Frozen Cats, Injuries, and Parenting Wins

I’m sitting here at the table in a super quiet moment.  Ooooh I love it.  I’m debating getting up and making a cup o’ coffee, but I’m too afraid to disturb the moment. So, I’ll probably just stay put.

Vladik is sitting at the table with me drawing a picture for his special class he takes at MTU once a week.  He stays home from school on Wednesdays so he can go to that class.  Also, he does well with a day off in the middle of the week to spend time with mom and dad.  He really enjoys going out to the property with Jed and seeing all the work the guys are doing.  Vlad has an engineering mind and loves all things electrical  and tools and stuff like that. -Basically everything I hate.  Hehe. He’s constantly drawing pictures of the house for Sasha, our friend and builder.  Sasha is so kind, making a big deal over each and every drawing, discussing the details with Vladik.  I love it.

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Seth is at his village preschool/kindergarten and the other 3 are at school.  Seth only goes to his school for 3-4 hours per day and has finally gotten into the groove.  PTL!  I never thought it would happen.  He has a couple little friends there and that has made all the difference.  He wrestles with them every day and comes home with small injuries most days.  I guess their teacher is fine with it?  Ha! Anyway, he has a good time and is learning, so we are winning there, for sure.

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Waiting for the bus after school

Wanna hear something gross?  Of course you do! When we take out the trash we have to walk down a little path/alley behind our apartment, around behind a kindergarten, and then to some dumpsters behind a big apartment building.  It’s all paths and not really a road, so it is never cleared of snow or ice.  It can actually be a bit treacherous! Anyway, a couple weeks ago I noticed a cat had died and was frozen, mid-stride, right on the side of the path.  EEEEEK!  Disgusting.  It’s mouth and eyes were frozen open and it was just horrible to look at.  Poor kitty. It’s still there.  IT’S STILL THERE.  Still frozen, still horrible looking, STILL THERE.  I keep wondering who will take care of it???? If you’re going to suggest that I do it because I’m so concerned…you can just shut your mouth.  There is no way on God’s green earth I’m taking responsibility for that dead cat.  Nasty.  Anyway, I assume everyone is just ignoring it because everything is still frozen around here and everyone hopes someone else will do it.  But sooner or later everything will thaw. Then what?  Ugh.  Now I just avert my eyes every time I have to pass by it because it’s haunting me.  Make it stop!!!

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Our ice skating rink/street

Last week I had this strange infection in my thumb that became a big ordeal.  The big ordeal included: me googling “my thumb is going to explode”, attempting to treat it myself with Jed and a sterilized needle (yes, I know, not smart….but we were desperate), heading to the hospital and being examined by a surgeon in a dimly-lit, flickery-lightbulb hallway, giving a urine sample in a bathroom with OPEN GLASS BOTTLES (aka specimen jars) ON A WOODEN TABLE, NO TOILET SEAT, NO TOILET PAPER, NO SOAP.  Seriously. Slightly high risk for specimen contamination, dontchathink?  My ordeal included a $0.75 X-Ray, thumb numbing and lancing, blood samples taken using a pipet and a rubber tube, and then some sort of loud electromagnetic treatment with this:

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I don’t even know what to say…

All that said, they took very good care of me and the surgeon was competent and extremely kind.  I do have to say though, as an RN who worked in the hospital setting for 13+ years, it was all very Twilight Zone/Civil War tent medicine’ish.  The lead up to the actual procedure was so strange and foreign and old-school that I half expected to be handed a bullet to bite down on as my thumb was cut open. But alas, it was all done with sterile procedure and ease.  I guess you can’t always judge a book by it’s dimly-lit cover. 😉

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You have to buy booties from the pharmacy before going into the hospital

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Seriozha (aka Kenny) saved my life by helping me navigate the hospital experience 🙂

We’ve recently had some parenting wins that I think you should all know about. Aren’t we parents all too hard on ourselves?  I know I am. Why do we do this to ourselves? Let’s take a moment to reflect on the things that, despite our best efforts to screw everything up, seem to be going right. Here we go:

  1. Every time we have our friend Rosa over to play games we listen to a finely-tuned Pandora station called “Phil Collins Radio”. I’ve been thumbing that station up and down  for at least 4 years, so you know it’s full of gems.  Or, if Jed will allow it, Rosa and I will opt for “Bryan Adams Radio”.  This tradition started back when we lived in the US and would play games with our most special Tom and Emma.  Games just call for music everyone can sing along to, and these two stations are exceptional, in my humble opinion.  Well, lately Addy and Ezra have been joining us in our game play and they can now sing along to at least the chorus of several good songs.  The other night we were listening to music while washing the dishes and Ezra requested “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.  Then the next night Addy requested “Take My Breath Away”.  I know we make mistakes every day, but requests of high caliber, such as those, give me hope. #parentingwin
  2. The other day I asked Vladik to go put his notebook in his backpack for school.  He proceeded to toss the notebook in his bag and then declare “Boom shaka laka!” Be still my heart. #parentingwin
  3. Ezra just completed his very first chapter book without pictures.  He started it.  He read it every night.  He asked to stay up late to “finish one more chapter”. He talked about it at dinner. He read it until the very end.  I thought this day would never come. #parentingwin
  4. There is a little boy in Hava’s class that doesn’t really have any friends.  The other kids don’t like him and often aren’t kind to him. Hava decided that was wrong.  She sincerely likes him and decided to appoint herself as his protector. Every day she reports to me on the kindness level of others and what she did to be a friend to him.  #parentingwin

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Welp, I’m off to take Vladik to class and fetch Seth from Kinder…while averting my eyes from frozen cat.  #jesustakethewheel  Happy Wednesday!

 

 

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A Week in Photos: August 7th

I think I’ll try to get back into posting photos of our daily life here.  I know lots of people (besides just the grandmas) are interested in our daily life, and posting weekly pics forces me to get on here and share even if I don’t feel like I have a heckuvalot to say.  🙂 

The kids are adjusting pretty well to life back in Ukraine.  Seth acts as though we never left.  Ha!  He easily picked back up with little friends from church.  Ukrainian life with all the walking and more naturally active life suits him just fine.  Hava, Addy, and Ezra are all doing fine.  School hasn’t started yet, and we still haven’t nailed down exactly where they will go and which grade everyone will be in, so they’re still in our family/church bubble.  Things may get a bit more dicey once we get closer to beginning school…we’ll see.  I’m nervous about it, but what’s new?  Today all is well, so I’ll just be content with that. Vladik is doing great.  He was pretty emotional and regressed quite a bit in our first week here, but he seems to be coming back to his old self.  I could do a whole post on that…maybe I will!  

Bluebell is adjusting to Ukrainian life as well!  It’s killing her to not be able to just run and run and run.  But, we have LOADS of stray dogs in our neighborhood so she has to be on the leash at all times.  We take her for several walks a day, but I know she misses her freedom.  Soon!  Bluebell will LOVE village life!  We are so glad we brought her.  I see the kids going to her for comfort and joy often throughout the day.  What a blessing.  I could do a whole post on that as well!  Maybe I will! 😉 

On Sunday night a bunch of our church family came out to the new property to check it out and to pray.  It was awesome!  We felt so loved, and it was massively encouraging to see so many people from church interested and engaged in what God is doing.  It was a beautiful time. 


A friend from church, Andriy, brought his camera along and took some cool pics while we were all out at the property.  I love them!!!  There are SO MANY super old things left at the house.  Like serious antiques.  It will be so fun to use them in decorating.  EEK!  I’m horrible at that kind of thing.  I need Fixer-Uppers International!!! Seriously though, our house would be so super fun for someone who is good at that kind of thing.  It’s like a museum!  


We have a small team here this week from the UK Vineyard, and one friend from Ventura Vineyard. Oh man, we love those guys so much.  They’re mostly here to help the Ukrainian Vineyard pastors, but a couple of the team members are Speech and Language Pathologists and they came just to support our interns at Romaniv.  They have all been such an encouragement to us.  They also makes us laugh a ton, so that’s a big bonus.  We are so thankful for their love for Ukraine and her people, and their love for us.  We don’t want them to leeeeeeeeave!!!!  (I don’t have pics of them all, but you get the idea.  They rock.) Thank you Jim, Jeremy, Josh, Sophie, and Ali!  🙂

And, of course we have our boys.  Our sweeties.  Our urgency to get them out grows more every day.  It’s hard to trust God’s timing, but we really don’t want to push ahead on our own.  We are certain to fall flat on our faces if we get ahead of ourselves.  So, one foot in front of the other we say yes.  And in the meantime we try to give them all the love we can while they wait. 

On the Way

Where in the world is the Johnson Fam?  Are you finding it impossible to keep up with all our comings and goings and craziness?  Yeah, me too.  🙂  I did a big catch-up post here, for the curious. 

I’m sitting in the Houston Airport, on my way back to Ukraine for adoption court. YES!  Jed is already back in Ukraine working away with our Boys, moving out of our house, and spending lots of quality time with our soon-to-be-son.  Our other kiddos are back in Salem at some wonderful friends’ house.  Grammy (Jed’s mommy) flew to Oregon from Montana to care for them while I’m gone for court.  So, we’re all spread out for now, but it’s all gonna be worth it, because soon our son will be OUT forever!!!  I hope and pray all goes well at court on Monday and I can do a big, fat introduction/birth announcement.  

We arrived in the US as a family on August 11th and had the most wonderful 10 days together before Jed flew back to Ukraine.  It was just pure awesomeness.  

 

We only pack the necessities

  

Ol’ Faithful mustache tape has served us well

  

At the airport in Kyiv!

 
You know, I had read lots of missionary/expat tips on how to re-enter the US after being away for a while, and they all recommended heading someplace that is not your home base and just being together as a family before seeing family and friends.  All the recommendations talked about how it is helpful just to decompress as a family, get over jetlag without demands on your attention and all that.  I thought it sounded like a great idea, but not great on the ol’ budget.  Well, God totally took care of that!  A wonderfully generous couple from Ventura, CA whom we had NEVER MET gave us their house for 5 days.  They left and just let us take over their beautiful home and it was the hugest blessing ever!!!  We went to the beach (where Jed and I proceeded to win the worst parents in the world award by letting our kids get completely fried…oops #babylobsters), we watched tons of movies, we oogled over Target and Trader Joes, I read and read and read some more, and the icing on the cake: Jed and I got to go see my brother star in a musical in La Jolla.  It was AWESOME.  Thank you Dan and Jeannie for blessing us so completely.  

 

Jet lag is a beast!

  
    
  

I’m so proud of my brother!

 
After our 5 day rest, my family drove down and we all met in Anaheim for 4 days of Disney!!!  My heaven!  Haha! My parents had been saving and planning for this family trip for 2 years and it was absolutely perfection.  Seriously.  It could not have been better!  

We did two days of Disneyland and two days of California Adventure and we loved every second of it.  My parents rented a house with a pool so every day we would come back in the afternoon and the kids would swim with their cousins.  Best.trip.ever.  Thank you Mom and Dad for that most wonderful, memorable gift!  

   
 
    

    
    
    

Gotta represent Wide Awake! 🙂

 
Jed flew back to Ukraine on our last day of Disney and the kids and I flew up to Oregon.  Then it was school registration (EEK!) and school supply shopping and embassy document notarizing and health insurance document mailing and doctor’s office calling and soon-to-be-son clothes shopping and back-to-America-culture-shocking (more on that later).  I pretty much ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, so it’s lucky that Grammy arrived when she did to save my children from their crazy mommy! 😉 

 

Seth forgot about booster seats. Ha!

  

My kids were FASCINATED and in awe of the cereal aisle

    

A once in a lifetime experience: they each got to pick out their own cereal.

  

We’ve been so busy we even lost a tooth!

  

The kids insisted we walk to the library instead of driving. “We don’t want to lose our Ukrainian legs Mom!”

 
We are so blessed and SO excited to be just about done with this legal stage of the adoption.  We’re ready for the family stage now. Our mommy and daddy hearts are positively busting at the seams.  We are so close!  The kids are doing amazing.  They are so flexible and adaptable and brave.  They want their brother home super bad too.  

Soon, baby soon!!  

Unexpected Blessings: England!

Did you know that I could be the perfect criminal?  All these years earning money like an honest person, and I could have just been a thief! 😉  You see, unbeknownst to me, I have almost no fingerprints.  Yeah, I guess no one really pays attention to their fingerprints (or lack thereof) until they try to adopt.  Who would have thought that this biggest hurdle in our adoption process would be my fingertips??????  

For our adoption we have to have FBI clearance (which requires fingerprinting) and US immigration approval (which requires a separate fingerprinting process).  Easy peasy, if you have fingerprints.  We had our fingerprints taken with ink in Kyiv, at the Embassy, and then they were mailed to the US for processing.  My FBI prints were rejected first, for poor quality, so I had to fly to the US to have them redone.  Remember that?  Well, then my US immigration prints were rejected, soooooo Havalah and I flew to England last week to have them redone at the US Embassy in London.  At that embassy they have an electronic process with which you can do your prints over and over until you get high enough quality prints to be accepted.  I found out last Tuesday that the London Embassy would do my prints on Thursday, so Hava and I flew out last Wednesday.  

At first I was frustrated to have to fly to another country AGAIN, on behalf of my fingers, but we’ll do whatever we gotta do to get our baby home, so we decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it and enjoy ourselves in the process. 

     

We arrived in London on Wednesday afternoon and our appointment wasn’t until Thursday at 1:00, so we spent Wednesday evening and Thursday morning exploring London and drinking in ALL THE ENGLISH being spoken everywhere.  It was awesome.  Going somewhere where you can understand everything is like a vacation for my brain.  It is a relief, and just a joy.  We had the best time.

               

We headed to the US Embassy with time to spare on Thursday and nervously awaited the staff member who would take me in for my infamous prints.  

It took some effort, that’s for sure.  The computer kept rejecting, rejecting, rejecting, and ultimately wouldn’t pass some of my fingers, but in the end the staff member assured me the prints he had captured were “good enough”.  SWEET RELIEF!!!!!!  I was nervous since I don’t understand the system and he hadn’t gotten a “pass” for all of my fingers, but in the end after 20 reassurances, I decided to trust him.  Haha.  

We celebrated by going to theater to watch a movie in English!  Such fun. 

One funny thing about this trip was seeing everything through Havalah’s eyes.  Although we’ve only beeen gone from the US for 18 months, that’s a long time for a little one.  Hava was only 4 when we left.  We were standing in line for our passport check when we arrived at the airport in London and when she heard people talking she said “Mom!  They know how to speak English here!”  The not so funny thing was the constant reminders to my rather outspoken daughter that yes, people speak English here, so yes, they can understand everything you say.  Oy.  

Her fascination with squirrels, common place in Oregon, but not common in Ukraine cracked me up.  She saw a Burger King sign and said “Hey!  I think I know that place!”   Her awe over all the green grass and amazingly in-repair sidewalks made me smile.  She made friends with strangers on every form of public transportation, living it up with her mad English skills.  What a sweetie.   

          

We did some more exploring on Friday morning, and then took an afternoon train north to Hull, to spend the weekend with some friends.  

Just the week before Hava and I were in England we had a team from Hull here in Ukraine, so we were happy to see them again and visit Hull Vineyard, their awesome church that supports Wide Awake.  It was a sweet time enjoying friends and making new friends.  We felt so loved and cared for.  My heart was encouraged and Hava got her love tank filled to overflowing.  Thank you Hull friends for loving us so well.  We love you!!! 

(boohoo I didn’t take nearly enough pics in Hull))

        

We’re back in Ukraine now and just waiting on our US immigration approval, and then all of our documents can be submitted to the adoption authorities here, and our in-country process can begin! 

Would you pray with us for speedy approval by immigration, and that the adoption authorities will have no issues with our paperwork?  Our situation is unique, so we aren’t sure if they will require extra documentation from us.  We pray not, because we are desperate to get our son home.  We are so close!  

I’m so thankful for the special England gift that God gave to Hava and me.  It seemed like an inconvenience at the time, but it was just pure blessing.  God knows just what we need, and He goes before us to prepare the way.  I mean, the week before I found out I would be going to England He brought us English friends who would bless our socks off and shower us with love.  This trip wasn’t just about fingerprints, it was about me learning to trust Him and His goodness, even more.  

One step closer to getting our baby home.  What a wild ride!  🙂

A Week in Photos: May 4th

Spring has sprung!  I know, I know, I said that before- but then it snowed a couple days later.  I think I can say it with confidence this time.  SPRING HAS SPRUNG.  I declare it!

This is one of those weeks when so much happened that I don’t even know where to start.  I don’t think I’ll try to describe it all, I’ll just put it out there and maybe the descriptions will come out over the next couple of weeks.  

-Grammy and Papa are here visiting from Montana.  YAY!!!!  They leave on Wednesday.  BOO.

-We drove to Lutsk last weekend (a town about 3 hours away)  to visit some of Grammy and Papa’s friends who pastor a church there.  It was fun to take the van on our first family road trip.  🙂

-A team from Hull Vineyard in the UK came to Ukraine for a Vineyard conference and spent a few days with us here in Zhytomyr.  They got to meet our Boys, encourage our church, and just be all around awesome.  Their visit was such a HUGE blessing to us as a family.  We were so sad for them to leave!  We posted an awesome video of the team on our Wide Awake Facebook page.  Check it out!

-One of the Vineyard team members was a speech and language therapist and she and I got to spend two days at Romaniv observing meals, helping with feedings, and advising the staff.  It was a very valuable time and the staff seemed very receptive.  Follow-up will be key.  Being at Romaniv for meals and in the early morning hours was very insightful for me, personally.  Peeling back the layer of what makes our boys and that place who they are and what it is.  I’ll probably blog about that at length on another day.

-We had a super fun game night with the young adults with disabilities.  How awesome to be able to meet outside in the sunshine!  Our pasty white skin needed that!

-My fingerprints were rejected again for our adoption- this time they were rejected for US immigration approval.  SO FRUSTRATING.  So, now I might be flying to London to get them redone.  Grrrrrrrr.  Apparently women who do a lot of dishes and nurses have a higher likelihood of having poor quality fingerprints.  Double whammy for me. 😦

Now for pics.  If you have any questions, of course you know you can always ask!  🙂