Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween in Pasto

I love this time of year.  I love the smell of the air when it turns cooler.  I love the color changes on the trees.  I love cool crisp evenings with the firepit.  I love the cold windy days spent at Cox Farms wearing ourselves out and drinking as much apple cider as possible because it's sooooo good (and free).  I love the frantic rush of trying to get Halloween costumes finished so the boys can wear them as much as they want this month. 

I miss that.

I'm missing 'Trunk or Treat' at church.  I'm missing 'Trick or Treat' with our neighbors.  I'm missing going down the farm slides with Darth Maul, Yoda and the 4 foot cheetah.  I'm sad that we're going to miss the youth group hayride with our church.  I'm really missing the semi-traditional Halloween party that we've had at our house.

I remember reading somewhere that Halloween in Colombia is not like the US.  It's not really that big of a deal and not many people celebrate it.  I'd like to remember where it was that I read that so I can make them eat crow.

It  rained all night last night and the kids got really muddy at the park this morning.  We decided that maybe the mall might be a better choice for the afternoon since we didn't really want to do that again and it was supposed to rain more.  Patrice said he would take us and thought we might like to drive through downtown because that's where all the happening Halloween stuff was.  I was really surprised.  There were more people out for this than were for the celebration of Colombia making it to the fútbol (soccer) finals... and that's saying a lot.  People and kids were everywhere!  It was crazy.  I had no idea.  I had no plans.  Worse yet, we were going to the mall.  It was packed.  It wasn't really enjoyable at all because it was so crowded that we had to be super vigilant and keep the kids close.  Ken had to carry John and I put Yuli in the sling just because we were afraid of them getting run over... and the arcade could give send a parent to an early grave.  I didn't much care for it at all.

However, it was nice to kind of celebrate Halloween even though we didn't really.  I mean it was nice to be out in it even though we weren't participating.  I'm glad Halloween didn't completely pass by without us noticing.  And frankly, if we had to miss a holiday this time I year, I would much rather be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I'm trying hard not be sad about it.  What we are doing is waaaaaaay more important than Halloween... it's just that I love this time of hear so much.  So the cashier at the grocery store gave us lifesavers.  That will have to tide us over until next year, when I'll have to fly to make six costumes.

Some People Are So Rude!

I was reluctant to write this post because, overall, the people of Colombia and especially of Pasto have been wonderful to us all the way around.  We've had a lot of people who know that we are adopting just by looking at us stop and tell us what a good thing we are doing.  We've had people (kids and adults) be very excited to practice their English with us.  One guy who brought his granddaughter to the park while we were there, spent the time teaching Diana how to ride a bike.  I even had an elderly Catholic lady from Tumaco that was staying in the hotel here give me a blessing... I think.  She was talking really fast and I'm finding the Tumaco 'accent' difficult to follow.  Another, younger, lady came to see us before she checked out.  She said that she wanted to thank us, "Thank you from me, thank you from the children, thank you from Colombia."  It's been really, really great.

People have stopped and chatted with us at the playgrounds... our kids have played together.  People have stopped and played trombo with us on the patio.  The guys who work here have really gone all out to make our stay as comfortable as possible and are very sweet to the kids.  The people we talk to in the shops at the mall have all been really great... with one exception.

I'm not sure if it's a cultural thing or a freak coincidence.  It's happened twice.  Both times we were at grocery stores in the mall, but different malls.  The first time it happened, I was standing in the checkout line with a cart full of groceries and a screaming four year old while four other kids huddled by and Ken, holding a screaming two year old, brought up the rear.  Not my idea of a good time.  I just wanted to get checked out and get out of there.  This lady came up to me with four or five items in her hands and was trying to explain something to me.  Then she asked if that was ok.  I don't know, I didn't catch what you said, my kid is screaming at me.  Ken pointed out that he thought she was wanting to go in front of us.  I thought, "Is she crazy? I want out of here."  Then I realized there were two kids in front of me, maybe they're hers and I don't want to be rude.  So I let her go in front of me.  As it turns out, the kids belonged to the people that were in front of them and not to her.  I was a bit miffed.  Now, I realize that I had a cart full and she had only a few items but I had SIX kids, two of whom were well past losing it.  Who really needed to check out first?  Hmmmm, maybe the person that was in line first?

Anyway, Ken and I kinda joked about it but then we moved on.  There's too much to think about to have that kind of stuff swirling in my brain.  Today was rainy and we had an errand to do so we had Patrice drop us off at the close mall for an hour to let the kids play.  We really prefer the other mall but we had to be back for Diana's doctor appointment.  [It's the follow up.  She got a clean bill of health.  It looks like all the rest of us managed to avoid it.  Praise God.]  We didn't really need groceries but we did need peanut butter.  It's really hard to find here and we decided to run in and get it since we were almost out and this grocery store carries it.  Ken went with the boys to look for batteries for Diana's toy (stupid watch batteries) and I went to get the peanut butter with the girls.  Yuli wasn't happy.  I hadn't brought the sling.  Party foul.  She decided to throw a full blown fit in the middle of the store.  Luckily, I've been here before and I have a plan.  I also have no problems whatsoever about what people might be thinking or saying about me and my child.  We swung by the fruit aisle to see what was on sale.  Yay!  Dragon fruit!  Diana also wanted tomatoes so she can eat them with salt (that's my girl).  Got those, drug my refusing to walk screaming child to the front of the store... ah, yes.  Here comes my husband with two cans of Monster, we are ready to go.  But wait, the lines are really long.  This is the point where you start to question just how much you need that peanut butter.  As we are standing in line, an older lady actually attempts to squeeze between Ken and the barrier to get in line in front of me and my herd.  Assuming (maybe arrogantly) that she doesn't understand English, I tell Ken what she's doing.  He doesn't give any space.  She looks imploringly at me and I just really can't help myself.  I give her this knowing look, raise my eyebrows and then look down at the end of my arm (my child) that resembles what happens when you put a cat on a leash.  She's all flailing and hopping and screaming and throwing her stuff.  For crying out loud, lady, I'VE GOT FEWER ITEMS THAN YOU HAVE.  You have got to be kidding me. 

I don't know if it's a cultural thing or if it was random acts of rudeness.  Really, though, when I see a mom or parents having a hard time with their kids I just want to run and help them with whatever they need, because I've been there.  One time the boys and I helped load a few groceries into a lady's car cause her baby was crying.  Another time a child is having a fit at target and all mom needed was that gallon of milk--by all means, get ahead of me in line.  I'm hoping it was isolated incidents but tomorrow I'm going to ask Patrice if that's normal here or if we're just that lucky.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Day, Another Dollar (wait, we aren't getting paid?)

Today wasn't our best day.  It wasn't the worst either but the 4 day streak of not going round with Diana ended today.  Today Ken half carried, half drug her home from the park.  As it turns out when they got here, she wasn't too bad.  She took her discipline without too much fighting and as the rest of us were coming home from the park, they were actually on their way out to play more.  We had lunch instead.

I changed the game plan with Yuli today.  I broke out the sling and carried her in it pretty much the whole day except when I was in the bathroom or when we were at the park.  When it was time for me to shower, she asked for Papi to hold her.  That's a big plus but my back hurts.  It seems to be helping, at least with the discipline problems.  As it turns out, if she's hanging off my body, she can't get into much.  I do really think she is stuck somewhere about two years old.  At one point she told me that she wanted down to play with Diana.  I was happy to have a break.  About 20 minutes later, she came back, carrying the sling.  Ken has been putting Diana, Yuli, and John to bed every night.  The problem is that Yuli just wouldn't stop talking and you can't really force a child to stop talking unless you, well, even if you cover their mouths, they will still talk if they want to and you might end up suffocating them.  So last night I told her that I would lay with her provided that she didn't talk and didn't play around.  Guess what, she's asleep in 10 minutes or less which significantly cuts down on the length of time to get them all to sleep.  Anyway, I'm pretty sure the new sling plan is going to work and help her... I'm going to be super strong by the time I get home.

John seems to be feeling better.  He slept pretty well last night and ate well all day.  He played at the park and seems to be in good spirits.  Whatever it was, it was short lived and I'm thankful for that.  We are just waiting to see if anyone else catches it.  We had to cancel our plans on Monday as a result of his illness.  We had been planning to go see Las Lajas Cathedral and I have been very much looking forward to it.  I hope we can go soon.  The redundant days are starting to wear on all of us.

Diana and I had another go round right before dinner.  I really thought I was going to be eating my dinner sitting on my bed watching her but she pulled herself together after about 10 minutes.  That was good.  We are seeing a lot more grief from her and a lot less anger.  I think that's a step in the right direction.  Unlike Yuli, I actually think Diana likes us and is excited to finally have a family.  She seems to really enjoy playing with the bigger kids rather than being the oldest all the time.  She just misses her Tia, and she doesn't like our rules and structure... she really seems surprised that we consistently enforce the rules.  I'm sure she's going to be fine.  She does seem rather distraught over the fact that we homeschool.  Every night at dinner she asks Patrice what school she will be going to and who her teacher in the Unites States will be.  He tells her it's the best school of all and she is going to love it and Mami is going to teach her every day.  She didn't actually believe him at first but now she belives him, she's just hoping for a different answer.  She's not happy that's she's not getting one but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh My Broken Heart

This is hard.  This is really, really hard.  When I think of what these kids, my kids, have been through, are going through, it breaks my heart. 

I had another positive bonding experience with Diana today.  I have been wanting to do her hair for about two weeks now, her braids were coming out and it looked messy.  She didn't want me to.  I know why.  Her braids are the last thing Tia gave her before she came to us.  She likes me ok but I wasn't going to take out Tia's braids.  I stopped asking.  She was washing her hair and she wanted me to put the back into a pony tail for her every day but that was it.  Don't touch the braids.  This morning at breakfast, Patrice stopped by to talk to us and he commented on Yuli's hair, how pretty it is, did Mami do that, you're so beautiful... etc.  When we got back to the rooms, I was trying to get the girls ready to go to the park and I told Diana that she needed her hair done, mainly, the ponytail.  She said she wanted it done like Yuli's hair.  I was a little shocked at first but we went with it.  When I was finished, she asked me to carry her to the bathroom so she could look at it.  I carried her there and stood her on the toilet so she could see in the mirror.  She looked at it and got a big smile on her face.  I asked her, "¿Te gusta?"  She turned to me and hollered, "Sí!" and jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug.  It was good.

John is doing well.  He stopped vomiting and slept pretty well last night.  Thankfully, no signs that anyone else has it.  He was very, very angry at breakfast this morning when we didn't let him have his yogurt.  Whew-wee, we are going to have to find someplace that sells drinkable yogurt by the gallon when we get home.  He is also doing well with me.  I took him to the top of the big slide today and rode down with him.  It always helps to be a fun parent.  This evening when I was helping Yuli get her jammies on, he came and sat on the bed beside me and put his hand on my knee... a definite plus, but when I turned to talk to him, he did his usual look away and she'll go away thing.

And now, poor Yuli, she's breaking my heart.  In the beginning, we had some problems with her defying Ken but she would listen to me.  Now she doesn't listen to either of us.  Sometimes she is so very needy and clingy, I can't believe that she's 4 and not 1.  I remember reading about this in varying detail in almost every adoption book I read.  These kids didn't get what they needed at each stage in their development.  At times, they go back to a place where they are lacking and they behave like that age.  What we need to do is treat them as if they are that age.  Fill up the one year old, I need to be carried all the time and can't talk yet cup and eventually they will stop acting like they are one year old.  It's really a fascinating, and sad, phenomena.  She can go from being one year old, to being four years old, to being a two years old all in the span of an hour. 

It breaks my heart.  Her heart is broken.  She wants to be held all the time so she clings to me, but at the same time, I'm not the one she wants.  She is so very, very sad right now.  I think she's finally realized she's stuck with us.  Tonight she told me that she doesn't like her new family.  I told her that was ok.  I asked her if she likes going to the park, going to the mall, playing different games and all the other stuff we've been doing.  She said yes.  I asked her if she like doing these things with us.  She said no.  I told her that this is hard.  This is very hard and I know that it's hard for her.  I asked her if she wanted to look at the photo book that her foster mom sent.  She said no.  I told her about all the things we can do when we get to the US.  She said no, she wasn't going with us.  I told her that I'm very sorry she's so sad but that she is going with us.  She is part of our family now and we all love her.  When I told her that I love her, she cried.  She doesn't want my love.  She's getting it anyway.  It just breaks my heart that she will sit on my lap, let me hold her, let me hug her, wipe her tears and carry her all day, yet the whole time she is so very, very sad.  I don't know what else to do for her.

Short and to the Point

We could use some extra, specific,  prayers right now...

First off, John has been sick all day.  He started throwing up right after breakfast this morning and has a fever.  He slept most of the day off and on and was feeling better around dinner time.  We are praying that he sleeps well (not only him but all of us) and that no one else catches it.

Secondly, Yuli seems to be having a difficult time now.  I'm very thankful that both the girls weren't having a hard time at the same time.  Yuli seems to be very upset with Ken, afraid maybe?  I don't know.  Today she flat out told me that she never wants her backpack back if it means that she has to listen to Papi.  ouch.  Didn't quite know what to say to that.

On a positive note, I did Yuli's hair again today and while it took a bit longer, I think it looks pretty cute and I'm hoping it will stay in a little longer.

Thanks y'all for your prayers.  You have really carried us through this.  We really appreciate every one of them.  I've finished the laundry and I'm going to bed.  Hopefully, I won't be woken till morning.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Our Hotel

So today was another pretty good day.  We didn't have any major issues with Diana, and the issues with Yuli were pretty minor, although there.  I think she's finally realized that she's stuck with us and that she doesn't get any say about it.  Diana had realized that much earlier.  While I don't believe we've conquered all of Diana's demons, I think we've reached a plateau.

Anyway, I thought I would spend a little time talking about this fabulous hotel and it's fabulous owner.  When our in country representative first made arrangements for us in Pasto, I was a little concerned and a little disappointed.  I didn't really want to spend 6 weeks in Colombia living in a hotel run by a French guy who served American breakfast and Italian dinner.  But that all changed within hours of being here.  Anyway, we are staying at La Maison and Patrice, the owner, is also our interpreter.  He lives on site and has been absolutely fabulous.  I truly, truly believe that God made our arrangements for us through Helena.  The staff here is excellent and if you ever find yourself in Pasto, I recommend that you stay here.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our meals and our accommodations.

In case you don't remember, our flight plans were messed up getting to Pasto and we got here on the same day that we were getting our kids.  We weren't super rushed but we only had time to drop our stuff and get something to eat.  Patrice showed us to our rooms.  We are in the top floor.  It can best be described as a two rooms in a loft area.  I was originally very nervous (safety wise) about being in two non-adjoined rooms.  There's only two parents and six kids... how is this possibly going to work.  And then we get here and each room has a full sized bed and a twin bed... again, how is this possibly going to work.  Patrice asked us how we were planning on sleeping and we explained that we planned on sleeping one adult and three kids in each room.  Patrice then told us that they would 'fix' the rooms while we were at the Encuentro.  I wasn't sure what he meant but I really couldn't worry about it.

Well, he wasn't kidding.  When we got back, they had actually dismantled the beds and assembled new beds.  We had three twin beds and one kiddie sized bed in one room and two twins, one kiddie, and one crib in the other room.  I could not believe what they had done for us.  I was beside myself.  I mean, they bolted together new bed frames and moved mattresses and changed linens and everything.  It was, well, it was above and beyond. 

I've told you before how I think Patrice is just an amazing man when it comes to adoption and how he treats the kids.  But it goes further than that.  He is kind to everyone that I've seen him interact with.  He buys the stuff through the car window from the people just trying to make a buck.  I don't think he has any intention of chewing Chiclets (I've never seen him with gum), I think he does it because he's trying to help them out.  The day that we played trombos on the patio, I saw three people come by asking for assistance-a priest, an elderly lady, and a woman with a child.  Each time, the person received something.  All of that was taken care of by Patrice's staff but it seems to me that they have been told what to do.  The elderly lady and the woman with the child both received food from the kitchen... I'm not sure what the priest received but it was something.

I've already told you (here) about the day that I needed to have a conversation with Diana that I didn't have the vocabulary for and how Patrice not only interpreted but also elaborated and said some really great, positive things that just really made me feel better.

About a week ago, with much guilt, I decided to ask Patrice if we could rearrange the rooms again.   After being here for two weeks and finding out that it would be three more, and knowing how we were functioning, and needing my husband, and feeling entirely safe in the hotel... I really needed another arrangement.  I drew a map (because that's how I am) of the furniture and when we went off to the mall, it was all taken care of.  They took one of the twins out of the Ken's room, moved the table from the other room over so we could sit all 6 kids down for lunch at one time, took out one of the twins in my room and replace it with a full.  Now when John wakes in the middle of the night, he doesn't have to scream Papi until I can get him to the other room, where he would undoubtedly not go back to sleep and just cry and wake everyone up.  Now Ken and I are back together in the same place as it should be.  Now we have a little more space to play in one room while the majority of the beds are packed in the other.  Now it's better.  And Patrice and his staff were really happy to help.

I have so many more stories like these about being here but for now, I just wanted to say what an enormous blessing it is to be here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Post You've Been Waiting For

Well, probably not.  I assume that y'all have been waiting for the post that has a picture of all of us together as a family.  Sorry, not today.

A more accurate title might be, "The Post I've Been Waiting To Write."  Because it is.  We went an entire day with neither Ken nor myself having to hold any of our children down.  It was a good day.  It didn't start out that way but it ended up being a really good day.  That's not to say that we didn't have any confrontations or corrections, because we did... it's just that with every one we had, said children chose to listen before it got really bad.  I had to hold Yuli's hand at the park today for a little while because she wouldn't listen to me about getting too close to the road.  She took it reasonably well, relative to her usual behavior, and we were able to move on rather quickly.  I had a short spell this evening when Diana chose to disobey me and get out of her bed to play, but when I enforced the consequences (no video games tomorrow) she was relatively bummed but went and got back into bed and did not rage against me or try to break stuff like she usually does.  It was a good day.

The best part of the day was that I had two separate opportunities to bond with Diana.  The first was when Ken was ready to put John down for a nap.  He went into our room (Ken, myself, and the three new kids sleep there) because the other room is what we use for 'family space.'  The girls had built a fort and were playing quite well.  Unsure as what to do, I asked the girls if they wanted to play in this room in the fort or go play in the other room.  They said they wanted to play in the fort.  So Ken got John to sleep and laid him on a bed in the other room where the three big boys were playing video games.  Thankfully (and I've been grateful for this many times), John can sleep through a pretty moderate level of noise so the boys on their devices weren't going to bother him.  Ken took his computer and went downstairs to work.  I laid down on the bed in the room with the girls thinking I was going to get some quiet time... ha ha ha.  They came out of that fort in 2 minutes and got on the bed with me.  Yuli just wanted to cuddle, but Diana wanted to tickle.  Then she started playing with my ponytail and started to braid it.  I don't know why I didn't think of this before, as much as she enjoys doing her doll's hair.  I took my pony tail out so she could play with my hair.  She was soooooo excited.  It was really cute.  She went and got all the combs and hair doodads that I use in their hair and came and jumped on the bed.  I had told her before that my hair doesn't like lots of little braids like their hair does and she set out to prove me wrong.  However, by the end of the hour or so, she conceded, "Tu pelo no le gustan tresas."  (Your hair doesn't like braids.)  She had so much fun and, honestly, so did I.  It was really nice to giggle and joke with her without some major thing looming over our heads or being worried that we were going to get into a fight.  It was really nice to see her be seven and not some mixed up, exposed to too much, dealt with too much, don't know who I am or how old I am or how I should act child.

The second was when we were at the afternoon park visit.  It was right after my issue with Yuli.  I had sat down on the grass and made Yuli sit with me.  After that we had some snacks and when Yuli was finished, I talked with her about it being dangerous by the street and she cannot go down there.  I asked her if she wanted to go play and she said yes.  I asked her if she was going to listen to me if I called her back and she said yes.  I let her go play but I didn't get up.  I was really quite cold and I was trying to conserve body heat... I know, I'm sure I would have been warmer if I had gotten up and chased some kids, but I didn't want to move.  Anyway, Diana came and sat on my lap.  We talked about non-important stuff first, clouds, birds, animals.  Then we talked some about Tumaco.  She seemed ok with it but I didn't want to push her, I just wanted her to know that I am interested in her life and that I don't want or expect her to forget or pretend like it never happened.  I asked a couple of questions and then we moved on.  She wanted my notepad that I keep in my purse and she started writing down names of animals.  We played like that for probably 45 minutes or more, her on my lap, just like any other mom and daughter.  Again, it was really, really nice to be able to enjoy her.  I like hearing what she has to say, even if she has to say it three different ways before she finds vocabulary that I know.  I like that we can joke around about my Spanglish.  I like that she's trying to pronounce English words.  I like how expressive she is (except when she's angry with me).  I think she's really funny.  I really like her.  I'm hoping for more days and times like this one.

Things with John progress a little more each day.  He's getting more and more comfortable with me.  He still prefers Papi but when I tell him, "Papi is in the bathroom." or "Papi is working." he is all like, "OK" and goes back to what he was doing before he realized Ken was missing rather than the panicked search and screaming that he used to do.  It's progress.  I imagine he'll be ok by the time Ken has to return to work.  However, he loves, loves, LOVES his big brothers.  It's interesting to me that he seems to like them more than the girls.  Anyway, today at the park we were all playing see-saw.  One of the unexpected bonuses of a big family is that no matter who wants to play see-saw, you can always figure out some way to balance the weight well.  There have been times when there were five of us on one and it was perfectly balanced.  At one point I was on one side and Cody and John were on the other (not really balanced but it worked).  All the boys are really good about keeping John safe.  Cody was sitting behind John and had his arms around John's waist like a seat belt and his hands holding onto the handle of the see-saw.  John was having so much fun but the cutest thing I saw was that Cody bent down and kissed John on the top of the head several times.  It melted my heart.

After Ken started bedtime with the new kids, the three big boys wanted to play Hearts with me.  I'm trying to spend some time with them in the evenings after the newbies go to bed to make sure their love banks are full... so far it's going pretty well.  I remember that tidbit from when I gave birth to Rylan and Cody... consciously trying to spend some good time with the 'previous' children to make sure they knew that I still loved them and that they were still important.  Anyway, I don't know what happened during this card game but it turned into a rip-snorting brouhaha... if that's how you spell it.  There was farting, snorting, and I laughed so hard I cried and almost peed myself.  (Let the record reflect there's an 'almost' in that sentence.)  We had a really good time.  At one point (this is one of those times that you had to be there but I'm gonna tell you anyway because Cody said it needed to go on the blog), I found Cody picking his nose.  If you are a mom, I'm sure this is not shocking to you.  Add to the average child that we've all been having some weird stuff going on with our noses here.  (Look out, TMI)  I don't know if it's the elevation, the weather or the pollution (the cars let off a lot of nasty emissions here), but our noses are full ALL. THE. TIME.  So I said to him, "Go to the bathroom, get some paper, and deal with your nose."  Well, Rylan was dealing the next round of cards at the time and he said, "Deal with my nose?"  I was a little slap happy at this point and mimed shoving a deck of cards up my nostril and then holding the other nostril closed with my finger and started snorting at all the boys.  That was it.  It was over.  We were all laughing so hard I was afraid Ken was going to come scold us for waking the baby.  It took ten minutes for us to get it back together and finish the game.  And now, you'll never look at me the same way again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

God Blessed Me with that Man of Mine

My husband is awesome.  I know that word is overused.  I know I'm guilty of overusing it.  But, I'm sorry, here it goes again.  My husband is awesome.

I am so very lucky to be his wife.  I can't believe how amazing he is.  Not many men would travel around the world to bring home 3 children when he already has 3 at home.  Not many men have the patience for being the kind of dad that he is.  Not many men would jump right in like he has.  He currently is putting John, Diana, and Yuli to bed just as he has every single night since we've gotten them.  He has handled the needs of John like a trooper.  Not many dads get to experience the need of a child so great that you don't get to go to the bathroom by yourself.  (I know most moms understand, though.)  Not many dads have the patience to never have a moment alone.  Through it all, he has been incredibly patient, answering every need, even when John gets up crying for Papi in the middle of the  night.

Now that John is allowing me to participate with his care part time, Ken has not taken a well-deserved break.  He has picked up with handling the girls when it needs to be done.  He does really well with being calm and patient when they are pitching a fit.  He jumps right in and helps Diana do her exercises on the playground, he plays chase with Yuli, he downloads Plants vs Zombies 2 for the big boys... well, that's usually his job anyway, but you get the picture. 

I am so very blessed.  I cannot even convey how impressed I am with him, how much I love him.  I don't know how I got to be so lucky.  He's just awesome.

I Need a New T-Shirt

So at some point back in the early days of my parenting, maybe even before-I can't remember, my mom bought me this T-shirt that says, "Do not start with me, you will not win."  It was more of a joke, at least I think it was, based on my stubborn nature and the fact that she maybe is a little jealous that I'm always right. May I take a moment to point out here that my stubborn nature comes from her side of the family?  Anyway, I need that shirt in Spanish.  Diana can read.  I need that shirt and I need to wear it everyday so maybe she'll think twice before she makes the choice she usually makes. 

I don't want it to seem that I'm poking fun of the whole situation, or of her.  Because I'm not.  It's not in any way funny.  It makes me sad.  I'm sad that I have to fight with her.  I'm sad that she misses her Tia so much.  I'm sad that when she finally concedes that she slips into a crying jag and just keeps saying, "Tia, Tia" over and over.  And quite honestly, I have to be a little upset with Tia for giving her everything that she wanted and getting her into this mentality.  Really, when she acts like this, she never gets what she wants and most of the time ends up losing other stuff, too.  Does Tia really think she was doing her a favor?

As you might have guessed, it was another rough day with her.  Unfortunately, it started very early when John woke up at 5:30 and we all were up then.  I still had yesterday's headache and we were running on very low fuel.  It seemed like she was looking for a fight all day.  I was hoping all day to avoid one.  I thought it was going to come at dinner time but she waited till bedtime.  I didn't last very long, which is good.  She confessed that she was done fighting much sooner than usual.  I guess 5:30 is a little too early for her, too.  I hate this.  I hate every minute of fighting with her.  I hate that it has to be this way.  When she isn't doing this, she is so much fun to be around.  I really like her.  I just hate the situation. 

Otherwise, the day was good.  We found a way to cross the busy street so that we could walk to the big park.  That was good, we wore the kids out going and coming.  The sun was out and it was a very pretty and warm morning.  I had my first shot at SAHM of 6 after lunch when Ken snuck away to try and do some work.  It went pretty well, but that was only because that's video game time and we planned it that way.  We had another delicious dinner and I'm thinking of hiring Patrice's chef.  Do you think he'd like to come to the US?  I'd give him a room and all the food he could eat, he could fix dinner 6 nights a week and breakfast on Saturday.  I really like not having to worry about cooking or cleaning up the kitchen. 

In good news, John is really doing ok with me.  He still prefers Ken, especially when he's tired, but he will let me do stuff for him now... fix food, change diapers, change clothes, play... I'm very happy.  I'm still waiting for the day when he actually wants me rather than making do with me but it'll come.

So here's some pictures that I meant to post the other day:

Playing with our trombos in the park

Connor and his perfect trombo launching form.

"mas, mas, mas" trombo, big brothers

Doesn't he look like a teen already?

I love this picture of Cody

Poor Diana, she thinks she can keep up with Rylan.

Three of mine on the swings, on on the supports.

Diana carrying John.

They get it honest.

Here's my second go round with Yuli's hair.  I did it the same as the first but it was easier because I just did one braid at a time.  The parts are messy but the braids are holding for about a week so I think that's good for a beginner. 

I gave her one corn row that goes across above her forehead and the rest are all free hanging braids.  She like to wear the matching headbands.  She seems pretty happy.

And my favorite... the dedos.  Aren't these the cutest little dedos you've ever seen?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lots of Rain, Three Doctors, & Three Milks and Chocolate

So it rained all night last night... and all day today.  It stopped briefly several times.  The sun peeked out each time.  We said, "Grab your shoes, let's go the park!"  Before we could get shoes on and get out the door it would start again.

Diana has had some kind of skin condition and we were trying to wait it out and see if it might be sensitivity to new clothes, new detergent, or new food.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't go away and she was just getting more spots.  We decided to take her to the doctor today.  Patrice got us an appointment at 3:30.  When it was time for us to go, Patrice wasn't here.  After we waited for a few minutes, he called.  He said that there was a car accident and traffic was a mess.  Luckily, the pediatrician was less than a block away.  So one of the staff members walked the girls and I down there while Ken hung out with the boys at the hotel.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to understand the doctor. (I felt like I could convey what I needed to in Spanish but I wasn't sure that I would be able to keep up with the diagnosis.)  Anyway, my worrying was in vain as Patrice showed up 5 minutes after we got there.  The office was clean and neat and professional.  They even had a tiny indoor playground.  We had to wait a little while but when we went upstairs, it turned out that the doctor had two med students watching.  Poor Diana, she was very embarrassed about the whole thing.  The doctor diagnosed her with impetigo costroso.  As it turns out, it's contagious.  It's been two weeks and so far no one has gotten it from her.  I am very thankful for our DoTerra vitamins... that's the only thing I can think of that is keeping us all healthy.

Anyway, I've had a really bad headache all day so keeping six kids entertained in two hotel rooms is very difficult.  We made it though.  We were rewarded with Three Milks and Chocolate after dinner.  It's a dessert that they made for us our first week and the kids all liked it so much that they asked to have it again.  Patrice is a man of his word.  I'm sad that Yuli didn't get to eat it but that's a story for another day... when will these girls learn that when I say something, I mean it?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Back to Bombona

Ok, so I didn't have the name right the fist time.  It's Bombona, not Bonbona... in case you're ever in Pasto.  Anyway, Connor had played with his top so much that he actually wore down the metal tip.  He got my dollar's worth.  Also, we discovered that the thinner ones are easier to launch.  So we went back and bought a bag full.  At a dollar apiece and how much time the kids are spending with them, I'm totally ok with that.  We also picked up a couple of souvenirs: a mask for my collection, a plaque that holds keys, and Ken wanted one of the yellow Colombian futball team shirts.

Patrice asked if we wanted him to drop us off at the mall.  Since the weather was not so great, we said yes and he took us to another mall farther away.  It's a little smaller but we liked it better.  The prices in the arcade were better and they had a toy'ish' store that also had a large collection of art supplies.  I was able to buy more origami paper for the kids.  We have so many origami pianos and pocket knives it's crazy, but they seem to enjoy doing it and the pads of paper were only a dollar each and it kills time when we are stuck in the hotel.

Ken and I decided to not cave to the quick and easy Mister Pollo.  Well, that's what the kids ate but we ordered from someplace else.  It was quite the experience, you order and they give you a sign post to set on your table.  They then serve you on real plates with actual metal place settings and such.  We got salads for the first course and giant steaks with potatoes and fried plantains for the second.  It was really good.  It was really weird being served in the food court at the mall, though.  And again, I regret going for the quick and easy the other day at the mall.

Everything was going ok till two minutes before Patrice came to pick us up.  Have you ever been that person carrying a screaming flailing child from one end of the mall to the other?  Yeah, that was me today... with my entourage of ducklings following behind with Daddy carrying a little boy pulling up the rear.  It was a much different experience than in the states.  Of course, everyone was looking at me but they didn't have a look of disapproval or pity on their face... they all looked at me with empathy, like they'd been there, or encouragement, like 'you're doing the right thing, keep it up' or even the look of fans at a ball game cheering 'go mom go!'  It was weird, but reassuring.  Thus far our greatest fear about the kids fits is that they would do them one time in public and we'd have to restrain them and the police might get involved.  That would stink.  I mean, it's obvious by looking at our very white American selves with the broken Spanglish and accents that these children our not our biological children.  Add that to the gusto with which they pitch their fits (say that three times fast), and you might actually think we were kidnapping them.  We do have a paperwork from ICBF that we carry everywhere, but I would just really like to avoid an incident all together.  So we made it, and it was ok. 

The days are still full of ups and downs and completely exhausting.  It does seem to me that Diana is starting to realize that we mean what we say.  It seems that she is starting to take control of herself a little more and make better choices, though not consistently.  Her fits are not as long or frequent as they were before.  John is just fabulous.  He is doing really well with me and Cody has really taken a shine to him.  Yuli's fits seem to be intensifying but she's tiny and has no strength whatsoever so it's not like dealing with Diana.  I'm just so thankful that Diana has calmed a little before Yuli grew worse... it reminds me of that verse in Corinthians (I think) that says that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I'm grateful for that.  Patrice's meals continue to be delicious and filling so we are eating well at least two times a day and have the energy to carry on.

Things That Make Me Happy

  • Being able to talk to John without him averting his eyes... and he smiles, too!

  • Yuli's cute little "mucho, mucho, mucho, mucho, mucho" when I tell her that I love her.

  • A great big hug for Diana out of the blue when she's really happy.

  • Mornings AND afternoons in the park with my family.

  • A trip to the grocery store all. by. myself.

  • Giggles in the dark after bedtime lights out... although, if it goes on for too long it has the opposite affect.  Lucky for me, Ken puts the gigglers to bed.

  • Cody taking the toy away from me because he "wants to play with John."  Not that I'm happy to not play with John because I'm really having fun with it but I'm happy Cody likes to, too.

  • Watching Rylan, athlete of all athletes, tone down his game to play 'easy' with his little sister.

  • Listening to Connor try and teach Diana how to make her trombo go.

  • Being able to pick John up occasionally without him screaming.

  • Having Rylan jump right in helping Ken clean up after cooking without being asked because he knows we are stretched thin.

  • Seeing Cody put John's shoes on him.

  • Not just knowing and using the word cosquilla (tickle) but actually putting words to action.

  • Listening to Connor do his very best to make Spanish come out of his mouth.

  • Crawling into bed at the end of the day with the best man on the face of the planet.  How could I be so lucky?

  • Witnessing Diana actually choose Door #2 when she was mid-tantrum.

  • Being able to do Yuli's hair in about half the time it took last week.

  • Not having to cook breakfast or dinner AND not having to clean up the kitchen after those meals.

There's lots more babysteps.  We are still having some turbulent issues several times a day, but we are also seeing a LOT of improvement.  These kids are amazing and when I think that two weeks ago tomorrow, their whole life was turned inside out upside down, I'm just in awe of how well they are doing.  It's hard, really hard, but good.  I'm sorry y'all.  I took pictures today of Yuli's hairdo and of the kids at the park but I'm just too tired to wait for them to upload.  You are going to have to wait.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sometimes the Simplest Toys are the Best Toys

So in all our visits to the parks there have been children playing with these spinning tops.  We have been stalking these children.  We've looked in all the stores that we've been to and had not found them yet.  The boys were getting very impatient with me over it.  They really wanted to play with them.  At the mall the other day we saw a boy with one in his hand.  I ran over and asked him where he bought it.  He told me, "En la tienda."  Great, in the store.  That doesn't help much.  I asked, "In a store here?"  "No" and then his mom started rattling off a whole mess of Spanish and I was lost.

I vowed that the next time, I will be better prepared.  I have a notebook and I'm not afraid to use it.  Yesterday, we saw another little boy in the park that had one and I went and asked him.  His father was there and he started rattling off Spanish like I should be able to understand it.  I guess that's a compliment on what/how I had spoken.  Anyway, I told him that I didn't speak Spanish very well and would he please write it down... I knew Patrice would help us.  He did.  When we got home from the park, Cody couldn't wait to get down the stairs to ask Patrice about it.  In fact, Patrice wasn't here at the time and Cody made three trips down the stairs to ask him.  Finally, Patrice got home and we found out that he does know where to take us.  Yay!  He said he would take us this morning.  The kids moved so fast getting ready after breakfast, Ken and I couldn't keep up. 

The Bonbona is much like the flea markets that Ken and I encountered in Puerto Vallarta and Hawaii... crowded booths in a warehouse type of building and everyone that you walked by tried to get you to buy their stuff.  The prices are great and Patrice knew just what booths to take us to.  The first booth was a hand crafted in Pasto booth.  They had the trombos!  (spinning tops)  These ones were even nicer than the one I saw the boy with at the park the day earlier.  They were painted wood while his had been plastic.  Even better.  All the kids picked out their colors and I picked one out for John.  He's not big enough to play with it now but it won't be but a couple of years... and these are the old fashioned toys that last a while.  You wanna hear the best part?  They were about a buck USD each.  AWESOME. 

The 5 biggest kids and I spent almost 3 hours on the patio after lunch trying to get these things to go.  It takes a lot of practice.  You have a string about 5-6 feet long and you wrap it around the top in a special fashion.  You then hold onto the string while you throw the top.  Once we figured out to tie a loop into one end of the string like a yo-yo rather than just wrapping it around your finger like the pros do, it got a lot easier.  The kids could focus on their throws and they did pretty well.  It's funny, the staff here are all young guys and evidently played with them in their younger days.  They were all chipping in trying to help the kids figure it out.  Yuli didn't have much patience for the throwing but she loved to watch it go.  So I got to learn how to throw hers.  The cool thing is that once you get good at throwing them, you can learn all kinds of neat tricks.  You can use your string to pop it up off the floor and catch it in your hand. When you get really good, you can throw it and catch it in your other hand before it even hits the ground.  They are really a whole lot of fun. 

Everyone who walked by would stop and give us their advice on how to do it better.  One guy even stopped to demonstrate.  When he wasn't satisfied that he was doing as well as he could be, he sent his wife home to get more string.  He said it was too short.  Anyway, he didn't do much better with the longer string.  I think he was reliving his glory days, but it was nice to talk to other people.  I wish I had taken some pictures but the whole time we were out there, Ken was trying to get John to sleep so he could get some work done.  I didn't want to go get the camera and disturb him.  Oh, well, I'm sure they will play with them tomorrow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Not a War... All the Time

Lest I give anyone the impression that all we are doing is fighting with our new kids and ignoring the old ones, I would like to focus on all the good that happens in a day.  Did I go round with Diana today?  Yes, twice, in fact.  Once she did really well and was able to process all her grief in a productive way... the other time, not so much.  But that's ok.  She's doing what she can.  Did I go round with Yuli today?  Yup.  Did that too.

But there's so much more to a day with the Yeatmans than fighting.  Our days are filled with amazing and wonderful and fun and growth by leaps and bounds.  The three big boys are fantastic.  They are taking all of this in stride.  The are kind, considerate, and tolerant of the three new kids.  They are all fantastic big brothers.  They've really stepped up to the plate and I am amazed at how well they are doing. 

The day begins with six alert children and two groggy parents that shuffle down to an amazing breakfast.  They get freshly made lulo juice or orange juice or yogurt.  Down here the fruits are plentiful and delicious.  Also, the yogurts are all drinkable.  None of them are spoonable that I've found.  The girls have quickly added salsa de tomate (ketchup) to their list of required supplies at every meal.  Follow that with eggs or french toast.  After breakfast, we all try and get ourselves pulled together.  It takes a while and is a little bit crazy, but it works.  However, when we get to the park, the real fun begins.  It's so amazing to me how the kids always seem to separate off in different combinations.  Typically, Yuli wants me to play with her but at one point yesterday, Cody was distraught at the game he was playing.  She took the ball and walked across the little field and took Cody by the hand and brought him back to play ball with her.  Today Rylan played ball with her.  It's so heartwarming to see the two of them step into that big brother role and be so patient and sweet with her.  That behavior was typically reserved for Connor until this point.  A morning at the park doesn't go without a game of monkey in the middle or shouts of 'empujeme!' (push me) from the swings.  Sometimes it's Connor that takes John and plays with him but sometimes John finds himself in the middle of an exciting game of soccer.  All the big kids are very good about toning down the competitiveness when John's around. 

Today while I took the five big kids to play at the park, Ken took John to the grocery store.  The big boys were playing monkey in the middle and the girls didn't seem to want to play much.  I ended up with both of them on my lap and there was lots of cuddling and kissing and joking around.  They really are fun and sweet kids to be with.  They are just having a hard time.  Even if you can totally ignore what the first part of their lives were like, imagine what it must be like to be taken out of the home that you've been in for 2 1/2 years.  Verbally, they know (at least the girls do) that their home was temporary, substitute as they call it in Colombia.  But I'm sure there's more of a comfort, a stability that comes with being in the same place for so long.  I'm sure that part of them hoped they could stay there forever.  They are doing amazingly well.

A typical day involves cosquilla (tickling) and hugs and 'Yo te quiero's... how much?  mucho, mucho, mucho, mucho.  A typical day (now) includes some of the best biggest smiles and giggles from a very cute two year old little boy, even if most of them aren't for me.  Yuli gives fantastic hugs.  Diana is A.MAZ.ING when it comes to dealing with the language barrier.  She is very patient with us and very good about trying to say things differently using words that we may understand.  She wants us to say things to her in English and when we are having trouble finding the words in Spanish she'll run and get the Spanish/English dictionary.  She has an excellent sense of humor and she laughs easily.

I love these kids.  I'm sorry I've spent so much time posting about our struggles and not enough time focused on our good times.  This is a wonderful journey and I have loved every minute of it... well, not every minute... washing socks and underwear by hand isn't really very much fun.  And when you know what these kids have been though, when you realize what they need, it's really, really hard to pretend that you don't know like before.  Once you know, you can't do anything but give them everything you can, everything you have, everything you are.  These are tiny innocent little souls that have drawn the short straw.  They are totally worth it.  All of the good far outweighs the difficulties that we are having now.

That Explains a Lot

As I sit here beside the Princess, who would rather sit on a chair for two hours (we're not there yet but that's how long she held out on Ken yesterday) than admit the truth that she hit Connor and go to the park, I figured I would get a head start on today's post. 

I talked with Patrice yesterday.  I felt like I needed to let him know what was going on in his hotel after his staff, thinking that we had all gone to the park, came in to clean the bathrooms and found Diana and I sitting on a bed that was completely stripped of it's linens and all the curtains pulled back out of reach.  She wasn't currently crying or yelling but her eyes said that she had been and she was shooting me daggers.  To their credit, they did their best to cover the confusion on their faces when I told them that it was perfectly fine for them to go ahead and do what they need to do, that Diana and I were just going to sit on the bed and not get into their way. 

Anyway, when I stopped to talk to Patrice, he told me that he has seen it all before.  He had a family from Switzerland who adopted a boy that would bite anyone that touched him.  He knows how it is.  He is a great man for many reasons but this reason is a big one in my eyes.  I told him how and what Diana was doing.  He knows that she gets so upset that she breaks stuff (I'm trying my best to make sure it's her own stuff she breaks and not his) and he still is positive towards her and our adoption.  I'm sure we are not the first family with a child that does this and he still welcomes families into his hotel and treats them like his own family.

Ugh, I've been trying for three paragraphs to tell you what I found out.  Here it goes.  In Colombia, the substitute parents are just that.  When they take a kid into their homes, they know that they will be leaving.  They act more like pampering grandparents than parents.  It is evident that the girls especially have gotten to do whatever they want, eat whatever they want, and go where ever they want.  No one has told them no... or corrected them when they misbehaved because they knew they wouldn't have to put up with it for long.  Or maybe it's because they knew what kind of life the kids had come from and the think they are doing them a favor by spoiling them.  I'd like to believe the latter.  They are 'parenting' this way--and I use that term lightly--because they think it's what the kids need after a rough beginning. 

Anyway, it explains a lot.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lesya and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

So writing all this down at the end of the day is a kind of catharsis for me.  And y'all thought I was doing it for you.  It's good for me to go back over the events of this day and see the good parts and the not so good parts in hindsight.  I try to evaluate what worked and what didn't work, what went well and what went not so well.  Every day is a learning experience and I don't want to make the same mistake twice. 

Today was the kind of day that makes you too tired to even try to reflect.  It was a really difficult day.  Usually, when we have a bad time with Diana, I sit down on this blog and write out every gory detail of what happened and what she did and what I did, etc.  Once I write it, and get it all out, I feel so much better.  Then I go back and erase it all and give you just the bare minimum so that you know what's going on.  Let's face it, even though part of me really wants to portray it completely and accurately, I'm still her mom.  She is my daughter and I'm protective of her.  I don't want to put stuff on here that is going to make her look bad.  She's had a rough go of life so far and she needs protection and love, not infamy and whispers behind her back as she tries to grow up.

Today was a bad day, a bad, bad day... a bad day between Diana and I and a bad day between Ken and Yuli. 

So let's just talk about the positive.  At one point today, Ken was involved in an issue with Yuli.  She doesn't like him.  We were so focused on John's blatant lack of warm fuzzies for me that we didn't actually notice Yuli's passive aggressive feelings for Ken.  She didn't listen to him very well and unfortunately I didn't help his position as an authority figure when I would step in and enforce what he was telling her.  I didn't think about it until lately, I just thought I was helping since she would listen to me.  Anyway, it all came to a climax today when I was going round with Diana, Ken took the other kids to the park.  Well, when they got home Yuli wouldn't follow his instructions.  It got serious and he and I both felt that it would be best if he handled it solo.  It took over two hours, she was so mad at him that she made herself puke.  It was not good.  Anyway, since he was otherwise tied up, I had John.  When I initially scooped him up and took him from the room, locking the door so he couldn't go back in, he yelled for Papa.  He was a little messy from lunch so I took him to the bathroom and turned on the water to wash his hands.  I washed his hands and his face and he was really fascinated with the water.  I let him play for five minutes and then I very apprehensively turned the water off.  He was fine.  I scooped him up.  He was still fine.  We came back to the kitchen.  He saw his sandwich and wanted it.  So I gave it to him.  I was still holding him and he was still ok with it.  I started to do the one armed kitchen clean up (it's been a while so I'm out of practice).  When I started to put the cereal away, he asked for some.  I gave him some.  I kept holding him and giving him more cereal until he fell asleep on me.  It felt so good.  I didn't want to put him down.  My momma heart was happy, happy, happy.  He still prefers Daddy but at least we can do ok with each other when Daddy isn't available.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One O, One S, and One N

I remember back in elementary school the report cards had a section for academics where you got grades A-F by subject.  But they also had a section for character and socialization 'grading' if you will.  You could get an O for Outstanding, an S for Satisfactory, or an N for Needs Improvement.  A little tidbit you might not know about me:  There was one year where I got O's on everything except "Works and Plays Well With Others."  hee hee...

Anyway, today we had one O.  We made it through the whole day without any major defiance from Diana-praise God!  A whole day that we were able to just enjoy being together.  We played cards, we went to the park, we had meals, we tickled, it was good--very, very good.  It makes me very happy.  Not only do I relish the fact that I didn't have to expend that energy... I really believe that in order for her to want to get better about it, she actually has to enjoy being with us when we aren't fighting.  She needs to know how much fun she's missing when we are in the midst of fighting.  I'm going for attachment here, what comes naturally when you care for your newborn.  However, it's not so natural or easy with a seven year old that has had a lot of disruption in their lives.  It takes a constant effort and it's really great when it works.  So I'm very happy about that.

We also had one S today.  Jphn allowed me to fix lunch for him.  He even told me what he wanted.  He came back and asked for more... three times.  He reached out and put his hand in mine.  I was able to sit and talk to him face to face without him looking away or closing his eyes.  I told him (in English so he wouldn't actually understand and tell me no) how much I love him.  I told him that I just really want to scoop him up and love him and squeeze him and kiss him and hug him and call him George... well, not call him George.  I had a fish named George... the name George wouldn't work for my son.  Anyway, it was another baby step.  I know the day will come when he reaches for me and willingly asks for me to pick him up.  I can't wait.

Just before dinner the N came in.  I was in the bathroom using my hairdryer to dry all the socks and underwear that I washed the other day.  It's so moist here I can't get them to dry.  The don't have heat or air conditioning here either... you don't really need it and you just control your temperature by how far the windows are open.  You don't even need screens.  I've only seen three bugs since we got here.  I don't know how they work that but it almost would make it worth it to move here and live bug free.  Back to my story.  One of the kids came in and told me that Daddy needs me.  Now we all know that John prefers Ken-by a lot... but I'm not sure if I've expressed that Yuli prefers me--by almost the same amount.  It works out ok most of the time because the four big kids play together, I take Yuli and Ken gets John.  However, they weren't quite ready for us at dinner and Ken was trying to keep all the kids in our room area to allow them time to get ready.  He had asked several times for Yuli to come and she wouldn't.  He had John so he couldn't easily pick up Yuli and just bring her back... also the giggling while being defiant tends to boil blood.  Here comes mom.  It was funny because she was smiling like she thought I was on her side.  Oops.  I made her sit on her bed (never leaving her cause we've learned that is really bad).  I told her that she needs to listen to Papa.  I kept asking if she was ready to talk to Papa.  She said no a lot.  Finally, she said yes.  I called Ken in and he asked if she was ready to talk to him, she said no.  It was really cute but not cute all at the same time.  She told me that she did not want to listen to Papa.  Oops again.  Anyway, we got it all sorted out but this area definitely needs improvement.

It's interesting because all along this process, I have seen God's hand.  I don't believe what some people tell their adopted kids- that God chose them to be their child.  That's like saying that God allowed them to be born to another family and caused their parents to mess them up just so He could give them to family B.  I believe that if it were up to God, biological parents would do their job and kids would be with them.  I do believe that God calls each and every one of us to do something for Him.  For about 10 years I have known that God gave me (and my fabulous husband) what it takes to adopt.  I believe that God knew these three children would find themselves in need of new parents and that all along he has been preparing us for these specific children.  They are ours now.  I know that because there were times when we attempted to adopt other children that had shown up on the waiting kids list.  Every time, something happened.  In each case it was the one thing that would make me sit back and say, this situation is better for the kids than for them to be with us.  It was clearly God saying let go, these ones aren't yours.  Anyway, last night I said to Ken that I know these kids are ours.  The girls are both really really stubborn---and I mean that in the best possible way.  There are few people on this earth that are as stubborn as I am and would be able to outlast these girls in a stubborn match.  That's how I know God picked us for them.

I will tell you... I showed Cody the blog post from yesterday with the picture of him and John on it.  He read the post and looked up at me with huge eyes.  He said, "Well, what did you say?"  I said, "What?"  He said, "When she asked you if we wanted to adopt them, what did you say?"  I told him that we had said yes, that we absolutely wanted to adopt them.  I asked him if that's what he thought, too.  He said, "Well, yes.  I like them."  Good.  Cause their ours.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Next Step

This morning, we hauled all of us out of bed to get into clothes and head downstairs for the next step.  It's against my religion to get up early in the morning.  It's also against my religion to wake a sleeping child.  I sinned a lot today.  In all honesty, I was NOT happy that the meeting was scheduled for 8.  I was, however, happy that the social worker arranged to meet us here so we only had to make it downstairs.  I grabbed some kids and some toys and headed down.  Ken brought up the rear.

It's called the integration meeting.  Now that we've spent a week with the kids, they want to know how we're integrating... [hello my math nerd friends, does that make you smile?]  Considering that I was sitting on the couch with Connor beside me and Yuli on my lap, her legs stretched out on Connor's lap, Ken was in the chair with John, and Cody and Diana were on the floor putting together puzzle pieces... I'd say pretty well.  (Rylan was there too but he claimed his own chair.)  They ask questions about how we are doing, what our days look like, how the kids are getting along, if we are having any medical issues, etc.  Then came 'the most important question.'  Do you want to adopt these children?  I mean, seriously?  We've had them for a week and now you think we're going to give them back?  No one ever asked me that about the boys a week after giving birth.  Later, Patrice told me that there have been a couple of times when people actually said no.  I was initially horrified but I guess it's better to say no a week in than to take the kids home and decide it's not working. 

Anyway, we got the thumbs up and the social worker went to write the report.  Our lawyer was supposed to be picking up the report this afternoon and is heading tomorrow with the paperwork and power of attorney for us to Tumaco to start the official adoption process.  Now we wait.  Once it's done, Ken will go to Tumaco to sign the adoption agreement and get the birth certificates.  Patrice says that this part takes about 3 weeks.  After that we head to Bogotá for a week and then we are coming home.

The morning was really rough with everyone having to get up before they were done sleeping.  Add to that a delayed breakfast.  About 10 minutes into the meeting, I sent Connor back upstairs for a box of cereal.  They all scarfed dry cereal down and at then end of the meeting the box was almost empty.  We headed to the park to run off some steam but everyone was craaaaaannnnnnnky.  We came back for lunch and then enforced some tiempo tranquilidado... quiet time.  Only it wasn't really very quiet for me since I was waging war to convince Yuli & Diana that this was really happening.  Actually, they acquiesced about 10 minutes in and it went ok but I couldn't doze off because I was sure that Diana was going to make a break for it.  I spent the time with my eyes 90% closed and prayed almost the whole time.  At one point, I realized that parts of my prayer were in Spanish and parts were in English.  I did feel refreshed after the quiet time and it's a good thing, too. 

Diana is having a hard time... a really hard time.  Please pray for her.  We actually found out in the meeting today that the kids were actually in three separate foster homes.  It explains a lot.  I had expected them to be very tight with each other.  We thought we were going to end up with an us versus them, 3 on 3 mentality with the kids, but they have really seamlessly slid into our family.  It makes me a little sad that they weren't together... they actually seem as comfortable with their new brothers as what they do with each other.  Anyway, it seems that in Diana's house, they let he do pretty much whatever she pleased.  She tends to take whatever she wants from whomever she wants.  She gets really upset when Ken and I stop her.  Her tantrums are getting shorter though.  And when she's done, she actually seems really receptive to talking with me.  I try to reassure her that I love her so much.  I tell her that I'm her mom and I'm going to be her mom forever and for always.  I tell her all the things that I like about her.  But then I tell her that she's part of a family now, and families respect each other... they take care of each other... (at least they are supposed to).  I tell her that things will go really well and be a lot of fun if she remembers that.  Things will not go well for her and she will be spending a lot of time angry if she doesn't respect the other members of her family.  The thing is that she seems to really like us as a family and seems to like being in our family.  She seems to like me, she just doesn't like some of my rules.  She likes to get her own way... I can't really blame her for that much, I do too.  We'll work on the rest.

The daily funny is that Cody is an AWESOME big brother to John.  He's the only one that can give Ken a break.  Today he got out his music player and headphones and introduced John to the Beach Boys.  John was dancing around singing, "Ba ba ba, ba ba ba..."  (Barbara Ann)  It was tremendously cute... and as it turns out, while I was snapping a picture, I accidentally got one with the headphones over his eyes.  Enjoy.

One Step Forward and...

That's right-two steps back.  This is the post I didn't want to write.  I had a bunch of other things that I did want to write today... I did Yuli's hair for the first time, we took a trip to the mall again because it's still raining, how Cody Alexander the Great is the unexpected hero by being big brother to John and giving Ken a break, how I got time to myself to cook dinner. 

Yeah, that didn't happen.  While we were in the grocery store at the mall again today, we decided to get pasta and jar sauce and some veggies and just cook in rather than ordering more food.  Patrice has allowed us to use the kitchen on the days that they don't cook.  Can I just say how thankful I am to be here at La Maison with Patrice?  He's awesome and I don't know how we'd get along without him.  Anyway, Ken's never cooked on a gas stove and we decided that it would be easier for me to cook with Yuli than for him to cook with John.  As luck would have it, Yuli didn't want to come with me, she wanted to stay and play.  BONUS.  As I was cleaning some carrots [they are abnormally short and really, really fat here] I was reliving today's events: my semi-success at doing Yuli's hair, the fun we had at Happy City at the mall, the look on the kids' faces when they were eating their ice cream cones, the fact that John actually took food from me... all in all, a good day. 

Diana came down to talk to me while I was cooking.  It would suffice to say, I didn't get to enjoy my time alone cooking.  It was another bad one.  The good news--it didn't last as long as at the park.  Also, when it was over, she was just as sweet and approachable as she usually is.  She's having a really tough time realizing that I'm the mom and that I take my job seriously.  I just wish that she'd realize that I'm not fighting against her, I'm fighting for her.  Quite honestly, I don't know how I'd do it without having God on my side.  This. is. hard. work.  We knew it would be.  We didn't enter into this with rose colored glasses.  We knew it would be hard.  Actually, there have been many times when I have thought to myself that it is not at hard as I expected or that it could be worse.  But still, it's hard.  I have an adoptive mom friend that reminded me the other day that she is worth it.  Absolutely, she is worth it.  She is worth it and that is why I go to bed physically tired, but emotionally drained.  That's why I get up in the morning not yet ready to start the day but anticipating what God is going to do with it.  She needs us.  My baby needs me. 

On a more positive note, John allowed me to hold him today.  It was only once and it was only for a short time.  I restrained myself from loving all over him but it made my momma heart do little flips.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Here's Something New and Different

So, it was very disheartening to not be able to attend worship services at all today.  It was partly my fault since I didn't do my research ahead of time and find a church here in Pasto.  That being said, I don't think we would have been able to go anyway.  Diana was up a several times last night with her head hurting.  I was beginning to doubt our decision to not take her for medical attention.  She was really quite grumpy and tired (understandably so) this morning at breakfast.  Also, did I mention that it takes about 1 1/2 -2 hours to get everyone showered, dressed, teeth brushed and ready for the day?

As the day moved on, she started feeling a little better and I was even able to comb her hair and get it into a poof without too much discomfort.  Patrice took us to UniCentro (like a small shopping mall) around 11am.  We let the kids look in the toy store first.  I think it was Diana and Yuli's first time ever in a toy store.  We walked up and down every aisle.  The boys were very patient throughout the whole thing.  I could tell they were done but they waited anyway.  It was fun to watch the girls look at all the toys.  Yuli just kept saying over and over, "Mira, Mira!"  (Look! Look!)  It was also sad.  I mean, I'm happy that we were able to share that experience with them but sad to think that they are 7 and 4 years old and never had that experience.  The funny part was, we found ourselves in the doll aisle.  Connor stood there for a minute and then said, "Well, this is a little weird."

We then found the food court.  It was actually pretty easy considering the size of the mall and they actually have signs that pointed out, "Plaza de la Comida."  I figured that one out all by myself.  I really would have liked to have the chance to figure out what/where I wanted to eat but the natives were restless (and hungry) so I just went over to Mister Pollo to order what I knew they wanted and would eat.  I can't believe I ended up eating another hamburger in Colombia.  I will say that Mister Pollo has the best plate for feeding children.  It's called the salchipapa grande.  It's a plate with french fries topped with once inch pieces of hot dog that have also been deep fried.  The kids love it.  They are really skimpy with the ketchup here, though.  [Side note: these kids really are ours.  When I first brought home Heinz Ketchup from the grocery store they all turned their noses up at it.  Once they saw the boys eating it, they tried it.  Now, they can't eat without it.]  As I sat eating my mediocre hamburger, I watched all the people coming through with plates of food from the other places... we'll not be making that mistake again.

We then stopped at Happy City.  It's like a Chuck E. Cheese, kinda.  The kids had a great time.  It's not cheap, though, so we allowed each of them to play 3 games.  For some, it's hard because they are so excited that they do all three and then have to wait on the others.  For others, it's hard because they know they only have three shots and they agonize over what to do.  All, however, had a good time.  Miss Princess Yuli was NOT happy when it was time to leave. 

After Happy City we hit the grocery store... yup, it's right there in the mall.  For a point of reference, we go through 2 loaves of bread in 3 lunches.  And I have no idea who thought peanut butter should only come in jars that hold 10 oz but they should be fired.  I have never seen kids eat as much as what Diana, Yuli and John eat.  It's insane.  The other morning at breakfast John drank 16 oz of yogurt, and ate scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, two giant dinner rolls, and a banana.  He's TWO for cryin' out loud.  Right now, I'm thankful that I only have to fix one meal a day. 

Oh, and did I mention that this whole trip was planned because I needed groceries?  Well, that's the reason but it worked out for the best.  While we were in Happy City, I was watching out the windows at a giant cloud rolling in.  The sky opened up and it started pouring.  If we had been at the park we would have been soaked.

We ended up spending more time in the room this afternoon than usual as a result of the weather.  Ken and I did pretty well with keeping everyone entertained.  However, we (I mean me in that we) had our first real experience with Princess Yuli.  I mean, I've met the princess before but this time she stayed for a while.  The girls and I were playing in our room and I could see that the tickling game was going to end up with someone injured really soon.  So I switched gears to another game (similar to tiddly-winks but a little easier).  Diana was right there with me but Yuli didn't want to stop.  I tried to engage her but she was hot over it.  She tried messing up the game and she and I ended up in a little confrontation.  I calmly (this is how I know God is here, because I'm never calm on my own) scooped her up and told her that she needed to sit on her bed for a while.  Please don't think this is time out.  The girl cannot handle being 'left' or being alone.  I would never do that to her.  It would be awful.  It's more than your usual kid not wanting to be by themselves.  She really has been left before.  Her intense fear of being left is justified.  Anyway, I sat her on her bed and then I sat down on the floor next to her bed to continue playing with Diana while Yuli worked it out.  Well, she worked it out all right.  She was so mad and crying so hard that she made herself throw up.  I'd never seen that before.  I'd like to go the rest of my life without seeing it again.  Just when I think I'm getting a handle on what's going on here with all of us... something like that happens.  I've never experienced that before with a child.  It breaks my heart.  I wonder what must've happened in this poor baby's life to bring her to this point.  It rips me in two.  And then I think about God.  He loves these kids more than I ever will.  Not only does He love them more, but He knows every detail of what has happened to her.  He witnessed it all.  He saw all of it.  These are His children.  And then I think about all of His other children that are still in the same place that my children were in.  The thought of it all, it's just too much to bear.  I wish I could bring them all home.  I wish more people realized just how great the need is.  Babies, innocent children living lives that most of us can't even wrap our brains around.  And we all, myself included, just continue on with our day, as if it's not happening.  This changes a person.  Once you know, you can't go back to not knowing.

One more thing:  Despite the fact that she was really hurting and there was nothing I could do about, there was some good that came from Diana hitting her head last night.  I had the opportunity to get closer to her than usual.  It's not that she a standoffish kind of person, it's more like she has things to do.  She's busy so it's a little more difficult to do those lovey, huggy, close type of things that help with attaching.  Anyway, after I carried her seven year old self all the way back to the hotel (one armed by the way b/c I had Yuli's hand with my other one), she was really content to lay and watch TV for a little while and I was able to lay on the bed with her and rub her back.  It was good.  Baby steps.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Playground is a Battlefield

The good news:  after 5 days and on our 10th visit to a playground, John finally decided to get down and play.  He didn't actually play on anything but he was really happy and running.  Ken was chasing him and it was grand fun.  I told Ken now that he has his shoulder, back and arm muscles built up, it's time to work on his leg muscles.

The bad news:  He ran right behind a girl on the swings and Ken couldn't stop it.  Busted his lip and bled everywhere.  He insisted that Ken hold him from that point on.

The good news:  Diana and I sat down with Patrice, our interpreter, to have a discussion about some of the behaviors that have been a problem.  I was so grateful that I was able to say most of it to her in Spanish, especially the part about how much we love her and how happy we are that she is our daughter.  I was also able to list off the different things that we really like about her and what's awesome about her personality.  I then told her about a couple of things that we need to work on.  I am also so grateful for Patrice who has a lot of experience watching adoptive families come through his hotel.  He not only made sure that I was making sense and that she understood me, he elaborated. I almost started crying when he told her that Mamí and Papa love her very much.  He told her that we are her parents forever and that we will always be in her life, no matter what.  He told her a lot of really good stuff.  I am so very thankful for him.  It also seems as if since the discussion, she has not only been taking me seriously when I tell her stuff, but she seems more open to engaging and playing with me.  I don't think it's a quick fix, nor is it permanent... but it's a step.  And I do really like her.

The bad news:  While we were playing on the playgound, she backed right into Rylan while he was on the swings.  She busted her head on the metal seat.  She was bleeding.  I thought it was really bad at first but I dont' think it's too terrible.  I can't really get a good look at it now, hopefully in the morning.  I've been through head injuries and this didn't bleed as much as I expected.  We gave her some Tylenol for the headache part of it.  She has been drawing and playing video games.  She seems ok. 

It wasn't even the big park with all the dangerous equipment.  That may have been the problem.  It's the little one right down the street and it was crowded today.

Another Day at the Playground

Can I just say that the playground equipment here is fantastic.  It's the kind of stuff that you'd never see in the states.  I remember a friend of mine discussing this on her blog.  She and her family moved to Vienna, Austria and she said the same thing about the playground equipment there. 

Lawsuits evidently aren't an issue here.  Kids play and kids get hurt.  It's ok... we don't have to wrap them in a bubble.  Hence, my kids are getting to slide down slides taller than any they've been on.  The merry-go-rounds go really fast and there's no safety rail.  The swings all have brick pavers underneath them (I gotta admit, that freaks me out a bit), and they have climbing structures unlike what would be 'safe' in the US.

So, in honor of my very that even a word?... and the fun we had today, enjoy these pictures of some very dangerous yet fantastically fun playground equipment.








And here's a few pictures I took of the mountains as the clouds were rolling in.  I would like to get out and see the mountains more but right now we're staying close to home.