Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vacation Montage...

Hi everyone,

Here is the montage from our trip to the beach. The kids chose the first 2 songs (THE JONAS BROTHERS).


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Prayers PLEASE!

We are requesting prayers for our old house to sell. We have had our house on the market since last October. We have been carrying two mortgages since February. We are trying to stay positive and upbeat but are very nervous about finances. We have had a few people come for several visits and yet when push came to shove they picked another house. We now had a couple look at the house today . They told us the house was in their top two but are also looking tomorrow. They said they may come by again tomorrow. We are just asking for prayers this time. The house is adorable. We put new carpet in the house and painted etc. We have great memories in this home and pray it will bless the family that God has planned for this home. Of course our hope is that this family that came today is THE FAMILY that God wants in this home. But we will believe that He will provide if it isn't. This house was our first home. We lived in apartments before it. It was our sanctuary when we moved to NC from NYC a few months after 9/11. We welcomed our daughter Matea into this home in 2005. And recently welcomed our 3 new ethiopian children in the home. The only reason we moved is for more room....Please pray for God's will but for favor with God and that the couple will know this is the place for them to live. We also pray for blessings in our business. Things are tough when self employed in the entertainment business during a slow time. But again GOD IS SOVEREIGN and has blessed us every month even when we wondered....still we are in need of having this extra monthly nut off of please pray...and thanks for letting me make a special plea for prayers...

Montage coming...

I am frantically trying to find time to make a montage from our trip. Here are a couple of pics to look at. Sam spent the day with Hailey and Nixon at the beach that day.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Waccatee Zoo!

We went to the most awesome zoo today. It was a family owned zoo here in Myrtle Beach called the Waccatee Zoo. It was very reasonable too...4 for kids, 8 for adults. Samantha went to the beach with her friends. Honestly, I have been to the Central Park Zoo, NC Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Milwaukee Zoo and the Bronx Zoo but really enjoyed this much better. There was a lot of walking. We probably walked over 2 miles with no strollers, wagons or carts. But there were plenty of trees and it was an overcast day. It even rained at one point and was very refreshing. They had such a variety of animals. There were lions and tigers, monkeys, lemurs, bears, snakes, you name it. There were also several peacocks that just walked wild. Jared was terrified of them and would freak out everytime one of the peacocks opened its fan. I loved this trip because we honestly could see so much joy in the kids. They would tell us these incredible stories from their lives in Africa. Grace told us about the animals her grandmother had. She loves goats. She then told us this story of how the lions (or tigers) would all sleep in trees in Ethiopia. Then she said they would eat small animals and many people would be attacked. She told us her grandmother would say "walk slow. walk very slow, slower, don't look at the lion" and that is how she would get by the tree. She also said they would get their milk from the cows. Her grandmother made cheese that they would share with their family friends. They also had chickens that would lay eggs.

So we had all of these great conversations but at one point they started to complain at how much they had to walk and how hot it was. Honestly, I am the most sensitive and high maintenance person when it comes to walking in the heat. It really wasn't that bad this morning. So, I couldn't help but think about how quickly the kids become Americanized. I was thinking that they probably had to do a lot of walking in Ethiopia and I am sure they didn't have air conditioning. So, when they complained I asked them if they had to walk a lot in Ethiopia. Grace said they would walk for miles to collect water. She also said they would walk to go to their grandparents. So I said, "Did they have benches and places to rest on the way like they do here at the zoo?" Grace said "no" and giggled. I then said "Did they have soda machines and drinking fountains?" Grace laughed again and said "no". THey didn't complain again. One of the highlights of the trip to the zoo were meeting these hysterically funny African Ostriches that seemed to have smiles on their faces. Grace, Ella and I couldn't help but laugh because these animals would follow us and really looked like they were smiling at was really fun.

Later we went to lunch and once again Matea and Jared kicked off their flip flops and just decided it was okay to walk around the restaurant with no shoes on. This is not the first time this has happened. I don't mind when it happens in an appropriate place. When Ella found a running track for the first time she kicked her shoes off and ran around it 5 times barefoot laughing the whole time. Matea even does this thing now where she will walk up steps or just be walking and step out of her flip flops leaving them behind. She then doesn't even turn around to pick them up. She keeps walking as if she never even noticed that she doesn't have shoes on. I have decided that flip flops are great for the beach but when we get back from vacation they will not be the shoe of choice for our family. AND note to parents (pick shoes that are harder to take off when in restaurants or places requiring shoes because your kids will kick them off).

Rock Band Family at the Country Inn!

Remember in the 80's and 90's when bands were notorious for trashing hotel rooms? They would leave holes in the walls, tear out fixtures, burn down the rooms. Well here we are in Myrtle Beach on vacation staying in 2 rooms at the COuntry Inn and Suites. We got the rooms for free because Mark had a ton of gold points. When we got here we discovered we were situated directly next door to a strip joint named FANTAILS. The 3 boys are in one room (Dad, Andrew 10, and Jared 5). All of the girls are in the other room with two double beds and a roll away (Mom, Sam 16, Grace 10, Ella 6 and Matea 3). After the first night Andrew asked why there was so much music coming out of the building next door. I just explained that they were probably having a party.

Yesterday took the cake though. I think my family should share the hotel room reputation along with THE WHO, TWISTED SISTER and any other rock band BANNED from hotels. It all starts with Matea who had been given too many fruit roll ups (note to self and parents everywhere...never ever ever give a border line not quite potty trained child too many fruit roll ups). Matea had to wait for the bathroom because the teenager was showering FOREVER WITH A LOCKeD DOOr and Matea decided to squat somewhere. I discovered it totally by accident when I stepped in it..(sorry.but wanting to be honest here) I freak out and clean it up...still not having the teenager OUT OF THE SHOWER AFTER AN ETERNITY and I couldn't walk across the hall to the other bathroom...EWWW!!!! I eventually clean Matea and my foot up and of course the carpet. At least she picked an out of the way spot (can't figure out though how my foot found it)...OH and the carpet there was brand new and a beautiful shade of basic beige the fruit roll ups were mostly green. Then I give the kids a snack...I lay out a towel on the floor ....Orange soda, popcorn and cookies. While the popcorn is in the very old microwave with no timer but just one of those twisty knob things, Jared spills orange soda everywhere. I totally over react and yell (because I still haven't recovered from the previous family incident)which sets him into a full out tantrum screaming and yelling kicking and hitting the walls ...I gain my composure tell him he can have water...he is still freaking out because he wants the orange soda (remember this is the same kid that totally lost it over the dragon deciding not to make an appearance)..he escapes the room looking for the boys. I know the boyz are not there..i run into the hall (we are very very loud) and pull him into the room as he kicks screams etc...I then remember about "time in and holding your adopted kids super close" which he didn't seem to like...I am lying now with him in the pile of dirty laundry just inside the door. I tell him I am sorry I yelled but he will not forgive me. Then I smell something burning...i then remember the popcorn with no turn off timer. Of course the teenager and three other girls in the room never noticed as they were ignoring Jared and I while watching Hannah Montana...Suddenly I scream for them to turn off the microwave while Jared tries to escape again telling me he only wants DADDY AND ANDREW (the day before he said "me no like Daddy and Andrew.dragon no come." Sam pulls out the burning microwaveable popcorn ..I simultaneously tell them to not open the bag and instead they dump it in the bathroom garbage. THe room now looks like there is enough smoke for a full fledged fire...the girls open the smells like marijuana (burnt microwavable popcorn in a small hotel rooms smells like that). The girls continue to watch TV while I am coughing and holding Jared like a baby next to the door while sitting in a pile of wet swimsuits and dirty underwear ..I am very flustered because Jared is still freaking out and the girls are annoyed because they can't see the TV over the smoke. In desperation, I decide to tell Jared, a huge fan of superman, that superman will be very upset if he found out that he wasn't respecting mom and dad (I never read this technique in any parenting book...but this is jazz improvisation parenting at its best). I say superman loved and was nice to mommy and forgave his mommy when she accidentally yelled. He says "me no care." I then take a tip from my sisters who pretended to call Jesus on the telephone when I was bad as a child (I also threw tantrums like Jared)..I tell him that superman called (I am holding my cell phone having really called voice mail)and asked him to be nice to mommy. He looks at me and says "mommy, I sorry." He then falls asleep by the door in a pile of dirty laundry. Ella jumps in the shower...I then hear a scream...I come into the bathroom and there is blood everywhere (blood and water make the spill multiply into 10x the amount). Ella 6 decided to shave her legs and knicked the area by her ankle that all of us women have knicked when we shave our legs. I sit with her for about twenty minutes telling her to stop with the shaving (she convinced Jared to shave her eyebrow off the first week we were home). I have Sam run to the lobby for band aids. By now we have a reputation as that very loud family. I am using hotel washcloths and hand towels to stop the bleeding and clean up the floor. We were in the habit of removing razors from bathrooms in our house but forgot on vacation. I clean up her foot and the bathroom with hotel bloody. Sam comes in to go to the bathroom. The toilet is not flushing. I have to call downstairs. The guy comes in to check on the toilet, climbs over Jared, takes a whiff (i show him the evidence with the popcorn and think well at least the smoke smell masks Matea's accident). He fixes the toilet...I ask for new towels...Mark and Andrew finally come back and tell me they prefer to hang out in their very clean room across the hall...of course when they want a snack they knock on our door. I wake up this morning with a sore throat.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Our Gang!

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I had been wracking my brain trying to figure out who our family reminds me of. As I was watching Matea (our 3 year old pose like a model) and wag her finger at her new African brother Jared it dawned on me that she could play Darla in the OUR GANG/LITTLE RASCALS movie. Then as Jared was dancing with the entire cast at Johnny Rockets and holding his own audience (totally upstaging the waiter performers at the restaurant) I couldn't help but think that he reminded me of Stymie or Buckwheat from OUR GANG. Then Andrew continued to organize the day as if he was some producer (ala Alfalfa or Spanky)...the side kicks Grace and Ella were hitting and kicking eachother reminiscent of the three stooges....Sam the frustrated teen trying to manage all of them (while simultaneously being embarrassed and bored) just added to the very bizarre and delightful familial combination. Our family is so hysterically funny to me. I am constantly entertained.

I know this isn't funny really because Jared cried and cried about it and then threw a tantrum, but he had a melt down because the dragon at Broadway on the Beach in Myrtle Beach failed to make an appearance. There is this giant fake dragon that usually comes out every 5 minutes over this miniature golf course. We went there specifically for the dragon ( a free thing to do). We told Jared and all of the kids all about it and then we waited and waited. While walking to our viewing spot I had to spend a lot of time answering questions from Matea. "Mommy is it a real dragon?" "No Honey"..."Does it fly?" "No Honey" "Can I be a princess and not like dragons?" "Yes honey." "does it breathe real fire?" on and on.... Then it took a million slow baby steps to get there because she was so scared. Finally we found out that due to minor winds the dragon was "ASLEEP". If he woke up and breathed the fire we may all be toast so they canceled his appearance. Well Jared with his very strong testosterone driven pride was beyond upset. How could the dragon be asleep? AND who cares? Let's wake him up. It is only 7pm. And then he had to yell at Mark and Andrew for not waking the dragon up. He was totally inconsolable. This went on all the way to the car into the hotel and until Jared fell asleep. I hope by tomorrow he will no longer be upset about the dragon.

Earlier in the day we went to the beach. We saved money on souvenirs by picking up all the shells we could find with holes in them. Then we went to WALMART and bought string for 3 dollars and made the cutest shell necklaces.

AND Grace tells me while eating an ice cream cone..."I like these things" I say "cone" it is called "ice cream cone"...Thank you God for the sweet reminders of the simple things we have taken for granted. The delight of a simple soft serve vanilla ice cream cone from chick filet is something to be appreciated.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Second Day at the Beach!

We are in Myrtle Beach. This is the first time my Ethiopian children have seen the ocean. When we told them we were taking them to the beach they said. "Oh, my grandmother had an ocean in her backyard. We would fish there." I then explained why an ocean was different than a lake. Ethiopia is landlocked so I am pretty sure they had never seen the ocean before.

So, when we took them to see the beach last night Sam held Jared and brought him to the shore so he could put his feet in. First he screamed at the top of his lungs and ran to me with tears streaming down his cheeks. Then Ella and Grace ran to the beach deliriously excited. It was late in the day (around 5) so Grace didn't have her suit on . Ella did and jumped right in. Grace was simultaneously terrified and giddy. Jared eventually was drenched and loved it. It was amazing to see.

We came back today. The kids were doing cartwheels in the water. Grace asked why the water tasted like SALT. This has been so sweet to see them experiencing all of these things.

We have two rooms at a hotel. All 5 of the girls are in one. The three boys across the hall. OUr hotel is next to a strip club (they are all over the place here ) called FANTAILS. They don't tell you these things on the hotel websites.

We also saw some tigers and ligers and Grace swears she would see some tigers or lions sleeping in trees in Ethiopia. I am not even sure if that is true but how amazing if it is true.

We will update this soon.


Friday, June 13, 2008

One Church One Child (Foster care/adoption)

I spent this week starting up a FACEBOOK account for my band and setting up a new blog for our church ministry. It is called the Kings Park Orphan Ministry but the blog is . I also went to an event to promote foster care in the county our church is in (DURHAM county) . I represented KPIC along with my friend Bob Price at the ONE CHURCH ONE CHILD luncheon,sponsored by the Durham County Social Services office.
This is what we learned: Currently in Durham county there are 266 children in foster care, 51 are available for adoption, 19 are in need of homes and the remaining are in foster care but not available for adoption. 35% of the children in their foster care system are 0-5 years of age, 27% are ages 6-12, 36% are ages 13-17, 2% are 18 and over. 82% are African American, 10% are white, 7% Hispanic and 3% unknown.

According to the Durham County SS representative, Montina Swift there are 500 churches in Durham county. The main premise for ONE CHURCH ONE CHILD was to aspire to place all of the foster kids into care and have the available children adopted. If each church just supported one family to adopt or foster one child then all of the at risk children would have a family.

They encouraged the churches to help collect items, support social workers, possibly train potential families from their churches and community, and/or focus one month toward foster care and the needs in our community. They really really need families.

We were welcomed warmly. I also got the impression that KPIC was a church they really wanted to have participating and partnering with their agency. We also learned that although Durham county places adoptable kids from their county only with families residing in their county, they also are connected to both the Chatham County and Wake County DSS. This means that if we did want to sponsor training sessions or offer resources to our church members we would not have to exclude any interested parties. There could be one training but then the trained families would just have to go to their county agencies for placement and support.

One thing that really touched me was the genuine love and passion that these men and women have for the at risk children in our community. I was really touched when Montina reminded us of years ago when churches truly did reach out to the community and participate in helping at risk families. She said it is really becoming harder as fewer churches are involved. They had hosted a walk for foster children recently and the numbers participating were cut in half from the previous year (from 100-50).

When I see the statistic "51 adoptable kids" in Durham county it really doesn't seem to me to be an insurmountable task to find families for these children. Of course I am not a social worker and have a long ways to go to truly understand the system, but I believe at Kings Park we do have at least one or more families wanting to stand in the gap for Jesus and open up their hearts and homes for these kids. In fact, I think we can have many more kids adopted from Wake, Chatham and Durham County in our church alone. Through God all things are possible.

Grace's Birthday!

I can't believe that I haven't been able to blog for an entire week. Grace's birthday was amazing. She was up on 6/7 at about 7:30 fully dressed with her room and the kitchen totally clean. She insisted we all eat breakfast on the porch so we wouldn't make the kitchen table dirty. Her friends were not coming over until 11am. About 10:30 Grace wanted to know where the balloons were. I had forgotten to get balloons and frankly had no idea they were important to her. So I ran out to get 5 millar balloons. We had a party of just three guests but with our 6 kids that still made 11 people counting us. There was absolutely no structure to this party. Grace showed her friends her room. She took them outside to jump rope and then they realized it was too hot. They ate pizza bagels and lemonade and then opened presents, played again, had cake and left. Grace was very happy. Later that night we ALL went to the Durham Bulls game with the entire African Children's choir. They sang the national anthem and it was literally a perfect performance. We made it 5 innings and then the kids all exploded into being annoyed by eachother and thereby totally annoying us. At that point I realized there was too much over stimulus that day. So we went home and I put them all to bed early which made them cry. The next morning they were happy again. We then went to church and heard the African CHildren's choir sing. The kids had sunday school with them and then a lunch with the church african group. All in all it was a perfect birthday and she was very happy. But it was overkill...She told me next year she only wants one party and not 3 (ha)....She also received a couple of gift cards and had to be taught how to shop. This was a huge dilemma for me. Do I teach her to shop? I have to put my other daughters through therapy to get them to stop. Or do I let Grace stay away from the concept until she gets a job and can afford to shop on her own. In the end Sam took her shopping and she had no clue if she wantrd to buy anything. It dawned on me that Sam wasn't the best person to take her shopping. I should have sent her out with someone who wasn't a professional. Soon it will be Ella's birthday and I think she will be harder to hold back. Grace took her money and bought a pair of earrings and a pair of shoes. She seems to have a shoe fettish.

Friday, June 6, 2008

10 Years!

I remember when 10 years seemed like an eternity. People asked me when I was graduating from High School what I thought I would be doing in 10 years. I was sure I would be a movie star, receive a grammy for my music, own my own house, have all of my children and absolutely be a millionaire by then. HA! Now I will say things to my kids like "Oh that song was just a few years back (ie spice girls)." My 16 year old daughter will say "Mom I was in kindergarten then." I'll always have to stop and say "Really?". Ten years goes by very fast as you get older. But when you are a child it really is an eternity.

Ten years ago at this time in June we were at a family reunion in the Brainerd, MN. I remember flying to illinois then driving through WI and eventually ending up in a cabin we all shared very close to Paul Bunyan land....everyone up there had that FARGO accent. Andrew was a baby. Sam was a very sweet 6 year old. Mark and I lived in NY in an apartment we could barely afford. I lived gig to gig. If you would have asked me then what I would be doing in 10 years I would have had no clue but would have hoped to have owned my own home (now I own two---and complain because one hasn't sold). If God would have come to me and whispered in my ear saying "You will have 4 more children all adopted" I would have laughed and said NO. If He would have said "You are going to have 3 African children and go to Ethiopia to get them" Or "You will adopt a sweet baby from Guatemala"..I would have said "No way." At the time I didn't even think I desired that. If He would have said "you will be living in a nice home in North Carolina..." i would have said "Really". And if He would have said "I will replace your worldly desires with a burning passion to adopt My heart in caring for the orphans" I would have said "unbelievable". I could have never predicted my life. I am so happy and have learned so much about living day to day in just believing that GOd will provide.

Tomorrow we are celebrating a first birthday. Grace is turning 10. Ten years ago somewhere in Asela or Gorodella(sp) in Ethiopia Ejigayehu Grace...was born. She was born at home in what was a small shack. THere are no birth records. In parts of ethiopia as many as 40% of the children are not guaranteed to live to see their 5th birthday. It seems ironic to me that here in America where most children live a long life we do celebrate birthdays but in Ethiopia where it is a miracle to live each day...there are no celebrations. I would think that each year a child lives there should be a parade and fireworks to signal that that child now has more hope to live longer as their chances at survival increases. In 10 years Grace has lived with a mother she loved, learned many things like peeling potatoes, doing a handstand, making dolls out of mud but also watching the people she loves die. She has had to leave her home to live with grandmother that tried to care for her but couldn't. She along with her two siblings survived exposure to TB, Hep B, Hep A, Chicken Pox and measles and gruelling ear infections that left holes in their eardrums. But they survived them all and are clear of those infections, illnesses. They made it to Layla House (the orphanage that they lived in for 18 months) day they met us..immediately called us mom and dad and took our hand...happily they walked into the air port asking if they were already on the plane as we waited at the gate and flew into a new world where it is okay even at the age of 10 to wish to be a princess and live out things she only dreamed of when she was in Ethiopia. Grace is a miracle. All of our children are miracles. Life is a miracle. Each day is precious. Ten years of her life are so worthy of celebrating. So worthy of the 2 parties, 3 birthday cakes, 2 gallons of ice cream, pizza, a durham bulls baseball game with the African Children's choir...a bunch of presents and her first shopping spree with a 50 dollar gift card from Grandma and Grandpa .....For me, I don't care what she does or becomes next year of 20 years from now but I pray to see her grow to be happy, vibrant, alive and hopefully one day in love. I thank God for the twists and turns in the past 10 years for our family. I no longer say..."I would never do that" because I know God's plans can be massively and sweetly unexpected and I welcome seeing what the next 10 years bring.