Saturday, March 28, 2009

First spring flowers!

We're finally seeing some flowers around here! Lesser celandine (Чистяк весенний) was the first to start blooming.  I loved the literary references in the Wikipedia article.  C. S. Lewis mentioned this plant, and Wordworth loved it.  Here's part of a poem that he wrote about it:

There's a flower that shall be mine,
'Tis the little Celandine. . . .

Ere a leaf is on a bush,
In the time before the Thrush
Has a thought about its nest,
Thou wild come with half a call,
Spreading out thy glossy breast
Like a careless Prodigal;
Telling tales about the sun,
When we've little warmth, or none.

. . . Spring is coming, Thou art come!

Here the lesser celandine actually started blooming a few weeks ago, at least in the places where there are hot water pipes under the ground.  I really wanted to get closer to take some photos and look at it, but the babushki are so protective of that area.  Some of the celandine has taken off by itself outside the flower bed, and I was thinking of trying to sneak one of those wild plants away.  Then Will solved my problem by buying me a beautiful bunch of it at the market.

So, today we studied the plant that we have.  We looked at its roots. . .

trimmed off the old blooms and potted it,

did some research in our books,

and, of course, drew it:

We've also seen a few more flowers!  Soon there will be too many to keep track of, but so far, it's easy.  The first was this celandine.  Then yesterday we found violets and a tiny, yellow, start-shaped wildflower.  I was so excited!  I especially love violets.  And today we saw the first few dandelion blooms.  Can anyone help us with identifying the yellow star flowers below?  That's a little bulb root, if you can't see it well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Owl pellets

Even before our big night-owl adventure, we dissected the owl pellets that we had found that first time out. It wasn't as gross as it sounds. (If you want gross, go to this video that we watched just before we got started.)

One of the tiny skulls that they found

This was so funny! The "great scientist" kept dropping his magnifying glass to count on his fingers.

"THIS is a backbone."

There were about two voles (полёвки) in each owl pellet. I kept calling them mice, but Will said that their faces were too short, and of course, he was right. He knows about these kinds of things. We just didn't know what they were, if not mice. Once our little scientists went down for their nap, I started looking on the internet. This chart looks exactly like what our owl had been eating. That helped me to identify the kind of owl, too. Apparently Short-eared owls eat lots of voles. After nap time, Jaan and Raia enjoyed matching the bones that they had found with the chart and then turning to a human anatomy lesson, too.

Jaan and Raia are still so excited about owls! Raia wanted to take the bones to Sunday school the next day to show their teacher. And today we had a guest come over. They couldn't even wait until she was done with tea; they brought bones and the leftover pellets to the table to show her.

Next post on this topic: Owl art. . . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Owl outing

Asya, alone in the woods

Monday night we went on our much-anticipated owl watching adventure!  We got to the patch of woods while it was still light and wandered around some.  We spooked some game birds; we're definitely going to have to get better at identifying them.  It's hard when they just about startle you out of your wits and quickly disappear, while making an incredible amount of noise!  They all kind of look like chickens to me.  Although, Will saw one that just ran away from him, and he said it looked like a small grey goose.

Ready to watch!

Then we sat down in a clearing at the center of the woods to watch as dark came.  I made the huge mistake of forgetting Asya's beloved pacifier, so we had trouble keeping her quiet.  Jaan and Raia were very happy to sit quietly and savor the special treat of Skittles, but that didn't work for Asya.  She just wanted to cram them all in her mouth and scream for more.

Soon we started hearing the owl, though!  That interested even Asya, and she settled down some.  We're pretty sure that our owl is a Short-eared Owl.  (I'll explain why we think that another time.)  They don't always make the traditional "hoo-hoo" sound, but we had listened to recordings of their call over and over before going out, so we recognized the screaming.  Will says that they sound like monkeys.

Will walked around more and scared the owl towards us.  It actually landed in a tree straight in front of us, but not close enough to get a clear view.  It was definitely an owl, but other than that, I couldn't see much.  We could see how its head was swiveling back and forth!  And then it took off and seemed to be hunting in circles around us, along the edges of the clump of woods.  We could hear it going around and around and catch glimpses every once in a while.

Will also made more birds move in our direction. We saw the silhouette of a pheasant directly over us against the last bit of light reflected in the clouds.  Also, once it was completely dark, some kind of large bird landed in a big nest right over our heads!  We had thought it was an abandoned squirrel nest there, but we saw a large, ghostly bird--in the night, it kind of looked white--come and land there.  Its wings seemed to make a loud click noise each time they moved.  I have no idea what it was!

So, we got to see our owl and a whole lot more!  Jaan and Raia stayed closely pressed against on the way back; they were a little scared.  But they were all glowing from the excitement of a nighttime nature walk.  Today they told a friend of ours that "we go out for walks at night to watch owls!"

Raia came back saying that she wants to draw lots and lots of owls, and she has started on that.  Plus, we dissected some of the owl pellets that we found.  I still have more to write about owls, but at least now you have heard about our big owl adventure.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Linguistic development

Some of the more Ukrainian babushki at church are absolutely thrilled because, as they say, "Raia speaks perfect Ukrainian!"  The funny thing is that she doesn't speak any Ukrainian.  They are just hearing her mistakes in Russian and taking them for "perfect Ukrainian."

Yesterday morning Asya said her first sentence.  I think.  She has a very limited spoken vocabulary so far: Mama, Papa, nyum or am for food, ляля (baby or referring to herself), ow (hot/ouch/dog/cat/horse, depends on the context) and sometimes Ba (Jaan, from братик/brother?) and Yaya (Raia).  Well, yesterday morning she was standing in her crib, hungry and yelling for me.  Then she paused and said very clearly, "Мама Ляля АМ!"  That's a sentence, right?  "Mama, Baby [wants] FOOD!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reflections of Lenten Lights

My favorite photo from last week

We started on the second reading from Lenten Lights tonight.  Honestly, I've been surprised by how much Jaan and Raia are understanding.  It's mostly straight Scripture, which is of course good for them, but I thought it might be over their heads.  The candles are a good visual for them, though.  You should have seen the shock on their faces when the first candle went out last week! Asya enjoys it all, too, even though she doesn't understand; she wants to sing (howl?) through the whole reading and blow out the candles.  Almost every night we have reread the first selection, and they are definitely thinking about it and asking questions. We're also learning to sing Путь к Голгофе далёк, and they're all really trying.   Another side benefit is that I've had some of the neighbor children asking me about what we're doing.  I never would have thought of that aspect.  However, the candles are in our window, and they're pretty visible from the street, even by day.  Easter is the biggest religious holiday of the year in this part of the world, so pray with us that we would take advantage of the opportunities to discuss the true meaning of it with others.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Come walk with us!

We had a wonderful walk this morning!  When we started out, the sun was shining, and we headed down to "the sea."  Before long, clouds rolled in.  We left the stroller and explored along the beach for a while.


The sea!

The colors were beautiful today


Examining layers

When we left the beach and started back, we decided to cut through a patch of woods that we hadn't explored before.  Our first find there:

Woodpecker hole

At that point, our camera battery ran out, so you'll have to imagine all the rest of the excitement in that little thicket.  (We have a new camera, thanks to my aunt.  It's wonderful!  And this is the first time the battery has run out in two weeks of using it constantly.  The contrast to our elderly camera is incredible.)

Right after we found and examined a low woodpecker hole, we started finding feathers everywhere.  They were beautiful!  I kept some of the prettiest (photo below).  Then Will saw some kind of large bird, off in the trees.  Because of the feathers, we guessed that it might have been a pheasant, but he really didn't get a good look at all.  We kind of scattered out, and all of us made discoveries.  (Well, poor Asya was trapped in her stroller, but I don't think she felt left out.  She was quite interested and entertained.)  We found more and more feathers from various birds, most of a wing, clumps of rabbit fur, areas where the ground was all scratched up, and droppings from some kind of large game bird, too.  Then we found where an owl had been sitting!  There was "kaka" all around, and also owl pellets.  (That's my new Russian vocabulary, by the way: погадки. )  So many signs of wildlife in such a small area!  As we wandered around, Jaan and I saw a squirrel, too.  This one wasn't a regular red squirrel, it was pink!  Really, it was much lighter than usual, almost white with slight red highlights.  It went right into a nest.  While Jaan watched, I ran back to call everyone else.  They got a glimpse of it, too.  Again, Will saw his large bird, and this time he was pretty sure that it was the owl!  We're planning an evening trip back to this area soon, hopefully to see or hear the owl.

Our finds (minus rabbit fur)
Whose wing is that?

Any guesses what these are from?

After all that excitement we headed home. When we got here, Asya was snoring, and the first few drops of rain were falling. It's still raining now. . . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Days with Leetra

While Leetra was here, we spent a lot of time inside, working on projects.  Here are a bunch of photos of that.

Painting and drawing:

Stringing beads:


Making cookies:

Decorating cookies:

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lenten Lights

Asya and I are home with runny noses today. After church Will, Leetra, Jaan and Raia went out to visit some friends in the village of Vidnozheno. Asya's not really too sick, but she couldn't have handled skipping her nap. So, she's napping here. And while she sleeps, I was able to get ready for the first reading of Lenten Lights. My arrangement looks pretty, and it would probably work in a house with no children, but it's a little too precarious to last long here. I'm sure I'll be rearranging it.  It was incredibly fun and strange to set it all up by myself, no questions, no "help."  You can see what I have now: seven candles, thorn branches, pussy willows around the Palm Sunday candle, a purple ribbon, and the first reading printed out and mounted on a purple card.  Knowing how little ones love repetition, I'm sure we'll be rereading that card all week.

I would love to hear how you prepare for and celebrate Easter in your homes!

UPDATE: Here's the new child-friendly version:
The "candle holders" are actually glued down. The thorns are up higher; Jaan and Raia love that they make a cross now.

A close up of the new "candle holders" that Will got for me :
Pretty, eh?

We didn't get to do our first reading last night, because everyone got back so late, so we'll start tonight. Tonight is also Leetra's last night with us. Al least we have the great memories of starting this with her! (and so much more!)

Friday, March 06, 2009

When your teeth hurt

This morning I thought I heard a beaver gnawing. . .

I guess that last molar is still tormenting her.

We're having a wonderful visit with Leetra!  She hasn't felt well since she got here, though, so please pray for her poor stomach.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Leetra dacha day

(We've had snowy dacha days and sunny dacha days. . . can you say Leetra dacha day? )

Remember my sprouts? I was a little worried about them, with the snow and cold that we've had lately, but look at them now!

(None of our greenhouse setups worked, at least, no seeds sprouting yet.)

Jaan climbs up to watch our neighbor feed his bees

Trimming the grape vines
The beekeeping neighbor also gave us a lesson on how to trim the grape vines.  Jaan and Raia listened intently and then set to work.

Asya and her blanket
I tuck it into her hood, or else she'd be dragging it around in the dirt.

We went for a walk and saw waxwings!
Actually, I dragged Leetra away from the stove long enough to go for one walk with her, while the children napped.  She and I saw a rabbit!  We also saw woodpeckers and jays.  Later Will and I took Jaan and Raia out to see if we could find the huge group of jays again.  We didn't, but we saw a flock of Bohemian waxwings.

For those of you who are asking for photos, here are all the rest from our dacha day, and here are some more.  I tried to put more on here, and I can't get them to go now.