Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thoughts on a quiet evening, strength for today

We are overseas again and it is the evening when we would normally be sharing a thanksgiving meal with family and/or friends.  This morning was the kid's Christmas play.  Then it was a busy school day for them.  I stayed home with a plumber and carpenter.  It wasn't the normal thanksgiving.  In DRC, we had many friends from the States and our kids were small so didn't have school commitments.  We shared a meal with friends.  Our turkey would come from a small island on Lake Kivu.  It would roam in our yard the days before the meal.  I remember one thanksgiving when Natalie stood with Isla looking out the window at the turkey as it gobbled at them.  She said in classic straight faced Natalie form, "Isla, tomorrow we are going to chop that turkey's head off, then we are going to let all the blood go out, then the feathers will be pulled out, then we will take all the insides out, then we will cook it.  And then we will eat it."  And though there was no "we" in the chopping part, that is pretty much what happened.  It was the size of a giant chicken and enjoyed by all. 

This year I found a frozen turkey (shipped from Kenya) for $50 at the local store.  They get them in stock for thanksgiving for the Americans.  I debated whether or not to buy it for a couple days.  Someone just sent me the funds to hire one more mama at the orphanage.  Her salary will be $50/month.  The cost of my turkey.  In the states I might question the cost as well, but it would be easier to forget that my turkey is the cost of someone's monthly salary.  I remembered again that moving overseas creates many situations like this that leave me wondering if I made the right choice.  That made me really understand what I was paying for as I gave the money to the teller at the store, the unease is real, I can't forget all that I have and been given.  It is defrosting in the freezer right now.  We will have some new friends over on Saturday.  A friend is visiting from the States and she volunteered to make stuffing from bread and cranberry sauce from dried craisins.  I will attempt to make my first pie without my mom and aunties help.  It will be a good day. 

A friend that recently visited took this great photo of the rock formations where we live in TZ. 


The last three months have been rough.  But they also have filled me with gratitude beyond what I can describe.  Sitting here tonight in good health was something I didn't expect and didn't even know was possible.  It leaves me humble and full of a deep joy.  I have an incredible family and an amazing group of friends.  I have a God I love with all my heart.  And I have the privilege of being able to live in Africa again.  Perhaps there has been pain and struggle reaching this point tonight, but I think it makes me appreciate every bit of this moment all the more. 




I also am filled with gratitude for those that speak the truth, fight against injustice and take a stand based off of the conviction of their hearts and the words God speaks to them.  For those that fight for the vulnerable.  There is a certain courage that comes with standing for what is right, true, and good.  For those that fight for their children even when their hearts are breaking, for those that love long after the feelings are gone, for those that keep sacrificing and walking forward day after day.  For choosing a path that is full of love, mercy and humility.  For clinging to God in the midst of the storms. 




I am reminded of the words of the hymn, Great is thy Faithfulness, "Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow".  I remember the story of a woman in DRC, she carried extremely heavy loads on her back for maybe 50 cents a day.  She was often bent over by the weight and could only see the ground before her.  She fought harassment by others and scorn by most.  Yet, she would stand in church and say, "I thank you God, that you gave me the strength for one more day."  

I, too, thank you God, that you gave me the strength for one more day, and for the bright hope your bring me for my tomorrows. 






Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Updates on the children we support and prayer for Abeli.

Today I received further updates on the children we support that live in the orphanage.  Information like how tall they are, how much their head circumference measures, what stage of development they are at, and what is their overall temperament.  We also received information about how many times their family has visited and when they were hospitalized or been sick.  I thought I would post some more photos of the older children we have been supporting.  I would also ask for prayer (for those of you that pray) for one of the youngest ones, he has been frequently sick (and hospitalized three times) and is not gaining weight.  He is very vulnerable right now. His name is Abel, or Abeli.  Right now he is six months old and weighs 7 lbs. 

   
Sweet Abeli in September.  



Siblings Chance and Benjamin are doing well.  Chance is starting to attend a school nearby the orphanage and I'm so excited for her.  Some of you may wonder about the older children in the orphanage, why are they still there or why can't they be adopted if the family doesn't want to come get them.  This sweet sibling pair is not eligible for international adoption and the only option they have is to either be reunited with their father or find alternative care in country.  Children like these two are ones we want to help.  They should and need to begin the process of reunification or alternative care.

   
Chance

Benjamin


Rachel Sanasana and Shagayo Antoinette moved home to live with their families.  I love these two photos of them.  (They are not related). 

My brother with Shagayo (she is on the right) who has a big smile.  She was always smiling and playing whenever we visited.  A little girl full of happiness despite her circumstances.  I'm so thankful she lives with her family now, I know she will be a warm light in their lives.

All the mamas (and Shagayo!) cheering Rachel on as she took her first steps!

Writing about Shagoyo brings up a very important point.  We still support Shagayo!  Often, when children move back to their families, the family has a difficult time paying for the school fees of the child who has just moved back home.  We pay those school fees.  Shagayo is now listed under available children who need  a sponsor ($15/month).  Paying school fees is one of the most important things we do at Reeds of Hope.  Many of the children are now in secondary school, some are in university.  This is one important way of breaking the cycles of extreme poverty, especially for those that are most vulnerable (children who have lost their mothers).  Second trimester school fees will be due in the next month and a half.  We will start fundraising for those soon.  Some of the children have sponsors, but most do not.  So right now we fundraiser for the bulk of the school fees every trimester so that the children can all remain in school even if they don't have a sponsor right now.  Our manager on the ground will be visiting the school children over the next month. 

I'll sign off by sharing a few more photos from the recent update.  We get photos every few months or so (sometimes more often).  I am finally finding the time to upload them all into the sponsors accounts. 


Bruno


Esperance

Bertin, always with a smile!

Ah, handsome Gloire. 

Interested in joining our work?  You can give a one time donation on the right side of this blog through paypal (or a recurring donation).  We have 11 children that need sponsors who live at the orphanage ($25/month).  You can go to our website here to sponsor one of them.  Interested in sponsoring a school aged child?  We have 69 children that need sponsors.  You can go here on our website to learn more about sponsoring an older child ($15/month).  Thank you!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Very important reads--courageous adoptive parents, owning your adoption, and working with abandoned children.

I wanted to share three posts I read this past week about international adoption.  One is from DRC and two are from Uganda.  All are very important.

The first from DRC was posted on November 14th, 2013 and has been circulated quickly in DRC adoption circles.  I wish I could say this is the first post I have read with a story like this or with this particular agency, but it's not.  This story about the same agency and same orphanage was posted October 6, 2012 and was originally shared on their personal blog.  Another family shared their story last week here.  Please read their story.  The family showed strength and courage not only in their actions during the adoption but also in sharing their story. Below is a brief excerpt, please read the entire post found here

Looking back if there hadn't been the familiar T-shirt we wouldn't have accepted the oldest son's referral. If when we learned about the twins, we hadn't already felt a bond with the oldest, we might not have considered adopting them as well. If we hadn't received the donations, we would not have been able to pay the referral fee enabling us to keep the siblings together. If my parents had never crossed paths with our friends from Africa, we could have never known the truth…this could have so easily been a situation of a mother lied to in which she gives up her children, all 4 children are referred to different adoptive families, never knowing who they really are. A mother left wondering when her children will return, never to hold her babies again…heartbreak…evil…loss…

Our children's birthmother told my friend's sister, there in that hospital room," I prayed". I prayed for my children for their future, for our family. She was, out of love, sacrificing to give her children a better future, with the promise of knowing they would be home again, in her arms. She felt such desperation and then when the children were gone, she was so empty. Her arms were empty. She prayed, God did you hear me? I prayed for you to lead, but now my arms are empty. But, she never stopped praying. And as she prayed... we prayed. God, we want to change the life of a child, lead us. We set out to bring one child home…God has given us the opportunity to help 4 children home. While my heartbreaks for what will not be for our family, I am overcome with love and compassion for this mother who has found her children…Divine Intervention...

The second is from Uganda and it is a story of hope after a family chose to love a small baby and made decisions in his best interest after circumstances changed.  It is a very encouraging story and one that should give us all hope that change can happen and we can be a part of it.  Her words are challenging and should speak to us all.  The post can be found here.  Below is a small excerpt, please read the entire story, it is very inspiring in the midst of a very difficult situation. 

The Front Line Against Wrongful Adoptions… Adoptive Parents
You, adoptive parent, must OWN the adoption you participate in!

You must be on the front line, make hard choices and even walk away from a child you are smitten with because it is the right thing to do for everyone involved!

You must do this on your own and not rely on agencies, baby homes or lawyers to make this call for you and your potential child! You must refuse to work with people and places who are using orphans to fund their lifestyles.

God has called you to family preservation just as much as He has called you to adoption. They go hand in hand.

We are so thankful to have seen such a perfect case right before our very eyes of what families CAN do, despite all odds to care for and protect their children... when we step back and give them the chance and tools to do it!

And a last post from the founder of Child's i Foundation in Uganda about some of the hard reasons behind child abandonment and their belief that "families should always be supported to keep their children instead of feeling they have no choice but to abandon them."



Neema.  One of the children that came to the orphanage after her mother died in birth.  We want to be a part of helping her move back home with her family.  An orphanage should never be a child's home.  Consider supporting our work.  Please check out our website at www.reedsofhope.org.  Thank you so much!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A six month commitment to the smallest ones. And a call to protect women in eastern DRC.

Today, I received updates on the children we support in eastern DRC.  If you are a sponsor, I will be updating all of your accounts over the next week with new photos as well as sending out a newsletter with updates from Reeds of Hope.  The good news is that seven of the children are going to the local school which is adjacent to the orphanage.  Children like Moses, Bertin, Muholeza, Musiwa, Nsimire, Chance, and little Chito Wambili.  I was so happy to get that news. 

Moses, 4 years old

The more challenging news is that there are now 47 children at the orphanage.  This is the most children that have been living there since I first went up there almost 4 years ago.  This makes me very concerned for a number of reasons.  One, there are enough mamas there to take care of about 32 children.  That means babies are being left alone in cribs or in bumbo seats, that they are not being held and that they are not being touched enough.  Because there are not enough staff.  Two, it means that we do not have enough sponsors for the number of children in the orphanage, which means that we don't enough funds right now to send all the formula that is needed. 

Baby B. (girl)


There are nine new babies that have arrived at the orphanage, two are are set of twins.  Nine.  My third concern is that this means that eight women have died.  The official name is maternal mortality.  Maternal mortality.  Two words that mean loss, heartache, and for these babies, a crib in an orphanage.  Most likely all of these women died of preventable causes.  This is not right.  This makes me angry and broken.  This should make all of us stand up in outrage and fight to change the deaths of the women who died bringing their babies into the world.  Our hearts should be burdened with these little faces and doing right by them. 

Baby C. (Older twin girl)


Our twin girls turned four this past weekend.  Their mother has been on my mind every day.  Their mother should be alive today.  She should be raising them and loving them.  She should never have died.  And if she had had access to a medical center with trained staff and ready supplies, she would have lived.  

Baby C. (Younger twin girl)


Channel Initiative is working in eastern DRC in an area that has very little maternal health care.  They are working in an area that we have had babies come from at the orphanage we support.  Please, consider supporting their work which is in partnership with Panzi hospital and the work done by Dr. Mukwegi.  Help mothers stay alive so that their babies are not left alone in an orphanage. 

Baby S. (girl, weighs 5 lbs)


Our goal is not international adoption of these babies (as stated before on this blog and on our website we do not facilitate adoptions.  Adoptions are being conducted by OFA, Our Family in Africa.).  Our goal is to help their fathers (or extended family members) be able to care from their children (or other in country care).  Remember that if the mother had never died, the baby would never have come to the orphanage in the first place and the family would have stayed intact. 

Baby V. (boy)


Our goal is to come in and help a family in crisis, to keep families together and children out of orphanages.  Perhaps even before the baby is brought to the orphanage in the first place.  Our goal is short quality care at the "orphanage" we support.  Better it be called a "emergency, short term, baby care home".  It can be done. 

Baby R. (boy)


The next six months are a big time of transition for Reeds of Hope as we move to our new model of family care and support with the goal of helping children find families (following the alternative care framework model in which family reunification is the first goal and international adoption is the last option for those children that cannot be reunified with their families safely or for situations where a domestic solution cannot be found). 

Baby A. (girl)


Times of transition are difficult.  Because not only do we have to raise money for big purchases like a motorcycle for our on ground coordinator and social work salaries, we still need to make sure the commitment we made to bring formula up to the babies is kept as well as paying the school fees for 82 children.

Baby M. (girl)


Would you consider a one time gift to help us with our ongoing monthly costs this month?  Would you consider sponsoring a child for six months through our transition period so that we can focus on our larger projects that enable us to move to our next phases of work?  There are nine babies that need 18 sponsors ($25/month).  Would you consider helping us keep them fed for the next six months?  Please check out our website, I will be listing the children available for sponsorship over the next few days.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This and that (reflections on flip phones, flip flops, cornrows, and sunday school songs)

Random thoughts and reflections on life in Tanzania and life in general.

I look at a lot of women's shoes.  When we moved to DRC, I quickly learned that I was a slob as compared to Congolese standard of dress.  My flip flops that I wore everywhere were similar to wearing your slippers or house shoes outside.  The fact that I rarely did anything with my hair and that I usually wore capri pants every day sealed the deal that I was a slob.  Women wore dresses every day and took a lot of pride in their appearance, often wearing very nice shoes even during the rainy (muddy) season.  Now I'm in Tanzania.  I notice that though women do wear dresses everywhere, they are not always tailor (or hand) made, they are just as often store bought clothing. The majority of shoes are not heals, they might be nicer flip flops or flats.  So, it looks like wearing my flip flops on a daily basis will not make me as much as a slob as they did in DRC.  Hallelujah.

 

When we lived in the states the last two years we were very fortunate to find a church we loved.  It was a small southern baptist church that had a predominately black congregation.  The songs we sang were gospel songs and were often call and response with an amazing choir and director leading the way up front.  Those were the songs our girls learned at church.  And we loved hearing them sing them around our house.  They really loved that church and even now when we play gospel music they ask if Miss Katie (their sunday school teacher) is singing that song. Now we are attending a wonderful home church group.  The songs are the ones I learned in church and youth group.  They are very familiar to me and bring a sense of "home" with them when we sing.  My kids are clueless.  They have no idea what songs we are singing and what words (and/or motions) they should sing.  It's something I never considered when we chose a church.  That they would feel out of place because they didn't know the songs that most kids (especially white children) learn in church and sunday school. 



I really need to learn to cornrow.  For three years I have gotten along fine with doing flat twists.  But I know that the girls will be asking for braids like their classmates soon (and there are some very elaborate beautiful styles here).  I watched a video and read an on-line tutorial.  Then I tried to go for it on Ellie's hair.  Fail.  So, I made one of those practice boards with three colors of yarn.  Yeah, it is really really hard and I'm going to need to practice a lot before I attempt it on their sensitive heads.  But, I have the time now, so I might as well figure it out.  It has been good bonding time for us, and I'm happy to do it for them for now.  But there may come a day when they get their more elaborate styles and/or extensions done locally. 



I have a hard time accepting the changes in technology.  I had a flip phone in the states to save money but also because it was less complicated.  Right now, even though we actually do own an ipad for the first time ever (given as a gift to us, thanks mom), I still use an address book (you know the small books with paper pages and lines that you write in?), a date book, a calendar, an empty notebook for jotting down things, and a journal.   Yeah, it's a lot of books/stuff.  But I like it.  I like writing in them all. 








Monday, November 4, 2013

mercy revisited (thoughts on orphan and vulnerable child care and adoption)

March of this year I watched a documentary film called Mercy, Mercy.  It was about a family in Ethiopia and a family in Denmark.  I wrote this immediately after watching the film, I'm pretty sure I was still crying from the pain of watching it when I was typing. 

I have to back up a moment and say that two months prior to watching this film, I wrote this post on here about my own personal struggles with facilitating adoptions and working at an orphanage where adoption was happening in situations where fathers (or other family members) brought newborns in for care in moments of desperation because of extreme poverty and the lack of social safety nets to help them in crisis.  I wrote about my own personal conviction that children belong in families, and we should do everything we can to make sure that extreme poverty isn't the reason a family is broken apart and a child is referred for adoption. 

I talked about fathers that often if they had assistance would keep their newborns, whether that would be micro-loans to start small business or education grants to learn a trade.  I shared about social work and other programs that have success with similar work in Uganda in following posts.   I wrote that most of the fathers (or extended family members) loved their children.  I wrote, "And that began to sit with me more and more.  I began to think about those two fathers and their love for their children and I felt less and less like I wanted to support adoption but that instead I wanted to support family reunification.  Because poverty wasn't reason enough to take a baby away from their family anymore."  

I shared how we at Reeds of Hope wanted to be about helping children stay in their families in the first place and how we want to be a part of meeting them in moments of crisis to prevent them from being torn apart.  (Here is an example of an incredible program supporting vulnerable mothers in Haiti.) How we want to help children move out of orphanages and back with their families.  And I shared that for those that can't be reunited, then domestic situations should be found if possible.  (International adoption should be the last resort, and yes, I do believe in international adoption, but only after all other attempts to keep a family together have been explored and attempted).

Today I read this commentary on the film Mercy, Mercy and it brought back all the original pain of watching the film.  Please, if you can't find the film to watch, at least read this summary.   My thoughts on the film are found here.  The following is a section from the commentary linked to in this paragraph:

But amid the loving family life, the parents were struggling with intense pain and doubt. Had they really made the right decision? They had been told that it was best for their children. In Denmark, their children would get an education and could become anything – a doctor, a scientist, even president – and then return to Ethiopia when they were grown up.
"In human terms, it was a terrible process to witness. Especially because someone could have stopped it with a bit of financial assistance to the family, as could the Danish adoption agency, DanAdopt, the local authorities or the orphanage. But no one did. And the Danish parents were never informed about the true background for the adoption, but are repeatedly persuaded by DanAdopt that this was the last resort for the Ethiopian parents."
With much sorrow and many tears, but also hope, the children are handed over to their new father and mother who take them back to Denmark. End of story. Or, not quite.
Kjær can't get Sinkenesh and Hussen and their terrible sorrow out of her mind. She reorganises her life, lowering her expenses to a minimum, so she can afford to go back to Ethiopia. In all, she makes four more trips to Dodola, in addition to her regular visits with the adoptive parents in Holbæk, as she tracks the two families over a period of four and a half years.
Instead of a happy end, the drama in both Ethiopia and Denmark mounts. "I'm witnessing a development that becomes increasingly heartbreaking at both ends, while failure follows upon failure on the part of those who should be helping out," Kjær says.
Sinkenesh and her husband do not die from AIDS but get treatment and get better all the time. But they are left with a huge sense of loss and grief. As they struggle to get in touch with their children, the reality of adoption slowly sinks in: they have lost their children forever and every promise they were made has been broken.
They had been promised that they would stay in touch with their children, but that doesn't happen – the legally required reports about their children's welfare and development that they were supposed to receive never arrive. They had also expected that the Danish parents would become like kin to them, because that's what it's like in Ethiopia when you adopt someone's children – then you're family and help each other out. But no letters or financial assistance from Denmark arrive in Dodola. Meanwhile, in Denmark the adoption does not go as hoped, and the consequences prove disastrous."

In case you can't find the documentary on-line to watch the basic story is that a family in Denmark adopted a boy and a girl from Ethiopia.  The parents who adopted them where told one thing and the birth parents were told another thing.  They were not told the same information.  The birth parents made a decision to relinquish their children for adoption based off of the fact that they thought they were dying from AIDs, because of pressure from child finders who worked on behalf of the agency, and because of false promises that were made (they expected an open adoption and regular updates).  The documentary follows both families before the adoption happens and then for 4 years.  It is a very painful film to watch, mostly because of what happens to Masho by the end and the pain and extreme grief (and outrage) on the side of the birth parents.

It hit me all over again, that as adoptive parents we need to make sure that we aren't taking children away from families that want them, families that made a decision in a crisis that they would not have otherwise made if they were not in a moment of desperation.  We need to make sure that we are not using child finders or paying money to anyone that is in any way associated with consenting birth parents to adoption, counseling birth parents for adoption, or facilitating referrals for adoption.  

We need to make sure that we know what is being told to birth parents and that we understand the laws of the countries we are adopting from so that we know what birth parents are expecting.  For instance, in DRC, adoptive law says that the adoptive family must maintain an open adoption with the birth family.  There isn't a U.S. law that can enforce that, but a birth family in DRC will certainly be expecting an open relationship.  It behooves us to understand what is means in DRC law when it states in Article 689,  "The adoptee, his/her spouse and their descendants may not request food/subsistence from the adoptee's birth family unless the adoptive family is unable to provide. They must feed the ancestors of the adoptee's birth family in the case where the birth family cannot turn to another family member in order to obtain support." (You can find more adoption law here.)

I think a lot of people who follow my blog for information on DRC adoptions might misunderstand this post.  They might assume I am against all international adoption.  I'm not.  They might assume that I am speaking about their specific adoption.  I'm not.   I am suggesting we do not take children away from their families that want them, but instead help families keep their children.  Orphanages are often used as crisis care centers for extremely poor families in Africa, they are not full of children who need adoption (though there will be children that always need adoption) (further reading).  They are full of children who need help to be reunited with those families (or who need alternative care), who also may need assistance (further reading, article from Uganda).    

I am also suggesting that those that advocate for international adoption (for that child that needs a new family and would never have a chance for a family in their country of origen) do so with an understanding of what happens because of trauma, abandonment, neglect, abuse, and moving out of one culture to another away from everything and everyone familiar.  I believe that it is just as important to advocate for ethical adoptions as it is to advocate for adoptions that are done with right preparation, training about caring for a hurting child, motivation, and best fit for the child (and support for the family).  So that more trauma doesn't happen to that child, to help prevent fewer disruptions from happening.  The following is a quote from an article  in Christianity Today (that also had some surprisingly accurate information about adoption from DRC), "More than 24,000 internationally adopted children are no longer with their original adoptive parents, claims Reuters."

There are so many excellent resources out there written for adoptive parents to prepare them to parent child from trauma.  And even then, even with all the best training, quality support and care for the family caring for the child is just as important and maybe even more important in some situations (we have to rally behind adoptive families parenting children from trauma and also help states to have better resources for support for things like respite care, therapy, counseling, training, and yes, sometimes "rehoming").  Many of these excellent resources are also written by adult adoptees and their voice is one that is the most important and should never be ignored. 

I will end here by mentioning that the alternative care framework (out of Uganda) is one excellent place to read more about these important issues and concerns as it relates to orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa.  They have an excellent flow diagram that shows how the framework looks in practice.  Check it out here.  As is the Better Care Network.   There are so many excellent resources on this website.  And finally, there is this incredible group working Uganda.  This post by the founder is so applicable to what I am talking about today.  It is short and much more concise than I have been-check it out here

Let us work together to do our best for the orphaned and vulnerable children and their families around the world and at home.  

 








Saturday, November 2, 2013

Monkeys for lunch

"How was your day at school?" type questions are much more interesting than they used to be before we moved to Tanzania.  The answers often involve monkeys.  The first week Natalie was in school, she told me over skype that a monkey had peed on her!  She was giggling so hard.  It was pretty cute and gross too.  Now the constant concern is if the monkeys are going to steal their lunches.  I guess they eat outside and the monkeys (which are small) are getting bolder and bolder.  They are at times (per Natalie) one table's distance away.  And her teachers have to scare them off.  The cuter part of the whole thing is that a lot of them have little babies hanging onto them for dear life.  The not so cute part is that they are still monkeys and can be known to not be so gentle in trying to get what they want.  Natalie and Isla telling me about the monkeys at lunch every day is a highlight I think as I reflect on how much their lives have changed in two short months. 

They have adjusted to uniform wearing and going to school with an almost completely international group of classmates.  None of the three girls have any other children from the U.S. in their classes (though there are some kids at the school in other classes from the U.S.).  It's been interesting to watch them form new friends.  They (like us) form friendships quickly with children that speak really good english and are from a similar culture.  It seems to matter less what color skin the child has than how they speak and how they can understand each other.  I feel very fortunate that they have such lovely friends and classmates.

Swimming daily has been so good for all of them.  Especially the twins.  Seriously, how did we survive in the states when they didn't swim daily?   No wonder I felt a little crazy all the time.  They have so much energy and getting it out in the water has been good for all of them.  Today we took off the floaties from the twins and they just took off swimming.  That was a shocker!  And totally made me cry (and Natalie almost cried she was so proud of them!).   

I am still shocked by how little culture shock we are all experiencing (Mike and I most of all).  I really think that given we have lived more overseas than not in the past almost 7 years, really makes a difference in adjustment.  And the fact that well, it's just awesome here (well, I still don't like burning trash next to us and when the internet goes down..the little things).  This is quickly feeling like home.

We consider ourselves very very fortunate that we were able to send over a container this time abroad.  When we were in DRC we had our suitcases and some trunks.  This time we actually were able to pack up our house!  It is still on it's way.  Right now, we are living out of 14 suitcases.  And it is totally okay.  Part of me wants to just keep it simple.  We have some legos, matchbox cars, and a few baby dolls/stuffed animals.  That and a ream of paper, pencils, markers, tape, and scissors and the girls are in heaven.  As much as I want to keep it simple I actually am looking forward to the container.  I think the biggest reason is that we are in a bed that is exactly 6 feet long.  Given Mike is a bit over 6 feet tall and I am an inch under 6 feet tall (and that it is a double), we really are considering throwing the foam mattress on the floor and giving up with the whole bed frame concept.  (Though I will admit that having a bed frame is one of those things that makes me feel like an "adult", that along with a real wood dining room table, and a couch that isn't a futon.  We were still 2 for 3 until this year.) 

A friend encouraged me to try to post more personal stories on my blog.  We'll see how it goes.  I have used this blog for Reeds of Hope and DRC IA ethics advocacy so much over the past two years that I am still trying to figure out how personal stories fit here.  Anyway, thank you for following along.

Isla and Natalie