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.


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.


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.

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!

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.