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!

 

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.  🙂 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.  😉 
Enough about me, what about you?  Got any good books to recommend?  Lay ’em on me!

Warm Buses and Warm Hearts…hehehe

It’s a well-known fact among my real-life friends and fam that I’m an extra warm-blooded person.  I rarely wear a coat, and Jed constantly bemoans the fact that I’m passing that trait on to our kids.  Who needs a jacket?  They’re so bulky!  I’d much rather run from the house to the car to the store and back, than to be suffocated by a bulky jacket.  Don’t even get me started on the suffocation factor of scarves.  I get it that they’re cute, a little pop of color for an otherwise bland outfit, but am I the only one that can’t handle the strangulation?  Just the thought of a turtleneck makes me feel like my airway is about to close.

All that to say, warm weather and lack of airflow is a major downfall to my suitability as a missionary.  If you’ve ever traveled overseas you know what I mean.  Think warm bus, no windows down, stalled in traffic.  I have to talk myself down from the ledge.  “You actually won’t suffocate.  There is air available, just breathe deeply.”  
The vent right above my head…doesn’t work. 

Where am I going with this?  I have no idea.  I just had to talk it out because as I write this we’re on a fairly warm bus headed back to Zhitomir.  I’ve been sweating for the past 12 days, and so it continues today.  (I’m a Bittner.  We sweat.) Anywayssssss….I just needed you to feel my pain for a sec.  I feel better now.  🙂

Now, on to more pleasant topics that don’t involve sweat and strangulation.  
This past weekend was loads of fun!  We drove back to Kiev on Friday afternoon with our friend Oleg who happened to be heading that way.  He dropped us at the metro and we headed to the church where they were having a concert to reach the unreached.  We took the metro to the stop we knew was closest to the church and then hopped off.  It’s like a 20 minute walk from the metro to the church, and Jed, with his bat-like sense of direction, led us straight there without a hitch.  What a guy.
Jed promptly filled in on the bass and we got to see lots of people we love.  It was a good time.  
After the concert we went home with our friend Sergei.  We had the BEST time staying with Sergei and Alyona.  Seriously.  Being around their kids made us miss our babies something fierce, but we managed.  🙂  
Alyona cooked for us and fed us nonstop.  Yum.  Who am I to complain?  Her love language is feeding people, and we’re eaters; a match made in heaven.  

On Saturday morning we met Jim and Marianna Peipon (remember Olya and I went with Marianna to visit the baby at the hospital?) at their flat to tag along with them to a picnic.  Fun, fun, fun!  The picnic was for a coalition for children at risk.  Basically, a group of people consisting of Ukrainians, Americans, Russians, and Mexicans, who work with children at risk in various ways around Kiev got together to fellowship and eat together.  They welcomed us with open arms and we had a great time.  It was so fascinating to hear about what others are doing to help kids and how God led them to Ukraine.  We made some new friendships and some good connections.  Who knows what God plans to do with those relationships in the future?  We are open, and excited to find out.  Thank you new friends for making us feel so welcome!  We’ll see you again soon with kiddos in tow!
Saturday afternoon and evening we hung out with various friends and laughed a lot.  
Sunday, oh I loved Sunday.  It started out with Alyona feeding us some more delicious food, and ended the same.  Hehe
We headed out to church by taxi after the frantic rusharound of your typical Sunday morning.  It was hilarious to talk (sign/google translate) with Sergei about how Sunday mornings are the same for families all around the world.  “Hurry up!  Eat your breakfast!  Stop hitting your brother please.  Grrrrr.”  Then you get to church “Hallelujah….”  Yep.  Sunday morning in Ukraine is just like Sunday morning in Salem.  Why is that?  Hilarious and true.  If your Sunday morning isn’t stressful, let me in on your secret. 😉 
After a great time at church we joined our friends in their typical Sunday afternoon hangout.  Everyone takes the marshrutka to our fave: Puzata Hata!  Puzata Hata is a cafeteria-style Ukrainian restaurant.  Delish and cheap with plenty of space for hours of chattin’ it up.  As our friend Andrei says “Sunday afternoon is for relationship.”
Sunburned…my bad.
After the deliciousness of Puzata Hata we walked for a bit, talking more, till we got to the metro and parted ways.  Sergei and Alyona went to go buy their kids a pet mouse (yep, that’s totally not happening at my house) and we went with our friend Elvin to chat more since we won’t see him again before we leave Ukraine.  
After that it was home again home again jiggety jig.  Alyona fed us some more, and Jed and Sergei drooled over guitars online- just your typical Sunday night when you live with a musician.  

Anya and I did this:
I give this past weekend two thumbs way up.  We are so blessed to have good friends in Kiev who love us.  The feeling is so mutual.

 

Blind Date on Sunday

Warning, I’m in a bit of a mood.  Not a bad mood, just a quirky mood.  An I’m-not-sure-what-will-come-out-of-my-mouth (or fingers) mood.  You’ve been warned.  Now feel free to read on.  🙂
Today was loads of fun.  I laughed a lot today.  Don’t you love days like that?  
Today I got to go to Kiev Vineyard!  I love that place so much.  Jed was super jealous, and you all should be jealous too because it’s a wonderful place to be.  Hehe

Last year when we walked into Kiev Vineyard we felt right at home, and I felt that even more this time.  I feel like I can just “be”.  I don’t have to be “on”.  I don’t have to be a certain anything.  I am loved just as I am.  I may not understand a lick of the worship or teaching, but I understand the heart, the passion, the love.  Our hearts beat the same as the other hearts in that room and that’s enough.  
     

After church my friends Anya and Sasha walked me to the metro because I had a blind date with an American couple.  Anya and Sasha were pretty afraid to leave me to navigate the metro alone.  What? Me, alone in a city of millions of people I can’t communicate with, on the metro, alone?  What’s to worry about?  Ha!  I wasn’t worried at all.  

They wanted to come along, but I promised I would be fine. After I finally promised to call Sasha when I arrived, they let me go.  I felt so loved!  🙂
The metro is a people-watcher’s heaven.  Seriously.  Old people, babies, people in a rush, people taking their time, people with flowers, people with guitars, Babushkas with big grocery bags.  I just want to squeeze those cute little grandmas!  They’re so stinkin’ cute!  
Annnnnd I made the trip without a hitch!  Aren’t you all proud of me?  

I met Kevin and Debbie Nelson on my blind date and just had the best time.  I can’t say enough.  I love them!  The crazy thing is, I got their info from my friend Kim who’s been praying for them for a long time now, but she’s never met them.  Jed and I thought we shouldn’t turn down any possible connection so we emailed the Nelsons and arranged the date.  Then I was talking with a co-worker at the hospital a week before I left for this trip and she told me she has a cousin in Kiev and I should meet her.  Well, the cousin just happens to be the one and only, Debbie Nelson!  Ha!  Destiny’s child I tell ya.

Kevin, Debbie, and I went to my fave restaurant, Puzata Hata, so I was instantly happy.  We proceeded to spend the next almost 3 hours chattin it up about life in Ukraine and what brought us all here.  I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the Nelsons because they are just fabulous.  They are real, funny, wise, and faithful.  God first took them to Russia where they served for several years, and now they’ve been in Ukraine for the past 8 years.  They gave me advice on everything from prayer support, to visas, to apartment choosing, to appliance voltage, to grocery shopping.
(You all know I was thankful for that one in particular!) 

I would totally consider a second date with Kevin and Debbie.  Too bad it can’t be tomorrow!  🙂
I managed to make it home to Olya’s apartment without getting even close to lost, and came home to an apartment filled with friends.  Success.

Tomorrow Olya and I head to Zhitomir to check out the future Johnson landing place and to meet with a realtor.  It should be quite the adventure.  House Hunters International anyone?  

Good night all!  A special good night to my Mom.  Love you Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!  Here’s your present! 

(She wants more pictures of me on the blog, just like I can’t get enough pics of my babies while I’m gone.  Once a mommy, always a mommy)  🙂