Weeks into hosting two sisters ages 16 and 8,  I said,
“This has been so great!  We have the best kids.” My husband responded,
“We do have great kids, but don’t underestimate what an incredible job you did. You made this transition easy.”
I thought, “You know, he’s right!”
1. Make Space
I remember being in the car on the way home from the airport, smiling to myself as I recalled we had the next several days together as a family. My husband had taken off; we wiped our schedules clean. It’s funny. We are extremely busy people. When we hosted, we went MIA. We committed to nothing; because we had committed to everything.
2. Go Slow
We had a leisurely first day. In fact we had a leisurely first several days. Our first morning together we were all a little groggy and sheepish. But it didn’t last long. After a breakfast of pancakes, we strolled outside. We ended up in a shallow creek at the back of our yard skipping stones. Skipping stones. I don’t think a family has done that together since the 1920s. My husband eventually let a 2 pound rock plop into the water right next to our oldest girl; splashing her legs. She responded in kind; and we were off!
3. Limit the TV
As liberal as my husband and I are in hair color and piercings, we’re rather conservative with technology. We never had the TV on in the background or as mindless noise. We always used it as something we would do together as a family. Saturday mornings were for cereal and cartoons. Twice we watched Mary Poppins in Russian, as a family. Our first outing was to a local dinner theater to see it in English. It was extremely successful. We are still feeling the affects of this rule. Our personal TV habits changed permanently.
4. Add Variety
I acquired  bored games, card games, balls and bats; anything we could do together without speaking the same language. I also collected an assortment of craft supplies: colored pencils, crayons, coloring books, beads for jewelry, fuse beads, thread for friendship bracelets. I felt confident knowing I had these activities in my back pocket; for good reason. My entire kitchen is literally covered in pages we all colored together. (Most of these items were from second hand places. No one even noticed)
5. Get Dressed
Realizing that the girls would come with nothing, I asked for donations. By the time the girls came, our cellar was FULL of clothes for both of them. It looked like a garbage dump, but it was actually bags full of love in the shape of shoes, shirts, pants and dresses. I purchased new undies, socks and swimwear once the girls got here and I had a better idea of sizes. Eventually the girls went shopping with me and that was fun too.
* I did NOT set the girls loose these bags. I brought out what I knew they needed slowly; a few items at a time. They went through them, tried them on, and decided what they wanted.  It was only when we had a few bags left, 3 or 4 weeks in, that I let them at ’em.
6. Brush Your Teeth
My husband groaned when he realized how many shampoo bottles would be in the shower while living with 3 women (5 if you count the animals)! Nevertheless, I bought them each a new toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and loofa. Maybe they would hate showering, but I would at least tempt them bubbles and sweet smells.
7. Make the Bed
I put a lot of pressure on myself to decorate their bedroom for them. I thought it would be challenging because of their ages. It was a non-issue. I did have to start from square one, purchasing furniture, décor and bedding. I added my books from my childhood, some cute knick knacks, personalized frames, and stuffed animals. Our eldest one told us later,
“We knew you loved as soon as we saw our room. Only loving parents would have decorated the room so beautifully.”
It makes my heart swell even now typing it.
8. Make Dinner
The summer was exhausting. I’m not sure I noticed because I was having so much fun. However, there were a few days when I remembered dinner was in the freezer or crock pot waiting for us. I would have called my Mom to thank her for her work if had had the strength to pick up the phone. It was a great gift she gave us. Dinner; ready to go.
9. Walk the Dog
We have an adorable Siberian Husky puppy. She was very happy as an only child. She had no idea why we failed to walk her as much once the girls arrived. The longer we went, the more her behaviors let us know she needed to run. I made her a bit more of a priority, and asked a trusted friend to step in. Jady got her treks and would come back wet, muddy and exhausted. I was thrilled! No, I mean it. An exhausted puppy is no small feat. I was thrilled for it.
10. Pencil it in
As thrilled as I was to have several home activities planned, I was equally happy to have several community offerings at my fingertips. Our summer hosting was anchored with swimming. There were a few friends who opened their pools to us anytime. I knew strawberry picking and shortcake baking would be fun. We visited a few gardens and saw a free movie with family. This time around I scored day passes to a local rock-climbing facility, pickle ball is huge here, and we will definetly head out to Hershey Park’s Christmas Candylane, plus Holiday Cookies.
I encourage you to ask for help from friends, family, even local businesses. It’s not only life-giving to you and your family, but it brings others into your story. It’s a way to share the journey of hosting, the story of the orphan, and the hope of a family. I hate asking for help; but in our journey, I’ve come to depend on people who absolutely WANT to help and just need to be told HOW.
Having someone mow your lawn, fold laundry, or bring a meal are easy, simple, free and effective. We are all in this together – so be in it together. You might be surprised what you get.