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, May 31, 2012

Waiting Children

This short video gives an example of the perimeters of children waiting adoption in orphanages all over the world. The label "special needs" often sounds far more alarming than the reality of many special needs.  These are the children that wait for parents while parents are often waiting themselves for a healthy infant. (Remember to pause the music at the bottom first).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thoughts on Leaving

 I've had many, many people tell me, over the last six years of our international adoptions, that they won't consider international adoption because they can't go that far away from their kids. (Please if you have said something along these lines to me, don't think I'm talking just about you - honestly, I've heard it at least from a dozen people and don't have anyone specifically in mind). My thought is REALLY? I am a pretty Mommy-oriented person. JD and my first big fight was due to the fact that I refused to let Gabriel cry himself to sleep as a baby. I breast-fed all my children, a few for two years. I never, never left my infants. I flew my cousin (and part of her children) here to babysit my foster kids when I went to Hawaii so that I didn't have to leave them in the care of people I didn't know or trust. If lines were drawn, I would have to say that I would be on the side of sacrificing myself, and sometimes even my marriage, to put the children first. 

I say all that to show that I don't take lightly to the idea of my husband and I boarding a plane and heading overseas while we leave all our children here. In fact, I'd have to say that orphaning my children is probably my greatest fear in life. Here's how I evaluate that "risk" (which isn't really a risk because life and death is only in the hands of God) - My children live a completely privileged life. They have literally never gone to bed hungry (unless they chose it because they were being too picky). They have never had to sleep on the streets because they didn't have a home. They have never slept in fear of being kidnapped by child traffickers or being set on fire by the police that are "cleaning up the streets." My children are being required to stay one to two weeks with grandparents or friends, that may not be Mom and Dad, but are 100% capable of adequately caring for them, so that we can bring home a child that has lived for a long stretch without any of the comforts my children have, including a family! The children I am bringing home could literally have died of starvation or been  trafficked by the lowest of humanity for ill gain. 

When we look at the balance of our children vs. the international orphan and chose our children...we are saying that them living at 90% of their comfort level for TWO weeks is more important that the other children living at a 0% comfort level for their entire lives! Our children's sacrifice is so small in comparison to the gain of the orphan! How can we consider the children in our home to be so enormously more important than the children waiting for a family? How could we ever justify our reasoning to the God that placed the responsibility of caring for the orphan clearly on us?

Evaluating it like that just makes me realize how absurd the argument or reasoning really is. This is the reason I will kiss my children good-bye and board my flight on Saturday - it's Selah and Bella's turn to have a momma love them for the week!

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our Memorial Day lake pictures - 

We took Magnum. He had a blast but isn't convinced that he's a water dog. 

My baby boy - 

Gabriel, Alayna (Gabriel's girl-friend), Tori and Alyssa - 

Julia and Magnum - 

Alayna brought crabs - you can just tell how impressed Gabriel was with the process of cracking them!

Ben has never met a sea creature that he didn't love to eat!

Elijah liked them too, he just made his mommy crack them - 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Julia Revelation and My Favorite Verse

Right now, I do Tori's hair one week, Julia's the next and have the third week off. I have been contemplating my schedule when I have four girls' hair to keep up with. I had a revelation the other day about Julia, much as my school one a few weeks back which resulted in her attending the rest of this year at "real" school. Why, oh why, would I continue to torture her and I with these hair sessions?

 As some back-ground, I pay Ben to take Tori's hair out (while they watch a movie), then I spend two to 2 1/2 hours putting it back in while she plays with her Game Boy thingy. When it comes to Julia's, I have to take it out myself, averaging about two hours (and her crying much of it). The next day, I put it back in for about three to four hours (with her again crying much of it). She is miserable and I'm grouchy and it's overall quite the negative experience for both of us. 

I considered putting little locs in her hair about two years ago and was really swayed not to for some legitimate reasons, but none of those reasons can stand up to the reality of how difficult it is to do her hair. (For the record, she has a ton of thick, gorgeous curls, but they knot so quickly and so badly that we can not leave it undone)! So, I've made the decision to start putting in locs the minute that school ends for the year. I guess it's going to be a really long few days while we get them in (any volunteer helpers?), but it sure will help with the next several years! 

For those who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, there's a adoptive Momma on YouTube under the name Katelynlyn that taught me how to corn-row. Now I'll be following her "locing" series. So, soon enough, Julia and I can do something a bit more fun on Saturdays!

On a different note, I have wanted this verse up since I painted the walls about two years ago. I put it over the front door. Something about adopting makes me start getting some things done that have been lingering on my mental list. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Work Continues

JD and I have continued our never-ending work outside this last week. He finished the stairs from the deck -

He is also screening the last sections of the screened-in porch. It is going to be so wonderful to eat without bugs.

My helpers and I planted my Mother's Day rose buses. 

I have also finished (as much as I'm going to) planting the garden. Today I am going to put the tomato cages on and spray the apple trees. The apple trees appear to be dying from some fungus and my organic, all-natural stuff isn't beating it. I'm going to try the hard-core stuff before I just let them die. 

I planted two pallets of strawberries and then James and Ben wanted to plant their own little gardens. They have a cute assortment of veggies growing.

This was our last Sunday before we leave so the church prayed for us. It's so exciting to think we will be with Selah and Bella next Sunday. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

While we are scheduled for court on June 4th for Selah, yesterday was the preliminary hearing. Thankfully we got word today that all went well and we don't have any delays. It is also Selah's 5th birthday today, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY baby girl and this is your last birthday without cake! 

I'll get to meet my sweet birthday girl in 10 days!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Week Before

 My list for this week, before we leave for Ethiopia, is long and filled with all the things that I want done but don't need in the last minute category. Fortunately, my parents are coming to stay for the week while we are gone, enabling Aunt Deb to go to work during the day. Unfortunately, next week we begin swim team practices as well as I will need to pack for travel along with my normal demanding life. This week I am attempting to accomplish a major task a day - today after school is carpet cleaning and corn planting! 

I have been anxious for a summer school break, but the reality of me traveling now and again in the fall is that we are going to have to accomplish several weeks of school this summer. As for now, I'm pushing them to finish this year's books. Some subjects will start wrapping up this week; others have several weeks to go. 

Julia is doing very, very well at school. I am almost surprised at what a positive difference it makes for her. As long as she gets to bed on time, so she doesn't get too tired, she is having very few "melt-downs." I wish I had sent her at the beginning of the year! Here's the mob of Kindergartners  singing cute songs for the moms.

We attended Alyssa's end of the year violin recital - she has gotten remarkably good in two years of lessons. 

James, Ben and Tori had the last basketball camp last Saturday and Moriah is down to about three soccer games - all in time for swimming to start.

Aunt Deb decided that we don't have enough fun and injuries  around here so she bought supplies to help the kids build a bike ramp. Dad got in on the action and now I have even smaller chance of ever growing any decent grass in the backyard. 

Lastly of importance, Tori helped Elijah acquire the mustache he has always wanted. He told us that he was never taking it off, but it really restricted his dinner, so it came off after a few hours. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Cuppycake Song For Selah and Bella

 According to Alyssa, this song is a popular YouTube sensation. When Elijah was just turning two, Alyssa taught him how to sing the first half, then when he was a little older he learned the rest. I have been planning on videoing it for about a year and last night as he was laying in bed, I actually did it.  Don't forget to pause the music at the bottom first ...

Elijah dedicates this song to Selah and Bella while they wait to come home

Food for Man and Beast

Twice a year the Commissary has a case-lot sale, which is generally very good deals. The problem is that while the items are in bulk and cheaper, I still end up with a lot of money invested in things that don't really feed us for the week - like ketchup and sandwich bags. While I didn't plan on buying much more than chicken (which they didn't have this time) and pet food,  I still came home with this - 

We had three very-full carts (mostly due to dog and cat food), and since the van has about zero cargo room in the back, we had to move the few kids I did take to the back row and pack from the front back.  Then they got to climb over it each and every stop I made - like I don't attract enough attention just trying to park and unload the kids. 

Here's what I now get to organize in my already crowded storage room. I need to have a serious clean-out day!

The dog food was $12.50 for the 44 pound bag and the cat food was $7.50 for the big bag; with four dogs and 100 cats (give or take a dozen), this won't last as long as I hope. 

On a more heart-warming note than dog food, this is what I found when I headed to bed last night. Sweet, huh?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Local Friends

Local friends,
I have volunteered to hand carry supplies to a safe-house in Ethiopia that has just started pulling little girls out of human trafficking. At this point, they have five little girls that came to them with nothing. They are in need of toiletry supplies as well as clothing, etc. If you would like to donate anything for me to hand-carry for you, please contact me at jenandkids@va.metrocast.net. I will have pictures and specific information on the girls, hopefully today, if you are interested in shopping for one of them. When I say little, the youngest is only six; these girls are in desperate need to be shown the hands and feet of Jesus - they have already tragically seen the worst that humanity has to offer!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

BIG Ethiopia Travel Update -

I want to start this post with the reminder that adoption always comes with loss. It is often the best available option, but the reality is that adoption is a result of our sinful world and always accompanies pain; usually for the child being adopted and always for the birth parents. To me, adoptions in 3rd world countries are the very saddest - they are generally the reality of poverty. We decided to adopt the children that we are adopting because we wanted to be a family for children that did not have any other options. When we accepted Isabella and Selah's referrals, we knew they both had birth mothers, but neither of them are well or able to care for them. We found out today that Bella's mother is in a coma. Although she signed for Isabella to be released for adoption when she checked her into the orphanage over six months ago and again when her packet was referred to us, the judge requires a third signature (and the American Embassy basically a fourth.) Since her mother is unable to sign, a relative was located to sign in the mother's place, but the judge is not willing to accept the power of attorney. So, Bella's case will not be heard until the mother comes out of the coma and is able to sign or she finally passes away. I am praying for the first and the ability to meet her when we travel, but ultimately we want what is best for her. 

In the meantime, we are not delaying Selah, so we have a preliminary court hearing next Wednesday, May 23rd, and a final court date on June 4th (as long as May 23rd moves through with no problems). This means that Selah will be moved to the transition house where Bella already is and we will be with our both our little girls in a little over TWO WEEKS. 

There is some hope of the judge letting us appear in court for Bella's case before it appears before him and in that case we would not have to travel again for her court case. We are certainly praying that works out, but the answer to every one's question is yes, there may be more than two trips to Ethiopia at this point. Worst case is that there will be four, but we will do what we have to do to get our little girls home; if I could show you their sweet little faces, you wouldn't blame us! JD and I will go on this first most-important trip for court and then we will evaluate the other trips as they come. I am so thankful that this first trip falls before the time that JD isn't able to travel. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day - Plants and Blankets

We had the second week of our adoption plant-sale fund-raiser yesterday. Since this was really our first fund-raiser, I was pretty thrilled with how well it went. We definitely earned a sizable amount towards our up-coming travel expenses. A friend of mine is also going to host a Norwax party at the end of the month for us (they are awesome non-hazardous cleaning supplies) and another friend made two lap quilts that I get to raffle towards our adoption expenses. Exciting progress!

I found out today that our hold up traveling for court is that Isabella's mom that is too sick to travel; she has to appear in court as well. The adoption agency is going back into regional court with a power of attorney and then we hope to be able to advance on to federal court soon. We are getting down to the wire for JD to be able to travel with me, so I just pray that it is soon (like this week soon)! 

I told a dear friend at church that I wanted soft blankets to leave with the girls on my first trip. She told me that she would make me two. She gave them to me yesterday and they are so precious that I don't want to risk losing them. I think I'll buy two Walmart ones the first trip (and leave them) and take these for their airplane blankets on the second trip. The blankets are identical except she stitched Bella and Selah into the middle and the corner of each blanket. 

Can you see Bella? How sweet is that; it's in the middle of a flower and the name is repeated at the corner with a cross. I can't wait to give them to the girls!

Speaking of sweet girls, I went to a Mother's Day tea at Julia's K class today; she knew the songs and had sweet little crafts for gifts for me. 

 I'm happy that she is doing well at school. I just read another Mom's blog about schedules and security and I'm realizing more and more that Julia can not handle any flexibility. I am trying to get it together enough that our schedule will be a security for Selah and Bella when they come home as well. 

I am hoping that JD and I can attend a weekend seminar on attachment parenting this fall (in addition to the trip to Ethiopia). It seems unreasonable to try to do two trips, but I really think it would benefit all of us!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Few Other Things

There's so much that goes on around here that never makes the blog, like last Saturday when JD and I hauled the three youngest kids, three dogs (one large one that suffered such trauma in his early days that he can't handle a collar or leash), and three cats to stand in line for two hours at the rabies shot clinic. I bet the little guys won't be begging to go next year - it was long and hot. 

The humorous part was when we were leaving and trying to carry the four carriers, lead Magnum and drag Lincoln over the hill back to the car, we saw a lady that JD works with and she yelled, "My word, JD, you have as many pets as you do kids." I am not even going to enter the debate of whose crazier when  she was wearing a dog in a pet Ergo around her neck.

I also discovered one of my new favorite things - the pressure washer. I had no idea how wonderful that thing was that JD pulled out occasionally. Now that I know how much I love it, the porch will never turn that moldy green again! You know what's cool about 11 year old boys? They still like to help whenever there is power behind the tool, so they each did a set of steps and I did everything in between. 

We also had a plant sale as an adoption fund-raiser. We were sold plants at whole-sale by a nursery and were able to sell them for the regular cost. We bought 150 and sold almost 100 of them last Sunday; we are going to attempt to sell the rest this Sunday on Mother's Day. 

Lastly, I painted the front door red. All the kids then joked about living in a barn - that sure would explain the mess they leave around the door.

I liked the look for about one day, now the dogs are leaving streaks of white where they scratch to come in. I foresee some gorgeous Plexiglass on the lower one-third of the door in the future.

One of my next projects is to try another idea with the million pairs of outside shoes. I can't take the mess anymore. I am thinking a cabinet with doors and labeled shoe shelves inside (and I make whoever is too lazy to open the door to put their shoes in write hundreds of sentences until they learn...).

Oh yeah, on the school front, Julia came home all excited because they are going on a field trip to see George Washington. (It's really one of his homes).