Saturday, July 30, 2011


Well...soon our guest room will go back to looking like a guest room and our garage will be a little less crowded as we empty it of the "boy toys" that we have borrowed from our sweet neighbors this summer. I won't find wadded up towels and wet bathing suit trunks lying on the bathroom floor anymore and the sink and the mirror on the right side of the vanity will no longer contain remnants of that sparkly toothpaste that kids like. The back seat in my car can go back to it's original position instead of being slightly reclined and there will be no voice from over my shoulder questioning, "Holly? How many minutes ma-she-na?" (Meaning, how many minutes are we going to be in the car?) I won't have the nightly debate that we go through as he tries to push for a later bed time...nor will I have that sweet boy to hug at the end of the day.

Ahhh...the emotion that comes with the absence of someone...someone sweet and unassuming that travels half way around the world to be with us for six weeks. We have been blessed again with knowing the joy of his presence in our home this summer...and now we reluctantly prepare...for his absence.

The truth is we have had a busy and fun "America 3" and I would gladly trade our guest room, a clean bathroom and all the additional garage space to keep his company and life-loving spirit in our home. Venya is the "Yes" man and I love that. It challenges me to run after life the way he seek to live it to the fullest, to live everyday abundantly and joyfully. So because he is the "yes" man he has learned to surf this summer, stand up on water skis, catch some fish, play more golf, perform magic tricks in front of a group, drive a go-cart and breath through a regulator as if he were actually scuba diving. When you ask him if he wants to do something...anything, 9 times out of 10 the answer is "yes" and it is said with an enthusiasm that erases any doubt you may have had while posing the question.

What's even sweeter than that is the fact that he is the "yes" man when it comes to other things that most kids would not find pleasure in...washing the car with "Daddy," helping Sydney roller skate around Jelly Beans skating rink, taking out the dog and the trash and all those empty pizza boxes (we consumed some pizza!). Not only does he do all these things...he does them JOYFULLY. It amazes me...amazes US when we see the smile on his face for the mundane and ordinary chores that we don't necessarily love doing. I'm learning...those who find joy in these things...probably find joy in all things.

So our dining room table has his rolling duffel bag opened and ready and there are piles of winter clothes and shoes to strategically be squeezed into its very limited space. There are gifts for his family members and souvenirs he has collected during his stay and somehow, we will get it all in there even if we have to sit on the thing to get it to zipper.

But thank goodness LOVE is light and easy to take with you...and requires no special compartment or strategy. It, unlike the duffel bag, has no size limit or weight restriction and definitely no $25 fee and while it is hard to see him go, I'm grateful. Mainly because I am certain that we'll be sending him home with all of our LOVE on Tuesday morning. Praying for two more great days with him and a safe journey home for the entire group.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Venya and the Whoopie Cushion

One thing is for sure...I love having a boy in the house. He is high energy all day long and at times, I struggle to keep up with him, but I love it and I'm thankful for the challenge...and of course, I gladly welcome the newly elevated level of our daily "house noise."

So I was glad to see him back today. Venya received a spontaneous invitation to spend the night with another Belarussian child after church last night and of course, he took it. Sydney teared up saying goodbye to him, so I know we're doomed when August 2nd rolls around and after one night of quiet, we were all glad to see him return. He abruptly walked back through the front door this afternoon chomping on some chewing gum as he marched past me and immediately started questioning, "Where is a Sydney?" I pointed in her direction and smiled as I saw what was in his hand...two pairs of stick on earrings for Sydney and the treasured toy of all young boys...a whoopie cushion. He quickly passed the earrings to Sydney across our dining room table and started blowing up the cushion. Sydney looked at it with confusion and asked, "What's that?" While he knows SOME English, I doubt he would have explained it with words even if he knew the right ones. He smiled one of his big playful smiles as he squeezed the air out of it which made us both (me and him) laugh, but Sydney still looked on the whole scene with puzzlement.

Again, he inflated the whoopie cushion-only this time he placed it in one of our dining room chairs and sat down on it. Now Sydney got the picture as she burst out in laughter at the awful and very exaggerated, but human like sound. I tried to be a bit "motherly" as we mothers of daughters want them to grow up with some degree of dignity, so I gave her a little talk on how a whooopie cushion is more of "boy toy"...It makes us all laugh, but it's not the most "lady-like" of toys. I don't believe it was registering, or maybe it was, but she and Venya continued to inflate and deflate the cushion over and over again.

It was almost 5pm when I noticed the two of them running through the house whispering and planning something. I had sort of forgotten about "the cushion" as it had been quiet for a little while...but then I saw them giggling as they pulled out the chair that Bobby sits in at our dinner table and placed the toy in perfect "whoopie cushion" position. I soon heard Bobby's footsteps come through the garage door and watched them scurry away giggling as they quickly tucked the chair back under the table.

We said our "hellos" and briefly went over our days events with "Daddy" as I stirred some pasta on the stove. One thing was for sure, you could tell the kids were very eager for "dinner time." Every now and then I would hear Venya say to Sydney, "You NO funny" for fear that her sudden bursts of laughter would give their secret away. It was comical too because at one point I looked down and our little 10lb. miniature dachshund was dragging the inflated cushion across the kitchen floor. I guess he somehow managed to jump up on the chair and pull it off of the seat. I laughed as I took it from him and handed it back to Sydney-using my body to block Bobby's view of the prank he was about to fall into.

Finally...the moment arrived. While I would have NEVER thought that Bobby in his attentive manner would actually sit down on the cushion, he was tired and a bit distracted, so that's exactly what he did. All eyes were on him as he slowly turned his dinner chair sideways and lowered his body down onto it. "FWHOOOOOOP" came from underneath his bottom which actually startled him but made the rest of us burst out in laughter. He eventually laughed too as he stood up and held up the pale pink sack. I shook my head and smiled as the kids danced around the room in sweet child-like celebration.'s just so good for my soul. So tonight before I hit the sack, I say "Thank heaven for little girls...AND for young boys with whoopi cushions." The joy that comes from these summer days is priceless!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Snapshots


Love these photos of Venya (and Palina) at surf camp. Thank you to IndoJax Surf School for giving these kids this awesome experience!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

He's Back!

Well...he's back and we are once again enjoying the sweetness and the joy that goes along with having a humble boy from Belarus in our home. This year's arrival was different from years past...Bobby and I had the privilege of driving one of the vans to the Charlotte airport to pick up Venya and the group. We knew that although the kids would be quite tired after already traveling for so many hours, it would still be great to be there to welcome back our sleepy little visitor and all of the children for that matter.

He was walking down the ramp from the international terminal when I first spotted him. He was pushing a luggage cart as he walked which was sort of funny since the only thing resting on it was one small bag that wasn't even stuffed full and I certainly wouldn't classify it as heavy. He pushed it only so far as he took the last ten steps toward me with empty arms and free hands. Our tight hug was sweet and also comical as I looked over his shoulder at all the people who were now trying to make their way around the cart which I later learned contained the bag belonging to someone else...Just like Venya to be pushing someone else's stuff and just like him to ditch it for a hug.

Bobby and Don Teter were in the vans out in the cell phone parking lot (parking that day was an issue) and Yasmin and I texted back and forth to them as the kids continued to congregate and shuffle in and out of the bathroom. Yasmin distributed the motion sickness medicine. She has learned all too well over the years that motion sickness can be an issue, and this year was no exception. We had some that were sick before we even stepped out of the airport which broke my heart...imagine your child traveling all this way and they are now sick...and tired...and in some cases, probably scared and lonely. Yasmin and I tried as best we could to be of comfort to these kids...there are times when you just hope and pray that the language of motherly love (even when you are not their mother) is universal....AND that the medicine begins to start working!

We made it home safely and enjoyed one of those touching ABRO scenes as the vans...the Teters and then ours...slowly turned the corner into the church parking lot and drove between the lines of host families that were on both sides of us. Standing in the dark under the large lights of the parking lot, families were cheering and clapping and in some cases, yelling out the names of indivdual kids. I heard the unbuckling of seat belts as some of the Belarussian kids scooched forward to press their faces to the window and look for their American "home." It was sweet in such an unexpected way, and I was a bit emtional as my eyes scanned past all of the families and friends that create this amazing group and finally landed on our sweet Sydney standing with Grandma. It was, like I stated earlier, a privelege to drive the van, be with Don and Yasmin, to greet the kids at the airport, and finally, to be greeted by this group as we returned home. I'll never forget the day.

So since last Tuesday, we've been doing the usual things that we all enjoy during the summer. I'm happy to report that Venya jumped into the pool this year with no swim test and laughed as he said, "Me remember, America one, Me" and then acted out the scene as if he was drowning. (America one is what he calls his first trip to America. Last year was America two, so you get the picture.) We love having him back and know that six weeks tends to go a lot faster than we sometimes want it to. Makes me think of one of my favorite Bible verses, Psalm 90:12, "Teach me to number my days." Yes Lord! Every single one of them...espeically those that will become known as, for Venya and for us, "America Three!"