Visiting Lalibela

Visiting Lalibela

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Go Tell it on the Mountain- or the Plains!

To God be all the Glory!!

Click on the word Share below to view an article about what God's doing in our corner of the world.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011

I can't believe Christmas will be here in less than 5 days. December has flown by and with it, our time to write our annual Christmas letter. To save time, everyone in blog land will get our annual update.

Highlights for this year include:
1. Family ski trip to Bozeman--I'm sure the first few days would have looked like chaos to those around us, as we tried to negotiate rentals, clothing and the FOOD associated with taking 9 kids skiing. After day 4, however, we had a system worked out, everyone had the appropriate snack in their pockets and we had successes on the hill.

2. Completed our first year of homeschooling everyone- By the end of the first year, I realized a need for another teacher. My friend, Valerie, joined us in August and we are amazed at how much everyone has learned this year. We are so thankful for the opportunity to homeschool our children. (Next year- we'll have high schoolers!!)

3. First family RV trip- In July, we ventured out on a 3 week RV trip. The trip included Camp Electric, in Nashville, for Elli, Janika and Kael, while the rest of us played in and around the Nashville Area. We then spent several days in the mountains of North Carolina, before driving to Durango, Colorado. While in Durango, Mike and the "big kids" spent 4 days backpacking at 10,000 + feet. The "Littles" and I spent 4 days playing at the Durango, KOA and learning things like how to pull the awning in during high wind storms. The RV is now for We loved the adventure but realized the RV we chose was just a tad bit tight for a family of 11.

4. Summit Energy Services- Mike continues to love running Summit. We marvel each day, as it continues to grow. What started out as a little business, in our garage, with six men, now has over 160 employees, a huge shop and two additional office spaces. God has truly blessed us with an amazing business, great men and women who choose to work at Summit and opportunities for continued growth in the next year. I am blessed to watch Mike lead this team, each day.

5. Activities- Our days with the kids are full. This past year, Elli, Janika, Kael and Micah ran track for the MIddle School. Elli and Layne participated in a summer play. Kael, Janika, Micah and Leah ran cross-country. Gabe and Gavin ran elementary cross-country and played soccer with Layne joining them on the soccer field. Gavin and Elli participated in the local Christmas play and Micah, Kael, Janika and Elli played basketball. Layne Belle loves her piano lessons and the big girls continue to love to sing together, with Jani on guitar. Mike and I love taking in all the events, and realize that, at 40, our days of actually beating the kids in ANYTHING are just about gone.

6. Mission Trip- In November, Mike, Kael, Elli, Janika and Micah spent 12 days in Ethiopia with Childrens Hopechest. They served with an amazing team, loving on kids at 4 different care points and taking in a small sight seeing tour on the side. The younger kids and I stayed on ground support here and realized how very much we LOVE the noise of our great big family.

That's our year in a nutshell. As we head into the Christmas weekend, we are so thankful for the friends and family who have come along side us with prayer support this past year. We are thankful for the family God has given us, the business HE has given us and especially for the gift He has given each one of us in the birth of HIS son, Jesus.

Merry Christmas from the Sweeney Family!

Monday, December 12, 2011

And to think we could have said, "No" to this!

This morning, as we were getting ready for church (notice the big sisters in the bathroom-sorry girls), it hit me...We could have said, "No, " when we were asked 6.5 years ago to be our LB's foster family. We could have said, "No," when she came up for adoption. Instead, we said, "Yes," and get to see this sweet face every day.

We have had the opportunity, again and again to say "NO". We've had people encourage us to say, "NO" but each time we've prayed about a decision and said, "Yes!" God has blessed our socks off. The very first thing we were told, after we found out we were expecting triplets was, "You can reduce this pregnancy. It may be really hard on you." Instead, and thankfully, my husband answered immediately, "These are our babies." When we felt God nudging us to adopt Gavin and said "Yes" God brought the coolest little boy into our home. He thanks God every night for "my wonderful family." He radiates.

When we felt God nudging us to adopt again, many people advised us to say "NO". I'm so thankful that we said "Yes."
At the same time, God put the idea of Summit on Mike's mind. It would have been much easier to say "NO" and continue to work for someone else, yet we now have over 160 employees- so very thankful again that we said, "Yes."

Today in church, our pastor said, "If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have died just for you!" He had the opportunity to say, "NO!!" but he said a resounding, "Yes."

I wonder what God is asking you to do today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Our travelers landed in Billings Monday night. I was able to take a quick flight over to meet them and help them drive home on Tuesday. They are EXHAUSTED but loved their trip. Fortunately, only Elli caught anything over there and is recovering from a respiratory bug. The smiles on the kids at home were bigger than I have ever seen when we drove in Tuesday. As Leah said, "Big families are better, Mom." I have to agree. Having everyone home again is a huge blessing.

We continue to ask for prayers over the next few days as Mike has to go full speed ahead at work, even during jet lag and we resume normal life activities. Also, we would covet prayers for our child at the Ranch for Kids. I really feel that this week of Thanksgiving will be a turning point in the healing process. I am so thankful for my family.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kind Hearts

The team spent the day at Kind Hearts again today. They handed out care packages to all of the kids there. Elli said there are lots of kids who need sponsors (I'll bet she'll be advocating for them all when she gets back). She was able to give our little Antennah his care package. Afterwards, he found her three more times, yelled her name and gave her a hug each time. She just loves him.

While Elli was handing out care packages, Mike and the kids worked on teaching the kids the songs they prepared. Mike said they had them down in about 15 minutes and then had 35 minutes to kill...

Tomorrow they have their last visit to Kind Hearts which will include a feast. Janika said they will be taking live goats strapped to the top of the van. Once they get to the carepoint, they will kill the goat for the feast.

It's so fun to hear of their adventures. They are all getting a bit tired, so prayers for energy are appreciated!

A couple more pictures

I thought this picture was hilarious. This is a coffee house in Lalibella...

This is the river right outside one of the carepoints. The water truly is black. I had heard about the kids walking across this river on their way to school and getting infections in their feet. To see it is another matter. Hoping to help find a solution to the river of sludge.

Our travelers have 3 more days of loving on kids, two at Kind Hearts and one at Trees of Glory, then they have one day to go to church and sightsee a bit in Addis before heading home. So far no one has gotten sick (Praise God!!) and are all getting a bit of rest. We can't wait to see the rest of the pictures and hear the stories....figuring out the very best ways for our family to help find solutions to some of the issues they have learned about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pix from Lalibela

One of the neatest thing that has come from our latest adoption, is the relationship these two young men have with each other.

Priests at one of the churches in Lalibela

View from the hotel where they stayed

My travelers- wow do we all miss them but are so glad they got to go on this trip!!

Short update from Lalibela

Everyone is doing well in Lalibela. They are enjoying the scenery, clean air and hotel room on a cliff. Elli has taken over 1000 pictures already. The girls' red hair keeps attracting crowds, which is so funny and again, their braces are captivating. As we sleep, they will fly back to Addis and visit Kechene, another carepoint managed by Childrens' Hopechest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A few funnies from Addis

I'm assuming this is at Trees of Glory, I will have to check with Mike

Janika and her ukelele!!

Elli handing out the care package to Ashene, our good friends' sponsor child. She was able to tell him we know his "family" well.

The kids took 5 songs along to teach the kids. Here they are teaching, THE B-I-B-L-E. I've had the opportunity to see Elli's smile up close as she is holding kids in an orphanage--same look she has in this picture. Pure joy-

Just got off the phone with Mike and the kids. I wanted to share a few funny stories in addition to the pictures:
1. At one of the carepoints, the kids thought Micah was President Obama!!
2. At another place, kids came running up to Kael singing- apparently his long hair made them think that Justin Beiber was in the house and they knew his songs!
3. Many of the kids are initially terrified of Elli and Janika's braces. One child screamed and ran away when Jani smiled. Another child told the interpreter that they hadn't ever seen jewelry on teeth. A third saw them and yelled, "Dentures!!"

On a more serious note, they spent the day touring a carepoint that reaches out to street children and learned a lot about the problem of child trafficking in Ethiopia. Their eyes are open now to a problem that we knew very little about until today. This carepoint helps children reunite with their families, if they have been taken from their homes and trafficked. As Janika described the stories they heard, she was pretty emotional. God is really working on our kids's hearts over there...we are thankful for the exposure they have to the world.

Our team got to meet Antennah, the little buy we have sponsored for the past two years. Kael said he is really "energetic" until he comes around them and then is super shy. Sponsorship means so much to these children. Not only do they get a good meal everyday, they get school clothes, an education and they learn about Jesus. We love that we get the opportunity to personally know our sponsor child and let him know that yes, we do know his name and we pray for him often.

small update

Sorry I don't have pictures to post from Ethiopia. Mike said the internet is absolutely horrible. He is able to get some emails out occassionally . They have spent two days at Trees of Glory and one day at Kind Hearts. They should have met our sponsor child as I was sleeping last night. The kids are having a blast on this trip.

The team is splitting tomorrow for two days of sight seeing. Our family is joining Karen flying to Lalibela. We are super excited about this little side trip. Lalibela is known as the "eighth wonder of the world" and it's an area we have studied in school. A google search will show everything they are going to see up close. Ethiopia's Christian heritage is strong.

I will post more as I get more information. Please continue to pray for the team..I'm sure fatigue will start to set in anytime and they have one week left on the trip.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

They love the ukelele!!

Just got off the phone with Mike and the kids. They are just starting their day, as I am heading to bed. They had an excellent first day at Trees of Glory carepoint and have some funny stories to share. Unfortunatley, they have no power (welcome to Addis) so I don't have any pictures yet.

Janika and Elli sang "City on our Knees" to the ukelele (I would love to post a video- hope to soon). The song is one of their favorites to sing together- the kids loved it and loved Jani's ukelele- she was laughing as she shared the story of how every child wanted to touch it. She let them hold it one by one and took a picture of each child with it. One of the team members brought a printer, so if they get power, they can print the pictures for the kids to keep- pretty cool. Today, they are going to lead worship at the church they are attending!!! Again, amazing how much joy there is in using the gifts God has given us.

Kael told me the kids are fascinated by watches- one little boy was so fascinated that he had it off of Kael's wrist in about 3 seconds. Today it will stay in the backpack (smile). Micah is doing well being there with his family. I'm sure it's hard, as he was one of these same children a little over a year ago. It's amazing the transformation we've seen in him this past year. I hope the children on this trip feel loved on and a part of their sponsor family's family. Loving on kids is an amazing gift that God gives us.

Dale and Kristi- Mike hung out with Ashene for awhile yesterday. They will be delivering his care package today!! They will definitely love on him for you!

Please continue to lift up the team on this trip. They hope to be the true hands and feet of Jesus...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Don't you love the feeling when you're doing what God calls you to do?

Here is Janika waiting in the airport for the long flight to Addis with her ukelele. She will be playing 4 songs that the Sweeneys will teach the children at each care point. We love watching her share her love of music with other kids.

The next picture, of Elli, shows how she feels about missions. Mike and I were talking this morning before they left for Addis and realized this young lady might be taking a trip to live in Africa instead of heading to college. She is ready to GO now! God has put a love of Africa and its people in her heart -it is so fun to watch. This will be her third trip to Ethiopia. I'm sure there will be many, many more.

I'll include pics of the boys the next time I post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

they're off!

Our team left early this morning to catch their first leg of a long journey to Ethiopia. I am hoping to post lots of pictures from their trip. We would love prayer support as Mike and the kids minister to those kids they meet!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Orphan Sunday 2011 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

This Sunday is Orphan Sunday. Show LOVE- Pray about how YOU can impact an orphan's life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our team

This is our team heading to Ethiopia in 15 days! Actually, Leah isn't going, but this is such a great picture of her and we have such great news about her that I wanted to put this one in.

We went to church on Sunday, for a friend's baptism. The Pastor, a friend of our's then opened it up to anyone who hasn't been baptized and Leah walked up to the front of the church. Pastor Bob then asked Mike to come forward and he got to baptize his daughter- it was so beautiful-- Leah really loves Jesus! She has a heart for children and really struggles knowing that there are millions of children out there living the life she had just a year ago. I wouldn't be surprised if my girl became a missionary, working with and loving on kids and telling them about this wonderful Jesus who loves them.

Our ET mission team will have 10 days of loving on kids and meeting the needs of those around them. They are excited to go and we covet your prayers for them on this trip. Specifically, please pray for Micah, as he returns to Ethiopia. We expect the sights, sounds, smells to be a bit overwhelming to him but we know God can use him mightily in his native land. We would also appreciate prayers for health. They will be traveling outside of Addis, where malaria is present and will be taking antibiotics to ward off malaria. This is a reality, as our children's birth mother died from malaria.

I"m hoping to post regularly while they are gone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Man UP and Go!!

Last week, we celebrated Mike's 40th birthday. I am so thankful and blessed to have him for my husband, the father of our kids. I am so thankful that he has chosen to Man UP and be the father to the fatherless. There is more work to do- we're hoping the mission trip next month will be a catalyst for this. We, as a family, are passionate about living God's commands to GO!!

Also last week, God allowed us to remember our children before they had a Daddy..then we saw them, strong, confident, glowing as they live their lives knowing that their Daddy loves them...Leah, especially has grown from a timid young girl, to one who can enter any environment with the biggest smile on and tackle it. We couldn't believe the change in her as she stood and accepted a ribbon for 20th in the Regional cross-country race..She is gorgeous inside and out and her light shines.

Wow is all I can say to this movie trailer...they get it..Lord, please help us to continue to get it. Nothing else really matters... watch this trailer and then get ready to watch the whole movie when it hits theaters in summer 2012...THEN MAN UP AND GO!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

T-shirts for a great cause!

Mike, Micah, Janika, Elli and Kael are headed to Ethiopia in November on a mission trip with Childrens Hopechest. While in ET, they will get to spend 3 days with Antenne, the little boy we sponsor. Karen Wistrom is the coordinator for the carepoints our crew will be visiting. She is also a fellow adoptive Mom.

Check out her blog, Family from Afar, to see some awesome t-shirts she is selling to raise money for this mission trip. You can either click on the button to the right that says, "I sponsor a child at Kind Hearts" or go to my blogroll and click on Family from afar. Either way, I hope you'll join us in buying these shirts, which will in turn, benefit several hundred children in Ethiopia.

I haven't written much about the famine and drought in Ethiopia. Our Gavin is from the very area where some of the worst conditions exist. As I look at him each day, I am amazed that he is here, playing soccer, learning in school, getting enough food and learning about how much our Savior loves him. It is also a constant reminder that there are thousands if not millions of Gavins out there, unable to get the food they need each day. Contributing to this mission trip is just one way to help beautiful kids like Gavin..Sponsoring a child through Childrens Hopechest means they are guaranteed at least one meal per day. It also means they will get to go to school and learn about Jesus' love for each of them. Many more kids will be needing sponsors at the two carepoints that our family will be visiting. Please keep following Karen's blog for information on these kids over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

an update

We spoke with our child who is at the Ranch for Kids on Monday night. For the first time, we heard genuine remorse in the child's voice and words. Our child is definitely missing home and family, which are very good. All the other kids got to say a quick "Hi," which was hard but good for everyone. Our child is learning so much at the Ranch and starting to heal. We are more hopeful and thankful than ever before. Some of the behaviors that precipitated our child going to the Ranch are beginning to diminish. This is still a long process, as our child learns what triggers those behaviors and learns other ways to deal with the triggers.

We know God is doing an amazing work in our child. We still really appreciate your prayers, for all of us as we navigate this road of healing for everyone. Please also continue to lift up the staff at the Ranch for the work they do.

Personally, I have had to deal with the sin of judgement through all of this. A year ago, we knew of another family needing to utilize the Ranch for healing for one of their children. I honestly couldn't imagine taking one of my own children there and yet here we are, needing the resources that the Ranch has to offer. Over the past few months, I have read and heard story after story of families living with really tough outcomes after adopting older children. These families need support, through prayer, through meals, through watching other children. Sometimes loving a child from hard places is like fighting a war...I've heard it's harder than actually going into a mission field in a foreign country and yet God calls..He calls us to love the children that He loves. He calls us to live "my life is not my own." He calls us not to judge. He has called us to love our child who is not at home right now and is allowing this love to grow in us until we are reunited. We serve an awesome God!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

a big laugh

Sometimes we will be cruising along with life and I forget that our kids haven't been here that long. Sometimes, though, like tonight, we remember and have to laugh.

We were watching an old Steve Martin movie tonight. Steve Martin proceeds to kiss his "wife" in the movie. One of our kids said, " Why is he kissing that woman when he already has a wife?" She was referring to the wife in Father of the Bride, a completely different movie. It hit us that this child didn't know that all of the movies we watch are fictitious. I guess reality tv makes it even more confusing, when we watch shows like the DUggars, as the cameras follow everyday families through their lives. She just assumed that everytime the cameras are rolling, real life is happening...

We got a big chuckle out of it, as we explained the difference..

We had a great day enjoying our company, Summit Energy today...If anyone from Summit reads this, we are so very proud to have the team we have here in ND. Williston hosted an energy festival, celebrating all of the energy work that is here. It really was impressive watching the parade, with all of the big oil companies driving all of their big equipment down Main Street. One of our employees, Lacey, won Miss Williston Basin Energy. She is an amazing young lady, beautiful, well spoken and tough as nails, working on our one of the pipeline crews, using big equipment better than most men could. LB got to ride in the parade with her, as our LIttle Miss Summit. She was the perfect representative of our family in the parade.. She is such a miracle as is this company.

Monday, September 12, 2011

how are we doing?

We have settled into a new normal at our house and that normal includes GREAT PEACE. School is going extremely well, with my friend teaching my curly headed kiddos SO MUCH everyday. They absolutely love her and school this year and E,J, and K and I are booking through Algebra, US History, Writing and Science. They are working on Spanish, with Rosetta Stone. My newest kiddos are making HUGE strides in both reading and math. Layne and Gavin are flying through 2nd grade math and reading at a 3rd grade level. I am only stating these things because God deserves praise in all of this!! When LB was a baby, we weren't sure she would ever be able to learn, much less learn as quickly as she does at 6 years of age.

Cross-country is in full swing, so our weekends are spent going from meet to meet and loving every minute of it. The kids are doing well and making some great friends. On Saturday, Janika was in 3rd (over 100 runners), when she tripped over a tree stump that was right in the middle of the path. She went down, twisting her ankle pretty badly. Mike happened to be standing right there and asked her if she could walk. She replied, "It hurts!!" He said, "Run! You can think about it later." She started running again and finished in 9th!! We all learned a bit about courage watching her gut it out. Our little Gavin had every Williston parent yelling for him as he booked it to an 8th place finish in the elementary race. You can't help but cheer for him when he runs because he smiles so big while he's passing kids twice his size- he loves to run and we love to watch him. Our other three runners did equally as well--

Our new normal also consists of weekly calls to the Ranch for Kids. Last night was our first night to talk to our child who is there. We are learning so much through this process, especially about our own prayer life. We would love continued prayers for our child who is not with us right now, prayers for the child to know the love of Jesus. You see, with Jesus, all the other stuff should be so much easier.

Monday, August 29, 2011

rafting fun

River rafting in Durango was probably the best part of our trip together this summer. Enjoy the pictures!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Our continued journey

We returned Friday night from taking our child to the Ranch for Kids. We are more hopeful than ever, after meeting the staff there. Everything our child has displayed, they have seen (I'm sure they've also seen a whole lot more). They gave us answers when we struggled. They gave smiles, when we really needed them. They gave encouragement. We met other kids who have been there for awhile and they are beautiful much healing takes place at the Ranch..The family who runs the Ranch is living their calling, loving on kids from hard places, in a meaningful way. No hospital or institutional setting could give our child what is needed, but we believe, with God's help, the Ranch can.

School started yesterday here..we are blessed. One of our good friends is helping teach all of our curly headed kiddos and she is such a gift. I watched yesterday, as she explained a math lesson and she did it with such patience- the kids learned so much and I got to focus on 8th grade work.

People have asked how to pray- if you could continue to pray for our child, who is away right now. Pray that the work that needs to get done will get done quickly and healing start soon. Please continue to pray for everyone here, to really live what we believe and walk in forgiveness. Forgiveness has started as we remember each day that our child's actions were the result of early life experiences. If you really want to help...adopt a child, rescue other kids from experiencing what our child did and pray for the staff at the Ranch, who do the hard work of helping those kids affected by early life trauma.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our journey of hope and healing

We haven't blogged much about our 3 week RV adventure and our time at home since. I started this blog to be an encouragement for other families to adopt, so when we have a tough story to share, we want to be mindful of how it is shared, so as to still encourage families to bring children into their homes. We still wholeheartedly believe that children need homes and our family is meant to advocate for the fatherless. With that being said, we felt it is time to share a bit of our journey these past months. Please pray before you continue to read, so you can truly hear what we are saying. Also, know that while we choose to share this journey on our blog, we are going to try and protect our child's identity, by referring to the child as it. We do realize this sounds impersonal, but it also serves as a protection.

One of our newly adopted children is struggling. If you are a reader of this blog, you know the child has been struggling for months, struggling to accept our love (particularly my love), our boundaries and our family. This struggle became so very apparent on our trip. While we watched everyone else bond and attach even more, we watched this child pull away and become more volatile the more time we spent together. This emotional volatility isn't new, but became almost unbearable in such close quarters. Spending three weeks in tight quarters is an excellent tool for increasing attachment for children who can attach. We have seen that with more hugs, smiles and laughter from one of our children. However, I think it's like pulling out toenails for those who struggle with attachment issues. It's just like our homeschool experience with our adopted children. For those who can attach, it has been the best choice. But for the child who has attachment disorders, it is almost painful to have to be around Mom all day, and in a variety of different roles. When our child feels like it has disappointed me with schoolwork or a behavior, the sadness becomes overwhelming and turns to mad and the mad to rage. The more the mad comes out, the more everyone else pulls away, thus creating a vicious cycle.

This child's story is completely different than the story of the other three siblings. It is this very difference that we're seeing played out in our home on a regular basis. It's the same reaction that we know many, many other adoptive families live with on a regular basis. It's the same reaction we were warned against over a year ago, when we started this process. We knew the cost then and we know the cost know and our hearts haven't changed one bit. This child is worth the cost. We honestly wouldn't change our decision a year ago.

However, we have come to a point of knowing that our love is not enough for our child. This child needs more help than we can offer here, even with excellent counselors and supporting environment. This child needs more than the medications we've already tried. At the end of the week, we will drive to a place of healing, a place of hope, The Ranch for Kids in Montana, which specializes in kids who have experienced the kind of trauma our child has, both prior to and once institutionalized in an orphanage. This is the hardest decision we have ever made, as a family, but we also have great peace about it and are thankful for so many reasons:

1. We are thankful that our child is here and not back in Ethiopia, where beatings would be given for these same behaviors.

2. We are thankful that we can afford the help our child needs. Last year, at this time, we had no extra money, but God has blessed our business in such a way that we really can pursue the very best help for our child and not worry about the finances.

3. We are thankful that for everyday our child has been in our home we have said, "God loves you. Your Mommy and Daddy love you."

4. We are thankful for our other 8 kids, who are completely FAMILY, loving living their lives together. We are amazed at how much they all enjoy each other and how they truly do love each other.

5. We are thankful for our support system here (and through my sister's family), who without judgement, have walked through this with us and still found so many ways to encourage our child and us. B and G and boys, we really appreciate you.

6. We are thankful for the adoption community we are a part of, where we can email a prayer request and KNOW it will be prayed for by many, many families.

7. We are thankful for a family that demonstrates grace and forgiveness.

8. We are thankful for the lessons we have all learned this past year.

Finally, we are hopeful. We are hopeful that the Ranch will be our child's place of healing. We are hopeful that we can be reunited quickly and completely.

We would appreciate your prayers as we navigate this new journey. We would especially appreciate your prayers for our child. While you pray for our child, please also pray for those little ones out there, who are in circumstances that cause Reactive Attachment Disorder.. I truly believe it is something that makes our Father weep.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ethiopia bound- at least some of us!

In November, Mike, Micah, Kael, Janika and Elli will be traveling with Childrens Hopechest to Ethiopia to work with children at two care-points, Trees-of Glory and Kind Hearts. While at Kind Hearts, they will get to meet the little boy we have sponsored for a year and a half. They are SOO very excited to be able to make this trip and travel with such a neat group.

Janika and Elli are hoping to do a little music time with the kids, but we don't have a travel guitar. If anyone has one and would let them use it for the trip, we would really appreciate it. Also, we will be collecting school supplies for them to take to the children there. So, if you're in Williston or Sheridan and would like to donate, please contact us and let us know.

This trip is the first of many our family hopes to take. It is so exciting that Micah feels ready to go back to Ethiopia and serve. He is such an awesome young man, who is great with kids. We are proud of him and his desire to give back. God has truly blessed us with teenagers who love to love on others. We are thankful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Toby Mac, Kutless and my triplets

I typed the following paragraphs a few days ago, but it didn't upload for some reason..Our kids are had the time of their lives at Camp Electric. Right now they are backpacking with Mike, Leah, Micah KIVU style. The little ones and I are spending some more time in the rv
. By the time we get home, we will have been gone for three weeks, all inside a 32 foot RV. We are ready to be home but God has done some amazing things on this trip, especially with our sweet Gabe. He has come alive and is willing to spend that ever so important snuggle and play time with us.

As I'm typing this, Janika, Kael and Elli are watching Toby Mac and Kutless in concert at Camp Electric. (Mike, the other kids and I are in our RV in a KOA campground having our own kind of fun). This camp is a dream come true for them. They spend 5 days being mentored by Christian artists, in their chosen specialty (Elli- voice, Janika -guitar, and Kael- sound board). Each day the kids will join about 900 other Christian kids in worship, then they have break-out sessions with the artists followed by a concert each night. We are so excited to see how God will use this in each of their lives.
This camp was a well deserved thank you to them for rolling with all the punches thrown at them this year. They have learned so much and handled it all with such grace, often with more than we have. If not for their prodding, we wouldn't have stepped out to adopt our newest kids. Now, it is our greatest delight to hear Leah say, "Mom, I didn't understand who God and Jesus were, but Janika tell me at night in our room." Or Micah telling us, "Kael is my best friend." Then, we see Layne snuggling Elli on our way to camp this morning, with a huge smile on her face, as she feels so loved in Elli's arms.

Last year, we were "cautioned" by many that this adoption would not be fair to our triplets--As I watched them celebrate their thirteenth birthday last week, I was so thankful for the life lessons they have learned this year. It hasn't all been easy, but MOST of it has been filled with joy. We have had, and continue to have struggles with one of our newest children, as this child learns to deal with trauma and learns how to attach. E,J, and K have gained a clear understanding of forgiveness and healing and also a hope for this child's complete healing. They've learned to pray first and they've realized just how very close they are to each other. They've learned valuable communication skills as we walk this road of healing together as a family. They've even been exposed to new career options..Janika is now considering being a child psychologist. We know that God works all things for good, for those called according to HIS purpose and we are seeing that played out each day in our home.

Just a sidenote- we knew to expect God to really do amazing things at Camp Electric, as was evident by the amount of things that went wrong on our way to get here...
1. Our transmission had to be replaced on our "new" RV - it only had 16,000 miles.
2. Mike's credit card got compromised and therefore cancelled on day 2.
3. We ended up staying for 3 days in Rapid City, instead of 1, thanks to the transmission issues and it resulted in some LONG driving hours to get here on time.
4. The potty in the RV was out of commission for awhile while Mike was driving.
5. Our child who is struggling, really struggled in Rapid City and we wondered if we were going to be able to make this trip--we decided to press on and this child is doing really well now.
6. Our sweet, old Lab, Nick, got really sick when we were at our cabin for the kids's birthday and we had to say good-bye to him after we had been home a few days and a few days before this trip...It was a sad, sad time for all of us, as he was a great, loyal friend to all of us and helped all of our kids through times of grief.

Janika, Ellison and Kael- I take GREAT JOY in being your Mom. I am so proud of you and especially of your hearts. Happy late 13th! I can't wait to hear your stories!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summit Energy Services and a tidal wave

A little over a year ago, we started two big endeavors, the adoption of our newest 4 kids and a new business, Summit Energy Services. I am so proud of the work Mike has done in growing Summit and know that the growth has only come by the grace of God. We are thankful, a year later, that Summit now has 99 employees!! WOW! The new website is up and running, if anyone is interested in checking out what Summit does.

Our newest kids have been home now for almost 11 months. While most of the time, we are running a smooth sailing ship, we did hit a major TIDAL WAVE last week. I hope to blog more about, in an effort, to give other adoptive families some encouragement, but it's too soon. We still have some things to work through. What I can say, though, is that God prepared us and took care of us completely in the midst of some pretty tough stuff. He surrounded us with a support network that is no less than amazing- imagine having a friend I could call and would respond in less than 3 minutes!! Imagine having the ability to hire a "nanny" (thanks, Gretchen) who came the day before the wave hit--imagine having great employees at Summit, so Mike could be at home to support his family. Thank you to all of you who offered support.
We have been reminded of TRUTH by many praying friends. We know the enemy does not want children redeemed. We know he didn't intend for them to be brought up in loving, CHRIST-loving homes. We also know that GOD is bigger than the enemy and His Truth will win. We know that Jesus talks about going after the one lamb, even though 99 stayed with the Shepherd.
Kids do not belong in orphanages!! Even if they appear to be clean and loving, they are still institutions, with people paid to be there- not always people who are there because they love children. Please, church, believe me when I say children are suffering in institutions all over the world- we must do more to protect them. The trauma they suffer, when not in a family environment can be overwhelming. I don't believe it is God's plan at all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Fathers Day and Happy Anniversary!

Father's Day weekend is so fun at our home. Not only did the kids get to dote on their Daddy, but we got to celebrate our 17th anniversary this weekend!! I am so blessed to call Mike my husband and Daddy to our kids. I know without a doubt that he was meant to be a Daddy to many. Here are a few highlights to our past week:

1. Mike and I got to escape for an early anniversary trip to Regina, Canada last weekend- we had a blast, eating out, sleeping in, ordering room service, going for long walks and taking in a Patsy Cline Theater production. I can't remember a better weekend in all our years together.

2. We bought an RV- an older one with the bunk over the driver's seats- but an RV none the less. And YES- all of the kids fit into it and can sleep into it. We are all looking forward to our big summer trip now. We tested it out by driving it to Minot yesterday and the kids have all slept in it now at least one night. So- all you Nashville friends, we are now ready to see you next month!!!

3. I got to watch my husband mentor Kael and Micah in some home remodeling. He is an amazing, patient teacher when it comes to learning about tools- My boys had such a fun time tearing down walls and working hard side by side with him.

4. I watched, again, in awe, as my husband spent time with each one of his daughters- they are all Daddy's girls (which I am thankful for). I love seeing their faces light up when he tells them how beautiful they are. He is setting the bar high for any young suitors!

5. The kids made a huge breakfast this morning for Mike, as we were out on a walk. He came home to 11 handmade cards, pancakes, bacon and all the fixings-LB even found some fun stars to put up in the living room, she was SO excited to show her Daddy how much she loved him. Breakfast was followed by an awesome family worship time...what a great day!

6. We realized that in less than 2 weeks we will have 4 13 year olds in the house. While some have warned us about the teenage years, we are so excited to watch our kids grow. Even when there are bumps in the road, we wouldn't trade being their parents for any other experience. We are blessed.

For those of you praying specifically for our family, thank you. I heard on KLOVE the other day, that bringing in adopted children is no different than going into the mission field. Most churches support missionaries but few churches come alongside adoptive families. We are blessed to have many Christians in Williston who do come alongside us and an incredible YG aunties group that we can take prayer requests to. While we don't always post prayer requests here, know that any prayers for our family are appreciated. We still have bumps in the road but know God's grace is sufficient in all circumstances. Would we choose these children again? ABSOLUTELY!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two years home with Gavin

This week marks the two year anniversary of Gavin being HOME. It seems like yesterday when we were at the Transition Home and this adorable, skinny, terrified little boy was brought out to us. Gavin really had no idea what was going on, as he didn't speak the same language as the staff in Addis. He just knew that we showed up, covered him with kisses, played with him and gave him things. (His eyesight was so poor, he didn't recognize us from the pictures we had sent). However, as soon as his DADDY put him on his shoulders and ran around with him, Gavin's smile he is rarely without a smile.

Gavin, I am SO PROUD to be your Mommy. You teach us all so much everyday- like tackling each new task with a smile and a "can do" attitude and always seeing the best in people. My son does not judge people and makes friends with everyone he meets. He doesn't understand the injustices of the world, but hopes one day to play a big part in making some of them right. My boy is STRONG, athletic, FUNNY, smart, a snuggler-- an enormous blessing to all of us. He loves Jesus and hopes to take Jesus' love beyond our small town.

Through Gavin, our hearts and lives have expanded. We now consider his Ethiopian friends' family our family. Because of our love for him, we pursued our next four children. And through him, we get to view the world through the type of lens that Jesus intended..loving other people without any prejudices. Thank you, Gavin for being such a neat boy! We all love you very much!! Thank you God for bringing this precious boy to us!

I will try to post pictures next week- we still haven't transferred any over from the other computer, but I'd love to share my boy's sweet smile with everyone.

Monday, May 30, 2011


This Memorial Day Weekend took a little bit of a different twist. It's been pouring rain, which is not conducive to barbecues and camping. However, this is exactly what we needed to explain what the weekend is all about. We have had such fun (and few tears from Mom and Dad) as we describe the sacrifices of so many men and women to ensure our freedoms and freedom for others in the world.

Freedom takes on a whole new meaning when you've lived in another country, one where you were afraid of your neighbors of a different religion, one where because you were orphaned, you were treated like garbage, or one where you feared not having another meal. To be proud to be an American is an understatement for all of our kids.

We have watched Seargent York - love it- A League of Grateful Sons (vision forum documentary on veterans returning to Iwo Jima to tell the stories of the battle to their children and grandchildren) and another Vision Forum documentary on WWII. We have talked about HONOR and what it means to be an honorable man, who believes in women and children first.

We must not forget the sacrifices of those who have served and are currently serving to keep our country what it is. We must remember what it means to be an honorable man, a courageous man, who believes in God's Providence. Thank you to anyone reading who has served our country. I would count it a great honor if one of our sons followed in their Daddy's footsteps and served in our military.

Thank you Mike for teaching our family...thank you for your service, your love of God and country.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More information

Two days ago, I found out that some of our good friends are dealing with people leaving our homechurch because their daughter has HIV. I am still processing through how anyone in this day of technology can be afraid of a child with HIV. If you happen to fall into this category of people, who think that a child with HIV poses a health risk to you or your children, please do some searching-- start with Project Hopeful. They have a wealth of information on HIV, how it's transmitted, how IT'S NOT TRANSMITTED and just how important it is for us, the CHURCH to embrace the little ones affected by this virus.

Over the past 2 years, we have met so many beautiful children, who contracted HIV from their birth moms. If I didn't know from their families that these children had HIV, I would have no way of knowing. These children are like any other child, fun, joyful, full of love and in NEED of love. These children have experienced more loss than we can ever imagine, often seeing their birth families ostracized in their countries of origin.
In countries, outside the US, most people don't have access to the medicines we do here. I can't imagine a mother's grief of passing this virus on to their child, or in their decision making, while they continue to get sicker themselves, of realizing they need to find their child a new family before they die. You see, this is a decision that isn't taken lightly by birth families or by adoptive families. THE CHILD HAD NO CHOICE IN ANY OF THIS. We, however, as Christians, do have a choice in how we respond when we learn a child has HIV.

HIV is not contracted through casual contact, INCLUDING coughing and sneezing, sharing a pencil or a playground ball...there is no way your child could contract HIV at church or school from a child who has HIV. Imagine how God can use a child who came from darkness and fear and was LOVED by the CHURCH for who that child is in God's eyes!! Walking in the light is the beginning of this process. Please people, don't walk in fear...walk in love.

There are millions of orphans waiting for homes...and there are some who have found homes who need to be loved by those in their communities.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A beautiful child


Clicking on the words links above will take you to my friend, Kristi's blog post. (and if any of you bloggers out there can leave me a comment on how to do this better- I would appreciate it) It will(should) break your heart- take a peek at her beautiful girls from Ethiopia at the top of her blog then imagine if they were your children. Dale and Kristi, thank you for standing up and being bold!! We love you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Quick update

I realized this weekend that I had posted a couple of times about one of my children dealing with attachment disorder without any updates on this child's status. I am thrilled to say, that even though we have a ways to go, this child is doing amazingly well and many of our toughest issues have been ironed out. This child is more confident, reaching out to others in appropriate ways and working on our relationship every day.

We had a great weekend with our last official track meet for the biggest 4 kids. It was super fun to hear the announcer say, "Sweeney" over and over again. I bet he was a little confused with so many Sweeneys in the 7th grade of the kids ran faster times than earlier in the season so it was definitely a positive end to a long long season(all but 3 track meets got cancelled because of the weather, so the kids trained from the end of February until this weekend with only 3 official races...that makes for a long season). Gavin is pretty sure he wants to try pole vaulting when he's bigger, after watching our neighbor take first at the meet.

Should be a busy, fun week as we work to wind up school and rearrange the house for a cousin who is coming to live with us for the summer and work for Mike.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bring our Children Home

Love this song by our friend Cindy Foote. Billy and Cindy are waiting for their sweet daughter to come home from Haiti. We also have several friends waiting for their children to come home from Ethiopia. After you hear this song, please pray for these children to come home quickly!

Cindy's new CD releases on May 23! Thanks for using your gift of music to bless orphans everywhere Cindy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Questions answered

I read the following blog post on another Mom's blog and asked her for permission to reprint it here. Our families have walked similar journeys, adopting one child and then returning for 4 more children in Ethiopia. Thank you, Tracy for letting me share this! You are a blessing to me!

Adoption PSA--If you know anyone who is adopted, PLEASE READ

I wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 8:12

Adopted kids face more challenges than I could even begin to tell you and would never do so on the internet anyway. People are always asking questions about them....their origins?... ...why we went searching for them to graft into our family? did they become orphans? they miss their old country?...and on and on.

There are questions that come up that I've never even thought of to ask. I'm thrilled that people are curious about adoption. I love that you want to know about the suffering in the world, the 163 million souls who long to be cherished and wanted, the reason we sought after them in the first place, how they have adjusted, obstacles that they have overcome.....

Most of the time I welcome these questions because it
opens the door to share about Jesus.
After all it is ALL about Him.

My kids genuinely do have a broken heart for those left behind and they do want them ALL to have families.
Sometimes I just want to ask the curious questioner---
"Do you really want to be educated, or are you just wanting to share your uninformed opinion with me, their mom."
But, even worse, is when the curious questioner approaches the children without my covering and speaks to them directly. I'm not at all questioning anyone's motives, just informing them that, in their ignorance, they are being used as a tool of Satan to plant doubt and mistrust into the mind of a child.

"but whoever causes one of theses little ones who believes in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6

Orphans are serious to God--those who have been redeemed have an incredible call and purpose in their lives and the enemy is continually out to cause them to stumble.
So, since we all have questions---
Here is a small dose of enlightenment---simple facts that can shine light on some of the wonderings about adopted kids, mine are from Africa, but it could apply to anywhere:

1. They do not know when they were born. Our attorney in Ethiopia doesn't even have a birth certificate and therefore, is uncertain of his exact age. Before leaving Ethiopia the child is examined by a doctor, a birthdate is chosen and a birth certificate is issued. When children arrive home, their parents take them to the pediatrician and the dentist to determine their exact year of birth. Dental x-rays and bone scans aid in setting the year of birth.

When a child who has suffered from extreme malnutrition all his life is given consistent nutrition, if that child is anywhere near adolescence in age, then their bodies are jump started into puberty. This is sad because we all know that when a child enters puberty too early, it means that their bodies will soon cease to grow in height, thereby failing to reach their genetically predetermined height. Ethiopians are designed by God to be tall people--..."from a people tall and smooth-skinned..." Isaiah 18:7

This is yet another tragedy of the effects of poverty on human potential.
Please keep this in mind before you say to a child,"You look way too tall to be ____ years old!" or consequently, "Are you sure you're old enough to go to kindergarten?" Those are the nicest comments that I can print. Do not ever question a child's birthday.

2. They do not see things through the same lens as a child born into the affluence and ease of America. They hear and see most things in the negative sense. It is simply a survival skill.

3. They have eyes on the back of their heads and supersonic hearing.

4. They are tough as nails physically, and delicate as a butterfly emotionally.

5. It is essential that they understand that they are equal in relation to every other child in their family. So--- please--- if you want to know which ones are "blood related" please understand that everyone in our family has the same blood type---Alpha-Omega!

6. They do not want to entertain you by speaking in their native language.

7. If you are a teacher, Sunday school teacher, coach, etc., please do not ask them about their lives in Ethiopia. They don't want to talk about it, especially in front of the class or team.

8. If you want to know why they run fast, ask me-- just not in front of the kids.

9. They didn't all play soccer in Africa.

10. They are not "lucky to be here" --this is their destiny.

Thank you, thank you for understanding. In addition, please understand that THESE ARE MY CHILDREN!!! I'm not doing them a favor by being their mother. There seems to be a temptation to compare adopted children to someone you helped once down at the shelter, or somehow being an option for you to serve as part of community service work for school credit. This is not the case. I'm so very thankful for everyone who helps anyone in anyway, and maybe adoptive families have contributed to that idea by raising money for adoptions and championing the huge need. It is a double-edged sword. But, the aforementioned attitude is destructive to adoptive families.

"They will not toil in vain, or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them. "

Isaiah 65:23

Friday, May 6, 2011

A funny story

Last night, during dinner, one of my boys said, "I'm going to find someone to marry me that doesn't like to kiss. We'll just shake hands. I'll have the pastor say, "Now you may shake the hand of your wife." Then, we'll go to Ethiopia and adopt our kids."

Apparently, he knows more about the birds and the bees than I thought.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some storm pictures

I wanted to share a couple of pictures from last weekend's storm. It's hard to believe it will be 65 degrees today- just a few days after this hit. The downed fence allowed my dogs to
have a grand adventure in the middle of the blizzard.

Please continue to pray for our community. Several of our friends still have flooding issues in their basements. There were over 300 downed power lines (some we saw snapped in half) leading into Williston and it is a muddy mess to get to them to fix them. The local Albertsons lost over $80,000 worth of milk and meat products. It is so sad to watch the employees pull out cart after cart of ruined products to be dumped.

We are so thankful that none of our friends were hurt.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finally- we have power

Today, was a great day!! We were finally able to finalize the kids's adoptions. It was a real treat to drive over to Minot for the court hearing, because we have been living without power since 4 a.m. Saturday morning. We arrived home from Minot and had power about 2 hours later.

Apparently, the blizzard we had Friday night through Saturday night didn't make the national news but it certainly disrupted life her in Northwest North Dakota. The wind Friday night blew so hard that I couldn't sleep in our upstairs room. About 4 am Saturday I woke up when the power went out. We began bailing out our sump pump about 1/2 hour later. Thankfully, we received a generator by about 6 a.m. and it began running full time until 8 tonight. It was so nice to not worry about flooding, like a lot of Williston did. We did have to contend with a downed fence (in four spots) and roofing materials flying all over (we had just had a contractor start a roofing project on the house- winter should have been over, right?) As the storm cleared and we were able to walk around, we saw family after family bringing wet carpet out of their basements. I believe only one gas station was open today and the line was unreal..The grocery stores, which were closed for 2 days, began to reopen as well.

We had a great time sharing meals with out next door neighbors. If you want to see some pictures before I can post them, check out the Williston Herald online addition and please keep our community in your prayers as it gets back to work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What a weekend!

We just got back from a whirlwind trip to St. Paul to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephews. What a great weekend! This was the first time our newest kids had met my sister's family. After the long car ride (11 hours), I was a bit nervous, but we just had the best time. Saturday, we hit the Mall of America for about 8 hours of fun. Janika and Elli turned out to the wildest Sweeneys on the big rides- everyone else tried several rides too. We hit the aquarium and 18 holes of miniature golf before stumbling back to Brenda's house. Thank you, Brenda and Greg for making our kids truly feel like part of the family. We love you and appreciate you!

Sunday was another special treat- we got to celebrate Easter Sunday with some good friends, the Korsons. We met the Korsons through Gavin's adoption. Their kids were at the Transition Home when we picked up Gavin and Elli fell in love with their oldest daughter. We were able to connect on our yahoo group once we got home and have kept in loose touch ever since. When we were in the Cities last year, we were able to meet up with them for dinner at which time we found out that their daughter was good friends with our newest children, having spent time in the same orphanage. I am so amazed that we were able to worship together, with all of our children together, in the same church, after spending so many months together in an orphanage half way across the world. We received so many hints from them, before bringing our older children home and are so appreciative of all of their advice, from communication, to school resources. Our God is so good.
I will try to post pictures tomorrow-after a trip to Dickinson for a track meet...never a dull moment and for that I am thankful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Look who's six!!

I can't believe it~~ yesterday, my baby girl turned six. I am so thankful that 6 years ago, my LB came into the world. I'm so thankful that God orchestrated for us to become foster parents and bring her home 3 weeks after she was born..this child is a blessing. She has taught us about love and joy and trusting God. She brings a smile to everyone's face, hugs to those who don't really like hugs and healing to hearts that are hurt. She brings JOY to this Mommy and Daddy who love to watch her grow and develop. She loves well and is WELL LOVED.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April One!

I know this post is a bit late, but we are still having fun with April Fools Day at our house. Our newest 4 had never had a day where pranks were allowed all day. Janika started out the day with two bowls of cereal and milk that she had frozen in the freezer the night before. She was successful in getting Leah, then Hallie, then Micah and Gabe with the two bowls. It was hilarious!! We explained April Fools Day again and it was non-stop laughter all day. Layne and Gabe even tried to tie Mike's feet together when he fell asleep on the couch.

All day long, we heard laughter, then "APRIL ONE!!" So, part of our laughter was explaining that we say "April Fools" instead of "April One." As night finally came to our first day of April, Micah asked if we could have April One everyday...Now, instead of hearing "April One" we hear laughter and "April Three!!" or "April Five" I guess it's helping everyone learn what day it is! I wonder what we'll do when May rolls around.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Dance

Life with a child with attachment issues is like a country two-step, two steps forward, one step back. Fortunately, we are ALL learning on a daily basis what love looks like and our dance seems to be moving forward more quickly than backward. I hope soon to be doing a line dance, where we all are moving with the same movements.

Again, as I talk about these issues, I want to be very careful not to identify the child, because I believe these issues won't always be here and I certainly don't want the child defined by this season of life. So, as impersonal as it sounds, I will be referring to the child as "it". The reason for blogging about our experiences is to help and encourage other families and help equip some that may need equipping.

Here are a few more pearls that seem to be working.

1. Leotard- When I used to work with kids with sensory issues, I would often have their parents get a tight spandex shirt or a leotard for the child to wear. The leotard has to be a little tight and small...This helps the child feel more comfortable in their skin. It's kind of like getting a hug all day long. We all know when our child has the leotard on and when the child doesn't. It's that effective. Now, we make sure we always have one clean and handy, in case one gets dirty or wet.

2. Reading facial expressions Again, I can look back on my experience with kids who have difficulty reading facial expressions to know that my child really doesn't read my face most of the time. The song, If You're Happy and you Know it" has played a good role in overcoming this. We are able to talk all the time about what a face should look like around family.

3. Not jumping to conclusions My child was able to tell me yesterday that I wasn't the target of the anger- there was an internal anger based on it's own actions. The child was mad at itself for not acting the way we all wanted.

4. Finally, this is not attachment related but is a pearl for language development. We are seeing HUGE improvements in reading and spoken language with the use of singing nursery rhymes. My kids have to follow along with their fingers the first time through and then are able to act out the songs the second time through. They are doing great! They are reading all kinds of new words because they're hearing them in the songs.

I know, without a doubt that God put this child in our home for a reason. I know without a doubt that my past experiences working with kids with sensory issues was for this exact time and place. I know without a doubt that God is faithful. It was evident in the love note I received from my child this morning...God is good. all the time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tell us about your town

My bigger kids are doing an overview of World History this year. Next year, we will be doing an in depth U.S. History course. In preparation, we are talking a lot about US geography but we need some help. If there still are blog readers out there, can you leave us comments on the following:
1. Where you live
2. the size of town you live in
3. your local weather (seasonal averages) including days of sunshine
4. Is your state/city homeschool friendly (can homeschoolers participate in public school or private school activities?)
5. Would you recommend your city/town as a place to raise kids? If so, what activities do your kids take part in?

I think that about sums it up. We would love lots and lots of comments. It really is a fun way to study geography (all the new kids know where all the 50 states are but learning about them in a more personal way would help us all)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A few pearls

Boy, have we ever been learning a lot these past few weeks about helping a wounded heart heal. We certainly aren't perfect parents, but feel blessed to have a community of help out there to make suggestions to us. The following has worked well here and peace has returned to our house. More importantly, this child's smile has returned...

1.Take yourself out of the discipline decisions- I now have a cup with different jobs in it, like "clean out the refrigerator" or "sweep the floors of the bathrooms". The child, who has misbehaved, then reaches into the cup to take the desired chore. This takes me completely out of the discipline and it WORKS!!! I then choose a similar job close to the child to do, so we're close to each other and by the end of us getting our jobs done, the child is usually happy and talking...WHEW!!!

2. Kids with attachment issues may have to learn from someone else. As a homeschool Mom this was the hardest decision to make. It seems so counterintuitive, when a child is dealing with attachment, to not have them close to me. I LOVE having my kids home with me each day, but this child in particular, was struggling with learning from me and then allowing me to be the Mommy. We now have a plan in place that the child learns from someone else 2 hours/day and comes home READY to accept my hugs, my teaching (still doing math at home) and all interactions have been so positive.

3. I constantly tell myself, "God loves and created this child." WOW, what a difference an attitude adjustment on my part makes.

4. Diet-We've eliminated almost all sugar from the diet and are focusing on excellent nutrition. We love our Juice Plus supplements, daily fish oil (see below), natural antifungals and LOTS OF YOGURT. I have read so many articles by people much smarter than me about nutrition and its role in helping kids heal. Our physician here recommended a book to me called, "Sugars that Heal." I am a firm believer in the value of nutrition in all kids and especially in kids who have been malnurished. (Gabe, Hallie and Micah have all grown 4.5 inches since August) Our grocery/supplement bill might be up a bit, but our trips to the MD have been few and far between.

5. Nightly family prayer time. We spend about 15 minutes every night talking about our day and praying together as a family. This has been a huge help in bringing us closer together. I've heard "You can't pray for someone and be mad at them." I believe it's true and it's an amazing gift to hear my kids thank God for each other and truly lift each other up each night. I wish everyone who ever questioned, "What will this do to your biological kids?" could hear them pray for their siblings each night. What this adoption has done is grow us, stretch us and increase our capacity to love.

6. The Yes Ma'am chart. I love Michelle Duggar. Mike and I watch the Duggars each week to learn helpful parenting tips. In her book, Michelle talks about the importance of a joyful attitude when a child is given a task to do for Mom. She expects her kids to answer with "Yes Ma'am" or "Yes Ma'am, I'd be happy to." We have started a Yes Ma'am chart here (or Yes Sir, if It's Mike doing the asking). It is amazing how quickly we've seen kids say those words after a request is made. It can be as simple as, "Please hurry and get your coat on." When they say "Yes Ma'am", I know they actually heard me and I'm doing a lot less repeating. I LOVE polite kids and this has REALLY helped around our home.

My kids BEG to take the fish oils shown above- it is so important for all of them, especially my 5 from ET, who missed out on years of essential fatty acids, but all of us need these important oils. We like the Mango Peach the best and it can be ordered on or IT!

This picture doesn't show it very well, but my husband designed this boot/glove/hat dryer when we went skiing in Bozeman in February. (He actually built it in our hotel room, after a quick run to Home Depot) It is usually heard running every afternoon, after the kids have their outside play time. It can hold ALL of their gloves at once and even has valves to close off different parts if they're not needed...pretty cool, isn't it?

I couldn't resist putting in a picture of Dixie, after she ran in the wet snow last week. These snowballs, do not come off and get pretty painful for her so she gets a few extra baths in the winter, to get them off...Yes, we still have snow..No, we haven't seen our grass since November...but the oil work continues to grow and grow and grow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Our Eyes Opened: Kirill's Story

Our Eyes Opened: Kirill's Story

Please read this story and pray for this family.

Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Prov. 24:12

Friday, March 25, 2011

Urgent prayers and support needed for Webit

Friends- I received this email from Karen Wistrom last night. Karen is the coordinator for both Kind Hearts (where our sponsor child goes to school ) and Trees of Glory. These are two carepoints that Childrens Hopechest sponsors in Ethiopia. Please read her email and respond.
Anything in color, I have added for emphasis.
You can see pictures of Webit on Karen's blog.

Dear Trees of Glory sponsor families -

I got an urgent email from Children's Hopechest today about a 7 year old little girl at Trees of Glory named Webit. She is sponsored by Laura and Charlie Herwehe, who had the privilege of meeting Webit in January when they travelled to Ethiopia to adopt their son.

When Laura and Charlie first met Webit, their joy quickly turned to concern as they noticed that Webit was limping and was in considerable pain. Even though Webit was excited and happy to meet her sponsor family, she could not hide her pain and she whimpered and cried during their meeting.

The Herwehe's inquired about her situation and found out that Webit has a leg deformity, but she recently had gotten a sore on her foot that had become infected. It was treated by the witch doctor (all 5 of my ET kiddos have been treated by witch doctors, with burning rituals for a variety of things and have even seen the soft spot on babies' head burned to "close it") in her village, which had caused even more inflammation and it seemed the infection was spreading up her leg rendering her barely able to walk. Webit's sister had carried her on her back to the care-point that day, so she could meet her sponsor family.

Click HERE to read Laura's blog post about that meeting.

As soon as Laura and Charlie got home, they contacted me and Children's Hopechest. Since then, Hopechest has been navigating the complex process of getting treatment for Webit's injuries and illness. Because her family is too poor to pay for treatment, Hopechest had to show that they could acquire funding for her care. Webit's family then had to get several stamps and approvals and paperwork to refer her for treatment at a clinic in Addis. Once she was seen there, the doctor diagnosed a type of cancer that had caused the original deformity which made her susceptible to infection. Hopechest and the staff in Ethiopia have been working on getting her admitted to the hospital for treatment - and today Webit took a turn for the worse.

Her medical card had just been appoved and she has now been admitted to the Black Lion Medical Hospital in Ethiopia and will be seen by her original doctor tomorrow.

I am sending this email to all sponsors at Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts because your urgent intercessory prayer is needed for healing and comfort for this precious little girl and her family. Please pray for wisdom and discernment for her doctor as he makes decisions for her immediate treatment. I wish we had more details about her condition, her treatment and her prognosis. I will keep you informed as we get information from Ethiopia.

In addition to your prayers, the family is in need of funds to pay for her hospitalization and treatment. We have set up a fund at Children's Hopechest and have asked the hospital to provide for her care and treatment - having faith that the funds would be available when they are needed.

Please go to the Hopechest website at and click on GIVE.
Under "Choose a Fund", specify DESIGNATED GIFT
Enter the 9 digit account code ET2119000
In the notes area, specify MEDICAL

Please spread the word to your friends and family so that we can raise these funds immediately. And please pray for Webit Bekele .

I will have information and photos on my blog later this evening. A photo of Webit is attached along with a photo of Webit with the Herwehe family.

Thank you for your prayers and your committment to the kids at Trees of Glory and especially for Webit!

Warm regards, Karen Wistrom
Sponsor coordinator, Ethiopia



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One Less

Love this!! Wouldn't you like to help a child be ONE LESS? You'll be forever thankful that you did!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Gavin

Two years ago, our Gavin made the trip of a lifetime, from his native village of Bench Maji, to an orphanage, and then our agency's transition home. At the same time, we were on our Quest for Gavin, not knowing who he was, or how old he was. We are so PROUD to call him our son! This "little dude" brings such joy to our home. He said this morning, "Mom, I just can't seem to take my smile off."

Gavin's birthday cake was another creation from his siblings, this time with fondant soccer players (Gavin and Layne) and an entire soccer scheme- I love how creative my kids are and that I can just say, "Go for it." and it gets done.

The gifts for Gavin were very personal as well. Janika purchased a dog trick book, for them to teach the dogs together. Kael chose a mitt, so the two of them can play catch together and Gabe chose a General Grevis character from Star Wars. I keep expecting to hear one of the boys scream from the basement as someone puts it in someone else's bed at night, but they've been so worn out with the improved weather that it's been pretty quiet at bedtime. Mom and Dad gave him a lego Star Wars kit and guess what, his best buddy from Ethiopia got the same gift from his family!!! They had a lot to talk about today on the phone.

We have learned a lot this week too about different parenting techniques to use with children from hard places. We are so thankful to be surrounded by wise counsel and prayer warriors here, whom I can call and say, "Please pray for my child." After meeting with a seasoned teacher, here in town, we came away with "zip our lips." This concept is really hard for me, especially, as I want to talk with the child about the behaviors and the steps to overcome certain things. What the kids really need is for me to zip my lips and move on, then delay the consequence, so the outcome is not always predictable. When we are all calm, the child can have a good little talk about the said behaviors. These ideas are not rocket science, but sometimes, it takes an outside source to see the whole picture. Thank you, my prayer warriors. We know God answers prayers and it is so fun to see little hearts healing and peace in our home.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

God’s Gift to Me

God’s Gift to Me (a guest post by my dad) | Whipple Words

THIS IS A WOW GOD READ!!! I couldn't not link this blog post. If it doesn't work to click on the link above, scroll down to my blog list and click on Whipple Words. Thanks, Janet and family for sharing this story!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Prayers needed for Ethiopia

I've been on several blogs this weekend that talk about the Ethiopian government reducing adoptions by 90%. My first reaction was WHAT?!!! I'm still kind of in that frame of mind, but know too that this is a call to action. It is a call for Christians to help with ORPHAN CARE, even if adoptions cease (which I PRAY is never the case). Orphan care can look so very different for different people: It might mean taking a missions trip to carry shoes to orphaned children. It could mean sponsoring a child (or 20) so they get the nourishment and schooling they need. Orphan care could be investing in water projects to provide clean water to communities, thus allowing children to not lose parents to water borne diseases that could have been prevented. We could invest in mosquito netting and good malarial drugs (this may have prevented 4 of my children from becoming orphaned).

The truth is, we can all do something and we MUST. I wish everyone could see what we've seen and know what we know, but that's why our family continues to write this blog and tell others- WE MUST ADVOCATE for the orphan.

Is Ethiopia the only country with this problem- no! If you speak Spanish and love kids- there are plenty of Spanish speaking orphans who need people to come to them, serve them and love on them.

Finally, we understand that in adoptions, coruption exists. I personally believe that corruption would be less rampant if more people would really examine their hearts and seek God's will for their adoptions. Would less corruption exist if more older kids were adopted? Would putting an emphasis on the older orphan limit the number of infants placed into the system who could have been parented by their parent of birth? Most of the older children that we know have been waiting for a long time, sometimes years. Sure, there is a little extra baggage, but most of these children are truly orphans, in desperate need for a home.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time away..

Our much anticipated Costco rebate coupon showed up in the mail on Thursday. To some, this might not seem like a big deal, but when you use your AMEX to purchase all of those plane tickets (9 total) and purchase your new business purchases with (and paid off each month), the rebate coupon adds up to alot!! Unfortunately, now that we live in ND, the nearest Costco is 5 hours away.

Friday afternoon, Mike and I hopped in his truck(pulling a trailer) and hit the road for Billings for a very rare night away. We had a great young lady stay with our kids here. We felt a bit like young marrieds, without kids in tow and LOVED our time together, time to enjoy each other, pray together and laugh together. Everything went super smooth until about 8:00 Friday night. Mike and I had just gotten back to the hotel after presaling Costco and got a call from Elli describing her littlest sister throwing up in her hands. Little L threw up not once, but 3 times~~~ this is NOT a common occurrance, since she had a NIssen when she was a baby and can't really throw up unless it's pretty violent~~ My Mommy's heart hurt, knowing that she was sick at home but was relieved to know that Elli, the other kids, and our helper knew how to help her. She probably couldn't have been in better hands. ~~ HUGE plus to homeschooling, all of the kids really know each other and know how to pitch in when someone else needs the help!!!

Saturday started with another phone call telling us she was feeling a bit better and she actually talked to me on the phone, which was reassuring...Then, it was off to Costco. Mike and I are used to lots of stares when we go out in public, but that's because of our large family size, not because we have two overflowing shopping carts between us- Mike's was actually the big flat bed kind...I had to laugh as we got into the check-out line and I saw all of the papertowels, napkins, toilet paper and SALSA in the carts. I'm sure the check-out guy was wishing we had gone through another line..the best part was we got a bunch back after we were finished!! BONUS!!

Little L was much better by the time we got home and all of the kids were thrilled we were home, especially little L and our little one who has struggled these past few weeks. Mike and I were both pretty well rested and refreshed and ready to dive back in. I was reminded how much I LOVE this man and our time together. THANK YOU MJ for staying with our kids and remaining calm when my sweet baby was sick. THANK YOU big kids for all of our your help and your great attitudes about Mommy and Daddy taking a date. Even though we had a great time, we were definitely happy to be home with EVERYONE. We LOVE THIS FAMILY!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bench Maji

Yesterday, we received the greatest gift for our son, Gavin. Back in late 2010, one of the Dads to one of his friends traveled to Ethiopia to try and find the village our children are from. It was a tough trip and when it looked hopeless, God led him directly to Bench Maji, the most remote village out of 3500 villages in the southern region of Ethiopia. He was able to spend time with Gavin's family, taking videos and pictures...

Last night, as a family, we watched the videos and viewed the pictures together- WOW, what a beautiful place he is from, lush green grash, banana trees everywhere, grass and mud huts and beautiful people. We had a video of Gavin's uncle explaining his early years and how he came to be put up for adoption. The love that he has for our son was evident in his face when he talked about him and saw pictures of him. We have video of the inside of the home he spent the first few years of his life in!! I think the highlight for us all was when the Ethiopian pastor, who acted as a translator said, "Bench is the most remote village here and now we have 5 children from our village in America. " They are thrilled for their children and hope for great things from them. We hope to be able to make the same trip someday soon. We are so very thankful ~what an amazing gift for our son to have for the rest of his life.

I won't share Gavin's story, but thought everyone might want to take a peek at some of the area of Bench Maji...

This is Gavin's house

These beautiful people are his grandparents