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, February 29, 2016

Sweet Signs of Spring

 Spring is in the air, at least at the neighboring farm where baby lambs abound. We are looking forward to a baby calf in April and baby goats in May. Of course, we will have a few rounds of baby chicks also; I am saving some eggs for the incubator and we are going to do a Polish chick order online.

I'm also starting seeds in milk jugs for the first time. This week I am pushing to wrap up a few projects in the house so that I can shift my focus outside for my favorite season.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

School at the End of February

 Honestly, I think I would label last year as the toughest year of parenting ever. That's saying a lot, because we have done really tough parenting many years. The last thing that seemed logical was to bring the only three in public school home and add them to the already crazy homeschool schedule. The main concern was Julia, as she does much better with a strict schedule of her day and was excelling in school. I just really stuck with the fact that I felt like it was the right thing to do for everybody, including Julia.

All in all, I am happy to report as we advance towards the end of the year that I really think it was a success. Julia has done much better at home than any of us dreamed and Tori has finally given up, after about nine months, trying to convince us to put her back into school. That doesn't mean it has all been easy, just easier than we pictured back in the fall.

Part of the ease is having everyone on the same schedule and eliminating all the school bus time, paperwork, field trips, etc. A major stressor before was also the many days that public school cancelled for ice and yet the homeschool classes were still going. Now everyone is at CC together rain or shine.

 I always have bigger plans for the school year than reality and this year is no different. I am trying to lay my spring fever aside and focus on finishing strong - at least until garden weather!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Antique Shopping in Addis Ababa

 The last day we were in Ethiopia was spent back in the capital, Addis Ababa. We were taken to an antique "mall" by the friend of a friend that lives in Addis. It was beyond astonishing. There was no sign and the Ethiopians that were accompanying us did not know about its existence. It was in a huge compound with what, I guess, were only a few word of mouth shoppers. This is a huge collection of thousands of antiques from all over the country. There were probably about 12 rooms filled from floor to ceiling.

Our American friend said that it is called "the dirty store" because everything is covered in a layer of dust and your hands are dirty after shopping. It was quite true. After deliberation, I only bought an old bowl and a coffee table, which is a small table used on the ground to serve coffee on. It is going to hold candles in the middle of my table and I plan to do a little research to see if it's possible to find out approximately now old it is. I was also gifted a little milk holder, like the one shown in the picture below sitting in the bowl on the chair. They are made from gourds covered in leather with small leather lids to transport water or milk during the day or on trips.

After leaving the big, "dirty" store, we shopped at a few shops along the main street that also carried antiques. The huge tables and chairs that were hand caved from single pieces of wood were amazing. We found that the clean antiques in the small shops along the road were 2-10 times more expensive. Those shops may be the "dirty" shops main customers. It was all very fascinating to me.

One of the clean shop displays for sale

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ethiopian Meals

 Debs and I stayed at the same hotel I have stayed at the four previous trips I have taken to Adama. The nice thing is that breakfast is included and it was the same spread every morning. This is my sister's plate piled with rice, eggs and vegetables. Let's just say that Ethiopia doesn't do American breakfast food.

While I tolerate rice and love vegetables, they aren't something I can stomach too well as breakfast. The first few days I just ate the bread with some peanut butter, but by day three, I added some vegetables. The veggies are very good, but cooked in some serious oil, so we put a napkin under them to soak some of it up.

We generally only ate out one other meal of the day, and this was our usual spot. It was only two or three blocks away from our hotel, but had better food with a shorter wait and a smaller bill.

You can not judge the quality of the restaurant by the wandering cats; most had a few cats. This cat not only shared a bit of chicken under our table, it also drank from the pool. I was also surprised how many people swam at different pools, because it was like 70 degrees and not swimming weather in my opinion.

Another bonus about our favorite place was flushing toilets with sinks, and one of only two places I have seen in Ethiopia that had towels to dry your hands. Brooke wasn't sure what to do with them. To this day, when the paper towel dispenser is empty in a bathroom, Selah, Bella and I pat our hands on our pants and proclaim "Ethiopian style".

Ethiopia has many places with brick ovens that produce good pizza. This one was at the German hotel named...German hotel. It has fancy cushioned chairs, chandeliers and no cats, but still no towels in the bathroom!

Most places serve rolls, but not with butter - instead these three sauces are standard. The green is hot!

We also found it humorous that all the glass bottles of varying size are marked 300 ml; clearly, they are not equal. I think Coke is up to something fishy since their bottles were always the clearly smaller.

 Brooke literally did not eat anything other than the standard injera with chicken and a few different sauces and vegetables. This whole pile of dishes is an injera order. I don't think it is intended to be a one person size serving and she barely eats more than Bella. Deb and my choice then became to eat injera every meal or keep giving it away on the streets. This is why it wasn't tough to turn down injera by the end of the week when it was offered in homes that we visited!

This in Amharic for Coka Cola - turns out that they don't commonly use the vowels, so this ck cl. At least that is what I think I learned in my brief Amharic lesson.

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 injera (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 injera, 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. 

Buckingham 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.