Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 More Days to Go!

Ok friends and family, we are counting down the days....

This Monday morning, we leave for China (via DC).  Our long flight will actually be on Tuesday, arriving in Beijing on Wednesday 12/7.  (Their time)

We are amazed each day at how the Lord is providing for the financial needs of this trip.  We are inching closer and closer to our goal. Thank you to each one who has given through the $50 "Thirty-One" give away.  There is still time. Entries will be accepted through midnight on Saturday.  The drawing will be held Sunday, 12/4 in the evening.

Today we made some headway. Our I800 approval arrived at the NVC (National Visa Center) and we received an email from them that they are processing it immediately.  The cable should be sent to the embassy by tonight or first thing in the morning.

The DS230 has already been delivered, so as soon as they get the cable, we are ready to issue the Article 5 immediately.  Getting that travel approval is going to be tight, but there is a slight glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel now.

As for our journey, in order to secure the best available flights (cost-wise) we had to leave a few days early, so we will be in Beijing first. Angela, from Ladybugs n Love, is going to be our guide while we are there.  I have heard so many wonderful things about her that I can't wait to meet her in person.

In about a week or so, we might have photos of Colin and me here on the Great Wall of China!  I am very excited about that.  Stay tuned!  More to come!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thirty-One Give-Away

We are scheduled to fly out of Charleston ONE WEEK from today.  We are currently short of the needed funds by a little under $4000.  I trust that the Lord will provide!

Late last night, a Thirty-One consultant emailed me to let me know that we had a $50 GIFT CERTIFICATE with her and asked how would I like to use it.

 Anne Little     865.405.6979

Well, I need $$$$$$$$ right now, not beautiful bags (and they ARE wonderful!). So, I am giving that Gift Certificate away in a last minute drawing.  Please tell all your friends and family.  This would allow you to buy something wonderful for someone you love in time for the Holidays!

So, starting today, for every $10 donation that is made on our paypal button, you will receive one chance to win this $50 of products.  WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED SUNDAY NIGHT, 12/4. If you haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet, please consider supporting our efforts to bring Cameron home to his forever family.

Here he is before and after. 
What might he look like next Christmas 
after having the love of his very 
own family for the first time?

God Bless,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

So Blessed- Traveling Soon

I was looking at my boys this morning before church and realized that even in a short period of time, Colin is already changing.  Here he is back in February. The first photo we  saw of him was from this date.

February 2011

 Here he is this morning before church.  
What a handsome fella!
 (ok, a wee bit biased, but still....)
November 2011

Tommy, age 7 ready for church

In 8 short days, we leave for China!!  
Can't wait to add Cameron to these "Brother Shots"!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Treasured Pearls: 2nd Annual 24 Days of Giving

A wonderful adoptive family is promoting the 24 days of giving to support many families who are adopting both internationally as well as domestically. You can read about their efforts here.....

Can your family help children find loving homes?

Treasured Pearls: 2nd Annual 24 Days of Giving: If you were following my blog last year, you might remember my attempt to help families who are fundraising for an adoption. I am going t...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

This year, we had ALMOST the entire "Jewell" sibling cluster together for Thanksgiving. We were only missing one, my brother Mark and his family.  
We hope to see them at Christmas.  

However, while Mark was missed, it was really nice to see my brother Scott, sister Amy and brother Adam along with their spouses and children. 

This was Colin's first time meeting his Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.

It was a cozy night with 1o adults and 7 children all crammed into 
Mom & Charlie's house in Orangeburg, SC but we survived.

The kids (large and small) had a blast playing outside the entire time and running around the woods.  They had all the necessities:
Rocks, gravel, dirt, sticks, pine branches, buckets, rakes, shovels......

You get the idea?  It was a very NATURAL, outdoorsey sort of Thanksgiving this year.

We were all so busy visiting and catching up that we took very few pictures, but suffice it to say....

The food was fabulous! (Thanks Mom & Tom), 
the company was great and the children had a ball!

Jewell Grandchildren from left to right:

Colin Rylands, age 14
Karsyn Jewell, age 8
Tommy Rylands, age 7
Gracyn Jewell, age 5 (almost 6)
Lindsey Cunningham, age 5
Jake Cunningham, age 2
Ryan Cunningham, age 2
**Missing: Easton Jewell, age 3 months and 
Cameron Rylands (still in China)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Operation Christmas Tree!

Welcome to December! 

(Ok, so maybe it is not December in YOUR house... but we Rylands have always been a little ahead of our time!)

Since Colin and I will be in China very soon, and given that we really don't know EXACTLY when, and given that my mother gave me a stern lecture about how I MUST decorate for Christmas.....

Ok, so NONE of these ladies is actually my mother, but I figured if I put a real photo of my mom on the internet with "THE LOOK", she might not be too happy about, I tried to capture "the look" without her. How'd I do? :-)

Time being short around here lately, we decided to skip over the beautiful Fall decorations that adorn my garage and cut straight to the Christmas tree!  

So to all the orange and brown decorations and the sweet corn husks that usually lie around the house this month I say, 
"See you next year!"

So, we awoke, ate a wonderful breakfast (Thanks Sweetie!) 
and prepared ourselves for the enormous task of decorating the house for Christmas.  
And we couldn't start this adventure without a little Christmas Music!  
So, we pulled out the Vintage,
 "Christmas Treasures"
 recorded by my favorite female singing group "Treasures of Grace!" 
 For those who don't know, this is a group that I sang with many years ago in Richmond, VA and they were dear friends of mine.  
That "chubby" gal in the lower right corner is a very pregnant "ME!" 
about 6 months along with Tommy when that cover was taken.  
As I recall, it was August and we were shooting a Christmas album cover 
and I was wearing a VELVET maternity dress.  
Needless to say, I was HOT and ready for that photo shoot to be over!

Now, I must pay tribute to the one best invention of the last 20 years. 
No, it is not the computer (although I live on that lately), 
it is not the hybrid car, or the 4 slice toaster 
(which we will need very soon-hint hint), 
but the.....

 PRE-LIT Christmas TREE!!!!!!

Gone are the days of tangled strands of lights!  
This baby comes straight out of the box 
(I can live without the "fresh tree smell") 
and ready to plug in!  

***Playing the part of Christmas Elf #1 and Christmas Elf #2***

Colin & Tommy
Now I don't know how the rest of the world's teenage boys decorate a tree, 
but in this house...

We learned pretty early on that our 
"helpful" teenager
is like a bull in a China shop.
He can, at times,
help you all the way to crazy!

 So, before we opened the first box of ornaments,
Tom sat him down with the translator and gave him a quick tutorial on

"Decorating with Mom 101"

This comprehensive curriculum included lessons such as:
1. Listen to Mom
2. Spread the ornaments equally over the tree
3. Listen to Mom
4. Only one ornament per branch.
5. Listen to Mom
6. Be careful not to break the fragile ones.
7. Listen to Mom
8. Have Fun and take turns
9. But only while you.... Listen to Mom!

and last but certainly not least....
10. SMILE for the CAMERA!

See Tom HELPING us decorate the tree.
Look closely. You might never see this again.

So, in the end, we had a fully decorated tree and two proud elves!

Now that the "Big tree" is done, it was time to move into the bedrooms...

Tommy was carefully placing the ornaments on his mini tree
while Colin was excited to get the Basketball Santa for his room

He also got the iron reindeer statue and thought it was 
appropriate for Santa to catch a ride!

Well, that was about all the Pre-Christmas Spirit the males in the family could muster, so Mom took over the rest of the house....

Nativity- Center Stage as it is the basis for our celebration of this sacred holiday!

Mantle with Nutcracker Collection

But, lest you think that while you are all scrambling in a few weeks decorating your houses, that we will be kicking back relaxing, think of me packing for China while still needing to buy gifts for the children (one of whom I haven't even met!) and lining up air travel at the Holidays, securing Colin's Visa, packing for the trip....etc..etc...etc..

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Let the craziness commence!


Friday, November 18, 2011

We have L.O.A!

Our official letter of Approval from China arrived today and was promptly sent to the National Benefits Center via email.  Once they have that, they can approve our I800 application and get things moving again!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home Sweet Home! Back from Charlotte,NC

Well, after a fun rolling home school session, we made it to Charlotte last night and enjoyed  a wonderful dinner our friends had prepared for us.  The boys had so much fun!

Guess who their best playmate was?

This sweet girl ran them both ragged!  All three of these critters slept great last night!  They had a blast playing and running through the house.  A very sweet animal, who, were I not firmly rooted in my right mind, would have convinced me to get a dog! LOL  After the wonderful spaghetti dinner, we played FARKLE. (Dice game)

 Anyone heard of it?  It was a new one on me, but it was so easy and fun and Colin picked it up very quickly.  I think that it might just have to be a MUST have for our trip to China when we get Cameron.  That and UNO, of course.

Our sweet hosts, Laura and Brent Wilson were the best and made us feel right at home. Thanks you two!  You were wonderful hosts and really blessed us with your hospitality and your flexibility in opening your home on such short notice!

This morning, after a YUMMY pumpkin bread, we gathered our things and set off for the Department of Homeland Security.  

*** WARNING***
For those of you who are squeamish about things of a bureaucratic nature, you might want to put down that sharp knife.  I care about the safety of your family.

After getting through security, we were asked  for our appointment letter. I promptly replied that we did not have a letter because our appointment was made very quickly by our Senator's office and that we were instructed to arrive anytime today between 7:30 and 2:30.  To my utter shock, they were clueless about how that could be and had never heard our names.  So, in the absence of a real plan, they sent us to the waiting room where people with "real" appointments wait to be called in. 

After about 15 minutes of waiting, I decided to risk the use of my cell phone and email our Senator's staff who had made these arrangements to find out exactly who we should be looking for.  (Never fear.... my 7 year old blood-hound, Tommy, did not miss the opportunity to tell me that I was breaking the rules and that the sign on the wall CLEARLY stated "NO Cell Phone Use!" 
Ok, this wasn't the ACTUAL sign, but it seemed fitting.

 Like all good moms, I told him that this was to keep the "talking" down in the waiting room and that it probably didn't apply to sending emails. (Wishful thinking?)
I emailed and when the response came through, they asked me to go show the email about our visit to the front desk. When I did, the female security officer was a little upset that...... wait for it.....
My Cell Phone was Turned On!  


I tried to explain to her that having my cell phone on was the only way I could prove to her that I was supposed to be there and why! (She was not moved to compassion)

Just then, a wonderful woman (35 year vet of immigration services) came for us and ushered us in to a room where Colin was to take his Oath and sign his official Certificate of Citizenship.  Because he cannot understand the words to which he would have pledged allegiance, I was given the opportunity to take the oath on his behalf.  (Sorry. No photos.)

Here is the happy, now documented, US Citizen in all his teenage glory!

And the other males of the family....

Of course, all of this was exciting, but the highlight of my day...

the absolute icing on the cake...

was when the immigration officer asked, 
"You all live in Charleston, why didn't you do all of this THERE?"

{Breathe! Breathe! Dear Jesus, hold my tongue!!!}

That is how I feel about that!

I softly (I swear, I was nice!) explained to her that we were told that we had to come to Charlotte and she said that this could be handled at any USCIS office and she couldn't imagine why our file was sent to NC rather than SC!  I told her that we would be doing this again very soon, so she was very apologetic and gave me her direct line in case I needed her help next time.

{Ok, looking at the bright side: We will only do this once...}

Many of you know just how excited I was to make this journey to Charlotte, however, I was determined to make lemonade out of this situation, so at Laura's recommendation, we took the boys to see the Billy Graham Library in town just a couple of miles from the immigration office. 

Even though it was rainy and yucky outside, it was well worth the stop.  

Free admission and parking and they had a great temporary exhibit on the Bible in China.

One thing that I learned today was that Rev. Graham's Wife was the daughter  of a missionary in China.  While the Grahams had a heart for all people groups to know the Lord, there was a special affection for the people of China.

This framed print of the character for Righteousness was special. Colin immediately recognized that part of that character stood for "I".  He wasn't sure what the rest of it meant.  How cool is it that the Chinese character for Righteousness is a combination of the symbol for "I" and "Lamb"

Behind this statue of a young preacher is a portion of his book collection that is on display. Over 3900 books from him personal library are encased in "Ruth's Attic", the Library's bookstore.

This beautiful bovine is "Bessie".  She welcomed us at the beginning of our tour and told all about the younger days of "Billy Frank" when he was a boy out on the farm in Charlotte, NC.

We were glad that we could turn an inconvenient trip into something nice for the whole family. Growing up in Lynchburg, VA in the middle of the "Bible Belt" of America, listening to the preaching of Rev. Jerry Falwell for many of my younger years, I was struck today by so many things in Rev. Graham's ministry that I remember from my childhood. Memories like the Gaither Trio and other wonderful evangelists that worked along side this incredibly impactful man. A simple man who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to gain access to millions of people and was allowed to influence some of the most powerful men and women in History with the gospel of Christ. My prayer is that these experiences will someday be ones that all our boys remember with the same fondness.


And now... a word from our sponsor!

"Thank you Angie for all that need to know information.  I'm sure you all enjoyed the novel for television by my wife who thinks everything we did is important.  Tune in tomorrow when I (Tom) tell you where we stopped to pee, where we got gas, how much, what it cost, where we ate, what each of us had, etc., etc.  
Are you snoring yet?"