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, September 29, 2012


 So, the really good news is that we finally got word that Isabella's second blood test returned from Kenya; it is still inconclusive, but they are marking her file "to be determined in America." I really wish we could have just done that the first round because any test results were not going to keep us from bringing our little sweetie home. It looks good for traveling in the next few weeks. I'm racing the clock to be back to see Gabriel off when he leaves for Boot Camp on the 30th and I've lost hope for the family picture with the girls before he leaves! We'll have to plan that when he can visit sometime next year.

The other good news is that JD comes home at night now like a normal person, so we getting a few things done before we travel. The order of business after he fixed Gabriel and Alei's cars was to build the trampoline. 

                                     I have a lot of happy, jumping kids at the moment!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learning Struggles

This may be one of those posts that I delete whenever I get around to printing a blog book for my children, but I really want to share in hopes of supporting (and being supported) by my readers that are struggling in the same area. I currently have six children that are full time students: two full-time public school, two full-time home school, one home schooled but enrolled in Classical Conversations and the last home schooled but taking two classes at the high school. I would have to say that five of the six have really struggled these first weeks of school. It is getting much better for one, who is now "getting" the class environment and adjusting well. I have gone from two to three hours of help a night down to about none. 

 It is also going smoother for one of my full-time homeschooling boys. I don't know exactly what has changed, or if it will last, but he is progressing nicely lesson to lesson in several subjects and there are definitely other years I would have never said that. 

Tori is really struggling in the 2nd grade class-room. I accept responsibility for some of that because I constantly shortchanged her and Julia in the school department because James and Ben take SO MUCH TIME everyday. Tori would silently sneak off to play and there were too many times I didn't force her back, because I was drowning trying to keep James and Ben on track. Julia hasn't suffered as much just because she is younger. Beyond the time factor though,  reading isn't coming easy for Tori. We drill and drill and she has to memorize a lot of spellings that other kids seem to just be able to hear. 

I will say that it's possible that I now spend more time "schooling" Tori and Julia with their homework than before they went to school. Since Tori is going to school, she is getting four intensive rounds of phonics a day. She participates in her 2nd grade reading group, also goes down to the first grade reading group, has a reading specialist teacher that takes her for another round every afternoon and then JD or I do all the reading homework with her every afternoon. We (the school and I) are hoping that we will see a big difference in a few months with the intensiveness of her program. 

 The reality is that I hoped to have the home schooling experience with my four adopted children that I had with my first four biological children. It was probably "pie in the sky" dreams considering I adopted children that had lead poisoning, were malnourished, had malaria and lived in an orphanage environment. I just really was not prepared for how much my kids would struggle with day to day learning. I see daily struggles and patterns that totally dumb-found me; I really don't think there are many people on the planet who can day after day teach a simple concept, only to have the child stare at you the next day like they have never even seen such a problem, and not become discouraged. 

I was near tears every night the first few weeks of school. I start homeschooling James and Ben at 8 a.m.; I can seldom walk away even for a moment and have them stay on track. If I was lucky, we could finish by 4 p.m. when the girls get off the bus. I would then have three to four hours of homework between Moriah, Tori and Julia. Now that Moriah is working on her own, I'm down to about two. Thankfully, now that JD comes home at a decent hour, he is taking about half that load as well. Two hours is still too much for us to have any evening life beyond homework and dinner, but I am not near as over-whelmed and discouraged as I was two weeks ago. We are taking the kids roller skating tomorrow night for James' birthday and It will be the first night in four weeks that the kids have gone anywhere on a school night! 

What does this mean for Selah and Bella (and Brooke)? It means I totally expect them to have serious learning challenges. (Unfortunately, it also means that I have many more years of challenging teaching!) It also means that I will have more realistic expectations and won't be as flabbergasted when they respond the way my current crew does. I will definitely keep them home the first year for bonding purposes, but then I will have have to see if it seems in their better interest to home school or send them for a year or two of school. I will definitely home school Brooke, since she isn't fluent in English; I just have to be realistic in how many Kindergartners I can juggle alongside of what I have going now.

I would so love to be a fly on the wall of some other large, adoptive, homeschooling families to see if they have some secret that I haven't discovered!  I have to say that if I got things my way, I would be homeschooling all of them, and we would all attend Classical Conversations together, but my plan wouldn't include Julia's challenging daily behavior or the learning challenges that send me to my chocolate stash in the closet! I am hoping that "my way" will be more realistic  in just a year or two! 

                                                         Keeping it real - Jenny

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Quick News and Updates

Yesterday was JD's birthday, but we got an early morning call that sent him back up to PA to be with his mother. Although she completed the chemo, and it appears the cancer is gone, it has taken a toll on her physically. We are not sure that her heart is functioning OK at this point. 

Since our birthday plans were gone, I focused on other, less impressive tasks like getting out fall clothes for the younger tribe. The sad part was this -

These are Selah and Bella's summery clothes that they never wore. Some should fit next year, but I completely planned on them being here now and having some time in them. At this point, Selah's biological mother, who is ill, has a birth parent exit interview at the American Embassy on October 4th. She should be completely cleared and ready to leave only days after that. Bella's case, however, is not even submitted yet, because the one Dr. refused to scratch out a note for the embassy that her medical test was being sent to Kenya. We are now waiting for that test to come back for her case to be submitted. Since it's a 25 day test, I sure hope the clock is ticking, but he hasn't informed me or the adoption agency of that either. 

Although these delays are the name of the game in international adoption, it's frustrating nevertheless. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Saturday in Pictures

 We spent Saturday at King's Dominion, including the new Dinosaurs Alive area. Here are our current nine children (and  Alayna).  We kind of assume that it was our last major family outing before we head to Ethiopia and Gabriel leaves for boot camp next month. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Evelyn and the Adoption Controversy

I just read one more "we shouldn't adopt from Africa" article (because we are removing children from their families and culture.) First of all, I agree, the adoption industry is ripe for corruption; anytime you have the potential of making money in a third world country, the potential for abuse is a strong possibility. I completely agree that there should be strong laws by the country and standards by the adoption agency and when they are abused, the agency should lose their license. I chose the agency we are using for Ethiopia largely on the commitment that they use to make sure that abuse doesn't occur. 

One thing that is way too simplistic is the idea that no child that isn't 100% orphaned should be adoptable. Many people even go to the extreme to say that even the orphans don't need adoption, because the community will step in and care for those children. While that is a lovely idea, it is not the reality that I've seen. The children at the school that our adoption agency just took over are majority orphaned and they are living in the worst of conditions because the extended family and neighbors do not generally treat them like family, but domestic workers. These children would be so much better off, in my opinion, becoming a legitimate family member through adoption.  

Here is my personal, heartbreaking example of "family" that would appear as a statistical success to those that are anti-adoption. This is a picture of Evelyn, the little girl that we were adopting in Liberia that was removed from the orphanage by her Grandmother. The agency we used tried to persuade Evelyn's grandmother to allow her to be adopted, as her mother wished, because they knew that the Grandmother's plan was that Evelyn provide for her by prostitution once she was old enough to work. 

Evelyn, and a lot of children like her, deserve better!

Friday, September 14, 2012

He Gives and Takes Away - BIG News

I have been pondering this blog post for a while and hope I can accurately relay my thoughts on God, adoption and our family the last ten years. After four biological children, I was rather desperate to reach beyond our family and provide a home for a child that needed one. (I actually pushed to become a foster parent when Alei was born, but it took JD a few more years...and a few more kids.) Once we moved to the area that we live now and JD decided to retire, I really wanted to adopt from China. Our compromise was to become foster parents, mainly because it didn't seem like such a huge initial commitment to JD. I went through foster parent training in spring of 2002 and we did not get our first placement for a full year. James came to us in 2003 when he was 2.5 and Alyssa was almost four. James fit right in, things were relatively smooth and we both were excited about what the future held for us.  

Shortly before Christmas, six months later, we got a phone call from our same social worker that they had a 10 week baby that needed a home. We were so excited when we picked up sweet baby, "M" from a local gas station. She was a drug addicted, tiny, frail baby that had the worst smoke smell you have ever smelled, because it was encased in the horrible cradle cap on her head. We adored her! I even had a friend that donated breast milk for her to help her little immune system. I really thought we had the perfect family that Christmas and neither JD or I could picture a larger family. 

Right around Christmas, we got a call that baby "M's" sister was now in need of a home. She was placed with relatives but the military was moving them overseas and DSS would not let her go. They brought her to meet us and we both thought the best plan was to keep the girls together. Little "A's" age fell right between Moriah and Alyssa and we moved her in shortly after Christmas. 

We treated these girls like our own from day one. After uncovering more and more about the hellish existence they, especially "A," had lived in, we desperately believed that they were ours forever. We had them almost one full year when a relative from a far away state decided that she would be the family hero and not let the girls be put up for adoption. Since she had never even met them and we had them for almost a year, we relentlessly tried to fight a system that did not allow us a fair chance. The family promised "A" over and over that they would bring the girls back to see us every year and yet never even allowed us a phone conversation. It was one of the absolute worst experiences of my life to buckle sleeping Baby "M" in her car seat and know that by the time she awoke, she would be hours away from the only family she had ever known. 

 About that time, the Christian song, "He Gives and Takes Away" was on the radio. To this day when I hear it, I only think about the two little girls that would be mine if the world operated fairly. (Virginia law is that any family, any time, gets precedence in court over the foster parents.) 

We moved on, fostering, but never held the belief that the children were "ours" the same way that we had before losing our girls. Oh, I treated them like mine...I even flew my cousin in from CA to stay with my new twins because I wouldn't put them in respite care, but it was never the same in my mind. 

Next we got two darling twin boys and their spunky three year old sister. Since they still live in the local area, I'm not showing her or their faces. We had them for about ten months when they went to their Grandmother. We continued to see them and I even babysat them four years later. I would say their case is a huge success since their parents are raising them now and I see how God used us to help bring that about. 

After losing them, we turned our attention to an international adoption. JD had long since learned that genetics don't determine true love. Since we legally had five children, China wasn't going to let us adopt. I ended up finding Liberia on a website (I had never heard of it!) and we began our home study. After our home study, but before our referral, we had one more round in the foster care system, only because the kids were cleared for adoption and they needed a family immediately. We took in little "D" and baby "B" and were very excited at the idea of them joining our family. It all fell apart one month later, however, when their biological family found out that we were white and went back into court to have them placed in a black family. The social worker told us not to worry, that there weren't any other willing families, and yet the very next day, I was packing their stuff and handing them back because of the color of my skin. 

After that, we went full steam ahead with our Liberian adoption. It wasn't too long until we got this referral picture of Tori. She was supposedly 11 months old, but really was about 18. She "completed" our family, in our plan, and we were excited to bring Tori home in August of 2007. 

Our next adoption option was before we even left Liberia. When we met Tori's mom, we also met her older brother that was cleared for adoption, but not in the orphanage due to lack of space. It was only a few months after coming home that we felt called to begin a new adoption and return for Ben. 

Several months into Ben's adoption, a plea went out for paper ready families for eight baby girls that needed families. At this point, we had figured out that we had a heart for the children of Africa AND it was way cheaper to adopt two on the same trip, rather than separate trips, so we added on a baby. Our baby's name was Evelyn and she was darling - half Chinese and half Liberia. We were heartbroken the day that we got the call that she had been removed from the orphanage by her grandmother in hopes that she would be able to help provide for her in her old age. 

I told them that I didn't want another baby, that we would just come for Ben. They told me that there was no money back on the adoption fees and if we did not take another baby we would lose the money. So, Julia was our replacement baby whose referral came on Valentine's Day. 

We interrupt our adoption story to say that the Lord sent us a precious blessing on Julia's 2nd birthday with the birth of Elijah David. He has been a perfect addition to our family as well.

Elijah was not very old when I clearly felt the call to Ethiopia. I really questioned it as we were three children past our "complete" family! This is why the blog is named Our Plans Multiplied because God has clearly called us to do more than we felt able. It took time, but last November we began our Ethiopian adoption. It was on Valentines Day again that we were sent sweet Isabella's referral packet. I just received this new picture of her today. (My girls were so impressed with her outfit) but she'd be cute as a button wearing card-board!

Since we had really felt called to adopt siblings, and Bella was obviously only one child, we asked if there was a second child in our range of special needs that needed a family. We were presented with Selah's referral packet one month later. We decided that our siblings just didn't happen to be biological siblings and we have worked since to bring our girls home. 

The twist in my story, and our BIG news, is when we traveled to Ethiopia we found out that Bella has a sister who only entered the orphanage days before we traveled, when her mother passed away. She was listed incorrectly on the paperwork as the mother's sister, but in fact, she is the only sibling of Bella. We went and met her and came home and prayed about what to do. She literally has no family...no grandparents, aunts or uncles. Once again, the Lord has clearly shown us that she is to be our 12th child...our 6th from Africa. She is way, way older than the age I am comfortable adopting - she will be at least 12 by the time she comes home some time next year. We have updated our home study from three children under six to three children under fourteen. 

I, of course, am not allowed to show her face until she passes court. This is all I can show of our new daughter, Beruktawit, who we are planning to call "Brooke." 

 I shake my head that our Liberian adoption ended up being three children when I pictured one and it has happened again with our Ethiopian adoption. Brooke's adoption will be two separate trips, most likely some time next year. 

We are proof that if you are open to God's plans, He may take you beyond anything you ever pictured for yourself. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BIG News Coming

I have big news on the way. I would love, love, love to sit here right now and write away, but I have children awaiting math instruction, one playing that is supposed to be writing sentences and a few others that need direction. (I know you are now thinking....why is she even writing this, but I just sat down to approve a photo book that Alyssa is making to take to Ethiopia and I got a little side-tracked.) 

I'm hoping to be able to compose my thoughts and write a post tonight once the children are snug in bed...so check back tomorrow!

In the meantime, any guesses?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Elijah's Whistle

Gabriel has been cleaning out and packing the majority of his room, since he leaves for Boot Camp at the end of next month. The little kids have been hovering around him because he is constantly handing out "treasures" that are being unearthed from his drawers and closet.

One of the great finds is a life-guard whistle that he gave to Elijah. I can't even recount how many times today I have had to remind him that the whistle sound is for outside! At lunch, Alyssa picked it up and blew it real softly (unlike Elijah's blows). Elijah looked at her in horror and said, "Alyssa, you can't blow that...it's not a girl whistle." He then examined it and said, "great, you slobbered all over it." He is good entertainment. 

We are loving the fall weather and doing most of school in the screened in porch. I'm heading back to To Kill A Mockingbird.