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.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

We met the boys

I have tons to write but I have access here for a few minutes and i'm posting to say we've met them and they are fantastic!!!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Adventure begins...

We are just about to go to bed in DC. Our biggest mistake so far is that we forgot to pick up the stroller at the baggage claim. We will be trying to figure that out tomorrow, bright and early **smile**
The picture is with our luggage outside the Dulles terminal right before we got on the shuttle.

We had great flights coming this far and we spent some time with Tanya's cousins in VA. They fed us WELL! Crabcakes and Kabobs on the grill. Jaimee and I decided we need to get this really good cheese called boursin- Yum. It was goood!

We leave on a shuttle from our hotel at 6:30 a.m. to get to the airport, get through sec., find the stroller, check the baggage and be ready to board by 9:20ish. We are re-organizing how we carry stuff after our travel today. I'm so glad we get to stay overnight and regroup and then fly again tomorrow!

The emotions are really odd right now, because we are not at home with Kaylee, Isaac and Erin and we are not with the boys yet, so we are really missing everybody. It is great to have Jaimer with us! She is keeping us from being so overwhelmed and emotional. I am so thankful for the prayer support from home and our parents to watch the kids at home. It is really great to know that they are being loved on and kept active and probably a little spoiled.