Monday, March 31, 2014

What's your mantra?

My little sick cherub!
My baby is sick. It's sooo sad! He coughs and sneezes and is cutting a few teeth at the same time.

Last night Andrei would rock him and put him down and he would start crying right away, or sleep for 30 min. at the most. It's like having a newborn! He would call for me and then nurse and nurse without really falling asleep.

Nursing is kind of a "blessing and a curse" at this point because I reeallly wish he had another comfort object, too. I want to cuddle him as much as he wants, but he immediately starts patting me and asking for you-know-what and then if I try to make him stop, he acts like I've broken his heart.

Little teeth, I hope you make an appearance soon.

So we didn't really sleep last night and then we all slept for a few hours in the afternoon. Andrei was working to meet a deadline in the morning and then in the afternoon I hinted that I wouldn't mind a 20-minute break. He said I could have an hour, but I thought that was too long for doing nothing, so we decided on 30 minutes. :) I decided to get under the covers with a book.

I was trying to decide whether or not to do chores today, because I didn't want to have to play catch-up for the rest of the week. I had a fussy baby following me around whimpering, but I figured I could just put one dish away, and then another, and see where it went from there. 

Then I remembered that oft-quoted (popularized by Elisabeth Elliot) poem about doing "the next thing." I have a lot of questions at this point in my life, and not the least of them is wondering how the rest of this week will turn out if David is going to be sick for awhile. And how Andrei is going to get his work done if we're not sleeping at night, and what the future holds for us in general.

But if I just do one thing and then another, I might be able to push all those thoughts and worries out of my head. And I might find that the pile of tasks diminishes (though not while blogging, I realize. Hmmm...). 

It's a nice kind of life mantra, this "Do The Next Thing." But then I asked myself...do I really need a "mantra"? It doesn't quite satisfy my spiritual hunger. Should Christians have mantras? I'm not really good at them anyway-I never did quite get the hang of shining my sink. But I guess you could say that our ability to use coping mechanisms is a testament to the miracle of the human brain and the way we tackle the challenges thrown our way.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -Matthew 6:34

Friday, March 28, 2014

Others

Quiet, blessed quiet. The in-laws were here today and I now have a fridge full of food and a clean kitchen. At this point both David and Andrei are sleeping and I am typing, typing, typing.

After posting last time, I then read an inspiring, thoughtful post (with photos!) on doing art with children...written by my sister, Emily. :)

The interesting thing is that I don't begrudge my sister the amazing projects she does with her son. I wonder why? I guess it's because I know and love her. Otherwise I might be a little jealous. ;) It's hard to be jealous of someone's accomplishments when you are close to them and admire them.

I think the reason that the "Mommy Wars" are especially fierce over the Internet is because of that level of anonymity that is a two-edged sword. I like having a little anonymity online for various reasons...for example, discussing my toddler's eating habits without feeling like I'm going to come under scrutiny the next time I see that person. And the Internet is good for taking polls and getting a wider demographic.

But the problem with not knowing the people in real life is that you risk growing the kind of resentment I mentioned last time, because of the gaps in your knowledge. Even if all the glittering photos on a blog are not a lie, I still have no reason to be jealous of that person, for perfectionism isn't fun. My husband suggested that to me as I was commenting on another mom's accomplishments. He asked if I knew how much pressure she put on herself. Do I really want to live under that burden, especially if it is not what my husband desires for our home?

Unfortunately, ignorance (as in a lack of information) can exist between friends, too. There was one fellow mom at church I was feeling particularly negative towards, and then she wrote and told me she was having a hard time. I felt repentant and wondered why I hadn't even really asked her how she was doing prior to that. I don't know why, but sometimes there is this huge communication gap between mothers who were previously good friends, maybe because our social skills have become inept. Maybe because our priorities have changed and we're too busy being "Mother Bear."

As I talked about in the "Church" series, it really does take consistency and vulnerability for friends to get to a place where they can respond appropriately to each other's needs. This is especially true of people you don't get along with well. I believe that a lot of times the cure for making peace with someone you don't like very much is to spend more time with them and really observe why they act the way they do.

Unfortunately in a big city it's not possible to see each other often, so there's no easy answer, but I think these reflections have helped me realize where some of the negativity is coming from. I don't ever want to spread negativity. I want to spread salt and light-hopefully to friends and loves ones, but also to anyone else that I might cross paths with.

The Introvert as Parent

(Credit in fine print in the margin)

My chores are done on hold for the evening and I'm sitting at my computer, my fingers poised over the keys and ready to type. Except that I know that any moment now I could hear the tell-tale sounds of a child needing to be rocked to sleep all over again.

In parenting circles online there is a concept referred to as being "touched-out." In general it is talking about physical touch, but I think of myself as getting mentally and emotionally touched-out. Overstimulated, per se.

Incidentally, David has not yet shown any signs of being introverted. And I'm happy for him, in a way. I can remember lots of challenges I faced as a child, that are pretty hard to prevent in the typical school situation. Meanwhile, his personality and mine combine to form an interesting child-parent relationship...


The Mystery

I know we're not supposed to compare, but I wonder in a curious sort of way about other mothers. One blogger I read gets up before her kids wake so she can go to the gym, and apparently gets blogging done during their long naptime (they did sleep training with their-gulp-4 kids under 4). But my question is: what about cooking and cleaning??? Because I seriously can't do any of that while David is awake.

Another mom (with two toddlers and another one on the way) is always doing creative projects, such as planning theme parties for her kids' birthdays and making all the invitations/decorations/etc. by hand. I just have to ask...when???

I am not resentful in any way, but I can certainly draw the conclusion that we (and our collective children) are all very different!


Our Family

I have to clarify, David is highly social but NOT hard to entertain or be around. I have always avoided the term "high-needs" because it reminds me of an instrument that is very hard to tune. In reality, any toy or activity will do as long as there is an audience. Lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing and clapping are preferable. Maybe a little bit of feigned surprise. He is a very responsive child.

But I get tired of it. I just can't always be making high-pitched noises or running into the other room to clap over a block being placed in a certain place. I can sometimes, but then I run out of steam. I sort of wish I could, because it's so easy to make him happy, but I just need to go into my thought world and find quiet every once in a while. Lately one solution is to sneak a few pages of a book while he's in the bath (and I am right there). It's not that it's hard to go from room to room with him picking up and putting down different objects. It's the constant transitioning from place to place and activity to activity. I have just gotten the dish-washing temperature right and started to soap everything up when there is a little hand tugging on my pants. "SSSSSSSS" That means "cheese." Or "water." And we must get to the bottom of what it is he wants.

Andrei helps a lot in giving me breaks to help me stay sane. For example, he takes care of bedtime. When I've gotten David all changed, Andrei takes over and I know for at least the next 30 minutes or so I don't have to talk to a single soul. And of course the hope is that David will then sleep through the night, but we usually get at least one additional cuddle session. And I can't always ration those breaks the way I need to, because Andrei can't really control when he's going to be at work or a meeting or working on a deadline.

Unfortunately it's hard to tell a toddler "not now" or "just a minute," and because of that I sometimes feel like I'm going to lose my patience. Hopefully as David gets older he will learn about waiting 5 minutes for me to be able to focus on a new thing, and I will learn more about responding to his needs as well.

Also, David has lots of adults available to dote on him, including his grandparents. He is quite a blessed and happy child.


A Few Strengths and Weaknesses

Pros:

-I hardly ever get bored being at home with David! We don't have transportation to travel very far and we don't go to things like play groups, and I am as content as can be. 
-I don't need any elaborate conditions for recharging; just the need to be "off duty" for a few minutes.
-I'm sensitive towards others' needs for quiet and concentration.

Cons:

-I don't do well with interruptions or with performing certain tasks without being able to concentrate fully.
-I'm not always understanding of people with different social needs.


Tidbits From Elsewhere: 

(from Motherstyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths. Janet Penley, 2006, Kindle Edition) 

"When I was home all day with preschoolers, I would hire a babysitter once or twice a week so I could have a break. At first, I used that time to do errands, have lunch with my friends, and go shopping. But when I came home, I felt more impatient with my children than before I left. It was as if I hadn't had any break at all. When I discovered my preference for Introversion, I finally understood why. The next time I needed a break, I asked the babysitter to take the kids out, to lunch or the park, and I stayed in." 

(This reminds me of the post where I discuss the status of my social life. This is why going to "Women's Ministry" events and the like do not equal relaxation for me in the long run. Sometimes a "break" just means that I get to go to the bathroom by myself and Andrei rough-houses with David while I zone out on the couch with a book.)


"Noise, confusion, chaos, children's requests, multiple tasks, and intrusions can make [the introverted mom] feel like she's about to explode. Some Extraverted moms may identify with this difficulty; perhaps during the 'arsenic hour' right before dinnertime. But Introverted mothers say they can feel this way at 7 o'clock in the morning while packing sandwiches, listening to a child's problem, and answering an unexpected phone call. They need alone time to balance this outward focus. Unfortunately, they often regard "time alone" as a luxury, not a necessity, and they can spend much of the day feeling tense, tired, and ready to snap. 

(Just to illustrate that all moms can certainly feel overwhelmed, but these particular situations are especially challenging for introverted moms).



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In the house







When You Don't Want to Go to Church (Part 4)

Turns out I wasn't done with this series after all. I'd forgotten that I wanted to add some notes about a book I read on this topic.

Some years ago I'd heard of a book by Josh Harris called "Stop Dating the Church." I hadn't read it, but it sounded like my first post in this series, where I talk about Christian "free-lancers" and why I think that's a ridiculous idea, as opposed to being a part of one specific fellowship.

So I set out to find the book, which it turns out is now titled "Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God."

A note about Josh Harris: I like him as an author because he can be controversial. Whether you agree with him or not, he isn't afraid to take a position and defend it. In an age of wishy-washy values, I admire that. Well, that and I tend to agree with his views! Yes, I was an "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" fan.

In "Why Church Matters," Harris presents a lot of initial explanations that are pretty basic: the church as the Body of Christ, etc., etc. Okay, sounds reasonable. NEXT. After that he proceeds to define "church-dater." As we've already established, I am more of a "long-term relationship" church-goer, so this view of his wasn't anything new to me, either. He states, "My goal in this book is to help you get connected and committed to a solid local church." (p. 21) Okay, that's pretty clear.

My interest was piqued about 1/3 of the way through the book when frequent mentions of the Bride of Christ started to draw me in. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I have been neglectful. When I question my own church commitment, I'm usually thinking about keeping promises, being active/disciplined, and not letting people down. But what if I instead thought of each commitment in terms of an expression of love for the Church? Not loyalty to an organization, but thinking more of the big picture.

So why is a local church the best environment for loving the Church as a whole? One reason Harris gives (quoting Piper): "Sanctification is a community project." (p. 40)

To further illustrate the idea of community, Harris describes a book which tells the story of two young Christians who "hit the highway in search of God." They were taking a break from their local church community and going on a pilgrimage.

But I like what Harris says next: "Going away is easy. Do you want to know what's harder? Do you want to know what takes more courage and what will make you grow faster than anything else? Join a local church and lay down your selfish desires by considering others more important than yourself." (p.50)

This hits home with me as I've been realizing that running away from conflict isn't always the higher road. I may be "good at" staying faithful to a local church or being a long-term friend, but what is actually going on in my heart? I can lose control of my tongue and engage in some pretty good arguments, but when it comes to something that's really irked me, I tend to want to pull away. I'll just quit teaching Sunday school. I'll just stay home from the next party. I'll just refrain from speaking up at Bible study next time. I'll just keep that person at arm's length. Sometimes hard conversations need to happen in order to move forward. It seems like to refrain from confrontation entirely would be to remain in infancy.

And how likely are those conversations to happen when you keep everyone at arm's length by not settling down in a local body? That's the thing to think about here.

I think I'll stop there even though I didn't get to all the points in the book.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

...and on the Seventh Day, ...



Awww, how cute...


Just kidding, our Sunday afternoons tend to look more like THIS:

"Dad, you should have taken a stroller nap like I did"


Saturday, March 22, 2014

How I stole a stick of gum

The nightmare that is a "quick" grocery run around here: I was getting used to using my (U.S.) Visa debit card for purchases at the new shopping mall. I don't usually withdraw cash because I get charged a commission, and Andrei isn't always around for cash emergencies, so it's nice to be able to use my card. Even with cash withdrawal, there can be problems like bills too big to use in public transportation.

So I got my groceries, got everything scanned, and then entered my PIN when prompted. It's always a nerve-wracking moment because my card doesn't "work" in every store. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. In this particular store it had never failed, and I've been going there at least 1-2x per week. So I asked the cashier to try it again. Nope. It was "not connecting" with my bank. My card had JUST worked in this store a few days ago. So I stood my ground as another employee came over for back up. I asked them what the problem could be in this case. They pleaded ignorance. "It's just not connecting. Might be the Internet connection." Ummm, okay. There was a line behind me.

I gestured at the ATM about 10 meters away and asked if I could just go withdraw some cash quickly.

"Doesn't work."

"Where's the nearest ATM?"

 "Something something. No, that one's out of order. Something something."

"Across the street?"

"No, right here in the shopping center." I handed over my unpaid-for groceries and took off in search of cash.

The group of ATMs were all out of order. I went up and down the escalator twice and asked an employee at another store. Wild goose chase. There was no working ATM in the building. Coincidentally, no ATMs were working at the same time that my card was "not connecting." Hmmm....

The ATM the cashier had mentioned was across the street, I determined finally.

I ran across the street, got the cash, ran back to the store, and had to wait in line and then scan all the prices again. As I waited in line I heard the cashier saying "cash only" to the other customers. Then she thanked me for waiting and mentioned that none of the card readers were current working.

On my way up the escalator again, I remembered the stick of gum in my coat pocket. When they check you out, they hand you things like gum or cough drops right away to put in your purse. When I was checking out the first time, the cashier had handed it to me and I'd put it in my pocket. It had been there all that time and hadn't been rescanned, so I didn't pay for it. I headed back down the escalator to go tell the cashier. As I was riding, I thought about the line and about Andrei needing to leave for work and about what it would take to get back into the store with my purchases. I went back up the escalator again and left for home.

So what do I do with this stolen stick of gum?


Friday, March 21, 2014

Life on the Burn Ward

I started to write more about our hospital stay. Then I thought it might actually be kind of boring to read about. But maybe finishing it would provide some closure. So here goes...

Staying in the hospital with David was my first time ever (except for maternity)! As I mentioned in my other post, it was one of my worst fears and I knew it would probably happen sometime. I guess you could say it was about as I expected, but I will try to describe it a little bit.

I don't know why it struck me as funny that there was a "daily regimen" (schedule) posted near the nurses' station. I guess it brought me back to my school days, or summer camp maybe...? The only thing missing was a late bell. :) And I wondered how there could be a strict schedule when one is sick? Shouldn't the patients be getting attention as needed (again, I've never been hospitalized), and not on a schedule?

Then as I thought about it more, I realized that a lot of the patients are so young that they do have a pretty structured schedule, and you have to fit the medical procedures into their wake/free time. Plus it's harder to die of boredom when there is a schedule.

Cookie in hand...

So here is how the day went:

7-7:30 a.m. The nurse would do rounds, wake me up (I think I screamed one time) and ask if I had checked David's temperature yet, to which I always answered "no," because we were both obviously still sleeping. Then she would hand me the glass thermometer and I would have to stick it under his armpit and secure his non-injured arm, making him kick and scream, until finally I just fudged the numbers, as long as he didn't feel feverish. Sometimes the nurse would come back to check the numbers, sometimes not.

7:30-8:30 a.m. Unsuccessful attempts to get more sleep.

9:00-10:00 (usually closer to 10) The breakfast cart would come around. We were the last room on the delivery route.

Meals were pretty much what I remembered from Russian summer camp. Breakfast consisted of porridge and a piece of bread with cheese/butter. I'm not going to be too critical because U.S. hospital food is pretty bad. The Russian hospital cuisine seems more nutritious in that the rations/menu are all pretty regulated and planned out. I saw a chart that included extra protein for nursing moms or milk for babies of a certain age, or whatever. In general the food is pretty bland and boiled to death and somewhat economical/sub-par with very few fruits/vegetables and little meat or protein. With better quality ingredients, I like Russian food...I loved camp food the last few years I went. Maybe the financial situation had gotten better.

10:00-10:30 Hiding in our room so they wouldn't call us for rebandaging before Andrei got there. Lots of moms and babies doing laps up and down the long hallway.

10:30-12:30 Waiting for David's turn to have his dressings changed. The procedures rooms were mingled in with the rooms where patients stayed. I can't think how they would do it in the U.S. Would there even be a separate room for dressings? During this time we would walk up and down the hallway, talk to the other moms and compared notes, and I would eat my cold breakfast.

When they called us, we would sit outside the procedures room listening to other kids scream while we waited for our turn.

12:30-2:00 p.m. Trying to keep David awake long enough to at least have his shot of antibiotics (in the rear end). The cleaning lady would usually come by and we wouldn't bother vacating the room. We would just put David in the crib and sit on the bed.

1:00-2:00 p.m. (usually closer to 2) Waiting for the lunch cart to come along. Again David would be nearly asleep if not asleep already. I would stand just outside our door with my plate and bowl in hand, waiting for my grub. They gave us each a set of dishes that we were supposed to wash out between meals and use again. I used mine for a week that way. They didn't give us any dish soap but Andrei's parents brought some for me. Russian hospitals are an interesting mix of nursing care and do it yourself. As I mentioned, the cleaning lady would come daily to mop out our room...that was required according to the sanitation laws. But we were supposed to all walk down the hall to scrap our plates ourselves and then wash the dishes.

For lunch there was always soup and then there were two different main dishes; one children's version and one adult. Generally mashed potatoes or macaroni with some sort of ground meat.

2:00-4:00 p.m. was "Quiet Time." In general all patients and caregivers were supposed to be in their rooms. It seemed like a good idea, except that also on the schedule at this time was clean-up of the common areas. I guess they took advantage of us being out of the way! Our room was private and at the end, but across from the sanitation room, so we got to hear lots of buckets being filled up and then poured back out as the corridor and common areas were mopped. David was usually able to sleep through it, though.

4:00 p.m. Visitors allowed. Nina and Vladimir would usually arrive at this point, bringing all sorts of parcels. They smuggled in a lot of home-cooked food for me, yum. Plus little luxuries like tea bags and sugar, a butter knife, etc.

5:00 p.m. The snack cart would come around, usually with some sort of omelette or cottage cheese (farmer's cheese) square to provide a little protein blast.

6:00 p.m. Dinnertime. Again there were two versions, and similar offerings as at lunchtime, but without the soup. Also in the rotation were dishes like boiled white fish or liver loaf. I actually don't mind the fish as long as there aren't too many bones. Sometimes simple foods can be really comforting.

7 and on: Nina and Vladimir would get ready to go. The cloakroom closed around 8 (or was it 7:30? There was a discussion about it each day), so there was risk of them being stuck without their coats. Russian hospitals are really strict about taking outer layers/shoes off. No outside dirt allowed!

8:00 p.m. Andrei's turn to get ready to go. He had his coat hidden in a bag and would go out the back way (along with other dads).

9:00 p.m. Lights out and final diaper weighing/chart completion. Yep, I had to keep a chart of all of David's input/output and write down the specific volume each time. Along with taking his temperature. After the accident he didn't want to drink anything out of a cup for awhile, but it got better after a few days. I told the nurses that he was getting breastmilk too, but they kept shaking their heads that we were still nursing at 18 months, and one nurse expressed doubt that I actually still had a milk supply. The worst was after the first time he was in the procedural room and got all bandaged up, and had a fever. They told me not to breastfeed him until the fever was down. I got over it, though.

11:00 p.m. Finally getting quiet on the ward. People would often come down to our end of the corridor to make phone calls and such, supposedly out of earshot, but not for us! Sometimes I would read in the bathroom or play games on my phone after David fell asleep. Sometimes I fell asleep quickly.

I guess I did a lot of complaining in this post, but I think we had a pretty average hospital stay: lots of missing what was familiar, but in general the conditions were good. Getting a private room really did make a difference as I think I would have been stressed out trying to recover from the shock and do all my parenting in front of several roommates. The staff was generally kind and competent even though the bedside manner wasn't my favorite. We're thankful that David received the care he needed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

All Dressed Up



Stick to safe topics, like the weather...

You know that feeling when you think you’re going to be early and you end up being late? Or when you’re hoping the teacher will let you out early and then he/she finds something to keep you occupied right up until the bell?

Early evening (sun sets at 8 pm)
Well, that’s what it was like with Winter this year. We waited and waited and there was no Winter. March 1st came and went and Spring was officially underway in Russia. Birds chirped and there were buds on the trees and green shoots coming up from the ground. I started to think maybe we were just going to skip right to Spring, and I let down my guard a little.

A few days ago…BAM! I woke up, went and looked out the kitchen window, and everything was white outside. Uggggh. It’s here. Right on schedule, in a way. It wouldn'
t feel like Spring without some final encore appearances by Winter.

I definitely don’t envy those of you who had really harsh conditions this Winter, with lots of snow days. Winter weather has its own repercussions. I've had very little trouble with my joints this winter and I think it’s partly thanks to not having to tiptoe gingerly over sheets of ice on a regular basis.

But as I mentioned at least once, we had a lot of gray days, and those are hard, too. I had to wait until March 15th to get my perfect winter weather: bright blue skies and temperatures just above freezing, with a little blanket of snow. Of course, January’s skies wouldn't have given us as much light.

I was trying to remember when we did have a little COLD spell this year. It was in mid-January, as David was entering the hospital. So I sort of missed it. But that reminds me, I need to write a little bit more about that…

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cooking adventures

Recently I was planning on making a salad and asked Andrei to grate a little onion. I thought the flavor would be a little more subtle that way...who wants a mouthful of onion?

Ingredients mixed with care, I took a bite and got a blast of...bitter! The whole salad was bitter and the only thing I could trace it back to was the onion. Weird! And why?

When I have cooking mishaps, I often wonder where I went wrong. I've been trying to work on my "kitchen chemistry" skills lately to avoid the big no-nos. When I scoured the Internet a year or so ago looking for a good handbook, I came across Cook's Illustrated's "The Science of Good Cooking." It's organized around 50 "concepts" that cover a lot of the chemical reactions that occur in cooking. When I looked up onion in the index, sure enough, there was a page talking about oxidation, with accompanying experiments. Something about cell structure and bruising and so on. The bottom line is, when the recipe says to chop/ dice/ crush/ grate/ etc., you don't substitute one action for the other. You could end up with a flavor too defined (or too subtle). And you might end up having to throw out the whole thing, sigh.

More on The Science of Good Cooking

Whenever I'm curious about something cooking-related, it's definitely helpful to have this book in order to look it up. Each concept is accompanied by several recipes and then an explanation of why each recipe is destined to be successful.

I like reading the explanations, but I've been a little disappointed by the recipe assortment. I think it might be a regional thing as Andrei and I mostly eat chicken and pork and don't need all the recipes for steak, grilled items, turkey, vegetables that we can't buy here, etc. The reviews on Amazon at least say the recipes are really good, but I just don't see myself trying a majority of them, so I'll have to find other ways to use the concepts.

I can see myself getting into the baked goods, though. I need to hunt around for the ingredients, but there are definitely several recipes I'd like to try, like cheesecake. So far I've tried brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and banana bread. The recipes are pretty nit-picky and involve a lot of different steps such as browning the butter or softening the bananas in the microwave and then straining them. It's not so much hard to follow the recipe as it is to do the dishes afterward! I think I will make the brownies and chocolate chip cookies again, but the banana bread wasn't all that special for the effort involved...quick breads should be "quick" in my opinion. ;) And I already have a reliable recipe.


Some other sources for recipes I've used lately are below.

Natasha's Kitchen has lots and lots of Russian/Ukrainian/other types of recipes and it is just a really well-organized, high-quality blog in general. I went through putting a bunch of them in a Pinterest folder to try later. Tonight for dinner I made Chicken Mushroom Casserole, really good! Natasha also has lots and lots of desserts, but I've never actually tried making any of them! Many of them are elegant but a little bit complicated. Hopefully for a holiday or something I can try one.

Another good English-language blog with Russian recipes is Olga's Flavor Factory. She's got a nice-sized archive on there too and there are also posts with cooking tips like how to deseed a tomato, and the occasional sweet post about her faith and family.

In general it seems that the number of U.S. based blogs with Russian cuisine is growing. I think that's a really good thing as Russian cuisine definitely has some tasty dishes that deserve recognition. And it's nice to have an English-language version of the recipes with nice photography. The only problem is sometimes they are TOO Americanized and use ingredients and short-cuts I don't have access to here! Obviously there is going to be a lot of overlap within the content of these blogs, but I don't think that's a problem.





Sunday, March 16, 2014

When You Don't Want to Go to Church (Part 3)

On possible solutions...

When Andrei and I talked about the "problem" of Christians who have trouble fitting into a particular church body, I tended to blame a personal discipline problem, while Andrei suggested that perhaps the church wasn't doing enough to reach out. Let the finger-pointing begin! Meanwhile, I do care about my brothers and sisters and want them to stay on the narrow path, and I definitely wouldn't want to neglect their needs because I'm too busy being judgmental.

When I remember the Parable of the Lost Sheep, I am convinced that it is not a waste of time to put a lot of effort into trying to stop just one member of the flock from falling into temptation. This is not some cult-ish goal to keep everyone prisoner in the same church forever. Rather, it is what I realize when I stop to imagine myself in the same situation: What if I felt really crummy in general and needed a friend and no one had quite enough time or enough perseverance to keep picking me up off the ground? What if everyone was thinking to themselves "someone else will do it/call her/reach out"? What if I was in sin and everyone chose to look the other way?


So what should the church be doing more of?

That brings me to the practical part: what are the ways church members can help? What role can the church play, and what are the limitations?

I believe that it depends on the type and depth of the wayward brother's "crisis." When a person is struggling to make it to church, some practical forms of help include:

-offering a wake-up call (or a reminder to go to bed earlier the night before!)
-helping with transportation
-offering to meet on a different day/at a different time to accommodate schedule complications (or physical limitations)
-making sermons and other materials available to those who are housebound
-calling and inquiring when someone hasn't shown up
-???(what else could go here?)

Please note that again the goal is not to "up" church attendance or manipulate. I am talking here of just looking for obvious fixable gaps in the way we love each other. Perhaps this could all be applicable in basic human relationships.


Response as indicator

When someone responds to these offers for help, I think it is a sign that there is a desire to be in fellowship, and that the obstacles are only temporary or not very problematic. It's also possible that the person is starting to draw away from the Body, but that the kind gesture, whether acted on or not, can soften a heart and turn it back.

Another thought I had was the need to just LISTEN to each other. I'm not sure how to really elaborate on that, but in some cases it may make a huge difference just to let someone unload his/her burdens in a safe environment.

I haven't had much parenting practice, but there have been many times in the past where I've felt like I've needed to nurture or shepherd someone in a spiritual sense, as if I was a parent. And I came to the conclusion that there was only so much I could say and do to help someone feel better. While I don't like to "give up" on someone, especially where salvation is concerned (along with friendship and fellowship), there is definitely a point where I realize that 1) Only the Holy Spirit can intervene and 2) A choice must be made, and I can't make this choice for him/her. My role at this point (and in general) is to pray.

I'm being general for obvious reasons, but let's say for example someone is struggling with a sin issue, and despite numerous efforts the person either doesn't want to talk about it or just doesn't feel repentant. We can enforce all the rules we want, but it doesn't change a heart in the end.

What does this have to do with church attendance? Well, I think there are certain warning signs that communicate that someone is in trouble in a spiritual sense. When a normally active church member drops off the face of the earth or seems to distance his/herself, that's a problem. When the person doesn't seem to regret being absent or doesn't show an interest in catching up, that's a problem. When the "offers of help" I mentioned above don't get a response, something is probably going on. 

Switching churches or just being in a "seeking" phase aren't necessarily problematic, but I think a person will feel more comfortable explaining what's going on in those situations. I'm talking more about hidden conflict.


Always a newcomer?

I've been mainly describing a situation where a normally active church member is struggling, but what about someone who's never really been able to "plug in"? Blame the greeters? In that situation I do think some good old hospitality is in order, where friendships can be forged and interests can be explored. But the Holy Spirit has a role here, too. If I simply make it a goal to invite every new member over for tea and befriend him/her, I might have good intentions but not necessarily be listening to the Lord's leading.



In conclusion, I think a good way to think of the church's role is in EQUIPPING, but not MANIPULATING.

This is getting long-winded and I'm not sure if I've expressed myself very clearly. But it's been on my heart for awhile and I guess I'm still thinking it through even as I type. This is all I have for the series for now, but I am going to try to put some of these ideas into practice, and see if anything else strikes me. 



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Diastasis Recti: The Yo-Yo Effect

I've been stuck trying to write this post for several months now. I don't know what took me so long...maybe I wanted to wait until I actually had progress before checking in?

The title of this post pretty much says it all: healing from diastasis recti is a journey of ups and downs. Some of this is just the nature of the problem; I've heard people say that their progress stalled for quite some time closing up the next 1/2 inch whereas in the beginning the progress was more evident. But in addition to this, the motivation factor is inconsistent.

As I mentioned before, I had seen some results due to splinting. However, diastasis recti fitness is similar to dieting in that your progress might be obvious on an empty stomach or right after you've worked out, but in reality it takes a lot more work before that is your constant condition. With diastasis recti (and probably abdominal fitness in general), your initial "engaged" position (where your tummy is as flat as you can manage) will eventually become your new "relaxed" position. In other words, once you've made progress, what you look like when you slouch is what you used to look like when you were trying your hardest to suck in your gut. That's good news, right? Though it still doesn't mean a flat tummy, it's impressive in a comparative way.


Here are some comparisons I can now make.

Starting point (after diagnosis)

Relaxed position: I look 5 months pregnant? Belly sticks out and is sort of hard, not simply flabby. If I look down, I can't see my belly button.
Engaged: I lose a few inches, but look bloated/chubby/post-partum. Can't suck tummy in "all the way."

Later on (9 months or so)

Relaxed position: I look bloated/chubby/post-partum. Not sure if I could pass for just chubby or not. I'm not an expert, but it looks like the gap is still visible, like there are two halves to my abdomen. I feel like I've lost weight, but my clothes are still pretty tight. Maybe things have just moved up or down.
Engaged: Relatively flat, but with wrinkly/extra skin. Belly button has come out of hiding but is still kind of buried.


Exercise update: Part of why I stopped exercising for awhile was that I needed a better splint. I was afraid that rigorous exercise would make the gap open up even wider. My parents recently shipped me a new splint (a Scott binder which is specifically for this purpose), and after just one week my stomach is significantly flatter. However, I've been investigating this topic long enough to know that without training the muscles, everything will all go back to where it was. The splint is just there to prevent further injury and "suggest" to the muscles how to move. So I am really trying to do those exercises and at the very least try to engage my core as I go about my day.

A sign of progress is that I know now HOW to engage the core. I think that I'd always had a weak core, but never worked on it, as my stomach was flat (hard to believe). I could literally only do 1-2 sit-ups. What a traumatic experience pregnancy and childbirth must have been for my poor body! But it came through for me. :)


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Not this post, not that one...THIS!

I went into my drafts folder just now, and I see why I haven't published those posts yet...lots of editing needed! D'oh.

So maybe it's time to get back into writing about what's on my mind.

Here you are...this week's hot topics!

1) Ukraine :/

We were in Helsinki during the "day of violence" in Kiev. We saw it on TV in the hotel. We were just so sad. Andrei especially has lots of friends on different "sides" via the Internet. I see a lot of comments show up in my newsfeed, but I try not to get too involved. There are some anti-American sentiments that make me mad. Posts about Russia can be pretty off-base, too. People are always posting articles that supposedly tell the "real story" or expose another story as false. Too many posing as experts and too few authentic voices being heard.

My mind feels split into two different conflicts: Ukraine vs. Ukraine and Russia vs. America. The Ukraine thing is the real tragedy and demands a real solution. The Russia vs. America rivalry is stupid, though it sometimes has serious consequences, such as the adoption bans. But I wish it didn't have to come up here...this isn't the place for it. Sometimes I walk down the street thinking "all these people would be on the other side if we went to war." But I don't really expect it to happen that way. I don't really associate normal Russian citizens with Putin's regime.

2) Women's Day

This year my church decided to hold this all-out extravaganza to combine Feb.23rd (Men's Day/Defenders of the Fatherland) and March 8th (International Women's Day). At first I thought it was going to entail a few songs with refreshments but it has been a PROCESS with lots and lots of online/in-person discussions and rehearsals and then last week it was announced that there is a whole theme with suggested costume (?) style. Not to mention we are supposed to bring actual food, not just cookies. I have mixed feelings about it. Parties can be fun sometimes, but it's not what I initially planned on and it feels like a big burden having to figure out what to wear and cook along with preparing a musical performance (plus chasing a toddler around, and/or walking around with him wrapped around my neck). I tried to protect myself by just agreeing to the one song, but I can't ignore the buzz around me. It feels like more work has gone into this than Christmas or Easter (with the possible exception of baby showers), not to mention it's actually Lent right now. I appreciate people putting work into it, but I will breathe a sigh of relief once this event is over. I will also admit that I was secretly pleased that the song I was preparing for a concert last month got "cut" from the program. I guess I have church event "burn-out," or something.

3) Lent (at the bottom???)

I haven't had a chance to give much thought to Easter yet, but I've downloaded a few devotional guides for my Kindle. I found this one site that suggested reading through the NT in 40 days and there was this whole explanation talking about how it would "transform" your life and bring you really close to God, etc. etc. etc. It sounded kind of funny like reading the NT was this magic pill or something, but opening the pages of the Bible with an expectant heart will surely bear fruit.

Any Lenten ideas to share?


Sunday, March 2, 2014

When you're famous

My observant husband recently pointed out that I hadn't done a book review for a long time on my blog. So I decided it was time to remedy that. However, I think this and other book reviews are really more like book "reports" as I won't be able to go into quite as much detail.

I've probably mentioned before that one of my favorite book genres is biography because you get the storytelling but learn something useful at the same time.

So a month or two ago I was thinking about classic children's books and Laura Ingalls Wilder came to my mind. Her books are so well-known; wouldn't it be interesting to learn even MORE about her famous childhood and the continuing story?



What I found was that 1) Some of the biographies are print-only, no digital version and 2) Many of the biographies got so-so reviews.

I am trying not to say too much because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who wants to read about Laura Ingalls Wilder. But here's the bottom line: "Laura Ingalls Wilder" as we know her is somewhat of a legend. Learning too much background information can take away the magic. This is what the reviewers warned about, and I was grateful to be able to make a conscious decision before my childhood image of the "Little House" books was replaced by reality.

Now, on to the content of the biography:

The book is called "Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life (South Dakota Biography Series)" by Pamela Smith Hill. I thought it was going to be about the LIFE of a writer and it was more like the WRITING life of a writer. It takes you through the history of all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's published works. It details the writing and editing process as well as her communication with publishers and how readers responded. It describes the role of Wilder's daughter, Rose. And it puts the whole writing process in the context of what was going on in their lives at the time.

Meanwhile, the process of Laura Ingalls Wilder taking her own life and turning it into a book that people would enjoy reading did require some editing. Chronology is adjusted; real-life people are blended to become book characters; certain bleak events are omitted. Again I am not going to go into too much detail, but I think I will have a different feeling now reading the books.

Without having read other Wilder biographies, I would venture to guess that this particular one fills an important niche by focusing on the writing career. I wouldn't have minded reading more of a narrative of life events. But maybe I should just let the "Little House" books continue to play that role, fictionalizations and all.