Monday, February 25, 2013

Just sittin' around waiting to go to China...

We have a little saying around here - "Just sittin' around waiting for the beach week." I often say it to the kids or my mom and sisters...the beach is pretty much one of our most favorite weeks of the year and we all long for it about this time of the year. I think the phrase came from a phrase my mom told me years ago about parenting - "Just sittin' around waiting for the kids to grow up." It always cracked me we have nothing to do but sit around and

Well, we have been "just sittin' around waiting to go to China" around here... No, actually life has been busy and full and moving too quickly as always. February has been a month of cold weather, too many "snow days" without any real snow to play in, lots of indoor time (too me!!), lots of time to play  and fight  with each other, celebrate new and old family traditions/holidays, and plow through the longest to-do list ever as we get ready for our big trip...a week + two days from now!!

Here are some photo highlights of the last month - enjoy!

Chess tournament on a Saturday morning. John looks

Lots of time for Wii games while the weather is too cold outside...

Trying to accomplish homeschool while the little girls have been home from their school so many days has not always been easy. Having chess or another game going at all times has helped us get through those days!

A little guitar hero with biggest brother Drew.

Ok, so I am putting up a "selfie." You might notice that I rarely ever have pictures of myself. This is mostly because I am the photographer, or because I haven't showered in days (ew, I know but with my busy life, sometimes showers get delayed, and delayed...). Took this selfie and tried a few instagram filters to find that, hey, I don't look half bad (or half as old) with a black and white filter...You probably won't see too many of me as I don't typically do "selfies" and I am almost always the eye behind the lense...but may have to try more black and whites - perhaps it will also soften my no-shower look as well!

We have enjoyed Ben's Upward basketball games each Saturday. He has been on a great team and we have been part of a great carpool which made my crazy Tuesday nights not so crazy! They have played so well this season and the games have been so fun to watch!

Aunt Jill and the cousins came for a long weekend and boy, did we have fun. I forgot to take very many photos but did get this one of all of us girls making  a mess  Valentines. It was such a fun weekend!

My John doing what he does best (well, actually he does so many things well, this is just one of the many) - making us wonderful pizza!

The snow finally arrived but we literally had a few hours of play time in it (and it was merely a few inches) before it melted. Truly a disappointing winter as far as snow goes. But everyone was excited to finally get all in gear for sledding - and it was pretty!

My girls with their long hair (left over from their Halloween costumes), playing with their homemade iPads. They spent an entire Saturday making these out of paper, cardboard, and printouts of ipad screens. They have been such a hit and have kept them busy for many hours...who knew??

 One great thing about the winter days is that the outside distractions are fewer and we have been able to get lots of school accomplished. We have finally found a great groove for this year...which will need to be all readjusted once T arrives on the scene...but that's the beauty of homeschool - and being the head teacher and principal!

Enjoying a special treat while doing some science.

I mentioned in the last post that we had celebrated our first Chinese New Year - a new Snell family tradition. John put together a fabulous menu (all made by him with some help from the kids) and cooked it all from scratch!

** About this time, you must be saying to yourself "Does this girl EVER cook??" - Well, yes, I do. I do all the grocery shopping and meal planning and all the boring weekday meals...actually I do make one or two new recipes weekly. At this point in life I am trying to learn how to be the most economical shopper and make meals that cost very little and can feed a large number - with even some leftovers for another meal! I leave all the FUN cooking to John!

Back to our New Years Celebration - We had decorations all around (that stayed up for about 2 weeks) and the kids did crafts we got from a book. We had a feast with a few friends - we invited our pastors and their families to join us. One pastor has two children adopted from China. This will have to be a yearly tradition! We had so much fun!

Kate making dumplings.

Our kids and guests making New Year's cards, and other Chinese decorations.

Part of the feast.

The adults ate Chinese style - on the floor at our coffee table!

We have continued to be blessed with "Cha-ching for Ting" piggy banks being delivered at the door from our friends and neighbors who took the banks home from our holiday market. Some change has arrived from those who didn't get the bank but heard what we were doing and wanted to collect for us. We have had a constant coin sorting and rolling project going in the family room for weeks now. It has been mind-boggling to see how much change has come in. These photos don't even show the entire scope of the change that has come in - nor the checks and bills that were tucked into the banks. We continue to be blessed with donations from folks beyond this fundraiser. Thank you God for moving hearts to help T. 

Although Ben doesn't look too happy in this photo, they all enjoyed taking a morning off to count and roll coins together - can I count this as a math lesson??

The first deposit at the bank - We had two full bags of rolled quarters, dimes, and nickels, and  stack of bills. We hadn't finished the pennies because we had run out of papers and would never have managed hauling that bag in. As it was we could barely carry the bags we had. We got all the way to the teller only to learn that all the rolls needed to have our account # on them. glad I had Kate with me to help!
I hope to soon post the final total of this fundraiser - it has gone beyond my goal for this easy fundraiser. What a blessing.

And now for some comic relief... Look what caught my eye as I passed the Barbie house....

WHAT???? AGH???!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!! Good grief...who knew that the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were such shmoozers...and all the while I thought they were innocent Land of Oz guys...I had no idea that our Barbies had boyfriends or that they held hands and snuggled in the Barbie house (on the bed no less). May have to rethink the whole Barbie thing...

I have continued, through the early mornings of February, to plod my way through Hebrews...hoping to glean from those wonderful Biblical heroes of faith (and pray for forgiveness for giving my girls, just kidding!). Many mornings Moo-shu joins me on the couch under my blanket!

We continue to live life as usual while preparing for the unusual - our trip to China and completion of our journey to T. Can't believe it. Our Chinese visas have arrived, we have paid for our trip and orphanage fees. It is now a matter of settling everything here and packing and boarding the plane. Can hardly believe it...feeling so blessed...and so nervous. Hate to think of leaving my girls behind. But they are in for a treat of a time at Aunt Jill and Uncle Marc's with a special five day visit from Grandma! They will take school work with them and do a morning school with Aunt Jill while the cousins are in school and then do lots of fun things that my amazing sister is planning. They will have a blast and, I am pretty sure, won't even want to come home! What a blessing for us that they will be so well taken care of.

I will post again soon with the Cha-ching totals and our travel itinerary and pray requests for our trip. I am off to start another week of school while trying to check pre-travel things off my list. Here's a fun little movie clip for your entertainment...I think the boys had played a little too much Mario bros...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year...and, oh yeah, WE'RE GOING TO CHINA!!!!!

I've been holding out for a few days til I knew for sure of the dates but yes...WE ARE GOING TO CHINA!

We received our TA on Thursday - that is "the call" that we were waiting for to say that our request to travel to China has been accepted. We were given several travel week choices within a window of time. Our first choices were sent back to China and by Friday afternoon we received word that we got our first choice and that our CA (Consulate appointment) is scheduled for March 19.

The CA is necessary for planning the trip. Everything is based around that appointment. The really cool thing is that if we hadn't heard back by Friday (and often it takes a few days to hear back after the TA), we wouldn't have heard for another week. This past weekend was the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations - China's biggest national holiday - and they shut down for nearly a week. Not to mention that the following Monday is Presidents' Day which would present another hold up on this end. Thank you Lord for quickly letting us get the CA date so that we can now begin our travel planning.

We are currently working with a travel agent so dates aren't set in stone yet, but we are probably looking at March 6 as our "off to China" date and March 11 as our "Gotcha day!" As soon as I know, I will post our travel itinerary.

When we decided to take our older children on this trip it was not going to be an issue for three of our kids as they are all home schooled and will miss a couple of their co-op classes which should be no problem. But for our college son, there was concern. Back in December when we met with his college advisor, she helped him to choose classes and professors who would be most likely to agree to him missing for such a trip (the beauty of a small community college!). He wrote all of his teachers ahead and all were willing to work with him - to miss 2 weeks. As time went on tho', it became clearer to us that the trip was likely to be more like 2.5 weeks. This could be a problem - especially since one teacher said he could miss the two weeks but any other absences would result in failure.

The timing of the trip is another cool thing that only God could orchestrate.  Spring break for Drew's college is early this year...middle of March. Our travel choices that we were offered, included Drew's break he will only miss about 1.5 weeks of college classes. Only God...

Our little girls will be heading off to my wonderful, loving, sweet, caring, giving, selfless sister. She is going to be "homeschooling" them in the morning and then lovingly caring for them all while continuing to mother her 4. Bless her. The girls are so excited to hang out with Aunt Jill and Uncle Marc and all the cousins. I am not sure that I will ever be able to thank them enough, and feel incredibly blessed to have them give us this gift.

Yesterday was a very emotional day for me as I realized that in exactly one month, I will meet the little girl whose face I know by heart but whose little voice I have never heard. I am in AWE and wonder at how God brings families together from across many miles and how He orchestrates and moves mountains to save an orphan child. People have asked me how we can do something so gutsy or huge - and nearly impossible - and all I can say is that I have utter faith in the God of the orphan, who places the lonely in families, who SAVES. HE is doing this. We just said yes. And please, HE gets the credit! We are not rich or wonderful or patient or organized or special - HE is! And I am so grateful we get to help Him in this way!!

We continue to be blessed with donations and gifts and for this we are so grateful. We have orphanage and T's province donations to pay soon (around $6000) and plane and hotel reservations (eek). We will be starting to roll our Cha-ching coins tonight - I am hopeful that we are going to be astounded by the amount our loving friends and neighbors have collected for us (I highly recommend this as a fundraiser to anyone reading who is adopting) - by just throwing their loose change in a jar. BLESS ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE GIVEN!

If you are still wanting to donate to our funds - we will have the "Chip-in" - on the right top margin of the blog (you will only see it if you are viewing this on your computer - it won't show up on a phone or ipad). This donation button will only be available until the end of this month. And of course, if you would rather donate to us by check that works too! Please know that your money is specifically at this point going toward our orphanage and province fees as well as the medical appointment and visa fees we will need to pay for T in China.

In my next blog post, I hope to share some photos of our first of many Chinese New Year Celebration here at the Snells'. A new tradition for our family - and who knew my husband could cook up such wonderful Chinese food??? (of course he can...he can cook anything!). I am having some problems with my photo uploading at the moment. Hope to get those up this week. Until then -

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