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Monday, October 20, 2008

"DeLong" and Winding Road

Greetings from Canada...still!

Yes, we are here in our homeland...still. If you are in a good mood right now, I'd recommend you stop reading this and skip to Section B. However, if you are looking to become confused and frustrated with a mind-boggling beaucratic labyrinth in which there seems no escape, then tie up your shoe laces and take a walk with me.
We were denied visas back into the UK. No, I'm not joking. We had applied for a five year religious worker's visa and they denied us because, and quote...

"I am not satisfired that you will be carrying out the duties oas defined for the purposes of the Immigration Rules as a religious functionary whose main regular duties comprise the leading of a congregation in performning the rites and rituals of the faith and in preaching the essentials of the creed."
...and furthermore...

"I am not satisfied that there will be sufficient funds to maintain you and your
family."
Okay, they may have us on that last point, but I think the term 'sufficient funds' is relative (especially in the ministry). As for their first point, apparantly being a youth and childrens pastor, an ordained minister, a teacher of religious education in public schools, and a director of a Christian missions organization isn't 'religious' enough for them.

Now before we get worked up about that, here where things get even more insane. They've said they've rejected us because Danny doesn't preach (which he does in many different places around England) or doesn't preach enough. You know, there's a two-year religious workers visa in which you're NOT ALLOWED to preach? How is that supposed to work?

We decided to appeal the decision. A few more forms later, we faxed off our appeal to them and waited to hear back. Nothing. So Danny called them to see if they received the appeal. They hadn't. So he faxed them again. And then called them again. They still had no record of it. Then we emailed them. There is a 28 day limit in which you can appeal so we were a bit anxious to know that they'd received our forms. They emailed us back and told us that they were backed up from August with appeals and that we should contact them in a month to see if they had our appeal or, better yet, don't call us we'll call you.

The next thing we did was try and find out if we could get back into the UK to get some of our things. After many frustrating and pointless ph0ne calls, we called the immigration officers at the airport in London to see if we flew over with return tickets if they'd let us back in for a couple of weeks to sort things out with our place and our belongings. They said, and quote,

"There's absolutely no way we'll let you back into the UK without entry clearance."
...And furthermore...

"We've recorded this phone call of you enquiry for security purposes."
And a jolly good day to you!

After many more phone calls trying to find out if we could get even a one month visa, we hit more dead ends in the maze of immigration madness. We were forwarded to many recorded messages informing us to check out websites (that didn't even work or were currently under construction). There was one thing we could be sure of: There was no one to talk to and nothing we could do.

Last week we received a letter from the Visa Immigration people informing us that they have our appeal application and will let us know of a hearing date in February 2009. No, our hearing date is not in February 2009, that's just when they'll tell us what the date of our hearing is.

And that's just the Reader's Digest version! So here we are in Canada, the majority of our stuff (including winter clothes) is in England, in our house - which we still have to pay rent on. Most of our programs we were running in schools have come to a screeching halt. Only two schools will be going to The Gambia this year. Thankfully, a couple of youth leaders are going to be leading those groups for us. Otherwise, we've had to cancel with the new schools and cancel the classes we were supposed to be leading. Also there are many great people who are running the youth group and kids club at our church. It's frustrating for all of us who are scrambling a bit trying to compensate for this little 'hiccup.' At the same time, we've all really been seeking God for his direction. For now, however, all we can do is wait and see what happens.

Section B - The 'B' is for 'Brightside'

The group that we brought with us from England to do Street Invaders had a great time and it has been a never ending source of encouragement and entertainment to hear about their experiences! There were many 'firsts' for the group, like taking part in a white water rafting tour in Banff, seeing the Rocky Mountains, and having a weiner roast and even making smores! All of them had an amazing time on Street Invaders, making many lasting friendships and stories they will tell for the rest of their lives!

As for our little DeLong family, we are camped out at Danny's parents' place in Regina. It's been a bit of a shock to the system dealing with the sudden hault of our usual routine, but I have to say, if you're going to get stuck - this is the way to do it! It's been wonderful for us, Taylor and her new grandparents (not to mention all the other family and friends) to have so much time together. She's changed so much since we left England. She's sitting up, has a whole new vocabulary of goo-goos and gaa-gaas, and she's cut two bottom teeth! Danny's working at an electric motor business that is owned by a man in our church, so there's another thing we are thankful for. It's not quite as fulfilling as what we were doing before, but our bank account disagrees and it is something to do while we wait (and wait and wait). We have enjoyed being back in Canada, having the wide open spaces, the beautiful sunsets, and the Tim Hortons! We were even able to get away, just the three of us, on our first family holiday! We stayed in a cabin for a couple of days out at Last Mountain Lake and it was gorgeous! There have been lots of first experiences for Taylor during our time in Canada and I have well documented our time here. And what better way to show you than with...

A VIDEO!!!! (That was a pretty smooth segway, eh?)

video


There now, are we all smiling? I told you she was the cutest little girl ever! I thought it would be good to put a happy video on since the first part of this blog was such a bummer and since I've already rambled on quite a bit (as I have been known to do on occassion).

With that then, I'm going to go to bed! All this blogging has worn me out!

God bless and take care,

~ Alycia DeLong (& Co.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Blogger's Soul

Hello Everyone!

I've just got Taylor to sleep (so please read this quietly) so I've only got a precious few minutes in which to fill you in on what's happening in the most informative and cleverly witted way I can come up with on the spot. With that said, I will give you this disclaimer: This blog entry may not be up to par with past entries. I have recently been diagnosed NMS, New Mom Syndrome. It affects the body (aches and fatigue mostly) but it also affects the brain (memory loss, confusion, clumsyness, etc.). So from this point forward, I am not responsible for what I say and forget to say.

Now, what was I going to say...

I love being a mom! Taylor is the best, most adorable, smartest little angel of a girl ever and I am so proud to have her! I know you're thinking, "Every new mom says that." That's true, but they were wrong. And I've got pictures to prove it. Allow me to present the following evidence to the jury:


Exhibit A - Cute



Exhibit B - Very Cute


Exhibit C - Extreme Close Up Cute


I rest my case.

Now, I must resist the temptation of filling this blog with nothing but pictures of Taylor and stories of how her smiles light up the room and her giggles are like the bells in Heaven and the vast range of consistency her poops take on, I will attempt to update you on the non-Taylor things that are happening.

Well, I guess the biggest story around here is that we're coming back to Canada soon! We fly back into Calgary on July 22nd. From there Taylor and I will be going straight back to Regina (gotta show her off to the family right away) but Danny will be hanging around the Alberta area for a while. A very exciting thing for us is that we're bringing a group of young people with us from our youth group in England and they're going to be taking part in Street Invaders. What's Street Invaders, you ask? It's a three-week mission program for teenagers 12-18 years of age. Training is for one week and then the teams split up and do a mission for two weeks. They prepare dramas, dances, music, kids programs, sports events and help churches run things like kid's clubs and vacation Bible camps across Canada. It's like a mini-LifeFORCE in a way. It has been so exciting preparing for this trip! We've got about a dozen kids around the ages of 15 years and three of our youth leaders coming. For the majority of the kids, they've never been on a plane before, so that will be fun!

When we arrive in Canada, there is a week before Street Invaders starts so Danny's going to be taking them around to places like Banff, the West Edmonton Mall, and a few other touristy places before dropping them off in Eston for Street Invaders. After that, he's going to be at Keddleston Camp for the week, but then we'll both be back in Regina. We have to apply for new visas to the UK this year as our two year visas are up at the end of July. This time though we're applying for five-year visas. Our church in Walsall has officially hired Danny on as part-time youth and childrens pastor and as a representative to schools, which has been really exciting for us. Project Gambia has been an overwhelming success and not only are more schools wanting to be a part of it but the schools that are already involved are opening their doors even wider to us! One school has asked Danny to do a mentorship group with some younger boys who are, shall we say, a bit unruly. Another school has started a class called 'Enrichment' and have given it to us entirely! We're even allowed to completely make up the curriculum! It has been absolutely unbelievable how God has given us such incredible favour and freedom in the high schools in the West Midlands. Here we are, a couple of Canadians with no university or teaching degree, and the Lord has put us into British schools where we can openly share Christian experiences and testimonies with students and teachers! This has been bigger than anything we could have ever dreamed!

Oops, speaking of dreams, it sounds like my little angel has stopped dreaming. I hope I've been informative enough for you all. If not, blame the NMS!


Until next time, God bless and take care!
~ Alycia DeLong (& Co.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

IT'S A GIRL!!!!

Hello everyone!

Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression here because I’m not back from my maternity leave (When does that end exactly? When your child turns 20 years old and moves out?) but I did feel the need to write something on this old blog. After all, it has been an eventful year!
On March 12th, 2008, we welcomed our wonderful little girl in this crazy world. She weighed 6 lbs 13 oz. and was 49 cm long. We named her Taylor Wendy DeLong...and so our lives were changed forever!

I’ve now been a mom for just over two months. Every moment of everyday is filled with new adventures of sights and sounds, expressions and emotions. Everything Taylor does is magical and only enhances to Danny and myself the fact that we have the cutest, smartest, prettiest, most adorable – let’s just say we have the perfect baby! Now I know that every new mother may say that, but I really mean it!!!

Life with Taylor is filled with so many special moments. New parents are often caught in the wonderment of all the ‘firsts’ but there is always one first that stands out as extra special. It may be the first cry, the first smile, the first sound, first word, or even first step. Well, the other day I had a ‘first’ that will always hold an extra special place in my heart. But before I get to that, let me just walk you down the path of the past few months to show you just what’s been happening along the way to where we are today.

I loved pregnancy. I was spared the violent battles with morning sickness and was able to enjoy eating a ridiculous amount of food, gain 20-some pounds and still have people tell me I looked great, even glowing! I loved feeling this little person grow and move inside me. Even more, I loved getting to see my baby when I went for ultrasounds. It was all magical to me!

As the time approached for Taylor’s arrival, I came down with a very strong case of ‘nesting’ syndrome. This is where moms-to-be are overcome with the intense need to prepare their homes for their new arrival. Depending on the seriousness, ‘nesting’ can vary from some light house cleaning to a complete interior overhaul. I was somewhere in the middle leaning as much towards the more intense side of the scale as our budget would allow.

First I cleaned. Then I dusted, I vacuumed, I scrubbed, I washed, I scrapped, and I bleached. I watched unhealthy amounts of TLC shows regarding home decor and interior design, after which I then went and examined every room and deducted what that particular place needed to perfect it. I scanned the Ikea catalogue religiously and pointed out to Danny the things we “needed” to complete our happy home before the baby’s arrival. There were bookshelves, end tables, lamps, storage baskets, picture frames, etc., etc. Each one was quickly scratched off the list. So I decided the quickest and cheapest way to brighten up our home was with some new sheets and towels. It was a simple way to change the look of things. Sadly, they did not make the budget cut. The closest I ended up getting to fully satisfying my nesting needs was a new can of Glade Air Freshener for the bathroom. The scent: Clean Linen. I figured if I couldn’t get new sheets, at least my house would smell like it. Unfortunately, whenever someone does something in the bathroom that requires the use of the new air freshener it doesn’t make our home smell at all like we have fresh, new clean linens. It smells like someone has pooped the bed.

And so ended my nesting stage.

Finally the day came for the baby’s arrival! There were no surprises with the event itself as I had been scheduled for a c-section a couple of weeks before (because of the past brain tumor thing). The only real surprise of the day was when we heard the first cries of our baby and the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” Minutes later Danny and I were holding our beautiful little angel, admiring her round, rosy cheeks and full head of hair through our misty eyes. After the surgery, I was wheeled into the recovery room and promptly offered a cup of tea (I love England). It took a while to sink in that we had a baby! We had a baby! It was so surreal. Actually, everything was surreal thanks to the epidural and pain killers I was on. Especially the curtains in my hospital room (I swear that floral pattern was growing).

Taylor and I spent four days in the hospital under the care of a wonderful team of midwives and nurses. I had my own room with my own bathroom, a TV, and a cup of English tea every two hours. Nevertheless, when the time came, we were happy to go home!

As soon as we got home there were no end to phone calls and visits from our excited friends! It would have been really overwhelming if I hadn’t had my wonderful mother-in-law, Ruth, around! She came just before the day of the delivery and was able to stay for over a month. Danny’s dad came as well just after Taylor was born. It was wonderful having them around! It was like having home come to us when we couldn’t get home!

One of the biggest tasks we had to undertake was going through all the cards! We had so many our house was quickly turning into a fire hazard! My favourite ones though came from the kids at our church kids club. They range from ages six to ten. Here are my top picks:

To Danny and Elisha (that’s me),
I hope your baby is nice and doesn’t cry all the time. My baby brother does.

Danny and Alisha (that’s me, too),
Good luck. You’ll need it.

To Taylor,
Congratulations on your new parents. I hope you like them.

Hallmark Cards have nothing on these kids.

Getting used to having a new baby is an adventure in itself, but I have to say that most things went pretty smoothly. I know this is only my first baby (of at least five, according to Danny) but I have to say it’s been a lot easier than people implied. I don’t know why, but it seems that as soon as we announced I was pregnant I got everyone’s horror story of their pregnancy. The morning sickness that lasted all day, the heartburn that rivalled lava, the constipation, the migraines, the ingrown toenails – oh wait, that was a different story. Then when the time came to have the baby I heard everyone’s horror stories about birth. The 27-hour long labour, the intern nurse who still couldn’t get the epidural needle in after five tries, the surgeon who lost their watch during the c-section. Then after I had Taylor I got all the new baby horror stories. The colic that never ends, the diapers that don’t work, the breast feeding that is more painful than being tortured in a P.O.W. camp. After all the stories though, I have to say that it sounds like I’ve really gotten off the hook – big time! I had a healthy, happy pregnancy, a quick delivery, and it all led to a healthy, happy baby! In fact, I almost wondered if something was wrong because she barely cried at all. She’s quite content and laid back (a good Canadian baby). In fact, the loudest noise she has really made so far does not come out of her mouth at all, but from the ‘southern hemisphere’ (yep, she definitely takes after her father on that one). The hardest things to get used to are those stupid, frustrating snaps on her one-piece sleep suits. Honestly, who designed those things? The makers of Rubixcube? It’s like some Mensa puzzle. It still takes me a couple of tries to get the snaps together in the right order where the leg intersects with the rest of the body!

It’s funny all the things you do around a new baby in an effort not to disturb them when they sleep. We tip-toed around, whispered in barely audible tones, made mad dives for the phone whenever it rang and scowled at anyone who dared to knock at the door whilst our little angel was asleep. Over the weeks, though, we slowly became more daring. We started microwaving stuff without trying to rip scolding hot food out before the timer beeped. We let the phone ring a couple of times before answering. When people came to the door, we would make small talk. I even got so bold as to vacuum during one of her naps. Eventually I discovered that Taylor, like most babies, will sleep through almost anything. And, like most babies, there is only one sound that will really wake her from her deep slumber – and that is the sound of my head hitting the pillow to sleep. Honestly, that sound to a baby’s ears must be like a sonic boom because it never fails!

When I was finally strong and confident enough, it came time for me to take the next step in motherhood: going out with the baby. We’d been out before but I figured the doctor’s office didn’t really count. It was a very exciting even when I went out for coffee with my friend Rachel and brought Taylor with me. I was quite proud of myself. I packed Taylor up in her car seat, secured it in Rachel’s car, packed the stroller in the boot (aka trunk) and off we went to Ikea (for free tea and coffee refills). When we arrived I unhooked the car seat, clipped it into the stroller, and proudly walked into Ikea with my baby and my friend. I was pretty good at this mom thing! When we got in we went to the lift (aka elevator) and couldn’t help but gaze into the stroller where little Taylor lay peacefully asleep. She was so adorable! So irresistible! Both Rachel and I ‘oohed’ and ‘aaahed’ as we waited for the lift. Just look at those cheeks, we cooed. And all that hair! What a cute little outfit she was wearing today. Yes, she was quite the vision. Unfortunately, so were we. I don’t know how long we’d been standing there before we realized that in order to get on the lift you have to push the button.

All these special firsts that make motherhood such a wonderful thing, it is no wonder that there are countless books that try to capture these moments. Well, I have my own special first, as I did mention at the beginning (hopefully, you’re still with me).

The other morning I was enjoying playing with Taylor in our bed, which has become a bit of a ritual after she eats around 7 or 8 in the morning. As usual, she was happy as can be – smiling and gurgling, arms waving around clumsily and legs kicking excitedly. It is also not uncommon for her to sneeze two or three times in a row first thing in the morning. And like most babies, it is not uncommon for her to spit up a bit after eating. Well, this particular morning was not unlike any others – at first. Taylor’s smiling and gurgling was interrupted as a sneeze began to creep up on her. Head tilting back and with short gasps of air she prepared for the sneeze, however at the exact same moment her stomach decided to empty the overflow of her breakfast. The sneeze was rudely interrupted by a watery belch, but nothing came out – at first. Then a small trickle of milk appeared from her tiny nostril. Eyes wide, Taylor and I had only a split second to realize what was about to happen. And then it did...she sneezed. Milk came shooting out her nose at such a velocity that her clothes remained untouched (I took the brunt of the blast)! Unfortunately, the volume of this regurgitation was a bit more that the norm and, well, the stream was impressive to say the least. After the event, we just looked at each other in shock. When she realize what had just happened, Taylor was pretty upset. I don’t blame her. Shooting 15ml of milk out of a new pair of nostrils with that kind of force had to hurt. I quickly wiped up the mess as best as I could and picked her up to console her. Rushing down stairs I grabbed the phone, called Danny’s mobile phone and through my hysterical laughter said, “Danny, you won’t believe what Taylor just did!”

Yes, it was a first that I will always remember!

With that I must go. There are diapers to change, laundry to be done, and new memories to be made! And besides, I need to add an extra line to Taylor’s baby book. Right under ‘First Time I Smiled’ I’m going to insert: First Time Milk Squirted Out My Nose.

Until next time (whenever that may be), God bless and take care!

~Alycia DeLong & Co.


For more pictures and news, check out my dad's blog at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The End of Life As I've Known It

Greetings Everyone!

Well, this is it. The countdown is on until we hear the pitter-patter of little feet running around. Actually, it will probably be the rushing of a men's size 11 feet running around as I yell to Danny for another diaper. We are in the last days of our peaceful, quiet, marital bliss and then WHAM! Our family increases by one!

Now for those of you who have already gone through the labour experience, you're probably saying to yourselves, "Wham? Is that what she thinks labour is going to be like? Boy, is she in for a surprize! It's more like an 8 to 16 hour WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!"

Which brings me to the first item on the update list: My labour day. For me, it's going to be a lot sooner than September this year. In fact it's going to be a lot sooner than the original due date the doctors gave me of March 23rd. I'm now scheduled to have a C-section on March 11th. Now, there's no need to panic, everything is fine. The baby's perfectly healthy, a good size and in the right direction for a natural labour. And I'm perfectly health, a pretty big size, and in the right direction of the fridge most of the time. The doctors (bless their little chicken-souled, yellow-bellied, lily-livered hearts) are just a bit nervous about past tumor and radiation issues. I have had a few problems with my eyes over the past couple of months, a bit blurry here and there, and they think that some blood vessels in my brain are having a hard time keeping up with extra blood and fluids that are coursing through my pregnant body. I like to think what their really afraid of is my head exploding and my eyes popping out during the labour process. In any case, we're all getting off the hook here. I'm actually quite fine with the whole thing, even excited! I know the day the baby's coming and it will only be about a 30 minutes! Okay, there are a few yucky things about the procedure and I will have to stay in the hospital for a few days, but let's stay on the sunny side of the road on this one. That's what I say. Of course with me, the line between optimism and delusion is a thin one.

Second item on the update list is Danny. He started having some dizzy spells a few months back that lead to him having a number of tests on his heart. One of these tests is called "the table tilt test." Basically what happens is that the doctors strap you to a table and then tilt it 60 degrees. Through this procedure the doctors watch to see how your heart operates by itself without the help of the rest of your muscles in the body. Well, Danny's heart stopped! Don't worry, it didn't stop for long and it started up again by itself, but still, not the best of results. At the follow-up appointment with the doctor, he told us about the test results and recommended that Danny be a candidate for a PACE MAKER! Well, that should have been another test because both our hearts stopped at that one! However, that doctor sent us to another doctor to get another opinion. The second doctor said that he didn't want to rush into any pace maker deals until they really knew what was going on. After all, up until the tilt test, Danny's symptoms had been very minor. And exactly what is this "table tilt test" jazz about anyhoo? All it really proved was that Danny shouldn't be strapped to a table, tilted to 60 degrees and left there for 25 minutes. So doctor number two recommended that Danny have a tiny device he called a "revealer" put in so they can get more specific data on what is going on. Basically, a revealer is a small little device that is implanted just under the skin in the chest. It's not even major surgery, they do localized freezing (gross). Then this little thing records your heart's contractions much like a mini-electrocardiograph machine (big word of the day). Then, if Danny starts to have one of his little dizzy episodes, he can pull out the little black box thing that is included in the set and it will record all the data the revealer has been taking for the last 5-10 minutes. The bonusses are that it's a temperary thing, it will give the doctor's a better idea of what the problem is (if any), it's wireless (as all cool things are nowadays), and we can still use the microwave around him! He might be left with a small scar on his chest, but as Danny put it, "Chicks dig scars." Always an optimist.

Now for items 3 through 6 on the update list. Three: We've moved into a house now in preparation for the baby's arrival. It's been very exciting to have a place with 3 bedrooms, carpet, and heat. It's a nice quite neighbourhood and we live close to a number of our good friends from church. Four: The LifeFORCE team that's touring the UK is doing well. We had three missions in a row back out on us (bless their little schedule-cancelling, dream-disappointing, promise-breaking hearts) but we've been able to fill their time with other stuff (ie. vacuuming of my carpet ministry). Five: Danny took a group of 21 students and staff from a local secondary school to the Gambia for another round of Project Gambia. They were a younger group of students, aged 15 and 16, but it was just as fabulous as an experience. We've already had cards, letters, and emails from students, teachers, and parents expressing their amazement and excitment seeing the changes it has made in this group of students. I wasn't able to go because I'm too fat to travel. Not bitter. Six: Danny's parents are coming over to stay with us and help with the baby when it gets here! Danny's mom will be coming earlier as I will really need her around after the surgery! I'm so excited they are coming and I have to say, it is a lot of fun watching people's reaction to my sincere excitment about my inlaws visit. But they'll all understand how a girl can be so genuinely happy about her mother and father-inlaw once they meet them for themselves! (Everyone in unison: "Awwwwww! What a Hallmark card thing to say!" Brownie points for the daughter-inlaw: At least 100.))

And now for item seven: My dad has published his own blog that he will be updating regularly (a lot more regularly than I update my blog) and it's basically about Danny and I but through the perspective of a parent. I call him a couple of times a week to unload on, uh, I mean, update him. So who better to give out an update while I'm on maternity leave (at least I have a valid excuse now) than the man who gets the information straight from the horse's mouth (I'm certainly the size of a horse)! So add his website to your favourite links and check it out for the latest news from our not-on-location-but-has-a-trustworthy-source reporter!

The link is: http://www.liam-james.blogspot.com/

With that then, I shall bid you all farewell for now, but not forever! I cannot say exactly when the next update from me will be published, but the headline will be one of two possibilities:

"It's a Boy!" or "It's a Girl!"

God bless you all and thank you for your continued prayer, encouragement, and support!

Until next time,

~Alycia DeLong (& Co.)