Visiting Lalibela

Visiting Lalibela

Monday, December 28, 2009

More Christmas Pictures




Here are a few more pictures from Gavin's first Christmas. He really loves to match other people, from placemats at the table, to his Daddy and brother's clothes for Christmas Eve Service. We are always more than happy to oblige, unless it is taking longer than 10 minutes to set the breakfast table, while he tries to find matching plates, bowls, spoons, cups, cereal and drink as Layne.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Great Christmas!


We had a wonderful Christmas together as a family, very low key, focusing on Christ's birth and each other. Mike sang at church with Elli and Janika, which was a huge treat. It was the first time he's sung with them in public. It was really a blessing to hear them sing together.

Gavin and Layne have had multiple sleep-overs the past few nights. They LOVE it, but I have to remind them over and over to go to sleep. Gavin said last night, "Mommy, we are having BIG FUN!!" From the giggles I'm sure they were. Fortunately for Gavin, Layne has an incredible imagination and fortunately for her, he is game to go along with just about any pretend play. I honestly don't know how they sleep with 10 stuffed animals in their bed with them.

Kael has been busy, busy, building K'Nex inventions and the little ones love playing with whatever he's built. He and Mike are on day 2 of an Axis and Allies Europe Game. Cousins--he'll be ready for battle this summer!

We have been diligently praying for a sibling group of 4 to find a family by next Christmas. Would you join us in prayer for them? Mike met the oldest boy of the 4 back in June, when we were in Addis Ababa, picking up Gavin. The reality is, orphanages can only keep kids up to a certain age and he is almost to that age. Hopefully, we'll be able to tell you that he and his siblings have a family soon. Maybe, by posting this, someone will contact us about being their family. We would happily put you in contact with our agency, if you have room in your homes to love 4 beautiful kids.

Monday, December 21, 2009

6 months home!!




It's been awhile since I've posted about Gavin. We met our new social worker this week for his 6 month post placement visit--still can't believe it's been 6 months already!! She was amazed at Gavin's language abilities and how easily he seems to have become a part of our family. He was very animated showing her around his house, his room, talking about all the things he and Layne do together. It was a good visit.

Mike and I keep pinching ourselves with regards to his transition. He delights us everyday with the new things he's learning and with his infectious laugh.

It is so fun to watch him get into the Christmas spirit around here. One of the pictures shows him with his own stocking- I think he thinks we're a little crazy hanging them on the mantle, but loves having his "own" anything. Tonight at dinner, he was able to tell his Daddy, that we give gifts at Christmas because God gave us HIS son for Christmas, the greatest gift of all!! In just 6 months, our son has come to a new land, integrated into a new family, learned a new language, eaten all new foods and discovered that he has a LOVING heavenly Father who gave us a wonderful gift many, many Christmases ago.

We are rejoicing in our family this week as our good friends, the Halls wait for their court date for their little girls, our friends, the Hutchesons wait for their court date next week, and 2 more children were removed from our agency's waiting child list this week--next Christmas all of these children will have a families!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

important links

I've been following two family's journeys back to Ethiopia, with Childrens' HopeChest. These families are helping to find sponsors for specific orphanages/carepoints in Ethiopia. The sponsorships are unique in that each sponsor helps to meet the needs of the individual child as well as the orphanage itself. If you want to take a trip to help meet the needs of your sponsored child, you are invited to!!

PLEASE take the time to read the following blogs:



http://familyfromafar.blogspot.com

http://afatherseyes.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Calling Prayer Warriors for the Reed Family

Good morning everyone. As you know, I've asked you to pray for the Reed Family before. They received a referral for a little girl, earlier this year, passed court and two days later their precious daughter passed away in ET. They just got home from ET with their beautiful daughter,Maura, on Saturday. This morning, Maura is undergoing a cardiac cath. at Vanderbilt University. Please pray for this entire family, as they wait, for news that the procedure was a success and Maura's heart was healed.

You can go to reedadoption.blogspot.com to follow their journey and let them know that you're praying for them.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. Since beginning to adopt a child from Ethiopia, we've learned so much about AIDS. Gavin does not have HIV, but after reading information from many families whose children do have HIV, I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a child with HIV. Did you know?

With proper medication, the viral load in a child with HIV can become ZERO?

Children with HIV, who grow up on medication have a nearly normal life expectancy.

Medication for children with HIV can run as low as $60/month, that's as much as some people spend on a mocha every day.

There are no documented cases of children with HIV passing the virus on to their family members.

NOW, the harsh reality is:
If these children are left in their countries of origin without medicines, they will die and die early.

There are entire nations in Africa that are missing the "parent" generations, nations where one elderly lady might be trying to raise 25 orphaned toddlers.

Let God use you today, to make a difference in the life of a child affected by AIDS.

Check out amazing ministries, like Childrens Hopechest to see how you can make a difference. Consider being the answer for one of these children.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What a GREAT day!

We just got off the webcam with Kashiku!!! We've been praying this little boy home, since we met him in Addis Ababa in June. He is beautiful beyond words and so happy with his new Mommy and Daddy. We can't wait to see him in person in a few months (or sooner, if we can think of a reason to get to Kentucky).

Karen and JM, thank you for letting us be a part of your family!!

The internet has been a huge blessing in helping our children stay connected with others from their home. We are so looking forward to our trip in March, to reunite our children with their good friends.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shopping with a purpose this Christmas

I have to admit, I copied this idea from another family's blog, the Weimer Family. It is such a good idea, that I wanted to post it here too.

This Christmas, as you're buying gifts for people, pray about buying items from families who are in the process of or completing their adoptions. Adoption is, quite honestly, VERY expensive. Unfortunately, it is the expense of it, that keeps people from even considering bringing a child into their homes. As an adoptive parent, I want to see more kids placed in loving homes. What an incredible Christmas gift that would be- helping children find forever homes.

The following families and links are provided below. I'm sorry we're not computer savvy enough to take you right to the link--any help here is appreciated. So, just copy the web addresses into your brower and go. Read their blogs, see their hearts and help them bring their children home!!

http://johnmarkhutch.blogspot.com You can purchase GREAT fair trade coffee here to help with adoption related expenses.

http://mycrazyadoption.org You can purchase COOL t-shirts here to help this family on their second Ethiopian adoption

http://taylorfamilyadoption.wordpress.com The Taylor family is selling t-shirts and coffee to help finance their SECOND Ethiopian adoption (they brought home their first two children a year ago.


http://itspoppydipblog.blogspot.com I have a link on the right here, so you can go to this website for the cutest little girl dresses (Layne would love one, hint hint) All of the proceeds from Sallee's sales go to finance their THIRD Ethiopian adoption.

http://jennydixon.etsy.com This family is selling custom photo Christmas cards to finance their adoption.

Ethiopian coffee is incredible (Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee). The following families are selling coffee to help fundraise their adoptions. This sure beats the big corporations getting the profits from a daily mocha!!

www.JustLoveCoffee.com/Winowiski
www.justlovecoffee.com/TheIrvins

This family is on their second adoption adn are selling fair trade Bolga Baskets from a co-op in Ghana. www.shoptadopt.blogspot.com

This family is selling $5 Christmas ornaments: http://5millionminus1.blogspot.com

This family is financing their second adoption with cool magnets: http://bringingezrahome.blogspot.com

If you're a fan of Pampered Chef, this family will benefit from you buying the products from them. Their is a link on their blog: www.familywovenbyfaith.blogspot.com

Another neat t-shirt option: www.embracingtheleastofthese.blogspot.com

As for us: We are saving for our re-adoption expenses right now. If you want to purchase any Shaklee products from our on-line store, this money will go towards those expenses and for the girls and I to go back to Ethiopia on mission trips: www.sweeneygreenclean.myshaklee.com

Finally, I put a link to Amazima Ministries to the right. PLEASE click on it, read what this ministry is doing and be a part of it--Truly Amazing, a 21-year-old, feeding several hundred children each weekend, in Uganda, doing what God has called her to do..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our friends, the Egly Family

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fis.gd%2F50uiS&h=1c0907b515ea0207e9e504e28d078e82
I hope it works for you all to see this family. We traveled with them to Ethiopia and got to experience meeting our children together. Jason and Shelley, thanks for letting us continue to share in this journey. We can't wait to see you someday soon!


God is Good! We have much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Layne and Zipper


It's been a tough few days around here for Layne (and for all of us). We discovered she had pneumonia yesterday, after listening to her cough worsen throughout Sunday afternoon. We caught it super early, so we're hoping it doesn't progress. She really hasn't been the same since she had Swine flu about a month ago.

Every night, Zipper jumps on Layne's bed, ready to sleep together. Every night, Layne tells us how much she loves having a snuggle dog.

Mike and I have been putting off putting Zipper down for just this reason. Our kids (okay, so include me in that too) love Zipper and our other dogs. So, today, when we had no choice but to visit the vet for that purpose, it was so tough...The big kids understand how badly he has been hurting- he had a bad disc, which caused his legs to go out from under him regularly, in this house of many stairs and chronic ear infections. To Layne and Gavin, it's very hard to understand...Layne took it HARD, which then caused her to cough all the more.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be brighter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The unexpected

Before we went to Ethiopia, we expected trials: we expected language barriers, tough behaviors, sibling issues, food issues, difficulties with bonding, and grief on Gavin's part.

What I didn't expect was a HAPPY boy, who greets most things with a smile and a laugh.
I didn't expect him to LOVE us so very deeply and immediately.
I didn't expect he and Layne to be the best friends EVER.
I didn't expect him to crawl into my lap several times per day to wrap my arms around him.
I didn't expect Kael to enjoy him so much.
I didn't expect to hear him say, "I no laugh in Benchi. Here I laugh all the time."
I didn't expect him to learn to love our God so deeply so quickly.
I didn't expect him to run to help us anytime we need it.
I didn't expect his grief to be so short lived.
I didn't expect him to be SO athletic.
I didn't expect him to learn his letters and numbers so quickly.
I didn't expect the HUGE hugs he gives Mike every time he comes home or to me when I return from an errand.
I didn't expect him to share so well, when he's never had anything before.
I didn't expect to think he is SO cute!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happenings

The last month has flown by with many, many new things to experience, here in North Dakota:

1. Gavin's first Halloween was met with "This is so, so cool, Mommy." This came as we were walking down the streets in downtown Williston, where merchants give the kids candy at every store. I can't even imagine how exciting it must have been for my son, who was always hungry a year ago to be handed candy of all things.

2. Gymnastics: Layne and Gavin have started in a gymnastics class and love it!!!

3. Basksetball: The girls are on a Rec team, with several practices under their belt. Kael joins them at an open gym, put on by the high school coaches a few nights per week. Through basketball, they have made two really good friends, who were so welcoming to them..much appreciated.

4. Homeschooling: Our schooling is going really well this year. We all love what we're learning and love the dynamic homeschool community here. As a family with 5 kids, we fit right in. We have a veteran homeschool family 4 houses away with neat kids who come over regularly. It's a real blessing to have such neat kids close.

5. Chocolate: Gavin just told me, "I like chocolate now, Mommy, yummy, yummy!!" SUCCESS-- it's only taken us 5 months, but he now appreciates our dessert of choice.

6. Adoptive community: We have been in contact with the AWAA families who also adopted children from Gavin's village. They are such an encouragement to us!! We are all planning to get the kids together in the spring so they can stay connected--what fun!! Watch out Indianapolis!

7. Church: I think we've found the church for our family to attend! We've visited there two Sundays now, and it is a really neat Body of Believers.

That about wraps it up. We are enjoying lots of Sunshine and being together as a family.

Monday, November 2, 2009

143,000,000 Orphans- Orphan Sunday this Sunday

YouTube - 143,000,000 Orphans


We copied this video after seeing it on Karen and John Mark's blog. Please watch it. Please pray how you can be involved.

Our t-shirts read: 143,000,000 orphans minus 1.

You really can make a difference in the life of an orphan. You too, can see he/she experience many new things, but most importantly, hear them say, "I love you Mommy and Daddy." You can help them feel safe, secure, well fed, and LOVED.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What we're learning

My big kids are studying Ancient Civilizations, this year. It is great timing (God's timing) that we would be reading so many great books about Ancient Egypt and the other ancient civilizations. Why? Well, we're all learning that many of the Pharoahs were from the land of Nubia/Kush (Ethiopia and Sudan). It's fascinating, that this country, that we've come to love, once ruled the ancient world. We're currently reading, "The God King," about Taharka, a young Nubian Pharoah (who happens to also be mentioned in the Bible). Gavin gets so excited when we tell him that this King probably looked a lot like him. It's also fun for us then to look at movies, depicting Ancient Egypt and see that the actors are all white and their slaves were black-- WRONG PEOPLE!! Anyway, God has truly opened our eyes in so many ways this year, and is now using our Sonlight books to bring us closer to the country of our son's heritage.

If you've adopted from Ethiopia and want to encourage your children with this history, we are using Sonlight Core 6. You can leave a comment if you have some questions for us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My passions- keeping my kids healthy and orphan care

As a Mom of several kids with allergies and asthma, I'm always looking for new prodcuts to help them improve their health. About one month ago, I was introduced to Shaklee products. (They're not new, Mike said his Mom has used the products since he was little). After a little more research and test-driving some of the cleaning products I became hooked. The products are completely safe, non-toxic, economical and work really well. The best part about them is: I don't have to worry about Elli having an asthma attack after I've CLEANED the house-- have you read the warnings on the back of some of your cleaning products? You're actually supposed to wear a mask when using them-- I know because when I didn't, I would cough...hmmmm

So, I KNOW you're wondering how this helps with orphan care. Let me fill you in.
As a distributor with Shaklee, I can help non-profit organizations set up their own website. It's free and the non-profit then makes the money off of all products sold from their website-- It's a win-win: people switch from using common cleaning products (or supplements- as Shaklee has amazing supplements), purchase their products from the non-profit and then the non-profit is able to fundraise without much work. I'm hoping that those of you who have non-profit orphan ministries will sign up to give your organization a much needed boost in this economy!!

Finally, the girls and I are planning to return to Africa within the next 1-2 years on the first of many orphan care missions trips. The money we raise personally, from being distributors for Shaklee will help defray the cost of these trips--BENEFITTING ORPHANS again.

Please visit: sweeneygreenclean.myshaklee.com If you have any questions please shoot them my way. If you're working with a non-profit to help fund your adoptions, I'd love to visit with you more.

Friday, October 23, 2009

He's coming home!!!

Thank you prayer warriors! Sweet Kasheku passed court and will be coming home soon!!! Praise the Lord!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tonight's the night!

If you've followed our blog for awhile, you'll remember us asking for prayers for a wonderful little boy K***, who was Gavin's best friend at the Transition Home. We met him while we were there and ached to bring him home with us. Tonight, while we sleep, his case will be before a judge in Ethiopia. PLEASE PLEASE pray that this little boy will pass court and be united with his forever family soon!!! Karen and John Mark, we are praying for you too!

Hope to be posting great news tomorrow--you may hear us scream all the way from North Dakota if he passes!!


The area that Gavin comes from is being hit by a SEVERE drought. This is reality and many, many families can't feed their children. His village is in SW Ethiopia, right by the Kenyan border. He has often told me, "Mommy, in Benchi, I so, so so hungry." Keep that in mind, when you read the following article and look at the map in the article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33433935/ns/world_news-africa/

We, as a church, can be doing so much to bless these people!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hot Sauce

We had a glorious first full weekend in Williston. We're in a great neighborhood, with lots of kids--most of whom ended up playing in our driveway yesterday. The big kids got to go to a Hay maze with a local youth group and then we tried out a new church this morning. People, overall, are VERY friendly and welcoming. We also love that we are 5 minutes from everything again.

Now to the hot sauce-- I had read on another adoptive Mom's blog that her daughter loved to pour hot sauce on everything. Ethiopian food is extremely spicey (Sweeney food is not). Gavin had eaten almost everything we put in front of him, but now that he has his own jar of hot sauce sitting next to his place-- He eats at least twice as much!!! He wasn't enjoying the tomato soup for lunch today--so, we had him pour some hot sauce in it and got the desired, "UM, Mommy this is yummy!" We've done hot sauce on potatoes, sandwiches, eggs, you name- it's been hot sauced!

For all you soon to be adoptive parents out there-- GET SOME HOT SAUCE!! It will make everything so much easier- now, if we could only get him to like chocolate!

Monday, October 12, 2009

We made it!!!

We made it to ND in really good shape..had lots of help from people at home and Mike's crew here. Layne got pretty sick Saturday, but is doing much better--Praise the Lord!!

Before we left, we had our first family photos taken by Alissa Ferullo. She did an incredible job, was so fun to work with and turned our session into great pictures. If you want to see them, check out her blog: alissaferullophotography.com. She just posted our pictures to her blog.

We get internet at home tomorrow!!!! Thanks for your prayers with regards to our move.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Benchi song and thoughts on heaven

video
Gavin finally sang us a song in Benchi last night. He said they sang it while they played, but doesn't remember what it means. He told me it's very hard to remember Benchi words when he talks with us all the time in English...We capture as much on video as possible for him to see when he's older.

Last night, we continued our conversations on being scared at night. We told Gavin he could pray to God if he was scared and God would hear him. This is a pretty big concept to him, thinking God can hear him and at the same time hear his relatives in Ethiopia. It then led to a discussion on heaven that went a bit like this: Mommy: "In heaven, there's no tears or owies."
Gavin: "Is there food?"
Mommy: "Yes, lots of food!"
Gavin: "People happy?
Mommy: "Yes, very happy."
Gavin: "Then, no cleaning in heaven."

Apparently, my son is tired of packing and cleaning and is also VERY FUNNY!!

"I love him so much" and things going bump in the night

Had to share some stories for anyone who has ever wondered how adoption affects the other kids in your family.

Gavin was riding his bike and took a tumble (training wheels are GONE). Layne said, "I'm glad you didn't get hurt because if you did, I'd start crying because I love you so much."

Kael told me over and over this week how much fun Gavin is and how much he loves having a brother. They have a great time chasing each other round and round, being LOUD!! (something Kael has missed out on until now).

Elli and Janika have told me that they can't imagine not having Gavin here.

Our kids constantly amaze us and their ability to love surpasses our own. If you're considering adopting, and reading this, I would say, "Go for it." You will all be blessed in the process.

Nighttime is a tough time for Gavin. The first 3 nights at home, he loved having his own bed, but then got scared one night and moved into Layne's big bed. He will sleep in his own bed when Kael's in the room, but last night Kael was at a sleep-over. Gavin drug his feet to go to bed and finally told me, "Mommy, I'm scared." (He also hates the idea of having his own room in the new house).
He then proceeded to tell us about "something" in Benchi that would attack at night, eating neighbors' cows, horses and sometimes trying to get into their houses. He can't tell me what the "something" is, but it's not a lion. His description sounds like another big cat of some sort. He also described the sides of the "house" as being very weak and falling in if something bumped it. He lived in a mud hut with a grass roof and one of the other huts nearby burned down one night..that's a lot for a young boy to think about as he's falling asleep.

So, he and Layne will be sharing a room in our new house.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First SNOW and another prayer request




After days and days of disappointment in our weatherman's predictions, we finally awoke to snow this morning. Gavin LOVED it and stayed outside a long time. Fortunately, we have plenty of warm gear for him. All of my kids love the snow, thankfully, since I think we'll get our fill in North Dakota.

Another prayer requests


K***'s court date will need to be rescheduled, as Ethiopian courts aren't opening yet. (The courts close for 2 months every year). We will continue to pray this little boy home.

Finally, we're down to the last 3 days of packing. Mike gave us a HUGE headstart this weekend and now we're down to the "little stuff." We also had family pictures taken, which was a ton of fun...thanks, Alissa! When they're available for viewing, I'll let you know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Okay Prayer Warriors

In less than one week, Oct. 8, Gavin's best friend, K***'s case will be in front of the courts in Ethiopia. Please join me in praying for him, his parents and the judge involved. We are praying for them to pass on the first time!!! If they do pass, they will travel to Ethiopia at the end of the month and possibly even to the village where the boys are from.
K *** (I can't reveal his name until after he passes court) arrived at the Transition Home at the same time as Gavin and has been waiting for his family to come. We LOVE this little boy and are so excited to have him join his forever family!!

Also- we will be loading up and driving out of Sheridan next Friday!!! We will be packing up and organizing all weekend...exciting times..

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another good report


We made the trip to Billings today to see our favorite cardiologist, Dr. Wiggins. We have been seeing him since Kael was about 3 or 4. Today, though, the visit was for Gavin, as Dr. Bowers found a heart murmur two weeks ago. When we put in our request for a child from ET, we actually requested a child with a cardiac issue--believe me, it wasn't an easy choice to ask for, knowing how much is involved in cardiac care, but it was the right choice. When we received Gavin's healthy referral, we wondered a little. Then, came the discovery of the heart murmur and we thought, "Okay, Lord, this is definitely You!"

Praise Him, the report today was that Gavin has an innocent heart murmur and won't need any follow-up. As my sister, Brenda, said today, "You were well equipped to deal with this, but thankfully, for Gavin, you don't have to." We are relieved and thankful. Now, let's see how those flu shots go tomorrow....

Oh! We're supposed to get snow tomorrow. When I told Gavin, he said, "I'm no playing soccer in snow. I can't play in those boots." I almost fell over and then smiled a little. It'll be another "first." We'll see how many layers we can put on him to play in the wonderful Wyoming fall weather.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Mr. Incredible




Tomorrow, the 29th, Mike turns 38!!! Happy Birthday!! This picture shows how I truly view him- my Mr. Incredible, who is ALWAYS there for his family, even if he is working miles away. (He has a great sense of humor, too and didn't hesitate when I brought these outfits home from a garage sale)

For the past 6 months, he has worked at least 6 hours away, to see us only on the weekends. He works tirelessly, to only enjoy down time on the weekends..and it's all for us! I'm sure most of you adoptive parents understand what a hassle it would have been to re-do a homestudy in the two other states he's worked in for his company, since March~~then, there's Homeland Security to notify~~ yes, it was easier for us to stay put and him to travel. Easier, but not a ton of fun. We are so excited for our move next week, to all be in the same location, to have Daddy home everynight.

Mike, I count every day a blessing with you. I love you and thank you for taking this wild ride together! Happy Birthday~~ can't wait to see you this weekend (OUR LAST WEEKEND TO SAY GOODBYE TO EACH OTHER ON SUNDAYS!!!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

WOW...

I was planning on posting soccer pictures today, but must pass this on to you instead:

Proverbs 24:12 If you say,"But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

The reality is: I've seen the faces of the children in Ethiopia..I know the realities of life there for my own precious son. I can't ignore that children are starving all over the world. I can't not pass it on to all of you.

Read this blog post: http://www.ordinaryheroblog.blogspot.com/ Then, you'll know too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fun Fall Pictures







We ran up the mountain yesterday, to clean out the fridge at the cabin. It was such a beautiful day, I couldn't help take some pictures of the kids.

I love the fall, the change of colors, the cool air and SOCCER!! I'll post some soccer pix later today. Janika, Elli and Kael are on a co-ed team (YEA!), having a blast, Gavin played in his first real game yesterday and scored a goal!!!! Layne plays on Saturday with Itty Bitty Soccer. Everyone else has to watch her, since she has to go to all of their games. She can't think of anything better, doing her thing with a HUGE audience.

It's another glorious fall day here--off to teach my little ones some math.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Praise the Lord!!


Layne just had her 4 year old check up (Yes, I know she turned 4 in April). It was really fun, as Dr. Bowers remembers how very sick she was when she came home to us. I'll save all of the details, but my girl's belly hurt so badly that she SCREAMED constantly for several months, until she had 2 corrective surgeries. Layne is now a bright, articulate, HEALTHY,HAPPY, 4 year-old who is in the 50th% for both height and weight. We can't imagine loving her more and are so tickled with how God healed all of her medical issues. It's been so fun to be a part of Layne's miracle.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gavin speaking in Benchi

Gavin has been sharing some words in Benchi with us the past 2 weeks. Benchi is the dialect spoken in his village of Benchi Maji, Ethiopia. It is a remote village 20 hours southwest of Addis Ababa. It's amazing, though, as his English improves, his memory of Benchi is quickly leaving him. As you can see, he had to be reminded of some of the words he told us just last week. You might wonder why some of these words are included, like avocado-- he has told us that the kids would get avocados out of trees and eat them. It's one of his favorite foods.
We made this video as a way to help him remember some of his words and help other children, adopted from Benchi communicate with their parents. We'll keep working on it over the next few weeks. Here's our attempt at spelling these words the way he tells them to us.

Cow: dyant
Horse: par
Dog: kan
Snake: sahmbaht
Chicken: ahch
Cat: clue
Fish: oru
Bird: cop
Mouse: oots
Water: soh
Egg: gamool
Milk: Keej
Avocado: abacada
Sky: char
Tree: inch
Lake: Dahma
Store: Gahmahmenenohay
Car: mahkin
Grass: tarap
House: khet
Light: mahbrot
Chair: gahleep
School: tamoorahnaway
Pencil: payna
Fire: tahm
Sit: wogo
Dad: Habaou
Mom: Hiyouay
Potty: bo (short o)
Throw up: hallapnenoway
Rock: Chyee
Eyes: Op
1: Mot
2: Nam
3: Koz
4: Old
5: ooch
6: sapam
7: napan
8:niertan
9: ursen

Gavin has told us that there aren't words for "I love you, goodnight, I'm sick." We're excited for his very good friend K*** to pass court on October 8 (Please join us in prayer for successful court on the 8th- this sweet boy has been waiting for a long time for his parents to come and we all love him), come to the United States and webcam, so maybe they can maintain their Benchi language with each other.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Growth,looking different and Dr. Bowers


As I said before, all of the kids will be seeing or have seen Dr. Bowers before we move. I still remember the day we met. I had just moved home with my three 10-month-old babies, one of whom contracted RSV on the flight from San Diego to Sheridan. I was staying with my parents, while Mike finished up his last month in the Navy. She managaed to weed through their histories: preemie delivery, reactive airways, Kael's cardiac surgery and follow-up, and jump quickly into keeping my little ones out of the hospital. Since then, we have come to know each other VERY well and we love her.



At the time of that first visit, Elli was the biggest, strongest, most verbal baby. She still is the most verbal, but as you can tell from the picture, she is definitely not the biggest anymore!! It's amazing to me that three kids the same age can be sooooo different in every part of their being. Who would have thought that at 11 years old, there would be a 30# weight and 4.5" height difference between 2 of my 3? I haven't even talked about personalities, which are just about as far from the east to the west. These differences make me smile....

Sometimes, though, differences are hard for kids. Yesterday, I was reading an Uncle Wiggly story to Layne and Gavin. It was about a freckled face girl who was trying to wash her freckles off because she didn't like how they looked. Layne kept snuggling into me, closer and closer. I stopped and asked her if she was okay. She said, "I wish I had freckles and skin like your's Mommy." Being different is hard for her and I find myself wanting to shout out to everyone how much I love my little girl, so she knows, the differences in her make me smile...Adopting Gavin has been such a neat thing for Layne as she has a best bud to hang out with all day, but it has stirred up lots of questions in her own mind, as people ask, "Are they both from Ethiopia?" or "Where did you get her from?" Adoption is such a wonderful gift, but it's not always easy, on everyone involved.

Every night, we sing, Jesus Loves the Little Children. I feel like God has truly given me the picture of His love for all of His children, by putting these 5 unique, wonderful children in my family. As we sing, red and yellow black and white, I can look at each one of my children and know that they are indeed precious in HIS sight, as well as my own. I'm sure the differences make HIM smile.

Circle back to Dr. Bowers. It was through her encouragement that we were able to adopt Layne, through her encouragement and reference that we were able to adopt Gavin. It was through her encouragement that I had the pushiness to take Kael to Boston Childrens Hospital 3 years ago where he had the best cardiac interventionalist in the country. My kids LOVE her and can't wait to hug her when they see her. We are blessed.
The next two pictures are of her nurses, Stephanie and Cameo. These two ladies have also taken great care of the Sweeneys while we lived in Sheridan and will be missed when we move...(as soon as I have a picture of Megan, we'll post that too).


Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's been awhile...




My sister reminded me that I haven't posted in awhile so here's a brief update on what has been happening at the Sweeney house the past 2 weeks.

1. The Jaegers visited. Their daughter, Mieheret, is from the same village as Gavin. She took the same journey, from Benchi Maji, to Addis Ababa, to America World's Transition Home, to the United States. We were in the same travel group, so it was fun to see the kids together again.




2. Gavin loves his glasses!!! He is experiencing all kinds of "firsts" and loves to wear them. He is much more outgoing and adventurous, now that he can see.





3. We have been seeing alot of Dr. Bowers lately. We're having all of the kids' physicals done before we move. Yesterday, she confirmed again, that the result from Kael's stent placement in Boston 2.5 years ago is fantastic!!! She said his heart sounds "normal," no murmur, no SWOOSHING that he always had. He's grown so much, catching up the last 3 years, that she thinks he may reach 6 feet in height!!!I can't hear that news enough. Praise the Lord for his healing touch and the doctors he used in the process!


4. Last, but CERTAINLY not least-- Layne asked Jesus into her heart two nights ago!!! I had to leave for an appointment, so Kael did some of the little one's school with them. He read several stories in the Bible to both Layne and Gavin. After he read the stories, he talked to them about living in God's big house with Him, when they died. He then explained how they get to do that. Layne called me and asked me to pray with her when I got home. What a joyous day! One of my kids helped lead another one to an eternity with our FATHER. 9/08/09 will be remembered in our home as the day Layne became a permanent member of God's family.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1st day of school and other big news


Today was the first day of homeschool this year. I was met by very excited Layne and Gavin, as they both said, "School today?" Layne's been looking forward to "real" school for the past year. Gavin loved the songs associated with our phonics lesson, wanting to sing them over and over. It was a very good start to our year.

The big kids also started, a little less excitedly, but I did hear my favorite schooling words, "Please, Mom, one more chapter!!" I love homeschooling!

Gavin needs glasses. For the past few weeks, when we pointed to something in the distance, he would say, "I no see." I thought we were dealing with a language barrier, each time, but then at Dr. Bileyu's today, she confirmed my boy is VERY near sighted and probably can't see much if it's more than a foot in front of his face. It's been so fun the past two months, to see him experience new things. I bet we'll get to see a lot more "firsts" when he can actually see things (leaves on trees, birds, animals in the distance). His vision also explains why he gets so scared and cries after church. I don't think he can differentiate all of the faces. His new glasses will be here next week...

Our offer on a house in Williston, ND was accepted today!!! I guess this is my formal announcement that we are moving. Mike started there today and we hope to join him by Oct. 1, if the house deal moves ahead. We are so excited. Mike will be the Regional Manager for Enercrest and should be HOME EVERY NIGHT!!! After 6 months of having him only home on the weekends, I can't wait to live together again.

Finally- a huge PRAISE and thanks to Pastor Tony. He felt called to ask for those of us who needed healing to stand yesterday in church. I have no idea how many people laid hands on me during that prayer time, but today I woke up feeling better than I have since before we went to Ethiopia! I'm officially off my meds (for 2 days) and so far so good. We will definitely miss our Cornerstone Family, in Williston- what an amazing Body to be a part of these past 4 years.

I think that's about it- it was a very full day and full of so much joy! God is good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Friday!

We are rejoicing today with yet another family who passed court and will travel to bring their son home. Congratulations Phillips!

Today Gavin is playing with our dear friends, Timmy and Sylvia Brown. He met them last night and is having the time of his life running through the sprinklers with them. We love the Browns and have missed them terribly when the were in Alaska all summer-- so nice to have you all home and see how warmly your kiddos embrace Gavin!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How adoption has blessed us TWICE!

This video gives you a glimpse of why we love adoption. First, without us knowing it, God put plans in place for us to become foster parents. 5 days after certification, we brought Layne home and our lives were forever changed. Loving her so much gave us a tiny glimpse into our Father's heart. Fast forward 3 years-- I begin to hear God's gentle prodding to bring home another child. When we started the process, I thought we would be bringing home another baby. God changed our hearts and we are forever grateful to welcome home Gavin, an orphan no longer.

My heart is so full, with love for all of my kids. I would be lying if I said the road to Ethiopia was completely easy. Compared to what other families have had to endure to bring home a child, though, our ride was smooth. However, it was a complete leap of faith that brought us to the point we are at today. (5 great KIDS!!)
Our new friends, Billy and Cindy Foote recorded the original version (Billy wrote it) of the song used on the video and to me completely sums up the heart of adoption. It is a surrendering to God's will and his commandment to take care of the widow and orphan.
"If I say I love You, I will do as you say. I will Obey you, and surrender all." Surrendering to His will is not always easy, but is always worth it!

Obviously, the Mama is going to brag a little here...the lead vocal on this version is my Elli, with Janika playing the guitar and singing back-up. Thank you Billy and Cindy for being on this journey with us and loving orphans like you do. Thank you for the amazing music you write that helps us worship our Lord and thank you for sharing the chords with Janika so she could learn to play the song!! You are a gift to us.

If anyone wants to hear more great Foote music go to billyfoote.com You can purchase any of their CDs there and hear them sing "If I say I love you." It's on the CD, All the World to Me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Coffee Factory In Ethiopia



It's taken us awhile, but we finally got the Coffee Factory pictures up for all of you to see. Now that the girls know how to put these videos together, we'll let you all see a glimpse of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is the birthplace to coffee and our field trip to the coffee factory was one of our best trips all week. It was fascinating to see all of the women sorting coffee beans, and watch the roaster roast the beans. You can almost smell the beans through the pictures!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cabin With Cousins

Summer Fun with cousins!!!






We have had the best week with our Sauro cousins and are sad to see them go back to Minnesota. Many of these pictures will also be on the girls' video.

This was a week of many firsts:
1. Gavin's first horseback ride with Aunt Brenda riding behind.
2. Layne's first solo horseback ride.
3. Gavin's first overnight without Mommy and Daddy.
4. Mommy's first colonoscopy--such fun!!
5. Brad's, Michael's, and Kael's first tepee building experience.
6. Our new car's first flat tire- thanks for changing the tire, Greg- I wish it were my first flat.

It was also a week of an important last: Don and Louise Griffith's last weekend at TP. They have been coming since I was a little girl, spending the entire summer up there and then returning to Arizona in the winter. Now, at 90 and 92, they have decided to return to Arizona a little early. We are so sad to see them go, as we love them so much and enjoy spending time with them at TP. They are a wonderful couple, with an incredible faith and love for all of those around them. Thanks, Don and Louise for being a part of our lives!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Check out this blog!!

If you want to be inspired about what love means, check out the Korson's blog.

http://web.mac.com/korson5

When you get to the home page, click on adoption front. You'll be amazed! This family has adopted 3 new siblings into their family. Their new daughter, Almaz, and Elli became very good friends, while we were in Ethiopia. We are so excited for them and hope to see them on our next trip to MN to visit cousins.

Speaking of cousins- Brad, Michael, Aunt Brenda and Uncle Greg are here!!! The big Sweeneys and Layne could barely stand the last 2 hours as they were driving to our house Saturday night. Gavin, however, had the most interesting reaction. He became very fearful, the closer they came. We finally figured out that he had been told that his aunt and uncle were coming to see him! Our only thought is that he thought it was truly his aunt and uncle from Ethiopia and he would be leaving us. It took Mike 1/2 hour to convince him that he was staying with us, we are his family forever. WOW! We didn't expect that at all, but are glad that he definitely loves being a Sweeney.

Yesterday, I ran up the mountain for a short time and he completely warmed up to all of them, even showing his moves to "I like to Move it, Move it."

Gavin DOES not handle vestibular input, beyond swinging. We learned this the second day we had him in ET, when after a big breakfast, he joined all the other kids in a spin with Daddy. He got sick pretty quickly, just from spinning around a couple of times. Last night, he did some somersaults on Brenda's legs. He looked a little dizzy, but it really didn't hit him until he had eaten his pizza. Then, he ran to me, with tears in his eyes. We went to the bathroom and after two COLLOSSAL burps, he felt much better and his smile returned. We'll have to remember not to coordinate any vestibular activities with meals!

My white count has gone back down- Thank you Lord!! Hopefully, that means that whatever it is that I have is leaving my body. I feel like I've been run over, but am so enjoying all of the giggling that comes from my kids all day long. Layne and Gavin had yet another sleepover in Layne's bed and they giggled until after 10 last night. They can make each other laugh at the drop of a hat. Mike and I were commenting on how much of a gift they are to each other. They truly are siblings, in every sense of the word.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Great message this morning...

Cody Haar, our assistant Pastor, gave a great message this morning, about what it means to be born again. He challenged us, at the end to "Go be the Church."

One statistic he quoted was white Evangelical Christians would have more difficulty having a black family move in next door than non-Christians. I'm sure many people thought this was an exaggeration. It's so easy, in Wyoming (when, let's be honest, we are almost ALL WHITE), to think that this couldn't happen. Our experiences, though, and those of our adoptive friends, proves otherwise. We are currently praying for a couple of families who have been met with extreme opposition (from their closest family members) to their desire to adopt a child from Ethiopia. WHY? Because of the color of that child's skin. Unfortunately, we have also had to walk away from relationships because of this same type of response, praying for that family member, but also not allowing them around our beautiful children.

I don't understand how people can think that God only loves the color of our particular skin. Today, I'm praying for families to unite behind the COMMANDMENT to take care of widows and orphans, no matter what that child may look like. This commandment is not burdensome (thanks Cody for those words), but a true joy to live.

On another note- I appreciate your prayers for my health. Things are better today and I will see our local infectious disease MD tomorrow. She seems so nice on the phone and I look forward to hearing her ideas to keep this at bay. Another big public thank you to Dr. Bowers for her care, even though this patient is much older than her others. I'm sure she saved me a trip to the hospital this weekend. Dr. Hunter, also, was a tremendous asset yesterday morning, when I was just wanting to enjoy the weekend with my family --He took time out of his Saturday to initiate my referral to Dr. Addler and bring her up to speed on my history. MUCH APPRECIATED!!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Prayer request from Elli

Everyone,

Please Pray for my Mom! She has had off and on diarrhea since we got home from Ethiopia. Every time she starts feeling better it all starts up again.
So Everyone please Pray for my Mom!

Love,
Elli

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Update!!!



We took Gavin in for a one month check yesterday. He's gained 4 pounds and grown 1/2 inch!!! Dr. Bowers is very pleased with how he's doing. He even joked around a little with her, after he realized she truly wasn't going to poke him.

Gavin is communicating really well. We are guessing he knows at least 50 English words and is starting to put them together in small sentences. I can't wait for him to understand the use of pronouns. We hear a lot of Gavin is statements. "Gavin is sleepy." "Mom, Gavin is thirsty." "Gavin is hungry." He is very quick to tell on someone else if he thinks they may have done something that I wouldn't like, "Mom, Layne did!!" It's really funny, and usually trivial things, but he wants to make sure I know he didn't do it!

I can't believe a month has flown by like it has. Everyday we feel more and more like a complete family. I honestly expected months of difficulty, with language issues, behavior issues, grieving. Things are going so much better than expected. Now that we don't have to take the nasty Griso for a fungal infection, behavior issues are completely gone (they were totally tied to not wanting to swallow that nasty medicine- I don't blame him, yet it was the only thing he ever tested us about.) He is the most helpful little boy, bringing in bags of groceries, making his own bed, helping clean up and yesterday learning to dust and brush the dogs. He loves to do things for us!!

Gavin is extremely affectionate with all of us and we are not seeing any of the red flag attachment issues. He eagerly climbs in any of our laps for snuggles and will walk up to me and say "Hug Gavin." He loves to hold the other kids' hands when out for a walk and rushes to greet us if we've been gone for even a short time. He definitely sticks close to us in a crowd and is cautious around people he doesn't know (YEA!!). AND- he is soooooo funny! He loves to tease and play and LAUGH! He is a reminder, each day to enjoy life!
We continue to be amazed by what God has done in our family. We thank you all for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Great time in Pinedale/Jackson with Daddy!!






We just returned from spending the weekend in Pinedale with Mike. After making the drive 2 times in 4 days (7 hours each way), I am amazed again, at what my husband does for all of us. This weekend was his break from driving and we had a fabulous time!

Mike took Kael, Janika and Elli on a whitewater rafting trip Friday morning. Despite freezing water, they all had a terrific time and can't wait to do it again. They all discovered that they are "Wild at Heart" and loved this adventure with their Dad (who couldn't stop smiling either). Kael enjoyed being a lead rower. I stayed with Layne and Gavin, driving to Lunch Table to watch the rafts go over the rapids and then driving to watch the raft dock. They were both enthralled with the process. Gavin kept saying, "Daddy BIG BOAT!" To my delight, an older couple really took an interest in our big kids, saying how outgoing and adventurous they were. It gave me the perfect opportunity to tout homeschooling and the obvious misconceptions about socialization.

After the rafting trip, we drove out to Moose and rented some bikes and rode about 6 miles each way-- Layne and Gavin rode in a little trailer behind Mike's bike. It's the first time in my life I was able to get up a hill faster than Mike on a bike! All in all, the day was fantastic- Thanks Mike!!

We spent the rest of the weekend looking around Pinedale and swimming(lots of swimming). The highlight of the weekend for Elli was the climbing wall at the Aquatic Center. She does a mean Spiderwoman impersonation, climbing quickly and effortlessly. All 5 kids tried the wall, to my surprise and all enjoyed the challenge. I have to admit, Layne was pretty cute, trying to make it past the orange line and then trusting that the rope would bring her down safely.

Elli's good friend in Ethiopia, Almaz, met her forever family today! We are so excited for the Korson Family as they expand from 4 to 7 beautiful kids!! We were reminded again this weekend, of God's perfect plan for our own family. I originally wanted to adopt an infant, but followed God's (and Mike's) leading for an older child. We couldn't be more thrilled with our new son and what a great addition he is to our family. I have vivid pictures in my mind of him walking hand-in-hand with Janika on a walk, and chasing Kael around the hotel room. The last two hours of our drive home today took on a whole new life with him yelling his excitement over the antics in Kung Fu Panda. EVERYONE was laughing at the pure joy he displayed with Po's antics.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reed Family

The Reed Family is another family with America World, in the Ethiopia program. They just received their referral for a little girl and passed court. During this week, after another family delivered a care package to their little Juliana, she developed diarrhea, pneumonia and very quickly sepsis. She went home to be with Jesus on Friday, only a few days after legally obtaining a forever family. While they didn't know her yet, they loved her and have prayed for her for a very long time. Please join me in praying for them and for the nannies at the Transition Home, who work so hard to take good care of these precious children.

The reality of how children live in other countries is so real to us. We had two babies in our travel group who were complete miracles, surviving the same type of pneumonia and sepsis. I take for granted how easy it is to drive across town to access our fantastic pediatrician, Dr. Bowers and her great nursing staff. I can often call and be seen within a few hours and the drive to her is about 15 minutes. Then, if my kids need medicine, it's a quick 10 minutes across town. The children in Ethiopia and other countries don't have access to this type of care. Many die, while their parents seek care. I think the figure is one pediatrician for 25,000 kids (I could be wrong, but I think I'm fairly close). So, when people ask us, "Why Ethiopia?" I can easily tell them, the children desperately need forever families who can provide for all of their needs. I say it again, if God is whispering to you about bringing home a child, please don't hesitate. You will be so blessed!!

I will post more tomorrow about our trip to Jackson..

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One month post placement!!





I just submitted our first post placement report and can't believe we've almost been home one month! The adjustment period continues to go very smoothly, for the most part. Layne is feeling a little jealous at times, but also enjoys having a good friend to play with all day long. I think she's taught him more English than anyone!

Gavin is talking more and more each day (at home). He is putting together simple sentences, which is incredible!! He loves all things active, including swimming, biking,soccer, running, etc.

We are heading to Jackson tomorrow for Mike to take Elli, Kael and Janika on a whitewater rafting trip for their birthday. Layne, Gavin and I will drive ahead to the look-outs and get some fun pictures to post. We're all looking forward to time with Daddy, when he doesn't have to drive 13 extra hours.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Families in Ethiopia right now

For all of you blog stalkers- I wanted to give you a list of families who are in ET right now getting their children.

Delfosse http://geauxpink.blogspot.com/
Dragovich http://www.teamdragovich.blogspot.com
Jackson http://soontobejackson5.blogspot.com
Pritchett http://www.grace-adonedeal.blogspot.com/

We continue to pray for all of the children and their families and celebrate when they are united! We can't wait to see Gavin's best friend meet his family in the near future. We are so very excited that he now has a forever family and are hopeful to have them see each other as soon as he gets to the States.

If you are interested in purusing adoption, please contact us!
I'll post more pictures tomorrow. We are continuing to do very well as a family. Gavin is saying more and more in English.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 11th!!




Today Janika, Kael and Ellison turn 11. It's hard to believe they are as old as they are.

Kids, I am so proud to be your Mom. You amaze me and delight me each and every day. I'm so thankful to have you in my life!!