"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."
-Anonymous

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

HOPE and JOY

Every so often I forget what I thought I would never forget about...what we experienced in Ethiopia four months ago. I swore that when I left Ethiopia, I would never be the same. I would not forget the beautiful, joyful people that I met. I would never take anything for granted again. I would look at all of the blessings in my life and be so grateful...and then...I start to get back into my regular routine. Just an average hum drum (in a good way) life. I actually forget some of the feelings that I experienced just a few short months ago. The thing is, I don't WANT to forget! I never want to stop being amazed at the resiliency of my daughter and her fellow Ethiopians. I must remember them and appreciate them for the courageous, incredible people they are.



And so, I am grateful to the Alexander family for all that they are doing in Ethiopia. This video helps me to remember. It helps me to continue to focus on helping and supporting the projects that are needed in Ethiopia. This video captures so much of the beauty that is Ethiopia. PLEASE grab a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to watch the video. Maybe it will help you to remember too, and if you have never had the privilege of visiting Ethiopia, you can see a little bit of why the country captures a person's heart and leaves them changed for the better.


Hope For Dube Bute from Kurt Neale on Vimeo.



We are still selling necklaces and key chains and ALL of the proceeds will go directly to help Dube Bute. I realize that these little necklaces won't change the world, but through your support, I have been able to raise quite a bit of money for the work that is being done in this part of Ethiopia. PLEASE consider supporting Dube Bute. You can purchase necklaces and key chains through December 13th. You can also make a donation directly to Hope for Dube Bute.


When you watched the video, did you see the JOY that was obvious in the people of Dube Bute?I truly believe that I need Africa more than Africa needs me (as the saying goes). I want to remember their JOY along with their HOPE. So, for the next week, everyone who orders three or more necklaces or key chains will receive a free key chain with the word HOPE or JOY on it. I'm hoping we can raise a bunch of money by December 13th...keep the orders coming!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

The perfect shirt for Grace's first Thanksgiving!

How do I begin to write a post about Thanksgiving this year??? Seriously??? We are so lucky to have our four beautiful kids. We are grateful that 2010 was the year we had the privilege of welcoming our fourth child home. November is national adoption month - how perfect is it to celebrate adoption and Thanksgiving both at the same time of year? What a perfect fit. Adoption = Thanksgiving. We are obviously thankful for our beautiful little Grace, but we are also thankful for the people who made our adoption possible. We are so very thankful to our friends and family who have supported us along the way. I can't begin to count the hundreds of hours (over the course of years)that I have talked my friends' ears off about my desire to adopt, fears about adopting, struggles with the process, and finally the joy and celebration of our referral. So thankful for friends who "get it."

We are also lucky to have families who have supported our adoption. It was less than a year ago that we surprised them with the announcement that we were going to adopt a little girl from Africa. Huh? We are blessed to have family who love Grace as they would any other new grandchild, niece, or cousin. In fact, Grace's Aunt Patti is even making a special thanksgiving meal in honor of her...she told me that since it is Grace's first Thanksgiving in America, she wants it to be perfect. She has been planning how to cook the perfect turkey for Grace...so kind!

I am thankful to our agency, Arise for Children , for their dedication to Ethiopia and their willingness to prayerfully place children with the family that they believe God has chosen for them. We are so very thankful to have worked with an agency that is Kingdom minded and so very committed to honoring God's plan and not just processing paperwork.

Most of all, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the beautiful, unselfish family in Ethiopia who decided to choose faith, hope and love for their little girl and blessed us with the honor of becoming her second family... How I wish we could all be gathered around one table together this Thanksgiving. What an honor it would be to be with them, hold hands, and give thanks together for the blessings in our lives. For now, I'll just keep praying that they know how very thankful we are for Grace Hiwot and the joy she has brought to so many lives.
Wishing you all a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spreading HOPE (for Dube Bute!)

Check out these cute kids! I am so happy to tell you that the Hope for Dube Bute is causing a ripple effect all over the country! The bottle cap necklaces that I have been making to raise funds for Dube Bute have been so successful! I have sent necklaces all over the country. It makes me smile to think of all the people that are wearing them and spreading the news about Ethiopia and the beautiful people there that need our help. I am so honored to play a tiny part in bringing clean water, education and health care to Dube Bute.

So...back to these cute kids. Rainey emailed me last week with an awesome idea. She wanted to know if I could make some necklaces for her daughter's soccer team. Get this...they decided to give the kids necklaces instead of trophies. The best part was having the opportunity to raise awareness and spread HOPE. The girls liked the necklaces so much that they changed the team name from the Tigers to the Polka Dots.......the polka dot necklaces were an inspiration! This is what Rainey told me about the decision to give the girls necklaces instead of trophies..."I can't tell you how much they loved them...one of the dads pulled me aside and told me how much he appreciated that we did necklaces. He said kids today are so entitled and think they automatically get trophies when they play sports and they lose perspective in what playing is all about. He said he really liked the idea that they got something, that wasn't too expensive to show they they played hard, but they didn't win. AND, to also have a little lesson about Africa and how they need to appreciate everything they have because not every child got the same things they did. It was a really sweet moment. I know I sound like a broken record but I love how people use their gifts and the ripple affect is so great. "

I am so excited to see the ripple effect in action. I know I have said it before, but seeing these girls wearing their little necklaces and having them learn that they have made a difference in someone's life is priceless.

Please be sure to check out Rainey's store where she is selling tons of cute items to also raise money for Dube Bute.

As I send necklaces out to people all over the country who are supporting this cause, I get so excited by what I am hearing. I have had people tell me that they are using the necklaces as stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, gifts for friends at church, and, my favorite...a woman who is going to give her daughters the necklaces on Christmas when she tells them they are going to be adopting from Ethiopia! I love it!

Thanks again for your support. Please keep the orders coming. Be sure to order soon because "production" will slow down and come to a halt two weeks before Christmas (I want to have all orders ready and shipped by December 13th).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pumpkin Latte

Every now and then I stumble across a recipe that I think everyone should try. I might start sharing a few with you because, darn it, I want everyone to know what I mean when I say "it is soooo good!" It is a cold, cloudy, gray day in Wisconsin today which means it is the perfect day for a nice hot cup of something warm and delicious. I found this recipe and decided I had to give it a try.
PUMPKIN LATTE
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 T canned pumpkin
2T white sugar
2T vanilla (not a typo-use 2 tablespoons)
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
Heat in a saucepan (stirring frequently) until warm (I like mine hot).
Garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon.
The drinks were so yummy. I invited my friend Julie over to have a latte with me and Grace took our picture... Now if I could just teach her to use some photo editing software to erase wrinkles and give me a fake tan...
Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ethiopian Build A Bear

Grace has been doing a lot of identifying people as Ethiopian lately. For example, she will point to someone who is African American and say..."look, she Ethiopian!" Well...it is sort of funny. Did you know Oprah is Ethiopian (not really)? Apparently the TV repair guy that came to our house is as well (no)...so is the nice lady that was sitting behind us in church on Sunday (nope)...you get the picture. So, it was not a surprise when Grace decided to make her new Build A Bear an Ethiopian bear. Grace received a gift card to Build A Bear as a welcome home gift from some friends. They thought it would be nice for her to "make a friend." It turned out to be a great idea. Grace had no idea what I was talking about when I told her that we were going to the mall to build a bear friend. She said she wanted it to be an Ethiopian bear, so I showed her all of the brown bears. We lined them up and SHE said that she wanted a certain bear because the fur matched her skin. It was really sweet. I decided that since she is talking about Ethiopia and loving her beautiful skin color, we should use one of those little voice recorders in her bear. We recorded her sweet little voice (Ethiopian accent and all) saying "I LOVE ETHIOPIA!" and the sound box is now tucked in the bear's foot. Every time you squeeze the bear's foot(paw, I guess) it says (proudly) "I love Ethiopia!"
She had so much fun. She walked in the store and looked around with amazement. It was so precious to see. It is so refreshing considering all of our other kids are so used to shopping, toy stores, and material junk. I loved watching her experience something so fun in a pure way. She had no idea such stores even existed before yesterday.


Grace giving her bear's heart a kiss and making a wish for the bear.
Giving her new bear a bath. Guess what Grace decided to name her bear? Hiwot. I love it!
She thought that the underwear was the funniest thing. She loved seeing the bear's little tail sticking out the backside of the underwear :)
Just like at home, Grace had a hard time picking out clothes. We tried a ton of outfits on her bear Hiwot, and I finally had to just lay out a few choices and have her pick (she knows the drill because we struggle with this daily...she usually only has two or three choices and must pick one to wear).
Our trip to Build A Bear was a ton of fun. Of course the other kids were thrilled to see her bear after school and all four kids got out bears, clothes, etc. and spent a lot of time playing with their furry friends.
One last super cute story that made me smile...Bryce's little friend Benny was over to play on Saturday. The boys are seven and are seriously sweet little guys. They had a great time playing. They were nice enough to let Grace play with them a little too. Benny went home and was talking to his mom about the play date. He said to her, "How can Grace be three already? I don't even remember Mrs. M. being pregnant." So cute!!! I love that kids don't really think anything of the whole skin color thing (unless you are an adopted little girl who is noticing other "Ethiopians" everywhere you go).
Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thank You!!!

I just want to say "thank you" to all of you who have purchased necklaces and key chains!!! We are off to a good start at raising funds to help support Hope for Dube Bute. Please keep the orders coming. Remember...these make great little $5 gifts - there is a tag with every item that explains that the proceeds from the purchase of the item go directly to Ethiopia to help bring clean water to thousands of people!
I also wanted to show that there are two different types of bottle caps. The "flattened" bottle cap is shown above (with the Africa hope key chain). If you would like your item to be made with a flattened bottle cap, just leave a note on the comment section of the PayPal order form. Thanks again for your support!
(Standard bottle cap necklaces are on 24" chains)
(Flattened bottle cap necklaces are on 18" chains)
Each are $5 (plus $1 shipping)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Give HOPE for Christmas!



New Christmas Designs!
Help support Hope for Dube Bute!


Our new necklace and key chain designs are so special to me. They are much more than a cute little trinkets, because they symbolize the hope that is prevalent in Africa. We had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people in Ethiopia. People often ask us what it was like and expect us to say that it was such a bummer and that it was hard to see all of the despair, etc. That is not how is was at all. The Ethiopian people we met were full of HOPE. They were so kind and so genuine. They had more joy within them than many of the Americans I meet do. So...this new design means a lot to me. I am so excited to partner with Emily Alexander and her family and use all of the proceeds from the sale of these necklaces, key chains and water bottle "charms" to benefit Hope for Dube Bute. Dube Bute is in the southern region of Ethiopia - this is the same region that Grace is from! It is so exciting to be able to contribute to a project that will directly touch lives in a rural area similar to the village Grace was born in. Hope for Dube Bute will provide wells so that those living in the region can have access to fresh, clean, healthy water. They will also be building a school, health care center, veterinary center and doing so much for the local people. I am so thrilled to be doing my small part to bring hope to Ethiopia...hope for clean water, education, and health care. Please join me in supporting this awesome organization!


I LOVE this new design. Please consider purchasing necklaces and key chains for Christmas gifts. They are only $6 including shipping and all proceeds will go directly to Ethiopia. Paired with a simple water bottle you can use the gift to symbolize a donation you are making to provide hope. Your gift recipient will be sure to appreciate the donation you make to help provide water in Ethiopia whether it is in the form of a key chain, necklace, water bottle charm or an additional donation that you make in their name to Hope for Dube Bute (www.ourglimmerofhope.org/hopefordubebute).


This picture was taken by Matt Ness who we are also partnering with. Our first phase of necklace sales was so successful. We were able to donate $600 to Matt's work in Ethiopia. (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to those of you who have already purchased necklaces!!!) Matt took this picture in Wolayita - the zone where Grace lived. This is an example of the water that Ethiopians drink every day. They simply do not have access to clean water. Water = life. This type of water = disease and even death. All of the proceeds from our necklace and key chain sales will go directly to Ethiopia to be used to help provide clean water (among other things) through Eyes That See and Hope for Dube Bute. In the capital city of Addis Ababa, The Love In Action orphanage and Eyes That See (the program being run through LIA) is able to provide clean water to people living in the area of LIA. Students that are sponsored can come to LIA after school, receive tutoring, a healthy meal, access to laundry services (students can not attend school without their uniforms being clean) and they can bring water home with them. Isn't it crazy to think that water is such a valuable resource and yet we take it for granted every day. I can tell you that Grace LOVES water and I believe it has to do with the fact that she did not have much access to it in Ethiopia. She loves to bathe, swim, drink and splash around in water- things we take for granted.


Here is an example of the "flattened" bottle cap style key chain. Flattened bottle cap necklaces are available and come on 18" chains.


The standard bottle cap necklace is made with a black and silver bottle cap and comes on a 24" chain. The chain fits nicely over a child's head without having to open the clasp.

Flattened bottle cap water bottle "charm"

We are also adding initial necklaces and key chains for the holidays. These come in either the standard black and silver bottle cap or flattened bottle cap style. Please specify which initial you would like in the comment section of the paypal checkout page.

If you are interested in giving "hope" this Christmas, please use the PayPal link on the side of our blog to purchase some necklaces. Click on the "standard bottlecap" section and you will be able to choose from a drop down menu to select the item you want to purchase.

We appreciate your support and look forward to making a (hopefully nice size) donation to Hope for Dube Bute!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas is Coming!


Why the big smile you ask? Well, Christmas is coming. Grace loves her fancy dress and can't wait to wear it. But even more exciting is that very soon (hopefully in the next day or two) we will be showing you the new Christmas designs for our necklaces and key chains. These will make awesome stocking stuffers and gifts. We can't wait to tell you all about them and let you know who we are going to support with the funds we raise...here is a hint...many of you read their blog and they are doing AMAZING work in the southern region of Ethiopia. They have many beautiful children - a couple from Ethiopia- and have really inspired me to do something to help provide clean water and education to children living in rural Ethiopia...any guesses? Stay tuned for details!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adoption Reunion in Kentucky


This is what it is all about...Take a look at these two kiddos. They were both born in a small village in the southern part of Ethiopia. They traveled together for many hours to the capital city of Addis Ababa where we were lucky enough to meet them only four short months ago and bring them home to the U.S. They haven't seen each other since we landed in Chicago in July. Their beautiful smiles tell a great story of reliency, joy and hope.

Grace and Tedi were lucky enough to see each other this past weekend when we traveled to Lousiville, KY for an adoption reunion. Our agency, Arise for Children, hosted a great party to celebrate the children that have arrived home over the past two years. The agency and it's wonderful director Susan have welcomed home 69 children in their first two years of business. That is truly a remarkable number considering they are a small agency.
Of course seeing all of the kids from Ethiopia was one of the highlights of our trip. The other highlight was meeting my blog friends and fellow adoptive moms! I was so excited to meet Natalie. She is Tedi's mom and wasn't able to travel with us when we went to Ethiopia (starting her residency did not allow for her to leave). She was as awesome in person as I knew she would be. It was so nice to finally be able to give her a hug.
The other sweet blog friend that I finally got to meet was Brittney. Brittney traveled to Ethiopia a few months before we did. We hadn't received our referral I remember joking with her to keep her eye out for a little three year old girl for us...little did I know that Grace was actually at the orphanage when Brittney traveled. Brittney is as sweet as I imagined. She helped to organize the Arise party and even made plans for all of us to go to a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. It was so awesome to be able to spend the day with these women!

Here I am with Brittney. She was wearing one of the necklaces we are selling when I met her...isn't that cool?
Finally being able to spend time with Natalie was such a treat. We have been going through the adoption journey together for months. We waited for updates about our kids together, passed court together, traveled to Ethiopia at the same time, etc.

Grace and Tedi enjoying a meal together. They still love Ethiopian food and it was so fun to watch them dig in together.

I think my kids wanted Tedi to come home with us - maybe that is why he is wearing Bryce's name tag.
This sweet girl came home from Ethiopia a month or so after Grace did. When she saw Grace at the party, she came running up saying "Hiwot!!!" and gave her a big hug. Grace was so shy whenever anyone would speak to her in Amharic. I wish I knew what she was thinking. It was hard to explain to her that we would see friends from Ethiopia and that they all lived in "America" now. I still don't really know if she realized that we were in Kentucky and that all of these sweet kids live in America now.


Bryce and Tedi
Alyssa and Tedi (I told you my kids love this little guy!). During the party, Drew (my 11 year old) joined right in with the older Ethiopian boys who started playing soccer outside. I love how he just joined right in. He prides himself on being somewhat athletic, but has never played soccer. The boys played a little basketball first, so they could see that Drew was athletic. Well, when it was time to "pick teams" for soccer, he said he got picked right away. Little did they know that he had never played the game. He said that it took them about a minute to realize that he didn't know what he was doing...they asked him if he wanted to be goalie :) Drew said the boys were awesome at soccer. The things they could do with their feet and the ball were "so cool."
I was also so excited to meet Elizabeth. She and her husband traveled before we did and they were kind enought to take pictures of Grace for us. Those pictures were so precious to us. We didn't have many pictures and when we saw her sweet face and knew that they had met her, we were thrilled. Elizabeth is as kind as I imagined. We hope to see her family again some time soon. We didn't have long together in KY, but we forced the girls to pose for a picture.

They both looked thrilled with the idea of a picture. They must have been thinking...give me a break here...I haven't seen this person in six months and the last time we were together we were on a different continent! Grace was, however, very impressed with Moriah's earrings. I have a feeling earrings are in Grace's very near future...

Alyssa was such a great big sister during the trip. Grace and Tedi must have jumped into her arms 5,000 times while swimming. They did not stop moving for a minute. Jump in, get out, jump in again.

The trip to Louisville was short, but sweet. Here are a couple of other fun things we did while we were there...
Louisville Slugger tour and museum...I would totally recommend this to anyone. It was so much fun. The kids loved the giant bat outside.



Another one of those moments when I wonder what Grace was thinking. She goes right along with us, never asking why there are statues of guys all over and why we would want to have our picture taken with them. One of the highlights - Drew got to hold Mickey Mantle's bat. What a thrill for him. It was so neat that he could hold a piece of history.

Whenever we take a car trip through southern Wisconsin, we stop at the Jelly Belly factory. It is so cute and you can buy lots of good treats for the car ride. Again...what was Grace thinking??? And to top off the trip, we stopped at the Rainforest Cafe for lunch on the way home Sunday. Grace loved seeing the animals. She was convinced some of them were real (we let her believe it too).
What a fun way to kick off a month of thanksgiving and National Adoption Month! We are so blessed to have met the friends we did and to spend time celebrating the sweet children that have been brought home from Ethiopia.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Four Months Home...Wishes...

A couple of days ago Grace and I were playing in the yard. We noticed that there were still some dandelions that hadn't blown completely away for the year. I took a few minutes to try to explain to Grace that she needed to "make a wish" and blow the fuzzy part of the plant into the wind. She was so excited to watch the little white puffs float up into the sky...got me thinking about wishes. Grace didn't really know what I meant when I told her to "make a wish." How do you explain that? I started making my own wishes for her... Today marks four months since Grace has been with our family. The time has gone so fast, and yet it seems like she has been here forever. Obviously, my wish for Grace is that she will know that the love of our family will be forever- permanent- we are here for her. I wish that the joy we see in Grace is real and that her adjustment to our family is truly as smooth as it appears. I wish that she not suffer any more pain and grief and that she feels comfort and peace.
At the same time, I can't stop thinking about about her birth relatives... My wish is that they can somehow know how well Grace is doing. That they can feel comfort in knowing that she is loved and adored. We pray for them every day... I was talking to another adoptive mom about the pain I feel for Grace's relatives. I told her that I just wish I had more answers and that I wish they could know how she is doing. The mom said "Who knows? God may be providing them with the comfort and peace they need and He might somehow provide you all with answers you need some day...it truly is His plan after all." She's right, isn't she?
For now, at four months home, Grace is doing remarkably well. She is a strong little girl who has gone through so much in her three short years. We are so proud of her. We are so honored to be her family. We are so excited to help her live out her wishes!!!

***AND, she is a little spunky too!