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, September 30, 2013

Ethiopia - Day Two with Brooke

We started our day with a meal here - gorgeous.

On the second day with Brooke and the other kids at the orphanage, we pulled out the things we packed. First, we brought drawing paper and crayons. I thought that once the kids got bored with drawing, we would make paper airplanes to fly. They never got bored - I think we colored for two hours. They lovingly dedicated most of the pictures back to us.  

 We praised their creativity; it's so good to see their delight. Look at that smile! 

 If I could select a #13 child for our family - it would be Hana. We all bonded with Hana last year, and while we wanted to see her, we desperately hoped that she wouldn't still be at the orphanage this year. She is still there; she is one of the children that are stuck, in spite of no family, due to the parameters of the law. She has lived most of her life at the orphanage while her mother is out of the country. Her mother isn't willing to raise her nor sign for her to be adopted, so she is destined to grow up without a family. It is really heart-breaking, for her and the other two million like her!

 After drawing, we jumped rope and played soccer. The kids loved looking at pictures taken during the fun activities.

 We did get down to business and had a meeting about moving Brooke's adoption along. JD is smart in being hesitant about sharing our adoption challenges in Blogland, because Ethiopia is so strict about information and pictures. So without all the details, we think we have a way forward. I am not sure it would have happened if I hadn't been there in person. While they care deeply for the children, there are so many that have cases that move, that it isn't natural to pull yourself away to work on a super challenging case. There are allowances in the law that help Brooke, but since they aren't standard operating procedures, they had not been pursued until now. I hope to hear in the next few weeks that we are submitted to court. 

When we began Brooke's adoption, we hoped she was a simple one trip adoption and we would only have to travel for embassy. Since it's been so long since Bella went through court, we now have to travel two more times. Since I just returned, Brooke turned from a one to a three trip adoption. It's all good; God has a purpose!

Brooke is in the orphanage that Bella lived in from newborn to two years old. They all adored her and the director dug out this picture to show me. When you adopt children that have no baby pictures and little history, one baby picture is priceless!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ethiopia - Day One

 I've been home several days, but most of them have been corn-rowing hair (three of the four done) and recovering from jet-lag. We had such a wonderful trip and have so many pictures that I don't even know where to begin - so I decided to begin at the beginning. And since we saw Brooke on the first full day in Ethiopia, the beginning is also the most important story to tell. 

Here is Aunt Deb, Alei and me on our lay-over in Istanbul -

Here is Aunt Deb, my friend, Tonya, and Alei in Addis Ababa after landing and collecting our 16 suitcases. I don't know if I ever introduced my traveling companions, but it was the four of us women loose in Ethiopia with only a driver named Jimmy that didn't speak much English!
We stayed at a different guest house this time, which was right down town near the airport. This is the intersection that we could view from our balcony.

We got in during the middle of the night Wed. night/ Thurs. morning, but were up and on the road Thursday morning to Nazareth, or Adama, where Brooke's orphanage is. The scenes of Africa from the car window are always captivating.  


There is a sharp contrast between the cities along the way and the open country side.

Once we were in Adama, we checked in our hotel and shuffled our luggage that was orphanage and school donations. 

 Our first stop was to see Brooke. While I can't show her face, I hope to show some of the joy that she showed in seeing Alei and me return. She came running when she saw us.

I can only imagine how thrilled she was to know that Aunt Deb and friend Tonya (that we consider family) care enough about her to also make the trip to meet her. We had more challenges this time communicating with her since we did not have a full time interpreter. I brought her new toiletries, some clothes and a stuffed camel that made her face light up; somehow Alyssa found out that camels are her favorite animal.

After sitting a while, I asked her to show Aunt Deb and Tonya around the orphanage. It is an impressive orphanage that raises chickens for eggs and cows for milk and sells the surplus.

The girls' rooms now had lockers. Brooke even had a key to keep her things safe. I'm not showing the open picture of it because she has a photo of herself in there, but she had the family photo book Alyssa made her and things we have bought her neatly arranged. 

 After spending the afternoon with her and the other kids, we headed out. It wasn't difficult that day because we were coming back the very next morning. Brooke walked us out.  

 We enjoyed the sites of Adama. After spending time in three cities in Ethiopia, it is still my favorite.

We delivered the school supplies to the West Sands school. It wasn't near as fun as my previous trips since school had not started back for the new school year, but it's nice to know that when the kids show up, there will be notebooks, pencils and crayons waiting for them. 

 A group of white women attract attention where ever they go, so we spent a little time with the kids that gathered at the school gates. We talked to them and handed out Slim Jims. 

These are the only camels we saw this trip. Previously, there were several herds along the drive to Adama. 

Tomorrow I will tell about our second day in Adama and the progress I hope I accomplished in Brooke's adoption case.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

While You Wait

 I am safely home from Ethiopia and can't wait to down-load my pictures and really blog. However, I thought I'd post these menu pictures while we wait. The first is from a menu in Addis. The bottom three options are what we found so entertaining. I decided on the chicken shawerma but really was tempted by the fried chicken breath. 

 This second is from my stop in Istanbul, Turkey. I was desperate enough for caffeine after being up all night that I was willing to pay 4 Turkish lira for a soda. When the man rang up my soda and two waters, my total was way higher than it should have been. I counted on my fingers to show him that it should have been around 8 Lira, not 13. He then replied that my drink was not soda, but a Kutu icecekler. Sure enough, the warm sodas were 4, but the chilled sodas are Kutu iceceklers and cost almost double. At that point, I swapped it for an additional water. We had a good time with the word the rest of the day, however.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hippo Watch

This is our first morning back in Addis. We woke to no water, which is a bit disappointing after traveling so long yesterday. After our wipie wipe down, we are dressed and prepared to head to market. We are packed with supplies to hand out as well as a shopping list.

Here's a picture of us as we boarded our hippo watch boat. We only saw two hippos but we had a great time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mr. Mom Wants His Old Job Back

Mr. Mom has permission to blog on the true blogger's website, while she safari adventures in Ethiopia. No matter how one may reflect back on the events near the home front this day, please know it can never go so well as to be a great day without the presence of my wife. That said, my Jenny gave me the option of packing as many kids in the van as I could to go to the 6th Annual Caledon State Park Youth Outdoor Day. I had my reservations, but all of the youngest seven kids had a great day and their dad (Mr. Mom) did, too. Although I have often warned Jenny about too many pictures on a single day's blog, I hope you will join me and agree that today's festivities warrant an exception.

So, here we go, the first demonstration was our county and our neighboring county's SWAT Team and their equipment. We have some senior and junior candidates below:

  Ben and his warrior face.

Tori and her "come here and I'll tickle you" face.

Elijah leaned his head forward because of the weight of the helmet.

The next station was the Our local school's NJROTC Air Rifle Club, which is a very successfully competitive team. They were so patient with the little kids to let them shoot suckers off a stand. Fortunately, even with misses, participants were blessed with a fresh sucker. You might be able to begin to see why I was having such a great day with my kids, if the SWAT Team vests didn't already give it away.

Bella was a natural.

Elijah spotting his hits on the suckers.

Julia and Selah get some shots in, too.

After the first two events we took a break at the playground, waiting for the hay ride to take us down to the river to collect and throw rocks into the Potomac River. While that may not sound to exciting to an adult, it is the bomb for kids.

Elijah has got his groove on.

Selah has no fear.

Bella has some fear.

We were waiting for the hay ride when we were told that the Sheriff K-9 Deputies had a demo to give, along with the Conservation Police Officer's (fancy name for Game Warden) wildlife dog, and would only be giving them one time.. Both were very entertaining, although not highly interactive with the kids (it was good to watch their skills at a distance, behind a fence, and thus need no photo attention on this post).

In typical ADD fashion, I was distracted further away from the hay ride with the archery range down in the hollow from the rest of the events. We had some natural archery shooters today. Some needed assistance and others did not.

  James told him he had shot before, needed no help and hit the target twice.

 Ben had great form and with some practice will become a skilled archer.

Elijah hit the target three times and was pretty stoked.

 Selah scored the only "Bulls-eye" of the bunch. Great job, Selah!
Julia had a blast at everything. You can see by the smile she was happy to shoot. 
Hitting the target would be a consolation.

Then we got on the last hay ride. Actually, the guy finished on the one before, but with a large family of nine standing in line, then a couple smaller add-ons, he thought about ten families wanted to ride and couldn't refuse us. It was a good haul down to the river, but worth it.

Choosing smooth stones...

Casting them into the river...what fun!

If that wasn't enough, my wonderful daughter Alyssa and her Geema surprised me with an awesome birthday dinner and my traditional favorite cake. Geema made a chicken pot pie in a casserole pan and Alyssa made (from scratch) cornbread, and ice-tea for "Dad," which doesn't happen often (no sugar). They also did a great job of replicating the cake my wife has made for me probably every one of our 23 years together.

You can see here that Alyssa and Elijah thought for sure their old-Dad would need help blowing the candles out. I'll leave it to you to figure out how many years it has been. The "4" gives away the decade, but you might be more challenged to count the remaining candles. So, while my wife is greatly missed, we had a great day, and her mother and daughter did a phenomenal job at making it a memorable one. But, I can't wait until you're back home Jenny, This Mr. Mom thing, though I may have made it appear easy today, is not my cup of tea. Come home!