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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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Less is More

Chad Dykstra - 2011-01-24
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How many times have we heard the stories about lottery winners who thought their lives would take a turn for the better, only to find that the exact opposite was true?  Let's look at one example...

In 1985 AND 1986, Evelyn Adams won the lottery - equaling a total winning of $5.4 million. However, today - she has no money. "Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be," says Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once, but twice (1985, 1986), to the tune of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer. She lost money in slot machines, and couldn't seem to say no to relatives and friends. Evelyn's big win ended in a big loss.

Many would say that Zinabu and Abatu, or internationally adopted chilren in general, have won the lottery.  They went from a situation where they had nothing, and have been transported to a new life situtation.  A life where they have all the food they can eat (which is quite a bit).  They have drawers and a closet full of clothes.  They have more toys than they could ever play with, and more Disney movies than they could ever watch.  What could possibly be bad in this situation?

I should stop right now and clarify that money and possessions in and of themselves are not a bad thing.  There are many wealthy people who do great things with what God has provided for them.  As of a few years ago, Bill Gates had donated 27 billion dollars to charity.  That's $27,000,000,000.  There are also  lottery success stories.  The issue in many cases is that those who quickly "strike it rich" don't have the life experience necessary to handle their newfound situation appropriately and it causes them more harm than good. 

We see evidence of this every day.  Just this morning, for example, one of the boys had a 30 minute meltdown involving kicking, screaming, slamming doors, throwing shoes, and trying to bite Lora as she was holding (read: restraining) him.  You might wonder what situation would warrant this kind of response.  You will probably be surprised to find out that the entire meltdown was due to someone else wearing a jean jacket out of the closet that he considered "his".  It wasn't something he was planning to fact it hasn't been worn in over 2 weeks.  Seeing it on his brother threw him into a fit of rage that we haven't seen for quite a while.  Now he's getting upset because Abi is getting her fingernails painted, and he wants in.  A sense of entitlement can grow fast when you've quickly "struck it rich".  This part of the transition process has definitely been more difficult than we expected.

As we traveled around Ethiopia, I was always amazed at the smiles that I saw on the faces of people that I would meet.  It was very evident from talking to them that worldy possessions do not equal happiness.  Happieness came through the wealth of family, community, and faith in God who would meet their (very real) needs.  As Americans, how often don't we often chase happiness through possessions?  How driven can we become by wanting that fancy new car or the latest gadget?  TV commercials tell us that when we get them, we'll be happy...but are we?  There's always something else, and then your new gadget sits in a drawer. 

Over the past few months, this has become more apparent to us.  We're working on teaching our children to be content - and to be content ourselves.  To be thankful for what we have...and to get rid of some of the excess that we have and we don't really need.  In most cases, less is definitely more. 

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A Positive Family Blog

Chad Dykstra - 2011-01-10
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The last few blogs have admittedly been a little more negative (or less happy-sounding) than most of our previous posts.  This is simply due to the part of the process that we are in...the survival part!  I'd like to take this opportunity to shift focus to the positive again.

Today was a good day for us.  We aren't ending the day overly tired or frustrated.  The kids played well most of the day.  They had a blast sledding down the hill in front of our house and were out there for a long time this afternoon.  That translated into quiet time for daddy as he worked, which was really nice!  The boys really like the snow.  The funny thing is they probably have no idea that it will go away in the spring.  Coming from an area where the climate is always the same, they probably just assume that it will always be cold and snowy. I'm sure they will like spring, summer, and fall also.

We seem to be taking baby steps toward normal.  We still deal with lots of tantrums over little things on a daily basis...but over the last few days, they have been decreasing in number, intensity, and duration.  We're starting to get a discipline routine down that is working.  The boys are starting to use English a little more each day.  I feel like communication is becoming less of a frustration for everyone as we learn more words in their language, they learn more words in ours, and we learn how to communicate without speaking the same language.  All of these changes are baby steps, but baby steps are still steps.

Sitting around the dinner table tonight, I was trying to imagine how different it would be if it were just the four of us sitting at that table.  I can't even imagine it anymore.  A family of six is starting to feel normal!  As of today, in fact, this is no longer our adoption blog but rather our family blog.  The paperwork and waiting are behind us, and now we work towards strengthening our relationship as a family.  We are starting to feel more like a family every day.   The boys are our children - and we love them like our children.  It feels like they love us like mom & dad - and that's a good feeling.  A positive feeling.

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Questions and Answers

Chad Dykstra - 2011-01-07
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I’d like to take the opportunity to field a couple of questions that we receive on a fairly regular basis. 

Question 1:  Are the boys adjusted yet?

Answer:  No, not yet!  The boys have been through a lot in their short lives.  They’ve experienced more loss than most people ever will.  Their entire world is different now than it used to be, and it’s going to take some time for everything to become normal.  Things have to get worse before they get better.  We are, however, making slow daily progress.  Meal times and bedtimes get a little easier as time goes on and it will eventually happen.

Question 2:  What do you mean by things have to get worse?

Answer:  As the boys adjust, they’re no longer timid and complacent young gentlemen.  The “honeymoon” as it were is quickly fading and we deal with a lot on a daily basis.  Just ask anyone who has spent any amount of time with us!  It’s nothing for someone to throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming because we turn off the TV (or turn on the wrong show), or because when they ask for more food their brother gets more too.  It’s not unusual for them to throw a toy at someone they’re angry with, or to whine incessantly about any little thing.  If absolutely everything doesn’t go their way, an explosion is imminent.  Our calm, quiet, sweet, level-headed Abatu is the biggest surprise.  He has surpassed his brother lately on the count of daily tantrums.  The "suggested" discipline for the boys had become almost impossible, they just laugh in your face.  It can be quite frustrating!

Question 3:  When will you bring them to church?

Answer:  We don’t know, but not soon.  Right now, anything outside of our house is overwhelming.  OK, it’s even overwhelming at home (see #2).  Public places are very difficult.  The kids will go tearing across a parking lot without looking or want to run laps around a restaurant.  We only go out when absolutely necessary.  We aren't ready for church just yet.  We tried school for Zinabu one day this week, and he was definitely overwhelmed and not ready.  We’re considering trying something smaller scale in the coming weeks/months – like Lakeshore Little People’s Place preschool (for both boys).  Although Abatu is younger, he is more interested in books, coloring, English, and learning in general than Zinabu, who is just everywhere.

Question 4:  Do they speak English yet?

Answer:  No, not yet!  They are making slow progress and are only using a handful of English words right now…most of them are ones they hear a lot, like “no” (or no jumping).  They’re able to understand quite a bit more than they are able to speak.  I look forward to them speaking English, but I’m sure I will also look back and miss this at some point.  I’m enjoying continuing to pick up words from them, and I look forward to being able to ask them what language those words are!

Question 5:  What do they think of the snow?

The really like it!  The climate change has been no concern at all.  They’ve never had coats (nor have they needed them) and they enjoy getting bundled up to go outside.  They like sleds, and they enjoy attempting to ride a bike – yes, ride a bike - in the snow.  We can’t tell them no, they absolutely insist, even though they have no idea how to pedal.  It's pretty funny to watch them trying to ride bikes in the snow.

Question 6:  So how are you doing?

We’re tired but alive!  The last week has been a challenge.  We’ve begun the medical blitz – stool samples and blood work are under our belt.  In the coming days/weeks we have several more doctor and dentist appointments.    The boys have been sleeping pretty well in general, but one of them has been having real bedwetting issues lately and gets up in the middle of the night to go, and usually wakes up wet (and early!).  Last night was another short night – work until 12:30am, 3 kids visiting our room for needing to go potty or bad dreams, and then the boys were awake at 6:30.

I’m sure all this sounds like a lot of work…and believe me, it is!  We have good days and bad days.  Most bad days are 1-parent days.  Managing our home is a two-person job right now, and any less can be completely overwhelming.   I’m blessed to work from home so I can save Lora when things “escalate quickly”.  I’m not sure how she’d do it alone.  I’d be lying if there weren’t times that I miss “the old days” when life was simple…but I think any “new parent” can have that from time to time.

Every once in a while we catch a few glimpses of the sweet little boys that are hiding in there.  It’s heartwarming to have Zinabu say “thank you” with a smile and it’s great to see the kids play together without fighting (which does happen sometimes – especially outside).  Zinabu also can do a great job on tasks if you give him something specific to do (like picking up toys).  We look forward to the days when these kinds of things will be “the norm”...or at least happen on a regular basis!  We feel very good about their attachment to us (and their comfort level with us).  From that aspect, things are going very well.

Now I better sign off…lots of screaming upstairs.  Time to go help!

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Merry Christmas?

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-26
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'Tis the season for presents and happy children...or maybe screaming ones.  Christmas was actually very difficult for our family - definitely not the "perfect Christmas" that many people imagine.  Yesterday was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, day we have had so far.

I should start by saying that in general, we try not to overdo gifts at Christmas.  We try to keep the holidays low-key and low-stress.  To be completely honest, I didn't get Lora a single present this year.  Now don't think I'm some sort of monster - she didn't get me anything either!  Well, OK...I did let her buy some used silverware last week on eBay, if you count that.  Gift giving just isn't something that either of us put a lot of value in.  We already have so much "stuff" and we'd rather use that money for something more fulfilling than filling our house with more stuff we really don't need. 

We tried to keep it even smaller this year knowing that it may be difficult for the boys to grasp such a concept as the American celebration of Christmas.  Even with trying to keep it to just a very few gifts, we've had a very difficult time with the boys and presents.  The first present they opened was a "ma-kee-nah" - or a car for those who don't speak Amharic.  From then on, they expected two things.  One, that every present they saw was a ma-kee-nah.  Two, that every one of them was most definitely theirs, even if we insisted otherwise.  While most households on Christmas morning are probably filled with sounds of laughter, happiness, and screams of delight, ours was filled with children ripping presents out of hands and throwing themselves down on the floor in a tantrum.  Most of the day was filled with kicking, fighting, screaming, toy throwing, and more tantrums.  Merry Christmas!  We do have the entire episode on video.  I thought about posting it to give everyone a good laugh at our misfortune, but we decided it wouldn't be fair to the boys.  We decided instead to bust it out at their high school graduations.  :)

Lora and I were talking last night after the kids finally went to bed (read: after I dragged them to their bedroom screaming then laid with them until they fell asleep).  The thought crossed both of our minds at times yesterday that we wished the boys were not home for Christmas.  This doesn't mean that we aren't glad they are home...because for sure, we are.  We feel for the families who are still waiting and know how hard it would be if they were not yet home.  What it means that we wish Christmas had been a month ago.  That our lavish American celebration of excess would have already been behind us, and that we could go for months and months without any gift giving holidays.  That we would have a few birthdays in there where a few presents are given to an individual child so they could get the ropes of how things work, and after the language barrier is far behind us.  That we didn't have to submit these children to such a thing so close to their arrival at home.  When it was all said and done, Lora and I just crashed on the couch in a collective sigh.  We turned on the TV and watched Transformers.  What better movie to watch; after all, when all you want to do is forget about Christmas?

We're hanging in there, though, and today has been more normal (save for it starting at 5:30 due to a bedwetting "incident").  Note the emphasis on normal, which is to say that normal is a relative term at this point in our lives.  I took Abi to church this morning, so I was able to get out of the house.  After lunch, I took all the kids to the park to give Lora a little time off.  We had fun playing and swinging, and all of us ran a lap around the track to burn some energy, stopping for a few photo-ops along the way.  Stay tuned for those pictures to be posted.  :)

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A Blessed Christmas

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-24
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As we are quickly approach Christmas, we remember how blessed we are and all that we have to be thankful for!

Indeed, we do have so much to be thankful for this year.  We’re thankful for our wonderful friends and family who have stood by us and supported us over the last few months, and for those who have brought meals over and made many mealtimes much easier as we’re working towards our new normal.  We’re thankful for Abi and Ben and what a blessing they are, and how big they’re getting.  We’re thankful that Zinabu and Abatu are finally here with us, and that they’re acclimating so well to life in our home. 

It’s easy in all the hustle to forget those who have a part of them missing during the holiday season.  We also remember to pray for our friends we initially traveled with who do not yet have their children home – those whose “whole” is still thousands of miles away and without a family.  We remember those whose “whole” has passed away, in many cases far too soon.  And we remember those whose “whole” is now living in America with us, even though they themselves are still struggling just to survive in Ethiopia.

We’re especially thankful for Jesus as we celebrate His birth.  That is the true meaning of this season, after all – and the true “whole”.  To quote what may quite possibly be my favorite Christmas song, “The Miracle of Christmas” by Steven Curtis Chapman…

The God who spoke is speaking still…and the God who came still comes.  And the miracle that happened still happens in the heart that will believe - and receive - the miracle of Christmas.

We are thankful that God still speaks, still comes, and has shown Himself to us so evidently over the past year.  What a Christmas miracle!

I’d like to conclude with a little Christmas poem. I hope you enjoy:

It’s Christmas at the Dykstras, as children scurry across the floor.
Many creatures are stirring – well, actually, just four!
Six stockings are hung by the fireplace here;
Which is two more than were hanging there this time last year!
Mealtime and bedtime take longer than before,
So would leaving the house, if we ever went through the door.
We have pointing and grunting because language sometimes fails,
But we’re all learning together and communication eventually prevails.
We celebrate - finally together – a family full of Christmas cheer,
And we thank God for His blessings during this most blessed year!

Merry Christmas from the Dykstra family!

Love Zinabu, Abigail, Abatu, Benjamin, and our faithful "wushaw" Bandit!

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