One of our oldest and most cherished Christmas traditions is watching the movie Claymations together. It is an animated Christmas special that my dad taped years ago. We love watching the commercials for Ninja Turtles and other "90s" things inbetween the actual show--I still can't believe mullets were in STYLE....!
Another tradition we celebrate St. Lucia day. St.Lucia Day is a Swedish holiday where the oldest girl in the household (that would be me) dresses up in a white dress with a red sash, wears a wreath of candles on her head and delivers rolls and hot chocolate to family members in bed. The legend says that St. Lucia wore a wreath of candles so she was able to see when delivering food to the poor. Lacy loves this holiday so much and is always very excited. This year she had a sign on her door that said "Welcome Kelsey" and when I woke her up in the morning she said "I've been waiting for you!!" (this coming from the girl who is next to impossible to wake up for school). She even slept in her own white dress, and jumped out of bed to help me deliver.
. We have a special calender to help us countdown the days until Christmas. It has 24 pockets filled with angels, and each day someone gets to take an angel out of the pocket and stick into the "sky". The angels represent different countries around the globe and their dresses are decorated as the flag of each country. We love when we pull out an Ethiopian, American, or Swedish angel! '
/ And of course...COOKIES! We make peanut butter, chocolate chip, and sugar cookies with my mom and Swedish cookies called Rosettes with my dad. My mom has a rule where we can only eat the broken ones while we're baking, so Lacy and I have a tradition of "accidentally" smashing cookies, and then grudgingly agreeing to eat them ;)
. The things we do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day vary from year to year. This year was the first time we spent Christmas Eve at home with just our family, but it was very fun. We went to church in the morning, and than again at 5:00. Aaron was so funny...the pastor was concluding the service and he wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and Aaron yelled back "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!". Apparantly we did get the message across to him that today was Jesus' birthday!
. After the service we came home and had a big dinner, and then opened our presents from eachother. As you can imagine, it would be a little much to buy presents for all of my brothers and sisters, so instead we draw names each year and just buy for one sibling (we all give our parents gifts though).
My dad and I went to the candlelight service late at night, and it was sooo beautiful!
. The younger kids made sure to wake me up bright and early to see what Santa brought today...as tired as I was, it's was fun to see how excited they were. The best thing that Santa brought was an air hockey table for everyone!
This afternoon we went to our grandparents house to celebrate Christmas day. I think I ate almost a whole pan of my grandma's butterscotch cookies! They are my absolute favorite Christmas food. My grandpa shared a lot about his experiences in WWII and his journey with Christ today, and it was very moving. He has a way of really putting things into perspective.
I LOVE Christmas!
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Tekle is our brother forever and always, always and forever!!
Wednesday was Tekle's American finalization day. We almost missed it though! We parked in the wrong ramp and ended up frantically speed-walking around downtown until we found the justice building. The hearing was very short and sweet. The judge took pictures with everyone afterwards, and even let Tekle hit the gavel to adjourn the court.
He's stuck with us now! (Not that he wasn't before, but its exciting to be official)
A family who is waiting to bring their son and daughter home from Ethiopia is organizing a really cool project called "Yesus in the Streets". They are encouraging both adults and children to fill one gallon bags with things for people their age living on the streets of Ethiopia. They suggest that you include fun things from your own collection (toys, candy, hair stuff) and practical things (toothbrush, soap, lotion). They are also asking those who participate to include a picture of themselves holding their bag. When they deliver the bags they are going to try and get a picture of the recipient to send back to you. In each bag the family will include a card that says "Jesus cares about the orphans, the widows, and the poor. Jesus cares about you. Jesus sees you. Jesus loves you." in Amharic.
The number of homeless people living in complete poverty in Ethiopia is heartbreaking. This project gives us the opportunity to let people know that despite their circumstances, they are immeasurably valuable to God. Our family has had a lot of fun putting bags together, and I would encourage anyone who can to participate!
To read more details and see a cool video promoting the project, visit Heather's blog: http://burakaeyae.blogspot.com/
As of yesterday you have been home one full year! In some ways it seems to have gone by fast, but at the same time it's hard to imagine life before you came home. I remember the day I met you and you leaped fearlessly into my arms. I couldn't believe I was finally holding you and hugging you. It felt perfect.
Some of the best days of my life were during the week we spent in Addis Ababa together. You looked a little scared the first night you were with mom and I. You just lied in your little bed staring at the ceiling. When we asked you if you would like to come sleep in our bed, your eyes lit up and you jumped right in between us!
Do you remember how whenever I used to hug you and say "My Teketel", you would hug me right back and say "My K-ahl-see" with your sweet Amharic accent? Or the way you would have to tell me over and over again how to say the colors of the Ethiopian flag (aronguaday, bicha, kiy)?
I remember looking at all the kids at the care center and thinking to myself that God couldn't have picked a more perfect fit for our family. You are most definitely a child of destiny. It was more than a coincidence that you showed up at the care center the exact day mom was leaving to bring Aaron home from Ethiopia. She only played with you for a little bit, but your special little spirit touched her so much that she wasn't satisfied until you were safe in her arms seven months later.
This year has been full of discovery. Seeing the joy on your face as you experienced new things made me feel as though I was seeing something for the first time too. The first time you rode a bike was a day to remember. It was the middle of winter, but you insisted on going out and riding on the shoveled side walk. Months later, your precious bike fell off the rack on the back of the van. You were pretty devastated. Lucky for you, mom and dad bought you a new one only a few weeks later. Now, most little boys would immediately hop on their new bike and ride off into the sunset, but not you. Instead, you ran up to thank mom and give her a big hug (and THEN you rode off into the sunset). What an example of your pure heart.
. As you put the angel on the Christmas tree last week. I thought of how awesome it was to have you here to participate in all our Christmas traditions. It was a little hectic at this time last year with all the adjustments, so it will be fun to just relax and enjoy the season this December. .
You are amazingly intelligent, loving, and wise beyond your years. You do something to make me smile everyday. You are sweet, kind, funny, and brave (especially for sitting on Santa's lap last Friday). You are "MY Teketel". I love you sweetie!
There has been some intense debate going on in our house regarding the Christmas tree. My dad has been pushing for an artificial tree this year. He thinks it would be easier (no pine needles on the floor), and that it would be a smart one-time investment.
I on the other hand think an artificial tree would ruin Christmas.
But I am adamantly opposed to having a fake tree. It would break tradition--we have always had real trees! I love the smell of pine...it is such a classic Christmas scent. Plus I have very fond memories of crawling under the tree to water it when I was little. How could my dad even consider taking that experience away from Tekle and Aaron??
I am thankful for JESUS. I have grown so much in Him and am learning more everyday about what it really means to follow Christ. He has blessed me in so many ways and I do not thank Him often enough. So THANK YOU JESUS!!
I am thankful for my AMAZING family. I have the security of knowing that there are 10 people who love me unconditionally. I know that there are many who don't have that in their life, so today I am feeling especially thankful for my familia!!!
I am thankful that we have an additional member of the family to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year!
I am thankful that I can trust in the plans God has for me--I am so excited to see what happens after I graduate in June.
Tonight we went to an Ethiopian restaurant to celebrate Tekle's birthday. When we got there all the tables were full so the waitress seated us near a Mesob (traditionally used as a table, but it was only being used as a decoration--see picture) to wait. Tekle was so excited to see one that he kissed it! It was such a fun night, and Tekle was visibly thrilled. He was even dancing to the Ethiopian music and putting on an impressive show until he realized the waitress was watching ;)
Tomorrow is his actual party so Tekle is having two birthdays in a row!
My mom woke up around 6:00 the next day, and I could hear her moving around the room. I was trying to stay in bed because I knew that if I woke up too early I would have to wait around idly until we got to meet Tekle, and I didn't think I had the patience for that. However, there was no way I could fall back asleep--my mind was RACING! So I soaked up the view from our room, observing this new and exciting environment.
It seemed like forever, but a couple hours later it was time to eat. All the families gathered in the dining room, and the awesome cooks brought us a big breakfast, including my favorite--a big bowl of sweet oatmeal-looking stuff. Everyone ate pretty fast, anxious to meet the children!
FINALLY we were driven the short distance to Center B (the older kids residence). I was amazed at how beautiful the facility was. There were bright trees and flowers everywhere. Colorful miniature plastic chairs were stalked alongside the house. We were led out back where the classroom was located. I had to keep telling myself to "WALK SLOWER", so I wouldn't get ahead of the group. When we peeked in the door all the kids started yelling, "Family, Family!!". Tekle ran out yelling "Mommy, Mommy!", and jumped into my mom's arms. I held him too and he gave me the biggest hug! All the kids in the class started singing "This is the day that the Lord Has Made". It was one of the best moments of my life!
The decision for me to go to Ethiopia with my mom was fairly last minute. I had only two months to raise all the money for my plane ticket. I worked at my job as much as possible until I got Mono, leaving me very, very, sick for about 1 month. Friends and family were so generous though. I sent out support letters, and by the time we had to purchase our tickets, there was enough money left over to buy a suitcase full of donations. Thank you Jesus!
Dec. 3 could not come fast enough. I was out of my mind with excitement. Instead of trying to make up the work from the three weeks of school I had missed because of Mono, I used my class time to learn Amharic phrases from my friends.
The day finally arrived and I was deliriously happy. My Dad cooked my mom and I a big breakfast (home-made egg McMuffins, and orange rolls), then drove us to the airport. We had LOTS of luggage because we had two huge suitcases full of donations. It was manageable though.
First we flew to D.C. where we had a six hour layover. I just walked around and did chemistry homework. After that we boarded Ethiopian Air!! The plane ride wasn't too bad. It was definitely long, but I slept, watched a movie, and read a little. The airplane food was not my favorite. They would feed us breakfast at night because of the time change. We stopped in Rome for fuel, and the little I saw of it out the window was beautiful!
When we arrived in Addis we had to wait in a long line to get my Visa (my mom still had hers from the last trip). I was feeling really nauseous at this point, and was terrified that I was gonna throw-up in the middle of the busy airport. I didn't though, and when I got my Visa we went to claim our luggage. When all our bags were accounted for, we found the other CHSFS families and talked with them for a little bit. They were all very nice. I also got to meet the famous Tesfaye! He is the driver for CHSFS and everyone loves him. He recognized my mom right away, and gave her a big hug.
I was fascinated with the city on the drive from the airport to Center A (guesthouse and where the youngest babies live). Even though it was dark I could see a lot of corrugated metal, interesting billboards, and shops. It took a second for me to convince myself that I was just fine without a seat belt (no one uses those in Addis).
When we arrived at Center A, we were greeted by the orphanage directors, and some other staff members. They were VERY disappointed that Aaron Tariku didn't come with us. Which of course made my mom very sad because she was missing him already and wished that he was there too.
One of the women traveling with us got to meet her baby! It was so sweet to witness that moment.
After getting settled in, we got ready for bed, anxious to wake up and meet our Tekle!
Today was Tekle's first Halloween in America! He has been excited for WEEKS. I ended up having to take Aaron and Tekle trick-or-treating because my dad had to take the older kids to their friend's houses, and my mom needed to stay home and pass out candy. Luckily kids under the age of 5 are okay with only going a few blocks, so I still got to go out afterwards :)
Tekle was hilarious... We walked up to one house and a couple with scary masks on answered the door. Tekle went flying down the steps and hid behind a tree.I explained to him that they were just dressed up, and he said "I know", but still wouldn't budge. The lady took off her mask and when Tekle saw what was underneath he grinned in relief.
As we were walking away from the house he asked "Why do people wanna dress up so scary?" I told him they think it's fun. He said "Well THIS boy from Ethiopia does NOT think it's fun!!!"
It has been so interesting watching Lacy become a big sister this last year. We were all a little apprehensive (especially before Aaron came home) considering how she had the basked in all the attention that comes with being the youngest for eight years.
Turns out Lacy is an amazing big sister! She is absolutely smitten with Aaron. She thinks everything he does is incredible and constantly exclaims over how unbelievably cute he is.
**~~UPDATE~~** Now people with accounts other than beta CAN comment--I'm so happy they fixed that. What if I had offended someone?? That person would have no means to post an angry response!! :) **********************************************************************
Don't ask me why...but I signed up fpr blogger beta and it is driving me crazy. It says I can't revert to classic blogger, so apparantly I'm just out of luck. I know some people have been able to switch to wordpress bringing all of their archives with them, but I have no idea how to do that. IIf anyone knows what I can do please email me at kelcctsn22 at yahoo.com
After fourteen years, Isaac has made contact with his birth family for the first time! My mom was able to find his birth-grandfather's number, and he was very excited to hear from us. Since then Isaac has talked to numerous birth siblings and his birthmother. He and one of his birthsisters seem to be getting to know each other very well, and they have been on the phone A LOT. This connection is so important for Isaac to have, as his birth family is frequently on his heart.
Isaac wasn't at home when he recieved the call from his birthmom (she called his cell phone), so after talking to her he called our mom to see what she thought about everything.
Isaac: "Are you sad?" Mom: "No Isaac, I'm very excited for you" Isaac: "Don't worry, you're still my mom."
Will he be familiar enough with the traditions and people of Ethiopia that he does not feel like a stranger within his culture?
Will he be equipped to handle the grief of losing his birth family?
Will he be at peace with his past?
Will he ever feel like a piece of him is missing?
Will he seek to reconnect with Ethiopia, or will it simply be the place he tells people he was born?
I know that adoption was the best option for Aaron. God couldn’t have made it more clear that he was meant to be with us. The circumstances bringing him from the brink of starvation to a thriving, joyful, and cherished member of our family are miraculous. We needed him and he needed us. However, it doesn’t negate the losses he experienced early in life. It breaks my heart that he will have some serious issues to navigate as he grows up. I just pray that we can equip him to the best of our ability, and be there to support and love him through everything.
Aaron LOVES music. His favorite genres are gospel, raggaeton, and hip-hop. Multiple times a day he will come into my room and request a specific song.
The website below should link you to a video of Aaron dancing to his favorite Cherish song. He thinks she's spelling his name in the beginning of the song when she goes 'A-A-A-A-A-A-A-". (Sorry the lighting is so bad--this was filmed with a digital camera)
You'll see on the video that he does not hesitate to say "NO!" if you dare to play the wrong music.
Our family could use some prayers…My foster brother died of a heart attack last week. Kareem was only 24 years old. He and his brother lived with us for two years when I was in elementary school. I still can’t believe he’s really gone. I read the Bible versus at his memorial service (the burial is going to be in another state where his family lives), and it took every ounce of my will power to keep from breaking down completely in front of all those people. God must have helped me out…
I am especially sad for his younger brother. Kareem was his father figure and the only constant in his life.
My older brother Peter is also struggling a lot. His coping mechanism seems to be keeping busy and focusing on raising money (by selling t-shirts) for the family.
People ARE NOT supposed to have heart attacks when they are 24 years old...
I'm almost finished reading "There is No Me Without You" by Melissa Faye Green. It tells the story of Haregewoin Teferra, a woman who devoted her life to the AIDS orphans of Ethiopia. It is filled with rich Ethiopian history, staggering statistics regarding orphans and the AIDS crisis, and both heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories of the children who came into Teferra's care. As I read it, I realize that the stories of these children are the same as those of Tekle and Aaron. I've had to just sit and reflect after many of the chapters; it is so much to absorb and a lot for my heart to handle!
The book has already impacted me in a profound way and opened my eyes to the most severe crisis of my time.
This morning my mom was driving me to school, and the Song "He's My Son" came on the radio (Mark Schultz). As I listened I couldn't help but realize how the song seemed to illustrate the pain that millions of moms and dads across the globe must be feeling as they see their children dying of the epidemic. I was in tears...I just can't imagine...
Down on my knees again tonight, hoping this prayer will turn out right. See, there is a boy that needs your help. I've done all that i can do myself. His mother is tired, I'm sure you can understand. Each night as he sleeps, she goes in to hold his hand and she tries not to cry as the tears fill her eyes.
Can you hear me? Am I getting trough tonight? Can you see him? Can you make him feel alright? If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow See he's not just anyone, he's my son.
Sometimes late at night i watch him sleep. I dream of a boy he'd like to be. I try to be strong and see him through, but God who he needs right now is you. Let him grow old, live life without this fear. What would I be living without him here? He's so tired and he's scared. Let him kno that youre there.
Can you hear me? Am I getting trough tonight? Can you see him? Can you make him feel alright? If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow See he's not just anyone, he's my son.
Can you hear me? Am I getting through tonight? Can you see him? Can you make him feel alright If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow See he's not just anyone Can you hear me? Can you see him? Please don't leave him, he's my son.