In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are traveling back to Ethiopia this year to bring home our 12th child. We have found God's ways are higher than our ways and true joy is found in following His plan!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Bit More San Francisco

Here are a few more shots of San Francisco. This was the view from our hotel downtown. It was only three blocks to Chinatown, so we headed there several times.
Here's the world famous Golden Gate Bridge, which does have a barely visible golden gate under it on one side.

We saw a lot of the city and surrounding area. Recognize this shot from the old TV show "Full House"?

I have always been interested in real estate; it must stem from my mother toting me around to open houses as a child. I started looking at their housing market. Check out these houses - nothing like a 3 bedroom, ONE bath little house for $525,000. Downtown, you couldn't even get a rundown town house for under 600,000. 

 Want to live in Sausalito? It's considered the Beverly Hills of San Francisco. These houses were wild. They are built on about four levels of the hill overlooking the Bay and Alcatraz. The top has a road behind them and the bottom has a road in front, but the middle layers seem to only to reachable by steep stairs or these elevators that run up the side of the mountain. Can you imagine moving? Or just buying a couch? Oh, and they cost about 10 million. (I'm yet to figure out what the tens of thousands of people do for a living that can afford the housing market there.)

 Our last day we headed out of the city to Muir Woods, a redwood forest. The pictures don't really portray the true grandeur of the place.
I really liked this quote from John Muir -

 We really enjoyed our time away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

San Francisco

We just returned from our trip to San Francisco last night. I feel about it much like I do New York City - nice place to visit, but I'd never want to live there. San Francisco is much more crowded and pricey than even San Diego. I was especially impressed with the fee of $57 a day to park a car at the hotel!

The city was beautiful and we really enjoyed seeing as much of it as our time allowed.  

Not a bad picture for a phone!

Nice of this gull to land for the photo
The reason we went was for the commissioning of the new amphibious landing, helicopter attack ship, the USS AMERICA.  I had never attended a commissioning before this one and it is a really big deal. The AMERICA is home to 1,000 Sailors and can also accommodate an additional 1,700 Marines. It is impressive to say the least.

 We attended some functions there that were work related for JD.

 Two of them were rather formal.

We covered many tourist spots in San Francisco, but my favorite was Alcatraz. We had to get up at 4 a.m. to be in line by 5 a.m. to get one of the only 100 available same-day tickets; otherwise they are sold out weeks in advance.  It was an awesome tour and has some fascinating history. It actually has an interesting history as a war post in the Civil War and military prison before it was converted to a federal maximum security prison.

Another interesting piece of information is that the American Indians claimed it in 1971 as "their" land. President Nixon allowed them to remain in possession of the island for about 19 months until they burnt down the warden's house and the light-house that was still in use. Why they would want to live in an old prison with no plumbing, water or electricity is beyond me, but the marks from their time is still there. 

We did an extensive audio tour that even walked through the few attempted escapes, including one successful one until they probably drowned trying to swim the bay. 

This is the closest that I want to experience a prison!

Especially the solitary cells in the dark!

 A few more sights tomorrow -

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last New

 Against all odds, I am heading out tomorrow for a new city that I've never been to - San Francisco. It literally seems that if I plan to leave my clan, I am asking for exceptional drama. This week has plagued our family with a serious child challenge and we are just praying our way through. I heard someone talk one time on how easy it is for people to begin well and how hard it is to end well. No one walks down the aisle to get married thinking of divorce court. No one holds a tiny new baby at the hospital and imagines conflict with that child that breaks communication with the family. Adoption is also full of hope, but the reality of day to day parenting children that suffered serious neglect and abuse years before they became your child often takes a toll. I have been deep in testing and therapy to try and find hope for situations that appear quite dim to me in the hours that I'm tired and weak. For me, the lowest moments are when I start to lose hope; hope is a powerful emotion.

So, tomorrow I leave the craziness behind physically, but can not escape emotionally. I pray to return Monday with renewed vigor, ideas and hope. If you think to pray for the crew while I am away, I am quite sure that my sister would appreciate it!

I'll plan a blog post in San Francisco. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The New 7 Year Old

 Another new at our house is a new 7 year old; Selah's birthday was yesterday. Since it was a school day, I took cup-cakes to her class.

Selah up front while everyone sang Happy Birthday
 I let Selah pass them out to her friends.

She enjoyed herself. 
Since cup-cakes were consumed in the afternoon, we concluded the day by ordering pizza, make sundaes and, of course, present time.

We all kind of felt like it was our birthday because Gabriel sent a box of presents from Japan.  I'm as happy with my coat as Elijah is with his Ninja accessories. 

 We are only a month away from the two year anniversary of Selah and Bella coming home!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Two News

We have had such a high rate of new around here that I'm struggling for the blog to keep up. My first new is -  Guess who has joined the working, tax-payers of America? MORIAH! Moriah has always been a huge fan of Sheetz food, so now she is in the kitchen creating all that food she has eaten for years. We have known the Sheetz manager and much of the staff for several years (from many more food purchases that I'm willing to admit) and am thankful Moriah was able to be hired. Jobs for teens are in short supply in our rural county! She is in training now, so has been there everyday, but it will settle into a routine that should allow her to work and finish homeschooling high school comfortably.
Moriah - first day after working

My second new is the arrival of our future stud goat, Vinny. Vinny is short for Vincent Van Goat and he made the trip from a farm in Missouri. We have had a bit of donkey drama, because Chewy didn't take to him when he followed James into the fence and ran over his leg. It isn't broken, but he is limping and we have him separated from even the other goats. He isn't minding all the kid attention while he heals. He will grow into a stinky male goat, but for now he sure is cute and sweet.

I'm going to continue with my new post tomorrow, but now I'm off to take cup-cakes to a new 7 year old!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

James and the Animals

Today is James' 14th birthday - it's hard to believe. While he will get some more blog coverage when we host his party, I will say that he is very good with children and animals. (And he is our dead animal picker-upper - a very important role on a farm! When someone comes to the house and announces that there is a dead chicken, James just heads for the plastic bags.)

James is featured here with our new dog - a two year old collie, named Fiona. You may remember that I went the guard donkey route to avoid getting a 4th dog, but when JD returned the borrowed horse trailer to our friends that needed to re-home Fiona to a farm, he kind of fell for her. The irony hasn't escaped me that it was the day after I bought the donkey! I have fallen for her this week that we took her on "trial" as well; she is a really sweet dog that is excellent with the kids, the other dogs, the cats, the goats and even the chickens. She lived with sheep before us, so she takes her farm patrolling pretty seriously. 

She is very frightened of the camera (the only thing I have seen her afraid of...). I can't get a good picture, because she tucks her tail between her legs and slinks off when she sees it. So, I snapped this one before she awoke. 

While I'm chatting animals - remember the litter of the four feral kitties I rescued? I re-homed three that are all doing well. The 4th was so mean that I didn't even try. Elijah named him Sher Khan after the mean tiger on The Jungle Book. Once we released him in the barn (he actually turned out to be a her, but I refuse to change my habit of thinking she's a he), I was pretty sure no one would ever pet him again. Boy was I wrong, James continued to call him and pet him a few times a day and he tamed into a really sweet kitty. Then one day, he showed up in the screened in porch and hasn't left in a few weeks. He likes to be with the people. I guess I'm going to have to buy him some little igloo bed because he is NOT moving in the house come winter. 

He is served food with a view on the railing where the dogs can't snack on it. 

Lastly, I will tell my baby goat story. The long story in short form is that Leia was never even pregnant; she just got fat from her pregnancy diet that we started her on after the breeding. It was plenty disappointing, and rather embarrassing when so many people were waiting for the baby goats to make their appearance. The obvious thing to do would be to re-breed her, but my goat source moved to the mid-west. There doesn't appear to be any other Nigerian goat farms that breed to outside goats, so I don't have much choice but to purchase my own stud goat. I have not completely decided which goat I will purchase (their prices vary a lot on paperwork). Either goat I decide is just a baby now, but will grow into a stinky stud goat soon enough. I am purchasing from a farm in MO and the goat will make the trip to VA in about a week. His name is not yet decided since we have a split about continuing with the Star Wars theme amongst our goats. (Thank goodness we didn't have to name Fiona! We are still battling the donkey Jake vs. Chewy nonsense).

Lots of animal fun around here lately!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Birthday and Baby News

 So, the new pets are awaiting their post in order to bring much more important news! Yesterday, JD had a major birthday - one of those birthdays that change your decade. I won't say what it is, other than I am in my forties and he isn't anymore. He is blessed to look younger than his years and still doesn't have any grey hair.

 Today we got the exciting news that the grand-baby on the way is.... a sweet little boy. It's really the pattern of JD's family - a baby boy comes first followed by a few girls. We had taken a family tally of who thought what and Elijah was pretty impressed to be on the winning side and find out that it's a boy. He will enjoy having a boy added to the minority in the family. 

Now all we want is for the baby and his parents to move to the east coast!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bulk Food

 I have a lot I'd like to blog about, but little time to do so! We have a new pet that arrived yesterday and another on his way from Missouri next week - they will have to be their own blog entry.

I performed my fall ritual of making sure the pantry is cleaned out and all food is in Rubbermaids, so the mice won't try to move in for the winter. 

Can you believe one pantry can create this mess?
This doesn't look like one of those visually appealing pantries from the decorating blogs I like to read, but it is clean, organized and labeled!

We made an Amish run for hay yesterday. I actually bought horse feed (for the donkey), chicken feed and two kinds of hay but totally forgot the goat feed. I just can't remember everything no matter what. 

I got a bonus surprise when I got to the feed store because apples were in. For some reason, the Amish apples are sold at the feed store, not the Amish grocery store or Amish flee market - I don't get it but it's a well kept secret that I'm thankful to be in on. Other than bulk apples, we got 50 pound bags of wheat, flour and sugar. I even buy those huge cheese logs that Walmart slices off of - the Amish just sell the whole log for a fraction of the deli price. 

It sure got hot the last few days and needs to feel more like fall before I feel like cooking apples for hours or laying fall grass seed. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

To the Moon (or Ethiopia) -

 We have always liked the quote from the child's book that says "I love you to the moon and back down". (At the moment, I can't even remember what the book is.) While we say moon... in reality, I loved you two enough to go to Ethiopia and back.... twice.

I want to show you a highlight of Ethiopia - this is the major intersection downtown that we drove through several times each trip. (You won't regret the 1.5 minute watch!)