This post is primarily pictures, to make up for both the lack of them following the holiday while the computer was being reformatted, and to make up for the last post being such a downer.  These shots of Aidan make you wonder-will he be a builder, a chef, a sheriff, or an outlaw?
On our first day in Beijing with Aidan, he took the stickers that I brought for him and put them on his face.  I don't know if that's what orphanage/foster kids in China do because they don't have possessions to put the stickers on, or if they are discouraged from marking possessions, or if it is just for some cultural reason, but I've seen pictures of other Chinese children doing the same thing.  Here he is in Beijing:
And here he is today:
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Our daughter in-law and BB on the day after Christmas

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Siblings having fun

And random holiday shots of all three family gatherings:
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Aidan and G on Christmas eve

 
 
If you have never heard the song, Disturbia, part of the lyrics go, "Disturbia, it's like the darkness is light", and then it continues with words about mental illness.  I'm not mentally ill, but this song is going around and around inside my head today. 

Here is why.  You know how expensive adoption is, and with special needs adoptions, how limited your timeline is, especially in the beginning with the 90 days to get your dossier to China.  Not really enough time to complete something like a home equity loan with title searches and property surveys if you could/would choose that route, and not a lot of time to research other options.  So I sent an email to the churches in our state that belong to our conference (our church is actually affiliated with two conferences-my email was only to one of them).  This email went only to those with email addresses, explained the money that we needed to raise in 90 days, how we had prepared already by having a medical evaluation of the child in question, who our homestudy would be completed by and who our agency was.  Amounts needed were detailed, and the amount that we would then spend ourselves--double the 90 day figure--was listed.  I asked if any of the congregations could help us, either with a donation or by contributing toward a specific fee, and told them that if they were uncomfortable with sending money directly to us, they could send it to our church treasurer and our church could hold it in trust for us.

I have never made an appeal for assistance to a church before.  I have been the treasurer, clerk, deacon, and moderator.  We got and still get requests from elusive projects and programs that are not nearby.  We get requests from this conference for donations that the conference will then control-the last time that we made a pledge to them it was for a capital improvement fund which they then denied us access to, even though the fund was "sold" to us as a fund for member churches to access when making capital improvements.  So we determine our own giving.  We give to a Christian camp, we give to the elementary school, we give gifts to widows, we give gifts to the food pantry that we started, we give gifts to a mission school run by a former minister on an Indian reservation.  But the point is that we give gifts to projects and programs that we are personally familiar with so that we know what the money is being used for and we know that it won't get "eaten up" by administrative costs.  So I thought, what can it hurt? to make a personal appeal to churches in my state.  Some won't answer; some might take a special collection for us; some might offer an outright donation through a quarterly tithing such as our church does.  I didn't send an email to local churches, because I thought that I should visit them and make a personal appeal.

Today I got an email from one of the conference ministers, commending us on opening our homes and hearts to a special needs child.  The letter then went on to say that conference member churches do not give financial assistance directly to people and that they get confused when a request such as mine comes to them.  (Since when, I wonder, and how come we never got that memo?)  So I was asked to not contact any of the churches with a direct appeal and told that they would be communicating with their member churches to let them know that they did not/do not endorse personal requests for financial assistance.  The letter was not signed In Christ's Love or anything like that, but was signed Sincerely, and below the signature was the pre-printed stuff that goes with an electronic signature, including a statement about how donations to the conference helped to support their mission of changing lives.

Okay, now I have to say that I understand their position, and I even understand that the letter comes off colder than it was probably intended to (I'm guilty of this-our church members always ask me to write business letters because I'm so "good at it"-but I'm so matter-of-fact that people are often offended by the letters.  They are not rude, just factual, and recipients expect something softer from churches.)  But I'm disturbed by the fact that the conference would tell member churches not to make any direct financial contributions in response to requests such as mine.  And I'm disturbed by the fact that they feel it necessary to send a message to their churches of non-support for requests like this.  So I must take some time to digest this.  Here in New Hampshire we have a long-standing tradition of not liking any form of central authority.  That means in government, in religion, in education.  Our state motto, on our license plates, is "Live free or die..."  People always joke about it, but the rest of the quote is "...death is not the worst of evils." and it refers to government.  This email, from a governing body of independent local churches, bothers me both as a New Hampshirite and also as a church member.

But now for some Good News!  Our social worker finally got back to us and our old agency has agreed to do our homestudy for this adoption, which will probably save us hundreds of dollars.  They have stopped doing adoptions in our state, but continue to do them in states around us, so there was a question of whether or not they would be able to help us out.
 
 
Sorry, no photos; while downloading a Microsoft upgrade our computer crashed and the hard drive is being reformatted, so we can't upload any photos right now.  Here is the scoop on  our three days of Christmas, anyway:

Day 1-December 24-Christmas candlelight service at our church followed by dinner and a tree at home with the big kids and their sons.

Day 2-December 25-Stockings and a tree at home followed by a tree at my mother's house with the 40+/- people in attendance (just family, though, and with my two oldest siblings not there, my third sibling in Heaven, and some nieces and nephews not there-still a crazy population of people)

Day 3-December 26-Stockings a tree at G's mother's house with his sister and her family, our kids and grandsons.

Aidan loved Christmas this year!  He understood enough to feel the anticipation, to be upset that making a list doesn't mean you get everything on the list, and to already be asking why Santa isn't coming again soon even though it is currently snowing outside.

The best gifts are those from God, of course, and they include G's sister being just home from open heart surgery and recovering well, and all of the loved ones that we shared our holiday season with.
 
 
Aidan loves to cook and Little  Baby loves to play house, so you put the two of them together and you have a mess, not to mention a good time.  First they colored Christmas pictures, then they decorated the tree and the living area, and then they made gingerbread men and a gingerbread tree.  After that they walked to my mother's house to deliver some of their cookies, came home and had hot tea together (it was about 0º outside with the wind chill factor).
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I'm not a knicknack person, except for papers and books-I have reams and stacks of those.  Although I do have some knicknacks and figurines, if there is no nostalgic or personal value to them, I toss them.  Christmas is my one exception, but even then I find that almost everything has some memory attached to it.
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One of several Christmas decorations made by my second sister, Kate (1948-2004)

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G loves Christmas, knicknacks, decorations, Christmas (did I already mention that?), and dogs.  So when I was at a fair a couple of years ago, I couldn't resist getting this little thing for him.

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My niece and her mother (1951-2005) made this for me several years ago.  It was accompanied by a beautiful wreath made of straw that was stuffed with little squares of this plaid fabric, all cut with pinking shears, and accented with gold.  My niece was probably about 10 years old at the time.  The wreath has long since gone, but not the ornament.

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Pretty Baby had a collection of fat-bottomed soft snowmen, and she loves the Misfit Toys so much that we bought her a collection when she first moved out, then bought some for ourselves.  So everything in this row reminds me of her.

 
 
Golden Baby turned 28 this week, and his birthday was on the same weekday on which he was born.  I don't know how often that happens, given leap years, but it brought back a lot of memories.  Here he is in the shirt I gave him, which goes well with his ref uniform, and here are some other photos of the week.
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My sister organized a housewarming party for two women in our family who are not yet in their homes, but close.  The first was for her daughter in-law, who got not only a surprise batch of gifts (she thought we were meeting at Mom's house to get ready for the other party) but also a job!  She and my nephew are buying a house from my brother, who bought a house to restore and resell.  It is up the road from us about 1/2 mile.  My nephew's wife is from France  and just got a job teaching French at a local prep school, beginning in January.  Here she is receiving her gifts while my brother in-law and niece look on (my nephew is actually in France so he wasn't here for the party):
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The second surprise was for my brother's girlfriend.  This is our second brother, and after all the decades of living that he has done (ha-ha), he has probably at last found what we always wanted for him-a practical woman.  They bought a house that was once the Settlement House, then became my great uncle's house, and had been through all types of changes-a fire, a renovation, additions galore.  Anyway, they pretty much gutted it and started over.  It sits on the hill above my mother's house and looks out over the pond.  Here she is getting her gifts:
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Here is  Aidan, first at the party and then playing outside with his Craftsman tools.
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And we got in a lot of playtime this week.  Wednesday was a snow day.  RB came over for the day but when Pretty Baby came to get him, her driveway wasn't plowed, so both he and MB came back to play some more.  Then last night she had her Christmas party at work so they came back again.
 
 
Aidan has learned to mark events off (like Christmas and his birthday) using days of the week, days away, and seasons.  So he has been pretty desperate for winter to come-bringing Christmas-and for winter to pass-bringing his next birthday.

Last night we finally got some snow.  Only about an inch, but as is typical for first snow, it was really moist and perfect for making snowmen.  Here he is out on the deck last night working on his craft.

And if that isn't good enough, he also lost a second tooth this weekend.  My fifth brother gave me grief when he lost the first because the tooth fairy only left a $1.  My brother asked if the tooth fairy wasn't aware of something called inflation.  I said that yes, the tooth fairy was-she used to leave only 50 cents!
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