Giving and Receiving

I’ve got a few more Sweet Tea posts and then I’ll end this series. It has taken me so long to share each post because there is so much emotion surrounding Sweet Tea’s visit.

After Sweet Tea arrived, Dave went through our movies and found ones with Russian subtitles, including the Narnia movies.

Sweet Tea enjoyed the movies so much that I asked her if she would like to read the books. She said yes so I went on an internet hunt to find Narnia in Russian. I found the whole series in one big book. Amazing what you can find with a few mouse clicks.

The package arrived. We opened it and handed Sweet Tea the book. She smiled big and sat right down to read.


Throughout Sweet Tea’s visit, she had a very hard time choosing for herself, whether it was food at a restaurant or clothes at the store. The hosting agency told us that these kids often have a tough time with decisions — even very small decisions — because they don’t get to make their own decisions in their orphanages. They eat what they are given; they take what they are given.

We take that for granted, right? From very early on our kids learn to choose what they would like. It’s a life skill. Unfortunately, without this life skill these kids are prime targets for sex traffickers and criminals who know they can coerce these kids into anything. It’s heartbreaking.

Interestingly, Sweet Tea had a very easy time buying gifts for others. One of Lauren’s friends gave us a gift card so Sweet Tea and I went to the store with the goal of buying gifts for her to take back to the orphanage. She found a ring and matching earrings for her friend, a shampoo and conditioner set for the orphanage director and a big bag of candy for everyone.

I asked her, “Is it much easier for you to buy gifts for others rather than yourself?” She laughed and nodded.

She wanted to buy a gift for one more friend but couldn’t figure out how to explain what she was looking for. Google images helped us find a Monster Energy baseball cap. Turns out those are hard to find in stores but quite popular on eBay. I bought one off eBay but didn’t tell Sweet Tea, wanting to surprise her.

The day the package arrived, I opened it and told Sweet Tea we had something for her. I held up the cap. She literally leaped across the room to give me a hug. Honestly, I was shocked because she had been with us for weeks and not initiated touch at all. That Monster Energy baseball cap must have been very important to her.

The best part is that it was for someone else.

By |2021-07-08T21:44:59-07:00March 31st, 2016|Lana's Journal|3,071 Comments

Zooming, Zipping, Flipping

During Christmas break we took Sweet Tea, Hope and Lauren to Knotts Berry Farm. The lines were horrendous (2-3 hours for every roller coaster) so the day wasn’t what we envisioned. Sweet Tea loved the two roller coasters she rode so we decided to go to Six Flags Magic Mountain after school started back up and just let Lauren skip a day of school. Lauren was A-OK with that idea. One of Dave’s co-workers graciously gave us Six Flags tickets (thank you so much Katt!) so off we went.

The forecast called for rain in the afternoon so we arrived early, hoping to hit all the rides before the rain. Apparently the threat of rain scared everyone away because the highest number of visitors for the day was less than 2,000. Park capacity is 23,000. Yippee!!!!

Based on online research, we came up with the following roller coaster plan:

  1. Full Throttle
  2. Goliath
  3. Green Lantern
  4. Batman the Ride
  5. Riddler’s Revenge
  6. Apocalypse
  7. Tatsu
  8. Ninja
  9. Superman
  10. Gold Rusher
  11. Colossus
  12. Scream!
  13. Road Runner Express
  14. Canyon Blaster
  15. Revolution
  16. Viper
  17. X2

Dave, Lauren and Sweet Tea rode coaster after coaster, sometimes staying on and going again. This is ideal if you are a pre-teen/teen but no so much for a 40ish person…no break in between coasters to regain your equilibrium! Poor Dave.

The bigger the drop, the more loops and the faster the better!

Yeah…the girls ride the Viper so many times that they posed for one shot.

I was happy to be the coat, sunglasses, backpack holder for the day. Very happy.

Until…toward the end of the day, the girls convinced me to ride one coaster. The Twisted Colossus. Dave and Lauren insisted it wasn’t bad at all, very mild. Now, how could I say no to the girls, especially to the one who had braved flying across the world to stay with a family she did not know? Each and every experience in America was new and potentially scary for Sweet Tea. So, I got on the ride.

(Picture taken from Six Flags google images)

Dave said his ears hurt from my screaming, Lauren said I sounded like a dying baby goat, and I was hoarse for the next two days. If Sweet Tea could speak English I’m pretty sure she would have added to the commentary. And, NO, I didn’t have my arms up…more like hanging on for dear life!


Dave and I were walking behind Sweet Tea and Lauren when one pushed the other and they went back and forth, laughing and shoving each other. I looked at Dave and said, “Lauren is going to have a very hard time saying goodbye.” We found out soon enough that we would all have a very hard time saying goodbye.

“The risk of love is loss and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Hilary Stanton Zunin


By |2021-07-08T21:45:00-07:00March 18th, 2016|Lana's Journal|1,832 Comments

Yabluchnyk (Apple Cake)

Each week we filled out a report on Sweet Tea and sent it to the hosting agency. One of the questions was current weight and height. When I told Sweet Tea that I needed to weigh her, she looked skeptical. I explained that the hosting agency needed to make sure she was eating. She nodded and stepped on the scale. I quickly explained that the numbers were in pounds, not kilograms! (There are 2.2 pounds per kilogram…no one wants to see double their usual weight staring back at them from the scale!)

Despite all the yummy foods we cooked and ate and all the frozen yogurt runs, Sweet Tea left our house weighing exactly, to the pound, the same as when she arrived. She did grow an inch taller though. 🙂

Speaking of yummy foods…

One day when we didn’t have specific plans, I asked Sweet Tea to help me make an Eastern European dessert.

She translated, “Who is it for?”

I told her it was for all of us. We would eat it. She shrugged.

Maybe she isn’t used to making special desserts for herself?

I told her that we would make the cake for Grandma and she liked that idea. Big smile.

Dave’s mom was happy to come over and eat cake, so we were all set. A friend of mine recently went to some Truffle Nation Baking Classes and she taught me this recipe. I’m not the best baker in the world but this tasted amazing! Perhaps I should go to a baking class so I can learn some new recipes!


Yabluchnyk (Apple Cake)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Streusel Topping

  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 8 inch square baking dish.
  2. Sift together 1 1/2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Stir together the egg with the cream and gently mix into the flour until a soft dough has formed.
  4. Press into prepared baking dish.
  5. Layer the apples into the dish overlapping, in neat rows.
  6. Prepare streusel by mixing the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake in preheated oven until apples have softened, and topping has browned, about 25 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

This cake is definitely better the following day as the crust is somewhat dry but left overnight gets moister.


By |2021-07-08T21:45:00-07:00March 11th, 2016|Lana's Journal, Recipes|428 Comments

God in the Dentist Office

As part of the orphan hosting program, we were required to take Sweet Tea for an eye exam and a dental check-up. I called around and found an optometrist and a dentist at the girls’ school. Both offered complementary exams for Sweet Tea.

We started with the eye exam.


The eye chart was useless because Sweet Tea’s language has a completely different alphabet. Thank goodness for computers and imaging and whatever optometrists use to check vision electronically.


The following day we went to the dentist. We were told that dentists in Eastern Europe often do not use anesthesia so the host kids may be very afraid of the dentist. A fear of dental work is not uncommon though as this website will show you. Thankfully, with the right dentist, this fear can vanquish with a very positive outcome. I asked Sweet Tea if she had been to a dentist before and she nodded. I told her that in America dentists are gentle especially when I used to go for my regular visits to Dentist Fort Wayne. She nodded again.

As soon as she sat in the chair, I could tell that she was very nervous. The dentist came in and we tried translating a few things but we were having trouble with the dental terms. The dentist said, “I do not want to start working until she understands what we are doing and that I will try not to hurt her.” We were getting no where with charades and the translator app. All of a sudden, the dentist said, “Wait a second! Isn’t Marina still here?” The hygienist jumped up, ran out the room and a few seconds later came back with another patient. A patient who spoke Sweet Tea’s language.

What?! Divine appointment. God’s tender loving care for a scared teenage girl from an orphanage in Eastern Europe who had no way of telling us what hurt or to express any concern.

Sweet Tea and Marina talked for a few minutes and we learned where Sweet Tea’s teeth hurt. She visibly relaxed.

Thank you God for being with us everywhere, especially in that dentist office that day.

This is just the first of many dental appointments that she’ll have to go through during her lifetime, but I told Sweet Tea that it will only get easier from here. A big part of it is finding a dentist that you can trust, so regardless of whether you need treatment in periodontics, having a simple check-up, or you’re having your teeth whitened, your trips to the dentist office will never be like it was on that first day you went.

Speaking of dentists, I was talking to a friend about the dental business the other day and they were telling me it is really important to have someone dedicated to your marketing SEO and PPC. My friend was telling that Jason Mcdonald blog had some really useful information about this topic.

The visit was a long one…x-rays, cleaning, 2 fillings and 16 sealants. The dentist said, “This will get her through the next 20 years.” Then he said, “Merry Christmas” and we were done.

A week later we got the bill and a note asking us to please tell her they enjoyed meeting her. The bill was $0.

Thank you Dr. Hague and Dr. Chan!

By |2021-07-08T21:45:00-07:00March 9th, 2016|Lana's Journal|105 Comments

An Extra Special Christmas

Our holiday season was extra special due to Sweet Tea’s presence. A few days before Christmas, I walked into the living room and spotted Sweet Tea and Hope, crawling around under the tree, looking at the gifts. Up until that point, Sweet Tea had been so incredibly reserved that I was relieved — totally normal kid behavior to be checking out the presents!

New Horizons gave us a list of items we had to send back with Sweet Tea so we bought and wrapped some of those for Christmas: a backpack, water bottle, blanket, journal, etc. We didn’t want to overwhelm her with gifts and give so much that she didn’t have room to take everything home so we kept the gifts to needs with a few fun items like make up, music and pjs. From what we were told, the kids aren’t used to extravagant holidays with mountains of stuff. I’m guessing that even our scaled back Christmas seemed like a lot to Sweet Tea.

So many times I wished I knew what she was thinking. I just hope she understood how happy we were to have her with us!

Dave was the camera man for the day and he took this picture that summed up everything, every single thing about hosting an orphan for Christmas…giving these precious children the hope that only comes from Jesus. A Bible in Sweet Tea’s language and English.

We didn’t know if she would be interested in the Bible or how much she knew about God. Over the next few weeks, I found her many times reading her new Bible with a journal and pen, writing down verses. I asked her if she was a Christian but that translation must not have made sense because she looked confused. I then asked if she believed in God and Jesus and she said yes. We weren’t able to have in-depth discussions about beliefs so I prayed and continue to pray that the Living Word of God speaks to her in all the ways we couldn’t…


When your little sister wraps up the Barbie ornament from the tree and is sooooo excited to give it to you…

Always, always a southerner at heart!

Merry Christmas, Just Dance style. (Yes, they played Just Dance sitting down.)

By |2016-03-04T16:13:09-08:00March 4th, 2016|Lana's Journal|549 Comments