Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sleigh Bells Ring...

I am the sunshine in Ryan's day:

I am the queen of his heart:

On my throne

And so, for our anniversary, he took me on a romantic snowy sleigh ride in Sun Valley, Idaho.  I was picturing this:

Instead, we got this:

Not quite so private and picturesque--but still incredibly fun:

The sleigh took us to a rustic cabin for dinner:

Ryan really enjoyed the bread:

A funny old man wearing a Santa hat played "Just the Way You Are" for us on his accordion:

Then we rode home and snuggled to keep warm:

Excuse the blurriness...the sleigh was moving.  Excuse my closed eyes...the flash was blinding.
And on a completely unrelated note, but speaking of snow, Ryan and his brothers had fun playing Kan Jam outside their family's cabin in Sun Valley:

We've had a great week with the Nielsons, and I'm sad we haven't gotten more photos.  We head back to the Buff tomorrow night.  We are taking the red eye flight and will be bringing in the New Year on a plane.  Hope we don't get hit by any fireworks!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Strive for Five (and many more)

Yesterday, Ryan and I celebrated five years of marriage.  It has been wonderful.  Really.  I love this man so much, and I could go on and on about how cute and delightful he is, but I've already done that in many a blog post, and I'm a little tired, so I'll let these photos do the talking for me.  This is why I love Ryan so much:

Always willing to flash a funny face for the camera...

Always willing to be a guinea pig for his wife...

A new hairstyle?
The trial run for a mask project at the orphanage
Always willing to wear a dress for the ninos' amusement....

Paula (this is actually at an Easter Seals camp in Colorado)

The Babushka telling a Russian story to the kids in El Salvador
Friendly to all living creatures...

Kids love him...

"Can Mr. Ryan play?"
They couldn't understand his Spanish as he tried to read this story; but they loved it anyway.
Mattias and his buddy "Bryan."  
I love him too...

Happy Anniversary, Ry Guy!  

Friday, December 24, 2010

New York City Christmas

Ryan and I were able to take an unexpected trip to New York City last weekend, and I'm so glad we did.  We had never been to NYC together, and there is no one I like to travel with more than Ryan.  It was relaxing and quite romantic.  NYC is beautiful at Christmas time.

Central Park ice skating rink...pretty, huh?

I met my favorite Monster.

I got Ryan this Holden Caulfield hat.  (Catcher in the Rye, anyone?)  I figured he needed it while wandering around Central Park.
Holden at the carousel.  I kept looking for Phoebe, reaching for the gold ring.
Rockefeller Tree
The stores were decorated on the outside...
and the inside!

We stayed at my cousin's boyfriend's apartment in Brooklyn, and I was even impressed by their decorations in that neighborhood:

With cute decorations like that...I was almost tempted to patronize the liquor store!
It was a very brief trip (and we had to drive home through the night), but it was great fun and got me in the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Letter from Grandpa Jack

We got my grandparents' Christmas card tonight.

My Gramps is a jokester, and he started off his annual letter to friends and family with a few wisecracks, including one in which he referred to himself in the third person: "Our year has been pretty uneventful...stagnant...boring...mundane...kind of like Jack."

But then, part-way through the letter, he suddenly got more serious.  He wrote, "We have a favor to ask you.  Mike's daughter Rachel and her husband Ryan are trying to adopt a child.  Ryan is just finishing dental school, and Rachel will make a great mother.  If you hear of something that might work for them, we would appreciate knowing about it."

This unexpected passage brought tears to my eyes--not because I am sad--because I am so grateful to have the support of so many wonderful family and friends.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us, put our adoption button on your blogs, spread the word about our desire to adopt, and spoken such kind words of encouragement.

I had a rough week last week...sometimes that happens with no real explanation as to why.  I contemplated switching to an adoption agency with a shorter wait list or trying an even more aggressive fertility treatment.  I prayed and asked God what I should do.

My answer came in the Palmyra Temple.  I was reading the Bible, and I came across this passage in Philippians.  As I read it, I was amazed how each verse built on the next and spoke to me clearly.

6 Be careful for nothing*; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
     *The footnote here said, "Don't be unduly concerned about anything."  The verse seemed to be saying to me, "Don't stress too much about not having a baby yet.  Just pray and thank God for your blessings and tell Him what you want, and then trust Him."

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
     *This is one of my all-time favorite verses of scripture.  After my mom died, I somehow felt such peace--it didn't make any sense.  How could I be feeling peace during the worst days of my life?  This verse explains that God's peace "passeth understanding"--it doesn't always seem possible or reasonable.  Yet, this peace guards or "keeps" our hearts and enables us to bear even the most difficult challenges in life.  Through Him, I can feel peace, even with infertility.

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there by any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
     *I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about my desperate desire for a child.  It can become consuming.  I sometimes compare myself to other people and think, "We are the only married couple in Ryan's dental class that still doesn't have children" or "I can't believe that she got pregnant her first month of trying," etc.  This kind of thinking is not helpful.  It only leads to unfounded bitterness and discouragement.  This verse reminded me that, instead, I need to "think on things" that are uplifting and lovely.  I need to have hope.

9  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and hear, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.
     *This scripture seemed like a simple instruction: Keep doing what you know is right.  Don't become paralyzed by discouragement or self-pity.  Push along.  Be obedient. Keep trying, keep serving, keep praying.  God will be with you.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, there with to be content.
     *"Rachel, be content.  Be happy.  You have a wonderful life.  Enjoy it.  Sleep in on a Saturday morning (you won't be doing that once you have kids!); go for a late-night run with Ryan (again, not really possible with a newborn); go on a romantic dinner date or a spur-of-the-moment road trip (hard to pull off with kids).  This is a good stage of life--so savor it."

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
The final line of this passage is obviously the most important: I can do and bear anything through Christ.  He has been strengthening me through this difficult year.  One of the greatest blessings that He has provided is family and friends who are totally supportive and loving.

Spencer W. Kimball said, "God does notice us, and He watches over us.  But is usually through another person that He meets our needs."  I have found this to be very true.

When I finally admitted my fertility struggles on my blog, a friend brought over a gift that afternoon--a favorite children's book entitled Guess How Much I Love You to read to my future children.  When I was going through my ectopic pregnancy and Ryan was out of town, a friend sat with me in the Emergency Room until 3 a.m.  When we were first approved for adoption, my sister's mother-in-law sent me a handmade baby blanket with a note: "This is for your baby 'trousseau.'  We're praying for you."

Such incredible gestures of love.

And then there are all of the "little" things that people do for me every day--the many times that people have cared enough to just ask, "How are you doing with everything, Rachel?" or "How is adoption stuff going?"  It means the world to me when someone says in all sincerity, "I pray for you guys every night."

Tonight,  I am feeling peace beyond understanding.  I am feeling content.  I am feeling grateful and lucky and blessed.

Thank you, Grandpa, and everyone else who cares about us.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Christmas Compliment from Grandpa Nip

Today, we received a Christmas card from Ryan's grandpa.

The opening line made me laugh out loud.

"It was good to see Ryan recently.  He looks better than he has for some time.  He must be eating well."

Victory!!!  Chalk one up for O.F.U.R!

I wanted to take the credit because we all know what a fabulous cook and homemaker I am, but Ryan said, "It's probably the interview dinners."  Thanks, Babe!

Whatever the reason, I must agree with Grandpa Nip: Ryan is looking pretty good lately.  Especially wearing reindeer antlers:

I am determined to enjoy the Christmas season this year.  Ever since I started teaching, I've been so busy during December (end of the semester), that I haven't thought about Christmas at all.  I haven't even decorated our apartment or put up a tree.  How lame am I??

Well, not this year.  We set aside Sunday as our "planning for Christmas" day.  We decorated, put up the tree, watched the annual Christmas Devotional put on by the presidency of our church, ate "Christmas Soup," and made a plan for how we are going to celebrate this month.

We decided that Christmas is really about two things: 1) drawing closer to Jesus Christ, and 2) serving and loving our fellowmen.

So we are going to try to do both of those things every day this month in some small way.

I really want this month to be special and not too crazy busy or stressful.

Typing a lesson plan by the light of our impressive tree
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Have I mentioned that I am really excited to adopt?

I am really really excited to adopt.

People sometimes say weird things to me about adoption.  I think they consider adoption to be a disappointing fallback plan for us.

It's not.

Ryan and I started our adoption paperwork almost as soon as we started our fertility treatments.  It doesn't matter to us how we get a baby...biological, doesn't make a difference.  We just want a baby to love.

Honestly, I hope someone chooses us for adoption tomorrow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snow Daze

I woke up Wednesday morning to see beautiful white snow fluttering down outside my window.  I found that quite appropriate, considering it was December 1st, and I hummed "Jingle Bells" as I made myself a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

Snow in December makes me incredibly happy.

Once I got to school, I opened the shades in my classroom, so the students and I could marvel at the flurries all day long.  It feels magical and warm and cozy in my classroom on snowy days.  I told all of my students to imagine that I had given them a mug of hot coca to sip as we talked about To Kill a Mockingbird.  

I teach in a suburb south of the city in an area known as the "snow belt," and it lives up to its reputation; by the end of the school day, I probably had six inches of heavy snow on my car, while back in Buffalo, there was hardly any accumulation.

Well, lucky me, it kept snowing all evening and all night...and in the morning on Thursday, I got the blessed text alert from my school...



But then it dawned on me: The highway south of Buffalo is right where Ryan was supposed to be driving later that day in order to get to Pittsburgh for a residency interview.

So I started doing a little research, and as I watched the storm patterns, I knew there was no way in heck I was going to let Ryan drive directly into that madness.  He had been planning to leave in the late afternoon to make the three-hour drive to Pittsburgh before his interview dinner; but all of the sudden, he needed to leave almost immediately because the alternate route was going to take seven hours.

We scrambled.  He canceled his morning patient.  I decided I would go with him to keep him company.  I made Muddy Buddies for the road trip and threw some Christmas CDs in the car.  It was chaotic...and fun.  Our life is a crazy crazy adventure right now!

I actually enjoyed the long car trip through the snowy farmland of western New York.  This is a beautiful part of the country.

Once we got to Pittsburgh, the traffic was insane.  This seems like a really busy city; I don't know if we are digging it.  But it is also a city with lots of character--old houses, funky districts, steep hills, and winding rivers.

It will be really interesting to see where we end up next year. There's a part of me that's leaning toward this:
A photo from Ryan's recent trip to Hawaii for an interview.
I wish I could've jumped in the car and gone with him for this one!
Yet, what would December be without snow?

Oh, and guess what, I got another text alert this morning: Still snowing south of Buffalo!  Which means another day off of students must be rejoicing...I'm just glad that I didn't have to use one of my sick days today.

For now, I will sit here in a coffee shop in Pittsburgh and grade essays.  In a few hours, after Ry's interview is over, we'll check the weather and head back to Buffalo.  It looks like we might be able to go the direct (and shorter) route.

Wish us luck!