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.)