Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Upcoming events

We have some busy days coming up. It's just school at home and Will at the office Mon-Wed. Then on Thursday Will has to take over at home. All day Thursday I'll be cooking with my friend to get ready for the banquets for the staff at the orphanage. The first of those banquets is Thursday evening, then Friday, and Saturday, too.

Also, we just found out that Raia has another concert to play in on Thursday. (I'm sad to miss it, but she doesn't mind. Will can record it for me.) And, a good friend from the missionary community here had an emergency appendectomy. As far as I know, we're only doing one meal to help the family, but if their children need watching or anything more, we want to be able to help. Please pray for them. Our children adore this "auntie," and they're praying non-stop, too.

Then, in the next week: Monday will be another trip to the institutions where "graduates" live after the orphanage. Then on another day, soon after that, we'll be doing Christmas cookies with the kids at the orphanage. They look forward to that all year, and it's a big deal for them.

So, even if you don't hear from me, you'll know what we're busy with and can be praying. Thanks!

Friday, January 09, 2015

"Second Christmas"

I think I should clarify my usual Christmas explanation. I recently told an American that we celebrate both Christmases, and his eyes got really big about "all those presents." No, we don't usually give presents for Christmas. We celebrate Jesus' birthday twice, and have a lot of fun with that. We give each other presents for the New Year, though.

And I'll repeat my usual joke, too: our pastor in Moscow often said that celebrating both Christmases was a Biblical command. That's why the verse in Philippians says rejoice, "and again I say rejoice."

Our three older children went to a Christmas VBS program for the four days before Christmas. During that time Bogdan and I did a lot of baking. We made treats for our neighbors and for the soldiers who are on the border with Crimea. Bogdan also made one big gingerbread bear for his buddy at church, Denis.

For 'Nis
Bogdan really enjoying making his bear and taking it to Denis on Christmas Eve, the last day of VBS. And he even made a connection that I wouldn't have expected. We've been collecting money and little cars to take to some boys at an orphanage, for Jesus' birthday present. Bogdan said that giving "his Denis" the bear was also a present for Jesus.

Then, Christmas Eve at home...

And more cookie decorating
Christmas morning, before church
A few photos at home, after church:

"Christmas market," i.e. trading candy

Then, after Bogdan got a nap, we planned to go hear the youth from our church and other churches do a Christmas carol flashmob at the big mall. But we mixed up the time, and we were too late. Instead, we heard professionals perform. At least we got some Christmas carols.

And then we walked around. According to the Chinese calendar, 2015 is a sheep year, so the mall has live sheep among the decorations. That works for the Christmas theme, too. Bogdan loved the sheep (we all did!), and it may have been his first time seeing a real manger and hay. That's what he noticed anyway.

"Jesus slept there!"
This one made us laugh. It had to eat from the center each time.

We had dinner at a restaurant there.

Then we came home, and did some quick carolling of our own. Our Crimean Tatar neighbors were very surprised. Carolling is a tradition here, but apparently it was new for them? This is their first year on "mainland Ukraine" and outside of their own community. Our babushka neighbor loaded us down with treats; she knew about carolling, of course! It's something like trick or treating here. Although, we take treats to give out, too, so we do it backwards.

Christmas pie from Babushka O.
So, now Christmas is over. Regular life will be starting back up with school and all. (Tomorrow? Or Monday? I guess I need to make some phone calls!) We do still have lots of holiday busyness ahead, particularly banquets for the orphanage workers, Christmas cookies with the kids there, and maybe some other Christmas orphanage visits.

One more time: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"First Christmas" 2014

Here in Kherson our Christmas traditions are changing some. It used to be that "First Christmas" was a family day, and "Second Christmas" (January 7) was our time to celebrate with church family. Here, both days are a mix of both. But, since we're no longer involved in every single little detail at church, we don't need to separate them like we used to.

So, here's our First Christmas, starting with Christmas Eve...
Bogdan helped me some in the kitchen, and he was so proud of that! Will came home from the office just as we were finishing making white mint fudge, and Bogdan told him that he had made it. Will asked, "By yourself"? and Bogdan answered, "Mama helped." Then, he was up a lot in the night coughing, and every time he opened his eyes he told me, "Bobo made chocolate!"

The next morning, Raia was the first one up, and she found that Baby Jesus was in the manger.

While I got breakfast ready, Will read to Bogdan, and they ate pistachios.

Asya helped me.
But then, she cut her finger quite badly, so Will took care of that, and she had to rest.

We had the last of our Advent readings. (Look at this, with little Jaan and Raia!)

Some of us went for a little walk to enjoy the sunshine. Then, as the sun set beautifully, our girls headed out for one last practice of the Christmas program.

We had a Skype call, and then got ready to go ourselves. The Christmas service was very nice, and included...

greetings from the mayor,
a message from the front,
lots of music, and more.
Watching a skit
Then there was chai and food and fellowship.

At the nativity scene, before heading home
Afterwards everyone was very wound up and very tired. It was a good, full, merry First Christmas.

Monday, December 29, 2014

'Tis the season...

...for rehearsals and concerts!

First was Jaan's piano concert. His teacher has been very sick for most of this month, so he has been studying with another teacher, while preparing for this. He wasn't happy with the piece she had him play, because it was way too easy for him. However, I told him that meant he could certainly play it without mistakes, and, of course, he did. He also sang two songs with the rest of the piano students who study with these two teachers. Here is one of those songs, followed by his turn at the piano:

The whole group and the teacher
Presents from Ded Moroz
Next was the children's choir, singing at the Christmas service at church. That wasn't quite a concert, but it required just as much time and commitment and even more rehearsals for Raia and Asya, their teachers, and all their friends. This is just one of the songs they sang:

(Raia is in the back row at one end, and Asya is in the front on the other.)

Then we had Raia's first music school concert. She did really well, too! Starting older makes such a difference.

Ded Moroz!
This time, when the kids started calling Ded Moroz, the school's little dog came running in first. Everyone thought that was hilarious.

He even had something for Bogdan!

Raia and her teacher

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas photos with four

Like what I posted yesterday, it takes a whole series of photos to get anything. These four seem to have an agreement never to all look normal at the same moment. And Raia never stops moving.

This one almost works....

I'll tell you all about yesterday's Christmas celebration and recent concerts soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry "First Christmas"!

Happy birthday to Jesus!