Bowen, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Tess

DC–Day One

We’re vacationing in DC.  We came to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture, because when Ally came to DC two summers ago, she missed the opening by 8 short weeks.  We promised her we would go back, and here we are.

We’ll head there tomorrow, but today was all about one of Bowen’s great loves, our military.  Through a very generous Facebook friend, whose husband happens to work in the Pentagon, we scored an AMAZING day.

From there we went to Arlington to visit the Caisson.  

And to see the changing of the guard.  

We ate dinner and then went to Fort Meyer for the Twilight Tattoo.  Oh my gosh, Bowen was in absolute heaven.  

–FullPlateMom, who plans to take her military loving son on the Metro tomorrow, because he loves trains almost as much as he loves the Army.

Bowen, FPD

Have Sport, Will Travel. This Time.

FullPlateDad (FPD) and I have spent a parenting lifetime avoiding club sports, sometimes to the chagrin of our children. AJ, our 14-year-old son from Ghana, is very sad to never have participated in the highest level of soccer achievable. We put him on the mid-level, non-traveling team, on scholarship. When he asked why we wouldn’t apply for the scholarship for a higher level, we told him we didn’t personally agree with the culture of that particular club, it didn’t feel very diverse, and we weren’t going to spend our hard earned dollars traveling all over the Midwest for one child.

Ultimately, he understood. When we do participate in a sport, we try to get multiple kids involved in it. Everyone is on the swim team. Even if they choose not to compete, we have them get in the water for practices so they learn good habits when it comes to exercise. We choose sports where individual times are measured, but there is a team atmosphere. We tell the kids we don’t expect anything of them other than improvement in their own performance.

Ally runs cross country, as does Cam. Ally will never win anything. Sometimes, she is close to last one in from the course. Cam wins quite a bit. He narrowly missed making Varsity his Freshmen year. He did letter in both swimming and track. Ally won’t have a letter.

I am so proud of Ally. I am so proud of Cam. They are both working to their fullest potential.

Then Bowen entered our lives. He loves sports. He loves them the way Cam loves them, the way you love them when you have that innate drive to WIN, and I mean WIN with capital letters. He wants to get out there and blow away they competition.

His predicted adult height is 4 feet tall.

Bowen has Achondroplasia, the most common form of Dwarfism. His head and torso are average-sized, but his arms and legs are short, approximately half the size of other kids his age. As you might imagine, this makes truly competing in any sports very difficult. It makes winning anything nearly impossible.

Swimming is an excellent sport for Bo. It puts very little wear and tear on his joints. He gets to be part of a team, and he has individual times to help him measure his own performance. When he’s participating with average height kids, we make sure he understands that the only win or loss comes with a time drop on his own personal best. He understands and embraces that.

It took Bowen a very long time to even learn to swim. We put our other kids in the water as soon as they got to us, swam year round and most had mastered it within a year or by the time they were 5-years-old. That wasn’t the case for Bo, and largely, that wasn’t his fault. People are taught to swim by people who have been taught to teach average height children to swim. Bowen has to balance his short arms and legs against the weight of his head and torso. He had to learn how to accommodate for that. Accommodations like that can’t really be taught, it just takes time and getting comfortable in the water.

Two summers ago, it began to click. We put him on our summer team, and he made his big swim.

Last year he swam year round, on a summer swim team and over the winter with a club on a scholarship. Our winter club held a Paralympic swim clinic for athletes with disabilities and Bo got to meet a Paralympian.   He got to touch Paralympic gold and it was decided in his mind, that was his goal. So, this summer we took him to a local qualifying event. We had looked at the time standards and thought he stood a good chance of qualifying.

He did.

At the beginning of this week, Bo and FPD traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana for Paralympic Junior Nationals. We traveled 5 hours to get him there. We wouldn’t do that for any other kid in our family. There wasn’t one word about why Bo got this and the others didn’t. There wasn’t one bit of whining.

Instead, we painted the windows on the car to make him feel so special, to let him know that this is what matters, doing your best on that level playing field. In our pajamas, in the wee hours of the morning, the driveway was filled with FullPlateKids waving to the retreating silhouette of a sedan containing one very excited 8-year-old.He brought home some major hardware. Two golds, two silvers, and a broken record. Yes, our Bo broke a record at U.S. Paralympic Junior Nationals in short course swimming.

We couldn’t be more proud of him as an athlete.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to see where his next competition takes us.

 

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, 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!

 

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

Hiking In the Mountains of Rural Colombia–Day Eight

We are staying in an amazing hostel where the owners live in the adjacent unit.  When I told people that we would be staying in a hostel during our time in Isabel’s city, they thought I was insane.  This is a huge home on a giant hill, with a locked gate at the bottom of the stairs, and then again at the top.  There are two sides to the home, one where the hostel is located, and the other where the owners live with their son.  They are an amazing couple with a 7 year old.  The hostel is clean, and beautifully decorated, and our stay here has been wonderful.

We were originally going to have all 6 bedrooms in the hostel, but each day there has been someone knocking at the door begging for a place to stay for the night.  Each time we’ve given up a bedroom and the backpacker that has stayed has been amazing to our kids.  Our kids are getting to know about different parts of the world from the experiences of these people who have stayed with us, and they, in turn, have gotten to set aside some of their preconceived notions about Americans.

Last night as one of the owners sat with us to have a cup of aqua de panela, she told us about a little town, just outside the city, that is easily accessible by bus.  We’re already staying in a hostel, with a stranger in the next room, with our 12 kids, one that we adopted three days ago.  People think we’re insane.

Let’s do it.

So, we did.  We rode the bus to Cabrera.

We packed a picnic lunch and ate on the steps of the church.

We quickly learned an important lesson about stray dogs in Colombia.  They enjoy ham sandwiches, and also, they’re persistent.

We decided we would eat as we walked.

Cam and Ally are really enjoying carrying the little kids on their backs.  No one asks them to do it, they just offer, and Cam couldn’t care less that the carrier he is using is covered in rainbows and unicorns.

Gigi fell asleep on Ally’s back and she quickly covered her to protect her from the sun.  “We’re at a high altitude here.”  We sure are.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever hiked in a more beautiful place.

We got to the top of the mountain, and began to hike back down.  First, we got a pic at the peak.

We decided that since the ham sandwiches were a bust, we would stop at the small restaurant in the town square and eat a little late lunch before we rode the bus back.

The Ecuadoran man who owns the restaurant was so kind.  He found out that we have a tiny fan of everything meat, and he had some carne asada made just for her.

Gigi and Ally gobbled up all the corn with cheese.  Yes, cheese.  It was a soft cheese that was spreadable all over the ear of corn.

I have never had such wonderful yuca in my life.  It was so perfectly prepared.

We are trying to see as much of the area as we can before we have to leave on Wednesday.  Everyday is an adventure.

Tomorrow a social worker will come visit us in our little house on the hill.  She will decide whether or not we are good enough to be Isabel’s parents.  If her report is positive, an exit letter will be issued allowing us to leave the district with Isabel.  This will begin the next step in the process, going to court to officially make her a member of our family.

That part will occur without me.  The thought of leaving is killing me a little.  So, I’ve decided to Scarlett O’Hara that for now, and think of it another day.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

 

 

 

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

El Mercado–Day Seven

Today was a slower day, we decided this would be the plan so that the kids could all have time to get to know one another.  Right now, we’re in the phase where we’re all in disbelief that we are now 14 strong.  It feels odd.  Making yourselves into a family doesn’t happen overnight.  We are giving ourselves permission to feel like strangers, because, we are.

We decided that our only activity would be visiting the local market and trying to find familiar foods for Isabel that would comfort her.  We have committed to eating like Colombians while we are here.  So, mid-day, my motley crew headed to the market.

The streets of Pasto aren’t easy to navigate.  They’re like the busy streets of many large cities around the world.  So, the tiniest of our crew ride on various backs.  Tess, Gigi, Cate and Isabel all ride in a carrier.  When a brother or sister gets tired, piggybacks are the solution.

The kids commented that, for the first time, it really felt like we were in Colombia.  No one around us spoke english.  I had to really stretch myself to speak to people.  The accent here is a little different.

We bought all kinds of beautiful fruits and vegetables.

The people were so kind.  We managed to avoid an international incident when Gigi tried to sample the goods.

She’s too cute to go to jail.

–FullPlateMom, who loves her some Gigi.