"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

First Haircuts

Krissy started attending classes at The Hair Academy in January.  Yesterday, she was on the floor doing haircuts for the first time.  Her awesome siblings were her first clients!  Though I was not there to take photographs, Sierra was the first to sit in her chair.  

Today she cut Brenna's hair beautifully.
 Next she gave Mataya her very first haircut.

Mataya loved it!  She tells us, "Krissy spray it.  Cut it!  FUN!!!  More cut!!"

 Krissy was so patient with her wiggly client who insisted on doing everything Krissy was doing.  It was super sweet.
 Last, Krissy cut Joshua's hair.  This was a BIG job.  Joshua had been refusing a haircut for months so there was a lot to shave.  She gave him a super cute cut.

He did not enjoy the experience.  However, he is totally proud of the results.  Our plan is to "require" that he gets it cut again before the wedding so that it will not be so long and tangled.  Hopefully when he realizes how quick and easy a haircut can be he will become a little less resistent!

It was so fun to see Krissy doing so well.  She was kind, professional, and having such a good time.  I am so happy for her and proud of her!  I am also totally excited to have a stylist in the family again!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Celebrating 2!

 We have been talking about her birthday for weeks, and Mataya's greatest hope was to get to blow out her candles!  Every time I asked if she was going to have a birthday, she responded with "whhooo"  (my typing for a blowing sound.)  She could not wait to blow out her candles!  So, when she woke up the very first thing we did was insert candles into her pancake.  As you can see, she was thrilled to blow them out!

The simple, pure joy she brings is such a blessing.

 TayTay, as she calls herself, is not typically a morning person - but on her birthday she was all smiles.  Even Joshua was feeling celebratory, as he was the one that suggested this photo!

After the kids left for school, Mataya and I played all morning.  I skipped every task on my list, and we rocked and giggled, read books, chased, lingered over a bath, and painted her nails.
 Mataya is our crazy hair girl.

Her curls are darling right after her bath - but they are typically a fuzzy little rat's nest in back.
 After a relaxing morning at home, we headed to town to have lunch with Daddy.
 When we got home, I tucked her in for a nap.  While she slept I quickly put together the food for her party.  We kept things simple - sloppy joes, chips, fresh fruit salad, a veggie tray, and cupcakes.
Pink tulips will forever remind me of the day Mataya was born.  My mom brought me some to the hospital just an hour after Mataya entered the world - so when I spotted these pretty ones at the grocery store, I did not resist them!  They are wild and crazy and daintily beautiful - just like my girl.

 Wyatt loved Mataya's party food.  But then again, Wyatt loves all food.  He is getting so big.  He is such a sweet, mild-mannered, yet outgoing little guy.  He has the world's best grin, and has started scooting over to me when he needs a hug.  It is the sweetest.

Mataya tolerated the party food - but what she really wanted was more candles!

 She licked off every drop of frosting, and then, ever so thoughtfully, gave me the cupcake!

Sharing two-year-old style, I guess!?!

The ultimate surprise for this innocent one, was that not only did she get candles - she also received presents!  She truly did not expect that.  She was quietly thrilled! 
 This morning when she woke up I asked if she had had a good birthday.  She snuggled in close and told me, "Yes!  Happy!  Candles AND TayTay presents!"

After her guests left, I gave her a bath.  While daddy dozed on the couch she snuggled in tight with Jamison.  She munched on Cheetos.  Then she talked him into reading a book, twice.  Listening to them love on each other while I cleaned up the kitchen was one of those moments I will hide in my heart for a long, long time.  I wish every little girl had a big, big brother to snuggle her close.  She is one well loved little girl.

As I reflect on all that Mataya is to me, I realize just how powerfully God has used this tiny one in my life.  At the time I became pregnant with Mataya, I was in a season of hopelessness.  As she grew under my heart, hope grew in it.  It was a profoundly holy time.  I will forever remember those months of pregnancy with a tenderness that I can not even begin to explain.  Upon her birth, a new strength and identity was born in me.  God has used her to refocus my life.  He has given me wings to be who He has designed me to be - a full time momma - just when my family needed that more than ever before.  We named her Mataya Hope, God's gift of hope, because that is what she was and is to me.  Her very presence serves as a physical reminder to me that there is always a reason to hope.

Parenting a tiny one in the midst of launching our teens has been much harder than I anticipated.  The constant neediness of a tiny one combined with the deep conversations involved in teenage parenting has left me tired at a level I have never before known.  Yet, the combination has also balanced me in so many ways.  I sat at Brenna's choir and band concert the other night night with tears in my eyes.  I kept thinking that if we had followed our original plan we would be empty-nesters in just five years. That thought made me so very sad and yet also so incredibly thankful.  There will come a day when I celebrate having an empty nest.  (After I cry for a few days anyway!)  I adore my husband, and I do eagerly anticipate the quiet evenings we will spend together some day.  But, it is soooo not time yet.  I am in total awe of just how crazy-awesome God's plan is.  He gives the very best gifts. Though at first glance His gifts are sometimes the scariest and most-surprising gifts that stretch me in ways I did not think I could be stretched, they always end up being the BEST gifts when they come from Him.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of Mataya Hope.  You have used her to restore me in so many ways.  May You continue to use her all the days of her life.  May Your glorious hope radiate throughout her always.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Around Here Lately. . .

Since returning from Ethiopia, the littlest people in my life and I have taken turns being sick.  Mataya does not do sick gracefully.  When she does not feel well she insists that we "Hold you!  Rock you! Wrap you! Blankey!"  constantly.  (Hold her in the rocking chair wrapped in her blankey.)  We spent about four days straight in the rocking chair together.

 Thankfully as this week comes to a close, we are all feeling well once again.
 Sometimes love is a box of chocolates.  For real.  
It has been the longest month. So, when Sierra came home with a mega-size box of my favorite candy, it truly made my week.  I sometimes feel unappreciated and forgotten, it meant a lot that she noticed and chose to buy me a treat just to show her love and support.  A daughter who truly understands my heart is an unbelievable blessing.
These two precious ones have totally stretched me.

I have been really struggling to find a rhythm as I care for both Wyatt and Mataya, while also attempting to keep up with my job and household tasks.  Mataya has not adapted well to having Wyatt here so often.  She loves him.  But she loves her momma time more.  There has been a constant feeling of rivalry between the two of them.  It has been exhausting.

I think that maybe, just maybe, we made some progress this week.

I am certain we will all adjust, but it has been harder than I anticipated.

Krissy is doing great in school, though!  She currently has the highest GPA in her entire school.

Additionally she and Devin (Wyatt's dad) got engaged last weekend.  She was surprised and thrilled.  (No wedding date as of yet.)

 Wyatt is utterly precious.

He has the sweetest, happiest personality.

He loves food!  Any and all food!

And he has begun to get from place to place by what I have deemed a "boot scoot."  He uses his butt, hips, and legs to inch across the floor sitting up.  It is seriously the cutest "crawl" I have ever seen.  It suits his needs perfectly because he can move around and also hold onto a toy at all times.  He is so proud.  

Mataya is not quite as thrilled.
After days and days of being homebound with sick littles, we ventured to an indoor play place late this week.  Mataya and Wyatt were both thrilled to play in a new location.  Mataya loves kids her age.  She asks me all the time, "TayTay play friends?"  She gets sooo excited when we go to church because then she gets to play with her friends in the nursery.  She literally giggles with glee as we approach the church.  She says, "Happy!!!"  "TayTay play!"
The weather has been warm and sunny.  Wyatt is a hard age to have outside because there is just not much he can do - but I have been craving both fresh air and exercise.  Several afternoons I have strapped on one baby and pushed the other in a desperate attempt to enjoy some sun.

While that set up worked, it was far from ideal.

So I did one thing I hoped to never do again. . .
I bought a double stroller!

Eighteen years ago I bought my first double stroller.  I had a love/hate relationship with that thing.  I loved that I could head to the park with my little ones, but pushing and storing it was less than ideal.  It is the one piece of baby equipment that I was happy to dispose of.  I never, ever would have guessed I would be buying one for my daughter and grandson to share!  But - it was cheaper than therapy!  My mind and body need exercise!  Thankfully this one pushes more smoothly than the one I had 18 years ago.  It does not, however, take up less space in the garage.

The good news?  Mataya and Wyatt loved it!

One final detail, and it comes with a prayer request.

I mentioned that Jamison was struggling with a leg injury.  An MRI showed stress reactions (which is an injury a step below a stress fracture in severity) in both of his shins.  He was put on complete rest for three weeks.  (He can walk but not exercise in any way.)  Next week he should be able to swim and bike - but he will not be able to run for about six weeks.  This timeline would make it possible for him to race a few times this track season.  Jamison really, really wants to race and race well.  His coaching staff is researching and preparing to have him as ready as possible.  (I can not even explain how awesome his coaching staff is.  They have developed a specific plan for him and him alone.)  He will have to train alone in the pool for the most part.  It will be very different and challenging in so many ways.  But, I can not even explain how well he has handled all of this.  He has been at every single practice this season, though he can not run a step.  He even went to a 5:30 am practice.  Even his coaches were surprised to see him there.  He feels like he is a senior and wants to be a good leader and teammate, whether he can run or not.  He has been having some fun coaching.  Though he is very disappointed, he has kept his chin up and his attitude beautiful.  He says he knows he can not push his body.  He has been pushing through this injury since December and he recognizes that he has to let his body heal.  Even if that means he does not compete this season.  He knows this is not his final racing season.  We are so thankful he has already chosen a college, there is no pressure there.  Additionally his choice was and is perfect, in my opinion anyway!

Alrighty - all that rambling translates to - please pray for my boy.  My prayer is that he will see God in all of this.  His ability to run is not his own.  I am praying that he will allow God to work in and through him during this time of injury.  I am also praying that healing will happen, and the Lord will allow him to race well the end of this season.  He has a few goals left on his high school bucket list, and I would love to see him have a legitimate shot at attaining them.

Greater things are yet to come!
To God be the glory!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Unpacking our Journey: Final Thoughts

As I empty out my mental suitcase after this trip, I have a few final thoughts and observations:

1.  As the mother of an Ethiopian son, I really needed this trip.  Although I "accomplished" much less than I have on my other trips to Ethiopia, I learned more.  I had time to appreciate this beautiful country.  Rather than rushing, I could savor.  I had time to listen and time to observe.  This trip was a precious gift to my heart and soul.

2.  Some of the cultural gaps between Americans and Ethiopians are vast. One thing that is totally unfair is that I have been to Ethiopia.  I know and (sort of) understand what day to day life looks, feels, and smells like for both poor and middle class Ethiopians.  The Ethiopians do not have this same understanding.  My life is much more like theirs than they could ever guess.  You see, even middle class families in Ethiopia have a staff.  If I lived in Ethiopia, I would have guards who watched over my home/compound day and night.  They would also assist with maintenance.  I would also have at least one housekeeper/cook/laundress that would more than likely live in my home or on my compound.  In America, I do it all.  I have no household help.  I, along with the assistance of Chad and our kids, do all the maintenance, yard work, laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning.  While I do have much more modern and convenient ways to accomplish these tasks, I also have more of them.  My home is larger.  My family has more clothing, etc. . .  I think most Ethiopian women would be shocked at just how hard the average American woman works.  This is not to say that they do not work hard!  They do.  They work so very hard.  My point is simply that their perception of my day to day life is a bit off.

3. There is no way for me to understand Ethiopian economics.  I was told that $100 (American) per month is a very livable wage in Ethiopia.  A single mother could rent a home, purchase groceries, send her children to school, etc... on $100 a month.  She could even save a bit of money each month.  Now - mind you, her home would have one, maybe two rooms.  She would not have indoor plumbing.  And her kitchen would be a shared space in the center of a compound.  But this would be considered an adequate/nice place for a young Ethiopian family.

4.  Amazing things are happening in Ethiopia.  I have read that Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  When you visit Addis infrequently, as I have done, you really notice this.  Addis is beginning to look like a large city.  There are many big, beautiful, modern buildings.  The dress and feel of the city is decidedly more Western than it has been in the past.  There are fewer and fewer people begging on the streets.  While there is still much need, I sense much progress and great hope.

5.  My heart has come full circle.  The last time I returned from Ethiopia, I was on top of the world.  I was at the center of a ministry that I loved.  I was certain that I would be able to travel to Ethiopia once a year and watch as God worked in and through this ministry.  I was so excited and so humbly grateful that the Lord was allowing this dream to become a reality.  However, as you all know, His ways are not our ways.  The Lord HAS continued to bless that ministry.  But, my place is no longer central.  It has taken me a long, long time to be OK with that fact.  I knew the Lord was leading my family away from the church of our youth.  That was hard.  Very hard.  I fought it a long, long time.  In all reality if I had known I was not just leaving this church but also my ministry role in this Ethiopian project, I may not have had the strength to leave.  Three years later, I know that much of what I once felt as loss was gain.  God was stripping my life of all distraction.  He knew that my family was going to demand all of my energy and all of my focus and all of my faith and all of my prayers.  He stripped me of pretty much everything outside of my home - but it was for my good and for His glory.  And in His extravagant grace, He also allowed me to return to Ethiopia.  And although this trip was not all I had dreamed (still grieving that we did not meet Biniam), it was such a soothing balm for my heart and soul.  I return from Ethiopia this time with nothing but question marks.  I have no idea when I will return.  I have no idea if He will ever call me into a focused ministry there again.  And yet my heart is totally peaceful.  Where I have no plan, I know that He does.

(Also - while my family did leave a particular church, we did not leave Jesus.  We also had no intention of leaving friendships in the dust.  Or hurting any feelings.  Following Jesus was our only goal, and He was asking us to sit under different leadership for a season.)

6.  Child sponsorship matters.  Do it.  And do it big.  Send those kids you sponsor letters.  Pray for them.  Open your heart, not just your checkbook, for them.  The growth - emotional, spiritual, and physical - the Lord allowed me to witness in an entire neighborhood leaves no room for debate.   If you can, go visit.  If you can  not, that is OK.  Write.  Give of your heart, time, and prayers.  Knowing that someone believes in them enough to give money and send love, changes a little heart forever.  When you know someone deems you worthy, you begin to act worthy.  And when you act worthy, your life is changed forever.

7.  Prayer matters.  The most beautiful things I learned this trip was about the power of prayer.  There was one little person who I was so worried about after our first trip.  I remember having to tell Haile's sponsor that he did not look good.  All I could say was please pray.  You can not imagine the change in that boy.  Even in the rush of 212 fluoride treatments my heart nearly stopped and tears welled near the surface when I saw him.  Where there once had been a tiny boy with dull, listless eyes and not even the energy to stand and wait in line - a tall, wiggly little boy had emerged.  His eyes were bright and clear.  He was restless and so ready to go back out and play with the other boys.  The prayers of his sponsor have surely been honored.  True, he has had better nutrition since being a part of this program for nearly three years - but only prayer could make a change as great as I witnessed in Haile.

Additionally, prayer is what kept us safe while in country.  Of that I have no doubt.

So keep praying, my friends, even when you can not see results.  God is not finished, yet.

Thanks for traveling with me!

I love you all,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Unpacking our Journey: Final Days

 After our abrupt departure from Hawassa, we drove about 2.5 hours.  When we got to a town called Ziway, prounounced zuh-why, Yilkal suggested we stop for lunch.  He recommended the Haile Gebrselassie resort.  I was excited to stop there because Haile Gebreselassie is a legendary Ethiopian distance runner, and I knew Jamison would be happy to hear I was at his resort.

The resort was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful place to stop.

It was located on the lake.  It had gorgeous grounds and served a delicious lunch.

 Located on this HUGE tree that welcomed us was an equally HUGE nest.
 Which appears to have been built by this large bird.

Ethiopia is known for having a vast number of bird species.  I know little about birds, but I did see many they were fascinating.

This photo gives the size of the tree a bit more perspective.
It really was spectacular.

We went inside and enjoyed a delicious lunch.  The kids and I had fresh fish, caught from the lake! (Lunch here was fancier and also more expensive than some places.  Full meals and cold drinks for 7 cost about 1200 Birr, Still cheap by American standards though.)

Just as we were finishing our meal, Yilkal received a phone call.  His friend informed him that the highway had been closed.  Little did we know when we stopped that we had traveled just far enough to be back in a "safe" zone.  We thanked Yilkal yet again for being so thorough in his research that morning.  God had certainly used him to keep us all safe.

It was at that point that our nearness to real danger became very real to me.  Earlier, I believed it, but it felt a bit surreal.  I had pretty much assumed we were being overly cautionary.  I was traveling with some incredibly precious cargo, so being overly cautious was OK with me - but even after driving through all the military check points, I was not completely convinced anything too bad was going on.  Hearing the road had been closed shook me up just a bit.  We hastily headed back to the van, and I was a bit breathless until we were officially back in Addis!
 It was another quiet two hour drive as we all processed, napped, and prayed.
 Addis had never looked more beautiful!

Now, let me pause here and tell you that incidences like this are very uncommon.  I know many, many people that have traveled in that area.  Our group was the first group I have ever heard of being sent away.  Ethiopia it typically a very safe place.  If I ever have a chance, I will travel to Southern Ethiopia again.  Although we met odd circumstances, please do not be afraid to travel there.

Since we arrived back in Addis way earlier than we had expected, Kristen suggested we drive out to one of her favorite places, Bethel Pottery.  She described it as a "secret garden."  A little time wandering through a secret garden sounded perfect to me!  I was feeling stressed out.

When we finally arrived near Bethel Pottery the gravel lane became too rough for the van.  Yilkal parked and told us we would need to walk.  Normally I do not think this would have been a bit alarming to any of us - but we were on high alert at that point.  We cautiously looked at all the people staring at the only vehicle in the area, loaded with white faces, and wondered about our safety.  We asked Tsige if it was safe and she said, "I not know."  Then she thought a moment and said, "Come on guys!  I will keep you safe."  And so we walked up the hill and around the corner while EVERY eye in the neighborhood watched us.

It was creeping me out, until a middle age man called out, "Where you go?"

When I responded, "Bethel Pottery,"

He waved, smiled, and said, "Thank you!"

At that point I felt OK.

When we arrived at the gate (remember everywhere in Ethiopia is gated) no one answered out knock.  Tsige asked a neighbor lady if  they were open for business.  She sent her little boy over to help. He stuck his little fist through a crack in the gate and opened it for us.  We stood in the entrance of the compound, and breathed in the sweet air of the eucalyptus trees that covered the compound.  It was indeed a secret garden.   It was also mysteriously empty.

I laugh now, but that day it just seemed creepy.  Tsige and Kristen were both worried that the large guard dogs may come running and attack.  So, we stuck closely to the gate, waiting to see if anyone were inside.  Eventually, the ladies appeared.  They had been sweeping the dirt paths that meander through their beautiful compound and had not heard us enter.

They graciously lead us to the buildings which held their products.  One housed pottery.  Another woven items like scarves, baby blankets, robes, etc. . .  The items were beautiful.  Even more beautiful was the serene compound.  We were graciously given a tour, and then allowed to wander around a bit and enjoy the silent beauty.

And of course, we took the opportunity to take some photos!

This compound was amazing.  It was silent and serene and very large.  It is used for a variety of things.  Products are made and sold here - which provides jobs for women who really need them.  But the compound in and of itself is a service.  There are few parks or outdoor places in Addis that are safe for children and families to run and play and explore.  This compound is available for play.  You can bring a picnic lunch and hang out.  You can even rent a sweet little cottage and spend the night.  The women who work there graciously prepare a coffee ceremony, complete with fresh popcorn, free of charge for their guests.  It was such a sweet, relaxing way to end a very stressful day.

Our final day in Addis was Wednesday.  We spent it exploring a few stores, visiting a couple of ministries, and touring the National Museum.

 We spent a bit of time touring (and dancing with the children) at the Connected In Hope Preschool.  Connected in Hope is a ministry that employs women, many of whom were former firewood carriers.  Carrying extremely heavy loads of firewood down the mountain was once their means of employment.  It is a job that is hardly fit for a donkey and pays next to nothing.  This ministry was developed to employ women in a much better way.  It has expanded and employs a few men and women with other stories as well.  The preschool is a wonderful environment for the children while their mothers work.  It also employs Ethiopian people as teachers and caregivers.  

The ministry also has a beautiful guest home, with the most amazing view of the city.  In addition to guest rooms, the guest home has a leather workshop and also a room they use for dying thread which will be woven.  I was very impressed with all aspects of the ministry.  The staff was knowledgeable and welcoming, the products were nice quality, and the preschool was very impressive.

The Ethiopian government does not allow online stores, currently.  But, I am sure once they are allowed some of these products, along with the ones we saw at many other locations, will become well known in America.  They were well made, unique, and support wonderful people.  It was really exciting to see the beautiful craftsmanship that Ethiopia has to offer.

We had a delicious lunch at Lucy's Restaurant.  It is located right next to the National Museum.  Brenna really wanted to go to the National Museum and visit Lucy, the oldest human remains known to modern science.  It happens to be something she is studying this year, and her science teacher was pushing for her to check it out.  After lunch Brenna, Grant, and I rushed through a quick tour of the museum while Kristen, Sierra, and Yilkal indulgently waited in the van.
 Brenna and Lucy meet!

 Here is Miss Brenna on the steps in front of the National Museum.

Our last appointment of the trip was unplanned and unexpected - but it was also one of the greatest gifts of our trip.  Yilkal, our driver, asked if we had heard of Carry 117.  I had not.  Kristen had.  He asked if we would like to go there because his friend had founded this ministry.  We were excited to go, more because we wanted to honor Yilkal with our time than for any other reason, but we were excited nonetheless.

It ended up being such a blessing to us.

From the moment Henok Berhanu climbed into the van, I was entranced.  For one thing, he spoke better English than I do.  It was so delightful to talk ministry with someone who could understand my questions.  And his heart was a thing of beauty.

He explained that Carry 117 employes carefully selected women from the neighborhood of Korah.  Once hired, these women's lives are totally transformed.  They and their children receive two meals a day, which are prepared at the Carry 117 compound.  They are taken to the doctor once a month because their living conditions have been so poor that frequent preventative health care is necessary.  They are taught the skill of bag making from a talented Ethiopian taylor, who has left his well paying job to invest in this ministry.  They are helped to find housing and schools for their children.  They are taught budgeting and how to save money.  They are given raises as they learn new skills and move up in the company.  

But even more precious, they are loved.  The way that these women and their children responded when Henok arrived was beautiful.  You could feel the love, admiration, and respect they had for one another.  It was totally inspiring.

The Carry 117 compound is in the neighborhood of Korah.  Korah was once the dump ground.  The government is no longer taking trash to the area, but the impoverished neighborhood remains.  While we did not witness people living in heaps of trash, the area (which is located across the highway from Jemo) is certainly the poorest I have been in.  It is impoverished, but it is NOT without hope.

This is the entrance to the Carry 117 compound.  It was surely the shabbiest of the business compounds we entered, but the welcome and joy of those inside was perhaps the most sincere.

Looking inside, it is a tiny compound.  The brown building is the kitchen and meeting room.  There meals are prepared and eaten.  They also use it for times of gathering and daily scripture reading.

The pink building is where the work happens.
 In my estimation, Henok has chosen to invest in people and equipment, rather than a fancy location.  He has a generator and nice, electric sewing machines.  The products they make are beautifully sewn and creatively styled.  I wish I could send you a link to purchase them.  I bought many - a lunch bag for Mataya, a backpack for Brenna, a purse for Krissy, a toiletry bag for Jamison, a wine sack for Sharlene, and a sachel for myself.  Each one was totally unique in design and very skillfully put together.

The women who have children stop working when their children are done with school for the day.  The children are also welcome to come to the compound and play.
 As a mom who loves working from home, I love that kids are welcome here.
 These girls had rigged up a "tetherball" game using an empty bottle.  I am so trying this next summer when we are camping and Joshua is bored!
 These flowers touched my heart.  The heart of women longs for simply beauty.  I love that beauty is rising from the ashes of Korah.

This is a glimpse of the roadway in the neighborhood.  Sewage may have ran in the gutter, but hope and hard work was the lasting impression left on my heart as I left the area.

Carry 117 also has a guest home.  Henok spends much of his time guiding mission groups.  As a guide, he brings mission groups to many different ministries where they do small projects and learn about the ministry and about Ethiopia.  Both this guide work and the guest house help to pay salaries for his employees.

I love, love, love this ministry.  I was honored to meet the staff and learn more.  In the end we were able to help just a bit by bringing a couple of bags filled with their product back to the States.  There is not much of a market for the items they make in Addis, so it must be shipped to America for sale.  We were able to take several bags and bins with us which reduced their shipping expenses.  It was so fun to be able to help in this simple way.  

At this point it was late afternoon, and we needed to head back to our guest house to pack.  Our flight left at 2 am.
 Some of their last moments at Tsige's!

Sierra hates flying.  It freaks her out, and wouldn't you know it, she was feeling sick when we boarded our first flight.  It is never a good thing to start a 30 hour airtrip by puking in the airport trash can.  UGH!  The airport was quite an adventure.  Sierra puking.  The cleaning ladies chasing down and killing a rat.  And a surprise appearance by world champion runner, Mo Farrah, who happened to be on our flight.  Such drama!

(It was so ironic that we saw Mo Farrah because Jamison follows him on Instagram anf Twitter, s he knew Mo was training in Ethiopia.  I had joked that I was going to meet him for coffee.  When we saw him in the airport, I had to laugh.  Jamison is so jealous.  He can not believe our luck and us quite irritated that we did not get an autograph.  In retrospect, I am upset with me too.  A MO autograph would have been the greatest grad gift ever for my tall son.)

Thankfully the drama was short lived.  By the time we got to London and ate, we all felt well.  Our flight from London to Chicago was really empty, so we all sprawled out and slept well.

 Actually, only us older ladies slept.  Brenna and Grant spent the whole flight talking and asking the indulgent flight attendants for snacks and soda.  They were the only kids on the flight and spoiled as such.  Thankfully the flight attendants reported that they were great kids - very polite!

Before we knew it we were back in America, feeding our kids ice cream and McDonald's french fries.  While there is no place like home, a piece of my heart is always in Ethiopia.  Loving two lands, the way we do, is hard.

That concludes the details of our trip.  I have some final thoughts, but these "facts" are as much as I have time for today.  Thanks for traveling with me!  I would highly recommend that you take a real live trip of your own someday!