Friday, June 29, 2007

No...those aren't their REAL names!

I've had a few people ask me if Jellybean and Peanut are the boys' real names...

No - they aren't the boys' real names! Jellybean and Peanut are the names I chose to use a long time ago (on the blog - not in real life). For privacy reasons, we decided not to share the boys' real names on the blog. The internet is a big place with all kinds of people. We don't really think that we are especially susceptible to an internet weirdo, but you never know. Plus, the boys have their own stories to tell - this one is MINE. They don't need MY story following them around forever! So, I've decided not to share their real-life names on my blog (which is a shame, really 'cause their names are great!)

For those of you who are 'net friends and family - feel free to drop me an email and I will be happy to share their names with you!

I will eventually share what we've decided to "do" with their names....as far as keeping their Ghanian names, giving them new names entirely, etc.

An Additional $200

Well...remember that I171-H celebration a while back? Its true...we have approval, but the approval is for Ethiopia, which means we have to file a I-824 to get it changed to Ghana. Our original application stated that we were interested in adopting from Ethiopia, but after we applied we switched to Ghana. Our homestudy very clearly states that we intend to adopt from Ghana, but apparently it wasn't caught by the Dept. of Homeland Security folks. So now, we send in another form, with a $200 filing fee. Yuck! I'm just glad at this point that we are filing now, instead of after July 30th, when the fee is raised to $340. That's a lot of money for a problem that will require just a few key strokes on the computer to fix. The original I-600a filing fee was $545, plus $140 for fingerprinting....Now the total will be $885 (after adding the additional $200 for this form - and that is all before the fee increases).

It got me thinking, though....How can anyone afford to be an immigrant to the United States? All of the immigration form filing fees are going up dramatically at the end of July (as if they weren't expensive enough to begin with). The days of "Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." are clearly over. Those were the days when my great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents came into this land of promise. I guess its apparent that we already have all the hard-working, strong, "I want a better life for my family" people that we need in this country. Now only the independently wealthy can afford to come here. Take these fees and factor in the incredible wait times required for anyone to get a visa to enter the United States legally and it is easy to understand why there is such a problem with illegal immigration. I wonder how many of my ancestors would have made it into the U.S. with current immigration laws?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Additional cuteness....

You know, in case the first bit of cuteness wasn't enough for you...

Jellybean


Peanut

Jellybean and Peanut.....

We have an announcement to make! This is it! This is the day! This is the big news!

We have known about these particular two little boys for quite a while now...and we had a sort of "informal, unofficial" referral, but things did not become "official" until quite recently. So, I FINALLY feel comfortable sharing pictures of these two adorable little boys with all of you internet readers.

It is funny....we've known about the boys for quite a while, so I didn't think that our "official" referral would be a very emotional experience for me. But, I was surprised to find that I am feeling very emotional about it. I knew that these two boys had wiggled right into my heart, even though I was trying to keep them at a distance until the referral was "official". Now it feels real. These are the children we've been waiting for. These boys are the children that we will be responsible for. These are the boys that we will be charged with raising so that they are kind, thoughtful, and responsible young men. And someday (Godwilling) they will be thoughtful, kind, and responsible husbands and fathers. THIS is REAL - and it is finally hitting me.

The boys are biological siblings and they are 4 and 3 years old. Jellybean is 4 (on the left) and Peanut is 3 (on the right).




We are so incredibly excited about bringing these boys home. Z already has fishing trips, rocket-launching trips, and kite flying escapades planned out. He can't wait to have boys around. I guess I'll be cooking lots of food for these growing boys while they are out playing with their Dad ;)

I've started collecting some clothing and toys already...and just this week I started working on that stash of fabric so that the boys will have home-made (mom-made) quilts.

We have been so blessed so far with the amount of information we have about these two boys. We've been so lucky to have had our adoption coordinator travel to Ghana twice, bringing back pictures of the boys both times. We have some information about their personalities and even guestimates on what size clothing they wear. I have to constantly remind myself that the amount of information we have right now about the boys is far more than what other adoptive families often get during their entire adoption journey. And we know that we are likely to get even more information on them in the future (as other adoptive parents travel for "work trips" or to pick up their children, or when our coordinator travels again). What an incredible blessing that is!

We do not yet have any information about how long the rest of the process will take or when they might be coming home. We are with a new program, and our family (along with 4 others) will be the ones setting the timeline. So, we're guinea pigs. And we're ok with that. We know that they will be coming home when the time is right. Of course, I am hoping that is sooner, rather than later, but patience has never been one of my strong points. Hmm...maybe I shouldn't have admitted that...will God take that as an opportunity to teach me a lesson? Yikes!

Our boys are totally adorable, don't you think? And, yes, I know I am biased. ;)

I have lots more to share over time...but I figured I would share in small doses. Gotta keep you internets on your toes afterall!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For the curious....


Alright...I know you guys are dying to know more about my thesis....so here is the title:

"Investigations into gametophyte morphology and population sex ratios through direct comparisons between laboratory-grown and field-grown fern gametophytes."

Riveting, isn't it?

What it boils down to is me staring into a microscope alot looking at fern gametophytes. What are fern gametophytes? They are the part of the fern life cycle where sexual structures are produced and where sexual reproduction happens. The gametophyte determines where you will find fern sporophytes (the big leafy plants most people recognize as ferns) in the landscape and they are very important in understanding the biology, ecology, and reproductive biology of ferns in general (since this is where sex happens; whether it be outcrossing or selfing). My job was to go to the rain forest, collect gametophytes there, bring them back to the lab and compare them to gametophytes we grew in the lab. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that, but this is the uber-condensed version.

The above picture is of a fern gametophyte...the scale bar is in millimeters, so they are pretty little (about the size of your pinky fingernail).

The other graduate students in the department like to say that I spend my days staring at fern porn. Which, is pretty much the truth. Swimming sperm and all!


Hmm...I wonder if net nanny likes this post?!?

Here are some random pictures from my time in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Taiwan (where I did my field work). All of these pictures were taken in Taiwan, except for the one of me collecting gametophytes off of the buttress roots of a tropical tree. Yes, the monkeys were at my field site - I collected plants very near them and they weren't incredibly happy about it. The other two pictures are just landscape-type pictures. Man, the rainforest is a TERRIBLE place to have to be (just kidding - it is obviously incredibly beautiful, despite the spiders and insects. I'll share some of those photos another time).











Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I DID IT!!!

The thesis defense is over! And I passed!

Finally....

Just a few edits to make and then I need to turn in the thesis to the thesis office and get some copies printed. But...the hard part is over. My committee was pretty nice to me overall...they asked some tough questions, but all of the questions were fair and they asked questions that made me think about things in a different way. When they asked me to leave the room to deliberate (which is the standard practice), I felt good about it. That was a great feeling. Especially considering the night before I had a meltdown and was sure I couldn't do it.

So, now I will have weekends free and I won't have to carry my laptop around unless I WANT to do something with it. I will have time to read books for FUN! And I will have more time in the evenings to quilt and do things that I want to do. I am so looking forward to that!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Saturday Rumblings and Grumblings

Ok....those of you who know me well and are paying attention to the calendar know that this weekend was NOT for fooling around. No playing, no wasting time, no mess-ups. The thesis work that has consumed the better part of way too long is coming to an end. Later this week, the end will be met with either great celebration, or great Ben and Jerry's driven gloom and doom. This weekend I have to do an immense amount of work to get ready for the closing of this chapter of my life - no time to play around.

But, apparently, the gremlins that live in my kitchen had a different idea...

After getting up this morning and being not as productive as I wanted to be, I decided to go in the kitchen around noon to find something for lunch. Mac 'n' Cheese? Sure, its quick, its easy - I can do that.

Z and I moved into this apartment almost 3 years ago (my parents and I moved us in - Z was in Iraq at the time). During those 3 years, I have never had the problem I had today. You know that drawer under the oven on your stove? The one your mom told you never to put your pots and pans in? Yeah....that one. Well, in a move of complete independence (and perhaps stupidity) I put my pots and pans in said drawer. Our place has limited cupboard space in the kitchen and our lovely friends and family graced us with fantastic kitchen gifts for our wedding. So, what's a girl to do? Put the pots and pans in the drawer under the oven.

Today, when I reached down to pull the drawer open it wouldn't budge. One inch - that's all the further it would open - I measured it. ONE INCH! Ok...I know something is stuck on that little ledge inside the drawer, but I can't see what it is and I can't reach in to move it out of the way. I shake the drawer, I pull on the drawer, I talk nicely to the drawer, I swear at the drawer. IT DOES NOT BUDGE! I try sticking utensils in the drawer to push the problem pot out of the way, I push things around with the yard stick, I sit down on the kitchen floor and cry out of frustration. On a normal weekend I would just walk away and tell Z to try to fix it. Then, after he tries to fix it and doesn't fix it fast enough, or my way, I would come back in and take over. But, this weekend, Z is gone so I'm on my own.

And this weekend is not for messing around.

I check to see if there is any way to take to door off of said drawer. There is...but the screws are INSIDE the drawer. So, I brace myself for major pushing and pulling and mangling to get the door open just enough to access the screws. I put my feet on the oven door and pull like crazy on the drawer - it budges - another INCH. Two inches - this is what I have to work with. Not enough to get anything out of the drawer, and BARELY enough to get just my hand inside the drawer.

Then I notice these are not just regular screws - they are the hexagon kind of screw. I run around the place looking for Z's tool case that MIGHT have hexagon heads for the screw driver. I finally find some and go through a couple to find the right size. After some major twisting and pulling and pushing of things around inside the drawer, I manage to get the screws out and the door off of the drawer. I pull everything out except for the problem pot, which needed a fair amount of pushing and pulling to un-stick it from the ledge.

Everything is out, I'm frustrated, I've got to put the door back on and then the doorbell rings. Ugh...It almost broke my heart to send Barack Obama away from the house so I could get back to fixing things. I thought about inviting him in to help me, but I thought better of it (you know, because I was supposed to just be working at home all day and was sans bra). Alright, it wasn't ACTUALLY Barack Obama, but it was a nice young man campaigning for him dropping information off for Z. But, I could have seen Barack Obama today - I live in Iowa afterall and the candidates are always here campaigning - watch the news people!

Alright, I send the campaigner away and get back to work. Things are MUCH easier to put back on then they were to take off. Everything in my kitchen is now back to normal. But, I still have marks on my forearms from trying to manipulate my way into the drawer. I'm tired and dirty from sitting on the floor and messing with this stuff, so I go take a shower. Now I'm sitting at my computer typing this.

This weekend is not for messing around!

Ok...So I guess the reason I'm typing all of this is to tell you that if you don't hear from me for a few days its because I'm busy trying to get everything done for later this week. I will likely not be reading my favorite blogs, or writing on my own, or spending as much time online as I would like to. For those of you who who also keep blogs, I am expecting excellent blog posts later this week so that I can read them in pleasure when all my work is done. I'm counting on you people!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Another Step Completed




One more item of paperwork is completed for our international adoption! Today we received our 171H, which is the approval from the federal government for us to adopt an orphan. YAY!!!

Now I just need to figure out how to get it switched to show that we are approved to adopt from Ghana and not Ethiopia. Right now it states Ethiopia...But, I have heard that the fix isn't too difficult, we will just have to do it. But...this piece of paper is IMPORTANT and we now have it!

I am so thankful today that we live in Iowa and the Iowa office approval process is so much faster than many that I have heard of. Zack and I had our fingerprint appointment on May 17th, and today (June 6th) we got the approval paper in the mail. Just shy of 3 weeks since our fingerprint appointment. Impressive!