The boys are from a different orphanage in Ukraine than the rest of the group. In fact, the facilitator (and the entire Charis Ministry team) had never met these boys. No one knew what to expect. The facilitator, Alla, told me that she had only spent two days with the boys, while traveling, but she relayed that they were very hyper, and it would be important to lay down rules for them from the start. We assured her that we're quite accustomed to hyperactive boys. :-)
The boys arrived with a small backpack with a few items in it. They each had an unopened soda in one hand. Shortly after their arrival, they explained, via the translator, that they wanted to give Matt and I a gift. Both boys handed us their unopened sodas and gave us each a hug! This brought tears to our eyes, as the only items these boys really "owned" was their cans of soda, and they were willing to give this up in order to bless Matt and me. Now, I know they were most likely trying to do anything they could think of to make us like them, but whatever their motive, this gesture definitely stole a piece of our hearts. :-)
We stood around the airport, along with the other host families, while we visited and tried to gain wisdom and insight from Alla, the facilitator/translator. The boys told us that they were ready to go and asked what we were waiting for! They were eager to get out of the airport and on their way to our home! The moment we walked out of the airport, the Texas heat hit the boys hard, and they panted and fanned themselves while we walked to our vehicle. They were good sports, though, and I have a feeling they'll get accustomed to the Texas heat much more quickly than it takes me to adjust to cold climates!
When we arrived at Forgotten Saw Ranch, I thought the boys would be afraid of our dogs. It can be overwhelming to be greeted by 8 barking canines, even for an American, but for two boys who are stuck within the walls of an orphanage in Ukraine, I didn't think they'd be at ease with the dogs. Well, surprise, surprise! The boys LOVE all of our dogs, all 8 of them, and they loved on the dogs, kissed them, petted them, and showed no fear whatsoever. :-)
We had French Dip sandwiches with fresh fruit for lunch, and both boys LOVED it. They both ate every morsel and crumb on their plates. Dima is thin and needs to eat more, so I was thrilled that they enjoyed the food.
After lunch, the boys explored the house, then ran outside to play. It didn't take long for them to ask to swim. I was SHOCKED at their level of comfort in the pool. (I'm going to post some videos below.) They're both dare devils. I had them both wear life jackets at first, then Vlad explained that he wouldn't drown without it! Vlad appears to have spent some time in pools before, although I realized he doesn't know how to swim strongly, but he does know to stay in the shallow end if he doesn't have his life jacket on.
Everyone stayed in the pool together for the afternoon, and then we had spaghetti with salad and French bread for dinner. Dima cleared his plate, completely clean, and Vlad ate most of his. We had watermelon for dessert. Dima at 4 slices while Vlad ate 3. These boys like to eat! :-)
I spent some time Wednesday evening gathering clothes from the attic to outfit the boys. When they saw their shelves with all of their clothing, they got SOOOOOOOOOOO excited. They wanted to touch and feel everything. I felt sad for them that they don't own a thing, and I sure hope to send them back with a bag of their very own belongings, but that's one of the facts of life in an orphanage: one doesn't have the privilege of owning things. Everything is given a number and kept track of as best as possible, but the items are all community property. Not one thing is "owned" or the property of any one person.
It breaks my heart that these two sweet boys are living in an orphanage, wishing more than anything that they'd have a mommy and daddy of their own. The older boy, Vlad, is so eager to please. It's obvious he wants us to like him so that we'll adopt him. Dima is quite mischievous and full of energy. He has a close relationship with his big brother, and I've felt so very blessed to see their bond. Vlad is very responsible and mature, and he takes awesome care of his little brother, Dima.
Since the boys are on a hugely different different time zone, they were exhausted at bedtime. They still wanted to play, but I finally got them into PJ's with brushed teeth. It took a few minutes to convince them to stop playing and get into bed, but they finally did, and I said their prayers and gave them both big hugs.
We're already falling in love with the boys and can't imagine having to send them back to Ukraine in 5 weeks. :-( Sawyer (our biological 11 year old) is begging us to adopt the boys. Ella suggested that we could be their mom and dad while they're here for 5 weeks, then send them back and not be their mom anymore. I didn't care much for that idea, and I explained to Ella that we never give our kids away or send them away, so I'm not crazy about her suggestion! I can already tell that the toughest thing about this summer hosting program is going to be sending the boys back to Ukraine on August 4. :-(
Here are a few videos of the boys that I took while they were swimming. (Note: Vlad calls me mom, but that's just what Ukrainian orphans refer to their host families as. :-)