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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Grocery Shopping

 I'm not sure that Moriah knew what she was getting into when she volunteered to go shopping with the youngest two and me. By frozen foods, we had two full carts-

 pictures are inferior phone photos
By the time we had it bagged, there were four carts -

Four people and four carts - in the Toyota Camry; may not have been my best planning. Thankfully, we had my favorite "bagger" (trivia for the non-military - the Commissary bags and loads your groceries) and she volunteered to take a picture before we attacked the challenge of fitting it all.

It was tight, but we did it; my motto is pack in the kids first, then the food around them. 

AND now, we can eat for the week! 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birthday Girls

Last week is a big birthday week in our family - within four days, we have Tori, Alayna and Bella's birthday. Tori turned 10 and Bella turned 5! I'm hoping that it's not obvious how blurry this picture is, because they were all that way for some crazy reason.  

We took Tori to CiCi's pizza on Sunday for her birthday lunch and then we ended up at Chick Fil A on Bella's birthday night, so it was a lot of eating and a lot of cake!

It would have been nice if we had closed the messy pantry door before we took Bella's birthday pictures, but we didn't think of that.

We took a new approach to birthday presents this week - we took the girls to Toy's R Us and let them choose their own gifts; that was a first just from the reality that we just had Christmas and they did not need anything. The kids all thought it was fun, however, and have requested the same treatment; I may or may not regret the trend setting.

Just for fun, check out my cool Starbucks mug from Singapore; I don't drink coffee but seem to have developed a Starbuck mug issue. Gabriel also sent the kids green KitKat's from Asia; they look really cool but didn't taste that great!

One more just for fun photo that is unrelated - this is our living room around 9:00 a.m. The kids all drag their blankets out with them in the morning and then the pets move in for their morning nap. If you really want to sit, we have a few more couches downstairs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

10 Years - Part 4

I'm concluding my 10 year series with a quick recap of the house progress the last 6.5 years. When we moved in moments before Elijah was born, the basement was just a shell and several things upstairs were not completed. The boys were designated to have the downstairs bedrooms, but every child other than Moriah, has moved bedrooms at least once since we moved in. Moriah is currently waiting to move down to Alei's room once Alei moves to the garage apartment that we are getting ready to break ground on. 

This was the pile of dirt that we had from digging the basement -

 It took 35 truckloads to have it all removed, in spite of the kids really enjoying "the dirt mountain".

JD kept up his work pace to get the downstairs bedrooms done. The bathroom did not follow for about three years however.

The remainder of the basement was finished slowly over the next several years. We honestly just finished the major building of it last winter and are still finishing the final touches this winter. Everything takes longer and costs more than one can ever dream!

A major part of the work was installing the Geothermal lines in the ceiling. 

Gabriel helping back in the day of long hair
 Shorty after Elijah was born, Aunt Deb moved back from overseas and came for a visit. Since Julia was a very high needs two year old and Elijah wanted me to hold him constantly, Debs decided to delay getting a job in America and stay for a while. Thankfully, that while lasted a full year!

Debra and Elijah 2008
 I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled that we were able to grow some grass in 2009; mowing grass seemed like a glorious chore!

The pool and playground were now located in our front yard, but continued to draw a crowd.

Other than just finishing, we have done some other major projects. We installed a wood burning stove and chimney that I LOVE.

We have also built raised garden beds, put in a pasture fence and JD finished the "chicken mansion" this summer - 

We finally broke down and paid an excellent carpenter to finish the screened in porch and build built in shelves in the TV room and a TV cabinet in the playroom.

the new TV that JD waited patiently for for 6 years
the old TV in a new built in corner cabinet in the playroom
 I am currently working on the playroom reorganize and redecorate. I ditched the Kelley green carpet, painted the floor and bought a new rug. I also added another Ikea cube shelf to further organize the toys. My next job is to work on hanging pictures in the entire basement. I'm going hang the children's art in the playroom.

The upstairs living room and school room are always a work in progress, but I'm pleased with how life in running in those rooms at the moment -

living room - yes, toys seem to end up everywhere
school room
 I still have painting to do; there's always painting. There will be lots more painting when we move the three bedrooms again once the garage is built.

 And now we are nearing ground breaking on our next building project - our garage and Alei's apartment. She has been buying things for her new home and lining her hallway with them; it's practically a fire hazard at this point.

Friday, January 16, 2015

10 Years - Part Three

 While this time period looks like it's all about the house, we were also dealing with some tough challenges with a few children. Julia, from the minute she came home, did NOT sleep. I was pregnant and we were working harder than we ever had in our lives and we did several hours of crying each and every night. That was rough. Beyond that, we had a child that we had to seek serious help for and it took hours and hours away from the house each week. It was all pretty bad timing, but no sensible person would plan several adoptions and a house building around a pregnancy and a crisis. While these pictures actually bring back a flood of happy memories, it's not a year that I long to repeat.

While we were building, other things still had to be done; like lots of barn and fence painting. We do pay our kids when they do large jobs like painting. 

We didn't let Gabriel paint the upper floor, so it was four years later when the paint job actually got completed.
Alei painting the goat fence
  We planted our first garden where the chicken mansion is now. It was a complete fail, but I guess I learned from it. (Like to move the garden to within reach of the hose...)

James and Tori
 Our house has Geothermal heat. While it does save on the power bill, it was a major job and expense to install.  JD took on way, way too much of the building. He would usually go to work about 4 a.m. so that he could come home by 1-2:00 and work on the house until 10:00 p.m. That left me everything else to do; there were months that we worked very hard seven days a week.

 Of course, we could always count on the mud; it was a constant.

The Geothermal lines were each 500 to 600 feet long and there are 10 to 12 of them, (I've lost track).

Finally we had the foundation ready and the basement walls were craned in. After JD's research, he strongly preferred them to poured walls.

 Once the walls were set, the Geothermal lines had to be installed.

These red lines are what the warm water runs through, which means our concrete basement floors are warm in the winter.  

Our upstairs was modular; ordered from a builder in Knoxville, TN. We have been very happy with them. I believe our house was the largest the company had ever built at that point and between that and our family size, they wanted to do a write up about us in their company newsletter. 

What made me nervous was the parts of houses trucked in and parked all over. I feared a UPS truck would take a corner too fast and run into a section; I could only imagine the time set back that would have been!

One fine day in April or May of 2008, they craned the house together. It was a beautiful day and we were all so excited!

After it was put together, they raised the roof.

At the end of that day, we had a house instead of just a basement!

Of course, there was a ton of work left before we could move in, including all the Geothermal lines that had to be installed in the floor of the upstairs. At that point, we accepted anyone who was willing to help! I was not interested in moving in at the end of July without working AC.

My dad helping JD
Men from church helping
 Outside lines had to be run, for the power, the phone, the well and the Geothermal.

Even Tori was in the work party at this point - after all, she was 3.5 by now!
 And there was the mud, always the mud!

Julia - almost 2 and Tori - 3.5
 JD exhausted himself to finish just enough to move in. When we moved in, there were still no bedrooms or bathroom in the basement. We had some complications on the stairs, because the guy hired to build them just kept not showing. The older girls moved their rooms before the front stairs were built, by dragging their stuff up a ladder. 

That left the packing to the kids and me, never mind that I was over 8 months pregnant by this point and had "helpers" that were two and three!

JD worked in "the engine room" - that is where all the magic of the heat, cooling and solar panels come together - 
We are all scared of the engine room - other than JD. It's like a space capsule in there.
At this point, it was becoming a rush to even move in the house before Elijah was born. I was taking the kids to swim team everyday (because I promised them the year before, when I took off to travel to Liberia twice). I couldn't fathom bringing home a new baby without anything unpacked. So I did the most sensible thing and bought a plane ticket for my awesome cousin to fly out and unpack my house. 

Every morning, I drug my 9 month pregnant self to the pool while she and Alei (who foolishly decided to not swim that year and still talks about how hard Crissy worked her)worked absolute magic! One day I came home and Elijah had a bed built on my bedroom wall.   

Unfortunately, Crissy had to go home before Elijah made his entrance into the world, but I was in a much better place than I could have ever been on my own. 

This is a picture taken either the day before I had Elijah or that very morning. He came a week early, which I'm pretty sure had something to do with all the work (or my chasing a bus six blocks in NYC the one weekend that JD and I took a break from it all and flew to NYC for the weekend.) 

Welcome Elijah David - you were born into craziness!
And here was your welcoming party. Elijah was born on Julia's 2nd birthday. Since we celebrated her birthday early while Crissy was here to whip up the cake, I thought she wouldn't understand that it was actually her birthday. She arrived at the hospital with all her sassiness, however, and immediately asked, "where is my birthday boy?"

Gabriel was our oldest at 16.5 in this picture