Thursday, April 30, 2009

Strange View

I know I'm lame. I will write about the Ethiopia trip...one day...soon. I promise.


...but until that day, you'll be forced to look at my obscure photographs. I took this one on the way home last Saturday. Wendy and I happened to lift our airplane window shade and saw this plane flying precariously close to ours.

No likey.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

...still processing...

I'm in a weird space right now. (I know, what else is new?).


I feel kind of like a slow computer...the hourglass is up on the screen and I'm still processing the trip.



I don't really even know what it means to process a trip, I guess it's just that I am not back to normal yet...and I don't just mean jet lag. I took in so much while I was away, I just need to make sense of it all and figure out what I'm going to do about it.


So today, I'll leave you with pictures of my Ethiopian Princesses! Amaya LOVES her princess dress (and necklace - thank you Carole Turner!). Amelle has been using her scarf as a baby carrier.

It's all good. Glad I still have a few days before I go back to work!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Home Sweet Maine

I'm back home!



...and would you believe that it was warmer in Maine than in Ethiopia?



The kids seemed to have a great week while I was away. Dirt took them out on day trips almost every day. They flew kites at the beach, went to the Children's Museum, went to the movies, had a sleep over, went for a picnic, and more!



However, even after all of that, they were still happy to have me back! I got the warmest welcome home! They were so sweet. After loving up on all those orphans all week, it was so good to love up on my own kids! ...and they smelled so good to me! :-)


We capped of the weekend by visiting the beach for a little bit. Though it was an 80-degree day, by 4:30pm, it was getting chilly at the beach. I love Maine.

It's good to be home!
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

On my way...



We're going to try to update our travel blog, check us out here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Ethiopia

So this is it. I leave tomorrow. I hate leaving home w/o Dirt and the kids. Before I travel anywhere without them I always get all weirded out about stuff. I pay attention to every detail...this is my last night tucking the kids in for 9 days, this is the last time I'll take a nice long hot shower for 9 days, this is the last night I'll have to kick Dirts leg off my side of the bed, and so on...you get the drift. It's so annoying and it fills me with sadness and makes the whole departure thing stink.

I always feel better once I arrive at my destination. I suppose once I arrive, I begin the process of working my way back home (I'll be home in 8 more days, etc). I can't begin counting the days until I return home until I've actually arrived.

This trip is very different from my normal travel (which is almost always business). In addition to the unique purpose and destination, I'm also bringing along some pretty cool things:



1. Binders from the kids' classes, with letters, drawings, and papers filled out by each student. The students were so excited to be part of this trip. I can't wait to return to their classes to share photographs with them. I'm praying that I'll get an opportunity to bring them home some drawings or letters from the kids in Ethiopia.




2. Jump ropes! My company was kind enough to donate 89 (or 60) jump ropes to the orphanages. I'm not sure if there were 89 or 60 jump ropes in the box they sent me, I'll count when I get there. Either way, there will be lots of kids in Ethiopia jumping next week! I hope they don't incite some kind of earth tremor.



3. Cash. Oh my gosh. I can't even describe the generosity that has been poured out by people we know, and those we don't know. I am so touched by the gifts that people have given in support of this cause. I am leaving with $700 to give directly to those in need. How awesome is it to give to a cause and know that 100% of your gift is going to fulfill a need?! No overhead, no middle man (well, I guess technically I'm the middle man, ahem, middle woman), but these funds will be used in country to meet the needs of these precious children. It warms my soul to be able to play the middle woman. I can't wait to report back on how these funds blessed others.





4. Wendy. It was touch and go at the beginning, but my girl came through for me in a huge way. From the moment she IMed me those four sweet words, "F#@! it, I'll go", she has been 150% in and committed to this cause and this trip. Over the last few weeks I've been reflecting on what this process would've been like if I were traveling alone and I have to be honest, the thought alone is dark, cold and scary. It makes me suck my thumb and cry out to be held. I'm so glad that Wendy is coming with me. So, so, so glad.


5. Just kidding. I hate this thing. This thing does not belong on the cool list. It's not cool, it's terrible and it's inventors were probably evil, fashion evil, that is. I'll let you know how it goes for me, and if I decide to wear it on my front, side, or true to name, on my fanny. I know this is an important piece of information, and one in which I will not spare you the details of.

...so I guess this is my last blogger post for 9 days...

...or is it?

Dare to go Bare

Tomorrow is April 16th - bare foot day. Raise awareness for the world of people who live their lives without shoes.



I personally want to love TOMS shoes, but I struggle with thinking that they look like slippers. My goal is to one day overcome my fear of expensive-slipper-itis and just buy myself a pair. People who wear them, love them. PLUS, if you buy a pair, they donate a pair to someone who has no shoes. I love them so much for that. So much it hurts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Hunt

There is nothing better than a good old fashioned Easter egg hunt, is there?

Our technique is usually to line the kids up youngest to oldest for stuff like this.

Poor Joelle. She'll always be the oldest. The youngest usually changes out every couple of years in this family. Next year, Beckett will replace Maya in the front of the line.

Live it up, Sistah. This is your moment to shine!

Poor Avery, his tenure as the line leader was cut short by Mina, who was born just two months later. For Avery, Mina is kinda like the lady on the Price as Right that bid 1001 after he bid 1000. Not only is he always stuck behind her in the line, but to add insult to injury, she's also about a foot taller than he is.
And then there's these two:


They just look like trouble, don't they?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus vs. Easter Bunny

There are a multitude of reasons why Jesus is better than the Easter Bunny. Here are just a few:
Jesus doesn't leave footprints all over my house.
(when the kids saw this, they said: "Oooh mom...look what the Easter bunny did to your floors! You're gonna have to clean that up.)

He doesn't bring my 8yo daughter 2-piece bathingsuits.

(this is going to be problematic, trust me)

He doesn't hide candy all over our living room.

(I will find that one drippy chocolate filled egg in August)


He doesn't give a 3yo free reign on her own gumball machine. (Maya's mouth is filled to the brim with gum. If I'm lucky, that gum will end up in the trash. If I'm lucky). Boy, that Easter Bunny is not very bright, ahem.
...oh, and the best-est reason is that He provided a way for me to go to Heaven! (John 19 & 20)
Happy Easter everyone!
Love,
t5m

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Resolution ...Part II

I hate blogging about money. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. Which is why this post has been in my head and not on my blog for the last four months.

Last December, I shared the work that the Lord had done in my life around giving. I had begun giving whenever I was asked. I felt that it was the right course of action for me, personally. Since I’m selfish, stingy, not overly generous if left to my own devices, I assumed this idea to give whenever asked was a prompting from the Lord. So I did it. I shared with you that it was a transformational experience for me. So much that I wound up having to check my heart, about my motives and the fulfillment I received from giving!

Less than a week after I wrote that blog post, I received a fundraising call from the Muscular Dystrophy Association asking for a donation. I wrestled with saying yes to them. During my moment of hemming and hawing, that darn blog post flashed into my mind and I thought, "how hypocritical, you just told everyone how you give (which you're not suppose to do) and now your not giving to the very next person who asks!". I was temporarily speechless, “um, hmmm, ahhh…let me think…”. The caller must have thought something was really wrong with me, like some sort of grunting disorder. “Ah, no.....um...I think I’m going to pass...”, I muttered. Then, out of nowhere came, “Wait! Yes, I’ll give!”. The caller perked up and said, “okay, can we count on you for $30, $60, or $90”, and I replied, “Five”. Her perky tone dwindled into disappointment as she told me I’d receive my pledge card in the mail.

That call was another transformational moment for me. I wrestled with not being a “cheerful giver”. One of my friends once told me “if you can’t be cheerful about it, then don’t give it – God doesn’t need your money. God loves a cheerful giver”(2 Corinthians 9:7) . At that moment I wasn’t a cheerful giver; I was a schizophrenic giver. I wanted to give, but then I didn’t want to give. Maybe my reluctance stemmed from our personal finance situation (Dirt had just received bad news about a job opportunity that we were expecting to pan out). But $5 wasn’t going to tip us into poverty.

Immediately after that call I prayed and got a sense that the time of training was over, that I didn’t have to give to every person who asked any more. I didn’t understand this feeling because I felt that it was a biblical principle to give to whoever asks and I couldn’t reconcile my feelings with that.

On Sunday I went to speak to my pastor about it. He shared that as a church, they cannot give to whoever asks. He said that we have an obligation to make sure that we give to legitimate needs, because there are a lot of scams out there that target churches. What is important is that you have a giving heart. God wants us to have a giving heart.

So with that, I determined that I can say no, as long as my heart is saying yes. Having put that into practice over the last several months I can tell you that it hasn’t always been easy. I still love to give, and the times that I have said no have been blah. But then there have also been liberating moments because my giving is now based on discretion, so every act of giving is a decision, it’s not an obligation, and that’s kinda nice. I believe that’s how God wants it anyway (2 Corinthians 9:7). He wants us to have a free will and always choose Him over other things.


I don't want you to get the wrong impression, I am still innately selfish. It is only through the grace of God that I am able to give freely and joyfully.

...there is a part III to this story (sorry)...my preference would've been go directly to part III without telling part II, but then part III wouldn't have made any sense.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Easter in a Box

There aren't very many advantages of having grandparents who live far away



But there is one...



MAIL!



The kids LOVE getting mail from their grandparents



Especially the kind that comes filled with goodies!

Thank you Grandma!

Love,
t3m

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

Today my dad would have turned 62.



My dad had three passions in life: sports, family, and kids.

Over the past several weeks I can't tell you how often I wished that he could've been with us watching Avery play basketball. He would've been so proud. It stings my heart that he passed away before he was able to enjoy watching his grandchildren compete.

I've always loved this picture, dad with his two eldest grandchildren (Avery, 4 & Joelle, 6). They were using their medical kit on him, I suppose maybe they were trying to fix his health, or maybe because he was sick, they thought he'd make a compliant patient. He passed away 5 months later....now that I think about it, we may have grounds for malpractice - they've got his blood pressure cuff on his wrist, they're checking his heart on the wrong side of his chest, and they're giving him a shot in the shoulder. We may have a case here.

Kechene

Remember these beautiful children from a few posts ago?


Allow me to introduce them to you. These are students at Kechene.

I have been following and communicating with a guy named Todd Bondy, who is currently in Ethiopia, volunteer teaching at Kechene. I found Todd after searching for information on the guest house I'll be staying at when I'm in Ethiopia next week. He lives there now and is leaving the day before I arrive.

Todd sent this note out today:

Dear Friends and Family,

I’ve been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for seven weeks now, and with only a few days left, I’m setting out to accomplish one more goal before heading home. I want each of the 84 students of the school at which I’ve been teaching, Kechene, to effectively double the size of their wardrobe by receiving a new school uniform: a pair of shoes, shirt, and pair of trousers or skirt for Easter. I’ve written in detail about the conditions of the school, the available resources, and the lives of the students on my blog, http://toddbondy.wordpress.com, which I encourage you to visit. The school is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Addis Ababa, most of the children are orphaned, and the two meager meals provided by the school typically make up all the daily food the kids receive.

Improving the education and lives of the students is my purpose for coming to Africa, and I have been working on several projects to enhance the school’s ability to serve its students. In addition to teaching English, Math, Science, and Ethics, I have developed new curriculums for all three grades in each of the subjects, improving the quality of the education the kids receive. To address health issues, a new health curriculum that promotes hygiene and wound care is being implemented, I am training the teachers in basic first-aid, and have tripled the amount of medical supplies in the school clinic with the help of my parents.

This final project of providing each of the students with a new set of clothes will both improve the health of the students and boost their self-confidence. Many of the students’ wounds and infections are located on their feet. The kids walk long distances to school in a filthy neighborhood wearing inadequate sandals, crumbling rubberboots, or tattered foam shoes. At recess, they run, play soccer and often fall on the rough rocks that are considered a playground. A new pair of shoes would enable the kids to walk and play freely and comfortably while performing life’s daily tasks.

Furthermore, they can take pride in wearing clothes without huge holes and rips in them. The students wear their uniforms, as seen in the attached picture, every day. Most families can’t afford more than 2 outfits per family member, resulting in clothing suffering much wear and tear. Thus, even the addition of a new t-shirt is a huge deal to these kids. Providing them with a new, clean, and hole-free uniform will be an enormous event for the kids, making them look and feel like proud students and citizens.

Now that you understand the needs of the children, I want to share with you how we can help. My goal is to raise $1700 to purchase new school uniforms for each of the 84 children: $8 per pair of shoes, $6 per sweater, and $6 per pair of trousers/skirts, per student. For $20, a student can replace his year-old uniform with a brand new, nicer one. It’s amazing how far US dollars can be stretched here, as it would be nearly impossible to provide the same services for such a small sum back home. I understand that the economic situation is far from rosy, but these people have so much less than any of us and would benefit tremendously from any help you can provide.

If you can help by making a donation (tax deductible: Tax ID27-0132571) please make a check payable to:


Cherokee Gives Back In the memo section indicate: Kechene Uniforms
Mailing Address:Cherokee Gives BackAttention:

Kim Shaw111
East Hargett Street, Suite 300
Raleigh, NC 27601

As mentioned above, it would be an amazing opportunity to provide the new clothes as an Easter present, giving 2 weeks to reach the $1700fundraising goal (Ethiopia celebrates Easter a week later than the US). To get things started, I am contributing $250, leaving $1450 to go. Please let me know via email if you are able to help or have any questions. My experience working in Ethiopia has been educational, emotional, and life-changing. With your help, the students at Kechene can receive these same benefits.

Sincerely,
Todd Bondy

Wendy and I will be in Ethiopia for their Easter (luck us, we get to celebrate 2 Easters this year!). I would love to be able to take pictures of these kids in their new uniforms! Wow - that would really be awesome! Can you help?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Signs of Spring

It's not as warm out as the kids make it look:

It's days like this that I think about how beautiful Spring is in Pennsylvania.

Spring in Maine can best be summed up by the kids' clothing
(Will in winter boots, Amelle in a short sleeve top)

We're expecting snow flurries today.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

From Here to There With Love

This week I visited the kids' classes to share information about my upcoming trip and to educate the students about Ethiopia.



Avery's 4th grade class


Ethiopian class at one of the orphanages I'll be visiting




We put together binders with pages filled out by each student, telling about where they live and a little bit about them personally.

These are pages from Amelle's 2nd grade class binder.


I loved reading through the kids' comments. Priceless!
...Until I peeped some of the self-portraits...

Okay, oddly placed "heart", but okay. Look at the size of those hands though, they give me nightmares..and that mullet, and those small feet - how does this near-sighted monster kid balance itself herself?
She looks innocent enough, until you see that she's flipping everyone off.

..maybe it's the conservative Christian in me, but I just wish this one had some clothes on.


I can't even talk about this one.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Why I Care: Solomon

This article caught my interest tonight:

The Ethiopian peasant farmer and his wife shuffled painfully into the orphanage. They were in the last stages of AIDs and had only weeks to live. However, they were happy. They had heard the Franciscan nuns had found a home for their three children and had come to say farewell.

“I am so happy, they are going to stay together,” the father, Solomon, whispered as he embraced a middle-aged couple from Utah. “Now, I can die peacefully. They will go to school in America and have a future. It is good they leave here.” As they embraced their two daughters, aged 8 and 6, for the last time the tears ran freely. Their four-year-old son did not appreciate the significance of the moment and ran off to play with friends.

…Only a fraction of Ethiopia’s burgeoning population of orphaned children, now put at five million, find their way to Kidane Meheret Children’s Home. Even fewer leave and they are certainly the lucky ones.

A few miles away, dozens of children sleep in drains at night and beg by day at the sprawling central bus station. They face constant dangers.

“Some are forced into prostitution, some are sold by relatives after their parents die, they are kept as maids and often abused,” said Dagmawi Alemayeau who runs an organisation, Forum on Street Children, which tries to fight trafficking. Most of an estimated 50,000 children on the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa, at some stage pass through the bus station where he has his office.

“Adoption is sad, very sad but the whole issue is sad, a life of neglect, and abandonment, grinding poverty and abuse is sad, adoption is often the lesser evil especially as the people who come here are good and very carefully checked,” added Sister Luthgarder who finds at least one new born baby a week on her doorstep.

Dear God,
Please cure extreme poverty. Please stop this cycle. Please be with these families and these children. Please stop the spread of AIDs in Africa and around the world. Please come quickly.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I'm Going to Throw Up.

Sorry. I'm not really going to (yet), but I do have that nervous little stomach twinge goin' on.

We're two weeks away from leaving.

I have been cool, calm, and collected until today. Today reality hit.

I suppose this e-mail from my blog-friend Jillian didn't help:

The biggest tip is to always have toilet supplies with you. Toilet paper, germX, wet wipes, and flashlight(extra batteries) always ON YOU, because if you are out and about and NEED to go to the bathroom or get sick, you could be doing it over a small dirty drain in the floor with no lights...speaking from experience!

Not to be "all about me" or anything, but I have three issues that are not compatible with the above scenario:
#1) I have a weak stomach that is prone to "lower intestinal distress"
#2) I have a strong sense of smell
#3) I am a huge wimp about everything. I can't "go" just anywhere. I am afraid of the dark and things that lurk in small dark poop places with dirty drain holes.

Um, do I need to bring my wellies? ...'cause I just got some really cute pink Mary Jane sneaker things that I do not want getting spoiled with human feces. I think I should just bring adult diapers with me...that would probably be my best bet.



Lord help me. Please pray that I won't get sick and/or have to go into a dark scary poopy hole while I'm in Ethiopia.

Check out Wendy's post here