December 13, 2012

Blanket Delivery

Pictures are worth a thousand words.  In my current state of writer's block, pictures are invaluable.

Thank you to each of you who made a blanket, hosted a party, or collected blankets.  Again, my words feel rather useless.  I hope the pictures catch some of the excitement from our evening spent at the CarePoint in Korah.  The sun was going down as we wove through the streets.  The vehicles were attracting attention because of the load strapped to the roof.  It had to be a funny picture--suitcases and boxes stuffed with bright blankets, all tied to the top of the vans.  We pulled through the gates and the courtyard was vacant, save a few adults and roaming chickens.  I thought that the children must have gone home.  Then, I stepped into a long building and saw that the children were patiently waiting!  There were rows and rows of smiling faces, waiting expectantly.

I won't go into details...Karen spoke.  Our group sang.  We had so little time, knowing that their caregivers were probably waiting outside for them.  Finally, we unzipped suitcases and emptied boxes.  Then, we shared your care and love with the children.  We were blessed to be the ones passing the blankets to the children.  Thank you for caring!

 My thanks fall short of how wonderful it really is for these families to get warm blankets.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the following pictures say thank you!  One of the gals in my van made a comment about seeing a blanket on the bed in a house she visited.  I HAD to get those pictures and share them!  This may not be the blanket you made, it is one out of over 400 we brought last year.  It's a great reminder of so many things.  Mainly, your hard work continues to be a blessing to families in Ethiopia.

These pictures encourage me.  I hope you share my excitement--the blankets are being used!  Your small sacrifices continue to help children.  There are so many ways to be involved in the lives of these children.  Right now, the children at Kind Hearts are waiting for more classrooms.  Please visit Karen's blog to read more about how to get involved and donate to this project:  Family-From-Afar

December 10, 2012

My Apologies

I am sorry.

Blogging has always been feast or famine for me.  Unfortunately, when I get home from Ethiopia, I usually begin a period of famine.  I feel guilty.  I blame it on the adjustment after being gone.  Secretly, I think it's my way of coping. 

I desperately want to share our ten days with everyone.  I want to show all 359 pictures and explain each one in detail.  I want to hold my woven baskets up and let you take in the smell of Ethiopia.  I want to show you hours of video and share each story that I heard from our translators.

"So, tell me about your trip!" you might say, with a smile showing genuine interest. 

I want to gush.  I want describe the time so eloquently that you feel as if you were with me.  Instead, I freeze.  My mind is speeding through the amazing trip, but my mouth won't open. 

You get a lame, "It was an amazing trip!"

I am sorry.  I think next year you should just come with us.

November 20, 2012

Progress at Trees of Glory

The familiar sound of a barking dog wakes me up.  I'm groggy and realize that my dog shouldn't be outside so late at night.  I open my eyes and an unfamiliar room greets me.  My sleepy mind is confused, but slowly I remember. 

I'm in Ethiopia.

The images from the day flood my mind.  A long flight brought us to Addis and sweet reunions with good friends.  Another long trip and we arrived at Trees of Glory.  The familiar buildings were surrounded by progress.  In just one year the property has been transformed and teems with children in new brightly colored uniforms.  Simret was incredibly proud to show us around.  Water points for children and the village, cisterns, a pump, electricity, cattle, chickens, a garden...miracles.

The well and pump are kept safe 24 hours a day by a guard who lives a few feet from the well.

A poultry farm provides the children at the carepoint with eggs, an abundance allows locals to come to the carepoint to purchase eggs.  A record breaking 170 eggs were laid the day we visited.

Last, but not least, the water flows at the two water points.  Running water is the key to many of the successes the CarePoint has experienced.

November 5, 2012

Unlikely Activists

I met a sweet group of believers last spring.

I had known about this tight knit church since last November.  They sent blankets all monogrammed with the church's name and the words, "Jesus loves you."  Each time I handled one of the their blankets I wondered about the people who would take so much time to stitch each blanket.  I got to meet them personally one Sunday night.  They had a service set aside to hear about the trip and the blankets.  It always feels good to me to personally thank a group who worked for the children.

This church, off a country road at the edge of a small town, has been so touched by the plight of the children.  They made blankets but wanted to do more.  An unlikely group of activists, the grandmother of one of our team members decided to organize a "Songfest" to benefit Kind Hearts School.  She invited local musicians for a night of worship.  I found myself, again, welcomed into this small church.

Standing before the crowded pews, I shared the story of the children in Ethiopia.  I poured out my heart, trying to explain that these buildings are more than just a school.  The children who beg and wander the streets are numerous.  They are naked, hungry, and hopeless.  Halfway through the night, the church took up an offering.  That little church on the dead end street at the edge of a small town gave sacrificially.  They generously bought t-shirts and magazine bead jewelry.  At the end of the night, over $1000 had been donated to Kind Hearts school fund.  An unlikely group of people reached across the ocean to pour out Christ's love on children they have never met.


October 19, 2012

Blanket Count 2012

Writing a title like that makes me feel like a sportscaster.

Today, I loaded my van to the top with 40 blankets that have bounced through several homes before they arrived in my living room.  I'm mailing them to Italy tomorrow.

This year, I feel like I am sitting back and watching miracles.  Last year, I think I was chasing miracles.  Which is more like running in circles, when you think about it.  I am guarding against worry, though it's creeping in as I tape these boxes up.

I suppose...if boxes do explode blankets all over the tarmac in Addis, and they don't make it back into our hands, then we can trust that the person who took them really must have needed them.  And that's the worst thing I can think of.  Besides the blankets being made and just sitting in my living room all year.  That would probably be worse.  All done up and nowhere to go.

I'm trying not to run in circles this year, since I hope I learned from last year that God provides for the needs of these children and just uses us as a delivery service.  I'm happy to turn the planning, providing, and worry over to God and just deliver the lovely packages to the beautiful children.

The astounding news is that the monstrous spreadsheet says we have 267 blankets 'pledged'!  Now, we just watch and pray that they will all make it out of the basements and living rooms and into the plane headed for Ethiopia.

October 16, 2012

Our Warriors

Our children are...

I could put many words here depending on the circumstances of the particular day, but lately they have been...warriors.

Hauling them here and there for one reason or another.  Making blankets at one unfamiliar church.  Sitting for a few hours in a pew of another unfamiliar church during a fundraiser.  Organizing for a blanket party at our church.  Tying and cutting and helping with Josiah.  Josiah takes the fleece scraps and ties ankles together while unsuspecting blanket makers are busy.  He favors me by choosing to tie me up most often.  Everett kept him busy by making an entire set of 'Lord of the Rings' rock characters at our church this weekend.

This business wears him out.

They help me fold and roll the blankets then pack them into boxes.  We work together to haul the heavy boxes to the post office.  It usually takes all 6 of us.  One for the door, one to watch Josiah, and the other three carrying boxes.

While we do these things we talk about the kids or the trip.  They are eager to be the ones making the plans and boarding the plane.  I pray one day that each one of them will go to Ethiopia and meet these friends they have heard so much about.

October 15, 2012

More Blankets

The email came from Karen a few months ago.


This year we will be visiting a new CarePoint in the village of Korah.

There are 210 children who attend and they have asked for blankets.  I put out the word, just a little trickle of a word, and waited.  My fear was that by asking for loads of help, I would detract from the fundraising for Kind Heart's new building.

As November is drawing closer, blankets are beginning to pile up in my house again. It is a wonderful sight.

The most amazing activity, to me, is watching people from all walks of life come together to make blankets for children.  It is so much more than simply writing a check. Each piece of fleece was chosen for a reason, then trimmed and cut.  Some blankets were tied in the living room of an elderly woman as she watched Wheel of Fortune.  Some were tied by children in a church fellowship hall.  Some were tied by several ladies as they chatted around a dining room table.  So many different blankets put together by so many different people.

This is an incredibly short video I put together for the times I wanted to share a little of the story from last year and introduce the project for this year. 

October 5, 2012

The Half

Race day.

Dark and cold.  Nervously, I am standing in the middle of a city street.  Seth is pressed to my side as we wait for the start.  The crowd is crushing in on us eagerly, but the start is still minutes away.

I am anxious.  The peanut butter sandwich I ate at 5am sits in my throat.  Seth looks down at me and whispers, "Good luck!"  With a kiss on the cheek, he quickly disappears ahead of me.

Even more anxious now, I stand alone in a crowd of 10,000 runners.  The countdown begins.  The crowd lunges forward as fireworks light up the sky.  We won't begin running for a few minutes.  As a shuffling mass of humanity, we push toward the start.

Still nervous.  Still can't believe I will attempt to run 13 miles today.  No pat responses have squelched my worry about finishing this race.

Finally, the crowd surges forward and there is space to run.  We run through the dark streets with thousands watching.  Soon, we cross the bridge and I feel good.  My legs are moving and I begin to relax.  It clicks that I have been working towards this all summer.  Just another run.

It's fun now.  Fireworks still cracking in the distance.  Cheers from the sidewalk and fellow runners.

Looking around, I notice myriad of running shirts around me.  Relay teams, local businesses, funny quips--I wonder if any of the 20,000 people expected here today will notice my shirt.  Written down my back:  "Sponsor a child.  Give food, water, education, and hope. "  "Running for hope" across my chest, I know people will be stuck behind me or seeing my back as they pass me.  Bystanders will see my front--a slow moving billboard.

I relax and begin to enjoy the sound of thousands of feet hitting pavement.  Cheers and signs--volunteers yelling.  The cadence of my own feet allows me to delight.  I look above the street and see faces peering from the apartment building ahead.  Five little heads, noses pressed to the glass, watching the river of runners stream past.  I smile and reach my arm high, waving my hand as I pass below their window.  They light up and wave furiously.  It makes me wonder who else we might be disturbing.

Six miles pass in a blur.

Soon enough my legs begin to tire and I realize that I still have five more miles to run.  A new song comes through my headphones and the burning in my legs is forgotten as I listen.  I'm in the car loudly singing with the kids.  They love this one and I smile thinking of them.  They were so excited for this race.  They have been my biggest champions.  In the afternoons, when I didn't feel like running, Eli would lace up his shoes and run a few miles.  We'd pass the house and Sally would trade places with him for a quick mile.  My last lap would be with our eldest.  Always starting off too fast and burning out, but finishing since he doesn't want to be beat by his mother.  Running with our children is a sweet time.  We chat and run and enjoy being together. 

Sally took this picture when we got home.

The song ends and it brings me into my ninth mile.  We are back downtown, crossing the bridge again.  My phone beeps and shows that Seth has already finished his race.  I hear my name as I near the stadium and see him cheering from the side, wearing an ecstatic but goofy grin. I cross the finish minutes under my goal time, thrilled to be done.  My first half, a celebration of my 35 birthday, a summer of working towards a goal I never thought I could meet.

I think I might just try it again.

September 21, 2012


I am not a runner.

Dating an avid runner pushed me to start running.  Marrying that running man forced me to continue the despicable sport.  But, I remained a non-runner.

I ran alongside him as he trained for marathons.  I was never fast, never ran too long, but enjoyed being with him.

One summer he was gone and running finally became mine.  I ran for the solace.  The kids and I made a funny parade of four bicycles and a jogging stroller.  I trailed in the back, panting, and reveling in my solace.  I trained that summer to run in a marathon relay.  Not too far, not too fast, and just for fun.  For me.

Each summer I have trained for the same race.  I trained because my relay buddies were counting on me.  By the end of the summer, I would find myself looking forward to my long runs.  Seeking solace.

Last year, I ran the longest leg of the relay.  Still not a runner, finishing eight miles felt like an accomplishment.  This year I purposed to train for the half-marathon.  Early in the spring I hurt myself and each step felt like a knife stabbing into my heel.  I kept running.

I visited a doctor, stretched, and kept running.  The pain in my foot at the end of the day was terrible, but I needed to run.

Burdens weighing heavily on my shoulders fall off as I run.  It's just God and me. The running and pleading in the early morning darkness is where I leave those heavy burdens.  I leave them where they belong, at the feet of the One who is able to carry them.  As my feet hit the pavement, I thank Him.

My great-grandmother passed away this summer.  She was 98 years old.  A formidable woman who had been born on the brink of World War I.  She outlived two of her five children and her husband.  She lived alone in a house built before she was born, at the end of a road that bears her name.  My husband once commented that she was the only family member who shared the same eye color as my sisters and me.  Her death was somewhat expected, but still heartbreaking.

In planning our trip to the funeral, I became overwhelmed.  I needed to be alone, so I put on my shoes and ran.  I thought about my Great-Grandma and the life that she lived.  I prayed for my Grandma, her daughter, who would miss her mother.

Last week, I finally registered for the half-marathon.  I realized that maybe a runner is simply someone who wants to run, whatever their reason.  

September 18, 2012

Bean Finale

At the end of the 'bean experiment', no one mentioned all of the bean consumption that had been going on around the house.  That, in and of itself, is a successful experiment.

I mentioned to Seth that he might want to read my blog during some downtime this week.  I piqued his interest by saying, "I've been doing a little experiment."

That guy, I couldn't believe it, said, "Did it involve beans?"

I just fed a family of seven for almost a week for about $20!  That's $12 for bean dinners and lunches, and another $8 for breakfast (eggs and spinach smoothies).  Our pizzas on Friday night cost more than our entire week!  If I took this little unscientific experiment and applied it--really applied it--we could potentially cut our food budget by 75%.

I enjoy eating a lavish meal, but at what expense?  If our eating habits prevent us from doing more good for others, then we need to change.  Perhaps for your family that change may be dramatic, perhaps it will be something that they won't even notice.  My crazy bean-eating week proved that my family really doesn't notice what I'm feeding them!

The weighty conclusion of this silly experiment:  we are going to make some changes and use them to benefit others.  Money that we ate will now be money we can spend on more important things.

September 15, 2012

Black Bean Du Jour

Last night was a complete cheat.  We always have pizza on Fridays.  I thought I could serve beans, until I made a date to do some chemistry tutoring.  I didn't think serving a high school senior beans with a side of chemistry would be nice.  So, we had pizza.  My sincerest apologies to everyone for being a cheater pants!

Today, to make up for last night, I made black bean soup for lunch.  Pretty simple recipe without cheats: beans, peppers from the garden, and GARLIC.  I would give that another $2 price tag.

I threw the leftover soup into the food processor for dinner.  We had some cheese (counts if I already had it, right?) and chips, and I wowed everyone with black bean nachos.  I'm not going to say this meal was free, since I had to add to it--not enough leftover soup for a family of seven.  It was completely my fault, as I was hardly lucid as I prepared the soup and didn't quadruple everything.  Nevertheless, I would put our meal at about $5.

Still not bad.  For a loosely thrown together 'experiment', I'm learning something about our family menu. 

September 13, 2012

Mums the Word

Day four of serving beans.  Yesterday, Seth picked up his lunch and peeked into the bottom of the Rubbermaid.  Spying the pintos from the previous night's dinner, he groaned and said, "You cannot be serious."  So I swapped them out for the Indian chick peas and sent him on his way.

He must have known I would be serving pintos in some form or fashion for dinner, since he was "held up" on a boat for work.  He was forced to miss our dinner and choke down a full course meal prepared by the ship's chef.

Pressing on, the children and I enjoyed a third meal of pintos (ate a bowl of them for lunch).  This time I fooled their palates by adding copious amounts of garlic and some cilantro.  I mashed everything together and threw it on a tortilla.  There was some griping because I did go heavy on the garlic.  Personally, there is no such thing as too much garlic.  We finished off the large pot of beans.  Three meals for a family of seven (excluding that big guy who opted out) for under $5.  Pretty successful.

The side effects of beans for so many meals are starting to become evident.  Last night, Seth, holding his stomach, said, "I don't know what's going on, but...I've been real gassy."

I bit my lip, but didn't spill the beans.  

September 11, 2012

The Joy of Pintos

The Indian dish was not well received last night.  Too spicy.  Too hot.  Too many...chick peas.

A gargantuan pot of pintos simmered on the stove for most of the day.  All of the children were delighted, because they are some pinto-eating folks.  I threw together some kind of muffins for the big guy who despises pintos (I think they are beneath him).  Alas, I had no cornmeal in the cupboard.  How does that happen? It's been sitting in the nether reaches of the upper cupboard for three years.  I had to make up a concoction and thought baking it in a muffin pan would make it more appealing.  Viola, corn things shaped like a muffin.

I guess it worked.  No one suspects a thing.  Just wait until tomorrow, when the leftover pintos appear again as refried beans.

Dinner's total tonight:  $2 bag 'o beans and some change for some odds and ends to make 'muffins'

September 10, 2012

The Week I Experiment on My Family

Today I began an experiment on my loved ones.  I am only able to post this since none of them read my blog.  If they knew what I was doing, they would certainly revolt.  It's not terrible, really.

I am feeding them beans.  Every.  Single. Day.

A family of seven eats money.  We wear, wash, and toss clothes by the basketful.  We drive here and there constantly.  Music lessons for a few children, school books for five, sports activities...the list goes on and on.  The biggest expense remains our bellies.

We eat a lot.

I started thinking about bracelets and beads and yard sales.  I was thinking about the money that we eat every day.  What if we didn't spend so much on our plates?  What if we saved so much each week that we were able to send a nice chunk to HopeChest for the school?  Seems reasonable.  I'm already pretty frugal in the area of groceries, but I thought I might be able to do better.  I still splurge on occasion.  Our splurge isn't a night out for seven at the local Cheesecake Factory, more like a take out pizza (or three).  It still adds up.

This idea of eating up so much money got me to thinking.  I can't keep our children from eating so much...they are growing!  I can spend less on what I'm feeding them.  Bags of dried beans came to mind.

Healthy.  Easy.  Cheap.  The options are endless.

I wondered if my family would even notice.  In sharing this idea with a friend, she suggested I blog about my 'experiment'.  I didn't make a lot of rules to follow.  Every night for dinner--beans of some kind.  If I have something in my cupboard, it's fair game to add.  Anything from my garden is fair game also.  We will have eggs or smoothies for breakfast and have leftovers for lunch. 

Tonight--one bag of chickpeas, tomatoes from the garden, rice, spices, and onions from the cupboard.
Total-- $3 to feed seven.  Off to a pretty good start.

September 3, 2012

First Day of School

 I blinked and summer was over.  Another year of school begins.  Our eldest in seventh (gasp) and youngest in Kindergarden (gasp).  I blinked and the kids got much older.

Our first day of school.
Five children to teach. 
And a dog who lined up to have his first day of school picture taken also.

August 30, 2012

Sandwich Party

Parents of picky eaters all across the country are struggling with the same problem.  What to pack for lunch?  Friends of ours were visiting for the week and we had talked about her issue.  How many pb&j sandwiches can you pack before you start to wonder about your child's health?

Honestly, my eldest son probably ate peanut butter every day for the first six years of his life.  He usually opts for leftovers these days.  I suppose 1800 peanut butter sandwiches might be enough to satiate even the most avid pb&j lover.  

I'm always happy to host an event that involves food.  She mentioned a 'sandwich party' and I jumped on the idea.  We spent about an hour making various sandwiches.  Some were pretty healthy and others, not so much.  In the end, we had ten different choices for the children to choose from.  Then, we upped the ante and offered a "Man vs. Food Challenge".  Try (remember, we are working with picky eaters) four different sandwiches and win a brownie.  The definition of "try" was loose.  We felt that even a nibble of dry crust would count, since the previously terrifying sandwich actually touched their lips.

Mostly courageous kids, a load of leftover sandwiches, and rediscovering a love for egg salad makes this event a success for me!

August 22, 2012

Beads Abound

My friend asked if we still have bracelets available.  My answer is a resounding "Yes!"

The fundraising for Kind Hearts continues.  I donated almost $200 this morning from beads.  Thank you to everyone who purchased jewelry!

School is starting soon and the children in Ethiopia are desperate to be in school.  Please visit my initial post for details: Building with beads 
Leave a comment if you have any questions.  If you don't have a paypal account, leave me a comment and I'll contact you with alternate ways to pay.  Thank you for your interest on behalf of the children in Addis.

August 16, 2012

Rainy Day

The big brothers are at the Grandparents for the week.  That leaves the rest of us...





Did I mention bored?

Yesterday, I bought hardware to finally install our hammock. It's been in the garage since we moved.  Three years in the garage with creatures that nibbled the stuffing out of the pillow.  I should have taken that as a sign.  The hammock was hardly installed as three eager kids jumped onto it.  Almost all of the ropes holding it to the tree snapped.  The kids went flopping to the ground and we stood there awestruck at what just happened.  It would have been funny if it wouldn't have been so sad. 

My big fun plan for the morning was gone.

On top of it all, today is rainy.

I am trying to get ready for school to start.  I was hoping without all five kiddos I would be living in a world of ease.  To-do lists galore...check, check, check.

I have a million things to do, but the three sets of puppy dog eyes  work their magic.

Ten minutes on Pinterest.  Three hours later, it is two o-clock and I am still in my pjs.  Painter's tape, poster paint, and some paper.  Every step did require my help.  I also had to explain several times that just painting over the tape would result in a big sheet of white paper.  They turned out cute, and I thought that after giving undivided attention to the crafting session they would run to the basement to play with the cushion fort. 

 It would seem that once you offer an activity, if its fun, then the children think they cannot have any fun without the help of you, their cruise director.  Gallon ziploc bags, more poster paint, glitter, and packing tape.  Tidy finger painting.  Certain this would buy me some time, I put together three bags and passed them out.
Finally, we drew.  We drew and drew.  We wrote stories and poetry.  We applauded each others efforts.

The sun came out. Since it was already late afternoon and I hadn't showered I thought might as well make the most of the dirty state I was living with.  I pulled out the bikes and took my trio on a four mile jaunt.  I ran, they biked.  I pushed Josiah up the hills, running, puffing, panting, "Please pedal, just a little!"  But we did it.

My check lists remain unchecked.  I am not ready for school to begin next week.  But this cruise director made the most of a dreary, boring, lonely day and got nothing done.  Perhaps you might like to spend a day doing absolutely nothing just like us!

July 31, 2012

Building with Bracelets

The thought of asking for money makes me feel...overwhelmed. I admire the courage of those who can successfully fund raise. During our adoptions, we plugged along scraping together payments and selling stuff hoping that the ends would meet. Nevertheless, I feel somewhat empowered to fund raise on behalf of those who are unable to hold their little palms out.

Karen wrote a wonderful post on her blog explaining what I tried to explain a few weeks ago. The children that live around a CarePoint need to get in--not just for the education (which will change their future), but for the daily needs that can be supplied. This is an excerpt, but you can read the post in its entirety at: family-from-afar

 There's an uncomfortable truth that settles in when we are in Ethiopia working with the kids at our CarePoints. Kids that have come to know and rely on a full tummy every day, water that won't make them sick, teachers and care-givers that love them and guide them, and medical care when they need it. They laugh and play with energy and abandon because they have hope for their future. The uncomfortable truth is revealed when you look around the edges of the CarePoint and see thin, dirty kids waiting and watching and wishing.

 A few months ago, when I caught wind of this project, I started making a list. It's still stuck to my fridge. A few measly ideas that might generate some money for the building project. One of them was to make bracelets to sell. I ordered loose magazine beads from an organization that connects women in Uganda ( with the worldwide market. Then, I hosted a night for my senior high girls to have dinner and make jewelry.

We had a blast, spilling beads all over the place and exclaiming over the creations that we produced. At the end of the night, I bundled the bracelets up and they have just sat...and sat. I was waiting to figure out how to connect YOU with a bracelet or pair of earrings. Each time I see the brown satchel filled with jewelry, I have a pang in my heart. The donations might be just enough, when coupled with many other efforts, that make a way for 150 children to begin attending Kind Hearts in the fall.

 Finally, I have come to the conclusion that simplicity is beautiful. We will sell the bracelets for $10 and earrings for $5, which includes shipping. I cannot possibly post a picture of each piece of jewelry, therefore, yours will be a wonderful surprise! Make the payment to me via paypal, include any directions for mailing in the comments.
Magazine Bead Jewelry

They are all different and beautiful. The beads made by beautiful women in Uganda, the bracelets made by beautiful teenagers at my dining room table.


In Ethiopia I got sick.  I was worse than I wanted to admit. My pride kept me from swallowing the magical Cipro that would eventually make me feel better. Half-way into the week with sleepless nights and an upset belly, my attitude started to change. Little whispers of doubt floated past my ears.

I felt inadequate because I couldn't speak Amharic or Oromiffa. I felt inadequate because there are so many children who clamor for attention and goodies. Even with a 10 day trip, there is never enough time. I allowed the doubts to linger too long. They didn't float anymore, but settled near me. I was ill, missed my family, and doubted my purpose on this trip.

"What are you doing here?"

I felt selfish in being there. The sacrifice of time and money for me to be in Ethiopia weighed heavily on my heart. I was standing on the property at Trees of Glory looking out over the buildings and into the valley where the stream runs. I felt discouraged and alone.  Glancing over to my right was one of the Hopechest staff members, Alex. Over the past two years I have come to admire him and enjoy the time that we have with him. He was walking towards me, smiling, and directed my eyes to the swarm of excited children playing soccer.

"They love when you come. Just a few weeks ago the new children couldn't even tell us their names. They were scared, but when you all visit they open up. Only a few days and look at how happy they are.  Your work here is so good." His words were a balm to my soul.

My discouragement? Not from God. Going to Ethiopia? Not selfish.

The two of us stood there smiling.  Alex, because he is usually smiling, and me, because God had seen my spirit flounder and sent a kind word of encouragement.

July 12, 2012

Kind Hearts School

The classrooms at Kind Hearts are crowded with children who are excited to be given the opportunity to attend school.  Many of their friends and relatives do not have an education.  They are proud to be students, wearing their tattered uniforms and sitting in the crowded classrooms.

There are many children around Kind Hearts that roam the streets during school hours.  Their families don't even have the money for the necessities.  Education is expendable.

As the children are fed, educated, discipled and as the school becomes more self-sufficient, another need becomes obvious.  There are many more children who are in desperate need of what is being provided to these 150.

The solution, it would seem, is to add more school rooms. Right now, the rooms are quite full (envision mother hubbard).  By adding another building, just like the existing one, with four classrooms, another 150 children could attend Kind Hearts.  This is a pressing matter because of time.  School is on break right now, but will start again in September.  Donations towards this, right now, will enable the school to add the building and enroll students for the upcoming school year.

Pictures from previous posts show how sponsoring a child can change their life.  More classrooms mean more children who can be sponsored.  That means more children who are fed and educated while still living with their families.  This program, to me, provides for children before they become orphans.  The single mother of five young children would never dream of providing what her children now receive through Hopechest sponsors.  Not only are her children fed and in school, but she has been given hope.

Many people believe that the only way they can help the orphan is by adopting. That is simply not true! This is a unique situation, because it provides a way for caregivers to keep the children with them. The children who are in the sponsorship program are in desperate situations. Their lives are radically changed once they are given a good meal on a daily basis, education, and hope. Donating to an education fund seems frivolous. This is more than just an education. You are giving, food, clean water, education, and hope to a child. I am going to host a fundraiser in the next few weeks, but wanted to share this burden with you now. You can donate by visiting

 This is a specific webpage hosted by Hopechest that will channel all donations into the building fund. Karen has written in more detail about the building project. You can also visit her blog for more information:

July 2, 2012


I am watching our little boy begin that transition into adolescence.


One minute he stands in the backyard fort as the pirate captain.  The next he's too busy with his ipod to be bothered by anyone.

Even me.

He's worn out my Tolkien collection.  They were pristine until he read them a dozen times...last week.  I'm amazed.  Then, he dons hobbit apparel and directs all of the siblings into appropriate costumes and tells them what member of the fellowship they will be.

Tonight we went out together--just the two of us--for ice cream and bantering.  I needed a haircut and tried to coerce him to join me.  He laughed and said he wasn't about to let that lady touch his hair, rolling his eyes as if I had lost my mind.

When we got back home he slipped into bed and, as I walked into the light of the hallway, he whispered, "You didn't kiss me goodnight." For a while longer, he remains, our little boy.

June 19, 2012

Ancient Romans

You ever happen upon that family who is amazing?  Last year, at the science center, the award winners from local science fairs were on display.  We spent some time wandering through the tri-fold boards and models.  We ooh-ed and ahh-ed quite a bit.  There were two boards that were spectacular.  They happened to be homeschoolers and siblings.  My jaw dropped as I read their reports.

We are not that sort of family.

In our spare time, we catch toads in the backyard and play grappling games on the monkey bars.  Neither activities are condoned, but allowed until someone gets salmonella or breaks a bone.  No one around here is researching solar panels or writing novels.  Everett does do a lot of reading, but I tease him that he "reads a little too much Cheetos and not enough broccoli".  Eli wants to be an inventor. He has many fabulous ideas (like a super hero converting machine that turns you into your favorite super hero), but so far they are all cardboard prototypes.

We aren't one of those Time magazine cover families.  I was thinking about those families and wondering what their lives were like, behind the scenes.  Do parents push their children to do all of the extras or do the kids just take off on their own?  Is this 'enjoyment' of academics genetic?  If so, I will shrug since I don't see Einstein emerging in our five.  They are fantastic, and brilliant in their own ways, but...they want to check the education box for the day and spend the rest of their afternoon playing.

I was thinking about children creating solar powered toys as I showered, wondering how its done--this art of raising up brilliant children.  When I emerged from showering bliss, my children had raided the linen closet.  Much to my delight, they were parading around in togas discussing who they were from the Roman Empire.

I call that 'enjoying academics'.

June 7, 2012

Waiting Children

I am a night owl when Seth is out of town. This week, in my solitude, I've pored over stories of waiting children.  I've been reading amazing stories of families who are adopting these children.  These late nights have been emotional roller coasters.

Right now, I should be watching a NINE hour seminar teaching me to teach children to be excellent writers.  It seems too early to be preparing for school next year when we haven't even finished this year.  I have the best intentions.  I find myself reading Daneille's post for today, instead of watching Andrew Pudewa.  I've been visiting her blog almost daily.  It's heart breaking to see so many sweet faces that are waiting.

My eyes blur after seeing so many faces.  I find myself thinking about them during the day.  Will someone come for them?  It's too overwhelming to let my thoughts linger for long.

It is easy to forget the waiting children.  It's easy to say that their numbers are too many.  The price is too high.  Caring for a child with special needs is beyond what I am able to do.

My Mom once said to me, "If it's easy then it probably isn't the right thing to do."

Easy is disregarding the plight of so many.  Easy is feigning ignorance.  Easy is thinking that YOU can't make a difference in the life of one of these children.

Easy is wrong.

You can make a difference!  The faces I've seen are little children, slowly losing hope of finding a family.  Your donation may make the difference in one family choosing to adopt that child.  Sharing their stories may change the heart of the family who looks again through the photo listing and sees the face of their child staring back at them.

I have to ask myself what do we do?  Once I step down from my soapbox, then I must get busy doing something.  I share the crushing thought of so many children and how can my family possibly make a difference?  I'm still praying about that, but for now I know:  there are many opportunities, beyond adoption, to help waiting children.

Share their stories--join a website like  Rainbowkids or Reece's Rainbow.

Donate!  Sometimes the financial aspect of international adoption is what keeps many families from considering it.  You can donate directly to a specific waiting child.  Daneille is hosting a June for Jack fundraiser, raising funds towards Jack's adoption as he waits for his family to come.  Visit her blog to find out the details and donate.  Both waiting child sites have opportunities to donate. 

Short term missions...sponsoring an older child for the summer...sponsoring orphans who are not adoptable through organizations like Hopechest...and, of course, adopting!

Please don't choose easy.

June 1, 2012


I fear that my recent posts have seemed dreary.  Blog world is a funny place where even the sad posts aren't snot-and-tears-all-over-your-face sad, rather Hollywood-heroine-lip-quivering-eyes-filling-with-tears sad.  I can't tell what I portray here, since I know my life is the snotty, drippy sort, not the lip quivering heroine sort.  I always write knowing the reality of the situation.  When I read my post about attachment, I feel discouraged.  I feel discouraged for any new adoptive parents who might read it and sigh and wonder for the 108th time if they really know what they are getting into.  I feel discouraged for the post-adoptive crowd who is struggling to figure out what normal means and reads that after four years we are still baffled by adoptive life.

If you read that post and wonder what our lives look like, then I started this post for you.  I want to be encouraging, but in a real way.  I don't want you to get this image of a sullen, angry child who hates her family.  That's not it at all!  This morning, as I was writing it in my head (which is why my posts have become so rare...too much writing in my head and not enough making it onto the laptop).  Anyway, as I was writing I was thinking of the lovely things we enjoy as a family.  I had a mental list of photos from our recent trip to the beach for my sister's wedding.  Definitely lovely.

The garden we have been planting and watering and now, as Eli says, "We just water and watch."  So lovely.

The times when an academic struggle turns into success and we high five and cheer and I'm totally pumped and love homeschooling.  Way lovely.

Scoping out a bird's nest in my parent's yard.  Three little blue eggs and one big brown one, delighted to see science lessons in real life, though we all pretty much agree that we really don't like 'brood parasites'.  Admiring the delicate nest with the kids ranks a big lovely.

But then my solace was interrupted when life happened.  Probably in the middle of my mental writing of that lovely post.  Someone clogged the toilet, which is basically about as un-lovely as things can be.  Sally couldn't remember anything in her math book so I couldn't be interrupted to fix the toilet at that juncture.  In the throes of reteaching the past 2 years of math with her, I forgot about the toilet.

Then, it was lunch time.  Afterwards, Josiah and I decided to water the flowerbeds.  While watering, he was reminded that he needed to race to the bathroom, but hadn't heard the "don't use that toilet" message from hours ago.  So he used it.  And flushed.  And flushed.  And wouldn't you know, he flushed one more time, just because he couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.  That overflowing mess greeted me when I came into the house.  I only came inside because the girls were pleading with me to make them tea for a tea party.  Instead, I sopped up the mess and called for the culprit to help, then carried rugs and towels to the basement to wash.  I noticed along the way that the litter box hadn't been emptied since we left for the weekend.  I started laundry and cleaned the box and was running up the stairs with a bag of very used litter when I heard a pleasant voice coming from the dining room, barely audible over the din made by the tea partiers who were still begging for tea to be made.  I hit the top stair and saw Eli's flute teacher, smiling at me--wet with toilet water, holding a bag of cat poop, panting and sweaty and surrounded by squealing children.  

Our lives are not always lovely.  It's a real life.  Busy and lovely and sad and sometimes pretty frustrating.

May 29, 2012

Wonder of Boys

A friend began a new blog and emailed me with a link to her first post.  She weaves a poignant tale of adoption in her life.  It's a lovely post and I would encourage you to visit her. 

Just in case you don't heed my advice, I'll do a rather sloppy job of trying to explain what she's doing over there.  Besides admiring the wonder that comes along with having wonderFUL boys in your family, she's advocating for boys who are in dire circumstances and desperately need families.  Seth came over as I was reading her recent posts.  He shook his head and walked away, remarking, "I don't know why you do this to yourself."

I suppose there is no purpose in reading their stories and looking at their pictures, unless I pass along their stories. These boys (and another 140 million orphans) need our prayers.  They need families who will step up and adopt.  Most of the boys on the blog are from Eastern Europe.  It's heartbreaking to see the pictures and know what their future holds.  That future might have been Ella's as she was a mere six months from moving out of the baby house and into a huge institution.  Her future would have been very bleak---a three year old, severely delayed and missing a limb...I don't allow myself to imagine what might have become of our sweet little girl.

This is a video of Beau that I pulled from Daneille's blog.  Beau's a few years older now and still waiting.  He's charming and grabbed my attention right away.  Visit her blog to see more children, share the information, and help these boys find homes.

I'm not demanding, just strongly encouraging you.

May 9, 2012

Orphanage Dust

Dust sneaks up on me. I admit that I'm not a regular duster. I assign that to one of the half-hearted cleaners of our bunch. He generally gives things a swipe, one hand holding a book open, the other aimlessly moving the duster. Our dust gets stirred up every once in a while, then settles back down to accumulate some more. One sunny day I'll happen to glance at the piano and grimace. I frantically move from one piece of furniture to another eradicating dust from each flat surface.

I am ashamed to admit that it seems to work the same way with orphanage dust.

Everything seems so clean, so tidy, so perfect. Then, one day I walk by and notice that dust has been accumulating. It's thick and marring the beautiful surface of our child.

Four years next month. Four years in our family. The magic number for this daughter's life. She's been with us longer than she was in Ethiopia. It seems like four years would be long enough.

The dust has been accumulating and we were slow to notice it. A few strange things happened and then, rather slowly, we noticed. The sun shone down and the dust was glaring back at us.

This business of redeeming a hurt child never allows for a quick fix. We admit that we were too lax at the beginning. Medical needs trumped attachment worries. We were careful, but not vigilant. She seemed so well adjusted...until recently.

A friend gently urged me to do something proactive. She was confiding in me about attachment problems and I began sharing some recent worries. The thick layer of dust revealed, I knew we needed to get busy.

I share this, thinking that some of you might have similar concerns. If it seems like it's been long enough, don't fool yourself into thinking that 'she's really fine'. Do something now, because nurturing behaviors are much easier with a 3 year old than an 8 year old! It's easier to win over the heart of an 8 year old than a 15 year old. We press on through the snide remarks, questions, fibs, and sneakiness. She's sweet and yet she knows how best to hurt us.  Ultimately, the battle becomes one within myself.

This is my life with our daughter. She loves me unless there is another adult to please. The kindness of an acquaintance lives on through her praises, while our gestures are snubbed and disregarded. In my heart I want to stop trying and just let her be.  We know she's still hurting and the dust is stirred up. We re-read the books that had long been shelved. Entire paragraphs are highlighted and sticky notes mar the pages. It's a great resource, but when push comes to shove it sure is hard to be stabbed in the back daily.

God didn't bring this soul out of darkness and near death for us to flippantly lose her to her past.  The real changes have to begin with me.  In an effort to win the heart of my hurting child, I realized I have to change my heart.  Five children.  Three adoptions.  Seems like I would have been there and done that.  Read all the books.  Known all the right answers.

Her shrugs have brought me to my knees.  Right where I need to be for all of our children.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 15:58

May 3, 2012

For the mother who has it all...

Sometimes I'm stuck without a single idea when it comes to gift buying.  Sometimes I'm struck with a great idea and then something better comes along.  This opportunity would be the something better coming along.

The Davidson family is making wonderful cards for Mothers Day.  All of the proceeds will be donated to the building fund for Kind Hearts.  Right now the kids are squeezed into the four available classrooms.  It was fantastic to see so many children (150) this year, but disheartening to realize that they are beyond full.  In order to allow more children into the school, they need more room.  Karen explains the project much better on her blog:

If you would like to order a card for the special women in your life, visit the Davidson's blog at:
Davidson Party of Five

I've been lax in sharing this, hurry up or you will miss this great opportunity.  They have already raised over $2000 towards the project!

April 28, 2012

The Stack By My Bed

The tall stack of books on my nightstand tells about what is going on in my life right now. Recent parenting worries are sitting under a frivolous read. An 'encouraging friend' that I visit all year long rests on the very top, easily accessible when I need a quick word. A challenging missions autobiography waits to be finished, smashed in between my pressing worries and my desire to relax at the end of the day. I think my priorities are askew.

What does your nightstand reveal about you?

April 23, 2012

What a mother will do...

This tells me I'm not the only mother that has resorted to these tricks to convince children of the importance of dental hygiene.

Pictures of Bad Teeth

I almost dry heaved. The child in question immediately confessed to skipping his brushing and ran off. Our squeals caused a stir.  Soon the kitchen was filled with exclamations as I scrolled back through the pictures for the four curious children who missed the first viewing.  The kitchen quickly vacated.  I could hear water running and teeth being brushed all over the house.

I even gave my teeth a once over, just in case. 

April 20, 2012

Kind Hearts Video

This video came from a group traveling recently with Children's Hopechest. I was thrilled to watch it, but generally love watching any clips that people share from their trips. When the video started, all of the kids crowded around me. Unfortunately, they are drawn to the sound of movies playing. As of yet they are unableto discern the difference between Hollywood quality and youtube. I loved explaining that Misikir works with Hopechest and that he has become a dear friend. He is explaining recent projects and hopes for the future of Kind Hearts. We were all spellbound. I hope you enjoy the little glimpse into the great work that is being done.

March 29, 2012

The End of an Era

Some of you may remember the story that brought us our van. Church van pulls up and three small children climb out. THREE children riding in a 12 passenger van. It was always funny, but never fun to park (or drive in the snow, or fill up with gas).

For five years the great white van dubbed 'Moby' has faithfully taken us all over the country. The words, 'we don't have room' never passed my lips. With a vehicle that seats 12 11 (the dog ate one seat belt), there was always space for another family. We'd squeeze in and bounce down the road together, not in comfort, but together.

It was with some regret that we agreed to sell good, old Moby to a Russian family with nine children. We found a Honda that seats eight--my one requirement of selling Moby--I need to know that I have one seat open. Just in case.

This van is much nicer than Moby, but there are downfalls. I've lost it in the parking lot. That never happened with Moby--he had 'ninja eyes' above the grill, a scripture sticker on his rear and he was usually the biggest, whitest thing in the parking lot. This new van is gold and small and screams ubiquity. I would have named it such, but that would be too hard to say for 3/5 of the children. Everett votes for Megatron and Ella said something about kittens.

I do think one of these is in this poor van's future:
Nothing takes a gold minivan out of ubiquitous and into recognizable like a sweet stache. Right now it's so ordinary it doesn't even qualify for posting a picture.

Farewell, Moby...I hope we don't regret letting you go!

March 26, 2012

Another Layer Revealed

Our paradigm shift happened five years ago. Our beautiful little Ella was very slow to speak, not uttering more than "ma" at nearly three years old. She seemed slow to pick up on things, and we often wondered whether it was just her adjusting to life in a family. Things culminated one fall when she started 'blinking' and losing a second or two of time. She was diagnosed with epilepsy on the same day that a psychologist told us she had a low IQ and ADD. We, psychologist included, ignored his findings with our new knowledge of her brain activity. Who could possibly take any test while having seizures every few minutes?

That bout of visits with neurologists and psychologists gave us a little glimmer of her uncertain future. We first heard the words 'mental retardation' there, in relation to our daughter. Gone were visions of her in college, leaving our home to start one of her own. We joked about it at first. Around here, laughter seems to be the way we deal with things. I would say, "She's going to be with us forever, in our basement with 17 cats. She will love every minute of it."

Neither of us really, truly thought we were being serious.

I prayed for years that the Lord would "restore the years the locust had eaten" for Ella. As He began to reveal more of her to us; my prayers began to be "let us love her the way she is." He answered those prayers abundantly.

In the fall Ella got 'lost' at church. It's a small church, with only three hallways. She left her class and thought church was over so she waited in the foyer for me. She sat there and watched as the foyer full of people slowly emptied. She sat there thinking she had been left behind, all the while hearing the choir sing from the sanctuary. I finally found her, I guess she had just asked a stranger visiting our church where she could find her mommy. That scared me to death. It also made us think about her future in more realistic ways.

After speaking with our wonderful neurologist, we found ourselves in the lobby of a pediatric psychologist. I had spent the week filling out paperwork as both parent and teacher. I dug through our disorganized file cabinet and found IQ tests and neurologist reports for the last five years. We were both nervous about the next hour. I feared that they would scoff and tell us to send her to a public school where she could get services that she needed. I had a lot of fears that afternoon. Seth was my support, but from the beginning said that I would need to be the one talking. The two psychologists were young and friendly. I suppose their days are filled with anxious parents hoping that they have all of the answers. We were just two more worried faces.

Our interview went on for over an hour. I soon got to understand these ladies pretty well. The senior psychologist had the 'encouraging' habit of finishing our sentences. She had somehow picked up the amazing mind reading skill. We were peppered with questions starting at the beginning of Ella's adoption and running through the past seven years.

After being 'on' for so long I started to fade. My exhaustion hit me when one doctor asked how Ella was with puzzles and I just stared at her. Glancing from one corner of the room to another I nearly panicked. A little help from the psychic would have been appreciated but she, too, just stared at me with a smile on her face. My mind was a mess of frantic thoughts..."How is she with puzzles, sheesh. I'm a horrible mom! I can't think remember puzzles, do we do puzzles? Does she like puzzles? When did she do a puzzle last? Like 3 years ago? That's a terrible answer, I can't say that!"

I think I finally murmured, "She doesn't like puzzles too much." We quickly moved on and shortly after the appointment ended. They probably smelled my brain frying.

Seth went alone with Ella for the two sessions of three hour testing. Ella thought it was a fun treat to have snacks and play computer games with these doctors. She also fell asleep in the car on the way home and had double vision the rest of the day. Seth said that the last day the doctors escorted Ella out to the lobby and had a look of pity on their faces. He couldn't tell if it was a "pity you think this perfectly normal kid has delays" look or a "pity you will be met by the child protective services at the elevator" look or maybe even a "pity you have no idea what you are dealing with" look.

I went to the final meeting alone. Seth called in and joined us via speaker phone. All five kiddos were drawing pictures and doing mazes about the Myecean Greeks while he listened to our meeting from a quiet bedroom. Pacing back and forth, I'm sure.

The ladies looked at each other and one flushed bright red before she even began. They slid a stapled stack of papers toward me that had Ella's identifying information along the top. I felt myself begin to sweat and wondered why I had so many layers on. The senior psychologist began with, "This is the bell curve of normal IQs. Here at the bottom is 90 and the top is 110. Ella's right about here." She slid her pen nearly off the paper to the far left. Too far below what we expected, much farther than the previous test. Way down to 65.

I let a wheeze escape.

"Ummm, so what does that mean?" With the psychic doctor's help, we asked a few questions attempting to understand what this looks like as a child and an adult. They were very encouraging and supportive of Ella being homeschooled. They said she was thriving and gave me pages of resources to help in her educational journey.

Over the next hour I felt myself curling up into a ball. As much as I could without totally freaking these two ladies out. At one point I looked down and realized I had both arms wrapped completely around my torso and my legs crossed twice. I was turning into a pretzel.

She probably will never leave us. She will never drive a car or live on her own. She will need our help for the rest of our lives. We have already talked about how to plan so she will be taken care of when we are gone. She indeed may live in the basement with 17 cats. She probably will love it.


She talks about being a mommy one day. She wants to get married. She wants to be a vet or a plumber or a dog when she grows up. She's beautiful and easily confused. Her best friends are four and five year old kids. She can read, but doesn't understand what she's reading. She can multiply, but doesn't understand why she's doing it. She wants to play with the girls her age, but she can't understand what they are doing and resorts to being goofy to make them laugh.

These test results should not have been a surprise to either of us. We've watched our daughter fall farther behind her peers. I've held her back in school and dropped curricula mid-year because I was losing her. I've tailored programs and done funky multi-sensory things trying to help her learn. Her little brother and sister have long since passed her in school, not that she knows it. But we did, and we should have expected her tests to be low.

That day I thanked the doctors and left their office. When I sat in the car I exhaled for about 5 minutes. My pretzel limbs loosened and I felt okay. I felt okay because nothing has changed in Ella. She's still the same Ella that she always has been. Our lovable, funny, God given, Ella.

March 18, 2012


A few days ago, Josiah took too long on his lunch and was left alone at the table. While I cleaned up in the kitchen, I noticed that the dining room was exceptionally quiet. That usually means he's in trouble. I peeked in and saw that he had indeed disappeared, but the vultures were taking care of his leftovers.

February 2, 2012


In a moment of guilt filled insanity, I relented and decided that we would make bird's nests. Not the yummy treat kind that my mom makes at Christmas. The kind that birds make. The science book suggests it as an activity. In the middle of winter. They know this will fall in the middle of winter because it's the middle of the science book. Grrr. How about some nice, clean, inside activities about birds? Like watching them as they eat from our bird feeders while we are sipping hot beverages inside?

Armed with bags and winter coats, I wave from the window as the kids tear into trees, bushes, piles of moss...hoping to find just what they need to build a nest. Unfortunately, the sticky stuff (aka mud) wasn't to be found anywhere, as the ground is frozen solid. I had to don my boots and trek into the far reaches of my garden to chip out some soil. I thawed it in the sink with warm water and viola...mud. That went onto the dining room table. Sigh. I stood guard with the vacuum hose, mistakenly thinking that would make clean up easier.

Notice Sally's look of disdain and distance from the table.

Then Sally started screaming about spiders. I hadn't thought about what we might be waking up by digging around outside. That was the end for her, she took her bag, dumped it onto the pie plate and called it a nest. Ella was thrilled with the prospect of finding something alive in her pile, so she began sifting carefully through leaves and bark. She completely forgot about the assignment as soon as she found a roly-poly. I vehemently refused her pleas for, "making it a home in my bedroom."
Inspecting the pile for bugs, Ella suckered Josiah into helping her.

The nests were a partial success, if measured in learning. Nest building is hard, especially considering birds don't have hands. Ours looked beautiful until the kittens discovered them that night.

Coloring a picture of a nest might have been a nice learning experience, too.

January 28, 2012

Forgotten Pictures

After reading my previous post, Karen sent me a message with wonderful news. She found pictures from our home visit that she had forgotten about! Even with my descriptions, Seth and our children were amazed to see where Dirbe and her siblings live.

It was so dark, my "fancy" Canon camera couldn't find a focal point in the darkness, and couldn't take a picture. So I reached for my daughter's small point-and-click camera and snapped a few quick pics with the flash. Reading Apryl's post jogged my memory, and just tonight I downloaded those photos and here is what I found - along with a video I somehow captured while holding hands with a child and balancing my other camera too. :)

The mud bench, yellow jugs for water in the background. You can see the thatched roof with black stains from smoke. Dirbe and Meskerem had terrible coughs, as did many of the other children, no doubt due to the smoky house.

The kitchen area, with large pans for injera along the wall. The raised bed is in the background.

One final shot as we leave, the children sleep on the floor near their parent's raised bed. This picture makes me even more thankful for the blankets that we gave to the children.

Karen has about 30 seconds of video on her blog. In it we had just entered the cluster of huts and were approaching the Hunde's home.