Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Shopping with a 2 yr old

Why did I wait until Dec. 23rd to go shopping, you may ask? Well, I'm not a very big shopper in general, but with David it is an all-day chore, and that gets tiresome. Last week's shopping forays were focused on a wedding that took place Saturday. So that brings us to this week...

...We set out about an hour before naptime and I figured David would have a snack and take in some sights before falling asleep in his stroller so I could concentrate. He started out on foot, but after just a few minutes he did his new thing where he is 'cared of footprints in the snow, and doesn't want his feet to touch the ground. So into the stroller he went.

Of course a few minutes after I had gotten him all settled in the stroller, we got to the bank which was located at the top of a staircase. My card doesn't always work in stores, so going without cash was too risky. I had to do the whole stair-stroller thing in order to use the ATM. So far, so good.

As we were walking toward the shopping mall, I was noticing the sun breaking through and how it was one of our prettier days in a while. I almost wished we could have just gone for a walk instead. And I probably would have rethought my decision, had I known what was going to happen!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Which traditions do you choose?

Just realized that this is going to be another ex-pat post! I guess there's nothing like the holidays to prompt some cultural analysis.

Bulletin Board Christmas re-do

It's harder to pass on traditions when it isn't reinforced by the world around you when you walk out the door of your house! I am genuinely happy for my new parent (or aunt/uncle) friends who are able to take the kiddies to pumpkin patches, dress them in turkey onesies, and sit them on Santa's knee...followed by a spring photo shoot in pastels for Easter! These are very positive, fun traditions. But since they are mostly driven by culture and a nostalgia for one's childhood, they can quickly go from inspiring to irrelevant once you live abroad or don't celebrate with your siblings anymore.

I know I have often written on my blog about making new traditions. Maybe I even write the same thing each year and then forget about it. But I'm new to making traditions while parenting, so I still have a lot of unanswered questions for this stage of life.

Today I was thinking to do you explain this whole "Christmas season" thing to someone outside the American/Western culture? I'm really wondering this. What are elves? Who is Santa? Why red and green? Why snow? Why is it important to get in the "Christmas spirit"?

Inside an Immigrant's Thought Process

It is really hard to get inside the head of someone functioning in a second language. I know this because it is my everyday reality, in contrast to the people around me!

I like to think of America as this place where anyone can settle down and lead a normal life, even someone arriving as an adult. But I realize that's a bit of an illusion. You never know what's happening behind someone's accent. And because receptive and expressive language acquisition can be different, you never know how intelligent someone is behind the accent...or how much of the conversation he/she is missing, while appearing to function as a native speaker.

Earlier today I was reading a novel about a Chinese student who came to the U.S. on exchange for grad school. She ends up being befriended by Christians and coming to faith...that's sort of the main plot, but I found myself thinking more about the logistics. The author did a good job of portraying some of the cultural nuances: tipping in restaurants, showing hospitality, etc. But I analyzed a lot of other aspects of what was going on. For example, how did the main character adjust to working in the university's dining hall? Did she know all the correct terminology related to washing dishes, etc.? Though the book is told from the heroine's point of view and we know her thoughts, I kept wondering what she sounded like when she spoke. Did she have a strong accent? Did she speak softly, or confidently? Did people respond to her differently than to a native speaker?

This fall marked 10 years since I moved to Russia! I am definitely "used to" living in a foreign country, but it is still a huge adjustment moving somewhere in adulthood. I'm sure my thought process is still so different from the average Russian' least in how I react to my environment. The other day I was checking out a few American news headlines and was struck by how I don't even read/watch the local news! Andrei does, and I wondered what different experiences we're having with processing what's going on in the world.

Meanwhile, there are certain areas where I still feel inept. Last week I was sick, and one night I lay awake knowing I needed to go to the doctor but being terrified of what was going to happen. I feel better now, but the site where I had blood drawn still has a huge, unsightly bruise. I don't know if it was a case of miscommunication or incompetence, but...ouch!

Anyway, part of the reason I'm bringing this up is that assessing my own perspective in turn makes me really curious about others. It is so commonplace to see migrant workers cleaning our stairwell, for instance. What's their story? We have some things in common and then some pretty big differences.

I'd better post this before it gets stuck in drafts purgatory...just wanted to share.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fiascos in Felt

I love the way finished felt projects look, so colorful and pretty and homey! I haven't quite mastered the medium, though. I seem to do better with paper, but maybe I will conquer felt in this lifetime!

I started making a felt Christmas storyboard for David last year, and lost momentum. So I took it up again this year.

My requirements were:

-representational, but simple
-big and sturdy enough for David to handle
-removable pieces that could be moved around

Problems and Troubleshooting:

Last year I cut out some figures but found them too floppy. Maybe if they were smaller it wouldn't have been as much of an issue. This year I finally fortified them a bit.

Didn't trim the edges.

Not all felt is created doesn't necessarily stick to other felt (without adhesive), and depending on the thickness might also need a pretty strong glue to hold together permanently.

Removable angel toupee.

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...