Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WHW 11

A look at our semi-color-coded schedule for the next few weeks. (Yes, I still buy a planner, and I try to color-code it until I reach a day when I don't have the right color and I have to write something down. The planner is quite possibly the most thrilling purchase I make all year. NERD ALERT.)

Black=My VB stuff (coaching)
Green=Brad's softball stuff (coaching) 
Blue=My school stuff 
Pink=Fun stuff

We leave for school at 6:30 am and have practice after school every day until 5:30/6:00 with frequent weekend tourneys or events. When we coach in weeknight games, we usually don't get home until AT LEAST 9 pm (often 10 or after). Brad has class scheduled 5:30-9:30 on Wednesday nights, and we are signed up to host small groups for college kids on Sunday. 

Sooo, not a lot of family time happening in the next two months, huh? Our poor kids...makes me feel pretty awful, actually. We don't really see them in the morning and they go to sleep around 8:00, so I see them for a little over an hour at night, if anything. 

I miss my boys (all three of them) already, but this is just a season in our lives so we will enjoy the moments we get with our boys, our teams, and each other while we have them. 

Thank you, Lord, for this life, crazy as it may be. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Congo adoption update

A quick update for the evening:

We are now #15 on the Congo adoption waiting list. I woke up at midnight on Saturday and couldn't sleep, so I checked my email to find a bunch of info from our agency regarding the adoption, so I had even bigger reasons to not sleep.

I'll share a bit of the condensed version here.

We are 15th on the list, meaning several families are ahead of us "in line" for being referred (matched with) a child or children from Congo. The agency usually refers 3-4 kids each month starting in August, with anywhere from 1-6 children coming into care with the foster families our agency works with in Congo. Some of the families ahead of us on the waiting list have requested or are at least open to siblings or accepting a referral for more than one child at a time. Preferences for boys and girls are pretty much equal (we are open to either), but we are the only family on the list that is open to a 5-year-old, and about the 4th or 5th ones on the list open to a 4-year-old. Honestly, it would be difficult for us to adopt a 5-year-old, due to the fact that the children won't speak English and will need to be intensely taught at home in order to be ready for American kindergarten. We aren't equipped, prepared, or really financially able to do that, so we would have to pray a lot about a referral for an "older child" at this point. But we have done a lot in our lives that we weren't necessarily prepared to do, so I don't doubt God's ability to meet needs if he calls us to do something semi-crazy. (Superfast adoption referral our first time, 9-week-early birth of our younger son...you get the idea.) {Dear God, please do not feel that it's necessary to call me on that just for kicks.} :o)

So what does all this mean as far as timeline is concerned? If all things go "as usual," we can "expect" a referral in about 3.5-5 months (but if we have learned anything, it is to expect the unexpected, so it could be a really quick or really slow process, depending on a number of factors). After that, we can expect it to take about a year for the US and the Congo to investigate the child(ren?) and us and allow us to travel and finally bring our little(s) home. What a long year that will be. One day at a time...

So we've got some waiting to do. In the meantime, I'll just keep checking for any sort of movement on the list (can't wait to see some people get their referrals!), and we have a few sweet fundraisers planned. Dinner and convert with some AMAZINGLY talented musicians. Poker tourney anyone. Panhandling. Yeah, I thought at least one of those might get your attention.

And if you're interested, we are going to put in another order for adoption t-shirts. $15 for one of these in yellow, white or gray. Boom. (Did I mention that I'm pretty sure we owe about $7,500 now that our dossier is complete and translated? Yesssss.....)



Friday, August 23, 2013

Lifesong Blogger - August Edition

13-8 MM Email


Thankfulness. We honored to stand beside so many of you in your faithful service to God and His call to love and care for the orphan. Join us in praising God for the work that He continues to do through the Church!

Listen in on HIS provision in Honduras and the opportunity to join the work through sponsorship...

Centro Vida Construction Complete // HONDURAS

Please enjoy this video featuring Honduras' brand new multi-purpose building, Centro Vida, which includes assembly space as well as a large kitchen. This building is just part of the incredible work going on in Honduras to equip over 575 vulnerable children & young adults with not only the Gospel, but hope for a future!
It's exciting to see Centro Vida's completion on Plan Escalon's 25th anniversary of serving orphans and vulnerable children.

Want to see more updates at Plan Escalon? Check out the kitchen renovation video thanks to the amazing help from our partners at Retail Orphan Initiative.


You Matter to Me // CHILD SPONSORSHIP

When choosing a sponsor child, Vicki noticed that Lesly was an older student, but in a younger grade. Vicki intentionally chose to sponsor Lesly, understanding that something had happened in her life to cause her to fall behind. She wanted Lesly to know she cared and believed in her.
Listen in as Vicki, member of Retail Orphan Initiative, meets the students she sponsors at Plan Escalon and the impact that it is making not only in her heart, but in the heart of her sponsored children...


Read more about Child Sponsorship...

What Child Sponsorship is All About -- Beautiful story of a sponsor child moved to tears and prayer when he heard that his sponsor was in a car accident. Read more

Be a Light Through Sponsorship -- Read a post from Lifesong's summer blog series featuring Sponsorship. Read more

Dear _____, I love you. -- JB, student at Lifesong Liberia, wrote to a sponsor he did not yet have. Fill in the blank for JB! Read more

"I will not stop serving the Lord" -- Watch the testimony of the life of Haggai, student of Lifesong Zambia. Watch Video

Breaking the Cycle in Ukraine -- Natasha's life and future was changed by the mentorship she found through Lifesong Ukraine. Watch Video to hear her story.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

my tight pants

(Warning: Curse word at 1:41)

 

Brad's family (uncle and cousins, to be precise) is a wee-bit obsessed with the video above. They may or may not watch it weekly...I can't be sure.

While on vacation with them a while back, I bought some pants at Wal-Mart. They were colored skinny pants, which I rarely wear, but they were made in pretty colors, warm for cooler nights on the beach, and super cheap so I gave them a shot. When I brought them to the front of the store and showed Brad's family, they immediately said, "You got your tight pants on?" and started singing the song from above.

(Sidenote: Those pants are now at the very top of my favorite pants list. They might not look great on me, but whatever. Comfy trumps cute in my book.)

So Tuesday night I put "my tight pants on" and Brad started singing the song. Brody thought it was hilarious, so we showed him the video (and talked loudly over the cursing portion to cover it...the kid repeats everything these days). He LOVED the video, and yesterday asked to see "those boys dancing again." I showed it to him, and he's been doing some dancing of his own:



Rock and rolla ayatollah.






Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WHW 10

A quick post. 

Adoption update: I600a with $1060 went out in the mail yesterday. Express mail to Texas. We will now wait for our USCIS fingerprints to be scheduled and to hopefully get our approval letter. Plenty of grants to work on and send off in the mail in the meantime, though, don't worry! 

We teachers went back to school today. My day started with two crying babes getting upset that I was leaving, so that was a bit rough, but I couldn't spend much time being sad about my boys (they love the nannies anyway, so that helps) with so much to get done at school and with such great people counting on me to be at my best. I cannot say enough good things about my school district...The leadership, the facilities, the support staff, the other teachers and coaches; all are class acts, and I am so proud to be a part of it all. I really truly am. 

So we are off. 2013-2014 school year here I come, bleary-eyed and stressed as I may be. There's kind of a lot going on, and the beginning of every year always leaves me a bit breathless and trying to catch up until about January, when I slow down just long enough to get behind again. But oh well. If anything, God has taught me to work through stress and to survive in busy and overwhelming situations. 

It's funny, because just as I start to get frustrated and tired of dealing with the few kids who are okay with being a bit selfish or a bit lazier than I desire (and aren't we all at times), God reminds me of the great and amazing kids who go above and beyond, who I never have to question or remind to do what's right because they are true diamonds who are going to "always do their best and always do what's right." I am thankful to have a lot of those diamonds, both on the volleyball team and in my classes, and I'm thankful for the reminders that a lot of them exist. It's like a healing ointment to know that for each of the difficult kids there are a lot who are amazing. (We served at Convoy of Hope last night, by the way..such a great group of girls serving with such a great organization! And my other two coaches, so amazing!!)

But enough about school. Let me brag on my pastor for a bit. He has a congregation of THOUSANDS and has taken the time to not only host a group of college students in he and his wife's own home but also to write a personal recommendation letter to the grant committees with whom we are applying for adoption grants. He is the type of guy who goes out of the way to make people feel special and cared for, even in his huge congregation where no one would question him if he just said a vague "hello, how are you?" to congregation members instead of "Hi Jenny, how are things looking in your planner?" (Because he knows I thoroughly enjoy and carry an organized planner.)

So, if he can lead thousands in a very personal way, it gives me hope that I can lead my 36 volleyball players and coaches and my 150 or so students in a more personal and encouraging way than I'd ever imagined. I've always wanted to do so, but it's almost like I had to have proof that it can be done and it can be done while still spending time with family. Now I have proof, so it's time to get it done.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

language development

I guess you could say Brecken's language development is a bit behind. As in, he refuses to say "Mama" or "Dada" unless only one adult is present, which disqualifies the declaration of "first word spoken" because no one is there to verify. (I swear he said "Mama" and "Banjo" yesterday morning but Brad wasn't there to verify, so it doesn't count. Instead it just makes me sound like a crazy person.) He does a lot of babbling with no real words coming out, and he grunts around like a pig a lot when he's playing, but that's about it. As a point of reference, by this time in Brody's life, Bro was speaking in complex sentences and explaining how to throw a knuckleball through a series of multi-step directions. Not that we compare our kids or anything. We aren't necessarily worried about Brecken's development; he is really just 11 months old if we adjust it to his shoulda-been-birthday. I'm sure it will come. Err...

But he's not the only one who is developing language skills. I'm still working on it as well. Many of you don't know me in person, but those who do might marvel at my ability to spew out 3,000 words on a blog and my inability to speak a full sentence in person. One of our friends recently told Brad he didn't believe I really wrote this blog because he has only heard me speak about four words at a time. How could I possibly write this wordy thing?! Don't let my verbal inabilities fool you; I actually do have coherent thoughts going on in my brain. They just don't come out of my mouth properly. One time I asked one of Brad's friends when his wife was going to have her autopsy done. Uhh, I meant to say "ultrasound." Truly ridiculous. THIS is why I don't talk.

So, obviously, I prefer to write. Writing and rearranging words helps me organize my thoughts. I've been doing some reading lately, which means I now have a lot of thoughts to organize. One of the latest was Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, a book about how God completely altered her thinking, causing her to focus less on climbing the ladder of success and, instead, to focus on descending the ladder to become a servant to the poor, the wounded, the helpless, and the godless. In short, it's about living the missional life, serving and being with those who cannot return your favors. Living in community, serving others, humility, and discourse with people who are not like you.

Most books cause me to think about the tough questions, but this book struck a cord or two with me, as I've been struggling with how to serve "the least of these" and how to talk to people who don't know the Christian lingo I've so painstakingly perfected throughout my life. (If there's any language I can speak secently well, it's Christianese.) Churches--the people in them, not necessarily the church building or even the leadership teams--spend a lot of time blessing the blessed, looking good, sounding good, decorating sanctuaries, and making appearances. And where the time is spent, the money is spent in even greater amounts.

But we don't talk much. I say hi to the greeter every Sunday. Does that mean we have community? Nope. I know people in my class, and we ask eachother how we're doing and if we had a good week. Does this create community? Nah, mostly because I answer with "good" and go on my merry way. Church people can sometimes get really good at being churchy, at saying the right things and being good, happy people, but we have trouble  being real, sharing struggles, listening and serving the hurting.

I am lucky to have a group of friends at church that is developing into true community. We share hurts and hearts (and when I say "we" I really mean "they," as I am still working on the vulnerability thing). This hasn't been something that has come naturally; it has come from a genuine desire to experience true community and from conversations about the need and desire to really know one other. I haven't answered the "how are you" question with "good" to those people in a long time, because they want the down-to-it non-churchy answer. Even if I really am good, I truly believe those people want to know why I'm good, and if I'm not "good" I am discovering words to express that, too.

So I'm developing my language skills, just as Brecken is developing his, and it is obviously a slow process. We both might be babbling a lot right now with no real substance coming out of our mouths, but soon I'd say we'll both be speaking full sentences.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WHW 9 (on Thursday)

Volleybal preseason began this week, so my time in blogworld might be limited as I prepare for and experience a fun volleyball season. I don't foresee having much time to blog, but things could get interesting in the adoption world, so I'll try to keep this as updated as possible. Mostly because of this:


That's our official copy of our home study approval. Quick timeline:

Tuesday: Received word via email that Georgia finally got back to us about the last document, then received word that our home study was approved. 
Wednesday: Received the PDF version of our home study. (Post-home study grant applications, here I come!)
Thursday: Received mailed copy of home study with instructions for filling out our I-600A. Also received an email that our home study had already been translated (!) due to an unforeseen opening in the translator's schedule. 
Tomorrow: Will send in I-600A application to USCIS, along with a $1060 check for fees. Also, must pay $250 to our agency for the translation of our home study. 

Things are moving along!

On the home front, I was sick sick sick yesterday. Fever, chills, aches, sore throat, the works. So sick I made a call in to Dr. Mom, and she came to take care of the boys. After I'd slept a bit, she woke me up after a few hours to tell me Brecken seemed sick, so I called the real doctor and she trekked him into town for a spur-of-the-moment appointment. Ear infection (with a red throat and a swollen lymph node). My mom even drove to the pharmacy to get his medicine and then bought Brody and I some supper. 

Poor Brecken. And poor Brody, because he sometimes gets less attention when Brecken needs extra love. 

Since we had some scheduling issues in the childcare department and Brecken needed some one-on-one attention from whomever could watch him, I took Brody to volleyball practice today. He loves "balleyball," and he was in absolute heaven the whole time. Lots of girls to give him attention, some high school managers to play with, volleyballs everywhere, hoops everywhere, cookies from the secretary. What a life! Seriously, I think it was the best time he has had in a long time. My volleyball girls were absolutely great with him, and he was perfectly content to chase the manager around for hours. Such a fun boy! (I don't think Brecken missed out on anything, as he go to hang out with his own ladies today. Emily--one of the "nannies'--took him to meet a few of her friends...heaven!)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brody's Gotcha Day {VIDEO}!

The quality may be a bit rough, but here's a look at Brody's Gotcha Day! I finally found our video from my phone. (We don't have the original video of me holding him....wish we did, but I'm thrilled we found this!)

Still, sooo stinkin' awesome. He charmed us then at six days old, and he continues to charm us today at two years old. 

video


video

Also, I just got word that results from the final document finally came in and our home study has been finalized! Now to fill out more forms and do more waiting!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

street cred

I haven't gotten a tattoo yet, but it has caused quite a bit of talk amongst "all" of my blog readers, so I'll give you the rundown on the thought process involved.

I have been reading this book called Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker. (PS---She writes a completely hilarious yet honest blog, which I highly recommend that you read (especially if you dig sarcasm, adoption and reality). While explaining the pitfalls of overgeneralizing beliefs about a marginalized population based on stats instead of basing beliefs on realities experienced while in relationship with that culture's members (I could take all day unpacking that thought alone), Jen points out in her book that you can't always generalize people groups based on a few stats. For example, she grew up in lower-middle class Kansas, has a tattoo, and was a member of the party sorority in her university, but she is also a pastor's daughter, a pastor's wife, and graduated magna cum laude from a conservative Baptist college. Without getting to know her, people could easily misinterpret her and her needs based on the first set of stats. Like I said, I could unpack this idea all day long, but I have some other thoughts about the book, so maybe I'll wait until I can make sense of them and share all book-related thoughts at once.

Basically, she is living missionally, working with people from all over the world to reach the lost and broken in the dirty parts of her city. She is becoming all things to all people and, besides her daily activities of serving the poor and orphaned, her background sounds very similar to mine.

Except for the fact that I have no street cred.

Yep, street cred, my partial motivation for possibly getting a tattoo. Brad has three tattoos, so when I married him some of his street cred immediately rubbed off on me. He has a (sometimes horrendous) beard 9 months out of the year, and he can shoot about 29 different types of weapons with accuracy (burglars, beware...). What do I have? I am grossly squeaky clean (except for the boogers I wipe off my kids' faces) and insanely boring. Exhibit 1: A PE coach who is an HGTV-obsessed blogger? Woohoo....don't you want to hang out with me?

My remedy? A tattoo. It provides a topic of conversation with people who are not necessarily like me. Have I mentioned that small talk terrifies me? Talking about weather, how the summer's been, how old your kids are...Sometimes it's very difficult to keep those things going. But if there's a tattoo, it's an immediate jumping off point for meaningful conversation.

So, here are my street-cred-providing, conversation-starting tattoo ideas (since you asked):

 


.
If I got this one, I would have "He has made all things beautiful in his time" inscribed on the stem.

Of course, if I got one I would probably get it where basically no one could see it, which would defeat the whole purpose. (Note: Also considering brown or white ink...)

I really do think it could start some good conversations, though. Some of us do need help with this...Exhibit A: Brad thought I was a snot when we first met. [But that's a story for another day. Sometimes my "shy" is interpreted as "snot," okay?] Exhibit B: I was called "Bible-by" in college--when my last name was Bybee--by a fellow track athlete (who later went on to the Olympics, by the way) because I was a goody-goody. Too bad I could relate to about two people with all of my "goodness." Way to be Salt and Light, Bybee.

If getting a tattoo will help me be more relatable and approachable, it might not be a bad idea. Right?



Consider: 

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WHW 8

Adoption Update: One more document. One more document. We are waiting on the results of one more background check from Georgia to come in, then our home study is done. We had to resend a form, and now our agency has called the GA office numerous times with still not much of a response. I feel like I've been saying "one more document" for seven years, but it's out of my hands so I'm just going to roll with it.

Like these thugs: (weirdest/funniest picture I have of them, except maybe last year's Easter pic...)

 

After an impromptu garage sale last week (note pic above), we then took the boys for an impromptu first-time camping trip. Only problem: Rain. (And it continues to rain and rain and rain here...) So we enjoyed it while it lasted, cooked up a marshmallow or two, took some obligatory camping pics, threw the boys around in the tent a little bit, and then went into my parents' cabin for the night. Brad just had a feeling we should get inside and, as usual, his gut feeling was right on! It POURED and STORMED so hard that the top of the tent flew off and our pillows and sleeping were left absolutely soaked the next morning. We could have been soaked out there if not for the choice to move our party indoors. The lightning and thunder even woke us up inside the cabin. Thanks to my parents for letting us use their land and especially their cabin. The boys loved it, despite the rain!



 

Our view from the top. (Doesn't look like rain, does it?)
Bro helped Brad with the tent. Brecken, ever the helpful servant, enjoyed a beverage.

After the trip, we got a teeny camping chair for the boys' next trip. Hours of entertainment, right there.

Now, an update on Brecken's progress: If you've followed our story at all, you know he was born nine weeks early. Premature babies are at risk of developmental delays and/or problems, but Brecken is doing great. He isn't talking, but he is very close to walking, and his other motor development is right on track compared to other children his gestational age. The doctor told us that sometimes premature babies will develop one area more quickly than others, and that seems to be the case. He is always on the go, but he isn't really a talker...kind of like his mama. (A good and a bad trait, really, depending on how you look at it.) He is still a happy boy who loves attention, and he is developing quite a funny little personality. He loves to get in chairs and dresser drawers, putting things in his mouth, and being tackled by Brody.

And now, a series of pictures to illustrate Brecken's personality/orneriness. (He KNOWS not to put that stuff in his mouth...): 

   

And those teeth! His upper-side teeth are pointy and came in before the middle uppers, so he's a mix between Count Dracula and Michael Strahan.
    +    =

 Oh, and the kid loves to eat. LOVES it. He easily eats more than two-year-old Brody. Easily. And he does his most happy jabbering when he eats.


Bro likes to help feed Brecken, and he's actually pretty good at it. Good thing, because Bro can feed Brecken the food he himself doesn't finish.

Other news: We have less than one week until life gets absolutely crazy, with me coaching volleyball and Brad coaching softball. Please pray for us this fall. It's going to be hard for me to miss my boys so much, and I have a feeling it will be a little stressful.

Bro showing off his new PJs, with the "reindeer" on the front.
We are enjoying a relaxing last few days of summer. Gangsta style.