Thursday, July 15, 2010


Well, I've pretty much failed at keeping up my blog! Oh well. More important things have been happening. At our one month home mark (July 2nd) we were feeling good, and even a little brave about re-entering the world. We've been nowhere, seen no one, and are actually starting to like it a little! (We are really not home bodies, this has been a challenge for us!)

(ok, these are boring details, but our life for now...sorry!)

So, there we are, feeling a little brave, ready to go to a 4th of July party in a few days, and BAM. Me and the boys are sick. (well, actually, I'd been fighting a cold for weeks, with a nagging cough) Super! First Hayden and I woke up with really sore throats. H battled a fever of 102 all day. We were supposed to attend our first outing, a family bbq with some friends from church. So, I was going to stay home with Lucy and Hayden. Matt took Jack and they went to the bbq, only 30 minutes later, were in the driveway with a feverish and sleepy Jack. The next day, Matt took Hayden in for a strep test...which is miserable for kid, and of course this day they were training a new medical needless to say, it was a lousy experience. The strep test was negative, but we weren't convinced. The next morning I went to the Dr because I could barely swallow. I had a raging case of strep. Since both boys were sporting a fever and sore throats, we (us and the dr) were fairly certain they had it too, and we were all started on Antibiotics. Then, the boys started getting these terrible mouth sores. First Jack had blisters on his lips, then white blotches on his tongue, crying that his mouth hurt. Sweet babes, couldn't really eat it hurt so bad...I did some research, called my favorite Dr. Mom, Meredith, to see if it could be related to strep and stumbled on Hand Foot Mouth Disease (not really a disease, but a virus...why do they do that? Just to scare moms??)...they fit the symptoms to a "T". Turns out, it's highly contagious for quite some time, so we needed to basically quarantine ourselves until it cleared up. So, no 4th of July party for the Keslers! By Saturday, Matt felt sick too, but he'd been downing Emergen-C like a mad man, so it only lasted about 24 hours. We prayed little Lucy wouldn't catch anything and nagged the boys not to kiss her for days. We spent the 4th with my parents (because even "diseases" can't keep them away from the grandkids), and then came home to light our $20 worth of fireworks in the driveway. Lucy and Jack slept through it all...but Hayden had a ball with our neighbor kids. It turned out to be a relaxing day and even fun (diseases and all).
I took some pictures...Lucy couldn't stop looking at the gigantic flower on her head.
Got a few cute ones of her by herself like this:
But mostly this:
and this:

So by Tuesday, the boys and me are feeling good, but, my mom is feeling lousy...a visit to the dr, she has pneumonia! We'd all been coughing for weeks, but it hit her hard. Lucy had begun coughing at night time, but we seemed to be able to keep in under control. Wednesday, Hayden crashed his bike, landed on his chin, and landed us at the ER for the first time. about 4 hours and 2 stitches later, we were home just before midnight. Thursday Lucy was coughing like crazy when she slept, so Friday morning, we took her in to see the Dr. She was having terrible fits of coughing at night, that were freaking us out a bit. And, she came to us with a long list of "respiratory illness" so we were worried she was prone to difficulty breathing. After a very fun baby chest xray (not!)...our wonderful Dr concluded that she indeed, had Pneumonia!! Poor baby girl, really didn't enjoy the baby clamshell tube the put her in for an xray! She wailed and looked at me with these broken hearted teary eyes, as if to ask me, "I trusted you! Why are you letting them do this to me?!?" but...apparently baby wailing=a good xray, because it expands the lungs fully. So, at least there's that.

We seem to be finally on our way to health. We are pretty sure that Lucy's being exposed to a whole new world of American germs, and kindly sharing her Ethiopian foster care center germs with us. Hopefully, we've now gotten that out of the way, and can just enjoy some healthy summer for a bit! We went and played at Jamison Square in the water today, just becuase we needed to GET OUT OF OUR HOUSE. We are continuing to enjoy the little miss everyday.

Lucy has started some really precious habits...she is now crawling across the room and with her little ray-of-sunshine-smile, reaching up and saying "Da-Da!" Totally makes Matt's day and melts his heart. She really loves her fun with dada. (She prefers him for fun, me for needs most of the time).

She has also started wanting to snuggle her little face right next to mine when rocking to sleep...I'm loving that! She hardly holds still for a moment all day, except when we're rocking her. So, I'll take the snuggles then! At times, it feels frusterating that it takes her 20-30 minutes of us rocking her to fall asleep. If we try to sneek her into her bed when she's drowsy but not out, she usually will wake up and want to play....she really needs us to help her get to sleep (which is apparently healthy for an internationally adopted child, but against most child sleep experts advice) . It still comes to mind nearly every time, that no matter how many episodes of us rocking her to sleep for 20 minutes, it will not make up for the 7 months she's been without a mother and father to rock and comfort her. I get teary every time I really stop to think about THAT. So, sweet girl, can have 60-90 minutes of my day, at least for now.

The boys continue to love and grow closer with Lucy. Actually , they have loved her from the moment they layed thier dirty little paws on her, SHE, however, has not reciprocated the constant flow of love and affection! She is finally coming around to it, and becoming playful with them. I'm also learning to guide thier efforts into something helpful. Jack begged me to run inside and get my camera to take his picture with his "sissy" in the van the other day...this boy has a heart of mush...he talks mushy gushy baby talk to her all day long. His sing songy voice saying "hello beautiful girl" or "sweet shugie girl" ( I call her's his short version)....

And Hayden happily entertained her with her favorite book, while we loaded up the car today. It was so sweet!!
Life has been a little crazy, a little bit of cabin fever, but every day is peppered with wonderful sweet moments with our kiddos (and salted with ones that make us want to gouge our eyes out). I don't know why this underlining thing happens sometimes...speaking of gouging my eyes out!! argh.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Gondar Post Re-Do Ethiopia Day 2

Since none of my pics showed up, and I couldn't find my journal, I'm calling it a Re-do.

Here's a blurb from my journal:

Our flight to Gondar was one that made us laugh. We checked in at the counter in Addis, and went to the gate listed on our boarding passes. It was also the gate listed on all the monitors. When we arrived to our gate, we were the ONLY ones there. A nice Ethiopian Air employee came over and said "You go to Gondar?" He told us we were at the wrong gate. So he showed us to the right one (that was not listed anywhere!). We boarded a brand new plane, for what we thought was a direct flight to Gondar...which of course it wasn't. It stopped off somewhere along the way, a few people got off, a few people got on, and we were off to Gondar. We still arrived in just under an hour from our departure from Addis. We met a very friendly Irishman, Michael who talked our ear off all the way to Gondar.

We were greeted by Metewos, the manager of Bridge to Hope (formerly Bridge to Israel) Orphanage with a handwritten sign stating "KEFLAR", which we assumed was us (KESLER). Metewos and the driver took us to the Quara Hotel, and helped us get checked in. Our driver didn't speak much English, so Metewos asked us all the places we'd like to see/visit, and wrote them all in Amharic for the driver, so he'd know where to take us. They gave us a few hours to rest and eat lunch, and then came back to drive us to our destinations.views from our hotel room, homes of folks in Gondar (nicer ones, actually)

We really hoped to find a church that was significant in Lucy's story, that was listed in our paperwork give to us at referral time. We visited that church, but didn't find the info we were looking for. But, it was still a beautiful and historic place. It was St. Michael's Church. Ethiopians are very religious culturally, and church is a very big part of their life. This church was an Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Very very old, and had amazing hand painted artwork hidden beneath heavy drapes. We were given a personal tour for a small fee (20 birr, I think). Still on our quest for the family information, we visited another church (St George's Church) mentioned in our paperwork. Still, not what we were looking for, but another amazing and beautiful sight.
St George Church

After visiting the churches, our volunteer tour guide, a local Gondar University student "Dave", and our driver, took us to the main market or "mercato" in Gondar. It's where all the locals do thier shopping for food, livestock, clothing, get haircuts, sell anything from underwear to Injera. It was mostly closed for the day, which was Sunday and a holiday, but a few shops were open and happy to take some money from "Ferengi" (white foreigners). We even got a few "God Bless the White People!" which was odd and made us giggle. Dave seemed pretty happy to been seen with such hip americans as us (which, we are totally not!).

We bought a traditional white headcovering scarf, handmade in Gondar (we were told, not sure if we believe) for 150 birr(10 USD), which I'm pretty sure was double what we should have paid, if not more. This is the kind of headcovering most women wear to church.
We also bought a little handmade basket, made by 3 women in a tiny little shop. It's very small, and holds about a cupful of goodies. We also paid 150 birr for this, which we knew was way to much, but seeing where these women lived, we just didn't feel right talking them down. We jokingly call this the Ten Dollar Basket.

Around the mercato area is the worst of the worst housing. It was really devastating to see. Literally homes made out of plastic shopping bags, tee pee style. Sticks and plastic shopping bags, with families living inside. It smelled like human waste, and children ran around happily, barefooted, begging us to take thier photos. I doubt if they've ever seen a printed photo, but they loved to see their own faces on the back of our camera. We didn't get any photos of this area, except these 3 little beauties. It was all I could do to keep it together and not cry or think that this could have been where my daughter's family lived. Matt felt sick to his stomach, thinking the same thing.
The hardest part of the day was visiting Gondar University Hospital, where Lucy was born. We knew in advance, thanks to other traveling families gone before us, that it would be incredibly hard to see, but worth documenting our daughter's story. They were right. It was in a word, awful. There are several buildings on the hospital campus, we only visited the maternity ward. Family members were waiting outside for their wives, sisters, friends, who were inside laboring. We "Ferengi", however, we ushered right into the delivery room like royalty. It was incredibly awkward. 4 women laboring in a smelly, dirty, worn out room. One staff person, who appeared to be the "doctor". No nurses. She was caring for all the women. It felt incredibly offensive for us to be in there, and we practically refused, but they insisted we come in. Women labored on bare plastic mats on ancient looking gurneys. It was hot and humid. It was build in 1955 and has never been updated. Our guide told us that if Lucy was born at Gondar Hospital, this is the room she would have entered the world in. After about 30 seconds, we insisted we'd seen enough, and we practically bolted to the door, hoping to give these women in active painful labor, some privacy.

From there, we went to the extreme opposite. A place of love and hope, and the highlight of our trip to Gondar. Bridge to Hope Children's Village. A loving inspiring place. Matewos and Asaye work incredibly hard to give the children who live there a family model. There are many "homes" on the compound, and each one has about 15-18 children and one "mother" who live there. The mother is responsible for the holistic development of "her children", education, nutrition, spiritual growth. She is thier mother, all the time. Boys and girls live separately, but play together. Food is cooked in a separate building , but each mother retrieves the food, and brings it home to her "family" of children. This model helps the kids learn to respect her and accept her as "Mother". Metewos said that they know it is an artificial family, but they really believe the best place for children, no matter what life has given them, is in a family. The educate, love, and teach children there. They teach them to garden, life skills, and send them to school.Asaye, his daughter, and Metewos
Genet, the baby mother

It was an amazing, wonderful place. We hardly took any pictures, because we were both in tears the entire time we were there. Tears of hope, tears of relief, tears of thankfulness that there are such amazing people, loving the motherless and fatherless children of Gondar. Metewos said he IS the father to every child there, along with his own family who lives right on the compound.

Genet is the baby mother. They have only a few babies at a time, and all of them go to Gladney for placement. There was one tiny little 24 day old baby girl in Genet's care when we visited. Precious, tiny babe. Her name started with an M. They only accept children over the age of 3 to live at Bridge, and only ones who have no other person to care for them. They LOVE Gladney. They really believe that children really belong with thier own families, and do whatever they can to see children stay with thier biological families. The provide financial support to over 200 children in the community so they can stay with thier families. They don't want to see monetary needs be the reason children become orphans.

I cried like a baby there. The little boys looked at me with a "what's with the crazy white lady" look on their faces. I was so moved by the loving environment. They were so very grateful for families adopting children into "real" families. Metewos was emotional about it, very moved as he thanked us for being apart of it. He kept saying "Praise God! Praise God!". I know we'll be involved somehow with this beautiful place, but we are not quite sure how just yet. We'd love to see them get the support they need to keep doing what they are doing.

We returned to our hotel, emotionally exhausted, and physically tired, still fighting jet lag. We wandered down to the little grocery market in the hotel building, and Dave was there waiting to invite us to his family home for a coffee ceremony. We felt honored, since we knew this was a special thing for people they wish to honor. The ladies made us coffee, which was rich and very sweet. The "grandfather" of the family practically forced us to drink pints of honey wine...we did, but oh baby, it burned all the way down. We kept looking at eachother across the table, knowing we could get really sick, but also knowing they were being so generous and giving us their very best. We feel so blessed by the experience to be invited into a families home and be honored. David was very kind, not wanting us to pay him , but asked us to help him purchase a textbook for school. We couldn't find what he needed, unfortunately....hoping for a full nights sleep, so we can be rested up when we meet our daughter tomorrow!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ethiopia Day 5- Gladney Care Center Visit

dang. just typed a long post and blogger lost it!! Here goes, round 2.

Today was our day to visit the Gladney Foster Care center. While we waited for our drivers to come, we spent time with these lovely folks and their darling boys. They were too much fun, and great Ethiopian dancers, but more to come on that tomorrow :)

The first thing I can say, is the children at Gladney are L.O.V.E.D. By all. The caregivers truly adore each baby and child. We toured around the facilities, spread over 3 homes. We didn't visit the older childrens home. We saw the ladies doing loads and loads of tiny laundry. We visited each baby room...Travis, one of the incountry staff encouraged us to pick up and love any baby we wanted to, no matter if they were sleeping or not. He said they like to stir up trouble and love on the babies as much as possible. It was SUCH an honor to meet the babies we knew would soon be going home to families, and even some who were matched with families that didn't yet have their referrals. There was an ADORABLE set of tiny twin girls, who were matched with a family, but the parents did not yet know about them...So, if you recently got twin girl referral of little twins, I have some sweet photos for you!I snapped a few others of babies I didn't know who they belonged to, so please inquire if you think your babe was there the last week of May. We were so happy to meet all the babies and toddlers. A few things I mentally noted while there:
  • babies go to bed on thier tummies or in a boppy type pillow on there back. (Janet, Ely was in a boppy). The beds are also lined with plush, soft blankets mostly. Lucy really likes something soft against her fact when she goes to sleep, even now.
  • There were prepared bottles of water in the rooms. Each room had a shelf with the babies names listed on them, each with their own row of bottles. They serve at room temp.
  • they hold all the babies while feeding, no bottle propping here!
  • the babes seem to get plenty of tummy time on the floor on a playmat with some toys.
  • The cribs are in little sets of 3, and there were 3-9 beds in each room, but they werent' all full in every room.
  • Belay knows every child by name, and there are over 100 kids in care. I was amazed by that. Genet, Belays sister and manager of Bejoe, also knew most of the kids by name.

We met Lucy's caregiver, who was ADORABLE. Lucy lit up when she saw her. She wrote Lucy the sweetest letter in English that we'll cherish special! It was obvious that she was very well loved there. Every room we went in, the caregivers squealed "Melat! Melat!" or "Melie!" We were so thankful that these loving women taught our girl how to love and be loved. SO THANKFUL. We really feel like she came to us knowing how to be bonded and so ready to be in a family. Gladney is AWESOME! We were not sure how Lucy would do that day. It's really SO confusing for the poor little ones. They are taken away from all they know, the start adjusting to you, and then BAM, they are back?? For another families take, visit here. Lucy did really well, but that night, she woke up in the middle of the night seeming really confused and upset. At the care center, they wisk the babes away for a bit to say their goodbyes and dress them in traditional Ethiopian clothing as a parting gift. When we came into the room where Lucy and her caregiver were, she started to cry and reached for me instantly. She had been so happy in her caregivers arms, but knew she belonged with us. This mama's heart was SO happy about that!
LOVE this picture, and how delighted Lucy looks!
Belay told us that the care givers love "their" kids so much, that they sometimes stretch the truth about the little ones physical development. When the babies learn new skills, like crawling or walking, they are moved into a new room with other kids with those same abilities. BUT the caregivers are so attached and want to keep "their" babies. One little toddler girl in our travel group was clearly an experienced walker, but it was news to her family. Belay said when he came into her room to say goodbye, he noticed she was walking, and her caregiver acted as if it was a miracle that she had just taken her first steps that sweet! They truly LOVE these babies and children.

We closed our time there with a traditional coffee ceremony and popcorn, which was sooo delish. My coffee was interrupted by an explosive diaper from baby girl...but it was a nice time. Matt was really impressed when Travis mentioned she was crushing the coffee beans with a peice of an axle of a toyata pickup. We left the care center and went to lunch together with Travis and Joanna Norwood and our kiddos, at Top View. It was a nice, private place with yummy food. We returned to the guest house beat. It was an emotional day, but a good one.


Note: I left care packages I brought for other families on our bed. I was so nervous about how Lucy was going to do, I was braindead. I sent our driver back for them, and just after he left realized I left our video camera on the seat of the car! Sheesh. But, I did get the packages delivered, and some video. Lesson, put your stuff in clear sight or give them to your driver because you might be distracted :)
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