Monday, June 30, 2008

Chart geeks beware

If you are a data and charting geek like I am, this will be very interesting to you. If not, just move on to the next post :-)

If you didn't know yet, Google has come up with a really slick API that allows you to pass a bunch of data into an extremely complicated URL and get back an image that is a graphical representation of your data (i.e. a chart). You can do pie charts, bar charts, line charts, etc. The options seem to be limitless. Here is their basic example:



Well, while working on a chart for work, I started to play with some data I had on my desk -- namely the results from my children's swim meets this year. You can see the charts below.

As I mentioned, the options for customizing this go on and on. I could spend several hours tweaking the charts, but I just wanted to share. Also, look at how well Marissa is doing this year. This is her first year to swim Butterfly, so that shows the most improvement, but all her strokes are significantly improved from the time trials (Green & White).





Click on the image if you want to see the URL that generates this

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Benaiah's Photo Book

I spent my day at the sewing machine making a fabric photo book to introduce Benaiah to our family. It will be traveling to Ethiopia with the Raymers who are leaving next week to bring home their two adorable little boys!!







The photos were printed from our computer on to photo transfer paper. Each of us chose our own fabric for our page. Mine is from my favorite skirt that I wear a lot. William's is the same fabric as the sling known as the "Unfair Advantage" in which he put Jeremy to sleep!

On the photos that had enough light areas, I was able to write the person's name in English and their family designation in Amharic. (It probably looks like a preschooler wrote the Amharic since I had to do my best to copy the letters out of my phrase book!)

Unfortunately, I can't show the front and back pages that have our little guy's photos. He is the cutest!!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

2008 Cary City Meet

Today was the big city-wide swim meet. William and I got really hot and sweaty, but Jeremy and Marissa got to swim 5 events. They had lots of fun.

Marissa tests the water.













Marissa's backstroke has improved a lot!












Jeremy likes to swim butterfly these days.














The coaches cheer on the boys as Jeremy prepares to swim his leg of the freestyle relay.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Update from Ethiopia

Every other Friday or so, we are to get an update and photos of our son from the director of the transition home!

Our first update arrived on William's birthday and said this:

6.13.2008 Update

M***** is such a good and happy baby. Is he often smiling and laughing, even if it is just to himself! He has been very healthy since arriving at the TH. The nannies say that his eating, sleeping, and bowel movements are all normal. He is very strong…he lies on his back and use his legs to push himself up so that his back is arched. I have never seen a baby do something quite like that! He also loves to lay on his stomach and push himself up with his arms. Today M***** weighed 12 pounds.

Our second update was today, and we received 2 new photos. He is being held by the transition home director's husband, Barrett, who we are eagerly looking forward to meeting. It looks like our little guy has had a cold because he has a "glazed donut nose." Poor guy. He has the hugest brown eyes like GIANT pools of dark chocolate!


We have received no word about court. Please, keep praying!

News from the pool...

Annika decided that she can swim and likes it! Today, she began to use her arms to get going in a direction. She would stop and tread water to get a breath and get going again! Many people are excited about this break-through especially her parents, of course, and Coach Lauren and Coach Rory who have been working so hard with her. Let's hope she keeps it up!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What Next?

PRAY!

Our next step is for our agency representative to appear in court on our behalf to adopt Benaiah. The Ethiopian court will not be hearing cases from early August through early October. This means that if we are to bring Benaiah home this summer, our case needs to be heard in court before the first of August.

We are thankful to hear that some of the families with our agency received court dates for July 15! If all goes well, they should be going to get their children in early August. (Yes, this is when we thought we would be going.)

This wonderful news for them makes our situation look bleak... Their referrals were as long ago as the end of April.

If we do not pass court before it closes, we will be looking at bringing our Benaiah home in October or November. As you can imagine, to even think about this real possibility breaks our hearts. We never imagined that we would be put in this situation.

We know that he is fed and loved in our agency's transition home, but we hate to think that by the time we get him, he will have spent 5 or more months there instead of with his family here.

But we do have HOPE! Please, pray that the court will show favor to our agency and that ours and our dear friends' cases will pass court before it closes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to ME!

It has been a very busy week at our house. Yesterday was my birthday and I couldn't have wished for a better day. Susan made my favorite breakfast: Eggs in a basket, grits, bacon, and sparkling blueberry juice (served in wine goblets). Then we all headed out to swim practice and to lunch at Bojangles* after a stop at the not-such-a-bargain do-it-yourself car wash. (Well, the car needed it badly and it was still fun.)

We took it easy for the afternoon and opened some presents. The children were very excited to give me my very own 'lil kinz polar bear that they picked out and payed for and which I named "Owen."**

Next, we headed back out for the first swim meet of the season. Sadly the Imps were not able to pull out a win, but we all had a great time and the weather was cooperative. Jeremy had to swim in three heats against a boy that broke the pool record all three times. Marissa is just happy to be in the water, and if she didn't come in last, that is even more cause for celebration! I requested a turkey sandwich ring and Moon Pies for dinner and Susan and the kids sang Happy Birthday over the Moon Pies.

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes, cards, presents, emails, phone calls, etc...

* I'm so sorry for those of you that do not live near to this tasty cajun fried chicken treat and syrupy sweet sweet tea. I can't get enough. As a friend said yesterday -- "It may be *too good*".

** I graduated from Ohio Northern University in Ada, Oh and the mascot is the polar bear -- Get it? OK, one more hint, his last name is "bear", and his middle initial is U. Still don't get it? Owen U. Bear (ONU Bear).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Atlanta Weekend -Part 3

SUNDAY: HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!

Steve & Amy served barbecue pork with corn pancakes. It was really good. I can't say that we've had anything like it for breakfast before, but William now has the recipe, so I imagine that we will have it again.

William opened his Father's Day gifts.


















Then, William was surprised by a GIANT birthday cookie and presents from Steve & Amy!












Our family has a Father's Day tradition that we were happy to share with first-time father, Steve. We have a water bomb/squirt gun battle! I spent the morning filling 100 camouflage water bombs, and we had purchased a small Super Soaker for Steve for Father's Day. After he opened his gift, the battle was on! Two daddies versus 3 kids. The water bombs were NOT for the daddies to use, but they could return fire of one that didn't pop on them. Amy, Jason, and I enjoyed the entertainment!














Thank-you, Steve, Amy, & Jason!!!



Then, we drove home, and Annika got a fever of course!

Atlanta Weekend -Part 2

SATURDAY, we were planning on going to the Georgia Aquarium. It has opened since we moved away, and we had never been there. However, it turns out that it is a still a very popular place to go. Thankfully, we checked online before leaving Steve & Amy's and found out that we had to buy timed tickets, and they were SOLD OUT for the day! (Note to selves: buy tickets for the GA Aquarium before we leave home.)

Not to worry though, we had a "Plan B" that worked. The *new* World of Coca-Cola. We had fun together. The kids weren't too impressed with the artifacts. There was a 4-D movie that our daring Marissa enjoyed that terrified Jeremy & Annika! The new facility features a working bottling plant which supplies the museum with a price-included (I can't say "free!") souvenir for visitors to take home. Jeremy was very excited about this.

The very best part of the World of Coca-Cola was the tasting room where there were 64 different Coke products to taste! William tasted most of the 64, and Jeremy had around 44 different kinds. We agreed that the sodas in Africa were very tasty! Latin America -not so much. Beverly which is sold in Italy is disgusting!! Fanta Menthe from Africa was very interesting -kinda like mouth wash! Annika declared when she tasted Cherry Coke, "This is the bestest Coke in the whole world!" I really think that she had the authority to say such a thing since she had just tasted a lot of Coke products from all over the world!

For the rest of the day, we had a lot of trouble making it to the bathrooms! We tried to see Centennial Olympic Park, but William had to sprint Annika to a bathroom only to not make it. She had gone 5 minutes before! (Note to selves: If we ever take anybody under 5 to the World of Coke, we should put a pull-up on him or her! )

Now, that we had one in our party with no pants (we did find a size 3 diaper in the car that had been there for a LONG time!), we were faced with the challenge of where to find lunch. We began heading toward home when we remembered that the world-famous The Varsity has car hops who bring your food to the car! We love The Varsity! YUM!! While we were there, William was interviewed for a documentary for public television to celebrate the 80th year of The Varsity!! One of their car hops (they are so cute!) has been there for 55 years! We enjoyed our burgers, fries, onion rings, frosted orange drinks, more Coke, and fried peach and apple pies, and Annika had what they call a "nekid dog," which is a plain hot dog.

Later, Jeremy, William, Steve, and Bryan enjoyed a LOUD game of Lord of the Rings Monopoly!





We had a very tasty dinner at Crescent Moon Eatery at the Mall of Georgia. YUM!

We finished our evening enjoying You Tube videos (like this!) on the GINORMOUS TV that Steve has hooked up to his computer.

Atlanta Weekend -Part 1

Last Thursday, we headed back to Lawrenceville, GA where we lived for 5 years. Jeremy was born there. Most things have changed, but one important thing has remained... our friends Steve and Amy are still there. It has bee a year since we have seen them, and in that time, they have a son! So, we had to go see the baby!


Friday, we recovered from our trip down, but then ventured out to Meskerem, an Ethiopian restaurant in Decatur. We got to watch a woman roasting coffee in a pan, and the ladies there loved William's shirt that says "Dad" in Amharic! We tried kitfo for the first time. It is RAW ground beef with spices. (It is the bright red stuff in the middle of the platter.) William liked it. I would eat it to keep from starving.

After dinner, we headed to Stone Mountain with Steve to see the laser show. I think the kids were impressed. Annika told me if I didn't buy her a light up toy, she would flick me in the head. I laughed and told her to go ahead and flick me, so she did and laughed. After the show, she notified me that we could get her light up toy then. She is so funny.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Swimmers Take Your Mark....

BEEP!!

Here we go with our 3rd swim season! Tonight was our time trials. The club runs them like a mini-meet so that the parents can get the gist of their jobs.

It was stinking hot! We were under a heat advisory. We are home and settled, and it is down to 90 degrees now that the sun is down.








William is entering his second season as a starter.














It was my fist time as a timer. I think I can handle it.





We have fulfilled 2 of our 5 job obligations in one night! Yay!


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Referral Video

Here is a short video of the whole family seeing our referral pictures for the first time. . . Enjoy!

video

music: "When Love Takes You In" by Steven Curtis Chapman

Sunday Celebration!

Happy Sunday! We began the day with our now traditional scones with Ethiopian coffee!

Just last week, I sat in church wondering if our lives would be changed this week.

To begin the church service, we praised God with this song that is so perfect!!! I bought it from iTunes as soon as we got home!

So Good To Me
Darrell Evans

O God You've been so good to me
You came and found this orphan
And You brought me right into Your family
O God You've been so good to me
You threw away my past
And You never count my sins against me

CHORUS:

You got me dancing
And now I'm shouting
You go me leaping
And now I'm spinning Hallelujah

BRIDGE:

You're so good to me
You're so good to me
You're so good to me
O God you've been so good to me
And every day I wake up
I breath another breath of
Your mercy
O God You've been so good to me
And my delight is in
You 'Cause I know that
Your hand is upon me

Chorus

Jesus
You're the one Who saved myself from me
So I will be the one
To praise You in the streets

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Naming Baby Ethiopia!

We have been lamenting over names for hmmmm... a year. We decided to not put it off any longer and name our child so that we can get used to calling him by his name. For just over 24 hours we called him his Ethiopian name, but we mispronounced it that whole time! Our baby was named by his mother as far as we can tell, and we like it. We won't be able to post that name here until after court.

Here the story of choosing the first name of our fourth child...

We have had a short list of names that we have been considering for a few months. As we were getting ready for bed the night of our referral, I sent up another "wish prayer" for God to help us name our son. We got into bed, and I gave William an ear bud to listen to the Daily Audio Bible with me. The reading *just happened* to include II Samuel 23:20-23 which is about Benaiah. I paused the iPod, and we discussed whether this was a coincidence or not. Why would we discount this as a fluke when we didn't when God used our daily Bible listening to tell us to adopt from Ethiopia?! AND "Benaiah" is on the short list!!


BENAIAH
(ben-i-uh)

Benaiah is Hebrew for "God has established." He was King David's general for the army of the Kingdom of Israel. He can be found in the Bible in I Chronicles 27, II Samuel 23, and I Kings 1. We think it interesting that Benaiah killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day because it is a big deal for an African male to kill a lion.

What a Day!

Yesterday was a crazy whirlwind! My face hurts from smiling so much!

I was drying my hair when William came into the bedroom and told me that I needed to come to the office. I asked why did I need to come to the office. (Can't he see that I'm drying my hair?) He told me that Terra from America World was on the phone, and I asked "Why would Terra be calling us?" (I really had convinced myself that our referral would not come until next week!)

I got on the phone, and Terra asked if William could get on too because she had our referral!!! She said that she had a beautiful little boy for us, and she told us his name. We said "What?" and asked her to spell it! (We decided it is a cool name.)

She told us his birth date and that he is healthy and that we would be receiving all of his personal information and photos within seconds.

Terra also told us that although getting through court is a realistic concern, we should hopefully be traveling in 10-12 weeks!

After we got off of the phone, William put pants on, and we ran downstairs and gathered around the computer with the video camera running to capture the moment. We ooooed and ahhhhed over him, but I don't think the moment is You Tube-worthy!

We both began trying to call our parents. None of them were available. We both got a hold of our siblings, and then tried our parents again with no luck. So we began calling some friends, but they were not answering either! My friend LJ's kids were at home, weren't allowed to answer the phone, but heard the message and called her. She was out running errands with her husband, and he offered to detour and drop her here so that she could get all of the details! After LJ left, we tried calling our parents again. Eventually, we got through! It was 1 1/2 hours before I got my mama!

We decided to run over to the church office and tell our friend Dave who has helped us along the way a lot. We got to share our joy with a lot of the church staff!

Then off we went to CVS to make prints of the photos. All 5 of us and my mom have a small photo album with 2 adorable photos in them.

William took the kids to swimming today. Annika went off the diving board for the 1st time ever and earned herself a candy bar! Woo hooo! She did it 3 times! She timidly approached the end of the board and then exclaimed to William, "Here comes your bouncy ball!" I was at my massage and missed the other monumental occasion of the day!

For dinner, we went for Ethiopian food, of course! Mom went with us to celebrate, and we met up with the Kepley family. They are friends of ours who are also adopting from Ethiopia, and she happens to be our social worker. We had a great time, and the kids had fun playing hide-and-seek and dancing and singing on the stage. The owner's little girls were also there singing Hannah Montana tunes. It was so cute.

After dinner, we headed to Target to buy some blue clothes to send to Ethiopia. (In one of our referral photos, our guy is wearing a pink-trimmed flowery onesie!) Our friends, the Cordells are leaving for Ethiopia soon, and they will be able to take a few things for us. So, we are sending two teething toys, and outfit that my mom got tonight, a onesie, and a lovey that I have been sleeping with to get my stink on it for our baby to smell and get to know his new mama. Dana also promised to love on our baby, and I'm sure that she will pray over him! What a blessing for us!

We would LOVE to show you our son's photos; however, he is not legally ours yet and we cannot post any identifying information publicly. Sorry! After the court date, we will happily show you our handsome boy!

We have also decided that we need to keep the information about his mother and the circumstances that led him to the orphanage to ourselves. It will be his story to share if he decides to when he gets older.

COMING SOON: a name!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

IT'S A BOY!! WE GOT OUR REFERRAL!!!!

11:55 EST Terra from America World called to tell us about our NEW SON!!!

WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!

He is 4 1/2 months old and weighs 11 pounds!

We were told that we will probably travel in 10-12 weeks if all goes well!

We are both shaking!!!

We are so blessed and are praising God for this little guy!!!!

Thank-you for your prayers! Please, pray that our court date will be soon and successful!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Waiting for Referral Update:

I got up to this this morning:

Two America World Families in the Ethiopia program received referrals on Thursday May 29th

Infant Girl: DTE October 5th 2007
Infant Boy: DTE October 5th 2007

Based on the new referrals. The wait time for both infant girl & infant boy is 7-9 months from Dossier Submission or DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia).

Our DTE is 10/19/07. I had already figured out that the 5-7 months wait wasn't quite right since we have been waiting 7 1/2 months now. *SIGH*

We finally connected with our program coordinator this morning to see what is going on. Our child's blood was sent for lab work last week, and it usually takes 10-15 days for AWAA to receive the results. So, that will likely have us looking at our referral next week. (Seems like it has been 1-2 weeks away for the last 2 months!) I guess this means that he is at the transition home!

This is really hard. Harder than I expected. I think it is worse since we are up against the court date deadline without even having our referral in hand, and court is not moving well.

Jumping ahead a step to court...

It is really uncertain as to whether we will get our case through court before it closes in early August. This will depend on how well cases are moving through. Right now, they're not moving very well due to the power shortage and paperwork issues.

Our getting through court will also depend on how our child came to be an orphan. If he was abandoned, he will need to be in orphan care for 60 days before he can go to court. If he was relinquished, he can go to court when our agency can get him a court date.

The courts will be closed for about 2 months, early August through early October. After courts re-open, guess what? There is a mad scramble with the back-log and more delays.

Please join us in praying specifically that our referral would come soon and that we would pass court before the court closure in August. There are still a lot of steps between uniting us with our son.

Sunday, June 1, 2008