A thankful Grammy’s heart

So many things to be ever-so-thankful for…and among these, the safe arrival of baby Elza last week. Jeanne and Kolya spent Monday day and night at Johns Hopkins where Elza joined the family on the OUTSIDE early Tuesday afternoon. THANKFUL that Jeanne and Kolya were both able to snuggle their little gift before she was attached to too many monitors. Knowing her heart condition could have preempted these early moments made them even more special.

Jim and I arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday morning — chauffeured by sweet friend Jill Fears and accompanied by two of her daughters. They helped us clear out the fridge at the Kotiash abode and pack bags with food for our stay. Jill introduced us to the Believe in Tomorrow children’s home that is situated directly across the street from the hospital. We learned that Elza qualified to have her family stay at the home, and we learned that there was indeed space for our arrival. SO THANKFUL for this place. Each patient qualifies for one room and each room can hold 6 people: two beds plus cots if needed. Jim, the boys and I learned our way around during the first day or two, and then when Jeanne was discharged, Kolya was able to join our room.  The boys were THRILLED to see Tato and Mama…Milan exclaimed, “My beautiful mama is here!” Though the farewells can be sad, the boys DO know that their parents are nearby and are trying to spend much time with them. AND they have met Elza via skype. THANKFUL for technology!!

Pre ElzaJim and I did get a few minutes with Jeanne while Kolya, Jill, Tori and Katie Jo entertained the boys at the hospital on Tuesday. It turns out that the little ones cannot even be in the family waiting area on Jeanne’s floor — no one under 18 is permitted during the flu season. Jim clicked this photo just ten minutes before Elza was born! THANKFUL that we could switch places with Kolya in time!

That evening we were blessed by a home-cooked meal at the children’s home. Volunteers from all over Baltimore and environs volunteer to provide dinner MOST nights. In fact, we’ve been here a week and have only fixed our own dinner on Sunday night. The boys sometimes need a supplement — not too excited about a new place and new food — but the adults are eating way more than I ever expected!

And the staff here has gone overboard in helping us with the little ones — even providing chocolate milk! (Turns out that the boys aren’t nearly so enamored with chocolate milk as I thought they might be…what does grammy know?!).Chocolate milk I took some pictures to assure Jeanne and Kolya that the boys were actually eating. The staff made sure the boys had a doughnut (HUGE) for dessert, and the boys spent their time worrying that the volunteers in the kitchen needed a doughnut, too! So sweet.


After cleaning up our table to Milan’s rendition learned in Sunday school: “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your part. Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your part.” I think the volunteers are going to teach this song to all of their friends.

After baths and putting on warm pajamas, we all crowded onto the boys’ bed to watch a movie and fade out.


All in all, a good first day for everyone.

Thankful for all the prayers!


Let’s change the statistics

I have been noticing quite a few articles and news reports about children in the States. And adults as well.

It seems that the reports show that a high percentage of American children do not even engage in moderate exercise for an hour a day. Really? Oh my goodness. I’m living with two children who NEVER STOP moving. Running. Dancing. Climbing. Jumping.

Other articles are pointing out that many people stop reading books of any sort once they are out of school, whether that be at completion of high school, college, or grad school. So very sad. I’m thankful to be living in a home with FULL bookshelves and adults who regularly read these books. No wonder the little ones here love books so much — such great ones to choose from.

Aunt Anna reads to Milan and Alek

I’m not reading as much as I’d like to be — that is of the books that I purposefully ordered to be here when I arrived — but I am definitely reading many books over and over and over again. The boys’ books. And how sweet to have a 3-year-old ‘read’ them to his little brother, his grammy, and his parents.

Parents and grandparents, read to your children. Read for yourself. Talk about the books you’re reading.

And get out there and MOVE.

If we want the trends to change, we all need to be about changing them.

Put down the remote.

Close your laptop.

Ignore your phone.

And engage your families!!


Give thanksSo thankful for the privilege of being a grandmother. I don’t think I ever realized what an amazing relationship it is. I was blessed with two grandmothers who definitely spoiled me… And my children enjoyed two grandmothers briefly, and still have my mother in their lives. I don’t take for granted the love that my children have for my mother — and how much they want time with her. Intentionally planning trips to be with her…driving 10 hours one way for a long weekend with her. Priceless.

Now that I am a member of that prestigious club of grandmothers, I can say that it is beyond amazing to watch your own children parent their little ones. Such precious moments to behold.

We are so looking forward to Christmas with my mom and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I anticipate lots of hugs and snuggles and giggles.

And as I watched our three grandsons via skype today running up and down the hall squealing with delight, I realize that this is NOT going to be a quiet Christmas. But it will be the best ever. Family. Christmas. Traditions. It doesn’t get any better.


Give thanksHow thankful I am that I still have my mom here on earth. And though we don’t get to see her NEARLY enough, we treasure the moments that we DO get with her. Today is her birthday. She’s in Ohio. We’re in Ukraine. Oh, how we’d love to be celebrating with her.

But LAST year we were in the states for one week — medical appointments — and we chose to be there over Thanksgiving and her birthday. And were able to make her day super special for everyone around. We took her to the Cincinnati Zoo so she could see the baby giraffe…such a sweet moment. An added bonus was that she was able to see her grandson Milan see a real live penguin for the very first time. He was sooo excited — every person that came anywhere near the exhibition had Milan point out the penguins!

The birthday girlMy sister’s family met us for lunch where everyone — including the staff at the restaurant — treated her like the queen that she is.

After an afternoon rest, she woke up to find her room decorated with streamers and helium balloons. (Just like her grandsons receive on THEIR birthdays. THEIR idea for great-gramma.) And several of her caregivers at the assisted-living facility joined us for cake and presents.

This year we will be returning to the states, but not until December. Mom so wanted all of her family to be around for Christmas that she is even flying one of our daughters home from Kathmandu, Nepal! So looking forward to our first Christmas with mom since 1995!

Happy birthday, Mom! See you in a few short weeks!

The Harpers

Give thanksWe love Sid and Wendy Harper and their crazy family. They have been SUCH an encouragement to us since we met them during their adoption process…what an honor, really, to be on the inside as they began the bonding and teaching process even while the boys were still at the orphanage. Such a treat to witness their hearts. And their patience.

Well, after MULTIPLE missions trips to various locations in Africa, the Harper family is moving to Yei, South Sudan next summer! They have advocated for and raised countless dollars for so many trips and adoptions — not just their own! And now they have set a goal to add 100 partners in 50 days — each pledging $25/month. The Peipons are proud and excited to be one of the 100! I promise you that if you read their story, you too will want to sign on…’like’ their facebook page and pray for them regularly. Please.

So thankful to call them friends.


Give thanksAs I continue this month-long series of posts of thanksgivings, today I am thankful for my husband Jim. Why? For so so many reasons. Actually I was thinking that I could probably do a month-long series of posts on why I’m thankful for Jim.

It has been an adventure, for sure, these past thirty-some years. And I cannot even imagine this journey with anyone other than Jim. He is consistently feeding his mind and spirit through God’s Word — most mornings he is up by 5:30 privately reading and praying before our time together at 7:30.

He provided well for our family when the kiddos were still home and he takes good care of me now. And this is not just from a financial perspective…he made major changes in his medical schedule to be able to spend time with his family, even though it also meant major salary cuts. Time was his gift to his family. And what a testimony when he receives hand-written notes thanking him for being dad, or skype calls asking for advice. A blessing.

Thankful for a man who can do it all! Seriously. He can run a medical ministry. He can organize conferences. Just received a note from a medical student inviting him to please be his spiritual father and mentor. Wow! But he also runs to the grocery store, vacuums, washes dishes, irons his own shirts. He serves me whenever he can.

I love that he takes the time to listen to my concerns, to hug me as I weep, to encourage me when I’m down, to smile at me just when I need to see it. We are happy being home with each other — even known to dance when the music is right — and we’re happy having company. We genuinely love to be with each other. Not that we didn’t have our rough moments, but life is better now than ever before. (I always thought that was crazy, you know, when people would say that they loved their husband more after 30 years than the day they were married…yeah, right. I was just trying to make it through another day with three young children and a busy husband. So glad I didn’t give up along the way!)

We’ve learned a lot about each other and ourselves over the years. And we’d do it all again. (Maybe one day I should post about those years — might be an encouragement to others…)

Thankful for a faithful, God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled man.


Give thanksHow could I even go further without being thankful for Thursdays?! This is the one day of the week that Jim and I do not hear the doorbell at 9:00 to signal that the office is now open. Not that the office ISN’T open, but it’s the one day that Jim’s administrative assistant does not physically arrive at our door.

So, what does that mean? We just start our day with a little less hurriedness. (Is that not a word?! Why is it underlined as I type?) We still maintain our morning routine, but if we’re not finished praying together at exactly 9:00 we can continue. If we still have schedules to compare and discuss, we can do it.

We tend to schedule only important events so that we can be available to each other throughout the day. This week is a bit of an exception to our general rule, but we couldn’t both be physically at two special events: Jim will be visiting some precious friends for a couple of hours this afternoon and I will be joining another friend for an English movie club discussion — these groups always need native English speakers. Both events invited both of us, but that was impossible. We WILL meet for dinner, though. Last week we met together with a friend who has a huge vision for ways to help take care of families with special needs children in Kyiv. And then we went shopping…Christmas browsing and we found the sweetest little somethings for a couple of granddaughters who will be born early next year — one in February and one in March. Sometimes we go out for coffee and watch people…and dream about the future. We may spend the evening watching a delayed broadcast of Downton Abbey. Or Shark Tank. Or even Dancing with the Stars. But whatever it is, we do it together.

It’s our day.

As close to a date time as we get.

1 in 10,000

HeartStatistics are one of those things that we talk about a lot in our flat. Almost always these numbers are in conjunction with some health challenge, and my pediatrician husband frequently has the same general statement: 99% chance that this is nothing, BUT if you are the 1%…well, it’s now 100%.

Our daughter Jeanne and her husband Kolya are expecting their third child — our first granddaughter — in early February. They have two young active boys (ages 3 and 18 months-ish) and are more than thrilled to be welcoming a little girl into the family. Already they are discussing names and dreaming about how life will look with three little ones in the home.

Last week Jeanne received a call ten days after a routine ultrasound and she was told to travel to Annapolis (from Salisbury on the Eastern Shore of Maryland) for another sonogram. It seems that the baby was so active and uncooperative (shy?) that they could not get a clear picture of the heart for routine measurements. No big deal. She and Kolya made the drive on Friday leaving at 7 a.m. for the 9:00 appointment. How do you say thank you to a friend who will take all day with your grandchildren so that the parents could go to the center without the distractions of the boys?

Well, once there the staff seemed quite surprised that no one had prepared Jeanne and Kolya about the seriousness of the baby’s condition. What? Are you serious?

It turns out that precious Baby Girl has pulmonary atresia, a condition that affects 1 in 10,000. Pretty good odds. Unless you’re the 1…see what I mean? For those interested, you can read more about this congenital heart defect on this site from Boston Children’s Hospital.

Turns out this little one will most likely be facing three separate heart operations by the time she turns 4 years old, beginning with one within the first days or hours. The birth will now take place at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore…over 100 miles from home sweet home. We are so thankful for the team that is forming to be ready to treat her immediately, as needed.

For my praying readers, would you be so kind as to lift this dear family up in prayer as the Lord brings them to mind? Would you pray that this little heart will not deteriorate further between now and delivery? Would you pray that the medical team will seamlessly work together to bring about the best results possible? Would you pray for safety on the roads as Jeanne and Kolya make multiple trips for continuing evaluation of Baby Girl? Would you pray that Jeanne and Kolya will know without a doubt that God has this under control, that He is not at all surprised by this, and that He has hand-picked them to be the perfect parents for this little one? May the Lord pour out His grace on them during this time of waiting.

I would love to hear from any of you that have experience with open-heart surgeries in newborns!

May God be glorified through all that takes place. He is good.

Spinning plates

spinning platesMy mind is racing in so many different directions that it’s hard to focus on one thought per post. So one post to let you know that I’m here, alive and well, and much on my plate!

Our ministry is growing! Our family is growing (thrilled to be expecting two granddaughters to go with the three grandsons — all in under 3-1/2 years!)! Our vision is growing!

Please bear with me as I attempt to put everything into words. (And these are just the real biggies!) I have had so many other eureka moments that I wanted to blog about but got distracted. Maybe I’ll just go back to blogging something every day — that REALLY kept me on my toes.

…and now back to language study before my lesson tomorrow.

Sure do miss him

Well, it’s time to renew our visas again…our last time was five years ago. Jim and I enjoyed our roundtrip train travel together and arrived back to our flat renewed, both in our documents and in our spirits. We were ready to jump back into our work with both feet.

Of course, after being away from computers for several days, one of the first things we did was check emails. Lots of ads, some ministry letters, and some from family in the U.S.

In fact, there were several from my sisters which was slightly out of the ordinary. Rarely did I receive multiple messages without my first responding.

And no wonder. The early messages were that an ambulance was en route to take my brother to the hospital. And then the updates that were not too encouraging. And then several asking us to call them — they had tried to reach us but to no avail.

And then the final message from them was that my brother had died.

Needless to say we connected immediately to our family and through the tears learned that he had died at the hospital on Cape Cod and his body was being transported back to Ohio for the funeral. We used every available ‘mile’ that we had, added cash, and made plans to be there. Thankful for my mother offering to pay for tickets for our children (two flying from Ukraine and one from Nepal) so that we could all gather together to remember him.

Oh, how we laughed at his silly antics! We actually kept expecting him to enter the room where we all had been together so many times before. The pall bearers each chose one of Doug’s ties (he had quite the collection!) and arrangements were made for the funeral and burial.

My sisters and I had to agree that the timing was actually quite amazing — the first Mother’s Day that my mom had no living son, the rest of her children were together with her! Including her only grandchildren. God is so good to us.

Remembering the best times with him…and his crazy sense of humor.

Love him so.