Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TAFRU Update

Just a quick update regarding plans for TAFRU 2011 - Chicago.

First of all, I want to thank Meg DeZutti and Jeanne Okrasinski for volunteering their assistance in helping plan TAFRU 2011.  The three of us have been tossing around some ideas for TAFRU and as plans are confirmed I will be sharing them here.

Right now our priority is finding a hotel to accommodate our group.  I started contacting hotels back in September and quickly discovered two things.

1.  Hotels in Chicago book quickly.
2.  Hotels in downtown Chicago are pricey.

Okay, I knew that downtown Chicago hotels were pricey, but I was hoping I could find us an awesome group rate.   Unfortunately, that hasn't happened, so it was on to Plan B which appears to be working out much better as we have found a hotel out by O'Hare that can not only accommodate our group, but can do so for a good rate.  It is also a much better location for any family that happens to be flying in for the event as they provide shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.  Downtown Chicago hotels don't provide that service, so this is a huge bonus in my book.

As soon as we have the hotel confirmed, information will be posted and a link to the hotel provided so families can make their reservations.

In the meantime, I want to wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

What To See and Do in Chicago - #8

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co.

I'll admit, this is something I've yet to do on my visits to Chicago, but have wanted to do for a very long time.  Hopping on one of the Trolley's or Double Decker buses seems like a great way to see the city. 

You can choose from a variety of tours:

 - The Signature Tour covers 13 miles of Chicago's downtown and loop area.  It is a single day ticket that allows you to ride for the full two hours or hop off to do some sightseeing on your own and re-board later than same day to continue the tour.
 - Maybe you would rather see a smaller section of the city.  The North Neighborhood tour will take you to places like Millennium Park or Wrigley Field.  Or maybe you would be more interested in seeing Chinatown or stopping by Oprah's Store on the West Neighborhood tour.  Of course there is also the Museum of Science and Industry on the South Neighborhood tour.
 - If you're going to be in Chicago for a few days and want to take your time seeing all the sites, the Explore Chicago tour is probably what you need.  You can jump on the bus or trolley and take a ride to one of the museums, stop for some shopping or a nice lunch with friends or family.  You have 3 full days explore Chicago while sitting back and enjoying the scenic view of Chicago from one of the Trolley's or Double Decker buses.

For more information about the tours, visit the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. website here. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What to See and Do in Chicago - #7

Yes I'm way behind on posting about family fun things to do in Chicago.  First it was our family fun trip to California and then our family fun trip to Chicago.  Actually, the trip to Chicago was also about planning TAFRU, but I always love the opportunity to head into the city.  Still, my time away meant time away from a lot of things, including posting here.

Now onto more things to do in Chicago.

Chicago History Museum

I realize that not everyone is interested in history and even more are probably not interested in Chicago's history, but for you history buffs out there, this one may be worth the trip.

The museum takes care of, shows and interrupts over 22 million authentic pieces of Chicago and U.S. history in both permanent and temporary exhibits.

Permanent exhibits include - Chicago:  Crossroad of America, Sensing Chicago, The Dioramas, and Treasures.

Current temporary exhibits on display are - I Do!  Chicago Ties the Knot, My Chinatown, Lincoln at 200, and Lincoln Park Block by Block.

To see descriptions of these displays, click here

The museum also hold various events during the year such as tours, films, lectures and seminars.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #6

Chicago Children's Museum

When the Chicago public schools cut funding, the Jr. League of Chicago stepped up to the plate and in 1982 the Express-Ways Children's Museum was created.  Originally located in the Chicago Public Library, they moved to their current location at Navy Pier in 1995.  It has since become one of Chicago's top cultural attractions and the second most visited children's museum in the country. 

The Chicago Children's Museum in primarily for kids birth thru 5th grade, although older children and adults find the children's museum to be fun and entertaining as well.

For more information about exhibits, programs, hours and admission, please visit their website

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #5

Buckingham Fountain

Located at Columbus Dr. and Congress Pkwy., this is one of the largest fountains in the world.

For 20 minutes, every hour on the hour, beginning at 8 a.m. from April - October, the fountain begins its spectacular display as it shoots water 150 feet into the air accompanied by a music and light show. 

In my opinion, a must see when visiting Chicago.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #4

My plan was to post "What to See and Do In Chicago" on Mondays, but yesterday just wasn't a great day in our house and our Ethiopian princess hasn't been feeling well and needed a lot of cuddle time. However, it's now quiet so on to #4.

Brookfield Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. But that's not all you'll find at the Brookfield Zoo.

Tropic World will introduce you to the spider monkeys from South America or the white cheeked gibbons from Asia.

How about a visit to Great Bear Wilderness to see the Bald Eagle, Gray Wolf or Bison?

If you enjoy winged creatures you can visit the Butterfly exhibit, Perching Bird House or Feathers and Scales.

This is just a small sampling of the exhibits available at Brookfield Zoo.

Just a short drive from downtown Chicago or on Metra's Burlington Northern Line which stops just two blocks from the zoo.

There really is a lot to see and do at the Brookfield Zoo, so check out their website for more information.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #3

For those of you who like to be really active while seeing the sights, this one may be of interest.

Bike and Roll

How about a bike tour of Chicago. There are many to choose from.

- The Amazing Lakefront Bike Tour
- Friendly Neighborhoods Electric Bike Tour
- Chicago River and Parks Tour
- The Presidential Tour
- Bikes at Night Electric Bike Tour

You can rent adult bikes, children's bikes, pull behind kid trailers, hand cycles, tandem bikes, quadcycles, etc.

There are many locations throughout the Chicago area, so finding a bike rental location shouldn't be a problem.

For more information, visit Bike and Roll and get ready to ride.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #3

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don't care if I never get back
Let me root, root, root for the home team
If they don't win it's a shame
For it's one, two, three strikes you're out
At the old ballgame

Now that I have everyone singing along, let's talk baseball. And not just any baseball, but Chicago baseball.

Chicago Cubs

They started out in 1876 as the Chicago White Stockings and in 1902 the Chicago Daily News began referring to the team full of young players as the Cubs. In 1907 they won their first World Series and were the first team to win back to back World Series titles when they won again in 1908. While the Chicago Cubs have been in other World Series games, the title of World Series champion has eluded them since that time. However, that doesn't stop die-hard fans from flocking the stadium each and every year to watch the Cubbies and hope that next year will be the year!

The Chicago Cubs do have some magnificent history - Great players like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ron Santos; one of the most popular baseball parks ever, Wrigley Field; and announcers such as Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse.

Chicago White Sox

This team was also formally known as the Chicago White Stockings. That's correct, White Stockings was the original name of two professional baseball teams in Chicago. The White Stockings American League team eventually shortened their name to White Sox.

In 1906, the White Sox captured the American League crown as well as the World Series crown when they beat who else - the Cubs. Chicago baseball was the sport to watch from 1906 - 1908. However, the Sox didn't win another division championship until 1959 and waited another 26 before taking the title again. World Series champions also eluded the Sox, but they were finally able to claim that title when they beat the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series.

The history of the White Sox has had its ups and downs and I'm not just talking wins and losses. They have had players like Joe Jackson, Frank Thomas and Red Faber, but they have also had some turmoil, such as the charges filed against 8 members of the White Sox for fixing the World Series game in exchange for cash.

The White Sox play at U.S. Cellular field, which was formally known as Comiskey Park.

With two baseball teams that have been around since the late 1800's, there is certainly a lot more that could be written here. However, I'll let you click on the links and read about one or both of these beloved Chicago teams at your leisure. And if the opportunity arises, take a trip out to the ball park, have some peanuts, a hot dog, iced cold soda or beer and enjoy some Chicago baseball.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mark Your Calendars

Thanks to everyone who participated in choosing a date for TAFRU 2011-Chicago.

The winning date, with 42% of the votes, is July 15-17, 2011.

I hope you'll mark your calendar and plan some vacation time to attend TAFRU in Chicago next summer. Looking forward to a great turn-out next year!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

What to See and Do In Chicago - #2

First of all I want to make sure everyone understands that I haven't necessarily made visits to each of these places, but these are places I've heard of and/or have talked to people who have visited them. Also, these aren't places I'm suggesting we visit as a group during TAFRU. This information is being provided to those families who will be attending TAFRU and may choose to come a few days early and/or stay a few days after TAFRU for a little family vacation.

Now, onto Family Fun Things Part II


4000 feet of tunnels and mazes await you. There is no set time limit to work your way through Rainbow Tunnel, Blaze Maze, Spinning light tunnel and more. A good sense of direction, interactive games and informative narration will help you find your way through the Fun House.

While most guests will find this to be a thoroughly fun adventure, it is recommended that you contact the staff at Amazing Chicago Fun House to get more information on what to expect if you plan to visit with children under the age of 7 or those with special needs.

In the meantime, please feel free to visit their website here and if you've visited the Amazing Chicago Fun House, please feel free to provide more information in the comments section.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What to See and Do in Chicago - #1

I was having a difficult time deciding where to begin my posts on 'Family Fun Things To Do In Chicago" and finally decided to try listing them in alphabetical order. This will be a bit challenging, but hopefully fun and informative for everyone.

So, without further ado, here is my first entry.

Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum

The planetarium opened it's door in 1930 and was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere. Adler Planetarium has over 35,000 sq. feet of exhibits with three full-size planetarium theaters. It's located on Lake Shore Drive at the Museum Campus and I can tell you from experience that it is truly a 'Family Fun Things to Do' in the Windy City. For more information, visit their website here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A TAFRU Suggestion

One suggestion I was given after TAFRU - Portland, is that I spend some time sharing information about the city in which TAFRU will be taking place. The thought is that families who plan to travel from outside the area, may want to extend their visit either before or after TAFRU and the information provided could assist them in planning their family vacation. I think this is an excellent idea and I will be doing my best to provide information on Chicago and some of things that families may want to see or do while in the city. My biggest problem with this idea, however, is where to begin. There is just so much to see and do in Chicago. Regardless, starting next week I will be doing a weekly post on Family Fun Things to do in Chicago and will hopefully find plenty of things that your families would enjoy seeing and doing in the Windy City.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spreading the Word

While I believe word of TAFRU is spreading, I'm always looking for new ways to get the word out to other Toukoul adoptive families. One suggestion that was given to me is to have other Toukoul families post the link to the blog on their personal blog. If each blogger would post the link, it would be an awesome way to get the word out to families who may not have heard of TAFRU. If you have a blog, would you please post the link on your blog to help spread the word?


Friday, August 13, 2010

TAFRU 2010 Portland

Our first ever TAFRU was, in my opinion, a success. TAFRU is in place as a way to bring families together, who have adopted from Toukoul and to offer our children the opportunity to make connections and build friendships with other children from Toukoul. Families came together and children connected. That is why I consider TAFRU 2010 - Portland a success.

There are some pictures posted on the Toukoul Adoptive Families Facebook page for anyone who is interested in viewing them.

For those who attended the reunion, I would like your feedback. Everyone was given a short survey to complete. You can either complete the survey and mail it back to me or send me a quick email with your thoughts and suggestions. I really do value your input and it will help as I work on plans for TAFRU 2011 - Chicago.

And speaking of TAFRU 2011 - Chicago, I will be setting up some polls asking for everyone's input. The first poll will be selecting a date for TAFRU Chicago. I did get some feedback from a few people who were unable to attend TAFRU Portland because of conflicts around Ethiopian Heritage and Culture camps. It appears that many of these camps takes place around the end of July and/or beginning of August. While I know there is no way to find a date that works for everyone, I would like to find a date that works with the majority.

Also, I'm looking for some volunteers to help me in planning TAFRU 2011 - Chicago. Please leave a comment or shoot me an email if you are interested.

Lastly, I have changed the blog from private to public. This was a suggestion I received from a few people as well. Some were not able to access the blog and I also hope that making it public will allow more families to follow the blog closely for information and to provide input.

Feel free to leave me comments as TAFRU Chicago is planned.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One Week From Today - TAFRU Portland

After much planning and anticipation, TAFRU Portland is almost here.

We have 12 families registered to attend and while most are from Oregon, there are 4 families traveling from out-of-state. That's very exciting!!! Of course the most exciting part for me is seeing all our beautiful children together.

For those who are going to be at TAFRU Portland, we'll see you in one week.

For those who were not able to attend, we hope to see you next year at TAFRU Chicago.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

TAFRU Portland

While I'm very, very excited about our first ever TAFRU, we haven't had the response that we anticipated based on the polls and various responses received over the last year. I'm sure this has to do with the economy, the fact that the Oregon and Washington Toukoul families are already connected at various times throughout the year, and distance for those living further east and south of Oregon. Our family is traveling from Illinois and I must admit that there is some disappointment that our family won't be meeting more Toukoul families this year in Portland, but I'm excited beyond words that we are going to meet those attending this year.

Even with the lower than expected registrations, I have already begun some planning for TAFRU again next year. However, it will not be held in Portland, but instead we will be moving to the Chicago area. My hope is that moving closer to the Central and Eastern part of the U.S. will allow Toukoul families from those areas an opportunity to attend.

If there are still families that would like to attend TAFRU Portland this year, it's not too late to register. We just need to have all registrations by July 24th.

And for those families who could not travel for TAFRU Portland, I hope we meet next year at TAFRU Chicago.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some Reminders

You have until July 23rd to make your hotel reservations for TAFRU. If you make a reservation and need to cancel it, you also have until July 23rd to cancel without penalty. To make a reservation, click on the Doubletree photo listed in the right hand column of the blog page.

If anyone is having trouble accessing the registration form, please let me know. You can leave a comment here or email me at I'm happy to forward the registration form to you via email.

A final agenda will be emailed to all participants after July 12th.

Questions regarding TAFRU can be left in comments or you can also email them to me at the above email address.

I'm very excited about TAFRU and hope we have a great turn-out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Registration Form Problems

A couple people have had problems accessing the registration form linked in the May 17th post. I have tried another route and added the link to the right hand side of the blog page with directions. If anyone has trouble accessing this form, please let me know asap. Thanks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Registration Time

First of all, let me apologize for not getting the registration form out sooner. We had full intentions of having it out a couple weeks ago, but for various reasons we were unable to do so. Better late than never though!

Although you'll see this information on the registration form, I wanted to highlight and give some explanation on a few items.

As I'm sure all of you understand, putting on an event such as this costs money. The TAFRU committee has spent countless hours trying to create a reunion that will be fun for everyone and provide some education applicable to families with children from Ethiopia while keeping the cost as low as possible. With that said, I want to make sure everyone knows what is included in the registration fees.

- Appetizers, desserts and drinks at the Friday night Meet-n-Greet
- Entrance to the zoo Saturday
- Hair care workshop
- Dinner Saturday night
- Food and drinks at the farewell lunch Sunday afternoon

Any money that is left after paying all the reunion expenses will be donated to Ethiopian Orphan Relief.

We are offering the sale of TAFRU t-shirts. This is an optional purchase and anyone who buys a t-shirt is asked to wear it to our Saturday events. The t-shirts are blue, similar to the gates at Toukoul. We apologize for not offering t-shirts in infant and toddler sizes. In order to provide smaller size t-shirts, the printer would need to create another screen print in a smaller size and because the t-shirts would have been a separate order, they ended up costing more than the children and adult size t-shirts. We just didn't feel it would be cost effective at this time, but hope to have them available for future reunions. We hope everyone understands.

We are also creating an on-line TAFRU directory. If you are not planning to attend the reunion but would like your information added to the directory, please complete the appropriate areas on the registration form and send it in. The directory will only be sent to those who have requested their information be included.

The registration form needs to be printed, completed and mailed no later than July 12th. There is a late fee of $25 for any registration post marked after July 12th and we will also not be able to accept any t-shirt orders post marked after that date.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and we will address those questions here on the blog.


Click on Registration Form to print, complete and send in your registration for TAFRU 2010.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mom's and future mom's out there! Hope you've had a wonderful day of celebration!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Our goal is to have the registration form available to everyone within the next week so stay tuned.

We won't have a complete, detailed agenda by that time, but here are the plans as of now.

Friday Night
- Meet-n-Greet
Appetizers, Drinks and Dessert provided

- Breakfast with the Agencies
- Group trip to the Oregon Zoo in Portland
- Hair Care Workshop
- Dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant

- Farewell lunch at a local park

The plan now is for the reunion to begin Friday night at 5:00 p.m. and will end Sunday early afternoon. More detail will be provided at a later date.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wow - Long Time Without a Post

I didn't realize that the last post on this blog was March 8th. Sorry for the absence. However, there is a good reason. Just 5 days after the last post, I boarded a plane for Ethiopia where my husband and I were united with the most beautiful baby girl on the face of the earth. Yes, I am now mommy to an Ethiopian princess we have named Naomi. It was an amazing trip and we have been home just shy of 1 month and she is doing great!

So, that's my excuse. I am back though and the planning committee is hard at work. The registration form is being created as I write this and we will hopefully have the form and agenda posted here within the next week.

We have some good things planned and hope that everyone is happy and excited about attending TAFRU this August.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hair and Skin Care Workshop

Have you seen the Happy Girl Hair website?

The planning committee is very excited to announce that the one and only 'Joyful Mom' from the Happy Girl Hair website will be conducting a skin and hair care workshop during the reunion.

If you plan to attend the reunion, then make sure you attend this workshop and bring your skin and hair care questions with you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Need a Little Assistance

For those in the Portland area, the planning committee is requesting your assistance.

We are trying to plan an Ethiopian dinner for Saturday night and have been in contact with some of the Ethiopian restaurants in the Portland area. The problem we're having is finding a restaurant that can accommodate more than about 80 people. Based on the responses we've received regarding attendance, we anticipate having over 80 in attendance. All the restaurants have offered to cater a dinner for us, but we need to find a location that would accommodate a group of our size.

If anyone knows of a church or community center in the Portland area that may work for our group, please leave us a comment.

Thank you!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Reunion Plans

Although we haven't yet decided on exact locations for everything and don't have a completed agenda yet, I thought I'd share what we have planned for TAFRU.

Friday evening we will have a Meet-n-Greet. This will include food and drink for everyone in attendance.

Saturday morning - Breakfast with the agency representatives

Saturday morning/afternoon - Trip to the Oregon Zoo

Saturday evening - Ethiopian dinner

Sunday noon - Farewell lunch at a local park

We are also working on a hair and skin care class and/or Ethiopian cooking class for Saturday afternoon.

Our goal is to provide everyone ample opportunity to spend time with each other in fun and informal settings and to also provide some educational opportunities as well.

Also, we are looking into making t-shirts available for those participating in TAFRU this year. If we are able to come up with a TAFRU logo and can get a good price on t-shirts, we will provide the information at registration and ask that they be worn during the zoo trip on Saturday. Purchase will, however, be optional.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Updates and Info

I allowed the blog polls to go ahead and close, however, we are still collecting attendance information. Please feel free to leave a comment here or you can provide information to us on our Facebook page. If you haven't joined us on Facebook, click here.

So far we have 25 families planning to attend TAFRU and another 9 who may be attending. We would love to see that number grow, so please spread the word to other Toukoul families you know.

The planning committee is still working out the details for the reunion and hope to have some definite plans in place and the information posted here by the end of February. Our goal is to make this reunion as fun and informative as possible for everyone.

Now for some good news from our Toukoul families!

Jes and Mel have their Embassy date later this week. Unfortunately, they've hit some possible delays in getting back to Germany, but hopefully everything will work itself out quickly. (This is a private blog, but you can email Mel for an invite. Email address is next to the blog link in the right hand column.)

If you haven't visited Bushel and a Peck, please do so. This is one of our Toukoul families who have been waiting 4 years to complete their China adoption and they just returned home with a beautiful baby girl. Be sure to congratulate them.

The Theis family returned home earlier this month with their adorable little guy. (Another private blog, but you can email Jennifer for an invite. Email address listed next to the blog link in the right hand column.)

Also, check out Journey to Oliver. The Chambers family also traveled earlier this month and brought home their cutie patootie as well.

The Redick family is also home with their cute little guy. (Please email Kellyann for an invite to view the blog. Email address is next to the blog link in the right hand column.)

Check out Highchair Theology to see some pictures of a very cute little addition to the family.

And last, but not least my very own growing family is leaving in less than a month to bring home our baby girl. You can check us out at World of Weeks. (Email me for an invite to view the blog. Email address is next to the blog link in the right hand column.)

As always, if anyone else has good news to share, please leave a comment so we can celebrate with you.

Also, if anyone else has a blog that they would like to add to the blog list, please leave the blog address in the comments section and we'll get it added.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


So far, 19 have participated in the polls posted on the right hand column of the blog page. In an effort to get more participation in these polls, I have extended them for one more week. If you have not yet participated, please do so. The planning committee needs and values your input.

Thank you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Working on the Agenda

The planning committee has been in discussions about the plans and agenda for TAFRU over the past week. One thing that has been discussed is putting together an agency breakfast for Saturday morning. Some families will be traveling from outside the Portland area and have not had the opportunity to meet their agency representative and this would allow those families that opportunity.

Before we try to set anything up, we want to get a better idea of how many would truly be interested.

Also, we would like to get a better idea of how many are planning on attending TAFRU at this point. This will help us tremendously as we continue to make reunion plans.

Please take a minute to participate in the polls that have been set up on the right hand side of the blog page.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dossiers, Referrals, Court Dates, Pick Up Trips and TAFRU

I know there have been some good things happening with our Toukoul families over the last couple of months. If anyone has some good news to share please leave a comment.

Now that the Holidays are behind us, it will be time to get back to work on plans for TAFRU.

If you are planning to attend, but haven't made your hotel reservations, please do so. Just click on the picture of the hotel on the right hand side of the blog page to make your reservation. If you make a reservation and later discover you can't attend, you have until July 23rd to cancel the reservation without penalty. Making your reservation early will also assist the planning committee in determining if additional rooms are needed and we are more assured of being able to get them now.

Stay tuned for more information!