Category Archives: Orphan Care

Family Needed ASAP

I interrupted your regularly scheduled programming to talk to you about a sweet, sweet girl who needs a family ASAP. She will be 16 and age out this summer, so we need to find her a family NOW.

She is in Lyuda’s former orphanage and she came for hosting and flew into the same airport. I’ve had many interactions with this girl, talk often with her former host family and all around she seems to be a genuine sweetheart. She’s the one we talk about as we drive away, wondering how we can find her a family.

I asked her host dad to write a bit about her so that I could share it with you all.

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She is on the left and Lyuda is on the right.

Now, from her host family:

I is an absolute delight to be around. She is thoughtful, caring and considerate. She has much to offer, and really only lacks the guidance of a loving family to truly reach her potential.

She can seem a bit shy at first, but once she recognizes a person can be trusted, she is as warm and affectionate as can be. In some ways, I is very mature and seems older than her age – for example she is very responsible, is tidy and takes good care of her belongings. She is very helpful and eager to please. Other times she seems much younger, like when she craves attention or is surprised by something. (She definitely likes structure, and chance meetings with new people can be awkward.)

I is very smart and talented. Her English improved dramatically while with her host family. She also enjoys reading, and is very knowledgeable about current events and the news – and has definite opinions about them! She is talented – she likes to sing and dance, and also enjoys crafts. She excels at embroidery. Her future plans are to attend school to be a chef.

I got along extremely well with her host family’s younger daughters, who adored her. She played with them, and helped get them ready for school and trips out. Watching her hold their hands in parking lots and crossing streets was amazing! It took her some time to warm up to kids closer to her own age, but she would very likely benefit from teens who could help “show her the ropes,” so to speak.

She is a bit of a picky eater, but she’s hardly the first teen girl like that! She LOVES apples and could eat them at every meal. Yogurt and blueberries are also big hits – she’ll eat really any fruit. And, of course, Ukrainian foods – things with potatoes! Ham is good, but not hamburgers! And since she works in an apiary, she loves honey and has a thing for bees and bee-themes items.

Bottom line, she is a very sweet girl who simply is not ready for the “real world” but could truly thrive with the right support. She really just wants to love and be loved!

Please reach out to me if you are interested in adopting I! I’d love to talk to you about her.

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?

N’s Birthday

N turned 9 years old a few weeks ago. We celebrated twice– once in a small party with my family and once on her actual birthday at home.

My mom baked these fantastic cupcakes. I stood and watched her, trying to soak up some of her cupcake decorating skills.
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We surprised her by celebrating with my family. When she realized what we were doing, she asked to call her chaperone. The chaperone said she was so excited and wanted a photo of everyone together. 2015-08-09_0001

A simple request, but clearly it meant something to her. 2015-08-09_0002

She showed a ton of appreciate for each card, reading them carefully. I really don’t know that I’ve ever seen a child express so much gratitude.

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My niece picked out this stuffed dog from her collection and gave it to N. 2015-08-09_0004

One of our gifts to N was a pair of sneakers. It’s a truly practical gift– have something of good quality to take back with her and wear for the fall. Sneakers because this girl is so active! I thought it would be a boring gift, but it turned out to be one of her favorites. She even wore them to bed! 2015-08-09_0005

We celebrated N’s birthday the second time on her actual birthday. We arrived home from Pennsylvania that day, so we just had store bought cupcakes and gave her one gift.  2015-08-09_0006

Celebrating N’s birthday was a lot of fun! I think she truly appreciated

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.”

Shampoo?

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

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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.
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Catching fireflies.
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