June Happened.

Hello July!

What in the world? June was a tornado. It was a tornado of awesomeness and craziness and life-changingness. But yeah, it was definitely a tornado.

Recap:

May 31: Our sweet Sara left after a month of massage and intern-training. We miss you Saramama!

June 7: We celebrated our kids’ completion of one year of Ukrainian school and our precious Seth’s birthday at a water park in Kyiv. Yay!

June 10: We moved to the Wide Awake Homestead! MONUMENTAL DAY.

June 11: Tara and Christiana arrived! Tara and Christiana are both American girls who came to bless our boys and our team. Their presence was so refreshing. They served and smiled and brought every one of us so much joy. Internet friendships can turn out to be real-life awesome!

June 12-16: Tara and Christiana started going to Romaniv with our team and interns, getting to know the boys. Addy went to a day camp at school and made new friends. 🙂

June 17: The team from Hands of Hope arrived! Hands of Hope is our wonderful partner in Indiana. They have poured much love and support into Romaniv and Wide Awake over many years. They came to help with a Romaniv Day Camp that was put on by Mission to Ukraine and Wide Awake. They also brought an awesome builder with them who served us by building a deck at the Homestead!!!!

June 19: Day Camp begins and a team of medical professionals from Germany arrived to help at the camp and observe our team.

June 22: Sydney, an American friend and long-time Wide Awake supporter was “in the neighborhood” and arrived to visit, help, and see all the craziness we are up to. ALSO a crazy awesome American arrived to begin the in-country process of adopting our sweet Stephan!!! His presence was just the hugest encouragement to our team. We were so blessed to see him open his heart to Stephan and say YES to what God has for his family. Just wow.

June 23: Final day of Day Camp! Hands of Hope threw our team a party and it was awesome. They encouraged us and blessed us all. Our hearts needed it.

June 24: Hands of Hope headed home.

June 25: Our church had a beautiful baptism and picnic at the river. All our German friends and American friends joined in and it was just a really special day.

June 26: The German team provided a training for our interns after observing their work over the past week. Their insight and wisdom, how they saw the boys and the work with fresh eyes was invaluable. They challenged us and pushed us in new ways.  A little pushing can hurt, but when done in love it can foster so much growth. We really so appreciated their hearts and hard work!

June 27: The German team did more training for the interns, and then a training for our team. So much good stuff!!

June 28: Good bye German team! Thank you!! Please come again. 🙂

June 29: Good bye dear Tara, Christiana and Sydney. Your wide open hearts and contagious laughter will be greatly missed. Come again!

So there you have it. Tornado.

It was quite the balance of scheduling and transportation and feeding, but the goodness far outweighed any stress that came along with it. I mean, all those wonderful people came because they love our boys and they believe in the vision of what we are doing here. They believe in God’s dream and they see the incredible worth of our boys. They gave up their vacation time and spent a lot of money to come pour into our boys, our family, and our team. We are forever grateful and super humbled by their giving.

I know I promised you a walk-through of the Homestead and I haven’t forgotten. With all the craziness of June we really haven’t gotten a chance to settle at all, and speaking of tornados…well, you get the idea. I’d like to tidy up a bit before sharing with you. 😉 Hopefully this week I’ll have something to show you. Thank you for your patience!

Now for pics.

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Camp theme for the Isolation Hall: “Fun in the Sun and Shade”

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We had stations for each of the 5 senses. For some boys every station became the “taste” station. Ha!

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Thank you Barry and Tom for all your hard work on the deck!

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Americans at work, picking Colorado bugs off our potatoes. Welcome to Ukraine. hehe

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Village life is gross sometimes. 

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The German team arrived! (plus Ava, not pictured)

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Thanks Hands of Hope for the great party!

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Sweet Friends. Thank you for refreshing my soul!

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Taking a break from training 🙂

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I can’t believe they finished the deck! Photos will follow in the next post.

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Team training: Respect, appreciation, safety

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So much love entered the Romaniv gates over the past month. We are so immensely grateful for all the sweet moments our boys experienced. May they hold those moments in their hearts forever. I know we will. 

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Shoe Debates, Friendly Pack Mules, and Spring is Here!

I’m happy to report that THE SNOW IS GONE. The streets are (mostly) dry(ish) and the debate over which shoes to wear has simmered down a bit.  In my previous life, in Oregon, the debate over which shoes to wear was mild and was simply a matter of “is it raining or not.” If it’s raining, you can’t wear Toms.  If it’s not raining, Toms it is! I mean, I was most likely just going to be dashing across a parking lot if the weather was less than optimal, so making the best choice in footwear was not the end all.

In Zhytomyr in the winter, the shoe debate is real.  It is intense.  One does not simply throw on a pair of shoes and prance out the door without a care in the world!  No, no, no.  One is most likely going to be walking a fair distance out in the elements and waiting at bus stops. One must consider the level and freshness of the snow, the amount of ice, the wetness or dryness of said ice and snow.  On some days we have rivers for sidewalks, and on others we have ice skating rinks for sidewalks.  Rivers and ice skating rinks call for different shoes, different strategies.  One must also consider the distance to be walked and the condition of the sidewalks en route.  If I’m taking out the trash and heading that direction, I need to prepare for mudslides (and dead cats, apparently).  If I’m walking down our road in the opposite direction there will be less mud, but a lake or two to be traversed, so that must be taken into account. We’ve become quite adept at deciphering the sheen on the ice and navigating the sidewalks in the safest, non-broken-hip-est manner. Skillzzzzzzz.

My favorite boots for walking in mildly cold, non-snowy weather currently have a break in the sole, so my right foot is bound to get wet.  I keep forgetting to take them for repair, so if I want warm, dry feet my only choice are my snow boots.  But snow boots without snow are a little more Napoleon Dynamite than I’m willing to go, so I usually opt for the wet foot.  Why not just get the shoe repaired you might ask?  Yeah, I know. It’s a mixture of forgetfulness, procrastination, and fear of doing new things and not knowing how or what is expected of me.  I guess in the end I just opt for the wet foot.  Don’t judge.

All that to say, soon warmth will come, summer will come, and along with it, fewer and fewer shoe debates.  We will happily pack away the snow boots and non-snow boots.  Multiply that by 7 people and it equals 28 fewer shoes in my entry way and 500 times more peace in my heart.  (Shoe clutter is my nemesis.)

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Beautiful dry, snowless, puddless sidewalk!

You know what else comes with warm weather?  Visitors!  We’re preparing our summer schedule and are excited to welcome several friends, old and new.  The boys and our team are going to get so much love and encouragement in the warm summer months!

I’m super excited to have all the visitors too.  I’m excited for English conversations and the joy that comes from seeing our boys through the eyes of others.  It’s a lot of work to host people, but it’s also refreshing, encouraging, and just plain fun. Guess what else gets me excited for visitors?  All the stuff we have them carry over to us from the US!  I’ve been out of brown sugar for over a month and my baking is SUFFERING. Peanut butter and chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon have also been sorely missed. I’m filling my Amazon cart in preparation. Yes, we totally and unashamedly use our visitors as pack mules. Come on, summer! Hehe

The kids are all doing really well.  In a couple of weeks we’ll have Spring Break, and then they only have like 2 more months of school!  I can’t even imagine the feeling of accomplishment they will have when they walk out the doors of school on that last day.  We are so close to completing a full year of Ukrainian school!!  There have been many good days, and also many days when we have all been in tears, ready to throw in the towel.  Many days of wondering if it is worth it, but as we round the final corner I think we are all seeing that it has totally been worth the blood, sweat, and tears.  The kids’ language has grown by leaps and bounds.  They never could have grown like that just here at home.  I am so incredibly proud of them.

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It is totally NOT ice cream weather, but we got a little excited about the sunshine.

Yesterday we were at the hospital getting Addy, Ez, and Hava mandatory check-ups for school and I realized that I have started to rely on their ears when we are out and about.  I tell everyone to listen, and if I don’t catch what was said, most likely one of them will.  It’s awesome!  All communication outside the home used to fall on Jed and me completely, but now the kids can understand for themselves, and actually, truth be told, they have much better comprehension than I do at this point. Grrrr… the competitive side of me hates that!  But, I love that they can communicate and function so well in society.  That was our hope in sending them to school.

So, here’s to dry feet, American pack mules friends, and Spring Break.  The snow is gone, the sun is out, Brian Adams radio is playing (again, don’t judge), and my heart is full.  Happy Tuesday to our friends near and far!  BeLOVE[d].

 

PS: You will not believe this! I was typing this post when I had to pause to go get Seth from kindergarten.  On the way home we stopped at the post office and guess what was waiting for us???

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Our wonderful Tom and Emma sent us a package with brown sugar, Better Than Bouillon, peanut butter, jalapeños and many other special treats. OMG. Can you believe that timing?  THANK YOU Tom and Emma.  We love you!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday

1.  THANK YOU all for praying for the situation with our new little guy at the institution.  Please keep praying for his health, as well as for the impact of that night.  The impact is far-reaching, relationally, politically, and spiritually.  I know I sound vague, but I gotta be. (Any former youth groupers remember the “unspoken” prayer request?  Ha!)  Just keep praying, pretty please.  Thanks 🙂 

2.  School is going great for the kids!  We have gone from daily tears to smiles and declarations that “This was the best day!”.  Of course if you ask, Addy and Ezra will tell you that school is “so boring”.  But, they are making friends and feeling comfortable and understanding more each day.  Our friend, Romana, comes each day at 4:30 to help them with their homework and she is saving our lives, one story problem at a time. I really do like our school and I am so thankful that God has given our kids a safe place to land and grow.  

On the bus, headed to school


3.  Jed and Vladik return today! FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!  I didn’t mention it here, but we had a bit of an immigration fiasco last month.  We are applying for permanent residency and we were missing one apostille.  We didn’t know it, and Jed had to leave the country.  You can only be in Ukraine for 90 days out of 180 days without a visa or residency, and he met his limit.  So, in the dead of night we made a run for the border.  Think Sound of Music, but much less romantic.  Think tears and a trashed house and frantic calls to friends to take Bluebell at the last second.  We spent a few days in Budapest as a family, and then I returned home with four of the kids, while Jed and Vladik couch-surfed throughout Europe, waiting till Jed could get on the other side of his 180 days.  Finally, today, after 33 days and 10 countries, Jed and Vladik are coming home! Many thanks to our gracious friends all over the continent who have cared for my boys so well.  What would we do without you all?  

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The border of Germany and Austria


4.  We are hiring a friend to teach Vladik individual lessons at school.  I’m so excited and hopeful for him!  Starting next Monday he will go to school with the other kids in the morning, and his teacher will accompany him.  He will do music, PE, and art with Addy’s class (fifth grade), and then his teacher will give him his own lessons for the rest of the time. Vladik will attend school half day, 4 days a week.  I’m working on making the lesson plans and it’s quite the job, but necessary.  Vladik wants to learn, he wants to go to school like the other kids- and he should! I think he’s going to love it.  I’ll keep you posted! 

5.  Today we re-submit our residency documents.  Hopefully all is in order…otherwise the 4 kids and I will meet our 90 day limit.  Yeah, let’s not think about that.  Everything will be fine.  Everything will be just fine.  No need to worry….ahem. Yikes.

Photos for residency: no smiles allowed!


6.  Guess who saved my life this past month?  GRAMMY!!!!  When Jed’s parents found out that I would be without Jed again, and this time here in Ukraine, Grammy hopped on a plane and rescued me. Seriously, if Grammy hadn’t come my kids would be running with the wild dogs in the street.  Things were at critical mass around here.  She has cooked every meal and washed every dish since her arrival.  I bow at her feet. 🙂


7.  For all the Bluebell-lovers out there, I’m happy to report that Bluebell is doing just fine.  She is happy and obedient and just a joy to our whole family.  She was a bit bored so we found her some new chewies at the grocery store.  Cow hoof, anyone?  


Welp, Jed and Vladik are on their way home from the airport, so I better go.  Thanks all, for loving us and praying for us.  This has been a bit of a tough season, but we know that God’s plans are in motion and our trust is in Him!  

Indiana Adventures

I gotta tell ya, we just had the most encouraging week!  

I’ve written before about Hands of Hope, our fabulous partners in Indiana.  Hands of Hope provides awesome support to adoptive and foster families in Indiana, and they also do great orphan care through child sponsorship.  Through the Hands of Hope Romaniv sponsorship we are able to bring fresh fruit to the boys three days a week, pay the salary of two teachers who are working full-time to teach the boys, and more.  Hands of Hope is an immense help in bringing greater quality of life to our boys.  Because Hands of Hope pays for much of the work that is done at Romaniv now, Wide Awake is able to put funds away to prepare for the future: group homes instead of institutionalization.  

Their partnership and investment into our boys is priceless. 

This past Tuesday Jed, Vladik, and I were able to fly to Indiana to spend some time with the Hands of Hope peeps and talk a whole lot about the boys we adore so much.  It was a fast and fabulous trip!  Jed flew in from Ukraine on Monday and we flew out to Indiana on Tuesday morning.  At this point I’m pretty sure Jed could go 10 years without stepping foot on another airplane and be pretty happy with that. 

   

 

On Tuesday night we got to spend the evening with some lovely people who sponsor sweet Boris and Zhenya.  And then on Wednesday night there was an open house for “Friends of Romaniv”.  Basically sponsors and any and everyone who loves our boys could come and just hear about what’s happening at Romaniv and how they can pray.  It was beautiful.  Many of the people who came Wednesday evening have visited Romaniv before and dearly love the boys.  We always love talking about our sweeties, but talking about them to a room full of people who have loved them for years (in many cases before we even knew they existed!) takes it to a whole new level.  Love-fest level!  🙂 

The highlight of our Wednesday was a lovely young lady named Renee.  Renee visited Romaniv on a mission trip when she was 16 years old.  She fell in love with Vladik on that trip, came home and became his sponsor through Hands of Hope.  Renee prayed and prayed over the years that Vladik would find a family.  She LOVED our son before we did.  Well, now Renee goes to college in Kentucky.  She found out Vladik was going to be in Indiana and drove over 3 hours to come and see him in person.  

  
 

What a special reunion.  Vladik was clueless of the importance of that night, but someday he’ll understand.  

Thursday night was just beautiful.  Hands of Hope had an event called “Sip and Savor”.  It was so classy!  Free lattes and people walking around with trays of cheesecake?  Yes, please.  🙂  

The three main focuses of Hands of Hope were presented at the event: Orphan Care (child sponsorship), Foster Care support, and Adoption.  Jed and I did the presentation about adoption because we received a matching grant for our adoption through Hands of Hope.  THANK YOU!!!!!  It was doubly special because Vladik was the first Hands of Hope sponsor child to be adopted.  Cool, eh?  I say hopefully the first of many! 

Man, it was just wonderful to be in a room full of people passionate about caring for the orphan.  There are so many different ways to say YES and hearing about all the ways people can say YES by partnering with Hands of Hope is just rad.  It’s the real deal.  

  
 
  

Besides those official meetings, we just had plenty of time to drink coffee and eat yummy food with our friends.  All of these friends we met in Ukraine at one time or another through Hands of Hope, World Next Door, or Mission to Ukraine.  They were all so happy to see Vladik in a family and we were so blessed to spend time with people who know our boys and our friends in Ukraine and love them.  Common hearts + coffee + cozy couches = a whole lotta good times.  We got to stay with our friends Christopher and Lois and it was seriously like a vacation.  They spoiled the heck out of us.  SO FUN!   

  

God has blessed us so much with this partnership with Hands of Hope.  Again, we are just amazed at God’s love for the boys.  How is it, why is it that He has drawn so many hearts to this one institution in the middle of nowhere Ukraine?  We believe it’s because God has something very special for our boys.  He has been drawing them out of darkness into light for such a time as this.  I’m just thankful we get to be a part of His unfolding plan.  

To God be ALL the glory for the GREAT things He has done!

  

Hands of Hope to Romaniv

This is a post that has been in the works for many months, but I think you’ll find it worth the wait.  (Even though you didn’t know you were waiting for it…I did.) 😉 

We are so excited to introduce you to…drumroll please….
ROMANIV CHILD SPONSORSHIP!!!

Wahooooo!!!

You asked for it, and we are so happy that you are getting what you asked for!

Here’s the deal. Wide Awake is super blessed to have an awesome partnership with a non-profit in Indiana called Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry.  I wrote about them before, here.  Hands of Hope has been involved in helping to improve life at Romaniv since March 2012, after Suzy, the executive director, and Lois, the Romaniv liasion first visited our Boys.  

 

Suzy and Lois with Romaniv Administration

 
Hands of Hope provides the money that we use every week to buy bananas for the Boys.  They give money for special projects around the orphanage, like outfitting a sports room for the Boys that they can use during the long winter months when they are cooped up inside for hours on end.  They pay for Leysa, one of our awesome team members to go to Romaniv three days a week to teach the boys music, and lessons about Jesus.  They have also partnered with Wide Awake and Mission to Ukraine to pay for the two new teachers who have begun to teach our Boys 5 days a week.  They let us know how much money has been given by sponsors, and we, Wide Awake, work together with Hands of Hope and Mission to Ukraine to decide the best way to use it to most benefit our Boys.

Hands of Hope has poured a ton into our Boys over the past three years.  And how do they pay for all of the awesomeness?

CHILD SPONSORSHIP!  

Hands of Hope is no new kid on the block when it comes to child sponsorship.  This is their deal.  They rock at it. We have been working hard with Hands of Hope to update many of the profiles of our Boys and we are so excited to share this opportunity with you.  

Want a way to tangibly change the lives of the Boys?  This is it.  100% of sponsor support goes toward improving the quality of life for our Boys.  100%!!!!


Here’s how it works on your end:

1.  Go to Hands of Hope website and choose a boy.  (I know, how can you choose?  They are all amazing!)

2. Click on your adorable choice and set up your tax-deductible monthly sponsorship of $35/month.  You can give by debit, credit card, or check.

3.  Hands of Hope sends you a welcome pack with more info about Romaniv and your special boy.

4.  You literally become “hands of hope” for our babies.  THANK YOU!!!! 

Here’s how it works on our end:

1. Hands of Hope sends the sponsorship money to Ukraine, to Mission to Ukraine (the fiscal agent), and lets us, Wide Awake, know how much money was sent.  

2.  We use the money to buy bananas three days a week, pay for teachers, and collaborate with the orphanage director, Hands of Hope, and Mission to Ukraine to pay for special projects around the orphanage that directly improve the Boys’ quality of life.  

3.  We update Hands of Hope on the Boys, give prayer requests, and keep them posted on any significant happenings and needs around Romaniv.

 
That’s the scoop!  Cool, right?  This is the real deal.  Suzy and Lois, our friends at Hands of Hope love the Boys so much.  They visited in March and for us it was like love at first sight.  They are AWESOME.  I can also guarantee you that the money donated is used with only the Boys’s best in mind.  No money is ever in the hands of the orphanage administration. We are the ones who do all the paying and purchasing. We try to use the money prayerfully and strategically so we aren’t just throwing money at need, but we are truly using it change the culture of Romaniv.   And it’s happening.

God is doing big things .  Won’t you join us? 🙂