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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My State-side B-day!!!

While I have two minutes left to my b-day in TEXAS, I will post a beautiful picture of my friend--Valentina and her two boys---Nikita and Timothy---celebrating for me State-side.

Thanks for sending! I love it!!!

I got a new camera(pocket size) and earrings!

Just color!
Katie in black and white!

Mark with Sepia on
Our map with night vision on...
I asked John for a new small camera...I find that with 4 kids and riding the metro and buses and trams...I 'd rather not have to tote around too much. So, my current camera is very nice, but a bit bulky to bring with me(it's our video camera too). John found a small camera that is awesome! Here are some of the things it can do---Black and white, sepia, night vision, negative style. I also have noticed the hoops and hoops of earings that Russians, of course, I need to be in high fashion, right??? So, now I have medium sized hoops for earrings. They are silver!
Lena is making me a carrott cake---YUM YUM!! She also gave me some yummy smelling shower gel from Germany! I didn't get to bring any of my gels with me b/c of too much weight, so I am loving the shower gel!
My latest observation about used to be that I would feel like it was my birthday on that particular day---you know, that special feeling all day long---, but in the last five years or so, I think I could actually forget my b-day during the day!! Does this happen when one has kids or when one ages???
By the way, this is starting to be funny---no hot water today!! Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Future Master's's a true sign of his calling!

He pulled the trash can over and started drumming on our trash can. A true sign of his calling!! Oh, can you tell the size of our itty bitty trash can---Sarah---what do you think now of our old trash can??? It was huge-eh?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Birthday!! and YOUR Part in it!

Ok, my lovely Aunt Mary gave me an idea! She sent me birthday wishes! She said they might enjoy cake in my honor! So, my birthday is tomorrow Sept 30th!! Since I cannot be with any of you to celebrate---you can eat a piece of chocolate, cake, pie, cookie, have a cup of tea or coffee or anything in my stead and send me a picture of you doing it! I will post what I get from people on a blog!!! If you don't have my email...just leave me a comment and we will try to arrange something...I don't want to post my email to make it public.

Oh, and I share my birthday time with my beautiful neice Mary Claire--September 29th and my friend's little girl Chloe---Sept. 30th., and a few others happy birthday to these two beautiful girls and more!!!

Hot water---I didn't know it was such a delicacy!!

Ok, so if you have read the blog on mosquitos and cold water, you will know that we didn't have hot water for about 4 came back on for about a day and then it left for about 4 more days...the days run that I am calculating the amount of days without hot water, I don't think I knew at the time it was almost 8 days. So, my missionary self was very much complaining last night to Lena about how miserable it was to go without hot water. What a great attitude, eh? I had to revisit all those great Pastor Brooks teachings on attitude determing my altitude!! Ok, so this morning, I had to have a chat with the Lord and repent for my complaining and selfishness! I was on a terrible roll last night.

Well, lo and behold...last night about 9 or 9:30(after all that emotion expressed)--guess what happened--the Hot water was turned back on!!!!!! Oh what a relief!!!! I hurriedly took a hot shower after Vera was done with hers(when it's hot, it can be really hot!!!---there is a key to balance here!) I can't tell you how much it was sooooo nice to enjoy hot water. So, instead of starting school right away this morning, the girls are taking showers this morning before we start!!! We don't want to waste this good hot water. Are you laughing with me or at me yet????

When Mark woke--he came and told us---the hot water works!!!! It's funny when it comes from the mouth of a child.

So, the scripture about being content in all circumstances comes to have new meaning...I will need to be content EVEN WITHOUT hot water!!! (only with the Lord's grace though is this possible!!). I think next time the hot water goes out, I will just slow down my life and take the time to boil the 3-5 pots of water and enjoy a hot bath and life with out luxuries. I know not having even cold water (like some parts of the world have to endure) is something I think I would need way MORE grace from the Lord to endure. So, I will praise the Lord with hot water and with out it! Pray that I can actually put this into practice if I need to!!! I pray that Lena does not have to endure my complaining either. No hot water is "suffering" for her too!

I will keep everyone posted, but as of right now, life is nice---WE HAVE HOT WATER STILL!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dorm visit

In Russia, kids that have been in the orphanage for part or all of their lives go to live in a "dorm" and study a vocational skill after they are of age(around 16) to leave the orphanage. Last night, I went with Lena to visit some of the first year girls that have just started their studies and have just left their orphanage. This transition is big for them...some of them are leaving long time friends.

We met some lovely girls there. They were quiet at first, but by the end, some of them had shown us their photo albums and chatted with us. Lena spoke most, b/c I, of course, do not know enough Russian yet, except to say hello, my name are you! We had a wonderful time meeting these girls who were all about 16. Lena gave them her number and told them they were welcome to come visit us today. Two of them are coming!!! They just called Lena and said they would come:). How nice that they would want to come see us again. We will go again to their dorm on Monday. I really enjoyed our visit and look forward to seeing them again today and Monday too. I pray that they feel very loved when they come see our family.

Rye Bread---would you eat it everyday? would you eat it with syrup?

Ok, for the last three weeks, we have been eating Rye bread...for the first two weeks, we didn't even know it!!! No, it didn't taste like wheat bread, but we just didn't recognized the twangy, we do. It's not too bad though...especially when making french toast with it!! Yep, I made french toast this morning with Rye bread! The kids have not said anything about not liking the bread, but it is a bit hard for them to chew...they have said this, but the taste is not bothering them...they are so accomodating in this new culture! They are doing awesome! They amaze me at their ease in adjusting!

My friend Valentina has said that Americans don't eat a whole lot of variety...I think I agree now that I didn't before. I have not had so much cabbage or mayonnaise is my life!! Not that Russians eat so much of a variety, it's just a different variety from Texas or that good ole--Mexican food!!! We have eaten a few new is a start on the list of new foods: Beet soup, cabbage, goulash, rice porridge for breakfast, buckwheat porridge--not a fav of John's!, lots of different kinds of cookies and chocolate, crab salad, pelmeni(we had this once in Texas--a gift from Valentina--John's favorite---it's like pork/beef ravioli w/o marina)...and the list will go on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mosquitos and Cold Water!!!

The last few days, we have been without hot water but not without mosquitos. You would think that it might be no big deal for us native Texans, but oh no!!! We have finally plugged in somethings into the outlets that are supposed to help kill the mosquitos and still be safe for kiddos. Well, it might be helping, but we need more of them!!! We have only two right now! The kids have one in their room for at night, but we snag it out of their room during the day for the kitchen and living room. Maybe some of it will stay in the air!! We are now going to spray all of us with mosquito repellant and really act like we are camping til it gets cold enough to kill off the mosquitos. Oh, to smell like Off!!!! Don't you wish you were here to hug us!!???

We have lived without hot water for 4's finally back on, but we did boil some water and make some warm bath water for all of us. Are we good at camping or what?

If you want to ask questions, ask...or if you want pictures of something, ask!

Here is a picture of an apartment building next to ours(I took the picture looking out of our window of our balcony!)...looks similar to ours...well, all the apartments look similar to me. I haven't brought our camera out doors yet!

The kids' room

Katie is our photographer for the Bull Kids' enjoy the art work! The girls clothes cabinets and the desk in the middle. Mom had not made it to clean the desk before the picture. OOPS!!
The "Bunk Beds"...Katie sleeps on top and Matthew on bottom. All the blankets from the sleeper couch get piled on Matthew's bunk during the day.
The view of the window that faces out to the balcony. The balcony is an enclosed balcony, by the way.
This is our infamous sofa bed from IKEA...unfortunately, it doesn't look all that neat and tidy...the kids like to play, what can I say. The pillow is down, but should be up near the back. We leave the sheet on the bottom, so it's one less thing we have to do at night to get ready for bedtime.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our Team---part of it:)

Arturo, Volva, Mary, John
Nina, Vera, Marina, Karen, Lena
Lucya, Losha, Karina, Misha

These are all the family home leaders/counselors and Lucya(she helps soooo much in all that we do), Losha and Misha(boys from family home) and Karina--Arturo and Nina's daughter.

Sorry, I haven't posted lately, I will do something more soon:).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Did you know we now have a trash compactor?

In honor of my friend Joanne and all of you who are like me and enjoy seeing pictures so we can understand daily life---I am blogging about how we take out the trash. By the way, my friend Sarah and many others have said that back in Texas, I had a small trash can--well, now, I have an even smaller one!!!!
I asked one time before knowing how trash was deposited, if we wanted to make the trash bag bigger then take it out when it was more full. Well, nothing was said, but I tried stuffing one to the fullest and then realized the reason the trash can needs to be the size it is!!!

Here is where we take our trash. It is located outside our apartment down about 7 or so steps. It's a lovely mint green---it looks like a pipe and this pipe goes down through each floor with an trash opening(which by the way, stays shut). Nope, it doesn't smell...I think it dumped below the first floor into the "dump" and then picked up by the trash collectors.
So, you open the lid, then you put your "small" bag in the hole. If it doesn't drop down automatically, you use a stick on the side of the pipe(I think it might be an old broom handle)....

and you push it down the pipe!!! Now, we have a trash compactor. It's actually quite nice.

So, don't you feel like you are here with me?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When you don't have a gym membership...

Matthew says---"Come on, you're almost there!!" Matthew had done his twenty sit ups on the bed and now it was John's turn. Katie is on the other side of John doing her math! Fun Fun!!!

Pictures from Airport...(Ok, so they are two weeks old!!)

Thanks to Steve and Deana for the entertainment!! The kids are watching Madeline on the portable DVD player given to us by the lovely Hovinds!

Lunch boxes that we packed full of snacks kept us from spending too much in the wayyyyyyy pricey German airport. Over there a dollar is worth 50 cents and we felt it. We spent $6 for a much needed water!!! Can you believe it???

Funny--sometimes we think this way...

I hate to say this is sometimes a way we think---but it's true. We need to think or pray the opposite-eh?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Praise the Lord for WD 40!!! and free tickets to ballet

Our door has been soooo loud in squeaking noise. Not good when you have little kids and you have to wake up sometimes in the middle of the night for them. So, John was exploring the things on the balcony and he found some WD 40!!! Woohoo!---there is soooo much that is out there! Someday I will get out there and organize for our friend Nancy!

I love fixing things around here. We joke about one of our purposes here was to clear things out. We have already gone through about 1/4 of a closet and gave some things away!!! We have empty shelves now!!! I am by no means a perfectionist, but I have grown to love order and space(empty space!). Harder to do with this apartment, but still very do-able!!!

Oh, by the way, we have yet to go to the grocery store Lenta(we only go once a week to that particular one), we went to the ballet instead! Ha! We were sitting in the sixth row thinking---now this is "suffering" for the Lord---funny! We used to joke about John's parents suffering for the Lord in Hawaii when they were in missionary school years ago--and we went to Swan Lake for free!!! It was beautiful:). We got the free tickets from one of the foreign touring companies that we evidently have connections with through a translator and Marina(our "boss). John and I went with our girls, Vera and three other kids from the other family homes. John did a ballet performance in our lobby of our cracked Vera up....she is probably thinking that we are a very silly family. Well, ETA PRAVDA---("It's True" in Russian!)

Love to all of you...may you sleep well right now. It's 2 in the morning back in the lovely state of Texas!

Hi to all my family and friends that read the blog---It makes me smile to see your cities pop up on my visitor map:).

Monday, September 15, 2008

This week--what do we have planned??

Well, just so you kind of know a bit of our schedule for this week...we have a few things happening in addition to our normal school day.

Today: John went to get a router for our computer and Lena's so we can both be online at the same time. (I forget these needs/conveniences---when we only had one computer in the house before coming here.)
When he gets back we go to Lenta( the store like Walmart/Sam's cross) might be bigger than a Sams---they sell motorcycles too!!! This takes about 2-3 hours total and we make the trek on a tramvi(long i)...that's how you say tram in Russian. Today, I am taking a suitcase(small, of course) with me--it's not too unusual to see people toting these around b/c they have no car. We are realizing how much food we generally eat---b/c we are running out of food often:). We are working on "snack" ideas. Thankfully, we have a small store about a few blocks away that we frequent for milk, cheese, bread, fruit...when we run out. It's a tad bit more expensive so we try to get most at Lenta. The family homes really want to teach the kids how to live on a small budget.

Today or Tomorrow: Lena will meet with the counselor from the dormitory we will visit to get permission to visit in the weeks to come. The dormitory that we will go visit is where orphans stay after graduating from the orphanage. They stay here while they go to school/university. We have been told it's not a very desirable place to more reason we might add a few more girls to our humble abode in the coming weeks.

Friday Night: Meeting with the family home counselors---here oo menya(this is how you say at "my place" in Russian).

Saturday at 3---kids from a nearby orphanage(10 of them or less) will come over with some food they purchased from a market that day and cook with us. These will be girls from ages 7-15. That will be fun! This particular orphanage that is bringing the girls actually has caring counselors and they try to prepare them somewhat for life after graduation---something that is rare in the orphanages.

Sunday--visit another Russian church called Harvest.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our humble abode!

Ahhhh....Pictures at last--so you can picture us here:).

This is our entrance way...see all the shoes. Russians take their shoes off at the door and keep on socks or put on slippers. That is our front door(well, our second out of three!).
This is our room...yep, it's pretty small:), but it works. Lena's room is the same size...but I didn't take a picture of it. We still have one suitcase at the back of our room that needs to go out to the balcony...someday. This is the first door on the right of the entrance hallway.
This is a short hallway to the kitchen...the last door is the toilet room---yep, the toilet is not part of the bathroom. The door closest in the picture is the bathroom where the shower/tub and sink and washer is. Yep, it's all in there!! Not much standing room, but it works!
Our kitchen! Our beautiful kitchen table...that seats six, but we put 8 around it! HA!! This is my only source of opportunity as my father would put it!!This is a picture to show how we have hidden our dryer in the kitchen behind the door to the kitchen and perfectly in the corner. I will post later about how the dryer works...very different than what I am used to using, but it's great---Thanks to Nancy's church for buying it for the apartment!!
Our little stove...awesome to cook with gas! Makes me think of my have to click a button and blow on it to light for about two of the burners. Gas is included in the rent of the it doesn't cost anything extra. Too bad our washer and dryer are electric.

Matthew enjoying something!
Our living room! The first door on the left of the entrance hallway. The kids are doing school. This is where Vera and the other two girls(when we actually get more kiddos) sleep. The pink chair folds to a twin and the sofa is a sofa bed.
The longest shoe horn we have ever seen! Random picture.
I will post a picture of the kids room later, but that's about all for our apartment...remember it's about 7-800 sq feet.

Back to Life

Well, our computer has been fixed!!! I am sitting here in front of the tv about to watch a figure skating Russian, of course:). I catch a few words here and there!
I am going to try to download some pictures soon. Now, we can use skype and get calls free from the states! YIPEE!!! A connection that is greatly appreciated.

Today, we met a counselor from an orphanage we will work with soon. She met us at an expedition for fashion--Katie and Melissa came with me and saw their first European fashion show. Very interesting! John had the boys with him to pick up the computer. Fun day!

Tomorrow we try a church called All Nations. It has English/Russian translation!

Love to all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Still alive and kickin'!! Very long post!!

I have a few hours to myself--well, myself and four kiddos--but now a days that is to myself. John is not working over here in Russia, so life has readjusted in many ways. We wake up later, get to see Daddy almost all day and more things. It's really different but good too! So, what is our schedule like these days? Very different from day to day. We tried to start school on Monday, but really need a printer and the one at this apartment appears not to work???? So, we might be making a purchase at Lenta(Russian version of a cross between Costco and Walmart). So, we have done some school, just not our particular curriculum. So far, we have done Reading, writing and Arithmetic---just the basics, but it's something.
Right now, Lena went with John to drop off our computer and the "family home" computer to be fixed by a brother of a friend of ours in town. Nope, we are not just dropping it off with just anyone:). I can't wait til it is working b/c then I can post pictures.
Lena will go with John and then continue on to church tonight. They don't have children's service on Wednesday, so we will be staying home. Vera has gone to her church too. So, tonight we will enjoy a quieter family evening home alone. It's funny to think of being home with your family as alone---but it is for now.

Yesterday, we had a meeting with the group we are involved with here and we met other Americans, Brits, Canadians, and more...all of us spoke English, most spoke Russian too. Anyways, what a great time to be with other Christians and see other families that felt the call to come over around the same time. There is one family with a 12 year old and 7 year old! We are going over to their place tomorrow and will eat dinner with them. They came at the end of July! It's so nice to see that God does work with many people on the same "theme" or calling ---so we know we aren't alone.
So, for this meeting at 10am, we had to leave at 8:30!!!! No, it's not that far away, but with taking the metro and buses at "rush hour" time, you need that much time to get there!!! We were on time!!! Russians are not the most "on-time" people reminds me of my parents when they said the American Indian time was "ish"...that is the way it is over here. Some people are on time, some are not. We were gone from 8:30 til about 4ish:). We even ate at a Restaurant by ourselves--ok--no we didn't order in Russian, there happened to be a lady there that knew English who could help us. Thank the Lord!!! She even helped us order something for Katie without milk. By the way, this has been doable(is that even a word??) to eat without milk products.

Every day here, we are growing to love the people more and more. God has so much of a bigger picture than we typically do, so it's nice to be able to rest and rely on His time and His will/purpose.

If you are wondering how to pray for us??? Here are some prayer points to consider in prayer:
Basic needs: Computer to be fixed(screen doesn't work), Interenet connection so we can call home. Discipline needs: balance between school and scheduling things to do--visiting orphanages/dormitories. Spiritual: Continue to call upon the Lord daily...b/c as a friend of ours said today---this work with orphans---you can't do on your own, you must rely on the Lord. This is true of all ministry in Russia or US or anywhere!

I also want to end with this--thank you for all your prayers, comments here and emails too!!! We so appreciate all of them. We love you and hope you all are doing well. If you check this blog and think of someone who doesn't typically check blogs--you might remind them to check so they can see this post. Thanks!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Well, We made it:)

We have arrived. Our flight went great! The kids did awesome, except Matthew didn't sleep except for the first few hours. The rest he was up---until the last leg(first leg is the long 9 1/2 hours) Then, we have a lay over---the last 5-10 minutes he had a melt down, while we were boarding. He was so sleepy, he was standing, but not really---so, I had my purse(heavy), my camera bag, and one carry one, and I picked him up so he could sleep. Which he did--right away. In the middle of the two and 1/2 hour flight, he woke up crying ---like he had an upset stomach. So, we did the benadryl , upset stomach medicine and John got him to sleep on him. He didn't do very well through customs---maybe a blessing--they put us at the front and wisked us through---they couldn't take the crying either!!

After he got into the car to go to our apartment, he slept for over 14 hours. This is great, but right now, he is just now going to sleep---it's midnight here!!! So, let's just say--he is not fixed yet.

Ok, so, our apartment is great--very small--but very nice on the inside. As Melissa put it---it's the shortest house!! I thought that was too cute.

John went to Ikea today and bought a futon for the kids(we have a bunk bed already). He even got one HALF OFF!!! Funny, Daddy still has his skills in Russia for "a deal!" He left the house at 11am to go to IKEA(1.5 hours of traveling away) and to the computer store to fix our dead computer screen--it had travel issues too!!...he didn't get back til 6pm! We ate dinner at 10pm
This is not a habitual thing thankfully.

Just in case you were wondering---we are normal people and we are emotional---send on those prayers for grace:)

Monday, September 1, 2008

We leave tomorrow!!

Well, the time has arrived...our house is almost cleared. We are packed and ready to do the last few things tomorrow. I feel like the hurricane has hit my life--haha!!! The Lord is in control and thankfully He is the peace giver!! I am grateful to be married to a very smart man who can think when I can't!!! We have all our ducks in a row(we think we have remembered most things--at least we hope!!).
My parents came up for the last visit for now til we come back. They were lifesavers and helped with the kids and paint and putty! Thank you Mom and Dad!
Ok, I think that's all I have time for---we haven't answered our phone all the time, b/c of being so busy and I know I haven't posted or checked email that much either! I love mail, so that is a hard thing not to do for me!!
Love to all!!! See you from the other side of the Ocean!!