Category: The Move


A Christmas Miracle- Part 1

*Photos courtesy of the extreme cuteness found at an MTU Christmas party*

Upon coming to Ukraine there was one thing that was hanging over our heads: VISAS. We’d heard nothing but nightmare after nightmare about the process of getting visas to live in Ukraine. It’s kind of like when you’re pregnant with your first baby. Suddenly every woman with a bad, or extra difficult birthing experience comes out of the woodwork to let you know their horror. Every gruesome detail is recounted, as the squirming Mommy-to-be tries to gracefully escape the clutches of the bitter birther in front of her. Terror fills the preggo’s mind and she can’t imagine how she will survive the inevitable. Yeah, that pretty much sums up our pre-entry feelings about visas. “So and So was denied at the border…So and So had to pay x amount of money to FINALLY get their visas after traveling to 52 different government offices in one day, trudging through the snow uphill both ways….and so on and so on.” You catch my drift. The visa process was not something we were looking forward to, per se. BUT, like a birth, painful as it may be, it had to happen.

While in the US we fretted about our visas. We tried to pursue getting our visas while in the States so we would have them in hand upon arrival, but that didn’t work out. In trying to ease our minds and get things taken care of in advance we just could not feel peaceful. We got the feeling that God wanted us to just wait and trust Him. He had brought us this far, so He wasn’t about to start failing us now. The visa situation was never out of God’s control and that’s all we had to go with. So we did!

Here’s a simple run-down of the not-so-simple visa process here in Ukraine:

1. US citizens can stay in Ukraine without a visa for 90 days.

2. So, within the first 90 days upon arrival you must obtain the official documents you need for your visa, and then you leave Ukraine to head to a Ukrainian consulate outside of the country to apply for your visa.

3. For the “D Visa” (long-term visa) basically the only way we could go about it was to be invited by a church that is registered here in Ukraine. The church doesn’t have to be registered in the city you live in, but it is a considerably easier process if you can take care of everything in the city where you reside.

4. The registered church writes an official letter of invitation, complete with stamps and signatures (stamps are muy importante here). That letter must then be submitted to the Ministry of Culture (a local government office) for approval. Everyone we talked to told us that the office generally takes around 3 weeks to give their approval.

5. After you have both approvals you take those letters, and some other official stuff to another country and apply for your visa.

6. Once you have your visa you come back in to Ukraine and then have 45 days to register where you live and such with the local government offices. That involves awholelotta documents with awholelotta stamps. The end result of all the documenting and stamping is a temporary residency that is good for one year but may be extended for another year (with rumors of a second renewal???).

All that to say, once we got to Ukraine we knew we had our work cut out for us, and with all the holidays looming right after our arrival, the clock was not on our side. Mission to Ukraine (MTU) has a strong relationship with a couple churches here in Zhitomir that said they would consider inviting us. The Vineyard churches here are not registered, so that was never an option. Shortly after our arrival in Ukraine the pastor of the Central Baptist happily agreed to invite us for our visas, so that was a HUGE answer to prayer! Pastor Pavel is such a kind man with a huge heart. He has already blessed us so much, going above and beyond to help. πŸ™‚ MTU is an amazing service here in Zhitomir and people who love MTU are happy to help however they can. Yay for that! Praise God for MTU’s influence and good standing in this community. It really says a lot about the people who work there and the quality of care they give. It even says more about God’s Kingdom and it’s expansion into Zhitomir through MTU. He is at work and it’s an awesome sight to behold.

So, on Christmas Day (In Ukraine Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, so December 25th wasn’t a holiday for offices here) Jed and our friend Oleg headed over to Pastor Pavel’s office to work on the invitation letter with the hope of submitting the letter to the Ministry of Culture before the 31st.
And the miracle began to unfold!
To be continued…
I know, I know, how suspenseful can a visa story really be? We’ve got a real nail-biter here folks! πŸ˜‰ I just want you to be all fresh when you read the really exciting part, so I didn’t want to make this a marathon post. Just you wait. God’s goodness is about to blow your mind!

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The Gift of Advent in Ukraine

I can’t even believe Christmas is just a week away! I’m a Christmas junkie. I looooove me some Christmas. I may, in fact, be the friend that calls her other Christmas-lovin’ friends the minute Christmas music is first heard on the radio, “K103 is playing Christmas music!!!” Mmmm I love it all.

I love the decorations, the music, the smells, the fooooood, the special Christmasy outings that involve mittens and hot cocoa (except if you live in Oregon don’t do the Polar Express…lame-o), the movies, the family togetherness…ALL OF IT. Havalah was born on December 22nd and that was the best Christmas ever. We had snow that Christmas! My Grandad had to go pick up my parents to get them down their hill so they could make it to the hospital. I remember laying in the hospital bed with my sweet little Hava-bundle, snow was falling outside, and Jed and I were watching reruns of A Christmas Story non-stop. It was a sweet deal because TBS was doing a marathon, so each of the times we woke to feed Hava in the night we caught a different part of Ralphie. Pure bliss. πŸ™‚

So, how does a Christmas lover handle her first Christmas away from family and all things cozy and familiar??? Very carefully.

Glimpses of Christmas at MTU

So far we’ve been doing really good! I got a bit weepy when I saw my mom post pics of my 2 nephews helping her and my dad get their Christmas tree; I felt sad my kids weren’t there. But other than that moment, it’s been A-OK. I know a HUGE part of that is because Jed’s awesome parents arrive here on Saturday and will spend Christmas with us!!! Woot! They live in Kosovo, so it’s just a short little jaunt for them to get to us. They won’t even be jetlagged! It will be so great. The kids are super excited to show Grammy and Papa their new digs.

MTU classroom- best snowman!!!

The other night we had our friends Oleg and Tanya over and introduced them to A Christmas Story. They loved Ralphie, and it was fun to watch them watch it. Classic America right there folks. I made cinnamon rolls (that didn’t rise, ahem…) and thumbprint cookies. We drank coffee and tea; it was cozy and festive and perfect (Until Addy started throwing up. Oy. Let’s just make sure to get that bug through the whole fam before Christmas Day, mmmmk?).

Thtuck, thtuck…THTUCK!!!!!

A couple years ago we started celebrating Advent with our kids. Celebrating it here in Ukraine has been such a sweet experience. I’m really not exaggerating when I say I think our Advent “Family Time” has been key to our kids’ transition to life in this faraway land.

Every night we gather at the table with kids in jammies, pour our tea, light our candles, and turn out the lights. We listen to a piece from Handel’s Messiah and either Jed or I read a portion of Scripture that goes along with the music. We got that plan here.

Then we read from our most favorite Advent book ever: Jotham’s Journey. If you have grade-school-age kids I highly recommend Jotham! We first read it 2 years ago at Advent (thanks Lanny!) and then again this year. The kids didn’t remember the plot twists and turns, so it’s been super fun. It’s awesome how the little devotional at the end of each chapter lines up with our Handels pieces.

Then after Jotham we listen to/review our memory verse for the week. We started using an app from Children Desiring God for Scripture memorization and I’m in love.

The kids thrive on our nightly “Family Time”. They love the tea, the togetherness, and the routine of it all. I’m oddly comforted by it too. Tonight Jed and I were talking about how sweet our Advent time has been and the fact that Family Time will definitely continue after Christmas. We’ve never been a family of nighttime routines, mainly because with work schedules and church and friend commitments we were often away in the evenings. Now that we’re in Ukraine, especially with these early winter nights, we are rarely gone in the evening, so we actually have some consistency. It has been beautiful. Many people thought moving in the winter was a pretty difficult choice, but I think it was actually a gift. God knew our family would need a bit of a hibernation period as we entered this new life. It’s hard to hibernate in the summer! πŸ™‚

So, that’s how we are preparing our hearts and our home for Christmas. It looks far different than any other Christmas season we’ve had, but it’s sweet in different ways as well. We don’t have any Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties to go to, but we have each other. As our new country is in upheaval and people stand in the freezing streets longing for their voices to be heard, we long more than ever for God’s Kingdom to come here and now. In this Advent season, we thank Him for coming that first Christmas Day, and we look with longing and expectation for that day when He will come again. On that day all will be made right. No more pain, no more injustice. Come, Lord Jesus, we wait with expectation for You!

Merry Christmas dear friends! May your hearts be filled with joy this season as you say YES to Him.


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The First Month: The Hard and the Awesome

One month ago from almost this exact moment we touched down in Ukraine. One month ago all 6 of us + 12 suitcases + 8 carry-ons + 1 guitar touched down in our new home. Has it only been one month??? It feels more like one year! Not in a bad way, but in a really strange way it feels like we’ve been here a whole heckofalot longer. I guess kids do that to you; they make you settle in real quick like. πŸ™‚ Our new reality set in fairly fast and we’ve been on a ginormous learning curve ever since.

This is my take on the past month. Jed doesn’t do much blogging here (ahem…) so these are my thoughts. He’d give you a different perspective, and it would probably be more profound, but I’ll share mine just for the fun of it.

The Hard Things:


Duh. Yeah, at this exact moment Russian is my enemy, my worst nightmare, my insurmountable mountain. Russian is stinkin’ hard y’all.

But, we actually have picked up quite a bit, and when we remind ourselves we’ve only been here for one month we start to feel a little better about our progress.

Everything’s labeled…

Still, Russian hates me. Holy moly. My brain hurts just thinking about it.


Shopping is an interesting beast. The hard part isn’t finding delicious foods. Ukraine has loads of deliciousness available! The hard parts are prices (WAY TOO EXPENSIVE) and lack of car. These things aren’t impossible, just a little harder than in the US. I’m learning to cook like a Ukrainian in order to be able to afford groceries. Cooking like an American just doesn’t cut it here. The foods that would be frugal back in Oregon aren’t really frugal here, for the most part. Lucky for us we all love Ukrainian food! I just need to find out how to cook more of it so we can have a bit of variety in our lives.

The store we walk to most often

We use public transportation all the time since we don’t have a car. It’s pretty sweet that we live super close to a really busy bus stop. We can easily catch a bus whenever we want one. So, that’s no biggie, except when we want to do “big shopping”. “Big shopping” doesn’t mean Costco Big, it just means we need to buy for more than just today. Like last night for instance, we needed to buy diapers, pull-ups, and some stuff for the house, along with our normal purchases (cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, sour cream, milk, coffee, butter, and flour). That’s all fine and dandy…but how are we gonna get it all home??? Oh, that’s right…we’re gonna carry it! Ha! So, basically, we can only buy what we can carry, and when you factor in slippery sidewalks, kids bundled to the nines, dark at 4:30pm, a bus ride, and little hands that need to be held, you realize you really can’t buy all that much. Jed and I are shopping and debating what’s too heavy and what we can handle. “Sure, we can buy those mandarins, they aren’t too heavy. Oooooh no, we can’t get eggs…there’s no way we’re making it home with those babies still intact!”

On the bus with my sweetie after shopping last night

It’s an often hilarious, and an unexpectedly hard thing. Big time learning curve there. (And I didn’t even mention label-reading. Forget about it!)

Time Management.

Up to this point, we’ve pretty much been in survival mode. Not in a bad way, it’s just reality. Schedules and time management have been a work in progress.

Starting a non-profit from scratch is a lot like starting a new business. We have to account for expenditures, thank our givers, get the word out, stay accountable to our Board, and seek God for direction and vision, all while living in a world where every.single.thing is new.

It’s easy to get focused on just living every day and get backlogged on Wide Awake “stuff”. That’s been a hard one that we are far from mastering, but we’re plugging away at it. Again, let’s remind ourselves that we’ve only been here one month, mmmmk?? πŸ™‚

The Awesome Things:


I know, earlier I said not having a car is hard, but it’s really only hard when we go “Big Shopping”. Otherwise, I can honestly say that I enjoy walking everywhere. It’s so beautiful!!! We have to shop a bit almost every day (that’s the way it works here with a fam of 6), and I love our daily jaunts to the store.

On the way to the store

Usually, just Jed or I will head out in the afternoon with a kid or two and pick up the few things we need for that evening’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast. I love walking down the street in the fresh air, holding on to Addy’s hand just enjoying being with her. No radio blaring, no traffic to navigate, just me and my girl or sometimes my boy, walking down the street to our corner market. It’s precious. We’re learning labels together, learning what stores we like for what items, stretching our legs, breathing in fresh air, and feeling the sun (wishful thinking) on our faces. I like it a lot.

New Friends.

Duh. This one is HUGE. We have some wonderful friends here in Zhitomir. Thank you Jesus!!! Our friends Oleg and Tanya have been so good to us. They’ve ordered water for us for home delivery, helped me buy boots for my frozen Oregonian feet, taken us for coffee, celebrated a birthday and Thanksgiving with us, calmed my nerves when I heard unexpected fireworks and Jed was gone for the weekend (I was a wee bit nervous…), told us which brands of food are better, translated for us with our landlady, translated for us with our neighbors when we got the unfortunate “don’t flush the toilet paper” news hehe, helped us figure out our address, called taxis…and on and on and on. They’ve pretty much saved our bacon way too many times already. They probably feel like it’s been a heckofalot longer than one month too!! πŸ˜‰

(Insert cute pic of friends…apparently we’re too busy drinking coffee and such for pics. Will remedy soon!!)

Mission to Ukraine friends have been AMAZING too. From the moment we walked in their doors on November 14th we’ve felt so incredibly welcome. They are excited to have us and we are so excited to have them!!! The MTU staff puts up with our blundering Russian with such grace. Bless their hearts!! They invite us to church, find lawyers to help us with our visas, feed our kids cake, hug us and kiss our cheeks, and on and on. One special family from MTU (mom and daughter both work there) has especially taken us under their wing. I feel like they are God’s special precious gift to us. Sigh, God is just too good. And that’s just the Zhitomir friends! Don’t even get me started on the treasures He’s given us in Kiev…



Oh, my precious Romaniv! I was there again today and I am in love. Last week Jed and Nina, the AMAZING volunteer from Zhitomir that comes each week to the isolation room, discussed implementing more structure for the time we spend in the isolation room. Today Nina and I followed the plan the best we could and the boys responded immediately. Our time was so much more peaceful than the last time I was there! At one point we were feeding the boys bananas and Nina and I looked at each other in disbelief. It was SILENT in the room. The boys, for that moment, were content and quiet. It was such a moment of hope. God gave us all a bit of wisdom and then He blessed it. The boys responded fabulously and I can’t wait to see how they do after the structure is implemented week after week. Yay!!!!

On the road to Romaniv

Those boys have our hearts, big time.

Nina helping wash hands πŸ™‚

Today I got to hold Andrei, one of the most active boys, on my lap for a bit. I figured out if I tied a long piece of cloth to a plastic slinky it would catch his attention and he would sit still for a moment. He let me hold him, rub his head, and hum into his ear for almost 10 minutes while he bounced the slinky up and down, up and down. Wow. That may not seem like much, but for a boy who never ever stops- always stimming, always shrieking, always running- this was big. For a moment he was at peace. For a moment his brain was developing a little further up the brainstem. For a moment prayers were whispered in his ear. Magical.

There’s so much more I could share. So many memories made, so many funny and embarrassing stories…it’s rather humiliating to live here, FYI. We make fools of ourselves all the time, everywhere. πŸ™‚

Off to go make some embarrassing Russian blunders!

Just know that life is good, very good. It’s not all sunshine and roses and some days we struggle, but we have not one speck of doubt that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Things are quite crazy in Ukraine right now. We have no idea how it will all play out with the current government and the wishes of the people. Ukraine is at a very critical point in its history and we are here for such a time as this. It’s no surprise to God that we arrived right at the birth of a revolution. Who knows why…only God. But we do know that there is purpose in it and we don’t plan on missing out on that purpose.

Would you pray with us for Ukraine? This place and these people have grabbed our hearts. We’ve only made Ukraine our home for a short month, but we are all in. These are our people. Please pray that God has His way in Ukraine and that His Kingdom will come here and now. Pray that many, many hearts are turned toward Him during this unstable time.


Thank you, friends! Thank you for your love and encouragement this first month. It has been awesome to journey with you!




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What We’re Up To

So, here we are in Ukraine, livin’ it up, doing our thing, and you might be wondering,

“What are they actually doing there?”

That’s a valid question with an answer that changes every day. :

When we first arrived, Ira, the Director at Mission to Ukraine (MTU) told us “We have an additional beatitude in Ukraine, ‘Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be broken.'” Ha! Bring it on, we’re ready.

Making new baby friends to squeeze

We just want to bless MTU and their vision as much as possible, so we have given them ourselves. They are welcome to use us however they want. We just desire to be a blessing and not a burden. Ira wisely decided it would be best to focus on tasks month by month, reevaluating often where there is the most need and where they can use us most effectively.

Discovering new playgrounds

For the month of December, we are mostly helping in different classrooms around MTU. Jed and I take turns going to MTU, while the other stays home and teaches our kids. We’re only a couple of weeks into it, but so far so good! One thing I do know is that I’ve got to get more organized with our homeschooling. Yikes. I’m not used to this “team-teaching” thing! I’m just used to teaching the kids while Jed’s off at work and he doesn’t really have a hand in it. I love the idea of him teaching the kids! I just am realizing it’s going to take a lot more organization to be able to pull it off well. All my Homeschool Mama friends are laughing at me right now. Stop it! I see you and that smirk on your face! πŸ™‚ Let’s just say I’ve not been known to be the most organized Type A homeschooler out there. I’m more of the “let’s just do the next thing” type, with a good bit of “We don’t need to do that” thrown in there (like worksheets and such). I’m not neglectful, I’m just relaxed. Yeah, that doesn’t really work with more than one teacher. I realized that I’m going to have to write out lesson plans or else Jed will have no clue what to do and all the schooling will fall on me…which won’t work because I’m not always going to be home. Whew. Pray for me and my relaxed, unorganized, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants self!

Reveling in rickety merry-go-rounds

While at MTU we act as extra hands in the various classes they teach. There is a special needs preschool class that we help at, as well as some life skills classes for all ages and abilities. It is so fun! I already have a few favorites (if I’m allowed favorites). πŸ˜‰ I hope to share their pictures with you soon, I just need permission first. The staff at MTU is stretched very thin, so they really need extra hands in every area.

Posing for Mommy

Jed is working with Natasha, one of the staff members who is in charge of the development of MTU’s volunteer base. His experience at Family Building Blocks is just what Natasha needs and wants. So, that’s cool. He’s also helping out Tatiana in the communications department with social media stuff. And of course, there are Fridays. Woohoo! On Fridays Jed and I take turns volunteering at Romaniv Orphanage with the MTU team. To say it’s a highlight of our week would be an understatement. Just tonight we had our friend Olya over for dinner, she’s an occupational therapist at MTU, and were brainstorming with her about Romaniv and what we can do for the boys there. The need is overwhelming, but God doesn’t call us to fix all the problems. He just calls us to take one step at a time and daily listen to His voice and obey. Whew!

Eating lots of Borscht!

Last Saturday we took the kids to visit Awanas! Ha! Funny right? One of the churches here in town hosts Awanas on Saturday afternoons and the kids had a blast. It’s all in Ukrainian, and the teacher said they did just fine! It felt super strange to leave them there, but when we were in the room they were looking to us too much, so we thought they’d do better if we left. I’ve gotta say, our kids are pretty stinkin’ brave. They want to go back too!

Helping Mommy shop

We’re trying our best to study the heck outta Russian. We have a wonderful teacher named Sveta who comes to our house three days a week for our lessons. We’re also tackling Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. If one language program is good, 2 plus a tutor must be great, right? Let’s hope so.

Making cookies for the staff at Romaniv

Other than all that, we’re just spending our days learning how to live in Ukraine. It’s a new culture, new language, new pace of life, new everything. We seriously feel like babies. I want to scream to people “I’m really not as stupid as I sound! I really am a smart person…I just don’t know how to ask for the right kind of cheese at the deli counter.” Haha! Oh dear. We are babies, learning a whole new world, taking baby steps, talking baby talk. It’s humbling and invigorating, and humiliating, and frustrating, and wonderful.

I simply would not have it any other way. God is so good it’s almost laughable. πŸ™‚

Yes, yes, I know, it’s a scarf. What can I do?- either choke to death or freeze to death. I choose to not freeze. πŸ˜‰

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Birthday Cooking in Ukraine 101

Saturday was Ezra’s birthday!

This was the first birthday celebrated away from family, so I think Jed and I were both feeling the need to make Ezra’s birthday extra special. As in, Ez was convinced Hannah came to visit JUST for his birthday. We let him believe that. After all, it’s not every day you turn 8!

We asked Ezra what he wanted to eat for his birthday and he said he wanted pizza. Woohoo! I can make pizza! No big deal. He also said that instead of birthday cake, he wanted cherry vareniki. Really??? Okay, buddy, anything for you on your birthday.

So, Friday night, right after her arrival, I roped Hannah into helping me make some vareniki. It’s a time intensive job, but much more fun when you have company. πŸ™‚ Vareniki are little dumplings made from butter, flour, salt, and egg. They can be filled with potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, cabbage…or cherries. Mmmmm. That’s how we like them best! You top the cherry ones with sugar and sour cream. They really are delish. Jed and I had them the first time we came to Ukraine and I’m pretty sure I experimented cooking them the very day after we arrived home. πŸ™‚

Vareniki/PJ party


We rolled out the dough, cut out little circles, then put a spoonful of sugar and a couple cherries in each circle of dough. Then we ran into problems. You have to crimp the dough around the edges to seal it so the cherries don’t leak out when the vareniki is boiled. Well, I always just set my cherries in a strainer and work fast. BUT the only cherries we could find were frozen, and as they thawed they leaked like crazy. We had some funky looking vareniki on our hands!
While we worked we listened to the Phil Collins station on Spotify. In my former life (2 weeks ago) I did all my best work (and card-playing) to Phil Collins station on Pandora. Jed, Tom, Emma, and I have worked for years (literally) to perfect our Phil Collins station. It’s seriously like a work of art. Occasionally a Coldplay song will get thrown in and one of us will rush over to thumb it down, but that’s a rarity. It’s pretty spot-on in awesomeness. It’s been faithfully tended and nurtured to perfection. Let’s just say, when it comes to Spotify radio we have our work cut out for us. No Pandora in Ukraine = starting over. Boo.
BUT, Jed had just mentioned earlier in the evening (can’t remember why) that it felt like a Top Gun music moment. And while we were in the deep throes of vareniki-making, guess what song came on???

Cool, right?? PS: not sure why the vareniki look hypercolor yellow. Hmmmm

Nothing lifts the spirits like a good 80’s mix. πŸ˜‰
Saturday dawned and Ezra was up with the sun. He was so excited for his big day!!
Hannah and I got busy on the pizza dough fairly early since we had guests coming to celebrate for lunch. As we let the dough rise we walked down to the grocery store to see if, by chance, we could find some parchment paper for the pizza baking. We were doubtful we would find anything, but it was worth a shot! Imagine our surprise when we found just what we were looking for!
We hurried home, rolled out our dough, and got ready to preheat the oven. Then we actually took a good look at the oven and found this:

Ummm this is our oven control. Any idea how to decipher this?? Only three temp choices. I guess we better invest in a thermometer πŸ™‚

We spent some time googling for a way to use the oven and eventually decided to just wing it. The dough baked perfectly! Yummmmm!!!! Praise The Lord!
I took it out, ready to slide it off the pan….and at that point realized we didn’t actually buy parchment paper. It appeared we bought some sort of paper that stuck like glue to the dough. Hahahahaha

Pizza with a side of paper

Time to clean the dough off the paper in the other pans before the other crusts suffered the same fate!
In the end, the pizza and vareniki turned out delicious and all was well. This adventure is so hilariously fun!!!

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About Stuff

So, before we made the big move to Ukraine I searched the Interwebs (as Jed likes to call it) like a mad woman for any and every blog I could find about life for Americans who had moved to Ukraine. I found some that I really enjoyed, mostly because the writers were working with orphans and I dig that. Obviously. But, what I was really looking for was details about the little things that make up life in Ukraine. I wanted to see daily life so I could *try* to be prepared. I didn’t find a whole lot of that, probably because when it’s your everyday life you have a hard time believing anyone would find it interesting. I mean, do people really care what your washer machine looks like or how small your rolls of toilet paper are? Well, I cared! πŸ™‚ I wanted to see any and everything. So…I hope to give you glimpses to our everyday life…maybe some of you will find it interesting?? If anything I know my mom will be happy to see it all. Hehe

For what it’s worth, here are the things of note that I’ve been thinking I should tell you about. I have to take notes right when the thought comes, like this:

Dogs and Motion Detectors:
You all saw the outside of our house, right? Not so perty. You can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, and our house is proof of that.
Anyway, on that corner there is a motion-detecting light. We didn’t realize it was there till the first night we moved in. I kept waking up all night to the light going off and on because it’s literally right outside our bedroom window. The light was off and on, off and on, off and on ALL NIGHT. The entrance to our house isn’t exactly on a busy street so I started getting all concerned when night after night it was like a strobe light in my room. Welp, not to worry, I figured out the culprit. Stray dogs.
Ukraine has lots of stray dogs. They are running and sleeping all over town- and especially through our yard at night. I woke up one night and bravely looked out the window, afraid of what I’d see, only to see a group of dogs running back and forth under our light. Ha! I feel better now. πŸ™‚
No Top Sheet:
I love Ukraine. I love Ukraine because people don’t use top sheets. If you have little kids you understand. It’s like you know your kids should use top sheets, but they are forever crumpled at the bottom of little beds. I’ll confess, that after a while, I just gave up and stopped trying. I felt a bit guilty like my kids were sleeping in filth until we moved here! In our house there are bottom sheets (only fitted on one side), and then big blankets in a top sheet material duvet cover. Genius! All the cleanliness of a top sheet, minus the crumple. My guilty mother’s heart is now at peace.

Also, the sheet sets never match. Just when I thought it couldn’t get easier, it did.

Translate to Russian, then Ukrainian:
There are two languages mostly spoken in Ukraine: Russian and Ukrainian. Even though Ukrainian is the official language and most of the signage and stuff is in Ukrainian, we’ve decided to focus on learning Russian. The reason for that is that the dreams God has given us are bigger than only Ukraine. The dream He’s given us extends to the whole former Soviet Union region. So, it seems more wise to focus on learning Russian since it’s more widely spoken worldwide.
Anywaysssss when we go to the store it gets a bit tricky. Some of the labels for the food are in Russian and some are in Ukrainian. When I see a label I don’t understand (let’s be honest, that would be 97% of them) I first google translate into Russian, and if that comes up with nothing or a totally irrelevant word I then translate it into Ukrainian. As you can imagine, grocery shopping takes a million years. I think I need to start trying to translate to Ukrainian first, it might save me some time. πŸ™‚ Google Translate is my new BFF.

I misspelled the first ingredient on the second line…it should translate flakes. πŸ™‚

Bagged Food:
Tons of the refrigerated food comes in bags. Who’d a thunk it? The kids think it’s great. It’s all fun and games till someone pokes a hole in the milk (ahem, Seth).

Mayonnaise, ketchup, milk, and sour cream

Mr. Clean:
I just thought this was funny.
Cake for Bfast:
This morning we started at MTU and all the staff got to meet the kids! It was super surreal to have our kids there. Sigh…happy. To welcome us they brought out cake. Way to win over my kids! Anyone who serves cake at 8:30am gains guaranteed hero status at our house.
Boxes Arrived:
Our boxes came today!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to us! We shipped 6 boxes on September 10th and they arrived today. We were hoping and praying they would all make it and that we would beat them here so we could receive them and MTU wouldn’t have to store them for us. God is too, too good to us!!! Would you believe the boxes are almost completely filled with just books? Yep. We figured just about everything else we could need we could find here, but all our books in English? Irreplaceable. We got a super amazing shipping deal, and I’m so happy we did it. Books and some school supplies are really all we shipped. Addy, my little book lover, is going to be so happy to be reunited with her friends. πŸ™‚
Ez Pez Bday:
Our little Ezra turns 8 years old on Saturday! My cousin Hannah has been in Western Ukraine since September doing an internship through her university and will be in Ukraine till the middle of December. We are SO EXCITED that she is taking the train to come and visit us this weekend! Ez is convinced Hannah is coming all this way just for his birthday. We won’t correct him. Turning 8 is kind of a big deal.
Welp, I think that just about covers it. My brain is officially mush. We started Russian lessons today and I’m surprised our heads didn’t explode. Jed went to bed long ago and now I better go too before I turn into a pumpkin. πŸ™‚
Happy Wednesday Everyone!

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Our House!

So, I’m just sitting here in my little Ukrainian house, the kids are asleep, and Jed is off to watch soccer at a friend’s house (He doesn’t waste time with the man dates! Hehe) Life is good. We are blessed and happy.

Wanna see our house? YES! I’m pretty proud of us because we actually accomplished quite a bit today, despite the fact that the kids woke up at 4am. Oh, you say that just gave us more hours to work, so of course we should have gotten a lot done? Well, I say it was evil and instead caused us all to take a three-hour nap at noon. We couldn’t help ourselves! Jet lag is a beast.

So, the house is still a work in progress, but I’ll let you have a peek at our new digs. We feel quite comfy here and are so super thankful. Here goes nothin!

This is our street, headed toward our house- the white building on the right.

Here’s the front of our building. I think there are like 4 houses (flats) that are all a part of this building…not quite sure though. We enter around the back.

This is the path to walk around to our pad. πŸ™‚

These steps lead to us! That balcony right above is our balcony. Everyone come on over!

Welcome! Here’s what you see when you walk on in. (Minus the huge grins on our faces, so happy to have you! Also beware of tiny, leg-grabbing people ready to jump out and grab you…they’re vicious I tell ya)

Oh, you like the purple kitchen, do you? Well, we girls like it too. The boys aren’t so sure.

Too bad we don’t have a microwave manual…not that we could read that either…hmmm

Here’s the place where all the goodness happens. When you come over we’ll eat loads of deliciousness at this big ‘ol table! That’s assuming I figure out grocery shopping and can buy the right ingredients for the deliciousness. Seth wants me to tell you he has his eyes closed. FYI πŸ™‚

Here’s the view from the dining room table of Jed leaving me to go on a man date. πŸ˜‰

So, to the right of the front door is the kitchen, and this is what’s to the left. There’s the bathroom, and the living room.

Here’s our AWESOME bathroom! This is the biggest bathroom we’ve ever had. For some reason I find it very cute and bright. Is that weird that I love my bathroom so much?

Our little washing machine is in the bathroom. When Addy saw it she said It’s just my size! Yep, that’s about right. Ha! We don’t have a dryer so this girl’s gonna have to learn the art of hanging clothes to dry. Sweeeeet.

Here’s another time when a manual would be helpful…

This is the room that we’ll use as a living room. I think we’ll move out one of the beds to make more space, throw some cushions on the others, and call ’em couches.

The view from the other side of the room, complete with Jed looking creepy. He makes me laugh. I just love him!

Still with me? Now let’s head upstairs so you can see the guest room. Hint hint…

This is the biggest room, so it will be for the kids. We can’t fit 4 beds in it, so we need to buy some bunk beds. Until then, just the girls will sleep in here.

That white door leads to a shower.

THIS, now THIS is the guest room! Isn’t it fantastic? πŸ˜‰ The boys will sleep in here until we get the bunk beds.

Here’s our cute little upstairs bathroom. So itty bitty!

Here’s our enclosed balcony. Pretty sweet eh? Right now we’re storing empty suitcases here. Yeah, when we brought 12 SUITCASES we didn’t really think through what we would do with them after we were done traveling here. Anyone need a spare suitcase? Emma- notice my sweet hanging skills???

Our view during the day…

And now for the armpit of the house…

Our bedroom!!! Yep, we’ve still got some work to do…

Isn’t the house SO GREAT??? It’s a miracle. It’s so clean, plenty big, under our budget, a three-minute walk to MTU, and furnished. We are so happy!
When we knew we were going to live in this house we were excited, but I had one worry. I was worried for my kids. There are no parks nearby, and I was so concerned about how we would find friends. Do we just walk around until we hear kids and then head in that direction? It was a worry for me, but we really felt like this house was God’s gift to us, so we knew He had/has our kids covered.
So, yesterday morning we woke up, looked out our balcony window to check out our view, and you’ll never guess what we saw.


Would you believe they installed a playground right behind our house on our first morning here?? INCREDIBLE. We were laughing, and I’m pretty sure I cried. Now THAT is God’s gift to my kids, but also a gift to this mommy’s heart. Where there is a playground, there will be children. It just goes to show us that God has gone before us and taken care of every single detail.
One of our friends felt like God showed her that this move to Ukraine would be like Christmas Day for our kids. Like they don’t know what they are getting, but that God has great gifts here for them. Well, gift #1 was delivered on our first morning and I am in awe.
It just keeps getting better and better. Saying yes to God is so much fun!!!!!

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How it Went Down

We are here! We are here! Holy, moly, the outpouring of support has blown us away. We feel so loved and spoiled! Our friends and family rock. So many Viber messages, so much facebook encouragement, so many emails. Thank you all for loving us so well.

Here’s how it went down.


We said goodbye to my family and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l. Picture Addy clinging to the window, sobbing as our family walked away and you’ll be able to picture the level of sadness. Our family has so fully released us to this and we know it is hard. I can’t imagine how we could even do this if they didn’t let us know that they are behind this 100%. Thank you dear fam for letting us go. WE LOVE YOU!

We were feeling rather pathetic, so we hurried off to distract ourselves with a long security line. That line made us want to poke our eyes out, so the other sadness was forgotten for a bit. It felt like all we had ever known was that line and our 4 roller carry-ons + 5 backpacks + 1 guitar. All time stopped and we were lost in the vortex of shoe-taking off, pocket-emptying, luggage-heaving, and luggage-scanning and re-scanning. Did I mention the miracle that we got to check all 12 bags ALL THE WAY to Kiev, and 7 of them were a couple pounds overweight and they made us pay nothing? Oh the cheering that rang out at the American Airlines ticket counter!! Did I also mention that TSA officers have a knack for opening the bags stuffed with loose legos? Yep, they chose the lego bags without fail. Hehe…it was like an explosion of legos every time. Annnnnd it never stopped being funny.

Flight #1

This flight was pretty uneventful. As we were heading down the runway I explained to Havalah that we have to go really fast before we go up in the air. She said “Oh, when we start to drive really fast will our hair blow back?” πŸ™‚



TSA really had a ball with our luggage this time. They must have scanned Ezra’s backpack 4 times. I think the nerf gun bullets were the culprit…or maybe the scary shark toy? I guess it will always remain a mystery.

We ate some yummy food, took a train, changed terminals and we were off again!

Flight #2

This was the biggie. We were flying from Chicago to Istanbul and it was a 10 hour doozy. The kids did AWESOME!!!! They really couldn’t have done better. We watched movies, ate, and slept. I won’t bore you with all the details…


Before we arrived in Istanbul we explained to the kids that when we got off that plane we wouldn’t be in America anymore, so they needed to expect things to be different. The first sign of different was when we went through the security check. O.M.G. As Havalah went through the x-ray scanner deal-io the TSA officer (a woman) grabbed Havalah and started smothering her face with kisses. HAHAHA!!! It was so awesome. She was going on and on in Turkish, grabbing, kissing, talking, more kissing. At that point we were certain we weren’t in Oregon anymore. Seth got the same smooch treatment and we were on our way. I’m not sure they took note of anything in our bags, they were just too enamored with our kids. I loved every second of it, and Hava and Seth didn’t seem to mind it much either. πŸ™‚

Flight #3:

This flight was less than 2 hours long, so I don’t have much to say about it. Quick and painless, and before we knew it we were in Kiev! The feelings as we touched down in Ukraine were like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Jed and I met eyes and were like “Holy cow. We did it. We made it. God did this. After 3 years of dreaming, we are here- with our kids. WOW.”


Once we got down to baggage claim in Kiev we were in good hands. We looked out the glass doors and could see a group of our dear friends from the Kiev Vineyard waiting for us, waving and smiling. YES!!! All we had to do was get our bags from the carousel to the door and then we had many hands hugging us and helping us. Praise God for the Body of Christ. Praise God for family in Kiev. We love them so much!

Want to know the biggest miracle of all? ALL 12 BAGS MADE IT TO KIEV. Jed and I were literally whooping with joy when we grabbed the last bag off the carousel. It was definitely a moment to celebrate. πŸ™‚

Our friends helped us to the van we had hired and we were off on the road to Zhitomir! All the kids except Seth fell asleep on the two-hour drive, so that was easy peasy. When we arrived at the house our friend Oleg was waiting with keys to let us right in. He even brought food for breakfast this morning! All our friends here made us feel so loved and welcome. Then we logged in online and all our friends from the US were cheering us on like crazy! It’s like one ginormous hug fest and we are loving every second of it. Thank you, dear ones, both near and far.

All in all, the travel couldn’t have been more perfect. Tomorrow I’ll show you pictures of the house, so stay tuned! Woot! πŸ˜‰

We are so unbelievably thankful that God has brought us this far. He has covered every single detail. It just goes to show you that the children we’ve come to serve are so stinkin’ dear to His heart. He will stop at nothing to have His way. He will stop at nothing to bring light into darkness. All of this is for His glory. He continues to pave the way and we simply can not wait to see what He has in store next. He is changing the atmosphere and softening hearts. He is opening eyes and we are humbled to be His hands and feet in this place.

To God be ALL the glory for the great, amazing, fantastic, unbelievably good things He has done.

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Today We Fly

And we’re off! Thank you dear family and friends for showering us with love these past few days/years. πŸ™‚

We have been drowned in love and we leave with full hearts knowing that we have been fully released to our destiny. We go “fully loved, and fully free to love.”

We can’t really comprehend that this is really happening, or what this really means, but we know that God goes before us and His plans are gonna rock.

Bye for now! So many hugs and so much love to family and friends. We LOVE YOU!!!!!

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Wide Awake Podcast

Happenings and About-to-be-Happenings

Next week we fly away!

Next week the new adventure begins!

Seven days to go and we’re feeling gooooood.

Today we went to Portland and finished up the last of our shopping. Oh man, we rocked it! Jed got shoes, Addy got shoes, I got jeans, Jed got jeans…we were knocking things off the checklist like beasts. It was awesome. I think the only things left to buy are a brown belt for Jed and some good walking shoes for me. We won’t have a car in Ukraine, so our current shoes won’t really cut it. We’ll be walking A LOT. I finally resigned myself to the fact that I’ll need to spend more than $20 on a pair of shoes for them to last in U. πŸ™‚

We had the best weekend. Our dear, dear friend Cody came to visit us this weekend from Florida. Cody and I were friends in college, and then after we graduated she moved to Oregon to live with me. Cody was there when Jed and Kim became Jed and Kim. πŸ™‚ In fact, it’s a little-known fact that Cody was the catalyst in the whole making of Jed and Kim. Back in those days, Jed was in love with me and I wasn’t so sure…hehe. Then Cody came along and helped me realize what a catch I had right in front of me. So…I guess we owe a whole lot to our Cody. Cody was the first one I screamed with after Jed proposed, she was in our wedding, and she was there when Addy was born…it only makes sense that Cody would have to be a part of this ginormous life event we’re in the middle of right now!

Boy did we need some Cody in our lives this weekend!! Jed and I were feeling rather burned out on packing/item-deliberating/stuff-decision-making. We’re so sick of looking and relooking at our stuff! Cody came along and gave us just the right amount of bossiness and energy to get ‘er done! πŸ™‚ On Sunday my friend Angie, Cody and I played out ALL OUR STUFF and ALL OUR SUITCASES and packed, packed, packed. It.was.awesome. Not only was this weekend super productive, but it was super refreshing and life-giving. I didn’t realize how much I was missing my friend. Having Cody here was like a weekend-long hug/bowl of ice cream. Comforting to the extreme. Great, now I’m making myself cry. Grrrr. Anyway, thank you Cody for being such a sister to me. I love you and I miss you already. Come baaaaaaaaack!!!!!

Welp, now I got all emotional and lost my train of thought.

As we tackle the next few days left here in Oregon I just want to savor friends and family. I want to drink in everyone. I want to make sure we get to say goodbye to as many people as we can, so if you’re reading this and you want to make sure you get in a goodbye just give us a call! You aren’t a bother. We have a lot to do, but nothing is more important than making time for the ones we love.

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