Monday, December 31, 2012

A Jar Filled with Memories

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I am a frequent Pinterest user, and early 2012 I read about the idea to keep the little stuff (hotel cards, tickets etc.) in a jar on a shelf all year and then at the end of the year, take it all out, look it at, remember the year, and then let go of it, and start filling it with the next year's mementos.

Here is 2012 at a glance:
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Note the large collection of running/race type things. This year was my first race (hard to believe after I have actually done so many) with my 10k back in March. This was followed by the ROC race with Blake, my September half marathon, three races in October (Mud Run, Rugged Maniacs and Run for your Life), and a race the first weekend of November for charity. It is crazy to think my next race is my marathon!

As I glanced back over my 2012 posts, I noticed that many of them did involve running in some way, as it did affect my life a lot. Not just the time and training commitment, but also in that it brought me new friends, new experiences and new rushes of accomplishment this year. I joined the running club, and in that met some good friends. I had distance accomplishments with each consecutively longer run, but also the new experiences of running from zombies and jumping over fire (to name a few). It has been a fun, and definitely unique chapter of my life.

There is also our Yosemite trip, complete with a trail guide of the crazy long hike we did, survived, and are considering doing again someday!

We have mementos from our last (hopefully) anniversary without a child. Even if she is being watched, we won't have the money to burn (not that we had it this summer either...) on a nice hotel and expensive dinner. But it was fun to remember the trip, and the delicious food!

The top right features the red paint cards from when we decided to paint our dining room. We have tickets from a show we went to in February as well as ticket to the movie Hunger Games.

You may notice the pop-tart wrapper- that was put in to represent my first camping trip ever... in the snow! In the bottom left there was something so random we couldn't figure out what it was, or what it was from, but after some online searching realized it was from our trip to the Orange County fair this summer, and the fun time we had with Erin's kids.

One big thing (that I made sure was in the picture, if not in the jar) that happened in 2012 is that we got Tasha! This sweetheart has been a lot of trouble, but a lot of fun as well, and was a big feature in my posts this year too.

But the biggest thing that happened in 2012, bar none, is the amazing experiences and feelings that we have had in our adoption this year. It is represented in the photo just by the plane tickets and tickets to the museum we went to, but it could not have been any bigger part of our life. We got our referral, became legal parents and even got to meet our precious little girl! (who we miss dearly and are anxiously awaiting news on the passport to get the last few steps complete). Ever since we started the adoption, we knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel eventually, but it has been so much fun living it! I am sure that 2012 won't be able to compete with the feelings of 2013 when she gets home, but for now, it is ranking as a record good year for us.

Most of these, after getting the moment to reminisce on them, I have no problem letting go of now. However, a few items get to stay. Both Ghana mementos, as well as my first medal, are safe.

This next year will bring a lot of HUGE changes in our lives with Grace coming home and me staying home with her, but it is sure to be an exciting year, and I look forward to going to sleep, and waking up in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Test of Commitment

My marathon is almost exactly a month away, and unfortunately, training had gone by the wayside between our trip to Ghana and Blake's accident. Mid November I had gone on a 16 mile run, but since then I hadn't run any longer than 8 miles.

I knew I needed to get a long run in sometime during this break if I was going to make my goal of a 20 mile training run before the marathon. Yesterday it rained, and I wasn't able to run as planned, so I decided I needed to run today.

My last few runs had been so poor that I didn't want to over commit myself if I still needed more time to work up to a greater distance. So, I was going to run somewhere between 5-9 miles, and then run back, making it between a 10-18 mile run.

Today, fortunately, I felt great! When I was at mile 7 or 8 I decided I was feeling good enough to go for the whole 18 mile run (which was my original goal for this week if I hadn't slacked at all).

Mile 10 I noticed a bunch of gray, ominous clouds on the horizon. 

Mile 11 the wind kicked up, and it was kind of creepy how the park near our home was deserted, the sun was gone, and now I have a cold wind to contend with.

Mile 12 the rain started, and then got harder till it was pouring! Adding to the "joy" of running in a full blown storm was that it happened to be a section of road which didn't have trees or anything to cut the heavy rain pouring down on me. At this point (as I am cold and wet in addition to being tired) my plan is to make it to the first place where the trail goes under the road, and in the protection of the overhang call Blake and ask him to pick me up, because it just isn't worth it (Blake fully expected this call too as he heard the storm).

Mile 13.5 I made it to the first overhang (see, no cover) and looked at my distance. I still was feeling physically fairly good (if wet and cold), and I knew that I WANTED to make the distance. I had committed to the marathon, and if that was going to happen, I had to get through these runs! I also thought about how there was a very real possibility of rain even on the actual day, so I shouldn't let it stop me. So... not looking forward to going back in the rain...I started running again, no call to Blake.

It took a great deal of commitment to make this happen:

Okay, so it isn't 18 miles. I was .3 off. It bugs me, to be sure, and on a normal day, I go past my destination to make the planned distance... but I genuinely didn't have it in me to go any farther. Even though the storm had lessened a lot by the end, I was still cold, and wet, and tired of forcing myself to move. But today I proved something to myself. I know that when I put my mind to do something, I can follow through!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gold Coins


 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

The last week before Christmas I taught my students about this verse, where God has already planned good works for us to do, but it is our responsibility to do them. I compared the good deeds God plans for us to the gold coins in Super Mario (which most of them understood the reference). They are there, on almost every level. Some of them are easy, and you almost can't miss doing them. But some of those gold coins you have to jump for. These are the good deeds that you might not have thought of, or might not do unless you were looking for the opportunity. 

I got proof of God's planned good works in my own life yesterday. I had a dentist appointment, but I got in autopilot as if I was driving to work, and realized that I had missed the freeway junction that I normally take to get to the dentist. Fortunately, I know my streets well around there, so I just took another exit. This exit had a homeless person, and I have bags in my car ready to bless a homeless person if I see them. I was able to give him one of these bags, and hopefully make his day just a little brighter. 

I couldn't help but think about how I would have never taken that exit normally, and if it was God who allowed me to autopilot just so that I would go a different route because I was supposed to be at the other freeway off ramp, because that person needed me that day.  

I wanted to share this as a reminder that whether you believe that God has prepared them or not, there are ways we can bless the people around us if we are looking for ways to help. I hope that I will, and I hope that I am willing to take that extra effort to get all the gold coins I can. 


The delay in Grace's arrival is her passport, and besides hopefully January, I have no idea when this passport will be ready. The funny thing is that most people don't even stress about the timing on their kid's passport because their I-600 takes so long to get approved, it is done by then. We are excited that everything went faster, but now our very speed is actually holding us back! Bottom line is, until we get the passport, we can't request the visa interview, and thus no visa print date.

Still, as by reasonable expectations all of these steps could be done by the end of January, we are working hard to be ready for her to arrive at any time. I don't feel that I am nesting in the sense of cleaning the house (though I am trying to clean it) but I definitely feel the pull of getting her room ready and making sure we have all the items we need.

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One big project is painting her closet doors. When we bought the house they were gold/ brass framed mirror doors, and we talked about replacing them (1- I don't like gold, 2- it looks awful with the yellow). As it came down to time to get her room ready, we decided that it would be less expensive to paint over the gold instead of replacing the doors. We started two days ago, and probably have another day or two to go, but it is feeling great to get it done, even if her room looks like a construction site for now.

Thanks to my great family support system, all of the items that I feel like are needs (as opposed to many wants) are purchased and on their way to our house, so once we finish the doors, finish decorating, and make one more trip to Ikea, we should be able to rest easy knowing that whenever she comes, we are ready to welcome her into our home.

Another aspect of nesting, I think, is preparing for the quickly approaching one income time. In the past, I just made a shopping list, and we bought all the items at Sprouts because it was easy and convenient.  In the hopes of saving every penny possible, I have spent the last week or so doing major price comparisons with our store, amazon, costco and a new website I found called azure standard (where you can buy bulk organic items for really low prices). It is interesting to see that when you do the math, there is no clear winner in every category, but the way to be the most cost effective is to buy each item at the cheapest location.

I also started selling teaching items on a website called Teachers pay Teachers (link at the top), and today I made my first sale! I sold a worksheet I made for 2 dollars, and after the website took their cut out, I only earned 90 cents... but that is 90 cents more than I had when my worksheet was just sitting on my computer, and now another teacher benefits from it, win-win!

On a random note, one of the most interesting things about this Christmas was receiving and opening Christmas presents for Grace. Next year, when she is home, she can open them herself (with help) and we can see her excitement, and enjoy the items with her. I love that our family members thought of her as they shopped this Christmas, and bought her these cute and fun toys:

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Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

But at the same time, it made me miss her so much! I know she will have fun with all of her new toys and games, but it is hard not being able to share them with her now. In the grand scheme of things, if it is only a month, it will pass quickly, but for now... its hard.

So we will continue to plan, and prepare, and get everything ready, and hopefully, soon, there will be a little girl here to enjoy all of the items that we have waiting for her arrival.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snow Story and our Snow Dog

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Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Roxie has always enjoyed the snow. She runs around, plays in it, has a great time, but then she wants to be in with us, warm and comfortable.

Tasha adores the snow. That might not even be doing it justice. Of course she is a husky, and bred for this kind of weather, but where Roxie would want to come in, Tasha wants to stay out. Where Roxie only sits or lays down in the dry, no snow parts, Tasha had no problem laying down in the snow. It just suits her.

My in laws have a cabin in the mountains where we go up Christmas day after opening our own presents. It is always very exciting to be checking the weather daily to see if there is snow forecast, as my husband has never liked driving in the snow, and with him just starting to drive long distances again on Monday, we didn't want to chance him having to drive in the snow with his newly healing wounds.

At first, this Christmas, there was snow most of the week, and we discussed possibly missing it this year. Then it shifted to just Wednesday and Thursday, so we were concerned about being stuck up there, but not about getting up. Still nervous though, and not committing to going with that large of chance of having to drive at least one direction in the snow. Then, as Christmas day approached, we saw the storm get downgraded to just a ten percent chance of snow on Wednesday.

We should have known better.

You see, depending on how you look at it, snow either loves or hates Blake, because he is not fond of it, and yet multiple times, when we decide to head up the mountain, the teeny tiny percentage chance of snow suddenly changes to a full blown storm... when we are already there.

We thought our last story was impressive- thirty percent chance of snow flurries turned into an all day, all night, chains (which we didn't own at the time) required kind of storm that ended with us leaving the car at their cabin after we stayed an extra two more nights than planned and his parents had to drive us down.

In some ways, this Christmas tops it. Because of his injury, we were more cautious. We were nervous when it dropped to a forty percent chance, since we knew what that thirty percent did to us before.  But when it was down to ten percent... we decided to risk it.

Tuesday, Christmas day, was a gorgeous drive. Totally dry roads, and temperatures consistently in the forties as we traveled. Even as of last night, our weather app of choice said the forecast was clear, still a tiny percent chance of storm. (Apparently we use the wrong app because my father in law's app always predicted snow).

We woke up this morning to snow. Lots of snow. Chains required snow. Beautiful snow... but not in our plans snow. This snow continued all morning. Even though we had talked about leaving before lunch, that was out of the question, and we relaxed at the cabin, enjoyed the beauty of the storm, and I caught up on some reading (while he played a video game on his brother's computer).

It started to subside around eleven and we saw sun come out, this boded well, but Blake was completely not ready to decide if we were staying or going. At two, as I was feeling a bit stir crazy, we took a walk and discussed our options. After agonizing back and forth, Blake decided to risk the drive down over losing another day of vacation. A big portion of this final decision was seeing the snow plow come through right as we made our choice, as it meant we would have freshly scraped road. Thankfully, due to the sun, and many cars driving on it, we were able to get down (the back way) with no problems. We didn't even need chains at this point!

So now we get to add a ten percent chance of snow becoming a two to three inch storm, but got the pleasure of seeing our husky in her element. My parting treat for my readers is a cute video of Roxie and Tasha having a ball running around in the backyard of my in-law's cabin while their dog, Layla, alternates between trying to play with them, and barking at them to stop playing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Three Days

Three days until the Les Miserables movie comes out, which I am super excited about! (And the rest of the post will have lyrics interspersed from that musical... just for fun!)

The time is near!
Let us welcome it gladly with courage and cheer
Three days from today is Christmas Eve, which officially starts Christmas celebrations at my parents' house. I have been spending a large portion of the day baking for Christmas this year, and Monday is slated to be another big baking day. I literally have not wrapped a single present yet, and the time to do that is running out, but this year has been so off between Ghana, the adoption and Blake's injuries, it just hasn't happened yet (much like our Christmas lights).

Every day
You walk with stronger step
You walk with longer step-
`The worst is over.'
Three days from today Blake gets his stitches out. We are again so thankful and grateful that it wasn't worse. He went back to work yesterday, and they had to ask him some questions, and while he was there he got to see some pictures from last week... and let's just say God was protecting him, in a major way.

At the end of the day you get nothing for nothing
Sitting flat on your butt doesn't buy any bread
And you're lucky to be in a job
And we're counting our blessings!

Three days is how long the California rules say that you have to be out before you get any money for being injured on the job. We are learning way more than I ever wanted to about Workman's compensation thanks to Blake's adventure. So, the three days that Blake was home from work to recover, he doesn't get paid, and those days will apparently come out of his paycheck. Crazy. Oh, and if he had to be out longer, he would only get paid 2/3 salary for each day after the three days until he returned to work from workman's comp. This is a big reason (the other being that he felt better) that he went back yesterday, even though he can't do his normal job, so that he could start earning his salary again. I find it really strange that our system is set up this way. If someone gets injured while they are doing their job, you would think that they would continue to earn their salary, it isn't like they wanted to be hurt and not working. On the other hand, I understand that they have to do something to prevent people taking advantage of the system (any more than they already do) and employers can't afford to have people out long term, pay someone to do their job (for companies this applies to) AND continue paying the employee full price. It is just interesting to learn about, and be thankful that it hasn't applied to us before.

In my life
She [Grace] has burst like the music of angels
The light of the sun
And my life seems to stop
As if something is over
And something has scarcely begun.
Three days is also how long I have left as a teacher for the indefinite future. Things with Grace have been going faster than we had initially expected, and though we are currently slowed down by a lack of a passport for her, it could easily be early to mid January that she comes home. My work has been excellent about understanding when I had to leave for Ghana, or appointments, etc., but they need a definite date for my last day. It would be too hard on them and too hard on the kids to have me maybe here, maybe not, maybe this is my last day, maybe it gets delayed etc. So when I should have been learning about Blake's accident, I was in a meeting with them, finding out that what they decided to do (and I think is a good plan) is have me teach with my replacement for the first three days after break, and then have me just be done, and be at home, waiting for when I become a full time mom. It is exciting and scary all at the same time, and Blake and I are looking closely at our numbers to figure out how to make it work, but the plan for now is that I stay home with her until she is preschool age, and then I go back to work.

All this to say, life is exciting these days!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

5 Reasons I will never be a nurse

Nursing never really crossed my mind as I thought about different career paths back in high school and early college. Blood isn't a huge issue for me (no problem pulling out my own loose teeth as a kid), but I still never thought about nursing, even when I volunteered in a hospital one year. But since Blake's injury, whether I liked it or not, I am getting the smallest taste of what a career in nursing would look like. It inspired me to write a post on 5 reasons I will never be a nurse.

1- I don't like seeing people in pain.

  Part of my "nursing duties" involve helping him take off his old bandages, which hurts him, and cleaning his cuts, which hurts him, and then putting on new bandages, which again, hurts. I do it, because I know it needs to be done, and he can't do it himself, but I hate it the whole time.

2- Due to reason one, I am not a very effective nurse.

  We (ahem, mainly I) had to clean off the tried blood that they couldn't tackle yesterday, but I didn't want to hurt him, so I was trying to be really gentle, which wasn't getting much off. Blake repeatedly had to tell me that I could go harder, and remind me that most of the dried blood areas didn't hurt. Also, as we wrapped the cloth bandage back over his hand and wrist, he had to tell me to wrap it tighter or it wouldn't do its job, which I was reluctant to do because again, I didn't want to hurt him.

3- I want to help too much.

  If it were up to me, I would try to have him just resting, and completely not using his hands at all for risk of hurting him. If I was a nurse, I would have to be encouraging my patients to do what they could as long as it didn't hurt or open up wounds, but I want so much for him to heal and feel good, that I try to do everything.

4- It is weird for me to dress an adult.

  Blake, as number 3 mentions, does as much as he can, but he is still pretty limited due to one wrist being injured and the other hand and wrist are injured. So, clothes are pretty tough for him, and I have had to help him in and out of his clothes since he got injured. It is a very interesting feeling trying to help dress an adult, and I don't think I am a fan. Kids, sure no problem, but adults... hrm.

5- Its too hard.

People comment that teaching would be hard, and it is, but nursing, wow. Just a little over 24 hours in, and I am overwhelmed, tired, and want to be done and it isn't even that bad. I have new found respect for those who do this all day every day with fresh blood and worse injuries than his.

So... Thank you to all those nurses out there or those with loved ones who need you to be their nurse, my hat goes off to you. Here's hoping my home career as a nurse is short lived.

Friday, December 14, 2012


You will keep perfectly peaceful the one whose mind remains focused on you, because he remains in you. Isaiah 26:3

This afternoon was awful, but it could have been worse.

I missed a phone call this afternoon, and didn't have a chance to check it until 3:40 or so... and saw I had a text message too. Both were from Blake's coworkers informing me that he was in the hospital.

I actually went immediately into panic mode, and knew I needed prayer before I could even process this information at all. So, I went into my coworker's room, just told her what I knew and asked for prayer.

That verse I chose above is so true, because after her prayer I was able to focus, and figure out the next step, which was to find a way to contact him at the hospital. I was able to call him, and he answered, told me basically what had happened and what his current status was, and that when I came I needed to bring some clothes, because everything he was wearing was cut off him after the accident. I told a few more coworkers on the way out, and asked them to pray as well.

I first was thinking I should go home, then decided that it would be faster to hit up a Target on the way so that I didn't lose time trying to get home first.

Once I got to the hospital, I stayed with him as he got x-rays, and thirteen stitches, not counting some spots of glue and then all bandaged up. ( I did pretty well with the sight of blood all the way through except for when the guy was testing if the topical numbing agent was working on him by pulling at different spots, at that point I had to stop watching for a bit).

But I am truely grateful that the accident wasn't worse, that I still have him, and he didn't need anything more than stitches (especially with what happened, which I can't share online). I am thankful that his face, head, eyes etc. were all perfectly fine as well.  My heart goes out to those families whose stories were so much worse today, because I got the slightest taste of that, and it was awful. I had to keep praying throughout my drive that I could stay calm, because I didn't want to get in an accident because I lost it, crying from relief, on the road.

Be praying that he heals quickly, especially the palm of his right hand, because it is really restricting what he can do independently (and we are already having power struggles over his want to do things... sigh...) His cuts are palm and wrist (no major arteries, praise God) on his right hand/arm, and wrist area on his left arm. He also looks like he has been slapped or sunburned on his stomach, with lots of cuts on there as well. But again, his pain is low, he got to come home today, with no overnight stay, and he should be pretty well healed in the next 5-10 days (with lots of scars, but still).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exceedingly, Abundantly...

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

                                                           Ephesians 3:20-21

This verse is the only way I can put into words what I am feeling today! 

 Just yesterday, I was explaining for the hundredth time how we are optimistically hoping for February as the time she comes home, and thinking that our timer for our I-600 hadn't even started yet, since we don't have her birth certificate yet. 

 Today... we got an e-mail... our I-600 is approved!!!!!!!  I'm shaky, excited, and more than anything blown away by how radically this changes our timeline and expectations. What an amazing confirmation of us going on that trip without that document, the fact that it got approved without it. Wow. Just wow.

We are down to weeks now folks! I don't think it could happen by Christmas... (though so much of our process with our little girl has been faster than I thought, who knows) but it isn't crazy to think it might even be by the new year!  

Keep the prayers coming! God is powerful, and he is moving radically in our lives! 


Sunday, December 2, 2012

No Due Date

I have loved being able to post pictures of my little one on facebook, and the overwhelming support I have gotten on there has been great.

I have known for a while that adopting, especially international adoption, is not yet a common enough practice for everyone to fully understand what it entails. I even have family members that I have to continue to explain the steps to, and there are times that I have even been unsure about exactly what the next step is.

Ever since we talked about going to Ghana (some before, but lots more after), there has been one question I have gotten more than any other: "When is she coming home?" (or some variant of that).

I get it, really, I do. When you announce you are pregnant, the typical first question is, "When are you due?"

Most people, myself included, like a general timeline of when things are happening. In pregnancy, if you give your due date, people could do the math, and figure out what trimester you are in, and immediately know the common symptoms of that time (and can ask if you are having them) or the key steps at that point (like did you find out the sex). It is a helpful frame of reference to know when the child is coming.

International adoption is so different.

I don't have a due date. I probably won't even know something close to a due date until a week or two before I am "due." I have guesses, estimates and "typical" timings, but the hard truth is that they mean close to nothing. Just because most people take 1 month to do something, we could take 4 months, or a week, or anything in between or worse.  This wide degree of variance is on every step!

That is without factoring in the unknowns that are sure to crop up along the process. For example, in our process, we have been affected by the strike in Ghana by government workers, and an accident that killed two workers in the birth certificate office, and made the rest of the office take time off to mourn. Other families ran into judges going on vacation and birth certificate machines being broken. You can't account for those things, even if all other factors were "normal."

You also can't account for the fact that so much of our process depends on how quickly many different people do their portion. Each person involved in far away Ghana has their own life, their own motivations, and their own list of what they need to do and how fast they personally want to work.

I learned in statistics that you need to control the variables to get reliable data. International adoption is pretty much the opposite of that- the variables are countless, and thus reliable data is close to impossible.

Obviously, when people ask me the same question countless times, I don't go into all of this, it takes too long. I have been going with a, "we hope sometime around February or March."

But the truth is... we don't and can't know for sure when she will be home with us until she actually IS home with us.

I *think* that our next step is getting our birth certificate, and then getting that to the embassy.
I *think* that will start our wait for the I-600 approval, which does actually have a max of 60 days to approve (unless something goes wrong).
I *think* that once that is approved, we are waiting for her visa and print date, and then she can come home!

With that said, I would like to point out (again) that our birth certificate is already slower than it "typically" is (due to the aforementioned accident). On the other hand, we passed court faster than "normal." Pregnancies may vary somewhat, but generally take the same amount of time, but not adoptions.

My analogy for adoption timelines is like different groups of travelers on a long journey, like across the United States. All travelers leave from the same point (a specific city in the west) and eventually will arrive at the same point (a specific city on the east coast), and even have the same goals on the journey (like seeing relatives, a band, and a theme park). Even so, there are numerous routes they could take to get there, and each journey will take a different amount of time depending on the path taken and the time spent at each site. Worse, the travelers themselves are not the ones saying which way to go or how long to wait, and they only know when to move at the time to move. In this scenario, could any traveler tell you when they will be on the east coast? Probably not.

Bottom line is that no one but God knows the day or the hour that she will be home, and please keep in mind that the estimated time I give you is nothing more than a hopeful estimate, but we are hoping and praying that she will be with us soon.