The Dentist

IMG_5581Last year, when we took Big L to the dentist, the ones that saw all of my kids at the time, we got a very reluctant donated exam and an large estimated cost for how much it would be to get her four fillings.

This year, I took Gus to a different pediatric dentist to check them out and worked up the nerve to ask them to donate an appointment to N. Without any hesitation, they agreed. And last week, we had that appointment. Her teeth are a huge mess. She will need a few pulled, and crowns on several others. The dentist explained the plan and the receptionist was ready to book us for the first appointment to get the work done. I asked “how much will this all cost?” The receptionist and the dentist exchanged a knowing look and the dentist firmly said, “This is pro bono. We just want to give her the best future possible.”

That’s part of a Facebook post from my personal page I wrote last week after our first appointment. The dentist and her team squeezed us into their packed schedule, giving up their lunch hour to make sure that N returns with her teeth cleaned up.

Today was the first “surgery” appointment, where she had a tooth pulled and a root canal. My sweet friend watched R, L & G, so I was able to sit in with N and hold her hand for the whole procedure. It went well. N was great and I was in awe of the compassion that they showed N. She has a team of talented people going above and beyond for her… because they care about HER and HER future.

As we were leaving, the dentist said to me, “thank you for helping her.” Me?!? YOU’RE THANKING ME?!

A lesser person would have handed me that estimate for all of her dental work last week and sent us on our way. Or, perhaps, they may have agreed begrundingly to help N, seeing the state of her teeth. Instead, this wonderful dentist promised to do her very best work by N… and thanked me for bringing her in.

That’s what love looks like. As Glennon Melton says, “we belong to each other”. And when we live like we mean it? When we use our talents selflessly to help those in need? N’s smile will be healed, but there’s some healing of her heart too. She is seeing that yes, there are people on her side. Yes, people care about it.

Now, she’s just a young kid… and you might be wondering if that message really sinks in with her. I might not have taken the time to share this, except for a conversation I had with N later in the day.

N was in obvious pain from her teeth and the dentist had instructed me to give her soft foods to eat. Well, food is a bit of a challenge, as I’m still learning what N likes. Together, N and I sat down in front of Pinterest and looked up soft foods. I took copious notes. Yes to mashed potatoes. No to mac and cheese. Yes to pudding. No to borscht. Fun fact: one of her requests was spaghetti with ketchup and… mayo!

N asked for my phone and I expected another food request that I wouldn’t quite understand. But, when she handed the phone back, her message had been translated simply…

“You will take care of me?”

I’m sure shock registered across my face. Of course, I thought. That’s what moms do. Except that her mom may have never been able to offer that to her.

“Yes! Да! Так!” I said.

And she threw her arms around me and kissed my face countless times.

That IS what we moms do. Stay by their side, hold their hand through the hard moments, remember the Tylenol every 4 hours and make an extra trip to the store for those comfort foods. But, to N, each meal prepared with her in mind, each squeeze of her hand in the dentist’s chair, each goodnight kiss, that’s a bandaid on her heart. It means I see her. I care about her needs. She has worth.

That’s the seed I want to plant for her this summer… you have worth.


P.S. Please pray for N, as we go back more dental work tomorrow. And, twice in August.

P.P.S. I’d love more soft food suggestions, especially from my Eastern European readers. :)

Pre-Hosting Colorado Trip

We were picking up N in Denver on a Monday, so Aaron and I would need to take Monday and Tuesday off of work. Plus, we’d have to make it out to Denver to pick her up… so naturally, we decided to come to Colorado a couple of days early. It took a bit of extra planning, but it was an awesome pre-hosting family trip.

We decided to spend our time at Rocky Mountain National Park. Aaron and I really enjoy the national parks and we’d only been to RMNP once before, a day trip with friends. It was the perfect spot for our little trip– a great mix of amenities and the great outdoors.

We gave the kids a gift– a shockproof, waterproof camera. They’ve been begging for a real camera for awhile now. I need to share some of their photos with you, as there are gems!

We went to one of the ranger programs on Bighorn Sheep. A herd of elk walked by.

We saw some Bighorn Sheep at a distance.

The weather was perfect for hiking, warm enough to not need layers, but cool enough that we didn’t get hot. But, it rained on our first day. So in the afternoon, we set up our camp site. The campground office had two hummingbird feeders and they were covered with these little guys. I’ve never seen so many before!

We did more hiking once the rain let up. We heard Bear Lake was a must, but difficult to get parking at. However, after the rain, we had no trouble. We realized when we pulled into the Bear Lake trailhead parking lot that we’d done a hike starting at Bear Lake with our friends 7.5 years ago. Hiking with 3 young kids is pretty different than hiking with two twenty-something friends.

One of the rangers tipped us off that we could save ourselves a bit of hiking and elevation gain by hiking to a different trailhead than the one we’d started at and taking the bus. That was a hit.

More hiking! We did about 5-6 miles each day.


We saw this guy right along the side of the road, having his dinner.

And we went back to our campsite and had our own dinner, over a fire, of course.

That night was cloudy and there were thunderstorms in the distance. But, I took this shot anyways and it’s a favorite of mine. Estes Park, nestled below the mountains, and layers of clouds and stars.

Day 2, we drove on Trail Ridge Road, over to the West side of the park. Reed tried out hiking poles for the first time. And we played in some snow.

An adult woman next to the snow for scale.

I had enjoyed the east side of the park, but I quickly fell in love with the west side, when a photographer pointed out a mama and her baby MOOSE to us, hiding behind some trees. I ended up seeing 7 moose total on this side of the park.

We did the short hike out to Holzwarth Ranch. Totally worth it for a fun look into the past.

Not wanting to rush back to our campsite, we decided to grab dinner in the nearest town. We’d found Estes Park to be packed with people the previous day. Nearly impossible to even find a parking space. Grand Lake was the opposite– fun and touristy with live music, but had a much more relaxing vibe. Oh, and there was a rainbow.

The drive back across the park was gorgeous as the sun set behind us.

And we stopped for some quick star-gazing. I was hoping the kids might be up for it, but they had all crashed by this point.

Back to the campsite and to bed.

Day 3 was the much awaited day of N’s arrival!!! We had to drive down to Denver. We had booked a yurt for that night, which turned out to be a bit further out of drive from Denver than expected. But, otherwise, it was a pretty awesome spot. The yurt had heating/air-conditioning, beds, a table inside and a table outside, a small playhouse close-by, and the bathrooms were a short distance with no roads to cross. The closest thing to glamping we’ve ever done and I would not hesitate to do it again. It has the camping feel, but a lot less work!

N’s flight ended up getting several hours delayed, so we just hung out. I gave the kids these toys I had made them.

Our trip was awesome. I adore Colorado and after a couple of days in the cool, dry mountain air, surrounded by gorgeous views, I was pretty bummed to come home. Until next time!

If you’d like to see more nature photos, take a look at my photography Facebook page.

Hosting: Real Talk

We’re almost 2 weeks into hosting… and how are things going?


Before I answer that, did I tell you that when we first met N, just after she’d arrived, I asked her how she was, and she said “нормальна”. “Normal!” You just stepped off an airplane in a foreign country, you’re hugging a complete stranger who you’ll be staying with for the next 10 weeks… and you’re normal? Of course.

Things are very high energy around here, but they are fairly normal.

Summer means a lot more energy in our house with Reed and Lena home. N adds even more energy and things can be a bit crazy around here. Kids bouncing off walls.

Probably the biggest challenge is that I’m in high demand. N is very clingy with me, and this has pushed my other kids to be as well. During their waking hours, I almost always have someone near me or touching me.

I am an introvert, so this wears on me fairly quickly. I can only take so much time with children wrapped around my limbs before I need a quiet moment to myself. I’ve found myself pretty worn out most days!  Physically and emotionally. It reminds me of the days when each of my kids were newly home. N joked that I love the toilet… ummm, because that door locks!


N is a character, and everything is new and exciting to her. She is even amused that the toilet flushes! To which I joked that she’s the one who loves the toilet!

One of our biggest challenges with Big L last summer was keeping her busy. That’s a challenge again this summer. For quiet activities, rainbow loom bracelets are a hit and games on computer or phone are as well. I have a ton of language games for her for this reason. But, apart from these activities, N has a short attention span and spends a lot of time running from one thing to another. N also loves anything active– swimming, bike riding, etc.



That’s the scoop on how things are going here. Questions about hosting? I always love to answer them!

Swim, Swim

“Н любить swim, swim,” she told me tonight. “N loves swim, swim.”

Yesterday, we went to the local indoor pool. I think my kids could have stayed there all day, despite Gus’s lips turning purple!

Our good friend Amanda ended up going with us and I was so glad for her company. Watching 3 kids at the pool is hard work! (Reed wasn’t with us.)

N loved this big slide!

Amanda might get sainted for lifting the 3 of them onto this little frog slide over and over again.

N can be very sweet with G. Not quite the relationship he had with Big L, but definitely happy to play together.




I have to admit– it was exhausting! But so worth it, since they all had such a wonderful time. I have little fish!


S’mores, Swimming and Sweet Dreams

Yesterday, we pulled out our rarely used firepit the other night and made hotdogs and s’mores. And it was an activity AND dinner. Yay for that.

There was watermelon, too.

Today, we headed to the state park we camped at several weeks ago and went to the beach.

These 4 had a lot of fun.





Each night, I tell N “Я тебя люблю. На Добраніч і солодких снів.” In English, “I love you. Goodnight and sweet dreams.” “Sweet dreams” is something that my mom always says. N loves that part so much and always says it with me. This is another one of those little things that I think nothing of, but she’s probably never had anyone to tuck her in before and tell her “sweet dreams.”


Today, while I was working, N asked, “will you shampoo my hair?” “Later,” I told her.

While I was frantically cleaning for our dinner company, “will you shampoo my hair?” “Later,” I told her again.

While our friends were over for dinner, “will you shampoo my hair?” “Not right now, later,” I said once again, truly feeling a bit exasperated by this point.

All day, I knew that I needed to be a person of integrity for her. Not one who says “later” and then never finds the time. But, someone who sticks to her word. I didn’t quite get the big deal with washing her hair, but it clearly was important to her. So, as everyone was brushing teeth and putting on pajamas, I said, “do you want to shampoo your hair now?” “YES!!!”

So, I pulled the chair up to the sink, grabbed the shampoo and forced a smile on my face, despite how ready I was for bedtime.

As I began to pour the water over the head, I saw her squeeze her eyes closed and I asked, “is the water too hot?” “No.” And then, I saw her smile. The kind that says “I am treasuring this moment.” I gently lathered the soap into her hair and rubbed her scalp. When I was done, I brushed her hair, then cupped her face in my hands and kissed her forehead.  A huge smile crossed her face that said more than all of our broken language has.

For me, it was another thing on today’s checklist. For N, it was a moment that she may have never had before: a mother to gently wash her hair, to take care of her and pamper her. That is what hosting needs to be for most of the kids– smoothing out the rough edges of forced independence and giving them experiences of nourishing and nurturing that they haven’t had before. A shower and a bottle of shampoo? Yes, she could have done it herself. But, she wasn’t looking for clean hair. She was looking for someone to take the time to focus on and care for her.

These photos have nothing to do with the shampoo story, but I can’t share a blog post without photos. :)

Helping me make pizza for “піца п’ятницю” as I call it– Pizza Friday. That one got a laugh from her.

A friend gave us this awesome little sprinkler. It was a big hit!


Gus got a scraped knee, made better by Olaf. Gus did the best rendition of “Do you want to build a snowman?” the other day while Lena was in the bathroom, complete with knocking, sliding down the door and clucking his tongue. I only wish I had it on video.

Catching fireflies.

N is Here

N’s flight was supposed to arrive in Denver in late afternoon. But, her flight was delayed over 7 hours. Super late for our Central-Time adjusted selves.

We saw two rainbows on our weekend trip to Colorado. This one just as we were leaving for the airport.

As we got to the airport, I realized I’d only been to DIA one other time– when I flew in for AmeriCorps. Where I met my future husband. :)

The airport involves a lot of waiting. I chatted with another P143 volunteer and Aaron walked the kids around on escalator rides and such. Here Gus and Lena are playing with N’s gift, a doggie that looks like ours.

After we had waited for about two hours, the word was that they were near!

This girl came out, waving and smiling. She walked right up to Lena, holding her welcome poster and said, “hi!”

I leaned over to introduce myself and she wrapped her arms around me, tight. I imagine anyone watching this scene from afar would think we already knew each other.

She stayed like that for a couple of minutes, soaking up a hug.

We made introductions.

Everyone was pretty much instant-friends, but as we navigated the airport, elevators and the parking garage, it seemed like we’d jumped to ten kids instead of 4. So much energy!

That was 48 hours ago, so we’ve been getting to know N since then.

I expected her to be more quiet, shy, uncertain? Turns out she’s quite the monkey, a little bit wild, and mostly just a normal kid.



I’m excited to see what our summer holds!