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September 9 September 3
August 27 August 20
August 13 August 7
July 30 July 23
July 16 July 8
June 30 June 17
June 9 May 30
May 16 April 25
April 9 April 2
March 24 March Madness
Iowa Snowstorm February 25
February 18 February 11
February 4 February 3

January 27

January 21

January 14

Thomas is nine!

January 13

A Note from Aunt Dode

January 11

January 6

January 5

January 3

January 1

Here is a message from Aunt Dode




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2006 News


September 9,2007
Off to the doctor
I never took my first four kids to the doctor for check-ups. It seemed like we were at the doctor enough when they were sick, and it always seemed like an inconvenience to go when they were well. The girls were due for their 6 mo. check-up. I called for an appointment August first, and couldn't get them in until last week. I wasn't excited about the appointment at all. I had to take an afternoon off of work. Steve joined me and we had to take Shega out of school early. We drove to the pediatrician in Sioux Falls.

I was so glad we went! No...the kids weren't sick. I didn't find anything out. We just had a good time together! Everyone at the doctor's office was very kind to us and to the girls. Shega grew 4 inches in height since February. She gained 4 lbs. She is in about the 80th percentile for both height and weight. Megan gained 8 pounds since February. She moved from the 10th percentile to the 50th in height and weight. Her head circumference moved from the 20th percentile to the 80th percentile. She has room for LOTS of brains!

They both needed shots. Megan got one shot. Shega actually got 4 shots. She'll tell you she was brave. I'll never tell my part of the story! After the appointment, we asked Shega to choose where she wanted to eat. She had a hard time choosing between McDonalds and Lalibela (the Ethiopian restaurant). Finally she chose Lalibela. She loves injera and wat. She usually chooses Doro wat, eats hers then reaches over to eat mine. We usually have a little left to bring home. It amazes me to think that just 8 months after she joined our family, she can't decide between McDonalds (What could be more American?) and her beloved injera. I'm actually quite pleased that she decided on Lalibela!

In other news...
Emma is beginning to fit in nicely at Boyden-Hull. She is making her way socially. Her classes are going well, and I can see the light come back into her eyes. It is an answer to prayer!

Paul went to Iowa City to see the Hawkeyes play. He couldn't find anyone to travel with him, but enjoyed his alone time with the relatives.


Joe's baseball team won two games yesterday. It was a great day for baseball and we enjoyed the weather.

Happy Birthday to Amber in Arizona! I hope you are enjoying your students.

Happy birthday to my student assistant, Johanna's mom! I think Jo's mom and I have lots in common. We both love our birthdays! I hope her whole week is a celebration!

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September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day!
We are enjoying the last hot breath of summer. We had a great weekend. We went to Lifelightfest, a Christian outdoor music festival on Saturday. The kids had lots of fun. I don't have any pictures. The camera was one thing we left at home. We had to park a good 1/2 mile from the concert site. Between the stroller, chairs, blankets and other paraphernalia, we had plenty to carry. Chris Tomlin closed out the evening. He was awesome. We got home after midnight and slept happily. After church on Sunday, we headed to Round Lake to enjoy the lake with the Heits family. Shega and Megan loved the water. I actually went water-skiing. I have skied infrequently as an adult. Every time I do, I say, "This is the last time I am going to ski in my life." Then another opportunity presents itself, and I try again. My neck and shoulders are mighty sore today and again I am saying, "I will never ski in this lifetime again!" I guess we'll see....

Peace Corps
Joe and Kendra have accepted a Peace Corps appointment. They will be leaving sometime next September. They'll spend about two years, (27 mo.) in a Latin American country. They'll likely be placed in central or south America. Joe will be working in agriculture and Kendra will teach. They are very excited. We are very proud of them and their willingness to go and serve. The first challenge they will face will be spending three months apart. The Peace Corps wants every volunteer, even married couples to spend three months in separate host family homes. In that way, they will learn the language better and will be totally immersed in the culture. It will be hard for a newly married couple to be apart for so long. However, they have really thought and prayed and feel like this will be a good fit for them. Here's a link to the Peace Corps FAQ. It answered quite a few of my questions:

Joe and Kendra are still in the midst of wedding planning. Here's their wedding site: http://www.joeandkendra.com/home.asp  They're still adding a few things to the site. More news will show up soon, I'm sure.

Emma had her first volleyball game last week. It is always fun to see the fruit of your labor! Shega is still doing well in Kindergarten. She loves all of her teachers. She loves PE, Music and ELL (English Language Learners). She especially likes her teachers. I'm pretty sure some of the stories she takes home are embellished...(like the story of the big frog that big her SO HARD!) but it is really fun to hear her talk at the end of the day.
Thomas is really enjoying Mr. H in fourth grade. It's always a treat for little boys to have a man teacher in the elementary grades. He enjoyed an extra day with his cousins at Round Lake last night. He is so tired that he's drifting off to sleep right now and its barely 9:00 p.m. He should be fresh in the morning!

This is a heavy topic to end the post with, but it has been on my mind lately. I visit a forum where other adoptive parents discuss their kids and other issues affecting transracial families. One topic concerned whether or not our very young children had experienced racism. I'm not sure the following incidents have racism at the core, but they are interesting. Let me know what you think!

1.) Kendra was walking down the street pushing Megan in the stroller with Shega in tow. A man she didn't know stopped a car, jumped out and handed her two dollars saying, "One for each!" I'm not sure it was racism, however I've never had that happen with any of my other kids. Could it have been someone who thinks that black kids must be poor? Maybe it was someone that knew the girls and just wanted to be nice. I just don't know!
2.) When at a volleyball game last spring a nice man gestured toward Megan and said, "I'll bet you can't wait to see what her vertical is like when she's this age!" That's not really a racist comment, but is racial stereotyping. I guess it just points to his limited exposure to Africans and African Americans.
3.) Last spring, Steve's mom introduced the girls and me to a woman she knows only slightly. She introduced me as her daughter-in-law and the girls as her granddaughters. The woman gestured toward me and said, "Is she married?...She quickly followed with, "A lot of times they're not, you know!" I can only assume she meant that women with black children aren't typically married. That one was definitely racist. I can't think of a nice explanation for that!

There have been a few incidents with kids. I just give them the benefit of not knowing any better. When Shega was just learning English, a pair of 4 year olds came running into one of Emma's games, breathless. They said, "Grandpa! There's a brown girl chasing us!" When their Grandpa explained who Shega was and that she didn't know English well and just wanted to play, the girls said, "We don't like brown people!" Their poor grandpa was horrified, quickly took it upon himself to "help" the girls play with Shega by sharing some candy with her and giving Shega a little extra special treatment in front of the girls. I'm quite sure they hadn't been up close with any "brown people" before, and weren't sure what to think. I'm sure Shega was a little scary, smiling, chasing them all over and not speaking at all!

We know we have some tricky times ahead of us. We know that the girls will feel alone sometimes. We hope that we can provide them with some role models, friends of color and some contact with both the Ethiopian culture and the African American culture. We know we need to make friends with people of color. Pretty soon you might see Steve and I chasing down some poor unsuspecting black kids saying, "Will you be friends for our girls?" We shouldn't be surprised if they turn around and say, "We don't like white people!" (Especially loud, scary white people who don't make sense when they talk.)

Blessings on your week! Thanks for checking in.


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August 27, 2007

School has begun! Emma and Shega began on Tuesday. Shega barely slept all night. I kept waking up seeing Shega's face peering into my face in the dark. She said, "Mom. You're going to forget to wakin' me up!" To her surprise, I remembered indeed, and Emma and Shega got on the bus together, each headed for a new school. I worried and wondered all day, but both girls had a good day. I am praying that Miss Shega will find some friends. She loves Andrew, who is in her class, but she tells me it is hard to find someone to play with at recess. She also says, "I can't writin' my name good. Other than that, I don't hear a lot. She is dead tired at the end of the day, and she definitely needs "wakin' up" every morning.

I guess writing her name gives us a focus for our at home time. I didn't spend a lot of time teaching her how to write her name, because we were still in the "name ambiguity" stage. We kept thinking we were going to move her name to Shaya. She does answer to both Shega and Shaya now, but we continue to call her Shega at home. When we complete her paperwork, she will be Shega Faye Heitritter. The other day she said, "Who namin' me Shega?" I said, "Your Ethiopian mom did. Shega means lovely, and that's the only name that would fit such a lovely girl!" Her middle name is Faye, after Steve's Mom Sharon Faye.

Emma is adjusting to her new schedule. She's still finding her way socially.
I'm glad she has volleyball right now. She loves volleyball and is enjoying the girls at practice. Thomas seems to love 4th grade. He already had an overnight this weekend. It is always great to reconnect with friends.

Joe begins his fall baseball schedule soon. We love watching fall baseball.
There's no pressure and it is usually nice weather!

Home improvement
We are still in the throes of our home improvement. The project is mostly finished, but it seems as if one project leads to another. One time last summer, Shega was dancing around the living room with a full gallon of paint on her head. (Hard to believe, but true!) It fell and painted the carpet in the living room! We're not quite ready to remodel the living room and kitchen, even though it needs it. We decided the path of least pain would be to carpet the bedroom and repair the living room with the bedroom carpet. The carpet is coming tomorrow. We spent the weekend cleaning, painting and moving the furniture. Tonight, while I was braiding Shega's hair, Megan very carefully painted a large square on the bare wood floor. She also painted herself in her Sunday best. She put quite a wonderful design on her new shoe as well. Oh well, I'm definitely having to hold on to my "earthly treasures". lightly. Moths and rust have certainly come to destroy (:

Blessings on your week! Thanks for checking in!

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August 20, 2007

Summer's end
I always find this time of year difficult. Even though I enjoy my work, I always find it difficult to see the end of the free schedule and free times with the kids. Joe moved out yesterday. I am very aware that he will not live with us for any length of time again. He's off to school and getting married in December. I am sad that our time with him went so fast, but I am so very proud of him. He and Kendra are a wonderful match and he has turned into a man!

Shega is getting eager for kindergarten to start. She is in Andrew's class and I think they'll both do well with that. She and Emma start school on Tuesday and Thomas begins on Wednesday. The girls did well in daycare in OC last week. I'm not sure what's up for this week.

Interesting article
Here's an interesting (Long) article in the New York magazine.
It's called the nuclear family exploded and it talks about adoption. The article is very real and portrays a good view of the complicated feelings I have about adoption. There's a story about the adoptive family driving out to meet their adopted child's birth family. It makes me so sad that we don't have the infrastructure to take care of the world's children while keeping them with their families of origin. Yet, I am pleased that at least this child (and our girls) are safe.

Sad news update
We were able to attend the services for our friend's son who died last week.
My heart is broken for their family. By all accounts, Michael was a fun-loving, great kid. His parents and friends have no explanation. I can't imagine what the start of school will be like for them. It will all seem so empty. He was just a few weeks younger than Emma, about to start his freshmen year. His two college-aged brothers and his little sister as well as his grandparents and friends must be so broken. It is simply a nightmare.

The family played the Natalie Grant song, "Held" at the service.

The lyrics go like this:

Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and why should we be saved

From nightmares

We're asking why this happens

To us, who have died to live

It's unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life

And you survive

This is what it is to be loved

And to know

That the promise is when everything falls

You'll be held.

I pray Michael's family is feeling the loving arms of God holding them now.


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August 13, 2007

Summer fun
It seems that this time of year always makes fun seem like an emergency. I keep trying to schedule more fun to fill our days before school starts. This weekend we took the family boating. We went back to the Okoboji Bible conference on Sunday morning and evening and boated all afternoon. The services were great. We saw Avalon in concert. The weather was beautiful for boating. We had lots of fun. We have one weekend left. We'll have to get planning. Like I said...fun is an emergency!

Unfortunately, the schedule has begun again. Emma had volleyball camp last week and began school volleyball today. I think she is ready for a schedule and volleyball will help her to solidify some new friendships. She had a nasty UTI this week. She had to go to the dr. twice. On my last visit, the dr. asked me about Shega and Megan as well as my work schedule. He said, "Laura. Don't you know that mothering is a full-time job?!? It is a lifetime of commitment but it reaps an eternity of reward." Well.....This part-time mommy feels like I'm always on the job! Hmmmmm I'm mulling that comment for awhile!

I went to Des Moines last week for work. (more part-time mothering!) Aunt Dode stayed and filled in the gaps for two days. Kendra helped out during the days. Dode said the kids kept her plenty busy. She told me that she slept all day on Friday! Those little darlins' do wear a body out!

Adventures in haircutting
Shega gave herself a haircut this week. She cut off about a 2 inch square piece of her hair...right down to the skin. The damage is in the back, so I'm hoping not many people notice. Braids may be difficult. Her hair will have to be "free" for awhile. There will be a noticeable gap in the braids.

Back to school
I was planning to begin a regular schedule today. However, our babysitter has a sick baby and couldn't have the girls. Her little guy will be in the NICU at Sanford for awhile. I am praying for a good outcome for him. In the meantime, I reserved a spot for Shega and Megan at OC Daycare for tomorrow through Friday. They will be happy to see their old caregivers and friends.

Sad news
We were saddened to hear of the death of Bill Reimers this week. He was killed at a corn intersection near Boyden last week. We've played cards with Bill and Sue for over 20 years. He was a good man. We will miss him. Here's the obituary: http://www.vanderploegfunerals.com/index.cfm  We are praying for Sue and the girls.

I had a call from a someone today who told me that his 14 year-old grandson, the son of a good friend of mine, died this morning. He was the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot. My heart is broken for the family. I have no words other than those from one of my favorite verses.

Here's Romans 8 v. 38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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August 7, 2007


We’re back to reality!  I’m back at school, and the kids are registered for school. It is weird how fast summer goes.


School decisions:

We decided to send Shega to kindergarten rather than TK. I know it will be a stretch for her, but we really feel like the schedule will be good for her. She thrives on a very scheduled environment. I think she’ll do fine. We decided on Boyden-Hull, because they have an ELL program, and other resources that she might need. We will likely move her to Hull Christian either next year, or the next. We are thinking she might need to do kindergarten twice. I don’t know! She’s a pretty smart kid!


Thomas is registered for Hull Christian. I’m so excited that he will have Mr. H. He was one of my students here at NWC. It is fun to see him as a professional in a different light.


Emma is headed to Boyden-Hull. It is a bit of an awkward time for her. She is ready for school to begin. Right now, she misses her friends from Hull Christian. They are very involved in school, volleyball and other pursuits. However, she isn’t really on the schedule for her B-H friends yet. This week she is at volleyball camp. That helps!


We had a great time at the Okoboji Bible Conference last weekend, and hope to go again this weekend. If you’re in the lakes area, you should check it out. Here’s a link to the schedule:  http://www.okobojiconference.org/


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July 30, 2007

We had a great time at the wedding! Amber was a lovely bride and Nate a handsome groom. We wish them both many years of happiness. We can't wait to hear updates on their new life together. We stayed with Carrie and kids for the wedding. Shega loved swimming in the pool and visiting with the cousins. She is very social! Megan loved the wedding dance. She toddled and danced and was generally very agreeable all night. It was great fun to see all of the kids hit the dance floor. Shega really wanted to wear Emma's old flower girl dress to the wedding. It took some convincing, but she packed the sundress that she chose at Old Navy. Megan wore hers too.

The dresses proved to be a good investment. The girls fell asleep on the way back to Carrie's house after the wedding. We put them right into bed in their dresses. We picked them up around 6:30 a.m. and put them in their car seats still in their dresses. They spent the entire day in those dresses.
Considering Thomas spilled ketchup on his shirt within the first bite of the wedding meal, I think the girls did great!

Brunch with friends
We met three other adoptive families in the cities before the picnic. Two of the families had adopted 3 - 4 year olds along with infants, just as we did. The older kids spent the weekends in the infant center with their baby siblings. The agency really encourages the children to know their siblings. Having visited the infant center for a few days, It is tough to imagine what the preschool kids did for the weekends. The rooms in the infant center resemble church nurseries without the toys. I'll bet those kids had to make a lot of their own fun. Shega was sooo excited to see the kids. They had a great time just playing in the yard and enjoying each other's company. It was so nice of these folks to think of us!

The picnic
Wow! The picnic was so much fun! It was great to meet so many families who look like us, sound like us and have had similar experiences. The picnic was so well-organized. There were vendors, events and speakers. I learned so much. It was a complete joy. The kids loved it. Thomas enjoyed heading around to all of the events. Megan napped nicely in her stroller and then enjoyed going from place to place. Shega had a wonderful time. She connected with many children. There was one child in particular that Shega especially wanted to see. I have heard several stories about this particular child (I'll call her T) and was eager to meet her. We had had told Shega that T would be there so Shega was on the look-out right away. When we found her, Shega walked up to T rather shyly.
Then she picked her up, and tried to twirl her around. Since T is only 2, she doesn't remember as much about Shega as Shega does about T. She was a bit suspicious of Miss Shega! Shega says that T lived near her when they were in their first home (Shone, Ethiopia). She says they traveled to the care center together. She says that they were in a blue van. Shega says her first mom asked her to "play with the babies." I'm not sure if we'll ever know if that story is true, but Shega emphatically insists that it is. The afternoon passed so quickly. I would like to have visited a bit longer with T's parents, members of our travel group and others that we met. What a wonderful day!


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July 23, 2007

Congrats to Emma for her blue ribbon pigs! It was a very hot fair. The rest of us didn't spend as much time there as we typically do. The hog show went well. Thomas took second in the pedal pull. He's earned a trip to the state Pedal Pull this fall. We'll see if we actually get him there.

We had to persuade Megan not to eat all of the garbage she found on the ground. Now that she's mobile, she likes to explore. She found many half-eaten treasures on the ground. I thought of Templeton, the rat from Charlotte's Web. She has been eating like a pig! I've got some delicious Megan and food pictures on the picture page.

Here's a link to a video of Megan...I mean Templeton!


Boyden Bash
The Boyden Bash was lots of fun! Shega loved the blow-up toys and the kiddie parade. Megan did great all day. Thomas and Emma had a good time playing volleyball, playing the kid games and running around Boyden. Small towns do know how to party!!

This week we'll be at Amber and Nate's wedding. We're very excited about seeing everyone again. It will be Shega's first wedding. She is trying to imagine it, and thinks it will be awesome. The wardrobe will be a battle. She wants to wear a flower girl dress that Emma wore to one of the Heitritter weddings. It is white, full length and full of lovely crinolines. She thinks it is what she should wear to a wedding. She would definitely be noticed! Sometimes she wants me to take her hair dos out before we go out in public. She says, "Take my hair out. Everyone will look me!" I'm quite sure she would have quite a few folks "looking her" if she wore that to a wedding in which she wasn't a participant! We'll see what happens.

Ethiopian picnic
Shega can't wait to go to the picnic. She knows she will meet some of her old friends from the care center. There is one child in particular that she is eager to see. She calls her "my sister", and says she lived right behind her in her Ethiopian village. She is quite animated when she talks about her. She is also eager to see two boys that had baby brothers in the infant center as well. The big kids would spend weekends with their siblings in the baby facility. She got to know these boys quite well, as they ate and played together every weekend while they visited their baby siblings. One of the families has invited us to spend Saturday morning with them. We can't wait!


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July 16, 2007

The Hull Summer Celebration was fun! Shega rode her new bike in the kiddie parade. Megan loved chasing candy on the curb. Thomas and Emma enjoyed it too. Aunt Dode came along. Later, she helped Steve prime the walls in our new room. Check out the parade pictures.

Ball games
Emma finished her ball schedule this week. Her little league schedule ended with the typical mother/daughter game. Since Emma is a catcher, I had to catch! Scary! At least I got to wear lots of padding and helmets. I used those handy dandy shin helmets quite a bit. (Yes, they ten-runned us!)

Thomas finishes his ball schedule this week with the father/son game. I am quite sure that the dads will win. Dads don't throw the game just for the benefit of nine-year olds. That's a mom's job!

Megan and walking
Megan is walking well. It is such a joy to see her toddle around. She usually sleeps all night and naps well during the day. All that walking wears her out! She is such an easy-going child. It is a joy to have her in the family.

Shega and Attachment Therapy
We continue with attachment therapy. This week Shega and her dad spent some time together. We had some rough moments in the days following therapy once again. It is interesting to see how Shega reacts to therapy. We hope we are doing the right thing.

What is therapy like?
The therapist is a child/play therapist who has extensive training in attachment. He is very busy, so we were put on a waiting list as soon as we arrived home. Although we weren't sure it was necessary, we began therapy as soon as we got to the top of the waiting list.
The sessions begin with either Shega and I, or Shega and her dad working with the therapist with things like eye-wars, conversation starters, or little games that force us to have eye contact. Then he typically does a short session alone with Shega. During this time, he has her talk through scenarios from the week, or from her past with dolls.

What is different about parenting an adopted older child?
I'll answer this with a discussion of how we handled an incident in our house this week:
Shega was screaming in the house the other day. I asked her to scream only outside. I said, "Screaming is an outside noise. Go outside when you feel like screaming." She agreed. She then opened the window, walked outside and screamed in to the open window. I closed the window and explained why we don't scream inside. Later, we went to a ballgame. As I was visiting with some folks Shega came, stood between us, and let loose with a blood-curdling scream. (I know that some of you are laughing right now! ) When I asked her to stop, she responded. "Mom! We are outside!" I walked her to the car and explained courteous behavior. When we got home, the phone rang. As soon as I picked up, Shega screamed 4 short screams while checking to see if I would notice.

I did not handle this in the same way that I would have with my other (bio) kids. The root of the behavior was not careless or childish behavior. Her intent was to see what I would do if she pushed me as far as she dared. She certainly can't give voice to this intent, we only see it underneath the surface. It is as if she attempts to push us away with her behavior sometimes. She is almost afraid to love us too much.

What not to do:
Time outs. We don't do time-outs where Shega can't see us. Abandoned children must never be abandoned even in a symbolic way. We don't send her to her room, or put her in a "naughty chair" where she can't see us. She needs to know that no matter how naughty she is, we will never leave her.
Spankings. I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't feel like spanking her! However, Shega is not secure enough in our love to risk any kind of physical punishment.
Withholding of love or affection. Again, Shega is not secure enough in the knowledge that we love her to ever risk giving her the "cold shoulder".

What we did:
I took Shega to her room and held her on my lap. We use "Holding Time" where we just hold her and tell her how much we love her. During holding time, we stroke her hair and face and repeat how much we love her. We tell her that we are her parents and she can trust us to make the decisions. We tell her that she has to obey because obeying keeps her safe. Shega typically cries for a little (or long) while. She doesn't like to be restrained. The holding time always ends in a sweet conversational time.

What should we do?
We don't know! We forge ahead and pray that God will fill the gaps! If you have time to keep us on your prayer list, ask for God to reassure Shega that she's with her forever family and reassure us that we can parent her well.

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July 8, 2007

Shega is 5!

Check out the party pictures!!
We just concluded a three-day celebration of the big event! Shega had a birthday! She has been waiting for her birthday since she arrived and found out what birthdays are. We even had a practice birthday party for Shega some time ago, because she couldn't wait any longer. About two weeks ago, she wrapped up one of her favorite books and hid it in the closet for her birthday. She was very terrified that I would give it to Steve for his birthday last week. It was much fun for her to open it and just as much fun for Thomas to tease her about it.

Shega woke up early on her birthday, walked down the steps and discovered a new bike. She could hardly wait to ride it. She hopped right on, and Thomas steered her to the garage where she discovered the new pool from Aunt Dode. She can't wait for us to set it up. After those fun discoveries, we traveled to Wild Water West with  Kendra and the three cousins for the day.
Everyone had a great time there. In the evening, we went to Emma's game, and Shega rode her new bike in town. Barb and Grandma made supper for us. Then Shega opened more presents. Later, we went to McDonalds for supper number two and even more presents. (Earlier in the week, we had promised Shega she could go to McDonalds on her birthday. We try very hard not to break any promises we make. We want her to think we are entirely trustworthy.) Soooooooo, even though Grandma's supper was awesome, we went to McDonalds too.

We took most of Saturday off from birthday fun. We spent the day beading Shega's hair (not bad for our first attempt!), cleaning the house and playing outside. We did a trip to the grocery store to buy the supplies for the party. Shega enjoyed choosing the menu. On Sunday, the fun began again.
After church, we went to Rock Rapids to the pool and park for party number three. The kids had a great time in the pool and the park was especially nice. We had volcano cake, cupcakes and fruit. Shega enjoyed the food, all of the cousins and the fun at the park.

Megan did very well at the parties too. She loves the water. She did not love having her hair beaded. We just put two little strings in the front over a major protest. She is walking everywhere now. She still has the drunken sailor waddle, but is cute as can be as she toddles from place to place.

Interesting conversation
It has been a year since the girls came into care at the care center in Ethiopia. I don't know if they can sense the milestone passing or not. I did have an interesting conversation with Shega this week. Shega began by asking me when we would be going to see different friends and people she knows. For example, Shega would say, "When are we going to Maddie's house?" I would sing, "Soon and very soon!" Eventually, she asked, "When are we going to Jesus house?" I sang, "When I die Hallelujah bye and bye...I"ll fly away!"
Suddenly Shega became very worried. She kept asking me, "When are you going to die?" I said, "It will likely be a very long time until I die. I'll be a grandma and you'll be a mommy." She said, "No! I don't want to be a mommy!
I want to see Jesus with you! I don't want to go alone. Don't let me go alone! Take me with you to Jesus' house."

It amazed me to hear how much this child fears abandonment.

Deut. 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

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June 30, 2007

Happy Birthday to Steve! We didn't do much celebrating for Steve's birthday.
We spent more time at ballgames. Emma is really busy with ballgames. It has been great fun to watch her.

More birthdays.
We celebrated little Gracie's birthday at their house last Saturday. I love it when Megan says Gracie. It is more of a "Gashee". It's adorable!

Shega's birthday is in six days. She wrapped her favorite book and hid it in my closet and was terrified that I would give it to Steve yesterday. We're not exactly sure what the plans for the celebration are yet, but she already has cupcake pans with liners on the table. She picked blue liners for the boys and pink for the girls. This girl is soooo excited about her birthday!

Physical therapy
Megan had her meeting with the teacher and physical therapist this week. She really performed for them. She took a few unassisted steps, she sang, she practically charmed them right out of the house. They are planning to reduce her contact time to once a month. Her next IFSP will be sometime in October.

Singing and talking
Yes! Megan sings! Kendra taught Megan the "Ring around the Rosie" song. She is constantly singing, "Ashee, Ashee, Down, Down, Down!" She LOVES it! She is such a little mimic right now. She will repeat nearly anything anyone says. Her favorite word right now is "NO". She also likes "BOP" which means, "STOP"! We think she is prematurely two! It is so much fun to see her learn.

Attachment therapy
Attachment therapy is a challenge for Shega. After the first two sessions Shega cried for many hours. I hold her as she cried. The therapist says this is normal. It is quite hard on Mom and Dad. We wonder if we're doing the right thing. I hope so! She is a lovely, smart child. We pray that we can parent her well. (Of course we can't, but we pray that God will fill in the gaps!) The session this week went much better. I'm not sure why, but we're happy.

Boyden Tournament
The Boyden tournament went very well again. Steve puts many hours into the tournament. I wasn't much help at all this year. Emma's team finished third and she made the all-tournament team. You can check out pictures on Steve's website: www.boydentourney.com


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June 17, 2007

Fathers Day
Happy Fathers Day! I especially want to wish my dad a happy day. My dad is a great guy who was (and is) a wonderful father. He is a godly man who worked hard and modeled good values for us. Thank you Dad for all you did and still do for all of us.

Steve and I and all six kids had a nice Fathers Day on the lake. We joined Keith and the boys for boat rides and pizza. It was Shega's first boat ride.
She was thrilled. She is quite a water girl! Megan did well too. She mostly sat on my lap and worried a bit about whoever was on the "little boat" or tube. She spent a lot of time saying, "SHEGA, NO!" anytime Shega was on the tube.

Attachment therapy was interesting this week. We spent most of the hour doing holding activities and eye exercises. It did seem to shake a few things loose for Shega. She was more than a bit disagreeable on Thursday and Friday. She had much to say about Ethiopia and her first mom this week too.
I hope that the therapy helps us head in the right direction for our forever bond. We had a wonderful weekend, so perhaps the therapy is moving us in the right direction.

Megan has physical therapy on Wed. The teacher is coming out to do a reassessment for cognitive skills when they are here as well. Megan is now taking about 3 steps in a row right now. She is getting stronger by the day.
I certainly don't see any evidence of a cognitive delay.


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June 9, 2007
Anna was born on Grandma Dyk's birthday. Blessings to her on her 6th birthday! It was much fun to see Anna recently. She is becoming a lovely young lady and it was a treat to see her.

Mom would have been 79 on her birthday. She has been gone for 10 years. I still miss her. Here are a few things I learned from Mom.

Things I learned from Mom:
Always say nice things about other people. It soon changes your attitude about them and about others.
Sit down with family for supper.
Go to church....usually.
Sundays are for church, spending time with family and for taking a snooze. It's not important to fold socks. Your family can dig for pairs in a laundry basket full of the "socks without partners" club.
Work hard.
Cook fast.
There's always room for one more at the table.

Ball, ball and more ball
Thomas and Emma are playing ball! Emma is playing for the Boyden town team, and the Nighthawks. Shega and Megan are doing well going to the ball games. Shega loves it when the games are in Boyden. The playground is near, and sometimes we get her trike out of Grandma's garage.

Update on Megan's PT
Megan is doing well with her large motor development. Her PT has been very pleased with her progress. She now cruises between furniture. She pulls up nearly anywhere. She has taken a few steps between people. It has been a joy to see her learn.

A funny note! During Emma's volleyball season, an older gentleman whispered to me while nodding at Megan, "I'll bet you can't wait to see what her vertical is like when she is this age!" I assume he thought that because of Megan's color, she will really be able to jump when she is Emma's age. Hah!
I didn't stop to tell him that Megan's birth mom is under 5 feet tall, and that Megan has a pretty significant motor delay. People are funny sometimes!

We're beginning attachment therapy with Shega this week. I am so glad the therapist has an opening. Perhaps she doesn't need it, but I think we should definitely see. She'll see the therapist three weeks in a row, and then we'll make plans and see if it should be ongoing.

Shega said something funny this week. I was reading to her from the children's Bible. The resurrection story shows the tomb, the stone rolled away and the two guards who appear to be sleeping. The conversation follows:
Shega: Why those guys sleeping?
Me: They aren't sleeping. They are so afraid that they fainted.
Shega: Why they so afraid?
Me: Jesus rose from the dead. He was dead and now he came out of the tomb.
Shega: When Jesus came out, did he say, "BOO" really loud?

From now on, when I hear the resurrection story, I will picture Jesus saying, "BOO!" really loud when he is released from the tomb.

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May 30, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

We had lots of fun at the Dykstra weekend get-away! The girls loved the science museum. Shega played with the big bubbles for a long time. She loved the water works and is still talking about the giant movie (IMAX). Megan loved the toddler room. She and her cousins Owen and Grace spent some time in there. You'll have to check the photo page for some pictures.

Adventureland was a blast! Shega was fearless! She rode every ride that she was tall enough for. She absolutely loved it. Megan slept nicely for about 2 hours in her stroller. She was pleasant and easy going for the day as she slept, ate and had her turn on the baby rides.

Thomas rode many roller-coasters with his cousin, Jay. He followed closely behind Jay as he went from ride to ride. He rode the sugar bowl 4 times in a row. My stomach can't even stand to think about that idea! Even Gramps and Ann rode a few rides. Much fun was had by all!

We had a nice shower for Kendra, Kate and Amber Sunday afternoon. We have three weddings this year. Amber and Nathan are getting married in July; Kate and Christopher will follow in November. Joe and Kendra will close out the year with their wedding in December. Ben and Suzy will be getting married sometime next year. Our family is growing and growing. We have lots of joy to share.

On Monday we went to Living History Farms. Carrie, Izaak, Grace and Anna went with us. Emma had to head home for softball practice but Steve and I and Thomas and the girls had a great time. I totally enjoyed all of the kids, but I am still laughing at a few things that Izaak said. Here are a few quotes:

When talking to the druggist in the old town pharmacy, Izaak said, "Hey! Did you know they used to make white crayons out of ear wax?.....I'm serious!"

After looking at where they made the old time newspaper, and where they made the old time furniture, we spied a big building with a sign saying "Restrooms" on it. Izaak said, "Now they're going to show us how they used to make restrooms!"

When looking at the old time baseball bats that have a large knot, or bubble in the middle, Izaak announced, "When old time baseball players hit the baseball, the middle of the bat exploded in bubbles!.....I'm serious!"

This one was totally out of the blue: "Everybody is gay sometimes."

Wisdom from a six year old!


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May 16, 2007

Finally an update!

The top three reasons I am happy to be out of school!

1) No more hurrying out of the house in the morning!
Last week we had a terrible time getting out of the house on time each day.
The girls' hair has grown to the point where it must be "done" each day.
Doing the girls' hair is a bit much for my fumble fingers! It usually takes an entire Dora the Explorer episode to do both Shega and Megan's hairdos. We would be ok, if hair was our only complication. We've had a few unexpected complications lately too. One day, I thought Megan was hot when I got her out of her jammies. I let her crawl around naked to cool off while I brushed my teeth. Well....she decided now would be a good time to poop, and since her main mode of transportation is scooting on her bottom, she left quite a stinky trail! On a different day, I had her all dressed and in the car. She picked then to have a dirty diaper. It was so dirty, she had to be stripped.I decided she needed a bit of a bath, but I really didn't have time to give her a full bath, so I soaped up her butt in the sink. As I picked her up, she peed all over me! Then we both needed a full change of clothes!
In addition to poop, we've had other delays. One day, I had to turn the car around twice and come home for forgotten treasures. One day we left the Dora blanket at home. Shega couldn't have nap time at daycare without Dora. We retrieved the blanket and started out again. Then Shega noticed she had left her show-and-tell school bag at home. We turned around again! I've forgotten my cell phone, we had a toilet overflow, We had to bring a sleepy Thomas to school a few days. All in all, I'm glad to be home more.

2) More time for baseball!
Joe's baseball team has done fantastically well! Last week they won the regional tournament. It has been so much fun to watch them. We've taken Thomas and Emma out of school quite a bit for baseball. I hate to have them miss so much school, but we hate to miss the time together watching baseball too. Last week, Thomas had a Mother's Tea program at school during one of the games. I had the cell phone on my lap for score updates. Near the end of the program, Thomas caught my eye and mouthed "What's the score?" Later he added, "What inning?" His mind was NOT on singing! The Red Raiders will play in Omaha in a best of three series Thursday and Friday. What fun!
Here's a link to the KTIV sports report about the game that Thomas and I missed:


click on the camera above the picture.

3) No more grading
I will not miss the familiar refrain, "Will this be on the test?" Creating and grading tests is the worst part of this job. I am glad to be finished with it for another year.

Other updates
Emma will be graduating from eighth grade next week. She is turning into a lovely young lady! It is fun for us to see her interact with her friends.
She does a great job with the girls too.
Megan is now crawling. She has figured out that crawling is a little faster than scooting. She still likes to scoot for short distances. She is beginning to talk a blue streak! She will imitate almost any word you say. It is great to see how she is blossoming.

Shega had preschool graduation last week. She sang all of the songs and did the fingerplays with her class. I am amazed by her English skills. What a smart girl she is! It is fun to see her just blossoming. We had her last day at preschool last week too. I am afraid of how she will react to less structure in her day. I am quite sure she will miss her friends and the structure of daycare and preschool. I am praying that she will adjust and love it here. The girls had a such a good experience at daycare that I nearly cried on their last day. We've done daycare for 24 years, and this is the first time I remember being sad on the last day of daycare for the school year.
Joe's fiancé, Kendra is doing daycare for us for two weeks until she starts working for Joel and Connie in June.

Happy Memorial Day! If Joe's team keeps winning, we'll be heading to Idaho for the National tournament.

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April 25, 2007
Wow! It's been awhile since I've updated. It must be true. I don't have anything to say.

Happy Birthday to Anne! She turned 25 on the 23rd. Paul and Anne are always the same age for about a month.

The girls are doing well. Shega has enjoyed preschool. It has been fun to listen to her stories about preschool and daycare. Yesterday, she wanted to go back to daycare rather than come to my office after preschool. She had a plan to play and wanted to get to it. It was fun to see enjoying playing with kids so much.

Megan is doing well with her tubes. She is sleeping and eating well. She is beginning to get around even faster on her bottom. Her cousin Grace rivals her skill with the "boot-scooting". It is fun to see them together. I predict they'll be great friends soon.

Shega still talks about her first family often. She has taken to calling her first mom her "Momma all-gone." For example, yesterday we saw a horse on our trip to school. She said, "Momma all-gone in Ethiopia...she like horses."
It still breaks my heart to think of all Shega has lost. I hope that she will know that even though she has been separated from so much in her life that she knew and loved, she can never be separated from her heavenly father. This verse helps me to think about it:

Romans 8: 35 - 39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


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April 9

He is risen!
Shega continues to tell the Easter story. She absolutely knew the story before she arrived here. Her mother must have been very intentional about passing on her faith. She could tell all about Jesus death and resurrection.
It is amazing to see the story again through the eyes of a child.

One funny thing happened when we drove on the yard on Thursday. We were talking about Easter as we parked the car on the yard. Fresca, the dog, had hauled a dead raccoon up to the house. Shega said with great emotion, "WHATSA MATTER RACCOON!" I told her that the raccoon had died. She said, "DIED?!?! ON THE CROSS?!?!" I told her that the coon had died a far more conventional death.

Dyeing the Easter Eggs
Thomas and Shega had a great time dyeing Easter Eggs at Richard and Nancy's house. Nancy had Star War theme eggs for the boys, and flowers and rainbows for the girls. After the Egg dyeing, they got to decorate cookies. What fun!
Even Megan got to come along and enjoy.

Easter Sunday was fun! Worship was great on Sunday morning. It is such a joyful time. After a quick visit to Grandpa and Ann's, we ate dinner at Grandma Heits. My house is still in disarray from the still in-process remodeling attempt, and it was great for her to offer to have the celebration at her house. We had the Easter Egg Hunt in the park. It was fun to watch Shega on her first Easter Egg hunt ever. She didn't get it at first, but it didn't take long. We have the smaller kids hide eggs for the big kids when their hunt is over. Shega was very helpful to the big kids, (much to Thomas' and his cousin's chagrin!) Paul, Joe, Kendra and Emma all competed for theater tickets, McDonalds gift certificates and cash. The little kids got balloons and candy. We have a deal here at the Heits. You must participate in the egg hunt until you reproduce!
We went to Richard and Nancy's house for Easter Sunday night. They had a hunt for the kids there too. By then, Shega knew exactly what to do. She loved it. She can't spend enough time with Maddie and Andrew. She loves to play with them. This morning, Shega opened all of her loot and sorted it out. She decided to hide it in her room. Suddenly she said, "Oh No! My OOF is gone. I left it at Maddie's grandma!" It took me a little while to figure out that she had left her whistle at Nancy's! We'll have to ask Rick to look for it.

Megan's tubes
Wow! Megan's tubes were NO BIG DEAL! She was gone for about 30 minutes and had a good day. She has slept all night for the past three nights. We're so rested, we don't know what to do! I'm so glad she's doing well.

I love Bono. Here's his acceptance speech at the NAACP awards. It takes about 4 minutes to watch. Well worth it!



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April 2


It's Grace's birthday! She is 10 today. We wish her a good day. I remember when she was born. She was named for my mom, Grace Dykstra who had recently passed away. Grandma knew she was going to have a namesake before she died.
Grace is very special to all of us because she made mom very happy even before she was born.

Grace's dad died suddenly just over a month ago. I am certain Tony is in their hearts and minds as they celebrate Grace's birthday and Easter this week.

Here's a verse for the week:
Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" (NIV) Singing Shega loves to sing. Each day as we travel to Orange City, she thinks of songs to sing. When it is my turn, I have to sing a different song each time. Sometimes she calls for her favorites. Her current favorites are "The Belly Button Song" and "A Bicycle Built for Two". When it is Shega's turn, she sings either "Jesus Loves Me", "This is the day, which she says as "Zis iz za day", or "Happy birthday to you". This morning when it was Shega's turn, she was silent. I said, "Shega, it's your turn." She responded with, "I don't like Nemo...scary me!" Since she hasn't watched Nemo at our house, I assume she was anticipating that scary fish story being shown just before naptime. She made the quick leap from "I will rejoice and be glad in it"
right to, "Nemo is going to scare me to death!" Pretty funny!

Emma had the state volleyball tournament this weekend in Indianola. Her team played very well and made it to the final tournament. It was really fun to see them play so well. The little kids did well on the trip to the hotel and all day at the tournament. Mitch and Lee Rozeboom rode with us. They are such fun kids! The action in the back made the trip quite entertaining for the little girls. Megan learned to slap her head in a "silly me!" gesture.
She now has a new trick!
We forgot to take Megan's antibiotic for her ear infection. After missing two doses, she was already pulling at her ear and complaining of pain. We went to a local pharmacy and explained the situation. After a quick call to Hull Pharmacy, the Indianola pharmacist gave us a couple of doses and we got Megan going again. The pharmacist also told us that the pharmacist at Hull told us to "go home and take care of the farm." As she was hanging up she said, "The pharmacist told me to tell you he loves you!" I think the Indianola pharmacist might have guessed she was talking to grandpa Dyk!

Megan has had 5 ear infections in the past three months. We took her to an ENT last week. He scheduled tubes for Good Friday. I hope Megan does well with them. Constant antibiotics have given her chronic diarrhea. She isn't always a daycare favorite when she is that messy. She really needs to put on some weight and fighting diarrhea doesn't help for that.

Red Raider Baseball
Wow! The Red Raiders Rock! We're now 18 and 6. It has been lots of fun to watch. Spring baseball is always cold, but it's a lot less cold when we're winning. Here's a link to the schedule and scores:
Here's a link to an article about the pitchers:

Paul is back to work at Greenworld. Tomorrow there is a chance of snow. It will be odd to see snow lying on that ultra green grass. I can't wait to welcome spring.

Here's a silly poem from A Prairie Home Companion's poetry show:
Untitled poem by Linnea Engblom of Chapel Hill, NC (Read more about Linnea)

its spring i dont need upper case
its spring punctuation is optional but i love exclamations!
okay here we go
no wonder people fall in love this time of year wake up tomorrow and breathe deeply again fall asleep in the rain feel the wind around your sockless ankles and ears whistle

dont dilute excitement let it overwhelm you find a playground and swing on the tire swing get muddy really really muddy and make sure you wear white to make it really really fun

eat m&ms every single day even the peanut butter ones dont control your dreams run along with them take a journey go left instead of right then right instead of forward end up where you've never been

catch yourself loving

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March 24, 2007


Song of Songs 2:11-12 (NIV): "See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come."

Yesterday was simply a wonderful spring day! The Red Raiders played baseball. It was the first conference game. They split with Dakota Wesleyan.
They are having a great start. The girls came along and did well outside.

Two Sundays ago, we attended a special lent service at American Reformed Church in Hull. They had worship stations as part of the service. One station had worshippers pound a nail into a wooden cross. Shega has been fascinated with crosses ever since. She sees the cross in broken trees, she sees the cross on old barns, she sees the cross in the arrangement of pictures on her wall at night. She always points and said, "Look Mommy.
It's Jesus!" It has been a good reminder for me to see the cross everywhere and think of Jesus and his sacrifice during this season.

The ladies of Hope Church had a shower for Shega and Megan and two other babies in church. Wow! What generosity! Shega couldn't wait to open her clothes. I insisted on putting them in her closet, even though she wanted to arrange them all in outfits on the living room floor. Many times per day she wants to look at her "church clothes". Thank you so much!

Emma and I brought Megan to the emergency clinic at the hospital Thursday night. She had another double ear infection. This is her fifth infection in three months. I think we'll have to check with a specialist.
I've been wearing turtle necks all week. It was a little hot yesterday in 70 degree weather. I broke out with a large ringworm on my neck. Since it looks a little like a teenage young love problem, I've been keeping it covered. I wouldn't want Steve to get teased at work.

Paul was 24 on Wednesday. We celebrated by going to a sit down restaurant.
Shega had never been at such a place. Since at McDonalds we get our chicken nuggets right away, she assumed that was the way it went. She kept saying, "Who come my chicken?" I think this translates as, "Where are the nuggets; who is bringing them; and why aren't they here yet?" Finally Paul picked up a few of her crayons and began to color a farm picture in her color book.
Emma took another picture and soon all three of them were coloring.

It is Maddie's birthday party this week. We hear she took a big tumble on her new bike. She was a bit dramatic about the whole thing. She said something like: "I can only imagine how other seven year olds feel on their birthdays. This is the worst day of my life!" Luckily there were no permanent injuries!

Happy Birthday to Cami, Ben, and Jason in Iowa City. Happy Birthday to Uncle Joel who shares a day with Paul. Happy Birthday to Grandma Heits and Johanna, my student assistant for this year. Ann is 80 today! Happy Birthday.

Birthdays abound!

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March Madness


Steve, Emma and Thomas are back from Florida. They watched the Raiders win their spring tournament! Yay! Go Raiders! Steve thinks the team will be really good this year. It sounds like Joe had a good week, and is ready for the season. I wish it were a little more spring-like here, but the warm winds are blowing today! We may even go for a walk.

We went to the Comet send-off today. Shega made a sign that said, "GO GOOFY!" She has called Ricky "Goofy" since the day after he met us at the airport in Minneapolis. I think Aric gave him the name. It has certainly stuck. She marched with Maddie and Andrew in the Comet send-off kids parade. She had lots of fun. Megan had fun too. She was dressed in her little Comet shirt and scooted around the gym floor with lightning speed. We are eager to see what the Comets can do at STATE this year. GO COMETS!

Single parenting
Both Steve and I got to single parent this week. He took two kids to Florida and I stayed home with the other two. My hat is off to those single parents out there who do such a great job with their kids. I will be so happy to be dual-parenting again!

Shega's memories of Ethiopia
Shega's English has really improved lately. The memories of Ethiopia have simply poured out of her. Here are some of the things she told me recently:
Shega says:
In Ethiopia it is never cold. There is no snow. Her Ethiopian mom opened the door and said, "No BRRRRRR!" outside and it was never cold again. (Too bad this mommy doesn't have that kind of power!) In Ethiopia, when someone dies, people put rocks on their chest. (I have no idea what she means by this, but she is adamant that it is true.) Shega remembers riding to the care center in a blue van. Megan slept the whole way.
Ebenezer was always mean to her at the care center. Here's a quote, "He push and push me." (I don't know who Ebenezer is, but I know Shega didn't like him!)
In Ethiopia, she ate corn on the cob.
Shega's Ethiopian mom made injera in a large, flat pan.
Shega's Ethiopian mom peeled potatoes with a knife, not a peeler.
Shega said that Megan bit her Ethiopian mom's breast and there was no more milk. Quote: "Megan cry and cry. She hungry." (I know that Megan did not have any teeth when she was brought into care. I'm not sure what happened that brought on this story."
In Ethiopia, you wash laundry outside. You do not wash laundry in a washer.
You rub the clothes together with a bar of soap.
In Ethiopia dogs are nice. Dogs do not attempt to kiss people on the face.
Dogs never jump on people. (This is in defense of her dislike of Fresca, our dog.) In Ethiopia cats do not live in the house. They live outside with their "sisters". (She can't figure out why Sami stays in the house, and the outside cats stay outside.) It has been fascinating to hear her talk about her memories. I am trying to remember to write them down for her. I am afraid the memory will fade.

Megan's Tricks
Megan is learning so many tricks. It is a joy to teach her baby tricks because she is a willing participant. When Thomas was a baby, he wasn't quite as eager to please as Megan is. In fact, he would look at me with total disdain!
Here is a current list of Megan's tricks:
Waving bye-bye
Blowing kisses
Giving high fives
Singing the "roll-over" part of the "Five in the Bed" song (perfect pitch, but not perfect diction) So Big The "I don't know" shrug I'm one!
The one finger POP from her mouth
Oh Oh!

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What do you do in a two-day Iowa snowstorm?

Thomas says that the best part of the snowstorm is the snowdrifts. He built an awesome fort out in the grove. The cousins came on Sunday and finished it. It provided hours of fun. He also enjoyed putting puzzles together, making playdough and playing with playdough and watching movies.

Shega loved the movie, "Barnyard". There's a little bird named Maddie in the movie. It's her favorite character. We took the sled down the hill a few times. She tried to fend off the dog all the while screaming, "Fresca, scary me" and "Mommy, scary me Fresca!" Her English is improving! We made playdough and she and Thomas fashioned the playdough into spectacular snowmen. She does not like the cold. I am eager to for her to see that it actually is nice in Iowa sometimes.

Emma baked cookies. DELICIOUS! She worked on her own snowfort and made quite a fortress. She watched movies and kept in touch with her friends via MSN.
She complained about her little brother and her dad listened with compassion. (OK, that part was a stretch!)

Steve and Laura
Steve scooped the driveway being careful to make big piles for the kids. He refereed for the kids who immediately stopped fighting. (another stretch!) He did a little work from home and coughed and sneezed a fair amount. Laura was totally content to play with the kids and rest. It was a good day.
A friend shared this verse with me last year during a snowstorm. It is very fitting for this storm.
Job 36: 6-76 He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' 7 So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor.


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February 25,2007

We went to Iowa City to both mourn and celebrate Tony, our nephew and cousin. Tony died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning. He was 38 and died of a heart attack. He was married to Carrie, my brother Ed's daughter for ten years. Together they have 2 children, Grace (9) and Izaak (6). Here's a link to Tony's obituary:

We are so sad for their family. Carrie's sisters, Cami and Kate and her parents, Ed and Linda are all in the area. I'm glad Carrie and the kids have them to be a support to her. Carrie's partners are so willing to pick up the slack at the hospital. We met many people who are planning to support and be there for the family. We are far away, but can pray and offer words of support. I'm notorious for sending late birthday greetings. I still have Carrie's birthday card (Feb. 8) on my desk. Perhaps I can send her a monthly birthday card this year and be ahead for 12 years! I know that nothing people do can help to heal their hearts. Only God can fill the role of Father, but I am glad the family has much support.

The visitation and service were so well done. There's always grace to be found at church, even when I'm there to mourn. I found it in Tony's service.

All of us, except Joe and Kendra were able to go to Iowa City. Joe had to play ball in Kansas. Paul, Steve and Emma took one car. Dode, Thomas and the girls rode with me. Steve's truck made the trip home on Friday night after the service. Emma was supposed to play volleyball on Saturday. Dode drove me and the three youngest kids home on Saturday. The trip home was terrible. Thomas became sick in the morning and he was miserable the entire way. He threw up several times, had a headache and was just generally feeling bad. The roads were awful from Iowa City to Newton. They became very bad again at Onawa. We went 30 mph for a very long time. We dropped Dode off in Sioux City, and called Steve to meet us in Lemars. I really didn't think I could make it further than that without Steve, and it was becoming more and more apparent that Thomas was going to need to stop at the emergency room. We stopped at the hospital in Sioux Center, and although he didn't have a sore throat, he tested positive for strep. Dr. Rens gave him a shot, and this morning he is already feeling some better. Ironically, his throat is sore this morning. We left Iowa City at 11 a.m. and we walked in the door here at 9:30 p.m. That was a very long carseat sit for the two little girls. They both slept for about 3 hours, which in a normal 5 - 6 hour Iowa City trip would be really helpful, but in a 10 hour trip, seemed like not nearly enough!

Dad and Ann are still in Iowa City. I think that when you are over 80, you should choose to drive only on good roads. I hope that's what they think too. I know it is very hard for both of them to be out of their element. We heard that the electricity in their hotel and in much of Iowa City is or was out, so that makes it especially hard to be away from home.

Shega talked about death this week. She said that in Ethiopia when someone dies, you put a rock on his or her chest. I stopped at the cemetery and showed her the stone for Steve's dad. I thought perhaps the rock was like that, kind of like a burial marker. As she explained it, in her limited English, I think it is an actual stone. I'm not sure if that is before the body is buried, or after. hmmmmm

No prayer concerns we have with the girls seem nearly as important as what Carrie has with her kids.


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February 18, 2007

Happy 5th birthday to Joshua Heitritter. Happy 29th to Kate Dykstra. I don't seem to get those cards out!

Valentines Day
Shega enjoyed putting together Valentines. She definitely understood what the day was about. Her preschool teacher gave us a picture of each child in her class. We put the child's picture, a valentine and a candy in a ziplock bag. It was a great system! The show-and-tell theme for preschool was for the child to bring something related to Valentines Day. The card club gave Shega a heart shaped magnetic doodle-pad. She brought it because it was a "hurt". (That's what it sounds like when she says "heart".) She happily came home with her bag of goodies. She likes chocolate and ate them first. She doesn't really like any of the other candy, but it is fun for her to unwrap it, lick it and say, "YUCKY!"

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I get Shega from preschool and bring her back to my office for an hour. A coworker had given me a box of chocolates for Valentines Day. Shega devoured every chocolate kiss in the hour she spent with me on Tuesday. It was actually great entertainment for her and for me. It took her quite awhile to unwrap the chocolate kisses. On Thursday, she went right for the empty box and complained that the kisses were all gone.

Thomas and Emma brought Valentines to school too. Thomas brought the Simpsons Valentines. I hope the recipients just grabbed the candy and didn't read the questionable greetings on the Simpsons cards. Homer has quite a sense of humor. I probably should have thought about that before I purchased that particular box. Shega's were much more appropriate. She had baby animals valentines.

Physical Therapy
Megan had her physical therapy appointment this week. Amber, her therapist is pleased with Megan's progress. She rolls anywhere. She is beginning to get from a sitting position to her tummy. She still doesn't get on all fours, but she will stay in a crawling position for up to 20 seconds when placed that way. We try to do her therapy at home, but it is easy to forget.
Megan is so pleasant and easy going. We love to get her to do all of her tricks. We love to ask her where people are, just to see her put her palms up and shrug her shoulders "I don't know." We have asked her this so often that I sometimes see her strike the pose even when she is playing by herself on the floor.

The little girls love to shop. Today we went to Walmart for a few things.
Shega loves Walmart and is very good there. Megan likes to look around as she rides in the cart. Afterwards, we stopped at the grocery store. We had lots of help deciding what food to buy. Today's trip went much better than the swimsuit trip went last week. We went to Sioux Falls to buy Emma a swimming suit. Wow! The fashion industry doesn't believe in modesty for teenagers. We returned with no swimsuit. We did have a new outfit for Shega, however. Shega and Thomas were racing to the door of the mall. Their feet tangled and Shega went down in the street. She was so muddy, we had to buy new pants and a new shirt. She had lots of fun in Old Navy choosing new clothes. She wanted to wear her new outfit every day this week. We ended up getting Emma a swimsuit online at JC Penney. I decided that modesty is worth a lot of money when it comes to shopping for your teenage daughter!

We have a new driver on the road. Emma took the driving test to get her permit this week. She went with Mariah on Tuesday and again with Mariah on Wednesday. You'll have to ask those two why two trips were necessary!

We are working on bonding time with Shega. She is still struggling to really know who her family is. We have instituted a "no-holding" rule for her. We don't want any other people to hold Shega. She often wants to be held, and we just need to patiently teach her who her family is. We're trying an attachment strategy called holding time. It's really just holding Shega until she gives receives eye contact from us and relaxes in our arms. We've done it two times with pretty good success. After holding Shega for about an hour on Thursday, she talked extensively about her Ethiopian mom and about her memories of Ethiopia. I am amazed by what she remembers. We showed her the video lifebook that we received when we were in Ethiopia. Her lifebook has video of her birth mom and their home in Ethiopia. It was pretty emotional for her to see it. She has now seen it at least 50 times and is totally engaged with it each time.

Shega talked nonstop all the way to Sioux Center today. She looked outside and asked me what letter everything she could name started with. She would say, "Tree? What letter?" When I would answer, "T", she would respond by saying "/t/ tree, Thomas, Tressa", and go on to the next thing. She's doing very well for a 4 1/2 year old. Megan does quite well too. She knows and looks for each of us. She points to things that we name or things that she wants.

Megan's ears have cleared up. We stopped the antibiotic yesterday. I am going to bring her in to the doctor this week for a check. We're still doing the eardrops, because we still have some left and I hate to waste it. The antibiotics have made for some pretty special dirty diapers. The folks at the daycare would be happy to see Megan need prune juice again.

If you still have time to put us on your prayer list, please pray that the "no-holding" rule for Shega goes well. Please pray that she attach to us as her forever family.


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February 11, 2007


Two month check up
We have been home for eight weeks! The time has passed so quickly. Everything from Ethiopia still seems so fresh. I decided to use this opportunity to answer some of the questions that we get regularly. It usually starts out with: "So, how are the girls doing?"

The girls are doing well. God is weaving them into our family on His time. Last night I was rocking both Shega and Megan while watching "Back to the Future" with Thomas. Thomas leaned over the chair and gave Shega a kiss on the forehead and Megan a kiss on the cheek. We're beginning to feel comfortable and at home.

Both girls came home with giardia. It cleared up nicely with only three days of treatment. Megan has had three ear infections. This week she had an internal and an external ear infection. The poor little thing had puss just dripping from her ear. Ouch! Shega, on the other hand hasn't even had a cold. The rest of our troops have had several viruses over the past two months, so I think the girls are doing nicely.

We received the results of Shega's bone age test. The experts estimated her to be between 4.3 and 4.7 years old. We really thought she was older than that. She has amazing small motor skills and she is actually quite big for her age. We plan to celebrate her 5th birthday on July 6 this summer and hope to start her in transitional kindergarten next year.

Megan is still receiving physical therapy for her large motor skills. She doesn't crawl, but she is beginning to roll to where she wants to go. She mostly is just satisfied with wherever she is, so she doesn't attempt to move.

Daycare is going well. The girls both have very good lead teachers and are settling into the routine. Shega began preschool this week too. She is in the Covenant Kids preschool in Orange City Christian. She loves it and each day wakes up to ask if today is a preschool day. She usually adds with an air of superiority, "Megan too little for preschool. Megan go to baby school."

Megan sleeps for most of the night. This week she was up a little more often because of her painful ear infection. Otherwise, she typically sleeps until 5:00 or so. We give her a small drink and put her back to bed.

I put Shega to bed each night. She puts her head on her arm and snuggles up tight in my bed. She typically falls asleep quite quickly. At first, we put her out on the little couch. For the past few weeks, I've been walking her up to her bed. She often wakes sometime in the night and comes down. Sometimes I go back up with her and sit by her in her bed. Usually, she lays down on the floor next to my bed and I cover her with a blanket.

Food is going quite well for Shega. At first, she would only eat bread dipped in ketchup and oranges. It wasn't unusual for her to eat 4-5 buns in a day. Now she is eating much better. We have gotten her Ethiopian food a few times. She definitely sees it as a real treat. Last week we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. We carefully parced out the leftovers so she could eat some each day. She loved it.

Megan still drinks a bottle. The pediatrician wants her to continue to get most of her nutrition from formula for the next three months. She has gained about 3 lbs since we got home. Her little cheeks have really filled out. She also eats baby food, Cheerios and pizza crusts. Yum!

Shega is learning language at a simply astounding rate. I love to hear how she is putting together entire sentences. Yesterday we were in the mall, and an Ethiopian family came to talk to us. They spoke to Shega in Amharic and she answered in English. I know she will forget her Amharic. I wish we could figure out how to keep it. She does sing softly with the Ethiopian dance music we have found on Google video.

Shega was pretty sad at first. She would tantrum often, and we struggled to know how to handle it. Now she rarely has a tantrum. If she does, they usually are very short and uses her own coping skills to get out of it. She asks about her Ethiopian mom often. Yesterday she told me that she had long hair in Ethiopia and her mom never hurt her when she combed it. I was combing through a couple of snags at the time. It breaks my heart to think about all she has lost.

Shega "mommy shops" quite a bit. In other words, any girl or woman between about 10 and 40 will win Shega's immediate affection. She will ask to be held or will touch their hair. We know that this is typical behavior for adopted kids. But we don't really know how we should be handling it. Despite this, she seems to be looking to us to meet her needs and shows us much affection.

Megan is such an easy-going baby. You would think I wouldn't worry about that, but I do! She just rarely demands any attention. She is pleasant and loving. She has learned many baby tricks on an accelerated schedule. She knows patty-cake, bye-bye, blow a kiss and oh-oh. When asked where something or somebody is, she shrugs her shoulders and lifts her hands in the "I don't know" position. She is interactive and simply a darling. I hope that she didn't learn at the orphanage that it doesn't pay to fuss, so she might as well make the best out of every situation. In the meantime, it is easy to enjoy being around such a wonderful child.

Prayer requests
Please pray for us to figure out how to deal with Shega's mommy shopping. I don't know if I should curb this or let it run its natural course. Most of the women and girls she "befriends" have been very kind to her. Even the doctor allowed her to take her stethoscope and touch her red hair. Pray for Shega to attach to us so firmly that she would feel secure in our family.

Please pray for Megan's ears to clear up. Pray too that she will realize that if she complains, chances are, her parents will come and care for her needs.

Thanks for your continued prayers. I am so amazed by the support we have received


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February 4, 2007


Chapel went well. Thanks for your well-wishes and prayers. My family is my favorite subject, so it was easier than I thought. Steve put together a very nice powerpoint. He's a great guy!



We had a nice party!  Steve and his brother rigged up a mighty big screen with a white sheet and some staples. We had the biggest football in town!  (Who won? Oh yeah, I was supposed to be watching not eating!)



Shega happily ate her left-over injera today. She didn't touch the chips and pork sandwiches. She loves it, and was very willing to share. Only Megan shared a bit with her!


Grandma Meester

Here is a link to her obituary. She was quite a lady:  Rose Meester Obituary


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February 3, 2007


I said I would talk about our family in Family chapel at NWC tomorrow morning. Will you pray for me? Sometimes I say things I shouldn't (like, "Yes, no problem). It is so fortunate I married Steve. He is calmly putting together a powerpoint for me right now. I love that man!

Grandma Meester
Grandma Meester died yesterday. She ate breakfast and went back to her room for a snooze. When the nurses checked on her, she was gone. She was only 3 weeks short of ninety-nine. She had recently moved to the nursing home. In fact, the crew just moved her out of her apartment permanently last Saturday. What a blessing it would be to live that many years with very few infirmities! Although it is always hard to say good-bye, this is a happy good-bye! As Shega would say, "See ya later!" Soon we will all be together again.

The Girls' Check-ups
We went to Sioux Falls to see Dr. Kooima yesterday. The girls had their check-ups. Megan weighs 18 lbs. She moved from the 3rd percentile in height and weight to the 10th percentile. She went from the 5th percentile in head circumference to the 20th percentile. She got three shots. She was a bit grumpy last night, so her legs probably hurt.
We had Shega's hands X-rayed to help us decide how old she is. Dr. Kooima thinks we can hit about a 6 mo. window. That will help us make some school decisions.

We went to an Ethiopian restaurant, Shalom, in Sioux Falls after the doctor visit yesterday. Shega loved it! She was so engaged and happy while we were there. There were quite a few Ethiopians in the restaurant. They were very kind to all of us. They spoke to Shega in Amharic. She responded in English.
I was disappointed about the English. I would have liked to hear her speak in Amharic again. They told me that if we come back in 6 months, she won't know what they are saying. I said, "I'm sorry." They said, "Don't be sorry. You will tell her about Ethiopia. America is a good place. Children aren't supposed to grow up in orphanages." I was glad they were all so kind to us.
We told them about our trip and they talked a bit about Ethiopia. I am so glad we did that now, while Shega still understands the language. Shega ate a lot of injera and wot, and we took three meals home for her. She will be eating well for awhile!

Shega will be beginning preschool this week with Kim Starkenburg. I am excited! I hope she does well. Kim says she is prepared to chase her a bit  (: I hope not too much!

Sick kids
Emma was very sick this week. She missed 2 1/2 days of school with stomach troubles. Thomas missed a 1 1/2 days. Joe was home to change clothes before he loaded hogs for his uncle Joel while the other two were sick. Today he is home. He has been throwing up for the last 18 hours. He didn't want to be sick in his apartment. I'm sure his roommates are grateful he took it back home. I hope the little girls don't get it.

Happy Birthday
It was Megan's birthday this week. We ignored it! The kids were sick and Shega hates it when it is someone else's birthday! We'll make a big deal out of number 2 next year.
Happy Birthday to Carrie this week. Thanks much for the hair products you found for the girls. They smell wonderful and their hair is cute. Emma and I fixed Shega's hair this week. We did a series of little twists with snappies and beads on the end. She thought she was pretty cute!

Prayer requests
Chapel tomorrow! I'll let you know how it goes.
Sick kids. Pray that the little girls don't come down with it.
Thanks so much. I am amazed that people are still interested in our lives.
Thanks for everything!


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January 27, 2007

Daycare went quite well this week. The girls did well. Shega spent a lot of time checking on her sister. Sometimes the caregivers can't find her. Megan did very well. She slept well every day and the caregivers love her.

Missing shoes
One day Shega hid her shoes at daycare. They were missing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I am glad that I put her propensity to hide her favorite things on our intake form! We came home with some tiny toy or puzzle piece several times this week as well. One day we had Arthur's pants from a puzzle. I put the piece under Megan in her carseat the next day in order to return the piece without alerting Shega. As I was getting the two out of the car at daycare, Shega found the piece and slipped it under the seat of the car. I retrieved and returned the piece after the girls were settled in!

Transitions are still hard for Shega. This week we went to a Northwestern/Sioux Falls College basketball game. The girls both did great at the game. They were engaged and excited. We all went and played in the Recreation Center at halftime and Shega simply loved it. When the ballgame ended, Shega did not want to leave. She screamed nearly all the way home. Thomas was a wreck. Steve was beginning to lose his patience and we all were a bit shaky. When we were two miles from home, Steve said, "Shega. When we get home, I will make ice cream malts for Thomas and Emma and Mom. Shega will not get to have one, because you can't eat ice cream when you are crying. You will have to sit in the chair until you stop." Shega paused mid-scream. I repeated the sentence and her crying was immediately over. Steve looked at me and said, "I was really looking forward to putting her in the chair!" It reminded me a bit of the Jonah story. After Jonah finally went to Ninevah and told the people to repent, he was angry that they did. He was looking forward to God's punishment on the people!

Funny things
Shega uses the words "watch" and "look" interchangeably. Often "look" works for "watch", but it doesn't work the other way around. It is so funny for her to ask me to "watch that silly sticker on the floor" or to "watch at my hair" after she combs it. She also uses "Who's that?" and "What's that?" interchangeably. I always find it amusing when she says, "What's that grandpa?" She wants me to identify whose grandpa it is. She calls Dad, Ann and Sharon all "Grandpa" right now. I'm glad they are good sports about it!

The rest of the crew
Emma is at an AAU volleyball game today. I hate to miss it, but it seemed impossible to take the 4 kids alone. Steve is moving his Grandma Meester permanently into the nursing home. She is nearly 99 and has been a widow for nearly 60 years. God has blessed her with many years of good health. What a blessing!

Emma rode with the Lammers to Onawa for her tournament. It has been wonderful for her to have such good friends. Carly and Mariah's families have driven her all over lot lately. It has been much appreciated. This morning Emma made a tuna sandwich to pack in her lunch bucket. I told Shega that it was made of fish. (You would expect this to be a funny story about what Shega said, but actually........) Emma said, "What kind of fish?" I said somewhat incredulously , "Tuna!" She said, "Well, on Sponge Bob, Patrick was made into tuna fish and he is a starfish!" YIKES! I am going to have to ban cartoon network!

Prayer requests
This week I received an e-mail from an adoptive mom I have never met. She e-mailed me that the Lord had laid it on her heart to pray for us. We had a particularly rough day that day. We were able to spend much time during the night bonding with both girls. Steve and I had very little sleep. In the morning, Thomas and Emma had a monster fight, and mom freaked out. How could this woman know what a rough day we were having! We really need prayer as we make this adjustment as a family. Pray for us to be united as a family and to seek God in everything.


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January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Justin Heitritter! We didn't get to make volcano cake and celebrate. Jonathan isn't feeling well, so only Keith and the kids and Grandma Heits came today. Joe and Paul didn't show up either. It was a small crew for a Sunday afternoon.

We had a good week with the girls. Megan had another ear infection, but she seems to be doing better. I can't believe how much weight she has gained! I took her in to see Dr. Rens at the Hull Clinic on Wednesday afternoon. Shega came too. Shega insisted on having Dr. Rens check her ears too! (They were
fine!) She was fascinated by Dr. Rens' golf ball collection. On Thursday Shega found a golf ball in Steve's desk drawer. She said, "Mommy, Mommy!
Medinique ball?!?" She was pretty sure I had stolen one of Dr. Rens' golf balls and was hoarding it in Steve's desk drawer. It was funny to see the wheels turning in her little head.

We needed a family picture for the church directory. Steve picked up pizza and we invited everyone to come home for the picture Wednesday night. Kendra joined us too. Grandma Heits snapped the pic. Now that I have a picture of us all, I have no excuse not to get a Christmas card out!

A mom from church brought her 4 year old over for a play date on Friday morning. It was interesting to see how Shega handled it. When Emily removed her shoes, Shega quickly found them and hid them. I'm sure in the orphanage, there was as much hiding of clothes and shoes as possible. Since nobody owned shoes or clothes, it paid to hide things. Shega wore Emily's coat the entire time they were here. I wondered what would happen when it was time for Emily to go home. Shega handled it well and handed the coat over, and found the shoes. Emily was such a good little friend. I was impressed with how patient she was with Shega.

The girls went to my niece, Tressa's house on Friday. Shega had a very hard time leaving when I picked her up. We were planning to go to the Comet's game at George, but decided Shega had had enough stimulation for the day.
She was sleeping by 8:00 p.m. We wore her out!

We had a fun day on Saturday. Thomas went tubing with Kendra and Joe. It is so nice of them to make sure that Thomas still gets some attention. I know it is hard for Thomas to give up being the youngest. He had a great day.
The girls had fun too. We took them to the mall to exchange some pants for the boys and to shop for a few clothes for Emma. The girls did great at the mall. We stopped and got groceries and went to Walmart. Shega has wanted a bra since we got home last month. We bought her a bra at Walmart! She was a happy camper!

Tomorrow the girls go to daycare for the first time. I hope things go well!
We're planning on a short day tomorrow. I'm hoping to be there by 10 and stay until 3:30 or 4. I'm really afraid that Shega will cry hard when it is time to go! I hope the staff doesn't think that sometime terrible is going on at our house since she hates to leave daycare! We'll see what happens!


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January 14, 2006

Thomas is nine!

I can hardly believe Thomas is nine. Time has absolutely flown since he was born. I guess it is true that time goes faster as you get older. I don't think my big boys got to nine quite as fast (: We had just a few kids over to go skating to celebrate. We can't do big parties anymore because we don't have room in the car for two carseats plus lots of visiting kids!

Joel, one of Thomas' friends had a sister that got married Friday night. He had lots of news to share about the wedding in the car. One story I overheard went something like this:
"Paige got $300 for her gardener," said Joel. This was met with, "What's that? Is it like a gardener snake or something?" One boy corrected the pronunciation saying, "You mean garter snake?" Joel said, "Kind of. It's like a thing that goes around her leg. Some guy paid $300 for it and guess what!?!? He had to take it off her leg with his teeth. And then guess what!
He just put it on his head! Can you believe he paid $300, and then just put it on his head! I don't know why he wanted it that bad!"

I would have loved to get in those boys' heads to see the visual picture they were creating with that story!

Shega did well at the skating rink. She put skates on and kind of toddled around on them. She chose to stay mostly on the carpet. When I tried to help her around the rink, she put all of her weight on me and we just couldn't quite negotiate the "help" and not "mommy do" skating routine!

We had a really good day yesterday. Emma had a basketball tournament. Her team took second place! Emma's big brothers came to see her play. Shega and Megan did very well at the ballgames. After the tournament, we picked up the little boys and went right to the skating rink for pizza and skating.

Shega transitioned well to each new activity. The only transition she struggled with was bedtime. She cried in my arms for about 10 minutes. She hasn't done that for awhile. I think she was just over-stimulated by our busy day. She slept all night. Megan, however, was up too many times to remember. Hmmmm. I hope there isn't an ear infection brewing!

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January 13, 2007

A Note from Aunt Dode

This week I spent a couple of days at the Heits farm again.  I am feeling so blessed to be a part of this family!  When our Mom passed away 10 years ago I started to come to the Heits about once a week or so to help with the laundry and stuff.  I knew I could never fill her shoes but it always made me feel like I was doing my part.  I got to be the aunt, to be the fan at sports events and school things, to participate in birthday parties and holidays…and just the joy of watching them grow.  I told my friends that I borrowed my sister’s children, fed them lots of sugar and returned them home. But I really had no experience with babies!  I liked them old enough to tell me what they are thinking.  Neither Shega nor Megan can tell me exactly what they want.  So this has been a new adventure!  I have also pretty much avoided diapers all of my life.  Maybe God thinks its time I do my part there too!  Laura has been staying home in the mornings and leaving after she puts Megan down for her nap.  On Tuesday, Shega wanted to get in the hot tub outside.  I didn’t have my swimsuit so put on a Steve’s suit and my bra.  I had to run in to check on Megan sleeping and run back for Shega so I was in the cold air quite a bit!  I think it was quite a sight. Good thing it is out in the country. Of course, Shega wanted to do it again and I got to practice saying no to her. I took some of my old baby cards and cut them up for a project.  Shega and I glued them to paper, added sparkles and made a book from them.  We worked on this for a couple of days this week.  I think she really likes school.  She also loves her Ethiopian videos.  Oh, by the way, I have been calling her Shega and Shaya interchangeably.  She calls herself Shega.  Ann asked me and I said either. Once again, it is difficult until she can tell us herself what she wants.  I am sure she will have an opinion!  Dad and Ann came and cleaned one day.  I think they were a little overwhelmed too. It is wonderful to have help with the basics things like taking out the garbage and doing some laundry. Thank you so much!  Megan wakes up so content.  She might cry until you get her but then she is so happy.  Her sister makes her laugh.  Laura said she likes bread and butter so I took the crust off a piece of bread and buttered it and gave her the whole thing.  She had butter from each ear to the other.  I laughed.  Later, when I was talking with Laura, she told me that she broke it up into little pieces. Oops!  I tried giving her bread with peanut butter but she did not like it.  I think it was sticking to the top of her mouth.  I also keep trying to put her on her stomach but she doesn’t like it.  She likes to be held or to sit.  I have been trying to push on her legs and it seems like they are getting stronger.  It is absolutely a full time job when both girls are up.  There is no time for cooking, laundry, or anything!  Shega has been getting the blame for a few missing things and she does like to hide things.  I got to be the taxi for Emma and her friends so we moved the car seats and we found Laura’s phone.  Not sure if Shega put it there!  Emma and her friends were going to Orange City.  It was fun to see them so happy and laughing.  They got me to laughing too. It was really nice to take time out for Thomas’s and Dad’s birthday.  We had a wonderful get-together at the Pizza Ranch.  It was great to see Paul, Joe and Kendra.  I always love to see Grandma Heits.  It wouldn’t be a party without the Heitritter cousins, Jonathon, Justin, Josh and Aunt Connie. Uncle Joel had to work. Uncle Richard, Aunt Nancy, Rick, Tressa, Aric, Maddie, Andrew and Grace came. Grandpa and Ann brought the cake. Also, it was fun to see our cousins Dwayne and Lief, our Uncle Art, Aunt Doris and Aunt Grace. Thomas scored quite a few quarters for the games there. Later Thomas and I added up how much loot he came up with. We thought he did pretty well.  I was on the couch downstairs and he was sitting in the chair.  I had just told him that I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer when his Mom came to get him.  I hope it was a great birthday!  Oh, I have one of those little miracle stories.  I went to the grocery on Thursday morning with $100 grocery card.  I was trying to keep track but decided to just get what I thought they needed and if it was over I could put some things back at the counter.  The total came to $99.68.  Some people might say that was just a coincidence but I like to think of coincidences as little miracles in which God wishes to remain anonymous!  I know God is watching over us.  Tressa was helping on Friday so I got to come home.  I just want to say “Thank You” to Laura and Steve for allowing me to share your family all of these years. I love you, Dode


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January 11, 2007
This has been a wild week. School began again at NWC. I hate to have to leave the girls to go to work, but I really do have to be there for class. I am trying to do 1/2 days for a couple of weeks. This week, Tressa and Dode helped out with the girls. It was wonderful of them to be so helpful. One more day, and we are 1/16th of the way through the semester! It will be done before I know it!

It was Thomas and Dad's birthdays yesterday. We had a little party at the Pizza Ranch. We had a very nice time. Thomas got quite a few gifts, and I found out he still does like those gifts quite a bit!
We haven't given him our gift yet. Today he asked me, "Mom. Do you stop giving your kids birthday gifts when they are eight?" Wow! That one hurt! I believe I need to give him a little more time!

Today was totally wild! Janette, our social worker, came for our first post visit. It was totally wild here. Shega was very busy while Janette was here. Dode helped out wonderfully. Janette was here an hour when the Physical Therapist showed up for Megan. It was a bit difficult to attend to both girls and the both experts at the same time! We learned some things about attachment. Janette is planning to send us more resources as well.

Megan is doing much better on her stomach. She doesn't put any weight on her legs, but she is thinking about rolling over sometimes. She still didn't LOVE physical therapy, but she didn't cry too much. She is getting stronger.

After all of that, I went to work, hit a meeting, taught my class and hurried to get Thomas. Thomas and I went to Emma's basketball game this afternoon. I haven't been able attend many of her games this year. Steve relieved Dode with the girls so I could get there in time. Dode headed home after three days of being "on duty" at the Heits house. It was wonderful to have her here. Emma got tons of rebounds in her game and a few steals, but she may have to shoot a few free throws in practice next week! They have another game tomorrow and a tournament on Saturday.

Tonight I went to an attachment support meeting. It was very interesting to hear the stories from the other adoptive parents. Many of them are dealing with children who have been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. I pray that our girls don't have that, but I know we have to be prepared in case they do. I so admire these parents who have put their heart and soul into parenting these children who have been so hurt in their lives. One thing I learned there is that it is ok to take care of myself, Steve and I simply must take time to date and have fun and we absolutely must not lose Emma and Thomas in the mix! With all of these "musts" I hope I have time to sleep. I am very tired right now, so I think I'll go give that a go!

Thanks for your prayers, good wishes, gifts and..... patience with receiving no real thank you cards from the Heits! Christmas cards either....or birthday cards or presents or.........


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January 6, 2007
Dad and the kids got a little more bonding time when I went to work this afternoon. I have a bit of work to do before school starts. I typically get quite a bit done through e-mail at home. Now, however, Shega wants to play Ethiopian dance videos every time I sit down at the computer. I found it amusing to wake up this morning with Ethiopian music stuck in my head. Does anyone know a cure for that one? I suppose I could start singing "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall!"

We had another really good day with the girls. Megan has been getting up a lot in the night. I brought home a new book from the library on sleep training. We'll see if I can get us all sleep trained.

Shega found a couple of hotel bars of soap around the house. Like any good Dutchman, I save hotel soap. We otherwise use liquid soap. You never know when you might want to wrap a bar of soap in a ribbon for your underwear drawer! I remember making those lovely little items for gifts as a child in my Calvinette club! (Calvinettes is kind of like girl scouts, only Bible based.) Shega absolutely loves the bars of soap. She has washed every Barbie in the house. Tonight I was giving the girls a bath. Shega put colored fizzie bath tablets in the tub. The water quickly turned green, which she loved. Suddenly she bolted from the tub to get her bar of soap. She had decided to wash all of the underwear on the bathroom floor. There was a pair from nearly every family member except Thomas. (I usually have to do underwear inspection to make sure he changes his!) She threw them all into the tub and carefully began to wash them with the bar of soap. She got out again, and got all of her clean white socks from her bedroom and threw them into the tub. She grabbed a pair and gave them to little Megan saying, "Wash, Megan.....No Bihla!" That means, Don't eat it! The white socks look a little green from the fizzies!

As she was winding down her washing, I asked her, "In Ethiopia do you wash in the bathtub?" She looked at me puzzled and I rephrased the question a time or two. When she got it, she began to laugh. "No, outside. In Ethiopia, wash...outside!" It is clear she remembers doing laundry outside with bars of soap. What a remarkable child!

Thanks for checking in!


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January 5, 2007

AEA IFSP Staffing
The teacher and the physical therapist came out yesterday for the IFSP (individual family staffing plan) meeting. They explained the results of the assessments they did with Megan. She did well (between 9 and 14 months) on her cognitive and social emotional tests. She did even better with her fine motor tasks. However, she does have a significant gross motor delay. She will begin to receive services on Thursday morning. The PT will come out to our house to work with her on an alternate week schedule. She is planning to teach us how to do some work with her too, and she will leave equipment here for us to use. I was hoping they would see her a little more often. I asked the team if we should supplement service using our private insurance. The PT said she was quite sure Megan would make significant progress with this schedule. We'll see. I am certainly willing to figure out a private schedule, but it is much more convenient to have PT come here.

Giardia meds
The giardia meds were scary expensive. They really ought to work! I am quite sure Shega has giardia too, although we didn't have her tested. We are treating both of them. Shega is funny about medicine. She begs for it! She keeps wanting me to put eye drops in her eyes like Emma has. Emma has pink eye, and I'm quite sure Shega doesn't, but she continues to ask for it! She tries to squeeze me out of extra vitamins too. She sucked down two tsp of giardia medicine like it was candy today. Megan isn't quite as compliant about it, but she's getting it down. She still has a couple of days left of ear infection medicine to take. I hope that wards off any other illnesses too.

Bonding and Attachment
I get a lot of questions about bonding and attachment. I am not sure how it is going! Yesterday was a tough day. I had to take the girls to the AEA for hearing tests. They both passed, so that's good! It was the first time I had them out by myself. I was pretty nervous about Shega and how she would do.
She did just fine at the AEA. She willingly followed directions with the hearing test. She had her first drink from a drinking fountain. She had no idea what the fountain was for. She giggled and giggled when I showed her how to drink from it. After the hearing tests, we went to Tressa's house for a little playtime with Maddie. Shega loves Maddie. They had a wonderful hour playing together. Shega especially enjoyed fixing some puzzles. I'm sure she didn't have experience with puzzles. It was fun to see her work the pieces around with Maddie's patient coaching. Then it was time to go. I put Shega into the carseat and buckled her in. I think she was surprised that we were leaving. We stopped the school bus to get Thomas off. Shega began to cry.
She sobbed for 2 hours. It was so frustrating. I tried to hold her. I kept praying aloud over her softly, hoping it would sooth her. (Also thinking that God wouldn't let me lose my temper during prayer!) I kept offering her injera and wat. (Injera, her favorite food was brought to her by her aunt Connie on Wed. evening!) After about an hour and a half of screaming and wailing, she wanted to go outside. I think she thought she could talk me into a return trip to Maddie's if she got into the car. I believe I surprised her by opening the door for her and closing it after her. (I know!
I definitely blew it there!!!) Poor Fresca, the German Shepherd, was so shocked by the weeping child that she ran across the yard with her tail between her legs. I immediately opened the door, and I put her on my bed. I simply couldn't hold her through it anymore. I know attachment literature says never to leave adopted kids cry alone. Everyone they know has abandoned them and you should never let them think that you will too. However, I thought it could be equally damaging to allow her to think her mother might totally be losing her mind! The crying lasted for another 20 min. I checked on her every 4 - 5 min always asking her if she wanted some injera or some water. Eventually, she said she wanted some of both and stopped crying. We actually had quite a pleasant evening after that, but I was completely exhausted!

The aftermath
Today went great! I kept expecting that my blowing it yesterday would give us a severe set back. I am still waiting for the proverbial "other shoe to drop". Both girls had a great day today. Grandpa and Ann came to help around the house this morning. Shega changed her clothes repeatedly, and washed Barbies, and dishes and her sweatshirt and anything else she could get her hands on in the bathroom sink with a bar of soap. Megan played contently all morning. We shared our noon meal and I put Megan down for a nap. In the afternoon, Shega and I put puzzles together and played dominoes.

She often wants to watch Ethiopian dance on the computer. I sat with her and held her while she sang softly with the videos. Later, we went to Emma's basketball game. Shega dressed in her little blue mini-dress and sparkly shirt from Emma's friends. For an extra touch, she put her purple velour Christmas dress on over it! Shega did well at the game. She sat by me quietly during the first half, and by Abby Heynen during the second half.
Steve and Joe had the girls tonight while I attended a bridal fair with Kendra. They did fine without me. Maybe we'll feel the effects tomorrow. I hope God is answering my constant prayer, which is for Him to magnify any small successes and to blot out our many mistakes! If you have time to work us into your prayers, would you pray that one for us too?

The rest of the crew
Emma's ringworm is disappearing. Her pink eye is markedly better. She had a really nice game of basketball tonight. It was fun to see her team play.
Thomas is still catching up on homework. We try to make him do three pages per day. Too bad we waited so long to get started! It is so hard to do school related things during break!
It was lots of fun to go to the bridal fair with Kendra. Dec. 29 seemed so far away at one time. Now it is this year!! It is very nice of Kendra to think of including me. I had a great time looking at all of the gowns and tuxes with her.
I have to go to school next week. We are trying to figure out a plan for the girls to stay at home for a few more weeks. With Dode and Tressa's help, we might be able to ease the transition for the girls for a little bit longer.

Shega vs. Shaya
We are using Shega and Shaya interchangeably at this point. Shega always calls her little sister Megan, but continues to refer to herself as Shega.
We're just playing the name thing by ear. If she never changes to Shaya, it will be ok with us.

Today someone called me and asked me what is the biggest surprise of our new family is. I said, I thought I was surprised that parenting a baby was easier than I thought, and parenting a 4 year old might be harder than I thought. He said, "I thought you would say that you are older than you thought!" Hmmmmm. I need to ponder that one for awhile!


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January 3, 2007
We are having a good week with the girls. It does help to just stay home.
Today Kendra came to play with Shaya. Kendra reviewed and taught her new body parts. She loved learning "eye-lash". Tonight I showed her how to give butterfly eye-lash kisses! They played hide and seek, saying things like, "Joe hid on the steps", or "Joe hid under the cupboard." Shaya seems to be doing really well. It was pretty sobering to visit a language development website which reminded me that she will have to learn about 54 words per day to catch up to her peers in a few years! Kendra is wonderful with both of the girls. Shaya really loves it when Kendra comes. When she sees Joe she often says, "Joe, Kendra, where is?" What a great sentence!

A teacher and a physical therapist came to the house yesterday to evaluate Megan. They did social emotional screening, cognitive screening and motor screening. She did well on all of the assessments except the gross motor tests. She tested at either the 3 mo. level or the 6 mo. level depending on the scoring guide used. The physical therapist would like to see her as soon as possible. Tomorrow they are coming back to the house to figure out how to get her served.

Shaya went to sleep without tears tonight. She typically cries softly in my arms until she falls asleep. Later, I move her to the little couch outside our door. She didn't want to put on her jammie tonight. Usually, I might allow her to make that choice. However, I read an article recently about adopting and sleep. The article emphasized getting ready for sleep including always dressing for bed. I insisted on dressing her in jammies. She insisted on wearing her swimming suit. Right now, our little angel is sound asleep in her swimming suit covered by her jammies!! She insisted on laying down on her little couch and she went right to sleep. Later, Thomas told Emma the story beginning with, "You will never believe what happened tonight...."
Maybe Kendra got her good and tired with her language lessons!

We had a call from the Dr. yesterday. Megan was positive for giardia. I didn't get the meds picked up today but hope to start them tomorrow. He wants to treat Shaya too. I am wondering if I have it too! It's hard to tell if it is just my typical "Dykstra curse" or a bug. I would hate to think that Megan and Shaya would be afflicted with the same curse without the genetic link!

Emma didn't get to start school yesterday. She has pink eye and ringworm.
Gramps brought her in to the doctor in the morning, and she spent the day with us. We were prepared for Shaya and Megan to come home with those particular gifts. It is so ironic that Emma has them and the other two girls don't!

Connie visited an Ethiopian restaurant in Sioux Falls today. Shaya was so pleased with the surprised. She is going to think that injera is easy to come by at this rate!

I'll post more after the AEA staffing. Thanks for checking in!


January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

We have spent a quiet two days! We had a lot of fun with the Dykstras when they were here. Many relatives came to our house on Thursday night. The highlight for Shaya was the gift of injera and wat. Linda and her girls went to an Ethiopian restaurant and bought a few extra orders for her. Little Shaya was so happy to see her native food. She ate it for every meal since Thursday night. She was so happy with it, that she hid the injera in her jewelry box!  She just ate the last of it. She knows that it is gone, and is pretty sad about it. I will have to figure out how to get more injera. I hear there is a restaurant in Sioux Falls. We'll start there.


We had fun at the Dykstra party. Shaya loved swimming! Her dad had to go in fully dressed to save her once. He was sorry he didn't take his shoes off. They are dry...a bit stiff and hard, but dry!

Carrie found some great hair and bath products in Iowa City. The girls smell wonderful and their hair looks great! I have lots to learn about black skin and hair!


Thank you

Thanks to family and friends for all of the gifts. It has been amazing how our needs have been provided through this. Thank you to you all. Shaya loved opening gifts and is beginning to play with her things nicely. She has names one of her babies, "Ashenafi". This was the name of one of the babies in Megan's room. It is fun to hear her sing to Ashenafi. Shaya loves clothes too. She is still changing clothes frequently. She has a few favorites, but tries everything. It has been fun to see her delight in her "menu" of clothes.



Shaya is definitely grieving. She cried a very long time on Friday. We think some of it could be simply the over-stimulation of too many people and places. However, sometimes she is just sad. It breaks my heart to think about all she's been through. She struggles to get to sleep at night. We think the loss of control might be scary. I usually lay with her until she falls asleep and then we carry her to small couch right outside our bedroom door. Once she is asleep, she sleeps all night. She can see us from her bed. She is a tough little thing. It is amazing to see her progress.


Learning English

Shaya is picking up many new words. I laughed today when she emphatically wanted me to come. She wanted to emphasize her words as she broke up the phrase, "Come here."  She said, "Mom! Co Mere!" She got the two words, just not quite in the right place. She knows most function words, like sleep, eat etc. She knows school words, like colors and numbers. Her favorite word is, "again". She uses it for anything she likes very much. It is interchangeable with "more". She walks around the house saying, "who's this?" This substitutes for "what's this?"  She just asked Joe, "Who's this color?"  She was quizzing him on his colors! She doesn't talk much, but she gets her point across.


Memories of Ethiopia

Shaya loves to watch a video of Ethiopian dance. Here's a link:


She sings quietly with the anthem at the end of the video. She also enjoys looking at pictures from our trip. She loves going to her friend, Isayas' blog. She asks to see it everyday to check for new pictures. I hope we can keep Ethiopia alive to her. We're looking for more videos in Amharic.



Megan is doing very well. She definitely prefers mom. I am happy we have progressed to that point. I am trying to be the one who provides for most of her needs. I usually hold her. I always feed her and change her diapers. I took a short nap today, and Steve was stuck with his first dirty diaper. The girl has great timing!

Megan is gaining weight. She has a little "Budda Belly". I'm sure that will even out over time. I'm trying not to overfeed her formula. She needs a bottle for comfort and bonding, but I'm sure she would drink too much if I let her. She doesn't have a schedule worked out yet. One night she slept for 8 hours, but last night she woke at 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Usually she takes a drink and then goes back to sleep.


The rest of the family

Emma and Thomas are a great help here. Thomas has had a lot of fun over the break. Last night, the Heitritter cousins spent the night. Thomas has gotten to see them quite a bit. Kendra babysat them last week, and together we went swimming. We had lots of fun!

Paul went to the Black Hills for the weekend. We missed him at the Dykstra party. He is on his way home right now. He wants to hurry up to watch Michigan play football. We always hope for Michigan injuries so we can see Phil Johnson run out onto the field with the trainers.


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Here is a message from Aunt Dode

She has been spending a lot of time here and has been a wonderful help. 


I just returned from a 3 day visit to Steve and Laura’s.  My!  How their world has changed.  I thought it was busy there before the adoption but now it is non-stop.  It was so nice to meet Shaya and Megan.  Both are just perfect. Megan has beautiful long eyelashes and big dark brown eyes that melt your heart.  She watches everything and follows you with those eyes around the room. She was feeling better and is just as content as she can be.  You can tell how much she loves being held by her Mom.  She has great dexterity picking up Cheerios one at a time.  She carefully throws anything she doesn’t want over the edge of the table. She sits really well by herself and is enjoying laying on her stomach.  Laura said I was the 1st to feed her besides Mom when there was an unexpected occasion when Laura passed her to me (Emma says she has fed her too in the airport.)  Megan scratched her eyelid with her long nails.  Laura said Shaya was biting Megan’s fingernails short.  She didn’t think it was such a great idea having a four year old biting off the nails of a baby.  We’re not sure if that is how it was done before. Shaya is a young lady already.  She loves her shiny patent leather black shoes.  She loves to dress up. She loves PINK. She changes outfits quite a few times a day. She is strong willed and very active.  When I brought groceries the other day she exclaimed as she took out each item, Dabbo “Thank you Dode!” Ketchup “Thank you Dode!”  Oranges “Thank you Dode!”  When I went for groceries again, I made sure she didn't see me bring them in.  I thought she thought I was the provider and we all know that is Steve’s job. He is the one who usually picks up groceries after work.  She found out that she likes ice cream treats and says “Come, Dode” to lead me to the freezer for another cone. I had to start saying “no” to her so her Mom isn’t the only one who says no.  It is very difficult because she is so cute. She knows her alphabet and her numbers.  She can write many letters already.  She can draw circles and loves to color.  She loves my glasses.  We are a little worried because she seems to be “Mommy shopping” or “Nanny shopping”.  I have been working on redirecting her to Mom as much as possible and as much as I remember.  She does report to Mom often. And she loves her dad.  It was a little busier than expected the past few days.  Tuesday, Laura and Kendra took the Heitritter boys and girls to the swimming pool.  (That sounds pretty good doesn’t it?...Heitritter boys and girls.)  I cleaned at the house and did about 4 loads of laundry.  Kendra was sick on Wednesday so we had the Heitritter cousins over.  It was Laura, myself and Emma with 6 children under 10.  I was tired!  Today Laura, Emma and Megan went to Sioux Falls to meet with Kendra to look for a wedding dress.  Tressa came with Maddie, Andrew and Grace to help with Shaya and Thomas.  Maddie, Andrew, Thomas, Shaya and I went on an adventure discovering the Heitritter farm.  We found sticks, pine cones, pine needles, grasses and weeds.  We stayed outside for over an hour.  Hard to believe it is winter with the temperatures being so nice.  It was chilly but not cold. Shaya wore her new pink hat.  She played well with the kids.  After Tressa left, Shaya was peeling an orange and pulled a chair up to the window.  I could hear her singing a song to herself in her native language.  I would have loved to know what that song was. She was watching out the window and singing.  Thomas became tired of playing and put in the Star Wars movie.  When I saw the car returning I told Shaya that Mom was home.  She ran to the window and yelled “MOM!”  We may not have to worry so much after all. Some of the Dykstra family was coming tonight, but I was tired so headed home.  I am truly not as young as I used to be.  I really honor my sister and brother-in-law for choosing to do what they are doing.  I hope I can be of help.  I know the Lord is looking over them.  That reminds me that Shaya loves to pray at the table!”  She is such a blessing.  I will keep praying for you too.

Love to you all, Dode


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I know I will forget to thank some of you! We have been totally overwhelmed by the generosity of so many!
Thanks for the prayers you have said on our behalf. We feel them! Please continue to pray for our adjustment and bonding as a family.
Thanks to Hope Church for all of your support. The Youth group shopped for the girls. Shaya had such fun opening the babies, Barbies and books! I don't believe she had ever played with a doll. It took her a few days to figure it out. This morning, however, she had a Barbie all wrapped up in one of Megan's blankets. It was adorable! Thanks to our families for the cleaning, cooking and shopping you all did for us.
We received gift cards for shopping. We received clothes from many of you.
We simply cannot thank you enough. I definitely underestimated the "stuff"
we would need for this endeavor. Thank you all for making this possible! I get pretty teary-eyed when I think of your support.
Keep praying!

Merry Christmas!
We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! It is definitely time to update our website

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