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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


 We were able to get almost a hundred pounds of apples from the Amish about a week ago; they are the best apples I've ever eaten and an awesome buy at less than 50 cents a pound.  See those 50 pound bags behind Spiderman that have been hogging my island?

Thankfully, JD's mom is here for the week and has helped peel lots of apples! We've canned nine quart jars of applesauce, frozen six pre-mixed pies and made a big tray of apple crisp.

JD is going to stop on Monday and see if he can get one more bag. The smell of cooking apples can't be beat. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Decks - Big and Small

We had to delay the Amish that are coming to build the screened in porch a week because the engineered main beam wasn't ready in time; if the weather holds out, they will be here on Monday. In the meantime, JD has been able to get more of the work done, (thus lowering our cost.) 

The back yard looks like a complete construction zone; the basement looks about the same - lots of saw dust and dirt.

This side is the screened in porch; the one yet started will be a deck.

Eventually we will patio the entire area under the porch to turn into a covered patio that will be off the family room in the basement. 

Here's our first trip out from the door in the kitchen; it made me rather nervous to have everyone standing out there. The bolt is back in place now.

Elijah has been building some decks of his own. This one is out of Math-U-See blocks. 

And Tori helped him create this one out of duplos. 

After three days straight of wearing the Spiderman "helmet," he hasn't asked for it yet this morning. We may be able to put it up for a while. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Five Darling Faces!

If you don't sponsor an orphan (or enough orphans,) consider these sweet little faces in Guatemala that are waiting for a sponsor through the Block family. The Block family moved their large family to Guatemala to help the least of these and they need our help. 


Monday, September 26, 2011


 Elijah was invited to a super-hero party yesterday; he went as Spider Man thanks to my friend Wendy who loaned us the fabulous costume complete with fake muscles. Elijah wore the mask on top of his head and called it a Spiderman helmet. (He has worn the helmet all day today also and is currently napping in it.) He was pretty impressed with his outfit and the toys and friends to play with at the party. 

This isn't the best quality picture since it was taken with Alei's phone on a potty break; Elijah looked in the mirror and yelled, "I am Spiderman" nice and loud. 

Of course, I don't think Elijah has a clue who Spiderman actually is, but that hasn't swayed his enthusiasm.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Birthday Boy

Today is James' 11th birthday. 

James is a loving and caring brother who gladly will break from what he is doing to help a younger sibling. 

James still gets excited over the simple pleasures of life, like lighting his own candles.

We are blessed to have you as our son, James. May you continue to grow and become all God has planned for you to be. 

( I am known for my ugly cakes and this was no exception. It was a home-made ice-cream cake with a layer of chocolate and ice-cream between cake layers, so the taste made up for it's appearance.)

Friday, September 23, 2011


I have to say, I love getting a bargain. In fact, as my children have learned, I rarely buy clothes or bedding until it hits the 75% off mark. Here's the girl's bedding we scored for 75% off at Target the other day. The quilts were $16, down from $64 and the coordinating striped sheets underneath were $4.50 down from $18.  The big boys (James and Ben) got comforter sets that included sheets for only $15. 

While we are on bargains, Tori's bottom bed is "new" from our renter that moved out. She sold me the bed with a new mattress for $20. 

We very, very rarely buy new furniture; the only new things I can remember buying for children are  Gabriel and James new dressers at an unfinished furniture store about eight years ago and Alei a new dresser at Ikea's scratch and dent section. Craigslist is an awesome furniture resource!

On one last bargain.....We got Buzz Lightyear, Superman, Batman, truck and dinosaur like-new pajamas at the base thrift store for a dollar a pair. That makes for a happy mom and boy. 

 They aren't going to look almost new when he's done with them because they double as a costume in Elijah's mind. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perhaps the Strangest Yet

 As some people may remember, my oldest (not in age, just in friendship years) friend, Wendy, lives about three hours away, so we routinely meet in the middle. We used to meet at the Pizza Hut way back when we only had about six - eight kids between us, but have moved to Chick Fil A since we now have a grand total of 14 children and the playground helps us not to make quite as big of scene. 

Today's meeting agenda entailed transferring this cute doggie, Pickles, from his current home near me to his new home near Wendy. I picked Pickles up on the way so that my children wouldn't get too attached. She is delivering Pickles to his new home in the morning. 

I also found this canning shelf for Wendy where I lived and had to transport it. It's just too bad that I don't have a video of the two of us in the parking lot moving that from my van to her van - we had a lot of car-seats to work around! We did stop to take this one quick picture right before the nice Chick Fil A guy came out to tell us that it was so nice of us to come and comment on all the activity in the parking lot. 

Moriah did tell me that we were rather embarrassing and that she wasn't going to swap stuff like we do when she is older, but she didn't mind breaking for a picture with her little buddy, Asher. 

Although the camera went away, our little party carried over to the Target store when we discovered that the bedding that I had just bought for Elijah was lowered from 50% off to 75% off. We had to return and re buy (and buy some more and some more,) but we got some really awesome deals for some kid beds. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Backyard Progress

 While I've been running to and fro, JD has been focused in the backyard  preparing footers for the deck. The Amish are coming next Monday to frame it (if JD hasn't beaten them to the task,) roof the screened-in porch and tie it into the house. After that JD will screen it. 

This cement mixer really helped make the job easier; it's also going to be great when we fence the pasture. 

Hopefully the Amish won't mind me taking pictures; the ones that built our barn let us as long as it wasn't a close up of them. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Family Day

The older my "big kids" get, the less occasions there are that are actually all of us. Our trip to King's Dominion yesterday was the whole family, including Aunt Deb, so it was really a special day.  This is my favorite picture of the day - all four of my boys on the log ride. I was pretty nervous about Elijah going with Gabriel because the last drop is a big one, but he did fine. His only complaint was that the "ride made his eyes wet." Gabriel zipped his jacket over him, so the rest of him stayed dry. 

I still find it hard to believe that I ended up with four sons after Gabriel being the only boy for years. I'd really like one more boy! Elijah routinely tells me that he wants a brown and white baby and they both can sleep in his toddler bed with him. 

Here's Alei and Alyssa on the swings; they both wore flip-flops in spite of our recent chilly weather and appear bare feet in many pictures since they make you sit on your shoes if they fall off. 

Tori, Julia and Elijah had a blast in kiddie land, although they also rode anything that the park would let them on of the bigger rides. Julia laughed a hysterical giggle on the little roller coasters and Tori cried on a few big coasters but then would ride another one immediately following. 

I think I have an abnormal percentage of dare-devils compared to families that we've been to amusement parks with. Personally, I only rode one roller coaster and I was regretting it most of the night when my neck kept me awake. I really don't think the ride hurt it because I purposefully chose a smooth one, but I think I stressed it trying to not jerk it at all. I probably won't be doing that again until someone declares my neck less risk for injury!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Need the Brakes

This was an entire week of days on the run. I went to "town" ( we live about 30 miles out) every day other than Thursday, so did my CVS shopping, Commissary shopping and took the kids to swimming at the Y that day. I am desperately behind on things like laundry, but we have a pre-planned fun day tomorrow, so it will have to wait one more day. I'd like to say that next week will be better, but I already have one Richmond, one Baltimore and one "town" day on the agenda; at least they are spaced a bit. I'm looking forward to Richmond since it's my Chick Fil A meet Wendy event; it's always a really fun day and I'm taking her an early birthday present and a dog. Yes, a dog; for some crazy reason, Wendy and I swap animals in Chick Fil A parking lots on a pretty regular basis. This dog is a friend's dog here that is relocating to a friend of Wendy's down south. So, Wendy and I are really just the drivers this time, we are usually the bestower and receiver.

It's getting late, the words are blurry and I really don't have much to say other than I'll be back on Sunday with pictures of our crazy tribe tromping through Kings Dominion tomorrow; Aunt Deb is coming too so that makes it even more exciting for the kids.

So you won't have a picture less post, here's Elijah enjoying the company of his red vehicles. I suggested that we give a couple of the toddler ones to Wendy's baby, Levi, but that just made Elijah not take them for granted. He spend the next several hours playing with them.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What We're Using This Year

I realize any readers that don't homeschool will have about zero interest in what curriculum we are using to homeschool this year, but for those that are interested (and because this is about the only place  I record anything,) I present a brief list.

Gabriel and Alei have moved to the college age realm and Elijah is only three, so that leaves me with six "homeschoolers" this year. Moriah is using Switched on Schoolhouse, except for Teaching Textbooks math. This is the first time we have tried this program and I'm pretty happy with it after the first week. I'm very happy with their customer support, as well, both times I've had to call because the program is obviously smarter than I am.

Alyssa is attending a homeschool co-op program called Classical Conversations. It's rather expensive, academically challenging and only meets once a week, but I couldn't be more impressed with what she has learned the last four weeks. They just started a program with Bryan College to allow them college credit if they use the program through high school.

James and Ben have moved on to 4th grade. They are just beginning the 4th grade Math U See after completing three Math U Sees in the last two years. They are still completing the final few Explode the Code books while beginning Easy Grammar and cursive writing with Handwriting Without Tears. We are going back to finish the geography program of My Father's World, although realistically we will be picking and choosing projects because there isn't time for all of them! I am also planning on incorporating some of the map drawing that Alyssa uses at Classical Conversations.

Tori and Julia are tagging along with My Father's World with the boys while they are doing their own grade of Math U See, Handwriting Without Tears and Explode the Code. Our new big excitement is that Hooked on Phonics just arrived Saturday; so we will be beginning that as well as soon as I have a second to remove the shrink wrap and read the teacher book. I switched to Hooked on Phonics after a few recommendations from friends; I used Phonics Pathways last year and it bored Tori to tears. I'm hoping this approach will motivate her a bit more.

That's it in a nut-shell; too bad I can't teach it as fast as I typed this!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Shelves Clean Out

I have spent the entire weekend buried in books; not the fun kind of buried like reading, but the work kind of sorting, organizing, moving and selling. The number of books we own is crazy, but 14 years of homeschooling and numerous children can do that. For example, my oldest four children just used Saxon math every year until we hit Algebra II, then their mother was really unable to be of much help so we switched to Teaching Textbooks. Then due to some learning struggles, I've also had to buy Teaching Textbooks for one child for the last several grades before Algebra II. Last year, Ben was struggling so badly with Saxon that I took him back two grades and we re-worked using Math U See first grade. So, now I own three math curriculums for many grades. The end result is a huge homeschooling bill most years and lots of books; this year has exceeded huge, so I have pulled tons of books off the last few days that I don't foresee using with my current little guys and I'm trying to re-coop some of my expense by selling them. 

I started by cleaning out the big cube. There were about four or five cubes there were overflowing reading books that I didn't have room for on my regular book cases. Removing them allowed me to have cubes designated to children. The up highs are my curriculum for them and lower is their corresponding books. The baskets are for math manipulatives, puzzles, etc; we even have a cube for Elijah's police Playmobiles that are "special school-time only toys." That cube may be the best $200 I've ever spent in the organizational realm. 

All those removed reading books then had to be accommodated on my already full shelves. My solution to that was to re-locate all the fiction down-stairs on the three bookcases that we bought from Border's. So my shelves went from this - 

to this -

 I've gone through tons of piles that look like this, but most of them are now safely tucked onto the shelf they belong. There are only a few areas in life that I really like perfection and my book organization is one of them. 

As for the new bookcases, they are downstairs lining the playroom wall. My original plan was to put them there for the time being and then move them to the family room when it becomes a family room instead of a construction zone. However,  I found out that JD majorly bolted them into the top, bottom and side walls to ensure they wouldn't flip on any disobedient monkeys, so they probably are now there to stay. It's ok, because the playroom has plenty of space. 

So, my plan down here is the first shelf is hardback picture books, the second one is children's chapter fiction in alphabetical order by author's name, (should I admit that?) and the last is adult fiction. As you can see, I haven't really moved the adult books down yet, my overflowing bookcase in my bedroom is yet to be cleaned out. I still think I'll have plenty of empty shelves, but I'm really happy to dust empty shelves; It is the first time in 20 years that I've had empty bookcases!

For those dying to know, the book shelves from Borders were all three for $100. Can't beat that!

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Favorite

Yesterday flew by in a blur. My least favorite part of the day? Well, that is when moments after I told Moriah that I needed to take a school break and take a shower (something like a shameful 11:00,) I saw the huge Lowe's truck come rolling down the drive-way. JD obviously forgot to tell me something (although he thought they were coming in the afternoon and he'd be home for it.) I proceeded to head out in my "pajamas" which are actually very unattractive shorts and an old t-shirt. The man asked where the deck was going to be built, obviously in the backyard. He then tested the ground, after our week straight of rain (over 10" one day alone,) and told me he could get it there if I could move the new vacation trailer and truck out of the way. Granted, hooking up the vacation trailer on the hitch and hauling it is something I've never even attempted, but I didn't have a large range of options. I did come yelling in for Gabriel's help, but he was late for work and ran right past me. With the Lowes man's help, I hitched and hauled the trailer to the other side of the driveway. I also moved the truck. I then had to move the elaborate garden hose system which is hooked up on the story high faucet in the backyard by moving and climbing a ladder. Need I mention that I'm scared of heights (and still wearing my fresh out of bed look now covered in sweat?) To make a long story short, by the end of the hour and half, Elijah was out in the mud with no shirt and his wedding shoes, asking the man if he was going to "crush" various items around the yard with his rolling fork lift; the girls were out with their wild undone hair and pajamas and I felt like the man was going to be telling stories out our crazy house for months to come! 

My favorite part of the day? Writing my friend's daughter a check once she finished both my girl's hair while I actually finished school and made dinner!

My humorous part of the day was when I was letting Julia and Elijah watch the gummy bear song on YouTube and it showed a picture of the Statue of Liberty. Julia got all excited and said, "look, Lijah, look, it's that lady that we know!" 

I've made it to the end of my first week of school; James, Ben, Tori and Julia have done really well! I am going to work on some schedule adjustments, however, along with my clean out and organize project.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Plenty of Work To Go Around

Elijah packed up his entire workbench and headed down to help JD in the basement. The basement has once again turned into a building center. Once Elijah found out that is little orange drill wouldn't actually go through real wood, he got two turns with the real drill. 

Note Elijah's building attire - a "super-hero" cape and his wedding shoes. He wore them both all day.

I have once again resorted to hiring my friend's daughter to come help with the girl's hair. This time it is because I slept on my neck badly enough that moving it is quite painful at the moment. It has been enough strain to get out their current style. While I got the picture of Alyssa helping, in reality I am so much faster at it, and bedtime was quickly approaching, that I got the majority of hair duty. It's a blessing that I'm able to call her in for back-up!

We lost power lost night (and water) and got to hang out in the basement since there were tornado warnings. We had a nice time as I started reading the kids The Best School Year Ever, a sequel to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. They are both quite entertaining! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School

We had a pretty good first day of school. I think we only did a bit over half of our normal work-load and it took most of the day, but that's a continual problem I have. I really need another me, (but maybe one that has more patience and enjoys mindless drills more.) It was also a really cool, rainy day which was perfect for sitting by the open windows hitting the books.

Tori and Julia did really well, only once did Julia sigh and comment how tough Kindergarten is. Tori was quick to sympathize because she is a seasoned first grader this year.

I purchased three new bookcases from Border's bookstore that is going out of business. They are going to relieve some congestion in my current bookshelves and allow me to reorganize. I guess that will have to be my weekend project.   

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laboring on Labor Day

 Since we spent Saturday in Amish country and yesterday at a church picnic, we decided to make this a working Labor Day. JD is the heavy laborer of the day, since he started putting ledger boards up for our future screened in porch and deck. The plan is that he and Gabriel are going to do the prep work and the finish work, but the Amish are going to come frame it in the middle. We loved our screened in porch we left six or seven years ago and have been excited to get to the point that we can build another.

My entire plan for all last week was to be ready to start school tomorrow and I'm only partially ready at best. I'm planning a "What We Are Doing This Year" post in the next few days, but I will say that I'm pretty thrilled with the free down-loaded school planning pages that I found at www.timberdoodle.com/schedule. I am hoping that it will help my little students be more responsible for their work-load as they check off their daily requirements. 

Gabriel and I went and picked up these cool old school desks today. They are affectionately being labeled the ADD desks; one is going in the sun-room and one down-stairs, so if someone (like a 10 year old boy) is having a hard time focusing, he can retire to somewhere quieter to finish his assigned task. We have been practicing this the last few years, but now they will have a desk instead of a book on their lap! Of course the desks are quite exciting today since they are new, but all that will change in a week or so. 

Aside from school planning, I did plant broccoli, carrots and pumpkins this morning. I'm estimating that my pumpkins won't be pick able until mid-November, but I can still can them. 

When the Amish are finished with our deck, we are going to have them price fencing our pasture. I think the grass is finally at a decent enough place that we can consider a cow and we've had the fencing stacked for at least two years. We have been planning on a dairy cow for several years since raw milk is so, so much better for you and very expensive to buy. While I'm excited about the idea, I'm also pretty nervous at the idea of adding two milkings a day to our current list of demands.

Call me weird, but I love days that we all stay home and work; a few of my shopping-prone daughters don't agree, but farm work definitely builds more character than the mall!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Yesterday morning the kids and I spent some time cleaning up in the garden. I cleaned out the tomato plants and other dead vines and either fed them to the chickens or threw them in the compost tumbler. I really hope to plant a few fall items in the next few days, but I fear I may running too late. We eat a ton of broccoli, it's a fall crop and easy to freeze but I'm yet to locate broccoli plants or seeds.  I guess I need to look online. 

My watermelons had made a pretty nice comeback and I had four baby melons growing, but the guineas have eaten everything that even resembles a melon for the last month. I'm hoping the garden fence will deter them next year, but I'm concerned it won't. 

My corn grew nice and tall, but never developed mature ears. I think we are going to need to work on the soil and try again next year. 

We had about 8-10 trees fall during the hurricane. Two were nice big oaks that are now going to turn into the last batch of fence posts that we need. We constantly have pines fall behind the barn; they really need to just all be taken out. This is the scene between the barn and chicken shed. 

There are two on the barn, one on the chicken shed and one on the lumber storage container. JD took all three of our chain saws to the shop the morning after the storm; we will be prepared for the next time!

Thankfully, there is very little real damage.