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.

 

 

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, Isabel, Tess

I Must Remember This.

Five years ago, right now, I was holding a very tiny Tess in a hotel room halfway around the world, watching the 2012 Presidential election results roll in. I am sad. I won’t say a whole lot more than that. We feel like we have become an entirely different country since then. We haven’t, this is always who we were, but in that moment, I lived in a state of blissful ignorance that I long for.

I wrote this post about the day I met Tess. It has nothing to do with the election, but it has a lot to do with blissful ignorance. I was blissfully ignorant before I met Tess. I have always been ‘lucky.’ I counted on that luck to carry me through. Tess’s adoption referral paperwork was bleak. Her file said, straight out, that her condition was terminal. I didn’t believe it. I thought that the medical information was probably wrong. After all, her pictures looked really, really good.

I got to China, and Tess was, indeed, dying. Her file wasn’t wrong.

That post, written about that day, is a raw post. It tells more of Tess’s story than I usually tell. As I wrote it, I debated saying quite this much about the day Tess and I met. It was important for me to write that now. I didn’t know how important it would become until last Friday though.

Our official referral for Isabel arrived in my email inbox on Friday morning at 2:13am. My phone pings when I get an email. It pinged, I got up, and I began to read the nearly 100 pages of information. At first, it was what I expected. Isabel is deaf. She received a Cochlear Implant in the spring of this year. Colombia chose that for her. I don’t question their choices. She is not my daughter yet. I have no say.

I read, and cheered, when her paperwork said she began to walk at the beginning of this year. I read, and cheered, when it said she likes to draw. Then, just like that, my heart sank. In the medical information section of her referral, the most recent note is from a Pediatric Neurologist that describes what is, supposedly, Isabel’s current condition. That note describes a child who doesn’t sit up on her own. She doesn’t feed herself. She isn’t responsive. She has seizures.

What in the world?!? I waited until the sun rose and then I began firing off emails. To our social worker, to our agency, to pediatricians, to friends who work in the medical field. What is THIS note?!?

We don’t know. We don’t know what that note is.

Is it a mistake? Does that note belong to another child and it somehow made its way into Isabel’s file?

Maybe.

Or, is that Isabel’s current condition a result of something that occurred medically between when those notes were written at the beginning of the year and the last note? Is this who she is now?

Maybe.

That was Friday. We could reach out to the people caring for Isabel, but she lives in a very rural area. I knew we would have to live until this week with the unknown. Today is a holiday in Colombia. I still don’t know.

I don’t know if Isabel can communicate. I don’t know if she can walk. I don’t know if she feeds herself. I don’t know.

Joe and I spent a couple of sleepless nights tossing, turning and talking about the ‘maybes’. Yesterday rolled around and my Facebook memories were filled with pictures of memories of five years ago, of the day I met Tess. That led me back to the post I wrote a couple of years later about what that day was like.

Last night, Tess and I went to Starbucks, just the two of us, for a late night hot cocoa run to celebrate five years of us. I’m celebrating so much more than that though. I’m celebrating bravery, hers and mine. We made it. She fought to live. I fought to maximize the potential of that life.

What if I had read her file and said no? Who would I be? Who would she be? Where would either of us be?

I’m terrified, but I know one thing…

Love makes us brave.

–FullPlateMom, who is #AllInForIsabel

Dessert, Gigi, Meat and Potatoes, Tess

Halloween 2017

2017’s theme is “Just keep swimming!”  So, this seemed so appropriate.

Our little Dory is struggling a little.  Her lungs are always troublesome, but her weight is now a concern too.  We’re trying to figure out why she’s so very fragile.

Luckily, she’s got people to swim right along beside her.  Always.

While her body might be tiny and fragile, her spirit is big and strong.

–FullPlateMom, who will keep swimming right alongside her too.

 

Phineas, Tess

Welcome to the Family, Phineas.

We’ve been busy at FullPlate Manor lately.  This is why.

There was endless drama surrounding this little guy’s entry into our family.  But, just like any addition to our home, not that I want to compare the entry of a dog to the entry of a child, but, in this small way it did compare, this wasn’t easy, but it was perfect.

There were so many disappointments, and false starts as we tried to work with service dog organizations, rescues, and finally, we landed with a breeder who has raised many a service/therapy dog.  It is our hope that we will be able to train our little buddy here to help with certain tasks that would make life easier for Gigi.  He does not need to be a service dog, more of a support dog.

Phineas is an 8 week old Mini-Doodle.  He will be 35-40 lbs when he is fully grown.  He currently tips the scales at a whopping 6.7 lbs.

He is patient.

He is kind.

He is so loved.

–FullPlateMom, who couldn’t have asked for a better furry buddy, even if he does pee all over her floors.