OUR PLANS MULTIPLIED

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, July 26, 2014

Finished

 The screened in porch is finished and it looks wonderful. Our friend that did the job was very detail oriented and the ceiling is beautiful; behind that small wall is a flat ceiling with recessed lights.    

  
JD pulled some furniture back in, but now I get to rearrange and decorate. I am starting with recovering the white cushions on the big chairs.

  
While we like the old bench, I think to be practical it is going to move out to make room for a second table. I'm at least going to try it. 


I am forcing myself to get a chuck of my homeschooling ordering done before I get too distracted decorating.
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Food and More

 I feel like food and more sums up my life - making three meals a day takes an enormous amount of my time. Saturday I took Tori and Julia grocery shopping and then enlisted help to make several items. Selah and Bella helped with the bread, cinnamon rolls and cookies. 

Grinding wheat

More wheat
Cookies
 Once the baking was done, I moved on to dinner for Saturday night and quiche for Sunday lunch.   


In the middle of that, I had to get the cucumbers pickled. The Saturday bunch was very fast using a speedy mix from Walmart.


Sunday and Monday I did a slow lime batch. It will be interesting to compare the difference. 


Beyond food, we are trying to control the chickens and keep them out of the garden and tame the kittens. I am thrilled to say that Tiger, the sweetest one, has a home at my friend's house. Beyond that, the next two are taming well. This picture is Olaf, who was the wildest of the first three and is now meowing for attention.

Olaf
 As a sneak peak for a future post - check out the screened in porch's ceiling. Isn't it pretty?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

One Short of a Dozen

 I am grieving at this point the reality that our 12th child, Brooke, will probably never legally be a member of our family. The red tape issues with her adoption do not look hopeful as Ethiopia struggles to process even the "easy" adoption cases. While I am leery of teenager adoptions for very good reasons, we really believe that she would have integrated well into our family. The sad part is how desperately she hoped to join Bella and have a family of her own. At this point, our only option is to see how we can move forward helping her in Ethiopia. 

I'm not supposed to show pictures of children that we are in the midst of adopting, but that isn't even our case, so I want to show everyone a picture of Brooke. She is featured with another little girl, Hannah, that is also STUCK and un-adoptable due to some laws in Ethiopia that desperately need to be changed. 

I would have adopted Hannah long ago also if it were possible - we fell in love with her our first trip to Ethiopia in June of 2012. She was 6 and Brooke was 12 - now they are 8 and 14! Wasted years that they could have lived in our family!
 
Brooke and Hannah

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Busy Days

 I have packed this week full of events - I thought I'd show you just today's. We started this morning with swim team pictures at 9:00. There were two practices before and after pictures that we skipped to make it to Richmond on time. 

  
The little guys did well considering they were seated in the itchy grass while they lined up all the big kids. Selah and Elijah were fortunate enough to hold the eel's tail. 

  
We changed at swim team and headed straight to Richmond to meet with Wendy and her children. We had 15 kids between us this visit and it was fun as always.


 Since I didn't grow cucumbers this year, Wendy brought me some. (I have enough to share or I'm going to be making lots of pickles.)

  
We had to leave Richmond promptly at 2:00 to make it to an appointment back in "town" 30 miles from where we live. While Moriah was in her appointment, the rest of us walked over to the river to hang out.


I decided to not worry about the clothes and the girl's nice leather sandals. They did pretty well; no one fell in as I assumed would happen. 

  
Ben attempted fishing with found items and James and the girls collected several smelly shells. 


We made it back home 9.5 hours after leaving. My first recommendation was for the children to hold the kittens and watch TV.....after 9.5 hours of straight dialog and noise, some quiet TV watching is just what the momma needs!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

House, Farm and Kitten Update

 The lazy days of summer don't allow for much laziness since I have every age bracket of swimmers in swim team. My first shift starts at the pool at 7 a.m. and the last finishes at 10:30 every day. On swim meet nights, we are back around 5:00 and often don't finish until 10:30. What is rather humorous is that my three Liberian children are awesome swimmers in spite of the reality that the entire country of Liberia never swims. I'm telling you, Liberia could take the Olympics if they tapped into their natural swimming ability. In spite of our time at the pool, we are accomplishing some other things around the house and farm. 

After bringing home the three half-feral kittens, the old man called me with a fourth. The fourth is mean and is slotted for a life as a barn cat. The other three have made some good progress but I'm still not sure about any of them being that great of pets, but time will tell. Julia sure has been great at holding them everyday. I am anxious to get them fixed and make arrangements for them because they are too big, too messy and too stinky to continue to live in a dog kennel in the basement! 

Julia and little Mia
Selah with the tamest kitty - Jasper or Tiger depending on who you ask

The first three
 I am super excited that the goat fence is electrified now and the goats have the run of the entire pasture. It turned out to be a pretty big job because new insulators needed to be run. A friend from church completed the job and I am thrilled to see them grazing all day long. We have enough room to get a milk cow now, but the grass is still poor quality and I'm rather intimidated to add cow milking to my daily to-do list!


Since our friend still needed work and our to-do list is a mile long, he took over where JD left off on the porch about two years ago. He put in the wainscoting a few days ago. Next JD is going to wire for flood lights to the back yard and then our friend will resume painting and trim work on the ceiling. 


Yesterday and today, he laid the tile in the porch; tomorrow it will be grouted. It is so nice to have the pile of tiles cleared from my kitchen corner and be able to put the furniture back where it was before the tile piles. Beyond that, the area seems huge without the scaffolding and tools that have lived back there for the last two years. The finished plan is to have two tables for eating in the porch along with the two chairs we bought for the porch. It's been such a long wait that I need to recover the chairs already.



 JD is still building the chicken enclosure. There were two white roosters eating my garden, so I gave them away on Craigslist. Since then, the garden scene has been fairly peaceful until today when the guineas ransacked my garden. They ate all the zucchinis and several tomatoes. They are also trampling the plants. Since they aren't going to live in the chicken enclosure, we have now ordered an electric fence to surround the garden. If that doesn't work, they are going on Craigslist. Rest assured, they would have left a long time ago if they weren't so awesome at keeping our tick population down!


  
The enclosure has now been nicknamed  "the chicken mansion". I don't think a finer chicken home is to be found in our county and I can't wait to see them behind bars contained in it instead of being everywhere they shouldn't be!  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our First Family Reunion with JD's Family

We have traveled to Washington, Pennsylvania for our entire marriage as a central rendezvous point for family events with JD's family. With the passing of his Mom this last May 1st, he was worried if her five children's families did not intentionally plan to meet, they would rarely see each other. JD proposed an annual family reunion at our home since we are kind of the midway point and all of the sisters agreed. While half knew they would not be able to make this first reunion, he was not dissuaded from hosting the inaugural event this last weekend. They chose the first weekend in July to honor the date his parents were married, on July 2, 1947. His oldest sister Marilyn and her husband Lee were the only ones who could make it. Another sister planned to, but at the last minute had to attend to a family health matter. While we regret that everyone could not make it, and we understand it was a quick turnaround from our all being together just two months earlier, we do not want to short change those who came to celebrate this first reunion (tee-shirts were only available for attendees).

That said, we had a great time with Marilyn and Lee! Besides just spending a lot of time relaxing, talking and playing with the kids, we did some inaugural reunion event kind of things. Initially, we were not going to go see fireworks, but we were invited to a family friend's private fireworks display. I know it would be natural to hear banjo music playing in the background right now, since we do live in the country, but this was a really nice display and they set off some mortars with reports and Disney World-esqe fire works which anyone would be proud to see.



Then, on Saturday, since the weather was gorgeous, we visited George Washington's birth place, at Pope's Creek, Virginia. It's quite the blessing to have such a plethora of American History near for  family entertainment.

Pope's Creek

The House
Carpentry Shop
Elijah and Moriah
The official family picture
8 of the dozen kids
On our way back from President Washington's birth place, we stopped at a nearby farm which allows the picking of all kinds of berries. They also have a phenomenal soft serve ice cream store which hosts an excellent strawberry shortcake. Now that could become a permanent tradition for sure.


Selah and Bella's 2nd 4th of July
 So, while JD does not want to rub it in the faces of his non-participating sisters about how much they missed, he hopes chronicling this first reunion  on this blog (which they all read) will help them plan to attend next year.

(Written by guest author: Mark Phleagher (Pseudonym) - It's JD.)

On a side note from Jenny, things went very smoothly while Marilyn and Lee visited, but once they headed out from the berry farm to hit the road for their next vacation spot, we left Moriah with the three little ones on the playground while we hiked down to pick some blackberries. Five minutes into our picking, Moriah calls to tell us that Selah fell, hit her mouth and they were in a blood-bath. Sure enough, we made it back to see Selah and Moriah covered in dried blood and Selah's mouth still bleeding. Even today, her lips are still very swollen and her front tooth is very lose and starts bleeding if she eats or brushes her teeth. We will see soon enough if it tightens back up or not - thankfully it's just a baby tooth (with a very expensive cap)!

Selah pushing Bella and Elijah - not how she got hurt.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Heartbreaking - So Heartbreaking

Yesterday I was sitting in the Lowe's parking lot when I saw a friend post on Facebook about losing her friend, Jenny. I clicked on the link and it took my breathe away in horror. I too knew Jenny from the adoption Blogger world. She adopted four little girls from the same agency that my little Liberians are adopted from. She then went on to adopt three Liberian siblings from a disruption based on their medical needs; one had consumed lye in Liberia (that looks like water, but burns out the esophagus tract) and she has had countless surgeries. Then back a few years ago, when Alei served in Uganda, Alei met a little girl named Esther that had serious seizures. Jenny and her husband went on to adopt Esther. Jenny and Brad have 15 children, many, many with special needs. Jenny tragically died in a car accident a few days ago. I know that I am not the only one desperately trying to understand God's plan for 15 young children to lose their mother and for her husband to be left to try to cope with his own pain and to also guide their children through such a horrible loss. For many of their Liberian children, this the second mother that they have lost. Please pray for Brad and the children; I can't even fathom they pain they must be dealing with!


https://sites.google.com/a/windandfire.org/jennygroothuis/

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Doggies and Kitties


 I booked our three dogs at the low-cost vet clinic on Friday - the name should be lower cost because my bill was still over $300 for basic shots and heartworm checks. Since they ran labs on all three of the dogs, they asked us to wait the 15 minutes over in the adjourning animal control adoption center.

The drive home Moriah selfie

Moriah and I were sitting there with the dogs, admiring all the cats that need families, when an old farmer came in with a little carrier containing three kittens. He told the lady that he needed to release the kittens to her. The lady informed him that they were completely full and not able to take them. She started talking to him about his options - like giving them away on Craigslist. The poor man looked so discouraged and replied that he didn't have any internet access. He then told her that he didn't know what he was going to do with the kittens, but they couldn't go back to his house because there were still three more to catch. The softie in me looked at Moriah and asked, "do you think I should take them?" She said yes. I walked up to him and told him that I had internet access, as well as knew an agency that would help get them spayed or neutered, and I would be happy to take them and try to find them families. He thanked me and told me that he was going to head home to shoot them, but he really hated to do it. At that point, I gave him my cell number and told him that I would come pick up the other three if he could catch them. 

They aren't feral but they aren't tame either. We are holding them against their wishes in hopes of taming them up. I will attempt to provide homes for any that tame and the others will add to my barn cat collection.

I think the smaller one on the left is a younger litter than the other two.

I called JD on the way home to bless him with the news that I was bringing home three extra kitties. When I got to the part of the story that the man told me that there were still three out there, he asked, "did you get his phone number?" I replied, "no, I gave him mine." JD's response was, "of course you did." He doesn't make this near as hard on me now that we have land and a barn.







Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BIG Kids

 We got word from Nepal yesterday that Alyssa got really sick a few days ago during training. She was vomiting to the point that she became dehydrated and required a trip to the hospital for IV's. She was still in good spirits when I spoke to her, but her text this morning informed me that she was still too sick to head to the field today. So, today is day 3 or 4 of bed-rest. Pray for her please; it is very challenging to get that sick in a third world country away from your family. 

Picture from back in February before the prom
I also got a series of messages from Gabriel in the middle of the night. He is doing well and is approaching land after a few weeks of an ocean-only view. 



We are praying for him and Alayna during this time. We were very relieved to hear that things had resolved with their land-lord in San Diego. They had a lovely town-house, but the carpet was about the worst I have ever seen. It was extremely stained, eroded at the seams to the point that the carpet tacks drew blood on a few of us and the guest room upstairs smelled horribly of cat pee. The landlord attempted to pin it on their six months of living there is spite of evidence that it was that way when they moved in (and they don't have a cat!) Poor Alayna was left to deal with the unreasonable land-lord after Gabriel went out to sea. The momma bear in me wanted JD to call her and straighten her out, but I guess a series of emails from Gabriel was enough to settle things. I'm thankful for that! 


Gabriel - June 2014
Some days it's tough having them so far from home!