Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chili Cook-Off

Tonight was our annual chili cook-off at church. Our life group always does a booth and we have a great time getting creative and having fun with all our kids running around! In years past we've done The Addams Family, Wrestling, Sesame Street, Texas Chilly, The Smurfs - this year the theme was Favorite Book so we went with "Dr. Seuss". We were so excited and when we showed up, another life group did Dr. Seuss too so we had A LOT of "Things" running around =) We all had a great time! Neil did an amazing job with our backdrop for our booth! He's so talented and Dr. Seuss characters are one of his favorites to recreate =) All of them are eating chili one way or another! Emily knew someone who had a Cat in the Hat costume so Neil put it on and the kids from another group came flocking to him to read them a story! SOOO cute! Emily, Tivica and Marci My cat in the hat and two sweet "things" #6 and #8 The Lyons, Alcalas and Vu with Adam! The Torres Family The Nguyen Family Love And the whole group!! Everyone couldn't be there but we had a great turn out! Can't wait till next year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Austin Bound

The last weekend of Spring Break I took a MUCH needed trip to Austin to spend some quality time with my sister-in-law Heather and brother Mike! They are expecting their little boy any day now!! A huge thank you to Neil for keeping the girls while I was away! I couldn't be a more excited aunt and couldn't resist this aunt gear for my new nephew...

I also got to spend some wonderful time with Heather Adams on Friday night when I finally arrived in Austin at almost 10 p.m. On Saturday, Heather (sister-in-law) and I had a slow, relaxing morning drinking coffee and visiting. It was amazing to have a day that didn't revolve around when I would be making lunch and not being able to leave the house between 1-3 p.m. We could do whatever we wanted!! So we went to a wonderful place for lunch, went shopping for the baby, got stuff to make dinner, talked uninterrupted and giggled a lot! Mike came home for dinner and we all had a great evening hanging out.


These two are going to be fabulous parents and can't wait!! Here are a few special pictures from their last weeks as a family of two... I just realized that I didn't post about the big announcement of when they told us they were pregnant!! When it happened we were to keep it a secret!! Heather shared this picture with me this weekend and I loved it - this was right after they told us when we all were at our house for dinner. Love the commotion all around us hugging! What a special moment to capture on a picture! They brought some yummy baby cupcakes to share with everyone!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random Catch Up

We've had so much going on around here with Spring Break and random fun =)I haven't been blogging a lot lately so thought this would be a great way to catch up!! Have Tball and Chili Cook Off that I want to post next!

SO this is what we've been up to...

- Celebrating my mom's birthday on March 8th - all my siblings were home and we all had a great time together! The pic of us with kids and spouses didn't turn out so here is mom and dad with their kids! - A Spring Break party with Claire's MDO class! Had a great time in the bouncy, eating hot dogs and getting to know moms and kids better! In this pic, Claire needed a little help getting to the slide =) Cameron, Claire, Samuel, Alexis and Layla
Claire, Alexis and Layla
- Being silly! She is her daddy's daughter and yes, those are panties on her head. I wasn't home when this was taken (but so glad it was!!)
- Helping around the house - Eden loves helping clean the dishes!
- Meeting up with friends!! Got to spend the afternoon with Kate and Kristi which was so wonderful - hanging out at Chick fil a and then shopping at Babies R Us! Can't wait to meet Kristi's little girl, Jaydee, in July. Can hardly believe we've been friends for 21 years!! (Neil got to spend the evening with his guys!)
- The big project over spring break was painting our front door red and changing the handle hardware. Neil did an AWESOME job and I'm so sad I didn't get a picture of him working =( Thanks to my dad who helped out a lot!
Here is the finished project!! The red looks good with the brick and green trim!
And here are the girls modeling with the door =) Couldn't resist!


- Celebrating Lily's birthday with cake, ice cream...
and a pinata!

Claire had a great swing =) love this picture of her and Neil!
- my sweet friend from college, Laura, sent our little boy one of his first presents!! I just about lost it when I opened up the box and saw these outfits and the cutest puzzle. Can't wait to have a little one to put these to good use!
- And here are my girls again sporting their special outfits from grandma!


We've had such wonderful days spending quality time together! Spring break always comes at just the right time and we get spoiled with Neil being home all week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Numbers

In the midst of all the MOWA news, it has been a great time of referrals for our agency!! The past two months our official number was #47 and today we got news that our official March number is:

What is even better is we are unofficially #37!! There are three families that have gotten their referral and accepted but haven't completed all their paperwork for it to be reflected in the official number. That's almost half way and as of today, we have been on the waitlist for 5 months, 2 weeks and 4 days...but who's counting?! Can hardly believe it's almost been a year since we started this amazing journey. God has done some amazing things in us and transformed our hearts like I never even imagined... and He's no where near done!

We got an encouraging email from our agency. Looks like things are still a little up in the air but the slow down will probably not be as drastic as stated in the most recent policy. Here is an excerpt:

"As you know, over the past week AGCI has been working in collaboration with Joint Council, other licensed Adoption Service Providers in Ethiopia and the US Department of State to get clarity on the proposed changes instigated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs that would have drastically reduced the number of adoptions processed by their office.

We have spent the entirety of this week and last connecting with our own Foreign Staff, participating in caucus calls led by Joint Council and the US Department of State, and independently collaborating with other Adoption Service Providers to get clear and accurate information concerning this matter. Your grace and patience has been so appreciated during this time! What we know as facts are:

-MOWA posted a notice indicating as of March 10th they would be reducing the number of adoptions processed through their office to 5 cases a day.

-Within days of this announcement, the director of MOWA and several other staff members from the ministry have been terminated.

Today we want to update you on the feedback we received yesterday from our foreign staff in Ethiopia, which was confirmed in a discussion with our adoption colleagues in a Joint Council caucus call later in the day.

At this time, all Foreign Staff on the ground in Ethiopia are reporting that MOWA has completed their staffing changes and are now currently working at full capacity to complete those adoption cases currently re-scheduled or assigned a court appointment through the courts of Addis Ababa. Our staff believe this to be around 800 cases they are working at full force to complete with no restrictions on the number of cases processed each day. This is great news! We are thrilled to hear these drastic changes do not seem to be going into full effect.

We are also pleased to report that for new cases moving forward; it appears the original changes proposed by MOWA will not be implemented to the degree of 5 cases a day. At this time it is unknown whether or not MOWA will issue a formal statement regarding how they will process cases in the future, but from all discussions it will not be a drastic decrease from before. Through the continued work, meetings, and advocacy of many Foreign Staff members in Ethiopia, it appears any future changes within the case processing for MOWA will avoid sweeping and disproportionate alterations to the number of cases processed each day. Rather, the hope is that MOWA, Joint Council, Adoption Service Providers, the US Department of State and other NGO organizations can come together to support the government of Ethiopia in strengthening the process for ethical adoptions to continue while also improving the general social structures to assist with family preservation in Ethiopia. This plan was acknowledged in the recent posting by the US State Department this morning at http://adoption.state.gov/news/ethiopia.html. We understand the US Department of State cannot issue a formal statement without MOWA issuing a retraction. Based on the information we are receiving, MOWA is concentrating on processing the current adoptions and the new staff is not focused on numbers, but doing their jobs.

AGCI and our trusted colleagues look forward to collaborating to ensure adoptions move forward with the highest level of transparency possible. It is our commitment to carefully, ethically, and mindfully complete the adoption process on every level for orphaned children. Our hope is that as we do this in collaboration with other licensed agencies, we can also help to eliminate future concerns by MOWA and continue to build trust between their office and the adoption community at large."

AGCI has been amazing to work with through all of the changes! They have been wonderful about communicating and being very transparent. The listserv is beyond supportive and a lot of times my therapy as I see God working through the people He has connected me with.

Through all of this, the most common question asked is if we will be changing countries. Right now we feel SO strongly led to Ethiopia that we will not be changing countries no matter how long the wait it (unless they would completely close everything). Mulling over the idea of waiting possibly years has brought to mind the positives of how this will affect our family - we will have no problem saving for our second trip (that's what we are working on right now - isn't that amazing?!), the girls will be able to really remember and possibly be even more affected by being older when brother comes home, both girls will be in school (unless I need to go to homeschooling), we have the possibility of changing our parameters to adopt an older child (through our agency we have to keep birth order and 10 months difference so the older Eden gets, the older he can be) and the idea of an older child has been pressing on my heart more and more lately. We will see where God leads us as we continue to wait and pray for His plan to be clear to us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tourists

Although we live in San Antonio, it's always fun to be a tourist every once in awhile =) We've never taken the girls on a riverboat ride downtown so last night we packed up and headed down before meeting out of town friends for dinner. They both had a great time and so did Neil and I! Neil hasn't gone since he was about Claire's age =)

Their favorite things to see were the ducks, other boats and the wedding we rode by happening on "Wedding Island".
This is my favorite picture! Such excitement and you can see a good bit of the fun of downtown =)
Riding the boat we got to pass a few really special places for Neil and I so I pointed them out to Claire as she sat on my lap! We rode past the County Line - the restaurant that we ate at on our wedding night (we married early in the day and had time to spend on the river that night!). We also rode past the Valencia - the hotel we stayed in on our wedding night and the Jim Cullum jazz bar/restaurant that Neil took me to on our official first date. I love sharing these memories with the girls!


After the boat rides we went to Casa Rio to meet Clinton and Andrea who were visiting from Houston. Clinton and I were very good friends in college and get to see each other periodically. We had a great time catching up and hearing all about their upcoming arrival in September! Couldn't be more excited for them!
Took this as we passed by one of the small, quaint churches downtown. Love the moon in the blue sky.
Then it was off to see Uncle Billy and check out his latest project! He moved into a place downtown that is surrounded by his friends dad's business. His dad has been so gracious to Billy by giving him this alley wall to create to his hearts desire!! So thankful he has this outlet and even more thankful it's a legal place to express himself! He's really talented!
What a great night of quality time together making memories here in town! I really love living in this wonderful city!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday Claire!

Saturday, March 5th we celebrated Claire's 5th birthday. Can't believe how time flies! This year for Claire's party we went all girly with an everything hearts and love tea party! So much pink, purple and red to make you dizzy! Claire invited 7 of her closest girl friends from church and school. I know Claire had a great and memorable time celebrating with those she loves so much!
Claire helped me decorate the day before and loved setting everyone's personal place setting for the tea party. Each girl had their own special spot!
One of my favorite things to do is to make something special for the girl's birthdays to spruce up the place and make it into a party zone. I made Eden a banner like this for her big day in November and Claire loved the boa so I made her one too!
Fingernail painting was a must and a big hit!
Everyone getting their nails painted!
We had a great time coloring and making heart bookmarks!
Making bookmarks
One of the girl's favorite parts was decorating and eating their heart cookies. The more sprinkles, the better!
Eating their decorated cookies!
Claire with her heart cake!
Me with my big girl before blowing out her candles!
All four of us!
Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful gifts!
Claire especially loved her surprise knock on the door by daddy! She was so excited to have a big girl bike and all her friends took turns sitting on it =) She said "I knew it was going to be a bike." All week she was asking if she was getting a bike because all her friends had gotten bikes for their birthdays. She was still surprised even though she anticipated it!
Our big 5 year old! She looks especially old in this picture to me (sniff, sniff)
The grandparents with their girls - this picture has a special place in my heart. We haven't done it every year but we've gotten group shots with the grandparents at the birthday parties in most years past. I didn't grow up near my extended family and both my grandfather's passed before I was even born. So to have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins at my girl's birthday parties is extra special for me! I never want them to take it for granted because we are simply blessed to have them so close and in our lives!
Now onto Claire's actual birthday! She has been asking to go to Freddy's forever so we told her we'd take her for her birthday lunch after church. We had a blast!! Of course Claire's favorite part was the frozen custard - yummy - and my favorite part was taking silly pictures! Wish we would've gotten one with daddy but he was behind the camera this time!


Kisses for the birthday girl!
Silly!
Neil and I laughed so hard we cried when we first saw this picture! What a ham! She gets this silly face from her daddy!
Silly sister

We love you Claire Bear! Happy 5th birthday! Hope you had a blast and remember it always!