Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sleep Challenge: Week 1

The other day I stumbled upon an article offering X number of ideas for achieving Y. You know, ones that often turn out to be click-bait. In this case it promised tips for improving sleep quality:

I was pleasantly surprised to find some good ideas in there, as opposed to just time management ideas for making yourself go to bed on time.

A few that I can say I've already tried:

-taking Magnesium
-cutting out caffeine
-making the room dark for sleep
-getting some light exercise

Although I get around the same amount of sleep most nights, the quality varies. Sometimes I have trouble falling or staying asleep and other times I wake up in the morning unable to remember how the night went.

What I'm trying right now:

-switching computer to warm light in the evening with the software they recommend:
-getting out in the daylight earlier in the day (which is only possible before 3 or 4 pm)

Results so far: These sleep "hacks" are all pretty difficult when it is so dark outside! This week has been a tiny bit less overcast, so I feel better when I'm outside, and I don't feel so "confused" about the time of day even though I still feel sleepy.

When I first installed f.lux, I loved the effect as the screen was bathed in warm light. I felt like it was lulling me to sleep. Since then, however, I feel that I have "adapted" and once again learned to push through and have a second wind. I'm thinking about fiddling with the time zone so that it goes to warm light even earlier, in order to send me to bed!

Other steps I want to try:

-Using a "wakeup light" to mimic natural sunlight in the morning.
-Turning off wi-fi at night.
-Going to bed before the second wind kicks in.

And something I haven't figured out yet:

-Keeping the bedroom cool for sleeping. (forced hot air and the radiators don't seem to have any sort of knob for adjustment)

I recommend checking out the blog post! Have you ever tried to kind of reset your body clock?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Latest cooking fun

One thing that has made me happy lately is experimenting in the kitchen! And at other times going back to some simple comfort foods.

Every once in a while I like to treat myself to a trip to a different grocery store that is a little farther away and has more variety. It has a lot of imported products which of course can seem more familiar to me. But once I realized that my bill was nearly doubling, I decided to make it more of a special thing, or I get the staples at the regular grocery store and just go here for specialty items.

Recently I had a particularly satisfying trip where I treated myself to artichoke hearts, avocados, eggplant (imported) and frozen strawberries. I also bought some chickpea flour to experiment with. We don't have a "gluten-free" section or anything, but I do try to incorporate alternative items into our diet just to change things up. Oh, and I stocked up on oregano and cumin, two of my favorite spices that are sometimes hard to find.

Meanwhile, Andrei went to the store the next day and bought me a head of cabbage and a large butternut squash. These items were special because they're normally too heavy for me to carry home by myself, at least if I have other groceries! :)

Some things that I cooked:

1) Artichoke hearts: Tried making sort of a "skinny" spinach and artichoke dip. It worked out well when I snuck it into some quesadillas. But as a "dip" it tasted a little bit too healthy. :) It's really exciting to find preserved artichokes, but these didn't really taste good on their own, maybe due to their being canned. Sometime I will try the jarred version.

2) Avocados: For once I got some good ones! They ripened nicely and were a good enough texture to just eat with a spoon. I drizzled a mustard vinaigrette on top. I would love to eat avocados more but they end up being more of a special treat.

Ate two in one day. Need MORE!

3) Frozen strawberries: I got these to go in smoothies. Usually I just add one of David's banana rejects (he takes 2-3 bites and won't continue) to some kefir and blend. Sometimes I add a cube of defrosted spinach, and now I have the strawberries. I love the taste, but unfortunately I got some "threads" of something, couldn't tell which ingredient it was from. Maybe it was the spinach. Obviously the strawberries would work for baking, too.

Monday, November 16, 2015


If I've ever wanted to quit social media, it is now.

I have about 750 friends on FB, and most of the time I REALLY like all the different posts. There are definitely certain categories of posts that can be emotional triggers, depending on what I'm going through at the moment. But for all the chuckles and uplifting posts and fun photos, I don't mind one or two that are hard to read.

Lately, though...the negativity is winning. It has just seemed so...passive-aggressive lately, or something. I wonder if that's true or if I'm just in a phase where I'm sensitive to things like that.

A lot of times, the standard procedure is to post a quote, image, or link to an article that reflects the person's viewpoint. And it makes sense when what you want to say has already been wrapped up nice and tidy by someone else. But for someone reason this is where that passive-aggressive vibe comes into play for me.

A few months ago, it was Planned Parenthood. There were videos surfacing, with Christians speaking out against killing babies, while PP supporters accused critics of wanting women to suffer without cancer screening, Ob/Gyn care, etc (not to mention birth control and abortion). I had friends on either side who were equally passionate. And yes, many changed their profile pictures to reflect their views, which meant that I thought about the issue whenever their names came up in my newsfeed.

At the same time, many were mourning the plight of refugees, and a lot of posts came up about that.

Oh, and the CUPS. Starbucks cups generated this year's annual Christmas cheer controversy. EVERYONE had to comment on it. I literally thought the FB world had gone mad.

Usually after the first round, the "Christian" response pops up in the form of blog posts that tell us what we should do, sometimes in the form of a letter "to the abused," "to the mother who had an abortion," etc.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Table for one

Today was a little bit of a crabby weird day! David had a screaming fit in the middle of the night and wouldn't tell us what he wanted. When we asked him in the morning of course he said he had wanted something like a snack, but why all the screaming??? Thankfully Andrei is always really patient with him, as I found the yelling physically painful.

Anyway, we were all a bit crabby in the morning, and Andrei was trying to finish some curriculum work that is incredibly draining and time-consuming. But David and I were in and out a lot, embroiled in various conflicts related to potty-training and the like. Yesterday's problem was that I couldn't get him dressed because he made his legs turn to jelly and wouldn't stand up!

David's new favorite game is for us to "switch" roles. He is Mommy and I am David. He gets to boss me around and it is pretty funny hearing his impressions of me! However, he somehow thinks of this game around bedtime. Then he gets to just read me a story and go off while I go to sleep in "my" (fit for a toddler) bed!

I've been trying to get David to strengthen his muscles more, so I've been letting him jump on furniture more, and setting up sort of obstacle courses. It's hard to get him to run around outside and he just isn't a risk taker in this area, which means fewer injuries, but also a lot of pent-up energy that he isn't letting out! I saw this great blog post today about boys and energy:

Meanwhile I was a little bit ready for a break and then Andrei stepped in and I started getting ready for worship practice. I just assumed it was time for me to go since he was taking over. I even thought I was going to be late! So I took the tram to the metro, and then actually had a few minutes to spare, so I decided to take a little side trip to Palace Square, since I haven't been there in ages! I was going to see if there was still a memorial to the plane crash victims, but it seemed that everything had already been taken down. I did take a little picture for my Instagram, and as I was doing that, a young man approached me and thrust one of those paper lanterns at me saying it was free. I put my phone away very carefully and tried to keep track of my pockets, flute, purse with phone inside, and a bag of clothes I was carrying to church. He then said that they were looking for donations for an orphanage, but didn't have any actual paperwork. I took out a small bit of cash and gave it to him, but he didn't really react, and I handed the paper lantern back, too. And then I kept rechecking all my zippers and pockets as I walked away.

I looked at my phone and it was 5:45 pm.

I got to church and climbed up the stairs, got through one set of doors, and the next set was locked! I went back to the hallway to wait, but started doing the math in my head. If it was 5:45 when I was at Palace Square, then it wasn't 7pm when I arrived at was only SIX! I had completely lost track of what time I should leave the house and what time things started. Not to mention my family didn't notice anything either. There I was, having dutifully walked from the metro to get exercise, but now completely exhausted AND hungry and not even at the right place at the right time! I could have been at home sweet home for a whole additional hour!

I headed outside with all my baggage and walked toward a pizzeria where we'd had the rehearsal dinner for our wedding. But everyone inside looked like they were on a date, so I passed on that. Next I found my way to a local coffee house chain. I made myself get something savory instead of a piece of cake. Big disappointment! The "burger" I ordered (costing a small fortune) was mystery meat with a mustard sauce and cilantro, and a side dish of pickled olives and peppers. I forget how different Russian "other" cuisine can be. I find that it's better to order something Russian, which is more predictable, rather than order some other cuisine and be surprised by the Russian spin on it (steer clear of the quesadillas). So, I'm glad I got a few burger fixes when I was in the UK and U.S. recently!

When I finally arrived at worship practice at the CORRECT time, it turned out other people had arrived early too, and visited the Starbucks around the corner. I could have been with them the whole time! Oh well.

P.S. There is no Starbucks cup controversy here in Russia.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Christian Education Rant

David has been more willing to attend Sunday school, which is his only school-like activity during the week. He is tolerant as opposed to enthusiastic, but no tears at least. Sometimes I wonder if it is very stressful for him, because he talks a lot about going home. After he spent some time with my MIL during worship, he had to keep tabs on where everyone was and make sure no one was going home without him. I told him we were going to go back upstairs to see the rest of the family after we did our Sunday school work. And I think he may see it as sort of a ticket to go home! But nevertheless, he is slowly adapting.

It has been fascinating to watch David's peer group develop, after years of teaching Sunday school myself. Preschoolers have the best comments, and very short attention spans! I shake my head just remembering how we kept trying to have "lessons" with them when they were only 2 years old. Of course there are older kids too, up to age 6 or 7. But there are 5 or 6 that are David's age, so they form the majority.

Earlier this fall, an announcement was made that in the next month or two, preschool parents would be expected to stop attending Sunday school with their offspring. I was a bit outraged at this decision being made for us! I know that it is difficult for the teachers when there is a peanut gallery full of parents. And some kids do act more mature with their parents absent. But who was going to accompany the young ones to the potty? Help with the complicated craft projects? Remove an unruly pupil? And what about the ones feeling anxious? It just didn't seem like something you could do on a specific timeline, especially when the kids aren't EXACTLY the same age. 6 months or a year can make such a huge difference developmentally.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How the week went

This week felt easier, but it didn't hurt that Andrei was home more! His weekly schedule alternates between lighter and heavier workloads, though of course there is always preparation to do for the next time.

I got more breaks, and took a walk every day, sometimes combined with grocery shopping. I got outside more than David did. After the latest (mutual) meltdown, I have not felt eager to venture out together again. I heard someone reference not "cutting corners," and I think that is so crucial with 2 and 3 yr olds. You have to leave lots of time for transitions. You cannot just stop playing and head from point A to point B. There is no such thing as squeezing in a quick activity, because you have to allow time for preparation and then easing out of it. (But of course if you have PLANNED for the activity to kill a lot of time, it won't. ;) )

Another thing accomplished this week was a closet renovation I'd been trying to get done for several months. David watched a lot of TV, and regular housework didn't get done. But it is one of those tasks that will set off a chain of other things getting organized. I will share more about that in another post.

We don't set our clocks forward or backward anymore, so now we are 8 hours ahead of N.Y. time, as opposed to 7 during the summer. However, it has been getting significantly darker, both in the morning AND in the evening! I am sitting here and realizing it is only 2pm...really? When it is overcast, the whole day feels like night! Not too cold yet-holding steady around 40 degrees.

We did host Bible study this week. We try to have it regularly, but cancel when we are sick or when Andrei has to catch up on some work. All-nighters just don't work for us anymore! In our small group we have been discussing the Beatitudes. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." That fits in well with current events, though I think sometimes it is hard to even mention them out loud. Our church has seen some sorrow this year, and there is more loss to come. But we hope in the Lord.

A City in Mourning

Last week's air tragedy was felt pretty deeply by the people of St. Petersburg. That's the impression I've gotten as I've seen the various posts and interactions that have come up in social media this week. Never-mind terrorism or the fact that the victims were just ordinary people on vacation (or that we flew into Pulkovo recently too). The mood has been more one of mourning.

As I said, I got a lot of these impressions through internet interactions. I didn't go downtown this week or venture beyond our neighborhood, so just by going about everyday life, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But bits and pieces started to come together as I saw what friends and acquaintances were writing.

One friend remarked how we (as residents of St. Petersburg) are all just a few links away from knowing someone who was on the flight (my paraphrase). And she went on to share the Gospel, for those who may be thinking more about Eternity at this point.

Sure enough, I did see some connections come up. A graduate of an orphanage that I used to visit posted a photo of one of her peers, who lost her life. I recognized her as a girl I had probably met at the orphanage or possibly summer camp.

Over the past few days I have sat down and gone through some of the news stories and read more about some of the victims and looked at some photos. Some of the tributes are very touching, and even poems have been written. Russian culture is beautiful in that way.

But I had to stop. I don't know about you, but I feel that when mourning, it is important to have SOME information. I needed to know more about what happened in order to accept what happened as reality, and to understand (as much as is possible from the sidelines) the depth of loss that loved ones are feeling. But when it comes to the details of death, or intimate final conversations, or graphic photos (sorry), I feel that it borders on sensationalism, voyeurism. And I don't think we are meant to really fill our heads with horrible images.

The investigation continues, but I don't know if I want to read the news anymore.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Our recent trip to the U.S. (which we arrived home from about 10 days ago) had to be timed very carefully, as it interrupted the school year. We also had the following to accomplish:

-travel before mid-October (when David's old visa would have run out)
-be in the U.S. in early October for my cousin's wedding on the West Coast
-arrive in the U.S. sometime before that, to get over jet-lag and get the visa application in the mail
-travel on a day when Andrei would be free to see us off
-be in the U.S. long enough for the visa to be ready, without having to expedite
-avoid arriving in Boston during a Red Sox game
-avoid early morning flights
-have Andrei arrive and fly back with us during a week when he has the fewest amount of lectures to reschedule

So, we did just that. Here is how we passed the time (sorry, can't get photos in order):

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


3 years ago on this date (whoops, yesterday) we were sitting on a bus in the dark in an October snowstorm, crossing over the border from Estonia into Russia. David was not yet 4 months old, and needed a diaper change. There are so many things I remember about that trip, and you can read about them in this post if you want some background.

David's 3-yr Russia visa ran out this month, but instead of feeling annoyed at needing to get a new one, I've been marveling over all that has happened since then. And thankful that we decided to do it in the U.S. this year where David and I could be on familiar territory if anything went wrong.

But it didn't.

We actually got the new visa in plenty of time. It was a full 6 days before we were scheduled to fly back, SO anti-climatic.

I will say that a few questions came up, such as David's actual passport expiring in LESS than 3 years, so the need to imply that in the invitation. Thankfully we were able to find some good sources of information (although at one point the English and Russian versions conflicted), since it's been a problem in the past when I've needed to get documents filed and haven't been able to find a family with our similar situation.

So that was our month in the U.S., and now we're back in Russia. Whoops. I guess I need to go back and fill in a little bit! As usual...

Monday, September 21, 2015

A little Russian healthcare before leaving...

No idea where the past month went, but I was planning for the past two weeks to be pretty productive, and instead I've been sick.

About 10 days ago, a virus hit our church (as usual). I started to feel weird about the same time, and before I knew it, I felt completely sapped of strength. Stayed home from church last Sunday and finally had to just put on some TV for David because I needed to lie down.

Then I waited for the usual cold symptoms to arrive. My eyes got reeeally red and watery, and I was sure the sniffles would be next. But instead I got this really specific type of pain in my throat, and once I checked in the mirror, I knew it wasn't just a cold...more like strep. :/

Andrei tried to make an appointment for me at the new fancy clinic just down the street. But unfortunately they were completely booked for the next day. Hopefully in an emergency they would have something.

However, the next place he called did have an opening. As I found the address, I realized that I'd been there before, the last time my throat hurt...when David was a baby (I can't find a post about it on here). I walked in and everything was as I remembered it.

After I had waited for several minutes, the doctor took me into sort of a closet-sized room as the others were occupied. As we got to talking, I decided that he was definitely the ENT I'd seen before, a sort of grandfatherly type. It seemed to be God's provision that Andrei had just "happened" to find that clinic (without knowing I'd been there already), and that the first one hadn't had any appointments.

After examining my polka-dotted throat, the doctor prescribed antibiotics and a few things to gargle with.

The antibiotics seem to be finally bringing some improvement, but not completely.


David and I are leaving for the U.S. in three days! I'm in complete denial. I've done nothing to prepare except dump a mix of clean and dirty clothes near two suitcases. All we need to do is make it on the plane...and then the second one, of course. And then we'll see what happens from there!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Traveling (internationally) with a 3 yr old

Behind the scenes of our most recent getaway...

Basically been working on this post for a month now, and figured I'd better get it up before we travel again! (hint: in less than a week)

David turned 3 shortly before we went on our trip to the UK this summer. No more nursing this year, but still in diapers. Pickier than ever and co-sleeping more than before!

But on to the travel...

Plane/train/bus rides

As you've probably discovered when traveling with a young child, you have to plan ahead of time to make sure you have enough hands for all the pieces of luggage/gear. Out of "baby" gear, we only brought a stroller this time. We don't use a carseat on the plane, and rent or borrow one when we arrive.

If we had a newer or more expensive stroller, I might think twice about bringing one, since they can get broken in luggage holds. But ours is on its way out!

Taking the stroller means that one person's hands are occupied, but it also means that the child is restrained and out of harm's way!

Baby niece !
As far as layovers, 2 hours is perfect for stretching your legs and making the necessary stops before security and boarding. 3-4 will do if you would also like to sit and have a meal. Less than 2 would probably make me nervous.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Incline your ear

What's your worship style?

As a member of a worship "team," I sometimes feel like I'm under scrutiny. Do I have the right stage presence? It's not a performance, but there is still pressure to behave properly and have a certain look.

I have been in churches that described their own worship sessions using terms like "freedom" and "Spirit-led." To me it seemed like it gave extroverts an excuse to scream, cry, and dance around. I don't take issue with their expression; only with it being labeled as something more spiritual. I only mean that others can be touched deeply too, without it coming to the surface. Does there have to be an outward manifestation? Are there other ways to see fruit?

People can adapt to different cultural norms for worship, which isn't a bad thing. It is completely respectful to rein in one's personal preferences, to sit and stand (or clap your hands!) on command, or to sing songs that are in a different style than desired. Casting off preferences is an act of service, too. There is plenty of this that goes on at our church in Russia, as many songs are translations of Western songs, with different keys and lyrics than might be common in the Russian tradition.

But I'm getting kind of sidetracked. Without going into all the intricacies of worship music and personality differences, I was once again meditating on how I was to worship. And the words came to me: Incline your ear. Which occurs in scripture in several places, though the wording is different in different translations.

For example:
My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding...(Proverbs 2:1, 2 NASB)

For simplicity's sake, we'll say it means to listen. Except that when I'm singing, I often feel like I actually want to tilt my head and lean in closer, as if I'll hear it better-as if the words might have a better chance of reaching my heart.

And that's what I think about when I'm singing up there...or offstage, or at home, or wherever! I just want to absorb the truths in the words as best I can. Maybe it's not straight scripture, but I can stand with others in agreeing about whatever it is the worship songs proclaim.

You could say that I'm just being an introvert, wanting to stand there and listen, and not show any reaction. Even when I'm in a community worship setting and even when I'm supposed to be helping lead, I just want to listen. But it's not necessarily a passive thing. However, I guess you could say I do lose some inhibitions, as doing anything onstage is normally a bit intimidating.

Is there anything wrong with just being yourself when you sing to God? Have you ever received a personal revelation about how you worship? Do you think your everyday personality changes when you "enter in" to worship?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Planning a "destination" family reunion

Behind the scenes of our most recent getaway..

Getting the cousins organized...

Family reunions are sometimes hosted by family members, perhaps over a holiday weekend. Other families might have a time-share, like a beach house that they visit every year. But every once in a while, it's fun to plan something a little more ambitious.

My siblings and I are scattered across the globe at varying distances from each other and our parents. I guess it's fair to say that there are a higher concentration on the East Coast, but then again Florida is pretty far from Massachusetts. Suffice it to say that any gathering is going to mean traveling a long way for at least a few people. So, might as well try out different rendezvous points, right?

We started bouncing around the idea of a trip to the UK for my dad's 70th birthday. It's his ancestral home, and truth be told, I was excited to be going somewhere LESS than 5 hours away by plane (sorry, everyone else). So the decision was made to get 22 people (15 adults and 7 children) over to Scotland.

Here are some notes from trip planning:

1) Planning the planning

In a large group, you will inevitably have planners and non-planners, leaders and followers, etc. You will have people who never read emails, and those who read and respond multiple times per day.

If you are going somewhere where you will be participating in any sort of sightseeing or cultural programs, you need to think about how you are going to organize everyone. It's not fun for negotiations to take up precious time that could be spent together...though that is part of being in a family. Everyone needs to eat at least 3x per day, and children (and some adults) will need naps. I don't know of the best universal approach, but we did fairly well considering all the logistics.

When everyone is from out-of-town and no one is necessarily familiar to the area, some extra research will be required.

Bagpipe concert was first on everyone's list, right?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Smiles and Drinking Water

I kind of gave away the post with the title there, but I wanted to start from the end of our trip when we'd already come back to Russia.

Visiting the UK was like visiting the West for me. Sure, British and American culture are not one and the same, but when compared to Russian culture they are very similar. I even ate most of my favorite foods while in London. Yum.

I know the "smile" thing is controversial, but upon return to Russia, I realized that I had enjoyed the friendliness of Great Britain. You can analyze whether or not smiling and being friendly is "natural," but since it was instilled in me from an early age, I feel like I'm myself when I can make eye contact with strangers and greet them, or make some random comment in commiseration, or even crack a joke. Suddenly it turns out I'm not so socially awkward after all. I saw an article recently about expats who turn into introverts while abroad, but I didn't even read it since I consider myself an introvert to begin with. And yet...there is definitely a goofy side of me that doesn't come out unless I'm reeallly relaxed.

So now I'm back to the old dilemma of how exactly to be a polite and gracious individual, while living in another culture! If I behave like a friendly American, I might actually win someone over, but I wish I could be culturally-appropriate, like the young lady that came to visit today bearing a bouquet of flowers and some cakes wrapped in a box with a ribbon. What is selflessness? Does the Golden Rule transcend cultures? Is it better to be stiff and follow cultural norms, or let go and just be your clueless, bumbling self? It is so relevant to missionaries and other cross-cultural workers, as we often put passion into serving people the way we know how, acting with completely pure intentions but a moderate degree of naivete.

And the other item, the drinking water. How nice it was to just put a cup under the tap and have water to drink. Like a small wedge in my pie chart of daily stress was lifted. When I don't have drinking water with me, I worry about being thirsty suddenly, being stuck on hot public transportation or walking somewhere without water...or getting a migraine, or feeling sick to my stomach. On one of the planes we were on, we hadn't purchased water again after security, and David was thirsty already when we were boarding. He kept asking and asking for water, and we had to wait. I was more careful after that to always buy some. That is one of my hang-ups, I guess. I have to add, though...I had some intestinal troubles while traveling. So perhaps I was TOO casual about the tap water, but it was nice while it lasted!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer in the 11th hour

Earlier this month, we were traveling in the U.K., so fun! Even though traveling is challenging, I have to admit it was quite nice to go somewhere a little bit closer. No overnight flights or jet-lag or anything like that. I'll be giving more details in some upcoming posts.

It's been harder to motivate myself to blog since I joined Instagram. You can look at my photos even without signing up. I've been trying to post there every day and it reminds me of the regularity of blogging and of the journal aspect that used to be more prevalent. Like those "Day in the Life" photo projects.

It's been a very mild summer and just in the past week it's gotten close to 80 degrees a few times. That's a hot sun, so I tend to wait until evening to go out walking with D. I feel like we've been attacked on all sides by various insects who have just been waiting for the perfect moment to party summer-style. I realized that it's not as much of an issue when it's light at night both outside and inside. But now that the evenings are darker, the bugs gravitate toward whatever lights are still burning. Not having screens on the windows makes for a pretty populous kitchen ceiling when I'm in there late at night!

David has been sleeping horribly, so obviously we have, too. I'm still kind of waiting for him to be a good sleeper. Lately he wakes up in the middle of the night and announces that he's "all done." No idea what happened there. Crying fit and eventual surrender to sleep. Then he wakes up still too early for our liking, has meltdowns all day, and cries hysterically at naptime. He had tummy issues last week and I suppose the flea bites (neighbors with cats...) are bothering him now, but I can't help feeling there is something else. I'm realizing that this is making its way to the top of my prayer list. We're tired, and Andrei will be teaching again, potentially in less than a week.

More trip stuff and news soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Looking Back and a Heads-Up

I've got a pretty old printer. It works fine, just takes its time. So I thought it might be fun to crank out a blog post while each page prints. :) I think my printer probably has me beat at wpm, though.

I've been pretty frantic (to say the least) over the past few weeks with trip preparations. Since it's more of a "destination" (UK) holiday, there has been a lot of general information gathering to do. Even though there will be onsite activities, we also don't want to pass up chances for sightseeing, but with 22 people it requires some initial scheduling if we are ever going to actually get anywhere!

And now I'm printing it all out, and we leave in...less than 18 hours. Very exciting.

Even though we've had lots to do (and trip preparation has taken priority), we've tried to make time for family lately, too. Andrei and I celebrated our anniversary this week, and went on a little date, finally! So for that day we were more focused on celebrating and not doing anything else.

It's been a whirlwind though, and we've been planning for a year practically, so needless to say expectations are high!

We'll be seeing my parents, all of my siblings, and their families. David will get to see his 6 cousins.

I did want to mention, though: I'm not bringing my computer this time around. Trying to cut down on baggage. Check out my Instagram (link in the sidebar) for photos, or contact me via email. But blog posts probably won't be happening until we're back, unfortunately.

See you in two weeks!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just the facts

I feel like I've been so boring lately as far as blogging goes, and at the moment I'm really focused on getting ready for vacation; so excited, although there is a lot to do. The weather reports for the UK (where we're going) have been the same as here, cool and rainy. Should feel like home! :)

I wish I had some deeper thoughts to share, and I want to believe that I'm continuing to grow and challenge myself, but sometimes it is hard to rise above the everyday stuff and see a bigger picture.

As I was compiling a little list of things to share, I was again starting to feel like it was all sounding kind of banal or self-centered. But at the same time there is a lot in me that's changed since becoming a mother (and it might be a different milestone for different people), and certain topics can be huge emotional triggers. It is hard to read the news or think about some of those hot topics, like abortion... at least without digging deep!

Anyway, a few recent things:

1) Watching Doc Martin. Hadn't heard of it before getting Netflix, and hid it in my list since I didn't think Andrei would be interested. But it's been my company lately while washing dishes. I've enjoyed seeing some of the character development as various people deal with their own personal "demons," and especially the relationships. Not to mention some creative storylines, and the setting is beautiful. Almost makes me want to live there.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer as lifetime

"Summer is a mini-lifetime" is my loose translation of a popular Russian saying. I suppose a lot can happen in a whole quarter of a year!

But in general summer usually starts out with a list of hopes and dreams and some grandiose plans...and then before you know it, September is just around the corner. Were your expectations met?

Sorry if I'm getting ahead of myself here...don't worry, I'm not going to talk about Back-to-School. ;)

This has been my first summer in Russia in awhile... probably since the summer we were married (4 years ago), and even then we spent 3-4 weeks in the U.S. I used to focus more on being home for Christmas, and now summer is the best traveling time for our family. But not this year...we'll be traveling for just 2 weeks in August, and other than that have been around St. Petersburg!

I was hoping to get a lot of projects done this summer and we have a lot of friends to catch up with. But we've had a cold going around and have gotten behind on everything. We barely just got caught up on family birthdays, and I'll be lucky if I even hand in my Immigration form before we leave on our trip!

I will say that weather always seems to play a role in how summer goes. Funny, is it that way for other seasons, too? This summer has been cool, and I am incredibly thankful for that. Although we've yet to spend a full summer in this apartment, I can imagine how 2-3 months of heat during White Nights would be a lot to endure. So I have been relishing the cool breezes, admiring the rainstorms (from inside), and appreciating the occasional warmer day. Plus-no mosquitoes!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Downslope and Kitchen Experiments

After the last time I wrote, everything came screeching to a halt as we got a family cold. Andrei felt very sick and David had a pretty bad case, too. David even now seems a little sniffly. I had my usual kind of malaise for a few days and the general feeling that I was fighting a virus, but no other symptoms.

It's been a very mild summer, and right now I am enjoying a terrific summer rain/thunder/hailstorm going on outside the kitchen window. Hopefully it will clear up in another 3 hours when I need to leave!

A blog friend recently did a fun post about some favorite foods and kitchen tips, and I thought I would share a few as well, including things that David is into.

In no particular order...

1) "Korean" carrot salad.

If you've been to Russia, you know this dish. It's the one that's sort of marinated, not the one with mayo. A little zesty, with coriander as the key spice. It's usually recommended that you use a mandoline slicer to get the right-size carrot pieces, with just the right amount of crunch. David loves it! It's good with onion, but we leave it out for picky eaters. We cheat and use a spice mix, but there are some recipes online, like this one:корейская-морковь.html

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thinking Cap

I had a busy week, but there was something different about the intensity. It was one of those times when it felt like my problem-solving skills had to be on constant alert! I used to have these kinds of adventures all the time, especially when first living in Russia, or during seasons when I would be commuting to all different parts of St. Petersburg each day of the week. Times when you have to be thinking, thinking, thinking. Like when it would take me an eternity to find someone's home; the public transportation route, street name, building number, entryway, apartment number, floor, and door code all in my head or scribbled on one or more scraps of paper.

That was the kind of week I had, including a meltdown halfway through! But it's not meant to be a complaining post, and/or bragging about how "busy" I've been. Just doing some reflecting about some experiences, and thinking about why I might have felt overwhelmed.

Last Friday

-Commenced making a cake for an event, using a new recipe. Failed twice (complete inedible disaster), then ran out of time.
-Was called into the bank to "fill out a form." Didn't understand what/why or how to fill it out. And the bank employee didn't either. Left feeling confused.
-Headed over to worship practice for the first time in the new building, but didn't know where to go! After waiting around for about 10 minutes, received a call from the worship leader, who came out and led me to the new room.
-Got home around 11pm, found a new cake recipe, and finally had success, though I had to calculate carefully since I had very few ingredients left at that point!


-Got up early to get ready for the church baby shower: presents and cake all packed up; had to figure out how to stop along the way for fresh strawberries and some other last-minute ingredients; took the metro and then a tram and then circled the buildings looking for the hostess' apartment...
-After arriving, got all the cake layers assembled/frosted/decorated/etc....whew.

Long story...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Daytime Fire

One day recently I decided to take David for a walk while Andrei was cooking dinner. It was actually after 7pm, but pretty much felt like afternoon, with there still being plenty of daylight.

David led me to a playground that had just been rebuilt, featuring a pirate ship, train, and other various climbing structures. He was ecstatic, and enjoyed looking through the "portholes" of the ship as I pretended to be a fish on the other side.

Then I looked up and saw black smoke billowing out of one of the windows on the first floor of the building that overlooked the playground. I couldn't see or hear anything coming from inside; no one seemed to be trying to put it out. Somebody's home was on fire. Several neighbors were on their porch balconies, but no one seemed alarmed. Diagonally to the apartment on fire, a man and woman stood on their second-floor porch, hanging over the railing, smoking. It was as calm a summer evening as ever had been.

I exchanged looks with a few other adults on the playground...was this really happening?

Then I looked to my left and saw two fire engines approaching, just as siren or anything. They silently drove right over and up and onto the edge of the playground, parking right next to the pirate ship play structure. The neighbors kept hanging over their porch railings, and the kids kept playing. I was sort of in shock. I guess I would have expected them to evacuate the building, or something. But I didn't see anyone coming out.

As we all stood there gawking and corralling our children, the firemen climbed off the truck and the air was filled with the sound of axes shattering windows. The hose came out.

Several minutes passed before I realized we weren't getting the whole picture. Of course...we were actually looking at the back of the building, the entrances being around the corner in the other courtyard. I managed to get David to come with me "for a minute" to see if anyone had indeed made it out. My heart sank as we came around the corner and I saw an ambulance parked outside. But maybe it was a good sign that it wasn't rushing away.

I'd seen enough. I grabbed David to say a short prayer before we walked away. He could not be dragged away from the playground, so we stayed awhile longer. I glanced up at The Window and saw a disheveled-looking older man stumble into the charred remains of whatever room it was, pour a beverage, and take a sip. Evidently he hadn't been convinced to go to the hospital. Or...what if he had just lost someone?*

We played some more, and then went home.

*A local news station reported that there had been one person injured, but none perished.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Venue

On Sunday I visited our new church location for the first time. The funny thing is that there are only so many Protestant church buildings in the city, and along with the Orthodox ones, they were given some other purpose during Communism (I'll get to that later). Now that the church properties belong to the Church again, we attend a range of events in these few buildings. We got married in one, attended weddings in another, went to a concert in the one further down the street...

The meeting hall we're renting now is the one with the gymnasium floor, up at the top of the stairs, where we once sat to hear a poetry recital, as well as attended a Santa Lucia celebration. That's how I remember it, anyway.  And now I'll spend my Sundays there.

Since so many congregations share the space, no one's really taken ownership...not completely, anyway. I don't know all the details and I'm sure that efforts have been made to fix it up at least a little. But it's pretty run-down. Our conversations have been abuzz with discussion about which repair job is most important. Many wanted to focus on the floor, but the floor doesn't bother me. If you went to my church growing up, you know that the sanctuary always doubled as a gymnasium. Ugly, but familiar! So it made me feel right at home. BUT...I keep needing to be reminded that the gym floor in this case is a symbol of oppression and persecution; of a time when churches (in an architectural sense) were not used for worship. I can understand the need to wipe out that diminish its power, maybe? But at the same time, why not leave it there so that we can cherish freedom all the more? I'm not going to get involved, though. ;)

Can't decide where to embed this,
so I'll just plop it here!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Summer plan reveal: In honor of my dad's 70th birthday this year, we thought it might be meaningful to gather in Scotland, the home of his grandparents. There's a Wales/England contingent too, but we eventually settled on the St.Andrews/Fife area.

I've been really excited and have been eager to get back to the UK since paying a visit there in my college days and before that as a young teen. Andrei and David have never been!

I'd been thinking it would be a "simple" trip since it's much closer than the U.S. (and fewer time zones) and we can speak English! For once it would be on "our" side of the ocean.

But of course it isn't as close for everyone else, and we all need passports, and the babies all need carseats, and....Andrei needs a VISA.

I guess I sort of knew in the back of my mind that Andrei would need a visa, but I was just thinking of it as something to check off, like when I would get a visa for going to Russia. Then at some point we realized that the UK is not in the Schengen zone. Andrei has gotten visas to Estonia and Finland, and technically could have then entered other Schengen countries on the same visa. But his Finnish visa won't do in this case.

Meanwhile, as it came up in conversation, we were suddenly hearing from Russian friends that a UK visa was HARD to get. That it was harder to prove that one didn't plan to overstay a visa. And I kept wanting to think that didn't apply to us. We're an American family going on vacation, and Andrei just happens to be Russian. But the fact is that our family does have travel limitations, and I have to kind of come to terms with that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Goodbye to a beloved author

In searching for words to eulogize Elisabeth Elliot, all I want to do is quote her many, many words of wisdom! And of course, the scripture passages that she based her life on. I mention her here and here.

But what to pick? Maybe I will, instead, recall a few episodes from my life in which she played a role.

1) 10 years of "Passion and Purity": I was introduced to this book in college. By then my beliefs and values were pretty much formed, but were beginning to be challenged, so it was comforting to find affirmation among the pages of Passion and Purity. I had some attempts to "convert" friends to this way of thinking, including in Russia later on (see below). After I met Andrei, I had 6 years to wait, but of course I didn't know that at the beginning or even the middle! Even though the situation was a little different, I reached for my copy again and again. And after hearing Andrei's side and reading about Jim Elliot, I still find similarities that I can relate to about that particular period.

2) In Congo: This is more about Elisabeth Elliot's daughter Valerie. Back in my "Africa" entries on this blog, I mention my brother's wedding, which was officiated by Valerie's husband, Walt Shepherd. The whole trip was rather surreal (especially living in Russia at the time), and to gaze upon Val and picture her as the little blond barefooted child in The Savage My Kinsman was also incredible. They were actually just finishing their time in Congo, so with the wedding and everything else, you could feel the winds of change as various people present were in different life transitions. Thoughts and prayers go to Valerie and her family during this time.

3) In Russia: When I moved to Russia, it turned out my good friends had been quite moved by Elisabeth Elliot's writing, and were translating Passion and Purity into the Russian language. I was given a copy when it came out. :) And then passed out copies to friends. Meanwhile, the couple stayed in touch with Elisabeth and her husband, Lars. Once I sent along a letter to Elisabeth with my own "passionate" questions. The answer was, shall we say, in her typical fashion. ;) But I was actually surprised to see that it had in fact been penned by Lars. I wasn't quite sure what to think of that, but then later on, I met them in person! Those same friends in St. Petersburg facilitated Lars and Elisabeth coming for a visit. Some other single girls and I (and a married co-worker) were at the ministry office when they came by for tea. I think we were a little starstruck. Elisabeth must have been in the beginning states of dementia, and I remember looking into her eyes once and thinking...these are the eyes that saw all those things she wrote about. A living testimony. Then she was falling asleep, and Lars was chatting with us. He was quite friendly!

4) Everyday inspiration: The two blog posts I mentioned above are one example, but whenever I pick up one of Elisabeth Elliot's books and just thumb through it for a few minutes, rereading quickly, I am immediately given so much to mull over! I only have 3-4 books of hers, but there is much meaning behind those simple, straightforward words. Certain enough to challenge my thinking for the whole day.

If you have a memory or favorite impression to share, please leave a comment and/or link! :)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Of tea parties and pickpockets

For the past few weeks, my Canadian friend Sabrina had been talking about having a picnic. She had found a good spot and Andrei was going to visit the doctor nearby, so it started to look like it might work out to travel there together. Then the weather got a little windy and Andrei was leaving earlier anyway, so I decided to attempt a field trip to Sabrina's flat with David instead.

Of course it's hard to schedule anything since D's sleep schedule varies. On that particular day, he woke up an hour earlier than usual....which meant we really needed to get out of the house sooner in order to fit in a visit before naptime. Thankfully, that was okay with Sabrina.

It wasn't too hard to get David ready since he was so excited once I told him we were going out for a visit. Andrei had already left, so David and I rode the tram by ourselves, and then headed over to the metro. David was intrigued by the people who stand around handing out advertisements. He figured he should utilize this service. He went right up to a woman with a megaphone advertising a driving school, and was just so tickled that she gave him a flyer! He took care of his flyers very well.

As soon as we were in the metro, I texted both Andrei and Sabrina to let them know we were on our way.

It wasn't a very crowded time to ride the metro, and David sat calmly in his seat for the whole ride while I stood right in front of him. When we were passing through the center of town, I looked at the time to see how long the journey took. Then I put my phone back in my pocket.

And thought: I wonder who just watched me put my phone back in my pocket.

Which is funny, because I ALWAYS keep my phone in my pocket. In the winter I usually have buttoned or zippered pockets, or at the very least I keep my hand in my pocket, curled around my phone. When entering a crowd, I hold everything close. I have never, ever been robbed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Some items from last week, a few from right now, and some plans...

1) David had an eye infection last week. I guess it might have been plain old pink-eye. We used some drops and it got better before we made it to the doctor. But what's weird is that a few days later my friend mentioned that both of her kids had had it, too. David hadn't been in contact with anyone all week, and it's actually school vacation time right now. However, it WAS really windy outside, with lots of debris flying around. I wonder if that is making people get more eye infections? I've been avoiding wearing contacts until it calms down a little.

2) On transplants: a family I know here in St. Petersburg recently went through a test of faith...their baby girl got quite sick, and it was determined that she needed a new liver. And time was of the essence, and it was going to be expensive, and they didn't want to have it done in Russia. So there was a whirlwind of fundraising and travel plans, a connection made with a hospital in Belgium, etc. The father was a match and donated 1/3 of his liver to his daughter, and she took to it well. Now that I'm writing, it sounds like nothing, but seeing it all unfold and the money coming in and all the prayers being answered was quite emotional. Meanwhile, a girl I know in the U.S. (who had lost her own father) saw a notice and ended up being tested and donating part of her liver to a complete stranger! Again...I'm not doing the story justice, but great to hear about good outcomes and people's selfless acts!

3) The neighbor kids: I think of myself as liking children, but it seems that since having my own, I have a little bit of tunnel vision. Or maybe just distracted all the time and not as able to pay attention to other people. Sometimes I can't resist, though. The other day I was going down in the elevator by myself and two sisters from another floor got on, too (it's summer vacation now). So cute! The older girl was clearly in charge and marched off holding the younger by the hand. The younger girl kept stealing a peek at me and I smiled at her, even though Russians don't always smile at children they don't know. There is also a family with a boy around D's age and then a baby girl (I think). I've seen them at the playground but haven't introduced myself. I feel sort of in awe of the mothers wrangling a toddler and a baby in the carriage at the same time. It's like they're on a completely different mothering plane. Sometimes I think that having kids the same age isn't really grounds enough for friendship, but getting to know at least a few families around here would be good. And getting to know the neighbors is sort-of a goal.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Banking, AKA Handwriting Practice

The other day, I had to go do a bank errand that I'd been postponing for quite some time. Our branch closed within a year or so of my opening an account, so I had to switch to another one, two metro stops (and a tram ride) away. Even without being a huge distance away (40 minutes), it wasn't the kind of thing where I would just happen to be in the neighborhood.

Andrei was feeling well enough to stay with David for a few hours, so I finally dragged myself over there.

The bank (in Russia, at least) makes me nervous. I suppose part of it is language and having to speak over a high counter, though at least it isn't through the glass. And not knowing the proper protocol and so on. But it's ten times easier than visiting Immigration, of course! I kept telling myself along the way and throughout the whole process, that no matter how silly I might look, they have to do their job and help me...within reason, of course! And that is true even at Immigration where the officers can be rather intimidating. They must answer your questions and give you the information you need. But the bank is a business and they are normally quite formal and polite. These were all the thoughts I was mulling over in my head.

To get the form I needed, I had to fill out a request...or rather, create one myself. I'm sure I've probably mentioned before how handwritten requests are still favored in Russia. It is considered more formal, and/or less likely to be forged, I guess. There is a specific format to be followed for different types of requests, much like addressing a letter or envelope in American culture. For this specific type, a "zayavleniye," the recipient (dative case) and person writing (genitive case) + passport info are placed in the upper righthand corner, then the word "zayavleniye" is centered, then after a few spaces comes the body of the letter, and then the date/signature have to be positioned a certain way. I think it would come much more automatically in English, but this was somehow counter-intuitive, and the teller was dictating to me and I was sounding it out to spell correctly, and she was composing as she went along, too. But they were quite nice about it and there was no line, so it wasn't too stressful.

The next day I went back to get the forms I had ordered, and waited while they were processing my documents. I heard them discussing what to do in the case of a U.S. citizen, but I liked that they didn't complain about my being an exceptional case. They simply asked me to have a seat while checking with their superiors. And again there was no line, which was nice...though I wonder what that says about the economy.

They suggested starting over with a new balance in a round number, so I was sent to the cashier to get my ten bucks (plus) in change. It came out partly in dollars and partly in rubles. That made me smile. It was such a jolt to see a crisp, new ten dollar bill. When did I last use dollars? I guess it was almost 10 months ago now?

Long time no see, Mr. Hamilton!

One of the hardest parts, though, was signing my name! Don't laugh, but I've just never really gotten the hang of a personal "signature." I don't understand how you are supposed to have all the letters in there, yet with embellishments too, and so that it fits on the line. I usually start out neatly and then get all muddled up and end with a squiggle. When the teller gave me two copies of a certain print-out to sign, I signed the first one okay in English (to match my passport), but on the second one I got my languages mixed up and started making a "y" instead of a "u." Story of my life these days!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life lessons for mother and child

I felt sort of emotional while out and about with my son today. For one thing, I love seeing him interacting with people, especially when it's successful.

As we walked down the sidewalk, he suddenly dropped to his knees to inspect some ants, right by an older lady who was taking a breather. She was just tickled pink. I didn't want to speak English and kind of interrupt the moment, but I didn't want it to seem like I wasn't engaged, either...the usual dilemma. But I liked seeing her get a chuckle. Then he said "poka" (see ya) to her, and I told him to say "Do svidanya" instead. And he said, "she's somebody's Nina!" He thinks all women around his grandmother Nina's age have the same role in life! :)

Next, the grocery store for some carrots. David is liking a book called "Carrot Soup," and specifically asked to go to the store to buy some. How could I pass up a chance to feed him vegetables?

We usually say hi and bye to the security guards at the store. It's interesting that David chooses them in particular. I wonder if it's anything to do with the security guards usually being migrants themselves, or if D. just sees them as the hosts, like we're coming to visit them. When we were on our way out, he yelled "Do svidanya, Dyadya!" and the security guard was busy with something, so David ran all the way over to say it again and make sure the guy had heard. So funny!

I was talking to a Russian mom friend recently about this age of innocence being threatened. It's so heart-breaking to see children learning how cruel people can be. It's so hard to see them face rejection for the first time. They are still so self-centered at this age, yet at the same time so sincere.

We stopped at the playground and David went up to several children and said hello, and most didn't react. He seems to alternate between being friendly and feeling threatened, and I'm not quite sure what criteria he uses. When he is playing with a toy he often expects that other children will want to take it away, and then he will turn around and offer it to someone to play with. He tried for several minutes to share his toy plane with a younger toddler, and she just looked at him!

(Not quite sure what he's looking at, just enjoying the moment!)

I was feeling lonely and anti-social at the same time. A few mothers (whom I'd seen once or twice before) were yakking about a trip to the pediatrician or something. How the toddler had thrown a fit, and what to do. I didn't want to be talking about that. I was glad to have the freedom to just watch David run around. But at the same time, I wished I had the guts to randomly start talking to the other parents/grandparents. It reminded me a little of my relationships with other ex-pats. A lot of times I'm fine to avoid contact, as we can get to focusing on our common grievances too much, or gossiping. But at the same time the common ground can be a blessing and provide some much-needed fellowship.

Meanwhile, David was fascinated by a little girl a few years older, who was drumming on the guard rail with a stick. And then her mom would clap. He found a stick, ran over and started drumming, and instructed me to clap. Then he tried so hard to impress that girl! He ran after her, and she didn't want him to. She ran to her mother. I tried to explain that she didn't want to play. "But I WANT her!" Then he gave up the chase, and that piqued her interest! "Come chase me!" she called. "Boy!" And he reminded her, "I'm DAVID!" Then she invited him to see-saw with her, and once he understood he said "Yes, of course!" And off they went, and they didn't even need me! Ahhh, young love.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Apartment: D's room

Bummer: Lost about half the photos I had been storing up for this post. :/ It would have been cool to see the transformation, but I've got a few from when we first bought our apartment, so we'll start with that.

The former owners were semi-empty-nesters, and had tailored this multi-room family apartment to meet their needs, including a huge bedroom with matching furniture, etc. They sent the cable from their TV through the wall into the room behind it, which they were using as some sort of cloakroom/walk-in closet? Definitely not standard for Russian city life! But we'll see what happens if we ever become empty-nesters. ;)

Vladimir checking the space out

The shelves were ugly but came in pretty handy, and we were using that room as an office (the missing photos). We moved some of the shelves down to table level and I did a few craft projects there.

However, we ultimately decided this would be the best room for David (see below). We moved his furniture in there a while ago, but he just started sleeping there at night last month, when we had completed the next phase of the Room Switch.

Click through for the "after" view and some more photos...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May flowers

Woo-hoo, a new post. Naptime is going by fast, though.

I'm still working on getting my energy back, and unfortunately Andrei has been under the weather. :/ When I last wrote an update, he was getting ready to go to Moscow for some heavy-duty lecturing. Well...he's been back for 10 days and still not recovered. Tonsils and laryngitis, not fun. So basically our May to-do list is hanging around for June.

Speaking of weather, we never really got our spring here in its proper season. We went from non-winter to non-spring (sort of warmish, but blustery all the time), and now that summer officially starts in 3 days, we are having spring-like weather. It's actually quite nice. You just have to wear layers and be prepared for the sun to suddenly go behind the clouds or even a rainstorm to come out of nowhere. I realized that part of what keeps me from enjoying the glorious sunshine is being unsure of what to wear, or not being able to convince David what he should wear. Now that he has worn a coat and winter hat for the past 8-9 months, he refuses to go without them. So on the first really hot day he was sweating buckets and we had to go home early because he got so thirsty.

Last weekend we followed through on some plans and went to visit a "Tulip Festival," which is pretty self-explanatory! We went with 2 other parents with kids, but none of us had our spouses along, so we all three pretty much spent the time trying not to lose our offspring! And then it did rain. So I didn't really see the tulips (only enough to see that David had gone under the barrier), and couldn't even get my camera set up without him running off. But it was fun to do something different and maybe we'll go back to the park, NOT on a Saturday, and WITH back-up so the adult-child ratio is a little more convenient. :)

Trying to update my recipe blog as well which is going at a snail's pace, and catch up on some photo projects-also miserably behind with that, but where there's a will, there's a way, right?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Almost three!

I haven't done a David update in a while. I think there are lots of things kids try once early on, but I usually count it as a fluke until done regularly. So here are some skills David has actually mastered lately.

Getting good at...

-making arguments. He now connects ideas with "because" and "so." For example, "Don't touch my chair because it's mine." "Turn on the light so I can see." A lot of times he links seemingly unrelated phrases, which sounds funny, but it's impressive to see him trying so hard to explain things logically (or making excuses to get out of doing something).

-cooking. This is actually related to something bigger which is his attention span getting longer. He can stand on a chair while we do a whole baking project together, even if I ask him to wait while I wash a few dishes and clear the counter. He can wait until I give him an assignment. Sure, he might have shown an interest before, but he never had the patience to really participate.

-doing hand motions. (see book cover) Again, maybe he tried to do it before, but I noticed it really clicking for him recently. He probably knows more songs than I'm aware of, but he is seeming more teachable in this regard. I got out a book of kids' chants with motions and have been looking for ones to do with him. It says from 2-5 years but I had tried before with limited success, so 2.5 or 3 years old seems more realistic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Return of the Prayer Journal

Time for some speed-typing; it's getting late here but I've been trying and trying to write this post, for at least the past week!

I've gotten out of the habit of journaling, but when I do there are always these recurring themes; usually problems that I just can't solve on my own strength. Lately it has always been about sleep issues and trying to be disciplined at the same time.

So last month I had my cold virus after the church retreat, and somewhere in the midst of that wrote a note in my journal asking the Lord to help me not waste time before bedtime. Usually it is because I am avoiding that One Last Thing I have to do, even if it's just brushing my teeth! The next entry is when I was starting to have the weird fatigue that I later attributed to a vitamin deficiency. And when I looked at those entries side-by-side, I realized that the health issue making me drowsy in the evening was not only keeping me off the computer but also helping me fall asleep faster, even when Andrei was going to be up for a while longer. I'm also sleeping better in our new bedroom set-up, which I will post pictures of eventually.

I think a lot of times an illness can help us reset our daily schedules, and it's neat when we can welcome it gladly.

The other thing that is happening is that I've taken over the bedtime shift with David, and that is a big chunk of time in the evening, where I basically sit in a chair in the dark. So now Andrei has the time to work, but my evening is gonzo. Let's be realistic, there's not much more I'm going to accomplish after 11 or 11:30 pm and still go to bed on time. It's a good time to go to bed, but not a good time to start a project or blog post. Not right now, anyway...if I went back and looked at my archives, I bet I'd find a lot of posts published between the hours of 12 and 2 a.m.!

So now I have to reclaim naptime again or something. ANYWAY, lots more to tell, but it will have to wait.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Okay, so I started taking vitamins more consistently and it definitely helped after a few days. Now I'm just regular sleep-deprived, ha!

There is a noticeable difference between regular tired and springtime tired when vitamin stores are depleted.

Other things going on around here:

-Catching up with some friends as time and schedules allow.

-Spending far too little time outside again.

-Enjoying a few spring days, but then trying to stay warm enough inside when the cold weather is back.

-Booking plane tickets and hotels for summer travel, and having my debit card not work, and then wondering how Andrei is going to get a visa.

-Practicing alto parts and trying to make certain English song lyrics ("you give and take away") sound good in Russian.

-Praying for Nepal.

-Preparing to send Andrei off to Moscow this weekend to teach an intensive course for a university affiliate.

-Cooking with my newest sous chef. He is starting to be more interested and his attention span is now long enough that I can leave him to go and grab the next ingredient without the kitchen or its occupants going up in flames. "I can't play right now, because I'm cooking!"

Proud to be helping Daddy!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fighting fatigue

A word that people like to throw around in Russia in the springtime is avitaminosis.

My kid's sick, your kid's sick....avitaminosis.

Why do I feel like I want to sleep all the time? Avitaminosis.

But seriously, it can be so hard to get energized!

We live in an area that has very little sunlight for about 6 months of the year. David usually takes a multi-vitamin, but I realized that I hadn't given him Vitamin D drops all winter, nor have I been taking anything myself.

Last weekend we were at a church retreat, and I came back feeling like I'd been hit by a bus. Yes, we may have a cold virus in the family, but a week later, we still have the sleepies. I'm a total night owl and yet I'm practically falling over my keyboard right after dinner. I don't even have the energy for aimless Internet browsing! It's not the same kind of tired where you haven't gotten enough sleep and/or have been really active physically. It feels more like jet-lag.

Meanwhile, D. won't go to sleep...sigh.

I think I'll hit the drugstore tomorrow and refill my supplements. Any other tips? Other than a walk in the sunshine, if we get any.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Living simply; living far away (Nepal)

My mom recently sent me a book, "My Seventh Monsoon" by Naomi Reed, an Australian missionary to Nepal.

I took the book along with me to a church retreat last weekend and read a few chapters while waiting for David to fall asleep.

By the next morning, the earthquake had struck. But I didn't actually make the connection until much later. I walked into the conference room to see my friend who had been to Nepal several times, fiddling nervously with her phone. She mumbled something about an earthquake and her friends there. I didn't have internet or anything all as I said, it didn't really register, but I could still see how it affected her. It definitely reminds me of Haiti and how many of my friends were affected by the 2010 disaster. Not a place that I've visited, but whatever burdens the hearts of my brothers and sisters is going to get to me, too.

My (Nepal-loving) friend then went on to lead morning worship for us in her sweet, faith-filled way. Later on Sunday, I finally got home to read the news and learn the scope of the tragedy.

Another of the girls who had gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two forms of "entertainment"

Whoops. Took an accidental blogging hiatus again. 

I've been experimenting with time management and "relaxation." What are some ways to force yourself to unwind, without being slothful? How would you define "recreation"? Yes, blogging and/or journaling fall in there somewhere for me, but I've been exploring other genres as well...

In the time leading up to celebrating the Resurrection (AKA Lent), I found phrases like "no housework during naptime" floating around my head. Things that are fun like baking tend to only create MORE work. So what to do if I'm not allowed to use that time to get organized? What would be edifying?

I found myself doing some holiday crafts while watching a movie or two on Netflix. This made me keep my hands off my computer and cut down on the excess information flow a bit. It's hard to pick the right movie for the mood, but every once in a while I hit on an interesting documentary. It's definitely a step up from randomly browsing the internet. Just corresponding with people online is fun, but can be draining.

On the night before Easter Sunday (Holy Saturday), I found myself finishing up some preparations, while listening to some favorite hymns. I found it very soothing, and even cleansing. I would love to reclaim part of my day for doing something like that regularly. I think the problem is that I go from busy/hectic (while accompanied by a toddler) to mindless browsing, just to get away from it all. But there are ways to find a middle ground. Sometimes just putting on music while doing housework is enough to lift my mood, but I let little obstacles get in the way.

Late-night sign painting...

The other hobby I've been focusing on is...dun dun dun...genealogy research. It turns out it's quite fascinating and also addictive. I noticed that when I get right onto the ancestry sites in the evening, I'm less tempted to do other computer stuff. However, when I'm scanning lists of names for hours on end, I think it starts to have the numbing effect again, turning into something mindless. I lose track of time and discipline. I go to bed late feeling like I overdid it. Plus, my eyes start twitching. So while it's a fun activity, I wouldn't say that it's the most relaxing or the best thing to do before bed.

Edit: Stephanie pointed me towards another blog post that expresses exactly what I was trying to say, with some good ideas.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Missing members

As I recently watched a PBS series about the Amish (Shunned/American Experience-possibly still available for viewing online), a testimony in the very beginning spoke to the heartache of not being able to sit at the same table as those being cast out.

And that resonated with me.

"Blessed are those that are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Revelation 19:9)

Not all will be present at the Banquet, and sometimes we get a glimpse of this here on Earth, with the empty seats at the dinner table just one way to illustrate this.

Are the Amish justified in their "shunning" practice and general separatism?

"Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: 'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" Matthew 13:30

I don't know. BUT I do know that the documentary brought up several parallels to spiritual life and the pain of having unsaved family/friends.

As people who had left the community gave testimonies, the single biggest regret by far to having left was not being with their families. Family ties are strong, and that reaches across cultures!

One young man told of the unbearable grief he experienced when an older cousin (or brother?) left the community..."Just imagine being in hell," he wrote to his beloved relative...only to leave himself a year or two later. There are parallels in that, too. We don't want anyone we care about to leave the flock...and yet, we ourselves can fall into temptation in an instant. 

Are our churches holding us on too tight of a "leash"? Do they seem too legalistic or intolerant? Too cultlike or displaying "shepherding" tendencies? Of course we must be cautious. But, the pursuit of freedom can be dangerous, too.

The documentary ends with an Amish man saying the following:

"If a boy or girl leave the home, their place at the table is always set....that's a very powerful thing."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Book recommendation/Caveat

The "dog" ate my Kindle?
It's March, and I have just enough time to squeeze in a book review for Reading Month. Unfortunately, my Kindle bit the dust some months back, so I haven't been indulging in literature much as of late.

However, I have a series that I wanted to share. I've started to write about it a few times and always stopped just short. The first book in the series is called "Chop, Chop" (by L.N. Cronk) and you can download it free for Kindle here. 
And what's worse,' she went on, 'is that on Sunday we're going to get back onto a plane and go back to our houses and our TVs and our hot tubs and we're going to forget about all this.'
'No we won't, Laci. We won't forget.'
She wiped her eyes and glared at me.
'Yes, we will. You say we won't, but after we get home we'll feel differently. It won't ever feel like this again.' -Chop, Chop (L.N. Cronk) to describe this series? For one thing, the dialogues are all like the excerpt above; pretty down-to-earth banter from a group of friends. This first book features their years as members of a high school youth group, and the conversations are very believable. I felt almost like I was back in high school, writing in my diary or reading a note from a friend.

As the friends come of age, the subsequent books continue their stories throughout their adult life. Though the author realistically portrays the most mundane moments of daily life, she also tackles a multitude of "heavy" topics, including divorce, alcoholism, adoption, teen pregnancy, child abuse, terminal illness, car accidents, and murder (I keep remembering more and adding them in). There are also episodes where characters are on the mission field, which that same excerpt is alluding to. 

Since this is a series favoring Christian values, I really appreciated the handling of such tough events in the light of God's saving grace. Though there were moments of redemption, they weren't portrayed in a fluffy or cheesy way. When I read about the topics I'd dealt with personally, I felt myself nodding in agreement. Some of the conversations felt like they were taken out of my own life. And the other ones were dealt with so poignantly that I felt compassion for anyone experiencing them.

So why would I NOT recommend these books? Well, there are pros and cons to covering so many heavy topics. A little soap-opera-ish, maybe? Though I don't think the author necessarily exaggerated on the specific issues, I wonder what the odds are of them all occurring within one close circle of friends or even within the same town. Of course that takes a little away from the realistic factor.

But my main caveat is just in how many emotional triggers come up in reading this series. A few is okay, but constant heartache is a little rough. Again, these are stories of redemption, but that doesn't lessen the grief. I especially found it hard reading about the progression of Alzheimer's, as told through the patient's eyes! It stays with you.

So I really don't know how to conclude, as I feel like these are all really important topics for discussion, and I'd be interested to hear if any of you have read this series, or would like to give the first book a shot! Just keep in mind, you will likely need to have some tissues handy! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Outings and non-outings

I'd been attending rehearsals for a "praise and worship" night for about the last 6 weeks, and then woke up yesterday feeling congested-yuck. So I stayed home.

It was a week of staying at home. Even though the sun came back, there was a rather brisk wind that made it pretty chilly for outdoor excursions. It was really nice to get caught up on some indoor activities. Andrei had a heavier teaching schedule, so David and I had lots of bonding time.

One day, we needed something to do and I had decided not to attempt naptime for scheduling reasons. So we stalled at home as long as possible and then headed outside to the tram stop to wait for Andrei. The last time we did that, we somehow missed him...we froze while waiting, and he came home to a missing family and no lunch ready or anything!

So I made the decision to hop on the tram in the direction of the metro. The only thing that made me nervous was that Andrei hadn't contacted me at all, and there was the possibility of him passing us on a tram going the other direction. That and the fact that David could have a meltdown and not want to get off the tram or go home or whatever. When we got to the metro, Andrei was just leaving work, so we went inside to wait for him near the escalator. David was squirming around and lounging on the ground as he's been doing lately....making his legs go out, if you know what I mean.

Eventually Andrei emerged, and he had run into his dad in the metro, so we all walked to the tram together. Mission accomplished!

Even though David can ride the tram now okay, errands are still kind of iffy (without the stroller) since he can run away at any moment. Plus, the stores themselves aren't always close to the tram stop. So I guess I would stick to stores with shopping carts he can ride in.

The other event this week was hosting Bible study, and that went pretty well. Nina brought some hand-me-down toys for David, and he enjoyed playing with some wooden blocks. There were also some random picture frames that were being discarded. I like the challenge of "re-purposing" something that's actually old, as opposed to specifically buying something in order to "hack" it. Got some fun art projects coming up on the horizon, can't wait!

June 2022

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