Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An addition to yesterday's post

Raia's teacher sent us some photos that are better than the one I got:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A musical morning

We didn't get much regular school done today, but there was lots of music! This morning Jaan and Raia played at a little concert for one of the schools in our neighbourhood.

I should have started the video a bit earlier, because they introduced Jaan and Raia with a riddle, so all the kids yelled "balalaika" as the answer right as Raia took her seat. It was cute. I missed that part, but you can hear the song they played:

Jaan and I left right after his part in the concert to go to Asya's lesson. We needed help with his accompaniment for her first little song and learning to get her flute in tune with our piano.

It was fun to see Asya's teacher working with her some, too.

We cancelled Jaan's piano lesson for today, but he and Raia still have ensemble to go to. Like I said, lots of music today.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Askania Nova

I mentioned that we were planning a trip; now we've returned from it. We went to Askania Nova for a few days. It was wonderful! True, it was a little cold and almost the end of their season, since they close for the winter next week. However, fall is beautiful there, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. We have so, so, so many photos, that I hardly even know how to narrow down which to share.

On Wednesday we took a bus out to the park. It's a three-hour trip, which is so easy now, with these big kids that we have. I thought we would start off in Askania Nova with visiting the zoo part, but they had closed early, so we wandered through the dendropark (arboretum?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The most beautiful view there

Then we went back to our hotel, ate dinner in the cafe, had a dance party in the room (!), and kind of froze for the rest of the night, which is the downside of going this late in the year.

The next day we went on a great walking excursion. The steppe "safaris" are already done for this year, but we were able to hire a guide for the dendropark and zoo. She was really good. First she showed us all over the dendropark, told us about the history and many of the plants and animals. Just when she was listing off the wild animals that live there--squirrels, rabbits...--Jaan pointed out a rabbit running by!

Then, after a quick break, our tour guide took us on to the zoo part. Oh, first she had the kids collect lots of acorns to feed the animals. There were signs everywhere saying not to feed, but she said that we won't feed them, we'll just "treat" them; plus, we were with her, so it was okay.  We started with feeding walnuts to the peacocks, who then followed us through the rest of the zoo. Then we moved on through the other birds, including a secret backstage visit to the ones that had already been removed from display for the winter, and then to the the larger animals.

Asya was cracking more nuts for the peacocks.

A highlight was meeting Borya. The backstory is that before we left home one of our neighbours said, "Tell the goats there hi from me." That neighbour is our kids' "Uncle Borya." Then, when we got to the area with the goats, our guide called this one (below) over to the fence, explaining that he's her favourite... and his name is Borya! We told him hello from Uncle Borya, took lots of photos of him, and bought a magnet with him (or one like him) on it for the human Borya.

Who knew that bison like acorns?
When our tour was over we had lunch with this very rude guy in the background, constantly threatening to spit on us:

Next we went to the wild bird area, which hadn't been a part of the tour.

By the time we were done there, we were cold and tired, so we went back to the hotel for a short rest and warmup, before our planned time of painting that beautiful scene we had noticed the day before: the green meadow with twilight, fall colors, and the moon. Raia, Asya, and I painted until it was completely dark. Then we all had another nice dinner at the hotel cafe.

For Friday I had planned that we would have some more time in the park, but the midday bus the internet listed isn't real, so we had to leave early. Plus, one of Raia's friends had called to invite her to a birthday party. We had another three-hour bus ride, which took a different route than the one on the way out. This one should have been called The Steppe Village Tour. Lots of the roads it covered were dirt tracks through fields. Very scenic. As we came into Kherson and passed the mall, we pushed Raia out to find her friends and the birthday party, while the rest of us continued on to the bus station and home. Raia got home from that party just in time to go to the yearly American/Canadian girls sleepover. See why she actually wanted to stay home yesterday?

And that wraps up our lovely fall holidays.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Fall holidays

...were a success, I think. Everyone is tired and very happy. Just now Raia decided to end her run of back-to-back social events and actually stay home from something. (Raia! has had enough socialising?!?!) Bogdan asked for a nap yesterday. Both of those are unheard of occurrences in our family. This morning was eerily quiet and wonderful: the girls were at a sleepover with their friends, the boys went to the central market all by themselves and then played outside after that, Will got to actually sleep in, and I did serious reading.

The first part of fall was wonderful and very intense. Hopefully this week off was a good reset to ready us for the end of fall and the beginning of winter.

(By the way, now I can really say that The Marshrutka Saga has finally ended. They set the price to 4--compromise!)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


I thought I'd share some recent music photos and news from our family. The biggest news is that Raia went to Uman for a music contest. It was a rough trip, since they left at 2 a.m. one morning, rode a bus to the contest, competed and stayed the day there, then rode back that night, not arriving until some time very early the next morning. Our music school did wonderfully there, and Raia was one of the ones who took first place. I shared a Facebook post about it, and most of the local news sites have also written something about it, too.

This is just a cute picture of Jaan helping Asya practice:

He's also been helping our visiting American friends with their practicing.

The same morning that Raia was in Uman, the church children's choir sang. It was Bogdan's first time up there on the stage, and he did fine. I think that's the hardest part of choir for the little ones: sitting still in front of the church for the whole service.

Then, again at church, some of the older kids who study piano did all the music for one evening service. They had been working with the children's choir director for a while to prepare. This was the last practice, just before the service.

I posted a little video clip with Jaan playing earlier. I was up in front, so you can't hear the congregation singing, but Tanya really wasn't singing a solo up there.

This week is our fall break from art, music, and home school. We're going to try to go on a fun little trip, although pulling everything together for that has been like pulling teeth. We'll see if it works out or not....

Monday, October 23, 2017

Marshrutki, not the conclusion

I spoke too soon. The price is supposed to be going back down, and so the drivers went on strike again today. I saw one Kherson site posted a question about how people got to work today, and it looked to me like about a third answered walked or biked, about a third that a friend/neighbor/nice stranger gave them a ride (for free), or taxi (for an exorbitant price. Like last time, the taxi drivers are not being nice.) Our family could walk and ride bikes to everywhere we needed to go today. Others aren't so fortunate.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I didn't share this before, because one of the adoptions wasn't complete yet, and people usually like to keep them really private until they're official. Now one of the girls is home with her new family, and the other family has made it through court and only needs to finish their waiting period and documents. The original text is at the link I started with. I'll paste in my translation below.

The picture is from when Nikolai Kuleba, the President's Ombudsman for Children's Rights, visited Tsyurupinsk orphanage not too long ago.

This is what he posted:
Alyona and Nastia, girls with a diagnosis of CP, are being adopted by American families.
Carolyn, Alyona's new mama, with tears in her eyes remembers how they met. Her family did not even think of adopting a child with a disability, and then friends of theirs became an example for them by adopting children like her and making them happy. When they met Alyona, they knew right away that this child had to live in their family, even though they would have to make a lot of changes: remodelling in their house, putting in ramps, getting a bigger car, finding a school, and adapting her to live in the USA.
Carolyn and her husband are raising two healthy sons, 14 and 19 years old. They support their parents in this choice and are impatiently awaiting the arrival of their little sister.
For more than half a year the family prepared all the necessary documents in the USA, and in the middle of June they first came to Ukraine. Then they had to fly over two more times. This month they had court and very soon now Alyona with her new father and mother will fly to America.
The future family of Nastia is now waiting for court. We hope that step will be successful for them, and Nastia will also be happy in a family!
We are very thankful to all families that adopt children, especially children with disabilities, and help them with socialisation and becoming full members of society.
P.S. Unfortunately, in Ukraine services for children with disabilities are not developed enough, and so few of our citizens adopt such children. In 10 years at the Tsyurupinsk/Oleshky orphanage (where these girls are) foreigners have adopted 20 children, and only one child has been taken under guardianship by Ukrainians.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Marshrutki, the conclusion

Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this saga.

Bus fare went up to 5 on Monday, and apparently that's here to stay. They're mostly charging kids 3 grivni, though, which is good for us.

I took the photo above in a crowded marshrutka a few days ago (hence the angle and blurriness). It's an announcement of the new fares, but the last line made me smile. A letter left out makes it say something about them wishing us foamless and happy travels. At least that's what it sounds with Russian words. Google Translate says that in Ukrainian it might mean barefoot or dumbfounded travels, but I don't really trust Google very much. Other people noticed, too, and they just wonder what it might mean.

People seem to be taking it pretty philosophically in real life, but on the internet there has been so much fussing about "we're paying five for _____." In the blank you can insert dirty buses, holes in the floor, window glass that fell out because the bus was packed too tightly, etc. This also made me laugh:

"This is how marshrutki should look for 5 griven."

Update, one day later: they voted again; we're back down to 3.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Library contest

Our neighbourhood library is entering our family in a city-wide contest about books and families. It requires a PowerPoint presentation about each family, artwork from the kids, and then going to a contest at the central library sometime soon. When they first asked us, I wasn't going to agree, but they said they don't have anyone else, and they would do all the work on the slideshow. So, we've been back and forth to the library more than usual lately, the librarians made a glowing slideshow about some miraculous family, Raia and Asya made beautiful bookmarks, and everything was sent off to the judges today. I find it all pretty funny... and fun. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Just one of our happy days

Our days this fall have been especially full, partly filled with a family here for a few months. I am really enjoying the time we have with their kids a few days a week. They have five, which adds up to lots of fun, when they're all here with ours and the others who live in the front part of our house.

So, here are some of the photos I took today:

After our three oldest went to various activities and the guests left, the last three were pretty miserable. But coloring pages cheered them up. I was thoroughly enjoying the autumn evening light, while watching them color together and admiring their work. That's the last photo: "Nu, Lu, and Bo," the inseparable trio.

And before that last photo is the littlest American and littlest Tatar boy; they're close in age and really enjoy each other, even without any shared language. They even look a little bit similar and tend to wear matching red shirts. On the day that I took our kids and the Americans to a little concert, I did a head count when we all got out the gate. And I came up with an extra child. I had been afraid of loosing someone, not gaining extras! It was our little neighbour, of course. He hadn't even been with us that one day, though. Somehow he just appeared in his matching shirt and joined us as we left.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Asya's birthday

Asya's birthday fell on a Sunday, too, so it turned out like Jaan's: full, happy, and stretched out over several days. On the Friday before her birthday she and I went to the Agape birthday party for the kids at the orphanage. That wasn't to celebrate her, but it was fun, and she got to see some of her friends there.

Then, on Sunday, after church she and I went to the art school birthday celebration. It was for all the September birthdays, but--just like last year--it was actually on her special day. Here are a few photos from that:

(Almost all those photos are from one of the art school teachers.)

Right after that party, Asya and I joined the rest of our family at North American Fellowship, and we also sang happy birthday to Asya there:

Then, again, like last year, a few days later we went to Jump Park to celebrate Asya's birthday for real. We jumped and climbed and ran and rode and went to classes until we were exhausted. Then we had dinner at a nice restaurant and came home happy and done with birthdays for the year.

When she heard them congratulating
her and singing to her over the loudspeakers