Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Back story

One thing that was helpful when visiting the orphanage was how the counselors would take me aside and tell me about the kids.

In the beginning, the counselor of the group I visited most often would always offer me a cup of tea. I was new to Russia, and didn't really understand the tea ritual. But I appreciated the hospitality. The only thing was that we were both rather shy. I remember telling her about wanting to give Bible lessons, and her saying that the orphanage was Orthodox and the religious education was taken care of. We would each take a sip of tea and swallow and look around the room, thinking of what to say next.

Then, even when I started visiting other groups, she would always chase me down and invite me to her group for a cup of tea. We’re both still shy, but now we’re friends on a social networking site and “like” each other’s photos, ha! :)

Another counselor to befriend me didn’t realize I was American and thought it was annoying or something that I was always wandering around forlornly trying to find kids who needed English practice. Once I was identified as a native speaker, I got VIP treatment! Hey, it opens doors, even if it isn’t always a compliment. This counselor was a very energetic type and ended up taking me under her wing. From then on she would always march the kids right to me for English, and get them properly motivated. In addition to cups of tea I soon got a full lunch, and even dinner! I’m not sure how they arranged it, as the food is rationed, but someone was looking out for me. Even though I tried to eat at home before leaving, it might be 7-8 hours before I ate again.

Anyway, while sipping tea, the counselors would tell me about various kids in their groups. I learned about why some of them had ended up in the orphanage and how they were doing in school, which ones were hoping to get adopted, etc. It really helped confirm other information I'd encountered about life in the orphanage. Except these were real-life examples.

In the present

My counselor friend Galina visited me the other day. I haven’t been to the orphanage all year, but I have been keeping in touch, especially with regards to the traffic accident.

Catching up with Galina and hearing the orphanage news reiterated what I've known about the orphans' needs for the past several years. In some ways, the situation is even worse.

  • it's mainly younger kids who are adopted. Older kids have often been adopted by foreigners in the past, especially Americans...
  • ....but there is currently a ban on adoption by Americans.
  • domestic adoption/foster care isn't very common, nor is there much support for it in Russian society.
  • kids put in foster care/adopted domestically often end up back at the orphanage.
  • orphans tend to be on more of a tech school/drop-out track, and it's hard to reverse that and help them become interested in continuing their education.
  • orphans who leave the orphanage get into various kinds of trouble, and girls who get pregnant sign away their parental rights upon giving birth, or give up after a few years and bring their children to the orphanage.
  • "social" orphans whose parents are still alive don't get the same benefits from the state as those without parents, including a regular allowance for clothes, etc.

Please understand that these are generalizations, BUT they are general trends of which I have seen living proof.

Here is some more insight that Galina provided: kids who end up in the orphanage in their teens may be behind in school, but many have developed some delinquency in the meantime. It's hard for them to adjust to the orphanage schedule and go to school with other kids when they're used to partying or whatever. They're street-smart but a few years behind in terms of school. And it's hard for the counselors to motivate them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

On This Day in (the) History of David

David is 10 months old, and we're in true "bumps and bruises" territory now. I always thought under a year was still infancy, but I'm not sure I can even think of him as a baby anymore. He is already so good at letting us know his likes and dislikes. ;)

-Bill of Health: Currently, bronchitis. :( We are thankful that he doesn't seem to be in danger, but those coughing fits can be worrisome!

-Catching up: I have no idea where David is on the development spectrum. Barring any serious health complications, babies always seem to be somewhere between points A and B. Though one may be closer to the destination than another, their development is never stagnant, as far as I can tell.

When babies around the same age as David have reached a milestone and he hasn't, I don't pay much attention. However, if I could look ahead to the future, I'd see that he'd get to that point right on time. For example, 1) The pediatrician wanted us to give him calcium supplements to make the teeth come faster. We didn't; he now has 4 teeth. 2) A month or two ago he was still mostly preferring to crawl "army-style," on his tummy. Now he hurdles around on all fours like a pro. 3) Oh, the horror! He's 10 months old and not walking yet. Stay tuned for his first steps. :)

-Ways to know the baby is occupied: 1) Quiet grunting means: he's reading a book, inspecting a toy very carefully, getting into an interesting position, or otherwise engaging in parent-approved play. 2) Silence means: he's eating something off the floor, playing with a power cord/electrical outlet, or has crawled off to another room unnoticed. Otherwise known as "Who's watching him, again?"

-Conversation: If it weren't babyese it might as well be the language of an undiscovered tribe! He often babbles with such confidence that he MUST be using words, but nothing understandable, to us.

-Happiest when he: 1) sees a favorite person, 2) sees his stroller, 3) spots a favorite electronic gadget from across the room and thinks he might get to use it, 4) is given two or more objects to knock against each other, 5) has thrown something, 6) has reached a new height (literally; this week it was the oven knobs).

Friday, May 17, 2013


Andrei is up grading students' work and David is between coughing fits (sleeping), so I guess I get to go to bed finish kitchen clean-up do a little blogging!

Do you ever analyze why you have trouble meeting certain goals? What gets in your way? The other day I was thinking about my household chores and wondering why I just can't get around to doing the floors. The kitchen floor gets sprayed with baby food daily and it just gets a little swipe with a rag, but I rarely do the whole floor.

What gets in my way? Honestly, I always feel like I should vacuum before washing the floor, and that means dragging the vacuum out. Which means the baby has to be cared for during that time period. And then I have to have the actual mopping supplies on hand. And before vacuuming I should do the dusting, right? It's not that the actual task of mopping the floor is hard, it's just that I have to FACILITATE the event actually taking place. I have to figure out what steps might lead up to my actually taking the desired action.

And then I wondered what else I could accomplish the same way. For example, why don't I read my Bible more? Well, I can never decide on a translation, and then I wanted to read the Russian translation, but I lost my copy, so I can only read the full version on my computer, or borrow Andrei's. And then I have to lug my computer around from room to room, and if David is awake then he'll want to come play with the computer. I suppose I could keep a Bible/notebook/pen in each room of the house, just to make sure it happens. Clearly, I need a system.

We will always have our vices to struggle with, but we can make it easier to come out on top.

A few things I've implemented:

-if I put my vitamins on the kitchen table, I'm more likely to remember to take them
-if I cut up fruits/veggies into cute/bite-sized pieces, I'm more likely to eat them instead of junkfood
-if I have a rag/other cleaning supplies within arms' reach, I'm more likely to take a few minutes to do a really quick dusting/mirror shining/whatever.
-same goes for making reading material available!

The only problem is that this system requires having stuff "out," which doesn't always work well with tidyness. Hmmm.

What works for you?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being realistic

I'm realizing that I'm not sure how blogging is going to go this week. We're in week #2 of David's wet cough.    Every 30 minutes or so, he starts coughing/gagging/acting like he's being strangled, and then he is so upset he cries for several minutes. So...yep, lots of fussing (on his part) and holding. At least Andrei isn't sick too this time around, so there's someone else to share the rocking duties.

I still have some material to do David's 10-month update, though...maybe later in the week. His character manages to shine through even while he is not feeling well.

I'm getting big!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


 I don't really have time for a lengthy post at the moment, so here's a little Easter show-and-tell (see my previous post for some other Easter thoughts).

One of the most common types of decorations you can find in Russian homes and posted on Russian blogs is the vase with branches, hung with little ornaments, much like a Christmas tree. My mother-in-law and I accidentally bought each other the same set of ornaments, ha ha!

This photo also features my ugly interesting eggs that I dyed using onion peel, chamomile tea, and instant coffee. It wasn't incredibly successful but I got some neat earthy tones.

I have to say that the store-bought dyes are more fun in terms of overlapping colors and other interesting effects. The natural ones take a while, so you basically just do the prep work and then leave them in there for a few hours, and then let them dry before you can tell what they're really going to look like.

I did get out the "He is Risen" banner, but didn't end up hanging it. However, David spotted it lying on the couch this morning and went nuts over the bright colors and the fuzzy felt. :)

I also had fun reviewing what I'd done other years while living in Russia. There was the year of the church retreat, the year where we learned a dance, the year of kulich-baking with my roommate, and an Easter afternoon spent going for a walk with good friends. What great memories!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


My husband ironing his suit for his cousin's funeral, as I loaded the dishwasher, at 1 am. That was what our Good Friday looked like.

The movable dates of the Easter season cause it to coincide with different events each year. This year Resurrection Sunday falls on one person's birthday, next year-on someone else's. An early Easter date means we might still be in the dead of winter. This year's late date (by the Orthodox calendar) means we're actually seeing signs of spring. And as always, it is pussy willows which are decorating kitchen tables and which accompanied believers to their Palm Sunday services last week.

There is always a lot going on in "real" life when a Christian holiday comes along. For example, who has time for Advent in the middle of final exams?

This year's Holy Week concludes with Labor Day weekend. People have been out grilling their first shish kabobs of the season, during the last few days of the Great Fast. Interesting how that happens. Today, on Holy Saturday, a local Christian school was having a sale that people were getting up early to go shop at. Meanwhile, Andrei has lost his cousin; his mom-her nephew; his aunt-her son.

Today I sang "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" as I rocked David to sleep in his stroller in the front hallway.

The joy of hope (and hope of joy) of Salvation is hard to separate out from the pain and suffering of everyday life. Though Jesus is alive, we can't see him now, and we have to live the rest of our lives on Earth without some of our loved ones, who have already departed. But then there is the thought that we will see them again. So it all kind of forms a circle: the beauty of the universe, yet marred by sin, which is overcome by Christ, who will come, but for now we're still here, waiting for the beauty of a new universe.

11:24 pm. Too early to proclaim, "He is Risen"?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feeling Better

I am feeling better emotionally than I have since David was born in a long time. Maybe all this sad news has given me a new perspective.

Maybe it's the sunshine and warmer weather giving me an attitude boost.

Or getting outside more regularly.

Or just the Lord working miracles in me.

As a new mom, I have found it hard to pace myself and manage my emotions. The milestones don't really happen according to a textbook. If I knew when certain challenges would pass, I could try to be patient until then. I have learned to be more patient, or not to hold my breath. 6 weeks might mean 4 months, 7 months might mean 9 months. The problem that we worried about yesterday was solved overnight. And other changes are here to stay.

I feel like I've had a little more time on my hands lately. I don't keep exact records, but I've been updating this blog and even my cooking blog more regularly, that's how I can tell. :) Of course, at the end of the day there are always still a ton of tasks I haven't gotten to, but it doesn't make me feel depressed.

Well, almost 1am-here's hoping David Andreevich is asleep for night, and that we soon will be, too!

June 2022

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