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, January 29, 2011

A Story Worth Telling - Part 2

(If you are just arriving here, this is a continuation of yesterday's story post.)

I didn't miss my calling as a nurse and just about had a panic attack each and every time I had to administer a shot. We got into a routine that allowed Tori to fall asleep on my bed, then I would give her the shot at 10:00 p.m.; she would wake and whimper a minute, then we would cart her off to her own bed. Alei helped me every single time and changed her mind about pursuing a career in nursing during the months of Tori's treatment. Throw in the simple fact that before we started this treatment, we also returned to Liberia for Ben and Julia. We assumed that Ben would carry the virus as well, and also require treatment, but were pleasantly surprised when his tests came back that he had fought it off on his own. This was also the same time that we were starting the build on our house, dealing with another child's trauma and I found out that I was pregnant with Elijah. It was a quite stressful on several levels.

During Tori's treatment, we had to monitor her progress with blood work every two weeks. It usually showed a decrease in antigens in her blood, which meant that the disease was slowing in the rate that it was damaging her liver. While this was good, we were always waiting and hoping for a "cure" and that by the end of the treatment, the damaging antigens would be reduced to zero. When we finished in June of '08, the antigens had reduced by 90%, which was obviously much better, but was not declared a cure of any sort. Since then, we have been monitoring her levels and traveling to Johns Hopkins once a year to remain a patient, thus allowing us to participate in any trial treatments that could surface in the future.

Towards the end of her treatment, the doctor also warned us that her levels could actually start to increase again after finishing the interferon; we just hoped for the reduction to permanently remain. Every year I have held my breath just to hear that her levels are still at only 10% and that she doesn't require an additional treatment that doesn't really offer much hope.

So, fast forward to Friday, the doctor told us that her levels had dropped a bit, then she stared at the paper and told us that in fact, the antigens were no longer present in her liver at all. At the examination, she marveled that her liver isn't enlarged and neither is her spleen, which normally remains enlarged after battling Malaria! So, at this point, 2 1/2 years after finishing her last treatment, her liver has cleared all the Hep B antigens. Now, due to information gleaned from recent clinical studies, her liver will even be able to start repairing any damage that is remaining from her early years. We honestly have prayed for her medical status every day since that day in 2006 when we were given the diagnosis, but we honestly didn't hope for a complete cure this late in the game.

My point in recording this story, beyond just giving God the glory for healing her liver, is to serve as a simple reminder that God has us in his hands. In reality, Tori probably would not have lived through the Malaria that she had if she had remained in Liberia. She definitely would not have lived a full and healthy life in Liberia without the Hep B treatment she received here. At the same time, with where we were at prior to our first trip to Africa, we would not have claimed a baby that had Hep B, neither would we have claimed Tori and Ben if they had appeared as a sibling group. God knew that they had to be temporarily separated AND her medical status hidden from us to place them in our home.

God has also used Ben and Tori to clear our fear to the place that we are praying and pursuing medically special needs siblings from Ethiopia! There is also a story on how God gave me a glimpse into our future children the day Tori was diagnosed. That will be part three for a later day.

"Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa

A Story Worth Telling - Part 1

I have a story to tell, after a trip to Johns Hopkins hospital yesterday, but I want to start at the beginning. When we chose the country of Liberia to adopt from back in 2006, we were fully aware that they didn't test the children for anything before completing their adoptions. It sounds ridiculous now, but I only had over-all healthy children and I just kind of assumed that the little girl we brought home would be the same. Once we arrived in Liberia in August of 2006 for Victoria, she was obviously very sick. We checked her into a hospital in Monrovia and they diagnosed her with Malaria and treated her via IV for a few days. Once we arrived home, we chose a pediatrician that was quite a drive, but specialized in internationally adopted children. She ran several blood tests and caught the fact that Tori had not really fought off the Malaria. We treated her once more in the U.S. and the Malaria has never been an issue again.

Other than the Malaria, one day the doctor called me and told me that she had bad news. She told me that Tori was positive for Hepatitis B. Since I virtually knew nothing about it, we had to learn quickly what it was and how to proceed caring for her. The reality is that Hep B is an incredibly minimal risk to anyone other than the person carrying it; in her case, she was born with the virus. Hepatitis doesn't live outside the body, therefore, in normal family situations the risk is inconsequential. Our concern was for our daughter; how serious her case was and what did we need to do for her.

Unfortunately, before we could even research our options for Tori's care, it leaked out at my homeschool group. While we weren't keeping the information a secret, neither were we shouting it from the roof-tops. Apparently one mom that I told felt the need to tell another mom, who told another mom, you get the idea. The end result confronting us was a mother who had never immunized her children and was furious that we allowed our daughter in the group setting. I would like to interject at this point that I have no issue with people who chose to not immunize nor do I have an issue with those who do. I think it is a personal opinion, but the fact that this particular mom thought that my child was the ONLY child in the county that was a carrier for a diagnosed disease remains incredibly naive. Although she immediately quit the group (and immunized her children since we still resided in the county), her husband still felt the need to approach JD at work and actually accused us of endangering the entire county! You have to realize that we were blind-sided with these attacks, because we were just trying to digest the information on our own level and figure out how to proceed caring for our new daughter.

We learned quickly that often people only view situations from the stand-point of what is best for them; we also learned quickly who our true friends were - they began falling along two sides very quickly. Often when I relate this to other parents of Hep B children, they are shocked because they never were subjected to what we went through. We ended up seeing a "liver doctor" outside of D.C. who followed Tori's liver levels with frequent blood tests. Within months, he ordered a liver biopsy. The liver biopsy showed significant liver scarring and we knew that she would need to have some kind of treatment in order for her liver to continue functioning for her life time.

The liver doctor in D.C. ended up referred us to Johns Hopkins. Fortunately, we live within driving distance of the renowned hospital, as it has one of, if not the best, pediatric Hep B centers in America. We have worked with a doctor that is personally renowned in research and treatment options. The difficult thing with Hep B is that it is a very personal disease. Some people respond great to some treatments, others the treatment doesn't work at all. Some people have horrible side-effects, others barely notice a difference. The decision wasn't difficult to chose to fight it as aggressively as possible, since any chance of a medical cure is usually before a child is 4 or 5. We agreed to start a six month interferon regimen. The worse part is that interferon involved shots three times a week administered by us. Even worse for me was that the starting date was right when JD got called on a serious work assignment to HI for six weeks and I had to go it alone.

To be continued tomorrow -

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1/2 Birthday

Today is the day that Julia is officially 4 1/2 and Elijah is 2 1/2; we aren't doing anything remarkable for the occasion as I find it challenging enough to cover actual birthdays. We were blessed with some celebratory snow, however, and we called a snow day. One of the big bummers of homeschooling is that we don't take actual snow days off from school; we just play in the snow as long as we want, drink hot chocolate and then get to work. Snowy days are sometimes my most productive days since other events are usually cancelled.

This is the first time Elijah wanted to go out and play in the snow. He stayed out for over an hour and I used that time to tape my bathroom in anticipation of painting it on Saturday.

Later in the day Elijah was fortunate enough to go out again with Daddy on the tractor to move a tree that fell across the drive-way. A tractor ride ranks right at the top of Elijah's favorite thing to do, so it was perfect event for a 1/2 birthday!

As mentioned, we started school after lunch. Tori's new Math U See came in the mail yesterday, so we got to start on it. I was doing Saxon 1st grade with her, but she wasn't following numbers over 10 too well, so we backed up to work through Math U See's Primer book. At this point, I really love Math U See; it definately was the first thing that really worked for Ben. I have spent a small fortune on this curriculum the last two years, but we have to learn math one way or another. Thankfully most of it is non-consumable and can be used for multiple children and multiple children I do have!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Waiting Wasn't So Bad

So, it turns out that the waiting wasn't as bad as the news - the bank will only do our close as a re-finance rather than a first mortgage. Amazing that you can re-finance something you've never officially financed! It's completely unrealistic to come up with the volume of money we'd need to close immediately.
This morning I was working through a parenting Bible study that my sister bought me for Christmas. Today's portion was on Abraham and his blind faith following God even when it seemed so unreasonable. That's how a future adoption looks to me - completely foolish when I look at the financial situation of our current home and current family. However, I really think God is leading us in this direction, so He has our back; because again, it's not just a house - it's a home for our children AND orphans that we long to bring into our family. What I am praying and trying to figure out is now this: is this spiritual warfare and we need to fight spiritually OR is there just a window God is pushing us toward since the door keeps slamming in our faces OR are we supposed to just wait...that's the big question right now.

Since no one wants to read a picture-less bad news post, I present Elijah's monogrammed bean-bag he got for Christmas.

Nice it's getting such good use. I should have monogrammed it "cats" instead of "Elijah."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'm really tired of waiting . . . I've been patient and hoped each day for word, but I'm really not enjoying this round of waiting. I want to storm the bank doors and beg to talk to whoever is holding up our closing loan. It's so ridiculous. We are far from a financial risk! We've never declared bankruptcy; we've never skipped out on a single bill in life. We aren't the problem with the housing crises in our area; that was caused by the banks that loaned so many people inflated prices for so long. Often banks loaned to people on a short term, reduced price, and knew they wouldn't be able to afford the house payment three years later. Now, those people have fore-closed in record numbers, causing a huge upset in the housing market. We are now reaping the disaster of the banks and private purchaser's irresponsiblity. We are not asking for any benefits or reductions, just a good old fashioned home loan on the home we are already living in!

You know who else is waiting? Waiting and hoping for someone to come for them, to hold them, to love them? 147 million orphans - children that are capable of doing wonderful things with their lives, only if given the opportunity. It puts my waiting in great perspective. I read the statistic that 35% of Christians have considered adopting, but less than %1 actually do. Can you imagine all the orphans waiting that would have homes if the other 34% moved forward to adopt?

Waiting is hard, but even worse is the children that wait and wait for years and are never chosen, never get a family. My waiting is frustrating but their waiting is heart-breaking!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Closing and Ceiling

We are still in the midst of trying to close on our home. It looked very promising initially when we got back our much higher appraisal than last year, but still have issues in underwriting. Since we have not actually closed on the home (we are paying on a building loan), we should be able to finance the entire appraised amount as a normal house closing. However, the underwriters came back and declared that they had to treat our closing as a re-finance since we have been living in the house. The big deal about that is that a re-fi can only be for 90% of the appraisal value, meaning that we have to come to the table with considerably more cash. That would be just fine if the amount that we had to have for closing wasn't already enormous.

As I was sinking into house-closing despair, the head under-writer decided that she didn't think it was fair for us and would adjust that judgment to allow it to be an initial closing again! So, we are again hopeful, but waiting. At this point, I will not assume anything until the last paper is signed and we are on our way to victory dinner! Once before it all fell apart the day before closing. So, we wait a bit more... but I'm waiting with hope.

Of course, this house closing is far bigger than just a house. It's the house that we already live in, that JD built much of with his own hands. It's also the finality we need to be able to begin our Ethiopian adoption. It's hard to believe that the lives of two orphans also hang in the balance of men in suits at a local bank, but that's the reality right now.

As for the adoption, I'm still talking to people and collecting information, but we aren't starting our home-study until closing is behind us.

And while we wait, JD continues to build. Here's ceiling phase two - the playroom. We've pretty much cleared the room to get ready for the new ceiling.

As for our little Bob the Builder? He went and got the little blue ladder to be able to climb up on the scaffolding. He was pretty pleased with himself too!

The good news is that he doesn't go off on his own to get into things. He likes to be with people, so generally doesn't attempt too many dangerous feats unless someone is fairly close by.

That's my boy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Basment Progress

While I've been working upstairs, JD has made huge progress downstairs. Of course, none of it would have been possible without his little helper and the fine set of orange, plastic tools he got for Christmas!
This is all going to be future family room. The far end will house the TV and seating and the closer end will have additional seating around the wood-burning stove. I'm hoping a big round oak table that I've been storing in the barn will also fit for games and puzzles. It's a cozy thought to play board games by a roaring fire in the winter.

To prepare for phase two of the ceiling, the playroom, we moved the TV and couches over to their new home. It is rather cramped, since the left couch is sitting in front of huge carpet rolls instead of the wall, but that is only temporary.

For now the pool table will remain here; the game room isn't until phase three and it is currently filled with ceiling tile boxes, solar panels and lots and lots of tools.

Today I'm heading back to Ikea after church to swap the two little cubes that I bought; they were labeled black and were white upon opening. JD also left the racks on top of the van just in case there are treasures to be found in the scratch and dent section!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Birthday, Hair, Hair and Hair

Tori had a enjoyable birthday with her family. The high-light was that she got her long-awaited Nerf gun. It was the only gift she requested and she eagerly opened each other gift in great hope; ornery Moriah held it off until the end.

Tori chose a "pink, heart cake in a large rectangle" over a circle cake.

Since Elijah had a doctor appointment first thing this morning, we were forced to deal with the hair cut that Julia provided for him earlier in the day. Here's the front, but there was a great deal of trauma in the back as well.

The problem was that it was 9:00 p.m. by this point and poor Bud was tired. His least favorite thing in life is hair-cuts, with baths following a close second, and he was forced to have both.

He cried his way through most of the hair-cut and all of the bath. His little eyes were red and swollen and only improved after I pulled out a new bag of candy. (Thanks Ms. Wendy.)

While I was on a hair roll, there was no denying that the girls were looking severely over-due for a new hair-do. I had to face the reality that they both needed their hair re-done before church on Sunday. I then decided that I really didn't want to spend the entire week-end doing hair and I was going to try and get them both done today. I started taking Julia's out at 9:30 this morning and finished up Tori's at 6:30 p.m. I was actually thrilled that I finished before dinner, even though we ate late, instead of 10:00 p.m. I saved about two hours by saving their current parts; I actually banded each section and washed a section, then banded it again. I don't plan on doing that next time, since it's good for their hair to have different parts, but it sure helped today!

After standing on the kitchen floor all day, my legs ache. It was so worth is, however, to not have to repeat this hair scenario tomorrow. The exciting part of today is that tomorrow I get to do more exciting things - like organize down-stairs or tape the bathroom in preparation to paint!

What was a nice bonus today was the simple fact that Julia endured the hair process with no crying and only a tad of whining at the end. Sometimes I listen to hours of whining and crying - (and feel like joining her.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Underway Birthday

Today is Tori's 6th birthday. We started the day with her and I heading to the grocery store together to choose her cake supplies. I then took her to pick up her choice of a special lunch - Chinese food.

Upon arrival home, I was distributing the Chinese food when Elijah took off his hat to reveal his butchered hair. I gasped that someone had cut Elijah's hair. It only took a nano-second before we all looked at Julia. Julia very sincerely explained that she asked him and he said it was okay! Elijah calming said, "Dee-Dee (Julia) cut my hair three times!" Sure enough, there is also some trimming in the back. Elijah is asleep right now, but he's going to get the shortest hair cut he's ever had tonight; I will post some before and after pictures. As for the guilty scissors? They are all collected and going to live in a box on top of the school room cube instead of the junk drawer. I'm really just very thankful that Julia didn't cut her own hair, as Elijah's is much more forgiving AND I'm very thankful that she didn't poke him in the eye with the scissors!

I was going to take an organizing break today, but can't since Aunt Deb is coming to spend the night and her new bed in in pieces all over the sun-room. About two weeks ago, I moved the big queen bed that was in there to Moriah's room to allow us to use the room for more than a guest room. About a week later, a friend offered me a twin, so it can be Aunt Deb's guest bed for now and Elijah's bed later. The organizing continues, like it or not.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

School Room and Lunch Tip

Today was a very hectic day, but I did finish up the school room organization. All I really had left was this shelf and bins. I would like to replace this shelf with a darker, matching model, but I didn't see one at Ikea that would accommodate the bins I've relied on for several years. I bought this shelf with five slots and five, fabric bins way back when I had five kids. Each child, obviously, had a shelf and a fabric bin for their daily work and books. Now, Tori and Julia have smaller bins so that the crayon, marker and colored pencil bins can fit on their shelves as well, and James and Ben share the bottom bin. The whole thing isn't the prettiest, but it functions well to hide the notebooks and papers of daily school work.

Here's my lunch tip of the day - Since I've quit buying hot-dogs and lunch-meat due to nitrates, I buy the big split chicken breasts and cook them in the roaster. I then shred the meat and keep it in the refrigerator. We make straight sandwiches with it, mix it with mayo and seasonings for chicken salad and often eat it on salads. It's quick, versatile and much healthier than the processed counter-parts. Two big breasts seem to feed a lot of us several lunches each week.

Here's a cuter picture than shelves in the school room or shredded chicken; it's Julia and Gus hanging out under the table.

I think I'm going to have to take an organizing break tomorrow, in order to make a cake and wrap presents for a certain princess that is turning six!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Thing Done

Finishing the kitchen deep-clean today was easier than typing this post, since Elijah is asleep on me and only wakes when I try to lay him down. I solicited the kids to help and assigned important jobs like organizing the junk drawer and Tupperware cabinet. I handled the important things, like throwing away the expired cans and medicine bottles. I was rather horrified at how many expired cans we had; it seems I need to routinely organize my cans by item AND expiration date, rather than just letting the kids put them away. While we have been slurping tomato soup all winter, they were 2013 cans while the 2010 cans were rotting in the back. (I'm using the term rotting figuratively, as I don't want to conjure up any images from the show Hoarders.) Since I don't like waste, I warmed a nice mixture of expired soups and fed them to Lincoln for lunch, he appreciated it on such a cold day.

Well, tomorrow I'm going to wrap up the school room, which should be quick and painless since most of it has been done. I have an enormous amount of weeded out homeschool curriculum that I also need to figure out where to sell; I do well on E-bay, but I find it so painful to list each item.

As mentioned yesterday, here are two of my fail-proof breakfast recipes that we use over and over.

My Grandma's pancake or waffle batter:

2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. flour ( I use 1 whole wheat and 1 white, but you can do any combination.)

Mix and cook. The beauty of this recipe is that it's so easy to double or triple. If it's just the weekday bunch, I double it; if it's the weekend bunch with friends over, I triple it.

Second - Strawberry Smoothie:
1 c. vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 c. milk
2. c. frozen strawberries
2 bananas
1/2 c. ice

Throw in the blender; it makes about 3 smoothies, which means I usually make 3 rounds!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Swirling Blogs

I have random blogs bouncing around in my mind - it's rather symbolic of how I see my life at the moment. One reader suggested that I post favorite recipes that our family depend on and although I thought it was a great idea, it is yet to make it into blogland. I also have partially written blogs on organization, homeschooling and you guessed it - adoption. All the mental blogs are by-products of how my time has been spent so far in 2011 - jumping from one demand to another and not quite finishing anything yet. I started organizing the kitchen, yet jumped to the school room when we brought home the new Ikea cube. I'm also anxious to paint my bathroom, so we can hang the shelves that I bought at the same time as the cube. Of course, JD is finishing the basement and I have plenty I could be doing down there as well.

In the home school department, I have been hoping to put together a check-list spread-sheet for Moriah and Alyssa to begin logging their own school work, but so far that hasn't made it to the computer. I also would like to review some of the items that different kids are doing in different subjects this year since I've really found some favorites that seem to work with different learning styles.

In the hair category, Tori and Julia need their hair re-done and I've yet to do any significant research on loccing Julia's hair. Every time I finish Julia's hair, I think that I'll figure out if loccing is for us before the next "have to do hair" occasion rolls around. They seem to roll around pretty quickly!

Last but not least, Thursday is Tori's birthday and it's her year to have a party and I haven't planned that event yet. Although I don't do complicated birthdays, they still require some planning and a cake!

Then there's always the need for someone to go to the doctor and/or dentist and animals that need shots. Those things so often take so much more time than it seems they should.

Of course, adoption planning is also quite a time taker. There are so, so many agencies that work in Ethiopia that I have been trying to just narrow it down to who we are interested in working with.

So, bear with me, but I think I'll try to finish up my major kitchen clean-up tomorrow and post a few favorite recipes to go along with it. In the mean-time, here's a picture that I liked but never posted of Tori, Ben and James helping JD. It's so cute how they like to help with projects like this.

(Just be glad I didn't mention the diet and work-outs that Alei and I have started; my arms ache typing!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to the Basement

JD resumed working on the basement this week. He installed metal reflector stuff for the Geo-thermal system in this big room's ceiling, then insulated it. Tomorrow he's going to start installing the ceiling. After the family room is done, there is still a play-room and game-room to go. Of course, there's a bathroom, door-frames, baseboards, etc, but it's progress. What's crazy is that we planned on having the basement finished upon moving in - that was exactly 2 1/2 years ago. It's slow going as there are so many demands in our lives, but I can't wait for it to be done - so we can use the space and also just so it's done! I'm already appreciating the insulation as it means I don't hear every word through the kitchen floor.

The cabinet that I removed from the school room is just sitting in the hallway down stairs. I think it's eventual home will be where Elijah's toddler bed is in my room. In the meantime, Julia is having a great time using it as a Barbie dorm.

Kids are so entertaining. Here's a Tori story - Yesterday Ben was reading a dinosaur book and asking me about the time-line that Usborne states dinosaurs lived. I was trying to explain to him the different theories about when dinosaurs lived and it rolled into a creation versus evolution explanation as well. When I told Ben that some people don't believe God created the world, Tori interjected, "What a minute...Some people think that the DEVIL created the world?" Now there's a theory I hadn't thought of.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How About Short and Light?

Compared to yesterday's post, how about a short and light one today? Light as in light-hearted.

Remember this hot spot in the school room?
Here's my new design of that space -

Thanks to the Ikea cube, I have a lot more school supply stuff on that wall AND I still have some empty space!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Response . . .

While I realize most readers probably do not read any comments generated by my posts, my Adoption Complication post resulted in a few comments that I cannot resist but answer. I will start by saying the the questions and statements made by Mirah sounded genuine upon my initial read, but a quick search of her name resulted undeniable evidence that her motives are to bad mouth all adoption (domestic and international) and quite possibly her biggest motive in commenting is to push her books that are along the same lines. Although it seems illogical to push an anti-adoption agenda on blogs that are obviously pro-adoption, I read that she often solicits free advertisement by doing so.

I would first like to state that it is foolish to assume that we are not educated about orphan statistics and the adoption industry in general. We would not dream of sinking thousand of dollars and our lives into a cause that we didn't see as Godly or necessary! I would like to address a few points that Mirah brought up.

First, we certainly do not think that international orphans are any more deserving than the 120,ooo children that wait for homes in the American foster care system, however, we also do not believe that American children are more valuable than orphans abroad. What you need to know is that we were foster parents for four years; we only "retired" when Elijah was born because the state of VA will not place children in homes that have more than eight children. We fostered a total of eight children and were only able to adopt one of them; thankfully, the other seven were placed with relatives that were much more capable than the neglectful and abusive parents who initially lost their children.

We obviously differ greatly on what an adoption success looks like. When you speak of Moses of the Bible being adopted and then returning to his people; I see that as a success. While Pharaoh was killing all the Hebrew babies of the day, God spared his life in order to save the entire nation. If God spared one of my Liberian children's lives in order that they can return to Liberia to help save their country, that would be beyond fabulous! I sincerely hope that my internationally adopted children will use the education that they have been blessed with to help their birth country.

When you speak of adoption being the last resort, I can agree if the child that we speak of has a family and is capable of a full life in the country that he is from. However, when we are looking at orphans abandoned in China due to the communist laws that do not allow parents to keep any 2nd or 3rd children, or we are looking at millions of Aids orphans in Africa, that reasoning just doesn't apply. Adoption is the only hope for those children since the cultures that they are from shun orphans and do not allow them the basic rights of children that have parents.

I don't see the point in hashing the literal number of orphans in orphanages around the world. The reality is that it is in the millions and most do not have any family that ever intend on returning for them. I visited a few of the over 80 orphanages in the city of Monrovia, Liberia in 2006 and 2007. Many of those orphanages are filled with 100% war orphans that have no hope of anyone ever coming for them.

When speaking of financial resources, I think the majority of the wonderful programs run in some areas of the world are run by adoptive parents. Once you visit an area of the world and bond with the people there, and are forever linked by your children from that area, you can not help but care and want to make a difference for the kids left behind. Almost all adoption programs have fees that go to the children left behind that are not chosen and most adoptive parents contribute far more than the minimum required.

I agree that there are many ways to help 3rd world nations and adoption is only one of them. I personally am incredibly excited about the micro-loan programs that are springing up around Africa and other places in the world. They are a fabulous way to help entire villages and families stay intact and prevent additional children from being put into orphanages due to poverty, but they will never help the true Aids orphan or abandoned baby. Those children have no hope other than a family. To spend time and resources preventing these children from being adopted is a sad waste. Do you realize that there are more children slaves today than any other time in history? Do you realize that over half of those children are sold into slavery, often the sex industry, by their parents? To automatically assume that all children are better off in the unit that they were born is absurd; the sin in our world ruined that idea. We are individuals and adoption situations differ greatly - to endorse or oppose adoption on an absolute scale is overly simplistic.

I would like to speak on a personal note now. One of my children is adopted out of the foster care system. His case was labeled as "the worst neglect" the county had ever seen. I marvel daily that he is able to love and function so normally when any attachment information you read would indicate otherwise. In addition to the neglect, he had a dangerous level of lead poisoning and his biological parents repeatedly refused him medical treatment.

One of my daughters from Liberia was incredibly sick with Malaria when we landed to complete her adoption. We immediately hospitalized her, but the inferior medicine available to the doctors there was unable to fight it off. She only improved after seeking medical attention here in the States and we were told that she would likely would not have lived another month if she had remained in Africa.

One of my Liberian daughters has also received treatment from one of the top hospitals in the country for a liver disorder. There is no possibility that she would have even lived to reach adulthood in Liberia and would have died a slow and painful death without any of her family ever knowing why. Do you honestly think my children, under these circumstances, would have been better off in their original environment?

People need to understand the concept of adoption did not begin with man, it began with God himself. He uses the word adoption when he speaks of how he takes us in as His children. The parallel of God sacrificing His own Son to save us is the example we are following when we sacrifice our lives and resources to bring an orphan into our family. I believe adoption is the absolute truest picture of God's message to us.

Victoria in 2006 at the orphanage -

Victoria - Christmas Eve 2010 -

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adoption Complications

As a precursor to what I'm about to say, please know this only applies to our family - it is no way a judgement to what others do in building their family through adoption.

We feel rather strongly about maintaining certain birth orders in our family. We we first began foster care, Alyssa was turning three and we asked for children under her age. When we first headed to Liberia, James was turning six, so it was quite easy to claim a toddler well under his age. When we returned for Ben and Julia, only Ben broke our birth order rule and he was Tori's sibling. There was one other time in foster care that we took in an girl older than Alyssa and that was also because we already had her sister living with us. Again, I have lots of friends I know that have not maintained birth order and it was worked out fine; however, I think almost all would agree that it can be a greater challenge than bringing a new younger "baby" of the family. While I certainly am not opposed to challenges, we really feel that if a new son comes home, he needs to be Elijah's younger brother instead of older. We also feel that if a new daughter comes home, she needs to be younger than Julia and ideally, younger than Elijah as well.

This brings us to our Ethiopian challenge. I have talked to agency after agency that tells me that it isn't "doable" to adopt more than one child under the age of three; several agencies have told me that I would have to agree to adopt only one. Ethiopia, the country, is putting severe limits on adopting more than one child, unless they are siblings and the children are usually placed in the orphanages come one at a time around the age of three. So, often siblings are placed up for adoption in different years. Logically, many people just adopt one child, then turn around and return for another child the next year. More often than not, families only plan on adopting one child, but return due to the reality of what they saw while visiting their child's birth country. Due to the financial aspects of traveling twice per adoption, doing two separate adoptions increases the cost to the point that it is not even realistic for our family. Another HUGE benefit to adopting siblings is that Ethiopia greatly discounts the second child's adoption; which is a benefit that we did not reap when we adopted from Liberia.

I have refrained from quoting actual costs in the realm of adoption, mainly because I don't want to frighten anyone. There are also things to consider, like the adoption tax credit, that greatly reduces the bottom line scary figure, BUT in my best estimation, it would be about $25,000 more to adopt two children in separate adoptions than to adopt two siblings at one time. At the level of adoptions that we are willing to do, we can not afford to do it inefficiently.

One discussion my husband and I have had is the one of being a good steward of our money and being willing to invest in the lives of orphans. While I would NEVER say that adopting is being a bad steward of any resources, I believe at this point to overpay to the point that we are limited from saving other orphans is not being a good steward of the money that is on loan to us from God. Again, I would never think or say that someone adopting one child, and paying whatever they have to, is wasteful; I just feel like God has given us a glimpse into what He has called us to do and we need to be able to stretch our resources to the level they need to go!

All that said, I've listened to agency after agency tell me that my children would have to come home at one time. Then I've talked to agencies that show me how easy it would be to bring home two from China or Uganda. A tiny piece of my heart resides in China and Uganda in spite of not really knowing if I have any future children from either place! I've looked at little Ugandan faces that desperately need families and have been incredibly swayed in my "calling" to Ethiopia.

What stops me from switching countries? Very simply, my husband, who remembers over and over the God answered miracle of selling a boat (you can read it here if you haven't). That prayer was directed specifically at adoption in Ethiopia, not just adoption in general. That same weekend, before the boat actually sold on Sunday, JD had two other Ethiopian "coincidences." I have to agree that I'm being swayed by the facts, and if I intentionally put faith before the facts, I believe our future children are in Ethiopia.

So, at the urging of JD, I'm laying aside the logic and the agency given facts and I'm waiting for my young siblings or twins to surface (and let me remind you that we also feel called to a specific special need.) I know God is able and I pray that when He matches us to our sibling group, it will testify to how big and able He is if we stand aside and allow Him to work!

And because I keep writing picture-less posts, I present Julia and Gus enjoying some quality together time.

By the way, I define coincidence as when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Super Husband

I wish I had pictures to prove that I married a super- hero of sorts; there is practically nothing that he can't strap to the roof of our van! After flying home from HI all night Friday night, he was all too happy to accompany me to the last day of the big Ikea sale. Not only did we go to the sale, but we hauled along our five youngest children straight from church, a little tired and very hungry. (The big kids were invited, they just preferred to hang out at a friend's house.)

The first things I learned is that Ikea can be really, really crowded; the kind of crowded that means there's no parking in the garage and no tables in the food court. By the time we parked, found a table and got through the food line, it was 3:00. After eating, we navigated to the cube section where all my organizational dreams are possible. No sooner had we spent a few minutes there, the fire alarm lights started going off on the ceilings, there was a fire announcement and we were told to evacuate the building. What happened next totally baffled me - people kept shopping! I am not even kidding - we kept just looking at each other a bit shocked. There were many people heading for the exits, as we were, but we kept passing people that acted like nothing was going on! JD and I finally ditched the cart, made the kids hold their coats and were more aggressively passing the aisle-clogging shoppers to get to an exit.

It probably only took five minutes to get to the exit, but I was getting nervous and had a spiritual insight in those moments. All around us there are lost people...people that don't see eternity, people that can't see past the chairs and bookcases that this world has to offer. During that time of moving our family towards the exit, we forgot the cubes and baskets we came for - during that five minutes, they didn't matter to me anymore. What was so astonishing was that people were so involved in comparing and buying, that they didn't consider the possibility of perishing. How often is this actually true in life, even of Christians? As we live our day to day life, we have to remember that at any moment none of what this life has to offer will matter. In a matter of a moment, we will have to stand before the great Judge and he'll never ask what bookshelf we chose, He'll only ask if we helped guide others to Him while we were on this earth.

Long story short - the alarm was cancelled about the time we made it to the door; it was all because a child pulled the alarm button. (That announcement all made us look at Ben since we had a very similar experience last January.) Anyway, we did return for the cubes and baskets we made the trip for. And while we were already pushing the limits of the interior of our van, I suggested we check out the scratch and dent section... and there it was... the exact dresser that Alei has been wanting. It was the dresser that she jokingly asked me to buy as I headed at the door that morning, and it was $100 off due to a bent drawer part that JD fixed in about five minutes. JD looked at me, I looked at him, he told me that he could strap it to the roof. Sure enough, in the freezing, freezing cold, JD strapped that big dresser to the roof, along with some other much-easier-to-load cube boxes.

When we were done, neither JD nor I could feel our hands and Elijah was fast asleep in his car-seat before we even started the van. I just wish I had a picture; non-super-hero husbands would have said it couldn't be done!

My hero husband wants me to document and post about our current adoption dilemma, only so we will be able to show how God will move mightily on behalf of the orphans that He desperately loves and longs to bring into families.

Friday, January 7, 2011

End of the Week

It's been a very good week, considering I've been solo-parenting. I've spent several hours this week reading and talking to different adoption agencies. This potential international adoption is so much more complicated than it was when we went to Liberia! Ethiopia is a Hague country and there is a lot more involved. I also have been talking to several agencies and am surprised how much the program, and costs, can vary between agencies. The frustrating thing to me is how much more Ethiopian adoptions have increased due to the requirement of making two trips. On top of the extra $10,000 in travel expenses, it requires us to leave our children twice in a six week span of time; once for court and then again to bring the new little guys home.

Of course, I'm doing my research in complete faith that our house closing is going to go through the end of January and that we will then be able to refinance our rental loan and then that we will pay off our Liberian loan around tax time. In some ways, it's all crazy to even consider, but we feel like we are supposed to be ready!

In my continuing in the kitchen series, I bought new binders for my "scrapbooked recipes" that my sister and I enjoyed doing the few years back. My binder had gotten stuffed and wouldn't open or close smoothly, so I divided it into two - one cooking and one baking. I have rediscovered lots of exciting things in there I'm ready to try.

I'll close with some two year old humor. Since Tori and Julia constantly get their fingernails painted, Julia calls them tandernails, Elijah always wants in on the action. Every now and then, he gets a marker and colors them all and is pleased with the look. Yesterday, he started coloring on the computer desk. I said, "Elijah, what are you allowed to color on?" expecting him to say, "paper." Instead, he very seriously answered, "my tandernails."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blogs of Note

Courtney, over at http://www.storinguptreasures.com/ is having a "blogs of note" promoting different blogs that are out in blogland. While Courtney is a lot like me, a home-school mom of lots of biological and adopted kids, I'm sure there will be a fun variety to read. I posted the button on the right side of my blog if you are interested in joining the campaign or finding some new year reading material.

For those following along, I'm still working in the kitchen to begin my new year organizing fun. In spite of my trip to the airport and shopping yesterday and my four hour fun lunch at Chick Fil A today, I have gutted and cleaned the pantry, cookbook cabinet and a few other messy spots. Here's my new clean pantry; it' won't stay this way for long - I totally clean it at least once a month. Anyone dare to guess how many half eaten bags of chips I found in there since there have been massive teens at my house all of Christmas break? (I thought teens ate the whole bag at one sitting, but I was wrong.)

Julia loves nothing more than playing with food (well, eating chips would probably rank higher.) She kept herself entertained for at least an hour with a little can of green beans that were ultimately eaten cold by her.

Since we had chicken for lunch, and JD is out of town, we are having smoothies and toast for dinner!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lots of Jay Jays

At our house, the code word for flying is Jay-Jay; thanks to the senile kid's DVD series, Jay-Jay the Jet Plane. (He's a Christian version of Thomas the Train in the sky.) Our week has been filled with Jay-Jays, so far. Aunt Deb came for lunch on Sunday, then went home to pack and left for CA at the crack of dawn on Monday. JD left for HI quite early on Tuesday AND I took Gabriel to the airport early this morning to head back to CO! Thankfully, I didn't have to do the Deb or JD airport run, but I was blessed to rise at 4 a.m. this morning to drive Gabriel into D.C. with the morning commuting traffic. I really can't believe how many people drive that commute every day; I feel like I've been on a weekend trip. Of course, it was longer than necessary due to the fact that I'm seriously "directionally" challenged. I did alright getting to the airport, but parked in the first garage that offered hour parking. What the sign didn't tell me was that garage B and C are hooked on to the airport, but garage A involves a shuttle. Gabriel and I just boarded the shuttle instead of returning to the car. Again, that worked out getting to the airport, but was a bit more complicated when I came out of the airport. After standing in the freezing cold waiting for the shuttle to make its rounds, it took me to terminal A instead of garage A, and I was dumb enough to get off. This error was obviously caused by the fact that the driver barely understood english and I just agreed to what he said because I couldn't even make out the language he spoke, much less the words! After looking around, and analyzing a map, I figured out that I had to board another shuttle bus. After waiting through eight more buses, going to eight other locations, around came my same bus driver. I'm guessing they drive the same route in a circle for eight hours a day, yuck! After greeting him and admitting that I got off at the wrong location, he delivered me to the correct parking garage.

Then I had a little mix up leaving the airport that involved a brief u-turn in the taxi only garage; but after that, I was on the road on the way out of D.C. (If you are thinking I need a GPS, I have one. The problem is that at times it only helps those that can help themselves; in other words, if you are lost in uncharted territory, it doesn't know what to think.)

The fun news is that I followed the GPS directions through D.C. since rush-hour was over and low and behold, it brought me right by Ikea and the outlet mall. I rushed into Children's Place to see if coats were on clearance for next year. Although they were sold out, I got jeans for $1.97 and shirts for $.99! Can't beat a bag of clothes for Tori and Julia for $20.01 - way better than Goodwill. I also tore through Ikea taking measurement of the different shelves and cubes that match my current ones in the school room. I think I'm going to sell my nice wood cabinet in order to acquire a big cube that will utilize the space better.

Off to bake bread and start on that kitchen organization project I mentioned.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Don't Be Jealous...

I don't want to make anyone jealous of my creatively decorated hot spots, but here's one -

You like it? This little gem is in my school room. I purchased the cabinet years ago for the kids puzzles, games, math manipulatives, etc, but it's always a mess and there are always things that are too big to fit inside, which leads to the lovely display on top. It's only gotten worse since Christmas and when I walk in the room and see it, I feel as though I may lose my mind! So, this leads to one of my many mental New Years goals. ( I don't like the word resolutions, although I'm not really sure why.) One of my goals is to simplify, simplify, simplify! I am constantly picking up stuff even though I'm constantly getting rid of stuff, so I am preparing to swoop through, get rid of, and organize the rest. An added bonus is that the stuff I sell will go to my current loan pay off program, which will enable us to adopt sooner and easier.

I plan on posting before and afters as I go along; I'd also love to hear other's ideas!

I'm so overwhelmed by that cabinet that I think I'll start in the kitchen!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year - 2011

After pictures yesterday, we rung in the New Year here at home. Thanks to the fabulous new drum set that I bought at the thrift store, it was seldom a quiet New Years Eve. (The drum set will be moving to the basement soon - Alei is exceptionally excited considering her room is downstairs!)

Around 10:00, we decided that was enough fun for the little guys, so they all got tucked into bed.

Then it was just me and JD, ...and Gabriel and his friend Darrell, ...and Alei and her friend Amanda ...and Moriah and Alyssa. Since this was our first New Years Eve with no satellite, therefore no dropping ball, we just snacked in the kitchen and cheered the New Year moment based on Alei's cell phone time - cheesy, but effective.

Gabriel requested I purchase a deep fryer before he even came home, because he whips up this delicious, but fattening, "chicken wings" regularly in Durango at Linny's home - (http://www.aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/.) I wasn't enthusiastic about buying one until I found one for a whopping $2 at the same time I bought those fabulous drums that everyone keeps thanking me for. So, Gabriel was able to make a special batch of his special recipe for the occasion.

Here they are in their spicy form. I'm not even kidding you - I went to bed at 12:05 with a stomach ache, but they were good while they were in my mouth!

Happy January 2011!