Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas from us!

З Різдвом Христовим!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

Today was the big church children's Christmas program. So many children came! Jaan and Raia helped, while Asya and Bogdan participated. I was one of the photographers, so I took hundreds of photos; here are just four of them, one with each of our children in it. We all had a great time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Music update

Raia got a second prize from the contest in Nikolaev that her video went to! They sent us this picture:

Jaan says that since she just sent a video to the contest and didn't go herself, she probably only gets a photo of her prize. I think they'll pass it on to us soon, though.

Raia has been too sick to go to music school or anything so far this week. She went to a wonderful youth conference over the weekend, came home without a voice at all, and then got this cold. Today she was supposed to go with the Agape photo project again, but she had to stay home from that, too. She really enjoyed helping with that at a different orphanage last week. Pray for her to get well soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Music news

I wrote about the school contest that Asya won a first prize in. The week after that she entered a bigger city-wide contest. She was nervous, and didn't do so well, but it was a good experience. Her American friend won, and her friend from church got third place, so she was very happy anyway.

Then Raia entered a contest by video. If you want to watch that, I uploaded it here. I don't know when we'll hear any results from that. And on Friday she won a school contest. Her teacher posted these pretty photos from that:

There was also this concert that she was in.

Saturday Asya performed with the winds orchestra for the first time. I took her and friend early, so I got to watch them rehearse and then stay for the concert to see them perform. It was great! I posted all four songs they played on Facebook.

And did I ever post this photo?

Jaan is a great teacher for Bogdan. He's very patient. However, he doesn't mind using a brotherly karate chop to keep his little pupil sitting up straight. Somehow the photo just looks like he's gently pushing on Bogdan's back, but it's really more active that that. Both boys are working on learning Christmas music now.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Advent of the Lion and the Lamb

Our main Advent book this year is one that I happened to see mentioned online and was able to check out from our digital library: Advent in Narnia. I preread it, because I wanted to make sure it wouldn't take the wonder out of Narnia. (I read a popular book about Narnia early this year, and I thought it was awful to over-analize like that.) This one is full of wonder, though. Of course, we have to reread The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to go with it. My all-time favourite read aloud experience was when I happened to be reading it to our children for the first time at Easter, so that the Narnian Easter corresponded with our Easter. I'm loving it just as much for Advent and Christmas. From the introduction: "My purpose in writing this book is not to help you know Narnia better but to know God better.... I hope that by spending a little time in Narnia this Advent, you will get to know Aslan--and Jesus Christ--better, and to prepare for Jesus' birth at Christmas all the more richly for it."

Then, in the mornings with our school readings, we're also listening to an audiobook of an obscure book (or at least I had never heard of it) just called Advent, or The Good Shepherd by Gunnar Gunnarsson. We're listening and reading in Russian now, but I preread in English.


Funny Advent conversations already overheard (and translated):
A child looking at the December calendar page: "Look! It has the new Christmas!" meaning December 25 (which is new as an official holiday in Ukraine, but still...).
About a song that we know in both Ukrainian and Russian: "What language are we singing in?!" "Surzhyk!"

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Odessa, day 3

Again, this goes back to the end of October, even though we're almost at the end of November now.

Our third day in Odessa was for visiting an art museum there. We don't have many photos, because we couldn't take our camera into the museum. We walked there, and then went through the museum. Downstairs it's classic art, mostly Ukrainian. The kids' art teacher told us about some of the artists. Overall everything was very dark. The pictures were beautiful, but they seemed old and maybe dirty, and just dark. Then, upstairs was an exhibit of art that had been repressed. The colours were wildly bright (and the lighting was better), but I didn't see the same beauty as in the older works.

Raia in the museum
Downstairs: Beekeeper
Upstairs: Communism triumphs over religion

Afterwards we just walked back to the hostel, got our luggage, went to the bus station and had a late lunch near there. Then we headed home. The trip back seemed endless, but we finally got home.

And that ends our amazing Odessa trip!

Monday, November 26, 2018

So thankful... and so overwhelmed

Thanksgiving week was really wonderful and really a lot to keep up with. After being sick for so long, I have been starting to get back on my feet. On Thursday the family currently adopting from Tsyurupinsk arrived to pick up their sons. We had them and their nurse practitioner over for dinner. I did a halfway Thanksgiving meal for them: turkey breast and pumpkin pie.

Then Friday, in addition to our usual orphanage visit, Jaan and I got to be there for some of the process of getting their boys out of the orphanage. They spent that night in a hotel in Kherson, and their little guy had a really rough first night and day out of the orphanage. We tried to help some, and Jaan rode his bike to get medicine for them and deliver it, but they had a really hard time of it. Please continue to pray for them. They're in Kyiv now, hoping to fly home soon.

Saturday was the wonderful expat Thanksgiving that has become such a wonderful part of our family traditions. We didn't take any photos at all, but Jennifer did, and she posted a few.

Then there's a new guy in Kherson, here to learn Russian, and Will's been helping him get set up. Our landladies are trying to sell our house. Both girls have had music contests to prepare for and do. Current events are overwhelming... but let's focus on the thankful part. I am so thankful that two more orphans have families, that we have such wonderful friends here, and that we can live this life.

Happy Thanksgiving! Even if it's a little late, we're still thankful.

And just one more photo of the two boys with their PARENTS:

Both boys have waited 16 years for this.

(Photos are not ours, but they're used with permission.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Odessa, day 2

On our second day in Odessa we went to the "Museum of Interesting Science." It was insanely crowded, probably because of the fall holidays from school, but definitely fun and interesting. First we had a tour, where a guide explained many of the exhibits to us, then free time for the kids to explore everything themselves, then a science show just for our little group. I think this museum was the highlight of the trip for all the kids. For me--since I am the science teacher for half the kids in the group --it was wonderful see the connections they were making; they got really excited about seeing concepts in action that they had read about before.

We ate a late lunch at the museum restaurant and then walked back toward the center for a session of drawing the train station.

After that it was dark and cold, but the kids really enjoyed their long-awaited tram ride back to the hostels. I was feeling pretty awful by then, so I went to bed at our hostel, but Will accompanied the group back to theirs and watched the kids while their teacher shopped for dinner supplies. Then he brought me more Chinese food.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


Our next October trip was a three-day field trip to Odessa with our art school. It was wonderful! (Even though that's where Will and I got so sick.)

The first day we met up with our group at the bus station and got off to a little bit of a late start, because the bus we were supposed to take was cancelled. We got on the next one, though, and made it to Odessa without any more problems. The kids and their teacher were staying in a Harry Potter themed hostel (they loved that!), so we went there first and dropped off all the luggage. Then we started out to find the opera house and lunch in the basement of it. After lunch, the kids and teacher went to their first painting session in one direction, while Will and I went back in the other direction to get more warm clothes for some of the boys. We met up with them later in the park where they were painting. After I got to paint with them for a while, too, we went for a beautiful walk around the port and then back to the hostel. Bogdan was really too young to be in the group, but someone had cancelled out at the last minute. Because of that, there was an extra space already paid for, and they offered it to him. He decided that he could be brave and sleep without me, so we left him and all of them to cook their dinner and eat, while we went off to our own hostel and our own dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Beautiful autumn!
Planning their route from lunch to park