Thursday, September 29, 2011

Monkey Chicken!!

What?  You've never heard of the monkey chicken?  Well, truth be told, neither had I until Colin came along.

Of all the English to pick up first....  Ok, let me back up a bit.  So, one of the things that Colin enjoys doing on the computer, (ok, one of the few things we actually allow on the computer at this point) is looking at all of our digital family photos.  He especially gets a kick out of Tommy's baby and toddler pictures.

While we were in China, we learned that Tommy's birth year, 2004, is the year of the Monkey.  Colin had fun teasing Tommy about what a monkey he was. And, let's be honest, it really fits!  So, while we were touring the Imperial Palace in Shenyang, the only snack we had available was.... you guessed it.... a banana!  Here is our little monkey now...

This is the one, however, that has completely changed the Rylands' household dynamic!  Little Tommy had just turned two when he attended a Fall festival at Tom's school.  He went as, well, a CHICKEN!

 So, being good parents, we both went as Chicken Farmers! Isn't that who raises Chickens?  (Once again, I escaped the camera.)

So, now, every opportunity that presents itself, Colin chases Tommy around the house calling him, "Monkey Chicken!"  We have to get our entertainment where we can find it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Saturday- Part Two

Isle of Palms, South Carolina
The perfect spot for Colin's very first view of the Atlantic!

After the fun we had at the picnic today, Tom was craving a little salt water, so we ran home for swimsuits and headed off to show Colin the ocean for the very first time!

Being 20 minutes from the beach has some nice advantages.  And did he ever have fun!  It was so thrilling to see him enjoy the water as much as we do.  To see this oversized toddler jumping ON, not in, the waves, was a blast!
We spent about two hours watching him exhaust himself against the active tide and strong current.

"Look, Mom! Mud Pizza"

This dirty critter had to get back in our truck!

One of those moments you're grateful to have the camera ready!
Of course, there was plenty of playtime too....

Ahhh!  This is the life!

My little marine scientist.  Hey Dad, What's this?!

Both my boys, especially Colin, love dogs.  So they just HAD to pet the great dane!
I might be going out on a limb here, but I think the Rylands boys will sleep very well tonight.  It was a happy and rewarding day.  

Happy Saturday- Part One

Today was the annual Legacy Christian Homeschool Kick-off Picnic.  We were blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy the BP recreation area out in Huger, SC.  Tom thought it would be cool to dress the boys all alike...

Colin & Tom enjoying some lemonade.

It was a great day, but HUMID!! Phew, was it warm and humid out.  We had two very brief rain showers, but that only added to the already thick air.  We all had to remember just how delightful Charleston is in December........

We enjoyed jump castles, bean bag toss, volleyball, fishing net throwing, and lots of other "outdoor" things.

Here is our family shot. Little "grumpy" there was in a particularly bad mood at the time since he was taken away from the fun by Dad for throwing a whole glass of lemonade on his big brother.....

Here is Colin with sweet Katie.  I think he enjoys playing with Katie and her sister, both adopted from China also.

 Of course, it wouldn't be a proper homeschool event without an 
impromptu science lesson.......

 This "native" of the area joined the party and the kids swarmed around to 
learn about this snake.  My boys were particularly interested in touching it.

All in all, we had a great time visiting with friends and eating lots of good picnic food.  Looking forward to another year of getting to know some of these families even better.  Many thanks to the families who organized such a fun afternoon for our family.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A new "normal"

So, as if our family wasn't eclectic enough to begin with, we are now...

A "retired" (Define that word again...) 68 year old Dad- who homeschools two boys

A full-time working, 40 year old (as of Sunday! Yikes!) Mom

A 14 year old, newly adopted US teenager!

An "almost" 7 year old son. (*** How soon do your kids start counting down to their birthdays?  Ours has been ready for his October date for a few months now...)

Life at the Rylands' home is certainly in transition. We are working toward our new "normal", but it is a trial and error process to see what works.  So, after two weeks home from China with the boys, I am BACK TO WORK.  It was bitter sweet as I enjoy my job, but would love to be home a bit longer to help.  I am so blessed to have a very capable and committed husband who, like me, is a LIST MAKER.  :-)

Each day is full of all these "things" that must get done and while we rarely complete the list on any one day, somehow all the things that are truly important seem to get done.  Tommy is working with a brand new curriculum for 3rd grade this year, while Colin is in the 8th.  As you can imagine, Colin's studies are primarily ENGLISH right now with a spattering of Math (which, by the way, he ROCKS at!), Music Theory, Saxophone, Keyboarding, Swimming & Basketball.  He has the motivation of an average teen.  Our saving grace is that he has the respect and obedience that surpasses the "average" teen.  So, our days go smoothly for the most part.  Tom's biggest challenge during the day is keeping Tommy out of Colin's business and focused on his own. lol  Tommy loves to watch his big brother and struggles to take care of his own responsibilties.  I'm sure no one else on the planet has that problem with "little" brothers!

Colin completed his writing assignment for the post-placement visit yesterday.  I scanned it and sent it over to a friend who is a native mandarin speaker for translation.  It was really sweet and I thought I would share it. 
In English.....
"When I first saw mom, dad and Tommy, I can sense they are very passionate people, I can tell that they love me very much. When we were on the plane to Guangzhou, I was a little scared during the take off of the plane, because that was my first time on a plane. After the plane was in the air, I had mixed feelings of surprise and happiness, I was surprised to see the clouds underneath us, and happy because I now have a family. To me, living in U.S. is like living in a modern city in a forest because there are a lot of trees.  I like living in this modern city in the forest. I am sorry if there is any misspelling because my Chinese is not very good, even in China."
We are so blessed to have this sweet boy in our family and can't wait to see how he blossoms as his English improves.  He is such a helper around the house and enjoys being around the family.  Of course, there is still time for reading and alone time in his room, but he does not hibernate there like some teens. 

As Tom and I reflect back on how all of these changes began for our family, we see that it was a simple nudge from God, a piercing pair of eyes on the computer screen, and a cohort of encouraging, prayerful friends that, together, changed our lives forever.  Now my prayer is that He will allow me to be that voice of encouragement and education for other families that feel the calling to grow their families through adoption.  Of course, I am especially sensitive to the needs of all the older boys and girls who are watching their time run out, but there are hundreds of thousands of children waiting/needing the love of a family.  I would consider it a true privledge to help even one of these children find a family, so please call/email if I can share my experience with you, connect you with a helpful resource, or even simply pray for your family.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Post-Placement visit #1 Complete!

This past Saturday, we had the pleasure of meeting with our wonderful social worker for our first of 5 (6 for most families) post-placement visits.  For those who are heading to China soon for your own children, these have changed slightly in recent weeks, so I will do my best to share with you the new process (for older children anyway).

First, the number of visits increased to 6.  The first report is due one month after you take custody of the child. The next at the 6 month mark, then one year.  After year one, you will be visited each year on your 2nd anniversary, your 3rd, and your 5th. (Provided your child is not 18 by this time).  In our case, Colin will be past the 18 mark, so as I understand it, we will not have to have that last visit.

We were blessed to have a translator come over to help our social worker communicate with Colin and have a much more productive interview with him.  She also translated a great deal for me and made sure that he understood some things that we had already tried to communicate with him.

Next, we send 8 color photos of him with our family to the agency to include with our report.  Lastly, Colin is required to write (in Chinese or English) a short essay (half page or so) that talks about his first few days with us and his trip to America.

In future reports, we will have to include report cards and medical reports.  Many of these requirements are brand new, but will apply to anyone bringing home a child from China from this point forward.

We appreciate hearing from so many of you and please know that Colin is doing very well.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Haircuts & More!

Wow. Has it really been 5 days since I posted?  I am in withdrawal!  LOL  We have been so busy since Sunday. It is funny how easily you get accustomed to "chatting" with your virtual pool of friends (from all over the world) each day while in China.  Getting home, as so many of you already know, is a bit of a reality check.  Back to the real world!  Well, sort of. The real reality check will come on Monday when I return to work and Tom and the boys begin the figure out what normal looks like for them.

Tuesday was a happy day for Tom! Anyone who knows my husband knows that he can not STAND when his hair (or the hair of anyone over whom he has control-lol) gets long. And by long, I mean "touching the ears-- AT ALL!)  So, this week, we finally made it to the salon for haircuts.  Of course, Colin did not get much of a say in his "doo".

Check out "the look"!

Tommy was next in the chair....  He is quite used to this process.

Look closely. Colin enjoyed taking the pictures this time! (Look behind the stylist)
 Next, is "Big Tom".  A much happier face than the one that walked into the salon...

He would probably shave it all off if I didn't object.....  Last, was me. But, of course, once the boys were done, they all ran away to get popcorn and no one was left to take pictures.......

After two more days of school, we were all ready for Mrs. Jackson's Pool invite!  So, a bunch of us met over at the indoor pool today  for some lunchtime fun!  The boys had a great time playing with their friends.

It was nice to have lifeguards on duty....

We moms had a chance to sit and visit while the kids had fun in the pool. 

After pool time, we all went back home to finish lessons for today. Later this afternoon, I find my boys cuddled up together like pretzels on the sofa enjoying the classic tale, "Robots". (In English)  It was nice to see them together that closely without all the squealing, poking, and yelling that usually accompanies the two of them in the same space! lol  I didn't even hear, "MOM!  Colin ....." or "Mom! Tommy....."  It was a little piece of heaven. (Sadly, it was short-lived).

Tomorrow brings our first post-placement visit from our social worker.  We are excited to introduce her to Colin since she played an important role in us being able to bring him home.  And, sticking with the apparent theme of "God is in the details" that seems to flow through most of these posts, I received an email from a fellow home-school parent regarding a carpooling issue we were having.  I have never met this woman before, and was not even corresponding about Colin or adoption, when she just happened to mention that she was a native mandarin speaker and offered to help if we ever needed assistance. WHAT?  SERIOUSLY?  I tell you, every other day I am shaking my head in amazement at how God provides even that which we don't yet know we need.  I emailed this kind woman today asking if she might be available to help us translate tomorrow and she responded almost immediately that she would be here.  So, now, our social worker can actually talk to Colin, with her help, and better know how he is doing.  

Lastly, I want to speak a moment to all of you that have been secretly lifting our family up in prayer all these months.  I hadn't realized until recently, just how many prayer warriors we had!  Lately, everywhere I go, I run into someone who shares with me how they have been reading the blog and "following" along with us on this journey.  I firmly believe that each family, each child's prayers, each man and woman who stopped a moment to pray for our family-- each one of you has been used of God to bring Colin home to us.  I can't tell you how many times I have been asked something like, "How can you be so calm?" "Why aren't you worried?" "You need HOW MUCH money?" "By WHEN???"  It is without a doubt due to the prayers of so many Godly men and women that I-- ME-the most type AAAAAAA personality on the planet! (Right, Kim?) that I was able to calmly trust in a plan I could not see. To look into logically (the realm I prefer to live in) the most ridiculous situation and KNOW without a single doubt that we were following God's plan for our family.  I am not the easy-going one. I am not the laid back, go with the flow, take a risk and see what happens sort of girl!  NOT AT ALL! But, your faithful prayers and God's immeasurable grace have allowed me to walk through the past 5 months with a truly supernatural peace that only came from above.  My family and my blood-pressure thanks you all.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Colin's First Church Service

We have now been home one week!  It seems like it can't possibly have only been 7 days.  We have been so busy.  But, we can easily call week one- a big success.  We are getting to know one another day by day and having some fun along the way.

Today, we got ready for our first Sunday morning worship service with Colin.  We all got up and ready, ate breakfast (well, they ate breakfast...)

and we headed off for East Cooper Baptist Church.

I decided not to play in the Orchestra this morning so that I could make sure that Colin was ok. Tom played and then joined us after the music was over. He sat with us through the service.  I think he enjoyed the music, but was surprised at how much we sang. lol

After the worship service, two of the middle school students accompanied Colin (ok, I went too!) to middle school.

This is our middle school pastor, Danny Beech.  The students really like him.

Here is Danny slappin' a few high fives to the middle school boys!

I asked him yesterday if he wanted to go to the class or stay with us.  Of course, he said he wanted to try the middle school class.  I then asked him if he wanted me to stay with him and he said, "NO!"  Huh?  Imagine that!  A 14 year old boy not wanting his mom sitting next to him in class....  I picked up the pieces of my wounded heart....and laughed with him.

All in all, I'd say that this morning was a success. This afternoon, our church us hosting "Link Night" where families are invited to come, enjoy a good meal, and connect with a group of believers who live near them.  Each week, we get together with our "community groups" and have Bible Study and fellowship.  It has become a vital part of our lives and we cherish each member of our group.  One such member is "Chef Bob".  He manages the kitchen at the school/church and will be coordinating this massive meal tonight.  When he has these church-wide meals, our group tries to help. So, Colin will get the chance to help (which he loves to do) prepare a meal for about 700 this evening.  THIS should be entertaining!  Stay tuned!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Have you considered adoption?

One of the women who served as a prayer warrior and adoption resource for us while we were navigating this process for Colin was a sweet woman named Donna.  Her church recently interviewed her about the change in their lives and her testimony was powerful.  Please take a moment to watch and see if God is leading you to enlarge your own family through adoption.  Click Here for Donna's Story


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Praise the Lord!  We actually slept in this morning!  Well, by recent standards anyway....

Our family alarm clock.....
 AKA..... Tommy Rylands

gently tapped on my shoulder (as is customary in our house) at 5:45 am.  Not 3:30 like yesterday morning! LOL  So, as I always do, I sent him back to his room to read quietly for awhile to let the rest of us sleep.  Only adding to the routine with a "don't wake up your brother!" This one portion of the morning mantra is new (yeah!)

So, it is now 6:30 and as I go to check on the "little one", I find he has vacated his room, gathered his brother ( was done QUIETLY) and descended the stairs for the all important "morning cartoons".

(There is very little TV time around here with the hectic homeschooling schedule and the no computer games on school days rule, so I guess they have to grab their electronic fix where they can get it! LOL)

Well, I am pleased (well, shocked, in awe, over the moon) to report that yesterday's school day, with BOTH boys working in the same room, went very well. (Where's that wood when you need it?)

We accomplished everything on our list for the day (and no, that probably won't be an ongoing habit) and even fit in Colin's first swimming lesson with the incomparable Ms. Thoma!  Can you believe that this teacher, who Tommy has used for the last two summers got out of her car and introduced herself to Colin---- in MANDARIN?  Seriously!  Ok all you God watchers out there----  there HE goes again!  Taking care of even the smallest details.  So, Ms. Thoma is not fluent in Mandarin, but she certainly had enough under her cap to make him comfortable and we had a fabulous lesson.

Tommy went first while Colin watched to get a feel for what it would be like. He loves the water and had clearly spent some time "swimming" before, but had no real swimming skills.  So, off he went with his swimsuit and goggles into the pool.  She gave him quite a workout (as evidenced by the consistent panting sounds...) but he was a trooper and followed her directions (and charades) very well.

After our swim lesson, it was back home for lunch and the afternoon session of lessons.  We wrapped up the day with Orchestra Practice and Colin came along.  A very nice young man about his age hung out with him while we practiced and they played "Angry Birds" while we rehearsed.  There was lots of translating back and forth, but they seemed to get along well.

Today's big activity is Homeschool Band class.

We will run out and get Colin a mouthpiece for Tom's alto sax and he will be ready to roll....  As a former band director myself, I am looking forward to taking him to class today. Maybe I can even help out a bit with the beginners.

Life is about to get a lot noisier in the Rylands' home!