out on a date

we did some shopping first, then went to sit outside at a café. They have  a little playground here which S avails herself of periodically. She is also knitting another little headband for Una– we bought the yarn on our shopping.

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Ok, so I’ve realized I’m half-way with Skyla. She’s nine and 9 + 9 = 18. So. This is wow. And it’s making me value our times together more. Consider our traditions. Big things like that that trickle down into daily life …


It’s one kind of ideal day, I’m sure there are more …

So we did textbook studies in the morning– handwriting, math, grammar, some Russian stuff, science reading, Bible lesson …

So I want to do “creative” stuff, too. We recently read a book about ancient Rome– The Roman Diary– the diary of a young girl that includes lots of little details about culture and stuff. They both loved this book, and Vika keeps re-reading it.

So I asked the girls what they’d like to make based on the book– togas or something …


Skyla’s doing clay vessels (we had a bunch of clay in the yard from when the guys dug a deep septic hole):

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Vika is writing Roman numerals on a scroll:


And I’m making naan– this is not Roman but from India or Africa? It’s a type of bread. My friend made some when I was at her house and I was recently reminded that I want to try it.


I have also realized why Una can cry loudly. She doesn’t cry a lot and is quickly soothe-able, which is nice, but she can cry loudly, even from birth. And I realized it’s because she is the fourth child and has to be able to make herself heard over the constant din.

She’s a smart kid … <3



First of all: Our sweet little крошка (bread crumb) sleeps. (I love Russian/Ukrainian terms of endearment <3 )


I love the enormous tables in this café. We sit and work. He already worked on his sermon, so now this brilliant guy is working out how to make burnable bricks from sawdust— he can get sawdust for free from the nearby lumber company, and he’s reading how to make burnable logs from them– apparently one can do this, and they burn a long time and it’s economical. … Yes, we’re getting ready for winter in the rehab center.


I am working on homeschooling. A good home school doesn’t just happen, especially for me. I have my own ideas and ideals about homeschooling, which probably complicates my situation. But if I could achieve even half of what I dream of and imagine our home schooling being, I would be ecstatic. … Well, no, I would probably still want to feel like a guilty failure, but that’s part of the bane of having ideas and ideals in the first place, I suppose.

Yesterday, for a mere $4.99, I purchased the pdf version of The Type-B Homeschool Planner by Sarah Mae and printed out immediately relevant pages.

Here I am working on stuff:


I like this planner because it’s good on the visionary stuff, which is what I suffer from.  And she eases you into actual day-to-day planning. And with a few years’ experience behind me already, it gets easier to brainstorm stuff and actually be ready for some good changes.

I also spent an undisclosed amount of money on some homeschooling stuff yesterday, which I am excited to receive at some point. I need to write my sister to warn her that boxes will be showing up at her house soon….

So here’s my current “homeschooling mission statement” per The Type-B Homeschool Planner:

In caring, intimate relationships, our family works and studies diligently, exploring ideas and interests with joy, becoming able to create useful and beautiful things, learning about God and His world, gradually understanding the Divinely-made purposes of our lives, and reaping the benefits of organization, cleanliness, and goal-achievement.

It was interesting that she had me list my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, and generally, I have the strength of being a creative person, but in the realm of homeschooling, I feel myself very uncreative–it’s a weakness. Part of it is just lack of interest and energy, so I want to rethink this and see how I can be creative in homeschooling, too, in ways that help the girls learn and also make things more enjoyable for all of us generally.

Anyway … Anything worth doing sure takes a lot of work …

So I’ve starting taking Skyla and Vika out alternately each week– one week I take S out, the next week I take V out.


I had the idea that in order to facilitate conversation, to be “intentional” (to use a good buzzword of the day), I ought to have a few questions I ask them  each time.

But what questions? I puzzled. Of course, being a parent of the internet age, I thought of googling for discussion questions.

However, before I could get around to that, I found myself out with Skyla, sitting across from her. And the Holy Spirit was much better than Google (is there even any comparison?). And three questions just flowed out one right after the other. And now they are my standard questions:

  1. What important things are going on in your life?
  2. What can I pray about for you?
  3. What are your plans for the next week?

We’ve had some good discussions. I write down their answers.

One repeated theme is getting along with Andre–that’s hard for all of us right now. And I’m thinking of some “proactive” things we can do to help our family through this stressful age with A, hopefully not just surviving but all of us growing as a result.

Anyway, I don’t feel free to discuss the details of their lives online behind their backs, but I’ve really liked how this format is working. I hope we do this for years. I have the little book Beautiful Girlhood and another similar one, and I might find it and go through it with them separately, too.

Thumbs up!


Sunday with Una

So V took the three kids to church, and after they left, I started having Big Feelings about my kids growing up and going off without me. … How can they be at church without me??

(And generally, it’s hard having a big family transition, and I have to be sheltering myself away from them for a while rather than being right there for them.)

And I had read war news and so many mothers’ big babies who are being shot down and blown apart. And I thought of the women having their babies in hospital basements while bombs explode above.

Having a baby during a war is … certainly different.

So I listened to music and made cinnamon rolls.

I had started this batch of cinnamon rolls the morning of my labor. I put together the first four ingredients, then saw that my yeast had all been poured out accidently. So I quit, and there the bowl has sat until today. And the girls had bought me new yeast, so I set to, in the quietness, listening to music, Una sleeping off and on on the bed.


Something about dough is comforting … I think the kneading produces oxytocin :)   Rolled out, covered with cinnamon sugar…. Put to rise then bake.


Meanwhile, the quiet house, Una and me:


And I think about how much I love God’s righteousness– that He never lies, never does or thinks evil … How heaven will be amazing, to live in perfect peace love and rightness.

V had thoughtfully put this watermelon on the table for me before leaving … I ate half of it. It’s watermelon season here.


Another lovely friend had gotten me this giant cup for postpartum drinking. I am drinking my apple juice from it even now. She put comforting Scripture verses on the inside lining  (it’s openable).


They weren’t as delicious as I’d imagined– I think I put too much vanilla in the topping—but V and the kids thought them awesome.


I did this a lot:



V and the kids got home. Vika wanted to hold Una, who is always sleeping, so we did this instead:


9pm and V wanted to watch one of the USSR-made war movies he loves … oh no, wait, I mean we watched the news …


we don’t do a lot of tv, but he set up this black and white thing so he can watch the news. We’re talked about if we should leave, when, should we move rather to western Ukraine for a while.


It starts to feel like a dream when watched in fuzzy black and white on a screen. …  But you learn to live with it all somehow and balance all the thoughts and feelings, and control them with truth.

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible, from Revelation:

And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your works,
    O Lord God, the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
    and glorify your name?
    For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
    for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”

We say Una like YOO-nuh. That’s Юна in Russian.

It’s been on my list of baby names for lo, these many years since I studied literature in college. (I was Creative Writing major/History minor for BA, then a masters in Literature.)

Una was the name of a wonderful character in an epic poem we read. I kept mis-remembering it from Beowulf, which is a rather grotesque poem, but my mom thankfully corrected me that Una was in The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser. (Doesn’t “fairy” and “queen” sound so much more inviting, princess-ish, and girlie than “Beowulf”?) She represents the true church and truth (think England, late 1500s).


(Una and the Lion by Briton Rivière [1840–1920].)

Here’s a 1916 prose version of some of Una’s story (by Mary Macleod).

Una is also a girl in the Anne of Green Gables series, I have since learned.  You can read about her here.

Una is from the Latin and means “one,” “together.”

We’re still working on a middle name, however.

baby is here!!!!

I’ll give some birth story with these photos.

For starters, it became very clear that God wanted us to birth in this village house. And in these last weeks, God was stripping off all my fears of birth so I could enter this experience with confidence that His design works and needs no help in most instances. With Andre’s birth, I knew this but I was still plagued by fears and what if’s. This was the most peaceful entrance into family birth (i.e., unattended birth) for me. And it really affected how labor went.


Some type of early labor started around Monday but Tues, Wed, and Thurs were quiet. Thurs night, early labor started but thankfully we all just went to bed and got a good night’s sleep. I awoke around 5am, which I’ve been doing these last weeks. Things were going more, and I wanted V to sleep as much as he could before all this became intense.


Around 8am maybe I asked him to fill the tub for me. These contractions were just like during Andre’s birth– and he’d been posterior and there was no comfort. But this time the water helped.


Andre climbed in with me for a while and sat by my head or played by my feet. I stayed in the bathtub most of the time.

These contractions hurt so much. And V was sitting next to me and I’d hold onto his hand and groan. … But this actually made it worse. Trying to breathe deeply and vocalize put pressure on my uterus and hurt.

One thing I learned from this birth– every other birth, I’d looked for comfort outside of myself– massage, etc.— someone else reacting to my pain with me. But this birth, I learned to find comfort with God inside myself.

A contraction would start, and I would start praying. I would relax my stomach region and start thanking God that this was good, that it was going normally, that this felt good (and it did at some points from all this!), and then just go through a list thanking God for various things. V, who was sitting beside me, actually thought labor had stopped– and I was having my toughest contractions! (But me the doula, clearly heard my change in breathing each time a contraction started– if I’d been the one sitting beside myself, I’d have known every time ;) )

Vitaliy sent the three kids to play at the neighbor’s for a few hours. And I did tell him that I wanted a C-section. Being the non-doula that he is, he said I was crazy to even consider it, to exchange a little pain that will soon be over with pain that would last for weeks. …. But still. These posterior births are, for me, so extraordinarily painful.

It seemed to go on forever, and I kept wondering if each stage of the increasing painfulness would be the final stage … please … (In all, active labor and pushing was about 5 hours, which is a lot better than Andre’s which was about 14 hours or so, not counting even all the early labor.) Vitaliy liked this one a lot better too because I wasn’t yelling/vocalizing so much– and I’d actually been practicing during my pregnancy dealing with stuff without vocalizing much, so I guess that was good.


OK, so the kids are at the neighbors, and I want to try getting out of the water. I won’t show pics b/c I had no clothes. I tried, and this was the time some sort of pushing started. It wasn’t a clear change from regular contractions to pushing. It was mixed at first during the same contraction.

I was soon back in the water, then back out. It was very disorienting and painful.

When I was more clearly pushing, I got myself to the bedroom and squatted at the foot of the bed with my back on the bed or supported by the edge of it.

The baby’s head moved up and down inside me, coming down then getting swallowed back up inside.

Finally, her head crowned. I felt the stretching and burning, but I also felt her forehead bone against my pubic bone, and it was not coming out. It went back up inside after the contraction ended.

Vitaliy, being the figure-it-out guy that he is, had been feeling the head and looking at it because something was strange. Like not a head.

The bag was over the head, and apparently the cord was actually going over the head, too, like from forehead to occiput (back). He broke the water (he said later this was emotionally hard to do–and that he wasn’t telling me everything in the moment),  water released, and I pushed, buddy, with the next contraction, and her head came out! And then her body with the next contraction. How thankful I am now that I wasn’t in a place where the bag of waters is routinely broken during labor around or after 6cm– what would have happened without the bag’s cushion on the cord?!

I have never seen so much vernix on one newborn in all my life! She was pink and breathing great pretty much right away. And oh, did I feel awesome. Yes, I felt awesome right away. It was all so awesome :)

Here’s the glowing me minutes after she arrived, still at the end of the bed.  Did I mention that I felt awesome? ??!!!??!!!


It was at this point also I noted that we had a girl– everyone who predicted said boy, including Vitaly. I personally have no inklings on the matter.

My parents weren’t at Skype at this moment (it was about 1:20pm here), so we Skyped with my sister in TN about the news. That was fun and fast b/c I wanted to lie down soon. I still want to lie down :)

OK, during this painful labor, this is what I was dreaming of– lying down without pain with a squishy newborn next to me:


And that is how I am laying now, too :)

I could photograph this view a thousand times.


The kids came home. Andre saw her breastfeeding his milk, and started to cry and refused to breastfeed himself. But pretty soon, he’s become quite fascinated by this baby, who he insists is a boy, and her breastfeeding activities.

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We left the cord intact overnight, then Skyla cut it this morning. It’s just easier for all of us to hold her if we cut the cord (rather than lotus-birthing, which I do sometimes fantasize of doing.)


Her name is Una [YOO-nuh]. we think, though we’re not sure. And we’re not sure about her weight yet.

She looks like my littlest baby of all. Though ironically, everyone’s been asking if I’m having twins, I’ve been so big. I answer no, just one big baby as usual. And here she’s not even big! She sure felt enormous inside of me. That was one fear I had, after having two 10 lb babies– that she would be monstrously big and not able to come out. (I kept telling myself that people do have 11-12lb babies and they slide right out…). Well, we can all snort about that one now–she’s a little sweet patootie :)

I will close with a quote from my devotional book, the reading from yesterday, Una’s birth day, a fitting piece for pregnancy and birth:

You must hand yourself and all your inward experiences, your temptations, your temperament, your frames and reelings, all over into the care and keeping of your God, and leave them there. He made you and therefore He understands you, and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. ~H. W. Smith quoted in Joy & Strength by Mary Wilder Tileston, reading for Aug 29.

You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

    my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    forever. Psalm 23: 5-6


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