Tag Archives: hosting

14/365: Goodbye

Right now, Big L is on a plane over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Late last night, we went to the store to pick up the family photos from yesterday and get some last minute things. I asked Big L what she needed and she hesitated for a bit, then told me “shampoo”. More hesitation and then the gesture for hair ties. “Anything else? … toothpaste? toothbrush? (joking) a diaper?” “Hmmm… mama to go to [home country].” Oh my girl, how I wish I could.

We woke her up very early this morning. When she walked out of the bathroom after getting dressed, wearing the Me + Family = Awesome shirt that she picked out for this hard day, her eyes were red and puffy. I held my arms out and she curled her body into mine. Her face was pressed against my sleeve and I could barely feel that silent, painful cry that all orphans know. I had no magic words, nothing to make this morning better. I just kissed her forehead, told her that I love her, and held her there as long as I could. Sometimes, there’s no better, no numbing the pain.

(“We love you.”)

Many people have told me they could never host because they couldn’t do the goodbye. Well, folks, it’s just as hard as you think it is. The anticipation of that goodbye has been sneaking up on me all week and the emotion hit me when she walked out the door. But, the goodbye reminded me exactly why we host. The hard goodbye tells me that we did it right. We loved her well and once again, we became her family. We gave her a small break from the hard life of a parent-less preteen and a soft place to land away from the conflicts of her “real life”. 3.5 weeks just to be a kid. 3.5 weeks to get all of the hugs and kind words and love that we could give her. So, yes, the goodbye was hard, but it was so, so worth it. We did our best and loved her well. And, she loved us well, too.

We’re aching over here, missing the daughter and big sister we all love. Gus told me today, “Mama, I fink I wost [Big L]. I wooked for her and I can’t find her.” Lots of people have asked if we have plans to host her again and/or adopt her. We haven’t made any plans yet, which isn’t to say that it won’t happen, but it’s unclear at the moment. We’re taking things one day at a time and praying for her future.

12/365: Sunsets

After putting Big L’s photo album together last night and realizing there was not a single photo of me and only a couple with Aaron, I had the goal to get a family photo today. I wanted to make it quick and easy, as it was too cold to do it outside, and it’s not like Big L needed anything fancy.

We snapped a couple after Reed and Lena got home from school.

Eh. Here’s the tickle version.

As I was getting ready to order prints of these, Aaron said, “do you want to go to the overlook?” It was about time for sunset, so we quickly piled into the van.

I grabbed the tripod and my gear as we headed out the door.

Better, but I should have told Aaron to wear his nicer coat! Oops.

They asked me to snap this one.

It seemed pretty appropriate that we watched the sun set together as the (cheesy metaphorical) sun set on Big L’s visit. When the sun rises again, she’ll be on a plane to another part of the US, the first step to her departure.


Our house definitely has a somber feeling to it this evening. Last time when we said goodbye, we thought we would be starting her adoption and that made it easier for us (although not for her, as we were not allowed to tell her). But, this time is different. We really don’t know when we’ll see her again and that’s hard. 😦 I’m wondering how we’ll get through the next few days as it hits the kids that she’s gone and we have no answers for the future. One step at a time, I suppose.

12/365: Silly

Big L gets completely silly after the younger 3 go to bed. She didn’t do this over the summer, but parents of preteens and teens tell me this is normal. I have to admit, it can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes. I’m used to sort of crashing after my kids go to bed. Give me some chocolate and a Downton Abbey marathon, okay?

But, this is pretty much how things are…

But, it’s our time together and it’s all good, especially as this is the second to last night we’ll have a chance to do this. 😦

We played a bunch of games of Skip-Bo tonight.

Big L also wrapped Aaron up in a blanket.

Like I said… totally silly.


We’re getting ready for our last day together tomorrow. She and Aaron will leave very early on Wednesday, actually arriving at their destination around the time I drop the kids off at school. Pray for us if you think of it.

11/365: Cats

I want to pack in the fun stuff, when Big L only has a few days left with us. So, today we went to Cedar Cove Feline Sanctuary. This is the third time we’ve been here, but I think it’s been over 3 years!

The tigers were Big L’s favorite.2015-01-11_0001

On the left is a serval. On the right is a bobcat. When Gus saw the bobcat, he said, “Hi, my name is Gus. What’s your name? Do you want to be friends?”

This guy is a cougar named Tom. When we walked over to him, one of the volunteers was petting him. Tom walked off and the volunteer got up and turned away. Tom walked over and looked at him like this. It’s that classic cat look, “Where are you going?”

Voodoo is a gorgeous leopard. They got out a piece of meat to get him out of his den so we could see him.


This is Shanta, the lioness.

And Tonka, the lion. I enjoy seeing all of the animals, but Tonka is a sight to behold. Huge, gorgeous and that mane. He is getting his neck scratched by his favorite human.

Yup, that’s the spot.

Last, we saw the wolves.

And also the orange tigers.


Aaron’s favorite was the cougar. Reed’s, Lena’s, and mine were the lion. Gus’s was the lion and the cat (probably the bobcat).

I think that Cedar Cove should be a “must visit” for families (and animal lovers) in the KC area. You have the opportunity to not just see the animals, but also to learn a lot about them. I was really impressed that the facility is totally staffed by volunteers and volunteers who seem to love it there. At least two of the volunteers had been there 3.5 years ago when we were there, too! It’s definitely worth a trip to go see the cats and learn about them.

10/365: Split Lighting

Split lighting is where you use light to illuminate just one side of your subject’s face. I had an idea for using split lighting for a portrait of Big L. I ended up not getting quite what I wanted, but the kids and I had some fun goofing off.

Lena is almost always my test subject, when I need someone to stand still and/or take instruction. She is definitely my most comfortable in front of the camera and also the most patient.

The middle expression is just a blank expression. What she gives me when I tell her not to smile, but not frown either.


The one on the right is what I got when I told her “you don’t need to smile”. The death stare.

Then, we did some up close shots of eyes. Because, why not?

Again, she was both the most still and had the most natural expressions. You can also see a bit of her rash from the strep throat she is getting over.

This guy was willing, but still is not something he’s very good at. Being 3 and all.

Big L is definitely silly. We love that about her.

She has beautiful eyes.


Just some silly portraits. Because Big L only has 3 full days left with us, I’m trying to pack in the memories. Her trip has gone by so fast.

9/365: Wonderscope and Fritz’s

Realizing that Big L’s time left with us was very limited, I decided to take a day off this week. Friday ended up being the best day.

I wanted to take Big L and Gus to the Kansas City Children’s Museum, called Wonderscope. I’ve been there a few times with Reed and Lena, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken Gus. The last time I remember going was about a month before he came home.

Wonderscope has a lot of different rooms to play in.

This is the vet and doctor room, where Gus is managing the vet office. (If you want to see Reed and Lena playing in the same room and looking really tiny, here you go.)

The room on the left is pretty fun. Golf balls and tracks that you can build. Right is Big L looking into the spaceship where Gus was playing.

We spent the most time in the building room, mostly with the Megablocks and Magnatiles.

But, Gus’s favorite was the fish. His love of fish and the calm that they bring him, as well as a Facebook friend’s post about how kids sleep better with a fish tank in their room, has me thinking. But, the location of his room would make it really hard to clean a fish tank. Anyone have experience with artificial fish tanks or alternatives to the traditional fish tank?

So, we didn’t spent as long at Wonderscope as I had hoped. I remember Reed and Lena really enjoying it and I think that they still would. But, I think that Gus and Big L’s ages are just too young and too old to really take advantage of everything. Which was interesting, because all of the kids we saw there were in the 1-4 year old range, but I’m guessing lots of their families have memberships and don’t mind coming for shorter visits.

When I told my mom we were going to Wonderscope, she said that we had to go to Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant afterwards. They have a location pretty close to Wonderscope.

You make a phone call on this phone to place your order.

Meanwhile, trains keep circling overhead. And then, the train brings your food!

Gus was clapping with delight. A train that brings him chicken nuggets?! This must be too good to be true!

Big L was pretty amused by the whole thing too, and not too old to appreciate the hat they gave Gus.

Fritz’s gets a 5/5 from us. It’s a definite must for little kids who love trains, but we all enjoyed it, not just Gus. The prices are just a bit more expensive than typical fast food and the food is great.

It’s hard to believe that Big L is here for just a few more days. I’m glad I took a day off to spend some time with these two, even if Wonderscope wasn’t as popular as I had hoped.

8/365: Worn Out

These long cold mornings and getting up early for school are wearing us out. Even Nina agrees with me.



She came and jumped into bed with me tonight. She doesn’t do that a lot, but I think she wanted some quiet time, away from Aaron and Big L’s crazy card game. Me too, Nina, me too.