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, October 28, 2016

Away From Home and A Moment to Write

Last weekend, I went on our church annual women's retreat; it has always proven to be a great  time to refocus and reevaluate the path I have chosen for my life. To be honest, we bit off an enormous task to provide for and raise a dozen children. (In case that fact isn't overly obvious). While we knew it was big, it is significantly more difficult than we had thought or hoped. Many times, I review the clear vision God provided to show we were called to adopt Selah and Bella; I am thankful for the confirmation, or I might have wondered if we were over zealous and went far beyond God's will. Selah and Bella have also been the smoothest, easiest children to transition to our family which is such a blessing.

This fall has been the point which Brooke launched from the orphanage she calls home and became a University student. Coupled with the fact she is only 16 and speaks weak English, it adds a difficult layer of parenting which most people can not relate to. While we are not there for her day to day needs, we are still the only family which she has.

While it's rather obvious at this point from pictures, Ben is currently not living in our home. We found for the well being of our entire family, we needed to relocate him outside our home. This was a very difficult decision and only made after 15 months of very intensive therapy that did not seem to yield any positive results. He is living in a family, group home arrangement and attending public school. It has taken months for me to be able to tell people without cringing at hearing the words come out of my mouth. I have no idea what the future holds for Ben, but we hope this choice allows him to successfully complete high school with the extra help he requires.

The bottom line: the tough pill to swallow in this parenting journey is that my children, both adoptive and biological, have free will and have to come to terms with the person they want to be and who they want to live for. In a world which glorifies living with only yourself in mind, that line of 
thinking comes without effort. I have had to deal with the reality that we have invested a life savings in our adoptions and child raising and it was still what God called us to do even if the very people we are raising resent us for it. Of course, this is the fact of the matter, not the feelings which come naturally, as I feel I have spent the last two years in the worst stage of parenting for which my almost 25 years of parenting has experienced.

So, after being home for just two days, I headed to the Boston area to spend a few days with JD while he finished his fifth ship commissioning since last month. The commissioning isn't the highlight for me, it is just the time away where we can have a conversation without being interrupted. Yesterday, we explored the Paul Revere trail in Boston - here's his family home which he lived in with his wife and children when he risked his life to make the famous ride -


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Farm Night

Gabriel and I took the kids to a big farm that we got season passes for this fall. Nathan had a blast; I took way more videos than pictures (and don't know how to put them on the blog...), but here are a few.

Nathan watched Elijah get buried in the corn box -

Then Selah -

And decided that he wanted to give it a try -



Friday, October 14, 2016

Little Kids, Big Kids, Goat Kids

Most of our energy these days is on Nathan and our high-maintance baby goat, Storm. Nathan has taken pretty well to farm life. Day one he wasn't too sure about the donkey and goats, now he has warmed up and really enjoys the baby goat and baby chicks.

He also loves Grand-dad's blue tractor. I'm not sure he still will when it's running, but we will give it a try.

The good news is that he is dressing the part of farm boy in his new mud boots.

Nathan's dad is busy still being a big brother and trying to keep his siblings in line. Moriah has this annoying habit of pulling around the circle and parking right by the patio, which blocks the circle. Today she came home from work to change and leave again, so pulled up to her spot. In the meantime, Gabriel was taking James to science tutoring for me and headed out to see her car blocking the circle. He calmly announced that he heard Dad ask her to not park her car there, so he was going to move it to the end of the driveway to teach her a lesson. Well, our driveway is pretty long, in fact, where you see in that picture isn't half way. Off Gabriel drove and walked back. As soon as Gabriel made it in, Moriah appeared all dressed up and ready to head out. Gabriel told her she blocked the circle, and she calmly replied that it was only because she was leaving again. Gabriel, realizing that maybe the timing could be better, told her that he moved her car so he could get out, not mentioning where he took it or why. She said ok and walked out on the phone, in her fancy boots and big purse. Watching her through the window, I was crying laughing. She walked along looking right and left at the cars. She kept walking, looking at the cars across from the barn. She then just kept walking, turning the curve in the driveway. It was so unlike Moriah, who may be known for NOT remaining calm in frustrating circumstances. She never said a word about it. I agree with Gabriel, once or twice more and I think she will just park where we appointed her a designated spot.

Back to kids, let me you just say that this baby goat, Storm, that we got is the cutest thing, BUT has never taken a bottle. I force fed her for the first two days, then attempted to get either adult goat to nurse her. Neither would, until James thought to put her under Lady at milking time and Lady let her eat. Since Lady is really low on milk, we tried the same on Leia and Leia just laid down on her, repetitively. So, after almost a week, we have to feed her two difficult ways every day. First we drag Lady against her will to the milking stall and up on the stand; once up there, she lets the baby eat. Since that isn't really enough, we lead Leia up, and then have to sneak the baby in for some eating while we milk the other side. The crazy goat will lay down the minute she hears the baby's hooves on the stand, but let her eat as long as we are holding her just right, so she doesn't make noise.

It is a two to three person operation three to four times a day. Here I am milking on the right, while Alayna sneaks Storm in for some milk on the left. If she successfully drains one side, we quietly pass her around back to drink on the other side. Poor little Storm knows to drink quickly and quietly, so Leia won't lay down on her. The third person controls the food she is eating to motivate her to not lay down also.

The rest of the day, Baby Storm hangs out with Leia and Lady happily; they are nice to her, other than refusing to feed her. It's going to be a long month keeping her full of milk, but we will all get through it!

I need to get some pictures of her cute little face... tomorrow. Good night all.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Moriah's Video

I wish I was techno-savvy enough to post Moriah's video that shows Nathan emerging from the car. He came out smiling at the crowd of children yelling his name. He has such a sweet personality and appreciates the enthusiasm of the kid crowd at our house. Nathan has made the rounds of kids and animals over and over with such excitement.

In spite of just driving across country, Gabriel and Nathan accompanied us on a road trip to Richmond today hauling a large trailer. We picked up the hutch and bunny that were Selah's birthday surprise as well as new bottle feeding baby goat from Wendy.

There is really nothing like two large white vans, pulling trailers, a dozen-plus kids, a goat and a bunny in the shopping center parking lot to get people to slow down and look. A lady blocked the road and was walking towards us. (I was afraid she worked at Kay Jewelers we were in front of and was angry). We watched as she approached and said, "I want to pet the baby goat." She then preceded to ask if we knew if she could house break one. Unfortunately, the answer to that is a big NO. We all traipsed into Chick Fil A for lunch together afterwards.

Here's Wendy's circus I pulled up to. My pulling in just doubled the circus.

Here's Abby giving Selah the bunny. Selah has wanted her own pet for some time.

Here's where Gabriel came in super handy - loading and strapping down...and driving and parking. I did buy him a Chick Fil A meal, which I'm sure made it all worth it. He commented that growing up doesn't exclude you from chores, it just makes them much less frequent; true when you live on the other side of the country.

I will post some cute pictures of the baby goat, Storm, tomorrow. She was born in the VA Beach area during their big storm before the hurricane, so the name just fits.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

They Made It!

Gabriel, Alayna and Nathan made it across country - they took six days to drive from San Diego to Virginia. Thankfully, Alayna's dad drove their second car. They will be here for almost three weeks until Gabriel has to head to FL for school and Alayna goes to PA to visit family. We are hoping to meet up a few times during the next six months they are on the east coast before their move to Denver, CO.

Nathan did very well for having been a baby who didn't like his car seat.

They did a stop at the Grand Canyon -

They also stopped in Durango, CO to see friends, and Memphis to see my parents. Geema sent some pictures.

I really love these pictures - it would be four generations if I were in them!

My phone is full so I tasked Moriah with taking the arrival photos. She got some really cute ones that haven't come through my email in spite of her trying twice. I'm going to post a couple of Alei shots, but we are going to try for round two tomorrow with Moriah's.

Nathan and Aunt Alei
Nathan appreciates all the kids to play with.

He is also good with some quiet cookie time on the porch. We sure do love this little guy! More tomorrow - we are going on an adventure and Nathan is going to join us!


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Birthdays Squared

We have celebrated James and Selah's birthday the last two weeks; Moriah's is quickly approaching. They are both still having parities, so there is a chance that I will get more exciting pictures. James turned 16. Crazy!

Contrary to how the photo looks, James did blow out the candles.
Selah turned 8 (after being 7 for a full two years). That's another story for another day and only made possible by the lack of records that Africa is notorious for. She is still getting a birthday surprise on Friday when we make a trip to Richmond, as long as the hurricane stays away from us, but enjoyed her other presents and cake on her birthday.

We got season passes to a large farm in the area and went for the first time today with friends. They all had a great time!

Missing Julia in this shot.
They rode petal cars and ran through the corn maze. They pet baby animals and slid down huge slides. We are going to have to go on a weekend day so that they can do the zip-line which is a new addition this year.

We had a even more exciting event happen tonight, but none of the forwarded pictures made it to my email, so I am going to have to blog about it tomorrow!