Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from Wades Plus One!

Nico was not a fan of Santa last year and the same is true this year; however, she did settle on asking Santa to have Tinkerbell come to her house instead. She asked Tinkerbell for 3 very special presents: a new baby doll, some books to read, and a Peppa Pig toy. We'll see if Tink pulled through tomorrow morning!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy 41st, Jason!

We had some very late night/early morning birthday fun to celebrate Jason's birthday in our own jet lagged way. We love and adore this man so much and are so glad he's ours! Happy 41st! 

Hong Kong

We're back from Hong Kong. We had a great time and had good weather with the exception of the first couple of days. While Jason went to the watch show and did his thing, Nico and I went out on big explorations almost every day. We rode taxis, the mtr, cable cars, ferries, double-deckers buses, trams, trolleys, the observation wheel... Pretty much every mode of transportation available in Hong Kong. She definitely liked the taxi cabs the best. Below are our collage pictures from most of the days. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Little fish

Today was Nico's last swim lesson of the season. She's had a wonderful time all summer with her teacher Miss Rachel. She's learned lots of new skills (including using her arms to propel herself instead of just kicking) and is 100% confident in the water. Today she PASSED the swimming test at the community center pool! She had to jump in by herself and swim the entire length of the pool without touching the walls and without anybody in the water to help her. That's our girl! She even got a special cupcake and rose to celebrate the end of swimming lessons. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Update letter from trip to Africa

I wanted to go ahead of post my update letter for everyone to read. I mailed it out to those who were able to financially support me, but that in no way excludes those of you who supported me with prayers, good thoughts, and by supporting Jason and Nico on the home front. So here's my letter, enjoy!

A little fun fact before you start reading --- I was in the air for 22,540 miles on this trip!
Dear Family and Friends,

Muli bwanji? Ndili bwino. Kaya inu? (How are you? I am well. And you?) Greetings again, this time I’m back in the States after three amazing weeks in Africa. I am still taking a bit of time to process what this journey has meant for me, but I can assure you every day of it was an amazing experience.

The first two weeks I was in Malawi for the mission trip. Our team of 12 got to know each other well! We had long and busy days of serving the people of Malawi in various capacities and at night time after a funny version of what the cook thought was “American” food and sort-of lukewarm showers (IF we had running water), we’d stay up late playing games and talking. I was quickly known as “Doc” since there was another Diana on the team, and I was even called “Mama Doc” a few times since I was the only mom on the team. I was also a good 10-11 years older than most of the team, so I’m just glad they didn’t start to call me “Grandma Doc!”

We spent our first full day there doing cultural immersion where we were paired up in teams and spent a day in the village of Mgwayi with a local family. The family I was paired up with had six children ranging in age from 2 to 17 years old. We helped the mother clean dishes, lay a new layer of mud on the kitchen floor, get water from the well, prepare dried maize, played with the village children, and helped prepare their night’s meal. All of the children loved for their picture to be taken and will politely ask for “one picture” about 105 times.

The focus on the VBS program that we put on for children with special needs and their caretakers was “God’s Big Story.” All of the skits, Bible teachings, and crafts related to how they are all a part of God’s larger story, how they are important to God, and how He can use their own stories to impact His kingdom. During the crafts portion of each session I took a group of caretakers outside for our meetings. We split the caretakers into different groups based on the villages they were from. The caretakers in my group consisted of mothers, grandmothers, siblings, and “aunties” and translators that work in the children’s homes. They used that time to share their stories, the issues that they face raising a child with a disability in their village, how they have seen God work in their lives, how their story can be a part of God’s larger story, and how they can help others in their village. At the end of our meetings they each commented on how they appreciated a bit of “adult” time and they enjoyed getting a chance to share their story but also hear each other’s stories. They said that they knew they struggled but they didn’t realize so many other people struggled too.

We spent one morning doing NiceServe at a local clinic. Our church in Orlando hosts NiceServe several times a year, where all the congregations join together to volunteer and serve in various locations around Orlando together as a group. For our time at the clinic, we swept, mopped, and cleaned from ceiling to floor. When you think of a clinic you might think of a place where people go for small issues, but this is the only medical care available for many. During our time there I saw a teenage girl go into an epileptic fit (she was also burned very badly on her arm and face where she had fallen into a fire during a previous fit), and children get tested for malaria. There was even a baby that was born while we were there.  This clinic gives out medicine for malaria, HIV, and epilepsy, in addition to treating the sick and delivering babies. I and several others had an opportunity to talk with the doctor there, and he said they see at least 300 people a day.

We also had a lot of fun with the children and their caretakers! One afternoon we treated them to some time at a local play place called “Fun City.” Think: trampolines, small carnival rides, inflatable bounce houses, and playground equipment all in the same outdoor space. The kids and their families had a blast! On the last afternoon on the VBS program we hosted a water day. There were thousands of water balloons that were popped, a large slip-n-slide, and fun water sponge and water squirter race games that were played. I opted to stay dry that afternoon and instead helped with the teacher training program that was also happening during our time.

The teacher training program was focused on cooperative learning strategies for primary and secondary teachers. Most of the teachers who attended were secondary teachers, since all secondary courses and university courses are taught in English. I was on the team that helped prepare the materials for this training before we left the US, and I was able to spend one afternoon as a part of this team. It was a great experience to get to see the teachers think of new ways to engage their students in learning.

On the Sunday we were there, we went to a church were we were asked to come up in front of the crowd of several hundred, introduce ourselves, and sing/dance to a worship song. We did learn a few songs in Chichewa while we were there but it’s still a bit nerve-wracking to attempt a song in a new language! Thankfully we had our translators with us and they were all amazing singers. My favorite songs that we learned were “Palibe (There’s no one like Jesus)” and “Ndiwoyera (You are holy).”

Most of the team also got the opportunity to spend a day touring a few Africa Windmill Project sites. This project was started by a member of our church after he went on a mission trip several years ago. Traditionally, Malawians produce one crop of maize a year. With Malawi’s high water tables, there’s not a reason they can’t produce more though, so the project seeks to train farmers on how to properly farm and irrigate their crops to produce more than one crop a year, and how to diversify their crop. Last year (2014) they had 150 farmers complete their training and this year there are 300 farmers going through the training. Many of the fields being used are community fields, so their new farming techniques can help to impact a whole village. One of the things the farmers are taught is how to properly budget their family’s food use throughout the year, and not to sell too much of their maize so that their own family doesn’t go hungry. They can sell their excess crop and reinvest in seed, etc. for the new season.

On our team-building day we went to Lake Malawi, in typical Malawian fashion, they told us it would take maaaybe 1-1.5 hours to get there but it actually took more like 2.5 hours! We had a fantastic time together though, walking on the beach, laying in the sand under shade huts, enjoying a fancy lunch, and taking a boat ride to a rock island. We were hoping to spot a hippopotamus or a crocodile, but no such luck. We all climbed to the top of the rock and it was a momentous occasion for one of the girls who is very afraid of heights. The girls cabin took a group shot from on top to commemorate this feat (below). It was also the first time one of the translators, Stephen, had a chance to see underwater using a mask. He peeked underwater several quick times and was amazed to see the beauty God had also created under the water. He said he thought it would just be all dark with no life. How wrong he was, and he was thrilled to have gotten a glimpse under the water.

On the last day there we hosted a special lunch for the children who are sponsored by team members. I invited a 12 year old boy named Lukasi, and even though I don’t sponsor him I was able to spend some special time with him and leave him with some toys and gifts. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child through Children of the Nations, please reach out and let me know – we met so many of the children from the three main villages they work with in Malawi, and sponsorship makes a huge impact.
The monkey hut (girls cabin)

Atop a rock island overlooking Lake Malawi

So yes, I acted (eep!), I sang (out loud!), I danced (in front of people!), I ate (still vegetarian!), and I had a fantastic time bonding with the wonderfully warm people of Malawi and my teammates. Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa and I can clearly see why. I was out of my comfort zone the whole time, but why else would I go to Africa?? I was ready for a challenge and gladly accepted this change of lifestyle to make an impact on some very special children and their caretakers. My mind has been spinning about figuring out at what age Nico would be up for this challenge. 

My caretaker group: Madalitso, Auntie Diana, Agness, me, Gladeysi, Rebecca (translator), and Pilirani. These ladies all made a large impact on me during my time in Malawi. 

Now, on to the last week of the trip! On the same day that the team was headed back to the States, I took an early flight down to Johannesburg, South Africa to meet up with Nicole. We spent a good part of the day touring around a hip neighborhood and eating too much food. That evening we took a flight out to Windhoek, Namibia to start our adventure! We stayed the first night in a backpackers lodge and were up bright and early to pick up our rental 4x4. Nicole was just learning how to drive a manual and I’m about 7 or so years out of practice, but we did a great job! Our truck was not only a 4x4: it was manual, it was diesel, it had a reserve tank, it was right-hand drive, AND we lived on top of it for a week! As adventurous as we fancied ourselves, a large number of the rental trucks we saw had tents on top of them too so we weren’t alone in our endeavor.

We spent the first 3 days driving around Etosha National Park. We saw giraffes, elephants, zebras, white rhinos, black rhinos, impalas, kudus, springboks, gemsboks, jackals, honey badgers, lions and lionesses, wildebeests, ostriches, baboons, warthogs, eagles, hyenas, klipspringers, and more! We did take one guided night drive since you’re not allowed to drive around the park at night. The highlights of that drive included hyenas, a male lion, a striped polecat, and 5 black rhinos.

The four pictures below: Our truck with the tent set up; First meal being cooked on our tiny gas stove; Gemsbok drinking at a watering hole; Black rhinos on the night drive (including a baby rhino)

After Etosha, we drove to the coastal town of Swakopmund for one night. We stayed at a backpackers lodge in a private room which provided some much needed shower relief and we enjoyed a nice meal out at the town’s fanciest restaurant. The rest of the trip consisted of driving further south to the dunes of Namibia. We hiked up Dune 40 at sunset and Dune 45 at sunrise the next day. We also hiked around Sossusvlei (Deadvlei… picture below) and Sesriem Canyon before heading to our last campsite of the trip. Nicole and I had a great time together celebrating the completion of both of our PhDs and catching up in general. She’ll be headed back to the DC area in about a month to start a postdoctoral fellowship with the EPA. Yay Nicole! (And for the record, we did actually have to use the 4L 4x4 gear to get out of high sand and navigate a water crossing. We’re tough!)

A huge and sincere thank you to everybody who supported me through donations and prayers. Your prayers were especially felt during travel days (no delays!) and on days that team members started to feel sick. At most, people were out for about a day at a time and no more than 1 or 2 people were ever sick at the same time. This allowed us to still run all the programs at capacity and not have to reschedule anything. A huge blessing!

Our next family adventure is coming soon! Jason and I are traveling to Hong Kong for the first time in four years and taking Nico along. She’s a pro at being flexible but we’ll see how she does on her first long-haul flight! 

For loads more pictures and goofy videos, check out the links posted on

Where exactly are Malawi and Namibia? Malawi is the light peach sliver towards the north of Mozambique and east of Zambia. The lake is much larger in person, and you can barely see to the other side. Namibia is just north of South Africa on the west coast of Africa.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pictures from Africa

Diana's back from Africa!

In a few days I will be sending out an update letter to those who supported me (thank you!!) In the meantime, take a look around my pictures!

Short (highlight) version of pictures on Snapfish

Full-length (no edits) version of pictures and videos


Monday, July 20, 2015

Today's the day!

I leave for my 3-week adventure in Africa today! Two weeks in Malawi with the mission trip, then one week adventuring with Nicole. Nicole and I are meeting up in Johannesburg then flying over to nearby Namibia. I'll be back August 10! I will have very limited, if any, access to Internet while I'm gone. If I post anything it will be on Instagram (dianakwade). See you soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Swimming a lap

This is Nico swimming a lap a couple of weeks ago, at 3 years and 2 months old. Hopefully after a few more lessons she'll be able to do the whole lap without anybody in the pool with her - and pass the community center swimming test!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer so far

Our summer has been filled with lots of play groups, swim lessons, neighborhood shenanigans, and fun all around!

It's less than 2 weeks until Diana leaves for Africa!! I'll be gone 20 July-10 August. Say a prayer for Jason and our moms that they survive 3 weeks with a 3 year old!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Six Years

I have this picture above my desk and look at it every day. It has held more meaning since Nico's birth and I often wonder if he loved me as much as Jason and I love Nico. (Impossible I presume, since we love her the most of course.)

This weekend marks six years exactly, as the dates line up this year. I'm on an emotional roller coaster but we got some nice reminders tonight of how beautiful life is, and of God's promise, with a nice sunset to the west and a full rainbow to the east. Rainbows after storms... Oh how we know that all too well. I miss you every day, Dad. Happy Father's Day.