Vitaliy’s hobby

Vitaliy’s hobby is his aquarium. I could go on and on about how he’s developed it in small ways here and there. But it’s something he just naturally enjoys. And not only he.


I think a banya is like a sauna. I never did much by way of saunas, but I think that’s the equivalent. Banyas are big things here.

The heating room Vitaliy and the guys built onto the Center doubles as a small banya. Vitaliy went, then he started taking the girls, and now I’m going.

Well, confession, I’m going to try doing more sportish things with Vitaliy in the upcoming years, as kids get more independent, and so I thought banya would be a good place to start. It’s not a sport, but it’s … close enough for me, ha ha. I did a banya once before with Vitaliy years ago, and I didn’t really enjoy it— it’s an altered physical state— and I was NOT about to jump into A POOL Of fREEZING COLD WATER in between my overheating/overhumidified experiences. But I’m actually starting to plan on that now. …. maybe after a few years months weeks of regular banya use.

Am I out of my brain?


My children, in their Ukrainian life, love it all, of course. No learning-to-like-it curve for them.

Speaking of Ukrainian life! I remember the time, about 7-10 years of living here, I could finally sip HOT tea– there is a technique to it that I stumbled upon. WeLL, I want to share with the world that I recently learned how to crack/open sunflower seeds with one hand and my teeth, like the Ukr’s do. Yes, buddy, I’m arriving. It makes an amusing conversation with them as I drive (eating sunflower seeds) and tell them this. They all just learned how to do it in childhood, of course. Most of them don’t even remember learning, though one gal said she remembers learning/practicing.

Not sure Upgrade is the correct word, but it’s something like that.

Now that they’re consistently using cursive handwriting to do the rest of their school subjects, we’re starting typing. Today started lesson one. We’re using Peter’s Online Typing Course. I don’t know who Peter is, but I thank him. And I really like how he emphasizes going slowly to gain perfection and confidence, then gaining speed.


We also started Spelling Power, which I bought in the States. Yesterday I watched the intro/how-to disk and gave the girls their survey tests (to approximate grade level) then today we did the placement test. Skyla will be starting first grade, Vika second grade. (Vitaliy may study it, too, to learn the rules of English spelling– at this point, I do all his English written communication.)

I like that I got a program for all grades, all kids in one book and price. I like how it’s research based and human :) They only study words they don’t know, and it teaches them how to study those words, and it’s only 15 minutes a day. And it makes spelling, the subject, interesting (for me, anyway. and you know, I’m realizing how important it is that I, the teacher, am interested in what we’re doing.)

T-Tapp’ing: day 18

How handy that I started this program on Oct 1.

I’m down 21 inches in total so far. I feel changes in my body, but I also have a long way to go still.

Three things:

1. It fascinates me that there is an exercise where you put your abdominal organs “in place.” Not that you feel each organ and put it in its place. It’s more like putting them on the inside of your abdomen instead of letting them stay pooched out.

2. I’ve learned that I have a short torso (measurement between ribs an hip bone), so my innards have less room in there. So I tend to have a big tummy. I am thinking this also accounts for why my “stomach” looks so big when I’m pregnant. It has no where ^up^ to stretch, just out.

3. After doing this 15-25 minute series of basic exercises, I am hot and sweat for quite a while–I mean I sweat for several hours after I’ve exercised and showered. I think this is good. And the more I focus on doing the form correctly, the faster and more I sweat, even though the movements are small.

One “fun” part of village life, and moving into a house that wasn’t lived in for several years, is the wildlife that occupies our rooms.

Our storage-room-turned-bathroom is of particular interest because Vitaliy made the floors warmable, so in winter, guess where the creatures go? Of particular interest was the snake that came in and out through a hole in the floor. He even left his shed skin next to the dryer one day.

Vitaliy covered that hole, so we only know of snakes inhabiting the summer kitchen at this point.

Ukrainian history and architecture note: The summer kitchen is a tiny building outside, not attached to this house, with  a clay stove inside (and sometimes they have gas stoves added) so cooking can be done outside the house in the hot summertime. The clay oven (pechka) in the house was also a major part of the heating system. We removed that oven after a while, though we used it when we had it, just to live romantically. We did leave the gruba which is a fire-heatable wall that warms the house for a long while.

We also have mice living all throughout this house. We had mice sightings :) So weeks ago, Vitaliy put out tons of poison in all these hidden places — so the mice would find it and not Andre. The poison causes the mice to not be able to run quickly, and then it kills them. So we’ve been collecting now-countless numbers of dead and half-dead mice …


Mice, snakes … and Vitaliy and Igor went fishing, so now we have this in our bathtub … a pike maybe?


It’s not Africa, but it’s a jungle out here.

death & drama day

thankfully, few days are like this one.

V’s sister has a tendency to get into abusive relationships. Since we opened our center out here near his family, he’s the one who gets called in a crisis. This evening was a visit to the police station, then to sister’s house of fighting alcoholics (with police), filing police report, learning the laws, driving police and abusive husband back to the jail. …

Then it’s 11:30pm. His phone rings. (My mind runs through a list ofpossible crises–death of church member maybe?) It’s scared sister relating husband’s calls with death threats for when he gets back home (just released from jail apparently). Lock the door and don’t let him in. Call me back….

Then, our former rehab leader turned anti-terrorist operation soldier  has been back visiting or the week, resting, hashing out his issues with Vitaliy. He gets news that 9 from  his group were captured. One day he learns that one was shot, the next day another … and he carries death around with him.

death. drama.


Some people live this way. for almost their entire lives.

And I. It swirls around my heart as I snuggle a newborn, get happy about my girls learning, make vareniki and pelmeni and borshch, listen to God-songs, and watch the yard turn into autumn.

Here are 2 photos of the new area Vitaliy and the guys have been working on all summer.

The new heating room off to the side and the cement floor of the veranda.

IMG_4092 IMG_4093

Thank you, God 👏


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