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

The Day We Met, and The Aftermath–Day Five and Six

The last 48 hours were the whirlwind I thought they might be.  It started with a trip to the airport at 4am.  We were supposed to take a 6am flight to Pasto, the city Isabel is from.

We started off so well.  The plane took off.  The kids played their tablets and ate their snacks.

Then we tried to land and the fog just wouldn’t allow it.  So, the plane headed right back to where it came from.  It re-fueled, without allowing us off of it, and we sat waiting for the fog to lift.

A 90 minute flight took us 6 hours.

Thank God Cate did this for the last half of it.

The other kids, who are expert flyers, managed to entertain themselves with games like rock, paper, scissors.

We boarded a mini-van and a taxi and headed through some scary mountain roads to Pasto where we checked in to our hostel.  I have rented all the rooms in it for the week.

A quick change and some lunch from Mr. Pollito (no, I’m not kidding), and we were off again.  At 4pm, we pulled up here.

Our kids actually got to meet Isabel first.  The psychologist who knew her best thought that would put her most at ease, because, apparently, she REALLY likes other kids.  So, Joe and I left all 11 of our kids in a conference room with balloons and a cake to meet Isabel.

We went upstairs to meet with the Social Worker and local Director of ICBF, the central authority for adoptions in Colombia.  They told us Isabel’s story.  This is hers to tell, but there were points in the telling of this tale where both of us broke down and cried.  Yes, Joe too.  Her story is just so hard.  We were also dogged in our quest for information about her living relatives.  The professionals in the room were puzzled why we would want this information so badly.

Joe is totally fluent in Spanish, so there was a good conversation about our other children, their wishes about having knowledge of their birth families.  In the end, we got all the contact information for Isabel’s living relatives.  I will be reaching out to them at some point.  I want to be the bridge to them for her, should she want to cross over someday, knowing that this is always a back and forth.  She can always go between the two of us, never having to choose.

Finally, once we were handed all this information, and all of the equipment for her Cochlear Implant, we got to meet Isabel!

I am not allowed to share photos of her, because at this time, we are only her temporary guardians.  Joe will go to court after I leave Colombia with the rest of the kids.  Once we are officially her parents, then I can share pictures of her.  For now, we must respect her privacy.

The meeting between her and us only lasted about 15 minutes.  Then we were ushered out.  This part is always so odd for me.  “You’re giving me this kid?!? Seriously?!? After all this time, you’re just handing her to me???”  I feel that way every single time.  Then there’s the odd feeling of “I don’t even know this kid.  Am I supposed to love her?” And a moment of panic when I don’t.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I always forget that.

The first night was rough.  Today was much better.  Isabel is very delayed.  It’s hard to tell why, or how much of it is shock.  She is as delayed as Tess and Gigi were.  Her heart is bad.  Her lungs are badly damaged, I can tell already.

All I can do is gear up to fight the same fight we fought for them.

At about 11pm last night, after having been awake for so many hours, I finally sat down and ate some of the cake I bought to celebrate Isabel.

It was delicious, but not as delicious as FINALLY getting our girl.

–FullPlateMom, who is ready to fight for her girl.

Adoption, Ally, Bowen, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel

The Whirlwind Begins–Day Four

Today began the whirlwind 48 hours that will lead us to Isabel.  I’m writing this at 9:50pm.  I am waiting for the rest of our socks to come out of the dryer.  I will be up at 3am and we’ll all be in the van by 4am.  We have to be on the flight at 6am to get to Isabel’s district.  It is only a 90 minute flight, but the minutes leading up to it feel like an eternity.

Who knew 13 people needed this much stuff for two weeks?  You all probably did.  I did not.  I thought we were simple people.  Turns out, I was wrong.  We are schlepping 200+ lbs of luggage across Colombia, and my back is feeling it.

Today was a fun day for the little kids.  Santa brought them a trip to DiverCity here in Bogotá, and today was the day to go.  This is a kiddie amusement park where you get to do jobs to earn money to buy prizes at the end of the day.  Look at my precious little electrical engineers, working for the power company.  *Apologies for the less than stellar pics.  I had to sneak my iPhone cam out to get anything.  DiverCity wants you to pay for pictures.  Sorry friend, this is where I pretend to not speak Spanish, and therefore not understand, and snap all the pics I want*

Here’s Cate and Gigi working hard in the yogurt factory.

Here are my tiny fashionistas in the Casa de Moda, putting on a show.  Cate wasn’t feeling it.

She was, however, all over trying to catch herself a pigeon in the Plaza Bolivar later in the day.  She wanted to make one of them her pet.

No, I am not kidding.

This was the end result.  Sorry, Cate.

We went to the plaza in search of the elusive coconut.  After spending FIVE HOURS alone with the smalls in DiverCity, my feet were KILLING me, and we couldn’t find the coconut vendor ANYWHERE.

Dejected, we boarded the van to go back to our hotel.  As we rolled through the streets of Bogotá, there was a simultaneous shout of “STOP THE VAN!” as we all laid eyes on a small cart on the corner of a random street.  There was a man there, coconuts piled high, whacking the ends of them with a machete.

Just.like.Ghana.

Joe jumped out of the van and shouted “I’ll catch up to you!”  And, he did.  He ran to the coconut vendor and then weaved his way back to our van as it slowly navigated big city traffic.  Tess was sure he was going to be hit by a car.  He made it though, and just like that, Ally had a coconut.

She is a very happy girl.

Tomorrow, Isabel!!!!

–FullPlateMom, who is too excited to sleep!!!

 

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

Parque Central–Day Three

We spent the day at Parque Central Simon Bolivar.  Central Park in Bogota is even larger than Central Park of New Your City.  There is a giant lake in the middle, just like in NYC, where you can rent boats.  It was a beautiful day for a stroll.

There are gorgeous, accessible playgrounds there that are organized by age.  The little kids got to play first.  

Daddy gives the best pushes on the swing.

Bowen got to go between the little kid and middle kid playground.  He thought that was pretty cool.  Finally, a benefit to being of short stature!

He and Sofia had fun “surfing.”

I mentioned on Facebook that so many people have mistaken Sofia for Afro-Colombian, like Isabel.  She was a little freaked out by this at first, but now she has kind of embraced it.  She has even shown an interest in learning some Spanish.  That’s a first for her.

The big kids wandered just a little on their own and found a big kid playground.  They thought this was the best.

We ate empanadas and arepas for lunch from a little stand in the park.  The man working at the stand was so kind.  He gave us a giant bottle of soda and cups for all the kids to share it.  The empanadas were so tasty and the whole lunch cost us $17, to feed 13 people!  Not too bad.

Tess has been doing great with the altitude.  We were a little worried because of her heart.  She takes breaks when she needs to, and we give piggybacks for her, Gigi and Cate.

My kids who are internationally adopted have been talking about their homelands more than ever because of this trip.  Ally and AJ, who came to us at the ages of 6 and 9 years from Ghana, have never said a whole lot about their country of birth.  AJ speaks about it more than Ally.  She basically shut out Ghana when she got here.  She stepped off the plane and became American.

At first, we thought this was her way of trying to fit in with her peer group.  Recently, she has admitted that it was too painful to talk about, and that she purposely amputated that part of her life because of the pain.  Today, she confided in Joe that she had seen a coconut vendor in Plaza Bolivar and that she REALLY wanted a coconut.  Coconuts were available on the street in Ghana too.  Vendors would use a machete to chop the end off the coconut and you could drink the milk on the inside straight out of the coconut.  It was one of her favorite treats.

When Joe told me she had said this, I sprung into action.  We have hired a driver for tomorrow to take us back to the Plaza.  We are going to find that coconut vendor if it kills us, and Ally is getting her coconut.

This trip has been a jumble of emotions for her.  But, most of all, from it, there has been healing.  Ally will turn 16 on paper next month, but in all likelihood, she is really turning 17 years old.  It is time for her to embrace her past, to make this connection to all of who she is.  At first, I wondered if she would ever get there?  Would she ever acknowledge where she had come from.

I think she will, and I think this trip is helping with that.

–FullPlateMom, who is in search of a really good coconut.

 

 

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Cate, FPD, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

On Top Of The World–Day Two.

We rode the ‘funicular’ (it’s like a train) up the side of a mountain today.  It is a beautiful mountain, with a church at the top, called Monserrate.

The only rub was, half of Bogotá decided to ride with us.  Seriously, the line to go up the mountain was 1.5 hours long, EACH WAY.  It was like the world’s worst line at Disney World.

As we stood (and sometimes sat) in line, the kids doing beautifully, we met other families who were curious about ours.  We chatted, it was completely lovely.  The weather was beautiful too.  I can’t imagine asking for a better day.

The view at the top was absolutely beautiful.  The sky was beautifully clear and the metal rooftops of Bogotá shimmered in the sunlight below us.  We pushed our way through the crowds and I managed to get a picture of my whole family.  Well, whole for now.  We are still missing the person we came for.

At the top of the mountain, we all ate empañadas and drank soda from glass bottles.  Then slowly, we made our way back to the line.

On the way back down, when we got to the spot in line where we were stuck, couldn’t get out no matter what, Cate decided she had to pee.  For the next hour, I did dances and encouraged her to not pee down the side of me.

Poor little guy in front of us, started to look a little green as we stood there in the heat.  I thought he might have to pee too, that maybe all the pee talk was getting to him, even though it was in English, and he was the world’s most precious Spanish speaker.  But, then I saw him lean over and start to gag.  I dove to the side and shouted at the mom “Tú bébe va a vomitar!” But, too late.  I went into self-preservation mode and pushed all my kids out of the way, as the puke hit the floor with an epic splash.

We walked carefully around it, and smiled that, for once, it wasn’t us.  The crowd rallied for that mama and let her pass right through the rest of the line, onto the train, and down the mountain.  Cam thought maybe he could induce vomit to get us all to the front of the line, but we decided it wasn’t worth it.

After the mountain, we had our driver take us to Plaza Bolivar.  We walked past rows and rows of street vendors.

The plaza is beautiful.

After asking me every single hour for the entire day, Cate finally got her ice cream, and we made the day of some random ice cream man.

Cate gives Colombia a thumbs up.

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

AJ, Ally, Being a Transracial Family, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Jax, Juliana, Our Full Plate, Phineas, Tess

Thankful For Changes

This year was our first year eating Thanksgiving dinner with just us.  “Just” is relative term when there are 13 people in our immediate family.  On Thanksgiving last year, my extended family decided we were no longer welcome at their holiday celebrations.  By Christmas, it was decided they would no speak to us at all.  It was incredibly painful, more for the kids than for anyone else.  Yes, I was upset, but for me, this had been a long time coming.  It wasn’t for the kids.  So it was a shock to them when family members decided they no longer wanted them in their lives either.

There were questions about it this year.  “Will we be going to…”  “Will we be seeing…”  “Why don’t they like you anymore…”

There are too many of you.  They don’t understand why we live this way.  They don’t support us at all, yet they expect endless support in return.  You’re too Deaf.  Too black.  Too opinionated.  We’re too much for them, and when you’re too much for people, those people aren’t your people.

I do the very best I can to explain that in a way that makes this less about them and all on the other people involved.  They’ve seen extended family rally for us too.  I have cousins left who would walk through fire for us, who are there to celebrate every adoption, to support us through every surgery, and to come to every holiday.

Joe has a mom who drops everything to babysit, who loves our kids enough to learn sign for them.  His aunt and uncle, who have no children themselves, were here yesterday, in our loud, rowdy house, visiting for as long as it was feasible for them.  Before leaving, his aunt took my baby’s face in her hands and said “You are so special, I love you.”  What a blessing she is.

My mom and dad still see them, and celebrate them, at every birthday.  That means a lot to the kids.  Other than that, there isn’t anything more we can ask.  Life changes.  In our house, it changes at a rapid pace.  Sometimes, the changes mean we can’t be everything else other people need us to be.  I have accepted that.  All I can do is move forward.

People come and people go, but this family, right here, is forever.  That is worth fighting for.  So, this year, when it was time to actually sit down to eat, it was “just” us.

–FullPlateMom, who is grateful for us.

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

Scenes From A Summer Without You.

We’re at that odd stage in the adoption process when we’re close enough to the end goal that we feel like we’re missing someone from our family, but we’re still far enough away that I find myself living in a constant state of frustration.  It’s an odd feeling to miss someone you’ve never actually met.  By now though, it’s a familiar feeling for me.  It happened with each one of my kids, and now that they’re here, I understand the sensation.  It is possible to miss her, because I understand the possibilities of her.

We’ll be devastated if she can’t join our family.  I tried so hard to guard our hearts, but I also know that when you get far enough down this road it becomes impossible.  It would be irresponsible not to prepare the kids already in our home about all that their sister’s arrival will mean to us as a family.  Even though we’ve done this so many times, we know that reminders need to happen.  We remind the kids constantly that  even though we know and love the idea of Isabel, she knows nothing about us.  She will likely intensely dislike us at first.

Despite all that, despite my trying to let my head override my heart, I start to imagine her in our home.  I can resist the urge to shop, decorate, and nest, but I can’t stop my imagination.  I picture her here.

It has been a rough summer.  Not only because we feel like we’re missing a piece, but because the world is missing a whole lot of pieces.  We’re grappling with a country that feels unfamiliar, and hateful, towards families that look like ours.  I worry about bringing another Black child into this home.  I worry about raising the children I have in this country as it stands right now.

Still, we find joy in the little things, because we can’t fast forward time, and I wouldn’t want to, it is already going too fast for our kids who are here with us.  I want them to enjoy their childhood, and to not let their memories be filled with these constant pauses as we waited for another child through a process we have no control over.

Tess joined the swim team.  This was something I was never sure I would see.  I had no idea if her heart and lungs would allow for this.

She is tiny, but so very mighty.

In a fierce game of Capture The Flag,  Bo snapped both the bones in his left lower leg.  This was traumatic, but my gosh, that kid is mighty too.  He lost a whole summer swim season to it.  He had worked all winter for this.  He learned an important lesson about what it means to be part of a team though when his fellow Dolphins rallied and included him in everything they did.

We marched, and marched, and marched this summer.  It was our summer of living resistance.  This march was in memory of the lives we lost in the Pulse Night Club shooting.  #LoveIsLove

We vacationed in Nashville, learning so much about the city and its roots in the Civil Rights Movement. We also toured Fisk University so that Cam could see the campus of an HBCU.

Cate ate her weight in fresh, in season, fruit.

And we visited the zoo for the Children’s Hospital Picnic, which is a summer tradition.

It’s all wrapping up with all our paperwork arriving in Colombia.  The ball moves down the court, and we wait to see if this is all meant to be.

–FullPlateMom, who will remind you all again that she is NOT a patient person.

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Jax, Juliana, Tess

Lazy Beach Days.

We just returned from seven lazy beach days courtesy of Spring Break.  These types of trips are becoming more and more important to me as time slowly ticks away with some of our kids.  Ally is finishing up her Freshmen year of high school, Cam will follow her next year.

My time with them feels so limited now.  Last week, Ally was accept to a program that, upon completion, will provide her a full scholarship to our local University, my alma mater.  Ally will become the fifth generation in our family to attend.  She is going to college.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was fighting to get her here?  How did this happen?  Where did that tiny Ghanaian girl with the spindly little arms and legs go?  She is woman sized now.  She is going to campus this summer to start her coursework.  Time is ticking away.

I have to hold on to these memories.  While we did do our annual formal photo shoot on the beach, these candid photos are so precious to me.  They represent the amazing family memories that I have of my teenage years.  I traveled a lot with my parents.  They drove me all over the country, seeing the historical sites and appreciating American landscapes.

I want my kids to have that too.

This week, they did that, and a whole lot more.

They got time with each other.

Four brothers, not by blood, but by so much more.

This guy became our best friend.  He enjoyed his perch on our deck, and all the goings on.

Juliana got all her sensory needs met by cartwheeling on miles of white sand.

The kids built amazing sand creations, only to watch Gigi sit in them.  They were okay with that.

Oldest and youngest, they all played together.

Funny little traditions were made too.

Joe served dinner out of the kitchen window every evening.  Literally, out the window.  The Alabama sunset was just too beautiful to miss.  The kids dubbed that window “The Snack Shack” and what became functional, so as not to make a mess in the house, also became fun.

Barbecue chicken sandwiches, courtesy of “The Snack Shack.”

It was all eaten on the porch swing while watching the sunset.

Bowen developed a new found love of fishing.

Turns out, he’s really good at it.  He was the only one to catch a fish.

There is nothing I can do to stop the passage of time, or to halt the scary events happening in the world around me.  All I can do is hold onto these moments.

That is what I intend to do.

–FullPlateMom, who is barely unpacked and is already planning the next big thing.