Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Yearly Letter

Here it all is again, in case this way is easier for you.

In 2013, we had the privilege of having a new baby, a new home, and a new job!
Alice Grace was born on February 23. After having two six-pound babies, a nine-pound baby was quite a surprise!
In March, we left our beloved Cincinnati and moved to Virginia, just outside of DC, and Jeff began his new job as a contractor with the State Department, Overseas Building Operations.
Through his job, he has had trips to Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, and Laos. During which, he was able to hold a lion cub, climb Victoria Falls, and eat fried crickets!
Mimi has enjoyed her new calling as Primary Music Leader at church. She is learning how to juggle three small children at home. She continues to love to read and has loved learning more about childbirth.
Jill is 4 ¾ years old. She loves playing dress-up, singing, and dancing. She is a huge help to Mimi around the house.
Daniel is 2 (will be 3 in January). He is starting to communicate more clearly and loves making others laugh. He loves gymnastics, singing, and superheroes. He is known to somersault at any moment.
Alice is 10 months old and toying with the idea of walking. She has been our happiest baby so far (unless you had the audacity to put her in a car seat!).

This year we’ve enjoyed a Collett family reunion in Park City and a Boling family reunion in Shenandoah Valley. We also made visits to Lincoln, Cincinnati, and Detroit. We’re looking forward to new adventures in 2014 and hope you are doing well!

March 3, 2013: Alice's baby blessing and an awesome family photo.

May 22, 2013: Family picture taken at the Collett Family Reunion in Park City, Utah.
Digital rights purchased from photographer Darla Roze.

July 17, 2013: Family picture taken at the Boling Family Reunion in Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
Digital rights purchased from photographer Peter Davis.

November 11, 2013: Family picture for our Christmas card.
Digital rights purchased from JCPenney Portrait Studios.

Here are a few other memorable shots from 2013.

Jeff holding a lion cub.

Jeff's family

My family

 My children with both sets of grandparents

I hope the majority of your 2013 was great and that we're all stronger, better people. I hope we all have a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

My brother's charity

I like life in general, but I do especially love the end of the year. I really feel that for the most part people are friendlier and more kind. I love the holidays that give us extra opportunities to be grateful and to give.

There are lots of different options to serve this time of year—church service projects, charitable donations, acts of love for family members, soup kitchens, food pantries, nursing homes, and many more. I know that I have benefited from the kindness of many this holiday season.

My brother Peter feels very lucky to live in the United States, to have a roof over his head, food in his refrigerator, relative safety for his family, and a job to go to every day, and he has felt the need to help those whose lives are not as privileged as his.

Through Andy Jones, of the Africa Heartwood Project, Peter has learned about the plight of Liberians stranded in a refugee camp in Ghana, called Buduburam. Peter has helped some already, but his desire to help is greater than his personal ability to do so, and he is reaching out to his friends and acquaintances, hoping that together more people can be helped.

He has started a fundraiser to enable others to donate money to this cause. On his fundraiser page, he has listed each of the people he has come to know and whom he would like to help. You can read about their life situations, families, hopes for the future, and how much money they need to achieve those dreams.

Peter is keeping none of your money, so excepting the PayPal fee and the Western Union transfer fee, everything you donate will go to the actual people in Buduburam who need help, which is a really high percentage for a charity. (When you donate, the website will ask if you want to donate anything to them and it will suggest an amount. You have the option of making that zero if you don't wish to donate to the hosting site.) 

If this cause sounds like something you would like to be a part of, then please visit the fundraising page where you can learn a lot more information about the plight of these refugees and how my brother intends to help them.

It costs less than a family dinner in a nice restaurant or a pair of designer jeans or a new electronic gadget to end suffering for a stranger in Africa. Even if you can't donate the full amount for an entire family, any little bit helps.

Please don't feel guilty if you can't help, as my friends, I know you are all doing many wonderful things for loved ones and strangers throughout the year. :) Stay awesome, my friends!

And even if you can't donate monetarily, if you feel so inclined, it would be helpful if you could share the fundraising link through social media.

 Helping the Destitute of Buduburam
This is a photo of Anthony. He has a wife and two daughters. My brother has already helped him leave Buduburam and return to Liberia. When they arrived, they discovered their house had been damaged and no longer had a roof or doors. He is currently training to become a police officer again, and your assistance would allow him to have the funds to put a roof over his family's head.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let Me Catch You Up to Speed

Life is crazy, right? Let me summarize some of the craziness in mine.

An FM post in Brasilia became vacant in July. In August, we were informed that Jeff was chosen to fill it. However, Jeff's contract with the government was up for rebid, so they wanted to wait to send him until after the decision was made, so he wouldn't have to fly back to fill out paperwork. Fine, the contract was to be assigned on August 15, so that didn't seem like a big deal.

The deadline passed, and instead of being assigned, the deadline was postponed.

In September, we were told that everything would be taken care of in time for Jeff to go to Brasilia on October 13. People were hoping that the contract would be done sooner, so he could go earlier. On September 9, he was told to go apply for his VISA, so he would be ready to go when it happened.

The contract was postponed again, and Jeff's date was moved to the beginning of November. The Brasilia FM responded saying that November 1 was late, and he would rather Jeff come in the middle of October.

On September 12, we contacted the other FM in Brasilia to find out whether the kids and I could go with Jeff. The contract was still not renewed, so Jeff was sent on a different trip for work and was in Laos from September 21 through October 6.

Jeff's company went ahead with an itinerary for Jeff to fly to Brasilia on October 29.

We decided to rent out our townhouse, so it wouldn't be empty for the five months we were gone. We found one tenant for November and December, and a second tenant (a family) for January, February, and March.

On September 30, we received approval for Jeff to bring his family with him to Brasilia! The contract was supposed to be renewed on October 15, and Jeff was all set to fly October 29. The kids and I were going to spend some time with my parents while Jeff got everything ready for us in Brasilia, and we would join him mid-November.

Then the government shut down on October 1 while Jeff was in Laos. The contract was supposed to be renewed by October 15, but nothing was allowed to happen during the shutdown, which ended October 16. (Although, honestly, since the contract had been postponed since August, who knows if it would have happened without the shutdown.)

A few days after returning from Laos, Jeff went to the ER with some scary symptoms. Nothing serious was found, so he was sent home to follow up with his general physician. Tests were called for, and we waited for results.

Back to work, it took a few weeks after the government "started back up" for funding to flow again, and we were sure the contract would be awarded any day. But it wasn't.

Jeff was given some medicine and started feeling better, and the tests came back with nothing serious showing up.

Our tenant was supposed to get the house on November 1, so Jeff moved in with a coworker (sleeping on a mattress on the floor), and my mom drove out from Michigan to take the rest of us to her house.

Jeff flew out to visit us at my parents' house over Veterans' Day weekend.

We learned that the house the embassy was putting us in needed a new roof, so we couldn't move into it until November 20.

We finally learned the contract was all set to be awarded, and then it was discovered that the wrong company name had been used on all the documents. That took a week or so to fix.

Then it was discovered that a form from "Diplomatic Security" was missing. That took a week or so to secure.

Jeff went to a chiropractor in hopes to alleviate some pain.

Nothing was done on the contract around the time of Thanksgiving, and then bad weather put work to a halt as well. The kids and I went down to Cincinnati to spend Thanksgiving with Jeff's parents; Jeff was able to join us, too! But while there, he started feeling worse again, so he went back to his general physician after returning to Virginia.

Then he went to a cardiologist. Then he went to a gastroenterologist. He had an MRI, echocardiogram, and endoscopy all performed. Finally, on December 13, it was discovered that he has an hiatal hernia (and, understandably, a lot of stress). It was a relief to finally understand why he has felt the way he has for the past two months.

The contract was finally officially awarded also on December 13, and we were really excited. Then we learned that the task order still needs to come through before going to Brazil, and who knows how long that will take.

So, every time we have thought the last barrier had been removed, a new one has been put in its place. It has been a little discouraging.

After December 19, Jeff would not be able to stay at his coworker's any longer. So we contacted our tenant, and some good luck finally came our way! Our tenant let us buy him out, and he found a different apartment to stay in. So, yesterday, my mom drove from Detroit to the Baltimore airport (to fly back home to Detroit), and I drove from Baltimore to our own little home, and here we were when Jeff came home from work!

So, we are together again for Christmas. Theoretically, when the task order goes through (and the meeting for issuing it is today), there is nothing else standing in our way to go to Brasilia, but based on past history, I am not holding my breath.

It would be crazy though if we came all the way to Virginia and bought out our tenant just to leave again. Our next tenant is due in January. If we're not in Brasilia, maybe they'll let us live with them . . . ?

And now you know what's been going on for the past two months. What happens next is anyone's guess.

What I do know though is that I am very grateful to have my family together again and to know what was ailing Jeff.

(Although, I am a bit frustrated at not having sent out the Christmas cards yet this year. I don't know how 2013 ends, so I'm having trouble writing the end of the yearly letter!)

While in Michigan, Jill got to be a donkey in the church nativity play 
along with her cousin Emily.

Merry Christmas!
(No Santa tears this year!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby hungry

My niece and nephew came over to my parents' house today. Jill and Emily began to play with dolls. They both had a doll but decided that wasn't enough. How do you get another baby? Well, you're pregnant. Soon they were walking around talking about their pregnancies. Then they laid down on a big pillow and gave birth to twins.

During this time of labor, their younger brothers were announced to be the husbands. And apparently, husbands have pretty specific duties during childbirth.

Jill: "Husband, go kill a chicken."
Danny: "No kill chicken."
Jill: "Go kill a chicken, so I can eat turkey."
Danny: "No kill chicken. I nice."
Jill: "You just get a knife and cut it down the middle and take its head off and put it in the oven."
Danny ignores these instructions. 
Jill: "I'm having twins. Go kill a chicken!!"
Danny lies down on the big pillow next to Jill and Emily.
Danny: "Look how big my tummy is!"

I guess he decided he would rather be pregnant than kill a chicken.

Since Thanksgiving, Jill has realized that the chicken and turkey we eat are the same as the farm animals we see. I don't think Daniel has made that connection yet.

Oh, and as I was walking up the stairs to come write down this absurd exchange, I could hear the girls still.

Emily: "The baby is coming! I'm pushing!"
Jill: "I can see the bum!"

What a painful delivery that would be—bum first.

And here are two conversations from yesterday.

Me: "You know I'm not having a baby anytime soon, right?"
Jill: "Well, yeah, but . . . "
Me: "Alice is still a baby, don't you think? We can't have another baby when Alice is still such a baby."
Jill: "Well . . . you do have two boobs. You can feed two babies."

A few minutes later, she came up with this.

Jill: "You should have eighteen babies, Mommy!"
Me, laughing: "You should tell your daddy that."
Jill: "Okay. I hope I don't forget the number!"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Still Here

Well, we are still in the States and apart. We did have the fortune to be together over Thanksgiving at Jeff's parents' house in Cincinnati, but now the kids and I are back in Detroit, and Jeff is back in Virginia. The hidden blessing in all of these delays is that Jeff has had time to look into the health issues he began having in October. He has seen his primary care physician numerous times, as well as a cardiologist and, tomorrow, a gastroenterologist. Hopefully we will figure it all out soon. And hopefully all of the documents will be in order at the right time for all of the health issues to be cleared up!

There's always a blessing to be found. :)

Like the fact, that both of my kids' grandparents have taken them to see Disney's Frozen, so I've been able to see it twice already. In a movie theatre! This is really huge for me, because other than my dad taking me to see Ender's Game earlier this month, I hadn't seen a new release in a fancy movie theater since 2010. And that is quite a change for me, because I used to go to the movie theater a lot. A lot. Like multiple times a month. Oh, being a teenager is so different from being a young mother.

True on a lot of levels. I never wore clothes back then that had bodily fluid on them.


One highlight from my visit with my parents was roller skating. I thought it would be easy to skate again, but I was really surprised at how difficult it was to get my balance back. Although, I am starting to wonder if perhaps I was actually never good at skating, so the problem wasn't that I had forgotten how to skate but that I remembered my skills incorrectly. In my memory, I was awesome. But going back to the rink reminded me that I never even learned how to use the brakes. Who needs brakes when there are bushes everywhere?

 Mom and Dad at the skating rink
Thanks for the memory!

 Uncle Kevin and Jess were there to celebrate Thanksgiving

My grandpa is visiting my parents right now, too, so my kids get some good time with Great-Grandpa (or Big Grandpa as they call him). 

Alice is starting to eat baby food.

Jill and her cousin in Emily in the dresses my parents got them in Germany.
They are four months apart in age. Emily is tall.

I went with Rachel to pick out a grave blanket for Tabitha. And last week, we went to decorate "Tabitha's house" with Christmas decorations. The cemetery has a cool event where you make "ornaments" that are actually made of food and covered with bird seed. Then you hang them in the trees by your loved ones' graves. So they are really pretty, and they attract cheerful birds. I missed out, because Alice and Daniel were both asleep in the car, but I got to see the finished product.

It is hard to not think of Tabitha while I am staying in this house, the last place I saw her alive, and when I have Alice with me who is close to the same size Tabitha was when she passed. She was such a happy baby. Here's a conversation I had with Emily two weeks ago.

Me: "Do you need help getting your socks on?"
Emily: "Yes, because I'm a baby pegasus, so I don't have hands."
Me: "Oh, yes. A baby pegasus only has feet."
Emily: "Four legs."
Me: "And four hooves. And two wings."
Emily: "GranB . . . "
(I thought she had called me by the wrong name, so I was about to say "No, I'm Aunt Mimi" when she continued.)
Emily: "I call GranB 'Sister.' I had a sister, but she is gone now. She stopped breathing and died, so she is gone. That is what happens when you die."
Me: "Yes, your sister was Tabitha. I miss her."
Emily: "So GranB is my sister. . . . And I call her 'Baby' if we are cooking in the kitchen."