Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Long, 2009!

What a year it has been.

:: Cory turned one.

:: we led our first small group as a married couple.

:: and our second.

:: I helped put on Conversations at Northland.

:: we heard about a church in the Atlanta area and drove up to check it out.

:: we moved.  Twice.

:: we started the long process necessary to adopt our daughter from Rwanda.

:: I watched my first nephew being born.

:: we drove to FL three times, TN three times, SC once, and AL many times.

:: we got renters for our house in FL, and lost them 6 months later.

:: I shot a wedding with Kelsey.

:: Jeremy went camping with the men from church.

:: we either had (overnight) guests or were guests for some part of 24 of the 52 weeks of the year.  Wow!

:: we had four fundraisers and applied for four grants and a no-interest loan (adoption-related stuff).

:: we mailed in our dossier!

:: Iain turned three.

:: we celebrated five years of marriage.

:: we suffered some major car-repairs.  With major bills.

:: we spent our first night away from the boys.

:: I started working in the nursery.

:: we bought a house.

:: I learned to crochet.

:: Jeremy played drums several times at church.

:: we hosted our first Christmas.

:: we've got a play group meeting at our house once a week.

:: we spent four months (and counting) paying two mortgages.  Anyone want to rent a house in Altamonte?

:: we joined an amazing church.

:: we have been happy, tired, stressed, amazed, discouraged, lonely, thankful, and overwhelmed.  It's been the craziest, weirdest, hardest year since we've been married.  

Goodbye, 2009.  I'll probably be asleep when you depart.  Ready for the next trip around the sun!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas, 2009 (In All Its Glory!)

Christmas this year: fun, crazy, fast, packed, full of family, a full house.

Iain fell off the couch during his nap.  The nap continued.

The boys LOVED putting up and decorating the tree.  And stopping to sing Christmas carols along the way.

Jeremy and Iain working on Iain's "special project," a coloring sheet he does a bit at a time.

Jeremy and Cory fake sleeping.

*Cory's favorite, sung loudly: Joy to de World!
*Iain's favorite (or the only one he says he knows): We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
*It was fun decorating the Rock House for the first time.  And great that both our families could be with us for Christmas!
*The boys love candy canes and "rain" on the tree.

Iain was in his first pageant in church.  He was an angel.

*He did NOT wear a halo like the rest of the kids because he didn't want to look like a real angel.
*He stood and sat on cue, but refused to sing or do any motions, except jingling the bells at the end.  He said this was because he didn't know the songs.  He did.
*During the first song, the band was still on stage, so naturally, Iain stood facing backwards so he could watch them play.
*His favorite part was passing out candy canes at the end.

Jeremy's parents (Grammy and Papa) arrived on Monday the 21st.  They helped me paint Cory's room, and Papa and the boys put together one of their gifts: a sandbox!

Cory found ice in the toy wheelbarrow in the backyard.

*Papa posted on his blog leading up to the sand box reveal, so the boys knew he was bringing a red box for them to help him put together, but they didn't know it was for them, or what was in it.
*Cory's room looks GREAT!  More pictures to come.
*We also had Uncle Larry and Aunt Lisa over for dinner one night.
*Cory was teething hardcore and Iain was sick with a nasty cold.
*We had a little birthday party for Grammy, and the boys made a sign and wiggly worm cookies (the day before G&P came).  Yes, they stayed in their pajamas for most of the sign-and-cookie-making day.

Sickies on the couch.  Watching movies is the one good part about being sick when you're a kid.

My family arrived on Christmas Eve, making a total of 12 people for Christmas.

Poor, sick baby!  His lip isn't really swollen; he likes to stick his tongue under his top lip.  But his nose really was that red!

*We had a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, complements of Grammy, with a ham from Jenna and Curtis.
*We had a Christmas Eve service, complements of Jeremy and Papa, complete with Christmas carols (all verses!), and a telling of the Christmas story with the felt Nativity that Grammy made when her boys were young.
*By now, Cory (and Jeremy and I) were sick.

Christmas Day was fun and relaxed.

*Haylee got a snuggie, something we will always mock her for.
*Isaiah morphed into a small Santa.
*Winning presents for the boys: magna doodles from Haylee.  But oh, they loved everything they got!  Presents of note: backpacks from Grammy and Papa, remote controlled cars from my mom (right?), electric drum pad things from Phil and Kelly, bed buddies (study buddies? husbands? what do you all call those big pillows with arms?) from Kelsey, an Auburn sweatsuit from Jenna and Curtis, hobby horses from Jeremy and I.
*Poor little Cory was feeling so sick he didn't even open all his presents.
*Our little girl had a few things under the tree for her: a sweet doll and some adorable hairbows and headbands made by my friend Shannon.  
*We missed you, little girl!
*I got two adoption-related books: From Ashes to Africa, and The Strength of Mercy.  Finished the second one yesterday.

The day after Christmas: Kelsey's birthday!  Grammy and Papa headed home, Jeremy headed to work, and the rest of us headed to Ikea!

*hot dogs from Ikea are awesome after a lot of shopping.
*but cinnamon buns are better.

Sunday, the 27th: went to church in the morning.

*The N family arrived (my aunt and uncle and five cousins).  Then the B family arrived (my aunt and uncle and four cousins).  They stayed with us until Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, respectively.  
*Joining us for dinner, also: Uncle Mark, Aunt Donis, Chris, Liz, Penny (their sweet baby girl), Lindy and Addie (her cutie), and their cousin Briarly (did I spell that right?).  And my family was all still here.
*So we had 31 people over for dinner!  And I neglected to take a single picture.  
*It was so much fun!

That night, we had 23 people at our house for the night.  Yikes!  But we all fit somehow. :)

Monday: My mom and Kelsey left, and the rest of us hiked Red Top Mountain.

*It was so cold!
*Iain cried and screamed almost the whole time, alternating.  It was because he was shivering.  Every time he shivered, he started up again.  And did I mention it was cold?  There was a lot of shivering going on.
*The cousins (and Aunt Steph, apparently) kept running from one tree to another, hugging it and yelling at the top of their lungs.  It was absolutely hilarious.  Especially when they hugged a small tree and toppled it right over.
*Then Haylee and the N's left.

Tuesday: the B's left after lunch and a morning of playing and shopping.  And a great Christmas was had by all.  All of us, anyway.  We loved hosting it here!

And now I can start the New Year with a clear conscience, knowing I finished my Christmas blogging!

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Little Poet

I was reading some poems to Iain at breakfast this morning; namely The Owl and the Pussycat and The Tale of Custard the Dragon.

So he wrote his own:

Muff cumbled up in a little ball rain,
He pulled up to his cumble dain.

Sounds a little more like Jabberwocky to me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dossier, Part Two

The Happy Ending!

The dossier is on its way to the agency!  From there, it will go to the Rwandan Embassy, and then on to Rwanda.  This time next month it should be there!

Today was another very long day - though not nearly as long as it would have been had Jeremy not gallantly decided to take most of the day off work and give the boys a Daddy Fun Day, leaving me free to drive all over Georgia alone.  

I left just before eight this morning and didn't get home until after four, but it was worth it!  

-- The people at D county were helpful and friendly and quick.  
-- When I got to Atlanta, I had to park in a garage pretty far from the SOS office.  I parked in the first open spot on the sixth floor, and walked down the stairs.  When I opened the door to exit the stairwell, I was right in the middle of a crowd of rough-looking young men who were talking to several police officers about possession of marijuana.  I walked through quickly and made a wrong turn, and ended up walking for waaaaaaay longer than I needed to, through equally rough parts of Atlanta, in cold and drizzly rain, looking for the Capitol Building that was hidden by mist.
-- I did in fact have the same lady as yesterday doing my documents.  I smiled at her and was pleasant and she was quick in giving me back my documents: ALL CERTIFIED!

On to Kinko's!
-- it took over an hour to copy all the documents in triplicate and without removing any staples.  

-- Kinko's was playing music I liked the whole time, which was fun.  It was like I was in a movie (a very boring movie about making copies) and it was my soundtrack.
-- I drank a peppermint milkshake from Chick-fil-a while copying.  They are truly the tastiest thing around.  I want another one.
-- I videotaped the copy machine at one point, which made me feel like I was taping The Office.  And I took a picture, too.  Call me a nerd.

-- I think these piles are just about the most beautiful thing I've seen all day!  Be still my heart!

-- Funny story: I asked the guy at behind the counter if they did any discounts (copy places ALWAYS give me discounts if I ask.).  He said to ask the other guy who was ringing me up.  I told him it was for a good cause, and noticed his name tag: Ian.  So I told him my son was named Iain, and he gave me 15% off my tab!
-- Then Ian let me take a picture of the treasured dossier perched atop the pile of Christmas presents.  I promise I am far more excited about that package than anyone else will be about theirs!  (See the thin rectangle on top that says FedEx?  That's ours, baby!)  Our dossier should be at the agency's office Thursday afternoon!  God is good!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dossier, Part One

Here's a recap of the past few days:

December 7: I write a very sweet email to the Atlanta USCIS office asking if they can possibly give me an update on our I-171H form, telling them about the possibility of our medical forms running out and hoping for a favorable response.

December 9: They reply!  They tell me the form will be mailed out before the weekend!  And there is much rejoicing!

December 11 (Friday)
--3:00 pm: It's here!  The I-171H arrives in the mail (eight weeks to the day after we were fingerprinted for it!) and I spring into action!  I call all the banks in the area, hoping for just ONE person in any of these banks to be a notary in C county, so I can get the copy of the form notarized there.  Finally, success!

--3:30 pm: Iain and I rush to the bank and get the form notarized.  I swing back home and pick up Cory (who was napping before), and head to the C county courthouse to get everything county certified (GA is one of the few states that requires everything to be county AND state certified; documents must be certified in the county that the person who notarized them is registered in).
--4:30 pm: The boys and I arrive at the C county courthouse, park in a garage a few blocks away and book it.  We arrive at 4:45 in the office, breathless.  Iain says he has no more energy.  I apologize to the lady at the desk for sneaking in as she's closing down and she says, "It's ok, I don't close down until five of five."  I wonder if she knows that that's in ten minutes and I have twenty documents for her to certify!
--5:00 pm: We leave, onnly somewhat successfully.  The lady discovered something I had not seen: four of my documents were not notarized in C county.  Two were in P county, the courthouse being about 15 minutes away.  The other two were in D county, which is an hour and a half away!  If I had realized this, I could have done these in the eight weeks we waited for the I-171H form.  I kick myself all the way home.

Saturday and Sunday: Why aren't government offices open on Saturdays and Sundays!? :)  I do, however, finish the photo pages.  

Sunday night we go out to eat to celebrate the completion of the dossier (I know it's not complete yet, but Sunday is kids eat free day!).

--6:45 am: the boys and I roll out the door, headed for D county.  The drive there and back takes almost four hours.
--10:30 am: we're now headed toward P county.  Get everything certified there.
--11:45 am: home for lunch.  Put Cory down for his nap.
--1:20 pm: Iain and I head for Atlanta, all documents county certified and ready to be state certified.  I stop for caffeine on the way.
--2:15 pm: it's really hard to find the right building.  We walk a lot.  I take pictures of Iain at the Capitol Building, inside and out.

--2:45 pm: things aren't looking good.  When the woman in the Secretary of State office seems to be trying to find problems with my documents before she even looks at them, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Or maybe that's because we're 11 floors up and I can feel the building move.  I give all the right answers, feeling well-prepared and hoping this will go well.
--3:15 pm: It doesn't go well.  She won't accept documents from D county, nor will she speak to them on the phone when I ask.  She says they knew better.  I try to plead my case to no avail.  Swallowing tears, I step outside with the wonderfully well-behaved Iain and call D county.  They are very kind and helpful.  They tell me that the state always accepts documents like this, and they don't know why she won't today.  She offers to mail me the documents I need.  I accept gratefully.
--4:10 pm: we're back in the car and I've had my cry.  I call D county back and tell them thank you but I'll come back in tomorrow to get the new documents.  The mail would take too long, and I want this dossier in this week.  I dread doing this all over again.  At least this time, I can skip P county; she accepted those documents.
--4:45 pm: home.  Long day.

And tomorrow we'll do it all again, hopefully successfully.  I'll be praying for favor, and praying that a different person handles my documents this time.

My mom reminded me that the timing on this is leading us to just the child God has chosen for us.  Maybe the delay is ordained by Him to cause the dossier to arrive at exactly the right time so we will be matched with exactly the right child.  I really do believe that; have thought about it often throughout this process.  So I am thankful for His sovereignty.  But I am sad that dossier day isn't today, as I was thinking it would be (hope deferred makes the heart sick), and really not excited about hours more of driving with two little boys, who would rather be playing (and I'd rather they be playing!).  

Stay tuned... hopefully tomorrow will be part two of this saga, including the happy ending.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Here!

The long-awaited I-171H form has finally arrived!  Yay!!  Iain came out to the mailbox with us to check for it and said, "Yay!  Our form for the baby sister is finally here!"

The dossier should be on its way to the agency Monday evening....

Lots more running around to do.  Gotta get all those documents certified (county and state) and then copied.

Can't even write in complete sentences.  More details to come.   Gotta go!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Testing the Waters

We have an opportunity to sell some t-shirts to raise money for our adoption.  Before we commit to anything, I wanted to see if people would be interested.  They're pretty cool shirts.  What's a good price for a t-shirt?  You're not committing to buy anything; I just wanted to see what the interest is...

Thanks for the feedback!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Nothing Yet...

... but still some good news: we were told that our medical forms expire in two months, meaning we had to get the dossier to the embassy in ONE month, so it would have another month to sit there before going to Rwanda.  Actually, I learned today (thank you Sarah!) that our agency builds in an extra month for that.  The documents actually are good for THREE months total.  The agency wants them turned in in TWO months so that the extra month is there for the time they're at the embassy.

Clear as mud?  Good.

So we have longer than we thought!  But we sure HOPE and PRAY it doesn't take that long.  We'd still love to have our I-171H this week.  But thank You Lord for answering our prayer in a little different way.

And thank you all for praying.  Keep up the good work! :)

Please Oh Please Oh Please

Let today be the day!

I wonder if the mail-lady would find it creepy that I'm taking pictures of her from my window...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Will You Pray With Us?

We are six weeks and two days into waiting for our I-171H form, the last piece of paperwork we need before we can ship our dossier to our agency, then to the Rwandan Embassy, then on to Rwanda!  While we are not outside of the timeframe they say this document can take, we've been waiting very anxiously for it to arrive.

Now it's even more important it comes soon.  Our physicals will expire in one month and one week (for the second time!).  Since the dossier usually takes a month to get through the Rwandan Embassy and on to Rwanda, if we don't get the process started VERY soon, we'll have to do the physicals over again (again).  This is an expensive and time-consuming (and very frustrating!) process, and one we'd really rather avoid.

So will you please pray with us that the I-171H form will come THIS WEEK?  And that we'll have great favor with the USCIS office (the one processing our form)?

Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thanksgiving 09

This year for Thanksgiving, we broke with the tradition of spending the day with Jeremy's family, and instead drove to Tennessee to stay at a camp where my uncle works.  It was wonderful!  We had about 50 people in all, which accounted for six of the eight siblings from my mom's generation.  Lots of cousins for the boys to play with!  Iain LOVES his cousins (Cory does too, but Iain is more vocal), and said several times on the drive home that he wanted to live there with his cousins forever.

My mom brought supplies for the kids to make turkey cupcakes.  Cory learned that he could jam a bunch of candy corn (feathers) on his and then eat them right back off.

Love this picture!

The camp has restored part of the Tweetsie Railroad, and has a train they run along part of it.  The boys loved it!  Cory said his favorite part was "the tunnel and spittin' " which he did every time the train stopped.  

Cory spittin'.  I promise this was safer than it looks. :)

And through the tunnels, they raised their arms and yelled "Pizza cheese!"  Don't ask me why.

Of course, Iain wanted to take Bunny.  We made sure he wouldn't fall out.

Cory kept burrowing into me and saying, "Teep me warm!"

And the gang's (mostly) all here.

My favorite part of the trip was our hike up Roan Mountain.  It was SO COLD.  I drove on ice for the first time.  Those of us without four-wheel drive or who were less confident about their driving on ice skills parked part way up (took pictures by the icicles on the side of the road) and drove up with the safer vehicles/drivers.  Then we hiked to this amazing spot - a geological (?) anomaly where it is grassy and open at the top of the mountain.  The hike itself was gorgeous.  At the top, it was windy, but there were little patches of snow all around - perfect for a snowball fight!  (I have pictures of some of that, too, but they'll have to come another time.)

Side of the road:

Is it an icicle or a sword?

We took our annual family picture by the icicles, too.

Cory really wanted to eat snow.  He liked it! (At the top)

On the way up:
Jeremy with Iain, Uncle Randy with Cory:
Thanks Aunt Steph, Uncle Randy, and family for a WONDERFUL holiday!