buzzing around….

Hello!!  Yes, I’m still here.  Just buzzing around doing all sorts of interesting things.  At least once a week I’ve been enjoying that sweet new grandbaby and playing with her older siblings so mama can nap. We’ve been homeschooling and keeping up with all the normal stuff around here, including 2 night shifts a week at the hospital.

As an addition to our homeschool learning about refugees, the girls and I have been volunteering with a local ministry that helps new refugees settle into our community.  We have very much been enjoying getting to know a family that just arrived in Boise from Malaysia, and have had fun learning bits of each others’ languages.

Along with all that, John and I have been noodling around the idea of selling our place here and moving to a place in town.  And after 22 years of beating down the weeds and doing the upkeep on our three acres, we are realizing we may be getting a little weary of having so, so much land to tame.

The chickens and the cow and the huge garden and greenhouse have been lots of fun.  But we’re wondering if maybe we’d like to shift some of our time in other directions during the coming years. This house is just about paid off and the difference in property cost between here and a place in town would be a great jump on the start of our (someday) ocean dream.  And a smaller yard is sounding more and more appealing.

So we’ve been dipping our toes in the local real estate waters. We’ve begun looking at houses to see what we might be able to get in town that would leave us some equity to put toward our beach house dream.  Lots of house-hunting has netted some possible options.  But nothing so far feels decidedly ‘ours’. I’ve fallen in love with a house or two.  So far we haven’t been able to find out that would give John some good shop space.  Maybe we’ve lived here too long to get that ‘home’ feeling about anyplace but here. But maybe there’s something out there.  We’ll keep looking.

We’ve also been looking at our own house with resale value in mind, just in case we do find a good place in town.  We bit the bullet and replaced the elderly furnace. I did some major decluttering in the garage, with the plan of eventually texturing all the walls and shooting a fresh coat of paint on everything out there.

I’m cleaning out closets and giving away all sorts of things that we don’t need. The linen closet with half its contents removed looks incredibly more spacious and well organized. I need to paint the shelves and put the door back on, and then next on the list is a similar makeover of the master closet.

Useful grey by Benjamin MooreI’ve repainted all the doors and much of the trim on the main level of the house. The trim is just a plain white, and for the walls I chose a Benjamin Moore paint in a nice soft neutral tone called ‘Useful Grey.’  Funny name, eh? To the right is the color in someone else’s home.

New paint and door knobsAnd here’s a picture of our hallway showing the contrast between grey and white.  So clean and crisp.  (It proved crazy-hard to get the paint to show up as the right color on my camera, though– thus the photo above.)

This photo also shows our new door knobs. I bought new doorknobs and hinges for the whole house, to replace the brassy ones we’ve had since the 90’s. The grand total of that project was $280, and they really update the doors, I think.

We have new living room carpet coming soon.  Our current carpet is a very worn teal green that just screams 1990’s.  :)  I got bids from a bunch of places but settled on RC Willey since their cost was the absolute best, and their work has been recommended.

As is typical for me, I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS. at once.  (Except, apparently, blogging–oops!)  It could be that after more house hunting we will just decide to stay put here– who knows?  Or maybe just the right house will show up during the next few months and we will make the leap to a new place.  But in any case these new fix-ups on our house are really fun and fresh, and (except for the boring furnace) not even all that spendy.  I keep forgetting to take pictures of my projects, but I will share more soon, because there’s lots happening.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me and checking in even when life gets busy and I don’t post often.  I appreciate your visits here!


Reading about immigrants

Well, we’re back home and back to school, all in one fell swoop. Thankfully we’re over the worst of the jet lag by now. For awhile the girls were waking around 3 AM and then having a hard time getting back to sleep, which meant they were all practically comatose by 6PM. I kept having to coax them to stay upright just a little longer in the evening so that they could get back to Idaho time.

Josh and Ben are doing well in public school so far, though I continue to have pangs feeling like (in allowing them their wish) I have deserted some of my responsibility to them. Funny how something that seems so normal to the vast majority of the world can feel so foreign to me. But I think they are doing OK, and of course it is God who is in charge of their life, not me. So I keep praying, keep talking to them about how things are going, and also now and then remind them that some of the questions I’m asking are not really a reflection on them, but simply me getting used to this new thing.

immigrantsJumping into school straight from 2 weeks in Ethiopia gave me an idea for a unit study with Emily, Julianna, and Zeytuna, my three homeschoolers this year. So many Ethiopians were happy our girls had come to Ethiopia to visit, but multiple times the girls were told to stay in America to live, as Ethiopians see America as the land of opportunity. Then of course we came home to read about all the refugees from Syria, and the terrible ways in which they are struggling to provide life and safety for their families.  Many of them also are longing to come to America.

Always in the past America has been seen as a place of refuge, a land that welcomes people who are struggling. I hope this will continue to be true in the future. I decided I really wanted our kids to learn a little more about the immigrant experience, and did an amazon hunt for some books that we can read together.  Most of them talk about the immigrant experience from the point of view of children and teens.

Four of the books tell the story of people who came to America via Ellis Island.  Children of the Dust Bowl is the story of kids who moved to California during the Dust Bowl and how they dealt with the discrimination they faced in that move. A Long Walk to Water is the true story of one of the lost boys of Sudan. Esperanza Rising is fiction and tells the story of a girl who moves from Mexico to the United States. Inside Out and Back Again is the true story of a child who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and it is written entirely in poems.

My plan is to begin with that last book, and to do a fair bit of the reading at lunch time to the girls while they eat.  I am hoping that our fresh experience in another country might make these immigrant stories more meaningful to our kids, and might give them a deeper compassion toward people who struggle to find a place in this world.


Part 1-We’re off!

Here we are this morning with our 6 checked bags and 6 carry-on items. Yikes! So much for packing light. However, 2.5 of our checked bags are things we’re delivering for other people, and there are 5 of us, all girls, traveling for 16 days. I think we could have done worse.

At the airport this morning

As I write this, we’ve made it all the way to Houston. Julianna was getting a bit stir-crazy by the end of that 3 hour flight, so hopefully she will survive the next two flights, each of which is 9+ hours. Wow. I am very much hoping for seat-back TV’s to broaden the entertainment options. We also have some movies on my tablet, which should also help.

So far the only hitch we’ve had is that I managed to forget the plug that lets my Fitbit download onto my computer, which means that although it will still count my steps each day, it won’t tell me how well I sleep each night. (Sob.) Such a first-world problem. John wanted to go back and get it for me, but I decided I’d rather get to the airport 15 minutes sooner. And it turned out to be a good thing. The Boise airport was hopping this morning, and the security line was longer than I’ve ever seen it.

Anyway, we’re off! Next time I update you, we should be in Addis!

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We’re off tomorrow!

After years of wishing, and months of planning, and days of packing, we are finally ready to set off on this great adventure to Ethiopia. We leave Tuesday morning, which is a ridiculously few hours from now. We’ve got meals planned for the guys at home, and hotels planned for the girls who are going, including, blessedly, my sister Sophie who has lived and worked in southern Ethiopia for the past five years. It will be such a blessing to have her there to translate and share her experience, and just hang out with.


I’m really excited to finally be able to see Soddo, the place where two of our girls were born.  Soddo has also been Sophie’s workplace for the past five years, where she has cared for many pregnant women, offering them medical care that they might not otherwise get.   She is closing that chapter in her own life now, but her friend and fellow nurse Jody Ross will continue on in that important work.  (Sophie and I would both love it if you’d support Jody in continuing that work, if you feel so moved.)



We’ll also be visiting Harar, one of the most ancient cities in all of Africa, and the place where two other daughters were born.  Some of our girls will be visiting extended family on this trip, though I will only be sharing as much about those visits as our girls are comfortable with me sharing.  Harar

My sister has warned me that internet access will likely be spotty, especially in Harar, and possibly even in Addis at times. But I will be writing as much as I can each day, and taking photos of all that we’re doing, so that I can use the internet whenever and wherever it happens to be.

Be praying for our family when you think of us during the next two weeks, will you?  For safety and peace of mind for all of us when we are apart from each other, that we can be a blessing to the people we meet along the way, and also (most of all!) that this trip will be a blessing to our precious girls and their extended family.  Doubtless this trip will stir up many emotions in us all.

Packing light for a long trip

Excitement is building here for our trip to Ethiopia.  It’s only a week away!  I’ve been working on a packing list, and thinking about how to pack as lightly as possible while still being prepared for what is forecasted as a LOT of rain.  We are also going to be traveling to several different places in Ethiopia, and the last thing we want to do is pack so much that it is miserable trying to schlepp our bags from place to place.

We are aiming to have three large bags total for the five of us, along with one small backpack for each person. We’ll see how it goes!  Here are some of the best tips I’ve discovered and collected over years of traveling to various places that I am planning to use as we pack for 16 days away from home.

Pack Light



1.  Start by making your wardrobe selections within a limited number of colors, so that as many items as possible can be mixed and matched.  If a particular item cannot be worn with more than two other things, don’t bring it.  This time around I’m doing lots of navy and black, with a few items that are pink, blue, or green to liven things up a bit.  I’m also packing several scarves that can be used for a little color with all the dark clothing I’m packing.  (This gal’s list is a great example of this concept.)

2. Compress as much as possible when packing. I’ve found that rolling clothes up is a great way to fit more into less space.  It also allows you to more easily see everything that you’ve packed, since clothes aren’t stacked.

3. Divide and conquer.  Another way to keep your bags organized on a trip is to sort clothing by type and organize each type into smaller bags.
This time around I ALMOST sprang for ebags, shown on the right.  But when I priced out those adorable bags for the FIVE of us, I decided to go with my old stand-by–zip loc bags, which have worked great for me on previous trips. Three dozen 2-gallon bags cost a mere $15, much more within my budget, especially considering that five of us are going on this trip.

I labeled the bags by type and by suggested quantity to create an effortless packing list for my two younger girls.  For example, one bag says ‘3 pair pants’, another is labeled ‘6 short-sleeve shirts’.

4.  Pack only what you love, and pack less than you think you’ll need.  Most likely you can decrease the number of items packed by 20% without running short on a trip. And one of the ways you can decrease the amount of luggage you bring is by being willing to wash once or twice during the trip.  Lightweight items wash and dry best– wring them out well after washing them in the sink.  For even quicker drying, roll  wet items in a dry towel and walk on the rolled towel for a minute or so to squeeze as much of the water into the towel and out of the clothes before hanging them up.  You may even want to bring string and a few clothespins for hanging items.  Or hang things on hangers on the shower rod.

What do you do to pack light on trips?  I’d love to hear your ideas too!



Some of our previous trips:

Ethiopia adoption trip- 2007

Dominican Republic (Compassion International) – 2008

South Korea Homeland Visit -2009

Chilean Wedding- 2011



Friends and Ferguson

yes, they're sisters

A few weekends ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at the Joy for the Journey retreat for adoptive mommas.  Some of the most memorable and sweetest time on the trip turned out to be visiting with a new friend named Adrienne who drove me to and from the airport, a drive of about two hours each way.  As embarrassed as I am to admit it, this was probably the third time in my entire life that I’ve visited at length and talked in depth with an adult African American woman.

As a momma of Black kids, it hasn’t been anything I consciously chose.  It’s just how it happened. We live in a predominantly white area.  I am surrounded by white friends.  It feels awkward to try to hunt down African American women in our area with whom to form friendships that in the beginning might be based just on color.  And yet I do long for more diversity in my life, and wish that my past efforts to connect hadn’t been so ineffective.

I saw such humor and beauty and strength in the women that surrounded me that weekend in Pennsylvania.  I long for more connection with adults who look like my own children.  And if I long for it, I can only imagine my children must wish for it even more deeply. I came away from the weekend with a deep conviction that I must do better at broadening my world and my friendships. Be braver. Be bolder. Step out of my little comfy white box.

I actually wish that for all of us– that we all could live more integrated lives- the type of life where we’re just as likely to be friends with someone who doesn’t ‘match’ us in skin tone as one who does.   I think we all would be blessed to know people of every color who we honor and value, whose opinions we respect, and whose hearts we know and trust.

That’s actually one of the cool things that adoption has done for our church family.  In a Sunday school of 40+ children–ours is a tiny church–  there are 8 African American kids, along with a couple Korean Americans. I really hope that the early friendships all these children are enjoying will make them less likely to later make snap judgments about the people around them on the basis of skin tone.  I want them all to grow up to be the type of people who know and love people for who they are, and who will base merit on character and worth in Christ, not color.

I really appreciated listening to this 30-minute podcast In Wake of Ferguson:  Brant and Sherri talking about racial tension.  In the podcast they spoke frankly about reality of racism and racial profiling, and our place as Christians living in this imperfect world. Sherri acknowledged the frustration that can come from hard experiences but says that any anger and hostility is best placed in God’s hands.  It’s well worth a listen.  I also really appreciated these thoughts from Journey Mama.

Have a blessed Monday!

Book giveaway: Waking Up White

Later this week I’m going to answer some parenting-logistics questions that I’ve been asked lately– things like what we do about allowance, how old our kids have to be to babysit siblings, etc. If you happen to have questions about how we do things at our house, will you shoot them to me in comments? I’ll add those questions/answers to Wednesday’s post.

Today, however, I am giving away an intriguing book called Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  She grew up in a privileged white community in the 60’s and 70’s, and realized well into adulthood that, first of all, she was so uncomfortable with race issues that she was often nervous talking with black folks, and second, that she desperately wanted to be the type of person who works to break down barriers, rather than pretending they don’t exist.

I think a lot of white people would like to think that racism is a thing of the past, that everyone plays on an even playing field these days.  But the more she explored this, the more she came to realize that’s just not true. It’s a proven fact that black boys get pulled over by police more often than white boys. White women still cross the street when black men walk by.  And black men have to dress much more neatly than average to go shopping at the mall without being covertly watched and sometimes even questioned by security people.

Chapter by chapter, the author shares her own personal journey of racial awakening– of really understanding the privilege she gained simply from being born into a white family.  She also came to realize that the reserve and politeness she learned from her family of origin, were sometimes causing her to avoid the kinds of deep conversations that might lead to understanding another person’s point of view, to really imagine life in their shoes.

She talked about the different values in different families, and how some of those values might add layers of complication to how we perceive folks.  For example, a student  she’d labeled difficult and distractible because of her tendency to leave her seat and go chat with other students turned out to be from a culture that highly valued cooperation.  The child was honestly trying to help other students out.

Another time the author realized she was inadvertently offending black associates by being too quick to call them by their first names instead of honoring them by saying Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones.  From her cultural standpoint, she saw it as a sign of friendliness. But many people, especially those growing up in the South, do not.

Yet another time she learned that calling a black person ‘articulate’  can be seen as an insult — a stinging jab often heard as ‘he’s unusual for a black person’– and not a true compliment at all.  Of course relationships between any humans can be complicated, even at their best.  But the overarching message of this book to me was how important it is to be honest and humble in our dealings with each other, to not assume that everyone is coming from the same frame of reference, and to be willing to hear and believe people telling you that life is very different for them than it may be for you.

As a mom to children born in several different countries, I read this book with interest and found it to be very worthwhile.  It left me with greater understanding and a renewed determination to be the type of person who builds bridges and grows relationships wherever I go.  As the author states in this book, we’re all different, but we all belong here.  We should treat each other as such.

If you would like to enter the drawing to win a copy of this book, comment below. I’d love to hear how you talk about race with your kids.  Do you encourage your kids to help all kids feel welcome in their classroom? How do you respond when your child points out someone of a different ethnic heritage in the grocery store?  If you are adoptive parent, how do you talk about race with your kids without leading them to expect bad treatment around every corner?



Related story:  Raising Black Kids in a ‘White’ State

You know it’s been a bad day at the airport

The Cot Guy… when you spot the cot guy driving along dropping off cots at every gate.  Turns out Dallas is not used to snow, wreaking havoc on many, many people’s travel plans yesterday. Many people waited all day as flight after flight was delayed and canceled.  The great news?  My flight was ONLY four hours late, when means I hit my hotel here in Atlanta at 2:30AM, got some sleep and will soon have a ride from a friend to the Created for Care gathering.

Things I now know about Dallas:

~Dallas seems to have more swimming pools per capita than is strictly normal.

~The lady who I became fast friends with while standing in line at the American airlines service counter DID make it onto my flight, which means she will indeed get to go furniture shopping at the outlet malls in North (South?) Carolina this weekend.

~ The very nice surgeon who was going to Atlanta for a conference did not get there after all, but (bonus for his patients) he DID reschedule all his surgeries for today.

~ There are at least two very sweet people, who, when faced by weather delays in the Dallas airport will take it upon themselves to apologize to this Idaho gal for ALL of Texas and it’s lack of snow-handling ability.

Things I am thankful for on this adventure called life:  That wherever I go, I meet many kind people.  Praise God for traveling mercies.  And for the fact that I got where I needed to be.  Pray for the retreat this weekend, that it will bless and nurture many precious mommas.

Weekend reading


I Am a Birth Mother

Made better by good conversation

Creating a supportive environment

The Simple, Hard Part of Motherhood

Made to worship

Don’t give up

The Way to Get You Here

Feasts and Gatherings

This weekend we’re having a big crew of college students, friends of our sons, over for dinner.  We’re making Ethiopian food for a special treat: injera (Ethiopian sourdough flatbread made with a grain called teff), alecha wat (mild veggie stew), doro wat (spicy chicken) and misir wat(lentil stew). Rolled injeraSince the injera takes a couple of days to do, we started it yesterday morning.  It should be a lot of fun.  If I remember, I’ll take pictures of more of the dishes for you.  But pictured here is the injera (here’s my recipe), and the alecha wat, which is made with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions, with turmeric as part of the seasoning.

In February two of our sons will be taking drivers’ ed, which means EARLY morning rising for five weeks straight.  I am not naturally a morning person but I do enjoy the productivity that those early mornings tend to give me.  OK, and the chance to sit at the coffee shop for an hour sipping my americano with coconut flavoring.  Yum!

Another lovely thing about February and March is that I get to do some adventuring.   Feb 7-9 and March 7-9 I’m attending Created for Care, an amazing adoptive-momma retreat in Atlanta, GA.  I went last year and was sooooooo very inspired and encouraged.  It is an amazing experience, and was sold out almost immediately when registration first opened last summer.  But rumor has it that there have been a few cancellations, so if you’re interested in attending, check the website and see if there’s still space.

The other adoption conference that I’m attending is closer to home–the Refresh Conference in Seattle.  That event is for dads AND moms, and there’s even child care!  I’ve never attended this event, but I’ve heard great things about it so I’m really excited.  Registration is still open for this particular event.

In both places I’ll be sharing on two topics:  organizing a busy home, and trusting God in times of challenge.  At Created for Care I’ll be speaking on my own, and at Refresh I’m blessed to be speaking with Jen Summers and Lisa Qualls. Jen writes at Grace and Glory and has 10 kids. Lisa writes at One Thankful Mom and has 12. I’m so much looking forward to meeting these fellow mommas-of-many in person!

Now I’d love a bit of feedback from you all.  I’ve talked about organization and family management before, but this time around I’d like to add more wisdom about learning to say ‘no’ to what won’t fit well in your life.  I’d love to hear what you’ve said no to, and how you came to feel that was the right decision for your family.

One small example from my home:  I rarely iron.  Usually it’s when I sew, or very occasionally (as in maybe 4x a year?) I’ll help one of the boys iron a Sunday shirt if it didn’t get pulled out of the dryer and put on a hanger quickly enough.  We pick easy-care clothes and I have just decided not to sweat it.  It works for me but it wouldn’t work for everyone.  What DON’T you do to add to the peace and freedom in your home?