Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Archive for the ‘The Big Adventure, Adopting Vander’ Category

National Adoption Month in November!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

If you read my blog regularly then you know that adoption comes up frequently, especially Ethiopian adoptions.  November is National Adoption Month.   If you have an adoption story I would love to hear your family’s story.  How did you come to be a family? How does it feel to be an adoptive family? Or, how does it feel to be adopted?

These pictures are from African Caribbean Heritage Camp, which our family went to this summer.  It was great to share with so many families who have adopted from Africa and the Caribbean, I was amazed that families came from so many places, Arizona, New Jersey, Europe, Colorado and of course Wyoming was well represented with four families in attendance.



Happy birthday Big Guy!

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

The Lumpy Lorax with my new cake stands!

The Lumpy Lorax after the party!

Vander’s birthday was not long ago and we had a huge Lorax jamboree!  Vander asked for a Lorax themed party and as I started looking around I realized that The Lorax had not marketed the movie into birthday plates and toys.  So I had to make everything, I had a great time making Truffula trees, big yellow mustaches, and the Lorax cake.  As I started making plans for the Lorax cake, I realized that I didn’t have a cake stand that was big enough for Vander’s cake, so I quickly made a cake stand for his cake every year, it says, Happy Birthday, Vander!”  This was my first attempt at a fondant cake; I thought my slab rolling skills made me a shoe in to make the cake.  But i found out rather quickly fondant and clay are not the same.  Good thing I am not a professional cake decorator!

The kids had sack relays, and decorated little flower pots, and in the end we had them do a giant obstacle course.  I think all the kids had a great time.  I really enjoyed making all the party favors for Vander’s party anyway!

World Water Day 2012

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Today is World Water Day. Remember as you are waking up and turning on the faucet to have a glass of water or take your shower, millions of people are starting their long trek to find water. They will walk miles and miles to a water source that is dirty and filled with pollution and disease. But things do not need to stay this way. Educate yourself on the water crisis.

Here are some great sites:

Project 117

If you want to make a differnce in the water crisis in the world, support one of the organizations above!

In just one day 200 million hours are consumed by women collection water for their families. This is equivalent to building 28 Empire State Buildings each day.

Today 1 child dies every 20 seconds from a water related disease. Two years ago it was every 15 seconds.

3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. That is equal to the city of Los Angeles

884 million people lack access to clean water, that's almost 3 times the US population.

Here are a few more pictures from Jeff and Holly installing a clean water system while we were in Ethiopia last July.

Happy Gotcha Day! My Prince of Ethiopia!

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Happy Gotcha Day! My Prince of Ethiopia! 


Three years ago today, our son made us a family!  We were in Ethiopia, we had just stepped off the plane, driving through a strange city, on our way to a new way of life, a family way of life.  And even before I could get out of the car, my son was in my arms. 

I know this is a bit of a cliché but I can’t image my life without Vander now.  It’s truly hard to remember what it was like to have so much time to myself.    I have been humbled by this curious, active and independent four year old.  In watching Vander grow and bloom into this remarkable little boy all of my secret fears seem absurd.  Thank you, thank you,Vander for making us a family!  And to quote our little man, “I love you to the moon, to the stars, to the sun, to big blue, to the trees, to Miss Sherry’s house and BACK!”

Melkam Genna or Merry Christmas 2012

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

An Ethiopian Christmas card.

January 7 is Ethiopian Christmas.  We ventured to The Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Aurora, Colorado to celebrate.  My family had an amazing time.  This year we went down with a Wyoming contingent, we were three families that celebrated Genna (Christmas), from the Cowboy State.  My husband and I very much want to teach Vander about Ethiopian cultures, but we are at a huge disadvantage living in Wyoming.  I am so thankful for The Ethiopian Evangelical Church and Pastor Ermias he is so generous and cares for our children.  I am so pleased that Vander gets to be around many families that look like us. 

Vander and Mihretu enjoying their Doro Wat.

We ate delicious Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew and Injera, a sourdough pancake that is like a giant crepe, with Ethiopian coffee.  Then we played games, the church set up tons of stations with Ethiopian games for the kids.  We didn’t make it to very many, Vander loved every game he played and didn’t want to leave each game to try another one. 

Vander learning how to eat Ethiopian style.

One of the games Vander played is called Quileblebosh.  The concept of the game is like Jacks, but with stones.  I was harder than it looked because in Jacks you catch the ball after the bounce, in the game you throw a stone and try to pick up five pebbles. 

Football! (Soccer!) The Ethiopian past time!

Learning to play Suzy 123!

The next game Vander played was Suzy 123, it is a version of Chinese Jump rope.  And it is also known as bladder in Kenya. 

Suzy 123

Mehareben - Ethiopian Duck, Duck, Goose!

The last game Vander played was Mehareben which is an Ethiopian version of Duck, Duck, Goose.  The way Ethiopians play, they say the verse, “Mehareben yayachu?” Have you seen my hanky?  And the seated children reply, “Alayenim.” We haven’t seen it.  The child with the hanky drops it behind someone who is seated, then that person becomes “it” and tries to catch the hanky dropper, who tries to get in their seat before they are caught.  We could not pull Vander way from this game to try any others.  They had nine other games to go to, plus hair braiding.  Hopefully next year we will be able to experience a few more. 


Vander & Mihretu learning how to dance Ethiopian style!

Ethiopians follow a different calendar than we do in the U.S.  They follow the Ge’ez or Julian calendar, which Christmas is January 7.  Several other countries that also follow the Julian calendar are Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, The Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova.

Melkam Addis Amet! Happy New Year! Enkutatash2004

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day (or Enkutatash) is celebrated in September towards the end of the big rains.  New Year’s Day in Ethiopia marks a new season and a new beginning.  Normally celebrated on September 11, this year is leap year so the day fell on September 12.  After my last trip to Ethiopia I had the pleasure of learning much more about the culture.  Ethiopia still follows the Orthodox Julian calendar which consists of 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month of five or six days.  This makes the Ethiopian calendar 7 years behind ours, hence it’s 2004.  We decided to celebrate Enkutatash, but for us the question was how do we commemorate the day?  Obviously we decided to go and eat Ethiopian food!  We tried a new restaurant, The Nile, in Aurora, which is a suburb of Denver.  I’ve been told that Aurora has a huge Ethiopian population.   Our dinner was delicious!  We feasted on a variety plate and a lot of kitfo.   It’s a traditional dish that consists of raw or slightly cooked marinated beef. 

As a part of our Ethiopian New Year celebration we decided to ride our bikes in the Tour De Fat.  The Tour De Fat is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company and the beverage Fat Tire!  The ride brings out thousands of costumed bikers through the streets promoting all things bicycle!  Van has mastered riding without training wheels but not watching where he rides, hence we put him on a tag-a-long bike, so we didn’t have to worry about all the bike wrecks he would cause.  We may not have brought in the new year like true Ethiopians, but we definitely marked the day!!  Here we are in our traditional Ethiopian clothing. 

Presently in Addis Ababa, New Year’s Eve is spent feasting and partying. On New Year’s Day, the house is decorated with pretty little yellow Meskal daisies. Children make gifts of colorful paintings or spring flowers to give to their family and friends. Girls, dressed in their new Ethiopian dresses and armed with a kabero (small drum), go from house to house singing a special Enkutatash song, in return for some money. The main religious celebration takes place in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the town of Gaynt, in the Gondar region. Three days of prayers, psalms, hymns and sermons, and huge colourful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of the Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration.

I’m going to Africa and I’m raffling off one of my vessels!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I’m going to Africa, specifically Ethiopia this summer on a humanitarian trip. I will be working with two organizations called One Child Campaign and Vision on Africa.  One Child Campaign focuses on helping orphanages and Vision on Africa assists women to become self-sustaining through selling craftwork. I will be traveling for three weeks visiting and providing much needed supplies/knowledge to the needy.

Since I’m going on this big adventure I am raffling off one of my art pieces to raise money for the children. The orphanages need many things, and I am going to pack my suitcases with as much as I can to bring to Ethiopia, or buy supplies in-country.

Please note that every penny raised will go directly to buying supplies (absolutely no money will be used for personal expenses).

The tickets are $5.00 for one or $20.00 for five.

Just look for the donate button on the right side of my blog!

The drawing will be May 28!

This piece is called: I Dream About A Faraway Place

12″ x 6″ x 6″

Please pass this along to a friend! 


Here is a list of the supplies I am bringing to Ethiopia!  If you are in my area and want to donate some of the supplies, please shoot me an email!


Gloves (Surgical and Disposable)
Hand sanitizer
Liquid Hand Soap
Multivitamins (gummy type)
Alcohol swab

Antibiotic cream
Antifungal cream
Cough Syrups

cold medicine

Band aides



Hygiene and Skin care Supplies

Tooth paste
Liquid Soap
Hair bands
Shampoo & Conditioner

Baby supplies

infant formulas

Diaper (Large Size)

Baby body wash
Diaper underwear

Basket balls
Soccer balls
Clothes and Shoes 


(7-15 girls and boys)
Trousers, & pants,

Skirts, & Dresses
Jackets, Sweaters,

T-shirt, tops,

Shoes for children Crocks
Shoes (7-15 girls and boys)
Pajamas for children Socks

Underwear teens

Educational Supplies
Drawing/writing board, drawing pad
Markers (permanent & removable)
Story books
Hard construction Paper
School glue

Toys, Puppets
Cars big and small

movies, (VCD/DVD/VHS)
for toddlers/kids,

Children Diaries

Melkam Gena or Merry Christmas!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

 Melkam Gena

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Ethiopians celebrate “Gena” Christmas on January 7.  We drove down Saturday to Aurora, Colorado, to celebrate Gena at the Ethiopian Evangelical Church.  Pastor Ermias and Alemeshet Teklyoneis, the Director and Founder of Abenezer Children’s Home in Gebre Guracha, Ethiopia, invited American/Ethiopian Adoptive Families in the Denver Area to celebrate Gena.

It was an incredible evening!  We so humbled, and honored and left speechless by the incredible night.  We ate amazing Ethiopian food, played wonderful traditional games, made great connections with other adoptive families, and heard many words of thanks for adopting the children.  At the end of the night we were sent home with gifts from Ethiopia.  This was not just a few gifts around 250 people attended the Gena Celebration. 

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This is a marble game.  I didn’t write down the name or take a picture of the station like I did for the rock game Qeleblebosh.  The objective of the marble game is you shoot the marbles down and try to knock out the other marbles that are lined up on the other side.  If you knock out certain marbles you get all the marbles in the group. 

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Qeleblebosh is a traditional game mostly played by girls in the Ethiopia.  It is like Jacks, but you use rocks instead.  It will teach them how to be disciplined, self-controled, focused in the game as well as social skills.   It teaches the kids how to count numbers. 

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Street Hockey, a lot of the boys were in traditional Ethiopian clothing. 

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Ethiopian Coffee!!!

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Thank you Pastor Ermias and your entire church community. Your generosity was overwhelming.  We were THRILLED with all the games, we had SO much fun! We appreciate your kindness and generosity!

For more information on Ethiopia and the insurmountable  amount of orphaned children read; There is NO Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green.  It is a powerful and informative bookof the terrifying story of the AIDS orphans. 


Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa.
Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans.
Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone).
There are 143,000,000* orphans in the world today. The population of orphans theoretically makes up the 7th largest nation in the world.
Orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home.
Every YEAR 14,050,000 children grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system.
Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT.
Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home.
Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.
*Reliable statistics are difficult to find, even the sources often list only estimates, and street children are rarely included. But even if these figures are exaggerated by double, it is still an unacceptable tragedy that over a Million children would still become orphans every year, and every year 7 Million children would still grow to adulthood as orphans with no one to belong to and no place to call home. They are totally vulnerable and easily fall prey to predators and slave recruiters.
(Data provided by UNICEF)

Summer Time Fun with Ethiopians, Japanese and Americans!! Now that’s one strange family!!

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Van in ukataHere is Van getting fitted in a yukata, which is a Japanese summer garment.

I know I am so late posting our summer adventures, as I write this I am watching it snow. 

This summer my relatives from Japan, my Aunt, Uncle and their daughter Yuki came out for a visit.    

  Yuki has been staying  us for the last three summers to improve her English.  This summer her parents came out for two weeks and Yuki stayed for a month. 

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This year they came out the last week of July, and if you live in Wyoming that means Frontier Days, The Daddy of ‘Em All!!  We spent many days with lots of Cowboys and Indians!! 

frontier days

It was Frontier Days, so we saw tons and tons of rodeo!!


Then Yuki got to experience an American tradition a wedding, our friends Chad and Alaina .

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Of course we took Yuki rafting!!  Here we are rafting from Pumphouse to State Bridge on the upper Colorado River.

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Then it started raining and the wind came!

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Under the rain tarp.

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Back at home! Yuki got to learn a couple more American traditions, teenagers mow the lawn and learn how to drive.

mowing and driving

We went to Casper, so I could participate in the What’s in Your Business Tool Kit? A Symposium on the Nuts and Bolts of Managing an Artistic Career at the Nicolaysen Art Museum. The workshop focused on how artists can utilize business and creative skills to enhance their visibility and profitability.  I talked about developing your portfolio, to submit to galleries and social networking.   Yuki took these pictures on the sly.  Poor Yuki had to sit through two days of talks and lectures before we could go and do fun stuff.

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Some Western fun while we were in Casper, WYO.

We happened upon a Mountain Man Rendezvous, which we both really enjoyed; I had a fantastic time learning about Civil War surgery techniques. It’s gruesome.  Then we went to Independence Rock.  During Westward expansion emigrants carved their names in it as they passed by.  Before heading for home we stopped at the Mormon Handcart Museum in Martin’s Cove. The museum has these handcarts you can check out and pull from building to building, as you’re looking at all the historical exhibitions. Or if you have lots of energy you can check out the handcart and pull it up to Martin’s Cove, which is a couple of miles away. Needless to say we didn’t do that. If you don’t know the Martin’s Cove tale it’s an interesting story about Mormon westward emmigration.  Nearly one-fourth of the 576 members of the Martin Company died before the company finally arrived in Salt Lake City.



Before Yuki went back to Japan, we had to go to the Denver Art Museum.  We went to see go the King Tut exhibit but we weren’t allowed to take pictures. 


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Here is Yuki and Rok by the Big Sweep by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.

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Sandy Skoglund

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Don Stinson

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Finally some ceramics!!!

During the month Yuki visited us she did find the time to work in my studio.  Here are some of the things she made.  Every year I forget how talented she is, and we leave working in the studio to the last the last minute.  Next year, we should stay put and just make stuff!!!  She really is super talented!! 

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Tasfa Ethiopia

Monday, September 13th, 2010

As many of you know my husband and I adopted our son from Ethiopia.  After traveling to Ethiopia and we saw firsthand the bleak conditions of the orphanages.  The children have so little.  I am donating two bowls to Tasfa Ethiopia.  I hope my bowls raise massive amount of money for them.  I know it won’t be massive, but I hope it helps.  In Amharic, Ethiopia’s primary language, “tasfa” means “hope.”

One day before leaving for Ethiopia I ran into the (EOR) Ethiopian Orphan Relief Blog, they are located in Denver which is an hour and a half from us.  It is a great blog if you’re interested in Ethiopia and adpotions.  I’ve enjoyed reading their blog over the  months. 

In 2009, EOR performed these projects in Ethiopia, thanks to donor support:

  • ·         Built a playground at an orphanage for HIV-infected children
  • ·         Funded a four-year rental for a center serving orphaned teenage girls.
  • ·         Stocked a newly built medical clinic at an orphanage with essential equipment, medications and supplies.

For more information also visit Ethiopia Orphan Relief’s website.