Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!
(can you tell which 1 of my 3 is sick?! )
We came home Christmas Eve to one of the best kind of Christmas Presents we could receive this year (besides that first one years ago), december numbers!! I was so surprised as I had expected to have to wait until next week.

So what a fun day to share with all of you - especially since there has been forward movement AND that I know these numbers are already out of date due to a couple of referrals that went out the end of last week. We love to get out of date numbers. :)

Girl: 104
Boy: 80.

Right on the verge of moving out of two numbers I'm ready to put behind us: the 100's and the 80's! : )

I love being able to celebrate Christmas this year knowing that while I can thank God for the family He has already placed in my life, I can thank Him for orchestrating the story of our family still to come. We have so much to thank Him for.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Because sometimes, it's the memory . . .

Our Christmas Program at church was this past sunday. Ava was super excited for it and did such a great job. I sent Ryan downstairs sunday morning to snap a few pictures quick of the girls in their christmas dresses. Let's just say . . .sometimes, it's the memory that counts, right?

So for your viewing pleasure . . .

Merry Christmas! : )

You know it's time for snow when . . .

When on their own, your kids find their snow gear and start pretend sledding inside for hours.

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Art Time

Ava LOVES to paint. Any art project is fun but painting is always a big hit. My mom had found a kit with two horses to paint so I waited for a quiet afternoon with the twins both napping (ie, it took a few weeks : ) ) to surprise Ava with this fun activity just for her. She was thrilled. We promised Grandma pictures so here they are!

Thanks for the fun project Grandma!

Christmas Candy

The girls love to help me make Christmas candies to give as gifts and this year was no exception. Was is exceptional is to think that my girls unwrapped 4 bags of rolos with only eating 1 each! : )
A Kate grin
My sweet Olivia
One tray almost ready for the oven . . .

I don't have a picture of the finished products but this very kid friendly (and yummy!) recipe can be found in this Taste of Heaven Cookbook that benefits Lifesong for Orphans!

Swimming Lessons!

Ava had her last lesson with our favorite swim teacher a couple weeks ago. She has been such a blessing to us - walked Ava through a very long road with swimming. It's been incredible too see Ava blossom in the water these last few months and just take off. I was thankful that this last time was no different and my girl got to just enjoy her hard fought confidence in the water.
Swimming under water!
One last jump in!
Kate and Olivia got to take their first lessons on their own during this session too. It was only a short session, but good to start getting them comfortable in the water too.

Taking a ride on the "boat"
Olivia practicing her kicks
Kate's turn kicking

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Girl Night Out

For a special Christmas outing, I took Ava to a local Christmas show here in town. It was a fun excuse for her to wear a "fancy dress" and for us to have some fun together.
All dressed up and ready to go!
One of the show's leads was this adorable little girl who I would guess to be around 5 years old. She did such a great job and was just too cute. Ava made sure we took a picture of her to show Daddy.
The annual "daddy/daughter" dance they do. Ryan hasn't offered to do this with Ava yet?!
One of my favorite parts? Their nativity scene. They sang one of my favorite Christmas songs this year, Hallelujah (Light has Come). The words of this song are so beautiful. You can listen to it here.
Even Dan Brady made a guest appearance. : )
This little girl number was too cute - Ava really liked their outfits : )
Dancing Dolls
And the end number!
Always love the chance for one on one time with my girls!

Christmas Cookies!

The girls were super excited to head to Grandma's to make Christmas Cookies this year. It was a tradition I grew up having with my own Grandma and it was one of my favorite days each year. It's fun to think of having that for our own girls to grow up with.

Grandma and Kate rolling out some dough
Ava was my handy helper
Olivia's turn
Ready to bake!
Grandma's helpers?!
Don't you want her in your kitchen?! : )
I really had thought the frosting would be my girls favorite part. And while Kate and Olivia both loved diligently frosting one cookie, that was enough for them and they were off to play. Cutting the cookies out was by far their favorite part.

Kate frosting her cookie
Ava, on the other hand, LOVED decorating her cookies (I think she just liked it all).
The proud artist
And her finished cookies
Grandpa came home from work and was an instant hit when he had the kids help him set up the train around the Christmas Tree.
Braden was with us for the day. Both Olivia and he were hilarious plugging their ears for much of the play. Kate was just having fun.
A chocolate covered pretzel makes for a happy little guy.

November Numbers REALLY Late .. .

While we didn't get our November numbers until the end of last month - I just never got around to taking a picture and posting it. For our November numbers, we knew from the little movement that had happened that we wouldn't see much movement that month. I'll try to describe a little how the "list" works.

The list you'll see us post numbers for is slightly inflated at this point. For ahead of us are all the people who completed their paperwork before us. Say, for instance, a family is open to bringing home a child between the ages of 0 - 5 of either gender. So they will be put on the list for both boys and girls. If they receive the referral of a 3 yr old boy, they come off of both the boy and girl list and we would move a spot forward on each list. So while we're at the back of the list, we often move places forward for children that wouldn't be referred to us.

For instance, we currently are only approved for a child between 0 and 12 months. So once we're at the top of the list (say, #3), most likely, the people in front of us are waiting for the same parameter of child we are and our number wouldn't change with the referral of a 3 yr old boy (as it would be someone with larger parameters behind us). I'm not sure if that makes sense at all . . .but hopefully it helps a little to make sense of it all.

So right now, there are "bubbles" in the list in front of us as families are on multiple lists (like us!). As referrals go out, those "bubbles" begin to disappear and movement usually will happen slower.

However, over the past couple of months, referrals have slowed down for a number of reasons.

The first is the most obvious: that Ethiopia has slowed down dramatically the number of cases they are processing a day. But there's been other factors.

Court shuts down in Ethiopia for an entire month each fall. So during that month, cases can not continue to be processed. We usually anticipate a couple slower months as the court reopens and starts to catch up on cases that have been on pause.

In addition, there were several cases within our agency that went through several months of upheaval and our agency, appropriately so, invested much of their time to making sure those 6 children who were already referred were able to move forward and be united with their families. Praise God, the last of those families are in Ethiopia right now bringing their children home for Christmas.

All of these details impact our agency's ability to prepare the necessary paperwork for new referrals (which involves a lot of due diligence and time on their part). Again, all appropriately so!

But there are other instances that affect our numbers as well.

There obviously are families ahead of us on each list with their own set of parameters. While in the waiting stage, families can choose to modify their parameters.

So say a couple previously was only on boys list, and after much prayer, decide they no longer want to specify gender and want to be open to bringing home a girl as well. When this change has been made to their home study, they will be added to the girls list according to the date they first completed their dossier. If this was before we completed our dossier, it will bump us back a spot. This is happening every month and usually there are enough referrals that we still only know forward progress.

The last reason we might move back a spot happens very rarely: if a family loses a referral for any reason. Again, this is a rare occurrence and always heart breaking when it does happen. However, there was a family from our agency that experienced this last month.

So to try and make a VERY long story shorter? All those factors occurring in one month made for a disappointing month for many. Our girl number didn't change at all and our boy number actually moved back a spot.

However, I loved how our case worker encouraged us in her email last month with these words:

"It is my hope that even when these numbers do not change as you might hope, you are able to see that you are still progressing, moving one day closer to your child. "

There's a lot of truth to her words.

The numbers really don't change how fast our child is joining our family. They're a helpful way of knowing where we are in our journey and anticipating (but not predicting) how much longer we have to wait.

It sure is fun when we know big steps forward as I'd be lying if I didn't say that the reality of our waiting and how long we still have has really been hitting home lately.

But the step backwards doesn't change God's plan for our family.

The step backwards doesn't change the fact that it is He that has brought us here and who will continue to bring our child to us at just the right time.

So without further ado . . .here were our November numbers (with hopes that I'll be posting our December numbers VERY soon):

Girl: 108
Boy: 83.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

some food for thought . . .

Going into sunday and Christmas week, I loved this post:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Preschool Program

Ava had her christmas program for her preschool the other week. She was super excited for it coming up but we had wondered how our often shy child would do. For other programs, once on stage, nervousness has set in and singing becomes hard even though it's something she loves to do. So Ryan and I had just prayed for courage and that she could enjoy doing something that she loves. . . then waited to see what the day would hold.
My little girl totally surprised and impressed me. She happily waved walking in, got up on stage without hesitation and very sweetly and willingly sang and said every word. I was so proud of her. It was neat as a mom just to see her enjoy it and not be so overwhelming by event.

Singing with the 3 yr old class
Then it was time for just her class to sing
Sneaking a look at Daddy
Singing her songs
A very proud little girl afterwards
Then she began directing the shots : )
Our family - I wasn't prepared for how old all the girls look in this shot. Growing up!
Ava was thrilled that Gpa and Gma P got to come watch too. Gpa even made the drive from work. Thanks for making the effort!
And the fun surprise was that Grandma Great was back from Florida and got to come as well.

4 generations - pretty special.
mommy and Ava
Then one last shot with her fabulous teachers