Thursday, February 28, 2013

On this Day in (the) History of David

Lots of changes these days. David has gone "mobile"...on his stomach for now, but able to move around to all parts of a room and even open/close drawers that are in his reach. He also seems to be experiencing a combination of teething and separation anxiety, which calls for some extra cuddling.

The only "acceptable" nap set-up

Some special characteristics of this time period:

1) Naptime: only in someone's arms??? Yep, just when I thought we had avoided any potentially hard-to-break habits, David is suddenly very particular about where he sleeps. The moment he is lowered to the mattress, he is wide awake. In the evening he eventually gets tired enough to stay asleep, but during the day it's often 30 minutes or less. I've had to rethink the way I do things. Instead of trying to do everything during naptime, I take those little 5-10 minute spurts when he's fed/cheerful, and wash a dish or two. I don't dare take a shower during naptime lest he wake up in my absence...so I bring him into the bathroom with me in the carseat (which he's wiggling out of).

2) Parallel labor: David now has his own container station where he can "work" while I'm trying to do something in the kitchen. I also sometimes just plop myself down on the floor and peel potatoes or whatever down at his level, so he can watch for a few minutes...and then I have to escape before he starts grabbing! David also works hard at knocking things down. As soon as the tower is up, he's scooting across the room to fell it with one swipe of the fist.

3) Learning "no": Babies and power cords....need I say more?

4) Things that I hear myself saying: (and then make myself laugh as I realize I'm saying them to a wiggly 7-month old...but we have to keep up with the English exposure, after all)

-"That's Mommy's face. We don't eat Mommy's face."

-"How about going back to your toys?"

-"Can you play quietly for a minute?"

-"Can you stay on your back, please?"

-"Are you supposed to be over there?"


Sunday, February 24, 2013

That's IT???

I never thought I would see this prayer answered.

Whenever I visited the Immigration Office, I would timidly ask the Lord that something would change. I knew I couldn't wish away the other foreigners, or expect the building to be renovated. I used to wish so much for an advocate, for someone to look at the conditions and try to make them better.

On Monday I went in to try to apply for permanent residency.

Here's how it works:

-Apply for temporary residency (I did this in 2010)
-Wait 6 months
-Claim temporary residency
-Wait 1 year
-Pass inspection, become eligible for permanent residency
-You now have 1 1/2 years to apply for permanent residency or go back to the beginning

Here's how my 1 1/2 years went: 2012 sped by because of pregnancy/the birth of David/the Estonia episode/etc.

In December, I was at the 3-month mark and got everything ready to apply for permanent residency. 3 months was enough to fix potential problems right?

Well, I knew there there was a pretty tough road ahead of us as far as making it to the front of the line. There could be 50 people on The List and only 4 or 5 people would get in that day.

And then, there was news: an appointment system had been employed. This is something I'd dreamed of! A time to go that was MY time; no more guarding The List and crowding the door.


But....the fights were not over. It took Nina 2 or 3 tries (getting there early in the morning and standing in line for several hours) to actually get into the room in order to make an appointment. And even back in December, the earliest appointment wasn't until February. Uh oh!

I had gathered all my documents just in case, so there they sat gathering dust, until February 18th when I had my appointment.

Oh, how I didn't want to go into that room. Nina was home with David, Vladimir was on guard in the waiting room just in case they called me earlier, and Andrei was on his way from work to join us.

Andrei and I went into the room together...

"Let's see your application."

"Passport."

"Proof of income."

I had to really dig for each item as I had piles and piles of potentially-needed papers, BUT they were all there.

She yelled about all the mistakes in my application (I had modeled my answers on my successful temporary residency application, but apparently each inspector has his/her own preferences).

Besides all those mistakes, we didn't have Andrei's actual passport with us. I wasn't married the last time I applied, so there had been significantly fewer documents to keep track of.

Now came the clincher...could I fix the mistakes and still apply, or would it take another 2 months to get an appointment, causing me to miss my deadline?

She saw that I had until mid-March, and then saw that my medical forms were running out in the beginning of March, so she signed me up for Feb. 28th. Hallelujah!

I can't believe I might actually get permanent residency without any drama.




Friday, February 15, 2013

My Teacher Sleeps in School

As a shy child, I often found it very awkward to see teachers outside of school! In the grocery store, downtown, etc. Even in the hallway! I remember a teacher in elementary school bringing me my Valentines and a stack of library books when I got sick. So thoughtful! But my TEACHER at my HOUSE? Worlds collide!

Did you ever find it hard to imagine that your teachers had real lives? Families and pets, dishes to wash and laundry to fold? Wasn't it hard to picture them in normal clothes? There is a cute picture book by Leatie Weiss that covers this topic very well; I definitely recommend it. :)

In college, the lines were more blurred and we could be friendlier with professors, even visiting their houses and meeting their families. The issue was temporarily forgotten...

But whenever I think about Russian bureaucracy I find myself wondering about the lives of the inspectors. I have friends who have worked at McDonald's, in the local grocery store, etc....but who are these government people sitting behind their desks? While sitting in that Room, I want to dig out photos of my family and explain about my parents in the U.S. and my adorable husband and baby here. Isn't there something that can be done? I have a little baby at home. My name has changed because I fell in Love and got Married. And even before that...I fell in Love with Russia. Is there anything at all that we have in common?

As I walk down my street, I wonder what it would be like to run into one of them. Do they take public transportation? Do they have enough money to buy their own apartment? Do they spend all day deciding other people's fates and then go home to cook dinner? Do they laugh and cry like other humans? And what I'd really like to know is what we would say to each other if we had met in other circumstances. If we could even be friends. But I don't expect it and it isn't even a goal. Just one of those mysteries of life.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Brainstorming for Lent

Just musing on some ideas for observing Lent...

We still have the Jesse Tree up and it makes a nice decoration, but we can't very well leave it up all year! A new season is beginning....

Lent has a different feeling to it than Advent. Advent always feels joyful even in its moments of poignancy and expectancy. But can we really wait for the Resurrection with the same cheerfulness, though it ultimately becomes a victory celebration?

I'm not sure how to react to some of the ideas I've found. A "Crown of Thorns" maze for Sunday school? Crucifixion coloring sheets? I do think there are many meaningful ways to observe Lent with children, and they don't necessarily have to be somber.

But it's somewhat unsettling how many of these activities are described as "cute." And I realize as I'm writing that I've been avoiding the words "decorate" and "celebrate."

I like the idea of doing something like a Jesse Tree that will focus on one aspect of Easter, each day. Maybe just keep our Jesse Tree and use different ornaments. I know that Catholics use "Stations of the Cross" or the "Spiritual Way of the Cross" as one tradition.

Another tradition I saw was the act of covering up decorations with draped fabric until after the Resurrection. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It seems too "TA-DA!".

It's late, and I forget what else I was going to write. But I would be interested in suggestions!

P.S. Lent here doesn't start until March 18th, so I have some time.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Responding


Okay, let's talk about the orphans.

I was just looking at this article. I think it does a good job of summing up some common misconceptions. I would agree, based on conversations, that Russians often don't understand the motives of Americans when it comes to adoption. And I'm in an interesting position when it comes to this topic. I live in a country whose children are being taken and raised in the country I grew up in. Imagine that you work in an orphanage and the children are adopted by foreigners from a country that supposedly has really good living conditions, but you've never been there yourself. Once the children are adopted, you never hear from them again. What would you think?

But then I did something I regret. In looking for some information to prove Americans right (not sure why), I came across a forum where Russians were discussing why Americans adopt Russian kids, or foreigners in general. Yep, there were some pretty crazy theories about hidden motives and such....for example, none of the adopted kids are actually disabled, that's just invented to give American adoption agencies good P.R.

You know, understanding the local language has its drawbacks. Sometimes it's actually better to be out of the loop. Sometimes I don't want to know what Russians are ACTUALLY thinking. Yes, confrontation can be good and it's helpful to "clear the air" amongst friends. But it's hard to hear what people say about my country. I guess maybe I'm not used to having enemies...or rivals, or whatever you want to call it.

I think the bigger lesson here (aside from learning to be disliked) is to not dig for information, especially when seeking it in order to defend oneself. I'm left with unpleasant feelings after going and finding those articles. I could have just left it alone.

I've heard some gossip lately that had the same effect. Did I really need to know why those friends were arguing and what so-and-so said about the new worship song? I shouldn't have taken in that kind of information.


God gives us enough information to live godly lives. If we can manage to mind our own business, we are off to a good start. And minding our own business doesn't include looking for arguments or adding embellishment that will make us LOOK better. God will take care of what it looks like in other people's eyes.


"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life..." -from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (but actually, verses 1-12 are worth reading and pondering as a whole)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Advocacy à la D.Bonhoeffer

"Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For a while now I've been slowly reading through the Eric Metaxas biography* of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I recently saw someone mention having devoured it very quickly, which I suppose I might have done if it were a work of fiction. But there is much food for thought here.

I began to wonder if his kind of advocacy has a present-day equivalent. That is, I wonder if his approach would be applicable today.
As far as he was concerned, to dare to sing to God when his chosen people were being beaten and murdered meant that one must also speak out against their suffering. If one was unwilling to do this, God was not interested in one's worship. (Metaxas, pp.280-281)
I guess I have two questions here. The first is whom we would name as the "chosen people" today. Would we still point to the Jews, or could the Persecuted Church or even the orphans fall into this category?

My second question regards our involvement. Does God really not want us to worship if we're not involved in advocacy? Is advocacy an all-or-nothing principle, or is it something I can practice on occasion?

In other words, if one of God's precious ones is suffering, do I have the right to keep on living my daily life? Bonhoeffer was right in the middle of all that was going on, but maybe he could have avoided that. Should I intentionally throw myself into these kinds of controversies, or at the least, avoid running away from them? Or is this activism reserved for someone with a specific calling?

And who should be my audience? The Church? Society? The U.S. Government? The Russian Government?

Those are my thoughts about one little quote, so you can see how it's taking me a while to get through 500+ pages. :)

*Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20).  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.