December 25, 2011

December 17, 2011

Well Digging

Every year our homeschool co-op hosts a "Kringle Shop." It serves dual purposes. It's an opportunity for the kids to shop without mom tagging along, and families get to turn a profit by selling some crafty item to the shopping kids. Last year, I started thinking that if our family was going to come and shop; we could at least fund the shopping by making a few things to sell. Then months passed...and suddenly it was December and we hadn't made a thing.

Then a sweet friend mentioned digging a well in Ethiopia instead of buying gifts. Would we like to help?


Would our children understand? Maybe. In the end we decided that we could cut a few corners (like Christmas cards), but we needed some creativity to make this well digging work.

We decided to make shovel ornaments and give them as gifts. We made little cards with an explanation, tied them to the shovels, and hoped it would go over well. The shovel debut was at Kringle Shop.
By the time the day arrived, each of the kids had been working on various projects (bookmarks, ornaments, shovels) and were pretty excited to see how the things were received. Getting everyone and everything into the van that blustery morning was chaotic. I actually pulled out of the driveway and realized we had a 'pan of shovels' baking in the oven. I wonder sometimes if I am ruining our children by doing too many things at once. Do they think all adults function like their dear Momma?

The 'vendors' get to shop first, then man their table for a few hours while other families make their purchases. I knew that Josiah wouldn't last long behind the table (and with so much chocolate being sold at the table next to ours...). The girls and I took him to watch Veggie Tales with other waiting children while the boys took table duty. The hours dragged on, and it was interesting to hear their updates on selling the shovels. Everett, ever the salesman, talked them up quite a bit.
I have included this photo lest you think we are raising children who are pious and always thinking of the plight of others. Sometimes, reality is smoothed out in blogging. Here's a little glimpse of it. While I have photos of children working and talking about how many shovels we might sell and how much a well might cost to dig, I also have to admit that this was made more than once:
If you can't identify that...then you are definitely more pious than us (or you don't own an 80 pound golden retriever).

December 3, 2011

Final Blanket Update

A picture is worth a thousand words.

These pictures are the culmination of months of work from people all over the country. By the time the blankets arrived in DC, many of them had cris-crossed the US. We left the United States with just under 500 blankets for the children in Ethiopia. I worried as I packed the night before we left. I worried at 3:30 am the morning we left. I was worried standing in line at the airport, wondering if they would turn me away. I thought I'd breathe a sigh of relief when the boxes and suitcases were turned over to United for the flight. Then, I started worrying about boxes being tossed carelessly into planes and blankets exploding on the tarmac. I worried needlessly. Every box was fully intact and every piece of luggage arrived in Addis. I started worrying about how we would deliver the blankets. The sheer numbers were overwhelming. We finally turned the main floor of the guesthouse into a sorting factory--school supplies here, blankets counted, labeled and stacked in whatever we had ready to go to the right care point with care packages.

I finally exhaled and months of worry melted away. Each blanket you made was going to be delivered to a child who needed it!

This is what the beautiful chaos looked like...

at Kechene:

at Trees of Glory:

at Kind Hearts:

at Onesimus (ministry to homeless children):

The children were thrilled to have these blankets. Most of the children sleep on hard packed dirt floors. These blankets will be treasured every night! Thank you for your time and effort to make this project possible!

November 19, 2011


My schoolroom in the weeks before leaving for Ethiopia. Blankets cluttering my busy room as they wait for their long trip across the ocean. A daily reminder of work that needs to be done.

I roll blankets while Sally reads aloud to me from Frog and Toad. I call out spelling words as Eli helps me tape blankets up. Everett tapes boxes closed as we talk about his grammar lesson.

Mommy guilt sets in that evening as I think back on the day. Many blankets were packed up and mailed. Lessons were taught. My attention was not on our children as I went through the motions of teaching. I was counting and mentally checking lists. I wasn't looking at their faces and listening to their questions.

Guilt. They can't learn this way.

As I lament, I hear footsteps on the stairs. It's late and everyone should be asleep. Wondering whom it could be, Everett peeks around the corner. My first reaction is to be upset, as we tucked them in nearly an hour ago. Then he says, "Eli and I were talking. If we put our allowance together, we could sponsor another child in Ethiopia."

My heart breaks. Their allowance? If they pooled their money they would have $40, enough for sponsorship...barely.

He continues,"We were just thinking that we don't need to buy the stuff we save for. It would be better to sponsor another child."

I kiss his forehead and thank him for redeeming my day. What they are learning is much more important than grammar.

November 7, 2011

Three Days and Counting

Today was a cold, overcast day. I had a long list of things that were double and triple starred. Teaching grammar and history were not on the list. So, I scurried around getting nothing done (history included) until the guilt of being so disorganized motivated me to call a family meeting and get organized.

Errands seem to take longer and the gray clouds were a constant reminder of the impending winter. By evening, I had only marked a few items off of the list, but threw together a dinner I've been craving. Curried chickpeas--good stuff for a yucky day. Then the mail arrived! It's a big deal around here, the dog begins barking ferociously, kids scramble to see who can open the mail slot and rip the mail out. Envelopes scatter as a search for interesting mail ensues.

It was a very good mail day at our house.

The little photo books for our sponsor children were there.

A box arrives filled with blankets--that were already ROLLED UP AND PACKED. I. Could. Have. Cried. I love the beautiful blankets that have passed through this house. I am excited to be a part of bringing them to the children in Ethiopia. I am so done with rolling them up and packing them. I could have just let the tears of joy flow.

Nestled in with these goodies was something I have been hoping would arrive before I left this week. You other adoptive parents will understand my excitement. The IRS finally decided that we did indeed really, truly, adopt our children. We took a few steps in the wrong direction earlier this summer in the middle of the audit, in which they decided to go back to Ella's adoption in 2004 (yes, really) requesting receipts. They finally saw the light, and it only took seven months to convince them! They are actually shorting us $1400, but I'm just jumping for joy that we got where we did. My husband, glass-half-empty-man, will pursue the extra moola. I. Am. So. Done. With. The. IRS. Seven months of wondering and digging through files and copying was seven months too long for me.
After such a busy, frantic day filled with trip preparations, our evening turned out to be quite delightful thanks to a pan of chickpeas and the mail carrier.

November 2, 2011


She had a winsome smile as she handed me a large white envelope. A scribbled note on the back read, "Apryl do not open until later." I thanked her and answered a few questions about our upcoming trip, then slid the envelope into my Bible.

A believer listening to the quiet voice of the Lord.

When I opened it later, it was full of twenty dollar bills. Just enough to pay for another piece of luggage, if we need it. This envelope seems mysterious to me, as by my count we have the luggage 'taken care of' and all 500 blankets will arrive in Ethiopia.

It was an unexpected gift. The week before another woman chased me down, because she didn't know how to spell my last name. "God laid it on my heart to give you this. When I heard you say that the blankets were all taken care of, I decided you didn't need it. But I couldn't shake the feeling that the Lord wanted me to give this to you. So, I'm writing this check, use it for luggage, for food, for whatever. I have to give it to you."

Another woman I have only just met, listening to the quiet voice of the Lord.

I saw the Lord's hand in this, but didn't expect that he would bring another woman to quickly hand me this envelope. I can only wonder what needs we may see in two weeks that will be met by this gift of obedience.

October 28, 2011


My vision in this blanket project was far too small. Initially, providing blankets to the children at the care points meant 300 blankets. That seemed like an impressive goal. My emails and postings turned up a group of eager friends who were willing to help. I worried. Then, the handful of friends grew and our goal of 300 blankets changed. Could we provide blankets for another care point? Now, I worried that we wouldn't be able to get 400 blankets. If we did, how could we get them to Ethiopia?

My worries grew as I felt it would be impossible to bring all of the blankets. Then, God provided more luggage space through the willingness of other travelers. The number of blankets reached 400, but we still lacked space for 50 blankets. Such an intimidating number when you are talking about packing them into luggage. A few more willing travelers and the number dwindled to 31.

Our in country itinerary was finalized and we are going to visit a possible future care point that ministers to street children. Then, the Lord gave me a glimpse of his vision and soon blankets are pouring in. Over 400, 450...nearly 500. Enough for us to bring for this ministry! Five hundred handmade fleece blankets--and 300 used to seem unreachable.

I just keep repeating, "I listened to God, but didn't dream quite big enough." Quietly, I say to myself, "I didn't trust enough either, because I worried each step of the way."

Thank you, for your generosity, and for taking part when it did seem like a crazy idea!

October 19, 2011

We Met Our Goal!

We have reached the goal of having a blanket for each child at the three care points that we will be visiting in November! I'm counting blankets that aren't mailed yet, but are stacked (like the guys above) on your sofa waiting to be packed and mailed.

Thank you so much to so many people who have made blankets and hosted gatherings! If you live close enough, I hope I hugged you and said thanks. Many of you live so very far away, and most of you I haven't met personally. A friend teased me the other day that my 'cape' was showing. In her jest, she hit it right on. If I ask for help or admit that I cannot do something, I'm not superwoman. Pride is such an ugly thing. This project has been wonderful for me, because from the beginning I knew I couldn't do it alone. Believe me, I thought about it for awhile. God has humbled me and forced me to trust Him. Thank you again for your excitement and willingness to bless the children in Ethiopia. We leave (with 400 blankets) on November 11, just 3 weeks away!

October 17, 2011

Our baby is four!

It is hard to find the words to describe Jojo at this age. He's always been very...interesting. He's lovable, without fear, and very verbal. That makes conversations in public embarrassing. Asking our new neighbor why he is naked (he was not wearing a shirt). Telling the grocery store clerk that 'we live in a jungle and my mom said that she's really not white, she's tannish, but I'm brown'. He's an astute, adorable, pest. When I bribed him to eat a bite of tofu, he told me that it would make him throw up. I didn't believe him until I heard gagging a minute later and he had spewed all over the door and front steps. He brings up that 'yucky kung fu' every time I ask him to eat something that looks questionable.

He said to the nursery workers a few months ago, "Shake your bootie and I'll give you $100."

He came up with that on his own. I think. Really. We don't have cable television.

He amazed me a few months ago when he flippantly put three letters together and read them. I recorded the second word he read because I knew Seth wouldn't believe Jojo, our mischievous monkey, could put letters together. I don't know how, but something good is happening in his head during our busy school days. Maybe as he terrorizes the older kids during their lessons, he's actually listening.

He won't sleep in his own bed at night, but prefers cuddling with Elijah or snuggling down at the foot of his bed. Eli pleads with us pretty regularly for another younger brother, "because then Jojo will have a buddy in his bedroom and he won't sleep with me." Secretly, Eli adores his little brother so much he'd really like another one just like him.

I don't believe our family could possibly handle another little boy quite like him. He's far too...interesting.

October 16, 2011

Mailing Blankets

My parents spent an evening trying various packing methods to try and shrink the fluffy fleece into a nice condensed package. I wasn't there to experience the ordeal, but the results sounded very scientific. Any possible packing method was attempted and the most successful result is kind of strange. To avoid anyone else going through blanket packing madness--here's the successful method. We tweaked it some to be most cost effective. I have nothing against space saver bags, if they work for you--great! My parents used a food saver bag with awesome results, but it was hard and for 400 blankets would be pretty pricey. Packing tape wrapped around the blankets had the same results (18 blankets in a large box).

I've recently found out that I'm a visual person--I have a hard time getting directions across verbally. Rambling, confusing sentences...followed by my final statement, "Clear as mud?" So, here's a step by step visual with goofy comments.

For all of you who have a stack of blankets and an address--here's the best way to pack those pesky blankets!

First, fold the blanket in half--it should be about 24 inches wide.

Roll it up into a nice tight tube--best working with a buddy. Do the best you can, try to keep it nice and tight.

Once it's rolled up, wrap packing tape around in a spiral. It's taking the place of a space saver bag--they didn't get the blankets smaller, just held them in place. The packing tape should hold the blanket nice and tight in it's little blanket tube shape.

No worries, folks, our hands were this veiny before we started wrapping these blankets up! Genetics, not a job hazard, blessed every female in our family with popping veins.

You should have a nice tight 24 inch blanket tube, ready for shipping. We used an 18 x 18 x 24 cardboard box to ship 18. I was able to lay 17 in my suitcase, versus the 13 I could fit by just folding and stuffing. Please email me with questions, I may or may not be able to answer them!

October 2, 2011

Descending on DC

Sometimes, Seth takes a trip that is so tempting we have to tag along. I tried really hard to convince everyone that a trip to DC at this time in our lives could turn into a disaster. I even waited to pack until the night before, hoping someone would listen. It's been years since I've lived there and all I can remember is whining. I whined about being hot, being thirsty, being bored, and being so terribly tired. As a kid, I whined. As a mom, I imagined all the cool stuff I missed when I was busy whining. Then, I realized I might have five little whiners tagging along behind me.

Or maybe I'd lose one or two in the bustle of a big city. Or it would rain all week and we would be stuck inside the hotel.

Thus my worries about taking the trip.

I didn't tell the kids but I swaped out the shirts they packed for five shirts in matching colors. At least that might help keeping track of everyone. Although, the only other time I dressed everyone in the same color is the only day I've ever lost a child.

I thought about getting a couple of sporty animal backpacks with the long tails that double as leashes. But, I decided we would probably be attracting enough attention without me having five furry appendages, plus I didn't think Everett would go for that.

So the week began, driving most of the day. Seth clipped the van mirror as he sped past a parked city bus. Then he ran a very, very red light. I was having serious reservations by this point. Finally, we bid the van good riddance and wished the valet luck as he drove away.

Day one--Blue day. No one noticed that everyone had blue on, except Seth who exclaimed later that day, "Why didn't I get the blue memo?!" We arrived at The Mall before anything was open and proceeded to visit the memorials and monuments. As you can see, it was just the six of us and the park staff. Pretty cool way to take in the sights. By the time we made it to Lincoln, buses had descended and we were just faces in a growing crowd. And we had been walking for nearly 2 hours.

Day two was the day I realized we were attracting more attention than I had imagined. By mid-afternoon, we had been approached by a few Ethiopians and I started to notice the Asian tour groups. It could have been that they were taking pictures of things BEHIND us, but it certainly seemed like they were snapping photos of our little group. It didn't really dawn on me until I noticed that the chatter behind me had stopped and I only had two children. When I turned around, I saw two women, one posing with Sally and Everett while the other took photos. Eli was boucing around off to the side, beet-red, waving at me with uncertainty. Evidently, we must look very "American" in our matching shirts and varying skin tones.
Day three--we did the zoo in funky blue/green and left DC. We had done most of the museums, memorials, monuments, and probably walked 15 miles a day. We were ready to leave.
Our trip wasn't officially over, as we stopped for a night with Seth's aunt and uncle. We had the priveledge of getting a very personal tour of Monticello. Unfortunately, all we had was one outfit left. Keeping a count of 1-5 was no longer a pressing matter, but everyone was forced to wear matching reddish/pink. Except Seth, he didn't get the memo.

September 17, 2011

Blankets for Ethiopia Update

I am looking at a list of people with numbers by their names. Its a list of guesses and hopes for blankets they think they will be able to gather up for our trip to Ethiopia. My growing circle of people has been so generous.

Then another list of names with numbers. The people on the travel team who can help get the blankets to Ethiopia. They are so willing to give up space for themselves to help in this effort. But the blankets seem so big; the suitcases so small.

In my living room my mom and I fill a gigantic suitcase. We are counting the blankets as we cram them in and soon realize that this suitcase just isn't big enough. We need 15, but thought it would fit more like 20. Each blanket rolled up on the sofa, bags full of blankets laying around on the floor, look forlorn. I feel overwhelmed at the thought of having only two pieces of luggage with which to fill. My mom looks at me as I say, "I think we could get one more in to make it 15."

She shakes her head in wonder and says what I am afraid to mention, "But what about the rest?"

We have help in the other travelers, but will it be enough? Each blanket has a face for me. The face of my two year old nephew, smiling as he holds it up. My friend who gathered a group to make blankets on a living room floor. Ladies at church and many, many people I will never personally meet. They chose these fabrics and handled each blanket with care. Then the faces of the children in Ethiopia flood my mind. Most of them smiling, with runny noses and tattered clothes. They will be thrilled beyond words to get such a special gift from so far away.

I thought I should share our progress in getting together blankets for the Hopechest care points.

I thought about it.

Then I thought about it some more. I really wanted to wait until I could give you a solid number of how many blankets I have in my basement. But, I kept waiting knowing so many people that have blankets they are giving me in the next few weeks or people (like me) who are having parties in the next few weeks.

Today my sister called and said fleece is on sale, but..."do you still need blankets?"

Um, yeah.

Did I mention that the goal of 300 has kind of become 400 hoping to bring blankets to the children at Kechene, a recently sponsored Care Point in the center of Addis?

It's so easy to be overwhelmed when looking around a living room scattered with fleece, a bulging suitcase, a duffle bag, a rubbermaid and this is only the beginning. I tell my mom, "We are just trusting God for this to work."

Then I sit on the edge of the suitcase and we slide one more blanket onto the top.

September 14, 2011

Blankets for Ethiopia Slideshow

I put this together late at night, hoping to make life easier for anyone and everyone who are sharing with others about our trip in November. I tried to show each of the care points and give everyone an idea of where their donations will be going. It's only five minutes, but gives a better picture of the beautiful children and where we are going than I ever could with words. Feel free to share this as needed!

August 13, 2011

Swim Team

This summer, with trepidation and angst, we signed Everett and Eli up for swim team. Practice every morning at 7. Meets twice a week.

Our summer traveling days were postponed with such a rigid schedule. The first meet fell on a Tuesday when relatives were in town. What a relief that we had so much support that first night! I had flashbacks to the triathalon from a few years ago. We had a little backpack with some snacks and a few chairs. The boys had a towel, goggles, and sported some new jammers (the real world would call these tight trunks). I felt prepared, but was amazed to see families rolling coolers into the meet. Kids racing's 90 outside and 95 inside...what's the group huddling around the wall for? And did I bring a permanent marker? For what?!

Then Josiah starts running a fever and my grandma looks at me and says, I'll go home with your Aunt and we'll watch him.

I felt like vomiting the entire time. By the end of the season I wasn't rolling a cooler into the meet, but I did know what the crowds were about (looking at what event the kids were swimming) and why I need a permanent marker (to write event numbers on our kids' hands).

We aren't raising the next Mike Phelps, but I think next summer we'll have a few more swimmers on the summer team again.

August 3, 2011

Blankets for Ethiopia

Months ago I emailed Karen about the trip in November. I thought that if I started planning early, I might not scramble in the last few hours with trying to cram everything into my suitcases (or pay huge fees at the gate because all of the clothes were stuffed into my backpack and it was too heavy). I wanted to help with the trip even if I wasn't going. The Hopechest team in Ethiopia gave Karen a list of items that would be most helpful to the children. Included in the list were clothes, school supplies, medical supplies, and blankets. I immediately thought of how wonderful it would be to bring a handmade blanket to each one of the children at the care points. Most people don't realize that temperatures at night drop to mid-40s during the winter months in Addis Ababa. Many of the children sleep on a hard packed dirt floor; blankets will be treasured by the entire family.

My grandiose plans of beautiful twin size rag quilts were tempered by cost and luggage restrictions. I also wanted to involve those of you who can't sew (or who unknowingly allowed your sewing machine to rust in a damp basement). A few years ago, I made our children little fleece lap blankets for Christmas. They were delighted to have the bright beautiful blankets for the car trip the next morning. And (here's the kicker) they were so easy to make. Making blankets for three children is far easier than making blankets for approximately 300 children. This is where you all come in. I have been thinking and praying about this venture for a few months, not knowing whether I'd be going to Ethiopia, but always certain I wanted to be a part of the trip in some way. After months of working things out in my mind and bouncing ideas off of people this is what I've cooked up:

1-We would like the blankets' size to be 4 x 5. Fleece comes in 60 inch width (or thereabout), if you buy 2 lengths of 1.25-1.5 yards, then it will be approximately 4 x 5 when you finish. Once you have the fleece pieces, you just lay them on top of each other and snip three inches down, one to one and a half inches, all around the perimeter. You should end up with something that looks like a 1983 fringey fleece--think Darryl Hannahesque. Then tie knots with those two snipped edges. You will end up with a blanket that has about 3 inches of fringed knots around it. We have figured out that one suitcase will fit about 15 blankets (in space saver bags). Usually, we make these blankets double thickness. If you can find fleece that is cheap and thin, then getting a solid and pattern fabric would be wonderful. Otherwise, getting a very thick piece of fleece and tying the edges will also be fine. If they will be doubled up, getting thinner fleece will allow us to fit the anticipated 15 blankets into our luggage. Please, don't stress about this! The kids will be so happy to receive these blankets. If I get some blankets that are 6 inches smaller and some that are 6 inches larger--I won't write bad things about you on my blog! I just want them to be approximately the same size. Imagine if one child gets a 5 x 7 and the next gets a 3 x 4! That's my main concern--bringing enough for everyone and making sure they are getting close to the same thing.

If none of this makes sense, email me or leave me a comment!

2-I have a big family and moving has afforded me so many fantastic, supportive friends all over the country. BUT, I don't have 300 people to ask for help. This is the second part of my crazy scheme (as my dad would say). I need you all to talk to your friends and families and ask for their help. Then get back to me with a blanket "pledge". I'm planning on having a blanket tying party and I'm more than happy to help you coordinate the same thing. This is a wonderful service project that even very young children can be involved in! My local group of friends will each bring their selected fleece to the 'party' and we'll have a blast eating, tying, and praying over these special blankets.

I have been so encouraged to see the reaction so far from family and friends. I hope many of you will get involved! This is another opportunity for you to offer help in a big, tangible way. It's also a wonderful way to make people aware of needs across the world, perhaps they feel uncomfortable with giving money to an organization, but would be willing to donate something. I want to thank you now, for caring enough to read this long post!

Lastly, a video that goes step by step-it's a little long, but if I really didn't make sense and you've never made one of these...this is the detailed video you want!

July 25, 2011

Sally is Seven!

Sally's seventh birthday party will go down in history as the most wild party our family has ever thrown.


It all started when she asked for a surprise party. I don't know what it is with these kids requesting a surprise party. The moment they ask for a surprise, it ceases to be a surprise party. Nevertheless, I proceeded to embrace the circus that we call life and embellish each one of the talents we have working around the circus idea. Jojo the strong man, Daddio the juggler, Everett the Great Magician, Elijah the lion tamer, and grandparents painting faces. My mom and sister made an appearance as clowns. My mom, infamous for taking things to the next level, wasn't satisfied with just making balloon animals. They made a last minute trip to wal-mart for clown clothes (dress shirts my dad is probably wearing to work now), face paint, and balloons. Then they watched youtube late into the night learning how to twist balloons into animals.

Sally was indeed surprised, as we enlisted her grandparents to take her shopping while we prepped for the party and all of her friends arrived.

All of the kids were having a blast, we were just finishing up with the circus show when thunder rumbled. We raced inside and Sally began opening gifts when my father-in-law said something I never thought I'd hear. "Apryl, the police are in your driveway."

Then the power went out.

We immediately lit the candles and the party never slowed down. Who knew that the police and a power outage wouldn't even be noticed by 20 children as long as cake is available?

July 20, 2011

Trees of Glory Well Project

As we walked down the hill to the river, Girma stopped to show us the well. He explained that the entire property used to have running water, not just a pump, but faucets, showers, even a pool! When the Japanese construction crew finished their work and left, the property was sorely vandalized and the well was destroyed.

As time passes and volunteer teams come; windows are replaced and walls are painted. Buildings that have sat in disrepair are being used. Simret, the director, has high hopes for the property. Her dreams are big and it seems they all hinge on getting that well repaired and functioning again. As it stands now, the staff has to fill jugs in the village spigot to provide water for 100 children during the day.

The bids for the project came in a few months ago. I sat at the computer overwhelmed by the cost. Then I thought about how overwhelming it would be to Simret. I'm sitting at my breakfast table, with one of our three laptops open, sipping a cup of coffee, enjoying the cool temperatures inside my house while it begins to heat up outside. I am the picture of middle class America. In all of my affluence, a price that is staggering to me must be completely incomprehensible to a woman standing in the middle of Ethiopia, without electricity or running water. The staff at Trees of Glory don't have access to the internet to let the rest of the world know about their plight. They are counting on us. Jessica Irvin shot a video of Simret and Girma talking about their need for the well to be repaired. Specifically, they thank US for partnering with them in their efforts. What a humbling thought! I'm overwhelmed and thinking that we cannot possibly raise the funds in a timely manner, but they are relying on God to provide the funding through us. Stressing that their ability to care for these children is made possible by our prayers and support.

Since I began this post several days ago, the situation has become dire. Karen emailed last night with an urgent request. She cited news reports that are calling this the most severe drought in 60 years. As the drought continues, the price of food goes higher and malnutrition quickly becomes starvation. From Karen's message:

This fresh-water well project is more urgent than ever for Trees of Glory. The well will be drilled deep enough to reach aquifers that are not readily affected by cyclical droughts or rainfall - and part of the plans for the well include irrigation systems for the fields and gardens at TOG.

Please consider funding this project - and please spread the word. This is something we can do right now to make a tangible difference for the kids and staff at TOG - AND in the surrounding villages! And please pray for Ethiopia and the entire horn of Africa as they once again weather drought and famine.

To make a donation:
Go to, click on GIVE
Click on DESIGNATED GIFT and specify a $ amount
In the Reference Number, specify ET2119000
In the Notes area, specify TOG WELL

July 6, 2011

I'm Going Back...again!

I'm stepping up to the microphone again to make an announcement.

"Ahem. Is this thing on?"

With butterflies of excitement, and just a little trepidation...

"I am going back to Ethiopia with Karen this November."

My dear husband is so tolerant and supportive. I know he has a million things that 'need' to be fixed (like the growing crack in the basement wall). I never had to tell him how important this trip is to me. Or to Jirigna. Or to our kids, who are watching how WE live our lives. He just knew.

I mentioned the upcoming trip and then that I need to make a decision soon. He looked at me for a long moment and said, "Of course. It really isn't that big of a deal."

A highly unusual response for him regarding something that is indeed a pretty big deal. I've said it before; he's my knight in wrinkled business casual.

I'm cooking up some plans on how we can be a big blessing to our wonderful friends in Ethiopia and all of the beautiful children that they care for. I can't wait to see them again and I can't wait to share with them blessings from my friends in the US!

There are limited spots available, if you think you would like to join us. It's sure to be an amazing time. Email Karen at if you are interested--November 11-21.

June 22, 2011

Newest Family Members

This could be an exciting post about new family members of the human variety. Sadly, it's about family members from the furry and feathered world. I could have titled it, "How I found myself getting a cockatiel on Wednesday and kitten on Thursday."

When we visited close friends, we never expected Ella to spend the evening on the porch with a sweet, stray cat. A few weeks later, the stray had grown quite large around the belly. By now, the four little boys in the family had thoroughly initiated this mellow cat into their family. Though she still lived on the porch and was free to leave, she chose to call the cardboard box home. Then she welcomed five adorable kittens into the world.

The pleading began around our house before we even saw the litter. The day we visited, the kittens' eyes still weren't open. Their mellow mama allowed the kids to handle her new brood. My five immediately began making a case for their favorite to join our family.

How could I say no to them? A friend's comment kept ringing through my mind, "Our kids are only with us for such a short time, really. Why not build forts and have pets? That makes the memories."

So, we said we'd like the sweetest kitten that our friends had.

Two weeks later, another friend 'rescued' a cockatiel from being set free into the cold Ohio weather because he was "too loud." Elijah happened to be with me when we heard the story of this poor bird. He had mangled feet, very smart, but needing a home. Eli's parakeets died in late winter because of a gas leak (a story I never wrote). He has been asking for birds since, but I kept putting him off--unable to forget the sight of four parakeets dead on the bottom of the cage. I found myself listening to my friend share news of this cockatiel and watching Eli's eyes, wide with anticipation. When I told her about our birds, she gasped and said, "Oh, you must take Wally!"

When we brought Wally home he had just begun whistling at my friend's house. It was rumored that he had a dog friend in his previous home, but I was a little skeptical. We walked in the door with a cowering bird in a small cage. Manny raced to greet us and immediately Wally climbed onto the side of the cage. He started wolf whistling and making kissy sounds! Since then, we can tell if the dog is near the bird cage because Wally will start kissing and whistling to him. He only tolerates humans, but he loves the dog.

The kitten arrived and Manny became her stalker. He corners her and begins bathing her. She emerges sticky with dog slobber and looking humiliated. It's an interesting love triangle that has been created in the house with the addition of the cat and bird. The bird hisses at the cat, kisses at the dog; the dog could care less about the bird, but worries after the cat all day. When the kitten isn't being manhandled by children or the dog, she's sitting on the ground staring up at the bird.

Somehow, it all works.

June 7, 2011

Lego Olympics Around Our House

We missed the local Lego Olympics and pacified the upset family members by promising to do one at home. Only a few rules: no pre-made Lego creations and everything must be an original. Pretty simple family fun.

I awarded five prizes (mini-figures) for:
Most Original--Everett (2 ships, one with a tissue as a sail)
Most Functional--Elijah (Lego roller coaster and ship with working propeller)
Most Beautiful--Sally (House with palm trees, pond, and lawn mower)
Most Unusual--Josiah (What we called 'The Odd Couple', ninja and pig in a house)
Most Legos Used--Ella (Very large Lego town)

I had to add an honorable mention for Most Square because Seth participated; he didn't win a mini-figure. He also didn't spend the entire amount of time creating his large...square.

The kids had a blast. It ranked high on my list because it was something new, easy, and cheap.

May 18, 2011

Nothing but Trouble

Josiah is three. He's unbelievably adorable most of the time. Today, he sat down in front of me and told me this story. It was so strange that I had to immediately get it down.

"Once upon a time there was me. (So sweet.)

And a big bad wolf, but I was safe from the big bad wolf in my brick house. (The drama.)

But, there was a hole. (Oh, no!)

And it was too tiny for the wolf. (Sigh.)

So, I was really, really safe. The end."

It's the sweet cute times that enable the rest of the family to put of with his scandals. He cooks up schemes that only a three year old could execute. When he gets found out (because who else, may I ask, would dump a brand new bottle of body wash all over the tub?), he smiles, smirks, and rubs his chubby hands on my face. All is forgiven.

Last night, he told me he threw his banana down the tuba. Just, oh so matter of factly. As if we regularly dispose of trash in musical instruments. I laughed and then realized he's being completely serious. Everyone within earshot looked around for a clue about the 'tuba'. Then, I realized that he means the sousaphone that hangs out on the upstairs landing. Seth and Josiah ran upstairs and emptied the sousaphone of a brown banana peel, Buzz Lightyear figure, and many other long, lost toys. Evidently, Sir Cuteness has been dumping in the 'tuba' for quite a while.

On Wednesday, he began an obsession with urinating in public. It started with peeing on the deck at a friend's house. That night he was in front of the church we used to attend, which is located on the interstate. I was visited with ladies I haven't seen in ages, and the kids were all frolicking in front of the church sign. Except that one little boy...he's...PULLING DOWN HIS PANTS! Everett, thankfully, grabbed him, but the stream had already let loose and Everett's pants were sprayed in the ensuing battle. Both boys ended up urine soaked. Today, he revealed himself to the entire homeschool co-op at the park.

He's cute, even with his pants down. "Mommy, can I get a little push, please?"

May 14, 2011

Super Glue

We ran out of glue during the frenzied science fair preparations. Normally, this wouldn't cause concern, but Everett was mid owl pellet dissection. He let go of one deep sigh and little rodent bones scattered all over the table. He decided to glue them down before Manny investigated the smells and ate Everett's project. I checked the art closet in the school room and couldn't find any glue. So, I did the obvious thing and googled 'homemade glue'.


I put the concoction in a Tupperware and we used it several times for project boards. I continued to pat myself on the back for this incredible little discovery. Gone are the days of squeezing Elmer's until I was red in the face. Gone are the days of unscrewing lids and using Q-tips to fish dabs of glue out. It was easy to make, easy to apply with a paint brush, and cheap.

Fast forward a few months.

Weird smells are in the hallway. The bathroom, our bedroom, and the schoolroom all meet at this little hall. Our obvious choice for weird smells was the bathroom, but nothing out of the ordinary was wafting from there. I crawled around on the floor sniffing, but couldn't find a spot that reeked. It was at nose level, just in the hall. I finally opened the art closet door and the smell nearly knocked me off my feet. After sifting through several stacks of clearance art pads, paint tubs, and pipe cleaners, I found the culprit.

The Tupperware of 'glue' had burped.

Seth and I had a good laugh and chucked the glue. That night, in bed, we kept smelling that stench. I finally gave up and pulled the entire storage piece out of the closet to find dripping slime pooling on unused bottle of Elmer's. It had fallen behind the rolling organizational bin--forgotten and covered with slime. We found ourselves pulling the contents of the closet out and sorting through things that were goo covered. At midnight. Seth gave me a second "Did you learn a lesson?" and we both thought it was over.

The next day Seth said he thought he smelled 'sourdough' in the basement. When I emptied the laundry chute in the basement I noticed the stench was lingering. I slowly looked up and noticed a dried white substance on the area that would be right below that closet. It was dry, and I knew I had cleaned up the source, so I laughed and shook my head as I started to pick up a stray towel and realized it was GLUED to the basement floor.

That homemade glue is something else.

May 4, 2011

Freezer Meals With Help

Occasionally I lose my mind. When I regain my sanity I find myself in the middle of chaos wondering why this ever seemed like a good idea. One Saturday morning I found myself in the kitchen, the lone adult, with five children preparing freezer meals for a month.

It seemed like a great family day. Everyone bustling around working together cooking. I talked it up for a few days and figured if we could survive the grocery trips required to provide for this project, then we could survive the actual cooking. Our first casualty was the adult pictured in the background below, as he frantically searches the internet regarding an emergency car repair that he sacrificially determined to do instead of cooking. That Pancake Flipper sure is doing a great job though!Eli was making loads and loads of mini-pancakes. Everett was peeling potatoes (with a begging pooch at his side). Josiah was peeled potato deliverer. Ella and Sally were choppers. Though it sounds so wasn't. The second and third casualties were Ella and Josiah. Sally may look like the wild one, but Ella's knife was confiscated when the potato delivery boy tried to snatch her knife and take over her job. Her response to his attack was a knife swinging ninja move that ended with both kids sitting on stools in the kitchen watching me stir soup. Everett was in the middle of a riveting novel, and he disappeared immediately after peeling his last potato. As usual, Sally and Elijah were the last two to be standing.

It was a ton of work, but the concept is magnificent. Endure a wild cooking frenzy for a weekend (one day wasn't enough time) and eat for a month. If this madness appeals to you, these ladies have some great plans and explanations of what they do to make freezer meals work for them.

Money Saving Mom (She even has free planning worksheets.)
Life As Mom

My sister found recipes and a master grocery list that she forwarded onto me. We didn't cook together, but did cook around the same time. It probably would have been fun to send the children off with hubbys (as long as car repairs aren't imminent) and spend the day cooking together. There I go again losing my mind.

April 30, 2011

I Have a Dream

I know our family is in a minority. I'm about to ask a question that only a few will be able to answer. Does anyone else that homeschools their transracial family have a really hard time teaching segregation? I managed to get through the grief and horror of the holocaust with some grace, but segregation stopped me in my tracks. We are moving along through history and stumbled into the 50's and 60's. I usually preview some of the longer books that I let Everett read on his own, but the ones I read aloud I don't read beforehand since I can skip or just close if it turns a corner that I don't want to go. Over a snack last week we were reading about Martin Luther King Jr and I was having a really hard time getting the words out.

The idea of segregation is very far fetched to our children. Almost like, 'Wait this is recent, these are normal people who are treating other normal people like this?' We read several picture books that deal with Jim Crow laws in the south. I was keeping an eye on Sally and skipping some sections that seemed so raw. As I was reading, looking around the table at the kids and their variety of skin tones, I couldn't help but feel like this was a history lesson that they needn't learn so young. I kept cringing at the words, "Whites only" or "Colored". They sounded ugly and confusing. Eli's cheerful take on this was, "Well, if we lived back then we'd just sneak library books for Sally and Jojo since they couldn't get a library card." Hmmm. Except I don't think our family would have existed back then. That thought made me so sad and ashamed.

We ended on a high note with a short video at the end of the week about Martin Luther King Jr's life. With all of my hesitation and worry about giving some kind of residual complex to each of the children about Whites vs. Blacks; the week ended with "one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." Everett turned the TV off and said, rather optimistically, "Yep, that's just like us. Sisters and brothers."

April 15, 2011


Eli balking at my lentil soup for dinner tonight, "Doesn't look too good."

Sally was surprised because she becomes a ravenous wolf when I start dinner prep and EVERYTHING looks good to her. She chirps, "Eli, it looks just like baked beans!"

The baked bean lover's sad reply. "Don't be fooled, Sally. It isn't."


Upon discovering I have made a pasta dish, Josiah begins his usual rant, "I don't eat pasta. Girls eat pasta and scream like this, 'Ehhhhhhh!' Boys scream like this, 'Roooooaaaaarrrr!' Boys eat chicken. I. Am. A. Boy."

April 7, 2011

Science Projects

Owl pellet dissection on my table, worms loose on the kitchen's our first science fair.

Christmas shopping here brought on the ideas, along with the parakeet breeding frenzy that accidentally happened earlier this year.