Monday, August 29, 2011

Wisconsin

A month ago I took a trip up to Wisconsin to visit extended family and spend some special time with my grandma. I got to visit with my wonderful aunts, my cousin Kaitlin and even got to see my dad's family at my cousin Sandy's wedding. I did all of this while Neil stayed home with both girls for 6 days. He says it's what dad's and husband's should all do and he was fine with it - I say he's amazing!! Without two kids my focus was on actual conversations and I read like I've never read since college. It was so enjoyable! I also got to spend some great quality time with my parents as we drove up together and stayed together most the week.

Here are a few of my favorite photos:

Barbara and I at the farmer's market - it was an amazing market and I got those beautiful flowers for my grandma's room for $6!
This is the tiny church in the middle of the corn feilds where my cousin Sandy got married. It was amazing and I called Neil right away to tell him I found the place we are renewing our vows =) I just loved it even though it didn't have air conditioning and we were all sweating up a storm!
Aunt Marge, Aunt Faye, Dad and Mom
My cousin Sandy and he groom Mike with Sandy's kids (Angie and Aaron) and grandkids (my second and third cousins) - we have a lot of years between us so it gets a little confusing!
Sandy's parents, my Uncle George and Aunt Carol (my dad's oldest sister of 7)
Kaitlin and I visiting Grandma in the sitting room at the nursing home
LOVE this picture!! Linda, Barb and mom touching "the queen"!
Out by lake Michigan for a festival
Visiting the Sheboygan History Museum next door to the nursing home - Judy came that day too!
What a blessing it was to be there and see everyone! I pray it's not long before I can get back to visit grandma again and take at least one of the girls with me!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

GO!!!

This week was Claire's first week of kinder and it couldn't have gone any better!! She as had a wonderful week - loving her teacher (we really like her too!!), making new friends, playing games in PE, singing songs in music, reading a new story every day and what does she say is her favorite? Playing with Layla on the playground and Snack!!

I surprised Claire with a new foo foo outfit for her first day and she was so excited! She's been eyeing it at Costco all summer =) The day before she painted this lovely picture for Mrs. Lopez...


Eden, Neil and I walked her into school and to her classroom.
Do you think she was excited?! She really was fine (and so were we) until we had to say goodbye. We didn't actually get to walk her into the classroom but dropped her off by the door. When we told her we were going to leave, she went and sat next to a couple girls and started talking to them right away. I'll never forget that look on her face when we were leaving... the first look of uncertainty and worry... as soon as we were around the corner Neil and I were teary and just praying the day went well. I was fine until one of the counselors during the parent breakfast read a book to us about the first day of school - I pretty much lost it.
When I picked her up after school (it was a madhouse), she saw me and there was no smile. My heart sank and my eyes stung...again! She was so quiet but the instant we got to the car she started jumping up and down, holding onto her backpack saying "Mom!! My day was AWESOME!" I was so relieved and she just raved to everyone about it.
To celebrate the first day, Eden and I took Claire to get a snow cone and visit grandma and grandpa!


The week actually flew by and although Claire was fussy in the afternoon due to being tired, everything went so smoothly. Here she is on Friday for Spirit Day! Yeah, she wasn't feelin' the picture taking that morning =)
There are a few things we just HAVE to remember =) A lot of funny things - the serious, touchy-feely things are already written down to go in her scrapbook!


- Every.single.day. Claire asked to wear her foo foo dress! She would change into it as soon as she'd get home.


- She told us that she met her Art teacher "Mrs. HotGoose" on Friday!! Holy Cow we couldn't stop laughing!! We had to look up her name to check it out. It has a "goose" in it so she was close =)


- She said "yes dam" to Neil and we were so confused until we understood why she said it =) Women are "yes mam" and since dad starts with "d", it must be "yes dam" lol - we quickly taught her sir!


- This is the best one! Claire is choosing one day a week to buy her lunch. She was so excited to buy on Tuesday (I was nervous) so this was our conversation after school:


M: "How was lunch honey?"


C: "Good but I didn't think the chicken looked good so I change my mind. I got a hamburger. But I didn't like it"


M: "So what did you eat?"


C: "Well, the boss (she meant "principal") told us we had to finish all our food so (she whispers and her eyes get really big)... I tricked him..."


M: "You tricked him? What do you mean?"


C: "I rolled up by hamburger in a ball and stuffed into my napkin!"


It was so funny because she thought she was so sly! Don't worry - I talked to her about how that was being dishonest and that I would ask her teacher that evening if they had a rule that the kids had to eat everything =) She just didn't want to get in trouble but it was good to hear that isn't the rule. I assured Claire that she just needed to eat as much as she could.


Here's to a great second week after a fun, busy weekend! Eden and I had a blast together this past week just the two of us. Even though we miss having Claire around we REALLY enjoy our one on one time that I've never consistently had with her! I'm looking forward to this season of our family's life!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On your mark, get set....

We've been gearing up for Claire's first day of kinder this week and I can hardly believe it! When I was a kid I LOVED going back to school - getting school supplies, picking out my first day outfit, meeting my teacher, seeing my classroom, picking out stuff for lunches, etc. Claire may just be following in her mama's footsteps! Here are a few fun pics from the week...

Supply shopping! I bought three sets of folders because I kept finding cuter ones =) (The others will be donated)

Going to meet the teacher - Mrs. Lopez! She actually recognized me from when I had her husband as a teacher way back in the 5th grade. She is a veteran teacher and so sweet!
Claire and Mrs. Lopez by her cubby

Mrs. Lopez had cookies for the kids and when people would ask Claire if she liked her teacher after meeting her she would say "YES!! She let me have TWO cookies!" She knows the way to my little girl's heart - cookies and books! Here she is in the reading corner!
Today was the much anticipated "Kinder Box" presentation at church. I've been watching this for 7 years and thinking about when I would have a little one up there and the day had finally come! They each got a school box full of supplies that represent different things (crayons = God created us all different and unique; scissors = rightly divide the good decisions from the bad; glue stick = remind us to stick with God; eraser = God will erase our mistakes if we ask Him; tissues (mainly for the parents) = God's soft love for us). They also got a "big" bible with the new and the old testament. They all went up in front of our church family for the presentation and then the elders sat and prayed over them. We are so BLESSED to be part of this amazing family! Claire couldn't have been more excited! She picked out her dress and pearls for the occasion. Here she is with Abbey
It's so amazing to see all these kinder kids! So many of them have grown up together since they were in-utero!
Grandma and Grandpa came and then we did a celebratory lunch at Chipotle
The Zorn's came too!! Leyna and Claire - such big girls
The crew making silly faces =)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Official August #

So at almost 11 months on the waitlist and 16.5 months in process, we are officially #21!!! (started at 69)
not only are we excited about it being lower than we thought and us being close to the teens, it's also Duncan's number! Neil was lovin' that!

Right now we are waiting to hear from Lutheran to schedule our home visit (round 2) to renew our homestudy that expires already in September. We had about a week where we thought we weren't going to have to renew after all but there was some kind of communication lapse between Lutheran and AGCI so we do have to renew!! Just as an FYI for those who are in process/waiting in Texas, you have to renew when your USCIS immigration expires - not 12 months! Please pray for our backgrounds checks to come back quickly!!

A lot of questions arise around this time of year in regards to the Ethiopian court system closing for 2 months. This will slow things down a little but it doesn't mean there won't be referrals, travel for final trips/embassy and more! I posted a great Q&A from AGCI about the closures for those who are interested!

Court Closure Q&A
Q: When do the Courts close?
A: The Court closure occurs each year for approximately 2 months in August and September. The actual dates of closure and reopening vary from year to year.

Q: When do we find out when the Courts close?
A: The dates for this year’s closure have not been released. Typically, we do not receive advance notification of when the closure is to begin and end, but our staff at Hannah’s Hope do notify our office as soon as possible after they hear word.

Q: Why do the Courts close?
A: Many refer to this time of year in Ethiopia as “rainy season.” It is definitely true that Ethiopia experiences a good amount of rain during this time of the year and it can make getting to work a bit tricky at times. However, we can also look at the Courts closing for a recess period as the staff’s opportunity for a vacation.

Q: Do the Courts still accept new cases and issue court appointments during the closure?
A: Every year is different in exactly how the Courts operate during the closure/recess period. In some years, they have been completely shut down. In other years, the Courts accepted new cases into their “cue” then once they reopened, court appointments were issued. Even last year, we were able to submit new cases and received a few court appointment notices, but the appointments were not set to occur until October. Unfortunately, it is not clear how the Courts will operate or not operate during this year’s closure, but our staff will continue to submit new cases until the Courts no longer accept them.

Q: Is MOWA also closed during the period of time the Courts are closed?
A: The Federal Courts of Addis Ababa and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) are separate government offices, though they must work in partnership to complete adoption cases. MOWA does not typically close while the Courts are closed. We are hoping that given that MOWA is supposedly processing around 10 cases a day, they will continue to review cases and issue opinion letters to the Courts during this court closure period. Historically, though, we have seen that the motivation of MOWA to process cases and issue letters during the court closure has been low, since the Courts were not open to process the cases.

Q: Will the Courts process MOWA opinion letters that are issued during the closure?
A: It is not clear at this time if, during this court closure, the Courts will process the letters from MOWA for cases that have already completed court appointments. It is our hope that these letters will continue to be processed so pending cases can be approved, but again, right now there is no clarity on this.

Q: Can families still travel for the second trip and complete a visa appointment with the US Embassy to bring their child(ren) home during the closure?
A: _You bet! The visa appointment is conducted at the US Embassy, which is part of the US government. The Embassy has historically been open and processing cases and visas during the time the Courts are closed. We have seen times in the past where the Embassy processes fewer cases during the closure time, but the US Embassy holds complete jurisdiction over its processing of cases.

Q: Can children still be assigned and admitted into Hannah’s Hope then referred to their forever families during the Court closure?
A: Yes, children can still come into Hannah’s Hope through government-licensed orphanages and referred to adoptive families while the Courts are on recess. One thing to keep in mind is that a great deal of investigation and follow up work must go into each child’s history before a child can be referred, and this can slow things down a bit at the front end of a child’s process. Overall, there is never a set or average number of children who will come into Hannah’s Hope and/or referred to their forever families in any given month, and August and September are no exception.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A few fun things!

With the end of summer winding down, we've had a ton of fun!! Going and doing and just being together as a family while Neil had the first two weeks of August off. I just can't get enough of the girls learning, trying new things, discovering... these years amaze me and I never want to forget!

First up was VBS at our church. The girls had a blast! It was Eden's first VBS and I think she's hooked (especially on the "Slippery Fish" song!) Isn't this wall of deco awesome? My amazing friend Tiffany took care of this wall and another =)
I helped the last day since I was finally back in town from Wisconsin!
Adam, Carly, Leyna and Claire (Abbey was there too!)
The girls were invited to Leyna's 5th bday party and they had a blast playing in the water out back!

Meeting Cora Lynn!!! We got up to the hospital to see Cora, Eric n Erin but couldn't get too close because Claire was complaining of an upset tummy. It was so hard to be there and not be able to hold her!! I got my chance the next day =)
Eric joining the club - all girls but hopefully not for too long!!
Getting as close as I could! (Claire sporting her new "grow out the bangs" look)
We had tickets for the Children's Museum from a silent auction we won so we took the girls downtown.
Milking a cow
"Shopping" at HEB - their favorite part!

Later that week it was Eden's first time to bowl! We went to participate in Strikes for Tikes which is a fundraiser for Urban Connection in SA.
We got to bowl with the Dyes and met a number of others!
Bowling with pizza and drinks

And finally swimming! We've been swimming a lot lately and the girls have turn into fish =)
Wow - lots of fun things!! I'm exhausted =) and looking forward to a more routine schedule when school starts... Claire going to Kinder!!? Yes, I'm nervous!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bunk Beds

Look what these girls and their bed head are so excited about...
they got their bunk beds!!! We finally sold Claire's bed to a sweet family from church so we were able to get the bunk beds ordered and moved in before school started - yippee!! They really love having them and it's been great to get more space in the bedroom. The stairs on the bed have drawers so we can have more storage. Something at a premium when moving kiddos in together.
They especially love the top but Eden is doing fine with having to sleep on bottom. She is doing great at staying in bed and sharing a room - even better with the beds instead of mattresses on the floor. I think it's because they can't see each other and it isn't as easy to get out =)

This is a big step for Eden - her first big girl bed! Do you think she likes it?
Our big girl keeps growing up right before our eyes! I'm SO thankful that this transition was actually pretty easy (especially compared to Claire) and it's one more check off the list to getting things settled while we wait for our little guy!
Bottoms up!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Grandma Ann

When I came across this picture on my mom's camera from her trip to Wisconsin in May, my heart melted.

To most this is just a window but this window and especially it's view holds so many memories for me. It's the window that sits right above my Grandma Ann's kitchen sink. I've seen such beauty through this window as I spent time at my grandma's condo. The glorious trees, bunnies, deer... but I mostly see my Grandma by this window, peeling her morning orange with her elbows on the counter, one leg bent and the other straight. Her CD player running. I see her fruit bowl on the counter top across the way and the magnetic cross stitching still on her refrigerator that I made when I was just a kid. Her big sliding glass doors that led to the deck out back - our favorite spot for pictures. It's amazing how one picture can evoke so many memories and so much emotion...

Last week I traveled with my parents to Wisconsin and spent my last time in her condo but she wasn't there. Her place was sparse with almost everything gone. Grandma has been moved to a nursing home and has been in and out of the hospital. She is not herself physically or mentally but she still has her wit! My mom said I was able to see her on really good days. I'll never forget her reading the recordable book that Aunt Barbara got for her to read to Claire, Eden, Pierce and Baby Boy Lewis. She didn't miss a beat and what beautiful inflection. With a smile she agreed when we told her she did a wonderful job reading and said "I have the gift of reading you know".

Here we are sitting in the sun room. What a joy it was to spend this time with her and I'm so blessed to have had this time with her and my other family.


I'll share more photos of my time in Wisconsin but wanted to make this post one of it's own.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Catching up

This summer has been FUN but exhausting with all the activities... After a long trip to Wisconsin, I just feel behind on everything right now and trying to catch up on it all - blogging, sorting and giving away clothes, getting the girls room settled, organizing pictures, cleaning off the laptop, adoption paperwork, school prep, scrapbooking, grocery shopping, sleeping, purging the house, thank you notes, etc. Tonight, after a long bedtime battle, I was going back and putting blogs in where they belong according to date but sometimes I wonder if that will give the impression to my kiddos that I really had it all together. I'm here to tell you, I don't!!! Juggling it all and being a person who doesn't like saying "no", it makes me look forward to having more of a routine to our days come fall time (not that I'm looking forward to Claire being in school). I'm feeling the need to really embrace stillness and quiet.

Babies, I LOVE being a mom - there's nothing more I'd rather do - but it's hard. My total reliance needs to be on my God and Savior and not myself. If there is one thing I want to teach you, it is to hand it over to Him daily. It's ok for life to be overwhelming at times because in our weakness HE is our strength and that's when we really can practice our utter dependence on Him. Off to sleep...