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Friday, March 27, 2009

Sandy Toes!

Spring break! Ahhhhhhhh! 80's in Florida and 15 degrees in MN! March is nearly over and we are still hovering near zero with frost on the ground and snow flurries in the air.

For spring break, we zipped off to Fort Myers to visit Jay's parents and we introduced our Ethiopian sons to our favorite vacation past-times; shelling and swimming on the beaches of Sanibel Island. The boys loved swimming in the pool and the ocean. Jayden - who was so determined to learn how to ride a bike on a snowy winter day, was equally intent on learning how to swim. Day one - he demonstrated how to "sink like a rock". By Day three - he was able to take his arm floats off, put his face in the water, and swim back and forth between Grandpa and daddy. Quite an accomplishment!

Here are a few of our favorite photos ...

Friday, March 20, 2009

I need Africa more than Africa needs me ...

The banner above is from the "Mocha Club" website, an incredibly worthy organization that is doing some amazing work in Africa. For the price of 2 mochas a month ($7), this organization is connecting and uniting people around the world, and "providing solutions to the challenges Africans are facing".

While we were in Ethiopia we met Barrett Ward, who works for Mocha Club (Barrett is married to AWAA's Rachel Ward) and got to hear first-hand about the inspiring work this organization is achieving in Africa! Check out
Mocha Club for yourself! If you are looking for a trusted and worthy organization to support, I personally recommend Mocha Club.

By the way, do you recognize the beautiful little boy in the photo? That's our 7 year old son Jayden, before coming home to America and his forever family!

This statement from the Mocha Club website really resonates with me ... "I need Africa, more than Africa needs me." There is a hard to understand truth in that statement. Once you've walked the roads and inhaled the dust and looked into the teary, wide eyes of an orphan and the weary, tired eyes of the homeless in Africa ... it sticks with you and it forever changes you.

From the Mocha Club website ...
When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. "I am needed here," I think. "They have so little, and I have so much."

It's true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in those same people. It's a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.

The images spilling out of my television showed circumstances that could seemingly only equal misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness. The truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory, indomitable spirits. In places where despair should thrive, instead I find adults dancing and singing, and children playing soccer with a ball crafted of tied up trash. Instead of payback, I find grace. Here, weekend getaways are not options to provide relief from the pains of daily life. Relationships and faith provide joy. Love is sovereign.

My new reality… I know now that my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I'm ashamed by my lack of faith, but at the very same moment I am excited by my new pursuit. I'm forced to redefine the meaning of having much or having little. I'm uneasy with the prospect of change and of letting go, but just the thought of freedom is liberating. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart - I no longer want to need the "next thing" to have joy.

I'm not saying that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I've come to understand that I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. I've learned that I don't need what I have and that I have what I need. These are just a few of this continent's many lessons. I came here to serve and yet I've found that I have so much to learn, and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This made my heart happy ...

While we made dinner, Emme was outside working on her balance on the "ripstick". (A version of skateboard with only 2 wheels instead of the traditional 4.) Once dinner was ready, I looked out the window to call the kids to come in, and this is what I saw ... and it made my heart happy.

You are a good big sister to your little brother, Emme!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lost my Toot!

Jayden came home from school with a little treasure box. Inside was his "toot". I guess we will be visited tonight by the "toot" fairy.

One less tooth - one less cavity. That particular tooth had a cavity, but knowing it would be coming out soon, we let that sleeping dog lie.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Catching up with the Hutchinsons

Not the best picture because the lighting was low - but here are all the kids (Wistrom & Hutchinson families) after being home from Ethiopia for 3 months! We had a great time Saturday night as we visited the Hutchinsons (the other family that travelled with us to Ethiopia - we adopted 2 boys, they adopted 2 girls). The best part about our visit was being able to openly and honestly talk about our adoption journey with another family that has shared most every up and down with us.

As we pulled into the driveway - we could see the Hutchinson 5 lining the windows watching for us. The kids were happy to see each other again and Lila (Selam) immediately took the kids on a tour. I expected Lila and Jayden to immediately start talking to each other in Amheric (like they did when we got together at our home a few weeks after we got home). But instead, they spoke to each other in stilted English. I asked Emme & Maea later if they had started conversing in Amheric yet - and they said no - not at all.

Kate Hutchinson mentioned that in some of the research she had done, that if a child is not regularly speaking their native language when they start acquiring a new language, they will quickly "forget" their first language. I'll use Spanish as an example - for many kids that speak Spanish, they learn English in school but they continue to use Spanish at home. So they are able to keep their native language while acquiring a new language.

That is not the case with us since we are not able to converse in Amheric at home. So according to what Kate has learned, the kids would quickly "forget" their native language as they acquire their new English speaking skills. Once we got home, I asked Jayden to say several words for us in Amheric. "How do you say Cat in Amheric," I asked him. He thought about it for a second and then said "cat". "How do you say Dog in Amheric?" Again he puzzled over this for a second and then said "dog". OK -one more try, knowing the Amheric word for shoes is "chamas", I asked him the word for shoes. He again puzzled for a moment and then said "This I don't know ... shoes ... is shoes".

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Fun" with your social worker

This post could also be titled "What not to do in the presence of your social worker". Tonight we met with Stacie, our adoption social worker, for our 3 month post placement visit. Prior to an adoption, a social worker will conduct a "home study" - meeting in your home on 3-4 occasions to assess your family for your ability to meet the needs of an adopted child, and also to provide training on what to expect and how to handle various behavior or emotional issues prevalent with adopted children. After the adoption, we meet with Stacie at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months post placement. After that, Ethiopia requires that we file annual reports on each of the boys until they turn 18.

After meeting with her on so many occasions, I've come to consider Stacie as a friend, an experienced resource, and a partner on this journey. She always provides real-life examples and stories of other adoptive situations and despite our noble (naive) aspirations, she would always sprinkle some realism into our conversations and remind me to "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst".

Three months into our adoption, it was great to sit down with Stacie with our entire family and discuss the journey with all its ups and downs. This time we were able to draw upon and reflect on our own real-life experiences. Overall - a great meeting and a good feeling of accomplishment about the progress we have made with the boys as a family.

"What not to do with your social worker": The kids were doing their own activities for awhile but pretty soon everyone ended up around the kitchen table together. Jayden was practicing some spelling words on his little dry-erase board. I reached for the gallon-ziploc bag full of markers and pulled the other dry-erase board toward me so I could keep Wesley entertained by drawing pictures of animals as we conversed with Stacie.

All seven of us are sitting around the table, and I have Wesley on my lap. We're all focusing on the conversation as little Wesley dumps the remaining markers out of the ziploc bag, flips the bag up over his head and pulls it down over his head and face. Emme suddenly notices the plastic bag over his head and tries to snatch it off but he has it pulled down pretty tight and it takes a little wrestling to get it off. He wasn't in the throes of suffocation or anything close, but having your child sitting on your lap and not noticing as he pulls a plastic bag over his head does not make for a good impression! Advice: Keep the plastic bags out of your children's reach while meeting with your social worker - and most other times too.