Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Learning Experience ...



Wesley likes to be in the middle of the activity. When the activity is in the kitchen, he comes scurrying around the corner asking, "What you makin'?" And he grabs his little stool, the tippy one we've had for about 13 years, and he sits it down with a thunk, grabs the edge of the countertop, and hoists himself up so he can see what's going on.

I usually bend over and position his feet in the middle of the stool, explaining to him that if he stands too close to the edge, it will tip over and "you'll fall down and bump your head".

A few days ago, as I was rolling cookie dough in my hands (I always forget to push up my sleeves and after my hands are covered with food-stuff, that's usually when I realize I'm about to get my cuffs dirty and I turn and ask my "helpful" husband, "Will you push my sleeves up?" - and he happily assists by pushing them all the way to my shoulders. He's a comedian.) Wesley came skidding around the corner, grabbed his little stool and hoisted himself up so he could peer over the counter. He stepped to the edge of the stool .... and it flipped.

After righting the stool and making sure he was OK - I again explained and even demonstrated the tippiness of the stool. I showed him again how he needs to position his feet in the middle, so that he doesn't fall off and bump his head. He listened attentively and then promptly hopped onto the stool again. And I was thinking to myself that after that timely teaching moment, he will naturally keep his feet positioned in the center from this point forward.

At that moment, Jay came into the kitchen and I said "Wesley just had a learning experience! He stepped to the edge of the stool and it flipped."

Jay said, "Well .... you're half right.

It was an experience.

He fell off it 3 times yesterday."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A boy and his scooter ...


Oh the joy a little boy must feel when he gets his first set of "wheels".

For such a wee little boy, Wesley is amazingly fast and coordinated on his little "Razor" scooter. We had to lower the handle-bar so that he can comfortably navigate, and his little foot pushes and pushes and off he goes!






But here's the rest of the story .... See that scab on his nose, the one that looks like a big, brown leech wrapped around his nostril? He learned the hard way that a scooter with little wheels, can't navigate big hills with little pebbles.



Or maybe it's because he learned how to ride a scooter from his sister ... who can't seem to stay on her scooter either.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE???

When I was in Ethiopia 3 months ago, spending time with the kids at Kind Hearts, we all noticed how weak and lethargic the kids were. The director explained that Kind Hearts only had enough funding to provide food ONE DAY EACH WEEK. He commented that when the children are hungry, and their tummies are hurting, and they are weak from lack of food - it is very difficult for them to concentrate and learn in school. Our team immediately sent a group to the market to buy nutritious food - rice, spices, onions, carrots, bananas, and oranges, and we left them with enough food to get by for a month or so - until we could develop a sponsor program for each child so that they could count on nutritious food EVERY DAY!

Within about 22 days, every child at Kind Hearts was matched with a sponsor!! What a difference it has made in the lives of these kids!!! Not only in the food and nutrition they have every day - but also in the relationships they are building with their sponsors. The children LOVE getting letters from their sponsor families - knowing that somebody loves them and cares for them - enough to send a letter just for them and to make sure they have food and clothing. That they don't wake up hungry ... and go to bed hungry every day.

A friend of mine, Joey Austin, just returned from Ethiopia last week. Her team spent a day with the kids at Kind Hearts and she emailed me hundreds of photos. Looking at the photos - I can't help but smile and my eyes fill with happy tears as I see physical proof of the difference the sponsors have made for these kids.

When I compare these most recent photos to the photos I took in December - I see children radiating joy, throwing their arms around Joey and her team without a hint of shyness. I see children that are not grabbing desperately at food - but calmly and confidently waiting in line and savoring their food, knowing that there will be more food tomorrow. I see energy and laughter now - where 3 months ago I saw children trying hard to muster a smile because their empty tummies hurt and their lonely, hopeless hearts hurt even more. They say a picture speaks a thousand words ...look at the pictures ... DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE??

There will be more chidren enrolling at Kind Hearts soon - AND we are currently developing another location with nearly 100 children that will need sponsors! If you would like to sponsor a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.

I will be going back to Ethiopia in November and I would love for you to join me. Send me an email if you are interested at kjwistrom@yahoo.com


Lunch time!!



Delicious and nutritous injera and wat (injera is a pancake-like bread and wat is a stew made with vegetables, chicken or beef, and savory spices).
















Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Signs of spring in the frozen tundra ...

Yep - it must be spring ... finally. Our little boys now come indoors with bits of grass clinging to their hair. One of my favorite signs of spring.

My other favorite sign of spring? Going to work and coming home while there is daylight!!

This will be our second spring home with our sons (adopted from Ethiopia last year) - last year at this time, they had been home with us for about 3 months and EVERYTHING was new and they could barely speak English. What a difference one year makes!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Made with love ...





The kids at Kind Hearts in Ethiopia are about to get a very special delivery - one that was made with love especially for them!

Sponsor family, Eddie and Julie Mullins, contacted me after seeing recent pictures of the kids in their noticeably tattered, torn and stained clothing. Julie explained that they are involved with a t-shirt printing company and they would like to donate special t-shirts to all of the children at Kind Hearts. The Mullins designed the logo and picked the bright colors for the logo and the shirts, and they printed them yesterday. Eddie and Julie have a beautiful adopted daughter from Ethiopia and they are sponsoring a little boy named Kidane at Kind Hearts.

Ginia, with Children's Hopechest, will be travelling to Ethiopia in April and she will personally deliver the t-shirt to the kids!! And of course she will take lots of pictures of the kids, as they get their new t-shirts with a custom designed "Kind Hearts" logo.

If you want to get involved in sponsoring a child at Kind Hearts - please email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com - and I will contact you as soon as more children enroll. If you have any ideas for fund-raisers to help with some of the capital projects, please get in touch with me. The St. Joseph Christian School in St. Joseph, MO has raised almost $5,000 so far for the fresh-water well at Kind Hearts - and many of the sponsors are doing various fund-raisers as well. I will be returning to Ethiopia in November to work with the kids at Kind Hearts - if you are interested in joining me on that trip, please let me know and I will share details.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What are they up to now???

Have you ever had one of those moments




when your mom instincts





tell you that your kids are up to something?





When you are upstairs





or in another room





and suddenly you realize that it's awfully quiet in the house





too quiet for a house full of 4 kids ...





too quiet.





So you pause in what you are doing





cocking your head to one side





so you can hear better.





And still you hear ... nothing.





Hmmmm ...





OK.





That means trouble.





Honestly ... what could they be up to this time????





So you set aside whatever you're doing





and quietly walk down the stairs.





Pausing at the bottom, expecting to hear whispers or giggles





that would give away their location




and whatever mischief they are perpetrating.



I stand corrected.
Carry on kids ...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

through another's eyes ...





In December, when I spent time at Kind Hearts care-point in Ethiopia, the children captured my heart and I was inspired by the director and the teachers - by their vision for the future. These children who have known heart-ache and fear and loneliness that we cannot even fathom, and who have literally NOTHING .... possess something amazing. They possess joy. JOY!

A friend of mine, Joey Austin, is in Ethiopia right now ... and earlier today her team spent some time at Kind Hearts. They spent time with 68 children who have come to know what HOPE is .... and it means everything.

Joey posted to her facebook page about her visit to Kind Hearts today and I wanted you to get a glimpse of these precious kids through her eyes. All of the kids at Kind Hearts are currently sponsored - but there will be more children enrolling soon. And ... in May we will begin developing a sponsor program at another care-point in Ethiopia with nearly 100 children. If you are interested in getting involved or sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com and I will let you know as soon as we have children needing a sponsor.

Here are Joey's words after her visit to Kind Hearts today ..



There really are no words to describe our day...I mean honestly, we are all speechless! This was by far such a beautiful experience for everyone-not because of the scenery (which was, in itself so pretty-on the side of a mountain, eucalyptus trees dotting the land, and green grass!)...but the heart and souls of the children which were the epitome of the school named Kind Hearts.

After our 45 minute van ride through rocky streets and clogged round-a-bouts, we headed to the outside of the city into the mountainside where the Kind Hearts School is located. Our van pulled up outside the school gates and children immediately started to run, wave and shout to us in sweet excitement. We could barely drive the van through the sea of children! Our group was greeted by the children and as we trudged towards the school building with at least a dozen children clinging to our legs and holding onto our arms, the kids sat down and the director welcomed us.

They opened the tour by singing "God is so Good" in a sweet African accent...then treated us to another song. The kids were so proud of their program and most of us were an absolute mess. I choked out who we were and why we were there...to build a well...and the director told the kids and the entire school-staff and children erupted in singing and cheering. Their clapping and shouting brought nothing but tears from us and they had our hearts from that moment on.

We then headed down to the "river" where some of the children must cross every day. I put "river" in quotes because actually it is more like a polluted dump--brown sludge in some places, thick gray in others...with a stench that makes your head pound instantly because the smell burns when you inhale. We were bothered by simply the smell and sight of the river...yet some of these children and villagers must walk through it every day. Animals drink and die from how sick the water is...in fact skulls littered the bank of the river.

They wanted to show us where a bridge is located, but it is too far away for the kids to use. As we walked, we saw the villagers and donkeys crossing over the river. We were able to actually cross the river ourselves by jumping on rocks and make it to the other side where our translator talked to a woman who must cross it every day. She pleaded with us to help clean up the water and provide a well. She blessed us and said thank you as we left...we all left the river and quietly walked back to the school.

Next it was time for us to hand out some supplies we were able to bring; there were 63 children and we had homemade blankets that were made and prayed over specifically for this trip, along with notebooks, pens and pencils. The staff lined up the children in two lines to receive the presents (picture this: these children were SO well behaved, they quietly lined up with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them, and waited to be called to the table where after receiving the supplies, they bowed and whispered "Thank You.") It was a precious, precious time. In about one minute I looked out over the school yard and the children had taken their new blankets and wrapped them around their shoulders. They were so pleased with their gifts; the colorful blankets were honestly one of the prettiest sites I've ever seen.

You might expect the kids to be crazy and wild with their presents but they seemed to be in awe of what they were holding in their hands, like they weren't sure what to do with the notebooks and pencils. So Kelly, Olivia, Laurie, & Julia sat down and started showing them what to do. "Draw a zeee-bbrrraaa please!" was the common request...and soon the pages were filled with hearts, I Love You's, animals and rainbows. Tammy & Jennifer led a group of kids in singing songs: head, shoulders knees and toes...Jesus Loves Me...If You're Happy and You Know It...Tooty-Ta and more. They tried to follow along and repeated every word the best they could. We loved how they mimicked our actions and tried to repeat our words.

After a lunch of injera and wat, along with a traditional coffee ceremony, our time at the Kind Hearts School was coming to a close. We left with a challenge from the director to "Please keep your promise...don't forget us...we need you...tell people about us...spread the word...we can make a difference. And God will show us the way."

Please consider--if this blog has touched you--to make a donation to help build a water well at the Kind Hearts school. It not only means clean drinking water for the children along with providing water for sanitation--it can mean healthier crops so the villagers will have a chance to support their families.

We are all changed after today. Thank you to Children's HopeChest for partnering with this incredible school and allowing us to partner with you. May God bless our efforts...and never take HIS eye off the children of Kind Hearts.--


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just normal family life ...

It's Mid-March and it's 50° - in Minnesota, that's considered balmy and it makes us feel like doing this .... (see above)! About a week ago, we still had a few feet of snow on the ground and it was looking to be a late spring ... again. But then it rained for several days on end ... several cold, misty, gray days .... and then this ... sunshine and 50°!


A friend recently asked me how all the kids were doing since I rarely comment about them on the blog lately. And I realized that sometime late last fall ... everything kindof became "normal" for us as a family again.

We no longer feel like our lives are so very different and novel, after the adoption of our two sons from Ethiopia just over one year ago. Every now and then, something will remind us of our first winter or spring with our sons, and we pause to reflect on how far we have come as a family ... but somewhere along the way, everything started feeling "normal" again. That's a good thing!

I work full-time (Vice President of Marketing for a cabinet manufacturer) and my evenings and weekends are beyond full with being a mom to 4 kids, a wife to an amazingly understanding and supportive husband, and volunteering on behalf of 68 kids at a care-point in Ethiopia called Kind Hearts! The 3 older kids have been busy with basketball all winter long, and now that the season has just wrapped up, they have already started soccer practice.

Above: Jayden (8) and Maea (11) ...


Above: Wesley (3) and Emmelyn (13) ...


When we brought the boys home last December, both of their heads were shaved because of lice outbreaks at the orphanage. We have not cut Wesley's hair yet - he has the most amazing ringlet curls - and I'm happy to let them continue to grow. We found a nice big hat for him to wear in the winter, but it still mats his curls down just a little and they need fluffing after.

The girls affectionately call him "flounder" when he wakes up from his nap, with both sides of his head completely flattened from sleeping on his curls. A quick spritz with water, and a scrunch with leave-in conditioner, and his curls are back in place. Little Wesley never stops smiling and laughing ... and if we don't join him, he's content to laugh and entertain himself!



Now that we've had a little taste of spring-like weather ... we are very ready for winter to be over!

*********************
Post update: Don't you just love Wesley's hat??? It was one of our best finds ... it barely crushes his curls. I'm getting asked about where we found his hat ... it was the Gap. It was even on sale. Don't know if they still carry it but it's worth checking. It even keeps his cheeks warm.

Friday, March 5, 2010

School Uniforms for "Kind Hearts" Kids!

There was a last minute flurry of donations today to the "Kind Hearts" School Uniform fund, and one final donation of $350 that pushed us over the top! We have met our goal and are now able to purchase school uniforms for ALL the kids at Kind Hearts!
THANK YOU for cheerfully and generously supporting this project - we met our goal in 2 weeks! I will post pictures here as soon as we have photos of the kids proudly wearing their new uniforms. (For more information about the school uniform project - please see the previous post.)
On another note ... about a month ago, Hopechest and Kari Gibson's Simply Love Project did a Valentine's campaign where the purchase of a "Simply Love Africa" t-shirt would provide a shirt and shoes for an orphan in Ethiopia. That campaign is now providing shirts and shoes for over 800 orphaned and destitute children in Ethiopia - and 68 of those kids attend Kind Hearts.

Last week, ALL 68 kids at Kind Hearts were measured for NEW SHOES!! Not the flimsy, plastic or rubber shoes they usually wear ... but quality leather shoes with laces and rugged soles, to last a long time and protect little feet. The photos below were taken last week at Kind Hearts. The kids feet are being measured with an old-fashioned, wooden shoe sizing device. In a few weeks, their new shoes will arrive and I will post pictures here.




These children are seeing the tangible results of your love, prayers and concern! It is amazing to see the difference in these kids since I was there in December and they were about to close down the school for lack of funding. The children were lethargic and weak with hunger and were only being fed ONE TIME EACH WEEK at Kind Hearts.

Every child currently attending Kind Hearts is sponsored (getting 2 nutritious meals a day, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship) but there will be more children enrolling at Kind Hearts in the next few months. In addition, we will begin coordinating sponsors for another location, North of Addis Ababa, with 75 children, most of them orphans. If you are interested in sponsoring one of these kids, please send me an email at kjwistrom@yahoo.com and I will contact you as soon as children are available to sponsor.