Dear Oksana (& Granny Valentina),

On your birthday/Thanksgiving week, I’m writing you with your annual update about our girl. Only, this year, I’m writing to you and Granny. We just found out that she passed away last month, on October 7th. I wish we could have seen her again before losing her … although family and friends are, of course, reminding me to be thankful that we had our time together back in 2013, and I am. If there’s a world beyond this one, I know that the two of you are together, and I’m thankful for that too.

So, here’s a photo of the girl and the boy, since Granny V counted them both as hers whenever she would write to us:


Arina is, of course, holding a turtle — because, if there’s an animal to be found, she’ll find it and hold it. Note the attire: a gift from a friend of a friend, who works at a railroad — because, yep, Jack still loves trains. And Arina pretends to be annoyed by his little obsessions, but secretly loves them too and is just as eager to play dress-up as he is.

They’re at what will be my parents’ retirement home by a lake. We’re in the process of renovating it now. How appropriate is it that in its former life it was … a. train. depot?


We still have a lot of work to do, but hopefully I’ll be able to post photos of the finished product in next year’s update. Till then, the kids think the renovation project is the best.


Other adventures from the past year include:


bringing down the racist flag from our statehouse grounds (since A&J seem to think they managed this single-handedly);


traveling (Texas for A., Pennsylvania for me&J, Canada for me&S, and Georgia & NC for us all);


trick-or-treating as a pair (yes! at 11-years & 6-years they *still* indulge me in this way);


and learning, b/c we’re full-scale homeschool now, and loving it … although: note to self … I must do a better job of updating our learning blog. In the above photo, Arina and Scott explore the science of cooking.

A busy year … and we wish you both were here. Even though we didn’t talk to Granny as much as we would have liked to, the world was a happier place just knowing she was in it. And now it’s sadder, which means we’ll try twice as hard to make it a better place, in her honor. XO