Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They make me laugh

Some of these are quite old.  I've been writing them down, but I haven't had a chance to share them.  Funny things they say. . . .

Raia, reading to herself: "And so, we read as it is written in the Bible, on Thanksgiving Day the camels ascended to heaven."

Jaan on the first snow day, after having a snow fight with Raia, stopped to write their initials in the snow: "That means that we had a happy war, a Cold War."  (I don't think he has ever heard that term in any other context.)

Almost every morning at breakfast, Raia talks about "movies" that she's watched.  After several months of hearing about bizarre films that we "watched in America (or Russia)" I finally figured out that she's talking about her dreams!  She still says, "Mama, do you remember when we watched that movie about. . . ?" almost every morning.

We have taught Asya to sign "please" to avoid fussing and crying for what she wants.  What makes me laugh is that when she does get upset and throws a fit, she always accompanies it with very emphatic and angry "please" signs.  Somehow it's funny to see her having a polite fit.

Jaan commanding: "Raia, don't walk close to the building, because an icicle could fall on your head and make a hole.  Then the cold air would get in, and your brain wouldn't work anymore!"

This was another laugh. Did you notice Raia's swollen face in the reindeer photo? When we were outside one morning last week, she slipped on ice and hurt both of her lips. I promised ice cream for when we came in. Well, after everyone had ice cream to help Raia feel better, Asya kept walking around with her plate, licking it and hoping for more.

You know, none of this is hilariously funny, but it's true that these children sure do make me laugh!  I wish you could actually see and hear them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More hawk adventures

Just after I first wrote about our Sparrowhawk, it came by again.  That time it interrupted our lunch by flying right past the window, carrying a little bird.  It then perched across from us to eat.  Fortunately not too close!  None of that was good for our tender bird-watching hearts!

Then, just a few days ago, as we ate breakfast, the hawk swopped by again.  All the little birds scattered.  All except one.  One little sparrow crouched down on the side of the feeder closest to us and hid there, perfectly still.  After a while, I even started to think that maybe it had suffered a heart attack and died there.  Then we heard a little "peep."  It cautiously and slowly lifted its head, but it stayed right there on back side of the birdfeeder.  We had a great time watching it.  Sparrows don't usually sit still for long.  Finally, it darted away to safety in a bush.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Baptism!

Instead of going back and writing about holidays already past, I'll tell you about what happened today.  Today is Baptism, when we celebrate Christ's baptism in the Jordan.  I didn't want to take our children to church today.  (They had a long day of church yesterday.  We had a great village visit!)  So, we stayed home, colored pictures of the story of Jesus' baptism and listened to it retold.  Then Will went off to church, and we went outside.

It is such a beautiful day!  People were going down to the water in droves, so we followed.  Everyone was giving holiday greetings, but they didn't quite look like the crowd I would have expected.  I was thinking that maybe we would finally get to see a water blessing service.  Instead it looked like most Russian holidays: an excuse to drink.  Everyone was undressing, jumping into a hole in the ice, then drinking vodka to warm up.  Not exactly a family-friendly atmosphere.  Still, Jaan said, "It's just like John and Jesus!"  We stopped to have our snack, and the group next to us was warming up.  I listened as they toasted, "Happy Baptism!"  Swallow down the vodka.  "Lord, forgive us!"  Repeat.

By then it was almost lunch and nap time, so we came home.  Will came in just as we did, and mentioned that he had overheard people saying that the water blessing would be at noon.  He suggested that I run back down with the camera, while he fed the children.  He didn't have to say that twice!

So, here you have a few lovely photographs of the event.  It was completely different down there the second time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Christmas caroling

I hardly know what to post from the holidays.  Should I even go back and try?  Here's one quickie, from just one event: caroling!  I did post that video.  Our evening was quite similar to that.  First we went around to the church babushki in the city at their apartments and randomly through part of the hospital.  Then we got in cars and went on a whirlwind tour of several villages.

A few of the youth before starting out

Jaan holds the star

Singing inside one of the village homes

Warming up at the end
(It was so cold that night!)

Christmas--and especially Christmas caroling--is very Ukrainian, not Russian. I always heard in Russia about how people go caroling in Ukraine. Now we've experienced that! As you know, we're in the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine. But that night we sang mostly in Ukrainian. A funny language story: One of the young guys from church was greeting everyone and giving a little speech in Ukrainian. I thought it was kind of funny, since I had never heard him speak Ukrainian before. At one home he started off, and the babushka stopped him, saying that she didn't understand Ukrainian. He answered, "Well, neither do I!"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter birds

We've had some good bird sightings and adventures lately!

There's been a Nutcracker (Кедровка) hanging around. At least, we assume there's just one. They're not native; I've read that they travel a good bit in the winter time.  I wonder where this one came from?  It's absolutely unafraid of people.  We've seen it several times, hopping around in the center of town. The main street is planted with various conifers, and that must be what draws it to here. (Addition: it's taken me several days to write this. There is definitely more than one! This morning one was screaming right outside our bedroom window.  While the children and I sat on the bed, watching and trying to figure out what it was so upset or excited about, two more arrived!  And then another two!  We imagined that the first was our friend that we've been seeing around, and that it was giving some new arrivals a tour.  It really did look like that.)

One day when Asya was particularly fussy and didn't even want to walk around on her own outside, she and I really enjoyed watching a Treecreeper (Пищуха). It was also not afraid of us, so we were able to follow it from tree to tree and get really close. Because we were so close, she could really see it and observe. Every time it would appear around the tree truck, she would point and say, "coo-coo" like peek-a-boo.

I was going to say this was our best adventure, until what happened yesterday: a few weeks ago on the way to church we stopped to watch a tiny brown bird hunting for food, going up and down tree trunks. (Jaan made the interesting observation that it must be a woodpecker, because of the way it moved. He was wrong, but I was surprised that he would make that connection.) As we stood there silently, the tiny bird flew straight at us, and it landed right on my arm! It was just for a moment, but still. . . ! When we came home and looked it up, we discovered that it was a Winter Wren (Крапивник).

Not too long ago, I noticed new little birds hanging out in the ash tree across from our windows and all around the entrance to our staircase: Chaffinches (Зяблики). They're very pretty! At first glance, I thought one of my beloved снегирь--a female--had come from Russia.  Did you go read the article on chaffinches?  We found this fascinating: "In Belgium, the ancient traditional sport of vinkenzetting pits male chaffinches against one another in a contest for the most bird calls in an hour."

Our book says that chaffinches often come in mixed flocks with Bramblings (Вьюрки). Sure enough, about a week after I first noticed the chaffinches, I saw some other bright colors mixed in.  Now they're both out there every day.  We haven't had any on our feeder, but they're almost always visible nearby.

The day before yesterday, on our way to go sledding, Jaan, Raia and I heard a woodpecker tapping.  We found it right down near the ground, and it was yellow!  Not black and white and red like what we usually see.  We watched for a while and could even see its long tongue.  When we got home, we looked it up and learned that it was a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Седоголовый дятел).

Now, the most exciting adventure! Yesterday, we were sitting in the kitchen having after-nap tea time, and a Sparrowhawk (Ястреб-перепелятник) swooped down on our feeder!  I almost choked and started yelling.  The children didn't see it, because it was moving so fast, but they got almost as excited as I was, once we brought out the books and looked it up.  I'm pretty sure that it didn't catch anything, and Jaan and Raia are quite happy with that.  Jaan wants to find a big stick and stay outside all the time to defend the little birds.  I've seen Sparrowhawks two other times recently and not been entirely sure of what they were.  Now I'm sure.  The first time we saw one, we were out walking. We did got a good look, but do you know how many reddish hawk-like birds there are in the books?  Another time we were out at the playground, and I saw one flash by.  It was kind of unreal, there in the very center of town, people around everywhere, and no one else saw it.  Having one hunting off of our bird feeder was very exciting, but we're really hoping it doesn't happen again.

And people say that there aren't any interesting birds here?!?!?

(All the photos here are from Wikipedia.  Click on them to go to the source articles.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Jesus' birthday present

Remember we were saving to get a present for Jesus' birthday?  One cold morning last week, Jaan, Raia and I went to the market to choose something.  There were hardly any toys left after the New Years rush, so we ended up getting something close to Raia's original idea: a basketball!  It was about all that was left, but they were very pleased with their choice.

Even though Jaan understands that we actually sent it to a needy child, he wanted to know if Jesus knows how to play basketball. Then he answered his own question, "Of course! Jesus can do anything!"

Advent reference

Now that the Christmas season is over, I'm moving this from the sidebar to here.

Jesus is Our Greatest Treasure!
(This is my adaptation of Noel Piper's Advent story. For more details of our Advent plans, read here.)

Start from the top and read it all every day. . . .

DEC. 1 - Jesus is the greatest Treasure of all. This is the story of how he came to us.

Long ago, God made a promise about a little town named Bethlehem. He said, “O Bethlehem . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” Jesus is the King God promised to send.

One time, a long time ago, in Bethlehem there was a place called a STABLE...

DEC. 2 - In the stable there was a MANGER, filled with hay . . .
(and so on. Desiring God is so generous with their resources! Last year when they sent me the file with the story, they said that I could pass it on. Let me know, if you want me to email it you.)

Learning about Jesus
(These are our nightly lessons for the Advent season. We did the same thing two years ago. This is adapted from a similar list found in various places around the internet.)

25 kopecks! There are also 25 days until Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman's gift and the way she gave it. Read: Mark 12:41-44.

Grape candy! Grapes make jelly and juice, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn't need grapes to perform His first miracle. Read: John 2:1-10.

A birthday candle? As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Read: Matthew 5:14-16.

What a nice little boat! But would you want to be in it during a storm? With Jesus you would be safe. Jesus can control the weather. Read: Matthew 8:23-27.

These would not go very far if you were really hungry! But Jesus could make much out of little. Read: Matthew 14:13-21.

You could make some noise with this. But it would not have bothered a certain man--until he met Jesus. Read: Mark 7:31-37.

Here's a smile! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy. Read: Matthew 5:1-12.

Fish! Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait till you read the story today! Others were surprised to find fish, too. Read: Luke 5:4-7.

A house! Jesus told us about a home that he is making for us. Read: John 14:1-6

It's soap. Do you like to wash? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus. Read: John 9:1-7.

Hearts. Wordlessly, they speak of love, don't they? Jesus gave us some commands about love. Read: Matthew 22:37-40.

We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. Do you know why? Read: Phillipians 2:1-11.

Ordinary salt. Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. Read: Matthew 5:13 and Colossians 4:6.

Don't try to eat this! It's sand. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture, about buildings--and building lives. See His instructions: Matthew 7:24-29.

Flowers are pretty, aren't they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson. Read: Matthew 6:28-34.

Raisins! They are made from grapes, which are a healthy and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit. Read: John 15:1-5.

Jesus told a story about seeds that a man planted. Then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning. Read: Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23.

Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly! The angels also praised God when Jesus was born. Read: Luke 2:8-14.

A hard stone! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do just that. Do you know how He handled it? Read: Matthew 4:1-4.

Popcorn kernels to make popcorn! Jesus talked about corn and serving Him in this passage: John 12:24-26.

The mustard seed is the smallest there is. When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants. See what Jesus said. Read: Matthew 17:20.
(Couldn't find the mustard seeds.)
Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It's hard to see your reflection plainly, isn't it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12.

We've learned that the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for? Read: Matthew 3:13-17.

This is soft and fuzzy like a sheep. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are? Read: John 10:7-18.

Воздушный шарик! Знаешь что ещё называеться шар? Земной шар. Наш мир. Бог создал мир, и Он любит всех в мире. Читать: Иоанна 3:16.

Isn't this baby cute? When he was born, he made a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy.
Read: Luke 2:1-20.
Enjoy your celebration today. Continue to learn about Jesus--and love Him forever!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The holidays are over

. . . and this is what we feel like:

Asya, asleep after the Christmas service yesterday

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Our evening

(Well, it was almost like that. )

Monday, January 05, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

The title doesn't have much to do with anything, except that it's what I did this morning. Actually, I guess it does apply, because we've been doing a lot of that the past few days. It's BEAUTIFUL here! This is what January should be like. Winter, finally!

I just wanted to say sorry for the break from posting. We've been very busy. Today is actually a rest day, but I need to spend my free time at the computer dealing with some nasty computer problems, instead of writing. (Pray that I can get everything backed up!)

Here are the rest of the photos that I took on a walk this morning. I still haven't posted the last few Advent photos, but I don't know when that will be possible. I do have them, but I can't get to them now. Sigh.