Thursday, December 30, 2021

Art school

The private Christian art school our children (and I, sometimes) have attended for years is closing. Asya already had her last lesson. Bogdan has his today. Raia is still finishing up working and studying there, but after January 1, it will all be over. Our family is mourning, as are so many other people. This art school has been so much more than a school for us; it's more like family.

Just recently Facebook reminded me of a memory, a post that just says the sixth grade class was making watercolour Christmas cards, but Bogdan is in those photos, and he definitely wasn't in sixth grade. I remember that it was the day after one of my cancer treatments, when everything was also messed up on our residency. I was traveling back from Kyiv, Will was busy with paperwork or something, so Asya's class just took Bogdan in. Also, art school summer camps kept our kids fed, busy, and cared for during my first treatments and times when both Will and I were gone.

Just before we found out about the possibility of closing, I was there to pick up Bogdan one evening, and I took a few photos. Now I'm so glad we have these to remember by! Each time I saw the little kids in Raia's classes, I thought they were so cute, but I didn't take photos until this one:

Also, we have a then and now comparison. This first picture is on our refrigerator, from Asya's first year (or second?) at art school, and the second photo is her not long ago:

Bogdan has especially grown up in this school. I first started him in preschool programs, because he really needed speech therapy, and that was the closest option I could find. He learned to talk, and so much more.

Please pray for us as we grieve all this, for the teachers who need the income they were getting, and for the wonderful director of the school who started it when she was a teen 20 years ago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Big holidays

It's been so long since I've written! I wanted to put up our "first Christmas," but then I remembered that I never said anything about Thanksgiving. Back at Thanksgiving we had planned to celebrate with a few friends. One of them had already said that he would cook a turkey for us. Then an American family new to this region invited us out to their village. We agreed, if we could bring our friends and the turkey. When we got to the day before Thanksgiving, our friend had the turkey, but he was sick. His wife brought it over, and we all prepared it, with his remote supervision, then we went out to the celebration. It was really a nice time together, and the new family has wonderfully cute little ones.

So, now I jump forward to December 25 and also a few Advent photos. (This year for Advent we read The Christmas Mystery again and a Lilias Trotter devotional that was new for us and very good.)

Since Prawin was sick on Thanksgiving, we planned a second round of similar food with them for Christmas. He cooked two chickens: one plain, one Indian style. The Indian one involved making a tiny fire in our kitchen to get a smoky flavour. And we made sure that his wife Masha (and others) experienced pumpkin pie for the first time.

The rest of the photos are here. I really didn't take many that day; I was too busy.

Also, the day before our home "first Christmas" celebration, our church had a really big first: the first time back in the big hall, all together, since the fire in the spring. We got to help with a few more cleanup days leading up to it, and the night before our girls didn't even come home from working. Then it was finally all ready and so beautiful! Here's one video clip from a friend (don't know if this will work?):

Professional photos are here.

While I'm posting, here are links to two video concerts that our kids were in recently: winds and percussion, and bandura.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Unexpected fall holidays

Our fall break from school was supposed to be later, and Will's parents were supposed to be here for it. Kherson turned into a "red zone," though, and everything changed. Art and music school closed (and other schools, but that doesn't affect our family so much), and Will's parents are headed home after their European cruise, instead of coming here.

We're still having a good break, though. The weather is beautiful. Even though all stores and restaurants are closed or limited and so many people are sick, we're enjoying the great outdoors and friends and rest and staying healthy.

I wrote up a schedule for the week on our white board. It says: 
Monday--just rest, i.e. teens sleep and little people play outside together
Tuesday--Hannah (a mother here to adopt)
Wednesday--Botanical garden
Thursday--more rest (and medical stuff for Will)
Saturday--work day at church

So far, I mostly have tons of photos from Wednesday. But first, Tuesday... We had planned to go for a walk with Hannah, her new son who we knew as Sasha, and the friend who is travelling with them. Sasha decided that he didn't want to walk, though, so we sat in their apartment and ordered a delicious dinner. It was so good to spend some time with them before they leave to finish the adoption process and start Sasha's new life in a FAMILY. Sasha is actually a little older than Bogdan; the two of them really seemed to enjoy each other:

We didn't take many photos on Tuesday, but on Wednesday we certainly did. The botanical garden here usually has lots of chrysanthemums. There are less this year, but what is there is beautiful, and I think the fall colours might be more than usual, too.

Of course, Asya and Bogdan touched a cactus;
of course, Jaan had tweezers in his pocket.

Coffee afterwards

Thursday--today--we're resting. Kids are spending time with friends. Will had blood drawn and set up his next doctor appointment.

Tomorrow: this is the really fun part! We are in the process of buying a dacha! If you search back through our archives here, you'll find lots about dacha life, but it's all from a long time ago. When we lived in apartments and had little kids, having a dacha was almost a survival requirement. (Not quite, but almost.) Then we moved here, where we live in a house. Plus, most of the dachas here are farther away and more expensive than what we had seen before. But then, after eight years here, we unexpectedly have a chance to buy a dacha across the river from a family at our church. Will and I went out to see it and decide on Saturday, and tomorrow we're going out as a family. 

The dock near the dacha

It is in a dacha community that is accessible only by boats like these (old news article, but I don't have any photos of my own). At this time of year most days the boat only goes morning and late afternoon, so tomorrow we'll go down to the river at 9:00, cross over and spend the day there.

Then on Saturday we'll go to what will probably be one last work day before the church can start using the main sanctuary again. The floor needs to be washed before the final layer goes down. It's been a long process of recovery since the fire, but it's almost over now. The church needs prayer now more than ever, though, because of other problems. Thank you for praying, and please keep praying.

And a duck photo to finish up here, since she's grown and changed so much:

She's a very good pet, and her shiny green-black feathers are turning out to be very pretty.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

End of summer, beginning of autumn

(First of all, Jaan has his posvidka! He got it the day before his 18th birthday. Thank you for praying! All we have left now is registering him.)

The seasons change and school starts on the 1st of September here. Just before the end of summer we got a duck! Our beloved Shokoladka died in mid-August, and the kids begged for another good duck. It's not the right season for ducklings, but we found someone online who was selling a month-old flock, and we talked him in to letting us take just one. Of course, she thinks we're her flock now, but she's growing very fast and already getting a little less panicky when there's not a human in sight. Hopefully Bella/Lapochka will settle in to being a great little pet, just like Shokoladka was (and hopefully she really is a girl!).

So far, she's gone to the library with Bogdan and swimming with all of us. The last thing Bogdan wanted to do before school started was another trip to the river to swim, so we did that right at the end of summer and took the little duck with us.

(If I can get it off Will's phone, we have one like this
with me, too. Come back later to see it....)

And then school! This year we have...

Bogdan in 4th grade

Asya in 8th grade

Raia in 10/11th grade

Jaan in 12th!

Homeschooling is going beautifully so far. Art school is in full swing, and Raia is working there as well as studying. Individual lessons at music school started right away, and group lessons pick up in the week ahead of us now. Please pray for us as you think of us. School life is wonderful, but it is a lot to keep up with, and I so want to do well.

Also, in case I don't have time to update again before the 17th:

On September 17th I'll have scans and doctor appointments in Kyiv. This is standard follow up. (Remember last time I went was in January?) Please pray for my time there and for my travel to and from. Asya is also going to Kyiv at the same time. We had planned my clinic visit so that she and I could travel together for her to attend a Christian music festival, but then it just got too complicated to make our plans fit together. So, she's going with a group from the churches here, and I'm traveling and staying separately. Pray for Asya's travels and Will and the others at home then, too, please.

Monday, August 30, 2021


 Look at this amazing photo from a camping trip that Jaan just returned from. Those stars!

And then two more photos from the trip:

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Residency process (with update at the end)

I realised that I should probably clarify the process of getting residency here, so anyone who isn't as familiar with it as we are won't be confused. Foreigners who want to live in Ukraine have to gather a bunch of documents, depending on their reason for being here. Then they apply in another country for a D visa and come into Ukraine on that. It gives 90 days to apply for residency. Applying here means gathering another stack of papers, buying more insurance, and so on. We turn all that in, then wait about another two weeks to get the lovely "posvidka" (residency card). Once we have that, we have a month to register at an address, which is always complicated since we rent. Then we breathe a big sigh of relief. And we start over again a little less than a year later. If we can get the timing right, then at least we don't have to leave the country and do new visas; we can usually just renew here now. But all the other steps have to be repeated every year.

So the whole process is

  • Collect documents
  • D visa
  • Collect documents
  • Posvidka (residence card)
  • Registration
  • Sigh of relief

Jaan and Will got Jaan's D visa in Turkey and came back on August 1. Since then we've been collecting the next set of paperwork and trying to turn it in. We're still working on that; I'd really like to have it done before school starts on September 1.

Thanks for all your prayers!

UPDATE: It's all turned in.  Jaan got photographed and fingerprinted this morning, but they found a mistake in his passport translation, so Will and Bogdan went to the notary, then Will and I went back to the notary, and then we went back to turn in the fixed translation, and that's that for now.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Happy birthday to Ukraine!

I have so much that I want to write about, but I'll start with what's current: yesterday was Ukraine's Independence Day, and it was a big one, 30 years!

Our family started celebrating the evening before with a trip out to get ice cream and hear an outdoor concert by the philharmonic orchestra that Asya got to play with in the spring.

Then bright and early the next morning, Bogdan and I went downtown. All the bandura students from the different music schools were singing together at the morning prayer for Ukraine that opened the day's festivities. (Hah. This local news report completely skipped over all the beautiful children, but look who they caught singing the national anthem.) 

Video link (So beautiful!)

The bishop's huge purple cape fascinated Bogdan.

Then we paraded up to the central square, which was full of a display of army, police, fire equipment and more. It was all open for climbing and manned by very friendly soldiers/guards/firemen/etc. I have so very many photos of Bogdan there! Here are just a few. I did put a few on Facebook, too.

When I ran out of steam on the square (it was hot and I don't like war stuff), he and I went to a coffee shop to rest and call Asya. She came out, and the two of them explored everything again.

Then that evening Bogdan took part in another concert. He's been going to rehearsals and working hard for several weeks now, but there weren't enough chairs, so he just sang again, instead of playing. He was exhausted, though: two concerts in one day! This concert was almost right in our neighbourhood, so we had friends there with us, too. And pizza afterwards.

We came home to "blue" and yellow cake, and then crashed.

First thing this morning, though, Bogdan had his bandura out, learning new songs on his own. I guess he's ready for school to start now.

(As I write, Will and Jaan are waiting in line to get an answer about Jaan's residency application. We almost got everything turned in before the Independence Day break, but they didn't know what to do about insurance. Since Jaan's not 18 yet, he can't buy an insurance policy himself. Will bought insurance for him--it has Jaan's name on it--but they didn't know if they could accept it with Will as the buyer. Hopefully we can find out now, and they'll be able to turn everything in.)