Tag Archives: Family

Special Guests

Today I woke early and headed to the airport to fetch my parents. They arrived on time and had a fairy easy journey from Iowa (via Chicago). They commented on how it takes about the same amount of time to fly to Dublin as it does to drive to Indianapolis (which my dad had just done for our nephew’s AAU basketball tournament), and it is a whole lot easier than flying to South Africa! Perspective can be a helpful tool!

We stowed their luggage at their Trinity City Hotel as their room wasn’t yet ready (it was only about 9:30) and we headed to our apartment. The kids and Reed were glad to see them, and we visited for awhile over morning beverages. Then my folks, Abbie, and I headed out to catch the big green “hop on/hop off” bus tour. I thought it might be a nice way for them to get oriented to Dublin without too much exertion.

We hopped off at Merrion Square and visited Oscar Wilde’s statue, something I had been wanting to do. We hopped back on the next bus and got lucky with witty live commentary. So, rather than hopping off again, we rode most of the rest of the route before meeting Jackson and Reed for lunch. We heard a bit of history, a pinch of humor, and skosh of sarcasm while winding through Dublin. It is a very interesting city with lots of character…there are a few sites I’d like to go back to and hop off to visit.

We lunched again at The Duke and enjoyed sandwiches, soup, and chips (aka fries). My dad had his first (half) pint of Guinness,which I think he enjoyed. We get to tour the Guinness storehouse tomorrow, so it will be fun to learn more about the Guinness family and their legendary black liquid. Then I got my folks settled into their posh hotel room so they could relax and freshen up before Riverdance.

Speaking of which, it was amazing! The dancers and musicians are so incredibly talented, and to see Riverdance in Dublin is beyond compare, in my opinion. The finesse and coordination exhibited is hard to put into words…truly spectacular. The show grew a little long for the kids, and my folks were pretty tired by the end after their super long day, but it was a delightful evening. The students enjoyed it too, and they were headed home after a full day. Here’s hoping everyone – all 10 of us – sleeps well!

Walking tour & welcome meal

Our Monday morning started in a leisurely fashion which was good, as 3/4 of us had trouble falling asleep (Reed did not). The kids and I had lunch in as Reed met his students and Tony for a Book of Kells tour at 11:30 (the rest of us will see it when my folks arrive). When they were done, they came by the apartment and got a quick tour…we want them to feel welcome here (they’ve designated themselves as our other four adopted children, at least for three weeks). 🙂

We all departed to meet up with Tony and our tour guide for the afternoon, Sean Finnegan. (A highlight for me was getting to meet Tracy Dicks, the London-based AIFS staffer who set up both this and the Cape Town program!) Sean is a lovely older gentleman who knows a lot about Dublin. As he works for the tourism office, he promised to tell us no lies while on the tour…he had quite a wit about him and often tried to stump us with questions about his city. 🙂 Our 60-90 minute walking tour ended up being about 150 minutes, and we didn’t even travel much distance! We strolled from Trinity down to St. Stephen’s Green, which is only about 1/2 mile away, and back, stopping frequently to hear about the sites. It was interesting most of the time, but everyone grew tired by the end of it. The kids (all six!) handled it well, and we were proud of them.

We had some time to return “home” in the afternoon before our welcome dinner. We met the students and Tony at the front gate of Trinity and headed toward Temple Bar around 7:00. We were ushered up two sets of stairs to a nicer restaurant setting at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, which I didn’t expect (I thought it would be more of a pub setting, which the first two floors are). We had a lovely dinner, complete with duck for Hannah, lobster for Jamieson, steak for Kayla and Tony, sole for Jamie, pork loin for Jackson, Irish stew for Reed, fish & chips for Abbie, & veggie lasagna for me. We sat there long enough to make room for dessert, so it was a fun celebratory type of meal. We heard about the students’ home stays, which are going well, along with other things they’ve done to explore the city, both together and separately. They are a really great group of individuals, and we are so glad each one is here with us!

We returned home around 10:00, still fairly awake…it doesn’t get dark here until about that time, so our clocks are a bit shifted. We all slept well (I am writing this Tuesday morning), and are ready for another Dublin day!

Our arrival & first full Dublin day

We arrived midday Saturday after an easy journey, and our American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS) guide, Tony Langan, was at the airport to meet us. All but one of our students was on our 10-hour flight from San Francisco, and the other one was waiting with Tony when we arrived. Tony sent the students in one taxi to their home stays, which are in a suburb of Dublin, about a half hour or so from city center. He rode with us in our taxi to settle us into our accommodations at Trinity College, right in the heart of Dublin. We have a nice apartment  and feel quite lucky.

Sunday we ventured out for a stroll through the Trinity campus and Temple Bar, a neighborhood of cobbled streets (complete with shops, bars, & LOTS of tourists) for lunch and groceries. The weather is lovely, a mix of sun and clouds and mid-60s. Here’s a recap of what we saw and did…

Home

Just a quick update to let everyone know that we all made it home safe and sound last night. We had some interesting mishaps along the way, but we persisted on and all parties are back at their respective homes. We have lots to think about…to remember…to continue to learn. It was a wonderful adventure, made perfect by sharing it together. We are thankful to God for watching over us, and we pray our sponsored children and their families also feel His protection. Here are just a few pics from our day in Mhlosheni, Swaziland. (We weren’t all together for the visits, so I don’t have those for everyone yet.)

From Swaziland w/ love

Believe it or not, our first accommodation in Swaziland has wifi connectivity! The two teenagers with us are quite pleased. Okay, so are the two 40-somethings. 🙂 Anyway, I thought I would post a few more people pics for your enjoyment…

We arrived a bit late this afternoon (surprise, surprise), but everything went smoothly with the border crossing, etc. We are staying at the quaint Timbali Lodge in Manzini tonight and then will move on to Milwane Reserve (in traditional beehive huts!) tomorrow night. We had delicious pizzas for dinner (Abbie said they were the best pizzas she’s ever eaten; Connor said they were the best he’s ever eaten in Africa…I think his sense of humor comes from his dad).

Our World Vision partner, Bonginkosi, greeted us as well…it is great to see him again so soon. His smile grew very wide when we presented him with a giant bag of his favorite Skittles. Tomorrow will be a good, long day visiting our sponsored children. I am so looking forward to sharing this together as a family.

I doubt we’ll be online tomorrow night, and then Friday begins our journey home. If I can, I will post pics of us with our sponsored children, but I think it is not very likely. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos (they include one of my students, Kelsey, who joined us on safari)!

From Kruger w/ love

Just a quick post on our drive from Kruger Park into Swaziland. We don’t expect to be able to be online once there. We have had a fabulous experience here and have seen lots of animals, and we each have our favorite sightings. We were incredibly lucky to see five lions up close as well as two cheetahs with a fresh kill. Considering there are only around 200 cheetahs in all of Kruger Park (which is about12,000 square miles), the latter was very, very fortunate. More pictures are needed to tell the tales, but here is one of us so you know we are all fine and the lions didn’t eat anyone! 🙂

Films and family (finally!)

There are surely many relevant films out there addressing issues of global concern, humanity, et cetera. As promised, here is a list of films that I recommend; I use them in my Global Psychology class. Don’t worry if you’re not into psychology…they are not psychology films per se (though all of them are relevant as they deal with the human condition). If you read about them online and find you’d like to watch any, I have them on DVD and you’re welcome to borrow them.

Beat the Drum (HIV/AIDS in South Africa)
Beyond our Differences (humanity’s connection through faith)
Cry, The Beloved Country (Apartheid; read the novel first)
Dear Francis (HIV/AIDS in Swaziland)
God Grew Tired of Us (the “Lost Boys” of Sudan)
The Human Experience (homeless in US, abandoned children in Peru, lepers in Ghana)

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Finally…my family arrives today!!! We have been apart for 40 days…aren’t there a couple of good stories in the Bible that take place over 40 days? 😉 I can hardly stand waiting these last few hours until I get to greet them at the airport. It is sure to be one of the sweetest reunions of my life, perhaps only second to the first time I met each of them.

Reed, Jackson, and Abbie, I love you so very much, and I am deeply grateful to God for blessing my life with you. Also, thanks for putting up with my hair-brained idea to do this!!! The photo today is of you three…it was the last time I saw you (at the Portland airport on May 12).

I am even more blessed as I have some “bonus” family members coming along with my sweet little family: my parents, Dave & Becky, a niece from Iowa, Tess, and a nephew from Oregon, Connor. Tess and Connor graduated from high school last month, so we thought it was the perfect time for them to tag along to South Africa and Swaziland.

We will stay in Cape Town until Monday, and then we’ll travel north to Kruger Park for a safari. I have been dreaming about taking our kiddos on a safari since I experienced my first one, over six years ago now. I can’t wait to see the amazing animals through their eyes! To end our trip, we will go to Mhlosheni, Swaziland, to visit our sponsored children – all 12 of them across the 8 of us! This, too, has been a dream of mine since I first met our sponsored children.

After 40 days of great moments and lots of life lessons, amazing blessings are surely in store. Of course, all of our days – even those average and below average days – are blessings. But then there are those amazing, once-in-a-lifetime days that fill our sails and warm our hearts. My prayer is that I can appreciate all of the days God gives me, no matter what they hold. Still, I must say a big “THANK YOU!” to the man upstairs for carrying us all through the past 40 days apart.

So…as I am able to locate wifi, this blog will shift to a travelogue of our family adventures. Tune in (or out) as you please. Thanks for going along on the ride thus far…

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“Gotcha Day”

Well, overnight a change indeed! We are so happy!!!!

I probably will have just a few moments to post this, so let me just give you the quick details. The nannies from the orphanage arrived a few minutes early this morning, which was a real treat, for sure. The only problem was that we had no interpreter there yet…so we just rolled our video tape and shot a close up of our Abigail (we knew right away who she was). After a few minutes of this, Li Na made it down and things moved quickly from there.

As you can see from our very first family picture, things started out quietly. Abigail seemed at peace for the first few minutes and then, as the screaming of her friends became louder and louder, Abigail decided she’d give it a try. And man did she ever. We both tried to console but to no avail. All in all though her big brother (“Ge ge”) gave us enough practice in similar situations, so we weren’t worried. What finally did the trick was taking her out of the room and walking the halls. She settled down quickly as I sang Zip-a-dee-do-da (one of Jackson’s favorites, too, at her age).

As I was keeping Abigail happy, Erin was left to complete the initial paperwork, which went smoothly. In fact, things are going so smooth that we’ll have the final notorization on her adoption forms in just a few hours. This is unusual (there’s usually a 24-hour waiting period) but we’re not complaining, it will be so wonderful finishing the adoption process so soon!

As you’ll see in the photos below, she is doing well, all things considered. Poor thing must think her world has been turned upside-down, because it has. After talking with her nanny, we know she’s a fit in our family. When asked what her personality was like, the nanny laughed and said “Well, she’s very active…and she really enjoys taking things from other kids!” Sounds like she and Jackson will get along just great — after he learns who the boss is!

I’ll post more pictures as I have a chance…


Our first photo together, just moments after we met!


Hello, Abigail, women ai ni, xiao baobao (We love you, little treasure)!


Concentrating on her blocks!


Sleeping peacefully…


…on mom!


After her nap, we met with a Registrar of the People’s Republic who officially proclaimed our adoption official. We’re holding the “Red Book” in our hands that contains the official adoption record, which authorities will want to see from time to time.


Abigail’s Welfare Center Directors, right after we signed the papers making her adoption official!

Change, overnight

Change, overnight…

Abigail. Tonight is the last night you will spend not knowing Mommy or Daddy.

Tomorrow is the first day we will walk together.

While we were awake into the night, anxious to meet you, you were sleeping,

unaware of the love and life that is waiting for you in the bright morning of a new day.

I feel joy!

Change, overnight.

I know this feeling…

Jackson. I remember these feelings. Yes, just before I met you.

Then, as now, we waited for you to come into our life.

Then, as now, I knew I had but hours

until I would hold you in the bright morning of a new day.

I feel joy!

And I cry.

Change, overnight.

I know this feeling.

And a gift is given…

I soak in warm moments of remembered joy, present joy; the gift comes into focus.

It is not that we are giving you so much, Abigail.

It is not that we have given you so much, Jackson.

The gift given is in both of you, to us.

In you we see angels dancing and the nearness of God’s love.

Doubt fades away and we sing the song of heaven.

I feel joy!

And I cry.

You are grace.

Change, overnight.

Easter…

New photos of Easter are now uploaded!!! Don’t miss ’em…