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 thatย 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. ย 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!ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚
  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’sย 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.ย I seriously want to bottle up those moments and treasure them for the rest of my life because they are just so darn precious! ย 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. ย 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! ย What is making you smile today?

 

 

 

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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.  ๐Ÿ™‚  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! ๐Ÿ™‚

 
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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

 

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 . ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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!

 

Rainy Day Coziness

Rain, rain don’t go away…


I’m a true Oregonian at heart.  I love me some rain.  It’s nearly the end of June and it’s been pouring down rain for days.  YESSSSSSS.  

You see, the sun hates me, and I’m not terribly fond of him either.  I don’t tan, I burn and burn and burn some more.  After a bout of melanoma during my pregnancy with Addy I felt I could finally admit my true feelings about the sun.  While everyone else in Oregon gets all giddy about sunshine, I feel a tad of resentful. Soaking up the sun is not my kind of fun.  Hence my love for Oregon.  It rains here A LOT.  It’s gray and cloudy A LOT.  That suits me just fine.  When the sun comes out and everyone else gets all giddy, I feel so much pressure to “soak it in”…when I’d much rather play inside where I don’t have to be on the constant lookout for shade.  Coziness is my friend: rain pouring, windows open, coffee brewing, classical music playing…yes please.  Glaring sun, squinty eyes, burning skin…no gracias.  

Which brings me to the point of this post (yes it has one!).  Pouring down rain calls for a good book.  Here’s what I’ve got goin’ on around here. 

For the Kids:


When I was in 3rd grade my Uncle Steve was my teacher.  He was my most favorite teacher EVER.  Now he’s on the executive board for Wide Awake International.  Awww, full circle!  Yay!  Anyway, often we would have free reading time at school, and every time I would choose this book.  I read it over and over.  I loved every detail about it.  It’s about five daughters in a Jewish family growing up in New York City at the turn of the century.  Oh my, the food descriptions, the sisterly fun (I only have brothers), the pinafores and bows in the hair.  It’s a great book.  I forgot about it for years, but just recently remembered it and googled every detail I could think of in order to find it again.  We checked it out from the library and have renewed it three times so far.  It’s a great read-aloud for boys and girls alike.
All-off-a-Kind Family is just as good now as it was when I was 9. LOVE.

For the Home School:


Years ago when we were on the verge of homeschooling, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to doing it (never thought we would, afraid as all get out), this book was the clincher.  I owned the old edition, then got the new edition for Christmas, managed to lose the new edition in our move, and just scored a $.50 copy of the old edition at a used curriculum sale a couple weeks ago. 
I love to reread this book every so often to help remind myself of why we home school and what is important to us in our parenting.  As someone who never thought she would home school, but knows God has asked it of us, this book is incredibly encouraging and practical.  Much of what our home school looks like I learned from this book.  I love the emphasis on discipling our children.  That’s what this parenting thing is all about right?   If you are on the brink, considering home school, but unsure, I urge you to give this book a go.  It’s amazeballs.  
 *Name drop alert: Jed and I got to meet Clay and Sally Clarkson and even visit them in their home when we were in Colorado in March.  Holy celebrity sighting Batman!  Sooooooo cool.  Anywayssss…

For Wide Awake International:


I just started this book, so I can’t give it a full recommendation yet, but I’m fairly certain it’s amazing.  ๐Ÿ™‚ Jed has been a fan of Dr. Perry’s work for a long time.  It informs all the work he does at the organization where he currently works.  Yesterday Jed was blessed to attend a conference by Dr. Perry with his coworkers and was blown away.  Perry is the leading expert on stress, trauma and brain development.  In this book Dr. Perry explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress (ie institutionalization, unmet needs, abuse, neglect) and his methods of therapy.  He basically throws all we know about brain development on it’s head (no pun intended…but hahahaha). Pretty cool stuff.  We are just taking it all in, asking God to guide us, direct us, and give us wisdom in bringing this knowledge into Ukraine.  

For Fun:


Okay, ready for some vulnerability here?  I’m about to geek out on you.  I LOVE this book.  It’s about the author’s love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.  OMG.  I am so there.  She had me at Little House.  I have been a Laura Ingalls fan for as long as I can remember.  I just may, or may not have every.single.episode of Little House on the Prairie (or LHOP..hehe) on DVD.  I just might know every.single.detail about each episode.  I can tell you what Pa said to so and so about the plow, how Albert overcame his addictions (really, Michael Landon?), who burned down the blind school, and which candy was Nellie’s favorite at the mercantile.  I’m an LHOP nerd and I don’t care who knows it!  
So, the author became mildly obsessed with LHOP and then took it to the next level.  She visited all the homestead sites, churned her own butter and made her own maple syrup/snow candy.  Then she wrote about her experiences.  In other words, she fully geeked out so that I could vicariously live through her.  The book is hilarious and informative.  It’s made me laugh out loud more than once.  Poor Jed.  
The only beef I have with this book is that the author is sort of a purist and pretty much doesn’t care for the TV series. WHAT??????  She thinks true LHOP fans should be lovers of the books, not the show.  Well, I gotta admit, the books bore me to death (are homeschooling parents aloud to admit that?).  I love me some Michael Landon, and he’s the only Pa I can imagine.  Yes, I realize the show isn’t true to the books, but I love it all the same.  It represents my childhood.  When Carrie stumbles down the hill in the opening sequence I feel like I’m home.  
*okay, I’m done nerding out now.  Feel free to think less of me, just don’t bash Melissa Gilbert or I might never forgive you.  ๐Ÿ˜‰ 
Enough about me, what about you?  Got any good books to recommend?  Lay ’em on me!