Going to the Dance Farm

We had family reunion number two this past weekend… or as Lena calls it “the dance farm”. This family reunion is a big deal. Over 200 people show up for this one night. And, I think it’s the highlight of my kids’ summer.

On the way, we always stop at an old-fashioned drive-in (celebrating it’s 50th year!) where we get burgers.

The reunion is on a beautiful farm.

Dinner is first. A lot of food is eaten over the course of the weekend.

Then there’s some time where people talk… or kids run around and play games.

Eventually, we all make our way into the barn.

And square dancing begins. My niece and her friend (also distant relative) made up a game of running through the square dancing groups.

My nephew found a frog, which is a reoccurring theme of our 2014 Family reunions.

The evening goes late with lots of dancing. At the end, they try to rope everyone in for dancing. Although Big L had declined 3 offers to dance, my sister talked to her into it at the end of the night.

I think she really enjoyed her first reunion experience. And that’s Gus on the right, throwing dirt.


…and as if you aren’t tired of hearing about our family reunions yet, there is a day 2, which I’ll share about tomorrow!

Questions about Hosting

I recently asked you to send me all of your hosting questions. I’m not an expert on hosting by any means, but I’ll answer all of these to the best of my ability and/or share where you can find them on P143 or NHFC’s FAQ page.


Do you need an approved home study to host?
No, each organization does their home visit differently, but you do not need a full homestudy. In our case, we were able to use Gus’s post placement reports in lieu of a home visit. Some organizations require you to have one of their staff visit your home or others require a social worker. I think it varies based on the organization and/or how far you are from their volunteers. But, I do not know of any that require the full homestudy. If you do have a recent homestudy and/or post placement report, you can usually use those instead of the home visit. There will also be other paperwork, such as background checks, etc. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page.]

Do you have to have an entire empty bedroom to host?
No. It does have to be a room shared with only host siblings of the same sex and the child has to have their own bed. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page.]

What are the fees/costs involved for the hosting family?
It varies, but seems to be around $2700-3000 for the hosting fees. There may be a few other costs, such as travel to the airport to pick up your host child. You will also need clothing and a few other items for your host child, as well as an eye exam and dental exam and cleaning. However, these can often be donated and the host programs offer some advice on how to go about that. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page.]

What ages of children are in need of host families?
It varies from country to country. I have a friend who is hosting a 4yo. Typically, I hear of 6-18 year olds. Most of the children are from about 10-18. 

Do host families need to be considering adoption in order to host?
No, the family does not need to be adoption-minded. In fact, not all children are available for adoption. Some programs will not allow a host-only family to host an adoptable child multiple times, as this makes it harder for them to find an adoption-minded family and also bonded with another family. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page and NHFC’s FAQ page.]

Are the children who come available for adoption?
No, not all of the children are available for adoption. Some are too old to be adopted and others are simply unavailable for any number of reasons. The hosting organizations can usually let you know if a child is adoptable, but they do not guarantee this information. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page and NHFC’s FAQ page.]

Is the main objective of the hosting program to give older orphans a better chance at finding families and adjusting to family life? If no, what is the primary objective?
Partly. There are a few different objectives and each program lists slightly different visions. They are along the lines of finding children families, showing orphans love, and teaching them about God. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page.] I also really like the answer shared on NHFC’s FAQ page for “Isn’t it cruel to send them back?”. It addresses the purposes of hosting beyond finding a child a family.

How long is the host program? (How many weeks or months does the child stay in the host family?)
Again, this varies based on the program and country. Big L’s program is one of the longest at 9.5 weeks. Some programs are just a few weeks long, especially the winter programs. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page and NHFC’s FAQ page.]

Are all the children who participate in the hosting program orphaned children?
All of them are living in an orphanage or foster family setting, but not all of them may be true orphans, who have lost both parents. Some may have one or both parents alive, but unable to care for them.

What countries participate in the hosting program?
Many countries participate in the hosting program and I haven’t researched them all. A few that come to mind are Latvia, Ukraine, China, Uganda, Nicaragua, Colombia, and the Philippines.

How are the children screened to come?
I think this answer probably varies a lot from host program to host program and country to country. My understanding for NHFC and P143 is that the orphanage director recommends children who they feel would be suitable for hosting. Then, the hosting program’s team interviews the children. [Addressed on P143’s FAQ page.]

How is the subject of adoption handled? Since it is part of the foundation of your family, is it a challenge to skirt the issue? Do Reed and Lena have questions about Big L’s potential for adoption?
The hosting program asks that we do not talk about adoption with our host child for several reasons, mainly to protect the kids’ feelings. However, Big L has brought it up herself and asked to come back to our family “forever”. This is difficult to dodge when she brings it up, but I remind her that she is still here for awhile, we’re very happy to have her here and we love her very much. Our family, Reed and Lena included, know that adoption is an off-limits topic. They know that she is only here for the summer and we haven’t discussed adoption as a possibility with them, as we do not want them to bring up the topic with Big L.

Do you consider adopting Big L?
Yes, she’s a wonderful kid. However, adoption is not a topic to be taken lightly, so we’re praying and considering if she’ll become a permanent member of our family.

Here is a list of hosting programs I have heard of; however, I cannot personally vouch for most of these.

The Glasses Project

We are still struggling to get Big L to like her glasses. She will literally run and hide when I pull them out.

My mom had the idea of getting my older nephews, who she is quite fond of, to try them on. This turned into a lot of excitement with the 10 kids and everyone ended up trying them on. Big L was watching this happen and I kept telling her “No, you don’t get a turn”. Making the required off-limits makes it instantly more interesting.

In the end, she was very ready for her turn. Mission: successful.


We still haven’t gotten her wearing them regularly, but actually putting them on my choice? Baby steps.

Lola’s Tattoo Parlor

I know, it’s been a few days. And a jam–packed few days we’ve had. I need to answer your hosting questions, but I’m tackling a few lighter topics until I have time to give your questions the dedication they need.

So, lighter topics… tattoos. The temporary kind.

On a rainy day last week, my mom’s kitchen table turned into a tattoo parlor.

Lena opted for this skull. Apparently she’s tougher than we all realized.

I asked her to give me her toughest face and these are what I got.
Watch out, world. Lena’s here.

Reed got a bunch, including this “Rock Star” one and Gus only tolerated one, on his upper arm.

Big L got a TON of tattoos, including “Mama”, “Papa” and “Lola” underneath a heart.


They loved the tattoos, but hopefully they’ll hold off on the real ones for awhile.

Blessing Her

Each day, the mail comes with much excitement. What might be in it today?

Our sweet friends and family have really gone all out. And each day, as I see the return address, I wish we had the language between us so I could share about the people who have touched this mail. The sweet friends and family dropping notes in the mail just for her.

Each day, she points to the names and return addresses with wonder. “Nicole? Your sister Nicholas?!?!” “California?” “Who this person?” I explain who they are, and if she knows them already or if they are a friend loving her from afar.

This card came from the family who donated a large grant for her hosting fees. The grant, added with what we had already fundraised, was almost the exact cost of the hosting fees and largely what made it easy for us to say yes so close to the deadline.




I got a Facebook message from a sweet woman offering to send Russian goodies. It sounds like the thing one ought to be cautious about, but after she told me about herself, I simply send yes, so kind of you to offer. And, I’m so glad I did.

There was a beautifully hand-decorated box and inside, it was PACKED full with goodies.

L’s reaction was priceless. She pulled each thing out, held it up and announced its name with enthusiasm. Each thing was familiar and so exciting.

She made us each try Halva and laughed with Reed and Lena made funny faces after trying the sweet sunflower spread.

This was a long, beautiful letter from my friend Tiffany. Tiffany included an icon card of Mary and baby Jesus. L looked uncertain at the small image, but Tiffany had written that it helps her to look at the image when she is not feeling well. This morning, L pulled it out when her stomach hurt.

This is a card from her cousin’s (soon-to-be) mom. It contained some money, something that she has likely never had in her possession before. When we were out shopping, she asked me to please use the money to buy her some… (drumroll, please)… DEODORANT. I explained that I’d buy the deodorant– the money was for something special.

This card was a treat, seeing a familiar language! The friend who sent it has 5 girls adopted from L’s country. L pretty much shouted the words out when she saw them!2014-07-14_0001

And, my beloved friend Danae sent EACH child a package, along with one for me with an activity for when we’re bored. We haven’t done it yet, but I’ll definitely have to share when it does happen.
Treasured little gifts from our sweet friends.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been perfect about photographing each card that comes in, but believe me, they are all treasured. Each one will be added to her scrapbook and each one is marked on map, so she can see where all of the cards came from. Thank you.