Wednesday, January 25, 2017

General update + snow pictures

I left you all hanging with Jaan being quite sick. Thank you for praying. He's feeling better now. He did miss that theater performance I mentioned then, but I think he was too sick to really care. He was in two more presentations of the play today, though. (He just got home, after a very full day. He says that it was hard, but great. They went out to a village school, unloaded, set up, practiced, performed the play two times right in a row, took everything down and brought it back to the city, and then came home. By the time Jaan got here, Bogdan was convinced that he had been gone for at least a few days.)

What else has been going on? Asya was in a cute little concert for the church's preschool. She enjoyed that.

Snow... these pictures are old. We had a lovely snowfall for Second Christmas and the days right around it. Since then it's halfway thawed, become very dirty, and then refrozen into thick ice. But the cold is holding, so I'm happy.

And daily life: lots of music school, art school, homeschool, playing outside, office time for Will.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Christmas tree and community

I need to do a general update and several photo posts, but for now, this, from today:

The orphanage director said that she had to show me something outside. I think I had mentioned that this year we had the Christmas banquets for the workers at a very fancy restaurant. (More about that later, probably.) Well, when the restaurant took down their Christmas decorations yesterday, they brought the big, beautiful live Christmas tree over for the orphanage! The first picture shows just the top of the tree as it was set up at the restaurant, and the second is where it is now. Soon they'll plant it, and it will grow for the kids. The director was very excited and thankful and said that if it hadn't been for us taking them to that restaurant, this wouldn't have happened. Then when I got home, I saw on Facebook that it was all even more special than what I already knew. The restaurant staff redecorated the tree with candy for the kids, and then visited them when they brought the tree over. Wow.

Obviously, a Christmas tree isn't going to save a life or change the world, but what really excites me is seeing the community involved. There are many people here who love and care for orphans, but there are also many who have no idea how many needy children there are, or how they live. Maybe a few more have been added to that first group now? Or at least they might know more now about the children who are almost just across the road from them.

Also, it had been almost a month since I had spent my own regular focused time with the kids. Our family has been sick or busy, and the orphanage has been--still is--under very strict quarantine. Most of the kids who have been sick are getting well, but there are still a few down, and the flu season is raging in the general public. So, when I got out there today, I saw that the signs were still up, saying that no one was to be allowed in. I asked nicely and was careful, though.  I only (mostly) visited with one group of girls, but we were so happy to be together again! We talked and talked, and then sang and read and did a craft together. I at least checked on "my" boys, too, and they tried to barricade me in with their wheelchairs, so that I would never leave them again. Please pray for good health for all of them.

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 colds 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