Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You just NEVER know...

Funny how things can come full circle.
I am in awe of people who believe in sheer consequences. To me, it makes so much more sense to believe that God is in control of all this craziness... especially when you see - in hindsight - a fun or even amazing plan unfolded!

For those of you who know me, it is not surprising to know that I really do not like Wal-Mart. I have tried to figure out - honestly - why? I could say it is a matter of principle and it is about fair trade and how a giant retailer creates a negative environment from the most basic, third world laborer to the middle man supplier or even to treatment of the store employees right here in the good ole USA. I get all that - I really do....but it's not that complicated. It donned on me recently: I just think people should be NICE! Gosh darn - especially if they are dealing with me, the PAYING CUSTOMER!

Given the choice, I will choose to shop at Target...just tends to be a more civilized least in my neck of the woods. However, there are times when Wal-Mart is more convenient and has what I "need." I will say, though, I have my limits. My sisters-in-law suggested one year, on Black Friday, that we be at Wal-Mart when the doors opened at 4 AM! Ummm, NO! I had them pick me up around 6 am, when they were done with that insanity and on their way to the next open-way-too-early store.

I will shamelessly admit I am rather proud of the fact that I boycotted Wal-Mart for over a year not too long ago. However, I am now not all that proud of the reason WHY. I went to return some excess craft items I purchased for a classroom Halloween party. The lady at the Customer Service desk (oh my - there's an oxymoron) was rude. She did not say a single word to me and had a sour expression the entire time. Her silence was a challenge to me and I attempted to get her to crack  - and MAYBE be nice - but AT THE VERY LEAST speak to me. She never did. WOW...that really threw me for a loop. I got to my car and called the phone number on my receipt. I asked for the manager and unemotionally told him how disappointed I was with the way I was treated.

Wait! I have to throw in an important tidbit here...I try real hard to call store managers when I have a positive experience - especially when an employee goes above and beyond what is expected. Heck, I have called about a couple delightful Wal-Mart employees AND I recently gave the DMV a glowing report!! It is our nature to QUICKLY I consciously try to COMPLIMENT, too!

Back to Wal-Mart....
The manager listened to my complaint and assured me he would speak to the lady at the returns desk. Obligatory, I am sure. I was polite to him - but - I had to admit to him...I really was not going to shop there anymore. Like he cared, right? As if he believed me? Not likely. If not, he was over 1 year wrong.

Fast forward 2 or 3 years...
I am working at a church and a woman I know briefly comes on staff at one of our campuses. She is delightful and inspiring and supportive and one of THE MOST LOVING people I know! I simply adore her and treasure every single moment I am in her presence. She is someone I want to live next door to when I get to heaven. (Are you catching on to how much I love her?!)

To make her even MORE wonderful, in her previous life, she was a professional hairdresser who now cuts hair in her home one day a week. With so many kids, that is a savings opportunity I am totally all about. PLUS, I get to hang out with her that much more!

Here's the DRUM ROLL part......
I arrive at her house one lovely Monday for haircuts and I am introduced to her mother. OH just made the connection and I am SO glad this woman has NOT remembered me from the service desk!

C'mon CAN this be?! This woman could not possibly have raised this GOLDEN CHILD?! My heart sinks with realization as I acknowledge enough physical resemblance that I dismiss any crazy notion of questioning the genetics.

I am polite & friendly & in a state of shock that I am hopefully concealing.

I find out later that these two women have a very strained relationship and it's been rough for quite some time. ( least SOMETHING makes sense - whew!)

Over the past year, this Wal-Mart lady (actual identity unrevealed!) through her wonderful daughter has supported us in adoption & missions trip fundraising. God is so cool~ He has seen fit to humble me and give me a natural, comfortable...even delightful...relationship with this woman. Yup...the same lady who single-handedly got me to swear off Wal-Mart for over a year.

I often run into her at her daughter's house and she seems excited to see me. She works in the photo lab now at Wal-Mart and has printed several photos of our foster kids when I am sending them to their bio moms. She is actually sweet to me!

The bottom line? I have been able to love on this MOM for her daughter...and her daughter claims SHE, herself, is blessed by that. (I get paid in take-your breath-away squeezin' hugs!)

Funny how things come full circle: I was in Wal-Mart the other day - right after Christmas - and I saw this mom. I went up to tell her I knew she got a really cool necklace from her daughter's family (she bought it from OUR fundraiser!) and she smiled, turned to me - SHOWED OFF the very necklace I was referring to! - and gave me a big hug!

Never say never!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BEADS, Glorious Beads!

Gorgeous necklaces made by lovely Ugandan women from hand rolled recycled PAPER beads.
Each one - no matter how long - is $20! That price is split between: the beader, Visiting Orphans and US...for Ali's missions trip! Add $1.50 for shipping...unless you are local & I can hand deliver!

TO ORDER ONLINE: Visit, Click on the DONATE button (right column), specify $21.50 and send email to indicating the one you want! Don't forget to include your MAILING address.
LOCALS: I am happy to show you ALL these beauties in person. Just ASK!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Christmas "Letter!"

By grace, we have been blessed & it is an added blessing to be able to share with others.
In 2011, our desire is to offer hope...
right here in Chicago—or even half a world away!
Our prayer is that YOU will join us as we search for what really matters in this life … in an effort to make a REAL difference!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another FUN GIveaway!

Click on THIS: and check it out.
I have a new friend who is stepping out to serve God and love of little ones in Uganda....AND SHE LEAVES TOMORROW! To celebrate her departure, she is giving away three beautiful necklaces...all made of hand rolled PAPER beads. If you have not seen these, you will be amazed. I have more than one - and they are addictive.
You will also LOVE reading her blog and learning all about her "story!" She has a sponsorship program for the children in Uganda and only $100 a year - a YEAR, not a MONTH - supports one child....and makes a HUGE difference in their lives. YOU just might be there ticket out of a life of poverty...and all for less than $10 a month.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This Giveaway Stuff seems to be contagious...

My friend is getting creative and doing a pretty cool fundraiser. Check it out. Honestly, winning a photo session with her would become a priceless family memory for years to come! I am going back to check out that kid-friendly cookbook for only $5.00. And - having my name on the back of that framed puzzle when they show their adopted daughter who helped out? Hmmmm....pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I have actually started to write this post more than once. I think it just was not happening because I SIMPLY COULD NOT BELIEVE I won a completely free 10 day missions trip to Ethiopia! Here is what I sent to Kari Smalley after my hands finally stopped shaking:
We’re crying and shaking here….and wanting to HUG and KISS that wonderful family who was moved by God to make this possible. My daughter and I are still in shock and my husband – at work – is not believing us. He is logging on to see for himself. Looks like my husband will be staying home with the kids and PROUDLY wearing his MAN UP shirt! I love it!!! (BTW…Carolyn T. is a good friend of mine…and she did not make a peep.) THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for doing this. I would not be going otherwise…in fact…the last of the 3 t-shirts I purchased came out of tight grocery money!

I am one of those people who does not ever REALLY "expect" to win. I was excited to watch the taped drawing because I knew some people who had purchased t-shirts to enter and I hoped I would know at least one of the two winners. Even my kindergarten buddy bought a "Man Up" shirt - I have not seen him since 6th grade - and we joked about how cool it would be if one of us won...incredible if we BOTH won and went together...but I never thought it WOULD happen.
The actual drawing happened over the weekend and the video was supposed to be posted at 9 am the following Tuesday...but, when we opened the computer that morning, it had posted an HOUR EARLY! We nervously watched it...excited, but not expectant.
Two winners drawn and no names we recognized. THEN - THEN! - Kari pulled out a check and said ONLY 4 DAYS before a woman contacted her saying her family wanted to fund a 3rd person for the trip. Way-too-cool!! And JUST 2 DAYS later a check came in that was actually and above the cost of the trip. (There is a 4th trip being given away now through Visiting Orphans!)
As a woman reached into the pile of 573 entries to draw the 3rd and final name, Kari stopped her to mix up the entire pile. I told Ali, "What a bummer if she had her hand on YOUR entry, huh?!" She replied, " could have been YOURS!" I quipped, "Well, at least I would never know."
There was this strange slow motion feeling as Kari read my she sorta stumbled over my hometown...and I saw the look on Carolyn's sweet face. I heard none of the tape after that....because - YES - you really cannot help but scream & cry & shake & laugh all at the same even put your hands out in front of you, then bury your face in your hands in disbelief. Yup - I was totally lookin' like a nutty contestant on the Price Is Right! Glad Bob Barker and his camera crew were NOT there to witness it.
Someone listened to a dream God gave them and made this happen. Someone listened to God's prompting and added a 3rd person. These people and their incredible acts of faith have blessed me and will impact my life in ways I am sure I cannot begin to imagine. I take this sacrificial blessing very seriously. I am humbled and determined to yield myself to be used by God in amazing ways! the way....I did cry my eyes out in the shower because:
During the time leading up to the drawing, Kari kept confidently claiming that God had already CHOSEN who would go...and He had it all planned out...and there was an amazing reason why He had CHOSEN these specific people. That really struck me. And it really rocks my mind even moreso NOW. "CHOSEN?!" Wow, this is even better than being Charlie Bucket!

Here is an excerpt from an email to Kari. (You would not believe the flurry of emails and FB communications since that announcement - crazy fun!) I really feel like God is bringing me back around after walking through some tough stuff. He is faithful!
Oh, my goodness….where to start? This is SUCH a celebration in a long journey of God changing me and refining me and getting me to surrender to Him. I am so at peace with the craziness we are considering as a family right now. Carolyn knows our story. Adoption, disruption, a constant & confusing tug on my heart to go back….riddled with closed doors. We surrendered the dirt of our lives to God and He has been faithful to plant beautiful perennials there….they just keep blooming and they come back bigger, stronger and more gorgeous each time. YOU have blessed me by YOUR faithfulness. I am so! There is no where I want to be except smack dab in the middle of God’s out of this world plan for my life! (Lori 11/2)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Go For It!

I believe that, when God Himself wants you to DO SOMETHING, He opens doors to make it happen. All He needs from YOU is a yielded heart. I want to encourage you to make yourself available to go just about anywhere (well, among 13 countries, for now) for/with Him by joining Visiting Orphans on a missions trip. Below is general - amazing - information about Visiting Orphans. RIGHT NOW, Kari Gibson and Visiting Orphans are working together to GIVE AWAY a free trip to any of the 13 countries. Can you imagine what it would be like to hear YOUR name called out as the winner?! I CAN! It's simply amazing and you might just cry and scream like a crazy game show contestant. Click over to, enter to win a free t-shirt, get your name in the Trip Giveaway (Nov. 11th - right around the corner!) and see if God has chosen to ROCK YOUR WORLD!

Visiting Orphans is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Established in 2005 by America World Adoption Association as a way to further help the orphans of the world. Visiting Orphans works to fulfill the biblical mandate given in James 1:27 of "visiting orphans" in their distress.

Visiting Orphans has conducted many missions trips for churches, schools, and individuals from around the United States to orphanages around the world including China, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Russia and Costa Rica.

Looking ahead, VO's plan of action is to begin mobilizing and working more directly with churches in the United States. While we will still work with individuals and schools in order to bring people to orphans and expose them to the hardships they face, partnerships with churches will drive our expansion and positive impact on orphaned children around the world.

Our Mission: Visiting Orphans works with Christian churches to help raise orphan awareness in the hopes of each orphan experiencing the blessing of family through:

1. Reunification

2. Transitional Services

3. Adoption

If you are part of a church looking to start or expand your orphan ministry we would love to assist you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Lose Your Peace Of Mind

Word For Today with Bob Gass
You will keep him in perfect peace...Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

We lose our peace of mind for four reasons:

1) We try to change the people in our lives. As you grow wiser you begin to realise that you can't change other people, only God can! And He does, when you back off, and love them as they are. This doesn't mean agreeing with everything they do. It means committing to love them regardless, claiming God's promises on their behalf and allowing Him to deal with them His way, in His time and for His glory. The reason you're stressed out may be because you keep trying to do something-about something you can't do anything about!
 2) We try to make things happen when it's not the right time. 'There is a time for everything... ' (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV). If you've raised children you know that one of their chief characteristics is impatience; they can't wait for anything. God wants us to outgrow our childishness so He makes us wait, trust, and mature!
 3) We get upset because we're not progressing fast enough. You can slow down your spiritual growth through neglect, but ultimately, '... We all... are being changed... [by] the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:18 NCV). So learn to enjoy your life while God works on your problems, for you'll always have problems!
4) We push ourselves harder and harder. We do what we think God wants without consulting Him as to what He actually wants, when He wants it, or how He wants it done. As a result we wear ourselves out.

What's the solution? 'You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is [focused] on You, because he trusts in You.'

Golden Promises

"...the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21b
The Lord gave us three healthy children. Then He saw fit to bless us with yet another baby...a baby who would be our last child. But our plan was so small compared to His. The Lord took that baby when he was fully formed and amazingly beautiful...but not able to live apart from his physical bond to me. We were heartbroken, but strangely at peace. We were able to surrender our pain to Him and claim His promises to use it all for His glory - and INDEED He did! Over & over again!
A wonderful and loving friend of mine special ordered this tiny gold ring as a reminder of our baby boy...a miracle in our hearts and our treasure up in heaven. She even hung it on a lovely gold chain for me.

Not long afterward, God was faithful to fill the void in my mommy heart with a beautiful, healthy baby girl! She came into this world as a big 9 lb. 8 oz. promise that God still cared about my motherly desires...even when so many people said, "Stop while you are have three healthy children."
Still..knowing we had lost a baby boy left a longing within me. A desire to have one more boy...
My fifth child was a delightful surprise! He was four months along before we knew he was on his way. I held my breath at the ultrasound (performed only one week after we discovered I was pregnant), feeling slightly guilty about hoping for a healthy baby BOY, and not just a healthy baby. When the doctor announced his gender, I was overwhelmed. I felt so loved and so blessed that God gave me even more than I dared hope for out loud. He knows the desires of our hearts and He really cares.
If I had not lost that precious baby boy - if I have not surrendered my pain and let Him move my life forward in a beautiful, amazing way - I would not have these two incredible kids!

I have often wondered if God laughs - at least a little - when we start making plans and acting like we have any real control. I believe He planted a seed in my heart for children who would not grow beneath my heart when I was longing for another baby boy. I dismissed this crazy idea of adoption - especially international adoption - because it was crazy expensive. People with five bio kids don't ADOPT!?!
Less than 3 years after our "last" child was born, we found ourselves on the journey to adopt two little ones from Ethiopia. Nothing made sense and we made some huge mistakes along the way....but nothing was outside His control...I believe it was all part of His refining plan for us.
In the airport before boarding our international flight, my husband purchased these 24K gold starfish earrings for me. There is a story about many starfish washed up on a beach after a storm...and a young man tossing them in one at a time. He is questioned about how he can possibly think he can make a difference when there are THOUSANDS stranded. He replies that he will make a huge difference to each one he does help. To me, those earrings represented the two little people we were going to meet, two little ones whose lives we hoped to change dramatically.
God gave them to us for a brief period of time...and He showed us that our part in His plan for THEIR lives was completely different than we had imagined. Through an amazing and heartwrenching journey of surrender, we realized that the woman who took them their very first gifts from America would - along with her Godly husband and wonderful children - be their forever family. (She is in the photo! God is so cool!) We surrendered this experience and all it's pain to Him to use for HIS glory...and, guess what? Yes! Of course - He has! And he continues to do so.
There was still a strong desire in my heart to adopt a child..or children. After some time, I started out cautiously on the road to discover whether or not anyone would allow us to adopt again. This is an ugly road riddled with too many mean, insenstive people. The few kind people who offered hope were like air bubbles to me when I felt like I was literally drowning in very personal criticism. We fostered for awhile...but only little guys we knew were going back to their moms. It allowed us to "test" our see if we were ready to open our hearts again. I even prayed that - if it was not God's plan for us to add any children to our family - He would divinely and completely remove my desire. He did not.
On a particularly frustrating day - Nov. 2, 2009 - I sent a one word email to my husband. It said: "DONE!" I was done trying to figure out a way. I was done inquiring and being ridiculed. I was done banging my head - and my heart - against the closed doors of adoption.
Less than one hour later, my phone rang and a familiar voice was asking me if I was willing to take in a baby who might be available for adoption...and how soon could I leave. Within the next hour, I was walking into a hospital room being handed a precious, beautiful, brown baby boy with gobs of gorgeous, loopy, dark curls all over his head. (Did I mention that I have secretly always wanted a boy with curly brown hair? I swear...HE KNOWS!)
When I think back on my one word email, I have to believe that God was just waiting for me to let Him know that I was DONE trying to do it my way. He was patiently waiting to bless my socks off! Here is the angel baby I picked up just over a year ago....and the froggy boy is a little man we are holding onto loosely...waiting to see if God wants Him to stay with us forever. Remember....He knows the desires of our hearts.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away...and the Lord GIVES you so much more than you could ever hope for!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Ethiopia?

I have to answer the question of WHY I would want to go {back} to Ethiopia. How do you put into words what is an unexplainable tug on your heart - or - "from" your heart?
Is it those eyes? All those sweet, sweet children who exude joy in the midst of so little. Or so much?
I have always been an adventurous soul...wanting to know what was over the next hill or around the next corner. I want to see so much of what I have yet to see. When we landed in Addis over 3 years ago, I was brimming with excitement in a land of suffering and desolation...wanting to breathe in what was so, so foreign to me...all the while KNOWING I would never experience it authentically....not from my position of privilege and undeserved blessings.
One of my absolute favorite experiences was our trip to the HIV+ orphanage. I went with people who were not sure if they should touch the children - but - God gave me this sense of ignorance and peace and genuine desire to reach out to them right sit down on the cool tile floor, let them climb all over me, kiss their foreheads and help them unwrap their daily vitamin supplements. Their sparkling eyes and brilliant smiles...without a single word crossing their lips...beckoned me irresistibly to engage them, to playfully tease them and elicit precious giggles. I did not want to leave and from that moment on, I have desired to return. I would have scooped them all up and held them forever if it were humanly possible.
How can a person from such a comfortable existence so strongly desire to return to a land of so little, a land of suffering and unanswered questions that plague the heart? Maybe I will ask God when I get to heaven....but I think I will know full well, once I get there.
Please consider checking out Kari's blog is inspiring!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pictures from My Porch!

This is one of my absolute favorite places...MY PORCH! I love it in the early morning...when no one else (well, maybe Pete...who is usually already up & GONE!) is up...and I can steal a few moments to read and sip coffee. It faces due east so - if I am not up late like I am right now - I can occasionally catch the sunrise!

I love it when it is like Grand Central Station with kids everywhere you look. I have an aunt & uncle who never had kids and they act like they like it that way....I think they are SO missing out! There is a unequalled pleasure in seeing my children run and play and laugh and jump in the leaves. My porch is "base" for the dart gun wars or exhaustive games of TAG.

I have collected a menagerie of mismatched furniture and decorations...and they are delightful! There is usually an uncurled black hose to greet you on the way to my front door. It really does not bother me. It's just part of the perennial garden I love so much. Plus, if it were neatly curled up and put away each day, it would be SO out of place in MY world!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Swallowed in a Sea of Need & Pulled from the Side by This World?!

I follow a few blogs and MOST of them have to do with orphans and adoption. I am so immersed in the need that I can no longer imagine what it is like to live the suburban American life and not think about this global atrocity...much less ACT to change it. I am livin' it 24/7 and I must admit...there are brief moments of time when I think, "What the heck am I doing?!"
I am 44 years old...and I have 7 kids who range in age from 20 down to almost 1. If I did not have "other people's kids," this would be the very first year all my biological kids would be in school all day. Isn't that supposed to be the mom equivalent of FREEDOM? Like serving your sentence and finally being released? Or...maybe it's an "opportunity" to return to that overrated work stand up and shed my Mom attire...if only for a few hours each day. To have lunch hours and commutes and a schedule with meetings and phone calls that have nothing to do with children...
I did the math the other day. If this youngest angel stays, I will be almost 88 years old when he is MY age. NO more math!
I look at other families with 2.2 children and sometimes I wonder WHY my heart was not content there. A house, cars, vacations....a life in sight that does not have handprints all over every surface, sticky floors, bats & balls all over the yard or laundry that can literally be scaled by mountain goats. Not doubling (tripling?) recipes? Not shopping in bulk? No refereeing squabbles? Not figuring out how to explain the subtle nuances that make up a child who SEES color - but embraces and celebrates it!?

Then I have a glass of wine, sit back and get all choked up thinking how blessed I am that I have kids who love each other, love others and mess up my life with laughter! They change diapers, they wrestle, they argue, they play....they learn the value of human life...EVERY human life. They learn to live for more than themselves. There is no car manufactured or vacation place on the face of this earth I would trade for any of THAT!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dude....maybe NOT!

Me: Brogan, do your friends call you, "Dude?"
Brogan: Yea...but I don't like they don't anymore.
Me: Why do you not like it?
Brogan: Because that is not how I talk. I don't call anyone, "Dude."
Me: Do you think it's a bad word?
Brogan: No...I just don't talk like that. Jack always wants to call me dude, but I tell him I am not a dude.
Me: Does he still call you that?
Brogan: No...but he has a Dude Club.
Me: A dude club?
Brogan: Yea...everyone in the club calls each other dude.
Me: Do you want to be in Jack's club?
Brogan: Uh, no. I told you - I am not a dude.
Me: So, does that mean you are not friends with all the dude club guys?
Brogan: No...they like me too much. It's okay if I am not a dude.

Gotta love the THIS.IS.WHO.I.AM attitude!

Wow...a lot has happened!

I love summer and I love the busyness of it that sharply contrasts with the days. Obviously, this blog has not been a priority. However, we have a Mac desktop that I have resisted learning to use. Now that it has been moved to a room I actually LIKE to be in, I will go for it. So far, so good. (I suppose I am dating myself....because, if I were YOUNGER, I would have grown up on Apple Mac computers in school - right?!)
My last post was on the day we went to court and the state of IL took temporary custody of our lil man. Things did not get better for his mom after that and she got herself in situations that prevented her from seeing him on a regular basis. We kept in touch and I sent her pictures. She saw him on July 28 and then not again until just last Friday, October 1. He has changed SO much! He is funny, he is crawling - FAST - furniture walking, fake laughing, eating lots of solid foods and TEASING the 2 year old who is living with us now.
Oh, wait! That is a whole new world since the last post.
We have THE most amazing and adorable little 2 year old ATHLETE at our house now. He has been in Safe Families off and on since he was an itty bitty baby. Mom moves him in and out of the program and - when he comes back - the previous families are not always able to take him again. I have known him for some time since I drove him in the van full of kids down to Chicago to see their bio parents every Thursday. His mom would often miss her visits, so I got to hang out with him. He is yummy! When he needed yet another home, I scooped him up. (My case coach KNEW I loved him already.) He has been with us since August 31 and he fit in perfectly right away. My mom heart wants to keep him forever! My Father in heaven will have to decide if that is the plan for him, tho. And - if not - I will trust Him to heal my heart....
We did have another lil guy for about 2 weeks. My coach could not find a home for him. The placement was supposed to be for the remainder of the summer. She said he was 6 months at the time that H was 8 I thought, "oh...I can do that...he will be smaller and less mobile than H" - who was not even crawling at the time. She said: "It will be like TWINS! It will be fun." LIES! They WERE indeed like twins - in fact, the newbie was 8 days YOUNGER than H....but POUNDS heavier and movin'! He was crawling and furniture walking and getting into everything. He was a sweet lil giant, tho. I was not sad when his mom was able to take him back early....she loved him and it was obvious. I am not sure I would have remembered the rest of the summer if he had stayed. *wink*

As a family, we took a road trip to New Hampshire for two weeks in August. It was nice...and, as usual, went by FAST! We were able to make it to the beach in Maine twice and took fabulous pictures. We had a lot of fun just hanging out with my big extended family. Our little bear was a great traveler. It helped that we did it in 2 days each way, stayed in nice hotels with swimming pools and stopped on the way there at the American Niagara Falls. Another story worthy of it's own paragraph!
Pete and I have our passports and I have certified birth certificates for all the bio kids - but - since Ali is an ADULT now (wince), she would have to have a passport or an "enhanced driver's license." She has neither and we do not have a certified copy of little bear's birth certificate. This meant we could not even consider crossing over into Canada....not to mention, as a DCFS kid now, H is really not supposed to leave the country with us without advanced permission from the higher-ups in Illinois' DCFS. (Picturing the firing squad we could have gotten ourselves in front of had we tried! Oh my!) So....we decided to make the best of it and check out the American Falls in Niagara, NY. 
TIME OUT! I simply MUST stop here to say:
I HATE......really, really, really HATE to the core of my being....being SO sickeningly close to those insane falls with my children....much less anyone else's children.
It is amazing and awe inspiring...and it freaks me out. I am not going into detail because it makes me nauseous. I will simply say you can get way too scary, stupid close to the river AND the falls.
We had a good time and have breathtaking pictures. Been there, done that...fine if I never ever go back. Not good for my WILD imagination. I had nightmares about one particular child. Gee, think it could have been the one who had recently asked me, "Mom - why do you always think the things I do  - and WANT to do - are dangerous?!" E-gad!
Baseball games, cookouts, camping, bike riding, teeth falling out (not knocked out!), tears worthlessly shed over a boyfriend, starry eyes over the next guy, fishing trips, lazy evenings on the beach at the lake, impromptu trips for ice cream, sleeping in, running barefoot in the grass, a whole weekend of birthday parties at our house (with a Safe Family placement of 4 kids!), fireworks, trips to the zoo, tag, and late evening sunsets. I do love summer.
So, fall....what HAVE you in store for us? (It's spring and summer I am REALLY curious about, tho!)