Sunday, December 27, 2015


In America people are probably already taking their Christmas trees down. (Mom, did you leave yours up for us again this year?) We've had ours for over a week now, but it's not done yet. Here they're for New Year, not Christmas, and in our family it's for all the holidays!

We haven't had a big tree before, mainly because we've never had room for one. This year I noticed how our little yard is almost like an extra room on our house. Will's grass is still bright green there, so it's really pretty. I thought of having a tree out there, where we could enjoy it through the window.

While most of our family was busy, Will and Bogdan went and got the tree. Or, from the way the story is going now, Bogdan bought us a tree. It started with him helping Papa, but now he's forgetting that Papa even went with him.

They set it up and put the lights on it.

The ducks are intrigued.
It has blown over--or been knocked over by a hug from Bogdan--a few times, but it's well anchored now. Decorating is an ongoing process....

We have also made some pretty Christmas tree cookies to give out to teachers, friends, and neighbors.

He was explaining something.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Music, chocolate, pie

Last Thursday Raia played at a music festival. She and I went together and almost froze at the drafty, barely heated old school. But the music was beautiful, and we had fun.

She had hoped to play toward the beginning of the program, then run straight to art school. However, she was right in the middle. When we left, she was unhappy that she wouldn't make it to her painting class, so I suggested that we find "a secret I had heard about." Lviv Chocolate had just opened in Kherson the day before, and I knew that we were close to it. So, we found it, drowned her sorrows in spiced hot chocolate, and chose a little something for each member of our family. When we got home, we told them that we had gone to Lviv and brought back souvenirs.

That same afternoon Jaan went to learn from Uncle Joe, the Pie Crust Master, how to make a perfect apple pie.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Jaan's concert

It's definitely the season for concerts! Jaan's was on Monday. This year he opened the concert with a poem, said another poem, sang a few songs with the other kids, played a piece by himself, one with his teacher, and one with Raia. We thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

Jaan's teacher, fellow students... and Raia
Saying his poem
With Svetlana Mikhailovna
When he played the duet with his teacher, he was obviously nervous and making mistakes. She gently took his hands off the keys and said, "Please excuse us. We're starting over." Then she told him not to worry. They started over again and played without any more problems.

Dobriy Ded Moroz!
So excited about Ded Moroz!
"He even had something for me!"
We had a special guest.
(Raia had already left for art school.)
Special treats afterwards
The next concert will be Raia's tomorrow. Right now Jaan, Raia, and I are headed out to Tsyurupinsk for a Christmas program with Agape at the orphanage. We hope to make it back in time for a Christmas play at church, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


If you prayed for Jaan's rat, THANK YOU! She's doing well. Last Monday we took her to a veterinary clinic. They were rather doubtful about her chances of recovery, but they treated her and sent her home with various medicines. Jaan has been very faithful about getting them into her and even made an extra trip back to the clinic for more, when he spilled one of the medicines. We really weren't seeing any improvement, though. By Thursday, I thought Bella was dying, for sure. And then... Friday morning she was alive and moving around! Now she seems to be recovering quite well and is back to amusing us with her antics again. Apparently the vet hit a nerve with the shot that she gave in Bella's leg, because that leg wasn't working at all; it's slowly coming back now, but Bella is rather funny when she runs. And she's taken up a with rag, that she insists must be wrapped around her perfectly at all times.

Oh, another "little" answer to prayer: Bogdan has completely stopped protesting about being away from me for art school! He's even asking on off days if he can "go to school" and how long it is until his next lessons. So, thank you for praying for him, too.

Now we can all praise God together for His goodness to us.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

From the girls

Just a bit from Raia, off the art school page:

She had her first-ever balalaika competition today and had to rush off right after playing her piece, because she wanted to get to art school so badly. We had planned that she would just skip a day at art school, in order to compete in music, but she didn't like that idea.

Asya... I thought this was a sweet photo of her, taken by friends at the Thanksgiving celebration:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Our boys

A family in the missionary community here does an annual girls sleepover. Their little guy was starting to say that he wanted to do the same thing for boys... but none of the little boys are quite ready for a whole night away from their parents. So, they had a little boys day. It was fun to see Bogdan go off happily to spend time with them all by himself. He had a wonderful time!

Bogdan and his Canadian and American friends
Jaan's pet rat is quite sick.  Can you please pray for her and us? (I know that might seem like a minor thing, but God cares.) Jaan really loves his Bella, and we don't want to lose her. We have gotten vitamins and antibiotics for her, but we're really not seeing much improvement yet. She just wants to lie around and sleep, snuggled up to him.

This made me laugh. After I got Bogdan out of the bath and wrapped him up in his towel, he asked me to hold him, "Like this. Wait, I'll draw it for you... how I want you to hold me:"

Perfectly clear, isn't it? (No!)

I'll let you hear from our girls tomorrow....

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Agape school and Advent

You might have seen the Agape Facebook post that Will put up about the school where I was all of last week. Here are a few more photos that I took from various friends' pages on VK and Facebook. Most are from when we were out in the city, but there is one from lesson time:

(Highest point in Lvov. Dark photo, but fun memory.)

The teaching was good and deep, and I actually also had fun, too. Last time I was sick and too homesick to enjoy myself. We studied child psychology, grace based parenting, leadership, autism and ADHD, and more with some wonderful teachers from Holland. And we had some time to explore Lvov.

Also, one night a local music group invited the Belorussian student, one of the Dutch teachers, and the American student (yours truly) to accompany them to a Christian orphanage. I always love visiting orphanages, but this one was just amazing. I had never been to a Christian orphanage before, and the atmosphere was so different and sweet. Of course, the kids are still from hard backgrounds and still show some of the typical behaviour, but overall, it was much more like a big family than an institution. I hope to get some photos of that evening soon.

Oh, one part was funny there; since we were obviously in Western Ukraine, the kids speak Ukrainian. My friend speaks Belorussian and Russian, I speak Russian and English, and the Dutch teacher speaks English and Dutch. Um, where's our Ukrainian? While the musicians were getting ready, we led the kids in games. One of our games was about household items. We thought we would use an example that everyone knows: a bed. And the kids just stared at us blankly. Then one little girl raised her hand and asked, "What's a bed?" Hah! Fortunately, I at least know household items in Ukrainian, so the game could go on. We laughed a lot, though.

And then, Advent:
While I was gone Raia and Asya decorated beautifully. It's all very simple this year. Will started reading aloud from the Jesse Tree book I had bought before I left. (Boo. The Kindle version doesn't have all the pretty pictures, but we are enjoying the words.) Also, I ordered some modelling clay that hardens in the oven to make the symbols from. Since I've been home, we've started working on that, just a bit at a time. Our younger three love "lepka" at art school, so this is a real treat for them, and I think we'll be able to pull Jaan into it, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Music school and Agape school

(Photo from Raia's teacher)
Raia performed beautifully at a music school concert last night. Her exams were last week, and she has her first ever contest coming up soon. After last night, they also asked her to play at a concert at the museum tomorrow night. It looks like they don't have an accompanist for her, though, so that might not come off. She's busy, though!

Jaan has also been very busy. His exam is next week, and his teacher is working him like a slave driver to get him ready. He's had lots of extra lessons and check ups with her. She even told him that he has to get a haircut. (I did not pay her to say that. ) Pray for him, please; he's feeling kind of stressed. The exam will be either Monday or Tuesday. I'm including a video of him practicing at home. He's not too happy with his electric piano for this piece, because he can't do all the louder and softer bits right, and he doesn't have it perfected yet either, but he said that I could share, with those caveats. It's just practice.

And then Agape school: I'm leaving tomorrow for the second session. It's in Lviv again this time. The teacher is one that Will really enjoyed when it was his turn to study: Jan, from Holland. You can pray for me, too: that I won't be so tired and homesick this time, and that I'll be able to keep up with the part of the translating that I've agreed to do, since the teacher isn't Ukrainian this time.

Music school, Agape school, and... oh, yes, homeschool. I need to get back to making lists and plans for certain children to work on while I'm gone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Seven quick takes: Updates

I was looking back over what I've written recently, and I realized that there are many updates that I can give. So, in no particular order, here are continuations of bits that started earlier....

:: 1 ::

Bogdan: I thought we had gotten over the difficulty of going to art school. It's gotten even worse now, though, so please pray for him (and me). He actually cries.  That's only for about a minute, though; I listen outside the door. Strangely, he's loving it more and more, too. If I ask him at the end of an art school day what his favourite thing was, he's sure to say "School!" Or, this week, when he had a cold and had to stay home, he moaned about not being able to go. So, he does really enjoy it, getting there is just an ongoing struggle.

:: 2 ::

Karina: Her family is so kind to share updates with me. I love hearing about how she's blooming in her new family. She's ice skating every week now! Even though she can't walk on her own yet. Amazing. And she's just so beautiful:

:: 3 ::

Oksana: She came through her surgery well, and is in the midst of her recovery period. It's still a long road ahead, but she is doing well. We've talked with her Skype since the operation, and that is good for all of us. I also took Will's computer and our internet out to the orphanage again, so that all the kids she grew up with and some of the workers could talk to her.

There are a few more photos of her here.

:: 4 ::

Another family: I've only barely mentioned them here, but I know some of you were already praying. Another family has been here adopting. We got to help some with babysitting their other kids, and also we just enjoyed spending time together. Asya really hit it off with one of their daughters and was sad to see her go. They're in Kyiv now, almost done with the whole process and ready to go home in the next few days.

:: 5 ::

Orphanage: What should I tell about here? I continue to visit on Saturdays, do a lesson/play time with the older kids, and then feed and hold little ones. Recently a sweet internet friend collected and sent a bunch of coats, and I'm excited to get those delivered out there on a day when my favorite worker is on duty. I'm also working toward a visit to the boys who have been transferred--I want to take Will and Jaan to visit them--but I have a lot of details to pull together for that.

:: 6 ::

Will has had some pretty intense busy times lately, but that slowed down a bit now. He coordinated arrangements for two groups visiting in October, and he worked with a publishing company on getting some curriculum published in Russian. Somehow that doesn't sound like much, but it was. Now he's back to working on all kinds of smaller projects, at least for now.

:: 7 ::

I had mentioned that Raia's schedule this year might be too much. So far, she's thriving on it, even with more classes than she had started with. Mondays and Tuesdays wear her out, but she recovers and makes up for it during the rest of the week.

Was there anything else that I started writing about and left you curious?

Monday, November 02, 2015

A week with us

We have a pretty busy weekly schedule. There's a chart on our refrigerator to help us keep track of where everyone is supposed to be at what times. Every morning we do our regular school subjects at home, and then after lunch there's art and music school. And here is what that schedule is now:

Mondays are the longest days. Raia leaves right after lunch and walks to the music school for balalaika and then piano. When she finishes there, she heads over to art school for painting and master classes. Our school-week life works on a big triangle: home is the top, music school at the south-west point, and art school/Agape office/church at the south-east point. By the time Raia is done at art school, it's very dark out, so Will walks her home. (He was already there in the Agape office anyway.) Bogdan also has two hours of preschool at the art school on either Monday or Tuesday, it alternates. Jaan or I take him and pick him up, because he finishes well before Raia.

On Tuesdays Asya has painting and "lepka" (modelling? clay work?) at art school. Raia has solfeggio and music literature, and Will has to get her from that, too, since it doesn't end until after 7:00. Sometimes Jaan goes to get Asya from art school, sometimes I do, now that it's dark when she's done.

Wednesday is just choir for Jaan at music school--he rides his bike there and back--and painting and lepka (and chai!) for Bogdan at art school.

On Thursdays Raia has balalaika and Jaan has piano. Now Raia has a new art class, too, and we're trying to figure out if it's better for her to come home afterwards or just go straight to art school... slowly.

The only thing on Friday is Jaan's group choir class. And we prepare for Saturday.

Saturday! Asya and Raia go to art school together at 9:00, but Raia's classes don't start until a little later. They're often away from home until 3:00 or so, if the church children's choir is practicing after art school. Jaan has solfeggio and music literature, and gets back about the time the girls do. I go to the orphanage. Then every other we week have "English fellowship" with the missionary families, too. Saturdays are the busiest days and the most fun.

The art school has been posting lots of photos on their VK page. Here are a few of our kids that I have particularly liked:

Plus, here are some more from one of Raia's classes and one of Asya's.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Back to normal?

After a few weeks of whirlwind, I think we're settling down a bit. Ever since I left for my week in Lviv at the Agape school, I haven't been able to catch my breath. First was that week away for me, then we had a wonderful visit from Will's parents plus a family here adopting at the same time, plus some other stuff thrown in there, then straight back into our whole usual school schedule. Now it's fall break for the music school, so we're down to just homeschool and art school. Even art school stops tomorrow. So, I can take a deep breath now.

As far as sharing the grandparent visit, Will did a wonderful job of that on Facebook. You should be able to enjoy his albums there, even without a Facebook account. Here are the links:

Lots and lots of photos, and some amusing commentary!