Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What DIDN'T You Get for Christmas?

My blog friend Cris has the best ideas for posts! This is not the first time I've stolen one.

She and her family just moved, so Christmas for them was a bit hit and miss in the present department. So she was musing about what, if conditions were right, she might have wanted to find under her Christmas tree.

She challenged everyone to make their own "past-tense-dream" Christmas Wishlist.

1. Well - you can guess what my number one gift would be! Tickets to Russia, by way of Seoul. I'd stop by and visit Craig, then go on to take Sergei to Rostov to visit his sister!

2. Second - even in dreamland, must be practical. I want a new van. My 2003 Mercury Villager has been a dear friend, but is screaming out for retirement.

In fact, my dear van is presently in Pittsburgh, while I am here in Lansing, because while we were there for Christmas he broke his axle. Could have been worse, but still.....

3. Third - practical and fun, too. I need some new shoes. How embarrassing is that? I have only a couple of pairs for winter and they are both beyond looking at all professional. The last straw was when Rosie chewed a hole in one yesterday. So, that pair is done for sure.

Cris' wishlist was much more fun....but play yourself! What didn't Santa bring that, in other circumstances, you would have delighted in finding under your tree this year?

Sunday, December 28, 2008


This photo is posted a bit late.....it reflects most of December in our Michigan home. I had fun trying to take a picture that reflected the very, very snowy weather, and how cozy the house looked in contrast.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


We have at least of two feet of snow outside. So the kids are spending more time indoors. And, out of school, they still need/want some lively action. Boy, oh boy....have I changed! Never in a million years would I have allowed Aidan and Lydia to play lively games in the living room...but I have mellowed.
Zhen and Nastya decided the other night that they'd jump rope. I just directed them to a corner of the living room where they couldn't damage anything and let them go to it. They got into seeing who could jump longest without a miss and both got over 100!
I love having an old house. Ours was built in 1919, but they do lack anything like a "family room" and though there is a basement it is not a pleasant place to play. So....I have loosened up. In fact, I didn't just put up with this - I really enjoyed watching them and cheering them on.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Every so often I sense a bit of confusion on the part of my blog friends, or even real-life acquaintances when I refer to being at the office at a late (or early) hour, or on a weekend with my kids.

It has always seemed as though "the office" AKA "the convent" has been our home away from home. In fact, I "home"schooled both Aidan and Lydia here for four years each - 4th through 8th grades. In this photo, I was standing in the hall and peeking into the room "The Little Flower Room" (after St. Therese of Lisieux) directly across from my office. Lydia got to name this room as at the time we gave the rooms names, this was pretty much "her" room - where she did her schoolwork and on-line classes.

Zhen is looking at something on the computer, and Anastasia is playing a sort-of board game while enjoying a snack. This is a typical scenario. They can also watch a video or DVD down in the parish library, or have a more substantial meal or do an art project in the kitchen at the big table. For homework this place can't be beat, as a paper cutter, staplers, scissors, glue, tape etc. are all not just available but laying out for ready use. As I write this they are all outside having a wonderful time on the enormous (over 15 feet high!) pile of snow at the edge of the church parking lot!

When I think of losing this job, as you can see, I am contemplating the loss of more than just a job. It has really been a way of life.

Friday, December 19, 2008


There are a couple of slightly "off-topic" blogs that I just love. One, as I mentioned before is Elizabeth in St. Petersburg.

A new favorite is a young woman in Belgium who is housekeeping for her parents and taking care of her baby brother. Ciska seems like a delightful person - and what a wonderful glimpse into life in another country!

In this, her 100th post, she talks about St. Nicholas Day....and has a bit of a contest. Though I doubt she'll want an American to win!


Thursday, December 18, 2008


There is no hope, I am sure, that I will ever again receive the kind of acclaim that met dinner last night. For some time I have noticed the kids clustering around the fish display at the Russian store. Finally, the other night I asked the proprietor what, exactly, one might do with one of those fish. He told me to cut it in slices and serve it with boiled potatoes, chopped onions and pepper. So - what the heck? I gave it a try.

Frankly, as I stood in my kitchen cutting the head off that fish, reality wavered for a moment. At no other time in my life could I have imagined doing such a thing. But, my courageous step into a new experience paid off. Exclaimations of joy rang out the moment they saw the platter and the delight never paled. There was that one moment when someone pointed out with alarm that there weren't enough potatoes but happily (and uniquely - I often fail to make quite enough food) I could say "There's more in the kitchen." Happiness was restored.

We'll definitely do this again. That smoked makarel was only $5! So an economical meal, too. My one concern is how I will ever top that for Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Courtney, lovely young thing that she is, posted this challenge (or dare, as it were).

The assignment:

Take a picture of yourself right NOW!

DON’T change your clothes, DON’T fix your hair… Just take a picture.

Post that picture with NO editing.

Post these instructions with your picture.

Then, like everyone else who did this, I will justify why I look like this..... MY picture is taken at 11:20 at night while I am still at work.

On a Saturday, when I definitely did not put on any make-up at all, or do much more than run fingers through my hair (at some point during the day).

Anyway.... This is my year for being humbled, so bring it on!

That's my messy office behind me. I'm taking a break from making bingo cards for tomorrow's third grade classes.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Anastasia has a "spot"... Just in the past few weeks I have noticed that she is gravitating to her own little corner of the living room, making it "her" place. As she does not have a bedroom to herself, I'm glad she is making this corner her own.
She sits at the end of the couch, and behind her on the floor, is her little collection of bags and folders (oh, so organized, is Nastya), and her "baby" in her carrier with her diaper bag.
She usually leaves her book bag there, too.

Nastya has brought the little afghan my mom made and keeps it there. I suppose it is colder there in the corner of the room by the window. From this spot she can watch TV, but she will also read there or do homework. (Since I always felt better doing homework on my bed, I am not one to insist on the "well-lighted desk" in a quiet place. Whatever works, that's what I say!

Last night Nastya was not doing any of those things, rather she was making some Christmas decorations. These are so pretty, quite easy, inexpensive and fun as well. We did them with all the Confirmation candidates and their parents last week.

Here's directions:

You take five metallic pipe cleaners and cut them in half. Lay nine pieces down on the table (or hold them between thumb and forefinger) in a "snowflake shape" - being careful to make sure all the centers meet. Then take the final piece of pipe cleaner and use it to tightly bind them together. After they are bound you can pull all the ends out into a three-dimensional snowflake shape. Then put 1-2 metallic plastic beads on each point. We will hang them from the ceiling with fish line. The ones the Confirmation candidates and sponsors made will decorate the Christmas trees in church.
Cute aside. Anastasia is wearing a little t-shirt which Lydia "embellished" with lace, a fancy button and a bit of puff paint back in the day before the work "embellishment" was so common. Lydia was not one to wear any "ordinary" t-shirt, so this one became special. Nastya looks especially cute in it, I think.
Sorry about the lack of clarity in the photos....

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The other morning Anastasia took my camera and without my paying much attention, went around taking pictures. I was intrigued to see what she chose to photograph - the things she thought were beautiful, I guess.

Here is her morning glass of cherry tea. I really love this picture.

Next, her baptismal candle. All the children's candles are in the china cabinet. I gather she likes hers! You can just see Zhen's and Sergei's to the left.

The towel is one of a collection (OK - I hoard them!) of towels which I have gotten in Ivanovo. Initially I thought I'd give them as gifts, soon realized I couldn't give any of them up, and now I try to get more whenever half a chance presents itself. I keep one on this rack in the kitchen at all times.

The matrioshka apparently pleases her eye. Mine, too. And the breadboard.


I am so tired I can't move. It was interesting timing....Craig and Lydia leave the very weekend that I have a big event I'm responsible for.

Tonight was the first of the monthly Confirmation Program events. Quite an elaborate set of activities that took lots of planning and preparation. Add to that - my colleague (a new young youth minister) had not realized when we made up the calendar that he had a personal retreat scheduled this weekend. I was probably most stressed out by the fact I had to do it all on my own. He and I would have been/will be a great team. He is young and funny, while I play straight man very well. But tonight I was on my own.

Despite that, it went well in the end, but my feet hurt, my eyes hurt, I'm too tired and sleepy to go home - hey, so why not post a blog entry? Reasonable, right?

I did get updates from the travelers.

Lydia is not so sure about Virginia Beach - particularly that she is not in walking distance of any jobs and bus service does not appear to be available. I'm wondering why she didn't ask her friend about this....before going.

Craig is "Head of the English Department" at his school! Wow. That's nice. He wrote me one e-mail in which he talked about his trip (very nice, he said), his apartment - which sounds spacious and very pleasant, and the staff he's met so far. Everything is good - except for the fact that their English texts are only in Korean (well, the teacher directions)! So I've been trying to find and send via e-mail all the ESL lesson plans I can find. He wanted me to overnight ship his textbooks - I'd have to mortgage the house to do that. Since I have not heard from him since the first day, I suppose he used a computer at school. I wish he'd buy a mobile phone! I wish he'd go into a cyber cafe! I need an update!

Today is Maxim's birthday. I got him Guitar Hero III. And a muffin. Unfortunately, I had to work all day....and night.... So I owe him a lunch out, or something.

The previous couple of days have been - well, exhausting. Every one of the children has decided to test me - in varied and creative ways. I feel besieged. So far I have not thrown myself on the bed in tears, mainly because there was no time for it! So much to do at work...and "extras" - Russian school, Maxim's birthday, Ilya's birthday Monday, the retreat, counseling, a party Zhen is invited to.... Still don't have a present....

Well, tomorrow morning is newspaper delivery......Going to bed now would be a fine plan.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


This is a map of Incheon airport in Seoul, South Korea. My husband is probaby there about now, looking for "Mr. Kim" who is supposed to pick him up.

In my last post about my job, I said that I had come to accept the possibility that I might lose my job due to the merging of my parish with another one. Part of that more peaceful feeling was our decision for Craig to take a job teaching English at a middle schol in a suburb of Seoul. Of course we are both excited about this (money! bill paying! ) and distressed. (you can imagine!)

The greatest advantage is that he can "scope out" the situation and see if there is any potential for the whole family moving here this summer if I end up without a job. Why Korea? Well, unlike the US, with its "No Child Left Behind" requirements, in Seoul both Craig and I could get good jobs teaching English. We went round and round about Craig trying to get back into teaching. It is an uphill battle for him because he both has too many years of experience (so a school district would have to pay more) and lacks the new qualifications to teach the subjects where teachers are most needed (math, special ed.) There is no great call for Health and PE teachers who would command top dollar, strangely.

Obviously, I will miss him. For the last few days my stomach has gone easily into knots. The low, ominous knotty feeling that comes with loss and fear. I am full of trepidation, too.... Can I manage this crew by myself? Just the giving-of-rides component is scary. Just the "where will they be when I am working" part is distressing. And just to illustrate this point (make me dive in at the deep end) this weekend I am running a confirmation activity for 150 adults and kids from 4:30 - 8:30 on Saturday night.

To add the the weirdness I am feeling, while Craig left yesterday during the day, Lydia left for Virginia (where she will live with a girlfriend) early this morning. I had to leave the house at 2 a.m. to drive her to the airport in Detroit. So, from having two other adults in the house, I am now the only one. Yes; it is a scary feeling.

Shall we add one more fear factor? Before he left Craig's doctor discovered some unusual blood work - sigsn of anemia. The doctor has no idea what it is, what it means, and figures he might as well be in Korea as anywhere else.....but it didn't exactly cause us to feel extra- confident.

So. Wish me luck. Life just seems to get stranger and stranger.