Friday, December 27, 2013


I have other videos of when just the children's choir was singing, but first, here is a nice medley of the Ukrainian carols that we love so much. (You might be able to see Raia and Asya up there on the stage, too.)

More later!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"First Christmas"

"First Christmas" this year was half at home, half out and about. Usually First Christmas is at home--our family Christmas--and Second Christmas is church Christmas, so it was a little different this year. But it was good.

"Ляля 'Сус"
I read back and saw that last year he just said "ляля." We're making some progress here!

Happy Birthday to Jesus
Breakfast silliness
Hot chocolate outside (in the SUN!)
Movie instead of naptime
Then we went to Jaan's choir concert. I'll try to add a video of that here, when it uploads.

Most of us left early from that, in order to get the girls to church on time, so that they could practice again and get dressed there. Then Will and Jaan joined us as soon as they were done at music school. Same story on the video from church, although it might even be more complicated, because our computer doesn't want to cooperate with our camera anymore, so those videos are stuck. Negotiations are in progress....

(Edited to add: instead of putting the videos in here, I'll put them up as new posts.)

Bogdan liked the candles!
Asya and the other little ones were so cute up on the stage!
Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent reflections

Advent this year has been different from ever before. I've never been so glad that I took time in the earlier years of parenting to think through family traditions and to build habits! November was full of busyness and guests, and December started off with more than a week without Papa, so I never had a moment to stop and think and plan what we would be doing this year. And yet, that hasn't mattered. We have faithfully had our quiet, thoughtful, and chaotic evenings with lots of time together by candlelight. Somehow, I found our nativity scene and Jesse tree pictures in boxes, and off we went "to Bethlehem" as Bogdan says often these days.

The first Sunday of Advent Jaan discovered that the church bookstore sells sparklers, so he bought some with his own money and generously shared them with everyone as a big surprise that evening. We've repeated that on the following Sundays, too. It was especially nice, since I didn't even have a chance to buy candles or make an advent wreath. We did scrounge up candles after that first Sunday, at least.

The Christmas Mystery was our new special treat, and it's been perfect for this year and this age range. Every evening we lit our candles, sang, and then turned on the audio book chapter for that day. I didn't even have to wrestle with balancing Bogdan and a book to read aloud. And everyone was enthralled! Bogdan picked up on the refrain in the book, "to Bethlehem!" and repeated it every time he heard it, even if he didn't follow the rest of the story.

Listening and coloring
In the mornings we read Jesse tree passages and hung the pictures (see them below?) as part of our morning school. So, that didn't happen every single day, but we got a good idea of Jesus' family tree.

Another little something different this year is that all our children's Sunday school classes have advent wreathes. They lit candles and talked about Christmas coming, too. It was the first time our children could ever just randomly babble (as they do) about Advent and have people around them actually understand what they mean. I wished that I had a camera the first time they lit a candle in Bogdan's class. They gathered all the toddlers around, lit the candles, and then Bogdan started singing "A-A-A-a-a-a...." No one joined in, and he was a bit baffled when they just blew them out a little later, but at least they had them, and he definitely knew what was going on!

We've slowly brought out our nativity scene figures, one by one, sometimes reading these sweet devotionals, sometimes not. That depended on our mood and how our set matched up with the author's there. Now the empty manger awaits the Baby....

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter piano concert

Today Jaan had his first real concert at this new music school, and he did wonderfully!

The captive audience
Ded Moroz!
Jaan and his teacher
On Wednesday Jaan will have his choir concert, then he'll be done with music school for 2013. Also on Wednesday, Raia and Asya will be singing in the children's choir at church. We're hoping to be able to make it to both events without having to divide and conquer. You might be able to watch the girls, live, if the church video stream works. Grandparents should enjoy that: starting Wednesday at 11:00 am, your time, or 6:00 pm here in Ukraine.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Will was coming home. He come home really sick. Fortunately, he got over that quickly, but our week started off slowly, and then limped on with recovery, office days, lots of time and emotional energy spent on watching Kiev* (and praying for Ukraine!), and then fun excitement this weekend, too.

First snow!
Will is working on a behind-the-scenes bit of Agape's photo project: uploading the photos and updating the info with them. So, he hasn't translated the most recent articles, but you can see them on the Russian site. Then, next week, he should be able to get them up on the English site, too.

We enjoyed meeting the really nice and really professional photographers who have been here, traveling to orphanages, taking pictures of children, and making them feel very special. They have a fancy little printer with them, so each child gets portraits printed out, right there. Then, those photos are also uploaded to a server, that they'll be able to access later. Often, children who grow up in orphanages have very few or no photos from their childhood. This will give them at least a few. Also, the photos are given to people who pray for each individual child.

Doesn't everyone do Advent sparklers?
Two, for the second week of Advent
What's that book about the little girl with the giant dog?

* Good article, if you only have time for one. And the note that I would add to whatever else is out there, is just that it's all more complicated than much of what I've seen in English; it's really not just about the EU.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Second Thanksgiving photos

Will should be home tonight. Hurrah!

Here are a few photos from our "second Thanksgiving" dinner, last Saturday with English-speaking families.

Children's table
Adult (and baby) table
I just realized that one little guy is completely hidden behind his papa.
And Bogdan was at the children's table by himself for the first time.
We're so thankful for these people! This group (give or take a few who were missing or extra) gets together about twice a month for fellowship, a meal, and lots of play time for the children.

And the other group that we had Thanksgiving with, too... so thankful for them! The conversation that night was really sweet: about the beginning of Agape, vision of where it's headed now, immigrant life, and so much more.

(Photos from Julia.)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thanksgiving photos

This time without Will is going much better than last time (when we started off the week sick). Still, I haven't had much free time at all, no time to get to the computer and write details about Advent or anything else. But, we're alive and well, thriving even.

Will is enjoying this session of the Agape school in Uzhgorod, even though the material they're covering is heavy at times. This time the teaching is in Dutch, translated into Russian, so he's having an experience that we have gotten unused to: not being able to understand both sides of what is being said.

Here are photos from a week ago. Like I said, when we realized that Will wouldn't be here for the American group Thanksgiving, we got together with the Fedorchuks and a few more Ukrainian-Americans from Sacramento to celebrate. Vera made everything really beautiful and cooked a perfect turkey. We added our turkey, cranberry sauce ("jam," everyone was joking about eating meat with jam), and pies.

Thanksgiving sunset
Photo shoot before leaving:

Since he covered his face in the next photo

And once we got there:

The group
From Vera's pretty table
Soon I should have some photos from our second Thanksgiving, when we got together on Saturday with Americans and Canadians.

(Some of the photos above are from Vera and Ira.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Office days

Will has started going in to work at the Agape office off and on. It is so good to be finding our place here and getting to know people... even if that is vicariously for one of us. So far Will has been translating articles for the English web site, reports for sponsors, correspondence with teachers, and more. Sometimes it might actually be easier to work at home (even with all our noise and busyness!), but being in the office means that he can work right with the others and be there for morning prayer, too. We'll just have to find a good balance of home and office time, and of efficiency and teamwork.

We also definitely need to figure out a good plan for school mornings without our "preschool teacher"! I know most families work this way, but we haven't much. Also this year, for the first time, we have changed our daily schedule to do school in the mornings, instead of during quiet time after lunch. So far, Bogdan has had Papa time almost every morning while the rest of us work. He follows Will around, helping him with projects, looking at books with him, and staying happily busy. Of couse, that can continue for the days when Will is home, but for office days we are going to have to adjust.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

What are your plans for today? We weren't planning to do anything until Saturday, when we'll celebrate with three missionary families and an adopting mom, but then we looked at the train schedule and realized that Will won't be able to be there. So, we started pulling together plans for today, too. Today we'll celebrate with the Fedorchuk family. I have cranberry sauce and two pies ready to take, and turkey breast--with chicken drumsticks for the children--going into the oven soon.

(I am having a bit of a hard time concentrating here, since I'm sitting in the midst of a Thanksgiving craft whirlwind and listening to Asya singing "Onward Christian soldiers, marching in da wall!" full volume right in my ear.)

Will is going to another session of the Agape school, which starts on Monday. We had thought that he'd be able to leave on Sunday and get there in time, but Uzhgorod is far away, and the overnight train doesn't get in early, so he has to leave a day earlier. Again, though, we're glad that he can go. We'll miss him... but the rest of us get two Thanksgivings!

*I took this from Agape's Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

I feel like I write for two audiences: family/ministry/real life friends, and homeschool friends that I "know" through the internet. (Is that an accurate assessment? Comment and let me know!) And really, I usually only blog for the first group. However, the backstory of this post combines both categories. Amy is my real life and internet friend, and she coordinates the Charlotte Mason blog carnival. She's both a missionary mom and a homeschooler. She signed me up to host, so here I am.

Our assigned topic this time is "Knowledge of the Universe: Physical Development and Handicrafts," and you can find what Charlotte Mason herself had to say about that here. It's really just a tiny bit, so I'll quote it all:
"It is unnecessary, too, to say anything about games, dancing, physical exercises, needlework and other handicrafts as the methods employed in these are not exceptional. [For details see the Parents' Union School programmes.]"
And that's all. But physical development and handicrafts are both important parts of a Charlotte Mason education (she did write more about them elsewhere), and so let's see what bloggers have to say about those topics--and others!--today....

Dark, awkward photo of Amy 
and me in the same room
First, Nicole tells us how photography has been a favorite modern handicraft in her homeschool co-op. She also wrote about Christmas gift handicrafts last year, and she had some great ideas there!

(Since the assigned reading was so short this time, I'll add this quote from Vol. 1:
"The points to be borne in mind in children's handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children's work should be kept well within their compass."
Nicole's blog posts are lovely examples of real, useful crafts--not "futilities"--presented in a very careful way.)

Nebby shares a wonderfully informative post about how they do "Extracurriculars: PE and Crafts." Again, I have another little quote to go with that:
"[PE and crafts] should form a regular part of a child's daily life. For physical training nothing is so good as Ling's Swedish Drill, and a few of the early exercises are the reach of children under nine. Dancing, and the various musical drills, lend themselves to grace of movement, and give more pleasure, if less scientific training, to the little people."
Nebby's "outsourcing" echoes that very nicely; Swedish drill might be a thing of the past, but gymnastics, dance, track, swimming and ice skating are all great options today!

Amy also apparently has a post almost ready to go, so here's a place holder for that. Check back later to read it.

I'll go way back into my own archives, and pull up this old post about a spring handicraft that my daughter really enjoyed. A more recent post is just pictures, but if you want to look, here is a Ukrainian craft class that we just took recently, something that is making us all want to paint more. And the current favorite handicraft in our home is cutting up fabric samples to make doll clothes, with minimum sewing and more tying together; I don't have photos of that yet, but maybe you can imagine it?

Bogdan on the day I met Amy (June 2012)
And then for other lovely posts, that still fit the Charlotte Mason theme, but not this carnival's topic....
Thank you for reading! As you follow the links above, please leave comments and let the writers know that you visited.

Amy will be hosting the next carnival. Click on the link for more info on how to send in your entries and follow the carnival path.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bumpy video

Will's parents left this morning, in order to start their long trek home. Sad. But we had a wonderful visit with them!

Here is some video from Jaan's concert yesterday. The performance was at a local school, for the first graders, to encourage them to enroll at the music school. The choir had some cute hand motions, but I must warn you not to watch if you're prone to motion sickness; it was not easy to film!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The craft class

This is the Senior Hunsuckers' last day here; they fly out tomorrow. Jaan also has a choir concert today. But now I have photos from our time at the big mall last week.

A while ago Will had noticed an area where they teach and display traditional handicrafts way back in the back of the huge Fabrika Mall. He had been planning to take all of us there when there was a good occasion for it, and so, last Wednesday we went. First we ate lunch at the food court, and then we got to work.

Just a funny mall photo
The ladies who run the craft area were very kind and accommodating. Raia, Asya, and Baba Julie all chose wooden items to paint. Bogdan got a little clay star ornament, and Jaan picked out a stuffed bear project.

We painted a fish on it.
Drying and lacquering
Jaan made a bear for Baba Julie

Raia's finished masterpiece
Also, you can see an album of where Will's parents stayed (and our street), if you're interested. We have room for a guest, but without quiet or privacy, and it would be crowded for two. So, this place was a huge answer to prayer. Our neighbors usually rent out their apartment long-term, but their renters left unexpectedly just before Will's parents came.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Some pictures from the visit

We are already more than halfway through our visit with Will's parents. Our time with them has been great, and it's rushing by. I started choosing a few highlight photos, and I ended up with way too many for one post. Will has also been posting some on Facebook, so I'll link to those below. I'm trying to choose different ones to share here. Some are from their camera, some from ours.

We've spent a lot of fun time just playing and being together at home, and we've taken some great outings too. All the late nights added up for me, though. Will had planned to go into the office today, but he let me sleep in first. By the time I woke up, it was really too late for him to go in, so he took everyone on some kind of adventure instead. I stayed home for a little more quiet.

Most of the photos in this post are from days that we have stayed home, but on their first morning here Bernie and Julie got to visit the Agape office and hear about the mission.

With Alex Fedorchuk of Agape
A favorite pastime
Frisbee in our road
Lots of reading
And card games
More reading
One night we had a bonfire and roasted hotdogs.Will posted some of those photos already, but I just love this one, so I had to share it again:

Tea by the fire
We have also eaten lunch and taken folk art classes at the big mall, gone on our own walking tour of Kherson, and visited an Agape adaptation center out in a village nearby. Pictures of those events will have to come later.

Here are photos that have already been put on Facebook, in case you're not on there, or aren't connected with Will's mom:
More later....