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!!

Grammy on a mission

Grammy timeJanuary 9, 2014. And this is my first post? Oh my. Life is happening…fast and furious!

Grammy on a mission? Haven’t I been on a mission since before grandchildren? Well, yes. I’ve been a most satisfied missionary in Ukraine for over 12 years. We began said mission with our children in tow…well, not exactly in tow — the girls were 18 and our son was 16 when we arrived in Kyiv.

Twists and turns scattered our family around the globe — Kyiv, Kathmandu, Boston, Salisbury. Boston is no longer a home for our son — Salisbury is — and our younger daughter moved from Salisbury to Delmar. Fortunately those two towns in Maryland are just minutes apart. Well, fortunately for the proud grandparents! One stop and we see them all!!

Our older daughter is still in Kathmandu — though we were ALL together over the holidays, even my mother and sister in Cincinnati. That’s a first in 18 years!

Husband Jim has returned to the European side of the Big Pond and I am still in Maryland. (He will be joining be periodically, Lord willing.)

As hard as it was to leave friends and ministry in Ukraine for several months (the longest time since we moved there in 2001), I know that I am in the right place for a specific time.

Still on a mission.

This time to help my daughter with her two young sons (nearly 3-1/2 and nearly 2) while she prepares for the birth of their little sister. She is considered a high-risk pregnancy (Baby Girl has pulmonary atresia) and she will be delivering this little bundle at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Two-and-a-half or three hours away, depending on traffic. Finding someone to watch her boys ALL DAY while she and her husband make weekly visits to various departments at Hopkins is more than a notion. Energetic. Excited. Loving. Just some descriptions of the boys. It requires someone with no children — just one of them with a cold and the whole plan fails! Sweet friends have stepped up to the plate, but this Grammy was ready for the privilege, responsibility and challenge of spending LOTS of time with these little boys. Once Baby Girl is born she will require heart surgery and will most likely be hospitalized for several weeks. Grammy gets to be the ‘constant’ in the little boys’ lives.

Her delayed arrival at home will also take some getting used to, so I will be available to help that whole process run more smoothly.

Somewhere during this process (early March) our daughter-in-law will be adding a second child to her family. Here in Salisbury. Have I mentioned that I am so so thankful that they are so close geographically? Her mother will be spending two months with them, so THAT’s covered…just hoping to get some little snuggles in along the way.

For my wonderful friends here, please know that I would love to hang out with you. But that will not be too possible until Jim has arrived back as reinforcements! Unless you come to me. Or it’s a convenient time for Jeanne. I am truly here with a mission…four weeks to accomplish much!

To be clear, I am not here as a babysitter…I am here to help Jeanne take care of her children. Not INSTEAD of Jeanne, but WITH Jeanne. I didn’t give up ministry with special children in Ukraine to simply be here so that she can run around town doing this or that as she pleases. Appointments, yes. I’m here and I’ve got the boys. Bible studies? We’ll all go together. Church? We’re a team. Jeanne has never asked me to come help, but I need to be here early to see the different routines that make up the boys’ lives…that way I can simply continue with what they already know about their days.

Trust me, it is not without sacrificing important conferences, ministry, and precious time with my husband that brings me here. I know I am here for a purpose. And I love it.

Just want to make clear to all just what that purpose is.

Pray for us all as we adjust to so many changes in so few weeks!



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.

September 14

I know that this seems quite impossible to everyone, but our sweet little first grandson is turning TWO years old today!

It’s hard to put in words how I feel about this…especially since we are not even on the same continent so I can’t join in the festivities.

I remember how absolutely amazing it was to become a mother. And how surprised I was at just how much love I felt for my children — all three of them. Was it possible to even HAVE that much love inside?!

And now I’m a grammy. My heart swells just thinking about three special little boys in America. And I thank God for skype. Seriously!!

How I wish I were hugging the birthday boy! But how thankful I am that I’ll be able to hear his laughter in a little while. And I will tell him how much his Grammy and Poppy love him. And are so proud of him. And wish that he’d stop growing so quickly while we’re gone. And we’ll blow kisses to each other. And say, “Loobloo tebe.” And I’ll long for a touch. REALLLLLY long for that hug. And I’ll laugh at his antics. And grin as I remember my own children’s birthdays. (The girls turned 2 a week after their little brother was born — oh, I so remember THAT birthday!!)

And I’ll rejoice that we have each other even if only online for a time. And I’ll praise God that this little boy has two parents who love him dearly. And who are bringing him up to know Him.

And I’ll pray for the countless orphans in the world who wish someone would remember THEIR birthdays. And I’ll give some extra hugs to our hospitalized orphans that we visit each week.

Loving from afar

They’re up. They’re out. And they should be on board the first of two flights today.

And I already miss each one of them.

I’m sad to not see this little coat hanging near the door.

I am really thankful that we had a week of prayer in Belgium last week that also included a day of silence and fasting — fasting from physical food as we eat of the spiritual and fasting from conversations with each other so that we have time to converse with the Lord.

I am also thankful that I wrote my thoughts that day. Among other thoughts:

Recently a woman in our church simply declared that if she had 3 children in America she’d be there, too! Insinuating that something must be wrong with me if I continue to stay in Ukraine.

Others ask how I can stand to miss these early years with the grandchildren. They could NEVER do that.

Well, the truth is that they haven’t been called by God to leave them! I have. And HE provides what I need — the grace, strength AND the technology. I see my grandchildren every week…if not everyday.

My first love is Christ. Followed by my husband. The LORD gave Jim to me and me to him. He entrusted us with 3 precious children to raise for Him. Together we did that. But the goal of parents is to raise your children to love and honor God…and then release them to serve Him…wherever that might be. And to raise their OWN children to do the same. Encourage them as we can. Offer advice, when asked. Love them.

But my intense child-rearing days are past. As we started, so now we return: a couple devoted to each other and serving our God together. Wherever that may be.

We have work to do.

I purposely had not posted these thoughts earlier. I really wanted to see how I would feel when I actually had to see them off. I hate good-byes. And I always cry. And today was no exception.

My mother’s heart wants to be with my children. I’d love to watch Anna receive her degree. I’d love to help Jeanne as she nears the birth of her second child while chasing after her first! I’d love to watch Jamie be a daddy, up close and personal. And I love their spouses — such wonderful Godly partners!

My grandmother’s heart can never get enough of the little ones. Even if we lived in the same town, it wouldn’t be enough.

But my heart belongs to the LORD. He is knitting Jim and me ever more close as we continue to serve Him in Ukraine. My heart fills with joy as I watch Jim in action…kind words here, constructive criticism there, consultation here, teaching there, prayer throughout.

This is one wife who counts herself most fortunate to be following after a husband who follows hard after God.

Stamp of approval

This little guy has my stamp of approval for sure! What a great smile for his folks to see first thing in the morning, and for his grandparents to see at the end of their day.

Thankful that our children send us pictures regularly.

Makes being halfway around the world a lot easier!

The Birthday Boy

They say it’s your birthday!

Can it be that I’ve been a grammy for a whole year?

Love this little birthday boy.

HaPpY BiRtHdAy, Milan!

(Thanks for sending the pictures, Mandie!)

Skype on!

We have long valued skype. Initially, it was just a quick way to stay in touch with friends, though we only rarely used it.

Once our children moved to the States, it was an inexpensive (free?!) way to continue to hear their voices regularly. E-mail is nice, but HEARING voices is so wonderful.

Business contacts, conference calls added to our time on skype. So convenient. Well, as long as everyone has a good connection.

And then grandchildren entered the mix! Skype has been amazing! We are able to actually SEE the everyday activities around home and witness key milestones from afar. We cheered Milan’s first “roll-over” and have watched him try all kinds of new foods. We even receive pictures and videos via skype.

But I really do think we recently discovered skype in all of its wonderfulness:

My mother is currently living in an assisted living setting. She is no longer able to type, so we are unable to stay connected through email. And she doesn’t always answer her phone: it’s not nearby when it rings or the battery charge has been drained. Either way, we frustratingly would call her time and again.

This last visit in July, we watched again as she played solitaire on her computer. No problem with the broad movements with a mouse. We connected her to skype and showed her how to accept calls, initiate calls and even click on the video button so that we can see her. (Thanks, Alec, for the webcam!)

With first great-grandson on hand, we called second great-grandson. Mom has yet to meet little Lydian in person, but what motivation to answer her calls! We set her up to be able to call us, her grandchildren…and now her great-grandchildren. While playing solitaire (which she does regularly) a large notification appears on her screen: Dasha is calling. Or Jeanne is calling. Or whoever. She can then choose to answer or not, but she only has to click the button.

Cool, eh? She LOVES it and I love to see my mom when we talk.

Go Skype!

Cuteness personified

Grammy alert. Fair warning. Grammy alert.

Up and at ’em early in Salisbury on this hot and muggy Wednesday. I have a hair appointment at 9:00, but first we need to make a visit to meet the newest little Peipon!

I am afraid that Milan has picked up some of his Grammy’s traits, particularly not wanting to miss anything…even if exhausted. The little cutie was full of yawns, but would not settle down for a much-needed nap until Grammy and Poppy had left the scene.

(Apparently he has become a tour de France fan, so Aunt Anna provided him with the proper attire. What a great aunt!)

And then we were off to meet 2-month-old Lydian for the very first time. Oh, my goodness. He is the same age that Milan was when we left him last fall…the snuggly cuddly stage. His Poppy snagged him for a kiss…

20110721-083548.jpg…I gave my first squeeze…

…and we took a picture of James John, Lydian James and James Cooper. Three generations of Peipons. Priceless.

Jeanne and Milan picked me up to head to Town’s End for a quick trim, and Jamie retrieved me from there for a little more Lydian time. (Jeanne and Milan were off to a morning Bible study.)

It was fun to get some quiet relaxed time with Jamie, Dasha and her mother…munching on some delicious homemade Ukrainian delights. But, I must admit, I was in my own little world with a precious baby on my shoulder. Ahhhh.

Next step? Return to the Kotiash abode and pray for Milan to nap. His routine has been altered a bit and the adjustment shows up as crankiness. Just like in the rest of us.

Turns out that he finally fell asleep…not long before we were supposed to help Jeanne with VBS preparations at church. I stayed home with the sleeping angel. Tough duty but someone had to do it. A Grammy dream come true.

(Cancelled blueberry picking for Thursday morning…we all need an unstructured morning so that Milan can sleep before the trek to Ohio tonight!!)

Kyiv, Frankfurt, Philly, Salisbury

Travel. I love it, but it can certainly be exhausting! We were leaving our flat at 3:30 a.m. so we knew that we would not be going to bed that night. It seems to help us with jet lag. We discovered this strategy of no sleep quite by accident the first time, and it has proven to be a good course for us. By the time we actually arrive in country and tumble into bed, we’re ready for sleep. It also helps us sleep on the plane as well.

Sooo, we get picked up, we arrive at the new terminal in Kyiv and we go through the lines to check bags and then passport control. If you have spent time in Kyiv, you know that people don’t like waiting in lines. Push to the front is the norm. Westerners tend to hold back and then are the last to go through.

Passport control has a separate line for foreigners. We felt confident that we’d get through quickly. But, that is where we hit our first snag. Laws change daily and some longstanding laws are only recently being enforced. One of these is the length of time in-country without registering. Our understanding has been that as long as you had a visa, you could stay in the country up to 90 days. Once you leave the country and return the clock starts over…another 90 days. Well, not true.

I was first at passport control and the officer told me that I had been in the country too long without registering. I knew that I hadn’t been in-country longer than 90 days. He said that I would have to go to a bank to pay the fine. Meanwhile, I gave Jim a questioning look as he stood at the head of the line. The officer invited him up to the window with me and also asked a woman in line to translate what he was saying. At that point we had 10 minutes until our flight was scheduled to leave. For some reason, the officer abruptly returned our passports and sent us on our way. No time to spare. The translator was also on our flight. As we waited for a bus to take us out to our plane we were able to thank her again. She shrugged her shoulders and said that she just does not understand why the system functions as it does and she was happy to help us.
Wheels up and on to Frankfurt.

Several hours in Frankfurt. People-watching at its best. And the small world shrunk a bit more. A woman approached us and started talking about her trip and how the last leg was a tour of Kyiv. We told her that we now lived there and she asked why. The simple answer: missionaries. She started to tell us about a relative of hers…a pastor from Delaware who had adopted two children from Ukraine. She was so surprised when we named him before she did, and told her that we had had dinner with him and his wife when they were in town. Small world, indeed.

Wheels up and on to Philadelphia. Actually a very productive flight in between catnaps. Good reading. Extremely pleasant flight attendants. Food and drink. And after eightish hours, wheels down.

Bummer that we had five hours in an airport that’s only three hours from Salisbury. But that is how the flights worked out. A thunder and lightning storm extended our time in the city of brotherly love. My goodness, travelers can be such complainers. Especially if delayed! We only hoped that Jeanne checked the schedule before heading to the airport. She had, but still arrived way ahead of us. 20110720-101041.jpgWe were so pleasantly surprised to see the whole Kotiash clan at the airport. By midnight we were home.

And the bed was so inviting. (Thanks friends in Taylorville.)

And that was Tuesday. The day we lived twice.