In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Monday, April 30, 2012

BIG Kids, BIG Events

I finally had the opportunity to download JD's pictures to show Gabriel's big event. It happened to fall on the same day as Alei's big event, so they are sharing a BIG event post. (They are good with sharing; they've been doing it all their lives). 

My oldest son swore into the United States Navy a little over a week ago. He was able to go into the department that he wanted and get the job that he was hoping. At this point, he will be leaving for Boot Camp at the end of October and then will be attending training in Florida. While I do believe it is the path he is called to take, it is hard to see him grow up and move away from home for good. My Navy ties are pretty deep at this point - my dad, my husband and my son.

JD was able to swear him in - 

Signing the official paperwork - 

Yesterday, my second oldest turned 18! Not much is radically changing in Alei's life since she is already attending college and working, but she does get to take the little M (for minor) off her name tag at CVS and become a shift manager. 

We had a fun day, but sure didn't get many fun pictures. This is about all I have to show for the day - she was eating her requested cheese-cake. 

We would be feeling pretty old right now if we had stopped at the normal two children, but since we have another nine children that will turn 18 over the next 16 years, we are choosing to continue feeling young (most of the time).

Happy Birthday Alei and Congratulations Gabriel - we are proud of both of you!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Smaller News

 While I intended on posting my children's big news today, I can't, because I can not find the cord to JD's camera to down-load the pictures of Gabriel at his event and I am waiting for a friend to email me pictures about Alyssa's accomplishment; so I bring you small, less important, but fun-never-the-less news. 

The first is that Elijah has been busy building houses and roads out of scrap-wood all over the deck - 

He is able to do so only because the deck stairs have been framed and are now being built. There are no railings yet, so Elijah knows he can only go as far as he is in this picture. 

The second exciting news is I posted our family on the new van.  A few people (like older children) thought that it might be slightly embarrassing, but I obviously disagree. I think it adds some character to an otherwise very boring "church" van. 

Check out these stickers. This one says, "Adoption is about Love - Does your family tree have room for one more?"

 This one was made for us - "Family - many colors, lots of love"

And lastly, I put JD and I and the 11 children and the 4 dogs across the back. We decided to omit the cats, since we didn't want to appear CRAZY

Don't worry about the fact I'm posting the license plate - it's on it's way out since we thought of a great personalized plate. We had blessedw8 before Elijah and we've had JDJen9 since then, so I wanted to go with no names and no numbers and JD thought of a great one. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Happenings and Additional Feelings

My husband pointed out that there were some important things that have happened around here that haven't received any blog attention; I agree and am planning on a post for them tomorrow, because I just have to share what went down around here yesterday. I began writing yesterday's post first thing in the morning, but it took me until evening to post it due to life. Yesterday evening, before I even posted,  I took Julia (and Elijah) to Julia's gymnastics. I received a phone call from Alei that she was investigating a crime. 

As a bit of background, we have had a continual problem with people's items disappearing from our second fridge. Lately, the issue was that Alei buys meal replacement shakes to take to work and they were continually missing when she went for them. We have questioned several people several times and never come up with the guilty party. We hoped that we resolved this problem by letting Alei spend $100 on a mini fridge for her drinks so that they won't be stolen. Last week,Alei went shopping with me and bought a case of Red Bulls and Mt Dews (both bad, bad and I don't endorse) and put them in her fridge. The next day she decided to give up caffeine, so didn't open either of them. The amazing thing is that yesterday, when she got in there, they were almost gone. Someone had raided the fridge and consumed about two cases of high-caffeine beverages in secret. Before I even got home, JD had interrogated any and all possible thieves and had no one cracking. While he continued to talk, Gabriel and Alei went on a room hunt and found an entire book bag and back pack of empty can evidence on the guilty child's bed. (I'm not even going to go into the obvious lack of common sense of the criminal at hand). While the guilty party continued to declare innocence, Gabriel and Alei plopped the bags in front of JD. 

Once the gig was up and damages assessed, it was determined that there was $35 worth of stolen items in those bags alone; they admitted to throwing many others away. All of a sudden, things made sense, but what made the most sense is why the two guilty children were plagued with night time insomnia and had a hard time getting up in the mornings - Red Bulls at 9:00 p.m. when you are supposed to be in bed will do that to you! It also confirmed that I'm not as nuts as I sometimes wondered, because there was evidence of other things I thought I bought that had disappeared before I used them. 

In case you are wondering, we have a policy of paying back double. At this point, they owe Alei and I $70 for the damages; good thing they had recently earned $80 that I had not let them spend! They are also grounded from everything (electronics and desserts) for a full week. We are concluding with a few months of grounding from sodas at any occasion. (I have another child who is currently spending the next six months without gum for stealing it a few months back). I honestly think the punishment needs to be intense enough that it makes them stop and evaluate the next time they are tempted. There will also be a careful assessment of the tempting items in the fridge to make sure an additional infraction will not go unnoticed.  

On the feeling side - this is really hard for me. I grew up as basically an only child and am continually discouraged to have my children treat me and their siblings with so little respect. (I have never even heard of the idea of locking up things until I attended foster parent classes, but now I have a locked storage room!)  After extensively talking to these children, it comes down to SIN. They wanted what they wanted and decided it was worth the risk to have it. All I can do is train and teach while I make the consequences very painful. I guarantee that next Sunday when we pass out our traditional "Sunday soda" and they are handed water, it will be a good reminder of the cost involved. When we walk through Costco and the item that was being saved for is staring at them from the shelf (and now will never be purchased), it will serve as a reminder of choosing more wisely. If you are wondering why it will never be purchased, that is because one of these children has had extensive cavity issues due to poor dental care before our home. I am anticipating a pretty ugly cavity total at our next visit since these sodas were consumed before bed and didn't involve another teeth brushing. The next several months of allowance is going to have to be saved towards those fillings! 

The consequences of sin are always far more than we think when go down that path. Getting and paying for those fillings is far beyond any price they considered; it is much like the adult that is staring at divorce papers from what seemed like harmless flirting. I pray my children learn these lessons while they are young - that will be how I can gauge true success in parenting!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happenings and Feelings

 Yesterday was my birthday - JD and I went to dinner and the movies (October Baby - so, so good) on Friday and then yesterday we cooked out and a group of girls and I played Spoons. All in all, it wasn't too traumatic for turning a year older. The last few weeks have been pretty rough, however, due to the reality that I have a few children that seem to cycle between me feeling complete despair at their behavior and other times when I feel we are making progress and I feel hopeful. Honestly, I have no idea what causes these fluctuations, but the day to day dealing with their current behavior and the anticipation of bringing new children home has me feeling rather desperate.

Alei got me this card for my birthday yesterday - I thought I'd share - 

While I found this card humorous, at the same time it tends to be true. It seems at 100 different moments of the day, someone is fighting with someone over something (usually something stupid that isn't worth a fight.) I have a few huge tattle-tales and others who would not tell if the house was burning around them. One that baffles me to no end is a child that talks back to almost everything I say, yet will immediately, and without question, do anything that another child tells him to (even if it's the wrong thing and will get him in trouble!) At times I feel we could baffle an entire team of child psychologists. 

I have been down this road many times before and the major crisis of my feelings is that I have two new children that are coming home that, fair enough, will have immediate major needs. Looking at my current life and demands, I'm not seeing how they are going to fit. I want to have everything arranged here (including my current children's behavior) so that I feel I'm in a place to handle new challenges and my current children are not helping me out by being cooperative. This makes me seriously question my own logic and reasoning in thinking that I'm capable of parenting two additional little girls. I do have some ideas of things that I'm going to do to lighten the crisis load around here and I'll be sharing some of those over the next few days. 

I'll end with my thought that parenting can cause the greatest emotions on each end of the spectrum. Only my spouse and children can produce the greatest of joy I've ever had and also the latter once and a while the worst feelings of hopelessness. 

I'm hoping that my little "sharing" only helps people know that we aren't adopting because we are feeling so successful with the children that we currently have. We are only adopting because we are willing! Although the road is hard, very hard some days, and I often feel completely beat down by the same little people that also bring such joy, we are confident that we are a way better family than no family at all. I also have to remind myself daily that I am not the one who determines who my children are, neither am I the one responsible for every decision they make. Unfortunately, they have all been proven sinners, just as I am, and my job is only to teach, train and God will take it from there. In the natural, I tend to feel responsible for each short-coming I see and blame myself for their mistakes; I'm afraid God knew that it would not be easy to teach me that lesson, so he gave me many people to reinforce it daily. 

Here's my little Buddy in Gabriel's jacket from years ago. Gabriel was always very impressed with police officers and he collected several patches from the police chief in Norfolk that we used to go to church with. Elijah is equally thrilled with police officers and was pretty excited to see and try on the jacket. Elijah is also wearing Gabriel's first cleats that he played soccer in at five; they are way too big on Elijah but he wears them frequently anyway. 

Here's my little darling, being a little less darling - 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Miss Julia Clarise

Julia had a great time today trying on dresses at a junior's store in the mall with Moriah and Alyssa while the rest of us shopped. 

She loved the way she looked, even though they are about 10 sizes too big!. She even asked Alyssa if she could get ALL of the them for her on her birthday. 

These shots Moriah and Alyssa took; they really show her personality.

This was her all time favorite - 

The ball gown that they had to hold up in the back for the picture - 

                                                Different dresses, different heels! Wonderful day!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Garden Beginnings

 Last night I left these two capable young ladies inside to make dinner while a crew and I started outside in the garden. They prepared chicken for the grill (that JD cooked), corn bread and brownies. 

James, Ben, Julia and I worked on beds for our new strawberry plants. We took two old pallets and pounded out every other board to create a divided raised bed. After debating where to place them, I decided to put them along the edge of the area that we plowed for corn. After we created two for strawberries, the boys wanted to make their own little gardens, so I let them each do another one for whatever they want to plant and tend do. 

 Aren't they cute in there? I bought 12 plants and only nine fit comfortably, so now I have to go buy six more to fill the second palate. 

Julia then got to work with a little hammer and some small nails building Elijah a swing-set. Kids are great entertainment!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend Whirlwind

 I was gone between 12 and 14 hours on Saturday and Sunday, which has made me feel like I have a lot of catch up to do around the house. On Saturday, Alyssa and I helped with food for my friends daughter's wedding; we fed 250 people. Let me tell you, the biggest thing I learned is that I don't want anything to do with feeding the people at my children's weddings - it's way too much work! I'll leave that to some capable caterers. All in all, it turned out wonderfully; it just was a ton of work. 

Sunday we went to church and planned on coming home and then just JD or I making the airport run to pick up Aunt Deb from her three-countries-in-two-week tour, but we both really wanted to go, so just fed the kids after church in town and then headed north. She came into the airport that is on the far side of D.C. where we flew in and out of when we headed to Liberia. Once we arrived, we found out that her flight was pretty delayed, but JD stumbled across the U.S.O. and we had a lovely time waiting. They had a little kitchen stocked with snacks and a big living room with a TV, books, toys and games. The best part was that we didn't tell Debs (who was in customs for a long time after her delayed flight) and she texted me that she was sad that it was so late that she wasn't going to get to see the kids. JD brought her in for a bottle of water and we were all there. I love surprises. I'm pretty sure that the employees thought that she had been gone for more like six months, from all the kid excitement!

I sure wish we had discovered this spot back in 2007 when we sat with Ben and Julia for almost three hours (after traveling for 32) waiting for the man that volunteered to pick us up! Now I know.

Welcome home Aunt Deb!

Next time we are at this airport, it should have something to do with this - 

(that's a pretty pitiful smile I have, but it goes with my conclusion.)


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Short Post

 I accomplished four doctor appointments today - two in "town" 45 minutes away and two more over an hour away. I then came home to a huge mess, since my children all tend to be little piggies; 30 minutes after walking in the door, there was a remarkable improvement. Since my brain is fried and the crock pot dinner got made but never turned on, I'm concluding early with a few pictures. 

Tori's "Easter" corn-rows - 

"King of the World" (compliments of Burger King) - 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Julia's Plans

 Julia told me that when she grows up, she wants to be a toddler in a tiara. (No, I do not watch, nor endorse that show in any way - in fact I'm in quite anti-beauty pageant all the way around.) This has not detoured Julia in the least from  thinking that it would be the most wonderful thing in the world to tour the beauty pageant circuit. Once her sisters broke it to her that she may not be able to enter as an adult (the youngest she could be since her mother won't let her until then,) she said she would just run the beauty pageant then. 

These pictures are what I got when I got out the camera to take a picture of her new no-top-teeth smile. If you DON'T want a picture like this, you have to coach her to not pose!

(If anyone gets fake tanner around here, it needs to be me after seeing my glowing white legs in yesterday's Easter pictures!)



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 2012

Happy Easter From our Home to Yours

I didn't realize the camera was on the wrong setting until this morning, so the only egg dying picture that came out from yesterday was this one. 

Gabriel went with his girl-friend, Alayna, to a family reunion this afternoon, so we did our egg hunt this morning before getting ready for church. (A benefit of living in the country is being able to hang around outside in your pajamas!)

Gabriel and Magnum - 

Gabriel and Alayna - 

Julia lost her other front tooth yesterday - 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day Highlight

 This morning we headed to the Amish to get wood to fix the trailer, plants for the garden and baby chicks. We didn't come home with any baby chicks, but we did come home with this - 

He is a nine week old cross of German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd and a bit of border collie. We had planned on getting a full German Shepherd, but were concerned about the hip problems that often occur, so went with a safer mix. 

The kids were pretty thrilled with him and he seems pretty thrilled with the volume of attention he received today. 

We think his name is Magnum (after the old Magnum P.I. show that JD watches with the kids); here he is with 7 of the 11 kids he will be tasked with caring for.