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, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

 Since we still had three running fevers this morning, we had a quiet Easter at home. Only the big girls were healthy enough to go to church. I guess the younger crowd will be wearing their Easter dresses next week. I was also very excited to replace my last year's Easter picture on the header of my blog; I will hope for that also next Sunday.

Bella and Selah were pretty impressed with the fun side of Easter. Bella is a big fan of chocolate, so the whole event was right up her alley.

I hid the kid's baskets down stairs; then since it was raining, I made them clean up the basement before we had the egg hunt down there. Otherwise, we may have never found some of those eggs!

This year we color coded the eggs. Since everyone is only looking for their color, we were able to hide Selah and Bella's very easy for their first egg hunt.

If we don't color code them, then I give them a number they are allowed to find; once they find their target number, they help a younger child that is still searching. Either way seems to work well and prevent greed and tears. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It All Started Tuesday

 Ben woke up Tuesday morning with a cough and cold; by the afternoon he was running a 103 degree fever. While I hoped it would end with him, I started coughing by that evening. Fast forwarding to yesterday, Tori and I had to head to John's Hopkins in Baltimore and JD called to say that he had three sickies lined up on the couches. By this morning, Julia was the only one left standing in the 12 and under crowd (which is seven kids if you aren't quick with math), and JD was off to Urgent Care with James since his fever was 104 and we were concerned about strep. We had a little hope shine through this afternoon when the fevers dropped and James's culture returned negative. We all took a break from being sick to dye eggs.

Bella is one of the complete recoveries, so she was really into her first egg dying.

Thank you, Moriah, for being the egg dying coordinator
By evening, Elijah, Selah and Tori all had spiking fevers again. When Elijah's fever is up, he layers on a t-shirt and sweat-shirt; as soon as it comes down, they both come off.

I'm thinking that the majority of us will not be able to attend the Easter service in the morning, which is very disappointing. We also have a dinner invitation tomorrow night that is in "pray for a miracle" condition.

While none of it has been serious, we have had a long winter of sickness. I am so ready for spring and good health!

Friday, March 29, 2013

New Project

 We always have a few projects going on around here. While we are not quite done with the wood floor, the basement, the fire-place or the screened in porch, it still seemed time to start another project. Actually, this one is not being done by JD; we hired our friend's son to build it and James and Ben are the hired helpers. James really thrives on working with his hands and has been setting his alarm early to get his school work done so he can get out to start working. Ben, well, he likes to get paid. We have had the wood for the fence stacked in the barn for about three years - we paid the Amish to mill it from the oak trees that were taken down where our house is built.

They just stated this week and have made it quite the distance cementing the posts in. The posts will not remain that tall, but will be trimmed to the same height as the goat fence that is already in place at the barn side of the fence.

So, our next weekend project is going to be to till and plant grass in this whole area - about 2.5 acres. We obviously need grass for whatever ends up living in the fence to snack on. And if you are wondering what is going to live in the fence, that is still in the discussion phase. Choices are a beef cow, a dairy cow or a boarded horse or some combination of the previous. Oh, and Elijah and I are anxiously awaiting two Nigerian Dwarf goat kids!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's What's For Lunch

 I spend so much time in the kitchen, it's not surprising that my little girls play "food" a lot. Look at the yummies that Julia whipped up for Selah and Bella - that's right, pegs and puzzle pieces.

Here's the lunch that Tori gathered for them in the goat fence. The rusty bolts look especially good.

 Here's when she was serving them broken egg shells.

 Elijah, being the man, decided to get some real food.

That's right, chicken, although they didn't seem to appreciate the thought.

Everyone knows the chickens at our house are friends, not food.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

School, Testing and Medication

This post has been swirling in my mind for quite a while, but I haven't attempted to write it until now. First of all, it would be easy for me to write if I only had to consider what I wanted to say; but since it is written about my children, I have to consider their feelings when/if they read it. The biggest thing for me is how far I have been stretched when it comes to what I thought were my "convictions" and how I view success for my children. 
 Going way back, my first son, Gabriel, was pretty hyper-active. I'm sure if he had gone to traditional school, they may have requested that he be tested for ADHD. Since I home schooled him, however, I accommodated what he needed as I worked through it with him. I would not have considered enrolling him in school no matter what.
Fast forward 17 years, ten children and a lot of "school of hard knocks later" and we have been forced to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort level. It really isn't comfortable for me to put Tori and Julia on the school bus each day, but I know that it has been the right answer for them this year. I also was one of those parents that would not have dreamed of medicating children, but recently I just put my second child on ADHD medications. While I knew that terms like lead poisoning, neglect, and formative years in an orphanage were serious, I never really understood how much they cemented their ability to learn. 
At this point, we are really trying to give each child his/her best case scenario for success. For my girls, the structure of school has been invaluable; I doubt I will feel that way in a few years when the peer group becomes more objectionable. For my boys, I work hard everyday helping them overcome learning obstacles, but their best hope for success remains close monitoring from me and one on one help.
I have a dear friend who said something to me one day that I'm sure she has thought little about. She said, "Jen, if you think all of your kids are going to grow up and be independent, you are dreaming." While I didn't deliberately decide it, I did measure my success as a parent by my ability to raise children that would one day be able to grow up, live on their own and have their own families. While I still hope for that for each of them, I am choosing to redefine success as helping each child reach their personal highest potential while serving God. 
 This life is a journey and I am finding that I am still learning more from the kids each day than they are from me.

James, Selah and Bella

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Swingset Saturday

 You may recall that I headed over to the Amish a week ago to choose a new swing-set for our crew. Although we had planned on buying one once we completed our adoption, in reality there was a lot of competition for our tax return money this year - including another adoption. In spite of peer pressure, I left the Amish without putting in an order. Once we went through all our ideas, we decided that a pasture fence and an additional car are higher on the priority list than a new swing set.

Once the new swing set was bumped, I decided to simply add a second used one so we can have additional swings. I found a Rainbow set on Craigslist for $275 - it would have been over $3,000 new. Since JD is on week four of a demanding five week class, we paid our son's friend to head up the dismantling, moving and "re mantling". I sent James and Ben along to help.

It was a beautiful day and once the movers made it back,.we took a break for sandwiches.

Of course, the little guys were excited and played on the pieces before they were even installed.

So now the old swing set is staying right next the the new one.

Although Elijah had a tree house and swinging bridge on his wish-list, he was pretty thrilled with the spinning tire swing. 

My next decision is if I am going to paint both of them brown, so just paint the "new" one the reddish color of the "old" one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Little Buddy

The new girls have gotten so much attention, I thought I should do a post on my "little buddy". I don't know when it happened, but he turned into a crime-fighting super-hero overnight. He is continually karate chopping or light saber fighting something evil. When he takes a break from being a super hero, he is a dinosaur. I must say that his new sisters are not always impressed with his skills and that only seems to encourage the little stinker, I mean my little buddy. Being the little boy, he does a lot of things with his Dad, like trips to the hardware store and the dump.

Although he is proving to be a bit of a handful these days, we can't imagine life without him and he is still quite the entertainer. Here's my favorite conversation with him the other day.
He climbed on me, snuggled and took a deep breath. He said, "your neck always smells so good." I said, "that's from my perfume." He sighed, smiled and said, "and it makes you smell like a girl....or a mom."

Elijah - 4 1/2

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Attracting Attention and Circus Budgets

 We have had a fun on-the-go weekend. On Friday, the boys and I, along with the new neighbors, headed to Amish country. One of our stops was the play-ground crafter, as our plan for the last two years has been to purchase a new swing-set this spring. Now that spring is upon us, I'm agonizing about all the necessary purchases and it's rather painful to sink that much into a swing-set (especially since Elijah has his heart set on one with a tree-house and a swinging bridge)!  I left without an order in, so I'll be going back...unless I can find something on Craigslist in the meantime. We got home in time to get everyone ready and head to our home group that meets every other Friday - the kids love going. Although it was rather late when we left, we had Krispy Kreme coupons that were expiring, so we headed over for some free donuts.

We were sitting in Krispy Kreme, licking chocolate off our fingers, when the Girl Scout troop shown behind us approached us. I recognized one of the little girls from Tori's class. She was telling the leaders that we were Tori's family. The leaders, thinking she may be confused, approached us with the whole troop, to ask us lots of questions. Apparently, people don't naturally assume when they see us that we are just a family. It ended with the lady saying, "I can't wait to get in the car and call my mother!" Since we had a whole crowd gathered for a while, I asked Alyssa on the way out if she minded that much attention. She is pretty going and said, "I'm getting kind of used to it." Overall, my teens have not enjoyed the attention and questions we get in public, but that is pretty typical of teens in general I think.

 Anyone else have a whole row of pink car-seats in the van? Here are three of our five!

Saturday we headed to the small circus that set up by us. It was a bit of a disappointment to the older children that remember the circus that we went to about five years ago in the same spot - it was a three ring while this was only a one. It was great, however, for the kids that had never attended a circus at all.

Elijah was beyond excited and had been counting down the days for the last few weeks.

Moriah pointed out that this sign appears differently without the ZE visible.

The contrast of Selah and Bella's life now compared to the orphanage in Ethiopia is mind boggling. To think of all the other children like them sitting there day after day, without a family, and without any of the fun that a family offers, is heart-breaking. They are so excited about every activity that we do and it seems to me that we have crammed a lot in since they came home in November.

This is how we started out sitting, with JD sitting on the end where the camera bag is. Once the lights dimmed, a mom came in and sat behind Selah and I with her two little girls and big bag of pop-corn. It took me a few minutes before I realized that Selah was helping herself to their pop-corn. The girls were being sweet and sharing, but I corrected Selah, who obviously has to learn that she can't dig in to any one's food anytime. Once I told her no, she started pouting. After a bit, we moved her down to the other end by JD, which worked well until a couple sat behind her with cotton candy. Apparently, she was showing them a pitiful look, because they asked JD if they could share with her. We told them thank you, but no, because we had to teach her about eating other's food. Understandably, telling people that seems to confuse them, but it's hard to lauch into a speel about international adoption and attachment parenting during a circus.

Which brings me to my topic of circus budgets and any other entertainment of it's sort. Although we have a large family, we try to affordably take the kids to events that wouldn't be such a big deal to a smaller family. Watching people at the circus, however, made me able to consider how we do it. We watched almost everyone around us pay $8 for pop-corn and $6 for snow-cones. On top of the $20 plush zebras and $10 blow-up plastic animals (that they carry at the dollar store), I realized that we probably actually spent less going to the circus that most of the four member families that were around us.

Because we have always done it that way, my children do not expect the food or prizes that are offered at these events. We often leave the event and get donuts or ice-cream, but we don't ever pay the inflated prices at the event. We did season passes to amusement parks several years in a row and never ate in the park. We packed a lunch in a cooler and then ate at Wendy's at night after leaving. This simple habit has allowed us to do a lot of things that would not be affordable otherwise. Besides, when the kids talk about the circus six months from now, it will be that actual event, not the long-eaten treat or the long-broken toy.