Category Archives: Hosting

Where My Heart Is

When P143 asked me if we could add an orphanage visit into our court trip, I practically jumped at the chance. It wasn’t going to be a particularly convenient or easy trip, but there are few things more special to me than the opportunity to love on kids who need it most. The simple gestures of being present, making a joke, squeezing a shoulder, can mean so much to a kid who isn’t used to the loving attention of an adult.
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It’s a bit nerve wracking walking into a room with 10 kids, all eagerly anticipating your visit… and with whom you lack a common language. The orphanage director  introduced us. These children had already been interviewed for hosting, so our main purpose was to get to know them in a more relaxed setting.
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Snacks were passed out, and then I pulled out one of our favorite games, Spot It.
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The kids caught on very fast, as I showed them how the game worked.
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I don’t usually relate to the older kids as a parent, I’m guessing due to my age. But one boy instantly had my heart. He was smiling and sweet, reminding me a bit of a young Leonard from the Big Bang Theory. I’m guessing it was just the glasses and how he tilted his head to keep them on.

“Можна фотографувати?” May I take pictures, I asked, gesturing towards him. He nodded and giggled nervously.
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“Ти маєш зуби?” Do you have teeth? I asked.

And we both laughed.
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At the other end of the table, Aaron broke out Uno. The language barrier is almost always a big concern of potential host parents. While I’ve learned some Ukrainian, Aaron only knows a few words. But, it wasn’t an issue. When you have a pack of Uno cards and the willingness to spend time, the language doesn’t matter.
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This sweet girl was shy with me. I asked her questions like name, age, favorite color, and her answers were barely above a whisper. She doesn’t have a favorite color, in case you were wondering. She reminded me quite a bit of N, who we hosted last summer.

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This is her older (yes, older) brother. He is spunky and sweet, and smiles all the time. I think he’d really benefit from a loving mom and dad this summer, as well as a trip to the dentist.
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Our time at the orphanage was limited, which was disappointing for me. I could have spent all night there talking to each of the kids, searching for the anticdote or the snapshot that would help their mom and dad find them.
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The boy on the right is available for hosting alone. We didn’t interact with him much one on one, but he played Uno with Aaron. He was quiet, but friendly with us. The boy on the left is available with his two younger brothers. I don’t have a great photo of the middle brother (you can find him a plaid shirt in some of the group photos above). When the group was asked who knew any English, his middle brother was quick to say “My name is…” in English.

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This is the youngest brother. Quiet and adorable.
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This girl is already hosted. The boy is available with his younger sister, who we didn’t meet. This boy was fun– he wasn’t shy with us at all, just jumped right into our games.
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I hardly talked to this handsome little guy. He’s one of the youngest we met. He was more shy with us, but social with the rest of the kids.
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These sisters were chatty with our Ukrainian team member. The one on the left had some questions for me, like what my occupation is.
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When we were leaving, she gave us all hugs. I think she and her sister would really benefit from a loving family this summer.
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This is their friend. She was shy with us, including when I went to take this picture. Like a lot of teenage girls, she seemed a bit self conscious. I think she would do well in a family that could breathe some confidence into her. Her dream is to becoming a lawyer! She already conducts herself professionally.
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And this boy, I saved him for last. He was shy with us, but I saw him sitting alone on the floor with a toy, so I sat down with him and started a little conversation. He hardly looked at me, so I let it go after a couple of minutes.
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Then, he went into a cabinet and pulled out a piece of paper. He started drawing and slide a picture over to me. He proceeded to do the same with Aaron. He shyly smiled his delight as I told him how good it was and how talented he is. His orphanage director nodded enthusiastically, saying how he is an exceptional artist.
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I didn’t realize until later that he was the younger brother of the first boy that I shared about, with the glasses. They are an exceptional pair of wonderful brothers!

These children are no longer strangers to me. On the contrary– I think I handed out a piece of my heart to each of them just as easily as we handed out candy. They aren’t just photos to me anymore. They are real, delightful, fun people who I’ve met and hugged and laughed with. They’re all looking for a family who can invest in them and help change their lives. Will you help me find them ALL families this summer?

Maybe one of them even tugged at your heartstrings and you’d like to learn more? Please reach out to me or another P143 representative, even if you aren’t certain hosting is for you.

I have two action items for you. They’ll only take a few minutes and these children are worth it.

  1. Share this post. Share it on Facebook. Email it to a friend who you know is interested in hosting, adoption or just loves kids.
  2. Register for P143 photolisting. Take a few minutes to learn more about the kids.

Chapter by Chapter

One year ago, I watched Luda walk through security at the Newark airport, ending our summer together. It was hard, but I also had the hope that we were starting her adoption! I put my hope in that.

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It’s so strange to look back on, because those few days were a rollercoaster. So many goodbyes… and we started her adoption paperwork. It was sad, but full of hope. And then, she told me that she didn’t want to be adopted… and that changed everything. What seemed to be a fairy tale until that point suffered a major plot twist that day.
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We are getting ready to say goodbye to N on Saturday. There is a general consensus in our house that this is not a sad thing. N herself is excited to go back, see her friends and start school.
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N’s story in our family is so different than Luda’s. With Luda, it was always easy to see the impact we were making and where this journey might take us… with N, not so much. We will not be adopting and/or re-hosting her. The clarity of that sometimes feels like a failure– if only we were better parents, we could, right?

It’s a doubt that nags at me, even though I know it isn’t true. We simply aren’t a good fit for N. She needs a family who can offer her firm structure and constant individual attention… and with three kids younger than her, there is just no way that can be us. But, when we find her that quiet, steady family, she will thrive.

While I might like every story to have an immediate, happy ending, they don’t. Some stories have sequels, or trilogies, or even a whole series. Sometimes, you can’t see the whole picture until the epilogue. And, not every story has the resolution that I hope for as I am reading– very often, the ending is so much better than anything that I could have imagined.

Luda’s story is one that I cannot put down at the moment. I eagerly flip through pages, wanting to know how it will end. N’s story is one that I struggle to pick up each day. I am praying that her next chapter holds something beautiful.2015-08-28_0001

Will you join me in praying for N as she departs and starts a new chapter?

Transformation

As I chatted with my mom while she watered her plants, I noticed something small and green moving on the parsley. “You’re soaking that caterpillar,” I said and my mom quickly shut the water off. “Oh! I didn’t even see him!”

She ran inside to get me a little box to put him in to show the kids and I held out my hand. My new friend crawled on.
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A few minutes later, Reed and N came out to play badmitton in the yard. I called them over. Reed looked at him for just a moment before casually saying “cool” and running off. But, N sat down beside me.

“Що це?” (What is it?)

I stumbled over my words. My Ukrainian is so limited. “Ummm… метелик.” Not knowing the word for caterpillar, I told her it was a butterfly.

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She laughed. “Метелик?”

“Yes,” not sure how to explain metamorphosis with a language barrier.

She just stared at it skeptically for awhile. I know she was wondering how this could possibly be true.
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We’re having a hard week with N. The kind where I really wonder if I’m cut out for this. I can see all of the brokenness and pain of N’s short life come out in her behavior and I truly wonder if this summer is making any difference. I’m standing in front of vase that’s been shattered into a thousand tiny pieces and I’m trying to put it back together with scotch tape and elmer’s glue. And, trying to keep my kids from cutting themselves on the broken pieces.

Holding this odd little creature and sitting with N, I heard the whisper… she’s a butterfly.

I’m like N, sitting there, looking at a caterpillar and being told she’s a butterfly. A child of God, full of beauty. How can something so funny looking like a caterpillar ever grow wings and become one of God’s most beautiful creatures? How can someone so (rightfully) angry and sad like N ever move on to become a healed and healthy person?

Baby steps. A few minutes of pouting where a tantrum may have been a week ago. An apology where she may have run off to hide before. I can see it happening if I slow down to notice and celebrate with her. It’s a slow transformation, but so is the butterfly’s.

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Currently on repeat:

We have tasted and seen of the never ending grace of the King
Where the broken and the least of the least come alive.

Be Her Rock

Last year, Big L’s favorite song was Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse. It’s a song about God, but I think for us, it also reminded us of what it means to be a parent to a hurting child. “In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures You won’t walk out…

That image has stuck with me and that song always makes me think of Big L. Any lighthouse makes me think of Big L. My “word picture” for N is slightly different. Although it sometimes feels like N is the violent sea trying to batter me, I know she’s really swimming IN a violent sea. A violent sea of emotions, a violent sea of being pulled and pushed different ways by different people, a violent sea of uncertainty. All I can offer her is a place to rest. Whenever she’s misplacing her anger on me, I try to remind myself, be her rock.

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She’s scared and angry, and these feelings can come out in unpleasant ways. I want to react myself. I sometimes feel like another swimmer in this violent sea, and we might cling to or fight each other and pull each other under.

But, I can’t. She doesn’t need another swimmer who can only keep her up so long. She needs a rock to cling to.

And this is what I’m learning, day by day. Briefly acknowledge her feelings, then dig my heels in deep and let that sea crash against me.  Be unmovable despite all of the misplaced hurt thrown about. Be firm and resolute with rules and boundaries. Be solid, no matter how much I might feel like cracking.
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I am constantly being reminded that love looks different for different people. For Reed, love looks like having someone who believes in him– age-appropriate freedom and encouraging and acknowledging his successes. For Lena, love looks like cuddling and loving words to lift her up. For Gus, love looks like an engaged playmate and someone to rub his feet when he’s tired. For N, love looks like all of that, plus firm boundaries and someone who can sit beside her in all of her anger and not reflect anger back at her. I am learning, slowly learning, to see her hurt, but not mirror it. 

Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting hurt kids is super hard. I think hosting is an incredible opportunity, but I cannot tell you it’s always easy. It’s not. Not easy, but absolutely worth it. 

Hosting: Real Talk

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

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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.
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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.
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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!

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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!
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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.

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

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.
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There was watermelon, too.
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Today, we headed to the state park we camped at several weeks ago and went to the beach.
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These 4 had a lot of fun.
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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.”