Monday, December 28, 2009

My New Favorite Toy!

Nothing better in a child’s life than discovering all the cool things your new Christmas toys can do!  

I remember those “toy coma’s” - lasted for hours, nothing could (or should) distract me.  
That after-the-morning-gift-carnage “glow” . . . 
Well, as a fully (and, some might add, fluffy) grown adult, I’m experiencing some of those same feelings again.  
Yes, I have a NEW TOY - and it is so much FUN!
Do you know about the photo-fun site, Picnik?   Oh my goodness!  Just look at what you can make there:

Wonderful collages of your daughter’s first look at the Atlantic Ocean - with her cousins leading the fun.

More collages of family fun. . .  learning hurricane storm survival skills . . . in the beach front house . . . on the beach . . . in the actual storm.  (I REALLY thought the sliding glass doors were going to implode as the house rocked on the beams)

Or a lovely gift for your mother-in-law.

How about some extra-special gift tags? 
These are going to be so much fun New Year’s Night.  
(more about this Russian holiday to come . . . ) 
Plus, there are tons of cool editing tools, and special fonts. and borders, and stickers, and. . .  the creative possibilities are limitless!  
It is difficult for us to send Christmas presents to our family in the States from Russia . . . somehow, they all end up under “Olga the Postal Worker’s” New Year’s tree.  (ok, ok, that’s probably not really fair - but you get the idea . . . NOTHING thru the mail)  But this year everyone on our list got a beautiful photo collage - sent thru e-mail!   And the best part was it was “created”  “home-made”  in a neuvo-tech kinda way!  LOVE IT!
A BIG thank-you to my friend Tina for introducing me to my new toy!  
And, really, if you love pics, you gotta see Picnik!
I’m just gonna warn you now . . . new toy “coma” coming your way!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas - Apartment Tour!

I’ve been Christmas surfing the web these past couple of weeks.  So many beautiful house tours in the blog world!  I was moved to share some of our traditional decorations . . . 
 “Dobro pashalovat! Zakhaditye”   
 “Welcome! Come in!”

Here is our little tree!  
This year I think it is the prettiest it’s ever been - in part because of our friends, Misha and Yulia, and their generous gift of really great lights!  (the strand was really long so we decided not to waste their beauty and put them around the window - the effect is a little disco, but festive!)

Under the tree we have:
  • the tree skirt that Anton’s grandmother, Babushka Valya, made for us, 
  • our stockings that I bought at GYM on Red Square in  Moscow several years ago, 
  • Sophi has her new nativity set that Gran Gran and Pops gave her this year, 
  • the HUGE pine cones I got at Lake Baikal (Siberia) many years ago, 
  • some of my favorite “Gzhel” (Russian pottery) pieces of “Ded Maros and Snegurichka” (Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden), 
  • and our IKEA candle stick (for which we are frantically trying to find a replacement bulb so we can actually USE it!).

Here is a close up of Sophi’s Nativity set - she plays with it every day - making up all kinds of stories with the characters.  (I just wonder why they didn’t include the shepherds in the set?!)  
A big thank you to Mom and Dad for such a thoughtful and FUN gift!

Here is the top of our TV:
  • Mom and Dad’s Christmas card with Sophia, Houston and Caroline (their grandkids), 
  • and a nativity set that I bought several years ago at the Russian Orthodox gift shop in Moscow near the Christ the Savior Cathedral - at that time it was hard to find any Christmas decorations in Moscow, much less anything religious. It was a real treasure then, and still is today!

Sophia’s room:
  • she has her own tree that her Babushka and Dedushka gave her last year, 
  • we decorated her bunk bed, 
  • and she as a stocking on her door . . . hmm, Mrs Santa better remember to put something on the list for that stocking . . .

The kitchen:
  • red lights on the window that flash (SO New Orleans!), 
  • tinsel on the appliance shelf, 
  • and all my Christmas tins on top of the shelves - I collect them (hint, hint to Mr Santa! - sure would love a new one to add to the collection ...

Speaking of collections - here is our Christmas mug display!  The blue ones I got in Smolensk in 1997 - they have a kind of medieval nativity design - another unbelievable  find of the times.

Hope no one is offended by this shot - just want to show how we even have a festive toilet room!  Christmas EVERYWHERE!

Bathroom - and even the water pipes are “decked!”

The front door is wearing the bells Mama gave Sophia.

Sophi put them up just as her Gran Gran instructed and remembers her with LOVE every time they ring!

One of the ornaments I made this November during the “Nor’easter” on Virgina Beach. 

Howling winds at 50 mph rocking our beach house brought out the Christmas creativity in us all!  

One of my favorite ornaments - 

Anton gave it to me last year - in celebration of starting the building of our new house!  LOVE IT!

This is my stocking - so cute - see the little mice?  they are celebrating New Year’s (which is the bigger Russian holiday)  the bottom shows the clock at midnight and the table ready to eat and presents ready to open . . . the whole spirit of that holiday on my stocking!

And, we’ll close the tour with a beautiful hand-painted Russian ornaments - “Dyed Maroz and Sneguroshka/Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden.”

We’d love to have you visit us in person!
Merry Christmas from The Yastrebov’s!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Teachable Moment

Yesterday at breakfast Sophia was asking me (in only the way 3 yr olds can) over and over, 

“Mom, what vitamins 
do apples have . . . 
do oranges have . . 
do grapes have?”
I have no idea and got tired of saying over and over (as only tired Mom’s can), 

“I don’t know, Sophi - 
don’t know - 
don’t know - 
have no idea.”  

Finally, a light-bulb went off in my head and I said,

“After breakfast, we’ll look it up on the computer.” 
At that, Sophi inhaled the rest of her eggs and we set off to learn about vitamins!

First, we made a chart where we:  

1.  Wrote the name of the fruit
2.  Drew a picture of the fruit
  • We looked up the vitamin and mineral content of each fruit on the net 
  • Wrote what we discovered on our chart
What a great practice for so many things - 
  • letters, letter sounds, words, shapes, and colors
  • and we both learned about the vitamins in our favorite fruit!
I loved it because it was spontaneous and lots of FUN!
At one point, Sophi decided that all her friends needed to watch and learn as we worked and she brought them in and set them up!

Just love those Teachable Moments!  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


We’re back in Smolensk after a month and a half long visit to the States. 
It is always hard to leave home (USA) - 
  • to hug and kiss my aging parents at the airport security check,  
  • to bid farewell to the strong Southern sun and clean water (all the time,) 
  • to say good-bye to Chick-Fil-A and Mexican food restaurants.

It is always great to come home (Russia) - 
  • to my dear husband, 
  • to my wonderful Brothers and Sisters at church, 
  • to snow and ice and cold, 
  • to fresh eggs and wonderful sour cream. 

As you see, there are so many mixed feelings - and combine all that with jet lag and the inevitable culture shock (yes, even after all these years) - our family always goes through a rough first couple of weeks "re-entry time." 
This year was especially difficult:
No snow or cold to greet us this Dec, 
only cloudy skies, dirty streets, 
and grouchy worn people who had lived thru the month of Nov with absolutely no sun.  

My sweet husband was one stressed-out man.  
There was very little business and no money in the 3 jobs he usually works . . . no in-come and no prospects. 
I have to be honest, I thought many times about getting back on a plane  - - - it was a scary time.
I decided to be honest about our problems and my fear and posted them on Facebook.  The outpouring of concern, support and prayers was exactly what I needed.  It was “virtural” medicine for my soul - my friends were the medicine.
And, this was fast-working medicine!  

That week my husband got a great job tip/opportunity.  His spirits lifted - which eased all of us.  After a couple of days I said to him,  “I just want to thank you for these past few days.  It has been so much FUN to live with you!”  He looked at me a little funny with his shy little half-smile.  We both knew there had been a big change.  

This week Anton starts the trial period in a new job.  It is not quite the job he was promised and so, we are a little disappointed, but it is a JOB and he will be making a bit more than he made before.  For all this, we are thankful!  
I want to say a big THANK YOU to all my friends on Facebook for their prayers and support.  God used you and your prayers to bring us hope, healing, and change!  For all the things Facebook may be, to many of us it is a way to connect in Love. 

I am thankful for this gift, for this time!
And, so, now we enter the Christmas season - - knowing that God is WITH US.  
Emmanuel is here and He lives and works in His People. 
I want to know Him and hear Him and follow Him this year . . .  
                    I’ve got so much to learn . . . 

Monday, August 31, 2009

Our Village - Selifonovo

We’re building our new house in Selifonovo.  

It is located on the Smolensk “loop,” about 10 minutes outside of town.  There is a large cemetery that sits on a hill overlooking the village.  We have a bus stop and in summer there are 3-4 buses that run - in winter, less, but I’m not sure exactly.  

Right now there are about 30 houses in the village.  It is typical for this part of Russia, so I thought I would show you a few pics of our neighbor’s houses and the surrounding area.  Ready for a tour?

At the crossroad - the house on the left seems to be fairly new.  

Notice the row of fruit trees in the front?  Every house in Russian has fruit trees - it is such a great way to use the land.  Why don’t we have more fruit trees in our yards in the States?

The view behind that house and on down to Smolensk.

There is no store in our village - but every week a “traveling store” van comes and sells bread and other staples.  We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this process.  
See the Babushkas there lining up to the right of the van’s open doors?  

Hey, maybe this would be a good business for us to start . . . a little store.  Hmmm?

Another house not far from ours.  I love the light blue!

And another - this one is a mixture of the old wooden style and the new favorite - brick.  
Do you see that little room at the front of the house - looks like an add-on?  It is the “mud room” - where you take off your boots and shoes, leave your coats.  In the village it is usually not heated . . . 

This one is a bright blue - with yellow trim around the windows.  Love it!

An example of a very traditional Russian wooden village house - green with some painted wooden carvings around the windows.  And, look at the charming wooden fence!

I see these all the time in villages here.  Our neighbor, who is around 70 yrs old, and his wife ride to town on the motorcycle - he drives and she rides in the side car!  
It’s a great way to get around!  

The other new house going up in Selifonovna.  The guy building this house is about our age - he is a retired “tax police” officer, a really hard worker, and a very helpful neighbor. His name is Sergei and he has laid every brick (of an all brick) of his house himself.  He has given us lots of advice as we deal with the land administration.  
Really thankful to God for him!  
I hope we can be friends!

This picture was taken one day after the rain - 
God gave us a rainbow right over the cemetery! 

We have a cow who lives nextdoor!

And a couple of ducks on the pond just behind our lot.

Roosters and chickens run the roads.  
Sophi chased this rooster, yelling, 
“Animals are afraid of people, Mom!”  
I don’t know, I’ve heard stories of mean roosters who aren’t afraid and who chase people!  
I guess she’ll learn . . . 

And we have hay for feeding the animals . . . 

All of this, and Smolensk is not far away!
I am thankful for our village.  
The people here have been nice and very helpful.
I so want to make friends with everyone and be a servant in this place.  

Will you join me in praying for the people God has given us to serve here?  
Ask Him to give us good relationships with our neighbors.

Ask God to Love Selifonovo through us!
Thank you!

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