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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Troop Carrier or Luxury Liner?

In the late 1940s, the U.S. government commissioned William Gibbs to work with U.S. Lines to construct an 80 MILLION-DOLLAR (in 1940!) troop carrier for the Navy. The purpose was to design a ship that could carry 15,000 troops during war. In 1952, the ship was complete. It was the fastest and most reliable troop-carrier in the world.

The catch is, she never carried troops. The ship was put in standby once during the Cuban missile crises in 1962, but otherwise she was never used in all her capacity by the U.S. Navy.

Instead the SS United States became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of states and a variety of other celebrities who traveled on her during her 17 years of service. As a luxury liner, she couldn't carry 15,000; instead she housed just under 2,000. Those passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators and the comfort of the world's first fully air-conditioned passenger ship.

Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of a luxury liner. after all the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the trip.

When I think about the history of the SS United States, I wonder if she has something to teach us about the history of the church. The church, like the SS United States, has been designed for battle. The purpose of the church is to mobilize a people to accomplish a mission. Yet we seem to have turned the church as troop carrier into the church as luxury liner. We seem to have organized ourselves, not to engage in battle for the souls of people around the world, but to indulge ourselves in the peaceful comforts of the world. This makes me wonder what would happen if we looked squarely in the face of the world with 4.5 billion people going to hell and 26,000 children dying every day of starvation and preventable diseases, and we decided it was time to move this ship into battle instead of siting back on the pool deck while we wait for the staff to serve us more hors d' oeuvre.

(excerpt from the book Radical by David Platt)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Funny Girls

Last night when I had Julia in the bathtub, she said three things that really made me laugh. Due to the fact that I'm getting old and I didn't write them down right away, I can only remember one. Because of something she said, I told her that she was smart. She replied, "I'm smart because I'm not upid-sta." I recognized her pig-Latin term and asked her where she heard that. She just laughed and told me that "upid-sta means dumb."

That reminds me of several years back, Alyssa told people that we studied pig Latin for our home-schooling language. I had to correct her that it was just Latin - no pig!

My Tori funny story of the day happened tonight at the church picnic, baptism and swim. The kids were lined up going on the diving board. Tori took her first turn ever - she jumped and was swimming straight to the side, when the life-guard got concerned and jumped in for her. I told the life-guard that she was fine, but she told Tori that she needed to jump, come up for a breath and then swim to the side. Tori looked at her seriously and said, "but I don't like to breathe.

Just for fun, here's a picture of the two of them together two years ago. They were one and 2 1/2.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Big Kids, Big Fun

It's really nice that Gabriel and Alei are such good friends; they are having a really good time on the road together. Gabriel already asked if she could fly out in June and drive home with him; I have no issue with that (as long as she gets a job to pay for the ticket.) Their fun of the day today was to hit Franklin, TN, near Nashville to check out the Christian music artists home-town. They did spot Steven Curtis Chapman with his wife and daughter. They also rolled up to the supposed home address of Toby Mac and shot some pictures. I think Toby may remember Gabriel, since he has year to year at Creation Festival, but it still may have caught him off guard to have him appear in his drive-way. They remind me of that old I Love Lucy when Lucy goes on the Hollywood home tour and ends up jumping a fence and hiding in the one guys house. Ok, it's not near that bad, since Gabriel and Alei aren't breaking any entering laws.

I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because I'd love to be on their today adventure. My today adventure has been cleaning a kitchen, two bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming and laundry. Oh, to be young and carefree again............

Friday, August 27, 2010

And They Are Off....

The car was packed tight, holding everything that Gabriel was sure that he'd need to survive the year. Alei was lucky to get room for the suitcase and backpack that she needed. We insisted that he allow room to actually see out his back window.

We woke up all the kids, except Elijah, at 6:45 to see Gabriel and Alei off. Although Elijah was up late last night, he woke up at 7:00 in time to hug Gabriel good-bye. I was happy too, because I love this picture of my oldest and youngest son!

After that, we stuck everyone in front of the car for a last minute, in your pajamas, good-bye picture. I guess I'll have to use it on this year's Christmas cards since Gabriel won't be home to take a new one (jk.)

Julia has cried several times when we've discussed Gabriel's leaving. She gave the final good-bye kiss.

They have already made it to Knoxville, TN, where they are spending the night with a friend of mine. Then tomorrow they are driving to my parents in Memphis, TN.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Debs

Although we spent the day shopping and packing for Gabriel's departure, I couldn't go on without giving Aunt Deb a proper Happy Birthday post. It's a privilege to be Debra's sister and she is a true blessing to all nine of my children. Although she works and has quite the full schedule, she truly makes time for my children. She watches and discusses movies with Gabriel; the last was Bonhoeffer. She leads a teen girls Bible study in her home on Tuesday evenings that Alei considers the greatest small group atmosphere. Deb has takes all my "big girls" shopping when the lines are long, but the bargains are too good to miss. She has even taken part in our crazy Black Friday ritual; last year she waited in line for hours for gun clearances. She commonly reads Bible stories to the boys; in fact, they have began the Bible story book for the second time. The little girls adore her and constantly help her with any cooking or laundry. Deb has been known to spend a few hours un-braiding hair on a stressful hair day. Lastly, Aunt Deb often will take Elijah with her on Wednesday evenings while we attend church. Li-Li and Aunt Deb look for white bunnies in her yard and other brown bunnies in the neighborhood where she lives.

Debs is a wonderful adoption supporter; it's nice to have local family admire the commitment that we have made to additional children. Debra has experienced much in her 29 years. Although I'm not going to get all these right, she has spent one summer in India, she has taken mission groups to Mexico, she studied language school in Papua New Guinea and hit China for additional language training. She taught school in Afghanistan for three years before returning to Virginia; she was a fabulous help home-schooling my kids that year and it provided an opportunity for her to teach without fear of being shot at. She is currently the main writer for Calvary Chapel magazine which circulates all over the world. Debs is still drawn to evangelism of the Muslim people and manages to make Muslim friends that live in this area.

We don't know what the next years will bring in Debra's life, but we are assured that they won't be boring and that they will make a difference for the Kingdom of God. (We just hope they don't include her movning away!)

(picture taken mid-singing. Julia's really belting it out!)

Happy Birthday, Deb - thanks for sharing it with a simple dinner at our home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All Grown Up

We are at the very end of Gabriel's time at home. In fact, he is currently on his way to Richmond to screen for the Navy. If he commits, it's on a delayed entry program until this time next year, which allows him to have this year in Colorado. The advantage of signing now would be that he should get exactly what he wants - the intelligence field. He has long term sights of NCIS or the FBI. He will be home from Richmond tomorrow night and then leaves for CO on Friday morning.

I snapped a few new pictures of him yesterday.

Julia showed up during our shoot; I love Gabriel's look in this picture.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. - Psalm 31:24

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hair Day

I am a bit overwhelmed by hair day. It took about three hours to take Tori's hair out, then two hours to take Julia's out. After that, they both had a shampoo and condition. Then I spent almost an hour combing their hair out. Then I drove to pick up Kriscia and she spent a few hours corn-rowing their hair; then I drove Kriscia home. Needless to say, we didn't even finish school today. While I get a lot of help with their hair, it still dominates my day and the poor girls have to sit for hours. We aren't doing anything extravagant or anything, so I'm at a loss on how I could simplify this part of our lives!

Alei took the last shift on Julia's hair this afternoon; poor Julia fell asleep sitting straight up!

So, we got her a pillow, plopped her head down and kept on working.

They sure did look cute when they were all done! It's nice to have them matching for a change.

I told them to look at each other for me to take the picture, and that just cracked them up for some reason.

My sweet girls. It amazes me how often people tell me that they look just alike. I don't think they could look much different really - beautiful in their own ways.

Julia has really lost the toddler look the last several months. They have grown so fast!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today - Haircuts; Tomorrow - Corn-rows

Tonight we cut the four boys' hair out on the patio. I love it when it's cool enough to not make the mess in the kitchen. Do you think Elijah was slightly over-due for a trim?
He didn't enjoy the process too much, but did admire himself in the mirror when it was all over.

Thankfully, Gabriel, James and Ben are much easier. JD has gotten really good at tapering Ben's hair on the sides. Ben was happy with the new cut.

We have saved a ton over the years cutting the boys hair ourselves. I honestly also think it's faster than driving and waiting at a barber shop.
Tomorrow a friend's daughter is coming to corn-row Tori and Julia's hair, so the morning will be spent taking out their current braids, washing and combing!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Last Hurrah

It really doesn't take much to make Gabriel happy -
He had friends -

And more friends -

And more friends - I never counted how many kids were here. I'm guessing around 40.

There were plenty of burgers from the grill, lots of chips and dip, some awesome fruit kabobs that the girls and I made all afternoon (and I didn't take pictures of) and cake and ice-cream.

This is Gabriel's last weekend at home. It's exciting to see him venture out into the world, but kind of bittersweet. Julia starts crying every time he tells her that he is moving to Colorado. It's also going to be very hard on Elijah, who just isn't old enough to understand it all yet.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Party's On

The sickies are better; although Elijah did start the nasty "Tori" cough last night. Although I had smothered his feet in Vick's, I still had to break down and give him "real" cough syrup; after that he settled in between JD and I and slept all night. I wish I had a picture when I awoke in the night to him perfectly up-side-down with his feet on the pillow. Whatever, it was still the best night of sleep I've had in a week.

So, I have things to do for tonight's party. Teens don't seem to be very good at RSVPing so I don't know if we'll have 30 kids or 60 kids, but it'll be fun either way. I'm preparing food for the masses (with Moriah's help - she's my best kitchen help.)

We are off to Food Lion for the grape sale. Pictures later.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today's Count

Today I took Alyssa and Julia to the doctor. As I suspected, Julia also has strep throat and Alyssa has an ear infection. Julia woke up telling me that her "throw-up" hurt; it cracks me up how she can hear us all say throat over and over and continue to call it her "throw-up." Either term, she was right. I don't know what to do with Alyssa's ear; it has been infected the majority of her 11 years on earth. She has gotten tubes, they've taken out the tubes, they've paper patched it and skin grafted it. It remains infected no matter what, poor kid. It's really helped to not do swim-team this year, which just means that it's at an infection level that she lives with instead of causing her extreme pain. We've been to two ENTs, it's just frustrating that nothing has cured it!

JD did the afternoon soccer run and Aldi shopping for me. I have 1,000 things to do for Gabriel's party on Saturday. It's hard to believe that he heads to Colorado a week from tomorrow.

I'm glad I'm getting all this sickness nonsense out of the way now, so we can all be healthy all winter :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sick Count Rising

So, we had such a good run going - no one had really been sick since last fall. That ended yesterday when I took Tori and Elijah to the Doctor. Tori had been running a fever off and on for three days and Elijah for one. So, Tori has a sinus infection and pneumonia, while Elijah tested positive for strep. Julia woke up with a fever today, so she has an appointment tomorrow morning. Since it's been soccer camp this week, JD has gone in to work early and come home early to take care of the cute little sickies while I make the trip "to town" every afternoon.
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Speaking of soccer camp - it's sponsored by a local church and run by a Brazilian soccer team. The amazing thing I found out today is that they come every summer as a mission trip. You got it, Brazil is sending short term missionaries (who play soccer, do worship and talk through translators) to America. What does that say about the current state of our nation? As a whole, we have declined to the point other countries are concerned about us!
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I haven't taken my camera to soccer yet, so instead you get a view of the barn complete with nice green grass, thanks to all the rain we've had lately. As a bonus, it's mowed, thanks to Elijah's new love - the little, orange tractor.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lazy Days of Summer

Since we have started school, it kind of seems that summer is nearing its end. I guess that's a negative of starting school early, because I much prefer a long summer and a short winter. Honestly, it's so hot now, that they wouldn't want to play outside during the day anyway, so this should allow us a break when we are having perfect fall weather.

No one could swim for over a week because the pool steps broke and we had to order new ones. They were happy campers when the pool reopened! This shot may be the only time that the kids get their Dad in the pool this summer.

Elijah only enjoys the pool if no one splashes his face; which is difficult in this size pool, with this number of children. A bigger pool is on our long-term want list.
Tori has turned into a good swimmer this year; I'm planning on her swimming on the swim team next year.

Julia thinks she swims better than she actually does. She dives and "swims" and never wants to wear her swimmy vest. It's kind of nerve-wracking to watch!

Check out the fit of those goggles; I should send it to Speedo to see if they want her for a goggle add.

The boys started soccer camp tonight. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the location to find out that it was inside and air conditioned.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Since Last Weekend...

Life has been so busy; so busy that I never got to blog my last weekend post. Last weekend, we went on a spending spree - it certainly didn't appear that we are Dave Ramsey fans. The truth is that we had delayed certain purchases until it was just time and had to be done. The good news is that there were no credit cards involved! The biggest purchase was the lawn mower that JD has sighed and walked past all summer long at Lowes. The grass had gotten to the point that I really couldn't keep saying, "we don't need a mower, we barely have grass," so JD got his mower. (See the grass?) He took Elijah on the trip to buy it and Elijah couldn't be more thrilled to have a new, orange tractor!

The next purchase was a car for Alei to drive. Before you are too impressed, let me state that the mower cost considerably more than the car! Alei isn't to impressed with it's station "wagony" appearance, but it came from a friend and was a great price. Of course, it needs work, but JD has proven himself in that department over and over.

We also purchased four picnic tables from the Boy Scout jamboree. Once they use the things, they sell them at great prices. So, we got two tables for the front area and two for the backyard. It will be nice when we have group functions, which we love to host!

(We also bought a new grill and some over-priced knives, but that would be just embarrassing to admit, so I'll stop now!)

We actually completed our first week of school this week. It went pretty well, although I still need to order some curriculum. Somehow, the day is full even when we only do 1/2 of the work, that always concerns me. It overall is just going to be so much easier this year with Elijah and Julia two and four instead of one and three or zero and two!

The weather is lovely outside, warm but not sweltering. JD and most of the kids have been working outside all day. He is paying them each $1 per tractor bucket load to pick up the stray big rocks. They have really needed to be gathered and the bonus is that they are forming the drive-way up to the barn that we have been planning for several years. Even Elijah was working for a while.

I think that the farm work is so good for boys! James and Ben have more knowledge now of things like gardening than I did a few years ago when we moved here.

My garden has been the high-light of my summer. I'm just so thrilled that it's grown so well and can't wait to double its size next year. We have lots of cantaloupe ripening and they are so good.

I want to expand my cherry tomato numbers next year too. I only planted three plants, but we get a cereal bowl full every day. I never thought it would happen, but Julia actually turns them down sometimes now - I didn't have any idea that she could reach that point! At first, she just hosed them and ate them straight off the plant everyday, but now James and I get some too.

The new chickens I got each faithfully lay an egg everyday, so we are getting at least a dozen a day. Since Alyssa gathered early yesterday and Julia and I gathered late today, we had 26! (Like Julia's flip-flops?)

Julia asked if I could make her some eggs out of the eggs.

Lastly, two of our thirty baby guineas died this week. I have no idea why, but moved the other 28 this week in case it had something to do with the old rabbit hutch that they were living in. They are now inside the coop, separated from the big chickens. They are loud little guys, and really not very attractive, but that's all OK as long as they eat lots of ticks when they get big!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good Freezer - Bad People

Flashback with me - the year was 1994/1995 and we for some reason ( I don't know why, as we only had two kids and didn't buy meat in bulk) decide that we NEED a deep freeze. After shopping around, I looked in the classifieds and saw a stand up freezer for $20. It needed a $15 thermostat, but for $35 we had a nice, big functional freezer.

So, in the last 15 or so years, we have moved the freezer five times and it has never faulted. Over the years, it was often near empty, but now that I have such a big family and buy meat by the 1/2 cow, it is often so full that I can barely cram it all in.

It's been such a good freezer that I'd recommend Montgomery Ward appliances if they hadn't gone out of business years and years ago! So, what's my freezer problem around here? Operator error -you wouldn't think it would so difficult, but it has been a challenge for us this year!

First freezer crises was the night before our big beach vacation to Charleston. At that time, the freezer lived in the barn and I sent Ben out to put something in it. He came back in and told me, "Mom, when I opened the door, the ice-cream fell out and flew all over the place." That statement stuck fear in my heart, as ice-cream really only seems to take flight when it's pretty melted. JD went to access the problem, and sure enough........someone had left the door ajar. So, the night before vacation, JD and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning cooking tons and tons of meat to avoid throwing it all away. I am still blessed with two enormous containers of pre-cooked steaks.

Skip forward to this morning.... I had plans, I had a lot to do. Thankfully, the freezer now resides in my new laundry room, which is more practical and I can keep an eye on the door. I opened it to throw in a huge bad of chocolate chips from Costco, when I realized that it wasn't cold in there. Upon closer examination, I realized that lots and lots in there had already thawed! I checked the plug, I checked the down-stairs circuit breaker; my conclusion was that the old freezer had finally died. I called JD and left a message with the bad news. Then, I had the incredibly unpleasant job of cleaning and cramming as much as I could that wasn't thawed into the upstairs freezers. After that, I started cooking pounds and pounds of thawed meat. I also prepared big trays of steaks that JD will be cooking tonight on the grill.

When I was nearing the end of my hours of handling bloody meat, JD came home early. Upon closer examination, he found out the the upstairs circuit breaker for the generator, that isn't used yet, but is hooked to the down-stairs circuit for the freezer was turned off. Who would have done such a thing? Me, when I flipped the circuit for our AC that is broken and only turns off by flipping the circuit. Oh, Man!

For lunch we had an enormous pile of barbecue ribs; dinner will be steaks galore.

Anyone know any brilliant ideas for pre-cooked and re-frozen steaks? I sure have a lot of them!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Drive-way Macbeth

It was a lovely night for a performance of Macbeth. It was a simple production with no costumes and only two practices, but the kids did great and hopefully they absorbed some Shakespeare while doing it. Here's Moriah as one of the witches in the story.

Ben was quite pleased to have a stabbing scene.

Alei was deep in lines as Lady Macbeth -

And here's Gabriel, James and Alyssa conversing in a scene. I didn't commit Gabriel to the play in the beginning since he was working six days a week, but he wanted to participate since it was directed by his good friend.

It made good memories of learning with friends; they may tackle another production in October.

Oh Man...

I went to Gabriel's last-ever swim final yesterday; he has been swimming with this swim-team for seven years. I am over-all excited for him to enter his next stage of life, but it hit me hard yesterday when I realized that I just watched his last swim race EVER. I may still have eight kids at home, but it's still a weird and sad phase to watch the first child fly the coop.

At this point, we have 100 things to do before we send Gabriel off on his over 1,300 mile trip to Colorado; Alei is planning on driving with him and then flying home - but they've never been on a road trip before. There are 1,000 things I could be concerned about and it's overwhelming that I have to repeat this stage another eight times down the road! As my husband reminds me, it's one kid at a time, one day at a time.

We are supposed to begin our new school year tomorrow, but I still haven't ordered all my curriculum. I guess I'm starting with what I have and getting my order ready tomorrow. Now we are off to a drive-way performance of Macbeth that my kids are doing at a friend's house.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Wish....

If I could start over on my parenting journey, but start knowing what I know now, it would be a lot easier. Unfortunately, I only know what I know now by 18 years of trial and error, but it's a nice idea!

There are just days that I feel grossly unqualified for my job.

(Tori racing cars at Chuck E. Cheese - which again has nothing to do with my brief post!)