The Hard Stuff.

Hello!…gasp…choke…sputter…(that’s me coming up for air)

We’re alive! Oh my, it’s been a doozy of a summer. Awesome? YES. Nevertheless, I can’t deny the dooziness of it. Wow.

Now we’re here in September, coming up for air, hoping you still remember us and will forgive us for being absent in this space. You will? Thanks!

Addy and Ezra started school last Monday and I’ll be honest, it’s been rough. We transfered them to a Ukrainian Christian school here in town and the school itself couldn’t be kinder and more caring. It’s just all around extremely difficult. There’s no way around it. We are in the trenches and it stinks. BIG TIME.

After the first couple of days I emailed a few of my homeschooling Mommy friends from back in the US and basically bawled my eyes out over email. “Please tell me I’m not ruining my kids’ lives by making them do something this hard.” “Please tell me this will get better.” “Please send me multiple boxes of chocolate and can you somehow figure a way to get a DQ Blizzard here intact?” (kidding…)

I was teary-eyed dropping them off the first day, I prayed all throughout the day at home, and then cried to their teacher (I know, humiliating…I couldn’t help it! Poor thing didn’t see that coming ON THE FIRST DAY) when I picked them up in the afternoon. Oy.

They want friends. They want to understand. They want to speak. It’s just so stinkin’ hard. They’re in first class again because they don’t speak enough Ukrainian, but the Director said if they begin to speak more, that after Christmas break there’s a chance of them moving up to second class. I know in the US they would be put at their grade level according to age, but that’s not really how it works here. There aren’t other foreigners, so the school is just deciding what to do with us on a minute by minute basis. They are so gracious to take on the Johnsons. It takes a village! Hahahaha….waaaaaaahhhhhhh.

The school system and inner-workings are just SO different here. Know one knows what we don’t know (everything) so we often don’t know what’s going on…or we don’t even know that we don’t know what’s going on. From school supply lists to parent communication to bathroom rules to class schedules- it’s all different.

We realized about two days in to the school year that it is absolutely necessary for us to get the kids a tutor. We avoided it last school year because our family was just so much in survival mode, the thought of someone else coming to our house and the thought of making the kids study more after getting their brains fried at school seemed like family abuse. 🙂 But, we are determined to not just survive anymore and we’re feeling like we can start to really dig in in some ways that we hadn’t earlier. It’s time for the tutor.

We had one name referred to us by a good friend, so we contacted that girl and found out she is willing to teach the kids! She will hopefully be able to come to our house after school Monday through Thursday for an hour each day to help Addy and Ez with their homework and get them speaking more. The kids are less than excited, because when they get home they just want to play (I don’t blame them!), but we are trying to explain to them how much this will help them in the long run.

That tutor can’t start until the end”ish” of October and we had no idea what to do in the meantime. We really felt the kids need help ASAP. Well, guess what? On Monday the kids’ teacher at school asked if she could keep them for an hour after school each day to work with them on their Ukrainian!! Oh my word. When she offered I almost cried again (but decided it would be best to get a grip). I am so extremely thankful that she cares and wants to help them. Praise God for such a loving teacher!!!! So, she will help them until the tutor can start and we’ll see what happens then. We’re bitin’ the bullet baby. Please pray with us for miraculous results! I’m hoping that this extra time alone with their teacher will really help them get more comfortable to speak out at school.

I started doing some homeschool Kindergarten with Havalah and Seth last week too. Hava is super eager to learn to read, so we’re focusing on that. Later this month they’ll start going to a little private preschool for 1.5 hours twice a week. I think that’s just enought to get them some language exposure and time with other little kiddos. So, they’re pretty excited about starting that! It’s literally a 2 minute walk from our house, so I’m pretty excited about THAT! 🙂

I’ll tell you what; this parenting-in-another-culture thing is not for the faint of heart. It has shown me, and is showing me daily, hourly how much control I like to hold in my own two hands. I like to be in charge. I like to fix things. I like to make people happy. I put my trust in myself and my ability to make things better.

Well guess what? I can’t control my kids’ happiness. I can’t make kids at school like them and seek them out. I can’t make Ezra bold. I can’t make Addy not lonely for a girlfriend. I can’t demand the school put them with kids their own age. I can’t fix the fact that they want real friendships and have almost zero ability to make them right now. I can’t make them happy that they are here in Ukraine instead of with their cousins in the US. I can’t snap my fingers and make things all better. Things are just hard right now and all I can do is trust.

All I can do is trust that the God who spoke so clearly to us to move our family to Ukraine has not forgotten our children now that we are here.

All I can do is trust that God loves my kids more than I ever could and He knows their deepest needs- and He will meet those needs. I get focused on their wants- but God is able to meet their needs.

He knows them. He created them. He knew when He was forming them in the womb that they would live here in this culture, with these people. He is able to give them everything they need to THRIVE here.

I get so focused on ensuring their happiness that I lose sight of what’s really important.

What is the most important? Sleepovers and sports and theater and homeschool co-op and too many friends to count? No. Those things are awesome, and not wrong, and I miss them more than I can say. But those are not the most important things.

What is the most important thing? The most important thing is to say Yes to Jesus. The most important thing is to listen to the voice of the Father and walk with Him. The most important thing is seek first His Kingdom. The most important thing is go where He says to go, to do what He says to do- to know HIM. The rest is gravy.

Our joy is to be found in Him. Oh my, not that we can’t enjoy the fun things available in life! I’m a fun girl. I love to have fun, to do fun things, to be with fun people. God knows that about me and He knows that about my children. He’s a loving Father- He loves to love His kids. But seeking happiness for my kids instead of seeking Jesus with them is second best.

So, I tell myself these things all day while they’re gone at school. I tell myself these things after I tuck them in at night. Saying yes to Jesus is worth it. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it can be fairly painful, but it is worth it.

I see how our kids are absolutely in love with the Boys at Romaniv and I get a glimpse of how it is worth it. They adore the Boys and think they are wonderful and beautiful and special. They know little things about them- their likes and dislikes, their habits. When they see a person with special needs out and about in town they get almost giddy, so great is their love for that population. Their eyes have been opened to brokenness in the world and they have felt the joy of being used by Jesus to bring about healing. All of that shapes them and forms them, and I am thankful.

Thank you for loving our kids and praying for them. May no thing stand in the way of them fully becoming who God has made them to be. So be it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Fat Language Update

Welp, we’ve been living in Ukraine for nine months now. NINE MONTHS. When I think about it, in some ways it feels like we just got here, but then again it feels like a lifetime ago that we lived in Salem…so, all the feelings are a bit of a jumble.

The biggest struggle, by far, is the language. No surprise there! We always knew language would be a big deal, but I think the more time we spend here the more we realize how big of a deal it actually is. Learning language isn’t just about knowing enough to call a taxi, or get the right food at the store, or pay our rent, or to understand and barter prices at the bazaar, or to communicate with the boys at Romaniv (“Come here, sit down, let’s wash hands, I love you…”). It’s about truly knowing and being known.

Although our time at camp was absolutely AMAZING and life-altering, it also highlighted how much we are missing by our lack of language skills. Don’t get me wrong, we are working hard and we have been working since we arrived, but we still have so far to go. At camp we loved and we were showered with love as well, but still remained a tad on the fringes. Why? Because we can’t truly know or be known at our current level of language acquisition. The only people who we can really know are people who speak English. We love our English speaking friends- no doubt, but we’re missing out on a whole HUGE population of potential friends and loved ones because we can’t get past small talk. To have to rely on translators when it comes to matters of the heart is a HUGE deal that requires huge trust. I mean, if you go somewhere on a short-term missions trip you must use the help of translators and it’s expected. No big deal. But then when you’re done you go back to friends and family who know you and love you for who you really are and all is well. We don’t have that luxury! I’ve traveled all over the world on short-term trips and I never ever realized what a big issue language is for the long-term worker. It’s one of those things you just have to live to understand. The Ukrainian people are the friends and family in our life. I want them to know ME, not a translator’s version of me. The thing we miss most about the US is knowing and being known by dear friends. I am so so so soooooooooo thankful for translators. Oh my word, what a hard job. I don’t want to take that lightly or seem ungrateful. It’s just that their version of me can’t be the real, true me because it’s their take on me and my words. That is just a truth that can’t be helped. Therefore, we simply MUST learn to speak for ourselves- and the sooner the better.

Enter, Language School Intensive! We’ve been studying language since we first touched down in Ukraine in November. We started out studying Russian because in Zhytomyr people speak Russian and Ukrainian and there’s no right or wrong choice. Both languages are useful and accepted. Most of Zhytomyr’s population speaks a mix of Russian and Ukrainian, so it’s actually a bit of a zoo to navigate for newbies like us. Booohoooooo. Anyway, we started learning Russian simply because there are far more resources available to foreigners for learning Russian and we had started with Russian vocab when we were still in the US. Starting in December we had a lovely language tutor who came to our home twice a week to help us with Russian. All was fine, but because of the holidays and a teeny tiny REVOLUTION! we didn’t make a ton of progress.

Then in February Addy and Ezra started school. Well, school is taught 100% in Ukrainian and all the homework is in Ukrainian. A lot of good our Russian did us then. Oh my. Not fun. So, after about a month of school we decided we needed to ditch Russian and start learning Ukrainian. It’s probably a good idea for the whole fam to be learning the same language, am I right? The problem then arose of who would teach us? Our teacher didn’t feel comfortable teaching Ukrainian because she is primarily Russian-speaking. No, the two languages are not the same. We asked and searched but couldn’t find anyone who could/wanted to teach Ukrainian. It’s hard to teach your own language to foreigners! Then we found our God-send: Ukrainian Catholic University here in Lviv. *cue Hallelujah Chorus! They have been the answer to our prayers. They have a program for foreigners to learn Ukrainian as a second language. YESSSSSSS!

We started distance learning via Skype in May. (Yes, that means we went from March to May with no lessons. I know, not good. But, we do have 4 kids…and we are working and figuring out public school…and, and, and…oy.) Each week Jed and I would each have two, hour-long individual lessons with our Skype tutor. Irina is great. She knows very little English, and during our lessons she speaks no English. So during May and June we learned a lot! We didn’t have lessons in July because we were gone at camp. July was one big, neverending lesson. Ha! We can understand much more than we can say. We actually understand a ton and in many situations we can get our point across- in a very toddler-like way. 🙂 We can read and we can write…but oh man, we have so very far to go.

And that all brings us to the present. We are currently in the middle of a 3 week language intensive here in Lviv at the Catholic University. Jed and I are alone in a classroom with a tutor and we have 4 lessons per day. It has been fantastic. Truly, I think this was one of our best decisions yet. I am so thankful that God led us to this program. They took us right at our level and we are learning so much. I so wish we could hit pause on our life and study language full-time for a few months. Really. Of course it’s not possible, but I can still wish for it! 🙂

So, what’s our plan for language learning when we get home? Here we go (PS: this is where it gets crazy):

1. We will resume individual Skype lessons twice a week, and maybe add a third lesson each week if we can afford it.

2. We will arrange our life schedule in such a way that language study is given more of a priority. We will each study independently for a minimum of 1 hour per day (hopefully 2 hours on most days)- alone, isolated, without children, without interruption.

3. And the biggie: We will NOT speak English to any of our Ukrainian friends. Hold me.

Here’s the deal. We speak English too much. Our closest Ukrainian friendships are with English speakers. We all want to go beyond toddler conversation, so we speak English together. Well guess what? We sure aren’t going to improve our Ukrainian that way. So, we choose to humble ourselves and embarrass ourselves for the sake of long-term benefit. Of course we’ll speak English to each other and to our kids, but if you are Ukrainian you aren’t gonna get any English from us (of course we’ll use the help of translators for work meetings and Romaniv staff communication). Oh my, it’s going to be quite painful. I don’t relish the idea at all. But, it’s simply got to be done. We’re pulling the English plug.

So there you have it, The Big Fat Language Post. It’s getting kind of long so I’ll write about the kids and language a little later. If you have any questions, ask away!

*The pictures are from our various adventures here in Lviv. Grammy and Papa are here helping us with the kidlets. YAY!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laundry, Thievery, Schooling, and Such

Guess what?  Yesterday I finished our camp laundry!  What?  You’re reminding me that we’ve been home for a week and a day?  Oh I know.  It’s just that there are 7 of us (our friend Maks stayed with us for a while after camp), our washer machine is the size of my pinky finger, and we have no dryer, and my children also had to be fed and stuff like that.  Anywayssss, the joy of the empty hampers was great while it lasted.  😉

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Yesterday my wallet and my phone were stolen.  So sad.  The wallet was not such a big deal, there were no credit cards or anything.  My Oregon license was in there…but a lot of good it does anyone here.  There was about $100 in grivna.  The real bummer is my phone.  We saved up long and hard to get unlocked phones to bring here…and now it’s gone.  It had like 3,000 pictures on it too!!!  Many of the pics were backed up, but all the camp pics are gone forever.  Addy cried about the lost Romaniv pictures.  I cried too.  If you could pray that nothing really rotten, like identity theft comes out of this we would really appreciate it.  It feels pretty vulnerable to have all my texts and pics just out there in the hands of some stranger.  I don’t like it at all.  Yuck.  Sooooo, if you need to call me you’ll have to go through my secretary.  His name is Jed.  He’s cute, but kind of forgetful, so you might have to call more than once.  Hehe.

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On Sunday we leave for our next big adventure.  We are heading to Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine, for a Ukrainian language intensive course.  Hold me.

In May we started Ukrainian lessons with a teacher in Lviv via Skype.  Our lessons are through the Ukrainian Catholic University there and are specifically for foreigners who need to learn Ukrainian.  Oh man, it is intense.  Our teacher speaks no English during our lesson, but she really knows what she’s doing.  It makes our brains hurt, but it’s effective.  Since MTU is closed for the month of August, we decided to make a trip out to the University for a language intensive.  Our Ukrainian is a bit stuck at the moment, so we are really hopeful that two weeks of brain torture will get us over the hump.

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The kids will come along, and Jed’s parents will come from Germany to take care of them in Lviv while we study.  That will be fun!  Everyone says Lviv is amazing, like the best city in Ukraine, like a completely different world compared to Zhytomyr, so we are super excited to check it out.

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Can you spy Zhytomyr and Lviv?

When we get back from Lviv it will time to head back to school!  School here starts on September 1st.  Addy and Ez will head back to Ukrainian school and Havalah will start homeschool kindergarten (What????  Impossible.).  Seth will tag along and join in with Havalah as much as he is interested.  Addy and Ezra will transfer to a new school this year.  We loved our school last year (Ukrainian public school) and had an awesome experience there.  But, there is a Ukrainian Christian school here in town and we decided to try that out this year.  It’s 100% Ukrainian, just like the other, but raising disciples of Jesus is their biggest priority.  We have many friends through MTU and camp that send their kids there, so we feel like there is greater potential for relationships there.  The kids are excited to make the move and to see people they love everyday.  There won’t be anyone they know in their class, but that’s okay.  Just knowing there are many people there who know us and love us makes this Mommy’s heart feel a bit more settled.  I still don’t like them going to school, but it’s necessary for language acquisition, and this seems the most peaceable route.

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Sorting school supplies. She is her mother’s daughter.

We still haven’t decided about sending Hava and Seth to the local kindergarten.  We would much rather find them a language tutor to come play with them a couple times a week.  So, we’re searching for that possibility first.

That’s the skinny with us!  This summer has flown by, but at the same time it seems like a lifetime ago that my parents were here visiting.  Crazy.

I’ll check in with you from Lviv!  Later gators!

 

 

The Last Bell: Ukrainian School

SCHOOL’S OUT!!!!!

Praise the Lord.  I honestly don’t know who’s happier, the parents or the kids.  🙂  I am VERY VERY VERY happy.  I feel like our whole family just graduated from first class.  Addy and Ezra’s transition in to Ukrainian public school has been very much a whole family endeavor, and we are all happy and relieved that summer break has arrived.

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The last day of school in Ukraine is traditionally called “Last Bell”.  All school lessons in Ukraine, every day, begin and end with the bell.  So, the first day of school is called “First Bell”, and the last day every year is the “Last Bell”.  It’s a very important day in Ukraine!  There is ceremony and tradition and celebrating.  I like it very much.

Yesterday was Last Bell at Addy and Ezra’s school and it was such a cool experience!  I love how much we are learning about Ukrainian culture by having our kids in school.  It’s a whole new world.

Normally the program is outside, but it rained yesterday, so everyone gathered in the gym.  The first four classes (primary school) had their program together.  Everyone lined the edges of the gym, each class in a line with their teacher, and then parents behind them.  Our kids’ school is fairly small, so we could all fit.

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It started with a flag ceremony and the singing of the National Anthem, then the Director said a few words.  An older man spoke also, but I have no idea who he was or what he was saying.  Ha!  After he spoke a bunch of kids ran up and gave him flowers, so he must have been someone special.  🙂

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Notice the sea of big white bows? We call them “puffs”. It’s a cultural thing for special occasions. 🙂

 

Then the Director handed out special awards of achievement to a few children from each class.  After a few minutes of that, our kids’ teacher turned around to me to ask me if I had a camera.  I said yes, I did, and she motioned to me like I should be ready.  Then she said “Addy, Ezra- microphone”.  Oh!  Huh??  I promptly pulled my camera back out and waited for whatever was next.  The Assistant Director got up and started speaking. I heard her say the word for “Americans” and my ears perked up.  She called Addy and Ez up and gave them a special award for diligence and achievement for their work in learning Ukrainian language!  It was so special.  Then she leaned down and was talking to Addy.  I realized that she wanted Addy and Ezra to recite their poems in Ukrainian for the assembly!  Poor Addy didn’t understand what they wanted her to do, so her teacher went up and helped her understand.  They both said their poems for everyone and did awesome!  We were so proud of them!!!  Their teacher was positively beaming, she was so proud.  It was very sweet.  It feels like their whole school is cheering on their little Americans.  Haha!  We need all the cheering we can get!

After the awards were done, an older class got up and did a cool dance to celebrate summer break, there was more flag ceremony and the National Anthem was played again.  I’m totally not kidding when I say I’m pretty sure my kids have heard the Ukrainian National Anthem more times than they’ve ever heard the Star Spangled Banner- and we haven’t even lived here 7 months! When Seth hears the beginning of the song he says “Слава Україні!” (Glory to Ukraine!) Ha!  After the anthem, the program was finished!  The kids got to go to the cafeteria for a snack and then all the parents took a ginormous amount of pictures.  Their teacher also gave each child a diploma for finishing first class.

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Addy and her friend, Masha

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First Class 1-б

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Flowers for teacher

Then we were free!!!!  We practically floated home we were all so happy.  We celebrated by taking the kids to the movie theater.  It was our first time in a movie theater here and we had fun.  We saw Rio 2, in Ukrainian of course.  🙂

Now we have three months to decide what to do about school next year for Addy, Ezra, and Havalah.  For Addy and Ezra we have a couple options, one being continuing on in their current school.  Kids here stay with the same children all the way till graduation, and they keep their same teacher for the first four years, so that would be a nice, familiar place to return to in the fall.  We’ll see.  We need to pray and figure out what God’s best school plan is for this next year.   I don’t even want to think about it right now.  The homeschooler in me is just SO HAPPY to have all my children at home.  Sigh…bliss.

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What do with Hava next year is another mystery.  Children don’t start “official” school here until they are 6 or 7- usually closer to 7.  Before that, most children attend дитячий садок “sadik”.  It’s like daycare/preschool/kindergarten.  They do learn the kindergarten fundamentals there, and if your child doesn’t attend sadik they really won’t be ready for first class.  So, in order for first class to be easier on Havalah when she turns 6 or 7, it really does make sense to put her in a sadik, at least part time.  Parents can choose how often they send their kids, so it’s not mandatory that she go…we just feel like it would benefit Havalah to get more time each week for language acquisition, since she is pretty much always just home with us, hearing English.  BUT- I really, really don’t want her all alone in a class where she doesn’t understand anyone.  She’s so tiny!  AND, I really want her to learn to read and write in English first.

School has definitely been easier on Addy, because she already has such a great grasp on English reading and writing.  Ezra, on the other hand, doesn’t read or write in English super well, and now after 4 months of Ukrainian school and no English school he is on about the same level with both languages when it comes to reading and writing.  (Of course he has almost zero comprehension of Ukrainian reading)  I know this is normal and he will catch up, it’s just nice with Addy to know I don’t need to worry about building her English language skills- we can just work on Ukrainian.  Ez needs help with both.  Hence me wanting Hava to learn English skills WELL first.

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Oh my, all this bilingual stuff makes my brain hurt.  I wish there was a manual for all this.  🙂  Ah well, one day at a time.  The important thing is that they are learning and they are growing.  We have our whole lives to learn.  I don’t want to be in a rush on their behalf.  At this point we are leaning toward putting Havalah in a sadik two mornings a week, and doing home school kindergarten the other three days.

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Addy, Ez, and their super teacher

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Havalah has a little kid “teacher crush” 🙂

So far we’ve been really happy with our experience in Ukrainian public school.  Our kids’ teacher is so kind to them and she truly cares about their success.  Addy and Ezra feel comfortable at school and the kids are nice to them.  Never in a million years would I have imagined I would be a mom and my kids would be in a national school in a foreign country.  I mean, as long as I dreamed of being a missionary you’d think I would have thought this one through, but nope.  I guess I probably always thought they’d be homeschooled, or go to an international, English speaking school or something.  What an interesting road we travel.  For all it’s ups and downs and uncertainties I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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THREE CHEERS FOR SUMMER BREAK!  

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On Walking, Smelling, and Celebrity Sighting

Today was so full!  Full of funny moments, full of awholelotta walking, and full of joy.

Here’s just a few moments of note.

1.  Addy and Ezra’s class went on a trip to the local puppet theater today.  We found out just yesterday that kids who wanted to, could go today.  I wondered why we always find these things out at the very last moment.  Then…aha!  I discovered an announcement board outside their classroom!  Yes, I know, it’s been there all along…but when all you see everyday is walls filled with things you don’t understand, it’s hard to know what to pay attention to and really try to decipher, and what isn’t worth your time.  I don’t often have the desire to stand in the school halls with Google Translate at my side, so I usually go with the “if it’s really important they’ll tell me” route.  No more!  I will now be vigilantly watching for new notes on the announcement board.  No more surprise field trips for the Johnson fam!  We will now be well-informed members of society.  (Here’s to hoping at least)

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The wonders you can find on this “Announcement Board”! Look, a spelling word list! Hmmmm I wonder how many of these we’ve missed. Oops.

2.  When I dropped the kids at school this morning their teacher asked me if I wanted to come along on the field trip.  Sure, why not?  She mentioned it was quite a long walk, but if I thought the Littles would be up for it they could come too.  Well, Jed was in Kyiv today, so if I wanted to be there then the Littles would have to buck up and and hike along with us.

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I gave Hava and Seth a pep talk about being strong, not crying and whining when we go on the long walk….blah blah blah…”If we whine and cry then Teacher probably won’t invite us on another trip, right?”

I’m happy to report that they did great on the walk.  🙂  It was about a mile walk from the school to the theater.  It was HILARIOUS to be a fly on the wall with Addy’s and Ez’s class.  It’s also funny to learn all the in’s and out’s of school here.  Like, for field trips, there’s no permission slips, no planning what parents will drive, no parents at all!  Their brave teacher just confidently lined up boys in one line and girls in another, and headed out on the walk with all of her students.  Along busy streets, across crosswalks, she walked in the front, trusting the kids would follow.   When school classes cross streets they hold up a red flag so cars will stop.  One kid in the front of the line holds a flag, a kid at the back of the line holds a flag, and the teacher holds a flag.  When crossing a street she just walks on out there, risking life and limb 😉 and stands in the middle of the street for her class to cross.  They do this every day when they walk from one building to another for lunch.  Today I got to see it in action.  I tell ya, that teacher is one brave woman.  One woman, taking a whole class on a mile walk through town to a field trip and back.  She totally rocks it.  I wasn’t a ton of help since I had Havalah and Seth, but I tried to keep the stragglers from straggling too far behind.

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3.  I’m a “smeller”.  Smell means a lot to me.  How things smell really matters, I can’t overlook a bad smell with much grace at all.  It’s a struggle.  But, being a “smeller” can also bring a lot of joy!  Good smells make me so happy!  Anyway, I do have purpose for telling you that.  While walking back to the school today I had such a strange moment.  I smelled a very beloved smell.  I smelled “Mission Trip” smell.

All throughout my teen years I went on mission trips.  I traveled all over the world during high school and college.  God put the world in my heart and I just had to go.  There’s a certain smell I remember from mission trips that I’ve never smelled in the US.  It’s a smell you smell when you’re walking on a city street.  I don’t know what all it entails, but it’s a mixture of gasoline, tires, foreign food cooking…and I don’t know what else.  I love that smell.  To me, that smell means Jesus.  It means being Jesus to the people He’s called you to.  It means going out of your comfort zone and giving your all for His sake.  It means loving people that you don’t understand and doing things you don’t understand, simply because Jesus said to, and it is what you were created for.

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Today I smelled that smell.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I looked around and saw my children walking ahead of me in a line with their class.  I heard the buzzing of Ukrainian/Russian swirling around my ears.  For a moment I thought “Oh my word.  This is really happening.  This is my life.  I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE THIS.”  I was overcome with thankfulness, and completely humbled.  All my life I dreamed of this and now it’s happening. May I never, ever forget what a joy it is to serve Christ in this way.  The last couple weeks have been hard for me, personally.  My heart needed that smell to remember it’s purpose.  🙂

4.  Jed got to spend the day in Kyiv with some boys from Romaniv!  MTU took some of the highest functioning boys to see a dolphin show.  Jed got to go along and he had a great time.  I’ll let him tell you about that at another time.  I just have to share a sweet moment that happened on their way home.

Jed texted me as I was cooking dinner and let me know the boys’ bus was stopping at MTU on the way back to Romaniv so the boys could use the bathroom and volunteers could go home.  He asked if I wanted to come say hi.  YES YES YES!!!!!  I hurried the kids to put on their shoes, paused on the dinner-making, and flew out the door.

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On their way to the Dolphins!

Oh.My.Word.  Dream come true.  Watching my own kiddos meet some our “Our Boys” was so, so sweet.  They Boys were so curious and kind.  They attempted the kids’ names and shook all their hands.  Valera, our “helper”  (highest functioning boy) in the Isolation Room was there and I was so happy for the kids to meet him!!!  We talk about him all the time.  I feel like “The Boys” have been like some big mystery to our kids.  Now they have faces for some of the names.  Now they see they are real people.  Ezra and Havalah were pretty shy. Seth was curious.  Addy was smitten.  Her eyes were glowing.  It was like a celebrity sighting! As soon as we walked out of the building to head home she said “Mom!  When do I get to start helping at Romaniv???” Soon I hope.  🙂

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McDonalds in Kyiv, complete with balloons!

So, that was today.  There were other small funny moments too, like when I walked in to gymnastics to pick up Addy and one mom that I see all the time finally blurted out “Why did you come to Zhytomyr??”  Hahaha!  Like it’s been bugging her all this time and she finally just had to ask.  Hilarious.  Or when the kids were getting ready for bed and Hava and Seth tricked me.  They acted like they had their jammies on, but then on the count of 3 pulled back their covers to nakey little bodies.  Oh they laughed so hard!  Meanwhile Addy died laughing as Ezra screamed over and over at the top of his lungs, “Слава Україні!  Слава Україні!”  (“Glory to Ukraine!  Glory to Ukraine!”)

Is this life for real?