Wednesday, September 10, 2014


It's been 11 years since this wonderful person was born:

Happy birthday, Jaan!

It has also been 13 years since we left America.

And we have been in Kherson for a little over one year now.

Monday, September 01, 2014

School 2014-15

We had a great first day of school today! Will already shared some photos on Facebook. I'll probably post more here another day.

I just went back and looked at last year's post like this. We did pretty well with my goals: we met some, we didn't meet others. To recap:
  • Formal nature study--Not really. Nature notebooks didn't happen too often. But we did read nature books consistently during Morning School. (We've never had trouble with the actual outside time or observation; it's the recording that gets us!)
  • Morning School--Yes! I would say that was the highlight of the school year for all involved.
  • Handwriting--Yes. We were very faithful with it, and both Jaan and Raia made good progress. Even better, they now have a habit of writing a little every day.
  • English narrations--Yes. We're almost to my original goal of narrating English readings in English and Russian in Russian. It's easy to slip on this, though. If they're tired (or if I'm tired), it's still all Russian.
  • Individual work--Yes. They're doing well with this. Check lists helped, especially for Raia. For Jaan, just getting into a routine was enough; he doesn't necessarily work off a list.
Jaan and Raia finished AO's Years 3 and 1. It took us two years to get through them. Now we'll be moving into Year 4, Year 2, and Year 1 for Asya.

We are going to pick up outside involvement a little this year. In order to home school, it's very important for me to stay home, but we're going to add in more away from home than we have before. Jaan will continue with music, Raia will start music, both girls will take take art classes, and there might even be something for Bogdan, too. Almost all of that still lets me stay home, though. Everyone except Bogdan can go to their own classes by themselves. We'll see how it works out. Will this be too much busyness, or a good balance?

I'm going to try restructuring our mornings a little, too. I want to take an hour first thing, while Will is still home, to do 20 minutes individually with each scholar of mine. Then we'll have our Morning School together time. And then we'll continue on with everything else that still needs to be done.

And for new goals:
  • Recording nature study--I bought spiral bound sketchbooks and scheduled in a time. All that's left is to actually do it....
  • Reading--Asya in Russian, Raia fluently in English, Jaan happily in English. (Jaan already reads pretty fluently in English, but he doesn't enjoy it.) I don't think we need to do anything special here. Just keep moving forward.
  • "Enrichment" or whatever you want to call it--In the past year we have not kept up with art, music, and poetry. We need to get back on that train. Mainly, I have to have everything ready in advance, or it falls by the wayside.
  • Move along--As much as possible, this year I would like to get an AO week done each week.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One big day

Last Friday I got to go on a whirlwind trip around this region. My friend was picking up one of the former residents of "our" orphanage to take her to the USA for medical treatment. So, she turned that into a day-long journey to visit many others who have been moved on into other institutions.

From our last trip to visit the boys
We left at 7:00 to go to Kakhovka and get Oksana first. It took a while there, because we had to finish up complicated paperwork and wait for many different officials to sign forms and check documents. Oksana was mostly packed, but we also helped her finish getting her things together for her big trip.

Next we went on to Kairy, where Slava and Sergei are. On the way there, I was able to translate for my friend while she told Oksana about the homes that are going to be built soon. Since the medical trip to the states is also going to be a fundraising trip for those, she had to know what is planned. Her eyes got bigger and bigger as she heard all about it. A home for her to live in?!?

When we got to Kairy, I asked to meet someone in charge. Last time seemed a bit strange, in that no one introduced themselves officially, and we didn't interact with any of the workers. They just kind of threw the boys at us, and then snatched them away again in the end. So, at my request, the head doctor came out to talk to us. He seemed nice, and he really surprised me when I was asking questions. When an American volunteer stands there and asks what needs they have and how we can help, honestly, I'm afraid that I would usually expect a long list and big requests. He didn't do that. He told us just to keep visiting and supporting "our boys." He also assured me that we can bring them whatever we want to, and that they'll be able to keep it. Beyond that he gently told us never to go inside again (like we did last time) because "psychos" live there, and it's dangerous to our lives and health. But he was nice about it.

Then they brought the boys out to us. They looked so much better! They're in separate groups now, and they seem settled and happy as can be expected. Slava is down on the first floor now, so he can get outside with his wheelchair. Sergei greeted us with his usual hugs and yells. "Uncle Sasha" (my friend's project manager) had brought a little radio as a gift, and Slava was so excited to have it. He had me take him around the grounds to show his new treasure to all his friends. Sergei was more interested in the juice and cookies we brought. Both boys were glad to see Oksana, who had always been like a big sister to them. There was much more laughter and smiling this time than last. Sergei even joked, in his own way, with gestures, when the nanny came back to get him at the end of our time together. He clearly communicated that he wasn't going with her, he was going to stay with us! But it was with lots of smiles and fun. (As opposed to last time, when he wasn't even trying to communicate.) And he obviously felt comfortable with her.

After that we headed on to Dnepryani, where there is another home for mentally challenged boys and men. I only knew a few of them before this, but it was good to meet others who had come from "our" orphanage earlier. Of course, they were also thrilled to see Oksana and my friend and their Uncle Sasha. They gathered in a room with us, and Oksana encouraged them and told about her upcoming trip. One of the boys emphatically signed that he wanted to pray, so we had a time of prayer for Oksana, her travels, and all the boys sitting there in that home.

From there we bounced on to Tsyurupinsk. It was the hottest day of the year, and the roads are always bumpy, and by this point we were all pretty wilted. But, Oksana was very excited to be going back to the place she considers home, and her excitement revived all of us a bit. There was lots of happy screaming to greet her when we arrived, and we spent some time just visiting with everyone.

And then home.

P.S. They were setting this up when we got to the bridge. There has been a block post there all along, but they moved the one BTR out into the center, and they were sandbagging it when we went by. I think Oksana was a bit surprised, because she hadn't seen any of this developing all along.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Good news

I've been helping my friend to set up a Ukrainian charity to build and run homes for graduates from "our" orphanage. Recently all the paperwork was finalized, and the organization officially became reality. Because Will's sister was here and graciously agreed to watch our children, we were able to accept an invitation to go out to dinner and celebrate the completion of that step. It was really nice. I'm glad to be done with that part of the process and excited about what is coming next.

With Oksana at the picnic back in June
Also, in between paperwork for the organization, we have been working on details for getting Oksana, one of the girls from the orphanage, to the USA for medical treatment. That was also quite a process, but it came together, and she left on Thursday. I know many of you prayed us through the last minute visa trouble and changes in plans. God answered. Please continue to pray for Oksana and for all that she has ahead of her. She and my friend will be traveling in Virginia for a little while, if any of you live there and want to hear about the ministry here. One opportunity for that is in Williamsburg. Then they will settle down and start going to doctors and dentists in Texas.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

З Днем Незалежності!

Today is independent Ukraine's 23 birthday! Just in the past year many people have become patriots, very proud of this country. I think this year's celebrations were probably bigger and certainly more solemn than ever before. We're all very aware that a war is going on.

After church we had fun with a little family photo shoot.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Ducky silliness

Recently one of our boy ducks started picking on the others a little. Also, they all love to run around and flap and pretend to fly. So, Will decided that the one who was being mean must be bored, and this is his solution for it:

I'm afraid I must admit that they do this regularly. I find it funniest that afterwards Porosyonok has to run back to his friends and tell them all about it. Is he bragging about how well he can fly? Or telling them how scary it was? Or what?

We do have a lot of fun with our ducks. From some recent photo shoots:

(Thank you for the birthday presents,
Hunsucker grandparents!)
Another duck was curious
No duck on his head!
(For the--sadly!--uninitiated, a link)
Next I should make a collection of cute duck and kid pictures. We certainly have plenty of those!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The picnic!

Now that it's been well over a month since the picnic, I'm finally getting around to sharing it with you all. I can't post too many pictures, so as not to show faces of children who aren't ours, but I went through and picked out everything that isn't too revealing.

These picnics are something that my friend here does every year for the children from the orphanage we get to visit. The children talk about it and look forward to it all year long. Last year's picnic was my first introduction to them. Now I know the kids much better, and I actually got to help with some of the planning and preparation. The day before we did some baking and salad-making; the day of the picnic I translated for the Bible lesson time, and our whole family helped with crafts, games, and food.

I had asked you to pray about the weather. The rain held off until right at the end, and we had a beautiful day. I had also prayed that somehow Sergei would be able to be there, even though when I called the day before, they told me that there was no way he would be allowed out. But then he came! He enjoyed everything very much. And that was the last time we saw him before he was transferred away.

First we gathered for a short lesson time, followed by a craft. Then there was free time, with options of bowling (staffed by Jaan and Raia), fingernail painting for the girls, and face painting for all. We had to stop for a delicious lunch of shashlik, prepared by my friend's project manager (Bogdan "helped"!). All of the kids loved the food. One of the boys announced that he was pretending to eat in a restaurant, something he had only seen on TV. After lunch, everyone played hard again, until the storm broke, and we had to load everyone back into the vans as fast as possible.

The picnic is a highlight of the year for our family, too!