As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles. - Walt Whitman

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review.....

2011 was an amazing year full of changes and blessings. It was hard, joyous, stressful, exciting and faith-building, all at the same time. I now have more gray hair than ever before, but I would have to say that it has been one of the best years of my life. Here's a quick recap:

In January, we started off the year on our adoption agency's wait list at #29 for girls, #17 for boys, and #12 for siblings. I also repainted several rooms in our house.

In February, Chris's sweet grandma passed away, and although we miss her, we know she is in a better place. Our church hosted a large conference, and we helped with meals and kept overnight guests. We also celebrated Shana's 10th birthday, and survived a winter storm while Chris was away on business for a week.

In March, we went on a little getaway to Indianapolis. We also received the news that the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia was going to decrease the number of adoptions that they would process and approve by as much as 90%. Although we were worried as to how this would affect our case, God showed us clearly that He was still in control and had a perfect plan for us. March also found us collecting lots of donations to take with us when we went to Africa.

In April, my sister and her little boy came to visit for a few days. Chris and I helped to plan Vacation Bible School, and we celebrated Easter. God blessed us with a new nephew, Lincoln Frederick. Chris and I also celebrated our 11th anniversary and went on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

May found us celebrating Ashton's 7th birthday. Another new nephew, Weston Gage, was born, and the kids finished their year of school. We took a surprise trip up to Michigan.

In June, we celebrated Malia's 5th birthday. Chris and I both taught Vacation Bible School, and and we were at #10 for girls, #3 for boys, and #4 for siblings on the adoption wait list. Then, we received our referral for 2 1/2 year-old twin boys!! For the first time, we got to see the faces of the children we had waited so long and prayed so hard for. God answered our prayers and revealed to us His plan for our family! Because we were now a family of 8, we purchased a full-sized van.

In July, we traveled to Kentucky and Michigan. Another nephew, Symon Pierre, was born. I put the finishing touches on the twins' bedroom, and we received a very quick court date for our adoption. At the end of July, Chris, Shana and I traveled to Ethiopia!

August was the month that we met our Ethiopian princes for the first time! We spent a wonderful week with them, enjoying Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian countryside. We had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the twins' beautiful birth mother. Our MOWA letter was not present in our file when we attended court, so we traveled home, not knowing when we would see the boys again. Leaving them was one of the hardest things we have ever done. We celebrated Adrian's 9th birthday in August, and spent a weekend at a water park with Chris's family. Then, the kids went back to school - all 4 of them! Malia started kindergarten this year!

In September, we spent a long weekend at the lake with my sister and brother-in-law. We got used to the school routine again, and I babysat for several weeks for a one-year-old girl. After that, it was just me at home by myself during the days, for the first time in 10 years! Chris and I also traveled to Cincinnati to get re-fingerprinted for our adoption.

In October, we finally passed court and found out that the twins were now officially ours! We celebrated their 3rd birthday from the other side of the world. Our case was submitted to the U.S. Embassy, who requested an interview with the boys' birth mother. We also received our updated FDL. I went on a little getaway to Holmes County with my mom, sister and sister-in-law.

November was a busy month! The U.S. Embassy interviewed the twins' birth mother, and gave us clearance! We had one week to make travel arrangements, and Chris and I left for Ethiopia on 11/11/11. The 13th was Gotcha Day, and we were thrilled to be reunited with our sons! We had our Embassy appointment on the 14th and arrived home on the 17th. We settled into life as a family of 8, and had so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

December has been an incredible month, and we have experienced all kinds of exciting moments with Jalen and Jordan. They are getting used to life in America. Shana had a solo in the school Christmas play. Chris and I both had birthdays this month, and we had a wonderful Christmas as well. We took a trip to Cincinnati with the kids, and the twins loved swimming for the first time. And here it is - the last day of December. The last day of the year!

Goodbye, 2011!

You were an incredible year, and we know that 2012 will be as well. We can't wait to see what God has in store for us!

May God bless each of you with peace and joy throughout this next year and always.

Happy New Year!!!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

What If.....

.....we had said that we already had 4 kids, a perfect family of 2 boys and 2 girls, and weren't interested in any more children? What if we had said that adoption was way too expensive? What if we had said that we didn't want to go through all of the hassle of paperwork? What if we had said that we were too busy? What if we had said that adoption takes way too long? What if we had said that it was way too hard? What if we had said that we were too worried about what other people would think of us?

We did say all of these things. And more. But God continued to call us and lay adoption on our hearts. He told us that He had a perfect plan for us, and I am so glad that He did. We changed our minds and said yes, and it has truly been the most amazing experience we have ever had. We have been closer to Jesus than ever before. We have learned that His ways are perfect, and that if He calls you to do the impossible, He will make a way and walk through it with you. But the question still haunts me. What if we had said no?

What if we had missed out on this?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This Guy Is Good For The Ego.....

Jordan saw a CoverGirl ad on the back of a magazine (the photo was of Drew Barrymore) and promptly pronounced that it was "Amama" (me). Awww, thanks buddy, but I'm afraid that you probably need glasses. Really badly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shana Rae's Gourmet Burgers

This post does not include a recipe, as the title might lead you to believe. Instead, it is about a restaurant that set up shop in our house a few nights ago. You see, Shana was looking for something different and fun to do, so she and her daddy came up with the plan to serve the rest of us a restaurant-style dinner, complete with several courses, a wine list (sparkling juice, of course!), menus, etc. Chris was the chef and Shana was the hostess/waitress. Adrian and Ashton decided that they wanted to dress as businessmen and sit at their own table, and Jordan, Jalen, Malia and I made up the party of 4 at the next table. 

The menu:

The menu included:


Chicken Fingers - choice white breast meat lightly breaded to perfection

Crab Dip - lump crab meat dip served with gourmet crackers

Fried Okra - a southern tradition served golden and crispy

Before the Meal

Berry Salad - mixed greens served with strawberries, blackberries, nuts, cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing

Cobb Salad - mixed greens served with eggs, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts and ranch dressing

Cottage Cheese - gourmet cottage cheese served with fresh fruit

Asian Chicken Soup - Asian noodles in chicken broth with mushrooms

Gourmet Burgers

Hamburger - USDA choice beef cooked to perfection and served on gourmet Italian bread with your choice of toppings and condiments

Cheeseburger - One of our gourmet hamburgers served with your choice of Swiss, Co-Jack, Cheddar or American cheese


Bacon, Mushrooms, Egg, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles


Mayonnaise, Ranch, Barbecue, Ketchup, Mustard


Wines - Pear, Pomegranate/Apple

Specialty Drinks - Lemonade, Eggnog, French Vanilla Latte, Cinnabon Latte

This establishment was very family-friendly, and the kids had so much fun. The food was great, the service was impeccable, and I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone. The only problem is that it doesn't exist anymore. :-)

Have a great day, everyone!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Today We Are Celebrating....

1. Jesus's birthday......
Baby Jesus 0108
On His Son's birthday, God gave us The Best Gift Ever!!!

2. Chris's birthday......
Happy 35th to a wonderful husband and father!!

3. The fact that our beautiful twins are home this Christmas!
They now have a family and will never be alone again!

The LORD hath done great things for us....we are glad.

Psalm 126:3

Have a beautiful Christmas!!!

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Merry Christmas!!!!!

    This Christmas, we wish you.....

    A home warmed by the love of the Savior,
    Hearts that are wrapped in His peace,
    and a New Year filled with His blessings and joy.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!!!!!

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Be the Difference.....

    Just thought I would share this video from our adoption agency, All God's Children International.

    Be The Difference from Videos for AGCI on Vimeo.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    He'll Be A Great Daddy Someday.....

    I have discovered that Jalen loves babies. The other day, he saw his baby cousin Weston and gave him lots of kisses. Then he found one of Malia's baby dolls, and kept carrying it around the house.

    He very gently carried it upstairs, and told me that he was putting the baby in its "alga" (bed). These boys have never had a younger sibling, so they must have learned their baby skills at Hannah's Hope!

    Then, Jordan decided to get in on the action, too, and together they fed their baby a bottle.

    When the baby had finished the bottle, they took it to the bathroom, held it over the toilet, and informed me that the baby was going "shinte" (pee). I guess they don't remember the diaper stage too well! (Or, quite possibly, they never had a diaper stage, as diapers tend to be quite rare in rural Ethiopia.) Then Jalen put the baby back in bed and covered its face - just like they do in Ethiopia!


    Think he'll be a good Daddy someday?

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    One Month.......

    In some ways, it is hard to believe that Jalen and Jordan have been home for one month already. In other ways, it seems like they have been a part of our lives for a long time. They are doing tremendously well, and seem to be enjoying life in "Amedica."

    Both boys seem to be attaching to us wonderfully. They sleep good (although I don't think they're sleeping as much as they did at Hannah's Hope), are learning and understanding more English every day (the other day when the kids left for school, Jordan said, "Have a good day!"), and eat most everything we set in front of them (although their favorite things are "calambela" (candy) and "coka" (pop) ). Before they eat, they fold their hands, close their eyes, and say, "Doopa doopa dude!" (Their way of saying "Thank You for the food." ;-) ).  They love to go anywhere in the mekina (van), especially "beta Christian" (church) and grandma's house.

    Jalen and Jordan are each other's best friends and worst enemies, and are very active and busy! Some days I feel very old and tired after trying to keep up with them all day! I bought them exactly the same things for Christmas this year, because they love to fight over everything, including food, clothes and toys. They usually forgive each other very easily, though, by saying "aznahlo" (sorry) and doing "pinkies." This is something that they did at Hannah's Hope, and we have decided to continue it here at our house. Every time one boy hits the other or does something mean, he interlocks his pinkie finger with the other one's pinkie, then each boy brings his own pinkie to his mouth and kisses it. This means "I'm sorry and I forgive you."

    Both of the twins are still exploring their new environment, and love to push any buttons and pull any handles that they see. The dishwasher, washer, dryer, computer, phones, light switches, ceiling fans, stereo, drawers, cupboards, toilets, etc. are all very tempting to them. We have gotten up several mornings and the house has been freezing cold. Sure enough, one of the boys was messing with the thermostat the night before and turned the heat off! They have also enjoyed many other new "firsts," such as ice cream and snow. And they love to sing and dance! Although they like to listen to their Amharic children's songs, "Jesus Loves Me" is becoming a favorite as well.

    After visiting the pediatrician, we learned that Jalen and Jordan both had giardia, an intestinal parasite common in children from Africa. We hope that the round of treatments we gave them got rid of it - we should find out this week. Other than that, they seem to be very healthy, and are in the 75th percentile for height and the 25th percentile for weight in their age group. Jordan has to have a minor surgery in the spring, but should recover quickly. We need to see the dentist yet, as I suspect each boy has a cavity or two.

    The twins are definitely all boy! They found this 2 1/2 inch tall potty, which belongs in Malia's doll house.

    Every day at some point, I find one of them sitting on it and going "ka-ka" (ummm.....number 2). They even make grunting noises, and think it is absolutely hilarious! Something is just wrong with boys. I don't know exactly what it is, but as my sister says, "it certainly seems to transcend languages, countries and any other type of barrier!"

    Anyway, even if they do have a few issues :-), we love them with all our hearts and are so thankful that God chose us to be their family. Happy one month home, boys!!

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Where's The Line To See Jesus?

    How are we celebrating Christmas this year? Are we all wrapped up in Santa, presents, and decorations? Are we so busy making wish lists and shopping for unnecessary items that we have forgotten what is most important? Are we so intent on receiving gifts for ourselves that we have forgotten whose birthday we're celebrating? Are we putting Jesus first?

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011


    In our living room, we have a digital picture frame, on which I have some photos from Africa. The other day, Jordan saw the above photo pop up on the screen, and he excitedly yelled, "Opiyew bet! Uchan bet!" which means, "Opiyew's house! Uchan's house!"

    So now we know what kind of house our boys used to live in. I always love finding out clues to my sons' past. We don't know a lot about their history, but each little bit of information helps to put the pieces of the puzzle together.....

    The other night, I started a fire in our fireplace in the living room. Jalen asked if we were going to "bela" (eat). Obviously, they used to watch someone cook over an open fire. What else would they need a fire for in Gambela, which normally is extremely hot all year round? Also, each time the twins hear a strange noise (the other day, it was a piece of ice sliding down our roof), they come running to me, fearfully yelling, "Aminal!" (animal). Makes me wonder if they used to have strange animals poking around their house in Africa and making noise during the night. I know that hyenas are common in Ethiopia, and are greatly feared by the people. Hmmm.......... I wonder what other bits of background information we'll find out over the years?

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    The Lights Before Christmas.....

    One of our family traditions during the month of December is to visit The Lights Before Christmas at our zoo. This year was no exception, and Jalen and Jordan got to experience it with us for the first time. They loved all the lights, and kept repeating, "Konjo!" over and over, which means "Beautiful!" Their favorite part of the night was getting to see the elephant. They could talk of nothing else afterward.

    We finished off the night with funnel cake, popcorn and hot chocolate, as usual. We had so much fun, and Jalen and Jordan are ready to go back again next year! They keep saying, "Chao, elephant! Na Bahala!" (Bye, elephant! We'll come again later!)

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    The Shirts Say It All.....

    So, I wanted to get a cute picture of the twins smiling. Instead, I got this:

    and this:

    and this:

    and this:

    I guess their shirts say it all.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Peace After The Storm......

    This morning, one of the twins was being stubborn and unruly. Very unruly. So I put him on a chair, and told him to just sit there for awhile. I stood beside him as he sat and pouted. I then saw a picture of Chris and me lying on the floor that one of the boys had been looking at earlier, so I picked it up and handed it to the misbehaving child as he sat in his chair. He promptly threw it on the floor. Without saying a word, I picked it back up and handed it to him again. He flicked it onto the floor. Calmly, I handed it to him again. I really don't know what I was trying to accomplish, other than to show him the people who love him unconditionally. He threw it down once more. This went on a couple more times, until he finally took the picture, looked at it, and said, "Ababa! Amama!" (Daddy! Mommy!) He then held it close to his face, and the tantrum seemed to be over.

    Just a few moments from our day, but it reminded me of how God must see us as His children. We throw fits, wanting our own way, and yet He loves us, unconditionally. He sits us down, stands beside us, and gives Himself to us, over and over and over. How many times do we reject Him and throw good opportunities away? It is only when we stop fighting, focus on His face, and say "Abba, Father!" that we can truly feel at peace and everything will be alright again.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    I Love My Colorful Family.....

    We have black hair and brown hair and blond hair and red hair and white hair.

    We have blue eyes and green eyes and hazel eyes and brown eyes.

    We have pink skin and tan skin and peachy skin and freckled skin and chocolate-brown skin.

    We love all of our colors, and are thankful that God made us just the way He wanted us to be!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    First Snow.....

    Jalen and Jordan were on the couch staring intently out the window the other day when I heard, "Amama! Na!" (Mommy, come here!) They were very excited, so I went to see what all the fuss was about.

    A few snowflakes were just starting to fall from the sky. The first snow of the year! The boys' first snow ever! They were amazed! Jordan kept repeating, "Si-no!" and Jalen kept calling it "No!"

    Then, I ran out to the mailbox to get the mail. When I came back in, I showed the boys the snowflakes that had collected and showed up very nicely on my black shirt. Instead of oohing and ahhing over the intricate flakes, they scolded me and shook their heads because my shirt was all wet. As they brushed me off, they said, "Amama, aydelem! Aydelem, Amama!" (No, Mommy!) Oh well. I tried.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    "Faras" Rides - The New Cure-All.....

    Jordan was not a happy camper last week when Chris had to go back to work for the first time since we arrived home with the boys. He laid down on the rug in the laundry room and sobbed his little heart out. Jalen, who apparently was feeling fine about the departure, tried to comfort his brother. When he offered him a "faras" (horse) ride, Jordan couldn't resist, and was soon feeling good again. Around here, "faras" rides make everything better.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Ethiopia - Trip Two - Day Seven

    Thursday, November 17, 2011
    The boys slept through most of the flight to Frankfurt. When they woke up, I gave them some Teddy Grahams, and they were amazed by the little bear shapes. Then Opiyew decided that he had had enough of his seatbelt, and cried the rest of the way into Frankfurt. This does not bode well for his car seat at home!

    We had a 7-hour layover in Frankfurt. After getting our boarding passes, going through security, riding an escalator (which the boys thought was absolutely the neatest thing they had ever seen!), riding a train (which they also loved!) and hopping into an elevator (another new experience for them), we camped out at gate A56, where the boys soon fell asleep. I dozed off at one point, until a man yelled something behind me. I must have jumped a mile, because when I looked over at Chris, he was laughing his head off at me. Then I heard a voice say, "I think I've read your blog before," and I quickly sat up and put my glasses back on so I could see who was speaking! The woman standing in front of me was from Michigan, and she and her husband were bringing their son home from Ethiopia. They were very kind, and I'm glad we got to meet them! It always amazes me that there are actually people out there who read my ramblings on this blog! We visited for awhile, and then it was time to board our last flight home. The boys had slept for the entire 7-hour layover!

    On the flight back to Detroit, the boys slept some, cried some, and did not want to be buckled into their seats during take-off and landing. Back in Detroit, we went through customs and immigration, where we turned in the boys' "top-secret" immigration envelopes. One official told us that we should expect to receive the boys' citizenship papers in the mail in a few weeks. Then we went to claim our luggage, only to find that none of it was there. It was still back in Addis. :-(  We filled out some forms, and a woman told us that someone would deliver our luggage to our house in a few days. As Chris talked to her, I could see my mom, Chris's parents and our kids standing just outside the glass doors to the international arrivals area. The kids had each made welcome home posters that they were holding, and I was so anxious to go give them all hugs! The twins saw Shana, and were dying to get to her! We stepped out the doors and introduced Opiyew and Uchan to their new family members!

    All 8 of us! Together at last!

    After taking some photos, we went to the parking garage, climbed in the van, and headed to a nearby hotel so that we could pick up our other vehicle. Opiyew and Uchan seemed to do fine in their car seats - yay! They loved riding in the mekina and talking to their new brothers and sisters. We stopped at a restaurant to eat, and I took this photo:
    6 kiddos!!!

    We arrived home at about 8:30 pm, where we introduced the boys to their new home and then went to bed, totally exhausted.

    Ahhh!! We're home!! 

    It's really hard to believe that the adoption process is over, and that life as a family of 8 has just begun! God is good, and we are blessed.