Saturday, June 30, 2007


A boy and his frog
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Just one photo from our day at camp.

Yesterday Ivan came and picked us up for the last day of Viazniki children's camp. It was wonderful to see him, his family, the camp team, and what they're doing this year with the children. They set up camp in a beautiful birch forest outside the city on the bank of a lake. The Petrash family camped there, and the children and councillors were bused out and back every day. Last week was for children from Viazniki. The week before that, they brought in children from a few other cities. That week, on the last day they invited parents and ended up with more than 70 people all together, counting all the children and their guests! Please keep praying for the camp ministry, since next week will be a youth camp there.

For me, what showed how well the camp ministry is going this year was that three boys showed up on their own yesterday. They had been asked to leave and not come back for bad behavior on Thursday, but they couldn't stay away. On Friday the three of them rode out on two bicycles, and it was quite a long trip for them! They took part in everything while we were there, and at the closing ceremonies, they were some of the first to step up, say their thanks. . . and ask for forgiveness. That's just one story. There are always many like that in a summer of camp.

As far as our own family, Jaan and Raia loved being at camp! Jaan would have stayed in the water all day long. Raia liked having a bunch of girls to wait on her hand and foot. I don't think she would have needed to take a step on her own all day long, if she hadn't wanted to; they wanted to carry her everywhere. Both children joined groups and took part in the Bible stories, singing, swim times and all. I made friends with a little boy by catching frogs with him. Jaan took his frog away from him, so I had to help him catch another, and then we just got stuck down by the water, having too much fun. When we got into the city that night, I found out that my little friend lives next door to the Petrashes, and he was thrilled to see me again.

For those of you who are missing camp this year (like me!), I'm trying to upload all our photos from yesterday. We'll see how many go through before I get offline here. They'll be at this address.

Oh, while I've been online, I also uploaded a video from Raia's birthday. This is Jaan and Raia singing happy birthday (in Russian). Their musical skills, grammar and pronunciation leave much to be desired, but they sure are cute!

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Share Photos - Free Video Hosting

(Keep reading. I also posted what I wrote last week and didn't have a chance to post then.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Questions and answers

Please don't feel bad if I didn't answer your comment! I love to get any kind of comment, but I only chose out a few here that asked for responses. The questions are in italics, with my answers following:

Do you have mosquitoes there? And, how do you cut that grass? Do you need me to come over and do that part?
The mosquitos aren't terrible, but they are around. I think they're worse at our apartment.

Here's how Will cuts the grass:

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Want to try?

Is that plant some kind of nettle or false nettle? Is the caterpillar a relative of the red admiral?
Yes, it's a nettle plant. There are so many nettle-eating caterpillars here, that I don't know which are which yet. I'll let you know what this one was when we find out. (The pupa looks more like a moth!)

How was it, staying at the dacha? Did you hate to go back to the apartment? When will you go back?
Phyllis, I have a special picture for you. I hope to put it on my blog today -- I'm sure it will bring you a smile!

Staying at the dacha is wonderful! I'm usually happy to come back to the apartment afterwards, though, because I'm ready for a bath. Will gets to clean up when he runs by our apartment before various events, but I pretty much stay at the dacha while we're there, so I look forward to the weekends just for hot, running water. Oh, after the first week, we got here and found that the hot water was off. I almost cried, thinking it might be off for the summer already. It came back on the next morning, though. And that time, when I bathed the children--who usually love water--they screamed the whole time. It seemed like they had forgotten what it means to be clean! However, since then they've enjoyed their weekend baths.

I've been wanting to get online again, specifically to see your photo! I got this comment by email last week, and I had even copied the text of your blog to read offline, but I don't get the photos that way. (My chances to get online are so short, that I just grab the text, without taking time to read or let the photos load.) By the time this is posted, I should have seen the photo, though. Thanks!

There's nothing better than a friendly visiting cat. The cat and children seem very content. Caterpillars are fun to watch but petting a cat is so soft!
You're right. But the cat hasn't come back, and we get in plenty of caterpillar petting time.

Jaan and "Masha"
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Ты прям на этой фотке не Вилл, а Василий! :D Класс! Какой у вас большой участок! Здорово! Что-нибудь будете сажать?
Все там знают его как Володя, не Вилл. Так легче. Да, много места. У нас 4 сотки! Да, много всего сажали, но правда не ожидаю большой урожай. Мы поздно начали, и под ужасным жаром. И все что я делаю, я делаю с маленьками помощниками, которые любят семена просто бросать и везде топтать. Короче, я больше занимаюсь с детми, и не с огородом. Но это тоже большая радость, конечно.

Pictures of the leaf sewn around him [the caterpillar] would be appreciated!
Our camera doesn't usually do close ups, so I don't have anything that shows that. However, if you look at the garden photos over to the side here, the caterpillar is there, so at least you can see it. (Here’s a direct link.)

Now for my questions:
1. Why should garlic be planted with strawberries? Everyone puts them together, but when I've asked why, I've gotten, "Because that's the way to do it" and "Because it scares something off. . . can't remember what."
2. What would be a good way to get rid of the beetles that are eating our leaf crops? Mom suggested soapy water, and I tried that. We'll see if it worked when we go back next week.
3. What is this wildflower?

Mystery legume
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

(I know it's probably hard to see, but I had to include the cute little girl, too. )

4. Would anyone like to find a photo to show of a bird called a Bluethroat? They're my new favorites.
5. When do gooseberries ripen? (I think I have the right berry; крыжовник is gooseberry, right?)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy birthday to Raia!

Usually I like to post birthday pictures, showing how much the children have grown. I can't do that right now, so you'll have to go back and look on your own. I do have a bunch of really cute recent photos of Raia to share, though. Here's my favorite from the past few weeks:

Butterfly watching
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Her current favorite food:

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

That was her first taste, right when we arrived at the dacha on Monday. Jaan eats his strawberries slowly and contemplatively; Raia stuffs hers in, and then usually starts trying to get his.

Picking and eating
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Peonies make me think of Raia, since friends from church brought them to me when she was born. Now we have three beautiful bushes of them. This is our big two-year-old standing in front of one of those clumps:

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

On Thursday we celebrated her birthday with a supper of grilled chicken and ice cream covered with strawberries and rhubarb. Believe it or not, Raia picked the strawberries out of her dessert and left the rest. If you knew what a big treat ice cream is for our children, you would be as shocked as we were! Of course, she had already eaten more chicken than Jaan or me, so I guess she just didn't have any room left.

How old?
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

(Actually, she really can show two fingers. It just takes a while to get that third one down, and the camera went too fast that time.) She's fascinated with TWO now. I don't remember Jaan understanding so much at his second birthday. She always has at least one knee skinned, and falls are usually no big deal to her. On Wednesday she was just inconsolable, though, when both her knees were injured. I told her that it was two because she was going to be two years old, and then she was fine.

To change the subject from Raia: we're all doing well and enjoying having life settle into more of a routine. Fridays we come back from the dacha in time for Will to go to choir practice. Then, Saturday morning I go to the mothers' prayer meeting; Saturday night we have a youth meeting. Sunday is taken up almost completely with church, although last week Will had a neat opportunity in between services to help a new acquaintance with English. Monday is sometimes taken up with Gospelink business or other meetings for Will. And then we go back out to our dacha.

We're really enjoying the time at the dacha. Different people spend different amounts of time at their gardens, but we have ended up with neighbors on almost all sides who are there most of the time. Of course, so far getting to know them is mostly just garden talk, but I would love to see some deeper friendships grow, too. I overheard this funny conversation between Jaan and our next door neighbor. (They have a sprayer on their hose, and Jaan has been fascinated by it.)
Jaan: "Dedushka, Papa bought us a machine gun!"
Neightbor: [His eyes widen.] "Really?"
Jaan: "It's just like yours."
Neighbor: "What?"
Jaan: "Now we're going to shoot our flowers, just like you do."
[Neighbor looks puzzled, and Will walks up to explain that Jaan calls a sprayer nozzle a machine gun.]

Also, another family from church bought a garden near ours recently. Plus the family we bought from has another in the same area, and Yulia's parents also have their dacha right near ours. (Yulia is a friend from church.) Between those old friends and the new ones we're making, we can keep quite busy visiting right there in our garden community! There are 500 plots there, and I almost feel like we've moved into a new village. Beyond that, there's just the joy of watching our children, the flowers, the butterflies, the birds. . . life is good! Thank you, Lord!

Monday, June 11, 2007

We're really still Americans, after all!

If anyone has had any doubts about whether our children have American blood, and whether or not Phyllis and I are reaaaally still 'Real Americans' - here's proof! If it's not all that obvious, the the children are greatly enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers, and I was the one who cooked them. On a hamburger grill, even! I think those were the best hamburgers Phyllis and I have had in a loooong time. Maybe it was just working outside all day before eating...

Mama's BIG helper

Jaan was absolutely hypnotized by the pistol-grip hose nozzle I got for watering. After his first look, it was "I want to use the gun! I want to use the gun! Please?! Please?! PLEASE!!??" When he was finally able to do so, he was a real help in watering the strawberry plots, and watered for at least half an hour all by himself! Jaan was also impressed that this was a gun that "won't kill anybody, it just helps the plants grow" - a really, really good gun, in other words. =)

Mama's little helper

Raia loves being able to actually HELP Phyllis whenever possible, and she's getting to the point of really being able to do so! Here she was bringing Phyllis the watering can to water some cucumber seeds they'd planted together.

Raia gets a closer look...

Raia was a little intimidated by the cat at first, for some reason, but she warmed up soon enough! The cat was very patient with the children, and even more so after they fed her slices of hot-dog! =)

The shy caterpillar

Phyllis as always is costantly teaching the children about God's nature. For her, the greatest enjoyment comes from sharing in the children's wonder and excitement. Here they are trying to be very close to caterpillar, yet very still... it was sewing a leaf up around itself!

A special visitor...

Phyllis took pity on this cat who was very loudly complainig of hunger pangs outside our door. It was on a rainy day last week, and was a delightful distraction for the children!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hi again

I'm posting what I had written on Saturday (below). It's more complicated to drag this computer around than I had thought! It's taken several tries to get set up. I don't know if weekly is realistic, but you will hear from us periodically. We won't just disappear.

Tomorrow we're headed out to our dacha. We had planned on going today, but Will had a meeting, and we needed to rest after the weekend.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It's been a week

Last week Will was slowly moving our belongings downstairs. He was carefully finding or making places for everything, putting things away as he brought them down. We actually started living here last Thursday. Then, on Saturday, our friends came to help, and all the rest of our stuff descended like an avalanche. We've been working on digging out since then.

The new apartment is sparsely furnished. Therefore the avalanche effect and piles of things sitting around on the floor everywhere. It's really nice, though! Our old apartment was fully furnished (over-furnished!) and full of clutter. Less is definitely more here.

Oh, a funny story: Jaan and Raia keep asking questions about which apartment belongs to whom and such, probably just trying to get set in their minds that we've actually moved. Recently, they were talking about who is upstairs now. . . "[Landlord's daughter], and a man, and a woman, right Mama?" I answered, "Да, и малыш." ("Yes, and a baby.") Since they still call Raia Ляля (another word for baby), they've been very insistent that our Baby #3 is Малышка. They instantly panicked at my answer. "What!?!?! You left our Малышка up there? We thought Малышка was in your tummy! Go back and get him right now!" We've also convinced them that their imaginary and very scary crocodile, Yezh, stayed in the old apartment. Knocks on the door are a little frightening, though, because they seem to expect him to join us any day.

It has been terribly hot all week, record highs. I'm so glad we're not up on the fifth floor! Even down here it was bad. Just yesterday the heat wave finally broke with a wonderful rainstorm. Let's pray that the summer will be cooler now. When I was pregnant with Jaan, I did pray for that, and God gave it to me. Maybe this year can be like that, too?

We'll probably be spending next week at our dacha! We've been making short trips out there, but it will be very fun to stay for a while. It's officially too late to plant a garden (Trinity/Pentecost is past*), but we've gotten some seeds and plants into the ground already, and we're going to keep adding to them.

Several people have asked about our address. The one in the sidebar here is the right one now. It won't matter if you sent mail to the old one, though; we'll still get it. The American Social Security mail continues to come to "Wilburn H Hunsucker III, G. Kovrov, 601911 Russia." That's name, city, zip code, and country, nothing else and all in English. One time someone at the post office added a handwritten note that had our building's street number, then "3rd entrance, 5th floor, can't remember the apartment number."

(*Interesting note: I just read Solzhenitsyn's August 1914, my own subtitle: How the Generals Bungled Everything. There was a footnote explaining "In pre-revolutionary rural Russia, the peasant's life was regulated by the Orthodox Church calendar; generally the peasants did not know the times of the year by month and date, but simply by saints' days, many of which marked the start or finish of phases of work in the farming cycle." He also points out that they didn't know anything about the holidays; they just marked the seasons by them. A good bit of that is left in gardening lore today. Not many people know what we celebrated last week, but everyone was rushing to get their gardens in before it.)