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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Another shift

Well, the 5 weeks have come and gone.

We took Dima back to the airport Thursday morning and he has returned to Latvia. The last few weeks with him were great! We were blessed to have very few challenges. Over the next few weeks we'll likely be filling in on how things are since he has returned home and what the future holds for Dima and our family, but for now we'll focus on the events of the last few weeks.

King and Dima paddling on the creek.
The weekend after our last post, we traveled to Ahoskie, NC to visit King's parents and sister on the family farm. Dima was treated to the standard breakfast of Dutch pancakes (crepes) on Saturday and Sunday morning prepared by Patsy (King's mom). YUM! After breakfast Saturday we loaded up canoes and kayaks to paddle on the creek. We also took a break to do a little swimming and escape from the heat! Needless to say, Dima had a blast with both. Later that afternoon, we had a small get-together for more people to meet Dima. He was a little shy and overwhelmed at first, but once we got into the pool, he opened up some more.

On our way back to Charlotte, we took a quick detour through Chapel Hill so Dima could see "our university." We drove through the main part of campus and had dinner and dessert on Franklin St. In case you didn't hear, we were able to quickly convince Dima that UNC was the best school to cheer for, especially once he learned that Michael Jordan attended.

Dima completed all of his dental visits with flying colors. He was nervous during the first one when he got one cavity filled and one tooth pulled. Once he realized that the pain was not what he had experienced in Latvia, he was more relaxed and was one of the most confident patients going into his second visit. We would like to give a special shout out to Dr. Julianne Colvin for donating her time and services to take care of Dima's teeth. When we told Dima that Dr. Colvin had donated everything, he was amazed that a complete stranger would do that. We were able to explain that she was a Christian like us (she actually plays the keyboard at our church) and in response to Jesus loving her so much, she wanted to share the love of Christ with him in this way. He was even more surprised when we told him that his eye doctor, Dr. Amanda Barker donated her services for the same reason. Thanks you both for everything!

During Dima's final weekend in America, Casey's parents came down for another visit. We went bowling on Saturday and he had a great time, even though it wasn't nearly as easy as Wii bowling. :) Saturday night we had one final get-together for friends in the area who had not been able to meet him. It truly was a blessing for people who have been supporting us prayerfully and financially to be able to interact with him, even if it was only for a short period of time.

The Sunday night before his departure was the first time we started to see some anxiety from him towards returning home. This was still relatively mild, but it was clear that he did not want to go back to Latvia. We tried to make it easier by reminding him about the people he knows back in Latvia. This was a minor comfort, but did seem to help a little getting through the last days. The final few days were spent getting last minute items, including a few small gifts for children back in Lativa who were unable to come to the US for the summer. We also squeezed in Star Wars, Episode I, the only Star Wars movie he had not seen since being in America (he LOVES Star Wars!). Wednesday night we had dinner with the Burgesses, the family that Casey has been nannying for this summer and who have also grown close to Dima. They gave him a few cards and his own Carolina Hurricanes jersey, with his nickname G-MAN printed on the back.  He LOVED it! After dinner we stopped to develop pictures of the summer to send home with him and then packed up everything. Not surprisingly, all three of us got a little emotional during this process. However, even through the emotion we were able to share about God's love for us and to use this opportunity to teach about Him and His plans.  We were able to explain that while none of us knows what the future holds that God, as our Creator knows everything about us-and did before we were even born!  We encouraged Dima to pray when he needs comfort and to seek out God's will.  This became especially important at the airport!

Thursday we woke up early to meet with other families at 7 AM at Charlotte-Douglas. We checked him in (his filled-to-the-brim bag weighed in at exactly 49 lbs!) and had about an hour to hang out before the kids and chaperones went through security. While we were talking during the last hour, Dima looked around and said, "There's Marks!" Marks is Dima's best friend and one of his roommates in Latvia. We knew Marks had been hosted as well, but Dima was adamant that he was in Los Angleles. It turns out that not only had he been in Greenville, SC all summer, but Marks' host family sat with us at our table during training before they arrived! Once we said our final good byes, the two friends connected immediately and went through security together. This was a blessing in so many ways because the boys were able to reconnect and help each other through this somewhat difficult good-bye and transition back home.

Slightly before boarding, Dima looked at Casey and said that this was a bad day.  We used this opportunity to say that this was not a bad day, but rather a day given to us by God.  We told him that all days are blessed and that each day we should take our concerns to the Lord.  This was yet again another opportunity to teach Dima about prayer.  We told him that God cares about every little thing in his life and wants him to talk to Him about them!  We encouraged him to pray about wanting to return to America one day, but also explained that God can say yes, no, or not now when we make requests before Him.  Dima connected with this and agreed that praying about his desire to return to America was a good thing.  Right before it was time to go, we all fought back tears and gave our final hugs and said our last words.  When Casey put her hands around his face and told him that we would miss him and enjoyed having him here, she also added in a we'll be praying for you and a "We love you."  His response, "And I you." 



So there's a brief summary of the last few weeks. We're still definitely processing our thoughts, emotions, and where to go from here, so your prayers are still appreciated. We also pray for Dima to become re-acclimated to life in Latvia, to continue to read his Bible and pray, and that we will be able to contact him frequently.  We are still waiting for information on the best way to stay connected, but have been assured that we will be able to do so.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement this summer, we certainly couldn't have done it without you-and GOD! He has been amazing and is continuing to teach us throughout this process. 

As we mentioned earlier, we'll still be making updates on special moments throughout the hosting process and using this space to let you know how God is working in our lives and the lives of those around us, so keep following our blog! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Update in pictures

Here's another quick update in pictures.  Most of them are from Tuesday night when we roasted marshmallows in our backyard.  This week is his first of two trips back to the dentist; 1 to get two cavities filled and 1 to get a baby tooth removed.  The second trip will be next week, so be sure to pray for those.

And now for the pictures!

Playing Jenga (thanks, Elizabeth!).  He is very good at it!

Enjoying Japanese food with King.  So much fun!

What a goof!

Just to let you know that he can be pure kid.

King and Dima made it out to watch a Charlotte Eagles soccer game and had a great time, even in the rain!

Even with damp clothes, he was all smiles at the end of the game!

Showing that he knows what to do when it comes to marshmallows and a camera!

First taste...


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm (and a little smoke from the fire)!

Do I have something on my face?

In case you needed to learn how its done.

I don't think I've seen a bigger grin on his face than in this picture.

Goin' for the straight-off-the-stick method...

Maybe not...

YUM!!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Week 2

Whew!  It's hard to believe that it's already been two weeks with our young visitor, and there's so much to tell!  Last weekend we traveled to Richmond, VA to visit with Casey's parents.  Friday night, Casey's parents hosted a get-together for their friends who have supported us in this endeavor.  All things considered, it went very well.  Not to our surprise, Dmitrijs was very quiet but was very willing to meet everyone.  We did provide an escape for him from potentially being overwhelmed by having the Wii set up so the kids could play while the adults chatted.  After the party was over and we went through our nightly routine, we learned that Dmitrijs actually prefers to be called "Dima" (the 'D' in this case sounds like the 'dg' in "edge," so if you say "Gima," you get close enough).  According to him, Dima is a shortened version of Dmitrijs, similar to Bob being a shortened version of Robert.  It has taken some effort to make the switch in our heads, but after a week of the "corrected" name, it has set in pretty well now.

Saturday Dima proved once again that sleeping is not a problem for him!  Thirteen hours after going to bed, he graced us with his presence around 11 AM!  We spent the rest of the morning and early part of the afternoon at home, but spent the rest of the afternoon at a local Putt-Putt, where he was able to play 2 rounds of Putt-Putt, drive a go-kart, and get COMPLETELY soaked on the bumper boats.  He had a blast and everyone came home very tired and hungry.  As a result, Dima got to show off his eating capabilities when he consumed a 1/2 pound hamburger, 2 hotdogs, and tater tots for dinner.  We clearly cannot be accused of starving this kid!
Dima enjoying Cheetos during a break from Putt-Putt.

Sunday we went to church where the sermon was on The Story.  Check it out at http://knowthestory.net/.  What an awesome sermon for Dima (and us!)!  Casey sat through the service with her phone trying to translate each of the points of the sermon.  He seemed to understand and later said he knew this story.  After church we had a great lunch at Outback.  As we've mentioned, we learned that Dima was not your typical Latvian boy since he LOVES spicy food.  However, the Bloomin' Onion didn't quite suite his taste buds!  All in all, Dima had a wonderful time getting to know Casey's parents and her brother, Kyle.  Just before we headed home Sunday, Kyle was able to display his guitar skills which greatly impressed Dima.  In fact, Dima was so impressed he later did an impression of Kyle while doing an "air guitar jump" at the pool.  Check out the video (he is saying "I am star, Kyle!").

video
On the way home we started singing "Dima, Dima, bo-bima, banana-fanna fo-fima...etc." and Dima was so amused!  He had never heard this name game song before and had us singing it slow and fast and taking turns and on and on!  He tried to follow us to learn it and eventually he just got ridiculously silly.  Check out those videos as well!

video video
This week was Dima's first week being on our regular schedule with King heading to work M-F and Casey and Dima going to her nannying job.  He definitely did not like the requirement of getting up at 7 AM and did give Casey a little bit of whining in the process.  To counter this, we quickly made the adjustment of getting ready for bed earlier in the evening.  So far, Dima has spent many hours swimming (no disappointments there), watched a few movies (including Cars 2), and played games.  He enjoys spending time with the other two children and has really started teasing and playing with them more over the past two days. 

Casey took a daring step by taking all of the kids to Carowinds today.  They spent most of the day in the water park since Dima stated that he did not like roller coasters.  However, at the end of the day, Dima agreed to try riding one roller coaster.  Much to Casey's surprise, he chose Thunder Road, one of the wooden roller coasters at the park that is really rickety.  Despite his initial hesitation, Dima loved the ride and hopes to come back to ride more in the future.  In fact, at the end of the day he said that the roller coaster was the best part of his day!

Perhaps the most exciting update is regarding Dima learning to pray.  So far we have introduced two steps of praying: thanking God and making requests.  He has gradually grown comfortable with these concepts and has prayed out loud with his four times (in English!!).  We plan to teach him about the qualities and names of God this coming week and introduce the concept of praising God and giving adoration during prayer. 

All in all we have been very busy, but we are having THE BEST TIME!  This has been nothing short of life changing and every day is filled with challenges and numerous joys!  Please continue to pray for and with us.  The next three weeks will continue to be a significant opportunity for us to minister to Dima and teach him about his Heavenly Father that has chosen him and loved him unconditionally despite his past experiences with family.  Pray that he will understand what we share with him and that he will believe it.  Additionally, pray for us as we continue to grow SO attached and know that we are unable to adopt Dima.  We pray each day that God give us peace about his future and wisdom about how to maintain a relationship with him when he returns to Latvia.  We are both committed to doing as much as we can for as long as we are able to continue to love and invest in Dima.  We appreciate the prayers and support.  Thank you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some pics and a video.

Okay, this post will be very brief, but hopefully you'll get a quick glimpse.  Hopefully we'll be able to put something with more detail soon.  For now, a brief summary since Saturday, a few pictures, and a video will have to do.

On Sunday afternoon, we spent a little time with Aija (pronounced, I-ya) one of the chaperones from Latvia.  Dmitrijs was able to speak some Russian and Aija ensured that she had everything that he needed.  After we dropped Aija off at her host family's house, we braved the grocery store and were able to learn some of his favorite foods (peppers are a BIG fav!).  For the 4th of July, we went to a different YMCA that has a waterpark.  Needless to say, he had a BLAST there, especially when King was able to teach him how to go down the waterslide faster by laying on his back.  For fireworks, we let him choose between the National Whitewater Center which had live music before the fireworks or Charlotte Motor Speedway for one of their Summer Shootout Series races.  He chose the Speedway and had a great time!

He went to the dentist today and did great!  They did find 2 cavities and a baby tooth that needs to be pulled, but he does not seem frightened about the process (though he certainly isn't excited about it).

Last night we started reading Bible stories with him.  Since we could not find Latvian materials earlier, Casey picked up some children's Bible story books, and we used Google Translate to get the stories in Latvian.  As we were getting started, Casey challenged him to read the first English paragraph out loud (which he did rather well!), and then said she would read the second English paragraph.  However, she got a bit more than she bargained for.  After she read the second paragraph and we moved to the Latvian paragraph, Dmitrijs pointed to the paragraph, then Casey and said, "You read."  This has produced many, MANY laughs (see the video below)!

Okay, so that was longer than what we originally intended it to be, but here are the pictures and video!

Dmitrijs playing with Merlin on his first day.

Jumping into the pool (also on the first day)

Fireworks from the Speedway on the 4th

We told you we've seen his grin big smile since he's been here!

King and Dmitrijs at the Speedway
video

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day One

The start of the first day was full of nervous energy!  To start, Dmitrijs (the true spelling of his name) slept almost 13 hours.  We were worried about when to wake him up, how much to let him sleep, and whether he was just sitting in his room waiting for someone to tell him it was time to come out!  Eventually, he did come out on his own and came down for a pancake breakfast.  He enjoyed the pancakes and really liked the syrup!  After breakfast we headed to a farmer's market  to attempt to find out what foods he likes.  This was probably not the best idea.  The farmer's market was PACKED yesterday and we think it overwhelmed him.  It was also painfully hot!  So, after picking up a few things here and there, including some sunglasses for Dmitrijs, we headed back to the house.

Back at the house we introduced him to the Wii.  He chose to try Mario Kart (one of our favorites), but it can be a little frustrating when you're just learning the remote and all of the special symbols and things.  Plus, it is really difficult to explain when you don't speak the same language.  We kept pausing the game to try to explain things, but Dmitrijs was just interested in figuring it out.  For instance, in the hallway we have nightlights that turn on and off automatically depending on how much they sense sunlight.  During the day the nightlights are usually off even though there are no windows in the hall.  However, when you walk by them they frequently turn on.  When Dmitrijs noticed this he experimented walking back and forth in front of the light and then trying to take giant steps over the light and even jump around it!!  It was hysterical to watch and loads of fun!  Plus, we learned that he is a quick learner.

After Wii, we all went to the YMCA to enjoy the pool.  Dmitrijs is an excellent swimmer and was open to some feedback on his skills and willing to learn new things, too!  By the end of the day we had played several rounds of monkey in the middle, dived for numerous diving sticks and torpedoes, sprayed each other with noodles and water guns, and even practiced jumping and diving in the deep end (something he said he "didn't like to do" at the beginning)!  While at the pool Dmitrijs was excited to show us his flips underwater.  Casey started counting how many he could do and when he came up after four she made a big deal about how great it was that he could do that many in a row.  His response was his first English sentence to us, "My record is 12."  We were told by the chaperone that he knows some English and is continuing to learn it, but that full sentence was amazing!  We teased him about knowing more English than he's letting on, but he keeps insisting that he really doesn't know much.  We think he understands much more than he says and that as he gets more comfortable that he will try to use his language skills more often.  We also learned that he prefers Russian to Latvian, which differs from information we were previously given, but is somewhat of a blessing.  It is MUCH easier to find Russian resources than Latvian!

Anyway, after the pool, we came home and showered.  Then we had some dinner, spaghetti, which he enjoyed and said he'd never eaten before.  Then we played Wii Sports Resort.  He LOVED fencing!  Giggled the whole time and sighed when he got "knocked off the platform."  He also enjoyed the table tennis game.

Then it was time for ice cream and a round of Yikers, which he won multiple times--without us letting him win!  Then we played a round of Spot It and he taught us some Latvian and Russian words and we had him practice some English words.

After the game we came upstairs and played with Merlin (our youngest and funniest cat!) who has really taken a liking to Dmitrijs.  They enjoy each other while Dmitrijs waves a cat toy with the feather on the end all around his room and Merlin flops and jumps around trying to attack it.  It is great fun, loads of laughs, and an excellent ice breaker.

Before bed we all wrote in a journal about our day.  In Dmitrijs' journal he said that he felt happy and good.  He said that his favorite parts of the day were playing games and going to the pool and that he would like to do them again.  We wrote pretty much the same thing!  After journal, we showed him the Latvian Bible (generously sent to us by an anonymous source that we still haven't discovered!) and the children's Bible story books that we have translated to Latvian.  He said he was tired and didn't want to read tonight, so we said that was OK, but we would read tomorrow.  He nodded in understanding.  Before bed we prayed together.  He is getting used to this routine, but it is obviously foreign to him.  We are looking for advice on how to better include Dmitrijs in our prayer times, as this is one place when the language barrier seems to be more of an issue.  Comments are appreciated with suggestions on how to do this better!

All in all, our first day was AMAZING.  We are excited about the next five weeks and are hoping that he will continue to gain trust in us and open up.  Thank you for praying for and encouraging us!  If you live in the area and are interested in getting together send us a message.  We know we won't be able to see everyone, but we will certainly try to do what we can, based of course on how he is feeling.  Anyway, we are looking forward to day 2!  Updates again soon!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Heeeeerrrrreeeee's Dimitry!!!!

He's finally here!  Dimitry arrived yesterday around 6:45 and was completely exhausted!  Now, many of you may be thinking, "Wasn't he supposed to get here close to midnight Thursday?"  Yes he was.  Dimitry (and MANY other host children) were delayed in Poland due to some mechanical issues on the plane.  Once they fixed the problem, the plan left 5 hours after its scheduled departure.  As a result, families around Denver, Chicago, D.C., and Charlotte had to wait one more day for their host child.

The picture above was taken shortly after he met us, so I'm sure he was more than a little overwhelmed at the time.  He was very quiet on the way home, despite our best intentions to engage him.  We've also quickly seen how imperfect Google Translator is as we've shown him a translated sentence or question, only to get a quizzical stare as a reply.  Fortunately, we have seen him smile a few times.  Once we got home, we showed him around and introduced him to Luna and Merlin.  This produced smile number 1!  He enjoyed petting them, and we're pretty sure he'll like playing with Merlin.  Once we showed him his room (which produced another small grin), we had an ice cream sundae celebration!  This brought another big smile!

While we were having ice cream, we played Yikers, a game we picked up to play with him.  Basically, you have 10 magnets and the goal is to play all of your magnets first.  The tricky part is that if the magnets come together, you have to pick them up and place them back in your hand.  Dimitry picked up the concept pretty quickly, but we're not sure how much he likes it.

After ice cream, Dimitry was ready to get cleaned up and rest after all his travels.  King gave him a brief orientation of American bathroom procedures and how to work the shower.  Once he got cleaned up, he was ready for bed.  We prayed with him and said goodnight at around 9 PM.

We're not completely sure what's in store for today, but we are planning on going to the farmer's market and possibly a park with his soccer ball!

Please keep praying; one of our concerns at the moment is that we don't have other children to engage him.  Kids have a way of getting other kids to let their guards down when they are otherwise intimidated by adults.  Also, because we don't have other kids all attention is on him.  We're working on not putting him on the spot too much, but aren't sure we're succeeding.  We have been praying about this (and trying not to stress about it).   If you are in the area with children and would like to meet up, let us know!  =)

Thanks for praying. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

OH MY and The "A" Word

So, we're about 24 hours away from meeting Dimitry (if all goes well with his Visa and travels!).  He should be boarding his first flight around midnight tonight and then continue his travels for about 24 hours before we pick him up tomorrow night at Charlotte Douglas.  Please pray for him and safety for his travels as well as the other children being hosted through New Horizons around the country. 

We have so many mixed emotions right now.  We are nervous and scared--wondering how crazy we are!  We are getting excited as well. =)  We have many things planned while he's here and are hoping that he will be able to do them once he gets adjusted.  Thinking about this makes us happy, but we're already starting to feel the sadness of knowing we'll have to say good-bye.  Please, please, pray for this.  Pray that while he is here that we will be able to show him love and kindness with our whole hearts, and teach him about God and yet, be able to let him go after five weeks.  Dimitry will be prepared to say good-bye as he has been told that this is a "vacation" a break from the orphanage and an opportunity to get out of "work camp."  We, however, already feel pain knowing that we can't do more to permanently change the physical conditions in which he lives.  Some comfort comes from the understanding that we are working to teach him about a Heavenly Father that cares for his eternal needs and salvation and that we may have an opportunity to impact these aspects of his life.  Again, please pray for us and our emotions and perspectives throughout this experience.

Now for a piece of business...The "A" Word...ADOPTION!  As we previously stated in an earlier post, we are not eligible to adopt Dimitry.  Latvian law doesn't allow adoptions unless the adopting parents are 18 years older than the child...we are not.  However, this doesn't mean that he may not be adopted by someone he meets during his time here.  While he is here he will meet many people and families and it may be part of God's perfect plan for him to meet his adoptive family through us.  However, it may not be.  For this reason we must warn you not to use the "A" word in front of Dimitry.  While the children know little if any English, we have been warned that as orphans they are very aware of the word adoption.  Some even know that other children hosted on American programs are sometimes adopted by their host families.  For this reason, if you are ever around us with Dimitry PLEASE refrain from using the word adoption or asking any questions about his current living situation (in the orphanage), history/past family, or anything related to these topics.  We appreciate your awareness and your careful use of language around him.

Thank you for your prayers and continued support.  Even this week, we have been so moved by the overflowing amount of messages, cards, texts, and goods for Dimitry that we have received.  We feel so blessed and hope that those who have been a part of this process have and will continue to be blessed by being a part of this experience.