As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles. - Walt Whitman

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today We Are Celebrating....

....Adrian and Malia! Today is Adrian's 9th birthday and Malia's very first day of Kindergarten!!

Happy, happy birthday, Adie! We are so thankful that God brought you into our lives 9 years ago today.
 We hope you have a lot of fun being 9! We love you so much, and pray that God will bless you throughout this next year of your life! XOXOXOXOXO

And to you, Miss Malia - We hope you have a wonderful first day of school! It's so hard to believe that you're a big Kindergartener already! Be a good girl, and have lots of fun. We love you! XOXOXOXOXO

I love these two kids so much. Just the other day, Adrian went outside and picked me this beautiful bouquet of flowers:

And yesterday, Malia asked me, "Mom, are you gonna cry tomorrow when I go to school for the first time? 'Cause if you do, I will sing 'God Will Take Care of You' to you when I get home." Awwww!

Have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

3 Short Malia Stories.......

1. Today, Malia was playing school by herself. She was the teacher, and as the "students" entered the classroom, she asked for their names and wrote them on a sheet of paper. I overheard her saying, "Now what is your name? Sabria? That's a pretty name!" Scribble, scribble.  "And how about your name? You don't know your name? Ok then, we'll just call you Jacob. Next?" When she finished, I looked at the piece of paper she had been writing on. It included such names as Hol, Cale, Opac, Mo, Aodpa, Moli, Ais, Ava, Ethan, Oaper, Oa, Eahw, Aofe, and Dadromam.  Just thought I would share this list in case any of you are in the process of picking out baby names. I mean, after all, isn't Hol, Opac or Dadromam exactly the kind of good, strong, mature-sounding moniker that most parents today have been searching for? Trust me - these names will most likely make the Top Ten Baby Names list of 2011.

2. Malia also played "adoption" today. She traveled to Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia, and met her baby girl for the first time. She walked into the baby house, spotted her little girl sitting on the couch, and politely asked the special mother if she could pick her up. Here is a first photo of mother and daughter:

Then, since this was only her first trip, Malia had to say goodbye to her baby girl. She hopes to come back soon for her embassy appointment so she can bring her daughter home!

3. Recently, Malia answered the phone. It was a telemarketer, who asked to speak to me. I was outside, so as Malia carried the phone to me, she thought she should make small talk with the lady on the other end. She started off with, "I kinda have a runny nose," and I'm pretty sure the conversation went downhill from there.

Have a great day, everyone! : )

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

End-of-Summer Stuff.....

Here's a little bit about what has happened lately, what is going on now, and what we are looking forward to as we come to the end of summer (end of summer?!?! Where has the time gone?)

1. We enjoyed one last summer getaway this past weekend with Chris's family. All of the kids had so much fun playing with their cousins at the indoor waterpark, biking and playing putt-putt golf.

2. Today is the first day of school for Shana, Adrian and Ashton.
 Shana is in 5th grade.

 Adrian is a 3rd grader.

Ashton is in 1st grade.

3. Malia has Kindergarten Orientation tomorrow, and then she will officially begin school on Friday. I can't believe my baby girl is starting school already! Friday is also Adrian's birthday, and my sister Larisa and her family are coming to spend the weekend with us. Yay!

4. This Saturday, there will be a Hog Roast and Walk that will benefit Gary and Peggy Ifft's primary school in Ziway, Ethiopia. They work with Lifesong for Orphans, and Chris, Shana and I just visited this school when we were in Ethiopia. Chris and I will be serving food at the benefit, and we hope to see you there!
 Hog Roast, ET

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ethiopia - Trip One - Day Seven

Sunday, August 7, 2011
We woke up this morning after a wonderful night of rest. We ate breakfast, and then visited with Gary and Peggy awhile before we headed to church. The church building was made of cement blocks, and was open to the outside - there were no doors or windows. It had a dirt floor, a stage, and wooden benches. It was a chilly, rainy day, and many people stood out in the rain to welcome us as we arrived. We entered the church and sat near the front. On one side of the church, all of the little children sat together facing the center. Many of them were dressed in rags and had no shoes.

Everyone sang several worship songs. One of the elders of the church, Dr. Tesfaye, sat between Chris and me and translated. Then, they asked Gary to go up on the stage and introduce us, so we all went up and stood beside him, facing the congregation. Gary told them, in Amharic, who we were and why we were there. He then handed the microphone to Chris, who thanked everyone for welcoming us and allowing us to worship with them. Everyone clapped for us, and we found our seats again. Then we listened to the service and had several prayers. After church, many people from the congregation came up to meet us, and all the children crowded around and just stared at us. When I would pat their shoulder, shake their hands, or talk to them, they would smile from ear to ear. Everyone was so joyful and sincere, even though they had absolutely nothing of material value.

 This group is standing just outside the church.

 The inside of the church.

These 2 beautiful girls were thrilled to have their picture taken!

Gary and Peggy took us to a restaurant for lunch, where we ordered traditional Ethiopian food and macchiatos - Yum!!! We then went across the street to a little grocery store, where Peggy bought us some roasted barley, sugar, and cookies.
An Ethiopian grocery store! The clerk stands behind the counter and grabs whatever you ask for - kind of like an old general store here in the U.S.

 Gary and Peggy

Some beautiful flowers we saw. 

We took a tour of Gary and Peggy's other schools, one of which is still under construction and is being partially funded by Lifesong for Orphans. Peggy runs a feeding program at each of her schools, so each student is provided with a hot, nutritious meal during the school day. 
 The finished school, with three flagpoles out front - one for the Ethiopian flag, one for the Oromo region flag, and one for the U.S. flag.

 The school's restrooms.

 The kitchen.

 One of the classrooms. School will begin this year in September, right after the Ethiopian New Year.

 One of the gardens that produces food for the feeding program.

The newest school, which is still under construction.

After our tour of the schools, we headed back to Gary and Peggy's. After packing up our luggage, we opened the tub of donations that our Sunday School students back home had collected. Gary and Peggy were very thankful for each item, from the Farberware pots and pans to the school wall clocks and children's vitamins. Another family in our travel group donated colored pencils, composition books, and other school supplies. Peggy gave us some spices and an Ethiopian calendar to take home, and then Raj arrived and it was time to go. They said a prayer for us, and then we climbed into the van to begin the journey back to Addis.

We took a different route back through the absolutely beautiful Rift Valley. The scenery was breathtaking, although we couldn't get any great photos because of the rain and the moving vehicle.

When we got back to Addis, Raj stopped at a gas station to fill up the car. I had to...ummm....use the facilities really bad. We asked an attendant where the bathroom was, and Shana and I made our way around the side of the building according to his directions. When we found it, Shana opted not to go. It was just a hole in the ground behind a little door, and the smell was awful. The floor around the hole was covered with who-knows-what; I tried not to think about it and just got out of there as quick as I could. Never again will I complain about gas station restrooms here in the U.S!

Ephrim, the man we met earlier this week, had invited us to his place for dinner. Raj drove us to his house, which was beautiful. The home actually belongs to some missionaries from Texas who are back in the states right now; Ephrim and his wife live there and take care of the place in the owner's absence. He took us up to the third floor and out onto a balcony, where we visited and had awesome views of the city below.

 Here is Ephrim and Raj!

Ephrim's wife prepared vegetable soup and pizza for us, and it was delicious. We met the guard and his little boy, to whom we gave a big bag of jelly beans. We also handed out all of the granola bars and snacks that we had left, as they don't have those kinds of food over there. Then, we sat around the table and visited while Ephrim showed us pictures and videos of Ethiopia on his laptop. I even got to hold his newborn baby girl for awhile!

We enjoyed our time with Ephrim and his wife so much - they are really wonderful people. Ephrim told us to look him up the next time we come and he would love to drive us to see more of Ethiopia! At about 9:30, he drove us to the airport, and shortly after 1:00 AM on Monday, August 8, we boarded a Turkish Air flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Goodbye for now, Ethiopia! We hope to see you again soon!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ethiopia - Trip One - Day Six

Saturday, August 6, 2011
At 9:30 this morning, Danny picked us up and took us to Hannah's Hope for the last time on this trip. We played with the boys, cherishing each moment of our time together. We sat with them while they ate their lunch, and then rocked them both to sleep.

We held them for a long time while they slept, and then put them in their beds. After awhile, we woke them up and just cuddled them until it was time to go. Everyone else was going to stay until later in the afternoon, but Chris, Shana and I had to head south to Ziway to meet up with Gary and Peggy Ifft, missionaries who run 3 schools and a home for vulnerable children. We took a few group photos, and then said a tearful goodbye. We squeezed "O" and "U" tightly, whispered "Ewedhalhu" (I love you) about a dozen times, and smothered their little cheeks in kisses. "We will come back," I told them. "Soon we'll be back and we'll take you home with us for good!"

Danny drove us back to the hotel, where we checked out and met Raj, the driver that would take us to Ziway. We loaded everything into his car, and after getting gas, we headed south out of the city. It was a dirty, smelly ride with lots of traffic. Because there was no air conditioning, we rode with the windows down. However, every car and truck we saw that day needed an oil change badly, and we breathed in fumes the whole way. We did get to experience the beautiful Ethiopian countryside, though! We drove through many small villages, and even got to see monkeys climbing some trees by a river! Many people were walking beside the road - some had just come from the market, others were herding animals, and still others were carrying huge jugs of water. In Africa, the people sometimes have to walk for miles to find a water source, and even then the water is not safe to drink. We also saw LOTS of huge termite mounds!

Examples of some houses:

 termite mound

We arrived in Ziway after about 3 hours of driving. After a few phone calls, we finally found Gary. You see, the people in Ethiopia really don't have addresses. You just drive to their town and ask someone for directions from there. We pulled off the road, and Gary came and met us. Then, Raj followed Gary back to his house, where we unloaded everything we would need for the night along with the tub of donations for Gary and Peggy's schools. Raj drove back to the tourist hotel to spend the night. 

Gary and Peggy took us to see the Adami Tulu preschool, and on the way we saw a HUGE rose farm. The greenhouses literally stretched as far as we could see in all directions. Gary told us that a man from the Netherlands operates it, and employs about 12,000 people from the Ziway area. Every night, a 747 jet takes off from Addis Ababa filled with roses, and by the next morning, all of the streets of Europe are filled with fresh roses for sale.
the rose farm

 The new wall that is being constructed at Adami Tulu Preschool. The picture below shows the old wall.

 Adami Tulu Preschool.

After touring the preschool, we toured Samuel's Home for vulnerable children. Gary and Peggy started this home recently, and it is only about a block away from their home. We also got to meet the houseparents that will take care of the children at Samuel's Home.

When we got back to Gary and Peggy's, we visited for awhile before sitting down to an awesome American/Italian meal with African touches. The watermelon and salad tasted so good to us, since we had eaten no fresh fruits or vegetables all week because of health risks. We visited for awhile longer, and then it was time for bed.

Tomorrow we get to experience an Ethiopian church service before heading back to Addis for our long flight home.