Category: Wide Awake Homestead

IMG_3793

Life Together is Beautiful

Last week Ruslan and Jed returned home to us at long, long last. Oh, the sweet relief and joy of having them safe and sound, back in our arms. Annnnnnd they brought home with them our dear Christiana! Christiana is a friend of ours and of Wide Awake/Dim Hidnosti for many years. Her dream (and ours) was that once she finished grad school she would come spend a longer period of time here with us as a house parent, living with the boys. At long last, she finished and now she is here! It still doesn’t feel quite real that she’ll be with us for a full two years. I think we all feel a bit of the “pinch me” feelings. 🙂

Now that Jed is home and Christiana is here we really do have what we have always dreamed of. We have our boys living in our beautiful homes and we have amazing house parents living with them, building family. And a huge bonus is that all of us living here on the Homestead truly love and like each other! What we have is something special and right now I’m really feelin’ all the feels about it.

Dajana and Christiana love the boys and are feeling inspired to finally make Side A of the duplex a real home. Just in time for the coziness of the holidays, too! Dajana has such a calm, intuitive way with the boys that you would never know this work was absolutely, completely new to her just a few short months ago. She’s a natural and I’m pretty sure she’s happily surprised by that. 🙂 Christiana is new to us but is already thoughtfully considering how she can create meaningful time with the boys in the evenings when it’s family time. I love that! Oleg and Masha have done a really great job of making Side B into a true home for Anton and Sasha. They are dream house parents and are an example to us all of how to live life not just physically “with” the boys, but to really and truly live with them. To invite them into family, to look at them as equals, and to consider their wants and desires as humans in this world. I, for one, am inspired by them all the time.

What we have together here on the Homestead is a living, breathing, loving community and I feel so honored to be a part of it. Masha recently wrote her thoughts about community life on our team’s Instagram and Facebook pages and what she wrote was so beautiful it made me a little teary. Here’s the translation (Just a reminder, “Dim Hidnosti” translated “Dignity Home” or “House of Dignity” is the Ukrainian arm of Wide Awake. It is the name of Wide Awake’s work that is done here in Ukraine, simply because “Wide Awake” doesn’t translate well into Ukrainian) :

Life in Community
“In this era of individualism, people have begun to lose their sense of community and interdependence with others❌. In a society where no one owes anyone anything, unfortunately, there is very little room left for creating a community where all move in the same direction.

But do people need community now?
As we have already verified over the past year and a half – community, for us, is a huge driving force💪! Without community in various forms of its existence, it would not be possible to achieve goals for the benefit of society. Therefore, the development of local communities right now is very important for the further development of our country.

In a society where ‘no one owes anyone anything’, deinstitutionalization, saving children and adults from institutions, would not be possible. If ‘I don’t owe anyone anything’, then the innocent suffer. People remain defenseless at the hands of the institutional system and there is no one to help them 💔. Would we want such a fate for ourselves, our children, our relatives? Then why should others be condemned to loneliness and a life without a family? We cannot choose to exist only for ourselves – we simply do not have the right to do so while there is such injustice in the world. We must act, join local communities that are already helping people, or create them ourselves 🙌🏻

Would it be possible for the ‘House of Dignity’ (Dim Hidnosti) to exist without community? We can say with confidence: NO. Only in community and unity is it possible to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves – to give dignity, hope, and love to people with disabilities ❤️‍🩹.
The community of Dim Hidnosti is protection, support, and family for the men with disabilities who live with us. Moreover, we are their only family forever.

Community is a calling. Not every person can choose such a life for himself, because it requires full disclosure of your personality to other members of the community 🫣. To see imperfection in yourself and others and to have the courage to forgive, recover, recognize your right to make mistakes, and give this right to others 🤝….
We appear before everyone as we are, without decorations – and there is always a risk of not being accepted or being rejected. But, is it worth taking the risk and finding out what community acceptance and love can be like and how lifelong friendships can realize and fulfill dreams?
🙌🏻

Dim Hidnosti is a place of restoration and healing, not only for our boys but also for those of us who have dedicated our lives to them.
This healing and restoration is possible when every member of our community gives their heart to the work.
We are grateful for every person who has been with us, who is with us now, and who will come to Dim Hidnosti because each has given a part of their life and heart to our boys and this community
❤️.”

The longer I am a part of this community/family God has brought together the more beautiful it becomes and the more thankful I become. Is it always an easy life, living in close community where your actions affect everyone and their actions affect you? Heck no! Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s tiring. Sometimes it’s disappointing. But is it worth it? Yes, a thousand times yes. I wouldn’t give up the gift of my Dim Hidnosti family for all the world. They are God’s gift to me and there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Please don’t live life alone. Seek out community. Open your eyes, your heart, your arms, your home. I am certain there is someone who needs what you have to give and your life will be so much richer for having given. We were not meant to walk this life alone. Life together is so much more beautiful.

Read More
E982EF8D-FA0B-43CE-9E91-D779DDA68B19

On Star-Gazing and Homesteading

I didn’t grow up close to nature. Sure, we would go camping as kids, and those times are some of my fondest memories, but I wouldn’t say we were a “nature family” by any stretch of the imagination. We were more of an after-school activity, church, sports, Saturday-morning cartoon family. We had a couple cats when I was little, but they either ran away or we had to give them away when we moved…I can’t remember. And I had a few guinea pigs over the years. Fun fact: my first guinea pig’s name was Hudson Taylor. I was a weird kid, but I knew where my life was headed, I guess. What I’m getting at, is the extent of my childhood knowledge of farm life was limited to my heavy consumption of Little House on the Prairie (the TV series, not the books, thankyouverymuch).

When we lived in the US, before we were aware of Ukraine at all, Jed and I talked and dreamed about having some land, homesteading a bit. It wasn’t anything we were ever ready to seriously look into, but we dreamed of it someday in the future. I’m not even sure what sparked that dream. I guess we liked the idea of planting and growing things, of having space for our kids to run, of getting our hands dirty and caring for animals. Jed had a bit more experience with all that than I did, but not much. For whatever reason, it just sounded cool and it sounded very “us”. I liked to cook from scratch. We were always kicking our kids outdoors. We had backyard chickens. Baby steps toward the dream…

Then came that fateful night in the summer of 2010 when our eyes were opened to the horrors of institutional life in Ukraine for people with disabilities and all other dreams flew out the window. There was the agonizing time of not knowing how to respond to the new information we had discovered. Then the decision to adopt. Then when that fell through, the first visit to Ukraine. Then the founding of Wide Awake and the selling of almost all our worldly possessions. Gone was our beautiful craftsman on a quarter acre (huge to us), our backyard chickens, our bunnies, our cook-from-scratch, grain mill-using, kefir-making kitchen. The homestead dream took a backseat to the urgent need to get to Ukraine and DO SOMETHING to relieve the suffering of those languishing in institutions.

Now we’ve been in Ukraine for almost ten years (pinch me) and this past week a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. Our homestead dream is coming, has come true. Say what???? Our land here in the village has slowly become the thing of our dreams. And it has happened so slowly, in the midst of so many more important things that I somehow seemed to have missed it, or forgotten that we had once, long ago dreamed of it.

When we decided it was time to buy land here, that it was time to start getting people out of institutions we debated about what was better- to be in the city or in the village. We didn’t want to hide our friends with disabilities away, out of sight, like they always had been, but at the same time, we wanted them to be able to touch nature, to walk freely outdoors, to have space to breathe. We eventually decided the village would be better suited for deinstitutionalization, so we bought a little bit of property and the Homestead took its first breath.

The day we bought the Homestead land

I always thought that we were in the village because it was better for the boys. And I do believe it is. I can’t imagine trying to do what we do in the middle of the city. But now I am starting to notice a sneaky truth, that God placed us in the village not just for the boys, but for me and Jed too. I truly believe that God remembered that long laid down spark of a dream and in his kindness he has made it a reality.

Living on the Homestead, working in our massive garden, caring for our chickens, goats, and dogs- it brings me so much life. It’s like therapy for me. For reals. Sure, with Jed gone it can feel a bit overwhelming, but I still love it so much and I know Jed does too. Many of our Facetime convos, while he’s in the US, consist of me showing him the garden and the animals. 😆 I like learning new things, trying new things, planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving our own food. I love watching baby chicks grow and change. Our one little chick that recently hatched has two mama hens and the three of them are just the cutest little trio there ever was. Now we have another mama hen brooding on 4 eggs and I can’t wait to see what will happen with her. She’s an aggressive one. Ain’t nobody gonna mess with her babies! One of our hens, Kelly Cluckson, broke her leg and I thought we were going to have to put her out of her misery, but after a few weeks of making sure she could be left alone with food and water, I’m happy to report that now she can walk and jump and kinda/sorta limp-run. It’s so great! I’m so proud of her! 😆. Soon we will have horses and that will take everything up a notch. I have no idea what to do with horses, but I’m eager to learn. Dajana and I have a plan to take the horses to the forest after she teaches me to ride. Can you imagine? So cool.

One of my favorite moments of the day is late at night when I go out to the barn to lock up the goats and chickens for the night. It’s suuuuuuuuper dark. Our village doesn’t have street lights so the only light is from the moon. On clear nights there are so many stars. It’s incredible. I love to stand out there, look at all the stars, listen to the bazillion barking dogs. It’s like my soul can take a deep breath in that moment. In the midst of dealing with the trauma our boys carry, hard parenting moments, and living in a country at war, our little Homestead brings me life and joy. It steadies me a bit. I’m thankful that God placed that kernel of a dream in our hearts all those years ago and that he brought it to fruition in a way we could never have imagined. He is so good and kind to us.

Read More
A Garden Update + Wide Awake Moments #19

A Garden Update + Wide Awake Moments #19

Making our garden accessible, and fun moments from the past couple of weeks ❤️

Read More
New Barn Tour!! Jed gives a bit of a homestead update and all his projects.

A New Barn and Homestead Tour With Jed

For everyone following the journey, we’ve done a lot of building during the last 6 years. Jed gives a tour of the new barn, cargo bikes, walkways, and his best attempt at keeping the chicken eggs clean. Enjoy.

www.wideawakeinternational.org

Read More
A Homestead Tour

A Homestead Tour

Here’s a little tour of the Wide Awake/Dim Hidnosti property for you. ☺️ I think it helps to see the bigger picture of the Homestead and how it has changed and developed over the years. Plus, exciting new developments are underway! 👏👏
PS: Sorry my voice sounds annoying and Jed’s is so quiet. I’d redo it, except it’s raining…so…no. 😆

Read More
FFB3BF10-9E80-4AF0-927D-211FADCAEA99

Stream of Consciousness

Yesterday I tried to get up the gumption to make a video, and then again today, but I just can’t seem to do it. The war rages on. So many lives lost. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight and we are just hurting so deeply over it all. Words can’t express it. It’s a deep, deep ache at the core of me. I don’t know how it will ever heal. I only read Ukrainian news because any news from the west makes me want to scream and cry. Does anyone truly have Ukraine’s best interest in mind, or are all the people who hold the power only interested in preserving their own self-interests?  I think we all know the answer to that by now. Ukraine continues to defend the free world, at the cost of so many innocent lives. How can this be? I’m tired. 

It’s been seven weeks since we left our home but it feels like a lifetime has passed. The 5 months when Jed lived in the duplex with Anton and Sasha and I lived across the yard in our house with our family were hard. It was one of the most challenging and exhausting times of our lives. But I would go back to that life in a moment- in the blink of eye. We were tired but so happy. We were at home, in the place we love. Our kids went to school and youth group. We walked in the city and went to church. We dreamed about the summer garden and prepared the soil. We planned for the future and looked ahead with hope. Life in Ukraine was not without its challenges, but those challenges feel like nothing in comparison to what life has become.  

Now our hearts are broken. We have survivor’s guilt and we mourn what was, knowing it will never again be the same. I hope and dream that we will go home, but it will be different. Will we feel safe there again? Will Ukraine ever truly be “safe” again? How will we even know when to go back? We lived in Ukraine for 8 years while the country was at war..but now things are different. German lessons are offered to us and I refuse to go because something inside of me feels like trying to learn a new language is accepting the fact that we are here for a long while and I don’t want that to be true. So I stumble along with my smattering of German words and mostly get by using English. I don’t want to ingrain myself into the culture here, not because I have anything against Germany, but because my heart longs for everything Ukraine. It feels like a betrayal to accept a life here while Ukraine fights to survive.

I see others going into Ukraine, delivering humanitarian aid and volunteering and I feel jealous that they are there and I am not. I also feel guilty that they are there and I am not, although I am a mom of (now) 11 and my obligation is to my children. Living in a church in Germany isn’t as sexy as being in Ukraine, at the heart of things, and I run out of things to say about life here. I change diapers. I take our boys to the doctor. I cook food. I buy groceries. I mourn for what was and worry about what will be. It’s not exciting or necessarily helpful to the cause of Ukraine, but it’s where I need to be. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

I am thankful to our friends here in Germany who have helped us so very much. I’m thankful that we have a place to all live together because living apart would never work. I’m thankful that my children are safe and have food to eat. I’m thankful that our two new boys, Yaroslav and Vova, are doing so well and that we have the opportunity to give them a life worth living. There are joys in the sorrow, and for that I am thankful.

Some days I feel God’s smile and his joy and some days I wonder where He has gone and how He can allow this to happen. My faith in His goodness is being severely tested and I don’t understand how to communicate with Him right now. Everything feels too complicated and I’m afraid to dig too deep into my own emotions. So, I change the next diaper. Wipe the next nose. Drive to the next appointment and wait. For peace? For home? For an answer? I don’t know what I wait for, but I feel too unsettled to call this life anything but waiting.

I know a house is just a building, and buildings can be made again. I know people are more important, and of course I would choose people over a building any day. But today I just want to see my house. Our house, to me, is so much more than a building. It represents the reason we live in Ukraine. It is an oasis of hope. It is the place where our boys first felt the love of a family. It is the place my children call home. It is a place of joy and beauty and hope. I’m so thankful it is still safe and standing. I wait, with longing, for the day we can return.

Please, don’t forget Ukraine. 💔

Home sweet home, from the garden
Snowy home
This picture is so peaceful…
Grant took this pic when he visited last summer
Evie riding down our street, the day before Russia attacked Ukraine
I took this photo right before we left our home to flee to Germany 💛💙.

Read More
Duplex Tour: Side A!

Duplex Tour: Side A!

Today we finally give you a tour of the second half of the duplex! It’s so perty 🥰

Read More
IMG_8197

How Life Works Now

Hi Friends! Fall is here and I’m there for it. I LOVE FALL. It’s sunny but cool, the leaves are starting to turn, pumpkins and squashes are showing up in the market. It’s wonderful! This season makes me want to bake every single day. I have to hold myself back for the sake of all our waistlines. 😆 Fall treats and beverages aren’t a thing here, and you won’t find any pumpkin patches or corn mazes, but that’s okay. We have to make the fall magic up ourselves and I’m ready. Let’s do it!

If you are subscribed to our newsletter you heard the news that Max and Morgan, the house parents in the duplex, were moving back to the US. It was a very sudden move and kind of turned life on its head. They just left on Thursday and we are figuring out what our new normal will look like around here. I’ve had a lot of questions about what that means for us here and how things look without house parents, so I thought I’d share.

Right now Anton and Sasha live in the duplex. There is space there for two more boys, so in the future 4 boys will live in that home. But right now there’s just the two. Every week, Monday through Friday, an assistant (or two) comes to the duplex at 8:00 am and assumes care of the boys until 5:00pm. The assistant helps bathe them, fixes their meals and helps them to eat, plays with them, takes them for walks, loves them and treasures them. We have the best assistants!! For reals. Everyone on our team loves our boys deeply, and each of the boys has some level of attachment to our different team members. They are not lacking in love, that’s for sure! Then, for now, Jed goes to Anton and Sasha at 5:00 when the assistant leaves and we kind of tag-team both houses until the boys go to bed at 8:30pm. Then Jed sleeps at the duplex and is with them in the morning until the assistant arrives. On the weekend we tag-team both houses, since assistants have those days off. Some of our team members have volunteered to help out on some weekends, so whenever they are available to do that we will be super grateful!

It’s certainly not ideal, but we know that God is with us and will give us everything we need. Our boys are safe and loved. We want to make them the priority during this time of transition and make sure they feel nothing but love from us. We have decided that in this time we need to just make our lives and our world really small. These boys are why we are here and now is the time to lean into that. We aren’t quickly making sure their needs are met so we can get on to the next thing, because our life with them is the thing! They are our family and we are honored to love them.

As far as our kids go, they are totally good with it. They are taking turns spending time with Jed at the duplex and spending the night there. Our kids also love the boys and see them as family, so they understand that Anton and Sasha need all of us to step up and help each other.

This plan is working for now, but it’s obviously not sustainable for the long haul. I really like living with my husband…😆 So, if you would be praying with us for God to provide more helping hands and open hearts we would really appreciate it. We have boys we love deeply sitting in the institution, and a two big, beautiful homes ready for them to live in. All we lack are people to love and care for them.

I know God will provide, in His perfect timing.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us!

Addy and Anton

Read More