Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Overwhelmed!

:: 1 ::

Bogdan update: he is loving his lessons at art school. Going to his lessons, not so much. I mean, peeling him off of me and getting him into those classrooms is not easy. But, as soon as he's in class he's relaxed and happy and talks about how wonderful it was for the rest of the week. I can already see that he's learning there, too.

:: 2 ::

I'm going to school, too. Hence the overwhelmed title. On Saturday I'm leaving to go to the first session of this year's Agape school, and I'm trying to pull everything together for a week away. Yikes! Not ready at all. Hopefully I'll be like Bogdan: dragging my feet on the way, but then able to relax and learn once I'm there.

:: 3 ::

Jaan had a birthday last week. He's twelve now! Oksana and Alys celebrated with us. We had lots of fun and games, pumpkin pie, and a late night movie, since Oksana stayed over night, too.

:: 4 ::

Raia is working at settling into her school-year schedule. The beginnings of her weeks are FULL this year, but then the rest of the week slows down for her. We may have to adjust a little, just so that she can handle it better. She is enjoying it, though.

:: 5 ::

Asya has a birthday coming up, too. She's been a bit under the weather with a cold, but it hasn't slowed her down much, and she should be feeling better by the time she turns eight. Her little friend in the other half of this house has been even sicker than she has, so they have been "playing together" through the windows.

:: 6 ::

Karina... the sweetest part of the past few weeks has been Karina's family coming for her. We finally got to meet them--well, some of them--on Saturday. Karina's new papa and her new sister, also just out of an orphanage, came over to spend some time with us. We adults talked and talked, and our children loved playing with little Raia. (Yes! She has the same name as our Raia.) Then the next day they got Karina, and we saw them off to Kyiv. I posted photos on Facebook, and I also love this one that Karina's papa got after they left the orphanage:

(Probably her first time feeling the wind. She would have been in cars before, but a good Ukrainian caretaker would never have allowed wind to blow on her. Apparently she loved it. Freedom!)

:: 7 ::

Our children sitting out in the street with the babushki most evenings really amuses us. I always wish that I could sneak photos of the circle of elderly women sitting on stools and our children right there with them. This evening was the funniest, though. We were running a little late with supper, so I guess they had all gathered while we were still eating. Babushka O. came charging back here to demand children, because the babushki were bored without them, she said.

I'm overwhelmed... by all the fun and busyness and wonderfulness of our life!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Bogdan's first lesson

He has a funny camera face these days.
Bogdan has waited and waited to start art school. He thought summer would never end! But it finally did. Today was his first day. We signed him up for both art and a weekly preschool-ish class there at the art school. The latter was what he had today.

We told him that he needed to go to sleep right away at nap time, because I would be waking him up to go to class. I didn't know how that would work, because I tried to wake him up for a special program at church yesterday, and I couldn't do it. But today he jumped up, flew to get his shoes on, grabbed his snack, and ran for the bus stop. After we got off the bus, he ran again. I could barely keep up with him. But then we got to the classroom... and he froze up. I asked if I could leave him, and he said, "Better not to." So, I sat in the back for the first bit. The teacher had the kids introduce themselves. Bogdan did say his whole name (not Bobo!) loud and clear. Then she asked his last name, and he slid right down in his chair, so that she couldn't see him under the table. She asked his age, and from under the table he held up a hand showing four fingers, but he wouldn't say it aloud.

The teacher was really good about trying to draw him out, but not overwhelm or force him. He seemed to be warming up a little later, so I went out into the hall to read. I could hear his little voice off and on, and he seemed to be doing fine. They did riddles and clay and matching and coloring and talked about the letter A and more. When they finished--the class is a whole two hours long!--he came out jumping up and down and so excited that he could barely contain himself. I asked him if he liked it, and he said, "Very!" (That works in Russian.) He hasn't stopped talking about it since.

So, we have a real preschooler in our family now, not just a homeschooled one. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Seven quick takes: starting school, orphanage, and more

:: 1 ::

We had the best first week of school ever. The first day, first week, aren't really supposed to go smoothly, right? Well, somebody forgot to remind my children about that, because it was just idyllic. They have all been really excited to get back into school, and they slid right back into the routine.

:: 2 ::

In the week ahead, we should be moving into the full schedule for other classes and activities, too. Jaan and Raia have both had their first meetings with their music teachers. Raia came back with the award for excellence that she earned at the end of last year. Today both girls had their first lessons of the year at art school, and Bodgan starts there on Monday. It looks like we'll have someone (or two someones) at art on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Bogdan is going to be taking a preschool-ish class there one day a week, too, not just art. Jaan and Raia will also have their individual and group music lessons; that schedule isn't set yet. Sunday school and church choir start back up tomorrow. Busy times coming up!

:: 3 ::

Jaan and I had another fun time at the orphanage today. (Raia was sad that she can't go now, because of art school.) One of the nannies told me that this is the hottest day of the summer... and it's already fall! So, we're still playing outside. Today we took sidewalk chalk, balls, and music for a song time in the shade. The kids love chalk, but the adults there don't, so I made sure to help with getting everyone cleaned up afterwards. One little guy had gotten so into his artwork, that I had to wash him down and change his clothes completely. Since most of them are in wheelchairs, getting them down on to the ground to draw and then back up again can be quite a production, but it's worth it. Another boy decided to stay in his chair and just give orders for what Jaan should draw for him; I thought that was pretty funny.

:: 4 ::

I already posted this on Facebook, but it was just so sweet: On the way out to the orphanage today, Jaan and I were discussing what he wants to do for his birthday next week. "Can we have all the boys over?" All the boys? Huh? "Mama, these boys. The ones we're going to visit now. Can they come?"

He's been having a hard time with leaving his friends there. He feels like just visiting them once a week isn't doing enough. As Will pointed out, that's pretty much what anyone who works with orphans feels.

:: 5 ::

Oh, she makes me laugh.
I have a whole series of photos along these lines. Raia was in rare form for school photos! She said that I could share this one with grandparents and the rest of you.

:: 6 ::

A really quick take: I sent out a summer newsletter, if you're interested and haven't seen that yet.

:: 7 ::

And... I'm running out of things to say. How can that be?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 10 (!)

We had a great first day of school today. I'll tell you about that later, though. For now, here are the last photos from my trip to America. Then I think I have one more post of what I noticed there this time, and then I'm done with recording that wonderful time.

My childhood best friend kindly had her baby while I was in Florida. I know that she planned that just for me.  Mom and I visited them in the hospital.

I was horrified that all the bouquets in the store had FOUR blooms. (Honestly, I'm not superstitious, but that's just ugly.) So, I had to separate the flowers that I bought for my friend out into one for baby and three for mama, in cups that I labeled:

I think Mom was amused.

Then we went back to the house for...

Cousin Skype
The picture is of Aliana's turn, but I was the one who got the real massage. My sister is studying to be a massage therapist. She brought her table over and gave me an amazing treat. So, so nice before setting out on another trans-Atlantic trip!

Snuggle time
Dinner with friends
That night we had a great time of fellowship with beloved friends. I got to share my photos and stories with them, and they prayed over me at the end.

I left early the next morning. Again, the travel was really easy, all by myself. Although the way back seemed much longer. I was very glad to finally be back at home with my family. Now I have so many wonderful memories from my trip. Thank you to everyone who was a part of it! Should I say thank you to AO for sponsoring it, too?

Photo credits: most of these photos are from Mom.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

School goals

I have been thinking about a few main goals for the next year, so I went back to look at what I had last year. Uh-oh. One of them I must have forgotten completely, because it's what I was thinking I need to work on for the year ahead.

But, to evaluate, this are the goals I had last year and how we did with them:
  • Recording nature study--The girls did lots of this! It was very disorganized, though. Jaan usually sat with us, but couldn't often get past his art paralysis. So, I would say progress was made, but there's still a ways to go.
  • Reading--Yes!
  • "Enrichment" or whatever you want to call it--Kind of? Did some, could do better.
  • Move along--No. This will have to happen in the next year.
I also questioned whether our schedule would be too busy. It wasn't. In fact, it was just right. We didn't end up getting Bogdan into anything, but that was okay. This year he'll start art school. He's so excited and much more ready for it than he was last year.

I never did "restructure our mornings." Morning School just has to be Morning School, meaning first thing. Although, many days Jaan and Raia did get independent work done before that, just not with me.

A few big things for this year:
  • Move along! At least for the older two, we need to get a whole AO week done each week.
  • Organized and boy-friendly nature journaling--The girls need to learn to start at the beginning of their journals, move forward, and record what they see, not what they imagine. I need to find a way that catches Jaan's interest: writing more? "special studies"? Something once a week will be a requirement for all.
  • Add a bit to Morning School: some grammar, more poetry, pick up the pace with Latin and Shakespeare and Plutarch (since they love those so much!).
  • Start on time in the mornings: no dawdling before school. This is mostly for me.
  • Reading and writing: Asya learned to read in Russian last year; this year she needs to become more proficient in that and start in English. Jaan started written narrations last year; he needs to keep on with that. Raia will start with one a week, too.
  • Math: Asya will do a lesson a day now; she didn't necessarily do math every day last year.
Tuesday is the first day of school, and I'm mostly ready. This has been a very good, refreshing summer. My students are excited to start another school year. So here we go!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Indiana/Florida trip, part 9

I posted photos of my Florida Monday. Here is Tuesday, from Mom's and Dad's pictures:

They took me to Deleon Springs for breakfast.
One side of the table
Other side
Dad's traditional pancake

We went for a slightly rainy walk there.
Found a big spider
Got wet
Also found a cute snail
A little later, at Dad's suggestion, a visit to Grandma turned into a trip to Chick-Fil-A for...
...frozen lemonade!
That evening they had a very nice open house for me at the new home of some new (to me) friends. The beautiful photo that I started this whole long series off with was taken there.
Looking at Ukraine photos
Talking about Ukraine
Some of the group
With Oksana from Odessa
And then I just had one more day left in Florida....

Friday, August 28, 2015

End of summer fun

I wish I had taken the camera to the orphanage today. We had so much fun! Jaan and Raia both went with me. They had prepared different games and a whole backpack full of toys. We actually prayed before we went that the nice worker would be on duty, not the one who doesn't like me. When we got there, both were working. The amazing part was how nice the latter was, too. It was really a miracle. She greeted me by fussing about why we had come so late, and saying that she would only let the kids stay out for 20 more minutes. And then she stayed for a whole hour and let them play. (Often she doesn't even let them play, because it's easier just to keep everyone sitting in a quiet, straight line.) Maybe she actually enjoyed the fun and laughter?

What really floored me was that she suggested sneaking Jaan and Raia in to the building to let everyone keep playing after she had to leave! She's usually so strict with rules. Don't worry; we didn't do it. Just the fact that she suggested it was amazing, though. (Jaan and Raia can't go inside because they don't have medical clearance. They can play outside all they want, and as the weather gets cooler, we'll probably get the right paperwork done so that they can go in, too. But for now they can't.)

Jaan and Raia played so well with everyone. I almost just sat back and watched. Sometimes I'm really proud of them.  They had helicopter-like toys, with a string to pull so that a disk flies. That's actually quite a challenge for a lot of the kids we work with, but they thought up a way for each child to do it: "You hold the string, and I'll pull away from you," or "Here, we'll do it together," or.... Then our two brought out water guns and paper targets that they held while the kids soaked them. You should have heard the giggles! (Once they all realized that I really wouldn't be mad if my children got wet, that is.) Next they blew up beach balls and kept on going with more games until "our" two groups had to go in.

After that, Jaan and Raia were rewarded with another hour of play time with the school kids who are very close to them in age and abilities, but just happen to be in wheelchairs. They played all their games again, braided hair, and discovered that they like the same books.

Recently some Americans who visited wrote to us and thanked us for having our kids involved at the orphanage. They said they didn't really know what to do with themselves at first, until they saw how our kids jump in and get involved. That example was enough to help them know what to do and feel more comfortable. I hadn't really even thought about that before. But it is sweet to watch them interacting every time we have a chance.