Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lost in Translation ...


It has been almost one year since we arrived home with our two adopted sons (ages 8 & 3) from Ethiopia. (Coincidentally - we left for Ethiopia last year on November 27 and this year I will be travelling to Ethiopia on November 30 to work with Children's Hopechest on child sponsorship programs. We met our sons for the first time ever on December 1st last year and I will be arriving in Ethiopia on that exact same date, one year later!!) Both boys have made some incredible strides in language development in the last year, and we have had a lot of family laughter and fun with silly language interpretations.

Last Sunday, driving to church, we passed skunk road-kill and our car was momentarily enveloped in skunk stench. As the smell hit Jayden's nostrils, he screwed up his face and waved his fingers under his nose, pronouncing "Ewwwwww, stink! I smell Chipmunk!" After we gained control of the laughter, we got to explain the difference between chip"munk" and "skunk".

Another recent incident occured last night at dinner. We've noticed that our kids tend to over-react to innocent teasing at times. And although we address the teaser, we also address the "teasee" about their over-reaction by explaining that the guilty teaser was just "trying to get your goat". We go on to explain how "your goat was grazing happily in its little goat pen - and you just up and handed your goat to your sister and she got what she wanted. She was trying to get your goat - and you gave it to her!"

Last night, Jayden was the "teaser" and when Maea over-reacted to the teasing, he triumpantly yelled out "I got your COAT!" We then got to explain "goat" vs "coat". Some things are just lost in translation.

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Four weeks from now, I will be travelling to Ethiopia with Children's Hopechest, to work with 7 different orphanages to develop child sponsorship programs! If you are not familiar with child sponsorship, it partners one orphaned child with one family here, to support their basic needs with a monthly gift of $34. That monthly gift ensures that specific child receives food, clothing, medical care, education and christian discipleship. But possibly even more important, that one child is given HOPE as they get to know their sponsor family through letter writing and pictures, and they learn that they are loved and valued. We will also be coordinating future trips to Ethiopia for sponsor families so they can meet their sponsored child!

Jay and I will be sponsor coordinators for one of those orphanages - we will get to know these kids personally, as well as their individual situation and the community they live in. About a month after this first trip to Ethiopia, we will have individual sponsor packets (with a picture of each child and their personal information) and we will be looking to match each of these precious children with a sponsor here. Next year, Jay will be returning to Ethiopia, hopefully with some of those sponsor families!

There are a lot of items we are collecting for our Ethiopia trip in November - but in addition to the items we will be bringing, we need financial donations so we can meet immediate needs while we are in-country.

Did you know that $15 can feed a child in Ethiopia for a month?!?! And that $15 could mean the difference between a child surviving and being matched with a sponsor ... or not. Would you please consider donating (any amount is appreciated! ... $10, $15, $25, $100) to Hopechest for the Ethiopia trip in November, knowing 100% of the donation will be used to meet immediate needs during that trip. I, and the rest of the Hopechest team, will personally deliver food to a hungry, scared and lonely child in Ethiopia - and we will deliver it with a HUG and LOVE! Go to http://www.hopechest.org/, click on "Give" and then specify "Ethiopia November Trip" in the notes section.

If you have ever considered helping a child in need but hesitated because you wondered if the money was really being used to help children ... THIS is an opportunity to give and know every dollar is being used to directly help an orphan.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

5 Week Countdown to Ethiopia!


It's been an extremely busy few weeks. My trip to Ethiopia is now only 5 weeks away and I am finally able to start focusing on the upcoming trip.

I did go to the travel clinic 2 weeks ago to get shots for Yellow Fever and Typhoid, along with anti-malarial medication. Since we will be travelling outside the city of Addis Ababa, and at lower elevations, we will be in mosquito infested areas which means we are susceptible to mosquite-borne illnesses. When you read the CDC reports on the risks of the Yellow Fever vaccine, it certainly causes one to hesitate and really think through the risks associated with a trip like this. I did end up with very swollen and PAINFUL lymph nodes under my arm, which lasted a full two weeks, but that has just subsided and the tiredness and fatigue has begun to decline as well! I have one more round of Hep B vaccine next week and then the medical aspects of the trip are done.


Saturday morning, I presented an educational adoption seminar in Eden Prairie. And this morning, I spoke at both worship services at our church about my upcoming trip to Ethiopia, presenting two ways to help: #1 immediate needs for the trip, #2 to consider child sponsorhip once I get back and we have identified a specific orphanage to partner with. I generally don't mind public speaking, but these topics are so close close to my heart and I was super nervous for both events. There is just so much I want to convey and so little time to get it all in.

I could really use help for the upcoming Ethiopia trip, either with financial donations so that we can take care of immediate needs on the ground in-country, or with donations of the following items! Please email me at
kjwistrom@yahoo.com if you can help in any way. I can guarantee each gift or donation will personally affect the life of a child that yearns to know love and safety and hope.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS FOR UPCOMING ETHIOPIA TRIP

NOVEMBER 30 - DECEMBER 9


  • children's underwear (boys and girls, all sizes)

  • pencils and school supplies

  • new shoes (tennis shoes and sandals)

  • toothbrushes/toothpaste

  • suckers and hard candy (buy this after halloween!)

  • new or gently-used clothing

  • packages of peanut butter crackers or granola bars

  • financial donations to meet immediate food needs

Also - please consider and pray about sponsoring a child once we develop the sponsorship program early next year. Your monthly gift of $34 will ensure that one specific child has food, clothing, medical care, education and christian discipleship. Our group of sponsors will develop a personal relationship with a specific child, but they will also know the other children in the program and the other sponsors. We plan to send 1-2 groups of sponsors to Ethiopia each year to build on those relationships. Jay will be leading the next trip and we have already had several people step forward to express interest in the next trip and in child sponsorship!!!

Last year, when we were in Ethiopia, we visited several orphanages and spent some time interacting with the kids there. When we would first arrive at an orphanage, the kids were very animated and excited. But once the excitement passed and we could begin to interact one on one, we quickly saw those tough exteriors, frenzied activity and aloof personalities start to crumble. Within a few minutes, a child or two or three would slowly crawl right up into your lap, just wanting to feel safe and loved. To have someone wrap their arms around them and just hold them. You quickly realize that these precious kids aren't just starving for nutritious and consistent meals and clean water, they are literally starving for love and hope and security.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just an update ...




Above: Jayden (8)

Above: Wesley (3)




Above: Maea (11)


Above: Emme (12)




Since we don't live on a farm, our kids are very enthralled with farm animals!





Above: This is the look Wesley gives me when I ask him to "smile".





It's been awhile since I have posted so I do have a lot to catch up on ...


2nd Annual MN AWAA Ethiopia Reunion:
Next weekend, about 9 families are getting together to celebrate our adoptions and our friendships forged through our shared adoption journeys. Last year, many of us got together for the first time as we completed paperwork and waited for a referral. Now, every single family is home with their adopted children except for one dear friend, Sue, who will be travelling to Ehiopia in the next month or so to bring home her baby daughter. We will give her a big send-off celebration! Also - there will be a new family joining us, who is just now in the paperchasing process. What a great weekend get-together to see all of our children together (from many different countries - America, Ethiopia & China!)

Ethiopia Vision Trip with Children's Hopechest:
From November 30 - December 8, I will be in Ethiopia with an organization called Children's Hopechest (there are about 8 people on this trip that are recent adoptive families!). Tom Davis, author and President of Hopechest, will be leading the trip as we meet with 6-7 different orphanages to develop them for child sponsorship programs. But child sponsorship is only the beginning of Hopechest's programs.

The community of sponsors will be in regular communication with each other through a website/blog and we will get to know each other as well as the kids we are all sponsoring. That community of sponsors will work together on community development projects to develop the community and develop programs that will help those children grow into responsible, self-sufficient, Christian, young-adults - the future leaders of Ethiopia!

I have had many people already contact me about getting involved in this program and I will be blogging about it as the trip approaches, and daily from Ethiopia. When I return, we will match the children with sponsors and begin the exciting process of building relationships with these kids and the community. I am so unbelievably excited about the potential of this program!!! We will also be planning to send 1-2 groups of sponsors to Ethiopia each year to work with the kids and the community. If you are interested in being involved, please email me!

The last time I was in Ethiopia (November of last year), we stayed in the capital city, Addis Ababa, which is at high elevation and therefore has minimal mosquito problems. This time, we will be travelling quite a bit outside the city, which will expose us to mosquitos, and of course, mosquito-borne illness. I am getting my vaccinations for Yellow Fever & Typhoid on Friday and will also be getting a prescription for anti-malarial medications.

Hana - Our sponsor child:
We currently sponsor a little girl in Ethiopia named Hana. She is 6 years old and her parents have died. She lives with her aunt who has 3 other kids. I am hoping to be able to arrange to meet Hana during this trip - and if not this trip, then the next. We just recently got another letter from Hana and she has started Kindergarten -and is very excited about it. She's curious about snow - so we will be sending her plenty of pictures with snow this winter.

Family Life:
School is in full swing and we are all appreciative of the routine. I mentioned a few months ago that we are finally feeling normal and settled again.

Jayden is doing well in school, although we realize he has a long way to go before he fully internalized the intricacies of the English language. He communicates very well at home and at school. He is just beginning to fully grasp how to sound out words. If you can imagine trying to sound out the word CAT or CAR or MAP - having absolutely no idea what a cat, car or map is!! Now that he understands words, he is starting to understand that letters, make words and that words have meaning!!! That's a very big step!

I also mentioned before that Jayden bonded with Jay almost immediately in Ethiopia. He has been slower to form an attachment with me and I have been fine giving him the room he needs. But I have noticed in the last month, that he is quick to wrap his arms around me when I come home from work or leave in the morning, and announce "I love you mommy!" He will taunt me by saying "mommy no strong" or "mommy can't catch me" so that I will grab him and wrestle him to the ground and tickle him. He has accepted me fully as his mom.

Wesley also has made great progress. This little boy has become an affectionate, sweet-natured, joyful little boy and I told Jay the other night, "Wesley finally LOVES us!" And he really, truly and fully does. The angry and deliberat defiance has vanished almost completely, and when he does something wrong, he is truly remorseful (instead of defiant) and rushes to wrap his arms around your leg and say "I'm sorry". We were looking at some of our Ethiopia pictures the other night, and we are so amazed at the changes in Wesley's body language and facial expressions. Jayden commented "In Ethiopia, Wesley most naughty boy. He bite everyone, even babies!" I told him that I remember that (he bit us several times too) but he is no longer a naughty boy - he is a very loved little boy.

There are times, when I look at my 4 kids together, and I am overwhelmed with joy - my heart is so full! I cannot believe this miracle that is my family - through adoption. What I once thought was complete - was nowhere near. And although I still feel that we have another little girl in Ethiopia that will one day be our daughter, for now I am content with the precious gift we have been given - that of a complete family. (By the way - Emme and Maea are outstanding big sisters to their little brothers.)