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, June 28, 2014

Doggies and Kitties

 I booked our three dogs at the low-cost vet clinic on Friday - the name should be lower cost because my bill was still over $300 for basic shots and heartworm checks. Since they ran labs on all three of the dogs, they asked us to wait the 15 minutes over in the adjourning animal control adoption center.

The drive home Moriah selfie

Moriah and I were sitting there with the dogs, admiring all the cats that need families, when an old farmer came in with a little carrier containing three kittens. He told the lady that he needed to release the kittens to her. The lady informed him that they were completely full and not able to take them. She started talking to him about his options - like giving them away on Craigslist. The poor man looked so discouraged and replied that he didn't have any internet access. He then told her that he didn't know what he was going to do with the kittens, but they couldn't go back to his house because there were still three more to catch. The softie in me looked at Moriah and asked, "do you think I should take them?" She said yes. I walked up to him and told him that I had internet access, as well as knew an agency that would help get them spayed or neutered, and I would be happy to take them and try to find them families. He thanked me and told me that he was going to head home to shoot them, but he really hated to do it. At that point, I gave him my cell number and told him that I would come pick up the other three if he could catch them. 

They aren't feral but they aren't tame either. We are holding them against their wishes in hopes of taming them up. I will attempt to provide homes for any that tame and the others will add to my barn cat collection.

I think the smaller one on the left is a younger litter than the other two.

I called JD on the way home to bless him with the news that I was bringing home three extra kitties. When I got to the part of the story that the man told me that there were still three out there, he asked, "did you get his phone number?" I replied, "no, I gave him mine." JD's response was, "of course you did." He doesn't make this near as hard on me now that we have land and a barn.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BIG Kids

 We got word from Nepal yesterday that Alyssa got really sick a few days ago during training. She was vomiting to the point that she became dehydrated and required a trip to the hospital for IV's. She was still in good spirits when I spoke to her, but her text this morning informed me that she was still too sick to head to the field today. So, today is day 3 or 4 of bed-rest. Pray for her please; it is very challenging to get that sick in a third world country away from your family. 

Picture from back in February before the prom
I also got a series of messages from Gabriel in the middle of the night. He is doing well and is approaching land after a few weeks of an ocean-only view. 

We are praying for him and Alayna during this time. We were very relieved to hear that things had resolved with their land-lord in San Diego. They had a lovely town-house, but the carpet was about the worst I have ever seen. It was extremely stained, eroded at the seams to the point that the carpet tacks drew blood on a few of us and the guest room upstairs smelled horribly of cat pee. The landlord attempted to pin it on their six months of living there is spite of evidence that it was that way when they moved in (and they don't have a cat!) Poor Alayna was left to deal with the unreasonable land-lord after Gabriel went out to sea. The momma bear in me wanted JD to call her and straighten her out, but I guess a series of emails from Gabriel was enough to settle things. I'm thankful for that! 

Gabriel - June 2014
Some days it's tough having them so far from home!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Long Neglected News

 Way back, I blogged that we were going through two family trials - one that would never be blogged about since it was sensitive to a child and another that I would get around to. Well, I haven't gotten around to the second until now, but it was the reality that for the first time in 24 years of marriage, JD was going to be laid off. He is a program manager with a large business in the defense industry and his contract was lost last year to a smaller business that was able to bid lower. His company has faithfully kept him until now and has been generous as it was inevitably coming to an end. The reality is that we aren't your average American family! I do not work and we have 11 children to provide for - including one in college and one in private school. We have prayed through this time to be able to transition to another company that doesn't require us to move or JD to commute to DC everyday and allow not too much of a pay decrease. While I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch, we are hopeful and excited about the possibilities we are seeing.  

I have to admit that I became motivated to write this post based on the fact that we saw God come through so miraculously for Alyssa's trip. Even beyond the story that I told last blog, JD was supposed to be on travel (his current job doesn't end until the beginning of July) and he pulled out the last minute based on another daughter's need. Had that need not presented itself on Sunday evening, he would not have been available to head to DC on Monday for Alyssa's visa ordeal. The Lord orchestrated several things perfectly to allow her to be on the plane to Nepal on Wednesday. If he can do all that just for her, I know that he is working behind the scenes for us as a family as well.

Alyssa (on left) on a layover in Quatar on their way to Nepal

And just for fun - a before church picture that Moriah took this morning.    

Bella- 4, Moriah - 16, Selah - 6

I will keep you posted and prayers are still gratefully appreciated.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alyssa's Passport and Visa Fiasco

Two weeks ago we were called at 4:00 PM by Alyssa's missionary agency and informed that the Visa application submitted on time for Alyssa to go to India needed to be immediately notarized and overnight mailed to the outsourcing agency (a sudden change to the India Visa application process). Funny that India outsources passport visas to an American company, but I digress. Impossible to get a notary in the late afternoon and delivered to FedEx in a rural area, JD told them it would be done first thing the next day, a Friday. Throwing aside our other demands, we attended to it first thing Friday morning.

Alyssa left for Memphis to be with her grandparents a week before her scheduled departure from Houston, and when I checked with the mission organization on Friday, her visa and passport had not arrived nor did they have an update on where it was. On Monday, three days ago, JD called the Indian embassy to find out that Alyssa's passport was sitting on a desk unapproved. He immediately drove to Washington DC to try to intervene and get a visa approved, or at a minimum recover Alyssa's passport and FedEx it to Houston before Alyssa's departure to Nepal on Wednesday. If we did that, however, her Indian portion of the trip would be void and she would have had to return to the US when her trip-mates made the move from Nepal to India in three weeks. The lady at the consular office was described as a suitable stand in for the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld, and JD watched the interactions between her and others before engaging her. He found out they just received the passport over the weekend, since the holding facility obviously saw no reason to rush on anything they do despite the obvious date at the top of the paperwork, and India's policy was 5-7 days of processing time with no expedited visas except for Indian citizens with emergencies. After multiple discussions with the Visa Nazi, JD was invited to come back the next day, Tuesday,  because there was a "100% no chance to get it approved today." No assurance that it would be processed, just an invitation for a possible approval.

Much prayer went out for Alyssa to find favor with the embassy to get an approved visa and recover the passport in time to send it overnight to Houston before her flight out. JD returned the next day and the Visa Nazi turned into a smiling helpful consular agent. She still yelled at other folks bending the rules or sneaking in after the office hours were over (a whole two hours a day from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM), but she was kind to JD and he walked out with a passport and India visa stamp at 1:45 PM, a product of a one-day turnaround, non-expedited visa approval and over a full hour after they closed for the day. JD then drove into Georgetown to the closest FEDEX Store and shipped it off to a family that we had yet to speak to, but Alyssa had arranged for them to bring it to the airport with their daughter who was also going on the trip. Any delay on the part of FedEx would have cost Alyssa to miss the whole mission trip at this point.

We are so, so thankful to God for making this happen; it looked completely hopeless on Monday morning. I also told Alyssa that if she ever doubted how important she was to her Dad, she could reflect on this, because he took two days of vacation and did everything in his power to help her be able to board that plane. At this point, we have no doubt that she is supposed to be heading to Nepal (she should arrive any hour) and are excited to see what God has in store for her there.

Honestly, this has been one of the clearest times I have seen God answer prayer and provide for us when it looked impossible - I heard the Indian embassy worker on day one telling JD that there was zero hope since she wasn't an Indian citizen (can't fool them on that one) and she didn't have an in country family crisis. At one point, when JD just kept telling her Alyssa's story and how much we needed her help, she just looked at him and said, "Why does she even want to go to India?" Maybe it helped a bit when he could honestly say that she was going to work in leper colonies.

Alyssa (left) and some of her trip friends

 Glory to God! I have to quickly add that the final FedEx transaction was $95; and the day before the expense, a last minute donor sent Alyssa a $100 check. While we obviously wouldn't have let the overnight FedEx expenses stand in her way after a year of work, it was a sweet reminder that God handled all the details - even the ones that we didn't pray for!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chicken Enclosure Alterations

 For what I am sure are good reasons, JD made some changes on the chicken enclosure plans yesterday. That reality meant that we had to load up some items to return, drag the trailer to church, feed the kids at Costco and head to Lowe's to return and re-buy. The kids always have a good attitude when they get Costco pizza and I let them spend some time with the fountains in the Lowe's lawn and garden center. Elijah helped with the early morning reloading of twenty-some cement footers.

If you aren't impressed with his strength, then you have never loaded cement footers. In all actuality, these were some China-made wimpy version of cement that we were afraid the chickens would peck to death, so they all got exchanged for the old fashioned heavier version. 

Can you tell which child was the only one not playing on the cart and his father asked for his cooperation for a picture?

The exchange went quickly with the boys loading lumber inside and the girls helping me with the chicken wire outside. Then we reloaded the trailer and headed home.


Happy Father's Day to all Dads out there!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Official Beginning of Summer

Summer is here! Alyssa boarded the plane on Wednesday for her mission trip, our first summer visitors arrived on Thursday, and Friday was the public school children's last day of school. 

Our visitors were Bryan, JD's oldest nephew, his wife, Melissa, and their daughter Madison.

JD and Bryan
Since Madison only has two older brothers out of the house, she was nicely entertained with her crew of cousins. 

On Friday, I attended Selah's Kindergarten program celebrating all they learned.

If Selah sees a camera - she smiles!
Then Selah and I had a picnic lunch with the other little graduates.

Now that school is over, our swim practices move from evenings to mornings. After three hours of pool time every morning, we are going to have at least one hour of "summer school". I am compiling individual work for each child in the area or two that they will benefit the most.

Bella stretching

Elijah socializing
 I am hoping that our swim, school and chore schedule will leave enough time for summer interests, but leave little time for excessive electronics or anyone complaining that they are bored!    

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

She's Off!

 Alyssa left at 3:30 a.m. this morning. She flew to Memphis to see her Grandparents for a week and then will board the plane next Wednesday, on her 15th birthday, to meet her mission team in Texas. From Texas, she will fly to Nepal for three weeks of ministry to girls that have been rescued from the se* slave industry. After that, she will fly to India to hike into unreached villages and minister at leper colonies. Once she completes her six weeks in Asia, she will fly back to Texas before coming home. She will not be back home until August 1st. Please pray for her when she comes to mind - this trip will be spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausting. We are so proud of her, she worked very hard to raise the almost $7,000 that this ministry trip cost. I thank each and every person who supported her in many, many ways! We are already feeling the emptiness of her being gone!

We are going to have two children overseas this summer, as Gabriel is only days away from his military deployment. He will fly to HI in the next few days and will then deploy on three different ships over the ocean until Christmas. We are praying for him and Alayna as they are apart for this first long deployment of their marriage. 

Our lives back at home aren't quite as exciting. We wrapped up soccer yesterday and are at the pool every afternoon for swim team. We had a small surprise dinner for Alyssa (that I did not take one picture off - hate it when I do that!) and have some out of town company coming tomorrow. In the meantime, JD is working on the chicken enclosure -

 And Kenny is back to wire the fence to keep escaping goats in and predators out -

The goats love the pasture grass/weed combination

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Beginning of the Chicken's Fancy Fence

 Since the chickens have been such trouble, the chicken fence bumped up in priority above finishing the screened in porch. The porch will be better to complete in the heat anyway since it's covered and has a fan. JD and the boys started early yesterday.

Lunch break
 They started by constructing the main beam.

 This is our current fence which isn't doing anything to keep the chickens in since it's broken in several places and it isn't keeping the guineas out since they fly over effortlessly.
The chickens are everywhere. This is what came running when we fed Hans a treat of grain yesterday. 

We separate Hans and Leia at grain time since she needs a cup and he only gets a taste. There are always chickens in her stall also ready to share her portion. There is one that sleeps in the hay feeder and several that lay eggs in enough places that we have a daily egg hunt.

 The main beam was super heavy; I think there are two more to go.
JD balanced the beam with the tractor bucket to install it.
Today we took a building break to head to Amish country for supplies. The kids and I hit the flee market while JD talked to the garage builders. I let the kids enjoy the puppies, but was wise enough to not come home with one.

What we did come home with, however, was the silkie chicks I planned to get -

10 for us and 10 for Wendy
 AND a pigeon for Ben. In Ethiopia, the kids have tame pigeons that fly around during the day and come back to their cages at night. Ben has always liked birds and hopes to be able to tame this one to that point. Poor little guy is pretty nervous now, I hope it improves.

I planned on the new silkies joining the ones I hatched out only a week ago and the pigeon joining the "teenager" chickens that have one whole side of the chicken coop. The problem was the new ones are so tiny that the week olds were trampling them and the "teenagers" were picking on the pigeon. So, I have everyone separated to the point that I even have the teenagers living in the food entry part of the coop and had to run out for a new watering can.

The teenagers
 Through all the change, James' silkie just sits on her egg. It isn't even her egg, it's an Americana's, but she doesn't know that. 

 AND in case you were afraid that I was lounging around while the boys worked hard, I pressure washed the front the house and weeded the garden while they worked. The weather was perfect for a day spent outside!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Garden and More

It's very possible that my mother will be the only excited person to see my garden, but I may be wrong (and if you bear with me and the garden shots, there are cute kids at the end of the post). Although I put the garden in late, the tomatoes and green beans are coming along nicely. I am pretty excited to see little green cherry tomatoes growing.

Here's my green bean bed. I just planted onions in the empty row yesterday.

Here is my completely out of control kiwi plant. It is really a sad kiwi tale, because about four years ago, we planted a male and female plant. At the end of the season when they died back, JD pulled the one thinking it was a dead tomato plant (probably literally the only time he has helped in the garden). Now the problem is that this one needs a partner, yet we do not know if it was the male or female (and no one can tell for sure.) Furthermore, Lowe's had them for sale this year, but the plants were unmarked. So, we have to build a trellis system for this plant along with it's two "still unlocated" partners to make sure we cover all the male and female combinations.  There was a bird nest in it again, so I had to wait until it was evacuated to trellis it.

Here's my other bed of large tomatoes - I love the smell of the tomato plants. 
The hose that I water with has a serious leak in the middle. I don't want it fixed at this point, however, because Elijah and Bella play in it while I weed and water the garden. After I was done and they were already soaked, I hooked up the little sprinkler and put it on the trampoline. I don't think I'd advise this with several children, but it was great fun for the two of them.

Elijah was disappointed that the water didn't cause it to be as slippery as he hoped, so he went in and put socks on to see if it would increase the slippery factor.

 I haven't shown my baby chicks, but we have had two successful spring hatchings. The first was 20 Rhode Island Reds, the second was a few Silkies and Americans. The Silkies are the coveted chickens because they stay very tame. Elijah got one of the new silkies as his own this year. When I told him that it would only be tame if he held it, he went and got his doctor gloves on in case the chicken pooped. If you are wondering, his name is "Black Ninja Silkie". 

He doesn't look too good in this picture, but I assure you that he is a healthy and happy chick.
 JD and I went on a dinner date the other night along with a lengthy trip to Lowe's for my new chicken fence supplies. While we already have a chicken mansion, they are about to get a fence to complement their coop. I am super excited to keep the chickens in during feeding and laying time and keep the guineas out!