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.