Saturday, June 29, 2013

Heat and plans

We've been having some hot weather recently. Surprising, I know. It is almost July, after all. But it's always a little challenging finding ways to keep cool in the city, especially with so many hours of daylight this far north. I'm thankful that our apartment isn't quite as hot as most, though I do constantly throw the covers on and off at night.

Dog days of summer...

Another challenge hot weather brings is all the creepy-crawlies. It seems like everywhere I turn, quite a few fruit flies/regular flies/gnats/etc. are buzzing around my head. Can't leave food out for any length of time, including baby messes. Wouldn't it be nice to leave this messy house and come back in the fall when the flies are gone?

Well...we're getting ready to do just that! We fly to the U.S. on July 9th, which just happens to be a certain person's first birthday. Seems like an appropriate way to celebrate his two (unofficial) nationalities, crossing from one to the other.

Meanwhile, I'm at that stage in the travel preparations where I want to get EVERYTHING and NOTHING done at the same time. Let's see how much we can cram into the next week! OR let's see how much of it can be put off until fall!

I HAVE to see so-and-so before I go! OR I could just wait another 2 months, since we've already waited all year!

Also, I recently dumped placed all of my baggy but not maternity appropriate summer clothes into a suitcase to make packing easier later on. That leaves me with some interesting wardrobe options for the remainder of our time here! :)

So that's what's going on around here. If I have time, I'll catch up on some posts, as birthday month continues.

OR, you might not hear from me again for a few weeks! :)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

DIY stuff

Life as we know it has halted, for reasons which I'll explain another time.

But in the craziness I have still managed to sneak in a project here and there. I tend to hoard craft supplies, and this has increased since we bought an apartment. Also, the fact that we don't have a recycling center nearby means that I save glass bottles and paper/cardboard containers. I love repurposing them and feeling like I've simultaneously satisfied my creative streak and justified my hoarder tendencies.


While the image above is no masterpiece, it's a quick fix I created to make mealtimes a little less messy. Our grown-up nice placemats are in a dirty laundry pile somewhere with stains I don't know how to remove, and I want to look for a different color anyway.

I took some contact paper that has been through 2 apartment moves with me, and cut out an image to go inside. Like I said it isn't the prettiest, and probably isn't long-lasting, but having a few of them on the table makes things look neater. It's also something that could work for holiday decorations, with some brighter colors. Or making boxes look fancier (which is another idea on my list).

I figure maybe some of you creative people could take the idea and run with it...

P.S. I mostly did this project while David was stuck in his high chair chewing on something.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Birthday Season

All the people in this photo have birthdays this summer! Of course, we all know who's getting the most presents, and he won't even be aware of it. :)

My birthday was on Tuesday, and Andrei and I went to the movies after having dinner with his parents (and David). That was the first time we'd been to a movie for over a year!

Andrei's turn next.

P.S. Fun fact: I accidentally flipped this photo from left to right while I was trying to rotate it, so it's a mirror image! I wonder if we look different?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Parallel Play

I have heard of times past when the whole family would gather around to listen to the radio together, or sit and watch a TV show together. I don't think that's common now. What program would they watch/listen to, and when would they find the time to do it?

I remember being in school and hearing warnings against excessive TV/video games. "Don't be a couch potato," they said. But that was before computers and Internet...

What would our ancestors say about our electronic devices? Would they be horrified at what has become of the human race? Would they be sad to see us all sitting in a room, each staring at his own device?

But this is the age we're in, and we all have to decide what role these gadgets will play in our life and our relationships.

First of all, what's so bad about gadgets? I feel pangs of guilt realizing that my 11-month-old can already peer up to the tabletop, see that there's a computer on it, and realize that I am engrossed in it. What is going on inside his head? What connections is he making? Is the computer an evil device that distracts his mother, or an interesting box that plays music, or a magic shiny thing, or what?

On the OTHER hand, what about if he is playing on the floor, and I'm just reading a book, as equally engrossed as with my computer? Or what if I'm reading my Kindle? Should I declare "Mommy's READING" all the time so he knows that it falls under the "intellectual" category? Am I neglecting him in any of the above scenarios, or are we just engaging in "parallel play," as they call it?

What about the "olden days" that we tend to glorify? Maybe in the evenings or on weekends, the family members would all gather in their sitting room. Someone might play an instrument while the others listened (okay, I'll admit I'm thinking of Laura Ingalls Wilder here). But at other times, each would have his own hobby: reading, sewing, snoozing, whatever. And that was okay, too.

My question is more about the social aspect than about how electronic devices affect an individual's development. How does "parallel play" affect our relationships, and is it any worse than reading together, for instance?

My husband's family often watches TV at mealtimes. While it is not what I have been used to, there is no indication that this habit interferes with communication. They are as close-knit a family as any, and the programs may provide for stimulating discussion, or just allow everyone to relax after a stressful day at work.

In my family growing up, we rested on Sunday afternoons. Instead of a formal sit-down meal, we had a sandwich buffet which we enjoyed at our convenience while trading sections of the Sunday newspaper. Of course, intermittent sharing of thoughts and discussion of plans could be observed as well. I don't think these conditions harmed our ability to develop close relationships as family members. Maybe it even helped us relax, more so than a formal environment.

Another question I have is where in the home technology should be used. Would it be more polite for a person wishing to "zone out" to go to another room, where the computers, in general, should be housed? And when rejoining the group, leave such fancies behind? Or is it more friendly to remain together in the same room, if a bit distracted? Of course, this is assuming that the luxury of separate rooms can be found.

As I thought about this topic, I realized that our generation's situation is not so hopeless. The enjoyment of electronic devices and even paper media do not necessarily prevent communication in real time with real people. But so far I am a bit unclear as to what the particular boundaries should be, if any.

(And I will say again that I think the question of individual use is another story, as far as addiction, bad habits, questionable content, children's learning, etc.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Women's Health

Probably not one for the guys...sorry, guys.

I'm feeling the need to share vent write about some postpartum experiences, particularly the parts that have more to do with me and my feelings than the baby (though there will be overlap.

The first issue I would like to address is that of the physical healing from childbirth. I was fairly disappointed with the aftercare that I got, in both the U.S. and Russia.

When you have just been through a very graphic medical experience (natural or not), it's not the best time for delicacy and people withholding certain details that would be useful. Following childbirth, you want to know how to feel as normal as possible again. This is probably true about major operations, too. My other main experience was wisdom teeth extraction (don't laugh), and that took WEEKS of recovery, due to complications that also could have been avoided.

Childbirth IS natural, after all, but that doesn't mean we are born knowing what is going to happen. When it was all over, I really wanted to know things like how long, what color, how big, how thick, how painful. When I was still on the maternity ward, the nurses were great and even walked me through a few things like bathroom visits. But after that I really could have used a personal nurse for, say...a few months.

I was sent home with a 30-page printout with a list of recommendations like calling the doctor when I had a fever. It was all very surface-level, general, unhelpful information.

I sometimes feel like until you actually try to troubleshoot, they will give you the minimal information. As I said, I wish I'd had more detailed information, like how to bathe myself properly for healing purposes, or how to protect my stitches from ripping.

The most helpful resource has probably been online forums where it's possible to ask some of those sensitive questions, while remaining somewhat anonymous.

I do realize that numbers aren't always helpful, though. A lot of sources state, "it took you 9 months to grow the baby, give yourself 9 months to recover." Below I will address the issue of still looking pregnant a YEAR after having a baby.

Meanwhile, I managed to get into the OB/GYN at 4 weeks and again at 6 weeks postpartum, before heading back to Russia. The doctor, busy as always, said that I "wasn't completely healed yet" but that I WAS healing, and that I would "just know" when I was done healing.

It was an interesting experience to read over the copy of my records that I requested to bring back to Russia with me. There I was able to find out what degree of tearing I'd had, what tests they had run, etc. As well as a complication that the doctor had described to ME as "not completely healed," but was actually written down on paper as something worse...continue reading/-

...Back in Russia, having been waylaid in Estonia for a month, I finally went to visit the OB/GYN who had done my pregnancy checkups. Her assessment was that the only way out was surgery under general anesthesia, and that it would be best to wait until the baby was weaned. (!) She prescribed a bunch of creams, which I was not able to use as they were not safe for breastfeeding.

I decided to revisit the issue at a later date.


It was fun to be "all baby," but it had its consequences, too. When I had visited the Russian clinic during pregnancy, they looked at my spine and said I would need to wear a belly support during and after pregnancy, to prevent back pain. I never had increased back pain during pregnancy, though. Another garment during the summer months didn't sound very comfortable, so I didn't bother.

When David was just a few weeks/months old, I did get a few comments as to when my "due date" was. I was fairly good-natured about it and gave myself time. However, having a thin frame, I lost the weight everywhere else and I was left with this belly bulge. But it wasn't FAT, it was something else.

Something was not right.

People suggested crunches, but you know when your instinct causes you to hesitate? My body just still felt "broken." Was rigorous exercise really the care it needed?

10 months postpartum. I did some scouring of the Internet and found that I may have an abdominal wall separation that is causing this protrusion. Not surprising given the weight I carried around, but surprising considering the 10 or so people who examined me during and after pregnancy and never said a thing.

I haven't gotten an official diagnosis, but I'm exploring some tummy-safe fitness options to move on with healing.

Not wanting to find a trainer here and try to explain my situation, I ended up ordering a book for my Kindle, I think it's the one by Helene Byrne. However, as a non-fitness person, it was pretty hard to decipher how to do the exercises just going by the drawings and descriptions.

Another thing I had heard about in blog circles was an online fitness portal called "Fit 2 B Studio." I was skeptical, but gave it a try as a last option. I was pleasantly surprised by the first few workouts. It is very easy to figure out the exercises (at least the beginners level), and the instructor talks in this calm way that makes the time go by really fast. It's different from counting repetitions. You just listen to her narration while trying the new moves, and the next thing you know, you've done the workout! I also joined the members forum and everyone there is really helpful.

I'm not doing any measuring, though. Just trying to work some gentle tummy exercises into my daily routine and we'll see what the doctor says when I have a chance to check in.

So, hopefully no surgery on either count.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On This Day in (the) History of David

This isn't going to be a long one, just a little 11-month update!

Time to hit the gym!

I think now is as good a time as ever to note that David is "total BOY." As evidence, enclosed are some photos of him playing with Andrei's new exercise equipment (I don't even know the term...a pull-up bar? chin-up?). There are special hooks for it installed in the wall and whenever we walk by, he gets all excited and tries to grab it. There are lots of crashes and throwing things daily, and daredevil-type acts.

David is suddenly learning a lot of independent new skills, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that all this development is the reason he has been difficult more active lately. Also, did you know that "teething" is a perpetual state? I didn't. I think this child will be teething until he enters university.

Some of the fun things he's been doing lately are:

-getting ready to stand without support (maybe even take some steps)
-stacking cups/containers, putting the rings on the pyramid base or whatever it's called
-not only taking toys OUT, but putting them BACK sometimes...
-laughing at TV shows. Yup, I caved and let him watch the Muppets, hopefully he's not ruined for life!
-lots of other things related to communication/responding, self-feeding, etc.

More to enlarge!

Hamster wheel, anyone?

Real men don't wash prune off their face

Mommy loves my lashes...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Day in the Life

Okay, here goes...

Monday morning. 

David woke up wanting breakfast and I was not ready to get up yet (read: went to bed at 2:00 again). I fed him in bed waiting for him to drift back to sleep, and he suddenly popped up, spotted Andrei, and started chatting. Finally I took him out to the living room to keep trying. After he was full and his eyes were closed, I tried to sneak back into bed with him, but the next thing I knew, his eyes popped open again and he started crawling around again. At one point our heads collided and I got upset and Andrei took him out of the room.

Morning, take two.

The next thing I knew, a few hours had passed and Andrei and David were still out in the living room. I hurried in to give Andrei a break, but they were sleeping on the couch...oops. David immediately popped up and started crying as though I had betrayed him. I whisked him away to do a diaper change and he screamed the whole time. He has this aversion to being on his back, go figure.

Several attempts at breakfast

I'm trying to have David join us at the table for meals, but if he is eating puree while we're eating, I keep being interrupted to monitor the mess. I gave him a few "tester" spoonfuls of a fruit mixture and he seemed to like it, so I poured out a whole helping and figure it would keep him busy for awhile. SPLASH! The spoon was on the floor in a matter of seconds, and suddenly the bib was off and flying to the floor, too. I had yet to take a bite of my delicious breakfast that A. had prepared. I tried putting the bib back on David but it was clear he was done, and was requesting to be released from his high chair. We went into the bathroom, got washed up, I settled him on the floor with toys, and sat in my seat....right on the dirty bib. Noooooo! I had to go change my clothes and THEN got to eat my breakfast.

After tea/coffee and a planning session, Andrei went to our home office to get some work done, and I finished my tea and offered D. a last chance at puree before dumping it. This time, he finished it off...go figure. Then I had to wash both of us off again.

Going for a walk

Getting some fresh air was high on my list today. However, it took us nearly an hour to get ready...sigh. Andrei had to step in and help several times, and David almost fell asleep at one point, so I was ready to change the whole plan, but then he woke up again. Since I got him dressed first, he was "cruising" around in too-big jeans, and fell and hit his head. Then, finally, we were off, with Andrei waving to us from the window as we went around into the courtyard.

continue reading/-

A cloudy day...perfect. Seriously. Since there is so much light these days, a sunny day can really be a scorcher.

We headed to the playground in our courtyard and found it empty, except for an old lady sitting on a bench squinting at a book. I started to do laps along the gravel with the stroller, trying to get D. to fall asleep. He was lying there blinking, fighting sleep as hard as he could.

Meanwhile, I looked over and saw a man lying on the pavement. He was right near the front wheels of a car, with his head sticking out into the road. Some women were nudging him and he showed signs of life, but waved them away. I wondered if I was supposed to be a Good Samaritan, but I figured the women had it covered. Andrei's general policy is to wake them up and ask if they're okay. Usually if they're drunk they ask you to leave them alone, and then go back to sleep.

A few minutes later, a little boy came towards the playground on a little I don't know how they work, are they electric? Anyway, it was making a noise like a wind-up toy, so I moved away a bit and continued doing laps on bumpy ground. Finally the boy's mother came along too with a baby buggy, presumably housing a younger sibling. Now the playground wasn't quite as deserted. Also, a huge black dog with no collar was wandering around. I didn't think it was theirs, but no one else was around.

David was asleep, and the sun was coming back out. I tied the arms of my sweatshirt over the stroller handles to give him more shade, and we headed to another location.

The "River" Bank

Across the street from our apartment complex is a body of water, some sort of river/pond/swamp. Along the embankment is a sort of tree-lined "alley" with benches. It's next to the main road, but the trees give it some shelter, and mothers often do laps there with strollers. I saw some lily pads in bloom, but the water was also covered with a lot of pollen/algae, so that sort of ruined the Impressionist resemblance. I also saw a few duck families and thought about how it would be fun to show David when he gets older, provided he doesn't try to jump into the water or whatever.

I found an empty bench and sat down to meditate for a few minutes and write a grocery list. It was getting towards lunchtime, so I didn't have time to do a full journal/prayer/reading session, but the busy street wasn't really conducive to that anyway. Sometimes I really long for a solitary place, but I know we are privileged enough just to have our own apartment and live in a fairly quiet neighborhood.


David must have had a pretty good nap, because he woke up smiling as we rolled in the door. Or maybe he was just excited to see Daddy! Andrei took him into the office with him as I got lunch ready. Lunch and tea took a pretty long time because we talked for awhile afterwards. David ate a little food and made a mess again. Once released, he pushed his highchair around the kitchen, always on the brink of having a major collision/fall.

It was almost 6 by the time we got finished with lunch!

The rest of the "day"

So we'd had breakfast, gone for a walk, and had lunch...and now it was early evening! That was fast.

David started playing in the washing machine, so I had him "help" me put a load of laundry in. We also did a tiny bit of clean-up in his room, and then we decided to take a bath. That baby food really gets stuck in his ears! And he also hates if we touch his face, so taking a bath is the only way to really get it clean!

I tried putting him in the high chair with an apple slice while I got a head-start on dinner, but he was done after two bites and asking to get down. Oh well!

Andrei to the rescue

Andrei took David on a walk while I fixed dinner. That was a relief! I find it very hard to multi-task when it comes to cooking. I was about to let them know that it was time to come in, when I noticed it was raining. Oops! Andrei was prepared, though, with the stroller cover and an umbrella. I was glad that they got some fresh air anyway.

David had gotten sleepy on the walk and needed some extra cuddling during dinner. He seemed conflicted over what he wanted, though. He wanted to be in my lap, but not held, or something.

Then there was the temper tantrum over his final diaper change. I tried to snuggle him as much as possible and help him have a gentle transition, but he was still pretty sad when Daddy took him away. :(

Almost 1 am...

2.5 hours later I am still planning on "getting to those dishes" any minute. With David not really napping at home during the day, I always seem to have a pretty big list of things to do before bed. Right now I have to go hang the laundry, and brush my teeth.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Walking Culture

How do I put this into words? One of the more common traditions I've encountered here and NOT in the U.S. is that of taking the baby outside on walks.

Here's what I was used to: I grew up in a neighborhood where we could play out in the backyard, or even on the street or wander over to a friend's house. Going to a public playground didn't happen very often. Family "walks" were for Sunday afternoons. My mom took walks on her own. I don't recall anyone ever worrying that we weren't going outside enough. But if we needed exercise, out we went.

Enter Russian culture-and, probably, other cultures.

First I would hear a few mothers talking about how their babies behaved on walks; about how their prams were holding up; about what time they took their 1st and 2nd (or even 3rd) walks of the day. I might see a Russian mother or grandmother or father or grandfather strolling along with the carriage and think...they don't seem to be in a big hurry. It seemed to be something parents discussed as readily as feeding/ is the strolling going?

I suppose one difference is that in the U.S., the stroller is a form of transportation. It's for taking the baby WITH you when you go to the store, to pick up other kids from school, to get to your gate at the airport, etc. We just don't have that perambulating culture.

But it IS important here (I wonder about other big cities?), and with the tradition come certain conditions, like:

-the baby has to be bundled up very appropriately, and shielded from all sorts of weather
-the baby should be walked outside from birth, for 2-3 hours a day, preferably twice a day
-the baby shouldn't cry or yell in cold weather because he could catch a cold/get a throat infection, so pacifiers must be on hand
-the baby should be turned towards any sun rays in order to get Vitamin D, though not in such a way as to get sunburned, of course

Andrei and I were so excited to finally tell the pediatrician that we've been taking David out every day, reaching the minimum. Guess what the pediatrician said? At this point we should be taking him out for 5-6 hours a day. Sigh.

No one will look at you funny for going to extreme measures to get those walks in. There are lots of playgrounds around, with benches. People who know about child-rearing will often tell their companions to hush if they walk by and David happens to be taking a snooze. That always amazes me, that people can't stop their public drinking or keep themselves from smoking in stairwells and elevators, but they will respect a sleeping baby.

You know, the walking ritual may take a lot of time, but it has clear health benefits...even in a city, where "fresh air" might not feel as invigorating as out in the country. And it can definitely be a pain to do the whole routine (twice a day, at that) and get the monstrous carriage (though now we have a lighter one) outside. Still, both mothers and babies can benefit. It certainly might have helped me feel better in the early days, though it was so hard to make myself go outside in the dreary, cold weather. I wonder how Russian mothers cope postpartum, in general?

I am trying to think of a similar obsession in American culture, but it's hard to think of something to compare. There are many types of gear that we are obsessed with, and things like sleep training.

Incidentally, when I was in Estonia last fall and David was just a few months old, I saw people simply PARK the stroller outside their window. The parents were inside and the babies were outside!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Signs of closure, or continuation?

In a recent post, I mentioned having gotten together with a counselor friend from one of the orphanages. Something tells me we won't be meeting 2-3 times a week anymore. Galina has really been a friend in recent years, and true friends are hard to come by. I don't mean that I am lacking in friends, just that friendships take a lot of time and hard work to develop, and those people become precious.

The orphanage Galina works at has been a major part of my ministry, and it means a lot to be able to keep up with their news.

Similarly, I had a "blast from the past" with another one of the orphanages recently. I was cooking dinner and looked out the kitchen window to see a van parked outside our apartment. As I looked closer, I saw that it had an orphanage logo emblazoned on the sides. This orphanage is the one that's located a bit outside of the city. My sisters were adopted from there. I didn't think I'd know anyone there now, but as I looked down from the seventh floor, I recognized the former director, who knew the girls and my parents and me and remembers all the same kids I've worked with there.

Sure, it's doubtful I would find the time to travel all the way out to that orphanage again regularly. Amazingly, a piece of them had come to me. After turning the stove off, I threw some shoes on, grabbed my keys, and ran outside to say hello. I chatted with Yuri for a few minutes, and then Andrei showed up with the stroller and introduced himself (at which point David came down with a case of stranger anxiety and burst into tears).

So what's the reason for these communication lines still being open? Is the Lord trying to tell me to remain open to orphanage ministry? That is the way I usually interpret it. But I also had the following thought: What if He's sending these emissaries to me as a sort of closure? What if these "see you later" hugs really mean "farewell"?

You know, I think that it would be a tragedy to live in Russia and remain complacent to the plight of orphans.      However, it's also worth noting that my mission was never just about orphans. It wasn't even just about children's ministry. I guess there are missionaries who have more specific assignments, but I've had a different experience. So bear with me as I continue the journey...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sitting around

About those blog updates...

I think they might have to wait until next year week.

My hands are a little,...ummmm.....full.

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...