Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I'll have that tea for you in just a second....yikes!

"Hold still so Mommy can get a photo for her blog!"

A Russian bus ride

We rode out to Andrei's parents' neighborhood today to look at a piece of furniture...come to find out, they were closed for inventory, oh well! :(

So Andrei and Vladimir and I got on the bus to go back to our place. It was the same route as coming but this bus was in worse shape; seat covers all ripped up and metal flooring exposed and rusting and you could feel every bump as we rode along.

We boarded the bus in the front and then shuffled to the back where there were seats. It was a true balancing act, like walking down a plane aisle during turbulence.

On our way to the back of the bus, we passed a man who was clearly not doing well. His face was pallid and a woman was patting him with a handkerchief. We asked if they needed help and it sounded like he was having heart trouble. On we bumped. One person offered some pills, but he'd already taken something.

We sat there praying silently and I wondered why the day was going so strangely and what the missing piece would turn out to be, and at that moment I looked over and saw a sticker on the window that had dried and cracked into hundreds of pieces in the sun.

We turned the corner and pulled over and a man (the driver, it turned out) came over to the ailing gentleman, and spoke in an accent, and gave him some water to drink. Then we rode on.

Why do people have to live in these conditions? Why does a sick person have to ride a bumpy bus?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The next thing that happened after a few stops was that a worker of some sort got on, wielding a huge panel of wire mesh glass that he held with gloves. He rode, standing up on the bumpy bus, with this piece of glass.

Eventually we got off at our stop, after making sure the sick man would be attended to.

And went home and had ice cream. That's it, no more surprises...turned out to be a regular day after all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Coming Up

-We're planning on attending a church retreat this weekend. Just mentioning it now in case I forget to later! Also, Andrei isn't teaching any of the lessons. Why is this significant, you may ask? Well, I may get to attend some of the sessions in person. :) Usually I am chasing David around. He is still kind of little to just drop off with the Sunday school group, in an unfamiliar place with things like staircases.

Sometimes I feel resentful of other mothers of littles at church who are pretty involved. But I realized recently...those women aren't married to a (highly gifted, best ever) preaching elder...DUH! When I think of other mothers whose husbands are preaching or on the worship team...well, yeah, they're with their kids, of course they aren't running around organizing potluck dinners or whatever. That makes sense. Thankfully though, David's grandparents are always willing to take him off our hands. :)

-For the next two months we have an "open" schedule. Sweet! Well, except for the miles-long to-do list including bureaucracy and dentists and all that. But hopefully some good chances for catching up with friends will abound.

-After that...the land of the free! Ha ha, that was the first thing that popped into my head. No idea what the political situation will be like in a few months, but we're planning a trip to the U.S., as usual.

P.S. Okay, I have to partially take back the "potluck dinner" comment above. I guess it isn't the best example because a potluck dinner does in fact allow for busy moms and other people to put forth minimal effort in order to join in a nice fellowship event. I don't always even have time to prepare that one dish. The last time, I left the (unprepared) salad ingredients at home and bought something at the store instead on my way to the tram stop . Meanwhile, we did host a get-together recently, but we didn't do any of the planning or cooking. All I did was wash the floors (and Andrei vacuumed) and the other families brought a simple meal. Point being, no over-achieving necessary!

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I've been feeling really tired/cranky lately, and I hesitate to even write about it on here! Not exactly breaking news. But we DID make it through the busiest two weeks of the semester, so I guess we just need to have a little patience with ourselves and each other as we recover.

We moved David's bedtime a little later in the hopes that he wouldn't wake up quite so early. It works sometimes. The only problem is that now there's one hour less in the evening for doing whatever we need to do. So a little less morning grogginess and one less hour of productivity in the evening. Sometimes I think about doing the opposite and going to bed at the same time as him but waking up earlier to "get stuff done." But then he would probably hear me moving around and wake up!

Anyway, this was kind of a post about nothing...just to say that we're alive and well. The miracle of the Resurrection was just this past Sunday, and we don't take that for granted. We just need a little reminding sometimes...

"When am I going to get my own blog?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Diastasis recti- "bumps" in the road

I feel that I've reached somewhat of a plateau in my healing from diastasis recti. There is definitely a difference from when I first started working on it, but I haven't seen significant improvement in a while. I can't say that I've kept up well with the exercises, though. I think it's just going to take a lot of hard work to keep seeing improvement.

Here are a few factors and strategies I've been pondering:

Diet/Weight Control

I hesitate to make a complete assessment of my stomach situation while still breastfeeding, as I've still got some "extra love" that my body may need in order to make up for losing all those calories. I know I could be eating healthier, but I am trying not to be too hard on myself during this season. I'm looking forward to summer when fresh produce will be more readily available and I'll be more tempted to eat fruits and veggies.

Physical Therapy

This is a hard one because it needs to be someone who has experience in treating diastasis recti, but it still might be worth it to be evaluated in person as opposed to over the Internet. I know that the way I carry myself plays a large role in pain management. Speaking of which...

Chronic Pain Issues

About a month or so ago I had a lower back episode, and I've had to limit myself since then. It has slowly gotten better but I'm staying away from things like vacuuming. When I go out with David I don't attempt the stairs with him in the stroller. It seems like that is what threw out my back this time, but trying really hard to clench my stomach muscles probably doesn't help either. Anyway, it feels like anytime something like that happens, I feel like I need to just stop and take it easy and only do very gentle movements. Having a normal-looking stomach isn't the number one priority. I have some stretching movements that I do in addition to the strengthening ones, and I try to really shake everything out and "reset" my posture a lot.

More Intense Exercise

It feels kind of funny to write this after the above section, but I've been considering either signing up for a more intense rehab program or just writing out my own exercise schedule for a certain time period and trying to stick to it more faithfully. It's something I want to plan for and take on, maybe in the next 6 months. I know I could just jump in and start tomorrow and maybe have results by summer, but I would rather think about it a little more.

As I've mentioned, I'm trying to be really forgiving towards my body and take my time while I'm still breastfeeding and getting used to other aspects of motherhood. Managing pain and learning how to use muscles correctly are priorities too, while self-confidence doesn't necessarily need to be excluded. Results come and go because of the seasons we have: sickness and health; differing schedules from week-to-week, changing weather patterns; more and less discipline; high and low energy. Life is full of interruptions, so healing happens that way too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Communal Easter

Christ is Risen!

Folares: see my food
blog for the recipe...
Our church did something different this year and joined with another church to celebrate the Resurrection. I thought it was a strange idea at first. I'm still not really sure why it was decided to do things this way; I guess an attempt to unite in friendship and love for a special holiday.

Our two congregations are VERY similar. Almost like twins. The only difference is that they got first dibs on the bigger auditorium. Heh. Heh. So it was nice to be in a real auditorium this once instead of a teeny classroom. The funny thing is that they meet one hour before us on Sundays (and leave while we're still in session), so we don't tend to bump into each other even though our rented meeting rooms are in the same compound.

(Photo credit: Daniel Chersunov) I bet you can't find me! It's only a partial view...try looking for Andrei first. ;)

It's nice that our churches are similar because I didn't really feel like everything was shockingly different. A few of our members helped with worship and our pastor gave a mini-sermon and our Sunday school teachers taught all the kids together. The other worship and leading and preaching were done by our hosts. Oh, and I almost forgot the performance that their kids put on: Resurrection verse recitations. So ridiculously adorable.

Even though I like to observe meaningful holidays with people I'm close to, it's also nice to be in a big, excited group to celebrate something joyful. The more people that I meet who share my sentiments on such a day, the more it lifts my spirits.

(intermission here; big Easter lunch/dinner with Nina and Vladimir)

ALL the animals must EAT! 

Evening thoughts after celebrating the Resurrection

It always kind of confuses me when I see people going about their regular life on Easter Sunday. Not that I expect everyone to celebrate Easter, but in the culture I grew up in it was a family day even for non-religious people. Most people I knew at least did the whole Easter basket thing, church or not. In Russian Orthodox Christianity though there is a night vigil and then early morning service, so maybe that is the culmination and people go home and wind down after that.

I saw a lot of people going grocery shopping and walking their dogs and whatnot. And I wanted to ask them if they knew what day it was!

Then again, it's almost midnight and I'm catching up on dishes and laundry myself. (how dare you change out of your Easter outfit already, Elizabeth!) Life must go on, and our faith is merely the driving force, not an event that happens periodically. Still, I'm glad we have holidays that make us stop and contemplate.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Having People Over

Here is a little bit about a gathering that we had-wow, a week ago already.

Andrei and I had some of his "former students" (from the SPB Christian University) over for dinner and fellowship. I always find it funny when he calls them that because most of them attend our church and are friends of ours. Many of them were even in our small group at one point; not so much anymore.

Andrei gets the discussion going

Admittedly they're not really plain old "friends" though either, because they have that comradery of a group who has been through stuff together; shared classes and dorm chats and life-changing decisions. It's fun to see that kind of closeness.

Talking and toys
After eating, we migrated to the living room where the discussions could continue while the two toddlers played. You might still call some of those present young adults, but I felt a difference even from just a few years ago.

There was kind of a heaviness-not in a depressed way, just demonstrating new levels of challenge and burden. Marriage for some; work, missionary work, teaching, a baby, housing conflicts.We talked about questions that relate more to being leaders in the church, not just members. How do you prepare a Sunday school lessons for the kids who've heard it all? How do you prepare a sermon for ADULTS who've heard it all?

It would be fun to form another small group and meet regularly! As it was though two people were skipping worship rehearsal to be there...oops! ;) And another two people needed to be put to bed pronto.

Bonus photo with my little munchkin....(who is very good at "sharing" toys, by the way...although I think he is just too young to really understand what's going on)

"'s a toy cabinet that hasn't been emptied out yet..."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

She's a little older...

Walked into the living room while friends were visiting to find this cute scene!

This week

Sort of in survival mode here. I caught a cold over the weekend as we were heading into Andrei's most intense 2 weeks of the semester. Oops! We need to keep HIM healthy, too! I think I would rather be sick than have David and/or Andrei be sick.

So I've been laying low, but I guess if I feel like blogging I must be on the rebound.

Last week we had a stream of guests every other day, and today we would have too if I hadn't cancelled. But what seemed like a recipe for a nervous breakdown (in terms of lots of entertaining) didn't turn out too badly. Apparently keeping one's home clean is EASIER when you have more guests. I wonder why that is? More discipline? Less time to mess it up? Kind of reminds me of Fly Lady and working towards always being ready for company. Lately (when the sniffles don't get me down) I have been operating on the principle of "DO IT NOW." In general I do triage with housework and that means that a lot of seemingly insignificant tasks pile up because I don't see them as being worth my time. I'm still bad about the dishes, but returning things to their places or putting things in the trash right away does reduce the work later on.

I also feel calmer when other people do the cooking, or at least contribute. I'd love to be able to do it all myself, but then I turn into a monster. On one of the occasions I opted to make a salad and have storebought dessert. My tastebuds may have missed out, but the stress of trying to pull a dessert together in addition to everything else would have had consequences, not to mention I would have neglected David.

Meanwhile, it's Lent...but we're not fasting. Andrei and I "joked" (though not to make light of the Resurrection) that fasting would actually be pretty practical during Holy Week due to the vigor of the scheduling. He doesn't have time to eat breakfast before work, and by the time he's home from church in the evening we don't get to eat dinner until around 11pm. And then it's time to prepare for the next day's lectures/sermons/etc. And of course I think of the Passover too and the unleavened bread and the traveling clothes...readiness.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stroller naps

Night and day! That's what the difference feels like between whether David has taken a nap or not.

Disclaimer: Andrei and I are not obsessed with David's sleep schedule. :)

BUT...before becoming a parent, I always thought it was kind of weird how parents would talk about this magic combination they had found for their child to sleep (or eat or use the potty, etc.). Place him in X position and turn on X song for him to fall asleep. Place a spoon in each hand and turn on The Little Mermaid for her to eat her oatmeal. Ridiculous, right?


It gets me 2 hrs of free time, okay?

Whereas I had previously thought that parents using all these funny methods were trying TOO hard, I now realize that it's the opposite. Employing methods that "work for now" actually feels a lot more laidback. Yes, you might have some weaning to do later, but it will get you through this season.

We are really privileged to have this indoor porch area (pictured above) in our apartment off one of the rooms. It's in very good condition, though not quite warm/cozy enough to be a hang-out place...more of a space to be used for storage or messy projects.

Russians are big on fresh air (though not drafts) for sleeping, and if you can't get outside, an alternative is to use one of these porches...if you have a closed-in, one of course. There are others that are more of a balcony-type and used more typically for smoking growing flowers in window boxes. In fact, that's how the pigeon got in that time.

If the baby is small enough and you have a closed-in porch, you get him all dressed, pack him into a bag/basket/cradle, and toss him out there  for a nice peaceful slumber with some fresh air.
Still asleep!

Getting David ready for his porch stroller nap is almost like going on a walk except that there's only one person to get dressed. All the additional wrappings I need are a sweater and slippers! We also put the monitor out there in case we're not going to be in earshot. He is usually asleep within 15-20 minutes of "strolling." Of course, he is also in a "sleeping with specific animals" phase, so that adds a few minutes. But it's still easier than rocking/ bouncing in our arms!

When David gets a good stroller nap, I feel like I can finally relate to some of those other moms who actually get stuff done. I can start to believe that it isn't a conspiracy. There have been projects I've put off for years months only to finish them in one naptime. Sometimes I even finish them in one hour and then I have another hour to do something else. Wow! Sometimes I can do dinner prep or get all the dishes to be clean AT THE SAME TIME. Sometimes I do an exercise workout AND take a shower, all without being interrupted.

Other times, I lie down and take a nap. That's gotta count for something, too. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mixing Bowls

The new game we play allllll day long! And then we use them as "chairs"...

Sigh of relief

I had to go to Immigration today.

Here's why:

-Last September, I got approved for permanent residency in District #1 (I'm calling it that for simplicity's sake)
-I "claimed" the permit and got registered in District #2 at my actual home address
-The inspector in District #2 promised that they would forward my info regarding my address change
-A few months later, I learned that my former hosts in District #2 were still being charged per month for my "living" there
-After trying a few different routes, I was told that the missing link was the office at District #1 which had received the information from District #2 but failed to communicate with the housing authorities

I was told to go straight to the Boss at District #1, which sounds intimidating, but is actually easier in terms of the lines. The only problem (along with not really wanting to go) is that he only has visiting hours once a week, so it took a few months to get around to it. The visiting hours are on Tuesdays and Andrei often works on Mondays after church/lecture prep. on Sundays, so Tuesdays we kind of crash. Well, okay, we also just plain procrastinated.

So today I went over about an hour early. Andrei had to stay home with D. as we didn't have a babysitter and no one in their right mind would enter the District #1 office with a baby. It's so cramped and stuffy in there and people mutter obscenities if you bring a baby, as if you're offering a bribe.

It's always a challenge to find the magic time to arrive, because you could either arrive way early and be at the beginning of the list, or arrive later and spend your time waiting in line instead. When I got there, a few people from the morning line remained.

The morning hours, however, pertained to the matter of citizenship and were attended by a different officer. I got there at 1 pm and the morning hours had ended at 12, but I guess a few people were hoping that the officer just might take one more person. We could hear the shuffling of papers indicating that someone was in the room (the employees have a back entrance). At one point the door opened, the officer saw that there were people outside, and then quickly slammed the door and locked it. I had to giggle at the utter brusqueness of the message: KEEP OUT.

At the next door down, people were keeping track of the Lists, with the usual amount of discussion indicating that the rules were just as confusing as ever. There were already 30 people on the list for the 6-hour window.

The information boards displayed sample forms that had been filled out. A few of them looked new and featured "Angela Merkel" as a residency holder. Someone was taking their job seriously. ;)

One young man in the registration line mentioned that he'd like to get citizenship, but he'd just spent 2 years in the army in Armenia, and upon receiving a Russian passport he feared he would be drafted into the Russian army for a year's service as well. "Three years of my life," he said, choking up. Someone joked that the police station was next door and he could go sign up and get it over with. "But I wanted to go to grad school and everything," he said, wiping tears off his face. There are reasons David is not a Russian citizen.

My door opened abruptly and an officer stuck her head out. "What, you think we're still taking people?" she barked. "Time's up!" she said, indicating the schedule on the door. The morning hopefuls left and I was now alone in my vigil. Meanwhile, more and more people from the List next door were straggling in to check their status. Apparently an original List had gone missing and the current List's legitimacy was under question. I hoped the Boss would take me and not make me go get in the Line next door!

It got to be 2 pm and I was first, with 2 people after me. I hadn't moved from my spot, although I was desperate to use the restroom. My stomach was doing flip-flops and I was trying to practice arguing in my head. We could hear that there was already someone in The Room. Meanwhile, there was a draft and it kept making the door rattle, as if someone was knocking from the other side.

When I told one of the other women that the visiting hours wouldn't necessarily start on time, she started getting impatient. Then she hinted that we should maybe make our presence known. I admitted that I was too timid to knock on the door myself, so she went ahead and did it. At that moment the Boss "decided" he was ready to grant the Lowly Citizens an audience. I entered the room, sat down, and tried to explain my situation (which is actually pretty common). He gave me this look that indicated that I was stupid and/or wasting his time. Then rolled his eyes, took my passport/residency card, and left the room. Sweet. He came back down with my documents and a photocopy for himself, wrote me down in a book, and promised to see to it.

It is all so very silly, and I shake my head thinking about how this administrative "glitch" must be solved by going to the boss. In fact, I would roll my eyes too if I were he. But that's the way the red tape goes...if you want something done, you have to go higher up.

I feel at peace now, knowing that I did what was in my power to do. I regret not being able to be peaceful about it every step of the way, but I believe that God uses my vulnerability somehow...if nothing else, to knock down any pride that I have as an American.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

21 months (speaking)

David's vocabulary is increasing exponentially and I started to keep a list but have gotten tired of writing it all down! Of course some of the word use he initiates himself, and other words are ones he repeats after us or when prompted. It's exciting when he uses a word we didn't know he knew.

In general David's spoken vocabulary is heavier on the English, but I would say that he comprehends both languages equally well.

Sometimes he shows evidence of being able to differentiate. For example, I will ask where "Daddy" is, and he points to Andrei and says "Papa." Same with "Mommy" and "Mama." If Andrei asks him in Russian where "x" is, he points to the object and names it in English.

One of the more humorous habits he currently has is that he calls all women (and some men) "Mama" and random men "Papa." And this evening he was pointing to triangles on the wallpaper and calling them "Mama" and "Papa." Ummm.....

Word List for anyone interested:

"Oh no"

"No/Yeah" (shakes head no but doesn't nod yes yet)

"All done"

"Mo" (more)

"Muck" (milk)



"Clock" (pronounced without the 'l')

"Tuck" (truck)


"Book" :)


"Sees" (sit/chair/anything to do with sitting?)

"Mama," "Papa," "Ma-pa," "Pa-ma"

"Tam!" (Russian for "there," used to answer any inquiries as to where something is or what happened to it or used to give directions)

"Spsssps" (Spasibo,=thank you)/ "Takoo" (thank you)


Various articles of clothing, various body parts

Compared to 2 months ago that's quite a change. But it's kind of sad that he's already losing some of those cute sound effects!

Monday, April 7, 2014

You Were Always His

I have a confession: I tend to tune out when sermons refer to life Before and After coming to Christ: "Remember when you used to do ____ on Friday nights and now you attend church meetings?" Umm, not really. I guess I have two problems with this illustration. 1) I didn't have a radical "before" lifestyle, as I became a Christian as a child. 2) Non-Christians don't necessarily have a "wild" lifestyle. I have friends of other faiths with whom I can enjoy good, clean entertainment.

To expand on the first point, a further argument is given that we have a "false" conversion experience by repeating the "sinner's prayer," and true repentance may come at another time. This is said especially in reference to children, or others, who...may be taken advantage of, I guess? Pressured into responding to an altar call? Well, that wasn't me, either. I accepted the Gospel as truth, and I'm sure I must have prayed in my heart something like the Sinner's Prayer. It wasn't the prayer that saved me, because I wouldn't have been able to even utter the words if I hadn't already believed. But that moment certainly becomes fixed as the moment of conscious repentance.

Things I DO affirm:

-a changed lifestyle is a testimony to one's faith and to God's goodness
-while being saved, we are being refined, and undergo "mini-conversions" along the path...that is, new sin issues may come up and we may surrender them and be changed (hence experiencing a Before and After)

Meanwhile, I tried to search for MY story in the Bible. I'm not a Nicodemus, nor a Matthew, nor a Woman at the Well. The image that came to me was that of the Lost Sheep, something I've been thinking a lot about lately. The thing is that I was His from the beginning. I belonged to His flock. Maybe I was lost at one time, maybe even now I wander. But He chose to find me and call me.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Housebound: Nightmare or Dream Come True?

Because of a sniffling baby, I wasn't able to attend church last week and put my recent musings into practice.
The best form of entertainment!

There was a seminar that weekend too that we didn't go to. I'm not sure if we've been to anything like that (besides the church retreat) since becoming parents. We could manage it if the grandparents babysat. But I guess we just like to nest. The "reward" of being present at an event doesn't quite match up to the effort used to get there. Sad, I know.

I'm speaking for us as a family unit, though. Andrei does go to events, often where he is the speaker, and he works hard to prepare for those. Of course all that effort is not in vain! And we do soak as much as we can out of the fellowship we do have.

There are times when I wish we had a car. David and I could go somewhere without Andrei. I'd pop David in his carseat and off we'd go. We could give other people rides, too. It's pretty hard to picture Andrei or myself behind the wheel of a car, though. We'll see-the first step is getting a license.

On the other hand, staying in has plenty of merits. Aside from the calm, cozy, and safe atmosphere, there are economic benefits: less money spent on going out and making purchases; less transportation energy consumed. Fewer germs to catch. It also breeds a sort of discipline when it comes to planning trips out of the house. If shopping is to be done once a week, then it must be planned for and the groceries planned to last for that time period. If we're to be in a certain neighborhood on a certain day, we must see if there's anything to be done in that general vicinity. If I want Andrei's help to go up or down the stairs with David, then I must determine in advance when he will be available. And big city life usually involves grocery shopping on the way home from somewhere; no separate trips. It used to annoy me to always have that "chore" after a long day out, but I'm used to it now, and Andrei at least is very gracious about stopping at the store for an item or two.

Anyway. I can look back on those seasons: the student days of running around like crazy, and the single missionary days of spending 3-4 hours in public transportation, traveling all over St. Petersburg each day. And I sure am glad to have a "break."

I was going to end the post there, but I didn't want to conclude without mentioning something about friendship. It's good to have friends of all ages and walks of life. Sure, parents of littles have a lot in common, but unfortunately being housebound is one of those shared traits! Hospitality works in hearts in more ways than one; a "mobile" friend who is willing to travel is just as much of a blessing as those who do the hosting.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The things I find when I'm cleaning!

I was taking a few things out to storage when I decided to take a closer look at this box from our electric kettle:

Made me chuckle. :)

I'm still fascinated sometimes by how my native language is used as a marketing tool and not necessarily as a means of communication. English! Mark of quality, right? Kind of funny since it has the opposite effect on me; I see the weird grammar and think "low-budget."

Makes me wonder how the American companies do at translating their instruction manuals into various languages.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Well, this is a different kind of post. I was doing some "spring cleaning" and was reminded of my OWL collection! Back when I was a teenager, I was "Owl" in my group of friends, and then people started giving me owl-themed gifts, and it's led to an interesting group of keepsakes so far.

Maybe someday I'll have a little display wall or something. Right now they are scattered in different rooms and some are in a box waiting to be used in a project.

Here are just a few that were close at hand:

A pair of earrings that I bought recently but haven't worn. They're actually really tiny!

A brooch from Andrei. :)

Also a gift from Andrei; a decal that you can stick somewhere.

An adorable tea towel from my grandmother!

A pair of socks I'm about to get rid of. Kind of gross, I know. But I had to photograph them for posterity! I was actually wearing these socks  (with sandals) to an OB visit before David was born, and the OB commented on them. Then he was the one to deliver David. Not my favorite doctor, but David and I both lived to tell about it.

A handsewn blank book from my mom, with an owl newspaper photo.

David has been into owls lately, too. We have a few finger puppets that he likes to play with, and he recognizes them now in books.

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...