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Daisy and Diana

Well, it was time to let Daisy go.  We are preparing to head home in a few months and we are working on selling off our possessions (once again) to make this major transition.  Our little 1969 Volks was our first casualty.  Daisy (named by the kids because of the 99 daisy stickers stuck to her that I did NOT put there), was a good little car.  She was our first venture at independence and freedom in Addis.  We loved her!  She wasn’t particularly reliable or comfortable, but she was easy to fix and we just opted to never take her out of town.  Daisy is one part of our Ethiopian journey that we will NEVER forget. :)  She is now residing with some other missionaries and they promptly removed all but one of her trademark daisies.  Here is a photo of the kids saying goodbye.

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And Diana.  Posting about Diana is SO long overdue, but I cannot mention Daisy without also talking about Diana.  I met Diana about two weeks after moving to Addis through a facebook group where people share the goings on of Addis with one another.  Diana has the gift of helps.  She is also incredibly knowledgeable and resourceful.  I don’t think there’s anything Diana cannot do.  Diana is a single woman who has lived in Addis for 6 years and has really figured out how to do life here.  Our adjustment to Addis and how quickly we found our footing is really due to Diana’s friendship with me.  She helped me figure out how to keep a house here, how to cook here, how to get around and helped me to make friends very quickly.  Diana is full of resources and information.  She has explored more of this city than I could ever hope to and she can tell me how to get just about anywhere with directions I can totally follow.  She has tried to make just about everything imaginable that you cannot buy here from car parts, to batteries, to wonderful food items.  Really, I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do.  She puts her mind to it, does some research (when the internet is working) and then gives it a try–whatever the task.  Diana convinced us to buy our Daisy when we were having trouble finding a car worth our missions $ and going stir crazy from the lack of independence.  When Daisy stalled out, Diana sucked on the fuel line on a busy street in Addis with a crowd of Ethiopians gathered at the spectacle to get the fuel flowing into the fuel pump again.  I really can’t even mention all the ways Diana has helped us during our time in Ethiopia, but I can state that we would not have had the same experience here had it not been for Diana and I truly believe it would have been MUCH more difficult.  Diana has become a fast friend and I can’t imagine doing life without her now!  She has been SUCH a blessing to me and to my family and we, in turn, have been able to be a blessing to other families and in helping get them settled here.  If you are lucky enough to have a different “Diana” in your life, you are blessed.  If you are lucky enough to know “my” Diana, you are doubly blessed!

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I have debated (with myself) about whether or not I should post about this experience for the last several weeks, but today I’ve decided to just go ahead and do it because it is not just Kayla’s story, it is our family’s story.   Though there are parts I will leave out because those will be Kayla’s details to share in the future, should she chose to, there are some bits I am happy to tell as this is a good story with a happy continuance (it has not ended yet).

Three years ago when we came to adopt Kayla we had the opportunity to meet Kayla’s maternal grandfather, but her birth mother had disappeared.  Coming to Ethiopia this time, I knew that I wanted to search for Kayla’s birth mother.  I met my own birth family several years ago and it answered a lot of identity questions for me that I had carried with me throughout my life.  It filled a (very) small hole that I had in my heart and was closure for me.  I wanted to give that to Kayla.  With Ethiopia being such a different place from the US, I knew that if we waited until Kayla was an adult–like I did–that there was a good chance we would not find her birth mother.  The time to look was now, while we are living here and while everyone is still alive and in the same places they were three years ago–which we have quite a bit of information/documentation on.

So, in January we hired a searcher.  He is a neighbor and a friend.  I had met him several months ago through a mutual friend and finally decided that this was the time.  I got Kayla’s adoption documents copied for him and sent him on his way.  I knew that he would find Kayla’s grandfather pretty quickly if he was still alive, but I didn’t know how long it would take to find her birth mother.  A few days later, he called and told me that he found Kayla’s birth mother and that the family would like to meet us.  I met him at his house and I saw pictures of Kayla’s birth mother for the first time.  I also got details on Kayla’s story that I had never heard before, details that confirmed to me that Kayla’s adoption was God’s plan for her life.  Details that so closely matched my own adoption story.  I knew Kayla and I would have a connection because of the fact that we are both adopted, but I didn’t imagine that our stories would be so similar.  I hope and pray that I can help her walk through her own story with greater understanding because I have a similar (yet SO different) history.

Anyway, I thought it would take the searcher a few months to find Kayla’s birth mother and we hoped to visit her late March or April before returning to the US, but the searcher had found her and advised that we go to meet her ASAP as she no longer lived at home but was staying there until we could come.  About 2 weeks later, we all piled in our van and drove 6 hours to the south.  We should NOT have taken our van, but God got us there and home safely in it.  Whew!  Half way down we realized someone had stolen our spare tire at some point.  This was very disconcerting given our high rate of flat tires and the road conditions, but we made it. :)

We were able to stay with some missionary friends, which was a HUGE blessing.  Our friend even drove us to the home of Kayla’s grandfather the next day because our van would NOT have made it there.  Only Kayla and I, from our family, met with the birth family.  It was a wonderful visit.  I had debated taking Kayla or just going myself, but she is so young that I didn’t really think it would rock her boat.  She is used to Ethiopians loving on her here as this is a very child friendly culture.  What’s one more?  Kayla handled it like a champ.  She was quiet, I’m a little sad that they didn’t get to see her awesome personality much, but I understand.  She sat with her birth mother most of the time–right next to me–and was very sweet with her.  Her birth mother fed her some mango, which is Kayla’s most vivid memory of this trip.  We got lots of great photos for the memory books and to help answer questions that Kayla will have as she gets older and comes to a more full understanding of what her being adopted means.  The visit also seemed to be a blessing for Kayla’s birth family.  I am VERY glad for that.

I am SO incredibly grateful that we had this experience and that it went so well.  I am mostly glad that I was able to provide this for my daughter.  If she doesn’t have questions, fine, but if she does I now have answers–more than I had before.  And, we have pictures.  Pictures would have answered SO many of my questions.  We can visit again in the years to come when Kayla can process what is going on if she wants to.

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By the way, we do not use the searcher’s name on purpose for his safety, but if anyone wants a recommendation we HIGHLY recommend him and I will be happy to answer any emails about him and our process.

Kenya

One awesome thing about living in Africa is that you can visit other parts of Africa for a whole lot less $ than you can while living in the US.  Ever since I was a little girl I have been interested in visiting Kenya.  We had family friends that were missionaries there that would send me small trinkets from Kenya and of course the animals  and the Indian ocean are always a draw.

Chris and I decided we would love to visit Kenya while we are still here in Ethiopia, if possible, and then his dad totally made it possible by offering to cover our airfare for Christmas/birthday gifts for our family for the year.  Yes, please!  Also, I met a fellow missionary who was visiting Ethiopia for a short bit for work who actually lives in Nairobi.  He and his wife graciously offered to host us, drive us around and feed us for a very low fee.  All of this just worked together to create the perfect opportunity.

We flew to Nairobi on Jan. 2.  Very early the next morning we visited a big game park and drove around for about 4 hours and saw all kinds of animals.  The kids LOVED it.  It was an amazing experience.  Then, we visited an elephant orphanage and a giraffe feeding place.  We also squeezed in a visit to a frozen yogurt place and a HUGE grocery/goods store that is the equivalent of Wal-mart and unlike anything we have in Ethiopia.  I bought brown sugar and tin foil. :)  Jan. 4, we left Nairobi and flew to the coast where we spent a glorious 4 days relaxing and enjoying the water and sand.  It was much “needed” after the year we have had and we feel so privileged to have been able to make this trip happen for us and for our kids.  Truly, the trip of a lifetime.

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Our Christmas

We have done our very best to make this Christmas memorable for our kids and I think we’ve done a good job.  It is hard to be so far from family, friends and everything familiar, but we have kept some old traditions and had a lot of fun doing new things, as well.

The boys had a Christmas program a couple of weeks ago at their school.  Each grade sang a couple of songs.  It was great.  The boys both participated, which is always iffy with our kids. :)  I have NO idea where they get that from…

Chris and I were in Ethiopia three years ago to bring Kayla home.  We were here over Christmas and spent Christmas Eve at the Sheraton with some other adoptive parents with us.  Once we knew we were moving to Ethiopia, we said we’d do the same thing with our kids.  The Sheraton feels like a world of its own.  You do NOT feel like you are in Ethiopia when you are at the Sheraton.  The air is cleaner, there is no crowding and everything is decadent.  Usually when we go, it’s to play at the free playground and maybe get some cotton candy–because that’s about all we can afford there.  For Christmas Eve, however, we went all out to create some special memories for our kids.  We have loads of traditions we do back home, but most of that was not possible this year, so Christmas Eve at the Sheraton was our way to do some similar things in Ethiopia.

We went with the Martins–some of our closest friends.  We are SO lucky to have each other in Ethiopia.  I don’t think it normally happens that friends get to serve together, so we realize how fortunate we are.  It’s almost like having family. :)  We spent 7 hours at the Sheraton yesterday.  We took great family photos, the kids got their faces painted, watched some “circus” acts and played at the playground and fountains.  The girls took a walk through the hotel and encountered some treats on a cart.  Abigail asked for one and the man graciously handed each girl a little plate, wrapped adorably, with the cutest little Christmas treats on them.  I’m sure they were for the paying guests, but whatever.  We all enjoyed those little “stolen” goodies.  We sat and listened to a quintet play beautiful music and the kids all enjoyed hot chocolate.  There was a quick visit with Santa, more playing by the fountains and then it was time for dinner.

The Sheraton puts on a Christmas Eve buffet that is TO DIE FOR.  They have EVERYTHING.  There was fantastic bread, cheese, lunch meat, turkey, duck, sushi, an entire table of desserts and so much more.  It was decadent, delicious, expensive and amazing.  Three years ago, we did not appreciate the buffet nearly as much as we did this year.  Good cheese and affordable lunch meat are unheard of here.  The kids enjoyed that the most!  Kayla insisted on Ethiopian food.  She was free, so whatever.  The rest of us filled plate after plate after plate.  When the bill came, we didn’t even gasp–we were too happy and full to bother.  It was a wonderful day and evening.  The Sheraton also does a little light show with their fountain that we all got to sit and watch for a while.  It was really special and definitely NOT something you can do in WI at Christmastime.   We will, no doubt, miss Christmas Eve at the Sheraton next year as we will be back in the States.  I think we will forever have our hearts in both places and neither will ever seem complete.

Christmas morning, we opened presents, which there were plenty of.  Stockings were filled to the brim.  It was a great morning topped off with our  traditional bread pudding that I absolutely HAD to have, no matter how much the cream cheese cost.  We spent the evening with the Martins at their house having great fun and food.  We sang Christmas carols and enjoyed a fire in their fireplace as the evening got chilly.  There were some skype conversations back home mixed in there, too.  Thank GOD for technology to help keep us in touch with everyone we love and miss so much more during the holidays.

Really, as different as this was from almost every other Christmas we have had as a family, it was wonderful and we felt very blessed to have these experiences in this country that we love with our dear friends.  While we sacrifice much on a daily basis, it was so amazing to have a wonderful Christmas and to make new memories here.  We feel God’s presence a lot and yesterday was definitely one of those days where we knew He was watching over us.  It was full of beauty and peace.  We thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.

Next up, we visit Kenya for a little vacation and then my parents arrive for an extended visit.  We are super excited for both of those things to happen.  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2014 brings you much joy!

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Christmas Card

Double Birthday

Reily and Kayla have birthdays in the first half of November.  To make life easier, we typically do a family party on the weekend in between and Reily can invite a couple of friends if he wants.  Since we are no where near family, we just did a friends party (well, to be fair, friends includes a lot of our missionary family).  Reily didn’t mind if Kayla’s party was the same day, but he wanted the separate.  I can understand that!  Reily had an outside party with lots of water fun–I filled around 120 water balloons and had a few game ideas.  Kayla had an inside party with lots of princess fun.  The two don’t mesh well, so I kept them separate.  I say “I” because Chris was terribly sick that day–stuck up in our bedroom the whole day.  In the US, I’d probably have moved the party day, but cakes were already made and that’s not something you take for granted here!  So, the parties went on without dad. :(  Fortunately, our dear friends were bringing their two kids and stayed to help.  Cyndi ran the girl party and Joe (my hero) ran the boy party.  I bounced between the two taking photos and celebrating both my kids.  Reily is now 7 and Kayla is very proudly 4.  The party was a great success–both kids said so.

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Here are links to our two most recent newsletters.  I haven’t posted anything for a quite a while, internet has been awful.  Today, so far, it is decent. :)

October

Ethiopia Newsletter 14

December

Ethiopia Newsletter 15

 

 

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