Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Tom and I got up and went to church. It was beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations, which are New Year's decorations here. Afterwards Nathan, Tom and I went out to Krasnaya Ploshad to look around and shop a bit. Spencer stayed home because he had a cake in the oven and he didn't want anyone else to watch it for him.

We all pitched in to make dinner, ate the huge dinner, watched a movie and a few episodes of LOST and throughout it all our neighbors were setting off fireworks.

At midnight President Putin came on the TV and we listened to his speech. I think no matter where you live all presidential speeches are the same. He recapped the year, gave a vision for the future and closed by wishing everyone success and health, and so on!

Once Putin was done the fireworks started up with a vengeance! Not just little ones that pop but huge stuff... like you would see in a professional show. Most of the fireworks come here from China and it is overwhelming. Things are thrown off balconies, off roof tops and there was even a group of our neighbors down in the field where the kids play soccer. We are grateful nothing was set on fire!

It is almost 2am here and there is very loud music going on in our building. This is a party that is not going to end anytime soon!

Heat update:
Thanks to the electric radiator we are borrowing from Tim and Joy our home is warm. It also helps that today was a warm day.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

now what?

On Firday we asked Joy if she would call our building manager for us to let him know that the apartments here in the building are cold. When she found out that we were cold, she offered an electric heater for us to use until we get the radiators fixed. Our apartment feels much warmer now.

Saturday morning Spencer heard a commotion out in the stairway. He heard yelling for about 15 minutes straight... then a knock at our front door. The knocking at the door was the building manager. He asked if our apartment was warm. Then he asked Tom where the radiator was. He touched the radiator in the living room and pronounced that it was “fine”. He touched the floor, said “perfect”, and then walked out the door. As he got out the door, the neighbors were still screaming at him. We heard him saying things like “it is not that cold right now” and “it is going to be a warm winter”. He argued with one woman for another 15 minutes. Does this mean he is going to fix it? We don’t know.

As you can imagine it is frustrating not to understand every single word. Because of that, we don’t know what the resolution is... if any. Spencer and Tom tried to ask the upstairs neighbors when it was all over but no one would open their doors. Maybe they were tired of the controversy and did not want to invite more in! I found out later from Joy that she had not been able to get a hold of him. So, his coming out was at the request of another neighbor in the building. We are glad to know that our neighbors were upset about the cold too and that they were willing to fight the battle and not just us!

Later in the evening Olya called and wanted to know if we had electricity. Hers was out and so were her neighbors. I told her we still had electricity and invited her to come down to our place. She said that she was okay at home and she just wanted to know if the whole building was without lights or just their entrance. Almost two hours went by and then our power went out.

Tom and I both had the same thought. We wondered if they cut our power because of the complaints about the heat. As the power went off, I was putting a casserole in the oven. Fortunately, we have a gas oven so I was able to finish making dinner. I got out my cell phone and called Olya to let her know that our power was out too. She said that someone should be coming out to fix it soon if the whole building was down. We lit candles and then I called Joy to let her know that now we didn’t have lights. She said she was glad to hear me laughing about it. What else could we do? As I was on the phone with Joy, the lights and everything came back on. Spencer called Olya to see if her power was back and it was for them too.

What a day! Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Friday, December 29, 2006

fixing up the place?

As reported earlier this week, our stairwell is being painted. We thought that they were done after they did the bottom half of the walls blue... the top half is white. However, they came along this morning and did this brown trim.

while the windows remain broken...

Hopefully, they are finished with the painting in our stairwell and will move on down to the next entrance. We live in entrance number 1. Olya doesn't think they will get to her entrance, number 9, until February!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Alida's Pumpkin Cookies

I am still figuring out creative ways to use up all the pumpkin I froze. These are the cookies that the guys gobbled up for dessert last night. If you like soft cookies then these are for you!

I was going to take a photo of the cookies but they were all eaten before I got out the camera.

Alida's Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1/2 cup butter,softened
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, pumpkin and butter. Stir in flour, baking powder,soda, spice and salt. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake until light brown 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet; cool. Spread with a cream cheese frosting if desired. Makes about 4 dozen!

Prayer request:
Please pray for those of us living in apartments here. Our homes are heated by radiators and we have no way to regulate the heat in our rooms except to open a window. Last year we opened the windows as soon as we got home from school. This year the radiators don't seem to be putting out as much heat and the apartment is colder. Spencer and Olya talked with the upstairs neighbor and their apartment is colder than ours. We have double-pane windows and insulated walls. But, our neighbors are not as fortunate.

long day

We had a Social Ministries Team meeting and then a meeting at the BLTC following that.

We came home in the dark, both of us (Tom and I) tired and hungry. I made dinner and some pumpkin cookies for dessert and then we decided to watch a movie.

We watched Reds... although it has good reviews it is one of the most boring movies I have ever seen. Spencer said it was THE MOST boring for him. He went over to Judi B's today with Sonja to watch part of the marathon Judi was doing with the Lord Of the Rings trilogy. He says he only stayed about 4 hours and just saw one of the 3 movies! Nathan didn't go because he did his LOTR movies over the weekend!

We have snow on the ground and it is cold outside and in. We are wearing light jackets or sweaters in the apartment. Transportation here is slow. This morning we took a taxi over to the meeting at Tim and Joy's so that we would not be too late. Our taxi driver got confused and took us a little too far. I recognised we were going the wrong way and he apologised and only charge us the minimum fee for the ride. Which was a blessing because when the weather gets bad they will charge extra for using up gas for the heater!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

minus zero activities

The staircase in our apartment building is being painted today. Tom says that they are using a petroleum based paint. It sticks to high heaven. I was awakened by the fumes.

We are not sure why they waited until it was below zero outside and snow is on the ground but such is life here in Russia!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just a Little Bit of Service...

Today was our first snowfall of the season. We awoke to a soft, white covering everywhere. It snowed the rest of the day & turned into an icy mess by late afternoon. Beautiful? Yes. Comfortable? No. Today I (Tom) took 4 tolleybuses, 2 marshutkas & did lots of walking to get to the police services facility to speak to prison psychologists of our region. I left at 10:30am even though I wasn't scheduled to be at the facility until 12 noon. With numerous accidents due to the weather, I arrived at 11:54...certainly time enough to spare... on a trip that usually takes about 25 minutes.
Between 40 & 50 prison psychologists & police officers had also braved the elements to arrive for our first training. I spoke for a couple of hours on general issues for working with addicts & alcoholics. Many of the professionals in attendance work in very small communities & villages, & this was the first type of training that they have received. The attendees were very interested & engaged, & stated that they would like to have more training of this type. I answered as many questions as I could, dispelled myths & misconceptions about the disease of addiction, & tried to provide some practical tools for this group. Many of the attendees had questions about what kind of statistics are available about alcohol & drug problems in Russia. It was surprising to me that they lacked some key information about the very population they are working with. It showed me the great need for on-going education & training. Katya did a great job translating & said that it was very interesting for her as well, as it was all brand new info. I shared with the group that it was great to be in a room filled with police officers & prison personnel, & NOT be in trouble! They appreciated the humor.
I'm not sure how everyone did with having a 'civilian' at the facility, let alone an 'American.' I was escorted everywhere, even to the bathroom! Still I look forward to other opportunities to be just a little bit of service!

Merry Christmas!

The guys say that today has been fun. We got up and went out to Krasnaya Ploshad (our mall) to shop for Christmas presents and for our movie for the day.

Tom came home with a new electric razor and some music CD's.
Nathan had new head phones, movies and some music too.
Spencer has new music.

I will have to go shopping another day because they don't sell yarn at the mall. I will be purchasing some cashmere to make a sweater.

Our family movie was.... Serenity. After watching the series on DVD we had to get the movie to answer all the questions we had from the series. The movie is action packed and did not disappoint!

We had dinner at McDonald's and everyone was stuffed to the gills and there was nothing to clean up afterwards.

It is very different celebrating in a country where Dec 25th is not Christmas. There has been nothing on TV, no celebrations and all businesses were open.

Orthodox Christmas is January 7th. You can read more about how Russians celebrate here:

So far all of you who do celebrate today... Have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Fun

Last night we were with the Watson family. Nathan, Spencer and I went over for dessert and to watch A Christmas Story. Seeing how Joy decorated for Christmas made us feel very festive. And it was like Christmas is "actually real" for someone other than us. Everywhere else we go we realise that the decorations are for New Year's (including the trees) and not for Christmas.

However, seeing an American home decorated for the holiday actually reminded us that we are not the only ones celebrating on the 25th.

Tom joined us after his AA meeting and then we all came home together. Tom and I stayed up way too late and missed out on the church serivce this morning.

I think I was in a funk and really didn't want to go and that is why I didn't set my alarm. This is our last Christmas with Nathan at home. Tom says that I have already started to grieve and that is healthy. We do want to send him off in a healthy way. And it is also important that I acknowledge how I feel about losing him. The only consolation is knowing that he is going to be with Mom and Dad.

Alexei and Lena stopped by to wish us a Merry Christmas. After that Olya came over with her friend Luda (as in Ludmilla)and her two teenage girls. Anya is 13 and Nastia is 14. They are studying English and wanted to practice. We asked and answered questions in a mixture of Russian and English for a few hours. We had to remember to speak slow so that they could understand us when we spoke English. We drank tea and ate a cake that they brought over as a hostess gift. Thirteen year old Anya likes to write and has written some fairy tales. While 14 year old Nastia likes cars and wants to be a designer. Luda is currently studying to be a psychologist so she had questions for Tom as well.

Both the girls and Olya were suprised that I knew who Dima Bilan is (a singer who came in second in Eurovision). I was watching the night he won and have heard his song on the radio and on TV since then.

After everyone was gone we were pretty tired. We decided to order pizza and watch some movies. We checked out the delivery menu for our favorite pizza place and decided to try some new things. We ordered:
barbecue beef pizza
salmon pizza
assorted meat pizza
chicken pizza

The barbecue pizza was more like a chopped steak pizza. The salmon pizza was salmon, green beans and cheese. The chicken pizza was chicken, cheese and olives. Tom was not real thrilled with the salmon pizza even though he is a big salmon fan... just not on pizza!

It is just after midnight and Spencer is already in bed while Tom and Nathan are watching the 3rd Lord Of The Rings movie. This is Tom's first time seeing it!

Friday, December 22, 2006


Spencer and I were back at work today at the Detsy Priyut. We had fun with the kids. We, along with Sonja, arrived before Oksana did and the kids were very surprised to see us so we got huge hugs.

I was glad that the gaurd at the gate opened up for us immediately after I told him why we were there. Then I was able to ask a different worker where we could set up to spend time with the kids. I know that I still make grammar mistakes but I am understood and that gives me the confidence to keep on talking and allowing myself to make mistakes so that I can learn to say it right.

The kids had visitors before we got there and they had large bags of candy from it. They were so happy with their new wealth that they were all giving us candy.

It was very touching. Can you imagine? These kids have so little and yet they wanted to share!

I had the kids making snowflakes from 3 different patterns that I found on the internet. Girls and boys jumped right in and got to work after one explanation. And when Oksana arrived she had them make Christmas trees using plastic cups, glue and garland. It was cute.

One of the boys, Losha, wanted Spencer and I to see his room. He had decorated it and hung his snowflakes and Christmas tree up for all to see.

One of the games we played was:

we separated into two teams. Each team stood in a straight line holding hands. The first person in line had to watch Oksana as she flipped a coin. If it landed with the number side up the first person in line had to sqeeze the hand of the person next to them and so on...transmitting the "signal" to the end of the line. The person at the end of the line had to pick up a package of gum when they received the signal. It was funny how many times a signal was wrongly transmitted or the kid at the end picked up the gun as soon as the coin was tossed. When the game was over the team who had done it correctly the most times won the package of gum to share. There was enough gum in the package for everyone on both teams to share!

We left tired and happy. Spencer and I had babysat for Ira and Yanna yesterday and he went back again today to sit with Yanna while Olya took Ira to a playschool session. He said that he had been taking care of children for "two whole days and was worn out!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

lookie what I got!

Thanks Mom for the new cookbook!

I am looking forward to cooking my way though this one. I used to watch Rachel Ray when we still lived in the states. She was my inspiration for actually following a recipe. I love the idea of having 365- 30 Minute Meals to choose from for dinner. The guys are actually prepared to try some new things.

Last night I read some of the recipe titles aloud for the guys and we talked about what we could and could not buy here. Substitutions may have to be made. That is okay, we have learned to adapt.

Spencer and I went shopping today and we found most of what we needed to make the very first recipe in the book. Scramblewiches. I thought I already had the cheese we needed but I was mistaken. I will go out tomorrow for Swiss cheese. One good thing about living here is the cheeses imported from around the world.

Speaking Engagement

Last night Tom received a phone call from Natasha. She is a prison psychologist. She had asked Tom on Sunday if he would be able to speak to the regional prison psychologists if she were to set up a day for them all to come to Krasnodar. She called last night with the date and time of the event. I took the phone to firm up the details and I think I understood most of what she said. Tom will be speaking on Tuesday, December 26th, for 3 hours on the subject of how to work with alcoholics and addicts. He was asked to focus on dependency issues. Katya will be there to translate. (She was our very first translator in 2004 when we visited for a month)

It is interesting that she has only heard Tom speak one time. She was invited by Jim and Joyce to come to our church when Tom spoke there for the first time. He does of great job of integrating theology and psychology each time he speaks. She told me on the phone last night that she felt that Tom had more experience and knowledge of how to work with addictions than what she and her colleagues here in Russia have.

I was talking with Lena today and telling her about Natasha asking Tom to speak to the area psychologists. Lena told me that Natasha is not just one of the prison psychologists in the area... she is the Regional Head Psychologist for the entire prison system. Now it makes since why she was able to call a meeting for all the area prison psychologists!

Tom is looking forward to being able to speak to this population. This is why we are here and it is exciting to have this door open for us!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


As Spencer and I were on our way to school yesterday we were greeted by our neighbor that we met on the night on the Kuban Cossack Choir Concert. She said that she hoped we would be able to spend time together soon.

Spencer and I had all the good intentions of going down to her apartment, she lives in the same entrance as Olya, but... we didn't make it. Then as time passed I felt like it was weird to just show up. Now since we saw her again and she renewed the invite I will have to do a better job of getting over there this weekend!

Part of my fear about going over there was the possibility of not being able to understand and fully participate in a conversation. With our friends we are able to use a dictionary or they will explain things in a different way to help out. I know that she is aware of us still being in the learning phase... I just don't want to fumble and stutter! But, I will humble myself and get down there. Really, I will!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I have not been able to post all the photos I would like too. I made the switch on my blog to BloggerBeta. And since then Picasa won't work to post photos. So I have to post them one at a time. Spencer still has the old Blogger account so he can post mulitple photos without a problem.

Please enjoy our banquet photos at:

I am off to school soon with the guys but I am not going to wear pajamas... even though Tom asked us all again before he left this morning!

Monday, December 18, 2006

practical jokes!

Yesterday Tom was teasing me about today being Pajama Day at school. He tried to tell the boys about it and of course, none of us believed him. This morning Madina called to let me know that Dima my teacher was ill and wanted to know if I could come to class tomorrow instead... she had already spoken with my classmate Elizabeth. I told her that I could come in tomorrow and that it was not a problem to change days.

Madina called me again late in the afternoon. She apologized for forgetting to tell me something this morning. She went on to say in Russian that tomorrow is “Den Pajam”. I asked her “what?” I thought I misheard her. She said in English “tomorrow we will all wear pajamas to school” For a split second I thought she was serious... after all this was Madina calling, she is usually serious! I told her “NO!” and I started laughing. She tried again to convince me that she had simply forgotten to tell me this morning. And I could not stop laughing. I asked her if Tom had told her about Pajama Day. And she said “yes. She admitted she was joking with me. We said good-bye and I went in to confront Tom. He was in the other room cracking up!

He told me that he actually took the time to explain to Madina what Pajama Day is in the states. He explained about Spirit Week in schools. He said that one day everyone might wear the same color, the next dress as farmers or even wear pajamas at school. She said that if people did that here they might be arrested!

I don’t think the school and our teachers will ever be the same after having our family, especially Tom, at school!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

another photo

setting the head table

I set the table using the platinum trimmed China that Tom gave me for our 20th anniversary. He took a full place setting with us to Hawaii and I was shocked to receive it! This was the first time we have used it. I have been told that we need to do a better job of using our "good stuff". We have service for 6 so I plan to take it out for Christmas, New Year's and whenever we have guests!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Russian Post Starts Delivering Letters, Parcels Sent From U.S. in 1999

Russian Post has started delivering 4.5 tonnes of letters and parcels that were sent from the United States in 1999, Reuters news agency reports.

The state-owned postal service said the delay was not its fault — a shipping container with the mail inside had languished at a port in Finland for years.The container finally reached Russia on December 8.

“The loss of mail usually happens because of force majeure circumstances, such as natural disasters, traffic and other accidents,” Russian Post told Reuters via e-mail.“All of the mail has been very well preserved because the container was hermetically sealed.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

head table

Tom made the heartshaped ornaments. Now they are on our Christmas tree here at the house and the garland is adorning the top of our bookcase decorated with silver balls.

I just talked to Spencer about posting our photos on his blog. He took all the pictures that night so the few that I have posted this week are ones that he took!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

tired and happy

Tom and Alida , circa 1964

Tom and Alida age 18
Dec. 13th, 1981

Tom and Alida at age 43
Dec. 13th, 2006

Thanks to everyone who contributed to Tom's gift for me. It was such a surprise and a wonderful blessing to read all the letters and remember the times I have spent with each of you.

Nathan is sick. Madina called this morning and asked Spencer to tell her honestly if anyone at our house was feeling up to coming to school. He told her no and she was not surprised.

Olya came over to clean the house today. It was so nice to have her here to help with all the dishes that didn't get done yesterday!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Let there be light!

Here is one view of our cake. Our names are spelled out in Russian!

Our evening went well. We are very grateful to Valodia and Klaus for getting the electricity back on in time for our banquet!

Tom went over to a store not far from our home to pick up candles this afternoon for "just in case". While he was there he saw Klaus with the electrician. The church needed a new breaker. Tom paid for the breaker and then came home to tell me that we were going to have lights.

I will write more tomorrow. Spencer took pictures and Robert did a video. We feel blessed to have shared our evening with others. It was very humbling to recieve gifts from people who have so little. I can remember thinking that it was hard to shop for Tom's folks because they "have everything"... well that was said about us a few times tonight. Here in Russia it does seem as if we "have everything". We own our apartment and it is beautifully furnished. We have money to pay our bills and purchase food and that makes us well off.

It is all a matter of perspective!

D Day

As I sit here typing this we are waiting to find out if the church will have electricity or not. If not, we will have a candle light dinner for 40. If yes, then all will go as planned. Hopefully, they will get everything fixed in time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas party

Today is the day before our anniversary and we have already attended a Christmas Party. We were able to tell Ded Moroz aka Santa Claus what we wanted. He looked a little bit like Jim H....hmmmm. Snegoruchka was cute. She is Ded Moroz’s helper. She looked a bit like Jim’s daughter Hannah. Oh well. I liked the fact that she gave us lots of candy. She even gave me a handful to take home for Nathan.

The highlight of the party was Joseph. He taught us about Korean culture. He told us about Kim-chi and for each ingredient that he added, he had someone sing it. He put together a “beat box” of the voices. On top of all that he sang Angels We Have Heard on High in Korean. It was so cool! In Russian we would say “klassna!”

Here are the words in case you feel like singing:

Angels We Have Heard on High in Korean

Chun sa dree no-rae ga, Ha-ne-pae-so duh-le-nee.
San gwa de-rae du-ra-sa, me-a-pee-cha oo-len-da.
Yo-----ung. Kwang eul na-pee ge-seen chookay.
Yo-----ung. Kwang eul na-pee ge-seen choo-neem-kay.

Since we have students at the school from Korea, Germany and America we were able to hear Silent Night sung in all Korean, German, English and Russian. The Christmas story was read in sections by four different people. It started in Korean, and on to German, Russian and ended in English. It was a touching moment to hear the Bible being read in each of the four languages represented in the room.

Our evening was just getting started after leaving the party. Tom, Spencer and I met up with Olya, Ira, Lena and Joy to decorate the church for our banquet tomorrow night. It looks very pretty. I am pleased with how it came together. Spencer will take pictures tomorrow. And he will be able to feature them on his photoblog the following day.

Please pray for us all tomorrow night. We realize this event will not be what we would have done in the states. It will be us celebrating Russian style. There is culture stress related to that for us. There won’t be people there who have known us our entire marriage because all of our family and close friends are in America.

God is God and we do believe that this event is supposed to happen here. It will be a time for us to bond with our Russian friends. And ours is not the only anniversary in the church. We will be here to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Valodia and Lena Rajabov in February. I actually had them in mind as I was purchasing silver items, knowing that they could get used more than once!

Monday, December 11, 2006

counting down...

Spencer, Tom and I got up this morning and went with Tim to get tables for our anniversary banquet on Wednesday. We started at our church. We had to survey what was there... we then went over to the BLTC and picked up what they had, then we were off to Tim and Joy's and got a few more tables there. I was dropped off at Joy's while the men went back to the church to unload all the tables and set them up.

Joy and I had a cup of tea and some Thera-flu and chatted for awhile! When the guys came home we ate lunch together. And then Tim drove us to school. Today is TJ's actual birthday and it was fun to see him be so excited about being 9!

After school Spencer and I went to Krasnaya Ploshad to pick up an imitation fir garland. And we found some little 8 inch Christmas trees decorated with silver ornaments and ribbons. I was glad that they had those there just for our 25th anniversary... I wonder if they planned it just for us!?!

Spencer was excited to see that the skating rink opens for business tomorrow. It will cost 150 rubles ($5.71) for an hour on the ice on a weekday. Or 200 rubles ($7.61) on the weekend. Spencer is hoping to give lessons to some of the kids here and make a little money. Krasnaya Ploshad will provide a teacher for 150 rubles for a half an hour... Spencer is willing to do it for 100!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bad cold blues

I have been hanging around the house watching TV. Tom didn't sleep well last night and neither did I. So our family ended up missing church.

I watched Dancing with the Stars... our Russian version. So we don't know the celebrities who are participating. Last night we saw Stars on Ice and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

I talked to Joy and found out that she and Hannah were not feeling well either. She had TJ's party yesterday and I hear that was a big success. Spencer had a great time there.

Our big news story of the day was the fire in Siberia killing 9 in a mental health clinic the day after the fire in Moscow in the drug rehab center and the death of 45 women.

You can read about it here:

The plans for the banquet are coming along nicely. Spencer and I got the tablecloths washed and dried. Now they need to be ironed which we won't do until just before we put them on the tables.

Lena and Alexei stopped by this evening. Alexei is very tired. He just finished up a training session on Codependency at OPORA in Moscow. He is preparing to do the informational seminars that we will have before we start the Al-Anon meetings here and in Artirka. Anyway, he stopped by to tell me how he would like the tables arranged for the banquet. He says "for games". He also had a secret with meeting with Spencer. Spencer has come along way from being the little boy who could not keep a secret. I don't know what he and Alexei have in mind!

Please continue to pray for us all here. This winter is warmer so far than it was last year. But, we still seem to be struggling with health again. I would like to be able to enjoy the banquet and not be coughing and/or nose blowing mess!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Leading killer in Finland? Alcohol.

Leading killer in Finland? Alcohol.

Associated Press Writer

Alcohol is now the leading killer of Finnish adults, with consumption reaching an all-time high last year in the Nordic nation, officials said Friday.

More than 2,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 were killed by alcohol poisoning or illnesses caused by alcohol consumption last year, the government's leading welfare and health agency said. Nearly 1,000 people died in accidents or violent incidents caused by alcohol.

"This is truly a worrying trend," said Kristiina Kuussaari of the National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health. "The serious negative effects will continue to grow for years to come."

Alcohol was responsible for 17 percent of all deaths among 15- to 64-year-old men, surpassing heart disease for the first time, the agency said. Alcohol also caused more than 10.5 percent of all deaths in adult women, alongside breast cancer, for the first time.

Since 2003, the cost of treating alcohol-related illnesses has grown by 14 percent, peaking at $1.1 billion last year in this nation of 5.2 million known for heavy drinking.

The government has traditionally kept a tight control on alcohol consumption with high prices in its Alko monopoly retail outlets, and supermarkets do not sell beer with higher alcohol content.

However, in March 2004 it slashed alcohol taxes by more than 40 percent to discourage growing "booze cruises" to Russia and neighboring Estonia, where alcohol is much cheaper.

The move caused an outcry from health officials who warned of negative health effects, and police who reported a rise in public drunkenness and anti-social behavior.

Officials reported a 10 percent growth in binge drinking among 17-year-olds in the first six months after the tax cut, and general consumption began to grow, reaching new records.

Last year, Finns drank the equivalent of 14.5 million gallons of pure grain alcohol — a 14 percent increase from 2003, just before the alcohol taxes were slashed.

Friday, December 08, 2006

end of the week

We received movies in the mail. We have already watched 2 episodes of CSI and still have Cars and Cirque De Soliel to see.

Spencer went to City Center on his own to purchase a birthday present for TJ. He had an adventure getting on a bus going to the wrong way. But, like the trooper he is he stuck it out until he finally got there and back home. He said it took 5 buses and one marshutka to get there and back!

I have a cold so I am not feeling my best. Today has been a pretty gloomy day. There has been a layer of fog so thick in our region we cannot see the street or the playground underneath us.

Our friends left for the states yesterday and they were supposed to leave at 11:30 am but, because of the fog they were grounded until around 2:30 in the afternoon. Tonight on the news they interviewed people who had been in the airport for 24 hours.

Alexei is heading back here to Krasnodar by train. We pray that he gets here safely. Volva and Slavik made it home safely by bus this morning. Olya came to work and told us that everyone was asleep at her house! I don't think Volva slept much on the ride home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

job switch

Volva has been in Moscow working with his brother Slavic for the past two weeks. He was supposed to come home today. Olya needed a break from being a single mom of two so she switched with Lena and was our language helper today while Lena stayed with the kids.

It was fun to work with her. She has lots of interesting stories to tell. I don't blame her for needing time off. I remember those days when Tom was traveling and the kids were little. I could handle all day being with the boys when I knew he was coming home later that night. But, when he traveled the kids got their routine upset and it was always frustrating for us all.

Hopefully, Vovla and Slavic will make it home tomorrow. Getting train tickets is always an adventure. One never knows if they will be available for the day you need them or not!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

dinner with Dave

anniversary gift from Dave and Sherie

We had dinner with Dave H. (our field supervisor from Moscow) tonight. We enjoyed laughing and joking with him. It was good that he came later than he had planned. I was late getting home from school so I got a late start making dinner.

I made Shepard's Pie which was very easy to put together really quick and was a filling meal for everyone. For dessert we can thank Judi H. She made peanut butter fudge and also some chocolate fudge for our family for Christmas. We really like the peanut butter fudge. I said I need to ask her for the recipe... Tom said I just need to ask her to make some more!

Dave came bearing gifts. He gave our family a DVD and he gave Tom and I this beautiful candle. He and Sherie had been in Spittal, Austria. That is where the candle and holder came from. You can read about that city here:

It will be a nice addition to the table at our banquet!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Spencer's haircut

Spencer has needed a haircut for awhile. Tom told the guys they were going to have to either cut their own hair or find someone else to do it for them. Spencer called Lena our language helper and asked her to help him fond someone. She took him to a place not far from our home. The woman there did an excellent job. And it cost him 100 rubles ($3.82)

When he came home he announced that this was our anniversary gift. Him looking nice for the banquet!

He said it was a different experience from going to a barbershop in the US. He said that no one really talked to each other. Back at Joe's Barbershop in Irvine the men talked about sports, news, watched Court TV and Oprah. All the while cutting hair and laughing with the customers. If you have ever seen the movie Barbershop... Joe's place was like that. And I don't think that Spencer will find that here!

Monday, December 04, 2006

another Monday

Tom will be in class alone this month. Please pray for him. It can be intensely draining to be the only one doing the excercises and drills for an entire class period. Many students are heading out to various destinations for the holidays. I thought I was going to be alone but I am not. Elizabeth joined me today and that was nice. She is such a sweet lady.

I went out to purchase new internet cards. We are buying a month's worth at a time and doing well rationing our minutes on the internet.

While downtown, I saw more pig figurines. I asked Olya why there were so many pig figurines dressed up like Santa Claus. She said because of the horoscope. 2007 will be the year of the pig.

We started watching a TV series that Nathan borrowed from Jim. It is called Firefly and so far we are enjoying each episode!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

communion sunday

I woke up with a headache. I was tempted not to go to church. However, when I realised that our neighbor was going to play her TV at top volume and our other neighbor was going to keep on hammering... I decided leaving was better than staying home. So after taking two extra strength tylenol I left with our whole family for church.

It was a great morning. The music was good, Valodia spoke, and we had communion.

The exciting part of communion was that today there was juice instead of wine! When we got here we asked if juice could be served. It could but we had to buy it. We purchased it for over a year and then last month it was purchased by the church secretary. More and more people kept choosing juice and leaving the wine. This month... no wine at all only juice. We see this as a sign that things don't always have to be done the way they have always been done. There is room for change!

With the number of alcoholics present here in Russia and within our the church it is indeed a blessing to see this type of support.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

just another day

Earlier today I went over to the grocery store and when I left I forgot the 8 roll package of toilet paper I had purchased. Tom went back over to pick it up taking the receipt with him. He talked with the manager, who went to get the security officer. The security officer asked what was wrong and the manager simply nodded his head toward Tom and said, "Toilet paper." The security officer opened up locker number one and took out a key for locker number eight. He gave it to a cashier who asked, "What's this for?" The security officer nodded his head towards Tom and simply repeated, "Toilet paper." The cashier laughed, opened up locker number eight and handed Tom the paper, telling him to tell his wife to enjoy it.

We're grateful that they so carefully guarded our 8 roll pack of toilet paper, and were so diligent in their honesty.

Friday, December 01, 2006

25 years of memories

Tom spent 5 hours today over at Robert and Ann's house scanning old photos. He will be putting together a powerpoint presentation of our memories.

Nathan is 8 and Spencer is 5.

Here they are at 9 and 12

and this is the most recent photo and they are 16 and 19!