will just quickly share something that I was thinking about the other day.

The holiday season tends to make us re-evaluate our relationships, especially with relatives. And we may feel fresh pain over those who are far away or no longer with us. When I let myself think about numbers (how many miles, time zones; number of times we have left to see each other in this world), it does get hard.

This week we lit the candle of Hope, and here are a few observations that give me hope:

1) I am not separated from my loved ones due to conflict.

Conflict creates a feeling of emptiness. When we fight with those we love; when we are estranged from them (even for a few hours) and our intimacy is threatened, it makes a hole in our hearts.

Physical separation creates a hole, too. But then I stop to think that I'm NOT in conflict with these people I miss. The distance does not make us love each other any less and we are not in…

Tidbits

As usual, Advent managed to sneak up on me even while I was working on getting ready! I have all these unfinished projects...oh well. I will share if they ever come together!

Last week was Thanksgiving in the U.S. and we had a new American friend named Emily over for dinner. Andrei cooked shaverma, which is about as far from a roast turkey as you can get (obviously we didn't cook it on a vertical spit, it was a stove-top version). I made apple crumble without crust. I'll put the recipe on my recipe blog soon but basically it's just baked apple slices with a crumb topping, nice and simple!

I can't do an update without mentioning the weather! As I wrote a few weeks ago, November was a very gray month. It was overcast almost every day. However, it shaped up nicely and the weather has been great recently: mostly clear/blue skies, beautiful pastel sunsets/sunrises, light snow, and temperatures just below freezing. David and I have resumed our daily walks.


At church this pa…

Photographing Life

I think of myself as a klutz when it comes to photography. My hideous food blog will attest to that. I just want to snap a photo...I don't want to adjust the lighting! And I have no idea how to get non-blurry photos of a toddler, or of people talking and laughing.

Nevertheless, I am a bit of a historian by nature, which means I'm sometimes just a pack-rat, but at other times I'm able to preserve some pretty special memories.

Earlier this year, I came across a blog (maybe another of my blogging friends quoted it?) where the author talked about the importance of being photographed with your kids. They're too little to remember a lot of those moments, but as they grow up they'll be able to look at the photos and know that you were right there with them.

I think of lot of times the adults don't end up in photos simply because we are the ones behind the camera. It's not like we are particularly avoiding it. And then there are the bad-hair days and all the time …

A Very Pinterest Christmas

I joined Pinterest pretty recently. I had always sort of avoided it, but then one day the following observations made me want to give it a try:

1) Google Image search drives me nuts.
2) I always have tons of browser tabs open because I want to have all the ideas right there.
3) My hard drive tends to get cluttered with folders of images of projects I want to try.

Pinterest could definitely use some fine-tuning as a search engine, but for certain projects it is great. I think it works well because it is used by people with similar interests, who use the same key search phrases. This isn't to say that it doesn't return those extraneous results (people named "Christian" who make art, instead of "Christian (themed) art").

Anyway, I could probably go into a lot of detail about the pros and cons, but so far I am finding it really useful, especially when it comes to Advent and Christmas.

I still have way more ideas than I will ever use! Last year I didn't eve…

Around here

Friendship

Andrei and I have been feeling some changes lately related to our church. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising. When we first got married, we each continued doing our thing. When David was born, we stopped everything. Then Andrei went back to some of his things, but not all. And now it feels like while we were "away" we changed. Should we really jump back in where we left off? Do we want to? Are we able to?

It seems like a good opportunity to do some thinking and praying and see if we want to go in a different direction.

But that isn't really what I wanted to write about. It's less about activity and more about people. But the two are inter-related.

During the "single" years, Andrei and I were in a Bible study. Our friends and I were pretty mobile. Each week we met in a different person's home, just to mix it up, see where different people lived. On holidays and weekends we would often go on excursions. We did picnics in the summer. We would jump on …

(Non) Wordless Wednesday

Here we are. It's mid-November. (Yikes, I need to wish my brother a happy birthday!)

It is grey gray here. It has been rainy/partly cloudy for something like 3 weeks in a ROW. It's definitely one of the worst Novembers, weather-wise. Every morning I crawl out of bed embarrassingly late (David comes in and dozes with me)...let's say, after 9. I dart over and throw the curtains aside, waiting for the daylight to give me a little boost of energy.

The daylight is not there.

For awhile there I was really going crazy because I couldn't even leave the house. Of course I could have bundled us up and taken David out quickly with the rain cover on the stroller and an umbrella for me just in case. It wasn't always torrential rain. But you never know. So we stayed home day after day.

I looked up my entries from a similar time of year and I found this December one. But the picture there shows a SUNNY day, which we haven't had lately. Nevertheless, that post is a good intro…

When You Don't Want to Go to Church (Part 2)

We all have a few of "those" people in our church that don't have a very good attendance record. There is always a reason. Sickness, travel, work, birthday parties, baseball games, repair guy coming, car trouble, oversleeping, etc. Something always "comes up."
I was a skeptic. If you really want to go to church, you find a way. Sundays are blocked off on the calendar. You set three alarms so you wake up. You take some cough medicine to ward off that tickle in your throat. You sign up for three different committees so you have to be there. 
It worked for me. I don't want to brag or sound too legalistic. I know not everyone has an easy time setting aside a few hours on a Sunday, although I think it gets easier if you just put it on the calendar and make it a habit. But I think that this is an area where there will always be obstacles, and here are a few examples of how my devotion to regular church attendance has been threatened: In college, it was hard to ge…

Wordless Wednesday

When You Don't Want To Go To Church (Part 1)

The problem with infrequent posts is that the more time that goes by, the fewer posts that make it by my personal filters. Lots of them are sitting in draft purgatory, until I get passionate about them enough to keep going and finally hit "publish."

Here's a topic that comes up every once in a while. See what you think.




Sunday morning church-going is a habit that was instilled in me as a child. I realize it may be partly a cultural thing, but I view it as a key part of being able to hold onto my faith (while God held onto me). No, I don't always feel spiritually-engaged, but it's a discipline, just like reading your Bible (which I'm worse at)-you just keep doing it and trust that it is taking root and will eventually bear fruit.

There are people who go to church and don't believe, but this post isn't about them. This post is about people who believe, but don't go to church. I find this a quite perplexing problem. To me, a person who has found God…

Comic Relief (Wordless Wednesday)

Our Montessori Corners

Some of the mommy parenting forums I've been on mention Montessori set-ups at home. For example, I ran across the idea that a child's room should have everything at the child's eye level. I have to say that a part of me is skeptical. I don't see myself running out and buying/making a child-sized version of everything for David. However, I do have a few ideas for him in mind. And it sure is fun to set something up and see him enjoying it later.

Part of the reason I DON'T want to go overboard is that you can't always predict what a child will find interesting. He doesn't want plastic car keys-he wants yours. He doesn't want a toy house, he wants a cardboard box.

David has gotten to this phase where he likes lounging around on pillows or just the floor. So I decided to pile all the extra blankets and pillows together to make him a reading corner. (sorry, potential houseguests)

So here are A) the reading corner and B) where he actually likes to hang out.





I…

Russian "troubleshooting"

Too many late nights, so I won't write a lot today. This will be a photo post. I am trying to start carrying my camera around again.

Our entranceway could belong to almost any building in this city. This article sums it up well. Our particular building layout features a heavy door, followed by another doorway, followed by half of a flight of stairs. The first landing has the first 4 apartments, with an information display on the wall, then the single tiny elevator, and another 1/2 of a flight of stairs up to the mailboxes. After that it continues with the double flights of stairs. The apartments/elevator landings alternate with landings that have openings for the garbage chute.

Getting back to that entrance...notice that it's not handicapped-accessible. Very few buildings are! Yet the custom for any family with a baby is to take the child out in a huge stroller for at least 2-3 hours a day! Do you think a little staircase is going to stop them? Judging from the view from my k…

Diastasis Recti update: Belly splinting

Post-Partum "Pooch" Progress

When we were in the U.S. over the summer, I wanted to check with my doctor about the belly splints recommended by diastatis recti rehab programs, to see if I was eligible. It isn't something a U.S. doctor had ever recommended to me, although my Russian doctor had and I didn't listen.

At my appointment (at a new practice), the doctor said, "it won't close any further without surgery." That was it. No splinting, no rehab, just major a little abdominal surgery.

So I didn't get a splint.

Back in Russia, I continued to work on Fit2b's tummy-safe exercises, focused on my core. But I didn't really feel a difference. Couldn't even really feel my muscles working, belly or not.

I was frustrated and didn't want to leave the house tired of looking pregnant and none of my clothes fitting. Andrei brought up the splint thing again, and on my way home from Immigration one day, I stopped off at the maternity shop. They ha…

Friends and Families

I have been looking forward to writing this post, because it regards an inspiring story belonging to friends, and is also very relevant to my own story.

Introduction

When I was a child, our family attended (and sometimes hosted) reunions of a few housechurches that my parents had been involved in, mostly before I was born. When you are a child, you are often missing a lot of information. And I didn't really know why we were gathering, how these people had met, and what their individual stories were.

Several of the families had adopted at least one child. Here, again, I didn't fully understand certain issues: adoption, abortion, orphanages, foster care, fertility/infertility, etc.

I remember noticing different colors of skin, different eye structures, as well as some physical limitations. Do we need to mention these things out loud? Grown-ups don't always talk about them in plain language. Of one boy, I finally asked what was "wrong" with him. It turned out he had…

Adoption Again

Feeling iffy about posting this, but I guess I'll go for it!

I had wondered what my views on adoption would be like after becoming a mother. What do I think of it now, having stepped back a bit, and yet, having gained insight into the parent-child relationship?

I've realized now that part of the answer lies in this post, where I talk about people rejoicing over each other's engagement and baby news. The thing is that everyone knows that marriage and parenting are challenging, yet they STILL are genuinely thrilled for other people to enter the journey. Some have hands-on knowledge and others are still waiting for their turn to come, but not lacking in insight.

So many people can vouch for the joys of marriage and raising a child (or two). If they don't share about the rough patches, it's not that they're being dishonest or insincere. It's just that the trials are worth it, a part of God's design.

There is something of a loss of innocence that comes abou…

Back to normal life again

This most recent bout with bureaucracy wasn't as frenzied. However, we did have a few snafus which almost created a last-minute mad dash. But not quite.

What happened was that we were running around to different places and got the schedules wrong on at 3 occasions. And by "we" I mean mostly "me."

RECAP

First, to District A to get Stamp #1: Approval. In order to claim this elusive reward, it's necessary to get in line on a Tuesday to get on the list for Thursday. Unfortunately, we I had the Tuesday hours wrong (I found the information as I was heading out the door, too late). Which meant we didn't get on the list for Thursday, which meant waiting until the next week. Which brought us one week closer to my previous registration running out, but I still had 2-3 weeks left, which is GOBS of time compared to other times when I've been a day or two shy of being deported.

Attempt #2, a week later, was successful. The Tuesday part, at least. But while she …

This and That

It's fall. Bet you can guess what this post is about!

I went in to claim my permanent residency this week, and boy was it anticlimactic. I am feeling sort of too lazy to give a play-by-play (maybe I will later), but one of the more frustrating parts was when I was signing up to come in and collect my actual permit, and then the inspector handed me a packet of documents to be filled out for me to get registered (within a week). Say WHAT? If I'd known, I could have gotten a head-start. WHERE IS THE PRACTICALITY?

I guess I just thought I could keep my registration from my temporary residency. Of course I do realize I was registered for 3 years and the 3 years are coming to a close. But redoing it all just seems so symbolic and pointless that I have trouble working it out logically in my mind.

To put it in perspective a bit, I guess it's sort of like being required to have a permanent mailing address. It's called your place of residence, but it's sort of implied that you probably don't actually live there. Now, imagine y…

My Journey with Diastasis Recti

Introduction: After spending a lot of time thoughtfully typing out this post, I peeked back at an older post, only to find that I'd already written almost the exact same description, ha ha! In lieu of deleting most of the following story, I think I'll leave it as is. I want this particular experience to have its own tribute. So there you have it. Sorry to my more observant readers for the repetition! ;)

Post-partum Bellies

I was "all baby" when I was pregnant. And I figured it would just melt right off. Well, I think it would have if it weren't for a problem which I hadn't foreseen.

It can be hard to gain explicit information on the post-partum body. To be fair, there is so much variation that it's difficult to pin down a common path of healing. However, there are plenty of conditions that are more common than we're led to think. And why are we not told, or at least checked for them? We need more information than to look for a fever, excessive bleeding…

12 months and beyond

David is growing in leaps and bounds. I know that probably sounds cliche as they change so much day-to-day. But he really is transitioning in major ways. One thing is that he is more "teachable" in that we can show him how to do certain things (intentionally or not) and he repeats them. He's waving, "snapping" his fingers, and using certain tools. He takes laundry out of the washing machine and puts it back in. He takes lids off containers and tries to put them back on. He takes his socks off and mimics fastening and unfastening velcro straps. Etc., etc...

Though not walking around freely yet like some of his peers, David is a VERY interactive child. He is always aware if someone new has entered the room and he "yells" at him/her until he gets a greeting. When he is proud of himself, he looks around and makes eye contact with EACH person to make sure everyone is looking and praising. He adores having little "conversations" with people even i…

New Beginnings (5 a.m. musings)

As I lie in bed unable to sleep, I scroll through the faces of everyone that we saw this summer, to set them in my memory. Sometimes we sleep 3 (2 1/2?) to a bed here at a certain someone's request, and one or more of us may be snoring. We didn't get to see all of them-all of you-this summer. And a few encounters were quite brief, maybe from across a room. But I still think of you.

I know we've been away a long time because I have forgotten where we keep things. I had to scramble around looking for bedding on our first night back. My wardrobe seems to be filled with summer clothes-only, and David's are all too small. I am excited to do some home improvement projects, though I don't know when exactly it will work out. I have a whole new blueprint for the kitchen...in my head. ;)

There are things I want to do with David this year that I couldn't last year, because I was in a different place emotionally and physically. I want to go on walks with him more regularl…

A "Christian" wedding reception

How does one go about planning a wedding celebration among church-goers? Should there be alcohol or not? What about dancing? If dancing is to be included, then what kind of music should be allowed? If there won't be dancing, then how should the guests be entertained? And do they need entertainment?

While pondering this question, Andrei and I thought about some types of weddings that we weren't particularly excited about (though we understand elements of them can be fun for other people).

-Typical Russian: lots of entertainment, with skits (depicting how the couple met, etc.), drinking, dancing, stealing the bride, having a fight, and other merry-making.

-Russian Protestant Christian version: Games are kept g-rated: tug of war, jousting with balloons, Bible trivia, giggles about what the offspring will look like or how they will divide chores.

"I'm looking for a volunteer": words that strike fear in the hearts of many mild-mannered wedding guests. Will they be dr…

More entertaining

When I published the last post, I felt something nagging me.

I realized that it was the part where I divided people (potential objects of hospitality) into "brothers and sisters" and "strangers."

The problem is that for many people these groups may BOTH be made up of strangers. Are you close to people in your church, or do you find it hard to get to know people? Maybe the potential is there, but you've recently joined a new church.

I found myself going back to the passage and wondering about the context. How well did the people in that particular church know each other? And if Paul says "keep on loving each other," does that mean they're already good at it, or just that it's to be a continuous goal?

I guess we're not really off the hook here, because it doesn't say to love other Christians once we've gotten to know them and decide we like them, it just says to keep on loving them.

As for the strangers, is it safe to say that they …

Entertaining thoughts

"Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers..." -Hebrews 13:1, 2a
A really elementary observation of this passage that our pastor pointed out today is that we are called to love 1) our brothers and sisters in Christ (philadelphia) AND 2) people we don't know (philoxenia). So we have a constant calling to care for our close friends and care for people who don't mean anything to us yet, at the same time. I think this is a good summary of the challenge to managing our social lives.

Whom do I personally prefer to spend time with? I think it's typical for people to feel comfortable with those they already know, rather than expending energy on getting to know new ones.

But to say entertaining one group or the other is easier or harder oversimplifies human relationships. Close friends, relatives, and especially fellow church-goers may be downright difficult to please at times!

In addition, our family has been di…

Rejoicing and coping

I'm always amazed when I'm at a doctor's appointment or filling out paperwork related to David and someone congratulates me. For example, being at the dentist and the ladies saying "Awww, you have  a 13-month old?" Or when we went to the ENT last year to have David's tongue tie clipped and the surgeon said "Congratulations, you guys!" We were there to fix a minor medical problem and what she saw was a near-perfect newborn baby. That was her perspective.
In the middle of the most mundane (or even distressing) moments, people remind me that I have a CHILD. When we have to spend days or months renewing visas, we don't always remember that...oh yeah, there's a reason for all this...and he's pretty adorable! When I'm boarding a plane with the little rascalnoisemaker cutie, I might have a pretty tiring journey ahead of me, but look at all those smiling faces admiring his chubby cheeks and toothy grin.
That is one perspective: in the midst…

Ex-pat Life

We were going through Immigration/Customs control in Boston, and I had written "U.S.A." as my place of residence. But after interviewing us, the Customs officer said, "okay, just cross that out and write Russia next to it." Gulp.

I know I live in Russia, but I'm not Russian. And they'll never give me citizenship. I don't know if Andrei will ever get U.S. citizenship. I always write U.S.A. as my permanent address. I'm supposed to be granted permanent residency in Russia in the fall, but I still want the U.S. address. I know it's probably weird for Andrei and me to have different addresses, though.

I think part of it is always feeling like a second-class citizen in Russia. I feel like a real person with rights in the U.S., even while living/working abroad.

BUT...even that has its limitations. It gets sort of complicated with things like healthcare, having part of it happen here and part of it there. Bank accounts here and there, tax declarations …

How it went, part 2

When we got to the church, I went to "hide" in a side room while the guests kept filing in. It seemed like a really long time went by! I got my bouquet and met up with the flower girl and the other girl who was going to sort of hold my "train" (although it wasn't THAT long). I didn't have any bridesmaids or anything.

Finally my dad and I were getting ready to enter the sanctuary. We hadn't actually even practiced to the music! In fact, the music was being cued by one of our friends. He kept running into the back room to turn it on or off.

We found it actually hard to make a right angle turn because of the way the doors were. I reminded myself to relax and smile as I walked down the aisle. This was a wonderful day! Andrei looked nervous, however. I thought he was feeling emotional about getting married. And then I saw his father running around onstage for some reason. I later learned that Andrei had forgotten to take the rings out of his backpack, so Vl…