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!!

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.

UMO board

Give thanksHow very thankful I am for the amazing board of Ukraine Medical Outreach…those currently serving and those who have served in the past. We are amazed at your dedication to the ministry here in Ukraine, and cannot express in simple language how much your encouragement, your prayers, your skype calls, your notes, and your direction has meant to us…and also to the people we serve here in Ukraine. You are a gift from God.

Board member Tom Saxon is arriving today as part of a team spending a week here to improve the care for children with autism and to help support their families. Please pray for not only the conference at the end of the week, but also for the strategic meetings with government officials and educators over the next days. Pray also for the specific families that the team will be meeting to evaluate their children, to give encouragement, and to give some specific direction in caring for them.

Tetyana Demiyanova and Project Hopeful

Give thanksSo thankful for Tetyana Demiyanova! She has accepted a new position in our ministry — Family Consultant. She works directly with the parents, grandparents, and caregivers of those children who are hospitalized in the HIV/AIDS unit at Okmatdet, the national children’s hospital. She has not only accepted the position, but she is flourishing! Everyone loves her…the children, the parents, and the staff.

She has already created a flyer with valuable information for new patients’ families. Complete with a map of the hospital grounds, closest metro, restaurants, grocery stores, ATMs, hair salons…things you want to know but you don’t know who to ask.

Tanya is also in the process of compiling frequently asked questions to then put together a handbook for families with newly-diagnosed children. So often, it seems, parents are given too much technical/medical information…and all at once. We pray that this handbook will be a resource that will also point them to other resources when they’re ready for details!

We are thrilled to partner with Project Hopeful in this endeavor…and, in particular, with Traci Heim. While Traci was in-country adopting — AGAIN! — she visited the hospital with us. She observed as a new child was being admitted and innocently asked the question, “Who reaches out to the parents?” When Tanya heard the question, she couldn’t forget it. And she realized that SHE could be the answer to the question.

The rest is history. Well, since September. And Traci will be arriving in Kyiv in time for World AIDS Day. Tanya is organizing lots of visits to various sites so that Traci will have a better picture of just what it means to be HIV+ in Ukraine. The stigma is overwhelming. There is MUCH to be done. But we are on the way!!

Coalition steering committee

Give thanksWhat a privilege to be part of the steering committee for the Coalition for Children at Risk in Kyiv, Ukraine. The coalition is made up of many different organizations and groups who strive to meet the challenges of children on the street, in abusive homes, with special needs, hospitalized orphans — through live-in centers, foster care homes, transition homes for orphans moving from the orphanage to real life, hospital volunteers. If there is a need to be met, odds are that someone in the coalition is meeting it…or knows someone who is.

I love the networking that takes place. I must admit that early on in the life of this coalition it seemed that groups were very territorial. And even if someone else was doing the exact same thing only one block away, groups would not unite to serve nor even spread out! But as we all have learned to trust each other, much cooperation takes place. And all for the sake of the children.

Thankful to be blessed by the friendships of the committee members and also by the many that I meet through the meetings at large.

God is good and He is doing a mighty work in Ukraine — to God be the glory!


Give thanksSo very thankful for technology, and particularly for skype. Just today I was able to talk to our daughter Anna who is currently in Hong Kong for a Finance Forum. Her sister Jeanne plans to call us in the next few hours so that we can continue discussions about our travel plans next month as well as work out a pretty hectic schedule for the short time that everyone will be together. We love to be able to talk to Jeanne and Kolya (when he’s home) while watching two of our grandsons as they play in the background. I always smile when Milan holds something up to the camera so that Grammy can see it!! And Alek just likes to turn the camera to himself so that I get a full-screen version of his happy little face.

Our son Jamie along with his wife Dasha also treat us to conversations while we enjoy the antics of their two-year-old Lydian. Smart little boy! I love that we can live halfway around the world and these little boys know us by sight and by name. (Of course, they think we LIVE in the computer…)

But one of the very best things that has occurred because of skype is that we can regularly talk to my soon-to-be 84-year-old mother. She can no longer type notes to us and she can no longer punch all of the required numbers to call us in Ukraine. But as we watched her play solitaire on her computer screen, we realized that she has no problem clicking a mouse. SOOOO, we added skype to her computer and it runs in the background almost all of the time. If we (or her grandchildren) call her via skype, she sees our names pop up on her computer screen…even as she plays solitaire. She simply clicks the green phone to answer and we are able to talk to her AND see her. Can’t wait to actually see her for Christmas (first time since 1995), but skype certainly helps while we’re so far away.

Always thought we were spoiled Americans. Now we’re spoiled missionaries.

And not taking it for granted. So appreciative.

HIV/AIDS patients

Give thanksSo thankful for the open door we have at the national children’s hospital in Kyiv, particularly the unit where the HIV/AIDS children are treated.

For years we have been visiting weekly — Jim teaches medical English to interested doctors there and I simply break up the children’s boring hospital stay with some silliness, some stickers, BINGO, crafts, Jesus Storybook Bible gifts, and whatever else we find to do. On warm enough days we play outside…warning: these boys kick a mean futbol! Chalk is always fun whether we’re outlining their shadows or creating a hopscotch board or a long and winding street for their cars. The youngest ones are just happy to be held. Occasionally we are privileged to witness a child’s first steps!

I am also thankful for those loyal volunteers who join me there. It’s great to see God’s people committing TIME to the least of these. And the smiles and hugs we get in return are absolutely priceless.

Providence Presbyterian Church

Give thanksYes, indeed, it is truly November 1. I know that some folks begin to seriously think about Christmas right about now — Christmas is NEVER far from my mind. We’ve actually been planning our time in December for MONTHS with family and friends in America. But I certainly don’t set up our trees or begin playing Christmas carols before this next most-wonderful holiday: Thanksgiving!

I love this holiday and have so many wonderful memories of the various ways we have celebrated this day both in American and here in Ukraine. I treasure the traditions — not just the scrumptious food but also the focus on those things for which we’re truly thankful. So this month I’m going to spend a little more time writing about these things. Who knows? It may become once a day…

Today: I am most thankful for the Church universal, but specifically for Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, Maryland. This is the church that we attended before we moved to Ukraine, and it is the only church that my children remember attending while growing up. It was here that we were discipled, challenged, exhorted, encouraged and from here that we were sent to Ukraine. What a blessing to know that now my grandchildren are also attending there! Like most churches made up of sinners, this Body has had its challenges and is seeking how best to glorify God in all things. We pray for this congregation and I am thankful for this Body of Believers and its care for my children even while we are so far away. I’m afraid to begin the list of ways our family has been blessed by these brothers and sisters…either directly or indirectly. My heartfelt THANKS is not enough to express my gratitude to all.

But I’ll say it anyway: Thanks!