Thursday, January 31, 2013

We heard his voice!!

It was amazing!

Last night, at almost 10 PM EST, we saw our son, Cooper!

And I mean we S.A.W. him. Not a picture of him, or a video of him, but HIM!

Through an amazing combination of:

1. Best agency IN THE WORLD!

2. Savy teenager with a QQ account

3. A loving God who orchestrated this blessing
4. A kind woman on the other side of the world...

All of this came together to give us this

The most beautiful sight!

This is Cooper, our 9 year old son.

We are expecting to travel, Lord willing, in 5 short weeks!  

Did I say, short?  Not anymore!
Now that we have talked to him and seen his precious face so close... Oh, how these weeks will drag!

Tom was kind enough to take some pics and video while we talked to him.  Enjoy!


we have been flying on clouds ever since last night.  Every member of our family was just captivated by his smile and wanted to reach out and grab him!

It was super cool, too, to see my husband just gushing over this pretty child.  Since Tom can't come along on the trip, I am so glad that Cooper got the chance to see him before we get there and that Tom was able to experience this first meeting with the rest of us. 

His sweet little voice was so precious.  We had seen pictures, and even some short videos of him, but to have him there, looking at us and talking to us, was amazing.

He now knows who we are, he knows who is coming for him and when, and he even knows that his Dad is a great cook! (thanks to Colin!)

We would appreciate continued prayers for our little guy as he waits for us and for us as we continue to seek funds to cover the orphanage donations and travel expenses.  At present, we are $15,535 away from our needed amount.  

A large amount indeed, but not anything for the God who called us to these children!

Thanks friends!

(You may all begin telling us
 how beautiful he is now...GO!) 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

5 Boys, 1 Bath! (Nesting, Part 4)

That's right...
Soon and very soon, our house will be filled with 5 boys who will, for most things, be sharing ONE bathroom. 
And, I don't mean some mansion bath with multiple sinks and tons of square footage...I'm talkin' small, 50 sq. ft. of bathroom.
(Anyone else picturing a frat house in their minds?)
Now, besides the obvious overcrowding issues of bringing home two more boys, there are issues of cleanliness to contend with.
So, other than teaching everyone to be considerate of others and not take 15 minute showers...
there needed to be a little bit of organization. 
 I found too, that some of these little changes have helped to teach necessary lessons in personal hygiene to boys who, because of lack of parenting and certain cultural differences, just don't have those skills.
So, what are your bathroom pet peeves?
We all have them.
Wet towels on the floor?
Shampoo bottles all over the bottom of the tub?
Washclothes wadded up in the corner of the tub?
Toothpaste on the sink?
Urine on the walls and floor?
In my case, all of the above are on my list. 
So, step one? 
Getting each child a body scrubber of their own.
(Different colors to keep them clear on whose is whose)
Then, I used some of those 3M hooks
(the ones specifically for the bath)
and hung each one according to the height of the child so there was no excuse for not putting them right back where they belonged after they are done cleaning.
When Colin first came home, I used Google translate and typed up an "instruction manual" of sorts and taped it to the mirror in the bathroom.
"Steps to a clean body".
Let's face it.  When you bring home a toddler, you can take them into the bath and make sure that they are well cleaned. 
Not the case when you bring home a full grown teenage boy. 
Well, after bringing home Cameron several months later and realizing that he was clueless about personal hygiene, I thought, maybe if all his "tools" were in one place, he would remember each "step".
So, I gathered all the necessary things and got each boy their own metal tub.
A few colorful paint pens and "ta-da"!
Now, every time one of the boys is getting cleaned up, they know that they are to use each thing in their tub every day.
Sure, it means buying more items all at once, but it really did seem to help them remember to comb their hair, use deodorant, brush their teeth and floss. 
Now, 5 kids sharing one bathroom isn't always an issue.  Take showers, for example. 
Since the littles all have to be out the door in the morning an hour earlier than the older two will, they will take their showers at night before devotions/bedtime. 
The older two?
In the morning before school or after the younger ones go to bed.
One time that we realized it did get a little dicy was before bed when everyone was brushing their teeth.  So, we decided to put the two, (soon to be three) younger boys in the upstairs bath and Colin (and Connor when he comes home) will have their tubs and toothbrushes in the half bath downstairs.
That eliminates the scenario where we have 5 boys fighting for a spot to SPIT all at the same time into the same sink!
(That never ends well!)

Lastly, we needed to fix the towel hanging situation.  This one was inspired by Pinterest.

When you rent, as many of you may know, you often have the cheapest possible fixtures.  Our towel rack was one such fixture.

I lost count how many times this has fallen down off the wall.

That's when I saw an alternative idea...

I found this pre-made board at Hobby Lobby
and my husband stained it for me.

Then, it was time for new towels.
Thanks to a wonderful sale at Kohls and some timely Kohls cash that was about to expire, we were able to get some nice new towels at
Wal-Mart prices!

A little denim binding..... and...


Yes, this is the full extent of my sewing abilities!


Now, the boys will be able to hang their towels on a hook instead of "trying" to fold them and hang them nicely.  Much easier and saves a lot of space.

Of course, no nest is complete without birds.

The real question was..
do we go with a straight flock of birds?

Or more of a zig zag pattern?


These are serious questions, people!
Since our flock is definitely NOT a uniform bunch, we went with the zig zag!

My dear hubby hung it for us. 
He even made sure we had the strongest mounts possible anticipating some
"stress" in its future.

He drilled the mounting holes and counter sunk the heads of the screws so that the outside bird hooks would cover them and present a bit neater.

Placing the final bird hook...

Here is the finished product:

And a pleased middle child!

Now, none of this is rocket science, but it has already, with only three boys, helped keep things a bit more sane (and cleaner too!)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Breaking News!!!!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you breaking news from China! 

(That's right, the long awaited installment in the "Nesting" series: 5 Boys, 1 Bathroom! is going to have to wait!)

Last night, another adoptive family who is in Chongqing, China...


This wonderful family delivered pictures to the orphanage director for us. 
 However, they were told that on the day of their orphanage visit, Connor would be in school and they would not be able to meet him.


That's right!  As they were mingling in the play area, and quite unannounced, Connor comes up behind them, having just returned from taking his end of term exams.

The Dad quickly swung the video camera up, so as not to miss anything...

only to realize too late that he taped the entire thing SIDEWAYS!

But, do we care?  NO!  We have pics and video of our Connor and we now know for CERTAIN that he knows we are coming and he appears to be quite pleased with this news.

Check out our sideways teenager here:

He reminds me of a cross between Colin and Cameron.  He seems to have Colin's sweet, quiet demeanor, but Cameron's killer smile!

Here are some still pictures that they took of him also.  

Anyone want to guess what Tom said when he first saw these newest pics???

Come on, give it a whirl!  It will be fun to see how many of you know my husband! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

5 boys, 2 Bedrooms (Nesting, Part 3)

So, as we continue this series of how the Rylands nest is coming along...
We get to the bedrooms.
Both of them.
That's right, our little house has 3 bedrooms.
So, with two bunk beds generously donated to us a few months back, we have split the boys up.
Colin and Connor will share one room
and Cameron, Tommy, and Cooper
will share the other. 
Thankfully, I have a hubby who was gifted with great spatial awareness.
He has always been able to look at a room and mentally assign a location to every piece of furniture.
Me?  I need to SEE it.
And move it. And move it again.
(Much to his dismay over the years!)
With one less bed, the older boys have a bit more room to move in their space.
And let's face it, older boys need the ability to hide out in their own cave from time to time away from the younger crew!

 We are pretty strict with electronics around here.
 (Well, compared to many)
So, while we do not allow a TV connection in any of our boys' rooms, we do have two old TVs- one with a built-in DVD player and the other with a built-in VCR.
 (Yes!  They DO still exist!)
Occasionally, it is nice to be able to let the kids watch something in their rooms while we enjoy a moment
 (just a moment, mind you)
 of peace and quiet downstairs.
 Or, dare I even think it??
  An uninterupted adult conversation?
TV in the "Big Boys" Room
With the younger three, they are in slightly more cozy quarters.
So, organization is KEY!

 Years ago, when Tommy was just a toddler, our church nursery was doing some remodeling.
They had these SOLID WOODEN Cubbies mounted on the wall above the
washer and dryer. 
It was time to replace them with cabinets.
As we watched one of the staff begin to walk out of the church door toward the dumpsters...
the yard sale queen in me kicked into action!
Are you throwing those away?
(thinking... "Oh NO YOU DON'T!)
You guessed it.  We became the proud owners of two, yes, two! wonderful solid wood cubbies.
Over the years, they have been in the laundry room, garage, pantry closet... these shelves have been around!
The self-proclaimed "STAR of the show" couldn' resist being in the pics!
These days?  They are bookshelves and toy cubbies in the boys' room!

Cooper will take the top bunk and Cameron will stay on the bottom.
Now, once upon a time, THIS mama would have NEEDED this to be on the cover of
Pottery Barn Kids. 
But, I can honestly say that now, after much work by the Holy Spirit and a life changing adjustment of priorities...
 I am happy with the donated furniture that doesn't match.
Happy to coordinate with cheap Wal-mart comforters and curtains.
Super Happy when I pick up clothing, shoes, backpacks and toys from the Goodwill that someone had hanging in their closet with the tags still on and never wore!
Honestly, I am thrilled just to
The boys' room 10 minutes AFTER the other pictures were taken!
"Phew!, Mom's gone, let's build a fort!"
We just want to get our sons home so that we can start livin' this crazy, crowded life TOGETHER!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nesting- Part 2

Last week, I shared that the nesting has begun.  Boy, has it begun!
If you missed my first project, then you can read about it here.
Remember the cool wall decal we found months ago?  I was so excited to see our Cooper's name among my children in the entryway of our home.
Well, as most everyone knows, WE were not planning on bringing home two boys this time.  So, after listening to God's call and deciding to bring Connor home as well... our wall needed an upgrade!
Now, the first thing that the boys will see when they come to their new home is that they belong here!
But, cosmetic, decorative changes are not all that is required when bringing two more boys home.
There are many, more practical things that need to be done around the house and while I am waiting for our Travel approval to come, what better time to work on these things?
This room is the center of our lives.
The table where we eat together,
 play games together,

 and study God's word together.
If you are observant, you will notice that we only have 6 chairs.
First logistical problem when becoming a family of 7!
An additional project that Tom took on was some organization.  We had these various bookshelves around the house, so he painted them all black and placed them along one wall in our eating area.
Now we have all our devotinal books and Bibles within arms reach as well as all HIS cookbooks.
 (I don't cook, y'all!)
We also found these really cute green baskets on the after Christmas clearance sale.
Now, we have a place for the mail and other assorted items that no longer clutter up our counters!
(Insert happy mama here!)
The coolest part of this room???
Check this out!
Cameron and I were a little stir crazy Saturday with all the sickies around the house, so we took Tommy and headed out to the Goodwill to kill some time and look around.
Look what we found!
In case you don't read Mandarin...
This is a beautiful, hand-written Bible verse.
Colossians 1:3-5 to be exact!
What makes this even cooler is that Colossians 1:3 is the very last verse that we memorized as a family.
God is so good!
He gave me that print, matted and framed, to match the black bookshelves, no less!!!
And at a price that I could afford to pay!
On the opposite wall, I decided to hang a couple of pictures till I make a final decision on what I want to do over there.

I can't wait until we have all 5 of our boys in a picture together!