Gettin’ Back in the Habit

Hi Friends!

Summer in the USA came and went and it was a big one. I gave myself permission not to blog because I just wanted to soak up all the precious moments with family and friends and not feel like I had to write about it. Thanks for your understanding!

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But now we’re back, and I need to get back into the writing habit. I even made myself a Wide Awake “Editorial Calendar” for all the Wide Awake social media. Now just to stick to it… I really do want you all to be informed and aware of what’s going on in these parts, so let’s see how I do!

By the way, if you want to find Wide Awake in other places we are on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wide_awake_international/  and

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeartsWideAwake/

Summer was so great. We had a wonderful time in Oregon with family and friends. It was super fun to introduce our little Evie to everyone, and to just BE with so many people we love. Vladik had his surgery on his feet and it went just as the surgeon hoped it would go. We still don’t really know how helpful it was because Vlad is still recovering, but we are hopeful that in the long run, as he grow, it will help him to have less pain in his feet. He was in a wheelchair for 6 weeks, then in walking boots for 2 weeks, but now he’s up and at ’em again. I don’t think he’s running yet, but he’s walking just fine! He’s a trooper.

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The highlights of everyone’s summer had to be time with family. Jed’s family came from Montana and met us at the Oregon coast for a few days and it was soooooo nice to all be together. The weather cooperated, which was a miracle, and we got to spend a lot of time down on the beach. Yay!

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Then my parents took all of us and my brothers and their families to Disneyland, and it was, of course, magical! I LOVE DISNEYLAND, FYI. We happened to be there for Vladik’s 18th birthday and my brother arranged for him to meet Lightning McQueen. Oh.my.word. It was such a wonderful memory!! We just had the best time. It was perfection.

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Some of our most generous friends let us stay with them all summer and that was a great experience. They have 4 kids, we have 6…no big deal. Ha! It actually worked out better than any of us imagined. Everyone got along, the kids had tons of built-in playmates all summer, and when we left we all still loved each other- so I call that success!

We launched back into life here in Ukraine a couple weeks ago and it feels like the summer was a dream…like we never actually left!  Boris did well while we were gone and Kenny and Romana did a fantastic job with him. We picked back up with him right where we left off. Boris doesn’t love transition (wink wink), but he’s doing okay, all things considered. He has his great moments and his rough moments. Don’t we all? 🙂

The kids start back to school on Monday, so this week is all about prepping for that and getting summer loose ends all tied up. Then we turn our eyes toward bringing Anton and Ruslan into our family. Jed already has guardianship of them; the documents are all completed. We just thought it was wisdom to get settled and get the kids in school again before bringing Anton and Ruslan home. That is going to be a HUGE transition for all of us. (I feel like I’m always saying that, by the way)

So that’s where things stand at the moment.

We had an awesome summer. We got our love tanks filled up and we’re ready to venture into a new season as a family of ELEVEN! Jesus take the wheel… 🙂

What’s Making Me Smile

I have about 3,462 things I could write about today, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by that thought. I could write about the plans for this summer (it’s gonna be a doozy), or the progress on the Homestead (also a doozy), or about Sara our wonderful massage therapist friend who is visiting (I won’t call her a doozy ’cause that just seems weird…), or about the fact that school is almost out (now that has been a doozy). But instead I decided to write about what is making me smile right now. Because I want to. The doozies can wait.

(“Doozy” is a really strange word when you really think about it)

THINGS THAT ARE MAKING ME SMILE:

Podcasts.  Everyone who has talked to me in the past several months has probably discovered my love/addiction to podcasts. I feel like I’m constantly trying to share my podcast recommendations with friends because I so want them to learn to love podcasts like I do. I love a good podcast! I download them and listen while I walk the dog, while I’m on the bus, while I’m walking to wherever I’m walking (if I’m kidless), while I wash the dishes, while I clean the house. I felt kinda burned out on the music I’d been listening to so I started podcasting. Now I can’t stop! Here are a few of my favorites if you want to join me in the podcast love.

  1. The Daily Audio Bible. We’re still going strong on our daily Bible reading with good ol’ Brian. We listen to the Old Testament during breakfast, and the New Testament in the evening after dinner. I love the rhythm it brings to our life right now in all the crazy.
  2. This American Life. They have interesting stories every week that grab my attention. Sometimes I learn new stuff and sometimes I’m just entertained.
  3. God Centered Mom Podcast. This one is encouraging and informative. It helps me be a more intentional mom.
  4. Two Fat Expats. LOVE IT. Two Australian women host this podcast about the expat life. They talk about all sorts of things from boarding school to keeping long distance friendships alive to social media and the expat child…tons of interesting and applicable info for expats of any sort. Plus they make me laugh. 🙂
  5. The Podcast With Knox and Jamie. This one is just purely for the laughs. I laugh out loud every single episode, which can make things kind of awkward if I’m listening on the bus! Knox and Jamie talk about random pop culture stuff and it’s just stinking’ funny. Their episode about misheard song lyrics is the ultimate. I think I love this podcast because it’s just a little taste of America when I’m so far away. FUNNY.

There are many more I listen to that I could add to that list, but those are the ones that are making me smile right now.

Sara. Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to write about Sara, but I just have to. Sara makes our whole family smile countless times every day. She is just full of joy and life and spirit and God did an amazing thing when he joined our hearts together.

If you don’t remember Sara you can read about her in this post. She came here two years ago, never having met us before, and spent a few weeks teaching massage at Romaniv. The work she did was beautiful and incredibly meaningful to the boys and they had been consistently asking for her since she left. We are so happy she’s back for the whole month of May! She is working at Romaniv Monday through Friday, and when she’s not at the institution she is loving our family and making us laugh non-stop.

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In the mornings at Romaniv Sara is teaching the interns specific massage techniques for the individual boys on each of their caseloads, and then she is spending the afternoons massaging the older boys. It’s not just a physical work that she does, although that is important and super healthy for the boys, it’s also a spiritual work. Before the massage and during the massage Sara is praying over the boys. There is peaceful music playing and lovely essential oils. The Sensory Room becomes an oasis of peace for each boy who enters. During their massage they get attention and love and dignity. They are told in that time that they are special, that they are beautiful, that they matter. It’s an important work that I believe is truly life-changing for the boys.

Thank you dear Sara. We love you!

The New Floors at the Homestead. I LOVE how the house is turning out! The downstairs floors were finished last week and they are bringing me loads of joy. They are beautiful and they brighten up the room. I absolutely adore how the house is coming along. Yay! We might be able to move in at that beginning of June. Now that’s something to smile about!

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Dance Class. Oh my word. Romaniv Dance Class makes me smile from ear to ear. I wish with all of my heart that you could each come visit our class. You would leave changed forever.

A couple of months ago one of our team members, Olya, Addy and I started doing a Friday afternoon dance class with the higher functioning boys at the institution. They love and it and we love it equally as much- maybe even a little more! We gather in the sports room with our music and water bottles and white t-shirts and socks and dance our hearts out. There’s this one part of the class when we all sit down and each boy takes a turn dancing solo in front of all of us. You guys, it is the best thing EVER. I seriously want to bottle up those moments and treasure them for the rest of my life because they are just so darn precious!  To see the boys so free and alive, it’s just incredible. We conga line till we’re exhausted and it’s the highlight of my week.

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Honestly, there is a lot that is hard about our lives and work here in Ukraine right now. Sometimes Jed and I look at each other and we wonder out loud if we are going to spend the rest of our lives fighting, or if there will ever be a time when we can just rest. We get weary of fighting for the boys, fighting injustice, fighting broken systems that are designed to beat people down, fighting corruption, fighting heaviness in the culture, fighting to do things that have never been done before. Fighting and fighting and fighting. It’s wearisome, folks. But then we have to choose to lift our eyes up and see all the joy.  There is also a ton that is going right. There is evidence all over the place that God has his mighty hand on this work and that He is going before us. And of course there’s no question that the boys are worth fighting for! But we have to choose to see those things that are right and good. Today I choose joy. I choose to look around me at all the things- big and small- that God has given that make me smile. So.many.things.

So, Happy Wednesday!  What is making you smile today?

 

 

 

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!!  

Happy Birthday Z-Town!

Happy Birthday Dear Zhytomyr!

Today our city turned 1,130 years old. I guess that calls for a celebration!

Here's a peek at how we spent Zhytomyr's special day.

An organization that encourages mothers put up pictures of some of our local moms with their children with special needs. We were so happy to see many of our sweet friends looking so beautiful! So special.

We tried out some of the local scaryish, ricketier than you can imagine, rides!

Of course ice cream was a must. Duh.

There was so many elderly men playing music together. WE LOVED IT!

Somebody even put bubbles in the fountain! PARTAYYYY!

Seth made sure to wear his special cape for the occasion. We had to take a lot of pictures to prove how it flew behind him when he ran fast. 🙂

Happy Birthday Zhytomyr! We're big fans!

 

Lviv Livin’

Hello Friends!

I can't believe it was a week ago that we left for Lviv! The week had flown by. We've been having a great time exploring and taking in the beauty of the city. Being in Lviv is almost like being in a completely different country. Sometimes it doesn't even seem like we're still in Ukraine. The center, where we spend most of our time, is like any other old beautiful European city. It's an awesome place to get away and have fun as a family. We needed this. 🙂

This is the Opera House. Seth wasn't in a picture mood.

This is a beautiful old palace that was turned in to an art gallery. Fancy!

We climbed the tower of City Hall to get a great view of the city. 420 steps!

We've been having language lessons for about 3.5 hours per day. Our dear friend, Olya, from Kyiv has been here with us to care for the kids while we're at our lessons. She will leave tonight and Jed's parents will arrive to take over the crowd control . 😉 Thank you Olya! We love you to bits!
There's so much to see in Lviv! There are musicians and dancers and magicians and painters…Ezra loves to watch the street performers. I think he could spend all day in the square. I'm loving all the coffee and ice cream. (No surprise there!)

We found a Tex-Mex restaurant owned by an American. So yummy!!! You definitely won't find that in Zhytomyr!

The best sight for me in Lviv: cool handicap accessibility assistance buttons!

I love this so much. Not only is it helpful, it's cool. Superheroes.

Our language lessons have been good so far. It's amazing to be in Lviv where basically everyone is speaking Ukrainian. In Zhytomyr people speak Ukrainian and Russian…and usually a mix of the two. That mixing of languages can make you feel like you aren't learning a darn thing. BUT, being here in Lviv has been a great encouragement to us. We understand so much. We really are learning!!!! Hooray! I have more thoughts on language learning that I'll share in a different post. We've made some big decisions about our language learning that will be painful, but necessary. It's all good! It's all growth!
We'll be here for a couple more weeks, so I'll share more with you later about language and such.
Bye All!