Friday, December 21, 2018

To operate or not to operate?

First night in the hospital...

The door to our room burst open around 2:30 a.m., but it wasn't for me. We were getting our fifth roommate. Zina had gone home for the weekend, but her bed was still reserved as she wasn't officially discharged yet. And now a new patient would occupy the remaining bed.

Lights were turned on and the new roommate squealed a little bit as the nurse tried to place an IV. I eventually learned that evening/weekend nurses were not the best at this type of procedure. And began to pray a silent prayer of thanks that I had an IV port in my wrist and didn't need a needle poke each time.


Daily schedule

Around 6 a.m., the nurse came in and beeped our foreheads with the thermometer and left. There were still a few hours until wake-up time and I had snapped a photo of the daily schedule on my phone. If you've read about my experience when David was hospitalized, it was a lot like that. In fact, this hospital ward was quite similar, except with adult patients, of course.

I still wasn't allowed to eat, and was given IV meds in the morning. I was struggling with nausea and a heightened sense of smell, as is often the case with me. I had to hold my breath when using the bathroom and when entering our room. I could never really figure out what smelled in our room, maybe just the scent of unwashed bodies (no shower)/bed linens/old mattresses? But even when Andrei arrived with his fresh toothpaste/soapy smell, it still made me gag.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Where the month went

No posts on my blog for November. But there's a simple explanation for that!

Let's start with a month ago where I'm sitting in the ambulance. After 2 WEEKS of abdominal pain, an ultrasound has finally revealed a ruptured appendix. I wonder at what point it ruptured and whether it could have been detected sooner...such as 5 days earlier when I was at the doctor and they said "it's probably not your appendix, but I'd have to see the lab work..."

Once they saw the appendicitis on the ultrasound, the medics at the private clinic were quick in making a few phone calls and arranging transport to the hospital. At this point I was actually somewhat calm and relieved that the source of pain had finally been identified. I was hoping for an easy-peasy laparoscopic procedure and then I'd be done with my appendix for life! In fact, almost everyone I talked to seemed quite cheerful about it. While waiting for the ambulance, I saw the gynecologist whom I had seen earlier in the week in an attempt to rule out other problems. "I have appendicitis!" I announced, and she smiled and said "See? There you go!"

I had thought I was organized in grabbing my passport on the way to the doctor's office. However, when the paramedic asked to see my papers, I opened up the passport to find David's face smiling up at me. I'd grabbed the kids' passports instead of my own documents! They took me anyway, though.

Sitting in the back of the ambulance was a bit annoying because there were no windows. I could see out the front windows a bit and recognize landmarks at times. The paramedic had mentioned the address of the hospital, and I was pretty sure of the name: "St. Elizabeth's"! When the surgeon at the private clinic was making the phone call, I heard him saying that I was American...BUT that I spoke Russian. I like to think that helped in the long run. I wasn't limited by language and I think they selected a hospital with a good surgical unit-if nothing else, to make up for their failure to diagnose in a timely fashion.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Motels and milestones

I couldn't really blog for a few weeks because I was spending my evenings (which start at 11 pm) looking for lodging for a 25-person family reunion in New England next summer. I like the challenge of a little online research. But it's actually hard looking for accommodations for such a large group. I even polled FB but no one had any specific suggestions. I found lots and lots of nice vacation rentals that seemed to cap out at about 20 people. Many houses had 6-8 bedrooms, but with 7 adult siblings plus parents (and all the men in my family are tall) plus spouses and kids, a queen bedroom for each family unit was not exactly sounding like a situation that would lead to peace and harmony.

Also, it turns out that October is not too early to book summer accommodations. Some places seemed to be still updating their rates, but lots were booked either from earlybirds or returning customers. And since I had to run ideas by everyone else, it wasn't possible to really jump on those properties that seemed to be filling up fast.

We seem to have found a solution, but I wonder what would make it easier for the next time. Do I really think I know what would work for everyone, or am I only thinking about my own preferences? Do we HAVE to be near the beach? The map was dotted with tons of choices "off the beaten path." But what is a summer vacation without the sea? And what would we all do on a country estate for a week? Or in a ski lodge? Everyone says "we just rent a big house and all pick rooms when we get there." Yeah, but HOW? But even if I had the perfect formula, each kid/adult will be a year older the next time and it will all change. Anyway, we're hoping my dad will be well enough to make the drive and join us for the week-long getaway.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A journal entry

This week so far:

-Andrei is working double-time this week in 2 different universities. So we're seeing less of him. On the other hand, we've been having lots of adventures on our own.

-It's been unseasonably warm. So we've been going outside a lot. REALLY hot in our apartment, though. I wrote about the heat coming it's full-blast and up to 60 or 70 outside with the sun BAKING us. The weather is luscious, being baked isn't...but we will probably see colder days very soon! In the meantime, I cover myself in cool cloths to sleep, lol.

-On one of our walks, we first met a grandmother with her 2 yr old granddaughter. The little girl was enthralled by David and we learned that she has a big brother at home. Then we were taking a peek at the ducks and bumped into the one neighbor that we're sort of friends with, also with her granddaughter, whom she had taken out of preschool due to difficulty adjusting. I realized later that I find the grandmothers easier to talk to than other mothers.

-I've been experimenting with aromatherapy. Tried diffusing clove oil without really testing to see if I like it. I thought it would smell Christmasy, NOPE. Smells like toothpaste or cinnamon gum, blech! Maybe blended with something? I even offered it to a friend and she was overwhelmed by the smell also!

-Took David to his speech class this week. 1 hour each way pushing the stroller was a workout! If I had more time I could write a long description of our whole journey there. I was explaining to a local friend lately how mentally exhausting it is finding exact addresses here in St. Petersburg. I find the transportation easy to use, but actually getting inside the building is so complex! Where is the building number? Where is the entrance? Which entrance do I need? Floor, apartment number? Words can't do it justice! Maybe I will do a photo journal the next time this happens.

-I've been behind on housework for WEEKS. I had a friend over today and was going around to each room cringing at the clutter! I was barely dressed when she arrived and still sweeping the crumbs away as she sat down at the table. I have a lot of thoughts brewing about eliminating clutter. So tired of moving everything from room to room! However, I did pull out the vacuum today and get 2 rooms done, feels like a small improvement if short-lived. We also had at least 3 yogurt spills today, I think.

-There was a school (technical college) shooting in the Crimea...actually part of Russia now, but regardless, SAD! :( It will be interesting to see if a gun control dialogue here will proceed any differently from in the U.S.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's your hygge style?

The seasons are changing and I'm taking whatever measures I can to keep the increasing gloom from infiltrating our household. Aside from spiritual inspiration, there are of course many ways to make an environment feel more cozy.

I think I've been putting "fairy lights" up since I was a teenager!
Good to know they're hygge-worthy. ;) 

I think it's partly nostalgia that triggers all those seasonal associations year after year. The sound of crunching leaves reminds us of a favorite fall recipe, or a Christmas song brings us back to the place we spent Christmas as a child. Along with that, there is more research nowadays to demonstrate that not only traditions, but a certain type of lighting and other details actually alter our brain, and arranging the environment the right way can help battle conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I can't remember when I first heard the actual term "Hygge," but it wasn't yet the hot trend it is at the moment. I think it appeals to a lot of us because it combines our cozy traditions (a favorite type of drink, music, aromatherapy, etc) with those household touches we have on our wishlist but maybe haven't been able incorporate yet: all-white furnishings, hand-made decorative pieces, etc.

I definitely think it's worth it to do all you can to create a comfortable environment, especially if you live somewhere with limited hours of daylight in the winter. But I also notice that Americans (and probably other Westerners too) tend to borrow an idea that's meant to make life SIMPLER (working with what you have), and turn it into a trend that becomes materialistic. For example, in rural Scandinavia it would make sense to use tree branches and other elements of nature in decorating, but are city dwellers meant to spend a great deal of time tracking down these materials? "Simple" woven baskets are presented as humble, but are actually quite costly to purchase. If we don't knit/embroider/ etc, should we covet those pieces, or rather turn to the artistic talent we do possess? In other words, do I want my house to look like a magazine cover/Pinterest article that features a house in another country with a different climate, decorated by inhabitants of another culture? Some days, my answer may be yes! On the other hand, while my IKEA list hangs out waiting for the biannual shopping trip, there are things lying around that I just may be able to use.

That's my introduction to what I thought would actually be a fun exercise. I've been comparing a few of these decorating trends/tendencies. Which one or combination would you pick? I'm undecided, but I'll share my thoughts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The coldest week of the year

I think around this time of year if I'm blogging actively, I tend to write about the germs going around, the days getting shorter...and of course, the wait for the heat to come on in our building (in addition to the beautiful fall foliage, of course).

Getting progressively colder outside.

The city turns the heat on-we have no control over what temperature or when, and once it's on, it will stay on at mostly full blast until April or so. At least, that's the way it seems. I did an internet search for what date it usually comes on in St. Petersburg-of course it is always a big topic of discussion here. The first week of October seemed to be the average.

I'm not sure how it works in the U.S.... I know individual families can decide when to turn the heat on,  but are there any restrictions, or could you turn it on any old day, like in the summer, for instance? I forget. I know that if you are in charge of your family home thermostat, you must keep a budget in mind. That's one question that we don't have to deal with! The heat is calculated according to the size of our apartment, and maybe by how many people are registered to live here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The school year so far

As usual I have many huge topics in my drafts folder, and I'm not sure when I will be able to sit down and finish those off. But no one wants to read long posts anyway, right? So maybe it's better to write about everyday life.

Home education:

David is 6 years old, kindergarten age for Russia but in U.S. he might be in first grade by now. At any rate, he's not going anywhere at the moment. It's partly the school system and partly his complexities. Let's just say he thrives most in a one-on-one environment (as opposed to the rumored 30-person class sizes at local schools). Although I wish he had more friends his age, I can also think of many wonderful adults in my life whom he would find very entertaining. It's just a matter of being open to the right opportunities. So, we aren't really worried about socializing him. It just might look different.

We thought about signing up for more classes at the cultural center down the street. But David did not seem eager about it. And since he's only 6, he's still within his rights to say no. ;) But we did decide to prioritize speech therapy at this point. There are many times when I've thought other parents were overzealous in terms of helping their children develop, but in this case I guess it's not just naturally going to get better. The exercises with a professional are clearly helping. A Canadian friend was helping David with his English last year, and he's added some sounds that were missing before. Meanwhile, he goes to a Russian lady now for speech therapy, and always gives a positive report when he comes back. I'm trying to picture myself as a child, going to see a lady for tutoring...I think I would have HATED it. I would have much rather stayed at home and read a book. But she obviously knows what she's doing, and he must enjoy the attention. They are working on pronunciation, reading, and pencil skills-all in a 30-minute session!

So...if we end up homeschooling for a few years (beyond preparation work we're doing now), I might just decide to employ some tutors OR find a group to join. I'd always pictured myself just preparing the subjects myself and presenting them. But I'm coming to accept that 1) I'm NOT an expert in all areas and 2) Other adults sometimes get a better response from my child.

On a side note, I've been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason. I like that there are lots of resources online, makes it quite doable from abroad. However, I'm just kind of exploring at the moment.

That's about all I have time for!

P.S. I decided it would be fun to fiddle with my blog theme to reflect the changing seasons. Everyone was saying a lighter background is better, anyway. Well...back about 10 years ago, I used to do all the changes to my blog design from scratch. Search around and find out how to change the html, etc. Just now I decided to switch the header photo, and it took about an hour getting it to the right size! I'm used to taking photos with Instagram squares rather than something long and narrow. And sadly, the quality is lost. That must mean my phone doesn't take very good photos...certainly nothing that could be enlarged to go in a frame. Very sad! I'll have to investigate further. And do something about my poor header. Another day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Flying, continued

 I suppose I'd better finish my tale!

We made it to the hotel with all our baggage and family members, and tucked in for the night. I set my alarm for breakfast ahead of the 11 am checkout.

The kids slept in fairly late and we let them since there wouldn't be anywhere to put Sophia down for a nap preceding our 7 pm flight. I waited and waited and finally just went down to the lobby to get breakfast since we clearly weren't going to all be ready.

On the way up with the breakfast, I asked the concierge about the airport shuttle as far as the 11 am checkout. Well, the "last" shuttle was at 10 am. Until 4 pm. Huh. I couldn't quite wrap my head around that one...11 am checkout...shuttle until 10 am. It was too late for the shuttle, anyway. I headed back upstairs to finish packing.

We were downstairs and checking out by 11, and the hotel mistakenly put the charge on my debit card. Nope, DELTA will be covering that one! Luckily I caught it and got them to fix it. Meanwhile, they ordered a taxi for us.

From bits of conversation that I'd overhead, this hotel was a relatively new branch and they were still ironing out the kinks. We were certainly glad for accommodations.

We headed to the airport first (the cab driver was great) since we wouldn't be able to get far with all our suitcases. The terminal was a totally different scene this time. I first went and inquired about checking our luggage. There was no room where we could store them temporarily, but they could be dropped off up to 6 hours ahead of our flight.

Next I went to the machines and started checking in. I hadn't had a chance to try it at the hotel. As usual, I went through the whole procedure and got an error message. But in this case there was an actual agent standing there ready to help people who had questions. She took our passports and visas and checked them all and got us boarding passes. If there had been such an agent the day before, we could possibly have made our flight. Of course, it still took time and would have been more difficult at a busier time of day, but we were able to obtain information and results more easily.

We hung around until we could check our bags, and then we were free for a few hours. I had just connected with my second cousin, exactly my age, who lives in the area. She was still on summer break from teaching elementary school and cleared her schedule to hang out with us! After a little investigating, we found the public transportation pleasantly easy to use, and were meeting up with her at the aquarium in no time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Flying by the seat of my pants

Have you ever missed a flight? Now I know what that feels like. Read on...

After spending a few weeks with my parents in the U.S, it was time to fly back to Russia. We had arranged with a transport company to be picked up 5 hours before our flight, leaving 3 hours for the 2 hour drive, arriving at least 2 hours before our flight.

It was our standard time to leave, but none of us checked the road conditions or had any idea that a MASSIVE construction project had been underway for the past few weeks. We certainly would have planned to leave earlier if we'd known! And the transport company definitely should have checked, too.

Still blissfully unaware of impending disaster...

Soon after we got underway, the driver checked his GPS and realized we needed to take a detour. So off we went on the scenic route. I figured our extra hour would help, but the situation was more serious than that! We were creeping along on country roads. When we finally neared the city (Boston), we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was avoiding looking at the GPS, but I saw how it kept recalculating. We were "10 minutes away" for about an hour! It was definitely torture knowing we were that close, yet stuck in traffic. There was absolutely nothing we could do.

Probably the worst part of the whole ordeal was the feeling of suspense as we waited helplessly to see what would unfold. My mom and I were texting the whole time and she had a lot of people praying for us. I knew nothing bad would happen, but I still didn't want to be in this situation. Even if we were going to make our flight, I didn't want to deal with the intensity of rushing. "I don't want to be here! I don't want to deal with this, Lord. I just want it to be over!"

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Breaking up

I've written some about our church conflict, and sometimes an interesting development comes up that would be good to share, but then I run out of time OR it goes downhill again and I can't find the words anymore.

I will share eventually about the "dating" side of this period, but unfortunately right now we are still seeing relationships break down.

We have to say goodbye to being in close fellowship with a lot of long-time friends.

-they were my family for years when I was alone in a foreign country
-they walked with me through numerous trials
-they rooted for us when we were planning to marry
-they organized and witnessed our wedding
-they saw us become parents for the first time

Part of me doesn't even want to look at the wedding photos, or birthday cards from over the years, various gifts in my possession that came from these friends. Breaking up does that to you, right? You just want to erase the memories? I look at our different personalities and wonder what on earth held us together in the first place. Surely our friendships had the wrong foundations if they could disintegrate at the first sign of conflict.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hosting World Cup 2018 and other news

Haven't had a chance to write in weeks, and the World Cup has been in progress for a few weeks already. It's so cool being a host city! I've never been to the Olympics or any other large-scale sports competitions, so this is kind of a new experience.

World Cup welcome sign...
too crowded to take many photos

Although thousands of tourists hit St. Petersburg at this time of year, the demographic is totally different, of course. Instead of wealthy retirees or others simply on vacation, there are sports fans of all ages... not just from European/northern countries, but lots from the Middle East and Latin America, too. As you can imagine, that shakes up the cultural atmosphere just a little! It's so warm and friendly here. I love Russian culture, and have a cultural post coming up when I have the time. But all the people walking around smiling makes such a difference. Even the locals are admitting that despite the congestion and longer commute, the celebratory mood is contagious. It's hard not to smile when Brazilians and Egyptians are wandering around wrapped in their countries' flags. Hard to explain, but it's different from just the local soccer fans running around on a game night.

The city completed (or at least undertook) lots of various construction projects in preparation for this year's festivities. This year was also St. Petersburg's 315th anniversary. Public transportation is decked out in World Cup decor, there are banners everywhere, certain buildings have been restored, and two new metro stations have opened recently, with close proximity to the soccer stadium.

It's a great time of year to be in St. Petersburg: White Nights, soccer fans, and last Saturday was the annual "Scarlet Sails" celebration to honor high school graduates. Look it up to learn more! I've never attended, but various parts of downtown such as Palace Square are closed off to the public, and those with tickets get to attend a concert and gather on the bank of the Neva to see fireworks and the actual scarlet sails along the river. No alcohol is sold on that night...though I'm sure some people plan ahead!

Of course, there is always a downside to large events.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Movie theater triggers


Summer always has a special feeling in the air. In St. Petersburg, of course, it stays light until close to midnight nowadays.

David's workshops are over, so he is on "vacation," resting from all his hard work. ;)

Andrei's workload fluctuates. Lately we've been having guests several times a week, so it feels busy even though Andrei is working fewer days. And the summer will probably fly by!

Since Saturdays are free now, Andrei and David (almost 6) went to the movies this weekend. And they let ME come, too! My in-laws stayed home with Sophia (almost 2). We don't often do this type of configuration because David is so attached to his grandparents. But he was okay with leaving with us as long as he knew he could play with them afterwards.

It was my first time in a movie theater since The Fire at Kemerovo a few months ago. I wouldn't really say I was nervous, just more aware. Probably the way Americans might have felt after the Aurora shooting. I looked around for emergency exits-no padlocks or other safety violations to be seen. Regular emergency exits that have the bar you press to get out.

Still, though. My MIL doesn't even want to set foot past the first floor in the shopping malls. We haven't said it out loud, but I don't think we would linger in any of the kids' (enclosed) play areas anymore.

I stood in the foyer of the movie theater and had to struggle not to cry thinking of the schoolchildren who perished. When we took our seats, I let my mind wander a little bit to the unthinkable. Not because I was scared for myself, but because I had to mourn for them a little bit and put myself in their parents' place.

Other than that, it was quite a nice time, just like a trip to the movies should be. It was probably my first time being at the movies with David (he usually goes with Andrei), and it's fun to experience the joy of it through a child's eyes. The movie theater and special snacks are still something special. I loved his little rules, like not sipping our milkshakes until the movie started (except for a little tiny bit just to try it).

Andrei and I both dozed off multiple times throughout the film and agreed it was probably the worst we'd "seen." But David was content and even said he'd love to see it again. :)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A story of escape

"...our house didn't have a bathtub. Nobody's house did. In 1960. In paradise on earth." 

To celebrate World Book Day on April 23, Amazon was making available some free Kindle books from international authors. I downloaded a selection of them and read the first one earlier this week. It's called A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. This book is an autobiography.

There has been more attention to North Korea in the news recently. Honestly, I did not know many details about the Korean War even though I live in a post-Soviet country and my home country was involved as well. I guess I have been focused more on Russian history.

Even though I'd heard rumors of starvation in North Korea, this book, written by a survivor, erases any doubts. As I was reading it, I kept thinking about periods of starvation in Russian history, such as Collectivization under Stalin (with estimates of anywhere from 7-20 million casualties), or the Siege of Leningrad (over 1 million dead in one city, from starvation and other related causes). It is hard enough to believe that such mass starvation happened within the last century, in countries that were not undeveloped/Third World at that time.

But the shocking thing about reading this story was that it happened in my lifetime and is still happening now. Ishikawa was born in 1947 and his kids are (were) my age. His kids grew up at the same time as me and never had enough to eat in their lives. Ishikawa's experience was complicated by the fact that he was a so-called "returnee" who was actually born in Japan and brought over to Korea by his Korean father. He was one of those who had perhaps the worst treatment possible, going from a simple (if challenging at times) life in rural Japan to famine/prison-like conditions in Korea with no way to make a case for better living conditions. In addition to having the lowest social status possible, I would think that the shock of the transition would make it even more challenging. As a discussion point, I wonder who would have more of a will to live: someone who has never known anything but poverty, or someone who has already tasted a glimpse of the "outside." On another level, we observe how Ishikawa's own father's character changes, as he escapes from racial discrimination as a Korean in Japan, only to plunge his Japanese wife into isolation and culture-shock as they relocate.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's wrong with staring at your cell phone?

Something has been bugging me and it's hard to put into words. I'm a millennial, also sometimes known as the "xennial" generation, characterized by having an "analog childhood and digital adulthood." I was 17 when I got a computer and started using email, instant messenger, Google, etc.

Wi-Fi childhood...

Meanwhile, Facebook wasn't really around until after my college years, nor did I have a cell phone until after college.

How about you?

I've been wondering lately what factors combine to form someone's attitude towards the internet and social media. Is it an age thing? Socio-economic? Personality?

Aside from that, there's a meme (image being passed around) with a few variations that shows a large number of people staring down at their cellphones. This is clearly presented as a bad thing, but no one comes out and says why it's bad. So I'm asking here, what do you think?

For example, one variation compares cell phone users to zombies, walking around without noticing the world around them. Again, let's define the actual problem...

A few things that come to mind:

-craning your neck
-not noticing oncoming traffic (hopefully not as pedestrian OR driver)
-harmful to your brain? Not sure what current research says...

Those are kind of the practical issues, but I have also seen people allude to the "decline" of society. This is where I get a bit confused.

Monday, April 30, 2018

April Survey/Selfie

Styled by Sophia...

What I've been...

Reading: Mr. Popper's Penguins, Little House in the Big Woods, Habits: The Mother's Secret to Success (Charlotte Mason), The Unhurried Homeschooler (Durenda Wilson-check out her blog)

Watching: Tumble Leaf (with David). Still had several seasons of WCTH to catch up on, but they just killed off one of the main characters, so I don't think I'll keep watching. :/

Cooking/Eating: Homemade chebureki, homemade bagels, hummus with fresh veggies, yogurt muffins

Listening to: Russian kids' songs on YouTube

Striving towards: Eating healthier and core rehab

Looking forward to: Spring projects

What David is up to: Reciting verses for his class, learning more and more letters of the alphabet, collecting toy frogs.

What Sophia is up to: Jumping and climbing, learning new words, taking care of dollies, "reading" out loud, babbling, getting all her clothes out to go for a walk, running around in her birthday suit at home. :)

Your turn!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Don't wanna

5 years ago, I had just applied for Permanent Resident status in St. Petersburg. It is the most permanent status you can get without going for citizenship. I started to read about Green Cards in the U.S. to do a comparison, but I don't really have time to do a full comparison, so I just jotted down a few points. I'm not sure if someone with a Green Card in the U.S. would need to prove their residency very often unless they were traveling abroad a lot. But I could be wrong.

Green Card

-valid for 10 years
-can stay out of the U.S. for up to 1 year...however, you can be investigated if you are gone for certain lengths of time
-don't need to demonstrate English proficiency until applying for citizenship?

Russian Permanent Residency

-valid for 5 years
-can stay out of Russia for up to 6 months out of the year
-must confirm residency by checking in once per calendar year
-must pass exam in Russian language, history, and law in order to apply

Since 5 years have passed, I now have to renew my residency permit. That last point (the exam) is what I have accomplished so far, along with getting a new translation of my passport. The exam was challenging and maybe I will write about it in a separate post. I still need to fill out the form and pay the govt fee at the bank and probably get a bank statement for proof of funds, and figure out the line system. I'm assuming we will have to wait in line overnight? I need to find someone's brain to pick who did it recently.

I'm definitely procrastinating. I don't want to fill out more forms and get more stamps (hopefully) and be scrutinized. I just don't want to do it. I wish there was another way. But....paperwork will always be there, no matter where you live. I'm sure some out there are dragging their feet about taxes this time of year. I'm grateful I have relatives helping me on the U.S. side.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Survey/Selfie

Made it through March! I'm sure there will be more snow off and on, but seems like the ground is thawing.
Sketchy night kitchen pose. Posting at 11:30 pm, fit it in before the month changed! :)

What I've been...

Reading: Decluttering at the Speed of Life (Dana K. White), more in Love Thy Body (Nancy Pearcey), Mary Poppins and Boxcar Children with David

Watching: When Calls the Heart (I'm only on season 2 or 3), Ultimate Beastmaster with Andrei, Matilda with David

Cooking/Eating: Artisan bread, pancakes, salsa, getting take-out from the authentic Mexican place down the road, trying to learn how to use cast iron

Listening to: Worship playlists, "Listener kids" worship music for kids, Easter hymns

Striving towards: Trying to knock some dreaded adult tasks off the to-do list (as usual). Passed my exam to keep my permanent residency, and will need to get my application in next (this) month.

Looking forward to: See above...moving on with other projects once the dreaded paperwork is complete. Also looking forward to Holy Week, which starts tomorrow for us.

What David is up to: Getting over a virus, more food aversions than ever, still really into watching the Wild Kratts and acting out all the different "creature features" every day! Being a great big brother.

What Sophia is up to: Just learned how to say "No!" Climbing and jumping. Playing dress-ups. Copying everyone! Discovering how fun it is to jump in puddles (along with her brother, of course).

Your turn!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Death and dying (heavy)

Trying to write down some deep heavy thoughts with constant commentary about creatures in my ear.

I was thinking a lot about this topic yesterday and planned to write about it today if I could recall my thoughts, with it not even registering initially that today is Good Friday in the west (1 week later for us). So, these are everyday thoughts, but also tie in to the Crucifixion.

Death as a taboo?

As I mentioned previously, our church sermon last Sunday was about taboo topics, one of them being death. But after thinking about it, I realized that there are a few different conditions here. When a tragic event happened earlier this week, I didn't have words to express my sadness. But was it because it was a "taboo" and I was embarrassed to talk about it? I did try to bring it up in a few contexts, but ultimately I decided that some things can't always be expressed in words. And since it wasn't my loss (I didn't know any of the victims), it wasn't necessary to the healing process for me to talk about it or reach out to the relatives. I think it would be different if it were my own loss and I needed to process it, or if my friend lost someone and I needed to initiate the conversation to help that person heal.

So if it's okay to mourn with or without words, what makes it a taboo topic? I think the two hard parts are: 1) how they died and 2) what happens next.

And it is actually pretty hard to write about!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Russia's own loss of schoolchildren

In Russia tomorrow (Wednesday) we are observing a national day of mourning for those who perished in the shopping mall fire on Sunday. Russian diplomats and poisoned spies are in the main headlines, but the rest of the world should know that the Russian people are deeply grieving about another matter entirely.

If you have friends in Russia, you may want to write and express sympathy. Of course we are in St. Petersburg and the fire was nowhere near us, but it is a national tragedy, and I'll explain why.

Part of why it is so painful is that many victims were children, and as you've probably read, safety measures were not up to standard. As an adult I often feel like I am taking risks with my own safety, but children do not have a choice...they depend on us. I think Americans are fairly obsessed with personal safety, so this kind of thing wouldn't happen to the same extent, but then...

I think you could draw a lot of parallels with the most recent U.S. school shooting, since that is still fresh in people's minds. How could this happen? How could children be so unprotected? Where are the policies to prevent this? What is going to be done to ensure that this doesn't happen again? And just like in the U.S., it has happened before, and then some time went by and the memories faded, until it happened again.

Friday, March 23, 2018

March the Lion

I have to admit, I haven't been feeling like blogging lately, but it's not that there's anything wrong. I've been content with less computer time lately (with the exception of occasional bouts of scroll addiction on my phone), which is nice. I think if I decide to start blogging regularly I will try to monitor my computer time closely and make a limited list of sites to visit, or even turn the internet off in order to write.

I wish there were an easier way to post photos and create a little visual interest without getting on my computer. I don't really understand how to do it from my phone. Bloggers, what is the most streamlined way to post photos?

Typing is far easier from a laptop than a phone, of course.

Getting back to the title of this post, here it is March 23 and still snowy here like in many parts of the U.S., I hear. Do you think there will be snow for Easter? There most likely will be here, but that's typical. As I've probably mentioned before, Russian "Palm" Sunday actually makes use of pussy-willows!

I've got a lot of bureaucracy/paperwork type stuff hanging over me, and I feel like I have to put off fun plans until that's done. I've been doing some spring cleaning during the day, but whenever a babysitter's available I end up using that time to do some grown-up errand rather than doing some much-needed shopping or getting lunch with a friend. Hopefully soon!

One thing I was browsing on Pinterest today was (were?) ways to bring nature into the home. Rocks, leaves, plants to touch? Dried flowers? I like the idea of getting out into nature, but I'm not inclined to sit around playing with dead things that used to live outside. Where would I get a dead stump? And do drawings of the samples count too, or is there some sort of healing property in the items themselves? Is it true that wicker baskets are more grounding than plastic ones? And why do we need to be grounded, anyway?

Off to make a wasp for David's class tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Musing on Lenten traditions

What do you like to do for Lent? Or, rather, what feels meaningful?

I've never gotten as much "into" Lent as I have Advent. I wonder why that is? Maybe because there is a measure of sorrow mixed in with the ultimate joy?

I stocked up on some new picture books last summer, as well as a devotional resource I'll mention below. As a visual person, it's the decorative elements that appeal to me more than the readings or other observances. But I still haven't really established any traditions. It's hard to find the time to get out all the materials and build a good supply that can be used annually.

It's a little bit confusing this year because the eastern and western Resurrection Sundays are a week apart. I keep forgetting which is which. I guess western is April 1 and eastern is April 8? When we had pancake week here, I was confused over whether Lent had started yet. Of course, I already knew that Valentine's Day coincided with Ash Wednesday, so that helped me figure it out.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, I decided to leave up Valentine's decorations until Easter. It seems like a good theme for the interim period-constantly thinking about love! I saw that there were a few articles about balancing Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday and I wasn't quite sure what the big deal was...not eating chocolate? At any rate, that day of course ended tragically for American high-schoolers. :(

Monday, February 19, 2018

January challenge conclusions

As I wrote about last month, for January I focused on changing family sleep habits. Specifically, mine and Sophia's were problematic. Of course Andrei is also sleep-deprived on a regular basis, so he also benefits from Sophia sleeping better. But he controls his own sleep habits. ;)

Ironically, we flew to the U.S. on January 30, resetting our internal clocks. But I guess you could say it was the perfect final "exam"! :)

Surprisingly, both kids slept well while we were in the U.S. Sophia did not have her usual "happy hour" in the middle of the night. However, this meant that she was waking very early the first few mornings and I got to experience what so many parents of early-bird toddlers complain about. I went to sleep early, but still found it hard to get up early. Even when we started sleeping a little later, I found myself prone to morning melt-downs. I'm definitely not a morning person! And I also wondered, is there something wrong with ME or is it just a matter of whether the crankiness happens in the morning or afternoon?

Now that we've been back in Russia for a week, Sophia is starting to sleep better. However, this is thanks partly to my meticulously planning and limiting her naps. It is counter-intuitive for me to do this, but it has gotten her sleeping at night again. While she had fought her second nap for several months, I finally learned that is it actually the MORNING nap that should be dropped, making more awake time in the first half of the day rather than the second half. I also read that there should be about 4 hours of awake time between the last nap and bedtime. We'd been doing it the opposite, napping earlier and then crashing an hour or two before bedtime. I think we're on the right track now!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Continuing winter

Grateful for a somewhat normal day (so far).

Sophia finally slept! She woke up like 4-5 times last night but was back asleep within 5-10 minutes, which is basically "sleeping through the night" in our family.

Yesterday we went outside and enjoyed a beautiful sunny snowy day. It was so nice out that I didn't want to cut it short for Sophia's nap. She ended up getting overtired and throwing a fit. It was worth it though because she was so tired she had a good night.

Last night we got more snow. When I woke up the air was still thick with clouds blocking the sun and I couldn't bear the thought of going outside in that. However, the sun is peeking out a bit, so maybe after lunch we will give it a try.

1 week ago we were getting ready to fly back from visiting my parents. I think I read somewhere that jet-lag takes one day per time zone to get over, so we should be almost done!

My mind is spinning from various news stories: a Russian plane crash, Russians in Syria killed by U.S. forces (?), school shootings in the U.S. (!), ensuing political debates, sexual harassment cases, and various sensational headlines. I wish I could watch the Olympics,  but it isn't very interesting on a computer screen and by myself! Maybe when the kids get a little older they will be interested.

I have some thoughts/updates about continuing goals for the year. But in the meantime it's off to finish baking Valentine's cookies (ahem) and read some ideas for Lent (which begins next Wednesday for us).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January survey/selfie

What I've been...

Reading: Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri), Yellow Star (Jennifer Roy), Winter Blues (about SAD -Norman E. Rosenthal), Love Thy Body...(Nancy Pearcey), Habit Stacking (S.J. Scott)

Watching: Started some movie with Jack Black as a Polka entertainer on Netflix. David discovered a new show called "Earth to Luna" on Netflix, very entertaining and educational.

Cooking/Eating: Pancakes with hidden fruits and veggies, various concoctions with our new waffle/sandwich maker. Zebra cake for a baby shower for church.

Listening to: Raffi.

Striving towards: Not even sure, so many goals and plans all mixed together!

Looking forward to: Getting the packing/flight over with so we can enjoy some time visiting my parents.

What David is up to: Learning to read (in Russian), climbing on the furniture, mixing stuff together in the kitchen.

What Sophia is up to: Not sleeping well (but a little better), having a growth spurt, climbing on the furniture, opening/closing doors when she can reach the handle.

Your turn!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Things open in my browser, Volume 2

Thought I would switch it up with a fun survey post. Do you keep lots of browser tabs open with different projects you're working on?

Here are my latest:

-Chicken curry recipe
-"India" baby shower cake
-"prune waffle" recipe
-Carseat safety article

Nothing too scandalous this time around.

In my recent history:

-Ingavirin (antiviral treatment drug info)
-Braces and splints for hypermobility syndrome
-More cake decorating ideas
-Curtain options for Soviet-period kitchen windows

Your turn!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fourth week of January

Another Monday, another blog post...

I guess my blog might be boring this year if I'm posting a lot about self-improvement goals, but progress is always interesting to track, right?

Have you ever done a sleep challenge? How did it go? I know some people work on getting up earlier in order to exercise or whatever.

You can read here about why I'm doing sleep in January.

So, here are a few of the latest experiments.

Action: Go to bed at the same time as David.
Result: I tried it a few times! The first night, I was really tired and fell asleep earlier. I was probably in bed a good 10 hours! But as a result I couldn't fall asleep the next night. Went to bed early, but stayed up late reading and was exhausted in the morning.
Conclusion: This could work if I set my alarm in the morning so as not to ruin my sleep for the next night. However, I think I would prefer to have a little alone time in the evening before bed.

Action: Don't go to bed at the same time as David.
Result: I feel so much more content when I can hang out a little after the kids go to bed, when the house is quiet. Each day should have a clear beginning and end, and I need that time for closure. Often, Andrei takes care of Sophia at night and I don't really need to be with her again for several hours. But of course when she's sleeping poorly, I'm always on edge wondering whether I'll be summoned again, and how Andrei is faring. So although our kids go to bed later (not by 8:30 like experts recommend), it helps me psychologically to have some time to wind down even if it means I get less sleep.
Conclusion: I seem to need about 2 hours to wind down once the house is quiet. Ideally at least 1 hour by myself. I noticed that when David is in bed at 11 pm (usually the case), I stay up until 1 am. Getting him to sleep by 10 pm would help me get to bed by midnight. Maybe a good goal.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mid-month goal status-January

So how is everyone doing with their New Year's resolutions? I've seen a lot of interesting recipes being posted on Instagram. I conveniently scheduled my diet goals for after Valentine's Day, lol.

So, I mentioned before that I'm doing a "sleep challenge" for January. Meaning, that is my focus area and I'm giving myself permission not to stress about other areas of life for now.

I'm sooo tired.

First of all, small victories:

-During the first week of January, we conquered the New Year's Eve jet-lag, going from waking at noon to waking more like 10 o' clock. And we got David back to his pre-holiday bedtime. Progress!
-I managed to discipline myself to set my alarm to wake up earlier even when it seemed like it was going to be a bad night. (I wouldn't do this if I had a newborn or an illness but sometimes the timing is right.)
-I was able to avoid certain late-night vices, some of the time.
-I started taking my vitamins again regularly which was a secondary goal for this month.
-I started easing back into exercise which will hopefully lead to better sleep as well.

Continuing challenges:

-Sophia's continuing sleep regression makes it virtually impossible to go to bed earlier.
-Nobody is getting more sleep or feeling more rested.

Other notes:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

First Week of January in the Russian Federation

We made it! We had a busy start to the year and I barely had time to breathe all during "vacation" week.

So, just what were we up to? In short, the first week of January is a week of "saying yes" to all social opportunities-usually, going to one another's house to visit and sit around the table with lots of food.

When else would we see our friends? Everyone works during the week, in the evenings we put kids to bed, and on weekends we have workshops and church.

It's intense, though! At one point all the dishes really piled up and I wasn't having time to wash them between guests. Or take a shower (sorry) or do laundry or check email.

Some of the cool things we did:

-met up with some American friends who just moved here and are expecting a baby
-had a visit from some church friends and discussed life and church stuff together
-had a late New Year's AND Christmas celebration with my in-laws since we had taken turns being sick on the actual holidays...
-visited the house that friends are building with their own hands. Inspiring! They are so grateful to have their own space, just on the outskirts of town, that is not an overpriced apartment.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Best-laid plans of 2018

Only ran around for 40 minutes with this blank page open while I restarted the router and fought with the VPN to get David watching BeatBugs so I could do some blogging! That is just to say that plans must always be rather flexible.

Welcome, New Year!
In 2018 I decided to have a focus area for each month. People talk about having a year of saying "yes" or "no" and mine could be described as a year of making myself wait until it's time for that focus area, so that I can give attention to just 1 or 2 goals at a time.

Some of the focus areas are more abstract and some are projects that will get completed.

My focus area for January 2018 is sleep. 

I know it sounds better to start off with a new Bible reading plan or something, but I am desperate to have more energy to do things again and I am just trusting that it will happen in time.

In the past I have tried many times to go to bed earlier and at this point I will be setting an alarm clock to work on the morning end of things as well. I don't sleep well, but my kids get up late enough that getting up with an alarm clock won't hurt.

We don't have a newborn or early morning commitments, so it's a good time to try to tweak our sleep schedule when we're not completely sleep-deprived, just not quite getting enough.

A few notes so far as of January 4th:

June 2022

So, we are 4 months into what's happening in our part of the world...though, of course, we live pretty far from the border!   Currently:...