Saturday, December 27, 2008

many faces of Christmas

The preschool Christmas celebration included dressing up as animal characters or some other character. The the suggestion in Erik's group was to dress up as a family. Gregg was willing to be the "man in the yellow hat" for the occasion as Erik wanted to be Curious George. (mama's part was sewing a costume together from various parts from the second hand store!)

Other parents found the easier solution as we did for David in getting a quick and easy (and inexpensive!)wolf costume. David's group was to wear costumes of animals from the wild. Then the games and poems they played and said were related to the forest.

"Senelis" (or Santa) and the parents were the ones they were performing for. A few of David's group said little poems by themselves, but mostly it was a group effort. in Erik's group they prepared individual ones and Erik did a good job in Lithuanian-like others with a few prompts from the teacher. The "senelis" really has to work on those days and it is not just about hearing what children want for christmas. He leads games and listens to their poems for a good half hour! Locally children are trained that they must say their poems and be good to get their gifts.

On "Kuchios" or Christmas eve we had a very scaled down version of the traditional 12 dishes without meat. we stayed away from the traditional "silke" - herring since none of us particularly like it.

On Christmas day we had breakfast and told the Christmas story with the ceramic figures. Then we opened gifts and then headed to Silute for the church service. It turned out quite nice. The boys also participated by doing motions and attempting to sing and kids Christmas song in Lithuanianwith some young ladies who are starting to lead Sunday school. We had some refreshments after the service and the atmosphere was warm and it was just really good to be there.

Sometimes other years after coming home from Silute we were a bit sad with everyone going to families and we to a very quiet house for a few days. But this time was different of course with the boys. And after naps we also went to a gathering of people at LCC who are around for the holidays without family. That included some students from farther away like Albania, Kosovo, Africa, Kyrgystan and so on. Our boys were the only little children, but they had a good time. There was a gift exchange (white elephant style) and by the end I was able to exchange for a gift that was intended for us- Tupperware popsicle makers!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

They did it!

it was a bit of wait and see whether the boys would participate in the program today. Erik froze when we did the rehearsal. Seems the costumes scared him. We switched gears a bit and adapted so Gregg was wearing the older shepherd costume instead of mama, and this helped. And we gave them incentives for doing what they were to do in the program. They were still squirmy little boys, but they were quiet. And having them there served the purpose, both for exposure to the nativity story for them and a few more cute faces and antics for everyone else!

This has been an interested week with various comments and behaviors. Erik usually asks when we come in the door now where I am going to put my shoes (We have a few little carpets out to put shoes on by the door so wetness and dirt do not go through the house) And he wanted to put his right next to mine.

Erik seems to be accepting his identity and past a little bit more, at least I thought so from this conversation:
Erik: I like "darzelis" (preschool) We ne sleep there. I like the other grupe (baby house) too. We sleep there.
Mama: yeah, you slept there, but then mommy and daddy came to take you home with us.
Erik: why did you take us home?
Mama: because we liked you and we wanted you to come and be in our family.
Erik: I want kita else (someone else) to take me home.
Mama: why?
Erik: I want kita else like me.
It is hard to know what all he was thinking and the communication is still mixed languages. He does not have full language capacity to express what he wants for his age. But he tries. it just really takes some concentration to understand. It seems from his tone while talking that he feels more at ease with his Lithuanian identity and that he realizes we are different than the other Lithuanians around, especially in Darzelis (preshool) I would like to be a mouse to see if he is talking about it there or if others are making comparisons of what he does and says to the way things are done in Lithuanian culture. There would be a few noticable differences in behaviorsthe boys have picked up from us by now. But perhaps the most noticable one is language. And Erik is probably the only one that cannot recite a poem with the rest of the group... though who knows- Tuesday is the program and maybe he will.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

why don't you have a baby

Well, it is the season for a large number of our friends in Lithuania, and some in the US to be waiting for and having babies. Two were born in the last 2 weeks. So, we are having conversations that did not come up before. How does the baby get out? I want you to have a baby, why don't you have a baby mama? Somehow the connection is not there yet to ask about their own birth Maybe it will come when we give them picture books this Christmas from their early years- pictures given from the baby house. We have little baby pictures for David but not for Erik.

We are working on the second verse of "Away in a manger" for a Christmas program with other expats here at LCC in their "international" church.

And for preschool we are working on costumes and learning poems- a different kind of tradition for the season. We found an inexpensive suit for a wolf at a store yesterday that David was pleased with, so one is accounted for. Erik is interested in being curious George- who is basically unknown here. And one of us parents should be the man in the yellow hat. One of the mothers in Erik's group came up with the idea for parents to dress up with the kids. The program is on the 23rd in the afternoon. First David's group at 1:30 and then Erik's group at 2:30 and the parents of Erik's group are to hang around with refreshments for kids and teachers afterward. Fortunately we both have off work at LCC that day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Our entertainers

We got the OK for David to go back to preschool and he returned on Friday. That evening we also had a Christmas program at LCC. It is always at the beginning of December since students are not around the week before Christmas and soon they will have Final exams for the end our our semester.

With practicing for Away in the Manger (the boys were in a children's group) and seeing decorations around, it seemed the right time to get our Nativity scene out- a ceramic one we got on dicount last year- only to realize later it had no Mary and 4 wise men! :) But the boys used the figures to play and maybe we will find a better on this year.

Gregg was asked to sing in the small choir, just a couple of days before. And the boys had rehearsal on Thursday night too. It turned out to be a busy week.
They did a good job at the rehearsal, walking in as instructed and they also knew motions to the song that noone else knew- but it really helped to keep them focused.
But for all the good planning, what happened on Friday was something quite different!

We'll include a video here (sorry these clips sown together are rather dark). We did not have candles on the stage during practice. we'll let you see what happens- until I turned off the camera to get the boys attention.
(In the middle is a short clip of our family when we thought we were getting pictures taken- and video was on instead)

What we failed to get to get was the little victory dance that Erik did when he succeeded in blowing candles out- they had 3 out before I got to them. And the crowd roared. People thought that was the best part of the program- certainly they've made a "name" for themselves!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just rain

Well the snow is over. Now we are back to cloudiness, rain and ever shortening days.
The past week has been a blur. With the sickness and a few extra errands I had promised that I could not reschedule-before I knew what would happen in our house, I was too busy. And I needed to roast a turkey. Fortunately Gregg saw things for what they were and encouraged me to catch up on sleep after the Thanksgiving meal was over on Saturday.

David is still at home. On Friday we went to the Dr. and got antibiotics among other recommended meds and we return on Thursday. So that will be 2 weeks out of preschool, and it is for things like this that we have needed to keep our schedules such that one of us can cancel our activities and be home during the day.

But during that time, David has done a nice amount of little projects at home, has learned some computer "games" on the site and he does really well with matching shapes in pictures!

At the LCC Thanksgiving event, coloring pages were provided for the children and Erik really did a great job on coloring his pumpkin. He had help for the suggested colors, but otherwise this is the best independent work he's done.

We also had this fun little "conversation" tonight to share by video. There are a lot of really cute things happening for the past few weeks as the boys' language facility expands- and telling about it does not really give the whole story! I guess we still understand more than the average person just listening since they do mix Languages- and compete for attention talking over each other! Should have named this one- "When I was a little boy"!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Since Friday we have been under a blanket of white! There is more melting on the roads today, but we were not really prepared. Gregg is getting the snow tires on today. The law is you can put them on November 15, but we had not gotten to it yet.

I'm having the first experience with a really sick child these days too. David started on Sunday with a fever and since that whenever the medicine wears off he spikes a fever that adds a headache and stomach discomfort. But when medicine is in his system he can be his usual silly self.

The boys have really developed imaginations for play. They are in the stage where we pretend to play store and we don't really have any items- just imagining moving the air around!

But they do like to do more creative things with real material too. A year ago they only wanted to knock things down, smash things, scribble and tear. It was a little hard on my pride of building a snow man each year to have had the only significant snow not turn into a snow man last year. (It was immediately destroyed, over and over) But it seems this year I will have ample opportunity.

We are having good success with students watching the boys for us as well. So other than David and Gregg fighting sickness, things feel amazingly normal here.

I have a week break from the online seminary class I've been taking this semester. That will give me a chance to catch up on some things at home that are waiting for me! Since I started teaching English 2 days a week, it is harder to keep up with everything. The English class has been fun for me and the students are very eager. They are women and two men. Their motive is to learn English well enough to go as a group for training in the UK to open a cancer center here in Klaipeda. Will be the first one in Lithuania. (medical care exists, but nothing really for support groups, hospice, spiritual care) So this is a really fine group of people and I am glad to be able to help them toward their goal.

We will have our usual strange Thanksgiving customs (none locally) when Americans from LCC go after work to Mc Donalds for chicken sandwiches - or whatever makes them feel festive. Then on Saturday the whole community comes together for Turkey dinner. I am to make one of the turkeys. So you may not hear from me till after that adventure is over!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Family Day

November 16 is the day we brought the boys home. So this weekend we are celebrating. We do not manage to get as many pictures now as we did earlier- the boys are not so interested in being in pictures as before.

Saturday we went to get balloons like we did last year when we brought them home. And we also got new toys with remote control- their first ones. Then in the evening we had Vaidas and Gina and their daughter Ema to visit. They were one of the couples who wrote recommendation letters for our adoption process. Today we had Modestas and Ramune and their children. They also have been great supporters of us this year in and they had written a letter as well.

Today at church we brought a cake and made tea and also showed pictures after the service. It was a nice reason for people to stay around a bit and talk as well.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mommy you look very pretty

Where did he get that from?- Mommy you look very pretty... and he said it not just one time this morning. Gregg was not around. I've never heard him use the word pretty before! But of course that makes mommy feel good. We are on our way to Silute for church this morning.

David was back to Preschool Friday. When I took him back they asked for the excuse note from the doctor. I had not wanted to delay him getting back by taking him to the doctor. But, see here again, I did not understand. I need to go to the doctor's receptionist, tell her what days he was out and when he was returning. Then they right the slip saying he is healthy! Good one of my Lithuanian friends could help me make (some) sense of the system.

Erik is eager for preschool these days. THis is a noticable change over time. No more persuading him to go!

A year is almost here- and oh what a difference it has made for the boys and for our family life. We are still tired more often than before. But the overall picture looks pretty normal now. We had a babysitter on Friday night and when we got back at 10:30 the boys were in bed sleeping (that was a first).

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Last Thursday we headed by car to Riga Latvia to catch a Baltic Air flight to Munich and then by rental car to our missionary retreat at Schloss Mittersil. The travel went well with only a few minor delays so we got there almost on time. By the next day the boys had met the other children. They were eager to be with a group of older children. (At least more eager than they are to be with there own age group at preschool) Several of the adults and a few children were not new to the boys and that helped for a quicker adjustment too.

It was truly a blessing to observe how they interacted with other children and how they responded to other families there. They had quite a lot of freedom to wander in the large castle as our group was the only one this time, and they felt comfortable being out of our sight. We are so very grateful for the other families and their children as well as the child care workers who related to our boys.

The child care workers had a large range of ages to work with but they let our boys play around the other kids when they were not into structure. One day Erik got one of them to read to him the entire time- 2 hours plus 1 1/2 hours later- I think that's a record. The children made tie die tshirts with a mittersill emblem the workers had designed ahead of time- you will see in the pictures.

Erik got to running with the other boys, and David soon followed. Though he also went his own way and we found him in the game room with big boys sometimes. Erik got started somewhere along the way giving hugs, so the last day or so was interesting as we observed the older children taking their turn asking Erik for a hug. What a difference a year makes!!

The travel back was more difficult. Both boys were struggling with colds and it was a significant amount of driving for a day. We spent a day at home and David spent another one at home today again. Hopefully he will be better for tomorrow. For a while there he sounded a few years older- mixture of laryngitis and a very low voice! Quite funny really.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


We have had an interesting week with two sets of visitors from our mission agency in the USA. We are blessed to have these encouragers as leaders and friends. Jim and Donna Dombach are very familiar with Lithuania from serving here themselves for 7 years.
For Darrel and Sherill Hostetter it was a first visit to Lithuania so there were many things to try to introduce them to in their very brief visit here. One of these things was the sakotis cake in the picture. We also wanted to take them to see a little of the area including the outdoor market, the old town section of Klaipeda where we lived before, and the small apartment where we lived when the boys came to live with us. And then so the boys could have more space to play, we drove to a place outside of the town of Palanga.
We went to the HBH "resort" (restaurant and outside entertainment in natural surroundings seen somewhat in the pistures)with the boys and I- while Gregg was in church meetings in another city 3 1/2 hours away.

Our guests had a chance to eat koldunai and potato pancakes and Lithuanian pizza and surelis. Today they were with us at the Silute church and Darell shared the morning message. This afternoon they left for Vilnius and tomorrow they head to Germany. We will meet them again next week as the European missionaries from our mission meet with them for retreat in Austria!

The boys really enjoyed the visits. They knew Jim and Donna from a couple of other visits and always enjoy them, but the Hostetters were relatively new to them. Erik said after they left- I like them! He especially liked that Darrel played active games with him!!

The boys also got a good deal of attention from our guests and after a while they were left to play on their own and came back to show us they had come up with their own game- without shirts :)
Prior to the visit we also made some "chocolate chunk" cookies- I no longer had any chocolate chips and local chocolate bars broken into pieces worked quite well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I walked out

I hoped I would not have to do this. But I said after the meeting with David's teachers and parents that I would not sit for another meeting that was like that!
This time it was for Erik's group. I had missed the first meeting and the parent's council called a second one. Apparently not all the parents were happy with the lists of supplies that were sent home to be brought in- cleaning items for the most part. And then there was the issue of water suggesting we all pitch in to buy a water cooler and jugs for the class. And one family had gone to the education department to complain and a newspaper article was written that ticked the teachers off because they got called on the carpet. So it was fuel for a good sized bonfire since people were not too agreeable to start with. After 45 minutes of people shouting over each other 4 and 5 at the same time, including the teachers, I got up and said I can't participate in this, I will communicate in some other way, but not this way!

I guess the times have come that I am finally in the situations where people are themselves, and am not treated as an outsider, especially a Westerner that should be sheilded from the realities. I have sensed over the past years that a certain amount of sheilding was happening. But nothing had quite prepared me for this level of open conflict with no resolution in site.

The teachers also left after a while when nothing was being resolved and they did not know the outcome. I have not heard from the parents though I did give my contact information through the teacher the next day.

On a more positive note, Our friends Modestas and Ramune have young children and they were over to play last night and to participate in a delayed celebration of my birthday. It was nice to see the children playing well together. And our boys were using more Lithuanian than they have so far at home. So the bilingualism is coming slowly now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

birthdays and sickness

The boys pressed daddy into opening gifts which they helped wrap, and were determined to unwrap it daddy did not do it.

Also you see here the building we live in now in the top 2 floors.

We had a plan to go to Palanga the resort town just north of Klaipeda on Saturday to do something different for Gregg's birthday. But just as we were getting ready to go he began feeling very ill and was sick hardly eating anything for the weekend. I felt that I was fighting it too in my digestive system by Saturday night.
So that cancelled our plans to travel to Panevezys for the commissioning of a local couple for short term(4 month) mission to India.

By Monday, my birthday, the situation was getting a little better for Gregg and he went back to work a few hours,and I returned to my routine. But after a few hours, Gregg was visibly not feeling well. So our plans were up in the air for going to a restaurant in the evening. In the end we did go, and tested the patience of the staff with our 2 little boys who just cannot sit still. Noone complained actually.

Then after the boys were in bed and we settled in we heard crying out from the other room and it was Erik throwing up all over. After it was cleaned up and he was lying down a few minutes, it started again.

So, Erik was home from preschool today. And once again we are glad for our alternate schedules for away from home work. Gregg was teaching and I was home- though still trying to work on my assignment for the online seminary class I am taking this fall.

Enough change in my routine I forgot the meeting I was to attend at LCC at 5 today. Oh well, the normal things of life!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Warm again

We are happy that the weather turned warm (60s) for this week during the day. (nights are down below 40 sometimes though). The sun has been shining nicely in the afternoons too. That helps to keep mama a little happier these days.

Erik and David are going to preschool each day from about 9-5 and though they are not always eager to go in the morning, they generally are doing well. Erik is joining in with boys in his class. His communication is still not fluent, but he is using some Lithuanian. David is happy playing in his group and some days asks to make sure he can come back the next day. Some days he does not sleep at nap time and then we have more issues at home. But the teachers don't seem to be bothered about it. There are more than don't sleep I guess. David seems to need dark and quiet to sleep at home and neither are to be found for long at preschool.

This last weekend I was away at a women's conference. I slept better than overnight than I have in a while. No one pulling me out of bed during the night because he is scared. And the bed was more confortable than at home. (Landlord has not changed the inferior mattress yet.)

But I came back to a strange welcome. Gregg brought the boys in the van to pick me and a few others up at the large traffic circle near Klaipeda. The boys had not expected others to ride with us. So though Gregg says they were anxious to come and see me, it did not exactly look that way when we all got in the car. Erik led the two of them in wiggling relentlessly to get out of reach, though they needed to be on laps. And Erik said he did not love mama and did some other things to try to keep the emotional distance.

A little later David was eager to sit on my lap and was ready to connect, but it took longer for Erik. But then eventually it was clear he wanted to connect too. Almost seems that he was trying to punish me for being away, and since he got used to not having me, I could just stay away! But, things are back to normal now.

Erik seems to be preferring Gregg a little more these days as well. Guess he is growing in the male identity now.

We have a whole list of things to evaluate for Each of the boys, what skills they have or are just working on. The preschool teacher and the parents evaluate in fall and then in spring. So, after checking through the list we know a few things for focus on for the next while!

This weekend are our birthdays (Gregg's saturday and mine Monday) and Erik is especially looking forward to celebrating with cake. He is hoping his birthday comes soon. But at least we have some other birthdays to celebrate!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

life is busy

Well, perhaps all who were daily followers of this blog will have given up that habit in this 10 day break! I opted to work on stories and pictures for the newsletter which goes out to a fairly large list by email. And the pictures are different than the ones here for the most part.

You will see from pictures above that we are in communication with grandparents via Skype on the computer. The boys grabbed the camera and took a picture while we were talking. I remember in high school some techie predictions that we would have phones with video of the person talking some day and I thought they were nuts! Oh well- we are glad for it now.

The boys attended a birthday party yesterday. And today we went to feed ducks near our place after returning from the day in Silute for church. Things there have been encouraging as more people are showing initiative.

We are in the routines of school and preschool (and me taking a seminary course on line)- although that just may change a bit this next week if the boys are having any signs of a cold. I let them go to preschool over the last week or so with symptoms, but I have been told that the parents have agreed not to send kids to school with colds.

There are a few things we are getting used to and learning about with the entrance into the preschool world. I also had my culture shock experience for the year when attending the parents' meeting for David's class. The teachers berated the parents throughout most of the meeting and everyone basically sat there and took it. And then since noone said much of anything they berated us for not relating warmly and jumping in to volunteer for tasks that they suggested we do. After an hour and a half I realized that I had not told Erik I would be late to pick him up and wondered what was happening with him. The children from David's group were being watched in a nearby room. That part worked out OK. But I left a bit stressed.

Admittedly the preschools function on a less than adequate budget, so it is understandable that some needs for the classroom are brought before the parents. They cannot ask for funds (directly) but the needs are known none the less. And they will keep a notebook of the things parents bring in and any donated moneys and expenses. We will be taking toilet paper, paper towels, soap, air freshener, etc.

For David's group I am a parent rep on the parents' council and I represent the two other English speaking families. I have been the prime communicator to them anyway. We parents donate money for the workbooks that list the skills in 5 areas they will seek to evaluate learn within the year. And we are working on getting that translated as parents are to do their evaluation too.

In Erik's group I had to find out after the meeting the things I needed to know because between Gregg and me sharing getting the boys we missed seeing a sign that there would be a meeting. In his group the parents' council will collect money from parents for workbooks and water filters. And Erik needs to have dance slippers for music class. And he should have separate sneakers, T shirt and sweatpants for exercise class.

The other noticable change in the last 10 days is that the boys are using Lithuanian language at school- English mixed in to be sure. But when i go to pick them up I can see they have to make the effort to switch to English.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Yes, Cold. In the 40s here during the day. Time to find out how to turn the heat on in this apartment. At least we have the choice!
And I've come down with a chest cold. Reminds me of how I felt in December and January- yuck.

But prior to Monday the weekend was notable for a few events. I attended the commissioning of one of the LCC granduates, now a Duke Seminary graduate who will serve in a Methodist church in Siauliai. Grazhina was an active student throughout my time as chaplain at LCC and I am really excited to see her follow God's call on her life in this way. I drove our car full of friends from Klaipeda and so it was a ladies day out so to speak.

Friday evening marked the first in Gregg's weekly teen group meetings in Silute and my time at home with the boys. It went well both in Silute and at home. In the past Friday night was a time that I almost dreaded because the boys tested me in many ways. But times are changing.

And Sunday we were part of a church meeting after the service in Silute. It was a very scattered experience for me as I tried to get pieces of what was happening while taking care of the boys. But the good news was that there are people willing to be active and the church council is now functional again with a group of 5 of us.

Tonight will be test for a babysitter. We both need to go to Silute for the evening for a meeting! (so I better go rest so I am ready!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Community day

The larger LCC community including families of staff are welcome for opening ceremonies and barbeque on the grounds. The 3 children who are in the same class in preschool are seen here together- Ieva, David and David. So far none of them are speaking Lithuanian at preschool and the teachers are having a challenge with communication. They have asked for English classes for teachers and administrators, so I will be going on Mondays. Already I act as translator and go between for communication for the 3 other families to some extent.

Earlier this week I cut the boys hair again, and here is David trying to return the favor.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

day trip

This post is focused more on our ministry work than our family per se. This week we were contacted to help plan for a baptism of a young teen from Gregg's Friday night ministry in Silute. She has a friend in Kaunas (2+ hours drive from Klaipeda)who was to be baptized and since they really wanted outside baptism and weather will turn colder in the coming weeks, plans took shape quickly.

Since we combined with another Free Christian church for the baptism and were traveling there for the morning service, Gregg was asked to preach as well. They also had a room to the back for young children and it has windows that allowed me to see what is going on. And the sounds system also let me hear it.

Right at the end of the service, the pastor asked everyone to travel to the lake to continue the service with the baptism. Again I must give the warning- our camera takes just 30 second videos and this is unedited.

It was neat to see the full families there at the baptism which seems kind of new. So many have been 1st generation church goers in our earlier years.

It ended up that another man requested baptism too, so Gregg assisted in 3 baptisms!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

a warmer day

The last week has been rainy and cool for the most part. And today was warm enough to go without jackets, until closer to evening when we finally got us all out together for a ferry ride from Klaipeda across the relatively short span of water to the strip of land called the spit. It has wonderful paths to the sea but we did not go that way this time. Rather we sent along the water's edge toward some old boats on display. It was the first time for the boys and there will be other things like the Dolphinarium and sea museum to explore in future trips too.

The week at preschool went fairly well. Both boys stayed from 9-4 or a little longer each day. They are in different groups in different parts of the building. So we need to pick up one and take to the other side to get the other one. They get a little wound up seeing each other again and I guess people just think we are a rowdy family! (If they only knew the life Gregg and I lived before :) )

Tomorrow we head to Kaunas- a 2 and a half hour road trip! There should be something to say from that!