Saturday, November 27, 2010


I am struck by this FACT...

It is a worthy enough cause to raise children who love the Lord their God, who show Him to the world and who are secure in being His.

It is enough and also so much. What an overwhelming task to bring little (and big) people continually to the cross while trying to remain there myself. Each and every day, I fail. Multiple times. The hope is in getting back up and doing it all again tomorrow. The monumental task ever in the front of my mind. Enjoying the moments and the journey. They are a worthy task. Housework, Facebook, committees, meetings, sleep...all else can fall away. Staying in the moment and enjoying the moment will be my focus and joy this Christmas...daily renewal my saving Grace!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quotes of the day

Me: Seth, do you not like the Puffins cereal?
Seth: I do. It's just that you need molars to eat that. I don't have any right now.

Up next...a more intense adoption discussion

Sophie: I miss my mom
Me: ummm, I'm right here
S: No, my China mom
Me: Ohhh, well that's understandable (this is her first mention of her China mom)
S: What's her name?
Me: I don't know
S: Oh, only I know her name?
Me: I don't think so
S: I do. It is Rainbow Flower China Lady (a beautiful name to be sure)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2 years

Two years ago I gazed on this face for the first time ever. I'm not gonna lie. My first thought was -- wow! that kid has some HUGE eyes! My life has changed so much since I looked at this face. My life is much, much louder. Micah has not let his three siblings overshadow him. I have an uber (my first time using that term - what do you think?) crush on this little MAN (his initials are MAN). Is there a maximum number of parentheses allowable in a sentence? I hope not. Micah is such a smart, usually happy kid. He is a lover. He is a hugger, kisser and a talker. He likes to repeat the last word of every sentence that everyone says. I got my first "I wuv you" from Micah the other day. Nothing will melt a mom's heart more.

Adoption is a funny beast sometimes. Some parents say that they fall in love with the child just looking at the picture. That wasn't really the case for me with either of my kids. It was a process of getting to know them and falling in love with their strength of character, their ability to make it through more in their short lives than some of us will in our entire lives.

I can't imagine my life without this loud, adorable, hilarious man!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


It's easy for me to get bogged down with all the hurt in the world. I can't stand to see a child in pain. My facebook is crowded with social justice messages. I am "friends" in real life and on facebook with many advocates. It's good for me to keep immersed in what life really looks like for people who are struggling with so much more than first world problems. My heart hurts for all that's wrong in the world. We are waiting to see what our answer to that call will be. In, the meantime...I am remembering...

Psalm 72:12-13

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

the afflicted who have no one to help.

He will take pity on the weak and the needy

and save the needy from death.

He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

for precious is their blood in his sight.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sophie is 5

Please pretend to ignore the fact that is almost month after her birthday. We had a great party (by my super low standards). Sophie wanted a surprise birthday party. She planned it all out. She knew every detail of the party, but wanted everyone to yell "surprise" when she walked in. Major stager that one. We had a movie party a few days after her birthday with popcorn, candy and cupcakes. Super fun!

On the actual day of her birthday, Dan asks Sophie at dinner how her day went. Her reply was "It was mostly good, but Mom said one really mean thing to me." I wasn't quick to deny wasn't out of the question, but I didn't remember any altercations - which doesn't mean anything. Dan asked what the mean words were. Sophie's reply "She said - "let's get out of the car birthday pants." Super offensive. Point taken.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Excited to present....

click on image above to enlarge

Our China-baby adoption shirts. We really struggled with what to put on a shirt. Dan and I are both well clothed in adoption/advocate garb. So, we've seen a lot of them. I really wanted this shirt to represent our hearts for the orphan. I wanted it to represent more than just adoption though. I wanted it to represent the fact that we are all called to Defend the Orphan. This will look different for all of us. But, it is a very real command.

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Psalm 82:3

So, here are our shirts. We are doing pre-orders now. We will order on October 28th.

Please specify size, womens/mens cut and color of background (blue or pink) in the comments.

Delivery options

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Squares Are In!

Thank you soooo much to everyone who participated in our fundraiser. We cannot thank you enough for being a part of this.

Winners are highlighted in red.

Click the grid to expand and find your name

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Michigan vs. Michigan State "squares" adoption fundraiser

If you're into college football, October 9th is one of the biggest games around, and one of the biggest rivalries in college football...the battle of 2 unbeaten teams...#17 vs. #18 . If you're not into college football, it's a fun way for a chance to win a little money (a $20 donation gets you 4 chances to win $100 - up to $400). Either way, it's an opportunity to pitch in and help raise some money for the Neal's latest addition.

What is "squares", and how does it work? It's simple really...and yet a little hard to explain. We will create a grid with 100 squares. Across the top, will be Michigan State and 10 columns numbered 0-9. Down the left side, will be Michigan and 10 rows numbered 0-9. For every $20 donation, your name will be randomly assigned to a square. That square will have a corresponding number at the top for Michigan State, and a corresponding number on the left for Michigan. See the grid below with the example names of Joe, Sue, Bob and Mary:
Based on the score at the end of each quarter of regulation time (for those non-football fans, there are 4 quarters in football), we will determine a winner for that quarter. That winner will receive $100, and will still have the chance to win in subsequent quarters.

Looking at the above example, if the score at the end of the first quarter was Michigan State 3 - Michigan 0, Mary would be the winner because Michigan State's score ended with 3 and Michigan's ended with 0. Moving on, if the score at the end of the second quarter was Michigan 7 - Michigan State 3, Sue would win $100. If the score at the end of the third quarter was Michigan State 10 - Michigan 7, Bob would win $100. Finally, if the score at the end of the 4th quarter was Michigan State 13 - Michigan 7, Sue would actually win another $100.

Hopefully that makes sense. If you're ready for the fun, click the PayPal link below and donate $20 for every square you would like to purchase.

***update: If you got to the blog from facebook and/or you have a blue bar at the top of your page that includes a facebook button, be sure to close it or click on the actual blog link next to the close button before clicking the "Donate" button below, or you will get a message saying "fatal error".

Monday, September 20, 2010


This adorable boy turns two today. He is out on a date with Grammy right now. He affectionately calls her "Minga" (I have no idea). She is returning the favor. So, it's like their pet name for each other. Micah is a big fan of direct address, so if he says your name once, he says it a million times. Cute to hear him say "Minga" a hundred times.

Crazy thing about adoption...or at least me and adoption...when we first looked at Micah's pictures in the orphanage I thought "Yeah, he's cute. I've seen cuter." But, since we've been home with him and his personality buds and grows, so does my perception of his cuteness. This boy is intense! When he is happy, all is well. When he is mad...Look out world! Luckily for us, the happy is beginning out to win out over the sad. It hasn't been that way until now.

We aren't doing much to celebrate. It seems like we should be having a big party, but the truth be told...Micah would hate that. He's not a fan of crowds, even crowds of people he loves. So, we are staying low key. Seth's idea of a birthday treat for Micah was to give him straight juice. Not watered down. Now, that's really living it up!!!

My mind can't help but wander to what two years ago today looked like for Micah's birth mom. I wish she could see how he has grown and what an incredible boy he is. Such a bittersweet thing.

Happy birthday sweet boy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What I would've missed...

A friend told me about a conversation she had with another friend regarding our third adoption this week. The conversation was questioning if we had room in our "small house" for another child. This question is ridiculous on a lot of levels. First, I wish this person would bring their concerns directly to me so that I could address the issue myself. Secondly, this is the typical home in Ethiopia (or at least the region Micah is from). Not huge. I don't think we are doing him any harm.

Or, an orphanage in China. Is this a great place for a child to grow up?

But, most of all, I think about what I would've missed out on if I would have let my "small house" dictate my decisions. If I would've missed what God called me to. Look at these they look like they are missing out on a big mansion somewhere? No thanks. I will take my little house and my happy kids. You can keep your comfort and I'll keep the kids.

Footnote to my rant: I know full well that not everyone is called to adopt. That's not what I'm trying to say. Also, living in a big house isn't wrong. It's just the insinuation that I need to that is objectionable

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

cute kids

Micah reading a little Greek mythology -- we home school. It's how we roll.
Sophie has this crazy need to look like a Chinese tourist for every picture. She is working it!
Micah seems to be settling down the insanity a little bit. As his language grows, his temper flares less. Thank God!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The balance

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

For a while now, this has been my heart. To go into the and find Jesus in the people there. Maybe it's naive to think that I really would just pack my belongings into storage, hop on a plane and go. But, that really is my instinct. Obviously, I have some "baggage" that I would bring with me (namely, four kids and a husband). So, for now, we are here. In a country filled with too much stuff, too much pride, too much entitlement. It begs the question, where am I finding Jesus here? I know He is here, just buried much deeper? Still looking.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


  1. consistent or habitual in action
  2. recurring at set times or functioning in a normal way
  3. conforming to a standard or to a generally accepted rule or mode of conduct
I have never been, nor will I likely ever be called...regular. I am not consistent. I have very few habits. I don't do anything at a set time or for that matter function in a normal way. I don't really like standards. I don't conduct myself in a generally accepted manner.

All this to say...I am planning on blogging with some regularity. I want this to be a journal for my kids. So, I am committed to doing it with more regularity.

Let's see how this goes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Makenzie turned 14 on Sunday. To say the time has flown by is a dramatic understatement. This girl is incredible! Not a day goes by when she doesn't ask "Can I do anything to help you?" She has such a caring heart and is such a gift to our family!! We love you, Makenzie Joy Neal!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This girl

Remember this? We had a visit to the neurosurgeon last week because Makenzie was having some pain in her back. Apparently there is a "spot" in the spinal column that they have been "watching". I am thankful that the Dr's didn't inform me that they were watching said spot. We've had a worry free couple of years. We go every six months for MRI's. December's scan showed the spot growing a bit. So, we go in on Monday afternoon for another scan to see if there has been significant growth. Makenzie turns 14 on Sunday. Nothing like a MRI post birthday bash. The Dr. doesn't think the tumor is the cause of the pain. He will likely refer us to an orthopedist after he evaluates the tumor. This girl will amaze and impress you. She had a moment of teary questioning on our way home from the appointment. We talked through waiting, knowing that God knows and she has been (seemingly) peaceful since. I've been listening to Francis Chan's Forgotten God. He talks about supernatural peace from God. This is what we are praying for as we wait.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The "Plan"

Micah Awate Neal has been home with us for 17 months! How time flies when you have a young child screaming "NO!!!" a lot. We thought it was high time to do our 6 month follow up appointment with our social worker. Dan and I have been kicking around the idea of getting started on another adoption. We didn't really know where or when, but felt like it was probably just a matter of time and prayer. So, I thought we should be frugal! We can combine our 6 month follow up appointment with the social worker at the same time as we get our home study back up to date. After all, who wants to have an outdated home study at ANY point? I jest. I jest.

At the same time, I had been in contact with our agency discussing different options and countries. All the while, Sophie continues to pray every night "Dear God, Please give me a baby from China." So, we narrowed it down to China! On June 28th, I got an email from Mary Ann at Wide Horizons indicating that their fees will go up $400 on July 1st. So, if we wanted to save that money we should go ahead and fill out the first packet of information and pay our first installment. Remember our attempt at being frugal? I know in the big scheme of things $400 doesn't seem like a lot of money, but it all counts. So, we pressed onward. On July 1st, our social worker came and is now working on our home study. Somehow, we are back on the road again. I am excited about what God is going to do!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bible in a year

In all my years of following the Lord, I have never done this! I have had several failed attempts. I read an article by Noel Piper today where she mentions the same problem. So, I feel good. At least I am in good company. I am tackling it now though. I started yesterday. The plan I am working from started on June 1. I caught up and am on track now.

When I read this book, they had a great suggestion. As you are reading through the Bible, you journal for your kids. I am doing this for Makenzie now. I bought a journaling ESV Bible. As I read through it this year, I will jot down notes that I feel she would benefit from. My first entry was based on this verse...

Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

I simply wrote: I pray this would be true of YOU. That you would be righteous, blameless in your generation and that you would walk with God.

It's a really neat way to connect with God and with your kids at the same time. Pray I will remain faithful to it!

Monday, May 24, 2010


Apparently, Sophie and her cousin, Erin have been talking a little theology. Dan and I were talking about the Lost finale. He was mentioning that the "flash sideways" were really after life. They took place in LA. So, I made the leap that LA is actually heaven? Are you buying that? Since we weren't talking to her, Sophie hears every word. She comments that Erin told her that not everyone goes to heaven when they die. They can go somewhere else. We proceeded to talk to her about praying to ask Jesus into "your heart". An interesting concept to explain to a four year old. Sophie prays aloud "Dear Jesus - please come into my house for a second -- I want to see what you look like". We ask - would you like to ask Jesus into your heart? Response? Not today. Don't worry...Dan closed it all with a rendition of Tomorrow by CeCe Winans.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2 minutes

Of my life...Please feel free to mock my crazy talking...I do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The big 1-2!!

Seth turned 12 a couple weeks ago. He was my baby. Dan and I had a moment this weekend where we were playing cards with some friends. They were going home to a kid-free house and would be able to sleep in. Seth came to kiss us good-night and asks if he can watch tv after 9am. Makenzie comes to kiss us goodnight and says see you after 1pm. Then, we started over... That is completely not the point of this post though. Seth's birthday...remember?

Seth is the size of a grown man. He is wearing men's clothes, men's shoes, and smells like a man. But, he is a 12 year old boy. Dan and I got a lot of laughs about him getting a cell phone and an iron man mask probably designed for a six year old. He is an awesome big brother.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fill my bucket!

Sophie's pre-school has been reading this book. Sophie has been all about filling buckets. Well, about her bucket anyway. She did have a moment where she asked me if her "bad parts don't fill your bucket?" She spent a lot of time discussing how when Micah hits her it doesn't fill her bucket. Apparently, at class, Sophie made it very clear that watching tv with popcorn fills her bucket. Sophie's answer for most of the world's problems is to "watch a show". The first words out of her mouth in the morning and the last words from her mouth each day. It really is her love language.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2 steps back

Micah has been having some really hard days lately. He is SUPER clingy. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that he called "Mommy!" 900 times a day. He is super shy around anyone new and crabby as all get out. He hits anyone who looks at him the wrong way. He wants to be held, but doesn't want to be held - all at the same time. He is just one angry elf! One of the hard parts of being an adoptive mom is that you don't know how much is developmental and how much is attachment related. We've had a really crazy couple weeks with travelling and visitors, so it could all be chalked up to that. But, I don't want to write it off and wish I would have done more sooner. So, I emailed this awesome blogger, Christine, who has a lot of experience with attachment issues. She confirmed what I already knew and encouraged me to take a few steps back in my attachment process with this sweet boy. I love the bloggy world! Thanks Christine!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Break 20-10

We had a chance to spend a week in the Big Easy (New Orleans) with Rob and Julie and kids. We had such a great week. Super relaxing - as much as can be with 9 kids. I won't mention the 17 hour drive one way and Micah's choice to limit himself to a one word/one volume vocabulary.... "Mommy!!!". I didn't mention that. We were a little bit of a walking freak show where ever we went, but that's why New Orleans is a great place to visit. Freak shows abound.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First Haircut Southern Style

...the after shot

It's a tricky thing sometimes being a white mom of an African baby. I get a lot of comments about his hair. I talk about his hair a lot. There is a certain pressure - probably mostly in my head - to not ruin his hair. So, after a year of being home, we decided to trim the curls. I looked for a place around home to get Micah's hair cut. I was unsuccessful. I will leave my methods unmentioned for now. I certainly did not drive around on Tuesday afternoon saying "are there any black people in there?" to Makenzie. Thursday and Friday we made the trek to North Carolina. By the time we arrived, Micah's hair was completely matted to the back of his head from all the time in the car seat. My sister, Jennifer , recommended a barber shop where my nephew had gotten his hair cut. This place was a major throw back to the 50's. It was incredible! The barbers were hilarious and were super cute with Micah. We tried to get some good before and after pictures, but Sophie got a hold of the camera and was doing some major paparazzi work!
Sophie taking pictures of random patrons.
Here we go....
At least Mom is smiling!
My favorite! This is the guy who cut Micah's hair. He was obviously super happy about the photo shoot.

Cowboy Micah!

Our church had a chili cook off tonight. Micah was putting on everyone's gear as we were taking it off. The froggy pj's are his!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What to do??

I find myself spending time looking at adoption websites. It's a dangerous past time. My heart is drawn back to Ethiopia. I love the people. I love the country. I love the culture. I love China too. But, it is different. I love Ethiopia. But, then there is Sophie. She is praying daily for LoLo to bring home a China baby for her. Oh, and she should pick one up for us while she is there. A girl. We already have a boy baby here. So, my heart is torn. I have been thinking that we are ready for more - potentially. If the Lord told us that we were done, I'd be surprised, but I'd be okay with that. It's just where??

Sunday, January 3, 2010 bullet points

Caden, Micah and Cruz
Melia Serawit
Christmas card 2009

cuz i love me some bullet points.
  • traveled to Ethiopia
  • became a family of 6
  • welcomed a new nephew into the family
  • rid ourselves of one dog
  • entered the teenage parenting years
  • started directing a home school program
  • took 3 trips to Missouri to visit family
  • welcomed a new niece into the family
  • celebrated 3 years home with Sophie
  • rejoiced in 2 years tumor free with Makenzie
  • laughed heartily at Seth's constant antics
  • enjoyed watching Seth's first fencing tournament
  • felt incredibly blessed!!!
Cheesy, I know. But, also so true.