I don't know if my not posting can be explained by busyness or lack of interest in posting or both, but I apologize to those of you who actually still check this blog. Thanks for reaching out to see if we're well!
Plus, I'm thankful to have a few minutes to record the happenings of the last few months. There have been 'developments' on several fronts. Here's a long overdue update!
I know many are anxious to hear the latest with Christine's adoption. Our dossier arrived in the Philippines in early October. Our agency told us we would hear back from ICAB (the Intercountry Adoption Board in the Philippines) within 2-3 months with an approval. Then, we'd have 4-6 months from there until we travel. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded when I heard that. That's excessive considering we were told last January that this entire process, from beginning to end, would be much faster because we're a host-to-adopt family -- the timeframe they gave us then was 4-6 months (for the whole adoption!). Clearly, we're not even close (it'll be a year in February). We're hoping to have Christine home sometime this spring. Sweet girl is waiting so patiently. She turns 15 on December 18th. Sniff.
As we've begun preparing for Christmas this year, there have been lots of comments starting with, 'Remember last year...' as we've remembered fondly our time with Christine. We're all missing her and wishing she were here. But we trust God's timing and know He goes before us.
So much so that I should update on our fundraising efforts. Due to the very generous and loving response of so many family and friends, we have made all our payments to our agency! Y'all, that's like $15,000! We were awarded a $3000 matching grant from the Fathered Fund (Lifesong for Orphans) and quickly met it. We have travel expenses to come, but God is already providing! We received news this week that my dear uncle 'nominated' us to be considered for a $5000 gift that his company gives each year to a deserving entity or individual and we were chosen! Talk about humbled. And tearful! Wow. We feel so ridiculously undeserving.
Our shoe drive that was supposed to be three months long, ended up being six months long and is finally coming to an end. It has been so, so fun to see a community of people rally to support our adoption through donating old shoes, but our house was taken over by shoes over these last many months and I'm super ready for the shoes to be out of our house! I'm ready to enter into the beauty and peace of Christmas -- without dirty, smelly shoes around!
For our last pick up, we had 72 bags all over our front room. There was a rabbit trail through the room. Ahhh....
The kids thought it was fun to use the bags as chairs.
The boys were studying their spelling words on the bags!
Speaking of school, it's going well! I can't believe half the school year's almost passed already! Payton and Avery continue at Westminster Academy and really enjoy it. This is Payton's third year there and she's definitely hit her stride. She has many friends and loves to go (she's there three days a week). Avery only has classes on Mondays, but she's there all day. One thing we love about homeschooling is the ability to cater our kids' education to their individual needs/abilities. They can take the different subjects in varying grades, so their strengths can be pursued. We felt the 4th grade classes may not have been quite enough for Avery this year since she's made such nice strides over the last couple of years. This was a girl who was terribly timid in school during her early years, but a couple of years at home, and a smaller school with much smaller classes, has served her so well. We talked to her teachers and said we wanted to try the 5th grade classes for her (science, history and English) and they encouraged us to give it a try. She's doing beautifully! It was definitely the right decision. She's thriving and we're feeling grateful for options!
Brooks and Jackson have come to love being at home despite the fact that I have to battle with them to stay on task! Oye. Boys are something else. Honestly, the dynamic of my being the teacher isn't the best with them, so if they weren't able to start at Westminster next year, they'd probably be in school. I'm grateful that they're excited to go there and I think it'll be great for everyone!
Clearly, we do have some good mornings.
One thing I love about homeschooling is the fun things we get to do together. On this day, we went to a paper mill and learned how paper is made.
Walking from one building to another through the pipeline that moves water and other materials to make pulp.
Hands on learning! Making paper!
They are capable of working diligently.
This girl's become such a hard worker! Sweet girl. She never gets off task. :)
Brookster has grown so much as a student.
This guy can be so focused when he wants to be. He's a smart little cookie!
I cherish my time with these kids even if it tries me to my core at times!
In August, Jimmy Jam turned five. Crazy.
He was so excited about these cupcakes, such a simple joy.
He remains full of joy!
Friends over to celebrate. Nothing like time with family and dear friends.
We're quite the fans of a local park here called Maymont. It's such a beauty and never disappoints. There's a petting zoo, an historic home (the original owners gifted Maymont to Richmond). Just tons of history and stunning gardens.
This hill's always a hit.
The black bears are too -- including the sculpture variety.
The Japanese Garden.
This waterfall's one of our favorite spots.
For years, I've wanted to take the kids to hike Hump Back Gap in the Shenandoahs. A few years ago, I was able to hike it with some ladies and knew JD and the kids would love it. Man, what a climb, but what a view!
At the head of the trail
Yes, JD hiked it with James on his back! (He was training for a Spartan Race which has become quite the hobby for him this year).
At the top!
These huge rocks create quite a ledge overlooking the valley
Avery and Brooks
At the bottom, eating our picnic.
This guy was a sweaty mess, but he did it! I bet James was 40 pounds on his back!
This little dude now makes his own bed each morning. Oh, yes he does! He was so excited to show me the first time he did it that I had to take a picture. :)
They may fight and bicker (yes, all three of them!), but they really do love each other. A mom of three boys must capture these moments of sweetness...
...or I may doubt they actually ever happened!
In September, we added a new member to the family. This is Bailey! He was my cousin's dog and she needed to find a home for him, so she emailed me to see if we were interested.
Who wouldn't be interested in that face?! As JD said, 'Come man or beast, we'll adopt them all!' :)
Clearly, the kids were smitten. If it weren't for their unceasing begging and pleading, we probably wouldn't have kept him, but, what the heck...they're only kids for a little while.
Who can say 'no' to that face?!
Our neighborhood had it's fall party...the ladies of the 'hood. Love this place.
Jackson began his fall season of soccer (he's on the left with his neighborhood buddies). He's really taken to it and wants to try out for a travel team this spring.
For Brooks and Jackson's 8th birthday, I had the idea of letting them have an egg fight with their friends from the neighborhood. Several times a week, when they collect eggs from the chickens, they ask if if they can 'sacrifice eggs' and throw them at each other. I always say no because these are our much cherished fresh eggs! I decided I'd rather buy some cheap eggs in bulk at the store and divide them into cartons so each boy would have his own carton. They were thrilled at the idea!
They're ready to go!
And all smiles at the end!
A rather large development occurred in October when Avery quit gymnastics. Talk about a shift in our lifestyle! No more 16 hours a week at the gym for this girl! No more 6-8 hours a week carpooling for these parents! It was a long time coming in that she slowly fell out of love with it. She began Level 6 this year and the demands of the higher levels can definitely take the fun out of it. So! She wanted to try lacrosse...
Off to a lacrosse clinic in November
The verdict? 'I liked it, but I don't want to play it.' Next! She will try soccer this spring. And we may check out cheerleading...pray for us. :)
The most beautiful thing about Avery's years in gymnastics? The friends she made.
The moms and daughters headed out on a bowling date -- three of the girls in this photo quit gymnastics, but everyone's still friends and they still love to see each other. Sweeeet girls!
We ran into our new favorite store (Altar'd State) to pick up a birthday gift for a friend of Payton's.
Gotta keep it fun!
Brooks wrapped his baseball season in November. He's front center.
He says he's never playing again. :)
James continues to thrive at school. 'Thrive' is actually an understatement -- he lives to go there! Literally runs into the building squealing each morning. So sweet. He will start kindergarten in the fall. I can't even. Pray for me. Putting him on that bus makes me sick to my stomach, but I know it's what's best for him. This child would go crazy at home. I just need my heart to be convicted that he's ready and able and will be safe.
JD and I stand in awe of how God continues to meet us in our feeble attempts to serve Him. We're very thankful for His unending grace -- especially in parenting these kiddos.
We have happily entered into the Christmas season after having a lovely Thanksgiving with my mom and Allen. We're looking forward to having Mimi and Pappy for Christmas, but I'm sure it will still feel like someone's missing. Sure hope we can get our girl home before too long.