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Reincarnation of the Dykstra Family Blog
Chad Dykstra - 2014-06-03

Comrades is Coming!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-04-29

Melkam Gena!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-01-07

Why I Run
Chad Dykstra - 2012-10-03

It's All About the Injera
Chad Dykstra - 2012-03-09

Expectations and Reality
Chad Dykstra - 2012-02-15

I Remember
Chad Dykstra - 2011-10-25

A Summer of Firsts
Chad Dykstra - 2011-09-13

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Reincarnation of the Dykstra Family Blog

Chad Dykstra - 2014-06-03
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Our blog has been “shut down” for quite some time now. Life has been pretty normal and frankly hasn’t felt very blogworthy. In retrospect, we have been very blessed over the past few months and there has been plenty to write about. Our family has seen a significant level of healing and lots of just really good things. After about 3 years, we finally seem to have hit our “normal” and it has been awesome. Awesome doesn’t equal perfect, but I don’t ever remember reading anywhere that we were called to have “perfect” families (or normal families, for that matter.)  
 
During this time, we’ve also been on a bit of a journey. For the last few months, Lora has really felt called to action again. Looking back on it, it seems as though I was as well, but just a slightly different path than Lora’s. What we didn’t realize is that the starting line to this journey wasn’t quite as far away as we (or maybe more specifically I) thought. 
 
Lora has had a heart over the past few months specifically for foster care. Last month at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, Lora attended several sessions on foster care. She was working hard to learn more, all the while trying to prepare me and praying that I would feel called to this journey as well. If I’m being honest though (and much to Lora’s disappointment) my heart wasn’t there. This doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t break for kids in foster care, because it does. The statistics are staggering, especially in urban and African American households. As much as this does break my heart, I have not to date felt that strong pull that says “this is where I want you to serve.” 
 
Lora and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about the future of our family and I told her that my heart was not in foster care, but rather still in Ethiopia with waiting older children. I love Ethiopia. I love the culture, the heritage, the food, the beautiful people, and their strong faith. This didn’t, of course, mean that I was ready to jump into the deep end or that I had any immediate plans for action. 
 
I’m a runner and I like analogies, so bear with me while I throw in a quick running analogy. We’ve been through pretty strict training over the past three and a half years. It hasn’t always been fun or easy. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe more tears and sweat than blood, but you get the idea. I do have a heart for older children who are waiting for families and we are pretty well-prepared for caring for children that come from places of trauma and loss. I was happy to consider using that strict training again someday. I was ready to line up with the slow people in the back, meandering our way toward the starting line. It seems, though, that God has ways that are not ours and it didn’t take long for us to be grabbed by the ear and dragged to the “elite development” corral where you don’t get to wait very long to cross the starting line after the gun goes off. Well, the gun went off and here we go.
 
A few weeks ago, we were asked by Bethany Christian Services to advocate for “Melody”, an 11 year old Ethiopian girl, and to help her find a family. (A quick side note before I do go too far. The names of waiting children are changed to protect them, so Melody’s name isn’t actually Melody. Although we do know her real name, for the time being we will continue to call her Melody.) We looked at Melody’s profile on the waiting child portal and explained to our kids that she has been waiting for two years and we were asked to pray for her and to help her find a family. One morning a few weeks ago, Zinabu urgently reminded us that we forgot to pray for Melody during our bedtime prayer. This was a shock to us, because although we do have kids who highly value their evening prayers, Zinabu isn’t usually one of them. A few days later, Z came home from school and said he was telling everyone that we were going to adopt Melody and that he was going to have another sister. We hadn’t discussed this and were pretty surprised. We thought it was funny, but we also were slightly annoyed that he was stirring up the rumor mill. All of our kids, in fact, saw Melody as our daughter sooner than we did.
 
It seems that our kids knew something that we did not. Over these past couple weeks, we have been praying for Melody and have been seeking more information about her not as advocates, but as potential adoptive parents. She is a beautiful, intelligent, athletic girl who has so much potential. She’s in the top of her class and she dreams of being a doctor someday. She’s also suffered more pain and loss than any 11 year old (or 100 year old, for that matter) should ever have to endure. We have learned quite a bit about her history and her challenges, however we won’t be sharing this information with anyone out of respect for her privacy and protection (so don’t ask!) 
 
Through this short journey, neither of us have felt any hesitation that Melody should join our family. Adoption is very expensive, it’s hard, and it takes a long time. It is NOT for everyone, nor is it the best plan of action in every situation. We are going into this adoption eyes wide open, aware of the challenges that we’ll probably face. We’ve had several conversations with our kids about what this is going to look like and they are enthusiastically on board. We have verified that Melody’s desire is to be internationally adopted, and we feel uniquely well-equipped to help Melody heal from her painful past.
 
The race is officially underway. We are submitting our official application this week. Even with a waiting child, this is still going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. The adoption process will likely still take 8-20 months, or maybe longer. There is a chance that something could happen and the whole works will fall through. We really don’t know what will happen, but we do know that hanging out in the unknown reliant on God’s leading isn’t such a bad place to be.
Our blog has been “shut down” for quite some time now. Life has been pretty normal and frankly hasn’t felt very blogworthy. In retrospect, we have been very blessed over the past few months and there has been plenty to write about. Our family has seen a significant level of healing and lots of just really good things. After about 3 years, we finally seem to have hit our “normal” and it has been awesome. Awesome doesn’t equal perfect, but I don’t ever remember reading anywhere that we were called to have “perfect” families (or normal families, for that matter.)  
 
During this time, we’ve also been on a bit of a journey. For the last few months, Lora has really felt called to action again. Looking back on it, it seems as though I was as well, but just a slightly different path and urgency than Lora’s. What we didn’t realize is that the starting line to this journey wasn’t quite as far away as we (or maybe more specifically I) thought. 
 
Lora has had a heart over the past few months specifically for foster care. Last month at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, Lora attended several sessions on foster care. She was working hard to learn more, all the while trying to prepare me and praying that I would feel called to this journey as well. If I’m being honest though, my heart wasn’t there. This doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t break for kids in foster care, because it does. The statistics are staggering, especially in urban and African American households. As much as this absolutely does break my heart, I have not to date felt that strong pull that says “this is where I want you to serve.” 
 
Lora and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about the future of our family and I told her that my heart was not in foster care, but rather still in Ethiopia with waiting older children. I love Ethiopia. I love the culture, the heritage, the food, the beautiful people, and their strong faith. This didn’t, of course, mean that I was ready to jump into the deep end or that I had any immediate plans for action. 
 
I’m a runner and I like analogies, so bear with me while I throw in a quick running analogy. We’ve been through pretty strict training over the past three and a half years. It hasn’t always been fun or easy. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe more tears and sweat than blood, but you get the idea. I do have a heart for older children who are waiting for families, and we are pretty well-prepared for caring for children that come from places of trauma and loss. I was happy to consider using that strict training again someday. I was ready to line up with the slow people in the back, meandering our way toward the starting line. It seems, though, that God has ways that are not ours and it didn’t take long for us to be grabbed by the ear and dragged to the “elite development” corral where you don’t get to wait very long to cross the starting line after the gun goes off. Well, the gun went off and here we go.
 
A few weeks ago, we were asked by Bethany Christian Services to advocate for “Melody”, an 11 year old Ethiopian girl, and to help her find a family. (A quick side note before I do go too far. The names of waiting children are changed to protect them, so Melody’s name isn’t actually Melody. Although we do know her real name, for the time being we will continue to call her Melody.) We looked at Melody’s profile on the waiting child portal and explained to our kids that she has been waiting for two years and we were asked to pray for her and to help her find a family. One morning a few weeks ago, Zinabu urgently reminded us that we forgot to pray for Melody during our bedtime prayer. This was a shock to us, because although we do have kids who highly value their evening prayers, Zinabu isn’t usually one of them. A few days later, Z came home from school and said he was telling everyone that we were going to adopt Melody and that he was going to have another sister. We hadn’t discussed this and were pretty surprised. We thought it was funny, but we also were slightly annoyed that he was stirring up the rumor mill. All of our kids, in fact, saw Melody as our daughter sooner than we did.
 
It seems that our kids knew something that we did not. Over these past couple weeks, we have been praying for Melody and have been seeking more information about her not as advocates, but as potential adoptive parents. She is a beautiful, intelligent, athletic girl who has so much potential. She’s in the top of her class and she dreams of being a doctor someday. She’s also suffered more pain and loss than any 11 year old (or 100 year old, for that matter) should ever have to endure. We have learned quite a bit about her history and her unique challenges, however we won’t be sharing this information with anyone out of respect for her privacy and protection (so don’t ask!) 
 
Through this short journey, neither of us have felt any hesitation that Melody should join our family. Adoption is very expensive, it’s hard, and it takes a long time. It is NOT for everyone, nor is it the best plan of action in every situation. We are going into this adoption eyes wide open, aware of the challenges that we’ll probably face. We’ve had several conversations with our kids about what this is going to look like and they are enthusiastically on board. We have verified that Melody’s desire is to be internationally adopted, and we feel uniquely well-equipped to help Melody heal from her painful past.
 
The race is officially underway. Our preliminary application is submitted and we will be submitting our official application this week. Even with a waiting child, this is still going to be more of a marathon than a sprint. The adoption process will likely still take 8-20 months, or maybe longer. There is a chance that something could happen and the whole works will fall through. We really don’t know what will happen, but we do know that hanging out in the unknown reliant on God’s leading isn’t such a bad place to be.
 

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Comrades is Coming!

Chad Dykstra - 2013-04-29
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During our adoption process, Lora and I were looking for ways to make a difference in Ethiopia while we waited to be matched with our boys. It was during this time that we were introduced to Team World Vision. I hadn’t laced up running shoes in almost 10 years, but immediately knew that this was the way I should get involved. I started running again, and we were matched with our boys shortly thereafter. Just weeks after that first race, we were on a plane to Ethiopia to meet our boys.

While in Ethiopia, Lora and I witnessed first-hand the impact that water, or the lack thereof, has on a community. While visiting World Vision area development programs, we were taken to a river where World Vision was in the finishing stages of an irrigation canal to help local farmers. While at the river, we saw livestock drinking, women washing clothes, people bathing, and drinking water jugs being filled to carry back home. All in the same place.
This is personal to us. Last summer, I was out running with the kids. Abatu and I arrived at the bridge over the Rabbit River, and he explained how this was like the river that they used to walk to and collect water. They had to walk over a big hill to get to the river. His older sister wasn’t able to go to school and had to collect water.
 
Drinking contaminated water has awful repercussions. In the time that it takes you to read this letter, over 20 people around the world will die from a water-related illness. To make this even worse, the walk is often far to collect contaminated water. Women and children are primarily responsible for collecting water. This affects more than just health. It prevents kids from going to school and keeps communities in poverty. It breaks our hearts to think of Zinabu and Abatu’s family struggling with this daily.
 
While in Ethiopia, we were also able to visit a community where clean water had been made available through a World Vision water project. We were able to see a water tower that is filled from a nearby well and pump house which gravity-feeds water to several distribution stations in the community. In this way, water is available to the community even without electricity. We were able to talk to a woman who used to have to walk a long distance to carry water, but now was able to fill her containers right in her own community, and saw children in their uniforms carrying books on their way to school. What an amazing difference!
 
Last fall, I set out to once again run the Chicago Marathon with hopes of finishing strong and healthy as a jump-start to a greater involvement in this worthy cause. Over the past few years I have felt a desire to run the Comrades Marathon with Team World Vision and to have an even bigger impact on providing clean water to communities in Ethiopia and Kenya. After much prayer and consideration, this is the year!
 
The Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. It is a road race between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the country of South Africa. The race has a total distance of 54 miles – over 2 marathons - with a total elevation climb of over 7,000 feet (and 4,000 feet of descent) throughout the course. There are 16,000 total participants each year, but only around 150 Americans will take on the challenge. I will be numbered among them.
 
Over the past several months, I have been training and preparing my mind and body for this challenge. As I post this blog, I’m still sore from running 57 miles in the just the past two days - that's more than two marathons! As unbelievable as it is to go out and run 26.2 miles on a Saturday, it takes a special kind of crazy to run 31 more the next day! Of course it isn’t just running either – there’s a myriad of other strength training to prevent over-use injuries (and rest to not get burned out or over-trained.) It’s been a busy 2013.
 
I leave for Africa on Wednesday, May 22 and will be undertaking this epic challenge on Sunday, June 2. While in Africa I am going to have some pretty amazing opportunities. I will be visiting four of the children that our family sponsors in three different countries. If that weren’t enough, Lord willing I am also going to once again be able to visit the birth family of our adopted children and hopefully allow them to video chat with Zinabu and Abatu. Lora will hopefully be able to travel with me to Ethiopia for the first 5 days of the trip, including two sponsor visits and the family visit. After the race I will spend time in Kenya to view more of the work that World Vision is doing in communities there, as well as a few days to enjoy the Kenyan wildlife and wilderness.
Along with big fitness goals, I also have big fundraising goals. First and foremost, I need to make clear that my fundraising does not provide me with plane tickets, race registrations, or any other benefits related to this trip. This cause is important to me, and I will be paying all the costs associated with the trip myself. Any money raised goes to provide clean water to communities that need it the most. I have a very aggressive goal of raising $500 per mile, which can provide clean water for 10 people. If I reach my total goal of $27,000, we will be able to provide clean water to 540 people for life.
 
I can’t do this alone.  I ask that you consider how you might be able to help me reach this goal. I’ve been praying that individuals and businesses would be able to step forward and make a big impact. It would be awesome if you were willing to provide $500 to support me for an entire mile…or maybe even more than one! Maybe there’s a way that you can contribute $50 to provide clean water for 1 person. 
 
To celebrate that my biggest weekend of $57 is behind me and to personally show our support for this cause, Lora and I are going to match $57 for every contribution of at least $57 Through the end of April, with NO LIMIT. Please make us tap into the emergency fund.
 
If you are able to help, please visit http://support.worldvision.org/goto/chad_dykstra to make a secure online donation. If you would like to pay by check, please make a check out to World Vision and send it to me at the address below. Your donations will be tax deductible.
 
Chad Dykstra
3669 36th St.
Hamilton, MI 49419
 
Together we can make a big impact on our world. Thanks for your support, and God bless!
 
UPDATE: This weekend, I ran 57 miles and have officially started to "taper" my mileage down! I'm very happy about this! To celebrate and show our support for this cause, Lora and I are going to match $57 for every contribution of at least $57 Through the end of April, with NO LIMIT. Please make us tap into the emergency fund.During our adoption process, Lora and I were looking for ways to make a difference in Ethiopia while we waited to be matched with our boys. It was during this time that we were introduced to Team World Vision. I hadn’t laced up running shoes in almost 10 years, but immediately knew that this was the way I should get involved. I started running again, and we were matched with our boys shortly thereafter. Just weeks after that first race, we were on a plane to Ethiopia to meet our boys.
 
While in Ethiopia, Lora and I witnessed first-hand the impact that water, or the lack thereof, has on a community. While visiting World Vision area development programs, we were taken to a river where World Vision was in the finishing stages of an irrigation canal to help local farmers. While at the river, we saw livestock drinking, women washing clothes, people bathing, and drinking water jugs being filled to carry back home. All in the same place.
This is personal to us. Last summer, I was out running with the kids. Abatu and I arrived at the bridge over the Rabbit River, and he explained how this was like the river that they used to walk to and collect water. They had to walk over a big hill to get to the river. His older sister wasn’t able to go to school and had to collect water.
 
Drinking contaminated water has awful repercussions. In the time that it takes you to read this letter, over 20 people around the world will die from a water-related illness. To make this even worse, the walk is often far to collect contaminated water. Women and children are primarily responsible for collecting water. This affects more than just health. It prevents kids from going to school and keeps communities in poverty. It breaks our hearts to think of Zinabu and Abatu’s family struggling with this daily.
 
While in Ethiopia, we were also able to visit a community where clean water had been made available through a World Vision water project. We were able to see a water tower that is filled from a nearby well and pump house which gravity-feeds water to several distribution stations in the community. In this way, water is available to the community even without electricity. We were able to talk to a woman who used to have to walk a long distance to carry water, but now was able to fill her containers right in her own community, and saw children in their uniforms carrying books on their way to school. What an amazing difference!
Last fall, I set out to once again run the Chicago Marathon with hopes of finishing strong and healthy as a jump-start to a greater involvement in this worthy cause. Over the past few years I have felt a desire to run the Comrades Marathon with Team World Vision and to have an even bigger impact on providing clean water to communities in Ethiopia and Kenya. After much prayer and consideration, this is the year!
 
The Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. It is a road race between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the country of South Africa. The race has a total distance of 54 miles – over 2 marathons - with a total elevation climb of over 7,000 feet (and 4,000 feet of descent) throughout the course. There are 16,000 total participants each year, but only around 150 Americans will take on the challenge. I will be numbered among them.
Over the past several months, I have been training and preparing my mind and body for this challenge. As I write this letter, I’m still sore from running 48 miles in the just the past two days. As unbelievable as it is to go out and run 27 miles on a Saturday, it takes a special kind of crazy to run 21 more the next day! Of course it isn’t just running either – there’s a myriad of other strength training to prevent over-use injuries (and rest to not get burned out or over-trained.) It’s been a busy 2013.
 
I leave for Africa on Wednesday, May 22 and will be undertaking this epic challenge on Sunday, June 2. While in Africa I am going to have some pretty amazing opportunities. I will be visiting four of the children that our family sponsors in three different countries. If that weren’t enough, Lord willing I am also going to once again be able to visit the birth family of our adopted children and hopefully allow them to video chat with Zinabu and Abatu. Lora will hopefully be able to travel with me to Ethiopia for the first 5 days of the trip, including two sponsor visits and the family visit. After the race I will spend time in Kenya to view more of the work that World Vision is doing in communities there, as well as a few days to enjoy the Kenyan wildlife and wilderness.
Along with big fitness goals, I also have big fundraising goals. First and foremost, I need to make clear that my fundraising does not provide me with plane tickets, race registrations, or any other benefits related to this trip. This cause is important to me, and I will be paying all the costs associated with the trip myself. Any money raised goes to provide clean water to communities that need it the most. I have a very aggressive goal of raising $500 per mile, which can provide clean water for 10 people. If I reach my total goal of $27,000, we will be able to provide clean water to 540 people for life.
 
I can’t do this alone.  I ask that you consider how you might be able to help me reach this goal. I’ve been praying that individuals and businesses would be able to step forward and make a big impact. It would be awesome if you were willing to provide $500 to support me for an entire mile…or maybe even more than one! Maybe there’s a way that you can contribute $50 to provide clean water for 1 person. If things are tight, maybe you know someone who might have a heart for this that you could share the opportunity with. 
 
If you are able to help, please visit http://support.worldvision.org/goto/chad_dykstra to make a secure online donation. If you would like to pay by check, please make a check out to World Vision and send it to me at the address below. Your donations will be tax deductible.
 
Chad Dykstra
3669 36th St.
Hamilton, MI 49419
 
Together we can make a big impact on our world. Thanks for your support, and God bless!
 
UPDATE: This weekend, I ran 57 miles and have officially started to "taper" my mileage down! I'm very happy about this! To celebrate and show our support for this cause, Lora and I are going to match $57 for every contribution of at least $57 Through the end of April, with NO LIMIT. Please make us tap into the emergency fund.

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Melkam Gena!

Chad Dykstra - 2013-01-07
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Merry Christmas! 
 
The holidays are now behind us, and most of us have moved on from times of togetherness (and feasting) to times of new beginnings. Times of resolutions to lose the 5 pounds we may or may not have gained over the past month and a half. This may be a strange time of year to wish you a Merry Christmas...but in Ethiopia, today is Christmas Day! We're fortunate that as a "culturally diverse" family we are able to celebrate holidays like Christmas two times!
 
We had a fantastic time tonight celebrating Gena (Christmas) with great friends and amazing Ethiopian food. Thanks to the Bakkers for coming over tonight to celebrate with us. We had a wonderful meal and watched videos from our time in Ethiopia two years ago, which brough back great memories. A & Z were so small!
 
 
We're so glad that through adoption we've been able to not only grow our family, but increase our cultural and culinary experiences as well! Even Abi has grown to love injera and Ethiopian food. Her favorite dish is Zilzil Aleecha - or a steak dish served in a green pepper sauce. We've continued over the past two years to chip away at Ethiopian cooking, and in the last few months really feel great about the food we can make and we just love it. We've made it three times in the past month alone! We're challenged with a few picky eaters and with 5 out of 6 of us liking it, there are very few meals that have that high of a success rate so we figured why not add it to a regular rotation.
 
Here are a few pictures of our adventures in Ethiopian cooking over the past month. Pardon the grainy #iphonography.
 
A stack of injera fresh from the mitad
 
Injera with edges peeling and ready to come off
 
A plate of traditional Ethiopian food featuring 'doro wat',
a spicy chicken dish, and a glass of t'ej (Ethiopian honey wine)
 
Tonight's Gena celebration dinner, complete with Abi's favorite Zilzil Aleecha
 
I've tossed around the idea of adding an "Ethiopian cooking" section to our website to post recipes, pictures, and tips of our cultural culinary adventures. If anyone is interested in that, feel free to drop a comment below and let me know. I think a place to share tips, tricks, and recipes could be of great help! There are a lot of families with a connection to Ethiopia in West Michigan (and around the country for that matter.) We're definitely better together. I know we wouldn't have the recipes we have without trading, tweaking, and sharing with others (thanks Jen!)
 
Tonight, you may be depressed about settling in for a long winter and the endless couds and snow (or rain....huh?) that it brings. If so...rejoice! You have one more chance today to relish Christmas and focus on the reason for the season apart from all the presents and stress of the holidays. To that, I say Melkam Gena!

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Why I Run

Chad Dykstra - 2012-10-03
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It's hard to believe it's been almost 7 months since our last blog. I do have more to say, and I promise to get to that soon! Today, I wanted to tell you why I run.

As many of you probably know,I've once again been training for the Chicago Marathon this fall. It's hard to believe, but this week is race week! After taking the fall of 2011 off running because of the changes in our family over the past couple years, I am excited to run again this year for Team World Vision.

Last time I ran in 2010, Lora and I had not yet traveled to Ethiopia to meet Zinabu and Abatu. We were running with a picture of our boys to remind us why we run. Today, that is all just a memory for us, but I run this year with a new picture. More about that in a bit.

This summer, I took our kids out for a run. Abatu's a pretty fast little guy, and the two of us finished the mile to the Rabbit River before everyone else. We walked up on the bridge and Abatu told me "This is like the river we got water from in Ethiopia. We had to walk over a big hill and then we got to the river."
 
Imagine walking multiple times a day to a dirty river to collect all the water you need for the day. This is still the reality for a large part of the world, and it's still the reality for A&Z's biological family in Ethiopia.
 
As I mentioned earlier, two years ago we ran with a picture of our boys pinned to my jersey. This year while I run, I am going to run with a picture of Anada. Anada is a biological sister of Zinabu and Abatu. She's of school age, but doesn't go to school and part of her daily tasks involve collecting water for the family. Imagine how her world might be different if clean water were available.
 
The need for clean water in this world is very real. The effect on our Ethiopian family is very real. This breaks my heart. Although there's nothing I can do to provide water directly to Anada and her family, I can help provide this basic necessity to others in Ethiopia through Team World Vision.
 
Some of you have already supported this great cause, and I'd like to say thank you for coming alongside me and helping to make a difference. While in Ethiopia, Lora and I were able to visit a completed World Vision water project and talk to a woman who no longer had to walk 45 minutes to get water. Together, we really are changing lives.
 
World Vision has found that it takes just $50 to provide water for one person for life. Would you please consider supporting me with a tax deductible donation and once again helping me provide clean water to those in need? Perhaps providing water for just one person, or if you are able, maybe even for a whole family. Also please pray for Anada and her family. Pray for their health and protection. I'll be praying that their village is the next World Vision water project!
 
You can support me by visiting my fundraising page at http://support.worldvision.org/goto/chad_dykstra or just clicking "donate now" below. If you'd prefer to send a check, please just let me know. You can mail a check made out to World Vision to our home address (3669 36th St, Hamilton, MI 49419) and I'll be sure you get a tax receipt.

Donate now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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It's All About the Injera

Chad Dykstra - 2012-03-09
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I wrote this blog months ago, but somehow never got around to posting it.  Our house smells of berbere and niter kebbeh tonight…so it was a good reminder to me to actually post it!
 
I know there are several families who have been following along on our journey via this blog.  Some families have already adopted and are sharing a similar life situation as we currently are in.  Some are in the process of adoption, anxiously awaiting an addition to their family and hoping to learn from the successes (and…umm…failures) of others.  Hopefully some others are not in the process of adoption, but are considering it as a possible future step of faith for their family.  Others maybe just want to stay updated on our family or enjoy a good evening read!  Whatever the reason you are here, welcome, and thanks! 
Today’s blog is mostly geared towards those who are in the process of adopting or are considering it in the future, with hopefully a little bit of interest for everyone else.
 
Every once in a while at bedtime, we like to ask the kids questions about their memories of Ethiopia.  Last night, I was cuddling with the kids and getting them in bed after story time.  I asked both boys what things they missed from Ethiopia.  The first word out of Abatu’s mouth, almost before I finished the question, was “Injera”.  
 
For those who do not know, injera is the ‘staple’ of Ethiopian cuisine.  It is a sourdough flat bread that is used not only as a food, but also an eating utensil.  Small pieces of bread are torn off and used to scoop up the various stews (wats) that make up Ethiopian cuisine.  Every letter we get from our sponsored child through Compassion in Ethiopia tells us how much she loves injera, and asks if we have it too.  Our YZM sponsor children’s mother now makes injera to sell and provide a life for her daughers.  It would be impossible to overstate the importance of injera to the Ethiopian lifestyle.
After some prompting, asking about other things and giving some suggestions, secondarily Abatu named a few people as well that he missed, and some experiences.  Afterwards I asked Zinabu the same question, although I prefaced it with “Other than food, what are some things that you miss from Ethiopia”?  As you may expect, once again – the first word out of his mouth was injera.  
 
Imagine packing up and moving to rural Asia.   Regardless of the obvious changes in climate, language, culture, surroundings, and everything else, your diet is now made up almost entirely of rice.  Man – after a while, wouldn’t you just kill for a cheeseburger with fries?  Over a year later, our boys are still longing for their cheeseburger and fries. 
 
Compared to many, our children are not doing without their injera.  A few weeks ago, we went to Little Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant.  This past weekend, we bought a bag of injera and I made a full Ethiopian meal of red lentils, a chicken dish, and an Ethiopian bread.  They’ve been munching on it for a few days now, and just today, the leftover injera was finished up.  Tomorrow night, we are getting together with friends and making another full Ethiopian meal including – you guessed it – injera!
 
After all this, our boys still long for injera.
 
I’m not an expert on the subject, and I don’t have any documented proof to back this up (though I’m sure I could find some)…but food has to be one of the largest sensory connections to their previous culture that adopted children have.  The smells, the look, the taste, the texture – it is a powerful sense of familiarity and something that they often long for.
 
I don’t remember who told me this, but I heard a story from a fellow adoptive parent who had a friend that had their child home for around a year.  After a year, the parents and child were discussing the child’s experiences after coming home.  The child told the parent that when they first came home, they thought Mom and Dad didn’t love her because they wouldn’t give her “her injera”!
 
There is one disclaimer that I would like to add.  Your personal experiences and that of your child may vary.  We did go through a phase with Zinabu where he said he wanted nothing to do with injera and said that it was yucky.  Try to avoid it as he may, he always went back and ate it.  The food itself isn’t what was yucky, it was the reminder of their difficult past that it can bring up that is yucky.  This is a fine line that you will have to walk according to your personal experiences and the desires of your children.
 
We are fortunate to absolutely love Ethiopian food and to enjoy the challenge of preparing it.  Even if you don’t – maybe find out what the “staple” in your situation is…and embrace it!
 
The doorbell just rang and it’s meal time.  Time for some injera!
I wrote this blog months ago, but somehow never got around to posting it.  Our house smells of berbere and niter kebbeh tonight…so it was a good reminder to me to actually post it!
 
I know there are several families who have been following along on our journey via this blog.  Some families have already adopted and are sharing a similar life situation as we currently are in.  Some are in the process of adoption, anxiously awaiting an addition to their family and hoping to learn from the successes (and…umm…failures) of others.  Hopefully some others are not in the process of adoption, but are considering it as a possible future step of faith for their family.  Others maybe just want to stay updated on our family or enjoy a good evening read!  Whatever the reason you are here, welcome, and thanks! 
Today’s blog is mostly geared towards those who are in the process of adopting or are considering it in the future, with hopefully a little bit of interest for everyone else.
 
Every once in a while at bedtime, we like to ask the kids questions about their memories of Ethiopia.  Last night, I was cuddling with the kids and getting them in bed after story time.  I asked both boys what things they missed from Ethiopia.  The first word out of Abatu’s mouth, almost before I finished the question, was “Injera”.  
 
For those who do not know, injera is the ‘staple’ of Ethiopian cuisine.  It is a sourdough flat bread that is used not only as a food, but also an eating utensil.  Small pieces of bread are torn off and used to scoop up the various stews (wats) that make up Ethiopian cuisine.  Every letter we get from our sponsored child through Compassion in Ethiopia tells us how much she loves injera, and asks if we have it too.  Our YZM sponsor children’s mother now makes injera to sell and provide a life for her daughers.  It would be impossible to overstate the importance of injera to the Ethiopian lifestyle.
After some prompting, asking about other things and giving some suggestions, secondarily Abatu named a few people as well that he missed, and some experiences.  Afterwards I asked Zinabu the same question, although I prefaced it with “Other than food, what are some things that you miss from Ethiopia”?  As you may expect, once again – the first word out of his mouth was injera.  
 
Imagine packing up and moving to rural Asia.   Regardless of the obvious changes in climate, language, culture, surroundings, and everything else, your diet is now made up almost entirely of rice.  Man – after a while, wouldn’t you just kill for a cheeseburger with fries?  Over a year later, our boys are still longing for their cheeseburger and fries. 
 
Compared to many, our children are not doing without their injera.  A few weeks ago, we went to Little Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant.  This past weekend, we bought a bag of injera and I made a full Ethiopian meal of red lentils, a chicken dish, and an Ethiopian bread.  They’ve been munching on it for a few days now, and just today, the leftover injera was finished up.  Tomorrow night, we are getting together with friends and making another full Ethiopian meal including – you guessed it – injera!
 
After all this, our boys still long for injera.
 
I’m not an expert on the subject, and I don’t have any documented proof to back this up (though I’m sure I could find some)…but food has to be one of the largest sensory connections to their previous culture that adopted children have.  The smells, the look, the taste, the texture – it is a powerful sense of familiarity and something that they often long for.
 
I don’t remember who told me this, but I heard a story from a fellow adoptive parent who had a friend that had their child home for around a year.  After a year, the parents and child were discussing the child’s experiences after coming home.  The child told the parent that when they first came home, they thought Mom and Dad didn’t love her because they wouldn’t give her “her injera”!
 
There is one disclaimer that I would like to add.  Your personal experiences and that of your child may vary.  We did go through a phase with Zinabu where he said he wanted nothing to do with injera and said that it was yucky.  Try to avoid it as he may, he always went back and ate it.  The food itself isn’t what was yucky, it was the reminder of their difficult past that it can bring up that is yucky.  This is a fine line that you will have to walk according to your personal experiences and the desires of your children.
 
We are fortunate to absolutely love Ethiopian food and to enjoy the challenge of preparing it.  Even if you don’t – maybe find out what the “staple” in your situation is…and embrace it!
 
The doorbell just rang and it’s meal time.  Time for some injera!
I wrote this blog months ago, but somehow never got around to posting it.  Our house smells of berbere and niter kebbeh tonight…so it was a good reminder to me to actually post it!
 
I know there are several families who have been following along on our journey via this blog.  Some families have already adopted and are sharing a similar life situation as we currently are in.  Some are in the process of adoption, anxiously awaiting an addition to their family and hoping to learn from the successes (and…umm…failures) of others.  Hopefully some others are not in the process of adoption, but are considering it as a possible future step of faith for their family.  Others maybe just want to stay updated on our family or enjoy a good evening read!  Whatever the reason you are here, welcome, and thanks! 
Today’s blog is mostly geared towards those who are in the process of adopting or are considering it in the future, with hopefully a little bit of interest for everyone else.
 
Every once in a while at bedtime, we like to ask the kids questions about their memories of Ethiopia.  Last night, I was cuddling with the kids and getting them in bed after story time.  I asked both boys what things they missed from Ethiopia.  The first word out of Abatu’s mouth, almost before I finished the question, was “Injera”.  
 
For those who do not know, injera is the ‘staple’ of Ethiopian cuisine.  It is a sourdough flat bread that is used not only as a food, but also an eating utensil.  Small pieces of bread are torn off and used to scoop up the various stews (wats) that make up Ethiopian cuisine.  Every letter we get from our sponsored child through Compassion in Ethiopia tells us how much she loves injera, and asks if we have it too.  Our YZM sponsor children’s mother now makes injera to sell and provide a life for her daughers.  It would be impossible to overstate the importance of injera to the Ethiopian lifestyle.
After some prompting, asking about other things and giving some suggestions, secondarily Abatu named a few people as well that he missed, and some experiences.  Afterwards I asked Zinabu the same question, although I prefaced it with “Other than food, what are some things that you miss from Ethiopia”?  As you may expect, once again – the first word out of his mouth was injera.  
 
Imagine packing up and moving to rural Asia.   Regardless of the obvious changes in climate, language, culture, surroundings, and everything else, your diet is now made up almost entirely of rice.  Man – after a while, wouldn’t you just kill for a cheeseburger with fries?  Over a year later, our boys are still longing for their cheeseburger and fries. 
 
Compared to many, our children are not doing without their injera.  A few weeks ago, we went to Little Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant.  This past weekend, we bought a bag of injera and I made a full Ethiopian meal of red lentils, a chicken dish, and an Ethiopian bread.  They’ve been munching on it for a few days now, and just today, the leftover injera was finished up.  Tomorrow night, we are getting together with friends and making another full Ethiopian meal including – you guessed it – injera!
 
After all this, our boys still long for injera.
 
I’m not an expert on the subject, and I don’t have any documented proof to back this up (though I’m sure I could find some)…but food has to be one of the largest sensory connections to their previous culture that adopted children have.  The smells, the look, the taste, the texture – it is a powerful sense of familiarity and something that they often long for.
 
I don’t remember who told me this, but I heard a story from a fellow adoptive parent who had a friend that had their child home for around a year.  After a year, the parents and child were discussing the child’s experiences after coming home.  The child told the parent that when they first came home, they thought Mom and Dad didn’t love her because they wouldn’t give her “her injera”!
 
There is one disclaimer that I would like to add.  Your personal experiences and that of your child may vary.  We did go through a phase with Zinabu where he said he wanted nothing to do with injera and said that it was yucky.  Try to avoid it as he may, he always went back and ate it.  The food itself isn’t what was yucky, it was the reminder of their difficult past that it can bring up that is yucky.  This is a fine line that you will have to walk according to your personal experiences and the desires of your children.
 
We are fortunate to absolutely love Ethiopian food and to enjoy the challenge of preparing it.  Even if you don’t – maybe find out what the “staple” in your situation is…and embrace it!
 
The doorbell just rang and it’s meal time.  Time for some injera!
I wrote this blog months ago, but somehow never got around to posting it.  Our house smells of berbere and niter kebbeh tonight…so it was a good reminder to me to actually post it!
 
I know there are several families who have been following along on our journey via this blog.  Some families have already adopted and are sharing a similar life situation as we currently are in.  Some are in the process of adoption, anxiously awaiting an addition to their family and hoping to learn from the successes (and…umm…failures) of others.  Hopefully some others are not in the process of adoption, but are considering it as a possible future step of faith for their family.  Others maybe just want to stay updated on our family or enjoy a good evening read!  Whatever the reason you are here, welcome, and thanks! 
 
Today’s blog is mostly geared towards those who are in the process of adopting or are considering it in the future, with hopefully a little bit of interest for everyone else.
 
Every once in a while at bedtime, we like to ask the kids questions about their memories of Ethiopia.  Last night, I was cuddling with the kids and getting them in bed after story time.  I asked both boys what things they missed from Ethiopia.  The first word out of Abatu’s mouth, almost before I finished the question, was “Injera”.  
 
For those who do not know, injera is the ‘staple’ of Ethiopian cuisine.  It is a sourdough flat bread that is used not only as a food, but also an eating utensil.  Small pieces of bread are torn off and used to scoop up the various stews (wats) that make up Ethiopian cuisine.  Every letter we get from our sponsored child through Compassion in Ethiopia tells us how much she loves injera, and asks if we have it too.  Our YZM sponsor children’s mother now makes injera to sell and provide a life for her daughers.  It would be impossible to overstate the importance of injera to the Ethiopian lifestyle.
 
After some prompting, asking about other things and giving some suggestions, secondarily Abatu named a few people as well that he missed, and some experiences.  Afterwards I asked Zinabu the same question, although I prefaced it with “Other than food, what are some things that you miss from Ethiopia”?  As you may expect, once again – the first word out of his mouth was injera.  
 
Imagine packing up and moving to rural Asia.   Regardless of the obvious changes in climate, language, culture, surroundings, and everything else, your diet is now made up almost entirely of rice.  Man – after a while, wouldn’t you just kill for a cheeseburger with fries?  Over a year later, our boys are still longing for their cheeseburger and fries. 
 
Compared to many, our children are not doing without their injera.  A few weeks ago, we went to Little Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant.  This past weekend, we bought a bag of injera and I made a full Ethiopian meal of red lentils, a chicken dish, and an Ethiopian bread.  They’ve been munching on it for a few days now, and just today, the leftover injera was finished up.  Tomorrow night, we are getting together with friends and making another full Ethiopian meal including – you guessed it – injera!
 
After all this, our boys still long for injera.
 
I’m not an expert on the subject, and I don’t have any documented proof to back this up (though I’m sure I could find some)…but food has to be one of the largest sensory connections to their previous culture that adopted children have.  The smells, the look, the taste, the texture – it is a powerful sense of familiarity and something that they often long for.
 
I don’t remember who told me this, but I heard a story from a fellow adoptive parent who had a friend that had their child home for around a year.  After a year, the parents and child were discussing the child’s experiences after coming home.  The child told the parent that when they first came home, they thought Mom and Dad didn’t love her because they wouldn’t give her “her injera”!
 
There is one disclaimer that I would like to add.  Your personal experiences and that of your child may vary.  We did go through a phase with Zinabu where he said he wanted nothing to do with injera and said that it was yucky.  Try to avoid it as he may, he always went back and ate it.  The food itself isn’t what was yucky, it was the reminder of their difficult past that it can bring up that is yucky.  This is a fine line that you will have to walk according to your personal experiences and the desires of your children.
 
We are fortunate to absolutely love Ethiopian food and to enjoy the challenge of preparing it.  Even if you don’t – maybe find out what the “staple” in your situation is…and embrace it!
 
The doorbell just rang and it’s meal time.  Time for some injera!

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Expectations and Reality

Chad Dykstra - 2012-02-15
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update.  I even have one or two blog posts written in a mostly finished state that never got posted.  Maybe I’ll get them posted eventually, or maybe I just needed to write them for therapeutic reasons.  Thus is life – you get into the daily grind of life and things like blogging get put on the back burner.
Disclaimer:  This is not a happy-go-lucky blog post.  If you’re having a great day and are looking for something upbeat, I’d suggest you stop reading now, or maybe just skip to the very end.
Over the life of this blog, I’ve talked a lot about expectations and reality.  Most definitely, there were things we experienced that we were not expecting.  I’ve written about some of these over the past year.  We did expect upon returning home from Ethiopia that our world would turn upside down. It did, and that was OK. We expected life to be really hard.  It was – and we were ready for it.  We expected there to be a lot of transitions.  There were.  Some of them were easy to work through, some not so much – but we were expecting them.  We expected after a few months for things to start to get a little easier.  In many ways, it did.  We expected by a year to be settling back into somewhat of a “normal” life.  This is where things get a little fuzzy.
A year is a magical length of time.  One year from the day you were born, it’s your birthday!  Just like that, you’re a year older.  Maybe more mature.  That one day older makes all the difference.  Just like a birthday, a year after the “gotcha day” is a special day.  Any adoptive parent can attest to that.  We hoped that a year later would prove to be that magical milestone in our journey.  Things would keep improving.  Our life would begin to take on some form of normalcy.  But you know what?    Those were expectations and not reality.
Life after a year has continued to be really hard.  Many of the things we battled plague us still.  Many of the things we hoped would go away haven’t.  Starting at one year, many things seem to have even gotten worse.  It can be really hard to have expectations that things will get better and be taking steps backwards.
On a daily basis, we still deal with multiple tantrums.  We still deal with extreme fairness and selfishness issues.  Our biological children are still learning bad behaviors.  We still deal with physical and aggressive behavior toward siblings.  We shudder to see the school’s number come up on caller ID.  We get notes from teachers.  We’ve seen letters from the bus driver.  Just in the last few weeks, we’ve begun dealing with repeated stealing behaviors.  Some are minor, but some are not.  Bad choices follow more bad choices.  Fight or flight takes over so quickly, and things just spin out of control in an instant.  Emotions are like a light switch.  Big straws and little straws keep piling up and the camel’s back can only take so much.
Every day we look forward to 11:55am when the school bus comes.  The house is quiet for a few hours, but 3:57pm is coming, and along with it that big yellow bus.  Life is chaos until bedtime, and by the time the kids are finally in bed we’re so exhausted that we usually just collapse into bed ourselves, even if it’s only 9:00. Get up in the morning and do it again.
Through our family blog, I’ve tried to be honest and real about our feelings and experiences.  I know there are other families who go through these things too, and there are families that will be going through them.  I really wish I could put a nice big bow end of this.  Give it a little “turn-around” or pick-me-up moment at the end saying how we’ve solved all our problems – and maybe world hunger too. I’ll do my best – but unfortunately, there really hasn’t been a magical fix or an easy button.  It’s a battle a day at a time.  We are doing the best we can with the tools that we have, and we are expanding our toolset through reading and counseling.  We have a very supportive family that we’re so thankful for.  We love the opportunities we have for “date nights” once in a while.  We usually just sit across the table from each other in silence, but that’s all we really need.  Sweet, sweet silence.  We both exercise regularly to help our sanity.  I am running 6-7 days a week.  Lora goes out with her mom’s group a once or twice a month, and I get out with the guys a couple times a month as well.  Every opportunity to get out of the house or get away for a few minutes and unwind is really a blessing.
Thanks for sticking with us through this journey.  If you’ve made it this far into this blog, you must really be with us for the long haul.  We appreciate you more than you know.  Now I’m off to hit the treadmill for a much needed sanity break.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update.  I even have one or two blog posts written in a mostly finished state that never got posted.  Maybe I’ll get them posted eventually, or maybe I just needed to write them for therapeutic reasons.  Thus is life – you get into the daily grind of life and things like blogging get put on the back burner.
 
Disclaimer:  This is not a happy-go-lucky blog post.  If you’re having a great day and are looking for something upbeat, I’d suggest you stop reading now, or maybe just skip to the very end.
 
Over the life of this blog, I’ve talked a lot about expectations and reality.  Most definitely, there were things we experienced that we were not expecting.  I’ve written about some of these over the past year.  We did expect upon returning home from Ethiopia that our world would turn upside down. It did, and that was OK. We expected life to be really hard.  It was – and we were ready for it.  We expected there to be a lot of transitions.  There were.  Some of them were easy to work through, some not so much – but we were expecting them.  We expected after a few months for things to start to get a little easier.  In many ways, it did.  We expected by a year to be settling back into somewhat of a “normal” life.  This is where things get a little fuzzy.
 
A year is a magical length of time.  One year from the day you were born, it’s your birthday!  Just like that, you’re a year older.  Maybe more mature.  That one day older makes all the difference.  Just like a birthday, a year after the “gotcha day” is a special day.  Any adoptive parent can attest to that.  We hoped that a year later would prove to be that magical milestone in our journey.  Things would keep improving.  Our life would begin to take on some form of normalcy.  But you know what?    Those were expectations and not reality.
 
Life after a year has continued to be really hard.  Many of the things we battled plague us still.  Many of the things we hoped would go away haven’t.  Starting at one year, many things seem to have even gotten worse.  It can be really hard to have expectations that things will get better and be taking steps backwards.
 
On a daily basis, we still deal with multiple tantrums.  We still deal with extreme fairness and selfishness issues.  Our biological children are still learning bad behaviors.  We still deal with physical and aggressive behavior toward siblings.  We shudder to see the school’s number come up on caller ID.  We get notes from teachers.  We’ve seen letters from the bus driver.  Just in the last few weeks, we’ve begun dealing with repeated stealing behaviors.  Some are minor, but some are not.  Bad choices follow more bad choices. Emotions are like a light switch.  Big straws and little straws keep piling up and the camel’s back can only take so much.  We wish we could just enact swift disciplinary action for bad behavior, but it's a gray area. Fight or flight takes over so quickly, and things just spin out of control in an instant. 
 
Every day we look forward to 11:55am when the school bus comes.  The house is quiet for a few hours, but 3:57pm is coming, and along with it that big yellow bus.  Life is chaos until bedtime, and by the time the kids are finally in bed we’re so exhausted that we usually just collapse into bed ourselves, even if it’s only 9:00. Get up in the morning and do it again.
 
Through our family blog, I’ve tried to be honest and real about our feelings and experiences.  I know there are other families who go through these things too, and there are families that will be going through them.  I really wish I could put a nice big bow end of this.  Give it a little “turn-around” or pick-me-up moment at the end saying how we’ve solved all our problems – and maybe world hunger too. I’ll do my best – but unfortunately, there really hasn’t been a magical fix or an easy button.  It’s a battle a day at a time.  We are doing the best we can with the tools that we have, and we are expanding our toolset through reading and counseling.  We have a very supportive family that we’re so thankful for.  We love the opportunities we have for “date nights” once in a while.  We usually just sit across the table from each other in silence, but that’s all we really need.  Sweet, sweet silence.  We both exercise regularly to help our sanity.  I am running 6-7 days a week.  Lora goes out with her mom’s group a once or twice a month, and I get out with the guys a couple times a month as well.  Every opportunity to get out of the house or get away for a few minutes and unwind is really a blessing.
 
Thanks for sticking with us through this journey.  If you’ve made it this far into this blog, you must really be with us for the long haul.  We appreciate you more than you know.  Now I’m off to hit the treadmill for a much needed sanity break.

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I Remember

Chad Dykstra - 2011-10-25
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It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since we first met Zinabu and Abatu. That day will forever be burned in my mind, and I remember it like yesterday.  I remember getting on the bus, knowing we were heading to the orphanage and knowing that in just a few short minutes, our lives would forever change.  I remember the surreal feeling of that big bus turning down that small dirt alley and slowly pulling up to the gate of the orphanage.  I remember Rob saying “Hey, dude, I think I see your kid”. I remember looking out the window seeing Abatu scurrying around cleaning up toys with the nannies and some other children to make the orphanage look its’ best prior to our arrival. I remember so vividly the thoughts and feelings that were going through my head at that very moment. It’s just not possible to entirely verbalize them, but I’ll do my best.  Seeing him and knowing that he really does exist – that he’s not just a picture and a story written on a referral report. Knowing that in just a few minutes, we would walk through that gate.  We would meet our children – the children which we had anticipated joining our family for so long. Knowing from that point on, our life and our family would never be the same.  I remember being filled with nervous excitement, clutching Lora’s hand tight and doing my best to fight back tears.

I remember walking through that gate and being led into a small room with all the other families - all of us waiting with anticipation for them to bring out our children.  Zinabu and Abatu were first, so the rest of the kids coming in was just a blur. I remember the scared look on their faces as they came walking into the door - the nanny saying ‘Zinabu and Abatu’, pushing them toward us as we raised our hand.  Pulling them on our laps and giving them each a squishy ball with lights in it.  We’ve since asked the boys about that moment, and they remember it well too.  It was a scary experience for them.  The scariest part for them was our ‘light eyes’.  The boys had likely never seen blue eyes before.

 

I remember the fun of playing with our boys for the first time – Zinabu’s crazy energy and playing with anything electronic he could swipe from someone’s hand.  I remember Abatu’s remarkable prowess in kicking and throwing a ball and his quiet, nervous smile.  I also remember the sheer exhaustion that came from days with little to no sleep and being weary from travel.  As awesome as it was to be there I remember just wanting to go back to our guest house and crash.

Today, we celebrate one year from the day our lives changed forever.  The last year has been filled with many ups and many downs.  We have had a lot of days filled with joy and laughter, and we have also had a lot of days filled with yelling, fighting, and tears.   Although he considered himself an atheist, Bruce Lee once said “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one”.  Our life isn’t necessarily easy right now, but that’s OK. We pray for wisdom to meet the unique needs of our children, and the patience to endure challenges that come our way.  Having that patience is a challenge in and of itself, and we still have a long ways to go…but we’re trying!  Although it’s challenging, we wouldn’t trade it for the world.  We’ve been so blessed through the additions to our family and through all the friends that took this journey with us – you know who you are.

On top of all the memories from a year ago, we also celebrate Abatu’s fifth birthday today.  What a day!  We look forward to celebrating many more October 25ths. I will leave you with this precious clip from one year ago of Zinabu asking a blessing over a snack.  Enjoy!


 


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A Summer of Firsts

Chad Dykstra - 2011-09-13
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It's been a while since we've had an update.  That's not due to a lack of things to write about...it's due to a summer with too much to do and too little time to document it all.  Truth be told, this update has been partially written for a long time, but I haven’t made the time to finish it up.

 
We've had a lot of firsts since our last update.  We had our first family camping adventure at P.J. Hoffmaster State park, where we camped with over 50 other other Ethiopian adoptive families.  It was a fun time of bike riding, camp cooking, and spending lots of time with friends - both new and old.  The kids would disappear on their bikes for extended periods of time and we'd have to hunt for them.  With four kids all on two wheelers, there was no way we were able to maintain their location at all times.  If our kids spent too much time at your campsite, I apologize.  :)  We went to the same Ethiopian camp-out last year as a family of four.  We hadn't even received our referral at that point - it came just a few weeks later.  My oh my - how things can change in the course of a year!
 
We also had our first family trip to the mountains.  We stayed in Sevierville, Tennessee and visited the Smoky Mountain National Park with Grandpa and Grandma V.  This was also our first vacation which didn’t involve other Ethiopian adoptive families.  The kids were a little young to appreciate touring the park (read: lots of whining and complaining), but they were really troopers on the way home - Tennessee back home in only 2 stops!
 
 
We lost our first teeth - and second, and third, and fourth, and fifth, and so on.  Abi is minus two teeth, Zinabu is minus six (two were gone already when he got home), and Abatu is minus one going on two.  The tooth fairy is going to go broke in our house over the next couple years.
 
We had our first swimming lessons for Zinabu and Abatu, and discovered how much they enjoy the water...although not so much the being cold that goes along with it.  All four kids did a great job at their swimming lessons.
 
 
We took our first family bike ride down the road.  Our house has been training-wheel free for quite some time, and now there’s a lot of one handed riding and popping wheelies and going on everywhere.  That first ride down the road was pretty stressful, and we haven’t worked up the courage to do it again.  We also had our first family road race, at the Rural Rush.  Lora and I ran the 5k, then did the one mile fun run with the kids.  They’ve asked to do it again, so we need to get running!
 
A few weeks ago we did a church camp-out at Cran Hill Ranch, which involved our first frog race.  I think Lora and I had more fun catching frogs than the kids did.  Of course once it came time for races, the kids saw that other people had turtles, and frogs were no longer good enough.  I guess next year, we need to catch turtles instead - then we can have our first turtle race.  Oddly enough, I caught a turtle last night down by the pond - the kids did enjoy playing with it for a few minutes before bed.
 
We wrapped the summer up with our first surgery - Zinabu had his tonsils and adenoids taken out a few weeks back.  They were extremely large and restricted his airways while sleeping.  We had a sleep study done, and they identified them as a problem, so we had them removed.   This was a challenge for all of us.   The first few days Z was so sad and betrayed.  If he didn’t get his medicine every four hours, he had some serious pain to deal with, and he hated the medicine, so we were always fighting either him being in pain, or forcing him to take it.  He was quiet and downcast all the time.  After a few days, his demeanor improved, but we were still left with the pain and his own unique brand of mischief returned.  This made for a very tough combination.  The recovery is mostly behind us now, and we’re hopeful that a consistent better night’s sleep will help Zinabu to level out some of the super-highs and super-lows he goes through on a daily basis.
 
Now that summer is over and fall is nearly upon us, we’ve moved on to a new set of firsts. We have our first sports experience.  With four kids, we have an entire team worth of players, and yes - all four kids are on the same team. As you can probably imagine, they asked us to coach the team.  Go figure.  Now our Saturdays and Mondays are spent on the soccer field.  Depending on the day and the hour, this has mixed reviews.  Today I heard someone complaining about not liking it and not wanting to go back, but in an hour they’ll probably say that it’s fun.
 
We also have had Zinabu and Abatu’s first school bus rides.  This was a big problem for us last year, because Abi got to ride the school bus daily and they weren’t able to.  We heard about it every day.  We will very soon have our first time when all four kids are in school.  Ben will be in preschool three days a week in the afternoons, so we will have a few brief hours where Lora will be able to spend some time with her horse on a consistent basis - also a first.
 
 
The boys really enjoy school, which is great.  They come home happy and seem to be having a very positive experience.  We’re very happy about this!  School, however, doesn’t come without its’ difficulties.  Abi is now getting on the bus in the morning and is in school all day.  Z & A are extremely upset by this, and are in a very bad mood all morning because of it.  They feel cheated because Abi is doing something they aren’t, and they let us know it - over and over.  Worse than that, when Z is angry, he will break into a full tantrum at the drop of a hat, will bother people to no end, and even will hurt people just because he’s mad.  This is our morning existence these days - trying to run tight crowd control and just counting down the minutes until 11:55.  Lora and I were even trying to figure out how we can send him to do something in the morning so he doesn’t get so angry, but for now we’re just going to ride it out a little longer and hope it gets better. 
 
Tonight, we will take the kids to the Allegan County Fair for their first amusement park rides.  We went to the fair last weekend to see the barns and hang out with Papa and Nana.  This was fun, but again, the kids felt very cheated because they didn't get to ride the rides and "other people were having fun".  I'm sure they'll still be mad about all the rides they're too small for, but hopefully the can have fun on the rides they're able to go on.  Never a dull moment!
 
Tonight, we’ll take the kids to the Allegan County Fair for their first amusement park rides.  We went to the fair last weekend to see the barns and hang out with Papa and Nana.  This was fun, but again, the kids felt very cheated because they didn’t get to ride rides and “other people were having fun”.  I’m sure they’ll still be mad about all the rides they’re too small for...but hopefully they can have some fun on the ones they’re able to.  Never a dull moment!
 
 
Tonight, we’ll take the kids to the Allegan County Fair for their first amusement park rides.  We went to the fair last weekend to see the barns and hang out with Papa and Nana.  This was fun, but again, the kids felt very cheated because they didn’t get to ride rides and “other people were having fun”.  I’m sure they’ll still be mad about all the rides they’re too small for...but hopefully they can have some fun on the ones they’re able to.  Never a dull moment!
Tonight, we’ll take the kids to the Allegan County Fair for their first amusement park rides.  We went to the fair last weekend to see the barns and hang out with Papa and Nana.  This was fun, but again, the kids felt very cheated because they didn’t get to ride rides and “other people were having fun”.  I’m sure they’ll still be mad about all the rides they’re too small for...but hopefully they can have some fun on the ones they’re able to.  Never a dull moment!A Summer of Firsts
 
It's been a while since we've had an update.  That's not due to a lack of things to write about...it's due to a summer with too much to do and too little time to document it all.  Truth be told, this update has been partially written for a long time, but I haven’t made the time to finish it up.
 
We've had a lot of firsts since our last update.  We had our first family camping adventure at P.J. Hoffmaster State park, where we camped with over 50 other other Ethiopian adoptive families.  It was a fun time of bike riding, camp cooking, and spending lots of time with friends - both new and old.  The kids would disappear on their bikes for extended periods of time and we'd have to hunt for them.  With four kids all on two wheelers, there was no way we were able to maintain their location at all times.  If our kids spent too much time at your campsite, I apologize.  :)  We went to the same Ethiopian camp-out last year as a family of four.  We hadn't even received our referral at that point - it came just a few weeks later.  My oh my - how things can change in the course of a year!
 
We also had our first family trip to the mountains.  We stayed in Sevierville, Tennessee and visited the Smoky Mountain National Park with Grandpa and Grandma V.  This was also our first vacation which didn’t involve other Ethiopian adoptive families.  The kids were a little young to appreciate touring the park (read: lots of whining and complaining), but they were really troopers on the way home - Tennessee back home in only 2 stops!
 
We lost our first teeth - and second, and third, and fourth, and fifth, and so on.  Abi is minus two teeth, Zinabu is minus six (two were gone already when he got home), and Abatu is minus one going on two.  The tooth fairy is going to go broke in our house over the next couple years.
 
We had our first swimming lessons for Zinabu and Abatu, and discovered how much they enjoy the water...although not so much the being cold that goes along with it.  All four kids did a great job at their swimming lessons.
 
We took our first family bike ride down the road.  Our house has been training-wheel free for quite some time, and now there’s a lot of one handed riding and popping wheelies and going on everywhere.  That first ride down the road was pretty stressful, and we haven’t worked up the courage to do it again.  We also had our first family road race, at the Rural Rush.  Lora and I ran the 5k, then did the one mile fun run with the kids.  They’ve asked to do it again, so we need to get running!
 
A few weeks ago we did a church camp-out at Cran Hill Ranch, which involved our first frog race.  I think Lora and I had more fun catching frogs than the kids did.  Of course once it came time for races, the kids saw that other people had turtles, and frogs were no longer good enough.  I guess next year, we need to catch turtles instead - then we can have our first turtle race.  Oddly enough, I caught a turtle last night down by the pond - the kids did enjoy playing with it for a few minutes before bed.
 
We wrapped the summer up with our first surgery - Zinabu had his tonsils and adenoids taken out a few weeks back.  They were extremely large and restricted his airways while sleeping.  We had a sleep study done, and they identified them as a problem, so we had them removed.   This was a challenge for all of us.   The first few days Z was so sad and betrayed.  If he didn’t get his medicine every four hours, he had some serious pain to deal with, and he hated the medicine, so we were always fighting either him being in pain, or forcing him to take it.  He was quiet and downcast all the time.  After a few days, his demeanor improved, but we were still left with the pain and his own unique brand of mischief returned.  This made for a very tough combination.  The recovery is mostly behind us now, and we’re hopeful that a consistent better night’s sleep will help Zinabu to level out some of the super-highs and super-lows he goes through on a daily basis.
 
Now that summer is over and fall is nearly upon us, we’ve moved on to a new set of firsts. We have our first sports experience.  With four kids, we have an entire team worth of players, and yes - all four kids are on the same team. As you can probably imagine, they asked us to coach the team.  Go figure.  Now our Saturdays and Mondays are spent on the soccer field.  Depending on the day and the hour, this has mixed reviews.  Today I heard someone complaining about not liking it and not wanting to go back, but in an hour they’ll probably say that it’s fun.
 
We also have had Zinabu and Abatu’s first school bus rides.  This was a big problem for us last year, because Abi got to ride the school bus daily and they weren’t able to.  We heard about it every day.  We will very soon have our first time when all four kids are in school.  Ben will be in preschool three days a week in the afternoons, so we will have a few brief hours where Lora will be able to spend some time with her horse on a consistent basis - also a first.
 
The boys really enjoy school, which is great.  They come home happy and seem to be having a very positive experience.  We’re very happy about this!  School, however, doesn’t come without its’ difficulties.  Abi is now getting on the bus in the morning and is in school all day.  Z & A are extremely upset by this, and are in a very bad mood all morning because of it.  They feel cheated because Abi is doing something they aren’t, and they let us know it - over and over.  Worse than that, when Z is angry, he will break into a full tantrum at the drop of a hat, will bother people to no end, and even will hurt people just because he’s mad.  This is our morning existence these days - trying to run tight crowd control and just counting down the minutes until 11:55.  Lora and I were even trying to figure out how we can send him to do something in the morning so he doesn’t get so angry, but for now we’re just going to ride it out a little longer and hope it gets better. 
 
Tonight, we’ll take the kids to the Allegan County Fair for their first amusement park rides.  We went to the fair last weekend to see the barns and hang out with Papa and Nana.  This was fun, but again, the kids felt very cheated because they didn’t get to ride rides and “other people were having fun”.  I’m sure they’ll still be mad about all the rides they’re too small for...but hopefully they can have some fun on the ones they’re able to.  Never a dull moment!

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All I Want for Father's Day

Chad Dykstra - 2011-06-16
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Unless you are living under a rock, you probably know that it’s Father’s Day this weekend.  If you’re living under a rock, consider this your warning.
Around our house, we aren’t big on gifts.  It’s rare for Lora and I to present each other with a big expensive gift for Mother’s day or Father’s day – or even birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas for that matter.  It’s happens once in a while…but it’s few and far between.  We’re both OK with this…at least I think we are.  I hope we are!  Usually gifts just get thrown in a drawer after a while anyways.  Unfortunately, our moms and dads also usually suffer the consequences of our lame gift-giving this time of the year.  Sorry about that, guys.

First…let me say that I have been very blessed.  I have an amazing dad and a fabulous dad-in-law.  They’re two of the best guys I know.  Love you guys!  We have very close families, which is such a blessing!  I can’t imagine anything that would break our family apart.  But it happens to families every day.

Yezelalem Minch is a ministry in Ethiopia that exists to keep families together.  They provide sponsorships for vulnerable children – often those whose parents are sick or have died.  By sponsoring a child through YM, you help that child stay in the home with parents or other family by helping to meet their basic needs.  In addition to child sponsorships, they also provide community development projects including educational programs, health care, vocational training, and much more.  By meeting these needs, they are preventing the primary reason that children are given up for adoption.  And you keep families together.  We are proud to sponsor Rediet through Yezelalem Minch.  You can read our blog 75 bucks for more information on our sponsorship of Rediet.

YM is an amazing ministry – but they need our help.  Rent costs in Addis Ababa are skyrocketing, and there is so much need for their programs that they are running out of room.  The Future Hope Campaign has been launched to raise the funds necessary to purchase and develop property for the program’s operations as well as a new vocational center.

A Walk for Hope has been scheduled for this weekend in Grand Rapids to raise money and awareness for this project.  We as a family will be walking 3 miles on Saturday.  Yes – this includes all four kids!  This is where you come in.

I don’t generally care too much for Father’s Day gifts…but this year I'd really like one.  And I need your help to get it.  All I want for Father’s Day this year is for families to be able to stay together.  We care enough for this ministry that we are going to step out in faith and personally match all donations up to $500.  To this point, we aren’t anywhere close to that.  One more thing - If you choose to sponsor a child through Yezelalem Minch for $30 a month, we will donate $100 to the Future Hope Campaign.

Please consider supporting this amazing ministry.  We’re very blessed to be a part of it, and you can also be blessed!   If you would like to donate or sponsor a child, please follow this link to the Contact page and just shoot us a quick note letting us know.

For more information on YM and the Future Hope Campaign, you can visit http://www.yezelalemminch.org and http://futurehopecampaign.org


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Family Blog, Reunion Episode

Chad Dykstra - 2011-05-26
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Thanks for tuning in, and welcome to the Dykstra Family Blog reunion post.   We’ve been home just about 6 months now, and thing sure look different than they used to!  I thought this might be a good opportunity to look back on past blogs and reflect on them to show a little progress.

In Questions and Answers (click to view in a new window), we covered many of the frequently asked questions that we had within the first month or two of being home.

Are the boys adjusted yet?

The new answer:  We’re still working on a few things (and we always will be) but the boys have made a lot of progress in 6 months.  We’re still learning how to share, and learning how to deal with life and possessions not always being fair 100% of the time (Less Is More).  Zinabu specifically is very inquisitive (read: naughty) and is quite a challenge for us.  For anyone who happened to be at East Saugatuck Church on Sunday morning at 9am, yes – it was my child who pulled the fire alarm in the middle of the service.  Doh!

We have settled into normal life routines for bedtimes and mealtimes and overall, we are doing very well.  Both boys are now done with preschool for the summer and will be in kindergarten/young fives 5 days a week next year.  They look forward to riding the bus!

Do they speak English yet?

The new answer:  Yes – very much so.  The boys can communicate now very well and the language barrier is almost entirely gone.  The boys are almost exclusively talking to each other in English.  We still talk in Kambaata/Amharic whenever possible with the few words we know to keep the boys sharp, asking them what things are to make sure they’re going back to that place.  “e su en Etopia minden no?”  It seems like they are still able to pull quite a few things out – most of what we believe to be Kambaata.  It seems like Amharic is mostly disappearing.  If I point to a fish, they can no longer come up with the Amharic word “asa”.  We’ll see if we can get them to hang on to some of it.

We have a ton of “story time” moments over the past few weeks.  Now that English has come as far as it has, the boys are free to tell stories.  We’ve heard lots of stories about Ethiopia – some of which are believable and some which don’t seem so true.  Both boys have been able to recall the plane flights home and explain to us what they were going through.  We’ve learned Abatu’s ears hurt on the flights, and Zinabu and I were able to hash out the “seatbelt incident” (Home Sweet Home) and we found out that he was scared of the “opening windows” – the overhead bins being opened and closed.  

We talk frequently about their family in Ethiopia and their experiences.  They like to talk about it now, and Zinabu is mostly over his anti-Ethiopia sentiments, which is a really good thing.  We’re very glad that we have an open relationship about their past and let them know it’s OK to talk about it and to miss it.

What do they think of the snow(sun/rain/etc)?

The new answer:  They’re over the snow!  They liked it while it lasted, but they have told us they do prefer the nice warmer weather we’ve been afforded lately.  It really doesn’t depend on the weather - they just want to be outside.  We’ve had several issues – even tantrums – over them not having their own umbrellas.  Lora finally loaded them up in the car and drove them to town to buy them umbrellas to silence the madness.

So how are you doing?

The new answer:  We’re doing pretty good.  Our life admittedly is crazy.  It’s a different level of crazy than most families face – but crazy nonetheless.  We’re very fortunate to have family supporting us and helping us out on a regular basis.  It makes the madness we face at times bearable.  We still try to not leave too many “1 parent days” wherever possible – specifically at bedtime.  It does happen on occasion though, and it is way easier than it used to be.  That is a big blessing.  Abatu has also in the past month finally decided that he loves mommy.  That was great news – he was mostly indifferent towards her before.

All four kids now can ride two-wheel bikes and they do so all over the place.  It’s nice to be able to turn them out and let them play.  They got their first boat ride on the pond last weekend, which they loved.  All have fishing poles, but we haven’t dared open that “can of worms” yet.  Fishing with four little ones will be a challenge, even for 2 adults!  As nice as it is to turn them out and “let them run”,  it still requires a certain level of interaction and supervision to keep them from seriously injuring each other, but thus is life as the parents of four similarly aged siblings.  Speaking of “let them run” – we’ve signed all four kids up for the Rural Rush 1 mile fun run on June 3.  We expect them to finish very high in the 0-6 age bracket. smiley

Thanks for stopping by – you stay classy.


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