Archives for September 2015

Sweet Meg

Erika and Israel had their baby last week, sweet little Meg.


She joins brother Ranger, 3.5 and sister Ali, 2 years old.


All went well and we are so thrilled!


If you want to see more photos, visit Erika’s blog and tell them congrats!

On growing up in a big family (a letter to my children)

CampingAs your momma, there are always things buzzing in my mind that I hope each of you will remember, or know, or understand about what’s most important in this life.  But in this particular moment I’m thinking about how it’s been for you growing up at the beginning, or in the middle, or as the tail-end charlie of our big-ol crazy family.

I hope in the future you’ll remember life with us, your clan, as the great adventure that it truly has been.   There’s always someone around to watch a movie with you, or to loan you a belt, or coax into helping you drag the trash out to the road. (“Quick, the trash truck’s coming!”)  In adulthood often that looks like helping each other move, or bringing each other dinner after the arrival of a new baby.

I’m hoping you’ll feel close enough to share those favors around, and to help each other out in the many transition times life doles out.  Family adds a blessed cushion to all sorts of challenging days, whether those days involve hard things like illness or car breakdowns, or joyous things like new babies and wedding planning.

I know it’s not always been easy to parent-share in this big clan. I wish there’d never been times I dropped the ball, missed a clue that you needed to talk about something, or wasn’t there for you.  I always desperately long to be there, whether I can be or not.  Not being able to meet everyone’s needs Brothersperfectly….honestly, that’s what I hate most about being a momma of many.  (Though I suppose even moms of one or two feel that way sometimes.) Each and every one of you is precious.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Worth focusing on.  And it kills me to think there are moments when you didn’t feel like you were in the very center of my heart.  Because you are. Oh, you are.  Never doubt that.

SistersBut even in hard moments, God is there.  When you’re feeling lonely or sad, or like people don’t quite understand,  remember to lean on the only One who understands you perfectly.  The One who hears every thought before you think it.  The One who gave His life for you. In good times and in hard, I pray you will lean on Jesus for your best, truest companionship.Having fun

People these days have funny ideas about scarcity and wealth, and sometimes they make assumptions about families like ours. I hope you see it clear.  Even though we’ve always had more than enough of the essentials, truthfully there’s still been  sharing, making space, releasing something for a time to be a blessing to someone else.

Some people think a kid having to share anything is a shame.  But understand this clear:  poverty is not about that last hamburger getting split two ways, or last night’s leftover dinner getting warmed up for today’s lunch.  There’s nothing poor or shameful about a bike getting passed down four times, or a favorite t-shirt going through three kids before it finally becomes a carwash rag.

At the beach house

No, the worst kind of poverty is the relational kind– getting to adulthood without people around you who really care about you.  It’s possible to get through your whole life without ever having to share a bedroom or a t-shirt– have every luxury known to man, in fact — and still experience that kind of poverty.  The best and most lasting wealth on earth, aside from being in relationship with Jesus, comes from being in relationship with people who really care about you. Knitting sisters

Sure, those friends aren’t always siblings– there are precious friendships to be had with people who don’t share our last name or our DNA.  But wow, there’s a special power in a friend who is also a sister or a brother. So as you go out into the world, remember to also hang onto the family God’s given you.

Whether you realized it at the time or not, you learned lots about good relationships growing up in our clan.  Those experiences have made you stronger, kinder, and more generous.  Remember those lessons, and be on the lookout for the lonely, the people who need the kind of wealth, of friendship, that you can offer.  In this hard world, I want you to be a friend.  And knowing each of you, I’m sure you will.  Each of you in your own unique way is generous in heart and spirit.

Finally, I need to say this again:  I love you.  You are amazing and precious and special, each and every one of you.  I have been so blessed to share this life with each of you.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  Go forward with confidence and enjoy everything that God has given you!

Ostyns at Christmas 2014





What we’ve liked on Netflix lately

John and I have an evening habit of 45 minutes or so of TV after the younger kids are settled for the night.  It can be a challenge to find TV that’s interesting to us both, is intelligent, and during which people mostly stay reasonably dressed and seem to have decent morals.  We both like mysteries, but I prefer the kind where crime scenes aren’t dwelt upon and the content is not too creepy.  Blacklist and Bones and several others struck out for us — just too ‘eek’. Ditto for the later seasons of ’24’.  Anyway, here are a few that John and I have really enjoyed lately.

  • Blue Bloods.  We loved this one enough that we bought the DVD set.  It shows people trying hard to do what’s right and honorable in the middle of difficult and challenging circumstances, and it does a great job showing both the struggles and joys of living in a family.
  • Psych is a lot of fun, though it tends toward goofy.
  • White Collar has some really fun, complex relationships and storylines.
  • Royal Pains is another one that can be a little goofy, but we like the characters, the houses, and the beach location.
  • Death in Paradise is a British one that we finished recently and were sad to see it done.  Along with some fun mystery and characters, the show is located on a beautiful island…aaahhhh.

Do you have similar likes and dislikes?  I’d love to hear your recommendations.




Reading about immigrants

Well, we’re back home and back to school, all in one fell swoop. Thankfully we’re over the worst of the jet lag by now. For awhile the girls were waking around 3 AM and then having a hard time getting back to sleep, which meant they were all practically comatose by 6PM. I kept having to coax them to stay upright just a little longer in the evening so that they could get back to Idaho time.

Josh and Ben are doing well in public school so far, though I continue to have pangs feeling like (in allowing them their wish) I have deserted some of my responsibility to them. Funny how something that seems so normal to the vast majority of the world can feel so foreign to me. But I think they are doing OK, and of course it is God who is in charge of their life, not me. So I keep praying, keep talking to them about how things are going, and also now and then remind them that some of the questions I’m asking are not really a reflection on them, but simply me getting used to this new thing.

immigrantsJumping into school straight from 2 weeks in Ethiopia gave me an idea for a unit study with Emily, Julianna, and Zeytuna, my three homeschoolers this year. So many Ethiopians were happy our girls had come to Ethiopia to visit, but multiple times the girls were told to stay in America to live, as Ethiopians see America as the land of opportunity. Then of course we came home to read about all the refugees from Syria, and the terrible ways in which they are struggling to provide life and safety for their families.  Many of them also are longing to come to America.

Always in the past America has been seen as a place of refuge, a land that welcomes people who are struggling. I hope this will continue to be true in the future. I decided I really wanted our kids to learn a little more about the immigrant experience, and did an amazon hunt for some books that we can read together.  Most of them talk about the immigrant experience from the point of view of children and teens.

Four of the books tell the story of people who came to America via Ellis Island.  Children of the Dust Bowl is the story of kids who moved to California during the Dust Bowl and how they dealt with the discrimination they faced in that move. A Long Walk to Water is the true story of one of the lost boys of Sudan. Esperanza Rising is fiction and tells the story of a girl who moves from Mexico to the United States. Inside Out and Back Again is the true story of a child who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and it is written entirely in poems.

My plan is to begin with that last book, and to do a fair bit of the reading at lunch time to the girls while they eat.  I am hoping that our fresh experience in another country might make these immigrant stories more meaningful to our kids, and might give them a deeper compassion toward people who struggle to find a place in this world.


Part 11: From Addis to Home

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Three days in Harar ended up being just the right amount of time– long enough to visit and sight-see, and also long enough to get tired of our hotel and wish for our nice guesthouse in Addis.  Sunday morning we were up bright and early to get a jump on that 9 hour drive back to Addis.  We were told that the restaurant upstairs opened at 6 AM, so we planned to start the day with coffee.  After getting all packed up, we trundled upstairs to the restaurant thinking happily of coffee.

The restaurant was utterly deserted, except for a man sleeping in a corner on a mat that had been laid on two couches shoved together facing each other.  Hmmm….  We sat for a few minutes, chatting and hoping our talking would wake him up.  But when he didn’t budge, Sophie went downstairs to the front desk to tell them there was no one to help us.  As she came back upstairs, the man’s phone began to ring.  Sure enough, this was the morning restaurant staff.

We wondered if he would be grumpy, but he tossed his mat up on a high ledge in a practiced sort of way, and came over cheerily to take our order.  Soon we were sipping on coffee yumminess.  Then off we headed for a day of driving.  During the 4 hours of twisty mountain roads on the start of the drive I tried hard to sleep– I hate mountain driving, and that road is riddled with enough wrecked and abandoned vehicles that the hazards are hard to forget.

Our faithful Dawit

The desert part of the drive was even hotter than it had been the previous week.  We were all shedding layers and chugging liquids and wishing we could just fast-forward to Addis.  Finally we made it to the one-hour dab of freeway on the edge of Addis.  Now we were almost home.

Before settling in at the guesthouse, we stopped at the Sishu for burgers, fries and ice cream.  (Such a hard life!)  Then we settled in happily at the guesthouse for a quiet evening.

The next day we had a quiet day at the guesthouse– very welcome after the busy days previously.  Sophie, Lidya and I went for a walk at one point, on the hunt for some groceries for the next few days.

We headed out in the direction Dawit had taken us in the van, not realizing that he had brought us on a logical path for a car, due to roads that were blocked in the middle by medians and a train track.  But it was a tremendously inefficient walking route, taking 45 round-about minutes to reach a location that should have taken ten.  Ah well.  The next day we went the easy route.

It was entertaining to walk anywhere, because people talked about us incessantly, and whether people realized it or not, Sophie and Lidya understood the vast majority of it.  The most common comments centered around the words ferenge (foreigners) and Habesha (Ethiopian, which people did not automatically assume the girls were– apparently they look pretty American).  On this walk we were shopping for fruit and veggies, and people were endlessly amused and surprised to find that ferenges might buy onions and garlic.


That afternoon after we got home it rained– a downpour that began with perhaps 3 minutes of warning thunder– leaving us very glad that we’d gone for our walk in the morning instead of the afternoon.  In Addis when it rains, it truly pours.

On Tuesday we visited Kidane Mehret, the orphanage where Emily and Julianna both lived for awhile before coming to us. Sister Camilla greeted us all with hugs and cries of delight and happily showed us around the place.  As usual, she could tell you which kids had families already, where they were going, and how much longer it would likely be before they could come home.

She sighed ruefully over the increase in paperwork time since the changes in the Ethiopian adoption process. The orphanage is much less crowded than in was in the past, which is good, but in general children wait there much longer before going into families. And some of the children, because of lack of documents, will never have families.

I was smitten with a blind girl of 13 or 14 (in white, next to me) who is incredibly smart and knows quite a bit of English.  She is led around by an also-precious girl (in green) who has Down Syndrome;  they are obviously sweet friends to each other.



Here are some photos of our visit, during which we snuggled babies, handed out tiny treats, and painted the fingernails of anyone who was interested, including quite a few little boys. 🙂 You should be able to click on any photos to enlarge.

Korean food in Ethiopia

Korean food in Ethiopia

After Kidane Mehret, we headed for lunch at a Korean restaurant that turned out to be excellent.  Rice is comfort food for more than a few of us, and we thoroughly enjoyed this meal. After lunch we did a little gift-shopping.  I had been commissioned by Erika to find a basket something along the lines of a Moses basket, that she could use with her soon-due baby for nap time.  I was delighted to find a nice rectangular one that I think should work nicely.  Others of us were also successful gift-shopping for friends and family.

Our final day in Addis was spent packing up, weighing luggage, and then meeting a friend of Lidya’s at the mall for a visit.  She came to America just a few months after Lidya and Zeytuna did, and happened to be here on a visit at the same time we were.  They had a great time visiting and catching up.

We had to be at the airport by 7:30 in the evening, and there we were sad to say goodbye to Dawit. He had been with us on this trip from start to finish, and we were so blessed by his steady presence.  I think he may have even been sad to say goodbye.

With Dawit

Bole Airport was full of more than the usual chaos.  First off, at the ticket counter I had a bad moment counting passports and panicking because we only had 5.  We’d been traveling the whole time with my sister Sophie, and in my head I’d gotten very used to counting to 6.  Except she wasn’t traveling til two days later and wasn’t even at the airport with us, so 5 was exactly the right number of passports to have. Whew.

We waited upstairs near our gate for quite awhile before I realized that to get around the glass wall to our gate (instead of the flight attendants just opening doors as I’d assumed) we’d need to go through yet another security screening way down at the far end of the hallway.  We figured this out with enough time to spare, thankfully.  But the lines were hugely long and quite a few other people were still trying to get through security when they should have already been on their plane. Airport workers were walking through the mob yelling out city names, and pulling those passengers to the front of the screening lines to try to get them to their planes faster. It was absolute chaos for awhile.

Once on the plane, our first stop  (after 9 hours in the air) was in Germany, where we had a 5 hour layover.  We took up a bit of the time by accidentally going the wrong direction when we got thru security, which meant we had to go through security again 5 minutes later.  And boy, were some of those security screeners bossy. Arg.  Ah, well.  Like I said, we had time to kill.  And after 9 hours on the plane, it was good to walk.

flyingFrom Frankfurt to Chicago was another 9 hours, and in Chicago we were delayed again getting through immigration.  For some reason they passed all of us through except Zeytuna, who they pulled aside (with me) to ask some additional screening questions. Eventually we made it through, picked up and dropped off all our luggage after customs, and had yet more time to kill before our last 3 hour flight home. On that final flight to home,  we were all so tired that the kids were falling asleep all over each other, looking like wilted flowers.  But eventually, 16 days after we left Idaho, we were back to home, sweet home again, much to all of our delight, especially John’s!   What an amazing trip!


Part 10: More from Harar

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

Oh, what a trip we’ve had! We are back home now, so I want to tell you the rest of our story.

In Harar, we saw many ladies in dresses that they called pyjamas (pee-JAH-mahs). Women and girls of all ages wore these very lightweight dresses, often with a head covering as well. One day we wandered through the market in Harar, picking fabric we liked. About $4 per person bought the fabric, and then for another dollar, seamstresses sewed the fabric into dresses in 15 minutes or so while you waited.

Fabric options were many, making it very hard to decide. The fabrics and patterns we chose were (believe it or not) smaller-patterned and more muted than many we saw. Here we are modeling our pyjamas. They are exceedingly comfortable, and– funny factoid– you get the tucking-in at the hip by tucking the sides of the fabric into your underwear.
Our pyjamas

We all wore our pyjamas around town one day. I couldn’t help but feel like the Ethiopians in our group wore them with more authority and panache than Sophie and I could muster up, but it was really fun. And the outfits are so comfy that I could totally picture wearing them as actual PJ’s in America.  Harar

Here’s a Harar lady wearing hers.  She has a lovely slip underneath hers, as well as, of course, a head covering.  Very elegant. And it’s completely normal to own a cell phone these days, while also still needing to tote water to your house.  Such interesting contrasts.

Also in Harar, Lidya helped me go shopping in the market, though her ability to bargain well was severely hampered by the white lady (me) following her around. Everybody knows all white people are rich, after all. 🙂

One of the hardest things for me the entire trip was to ignore the beggars walking around.  If you gave them money, even more would follow you, which would eventually feel very uncomfortable and intrusive. We experienced the most begging in Addis.  Harar people were actually very respectful, however.

At one point we were sitting in a neighborhood in our van waiting for Lidya and Zeytuna to get back from a quick visit with some family.  The day was warm and so we opened our side van door.  A couple little neighborhood girls watched us with interest, and when Julianna waved at them, one came to the door to shake hands with her.  But then they beat a hasty retreat and went back to watching from a distance.  Sophie said if we’d been in the same situation in Soddo, we’d have had 50 kids clamoring around the car door within minutes, and was amazed at how circumspect even the children were in Harar.

We also visited a very old church in Old Town Harar. On the front of the church is Isaiah 50:4-7. Reading the verse on Sophie’s phone, I had to smile, thinking of all the times this trip we’d been awakened by voices chanting over loudspeakers from Mosques and orthodox churches early in the morning in every city we stayed.  (Interestingly enough, after about a week in-country, however, the chanting from various churches no longer awakened us.)
Harar Church




We had no trouble filling three days in Harar with visiting and shopping and touristing around.  But by the end of our 3rd day we were more than ready to head back to Addis.  Our hotel there in Harar was almost perpetually out of water, which meant we could only do wet-wipe ‘baths’ and did lots of bucket-flushing of toilets.  Fortunately Sophie had had the foresight to bring a whole big pack of wet wipes, which along with the small packs I had, lasted just long enough.

Sophie (in a room of her own down the hall from us) was being bitten in the night by unknown creatures.  We are fervently hoping it was fleas, not bed bugs, and have a heap of laundry on the back porch that we are gradually HOT water washing as I speak just in case we brought any creatures back with us.  We’re baking the suitcases in Hefty bags in the sunshine, too, just in case.  On the bright side I only saw one spider and two cockroaches, so they must be doing some kind of critter control there.

Hotel Belayneh offers free pedicures  (if you're lucky enough to be traveling with Julianna!)

Hotel Belayneh offers free pedicures (if you’re lucky enough to be traveling with Julianna!)

The hotel’s proximity to the market, though absolutely delightful fun during the day, meant that the evenings were very noisy until 11PM or so, ramping up to a dull roar again by 6:30 or so in the morning.  One morning we had a very loud man singing at the top of his lungs, Ethiopian-church-style, right under our windows at 6 AM.

On the bright side, the Belayneh hotel has a very nice hot breakfast complete with fresh-squeezed orange juice, scrambled eggs, fresh bread, and the very best coffee we had in all of Ethiopia.  Breakfast for 6 of us was a total of $10USD– crazy affordable.  Always, Julianna scarfed down her eggs like lightening, as they tended to be the most familiar food we had all day.

Sambusas (Photocredit: My Somali Food)

In Harar there are many sambusa sellers.  Sambusas are little fried bread packets with lentils or potatoes inside, and cost only 1 birr each. 20 birr is $1USD, so they were a very affordable quick meal. Many that we bought were mildly seasoned, but one batch ended up being insanely spicy, leaving everyone but Lidya carefully picking everything green out before each bite.  Here’s a recipe for beef sambusas and another for lentil sambusas if you want to try making some yourself.  And here’s a fun video in Amharic showing how to make zilzil alecha, another Ethiopian dish.

One other fun food factoid about Harar:  the Teodros Hotel had been recommended as a good place to eat.  Once there, we found it to be only moderate.  But the very kind owner stopped at our table to chat with us, and when he heard Julianna wanted french fries, he sent one of his workers out on a fry hunt.  He ended up with potato chips (‘crisps’), not fries.  But we were very touched that he tried so hard to please us.

Goodness, this is getting long!  I will quit now and try to finish out our story in one more post.  Thanks for following along.  I’ve so much enjoyed hearing from all of you as I’ve shared this story.

Part 9: To Harar

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

During the three other times I’ve been to Ethiopia, I’d never ventured outside of Addis.  So this trip has been a completely different and interesting experience.  One of the cities I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, for a variety of reasons, is Harar, an ancient walled city in eastern Ethiopia.  It is actually one of the oldest cities in all of Africa.

After our trip to southern Ethiopia, we had one short night in Addis, then off we went to Harar.  The first hour or so of the 9 hour drive is on a brand new absolutely gorgeous freeway, just as nice as anything in America. No people, no cows, no goats walking on the road, no big trucks in oncoming lanes passing at the last minute. Heavenly.


After the freeway comes normal Ethiopian 2-lane highways complete with walking people, all sorts of animals, plus desert.  I suppose it is exactly what most people imagine when they think of Africa.  But let me tell you, it is really different from the cool, lush greenery in Addis and down south.


Here in the desert we saw tons of cactus, acacia trees, and even quite a few wild monkeys.  We threw a few old brown bananas to some of the monkeys and caused much screeching and running.

There are also camels, some domesticated and others who seem to be living out in the wild, including one camel napping in a relaxed fashion in the middle of the highway. Apparently being taller than most of the vehicles on the road can give you a superiority complex.


Supposedly there are also lions in this area, but happily we didn’t see any of those.  Sophie did see a hyena, however.

Once we made it through 4 hours of relative flat driving, we made our way up into the mountains, where the scenery is as beautiful as any I’ve seen anywhere.


Along with having vegetation different from Idaho mountains, it was also much more densely populated.  There were houses and little fields everywhere, which also meant that traffic on the roads never quit.  Always there was another slow-moving truck to pass, or a minibus intent on passing us.  It was utterly normal for drivers to take the exact center of the road as long as no one else seemed to be needing part of it, and many, many times I’d see oncoming traffic in our lane, passing someone. Then add in sheep, donkeys, and random children running out into the road– yikes.

Always it seemed to work out, usually because both our driver and the driver being passed slow down to let the passing car in.  And at least twice it was only the grace of God and the alertness of our driver that kept us from killing a silly child. It was much more nerve-wracking than normal mountain driving.  And sadly, getting through those mountains takes a good 3-4 hours– 4 in our case since our driver is the sensible type and says, “I think slower is better.”  (Hooray again for Dawit!)

We had a hotel reservation in Dire Dawa, a town an hour or so from Harar.   I’d done it to keep our stay in Harar shorter, since Harar hotels aren’t known to be all that great.  And that hotel was better than ours in Harar, by a long shot.  But it turned out to be quite a bit of extra driving, both to get to Dire Dawa, and to find our hotel there. The hotel is called the Selam Bluebird, and is at the edge of Millennium Park.

We got two rooms for the 6 of us, on two separate floors.  After the long drive, we opted to eat dinner in the hotel  restaurant, which was utterly empty.  Not a good sign. The serving lady found us difficult — we were slow to decide what to order– and she mildly chastised Lidya for not speaking better Amharic, which greatly irritated Sophie and me.  Lidya’s Amharic is coming back by leaps and bounds and she can express herself in Amharic remarkably well– truly a miracle considering she’s been surrounded only by English for 8 years.

We had reasonably ok Ethiopian food for dinner, plus french fries, which made Julianna very happy. She likes Ethiopian food ok (her fave: the injera) but overall she much prefers mom-cooked food.  Funny side note: the worst food on the whole trip according to all the girls was on the airplane.

Halfway through dinner, the power went out. At that point it was still light, so we finished our dinner, and then decided it might be a good idea to get settled into our rooms before it went fully dark.  Before going up, we asked at the desk for candles, and a few minutes after getting up to our rooms, they were delivered to us.  Not likely any hotel in the US would hand out such fire hazards to their guests.

Just about the time we were settled in to sleep, the power came back on– hooray for A/C!  The fan noise and the cool air made for a good night of sleep, even for Emily and Julianna and me who all shared one single bed.

Dire Dawa hotel

Breakfast was supposedly included with the room, so we went down half an hour before the end of breakfast time to find very slim pickings indeed– a few eggs, potatoes, and a dab of firfir.  An Ethiopian man coming in after us chastised them for the lack of food. When the worker asked if we wanted omelets, we happily accepted, only to get billed at the end of breakfast.  Apparently the omelets weren’t part of the free breakfast.

Ah well.  Off we went to Harar.  The drive was blessedly short- only about an hour.  We had reservations at Hotel Belayneh, which is at the edge of Old Town.  The old town is surrounded by a wall, with many gates and we were next to the Shoa Gate.

This hotel was by far the worst one on the trip which is pretty much what I expected.  The whole place was dirty, the bathrooms stunk, and we had water a couple hours a day max.  There were several good things though. First, it was a mere $45 a night for THREE rooms.  And even better, the rooms all had balconies, on which we sat for hours at a time watching the chaos in the marketplace just below.  The color!  The action!  The noise!

Harar Christian Market

It was ALMOST worth the dirt and the need to bucket-flush the toilet to have the fun of that view.

Harar Market

(Bucket-flushing, for the uninitiated, is when you fill the toilet tank with a bucket so that it will have enough water to flush. The water was brought into each bathroom by workers. Not ideal, but it works.)

In Harar we were blessed to spend some time with Lidya and Zeytuna’s extended family, who were utterly thrilled to see them.  Such a blessed time!

People recognized and welcomed Lidya and Zeytuna everywhere we went, it seemed.  And let me tell you, Ethiopian hospitality is amazing.  Always people want to feed you and offer you coffee, and make sure you’re sitting someplace comfortable.  We had friends of the family invite us into their homes, and perfect strangers in restaurants send people searching the streets for the french fries that Julianna craved.

One lovely family friend invited us for dinner and then when I complimented her shoes, she offered to give them to me. (I refused as graciously as I could, and barely talked her out of it.)  She served us dinner complete with gursha, an Ethiopian custom of hospitality that involves tucking (stuffing) choice bites of food into your guests’ mouths.  Yikes!  Such a foreign (and frankly uncomfy) tradition — and yet I loved the sweet heart behind it, and of course her obvious love for the girls.  Once again, proof that all our girls have people who love them on both sides of the world.