Friday, January 28, 2022


Yes, Raia has covid. I'm pretty sure that I do, too. I had a miserable 24 hours, with fever and the worst headache I've ever experienced, but I'm back to feeling human now. I'm a sick human, but not like yesterday! I'll go for a test today or tomorrow. 

We're a little stuck, because today is the day I am supposed to go for fingerprinting, photos, and signing for my residency renewal. The timing is always tight. They don't accept documents early, and then everything has to be done right at the deadline. Will's going to call and see if they have a covid extension or some other kind of exception, or if they actually want me to come in sick?

Ukraine has been hitting "anti-records" the past few days.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Prayer requests

Two things:

Please pray for our family's health. Except for Jaan, we were away all weekend. We came back home to him sick, not terribly, but very unusually for him. I sent him for a covid test yesterday, and it came back positive today. (As a measure of how he feels, he walked a few kilometers through thick snow by himself there and and back to get the test. He's obviously not dying.) Raia also has what seems to be a bad cold--very different symptoms and timeline than Jaan--so Will took her for a test just now; we'll get the results from that tomorrow.

And of course, for Ukraine. I know you're already praying. The news outside Ukraine is much louder about the situation than anything here. I liked the way our Florida church worded their prayer request for us:

 Although the current Russia/Ukraine situation is tense, Will and Phyllis Hunsucker and their family remain in Kherson. If the situation deteriorates significantly, they may temporarily relocate within the country, but they have no plans to leave Ukraine. Their ministry continues. Please pray that ministry can become even more significant as the possibility of Russian incursion remains.

Also, I recommended reading this article and posted this on Facebook:

Thank you for all your concern. We are well and happy here. Please do pray for Ukraine!
If you're looking for an English news source, I recommend the new Kyiv Independent. So far they seem to provide lots of info with less hysteria than the rest of the English-language sources I know of. Please start with the article I'm linking to here. In my opinion this is the most important.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Second Christmas

For Second Christmas Eve we ate the traditional kutya, and the next day we got the traditional (since my childhood!) photo of the kids with Jesus' birthday cake.

On Second Christmas Day we went to church, but that was about all, because Jaan and Raia stayed there the whole rest of the day, getting ready for the children's Christmas program, which would be the next day. And so, the day after Christmas was the children's Christmas program. You can see the video clip about it that we saw at church today here. They had 40 kids signed up, so they prepared for 50, and more than 100 came! Kids with special needs and their parents were specially invited, and Asya led one of their groups through all the stations. Other new guests were children from the conflict zone, especially those who have lost family members. Raia led some of those groups, and some of our own church and neighborhood kids. Jaan spent the whole time in the shadow theater; they did that presentation eleven or twelve times.

When Jaan finally got home that evening, he was the last to arrive, and we didn't even give him time to eat or rest. We went right out on our round of caroling; our neighbors were waiting! Bogdan played his bandura in every home, and we all sang a few songs. Then when we got back to our own house, we sang for our neighbor family here. They invited us in for tea, fed Jaan dinner, and then we sat talking until very late into the night. Even after living together for 7 years, that was a first for us. We just lost track of time and talked on and on into the night. It was really a wonderful time.

(Babushka O. watched with hands clasped and eyes sparkling, until I tried to take a photo.)

Christmas still trickles on until "the third holiday," the Baptism of Christ, next week. Over the past week Bogdan and Will went to a residential hospital with Agape to sing and play for the kids there, and Jaan got to help present the shadow theater show another time in a preschool. We've been back to our school schedule, though, and we're slowing moving from holiday life on into regular life.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Art school update and a contest

There will still be art classes! With our beloved teachers! No one really knows how this is going to work, and the school is still closed, but at least some of the teachers are going to try to continue their classes independently. Thank you for praying, and please keep it up.

Yesterday was the final for an art and music contest that Asya and Bogdan had entered through our library. Bogdan and I went to the central children's library for a special program and to hear the results. Asya was one of the winners! Bogdan was surprised by how many of the kids he knew there. His art class had all made pictures, and some of them were invited. (His picture from art school turned out to be the wrong size, so it didn't go.) Some of his bandura classmates were at the final, too. The picture that our library entered in Bogdan's name actually wasn't his, and he was a little bit upset about that. They had called me a while ago and said the pictures they had from the last workshop at the library were unlabeled and asked for my permission just to put Bogdan's name on one of them; I said yes. But I told Bogdan that he put so much work into his too-big picture from art school, that God knew he deserved the candy prize he got, and that satisfied him. The picture he actually drew--the one that didn't make it to the contest--is the photo above: Scrooge and the Ukrainian carolers.

We were all excited to hear that Asya won. Her flute teacher was actually there, too, since she had entered her youngest ensemble, but she didn't even know that Asya was participating. Asya had just stopped into our library and made an almost impromptu video with them. I've heard rumors that Asya will be invited to tea with the mayor now, but I don't know when and if that will actually happen....

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Art school

The private Christian art school our children (and I, sometimes) have attended for years is closing. Asya already had her last lesson. Bogdan has his today. Raia is still finishing up working and studying there, but after January 1, it will all be over. Our family is mourning, as are so many other people. This art school has been so much more than a school for us; it's more like family.

Just recently Facebook reminded me of a memory, a post that just says the sixth grade class was making watercolour Christmas cards, but Bogdan is in those photos, and he definitely wasn't in sixth grade. I remember that it was the day after one of my cancer treatments, when everything was also messed up on our residency. I was traveling back from Kyiv, Will was busy with paperwork or something, so Asya's class just took Bogdan in. Also, art school summer camps kept our kids fed, busy, and cared for during my first treatments and times when both Will and I were gone.

Just before we found out about the possibility of closing, I was there to pick up Bogdan one evening, and I took a few photos. Now I'm so glad we have these to remember by! Each time I saw the little kids in Raia's classes, I thought they were so cute, but I didn't take photos until this one:

Also, we have a then and now comparison. This first picture is on our refrigerator, from Asya's first year (or second?) at art school, and the second photo is her not long ago:

Bogdan has especially grown up in this school. I first started him in preschool programs, because he really needed speech therapy, and that was the closest option I could find. He learned to talk, and so much more.

Please pray for us as we grieve all this, for the teachers who need the income they were getting, and for the wonderful director of the school who started it when she was a teen 20 years ago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Big holidays

It's been so long since I've written! I wanted to put up our "first Christmas," but then I remembered that I never said anything about Thanksgiving. Back at Thanksgiving we had planned to celebrate with a few friends. One of them had already said that he would cook a turkey for us. Then an American family new to this region invited us out to their village. We agreed, if we could bring our friends and the turkey. When we got to the day before Thanksgiving, our friend had the turkey, but he was sick. His wife brought it over, and we all prepared it, with his remote supervision, then we went out to the celebration. It was really a nice time together, and the new family has wonderfully cute little ones.

So, now I jump forward to December 25 and also a few Advent photos. (This year for Advent we read The Christmas Mystery again and a Lilias Trotter devotional that was new for us and very good.)

Since Prawin was sick on Thanksgiving, we planned a second round of similar food with them for Christmas. He cooked two chickens: one plain, one Indian style. The Indian one involved making a tiny fire in our kitchen to get a smoky flavour. And we made sure that his wife Masha (and others) experienced pumpkin pie for the first time.

The rest of the photos are here. I really didn't take many that day; I was too busy.

Also, the day before our home "first Christmas" celebration, our church had a really big first: the first time back in the big hall, all together, since the fire in the spring. We got to help with a few more cleanup days leading up to it, and the night before our girls didn't even come home from working. Then it was finally all ready and so beautiful! Here's one video clip from a friend (don't know if this will work?):

Professional photos are here.

While I'm posting, here are links to two video concerts that our kids were in recently: winds and percussion, and bandura.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Unexpected fall holidays

Our fall break from school was supposed to be later, and Will's parents were supposed to be here for it. Kherson turned into a "red zone," though, and everything changed. Art and music school closed (and other schools, but that doesn't affect our family so much), and Will's parents are headed home after their European cruise, instead of coming here.

We're still having a good break, though. The weather is beautiful. Even though all stores and restaurants are closed or limited and so many people are sick, we're enjoying the great outdoors and friends and rest and staying healthy.

I wrote up a schedule for the week on our white board. It says: 
Monday--just rest, i.e. teens sleep and little people play outside together
Tuesday--Hannah (a mother here to adopt)
Wednesday--Botanical garden
Thursday--more rest (and medical stuff for Will)
Saturday--work day at church

So far, I mostly have tons of photos from Wednesday. But first, Tuesday... We had planned to go for a walk with Hannah, her new son who we knew as Sasha, and the friend who is travelling with them. Sasha decided that he didn't want to walk, though, so we sat in their apartment and ordered a delicious dinner. It was so good to spend some time with them before they leave to finish the adoption process and start Sasha's new life in a FAMILY. Sasha is actually a little older than Bogdan; the two of them really seemed to enjoy each other:

We didn't take many photos on Tuesday, but on Wednesday we certainly did. The botanical garden here usually has lots of chrysanthemums. There are less this year, but what is there is beautiful, and I think the fall colours might be more than usual, too.

Of course, Asya and Bogdan touched a cactus;
of course, Jaan had tweezers in his pocket.

Coffee afterwards

Thursday--today--we're resting. Kids are spending time with friends. Will had blood drawn and set up his next doctor appointment.

Tomorrow: this is the really fun part! We are in the process of buying a dacha! If you search back through our archives here, you'll find lots about dacha life, but it's all from a long time ago. When we lived in apartments and had little kids, having a dacha was almost a survival requirement. (Not quite, but almost.) Then we moved here, where we live in a house. Plus, most of the dachas here are farther away and more expensive than what we had seen before. But then, after eight years here, we unexpectedly have a chance to buy a dacha across the river from a family at our church. Will and I went out to see it and decide on Saturday, and tomorrow we're going out as a family. 

The dock near the dacha

It is in a dacha community that is accessible only by boats like these (old news article, but I don't have any photos of my own). At this time of year most days the boat only goes morning and late afternoon, so tomorrow we'll go down to the river at 9:00, cross over and spend the day there.

Then on Saturday we'll go to what will probably be one last work day before the church can start using the main sanctuary again. The floor needs to be washed before the final layer goes down. It's been a long process of recovery since the fire, but it's almost over now. The church needs prayer now more than ever, though, because of other problems. Thank you for praying, and please keep praying.

And a duck photo to finish up here, since she's grown and changed so much:

She's a very good pet, and her shiny green-black feathers are turning out to be very pretty.