Saturday, October 27, 2012

The July tornado

4th of July week is "family week" at the cabin.  Blaine's sisters' families and his mom and our whole crew head up north and spend the week swimming, fishing, playing cards and eating!  It is a blast:)  We look forward to it every year.  

Katie and her Aunt Jenny share July 2nd as their birthday.  This year Joani made her famous chocolate cake and Blaine and I made homemade ice cream.  We knew a storm was coming and it looked like a bad one but we were going to enjoy our ice cream on the screen porch while Auntie Laura read a book to all the kids.  It wasn't raining or windy.  There was no thunder or lightening.  

I was sitting in the far back corner of the porch with the kids sitting all around me.  It was then that we heard the wind.  It was coming from behind me.  I asked the kids, "Did you hear that??"  They did.  I kept reading.  A couple seconds later I said, "That's bad you guys.  Let's get inside now!"

They say it sounds like a freight train coming.  That may be but I have no experience with freight trains.  I would describe the sound as a jet airplane.  A very eerie sound like nothing I have ever heard come from nature.

At the same time Blaine was getting in the shower.  The power went out and he got out of the shower to see lamps and items in the bedroom flying around.  He yelled to everyone to get downstairs!

We were already on our way.  I don't believe we made it through the living room, through the dining room and down the stairs before it hit.  And we were running!  

Once we got downstairs, Blaine asked if everyone was accounted for.  Someone said, "Yes," but that wasn't true.  Katie and De were missing.

They were also out on the porch eating ice cream and decided they'd better run over to the cabin they were staying in next door and close the windows to keep the rain out.  So they did and were in that little cabin with no foundation when the tornado hit and all the trees fell.

All these pictures were taken the next morning.  It was getting dark when the storm it....around 8:30 or later.  Katie was very afraid and they made the decision to run back to the house we were in since it had a basement.  By this time (all happened in minutes) the worst was past but it was raining and still windy.  Katie and De literally rain over the tops of fallen trees to get back.  The little cabin they were staying in (above) is the one with the green peak on the roof.  They ran over those trees which were maybe 9 feet tall (once fallen) to get to us.

Thank God they made it safely!!  It really is a miracle they did and that a tree, limb or debris didn't fall on them.  Click on the pic above to see.  She told me that she thought she was going to die on her birthday that day.  :(

 The trailer we'd brought bikes up on was now up on Jenny's car and the power line was also down, the pole snapped in half.

 The view to the right down the road.  Blaine and De cleared the entire way with their chain saws all the way to the main road.  I love men like this.  They get it done!

 The view to the right...much worse.  They let the county clean this part up.
 Katie and De's car parked in front of their cabin.  Looks bad but barely a scratch:)

 The new view of the hillside.  I honestly never knew there was a house on top of the hill so close.  There were huge mature pines completely covering the hillside.  The tornado took them all.  We lost 75 trees on the property.

Debris from the storm.  Click on this (above) picture to enlarge to see one of the wicker chairs that was sitting in the porch now resting by the little pump house.  It flew through the screen and landed there!  And it's heavy!

Thanks be to God for prompting me to get the kids out of the porch and down the stairs.  I am not normally the person to be alarmed during a storm.  I thought it would be cool to sit outside in the porch and read and eat ice cream during a thunder storm.  I'm thankful I didn't stand my ground and stay a second longer.  The kids would have been severely hurt or killed.  After all, look where the wind took that heavy chair.

The next day the clean up began.  Gene, Blake and Wayne, who had left for home previously for work came back up and for seven morning till night days they worked until all the trees were taken down and chipped.  They yard was raked and repairs were made.  A little garage had to be taken down due to damage.  Power was out for 5 days and it was HOT!  Water came from the lake, cooking was done with the help of a generator and grill.  Toilets were flushed with buckets of lake water and showers were taken in the lake..The refrigerator stayed on thanks to the generator.

We were so thankful that no one was hurt and that there was very little damage done to the main house.
We were also so thankful that so many friends came up to lend a hand with the clean up.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we'd be in the direct path of a tornado.  I mean...really??  In the grand scheme of things and all we've been through as a family, it seems weird to say that being in the direct path of a tornado is on the minor end of things.  No one lost their life and no one was badly hurt. Funny how our perspective has changed, huh?

We're just thankful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bringing them home!

A couple weeks short of a year ago in October, we went to Ethiopia.  Katie and De joined us along with our friends, Kevin and Denise.  We had asked if any of our friends would like to join us on that trip and Kevin and Denise were the only ones who took the bait!  Having been to Ethiopia twice before, we want so desperately for our friends and family to get a glimpse of the place that has captured our hearts completely and changed our priorities.  Well, Kevin and Denise weren't just 'willing' to go but were very excited and enthusiastic!

If you've been following this blog for a while you will remember the pictures and experiences I shared last year after we returned.  We had a BLAST serving the people of Korah and helping out with the medical mission group there.  We loved visiting Sheshemene and the boarding school kids.  We'll never forget visiting the kids we sponsor through Compassion International in Hossana and also visiting with our kids families.

Truth be told, I did have a teensy little agenda in some of my visits.  I really wanted to visit Layla House (orphanage where Aliya lived).  I believe every person should visit an least once in their life.  Just look into those kids' eyes, see them run and play and realize they are 'real' children, not a pretty face in a photo, who will not be tucked in by a parent that night.  It will profoundly effect you.  Well did just that...visited Layla House to deliver a letter to a little boy who was waiting to join his family (he just got home a couple weeks ago-YEA!!).  I wanted Kevin and Denise to visit the orphanage.

Today, October 3rd 2012 Kevin and Denise find themselves once again at an orphanage in Ethiopia.  This time it is for the farewell ceremony for the 3 children they are bringing home on Saturday!  Yes less than a year ago they first stepped foot in Ethiopia and they've been back twice since (once for court and again now)...3 times in just one year!!  Not fair:)

God got to their hearts in a major way.  Why?  They saw, they smelled, they touched, they loved, they served, they shared, they laughed with, they cried with, they got into life with REAL Ethiopian people and they fell in love.  They knew that because of what they experienced, God would require something of them.  Because they saw they were responsible before God.  And they obeyed joyfully.

I'm reading Jen Hatmaker's book called "7".  I like the quote, "I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not KNOW the poor...I long for the Calcutta (or Addis Ababa, my input) slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other...I truly believe that when the poor MEET the rich, riches will have no meaning.  And when the rich MEET the poor, we will see poverty come to an end."

Hmmm....think about that one for a day of two. There is action in that statement.  But who has to do the acting?  The rich!  The poor can't afford to come meet you.  We must go to them.  Action.  It takes action on our part.

Anyway, Kevin and Denise took action.  Boy did they ever.  I like to think they are "crazier" than we are!  3 kids AT ONE TIME????  Who does that?  Crazy, obedient Christians who have taken action and had their hearts broken and have the desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  And they couldn't be HAPPIER!!!

On Saturday at 1:00 we will go to the airport to meet our new friends, Tigist age almost 13, Melkamu age 9 and little Besu Isaac age 4:)  I giggle at the thought of my friends having a child younger than my youngest.  Girl, boy, boy...just like our kids from Ethiopia.  Do you think God had any thing to do with this?

It won't be easy.  They know full well the struggles we've had along the way.  They know that bringing a teenage girl to a new culture is an enormous undertaking.  Everyone knows that adding 3 children to your family who only had 2 grown ones is no small feat.  None of this is for the faint of heart.  But thankfully they are not the faint of heart type.  They will learn to rely on God in ways they never had to before.  And He will never leave us.  I am so thankful, SO THANKFUL to now be joined in our nuttiness by our great friends.  We can't wait to walk every new step of this journey with them!

We are not alone!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The grandmas love De

 I gotta let you in on a little secret.  De (our son in law) has the grandmas wrapped around his little finger.  They have loved him from the first time he met them.  What's not to love about a kid who walks up to you, opens up his arms to you, flashes the brightest smile you've ever seen, hugs you and says, "Hi Grandma!"  Yep, they were immediately smitten and won over.

So this is my pretty mom again.  All I wanted was a nice picture of the two of them together.  But De...

 De is loaded with personality.  It oozes out every pore of his body.  He's loud, he's funny, he's loyal, he's loving, he's responsible, he loves the Lord and he loves my daughter:)  He's a great big brother in law to my little kids.  I'm sure it's kind of funny for him to think of MJ, a 6 year old as his brother in law but it's cool and it works.  Did I mention he was loud and funny??

De loves to mess with people.  As you can see here, my mom is trying to be serious and get a good picture with her beloved grandson in law.
Mom is trying to get De to be serious for the camera.  It looks like its beginning to work:) 

De is also from Ethiopia.  He has been through the wringer and not only survived but thrived.  This young man has been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ in his life.  If I can get his permission, I want to write a book about his life.  It would blow your mind. You would cry.  And you would see just how real Jesus is.  You would see a life changed and remade.  It would be beautiful and inspiring.  It would challenge you to never give up.  Movie companies would beg me for the rights.  It would be "Blindside," just a little different. 

Like Big Mike in "Blindside," if anyone ever had a reason to hate everyone, trust no one and always be looking behind their back, it would be De.  But God got ahold of him and he is in 100%.  So much so, he and Katie are going to be missionaries in the very country he got away from.  His faith amazes me as does his obedience.

So grandma got her picture.  I LOVE IT!!!  See the joy and peace in his eyes?  That's what Jesus can do.

Who wouldn't want that?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Fun at the cabin

 It HAS been a long time since I posted!  Blogspot has changed the uploading of pictures so it's not all done backwards.  So I loaded these the "old" way which was always too much for my little brain to figure out.  So not that it matters but these are all posted completely backwards:)  Thank you, Blogspot for making things simpler.

Anyway, we did spend a lot of time at the cabin this summer.  It was wonderful and we had beautiful weather each time we were there.  Well, except for the tornado but that will come later.  Above is Aliya and my niece, Heather (who incidentally told us last night that she is expecting their second baby...YEA!!).  Aliya loves to ride backward and get whipped around and usually doesn't fall off.  We had a great summer with Aliya as it's always good for her to keep busy.  Seems to help her to stay positive:)

 I LOVE this picture of Mihiretu and my beautiful mom.  I wish I looked more like her!

 This is my sister in law, Karen, my brother Tony and their dog Charlie.  It was fun getting them out on the pontoon boat.

 Mihiretu is quite the diver.  He had me take a million pictures of him diving and this is but one.  Pretty good, huh??

 MJ was positive he would be able to ski alone this year.  See the confidence below?  Well he did get up but on the skis of his dad.  I've never seen this done before but it worked great.  MJ was terrified at first then once he realized he was safe, he unveiled his million dollar smile.  He begged daddy to do it every day.

 Skiing on his own wasn't going to happen this summer.  He did hold onto the rope but forgot to let go and therefore got his sinuses cleaned out pretty well.

 I wish you could smell these!!  Heather's husband, Bryant is a master cooker of ribs.  These have been cooking for 6 hours and are about the most amazing things you could smell or eat.

 My boys fishing and looking pretty cute from behind:)

From the youngest to the oldest.  Many people get these two confused.  Look alikes.  Blake and Blaine.
Blake graduated from the U of M in May.  We were so proud that day!  After much searching, he has a full time job here locally.

This summer Aliya got a job at Burger King.  Since she doesn't have her drivers license yet, she was often forced to ride her bike the 4 miles there and back.  She enjoys earning her own money and has learned she doesn't want to make this her career:)  The interviewer told me after the interview that Aliya was the most impressive person she interviewed for the job.  She answered her questions correctly.  For example:  "What would you do if someone complained that they received the wrong order?"  She answered, "I would apologize and make it right."  Apparently, few answered like this.  Scary, huh?

When she got the job, she'd never eaten at a Burger King.  She dislikes hamburgers and hates fries.  So when she first worked the drive thru, she said, "Welcome to King Burger!"  Oops!  Better learn where you're working, girl!

So this is the first installment of getting caught up on posting summer pics.  More to come!


Friday, September 21, 2012

A quiz for MJ-just for fun

When Mihiretu was 6, I asked him a list of questions I found on someones blog.  I thought it would be fun to repeat it with MJ.

Here it goes:

1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
"Before we get on the bus, you always tell us, "Be a good friend and a good listener!"

2. What makes Mommy happy?
"Saying YES every time, even when she says, "Go to bed!"  (So true)

3. What makes Mommy sad?
"By getting a cut really BIG and by getting stitches on your eyebrow."  (This has never happened to this child but he has a HUGE imagination, so automatic that you shake your head as it flows out of him.)

4.  What makes Mommy laugh?
"By telling me funny jokes."

5.  How old is Mommy?
"46 years old" (not telling)

6.  How tall is Mommy?
"45 inches"

7. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
"Play with me."

8. What is Mommy good at?
"Shuffling cards in Candyland."

9. What is Mommy not good at?
"I don't know anything."  (He thought for a while and seriously could not come up with a thing!  Love that kid!)

10. What is Mommy's job?
"Works at home and takes people to the hospital who break their legs and arms, then takes care of them."  (See comment under #3)

11.  What makes Mommy proud?
"When I hug and kiss you.  Don't say the part about kissing."

12.  What do you and Mommy like to do together?
"Read library books."

13.  What is Mommy's favorite food?
"Pizza."  (That is his, not mine:)

14.  How are you and Mommy the same?
"We both have brown eyes and you have brownish/whitish skin and mine is brown."

15. How do you know Mom loves you?
"When you tuck me into bed, pray with me and kiss me.  Oh, and when I got glass in my toe, you got very, very sad."

16.  What is Mom's favorite TV show?
"Madasgar 3!"  (Hmmmmmm....another hint that he wants me to buy that movie.)

Such a sweet kid my MJ is!!

The promised pics are coming next week, along with a big catch-up.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Where have I been?????

It's been a LONG time since I've added to my blog!!  Spring break is 6 months ago.  I have uploaded a lot of pics and will be adding them in the coming days.  It's hard to know even where to start!

I'll give you a few tidbits of the happenings of the past 6 months:

-Katie and De are moving to Ethiopia to be missionaries.  They have made a 2 year commitment and will be working in Korah.

-Kevin and Denise are in the very last stages of their adoption!  They are waiting on just one piece of paperwork and they will be going to get their kiddos!  Hopefully they will hear any day.

-We spent lots of time at the cabin this summer and enjoyed every minute.

-MJ, Blaine and Mihiretu celebrated their birthdays this summer:)

-Aliya got a job at Burger King, otherwise known by her as "King Burger"

-I am alone all day for the first time in 22 years as MJ went to first grade this year.  Still not sure how I feel about it.  But now I have time to update this blog so in the next several days, you will see pics of what's been going on around her over the past several months!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Break pics

Blaine and I took the three youngest kids to Florida for spring break. Blaine's mom very rented a house on the beach and very generously shared it with her kids and grandkids. We made great memories on this trip...both as a nuclear family and as an extended family. As you could tell by my last post way back in February, things had gotten to be pretty stressful and this time away was so essential for us as a family.

We went to Smuggler's Cove...the coolest mini-golf place in the world! They had real alligators that the kids could feed. MJ made a hole-in-one as you can see in the pic. He's pretty excited!

MJ trying to walk in flippers! So, so precious.

MJ in his glory. We spent a lot of time on the beach. The kids buried each other, built sand castles and road the waves to their hearts content. I haven't spent much time at the ocean and was really surprised just how much sand a child could accumulate in their swimming shorts. And some of this sand was the very scratchy type. Halfway through the day, these boys would do the frog walk to me and need some assistance! Ouch:) Finally we figured out that wearing underwear under swimming shorts was the answer.

We found the greatest Italian restaurant on our way from Sanibel. Let's see...can Mihiretu eat this entire pizza?

Was there really any question?

For most of the week, the kids played with their cousins and had a ball! I love that they had the time just to be free to be kids and spend time together. For some reason, I don't have a great picture of all of them together! The above pic is of our friends' kids, who were in Florida for spring break and came to spend the day with us.

Blaine and his brothers in law took the boys fishing one day. They had a BLAST!! Mihiretu is standing by his Uncle Wayne and is holding a mackerel he caught.

Blaine caught a King Mackerel!

Aliya and Dad. Can you tell how much she loves him?

The 5 of us on our beautiful beach!

Things really go up and down in our house which is all part of adjusting as a family. You can't add a new person and not feel the growing and adjusting pains that it brings. We continue to work on this and enjoy each other so much when we're all on the same page. A trip affords that...all the regular stress is gone and everything is fun and new and everyone is at their best. I really treasure times like these. I need them to get through the other times;) This trip would not have been possible if it weren't for the generosity of Grandma Joani. We love you and thank you so much!!

Now I have to tell you some exciting news! Remember back in December I mentioned that our friends, Kevin and Denise were going to adopt? Well, they have been diligently working on all their adoption paperwork (at record speed I might add) and last week received and accepted the referral of three of the most beautiful siblings from Ethiopia you've ever seen! I can't give you too much information but I can tell you that the oldest is a girl, age 13, the second is a boy, age 9 and the little one is a boy, age 3! God sure had an interesting plan in that! Our kids are in the same gender order and are VERY close in ages to these 3...hmmmm. Aliya is anxious to help with interpreting since they won't speak much English. God is good and sure has a plan! They hope to have them home before Christmas. Lots to get ready:)

God sets the lonely in families (and He does so with such flair!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

I wish we knew

There is so much we don't know. For those of you who have adopted (especially an older kid), you understand what I mean.

What happened before you came to our family?
How were you treated?
Were you hurt?
How were you hurt?
Who hurt you?
How was your trust betrayed?
Were you loved...truly loved the way you should have been?
What things did you suffer?
Did you keep it all inside the way you do with us?

I have said many times that adoption (and it's magnified with an older child) is NOT for the faint of heart.

We just had our 5 year anniversary of Mihiretu and MJ being in our family!! Time has truly flown and they have settled into our family perfectly and completely.

Next week it will be 2 years since Aliya joined our family! Time has also flown but the struggle to settle in has posed to be more difficult for her. This does not come as a big surprise. We didn't have expectations of constant joy, thankfulness and warm fuzzies. We're much more realistic than that.

What we do experience, although it seems to sometimes come less frequently than before is up times and down times. The hard part is when the down times come, there is nothing I can do but pray. I know she is hurting and angry but her 10 foot thick lead walls are up at all times with me and I have learned that there is NO point in me asking to come inside them because I am not welcome. Maybe this is wrong of me but I don't even try anymore. I don't go to her bedroom and get cozy and ask "what's can tell me...I care...I love can trust can I help if I don't know what's wrong." I get shot down every single time.

There are times that she freely opens up to me but it only, ever comes when she initiates it...never, ever when I do. I so appreciate those times but they are few and far between.

I am sad for her and for me. I'm sad for all she had to suffer. No child should have to endure that. No, it's not fair. It's not fair that she has to work twice as hard as other students in school because of her language deficit. It's not fair that she's not been able to control events in her life.
It gives me great joy and satisfaction that with all the other kids, I can come to them when they have a problem and get cozy and they will open up to me. We can talk things through. They trust me. They don't have reason not to trust.

Don't get me wrong...there has been much progress. When Aliya came, she would not look us in the eyes. We had to constantly encourage her to look at our eyes. She now does this without thinking twice. She also will talk when we have the need for a little sit down meeting. We don't have to pull every word out of her. That is progress!

But now it's the deep, deep stuff. The stuff that tortures her and keeps her up nights. It's the stuff that makes her cry herself to sleep. It's the stuff that makes her act the way she does sometimes...the kind of behavior that does not make her very endearing to others at times.

How can we help her heal if we don't have any idea what these things are?

This post today is for me. I just had to get it off my chest.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Awkward family photo

You know how at Christmas time you always see awkward family photos?

Here's mine.

Mihiretu was looking through old photos and I never realized just how awkward this one was! Misganaw LOVES sweets...but looks a little creepy about it here.
Noah (his cousin) simply looks bored out of his mind.

Had to share just because it's funny.

Be sure to blow it up for the full awkward effect!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What is she laughing at?

This is one of the ladies employees by Mission Ethiopia. The women make beads for necklaces and also gorgeous ornaments out of mud in the shape of Africa. We enjoyed visiting them while they worked.

When I walked up on this lady I noticed her laughing. I asked her what she was laughing about and she pointed to a picture in the Sky Mall magazine, you know the one in the seat pocket in front of you on every airplane?

This is the picture she was laughing about. It's a picture of a dog lounging on a beautiful bed/couch. She absolutely could not believe that in America dogs sleep on such beautiful beds! I have to tell you...I was pretty embarrassed.

I just smiled, shook my head and rolled my eyes that universally says, "This is nuts, huh?"

The advertisement, which thankfully I don't think she could read says, "All the comforts of a couch, with free monogrammed pillow...starting at $79."

Ugh...don't get me started!

My friend, Eve Pohl is in Korah right now and last year started a family sponsorship program for some of the most needy families there. She mentioned today on Facebook that the greatest need she sees right now for so many people there are beds. There are numerous people sharing one little twin size mattress and many others who sleep on mats or just on the dirt. They desperately need beds and bedding. A mattress there is $50 and bedding $10. She's asking for donations from people who'd like to help. Her ministry is called Hope for
Check it out. I'm very impressed at what's she's doing.

Just think...$60 for a persons bed or $79 for a dog bed, albeit with a free monogrammed pillow. (for the dog who can read?)

No one asked my opinion but I will choose the person every time.