Friday, April 29, 2011

hosting: day ten

The day began with a great new experience for {name} and three of the other Ethiopian children at Kinetic Youth Academy.

Not only did they enjoy fun games with the parachute, but they had the entire use of the gym. There was rope climbing, rope swinging, trampolines, balance beams and other equipment they could play on.

There were so many big smiles and giggles as the kids were thrusted into the air on a giant swing. Arms out and feet dangling high above the rest of us, you could see pure joy on their little faces.

I'm so thankful to God for the generosity of so many unknown people who sponsored events like these for the children and their host families. These are experiences and memories that the children will always remember.

This afternoon, a couple from church, Eric and LaShelle Bray were kind enough to swing by a nearby soccer field before their weekend getaway without their children!

Eric is a gifted soccer player and it was a great opportunity for {name} to be challenged. My little guy David joined in the game, along with Stephen and Abbie.

So who was victorious?

I would say Eric, though {name} did get a few good shots in. It didn't help that David was holding Eric's hand the entire time they were playing!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

hosting: day nine

Today we took {name} to our home school Co-Op that is held at our church. He was able to join Stephen's science class and was warmly welcomed by cheering boys giving high fives and fist bumps!

After Science class, I snuck away with him and headed to Dankner-Fiergang Eye Associates for his ophthalmology appointment. It was fun meeting up with the other host families and their children and I think helpful for {name} to just be able to speak with others who understand him.

Dr. Andorsky was incredible with the children - explaining things clearly and making it comfortable and easy for {name} to do what he needed to do. {name} experienced his first dose of eye drops that enlarged his pupils and left his sight a little fuzzy. I told him, through our interpreter, that I would challenge him to soccer while his vision was like this! He giggled.

After a thorough exam, we learned that he is blessed with 20/20 vision!

When we got home we watched The Karate Kid - the classic version with Ralph Maccio. Love that 80's music! And no, when I first saw this as a teenager, I did NOT have a crush on Ralph Maccio.

After the movie ended, it was back to the scooter and soccer!

And speaking of soccer, tomorrow he has a soccer match with a friend from church, Eric Bray. Word on the street is that Eric is a gifted player so I thought it would be great for {name} to play with someone who can teach him things!

Some have asked if {name} is feeling homesick so I took the opportunity today while our interpreter was at the eye appointment to ask him questions. He conveyed to me that he is very happy here with our family, that he is having a lot of fun, and that he is not homesick at all.
I am very grateful that he feels so comfortable with us and so welcomed by not just our family, but our neighbors, our church family, Stephen and Abbie's friends, and basically by anyone that meets him!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

hosting: day eight

Day Eight can be summed up in seven "S" words.

Scooters: This little guy is a natural on the scooter. There was no learning curve for him. My daughter Abigail handed it to him, he jumped on, pushed with the opposite foot, and took off through our neighborhood!

School: While my children are busy at school, {name} is busy writing things in his notebook. Sometimes he writes in Amharic and other times he writes in English. In addition to writing things, he plays learning games and types out words on the iMac.

Spiderman: He absolutely loves this cartoon that we downloaded on Netflix. Even my little kids are enjoying the break from Oswald and Dora. And let's be honest, so am I.

Sleep: Tired out from all the scooter riding, {name} went upstairs and fell asleep in his bed. It took both Stephen and Abbie to wake him up for dinner.

Spaghetti: This seems to be the meal of choice. I fix him a big ol' plate with sauce and parmesan cheese and a side of garlic bread and he's set!

Stephen: All day long I hear this word: "Ste-phen!!" "Ste-phen!!" Whatever he needs, he goes first to Stephen. Stephen is definitely his go to guy.

Shower: It's always fun explaining and demonstrating through charades the need to take a shower and how to make sure the inside shower curtain stays on the inside so that water doesn't spill out of the tub. The first few showers left our bathroom in a bit of a river! :-)

Matt and I had an engaged couple over tonight for pre-marital counseling so the kids were downstairs playing. When we called them up for bed, Stephen arrived up the stairs first and hugged us both goodnight and then {name} came up next, and to my surprise, hugged us both goodnight as well.

This was the first time he initiated a hug with us. How sweet!

It was the perfect, unexpected end to what was a fairly uneventful day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

hosting: day seven

Well it's been one week since we were sitting in the International Arrivals section at Dulles airport with a group of excited families and friends, waiting for our Ethiopian guests.

All last week my children were on Spring Break which meant no real schedule and every moment was fun, fun, fun. Today marked our first day back to school. They didn't have to go too far, just down the steps and to our dining room table, but there's a different feel in the house. This is our final quarter of school and then it's summer break!

I was wondering how home schooling would work with {name} here with us, but day one was very successful. Stephen and Abbie took 30 minute slots where one would do school work and the other would play with {name}. Then they would switch. In between we had fudge brownies and {name} would type out English words and sentences on our iMac. He asked for "colors", which we learned meant "crayons" and he began drawing and coloring the Ethiopian flag and the American flag.

New artwork now adorns our boring ol' fridge.

We learned in host training that we would experience a "honeymoon" phase with our child and week one was definitely that. He listened to everything Abbie (9) and Stephen (13) would ask him to do. Now that he's comfortable and feeling quite at home here, he is not as quick to listen to his peers, so Matt and I have had to step in at times. {name} has responded joyfully and respectfully to both of us.

The top 7 things I love about hosting {name}:

1. I love seeing his beautiful face among the face of my children.

2. I love the lessons my family is learning about sharing all that we think is "ours".

3. I love hearing {name} speak in Amharic and then English. He has a very sweet voice! I especially enjoy hearing him at 7:00 a.m. yell out, "Get up Stephen!"

4. I love watching him play soccer. There is pure joy on his face.

5. I love that he cleans his plate at each meal, asks for seconds, and eats that too!

6. I love hearing him sing out loud, unaware, when he has the earphones on while listening to the ipod. His favorite song is Jeremy White's remix version of "Across the Great Divide".

7. I love that having him here with us has opened up so many doors to meet new people as well as doors to share the gospel with others.

The first six days {name} has been with us, he has been pretty shy; mainly playing with my children and interacting very little with Matt and me. Suddenly, it was like a switch turned and he is talking to everyone, laughing out loud, playing jokes on people, doing the dishes, carrying in groceries, speeding down the sidewalk on a scooter like a pro, and just being a silly boy!

The next post will be written by my now teenage son, Stephen. I thought it would be neat to hear his perspective on being a host family.

Monday, April 25, 2011

hosting: day five & six

Easter weekend was super busy and full of many new experiences and memories.

We kicked off the celebration with an Easter Egg Hunt at Beachmont, sponsored by Grafted Families, that all of the host children and families attended.

Thankfully, there was a short non-raining window of opportunity for the children to race through the wet grass and playground in search of eggs. Standing back and taking photographs gave me the chance to see lots of smiles and giggles as the eggs were discovered.

From there we enjoyed a cross-cultural lunch together under the pavilion: American (pizza) and Ethiopian (stews, lentils, injera). I'm sure the Ethiopian children were excited to get a taste of home and I personally LOVED the dishes.

After lunch and some free play, we met together again to hear the Easter story. Wendy did an excellent job along with her husband and our faithful interpreters, in creatively sharing the best news in the world: Jesus is Alive! We sang some songs in English and Amharic to wrap up this memorable time.

As a host parent, this event was especially meaningful for me because I got a chance to interact with other host families. We swapped stories, laughed, and learned a bit about one another's experiences so far.

All of the children seemed to be doing so well with their host families!

That evening, along with some friends of our family, we dyed eggs together. {name} really seemed to enjoy this and we all got a laugh when my youngest son David (4) decided to drink a spoonful of the bright blue dye! His entire mouth, inside and out were blue!

Easter afternoon, after a great celebration at church, Matt and I had our extended family over for dinner. There were lots of people that {name} met and I think he felt included and welcomed into our crazy traditions.

There were baskets to open, games to play, chocolate to eat, another egg hunt, and our traditional "egg pecking" contest. {name} was quick to join in and had a winning egg for quite some time until my niece cracked his egg.

We now have enough candy in our home that will last till Halloween! We are keeping an eye on how much {name} eats because he certainly seems to have a sweet tooth.

And that's our day five/six wrap up...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

a story for my son

Thirteen years ago, in Moscow, Russia a little baby boy was born.

Thirteen years ago, in Abingdon, Maryland a young married couple began their first adoption journey. They had talked about adopting for years and when the time seemed right, they stepped out in faith, full of hope and excitement.

The little Russian boy had light blonde hair, a chunky little body, and the most beautiful olive green eyes. Upon his birth, he was placed in an orphanage.

The young married couple was completing their adoption paperwork at record speed. When the wife was at work one day, she received a thrilling call from the adoption agency.

"Mrs. Smith...we have a 3 month old boy that we would like to refer to you. He is in the city of Moscow. His name is Aleksandr."

Immediately the young wife had tears in her eyes and the second she hung up the phone, she called her husband and told him that they were "having" a son!

Thirteen years ago, in Moscow, Russia, my son Stephen Aleksandr was born.

I marvel at the hand of God. I am overwhelmed by the love of God that literally united our hearts and lives with his - before we even knew he was born.

I loved my son before I ever saw a picture of him, read his health report, or learned about his family history. I loved him as soon as I knew he was going to be ours. We waited 13 months to meet him and bring him home.

Today, as I look back over the past 13 years, I thank God for the precious gift that he is to me and to our family.

Stephen is a gentle soul. He is shy but very thoughtful. He's creative and artistic and he dreams big. I love that about him. Most importantly, we see a heart for the Lord and a desire to know God's Word.

I love you Stephen-even. I could not be more proud of the young man you are becoming. Another 2" and you'll be taller than me! I am grateful to our Savior for leading us to you and you to us. His plans are marvelous, aren't they?

You see, our lives are part of a much bigger story. It's a story about another Son.

It's a story about a Father who loved sinful, foolish people so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to planet earth. Jesus lived a perfect life - He never sinned, ever. That means He obeyed his earthly parents in every possible way - in action and motive! Can you imagine that? He was tempted yet never stumbled in any way. He chose to die a criminal's death, on a wooden cross, at the hands of sinful men. He shed His blood and became our substitute on that cross. He bore the full wrath of God, His father and suffered in ways we will never understand.

You know the rest of the story. He was buried and three days later he rose again, just as He said He would. This is the greatest news in all of history, as we sung at church today this Easter morning.

Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, made a way for us to be made right with God. If we repent (turn away) of our sin, and put our trust in Jesus and what He did for us, then we can become His children.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (1 John 3:1)

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are a sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:4-7)

His death on the cross redeemed us; bought us back; adopted us.

The story of how we came together as a family, Stephen, is amazing. It's miraculous really. But what makes it glorious is that it points to the much bigger story of how God made a way for us to become part of His family - for all eternity.

I love that your life points so clearly to the best story ever.

Happy 13th Birthday!

Friday, April 22, 2011

hosting: day four

The rain didn't stop him from wanting to lace up his new Nikes for another soccer game against the neighborhood boys!

After lunch, Christina (an amazing young woman who spent a year in China caring for and teaching special needs orphans) came over with some of her younger siblings to help teach English to {name}. She covered the alphabet, some letter sounds, colors and body parts. Her energetic spirit combined with her immediate loving/welcoming heart made it easy for him to sit and speak with her. After some lessons she transitioned to a version of "Simon Says" and a neighborhood boy joined our group of already six to see if {name} understood everything that Christina reviewed. Turns out he understood everything very well and knows more English than we realized. It was fun for me to just hear his voice!

Shortly after that, three more neighborhood boys knocked on the door looking to play soccer with {name}. Before the Nikes could be laced up again, it started raining so the boys came into our home. This is especially cool because as a family, we've been trying to reach out to the boys and girls in our community. It's sometimes hard for my son (12) to relate to the other kids because they all go to the same school and do the same things and he is home schooled. Having {name} here has opened a door because all of the kids are drawn to him and want to be around him. When they couldn't play soccer with him, they didn't just walk away. They asked if they could come inside our house!

And they did.

So at this point we had ten school-aged children in our home, with my youngest two napping upstairs!

I truly believe that if {name} wasn't with us, these boys would not have been in our home. Even Stephen was shocked and turned to me and whispered, "Why are all these people in our home?"

Smiling, I said, "Because of {name}."

Children open doors that often seem shut to the rest of us!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

hosting: day 3 - "wu-ha"

Today has been a BIG day for me - the Mom of the home.

{name} spoke directly to ME! He looked right at me and said, "wu-ha" as I pointed to a glass of water. It was the first time I heard his voice. :-)

He drinks a TON of "wu-ha" all day long. Our Brita pitcher is getting an hourly workout!

Today the neighborhood boys gathered together with my children and him to play soccer and I walked down the hill to take some photographs. As soon as the boys saw me, they all came running towards me sharing how incredible {name} is at soccer and how cool and smart he is!
It's so encouraging to see how welcoming everyone is towards him. Again, I see how children can be a blessing to one another.

He enjoyed his first Coke-flavored snowball, had pizza for lunch, two bananas, and for dessert...a gourmet cupcake from Flavor Cupcakery, thanks to the generosity of our neighbor. I asked him how to say "cupcake" in Amharic and he smiled and said, "cupcake." We all laughed.

Tonight, Matt is taking him, Stephen & Abbie to a buffet so we can learn what other foods he likes (and what he doesn't like). So far, he seems to prefer Italian food but I don't want to just make him pasta for dinner for the next month!

Here's to a day three wrap-up...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

hosting: day 2

Day two has been all about soccer.

Stephen and Abbie played several games of soccer with our Ethiopian boy, only to come back exhausted and muddy, and announcing: "Mom - he creamed us!"

In between playing soccer and creaming my oldest two children, he has given my youngest two piggyback rides and horsey rides through the house. "Again, again," they scream and he falls back onto the floor for another round!

From there, he has become a master at Angry Birds on our iMac. He's a natural. Those green pigs have gotta go!

Then it's off to find my iPod touch, which my oldest two have confiscated to learn Amharic. Once he finds that, he plays with the Amharic learning games along with a few other games I downloaded. None of us showed him how to use this. We put it in his hands and the rest was history.

When he's through with that, he runs downstairs for Abbie's guitar jamz and while he's playing that, he plays and beats both of my oldest two in Playstation games. Yes - while he's playing with the guitar.

Then it's back up and out the door for more soccer.

I'm so thankful and elated, that all of my children adore him. Already he has been welcomed like a brother. As a mom though, it is weird for me to not feel as connected to him as the children do. I think I am putting too much pressure on myself and I communicated this to a friend and she texted me back this very helpful statement:

"Let God work through the kids! You have been His voice to them, let them be His voice to {his name}...praying."

As soon as I read those words, tears filled my eyes. This was exactly what I needed to hear. Unknowingly, I had made this about me and what I could say to him and what I could do for him.

The important thing is that he feels welcomed, accepted, and loved. I think he is experiencing all of those things so far - mostly from his interaction with my children.

And that is o.k. In fact, it is more than o.k.

It is precious.

It is a gift.

Not just to him, but to my children. And to me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

hosting: day one

Day one began with waking our 4 ewoks up at 5:00 a.m. so that we could leave our home by 5:30 a.m. for our drive to Dulles. No real challenges - just a little traffic on 495. Surprise, right!

Arriving with the four other host families, a Grafted Families rep, and other supportive staff was exciting. You could actually feel the energy/excitement in the air. All of our children were running around, meeting one another, and just enjoying the shared experience of waiting for the children to burst through the International Arrivals door.

We didn't have to wait too long before our little army of five children and a chaperone arrived. I cried, of course, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one. We were all leaning over a glass fence-like wall, trying to spot our child and when we did, there were huge smiles and hugs for everyone. David and Jayda immediately took our little guys hands and Stephen and Abbie were quick to welcome and embrace him as well.

There were lots of special little moments before and after the children arrived. I wish I could share a photograph of all of us, but again, I am not allowed to post any pictures of him. :-(

The rest of the day with him went very smooth. We took him to Kohls and let him pick out a pair of sneakers - he chose a great pair of Nikes. The swoosh is important! He fell asleep on the sofa for a few hours, and we went to Bob Evans for dinner.

"Table for Seven, please."

A few things off the top of my head worth mentioning:

1- Communication is hard for me. Abbie is phenomenal at finding clever ways to ask him questions and she understands him well. I stand back and watch her in action, amazed and thankful for her ability to step right in!

2- He loved my iPod touch and knew exactly what to do with it when it was placed in his hands!

3- He is excellent with David and Jayda - playing with them, holding their hands when we go outside, carrying them over puddles so their shoes don't get wet, and even picking up after them. I'm impressed!

4- He is amazing with a soccer ball.

I wish I could speak his language. I want to ask him questions and understand what he is feeling and thinking. He is so polite and sweet. Super challenging for me to not communicate as freely as I'd like.

But it is only day one!

Monday, April 18, 2011

it's happening

Sitting in Panera - thanks to my husband who told me to scram and get some alone time...not in those words.

I've got a hot coffee.

A book.

My daytimer.

And my macbook.

Waiting for an email with confirmation that the Ethiopian children made it on the plane. Doing a little reading of Kathryn Stockett's The Help in between. It's so hard to wait and I thought that reading this highly acclaimed book would help with the distraction. The title itself should've proved this would work (bad joke?). Well, I managed to read two whole pages when I decided to check my email again.

The subject line read:

The kids are on the plane!

My heart skipped a beat with excitement.

Who cares about "The Help"?

Who cares about hot coffee?

Who cares about daytimers?

I can't say, Who cares about macbooks because I love it too much to be sarcastic.

I've got a 10 year old Ethiopian child that speaks just a touch of English coming to be a part of our family for a month. It's happening. It's really happening this time!

Headed home to share the great news with my children. There will be some serious celebrating at the Smith house tonight!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

hopefully tuesday morning

If all goes as planned...

We should be picking up our Ethiopian host child at Dulles Airport.

And our family will look a little like this. Yes, that is Matt with the cowboy hat on. It's not too far off...he does enjoy a good Rascal Flatts tune from time to time. And Jayda is technically almost as big as David and Stephen is almost taller than it sort of works.

Due to some unexpected delays, the five children that were scheduled to leave on Friday evening were not able to board their plane.

Now we wait.

Hoping and praying.

And resting in God's plans.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

17 years ago

17 years ago

on this very day

at this very time

Matt and I were getting ready to leave our wedding reception as man and wife.

The weather was perfect: warm and sunny.

Matt was still sporting a short mullet and I had locks of curls in my long hair, that at the time was naturally blonde!

I was 24 years old; Matt was 23. We were practically kids, entering into this brand new world together. Like most newlyweds, every moment seemed magical for the first few months...maybe even the first year.

Last night, we sat at a corner table, tucked away from everyone else at The Prime Rib, surrounded by much older, classier and wealthier people. We talked about how much our lives have changed since 1994. We reminisced and we shared our dreams for our future together.

And it was magical.

I thank God for his kindness in blessing me with a husband like Matt. And I thank God for blessing and sustaining our marriage for these past 17 years!

Friday, April 8, 2011

our host child, ethiopia & the bigger picture

My fam' was thrilled as we gathered around my macbook to open the email containing the pictures of our host child. Due to confidentiality reasons, I am not permitted to post his photograph online, but he is one cute little boy! Now I can see his face in my mind when I pray for him or when I fall asleep and think of what it will be like to meet him for the first time.

The agency asked us to send a picture of our family along with a short letter for them to translate, as a means of introducing ourselves to him. Well, after 20 shots on the macbook and lots of squirming (can you guess who?) and lots of pulling of the sign away from Abbie (same person), and lots of weird looking faces, we settled on this.

In many ways he's just like every other boy we know.

He goes to school
He is a little shy at first
He loves soccer
He plays with his friends

But unlike most boys we know, he is one of the estimated 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. Sami wants a family.

We'll be his Mom and Dad and Stephen, Abbie, David & Jayda will be his brothers and sisters for the month that he's here. We hope and pray that we can be the arms and feet of Jesus to him. We are eager to love him and play with him and care for him and listen to him!

We hope and pray that God makes a way for him to have a forever family.

But he is just one child. There are millions with a similar story and the very same need: a family.

I think this upcoming conference/movement in Ethiopia shows great promise in addressing the bigger picture of the overwhelming orphan crisis.

Pray for him. But pray also for this Project - that it has far reaching effects.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tiramisu Layered Cake


First things first.

You have to make this cake. It's so delicious and light! Don't be overwhelmed by the lengthy directions. It was a very simple cake to make, though it looks professional when you are done!

Here's the original recipe.

And here is how I made it. I stand by my "improvements."

Ingredients for Cake Portion
(1) box of white cake mix (pick something that is moist)
(4) teaspoons of expresso powder (by the instant coffee in grocery store)
(1/4) cup of expresso
(2) tablespoons of Kahlua

Ingredients for Filling:
(1) 16 ounce of mascarpone cheese (don't make the cream cheese substitute - cough up the extra money to get the good stuff. It makes a difference, trust me)
(1) cup of powdered sugar
(4-5) tablespoons of Kahlua

Ingredients for Frosting:
(2) cups of heavy cream
(1/4) cup of powdered sugar
(2) tablespoons of Kahlua

(2) tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
(1) one ounce square of dark chocolate or milk...whatever you prefer

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flower (3) 9" pans.

2. Prepare cake mix according to package. Divide 2/3 of batter between 2 pans. Stir 2 tablespoons of expresso powder into both pans. Pour the last 1/3 into the final pan and leave as is.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes then turn onto wire rack and cool completely.

4. In a measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup of expresso and 2 tablespoons of Kahlua and set aside.

5. To make the filling: In a small bowl, using a mixer set on low, combine mascarpone cheese, cup of powdered sugar and 4-5 tablespoons of Kahlua; beat just until smooth. Cover with with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

6. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, using a mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream, 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of Kahlua until stiff. Fold 1/2 of cream mixture into the filling that you are refrigerating.

Assembling the cake:

1. Place one of your coffee flavored cakes on the serving plate upside down. Using a thin skewer, poke holes in the the cake about 1" apart. Pour 1/3 of the expresso mixture over the cake.

2. Next, take the filling out of the refrigerator and spread half of it across the cake.

3. Now take the one plain cake and set it on top of the filling, upside down. Poke holes again in this layer and pour another third of the expresso over the cake. Spread with the remaining filling.

4. Put the final coffee flavored cake on top, right side up. Again, poke with holes and pour the rest of the expresso over the cake.

5. Now use your frosting to cover the sides and top of the cake. Be generous.

6. Lightly dust the top with cocoa powder and use a vegetable peeler to curl some pieces of chocolate and set on top.

7. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

You will not be sorry! Now print this out and make it!

bubble baths and peanuts

Bubble baths and shipping peanuts.

Is there anything better to play in?


March brought some fun birthdays our way, which meant delicious cakes and lots of new toys to find places for!

First up was Miss. Allyson's birthday - celebrated by our family with a meal and cake of her own pickin'. The cake: Tiramisu Layered Cake from with a few minor adjustments that put it over the top!

I mean, look at those layers baby!

Next was David's 4th Birthday - celebrated on three occasions,that lucky dog! There was the morning of his birthday when four lit candles appeared on a chocolate donut for him to blow out at breakfast time.

Later that evening there was the dinner of his choice which turned out to be waffles at Bob Evans. Apparently, Bob Evans doesn't make waffles after 3pm and we did not learn this until we were sitting down with menus in hand. Though sad at first, David happily settled on chocolate chip pancakes.

Finally, there was the grand family party where kids ran all through the house and David got to open a mound of presents!

Here is Aunt Jeanne putting a cowboy outfit on our little wrangler.