Can’t Believe I Have a Kid in School!

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Joyce started school this past Monday.  It’s amazing how much more cooperative she is at bedtime now because she wants to get her rest for school.  She seems to really be loving it.  Dane took her on Monday and met her teacher, Ms. Koester.  Ms. Koester taught at Shiloh when I was there.  I met with her on Tuesday morning, and after I left I realized I think I remember her so well because she was my A.G. teacher in 4th grade, though I still need to confirm this.  All the teachers already knew Joyce’s name and were saying hello to her as we were walking in.  Next week is Spring Break, so I think this week is a great way to start her so she doesn’t get so overwhelmed.

Faith wakes up every morning asking where Joyce is. It’s so cute.  We have experimented with skipping naps with Faith this week.  It makes for a long day for me, but she goes to sleep now at night instead of playing or getting up, and she is sleeping in until 8:30am!  Our sweet neighbor Grace has been so helpful and comes over and sits at the house with the little kids while I take Joyce to school when Dane is at work.  This is a huge blessing because I think one of the hardest things to do is getting all the kids out of the house.

Everyone is really adjusting well.  We still have to deal with a lot of moodiness but that’s a pre-teen for you, and I know it’s only going to get worse.  I have had a few meltdowns myself and had to apologize for my behavior.  You really never truly understand people when they talk about how hard parenting is until you actually do it yourself.  But we wouldn’t change a thing.

2 Corinthians 6:10

10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This verse has a new meaning to me now.

Silly Girls!

Silly Girls!

Joyce's first day of school in America! 4/7/2014

Joyce’s first day of school in America!
4/7/2014

Ain’t No Party Like An Airport Party!

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Waiting for her big sister!

Waiting for her big sister!

Keniston and Madison holding Joyce's banner!

Keniston and Madison holding Joyce’s banner!

 

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Well it seems life has slowed down enough that I can take a moment to

Thank you to everyone for coming and making this day even more special! And thank you Aunt Lisa for these pictures!

Thank you to everyone for coming and making this day even more special! And thank you Aunt Lisa for these pictures!

update everyone.  Joyce has now been home a little over two weeks now.  She has already had many firsts that she was able to share with her sister Rwenzori.  So far she is doing better than any of us ever expected.  We have had some meltdowns but I was expecting those.  She did wake up mad this morning for some reason and has only spoken two words to me, but that’s okay.  I asked her if she could tell me the reason for her being upset this morning and she just shook her head.  I then asked if she knew why she was upset and she shook her head no.  I told her it was okay, sometimes we are just in bad moods, and that’s okay.  This dreary, nasty, weather sure isn’t helping anyones mood.

She is so beautiful!

She is so beautiful!

Our sweet neighbor Grace has been doing Reading and English lessons with her a few hours a day.  She really enjoys learning and actually wants to go to school. And her English is much better than we all thought it was.  We had some testing last week and she will meet with the ESL teacher this week from Western Union and after we hear all the results and everyone’s opinion we will most likely be enrolling her in school sometime in April.

As far as the rest of the family is doing with this new adjustment, we are getting there.  You can definitely tell a difference in Faith, and I’m sure it’s a combination of her age, and adding another sister to her life that she now has to share a bedroom and toys with.  Most days are really pretty good, but I really lost my temper last week and literally had to apologize to the kids and ask for their forgiveness.  The first thing Faith told BiBi that day was, “Mommy said she was sorry, because she got mad.”  On the bright side at least she knew I was sorry.  Joyce is such a huge help with Zori.  And Zori just loves Joyce and laughs at her constantly, it’s so sweet to watch.

Joyce loved the Beach!  She ran out into the ocean fearlessly with no concern whatsoever about the freezing cold water!  And Rwenzori slept on the beach most of the day and then we took a walk and she got to look and see everything.

The Love Family is Complete!  At least for a while! =)

The Love Family is Complete! At least for a while! =)

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the Airport to greet and welcome home Joyce.  She really did great with that too.  She went up to everyone and let me introduce them.  We cannot thank everyone enough for all the support, gifts, and visits to welcome Joyce home!

We love you all!

We love you all!

Thank you Kristin and Aaron Byrum for capturing our special day!  We love yall! http://www.kristinbyrum.com/Fresh/

Thank you Kristin and Aaron Byrum for capturing our special day! We love yall!
http://www.kristinbyrum.com/Fresh/

I wanted to share part of my devotional this morning.  It spoke to me and hope it will speak to you if you are going through something.  Dane and I were just talking yesterday on our ride home from the beach that we feel like we are finally seeing fruit from all we experienced the past year and a half.  When I read this it was confirmation of that feeling.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heartwhen he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline),then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Our sweet neighbors Martha and Jean had this made for Joyce!

Our sweet neighbors Martha and Jean had this made for Joyce!Family Beach trip!

Her first time seeing the ocean!

Her first time seeing the ocean!

Joyce and Rwenzori got to share their first Beach Trip together!

Joyce and Rwenzori got to share their first Beach Trip together!

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Happy, Happy, Happy!

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Tonight is the last night I will only tuck two babies to bed.  Tomorrow night our bed time routine will look completely different.  I’m so excited and nervous and terrified all at the same time.  Are we really equipped to raise a nine year old?  We have only been parents for a little over a year.  But God keeps reminding me that He called us to this, and there is no doubt that He called us to it.  Therefore, He will equip us for it.

Apparently they had no issues at the Embassy and no problems at the airport.  So far this has been the best trip to Uganda either of us has ever had.  On my FlightAware App it looks like they are still in Rome re-fueling right now.  Before they got on the plane, Joyce wanted to call and talk to me.  She said, “I love you mom”, and my heart melted.  Dane said she wasn’t scared at all, just excited to get on the plane and come home to meet her new family and friends.  And Faith cannot wait to see her Daddy and Joyce.  She has talked non-stop about the “Airport Party” since Dane left.  So, my next post should be nothing but Happy, Happy, Happy!

Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Dane driving in Kampala!  Scary!

Dane driving in Kampala! Scary!

 

Dane is Safe and Sound in Uganda

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I’m at home from work today sick, so before my Benadryl kicks in and knocks me out so I can sleep, I decided to update everyone. Don’t worry, the kids are with BiBi.  Dane’s trip so far has been the best trip (travel wise) to Uganda we have ever had.  He had bulk head seating and almost en entire row to himself.  On the flight from Ethiopia to Uganda he had to use his EMT skills because the man beside him had passed out and gotten sick.  Apparently the man had low blood sugar and just needed to eat something, but Dane was the only on the flight that could take vitals and help him.  So because of that they were treating Dane like a doctor and got all his bags for him and carried them to his next flight to Rwanda and didn’t make him pay the Visa fee either.  Kiel met Dane in Rwanda and they had to stay overnight before traveling to Kisoro.  Dane says Rwanda is beautiful and so clean!  They traveled yesterday to Kisoro and got settled in and I just spoke to him earlier and he said they spent the day walking through the Pygmy slums in Kisoro.  They also paid a visit to the family that FUEL Uganda has relocated into the new house.  He said the man has been working so hard to get his garden ready and the house looks really good.  Tomorrow the plan is to go back to the families house and help them work in their garden and then go meet with some of the leaders that Kiel has been working with.  He will leave there on Monday and get to Entebbe on Monday night.  So he will finally get to see Joyce on Tuesday.

On a totally different subject I have such a tremendous respect for single mothers.  I couldn’t do it without JaJa and BiBi’s help.  I think I am sick just because I’m so tired my immune system has gotten weak.  I promise I will try to keep everyone updated as much as I can!  Thank you for all your continued prayers and support.

P.S.  If you need something to do tonight come out to Fuddruckers in Matthews for dinner.  Another adopting family in our church is having a fundraiser to help bring home their 5 children from the Ukraine.  I will be there helping them (which is why I’m about to take a long nap).  Please come out and support the Bates Family who will be growing from a family of 4 now to a family of 9! We will be there from 5:30-8:30pm.

Kiel is Dane's gourmet chef for the week!  Looks better than my breakfast!

Kiel is Dane’s gourmet chef for the week! Looks better than my breakfast!

The Pygmy Family that FUEL Uganda has relocated and built this house for.  They have been hard at work on their land!

The Pygmy Family that FUEL Uganda has relocated and built this house for. They have been hard at work on their land!

The Rwanda/Ugandan border.

The Rwanda/Ugandan border.

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Had to share these sweet Valentine's pics!

Had to share these sweet Valentine’s pics!

 

 

 

 

Update on Travel Plans and More

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I totally forgot to mention in my last post that on the day we got our wonderful email, we actually got to video skype with Joyce and personally tell her the good news!  She was reserved and shy like normal but you could tell she was also excited.  It was good to see her beautiful face because it has been so long!  So Dane flies out on Tuesday February 18th and he and Joyce will be home on Saturday, March 1st!  Dane will be flying in to Rwanda and driving in to Kisoro to check on Fuel Uganda projects and to stay with Kiel (Fuel Uganda’s missionary) for a few days, then will be heading to Mityana to spend a few days there so Joyce can say goodbye to her friends at H.O.P.E. Center and say goodbye to the Pease family (the IMB missionaries that we stayed with for both trips).  Then hopefully he and Joyce will get to spend the last few days with the Penner family in Kampala before they come home.  It only seems right to end the trip with the Penner family since almost two years ago we started our journey off by driving to their house outside of Winston Salem and meeting with them for several hours to go over every detail involved in independent adoption.  Since that time, the Penner family has stayed right along side us through these two years helping us and encouraging us along the way.  They have since moved to Uganda themselves and are working with A.R.M (Africa Renewal Ministries).  It seems as though things are finally coming full circle and we can finally settle in and figure out this parenting thing.

Yesterday we got to spend over an hour talking to McClane Layton (our lawyer who worked pro-bono on Joyce’s case).  We have had several long phone conversations with her before but it was normally all about Joyce’s case and not much else.  Yesterday we were actually able to hear her amazing story and glean some wisdom from her 19 years of being an adoptive parent.  She is such a Godly, humble, woman that has a true passion and calling to serve adoptive families in crisis (like us).  McClane works pro-bono, that means for free.  However, her organization E.A.C.H. is set up to receive donations for her very hard work.  We are going to be donating as much as we can from hopefully a decent tax return.  We would ask anyone that wants to help to donate to E.A.C.H. as well.  McClane has now helped around 100 families and unfortunately has little support due to families already being out of money by the time they need help from McClane.  Now, please understand McClane has never asked for anything because she doesn’t want to financially burden adoptive families any further.  That being said if we would have had to hire a lawyer to do what she did, the fees would start at $7,500 and only go up from there.  I hope you will consider partnering with us in helping McClane and her family continue to be able to help other adopting families going through the same issues we have faced.  You can read more about McClane,  her family, and all she has accomplished in Congress for adoptive families at this website:

http://www.equalityforadoptedchildren.org/about_each/founder_biography.html

I would also like to add an article from another adoptive mother’s blog post about, “What Not To Say To Adoptive Families”.  I have actually been wanting to write a post just like this myself, just haven’t had the time.  Everything she mentions I have had people say to me.  Sometimes I correct people, sometimes I make jokes, and sometimes I just ignore it.  I understand that for the most part people are well meaning and just don’t know what to say or how to say it.  I have been guilty of saying some of the same things in the past, before I was an adoptive parent and understood how hurtful and damaging these comments can be.  I love that she ends her comments on a positive note giving tips on what you could say to encourage adoptive families.  I hope you can take the time to go to her site and read it.

http://africatoamerica.org/2014/01/24/ten-things-not-to-say-to-adoptive-parents/

 

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I think she did a great job!   Please continue to pray for Dane’s travel plans, as Joyce will be very scared of many things on the plane and airports.  And please pray for our upcoming transition to a family of 5!  Thank you all for your continued support and prayers, I promise to keep everyone updated!

Home today with my girls.

Home today with my girls.

This is about the extent of us being out in the snow this year.  Faith actually remembered it from last year!

This is about the extent of us being out in the snow this year. Faith actually remembered it from last year!

Joyce is Coming Home!!!

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At 5am this morning Dane started shoving his tablet in my face telling me to read this email.  I was, of course, half asleep so it took me re-reading the email  several times before it sank in.  This is what we read….

Mr. and Mrs. Love,

We have received notification from USCIS that your I-600 petition has been approved.  We will be able to process the immigrant visa in 2-4 business days from receiving the hard copy file from Nairobi.  It generally takes 1-2 weeks for Nairobi to send us the hard copy file.  Please keep us apprised of your travel plans.

Regards,

Adoptions Unit

U.S. Embassy Kampala

Wow!  You would think our first reaction would be tears of joy, but it was more like, “That’s it?”.  I felt like they put us through Hell (excuse my french, but no other word works) and they are going to end it with a 4 sentence paragraph?  I guess the drama of the entire adoption has made this email seem very anti-climactic.  I guess God knows we need a little less drama for the next month as we prepare for our 9 year old daughter to come home, since we will have a life filled with drama with 3 girls!  I can’t get over the fact that it’s finished, other than Dane going back to get her.  The paperwork just got there this Tuesday and we were settling in for a 4 week wait on the response.  Never in our wildest dreams would we imagine that we would get a favorable response in the same week!

I guess the real work will start when Joyce gets home and we figure out how to be parents to all 3 of our amazing children!  It’s funny that one of the first thoughts in my head was that I have to go through Joyce’s closet and take all the spring/summer clothes out and get out the winter clothes from the attic.  Although it will probably be the beginning of March when she gets home, she will be freezing until June. Wow….my mind is reeling right now, and the word that keeps running through my head that Dane has been using often is, “Cra-Cra!!”.  It’s even funnier to hear Faith say it!  I can’t wait for her to wake up and tell her that her big sister is finally coming home!  This past week she has been talking about Joyce a lot.  She said to me, “I’m excited to see Joyceee mommy, are you?”  How sweet.

This has been a week of victories big and small.  On a totally non-related subject, yesterday I was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans!  Dane was looking at me like I was “Cra-Cra” as I did my happy dance in my “normal” jeans.  And Rwenzori was 3 months old this Wednesday and most nights she is sleeping through the night.  Also, this Sunday at church is the official launch of Mosaic, our adoption ministry at First Baptist of Indian Trail.  What a great way to cap off an amazing week!

Thank you all so much for all of your prayers, encouraging words, financial support, volunteering to help, and so much more through our adoption journey.  We would not be at this point without all the support we have been given.

She is such a happy baby!

She is such a happy baby!

Faith had to get in the picture.

Faith had to get in the picture.

Hair night.  Thank God I don't have to do this everyday!

Hair night. Thank God I don’t have to do this everyday!

Paperwork On Its Way

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We finally got all our further evidence that the Embassy was requesting finished and mailed today!  Dane took it to work with him today.  He had to leave FedEx three different times because they kept getting calls.  He finally got back, got it all sorted, and mailed to Nairobi Kenya.  It is due to arrive on January 21.  Please, please pray that it arrives on time, and that they will be satisfied with this evidence and approve Joyce’s visa to travel home!  We both kept saying we felt like it would be such a relief just to get this paperwork sent because it is then out of our hands, but when he called me and told me, I just started to worry that it wouldn’t get there.  Dane felt the same way.  I guess the burden will not fully be lifted until our daughter is home safe and sound.

Some very important paperwork headed to Nairobi, finally!

Some very important paperwork headed to Nairobi, finally!

On a totally different subject, I have been fighting a loosing battle on sleeping in.  Faith has decided her new, “I’m awake” time is 7am.  Before Zori came along she would sleep until 8:30am, which gave me plenty of time to have my coffee and devotional finished.  But now since I was already up at either 5am or 6am feeding Zori, I always feel groggy and exhausted.  I think the solution is to just make myself get up after feeding Zori at either 5am or 6am so I can actually do my devotional and even work out before Faith wakes up.  Actually, I know this is the solution, it’s just making myself do it.  I know most mothers out there are already doing this, and I’m the lazy one that doesn’t want to give up my extra 1-2 hours of sleep, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  The whole “no sleep” thing has been new to us since Faith was one when we brought her home and she always slept so well.  I’ve also been thinking it would be good to start getting up that early since I will eventually have to be getting up to get Joyce ready for school.  Oh the joys of motherhood, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!  So that was my venting session, maybe it will help motivate me to actually get up!  Sorry for the rambling, being at home most days with the kids is making my brain funny, and I’ve heard it will only get worse.

Oh and by the way, thank you to all those that donated to our yard sale!  Every time I post something I forget to mention it, and I’m sorry it has taken so long!  We raised $572 on a very cold, cold, November day.  And thank you to Daniel and Heather Lugo, and Jaja and BiBi for staying out in the cold for hours to help us!  We couldn’t have done it without you!