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!


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 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.


Okay. This post will ruin a surprise, but I need to post this while it’s on my mind.

We have seen numerous shutterfly.com photo books put together by adopting parents to show their new children all about their home, siblings, pets, extended family and whatever. Sturdy and creative. Something the waiting orphan can hold onto until the day of rescue from the orphanage.

This Christmas our daughter-in-law put a book together featuring our three grandsons — one belonging to her and two belonging to one of our daughters. What a joy to pull out that book and smile. And smile again. Those little faces are just priceless.

Well, I officially caught the ‘make-a-book’ bug and just ordered my first one…to be sent to the grandsons. I can’t wait to hear how they like them. The theme is the alphabet and each picture features SOMETHING beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Pretty easy when shutterfly provides templates!

I encourage others to consider permanent books to be homes for your precious pictures.

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Click here to view this photo book larger

Photo Book Tip: Create an adventurous travel photo album at Shutterfly.com.


(The first link takes you to my actual book — please dont’ let Alek, Lydian or Milan see it ahead of time. Thanks.)

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.

Monday in the ‘bury

On Monday morning we woke up to snow! (Not new for us who recently arrived from Kyiv). But fun for Salisbury. Jeanne dressed Milan in multiple layers — including boots that make it a bit difficult for Milan to walk. Jeanne, on the other hand, toting her own heater for at least the next few weeks, tossed on a sweater and flip flops to sit on the step while Milan played. Had to do this early because the snow wasn’t going to be around for long.

Dasha had an appointment that morning, but dropped Jamie and Lydian off with us so that we could grab those few precious moments with them before we were leaving on Tuesday morning. It is still hard for us to believe that our children have children. I mean they really do have children.

There we were in Jeanne’s kitchen. She was busily putting dishes in the dishwasher and Jamie was feeding Lydian. And Milan wanted to stand in his favorite chair to watch his mommy. He also thought it might be fun to force Uncle Jamie out of the chair…subtly, of course. Smart boy.

Jeanne, Milan and I scooted in and out of Town’s End hair salon so Kathy could give me a trim that would last through our month of travel. Hopefully. Returned home to pack/repack the few things that we had removed from our suitcases…and also to put the finishing touches on a devotional that I would be presenting later that evening.

Jim and Milan enjoyed another book together — complete with snacks. Sometimes I wish that I DIDN’T take so many pictures because it is a bit distracting for the kiddos, but then on the other hand I am so thankful for the record of our stay!

That evening was another special time for us in the life of our church there. A fabulous committee of ladies organizes baby showers for the expectant moms in the congregation…Jeanne is on the committee, but had the night off. This night was HER night to be spoiled. And spoiled they did! Thanks to Vira, Charlotte, Anna, and Trish: the punch was actually tasty (not always so, as you know!); the sheet cake was flavorful (how long has it been since we’ve had a bakery cake?!); and she was literally SHOWERED with gifts. This church body is so creative…I was speechless at the generosity and the thought that went into each gift. A handmade quilt?! Personalized onesie?

When the party ended, talk about spoiled, Vira even pulled up the van and loaded it with Jeanne’s gifts, balloons…and the rest of the cake. All we had to do was drive home. And once THERE, Jim helped bring all of the packages in.

48 hours. My heart is full. I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God. His faithfulness through the generations. His love for my family. His care for the details of life.

Jeanne will be taking us to the airport early in the morning. Better get a bit of shut-eye.

Sweet dreams.

Sunday in the ‘bury


Ahhh. A great night’s sleep at the Kotiash home. An advantage to staying up the entire night the night BEFORE you travel is that you are actually ready to sleep at a normal hour when you arrive. And you sleep for a full night. Yes!

Jim got a little Poppy time with Milan — guys doing their paperwork at the table — before church and then we all headed to Providence Presbyterian to worship our Lord. This particular Sunday service welcomed new members and then installed deacons. All had served as deacons earlier in our church, except for one.

He was ordained and prayed for by Pastor Jason Shelton. A mighty prayer. Asking a mighty God to be with the newest deacon at church, at home and at work. He prayed for his family — his sweet wife and young son. He prayed that he would continue to be a man of prayer, that he would always seek His face and wisdom. That he would be able to withstand the onslaught of opposition that would come his way from time to time.

Jim is an elder himself and was invited to join the active elders in the church as they agreed with Jason’s prayer.

As they prayed for our son, Jamie. What a thrill to be part of such a ceremony/service. My heart was bursting with love for this young man.

After church, Anna took Jim and me over to Jamie and Dasha’s apartment…we wanted to get as much time with them as we could and the Kotiash clan really needed for Milan to sleep (not distracted by doting grandparents). The Kotiash tradition is to talk to Ukrainian relatives on Sundays, so it was a good time for us to be elsewhere.

Anyway, Dasha had prepared a delicious soup and we were able to all sit around the table together and have a relaxed meal before Lydian woke up from his nap. Anna retired to Lydian’s room to study for an upcoming exam, Jamie turned on the NBA, Dasha busied herself in the kitchen making a cake for a Hymn Sing at church later that evening, and WE had some wonderful Lydian time.

I mean, check out this face! You don’t have to be the grandmother to fall in love with him. He’s at that wonderful stage right now — he stays where you put him. We all know those days are numbered, but it’s pretty great at the moment.

He recently learned how to drink using a straw, like his older cousin Milan, and is so pleased with himself. Somehow the concept of tipping a head back to drink from a sippy cup has escaped both of our grandsons. Not a bad thing, really. If you tip back far enough…well, you just fall over backwards!

We all returned to church for the Hymn Sing followed by soup and sandwiches. And then rode home with Jeanne and Kolya. Snow/slush was beginning to fall — that can create panic in Salisbury, by the way — and we wondered what we would find in the morning.

The cold could not chill our hearts warmed by our time with family.

Twenty-four hours in country. Time for bed.