Saturday, May 29, 2010

First at home tantrum

Tonight Sebas had his first real tantrum at home. That's not bad, considering we've been home for a week and in Colombia he had one every 3 days or so. We saw it coming on all day, in little bits and pieces, but he fell apart at bedtime. We let them watch a movie before bedtime and we're thinking that's definitely part of the problem. Not the whole problem, but part of it. No more movies at bedtime - it's going to have to be a daytime thing only.
Other than that we had another great day. I'm still trying to get over being sick, but I'm hopeful I'll be good in the next couple of days. We've had a ton of fun going to a couple of lakes and swimming the last couple of days - the kids really still can not believe that it's ever cold in Minnesota or that the moon ever comes out here! I'm also hopeful that it will cool off at least a little bit soon!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Isn't it funny that we have kids?

I was looking for snacks in the fridge tonight, thinking about what I could get away with eating now that the kids are asleep, and I thought, "This is so funny". It feels like my old life, snacks, looking for something to watch on TV, but I have 4 kids upstairs sleeping - that's just crazy!
During the day, I had that same feeling in a different way. Sami was upstairs and I was about to sit down at the computer to do nothing important, when I thought, "I have a 5 year old daughter upstairs! What am I doing down here??" I ran upstairs and I got to play with my beautiful, funny, crazy 5 year old!

We're so happy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

State of the Union, Week 5

The kids are doing well here at home. They all miss Colombia very much, but we are still generally doing better here than we were in Colombia. We all have lots of chores to do here and we cook our own meals. Side Note: If any of you are thinking about adopting kids from Colombia, I suggest renting an apartment and cooking your own meals instead of living in a residencia like we did. We are definitely feeling more like a normal family. However, since coming home I've only been at work for four hours! Thanks Lockheed! But next week I'm going to try to return full time -- pray for Amanda :)

We've received lots of help from lots of people. Thanks! The Nelsons only live two blocks from us and have been "on call" for whatever we need. One good observation is that our kids don't seem to attach to other adults here like they did in Colombia. They seem appropriately shy around other adults, but that might be because nobody speaks Spanish here except for us.

So far the only difficulty has been jumping to four kids when we had none to begin with. They don't yet know all our expectations so they're testing the limits. When we're all in the house, they still all need constant supervision because they don't yet know how we expect them to act. But we're remaining consistent with our expectations and trying to encourage/praise them when they listen to us and respect the rest of the family. Anyway, we are very fortunate to not have to deal with epic problems at this stage. Because of our children's past, I'm sure bigger problems are on the horizon, but they haven't arrived yet. It's still hard, but we know it could be a lot worse and we're very thankful that it isn't, because we're wimps. Amanda and I are very broken hearted for the difficulties of other adopted families and are trying to figure out ways for our family to support them.

We decided we're going to throw the kids into summer ESL classes through the St. Paul public school system. It's only four hours a day, four days a week for three or four weeks. But wow, what a nighmare this has been. First, the school district will not let us decide what grade the children can enroll in. Even though Pamela started school when she was eight years old, and even though she just started fourth grade in Colombia when we adopted her, they insist on putting her in seventh grade. I argued with them for over a half an hour about it, and I finally won by printing out their Colombian report cards. Also, they told me it was illegal for me to not have them in school RIGHT NOW, because there is still school for two more weeks. I told them they could go ahead and call the police. They don't care that they have never had a family before and they literally just arrived in the US less than a week ago. Apparently, what's most important for the kids is that they participate in a classroom in a language they don't understand for the final two weeks of the school year. I literally had to solve the problem by unenrolling them and applying only for school next year. This decision carried some risk because I might not be accepted into the school they need for next year, but at least I wont be sent to jail.

Amanda and I are hanging in there. Amanda has shown me over and over again that she can handle the kids wonderfully by herself. I'm not worried about being at work all day because I know she can handle it. We have spent our extremely limited free time after the kids go to bed catching up on LOST. What a waste of time. We didn't watch any TV while in Colombia, and that finale makes me never want to watch TV again. But I realize we really need to take our nights more seriously and spend more quality time together rather than watching TV. Tonight we didn't have anymore LOST to watch but Amanda has been sick all day and crashed as soon as the kids were asleep.

Pamela is doing good. She is frequently annoyed with Camila, which is both normal and a good sign she isn't nervous about the family anymore. She is also slowly learning that she can't always get what she wants. But she is still super fun and super good. She loves to help out with chores, wear Amanda's high heels, and give impromptu soap opera performances. Today she performed a scene where she fell in love with a tub of margarine. She also loves to listen to Colombian accordion music with the volume dialed to 11. Yesterday she said she wanted to write to her foster Mom and to Natalia, the assistant at our hotel, but then decided she didn't want to and hasn't brought it up again. We're continuing to encourage her to write. I think I'll write a letter to the foster mom first to demonstrate that we wont be mad at her if she wants to write to the people she loves in Colombia.

Camila is doing well also. She is obsessed with touching everything all the time, but we think she's just an exploratory type of person. She gets along well with her siblings and is really a pleasure to have around. She's learning some more English phrases every day. Her new favorite word is "Sorry". She says it all the time. I told her she doesn't need to be sorry so much but she says she just likes to say it because it's fun. She has not had any more meltdowns since the really bad day in Colombia and in general has been respectful to everyone. From time to time she still shows her arrogant/manipulative side, but it has definitely improved.

Sebastian is doing better here than he was in Colombia. He is still the most defiant child, but he hasn't really had any meltdowns since being here. He, like Pamela, is learning that he can't always get what he wants and that is sometimes hard for him. But timeouts are definitely working with him - after only a few minutes he's usually ready to talk to us about his behavior. He is completely in love with Digory. Whenever he is looking for something to do he just defaults to playing with Digory. Digory also sleeps in his room every night, which is a win-win-win situation. Sebastian wants to sleep with Digory because he loves him. Digory wants to sleep with Sebastian because his room has air conditioning. And we want Digory to sleep in there because Sebastian goes to bed so well as long as Digory is in there. Perfecto.

Samantha could quite possibly be the most easy, low-maintenance kids to have around ever. Even when she's defiant, she laughs because she's having so much fun. Also, she got some new sunglasses which doubled her cool factor. She loves to be picked up and tossed around, which is easy because she's so small. And she responds fairly well to consequences. She is 100% totally in love with me now and she doesn't seem afraid of me at all, except for when I'm disciplining her (I don't do anything scary, she just doesn't like it when we confront her bad behavior).

So, in general, things are better than we'd thought they would be, but it's still hard for everyone because we're a new family and we are all learning what it should look like. We are slowly starting to introduce the kids to a few people, so if you haven't met them yet I'm sure it won't be long. :) Thanks for everything! We really really really could not be doing this without such great friends and family.

One more note: I added some more photos and videos to our Colombia picasa web album, but I probably won't be adding any more photos to that album. Picasaweb has a limit on how many items you can have in an album and besides, we're not in Colombia anymore. But we'll still put photo's and youtube videos up here from time to time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Settling in.

We have had a full 48 hours!

We left our hotel around 8:30pm thursday with a pretty teary goodbye to our friends, "the italian family"! Our kids became such good friends with their 6 year old, Michelle. Everyone was crying hard when it came time to leave the hotel. From the point we got to the airport till we got on the plane in Houston, we didn't stop. (Ed and I, that is) Our plane took off at 12:15am and Sami and Sebas slept, but no one else did much. But, everyone tried, and that counts for something! The good news was that we got through Immigration, customs and made both our planes with 0 problems - amazing! Sebas lost it on the 2nd plane, but really how could we hardly not expect it? After he had a small fit he just slept the rest of the time - and I can't believe it, but he hasn't really had any problems since!

We were so happy when we arrived in Minneapolis! It was just wonderful to see a small group of friends at the airport and it was funny to see our kids shy again! We came home to really the most wonderful house - it was cleaned, a kitchen full of food, pictures of our family everywhere, flowers in the window boxes, a bag of park toys, teddy bears from my mom - and so much more - I know I'm forgetting stuff, but thank you! AND, even if you didn't do that stuff - thank you - because we are so blessed by everyone that has been reading our blog and praying for us and just following along!
All that to say, Ed and I were SO tired when we got home. If Kim hadn't come over to unpack our suitcases and help with the laundry and all that I just don't know what I would have done...
So, after some sleep we are all doing much better and have really been doing well. Cooking and cleaning and taking care of 4 kids is really tiring and challenging but I don't think we could expect things to be going any better considering some of the issues we are dealing with, like attachment, language, new everything, possible learning disabilities?... they are doing good.
We have a couple last photos and videos from Colombia we'll try to get up soon and a couple new ones from home today! For some reason Ed let the kids run in the sprinkler in their clothes, and it really wasn't warm out. Ed is a very fun dad - so glad the kids have him :) Oh, and I found something other than rice my kids will eat - hot dogs! So, rice and hot dogs, bread and nutella - hope we find some more stuff soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

We are home!

Really, am too exhausted to say anything else, but just wanted everyone to know! We were overwhelmed (in a good way) with all the thoughtful wonderful things we came home to - you know who you are and we love you!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When we come home.

Hello to all our friends in the internet world!

Our bags are packed, Ed is off to the Embassy picking up our visas. We should leave here around 8:30 or 9:00 tonight. For awhile Ed and I have known we need to write a post about what to expect when we get home. Here is my attempt at that.

The main concern we have for our kids right now is attaching to us. We haven't really been able to attach really well here, at the hotel, mainly because there was always so many other families around competing for our kids attention. We have seen repeatedly that given the choice our kids will always try to attach to other adults. In order to help our family, when we get home a couple of simple things will really help us. We want our kids to know that kisses and love are only for our immediate family. You can be friendly to our kids, but please don't kiss them, or let them sit on your lap. If our kids attempt to be overly affectionate with you we just ask that you redirect them to us, by saying "you have a mom or dad who would love to sit with you, or give you a kiss, or whatever". Our kids often believe that other parents are better than us, and any affection that other adults give them just reinforces that idea for them. This is complicated and if it doesn't make sense or just seems strange, PLEASE just ask us more about it. We often thought it was a strange request by other adoptive parents as well, until we experienced it first hand. We just want them to know that we are their parents, that we love them, and that they can't "choose" other parents...
The other main issue we have, which I know is really going to not go over well with a lot of people, but here goes anyway... Our kids are OBSESSED with babies. Seriously, obsessed. When there is a baby around, the kids can't even think about anything else. I'm not really sure why this is, other than I think their foster mother might have taught them this. Also, Pamela has a VERY hard time not taking care of other children, so a baby to her is someone for her to take care of. We really, really, really want Pamela to have the chance to be an 11 year old girl, and not a mom. So, our other request is, not to keep your babies away from our kids, but if our kids try to care for your baby (and they are really good at taking care of babies) if you could just remind them that you are that baby's mother or father and that you can take very good care of the baby yourself, we would be very grateful!
We really hope to be able to go to church and other events very soon, because we need to be around other people to stay sane - but these small things will help us lots. Of course, right now, our kids only speak Spanish, so if you need to talk to our kids, but don't speak Spanish, you can just redirect them to us, which is where they probably should be anyway.
I guess the only other thing we ask for is grace. Our kids are really crazy. They are loud and energetic, they need time to learn what it means to be in a family and to have a mom and dad. Sometimes they will act really good in public, but other times we are sure you all will wonder why they are so disobedient. If you ever have questions about our kids or are family - we love talking about all of that and adoption so ask anything - we promise not to be offended.

THANK YOU to everyone who has read our blog, prayed for us, been in this journey with us. It feels like it is ending, but really this is just the beginning and we need your support now more than ever :) See you all soon! (Please pray we can get through customs in the 2 1/2 hours we have so that we can make our flight home)!

los queremos,
amanda and ed

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We booked our tickets!

We have our tickets! We ended up having to buy 6 new tickets because Delta was so expensive. It was still expensive, but we are getting home a day earlier than we would have with Delta. Our flight leaves at 12:15AM friday morning and if everything goes well, we will be home before noon on friday! That means this is our last night at the hotel because we will be spending tomorrow night on a plane... please pray for sleeping children and parents! I think this will be a great challenge and we will need all the prayers we can get!

Tomorrow is a big day! We need to go to Ayudame at 8:30am to "close" our case with the psychologists. We should be home by lunch. We need to pack everyone up and then we pick up our Visas at 3:30 in the afternoon. We need to get everyone dinner and showered and then occupy our time till 9:30 or so when we'll leave for the airport. The next 48 hours are going to be insane!

I'm sure we'll have another post sometime tonight about somethings to think about when we get home.

Visas tomorrow!

We spent the morning at the Embassy. It was actually a very special time for us. When we started this journey a little less than 2 years ago we thought we would adopt one or two younger children. Our story changed the day we saw a photo of 4 special girls at a seminar on adopting older waiting children. God really started to speak to us that he wanted us to think about adopting these children that were waiting. At first, we thought we were supposed to adopt those specific 4 girls. They grew in our hearts, we prayed for them, but ultimately we realized that we were being called to adopt older children - but God did not make it possible for us to adopt those specific 4 girls. Today, at the Visa office, we met THOSE 4 girls!! The family approached us and said, "you are adopting 4 children too?" Ed knew right away that they were the "original 4 girls" that we had hoped to adopt, just by seeing their faces. We confirmed by asking their names, because we knew their names. What an amazing time we had talking with their parents, meeting them! The most amazing part about it was that it was so clear when we met them that their parents were meant to be their parents, we were not, and that clearly OUR children were meant for us! I can't really hardly express what an amazing time it was. If we had gone to the Visa office yesterday, or any other day, or at another time, we never would have met them - how crazy! The family lives in WI, so maybe sometime we will all meet up again :)
Also, we met a woman, named Jen, from MN that is adopting an infant, that was adopted herself from Colombia 30 years ago AND whose dad was one of Ed's math teachers in 8th grade! What a crazy morning!
And, to top it all off, the interview went well and our Visas will be ready to pick up tomorrow at 3:30! So, Ed and Pamela went to to the Delta office to buy our tickets home for friday!! What a wonderful day! (To be honest, the kids are not being their best today, but really they had a long morning, we will excuse it).
Will write again when we know what flight we will be on!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

These Kids Are Romantics, Morning Update, etc

Yesterday Amanda surprised me with a kiss in front of the kids and they all screamed and freaked out in excitement. Otra vez! Otra vez! (Again! Again!) . This morning Pamela was our waitress for breakfast and then we all sang "A Whole New World" while we ate, Amanda and I in English and the kids in Spanish. :) Hilarious. They love to sing and dance. They're all very excited to see Elan perform in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory this summer. Also, Samantha's new name is Pikachu; when you meet her you'll find out why. We'll try to put up a video of her and her pikachu routine.

No Embassy today... sigh.

We can't get the paper from ICBF till tomorrow. So, we will go to the embassy tomorrow to process our Visas which we hopefully will be able to then pick up on Thursday. We're looking at thursday night or friday morning flights (both which get us home friday). But, of course, still can't book the tickets because you never know how things will turn out in Colombia.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Camila Finished the Day Well

After lunch Camila had a good day, although almost all of it was spent in her room quietly because she was grounded for the day. After dinner she even cleaned the room because she thought it would help her chances of being able to watch a movie with the rest of the family (it didn't). But even more surprisingly, she opened up about her past to Amanda. Up until now the children have only talked about their foster mom, Tia Maria (she's not really their aunt). The children have never talked about their lives with their biological parents. I've even tried to talk about it with Pamela a little and she never wants to. Camila was only five when the children were taken away from them but she remembers everything. It was a very terrible time for the children, but it was good that she talked with Amanda about it for a few reasons: it reinforced our compassion for them as children who are truly hurting, it showed that she can be sincere about something very personal, and it showed that she can trust us with her heart. And, to top it off, she actually went to bed well tonight. :)

We Need To Get Home

It's becoming increasingly clear to us that our older two girls are having a very hard time attaching to us. Sebastian seems content with being in our family and doesn't actively seek out the love and affection of other families or complete strangers. Samantha is doing great on all fronts, and she's even starting to say that she needs a mom and a dad (a breakthrough).

Today has been the most difficult day so far, as Camila has been in total rejection mode since last night. We're trying to keep her separated from the other kids as much as possible today because she frequently succeeds in getting the kids to join her in her rebellion. However, this is impossible in a small hotel when it's storming outside. Camila is confined to her room all day without any toys or fun. She can read and she can sit, that's all. Harsh, I know, but her behavior has been off the charts. She doesn't rage like Sebastian, but she uses her words to try to hurt us and she easily gets the other kids to turn against us. In mere seconds (I'm not exaggerating) she was able to get Sebastian mad at us, which caused Sebastian to have to sit in the room for a while also, which allowed Camila more time to influence him, which eventually led to Sebastian throwing his shoes at me, punching me (not hard), and kicking me (not hard), along with the usual screaming "I don't love/want you", and "you're ugly" (that's a new one) :) Camila applauded all of it, clapping her hands and shouting "bravo!". It's like she has super mutant powers of persuasion. It was a very intense couple of hours, just the three of us in the room. But I kept my cool, I never got angry, I never raised my voice, and I continually reaffirmed to them how much I love them and that they can't ever lose my love no matter what they say or do to me. I'm not joking, I probably heard "I don't love you" 100 times today.

Both Sebas and Camila are very difficult, but in totally opposite ways. After Sebas's episode today he was very sincere and apologized for the violence and we had a good discussion about how violence is never okay in our family. When he apologizes, I know it's sincere. And he truly wants to be in this family, even if he says the opposite sometimes. His heart is soft. Camila, on the other hand, has never sincerely apologized for anything or shown any remorse. Her heart is very hard towards us. And when she is sweet, it is a shallow sort of sweetness. But I do know that a day in her room with no fun will probably not make a difference in her heart. We don't really know what will. She tells us she loves us all the time but it is very manipulative.

The kids are always seeking the attention of the other families, but when they're in trouble they try to do things like blow kisses to them because they think it'll make us mad. Unfortunately, none of the other adults here seem to understand, because they give them sympathy and do things like kiss their foreheads. They don't know that this is absolutely the worse thing they can do. Anyway, we need to get home pronto. Before the adoption I had a hard time understanding why adoptive parents are so "protective" of their children being with other people. Now I completely understand. These kids are missing the bond that "normal" kids have with their parents. They view parents as people who hurt them and they view strangers as people who are nice to them.

There was a small bit of sweetness today after lunch. I told Camila a story from our first day as a family: that day she asked me if I loved her and I said "Yes, I love you", and she started jumping up and down and squealing. After I told her this story, she put on a big small and told me she loved me. Then, it started raining SUPER hard, which is pretty rare here, so I took her and the other kids outside and we ran around in the rain. I picked them all up and twirled them around and they loved every second of it. After that, I let them all take hot showers (the rain was VERY cold), and then Camila had to go back to the room. It was fun while it lasted. :)

Right now Camila is still in the room and the other kids are in the lobby livingroom watching "Barbie - A Christmas Carol". Poor Sebastian. Amanda is at the store getting treats so I can drown my sorrows in some Oreo's. Chao!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Older Adopted Children Will Break Your Heart

I know that all children think their parents are lame. But I think adopted children have the market cornered on hating their parents. If you are interested in adopting older children, prepare to hear some very hurtful things every day. And if you don't constantly put those hurtful words in the proper perspective, it will destroy you. Believe me, these kids are in relatively good shape yet we hear these words every single day (I'm not exaggerating):
  1. I don't love you.
  2. I hate you.
  3. You don't love me.
Tonight during bedtime we had some additional things thrown at us from Camila, which ended up turning the other kids against us in the processes. None of these are new, it's just that we don't hear these every day like the first three.
  1. I hate being in this family.
  2. (prayer to her foster mom only to make us angry): Tia, I love you and I miss you sooooo much.
  3. Mr. Edward Lebert (not Papi), I don't love you.
  4. My only problem is that you adopted me and my siblings.

A wonderful day in Colombia!

Today was a great family day.

We didn't really mention it, but yesterday was another disaster. We went to this incredible farm/park in the country. It is really cool - amazing! But, we went with 4 other families, and that's where the trouble is. The other families in the hotel are amazing - really amazing - one of the coolest things about being here has been meeting these other families. The hard thing is that our kids are in an "attachment phase" where they try to attach to ANYONE other than us. We prepared for this, read about this, knew this would happen, but it's still so hard on your heart when you constantly see your children desperately try to be in any family other than yours. I guess I don't need to go into more detail than that - it's just very hard. The hardest part was that we had made the bad decision to go on the field trip, when we should have known better. It wasn't a good choice for our family. The kids did have a fantastic time, but really learned zero life lessons other than we provide fun for them, but are not ourselves, fun. (which isn't one of the life lessons we think they need to learn).
Last night we decided to regroup. There is a market here that is only open on Sundays that we've wanting to take the kids to, to get something "Colombian" to take home with them. A lot of the other families walk there on Sundays as well, but we decided ahead of time that we would go earlier, on our own. The difference in our kids is amazing! When they are not faced with the temptation to try to be in a different family, they actually kind of like being in our family! It's a very long walk to the market (an hour or so) and they all did very well. They got along with each other, and with us. When we got to the market we told them they would each be able to buy one thing there. We thought it would be a real challenge for them to pick only one thing, but it wasn't! They all looked, found the one thing they wanted the most, and never asked for anything else! The only complaint we got was that Camila took too long to pick out her item. Pamela got a woven Colombian bag that says "I love Colombia", Sami got a small woven bag, Sebas got a pair of sunglasses (that we thought for sure we was going to regret, but he didn't) and, I'm sad to say, Camila picked out a stuffed dog that barks when you squeeze it :) I don't think the dog will remind her of Colombian later, but oh well, it was her choice. Did I mention the market was in a really old and beautiful part of Colombia? It was fun just to be there, up in the mountains. After the market we stopped for lunch at Crepes and Waffles. We had heard a lot of good stuff about the place, but really - it's awesome! It's a beautiful place, great food and cheap! It was the best food I've had here (but that's not saying much from me). For $5 the kids each get a Crepe with meat and cheese, fresh fruit juice of any flavor and a MONSTER ice cream dessert! Honestly, I wish we had gone there earlier, because it was SO much better than the food we've been eating. Anyway - the kids were REALLY good in the restaurant! They had to wait for their food, no complaints, they ate something new, no complaints and they ate all of it!
The end of the day went well too. Just so fun when you get those good days with your kids! Tomorrow is our last day of "nothing to do". Since, on Tuesday we will hopefully be running around to get our Visas so that we can hopefully come home Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Things I haven't mentioned.

Things pass during each day that we forget to write about. Things like:

Samantha has lost her bottom two front teeth this week!

3 of the 4 kids have loose teeth, but we think it's from lack of milk and hitting their mouths on stuff.

Pamela and Samantha are mainly Amanda's kids.

Camila and Sebas are mainly Ed's kids.

The English phrases our kids have picked up: "Oh my gosh!", "Okay", "Come on".

Our kids talk and SING in their sleep!

Tonight our kids tried to sleep in our suitcases. Samantha and Sebas fit, and we are tempted to save some money on airline tickets...

Pamela has had like 10 bloody noses since we've been here.

Hmm... I'm sure there's more that will come to me later.

Before You Accuse Your Kid of Lying ...

So we just got back from the farm and Amanda and I were sitting downstairs in the lobby and Pamela came to us and said "Sebastian is playing with your phone." We let Sebas play games on our phone for a few minutes a day but he must ask me first. So I raced upstairs and told him he needed to sit in his bed for five minutes. He put on his "angry eyes".

"Do you know why you are in your bed right now?"
His eyes searched around the room and landed right on my phone.
"Yes, you do know. Six Minutes."
"I don't know. Um, because I didn't make my bed?"
"No, that's not it."
"Because I spilled Cheetos in the van?"
"No, that was an accident and you're not in trouble for that."
"I don't know."
"Yes you do know. Seven minutes. Were you playing with my phone without asking?"
A bunch of Spanish I couldn't understand, but he said "play", "phone", and "never" in there somewhere.
"Eight minutes."
Crying ensues, a bunch more fast Spanish that I can't parse quickly enough. Then I left the room.

So, just in case, I thought I'd double check with Pamela. "Was Sebas playing with the phone?" "No, it was Samantha." Hmmm... that's a crucial detail. I immediately and repeatedly apologized to Sebastian, and he forgave me. Poor guy. Pamela never admitted to ever saying it was Sebas, even though we all heard her (another war story). So we learned another lesson: before you accuse your kid of lying, make sure you have your facts straight. The more experienced parents will also probably be able to pick out TONS more parenting mistakes in this story, so please feel free to list them in the comments section :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

For Once, Someone Else Makes Our Kids Cry

By noon today we had all the kids' birth certificates. It took us three full days to get their birth certificates. Each child here has their birth certificate registered at a specific notaria. Sebastian's was in Soacha, Camila and Samantha's were in Bosa, and Pamela's was just a couple blocks from our hotel. All three notarias were a big ordeal and took multiple days. But today we finally got them all. We needed new birth certificates listing us as the parents in order to proceed with immigration into the US.

After we secured all the new birth certificates we headed to the passport office. When we arrived there was a mile long line just to get inside. I mean seriously, 200 people at least. But Isabel, our rep, just marched us right past the line and the security guards let her in no questions asked. Later I asked Isabel about it and she said she has been given special permission from the head of the passport office. Unfair, but awesome for us. We were there for a couple hours and we were off to the doctors office in order to secure US visas.

In order to immigrate them to the US, a US embassy approved doctor needs to give them a clean bill of health and ensure that they have current vaccinations. Guess what? Our kids have no vaccination records. After we told the doctor this, he said "Oh no, there's going to be a lot of crying here today". The kids found out they were going to have to get some shots about thirty minutes before they were actually administered, which means that they kids had plenty of time to work themselves into a frenzy. Seriously, they were FREAKING out. I could not stop laughing. Sebastian had to go first, and he screamed the whole time. They all had to get one shot in the arm and one shot in the butt. After he was done, I turned around. All three girls were huddled in a corner. Pamela's eyes and mouth were wide open. The other two girls were weeping with fear. Hilarious. A few minutes after Sebastian's shots he wasn't crying anymore so I asked him "No duele (pain)?" "Si, duele!" "Poco?" "MUCHO!" Not a big encouragement to the girls. One by one, the girls got shots, crying and screaming the whole time. Pamela didn't do too bad, but she hated it. Camila refused to talk to the doctor after her shots because she was so mad at him. At the end we had to do all the paperwork for the visas and pay for the visit, at which point Pamela said "On top of all that you're going to make us pay too!?" Camila also refused to talk to me for a while because I kept laughing at everything and because I tried to video tape the girls freaking out. Later I apologized for it and she forgave me :) Full disclosure of my hypocrisy: when I was twelve I had to get a couple vaccinations and I was so afraid that the doctor had to call in this big burly female nurse to hold me down while they administered the shots :)

When we arrived back at the hotel we all got to make our own pizzas. The kids had a blast and the pizzas were very good. Then we watched another Japanese cartoon movie and put the kids to bed at 8pm.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

State of the Union: Day 22

I'm in fatherhood bliss. Yes, the kids have tons of issues and yes, we have a mountain of work to do but Amanda and I are keeping everything together and the kids are very good and happy. Also let me just apologize in advance for my poor English. I'm so used to talking in short, simple sentences that I feel like I talk like a 5 year old. Here's the rundown:

Amanda and I are doing well. In general, we feel like we're finding a rhythm and we're way less stressed out than we used to be -- which is obviously having a positive effect on the kids. We're generally on the same page with the kids and when we get snippy with each other we quickly recover. But a date would be awesome. She is a great mom and she does better every day. I can tell she is becoming a lot more relaxed and she has a great deal more confidence with the kids. She handled them by herself all day yesterday and half of today! I know she'll do great by herself when I'm at work.

Pamela is doing great. She is really trying really hard to stop being a parent and start being a kid. We noticed the kids have a lot more fun when she's not telling them what to do! And she's started to bicker a lot with her siblings like a normal 11 year old would. She seems much more relaxed and less stressed out about the family. And she's becoming a lot more comfortable around me, although she still totally prefers Amanda :) We also discovered she loves to give back rubs but doesn't really care to receive them. Uh ... deal! She is also starting to get more excited about going to the US with us.

Camila hasn't really changed too much in the past couple weeks. She's still queen of drama queens and is both super sassy and super affectionate. She's "all in" when it comes to leaving for the U.S. -- she screamed in delight again today when I told her we were getting her a Colombian passport tomorrow. She is often very disrespectful to us, sometimes repeating/mocking us when we tell her something. But we're being consistent with our expectations and we're not too worried about her.

Sebastian is doing so much better. He is really such a sweetheart. He still loses it every few days or so and we have to wait out the storm for an hour or two, but otherwise he has been a pleasure to have around. He listens well to his parents and he loves getting lots of attention. One big concern with him is his schooling. He can't read, and we recently discovered he can't even write his name. I did a little research on public school down here and they are terrible. They really only last four hours or so per day and it's basically all recess. Yikes. Hopefully he can catch up without too much difficulty :)

Samantha is doing really well. She is opening up to me more and more each day. Today she took a nap in my arms for a long time and tonight she issued a few surprise pounce/body-slams on me while we were watching a movie. She also hugged me a bunch and just generally seems a lot more comfortable around me. She is still totally a mommy's girl but I'm okay with that. Honestly though, the last couple days feels like I gained a daughter. I really like her personality so I'm happy she finally likes me back. She is still testing our limits a little with listening and obeying, but she's so cute all the time it's hard to be mad at her.

Our kids are crazy and not yet Americans!

Right now our kids are upstairs watching a Japanese cartoon that has been translated to Spanish, and they are MAD because we ordered pizza for dinner - they HATE it! The food at the hotel is really pretty bad so Ed and I thought we would take the night off and treat the family to pizza instead... you never know when your bad choice of the day will come! We thought this was going to be great - oh well!

Other than that (which is not really a problem) the kids have just been great! We have had hardly any disobedience from the children, they have been playing so well with each other and the other children in the hotel, and they have just been doing well all around. I have a feeling bedtime might be worse tonight due to the pizza fiasco, but I don't think it'll be too bad.

Today Ed tried to get 3 of the birth certificates, but only ended up with one. We will try again tomorrow to get the other 3 and then get passports and see what else we might have time for. We still have many steps in our process to get home, and can't start up again until Tuesday. I still feel pretty sure we'll get home next week, but it'll be the end of the week.

The kids had a lot of fun today dressing up in our clothes and pretending to be "adults". It was pretty cute. For a long time Sebas had on some of Camila's clothes. It was funny at first, but I actually had to exchange him some of Ed's clothes to get him to give me back her clothes - he's such a goof ball and LOVES attention! He currently is a little girl's boyfriend here. He doesn't want to be, but he doesn't have a choice. The minute she sees him, she runs for him, grabs him or chases him till she does! The poor boy really needs some guy friends! Thankful that all of you back home have boys Sebas' age!

We meet a lot of street families and kids here. Today the kids at the park were playing with some other kids who asked them if they got to eat. Our kids told them that "yes, we get to eat". Camila and Pamela asked us what we could do for them. We didn't know where their parents were, so we didn't want to invite them to our hotel for dinner, so Ed and the girls went to the store and bought them some food. It's hard not being able to do more for all these families. Especially, when we know that our kids came from the same background. I'm so proud of our kids for not having lost their heart for the poor in their country. I really hope they hold on to that. We found out later that their mom was at a church nearby and that their father had just died recently.

We have been looking at tickets to fly home and have been really surprised to find that we can't find much under $1,000/ticket! When we left tickets were around $450/ticket, so we weren't really expecting these prices! We aren't ready to buy yet, so please pray that the prices would go down somehow in the next couple of days - wow!

Looking forward to being back in the states sometime next week!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tia Maria: Our Children's Foster Mother

Our children have spent the last four years of their lives with a woman named Maria. They are the only good years of their lives and they love her very much. With Maria, they had food, electricity, indoor plumbing, and love. We are very thankful that the kids were able to spend their parent-less years with one foster home rather than being passed around from home to home.

However, the more we find out about their time there the less we like her. First, we asked Pamela how much TV she watched every day and she said "no mucho", but when we asked more specifically she said she watched it before school, after school, and after dinner. Well, I guess that's pretty common everywhere. But there are far worse things that I will not share the specifics of that the kids have obviously been exposed to that are completely inappropriate for children. Also part of the problem is that the kids (especially Pamela) totally idolize her. The social workers from Soacha said that the kids would do this. Pamela even insists she was there much longer than she actually was.

But today was the worst. When the kids found out they were going to be adopted Maria threw the kids a big party video taped it and put it on a DVD for the kids. It's pretty cool. The DVD starts off with page after page of a message in Spanish, presumably to the kids. We just assumed it was nice words to the kids, etc. But today I had the hotel manager translate some of it for us and here's what it basically says: "Today is the worst day of my life (it says this over and over). I will never get over it. I will be sad for the rest of my life. I will cry and say your name every day. (literally) I will drowned in my tears and die and cry out for you but you will not hear me because you are gone." Super. There are no encouraging words about having a family, no help what-so-ever. Basically just one giant guilt trip for the kids for ruining her life by leaving her. It's no wonder Pamela has been wondering why she had to be adopted.

Shortly after the adoption (before we knew what we now know about Maria), Pamela asked if she could call Maria on the phone. Isabel, our representative here, said it would be a good idea since Maria was so important to the kids. So we told Pamela that she could call her once before we leave Colombia. But later Ayudame and the child psychologists here told us they didn't think it was a good idea, and now I agree. On the one hand, I don't want to go back on my word to Pamela, but on the other hand I don't want Maria unraveling all we've accomplished together these past three weeks. I don't trust Maria to give the children a proper "good-bye". What would you do if you were us?

Getting close, but still not that close.

Ed was gone from 9am till 4:30pm today. He signed our sentencia and then attempted to get two of our kids birth certificates. He didn't get either! Tomorrow he will go back to Soacha to get Sebas' and then to another city to get Camila and Samantha's. We can't get Pamela's till friday! Then we will still need to go to the doctor's, get Colombian passports, Visas, and a letter from ICBF AND monday is a holiday in Colombia. So, we won't get out of here till wednesday or thursday at the earliest :( Oh well - we will try to enjoy the time we have left in Colombia!

Today we went to Simon Bolivar park. It was my first day with the kids on my own. It wasn't too bad, really. We had fun and the kids all did well. What a great park. A few pictures later on tonight.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Day of Firsts for Pame and Sami

I think Pamela is gaining more confidence in Amanda and I as parents, because she's starting to act more like an 11 year old sister and less like an 11 year old mom. Today she smacked her sisters a few times and she is starting to act out more in general towards us and towards her siblings. For those of you keeping score at home this is actually good news. However, Pamela had a difficult time today with Sentencia. She doesn't want to leave Colombia, and she didn't appear to be too happy today about legally becoming our daughter. We told her it's okay to feel that way and we love her to pieces and we are delighted to have her as a daughter. The other kids appeared to be very excited. They didn't really understand the "legal" aspect of becoming our children, but Camila screamed for thirty seconds or so when I told her we would be going to the U.S. in a week.

Sami had two firsts today: today was the first time she asked me for a hug and the first time she let me hold her. I don't know if I've talked about this before, but Sami is pretty afraid of any contact with me what-so-ever (she has no problem at all with Amanda). She would occasionally give me a hug only if I asked for one, but that's the limit. She has frequently told me she doesn't like me and she told Amanda she doesn't need a Papi. It doesn't hurt my feelings because she's never had a dad before and she doesn't even really know what one is. Today Amanda asked her why she doesn't like me and she said it was because I have a mustache (!) and sometimes I talk sternly with her! :) Hmmm..... I don't have a mustache, but I have been firm with her on a couple of occasions. But today I took the girls to the park by myself and when it was time to go I asked Sami if she wanted to hold my hand or ride on my back while we crossed the street. You see, I have never picked her up or held her hand without her fighting for her life, but when Sami is given two choices she always picks one, even if she doesn't really like either of them, so my question was an attempt to get her to hold my hand* while we crossed the street because I knew she would NEVER go for the piggy back ride. But to my surprise she said she wanted a piggy back ride! She lasted about 30 seconds before she said "bajame" (let me down), but it was still amazing progress. Then later at night before bed she reached out her arms for a hug and then she hugged me really hard for a good 5 seconds or so. And then she kissed me! Who are you and what have you done with my daughter? So I'm feeling pretty good right now because honestly, I didn't really have a clue about how to deal with Sami except for giving her more time. I mean, she's crazy! You've seen the videos, right? But today, at least for a little while, she was glad to have a Papi. :)

* Note: We make the children hold our hands while we cross the street because drivers in Colombia are INSANE. The first few times we rode in a car here I thought I was going to die.

cookies and arequipe

We are celebrating! Eating cookies, arequipe and obleas, listening to Shakira and tonight watching Beauty and the Beast in Spanish!

We've decided to party till we come home :) Celebrate all of Colombia!


We just got the call that we have Sentencia! We are an official family! We are all so happy, but Pamela is a bit sad now. She will probably have a rough week, but that is normal and to be expected.

We can't believe it! Thank you for praying for us everyone!!! We will be home sometime next week! Today was 3 weeks that we have been here, but only over 1 week that our case has been in court! Oh we can not wait to return!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bedtime - help us! We need the separate rooms of the US!

Oh boy! The boy is still up, causing havoc. What do we do when we can't put them in separate rooms? He screams and talks so that no one else can sleep, but what can we really do??? Of course, privileges removed tomorrow, but what about the night time? I'm sure this will take time... I sure do hope these other families are forgiving.

Customs, hotel tour and marriage all in an hour!

This afternoon the kids got on the idea of playing "office". We started watching them, just because I was sure that they were going to swindle all of Sami's money from her (which they mostly did), but when we started talking to them they decided that we should be involved in the game. What resulted is that we were put through customs to come into Colombia (which involved a lot). Then we were welcomed to the country and given a tour of our hotel. During this time Camila also convinced all the other hotel children to be her assistants and secretaries. Then Pamela asked me what I wanted to do with my hair, which somehow turned into getting a new hairdo, some makeup and they took my wedding ring. Next thing I know, I'm being marched up stairs and Ed and I were forced into an engagement! Then they all giggled like crazy and left us alone to kiss! We said, "great, see you later!" What an eventful hour!

This morning was rain again, so one of the other families at the hotel thought we should all try to get to an indoor park to play. We were all in, since we had spent the whole day yesterday in the hotel. Sebas did spend the whole morning screaming in his room, but we were able to leave him alone and at the end he apologized and said he was wrong for not listening and being disrespecful. Since then, he actually has not been disobedient again today! That is actually a real improvement for him. Anyway, we ended up going to a type of Amusement Park called DiverCity. We had thought we wouldn't go there with our kids because it seemed too crazy, but thought oh well, let's give a try, it's better than a rainy day with nothing to do.
At first, we thought we had made another bad decision. It's actually really hard to figure out if you don't know a lot of Spanish, but a really helpful worker walked us around and helped us out and then we realized that it's a pretty cool place. The kids get checks, which they take to a bank, which then gets them a bank card, which they then take to the ATM to withdraw money. Then they go register and get ID cards with their pictures and everything! Then they are able to take their money and IDs and go try out different jobs at different stations. It's really cool. You can be everything from a rock star to a dentist. At the Vet station they even had real dogs that you can work with. You earn money at every station and then you can spend it at rock climbing, driving cars, a safari ride or, of course, at a store! At first, Camila totally freaked out when we walked in, but she recovered and had a good time. When I say freak out, I mean that she just stared and could not even hardly answer a question. I think it was too much stimulation - so on that front - it wasn't good for her, but I'm glad we made her push through it! Oops! We have some videos from the day of rock climbing and stuff that I'll have Ed put up later.
So, that was our day. Dinner is in about 20 minutes and then bedtime in 2 hours. I'm always nervous that we will have a screaming fit at bedtime, but I'm trying to just relax about that and if it happens, it happens, and we will deal with it calmly if it does. Still, I am hoping that Sebas got all of his tantrum for the day out of him!

ESL Classes?

Just wondering if anyone out there knows of summer ESL classes for kids? I was hoping to maybe send our kids to classes in the summer (just for an hour in the day, or something like that). They really would benefit from not waiting till the school year to learn English. I know that we will primarily use Spanish in the home for awhile, but I think it would be good to get them started. I have searched on the Internet, but can find nothing! Only classes for adults. Anyone know about anything - any of you teachers out there?


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why did we choose adoption?

After giving it a lot of thought for a long time, Amanda and I chose to grow our family via the adoption of "waiting" children (orphans who are currently waiting for adoptive parents because of their age, disabilities, siblings, abusive past, etc). Here are a few reasons why:
  1. The only reason any of us can be called children of God is because he adopts us through the death of his Son. By nature we are not his children.
  2. There are literally millions of orphans in the world who have no concept of what it means to be in a family and who feel like they are all alone in this world.
  3. God tells christians to love and serve orphans.
  4. Our lives were pathetically easy.
  5. We have two excellent trailblazing examples for older-child adoptive parenting in Cody & Sarah Swartzendruber and Nic & Megan Olson. Thank you for showing us what a life of parenting hurt children looks like -- and that it's possible. ***
If you want to know more about how the bible relates God to the adoption of orphans, here is an awesome article about the parallels between the gospel and adoption, and here is a video explaining why adoption is greater than the universe. This article and video are what really made it click in my brain and my heart that it was worth it.

*** Disclaimer: adoptive parenting is very hard, but God knows we are wimps and has given us four very resilient children. If you are thinking about adopting older hurt children, please do not use us as an example. Seriously. Things will probably get worse for us, but our children seem to be in pretty good shape despite all they've suffered.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Things that I'm glad I brought!

I have been wanting to write a post about all the things I'm so glad I brought to Colombia, just in case there are other families reading that are planning on traveling anytime soon. And, because so many people gave us these things, I want to say thanks, because we use them like crazy!

Children's stainless-steel water bottles (I bought them for $2.50 a piece at old navy right before we left and they have been invaluable. The kids take them EVERYWHERE and without them we would dirty like 100 glasses a day)

Spanish books for the kids to read. Friends gave us most of these and they have been wonderful! Both Pamela and Camila have already read a couple of the chapter books and all the books get a lot of us. We are able to read stories to the younger kids without having to use our limited spanish vocabulary.

First-aid kit. I think we use like 20 "curitas" a day. They are very accident prone, but they also think that band-aids make things feel better. Yesterday Samantha fell off the monkey bars and hit her head. It wasn't bleeding, but it did look bad. As soon as I put a band-aid on it, she was ready to go back to the park and play more! And, tonight Camila needed one band-aid for each finger!

Raincoats. The weather is always changing here, so having compact raincoats to carry with wherever you go is really helpful.

Scissors and glue. I brought coloring books for the kids, they don't really like to color them, but they love cutting them up and then gluing the pieces onto another piece of paper.

Brushes, clips, headbands, etc. The girls are CRAZY about doing there hair - thank goodness we have a variety of things for them to choose from.

Laptop. Keeps us sane at night.

Book. I actually do find time to read now and then! At the park, or the pool...

Things we didn't need to bring that we did:

International phones.
Money belt.
SLR Camera (we only use our little one)
Too many dresses :) That's right - I said it. I really only wear pants or my skirts.

Things we wish we would have brought:
More little kids spanish books.
School work activity books in Spanish

Well - I guess that's about it - probably pretty boring for most of you, but thanks to everyone who provided everything for us! We do use everything and it's fun to think of the friend or family when we use/wear that item!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Judge Approved our Case Yesterday

The Judge in Soacha approved our case yesterday. It only took him three days. So the Soacha Defender of Minors needs to approve it, then it goes back to the same judge again, then back to the same defender again. Our representative, Isabel, told us we're on pace for another two or three weeks. But who knows, really? We like it here in Colombia, and while we're here we'll make the most of it. We're getting awesome support from Ayudame and of course the kids need this time in Colombia to adjust to us before they'll have to adjust to America. But going home has tons of benefits too. Either way, benefits or no benefits, good behavior or bad behavior, control or no control, chaos or peace, God is our father and does with us whatever he pleases and it's all ultimately for our good.

Some Answers from the Psychologists at Ayudame

Amanda and I have many reasons for writing on this blog. One of the biggest reasons is to help our family and our friends understand the issues surrounding Adoption. Much of it is surprising to those of us who grew up in a home without being adopted, and hopefully it will help all of us understand what it's like to forge a family out of broken pieces. We don't share everything, but we want to share the overall themes of adoption.

The psychologists at Aydame are very smart when it comes to the issues of [older] adopted children. It is truly unbelievable that we have frequent access to them for free. Our family has had two sessions with them so far: one on Tuesday and one today (Thursday). Both times they met with Amanda and I and then met with the children. Today they gave us a preliminary assessment of the family and it was both surprising and illuminating. They said we're doing well but they had a few important warnings to issue to us. The child they're worried most about is ...... Pamela. It was surprising. They told us that the children are all very nervous and stressed out, but none of them are as nervous or stressed out as Pemela. I wouldn't have guessed it. They said she didn't say this openly to them, but it was still very clear to them based on what she said. Pemela has wanted a family her whole life, more than anything else. And right now she is very nervous that bad behavior from the other children will ruin it. That is why she gets mad at the other children for misbehaving and that is why her behavior is perfect. They told us we need to keep talking with her and keep reassuring her that the family is permenant and independent of the any child's bad behavior, including her's. We also need to keep reaffirming to her that she doesn't need to worry about the other children and that they are our concern alone. This explanation fits well with everything we've seen from her. Afterwards I talked with her and she confirmed to me what the psychologists suspected. She's nervous about the family succeeding. They also told us that we need to prepare for the day when she finally gains confidence in the family because her behavior will take a dive -- which is sort of a good thing since that mean's she isn't worried about the family failing anymore. Also, we need to relax, which will help the children relax. If we are stressed out and angry, they won't have confidence in the family.

They also told us the kids have no understanding of what it's like to be in a family. They don't understand the rolls of a mom and dad. Pamela understands only because she's older, but not because she's experienced it. So the kids are frequently confused about our rolls and Pamela's roll. So we're not to let her do any care taking - no dressing, making beds, etc.

In regards to bad behavior, they told us we need to start taking away fun from them, because the children aren't valuing the things we are giving them. Basically they said we're spoiling them too much. We tell them when they're bad, but we don't really follow up with too many consequences. They also said they could also list all the things they've done wrong. So what we need to do is tell them more about the things they do right, and correct misbehavior by taking away privileges. Sounds like parenting 101, I know. We've been trying not to let bad behavior ruin family fun, but we'll have to find a way to let it ruin family fun for the children with bad behavior only. They met with Sebas alone today, but they didn't really mention anything that worries them about him in particular. They gave us some strategies to help him get over his episodes that fit well with what our friends the Olsens said - he craves an audience so we're not to give him one. We'll let him scream by himself and talk with him when it's over. Also, Amanda and I are trying hard not to get angry. I know a lot of you may roll your eyes at that one, but since these kids don't trust we will stay together as a family, anger can be very destructive. We are going to try to stay as relaxed and confident as possible :)

Yesterday we went to a country club pool that was AWESOME. The kids had only been to a pool one other time in their lives so they absolutely loved it. We're going again tomorrow but if there is any fighting tonight at bedtime those children will be staying home with me. It's a serious consequence, but hopefully it will help them learn that we are serious about bad behavior.

So all in all, we feel very supported by the professionals here along with all our friends and family back home. We feel like we have a lot of wise people helping us and we're very confident that things will get better.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No post yesterday - recovering today.

So yesterday Sebas had the meltdown of his life (so far... I'm sure it's not the last one). He pretty much woke up mad and decided that he wanted to ruin his and everyone else's day. We let him ruin his own day, but tried hard to let everyone else still have fun. At the end of the night, he decided he wanted to scream instead of go to bed. I will just say that it was not a good night and that you can pray for us that we could have more patience and love in these situations.
We all slept late this morning because no one wanted to get out of bed after last night. But, the kids actually spent 2 hours drawing pictures outside this morning (an assignment for them from the psychologist at Ayudame) and then just hung out in the hotel until lunch time - and they did okay. After lunch we went to the country club that the hotel has a membership at, to swim in the pools. They kids were SO excited to go to a pool! At most, they have been swimming once in their life before today. None of the kids even believed us when we told them that they shouldn't wear underwear with their swimsuits! The country club is super nice and we would love to go back again. The kids had a great time and they all tried out learning to swim in the big pool. Camila and Samantha really took to swimming right away, Pamela was a bit more hesitant about it and Sebas did pretty well too.

Another nice thing that happened today was Sebas went from raging maniac to finding a new friend and playing carefully and kindly with him for about 2 or 3 hours today. The "friend" is a fly that has no wings, and he named him Digory :) He made a house out of a shoe box, a bed out of a kleenex box, and a bottle cap for a pool. We also have a castle puzzle that he decided is now Digory's to climb on. It was all very cute. He found the fly at 10am and didn't lose him till 7:30pm tonight. Honestly it's amazing and kind of strange to see a kid go from crazy-crazy to sweet and friendly in 24 hours. We never know which Sebas we will get, but we have determined that we are going to be firm with all the kids and no more letting them get away with disrespecting us. Hopefully the other families at the Hotel will be understanding towards our screaming family.

Please pray for us that we would get a quick sentencia so that we can come home to the US. We really need to be home so that we can get the kids on our own terms, in our control, there is just so much we don't have control of here. Also, please pray that in these tantrum sessions that we would be firm with our kids, but not angry. This is very challenging. We hope that they will begin to learn that we love them even when we need to do hard things, not just when we give them things they want.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A nice rainy day.

We saw that the forecast today called for more thunderstorms (carry over from all last night) but we are determined to still get out, so we headed out the door to the park at 9am. I, of course, opted to not bring my rain jacket, but Pamela, of course, opted to bring rain jackets for everyone else :) We played in a couple of different parks until about 11:20 and then headed for our walk to Jeno's Pizza because their pizza is good and they have the best semi-indoor playground. When we got about 5 minutes away from the Pizzeria it started to downpour. Ed gave me his raincoat, because I so smartly didn't think I needed one. Everyone was totally soaked when we got to the pizzeria, but especially Ed. When we finally arrived at the door, the Pizzeria wasn't going to open for 10 more minutes more, but thankfully they let us in to wait. Finally we sat our "starving" children down. Everyone was cold and hungry and that's when we noticed that the playland in now under construction :( We had our pizza and asked if the kids could play in any part of the playland and they said one part was open. The kids were happy to play in that part. When I say it's semi-indoor, I mean that it has a bit of a covering over it, but otherwise it's outside. It's pouring rain, but the kids still wanted to play, and of course, they needed to take their socks and shoes off. Yep they still played for a good couple of hours. Yep we pretty much are asking our kids to get sick...
Well - we thought maybe the rain would let up, but it just kept getting harder so Ed finally ran to the bank to get some money so we could take a taxi home! Yeah Papi! So we loaded all the kids into a taxi that Ed hailed and found our way back to the Hotel. It was actually pretty fun! And nice that a taxi ride only costs like $2!
We decided that because of the downpour we would let the kids take hot showers, and watch movies all afternoon. We didn't know how that would go, but it actually went well! Yes, it's not good to let the kids watch that much TV, but today it was okay. We hung out in our room till dinner and then had dinner, a little more TV (yikes) and then the kids went to bed "decently well". They really had a good day considering what it could have been. Sebas, in particular, had a great day.
Tomorrow we go back to Ayudame for some counseling and therapy. We are really falling more in love and attached to our children each day. Of course it's much easier to have that happen when we have nice days like today, and that won't always be the case, but we will take the good days when they come! All the kids have turned the corner to wanting to now come to the United States, they all just say that they are afraid of flying in a plane, but that's not much to worry about. Thank you everyone for your continued prayers - they mean so much to us and they are really making a difference.
One more thing - Ed has been praying, in Spanish, before our meals, but the last couple of meals Pamela has asked to say the prayer and tonight she said a prayer for everyone before bedtime (when we were all laying in the same bed together). They are sweet children, when they want to be :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

State of the Union - Day 11

It's only been eleven days, but we've learned a lot about our kids. Let me start off by saying this: we prepared for this for a long time and the kids seem to be in much better shape than we prepared for. However, this is 1,000 times harder than we thought it'd be. It's so hard that we have thoughts about the kids and the adoption that we will only share with other older-child adoptive parents. This is scary stuff. We're not going to share everything here, but we'll share the generals so that you can pray for us and you can know some of what is involved in adoptive parenting. When we feel like we can't do this for another second, we try to remember that Jesus endured the cross so that we could be adopted as God's children.

Amanda & I are doing okay. We get the kids to bed by 8 whether hell or high water so that we can spend a couple hours without kids. Usually this time is spent pouring over our bibles, adoption books, Spanish lessons, and writing blog posts. And laughing, lots of laughing, because this is insane. Sometimes we are short with each other during the day because of the stress, but we like each other much more than we like the kids so we stay pretty tight :)

Pamela is doing better than we could have ever hoped for. She still has lots of issues and lots of buried trauma that hasn't come out yet, but she is handling the adoption super well. Her heart is enormous and she believes this family will overcome the present struggles. Honestly, we don't know where we would be without her.

Camila is the queen of all drama queens. But she's doing okay. She can swing from very crabby to very sweet, but she's generally doing a pretty good job with everything and she's having lots of fun. She is the most excited about the United States and starting a new life there. She has shown a bit of defiance, but she doesn't let things ruin the day and she usually only needs a few minutes to join the family again after an episode of defiance.

Sebastian is by far having the most difficult time. He is a very sweet boy who loves to play, but he can spiral downward from defiance to meltdowns. Right now 90% of our energy is being spent on him and helping him get through the day. Some days he has fun with the family and everything is great, and the next day he seems intent on derailing the train. However, I believe Sebastian will get through this. He is angry, scared, and frustrated right now and that is coming out as willful bad behavior and withdrawal. He's frustrated that his parents often can't understand what he's saying, and he's sick of us telling him what to do. But part of him is very happy to have two parents and lots of new attention. I hope the doctors at Ayudame can help us connect with him next week.

Samantha is a trip. She's very funny and very wild. All in all, she's doing okay with everything. I'm sure she's frustrated that we can't understand her (her pronunciation is impossible for us to understand). She's not having the same kind of problems as Sebastian, but she may be the greatest risk for long term problems. We are very certain she has sensory issues because she loves to play with hot water, look directly at light bulbs, and put her ears up to noisy toys. She's also very afraid of touch and holding. She is also obsessed with touching certain things like light switches. We are sharing all of this information with the doctors so that they can possibly help diagnose her.

Our general strategy has changed into the following: spend as much time outside running around as possible. Anytime spent inside the Hotel is asking for trouble, because some of the kids can't handle the distractions (TV, pool table, computer, etc) and they get too squirmy. So our day generally looks like this:
7-9: breakfast and getting ready (we have very girly girls)
9-12: park, walking
12-1: lunch
1-6: park, walking (yes, that is a total of 8 hours outide walking or at the park)
6-7: dinner
7-8: watch one hour of a kids movie before bed.
8: bedtime, prayers, "good nights", etc.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

samantha in a swimsuit

So, Sami fell in LOVE with this pink tutu swimsuit I brought for her and doesn't ever want to wear anything else! I have convinced her that she has to wear pants with it, which is a huge victory. If we were in the US, I wouldn't care so much, because it seems more acceptable to just let your kids wear whatever cute little outfit they want to wear, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case here. I got a LOT of looks from people when they see what I let her go out in public in. Today she wore her pink tutu swimsuit, polkadot leggings and pink plaid boots. Then she had bright blue bubblegum ice cream and dripped it all down herself. Seriously, other moms in Colombia looked at me like I was the worst mom in the world. Oh yeah - and then there was the kid next to her with the price tag on his face! Awesome :)

price tag and pegleg

Ed added a bunch more pictures and videos today.

We had a decent day today. We were out the door with the kids before 9AM this morning. It was raining, but we decided it didn't matter. We put rain coats on all the kids and headed out for our day. we didn't come back to the hotel till 4:30! They were tired, but still managed to be pretty sassy anyway. We had a lot of fun while we were out though. We walked a lot, went to a couple of different parks, McDonalds for lunch and ice cream for dessert, including two different playlands. Played some Old Maid when we got back and then the hotel had a bbq for us, which was fun.

A lot of pictures and videos of Sami today because she was being pretty cute today. Camila had her worst day today, but that isn't much worse than any other sassy 9 year old girl. We just have to work on the attitude with her.

On our walks today we passed a lot of sad families asking for money. Pamela has a really hard time with this. She asked us to get them some food everytime. We gave her money to give to the families. She has such a big heart. Pamela is probably the only one of our children that remembers the hard beginning to life they've had and I appreciate that she wants to help others rather than just forget the past. We are happy to help her be able to now give some help to those in her own country.

Tomorrow we are going to try for a very long walk to a new park and hope to have another long day away from the hotel.

You might notice in pictures from today what looks like a price tag on Sebas' face. The morning he was trying to get some clothes and Ed's shorts fell on his face, well, Ed's belt on his shorts fell on his face. It actually left a significant wound. So, I put a half of a band aid on it, but it looked really silly. I asked him if I could take it off so many times through out the day, but no, he wanted to keep it on. So, we just called him price tag all day. I'm really looking forward to the kids learning English, but it will be kind of sad for us when we can no longer talk about our kids right in front of them :) We are trying to encourage our kids to learn english so that they can understand what we are saying about them :) Oh and PegLeg is Camila because sometimes we write back and forth on google translate and the other day somehow whatever she wrote translated so that she said, " We just want PegLeg". Or something like that... it was pretty funny at the moment.

Not all the videos and pictures got up, so there should be more tomorrow again. Again, thanks for praying - we can't do this alone!!