30 November 2007

Smithsonian Magazine's Ethiopian Mystery

Smithsonian Magazine's December edition has an interesting article about the Lost Ark that some Ethiopian Christians have long claimed to possess in a chapel in Aksum, which is near to Eritrean border. It's a worthy read.

Elianna Ray is 10 Months Old! (and a few more pics)

Ray Ray is 10 months old now and up to new tricks every day. She's crawling, pulling herself up (pics coming), shaking her head no-no-no, and she just started dancing, too! Before you can say jackrabbit I'll have TWO little ones emptying my cupboards and drawers and wiggling down from my arms to run off and play!

Here are just a few more from Montecito:

Ellie & Mama

Evangeline, my little dreamboat baby.

Ricker at the newly renovated Coral Casino pool

Jackman taking the plunge

Marg flipping out at the coolest pool on the west coast... right on the beach!

29 November 2007

More Montecito

In our favorite place

A long walk at the bird refuge

Elianna Ray

28 November 2007


A few shots from our weekend in Montecito!

Ray Ray at Mama's feet

I'm going to the pool!

At the beach


Elianna Ray & Papa

27 November 2007

Thankful for Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving with the family... What could be better?

This year we have so much to be thankful for... five beautiful kids, three months home with Ray Ray, a supportive, close-knit family, wonderful friends and church community, a budding Ethiopian adoptive families group, a thriving business... Thank You, Lord!

Mother outdid herself again with a truly incredible Thanksgiving meal. I told Karen that she is "the queen of Thanksgiving and starts planning her meal and decorations months and months ahead of time. It’s like Martha Stewart land. Gorgeous. Delicious. Impossible to duplicate without a team of trained professionals." What a glorious day!


Mama & sleepy Evie

Leg men

Elianna Ray & Papa

22 November 2007

At the top of my Thankful List

Our little Ray Ray, who is now of Scotch-Ethiopian heritage! :)

Our amazing Evangeline, who makes every day so fun!
(She's a true Southern Californian who ignores that it actually
does get cold here sometimes
and would happily run in the sprinklers every day if I would let her.)

Our wild boys, Ricker & Jackie, the Dynamic Duo!

Our gorgeous Marg, who is so mature, and smart, and funny. Why didn't she stay little???

and a few more fun pics:

Elianna Ray loves to ride on Papa's shoulders.
His ears are her handle bars.
So cute!

Evie in dreds. She's discovering the fun of costumes.

Big giggles from our baby girl.

Well, hey there, Cutie!

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for! God is so GOOD! Thank You, Jesus, for Your many many blessings.

Michael, Laurie, Margot, Ricker, Jackie, Evangeline & Elianna Ray

20 November 2007

Thankful for OCEAN

We had such a fun time last Saturday night with our Orange County Ethiopian Adoption Network friends. Two new families came to the Fall Family Supper, the Christiansens and the Mastrellas, and it was wonderful to hear how the Lord directed them to adoption and Ethiopia. In fact, we all shared about how we decided upon Ethiopia. It was so interesting that the instigating reasons were quite varied and yet we all had to ask some of the same tough, very non-PC, and often uncomfortable questions of ourselves:

  • How do I really feel about raising a baby of a different race?
  • Is there any prejudice in my heart for any race/ culture?
  • Do I prefer one race over another? Would I want a Chinese daughter more than an Indian one? Or a Guatemalan son more than Vietnamese?
  • Why Africa? Why Ethiopia?
  • Why do I want to adopt internationally vs. domestically? What are my motives?
  • What about our families and friends? Do they have hidden prejudices that will seep out?
  • How do I feel about Grannie/Dad/whomever being a closeted (or loud-mouthed) bigot? Does it matter? Does that change our relationship? What is my response going to be?
  • How do I make peace with the fact that some people will feel negatively about my child and some will ask rude questions and make ugly comments?
Ouch! Those questions seem so taboo! And yet, you HAVE to look at them honestly when you decide to adopt internationally. And, basically we all came to similar conclusions about what the Lord desires, who we are, what we want, and how we feel about building our families this way. What a fantastic conversation we had! At the end of the night I found myself wishing we had taped it so that I could hear it again and also to be able to share it with others who haven't found a safe place to voice delicate concerns and thoughts.

On the tail end of that we came up with some ideas on how to respond to boorish questions:
  • "We chose a black baby because there aren't any purple ones!"
  • "Fertility clinic mix up"
  • We prefer African babies. They're cuter.
  • "What?!? She's not white?!?"
  • "Actually I'm a light-skinned African American."
and my personal favorite:
  • "Shhh! My husband doesn't know she's not his!"
Most of these came from Amanda and Karen who kept us in stitches all night! You two are a hoot!

I'm so thankful to the Lord for this incredible group of people. I'm thankful that we are praying for each other, for the whole process, and especially for our babies who have not come home yet. Last Saturday was a wonderful time, and I can hardly wait to see you all again. And, I can hardly WAIT to meet the little ones that God is bringing into your families!

The Mastrella Family

The Christiansen Family

And here's me enjoying our new Africa-themed living room!
I'll post more pictures later. It's still a work in progress, but already it is so pretty; I just love it!

17 November 2007

O.C.E.A.N. Fall Family Supper

Hey, Southern Californians who are adopting or are considering adoption from Ethiopia or any country... here's a last minute invitation for you...

Orange County Ethiopian Adoption Network


Saturday, November 17th, 5:00

At the Hausams in Orange

Bring all your little pumpkins!

Leave us a comment in this post

Or a message in our guestbook

To sign up to bring a dish to share

16 November 2007

Prayer thanksgiving

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16

Sometimes it just overwhelms me that the Lord desires to hear our prayers and that He answers them so beautifully... Isn't it astounding that He should care so greatly about our frustrations, our anxiety, our needs, our hopes, our peace of mind. That just blows me away. Almighty God sits on His Throne of Glory and cares about the nitty gritty of my daily life and wants to hear all about it. That thought moves me so deeply.

So today I'm adding prayer to my thankful list. I'm so grateful that I can talk with the Lord about anything, and ask Him for everything I need. And, His promise (in Philippians 4:6) is that He will give me inexplicable peace that will blanket all my concerns. What a gift! Thank You, Lord!

And, I'm thankful that it's FAMILY DAY!!! Woo Hoo!

13 November 2007

Thankful for Protection

Evangeline & Elianna Ray wearing their (RED) shirts!

Every time I hear Carrie Underwood's incredibly over-played but still very powerful "Jesus Take the Wheel" I well up with tears. The kids lovingly mock me for being such a sap (I cry at everything - greeting cards, Hallmark commercials, Adoption Stories, weddings, baby dedications, graduations, you name it), saying, "Quick! Get the tissues! Mama heard someone got their adoption referral! Here comes the flood!" but, they love it when the tears of joy or pride are for them! That song came out when I was pregnant with Evangeline, and worrying about her health and safety every day and having to give that fear to God on a daily basis. So, it still makes me weep every single time I hear it because it reminds me of how grateful I am for the Lord's hand of protection that surrounds us every moment of every day, even when we're not aware of it.

You are my hiding place;
You will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32: 7

When I was about 8 months pregnant with Evangeline my new car was stolen. Marg and I were out on a girl date in Newport Beach. We had gotten our hair and nails done, had lunch, gone shopping, and then we met the boys at the movie theatre. The back of my car was filled to the brim with fall clothes and shoes for the kids, a few Christmas gifts (getting a jump on shopping before the baby came), a stroller and infant car seat still in boxes, and I had just picked up Evangeline's custom-made crib bumper, crib skirt, and window coverings for the nursery.

At the movies, like all preggoes I had to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes and missed the end of the movie. Michael called me on my cell in the bathroom and said, "What happened? Are you OK? Where are you? Did you leave?" I couldn't figure out why he was so worried until he said that my car was gone. Bummer! The police officer who took our report said that Fashion Island had been having a rash of car thefts by a very sophisticated East LA gang that the FBI had been tracking for months. Very likely the car jackers had watched us drive up and had stolen the car and disabled the OnStar system within minutes. My first thought was, "Thank Jesus that we weren't IN the car when they stole it!" Everything we lost was easily replaced. It was just stuff.

Anyone who knows Michael knows that his guardian angel works overtime when he's driving his little Porsche, Brigitta, like the proverbial bat. More than that though, he also helps guys who've been in gangs, ex-cons of violent crimes, and drug addicts get back on their feet. Most of these men end up doing very well, walking the straight and narrow, going to church, staying in a clean-living facility, and eventually going on to renting their first apartment, or even buying their first car or home. Although it's been a wonderful privilege for him, sometimes Michael has ended up with a large, dangerous, drugged-out scary guy not very happy with him. The Lord has been so gracious to us and protected him in every way, praise GOD!

So many other situations come to mind: Marg has been bucked off her horse several times and never suffered anything worse than a sore tail bone. Ricker, a few years ago kicked a beehive and was swarmed (We stopped counting his sting marks after 25.) and lived to tell the tale. Jackie seemed determined to drown himself at the beach when he was little. I pulled him out of the surf countless times sputtering sand and salt water. And Elianna Ray came home from Ethiopia 100% healthy!

Today I'm reminded to be thankful for God's sovereign protection, that He is "at the wheel". Now, tell me you don't shed a tear of gratefulness over that, too!

12 November 2007

Veterans Day at the Reagan Library

"Dutch" fans

We had such a great Veterans Day up at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The weather was cool and misty which made our drive up the coast through Malibu's fire-scorched coastline very surreal. "Bu-land" got charred all the way to the shore in areas, apparently sparing Pepperdine University by inches. It's unreal to see how the fire skipped over some houses and scrub here and there and leveled other hillsides top to bottom. Sad.

The Reagan Library is exhibiting the former First Lady's extensive collection of designer gowns right now, so if you get a chance, don't miss it! You've got to admit that Nancy has incredible style! We also got to tour Air Force One, which wasn't yet on display last time we were there. Very, very cool. The inside is incredibly tiny compared to what we saw on The West Wing.

Afterwards we hung out in Westlake Village and then introduced the kids to a favorite restaurant that we haven't been to in years. What a great day!

Mama & Elianna Ray at the Ronald Reagan Pub

Papa & Kids in front of Air Force One

11 November 2007

Thankful for Veterans

I'm thankful for:

  • America, Land of the Free!
  • "In God We Trust"
  • Our founding fathers
  • Old Glory
  • Our military veterans and all our boys still serving
What a debt we owe to our men and women in every branch of the military! THANK YOU! Today we honor you!

08 November 2007


This morning I woke up with a song in my head. I do this all the time and it's not like I get some lofty Puccini melody banging around in there for hours. Nope. I end up singing "This is the song that never ends. It just goes on an on, my friends... Some people started singing it not knowing how it ends, and they'll just keep on singing it forever just because. This is the song that never ends...", or "From the Indies to the Andes in His Undies".

Anyway, this morning I woke to Barbra.

"People... People who need people... Are the luckiest people... in the world..."

Here I am 6 hours later still humming along with Babs. So while I'm at it, today I'm praising the Lord for all the dear people in my life.
  • Granddaddy. This Thanksgiving and Christmas smörgåsbord will be our first without him.
  • Michael, Marg, Ricker, Jackie & Evangeline who make my life so happy.
  • And this year I'm so grateful for my precious Ethiopian princess, Elianna Ray!
  • Our folks, Poppy & Mother
  • Our brothers & sisters and their families, Buddy, Becky, Johnny, Lincoln & Charlotte, Lisa, Mark, William, Wesley, Zuzu, Morgan & Matthew
  • Our grandparents, Grandmother Ortlund and Papa & Grams McClure
  • All our aunties, uncles & cousins
  • Our church family and worship team
  • My sisters in Christ: Xinia, Deb, Jennifer, Sandra, Mary Jane, Heidi, Katie, Brandie, Ange, Kristie, Ingrid, Birgit, Lizzie, Sandy, Susan, Karen, Carrie, Amanda, Allison, Pam, Suzi, Lori, Nancy, Liz, Emily, Kim, and Amy
  • And all my new blogging buddies!
I'm thankful for all you "People..." Yep, it's still the soundtrack of my day!

06 November 2007

Thankful for Grace

Ricker and I had a sweet conversation the other day. He told me that he was frustrated by the idea of salvation by grace because he just felt so unworthy of it. We talked about the inherent struggle between the human desire to earn God's favor through works, and the ultimate fruitlessness of that effort. Because of my sin, grace MUST be a gift completely undeserved by me or it's not grace. I agree with my son, unmerited forgiveness through faith alone challenges my heart.

So, today I'm remembering to be thankful for the Grace of Jesus who has saved me. I don't deserve it. I couldn't possibly.

05 November 2007

Evangeline The Brainiac and More Thanks

Poppy & Evangeline having a long chat

I absolutely love the stage when babies discover language. It is so fun to watch them learn new words every day and put them into practice. Evangeline's ability to communicate is exploding right now and we are having a ball with it! OK, so verbosity isn't exactly an unusual trait in our family, but my dear little Evangeline is a wunderkind!

Marg was this way too, but because she was our first, and the first grandbaby, no one realized how amazing her verbal skills were! At 18 months she was talking in long sentences and by 2 she was singing songs like the Star Spangled Banner word-for-word beginning to end and telling elaborate jokes. Evangeline is this way, too. It's crazy! At 12 months Evangeline used about 75 understandable words. She could name everyone in our family including Poppy, Nana, Auntie Becky, Uncle Buddy, and most of her cousins. She said small phrases like "brush hair", "eat food", and "uh oh fall down".

Now at 14 months she tries to repeat everything you say and she's venturing into constructing rudimentary sentences like:
"Ricker read book."
"Margie say night night."
"Mama say don't touch."
"Papa please kissy kissy."
"Jackie sing song."

She calls herself "Uh-vange-in" and pretends to breastfeed her beloved Sleepy Bear saying, "Seepy Bear more milk, mm-hmm". She's also getting bossy with her baby sister.
"Ray Ray, say please, K?"
"Ray Ray, look see!"
"Ray Ray, don't touch Seepy!"
"Ray Ray, no cry!"
"Mama, Ray Ray... all done... toy!"

This stage is so fun!

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
- Hebrews 12:28

Adding to my thankful list... Today I praise the Lord for things that are relaxing or comforting to me:
  • Worshiping Jesus. There's nothing better in the world!
  • Our home. Even though I miss living near the beach, I love love love our house.
  • Reading. Some books are like old friends. I know I'm too busy when I don't have time to read at least a little each day.
  • Spending time with friends like Mary, Tony, Kim, and Xinia who make me laugh until I ache
  • My slippers
  • Quiet. I'm sure all you moms can relate to me finding the quiet of all the babies being fast asleep so luxurious.
  • Everything about the beach, listening to the waves, smelling the salt air, being out on the water
  • A crackling fire (as long as it stays in the fireplace and not raging across California)
  • Kapalua, Maui... We skipped our trip this year because our trip to Ethiopia got moved up, which we wouldn't change for the world, but we still missed it so much! We can hardly wait for next year.
  • Montecito & Santa Barbara... 'Nuff said!
  • Long walks with Michael
  • Sunday brunch with our family
Here are a couple more photos from last weekend.

My precious niece, Charlie

Will someone please tell him to ditch the wig?!?

with Mother & Ellie

The whole gang having burgers at Ruby's

"Oh, the great JOY of giving thanks!" - C. S. Lewis

02 November 2007

Boo on Halloween & Thinking of Thanks

Halloween around here was sort of a bust. Usually a day or two before Halloween we throw a big party with games, apple bobbing, pumpkin carving and painting, and a costume contest, and then skip trick-or-treating and head to our church's Fall Fun Night. But, because we're still laying a little bit low adjusting to being a family of seven, we put off the party until next year, and then Jackie and Evangeline weren't feeling well on the 31st. BOO!

Marg & Ricker went to church with Uncle Buddy, Auntie Becky, Johnny, and Lincoln, and the rest of us stayed home and answered the door for trick-or-treaters after going to a few houses just so the little kids could wear their costumes for a while. We had fun anyway, but I didn't like not being all together. Boo on that!

Elianna Ray was a little pink octopus. Doesn't she look sweet?

Evangeline was a pretty peacock (or should I say peahen?)

Ricker & Jackie dressed up as gladiators and Margie was a woodland fairy.
Michael enjoyed having hair for an evening!

Anyway, now that we're into Thanksgiving season, my friend Roxie reminded me that it's time to start my thankful list! Yea! I'm going to take time each day to think of a few things that I'm grateful for and thank the Lord for them as the list grows.

OK, here we go.

I'm thankful for:
  • Salvation, the Lord's grace for me every day, and God's provision for our family
  • 16 years with Michael, his deliciously twisted sense of humor, and that we have so much fun together
  • Our most precious babies - Margie, Ricker, Jackie, Evangeline & Elianna Ray
  • Our extended family, whom we lean on, learn from, and admire so greatly
  • Our church family
  • Our dear friends, who "live, laugh, and love" with us
  • Homeschooling
  • Our new OCEAN (Orange County Ethiopian Adoption Network) group!

What are you thankful for today?