Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We've started into the Christmas season with First/Western/Catholic Christmas on the 25th. (Here is my explanation of terms last year.) It was a lovely day for us.

Finding Baby Jesus in the nativity scene
A book and pistachios before breakfast
Christmas breakfast
Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus
(Bogdan liked the candles!)
I didn't know they were trick candles until they started relighting, but they were perfect for getting lots of pictures. And then we went sledding....

White Christmas (happy!)
On the way home, Bogdan was so tired that he was nodding off while sitting up on the sled, so we had to carry him. He recovered long enough to warm up with hot chocolate when we got home, and then took a long nap.

Hot chocolate with Baby Jesus
While the younger half of the family napped, the older half read, cooked, and prepared a sermon. Then there was a family Skype call, a quick dinner, and out the door for....

Tea at church
Bogdan and I lasted at the tea until his bedtime, and then I brought him home, while the others stayed for the rest of it. As I carried him in the snowy, foggy dark, he signed that he was "all done" the whole way. And then he collapsed into bed, very happily.

We have many more Christmas pictures, even just from this one day. You can see more here.

Now we have New Year festivities, a winter VBS, and "Second" Christmas to look forward to next!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Choir concert

We just got back from the music school's concert. Here is Jaan's choir group singing:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fall prayer letter

Here it is. Please come read and pray for us!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent JOY

I guess I skipped over posting anything for Advent LOVE, but we had a wonderful week of it. And now it's time to light the pink candle for JOY!

The sweetest moment of today was when I asked everyone what brings them joy. Jaan said, "Bogdan!" and then he turned to Bogdan and whispered, "I'm glad you were born in our family."

(Will is a really good sport!)

"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY which will be to all people."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Weeks 8-9 (and 4)

How's that for a confusing title? I've missed a weeks on my school summaries, and Jaan and Raia are working at different points in their separate years.

Raia is finishing up Year 1, Week 9 now. Shakespeare and Russian history are her biggest favorites, after Bible. She mostly just flies happily through everything.

Jaan did Week 4 of Year 3. He has experienced an Advent miracle with handwriting. After several years of just not really getting anywhere with it, now he wants to write pages of words in cursive. That's usually in the evenings, while they draw/write/paste/color in their Advent journals about the names of Jesus.

And the rest will be pictures. Since they're each worth a thousand words, here are 3,000 words for you:

Advent journals
Getting ready to go OUTSIDE
New pets

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent HOPE

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Thanksgiving pictures

Will took so many photos, that I have to share more of them. Thanksgiving preparations started the night before, with...

Jaan making cranberry sauce
...and the girls making hats.

Asya and Bogdan made the centerpiece. 
Cute pilgrims
...and indians
Ready for the feast

Bogdan liked all the food, but especially the pie!

We have so much to be thankful for!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 7

Now that we're starting into the next week, I can need to think back to last week. Raia finished Year 1, Week 7, and Jaan did Year 3, Week 3. He's moving at a pace of about one and a half week's work every week, so maybe they'll be in the same weeks of their respective years soon. That would be nice. The highlight of the past week was Thanksgiving, though, so I'm not coming up with much to write about from school, although there was plenty. They also learned a lot about the Pilgrims and cooking and such, too, of course.

Reading at the Thanksgiving table

This is related to life and learning: Bogdan is by far our latest to potty train. But, at least he washes his own diapers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Advent plans

I am going back through old blog posts, remembering and getting ready for my beloved time of year.

I have alternated between New Testament and Old Testament (Jesse Tree) focus. This year is New Testament, but I don't want to do the same preschool list I have in the past. Bogdan's still too young for it, and the others might not be too old, but they're old enough to move on. (I think I'll ask them to arrange it for Bogdan in 2014.) So, instead we are going to study the names of Jesus. We'll probably mostly just light candles and read the verse associated with the link on the chain for that day, although some of the ideas at the linked list might work for us. Maybe I'll let them each make their own chain, like this and this? That would cut out nightly arguments about who gets to remove a link.

We'll also have Advent wreath and poem or song and weekly themes, like last year. I think I'll get them each an Advent "journals" to copy or draw or paste something into each night. That's sounds grown-up, and even if it's not right up Jaan's alley, the girls will love it.

And now I'm humming Адвент наступает....

(Edited to add this link: ornaments that go with the names of Jesus, to use if we do this again another year.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 6?

I guess this was Week 6 in our school? I've been going by Raia's readings in order to number our weeks, and she's mostly through Year 1, Week 6. Anyway, it felt really good to be back on our (mostly) regular schedule.

Jaan had a very rough week with music school. He loves piano lessons and his piano teacher, but the group classes are just hard for him. I think we've gotten past the current problem, though. Please do pray for him on Thursdays and Fridays still. School at home went great, as usual. Jaan really does enjoy it. Lately he's been begging for extra math pages. I'd like to write more about how I've changed my organization of his daily/weekly work, but not now.

Raia finally figured out subtraction this week. Well, she's been doing it, but with great fear and not much understanding. This week we started doing it with sunflower seeds: "Minus means eat them!" She's also reading better and better. She's not awake to ask, but I think she would say that A Midsummer Night's Dream was the highlight of this week for her.

Asya has been determined to learn English lately, and her attempts are so cute! She's always asking how to say things in English, and then using her new knowledge, so she's going to make lots of fast progress.

Watching the garbage truck
Bogdan is changing a lot, too. He's saying (Mama, Papa, бай-бай, нет, 'ельзя, ляля...) and signing (caterpillar, more) a few new words now. He's obsessed with dolls--but he plays with them like a boy--and markers.

We're still trying to find our rhythm in this new place, but having at least something of our usual routine does help anchor us. We'll continue easing back up to a full schedule again in the week ahead.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

We're here

I keep wanting to write, but I just never get to sit down at the computer. At least not without my squirmy toddler and with my brain still attached.

This has been a rough move: emotionally, because we weren't ready for it, and logistically, because this apartment was just not ready to be lived in. After a full week, we're pretty much set up, though. We're definitely not unpacked, but we're not really planning to completely unpack. However, we now have working water and electricity, and that is very good. Will has worked non-stop to get us to this point.

Thank you so much for all your prayers! Please keep on holding us up here. I'll try to write more... if I can find the box where my poor brain is.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The new apartment

Let's see if this works.... I am definitely not a videographer!

On a completely different subject, but I don't think I'll fit it in any other way: Jeanne wrote about her scarf. Here's mine:

Knitting is what keeps me sane. The yarn Karen gave us is just lovely, so soft, and it even shines. Maybe that's not the word for it. I don't mean that it glitters, but maybe you know what I'm saying. And I'm enjoying the same nostalgic sigh with Jeanne right now.

I just had to come back and add this quote:
"Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."
--Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


You've probably heard that we have to move to another apartment. Sunday some people looked at this apartment; Tuesday they came back to tell us that they had bought it. They gave us 7-10 days to be out. (Yes, it's legal. That's just kind of the way things work here. We've always had pretty good experiences with renting, but we've seen stuff like this happen to so many others!)

The next day Will went out and found us another place to rent. Got that? The next day! It's really unbelievable in a city of this size and with the situation here. I don't know when we'll move into it. Soon.  Please be praying for us as we pack up and move.

And pray for all of our hearts, too, please. Obviously, leaving the nice apartment that we have enjoyed so much is not the end of the world. We knew this day would come. But it's not easy. It seems like really bad timing. Our children aren't happy about it either.

I was encouraging myself by looking back at photos of other apartments that we've lived in and reading old blog posts. (This one is fun. They were so little last time we moved!) I'm going to repost and add a little to another old one below. This is originally from 2010:

As you may know, we're moving soon! I've been thinking a lot about how God has provided housing for us over the years. Since I don't have photos of our new apartment or details about it yet, I'll tell you about the apartments we've lived in before.

February-June 2001; Charlotte, NC; $500 a month. (I'm including the prices. That might be too much info, but the trend of bigger and cheaper is fun to follow.) We rented the upstairs of a garage, just a few blocks from Will's parents. The apartment was tiny, and it had lots of character. I remember standing there and noticing that the floor leaned one way, the window sill another, the counter yet another, and the angle of the ceiling didn't match any of the others. It swayed in the wind of a strong storm. We could look down on the tiny patch of yard of the duplex behind us and watch their one pet chicken. . . right in the middle of Charlotte!

September 2001-February 2004; Moscow; $300. This apartment was a two-room* in very bad condition. It was on the sixth floor of a nine-story building. Before we lived there, it had been used as some kind of office and workshop. We had no money to fix it up, so we did a lot of creative covering and rigging things. Furniture was a strange mix of the office stuff left there, what Will found in the trash and even a loveseat that he built himself. It was a great place to live! Jaan was born there.

Our Moscow apartment building

February 2004-May 2007; Kovrov; whatever the landlord could squeeze out of us! (I can't remember what we were officially supposed to be paying him. I'll have to ask Will. It did change often.) This was my favorite apartment, even though it was packed with clutter and the roof leaked. It was also two rooms, but the layout was really great. The kitchen was big, and it just felt big overall. This apartment is where Raia was born. When the landlord got tired of FSB bothering him about us, and we also couldn't take his daughter, we had to move out.

May 2007-February 2008; Kovrov; 2000 rubles? When we had to move, our neighbors found us a place on the first floor of the same building. It was smaller, and we didn't really get to make it feel like home, but it was nice. And Asya was born there.

May 2008-April 2010; Dneprorudnoe; 1000 hrivni (that's $126 at the moment) + utilities. Three rooms for the first time! Although the size was about the same as my favorite apartment, it's been nice to have separate rooms. We've done a lot to make this apartment feel like home, and our friends the Sullivans really worked hard to make it look nice! Now our landlady's son wants to live here, so we have to move on.

April 2010-October 2012; Dneprorudnoe; 1200 hrivni, utilities included. Four rooms! Details will have to come later, though. There's a map below that shows both our old (blue dot) and new (yellow dot) buildings.... [2012 update: This apartment has been wonderful! Probably the best physical feature is the open layout. The owners had taken out several walls, which opened everything up in a way that I had only dreamed about before. We have also really gotten to know our neighbors well. Especially recently the babushki here have become so complementary about our family that I am embarrassed and also confused: they're supposed to tell me what I'm doing wrong, not how wonderful they think we are! We'll miss them. Oh, and I have to add the note like what I have on three other apartments above: Bogdan was born in this one.]

October 2012-?; Dneprorudnoe, over by the church, if you want a more specific location and are familiar with the city; 1400 hrivni, utilities included. Back down to three rooms. (We're breaking our trend. ) And, like I said the last time I wrote something like this, I guess details will have to come later.

*In Russian we say the number of rooms, not just bedrooms like in English. So, a Russian two-room is like an American one-bedroom. I'm using the Russian way here.

View in a larger map

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week 5

I have a lot to write about: Lugansk, Julie's visit, youth conference here, and more, but how about I start with school last week. I doubt that I'll get much farther than that, but we can hope, right?

Week 4 was spread out over several weeks, mixed in with traveling and guests.

One Tuesday we settled in to work on Week 5 and find our regular rhythm again. And it was a good week, even if I still feel like we're a little off kilter. A few favorite moments: I read the story of Regulus to Raia. She understood all of it and retold it well, with lots of feeling about how Regulus had to leave his wife and family. Then she told me, "But it's okay, Mama. If it would have been you, we would all have gone back with you, and all would have been well. We would have died together in prison."

Jaan actually drew a picture for one of our readings this week. That is monumental for him, and I loved it. Parables from Nature probably has the distinction of being the most questioned AO book out there, but it's my favorite. My love of it must rub off on my children, because even though it's hard, they don't mind it. It lends itself to drawing, because even if they don't get the deeper ideas, they can imagine the plants and animals. So, Jaan must have gone back to his memories of Pagoo, because he drew wonderful, realistic sea creatures, and he really worked hard on making them just right.

And now it's already time to start Week 6?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy days

I definitely want to write about our trip to Lugansk, but that will have to wait, because we're enjoying Julie's visit and fall and walks in the park and butterflies right now.

If you want to see photos from the trip now, and if you're on Facebook, there are quite a few on Grace to Ukraine's page. Here are some direct links to albums for the days that we were with them: Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 6.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Lugansk prayer guide

We're on our way to Lugansk! If you're in our church families, you got a prayer request from us about this. We're going to visit orphanages in the area of Lugansk and see the ministry that is going on there. Here is a link to a daily prayer guide for this trip. It was put together by the organization we'll be visiting with: Grace to Ukraine.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Daily cuteness

This is my new favorite photo:

Bogdan has learned to shake hands. He started on Sunday at church, going around and around, shaking hands with everyone over and over. Yesterday he was in the stroller while Will met with someone, and he was very emphatic and enthusiastic about the fact that he had to greet the other person, too. And today he was shaking hands with all the babushki outside; they loved it.

He has also started "praying" before meals. I call it the vain repetitions of the heathen, but it sure is cute. He folds his hands, bows his head and babbles. I did ask him if he was thanking God. That made him add signing "thank you" to his little ritual, so maybe it became more than an empty ritual. The funniest is when he notices that meal time is getting close, so he's trying frantically to climb up into his seat: yelling, scrabbling at the chair, throwing himself against it... periodically he stops, quiets down, "prays," and then goes back to his loud frantic struggles.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Poland pictures

As you probably know, Bogdan and I took a trip to Poland. We had a wonderful time! It was so much fun to actually meet Jeanne from Australia (and her mother) and spend more time with Karen and her family. I've "known" Jeanne for quite a while, and I've been working with her for over a year as part of the Ambleside Online Auxiliary; now I really do know her and love her in real life, too.

Bogdan and I went on an overnight train to Kiev, and then we flew from there to Katowice in Poland. Jon and Karen picked us up there (and we saw deer on our drive back to Krakow. I think the deer are one of my favorite parts of Poland. ) Jeanne and her mother arrived the next day. On Saturday Karen took us on a walking tour of the old center of Krakow. Sunday we went to their church, where I enjoyed talking to all the people who remember us from our visa trips and are so kind and friendly. Then we went to the Jewish quarter, ate a nice lunch, walked around, and went on a driving tour that included a suburb that was built as a communist showcase. Monday we went to Auschwitz. I don't know what to say about that; I did not enjoy it, but it was worth seeing. That evening we had a group Skype call with our mutual friend, Leslie: fun! And then the next day we started our long treks back home. I don't think I can even express how good it was for me to be able to go on this little vacation! I haven't talked and laughed that much for a long time.

Phyllis, Karen, Jeanne
The cathedral in Wawel Castle 
Jewish restaurant
Bogdan and Jeanne
The rest of my photos from the trip are here....