Saturday, June 30, 2012

We called ourselves "The Blob" and we moved as a blob. The Bennion family and our family had so much fun Thursday night just before midnight waiting for the kids to come.  There was a lot of excitement and laughter.  When passengers from our kids flight, and we could tell because one of the passengers told us he sat by the girls (lucky!!!), The Blob became very excited.

We are so happy to finally meet the girls.  Luba and Snizhana had saved 5 of their snacks from their plane rides, one for each of our children, and handed one to each child when they met us.  I can't even put into words how touched Jay and I were by that.  They are very thoughtful girls.  We gave them Webkinz stuffed animals with hearts on them.  Luba pulled out the letter that we had written for them and identified each of us with our pictures.  She asked where Ben was and we told her that he was working at a scout camp, but would be home in two days.  We don't speak any Russian beyond a few words and their English is about the same.  We were fortunate that Josie, mom from the only Utah family that hosted through NHFC last year and who speaks Russian, was on hand to translate.  Josie helped the girls let us know what they wanted to call Jay and me.  We told them that whatever they wanted to call us was fine.  They settled on Mama and Papa.  I have found that sometimes I am Mom too.
On the hour car ride home I was happy to see that Luba and Sara were communicating the best they could.  I showed Snizhana Angry Birds on my kindle and she enjoyed playing it.  All was going well until I hear Luba call for me and start pantomiming something.  Not having ever been a good charades player, I just wasn't understanding her.  She was gesturing moving her hand away from her mouth.  Now it seems pretty obvious, but it wasn't until she got a really sick look on her face when I got it.  Car sickness!  I jumped into action and handed her a bag.  After throwing up she didn't look very happy and quite trying to talk to Sara.  We still had 45 minutes to get home so we pulled over and let her walk around a little.  That seemed to help a bit and she was okay, but quiet, for the rest of the ride.
I have no pictures of when we first got home at about 1:00 a.m. because things were so crazy.  It was like Christmas morning with the girls as they went exploring all around our house.  Snizhana's eyes got so big and excited when she saw the piano.  Snizhana found a toy stroller which she had to find a doll to push around.  Then she found Sam's baby stroller which she upgraded to and it goes almost every she does with her Webkinz puppy and the doll we found for her plus whatever snack she is eating at the time!  They both were excited to turn on and use a computer.  Leah helped Snizhana print something.  I'm pretty sure they don't do computer much at all in Ukraine after watching them play with the computers.  They were so cute.   We then showed them the back yard and it was very apparent that they have never jumped on a trampoline before.  I am so glad we put ours in the ground.  It was almost comical how they were on it and I'm pretty sure they learned the word "careful" as I couldn't stop saying it!
It was about 2:00 a.m. when my kids decided that they had to go to bed.  Jay and I went to bed to, getting up to see if the girls' light was off yet or not.  By 2:30 a.m. it was off and we were happy to go to sleep.

Friday morning the girls get up and start exploring again.  Snizhana found this dog costume and immediately had to put it on.  It fit her perfectly! 

Luba found Leah's dance hat and Sara's big glasses.  She was so cute.

Luba asked Leah to sit down so she could do Leah's hair.  Leah definitely had bed head so I thought that Luba wanted to brush it out.  But then she started whipping out this gorgeous french braid in no time at all.  We were all in awe!

  Snizhana and the doll stroller wearing roller blades.  Both girls were so happy to see the roller blades.  Snizhana goes by Zhana.  The "zh" sounds like the "s" in "vision" while the "ana" sounds like the "auna" in sauna.  I am glad she has a nickname as Snizhana is hard to say.  I am finding myself calling her Snizhana half the time though now as it has become easy for me to say.  And I think it is such a beautiful name!  I have noticed that Luba calls her Snizhana.  And speaking of names, at training a couple weeks ago I learned that Luba's name, Lyubov, means "love."  Awe!!!  I love it!
Sara helped Luba learn to bike.  My kids wear helmets when they bike.  Luba doesn't have one on in this picture because really things were crazy and I forgot to give her it at the very beginning.  But both girls wore helmets, although unwillingly, the rest of the time.  I put on my helmet as the girls laughed at me and biked along with them.   It became apparent also that they haven't had much biking experience.  The word "careful" was pulled out and used again!  Luba picked up on it fairly quickly.  By the end of next week maybe we'll dare take her to the little dirt ravine area that our kids love to bike up and down in.  Snizhana is taking a little longer, but is doing great.  She did crash into a ditch as Luba and I looked on horrified!  Snizhana was fine and was up and out of the ditch laughing.  Thank goodness!
The girls rode every contraption that we have to ride!  They both really like this thing that Snizhana is on.  I can't remember what it is called.
We set up our pool just before they came and they loved it.  The kids spent all day in their swimsuits alternating between swimming, biking, jumping, eating (fruit and lots of it), computer and more. 

Luba is talking to the chaperone while jumping on the trampoline.  They both had to talk to the chaperone within a day or two of arriving to assure the chaperone that they were okay.  It was so fun to watch Luba talk.  She became very animated and spoke rapidly pointing all around our yard.  Snizhana kept begging Luba for the phone until finally she was able to speak with the chaperone too!

Snizhana on her bike!

Snizhana with the roller blades.

We weren't sure how the girls were going to like our food.  While we were cooking some eggs and potatoes, Luba pulled out milk and a bowl.  She asked if a box of crackers that was sitting on the counter was cereal.  I told her it wasn't and managed to round some wheat flake cereal up.  We aren't big cereal eaters here!  She and Snizhana started eating the cereal and Luba had kind of a disgusted look on her face.  I gave them a bowl of sugar to put on it and they piled several spoonfuls on and were happy eating it up!  They also enjoyed the eggs and potatoes.  Most of the day they ate lots of fruit.  The day we went to pick them up I bought three big bunches of bananas.  The checker at the store said, "I hope you can eat all those before they are bad."  I kind of want to go back and tell her that they are all gone now and it's only been one day!  The girls love the bananas which they call banans.  They also open them from the other side.  I was about to show Snizhana how you are supposed to open them until I saw how easily she got it open.  I haven't had one yet myself, but will try the other side and maybe I'll switch!  We just bought a box of apples from Santaquin's local fruit store, The Red Barn.  I am so glad we did because both girls love the apples too.  Luba found some forgotten strawberries that were molding in the fridge.  She really wanted one, but they were too far gone so I threw them away.  Later she found another container of strawberries that weren't as far gone and I picked out two for her and Snizhana.  Monday we go to Costco for their eye exams and we'll be sure to pick up some strawberries there for them.  They have enjoyed grapes.  Our apricot tree is full of almost ripe apricots which they have been loving.  Besides fruit, for lunch Snizhana took me up on the offer of a sandwhich.  She tasted the peanut butter and didn't want it.  Then tasted honey and didn't want it.  She ended up with a strawberry jam sandwhich!  Luba missed dinner because she fell asleep.  We made spaghetti and I really was wondering what Snizhana would think of it.  She helped cook it which was fun.  I gave her just a little to begin with.  She ate that right up.  I gave her more, and then some more.  Then I told her to get her own and she heaped up a huge pile of it.  I thought she wouldn't eat it all but she did!  John commented that she must have a big appetite!  And I am so glad to know one thing that she really likes.

The girls were doing so great that we decided they could handle a short hike to a waterfall in the mountains.  We were planning to go with the Bennions and their boy, Renars, from Latvia.  Luba had been taking a nap, but woke up when it was time to go.  She was acting very miserable and held her throat.  I called Josie to help us communicate.  We decided she was suffering from jet lag and needed to go back to sleep.  We canceled the hike for that night.  We'll go sometime next week for sure!

After dinner we all settled down and went to bed.  I slept for about three hours and then I woke up and my mind wouldn't stop thinking.  So I got up and worked on this post before I forget it all.  Now I'm going back to bed at 5:30 in the morning!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Real Reason We Want To Host An Orphan

Several people, including a reporter from the Daily Herald, have asked me why I chose to host. I've usually said that I watched my friend, Brenda, as she tried to adopt a girl with Down syndrome, and then as she found the hosting charity that we are both hosting through. She is hosting a boy from Latvia. I would read her posts on Facebook about the children who needed hosting and at the deadline for hosting the Ukraine orphans Jay and I decided to go ahead and host too. We've always wanted to do something like this but had no idea that you can host an orphan for a summer. It sounded like a wonderful experience to give both an orphan and our own family.

As I thought about it more after talking to the reporter yesterday, I realized that I never mention the biggest reason that we are hosting two orphan sisters. It all has to do with my favorite scripture, Mosiah 2:17, "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." And we are excited to be in the service of two orphan children. We hope to make a real difference in their lives. Jay and I have wanted to be able to take our whole family on a short service vacation. Jay, our son, Ben, and I have been able to go for a couple days to Southern Utah to the Navajo Reservation to help build new homes. But we have not been able to take our whole family to give service. Hosting Luba and Snizhana is a five week opportunity for our whole family to affect the lives of these girls.

Serving God by serving these girls is more thrilling to our family than going to Disneyland. Our children proved that to us when they got together on their own and decided to donate to the girls their Disney Fund that they had been saving for over two years. Jay and I have noticed that as we have sacrificed to get ready for the girls to come we have grown to love them without having met them yet. They arrive at midnight on the 28th of June. We are very excited to meet these girls that we have been preparing for.

We truly appreciate any help we get with the expenses associated with hosting. My aforementioned friend, Brenda, mentioned to me the other day that for a lot of us it takes a community to get these children here and that they are the community's children because of that. I agree completely with her. It costs about $2900 per child to bring them here plus a few other fees. Then while here we take them to the dentist and eye doctor. Thankfully we have a dentist that has donated the initial visits. Because they only come with the clothes they are wearing we will buy them several outfits and new shoes. We send them back with a suitcase and backpack filled with what they brought with them and whatever we can send back from what was bought for them while they are here. We also plan to take the girls to a couple activities that cost money while mostly doing family activities that are free. This is an opportunity to help make a difference in a couple of girls' lives. We are thankful for everyone that helps.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thanks Dr. Watson and OrthoTime!

The other day we received a check in the mail for the girls from Dr. Watson at OrthoTime in American Fork for $250. We really appreciate their help with funds for the girls. Our daughter Sara would tell you that they have performed magic on her teeth! Thanks again OrthoTime!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Why aren't you helping an American child instead?

That's a question I've gotten a few times now. And I did have to go through some introspection to understand my own choice. My first response is that there is a lot more hope for children in the foster system in America than for children in orphanages in Ukraine when they exit the system. Grown up orphans in Ukraine have a stigma associated with them which makes it hard for them to function normally in society. Hosting a child from Ukraine here in America gives them many opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't have. They learn up to four years worth of English in the five weeks they are here for example. They have the cultural experience of travelling to America. They experience a functional family life. And they learn about God. Possibly, and in the majority of cases, they are adopted by a family that loves them. All of these help them in their life.

I also have a hard time feeling countries' boundaries when I'm thinking about helping other people, especially children. We are all God's children. If I'm going to do something, I want to help the neediest that I am capable of helping.

Then I had a logical thought. The LDS church, among others, sends American missionaries to other countries to preach the gospel and help them in other ways. If the Church feels that it is a good thing to send Americans to help people in other countries instead of keeping them in country to help fellow Americans, then logic would follow that it is just fine for me to help others from outside my own country.

Then there's just the fun and educational part of it. Our family is very excited to meet children from another country. Not only meet them, but live as a family with them for five weeks. What a great cultural experience it will be for all of us. There will be ups and downs. We are prepared for that. We have ups and downs with our visitors that we have from America! We would love to be able to travel to another country to help out, but on our income with so many children it is not feasible. Bringing the children here to help them, while still stretching our financial limits, is a lot more doable.

This experience will increase the life skills of the orphans. It will give us all an educational and cultural experience. And it will be a blessing to all of us.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You've got to read this if you're wondering how hosting affects the children...

If you're wondering, like Jay and I were, how the children fare after being hosted, this excerpt from a blog does a good job at explaining:

"The kids that we bring are coming on a visit, or exchange type program. Their
orphanages close during the holidays and over summer so all kids must go
somewhere. They go other places like Italy, Spain, Holland, other camps in their
own countries (former Soviet training camps for kids) and some go to local
foster families as well. We are one of the “options” as far as the kids are
told, and they are selected to come on our program after being interviewed and
after we talk to their caregivers about behavior, school efforts etc. So,
everyone goes out of the orphanage for the summer and in our case, we are a 5
week program, so they come here and usually return to a camp type place in their
home country or start out at one and come to us from the camp. In Latvia,
children are mostly in foster families as they are trying to close traditional
orphanages, but the foster families are not able to care for them beyond the
monthly low stipend and in many cases, they don’t have indoor plumbing and are
very rural with little access to anything for the children to do outside of
school or off the farm (most are on farms).

Our program shows children what it’s like to be fully and unconditionally loved in a
Christian family. It is an experience that many would never have in their lives.
Even in the foster families, the foster parents are “workers” and do not treat
orphans as their own children. They do this due to culture, poverty and also to
keep up some wall as they know they cannot provide for a permanent situation
even if they so desired. In addition to the ministry aspects of the program, the
kids come and gain a new language. Most learn as much English in 4-5 weeks here
as they would in a good English class in their schools over 4-5 years. Latvia is
a part of the European Union as well and in that, residents are able to move and
work in other EU countries. But Latvian is a language that no other country
speaks or uses, and English is a very common language in all. So, that alone,
would be a good “tool” to give kids now to help them later. However, many of the
children who come are also eligible for adoption and after being hosted, about
65% of the eligible children are adopted into a forever and unconditional loving
Christian family. Besides participating in a program like ours, they have
literally 0-1% chance of ever being considered for adoption through a
traditional process. Latvia doesn’t place children under about age 9 as
available for adoption unless they have medical issues or are part of sibling
sets. And, most families who consider to adopt would not just send a dossier
(family adoption package) to Latvia asking for a preteen or teenager sight
unseen. So, this does offer them a lot of possibilities beyond just a visit to a
nice family in America. Also, most children who are older and have aged out for
adoption who come, are learning enough English they can be considered to return
on a student visa, which Latvia allows if we find

Most families who host do not intend to adopt the child they bring. Most consider it
as helping a poor orphan child and being sacrificial towards that child.
However, in the end, many families do decide they want to adopt or they have
friends through church, neighbors etc who meet the child and decide to adopt.
Nearly all families say they went into it to bless a child and come out of it
feeling like they received the blessing. On the other side, when I talk to
children after they have been fully adopted and live in The US, none of them
state they felt like they were being ripped out of a glorious land and placed
into poverty. It was a trip to remember and they returned “home”. When they were
offered adoption later, since we don’t speak of it on the host program, they
were in most cases, shocked and it took a great deal of thinking to consider it
real and accept it.

So, in the end, if a child who comes on the program has even 10% chance of being helped
through one of these purposes, where they had 0% if they didn’t come; should we
decide not to do this, or to do this for them as much as possible? And, that 10%
is in reality, much greater for each child who participates…more like 99% gain
something important from the program whether it’s Salvation, family, language or

Lastly, it is interesting to consider that the kids don’t have such the expected
“trauma” after having to go back as one would assume. In fact, I have traveled
with some of the groups all the way back home and each program I travel with
them through security to the plane after we depart parents at the airport in
Atlanta. The kids look at this as a vacation. Once they separate from their 4-5
week family, they refocus on friends after we get through security and find
familiarity in them. “They are going home”. It is told to them and explained as
such and being their “homes” are in Latvia and Ukraine, they don’t expect to
stay forever. The things that we see as extreme poverty and necessary things we
have to have in life to live… just aren’t seen that way when it’s what you know
and come to accept as “life and home”. We are “Disney World” and no one expects
to live at Disney World. In fact, there are some kids who go back, are offered
adoption and say no. For Americans, we view it as necessary things we need and
they see it as waste and extreme, greed and ugly wealth at times. After
traveling myself twice a year, to where they live, I tend to feel their
viewpoint at times too. Not having running water in a house doesn’t mean it
isn’t a comfortable home that provides attention and a sense of belonging.
Safety and security of the “known” is there and that is number one on what
humans need in order to consider what things are important. I suppose,
considering where they were prior to the orphanages, streets and foster
families, which is something none of us has had to see or endure, where they are
now is a welcome version of “home”…just not what you and I would think of or
ever consider as sufficient to be home. Consider the show Little House on the
Prairie? They had little and felt like they had everything. These kids are
similar, except they don’t have the “family” and that’s what we aim to offer

So, I hope this helps you to see the benefits far outweigh the negatives and also, the
“craziness” of a new world is something exciting to experience for all of them.
Flying on an airplane is a ride at the amusement park…and in some cases, riding
everywhere in a car instead of going by metro or by foot is something they
really dislike. So, they perceive it much differently from how we see

From the blog

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Yard Sale Was a Success...

Yard sale is now over and it was a making us very tired! It did make some money too. Especially the bake sale and hot dogs. We're planning to do another in in a few weeks at Squash Head Park (love that name) in Santaquin on Main Street.

Thanks UCCU!

UCCU (Utah Community Credit Union) has been kind enough to donate $100 to the girls. We appreciate their donation so much. Jay and I have both been members of UCCU since we were children and we still have a personal account there and two business accounts there also. They are great to work with. Thanks UCCU!