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Reincarnation of the Dykstra Family Blog
Chad Dykstra - 2014-06-03

Comrades is Coming!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-04-29

Melkam Gena!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-01-07

Why I Run
Chad Dykstra - 2012-10-03

It's All About the Injera
Chad Dykstra - 2012-03-09

Expectations and Reality
Chad Dykstra - 2012-02-15

I Remember
Chad Dykstra - 2011-10-25

A Summer of Firsts
Chad Dykstra - 2011-09-13

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Family Blog, Reunion Episode

Chad Dykstra - 2011-05-26
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Thanks for tuning in, and welcome to the Dykstra Family Blog reunion post.   We’ve been home just about 6 months now, and thing sure look different than they used to!  I thought this might be a good opportunity to look back on past blogs and reflect on them to show a little progress.

In Questions and Answers (click to view in a new window), we covered many of the frequently asked questions that we had within the first month or two of being home.

Are the boys adjusted yet?

The new answer:  We’re still working on a few things (and we always will be) but the boys have made a lot of progress in 6 months.  We’re still learning how to share, and learning how to deal with life and possessions not always being fair 100% of the time (Less Is More).  Zinabu specifically is very inquisitive (read: naughty) and is quite a challenge for us.  For anyone who happened to be at East Saugatuck Church on Sunday morning at 9am, yes – it was my child who pulled the fire alarm in the middle of the service.  Doh!

We have settled into normal life routines for bedtimes and mealtimes and overall, we are doing very well.  Both boys are now done with preschool for the summer and will be in kindergarten/young fives 5 days a week next year.  They look forward to riding the bus!

Do they speak English yet?

The new answer:  Yes – very much so.  The boys can communicate now very well and the language barrier is almost entirely gone.  The boys are almost exclusively talking to each other in English.  We still talk in Kambaata/Amharic whenever possible with the few words we know to keep the boys sharp, asking them what things are to make sure they’re going back to that place.  “e su en Etopia minden no?”  It seems like they are still able to pull quite a few things out – most of what we believe to be Kambaata.  It seems like Amharic is mostly disappearing.  If I point to a fish, they can no longer come up with the Amharic word “asa”.  We’ll see if we can get them to hang on to some of it.

We have a ton of “story time” moments over the past few weeks.  Now that English has come as far as it has, the boys are free to tell stories.  We’ve heard lots of stories about Ethiopia – some of which are believable and some which don’t seem so true.  Both boys have been able to recall the plane flights home and explain to us what they were going through.  We’ve learned Abatu’s ears hurt on the flights, and Zinabu and I were able to hash out the “seatbelt incident” (Home Sweet Home) and we found out that he was scared of the “opening windows” – the overhead bins being opened and closed.  

We talk frequently about their family in Ethiopia and their experiences.  They like to talk about it now, and Zinabu is mostly over his anti-Ethiopia sentiments, which is a really good thing.  We’re very glad that we have an open relationship about their past and let them know it’s OK to talk about it and to miss it.

What do they think of the snow(sun/rain/etc)?

The new answer:  They’re over the snow!  They liked it while it lasted, but they have told us they do prefer the nice warmer weather we’ve been afforded lately.  It really doesn’t depend on the weather - they just want to be outside.  We’ve had several issues – even tantrums – over them not having their own umbrellas.  Lora finally loaded them up in the car and drove them to town to buy them umbrellas to silence the madness.

So how are you doing?

The new answer:  We’re doing pretty good.  Our life admittedly is crazy.  It’s a different level of crazy than most families face – but crazy nonetheless.  We’re very fortunate to have family supporting us and helping us out on a regular basis.  It makes the madness we face at times bearable.  We still try to not leave too many “1 parent days” wherever possible – specifically at bedtime.  It does happen on occasion though, and it is way easier than it used to be.  That is a big blessing.  Abatu has also in the past month finally decided that he loves mommy.  That was great news – he was mostly indifferent towards her before.

All four kids now can ride two-wheel bikes and they do so all over the place.  It’s nice to be able to turn them out and let them play.  They got their first boat ride on the pond last weekend, which they loved.  All have fishing poles, but we haven’t dared open that “can of worms” yet.  Fishing with four little ones will be a challenge, even for 2 adults!  As nice as it is to turn them out and “let them run”,  it still requires a certain level of interaction and supervision to keep them from seriously injuring each other, but thus is life as the parents of four similarly aged siblings.  Speaking of “let them run” – we’ve signed all four kids up for the Rural Rush 1 mile fun run on June 3.  We expect them to finish very high in the 0-6 age bracket. smiley

Thanks for stopping by – you stay classy.

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A mild vacation (and spicy food)

Chad Dykstra - 2011-04-18
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We traveled somewhere sunny and warm for spring break!  You may be thinking we went to Florida or (insert Southern state here).  We did contemplate a Florida trip, but quickly reconsidered.  20 hours in the car sounded less than ideal for our first road trip as a family of six, and we sure didn't want to pay for six plane tickets!

After talking to our friends the Cayleys from Wisconsin and the Meyers from Holland, we decided on a road trip to visit the Cayleys in sunny Eau Claire, WI!  There may still be ice on the lakes and snow in the shadows...but at least while we were there, it was sunny and warm - even when it was cold and rainy back home.  Who knew you could go north for nicer weather.

The main purpose of our trip was to have an "Ethiopian Reunion".  On our first trip to Ethiopia we traveled with both the Meyers and the Cayleys.  We were scheduled to do the second trip with them as well, but the Cayleys unfortunately got delayed due to their case being investigated by the US Embassy in Ethiopia.  I won't go into the confusing details, but our five adopted children are all related in one way or another or at the very least lived in the same village and were good friends.  They were all very close and we wanted to give them an opportunity to spend some time together.  In addition to the Meyers and the Cayleys, the Scott family from Minnesota came down for two days as well.  They adopted another cousin and friend of the kids.

We did some planning and hit the road with the Meyers.  We decided on an overnight stop in Madison, WI to break up the ~8 hour trip.  To date, our longest trip with the boys had been Grand Rapids.  After an evening of swimming and a morning trip to the Madison zoo, we were back on the road and headed to Eau Claire.  We visited with the Cayleys for 3 days.  Lots of fun was had by all - multiple parks with play structures, an indoor water park complete with big slides, and most importantly lots of time for the kids to play together.  Every day was packed with exhaustive fun-filled excitement.  I'm not sure how they did it, but they were up late every night and awake by 6:00 or 6:30 every morning.  It made for a tired mommy and daddy by the end of the weekend.

During much of the trip, we had 8 adults and 11 children running around!  We were so thankful for the great weather. All the children, whether biological or adopted, had a great time playing together. With the kids playing outside, that left the adults to spend time talking, telling stories, and comparing experiences.  It really helps to talk to other families so we all know that we aren't alone in our experiences!

It's hard for the boys (specifically Zinabu) to deal with the emotion of spending so much time playing with friends from Ethiopia and then returning to real life.  They don't really understand the concept of vacation and consider it a fun new thing to do.  They have asked angrily and insistently over the past couple days to stay in a hotel and go on another trip.  We've had quite a few ups and downs over the past week and had some very hard days...some of our hardest days in a while.  We also had a few moments that were really good.  The last few days we have kept very busy (and the boys have been busy, which helps redirect them).  Things seem to be leveling out a little which is most welcome!

On our way home, we stopped at an Ethiopian market in Chicago to pick up some Ethiopian spices.  We've been meaning to make Ethiopian food for a while but didn't come home from Ethiopia with all the supplies we needed to do so.  This weekend was the time for us to do that!  We made injera (the Ethiopian signature flatbread), Doro Wat (Ethiopia's national dish - a spicy chicken), Mesir Wat or "Wuti" according to the boys (red lentils - made at the boys' request), and Gomen (collard greens).  It all turned out great!  It is nice to finally be able to make injera.  It's quite a process to make it and many Ethiopians who move to the US even buy it because as I understand it's much harder to make here in the US.  I finally found a recipe online that is pretty complex compared to many other recipes I've seen, but it actually works.  The Frost family came over and the food was received to rave reviews!

This week, we have kindergarten testing for Z & A.  It will be interesting to see how that goes, since the boys are still working on their English, letters, numbers, etc.(though it gets better every day).  Our preference right now is to put Zinabu in Kindergarten and Abatu in young fives.  Ben will be in Pre-School.  That means we'll have a pre-schooler, a young fiver, a kindergartener, and a first grader.  The school years will never be boring around our house!

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75 bucks

Chad Dykstra - 2011-03-25
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Prior to our two trips to Ethiopia, we decided to sponsor a girl named Rediet through the Yezelalem Minch ministry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (she is below on the left). YM is a ministry that serves vulnerable orphans and widows in their community with the goal of providing food, schooling, and medical supplies to allow families to stay together instead of being torn apart by poverty.  Rediet lives with her mother and her father has passed away.

During both of our trips to Ethiopia, we were able to visit with Rediet and her mom, (and in one case her little sister) and provide them with clothes, school supplies, shoes, etc. that we brought with us as a gift from home.  They were obviously very grateful and it was neat on the second trip to see how their comfort level around us had increased and how happy they were to see us.

A few years ago we started the tradition of giving an additional financial donation each Christmas to each of our sponsored children and their families.  This has been really special.  It takes a few months, but we always get a letter in the mail with photos of what was purchased and how the family was blessed. During our second trip to Ethiopia in December, we gave Birtukan (the founder of YM) a $75 donation for Rediet, as well as a $75 donation for Abenezer on behalf of some friends of ours who also sponsor a child at YM.  For most people $75 isn't much to spend on a gift, especially at Christmas time, but it's very neat to see just how it can be used in a situation like this.  It took a little longer than usual to get word back from them because they had an incorrect email address for us, but yesterday we received an email from YM.  I thought many of you may appreciate this, so I decided to share.  Here is the word we received back from Rediet's family:

We called Rediet's mother to the YM office and told that you gave $75 for her.  When we give your gifts of $75, she said  "I am now young and strong so I don't want to buy anything.  But instead of working in other person's house for daily bread, I can make my business to sustain my life." At that time we were happy and encouraged her to work hard at whatever she likes. Now as you see in attached picture she is making enjera (local bread) and getting some income and helping her children.
When we see her situation we thank you and praise God.

For just $75, Rediet's mother was able to stop being a day laborer (working odd jobs as you can find work) and start her own business!  Talk about learning to fish!

I have one more story I'd like to share.  We also received word back from Abenezer's family on how that $75 was used.

Abenezer's mother is HIV positive and she gets sick some times. At the time you gave $75, she was very sick and had no help. But because of your gifts she got well and her health condition is good now.

When our friends sponsored Abenezer, they were impacted how his father had already passed away and his mother was sick with AIDS.  They had commented to us how the odds were stacked against him considering his family situation.  Little did they realize that their simple gift may have saved his mother's life and kept the family together!

I was reading in the book of Luke last night, in chapter 16 (CEV).  It tied this all together for me.

10 Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. 11 If you cannot be trusted with this wicked (NIV: worldly) wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 12 And if you cannot be trusted with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something that will be your own? 13 You cannot be the slave of two masters. You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.

14  The Pharisees really loved money. So when they heard what Jesus said, they made fun of him (NIV: sneered).

15 But Jesus told them:
You are always making yourselves look good, but God sees what is in your heart. The things that most people think are important are worthless (NIV: detestable) as far as God is concerned.

Pharisees aren't the only ones who love money and chase after worthless (detestable) things.  I do it all the time.  Chances are you probably do too.  We're Americans, after all...and having whatever we want is supposed to be the "American Way".  Yesterday was a great reminder for me that God has bigger plans than I do and it doesn't kill me to skip a dinner out and open the checkbook for something that really matters!

Yezelalem Minch is an incredible ministry.  There are still over 100 children that the program hasn't been able to find sponsors for yet.  If you are interested in finding out more information on the YM ministry or would like to investigate child sponsorship for $30/month through YM, you can visit, find them on Facebook, or let me know and I'll be happy to give you more information or put you in touch with someone who can help you sponsor a child.

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