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.

 

 

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, 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.

 

 

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.

 

Brady, Cate, Isabel, Meat and Potatoes, Tess

I Love Sundays.

We are STILL waiting for our I800A approval from the government in order to move forward with our adoption from Colombia.  It is now day 48.  Sigh.  

Sundays at our house are slow and lazy.  They’re mandatory family time as we worship at home together.  I’ve explained before why we left our church.  This morning’s sermon, via Podcast, was on sibling relationships.  We followed that up with a science podcast about alternative fuels and what Carbon is doing to our environment.  I know how weird this sounds, but this is so my family, faith, science and social justice, not in any particular order.

I cooked.

They wander.

But we all listen.

Every once in awhile someone would ask me a question about faith, science or social justice, and how they all intertwine, and a conversation would begin.  Those conversations bring connection.

This is what I want for them.  To learn about all these subjects, how they relate, and how they shape our world.

That’s why I love Sundays.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait for Isabel to join our lazy Sundays.