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.

 

 

Isabel

Introducing Isabel

We’re keeping it low key over here.  Pajamas all day as we play, snuggle and brush off the jet lag.

For all of you who prayed us home though, I had to come and introduce you to Isabel.  She is amazing.  She is so fearless that she fits right in around here.  Her warrior sisters are supporting her every step of the way as she adjusts to her forever family.DSC_4287Thank you to all of you who brought food, donated money, plane tickets, and who will support us as we walk right into heart surgery.  That will be our next adventure.

We’re ready, and we’ll walk through it together.

DSC_4278–FullPlateMom, who is ready for everything.

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, Colombia, Isabel

Colombia Adoption, The Nitty Gritty–Day Nine

We enjoyed the Parque Infantil (Children’s Park) in the center of the city again today.  The weather was beautiful, until an afternoon storm rolled in.  Then we all sat and listened to the rain on our metal roof, which was beautiful in its own way.  Our meeting with ICBF, the central authority for Colombian adoption, went wonderfully.  They feel Isabel is doing well in our family.  We will go to the lawyers office to sign some paperwork tomorrow, and on Wednesday we will head back to the capital.  I will leave on Friday to go back to the States with 11 of the kids, and Joe and Isabel will move on to La Mesa to go to court.  

I have gotten so many emails, PMs and blog posts about adopting from Colombia.  I am more than happy to share details about our experience.  I hope that many of the children waiting will be adopted, but I also always balance that hope with the truth of what you should expect from the children living in Colombia who are waiting to be adopted.

Colombia is a Hague accredited country when it comes to inter-country adoption.  I know some people hate Hague because it adds extra layers and extra cost to the process.  I will tell you, I look for it.  We wouldn’t have come to Colombia if it wasn’t Hague accredited and didn’t have a LONG history of international adoption.

Colombia has a VERY active domestic adoption program.  This makes my heart SOAR with delight.  I want kids who can stay in their country of birth to STAY.IN.THEIR.COUNTRY.OF.BIRTH.  I can’t say that loud enough.  Our van driver in Bogotá was an adoptive father.  He and his wife adopted their child close to birth.  Because there is such an active domestic adoption program, the children available for international adoption here either have severe special needs, like some of the most severe I’ve seen, or they are older.  You may be able to get on the waitlist with Colombia and adopt a younger, healthier child.  I don’t know anything about that.  Isabel was waiting for a family, and she is perfection.

We spent $26,000 on fees BEFORE travel.  This is what I would consider average for international adoption fees.  It falls in line with the fees we paid to adopt from China.  Travel has been less expensive for us then it was to China.  Or, it would have been, had we not chosen to take ALL of us.  But, the cost is, in part, the reason we made that choice.

Travel is NOT what it was in China.  I didn’t expect it to be.  It falls somewhere between Ghana and China for me in terms of American comforts.  If you are not an experienced traveler, this is going to be a hard trip for you.  China would not have been.  In China, a guide was with us 24/7.  We were in 5 star hotels.  I’m sure we could have chosen nicer hotels.  I’m sure we could have paid an interpreter to be with us the whole time.  Joe is a Spanish Interpreter, so I can’t imagine why we would need an interpreter, and we would have to pay them.

The pretty places you might read about on our blog are places we chose to go to because Joe is fluent and I am fairly fluent.  My advice if you’re considering this is to REALLY work on your Spanish.  Your travel will be easier, and unless your child is Deaf like Isabel, the language skills will help you communicate with your child more effectively.

This is a country that has a requirement that BOTH parents travel.  The travel timeline is unclear.  The government moves at its own pace, and no one likes a pushy American.  All of us will have been here for two full weeks.  We anticipate that Joe will be here two more after I leave.  Yes, there are families who leave in three weeks, but there are also families who are here for six, or even eight.  This is a wonderful country.  Come, enjoy, plan to stay.  If the travel requirements don’t work for your family, then there are other adoptions for international adoption where only one parent is required to travel.

Colombia doesn’t especially want to hear that families are adopting for religious reasons.  That is not our motivation to adopt.  We find strength in our faith, but we don’t feel it is the reason we adopted in the first place.  Honestly, I think that helped us get accepted to the program even though we’re a mega-family.  We were told, VERY clearly, not to write our letter of intent to adopt with ANY sort of mention of God or religion as a motivating factor in our adoption.  Again, that was fine with us, because it isn’t why we’re adopting Isabel.

Colombia is also VERY proud of the fact that it welcomes same sex couples to adopt.  The adoption processed from Isabel’s region right before ours was to a couple with two fathers.  We were shown pictures of their beautiful family, because their daughter and ours look a lot alike, and we were told by every official who showed the pictures to us that “amor es amor” (love is love).  If you are someone who doesn’t believe in same sex marriage or in adoption by same sex couples, then this program is not for you.

–FullPlateMom, who is happy to answer more questions via email, when she’s home and settled.

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.