Thursday, June 26, 2014


I wasn't the only one who had a birthday last week. My sister Masha gave birth to a baby girl on Monday!

We're all thankful for her safe arrival.

As I was picturing Masha as a mother, I realized that my sisters and I all have children now: Emily and I each have a boy, and Masha and Nastia each have a girl.

While we might not have always been close growing up because of age or language or adoption, we now have something new in common. There are new "battle-wounds," physical and emotional, along with the joys of motherhood. And I have been feeling this a lot in general with my fellow women. Growing up and entering the workforce or moving away or getting married created some distance, but entering motherhood provides new ground for friendship. Of course this is true with my mom and other female relatives, and friends and classmates too.

And I certainly don't want to exclude that parenthood bond with my brother and his lovely wife, and their ever-growing family! :)

As far as my single friends and those waiting to be parents, I'm always encouraged by the discussions over at Kindred Grace (formerly Young Ladies Christian Fellowship). Lots of lessons to learn and things to think about in the greater community of God's family. I like having those conversations in real life, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Birthday time is crazy time

I'm back! I didn't really plan on a blogging hiatus, but I was feeling out of sorts all last week. Birthdays are hard work! Shopping, cooking, lots of interacting... but at the same time it's always sad when it goes by unnoticed... so I'm not sure what the "perfect" birthday would look like. Just glad it's only once a year, LOL!

(I was given a few beautiful bouquets, but didn't take a picture. Imagine a photo in this spot.)

We just have one week left to get ready for our trip to the U.S. In that time we will also celebrate Andrei's birthday (on Sunday) and then David's/Vladimir's in advance (theirs are in July after we leave). Oh yeah, and there's a baby shower on Saturday for someone at church. As I type this I have all these games pulled up on my computer that I'm trying to translate for a Russian audience.

Packing itself isn't such a big deal because we're going into civilization. It takes time, though. And of course there are all the last-minute tasks like cleaning the refrigerator, etc. But at least Nina and Vladimir will be able to check on our apartment while we're gone.

It's amusing scrolling down and seeing the post about how sunny it was a few weeks ago. Last week was rainy and cold! I didn't really mind too much because it's nice to be able to use the oven without giving it a second thought. But apparently I will always find an excuse not to leave the house.

I haven't been able to count on David's naptime a lot lately for performing various tasks. Either he doesn't sleep very long, or we have something going on during that time, like guests coming. So I always have a ton to do in the evening, and stay up too late, and feel drowsy the next day. Vicious cycle...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old Wives' Tales

I was looking for games for a baby shower for a friend of mine, and I thought it might be fun to look up some old wives' tales about pregnancy and design a trivia challenge.

Myths and legends are fun, right?

Well I was looking at this site expecting it to "debunk" the myths, but instead it offered scientific explanations for why they were TRUE.

And that made me realize that it wouldn't make for a very good game in mixed company. I will share them here for anyone interested, but take a pass if pregnancy is a sensitive topic for you.

Old Wives' Tales Regarding Pregnancy: Worth Taking Note (loosely translated from this article)

Things you shouldn't do:

1) Take up handcrafting (Sewing, Knitting, Embroidery), because it will result in a birthmark on the baby's cheek.

Verdict: TRUE! The birthmark part is hard to say for sure, but this kind of activity done sitting down is bad for the baby because of poor blood flow...

2) Hang laundry

Verdict: TRUE! Not only hanging laundry, but any activity requiring you to lift your arms above your head is quite risky. It could lead to miscarriage...

3) Cross your legs

Verdict: TRUE..blah blah blah (don't feel like translating)

4) Sit in a doorway or climb through a window

Verdict: TRUE! You could catch a cold, and a doorstep is too low to the ground, and window-climbing is too strenuous (well, yeah).

Okay, as I went through these again I realized that they were replacing the more pagan explanations (borders between things are always dangerous) with a more modern twist. So they do sound rather sensible, but I still think there are too many rules. Because as we all know, women in "the family way" are to avoid stress, and scaring them away from each and every activity is not likely to have a calming effect!

I'm sure some more examples have come up in conversation, but I think the weirdest one for me personally was that I was "supposed" to have a C-section because I'm near-sighted and the exertion would rupture my retinas!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tantrum Terror

David is 23 months old! Such an...interesting...age.

Whatchu lookin at?

Okay, to start with the positive, the language development is fascinating! Just a month ago I observed that David was using more English than Russian, but recently his Russian has really been picking up. Good timing for us to take a trip to the U.S.! He definitely mingles the two languages, and sometimes he repeats the same word in both languages for emphasis.

He works really hard to find words that will express what he wants! For awhile now he has been saying "Syooda, syooda" (here, here) and points to his table or cup for us to give him something. He also says "BOY" to mean that the object is for HIM, or that HE wants some too.

And then the latest is that he figured out to say "need" in Russian, which is "NUZHNO." It is so funny to hear him asking for things (specifically SUGAR), saying that he NEEDS it. Last night he woke up and was calling for us and I heard him saying "Mama nuzhno, Mama nuzhno." Andrei went back in and settled him but then he woke up again and I couldn't deny him a little cuddle session...he'd better not forget anytime soon that he needs me!

He also tries to say "give" because he heard us saying it in Russian, but it sounds funny because he uses the wrong verb form. And in English he says "find," "do it," and "fix it."


Getting back to need...we're in the land of, not the name, the word that means "MYSELF" in Russian (it's actually more of an "ah" sound...sahm).

"Shirt OFF!"


We're definitely in tantrum territory and I'm learning firsthand what it's like to be the parent with "that child"....although it usually happens at home as we don't go out too much!

A few articles about "sharing" have been circling the Internet, and I've been thinking about that as well. But in general I would say that having your child throw a tantrum isn't as embarrassing as you might think. Yes, everyone will probably stare and possibly judge you. But when you're in "Mama Bear" mode, you don't really care. He is not hurt or scared, just a little frustrated. He needs to be distracted and/or comforted in the disappointment of not getting his way. Sometimes we use little bribes and sometimes we don't.

I guess it is harder to deal with the tantrums in the way you'd like when you're stuck in a metro car or airplane (gulp). Hence the bribes. But it still isn't the end of the world. Yes, it annoys other people and an apology might be in order, but I'm still not going to be mortified or ashamed that my child is acting his age. Doesn't he have a right to express his needs and wants?

Anyway, I know I probably sound like one of those "child-centric" parents, and I'm definitely not against training/discipline, but I still want to be my child's advocate. He can't quite do that for himself yet!

I'm Russian and I can rock florals AND tights. My mom said so.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Diastasis Recti: Failing Miserably

So I've been working on healing my diastasis recti for about a year now, and I haven't made too much progress. There's been a little physical/strengthening progress, and also a lot of gleaning information and interacting with other people in the same boat.

The last time I wrote I mentioned yo-yo-ing, which is still going on, and a lot of times I just feel huge (for a non-pregnant person) in general, with respects to how my clothes fit, etc. At least 3 people have asked me if I'm pregnant in the past few months, and that didn't do a lot for my self-esteem (let alone for our friendship, LOL). That is definitely one aspect of DR I'd like to leave behind. Ideally I would take the opportunity to raise awareness, but it's not always convenient, especially in an awkward moment.

David is mostly done nursing, and we'll see what happens to my body next. One person said that my body has gotten used to "eating for two" and therefore I'm eating too much or something, but I don't think that's true, just that my body has gotten used to hanging on to it? Another person said she immediately dropped the last 20 lbs once she weaned her child, and others said there was no correlation for them.

Anyway, the point is not to lose weight, it's to see if breastfeeding (whether it's hormones or metabolism or what) or bulk in the wrong places is interfering with the healing process, and tackling those issues might be the key to retraining the muscles.

Also, my splint is pretty much dead, which adds to discouragement, because it makes me feel like I've gotten bigger, even though the velcro can certainly up and die from frequent use, not because it's having trouble containing my body! I guess I will go out and buy another one, in my correct size. It might seem like a big expense, but compared to a tummy tuck it isn't much.

So once again I've been slacking a bit on the exercises, and I have this dilemma of whether or not to go ahead without the support of a splint. I'm feeling like I still need one, but I don't want to go completely stagnant while waiting to get a new one.

So that's the situation right now. I definitely have a a few strategies I'm thinking of, but nothing to share yet!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer in the City

(read to the end, because there are a lot of random topics covered here)

Too...much...SUN....I know I probably say that every summer when we have a heat-spell, and I wish the heat wouldn't bother me, because it surely is a blessing to see the sun after a gray spell. But it's hard to find a happy medium, because when the sun is out there is no escape...not until very late in the evening. As opposed to the very low sun in the winter, it's HIGH in the summer. You can't just wait a few hours for the sun to pass over and some shade to appear. It is directly above for many, many hours during the day. Whether you're going to the bus stop or the store, you have to be prepared.

Personally David and I stay in during this kind of weather. I feel guilty because I know Russian moms try to make sure their kids get fresh air every day. We get up and shut the windows and shades/curtains so the apartment won't heat up, and then we go through our daily routine, until we get a little relief and can let the air back in...but that might not be until like 10 pm. :/


...Also, Andrei had the flu last week, poor guy. :( Thankfully it wasn't the worst case ever, but he still just felt really yucky. In the days he tried to get rest and in the evenings he helped out with David for dinner/bedtime, which was good because evening is crazy-time around here. Especially when we don't go outside because of the weather!


Last week was also sort of a bummer in that I had some plans that didn't work out. I know I've probably mentioned it before, but trying to keep up with people here is a scheduling nightmare. Not that my friendships are reduced to schedules, but I have lots of people I've been trying to see for a year or more, maybe even since before David was born, and it just doesn't happen! On Tuesday I had tentative plans with one person and she didn't write back and then it turned out she had a dentist's appointment and wasn't free. Then I had cleared out another block of time for a certain friend another day and was trying to figure out what to do with David and so forth since Andrei was sick, and then at the last minute my friend didn't have any money for the metro???? I'm not judging anyone here, just trying to illustrate the pace of life here. Everyone is freakishly busy which makes it seem fast, but at the same time you spend months and months trying to organize a certain get-together or run a simple errand.


...and on that note, we had kept the entire month of June open to catch up on some things, and I'm finally starting to sort of come to terms with the fact that we AREN'T going to get much done. We are going to go through the same list, just slower. :) And no matter how we plan, those last few days (hopefully not hours) before our plane ride are going to be hectic, sigh.


I cried so hard in church today! First there were announcements, and then an engagement ceremony, which I got through, and then there was this testimony at the end that -BAM- left many of us sobbing. This woman got up to talk about the dental problems of her 3 yr old daughter, and I was already starting to cry because SHE was starting to cry, and anything with mothers and children makes me cry.  So as it turned out they couldn't find a doctor to see their daughter, and the child was crying all the time from pain (which I didn't know, just thought she was a particularly sensitive little girl), and they didn't have the money for treatment, and it was going to be under general anesthetic, and then they did find a doctor who did it all for free and without needing to use anesthetic and the little girl didn't cry at all! Which if you've ever been a parent needing to arrange medical care for your child, is just one of those gut-wrenching things. So it had a happy ending, but it was the WAY she told it that had us all sniffling. She was crying and laughing and we couldn't understand half of what she was saying! I could hear this woman behind me snorting, but I couldn't tell if it was from crying or if she was already laughing from the relief of knowing it was going to end well. I couldn't stop my own shoulders from shaking, and then all of a sudden it was over and we were dismissed. And technically we were supposed to be congratulating the engaged couple, but we were all trying to find some Kleenex and pretend we hadn't just been crying.


Then on the way home we got yelled at personally by the tram driver for having the baby in the stroller. He wanted us to take the baby out and carry the baby and stroller individually up the steps before reseating the baby. I understand maybe wanting to avoid a baby-in-stroller-on-stairs scenario, but the second option doesn't make sense either. Let's say you are the only adult. You take the baby out of the what? Who carries the stroller up the stairs? If you lift the baby up first, he could fall down the stairs while you're getting the stroller. Believe me, I've tried various scenarios in our apartment entrance. Anyway, David was asleep and we weren't going to disturb him. On the way out we got yelled at, too. The clear solution here is to DO AWAY WITH STAIRS!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

History in the making?

One of the things going on in Russia these days is a crackdown on smoking in public places. You can read about it here and here and here. The bill just came into effect this month.

Andrei and I were talking about whether or not it would make a difference. I'm definitely looking forward to dining out smoke-free. We always used to joke about how just a few feet (of air) separated the smoking and non-smoking sections. No walls or anything. Hello, second-hand smoke! We are definitely spoiled in this sense in the U.S.

Obviously businesses will want to follow the rules if they don't want to get strapped with a fine or worse. Today we were in the grocery store and the cigarettes were gone! That is, they were hidden from view.

But in other areas it will be harder to control. I look forward to standing at a bus stop on a chilly day and not inhaling cigarette smoke. But what do you do, perform a citizen's arrest on the person violating the new law?

Meanwhile, I would really like to get the smokers out of my building! Apartment living is like have to put up with your neighbors' vices, and I'm sure they hear David from time to time. The neighbors above us smoke. During the cold months they do it in the stairwell and it seeps into our apartment. Then it gets warm and they smoke out the window/balcony, and it comes in through our windows. The cigarette butts get tossed down to the first floor or onto our balcony. Sure, you should have the right to smoke in your own home, but it's one neighborly nuisance I could do without. I've heard conflicting reports on whether or not smoking in the stairwells is off limits now. I think it's too much to hope for. But we're taking small steps, at least!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Seeking brothers and sisters

I was contacted at one point by a woman who visits the same group of invalids with whom I am acquainted. It was great to make a connection that had the potential for future collaboration.

So we became "friends" via social networking, and started to correspond, though never meeting in person. I was encouraged to see the work she's been doing.

Except for this one tiny detail...

...She's Russian Orthodox.

And you know, she might have even been there before when we visited. I kind of might have avoided getting acquainted.

Maybe I'm going to lose a few friends for even admitting this, but I'm not very good at mixing (in a religious context) with people of other confessions (that is, non-Protestants). In 10 years of life in Russia I still kind of shy away from deep relationships with Orthodox believers. There are certain topics that we have to avoid. And I realize that some of it is tradition and not really doctrine/belief, but it just feels like it comes between us sometimes. I'm not talking about casual friendship, or even good friendships with Russians who are nominally Orthodox, but when it comes to really partnering in the it possible? And if so, how?

Today I happened to see some caustic comments written by someone who is against adoption of Russian kids by foreigners. Thank GOODNESS Americans aren't allowed to do it right now, they added. My heart didn't respond very graciously and my fingers might have typed a few spirited comments of my own.

I was reminded that, to the rest of the world, we Americans don't do a very good job of minding our own business. And missionaries may or may not be the worst of the lot...we just don't give up, do we?

Unfortunately, politics do play a role in these issues. And I realize it partly bothers me because I am letting it. Perhaps I am too quick to take offense.

But this woman, the church worker...I saw what she wrote on her own page. Help the kittens, Help the invalids,...Laugh at America. And my heart seized up and I felt like a hypocrite writing to her cheerfully about field trips and birthday presents and massage therapy.

I went to bed last night pondering this problem. And when I was traveling home from church today, I saw her through the window of the metro car before the doors even opened. I knew this church worker instantly from her profile picture. In a city of 5 million, God sent her to my metro car to meet in person. It was unplanned, you fact, I think I scared her half to death as I darted from my seat and blurted out her name. "It's Elizabeth," I said. "We've been corresponding..."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Missionary aims

This evening while brushing my teeth and analyzing the world's political conflicts, I found myself wondering...are there missionaries who enter a country where they LIKE the political climate? Does anyone think to him/herself, "This country is so beautiful, and peaceful, and the culture is ideal, and its people are wonderful too, except for the fact that they don't know Jesus, so I'll go serve there"? Isn't there always something we want to fix?

And a follow-up question to that: is it WRONG to want to fix something? Missions and social justice often go hand-in-hand, and Christ certainly calls our attention to the needy. And when we see social problems, we want to fix them, but we also want to find someone to blame. So we blame the regime. Isn't that how it goes?

I can't decide if that is a fallacy or not, to blame suffering on the government. Does it matter where the corruption lies, as long as it is there, in hearts?

Sometimes it seems like life won't get better without a revolution. But I want to teach a different message. I want to spread the hope of living well; of finding joy even when your wait for certain change goes on and on.

Doesn't waiting for change hold us back sometimes? How do we fight that? How do we help others fight it?

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...