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 supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Lot of Ethiopia Crammed in One Post

 I posted this picture on Facebook of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when I first landed. People commented that they had not idea that it looked that way. Well, it does, and yet it doesn't. This is the view from a friend of a friend's home; she lives in probably the top 1% of Ethiopia. In fact, the grass looking down is the Chinese embassy. Behind it is the Burkina Faso embassy. Walking in the neighborhood, I passed the Indian embassy residence. Everyone here has guards, etc, and most are foreign inhabitants of the country.

I have had the privilege of spending time in the average Ethiopian's home also. These homes are in Adama, a few hours outside of Addis Ababa, where the cost of living is more affordable. The average Ethiopian in Adama lives behind a compound gate such as below. A wealthy person would have their own compound, but the average lives behind it in one of about six to ten rental houses. There is almost no home ownership among the middle class, since there are no mortgages; you must be able to build debt free.

 We went and visited where Brooke lived with her mother before she passed away. She lived in the home with the dark green door. They are made of either mud or concrete and usually have two rooms. There is generally a living room and a bedroom. The cooking is done outside. They often have electricity, but not plumbing. I have not figured out where the bathroom is for this compound, but I fear it is one less than desirable squatty potty for the whole compound. 

Ethiopians are very welcoming people. We were invited in by Brooke's former neighbors for tea. Something I can't figure out is that my first three trips to Ethiopia, we had coffee everywhere we went. This trip was tea every time. I don't know why the change, but I loved the tea! I did not take pictures at the tea time but they also invited us to stay for injura (dinner). We kindly declined dinner and told them just tea, because we wanted a few hours to play with the kids back at the orphanage before dark. We talked with the translator between us and the man of the family at one point looked so confused and said, "why no unjura, why?" like he could figure out how we could turn down such an offer.

I don't know who may remember Hanna, but she is a little girl that has been in Brooke's orphanage as long as I have been visiting. I inquired about adopting her four years ago. This time I found out that she had been returned to live with her mother, with financial help via Unicef. I won't get into all the Unicef debate but I am not a fan! The orphanage offered to take us to see her and we rolled right up to her compound. It was first thing in the morning and she was still asleep. I was unable to meet her mother, since she was working, but it was so good to see Hanna. She is 10 now.

Hanna, Me, Aunt Deb and Brooke

We were invited in for tea by Hanna's neighbor in the same compound.

The two little girls on the right were the lady's daughters and the girl in the red shirt was a neighbor. Hanna was seated on the couch with us and served tea since she was the visited guest, but the other children knew to take a seat on the mat on the floor and not request tea. On a funny note, Hanna tried to decline the tea, but was informed in Amharic that she would be having some with us and politely drank the tea.

I have so much more, but I will end here for today.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


We are on our way home. I will have a lot to blog about at home after not having much time or internet opportunity in Addis Ababa. We had about a nine hour layover today in London and did a really awesome bus tour of Central London. I'll show a few poor quality phone pictures through glass. 

First, Debs and I repacking for security in London -

Big Ben, which is actually only the name of the bell, not actually the clock. 

Buckington Palace -

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Losing ground

It is very late as my days are fuller than my blogging time. I will have to catch up some when I get home. The important meeting with Brooke is delayed until tomorrow. We will also enroll her in English school. She will go everyday when high school gets out at lunch. 

We were able to visit two orphanages today for two seperate reasons. It was a blessing to see the new one that I had never visited before.

I am going to leave you with a picture from the teff shop. Teff is the grain used to make injura, the standard Ethiopian bread that doubles as silverwear. They were loading the second camel, the first camel and donkeys were loaded and ready. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Have too much to say

Today was very full and tomorrow promises to be even fuller. I will just tell about the big event of the day, which was Brooke's dental visit. She had an extra eye tooth which needed to be removed. We were told that an appointment was unnecessary. When we arrived at the very small, but nice, hospital, there was a full waiting room. We paid $2 for a dental exam and there was no paperwork to be filled out. We barely sat down and were called back. I do not know if our lack of a wait was due to foreign privilege or we really were the only dental patients in the waiting room. Back in the room, the dentist spoke excellent English, which seems like such a treat when you become accustomed to having everything translated and are often concerned what may become lost in translation. 

She agreed the tooth needed to be removed and told us to come back at 2:00. Of course I verified that she meant that very day and she did. We went on a picnic lunch in the countryside (pictures above and below) and headed back. 

The cost of the Novocain and extraction was $7.50. Filling the antibiotics and pain meds at the pharmacy was $25. The irony is that we asked the driver to help us find her soft food and juice, so she could have something on her stomach for the medicine. He stopped at an actual grocery store. Let me tell you, we would all be much thinner if Walmart had these prices! The cost of a small package of soft cookie/bread and a small juice was $9. These were both Dollar Tree packages in America. This is why most Ethiopians will never set foot in an actual grocery store in their life time. It was a first for Brooke and probably a last for me.

So, the end result is in Ethiopia, snacks are more costly than dental work -
something to think about! 

Finally, here is a quick shot of my view during the dental procedure. I must comment that Debs and I both found it a little surprising that in the hospital bathroom, the only soap choice was Windex. If you tip a birr (5 cents), they will
squirt it on your hands for you! 

Please say a prayer for us tomorrow, we are going to the official area adoption office for an appointment that I did not request. Two years ago, I requested and begged and was denied. I just ask for clear direction and clear answers tomorrow for Brooke and I!


Tuesday, February 2, 2016



We spent our first full day in Adama with Brooke. We have been blessed with a very helpful translator to travel with us. When we asked Brooke what she would like to do, that she hasn't been able to, she said it was to go and see the river. The river is called Awash and it charges an admission as a spa, because it has hot-springs. The cultural differences between Ethiopia and America are vast but I've never been as puzzled as I was today at the "spa". Brooke wanted to bathe in the hot-springs and brought a bathing suit. There are clearly marked men and women sides to the hot springs as clothes were also purely optional. There was a open dressing room, single shower to shower in freezing cold water required before soaking in super hot hot springs. As a bonus, there were three squatty-potties, one with a large rock that you could use to hold the door closed (my personal preference.) What was so cultural different were the men and teen boys who kept strolling through the women areas and there was no alarm. They never went down to the hot springs, yet the bathers were clearly visible from the points where the men walked. The walking around attire ranged from full Muslim burkas to wet undergarments with scarves wrapped like towels. It was interesting. What else is so unAmerican is the gorgeous hotel cottages they are building, with probably hefty rental fees, yet the ground everywhere is littered with garbage. There is no attempt to keep the ground or river clean. 

As I doubt you are thinking, the best part of the spa experience, is the feeding of the monkeys. While they are wild, they have learned that visitors often bring bananas and they have gotten quite tame. After a briefing from a trusted Bethesda Doctor, I learned monkeys can have rabies, so I had sworn off getting that close. Today's adventure, however,  put a monkey in my lap - quite literally. We bought many large bunches of bananas and the little boogers aren't real patient. After feeding them for some time, when we got back in the van, they would attempt to board with us. The driver had a stick to keep them out. In an effort to feed the last few bananas to a few approaching monkeys from my window opposite of the door, I opened it and threw a banana to a monkey. In a split second, another monkey swung through the window, into my lap and was face to face with me. My hysterical scream didn't faze him in the least and he only exited when I threw the banana out the window. He dove after it. I don't have a photo of that but I think I was doing mental math of the cost of being medically evacuated due to potential rabies contraction from the very monkeys I had been warned about. Here's a shot of the monkeys, although our videoes are much more fun. 

I seem to have no control of where the pictures place themselves, so just look around for what makes sense. We had an interesting police stop on the way to the resort also. The police waved us over when driving past. In previous visits, they generally just ask where the pale faced visitors are from and then smile that we are from America and let us continue. Profiling is alive and well in Africa; we cause a lot of trouble just being so pale. This time the police did not ask us anything but we're very firm with our driver and obviously demanding something he did not have. He showed his lisence and registration but the officer was obviously not impressed. After some time on the side of the road, the translator told us that he was legally required to have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in the vehicle to legally transport  foreigners. We found that quite hysterical,  as the seatbelts cut out of the van was not a problem, but they wanted to make sure we had band-aids on board! Again, different culture. 

Please humor me with this photo of Deb taking advantage of the spa facilities and washing her feet in the lovely accommodations while Brooke soaked in the springs. I had left her my purse and Brooke's backpack with her while I had journeyed to the squatty, so she was loaded down like a pack mule. I know you are thinking that we are living it up here now!

In spite of pushing the monkey picture lower and lower, I want to show us with Brooke at the river edge. Brooke has never gotten in water, even a swimming pool, and is quite frightened of the idea. 

That is all tonight, tomorrow we are going to attempt to get in with a dentist here in Adama; Brooke has double eye teeth and needs two pulled. The driver said an appointment isn't needed, so we will see. I wanted to go shopping along the market, but I really don't think we can here. We have not seen any other whites and the prices drastically increase when we walk near anything. I think it's better going in Addis for shopping. 

Here's the monkeys and it's time for me to crawl under my mosquito net.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


I  successfully found my way from the airport to the subway, and then into the general station for the hop on/hop off bus tour. The tour was rather disappointing as they gave random facts, but most of the tour time was in silence. They also ignored the Jewish ghetto wall and museum that I was most interested in. It was still more interesting than sitting in the airport however, so I'm happy I did it. 

I would go broke living in the land of water closets! They are $1 for each potty stop and always required carrying my suitcase down a flight of stairs. Where I bought lunch, I thought I might get a break, but it was still a flight of stairs and fifty cents. (I guess technically, that's a bit of a break!) I'm back at the airport to begin the all night flight to Ethiopia; I'm tired. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Oh, No, No, No

The night before last, as I was preparing for my early morning trip to DC, Alei made a surprise visit home. I heard her voice from the kitchen as she came through the living room. When she rounded the corner, however, all I could say was, "no, no, no - I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!" Alei, holding a beagle, quickly assured me that she was going to take care of this stray. This doggie showed up at a friends neighbor's house and had been living in a kennel in the backyard for six weeks while they unsuccessfully tried to find her previous family. Alei felt so sorry for her that she volunteered to take her.

Elijah photo bombed my picture, then looked at it and said, "uh, lets' try that again without the glasses"
 Alei gave her a bath, borrowed a kennel, and took the pitiful,  nervous dog home. Alei isn't going to keep her, as beagles need a fenced yard and a more available owner, but she will be a nice pet for someone as she appears to be  house broken. Alei, being a softy, let her sleep next to her bed, rather than in the kennel. 

I tried to name her Gladys but Alei didn't love it; it's better if we don't name her anyway!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back to the Barnyard and On to DC

One thing is for sure - I will be better prepared for animal provisions before the next snow storm! In previous years, when the water froze, we just hauled it frequently from the house. That so doesn't work for a cow that appears to drink 30-50 gallons a day. Secondly, this was the first year we decided to do the round bales of hay in the field. That was all great until it snowed two feed and even if we could have dug the hay out, it was frozen. Thankfully, we had a back up bale in the horse trailer, but it was not fun ripping off large chunks of it frozen each day to feed the animals. Once the feed store opened, I went and bought two compressed bales for the tune of $17 each. Since the animals eat one a day, I desperately need to have an emergency supply in the barn from the Amish for $7-$8 a bale. 

I am typing this blog while I wait for my passport in DC. I was not super excited when they cancelled my Monday appointment due to the storm.  Since it was last Thursday when they cancelled, I asked if I could come that day or Friday before the storm hit. They told me that there were no walk-ins and they couldn't get me in until today. They also reassured me that flying out 48 hours later wasn't a problem. They told me to be here by 10 for my 1:30 appointment. Being an over-achiever, I arrived at 8:30 and was about 50th in line. Their first announcement was that they were on a three hour delay and weren't opening until 11. Their second appointment was their staff had "on optional work day" so they may not be able to open at all, unless staff decided to come that day. It didn't sound very encouraging. Much to my dismay also, they were organizing by appointment people and walk-ins. I would have waked in a full two weeks ago if they had told me that I could! 

Once they opened, it was rather chaotic. At first they said they would only see people flying out today or tomorrow. The clamor from the crowd added anyone with an appointment. Well, that's logical since the appointment should work for something. Once they opened, I made the cut for having an appointment and waited through about four lines. There were plenty of workers by 11 so I'm assuming they are paid by the hour instead of salary. 

Once mine was processed, she asked me if I could return tomorrow to
pick it up. I told her that I lived two hours away and needed to just wait today. She went off to her supervisor and returned to tell me that her supervisor would only approve that if I lived over 100 miles away. I started to tell her that it was close, but I have a lot of children and my husband was out of town. She looked at her computer screen and announced, "oh you live 131 miles away, we are good." I don't think it's that far but I'm not one to argue. I'm now waiting until their early closing hour of 3:00 and I should be able to pick up my passport shortly before closing. I am hoping nothing goes wrong in the final processing! I'm the meantime, Starbucks didn't have any tables available, so I'm sitting in a nearby hotel lobby that I parked in the garage underneath. I guess I don't look homeless, since no one has questioned my sitting here. I am quite  tired, however, but I guess if I took a nap, then I may looks slightly homeless. I wish I liked coffee. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Blizzard Time

 I was one of the crazy people out driving as the DC blizzard rolled in. I did buy water, etc, but I was also just trying to pack in a therapy run and errands before I leave for Ethiopia. I do not know how to explain Walmart, but I stood in the longest return line ever; I am not sure how the snow affected returns, but it was worse than after Christmas.

The most stressful part about this storm is that DC has delayed my emergency passport appointment from Monday all the way until Thursday. My plane ticket out is Saturday, so I am prepared to sit there until it is handed to me over being mailed. I'm sure it's going to be a long day; I just hope that I am successful!

The cold is rather challending with the animals. We do not have freeze-proof water options so we currently haul lots of water from the house each day. Our other plan is to build a cow shelter in the field, but since that hasn't happened, I have to bring Mooster in the barn at night. That means I have been locking Chewy the donkey and four goats in one stall and Mooster and Vinny, the stud goat, in the other stall. Today we cleared out the food/milking stall and relocated the goats to it. So Chewy and Mooster have their own stalls and the goats are together in the third. It seems like it will be a much more workable arrangement. The highlight to the animals is the night time feed when I give them grain and a large pine tree. I can not even tell you how thankful I am that we are surrounded by 100 acres of pine trees, because the animals love them and they are natural de-wormers. Mooster will actually pass on the grain to start on the tree and that is saying a lot since she acts crazy when the grain comes out.

 The downside of keeping about 14 roosters to roam and eat bugs is that they all moved into the barn since the cold hit. One has taken up residence on the pressure washer handle every night, another in Elijah's motorized jeep seat and several around the wheel barrow sides. At least they are quiet, while the guineas come squawking in and out at ear-shattering decibels. I have started feeding them all chicken feed and corn in the evenings as well, so they just run around your feet while you are trying to tend to the "real" animals.

I remember well how nice the barn was a dozen years ago before I had animals to stink it up, but I am really thankful that they have such nice accommodations for days like this. Much like the children, they don't show gratitude, but I would worry about them in lesser conditions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Blog Book and Boys

For several years I have planned on printing this blog into books for the kids to look back and read like a scrap book. Unfortunately, I also have an older blog out in blog land (on Xanga) that I can not figure out how to do anything with since the book companies do not service them. While I contemplate some solution for that, I printed the first one from Our Plans Multiplied. I hoped to do the entire year of 2010 in one book, but the max pages only got me through nine months. I am planning on ordering a book from time to time when they have a good sale. The kids have enjoyed looking at it, although there are posts about the struggles of raising some of them that concern me to have them read. (This post will be one of them.)

Here is what has stuck with me after flipping through and reading different posts - February 02, 2010 - "Discouraged in the Land of Parenting Little Boys." I don't want to quote the whole thing but it listed the frustrations of living with James and Ben for one week. It consisted of Ben pulling the fire alarm at the Y, resulting in 250 people being evacuated (150 from the swim team). It went on to the tales of stolen food, including sandwich bags packed with rice, that resulted in one boy getting sick and the other just making a mess on the carpet. The concluding story was James leading and LOSING his little sisters in the woods and Ben swinging a large shovel and gashing James' eye brow open. Ben then came in and started school like nothing happened while James came back to the door with his face covered in blood requiring medical attention.

Since this was almost exactly six years ago, when the boys were 8 and 9, you would think we could look back and laugh; but honestly, things aren't much different. Day after day we are still dealing with impulsive actions carried out with little regard to the consequences. Stolen food would be a daily issue if I didn't have a locked storage room for the high theft items. At the age of 14 and 15, the boys require supervision. We do not leave them home alone, nor would ever put them in charge of a younger sibling. There are a variety of reasons they suffer from the challenges they face, all related to the traumatic beginnings  - one in foster care in VA and the other in the Bush of Liberia. Unfortunately, I could frequently write a new blog post and title it - "Discouraged in the Land of Parenting Big Boys." And if I am going to be perfectly honest,  it is more concerning and more discouraging to me six years later that we are still here.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9