My "Refugee" Journal

At a Loss . . .

Today they bombed the largest children’s hospital in Ukraine, Okhmadyt, a state-of-the-art facility known even beyond the borders of this country. 

I say “this country,” because I’m writing from Ukraine. We arrived here in Ternopil last night with our three youngest kids. The power was off—a scheduled blackout, a result of Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. We put the kids to bed by flashlight. Before retiring, I checked the official Telegram channel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a nightly habit when we are here. 

In almost two and a half years of war, Ternopil has only been hit three times, but the air-raid sirens go off routinely. In this Western Ukrainian city, many alerts (most?) are triggered by the takeoff of Russian aircraft capable of launching long-range missiles. According to my brother-in-law who lives here, these types of alerts are not really a cause for concern in Ternopil. Most locals ignore them. 

However, the official Telegram channel sometimes predicts real threats before the sirens sound—which is why I consult it as part of my bedtime routine. When I went to bed last night after 1:00 a.m., it said Russian missiles were expected to enter Ukrainian airspace after 2:00 a.m. The post concluded: Do not ignore the sirens. Take shelter.

The sirens awakened me shortly before 3:00 a.m. 

My first feeling was urgency. I needed to do something—quickly. But what? My thoughts were sluggish, the gears of my mind still clogged with sleep. 

Those are sirens.

Got to get everyone into the hallway. 

George is still sleeping. 

Need to wake him. 


“Wha—?” he mumbled.


“Okay.” He didn’t move.



“Get up!”



“Oh, I was . . . um, I was trying to . . .” He shook himself. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Kitchen. Balcony. Mattress. Hallway.” My thoughts were rattling around in my head.


I tried again. “Mattress on the kitchen balcony. Get it and bring it to the hallway.”

I need to get the kids.

Wait, I should check to see what’s triggering the siren.

No, I should get the kids first, then check.

No, maybe it’s not worth disturbing them.

Where’s my phone?

No. Kids first, check second.

The kids had all asked to make beds on the floor with blankets—that way, in the event of an air-raid alert, I could simply pull them into the hallway without having to wake them. Soon I had all of us crowded into the short section of hallway where the walls were unbroken by doorways. Ukrainians call this the “two-wall rule,” the goal being to have two walls between you and any potential point of impact. After twenty-eight months of living with frequent air-raid alerts, for the most part, no one I know bothers to go to the underground shelters anymore. It’s too disruptive to your sleep and your daily routine. 

George went back to sleep almost immediately, but between him and our eleven-year-old, there wasn’t enough room for me to lie down on the twin mattress we’d placed on the hallway floor. That was okay, because I’ve never been able to sleep during an air alert. The sirens only sound for a minute or so, but I can’t relax until they announce the all-clear. Instead of sleeping, I monitored the Air Force Telegram channel, tracking the progress of the rockets heading towards various parts of Ukraine. None were coming our direction.

The all-clear sounded shortly before 4 a.m. George and I went back to bed, leaving the kids sleeping in the hallway. I snuggled under the covers, allowing my exhaustion to immobilize me. Sleep would claim me any minute. 

But it didn’t. 

When the sirens started again at 7:20 a.m., I had the impression of not having slept at all, except for a short spell of fitful dozing. This alert was triggered by the takeoff of Russian military aircraft. It lasted less than thirty minutes. I contemplated the psychological impact of Russia’s tactics. Disrupt the nightly sleep of an entire nation with deadly attacks, then heckle them throughout the day with threats and posturing.

George and the kids left to meet people for breakfast. Dizzy with fatigue, I opted to stay behind. Surely now I would sleep. 

I was just dozing off when the sirens started again at 9:48 a.m. I moaned. 

I should move to the hallway.

It’s probably nothing serious.

I should move.

Not yet.

Too tired . . .

I forced one eye open and checked the Air Force Telegram channel. This wasn’t threats and posturing. There were rockets in the air above Ukraine again! They were headed all over the place. Thankfully, none were coming our way.

I noted activity on the group chat for our former church-planting team. The war scattered us, but we still maintain contact. Three of them are in Kyiv right now. They reported loud explosions and plumes of smoke rising from multiple locations across the city. 

The images are heart-rending.

In Ternopil, the air alert was cancelled at 11:36 a.m. 

Then the reports started coming in. Over forty missiles hit six different cities. The targets were apartment buildings, civilian infrastructure, and a children’s hospital.

The images are heart-rending. A woman comforting a bloodied child. Bald children sitting in chairs along the edge of a parking lot, still attached to their wheeled chemo machines. In one video, lines of people pass chunks of rubble hand to hand, bucket-brigade style, to clear a massive mound and reach survivors. Doctors in blood-soaked scrubs work frantically beside normal people who arrived to help before official rescue workers could make it to the scene.

Pray for an end to this war.

A few hours later, while these efforts are still underway, they hit another Kyiv hospital.

I have no words left to tell you how I feel. 

Pray for Ukraine.

Pray for an end to this war.

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Baby Joys Encouragement

My Fifth Birth Story, Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Andrew at his lowest point, in an incubator bed with a total of 9 tubes and wires coming off his vulnerable body, including the bulky tube of high-flow heated oxygen in the upper-right corner of the picture.

That first day at the new hospital was physically exhausting. The most walking I had done since giving birth six days earlier was to go from our car in the hospital parking lot to the NICU after Andrew was transferred, and even that had felt like a stretch. But that was only the beginning.

Baby Joys Encouragement

My Fifth Birth Story, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Andrew had a splint on one arm to stabilize the IV catheter, and he had all kinds of wires running to different monitors. Even though he was mostly unresponsive to stimuli, his infant reflexes caused him to grab a fistful of these wires.

Because Andrew was so weak and lethargic, the hospital set me up with an electric pump and had me express milk to feed him from a bottle. Sometime during that first day or night, one of the monitors in the room started beeping loudly, and within seconds, a nurse appeared in the doorway and said that the baby’s blood oxygen level had dropped too low and told me to rouse him.

Baby Joys Encouragement Uncategorized

My Fifth Birth Story, Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

Cousins born on consecutive days in adjacent hospital rooms

At some point the next day I finally reached full dilation and started having the urge to push. While the hospital did allow water births, I decided to try using the birthing stool. It was a lot higher than I expected, and it was uncomfortable. But other than mentioning that I wasn’t comfortable, I made no effort to change locations. At that point in labor, a mother is simultaneously too focused and too overwhelmed by the birthing process to advocate for herself, and no one connected my calm, quiet comment that the birthing stool was uncomfortable with a real desire to move to the bed, which is what I wanted. 

Baby Joys Encouragement

My Fifth Birth Story, Part 1

This was taken less than a week before baby #5 joined our family.

It’s been over five years since the birth of my fifth child, the child I never thought we’d have. Before we married, my husband and I agreed that we would like to have at least four kids, and after that, we’d see if we wanted more or not. Once we started having kids, it seemed to make sense to have them as quickly as possible, since I was already 28 years old at the time. For us meant that we had 3 kids in 44 months.


Our 2020 Crisis, pt. 2

If you didn’t read part 1 yet, you can find it here.

Post-op x-ray showing the metal plate, 8 screws, and the complicated fracture—the dark lines running all through the open section of bone between the two sets of screws

Peter looked so pale and fragile lying in his hospital bed after surgery. I later learned that the fracture had been so complicated that repairing it had been something like piecing a puzzle together, resulting in the long surgery. Because of how much blood he lost, they almost gave him a blood transfusion, but his cautious surgeon, wanting to avoid the potential complications of that procedure, wanted to wait to see if Peter could pull through on his own. His blood test results weren’t in the danger zone, so it was possible that his body would be able to replace the lost blood by itself. 


Our 2020 Crisis, pt. 1

(Spoiler: It wasn’t COVID)

After a long break, I began to post on this blog again in the spring of 2020 with grand aspirations of writing something new every week, but several things happened to interfere with my plans. I’d like to explain … and then make another effort to start posting regularly again!