Sunday, June 30, 2013

We Need Your Stuff!

Summertime is in full swing around here!

You know what that means...

Swimming lessons

Swimming lessons!

Late nights

Ice cream

What happens when you have 4 boy gets pink goggles...whatev...

Saturday Market

Church barbecues

Squishy Havalah in swimsuit cuteness

My iced coffee fail...more like coffee flavored ice water.  No bueno.

and last but not least...


Oh yeah baby!  One man's junk is another man's treasure, and all that good stuff.

Want to help support Wide Awake International but you don't have any extra cash?  How about having a garage sale for us?  We all have extra stuff laying around that someone else is just dying to buy, right? 

We are asking you to consider putting on a garage sale for Wide Awake International.  Don't have enough stuff to hold your own garage sale?  Gather a few of your friends, combine your unwanted goods,  stick it out in your yard, and watch the magic happen.  Doesn't that sound fun?  We think so.  Especially if one of your friends brings the coffee and doughnuts.  ;)

If you are local to us and you have goods you'd like to donate, but are not able to host your own sale, please let us know and we can gladly take them off your hands.  We'll be hosting a garage sale on July 27th, and there will be one in South Salem on August 3rd.  

Garage sales are a great way to spread the word about Wide Awake International, and a super great way to get your hands dirty no matter where you live.

So, what do you say?  Are you in?  

*See the "give" tab at the top of this blog to find out how to donate the proceeds of your garage sale to Wide Awake.  Thank you for your tax-deductible donations and your love.  We're feelin' it!  :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rainy Day Coziness

Rain, rain don't go away...

I'm a true Oregonian at heart.  I love me some rain.  It's nearly the end of June and it's been pouring down rain for days.  YESSSSSSS.  

You see, the sun hates me, and I'm not terribly fond of him either.  I don't tan, I burn and burn and burn some more.  After a bout of melanoma during my pregnancy with Addy I felt I could finally admit my true feelings about the sun.  While everyone else in Oregon gets all giddy about sunshine, I feel a tad of resentful. Soaking up the sun is not my kind of fun.  Hence my love for Oregon.  It rains here A LOT.  It's gray and cloudy A LOT.  That suits me just fine.  When the sun comes out and everyone else gets all giddy, I feel so much pressure to "soak it in"...when I'd much rather play inside where I don't have to be on the constant lookout for shade.  Coziness is my friend: rain pouring, windows open, coffee brewing, classical music playing...yes please.  Glaring sun, squinty eyes, burning gracias.  

Which brings me to the point of this post (yes it has one!).  Pouring down rain calls for a good book.  Here's what I've got goin' on around here. 

For the Kids:

When I was in 3rd grade my Uncle Steve was my teacher.  He was my most favorite teacher EVER.  Now he's on the executive board for Wide Awake International.  Awww, full circle!  Yay!  Anyway, often we would have free reading time at school, and every time I would choose this book.  I read it over and over.  I loved every detail about it.  It's about five daughters in a Jewish family growing up in New York City at the turn of the century.  Oh my, the food descriptions, the sisterly fun (I only have brothers), the pinafores and bows in the hair.  It's a great book.  I forgot about it for years, but just recently remembered it and googled every detail I could think of in order to find it again.  We checked it out from the library and have renewed it three times so far.  It's a great read-aloud for boys and girls alike.

All-off-a-Kind Family is just as good now as it was when I was 9. LOVE.

For the Home School:

Years ago when we were on the verge of homeschooling, but just couldn't bring ourselves to commit to doing it (never thought we would, afraid as all get out), this book was the clincher.  I owned the old edition, then got the new edition for Christmas, managed to lose the new edition in our move, and just scored a $.50 copy of the old edition at a used curriculum sale a couple weeks ago. 

I love to reread this book every so often to help remind myself of why we home school and what is important to us in our parenting.  As someone who never thought she would home school, but knows God has asked it of us, this book is incredibly encouraging and practical.  Much of what our home school looks like I learned from this book.  I love the emphasis on discipling our children.  That's what this parenting thing is all about right?   If you are on the brink, considering home school, but unsure, I urge you to give this book a go.  It's amazeballs.  
 *Name drop alert: Jed and I got to meet Clay and Sally Clarkson and even visit them in their home when we were in Colorado in March.  Holy celebrity sighting Batman!  Sooooooo cool.  Anywayssss...

For Wide Awake International:

I just started this book, so I can't give it a full recommendation yet, but I'm fairly certain it's amazing.  :) Jed has been a fan of Dr. Perry's work for a long time.  It informs all the work he does at the organization where he currently works.  Yesterday Jed was blessed to attend a conference by Dr. Perry with his coworkers and was blown away.  Perry is the leading expert on stress, trauma and brain development.  In this book Dr. Perry explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress (ie institutionalization, unmet needs, abuse, neglect) and his methods of therapy.  He basically throws all we know about brain development on it's head (no pun intended...but hahahaha). Pretty cool stuff.  We are just taking it all in, asking God to guide us, direct us, and give us wisdom in bringing this knowledge into Ukraine.  

For Fun:

Okay, ready for some vulnerability here?  I'm about to geek out on you.  I LOVE this book.  It's about the author's love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.  OMG.  I am so there.  She had me at Little House.  I have been a Laura Ingalls fan for as long as I can remember.  I just may, or may not have every.single.episode of Little House on the Prairie (or LHOP..hehe) on DVD.  I just might know every.single.detail about each episode.  I can tell you what Pa said to so and so about the plow, how Albert overcame his addictions (really, Michael Landon?), who burned down the blind school, and which candy was Nellie's favorite at the mercantile.  I'm an LHOP nerd and I don't care who knows it!  

So, the author became mildly obsessed with LHOP and then took it to the next level.  She visited all the homestead sites, churned her own butter and made her own maple syrup/snow candy.  Then she wrote about her experiences.  In other words, she fully geeked out so that I could vicariously live through her.  The book is hilarious and informative.  It's made me laugh out loud more than once.  Poor Jed.  

The only beef I have with this book is that the author is sort of a purist and pretty much doesn't care for the TV series. WHAT??????  She thinks true LHOP fans should be lovers of the books, not the show.  Well, I gotta admit, the books bore me to death (are homeschooling parents aloud to admit that?).  I love me some Michael Landon, and he's the only Pa I can imagine.  Yes, I realize the show isn't true to the books, but I love it all the same.  It represents my childhood.  When Carrie stumbles down the hill in the opening sequence I feel like I'm home.  
*okay, I'm done nerding out now.  Feel free to think less of me, just don't bash Melissa Gilbert or I might never forgive you.  ;) 

Enough about me, what about you?  Got any good books to recommend?  Lay 'em on me!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zhitomir Scoop

What exactly will we be doing in Zhitomir?  Why Zhitomir? Have you been wondering? 
Well, if you've been wondering, you aren't the only one.  People have been asking, so I thought we better set the record straight.  :)  

I'm not sure we've done a super good job of explaining what exactly our purpose is for moving to Zhitomir, specifically, and what we plan to do once we're there.  I'm so sorry about that!  I feel like I'm constantly talking about it all with someone, so pretty soon I forget who knows what, and what I've blogged about vs. what I've emailed about vs. what I've texted about vs. what I've chatted about over coffee dates vs. what we've shared at church leadership meetings. Yes, we talk a lot.  :)

So, here is the full Zhitomir scoop, in all of it's glory!

Why are we moving to Zhitomir?
We are moving to Zhitomir because God led us there.  Last April (2012) when Jed and I visited all over Ukraine checking out what different people were doing for disabled orphans we decided to check out Mission to Ukraine (MTU), and MTU is in Zhitomir.  We were totally amazed and touched by the work done at and through MTU.  

So, when we got home and prayed about where we should land when we first move to Ukraine, our hearts kept going back to MTU. They are the only ones we know about in Ukraine who do what they do, and we want to be a part of it.  We have a lot to offer them, professionally, but more than that, they have so much they can teach us.  We asked MTU if we could spend our first year in Ukraine volunteering for them, and after many months of communication they said yes!  So, to Zhitomir we go!

Seth got into my flour bins, so we added some beans and made it a low budget "sensory experience".  Ha!

How long will we be in Zhitomir?
We don't know the answer to that one. We committed one year to MTU, so we know we'll be there for at least a year.  This first year is really going to be such a time of learning.  We don't know what The Lord has for us after the first year.  Maybe He'll keep us around at MTU for longer, maybe doors will open in another place, we just take one step at a time and say yes.  We're really okay with that.  The dreams He's given us for the group homes are still completely alive in our hearts.  We don't know how God will take us from Point A (MTU in Zhitomir) to Point Z (medical group homes), but we don't need to know that yet.  Step by step...breathe in, breathe out.  Whew!  We are blessed this first year to have a "landing place" at MTU where right away we can be actively involved in the type of orphan care we love and have a passion for, but we don't have to come up with something all our own, starting at square one.  We can join what the Father is already doing and bless that.  Super cool.
Note to self: I will know what I need to know, when I need to know it.  Chill out.  

What is Mission to Ukraine?  What do they do?
Awesome, and a lot.   
How's that for an answer?  

Kidding!  You know I can't just leave it at that!  Remember, I like to talk too much.  :)
MTU is a Ukrainian non-profit.  It was started by an American missionary years ago, but now all the daily operations are run by Ukrainians.  They have an American Board of Directors in Indiana that support-raises, resource-gathers, and provides guidance as needed, but MTU is a Ukrainian organization at heart.  We will be the only foreigners working at MTU in Zhitomir.  

MTU has a center in Zhitomir, but they minister all over the city. They have 3 main focuses: Crisis Pregnancy Counseling and Support, support of children with disabilities and their families, and the work at Romaniv Boys Orphanage.  

Our primary interests lie in the work done with the disabled children, and the work at Romaniv.  At the center children are given free physical therapy and speech therapy.  There is a specialist who has started doing some work with autistic children, and MTU is in the process of developing Occupational Therapy, which doesn't exist as a profession in Ukraine at this time.  They have a wonderful pediatrician who is on staff full time and provides free care to children, as well as an ophthalmologist and dentist who volunteer time a couple of days a week when they aren't at their own practices.  All the therapists and other medical professionals are Ukrainian too!  There are various classes held throughout the day for disabled children and adults of all ages.  In their classes they get to learn about Jesus, do crafts and artwork, beading, learn different life skills, and build friendships in a place where they are fully accepted, just as they are.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  Every day several different special needs preschool classes are taught as well.  All I have to say about that is CUTENESS OVERLOAD.  When I got to assist with the preschool class for kiddos with Down Syndrome I thought I was going to freak out due to the extreme cuteness.  It was almost too much to handle.  OMG.  While the kids are in class or therapy, there are Bible studies and support groups for the parents.  Genius.  

You've heard us talk about Romaniv.  Love, love, love that place and those boys.  MTU staff have visited Romaniv once a week for 5 years now.  The transformation has been miraculous.  There is still a lot of work to be done, specifically with the more severely disabled boys. Their lives haven't changed nearly as much as the verbal boys and the ones who are more physically capable.  We really desire to help in that area.  We would love to be able to do what we can to bring about more change and help for the boys in "isolation", as they call it.  Those are the boys we would love to target while working with MTU, so we'll see what God has in store!  

There is so much more that is done at MTU: summer camps for disabled children and their families, summer camps at Romaniv, a social integration project, abstinence education...and on and, right?

"Look Mommy!  I make Splash Mountain!!  I put my arms up!"

What will we do at MTU?
We'll do whatever they want us to do!  We've said it before on here, and we really mean it.  We want to be a blessing and we don't want to push our own agenda.  Right now it seems that they have a big need for Jed's professional skills.  Jed has a lot of experience in non-profit program management, building new programs, building a volunteer base, teaching caregivers to care for themselves, teaching people in the helps field learn to process what they see and work with...Jed's job here in Salem has basically groomed him for helping at MTU.  We couldn't have planned it better if we tried.  God is so smart!  Jed is nearly bursting with ideas for MTU and already has plenty of work to keep him busy there for quite some time.  

It seems right now that the best use of our family will be having Jed be the primary help at MTU.  Of course I will help too, but Jed will invest the most hours.  My main job this first year will be helping our family acclimate to living in Ukraine.  I will home school the kids- like I do now, learn to grocery shop and run a house in Ukraine, and support Jed.  I will most likely find out what special needs classes they need the most help with and assist every week in at least one class.  I'm excited to have Addy and Ez help me with that!  The woman who supports the moms asked me to help her as well.  Yay!  My biggest love at MTU is Romaniv.  I hope to go to Romaniv every week and do whatever I can to support, help build, and expand the work being done there.  I am SUPER excited for that!!  

Wow, this is getting long.  I better stop now.  :)  I hope this helps fill in some of the info gaps.  If you have any questions at all after reading this, please ask away!  We really want to be clear and lay things out as plain as possible, so if I'm assuming you know or understand some things and you don't, just let me know and we can explain better.  

The aftermath.   You either laugh or cry at the mess.  We definitely decided to laugh. 

I better go to sleep now.  But, just so you know, I typed this post using my healed up blender finger!  Aren't you proud?  Things are lookin' up for the old finger!  Yessssssssss.

*Random pics due to the fact that 
#1 We've already posted all our cool Zhitomir pics and have none left 
#2 Seth is too cute to resist.  How could I deny you the cuteness??

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our Baby

Our hearts are full to bursting!

My view from here

Our Wide Awake event happened on Friday night and I'm not sure I've stopped smiling since.  

Jed and I were talking afterward about how we felt.  The best way I could think to describe my feelings was like one of the feelings you get when you have your first baby.  Of course when Addy was born I thought she was the cutest newborn ever (don't even try to argue with me, I'll win).  But there was a special feeling that filled my heart when other peopled oooo'd and ahhhh'd over her.  I would think she was cute regardless of other opinions, but when other people loved my baby it felt like a different kind of amazing.  "They love my baby!  They think she's something special!"

That's totally how Friday night felt for us, x 100.  

Wide Awake is like our baby.  Wide Awake represents all the forgotten babies on the other side of the world who have captured our hearts.  Of course we think Wide Awake is something special (we better or else we have no business selling all our stuff and moving to Ukraine!), of course we think the plight of the disabled orphans is something big and important, of course we think those faces in our video and our powerpoint are beautiful and valuable, regardless of what others may think.  God put that love in our hearts!  It all comes from Him.

Perty yard

BUT, on Friday night people oooo'd and ahhhh'd over our babies.  People were loving our babies and it felt amazing.  "They love our baby!  They think it's something special!"  :)

When you see people valuing what you value it brings hope.
When you see people sharing your event with all their friends and asking thoughtful questions you feel thankful.  
When you see people driving 3 hours because they love you and they are excited about what God is doing it makes you cry.

We had a fantastic turnout on Friday and we could not be more humbled and thankful.  

Thank you a million times over to every single person who came!
Thank you to those who invited a friend!
Thank you to those of you who gave generously of your time to drive over mountains to get there.
Thank you to those who gave generous donations!  Blown away.  Woohooooooo!

God is so faithful.  His love NEVER fails.  

Happy Father's Day to Jed!  He is seriously amazing.  Yes, I'm biased, and yes, I'm right.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

House Hunting in Zhitomir

*If you are a local reader/fan of Wide Awake we would LOVE to see you this Friday night, June 14th at Broadway Coffeehouse, Peru Room #306 at 7:00pm.  We'll be sharing the story and vision of Wide Awake International.  It will be a great time to get the big picture of what God is doing.  All are welcome!  Bring a friend!*  

I've decided to stop apologizing for my lack of posting and complaining about my lame finger.  So there. That's the last you'll hear of those two things...but I just had to get them out there one more time.  I'm turning a new leaf today.  Aren't you glad? 


House Hunters International Ukraine went pretty well!   I spent a few hours with Sveta, our realtor, and saw several places for rent. It was productive and necessary.  It gave Sveta a chance to see what we liked and didn't like in a rental, and it gave me a chance to see what Zhitomir has to offer.  One thing I wasn't anticipating was that our kids would be a major factor in us finding a place to live.  When Sveta found out we have 4 kids I thought she was going to have a coronary.  Ha!  It's uncommon for people who live in the city to have as many kids as we do, and many landlords don't want to rent to people wih a whole passel o' kids.  Maybe they think we'll be too noisy.  My kids?  Noisy?  Hehehe....whaaaaaaa.....
Sveta just kept saying (in Russian, or maybe Ukrainian) "Four kids is very difficult!"  Oops.  :)

Who could say no to this cuteness?

We saw some okay flats and a big house for rent.  But then we got a brilliant idea, and all credit goes to my smarty Mother-in-Law. :) You see, while in Zhitomir we were staying in a house that a Ukrainian man renovated into a sort of guest house, or hostel for people who come to visit MTU.  This owner lives in Israel and his mother manages the house.  We really liked the house!  It has 3 rooms upstairs and space for a living room downstairs, a pretty open kitchen/dining area, and it's a house...not 9 stories up!  The best part about that particular house is its location.  It's literally a 4 minute walk from there to MTU.  Best location ever!!!  My oh so smart Mother-in-Law, Cindy, suggested we ask if we could rent that house for our first year.  Normally it is rented out, a room at a time, and charged by night.  But, what if the owner would let us lease it for a year?  What if?  Why not ask?  So, Jed asked Ira, the director of MTU, if she would contact the owner and ask him about us renting it.  Now we just wait for an answer.

We would love it if you would pray with us that God would provide the perfect house for us, and if it's that one that the owner would say yes right away!  Rentals aren't usually agreed upon in advance, so this would be a truly unique and wonderful situation.  It would be so nice to prepare for our move and already have in mind the house we'll be at.  Thank you for praying with us!

So, that's the skinny on housing. :)

On another note, we have been blown away by the generosity of donors in the last couple of days.  Oh, My. Word.  Seriously!  We have gotten big donations from people we don't even know personally!!!  Incredible!!!  Oh the ugly cry, I couldn't hold it back.  Generous supporters, if you are reading this, please know we are so incredibly humbled and blessed.  Thank you doesn't seem adequate.  But, THANK YOU anyway.  THANK YOU!!!!

"Mommy, take a picture of Seth Kitty!"

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  God is making the path straight.  Wahooooo!!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Necessary.

We're really alive!  Finger still intact, though angry as can be when required to type, hence the lack of posts.  It turns out pointer fingers are super useful.  I'll definitely appreciate mine more in the future.  

Although I haven't been able to type it out, my brain has been spinning a mile a minute since we landed back on US soil.  The trip was so good.  When people ask the question "How was your trip?" I say "Good, and necessary."  It was oh so necessary, in ways we couldn't have anticipated before going.  I thought it would be necessary in the scheme of houses, visas, and job descriptions, and while all those things were discussed and worked on, they aren't the necessary I'm talking about.  This trip was another leg in the Journey of Learning to Say Yes.  

Kiev was great.  Super fun, great connections, awesome time with old friends- going deeper and getting stronger.  Kiev was comfy, cozy, and superb.  

Zhitomir was good too...and Zhitomir was reality.  Necessary reality.  

We LOVE Mission to Ukraine (MTU).  We love the staff, we love the vision, we love the people being served.  We are more excited than ever to join them in their ministry.  Jed could be busy there 24/7.  His professional skills are so right on for the areas they have need.  My heart was bursting to think of how I get to help and how our kids get to be involved and learn to serve.  We are totally and completely more excited than ever for MTU.  YAY!

Honestly though, I struggled in Zhitomir.  Nothing personal to the city or the people, I was struggling with doubt, fear, worry as we walked the streets of Zhitomir, and it was all personal to me.  

"What are we doing???  This is crazy."

"Our lives are PERFECT right now and we're leaving it all for the unknown.  Why???"

"We're taking our kids away from their cousins, their friends, their church.  They're going to hate us!"

And on, and on, and on.  Being the verbal processor that I am, Jed got quite the earful.  THIS was the necessary of this trip I wasn't expecting.  I had to come around to the fact that although our life right now is the absolute best it's ever been, the biggest reason for that is because we are smack dab in the will of God.  Yes, there will be challenges about moving to Ukraine.  No, it will not be easy. Yes, there are some major sacrifices, but it will be the best because we will be smack dab in the will of our Loving Father.  After I got over myself and the lies, fear, doubt, blah blah blah, I could truly enjoy our time in Zhitomir.  

Look how far The Lord has brought us!  Oh my, the joy in the journey really increases when you die to yourself a bit more. Ha!

Today my kids and their friend Milaey decided to pick various herbs and plants from the yard and set up a stand on the porch to sell to passerby's.  Great idea, except for the fact that we live on an extremely quiet, out of the way street.  People don't just meander down our street for the fun of it. It's almost like a ghost town, except for us. :)  I didn't want to discourage them, so I just warned them it might be a bit hard to get customers, but they were welcome to try!  

They set to work gathering, pricing, making signs.  Soon they were out on the corner yelling to the empty street about their wares.  "We've got carrots, we've got herbs, we've got stuff to make your house smell good!"  They chanted over and over, then cheered like crazy when a random car would drive by every 7 minutes or so.  

After a bit they came in, discouraged at the lack of business.  Then Milaey suggested they pray and ask God to bring them a customer.  I certainly didn't have the faith I should have had (hehe), but was so proud of Milaey for suggesting it!  They prayed, and I kid you not, like 5 minutes later a car stopped at the sale!  A random lady got out and said "I never drive on this street, but I thought I'd try a shortcut today."  Seriously???  The kids were FREAKING OUT.  They hovered, they talked up their goods, and the kindest lady in town walked away with a ziplock baggie full of hedge trimmings.  God is so faithful.  He cares about what's important to us.  

I got to talk with the kids about the goodness of God, they were thankful, elated, and back to sign-holding and chanting.  Guess what?  Not one other car stopped the rest of the day.  Addy and Ezra came inside an hour later crying (sobbing) about their "failure sale".  

"Why did no one come?  It was important to us and no one cared!"

How quickly they forgot the Lord's provision.  How quickly they forgot the joy in the answered prayer, the delight in His care for them.  He provided a miraculous customer right when they asked!

Yep, that was me in Zhitomir.  Totally forgetting what God did earlier.  Totally feeling forgotten, wondering if God cared.  Seriously?????  He's done AMAZING things.  He's gone above and beyond for our family to pave the way and make it straight.  Seriously.  Once I got my head and heart on straight, stopped looking at the "yikes" and looking at all He has done and promises TO DO things got a whoooooooole lot better.  

Lesson learned for me, and the kids.

Next post will be more details about our time in Zhitomir.  Many of you have been asking and I'm sooooo sorry for the delay.  I blame it on my immersion blender skills (or lack thereof).