Thursday, January 12, 2017

I love winter (and prayer request)

Real winter is so short here, we have to enjoy every minute of it. And we are! Bogdan has been telling me that it's still Christmas until the snow melts. That sounds good to me. I do have a bunch of cute photos of children in snow. Maybe I can post those after the weekend.

For now, I just wanted to ask for prayer. We've been sick off and on with minor cold all through the holiday season. I was just starting to think that we were getting better, and then Jaan came down with something worse. Please pray especially for him to get well and for the rest of us to be fully healthy.

I think I already said that Jaan is supposed to be in another performance of the Christmas play on Saturday; at this point we don't know if he'll be able to. I also have banquets to help at tomorrow night and the night after that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Second Christmas

We had such a good second Christmas, too! The Christmas Eve dinner is supposed to begin the celebration, and traditionally it can't be eaten until the first star comes out. This year we were enjoying a wonderful snow storm, so no stars were visible. Bogdan found one for us in a Christmas book, though.

Also, to be very traditional, there should have been twelve foods on the table. We don't do that, but I usually do make kutya.

And then, according to my family tradition, we had a carrot cake for Jesus' birthday:

Just a pretty picture of our tree
Christmas morning started off with a little bit of excitement, when a bird flew down the pipe for our heating system and got stuck. We had to turn the heat off, and were already starting to feel the cold, when our neighbour came over to sort it out. In the midst of that, we ate breakfast and sent the girls off to church for choir practice. Then the rest of us went to church:

Again, the church service was a special holiday event. Asya and her friends played their song again, and the children's choir sang.

After church the children's choir headed our way to sing for "our" babushki. I had planned to be with them, but one of the moms wanted a place to sit and wait for her daughter, so I invited her over. She and I sat and talked and warmed up kids who got too cold outside. Will already wrote about the carolling part here....

One of the babushki came over and thanked us with tears in her eyes; the kids really touched their hearts.

Now we're back to school: homeschool and music school started yesterday, art school tomorrow. Jaan still has at least one Christmas play performance coming up and I have Christmas banquets for the orphanage workers to help with, but mostly we'll be settling back into regular life.

Oh, I almost forgot. On New Year's Eve, our kids talked to my parents on Skype. I heard them saying something about how they have nothing to do: "We're just sitting and reading. We can't do school with these holidays, and there's no art or music classes to go to." Poor kids.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Happy New Year

We had a very nice, happy, at-home New Year celebration, and we took a lot more photos on New Year's Eve than on First Christmas. I think it was because we weren't too busy for the camera.

Asya made Olivier salad, the food that makes it a New Year dinner.

How many versions of this photo
do we have from each holiday season?
We enjoyed our holiday dinner, without waiting for midnight, and then we opened presents. This year I enjoyed more than ever before seeing how thoughtful each child was with choosing or making gifts for everyone else. They were so excited to give out what they had prepared. Then there were also presents from us and other relatives. Lots of excitement and thankfulness all around!

Afterwards Will took them outside for a little bit of fireworks.

At that point, Bogdan went to bed. It was pretty late already. When midnight came and the whole city exploded with fireworks, Jaan and Raia actually climbed our cherry tree to watch. I was almost afraid that they would be shot out of it! Shokoladka the Duck had been quite excited about our small, early fireworks display, so I was worried that she would fly with all the noise. (She hadn't seemed scared; it was more like she wanted to join her family making noise out in the street!) I asked Asya to check on her, and Asya couldn't even stick her head out the door because the explosions felt so close. Everything settled down pretty fast, though, so we still got most of a night of sleep and went to church in the morning.

Monday, January 02, 2017

First Christmas 2016

Let's go back a bit, so that I can write about what a wonderful day December 25 was here. Apparently I didn't take many photos, but I did get some. I already posted a few of them and three videos on Facebook: "A very musical Christmas."

We started off with a Christmas breakfast, but I didn't prepare much, because we had to leave for church. So it was just a breakfast casserole and pretty table setting, but it already felt festive.

At church the symphony orchestra from Kherson State University put on a full concert. They played music from Mozart, Brahms, something operatic, something ragtime, and more. Raia and Asya were practising with the church children's choir for most of the time, but they came in for the last few songs. Asya walked in during a piece for written for a typewriter (really!); she listened for a minute and then asked me what kind of instrument it was.

After the concert the church served plov and then tea with desserts that everyone in the church had brought.

Then it was time for the Christmas service. Most of the children who study at various music schools played their instruments. Asya, Philip, and Yulia played the carol of the bells. Raia and Karina did a duet. (Both those videos are at the first link I gave.) The choirs sang, too, of course.

It was pretty late in the afternoon by the time all that was over. We came home, rested some, watched a movie like we usually do on Sundays, and talked to Will's family on Skype. We definitely felt like we had spent the day celebrating Jesus' birthday!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmases (plural!)

I saw this on Facebook, and it made me laugh. We're hobbits!

Over the years I have written at least a few times about two Christmases a year. Anyone reading here probably already knows that Russia and most of Ukraine--70%, they say--celebrate Christmas January 7. We do, too. And we also celebrate on December 25. In our family we tend to call the days "First Christmas" and "Second Christmas," so, yes, we really must be hobbits.

Back when we lived in Russia, we made December 25 a special family day to celebrate Jesus' birthday. Then we celebrated more with our church and friends on January 7. As times and locations have changed, that clear line has blurred. Now we still celebrate both days, of course, but often First Christmas includes friends and church, and so does Second Christmas. Second Christmas pretty much has to involve kolyadki (Ukrainian Christmas carols), though.

Ukraine might start officially recognizing December 25 as a Christmas, too. There's a law about that under consideration. Although, I seem to remember that they talked about it last year, and nothing happened. I like this bit from an article I read: "President Peter Poroshenko said that it's not his right to decide when Ukraine should celebrate Christmas, but he called it wise to celebrate twice." Officially or not, people are more aware of First Christmas in Ukraine than I remember them being in Russia.

There's another aspect of this that I love: having a season of Christmas, "a long, slow Christmas," as one book that I'm reading says. If your culture has been Christmas-ing since the day after Thanksgiving, I can see how you would be tired of Christmas by December 26. Here we get to have a lovely quiet Advent time of preparation. (Advent is NOT Christmas.) Then Christmas starts, and we have a whole two weeks to enjoy it fully. I love it.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Merry Christmas again!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunday School and Christmas Camp

Anya, Bogdan's beloved Sunday school teacher, posted these two darling photos with him in them:

Take note of the paper he's clutching in the second picture. That's an invitation to Christmas day camp. I had several of those papers lying around, and I had registered the girls a while ago. The camp is for school-aged kids, though, so of course I didn't register Bogdan. After Sunday school he told me about some place that he was going. He was very excited about it, but he couldn't remember what it was called. When I tried to question him, he just insisted that Anya had said he was going, and that's that!

Then, Monday evening when I was talking to our girls about getting ready for camp the next day, he remembered. Camp! That's where he was going! So, I quickly called Anya, and she said that, yes, he's too young, but he can come anyway. Anya hadn't specifically said that he was going, but she did make an announcement about it, and all the kids got invitations, no matter what age. Bogdan took that to mean that she was personally inviting him. He's a very happy little camper now that we have that all straightened out, and he's included.

(Yesterday I took the kids to church, came back, poured myself a cup of coffee and started to write this... and got a call saying that Raia was sick. I went back for her--it took forever to get a taxi to bring her home--and got her settled in bed here, then went out with Jaan in the pouring rain-snow-slush to buy presents for his sisters. I picked Asya and Bogdan up on the way home from shopping. So, the first day flew by. I was looking forward to three quiet days, so hopefully at least today and tomorrow will go a bit more smoothly. Raia seems to be fine already now; they think it was mild food poisoning.)