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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

For Once

After 11 children, and several bonus foster children, I am no stranger to public humiliation. Last night, however, I was spared since JD happened to be the parent in line for pizza at Costco, while I was the other parent towing a half a dozen children through the store piling my cart high with food. There was a sweet older couple in line behind JD and Elijah and she leaned towards Elijah and asked, "what did Santa get you this year?" Elijah leaned towards her and said, "Santa is dead!" JD did exactly what I would have done and explained that Elijah was referring to the original Santa - Saint Nicholas. She was satisfied at the answer but the rest of us got a good laugh.

Elijah and his Christmas dog
If your shopping is too boring, I can loan you one of my little people. At this point, I even think I have broken Selah from telling strangers in public that they are fat - but you may want to give me a few more Costco trips before I can guarantee that!

Thursday, December 26, 2013


 Christmas was very different this year; we were out of town four of five days around Christmas and we were missing children that weren't with us. While we have learned to be "go with the flow" sort of people, I'd like things to return to normal next year! We deliberately quit traveling for Christmas about the time Moriah was born and we all our enjoy our traditions at home.

On Christmas Eve the children present a gift to the person whose name they drew. We used to keep who got who a secret, but we gave up on that a few years back and just try to keep the gift a secret. That is hard enough with a lot of little people with big mouths. 

 On Christmas morning, we open the rest of the gifts. We generally then make a hot chocolate run in our pajamas and bring it home to drink with our cinnamon rolls. This Christmas, we waited until evening to make our traditional run.      

Christmas jammies and Big Foot slippers
 It only takes a few presents per child before the living room is a complete disaster. We started bagging wrapping paper and putting the bags out on the front porch mid gift opening. No matter how careful we are, we always throw something away that requires us to go back through the bags looking for it. This year, it was the keys to Julia's Dream Diary.

 This will probably be Aunt Deb's last Christmas living in America. We will hope she is able to fly back at least one of the next few Christmases.

Aunt Deb and Selah
 Merry Christmas from eight of the 10 children living at home; eight is about as many as I can get together at any point for a picture!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Visit with Santa

 For the record, my kids know the truth about Santa; we have never pretended that he leaves presents under the tree. They still enjoy going to see him, however, much like they like to see Chuck E Cheese. You have to be 10 or under to visit and get a gift from Santa at the company Christmas party; the older kids enjoy going for the crafts and snacks.

Here are my five under ten with Santa this year.

Bella - almost 4

Elijah - almost 5 1/2

Selah - 6

Julia - almost 7 1/2
Tori - almost 9
 And a good time was had by all!

Quick Road Trip

 We made a whirlwind two day visit to JD's mom in the Pittsburgh area. I get so annoyed with myself because I often get caught up with what is going on and forget to get the camera out. We were surprised with a visit by JD's oldest nephew, his wife and daughter. It was short, but a wonderful visit since it had been four years since we had seen them. This was the first time most of the family met Selah and Bella; of course, they loved all the attention. Melissa told Bella that she was their cousin and asked if she know what a cousin was? Bella replied, "is it a mom?" It'll take them a while to understand all the family terms, especially since we don't live near enough for steady interaction. 

I did remember to pull out the camera at the end of the visit for a few pictures -

JD and his mom
Grandma with 8 of her grandchildren
We have the kids' Christmas party at JD's company this morning - I guess it's going to be our only Santa sighting this year, as we haven't crammed in a visit to the mall.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Warming Silkie

 We have a pretty strict morning routine around here. I am making school lunches by 7:00. I get the school girls up by 7:20 and the homeschooling boys by 7:40. The girls eat first and then get ready for school while the boys eat and unload dishwashers. The boys should then be ready for outside chores while the girls and I head to the bus stop at 8:00. The boys' primary morning chores are feeding and watering the goats, chickens and barn cats. The goal is for the boys to be back in and ready to start school by 9:00. Several times the last two weeks, I have looked out the window to see James heading to the house with a lethargic chicken. The first one just seemed cold and perked up when placed in a Rubbermaid by the fire. The second one died in the Rubbermaid by the fire. That day, I drove to town and bought two heat lights for the chicken coop in spite of the fact that it really isn't that cold for animals that are housed in a nicer home than lots of people in third world countries live in. In spite of my purchase, we have lost about four more chickens. This morning James brought in our Silkie rooster; I really can't remember how old he is.  He has been very content in his box by the fire all day - in fact, none of the chickens ever seem to want out. They enjoy the attention, food, water and warmth I guess. 

Honestly, I am just wondering if we are just losing chickens that are getting old. I have had chickens for about six years now and we never get rid of them, so I guess they have to die of old age at some point. ( We have lost many, many over the years.) I need to Google "life span of a chicken". In the meantime, I'm rooting for Old Silkie; the silkies are always the tamest chickens.


Anyone else getting ready to add wood to the fire and tuck in their house chicken for the night?  Probably NOT.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Weekend

 December is going way too fast; there's still so much I want to do with the kids before Christmas. Since we are going out of town next weekend, it was our final weekend at home before Christmas. JD and I were blessed to be able to attend a very nice fund raiser dinner for missionaries that we are thrilled to support in Guatemala. It's a bonus to have a nice date night and to mix and mingle with others that have a heart for orphans!

 Elijah asked me, "can you please never go anywhere without me?" Sorry, little Buddy, that isn't practical, but how about a picture with Mom before I leave? The girls thought that was great idea also.

Yes, Selah dressed herself!
 Yesterday Alyssa and I had a sort and wrap session. I gathered gifts and boxed them; Alyssa then wrapped them. I have been following several families that have decided to get rid of gift giving all together with Christmas. In some ways, I think that would be wonderful. On the other hand, I enjoy our Christmas gift giving. We went down to three gifts per child a few years ago and I think it works well. In reality, however, I often wrap things together; like this year a few children are getting a sweatshirt and tennis shoes wrapped together or a coat and boots together. 

Just for some fun - here are my little people after church on Sunday. They wanted to stay in their church attire to eat. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Elijah and Selah

Elijah went tearing through the living room, as he often does, crashing into the bannister and slightly hurting himself. I told him, "that's your fault because you are running like I've told you not to." He replied, "it's really Adam and Eve's fault - if they hadn't sinned, I wouldn't have been running like that!"

Since I didn't get a picture of Elijah running (if I had, it would have been blurry), I'll just show Selah when she arrived home from school just in time to clean the cookie dough bowl. Cookie bowl cleaning is a coveted position at our house.

JD and I headed north to "The Story" concert tour featuring Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns, Selah, Natalie Grant and more two days ago. It was really good and I'd highly recommend it if it comes near you.




Monday, December 9, 2013

Parade, Arbys, Laundry and Hair

 Catchy title, huh? Like a to-do list. We bundled up Saturday night and attended the local Christmas parade. It was great, other than it was freezing! We actually skipped out on the end after we saw our church's float because none of us could feel our toes anymore.

The lighting in the pictures is terrible, but here's proof we were there. Our plan after the parade was to go shop and eat at Costco. Once we realized that they closed at 7 instead of the usual 8:30, JD dropped me off at Arbys to order a simple dinner while he and the van full of kids ran and picked up Alyssa's friend that was coming over. I was literally the only one in Arbys. I scanned the dollar menu and walked up and ordered 11 roast beef sandwiches, 10 fries and one large onion rings. The man asked me if I said 11? I said yes. The lady behind him leaned over and asked, "did she say 11?" He answered yes. He then asked me, "is that for here or to go?" I answered, "here". I found it entertaining when they handed me two mounding trays and stared at me. I took a few tables around the corner by the door where they cold and hungry children were going to enter and I have no idea if the workers ever knew anyone else ever came in.

Other than Christmas fun, the girls and I have been doing a lot of laundry and hair. We had a extensive Duggar-watching-laundry-folding session the other night.

You know it's bad when you run out of laundry baskets and start piling clothes in boxes!
 I spend about five hours doing Julia's hair yesterday. This morning, I did Selah and Bella's. Here's before -

Selah was excited about Christmas beads and worked to string them.

Bella prefers crying. She was already crying here and I had not touched her head yet.

She was a happy girl when she was done though.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fall Clean Turned Animal Post

 It has been crazy warm - like open your windows warm. I love it! When I heard the forecast of sleet and snow this weekend, I knew I had to get outside and winterize a bit. Once I got the girls on the bus this morning, the boys and I headed out for a few hours before they started school. We cleaned the flower beds and raked the leaves from the patio and driveway where they collect. We also collected tools and toys from everywhere and put them away for the winter.

I like to let the goats out with us while we work, but they are so, so naughty. They, of course, eat all kinds of things that you don't want them to. You wouldn't even know that I had some lovely Hostas that I was very fond of. (Just hoping they come back!)

No, Hans, no!
 After the house area looked way, way better, we ventured to the barn. The goal was to clean out the bike stall. (Yes, the bike stall is a horse stall dedicated to the kids' bikes. I would love to build a garage and put a donkey in that stall!) We also cleaned out the center area so JD can actually put the tractor in the barn for the winter. I'm actually embarrassed to show this picture, but here are the bikes destined for the dump. The boys have gotten decent at bike repair and these bikes have been stripped of good tires, chains and kick-stands. Thankfully, now the ridable bikes can fit in the stall instead of being all over the middle of the barn.

Farm life always has a little animal drama. Today when I closed the third stall door, some animal fell a few feet from my head. Fearing it was a mouse, I did what I usually do and screamed, "JAMES!" I stood there while he investigated the creature. Nope, not a mouse today - a bat! Apparently he was hanging in the overhead somewhere and I knocked him down when I closed the door. I wouldn't let the kids get close to him (I think they can carry rabies...), but he stayed there for a long time, so I was afraid that I hurt him with the door.

See him there? Eventually he got up and flew out (or a cat got him, but I'm sticking to the first idea).

Although we had prepared the goat stall and chicken coop for winter, we added some clean pine straw for both of them. Ben brought this brilliant chicken so we could trim his head feathers; he tends to walk into things when they grow too long.

We have had a hurt guinea isolated for several weeks that we released today. I blame Obama for his misfortune, because the accident was caused by the presidential helicopters. On occasion they fly overhead; this day they were so low and so loud that the guineas freaked and started flying. This one guinea flew straight into our vacation trailer and knocked himself out. Honestly, I had about zero hope of the guinea recovering but we isolated him and babied him until he learned to stand and walk again. He is walking with a limp but you can't pick him out of the crowd.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Signs of Christmas

 Christmas is in full swing around here. I spent the last few days cleaning and organizing the storage room, so the rest of the Christmas decorations are piled up waiting for attention. Since my storage room has been shrinking over the last year, this year when the Christmas Rubbermaids are boxed back up, they are going to live in the barn storage area instead of my storage room. (Yes, it is mine and only those with the code may enter.) Relocating the Christmas decorations and the empty boxes that are kept for items under warranty netted me about four shelves of space.

Thankfully we located the tree skirt since this picture
Tori made me  happy matching her three little sisters

This is our first Christmas with missing children. As a military wife, however, I did do Christmas without JD before - that was not fun and it makes me cry to hear the military moms and dads on the radio wishing their families back here a Merry Christmas while they are serving over-seas!

Face time with Gabriel
 On Saturday I did one of those huge grocery shopping events that involve cleaning  the refrigerators out, clipping coupons, and planning a menu (sort of, the best I ever do...). What made my day was the chicken breasts had $1.25 off coupons on them. That only happens about once a year and I was fortunate to hit it right. That's equivalent to about 33% off the already low Commissary price. After loading all the packages that had coupons, I noticed that the whole chickens, organic and regular, both had the same coupons. While I was comparing the price difference, the meat man came out and told me that he can't sell the organic and how about he marks them half price and still gives me the coupons? Uh, yeah, since that made them considerably lower than the regular ones. He asked me, "how many do you want and I'll re-price them?" I answered, "all of them." He looked at me and said, "I may have more in the back." I answered, "I'll take them also." He said, "Are you sure?" I answered, "yes, I have 11 children!" At that he started slashing prices and lets just say my freezer is packed full! What an enormous blessing!

Only one of the large bag covered surfaces
Elijah loves gingerbread men. We aren't sure if it's the taste or the story, but Alyssa has made them with him the last few years. Yesterday, they decorated them.

She made them each a huge one - no cookie cutter here; they were about a foot tall.

Apparently it was just as good as he hoped!

Bless Alyssa's heart, she then made a big batch of sugar cookies and different home-made frostings for all the kids to decorate after school.

I wasn't home, so let's just say, they are well frosted and well decorated.

And I'm fairly sure Elijah had his Christmas cookie quota in just one day!