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Hosting Samuel

Hosting Samuel, a boy who is too old to have the option of being adopted, but just one  year young enough to be hosted by a family.  Is he too old, or would someone like him, with a beard, even benefit from the love of a family for a few weeks?  Plus, the cost right?

Hear what this host family has to say about their decision to host Samuel and his time with him–quite a few specific coincidences along the way…. 😉

 

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I’ve know about orphan hosting programs for a few years. They operate through various organizations and countries. They all have the purpose of showing love and family to a child with neither. Some also open the way for adoption, either with the host family or another family that learned about the child. While reading the blog of another adoptive family in late October, I was reminded of these programs, and I immediately felt drawn to do it this Christmas. There was only one week left to sign up, so I asked Josh right away. He was intrigued, but knew the cost was daunting.

We prayed and proceeded to fill out the preliminary application so we could access the photo listing of children available and read more information. Our initial thought was to host a preteen girl, close to Cora’s age. When we explained to our kids what we were planning to do, all three of the older ones insisted we host a boy. Some of the children listed had scholarships to help offset the cost. So we began looking at boys with scholarships. The organization, New Horizons for Children, was bringing children ages 7-17 from Latvia and Ukraine, but we knew we wanted a boy from Ukraine since that is Sophia’s birth country. It was impossible to tell by the photo listing where the kids were from, so we called the coordinator to ask which boys were from Ukraine.

Linda, our coordinator, was very helpful in explaining the ins and outs of the program. She asked if we were interested in adopting, which we are not at this time. The first boy she told us about from Ukraine was Samuel, who is 17, too old to be adopted. She told us that his orphanage director and the New Horizons volunteers were very impressed with him and really hoped he would get a chance to come over. (There were near 300 children available for hosting, but only 170 got chosen.) She explained that he had a biological brother somewhere in the Midwest that he would love to see. His younger brother, who is now 13, had been adopted 5 years ago, but they were separated long before that.

Now, not only was a 17 year old boy the opposite of what we first imagined, he had no scholarship. But the thought of a possible reunion between biological brothers was too good to turn down. We have adopted kiddos, we know what those connections mean. Linda put our mind at ease concerning teen boys, and our kids were on board. This is the first year children from his orphanage have been available, and because of his age, this would be his only chance.

The next day Josh mentioned to his chiropractor what we were thinking about doing. He offered $1,000 right away, without being told the cost. When Josh got home that night, we decided to commit. When we logged onto the website, Samuel’s picture appeared in the scholarship section, not where it had been the day before. He now had a $1000 scholarship through NHFC. With 2/3 of the fees now covered, we knew exactly what God wanted us to do.

We were given more information about Samuel and began the paperwork process and preparing for him. And NHFC began the process of looking for his bio brother. Adoption records in Ukraine are sealed. Someone, somehow, was able to get the phone number of the adoptive family from 5 years ago. Many people don’t have the same land line phone number they had 5 years ago, but this family does. And they live in Indianapolis. We happen to be the ONLY family hosting from Indiana. They were caught very off guard to learn that Sasha was coming, but soon their family was also excited to meet the young man they met in Ukraine five years ago and have prayed for ever since.

The day of his arrival came, December 17, and it was quite awkward to meet this total stranger and bring him home. Three things were very obvious: he was extremely jet lagged, he had only the clothes on his back and a passport, and he knew no English. We learned to use google translate real fast. His first Sunday here, we went to church as usual. A missionary couple that visits a few times a year pulled in right before us, and the wife, Vida, speaks Russian. Once again, God reassured us He was right here with us all. We were able to have two more visits with Vida so Samuel had someone to talk with. Vida and her husband “just happened” to be in town the same time as Samuel  :)

At first Samuel was pretty shy and only ate from the snack basket in his room. Once he was caught up to our time zone, we began to have some fun. He helped us cut down our Christmas tree on the farm and began to show off his soccer and ping pong skills. We were very thankful for the mild weather we had at Christmas time, we played a lot of basketball and went for walks and bike rides. Christmas morning was a lot of fun for all of us.

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He bonded well with all of our kids. He and Sal played with any ball they could find. Cora loved just being with him, and Eli liked pestering him. Samuel took a real liking to Sophia. I shared all of our Ukraine pictures and Sophia’s adoption story with him. He spoke to her a lot in Russian. He had never met anyone with Down syndrome and didn’t really know what it was. This isn’t surprising because people with disabilities are hidden away in Ukraine.

His second week here we went to Indianapolis to meet his brother and their family. Watching those two boys hug for the first time was like standing on holy ground. Samuel was back to being shy again, but he quickly warmed up to the their fun family of 8! We had a wonderful Ukrainian American woman come and translate a much needed conversation. Sasha was able to share family history with them and tell all of us about his future plans. And his little brother shared with him about Jesus. Sasha stayed with them for three nights and loved every minute.

 

Some of the things we got to enjoy with him were visiting French Lick, laser tag, an Indiana Pacers game (great seats were donated to us!), staying in a hotel with a pool, bowling, lots of basketball (even in our cousins’ hayloft), skating twice (by his request), lots of shopping, his first Chinese restaurant, pizza so many times our kids started complaining (his favorite!), sledding, making a snowman, seeing a friend’s Mustang collection. And he got in on some farm action too, like building fence and picking up trash. We learned he is a computer whiz, and he can eat his weight in yogurt and apples if pizza is not available. He gained 7 pounds while here.

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We got to learn a little about his home, though it was hard with the language barrier. He showed us many pictures of his orphanage, which also contains his school. We learned that he likes to draw and he wants to take college classes in computer programming. He has a great relationship with many of his teachers and the orphanage director. He graduates this May and will have to leave his home of 10 years. He has plans for this time in his life, but we’re not sure if he realizes how difficult it will be. Thankfully, the orphanage director is good at looking after the kids, even after they age out. Our translator assured us that he has a good head on his shoulders and is making good life decisions. He doesn’t want to follow in the poor footsteps of his family. She thinks Samuel has what it takes to make it in that difficult place, and we do too.12695173_1116108148408130_1688972640_o

Samuel returned to Indianapolis for a another weekend with his brother and did all kinds of fun stuff there too. They exchanged email addresses, as well as planned to keep in touch via skype, facebook, and instagram. I know there were sad goodbyes. I believe that God brought some healing and peace to both of those boys through re-uniting them.

NHFC asks that all the kids have vision and dental exams during the visit. Sophia’s eye doctor,  donated that for us, and reported that Samuel’s eyes are perfect. He wasn’t so lucky at the dentist office. He teeth were very dirty and needed 6 fillings. While Samuel didn’t exactly like this, he understood that it was for his good. Our dentist,  donated all of the service, over $1000 in dental work.

As departure time grew near, we began trying to squeeze everything into his bags. We were given very specific luggage dimensions, and it didn’t look like it was going to be enough space! He had clothes, 3 pairs of shoes, lots of toiletries, two soccer balls, and gifts for teachers. We managed to get it all in, with lots of squeezing and some space saver bags. In those last few days we also printed photos from his visit. He loved selecting pictures at the kiosk in CVS and then putting them in albums. He had over 200 pictures from here and Indianapolis. And he asked me to email them all too:) We also exchanged contact info.

The day we headed to the airport, January 16, was sad. As we were loading the van and preparing to leave our garage, he turned the van off, closed the garage door, and said no. But we had to do it. His chaperon reported that there were tears on the plane, and there were certainly tears in our van. Many of you commented early on that you didn’t know how we could send him back. I truly thought it would be easy, it was part of the deal. I was wrong! Sending him back has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. God gave me a mother’s love for him, and even though he is nearly a grown man with a beard, my eyes see him as a little child. We saw so many glimpses of a child that has had to grow up too fast, robbed of innocence and joy.

Some of you have asked about future visits. Unfortunately, the USA does not grant student visas, or even visiting visas, to Ukrainians. It is very difficult for them to come here. It is not difficult for Americans to go there though. So someday we hope to visit Samuel while visiting Sophia’s family. And his brother would also like to visit someday. Social media will be a great way to keep in touch. And we are researching ways to support him from afar. The best support we can give him right now is to encourage him, pray for him, and believe in him. He is a treasure! And God showed all of us that he has Samuel in the palm of His hand and is caring for him more than any of us could.

To all of you that bought items for him, slipped us money, gave us food, or just said an encouraging word, thank you so much. He could never understand all that went into the hosting, and we didn’t anticipate how much it would cost us, financially, emotionally, or time wise. But it was so worth it. And you all were a tremendous support. Once again, God has broke our hearts for what breaks His, and we will never be the same. Samuel amazed us with his resiliency. We hope that you see God’s hand in Samuel’s story, and that you are encouraged to reach out to those who need the tangible love of God, in our neighborhoods or across the ocean. And be warned, our kids are pretty fond of hosting:)

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Learn more about hosting here: New Horizons for Children

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Essential Oils Give Away

Hi!

I’ve been wanting to give away some good gift recently, I have a couple bottles of oils saved as gifts.  I want to pair the giving with people who are interested in trying and sampling Essential Oils.  Whether you are brand new to oils, or have a specific few tried and true and want to branch out, oil samples are a great way to start.   Our family runs off Essential Oils, during homework time, during head aches, tummy aches, colds, cloudiness, yoga time, cleaning, calming, motivating, etc.

 

I am offering each sample vial for $4, order one, or as many as you’d like to use.  With each order someone requests from me, I always include a little booklet or information to go along with it so that you can use them confidently.

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For any oil order, I am including a sample of Peppermint for free.  I love letting people try Peppermint because it is so versatile; headaches, tummy aches, sour mouth.  I keep one in the car for us–plus, with all essential oils, they smell great and are naturally calming.

So, if you are interested in trying oils for the first time, or trying some new oils (Like the new Motivate oil, which we are loving) email me here: amy@tinygreenelephants.com and tell me what you would like.  You can see a full list of oils here under Single Oils and Oil Blends here. 

Within three sample packages I send out this week, there will be a surprise, it will either be a full sized bottle of Peppermint, a fulled sized bottle of Wild Orange, and one will have a bottle of the new Motivate oil.  All orders will come with a free sample of Peppermint.  I want to make this as fun and easy as possible for anyone on the fence, or who have thought about look into Essential Oils one day and we can let you try them now.

If you are wondering what oils you’d like to try, here are a couple posts explaining some of the ones we use throughout the day:

Essential Oils for Adopted Children

Winter Remedies

DDR Prime

Best Oils for Travel

Essential Oils Basics

 

No matter the oils you try, using Essential Oils is a pleasing experience.  I am very excited about giving some of you those surprise bottles, and happy to give all of you a free sample of Peppermint.  My empty vials are ready to be filled with oily goodness.

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Enjoy and take care,
Amy

(This is an extra special one, we love it, it is available to be sampled, too)

 

Find more info about oils and ordering for full sized here: http://www.mydoterra.com

 

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Always Growing

Maria started a new school last week.  It’s a great school, or so we heard.  We met a girl her age at a Halloween party, “Most kids are sad to go to school, but we are all sad for the weekend because the school is so amazing, and the LIBRARY is HUGE!” she told us through her glasses.

I kicked Maria under the table, my little book lover. She was like, chill mom, while shyly nodding at the girl.

We applied, hoping for a change, thinking maybe next year, but she was able to get in this winter semester.  She started last Monday and came home standing a bit taller, a noticeable difference.  “Everyone was nice, everyone said hi to me, they all sat with me at lunch, everyone…I had this buddy, she was with me the whole time, and everyone greeted me.”  Our three year struggle, seemingly gone today.  Andrew dropped her off the next day and two girls called her name and ran to greet her.  Maria was bewildered, then happy, Andrew beamed.  Her homework is short, she has more time for the hobbies she loves like reading, crochet, piano, playing games, she recently got a skateboard and loves it. We are all loving it.  It’s also a K-12 school so I could send the boys there next year, too.  I guess they have 500 kinder applicants a year, but they would have a better chance with a sibling there, although I would be sad to say goodbye to Finley’s Spanish school, it’s wonderful.

Maria has gone to BSF with Andrew since she first came home from Russia.  It’s the lazy parent’s actual dream come true if you are looking for your child to read the bible deeply, and to experience a tangible awe of him, reverence for his wisdom.  She gets her homework sheets, and all on her own she reads her passages, contemplating the verses, allowing His constant goodness to soak into her.  She surprises me by how much she knows sometimes.   And it’s never been easy like, “Welcome!  We’re studying the book of Philippians!” but she has read through the life of Moses, Genesis, each verse, and now we are all studying Revelation.  It’s not Andrew and I trying to foster some sort of affection for God, or sitting down trying to convey biblical messages, but on her own with the free notes, she reads and learns and then discusses it in her class while Andrew is in his.  Because it’s mostly all independent, she will surprise me when I hear her teaching the little ones something about God, or having a deep knowledge of things even some adults (like me, hah!) don’t know.   She loves the kids in her class and her teachers, too.

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She is getting ready for her first missions trip to Mexico, she can’t wait. It’s the same trip I went on when I was in high school, it was simple, living in tents, no showers, running a VBS for poor local children in the pure dust of open land and wild and free worship at night, buying warm tortillas on the crumbling corner and passing them around to everyone in our van, painting the local zoo, but it was a life changing experience for me.  She and some of the other local adopted junior high girls are going to go.  They are starting to get excited, although nervous as it is a new experience for them.  We just told them, “Don’t have any fun, don’t help lots of sweet kids, sing and dance during worship and don’t buy junk food at the local tiendas without all your moms there, k?”  They laugh and giggled at the thought.  “I just want to help the kids,” Maria told me.  “They will love you,” I told her.

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She recently went on a daddy date with Andrew to go see Start Wars and told him, “I’ll remember this day forever!!”

 

 

Finley is loving his little school.  I am surprised by what that teacher is able to get her class to do.  He’s learning so much, and sometimes I forget that he’s hearing Spanish all day.  Our friends will speak to him in Spanish, he’ll respond in English, but understanding.  He’s developing a little accent, ‘Gor-ee-ya’ he’ll say pointing at a Gorilla.

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He is our little thinker, sensitive and quiet.  Well…except the other day when a neighbor who lives behind us and comes into her back yard to smoke came out.  We’ve never said anything to her ourselves since we have loud chickens and children and a rooster, and a drummer, but Finley looked at Poppy while on the trampoline, “PLEASE STOP SMOKING!!!!!”  Me with the look of panic in my eye, not moving so she wouldn’t know I was present…  “Mom…why is she ignoring us?  Mom…is she going to *wait let me just take 10 deep breathes as I remember his words and type them* is she going to die!?!?

“Finley….shhhhh, ” as I motioned them inside with stiff hand motions and zero chill.

“Why mom??  WHY??  Why are we going inside?  I asked you if she is going to die…” totally shattering the intended illusion that I wasn’t present with them in the back yard…

He loves listening to Peter and the Wolf, riding his bike, but mostly doing art.  That’s his thing, art art all day long.  Paper and crayons or pencils.  Mostly people.

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Elijah, our sweet little buddy.  Elijah struggles a hard battle with his sensory system and other issues due to his early lack of care and affection; hold and love your babies, you aren’t spoiling them.  What’s interesting is that deep inside is a heart that is pure gold, one of the kindest, most thoughtful hearts.  But when he is unregulated or overwhelmed, there’s not much that can stop him.

He starts more OT with an official evaluation next month that took all the time in the world to organize and arrange, oy vey.  One night we were praying for him, I wish I could say I was constantly praying for his healing, but I am not.  But I particularly remember praying for him one night, and the next day I was treating warts on the bottom of his feet with oregano oil, sitting on his bottom while he flailed his feet because it tickles so much.  I turned around and put my hands on his back and cracked his back maybe 20 times.  It shocked me how many times, he was so tense, like a brick wall.  I started massaging his back, hard as a rock, and afterwards he snuggled into me and was very calm afterwards.  The entire day.  He has started asking for massages, ‘howd massages’ and then curls his back and is on the verge of tears through the discomfort of them, but loves them.  So weird.  So strange, and helping him so much.  He is much more regulated and can sit still through much more. This is all the day AFTER we said that prayer.  It makes me remember how much I can rely on God in the moment.  I would agree with that in my mind,  I know it to be true… but most often just try to get things done myself, without calling on a loving, wise God who is always present.

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I have been slowly continuing my Marie Kondo house reclaiming and it is changing my life for the better.  We cleaned out under the house, and now are slowing working through the garage.  I feel like it’s giving me more time to do things I care about, which seems strange, how can cleaning out under my house and taking 2 car trips to the thrift store of things I never even really see on a daily basis give me more time and peace?  She talks about it in her book, but I didn’t believe it until now.  Yesterday, while the kids napped I took down my ‘fabric box.’  Because, what, am I ever going to craft?  What is even in here?  I’m all about looking through my stuff now, though.  I found an old curtain and 10 year old lighting McQueen fabric and decided to make a weighted blanket for Elijah.  I had the space, the time, plus I’d be clearing out stuff…(Let’s be honest, that was more of my motivation than anything else 😉  So I sewed and sewed, the kids woke up and watched as I poured in a tiny cupful of rice into each square before sealing it up.  Maria came home from school and watched, too.  I felt very motherly with my sewing machine, and Elijah bragged to anyone who would listen that this was ‘his Lighting McQueen blanket.’  I had taken Poppy to story time that morning and gotten a few books, one cute one called A Beautiful Mess all about DIY projects and Maria read all the pages, planning out what we could make.  She and Finley found a blanket that you sew streets and a town onto and then drive toy cars on, they dog-eared it for when I was done with the weighted blanket.

I finished the blanket that night, Andrew had to buy me extra rice, but it was otherwise a free blanket.  I was about to buy one for $150 online.  Elijah is loving it.  He is sleeping longer, not getting out of his bed, but feels secure and cozy.  And I am officially going through that random fabric box!!  (Me=overly excited)

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“You should make them and sell them!”

“That will never happen.”

 

Poppy:  So sweet, so easy.  She’s like butter in your arms.  She makes people feel amazing about themselves because she is so loving.  She receives infant ed from the same teacher Elijah had when he was two, and we LOVE her, and speech therapy.  All these ladies come to our home, for free, and play with Poppy for an hour, she feels so special and loved.  Poppy still can’t really talk, she just babbles through some of her favorite sounds, but with the biggest smile, so it works.

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Andrew and Maria started calling her BB8, a robot from Start Wars that just rolls around babbling things that no one can understand.  She can, however, say BB8 proudly.  I had thought that we might experience some racism, but it’s only been the opposite.  Even older people at Costco will go out of their ways to smile at her and comment about her as she grins at them.  Hmmm, maybe what I assumed was ageist.  She loves library story time and ensures each time that she is front and center and sits through the whole thing, so different than my boys.  I love our library story time, the guy who reads is so strict that parents can’t be on their phones, and I love meeting local people.

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All my kids get along very well and are good friends, except Poppy and Elijah; they are frienemies.  Sometimes they are best friends playing tea party, and other times they go out of their way to bug each other.  Elijah tries so hard to make sure she is doing the right thing, and just ends up in trouble.  And when he bugs her, she’ll try to bug him on purpose.  We thought she was pure sugar, but Elijah brings out her sass.  Maria and Finley though are best friends.

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She takes a tap ballet class and she loves it, but I kind of feel bad for her.  Her dance skills are so much better than what they offer.  All the other little girls can speak in full sentances, wheras Poppy cannot.  “What is your favorite Disney princess!?!?!?” the teacher will ask.  All the girls describe in full detail, and when asked Poppy, will just smile, and nod, so confused.  She will even smile and laugh at the teacher, with no answer, and the poor teacher is like, “Well….Poppy?”  She can’t even say the word princess.  But then she dances with her whole body, head and all, while the other girls run to the sidelines or scratch their heads.  Poppy LOVES to dance, hoping to switch her out of ballet when she’s three.

Poppy is slowly learning to eat healthy.  She used to cry when we’d serve her salad, and we’d be like, “Awww, so sad you need to eat this…” but she’s developing a taste for it.  In her mind, she just wants to eat chips and cheese, like, “Mom, this is obvious the only good stuff…”

Ok, BB8.

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Andrew started reading a Wrinkle in Time to the kids at night.

We started everyone on a 7pm bedtime, 7 meaning the door is closed at 7pm, so they are in bed earlier.

I had my floors professionally cleaned yesterday and Elijah burst a full pee diaper into a million small white pieces all over it this morning…  He cleaned up most of it himself.

Our family loves counseling, Maria is doing EMDR which is phenominal and her counselor is now down the street from her new school, a dream.  I wish I had the skills of a counselor, to have life giving words for people when they share their hearts with me, what a gift of true, actual freedom and healing.  I remember a counselor sharing that many people are trapped in the pain or abuse or hurt from their past and can only function as half a person because they are constantly thinking about it.  Then while parenting, they can’t pull out their child’s gifts or strengths because they are not quiet whole.   I called my friend who suffered through unthinkable sexual abuse growing up, but never received counseling because as she said, “Mexicans don’t talk about feelings.”  I told her about half a person, and she said, “That’s me…” and went to counseling.  There was a visible difference in weeks, she looked lighter, a breathe of life in her face.  But counseling isn’t just for the abused or orphaned, it’s for anyone wanting to process life.  We cope constantly trying to survive feelings, even busyness can be a way to not feel some overwhelming feelings, and counseling isn’t a bandaid leaving the wound beneath still present, but can be the link to freedom and a life of a rich fullness, ability and connection.

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The other night Maria said, “Mom…can we please stop listening to Justin Beiber?”

So I kindly responded, “Oh Maria, I do so much for you…no.”

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Where are my BSF people?  If you are in BSF, or have been, write a comment sharing what you are learning or like about it, I would love to hear since we are all studying the same thing around the world :)

 

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Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity // luke 6.38

 

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