Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Home at last

It is hard to describe how wonderful it is to be home.  This process started years ago (not really that long since Mami is Colombian), with fears, anticipation, annoyances, and plenty other emotions related to the adoption process (Not to mention the costs!).  How long will it take, what will the kids be like, how can we take so many weeks of work off, how is this possible?  These are questions that can't really be answered until the moments occur.  The hardest moment for me was telling my wonderful wife that I had to go back to the US before the process was complete.  Why?  Because I ran out of vacation/sick time at work and we had to get paid.  Paying the bills seemed so insignificant to the situation, but then reality kicks in.  To pay the bills, someone has to go to work.  So I did, and it hurt.  Skyping with Mami and the kids really helped, but I knew she had to bring two kids back with her on a plane on her own, ugh.

All of that is over, the family is home, we are all together and we can't wait to start our lives together.  We walked Angie down the street to her new elementary school to show her how close it is.  She loved it, Cristian enjoyed being pulled in a wagon behind his sister, and I could tell Mami was just happy to be home.

More later, or not, we are just happy to be home!    

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Birth Certificates

This morning I went with Lucy to get the kids' new birth certificates...  We had already been to the registrar the night before and went back and forth between them and the court to resolve an issue with my last name.  Be warned, if Papi has a last name with a surname, in my case I am the third (III),  this is not something that is done in Colombia.  The registrar didn't know how to handle the surname, they wanted to put III on the kids' last name.  When I told them this doesn't make sense,  they said they had to make it match my passport which has the surname III on it.  We resolved this by getting a resolution from the judge stating that my name without the surname is valid and the kids don't need to have the surname included in their last names.  This was only possible because we had included with our paperwork a name verification form that stated the various legal versions of my name, one of which did not have the surname included.  This made it very easy for the judge to agree that both version of my name are valid and that the kids didn't need my surname. 

Lessons learned, if your name is John Baxter Jr., make sure to fill out a name verification form stating the various legal versions of your name.  Namely, John Baxter Jr. and John Baxter, otherwise you may end up with a daughter's name of Maria Baxter Jr :)  Not to mention the possible delay in getting your kids birth certificates.


Sentencia!  Sentencia!  Oh, did I mention Sentencia!  I went to the court today with our lawyer Lucy to see if the judge had signed sentencia, and he had!  This is a very big deal, it is the most important aspect of our adoption.  It means the kids are officially ours, legally ours, and irrevocably ours!  This is good because we can't imagine living without them.  Today, La Familia Llewellyn is for real!  Tomorrow we go for the kids' new birth certificates and their Colombian passports, then we travel to Bogota to get their TB tests and get their travel Visas.  Then, gasp, we get to go home!  We have loved our time in Colombia, but are so ready to go home.  We can't wait to get on a normal schedule, live in our house, and introduce our new kids to their new lives.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

The real test...

After several trips to shopping malls and grocery stores, we continue learning more about how the kids behave in public.  As you can guess, the first several trips are full of "I want this", "I want that", and various forms of child "melt-downs".  With two kids, usually one behaves perfectly and the other melts down when he/she doesn't get the gumball he/she wants (I never knew how many gumball machines there are in shopping malls).  The most important take away from these trips is that we as parents have learned how to deal with the melt-downs while in full public view.  After these "training" periods, we decided it was time for the "real test", can the kids actually sit through Mass on Sunday...  We took a taxi to a cathedral in downtown Pereira, a very beautiful cathedral with a wooden ceiling.  It was interesting to see the kids reaction as we walked into Mass.  We were a little late, the cathedral was packed, but the kids could tell it wasn't a place to  make noise.  They were very quiet and respectful.  To our amazement we made it through the rest of Mass and took some pictures afterwards.  I guess you can say, the kids passed the test!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In our humble opinion, demeaning

The only time you will see the phrase "Gotcha Day" in this blog, is in this entry, and only in the first sentence.  Wikipedia says Barbara Bizou states in her book that the phrase "is designed to show your adopted child how much you wanted him and that every year you continue to cherish him."  Whether wikipedia is accurate or not, to me, the phrase is demeaning, it demeans the enormity of the moment.  The moment when you meet the child or children that you are ready to take into your home for the rest of your lives.  To care for them, love them, and provide for them what hasn't been provided to them in the past.  This moment is "encuentro", a very special moment, full of tears, full of anxiety, full of happiness, full of the unknown.  Very simply "first encounter".

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to the love of my life.  Today is our wedding anniversary and I can't think of any place better to celebrate our anniversary than here in Colombia!  OK, I can think of one other place, our home, with our children!  We are all a little stir crazy wishing we could go home and start our lives together.  It really is hard trying to establish a routine, establish rules, and establish a strong family bond while being stuck in a hotel.  If we the parents are getting stir crazy, imagine what is going through the kids heads,they want normalcy as much as we do, even more so.  Living in a hotel just isn't normal.  We love the hotel we are in, and are blessed by all of the people helping us, but it isn't home.
It may not be home, but a cold glass of wine, my beautiful wife sitting next to me, awesome weather, and a view of the cordilleras does a lot to celebrate our moment.
P.S. -  We are still working on Angie's obedience issues, it is clear she was not disciplined in the past.  She  is smart, vibrant, independent, but needs discipline.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today was a good day

Today really was a good day, not sure what the difference was, maybe the kids are starting to understand the whole discipline thing, or maybe Mami y Papi are starting to relax a bit.  Or, it could be the new family here from Norway adopting a 2 year old (same as Cristian)... they are really great people, and they have their 10 year old with them whom they adopted from Bogota around 9 years ago.  They are here for round two I guess :)
No news from the courts yet, so we continue to enjoy our stay in the beautiful country of Colombia.  Can you tell it was a good day?

Los Pollitos

Los Pollitos dicen
Pio, pio, pio
Cuando tienen hambre
Cuando tienen frio
La gallina busca
El maiz y el trigo
Les de la comida
Y les presta abrigo
Baja sus dos alas
Duermen los pollitos
Hasta el otro dia
La gallina dice
Cloc, cloc, cloc
Cuando canta el gallo
Cuando sale el sol
(Ardy) I cannot hum the melody for you in a blog, but here are the lyrics to a song I learned that we sing to the kids to either help them sleep, or help them when they get hurt...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sometimes awesome, Sometimes really hard

After 8 PM when we put our children to bed we have our time. We sit at the balcony and talk about what we learned during the day, we have crackers and alpinito, we review the day's pictures or check fantasy football, ArdyBoi of course. We are having rough days lately handling structure/obedience. Well, it is not really the whole day, Angie and Cristian are truly enjoyable, their laugh is contagious, so sweet and loving, but lately when Angie gets  into tantrum mode as I call it, it can elevate our level of stress to the clouds. And I think it is because we want to get her out of that mode quickly, but when she wants something she wont let go easily.

I do think we have a lot of progress :  we have established a routine, at night Cristian has one or no bad dream incidents, we all have very happy waking up, and a good sleep, we have our code for 'muy bien', a handshake, Angie opens up better, and more importantly we understand them both better. We can predict when there might be a meltdown. I think they do get us as well a little better. We also realized today that Angie needs the same attention that Cristian has from Mami y Papi. We need to work on that too. 

Ah! it's amazing how much Spanish Ardy has learned in 10 days.  

Today Nata rescued us and took us to Archie's on her birthday. Highly recommended. We enjoyed awesome pizza while the kids were on a separate table preparing theirs with a dedicated chef. They were so into it. Then, I saw Angie's face having Pizza for the first time ! unforgettable. We had a great time! 
We talked with Nata about our issue with Cristian hitting us when he does not get his way. Interesting hearing how a teacher of 2-4 year old kids deals with it. Cristian had his first timeout today for hitting mami y papi. Did not go well, I gave in after 5 minutes. After that, just the word 'rincon' for the timeout upset him to tears. Not sure if he's already cured (yeah right), or how he will handle it next time.

We know things get better with time, as everybody says, for us Angie and Cristian are worth it, and yes, we already started feeling improvements now :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Good news - Bad news - Wait, Good news

The good news is, we love our kids!  They are familia Llewellyn without a doubt.  The bad news, Angie has become harder to handle than Cristian.  He is younger, he is predictable.  He gets mad when he doesn't get his way with Mami or Papi, if he is mad at Mami, he goes to Papi for love and support.  If he is mad at Papi, he goes to Mami for love and support.  The bottom line, he stops crying within 2 minutes or less.  Angie on the other hand gives the silent treatment to both of us, even worse, the silent treatment has regressed to screaming like Cristian, but for 20 minutes a shot.  The good news is 20 minutes seems to be her maximum crying/screaming/stomping her feet time.

More good news, when Angie's meltdowns are over, she is able to say she is sorry, and explain what she did wrong and why she is sorry. Still it takes forever.

We keep being told that this is normal, and that this will end once we can establish a schedule for the kids.  We have also been told that establishing a schedule will be easier once we are home.  Therefore, we can't wait to go home.  That being said, our time in Colombia has been awesome!  Pereira is an awesome town, we enjoyed the country club today, the kids loved the 3 swimming pools.  On the way home, we watched some of the Cabalgata (fine horse parade).  The women of Pereira are almost as good looking as my beautiful wife Sarita :)  So, the good news, we are enjoyimg Colombia, the bad news, Angie has issues, the good news, we will be taking these wonderful kids home with us :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zoo Day

This post would be longer except that blogger crashed while I was attaching pictures and I lost the more detailed post that I typed.  So, lets just say we took the kids to the zoo today and had lots of fun :) 

Bonding + Discipline = Ugghhh

For all of the soon to be parents out there, I have to share this thought.  If you think you know what to expect when becoming instant parents, you are probably wrong :)  Sara and I had a good idea what to expect, we were close, but we had no idea how truly challenging parenthood can be.   Especially when that parenthood begins in a hotel and not at home.  The last three days have been the most challenging by far.  Why you ask?  Well, the first 6-8 days are bonding days, this phase seemed very natural for Sara and I, not to say easy, just natural.  During bonding, there is very little discipline, so it is easier to "get along" with the kids.  After bonding, starts the bonding + discipline phase.  Here the kids start to be told things they don't want to hear, like no!  Be prepared for crying, lots of crying, very loud crying, screaming, hitting (kids hitting us, not the other way around :)), and did I mention very loud crying.  We have learned a lot in the last three days.  We have also made lots of progress.  We finally got Angie to say "I'm sorry for misbehaving" (Porque me porte mal).  Cristian is a little to young to understand right from wrong, and is often in playful mode, so there is some work needed with him (especially since he is sooo cute).  Speaking of Cristian, we do want to celebrate a wonderful nights sleep last night without him having any nightmares.  With a little Milo, small playtime, a fan, and a night lite for him in case he woke up, the night went much smoother.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Should we stay or should we go?

With our paperwork submitted we are allowed to leave Pereira and travel within Colombia if we want to.  In particular, we could go to Bogota which is where we have to end up anyway.  This brings up our weak reference to The Clash, should we stay or should we go?  I think the decision to not go to Bogota is an easy one, the weather there has highs in the 60s (F) and lows in the 40s, in Pereira we have highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s, plus we have a pool :)  The real question is should we go to the beach in Cartagena?? 

And now we wait...

Today was our last meeting with the ICBF!  Our paperwork will be submitted to the courts this afternoon, and then we wait for sentencia!  Hopefully everything moves smoothly through the courts and we will be on our way to the Embassy in Bogota in just a few short weeks!  We have been prepping the kids, showing them videos of their new casa, telling them about their new rooms, their new schools, and about their dog Shadow.  They are very excited to take the plane ride to their new home :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ballena o Tiburon (Whale or Shark)

A few funny moments we experienced over the last few days:

1)  While swimming, Papi was swimming towards Angie and she said "Watch out, there is a whale coming" :) This was an example of child innocence and had nothing to do with Papi's body build :) Papi prefers Tiburon...  Now every time Papi swims towards the kids they yell, "Ahhhh Tiburon!"

2)  After getting into the pool for the first time, Angie asked "Where is the shampoo?"  We had to explain that shampoo was for baths, not for the pool.

3)  We were talking to Angie about her new family name, not only did she know her new last name, she told Papi he was pronouncing it wrong when he repeated it for her reaffirmation!  Evidently 43 years of living with his last name isn't long enough for him to figure out how to pronounce it :)

Hotel - Lessons Learned

Something that we really didn't think about, but should have, is finding the right hotel to host us and the kids for up to 4 weeks.  After 5 days with the kids, we now realize how lucky we are to have ended up at the hotel we are currently staying in.  It has 7 rooms, and some very patient people running it that understand we are going through an adoption process.  I can't imagine being in a "standard" hotel, and I am not even sure a "standard" hotel would have hosted us for that many days.

Also, having meals prepared for us, our laundry done, a driver/facilitator, and a swimming pool have taken a lot of pressure off of us as parents and allowed us to concentrate on bonding/raising our kids.  Even more important is the wonderful support structure that is around us!  Rosario and Nata are amazing hosts and truly enjoy helping adoptive parents.  These amenities may seem excessive, but try becoming a parent of two kids in one afternoon :)

Bonding Meeting

Today was our bonding meeting with ICBF.  The meetings intent is to check in on the kids AND the parents to make sure bonding has occurred, the kids are OK, and that the parents don't have any outstanding needs.  ICBF also makes recommendations if there are any obvious problems.  Our main problem is mosquitoes and the fact that both Mami y Papi caught a cold from the young ones :)  We took so much time packing for the kids that we forgot to pack cold medicine for us!  Everyone told us we would get sick, or the kids would get sick in the first week, this proved to be true.

Our paperwork will be submitted to the courts on Wednesday, then we hope and pray for sentencia!  Until then, we are allowed to start venturing out as a family to go to the mall, the zoo, or any other local attractions we want to visit.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Finally Encuentro!

I really thought we would be posting like crazy to this blog, but becoming instant parents has kept us busy :)  Angie and Cristian are truly the most wonderful kids in the world!  Encuentro was amazing, however, we are happy we were prepared for some crying.  Angie cried for 20-30 minutes while Mami y Papi y Cristian tried to console her.  Crying is a good thing because it shows she understands what is happening.  Cristian on the other hand is a little to young to know what is going on.  One hour into Encuentro and the tears turned into smiles.  While we thought we were prepared for everything, nobody prepared us for two hilarious kids!  We had balloons, torta, and lots of love.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Great first sleep in days !

Late Breakfast, with tropical fruits, arepas, coffee and Colombian queso. We chatted with Rosario and Natalia last night, they have great stories of experiences with adopting families. All foreign, Norway, Finland, German, Spain, etc. This is the first time they have in the Hotel a Colombian adopting parent.  Here today's pictures (link to flickr) of the place, really nice ! Nothing is really going on Today, just waiting for Lucy. Just relaxing and lot of anticipation !

Sunday, August 19, 2012

En El Dorado

It's been a while since the last time I was in Bogota, and it is the first time I have seen the the "cordilleras" from the air in daylight. Those are the three branches of the Andes that come to an end at a point. We saw a volcano, not sure which one, steaming north, pretty cool. Landscape is beautiful, green with lots of mountains !  Smooth landing. City is supposed to be in the 60s but we are sweating here in the airport.  We are waiting for our connection flight in front of the Airports McDonalds, best spot to get free McDonalds wifi!  The Airport wifi did not work for us. We chatted with Ele and now Ardy is checking the Nats scores. We shared a huge carne asada with a plantain (sweet one). Ardy enjoyed the local beer and really enjoyed the Carne, it does taste different here. Our connection flight is in two hours, so Ardy is doing FaceBook, tweets, etc. Not very hungry, but we are both very tired.  Tomorrow is our first meeting with the agency people in Pereira for our ICBF interview (Tuesday) and the encuentro with our children :) on Wednesday!
We are sooo excited :)
Update: Actually going to our gate (Sala Nacional) was a better move. The AC is better :) and less crowded. Here at the BBC in the Sala Nacional. There is a Subway (sandwiches) too. You have to do security again, 4 people in line. Definitely Sunday was a good pick to travel as I thought :)

BBC at the Sala Nacional where gates for local connections are located.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The packing begins

With one week to go before we board the plane to Colombia, we have started packing the clothes we have bought for the kids.  Hopefully the sizes are correct, if not, we will have some nice donations for the orphanage.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Picked up Visa!

This morning was my second trip to the Colombian consulate in Washington DC this week.  Luckily we live close enough that this isn't really a big deal.  I decided to drive in again versus taking Metro.  I wasn't sure if there would be parking at the Metro since it is a work day.  I parked in a close by PMI lot, $10 got me valet parking.  I was in and out of the consulate in 10 minutes with Visa in hand.  My very weak Spanish skills got me far enough to ask Habla Ingles?  They did Habla, and they were very nice and helpful.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Colombian Consulate Visit

Today we went to the Colombian consulate to get my travel visa and Sara's national id.  The visit went pretty smooth except that the consulate wanted a notarized copy of our referral letter from ICBF.  All we had was a copy sent to us from our agency that was not notarized.  After a little pleading, what we had was sufficient!  I pick up my travel visa in two more days.  Keep in mind that you need to pay $50 even though the documents sent to us state exemptions for US nationals.  We had to walk a few blocks to HSBC Bank to pay the $50 and get a receipt to bring back after the three day processing period.  Driving in to the DC consulate wasn't that bad, garage parking was $16... Metro may be a better option.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The countdown begins!

After returning from a journey on the bay riding Sea Fighter, my beautiful wife and I embark on the greatest ride of our lives!  In 14 days, we head to Pereira Colombia, to unite with the two most wonderful kids in the word!