Saturday, September 29, 2007

Important: This Blog is Closing

Attention all Siberian Grits fans, as of now this blog will no longer be updated. We have since updated our website and integrated our blog into the site, so everything is in one place. I repeat, will no longer be updated. Instead visit

This blog will be left up if you wish to come back and read old stories.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Isaiah's new tricks

Isaiah is one and a half now, and he's continuing to do new and amazing things. He seems to go through little spurts of development, doing lots of new things at one time, then slowing down a bit. Sometimes I have to confess that during the slow times, I often struggle with worry that he's not developing as much as he should be. Then a spurt of development will come and he'll amaze us with what's new.

A friend reminded me the other day that children all develop at their own pace. They all do things a little differently, and that is absolutely OK.

So here's what Isaiah is up to:

His upper body is getting stronger and stronger. He can lift his trunk up all the way off the floor and do "push ups". He's also getting really good at "pull ups". With a little bit of assistance, Isaiah can pull up from the floor and reach something on the couch. We just have to support his knees a little bit. Then he sits on his knees and plays with the hard-earned object.

We're trying to encourage him to be independent in whatever ways he is able. We've been working with him to eat on his own with utensils. Trying to get him to use a spoon has been quite entertaining. It didn't take him long to figure out that he needed to put the spoon in his mouth. As my grandpa said about him when he was eating a waffle with his hands one day, "He sure knows where it goes!" Once he got the spoon in his mouth, however, he didn't seem to know what to do next. He sits there with the spoon sticking out of his mouth, looking at us with a confused expression on his face.

Before we moved to St. P, I was trying desperately to get him to drink from a cup. (A special thanks to those of you who graciously listened to my panicked questions and helped me!) Last week I came home from my language lesson to hear the good news that Thomas had been able to get him to drink from the cup BY HIMSELF! I know that this is a wonderful accomplishment for every child, but this has far-reaching implications for Isaiah. He must drink a great deal of fluids every day as a preventative from UTIs, since he is at increased risk for them due to cathaterization. We have been standing on our heads (figuratively, of course) to get him to drink. Hopefully now that he can do it some on his own, he will drink even more!

Thomas and I have been hard at work studying Russian. Isaiah doesn't want to miss out on all the fun. He loves to look at my Russian workbook. I have to keep a close eye on him to make sure that he doesn't love on the book too much and eat my work! He does seem to understand a lot of Russian though, maybe even more than I do! We go to the park together and the Russian babushkas all talk to him, and they say that he understands them.

I don't have a picture or video of this, but Isaiah is also starting to talk our ears off! As soon as I try to video him, though, he starts posing for the camera and stops talking. I'll have to sneak up on him sometime. We don't always understand him, of course, but he's quite a chatterbox. The other night as I was putting him to bed, I laid him down and he looked up at me and in the sweetest voice ever to be heard said, "Mama". Melt my heart! He still says "okey-dokey" a good bit and "Dada" more and more, and then he has his own language. We look forward to being able to talk with him more and more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quite a Treat!

Since we have been in St. Petersburg we have been able to communicate with our families via webcam usingWindows Live Messenger. Being able to see our parents' faces has been grand. Isaiah even recognizes them and plays with them, which delights everyone involved.

Well, Sunday evening we were able to talk to people from my home church Beacon Baptist in Burlington, NC! My mom took her laptop and webcam to church, and our friend Greg Phillips set everything up. Being able to see so many friends at one time and hear first hand their greetings and prayers and love ministered to our hearts. I don't know if they could tell or not, but with every knew face that came on our screen, I had to brush tears from my eyes. Not sad tears, but what can I say, I'm an emotional person! We were able to talk with all the pastors of the church, and so many members!

Imagine just 10 years ago the lack of instantaneous communication between people separated by such a great distance. I know that lots of bad things are on the internet, but I must praise God for His gift of letting us talk to our friends and family so easily. When homesickness nags at our hearts, Isaiah starts doing something really cute or on special holidays we can feel a little closer to home.

So thank you to all our Beacon family for taking the effort to enjoy some technology with us! We loved seeing you! We hope to be able to do it again very soon. Thank you for your love and for your prayers--God is definitely using them! We love you!

Friday, September 07, 2007

On becoming a "ruskaya mamichka"

One of the things that I have really enjoyed since living in St Petersburg is taking walks in the parks with Isaiah. This activity seems very popular among all the Russian mothers. Always however there have been several obvious differences between me and the Russian mothers, besides the fact that they can all talk to each other with ease. One thing immediately identified me as a foreigner: Isaiah was not bundled up as if prepared for weather in the movie Day After Tomorrow. That's right, this crazy American woman didn't even have a hat on her son's head! The horror! After receiving many scolding looks and even a few admonitions from both of our language teachers, I decided that it was finally time to submit to the cultural norm; besides, the weather really is getting chilly now.

Thomas and I headed off to the market the other day on the hunt for a fall coat for me and proper accessories for Isaiah. As in everything thus far, God directed us to just the right vendors. We were able to find everything that we were looking for. Here you see Isaiah sporting his new Russian hat. He has adjusted fairly well, and he doesn't even try to pull it off his head any more. We also found him some snazzy shoes for now and boots for colder weather.

So when I went to the park yesterday, I didn't receive any scolding looks, but I'm sure that they will begin again soon, because I don't have Isaiah in a snow suit in 50 degree weather. :)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Be Our Guest

Over the past week and a half, we have had the pleasure of entertaining guests in our home. First Robin Harris came to see us, then Dave and Kay Henry. See, St. Petersburg is not too far or too difficult to travel to from America! (ok, I have to admit that these friends were headed out to Siberia and using our home as a pit stop, but that doesn't mean that you can't come just to St. Petersburg to see us!)

We were privileged to celebrate Robin's birthday with her in between her many visits to friends in the city. Unfortunately, we didn't get the greatest picture of her, but here you can see her enjoying meeting our friend Luda before we went to church. Isaiah is of course trying to steal the shot.

A couple days after Robin left us, the Henrys arrived very early on a Thursday morning having
taken the overnight train from Moscow. We didn't know how long they would be with us, but thankfully they didn't have to leave until Monday afternoon! We were excited to be able to get to know this very experienced missionary couple and benefit from their wisdom. We had briefly met them in 2005 when visiting Siberia, but this extended weekend visit gave us lots of time to chat and get to know them much better. We were also able to tell them about some great tourist spots to see, since this was their first time to St. Petersburg. Here they are in front of St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Having familiar faces visiting in our home refreshed us a great deal. Being able to talk with these other missionaries about our cultural learning experiences and language study encouraged us. Talking with people who have experienced very similar circumstances as we now find ourselves experiencing helped us realize that one day we will be able to communicate with people without struggling to think about what word we need to use and which form or tense it needs to take. How I long for that day!

So, now that you know that's it's possible to make it here, when should we reserve the devan for you?

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Great Deal

Well, I must admit that I am feeling quite proud of myself today (and excited about what God has provided). Since Isaiah’s infection we haven’t taken him out much, which meant that most of the shopping was done by Thomas since he can understand and speak Russian better. This arrangement however was beginning to give me a case of cabin fever. Today Thomas stayed home with Isaiah while I went and did some shopping at one of the stores he told you about in a previous post, Okea (pronounced OK). My list wasn’t long, so after I had found the items that I needed I decided to look around a little bit and see what was available. The store was pretty crowded since school starts here very soon. There were tons of children there with one parent or the other looking for school supplies and school uniforms; I had the unexplainable urge to buy pencils or something.

Anyway. Okea sells some children’s clothing, so I headed in that direction since Isaiah needs a winter coat. I maneuvered my way through the mamichkas with their children who were also on the hunt for a good jacket or coat. Most of the coats were too big for Isaiah and cost beyond what I wanted to spend. Then a shorter sleeve caught my eye, and I pulled down the hanger to take a closer look. To my great surprise it had a tag inside that told the European size, the French size and the American size! “This coat should fit Isaiah!” I excitedly thought to myself. To my even greater surprise, the coat was on sale for only 399 rubles (about $16)! I could not believe that price. I checked all the zippers and pockets and snaps to be sure that nothing was wrong. Then I tried to find any other coats to make sure that I was really getting a good deal. Every other coat was at least 1200 rubles (about $48), and most of them cost more than 1200 rubles. Being careful not to smile too big or show too much excitement with so many people around, I called Thomas to double check the deal that I thought I had found. Upon hearing the price, before I could even describe the great features of the coat, he said, “Buy it!”

This might seem like a small thing, but I was concerned about getting the right coat for Isaiah. I thought we would have to spend a great deal more money than we actually spent. I forgot to mention that this was the only coat that was on sale. This wasn’t just the only STYLE of coat that was on sale, this was the ONLY coat that was on sale. There were no other coats of this style on the rack.

I love how God uses experiences like this one to remind us that He will take care of us. He wants our family in St. Petersburg, and He is going to provide everything that we need to do His work here. Isaiah will be warm all winter!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Feeling Russian, sort of

Well, I have now completed 3 language lessons (15 hours). Thomas and Isaiah accompanied me to my first lesson so that I wouldn't get lost. My teacher lives about an hour away from us. I travel by metro and then by tramvai (sort of like a cable car).

Monday I headed off on my own for my second lesson. I had done all my homework and tried to memorize as many vocab words as possible. I was nervous about traveling by myself, but I felt very Russian with shopping bag in hand carrying my books. Cultural note--most people carry things in shopping bags here. I felt like I blended in a bit better with my nice bag that formerly carried my jeans (see previous post).

My language lesson went very well, which means that my brain was completely oatmeal by the time the lesson was over.
One of our friends described learning Russian in the beginning as making baby sounds, and well, it's true. My teacher had me make sounds over and over and over again before I graduated to real words. She was very patient and encouraging. My favorite sounds were goola, goola, goola, goo. She told me to practice this with Isaiah. :) (yes I understood her instructions in Russian!)

On my way home, I stopped by a store and bought a few things and even talked to the lady checking me out, sort of.

At the metro a man asked me for directions, I think, and as I tried to tell him what I thought he wanted to know, he looked more and more befuddled, before I finally pulled out the old trusty "I'm sorry, I don't speak Russian well", which earned me a laugh and kind smile.

Wednesday I got to learn tons of verbs, which will keep me very busy until my next lesson on Monday. I'm thankful that God is tuning my ears, so to speak to this language. He has provided for our learning in so many ways, and I pray that I will honor Him in my learning.

For those of you interested in what the rest of our flat looks like, I have finally posted the rest of the pictures. I hope that you enjoy your "visit". We would love to have any of you come and really visit!