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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Hard and Beautiful Truth . . .

Quick Update

I have so, so many thoughts and feelings swirling through my head and heart these past few days.  Still trying to process and write them out in some coherent manner.  As soon as I can find 5 minutes to do that, I will share with you here.  Adoption before kids arrive is such a consuming experience of anticipation.  After . . . well . . . after is where reality sets it.  Raw, real, heartbreaking, heart-exploding-full-of-love reality.

For now, the kids really enjoyed the brief snow day.  Woke up to a blanket of white exclaiming, "Beh REH doh, beh REH doh!!!"  (Sounds like bear- REH-do with the 'r' rolling off the tongue like a Spanish 'r'.)  We're pretty sure they've never actually seen or felt or tasted snow, but have heard about it and seen photos from traveling families who have visited the Transition Home.  Pretty cool to see it their first week home.

Phoebe hamming it up for the camera.  Loads of personality.



Ben.  This boy spent the ENTIRE day outside.  When the snow got boring, he came in, put on shorts, went back out and rode a bike for about 3 hours straight.  He and Jesse spent two full days - no breaks - teaching themselves to ride a bike.  They'd never seen or ridden one, but for some reason their image of America included bikes and they couldn't wait to give it a try.  After two days, lots of falls, and incredible tenacity, they both mastered it. :-)

 


And then we have Georgia.  Or Cindy Lou Who as we like to call her.  Not amused with her sister pointing the camera at her endlessly.  A twelve-year-old trapped in a two-year-old body.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yes

Oh Where, Oh Where is All Their Hair???

Got some new photos today from Olivia.  Girls looking good, hair is starting to grow out a little (can't wait to start playing with styles for them).  Here is older daughter - she'll be turning 7 pretty soon  . . .


Pheobe Asrat - 6 1/2

And then . . . we have the boys.  This photo was taken on our court trip . . . .


Hair's a good length.  Easy to wash, not too hot.  A nice length.

Here are their photos from this week in Ethiopia.  Seems the nannies line up the big boys and have a group haircut day . . .


Benjamin Abebe - 9 1/2
(I think this hair cut makes him look much older!)




Jesse Fasikal - 12

(Told Rob this week that he got the scar from climbing a mountain.  Fell and somehow on the way down, hit his nose/eye area.  He said that God saved his eyesight, so it must have been a pretty nasty fall.) 



Back to Ethiopia for Our Embassy Appointment!

Rob and Olivia flew out Sunday morning at 5:50 a.m. to go get our kids!  Our embassy appointment was today (Tuesday) at 1:00 p.m. Ethiopia time, and we PASSED!  Rob was able to get a lot of good information on the kids' history, some medical questions answered and take the kids out to eat for lunch.  This was their FIRST EVER time to eat in a restaurant and maybe their first time to use a fork!  Crazy, but in Ethiopia the traditional meal is eaten with your hands and it is likely that's all they've ever eaten.  They were pretty talented right off the bat and enjoyed showing off their fork skills for Dad.  :-)

Tomorrow they'll get a chance to spend one last day with their friends and nannies, one last night sleeping in their beds at the Transition Home and then, on Thursday morning, they will be with Rob until they board the plane.  I have to tell you all that the scene of them saying goodbye continually plays in my head.  Shedding a lot of tears these past few days.  This has been their home and family for the past year and while they are coming to a family that loves them, this will be one more time of losing people they love and of saying goodbye forever.  So much wrenching heartache that braids itself throughout the joy.  Such a complicated, beautiful, horrible reality adoption is.

We would be so thankful for prayers for them.  This is surely all very exciting for them, but we also know that inside they have to be scared to death and so uncertain of what's to come.  If eating in a restaurant and using utensils is new, can you imagine all they will have to acclimate to once in the U.S.?  We are going to be very diligent about taking it slow with them and giving them time to adjust.  We would really love specific prayers that they would learn English quickly and be able to communicate their feelings to us. 

This is a forever home, but it will take some time to bond as a family, get used to America, and grieve.  For the next couple of months we will be hanging out very close to home.  Probably won't see us at church for a while, probably won't be seeing us much at all.  This seems really severe, but all the good literature on adoption AND families who have gone before, advise that it is critical that we bond well at the outset to help with success long-term as a family.  In the context of the rest of their lives, a few months seems not so long.  We have appreciated so much - do appreciate - all the kindness shown to us by so many of you. We pray everyone will be understanding of our decision and patient with them as they graft into the Thomas family.

Our good friend Tracy has set up a meal schedule at http://www.takethemameal.com/ .  If you are interested in helping us out in this way, please email me and I will get you the login information.  We don't expect this, but many people have asked if they could bless us this way, and the answer is yes!  I have no idea what to expect in the next few weeks, but imagine it will be challenging and not having to plan meals and grocery shop will help this mama a ton.

I am hoping to post more photos soon.  Olivia promises to put her photography skills to use today (at midnight our time, they are just going down to eat breakfast (8:00 a.m.) and preparing for their day.)  The plan today is to stick close to the Transition Home, spend time with our kids and the kids still waiting on their forever families to come.


Susannah Konjit - 3 1/2 years

Hope you all take time today and the next few to focus on Christ and the true beauty of this season.  Slow down, pray up and enjoy.

Love you all . . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Reading - Day 14

Mark 1:1-11

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'"

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was lucusts and wild honey.

And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.

"I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens:  "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." (NASB)

Advent Reading - Day 13

John 1:10-18

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testifies concerning him.  He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"  From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Advent Reading - Day 12

John 1:1-9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

Notice that Jesus is called "the light" seven times in this short passage.  Now, as John is showing us Christ as both man AND deity, he uses the word "light" to explain that Jesus is like a beacon, showing us the WAY.  We will know Him because He is completely opposite from the darkness around Him.  John wants us to be sure that we don't miss Him!  Jesus represents the light of wisdom, the light of recognition about who God is, and the light of eternal life.  John (the disciple) also mentions the forerunner, John the Baptist, who will reflect Christ but not BE the light.  Many people wondered if John the Baptist was the Savior and John 1:6-8 clarifies that Jesus is the ONE, the LIGHT.  - teachingmom.com

Advent Reading - Day 11

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.  "May it be to me as you have said."  Then the angel left her. (NIV)

Advent Reading - Day 10

Luke 1:11-25

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him:  "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous -- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

The angel answered, "I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them.  They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home.  After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  "The Lord has done this for me," she said.  "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.:" (NIV)

Advent - Day 9 (Yes, I'm Behind!)

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling; "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain.  You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"  See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered . . .

. . . if those sponsor kids are really real?  Is it really true that $34.00 a month is all it takes to feed and educate a child in a poor country?

I am writing tonight to advocate for a particular program called Children's Hopechest.  You can find their button on the left side of the blog if you scroll down a little.  We have been sponsoring a little boy through CH for a little over a year now.  Last year, if you remember, Rob went to Ethiopia to help out with several projects at a Children's Hopechest carepoint  - Trees of Glory.  The little boy we sponsor attended the school there and we were both really excited to meet him in person and take him a care package.  When Rob met him, he (Abush) cried most of the time, barely talked to anyone and was visibly a scared, sad little boy.  He was found alone and wandering the streets when he was 4 years old - a full orphan - and except for the dedicated people at Trees of Glory and an elderly woman who now cares for him, he is alone in the world.  He wanted nothing to do with Rob and when one of the teachers at the carepoint asked him what was wrong, he told him he knew Rob wouldn't ever come back.  His heart had been broken and abandoned and he had no interest in playing that game again.  How much can one little heart endure?  Rob had a very difficult time leaving him and we have prayed for him and worried about him ever since.

These photos are from last year . . .



What I want to share with you is this . . . YES. YES. YES!!!  Sponsoring a child makes a VERY real difference in their lives.  We have been so blessed because Rob and three of our kids have been able to meet our sponsor child and able to visit with him AGAIN this year when we went to Ethiopia for our court trip.  Since he began attending Trees of Glory, he has been receiving meals and schooling each day for the past year  AND, he has been able to do that because we sponsor him for a mere $34.00 per month.  Seriously.  I haven't thought much about that money this past year - haven't even missed it - and truthfully, I haven't thought a ton about how it might be helping or what it was really meaning to him.  I've thought a TON about him, but the money, not so much.

What has the price of a few drinks at Starbucks given him?  A chance.  A chance to eat regular meals.  A chance to learn to read.  A chance to have something of a family - a community of friends - and loving adults at the carepoint who know him and love him and NOTICE him.  And most of all, a chance to not have to wander about in a dark night, foraging for food, terrified of every sound and movement in the darkness with no mommy or daddy to hold him, or worry about him, or love him.

This year, the day after I flew home, Rob was able to hire a driver to take him back up to Trees of Glory.  It so beautifully happened to be the same day a team of people from the U.S. - some of whom had been there last year - was arriving to work and visit with the children.  (you can read more about that at http://family-from-afar.blogspot.com/ .)  When he got there, he looked high and low and across the field he spotted him!  And WOW, what a difference a year makes.  What a difference a tiny bit of money and a whole lot of prayers and knowing - believing - that somewhere across the world, someone loves you and is thinking of you and CARES how you are doing.  And all of that makes one very important difference - it brings HOPE back into your life, and the world looks very different from the vantage point of hope.  Very different from the one of despair you knew such a short time ago.  He was full of life and laughter and HAPPY to see Rob.

And here is the same darling boy the day after Rob flew home, opening his care package from us . . .


Is he not the most handsome little man you've ever seen?  Just sayin'.  And yes, we are both still praying for God to make a way for him to join our family.  The twelfth man.  :-)

If you've ever thought about sponsoring a child, PLEASE don't hesitate.  Don't think so long that you never act.  If you want more information on Children's Hopechest, PLEASE send me an email.  I would be THRILLED to help you get in contact with the right people.  Children's Hopechest has sponsor programs all over the world wherever the need is great.  Of course . . . my heart is slightly partial to Ethiopia!  :-)

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Advent Reading - Day 9


Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:  "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain.  You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"  See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.  (NIV)

Fun Way to Count Down and Advent Reading - Day 8

In addition to our traditional Advent celebration, I have tried for the past several years to make some sort of fun 'count-down' to Christmas for our kids.  This year went like this . . .


I went to Michaels and picked up some small paper sacks (they have several sizes - make sure to get ones that will hold enough treats for your kiddos), sheets of number stickers (you'll need enough numbers to go from 1 to 25), wooden clothes pins (the kind with the metal spring) and ribbon (you can pick from hundreds of designs and widths).

Once you're back home with your goodies, lay out 25 sacks and start numbering . . . 1 all the way through 25 . . .


Next, fill the bags with all sorts of little treats - one for each of your children.  I usually buy several kinds of fun Christmas candy (Home Goods surprisingly sells some really fun and different candy).  In the past I've also used little toys (cheap ones!) and even coins.  The key is to go on the cheap.  This should be just a little fun moment in the day and definitely shouldn't get out of hand on the expense end!  I always try to find gold wrapped chocolate coins for Chrismas morning. 

Once the bags are all filled, find a good place to hang the ribbon.  For us, it has to be a fairly long span because the bag size has to be a little bigger to accomodate seven pieces.  This year, I hung it across the center rail of a picture window.


Bright and fun and almost the first thing the kids see when they come down the stairs.  This window is in the eating area of our kitchen.  We start at #25 and count backwards to #1.  That helps the littles know how many days are left until Christmas.  I try to save the really good treats for the days just leading up to Christmas.  :-)  Can't wait to share this tradition with the new kids!

Advent Reading - Day 8 (Second Sunday of Advent)

Today, we light the first candle - the Prophecy candle - and also begin lighting the Bethlehem (purple) candle.  The Bethlehem candle represents the preparations made for the coming Christ child.  It can also be called the "Preparation" candle. 

"Bethlehem is an appropriate place to signify preparation because, even though no room was available for Mary and Joseph when they came, God had orchestrated events so that Caesar Augustus called for a census to be taken.  Joseph and Mary had to leave Nazareth so that they could register in Bethlehem and the Scriptures below were fulfilled.

"One of the key characters associated with this week in Advent is John the Baptist because he prepares the way for Jesus.  He takes us from the prophecies of old and into the time of Jesus.  this week, we are one step closer, as God's hand moves in history to bring His Son to us . . . and us to Him."  - TeachingMom.com

Keep in mind that this prophecy was given 700 years before the birth of Christ! 

Micah 5:2-5

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity."

Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
Then the remainder of His brethren
Will return to the sons of Israel.

And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.

This One will be our peace. (NASB)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent Reading - Day 7

This is the last day of Prophecy week in Advent.  These verses from Malachi and Luke foretell the coming of John the Baptist, who was the final prophet to tell of the coming Messiah . . .

Malachi 3:1

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me.  And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts.

Luke 1:67-79

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:  "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us -- to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:  to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." (NIV)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Reading - Day 6 (Friday)

These three particular verses tie into one of the beautiful descriptions of our Lord.  He is the morning star!  "It is very meaningful that God uses a star to show both shepherds and the magi the way to the baby Jesus.  In Matthew 2:2, the magi even ask, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."  They knew the prophecies about the Messiah and took the star as a sign - THE sign - for them."  - TeachingMom.com

Numbers 24:17, 19

I shall see him, but not now:  I shall behold him, but not nigh:  there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion . . . (KJV)

Revelation 22:16

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches.  I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.

II Peter 1:19

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (NIV)

Advent Reading - Day 5

"Both of today's verses share a simple truth about the birth of Christ.  God sent Him at the perfect time!  It was the perfect time in history and God maneuvered events so that Jesus would be born in fulfillment of prophecy and His promises.."  - TeachingMom.com

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the fullness of
the time came, God sent
forth His Son, born of a
woman, bor under the
Law, so that He might
redeem those who were
under the Law, that we
might receive the adoption
as sons. (NASB)

Ephesians 1:9-12

And He made known to us
the mystery of His will
according to His good
pleasure, which He
purposed in Christ, to be
put into effect when the
times will have reached
their fulfillment - to bring
all things in heaven and on
earth together under one
head, even Christ.  In Him
we were also chosen,
having been predestined
according to the plan of
Him who works out
everything in conformity
with the purpose of His
will, in order that we, who
were the first to hope in
Christ, might be for the
praise of His glory. (NIV)

Advent Reading - Day 4

Daniel 9:24-27

"Seventy weeks have been
decreed for your people
and your holy city, to finish
the transgression, to make
an end of sin, to make
atonement for iniquity, to
bring in everlasting
rghteousness, to seal up
vision and prophecy and to
anoint the most holy place.

"So you are to know and
discern that from the
issuing of a decree to
restore and rebuild
Jerusalem until Messiah
the Prince there will be
seven weeks and sixty-two
weeks; it will be rebuilt
again, with plaza and moat,
even in times of distress.

"Then after the sixty-two
weeks the Messiah will be
cut off and have nothing,
and the people
of the prince who is to
come will destroy the city
and the sanctuary.  And it's
end will come with a flood;
even to the end there will
be war; desolations are
determined.

"And he will make a firm
covenant with many for
one week, but in the
middle of the week he will
put a stop to sacrifice and
grain offering; and on the
wing of abominations will
come one who makes
desolate, even until a
complete destruction, one
that is decreed, is poured
out on the one who makes
desolate."

*This passage is important to the Advent journey because it details an exact timeline of the events that prove Jesus is the Messiah.  Daniel 9:24-27 outlines what is known as the prophecy of the sixty-nine weeks.

"In short:  The decree of Daniel 9:25 took place on March 4 of 444 B.C. when Nehemiah was ordered to rebuild Jerusalem.  The 69 weeks of 7 years equals 483 years (173,880 days using the common prophetic calendar in which a month is always 30 days and a year equals 360 days).

"This leads to March 29, A.D. 33, the date of the Triumphal Entry when Jesus comes into Jerusalem and allows Himself to be crucified.  This is checked by noting that 444 B.C. to A.D. 33 is 476 years (Remember, there is no year "0").  476 x 365.24219 days per year = 173,855 days.  (Here we use our calendar to see if the dates in our time confirm the events as they happened on the Biblical prophetic calendar!)  Count in the extra 25 days between March 4 and March 29 of the two dates and it EQUALS 173,880 days!

"Even in the calculation of these unquestionable dates, I am humbled by the fact that our Lord's life is not confirmed by the date of his birth, but by the date of that for which he was born:  to die "but not for Himself".

- from TeachingMom.com

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Embassy! and Reading - Day 3

We got an email tonight saying . . .


"Congratulations, your family’s paperwork is being submitted to the US Embassy tomorrow."

. . . and all  I can say is "YIPPEE"!!!!!  This means that if all goes well and their file looks good, we could be cleared for travel in as little as 8-10 days.  PRAYING! We feel pretty confident that it will be a smooth clearance.  Usually, hold-ups occur because of questions in their status (are they true orphans?, etc.) or issues with health (positive TB test, etc.).  Our kids' case is well documented, well investigated and they are healthy.  And yes, we are praying!  It would be such a gift to have them home and settling in before Christmas morning.  As a homeschooling mama, I would also love that month-long break to allow all the kids to have time to 'mesh' before the grind of school picks back up.

We've been gathering little gifts to send over to the kids with another family, but maybe, just maybe, we'll be delivering them in person!  :-)

And now, here's Day 3 - Waiting in anticipation . . .

Isaiah 42:1, 5-6

Behold, My Servant, whom I
uphold
My chosen one in whom My soul
delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the
nations.

Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and
stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its
offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on
it
And spirit to those who walk in it,

"I am the LORD, I have called You
in righteousness,
I will also hold you by the hand
and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a
covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations." (NASB)

Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-22

"Arise, shine; for your light has
come,
And the glory of the LORD has
risen upon you.

"For behold, darkness will cover
the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the LORD will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon
you.

"Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of
your rising.

"No longer will you have the sun
for light by day,
Nor for brightness will the moon
give you light;
But you will have the LORD for an
everlasting light,
And your God for your glory.

"Your sun will no longer set,
Nor will your moon want;
For you will have the LORD for an
everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning
will be over.

"Then all your people will be
righteous;
they will possess the land
forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.

"The smallest one will become a
clan,
And the least one a mighty nation.
I, the LORD, will hasten it in its
time."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Reading - Day 2 - Prophecy Candle (Waiting)

Isaiah 11:1-2

Then a shoot will spring
from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his
roots will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will
rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and
understanding,
The spirit of counsel and
strength,
The spirit of knowledge
and the fear of the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

"Behold, the days are
coming," declares the
LORD,
"When I will raise up for
David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king
and act wisely
And do justice and
righteousness in the land.

"In His days Judah will be
saved,
And Israel will dwell
securely;
and this is His name by
which He will be called,
'The LORD our
righteousness.'"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent - Day 1



In our family we celebrate the anticipation of Christ's birth with Advent readings.  We gather around the table either right after dinner or right before the youngest ones' bedtime, light the Advent candle(s) and read.  Sometimes we cue up Christmas songs and sing along, sometimes not.  With younger kids, sometimes simple is best.  :-)  I have also printed out coloring sheets that relate if the readings are longer.  It keeps little hands busy and usually buys us enough time to read without interruptions.  (I'm also not above bribery with cookies and milk!)

(This year we're planning to combine this with the traditional Christmas Advent calendar (opening the little windows or untying a piece of candy each day of December).  I'm hoping to post some photos of fun things we've done in the past.  So many creative, easy and FUN ways to do this with kids.)

Over the years, our kids have looked forward to this time and it really does prepare our hearts for what the season is truly about.  On days that have been especially hectic, the calming effect of a quiet room, dark except for the glowing candle light, brings us all back into focus and recalibrates our hearts.  I think this year especially as we wait for our children in Ethiopia to make it home, it will mark these days of waiting with even more meaning.  Anticipation.  For Christ and also for what He has brought to our family this year.

The first week of Advent is marked by a theme of 'Waiting'.  We use a simple Advent wreath with three purple or blue pillar candles and one pink.  In the center we use a white 'fatter' candle.  Week one we light a purple (or blue) 'Prophecy' or 'Waiting' candle.  Week two, we light the first purple candle and then add the second purple candle or the 'Bethlehem' or 'Preparation' candle.  Week three, we light the first two purple candles and now add the pink candle.  This is also known as the 'Shepherds'' or 'JOY' candle.  It represents the message of great joy that is brought to the world about Jesus' birth.  On week four, starting with the fourth Sunday of Advent,  we light the three previous candles and now add the fourth candle (purple), the 'Angel' or 'Sharing' candle, which represents the love which God shared with the world when He sent His Son, Jesus.  It also represents the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and they then shared it with others.

On Christmas morning we light all four candles and last, and best of all, we light the white candle in the center.  This represents CHRIST, our Messiah.  Jesus, Light of the World, is finally here! 


Advent Reading, Day 1:

Psalm 62:5-6

My soul, wait thou only
upon God; for my
expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my
salvation: He is my
defense; I shall not be
moved. (KJV)


Isaiah 26:3

Thou wilt keep him in
perfect peace, whose mind
is stayed on thee: because
he trusteth in thee. (KJV)


Isaiah 40:31

Yet those who wait for the Lord
will gain new strength;
They will mount up with
wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not
become weary. (NASB)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Best Part of All

First of all, we want to say THANK YOU to so many people who have walked beside us in this journey.  Your prayers, kind words, helping hands, donations, time and love will forever be etched in our hearts.  We have learned so much from you about being His hands and feet.

Please scroll down to the bottom of the page and pause the playlist before viewing and please . . .

Meet the newest members of our family . . .



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Made It and The Contrast That is Ethiopia

We made it to Ethiopia in one piece (Four pieces actually.  Ha!) and were able to spend time each day visiting the Transition Home and getting a good chance to see different parts of the city.  Such an incredible experience of extremes.  On the same streets you see well-dressed business men, mothers with babies begging for food or money, new Range Rovers and this . . .


As you can see in the photo, the roads are terrible - as is most of the infrastructure.  While a few people are wealthy and able to purchase whatever they need, most are not.  If gravel is needed . . . well . . . people mine for rocks right out of the roads and alleyways.  Our drive to and from the Transition Home each day was very BUMPY!  :-)  This was not an uncommon sight and tucked right in between several roadside storefronts, there were patches of grass where the goat herders brought their live animals to sell to local purchasers.  Yes.  They would kill and skin the goat right there on the street and sell to the local butcher shops (there were several) or sell live goats to take home and slaughter.  Gives a whole new meaning to fresh meat.  :-)


This is a charcoal vendor.  Most of the local people cook over charcoal fires and coffee beans are also roasted this way.  Often frankincense is mixed with it to give a sweet smell to the fire.  Coffee is a staple of this culture and no matter how rich or poor, the coffee ceremony brings all people together.  I must say as a coffee addict, this tradition should definitely make its way to America.  Such a beautiful way to bring people together.


These . . . ?  I have to admit I thought it might be an impressive store of firewood for some ambitious person.  It turns out that these nice, straight, uniform pieces of wood are used for this . . .


Scaffolding!  All over the city, wherever new construction is happening, you see this.  Looked kind of pretty to see all those sticks lined up and strapped just so, but it also made me very glad to be from America.  :-)

From our Guest House balcony we could see this . . .


A 'middle class' home with their chickens.  (A common sight)  They also had two dogs who barked ALL NIGHT LONG.  Ava said after the first night, "I think dogs in Africa are nocturnal."  :-)
And this . . .



We got a kick out of the white mannequins.  This street was like fashion row.  All shoe and clothing and a few jewelry shops.

And this . . .


This family lives right behind the chicken family.  SUCH an incredible difference in lifestyle, yet they were friendly next door neighbors.

And this . . .


This one shows the extremes here.  Note the satellite dish and right beside it, large bowls of corn ready to be hand ground.  On the tarp drying?  Chile peppers.  (Most of the Ethiopian food we experienced was very spicy.)   And my gardener's heart loves the vegetables planted along the perimeter of the fence.  Clothes lines are everywhere.  Hand washing and line drying are just a part of daily life.  Seems romantic, but I sure am thankful for my Maytag.

Coming soon . . . . Meetcha Day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2nd Leg Is On The Way!

I elected to leave my laptop at home and use hubby's while away.  Unfortunately, that meant I also needed to remember all of my passwords/login information after many hours of flying and serious jet lag.  If you've been following this blog over the past week, you know that didn't happen.  :-) I could not remember my login info for the blog.  Not.  Tried every password I could remember (and there are several) but not one worked.  Not one.  So . . . I am just going to pretend it's one week earlier and post our updates like I wanted to from Ethiopia.  Please, play along . . .

This is the second team heading out for Dulles at 4 a.m.  Our dear friends graciously offered to drive us to the airport.  They got up at 3:30 a.m. in order to be at our house on time.  Oh.my.goodness.  I did not sleep more than an hour before having to get up and go.  I never sleep well before traveling and this was no exception.  Longer trip + farther away + leaving kids at home = no sleep.  Eliza and I were running on fumes, but VERY excited to go and meet our new kids and reunite with Daddy and Ava . . .


See how happy we look?  So far, all was going as planned.  HOWEVER, that was about to change.  When we got inside and ready to check our baggage, the ticket agent informed us that we were flying to D.C. and then the FOLLOWING day flying out to Addis Ababa. 

"Hmmmm . . . could you please repeat that?" 

"Your ticket has you flying out from Indianapolis to Washington D.C. today and flying on to Ethiopia tomorrow."

"Umm . . . that's not gonna work.  I have to be in Addis by the morning of the 7th.  Can you please call Ethiopian Airlines and see if you can change the flight?"

"Sorry.  I tried their 800 number and they said they couldn't change it because the tickets were purchased through a travel agent."  (Using my ticket to cover his mouth as he coughed.  Gross.)

"Okay, well, I HAVE to be on that flight.  Any suggestions???" 

"You can try to talk to the agent in D.C. and see if they have room on the flight.  I can't guarantee they'll have room though."

Time to think on your feet mama!  There was no way we would make it to Ethiopia if we didn't risk it and go on to D.C.  Praying all the way, I decided to head on and trust God would make the way to get us on that day's flight to Ethiopia.  Once in D.C., we had to go down to baggage claim, get ALL of our bags (thanking God we sent the biggest donation bags with Rob the day before), go back through security (for the third time this trip - note to self:  do not wear a belt while flying!) up to the top level and BEG the Ethiopian airlines guy to let us on the flight.  He was willing, if we were willing to pay an extra $200/ticket!  Can you say, "Not in the game plan!"???  Once he realized it was the travel agent's mistake, he took pity and let us on for no extra charge.  Not the way we planned for the day to go, but it taught us both a lot about staying calm and trusting that God would work it out for good.

After that, the flight to Ethiopia was great.  Nice, new plane (Boeing 777), smooth, and decent food and movies.  We were blessed to be on the same flight with three other families adopting through America World who were in our travel group.

More to come . ..

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We're On Our Way!

Today, bright and early, Rob, Ava and I got up around 4 a.m. and prepared to go to the airport.  This little lady woke up about ten minutes before Ava.  Out of the blue.  A little alarm clock?  She started crying and was having no part of going back to sleep.  That is completely out of the ordinary for her.  She's a through-the-night sleeper.  Being wise to the ways of children, we knew our only options were to take her along or let her cry and wake up all the other kids at 4 a.m.  Hmmmm . . . didn't seem like much of a decision.  :-)  So . . . we grabbed the nearest hat - her brother's - and along she came. 

She did not stop talking the entire time we were in the car.  "Is that the airfort?  No?  Oh, maaaaan!"  "Wook at doze wights.  They pretty.  Is that the airfort?"  "You going to Afica Daddy?  Oh, maaaan. . ."  "Doze wights is pretty."  The.entire.time.  So sweet and nothing sweeter than baby kisses to say goodbye on.


Here's the first leg team . . . They should be touching down in Addis Ababa at around midnight our time.  Ethiopia is about 8 hours ahead of us.  Unfortunately, that means they will have to hit the ground running as it will be 8 a.m. Addis time.  Hoping they slept on the plane . . .


Eliza and I will be flying out at 5:45 tomorrow morning - bright and early with bells on!  The best little gift is that tonight starts daylight savings time so we'll get an exta hour of sleep tonight.  :-)  Doubt mama will sleep much anyway, but the idea of an extra hour still sounds nice.

We'll try to keep the blog updated from Ethiopia.  Internet is spotty, so can't promise, but we will definitely give it our best shot. If we pass court on Thursday, we can post photos of the kids.  PRAYING we pass the first time.  If all goes well and all the letters are there, we should pass.  That could mean that our Embassy date will come within 4-6 weeks (or sooner, God willing!) and we can bring these little guys home forever!  In an ideal world that would be sometime just after Thanksgiving and a couple of weeks before Christmas.  (That pretty much narrows it down to the first week of December!)

THANK YOU to ALL of our friends and family who have been and continue to pray for us.  We have felt and continue to feel the peace and sense that you are praying.  Keep it up.  Please.  We love you all and can never put words to the emotions we feel - gratitude doesn't seem to come close.  There is something so precious about knowing you're being lifted up in prayer - truly a peace that passes all understanding.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Field Guide or "How to be the Village"

Hop on over to Jen Hatmaker's blog to read her post on "How to be the Village: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thoughts . . . and a Challenge

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.""

II Corinthians 8:9-15


"The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164 million needy children.


And at first glance that looks like a big number.


2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians.


The truth is that if only 8% of the Christians would care for ONE more child, there would not be any statistics left.”


~From the book Kisses from Katie



"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."


I Timothy 6:17-19

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leaving in 2 Weeks!!!

We will be somewhere over the Atlantic in just two weeks. While in-country we will be visiting several orphanages where the day-to-day needs are great. The nannies work very hard to make do with what they have, and so appreciate any items that come to them via adoptive families. Their needs/wants are not extravagant - just practical items that help tremendously to care for the little ones awaiting families.

We would be thrilled to deliver items if any of you would like to donate to the orphanages. No pressure, but we love to help and wanted to extend that ministry opportunity to our friends. No shipping costs . . . we'll deliver the items right into the hands of the nannies!

Below is a list of their current needs:

General Items:

- Children's clothing (new or slightly used only); boys' or girls', sizes 0-8 years.  Clothing needs include day clothes, pajamas, underwear and shoes

- Diapers for up to 30 pounds

- Toys to stimulate babies such as colorful objects, rattles, etc. that are appropriate for babies up to 2 years.

- Unscented baby wipes

- Powder baby formula with DHA/RHA (MUST be one of the following brands to keep their diets consistent:  Enfamil, Similac, Parents Coice from WalMart, Target's generic formula, Kirkland formula from Costco)

- A&D Original Ointmen, Diaper Rash and All-Purpose Skincare Formula

- Hand sanitizer

- Underwear for the older kids (8-14 years old)

- Clothes for older kids (especially trousers, dresses)

Medical items/Medications:

- Multivitamins:  (Tri-vi-sol (0-6 mos.), Poly-vi-sol (6 mos. - 2 yrs), Chewable multi-vitamins (2 to 9 years), Adult multi-vitamin (9 yrs. +)

- Tylenol (acetaminophen):  Infants, Children's, Suppository

- Syringes for giving medications (5mL)

- Plastic disposable gloves

- Baby nose saline spray

- Neosporin

- Mouth and nose masks

- Benadryl liquid/elixir

- Permetherin for scabies

- Toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss

If you would like to donate any of the items above, you can either contact me via email or by leaving a message here on the blog.  For those of you with my phone number, feel free to call.  I will be happy to pick items up to save you a trip.

THANK YOU so much.  We will take loads of photos so you can see the nannies and little ones your kindness helps.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Looking for a home . . .

We are trying to simplify life here at our house and sadly, that includes cutting out extra work in the form of caring for these guys.  If you, or someone you love, would like to add them to your family, we would love for you to have them.

They are both purebred Ragdoll cats, 11 months old, neutered and front declawed.  They are currently about 20-25 lbs. and that is probably their top weight.  Ragdolls are large cats.  They are very friendly and more 'doglike' in their demeanor.  (Meaning, they follow you around, come when called, and are very, very sweet.)

We got them when they were just over 6 weeks old, so they've been well socialized to live with a family.  They LOVE to be held and are very good with kids.

We are asking $150 each (they are usually $250-$400 from a breeder) and will include a bag of food and a litter box.  I can get their pedigree papers if anyone would like.  I just need to contact the breeder and have her send them. 

Tuffie


Socks (he is HUGE - this photo is deceiving)




Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Promises

"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in."

Isaiah 58:6-12

Friday, September 30, 2011

Court

We just got the call today . . . we have a court date!!!

We will be on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 7th or 8th spending time with our kids!  Our court date is scheduled for November 10th, when they will legally be declared our children forever.

Trying to breathe . . . so much to do in a few short weeks!!!

Will write more soon when we've all had time to process.

Hope you're all having a great day!  :-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Getting Ready

We've been doing some light remodeling - reconfiguring space to allow all eleven kids to have their own bed and space to keep their personal 'stuff'. Before I had kids, I was an interior designer/space planner - I call it B.K.

B.K., I loved to scour magazines and websites and talk with sales reps about the new, cool designs that were coming out. After one year married, life became A.K. Since then, not much time. :-)

However, I did steal an hour today thanks to my husband and came upon this website:

http://www.rosenberryrooms.com/kids-art.html

It has some great, affordable canvas prints for kids' rooms (and lots of other goodies too!).

I really love these so far. Hmmmm . . . girls' room or boys'?

Explore Africa Canvas Reproduction


Together Animal Kingdom Canvas Reproduction

Preparing to Travel . . .

We're busy getting the house ready, getting travel shots, and just generally trying to prepare for life with four new children. We have been submitted to court and are not so patiently waiting for word of when that date will be. It could be as early as mid/late October! The courts in Ethiopia have been closed for several weeks because of their rainy season. The constant rain makes travel difficult, so the courts essentially shut down during that time. Hard to imagine if you live the U.S., but that is life in Africa. Once we get the call, we will have to be prepared to fly within a few weeks. Did I ever mention I hate to fly? Really hate it. Hate the thought of leaving my babies here. Hate the thought of being cooped up in a plane for 18+ hours. This, of all the componets of this adoption, is the thing that is testing my faith the most.


Yet . . . after seeing update photos of the kids and getting even newer ones from a traveling fellow adoptive family, I almost cannot breathe most days. I need to get to them. Need to see them, hold them, tell them it will be okay. It is almost impossible to put into words the feelings now that we KNOW who they are. Trying hard to wait on God, yet not wanting to miss one more day with them. Wanting them out of the Transition Home and into our home, with their OWN beds, their OWN toys, their OWN clothes. They are very, very well cared for in the Transition Home, but everything there is community property. They will leave with only the clothes on their backs. Try to imagine that.

I want them to come home to rest and be filled with plenty of food and to be able to curl up in a warm bed that belongs all to them . . . a pillow that belongs all to them . . . pretty dresses and shoes - all yours baby girls . . . a new coat and new shoes that fit and weren't worn by several kids before you - all yours, dear sons. Most of all, I want them to have the chance to be kids again. To not live in fear. To REST. In literal terms and in emotional and spiritual terms too.

We know the road set before us will be difficult at times. We've read the books, gone to the seminars. We aren't kidding ourselves, but we also know without a doubt that this whole journey has been carefully orchestrated by a great and AWESOME God. And as with all things He ordains, there is incredible joy and sometimes fear too. And as is always the case, there is a whole lot of walking in faith. What we've learned over the years of parenting a large crew and especially through this past year, is that taking the steps is worth it. Totally.

Monday, September 19, 2011

And Last But Not Least . . .



Dear son number two - Asa - turned 7 in early September.  He LOVES the lake.  Loves it.  His little heart is so full of joy and he pours forth that joy to all of us.  So, so kind and gentle.

He is sad to see the summer - and another season at the lake - fade away.  He learned to knee-board this summer and could have done it for hours on end if there weren't certain other people waiting for a turn.  :-) 

He has been missing those two front teeth for over two years now.  He was the victim playing a game with older siblings that involved a blindfold, twirling, and allowing him to walk smack into the air hockey table.  Two front teeth, dead, soon to be abcessed, pulled.  I kinda like him this way, but alas, I fear this will be the year they finally grow in.

Happy Birthday dear boy.  Mommy and Daddy love you so much!

Georgia B. turns 2



This sweet little Georgie-girl turned two in mid-summer (catching up!).  She is just the absolute love of our lives.  Soooo funny.  She's talking so clearly now and pretty much constantly.  Definitely a woman!  She told me tonight when it was time to go to bed, "No . . . I not tired.  I going to watch Looney Tunes."

Up next?  Potty training.  I told her a couple of weeks ago that we were going to potty train soon.  So now, whenever she wants to give it a try, she shouts out, "Mommy, I'm going on the potty train!"  Don't have the heart to tell her it's a chair . . .   :-)

Birthday Girl!



Sweet Ava turned 10 this weekend.  Double digits.  Not sure how I feel about that yet . . . still pondering. 

Happy birthday, sweet girl.  You are such a joy to me and your dad.  :-)

This girl is busy thinking of ways to raise money for a plane ticket to Ethiopia.  I think she'll do it.  She's a very resourceful girl!

We love you!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Referral!!!!!

We are THRILLED to announce that we have accepted a referral for a sibling set of  . . . . .

FOUR!!!!!!!

You read that right.  And yes, we are thrilled.  Did I mention that already?

We are scrambling about updating our homestudy (as luck would have it, all of the documents from our first homestudy are soon to expire), updating our I-171 and fingerprints and praying for a speedy court date.  Ethiopian courts close soon for their rainy season, so the best we can hope for is probably sometime in late September or early October.  If that is the case, then hopefully an embassy date will come a few weeks after that and we will have these kiddos home by Thanksgiving or Christmas at the latest.

We would really appreciate your prayers for smooth paperwork updates, an efficient court process in Ethiopia and especially for the hearts of these little ones.  While gaining a forever home is such a good thing for them, still there will be grief. 

Hope you're all surviving the heat.  Oh.my.goodness.  I NEVER thought I'd wish for winter!!!