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.

Friday, November 29, 2013


We had a quieter Thanksgiving than usual this year, which enabled me to do a few things that I always think about, but never get done. The kids helped cook more of the dishes - Tori and Julia are both exceptionally helpful in the kitchen for seven and eight year olds.

Tori cooking fresh cranberries
 We cooked and froze several pumpkins a few days ago, but Julia wanted to do another. Good for me, only four to go this week.

I did a simple Thanksgiving turkey craft with the kids. We made paper plate turkeys and wrote something we were thankful for on the feathers. After dinner, and a book about the first Thanksgiving, each child showed their turkeys and read their thankful list. I don't have any pictures because JD videoed it instead, but some of my favorites were Selah was thankful for "turkeys and roosters" and Elijah was "thankful for remote controlled spiders and all the things in the world, other than the nasty stuff".

We have always been big black Friday shoppers, but I refuse to shop on Thanksgiving day, so I missed most of it this year. My daughters, however, headed out in the evening and shopped all night until I met up with them Friday morning for breakfast. 

Alei plotting her plan
 JD does the turkey and ham on holidays. 

We only had one guest, a friend of Aunt Deb's, but we decided to set up the food on one table and eat on the other to allow more people room.  

I normally don't decorate for Christmas until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it's a shorter span between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so we got a head-start. After shopping, we put the Christmas tree up. Tomorrow, I'll work on the other Christmas items.      

 Bella earned some ipad time by not crying in the bathtub. For months she has been crying her whole bath, so I created the idea that puzzles on the ipad are a reward for not crying in the bathtub. There have been many, many days of Selah getting to play, but Bella pulled it together last night for her bath and earned her time today.       

 The finished tree - I boxed up Gabriel's ornaments and am sending them to San Diego tomorrow for him to put on their first Christmas tree. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unreached Perspective

Aunt Deb designed this picture with some of the children to illustrate a mission point. The group on the right is the reached world - not necessarily Christians, but the percentage of the population that has heard something about the God of the Bible. You can gather by Selah's head-covering the percentage of them that are Mu*lim. The middle group represents the unreached people that have never heard the name of Jesus. The far left group shows the unreached Mu*lims that that have never heard the Gospel.

I had the most cooperative, smiley children ever for this photo shoot, which was great because we had very little daylight to work with. Here's Selah with our dog, Toby. If you have ever met Toby, he is the most insecure dog on the planet and it took him a few hours to get over the trauma of Selah holding him for a photograph. Selah looks cute in her scarf though and was quite pleased to wear it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Make-up and LICK Stick

 Elijah told me, "I really don't like getting kissed by girls wearing make-up and LICK stick!" You may wonder why the little guy has to worry about such things, but in addition to Aunt Deb and his Momma, he has Alei -

Moriah -

And Alyssa forever kissing on him  -   the good news is that it's made him a sweet boy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Child Raising - With my Background

As a mother of almost a dozen children, I think I need to give a little background about myself. I grew up as an only child until my sister was born when I was 12. At that point, I was more of a second mother than a sibling to her. She could do no wrong in my eyes and we both were fairly easy children to raise. (Rumor has it that things changed a bit with my brother, but I was married and out of the house before he was old enough for me to see it.) I grew up thinking that most kids generally did as their parents told them and loved their siblings. (Living in this fantasy land was also when I decided that it would be great fun to have a large family - which I considered four to six kids!)  It only took one year after my second child was born that I started to wonder what was wrong with my children. Gabriel was a complete terror at two years old, often hitting other children in public and pulling the little girls' hair at any McDonald's Play Place. Once Alei could walk and talk, she and Gabriel were fighting over toys and she would resort to biting him when necessary.  JD, who was the youngest of six children, assured me that this was "normal" children behavior - not to be endorsed, but normal just the same. Somehow, he never took their short comings as personal as I did.

Moriah with the three little girls - I love matching dresses.
After parenting for 22 years, I have the whole fighting thing down - yeah, I got that! In some ways, however, I'm back at the same point; I'm fighting the disillusionment of bigger trials of child rearing  - things like lying, stealing and manipulation. I love my children, but they have taken me to places as a parent I never thought to go! We are adjusting to the reality of our current challenges, but I often take their short comings personal and am discouraged that we have to expend time and energy on things that I hoped were considerably beyond my scope of parenting. 

I could give example after example, but they all just prove a point that children are born with a sinful nature and it is our job to train them in righteousness. Unfortunately, they still often disregard our wisdom and choose things that only bring them harm. Lately, I feel like I am battling that on an almost daily basis.

I've stated a few times before that I don't want people to assume that things are always smooth at our house - they often aren't. Since I am a "what you see is what you get" kind of person, I would actually feel better blogging details about real issues we are struggling with; but since my children have to live with the consequences of what I blog, I have to be careful for their sakes.
(I wonder if they would be deterred if they knew everything would be publically aired on the blog....No, I can't afford that therapy bill!)

One of my favorite pictures of Ben and Moriah
Just know that if you are struggling as a parent, I understand! And also know that if I blog about canning pumpkins, that isn't actually the biggest challenge I'm facing!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Aquarium

We took a Friday family field trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The traffic was so horrible that it took us over an hour longer than we planned to arrive. We had happy travelers the first two hours - the last hour and a bit was filled with a lot of "are we almost there?" Turns out you can be very near somewhere, but if you are averaging 15 MPH, it still takes a long time to get there!

Moriah packed between Selah and Bella's car seats

Julia and Alyssa

Finally - Baltimore

The aquarium really is an awesome place, and the Friday night special price would be pretty affordable if you didn't have a dozen people.

I love Selah's enthusiasm; she told me a few times, "this is the first time I've been here, huh Mom?" It was the first time any of the kids had been there actually; the last time I was there, I was in the 8th grade.

Alyssa and Bella
Moriah with half her brothers
Elijah's hands - taken by Alyssa
This is the best group picture I got of the younger seven; we took several of all nine kids, but they were all too dark.

Part of every outing for the boys is waiting outside the girl's bathroom.

This was us hiking back to our van; parking a monster van in the city is always a huge ordeal since it's too tall for most parking garages. We walked past a full block line for a popular attraction and people kept commenting on the three little guys packed in the wagon. Yes, that wagon has been full worth the investment!

Friday, November 15, 2013


 It turned cold outside, so James and I started the first fire of the season. The wood is so dry that it was much easier to start then last year. It's amazing how the fire draws everyone downstairs; I love the warm and cozy feeling of everyone gathered around the fire reading or doing homework (or running and screaming through the basement like mini-tornadoes!) After the kids are in bed, JD and I have a new habit of watching Duck Dynasty downstairs (so now I get all the hoopla over the show.)

James - chief fire attender
 Since the "little pig house" is located near the fire, the little pigs are playing in the pig house by the hour.

Today is an exciting day - I am pulling the girls out of school early and we are heading to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I'll be back with pictures from our family field trip!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Large Family Revision

 I have participated in Samaritan Purse's Operation Shoebox for many, many years. In the past we have generally taken all the kids to the Dollar Tree and Walmart and helped them pick out the items to pack a shoebox. Let's just say, it was chaotic and confusing with JD in the toy section and me over in toiletries trying to sway and convince the kids into practical choices. By the time we got out, I usually had some toy items I wouldn't use and was missing key toiletries we needed. This year, I smartened up and did the shopping with just Moriah,  and then let them pack what they wanted from the supplies I piled up on the table. I think it was better for the kids also, because they weren't totally overloaded with the entire store's selection and trying to compete with their siblings to go over their selections with an adult.

 I gave them the mandatory pack list of toiletries and then they got to choose the age (and gender) and fill the rest with fun stuff. The homeschoolers packed at lunch time and the schoolers packed after school.

We labeled and stacked the boxes as they were finished.

 Moriah and Alyssa declined a photo-op but had a good time participating also. Tori and Julia were so into it that they didn't notice me and my camera. Selah could hardly function in the presence of the Ring Pops, so she mainly sucked on one and shook her head yes when I asked, "do you want to pack this?" (Bella  ended up in time-out due to her continual asking if she could have the toys.) Elijah repeatedly told her, "No Bella, those are for poor kids in Africa; you are an American!"

When they were done, I packed the last few and we will deliver them to a collection site tomorrow.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Limping Along

As previously stated, we are dealing with some family challenges the last few weeks. Since the definition of an idiot is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for a different result; we are going to have to try some new approaches. Times like this make me question all kinds of things and I really think if I could start over again, I would raise my kids like the Duggars - no TV, no kids online and no peer groups. 

Meanwhile, JD has hit a very demanding period at work. He is generally working 12 plus hours a day and is very inaccessible during the day. We have made life work decently, for the most part, this last year only because he has been able to work some days from home; but that isn't happening right now. For me at home, I have had someone throwing up, or claiming to be sick, steady for the last 10 days. I kept James and Tori in the sick zone all morning, but they never threw up and cleared when they wanted lunch. Selah is now claiming to be sick, yet hungry. Honestly, I get weary of trying to figure out who is actually sick, and who just wants out of school and to lay in front of the TV. I take vomit very seriously though, so Selah landed herself in the zone. 

Moriah had her wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday. After Alei had me watched some Youtube videos of kids coming off the IV anesthesia, I was at least prepared for the craziness displayed by Moriah. I really wish I had brought someone to video her as I drove, but in the end I only got one minute of the over one hour of talking. For starters, she was sure that I was driving on the grass and hitting every mailbox that we passed. She would lean forward with her eyes wide and say, "oh, Mom, please get out of the grass. Mom, you just hit another mailbox and you aren't even stopping." She questioned where we were going and where we lived. At one point, we passed a white house with a horse farm and her eyes got wide and she said, "is that the White House? Why are you taking me to DC?" 

The one video I captured was Moriah fretting that they removed her front teeth as well. I captured her saying, "I think they lied to me, I asked them if they were only going to take my wisdom teeth but they also took my front teeth. I know because I can't taste them anymore." She would then comment on how all the cars were double (she saw double everything) and how I was still needing to drive on the road instead of the grass and why did I keep hitting trees and mailboxes; then she would swap back to despair about them taking her front teeth. She then exclaimed, "did they take my hair too?" 

Finally, as I turned on the drive-way, Moriah was telling me how this was private property and I was trespassing. When I told her we lived here, she told me she had never see it before. We passed James in the drive-way (on rock duty, but that's a separate post) and Moriah asked why there were two boys in the driveway. I told her that it was James. She said she had never seen them before; then she turned to despair and said, "Mom, he doesn't have a mother, he's an orphan. He needs a mother!" The good news is that even drug induced, my children are concerned for the orphan. Once Moriah's meds wore off, she remembered very little of the drive and was visibly shocked at her one minute video. We've all had some good laughs over it.

Tuesday, I missed the coolest pictures of Elijah and his school class launching the rockets they made during science. The camera didn't have the memory card in and I took some pictures that I was really excited about but were never really captured - very disappointing for me!

Tomorrow morning I am taking all the non-vomiters and speaking on Ethiopia to a home school group. I'm armed with my pictures and a few souvenirs and I'm excited. And I've already reinserted my memory card.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Best Day Ever

About once a week, when we are doing something fun, Elijah exclaims, "this is the best day ever". I am thankful that he feels that way about once a week! Today was one of my "best days ever" as we made a trip to Richmond to meet up with old (in time, not age) friends from Virginia Beach. Wendy came with her seven children as well as my friend, Jessica, with her five children - including her recently adopted daughter from Ethiopia that lived at the transition home with Selah and Bella. As an extra bonus, Jessica's mother was able to come; Ms. Kathy was Gabriel and Alei's pre-school teacher as well as a family friend from church. (I've never sent any of my other children to pre-school, but I would have sent them all if they could have had her!)

Ben, Ms. Kathy and Baby Ruthie
 I can't believe I didn't even take a picture of Jessica, but I did get her sweet new daughter, Kate, with Selah and Bella. I was blessed to meet Kate in Ethiopia, and tell her the good news that she had a family, as well as show her the pictures they had sent for her. It was one of those awesome memories made possible by the miracle of adoption. 

Selah, Kate and Bella
Here's a shot of one of the big girl tables. We took up the whole back of Chick-Fil-A near the playground; several of the workers sweetly came over to ask about the children. At one point, Wendy explained that although there were over 20 children, they all belonged to our three families. The lady leaned in and asked, "even the African-American ones?" Yes, those are often the ones that allow us these sweet get togethers!

McKenzie , Elizabeth and Alyssa
After a wonderful few hours, we headed outside to take a parting picture of the kids. When our three families met over 20 years ago, only Gabriel was born. Today, Gabriel is the only one out of the house and there were a grand total of 22 children in our three families.

There's a lot of kids on that hill; we are abundantly blessed!

 After considerable debate and arguing, I made the executive decision to cross the road with my 10 kids to take a picture by the fountain once the other families packed to leave. Some of the kids don't enjoy being a spectacle in a public place, but since I haven't taken a single picture of all the kids living at home together since Easter, they complied. And I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out.