Friday, July 5, 2013

New Horizons for Children Hosting

I should start by saying, for those who don't know, that we moved to Florida! That's a whole other story in itself that I'll save for another day. For now, I want to start journaling about our time with the sweet Eastern European boy we are hosting. (For privacy sake, I am not going to name him or his country online. If you are curious about any of these details, feel free to ask me by email.)

I first read about New Horizons for Children late one night when I couldn't sleep. I came across the website while reading through different international adoption sites. (Adoption is one of my favorite interests to read and learn about. Whether we ever adopt or not, I just find every story - the good and the bad - so compelling.)

I immediately loved the idea of hosting an orphan for (approximately) 5 weeks. Soon after Ryan and I were married, I started talking to him about hosting a foreign student one day. He was pretty much like, "Are you crazy? Um, no." And it was probably even more adamant and definite than that even sounds. But I wasn't deterred ("It'll be fine. You'll see. You'll love it.") and even sent off for an informational video - VHS at the time; that's how long ago that was. And since I've always (and Ryan is interested, too) wanted to adopt internationally, orphan hosting seemed to be the perfect combination.

I filled out the informational registration to view the photolisting for hosting, and as I looked through the pictures of such precious little faces, I wanted to start hosting the next day. I think, at the time, winter hosting was about to begin so I put it into the back of my mind. Plus, I needed time to get Ryan used to the idea.

Fast forward a few months when it was time for the summer photolisting to become available and registration to begin. I stalked the list as new pictures were added by the minute. I realized what an impossible task it would be to choose between all of these precious, smiling, hopeful faces.

But then I saw S's photo. I looked into his sweet brown eyes, maybe saw a little bit of myself, and was hooked. (It was an interesting discussion within the NHFC summer hosting group on facebook about how you notice that most of the host kids actually do look like their host families - even the ones of different ethnicities! That is clear when you see the family group photos.)

The kids really enjoyed looking through the kids' photos and reading their bios. They were like me and also wanted to bring many of them home forever. Reading through the bios and looking at the photos became a daily activity of ours. We prayed over them all.

My husband wasn't immediately on board. Ryan has a heart for having a big family. He has a heart for international adoption. He has a heart for overseas missions. But he works really, really hard and is really, really tired. It's understandable that he doesn't want to take on another thing obviously. But he saw the excitement in the kids and me, hopefully it rubbed off on him, and he joined in on the planning. There wasn't really any discussion on who we were going to pick. It was S all along, and even though we wished we could bring more than one to our home, there is a rule about not hosting more unrelated child. This was a surprising move for us, really, because it was decided long ago that if we ever adopted (and so it would seem the same for hosting), we would choose a girl to help round out the family. We can only say that we believe it must be God's hands, for whatever reason, leading us to this particular child at this particular moment. I certainly wouldn't sign up, all on my own, for more testosterone, noise, and smelliness, etc. in my house. :) (I love my boys!!! I really would take 10 more just like 'em.)

Therefore, in February we were signed up with our deposit made (host families are responsible for paying for the child's airfare, passport, visa, and other costs related to chaperones, translators, etc.). June seemed a long way off, but we weren't necessarily in a hurry because we had a lot to do between then and now, including selling our house and moving to Florida. (If that sounds very non-chalant, there has been nothing non-chalant about the past few months. Not considering any time in my life that included the death or poor health of any loved one which obviously majorly trumps any of this, this has been one of the most difficult times in our lives. There was A LOT to do.) None of this was the best of timing. It's hard to explain when you feel God's nudging toward, "Yes, THIS." So THIS is what we did.

Finally, after our applications had been typed up, our references verified, security clearances checked off, home safety visit made, a day of hosting training completed, the guest bedroom and bathroom filled with all of the necessities, and a plethora of prayers had been sent up, it was time to meet our little guy at the airport. The problem with condensing many months of work into one blog post is underestimation. There was more to do than I can even summarize. This included lots of fun and healthy anticipation, as well.

I do not want to leave out the huge amount of support and encouragement we received from our friends and family. My friend Kourtney unexpectedly handed me $80 toward our hosting fees; she also donated so many great items for me to sell at our 2-day garage sale (where we made $560). I didn't ask her for money; she just has a heart for the program and felt led to do so. When we moved, I handed our leftover garage sale items to a couple of my friends in Arkansas who were having a sale. They went to so much more work dealing with my stuff and mailing me a check, which we are using for hosting, too. I am so grateful for all of this.

I enjoyed "meeting" other host families on facebook and sharing my concerns, questions, and excitement. Many of them had traveled this road before, and there were plenty of stories (some good, some not good) to help us prepare. I would definitely say that the overwhelming theme to those who have hosted before is a positive one. Even those who had a hard time with their host child could tell that a difference had been made, and there are few regrets.

To Be Continued!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's a New Post! (Part One)

There are so many things going on in our lives right now that I need to get caught up so I can start blogging about it all. I'm going to sift through all of my pictures from November and post a big assortment of things that have been going on. They will be in no particular order, and there will be a Part Two.

I had put a lot of work into a post many months ago, then I didn't save it on my computer; that is the main reason for my absence. When that happened, it was frustrating enough that I didn't have the heart to redo it. I just wasn't interested in blogging for awhile. However, the kids (led mostly by the interest of my 8 year old) have been SOAKING up our scrapbooks and photo albums lately. Looking through them has been their FAVORITE activity. They love the ones I have written bits of information on - which affirms to me that my efforts in recording our family history are worth it to them. So back to blogging!

just another day at work

and another

We joined some homeschooling friends for a field trip to watch City Mouse, Country Mouse, Christmas House at the Arkansas Arts Center in December. It was followed by the best tour of an art museum I've ever had. I loved walking around with our museum volunteer and thought she did such a a great job engaging the students and exploring the works of art.

Upward Basketball

A new addition to our year was Upward Basketball in Jauary. It was a lot of fun to watch Dash play, and I was proud of how well he did. We were really excited when he scored the first goal of the season during the first game. The Upward program was very impressive to us, as well. Sis is super excited about cheerleading next year.

A New Year
 Our New Year's Eve celebration included Auld Lang Syne, a dance party, and...

4 sparkling juices to toast plus one soymilk (Tornado isn't a fan of carbonation.). 

We love our little AWANA program. It's one of the favorite things in our lives. These two really shine in this group, and they've gained a lot with building relationships and wisdom in memorizing scripture.

This pic was taken after they both took home awards at the AWANA Grand Prix. His car won first place in his division for Speed and then went on to win Grand Champion over all of the divisions. Keep in mind that this car started out as a rectangular chunk of wood. The pastor's car was in 2nd place during the final race to find the overall winner. After the race, he came up to Dash and asked to see his car. He turned it over and over, examining it, perhaps to find out the secret to a winning car, ha!

Sis's purple "flowerdy" beauty won First Place for Design. I was happy that they were successful; we had told them we were just doing it for fun and not to expect anything as we did not. 

Baby's Life
This picture was taken when he was about 8 or 9 months old when he first started pulling up. After he graduated from the Bumbo seat, I was able to put him in the laundry basket for a week or so. He then figured out he could rock it over. So I gained another few days putting the basket in the bathtub. That didn't last last, either, as he soon popped up like this. And it's been a crazy life here ever since.

big boy bath

another shot of him (last fall) learning to pull up and get into things 

One day he crawled into this empty puzzle box and proceeded to clap his hands.

He does love to eat.

This is one of his favorite activities. The kids started out putting him in it whenever he was sturdy enough to go for rides without my supervision. NOW, he just gets into it on his own and grunts his signature grunt of communication, "UH-UH!" to let someone know he is ready for a ride.

Homegrown Kids Co-op
Baby did not know if he was amused or not when the kids were using his head during...

their experiments with static electricity.

The boys made earthworm homes with layers of soil and sand. We had some earthworms living with us for a few days before they set them free in our yard.

Home and Family Life
Another puzzle completed by Tornado (with a little help from all of us). 
Two pieces missing at the end. 
It never fails.

One of my worst moments of the past few months was listening to Sissy's screams followed by Ryan's calls for help. I flew down the stairs with my heart racing to see a lot of blood, tears, and panic. We took her to the ER for stitches. She did not move a muscle when the doctor was sewing her up. That's one of her best qualities. She is strong and compliant when she needs to be. I'm always so proud of her whenever we are in important situations. I know that she will be on her best behavior. And even though I had a superficial concern she was going to have a Frankenstein-like scar on her forehead, it has actually already faded to where it is hardly noticeable.

Somehow along the way, a new family tradition started. We have really gotten into playing games as a family. Our favorite game is Outburst Jr. The tradition is that the losing team has to tuck their shirts into their pants, get ice down the backs of their shirt.

Then, they have to run all the way around the house with the ice in their shirts/pants. This went on all winter.

At some point the past few months, Dash started this activity of zipping himself up in a sleeping bag, then inching around the house like a worm. 

He even went down the entire staircase like this a couple of times. Sometimes I don't ask questions.

This was a nice late winter day in Arkansas. We loaded up with a picnic for the park.

Baby hasn't had many visits to the park, so this might have been his first time down the slide? It was definitely his first time as a "big boy."

The kids were actually pretty impressed with my swinging expertise. I taught them to swing like this. And to twist their swing around, winding it up then letting go. And also to jump out of the swing while in the air. Clearly, they have been missing out. I did NOT teach them to push someone then run forward underneath, like I used to do.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the past few months. Sis and Baby fell asleep like this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Monkey!

For sake of time I am double posting this to both of my blogs. This month, my baby boy turned ONE so bear with me and all of my pics. I can't believe it. That's what we parents always say as our kids grow. It's true, though. I can't believe it has been a year. The infant stage of life is entirely too short for me. I wish the baby stage lasted 2 or 3 years. 

Sock Monkey theme, obviously. I went "shopping" at my parents' house for antiques to use, like this old potato crate, books, and lantern. 

painted paper mache letter: Hobby Lobby 
organic cotton stuffed monkey: 
Heidi's shop at Etsy

birthday printables: Cupcake Express at Etsy
 decoupaged paper mache 1: Hobby Lobby
old wooden Coca-Cola box: my parents

Sock Monkey Detail Birthday shirt Customize colors Boys Girls Organic Blend Birthday Tee first second etc birthda
I loved the choices from this Etsy shop
The shirt is so soft and fits so well.

mixed nuts, olives, crackers, carrots, hummus, fruit, pasta, Smiley Face fries, tater tots, soy nuggets, Gardein strips, chips, salsa, PB & J sandwiches, banana chips, and banana mini-muffins

I Love Monkey by Suzanne Kaufmann 
is a cute book about being yourself.

Dr. Oetker Organics brand
cake and frosting mixes

He really didn't know what to think about having a cupcake. Upon examining it, he thought it was weird and seemed to wonder if he was really supposed to eat it. He figured it out, though, and wanted to share with everyone. He didn't make a huge typical 1st birthday mess as it was just a little cupcake...

however, his little pal didn't seem to have any trouble.

Every monkey party needs to end with banana splits, of course.

We had Rice Dream, Almond Dream, So Delicious soy and So Delicious coconut milk ice cream (added with bananas, chocolate syrup, strawberry sauce, crushed pineapple, nut topping, sprinkles, cherries, and Soyatoo) to choose from. One non-vegan family preferred the Almond Dream, and I think one family preferred the coconut.

He did also enjoy a few bites of ice cream.

lots of sweet help opening presents

I love you, my ONE-derful little man who has brought so much joy to my life. Every day with you is fun. (Slower and more difficult, etc., but I smile and laugh so much every single day because of you.) I love that you love it when we squeeze you into a group hug. I love how you've recently been hugging your brothers and sister around the neck tightly when we tell you to give them a hug. I love how fast you army crawl toward Daddy as soon as you see he's home. I don't like how you make a face and spit out pieces of steamed veggies, but we'll work on it! I secretly love how you can be screaming inconsolably with someone else, then the moment I enter the room and pick you up, there's silence - and you sometimes even giggle through your tears because you're so happy. I love your comb-over, and I promise I'll figure out a way to style it soon. I pray for peace and goodness and all wonderful things for you. Happy birthday!

*Thank you to my photographer friend/party guest Sarah who let me use her camera at the party and took a lot of the pics for me!