Friday, July 01, 2011

Meet Our Kids

These are the adopted kids of the presenters of the orphans workshop at NYC.

Neti and Meke Waal
Daughers of Tracy and Rhonda
Adopted from Ethiopia, July 2007

Meet Meke Meet Neti
(pictured at age 3 and 6)


Paulina Tooley
Daughter of Joel and Pam
Adoption from Mexico, in progress

Meet Paulina


Phineas Smith
Son of James and Kelly
Adopted from Ethiopia, January 2011

Meet Phin

143 Million and Counting...

A shout out to all Naz NYCers who are passionate about changing the world for orphans...

Joel Tooley, James Smith, and I will be presenting a workshop at on Friday, July 9, in Room 116. We've all been youth pastors and we've all adopted!

143 Million and Counting: Caring for Orphans in a Broken World
Have you ever been or felt abandoned? 143 million children worldwide are orphans...children who have been abandoned or who have been left alone without a family. So, what is a young person like you suppose to do about such a significant issue? This workshop will explore God's expectation of His followers to care for orphans while providing an opportunity for you to become someone who can actually help restore this part of our broken world.

Hope you'll join us!

Click here to meet our adopted kids.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's Orphan Sunday!

Ethiopian Orphans from Simon Scionka on Vimeo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Winners

Well, the contest is officially over today. It became so difficult for our family to determine the winners that we finally just put your names all in a hat and did the random thing. Congratulations to all of you on your adoptions. We'll be sending the books out to the winners tomorrow morning. Hopefully, you'll have them for Christmas.

  • Jason & Shelley from Tenessee are adopting 2 children internationally
  • Lisa from Ohio adopting 1 internationally
  • Jenny from Indiana adopting 1 domestically
  • Jackie & Josue from Ohio adopting 1 internationally
  • Emily from North Carolina adopting 1 internationally
  • Ashley from North Carolina adopting 1 internationally
  • Matt and Kerry Ann from Utah adopting 1 internationally

As a consolation prize for the rest of you here's my favorite Christmas video of all time - our girls experiencing their first snow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Free Book Christmas Contest

As I mentioned in my last post, we've received several copies of "Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family" for submitting three articles that appear in the book.

I'm giving them away to people who are IN THE PROCESS OF ADOPTION but don't have their kids home yet. (I apologize to those who are thinking of adopting. In the last post I said you'd be eligible too. I've decided only to include those who have taken the adoption plunge.)

All you've got to do is click the link below and answer a few questions honestly. (Be sure to do the personal information thing accurately as this is how we'll notify the winners).

Entry deadline is December 12. Winners will be posted on (or before) December 15.

Click Here to take survey

Friday, November 21, 2008

Contest Coming Soon!

You've probably figured out by now that I quit blogging exactly one year after we brought our girls home. Since then life has "normalized". No need for futher blog entries. Since I still get emails from people who use twomorewaals blog in their decision to adopt, the blogsite will remain online for all to read (or reminisce).

This post is for those of you who are either thinking of or are in the process of adopting. Several months ago a publisher who found the blogsite asked permission to use several posts for a new book titled "Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family" (just published this fall). I get paid for our contribution in copies of the book. I only need one copy. I'll give away the rest (and even pay the shipping fees).

So, be looking for a post in the next several days with details on how to enter the "contest). It'll be easy, I promise. No essays. Just a few questions to answer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One Year Later

The day we first met... ...and exactly one year later.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


It's hard to believe, but a year ago tomorrow we met our little girls for the first time. To celebrate I compiled a list of my 10 favorite moments (at least the ones I've blogged about) since the adoption. It’s tough to put them in order, but I’ll try.

10. Hide and Seek – Typical of the type of fun Neti and Meke like to have with Daddy.

9. Sunday Apples – I love the innocence of a little girl trying to impress her Daddy with her ability to count in English.

8. A Night of Significance – This was my first solo flight with the girls in public. Three months of English was just enough to make the communication barrier a bit awkward. You may know this as Potty (part 1) and Potty (part 2)

7. Easy to Buy For – Neti’s standard reaction to her first ever Christmas is priceless.

6. A Lesson in Parenting – Early on we tried to strip Neti of taking on the unhealthy role of being “mom” for her younger sister. However, even before she spoke English she had some great parenting instincts.

5. Traveling With Meke – Rhonda’s sickness forced Meke and I to connect on the long plane ride home from Ethiopia.

4. SNOW! – This magical video has received more comments than any other blog entry.

3. Neti’s Gift – For a little girl struggling with the loss of everything familiar to her, THIS is a “being Dad’s worth it” moment!

2. Meeting Neti and Meke – Here’s a short video I posted from the Ethiopian Hilton the night after our family became complete.

1. Love, Daddy – OK, it’s not a moment but still captures the heart of it all.

Honorable Mention
These didn’t make the cut, but are still worth the mention:

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's a Small, Small World

For those of you who loved the T-shirt story, this one's even better.

When we were at the orphanage in July, 2007, we snapped a picture of Neti and Meke with their best friends. However, after 10 months of living in America, we don't know their names (the girls have forgotten).

When our good friends, Seth and Apryl, traveled to Ethiopia to pick up their two adopted kids last month, we sent a stack of photos of Neti and Meke to show the orphanage workers. Among the photos was the "best friends" photo taken 10 months earlier. We had instructed Apryl to do some detective work and see if she could find out the best friends' names.

While in Ethiopia, Seth and Apryl became close with another family, the Heinrichs, who were staying in the same hotel and adopting an older child. Here's Apryl's account of her "bilingual" conversation with the Heinrich's adopted daughter, Selam:

Before we left the hotel yesterday, I had the envelope with photos of your girls in my hand in the lobby. Selam sat next to me and I thought that perhaps she would recognize the girls we were looking for. So I took out the picture of Meke and Neti with the nannies at Kids Care. Selam said the names of the nannies, and I said, "Meke, Neti...Mekdelwit and Netsanet". Selam repeated what I said. I'm just thinking she's repeating me, right? So I flip to the photo of the girls with their friends and Selam says "Meke, Neti, Me." I said, "What? Selam?" Then I looked at the picture again (I hadn't looked at it since we left). It's Selam! She's Neti's special friend from Kid's Care!

We were only hoping for a name. Now we know a whole lot more.

So here's Neti and her best friend from the orphanage, Selam.

(And to wrap it all up with a big red bow...note the shirt Neti happens to be wearing)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meke's Fairy Tale

The preschool Meke attends encourages kids to use their imagination and tell stories. This past week the teachers sat down and recorded the kid's stories word for word and sent them home. Here's Meke's:

I am the Princess Neti. I live in the castle with the other princesses. Then the prince comes. The prince goes with the other princess. Then the other princess goes with the prince. Then the castle goes with the other princess. I go with the castle. I look at the prince. The prince goes with me.

The end.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Baseball Team

Saturday we spent a little bit of time getting to know Fetya and Josiah, the Harbaugh's new kids, at the park. Lots of fun!

Welcome Home

Our friends, the Harbaugh's, arrived home from Ethiopia last week with their two little ones. Last Sunday night we took gifts and a special welcome home sign over to their house, rang the doorbell, and ran. By the way, Dave won the caption contest.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Food Fights

We've experienced nearly every extreme food-wise in the past 9 months - especially with Meke. From the very beginning they could really pack it away. Meke could out-eat every member of the family. I remember one meal where she had 3 1/2 bratwursts (in buns), 2-3 piles of corn, some fruit, and several helpings of dessert - at the age of three! Neti shed some light on the reasons for gorging.

Then we went through the messy phase. Rhonda would argue that Neti's still there. There's improvement, though. The food hasn't found its way into her hair or ears for several months. And I can't remember the last time she had food on her forehead.

Not to long ago both girls cycled through the SLOOOOWWWW phase. Meke was especially turtlesome. It wasn't uncommon for her to be half done with her first helping a thirty minutes or more after everyone else had left the table.

Neti's good. I like the way she eats now (except for an occasional slurp or spill). But Meke! Once she ate everything. Now she's picky.

It seems she's of the mind that she can pick and choose what's to eat DESPITE what was prepared. Several weeks ago, for example, we had chicken for dinner. Meke likes chicken a lot. But for reasons hidden from us she decided she wasn't going to eat chicken that night. She sat at the table in poutful defiance until we dismissed her to bed without eating (her choice).

Next morning while everyone else was eating Lucky Charms, we peeled back the plastic wrap and served Meke chicken. Nope. Pack it away again for lunch. Nope again.

That evening we had friends over. Can't remember what we ate that night...but Meke had chicken. Surely after nearly 24 hours without food she'd eat it! Nope. For the fourth time we packed it away in the fridge. It was only when the other kids were eating dessert when she decided chicken wasn't so bad after all and gobbled it in less than two minutes with no problem at all.

We repeated the scene today. A few days ago she was begging for third helpings of spaghetti. Evidently it wasn't lunchworthy today. Lots of objections and whining ended in a tearful empty-bellied nap.

She ate it tonight for dinner before her hot dogs.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Submit a Caption

Our friends, the Harbaughs, are in Ethiopia this week. This photo of Seth and their new baby, Josiah, was posted on their blogsite. It's in need of a caption, don't you think? So hit that comment button and submit one. The best caption will win ---- um ---- an award for winning --- or something.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Watch an Adoption Happen

Some of our best friends in the world, the Harbaughs, are in Ethiopia as we speak. They'll be meeting their kids face to face for the first time in just a matter of hours. Check it out here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Vocabulary Development

But certainly not American Idol material!!!

Just Pictures

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A T-Shirt Story (Part 5)

Last week, another mother in Belgium was reading our blog with her daughter, Yeabsera, who was adopted from Ethiopia in August. When they came across the post called A T-Shirt Story the little girl recognized the purple striped shirt immediately. In May of 2007 the six-year-old's caretakers told her that a forever family had been found. They chose the purple striped shirt for Yeabsera to wear for the official government photos that had to be taken.

Two months later that same shirt would be worn by Netsanet (Neti) on the day she went home with her forever family.

And in October a little girl named Tsion would wear the shirt home to her forever family in Belgium.

According to the tag the shirt was made in India and imported to Spain (one of the countries Kid's Care Orphanage serves).

The brand name of the shirt is, appropriately, Exit Kids.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Some of our best friends in the world just officially became parents of two little ones in Ethiopia. You can have a look here. They'll be traveling to Africa soon. Our whole family is super excited for them.

For those who don't know the story, the Harbaughs found our blogsite over a year ago. After exchanging emails we discovered we live 10 miles away from each other. Both of us were in process of adopting two children from Ethiopia from the same agency. Our families have been getting together about once per week for at least half a year.

A T-Shirt Story (Part 4)


This T-shirt thing has generated more email than any post in recent memory (maybe ever).

But there's more...

Another adoptive mother emailed me. Seems her daughter also has a significant connection with this shirt (the purple-striped one). If she gives permission I'll fill you in. If not, just know that the shirt has played a significant role in the adoption of a third little girl.

I feel a children's book coming on.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A T-Shirt Story (Part 3)

There's a missing element to the story of the T-shirts. IF we could only figure out where these shirts originated from it'd be a much more compelling story. I'm guessing that most of the clothes the orphanage uses are donated. Imagine if we could somehow find the Mom who purchased the shirt several years ago for her little girl. Where are they from? How old is that little girl now? Where did they donate the shirt and how did it end up in an orphanage in Ethiopia?

And where was the shirt made? (the shirt's probably seen more of the world than I have!)

There's only one person who would be interested in something like this and rich enough to pull it off.

So, Oprah, what do you think?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A T-Shirt Story (Part 2)

(Believe it or not, this one's true too!)

Yesterday, another mother in Belgium was looking at our blog with her daughter, Mastewal, who was adopted from Ethiopia a few months ago. When they came across the post called, A T-Shirt Story, the little girl looked at the picture with astonishment. She was pointing at our youngest adopted daughter, Meke, wearing a pink ladybug shirt.

Meke donned this shirt the July day we took her and Neti home from the orphanage. Since we brought clothes for both girls, we opted to leave the shirt at the orphanage, knowing they'd continue put it to good use.

Later that same month, a 7-year-old little girl arrived at Kid's Care orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. One morning her caretakers chose a pink ladybug shirt for this little girl named Mastewal.

The shirt was a perfect fit - so perfect that it made the trip all the way with her across the sea with her forever family in Belgium, where her mother will read her "A T-Shirt Story (Part 2)" tomorrow.

The End.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A T-Shirt Story

Today, a mother in Belgium was reading our blog to her daughter, Tsion, who was adopted from Ethiopia a few months ago. When they came across the post called, Two Great People, the little girl's eyes got big. "That girl is wearing my clothes! This is T-shirt Tsion!”

She was pointing at our oldest adopted daughter, Neti, wearing a purple and white striped T-shirt.

Neti donned this shirt the July day we took her and Meke home from the orphanage. Since we brought clothes for both girls, we opted to leave the shirt at the orphanage, knowing they'd continue put it to good use.

For several months the shirt was undoubtedly shared by several little girls (according to Neti, sharing clothes in the orphanage is common practice). During those months a 4-year-old little girl was going through major changes in her life.

In October, that little girl arrived at Kid's Care orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was introduced to her new living quarters, a very small room with two sets of bunk beds shared by several other little girls. In the corner of her new bedroom sat a table covered with a pink and white cloth - the same table - and same room - Neti and Meke had occupied several months earlier.

Each morning the caretakers would lay clothes out for their kids on the pink and white table. One morning a purple striped shirt was chosen for a little girl name Tsion. The shirt was a perfect fit - so perfect that it made the trip all the way with her forever family across the sea to Belgium, where her mother will read her "A T-Shirt Story" tomorrow.

The End.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


We recently found out that Neti and Meke had never seen a book up close before becoming members of our family. No one had ever read to them. We didn't realize it at the time but this picture taken in the Ethiopia airport lobby is probably one of Meke's first exposures to a book (7-15-07).

Most evenings when I get home from work Neti meets me at the door with book in hand and asks me to read. Tonight I told her I wanted her to read to me.

I asked her if she knew the letter sounds. She did. It was just a matter of putting them together. We got the ABC flashcards out and I started arranging words around the letter "A".

Buh - - aaaa - - duh

Buh - aa - duh


buh a duh


I wish I had the camera rolling to capture the moment when she first realized she read a word. (Had I been thinking I probably would've chosen a better first word).

We did as many three letter words as I could arrange...then four...then five. Each success was followed by a squeal and orders to "make another one, Daddy". Meke got in on the act too. She knows just about all of her letter sounds but was mostly unsuccessful in her attempts to meld them into a word.

Suh - - aaaa - - tuh

Suh - aaa - tuh



Not quite. She was able to get a few of the three-letter words. Her first word was "cat".

Tonight before bed, Neti read a beginning reader book to Meke.

Tomorrow she wants to read the Disney Princess Collection to Mommy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Sunday

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Another first...

Monday, March 10, 2008

8 Months

Here's where we were eight months ago...

...and here's where we are now...

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Here's Meke's latest interpretation of Daddy and Mommy...

...and Neti's latest version of Daddy...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sometimes We Forget

Tomorrow (the 9th) will be 8 months since we first met Neti and Meke face to face. Tonight I was sifting through the old videos and was amazed at the changes that have taken place in all our lives. I had almost forgotten the phases we've gone through in language, bonding, relationship, etc. Here are a few video reminders in timeline-fashion. You've probably seen them all before. Is it just me or is the change amazing when you watch them back to back?

Two Days

One Week

Three Weeks

Three Months

Five Months

Seven Months

I need to crack out the camera again soon and capture another moment before it's gone!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not Mr. Mom

Rhonda worked again last night. I failed at being Mr. Mom today. I completely forgot about Bethany's basketball game. Didn't get there until the end of the 3rd quarter. Oops.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mr. Mom

This post is dedicated to all you moms and dads out there who do this everyday...

Rhonda works two nights a week at the hospital. On the days following I'm responsible for getting the kids dressed and transport them to and from school. Usually it's pretty straightforward. However, today we had the dreaded 2-hour inconvenience - er, uh - delay. Sometimes these are caused by natural phenomena like snow, ice, or fog. But every once in awhile the school administration PLANS them. Today was such a day - a planned interruption to a parent's day.

Now, I'm my own boss. I'm guessing my schedule is more flexible than those who work for "the Man". I'm wondering what those with "real" jobs do with their kids. I didn't punch the handyman clock until 3:30PM, simply because I was running kids around all day.

8:45 - Drop Meke off at preschool
9:15 - Take Kailey and the neighbor girl to the bus stop
9:40 - Haul Bethany and friend to school
10:40 - Drop Neti off at school
11:30 - Pick Meke up from preschool
2:15 - Bethany home from school
2:45 - Kailey home from school
3:20 - Meet Neti at the bus stop

3:30-5:30 - Handymanning work...FINALLY!!! (I was so excited that I backed my truck into a fence. Broken tail light.)

5:30 - Make diner for everyone
6:00 - Rhonda off to her next 12-hour shift
7:00 - Pick Bethany up from basketball

Hats off to all of you who do this everyday.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sharing, Gratitude, and Generosity

I'm finding that kids are kids, regardless of background. They need to learn the same lessons. I was hoping that a few of the things Rhonda and I instilled in our older girls would automatically be part of Neti and Meke's DNA because of their background and experience. At the orphanage, everything was shared. According to Neti, no one owned any clothes. Outfits were rotated among the kids. They had almost no toys. There was only one ball that all 70 kids shared...etc. I expected Neti and Meke, therefore, to be more grateful, more sharing, and more generous, simply because of this background.

My expectations were unrealistic. I found out at Christmas, that Neti had to be taught how to give to others. It's not automatic.

The lessons continued today - this time with Meke. We were preparing to take a trip to WalMart to spend the $5 Valentine's Day money they receieved in the mail from Grandma. Our family practices giving a minimum of 10% of all earnings to those less fortunate. Our kids have a special bank with a slot for "others".

I decided today would be as good as any to introduce the concept to Neti and Meke. I anticipated a little bit of pushback from Neti, but to my surprise she counted out 50 pennies and dropped them into the appropriate slot.

I could tell from the body language that this wasn't sitting well with Meke.

"What's wrong Meke?"

"I don't want to give money. I want to buy something."

"You can buy something, but we want you to share the good things God has given us with others. Don't you want to share with others?"

"I want to buy something."

"But you need to share too. It's just like your toys. You share your toys, right? We want you to share your money too - with people who don't have very much - like kids in the orphanage in Ethiopia - you know, like your old friends..."

"I don't like to share."

"You don't like to share? Yes, you do! You're a good sharer, Meke. You share your toys. You share your bed. You share..."

"I don't like to be sharing money."

"You don't like sharing money?"


I was a bit stunned. It took several seconds of silence to ponder my next move.

"So people shouldn't share money?"

"No. People shouldn't share money."

Her response to my question set me up even better than I had anticipated. I quietly picked up the Meke's new $5 bill and put it in the "out" mail slot on our refrigerator, leaving her with a handful of random coins. I could see the wheels turning in her head. When she finally realized she had forfeited the bill, the tears started flowing. She was only able to communicate between sobs.

"Daddy (sob) I (sob, sob) want (sob) my (sob) mo- (sob, sob) mo- (sob) money!"

"But people shouldn't share money. So we need to send that money back to Grandma."

"No. We should share."

"Even money?"

She didn't answer. Regaining her composure, she began dropping coins into the "others" slot without even counting. I helped her count as Neti began telling me of the good she hoped her money would do for someone without food.


This is post #200 to twomorewaals.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's Not a Real Worm

I'll probably get in trouble from Rhonda for this post.

Oh well.

When we came home from Ethiopia we brought home an unwelcome guest. Someone who has never been to our house before. He's overstayed his welcome. We're tired of him - ready for him to leave.

We have no idea whose body served as the initial host, but every one of us has had a personal visit (or two...or more) from him. (Some visits have been more personal than others.)

Mr. Ringworm has invaded.

Now, if you're like I was, you're probably thinking, "Ewww. A worm. Gross."

But your reaction would be based in ignorance. He's not a worm. He's a fungus that "survives by eating plant or animal material". Translation: THERE'S A MICROSCOPIC THING EATING YOU FOR BREAKFAST! The nice thing is that he's very symmetrical. He eats it in a circle or ring.

I've read up on him many times. He doesn't seem to play by the rules. At least not in our house. You're supposed to be able to get rid of him with an antifungal cream (just like his cousin, athlete's foot). I've religiously smothered him with the white stuff 3-4 times per day. In most cases it takes 6-8 weeks for him to leave a particular spot. Then, a few days after I've stopped treating him (because he's "gone"), he comes back in the exact same place.

And he's supposed to "thrive in places that are moist, hot, and hidden from the light". Now, if you were to read that in a description, where would you think he was found most often?

Exactly. Like you I immediately think ARMPIT! (What? That's not what you were thinking?)

Did any of you think, "Hmmm. Dark and moist? Of course, your CHIN!"

Evidently I must slobber a lot in the dark because he's paid a visit there at least three times.

Meke and I seem to be the hosts of choice. More than once we've been the final hope for getting rid of him once and for all. Such pressure! It's akin to being on the free throw line in a tie game with no time left. More than once we've failed the team.

So the game goes on...and on...

Six months and counting...

He's still here...

If we could only stop hugging each other maybe we'd stand a chance.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I've spent 14 years working with teens (nine as a paid youth pastor). Nothing got my goat more than cheating. It wasn't uncommon for teens (yes, even those good "church kids") to come to youth group and spend the first 15 minutes of free time "sharing" their homework answers.

I confronted cheating every time I saw it. The excuses they gave rang hollow.

"Everyone else does it."
"It's just homework. It's only 10% of my final grade. It's not a big deal."
"The teacher knows we do it and he doesn't say anything."
"I just have way too much homework every night. This is the only way I can get it all done and still get decent grades."

Is it any wonder kids graduate high school without knowing how to read?

We believe our kids should succeed OR FAIL based on their own merits, not on how sneaky they can be. Honesty isn't something that can (or should) be turned off and on based on circumstances. Dishonesty is cancer. It always starts small.

When I got home from work tonight Neti, Meke, and Kailey were playing Dutch Blitz, a high-speed and sometimes rowdy card game. The game starts with each player having four of their forty cards face up. ONES are good to have face up at the beginning. TWOS are also good.

I was in the room next door and heard the some arguing between Neti and Kailey (go figure). Neti and Meke had "shuffled" their cards and came up with more ONES than normal.

It looked suspicious. I proposed the solution: "Just shuffle again and start over." I left.

Once again the arguing started. I went to investigate. In front of Neti sat the best hand I'd ever seen: ONE, ONE, ONE, TWO. Meke had ONE, ONE, TWO, FOUR. (FYI: Each player only has four ones in their entire deck!)

"Neti, did you shuffle?"

"Yes, Daddy. We shuffled three times."

I had my doubts. I've played Dutch Blitz hundreds of times without ever having one hand that good, let alone two in a row. Either I have the luckiest two little girls in the world or there's something deceptive going on in their little hearts.

I reshuffled Neti's and Meke's hands for them and they continued playing.

Later, on the way to Bethany's basketball game I had a chance to talk with the girls alone in the van (Rhonda and Kailey rode in a separate vehicle).

"Neti and Meke. I want you to tell Daddy the truth. Did you cheat at Dutch Blitz?"


"Did you put the cards to come up with all ONES?"

(long silence)

"You know it's really cool to come up with all ONES because you can win faster. But that doesn't hardly ever happen. It never happens every time. If it happens every time then people think that you're cheating."

(still silent)

"Cheating isn't a good thing. It's fun because it helps you win, but it's really like like lying or stealing. And if you cheat, you really didn't win anyway, because the game wasn't fair. The person who cheats makes the game not fair for everyone else. Mommy and I don't want anyone in our family to learn how to cheat."

The van was completely silent the rest of the way to the game. I didn't say another word.

I didn't need to.