Monday, October 31, 2011

The Race

My Cheerleaders! Rachel with Solomon, Adam with Tess, Saedi, Riley with Elllie & Isaac
Ellie & Saedi loving the metro
Pit stop to strip down to shorts, eat a fig neuton & give kisses to the children...Mile 16?

Praise God I survived the 26.2 and felt pretty darn good! I was getting worried on Saturday when it was hailing, snowing, raining during my packet pick-up and we were getting word from friends that West Point was having a blizzard. Thankfully, the weather cleared Sunday morning, and although the start of the race was chilly, I ended up finishing with sunshine in my trusty shorts and tank. Although my goal was 4:20 I finished in 4:30:12 but felt strong most of the time. I took my time stretching, walking through food and water stations, switching out socks, kissing my children, etc. And, who did I think of in my weakest moments? The Ethiopian fuel carriers! Yes, my legs hurt and I got a little nauseous around mile 16, but there was an end to my race and I had people handing me water, food, and cheering for me. Let alone, I was in a safe environment with other runners packed in next to me doing the exact same thing. I'm so thankful God gave me the courage to run a marathon again-- to run it 30 min faster, to feel stronger, to gain a new perspective.

The best part of the weekend, though, was staying with our friends, Adam & Rachel (who we hadn't seen in a few years) and meeting their daughter, Tess. What an amazing family these guys are! Not only did they spend Sunday morning with Riley and the kids chasing me around the course, they watched our 4 kids so Riley could track me down at the finish line. I really enjoyed getting to know Rachel more (she was usually deployed during our time in NC) and conversing over stay-at-home parent issues with Adam since he got out of the Army a year ago and is taking care of Tess. It was like we hadn't missed a beat with each other even though so much time had passed. I do have to admit, that I didn't recognize Adam right away since he's gone all Grizzly Adams.

Approaching the Finish Line on the final uphill climb

DONE! I'm happy but this hurts!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Bird

We've been eating a lot of delicious pheasant & duck these days thanks to the Master-Hunter.


Tea Parties

The girls modeling their new $5 yard sale dresses
Saedi had been asking me for weeks to have friends over for a tea party. I finally felt like it was do-able so the girls made last-minute invitations which we hand-delivered and then had our orange-food-themed tea party. Saedi had her friends over for 1 1/2 hours in the morning, and Ellie hosted in the afternoon. All the girls had fun painting rocks (I couldn't find small pumpkins without driving a ways), decorating cookies, and enjoying ham and cheese leaf sandwiches, orange jello, cantaloupe, carrots, cheese nips, & hot chocolate with orange marshmallows.
Haddie, Julianne, Saedi, Maryann (Analynn came later)
Meg, Ashley, Ellie, & Jaycee (Alyssa came later)
Painting Rocks


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

26 Miles

Five years ago I swore I would never run a marathon again, and well, here I am 5 days out from doing it again (funny how that works, huh?) Since moving to West Point 4 months ago I've met a fantastic group of girls who enjoy running & talked me into another marathon.

So, why do I run? I just do. I like it. It's good for my soul. It's a break from the kids and time to think. 5 years ago I ran the OBX (Outer Banks, NC) marathon-- 26 miles, 26 years old, on the 16th anniversary of my mom's death. I ran that race for myself and for my mom. I remember reading once that daughters who have lost their mothers will often drive themselves to do/finish things their mothers never had the chance to do- like run a marathon.

What am I running for this time? I'm running for the amazing women of Ethiopia. In our Lonely Planet travel guide I had read about the women who collect firewood to make a living. These women travel miles just to reach the bottom of a mountain that they climb daily to gather the sticks of Eucalyptus trees. They climb, climb, climb 4,000 feet in elevation up Entoto mountain and tie the sticks in bundles and carry them on their backs. Then they travel back down the mountain with 100# of firewood on their backs that they sell in Addis for about 50 cents a day. Can you imagine walking a marathon daily with 100# of scratchy wood on your back? How about in unsafe conditions? They do this even in the rainy season dealing with mudslides, slippery road, etc. They risk confrontations with guards. They try to work in groups because rape is common. They do it to survive.

Our last day in Ethiopia I asked our driver to take me to the mountain so I could meet some of these women, pray with them, and give them money. I talked to four women:

Meet Tsaiganesh. While she was friendly, she wasn't overly-interested in talking with me. Why would she be? Surely she was eager to get down the mountain, get the load off her back, and sell that wood. I gave her money, which she was extremely grateful for, but I learned my lesson to talk with the women resting.

Meet Asnagish. She had no husband, which more than likely means he died or left her. She wouldn't smile at me at first. What was a white woman in a van going to do for her? I shared with her that Jesus carried a heavy cross of wood on his back willingly for her. She warmed up to me and we chatted briefly, prayed together, and I asked her if I could feel what her load felt like? She smiled immediately, strapped the wood on my back and I stood up and took 3 excruciating steps and felt the tears come feeling what she had to do daily. I knew right then I was running this race for her. I thanked her for her time, got in the van, and let myself cry a bit.

Meet Abobonich. Her name means flower. She was a beautiful lady and a widow. She was old and tired and proud of her beauty. She wanted to fix her head covering before our picture together.

Meet Aragush. She, too, was a widow. When I saw her sitting alone on a hill her hands we caked with dirt & grime. Her fingers were nubby, and I'm guessing she had leprousy. I tried to hold her hands, but she was full of shame and pulled them away. She told me she was never able to have kids, which makes for a very lonely outcast. Yet in her heartache, she continually spoke blessings over me, "May you live a long time. Take me home with you. I'll clean for you. I'm tired." She let me rub her back and snuggle next to her, but always hid her hands from me.

I said goodbye and went back to our guesthouse and Ry, Solomon and I got ready for our flight home that night. I knew I wanted to run for these women. We long to help them, but how? Our immediate response was to buy a $75 donkey for these ladies so they wouldn't have to carry the load themselves. But, they would have to care for that donkey and theft is an issue. I'm still kicking myself for the "why didn't I"... carry the load down the mountain for those ladies (not sure if I could have physically) or at least thrown the sticks on the van, paid them for the wood, and given them a ride home. It's one thing to give someone money, but it's another thing to carry someone's burden for them.

You can read more here.

So, on Sunday I will run my 26 miles for Tsaiganesh, Asnagish, Abobonich, & Aragush & the other strong firewood carriers of Addis. While I didn't do any fund-raising, below are two reputable organizations where any amount you give would help the beautiful people of Ethiopia:
Project 61
Christian World Foundation


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kids at Cullum Hall

My friend Haley was kind enough to spend over an hour with our crazy family this afternoon trying to snap some decent shots of us. Here are some really cute & funny candid shots of the 4 kiddos in front of Cullum Hall at West Point.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

10 Year Reunion

I love this picture that Meghan took during Riley's 10 year reunion weekend. Sean was able to convince somebody to let him borrow the old mule costume. Cheers to the best mascot every! Too many good memories! I've been too busy/lazy to sort through and post all the pictures but this is by far my favorite.
Sweet Paddy
We had a fantastic weekend with everyone- Drew & Steph and their twins stayed with us; Daniel & Anya and baby Jack were visiting from Switzerland and they stayed with Sean & Meghan just a few streets over. We got together each night for dinner/dessert/and catching up. Dave & Haley came Fri night and Matt & Emily joined us Sat night. So weird & wonderful to be together again--with kids! I also got to see my cousin Kim & her husband, Brooks. My college friend, Gella, also came for the day/football game on Saturday and stayed the night. So fun! And, Army won!
The crew, minus our boys

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Post-Adoption Fog

Shoooo-EEEE! Life just got a bazillion times busier in the 4 weeks that Solomon's been home with us!

First, what a FANTASTIC little man he is! Within the first two weeks home he started signing "more" "eat" & "all done" along with saying "da-da" and "ma-ma." He jibber-jabbers quite a bit and sings a little 3-syllable tune frequently that he either made up or the nannies sang to him. Very sweet. He's a quick little guy--climbed up 4 steps immediately upon seeing them. He loves to chase the other kids around the house on all fours, and he likes to be chased. He's crazy for Jack and I'm thrilled as Jack can easily handle one more little friend poking his eyes, pulling his ears and pinching his fur. So he is adjusting better then I expected. As long as that boy has his bottle he's happy as can be!
All this said, I feel like I'm coming out of the "postpartum cloud" know, that place where you try so hard to concentrate on what other's are saying, that place where you wonder if you just fell asleep at the dinner table for a split second, and you get yourself into bed at night and realize you lasted the entire day without brushing your own hair. Raising these 4 is the toughest challenge I've faced, but I'm loving almost every minute of it.

Our family is so blessed to have so many friends and family praying for us and actively helping us-- making & delivering meals, watching kids, sending encouraging texts or emails or phone calls (although I rarely catch those in time) recommending doctors, driving kids places, meeting us at parks, sending us clothes and fun care packages-- ALL OF YOU HAVE KEPT US SANE...thank you!
Aren't these too little ham's so cute? Isaac calls him "awe" and loves to rub Sol's head.