Earlier this week, as we took a short walk around our yard, my husband succinctly summed up the challenges of the hosting experience as such: “It’s like when you’re about to have your first child. You know it’s going to be hard, but because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before, you don’t know how hard until you’re actually dealing with everything.”
So week two continued to be a learning, and growing experience for us both, and while the language barrier is still an issue, things are going well, despite often feeling tired and overwhelmed with the needs of others.
1. Last week, Alicia asked about “the faith thing”. Bart and Lisa are surprisingly pious kids. When we took them to Mass the day after their arrival, Lisa happily wore a head covering, though I didn’t ask her too. And they both blessed themselves in Orthodox fashion. Last Sunday, Bart asked me to help him follow the Mass in our downloaded Latin to Shelby missal. Since then, they’ve reminded us of prayers, started memorizing the Hail Mary in English and Lisa kisses religious images that she finds around our house. My own kids don’t even do that. Our concern was that they would have a negative association with religion but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In reading the stories of other host parents, I’ve come across some who seem to have a goal of helping their host children develop a “personal relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. While evangelization was not our goal in hosting, I’m glad that our faith is not off putting to them and at least seems somewhat familiar. I can’t imagine taking children with any Orthodox background and placing them in a mainline American Protestant church. Would such children even recognize where they were?
2. After a dental cleaning last Friday afternoon we learned that Bart and Lisa require EXTENSIVE dental work. Plus, the dentist noted that Bart has gigantic tonsils, confirming my suspicion that he has sleep apnea. The boy snores like a 300lb man, and we can hear his breathing start and stop. While we can tackle the dental care (thanks to the donated services of Drs Calder and Feinburg of Family Dentistry, Cherry Hill, NJ), we can’t do anything about the sleep apnea right now and that breaks my heart. We will tell the orphanage, but I doubt they will do anything. Our only hope is that it can be treated during a longer summer host season. (Sleep apnea in kids is usually treated by removing the tonsils and adenoids.) The dental work (which could include up to four root canals on baby molar teeth for Lisa, and a few extractions for Bart) will be next week. Please say a prayer all goes well for them.
3. Micaela asked how the kids are getting along, and Amanda wanted to know what my kids think of Bart and Lisa. They, like Tony and I, are all having some growing pains too. Fulton and Teddy rely on verbal communication; it’s hard for them to show someone what they want or need. Fulton seems to think that since Bart and Lisa can’t speak English, he just needs to yell at them. As you can imagine, this makes it very loud and awkward for everyone when they all try to play together. Edie and Lisa get along great, except when they don’t; both want to snuggle with me and have me on their side when something goes wrong. It can be hard for me to keep them both happy. Although all the older kids understand that Bart and Lisa’s behavior is due to their upbringing, it stresses my kids out when there is rule breaking and it takes awhile to resolve the issue due to language issues. Some of my kids are very resistant to change and so, while they know hosting is a very good thing, they don’t necessary like how it’s shaking up the usual household routine. Sometimes I worry that we’re breaking off into two separate groups; Bart and Lisa playing their games and my kids doing their own things. But, we’ve also played a lot of board games together, even with Fulton’s yelling. There have been epic light sabre and Nerf gun battles. Everyone helped tidy up the house Wednesday morning. (Lisa loved using the Windex.) We have had lots of fun and laughter. Do they all feel like siblings? I don’t know. I’m not even sure that’s the goal right now. But this week it moved from feeling like I was hosting a couple of my kids’ friends to hosting cousins we hadn’t seen in a while.
4. Brenna wanted to know what’s been the hardest adjustment for Bart and Lisa. Hands down: remembering to put on clean clothes everyday and dry off with a towel after their showers. I have to make a point to mention these things and double-check or neither will happen. (Yes, they will simply get dressed right out of the shower.)
5. Highlights of the week included: turning a large cardboard box into a fort that only two kids can fit in at any given time, going to the Cape May zoo, walking to the playground, and buying two bags of cheese puffs after a successful visit to the eye doctor (A big thank you to Haddon Family Eye Care, Haddon Heights, NJ!).
Lowlights included: doing all my Christmas shopping for everyone in one day then leaving all the presents in the trunk of my husband’s car which is now dead and sitting an hour away at a garage near his office. You’ll recall we need both vehicles to transport everyone so, say a prayer it’s a quick, inexpensive fix please.
6. I originally thought hosting over Christmas would be easier than over the summer because it’s for fewer weeks and it wouldn’t conflict with vacations or summer camps. However, I failed to consider all the last-minute stuff I do for Christmas that I’m now trying to do once everyone’s in bed. My daytime is taken up with appointments, “being present” and generally keeping everyone constructively occupied, lest things descend into chaos. We were told in our host parent training that an orphanage is like a dormitory, in that, whenever a child is bored, there’s always someone around to play with; they’re not very good at sitting quietly and entertaining themselves. While we did have some luck early in the week with Perler beads, I do find that without an activity or game at the ready, Bart and Lisa’s default activity of choice is running around and playing rough. They have mellowed out a bit this week, and I’m learning to relax more when the play is just rowdy and not likely to seriously hurt someone. But it’s hard for me to ever walk away and get anything done if they’re not engrossed in a game or toy. And even then, it’s a short window of time. Combine that with the usual amount of requests from Fulton and Teddy, and it’s not hard to understand why I stay up late trying to pick up the slack. I forsee much late night wrapping on Saturday.
7. Lastly, Rosemary wanted to know if I could do a day in the life while Bart and Lisa are here. No. I absolutely can’t. I’m keeping a journal of everything and I can only write in that every two days or so. Typically when I do a day in the life post, I jot notes all day and I’m finding sitting down almost impossible throughout the morning and early afternoon; taking notes would never happen. We also haven’t had a typical day. We follow a schedule (Which is in Shelby on the fridge. It’s the most useful sign I made.) but each late morning (after 10:30 snack), early afternoon, and evening have been different. Every morning I try to do my usual routine with Fulton and Teddy while trying to make sure everything is not getting out of hand elsewhere. Thankfully, my husband is on vacation beginning today so he will be able to help more during the day. I should note we’re off homeschooling while Bart and Lisa are here. Honestly, I can’t imagine schooling while hosting. So, sorry Rosemary! Weekly summaries and regular IG posts are the best I can do!
Do you have any questions about our hosting experience? Ask away! Then be sure to link up your own Takes below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!
Awesome, thorough, newsy post Kelly! What an amazing experience for all of you….and for Bart and Lisa.
Yeah, hosting over Christmas DOES seem like a juggling act….there are so many last minute things to take care of, as you mention, no matter how organized we are.. ….But what a wonderful Christmas your entire family will have!
Thanks for the glimpse into it all and thanks for hosting the QT link!
Yeah… I really can’t imagine tossing a kid from an Orthodox background into a megachurch. They would have a relatively easy time with my (Episcopal) church or the Lutheran parishes Jon pastored but I definitely think taking them to Saddleback Church in southern California or someplace like that would be absolutely alien to them. (Then again, it would be pretty alien to me.)
Kissing icons is also a really Orthodox thing so totally not surprised that Lisa does it.
I find these updates so interesting. When we were kids, my parents hosted children from Belarus. We had the same girl come 4 Summers in a row, then we had a boy my brother’s age come for 4 Summers in a row. My parents have gone over to Belarus to visit these families and to see church plants that their church is involved with. It felt similar to what you are describing. We did dental and doctor visits and provided clothing for them to take home. The health problems were there because of the Chernobyl plant explosion and the radiation in Belarus … although these were not orphans the needs were similar.
I cannot imagine how you are doing Christmas preparation in the midst of all this. This is going to be such a memorable Christmas for all of you! Love reading these updates, and now I feel I have no excuse for not having my act together over here.
I can’t even imagine hosting a couple of kids during Christmas Break! We hosted a student from Palestine one year (from Dec. through June) and it was a disaster. He was 16 and only wanted to do the program to get away from his parents (and rules). He was, however, open to attending Mass with us during Christmas & Easter, even though he was Muslim.
Hubby was just diagnosed with sleep apnea also and we are on the road to figuring out what might be done…trying to get a machine, but boy is everything a process….
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