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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Radical by David Platt

I am a few chapters into the book Radical by David Platt. It is a very convicting look at Christianity versus "the American dream." I believe he is right, that we have taken the message of the Bible and tweaked it to fit our "American dream." We have adopted the idea of what we think God and Jesus are based more on our American view-points than what is written in the Bible.

Here's a thought provoking paragraph from chapter two:
Jesus' words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount:
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!"

Jesus was not speaking here to irreligious people, atheists or agnostics. He was not speaking to pagans or heretics. He was speaking to devoutly religious people who were deluded into thinking that they were on the narrow road that leads to heaven when they were actually on the broad road that leads to hell.

We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards or his glory. We have a ticket to heaven, and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way. Much of modern evangelism today is built on leading people down this road and crowds flock to it, but in the end it is a road built on sinking sand, and it risks disillusioning millions of souls.


I'm sure I'll have more to say in the coming days about the book, but I already highly recommend it. It is a small, easy-read in spite of it's thought provoking message!

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Trip to See Big Rat

Instead of having a birthday party, we took Julia and Elijah to Chuck E. Cheese. We actually ate dinner at CiCi's pizza buffet, then headed to Chuck E. to play games and ride thrilling rides (like Barney below.) All the kids had a blast, as usual. I think Julia finished off her tokens first as she ran wildly from ride to ride. (Can you tell from the enormous band-aid that she got a shot earlier in the day?) That's a story of it's own.
Elijah enjoyed the little playground as much as the rides.

Julia waited and waited for her turn to take a picture with Chuck E.; she and Tori have always loved dressed up characters.
Elijah, on the other hand, was quite scared of Chuck E.; he called him"the big rat." Poor little guy would alternate between telling us "I scared big rat" and yelling "bad rat" at Chuck E.

Birthday is officially over today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Birthday, More Tomatoes, More Watermelon AND a Salsa Recipe

Two and four are great ages for birthdays. Elijah was really into it this year; I think Julia's excitement was rubbing off on him. Since Julia had a cake, Elijah had cup-cakes. He liked the singing and blowing out the candles.

JD took about 20 pictures of Julia while we sang Happy Birthday, her smile was this big in every picture. She never lacks enthusiasm.

Having them take turns opening presents was kind of like Christmas morning.

The excitement on all their faces crack me up. They know a DVD gift will benefit everybody.

Julia still wins the enthusiasm prize, however.

Other than celebrating birthdays, we have been canning tomatoes and eating watermelon. Yesterday, I canned 10 quart jars of tomatoes for vegetable soup and chili this winter. There were some tomatoes that we going bad that the chickens got to eat, but between my salsa and tomatoes, I processed over 80 pounds!

We eat 3-4 watermelons a week around here; we could actually eat more, but that's all I buy. I definitely am planting them in the garden next year!

For those that are interested, here is the salsa recipe that I use. It came from a friend of JD's at work and I've used it the last three years:
Dave's Zesty Salsa:
6 lbs. peeled and coarsely chopped tomatoes (I chop everything except the garlic and cilantro in the food processor)
2 lbs. seeded and chopped green peppers
1 lb. chopped hot peppers (or less, depending on taste)
2 lbs. white onions (other kinds are ok too)
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 T. salt
1/2 T. sugar
3 cloves minced or chopped garlic
1 1/2 c. white vinegar
1 small can tomato paste
Combing all ingredients, EXCEPT tomato paste in a large pot and simmer until desired consistency (about one hour)
Right before you are ready to put salsa in jars, add the tomato paste and stir thoroughly.
Spoon salsa into hot, sterilized jars.
Process jars of salse in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes.
My additions:
This recipe makes 5 quart jars (10 pint jars.) I double the recipe and it works well, other than it's so large that I have to use my canner to cook it, then clean the canner to process the salsa.
Make sure the canner is at a full boil before you start the 15 minute timer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Birthday Times 2

It's hard to believe, but my baby boy turns two today and my baby girl turns four! I snapped a few pictures of them when they headed outside this morning.

Elijah was being very serious and telling me about the butterflies in the flowers.

When he decided to present me with a big cheese, I didn't have the camera ready, so it's a bit out of focus.

Julia was more than happy to stop for a few pictures.


She has grown so much; it's hard to believe that only three years ago, she was a one year old wearing size three months clothes!

She has a flair for fashion and loves her red high-tops - even with sun dresses!

When I suggested that I take a few pictures of them together, they both thought they had better things to do. Here's Elijah chasing James and Ben as fast as his little legs can run.

Here's my babies exactly two years ago. I look pretty rough, but I had just given birth and had my just turned two year old and my 3 1/2 year old climbing on me and newborn Elijah.

We didn't think that Julia would understand that it was her birthday or that Elijah was a permanent present, but she hit the hospital room door and said, "where is my birthday boy?" She got it and was pleased with her birthday surprise.

Happy Birthday to our baby girl and boy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 Salsa Event

This was our third year canning salsa. I don't remember how many jars we made in 2008, but it wasn't nearly enough. Last year we made 40 jars and we just finished the last one, so 40 was our goal again this year.

I don't grow enough tomatoes to support this project, but I bought 75 pounds from a local farmer for only $30.

JD is the only one not bothered by onions, so he chopped 15 pounds of them. My eyes were still bothered a bit across the kitchen and Julia ran at one point yelling that the entire kitchen was filled with onions.

So, we canned 20 jars yesterday and I did 20 more today (with JD's pre-chopped onions waiting in a Tupperware.)

Salsa complete - I still have tomatoes to can for vegetable soup and winter chili, but tomorrow is Julia's and Elijah's birthday and I'm taking Alei for a MRI, so they will wait until Wednesday.

The best part of canning is when they are cooling on the counter.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today and Tomorrow

My biggest accomplishment of the day is a Julia hair re-do. She got the whole treatment - take down, wash, comb, and re-style. I was pretty impressed with the new $26 bottle of conditioner that I bought (I should be for that price -right?) I'm just so paranoid that all the swimming is damaging their hair that I keep going for better conditioner and it just doesn't come cheap. The bottle makes a comment about affordable, which is laughable considering that I've never used anything that costs more than $4 a bottle on myself! Anyway, Julia did well for hair time so she got "to go to chicken." "Going to chicken" consists of driving Julia five miles to a local gas station that is known for their chicken tenders. She proudly orders the chicken tender special and carries it home with a big smile. I realize it's kind of red-necky to "go to chicken" at a gas station, but the nearest Chick-Fil-A is about 30 miles!

Now, Julia is worn out.

My next big today project, other than clearing the living room floor and shuffling laundry, is to finish Gabriel's transcripts. I'm not enjoying that job right now, which is why I'm blogging to procrastinate.

Tomorrow, after church, and after the water park, I pick up 50 pounds of tomatoes to start this years salsa making. We made 40 jars last year and just finished the last jar last night! It's a lot of work, but tastes way better than bought!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guinea Crises #1 - (I'm Sure There Will Be a #2 at Some Point)

I drug myself out of bed this morning after a whopping four hours sleep. I got the kids up, fed a few and sat down to drink my hot tea and cut coupons for my planned trip to the grocery store when....Ben came running in yelling that all the baby guineas were out of their cage. I called everyone to come help. Turns out that they are so small that they fit out of the bars of the baby cage. On top of that, the chicken coop door was open (to help keep them cool) so the babies all had access to outside. Considering we have foxes that pluck off full-grown chickens, I feared that we had lost several. We started collecting them from the hen house and the chicken yard. We ended up locking all the big chickens inside at one point and the babies started coming out from under the hen house - nine more to be exact. We found three more sitting under a bush on the edge of the woods. Once we couldn't find anymore, I started moving them to a different cage and counting - 30. I am really amazed, but we found every one. Now my problem is that this cage doesn't have a leaf-proof roof, so JD has a job for tomorrow (after he fixes the blue car!) Poor guy, but I'm just not a qualified roofer (nor a qualified car repairman)!
Look at this baby; they go to sleep when you pet them.

Good night. I'm hoping for a better nights sleep and a calmer morning tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vehicles and Guineas

I'm really thankful that we had renters move in Tuesday; it made yesterday's vehicle crises more bearable. It all started with a normal day - JD dropped the Toyota off to be inspected and took the truck to work. The garage called to tell us that the Toyota failed due to a faulty air-bag and it can only be fixed by the dealer. Great - there's no better place to be ripped off than the dealer!

Later in the day, JD needed to get to work on the base and the base won't allow the truck on (due to farm plates) and won't let the Toyota on until it passes inspection. Virginia law allows you to drive a vehicle with a rejection sticker for 15 days, but not the base. So, I ended up trading the van to JD and driving the truck home. Now, mind you, this is a big truck - you know the kind with the four tires across the back instead of two. It also has no air-conditioner and scares me when it shifts, but back to my story......

I came home in the truck, but needed the van in time to take the children to VBS. JD had to juggle his schedule but made it home just in time for me to load them up and head for the church. I noticed a few miles down the road that the radio quit working. Then a few more miles down the road, I looked down and the speedometer wasn't working. Then I heard the engine die and I had to coast that bad boy off the side of the major road we were driving on. It wasn't going to start either, so I called JD and told him of our predicament. It was nice and hot sitting in the heat of the van, but I wasn't about to unload my crew beside the busy road or cross the big ditch next to the road. (I only removed Tori and Julia briefly to let them go potty next to the road!)

JD towed it to a church parking lot and made a few attempts to get it started, but that wasn't happening. We then brought the children home and we headed back out. First we waited for the lock-smith to break into the Toyota, since JD let the repair shop lock the key in thinking that we had a spare to open the door (it's been missing for some time.) Then, he waited for the tow-truck to drag the van home.

Today, JD is attempting to fix the van; the Toyota is going to have to go in the shop after he drives it 13 hours on Saturday to take his Mom home. In the mean time, I drove the Toyota to take Alei to the Dr. this morning and wouldn't you know it, I got pulled over. Thankfully, she was only checking on the date of the rejection sticker and it's reason for being rejected. When I told her that it had to go to the dealer for the air-bag, she said, "I bet that will be expensive." Yep, that's what we are thinking.......I'm glad the house rented.

The best part of it all was watching how thrilled Elijah was to have a tow-truck deliver the van. He has talked about it all day.

Overall, it's been a good van; this is the first time it's broken down on me.

Our baby guineas, that I ordered over two months ago, were finally delivered today. We got 30 and everyone was ready to hold one.

I was happy that none died in transit and the kids were elated to add some guineas to our chicken assortment.

Elijah felt the need to kiss this one on the head.

They are happy out in the brooder in the chicken shed. Hopefully, they will grow up to be champion tick-eaters, which is the reason we got them.

Julia asked if we got to go to VBS tonight, instead of sitting by the side of the road like last night. I told her that I was going to take her in the truck. She asked if Dad was going to drive; I told her that I was. She looked alarmed and asked, "Does Dad know this?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Update and a Book Review

I am kind of alarmed at my lack of summer. When I decided to take the summer off from swim team, I envisioned time to do things that don't normally happen during the school year. So far, most of them still haven't happened. At the moment, my hurt back, thanks to the cooler on vacation, has limited my tear-through-the-house-and-get-rid-of-junk campaign. Other than that, I have tons to do to prepare Gabriel for his school-year move to Colorado and the school year with my other six school-aged children. I really want to start the school year early, so we can have a nice, long break at Christmas (to do all the things that we normally don't get done at Christmas - notice a theme here?)

So, the last few days, I have been trying to wrap up lots of loose ends; everything from scheduling Alei's wisdom teeth removal to preparing the guinea keet cage. Once I work through this list, I'm going to update Gabriel and Alei's transcripts and order my homeschool curriculum. Then, while I wait for it's arrival, we are going to do a deep clean and organize house campaign before we start school.

Grandma is here until Saturday; yesterday she read Julia to sleep, which was great since she has VBS every evening.

On a separate note, we had a HUGE blessing with our rental home. This month marks the one year anniversary that our nightmare renters moved into our house. They lived month after month paying nothing, or very little, and conjuring up lie after lie. We finally evicted them in the spring. We had friends move in for three months - the only three months of dependable rent the entire year. The house has been sitting empty since they moved out. We have had three different people commit to the house and back out for three different reasons. The third was not supposed to move in until the end of August, so we still had 1/2 of July and all of August to pay the mortgage, utilities, water and lawn care. They backed out Saturday night; Sunday morning, we showed it to a military family just moving to the area. They took it, PAID and are moving in today. As an added blessing, they signed a three year lease. I can't even tell you how wonderful it will be to have dependable rent-payers for three years!

Lastly, I have to recommend this book -

It is a true story about the International Justice Mission (IJM.) They are located in the D.C. area but are a Christian organization that is devoted to freeing human slaves around the world. This particular story is about a little girl brothel in Cambodia. It sends chills down my spine that people will exploit little girls for money, but it is happening in abundance all over the globe.

One more reason that Christians have to stand up for widows and orphans; to prevent them from being sold into a life of slavery!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Quick Sunday Funny

I really was hoping to get time to blog my Saturday organizational tip yesterday, but it didn't happen. We are having missionaries (to Hungary and Slovakia) over for lunch today, so I have lots to do, but I thought I'd share a quick clip from Julia.

Last night I was out sweeping the front patio. Julia came out, put on roller blades and was skating around. At one point, she almost fell, caught herself and did her traditional angry "AAAHHHH" yell. I said, "What's wrong, Julia?" She replied, "You should have taken these away from me!"

That's my girl.........

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Adoption Things Too Good to not Share

Here's some definitions that I've thought about many times; it obviously just takes a PhD to put them so eloquently!

Natural child - any child who is not artificial.

Real parent - any parent who is not imaginary.

Your own child - any child who is not someone else's child.

Adopted child - a natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.

(Rita Laws, PhD)

This reminds me of an episode that I had at a photography studio shortly after bringing Ben and Julia home from Liberia. The photographer was very interested in our family, but was feeling a little too free to quiz us down in front of the children. Since Ben was hanging out with James, and obviously adopted, she pointed at James and asked, "is he your real son?" Both boys stopped and stared at my answer, so she definitely wasn't going to get the information that she was prying for. I answered, "they are all real; I don't have any imaginary children." She replied with, "you know what I mean." I corrected her that the term was biological, not real. I also told her that James was a chosen treasure, just like Ben. I hope it made her think.....

My two least favorite questions that I commonly get are: is he your real son and are they real siblings. I guess the word real should be avoided in adoption questions!


I know a lot of people struggling with adoption related behaviors in their children right now, just as I've had struggles lately with Julia. The following quote was a real (there's that word again, but in a better context) comfort to me. I took it from a blog, who took it from a blog, so I am just crediting the original blog.

"It isn't that the enemy is attacking you...it is that by helping the orphans we are going behind enemy lines...we are attacking the enemy and he is simply defending his territory. So, when things go wrong, just keep in mine, YOU are making a difference and are a threat to the enemy or he wouldn't feel the need to defend himself against you."


Dressed for Success

Elijah chose James' winter hat and his black cow-boy boots for his morning 4-wheeler ride and trip to the garden.
Later in the morning, he found a nice pair of mittens to compliment his ensemble.

I love kids around the age of two; they are always so entertaining.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grandmas, Gardens and Chickens

JD's mom is here visiting for two weeks; his sister and husband brought her down and stayed for two nights, then JD will drive her home at the end of her visit. Tori was funny, as usual. When I told her that Grandma was coming, she asked, "which one? the white one or the black one?" I started laughing, as both Grandmas are quite white. She then started laughing and said, "what I mean is... the one with white hair or the one with black hair?"

Here's the white-haired Grandma trying to enjoy her morning tea with Elijah's help.

Elijah and I made an early morning trip to the garden to pick a few things. I can't get over the cantaloupe - they have totally taken over the 20 foot long bed, but that's OK since my blueberry bushes have died and my kiwi have never grown!

I think we are just days away from having our first ones ready to pick.

Elijah likes his mud-boots now. It cracks me up how you can't see any of his legs between his shorts and boots.

Lastly, we got eight more Rhode Island Red hens the other day from a local family. (We also took their two roosters that they assured me are nice - so far, so good.) We moved our afro and silkie babies in with our big chickens, they are all getting along fine after living side by side for so long and put the new chickens in the far side alone.

First, we clipped their wings, however, so they wouldn't fly out and become fox food.

Julia was less than impressed that we got roosters again; she remembers Chirpy and his evil ways! These roosters are no different; they will end up free on Craigslist if they aren't nice!

I finally collected pickle supplies, so that's my now project.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bountiful Blessings

Perhaps it takes a mother of nine to get excited about produce, but I was pretty thrilled with our haul from my friend, Wendy's, garden.
We had to tote all these peas in and out of the hotel room to keep them cool.

I had lots of little pea workers. They are all now blanched and in the freezer.
I also blanched and froze okra for winter stew.

Today I am hoping to can some pickles; I am just having a hard time finding the needed mix without driving to "town."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm Beached Out!

We lived by the beach for nine years before moving to the area we live now; I think I've spent more hours at the beach this summer than those nine years combined! We just spent another few days at the beach, only because JD had to work there, so we went along. We also still have good friends in the area, so my motivation was visiting with them as well as hitting the beach.

The reality is that while we had a lot of fun moments, it was tough to be there without JD hour after hour with seven kiddos. Gabriel and Alei stayed home because of work and school, so I was a bit overwhelmed at times. The worst is usually when Julia hits her high-pitch scream and it's incredibly difficult to calm her down. Elijah has also taken up high-pitch screaming just for fun, so I exert a lot of energy just keeping the two of them from screaming in the hotel and at the pool!

We did have a wonderful time visiting with two long-loved families from our days of living there and my friend, Wendy, blessed us with tons from her mega-garden that we are eating and freezing. We did cut short our last planned visit due to our AC at home leaking in the basement and me straining my back lifting the cooler. I'm OK now as long as I don't look down, lean down or lift anything or anybody. It could be worse, but not fun never the less.

Here's a few beach shots -

Elijah and I had a hundred conversations about the King Neptune statue that went like this:

Elijah - "MOOOOMMMM (grabbing my chin and turning my face so I'm staring right into his eyes) - THAT?"

Me - That's King Neptune

Elijah - "I scared, BAD Neptune, BAD!"

Me - Don't be scared. He's just a big rock.

Elijah - "I scared, BAD Neptune, BAD rock"

Then we'd play for two minutes and repeat the above.........He did like the blue slides, however, when the sand wasn't too hot - like at 9:00 p.m.

One of our trips to the beach, Julia found a few friends and they spent hours gathering little sand crabs. They must have had 100 in the bucket. The one little girl would get mad at Elijah anytime he came near the bucket. I saw the little girl's parents eye-brows shoot up when Julia announced that Elijah was her brother. I always find it humorous to watch people's reactions to my very African and very blond children. (You've got to entertain yourself somehow so many hours at the beach!)

There's my little screamer. She is a cutie and she loves, loves, loves the water.

Oh, the sand. It doesn't matter what precautions I take, we seem to eat and sleep in sand for a week after a trip to the beach. The one day after I outside showered off all the kids and boogie-boards, I turned around and Julia was rolling around in the sand. Amazing.....

Here's Elijah soaking up some rays. He broke his sun-glasses, so he wanted to wear mine!

All in all, the kids had a great time and I survived. I may need a little vacation to re-cover from my "vacation" but that generally is part of my normal life.

I have some okra to freeze (never mind, I've never even eaten it - Wendy told me how to freeze it for stew this winter.)