Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer prayer letter

I actually wrote one already! If you didn't get it by email, here it is. Older prayer letters and the link to join our mailing list are always over on our About us page. -->

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The moving plan

Will and I had a good time to talk yesterday, and we came up with a plan to get us to Kherson. We find packing and moving with children underfoot to be incredibly challenging, even though we've done it quite a few times now. They just help a little too much!

So, on Monday (probably) we'll all go to Kherson with just a suitcase. Then, the next day Will will come back here for about a week, to sort and pack (a lot is still in boxes from our last move, which will help some), find a truck to carry it, and then come to the rest of us. It will be a lot of work for Will and a crazy week for all of us, but I think this will work well.

Please pray for us lots, and don't expect to hear from us much at all until we're settled in Kherson. Thanks!

With one of the butterflies he raised

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nature study: mammals

I originally wrote this in September of 2010! And apparently it just sat there as a draft until now. I went looking for it when I wrote yesterday, and decided to publish it now. Better late than never.

With Ambleside Online's schedule, we're focusing on mammals in nature study right now. Our "study" is really mostly just spending lots of time outside and enjoying it. Although, we are stopping to observe and record every week now. So far, here's what we've done:

Week 1: Still getting used to school schedule and had a few days of sickness. No formal nature study.

Week 2: We had one evening just talking about what mammals are, and then painting our favorites (and sticking stickers of them, since Great-Grandma sent such wonderful ones!).

Our favorite mammals
Standing up on the right-hand side: Asya's work; also standing: Jaan's whale; lying down below Asya's: my kitty; next to it: Raia's pretty frame for cat stickers. (Oh, Jaan would want you to know that favorites are not whales. He just thought that he couldn't draw a cat, and he was fascinated by the whale in the book we were flipping through. So, he painted a whale and stuck cats on over it, too.)

Artist at work
This just makes me laugh. Long after the rest of us were done, Raia was still dashing off paintings, and then throwing them over her shoulder as she finished.

That was our first mammal lesson. Next I started thinking about what other mammals we have around here. I thought it would be nice to be able to observe a hedgehog. (Sadly, ours didn't make it through last winter's hibernation. )

Week 3: Well, we went out to our dacha, and the first night I almost stumbled over a hedgehog on my way to the outhouse. Will and I locked it up in the empty chicken coop for the rest of the night. Next day....

Foot prints

Moving the hedgehog on to the paper

The meeting of the mammals

Note the stain on the table

Asya inspects the hedgehog

Dressed for hedgehog study

Week 4: We didn't do much, except enjoy being outside. One evening I did give Jaan and Raia assignments. Jaan was to record "The Things Which My Pet Cat Does" (from The Handbook of Nature Study) and I want to transcribe what he came up with. Raia's job was to design a cover page for the mammal section in our notebook, but she got distracted with just drawing. I'll sure we'll come back around to that again.

Week 5: Rainy, grey weather outside made for a great opportunity to "travel" and learn about an exotic mammal. We watched a great documentary about whales.

make mammal cover page for nature notebook
read beaver book
watch skunk documentary again?
muskrat (talk about it, find old photos, draw, or even go back to Zaporozhye and look for them again)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

School planning: nature study

I do well thinking things through by talking or writing about them. Since my AO friends might enjoy "listening," so I'm thinking this out here. I had five school goals that I mentioned before. The first is actually pretty easy. And fun. Nature study is my favorite part of school!

So, I'm off to look at the new-ish nature study rotation.... In September we'll do trees/shrubs/vines. Easy! Especially with a new home that has a yard. (Then in November we'll start studying the night sky. I'll have to do some brainstorming then.) When I'm doing well with nature study, I have a simple running list of topics to cover, like

  • definition of the category we're studying, and draw/paint your favorite
  • list/draw local species
  • start a year-long tree study
  • bark rubbings and leaf collecting
  • fall tree observations; why do leaves change color?
As I said before, we're good at getting outside. What we dropped, and what I'm wanting to pick up again, is the actual study part of nature study. Many people record their observations outside, and I agree that in real life would be best. We're not to that point yet. So far, we have to try to recreate real life indoors. That means we bring something home in order to observe and draw it. Or sometimes we have to work from photos.

We also don't have individual nature notebooks (yet). What worked before was using separate papers. Then, at the end of the term, we collected them into a binder. I just had to make sure that we had time once a week to work, and that I had a specific place to put the papers, so that I didn't lose them. I think I can do that again now. This year Bogdan should be happy to work with us, and I'll make a priority of setting aside time and space.

One more thing: AO has also added geography. Most of the topics fit very well into outside work that can be done on a nature walk, so I'll be working those in here, too. Plus, they fit with Asya's Year 0. (I couldn't resist coming back and adding this quote from my friend Jeanne's wonderful blog: "just where physical geography ends and nature-study begins is not easy to say; each helps the other.")

I'm still thinking about how and when we'll do our nature/geography time, but I think I have a plan....

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Search

After almost 3 months of calling and looking, we have a house rented in Kherson! Well, a duplex, anyway, with a separate little yard of our own, something we have dreamed of for years.

Like many other facets of life, this housing search seemed to be about 50% Divine Providence and 50% legwork and dogged persistence. It was a learning process for me... just when you think that you really know just about everything there is about the culture you're living in, you try something different only to discover a completely new and previously unsuspected field of research and study.

                                                    So, I have been learning once again.

First - looking for housing in a larger city in Ukraine becomes more of a challenge the more young children you have.

When I mention that we have children, the first question is "How many?" (FOUR??!!), and the second is "and how old are they?" (TWO to TEN years old??!!)

I literally do not know how many times I tried to convince complete strangers, over the phone, that we aren't a Barbarian Horde or Gypsy Band in miniature. ("What nationality are you?" was the 3rd question...)

I also learned that I got many more serious responses once I went to Kherson and could say "I'm here for a few days, if you have anything at all, I'll come look at it and might even sign the contract and make the down payment." Calling from Dneprorudnoe, I mostly had people offer to find an apartment or just tell me, "You'll never find people that will rent a house to a family with four young children for the price you want... call us back if you want to look at houses from $700-1300 a month."

Even with being in Kherson, it was slow going. The 'good deals' that got published online were snapped up almost immediately, so I spent a lot of time calling through local newspaper ads and contacting local realtors and agencies. At one point, I had at least 4 agencies and 4 freelance realtors searching for houses for me (not to mention the actual home owners or their representatives I was calling.) After I while, I began those conversations with "I'm not sure if I've called you before, so let me remind you, just in case..."

I was in Kherson for 4 full days, not including 1/2 days traveling there and back again. The first "real deal" I was offered was a 3-story unfinished construction project. (At one point it was meant to have been a health complex/hotel.) We were being offered the top floor, which would be 'finished to our specifications." (Using 2-months advance of not-so-low rental payments of $440, not including utilities.) It had sheet rock and windows, but that was about it. I could actually see how it would be very nice... but the rest of the place was something of a mix of a junk warehouse/maze/construction site. The kids would've loved it, but what with the lack of a separate staircase, the completely NON-'kid friendly' setting and the unfinished bathroom and non-functioning 'kitchen' area being down on the construction zone of a 2nd floor; my dear, wise wife said she'd rather not, thank you very much.

The next were 2 twin houses, both empty and unused for 1-2yrs. They reminded me of something you'd see in a decent urban subdivision in Florida. The houses looked HUGE to me... at least 2000 square feet each. They were willing to rent them to us, again, with our down-payment going into doing necessary repairs so we could actually live there. (One place had been completely stripped by the last tenants. They took everything: linoleum, light switches, outlets; heating system - boiler, radiators, and all; toilet, tub, sinks; every scrap of the kitchen furnishings and appliances; all doors, complete with hinges....completely, thoroughly stripped.) However, one place was really out of the way, with bad access to public transport (the 'stripped' house), and the other literally had no yard. It was cemented over and had a huge, DEEP unfinished pool in place of any green space. Both would have been a minimum of $450 per month, not including utilities.
Again, my wonderfully wise wife asked that these be left as a back-up plan if I didn't find anything better.

However, I wasn't coming up with any better options. Well there was one, although it would have been an hour minimum commute on public transport to Agape's office... but by the time I had been to both of the big 'subdivision' houses, that house was rented.

 I agreed to talk to Phyllis again that evening and more than likely discuss details of a contract for one of the huge 'subdivision' houses the next morning, barring any better alternatives. Then it was more phone calls, more re-checking with agencies, following up possible leads, checking ads online and in newspapers.

My wonderful, wise, lovely wife (notice the theme here?) called me that evening. "You know that agent guy whose ads you said to ignore? He just put up an ad for a house in the same area of the city as Agape. Maybe it's worth giving him another try..." I had decided not even to bother this guy anymore. He was prolific in getting ads online, but I had called him numerous times from Dneprorudnoe, and he'd finally just said we weren't going to find a place with four little kids. However, at this point, I'd had so much practice at selling our family as good tenants I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try.

I called him after 9pm. He said "I thought you wanted a NICE place, that's all - sure, you can look at this house!" We agreed to meet the next morning around 9am. By 10:15, I'd signed the contract and paid the down payment.

A man can inherit a house and money from his parents, but only the Lord can give him a sensible wife.  Proverbs 19:14

(Except for the last one, photos are just stock images. The last is actually our new home!)

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Day camp

It's hard to even explain how busy we are this week! But, I've really been enjoying my part of it. Now Will's home, too, so the craziness should slow down a little. Again, instead of writing, I'll give you a few photos from the church day camp:

Part of my sweet group
Her little legs don't work, but she's really enjoying camp!
Waiting to get started one morning

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Our new home!

Details will have to come later. I don't know much, and I don't have time to write anyway, but here are the photos the rental agent just sent:

Friday, August 02, 2013


I've been a little frustrated with renting lately. I've gotten used to the size of this apartment, and Will has made it quite comfortable for us, but the landlord situation is the craziest we've ever had. (And that's saying a lot, because we've dealt with some weird and wonderful landlords!) Recently one of the owners has decided that he's going to sell it, which makes me nervous, after what happened last time. So far, he's shown it twice, and there's a family very interested in buying.

And Will's been very busy searching for a place for us to live in Kherson. When he made a few calls a month ago, it seemed like there were plenty of options. Right now, it doesn't seem like there's much. Also, what there is, isn't available for "huge" families like ours. (Why would people want to rent out big apartments and houses, but not allow children in them?) Will is going to go to Kherson tomorrow to spend a few days looking around, though. Please be praying for him to find something good!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

"Funny First"

Every month my sister does a Funny First Day of the month post, listing hilarious things that her girls have said. And her girls are really funny! For example: last month. Our children aren't so funny, I don't think, and I'm not so good at remembering to write down what they do say, but I thought I'd try this month.

Okay, Jaan just gave me one. When I went to Leetra's blog to copy the link for you all, he saw the second photo here, and he asked, "Ooo. Is that an idol?!?"

Traveling to Odessa, around Odessa, and back gave us lots of time in public toilets. Many of those are the hole in the ground kind. Bogdan's response to them is yelling full volume: "ПОПА ТУДА НННННЕЕЕЕЕЕЕЕ!" He's not very verbal yet, but he's very expressive. (I was going to let Google help you all with that, but apparently he doesn't understand. Literal translation: "bottom to there nnnooooo!")

Recently, Bogdan was having a very miserable morning. Will asked him why he had a cow in his mouth. Why, you ask? I probably say "он только 'му' да 'му' / А к чему, почему — / Не пойму!" way too often around here. And Will is just weird. Anyway, Bogdan believed him. He spent the rest of the morning talking about the "moo" that was living in his mouth. Then we had corn on the cob. Bogdan got a piece stuck between his teeth, and he was convinced that it was the cow! Now, any time he gets something stuck in his teeth, he wants me to pull the cow out of his mouth. It's probably a good thing he can't talk yet; I can just imagine him asking someone, "Could I please have a toothpick? I need to get a cow out of my mouth."

Bogdan showing us his cow
Not my child, but one of the little guys I worked with at camp: I told him not to throw pebbles at the metal fan near us. When I heard another one hit it, and I asked, "What was that?" He told me that he thought it was a meteorite.

I shared this one on Facebook already. At camp Bogdan really, really fell in love with our friend Jon. A few days after we got home, Bogdan didn't want to go to bed. After a few minutes of screaming "MAMA, PAPA, MAMA," we heard Bogdan say, "Mama - nyet. Papa - nyet. DYADYA!" (what he called Jon). And then he continued to yell for Uncle Jon.

This isn't funny, but I think it's cute. Bogdan's two most recent new words are "Syasya" (Asya) and "psi" (spasibo/thank you).