Adoption, Bowen, Cate, Gigi, Tess

You Came Before Me.

There are 11 mothers out there whose hearts are probably wondering. For me, every Mother’s Day starts a little early. The kids are too excited for any sort of festivities, and after all these years, I make a big deal out of it too. A low key deal, but a big deal. I accept all of their handmade gifts with excessive glee, even when it’s 12 hours early. They’ve already brought me treats to eat, and hugged my neck and told me “Happy Mother’s Day!” even though it’s not yet my day. Some of them have told me in ASL, that’s a first this year, and it has made my heart burst.

You came before me though. For me, this day is yours. Wherever you are (and I do know where some of you are), I want you to know that today is yours. We know 7 of your names. 4 of you can only be honored through hope, a hope that someday we might get the privilege of knowing your name.

I think about you all the time. Every day, but today especially. Every time one of them comes to me with their first lost tooth, I think of you. Every time they win an award, I think of you. Every time they ace a test, I think of you. As they move toward adulthood, I think of you. I wonder if they look like you. When did you lose that first tooth? Did you win similar awards? Did you ace similar tests? Is their smile yours?

In the case of Tess, I often wonder if you know she’s alive. Do you know that the sacrifice you made got her the care she needed? She is alive. She is one of the happiest, most optimistic 8-year-olds you will ever meet. If we never meet in this life, I think about the day we’ll meet in the next. I think about what it will be like to hold your hand and say “We did it. You fought, then I fought, and she is there, alive.”

For Bowen, I wonder if you know that here he is allowed an education. Because of the sacrifice you made, he is allowed to attend school, and so much more. How proud would you be to know that he is a Junior Nationally ranked Paralympic swimmer? I wish I could tell you.

Cate is well and whole. The medical care here allowed her the surgery she needed to no longer feel the pain she did when you left her. Her face is beautiful, but we both know it always was. There is probably no one else in the world outside of us who loved her face just the way it was. I truly believe that had you been given the opportunity to stand alongside me during all her reconstructive surgeries that you would have mourned the loss of her “bubble eye” with me. It made our Cate, our Cate. She is a sassy sweetheart then and now. Is there any way you know that?

Gigi has language now. I can tell her the story of YOU. She attends school. She reads. I fight every single day for access to everything she deserves. I do that in honor of the sacrifice you made. Can you possibly know that?

I hope that somehow, someway, you know.

I don’t have any way to honor you other than to keep the door open for you. I will. I promise. We’re here. We hope to find you. And until then, I will fight for them every single day, to give them every opportunity on this earth. I do that because you came first. In this house, you are sacred, and I am grateful.

–FullPlateMom, who is a better person because you came first.

Adoption, Advocacy, AJ, Ally, Gigi, Isabel

New Year, A New Schedule.

We had a wonderful holiday, complete with two full weeks off for all of us. This is a big change from the way things used to be. Usually, I’ve gone back to work right after the first of the year, but now my holiday matches the kids.

When the school year began I accepted a full-time work out of home job as a School Nurse. It wasn’t my nursing experience that led to my hiring though, not exactly. It felt odd to sit in an interview and have my life experience distinguish me for hiring. All the post-masters training I did in Complex Developmental Trauma was what made the district take an interest in me. I started that training so that I was a better mom to all of you. I hope to carry forward all that we learned so that I can help teachers support children the same way we support each other. I am so proud of how we have come full circle. From helping each other, to helping each other.

So much healing has happened here.
So much healing is still to come.

It’s the beginning of a new era now. I always feel two ways about that, sad that so many of you are getting so big, and happy that we’ve come through all of this together. Change is hard for me. It always has been.

Some of you aren’t babies anymore. I try to respect that here, writing about you less and less because you have voices of your own. I am so proud of you though, so proud. You’re taking the ACT, driver’s ed, and making plans for what you’ll do after high school. No matter what you do, I am so proud. But, we’re coming full circle there too, as I hear some of you discussing plans to become adoption social workers or trauma-informed teachers yourselves.

Of course, there are a few of you who still plan on becoming a princess and an astronaut, at the same time. We’re cool with princesses in space over here too.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to watch you all launch.

Adoption, Isabel, Jax, Phineas

Spring (Break) Renewal

We spent a quiet, but not uneventful, Spring Break at home.  We had plans to travel to the Motor City for Spring Break, but Isa burst onto the scene, and it is best for her to have some time to get used to our routine at home.

She and Jax both celebrated their birthdays on March 27th.   Jax chose dinner out at a buffet, because what could a pre-teen boy love more than all-you-can-eat pizza?  Isa isn’t really sure how to ask for something special, so we did what we thought she would love and Joe and I practiced some Colombian recipes for her.

I did my very best with empanadas.

We ordered all the Colombian sodas that the kids loved during our time there.  Joe made Colombian rice.

Isa loves pretend play, so we bought her a ‘grocery store’, but named it ‘Isa’s Bodega.’  She has ice cream and lattes for her customers, as well as fruits, veggies and maybe a loaf or two of bread.  

We found out shortly before Isa’s birthday that her heart defect is FAR less complex then her adoption file seemed to indicate.  She has a hole in her heart, but the damage that was done to her lungs by it seems well managed by the medications she was given in Colombia.

Her hips are another story.  What we were told might be Cerebral Palsy (CP) might actually be untreated hip dysplasia.  That makes me sad, but knowing that her heart defect isn’t as severe as we thought is comforting as we move forward figuring out how to fix this.

We celebrated her first Easter with us.  The kids rose super early for an egg hunt.  It was snowing here though, so it was all indoors.

Then there was actual egg dying.  Isa was pretty fascinated by this.

The days here are quiet as the winter rolls out and spring rolls in.  These last, cold days have brought a whole lot of hardship for some other families in our lives.  Our hearts hurt, deeply, for those families, one in particular.  It is so hard to watch other people suffer as we are just enjoying a new life, together, with Isa.  I feel tremendous guilt about what I have, versus what they have now lost.  The quiet is, in part, out of respect for their loss.

We are seeing changes in our careers.  Joe is a Spanish Interpreter.  Recent anti-immigrant sentiment, and mass deportations, are making his job difficult in many, many ways.  A change may need to happen.   My job isn’t easy right now either.  We are a delicate balance here in this house of many.  Uncertainty, when you have this many people depending on you isn’t a good feeling.  I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the weight of quite so much on my shoulders.

I remind myself that we were made for times like these, but that it is still hard to live in these times.  The stress has nothing to do with Isa herself.  I wish that there could be more joy in her arrival and less worry about the future of the family in general.  I can only hope that she doesn’t feel the stress of all of this, that none of the kids do.  I have guilt about that too.  It’s just how I’m built, for guilt.

The quiet is necessary right now.  We are embracing it with new family traditions.  Traditions that we hope provide connection.

In the quiet moments, we worked our way through the first book in the Harry Potter series.  A new wave of children is so excited to read the illustrated version.

Our puppy is now old enough to try the local dog park, although he is still sure he is human, and therefore, has no use for other dogs.  The kids find great joy in his fluffy silliness.

Most of all, we’re just leaning into each other, and figuring out where the new normal will land us, as we travel this road, together.     –FullPlateMom, who is learning to love the quiet.

 

 

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

One More Day–Day Thirteen

Today, to take our minds off the fact that we only have one day left before we bid Joe and Isabel farewell, we decided to head to the science museum.  It was one rainy afternoon in Bogotá and the kids were super excited to visit Maloka.

Then we went and ate familiar food.  Cam never complained once, but after two weeks without anything typically American, he was ready for something familiar.  So, we ate Burger King.

We came back to our little Bogotá abode and there was a beautiful cake waiting for us.  We celebrated our last night in Bogotá with our friends at Zuetana.  If you’re looking for a place to stay in Bogotá, Claudia who owns this guest house, is amazing.

I am processing so many emotions about leaving that I don’t even know how to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keyboard, to get them out.  I am leaving my daughter behind.  My fragile, malnourished, daughter.  There just aren’t words.  The bottom line is, I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish we could all just stay in Colombia and be with her until it is time to come home.

Alas, school is calling, literally, for the other kids.  So, tomorrow at 4am, we’ll rise to make the long trek home.

–FullPlateMom, who misses Isabel already.

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

Back to Bogotá–Day Twelve

We’re now 48 hours from leaving Joe and Isabel behind to finish the adoption process.  On Friday, at the absolute crack of dawn, 12 of us will head to the airport and the other two will head a few hours down the road to La Mesa.  La Mesa is a smaller town about three hours outside of Bogotá.  It’s supposed to be warm, beautiful, and, a retirement community.  It’s the Boca Raton of Colombia.

Joe will be there for about a week to go to court and, hopefully, be granted a Sentencia.  This is the piece of paper that declares Isabel our daughter.  After that, he’ll head back to Bogotá to get her passport, her visa, and then, they’ll come home.  We anticipate he’ll be living here in Colombia for 2-3 more weeks.  I will be at home, alone, with the other 11 children.

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t scared.  I am totally scared.  I’m scared of managing it all at home, and I’m scared of letting go of this process.  I feel Joe is ill equipped to handle it.  Not the diaper changes, and the parenting without me, he does that all the time.  I’m talking about knowing the ins and outs of when to push and when not to, when an ethical line is being crossed, and when what is being asked of you is routine.  It will be a steep learning curve for him.

Leaving Pasto today was so hard.  Tess cried big giant tears as we left the house on the hill where we had been staying for the past week.  The owners became like family to us over the last week.  Monica, one of the owners, helped us with the children, acted as a tour guide for us encouraging us to get out and explore Pasto and the surrounding areas, and she made us the best Colombian treats (my children now all love aqua de panela).  But, what we cherished the most, was that Monica spent so much time telling us about our daughter’s homeland, and her culture.  We know so much about Isabel’s birthplace, because Monica was so willing to share with us.

The guest house she and her husband own is absolutely beautiful.  It is attached to their family’s home.  Monica checked on us multiple times per day.  People thought we were crazy for staying in what we, in the United States, would commonly refer to as a hostel during a time that would be so unpredictable for our family.  Adding Isabel to our family wasn’t easy, but the people who surrounded us became part of her story.  Even some of the other people staying in the guest house with us became part of Isabel’s story.  AJ told Joe he loved having people come in and out and stay in the guest house with us because they came from all over, and he had the opportunity to ask them about their part of the world.

We will miss them terribly.  I promised Tess that we would be back someday, to the house on the hill, in the place we first met Isabel.Love has made us brave, and that bravery has blessed us immeasurably.

We will carry it on during the next few weeks as we live apart, and leave behind the country we love.

–FullPlateMom, who isn’t feeling so very brave right now.

Adoption, Cate, Colombia, Jax, Juliana

Slow And Simple–Day Eleven

We have all the necessary paperwork to leave Isabel’s home district of Nariño and head back to Bogotá.  We are both so very excited about this, and so sad.  We spent a lot of time today talking about the move toward home and how much we will miss Columbia.

Today, after collecting the necessary paperwork, we went to buy recuerdos de viaje (souvenirs).This is Cate with her “Co-yumbia” bag.  She is going to keep “all my best ‘tuff” in it.I think this sweet girl is going to struggle mightily with the absence of her dad.  And Isa is going to struggle mightily when all her new brothers and sisters are gone.

–FullPlateMom, who would appreciate your prayers as we make yet another transition.

Adoption, AJ, Bowen, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

Paperchasing in Pasto–Day Ten

Today was spent out and about on the city streets.  We needed to paperchase with our Colombian attorney.  Signatures, notarizations, all the most boring parts of adoption.
The kids were troopers, and I only had to put the fear of God into one of them once.  I can usually just shoot them a look to accomplish this.  That was the case today.  Not too shabby.

Once we were all done with five long hours of this, we rewarded the kids with dessert first from the corner ice cream vendor, and then we found Chinese food in Pasto!  They have been so adventurous with their eating, but it was so nice for them to have something familiar tonight.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Pasto.  We will spend it shopping and packing up.  Then the whirlwind toward home begins, for me, and Joe will move on to La Mesa.

Again, I’m Scarlett O’Hara-ing that, and enjoying all the mango I can get before I have to leave.–FullPlateMom, who doesn’t want to go!