Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trying to wake up

Happy Solstice! Although I have been focused on celebrating Advent and the Birth of Christ, I breathe a sigh of relief when we are on the other side and the days are starting to get longer again. We did a little Hanukkah dinner, too, meditating on the wonder of the Light that stayed.

(I came in to write about being tired....and discovered my computer was drained of energy, how ironic! Trying not to be mad at The Person who goes around plugging and unplugging things.)

(The Internet is being slow, too...but at least I can write!)

A few years ago, I read a book about Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Then last winter (earlier this year, apparently) I wrote a post here about my findings.

Side note: Winter Blues (Norman E. Rosenthal) is worth reading for the case studies alone. Many of us will recognize ourselves in those mentioned...

"The physical difficulties start first: eating more, sleeping more, and the slowing down of brain functioning. Initially, I'm not sad. I can still sit down and laugh with friends and enjoy my favorite TV shows. As it becomes obvious that I'm less able to function at work or with friends, mental depression starts taking over. I have trouble writing Christmas cards, which adds to my depression, since I am unable to communicate with people I really care about..." (Case study of Peggy, page 29 Kindle Version)

"In his work as a sales representative, he found his productivity declined markedly in the winter months. He would sleep late, cancel appointments, and spend much of the day at home, depressed. When he was able to get to work, he came home exhausted and would collapse on the couch for the rest of the evening." (Neal, case study and president of the SunBox Company, page 26 Kindle Version)

"More bothersome to Herb than his social isolation was his decreased creativity during his depressed periods. He would procrastinate at work because "everything seemed like a mountain" to him, and his productivity decreased markedly. It was only by grim perseverance that he was able to write up his research from the previous spring and summer. His sleep was disrupted, and his characteristic enthusiasm for life evaporated." (Case study of Herb, page 12 Kindle Version)

..and there are more, but you get the idea. Physical lack of energy leading to lack of productivity leading to depression leading to even less motivation and productivity. In these cases, directly corresponding to the decreased daylight hours.

Back to my observations: Turns out my findings this year are similar to last year's even though I didn't remember my observations from last winter until I went back and read about it.

Friday, December 20, 2019

December doldrums

Excited to be writing my 28th post of 2019, making this only my second-least productive blogging year. :) That's still more than 2 per month-not bad, right?

So, how has December been treating you? Are you on as much of a roller coaster as we have been?

December started out with a few inches of snow, fluffy and beautiful for the first Advent. It was so nice!

Speaking of Advent, I managed to get out the candles and a minimum of other decorations just in time. I couldn't find the Jesse Tree ornaments, so I had my son coloring a print-out. He did great! Speaking of print-outs, I used to search for Advent (and general Sunday school materials) back 10 years ago, before Pinterest was really used, and before people monetized their blogs. Maybe there was less on the Internet not as much to choose from, but at least it was free! It actually took me a while to find a sheet of really simple Jesse Tree symbols to print out in black and white. I understand that monetizing is pretty widely accepted nowadays, but I also felt you have to charge for EVERYTHING? I was so desperate I even registered for a Catholic newsletter just to get a "free printable" which turned out to not be what I was looking for.

Okay, that was a big tangent. We've been gradually acknowledging Advent, while on our 3rd family cold in as many months. It's not pneumonia, or even strep throat. We're all okay! But on top of very little daylight, it's just so draining!

I was feeling like I was doing okay psychologically, but with this latest round, I went completely stir-crazy. You know it has to be bad if I actually want to leave the house. We did a few rounds of holiday cookies, Christmas movies in pjs, etc. And then...I just couldn't take it anymore! Normally I like having a slow day at fact, I was relishing the prospect of a slower week so that I could catch up on housework and the like. And I'm normally more productive when Andrei is at work. But the past few days, I can't stand him being gone! He doesn't have time to call between classes at all, and I just feel like I need him at home.

I probably had other topics to cover, but it's bedtime. In closing, a few gift ideas!

I have a bunch of gift ideas for the kids, but not grown-ups. Typical.

Disclaimer: I'm the boring gift-giver, but my husband's side of the family will take care of child will be deprived.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Bureaucracy Update- Part 3

Getting the kids registered long-term in St. Petersburg, Russia

News from last time: The process has been streamlined, meaning we can apply immediately for permanent residency for the kids, skipping the trial residency. And, processing time will be 4 months, not 6. That will come in handy...

Big application deadlines. I was trying to get this done by the end of the year, because then there are 2 weeks of holidays, and we need everything to be processed by summer, and we also have to do a border run soon.

I had a time cushion in there for unforeseen circumstances. That cushion is now gone.

1) There was a typo in our passport translations. We can only get them done when Andrei has the chance to go there before/after work, since it's not near where we live. So the translations took a few weeks when they probably could have taken a few days. Even if Andrei had noticed the mistake on the spot, it would have taken an extra day or two to redo since they have to notarize it and bind it specially.

2) Medical forms. This is what made me freak out: we were calling around trying to find a place to put the kids through their medical tests. This is part of why we've put this off for so long, especially with the horror of Sophia's latest shots and bloodwork. It was bad enough getting it for myself for residency, no idea how we're going to walk 2 kids through the whole list of doctors plus blood tests. (on the bright side: since we go immediately for permanent residency, we will only need the tests once unless we apply for citizenship in the future)

Now, TB is kind of a risk in Russia. Most people are vaccinated in childhood and have to get a chest x-ray for work every few years. Kids generally get the skin probe and then the TB vaccine.

I was going through in my head what extra steps we might need for the medical certificate. And I remembered that I'd had to go to another facility to do the chest x-ray. In fact, I was breastfeeding the second time, so got a special low-radiation scan. I started investigating where we could do that for the kids. But then someone pointed don't get x-rays.

Monday, December 2, 2019

How was your New Year's?

Looking at everyone's fun photos, I was suddenly hit by the realization that American Thanksgiving is a LOT like NEW YEAR'S EVE in Russia.

I've always compared American Christmas and Russian New Year's, because there are obvious similarities. Russian New Year's Eve is like a secular Western Christmas: snow, gifts, yummy food, Father Frost, nostalgic films, a Christmas tree, school vacation...basically the same holiday, right?

It would seem. In fact, I've seen "Advent calendars" come on the scene in Russia recently. Protestant families might celebrate Western Christmas, but others use an Advent calendar to count down the days until New Year's Eve. A completely secular thing!

Back to Thanksgiving. I'm struck every year by how meaningful it seems to be to almost everyone I know back in the U.S. Of course, there is that special American feeling of kicking off the winter holiday season...

There's a big meal with lots of prep, time spent reflecting on the year, and EVERYONE celebrates regardless of religion. Yes, it's true...I know there may be emotionally-charged political implications related to colonization, but even my staunchest liberal friends have been spotted in the kitchen laboring over a pot of mashed potatoes or homemade pie. We were invited by fellow ex-pats to a Thanksgiving dinner (we couldn't make it), and I saw lots of similar gatherings being posted, with no one wanting to leave an American behind without somewhere to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Christmas is more divisive. It's like we have to add the words "if you celebrate." You're welcome to our place, if you have nowhere to go, if you celebrate, of course.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Homeschool Progress Report-fall semester

We're 1/3 (!) of the way through our first full-time homeschool year and I still haven't written about the academic side of things. To be honest, I haven't known what to write because I wasn't sure anyone would want to read about it. However, I have a few friends that homeschool and never talk about it much, which is always a mystery to me.

So I thought I would lift the veil a little bit...


We use Sonlight curriculum for History, Bible, Literature, Language Arts, and Science. The HBL is typically coordinated in a unit study: This year is Introduction to World Cultures and you can look up the booklists on the website.

The curriculum is literature-based, so each subject has a great selection of literature that we read from and discuss a little bit. I did have the rich literature selection in mind when I purchased the boxed set. However, my kids are a bit spoiled and I've always made sure to have quality literature on hand, including wonderful children's classics. So they weren't as excited as I was to unpack the books, BUT I will say that my son has enjoyed all of the book selections for all subjects, EXCEPT Winnie-the-Pooh which we were supposed to be reading this month  (substituted with Chronicles of Narnia and he was happy).

Again, with the books: it's great that we get to read classic literature as part of our school program, but I don't consider it enough reading for the day. I make sure we have at least a few books going for outside read-aloud as well.

Sonlight materials are all pretty and shiny, but what made me get it in the end was the open-and-go feature. I'm at a time in my life where I'm willing to pay for other people's services, and in this case I pay a few hundred dollars to have someone else plan out every subject for the whole year and print it all out and put it in a nice binder.

Otherwise, I could look up the book lists, sit down with the calendar, and more or less figure it out. Right? Maybe I'll do that some year, but this is what we chose this time.

Non-Sonlight materials (which I purchased with the package to get a discount):

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Got a package...

Note: I'm not advertising anything here, just sharing a glimpse into our life...

When you live abroad with a different grocery situation, there are times when you live without certain things and just improvise...and times when you go to great lengths to obtain them!

Ordered myself a care package: iHerb haul!

For example, around this time of year there is usually a big discussion about sourcing pumpkin puree and turkeys. Hypothetically, I usually go for homemade pumpkin puree and whatever cut of chicken or turkey is on hand at the store. But, we're not actually celebrating Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is a long workday and we're out of groceries, so I might ask Andrei to pick up some pelmeni on the way home!

Meanwhile, certain baking supplies are hard to find, too. For example, our store doesn't always have baking powder. It took me a long time to figure out that Russians often just add some vinegar to baking soda to make their pancakes rise.

Chocolate chips are another item in short supply. For many years I simply cut up chocolate bars. Then one day I somehow got a few bags of chocolate chips, and realized how much I had been missing the convenience! Of course you don't have to measure chocolate chips precisely, but certain American recipes are just easier when you are using the actual ingredients recommended. They behave a certain way that you might not get if you substitute.

To make a long story short, you can get a lot of specialty items in Russia now, and even order online from local shops, but right now I can order from the U.S. via iHerb and pick up down the street at a delivery point, in about a week! Life-changer!

So for the past few years I've been doing periodic iHerb orders and treating myself to some things that I don't usually buy when we're not in the U.S.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Roommates, Part 2

(Continued from previous post)

Then there were 4. Until the end of my stay, the 5th bed would be empty.

Around this time, they were easing up on my meds and I was out of the woods but uncomfortable. The two younger ladies were getting discharged and it was down to me and Olga again.

(Although I had found the younger surgery patient dramatic, I later ran into her in the hallway when I went in for a dressing change. She was readmitted a week or so after going home, though assigned to a different room. I felt badly for judging her. They never did find a specific cause of her stomach pain, though...maybe she was there just as a precaution in case there was a complication with her incisions.)

I was now getting out of bed and going to the bathroom by myself. I made myself walk a little, because I was supposed to, but it was hard.

Then we got a new roommate.

Connections Lady

Our new roommate was rather heavyset. This was relevant to her situation, but in order to avoid offense, I will call her "Connections Lady" due to her apparent acquaintance with the hospital staff. She checked in at night, but the next morning everyone was hustling and bustling to make her comfortable. She needed a cyst removed, or something to that effect. She wasn't very interested in getting to know us, so we didn't really bond until later.

When an opportunity came up to have the surgery, our roommate got undressed as was the custom, and climbed onto the waiting gurney. Within a few minutes though, she was BACK! It turned out that all the operating theaters were full, or something to that effect. The nurses were a bit red-faced. The second attempt came later, and this time the surgery went through. We didn't see that roommate again during my hospital stay, as she required extra care following surgery.

(I later ran into her also when I came back to get dressing changes. She was on the regular ward now, back in our same room, making recovery progress.)

So now TWO out of 5 beds would remain empty.


As the daytime nurse (the competent one) came through adjusting IVs one day, she remarked how depressing our room had gotten..."it used to be so COZY." Yes, perhaps there was a time when we were all friendly and no one demanded special care. We made it easy on the nurses, didn't we?

With Lyudmila's arrival, we were all in for a challenge.

Olga and I were alone again, and as I headed down the hallway to get food, a gurney passed me in the hallway, an aged gray head peeking out. Was "our babushka" back? My heart sank as I imagined our elderly roommate coming back from surgery in frail condition.

But no, it was a different babushka. I walked in the room to find our new roommate perched on the side of the bed, in a stupor. I think I introduced myself, but she was VERY out of it.

She sat on the side of the bed nodding off to sleep and then waking up with a start, over and over again. Her clothes looked like she hadn't taken them off in months. She mumbled something about leaving her bag in the ambulance, which meant she didn't have a phone or any other personal items.

I tried to clarify a few things, but Olga gave me a look as if to say Lyudmila might have a touch of dementia.

The nodding off continued.

Night fell.

The night nurse came in to do final rounds, and left.

Lyudmila was still perched on the edge of her bed.

We were going to be alone for the night. Olga, who was in too much pain to walk, me after my surgery, and a stranger who possibly had dementia.

I had switched my pillow to the other side of the bed, to lie on my other side. Now my head was closer to the door. Closer to Lyudmila.

I was terrified that she would start walking around and doing something in the middle of the night. What if I woke up and she was standing over me?

Lyudmila's bedside lamp was still on, it was about 2 a.m., and Olga and I were wide awake.

Finally it happened-Lyudmila got up and staggered toward us, eyes as though unseeing, sputtering something. "GO TO BED!" Olga yelled. "What is it? What time is it?" We finally convinced Lyudmila that she should go back to her bed.

And she did. And I might have slept a little.

To be continued...

Monday, November 11, 2019

Roommates, Part 1

A year ago, I was sick with appendicitis, which was hard to diagnose and difficult to recover from! You can look through my "appendicitis" posts and read more about it.

There are a few more things I was going to share about my hospital stay, and one of those topics is my Russian hospital roommates. I had trouble finding the time to write this post because I had so many different roommates during my 2-week stay, so it will take some time to describe them all! I ended up having to split it into two posts.

Getting Admitted

As soon as I was admitted to the ward, I got that "summer camp" feeling. Let me explain: in my teen and young adult years I spent each summer in a Russian summer camp with American mission teams. And Russian hospital wards give me that same kind of feeling: the worn but crisply ironed bedding on the creaky mattress, the rules and daily schedule, the cafeteria food, and the communal environment!

I already explained a little bit about my 3 roommates when I first arrived on that Friday evening. One had been released "for the weekend," one was near to being released, and the other, Olga, had been sent there with a herniated disc because her ward did not have room.

Now, the room had 5 beds and one was empty. A 5th roommate arrived in the middle of that first night, sometime after I stopped wondering if surgery was imminent and had managed to fall asleep.

That was Friday. On Sunday was my operation.

And on Monday, my first day after surgery, 3 of the ladies were discharged, leaving me and Olga, who was in the bed next to me. When a nurse came in to do a count, we begged her to send us some ambulatory roommates. That way we would at least be able to eat. The cafeteria lady had come to check on us a few times, but it wasn't her job to remember who needed food delivered. We had to fend for ourselves.

The Young Ladies

In the middle of the night, we got our wish: 3 new young women. Younger than I was, anyway! The two on the other side of the room bonded and spent a lot of the next few days chatting. They were friendly, but didn't realize the shape I was in and didn't offer to do a lot, so I usually had Andrei get the food when he was there. When he wasn't, Olga would help me to the bathroom and wash my dishes out for me.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Wayward Blogger

I made it up to 20 posts for this year! I'm a little sad that it isn't more. When I look at my statistics, I see that 2016, when Sophia was born, was my lowest number of posts. And then last year. If I don't have an emergency before the end of the year, I will hopefully add a few more little snapshots of our life here in St. Petersburg.

I would love to blog at least weekly. I've mentioned before that I like to update often, because I like to see how certain themes play out. I can share my plans and then see how they come to fruition. I can share about my problems and then write about how various prayer requests have been answered.

But, it doesn't always happen. And, blogging is a bit dull nowadays, which is another topic. In the world of Instagram "personalities" and v-loggers (spelling?), a lowly non-monetized blog will not get many readers, but I still enjoy recording my thoughts.

By the way, I have 2 Instagram accounts now. One is for daily life and the other one is for homeschool posts. I'll see if I can put a link to the second one on my blog here somewhere.

Meanwhile, I was looking at the main topics I've blogged about over the last 12 years. Culture and Daily Life are my most frequent labels, and I would love to keep up that trend, as those are the topics I always sought to share about, for people near and far. Should I be proud that Bible Study is up there too, or perhaps dismayed that I haven't used that label for a while?

After that I see Holidays, Family, Inspiration, Photos, and David (my son). However, it would be interesting to do a then vs now comparison, observing how Orphans were at the top 10 years ago, and Motherhood is getting to the top of my current life.

I have another detailed hospital post coming up, as I continue to reflect on my emergency appendectomy from last year.

Thanks for reading! And please introduce yourself if you haven't yet. :)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Friends and family

Just finished our 5th day in a row of guests.

But... I think we all probably have different things in mind when we imagine inviting someone over for a visit. In Russian culture a meal is often involved, and a huge spread is not unheard of. When I was single and would visit families during the day, often they would feed me the food they made for their own families, but would not hesitate to offer me the entire contents of their fridge out of generosity.

By the way, Russians will keep offering you food even if you say no. I suppose it is more polite to refuse in order to not seem like a pig...I have a hard time getting used to that, especially if the food is really good. ;) If you don't want me to eat all your food, don't keep offering me seconds!

Back to cooking. If I waited until I had the time/energy/skill to cook a big multi-course meal, I'd never have guests over.

So, this is more what it looked like:

That time I decided to vacuum...

Day #1: A friend from church needed some company and we agreed to meet during the day. The night before, it had snowed, and the kids really wanted to play in it. Instead of cooking or cleaning, I took them outside. Then I fed my friend some yummy homemade soup that my in-laws had delivered to us the day before.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Homeschool round-up: Month #1

I was hoping that school would provide a good structure for our day after summer travel.

Read on to see how our first month went!

Week one:

I was right. I fell in love with our new daily routine. I got up early enough to cook breakfast to eat with Andrei before he left for work. Then schoolwork with David, which we managed to finish in an hour or 90 minutes. After that, outside time.

Home from the walk in plenty of time to eat lunch, then finish up any remaining read-alouds. And...the day was still young! I did dinner prep and sometimes we went outside for another walk before dinner. The kids were getting little to no screentime because we were reading books for school all day, which inspired imaginative play.

We had friends over.

We would wash dishes gradually throughout the day and pretty much stay on top of it (we don't have a dishwasher).

In the evening I would get to bed early, exhausted and still a little bit jet-lagged.

Then we hit some roadblocks and it got harder:

Saturday, October 5, 2019


The other day my kids were listening to a YouTube playlist and in an otherwise normal list of kids' songs I kept hearing the lyrics "we've got the whole world in our hands." My son is quick to point out where something deviates from the Bible stories he's been told, and said "It's not WE, it's GOD." (he gets confused about the concept of Mother Nature, too)

I didn't really want to criticize the song, but here my son had pointed it out, so it was discussion time.

Song background: Although we may sing it traditionally as a children's song, the original song was an African-American spiritual. Interestingly enough, it was my (Russian) husband who introduced me to Mahalia Jackson, whose recording of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" is one of the more popular ones.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that the altered lyrics likely had a connection to environmentalism. So I talked about that a little bit. It doesn't contradict the biblical idea of Creation, merely reminds us that the earth is God's precious creation, for us to protect as we can.

P.S. When I finally went ahead and looked it up, I found that a children's book came out a few years ago to this effect. You can look up "We've Got the Whole World in our Hands" by Rafael Lopez.

Since everyone was talking about Greta Thunberg and the Climate Summit last week (2 weeks ago?), it has been on my mind.

When I take a minute to contemplate, I don't think I'm really comfortable with putting ourselves in place of God. It's because the earth is the Lord's that we should care about it at all, not because it is completely "in our hands." I want so much to be a good steward and also reflect Christ in the way I care about the environment. However, an alarmist approach really turns me off and I don't want to live in fear. I'm glad there are activists and I'd be fine with making some changes to reduce consumption. I haven't actually talked to my kids much about this topic, but I'm sure it will come up!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Towards a bilingual education

Andrei and I argued about bilingualism years before we even started dating.

He wasn't convinced true bilingualism was really possible, and I was determined to have a bilingual child in order to prove him wrong. I don't think I actually expected that we would marry each other, but I guess the thought of cross-cultural marriage didn't seem so far-fetched.

Of course, I'm oversimplifying the discussion. Here are some of the issues we argued about:

-Young children will get the two (or more) languages mixed up. I've seen clear evidence to this NOT being the case. Kids do mingle languages, but this happens when they either are missing a vocabulary word in one language, or a word is just easier to say in one of the languages. There's a more scientific way to say this, but basically it's selective, not a moment of confusion.

Although our kids insert the "other" language into their speech sometimes, they also have no problem distinguishing between the two. Case in point: Both of them, when still speaking only a few words, called us Mommy/Daddy or Mama/Papa depending on who they were talking to. Sophia will call me "Mommy" in English, but complain (ha) about "Mama" to Andrei. Same with "Papa," she will call him that to his face but turn around and tell me what "Daddy" is doing.

I guess that didn't really prove my point. Another example might be when David is talking about bugs and uses the Russian name for a bug because it's one he hasn't encountered in the U.S. or English-language nature shows. He's not confused, he just doesn't know the word.

-Bilingual kids will be behind their peers. I actually use this excuse a lot to go slower with school work. I don't completely agree because I think David in on par with his peers in many subjects. Even precocious in certain contexts. However, I will admit that if you run the numbers, it's hard for bilingual kids to receive the same input. If they are conversing 12 hours a day, in two languages equally, they will have only 6 hours of language acquisition as opposed to children who are exposed to one language. That's just the way it is. And it might not matter beyond a certain age, but there certainly might be manifestations in a younger child.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Bureaucracy Update- Part 2

We are back in Russia with new visas for the kids. As usual we met obstacles along the way.

Children's passports expire every 5 years, but you can't travel within 6 months of expiry. So 4.5 years maximum. Meanwhile, Americans can get a Russian visa for 3 years maximum. So it's a constant brainteaser trying to make things match up!

David and Sophia are 3 years into their passports, yet we applied for 3-year visas again as that was the best option for us with two years left on the passports. We were in touch with a visa agency and requested that they issue the visa for the maximum possible time period, within the terms of the passport. Visas cannot be transferred into a new passport.

It all seemed pretty clear and I worked hard to complete the visa application before arriving in the U.S., so we could submit it to the Russian Consulate as soon as possible and enjoy our summer break! A significant goal here was to submit early so we wouldn't have to pay for expedited processing, one of the few occasions this would be possible.

Within a week, we were hearing from the visa agency that we had a problem. The kids' visas were expiring in September since we arrived in Russia on those dates last time due to Sophia's birth. But we normally need to arrive in August due to the school year beginning. Turns out, the Russian Consulate will not accept applications more than a month BEFORE the old one expiring. So, we had to hit that window of submitting a month before for processing time, yet not more than a month before to be accepted. Since we were early, they had to put our application on hold.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

New low-key church

It's been about a year now since we merged with another church congregation.

An interesting thing about this new church is that I would describe the majority of the members as introverted. A few people have actually come out and said that they don't want/don't like new people. You might think that sounds funny coming from Christians, but you have to give some points for straightforwardness. Tight-knit church fellowships can be very inward-focused as we seek to strengthen relationships.

When we were in talks to join our churches, along with the anti-social comments were several declarations that the other church hated "projects."

So, I guess in general you could say that we are drama-free. And that's probably a good environment for healing from the trauma that we've experienced in separating from our former church family.

Andrei and the pastor share preaching responsibilities, and I think that's been a relief for both of them. Both of our families have experienced crises in the past year, and the church has been supportive. A few months ago the pastor's daughter was healing from an injury, and Andrei preached for several Sundays without a break. But nowadays he doesn't even mind preparing a sermon at the last minute, because he is no longer needing to make decisions left and right regarding the church's future. When I was in the hospital, the pastor stepped in and Andrei was not obligated to do anything during that time of need.

The other men in the church can lead according to the Order of Worship, appointing readers depending on who is present. One man leads us in prayer for specific nations, doing a mini-presentation while reading from his phone. When the format itself is not an issue, there is room to devote attention to other matters.

There is no "Coffee Hour" ministry, but tea and coffee are ALWAYS served. Sometimes people bring treats, and other times we have to run down the street 3 times for cups, bottled water, or a package of cookies. It could be more organized, but no one makes a fuss.

There is no music ministry, right now. More on that in another post.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Bureaucracy update- Part 1

Currently compiling Russian visa applications for my kids. It feels way more relaxed than with a newborn (apparently I never told that story on here), but as always there are plenty of roadblocks.

I never posted about it, but in February we did a border run to Finland, and in the spring we also met with an immigration lawyer who said the kids could be added to my residency permit. So early one morning we dragged the kids out of bed, and set off for the Immigration Dept...Sophia threw up in the taxi...and it turned out the lawyer had been wrong. Technically, there is a by-law that lets you glue photos of your kids in your residency card (I have pages for it), but it's merely a formality to link you with them. The kids need separate residency permits.

So our options remained:

-keep doing visas every 3 years,
-get the kids their own residence permits, or
-apply for Russian citizenship

The visas are pricey and not the best long-term option, and we're not sure we want to get them citizenship. The main issue with residency (apart from the lengthy process) is that we'll have to declare income for everyone and make sure we have the minimum for each family member. I'm not working right now and my bank balance probably wouldn't cover all of us for the year, so we'll have to combine it with Andrei's income.

We'll have to do a round of medical tests for the kids and make sure we have copies and translations of everything. That would be true for citizenship, also. That's for temporary residency and then in a year or so you do it all over again to apply for permanent residency, which is valid for 5 years.

So anyway, I'm working on getting new visas so that we can enter Russia in the fall after summer travel, and hopefully that will get us through until we've gotten temporary residency for the kids. Kids' passports are valid for 5 years, which doesn't go well with a 3 year visa (the only other option is 90 days). Currently I'm having trouble filling out paperwork because the passport only has 2 years left on it and you're supposed to have 3 years + 6 months left.

I started thinking about what we'll have to get done over the next few years:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Long post alert! Read on for some personal thoughts about organizing and purging.

I'm on track to be done sorting papers by the time we leave for summer travel this month. It's taken me about 6 months, so I guess it should feel satisfying.

Surprisingly, though, it doesn't feel great. I feel relieved to have freed up a little space, and to not have so many unsorted papers in storage. However, in many cases I didn't enjoy tossing things out. Many of the documents represented things I had worked very hard on. And others represented special memories, though weren't as hard to let go of.

Trying to sort in a central location and watch the kids at the same time...

I tend to keep things with sentimental value, but also for archival reasons. I simply like to keep a record and I like to sort through and go down memory lane. It bugs me if there is a chronological gap, so that is part of why I keep certain things. But to get more specific....

Things I found "easy" to get rid of:

-Sunday school teaching materials: I can always get more.
-Random artwork: If I don't remember who made it and the occasion, it doesn't hold value, unless I could use it to decorate.
-Sermon notes: I did keep a few print-outs of Andrei's sermons, but I came to the realization that the notes served their purpose at the moment WHEN I WAS WRITING THEM DOWN. I can go through and sort of make sense of them, but I'm a different person 2010 self needed them then.
-Financial statements: Most things have an electronic record now.
-Hand-outs: They weren't given to me personally; too generic.
-Notes from former friends: I don't want to intentionally wipe them from my memory, but I don't need correspondence from every single person either.
-Sentimental items not easily identified (see random artwork): If I remember that so-and-so brought it back from Greece, I might keep it. But as the years go by I tend to forget, and don't feel as tied to those items.

Monday, June 10, 2019

More hospital memoirs

Life definitely got easier when I got the Most Unpleasant Procedure over with. The next day I got my drainage tube out, and THAT was a good day. No longer did I have it poking me all the time.

Now that I didn't have to think about all the extra appendages, I started to obsess about the wound more. As I didn't have stitching, did that mean there was just a big hole in my side? I didn't like to think about it.

That first weekend, my regular doctor had a day off and had suggested I get a dressing change with the doctor on duty. The Saturday surgeon poked his head in the room, saw that I was getting my IV meds, and told me to come find him for the dressing change. Ummm...okay? Come to find out, the doctors' lounge was wayyyy down a long corridor and I hadn't walked that far yet. On the way there I passed the kitchen, which meant I could technically fetch my own meals...more on that later. But it was so painful shuffling along and then I felt awkward entering the lounge in my pathetic state when there were professional people dressed in normal clothes, such as pants.

Speaking of clothes, Lesson #1 in socialist medicine: don't expect extras. And apparently hospital gowns are an extra. Remember how I had to strip naked before my operation? Well, I didn't have anything to wear afterwards either. I must have had underwear on, but I couldn't do anything like fasten a bra with the IV port, sorry for the non-glamorous visual, but I was basically wearing underwear, a tank top, and a bathrobe from home that I couldn't close all the way when I had the drainage bag. Eventually Andrei did bring me some long underwear with an elastic waist. But, was a challenge.

It was kind of an odd experience seeing other patients shuffling around in their clothes from home. You'd think it would feel homey, but it didn't. It felt awkwardly intimate. I didn't want to see everyone else's fuzzy bathrobe and slippers and dishes that they washed out themselves. It felt like summer (prison?) camp in some kind of twisted universe. Also, I really didn't need to see everyone else's drainage bags. But I'm glad my roommates (and husband) took care of me even though it was messy at times and they saw things they probably didn't want to.

So, the surgeon caught up with me at the Bandaging Room, took off the old bandage, did a quick swab, and slapped a new bandage on. Which had become unstuck by the time I got back to my room. Sigh. Did it really matter? Yes, it did...I had an open wound, after all. The doctor was gone, of course. I asked the bandaging nurse for a new one, and she said they "didn't have any more." Now, on Friday, after my drainage tube came out, she had carefully cut a bandage down to size and attached it with finesse. And now they had run out? It was time for Lesson #2: Buy your own supplies. When a friend was visiting that afternoon, she went down to the pharmacy for me and bought bandages...the same kind that had been used the day before. My roommate hobbled over and put it on for me.

From then on, I had Andrei buy bandages every few days so I always had a supply. Lest you think I was being taken advantage of, I saw plenty of other patients waiting their turn, holding their own supply of bandages. Sometimes the pharmacy downstairs even ran out and Andrei had to go elsewhere.

It doesn't seem like bandages are a large expense, but when the supplies end, patients buy their own. That's how it goes. And for many procedures, such as childbirth, it's expected that you will bring your own consumable items.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Little patterns

Hello! I got bored with my monthly survey, so I didn't do one for April, and in the meantime another month went by. I was reflecting on how we tend to rotate through different patterns of daily routines in our household. Of course there are certain patterns that I would prefer to see more often than others. But I thought I would share what a few of these are. Maybe I would describe a few of them as being "in a rut," but nevertheless there are certain seasons of life and setbacks that we can't always avoid.

1) The Stay Home/Productive Pattern

When Andrei is at work a lot and we don't have other plans, we sometimes stay home and do homeschooling and try to make a dent in the housework. I feel pretty calm on these days, and I think David would stay inside too if he had the choice. But sometimes we drive each other crazy, and throwing a little sister (who actually loves to be outdoors) into the mix can throw us into "cabin fever" territory. So a few days like that are perfect, but we definitely have to at least get some fresh air.

2) The Nice Weather Pattern

Last month, we finally had a thaw and enjoyed long runs of sunny days. We got into the habit of going outside once (or even twice) a day, for 1-2 hours. I would take the kids shopping with me on foot, or to the playground, and we even branched out a few times and met up at a park with another family. This was good, and David made lots of discoveries that made it feel like we were doing something right. However, those times outside definitely take us away from other tasks, and after a few consecutive days of being outside, I end up having a meltdown from being behind. And if we go on a long walk, then I physically don't have the stamina to stand in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes. It would be nice if I could start with a clean house and then just go outside and enjoy the weather.

3) The Up-too-Early Pattern

Pretty much what it sounds like! The kids and/or my husband get up earlier than usual, and then we have to go into survival mode to get through the day. Although it sometimes results in more screen time, we also might be forced to go outside since Sophia won't nap and it's the only way to avoid constant melt-downs when she's overtired. Audiobooks are another secret weapon that I've discovered this year.

4) The Up-too-Late Pattern

This one tends to affect the adults more than the kids. Either we sleep in and get off to a late start, or the kids get to bed late. Then we stay up late ourselves and are dragging the next day. And then stay up late again because we got a late start. Can go on for weeks!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Friendship after 30 and beyond

Andrei and I got together with some old friends recently and shared our mutual nostalgia for our friendships in our 20s, and current lack of adult friendships.

At first I was thinking it was some sort of parent-life thing. But one couple at the table hasn't had children and is having the same issue. We were all (except for the husband from Moscow) in a small group together about 10 years ago, led by Andrei. Of course we remember it as a Golden Age. Was it? I'll have to peek at old blog posts and see if I alluded to anything. I do think it was a fruitful period of Christian fellowship and spiritual growth, as well as liking to hang out socially. Something about the combination of regular meetings+openness+many of us not married yet, seemed to foster deep relationships. Okay, they weren't perfect, but even just going around the circle sharing honest prayer requests, and following through...that was something we could count on at the time.

But attending a small group now? Although our current church has a small group, we aren't able to commute during the week at this point. You'd think we'd be hosting, like we did before kids...but after the church conflict, it's been hard to find the emotional energy to make those kinds of commitments.

"I don't want to go and waste my free time listening to everyone talk about something that isn't interesting to me," was one person's comment. It sounds cynical, considering we are talking about Christian fellowship! But when you take away the relationship, that might be a good point. I can think of many Bible study discussions where several people went off on their own tangents and in the end it felt like we talked about...nothing. So if I were a newcomer, I don't know if it would make me want to come back. But when it's a regular thing and you really want to be there, you don't look for perfection.

If we're forced to let go of past configurations, we have to find a new format. But making new friends is so...tedious. Why is it harder as an adult?

I catch glimpses on social media of friends attending Bible studies or other gatherings of friends. So clearly, some of my peers still have the hang of it. Or...are they just keeping up friendships from long ago? Or forming connections naturally with colleagues, neighbors, or fellow parents at their kids' schools? Does it ever happen easily?

Monday, April 1, 2019

March Survey/Selfie

Welcome to April. We have arrived! Looking back at my February posts, it already seems like a long time ago! We are over the hump now and on to Spring. We might get more snow, but the daylight is here.

What I've been...

Reading: Little Town on the Prairie (read-aloud), First Art for Toddlers and Twos (MaryAnn Kohl), The How Not to Die Cookbook, The Well-Trained Mind, Teaching Through Movement: Setting Up Your Kinesthetic Classroom

Watching: Still Jeopardy! Thinking about giving up Netflix. There are a few shows I would still watch if I had the time, but maybe not worth paying the monthly fee.

Cooking/Eating: Went on a veggie kick, making more salads and things. Hard to keep up. Made some veggie Vietnamese spring rolls a few times, yummy! Keeping up with the Asian theme, I also made a simple lemon ginger soy chicken recipe a few times, really liked it. Oh, for Purim we made Hamentaschen.

Listening to: John Michael Talbot (Come to the Quiet), Kids' Praise.

Striving towards: Organizing papers.

Looking forward to: Spring, of course!

What David (6.5 years) is up to: Learning to sound out words, watching Wild Kratts, observing the ants coming out of hibernation.

What Sophia (2.5 years) is up to: Calling everything "mine," doing "ugga mugga" nose rubs like on Daniel Tiger (Mr. Rogers), changing her outfit every 10 minutes (often independently).

Your turn!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Hobby pruning

I promised myself that if I did some paper sorting I could do a new blog post.

Remember hobbies? When I got married I swore I would never let myself forget how busy I was when I was single. And by that I mean look down on unmarried men and women as if they had lots of free time on their hands. We all have plenty to keep us busy. And who made it a virtue to be busy, anyway?

But, I will say that I was SHOCKED to open up all my old notepads and skim through them. Detailed notes from sermons, grammar from studying several languages (mainly Greek, French, and Italian) for FUN as well as formal Russian courses. Notebooks full of Bible passages and questions that I had written down meticulously. A Calligraphy instructional guide along with several pages of my attempts. And of course there were all the notes from lesson planning for teaching English, and different ministry projects I was involved in.

Although looking at the notes made me jealous of my past self as if I had lots of free time, I know that isn't necessarily true. Obviously I had the time to study some subjects on my own, but I might have done that by waking up earlier, or using the time in the late evening. Although there was blogging and Skype, I managed to find time for other pursuits. And I was my own master, setting my own schedule.

It's interesting to think about why people have less time for study when they get married and/or have children. I think for one thing, there is always the possibility of work being interrupted. It may take longer to shut out distractions, and someone could need something at any moment. Our brains also fill up with the tasks that go along with caring for other people in the household. Intellectual (emotional? mental?) fatigue. And while I had plenty of late nights as a single person, sleep deprivation as a parent is just different. I still make foolish choices by staying up too late, but there are plenty of other reasons that parents don't get enough sleep. Just like with concentrating on work, it may take a while to get settled for sleep, and then you could get woken up at any moment by someone who needs something, so I'm not sure how deep the sleep really is.

Okay, that was kind of a tangent. I definitely miss devoting more time to study, but I'm looking forward to doing more activities as a family together as the kids get older. One friend recently posted a comment on FB to the effect of "poor new parents thinking it will get easier." I know each age has its difficulties, but I think the future is bright! I know it will make such a difference (both good and bad?) just having kids know how to read! Lately David has been more into puzzles and we've learned a few card games. And as he gets into school subjects, I'll be able to dive into learning again, too. Might have to sneak some of my favorites in there!

As for the fate of my papers, I threw a lot of them away. Do notes serve a purpose beyond a year or so? My first instinct was to save them because they represented so many hours of dedication, but to be honest, 1) I couldn't understand most of them without the original context, and 2) they had already served their purpose at the moment when I was writing them down-that was part of the actual learning process.

As I was going through my pile of Important Documents, a few actually went missing...including our marriage certificate! Ugh! How does that happen? You might think something could be lost in the piles, but in actuality I normally have a pretty good sense of where things are. So, not sure what to do about that. I feel like I've had many moments lately of missing things that have been purged, but that is a story for another post.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring cleaning /KonMari/ Changing seasons

This was going to be a short and sweet "everyday life" post, but it ended up taking me a long time to explain a few photos!

Do you do spring cleaning? There are always a lot of projects around this time of year.

Some of my projects aren't so fun. In my Konmari tidying (using the term very loosely), I'm done with my own clothes and books and need to tackle papers. I got all the important documents out of the cabinet and they're sitting there waiting for me, but tonight I decided to blog instead. :)

Maybe tomorrow?

Another category is old CDs. I already discarded some that required older versions of Windows. But I have to go through all the ones that might have files and photos, even though I probably have already copied a lot of them to an external hard drive. It's going to be tedious going through each one. I guess I'd better really discard the CDs this time so I don't have to sort them ever again! I'm keeping some music CDs for now, though.

Not looking forward to this, either.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Survey/Selfie

So it's been a whole year since I did one of these. Not that it's a bad thing, just feels like time flew by!

Rocking the sick toddler

What I've been...

Reading: Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Series, "The Out-of-Sync Child," "Tired of Being Tired," "The Well-Trained Mind," "Mere Motherhood," and The Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie books (with David)

Watching: Jeopardy! on Netflix, Disney's Chronicles of Narnia, Madeline (animated)

Cooking/Eating: Too many baked goods! Bagels, blueberry muffins, chocolate cake, etc etc etc. I need more winter veggie possibilities...end up resorting to frozen ones and just sauteing them.

Listening to: Audiobooks, Mozart, and the occasional worship playlist.

Striving towards: Too many goals!

Looking forward to: Getting done with colds and doing some spring cleaning and getting ready to start Lent.

What David is up to: Saying cute things, carefully constructing arguments, defending himself against his sister, playing with dragons and other toys, and still learning the alphabet in two languages.

What Sophia is up to: Fighting for her rights (started hitting recently), talking a lot, a little potty training here and there, changing her outfit 10 times a day, playing with dolls, singing all the time, flinging puzzle pieces across the room, and helping me cook.

In February we celebrated Sophia's half birthday (2 1/2), Valentine's Day, and Russian "Men's Day."

(more photos after the jump)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sleep and SAD-can YOU ignore the weather?

Last year I was all about fighting the winter slump. I read at least one book on SAD, which primarily focused on light therapy. I schemed about changing the light fixtures in our apartment, and bought various "happy" lamps.

The happy light I bought (Phillips?) turned out to be the wrong voltage and my father in law fixed it up for Russian use, but it's the kind of thing where you want to have it sitting on a table near you, and I have 2 very curious/destructive kids. So I haven't wanted to risk having it out on a table, and there it sits in the closet! :(

I also got 2 "sunrise" alarm clocks. They're off-brand because I wasn't sure if I would like it (and again, things get broken quickly around here). I've tried them a few times and even though they claim to brighten gradually, I'm pretty much awake with the first hint of light, and then it feels like I'm at the dentist's or something with a bright light in my face. So, it doesn't feel the same as sunshine. A few times I tried just shining the light in my face when I first woke up to send the message to my body that IT'S DAYTIME NOW despite the dark outside. I didn't find it to be effective, though.

So those were my experiments from last year.

Fall 2018 

This year my online fitness group did a walking challenge again during the month of November-get outside every day. I did this faithfully for the first two weeks or so. It's supposed to a) help you get more daylight to keep your body in rhythm and b) give you lots of fresh air/positive exercise vibes.

Well, November is definitely the month when it all starts-the grey, dreary weather and desire to hibernate. The walks didn't feel like they helped at ALL.
On my way to the clinic not knowing I had appendicitis.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Weekdays on the surgical ward

How I survived abdominal surgery for a ruptured appendix in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

Continued from Part 3...

I survived the night! The nausea was constant. I expected that from the anesthesia, but the medications must have contributed, too. What medications, you may ask? Actually, they never told us. The doctor would tell the nurse and at certain times of day, the IV pole would be standing there with our last name written on up to 4 bottles of fluid.

I tried telling myself that I could make it through since I had survived two rounds of morning sickness. I remember vividly the morning sickness with Sophia: 7 weeks along, and I knew it would be a good 3-4 months of it. Each day was agonizing and dragged on. This case felt just as long. And my nose continued to be sensitive.

Plus, now I had this gaping wound in my side, with a drainage tube poking me! It was like...morning sickness plus C-section recovery all in one?

The day after my surgery was Monday, and I met the doctor whom I would end up seeing almost every day for a month. He made the rounds after breakfast each morning, accompanied by a young intern. That first day, I still didn't eat breakfast because the surgeon hadn't looked at me yet. And then he ended up keeping me on a liquid diet. Day 4 of no solid food.

Andrei brought me juice and even homemade broth. It gave me heartburn and I ended up gagging and vomiting. The nurse came in and yelled and said that anyone who'd had surgery shouldn't be consuming anything acidic like juice.

I needed something bland or my stomach was never going to settle. I begged the doctor to let me eat something and he gave permission for me to eat porridge. So Andrei brought me some very watered-down porridge, and it stayed down. He also smuggled me some crackers.

Unfortunately it wasn't desirable to keep snacks in the room due to cockroaches. And I wouldn't be able to get myself to the hall refrigerator and bend down to get things out. So Andrei just brought me little snacks during the day and then took the rest home.

Baby steps and Boot camp

The first week was spent mostly fighting the constant nausea, which distracted me from the bigger issue: The Wound.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A tender heart

Andrei and I were having an intense discussion. I was crying. I think it was the second day of it, and when you live in an apartment, nothing gets past the kids (or neighbors-not that there was anything to be concerned about).

David was desperate to cheer everyone up. He ran up, forced himself between us, and shoved a book about the Nativity in our faces. He turned the pages, pointing to each picture depicting the birth of Jesus.

He thought that the birth of Christ would be the thing to put a smile on everyone's faces. Wasn't the Nativity enough to make everyone's problems melt away? It should be the correct answer, right? We did kind of turn the corner after that and had everything cleared up with a little more discussion.

Before bedtime, I went into David's room to assess the situation since the kids had been playing in there. There were a bunch of books on the bed and I wondered why the kids had gotten into the books. It wasn't something David would normally do without asking to read with one of us.

Later, I was lying awake myself and made the connection. David had moved some books to get to the box of Christmas books that hadn't gone back into storage yet. He had uncovered the box, opened it up, and sought out that specific book. He wanted so much to make me happy that he went on a hunt for the best he could find.

David has interesting insight about God. We put the audio Bible on or watch Bible cartoons sometimes, but don't really have a daily routine. He considers himself an expert by now, so it's hard to go back to anything we've read already. I'm looking forward to him being a reader and discovering the Bible on his own. I started trying to do the New City Catechism with him, but he almost always answers in his own words instead of repeating back the answers in the Catechism. I'm not really sure what to do with that! For example, 1) What is our only hope in life and death? The kids' answer reads "That we are not our own but belong to God." David usually says, "That we're God's when we're alive and God's when we're dead." Kind of the same thing, right? I just find it interesting that he goes to the trouble to change the words around. And he does it with the other questions, too. I think that will be a good skill as he starts school. But there are probably times when exact wording is important too, right? Especially with Scripture? But there are so many different translations of the Bible, so that's confusing. I dread that day he learns about THAT.

Part of the reason I was upset the other day was that I had just spent some time thinking about a homeschool schedule (see previous post), but David had spent an hour screaming hysterically over getting dressed. And then Sophia had a meltdown when I was cooking lunch! How would we ever add MORE tasks to our schedule if we can't handle clothing and meals?

So there's always a mix of exasperating and sweet moments.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Trying out homeschooling again

I will get back to hospital life soon- it takes some time to remember and organize my thoughts.

You guessed it, our schedule changed again and now we're starting over.

I might be repeating myself, but also have some fresh speculations about homeschool life. First of all, as you might have noticed, I've been dragging my feet about committing to a formal school day. And I'm also kind of reluctant to join a "community." There is so much information out there! There are lots of great blogs, and Instagram accounts. I look at Instagram posts (of homeschoolers) and see lots of comments asking of materials, "where'd you get that?" Obviously I don't ask the question myself because it wouldn't be sold in stores here or delivered to Russia. But there is still a moment when I think "I want that too...but I don't NEED it." The materials we have at our disposal are just right for us. But, it may take a little more creativity or perusing the Russian homeschool forums.

I'm attracted to the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling and am currently trying to see if I can make it work with our family life. I like the whole concept of laying a "feast" before the children, presenting them with rich cultural treasures through a range of subjects, taking nature walks, etc.

At first glance, the methodology seems simple. I've been perusing Ambleside Online and Simply Charlotte Mason  as well as working through Charlotte Mason's actual works.

Much of the approach revolves around "living books" (stories with real-life application) as opposed to textbooks. I took a look at our picture books, and they pretty much fit this description anyway, in a range of subjects-science, geography, history, etc.

But it's still a jump to go from just reading books together to turning it into school. I think it's going to take some work to make a transition into more formal schooling. My hope is that David and/or Sophia will get used to the format and then it will go more smoothly without having to explain each time what we are doing and why.

So, a few questions that have come up:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

In the theater

"But Mommy, an operation is better than dying," my 6 yr old likes to say. We have an open dialogue about death and the afterlife. However, there are a few topics I've avoided so far, such as childhood cancer. :( We've talked about how God knows the number of our days, and David prays for people not to die "before it's time." But I have a feeling that in his mind, the time to "go" is at least after you have grandchildren. And given all his phobias, I've been hesitant to bring up the topic of all the accidents that could happen (except in the case of his baby sister possibly choking).

A few minutes after I signed the consent form, a gurney came squeaking down the hallway and careened its way into our room, forcing the door open. I was told to take everything off and climb on.

While I was getting undressed, the orderly took the blanket from my bed and used it to line the gurney. I had to leave my glasses behind and everything. Maybe it was better to have my senses dulled a little. Besides, wearing contacts while being put under would irritate my eyes.

I got onto the gurney with the blanket folded over me, and they wheeled me out of the room as my roommates called goodbye. The orderlies yelled to each other about where I was going. We bumped down the hallway and around the corner and into an elevator, to go down a few floors to the operating room.

In the operating room, they brought the gurney up next to the operating table and I scooted myself over. They must have covered me with something for the preparation, but I don't remember. A few female medical personnel were asking me some questions. I didn't know if they were trying to determine my mental state or not...I remember something about my kids being bilingual. I had to sign a consent form and I couldn't see anything with my glasses off.

Since I had an IV port in already, that was where they could administer drugs. They did a little anesthesia test and asked if I was getting dizzy. "Not yet...oh yeah, there it goes." Then they put the mask away again. I think I was awake for a few minutes longer, but I don't remember much after that.

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:...