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.

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...