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!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Surrounding Thanksgiving

 I'll start by saying that we had a lovely Thanksgiving; Alyssa had a friend come from college a few hours away for the weekend, since we are much closer than her NY family. We also spent the evening with friends we are blessed to have in our lives.

There are just so many crazy events in our lives with all the kids and pets that we often cruise through things that I think may stop most "normal" people's day. The day before Thanksgiving, JD took our two indoor/outdoor cats to the vet. We suspected that Lucy was unhealthy and that one of them may have had ring-worm. After finding out that Lucy had a few medical issues and was approaching 10 years old, we elected to put her to sleep over the alternative treatment ideas. It was a bit too sudden, and the children really didn't have any preparation time. The next morning we buried her in our animal cemetery.

JD digs nice deep holes for animal burial sites
 The kids elected to fill in her grave by hand; it just helps us feel like we are respecting her life I think. I will buy a cement square that we paint the animal's name and dates on. 

JD helped finish; little Bella gave it all she had.

Since I only intended to do online Black Friday shopping, I announced that we could put our tree up on Friday. JD and the boys got it out of the box in the barn loft and brought it in to discover that Gus, our problem-barn-peeing cat, had peed on the tree. JD loaded it right back up and took it to the dump trailer. Moriah and I then headed into the crowd of shopping to snatch up a tree on half price special. It wasn't as good as 75% off after Christmas, but it was the best we could do. I decided on a 9 foot tree over the regular 7.5 foot of the past. We are going to donate our star to Alei for her new little tree and just get a big bow to put on the branch touching the ceiling.

The wise men followed the star, but Jesus was the gift to the world, so I think a bow will work nicely.

At least I like it better than our old tree since I was forced to buy one

Today we loaded the youngest seven in the van at 8:00 for a trip to pick up our newest surprise. More on that later.

Don't they look like 8 is too early to be on the road?
Hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving as well!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

This Week

 It's been a rather long week; JD was out of town and it seems the children's top priority was to argue. In all fairness, most of the arguing, tattling and complaining begins with the same young lady who is very grumpy when she wakes up. It seems, however, that it can be rather contagious and we can have hours of conflict before lunch. I am going to need a new plan for our mornings, as reminding her to be nice certainly isn't working.

There were several highlights this week and I realized how many of those often take place around the kitchen table. We have a dining room table that we stack the mail on, and then we still cram ourselves around the kitchen table to eat. We have a school table that we stack books on and the kids still compete to get a spot at the kitchen table.

The table highlights of the week was when I cleaned out the craft drawers and it inspired them all to paint. There were some talented creations that day -

Another day we dissected owl pellets. We did them at CC and I got to bring enough home that everyone could do another round. If you don't know what an owl pellet is, it is actually the regurgitated remains of whatever the owl ate and can not digest. It contains just the fur and bones and you can reconstruct the bones to identify what the owl ate - generally a mouse.

The biggest event of the week called us away from the table; it was James' drama presentation he has been practicing for all semester. He had a showing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; the kids and I attended today. (It was very disappointing to me that JD was out of town for the presentation!) He played a kid that didn't get involved in pirate affairs and he did a great job at his part. I am incredibly thankful that Alyssa got her license in time to cart him back and forth to practices for me! She helped with hair and makeup this year, since she was in California when try outs were held! 

James in the middle

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Before the Weekend, The Weekend....Since the Weekend - Moving Rooms

We had a quick overnight away with the five youngest children to PA to attend JD's nephew's wedding; he married such a sweet girl and we are so happy for them. We decided to leave the older crowd doing what they needed to do and just take the Tori and under crowd. The good news about that was that we all fit in one hotel room for the first time in years. (They also can all eat on the kid's menu, which was an added bonus.) Since Saturday was just driving and wedding all day, we stopped at Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA on the way home for some kid fun. It was Selah and Bella's first time there and coincided with their third year anniversary of joining our family, so we celebrated. The talking Hershey bar in the 4D movie even congratulated them.

The trip was in the middle of the great room rearrange. When Alei moved out, Moriah took her bedroom downstairs. Of course, after seven years it needed painting, so Alayna cleaned, filled holes and painted the room. After we got Moriah all moved down, she repeated the process in Moriah's old room. After three years of Elijah sharing a room with Selah and Bella, he got to move out into his own room. While I generally have a no character bedding rule, I bought him Star Wars bedding since he had been such a good sport for so many years.

The furniture was an accidental purchase about two years ago when I drove by it at a thrift store and thought it was a twin captains bed like I wanted for James. When JD picked it up for me, he informed me that it was a double. I sighed and stored it as a maybe for Elijah one day and proceeded to continue to shop for James. When we pulled it out of the barn loft, I barely remembered what it looked like and didn't have any idea what the pieces actually were. It was perfect with eight drawers under the bed along with the headboard bookcase. There are the two pieces along the wall that provides plenty of drawers, shelves and even a desk. I can't remember exactly, but I paid somewhere between $60 and $80 for the set; definitely my best furniture deal ever!

Elijah is very precise and wants me to help him make his bed perfectly each morning. Everything is so empty compared to the crowded room he moved out of; here's his closet - a few hanging clothes and cardboard Big Foot courtesy of the Sheetz manager.

The bed has a bonus built in "hide out" -

On the second night, Elijah invited some sisters for a camp out.

Alayna and Nathan are in Memphis visiting her mom and family for three weeks. When she returns, Alyssa is going to temporarily move into Elijah's room while Alayna moves into Alyssa's. Come January, everyone will be back in their permanent locations. Having Alayna and Nathan here is worth the room rearrange - I think even Alyssa would agree although she has been the one majorly inconvenienced the last few months.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Running Late

 So, while everyone else posts their cute kid pictures on 10-31 or at worst 11-01, I am slapping them up on 11-06-15 before I head out of town for the third weekend in five weeks! I wouldn't bother, other than we had one of our best costume years for Harvest Party, so I want to remember them.

I dressed my three little people as minions. My plan was to buy overalls at a thrift store, but after trying about eight stores in two states, there seems to be some national conspiracy to rid our country of the 1980's overall phenomenon. Instead, I purchased suspenders and painted their shirts.

They are very "miniony" - wouldn't you agree?

Tori wanted to be a lumber-jack. She wanted to paint Mooster blue and haul her along as Paul Bunyan's blue ox, but that was a bit too impractical.

Julia was Dr. Julia, ER doctor -

 The big kids really got into it this year. Moriah and Alayna were loofas -

And Alyssa and her friend Jordan were Peter Pan and Peter Pan's shadow - yes, Alyssa is the shadow. She really enjoyed herself.

And the littlest cutie of all was Nathan as a sock monkey -

Hope they don't expect this much effort again next year; it'll be back to the usual "pick something from the costume box!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Alei's House

 I have not posted before that Alei and I have been house hunting for her, for months. She is in her third year of college online with Liberty University and has been working full time for CVS. Several months ago, they made her manager of her own store almost an hour away. She has always come across older than her actual 21 years of age, but she is still very, very young to have worked her way to having her "own" store. One day I pointed out to her how much cheaper mortgages often are over paying rent and her quest to be a home owner began. The county she bought in is one between where we live and where she works, but the prices are much lower than anything you can find once you cross the county line where we live.

We looked at some doozey houses, including an 1800's school turned house (and probably a meth lab...). We had many fun adventures as we pre-screened all homes before we bothered the realtor with driving out. We visited the neighborhood that she ended up buying in to look at another house. This house was sitting at the end of the road looking much nicer than anything we had ever looked at. I told her that I was going to grab one of those little papers out of the realtor info. box. She said, "don't bother, it's out of my price range". She was right, but the paper got left in the car.

Not too many days later, we came back to the paper. Considering the work that the other homes was going to require, we reconsidered increasing her price range. In the beginning of our search, I assumed that we would have to co-sign anything she bought due to her age. It turned out, however, that she qualified all on her own, due how long she had been with CVS and her recent promotion.

So, without further ado - here is Alei standing in front of her new home -

This is Alei and I at closing, with the super helpful finance lady that we adored!

The house had all new paint and carpet, but Alei couldn't take the yellow that was in her bedroom; so we did a late night paint party to turn that yellow into grey.

The next two days after that we moved her in. She was super blessed with loaner living room furniture for the next three years by friends that moved to Japan, and we bought her a cute little table and chairs on our local version of Craigslist for $20.

It looks like Elijah is watching TV, but don't be fooled - she doesn't own a TV and is yet to even get internet!
The house is very open and cute; it also has an awesome deck and fish pond. We laugh that at 9:00 every night, the neighborhood goes dark. I'm pretty sure everyone, other than Alei and the super-size family next door, is retired!

Friday, October 23, 2015

To Maine and Back (and Why I Had to Fire my Travel Agent)

 JD and I had a weekend get away in Maine. He had to work there Monday and Tuesday, so we flew up early Friday morning to have three full days.  We attended the Navy Ball on Saturday night, and while it was nice, it wasn't nearly as awesome as the fall leaves in their prime or the LL Bean outlet shopping! On Sunday, we drove up to Acadia National Park; although I had never heard of it, I can see why it makes it to many people's bucket lists.

We stopped at the above little coffee roaster shop on the way. Pretty much any time JD sees anything that says "coffee", he pulls into the parking lot. The shop was really cool and the college girl working even showed us the back room where they divide and roast the 150 pound bags that come in from all over the world. Honestly, that business would suit JD just fine, as he already roasts his own coffee beans.

We stopped at the below photo for lunch. I was amazed how Maine seems to keep the mom and pop stores open because they severely limit the big box stores. All the old downtowns had thriving businesses while I feel like we are accustomed to them drying up around Virginia.

The rest of these pictures are from Acadia. Since they are just taken with my phone, I don't thing they are prize winning or anything, but you can see how beautiful the area is.

I kind of entertained myself taking pictures of JD taking pictures more than taking the pictures myself - he did that for me.

The plan was that I would return Monday morning bright and early to resume my very demanding Monday and Tuesday obligations, and JD would return Tuesday night after working two days. While we were eating lunch on Saturday, I told him that I didn't have a copy of my flight schedule. He got on his phone to forward it to me and I could tell something wasn't right since he kept looking at the phone then back up at me. After a few minutes, he told me that he wasn't sure what happened, but I was booked for his flight time on Tuesday night. At that point, he didn't remember if he had done the reservation online or if the airline lady on the phone made the mistake. Once we got back to the room, we spent a good bit of time trying to swap flights, but it was not to be without purchasing another ticket.

So, after about four hours of additional phone time, I had my responsibilities covered for the most part. The big girls accused JD of doing it on purpose, but I know he didn't. He is, however, fired for the time being as my travel agent, but I'll keep him as a husband and travel partner.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Weekends and the In Between

 It has been such a blessing having Alayna and Nathan here. When people say to me that she must appreciate the help with the baby, I reflect on how much help she is with all my small children. She has also become a common taxi driver. Nathan doesn't love car rides, so he and I happily hang out at home while she shuffles various children around town. At this point, James and Elijah are doing mixed martial arts three nights a week, the girls have gymnastics one and the small guys have to be picked up in the middle of Tuesdays while I remain at CC. We also try to hit homeschool PE one to two times per week at the Y.

Alayna and I both got a break from the routine and went to my church's women retreat in the mountains over the weekend. While Nathan didn't relish the three hour drive, he enjoyed all the attention a squishy, smiley baby brings in a large group of women. Here's a shot of him at the Hawaiian party examining the Hula hoops. 

Every six weeks, we have a Tuesday off from CC. I used this one to take Selah and Bella to Richmond to follow up with the Dr. they have seen since arriving in America. The hospital provided some fun crafts for our more lengthy than usual wait.

Alyssa is working to complete her driver's ed. hours, so she never turns down a long trip that she can drive!

On Selah's recent birthday (oops, still need to write that post), I took the girls shopping for clothes and shoes. Elijah was sad that he wasn't included. I told him that he could accompany me on my next shopping excursion. While the hospital run wasn't shopping, he was still disappointed that he couldn't go. So, he and I went on a "date" when I got home. We bought some JUNK cool stuff at the dollar store and then went to Sheetz for fried food, soda and ice cream. We enjoyed dining in and making this awesome lion puppet while we were there. He was a happy boy once again. It really is nice to have a conversation with just one child sometimes without three more interrupting

On the heels of JD working 6-7 long days per week for the last two months, we are heading to Maine for the weekend. I'll post on that next week along with the missed birthdays.