The house is quieter today. A snow storm moved in and blanketed the area forcing us to abandon plans to go to the movies or sneak in a date night. Instead, we’ve stayed put and each done our own thing relatively undisturbed. It’s bittersweet. I must admit to being happy to having things “back to normal” after so much craziness over the last four weeks, but I do miss Bart and Lisa. We were finally making good progress when it was time to send them home.
Yesterday, Fulton, Teddy, Tony and I took Bart and Lisa to the airport. We spent our final hours together waiting for a delayed departure, watching them excitedly chat with other returning children, flipping repeatedly through the photo albums I made them, and hugging. Other host parents were in tears sending back children to an orphanage when they knew adoption plans were already in the works, but which would still take months. I did not cry as Bart and Lisa predicted, but only because they both remained so stoic as they moved into the security line.
They’d known for a little over a week that Friday was their last day, and originally seemed excited; packing their backpacks with trinkets and Perler bead creations. They seemed to act like they wanted to go back to Springfield, but then talked about taking us all back with them, going so far as to jokingly stuff our dog Ginger in their new rolling bags. By Thursday, both were indicating they’d prefer to stay.
And that was despite suffering through major dental work on three different occasions each. Bart wound up screaming through three extractions despite being completely numb and on nitrous oxide. Lisa got three major filling on one side of her mouth that required me to hold her down to finish. However, no sooner did we leave the dentist’s office and walk over to Dollar Tree for a couple trinkets than both would both perk up again. Sometimes I felt like I was more upset afterwards then they were.
As we passed the time at the airport, I’m sure that they were thinking more about the tractor rides, the time playing soccer, and the walks to the playground. On December 31st, we decided to visit a buffet. Bart insisted on wearing a Transformers Bumblebee costume. The waitress looked at me and exclaimed, “Are they all yours?!” and Tony and I just laughed and said, “Sort of? For a little bit anyway.” Afterwards we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. Bart loves riding shotgun and controlling the radio. I think it’s good for his English, however I wish he didn’t always insist on singing along with Alessia Cara’s ‘Scars To Your Beautiful’ song.
We didn’t stay up until midnight, and the next morning we went to Mass. I served pork and sauerkraut like the good native of Lancaster that I am. While Lisa wrote down our birthdays in a calendar, we asked about their other siblings. We knew Bart and Lisa are the oldest two of a larger group, but we were curious to learn more from them. Bart drew a picture with his siblings names and ages while Lisa tried to share stories through laughter and pantomime. As they packed their bags, they chose a few items to take back for them, including a couple rosaries.
We squeezed in bowling this week too, to which Bart wore a War Machine costume. Lisa found the girls’ First Holy Communion dress in a closet and asked if she could wear that. While I let her wear it all day, we did make her change into something a bit more suitable for bowling. I also would not let her take the dress back to her orphanage, though the Christmas dress and golden shoes did make the cut.
We were required to send them back with all the clothes and shoes they came with, which limited the room in their bags for other items, like a Peppa Pig dress Lisa fell in love with that I had bought on a whim at Target. Bart managed to fit in several new favorite shirts and a deflated soccer ball and pump. The dollar store light saber that was already held together with packing tape, didn’t make the cut.
The kids bedrooms are now a mess of extra clothes, and piles of items we tried to pack but couldn’t. I’ve tackled the mess around the downstairs, but the upstairs will have to wait for a few days as we head to Lancaster tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with my parents and grandmother.
Tony and I have been reflecting on the hosting experience, and asking the kids for their input, while also praying for discernment going forward. People are asking me, “Will you host again?”, “Are you thinking of adoption?”, and honestly, right now, I’m not sure.
Hosting was super hard. It was physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. It took our already crazy life and took it up a notch, where it stayed for almost the entire time. I’m relaxing for the first time in four weeks. But that said, I don’t regret hosting at all, and if we can afford it, and our kids are okay with it, we would do it again. Already, I’m making a list of what we would do differently (learning Shelby being at the top of that list.) It was hard to plan for hosting because we had no idea what to expect. Now, I see where we struggled and how we can prevent or lessen those struggles in the future. Tony and I also knew our schedule was getting out of hand; throwing two more kids in the mix helped us realize we needed to re-prioritize our time and obligations (See my New Year’s resolutions.) If/ when we host again, we need to be less stressed and less stretched to the breaking point from the onset.
If we host again, we’ll host the same kids. And if we can’t host, I’ll be making sure to advocate so these kids are rehosted, hopefully by an adoption minded family. Ultimately, my goal is to see this whole sibling group adopted by people on the east coast (or by families living in the same geographic region). It’s a large sibling group, and I don’t know how a judge will allow them to be split. Hosting, adoption advocacy, helping troubled children, is a totally foreign thing for me; I know nothing! All I can do is just pray and trust that God will make our path known to us.
I hope that my experience inspires a few of you to try hosting. We are all capable of doing hard things, especially for four to six weeks. I’ve met people who’ve been inspired to adopt thanks to their hosting experience, parents who are committed to hosting different children each session and helping them find adoptive families, and those who do not have good experiences hosting, yet try again anyway. No matter what people are able to give, children benefit. Yes they need to go back, and yes, that sucks for everyone, but it seems to me that hosting leads to more adoptions, more awareness of the plight of orphans internationally, which ultimately leads to more people willing to host, and adopt and so on and so forth. Adoption can seem like a big scary thing that is for other people and not us. Hosting is a good way of dipping your toes in the water. You might discover it’s easier to love another child than you thought.
This concludes my winter hosting series, however, it’s probably not the last you’ll hear of Bart and Lisa. Thanks for your continued support this last month. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing of special needs parenting, Catholic miscellany and ridiculous recommendations.