Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons, Part 5

On forming attachment..

I’m much more of a “softie” than I pictured. I sort of expected that we’d teach David to be independent early on…help him “self-soothe,” fall asleep on his own, play on his blanket quietly, etc. Not that we wouldn’t spend time together, but he would learn about entertaining himself, as well.


I don’t know when that “more independent” stage comes, but 6 months is not it. This period could be known as the "siamese twins" phase (if siamese twins could be born 30 years apart). Lately he has wanted to play on his blanket only WHILE physically attached to me…in my lap, etc. This isn’t even “parallel play” where I can sneak a look at my phone or computer while he’s playing at my feet. If I break out my Kindle, he lunges for it. Toys can be fun, but let’s check in every 3 minutes, okay, Mom?

I find his outbursts much more upsetting than when he was a newborn. That period was tiring physically and just kind of disorienting. But a newborn’s cries are fairly pathetic…even amusing, because his needs are so simple. He doesn’t even know why he’s crying. He doesn’t know that if he waits 30 seconds he’ll be able to eat or have a clean diaper or whatever and then he’ll be just fine.

But now we have a relationship.  If I try to sneak out of the room for a minute, sometimes he looks up from his toy at the wrong time and our eyes meet. We both know what’s happening, and as he realizes it, he bursts into tears. She’s LEAVING me. He doesn’t only cry over basic needs now…there are social ones now, too.

And so…I have not been very productive lately. And that’s fine, because I had a baby knowing that I would be his mother and that he would need me, so here I am!

Another thing that makes me sad, though, is thinking about the kids who really are being left. It didn’t scar me, but I remember being left with babysitters as a child. Yeah, I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t permanent. However, it is very hard for me to think of a child just like my child, but without a mother. With the same wounded look as David when I leave the room, but no one is there to comfort him. My heart breaks for the orphans.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Projecting Sermons

Do you ever sit there listening to a sermon and think, “I wish so-and-so were here to hear this”? (Come on, I can’t be the only one!)

During the sermon on Sunday I was looking at a handful of young people sitting in front of me and thinking of how I could reach out to them. The young man had visited our Bible study and asked a lot of questions. Then during the sermon I saw his face lighting up with interest as he listened. That had to be a good sign! The pastor even quoted the passage (from Revelation) that we had studied the previous week. Could God use this as confirmation?

Then I had to laugh, because the main passage was about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18); how the Pharisee stood there praying and “thanking” God for being righteous and not at all like those poor sinners. And here I was staring at someone else, waiting for HIM to realize he was a sinner. Surely the sermon is for the visitors, and not for the expert Christians, right? ;)

To be honest, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to recognize someone else is a sinner (well, separated from God) and to pray for God to touch him. But I felt a little embarrassed that instead of testing my own heart, I was looking around to see who might receive this message. The question is, am I a Pharisee? Am I proud? Am I sincerely setting a good example for others, or just playing a role?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Introverts and favorites

It’s been awhile since I've thought about being an introvert. Maybe I’ve overcome some of the issues, or maybe I just haven’t had to face them lately! There were two books I wanted to review a few years ago, and never got around to it.

The first one was called “The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths," by Marti Olsen Laney. I like it because it explains the difference between introverts and extroverts in a more factual way. And it helps me understand why I possess certain oddities.

What's your favorite _____________?

Recently, we had a reflection time at Bible study and were asked to name some favorite parts of 2012, as it came to a close. While it seemed like a good idea, I had a pretty hard time answering. In fact, I have a hard time naming my favorite anything! Of course I don’t forget factual information like my date of birth, but when it comes to how I feel about something, I have a hard time retrieving the information. I have to make up things like my favorite book or favorite color.

So it was a relief to read that our memories actually DO work differently. Without including the long-winded information about brain signals, here is the gist of it:
"...we introverts think nothing relevant is in our head because we haven’t triggered the association to our long-term memory. Our mind seems blank. This is why introverts can even forget what we like to do or what we are good at." (p.81)*
Losing our train of thought...

It may sound like a lame excuse, but here's a reason that we can't find the right words sometimes:
Often introverts have trouble finding the word they want when they are speaking out loud. Our brains use many different areas for speaking, reading, and writing; therefore, information needs to flow freely between the separate areas. Word retrieval may be a problem for introverts because the information moves slowly. One cause of this is that we use long-term memory, so it takes longer and requires the right association (something that reminds us of the word) to reach back into our long-term memory to locate the exact word we want. If we are anxious, it may be even more difficult to find and articulate a word. Written words use different pathways in the brain, which seems to flow fluently for many introverts. (pp.69-70)

Socially "awkward"

Meanwhile, here are some behavior "oddities" that I'm definitely guilty of:

An introvert may:
-Reduce eye contact when speaking to focus on collecting words and thoughts; increase eye contact when listening to take in information • Surprise others with their wealth of information • Shy away from too much attention or focus • Appear glazed, dazed, or zoned out when stressed, tired, or in groups...
The dominance of the l-o-n-g acetylcholine pathway means that introverts :
• May start talking in the middle of a thought, which can confuse others • Have a good memory but take a long time to retrieve memories • Can forget things they know very well—might stumble around when explaining their job or temporarily forget a word they want to use • May think they told you something when they just have thought it • Are clearer about ideas, thoughts, and feelings after sleeping on them • May not be aware of their thoughts unless they write or talk about them ( pp. 84-85)

When it's hard to retrieve those thoughts, I have trouble doing things like praying out loud, explaining to someone what I do, telling someone about my day...

But introverts CAN be public speakers. It isn't a fear of people, it's a fear of the words not making their way onto one's tongue. It IS possible to memorize speeches and come across quite eloquently. It IS possible to memorize the appropriate answers to common questions, for both formal and informal settings, and use personalized memory triggers to access those answers.

When I studied foreign languages, I would sometimes give false answers to questions about myself. For example, I would usually say I had "one brother and one sister" (it's actually more than that) because it used the easiest noun endings. For college interviews, I had to do a little acting. What were my goals in life? How did I feel about the upcoming transition to college life? I said the first things that came to my mind. In situations like these it isn't the most true-to-life information, but it works for passing the test.

But what if you want to have a REAL conversation? Introverts may need time to reflect. Or, if you check your email a few hours after a conversation with an introvert, you may find some very thoughtful answers, which have finally made themselves known. :)

* All quotations are from: Laney Psy.D., Marti Olsen (2002-02-01). The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths (p. 69). Workman Publishing - A. Kindle Edition.

Monday, January 21, 2013

On this Day in (the) History of David

In an otherwise lame book on sleep training, I read something helpful (my husband asked why I keep reading the parenting books if they’re so lame, and I realized that I just like finding something to argue about…or complain about on Facebook, ha ha!).

The author mentioned not being able to remember what she did when her child was at a certain age…SO true! Of course if something triggers a memory, I can sit back and remember a particular experience in detail.

But in general I am already forgetting David at 3 months, 4, etc. I’m huge on collecting memorabilia and such, but I’ve just never been able to get into those photos each month with the sign, or the cute little updates.

So here is an attempt. (Pretend there is a 6-month portrait in this space)

1) Starting solids: It took Andrei and me about 30 minutes working together to come up with the ideal consistency of pureed zucchini in order to give David his first try! His reaction wasn’t nearly worth the effort. Truth be told, after a few days of that, I haven’t had the motivation to do the cooking/pureeing/dishes again.

2) Independence: Andrei and his mom and dad all watched David together while I went to a baby shower. I was ready to zip home in case David wouldn’t take a bottle. Instead he guzzled from the bottle and took two naps. When I called they basically told me not to hurry home! When I did get home he couldn’t care less, though he was pleased to refuel, and then slept soundly through the night.

3) Animal comparisons: David reminds me a lot of a cat at this point, in that he is always batting at things. Sometimes he just lies there slapping the floor/rug/whatever surface. And he has sharp claws…ouch! But he can be very snuggly and make cute noises.

4) Communication: David often likes to chime in during discussions. If I’m singing to him before bedtime he graciously joins in with some harmony, and after naptime he tells us all about how well he slept. Meanwhile, he and Andrei have their own special language and I hear really interesting noises coming from the room when Andrei is supposedly changing David’s diaper.

5) Never say never: That’s my motto about things like store-bought baby food, cry-it-out sleep training, baby-wearing, seemingly useless gear, TV-watching, baby-sitters, and probably a bunch of other things. Of course we have principles, but you never know what specific situations you’ll face as a parent.

Monday, January 14, 2013

From the kitchen window

I love looking out my kitchen window and watching the people go by. Maybe I should start a new blog devoted to the things I notice daily! :)

I love seeing the family interactions and the dogs loping along; everyone enjoying the snow.

But not everything that goes by is so cheery. Today I watched a frail, elderly woman inching along-in fact, I see a lot of people limping. This woman had one cane in each hand, and was moving along so very precariously. She wasn’t even really leaning on the canes, so I wasn’t sure if she was trying to do without, or if they weren’t working well in the snow, or what. There was also a little shopping bag dangling down, as though she was trying to make it to the store (almost wrote “magazine,” silly language switching). Can you imagine making this epic journey each time you needed a grocery item?

At one point while back in the U.S., I watched a show called "Little People" about people with dwarfism. They talked about what it was like to live in a a world designed for people of "normal" height. Imagine having everything be too tall and too high up for you.

I'm not saying it negates all those consequences, but....those people get a TV show. Here in Russia, you don't exactly get rewarded for having trouble getting around. You might get an "invalid" card that entitles you to something, I'm not sure what. In fact, I heard recently that all "invalids" need to confirm their status regularly, and that's even if they're amputees.

There are very few handicapped-accessible establishments in St. Petersburg. Okay, there are a few ramps. But often at the top and/or bottom of a ramp is a heavy door that is hard for a regular person (well, me) to open…let alone someone with a stroller or on crutches, etc. Either that or the ramp ends just a few inches from a wall, so there isn’t really a turning radius.

This has been relevant to us recently because of needing to use a rather hefty baby carriage to go anywhere with David. Not only can I not get OUT of our building on my own (flight of stairs plus two doors, one fairly heavy)….there are also two flights of stairs UP to the grocery store. (I’ve attempted it with David in a frontpack and it’s sort of manageable except for not being able to bend down and get things on the bottom shelf).

In trams and buses, there is sometimes a little nook where you're supposed to be able to stand with a stroller or cart, but people often ignore the signs and don't move to make room. It's the people who have kids themselves that usually make an effort...just like I can sympathize with pregnant women now, in the metro. And it was usually the middle-aged women who'd been raising children recently that would help me out. I still get kind of emotional now seeing pregnant women on public transportation. I remember those days, hanging on to the handrails for dear life, as the loudspeaker announced at every stop, "seats are reserved for pregnant women, the sick and elderly, and passengers with children." And my cheeks would burn with humiliation as I heard the words "pregnant women," yet all the seats were occupied by people with other things on their minds. Yep, so now I can sympathize with them, and I'm especially grateful whenever someone lends us a hand.

On a fun note: Recently I noticed a sign that Andrei had to explain for me. It said something to the effect of, “Pedestrian-accessible store.” I couldn’t figure out why they would need to put that sign up since I couldn’t picture a store that you couldn’t enter by using your own two feet, if you have them. Well, it turns out that some years ago there was a call to build more grocery stores in residential areas-ones you could get to without crossing a busy intersection, etc. And such stores put up a sign to show that they had followed orders. It is nice to have stores within walking distance, I admit.

To get back to the story, I watched this woman struggling along, and wished I could throw on my winter clothing in a flash and skip waiting the 10 minutes for the elevator to come to the 7th floor and hop down there and help her to wherever she needed to go. We talk of doing good deeds, like “helping an old lady across the street.” Well, sometimes it is a real need!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In the house

I can’t get much reading done while nursing anymore, because David is constantly twisting around and batting things out of my hands, especially if they’re electronic (boys!).

A lot of times I sit there imagining a makeover for whatever room I’m sitting in. I play furniture Tetris in my head and play around with color schemes. If David lets me, I might even take a peek at the IKEA catalog.

Then my mind wanders to other rooms in the apartment, and maybe even to places I’ve lived in the past. And then of course I have to think of a way to convince my husband that these are good ideas, since he’s the one who’ll be doing the heavy-lifting. ;)

I love trying new ideas for decorating and also for cooking. Recently I tried that famous “Artisan Bread”…hmmm, the jury’s still out on that one.

But sometimes I stop in my tracks and remember King David's observation, "Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."

And for me it was "Here I am, with a well-loved IKEA catalog, while my Bible sits on the shelf."

Okay, the similarities don't go that far, but God used it to speak to me. :)

I don't know if I can get that much Bible reading done either, but I can certainly meditate on something a little  less worldly.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Leaving Russia?

For the first 8 days of January, the whole country (practically) is off work and everyone goes to visit each other.

We did a lot of hosting since it’s hard to travel with a little one. Some of our guests were friends from church, while others were from different parts of our past-mine from summer camp, Andrei’s from university.

What was interesting was that everyone asked us the same questions: Don’t you want to move to the U.S.? What keeps you here?

While many Russians have a certain amount of national pride, it is very common for people to dream of moving abroad.

I would say that life outside Russia looks more attractive now than it did a few years ago-and that is even with our own apartment (not a rental), which greatly increases the chances of being able to make a living.  Without going into specifics, there are many ways that the standard of living here is less than ideal. Of course, St. Petersburg is an amazing city with a rich culture and history. 

It makes me mad when non-Russians make negative comments about Russia or her people. I guess it’s partly because it is “my” country in a way and I want to defend it against stereotypes. In general I would agree that there is a lot of corruption and that people are treated terribly. But corruption in a biblical sense can be found in any country. The other reason the criticism bothers me is that it adds to my own temptation, making me doubt my decision to live here. My heart has been happy here, despite a variety of trials and misadventures.

Andrei and I don’t feel “called” to go serve somewhere else. We try to guard our hearts and not do something for the wrong reasons. We believe that God holds our future, and wherever He leads will be best for our family.

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...