Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

On the eve of our first Christmas with a family of 5 children there are so many new experiences.
We went to the Meema and BumpaKK Henn's today and ransacked their house with our crew. It was such a wonderful day. I tried to take lots of video, but it seems like you always miss the best stuff. I wanted to write down the best ones I heard today from the kids.

Erin (3): "We got beautiful presents!"
Levi (4): "I like to coming to your house, I'onna doit 'gain"
Isaac(6): "Dad, are you sure your not Santa?" My reply "Do i look like Santa?"
Isaac's reply: "I do know your not Santa, Dad, because you could never afford all the stuff!"
Kaylee (9):"I can't believe I actually have Heelies!!"
Jesse (20 mos.): "kiy kuhy" (which means thank you)

We also went to an evening worship at Meema's church. The kids were very well behaved and it helped to have Aunt Rae, Uncle Bob and Cousin Nate to help out. I was able to meet their new pastor (who gave and excellent message!) who told us how he'd been praying for our family. It meant so much to Tanya and I.
It was also excellent to see friends that I haven't seen in a long time and introduce them to each of our children and also meet their kids!
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey Claus

After stuffing ourselves at a Thanksgiving Feast in Cherokee, Iowa (Thanks very much G'pa and G'ma Henn!) We made our way over to Storm Lake to visit Santa's Castle. This place was fascinating and the kids had such a good time. Each little room had moving characters for the kids to watch. They were quite fascinated! A special thanks to uncle Greg and aunt Joan for buying our tickets. The kids each got a picture taken with Santa and his bride. Each kid also got a little present from Santa and special photo by themselves. As you can see from the photo, Jesse wasn't too really sure what to think. But, he took it in stride and pretty much rolled with the whole thing (we are learning that about him).
We had a great thanksgiving and we were really thankful that none of the kids even have so much as a sniffle right now. AMAZING!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kaylee's Fall Program

Kaylee sang a solo in her Fall program last night.
She did so well! We had a good time and the kids sat and watched so good. It was very fun.
Enjoy the video! Layne

Monday, November 19, 2007

How big is Africa?

You'll want to click on this photo below to get the full effect.
We saw this on our Chicago trip in the Field Museum-Africa Exhibit. It really blew us away!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chicago Trip

A short post to say we just returned from a mini vacation to visit cousins in Chicago! What a fun trip. We rode the train into the 3rd largest city in the U.S.
Here we are at the tracks, just about to board the train.
Went to the Field museum. It was really great!
I'll post more pictures soon, and maybe even some video.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A "SpooKtacular" Halloween

We had such a fun time last Wednesday on Halloween!
We started last Sunday and carved pumpkins,
That was really fun, it was such a nice day, we just sat out in the driveway and each kid just took turns drawing out their face on the pumpkin with a sharpie. Daddy then did the cutting out and the digging out! They were good sports about getting their hands all goopy with the pumpkin guts.
Wednesday, Tanya had a helper come over so she could be at the parade with Kaylee and Isaac at Clark School. She got to spend time with each of them in their classrooms, playing games and stuff. She took some good pictures there too. Wed. night, we got our costumes on, which was no easy task, loaded up and headed over to Aunt Susie's house for our annual Halloween appearance at the Jones' House. It was a hit as usual, but a little early. We almost missed uncle Mike! Then, it was load up again for Bopie's house for chili and chicken noodle soup. It's a bit of a tradition. The soon had trick-or-treaters banging down their door and the kids could no longer stand it! We rolled into the street and started collecting candy. It was so funny to watch Jesse trying to keep up with the other 4 dashing from house to house. Most of all, he couldn't really figure out what was going on? There were hundreds of kids on Valley Dr. (literally!) I kinda like it the DST thing pushed back so it can still be light out when trick or treating.
About 7pm, we loaded all 5 back into family truckster and headed to South Sioux, to Colonial Manor nursing home. This was my highlight of the night. To see G'ma and G'pa Matney light up when the kids walked in there was priceless. She also had little bags for each kid and each of them got a mango (which made Levi so excited). Then, they went from room to room, while G'ma Matney bragged to each resident about her great grandbabies. The kids were sharing their candy with the residents, Erin would ask "Can you have candy?" so cute.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feet in your jammies

It's getting cooler and so tonight was the first night of the warm jammies.
Levi was soooo excited to wear something that even covered his feet! He put those jammies on and zipped them up to his neck and met me in the hallway yelling, "Daddy, lookame, lookame!!" and started dancing!! I was cracking up to see his big smile and little body wiggling around - he then ran back into his bedroom and shut the door, so he could watch himself dance in his feet jammies in the full length mirror on the back of the door.
Tanya was packing up the short sleeve shirts and shorts today into a tote to store for next summer. Levi was noticeably upset and said "no chamees up, no chamees up". Tanya thought at first he was saying "jammies", but then remembered that the word in amharic for shirt is chamois. He didn't want Mommy to take away his clothes :( Tanya then explained how we would be wearing longer sleeves because it was getting colder and longer pants. She also told him that he would always have clothes and shoes to wear, and showed him his warmer clothes hanging in the closet. He seemed very relieved and less stressed about his clothes. I thought of the verse below, how it is easy for me to not be anxious about clothes, I've always had them in excess, It brings new meaning to this verse when your son had to go without clothes/food up until 7 mos. ago.

Mathew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

After reading that verse Tanya and I can't help but thing about the faith displayed by Christians in Ethiopia and even around the world. God is making His Word new to us through our children each day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kaylee's little mouth

As if we haven't had enough surgery around here lately, Kaylee had three teeth pulled on Monday.
We had this appointment set up for many weeks, so when they bumped Levi and Jesse's surgeries up, they all fell within 4 days of each other.
Kaylee was really hurting. She had 2 permanent teeth pulled (ironically, they are the same teeth that Levi doesn't have!!) She also had a baby tooth yanked. The perms had to come out because her mouth is too small to hold all her teeth. Hopefully, this will be helpful in keeping her from braces (or at least for a minimum amount of time).
Kaylee was back on her feet by the end of the day (very brave). She went to school today and was excited to show her friends the big roots of the teeth that were taken from her mouth.
Isaac and Kaylee both started piano lessons today. How great is it that their teacher lives across the street? I feel like we live in Mayberry sometimes!

More Surgery updates

The last few days have been fun around here, but really just business as usual.
Friday last week, we had a pretty good day, other than having to take off Jesse's bandages in the evening.
It was so hard and it hurt him so much. Tanya was getting all queasy and I was having a hard time holding him. We had soaked him in the tub for about 45 min. It barely phased the sticky stuff. We then had to goop on the triple-antibiotic ointment. I smeared it in his diaper too. After we got his diaper on, he calmed down and fell asleep while Tanya held him in the rocking chair.
Saturday: Isaac final football game in the morning and a tailgate party at 8:45 am with the other parents. It was so fun and the kids loved eating breakfast (donuts) outside and drinking hot cocoa! The actual game was cancelled because of rain, but since we had the kids there, we just had a little game anyway. It was still fun. The rest of the day was kinda blah since it rained.
Sat. evening we had to take Levi's bandages off. I soaked him in the tub for about 45 min. and while I had him in there, I kept trying to explain what was about to happen. When I got him out and started the process, he didn't want me anywhere close to those bandages. I asked him if he could do it himself and he said "yes". He proceeded to remove all the bandages without one bit of crying!! He said "ouch" a few times, but was very brave!
Sunday, we went to Sunday school. They all LOVE their teachers! It makes Sunday so great to start with sunday school, and I even got to be in an adult ss class.

More to come....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Surgery update

Thank you all for your prayers today. Everything went really well. Levi had 7 fillings, one tooth crowned and one tooth had to be extracted. The unfortunate news was that underneath four of his baby molars there are no permanent teeth coming in. The dentist was explaining our options and basically the best case scenario is that he would keep his baby molars into adulthood. Seems kinda unlikely to us, but we are praying that the permanent teeth were just not able to be seen on the xray yet. The other part of the surgery went really well too. Jesse has shown more signs of pain, but we'll see the true picture tomorrow when all the anesthetic is completely gone. Thanks again for your prayers, we really felt a peace and calmness today, by grace. Layne
2 Corinthians1:10b-11 On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Levi and Jesse's Surgery

Please pray for Jesse and Levi and our family throughout this day and our weekend. They are seeing a urologist for surgery today and Levi is getting teeth pulled.
Kaylee reminded me of this verse today:
1 Peter 5:7, 'Cast all your worries on Him, because He cares for you'

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fall Weekend Getaway

We are in Minneapolis this weekend. We have had a really good time.
We got here on Thursday night, late. Jaimee has been so great to let us crash in her downtown apartment. The kids were excited to get here, but TIRED. they went to bed quick and slept well.
Friday, we took the kids and went to visit Kristina at the Children's Home in St. Paul. It was fun to show off our little family. We had a good visit and turned in our Post-placement paperwork. Afterwards, we went to the Ethiopian restaurant in St. Paul, called Fasika. We went there before we were in Africa. However, to take Levi and Jesse there was a real treat! Levi literally shoveled the food in. Jesse was ecstatic.

The rest of the day, we spent at the MOA, (that's right the Mall of America). It was good though.
All the kids loved the Lego store and LOVED being with their cousins. Isaac bought a new Star Wars Lego ship. Kaylee got a little mini figure person. Levi, Jesse and Erin loved playing with the Duplo's and Legos. We walked and walked and walked some more. The 3 kid stroller, proved worth it's weight in GOLD.
We got back to the apartment about 11pm. I think we squeezed about all the juice out of that day.

Today, we started by sleeping in!! Yeah!! We got up a little after 8am, (yes, that is sleeping in).
Breakfast and then Grandpa took 4 kids for a walk down to the park. Much of the morning was spent at the park, while the women were back at the apartment, preparing for the day with lunches for the trip to the Apple Orchard. We all piled in the car and headed for an orchard in stillwater, MN. Lunch was excellent! We all had a great day. The kids played in the hay bales, drank cider, listened to music and rode trikes and bikes around.
We left the Orchard and headed for IKEA. The kids napped (except Kaylee) and slept until 5pm!
I took the kids in and we all chowed down on the swedish meatballs and pasta. The kids were very good. We headed back to Jaimee's and got jammies on and the kids hit the sack.

Monday, September 17, 2007


We haven't written in a while, mostly because we usually blog at night and by 10pm we are falling into bed.
We had planned to go last weekend on a retreat to Twin Lakes camp, but we opted out at the last minute. We know we missed some fun there, but God had a plan for us at home. We did some fun activities as a family and had a really good time! We are finding that, with Kaylee and Isaac in school during the day, times like that with the kids all together are fewer and farther between. So, we thought we would take advantage of the opportunity.
Each day, Levi's language improves. He has many words, but doesn't always know how to use them. Here's an example, if he is next to me, watching me and doesn't know what I'm doing, he'll say "daddy, where are you?" instead of "what are you doing?" It's very confusing sometimes to try to understand. It will be interesting when we start to get words for emotions and remembering. I know he is still mourning a loss, but it really, really hard to communicate that.
A short list of some recent events:
  1. Isaac pulled out his front tooth at school last friday
  2. Levi is getting really good on his bicycle (with training wheels) he likes to go fast and loves his helmet.
  3. Kaylee has pink eye as of today 9/17
  4. Erin is so excited about pre-school, saying the beginning sounds of all kinds of words.
  5. Kaylee, Erin and mommy went on a "girl date" on Sat. afternoon, and Erin said "Mommy, I love to have "toffee" with you, as she sipped her hot cocoa.
  6. Jesse is so laid back. He is learning to play with toys for longer amounts of time and is starting to look at books, too.
  7. Isaac is playing football and LOVES it. He had a touchdown on Sat. and he played some QB too. He was very upset about the Huskers losing to USC.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Kaylee turns 9

Kaylee will be 9 years old tomorrow, Sept. 8th, 2007.
Meet the newest member of our family, Hottamale the boy beta fish.
Isaac's gift to his sister for her birthday.
We had a family get together for her birthday here at our house and served brownie sundaes. It was really fun and as you can see, Kaylee had a great time on her last day of being 8.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lea to the Rescue!!

Psalm 40
<<> | Psalm 40 | Psalm 41 >>

My Help and My Deliverer

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Tanya's sister Lea and her two children have been here this week on a rescue mission. She has been so awesome. I should be having Tanya write this post. She has been really loving all the help and time that she is putting in. A special hats off to Justin too for giving up his wife and kids to us for the week.
The kids are having a blast. It is so fun to watch them play together. Erin and Claira are like peas and carrots. They have so much fun playing dollies, singing, reading books and watching movies together.
Levi LOVES riding his bike! Rain or 98 degrees, he wants to be in the driveway riding his bike. His language gets better and better each day. Jesse is such a snuggler. He loves to play in the yard and toddle around, or swing, but he is just as happy watching the other kids play if he's sitting in a lap. Levi and Jesse had round 2 of shots yesterday, two in each leg for both of them. Ouch. They were tired and grouchy last night and today Levi wasn't walking too well.
Isaac and Kaylee are really liking school, but Isaac is ready to start his Tues, Wed, Friday schedule. Because Lea is here, Tanya was able to go and spend time in each of their classrooms on Wed. She really loved it!

I'm throwing in a couple pics that most haven't seen yet.
The corn on the cob was fun to watch. They totally mouwed that down. The plastic trike pics are from the guest house in Ethiopia. It had buttons on it that said "Readytorock" when you pushed it. Levi still says that when he rides his bike here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

1st day of school

So much to write and there is just no time.
Yesterday was Kaylee and Isaac's first day at Clark.
They really liked it.
Kaylee is in 3rd grade and loved her teacher, Isaac is in Kindergarten and really loves his teacher too.
God has so blessed our decision to send them to school. Isaac's teacher is a good friend of ours and she has such a heart for the Lord and for the hearts of kids and is so being used by Christ in her classroom and in the school.
Through our friends from church, God has really blessed this day, which didn't start out so great.
I am so overwhelmed by the power of scripture memory and how I wish I had more memorized. The verses that are locked in, I am so thankful for. I have a desire for so many more, especially for situations of frustration, anger or those moments when you feel like you just don't care.
The verse that was shared with Tanya and then she shared with me was
Colossians 3:12-17 (Show me Colossians 3)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Definitely verses that i want in my head and heart for mornings like today.
  • Noteworthy happenings of the last few days:
  1. Kaylee and Isaac started school
  2. Daddy got a shed through a radio auction (pre-built and they will deliver it to our backyard)
  3. Levi and Jesse started oral medication for ringworm in their scalp.
  4. Mommy and Daddy treating their ringworm with antifungal cream
  5. Erin got a new bike (this eliminates the fighting over the one bike we had)
  6. Levi really struggling with biting and hitting. Please pray for us to not be quick tempered and pray for a peace in his heart.
  7. Levi's language is coming along, he is speaking some sentences and picking up tons of words. He has lost so much of his Amharic that i think it is a little frustrating for him to have lost one language without fully knowing the new language.
  8. Visit to the dentist was very interesting. Have an oral surgery appt. for Levi in Oct.
I'm sure there is more, but outta time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marcus Fair 2007

Another Slideshow is coming, this time, we've added some video.

We had such a good time at the Marcus Fair.
My sister, LaRae, is the president of the fair board. I'm so proud of her! That fair rocks!! She does a great job.
Special thanks to Nate, Rae, Bob, Memah and BompaKK for helping out that day with all the kiddies. They really had a total blast and they were completely wiped on the way home. They wanted the AC blowing right on them.
Levi and Jesse are still experiencing so many firsts. It is so fun to see how they handle all of the new things they encounter each day. They spend a great deal of time in the following states:
Confusion or
Awe or
Extreme overstimulation
Click below for the newest slideshow and ENJOY!

Marcus Fair 2007
Powered by Smilebox
Click to play |

Monday, August 06, 2007

shopping day

Warning: The information in this post may gross you out, but I assure you the story i'm about to tell is true and not even the names have been changed to protect the guilty....
Saturday, in an effort to just get out of the house and be out and about with all the kids, we ventured into the world for a day of shopping and fun. The idea was to go to the nodland school park and eat a picnic lunch, play on the equipment and then little ones (and possibly dad) could nap in the car while errands were run and such. We left the house at 11am.
In order to MAXIMIZE our time, Tanya dropped me off with the kids at the park while she went to Kohl's pick up something and also to look for her lost cell phone. Famous last words "I won't be gone long" I'm thinking, "no problem, they will play and Ta will come back, we'll eat lunch, bada bing....nap time" WRONG!!!!!
First 10 min, Levi soaks his pants with urine- oops. No pullup, none in the diaper bag. Deep breath dad, you can handle this. Solution: Levi goes commando with wet shorts. Hopefully, they will dry by the time Tanya returns. No problem.
Well, about 5 min after that is cleared up, Erin comes to me and says "Daddy, i'm so sorry" That's right, she peed too. "It's okay, Erin" I calmly tell her. "no problem"
As I"m trying to clean up this mess, my hand mushes into something. That's right, She peed and pooped too. The lump falls out of her underwear, into the wood chips. 2 deep breaths, can do this. Erin feels so bad, i just keep telling her "it's okay, honey"
Now, At this point, the other family that is playing at the park and observing my every move, decides to leave. Big shocker. Good news, Erin is in a skirt and I do have pants for Erin and none of the poo got on her skirt. So, bright idea....I'll put jesse in the stroller, Carry a naked erin over to the van and scrounge around for something plastic, right....whooops.... Oh yeah, Tanya took the van. Rats. Maybe i'll look again in the diaper bag. SWEET, a plastic bag, now i can pick up the lump of poo in the woodchips over by the swing. I also found a pullup in the diaper bag, score. Now i just have to decide who to put it on. Levi or Erin? Solution: Erin gets the pullup, because she is under my arm and Levi is off playing. Did i mention that it is about 92 degrees and 100% humidity? And where is Tanya? Shouldn't she be back by now? Hmmm?
Okay, It's noon, i better feed these monsters. Personally, I don't feel much like eating.
The kids were excited to eat and especially drink, we have one capri sun for each kid.
They are so hot, that they drink that first. Bad choice, because the sandwiches are peanut butter. Have you ever seen a kid turn blue trying to suck the last drop from a caprisun? Thankfully, we had a couple apples. No knife though. It would be good to mention here that i did have Antibacterial wipes that I used to wash hands before we ate. I resorted to biting out huge chunks from the apples and then handing them to the kids. They basically just sucked the juice out of them, too.
Hey, what is that honking i hear? is Tanya here? No, not in the parking lot. I have my phone, but i can't call her because her cell phone is lost. Hmmm?
i spotted a drinking fountain (oasis in the desert) across the park. HOORAY, it works. I brought the kids over for drinks. The kids pretty much douse themselves in water and we keep playing in the park. About an hour has past and now I'm about to pee my pants.
Tanya pulls up, HALLELUJAH! The kids all run to the van, because they know the air is on in there. She felt terrible. She couldn't remember how to get back to the park. She could see it from the street she was on, but couldn't find the turn. That's what the honking was, She was on a street where she could see me, but couldn't get to me. Oh, and she didn't find her phone. She is laughing hysterically, as i tell her about the events of the last hour.
Anyway. We continued the day, Tanya found some shorts and a pullup in the van for Levi. babies fell asleep and i washed the van with Kaylee and Isaac while Tanya was at JCPenney. We went to Mickydee's and got baby icecream cones and then picked Tanya up.
we went back home and ate supper and then went swimming at Leif Pool with the neighbors until 8pm. We showered and soaped up the kids at the pool showers, brought them home, brushed their teeth and put 'em to bed by 9. We laughed about our day and crashed in bed.
The next morning, i found Tanya's cell phone in the trunk of the Honda, before we went to church. Yeah!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Our Minnesota Bliss!

We returned from our annual family vacation to Park Rapids, MN Wed. night. We cut it short because Layne had to go back to work, but it was still VERY good and relaxing, even if just for a few days. There were 14 people in our 3 bedroom cabin, 7 adults, 7 kids. Anything else would've been boring! The kids had a blast in the water, on the beach and on the boat (thank you Tom and Wally for the boat rides!) Everybody else from the Matney clan comes home tomorrow.
It has been awesome to see how God has provided time for us to spend getting to know Levi and Jesse and for the kids to all get more and more acquainted without tons of distractions.

A day in the life in Southern Ethiopia

As Layne and I traveled to the southern region of Ethiopia, near the village where Levi and Jesse's Ethiopian family live, we observed many things out the window as we drove. We were traveling to meet Aster and Assefa, their birth parents. What an emotional day. We will NEVER forget this beautiful couple and their love for the LORD and Geremu and Habtamu. We will tell the boys about this day many times throughout their lives. I just wanted to record what I had journaled as we traveled in the Range Rover to get there.

A baboon running on the side of the road

little children playing soccer by the road

mostly grass thatched roof homes

homes made of thin sticks and a metal sheet roof, built at a slant so water runs off

many people walking by the roadside and some wearing white shawls. It is Sunday, their holy day. White signifies this. Many families visit each other on Holy day, says our driver in very broken English

a man walking on the side of the road in the rain using a HUGE leaf as an umbrella

a man standing outside his hut under the cover of his grass roof awning. His hut had puddles of water around it

a donkey pulling a cart by the side of the road

a woman gathering water by a puddle near the side of the road

many people with sad serious faces

most barefoot in the mud

children carrying mangos, corn, and vegetables on their backs in large baskets to market in the rain

naked little children standing in the doorway of a grass hut

signs indicating that certain villages are under the jurisdiction of Ethiopia

MUDDY creeks that look like a trickle, but the people act as if the trickle is a huge river

our driver honking at birds that stayed alongside the road

sometimes very thick fog

beautiful green moutains

one mountain had 3 stripes all around

lots of little boys ages 5-9 pushing carts with big loads or tending a cart pulled by a donkey

tarps are very useful here

the water that is running in creeks and under bridges is very brown, almost orangish in color

Saw a woman with a load on her head, kneeling down and collecting water from a puddle

very rocky red soil

boys using the road to play soccer (quas)

a lot of corn growing in patches all over, some tassled, others knee high

mosque in the village

some sections of roads not paved and very muddy and rutty.

We nearly hit a man walking by the side of the road who was using a cane

little boy 5yrs? dipping water from 2 small buckets on a porch

Amharic news on the radio while we drive, it blows my mind we are in Africa and almost to the area the boys are from

It's raining, with out this newly paved road we would not be able to travel in these muddy conditions

When crossing bridges we slow WAY down and drive over a big ridge where the road meats the bridge

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Homecoming Slideshow

We got some pictures from friends of our homecoming so we thought this would be a good a way to share them. Enjoy!!

View this slideshow created at One True Media
Homecoming 7-14-07

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mission Of Mercy

Our new friends Amanda and Matt DeSarro, that we met while in Ethiopia, had an amazing experience while visiting the child they sponsor through Mission of Mercy in Ethiopia.
They wrote about it here: An Amazing day at Mission of Mercy
You can visit Mission of Mercy and sponsor a child yourself by clicking here

Sunday, July 22, 2007

some updated pictures

I have more to write but people are asking for pictures, so that is the main purpose of this post.
Our first week with 5 children has come to a close. The adjustment has been way more than we could have imagined, both emotionally for us and for all 5 kids. God's grace is sufficient and we have gotten so much help from friends, neighbors, family and church family. The Bell's built the most sweetest 10'x10' sandbox in our backyard while we were gone! What an incredible gift. People have been bringing meals and the church youth group kids came over and mowed my yard and did landscaping projects while we all went swimming. The 22nd was our 12th anniversary and we went to a movie together, it was soooo great. Boppie and Bompa watched all 5 kids, they are amazing!
Special Thank You's out to all of you who have been supporting us and lifting us up in prayer! It has been so evident that you are out there and that God is sustaining and upholding us and being our ROCK!
I will write more about the trip and our reunion with the kids later.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Home at last

We are home at last and what an AMAZING welcome we had waiting for us at Omaha Airport.
We fell in a bawling heap and just smooched and loved on our kids right there on the carpet outside the security gate, it was incredible feeling to have all 5 kids together at last.
I will blog more later about the last few days of Ethiopia and the trip home.

John 9:30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday- leaving Ethiopia in 6 hours

Hi everybody.
It's Friday and I am writing a quick email to say that we only have about 6 more hours in ethiopia.
Last night was a better night with the boys. Jesse cried more than Levi going to sleep. Levi took a while, but he was quietly singing himself to sleep.
they both woke up happy.
Yesterday we had the whole day without any specific appt.
We went shopping with the boys and they did really good. It helped to have the shopkeepers talking to them in Amharic. They were really well behaved and didn't get fussy.
It was kinda hot, we stopped last at the supermarket and got some of their yummy sweet croissants. and more bananas.Levi absolutely loves bananas, yesterday i think he ate 4 of them.

I am so excited to get on this plane, but please pray that we get on it in time, nothing around here happens on schedule and it makes us very nervous. If the flight is overbooked, we could lose our seats being all together, so please pray really hard that we get to the airport early enough to get our seats and our bags checked and just chill until the flight leaves!!!!
I want to hug and kiss Kaylee, Isaac and Erin on every inch of their little bodies. Mommy and daddy can't wait to tickle and kiss you little monkeys all over and give you so many loves. Mommy and Daddy have been crying every night because we miss you soooooooooooooo much!!!!! We listened to the recordings of your voices that we sent to Ethiopia. Erin singing Jingle Bells, Isaac saying his bible verse and singing "the joy of the lord is my strength" and kaylee playing the violin. We just lay in our bed here and bawl thinking about how much we want to be with you!!!

Thank you to everyone who has been caring for our little people and praying for us. We have so many amazing stories to tell you when we get home!!

Layne and TAnya

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wednesday update from Ethiopia

Wednesday News:

Okay, so we were a little late for breakfast with the boys, but traveling through this city is extremely difficult. We dressed them up real cute, of course Levi wanted to wear his flipflops from us instead of the other shoes, but got no argument from us. We dropped off little Jesse and the nannies were soooo excited, they see him and say “Hab-teesh, Hab-teesh”. He is very popular. He smiled and went with them. We were sad to see him go. Then the mini_bus took us over to Levi’s building. He has no school this week. I knew this might be a difficult moment. We got there and he saw where we were and just looked at us like “what is this all about?” He didn’t want to get out of the car with me. I was holding a bag of his clothes from the care center and he thought I was going to make him take off the clothes we gave him. I had the driver tell him that he could keep his clothes on and that we would be back later to be with him. He jumped out of the car and came with me. He wasn’t really happy about it, but he was okay. He looked very sad as I walked out of the room and wouldn’t wave to me.

Shopping: The reason for dropping them off today is that we are going shopping and it is so insane to shop here. We are shopping for stuff for Kaylee, Isaac and Erin, I know they would love to have us get them some souvenirs. Also, we want to get little “gotcha day” gifts for the boys for the coming years. Something Ethiopian and we can retell the story of this week and talk about their birthplace. Okay, so we go back to our guest house and eat breakfast. It was scrambled eggs and toast. It was good. We jumped in the mini bus and our first stop was to exchange some American dollars for Ethiopian Birr. The exchange rate was 9.1. So, we gave our guide, Maasi, 100 dollars and we got 910 birr. Everything in the stores is marked with little price tags for birr, so if it says 5.00, it means 5 birr, which is really only 50 cents. Then we went to our first shop, it was very nice and Maasi protected us from a lot of the people who see us westerners and flock over asking for money. There was a very persistant map salesman. He started selling his maps for 160 birr and by the time we left was asking only 40 birr. I can’t tell you what we bought, (it’s a surprise) but we got nice things at these shops and the people were very very nice. We went to another shop that had a lot of jewelry and art. Tanya bought a really cool sunhat here for herself. They had clothes too, but sizes are too hard to figure out, so we passed on the clothes. Then we went through the “Merkato”. This is absolutely crazy. There are people everywhere, begging, selling, bargaining, working. The cars are four wide going both directions. I took lots of pictures, we didn’t get out. Maasi said, it is not safe for us to shop here. We understood after driving through. It is bumper to bumper for about 10 blocks in a circle. The diesel fumes were making people in the little buses kinda sick. After Merkato, we went to the soccer stadium because there were shops there and then a supermarket. This was a very nice, clean market that looked just like a little grocery from the U.S. It kinda reminded me of park rapids, MN., because it had a gift shop upstairs. We bought some groceries to have at our house because the boys will be with us and we didn’t really have any food. We tried to buy some of the “teff” flour, but they were out for the day. It was about 12:30 am. The manager said that they would have more tomorrow.

We then headed back to the guest house for lunch. Lasagna was sooo good. They feed us very well here. After lunch, us and 3 other families headed over to the office so we could use the Internet. We got a good amount of time to post to the blog and hopefully we can do it everyday now. After hearing Boppie say that the kids race to the computer in the morning when they wake up, I want to make sure they see something when they get there. We walked to the office and back. It felt good to walk. I wish I could describe the experience. You basically walk on the edge of the street, there are goats on every corner, people following you asking for food and children looking at our white faces and smiling and asking for money or food. It is so sad. But you can’t get any money out or you will be swarmed.

Closing Ceremony: We got back to our place, woke Jaimee up from her nap and got to the guest house about 3:30. We had to be back at the guest house to be picked up for the closing ceremony at 3:45. Well, somehow there was a communication breakdown and the bus didn’t come until 4:40. It was okay though, because we had time to just unwind after a busy day of shopping, share stories with the other families. You can’t get too worried about schedules and time here in Ethiopia. It is not like the U.S. Things happen when they happen, not necessarily on a rigid schedule.

We got to the ceremony about 4:45 and all the children who are still waiting for their families were in little plastic chairs in nice neat rows. They had been waiting there in those chairs for about an hour too, yet they were still sitting there patiently waiting. They weren’t perfect angels, but for already sitting an hour, they were very good! They dressed the children who are leaving with families up in a nice outfit and bring them down all together. As soon as Levi and Jesse saw us, they came running too us. Levi is the oldest one leaving this week, so it was really sweet. Jesse was really excited to see his mama! They take video of this, so I won’t write too much about it, but I’ll give the highlights. They do a handprint on a wall and when it was Jesse turn, the kids all started chanting “Hab-TAH-moo, Hab-TAH-moo, Hab-TAH-moo!!” it was very cute! Mr. popular.

Next,They put all the kids in a circle with nannies in the middle and parents and social workers in a bigger circle around the outside and pray, 1st in Amharic, next a daddy prayed in English. Levi wanted to stand by his daddy, so he left his nanny and stood with me to pray. Then they let Levi cut the cake, He was so cheesy smiling with this great big knife in his hand. The cake was huge. They handed out cake and bottles of coke. Levi drank a whole bottle himself and a big piece of cake, this turned out to be a very bad thing. I’ll explain later. The other highlight was that we got the voice recorder and the picture book back that we had sent back in April. Levi loved that. We could totally tell that he had listened too it. He especially loved Isaac singing to him and Kaylee’s violin. He giggled when he heard Erin singing Jingle bells. He sang along with all the songs, including his mama singing amazing grace.

Dinner: We got back in the “makeena” for a ride to the guest house to eat dinner. This is where the smiles and giggles kinda came to a screeching halt. Levi wasn’t interested in eating, only touching every light switch. We then had a challenging time in the bathroom. He wasn’t hungry due to the whole bottle of coke and cake in his tummer. Jesse, however, ate the pizza like a champ. No one will every believe that this boy was from Ethiopia- He is a tank! We walked back to our place to start the bedtime process. I was a little distressed. We got there and God granted a huge grace. Levi went up to the bathroom and saw where we had attempted the bath the night before and asked Tanya if she would give him a bath!! Amazing!! So, she thoroughly enjoyed scrubbing him up. He was all clean and we managed to get his jammies on, then Levi and walked over to the place with the phone so we could get ready to call Kaylee, Isaac and Erin. We wanted them to hear Levi talk. Levi loved hearing his big brother. Isaac was soo good to talk to him. Levi’s face was a big smile while Isaac was talking! The phone cut out before I got to talk to Isaac or Kaylee or Erin. WE CAN”T WAIT TO GET HOMEEEEEE!!!! It is now Thursday morning here and only one more day until we get on our plane. It is still a whole day’s flying, but it will seem like we are that much closer. We watched a little wiggles, Levi ate a banana and Jesse had a bottle. We started bedtime about 8:25. Levi was still wired from the caffeine and sugar. He had a hard time again, but this time it wasn’t the flipflops. He cried and moaned for about 30 min. Jesse fell asleep hard during this time. Then, Tanya scooped up levi and he calmed down. He was calm from this time on, just not sleeping. He did a big “caca” and had a very gassy tummy. He finally fell asleep around 10. It is now 3:50am and raining cats and dogs outside. I have been up typing for about an hour, so I better go get some more sleep. I hear Jesse up crying. I hope all is okay. Hopefully I can get on the internet to post this tomorrow morning and the kids can read it when they get up!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Update from Ethiopia-Here's everything that has happened up until Wed.

Found the Stroller…Yeah!!

We are at Dulles in gate D23 awaiting our flight to Ethiopia. It is 7am Iowa time, 8 am here in DC. This morning has been good, we slept great in our hotel and got up excited at 5am and got ready. Our luggage is hilarious, we have huge bags that are packed to the rim. I am so glad we won’t have to deal with it on the way home. We will have plenty to think about.

We found the stroller that we left last night at the baggage claim area after we checked our other luggage in, so we are taking it on the plane with us. We ate breakfast at Subway, Egg and sausage wraps, Tanya had a sausage muffin from Dunkin Donuts. We took our malaria meds with some milk and shot a little bit of video. We are now about to call the kids, it will be a little while before we get to call and talk to them again. The internet is not free here at Dulles, so I am journaling and I will blog this later. We are going to keep taking little snippets of video and saving a lot of our pictures for when we are in Addis and for our trip south. I’m going to shut this down now and charge the battery, maybe I can write more when I’m on the plane.

Almost done flying…

We’ve been in this plane all day and then some. It has been a long flight. We stopped in Rome and sat there for about 45 min. while crew changed and some Italian men came on and cleaned, then we were back in the air. The food has been fabulous, but we haven’t slept much. Mom called just as we were boarding and said the drains in the kitchen sink and the bathtub were backing up with sewage. I don’t know how it resolved because we had to take off, but I hope everything is fine.

I can’t stop thinking about the boys and what the next few days would bring. In my attempts to sleep I would just be praying for our meeting with the biological parents and our meeting with Levi and Jesse. I would find that I was ending my prayers with just praise and adoration, awe and wonder about how God has brought us to this place. I am also praying for the kids back in Sioux City and what they are doing and if they are sad missing us or just having fun and being excited about our next phone call. Tanya and I will go from smiling at each other to looking at each other and getting choked up and then just sharing our feelings and emotions. There have been so many moments of just feeling overwhelmed, looking out the airplane window and seeing God’s creation and feeling so small and yet so confident in Christ and his incredible work of grace in my life. We just filled out our little cards for the visa thing and I guess we hand it in when we get off the plane for our temporary visa. We have a meeting right away when we get there. It is now 8:00am Ethiopia time, however my body thinks it is midnight. I hope I can make it through the day without crashing. I have to shut down the old laptop, time to land in Addis Ababa.

Monday Morning

I haven’t written since we were on the plane and so much has happened, I don’t know if I can write it all now. I have pictures along the way from getting off the plane, getting through customs, visas and passports stamped, to getting our luggage, then to getting on the mini-bus that brought us to the office. Then right away we were wisked to the care center to meet Jesse. It was amazing, he was so happy, then we spent a little time with him and then wisked to the school where we met Levi, Jesse was with us. He came running out of the school to see us in the van and then the video guy picked him up and took him into the play yard to get video of our first meeting. He was so smiley and there were no other kids around and we talked with him and got to sit on the ground with him and Jesse and introduce ourselves. We spent a little time there and then went to the care center again with both boys and played. Levi played soccer and Jesse was happy to just push balls around and toddle and giggle with us. We are still just in awe. We had to say goodbye to Jesse and then Levi rode with us to the place where we eat and he LOVED riding in the car. He played there with us for just a few minutes then he had to go back to the place where he eats and sleeps and we had to eat. He kept waving and smiling from the van and he sat in the front seat with the driver, big grin!! I tried to blog real quick at the office and then it was right to bed (we had been awake for over 20 hours.)

Trip South:

The next morning (Sun) we got up very early (3:45am) and got in some land rovers with the other families to make the 4 hour drive south. I have lots of pictures and we did a video diary to document everything, so I won’t write much here. It rained the whole way, sometimes down pouring. The road was in very good shape most of the way. The closer we got to Hossaina, the worse it got and in Hossaina we did some serious off-roading, sliding down muddy, tire-trenched streets. Our driver, named Casa, was a very good driver, but didn’t speak English that great. It was very quiet most of the ride. The countryside is tremendous and beautiful, the mountains were so misty with fog and very green, our eyes could hardly believe how beautiful everything was!! Meeting Asefa and Aster was such a tremendous experience!! They also love Jesus and the Holy Spirit made our meeting such a union of peace and love. They were obviously so sad, but so happy to see pictures of the boys and video of them playing and smiling and laughing. It was a very intense moment that was made into unexplainable worship by God’s grace. We prayed together through the interpreter and then in the ceremony, I prayed for all the families in English and Asefa prayed for all the families in Amharic. It was absolutely amazing and unforgettable and truly and life-changing moment. We have pictures of us together and of them together and of each of them alone. It was fun to turn the camera around and show them the pictures of themselves. They smiled and giggled to see their pictures.

The trip back was amazing to see all the villages and all the people. We stopped at a hut and got to experience how they live, what the grow. I got amazing pictures and video at this home and the children were so precious! When we returned, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon. They told us we wouldn’t see the boys because there was no one to drive us to the care center. So, we walked with some other families, it was nice to walk after 8 hours in a bouncy land rover. We got to play with Jesse, he was happy to see us and loves to toddle around and play. He is very content and only cried for about 30 seconds when we didn’t do something right with his toys. We gave him a little rattle to chew on and he loved flicking the little wheel and biting on it. He is getting some big back teeth and has very stinky diarrhea. We didn’t get to see Levi because he is in a different building now, so we were sad about that, but we will see him today. We hope to take Jesse to Levi’s place so we can see where Levi sleeps and eats and we can play with them both there. It is now 6:30 am here (10:30 pm)

Tuesday Morning, July 9, 2007 Tanya’s Entry

Words cannot adequately express the range of emotions I have been feeling since our plane landed in Ethiopia. God is already giving us such a deep love for these precious little ones of HIS. As I was holding Jesse yesterday my eyes filled with tears as it really sunk in that he was my son. All that he has been through along with Levi is unimaginable to me. At times they seem confused, but each time we see them they become more familiar with Layne and I. Yesterday we arrived at the infant and toddler center ( Levi is at a different house) and dashed to the playroom his was in. As we opened the door, our eyes met his across the room. His face bursted into a huge smile and he ran into our arms. I scooped him up and he nuzzled himself into my neck. He loves to be held and snuggled. We have been carrying him around in a hip carrier. He enjoys this and slept for 2 hours on Layne yesterday. It is obvious that he was most likely carried like this as a baby with his Ethiopian family. Jesse is such a sweet sweet baby. He is very affectionate and loves to smile and be held. He plays gently with Levi and gets excited to be with him.

We arrived at Levi’s school yesterday and he was quick to run up to us and let us scoop him up. The nannies took us to a room that must be like an activity room as it had a larger open space. We had brought 25 cans of playdough to donate to the school. So before we gave these away, we played with it with the boys. Levi enjoyed opening up each color and rolling it into balls. Jesse used all the cans as blocks and stacked them up on top of each other. He also kept dumping them out of the big ziplock bag and filling it up again over and over. He was a boy on a mission. We colored with Levi. He was very careful to keep the crayons separate from the pencils. Levi was a bit over stimulated and was extremely excited. It was hard for him to stay focused for very long on one particular thing. He seemed very happy and comfortable with us.

Layne’s Entry

Since Tanya wrote about our time at the school, I’ll kinda pick up there. Closer to noon, we had to get ready to go and the boys were going to eat with us. However, the little bus was not there yet and so they wanted Levi to eat with his friends. Tanya had to change Jesse, so I watched Levi eat. I’m so glad we got to see this, because watching 30 kids eat at a regular size picnic table was so incredible! They were almost on top of each other and their arms were folded while the nannies handed out Tupperware bowls and cups with lids on them and goulash inside. Every child got their food and then they prayed a little song, it was really cute, I hope I can get the words from the nannies, it was all in English. Then they began to eat, all had their own forks and they had to eat all their food before they could get up. Levi was continually taking a bite then looking to see me and smiling, he was sooo polite and quiet with the other children. He got a little silly when he would look at me.

We took them back to the guest house where we eat and they really loved this. Jesse ate Ethiopian food, Injera and wat and some creamed corn with lentils, he really liked the corn! There is a lot of corn here, very popular food. Levi played soccer and rode a big wheel around in the driveway area and we had some fun. He is verrrrry active!! When he was running up to get the big wheel off of the porch, he slipped on the very slick marble and bonked his head. It scared him more than anything because he was going full tilt. I scooped him up and comforted him, he was crying. He settled down and then was much calmer and had fun pushing the buttons on the little big wheel thing. Jesse came out too and Levi was good to share and take turns with the balls and toys. We are learning so many Amharic words, but we forget them so fast. Communication is definitely a factor. We then had to go back to Jesse’s place to have our doctor’s appointment and that is when Jesse fell asleep hard!! Geremu played with Tanya while I had the sleeper in the sling. Levi had fun wearing the headphones listening to Toby Mac and PureNRG. Levi then got really sad and fell asleep too, but he was uncomfortable. Our Dr. appt. went well, we learned about Habtamu that he has had 3 different rounds of anti-biotics for various things since he got to the care center. Ears, skin infections and the most recent is that he got the end of his right ring finger smashed in the door on Thursday and lost the nail, it looked really nasty on Sat. when we got here and he’s on amoxicillin, and it is clearing up. On sat. it was so infected, he couldn’t bend it. It is getting better but needs to be cleaned up. Levi has been very healthy since he has been here, a little infitigo on his head but that is it, no antibiotics. When he came to the orphanage he had a swollen eye. It was huge, the Dr. said, but it was just a bee sting, so he has to allergic. They didn’t give him anything for it, but we will have to keep some benadryl on hand at all times. After that, Jesse woke up happy, but Levi was very sad and confused when he woke up, it was hard. Please pray for him and the confusion, frustration and sadness he must be feeling.

Habtamu went back with his Nannies in the care center and we delivered Levi to his place. It was really nice and when we got there 29 kids had the playdoh that we brought out at little tables with little plastic primary colored chairs. Then we had to go, Levi seemed sad to watch us leave.