Saturday, December 23, 2017

Concert Week

This past week was full of music school concerts. Tuesday was folk instruments, Thursday was Jaan's teacher's concert, and Friday the whole winds and strings departments had a big concert at our church. That was Asya's first time playing her flute at a concert.


Their duet
Getting an award
A game
Saint Nikolai
Some of the performers
(better photo here)
Saying poems
Duet with his teacher
Another duet
Svetlana Mikhailovna and her students (and Raia)

Asya her special guest
Now we're done with music school events. They still have a few more lessons before holiday break, though. Then there's the art school celebration tomorrow, lots of church children's choir, and the theater performance that Jaan will be in. It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 2017

Since we're about halfway through Advent, I guess it's time for me to write about it. I like to have these posts to record what we've learned and thought about during Advent every year.

This year we're doing a very simple Jesse tree with the Jesus Storybook Bible. The Old Testament stories all end with a note of looking forward to Jesus. Having everything ready to go in Russian makes it very easy. Bogdan colors the little pictures from here and we stick them to our mirror. We sing the songs that have become tradition in our family--Адвент наступает and O, come, o, come Emmanuel in several languages--and we're learning Lo, how a rose ere blooming, which fits well with Jesse tree readings. Then we're also listening to The Christmas Mystery again, like we did our first year in this house.

Our Advent wreath is different again this year. The pyromaniacs in the family just couldn't leave candles alone, and Bogdan and Asya needed a craft to do, so they came up with this:

The stump is a spontaneous creation of Bogdan's from the first day of December, when we were reading about how a "shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse." I added a quote from Ann Voskamp, whose books I checked out for myself, but have also been sharing with our older kids.

And that's that: Advent 2017. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017


Last Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving with our extended family of Americans and Canadians. It was a really fun, beautiful, delicious, and musical day.

I ordered sweet potatoes to share, which was a Thanksgiving first for us. Bogdan helped me to prepare one set of them like my grandmother used to with toasted marshmallows on top. We made another batch like candied yams. Yum!

Another fun first was a family concert after the meal. Lots of the kids and some of the adults shared music, and one family did a funny skit. That really added to the fun of the day.

Comparing their flutes
Trying piano and balalaika together
Dinner conversation
The concert

Trying a ukulele afterwards

Also, the past few years we have celebrated Thanksgiving late, which means that it falls on Holodomor remembrance day. I now put a memorial candle on the table with every Thanksgiving meal. At first it seemed strange to remember famine victims in the midst of such abundance, but then I realised that it actually fits with the theme very well. The first Pilgrims were thanking God for a good harvest after a hard start when half of them died. We can definitely remember tragedies while being thankful at the same time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

An addition to yesterday's post

Raia's teacher sent us some photos that are better than the one I got:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A musical morning

We didn't get much regular school done today, but there was lots of music! This morning Jaan and Raia played at a little concert for one of the schools in our neighbourhood.

I should have started the video a bit earlier, because they introduced Jaan and Raia with a riddle, so all the kids yelled "balalaika" as the answer right as Raia took her seat. It was cute. I missed that part, but you can hear the song they played:

Jaan and I left right after his part in the concert to go to Asya's lesson. We needed help with his accompaniment for her first little song and learning to get her flute in tune with our piano.

It was fun to see Asya's teacher working with her some, too.

We cancelled Jaan's piano lesson for today, but he and Raia still have ensemble to go to. Like I said, lots of music today.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Askania Nova

I mentioned that we were planning a trip; now we've returned from it. We went to Askania Nova for a few days. It was wonderful! True, it was a little cold and almost the end of their season, since they close for the winter next week. However, fall is beautiful there, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. We have so, so, so many photos, that I hardly even know how to narrow down which to share.

On Wednesday we took a bus out to the park. It's a three-hour trip, which is so easy now, with these big kids that we have. I thought we would start off in Askania Nova with visiting the zoo part, but they had closed early, so we wandered through the dendropark (arboretum?) and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The most beautiful view there

Then we went back to our hotel, ate dinner in the cafe, had a dance party in the room (!), and kind of froze for the rest of the night, which is the downside of going this late in the year.

The next day we went on a great walking excursion. The steppe "safaris" are already done for this year, but we were able to hire a guide for the dendropark and zoo. She was really good. First she showed us all over the dendropark, told us about the history and many of the plants and animals. Just when she was listing off the wild animals that live there--squirrels, rabbits...--Jaan pointed out a rabbit running by!

Then, after a quick break, our tour guide took us on to the zoo part. Oh, first she had the kids collect lots of acorns to feed the animals. There were signs everywhere saying not to feed, but she said that we won't feed them, we'll just "treat" them; plus, we were with her, so it was okay.  We started with feeding walnuts to the peacocks, who then followed us through the rest of the zoo. Then we moved on through the other birds, including a secret backstage visit to the ones that had already been removed from display for the winter, and then to the the larger animals.

Asya was cracking more nuts for the peacocks.

A highlight was meeting Borya. The backstory is that before we left home one of our neighbours said, "Tell the goats there hi from me." That neighbour is our kids' "Uncle Borya." Then, when we got to the area with the goats, our guide called this one (below) over to the fence, explaining that he's her favourite... and his name is Borya! We told him hello from Uncle Borya, took lots of photos of him, and bought a magnet with him (or one like him) on it for the human Borya.

Who knew that bison like acorns?
When our tour was over we had lunch with this very rude guy in the background, constantly threatening to spit on us:

Next we went to the wild bird area, which hadn't been a part of the tour.

By the time we were done there, we were cold and tired, so we went back to the hotel for a short rest and warmup, before our planned time of painting that beautiful scene we had noticed the day before: the green meadow with twilight, fall colors, and the moon. Raia, Asya, and I painted until it was completely dark. Then we all had another nice dinner at the hotel cafe.

For Friday I had planned that we would have some more time in the park, but the midday bus the internet listed isn't real, so we had to leave early. Plus, one of Raia's friends had called to invite her to a birthday party. We had another three-hour bus ride, which took a different route than the one on the way out. This one should have been called The Steppe Village Tour. Lots of the roads it covered were dirt tracks through fields. Very scenic. As we came into Kherson and passed the mall, we pushed Raia out to find her friends and the birthday party, while the rest of us continued on to the bus station and home. Raia got home from that party just in time to go to the yearly American/Canadian girls sleepover. See why she actually wanted to stay home yesterday?

And that wraps up our lovely fall holidays.