Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Sunday was the harvest celebration at the church we attend here. It was very beautiful, and we really enjoyed having Julie here to share the day with us.

Asya getting babushka candy
I wish I had gotten a photo of her as she toddled back with her prize! No, I didn't let her eat it, but she was thrilled with the wrapper.

Jaan saying his poem
He did a great job! He messed up a little, but no one else noticed. I don't think he knew that he was supposed to be nervous, until we get there and all the older kids were saying how nervous they were. He and Sophia (the little girl next to him in the photo) clung to each other, but he dropped her hand right before he started talking.

By the harvest display

After a long day at church, we come home to find a folk music concert going on right under our windows. The electronics store across the road was having a birthday party, with the street blocked off and a stage set up. Somehow our children got late, short naps, even with all the noise. Will and Julie went back to church for a youth fellowship time. When everyone here woke up, I took them out to see the festivities. Soon most of the youth joined us out there. At the end of the concert, the store brought out tabletop-sized cakes and started giving away pieces. We weren't going to try to wade through the crowd, but little Larisa (holding Raia's hand in the photo above) saw how Jaan and Raia wanted some, so she grabbed them and dove in. Everyone tried to talk her husband into helping her, but he said she could hold her own. And she did. She came out with four plates of cake. . . but no Jaan! She panicked and fought her way back through to get him. And then, since we were right outside our building anyway, we invited the youth to come in for tea. So, we finished a nice day with more fellowship.

(Some of the photos above were taken by others: Julie and another girl from church.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Birthday photos

Three sillies

My favorite photo of the day
I was trying to get a photo of her holding up one finger, but I think she was wanting to play tickle fight.


Making birthday brownies
Asya didn't make it this far. She was napping. Her big brother and sister were thrilled to make a treat for her, though!

Blowing out the candle

A card!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our baby is 1!

With Тётя Julie

Monday, September 22, 2008

Julie's here!

We've been talking about Julie's next visa trip for a while, but on Saturday she actually got a ticket for Sunday, arriving today! We're so excited! We have about a week of fun together ahead of us.

When we were in Odessa

Fall gifts

Today is the first day of fall! Here are a few things that I love about this time of year.

730. Changing seasons
731. The smell, sound and sight of rain after a month of dry heat
732. Rain! more rain!
733. Жатва celebrations
734. Thunder
735. Pumpkin bread
736. Pumpkin soup
737. My fall leaf candle that was a birthday present from sweet friends
738. Teatime by candlelight with poems about rain, on a rainy day
739. Long baths
740. Autumn colors (even if we’re not seeing them outside yet, I still love them!)
741. Cooler temperatures
742. New butterfly socks, to warm cold feet
743. Wool socks, a gift from a friend years ago
744. Baby booties, made for Jaan, being worn by newly walking feet
745. Bright blue sky with high fluffy clouds
746. Two September birthday celebrations
747. My fall babies!
748. Sweet Asya, asleep in the sunshine, under her fuzzy blanket (I wanted to join her!)
749. Damp leaf smell
750. Zhatva celebrations
751. That special, bright, golden light toward evening
752. Bright, fresh green shoots of new grass (I never thought of that as a fall gift, but I guess it is here, when autumn means rain, rain and more rain after a Sahara summer.)

753. Buckeyes, the incredible swirly patterns on them
754. ...and sweet children collecting them
755. Fall flowers: asters, goldenrod, and more
756. Rose hips and рябина against a blue sky
757. A family walk on a drippy morning
758. A rainbow, in golden evening light, rain still falling

(I think I could keep going on this theme, but my helper is getting restless. I'm thankful for her, too! )

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Decorating for Fall!

What do you think? I'm still working on a few details, but I have to stop for today. Suggestions?

For those of you needing a daily dose of cuteness:

Her first ponytail
I am getting tired of people thinking she's a boy, and I had her in boy-ish colors, so I decided to make her look a little more feminine. I'm not sure, though. Does she look more like a girl? Or a little unicorn? Rhinoceros?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friends' newletter

Our friends, the Sullivans in Moscow, have a new prayer letter up. You might like to see the cute photo of our girls with their Sarah. And of course, take time to read about what they're doing and pray for them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jaan's poem

Jaan is going to recite a poem for Zhatva! His Sunday school teacher asked him to, and he's taking it very seriously. This is a rough draft of the first half of it. He's still working hard to memorize the rest.

Хоть я мал ещё годами,
Но Христа благодарю.
Он чудесными плодами
Одарил мою семью.

Also, lately Raia has really liked a song along the lines of "I want to jump like a grasshopper, because I'm so glad that God loves me." This morning I heard her singing, "I love God like a grasshopper."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Asya and the Magic Pants

I got a video of Asya taking a few steps! For a while, we helped her walk around by looping Raia's Pants under her arms and holding her up. Then, it seemed like she thought the Pants were magic. She'd hold on to them, with no one supporting her, and walk. This was a few days ago, and she's already moved on from them, though. (For those who don't know, the Pants are like Raia's security blanket.)

(Anyone with dial-up is going to be tired of videos. Sorry! I still have one of Jaan to post.)

And this is a completely different subject: it's a small world! A little while ago, we got a call from our friend Ivan's brother. He lives on the other side of Ukraine, but he and his wife were visiting some of her relatives here. So, they came over for tea. It was wonderful to see them! We had worked together in camps, years ago. Then, yesterday, there was a family visiting our church, also from western Ukraine. I thought they looked familiar. They turned out to be Pasha's (our pastor in Kovrov) sister and her husband and baby!

Ivan's brother and sister-in-law, Volodya and Olga

Friday, September 12, 2008


This was just so cute last night:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A wonderful birthday

Jaan had a wonderful birthday! Thank you so much to everyone who sent birthday wishes, especially this one.

His big day started off with a thunderstorm! Maybe that was more of a treat for me than him, but he liked it, too. (I didn't know when we moved to Ukraine that we were coming to a desert country! It was green and beautiful when we got here, but now it's something like the Sahara.)

From that, we moved on to a pancake breakfast. There was quite a bit of discussion about whether Jaan wanted thick American pancakes or thin Russian blini. We ended up with blini. I wanted to get a picture of his face when he saw that stack of FIVE layers, but I was too busy filling hungry mouths.

Next we discovered that we had a package "from American Samoa" waiting for us. (As we guessed, that's the same as North California.) Jaan and Will went to pick that up at the post office. Baba Julie's timing is amazing!

We thoroughly enjoyed digging into the package. Then Jaan, Will, and Raia went out to buy a cake for Jaan and "find a surprise." The surprise was that when they went to the ATM machine, it gave them special birthday money! That's what the hidden camera there is for, you know: so they can see when a birthday boy comes to get money.

Counting money in the restaurant
They returned to find a new restaurant had popped up in our home. . .

. . . with a picture menu. . .

and a special place for the birthday boy
Jaan and Raia bought lunch for all of us. After lunch, the birthday store opened!

At the store
Shopping made them hungry again, so we all headed back to the restaurant for dessert.

Five candles!

I loved these photos of Asya waiting for dessert.

Forget about waiting, just get the ice cream!

When all that excitement was over, it was time for naps. Even the birthday boy was tired. We got everyone settled, and then grandparents called. More excitement! We had a great time talking to them. Once everyone settled again, Papa went to the church to work. When naps were over, I had planned to go outside and play with the new treats from the birthday store, but it was rainy again. They played inside and got to talk to the other set of grandparents. Hurrah! Then it was time to take Jaan to church, for his promised evening with Papa. The walk over was beautiful: clean fall sunshine, brightly breaking through the clouds. I didn't want the wonderful birthday to end! It was a perfect celebration, quiet and simple, but extra special and fun.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Birthday tomorrow!

Tomorrow Jaan will turn 5! I'm busy getting ready for the big day. Not too much else that's new here, except that Asya's starting to take a few steps at a time. It's kind of like learning to ride a bicycle: Will gets her going fast and then lets go. It's scary, because she usually takes a few steps and then a nose dive, but she thinks it's hilarious.

Friday, September 05, 2008

What babushki say

This is for Mrs, since they're studying Russia. Also, Will said recently that I should write down some of the wackiest scoldings I've gotten. It does seem like I've had some good ones lately.

But first, in case you're new to babushki, I'll try to explain a little of this basic part of life in Russia/Ukraine/former USSR. Babushki are grandmothers, the older women whose job is to manage all aspects of public life. They are usually very forceful and opinionated. Probably my most memorable and typical encounter with a babushka was when Jaan was two weeks old, one screamed at me, full volume, until we walked away, because I had him in a carrier that held him upright. (For those who don't know--as I didn't know then--Russian babies have soft spines. They have to lie flat, or they'll grow up to be hunchbacks.)

The most common babushka tirades are about health, and that usually means staying warm. Never, never sit on the ground (or stone or concrete), in the presence of a babushka. . . unless you have a layer of newspaper or plastic bag to between you and that dangerous cold; that makes it okay. No mater how hot it is, you'll hear about it, if you open a window. Drafts are deadly! Now, I do like this one: you know how the hot water goes off for long periods of time in Russian cities? Nursing mothers should not wash dishes then, because the cold from the water goes right up the arms and causes certain problems. Of course, the same problem with anyone walking barefoot, though. That cold goes right up and causes infertility, or just a cold, if you're lucky. See the theme? Don't get cold!

But that leads to an interesting observation. . . Ukrainian babushki seem to be obsessed in the opposite direction. I am used to just putting an extra layer of clothes on the children, so that I will be left alone. (A friend who works in Eastern Europe teased me in America: "You know, you really can take your baby's hat off here!") At first, I dressed our children here like I would in Russia, and everywhere we went, helpful babushki were peeling layers off of them and scolding me. Too bad moving air is still dangerous in Ukraine.

So, on to the best fussings I've gotten lately:
  • Asya's bladder won't develop properly, because she doesn't drink anything. "She'll be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes." Who cares that most of her diet is liquid; milk doesn't count. When I offered my standard protest--that I've done the same thing with her older siblings, and they're healthy--the answer was, "This only shows up later on in life. They'll all have bladder problems."
  • Asya is hyperactive, because I don't give her a bottle. I was struggling with her at church, and a babushka told me that if I would just give her a bottle, then she'd calm down and sit still. I had just nursed her, but again, that doesn't count. She backed it up with a long story about some kittens that she had saved. They cried when she gave them milk in a bowl, but once she got a bottle for them, they settled down and slept four hours straight!
  • "What kind of mother would go on a 17-hour train trip and not bring a bottle?!?" Um, a nursing mother; my baby doesn't know what to do with a bottle. "Well, you should have brought one anyway!"
Will wanted me to add a photo. This is from Zhatva last week, although I didn't hear these sweet babushki fussing about anything.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Odessa Story

Asya in Odessa, by Julie

Our friend Julie was renewing her Russian visa in Odessa and asked me to come see her there. My trip started off a little too exciting. The closest train station is about an hour away, and I couldn't find a bus to get me there as early as I would have wanted. The one I did get on would have arrived with barely enough time. . . but, of course, it got stuck in traffic. We pulled into the bus station 10 minutes before the train was supposed to leave, and it's a good little walk from there to the train station. After a few minutes of haggling with taxi drivers who insisted that it would be impossible to make it to the train on time, I ended up paying a ridiculous amount and convincing one of them to just give it a try. He got me to the train station, I sprinted for the train, and actually made it, just as it was pulling out. It was definitely a miracle!

I won't say anything about the rest of the trip, except that 16 hours on a HOT train with a miserable baby is not fun.

We finally made it to Odessa at 5:00 the next morning. The apartment Julie had reserved was double booked, so she had been bumped to a place out on the edge of the city. I found her, and we rested a little. Then we moved to the nice apartment in the center of town that she had originally planned on. Soon after that, Laura, a friend of Will's sister's, came to see us. We had a great time with Laura! She showed us around the main sights there in the center of the city. Then, she took us to a Bible study group that meets right there. We all enjoyed the fellowship with new friends, the incredible apartment overlooking the Opera House, and the snacks. (Asya said I had to mention that last item. )

The next day we set out to find the Russian consulate and turn in Julie's visa application. The consulate is right down by the Black Sea, so Asya and I had a great time walking around while we waited for Julie. Julie came out a little shaken, because they had told her to come back in the afternoon so that they could decide if they would give her a visa. We prayed hard, and enjoyed a lunch of pizza by the sea. Then we decided to kill time at the botanical garden we had passed on our way down. It was kind of strange; there was no one there at all. The gate was open, though, so we went in. We felt like we were breaking in. It was quite overgrown and run-down, but very beautiful. We wandered around, let Asya nap in the stroller, took pictures, watched birds, and talked. Then it was time to head back to the consulate. When we left the garden, there was a guard sitting by the gate, and he just kind of waved at us, so I guess it was open. There was a lot more waiting at the consulate, but it turned out that they had only told Julie to come back later because of language. There really wasn't any question about granting her a visa.

Tuesday we wandered around on our own. Odessa is a beautiful city! Asya would tell you about the bumpy streets. She loved the cobblestones and bricks, and sang in her stroller as she bumped along. Other than that, her favorite part was the food. That evening we ate at a Ukrainian cafeteria on the top floor of a mall and really enjoyed it.

The next day it was already time for Asya and I to head home. I was determined not to run for any more trains, and we needed to get a return ticket for Julie, so we left way early. After a slow walk to the train station, we got Julie a ticket, but it was for much later than she would have wanted. From there, we went to McDonald's for ice cream and then through an outdoor used book market. Julie put us on our train, and again, I'll close the curtain there. The way home was even longer and more miserable. (It was a little cooler outside, so everyone was afraid to open the windows. . . .)

How could such a wonderful trip have flown by so quickly? How could I cover it in such a few paragraphs?

And now, what you've all been waiting for:

Monday, September 01, 2008

Жатва already?

Yesterday we went to Vidnozheno village for Zhatva. They celebrate the harvest holiday a lot earlier here than in Russia. It was great, though. Finally a day that really felt like fall! I was cold all day long, and after all this heat, that felt wonderful. The service was outside, in the bright fall-ish sunshine, with a cold wind blowing, and a great view of the surrounding fields and village.

An artistic shot, by Will

It was too bright for a good photo.

Our friend, Lena, getting the meal ready

The Dneprorudnoe youth
(Front row: Sasha, Lena, Yana;
back row: Will, Kostya, Taras, Sasha)

Raia and her flowers

Asya's second lunch
First she sat with me and ate a huge amount. Then, when the women who had served cleared everything off and set up their own lunch, Asya crawled over and joined them.

Jaan was thrilled to get a scooter ride!