Winds of Change and a Voice

A couple weeks ago at church, a friend introduced us to her friend, who then met Vladik, and this story began.

The friend we met, Vera, is a local activist here in Zhytomyr.  She is involved in some local politics and has a passion for children and adults with special needs. She is particularly passionate about developing inclusive education in our city.

“Inclusive education is based on the simple idea that every child and family is valued equally and deserves the same opportunities and experiences. Inclusive education is about children with disabilities – whether the disability is mild or severe, hidden or obvious – participating in everyday activities, just like they would if their disability were not present. It’s about building friendships, membership and having opportunities just like everyone else…Inclusion is about providing the help children need to learn and participate in meaningful ways.” source

Inclusive education, as a general practice, does not exist in our city, nor throughout the rest of Ukraine. There are places where inclusion is more possible than others, and of course I can’t speak to the whole country or to every school, but in general it is not practiced. Here in Zhytomyr, at this point in time, inclusive education is only available to very few children with disabilities, and generally it is only available to children who’s parents have fought, and continue to fight, a very hard fight to make it possible.

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At a press conference about inclusive education

The schools and school system in our city are simply not set up at all for children who need extra help.  We have learned that just from having our own non-native-speaker children in school here! Our kids’ “special need” was that they lacked language, and the schools just were not sure at all what to do with them because they didn’t fit the mold.  It is not the fault of the teachers, or even the schools themselves, it is the fault of a social system that has spent decades hiding those who are different. If children with special needs do not exist in society, then there is no need for society to adapt for them. For many years it was the practice to institutionalize people with disabilities, but that is slowly changing.  More and more Ukrainian families are choosing to keep and raise their children. As more children with special needs are living at home, the need for education and inclusion for them is becoming more and more apparent.

This is not an issue isolated to Ukraine. All developing countries must face this issue at some point. In the US we have come a long way, but we really didn’t start addressing the issue of inclusive education until a few decades ago. So this is not me pointing a finger at Ukraine- as if the Ukrainian people are alone in this injustice; this is me knee-deep in the fight for my son, here in Ukraine.

Now, back to the story. 🙂 Vera, our new friend, had heard about Vladik, about where he came from, and about the fact that he attends school. She was fascinated by it and asked if we would be willing to speak to the local news about our quest for education for Vladik. We agreed to meet, a bit leary in the beginning, but open to a discussion. We want to be very careful with how we expose Vladik to the news. His story is painful and tender and deserves to be shared in its entirety. Vladik is too precious and he has fought too hard to be reduced to a sound bite that induces guilt or pity. In my opinion, he deserves a standing ovation!

We met with Vera and agreed to share Vladik’s education story, but we wanted to make sure the focus was about how he is thriving, and not only about where he came from. She agreed, and two days later our boy was cheesin’ it up for a camera crew, charming them all with his awesomeness.

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We thought he would be nervous, but boy were we wrong! He absolutely loved the camera! He proudly showed how he gets ready for school, how he knows which bus to take and where to walk. Most of all, in my very biased opinion, he showed that he is a wonderful boy who is valuable and smart and deserving of an education, just like every other child. Here is the video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-oziQ3xFLk&w=560&h=315]

When we decided to adopt Vladik, we felt like the Lord was telling us that Vladik would be a voice for those who have no voice. At that time we thought maybe that meant that someday Vladik would become a speaker who would share his story with others, many years down the road. And maybe that is still going to be true someday, but, wow have we been surprised how God has decided to use Vladik as a voice already!  Here in his own country! Vladik is not necessarily a voice with his words and speech, but with his life, with his joy, with his courage. He is showing his own people what is possible. He is showing how someone who was locked away for all of his childhood is still capable of learning, growing, and changing, if only given the chance. He is a voice of hope for all of the children left behind.

The follow-up to the short news story about Vladik was a live interview on a local evening TV show. Gosh, I wish I had realized it was going to be live before we got there. That was a bit of a shock! Ha! Anyway, we survived. 😉 In the first half of the show Vera interviewed Jed and me, along with one of the teachers from the kids’ school. We got the opportunity to share why it’s important to us that Vladik go to school. In that, we were able to naturally share his value and his worth as a human. It’s important for Vladik to go to school because he is a child and he wants to learn! He wants to be with other children and have experiences and gain independence and learn new things. He was robbed of so much in his life and we, as his parents, are obligated to help him grow to his fullest potential- however that may look like. It is our privilege to fight for him and the ones who will come behind him.

The second half of the show was what rocked my world. Vera interviewed a foster mom (our friend who fosters sweet “Baby A”) and three local mothers of children with special needs. Those moms shared their experiences with fighting for inclusion in schools, and they said so many things that needed to be said- by Ukrainians, not by us foreigners.   They spoke about the first need being an inclusive society. Inclusive education is not possible without an inclusive society. They spoke about the value of their children and their desires for them being the same as every parent’s desire for their children. We were cheering them on (literally clapping and bouncing up and down in our seats) from the green room.

Many parents of children with special needs in our city, and throughout this country keep their children at home almost all the time. They are afraid to take them out because society as a whole does not accept them. Whether that means inaccessible public transportation and buildings, or just basically unaccepting people, the results are the same. It’s easier and less painful to just stay home. We have experienced this feeling many, many days here in Zhytomyr. Sometimes I get a horrible sinking feeling in my gut when I know we are about to go somewhere with Vladik. I know the stares and the finger-pointing and the mocking will come. I know that all my kids, including Vladik, will hear it. I will wonder at his understanding and my heart will break for him. I know I will need to steer clear of groups of kids because that is when the staring is the worst. I know the cruel comments will come and I will wonder how to respond. It has become our reality- and yes, some days it seems like it would be better to just stay home. Vladik is loved at home. He is safe and understood.

BUT change will not come without exposure. People can not learn if they are not given the opportunity. Vladik, with his sparkling personality and loving, cheerful nature is the perfect person to teach others. To know him is to love him. If we keep him at home, hidden away, we are contributing to the problem, not being agents of change, as God has called us to be. Vladik loves to go out! He loves adventure and going on buses and seeing new things, meeting new people. If he is brave enough to face an intolerant world every single day- and do it with joy, then we can do it too.

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Our boy is a voice. In his own, unassuming way, he is standing up for all the families and children hiding in the shadows. As one of the local moms in the interview said in encouragement to families watching “Come out! Come out! Don’t hide anymore.”

The winds of change are coming. May God open and change hearts and may He receive all the glory.

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Shoe Debates, Friendly Pack Mules, and Spring is Here!

I’m happy to report that THE SNOW IS GONE. The streets are (mostly) dry(ish) and the debate over which shoes to wear has simmered down a bit.  In my previous life, in Oregon, the debate over which shoes to wear was mild and was simply a matter of “is it raining or not.” If it’s raining, you can’t wear Toms.  If it’s not raining, Toms it is! I mean, I was most likely just going to be dashing across a parking lot if the weather was less than optimal, so making the best choice in footwear was not the end all.

In Zhytomyr in the winter, the shoe debate is real.  It is intense.  One does not simply throw on a pair of shoes and prance out the door without a care in the world!  No, no, no.  One is most likely going to be walking a fair distance out in the elements and waiting at bus stops. One must consider the level and freshness of the snow, the amount of ice, the wetness or dryness of said ice and snow.  On some days we have rivers for sidewalks, and on others we have ice skating rinks for sidewalks.  Rivers and ice skating rinks call for different shoes, different strategies.  One must also consider the distance to be walked and the condition of the sidewalks en route.  If I’m taking out the trash and heading that direction, I need to prepare for mudslides (and dead cats, apparently).  If I’m walking down our road in the opposite direction there will be less mud, but a lake or two to be traversed, so that must be taken into account. We’ve become quite adept at deciphering the sheen on the ice and navigating the sidewalks in the safest, non-broken-hip-est manner. Skillzzzzzzz.

My favorite boots for walking in mildly cold, non-snowy weather currently have a break in the sole, so my right foot is bound to get wet.  I keep forgetting to take them for repair, so if I want warm, dry feet my only choice are my snow boots.  But snow boots without snow are a little more Napoleon Dynamite than I’m willing to go, so I usually opt for the wet foot.  Why not just get the shoe repaired you might ask? Yeah, I know. It’s a mixture of forgetfulness, procrastination, and fear of doing new things and not knowing how or what is expected of me.  I guess in the end I just opt for the wet foot.  Don’t judge.

All that to say, soon warmth will come, summer will come, and along with it, fewer and fewer shoe debates.  We will happily pack away the snow boots and non-snow boots.  Multiply that by 7 people and it equals 28 fewer shoes in my entryway and 500 times more peace in my heart.  (Shoe clutter is my nemesis.)

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Beautiful dry, snowless, puddless sidewalk!

You know what else comes with warm weather?  Visitors!  We’re preparing our summer schedule and are excited to welcome several friends, old and new.  The boys and our team are going to get so much love and encouragement in the warm summer months!

I’m super excited to have all the visitors too.  I’m excited for English conversations and the joy that comes from seeing our boys through the eyes of others.  It’s a lot of work to host people, but it’s also refreshing, encouraging, and just plain fun. Guess what else gets me excited for visitors?  All the stuff we have them carry over to us from the US!  I’ve been out of brown sugar for over a month and my baking is SUFFERING. Peanut butter and chicken-flavored Better Than Bouillon have also been sorely missed. I’m filling my Amazon cart in preparation. Yes, we totally and unashamedly use our visitors as pack mules. Come on, summer! Hehe

The kids are all doing really well.  In a couple of weeks, we’ll have Spring Break, and then they only have like 2 more months of school!  I can’t even imagine the feeling of accomplishment they will have when they walk out the doors of school on that last day.  We are so close to completing a full year of Ukrainian school!!  There have been many good days, and also many days when we have all been in tears, ready to throw in the towel.  Many days of wondering if it is worth it, but as we round the final corner I think we are all seeing that it has totally been worth the blood, sweat, and tears.  The kids’ language has grown by leaps and bounds.  They never could have grown like that just here at home.  I am so incredibly proud of them.

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It is totally NOT ice cream weather, but we got a little excited about the sunshine.

Yesterday we were at the hospital getting Addy, Ez, and Hava mandatory check-ups for school and I realized that I have started to rely on their ears when we are out and about.  I tell everyone to listen, and if I don’t catch what was said, most likely one of them will.  It’s awesome!  All communication outside the home used to fall on Jed and me completely, but now the kids can understand for themselves, and actually, truth be told, they have much better comprehension than I do at this point. Grrrr… the competitive side of me hates that!  But, I love that they can communicate and function so well in society.  That was our hope in sending them to school.

So, here’s to dry feet, American pack mules friends, and Spring Break.  The snow is gone, the sun is out, Brian Adams radio is playing (again, don’t judge), and my heart is full.  Happy Tuesday to our friends near and far!  BeLOVE[d].

PS: You will not believe this! I was typing this post when I had to pause to go get Seth from kindergarten.  On the way home we stopped at the post office and guess what was waiting for us???

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Our wonderful Tom and Emma sent us a package with brown sugar, Better Than Bouillon, peanut butter, jalapeños and many other special treats. OMG. Can you believe that timing?  THANK YOU, Tom and Emma.  We love you!

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Welcoming a New Year!

Happy New Year! Yeah, I know I’m late to the New Years party, but time to write is scarce these days. Better late than never, am I right?


2016 was a DOOZY. Surgeries and goodbyes and re-immigration and last-minute-border-runs and house buying and destroying and rebuilding and a new school and new friends and new boys and wow. Good job, 2016, you definitely gave us a run for our money.

Upward and onward!  Welcome, 2017!

I’m one of those people who loves the fresh start of a new year.  I’m not super disciplined. I’m not terribly organized. BUT, I love the chance to start again.  I like making New Years Resolutions.  I know that I’ll fail at some (or most) of them, but why not give them a go?  At least I’ll do well for part of the year…and that’s better than not doing well at all…right?  And sometimes the resolutions stick, and then our whole family is better for it.


For me it’s not so much about making a set list of resolutions, as much as it is reprioritizing and rebalancing the craziness that is our overseas life. It feels like there is so much of our lives that is out of our control in every way: residency documents, government officials, new laws, cultural differences, blah blah blah.  I think it’s good to find a balance and try to do better with the things in our life that we DO have control over: how we spend our time, how we spend our money, how we raise our children….and on and on. I love the new year for a fresh look at those things.

This year I have two personal goals that I really want to focus on: Improving my Ukrainian language (spoken and written) and faithfully spending time in God’s Word.

I have other goals involving mothering and being a wife, but I won’t go into those at the moment.


Ukrainian Language.

Oh Ukrainian language, why do you haunt me so?  Why you gotta be so dang hard?  Why you gotta have so many endings and conjugations?  Oh Zhytomyr, why you gotta be so linguistically confused? Why can’t everyone in this city speak the same language?  WHY????

Those are the questions I ask myself approximately 473 times per day. You have no idea how often I yell out in anger: “Why can’t we live in some place like France where all the people SPEAK FRENCH?????”  Ha!  This post makes me sound like I have anger issues…and when it comes to language learning, maybe I do. Don’t judge.

You see, we live in a region of the country that is linguistically “in-between”.  You can travel to Eastern Ukraine  or Southern Ukraine and find many people speaking Russian.  You can travel to Western Ukraine and find many people speaking Ukrainian.  You travel to our region (the middle’ish’) and get a mix of it all (I can’t vouch for that website, I just linked to the map as a visual).  Well, no matter where you go in Ukraine you will find a mix, honestly, it’s just not very cut and dry anywhere.  On any given day I will hear conversations in full-on Russian, then full-on Ukrainian, then, most of the time, in full-on Surzhyk.  Surzhyk is the name of the mix of Russian and Ukrainian together. It would be extremely rare to hear someone speaking clean Ukrainian in our city.  Most people who speak Ukrainian around these parts actually speak a form of Surzhyk. So, in all actuality, we need to learn two languages, and then learn to mix them. Shoot me now.

We study Ukrainian instead of Russian because our kids go to school and school is taught in Ukrainian.  Our team mostly all speak Russian to each other, so that stinks, but as a family we all have to be learning the same language.  We just have to. After some hit and miss lessons over the past couple of years I have decided to really dig in to language studies with my whole self. I have found the most amazing teacher that I love love love.  I love her as a person and as a teacher.  She ‘gets’ me and my learning style.  She thinks outside the box and really challenges me.  I ADORE our lessons together.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of my teacher!  A good language teacher is the best thing ever.  My language has exploded since we started our lessons and I’m just so happy. I go to lessons twice a week and then am committed to study for at least one hour 5 days per week. It should be more than that, but I also go to Romaniv and have five kids and we’re building a house and yeah, let’s not shoot too high.  I so desperately want to be able to share my heart with people.  I want to be known, and language hinders that so much.  Language is everything and when you don’t have it…well your quality of life really suffers. Wish me luck!


Bible Reading.

Let’s be honest: I have always stunk at reading my Bible.  I know the Bible.  I know so much about it.  I was raised in a Christian home and went to Christian school. I know all the stories, I know tons of verses, I know who wrote which book and all that jazz.  I’m well versed in the Bible. (did you catch that one? hehe) BUT, as an adult I have never gone for more than a month or two at a time of faithfully reading my Bible.  It has been hit and miss for years. I never know what to read. The Bible is so big! There are lots of boring parts and lots of parts that I’ve read lots of times so my eyes just kind of glaze over.  I’m always unsure so I usually end up in James because I like him the best. He’s a straight shooter.  🙂

Enter, The Daily Audio Bible!  Yeehaw!

I saw the Daily Audio Bible a couple years ago when searching for a Bible reading plan (’cause I never know what to read!), and I gave it a try.  It was okay, but I thought the guy who read it was a bit cheesy, and I just never stuck to it.  Surprise, surprise.  But, this year I knew something HAD to change, so I decided to give it another try.  I’m always listening to something as I wash the mountains of dishes that come with a family of 7 and no dishwasher, so why not let that something be the Bible?

I’m in love.

Okay, at first I was feeling again like the guy was cheesy, but I was determined to give him a fair shot. It only took about a week, and I grew to really like him!  Brian is endearing and I really can tell that he loves God’s Word. He reads with feeling and I like that.  When I’m listening I’m more prone to actually take in every word because I can’t just start skimming when things get boring.  (guilty)  I like that Brian introduces each book before he starts to read it, to give it a bit of context, and then at the end he does a little devotional.  It’s great!  They also have people call in at the end and pray and stuff, but honestly, I skip that part.  🙂


We started listening to the Old Testament portion in the morning during breakfast, and then we listen to the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs portions in the evening before we do our family read-aloud.  It has been awesome!  Our whole family is getting God’s Word every day and I am just so blessed by it.  I usually listen to the whole reading another time during the day so I can hear the devotional as well.  It’s really been beautiful for our family so far.  Brian is our family friend now, even though he doesn’t know it- cheesiness and all. The kids will remind me “We haven’t listened to Brian today!” We’ll see if the enthusiasm continues when we get into some of the more intense books…but hopefully we’ll have our routine down by that point and we can just charge on through.


So, those are my New Year goals and how I plan to work toward them.

What about you?  Do you like New Year Resolutions?  Have you made any this year?  Do tell!

The pics are of the kids’ school during the holidays. Sweet, right?

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More About School

Yay December!  Pandora comes to life in our house around Christmas time.  We’ve got the “Peaceful Christmas”, “Ray Conniff Singers Christmas”, “Amy Grant Christmas”, and “Frank Sinatra Christmas” stations on heavy rotation. It’s a beautiful thing.  I’m smiling just typing it out!

Life has been a bit non-stop around here, but it has also been good.  We’ve found a smidge of a rhythm, which is more than I could say for many months before this, so I find joy in that.

The kids are really doing awesome at school.  They have passed through the season of merely surviving (thank God!) and have moved into a season of growth.  God has been so faithful to our kids.  I have done more than my fair share of worrying about them since we very first moved to Ukraine, and all along God has spoken the words “Do not worry about your kids.  I am with them.” But of course I still worry and worry and worry…because I guess I’m a slow learner. Anyway, I’m now seeing some of the fruit of His watch and care over them.  Things are still challenging in many ways, but we aren’t drowning anymore, and there are a whole lot less tears.  Things are looking up!

Addy is in fifth class and is just fantastic.  She’s really growing into a lovely young lady.  Can you believe she’ll be THIRTEEN in February????  What the heck? She is so kind and so joyful.  If you knew her as a little bitty girl, she is just the same, only taller, and with some maturity added in.  By age, she should be in 7th class, but the school really thought it was best for her to do 5th this year.  She’s feeling the age difference in a pretty big way, but has found one sweet friend, Vika, that she really loves.

Addy is hoping to talk with the school and work hard to skip a grade next year, in order to get her closer on par with her peers.  We’ll see if they are open to it.  I’m proud of her for having the guts to try!  Addy also goes to a middle school youth group at the church where a few of our friends go.  She enjoys that a lot, and it’s just the right thing for her to spread her wings a bit.

Addy LOVES Bluebell and helps take such good care of her

Ezra is in fourth class and is coming right along.  He has a couple little friends, Mark and Nikita, that he really loves.  I’m so thankful for them!  School is harder for him than it is for Addy, but he is really working hard and doing well.  Our friend who helps him with his homework is just fantastic with him, and step by step he is improving his skills and understanding.

Last week Ezra’s class did a dance for all the parents and other students and Ezra rocked it!  He was amazing!  We were shocked because he was dreading it so much.  You know, he had to hold a girl’s hand!  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  He warned us that he would probably be sick that day and not be able to participate. 😉 But, lo and behold, he gathered the courage and did amazing.  What a brave kid.

Ezra and his buddies at his birthday outing

Hava is in first grade and is just rockin’ it.  She is so blessed to be able to start out from the beginning with her appropriate age.  She’ll have a much easier time than Addy and Ezra because of it.  She’s learning to write Ukrainian cursive and is coming right along with her Ukrainian reading.  She has lots of little girlfriends in her class, and her biggest complaint is that they all fight over who’s going to hold her hand when they have to pair up to walk down the hall to lunch. What a hard life!  Hehe.

School in Ukraine is generally much more serious than in the US.  There is not a lot done with fun in mind, and the standards for work are extremely high.  Despite that, I think Hava’s teacher does her best to understand that her little students are very young and need extra grace.  I appreciate that.

Hava and her little school friends. CUTIES!

Vladik is attending the same school as Addy, Ez, and Hava and he LOVES it.  Oh, my word.  He gets absolutely giddy when it’s time to go to school.  Our friend Tamara teaches him and she is just the right fit for our special boy.  She is not a trained teacher, but she is an experienced mom and she loves Vladik.  She sees his value and sees his potential.  That makes her the perfect choice.  Four days a week she comes to our house, picks up Vladik, and takes him on the trolleybus to school.  He does PE and art with Addy’s class, and the other time is spent in his own little classroom doing individual lessons with Tamara.  Then she brings him home after lunch. They are working on learning about months, days, seasons, weather, numbers, counting, personal hygiene, and appropriate social interactions….all the stuff you would teach your toddlers and preschoolers.

Vladik has many big gaps in his knowledge, so we decided to start at the very beginning and make no assumptions about what he does and doesn’t know.  He is eager to learn and is soaking it all in.  Tamara speaks no English, so Vladik has learned to speak English at home and Ukrainian at school.  His language is EXPLODING!  It’s really the ideal situation for him and we are so thankful that God made a way for him to get the education he needs.

Vladik at his class that he attends once a week at Mission to Ukraine

Seth.  Seth was and is our biggest mystery.  🙂 His needs are different than our other kids and much more difficult to decipher.  We have struggled since September to find the right educational fit for our Sethers.  He just wants to stay home with Mommy all day, which would be fine, except that then he gets zero Ukrainian.  He will go to first grade next year, and it will be 500 times harder for him if he doesn’t get a better handle on the language. Because of that, we knew we had to find some sort of kindergarten/preschool for him to attend, at least part-time.

We tried a few places and just never felt peace about it.  FINALLY, last week we found our landing place for Seth.  Ivanivka, the village where we are building our Wide Awake Homestead, opened a kindergarten at the public school there and we started to send Seth.  There are 7 kids there right now, but more will come when the weather warms up.  (It’s super cold in the classroom…like kids wear their snowpants the whole time…) It meets for 4 hours a day, and we send Seth four times a week.  They do some pre-K stuff in workbooks but mostly play.  It’s perfect for Seth.  He’s not ready to do a bunch of seatwork.  He mostly needs to interact with other kids and gain some confidence in the language.  We’re only in week 2, but so far so good. He’s only refused to stay one day so far, which for Seth is pretty good! 😉   Hopefully, things will only get better from here!

Ivanivka School

I took a pic of the math book I needed to buy for Seth’s class

 School has been a HUGE help in bringing some stability to our lives here.  Our kids know what to expect and where they belong.  It is definitely a super challenging road to walk, but so far any issues that have arisen have been able to be worked out with administration.  They love our kids there and really want to work with us.  I’m thankful.

Thank you to all of you who pray for our kiddos.  It means so much to us!

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Tuesday

1.  THANK YOU all for praying for the situation with our new little guy at the institution.  Please keep praying for his health, as well as for the impact of that night.  The impact is far-reaching, relationally, politically, and spiritually.  I know I sound vague, but I gotta be. (Any former youth groupers remember the “unspoken” prayer request?  Ha!)  Just keep praying, pretty please.  Thanks 🙂

2.  School is going great for the kids!  We have gone from daily tears to smiles and declarations that “This was the best day!”.  Of course if you ask, Addy and Ezra will tell you that school is “so boring”.  But, they are making friends and feeling comfortable and understanding more each day.  Our friend, Romana, comes each day at 4:30 to help them with their homework and she is saving our lives, one story problem at a time. I really do like our school and I am so thankful that God has given our kids a safe place to land and grow.

On the bus, headed to school

3.  Jed and Vladik return today! FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!  I didn’t mention it here, but we had a bit of an immigration fiasco last month.  We are applying for permanent residency and we were missing one apostille.  We didn’t know it, and Jed had to leave the country.  You can only be in Ukraine for 90 days out of 180 days without a visa or residency, and he met his limit.  So, in the dead of night, we made a run for the border.  Think Sound of Music, but much less romantic.  Think tears and a trashed house and frantic calls to friends to take Bluebell at the last second.  We spent a few days in Budapest as a family, and then I returned home with four of the kids, while Jed and Vladik couch-surfed throughout Europe, waiting till Jed could get on the other side of his 180 days.  Finally, today, after 33 days and 10 countries, Jed and Vladik are coming home! Many thanks to our gracious friends all over the continent who have cared for my boys so well.  What would we do without you all?

Hungary

France

The border between Germany and Austria

4.  We are hiring a friend to teach Vladik individual lessons at school.  I’m so excited and hopeful for him!  Starting next Monday he will go to school with the other kids in the morning, and his teacher will accompany him.  He will do music, PE, and art with Addy’s class (fifth grade), and then his teacher will give him his own lessons for the rest of the time. Vladik will attend school half day, 4 days a week.  I’m working on making the lesson plans and it’s quite the job, but necessary.  Vladik wants to learn, he wants to go to school like the other kids- and he should! I think he’s going to love it.  I’ll keep you posted!

5.  Today we re-submit our residency documents.  Hopefully, all is in order…otherwise, the 4 kids and I will meet our 90-day limit.  Yeah, let’s not think about that.  Everything will be fine.  Everything will be just fine.  No need to worry….ahem. Yikes.

Photos for residency: no smiles allowed!

6.  Guess who saved my life this past month?  GRAMMY!!!!  When Jed’s parents found out that I would be without Jed again, and this time here in Ukraine, Grammy hopped on a plane and rescued me. Seriously, if Grammy hadn’t come my kids would be running with the wild dogs in the street.  Things were at a critical mass around here.  She has cooked every meal and washed every dish since her arrival.  I bow at her feet. 🙂


7.  For all the Bluebell lovers out there, I’m happy to report that Bluebell is doing just fine.  She is happy and obedient and just a joy to our whole family.  She was a bit bored so we found her some new chewies at the grocery store.  Cow hoof, anyone?


Welp, Jed and Vladik are on their way home from the airport, so I better go.  Thanks all, for loving us and praying for us.  This has been a bit of a tough season, but we know that God’s plans are in motion and our trust is in Him!

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The Big School Question

It’s that time of year again!  School is on the brain.  School uniforms can be seen in every shop, little tents can be seen on the sidewalks selling school supplies at a discount. Here we goooooooo!

School is about to start and the Johnson family has (yet again) the big question looming over our heads: “What will we do about school???” I gotta tell you, I’m am SO OVER asking that question.  I’m over it! I have to admit to being a bit jealous of everyone who stays in one place and without much thought or debate knows exactly where their children will go to school each year.  I’ll admit to being a bit jealous of everyone who knows what to expect and what supplies to buy how to communicate with the teachers and what is expected of them and their children.  But, pity party over.  I realize that we will never be those people.  Time to suck it up and move on.  🙂

Uniform shopping!

There are several variables that make schooling a big challenge here.  First of all, we seem to be the only foreigners with kids around here.  If there are others they must be hiding because no one knows about them and no one has ever seen them.  Because our kids are, seemingly, the only foreigners and are not fluent in Ukrainian the schools have no idea what to do with them. ESL-type programs are nonexistent here because everyone is from here! I know that kids learn quickly, and will eventually catch up, but it’s not like Addy can just enter 6th grade here and on day 1 write an essay in Ukrainian.  There’s just no way!  Addy and Ez will absolutely need help and assignment modification, but if schools have never done that or considered that before, then their answer is usually just to put the kids in first grade over and over so that they don’t fail.  Hava will be fine because she’ll do first grade, and Seth will be fine in preschool/kinder, but we are pretty adamant this time around that the schools find some way for Addy and Ez to be with their peers.

There are four schooling options available to us:

1.  Local Public School.  PROS: Free, great opportunity for social integration, taught 100% in Ukrainian, opportunity to go to school with neighbors. CONS: Big class sizes, no ability to modify assignments for our kids, our kids would go to the village school which does not have a good reputation, a public school would not accept Vladik.

We sent Addy and Ezra to our neighborhood public school for a semester in 2014.  It was a fine experience.  They both did first grade and all went fine.  It wasn’t amazing, but it was okay.  I would be very hesitant to send them to public school in the upper grades. They are just not equipped to work with us.

2.  Local Christian School. PROS: Great opportunity for social integration, taught 100% in Ukrainian, opportunity to get to know other Christian families, smaller class sizes.  CONS: No desire to modify assignments for our kids, unsure if they would accept Vladik, they have a waiting list right now, so most likely we wouldn’t get in anyway.

We sent Addy and Ezra to this school for a semester in 2014 and it was just okay.  They wanted them to continue to repeat first grade until they were fluent in Ukrainian…so yeah, probably that’s not the best option for us.  NO WAY are we making them repeat first grade again.  NOPE.

3.  Home School. PROS: We know how to do it.  🙂 No language barrier or cultural barriers, they will not fall behind in study content and English reading and writing, more time together as a family, and more time to be involved in ministry as a family.  CONS: Social isolation (NO ONE homeschools here), far less exposure to Ukrainian language.

My heart longs for this option.  I love homeschooling my kids and I believe in homeschooling 100%.  It is cozy and wonderful and would be BY FAR the easiest option for us.  But, we know that we know that is not the option God has for us. If we call Ukraine our home, then we must give our children opportunities to be a part of Ukraine.  They will be absolutely isolated if we homeschool, and in a very closed culture, we must provide them with opportunities to be with other children and develop language skills. We are already the oddity everywhere we go.  We can’t just keep our kids at home.  We just know we can’t.

3.  Local Ukrainian Private School.  PROS: Great opportunity for social integration, taught 100% in Ukrainian, smaller class sizes, a desire to integrate our kids and modify assignments for them, open to Vladik.  CONS: We don’t really know anyone there so it’s starting all over.

This is the obvious choice for us at this point.  🙂

We met with the director of the private school this last week and the meeting was super positive.  She was full of energy, and right away it was obvious that the director and the teachers were excited to have our kids.  It was like they were excited to accept the challenge, which is a huge blessing to us.  We don’t want to feel like our kids are a burden to the school.  They are open to putting Addy and Ezra with their peers which is a HUGE blessing to us!  Maybe the most miraculous moment in the meeting was their reaction to Vladik.  There was not one moment when they debated if they would accept Vladik into the school.  They looked at him and were like “Okay, now let’s  decide where we should place Vladik.”  Not “if”, but “where”.  Miraculous.  We were almost positive that by bringing Vladik back to Ukraine we were basically deciding he would never get more education at a school, because Special Ed does not exist here. What a big surprise and blessing that they are willing to take him, and WANT to take him.  YAY!!!


At this point it looks like Addy will be in 5th class, Ezra will be in 4th class, Hava will be in 1st class, Seth will be in kindergarten, and Vladik…we’re still up in the air about him.  He will need a one-on-one who will help him in the classroom, and then take him out part of the time for individual instruction.  The school needs to find and hire a teacher for him, and then they will need to figure out which classroom is the best fit for him.  If you could pray that they find the best person for him that would be great!  It needs to be someone who will treasure Vladik and love him for who he is, yet not be afraid to push him to meet his full potential.

They are basically having us fill out a form that says Addy and Ezra have special needs, as well as Vladik.  This will enable the school to legally modify their assignments and give them their grades based on modified work.  We explained to the staff that our desire for our kids is language acquisition and social integration.  We don’t really care about their grades.  Seriously, grades are the least of our worries!  It is a battle to get educators here to realize that for Addy and Ezra, this is not a problem of intellect, but completely a problem of language.  They are smart!  They do amazing at school!  They just don’t have the level of Ukrainian they need to be able to function like the other students. They don’t need to be in second grade at 10 and 12 years of age, they need to be with their peers where they are socially motivated to reach their potential.

I have no idea how it will all pan out, but at least for now, we have a plan and a school that is welcoming us with open arms. The learning curve will be outrageously steep, especially for Addy, Ezra, and Havalah.  We’ll also need to figure out how they can get content and practice in English language stuff without burning them out…yikes. I’m super nervous for them, well for all of us, but trusting God that He will give them everything they need.

I’ll keep you posted as we go!

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The Sky’s the Limit

Since the beginning of December we’ve been taking steps toward putting Vladik in school for the rest of this school year, while we’re in the US.  It’s been a decision I didn’t expect us to make, but for many reasons it just seems right.  We aren’t set on him being in a special Ed classroom all day every day, we just feel that it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunities he has here in the US to be taught by professionals- before we head back to Ukraine and it’s all up to me. [GULP] On Monday we spent about 2 hours with a school psychologist and a speech pathologist and they evaluated Vladik.  They had never seen a situation like ours before: 15 years old, no educational history AT ALL, smart, but behind in everything because he’d simply never had a chance.  ZERO life experiences until 5 months ago.  Born at age 15. 🙂

Vladik blew them away.  His zest for life, his joy, his eagerness to learn- he is truly a miracle.

There may have been some tears in the room as we talked about how far Vladik has come-  from the cowering boy in the Isolation Hall to the brave boy shooting matchbox cars across the meeting room table.

Those two ladies got it.  They really and truly “got” it.  They saw the treasure in Vladik.  They saw the untapped potential that has waited years and years and years to be discovered.  They looked past his outward appearance and his awkward speech and institutional behaviors and truly saw the person.  Those two women saw the value in my son and I will be forever grateful to them for that.  At the end of the meeting they declared “We need to get this boy in a classroom! He’s waited long enough.”

And boy did they live up to their word, because today Vladik started school.

It will take a while to figure out which school and which classroom is the best fit for our boy, but they didn’t want him to have to wait, so they arranged for Vladik to start with tutoring in the meantime.  I think that was a fantastic idea.  Tutoring is the perfect transition for Vladik.

We started today and are just doing 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week.  Vladik’s attention span is like minuscule, so 30 minutes is about his max.  Plus, this is his first activity away from Mama and Papa, so it’s a great way for him to learn that we will always come back for him and it’s a really safe place for him to learn some independence.  The teacher speaks no Ukrainian 🙂 so, Vladik will be learning some English along the way!

Oh my, I made the rookie mistake of telling Vladik last night that he would start school today.  Silly me.  I should have known that in order to avoid approximately 372 questions about when we will go to school, I should have just waited and told him in the car on the way there. [live and learn]   But I just couldn’t wait to tell him!  He was jumping and laughing and clapping with glee.  He said “Addy has a school, Ezra has a school, Hava and Seth have a school, and Vladik has a school!!”  When I came to pick him up today at the end of his lesson he said “Mama!  This is my school!”  He was so proud.

I love that boy.  I picture him wandering the halls of Romaniv and my heart breaks in two.  He had so much more in him than we ever realized.  He had an imagination and a smart brain and a sense of humor and a great capacity to love, all just sitting and waiting for a chance.  Born at age 15, now my sweet baby can fly.  The sky is the limit for our boy.

March 2015 and February 2016

I dream of that same future for the rest of our friends who sit and wait at Romaniv.  I wonder what they will be on that day when their chance at freedom finally comes.  I wonder who will be funny and who will be super smart and who will have a knack for growing flowers and who will be great with the animals.  I do know that they will all exceed our expectations because the sky will be their limit.  And I pray that day comes soon.

Jed is working hard in Ukraine, deciding on the best property to purchase and meeting with government officials.  This God dream of ours is going to happen.  It’s really going to happen.  Doors are flying open in front of us.  People are going to see the beauty of our boys and they’re going to see their value, just like the school psychologist and speech pathologist recognized the beauty of our Vladik.  The joy of Vladik experiencing his first day of school is just a glimpse of the freedom that is to come.  We.Can’t.Wait.  When God puts a dream in motion the sky’s the limit!

 

 

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Johnson Kids Meet American School

So I’m sitting here in a coffee shop ALL ALONE. I’m not sure the last time this has ever happened to me. Wait, has this ever happened to me before? It feels very strange and even a bit wrong. I feel like I’m forgetting something….or four somethings. 🙂

The Johnson kids are in school. Wow.

You know, I think I must be a slow learner, because God keeps telling us to do stuff I said we would never do. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut a little more often. Hehe. We are a homeschooling family. I love homeschool. It just works for us. It clicks with us. Why would my kids ever need to go to school when I can teach them just fine at home? Well, enter moving across the world and then one year of Ukrainian school then international adoption then temporarily relocating back to the other side of the world and a multitude of doctor’s offices and surgeries to come and you get the idea: school must happen and I’m not going to have the time to do it myself.

Jed and Vladik are still in Ukraine waiting on documents to be able to leave the country; meanwhile the kids and I are here in Oregon getting settled and prepared for their arrival. And the kids started school on Tuesday. Eeeeeek!

We are so blessed to have an amazing Christian school in our city with teachers that know our family and have been praying for us for years. In fact, my mom, my brother, and one of my dearest friends are three of them!  The school is giving us some financial aid, so praise God for that. We still haven worked out exactly how we’re going to pay for the rest of it, but God knows and He will provide.

Jed and I felt really strongly that it wouldn’t be the best idea to put our kids straight from Ukraine into public school where we knew no one. We also knew that I won’t be able to cart them to all Vladik’s upcoming medical appointments, so this school is a huge answer to our prayers. Already, after the first week, I know it was the right choice. The kids are happy and loving it, the teachers are wonderful, and I know they are safe and loved.

Hava and Seth are both in kindergarten.


Ezra is in fourth grade and Grams is his teacher!


And Addy is doing fifth grade.


This world of American school is like another foreign country, but so far we seem to be navigating it okay (minus being late on the FIRST DAY…oops). It’s a breeze compared to navigating Ukrainian school…I mean, for starters, everyone speaks English! Ha!

So, that’s where we stand now. On another note, if you could pray for our adoption process we would super appreciate it. We are hitting delay after delay after delay and we are so tired and ready to be together as a family. Vladik and Jed still wait for documents and the kids are missing Daddy like crazy. Praise God they have done amazingly well during all this transition, but we are soooo ready to be done!!! Thanks 🙂


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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 transferred 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. No 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 into the school year that it was 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 was 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 to speak 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 needed 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 speaking 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 enough 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 to seek first His Kingdom. The most important thing is to 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 nothing stand in the way of them fully becoming who God has made them to be. So be it.

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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!!!!

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