Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

Warning:  Picture Overload.

We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating as a family of four and also with our extended family.  The boys really understood the true meaning of Christmas this year and were also excited about Santa.  Bryan had a busy work schedule at the beginning of the month so that he could be off December 24-30.  His group rotates working every other Christmas, so we made plans to be in Houston for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day since he was not working.  

We started off our festivities with presents with our little family.  The boys picked out gifts for each other and also got a small gift from Bryan and me.  

Joshua with his pose-able Spider-Man from Caleb

 Caleb launching an Angry Bird into the sky (look above his head!)
Joshua knew that "Angries" are Caleb's favorite!

On the morning of Christmas Eve we drove to Houston to begin our time with extended family.  We went to my parent's house first.  Joshua decorated gingerbread men with my Mom.  Caleb declined to participate as he was engrossed in playing Angry Birds :)

We all felt like this gingerbread man looked like he had been in a knife fight.

 Playing at Granny's house in the silly Santa hats

We attended the 4pm Children's Mass at my parent's church.  By the time we arrived the only available seats were on the FRONT ROW!  Our boys typically go to Sunday school or nursery each week at our church, so they are not accustomed to being quiet and still for a long service!  We were nervous but they did great.  Joshua fell asleep so his behavior was perfect ;)   Caleb was a little wiggly but overall a great listener with lots of entertaining commentary and questions.  He was very concerned about "What does MULTITUDES mean??" from one of the readings.  

All dressed up for Christmas Eve Mass!

We let the boys open a few presents from my parents on Christmas Eve.  They were dying to rip some wrapping paper!

Joshua with his plush characters from his latest favorite, the movie Frozen

Caleb playing with his Angry Bird swimmer balloon

Delicious spread of food that my Mom prepared. YUM!

Setting out cookies & chocolate milk for Santa

After Santa delivered all the presents (which required minimal assembly, praise the Lord!) my Dad and Bryan decided to sample a bottle of brandy.  It had been in my parents rarely used liquor cabinet for something like 15 years.  They were pretty excited about it but quickly reported it tasted like kerosene.

The boys slept horribly on Christmas Eve-- Caleb was awake starting at 4am, woke up his brother... it was rough.  We managed to stall them until close to 7am. 
Waiting to come down the stairs to see their gifts

Caleb's favorite gift - the "big guy" character from Angry Birds

Joshua with his Little Mermaid Castle

Caleb also got a Kindle! It has great parental controls on it and he feels like a really big deal!

The boys opened more gifts from my parents.
Joshua got costumes from my parents!
Dressed up as Prince Charming

Tough guy Batman

After breakfast and Santa gifts we headed over to Bryan's parents house.  We were joined by all the aunts, uncles and cousins too!  

Group picture with Pop Pop and Gran Jan

Will was thrilled with his tool set and wanted to chop down trees outside right away

Precious Charlotte and her new 'kissy' face trick.  She is about the same height and weight as Hannah.  I can't wait for the two of them to play and be friends!

Joshua was kind enough to show Charlotte how to play with her Cinderella Castle.

After gifts and a yummy meal we had an activity planned by Gran Jan.  It was a 'snowball fight'-- Texas style!  Jan bought about 100 fake, soft snowballs from Hallmark. Each family got a bucket and we had a war in the backyard!  It was a lot of fun!

Craig getting aggressive

Poor Bryan and the young children-- have no idea that Uncle Craig is about to attack!

Of course Caleb pretended to be an AT-AT walker from Star Wars during the battle (because they battle in the snow in one Star Wars movie)

Pop Pop and his mini-me, Zach

We were so blessed to spend time with our families this Christmas and truly missed getting to see my brother, Haley and the kids this year.  We know that next Christmas will look much different as our boys will grow up and develop new interests and we will also have a precious baby sister to celebrate!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Going to see Santa

We have not made a trip to see Santa that I can ever remember.  When Caleb was very young we had his picture taken with Santa at various Christmas parties, but by age 2 he was not willing to go anywhere near Santa.  We didn't fight it because honestly, we had bigger things to battle over!  

Last year at their school fundraiser there was an opportunity to take pictures with Santa.  Caleb refused but Joshua was interested, so I stood in line, paid my $5 only to have him refuse and cry when we got to the jolly old guy. 

But this year has been different-- Joshua has been begging to go see Santa.  For awhile Caleb was not interested.  We told him it was his choice because it honestly doesn't matter to me if he poses with Santa or not.  As we headed up to the mall, we told Caleb he could choose whether or not to participate, and if he did then he could choose to sit or stand and that he didn't have to sit on Santa's lap.  By the time it was our turn he was bouncing with excitement, and Joshua was thrilled too!  Caleb had seen another 'big boy' sit next to Santa so he was willing to do that.  

Caleb asked Santa for "Angry Birds Star Wars toys" and Joshua asked for "Peppa Pig toys". I was relieved they didn't bust out with any new ideas since Santa has already packed his sleigh :)  Joshua had asked for 'a breakable Tiana princess' earlier in the day and I told him that Santa can't bring breakables to kids and that they would get broken in his sleigh.  

We were so proud of Joshua for being brave and of Caleb for stepping outside his comfort zone to do something new for him.  He has had a great week with lots of signs that he is maturing into a big boy, and we are so grateful to have an encouraging and fun week with both of them! 

Merry Christmas from the Pickett boys!

Posing in front of the living room tree before we go see Santa

Friday, December 20, 2013

World's Cutest Video

We've had the opportunity to get to know Miss Hannah Ping through many, many pictures - far more than I ever imagined - and have also been blessed to see a few cute videos of her.  I'm finally going to share one of the videos with you tonight, so you can see just how precious this baby girl is.  I love her laugh and her tiny little teeth.  We think she is just beautiful and so full of life.  When we compare this video to the pictures we see of her in the orphanage, we actually have HOPE rather than sadness.  We know that our girl has felt love, trust, acceptance and joy because of the care she received at her two different foster homes.  We believe that as she learns that we are here to stay that we will see that joy reappear in her eyes, and hopefully hear her sweet laugh too!

Enjoy watching this video of our ticklish little baby!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Article 5 drop-off & pick-up

We have completed our next step in the paperchase to become Hannah's parents.  Once we received LOA, we got further confirmation from US immigration that we could adopt her.  This was called the I-800 process.  From there we sent her information to the National Visa Center so they could generate documents to assign her immigration case to the appropriate embassy.  The US Embassy or Consulate in China is located in Guangzhou. 

By Monday, December 2 all of those steps had been completed and we had the necessary documents to move onto the next step - "Article 5".  Now I'm going to be honest with you, I can say a full sentence using only acronyms from Chinese adoption and I can talk about dates and timelines til I'm blue in the face -- but I actually have no clue what this Article 5 thing is.  I just know it's the next thing on the checklist, and I'm in charge of getting those things done!

Our agency representative in Guangzhou (GZ) took our documents to the US Consulate to be dropped off, and then picked them up on Monday December 16.  This was the day that our actual "Article 5" document was available for pick-up.  From there our remaining documents from the last couple steps are delivered to the Chinese government for the final step:  Travel Approval!

The Chinese government (CCCWA) can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to issue our Travel Approval (TA).  When that TA arrives, we will be able to book our appointments in China and our plane tickets!  Most families leave 10-21 days after recieving TA.  We hope to receive ours between December 30-January 10.... although quicker would be nice, too!

We know of many families who are on a similar timeline as us and are hoping to travel in January.  Unfortunately Chinese New Year starts at the end of January and will slow down adoption proceedings and create a backlog of families who are waiting to travel and have their adoptions completed.  We have decided to set our sights on traveling in February for a number of reasons. 

We think our boys (and the amazing grandparents who will be taking care of them!) will have an easier time preparing for our 2.5 week long trip if we have a little more notice than just 10 days.  Both boys have some anxiety about us being gone that long so we want time to prepare their hearts for what is to come.  Also, Bryan's work schedule for January was already partially set before we even got our LOA so taking off a substantial amount of time in January at the last minute would not be very easy.  As a result, he has asked to not work at all the entire month of February, and his ER group has graciously agreed. We realize many of the other physicians will have to work extra shifts to pick up the slack from Bryan being gone, and we are so thankful for that.  It will allow Bryan and I time to travel to China and for him to recover from jet lag and for us to bond as a family of FIVE before he heads back to work. 

Right now we are hoping to fly to China on 2/5, tour Beijing, fly to Hannah's province 2/9 and get her on 2/10.  That will be her "Gotcha Day"!  We would likely be able to return to the US between 2/20 and 2/22. 

Those dates seem far off but I know once Christmas is over the time will fly by.  I've already started documenting all kinds of stuff for our parents while we are gone, making long packing lists and starting other to-do lists before we go.  Our hearts are so ready to hold our precious baby girl in our arms!  It won't be long!  We are coming, sweet Hannah Ping!

Santa's Wonderland 2013

On Sunday December 8th we made plans with all of our family to have dinner at our house and then go to Santa's Wonderland.  Many of us had purchased discount tickets on Groupon and were hoping to put them to good use as a fun holiday activity.  We included all 4 grandparents, all of Bryan's siblings and our brother and sister in law's parents as well.  We were looking forward to a big group!  Unfortunately the weather in the days leading up to our planned trip was really rough.  The forecasted high was below 40 degrees for Sunday and it was supposed to be wet.  Considering the weather and cold/flu season, both baby Zach and baby Charlotte needed to stay home.  Our group dwindled down to our family of 4 plus both sets of grandparents. 

We arrived at Santa's Wonderland by 6pm only to find the traffic on the feeder backed up to the overpass.  When we finally inched our way up to one of the employees he told us the parking lot was full.  Our only option was to park on the dark feeder road (not safe!) or turn around and go park at our local HEB and be shuttled over on the Santa buses.  We back tracked and went back to HEB to get on the shuttle.

Once we arrived it was crowded so we headed straight for the hay ride line.  They quickly split the line into two and started a new rotation of trailers to accommodate the crowd.  Although we did stand in line for awhile, the boys handled the wait well.  The ratio o f 6 adults to 2 kids works pretty well :)

Standing in line waiting for the hay ride

Caleb was obviously in an interesting mood based on his facial expressions in the photos above :)

By the time we got on the hayride Joshua was fading.  He couldn't decide if he wanted to sit, lay down or put his head on my shoulder.  He was fighting sleep but so exhausted.  He did enjoy the lights, and Caleb especially liked some light-columns that he declared to be 'smoke stacks' -- one of his favorite things.  

It was cold but we managed to stay warm!

By the end of the hayride Joshua was being treated like a prince- fully reclined, swaddled in a fleece blanket, with his head supported by my Mom.  Ha!

After our hay ride we got some snacks - S'mores, hot cocoa, fudge, kettle corn - and enjoyed the atmosphere.  By that point it was well past bedtime on a school night for Caleb so we called it a night and headed back to the Santa bus to shuttle us back to HEB.  

We had a great time taking the boys to Santa's Wonderland this year and are so thankful we could share the experience with their grandparents!  Thank you for making the drive to College Station to enjoy it with us!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

School Thanksgiving Feasts & Thanksgiving in Houston

We had several great opportunities to celebrate Thanksgiving!  The boys both had Thanksgiving feasts at school.  Joshua's was more low-key and in his classroom since he is only two.  I made turkey cupcakes for his class and really enjoyed being there with him to celebrate!

The boy's table
They each had personalized placemats and macaroni necklaces.
Joshua's necklace said "I am thankful for princesses."  Ha!

 The girl's table.  They were much better at posing & smiling!

Our sweet friend Hank Jordan

Joshua enjoyed his cupcake!

The next day was Caleb's Thanksgiving Feast.  They combined the kindergarten class with the 3's since many of them have siblings in that class.  Both Gran Jan & Granny joined us for the pot-luck style lunch.  Afterwards Caleb enjoyed running around with his classmates and playing with the Angry Birds game he had brought for Show & Tell that day.

 We went to Houston Wednesday-Friday for Thanksgiving.  Bryan unfortunately had to work Thursday and Friday so he missed lunch at my parent's house on Thursday.

Caleb ready to eat!

Joshua wearing the Indian costume my mom made for him and a turkey head piece!

By Thursday evening Bryan was done with his shift and able to join us in Houston at his parent's house for Thanksgiving.  We took lots of pictures of all the grandkids!

Zach & Charlotte love to interact with one another!
Wearing matching turkey outfits from Gran Jan

All the cousins on the couch!

We have much to be thankful for this year as we celebrate Thanksgiving!