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.

 

 

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.