Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday aftermath (Dec. 26th)

We had a lovely (Gregorian calendar) Christmas this year, which I'll describe a little bit in a minute. Just yesterday I was still feeling great about the way things were going, despite some hardships. However, it feels like today we hit a wall and everything is going downhill. Sophia was awake from about 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. or so. Pulling an all-nighter for some fun or productive reason is one thing, but it's another thing to be held prisoner by a tiny, laughing creature. Yep, she was laughing and head-butting me. I threw in the towel and summoned Andrei, who needed to be up at 6:30 for work...ugh.

Amidst multiple messes this morning, I was counting down the minutes until Sophia's naptime so I could take a hot shower and wash away all the frustrations of the holiday prep that had never really been dealt with. Alas, there is no hot water. So I'm blogging instead and finally having my first cup of tea!

I remember another year when Christmas went really well and I thought we were pros, only to have New Year's be kind of a stress-fest. What went wrong? I guess I just don't have enough stamina for that many holidays right in a row. Maybe I will figure it out eventually.

Dear Future Self, if you're reading this, it's normal (or typical for you, at least) to feel cranky and tired after the Christmas euphoria/adrenaline wears off. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. Everyone's stretched thin this time of year. Maybe you've been holding on to some feelings and not surrendering them to the Lord? Maybe it's time for some quiet.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Halfway there

Yesterday we were halfway through Advent! And we're nearing the shortest day of the year, which is always a bit of a relief once we're past it.

I've been encouraged by how we've been able to observe Advent this year. David (almost 5 1/2) is able to participate more and take initiative, and his enthusiasm somehow soothes the usual loneliness and dreariness this time of year.

Part of why I didn't write this post earlier is that I wanted to include a few visuals. You may recognize some of our same old decorations from other years, but there are always some changes.

I enjoyed Callie's post about enjoying Christmas as an adult, and I have to say that many of the same principles apply for me, so here is our version.

-Starting early:

Going to all that work to get out/sort decorations (if they're mingled like ours) and arrange them, only to enjoy it for a few weeks? Nope, we have to be able to enjoy them for at least a month, in my mind! I also realized that Christmas decorations and "hygge" go hand in hand, and the lights and candles help bring some comfort in the winter darkness. So...the earlier, the better! This year I got everything out right away heading into the first weekend of Advent. It's not a strict tradition or organizational thing, but rather a way to survive and thrive.

Not Christmas morning yet, but tea parties are underway.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A tale of two fathers

Andrei and I both grew up with great dads! There's a reason I'm focusing on them in this post, but of course the moms are pretty awesome, too.

Back when Andrei and I were "just friends" and left comments on each other's blogs...back when we were in a small group together and prayed for each other's prayer needs...it was almost 10 years ago, and at that time, each of our fathers got diagnosed with prostate cancer.

So there we were, with our fathers going through identical health crises!

But we got through that time. A few years later we got married, and then had kids, and have been going back and forth between the grandparents and making lots of memories.

However, the grandfathers aren't able to visit each other's countries due to their health restrictions. And lately, they've been in sync again with some more serious complications. Over the past few weeks we've been imagining scenarios where we lose Andrei's dad or mine. We could have lost Vladimir when he had a heart attack recently, and we could lose my dad if he doesn't improve soon.

Just yesterday Vladimir was transferred to a "sanatorium" (look up Russian sanatoriums if you're interested!), and tomorrow my dad will be transferred home to receive visiting nurse care.

So it's been a roller-coaster, to say the least! And our family was hit with an INTENSE cold virus a week ago so we haven't been able to offer much support.

Anyway, I don't have anything very profound to say and don't know how to edit this to make it less blunt. Just a little update and of course some things to pray about.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October Survey/Selfie

Been doing a lot of survey-like posts lately, but had to get this monthly one up!

In the blue room.

What I've been...

Reading: Elisabeth Elliott books and biography, "No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers"

Watching: Still no time for TV! David has been watching "Martha Speaks."

Cooking/Eating: Pumpkin bread (onceuponachef recipe), stir-fry, pizza, apple cake (bhg recipe)

Listening to: "Holy Spirit" (Kari Jobe?), "Try" (Pink), "Waters of Babylon" (remake of Don McLean)

Striving towards: Getting the house a little cleaner. Also getting more sleep.

Looking forward to: Baking once the house is cleaner (it's lunchtime so I've got an agenda).

What David is up to: Inventing his own form of multiplication...or algebra? He was sitting there saying "what's 2 fives plus 1 five?" and counted it all out on his fingers.

What Sophia is up to: Dropping her second nap (aka not sleeping at night), clapping, stomping, waving, climbing, sweeping the floor, being generally adorable and feisty.

Your Turn!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Senses

I'm not a huge fan of Halloween in general, but it helps take me back to my childhood. I realized that I still have very strong associations, even having lived outside of the U.S. for 13 years (and being away at college before that).

These are some of my sharpest memories. Play along if you'd like! You could even think of yours before reading mine: What do you SEE, HEAR, TASTE, TOUCH, SMELL on Halloween night?

See: The orange glow of the jack o' lantern with the candle flickering inside.

Hear: The crunch of the leaves underfoot and the thud of the candy bar falling into the bag and joining the others. When staying home, the footsteps on the porch and the doorbell ringing....

Taste: The pepperoni pizza we used to order each Halloween so we could be free to "man the door." And of course, the candy.

Touch: The icky gooey pumpkin guts! And the smooth plastic wrappers of all the little candy bars we would sort as soon as we got home. :)

Smell: Leaves. Pumpkin spice is YUM but not Halloween-related for me.

Your turn!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Things open in my browser

Not lacking in blog post ideas, just thought this was a fun game to play if you're the type to have multiple projects going at once.

Apparently I've been filing away ideas for future shopping trips or even places to live/vacation.

-Gmail inbox
-Real Estate in Bulgaria (don't ask)
-Article about expat life in Bulgaria
-Kids' play kitchen on Avito (like Craig's List)
-Life in Bulgaria article in Russian
-Blog post I wanted to comment on, "She Builds Her Home"
-Blog post I wanted to comment on, "Bethany Vitaro"
-Carter's outfits for Sophia for 2018

I guess that shows my more materialistic side or something, but really it's just projects I'm working on that I give attention to for a few minutes at a time.

What about you? If you don't keep lots of browser tabs open, what's in your recent history?

My recently closed ones are:

-Christian radio station Теос (Andrei was on yesterday)
-Our church forum on VK
-Facebook (obviously)
-CNN article about #metoo
-Bulgaria vs. Russia
-Additional FB/VK tabs

Your turn!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Splitting up

Have you ever been in a church split? How did it make you feel? How did you deal with it? Were you a leaver or one left behind? One going out or sending?

We have "lost" maybe 2/3 of our congregation in the last 6 months. Doesn't matter why, but I feel like I have to grieve a little bit.

Reactions may vary and range from gossip to prayer to the hope of a turning over a new leaf. The problem with the optimistic approach, I've found, is that it doesn't allow for processing what's happened. And what has happened? It's quite typical/normal for followers of Christ to move on and worship in a new group of like-minded believers. There can be many reasons for this and they don't even have to be super "spiritual."

But when people leave because of some sort of conflict or unfulfilled dream, it feels to me like giving up on relationships. It feels like divorce. I know some might argue with me and say that sounds harsh. And I know divorce isn't the ultimate sin, either, but I feel that premature separation removes the chance for reconciliation. Harboring discontentment and then leaving without problem-solving takes away the chance for repentance and forgiveness. As each family/individual leaves, I want to believe that they are in God's will, on the path of righteousness. I sincerely desire all whom I love to be walking with Christ. But how could a broken relationship be His will? And how could it be right for one person's decision to uproot others, regardless of whether or not they would have eventually moved on? Is it a paradox?

We walked together and became cleaved to each other, in a way. I sort of alluded to this in a birthday post. When you are in a close relationship, what happens when your common link is severed? If a couple has broken up, is it possible to remain friends? Many have said that we will remain friends, but in what context? And what's the difference between being casual friends with people in other churches and remaining friends with those who used to be in the same church?

I think partly staying behind is also hard because it is less of a choice. It IS a choice, but it is not something planned, as opposed to those who made the decision to leave together. We chose to stay, not knowing who else would stay. And now we look around and see who is left. And they might not be the ones that I would have chosen to be friends with. When you first join a church, you may be starting from scratch with friendship, but then everyone gets into their little groups. And now it's like we were all thrown together from different social groups. These are the people who should be my closest friends, but I don't feel automatically close to all of them.

I suppose it is obvious that I am in favor of staying put. But it may also be a personality thing? There have been times when I have stayed in a church situation that wasn't ideal, NOT because of complacency, but because I felt God was teaching me through it. I believe that whenever there is the tiniest kernel of hope, that it is worth it to keep trying. Even when not all seems biblically sound (and no church is ever perfect or completely free from "scandal"), I sometimes see those imperfections as challenges to seek Truth and practice discernment...even though there are times when we must separate ourselves from a church that seems to be doing the work of the Evil One.

Since it is so personal, that is why I have to keep committing everyone's future to the Lord, instead of questioning the decision itself.

Rushing to post this before my laptop battery runs out! But probably more in the future.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September Survey/Selfie

Seasonal greetings...

What I've been...

Reading: Liar's Winter (Appalachian) by Cindy Sproles, Tanglewood trilogy by Rachael Anderson, Chamomile trilogy by Susan F. Craft

Watching: Zero time for TV!

Cooking/Eating: Homemade salsa (canning recipe), chebureki, mushroom soup

Listening to: Still the same! Super Simple Songs on YouTube-perfect for toddlers.

Striving towards: Being fit (see previous post).

Looking forward to: Decorating for the holidays.

What David is up to: Starting some craft/preschool type classes.

What Sophia is up to: Copying, climbing, getting into everything.

Your turn!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Working on my health/What if....???

A year ago I was struggling with some postpartum health issues, and here's a little update. Okay, it got a bit longer than intended...

It's probably no secret that I'm not really into "fitness." I like certain recreational sports, or movement as a way of achieving a goal, but really can't get very hardcore or competitive about it. I have too many other hobbies that I'm trying to make time for, and I don't get a rush from pushing my body to its physical limit.

Of course, I never needed fitness to feel good about my body and never felt like I needed to lose weight or tone up...

2 babies later, I'm picking up the pieces. It turns out fitness is about being healthy so you can be strong for everyday movement, not just beating a personal time. And this summer, I did some PT.

Diagrams to follow...
I haven't been able to locate a women's health PT in Russia. There is massage therapy in some form, but given that it's hard to find a good pelvic health practitioner in the U.S., it's even harder in Russia. And I didn't find that any women's health specialists were willing to refer to PT or even suggest it as a way to get better. The medicine in Russia is more conventional and that doesn't work well for women's health in general, I've found. I'm not picking on Russia on purpose...most of the forums I've visited are frequented by UK women suffering damage after forceps births, etc. Some of them wish they had just been given a C-section to escape the problems they ended up with. Really, those are the only options? Seems to be a global issue. Although, I know that in France, for example, all women are referred to PT after giving birth. It might not be cutting edge PT, but it's better than nothing. Basically, this field is developing, if slowly...

As for my PT results:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New normal

Anyone else on an academic schedule? I always look forward to the routine that September brings. Andrei's new job this semester has a pretty heavy workload, but at least we know what to expect each day. I have to plan for things like cooking dinner each day since I don't have anyone to go to the store for me and no childcare while I'm doing kitchen stuff. Sometimes it's easier to get done if I'm not counting on someone's help. Of course my MIL is there to help out sometimes though.

One thing about this season (in life and otherwise) is that I don't really get a big chunk of time in the evening. It's basically eat dinner, put kids to bed, put myself to bed (including minimal kitchen clean-up and before-bed routine). Unfortunately, going to bed earlier isn't really resulting in much more sleep. I remember David started sleeping really well starting from about age 3, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for 2 more years of this....(such a sweet age though, all things considered).

Awake at midnight...

The good news is I have a new undamaged laptop and fairly reliable Internet (no thanks to Windows 10 though), and I set it up in the hallway. So I can steal a moment here and there to check up on things online and even jot down a few thoughts or two.

"Command Central," a non-Pinterest version...

This is the time of year when I have to do a lot of Immigration stuff. In fact, I might be involved with it for the next 6 months. :/ There are so many fun fall projects and friend activities and things I would rather be spending time on, but it's hard to enjoy life with all of the paperwork hanging over me!

Friday, September 15, 2017

August Survey/Selfie

Yep, I'm back-dating this...driving me nuts not being able to update! Someday! (actually couldn't find the scheduling tab to push this back to August)

Meanwhile in the North

What I've been...

Reading: Marie Kondo (finally), Sky Blue trilogy by Karol Whaley, Heidi Elliott series by Kimberly Stuart

Watching:  Wild Kratts, Anthony Bourdain culinary adventures

Cooking/Eating: Borscht and other soups, omelets with squash, saffron rice.

Listening to: Super Simple Songs on YouTube-perfect for toddlers.

Striving towards: Unpacking and decluttering.

Looking forward to: The new school year.

What David is up to: Constructing spider-webs, sculpting snakes, spouting information of various types.

What Sophia is up to: Toddling around with armfuls of toys, climbing on higher and higher pieces of furniture.

Your turn!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Little things

Got to get a July post up, not sure how the rest of the summer will go! As I probably say every year, just as September feels like a fresh start, summer always feels like a big deadline. Even though we normally travel for less than 2 months, it feels like I have to reach the end of my to-do list before we go away. If I haven't seen someone all year, it has to happen now even though it could happen in September. But now that we're leaving quite soon, I've abandoned all the lists and have focused my attention towards the suitcases and provisions across the pond.

Anyway, we did get a bunch of little projects done even if it wasn't as much as desired. A few examples are below. Little organizational fixes that will make life easier even if they're not anything fancy.

I'll do the fancier one first, though. This was hand-made by friends. I love being able to put up decorations that are made with love and not from IKEA. :)

I love seeing this as we walk in the door!

Next, some additional shelves for the floor-to-ceiling wardrobe. It was half-outfitted with shelves, and then there were a few sections with a rail for hanging coats. BUT it's a shallow wardrobe, so that would fit maybe 1 winter coat? Like it's made for someone's dress pants in their bedroom and not front hallway. Didn't make sense to me so we're putting shelves everywhere and hooks elsewhere in the entryway. The wardrobe also has cleaning supplies so it will get good use...not sure what to put on the top shelves, though!

Now each person has a shelf...reach in and grab
 your hat before heading out the door. Looks messy
 but it's out of sight. :)

Friday, June 30, 2017

June Survey/Selfie

I was going to post about something else and then noticed that it's the last of the month already!

Chose this one forgetting that I used an almost
 identical one last month! Sophia attacking my hair
while I wait for her to get sleepy. :)

What I've been...

Reading: "Wonder Weeks" by Hetty van de Rijt, Ph.D. "Daffodils" by Alex Martin.

Watching:  Drumroll....nothing! :) Today David and I watched some YouTube videos of people catching large snakes. Pretty wild. :)

Cooking/Eating: Cheesy Chicken Fritters from Natasha's Kitchen...also currently obsessed with Panzanella now that we finally have ripe tomatoes. Today I tried a chocolate-chip muffin recipe for the first time, not bad.

Listening to: Nothing here either, computer's on the blink...sometimes I put on some lively tunes for David to have a dance party.

Striving towards: Getting back to healing my core. Looking 6 months pregnant again. :/

Looking forward to: More family birthdays, and spending time in the U.S. once we get the plane ride over with.

What David is up to: Mixing concoctions in the kitchen, and planting things in some window boxes.

What Sophia is up to: Cruising around the house, often independently.

Your turn!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Birthdays as an adult

Not going to write about a party or growing older...just some rambling about everyday life mingled with birthday stuff.

So my birthday was a few days ago and I set expectations low...no offense to anyone who helped make it special, which I appreciated. ;)

I had the usual birthday insomnia. Does anyone else have that? Again not even really related to deep thoughts about growing older....just general wakefulness and trying to plan out the next day.

Finally was trying to fall asleep around 2:30 a.m., when Sophia joined me for the night. After several wake-ups, I started getting birthday texts around 8 am (on a Sunday morning). However, they were not texts from actual people. They were from stores wanting to "congratulate" me...and inviting me to buy something, of course.

Around 9 Sophia was up for the day, so I headed into another room to play, but Andrei sent me back to bed. After tossing and turning, I was just drifting back to sleep when a friend called. I lied and pretended I hadn't been sleeping. We talked for 5-10 minutes and I really tried to be conversational. But I couldn't help thinking my cup was empty...my people energy, that is.

Andrei made me breakfast, and Sophia was napping by that time since she'd been up for a few hours. Then he went to finish sermon prep and David and I started to make a cake...but Sophia woke up. Like I said, I had low expectations...I looked at the bowl with the butter sitting in it all alone since I hadn't mixed anything together yet. It wasn't too late to run and get dessert from the store. But Andrei took Sophia and encouraged me to go ahead with it.

Friday, June 16, 2017


While gathering some notes about my late grandfather to help process his passing, I was surprised that I hadn't blogged about my trip to Budapest with my grandparents and older brother back in 2007. That was my first year of blogging when I was pretty regular. There's just a gap during those dates. But, it was a great vacation, so I'm glad I spent the time enjoying myself and their company.

Trying out some local goulash, perhaps?

Cow sculptures in  Budapest

Monday, June 5, 2017

Looking ahead

Just bought tickets for our trip to the States in a little over a month. I don't think it's hit me what I've gotten myself into. In fact, I don't think I can even imagine what it will be like with 2 kids!

We ended up having to switch airlines due to seat availability, but maybe that will be a good thing. Our last experience was actually pretty unpleasant. When we touched down in Frankfurt, we needed a few extra minutes to get off the plane. We let others go by us before getting all our bags down, Sophia (5 weeks old) in the carrier, etc. It was hard even getting our shoes on with the crowds around us and taking turns holding the baby. But apparently there was very little turnaround time or something, and the stewardess (polite up to this point) came up and started barking at us to get off RIGHT THIS MINUTE. And then she proceeded to stand over us, yelling, as we tried to gather our things now that our nerves were shot. No offers to hold the baby, help with bags, etc. I was unpleasantly surprised and I guess we will try to hustle next time.

Speaking of hustling, I chose really short layovers this time. Like, 90 minutes for switching terminals. With a newborn, we needed time for nursing/burping/diapering, but this time I decided that faster is better. So we'll put Sophia in the carrier, hope David is ready for some exercise, and BOOK IT to our next flight (aka miles-long security line). Part of the reason is that last time the few extra hours for catching a breather turned into a few hours of falling out of our seats from exhaustion as we waited for our next flight. Trying to use a bag as a pillow only to have it slide to the floor. Taking a turn with the baby only to find that I couldn't stay awake enough to hold onto her.

Next up is scheduling all the doctors' appointments, side trips, and hopefully lots of fun activities for this summer's trip. No visas this time-it'll be my turn for bureaucratic stuff when we get back to Russia in the fall. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May survey/selfie

Just realized this didn't post! Back-dating...
Hair strategically flipped to the non-baby side...

What I've been...

Reading: "Light of my Heart" (Silver Hills trilogy by Ginny Aiken), continuing "Center Church" by Timothy Keller

Watching:  Started the new "Anne of Green Gables" on Netflix. Decided not to continue. Anyone want to discuss?

Cooking/Eating: Sour cream pound cake, chicken wings, zucchini bread, buckwheat, cinnamon rolls (not necessarily in that order).

Listening to: Andrei on the radio. :)

Striving towards: Taking care of trip planning and all the other adult responsibilities.

Looking forward to: Seeing family this summer.

What David is up to: Learning some letters, sculpting with Play-Dough, and handling snakes at a petting zoo!

What Sophia is up to: Getting into everything...including the food on our plates as opposed to her own. ;)

Your turn!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Monday morning. Woke up assuming Andrei would be around for a few hours this morning, but it turned out that his class schedule rotates, so he had 2 classes as opposed to one this time, and had to be on his way. I got to work on breakfast for me and David. I shared my egg with Sophia even though she's not a year yet and could have a reaction.

We found out yesterday a friend was in town and was free to spend the day with us. Sometimes spontaneous visits are the most successful because there is no time to go back and forth about whether it will work out...we have been trying to get together with so many people with little luck.

As soon as Sophia was asleep I had about an hour to clean and spent 15 minutes in the bathroom, 15 in the living room, and 30 in the kitchen....which still was barely enough to scratch the surface. ;)

Another thing going on was my laptop not functioning...as I mentioned, some of the keys aren't working due to a water spill. Andrei took it with him to drop off at the shop, so David didn't have his show with breakfast. I was actually interested to see how he'd do with less screentime. Andrei's computer was on, but that's not in a central part of the apartment, so not quite as attractive for David to be in there. He did go in from time to time and watch a little.

Anyway, we got through breakfast and then when David wanted to be entertained, I let him play with a pan of uncooked buckwheat (think grains of rice). He was in a pretty calm mood.

Our friend Emily came and we had a little borscht for lunch. We've recently gotten into playing a version of 20 Questions, which is fun. I love that David is old enough for games. He might be ready for board games, too. With the guessing game, we use the first sound of a word, not the letter. That keeps him entertained some at the table, but he was really wandering around the kitchen. With a movie on he can take an hour to eat a few bites, so I wanted to see how he would focus without a movie on. Turns out, not much better! He was eager to show off for company and along with dumping the buckwheat grains on the floor he was excited to show Emily some tricks. She works with preschoolers though, so had her own bag of tricks!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Spring is/was here-Part 2

Catching up around here...

-typing on a borrowed keyboard as my laptop keyboard met with a water accident. Have you ever had a computer take a really long time to dry out? Wondering if I should give up and take it in to the repair shop...

-building heat is officially off as of a week or two ago. At the same time, the hot water is being worked on, so it was off for a few days last week. Sounds minor now but I'm still catching up on dishes!

-I really love spring. Too bad it only gets here a few weeks before summer. Summer starts June 1st in Russia. But spring will be able to catch up since summer doesn't really get here until...who knows when!

-it might not get hot every summer, but there's no canceling White Nights! We've been going on lots of walks (for us), and it's nice to be able to go outside in the daylight way into the afternoon and evening.

-way behind in summer trip planning, and even harder without a functioning computer. Hmmmm...check out my Instagram feed for daily shenanigans!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring is/was here, Part 1- annual avitaminosis

Hi, friends! May has been "sick month" here. Or I guess I should say, since Easter.

From a post I started about a month ago:

The kids are both sick for the first time, and I realized that part of me has been waiting for this moment: to play nurse and coddle with soft blankets, juice boxes, and all-day cartoons.

What are the things you said you'd never do, as a parent? I think I planned on being fairly strict, and I wanted to encourage my child(ren) to be independent. I love those lists going around with chores for each age, starting at 2 or 3. BUT...another meme caught my eye recently. It goes something like this: If your child is asking you to do something that he(she) can do himself, that simply means that he LIKES when you do it for him. Imagine if you asked someone for a favor and were told "nope, you're capable of doing it yourself." I remember as a child what a treat it was to be carried even when I was "too big" for it. Or when I got to watch more TV than usual, or have dessert anyway, or be helped with my chores. It is always a joy to be shown grace. (But of course a loving parent disciplines, too)

So that was fun for a few days until the cold virus hit me full-force and I wasn't so willing to be awake at night tending to the other patients. Then comes the "who's sicker" competition!

In the end I "won" and lost my voice and needed antibiotics, which is kind of a long story. Have you ever needed to be hospitalized/on medication with young kids?

We've all continued to have symptoms on and off, but we did make it to church and have a few other social events in between.

So, "just a cold" is nothing to scoff at! How did I use to keep up with all my activities when I was sick? I remember going to work, class, teaching Sunday school, singing (!) on the worship team, all with a sore throat or worse! And Andrei had a really bad throat infection one time, like mine this time, and initially continued to go to work and preach at church, but then he had to take a break and it took him like a month to get better. Seems harder to shake it off as we get older...but then again, you do what you have to do for whatever season you're in.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Survey/Selfie

Broke our healthy streak, sigh!

What I've been...

Reading: "After a Stroke Strikes" by Charles Kegley, "Field of Ashes" by Rachel Miller, "The Appomattox Saga Omnibus" by Gilbert Miller, and "Center Church..." by Timothy Keller

Watching:  (on Netflix) "Today's Special," "The Lady in the Van," "Little Boxes"

Cooking/Eating: Funchoza (glass noodles with stir-fry), Easter eggs, Banana muffins, Borscht

Listening to: Raffi

Striving towards: Kicking the family virus

Looking forward to: More spring days!

What David is up to: Putting puzzles together by himself (100 pieces is the new record).

What Sophia is up to: Implementing new dance moves.

Your turn!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I don't know if there is any way to kind of "speed up" the processing that you go through after traumatic (major or minor) events. If we could control it, I suppose we would choose to fall apart only when convenient. I know as a parent especially, I try to "hold it together" until another adult comes and I can go cry. But again, it isn't that easy to control.

So this month there have been a lot of various stressful events-terrorist attacks, church conflict, holiday tension....and I felt totally calm. Well, on the day of the bombing, I wanted to cry, but didn't want the kids to get upset...yet by evening, the feelings were gone.

Then with church stuff, I honestly felt at peace. But when I was physically at the church meeting, it all started coming back...just like I had to go through certain emotions when entering the metro after the terrorist attack. I had to be in the sanctuary and see the empty seats to really feel the loss.

We've got colds in our house now...we had some church friends over for fellowship last Friday, and Sophia started projectile vomiting! Heh, sorry for the visual.

I was thinking back to last year when there was also church stuff going on, and people prayed for our family, and then David broke his collarbone! Which is not to say that it was a direct correlation. BUT for Andrei to be able to stay focused in his ministry, he really needs his family life to be peaceful. Everyone being sick and cranky probably doesn't help, but there is also a lot of cooperation going on, and it could be a lot worse. Like I said, there is a lot going on...but I'd better hit publish.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The wounded

Woke up to news of U.S. airstrike on Syria. Ummm....not sure what the consequences of that are going to be!

Last night I was scrolling through FB and happened to click on a stranger's page that has a lot of friends in common with me. I ended up reading the pages of a family whose teenage daughter was wounded in this week's bombing.

As they attend one of the local churches here, a prayer chain had gone out, but now I had a face to fit the name.

Based on the posts I saw, it went like this:

-the teenager was helped out of the metro by a woman who heeded her request to go home to her parents, despite her injuries

-the girl only knew her father's cell phone number from memory, so they called her father, who called her mother to warn her that her injured daughter was about to show up on her doorstep

-they called an ambulance, which arrived in about an hour*

-the girl had some shrapnel on her leg and a ruptured eardrum, and required surgery

-her sister was having trouble getting to the hospital due to the transportation collapse, but a stranger picked her up and drove her all the way there

-the sister described an investigator coming into the hospital room and interviewing the wounded teenager and examining the blood on her clothes (to look for traces of the terrorist, the sister surmised)

-the mother shared about feeling relief that her daughter was showing interest in normal things, like food and manicures, even while still in the hospital

Often the victims of these tragedies are faceless to us, but when I imagined a terrorist's blood on my child (or sister!), I began to imagine what kind of thoughts might go through someone's head.

So, now you can kind of picture what the families of victims might be experiencing. The sun is shining outside (earlier today anyway), but the marks are still on their bodies for now.

*In St. Petersburg it is customary (and free of charge) to call an ambulance for minor illness and injury, as it is a way to get some medical attention without taking a sick person on public transportation. In this case many of the emergency vehicles had been mobilized to the attack site, and her injuries were not life-threatening, so an hour's wait probably wasn't too bad. See more in my Soviet medicine post from several years ago. http://lizinstpete.blogspot.ru/2009/01/look-back-at-soviet-medicine.html

3 days later

Sophia is 8 months old today. It's hard to believe that the bomb was just 3 days ago. It doesn't even come up in conversation anymore and we are back to complaining about the same old things.

When I've taken the time to think about it, I've been observing how many encouraging stories there have been about what happened. I guess I have a few other tragedies in my mind, like Beslan and the Moscow theater hostage situations, and those seemed to be such a mess. Maybe you can't really compare the situations....is a suicide bombing much different from an accidental explosion, in the immediate aftermath? Certainly different from dodging bullets, but still a very panicky situation, it would seem...

Since there isn't much coverage on English-language news sites, here are a few things I've been reading about:

-accounts of how calm and organized the evacuation of the metro was
-bystanders/other passengers selflessly offering first aid
-people helping each other get around the wreckage and up the escalator
-the efficiency of the medical attention
-the efforts of the city to offer additional transportation options
-the countless offers of rides and even housing to help those who were affected by the metro being closed
-stories of heroes such as the train engineer, who did everything he was supposed to do under difficult circumstances
-and just the fact that all of these procedures were in place for emergencies

Anyway, it's late...just wanted to offer this side of things. There are memorial ceremonies going on, while the investigation continues. Many of the injured are still hospitalized. But for the rest of us, it's back to normal (sort of) life.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day after

Everything is normal. Nothing will be the same.

I spent much less time reading the news today, once I realized there was not going to be anything additional. The names of victims have been published, but I don't recognize any of them. There's been a new attack in Syria, with many more casualties-how very, very awful. :(

It feels like we're kind of isolated. Our friends and family around the world showed concern, but today it is back to business as usual. A CNN headline reads "As Russia mourns St Petersburg attack, Europe shows little solidarity." And I think I can finally agree. In the past, I felt that Russians were being too hasty to accuse the West of favoritism and/or bias, mourning one terrorist attack and not another. But I really noticed it this time. I was so sad for London, and many people were. But I do not know anyone in London. And yet, I did not feel that strangers were sad for St. Petersburg. There are probably people who haven't even heard, but that's okay, because I wouldn't pass a news quiz, either.

Some headlines tug at my heart more than others. We have to protect our emotions somehow, or we will collapse under the weight of daily tragedies around the world. But it is still interesting to see how we react differently to various news items, simply because they concern different countries or people groups. And we can't really force ourselves to feel compassion, even if we can recognize a situation that deserves it.

I scroll through Instagram, but the normal posts are too normal, and the sad posts are too sad. I want both! The condolences are formulaic, yet their absence is worse. Yesterday we had to hold it together, but when we had the chance to sit down and process, the feelings were already buried.

Andrei's students hinted at canceling classes today, but as Andrei pointed out, he had to answer to his superiors, who had not given any such order. So Andrei took the other metro line to work. He said that it was a very safe day to travel in the metro, as security measures were high. But rumors said that people had been advised to stay home. There was a lot of information being passed around, and it was frustrating that some of it was untrue.

Today was day 1 of three days of mourning.

Chance of terror

It has always seemed like terrorist attacks always occur somewhere else-even in Russia, they are usually in Moscow, or in some conflict zone. I never expected it here.

Too young to know what's going on.
14:40 The blast occurred
15:00 I knew Andrei was finishing his lectures, so I texted him to ask him to buy some bread so we could have sandwiches for lunch.
15:15 My MIL's phone rang (she was at our house), and it was Andrei calling to say there had been an explosion. The metro station nearest his work was closed, so he was headed to the other metro line.

I started notifying people that we were okay, and Nina called Vladimir (Andrei's father) to say he was safe. Vladimir started crying with relief.

I was about to burst into tears myself. I was mostly stunned into silence. David was full of energy and irritated that we were making phone calls instead of letting him play freely with Nina.

15:45 Andrei called to say he had made it halfway home but that the metro was being evacuated (seemed logical in case of other bombs, but obviously inconvenient). It's a bit disorienting trying to switch from underground to above-ground transportation, especially considering St. Petersburg is built on a serious of islands. I kept my phone nearby in case I needed to look up directions for him.

16:15 Andrei called to say that he had gotten on a bus headed to another metro station that had more transportation links.

I headed outside to buy some bread at a kiosk near our house. I felt numb, like I was sleep-walking. Our neighborhood looked the same, but people in the same city had lost their lives.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Survey/Selfie

Awkward photo. But there's blue sky at 5pm!
Currently up to 13 hours of daylight.

What I've been...

Reading: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (stay tuned for a book review)

Watching: Doc Martin season 7

Cooking/Eating: Challah

Listening to: Michael Card

Striving towards: Surviving my daughter's sleep regression.

Looking forward to: Easter and more spring days.

What David is up to: Making up new and creative dance moves! Surprised me, too!

What Sophia is up to: Eating (and pooping) stickers and other tiny, tiny things she picks up off the floor...yay for pincer grasp!

-Your turn!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Which Country to Call Home, Part 2

About a month ago, I wrote about our destination as an international family. You can read that post here. After I published it, a friend reminded me about Jesus (in Luke and Matthew) having "no place to lay his head." That is comfort that I have drawn on at times, and it's important to remember that nothing is certain and any of us could find ourselves homeless at any time. For families of mixed citizenship, of course the horrible thought (or reality!) of being separated may rear its head at times. This is something I don't think about too much, even though I can travel to many countries on short notice without a visa, while Andrei cannot. I will have to renew my residency permit soon, including passing an exam! David and Sophia are on visas until we figure out a longer-term solution, and those are never guaranteed either. And who knows what international relations will be like in the future?

So I had sort of written about things from the point of view of human emotions, though my trust is in God. The times of high stress with red tape come in waves, and right now we don't have any major deadlines.

We are in a time of peace. My spirit is at peace and I don't worry about the future. It's partly thanks to my faith and partly the season that we're in. Another season may have me freaking out, but I don't see that as a sign of weakness. I believe that God predisposes us as individuals to be anxious in some situations and stronger in others. I don't see the worry itself as a flaw. It's what we do with it. I'm not afraid of flying, or most travel. But the packing will have me losing sleep every time. Maybe God will take away that feeling of stress someday, or maybe He just uses it to keep me humble. I fully expect to be brought to my knees many more times in this life. When it comes to parenting, Andrei and I sometimes get anxious in contrasting situations. I might be totally calm while he's worrying, and vice versa. But we're both right, and we honor each other's concerns.

I've never liked to speculate. Ever since I was young, I never had any clear ideas about the future. I delayed my college entry decision until the last possible minute, and I declared my major on the last Friday of the last week possible of sophomore year. It was hard when people would ask, because "undecided" wasn't a satisfactory answer. And then people wanted me to make a guess anyway. But I didn't know the future. Then at graduation everyone wanted to know, too. Nope, I never planned to be a missionary. I suppose it is normal to ask these kinds of questions, to show an interest in someone. But....why can't "I don't know?" be an answer? I don't like to say I'm going to do something, if I'm not sure.
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. -Matt. 5:33-37

Maybe this is why I don't like to talk about it...I don't want to make a promise I can't keep. But the other side of the coin is that I love to make charts and plans and do the research on various leads. So while I might not reveal anything that is uncertain, chances are that I have plenty of ideas brewing, with all of the details mapped up. And I'm happy to share any KNOWN factors with anyone interested. But right now it is on more of a smaller scale; no major life changes at the moment!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Family life

I figured if I went to write a status report then everything would change. Sure enough, I was going to write about how David had been calmer lately, and then he was a bit out of control today. Oh well, I think in general he is getting used to having a younger sibling. In some ways it is just as I pictured: brother and sister doing funny things and entertaining the rest of us. Along with fighting over toys and pinching each other or whatever.

I noticed recently that David was playing by himself more and okay with me doing something else or even being in a different room. It's great if I can get something done without needing to turn on a show for him.

Sonya (Sophia) is army-crawling and even has callouses on her tiny toes from pushing off. She has become very interested in small objects. I have systems for keeping David's toys boxed up and out of the way, but there is always that one thing that gets out...and if there is one small object in the entire room, Sonya will find that one object.

I've felt that kind of bone-tiredness lately where you are kind of going on auto-pilot, totally exhausted. Definitely spacey at times and having a hard time forming complete sentences! Sonya is up a lot at night.  For a while she was waking up halfway through the night, eating, and then playing for like an hour. I often had to call Andrei to come take her and rock her back to sleep. So basically I would start out sleeping with David, then switch rooms and sleep with Sonya, and then go back and forth a few more times. The beds are on opposite sides so I kept getting confused about where the edge was! Basically like the newborn days. Sonya isn't playing as much at night but she still wakes up a lot and whines or moves around. I don't normally look at the clock, but there are a lot of disruptions.

Speaknig (whoops) of sleep, I had this whole plan to cut out computer time in the evening and go to bed earlier. I was going to be well-rested. I think Sonya started the shenanigans around the same time. So after a few days I was going to bed earlier, but behind on various correspondence, missing things like blogging, and still sleep-deprived. So now I don't know.

It will probably all be different a week from now anyway...and then different again the next week.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Middle March

Well, that week flew by! I guess it got taken over by Women's Day, a church function, and registering the kids' passports.

So, the run-down on our daytrip to Finland. It was boring, hooray. I didn't even take any photos except on the train.

We decided to give our beaten up umbrella stroller one last run (we ended up getting another one the next day), figuring we could ditch it and use a soft carrier if it fell apart. It held up, though. Sophia was alert for the train ride as it wasn't yet her usual naptime, but then went to sleep.

Everything went fine with border control. There were a couple funny things about the train such as it not having a baby changing station despite it being the family car. It was way easier having 2 adults, though the train ride was only 2 hours. I think the hardest part was getting on and off and riding the metro to the actual train station.

We went to the same small town in Finland and again I was struck by how quiet it was. Such a relief after being in a big city, like someone had hit the volume button. The weather was just as grey, though. And without big-city sights to provide a little color in the winter, I think it would be a little dull. Definitely pros and cons. I liked immediately noticing ethnic diversity-not that it's absent in Russia, just a different mix. The little stores downtown had so much character, and that's something I miss about living in a small town, buying from local artisans and things like that. If we'd been in a car I probably would have made quite a few purchases! But as it was, our budget went towards train tickets and lunch, and our hands were full from carrying emergency changes of clothing. Oh, and apparently I'm supposed to notify my bank a week before entering a new country, which I had failed to do.

We visited a nice restaurant that I had found on the internet. It felt a little odd being alone there on a Saturday, and I wondered what Finns do on weekends. Were they all out skiing? Home doing chores? Out shopping? But we just relaxed and enjoyed it as Sophia took her nap in the stroller.

We still had about 2 hours and decided to visit the Railway Museum. But once there, we realized we didn't have the motivation to even go inside. David was having great fun running up and down their handicapped ramp and was disappointed that we were leaving. But it was cold outside! So we went to the train station and sat in the waiting area, and David and I went up and down the escalator and elevator and staircase.

On the ride home everyone was a little cranky, of course. But I really felt for a lady sitting near us whose toddler had not napped. She tried the whole way to put him to sleep, and he was only getting drowsy at the end, when it was after 7 pm.

At the next opportunity, Andrei and his father went to the Immigration Office to register David and Sophia at his parents' address.

Now we need to look into getting them permanent residency so that we don't have to always be counting days in and days out. But I think it may be a long process-no fast lane even though they're Russian and I already have permanent residency.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Coming Up

It's off to Finland again! We have to do another border run.

Andrei got a visa this time, and they even gave it to him for 2 years. So, technically he's covered to visit other Schengen countries as well. I was thinking the other day...it would be sooo much easier if he had a U.S. passport. We've never really had a pressing need for him to have U.S. citizenship, but if you add up all the visa applications, it would eventually pay off to go through the process.

We are going to try the same route as last time...yep, the train stop with 2 minutes to get off, where the door didn't open for me and David. But I'm guessing that only happens to me, so hopefully Andrei will handle the door and we'll be all set! Still haven't bought a new stroller though, so not quite sure how Sophia is going to get around. Less than 24 hours to decide!

Other than that, we're hoping for a non-eventful trip. No visa problems, stuck doors, sickness, etc. Okay, God? :)

I'll write about it when we get back. Although, if it turns out non-eventful, then it might not make for a very interesting blog post...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

It's getting real

It's an age of many transitions-6 months, that is (almost 7 by the time I post this).

I'd been looking forward to feeding Sophia "people" food, at the very least because she acts so offended when we eat in front of her! Literally, looks at someone taking a bite and starts sobbing. I started mixing up some purees for her, which she tastes sort of nonchalantly. However, now I think "do I HAVE to feed her?" just thinking of all the extra dishes and laundry it creates. I'm looking forward to table foods even more, when we'll just toss some of whatever we're eating on her tray.

Meanwhile, she is getting pretty mobile. She already crawls on her tummy like a pro and is much more determined about getting toys beyond her reach. The floor often seems like the safest place for her now, rather than squirming out of someone's arms. I don't think we bed-shared with David at this age-it's intense! She scratches and kicks, practicing her crawling moves. Time for a guard-rail, stat! Anyway, I think she's going to be a feisty one, so I'm bracing myself. I'm hoping David will be able to help entertain her sometimes. They are already pretty competitive. He commands us to look at him and listen when he is speaking. She hides under a blanket and waits for us to ask "Where's Sophia?"

I was looking back at my blog archives to see when David reached certain milestones, and found this fun post from exactly 4 years ago! Definitely the same things currently going on with Sophia, though she was born a month later, so she might be ahead a tad.

Some differences:

-I don't think of Sophia as fussy or clingy, as I noted with David. Maybe I'm just more relaxed about "getting stuff done"? Of course, David can help sometimes, too.

-Sophia stopped napping too, but I guess earlier on we figured out that she sleeps well in the baby buggy, especially in the winter. We put her in her snowsuit and open the porch window so she's "outside."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Survey/Selfie

What I've been...

Reading: The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country

Watching: The Beginning of Life: The Series (on Netflix)

Learning: Biblical Greek 

Cooking/Eating: Too many baked goods, including these, these, and these.

Listening to: Easter hymns

Striving towards: Going to bed earlier and decluttering my life.

What David is up to: Counting, gummy anacondas, and everything glow-in-the-dark

What Sophia is up to: Army-crawling, opening/closing drawers, trying finger foods, playing peekaboo

-Your turn!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Perspective: Which country to call home

4 years ago, David was a baby and everyone was asking me if/when we were planning on leaving Russia. I wrote about it in this post.

Now they're asking again, in addition to wanting to know our specific plans for school!

Back when I was having trouble getting a visa to stay in Russia long-term, I remember this issue coming up: If I get a full-time job to stay in Russia, then I can't do the things I was doing before. I wondered if it was worth all that time and effort. Other missionaries were starting to relocate and move towards similar ministry, but in a neighboring country.

Why would we pack up and leave? Russia is our home. There are people to love all over the world, but it's not like you can close your eyes and point at the map to choose where to go next. There has to be more direction than that. I've moved before, so I know what it's like and I've dealt with all sorts of bureaucracy before. It wouldn't stop me. But in order to be willing to do that, you need to be passionate about making the change. You might be doing it for someone you love, or just a higher purpose in general. Sometimes it's a temporary decision that turns into a big move.

Right now we have relatives all over the U.S., as well as in St. Petersburg and Kinshasa. That's just family members, not counting friends. Moving to yet another location makes it that much harder to see each other. Plus you have many different languages at play. Which languages would the kids speak, and where would they choose to live in the future?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Urban Housewife and Proverbs 31

I was a bit bowled over by a blog post I stumbled upon. The blog itself seems like it has a lot of posts about conservative Christian homemaking that I would normally agree with, and I actually want to read more of her writing. However, the more I live abroad and gain perspective in housekeeping/family life, the more I realize that the suburban American Christian vision of a housewife isn't necessarily a universal ideal.

So with that little intro in mind, here is the situation. Someone wrote to this blogger (linked above) asking for advice on boredom and loneliness as a housewife. The blogger had a fairly-anonymous male reader write a response from a husband's viewpoint.

I guess my first issue is with the women who were supposedly commenting that they were bored. I can't even imagine having "nothing to do!" I can't imagine looking around a house that is already clean and wondering what to do next. Every once in a while I will hear a comment from a woman who took up a new hobby while at home with small children, or while they napped. Sure, I take time for a creative project, but if I waited until I did my "chores," I'd never have time for it. Throughout the post, the man discusses how wives can best use their "free time," and it's like he's writing in a foreign language. That might be just me, though.

I will say that boredom can also probably arise from being busy with something that isn't your favorite. I can definitely feel bored doing various tasks or even playing certain games with my kids. So in that case I agree that sometimes an attitude adjustment is needed.

However, I was a bit shocked by this man's harsh assessment of the "modern" woman:
"Whereas in decades and centuries past where the woman worked hard all day long at doing these types of beneficial household activities and ended up contributing so much more to the overall support of the household, nowadays, especially for the stay at home wife/mom, EVERYTHING is left to the husband to earn and provide for while the wives sit at home idle, suffering with loneliness and complaining that their husbands work too many hours."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Christian marriage really looks like

When Andrei and I were engaged or maybe newly married, I remember talking with a friend about how hard it was to find time to spend together as a couple. She had been married a while already and had a few kids, and kind of laughed a little in response. "I remember those days!" she said. And I wondered what other kind of marriage relationship there would be, once you're not striving to spend every minute of every day together.

One thing that happens sometimes if you're church members is that the ministry that might have brought you together in the first place often keeps you physically apart. You might fall in love with someone by seeing him/her serving others, but later that service is what keeps your loved one from coming home earlier. And your family life might be interrupted by ministry-related phone calls. Even weekends are often taken up by "church activities." When Andrei and I were dating, my dad once visited our church on a Sunday, and wondered if we had had an argument. We never even bothered sitting together at services because I would sing on the worship team and then go to sit down just as Andrei was getting up to preach or make an announcement. Half the time I would leave to go teach Sunday school and never even be in the room at all aside from dropping/collecting my coat.

We spent more time together BEFORE we were dating, going to McDonald's after church with our small group! We were all free to just hang out!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Making friends like it's your job

Being a mother has made me more isolated, but it's not what you'd think. Just as difficult situations can make or break a friendship, it's similar with parenting, especially in another culture. In my case I think I became somewhat intimidated by Russian mothers, and stopped reaching out. I mention Russian mothers because I think Americans are more individualistic, and can be more tolerant. But I am careful there, too. Just like with politics, I don't bring up certain parenting topics with American friends unless I suspect we'll be pretty much on the same page.

Anyway, when David was a few months old, I was talking to a friend from church on the phone. She'd had her second baby several months earlier. I confessed to her that the hormones were still getting to me. She said "really?" and I didn't know what else to say. I'd just assumed that there were certain maternal buzzwords you just had to utter ("diaper rash"...."teething"...) and another mother would automatically know what you were talking about. But our disjointed conversation made me feel like I was alone.

Pretty soon I didn't want to talk to anyone else about it, either. I didn't want to reveal how many hours a day we spent nursing, how David slept at night, how little we went outside for our fresh air, when we were starting solid foods, or how rarely we visited the pediatrician. And we dreaded the pediatrician, too. I suppose some people like to be reassured that their child is normal, but I resented having to even answer the questions. We have a pediatrician that attends our church, and I feel very awkward interacting with her, as though she is making an assessment just by looking at us.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What went wrong?

I was thinking about all the years I've been blogging, and noting how I stopped writing as much. That's true of a lot of blogs I used to follow as well. Even though we all say we don't have the time, I know one issue is privacy. And somewhat related to that, I find myself not wanting to be as candid. When I look back at previous entries, I want to feel casual enough to just write about my day, or share something I'm struggling with. But it doesn't come as naturally. And I feel nervous nowadays sharing what's on my heart.

I observe some pretty amusing things each day, but I'm afraid of just having a "mommy" blog. Yuck. And yet...it also bugs me when women bloggers write about and photograph beautiful things, but never share a word about their daily messes or parenting struggles. There has to be a little bit of real life in there. So, I'll have to let the words come, even if they are about the same old day-to-day issues...like the person currently gnawing on my laptop.

Friday, February 10, 2017

And then 10 years went by in a flash

So I was waiting around for an important anniversary, and now it's come and gone...oh well. If you look at the archives in my sidebar, my very first post was on February 5, 2007. Ten years of blogging! And it's not only the blogging that's interesting, so much as the living that was going on during that time period.

I'll be honest: I find anniversaries on other people's blogs pretty boring. So feel free to scroll on by, but in case you're just joining up and want to catch up on my missionary life pre-kids, etc, here is a selection of posts from each year.

(Side-note: have you ever printed and/or published a blog? Or just backed up the posts somehow? Wondering about a good format...)

-How to choose from just one of the 226 posts? I wrote about faith, culture, orphans, teaching English, Bible study, friendship, and probably food, too. A good representation of that phase is probably the post entitled The State of Things.  It's interesting for me to read about what has changed in terms of ministry opportunities here.

-Lots more thoughts about orphans and missions and life in Russia, but a special shout-out needs to go to my trip to Congo for my brother's wedding, definitely a unique experience. In this post I talk about going to the Congolese Embassy to get a visa, and that was just the beginning! Check out the tag "Africa" for notes about my trip.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Aspects of living abroad

So I wrote about grocery shopping recently and now I have something to share about the postal system in Russia.

I just completed an experiment in which I ordered some books online to see how long they would take to get here. I'm not sure about big cities in the U.S., but here it's like being back in college: you get a package slip in your mailbox and have to go to the pick-up window. Kind of exciting but a let-down at the same time because you have an extra errand to do before getting your package.

Post offices are pretty easy to find and ours is practically visible from our kitchen window (if you kind of crane your neck a bit). I've written before about how the hours can be confusing, but it turns out that the pick-up window doesn't have a lunch break.

A few weeks ago, the first part of my order came in. It had been shipped separately from Great Britain. The pick-up window is open until 8pm and it was around 6, so I grabbed my passport, threw on a coat, and headed over. I went around the corner thinking I had been sent there before to pick something up. Waited in line only to be told I needed to go to the other window on the other side of the building. Once at the front of the line, it turned out I was supposed to actually copy my passport info onto the back of the package slip, along with the date.

That was to receive one book, which had taken a month or so.

Earlier this week, I got the second package slip, marked Urgent. I hustled over, but when I opened the door, the room was filled with people and I didn't have that kind of time to wait in line. :( Everyone always complains about the lines at the post office, but I don't usually mind...must have come at a particularly busy time, though. I went back home feeling rather disappointed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


The baby stopped napping recently, or I should say she started fighting sleep. Too much to see and do, I guess! Andrei has always been the bedtime person and I've never really had the knack, aka patience/stamina. I'll have to look back through my notes from David but up until now we pretty much would give a pacifier to Sophia and she would go to sleep. And then for nighttime Andrei would rock her a bit. But now for naps she waits for someone to actually put her to sleep.

A couple of times Andrei wasn't home and she just kept crying. Finally I got out the baby carrier, which I had intended to use more, but then found out it can be hard on a weak core. But I think the most damage would be from doing a lot of chores while wearing the baby. Just walking around a bit wearing the baby (I've heard up until an hour) is okay, until your core muscles get weak and you start to compensate. So I decided to get it out and have it handy for emergencies. One of those came about the other day when Andrei was out, so I put her in the carrier and paced a little bit. Then finally I remembered that Sophia likes music...as opposed to David, who doesn't really respond as well. There was even a period when I would put Mozart on and prop her up on a pillow with her pacifier, and she'd drop off.

Anyway, the song that came to me goes like this:

"Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us...that we may be called the sons of God!"

(if you know it, you're humming it now)

That song was just what was needed to calm both of us.

The next one that came to my mind was: "How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure..."

As I was singing it, I realized it isn't one of my favorites, rather melodramatic! But at that moment it fit the theme of the hour. I was thinking about how I needed the Father's love for ME, and also wanted to model it and receive it for my kids.

Later that same day, David was watching yet another cartoon on Netflix. It was actually a new one that had cropped up, involving a naughty baby chick named Chiro. David watches a lot of action movies and cartoons, yet he found THIS mild one scary! Sometimes he would press pause or hide. I observed what was making him nervous, and it turned out to be the moments when the chick's parents were about to discover his wrongdoing! Of course the screenwriters did try to build suspense, but I felt so guilty that David was scared about discipline! I hope I'm not TOO scary when I'm mad.

In the evening, I meditated on this issue of parenting and thought about how I have a lot to learn.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." -James 1:5

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Grocery haul"

(My phone takes long,
 narrow photos....don't
know how to fix that)
I titled this post ironically. We don't do that kind of grocery shopping around here. I'm trying to think of how to explain it. The style here is kind of a mix between minimalism (smaller living space and especially kitchens) and hoarding from the instilled fear of a deficit. So, I guess similar to couponing where you would grab up all the toothpaste on sale or something. But there's not a lot of sale items that we would need, and meats/veggies on sale tend to be already on their way out. So if we do get sale items they can be pretty random like a big bag of cookies or tea bags. We pretty much go out and buy the staples pretty regularly, or my in-laws bring food. Not always a lot of variation, but sometimes something really yummy like bacon.

Today I was on a walk and entered the store just as I was getting hungry for lunch. Suddenly, everything in the store looked appetizing, even non-food items. I was particularly drawn to some cute tins of tea, but already have tons of cute tins with nothing to put in them. Saw a bin of Twix and had to restrain myself. Luckily I only take as much cash with me as I need. I did pick up a few treats and then started drooling over some cute dishes, but didn't have the money or a way to get them home! Plus we don't have the space...but we'll see, I may have to send Andrei back to the store.

Anyway, here's what I ended up with for a non-essentials store visit (picture top right): some party hats that say Happy Birthday, some roasted sunflower seeds, some Oreos, and a Kinder Surprise egg for David as a reward for doing some chores.

Here are a few things that made me laugh...but did not tempt me to buy them.

A sausage keeper container thing. Did you know you need a separate container for storing pepperoni? Those cute dishes are right behind it....we certainly don't need more mugs, though!

Some really cheap tea that didn't get marked down correctly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My little boy

You know the joke (sort of) about how new parents look down at their baby and wonder when the "real" parents will show up? Only because it is such a great responsibility!

Confession time: I STILL feel that way, even though my son just turned 4.5 years old. How is he MINE? How am I old enough to have kids? (and some of my friends have teenagers) When are the real grown-ups going to show up and make the decisions and take him to the doctor and shepherd his little heart? I'm so glad I don't have to do it by myself. Because I'm winging it.

When I take the time to slow down, I wonder if I'm too late to enjoy him while he's still little. What if he doesn't need me anymore? I yell "I love you!" just to test it out, and he still says it back. :) I reach out for a cuddle, and he's still up for it. Whew. I can't carry him around anymore. And since I stopped trying to carry him around much about a year ago, it always surprises me when I put my arms around him and feel how tall and heavy he's gotten.

At night David often calls for me, since Daddy is with Sophia. I grab half the contents of my bedside table and relocate to his bed across the hall. Recently I noticed that he was making it until dawn by himself. But then I kept going in to join him anyway. Sometimes the neighbors were too loud on my side of the apartment, and sometimes I just wanted the company. I wanted to squeeze in as many cuddles as I could! Then when it got really cold this past week, we curled up together for warmth, and argued in the morning over who would turn on the light!

Having a younger sibling can make a child seem older, but David is still a little boy! He still has cute (mis)pronunciation and plenty of innocence left. "Come visit us sometime," say the guests on their way out. "Okay, I'll come tomorrow!" I'm a little bit scared thinking of the disappointments in life that will eventually come his way.

I hope he notices that I neglect the housework in order to spend time with him! I know it probably seems like he always has to wait for me to just do one more thing-feed the baby, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, turn on the washing machine, etc. But I really do try to relax and be present, even if I complain about the mess all along the way.

4.5 years ago I became a mother! I don't feel like I'm out of the fog yet, but I've managed to keep him alive so far. ;)

P.S. Totally forgot to dedicate a song to my birthday boy! Not really related to motherhood, but in honor of the Storks movie we've been watching lately, it's "Fire and the Flood" by Vance Joy.

Late at night when you can't fall asleep
I'll be lying right beside you counting sheep
Anywhere I go there you are
Anywhere I go there you are...

Thursday, January 5, 2017


A lot of people were commenting on how awful 2016 was. And I can definitely think of people near me who have lost loved ones very recently. Even as I type this, the names and faces float across my mind, and I lift them up to the Lord. A child...a mother....an orphanage director...a father. Sometimes it is just something that happens to other people, and sometimes it is closer to home.

He isn't doing it as much now, but David had a period this fall where he was asking me about death a lot.

"Mommy, I don't want to die, EVER." And I just say "I know." Because I don't want to trivialize the grim reality of death by saying something too chipper, and neither do I want to admit that it scares me, too.

But one day we had a talk about new bodies, and he kind of latched on to that idea. And by the next evening he had a new prayer request: that we would die soon, to see Jesus, to get new bodies, so that he could run fast and Nina could pick him up and play rough with him, etc. I felt like his uncomplicated understanding of it made it easier for him to change direction with his thinking.

I don't know if I'm too young for a mid-life crisis or not, but sometimes it feels like I'm at some kind of point of no return (over the hill?), where that old injury or whatever isn't something that's just going to go away....it's here for good. Those hobbies might never fit into my lifestyle again.  This old brain might not bounce back (though it's still early postpartum). And sooner or later we do have to look to the future and think about eventually having new bodies. I wish I could have the pure excitement of my son as he imagines unlimited physical activity!

Will there be gravity in heaven?

June 2022

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