About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.


Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homesick

David and I have been here for three weeks now, and I am officially homesick.  It hit me pretty hard this weekend, and I find myself spilling tears quite easily.  I miss Mike.  I miss home.  I miss my kitchen (did I really just say that?).  I miss my coffee maker.  I miss English.  I miss my car.  I miss using U.S. currency and a debit card (mine will only work at an ATM, not for purchases).  I'm tired of keeping track of so much cash for so many different things, especially in a different currency.  I miss my TV that only has a few channels to choose from.  All the channels available here just cause problems.  I miss Mike.  (I already said that, didn't I?).  I think the only things I don't find myself missing are the Texas heat and being awoken at 4 a.m. by my dogs.  I know how badly I wanted to be here, but now that we have Juan David, we're all just ready to be home.

Our upcoming little trip this week has actually caused me quite a bit of stress--over the timing, the finances involved, and just the planning part of it all (which I haven't really been a part of--we're just going along with what our friends have planned).  It made me wonder if we were even supposed to go, yet I knew I would always regret it if we didn't.  Then it hit me just a little bit ago that it is our gift to Juan David and Julian to be able to spend a week of vacation together.  If we were not going, Julian would not have taken off work, and we might only have been able to see him one or two more times before leaving.  I believe very strongly in the bond they have as brothers, and I don't ever want them to lose it.  I hope it will be a memorable time for them, as well as for me and David.




Thursday, June 27, 2013

Progress

I'm not even going to try to pretend that I understand all the steps involved in  finalizing the adoption here.  I just listen to my lawyer and go with whatever he says and do whatever he tells me to do.  However, he seems to be pretty content with how things are going, and it seems to me that everything is progressing very well.  I'm thankful for how things have gone up until this point.  I've read blogs and heard horror stories about bad translators (I haven't had one to deal with), drivers making way more stops than needed (haven't used one), and lots of wasted time and money having to go through a representative in order to communicate with the attorney (not the case in our situation).  I couldn't be more pleased with the direct communication I have with our attorney, who is constantly telling me to give him a call for absolutely anything I might need or be curious about.  It sure makes this process a lot less complicated (which I'm sure would be a different story if I didn't speak Spanish).

We are leaving on Monday to go to Villa de Leyva (a well-known place outside of Bogota) for a week of vacation with some friends.  (It's another place on our Monopoly board, so we're excited to visit!) Our attorney told us it would be fine for us to travel that week, but when I confirmed the dates with him, he told me that it just meant we may have to push some things into the following week that we could have gotten done next week.  However, he wants us to enjoy Colombia, so he made a few phonecalls to work around this little travel opportunity.  We are hoping that Julian will be able to spend the week with us, as well.  As quickly as time is passing (yes, it really does feel like it!), I want them to have as much time together as possible.

Anyway, the attorney told me yesterday that I needed to take Juan David to get a chest x-ray and blood work today for his U.S. Embassy exam.  Our appointment for his exam is on July 9th, right after we come back, but the results of today's procedures will be sent straight to the doctor that he's going to see.  He said that by going today, it will save us a lot of time when we get back because we won't have to wait on the results.  He also told me that he'd presented our paperwork to the court and hoped that we'd get a good judge.  Today he called to say that the judge approved everything.  :)  Now he said it goes before a legal advocate for the family (defensora de familia), and as long as it goes well with her, we may have sentencia (when we sign the adoption decree) the week we get back. That usually signals the beginning of the last week, as much as I understand it, anyway.  Like I said, I'm not pretending to get it.  I just do what I'm told and trust the person telling me to do it.

Being a single parent for the last few days, especially in this situation, has been quite a challenge for me at times.  I don't mind staying in Colombia, but I miss the support of a second parent and the break that a second parent provides.  I miss Mike, so, yes, I am anxious to get these boys home.  I'm really looking forward to our vacation, though, so I don't have to feel all alone with these two boys.  Our friends are bilingual, so that will be a good break for David to hear more English again.  They are also an amazing Christian couple, so that will be good for Juan David to observe and be around.  I sure do hope it works out for Julian to join us, as well. 

Tomorrow we're headed to El Camino Academy to celebrate the last day of summer school and to talk last minute logistics of our trip with our friend.  I'm excited to see some of my kids from last year to see how they have grown and progressed in their English. :) 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two things I've learned

I'm constantly observing my new son, learning more and more about him on a daily basis.  We talk a lot about our first attempt to adopt him and the relationship we built with him during that time.  I'm amazed at how vividly he still remembers details of most of our conversations.  That has definitely helped us to bond very quickly.  He accepted us as his family immediately and began calling us Mom and Dad very naturally from day one.

Two main things that I have learned about him so far are these:


  1. He likes to eat.  A lot.  He will not leave a crumb on his plate, nor does he like to see anyone leave a crumb on their plate, either.  He's quite healthy, though, and he gets so excited whenever it's time to eat fruit.  (We eat fruit with breakfast, have natural fruit juice at lunch, and have a designated time for fruit in the late afternoon.  Then after dinner, if we don't have anything for dessert, he asks for fruit again).  I think he's going to go into shock when he gets to the States and cannot find many of his favorite fruits, like pitaya, guanabana, fejoa, granadilla, etc. However, he's not picky in any sense, so I know he'll find new favorites quickly.
  2. He loves his brother (Julian) and has quite a bit of respect for him.  Though they hadn't seen each other in nearly a year (since last year when we had them both together), their bond has not changed a bit.  He gets so excited when he hears that we might see his brother.  Last night we played a little conversational game, and he had to answer the question: Who is someone that has had a lot of influence in your life?  It didn't take him long to answer, "Julian".  He said his brother has helped him with so many things in his life.  He doesn't even know yet just how instrumental his brother was in this second attempt to adopt him.  I'm so thankful to know and love Julian like we do so they don't have to ever feel like they need to let go of one another.  It saddens me that here they've been living in the same city for the last year and a half with absolutely no contact with one another.  Even though we're taking him somewhere 2500 miles away, we made it clear that his brother will always be a part of his life.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Moving along

I'd say we just had a full weekend, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.  We all got up and dressed quickly for our last family picture before Mike left.  Here we all are crowding together out on the balcony to take a quick picture.

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Mike's flight took off at 9:30, so we all piled into a taxi at 6 a.m. to accompany him to the airport.  David decided to stay for the remainder of the process, so I knew this moment was going to be extremely hard on him.  David loves his Daddy and is very close to him.  Sure enough, while Mike waited in line to check in his bag, the tears began.  David just buried his little head into Mike's chest and cried his little heart out.  

To try to make it a little easier, we found our favorite restaurant at the airport and sat down to a nice breakfast all together.  Once we got David happy with his chocolate chip waffles, Mike gave us all hugs and said goodbye.  I stayed in the restaurant with the two boys for the remainder of our tearless breakfast.

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Then we went home and sat on the balcony of our apartment to watch his plane take off.  He texted us to let us know when they were about to take off, and then we snapped a picture of his plane once it was in the air.

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We rested and played lazy the rest of the day, other than a trip to the grocery store to restock for the next week.

Our dear friend, Mercedes, invited us to her church on Sunday and then for lunch at her house afterwards.  So we attended the Baptist Church where we miraculously met her last year.  Nothing flashy or attractive about the building on the outside, but what an amazing church body exists on the inside.  The pastor spoke so clearly and with such depth--I could have listened to him for hours.  I looked around and saw tons of people taking notes and really soaking up the teaching.  After church, the boys played outside while we waited for her to attend choir practice, and then we walked to her house.  Julian joined us for lunch, too.  We have not seen him much yet, and I sure have missed him.  

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The church

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Waiting outside after church 

Photo: Almorzando con Julian Rodriguez

Lunch

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My boys

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(You can tell who the jokester is already....)

Later we visited Julian at his job and took some more pictures that I promised him I would not publish.  We finally said goodbye to Mercedes, and Juan David told her he'd be waiting for another invitation. :)  She told him he always has an open door in her home for the rest of her life.  She truly mothered him as a small child, and he will never forget her.  I'm so thankful to not only know her, but to have such a priceless bond with her in Christ.  

I miss Mike and feel a bit out of sorts without him.  However, I'm thankful for having such great Christian friends here who are looking out for us in his absence.  


Friday, June 21, 2013

Flexibility

After yesterday's integration meeting, I asked our lawyer one last question.  "When can my husband leave to go back to work?"  He told me that there was still one more paper to sign before he could go.  He said he'd send it to me via e-mail, we'd need to print it and get it notarized.  It's a paper that gives me permission to take Juan David out of the country (home) without Mike being with us.  Basically, without that document, Mike can't leave.

So, our plan today was this:

  • Get up, eat breakfast, walk a few blocks to the internet cafe to print off the document.
  • Take a taxi to the notary building (we just went there on Tuesday to sign our power of attorney for the lawyer)
  • Walk a few blocks to a location where we could grab a bus to the school so we could call the U.S. at no charge to change Mike's flight
  • See Julian on his side of town before he went to work at one o clock
  • Head back for a late lunch at home
  • Rest while Mike packed to go home tomorrow
Here was what our day actually looked like:
  • Mike and I got up and had coffee out on the balcony together
  • Mike made a great breakfast while I set up an account on rebtel.com so Mike can call us frequently while we're apart for the next few weeks.
  • Our lawyer called to say just how important it was that this document be absolutely perfect, so he asked that we please take a picture of it for him to verify before we got it notarized
  • Juan David and I walked to the internet cafe to print off several copies of the document in case we made any mistakes (white-out is not acceptable--one mistake and it has to be redone completely)
  • I fill out both papers, and then we have issues getting the picture sent.  Finally, it sends.
  • Our lawyer calls me to say that I messed up one of the passport #'s.  
  • On the fourth try, I finally have one with no mistakes.  Sent the picture of it again, call the attorney, and he says it looks good.
  • We grabbed a taxi to the closest notary and wait in line.
  • The man at the front tells me I need Juan David's birth certificate or he is not authorized to notarize it.  However, Juan David's birth certificate with his new name does not exist yet.  Nor does his passport. They send me to another line to talk to someone else.  He insists that he can't notarize it, but he sends me upstairs to talk to someone else.  She is empathetic and helpful, but she still insists that she can't notarize it.  We have nothing to prove that Juan David Alspaugh exists (because technically, he doesn't yet).  I offer to call my lawyer so they can talk to him, but she acts like she'll work with us.
  • She calls another man over, he remembers us getting the power of attorney notarized just a few days ago, so he authorizes for it to be notarized.  They send me back downstairs to wait in line all over again.  
  • I get to the front of the line, and the guy still won't notarize it.  He sends me to talk to another lady.  She flat out refuses.  How can she prove that the child in our custody is the same child as the one with the new last name on the document.  I pull out our temporary custody paper that we signed the very first day we got Juan David, proving to her that this child is in an adoption process and will take on our last name when the the court process is finished.
  • Another guy sitting at a desk nearby is watching the whole thing (he remembered us from a few days ago, as well).  He interrupts, tells her that the guy upstairs already authorized it, and tells us to come with him.  He finally notarizes the document for us.  
  • It's far too late to get to the school or to see Julian, so we grab a taxi back home.
  • I call the lawyer and tell him they gave us a ton of problems, but that it finally got notarized.  He tells me to guard the document like a treasure and says that Mike is free to leave the country now. 
  • Our friend from the school suggests that we find a local place to make international calls, so we head right back to the internet cafe to call the airline.  There are no walls in the front of these little places, so it's super loud with everyone talking inside or just from the traffic outside.  Thankfully Mike has better hearing over the phone than I do.  He waits on hold for a long time while waiting to talk to the right person, but he finally gets his flight changed after probably 20-30 minutes on the phone.  We print off his itinerary while we're there, and then we decide to look for a local pizza place.  We are all absolutely famished.
  • We look across the street to find something, turn around, and find that we're standing right in front of Dominoes Pizza.  We enjoyed a really nice meal together as a family, which helped relieve all the many stresses from the day. 
  • We walk home and veg for the rest of the day while Mike packs to go home.
All's well that ends well. :)

Photo: A long, frustrating day can only lead to one place.  :-) Comfort food.

From the top of the mountain at night

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Photo: On the mountaintop


A special night to welcome Juan David to the Alspaugh family.  The card we gave him?  A postcard of Dallas at night. :)  He got up from the table and walked around to hug and kiss both of us.  Love that boy.  

(We couldn't get very many pictures of the family because it was just too dark, and we didn't want to lug around the camera that takes good night pics.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Integracion

Today we had our second meeting which was called Integracion (Integration). We passed with a favorable interview, signifying that we have successfully integrated as a family unit. First they interviewed Juan David, and then they interviewed Mike and I.  Our answers to all of their questions all matched up very well, and she told Mike and I that Juan David really, really, really wanted to be a part of our family.  She said our prayers for him over the years have worked because she couldn't get over how respectful and sensible he was.  She said she really couldn't even tell that he's been living under protection for so many years.  That's not just our prayers for him, though.  I know many of you have prayed for him faithfully for the last five years, even after our first attempt to adopt him failed.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Since we're using our own attorney, a few things have fallen through the cracks with things that the agency usually takes care of, like assigning us a translator, a driver, etc.  So they've let me translate for all of our meetings and everywhere we go. We are so much more comfortable this way, though, because it keeps the communication clear between us and our attorney.  Makes me feel good to know he's fully confident with my Spanish.  Love that man and all he has done.  He's absolutely amazing. I highly recommend him to anyone.  Anyway, he is sending us one more paper to be signed so that I can take Juan David out of the country without Mike, and then Mike is free to go home so he can return to work.

Our dear friend Zayde is meeting us tonight at Monserrate (the infamous mountain where my first book concluded).  We plan to return to the top of the mountain, have a special dinner to welcome Juan David to the family, and take pictures as a a celebration of all the success that today signifies. 

Our papers can now be presented to the courts, and next week we will start with Juan David's medical exams.  The following week, we have permission to travel on a little vacation outside of Bogota with our friends (Zayde's family), who we traveled with last summer when we went to Apulo.  I will post our new family pictures this evening or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A little fun with Dad


Settling in

We've been here for a week and a half now and have almost completed our first week with Juan David.  After getting things set up (rooms, closets, refrigerator, telephones, internet, etc.) and getting reacquainted with friends, we finally started to settle in and let the realities of our new life sink in.  I won't say that the tension did not start to mount around here rather quickly, but David and I had a long, heart-to-heart talk last night that led to a new daily schedule that we will commit to follow whenever it is in our control.  I also wrote out some basic ground rules that we found to be necessary to keep everyone happy.  (With David, we've never had much of a need for rules--just basic principles and values that guide how we live.) So now everything's written out in both English and Spanish, and we have it all set under the glass in the main table so everyone can see it. 

As a teacher, I should have known how much more secure a simple schedule would make everyone feel, but somehow it surprised me to see both boys checking and following the schedule almost religiously today.  Now they know when they can watch TV, when they can play on the computer, when it's time to go outside, when we're going to play a game together, when it's time to be quiet and read, when they can have a snack, when we're going to eat our meals, and when it's time to practice English.  I even know when I will have a chance to check my e-mail or write on my blog.  Hopefully it's a good start to a great summer together even though everyone is living out of their comfort zone.  I know we still have a whole world of challenges ahead of us, but all we can do is just take things a day at a time.



My summer Bible study is starting this evening back home.  I am saddened to not be part of it, but I am so encouraged to hear how many have signed up for it.  I know without a doubt that God laid that study on my heart to teach because it's the study He prepared for all of those ladies this summer.  I'm so grateful for my friend who agreed to lead it in my absence. :)

Unfortunately, I didn't bring a single Bible study workbook with me this summer due to space.  However, today I got out David's little Bible and have committed myself to memorize the rest of the book of James that I didn't finish memorizing during our last study. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Missing pieces

They say that one thing that's especially hard for adoptive children and adoptive families is dealing with a life full of missing pieces.  I thought about that when I looked through Juan David's memory book that the orphanage gave him.  A handful of pictures from his childhood, and that's it.  Fifteen years old and he walked away with a small backpack, the clothes he had on that day, and a little memory book.  Everything else stayed behind.  I'm thankful for the pictures we have from when he came to the States.  I'm thankful for the pictures that I've gathered from Julian over the last three years.  Yet so many years remain missing.

Yesterday I took a walk with our friend who knew the three of them since they were little.  Julian specifically asked me not to take Juan David down a certain street close to where he lives, so I left Mike and the boys playing on the soccer field while I took a walk with her to get ice cream.  Before I knew it, she started pointing out several of the places where they had lived.  She told me how and where she met them and explained the kind of childhood they lived.

She filled in so many missing pieces, stuff that I'll never find accounted for in the paperwork they gave us.  Stuff that doesn't even exist in their files.  She's also pretty sure she has a bunch of pictures stored away somewhere that she promised she will try to dig out for me.  I'm so thankful for her and for the God-ordained connection that I have with her.  I also thank God for giving her the opportunity to be reconnected with both of the boys, now many years later. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Feels like home

The best part of coming to Colombia (besides adopting Juan David) is being able to reconnect with great friends that we've made over the last two years.  It makes it feel like home.

Yesterday we took the boys to El Camino Academy (where we volunteered to teach/help out with summer schoo last year).  We wanted to see everyone again, David specifically wanted to see the P.E. teacher, and we wanted to show Juan David where we spent all of our time last summer (and might possibly do again in future summers when we come to visit his brother).  It was so good to see everyone again and catch up with each other.  We stayed for a few hours while the boys played soccer together outside on the field.

Around noon, we went to one of our closest friend's houses with some of the other summer school teachers (from the U.S.) because she was going to show us how prepare and serve a famous Colombian dish called Bandeja Paisa.  I got a crash course on making the beans, the plantains, the sausage etc,.--even the juice!  There were four of us squeezed into a tiny kitchen with food cooking on every burner, in the oven, on a skillet, or just sitting on the counter.  We had a great time, and then we all sat down to quite the delicious Colombian meal.


Photo: Learned how to make and serve Bandeja Paisa today. Mmmmmm, sure was a great meal! Thank you, Zayde. You are a treasure.

Tomorrow that same friend invited us to her church for Father's Day (we went to that church once last year, but with Julian).  Then our dear, dear friend Mercedes invited us over for lunch tomorrow afternoon (she has known Juan David and Julian since they were very little, and Julian lives at her house.)  Both of these friends are an absolute treasure to us, and we don't take a minute with them for granite.

Our boys are doing well together.  Both are improving in their language skills, learning and practicing the other one's language.  All they need is a soccer ball (when outside) or a nerf gun (while inside) to keep them happy.

Next week we plan to go ride the infamous go-karts that we go to every year and head back up to the top of the mountain sometime (Montserrate) for a new family picture.  We'll see what else comes about next week before Mike will return to the States.

Today we caught up on laundry (I'm so thankful for having a dryer this year), went grocery shopping, ate pizza, and watched a movie we found on TV.  Tonight, thanks to Lake Pointe's Internet campus, we get to go to our own church. :)

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Hanging out at our old apartments from last year

Photo: I'd say they bonded. Amazing the power that a soccer ball can hold.
Playing on the soccer field at El Camino Academy

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Just climbing around right outside our friend, Jenn's, office

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gotcha Day

I suppose we have finally experienced what they call "Gotcha Day".  It's not the day the actual adoption decree is signed, but it's the day that our child was finally given to us and placed under our care.  We signed papers for provisional custody of Juan David, and they told him we are now his parents.  We are his family.  We meet again next Thursday to discuss how things went over our first week together.  They will interview all of us, including him, and as long as everyone is still in agreement to proceed with the adoption, then our lawyer can present our paperwork to the courts.  (That's when Mike can go back home to return to work while the rest of us stay through the court process.)  Our lawyer said that should take 2-3 weeks before we sign the adoption decree, then it goes before the U.S. Embassy, which is probably another week or so, and then we come home.  Anything could happen to delay any of those steps--it is all just a guide to go by.  All I know is that he said he has no intention of keeping us in Colombia any longer than is absolutely necessary, so he will do all he can to make it go as quickly as possible.  That man is a miracle worker and I have complete confidence in him.  When we were leaving our "meeting place" today, he looked right at Juan David and let him know just how difficult this case really was.  Both lawyers couldn''t stop telling him what a wonderful opportunity he's been given and also what an immense advantage he has because he has a bilingual mother to communicate with easily throughout this transition.  

We left the office, took a taxi to the mall, ate lunch together, and then he asked if we could go to a shoe store because he needed new shoes.  We planned on getting him new shoes, anyway, but he had some money that they gave me that he'd earned at a job, and he wanted to use it to buy new soccer shoes for both him and David.  We'd thought about putting his money in an account at home, but this was something he wanted to do and we didn't want to deny him the privilege of doing something so kind for David.  David was so overwhelmed with gratitude that he just wrapped his arms around Juan David in a huge hug right in the middle of the shoe store.  I'll never forget it.  We saved the rest of the money and will start an account for him at home.  

Once we got home to the apartment and showed him around, let the boys have a nerf-gun war, and watched a little TV, we broke out the Colombia version of Monopoly to play together.  Wow.  I do believe David and I have found our match at Monopoly.  Juan David ended up owning the entire board, driving us all to bankruptcy.  I knew he enjoyed Math, and now I saw all that mathematical thinking and reasoning in action!

Our journey to Juan David started in June of 2008 with two little pictures that came through on an e-mail from a summer hosting program.  Actually, there were fourteen little pictures, but only two of them caught my eye and my heart.  I cut them out, put them on the refrigerator, and we all began to pray for the two children in those pictures.  Five years later, guess what I found in the packet of papers and documents that his social worker gave me today?  The originals of those two pictures.  Both of them.  Talk about a story coming full circle.  Wow.  The orphanage also gave him a memory book of pictures, and the very first picture in the book is of all three siblings together, including Julian.  A picture that none of them knew existed. I will treasure it forever.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kitchen disasters already

If you know me, you know that the kitchen is one of my least favorite places to be.  Not only do I hate cooking, I'm just not comfortable with anything that is kitchen related.  Yes, we get by on the basic dinners, but only if they're quick and easy.  So, you can imagine that if I'm not comfortable in my own kitchen, I'm definitely not comfortable in a foreign one.

Well, I've been here for a total of four days so far, and I'm already having disasters in the kitchen.  First, I used the wrong kind of dish in the oven (hey, it was stored with all the casserole dishes....), and it broke.  Then this afternoon I went to get a glass out of the strainer when it just randomly broke.  Early this evening, Julian was with us, and I worked hard to make a nice little dinner for us.  I made some breaded chicken patties in the oven and also baked some french fries.  I took the chicken patties out, laid some cheese on them, and put them back in to finish.  Finally, I took it all out of the oven and set both dishes on the stove. Mmmm.  It all sure looked really good.  I put a chicken patty and some fries on one plate, and as I went to set it down, the dish with the chicken patties started sliding off the stove, landing upside down on the floor, shattering into pieces.  Not only did I destroy the casserole dish, but there went dinner.  The second I heard the crash, I screamed, and poor Julian came running to my rescue, grabbing a broom to sweep up all the glass.  We didn't lose the french fries or the first chicken patty I'd already served on a plate, so Julian got the yummy dinner, while the rest of us quickly made up some ham sandwiches to eat with our french fries.

I'm going to have to start a list of everything that I'll need to replace before I leave.  Let's hope it doesn't get too much longer or we're going to have to start eating off of napkins.

One brother today, the other tomorrow

Soooooooooooo good to see Julian again.  He's definitely matured and is growing int
o a responsible young man.  He got to our apartment and immediately asked if he could finish a homework assignment.  Here he is, working hard.





One more day

One more day remains until our lives will change forever.  One more day until Juan David joins us.  One more day for David to be an only child.  One more day for us to be a little family of three. (Well, officially a family of three because unofficially we still include Julian).  One more day until our home becomes a very bilingual home again--this time not just for a month while we're abroad.

Lots of change ahead--including both excitement and also grieving.  Juan David was as happy as ever to find out that he's finally being adopted.  Yet we know that he will go through a grieving process as he leaves behind his country, his culture, his language, his school, his friends, and sadly, his brother.  I can't imagine the range of emotions that he is experiencing today, getting ready to be reunited with us tomorrow morning.  A moment that we told him last summer would likely not happen.  We promised him we'd be back, but we told him that we probably would not be able to get his adoption case reopened.

Actually, we got our flights (with approval from both lawyers and our agency) with the assumption that we'd be getting Juan David either yesterday or today.  Then the morning after purchasing our flights and applying for our visas, our lawyer wrote to confirm that the official date would be tomorrow.  That kind-of lengthened our stay for a few extra days, but I think God planned it that way for David's sake.  I think he needed to get adjusted and feel comfortable first so that he can welcome Juan David with open arms.  We gave him the choice to go back early with Mike or to stay the long-haul with me and Juan David.  We figured he could see how he felt when Mike gets ready to leave.  Well, he loves it here so much already that he told me yesterday, "I've already made my decision to stay."  We'll still ask him again when it's time for Mike to leave, but I'm glad he's so happy to be here.

I'm also glad we didn't get Juan David yet because I, personally, needed time to adjust to the change in altitude.  I had a headache for the first two days that went away with some ibuprofen.  But yesterday I felt completely knocked out and wanted to sleep all day.  I felt the same way last year when we came back from   Apulo, a place at a much lower elevation.  So thankfully I knew that I just needed to rest and drink a lot of water.  I'm feeling much better today.

Today I think we'll make a small breakfast and then head out to find a gift to give Juan David tomorrow.  We're leaning towards a soccer ball, but we'll see what we come across.  Julian got permission to be off work today, so he's joining us around mid-day.  We haven't seen him at all yet, so I'm really looking forward to spending the day with him.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The mountain

See the mountain in the picture that has something white at the top?  That's the mountain that I wrote about at the end of my first book, From the Mountain...to the Valley...and Back!.  We look forward to heading back up there soon for yet another family picture at the top of the mountain.

Sporting his new shirt

We walked probably 3-5 miles today, just exploring what's around us here.  Found a lot of restaurants nearby that we want to try out.  Came home with the blue Colombia shirt that David's always wanted.  :)


Monopoly COLOMBIA

So cool to have already been to a lot of the places on the board.  I told David our goal every summer should be to visit at least one more place on our Monopoly board. :)

In this game, the railroads are all the major airports in Colombia.  Electric Company and Water Works are now an Internet Company and a Cell Phone Company.  The money is all in thousands and millions, just like the money here in Colombia, and it teaches kids to use decimals pretty quickly.  The best part is when David or Mike land on the Chance or Community Chest because they have to read it in Spanish.  David does a pretty good job of it--I knew that boy still had it in him. :)  That Spanish immersion preschool is still paying off. :)

Photo

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Today's agenda

Today was all about getting adjusted to our surroundings.  We went to the mall around 2:00 in the afternoon where we enjoyed our first meal here at our favorite restaurant, Crepes N Waffles.  Then we found a cell phone place to buy a new SIM card for our phone so we could get a local #.  After that we had to go to another place to add minutes on our phone.

David and I like to play Monopoly a lot in the summer, so we promised we'd buy the Colombia version of Monopoly this summer so we can play it while we're here.  He insisted we buy it right away, so we went on a hunt for it and bought it today.  Tonight the games begin. :)  This should be fun.

We also went grocery shopping to fill up the fridge and freezer.  That place was absolutely packed!  We shopped at a place called Jumbo Hayuelos, which is like a Super Walmart.  It was nice to have quite a variety to shop from, but a little overwhelming, too.  Then we walked the ten minute walk back with all of our groceries stuffed into our backpacks.  That's one way to get a workout.

We're very comfortable here.  My highlight of the day was when David came out to me on the balcony, gave me a big hug, and said, "We're in Colombia!  I know we're going to have the best time possible in this apartment.  We finally get to fulfill our dreams from six years ago that we never got to accomplish."


We are here!

Thanks to some good friends who took us to the airport in DFW and a good friend here who arranged to have someone pick us up at the airport here, we arrived safely and without any problems.  We landed at the airport at 3:30, got through immigration and customs very quickly, and met someone outside holding a sign with our name.  He already had the address to the apartment, so we got here even before five a.m.  We met up with the man who had the keys to the apartment, he gave us a little tour and welcomed us to our home.

Priorities first, Mike got all the computers and phones hooked up to the internet so we could let everyone know we made it, then we all unpacked and got ourselves situated.  I made a cup of coffee to enjoy on my new little balcony that is just off of the master bedroom--can we say I'm more than grateful?  If you know me, you know that my front porch is my favorite place to be in the morning.  

I fell right into bed after that and slept for about four hours.  Mike and David watched TV for a bit first, so they're still sleeping.  I'm ready to take a walk down the street to the mall to find a Crepes N Waffles for lunch, get a SIM card for our cell phones, and stock up the fridge.  

It looks like we've got everything we need here in this apartment.  Three bedrooms.  Free wi-fi internet.  Huge TV with lots of channels.  DVD player.  Washer and dryer.  Fully stocked kitchen.  Two bathrooms.  A beautiful balcony.  A table with four chairs to seat our soon to be family of four.  I was a little nervous coming to this apartment because we didn't know this area and didn't even know the person who owns it.  However, I found it through a pretty professional organization, and so far we're very impressed.  Seems to be a pretty safe, secure location.  

We all agreed that this trip is rather weird, feeling so routine up to this point.  What do we do when school's out?  We head to Colombia.  We told Juan David a year ago that we'd be back in June to see Julian and that we'd try to get him out to spend a few days with us again.  The other day I got a surprise message from him reminding me that we said we'd be back in June and that he was anxious to see us. (He still didn't know about the adoption.)  Then Saturday, 30 minutes before we left for the airport, we found out that they finally told him on Friday that he's being adopted in just a few days.  He was as happy as can be, saying, "That's what I've always longed for!"  Mike considered that to just be icing on the cake. 

Just a few more days.  We plan to make these few days until then very memorable for David.  He's so excited to be here again.  For an eleven year old, he sure has had some very rich life experiences, broadening his worldview more each and every time.  I think he's a pretty lucky kid.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A little surreal

I can hardly believe the day is actually here.  In just a few hours, we'll be checking in at the airport and by this evening we'll be on our way to Colombia.  It is quite the challenge to pack and prepare for an indefinite amount of time, not knowing when any of us will be back.  Especially when that indefinite amount of time happens to be in another country, on another continent.  That can make certain things a bit more complicated than usual.  Okay, a lot more complicated.

I'm filled with such a variety of emotions at this moment.  I'm excited.  Nervous.  Anxious.  Excited (did I say that already?).  But most of all, grateful.  Grateful for the way God redeemed our story and is already giving back all that we once lost and more.  Grateful for the many texts and e-mails I keep getting from so many people who are on the edge of their seat, waiting to see what God is going to do next.  Grateful for the many answers to prayer and all of the miracles involved to make this trip/event/life change even possible.  Grateful for the financial help that has all flooded in at the very last minute.  Grateful for the peace that surpasses all understanding, despite all the changes that are coming. 

We have a few days on our own before our appointment to get Juan David, so it will be nice to have a little vacation time as a family of three before we finally become a family of four.  Unfortunately we won't even be able to see Julian for several days due to his work and school schedule and our apartment being on the other side of the city from him.  But we've gone to Colombia without a thing on our agenda before, only to stand back and watch God surprise us with blessings we never saw coming.  I am looking forward to whatever surprises He has in store for us.

I'll continue to blog whenever I have the chance.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Just in time!

Our passports came back today with our new visas stamped inside them (actually, it's a sticker that takes up a whole page).  Can't even begin to tell you what a relief it is!

Malachi 3:10

New Living Translation (©2007)--Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

I do believe we are experiencing this verse all over again.  Not that we haven't been completely blessed and cared for all year after restarting this process to adopt Juan David, but God is showing us again that this has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.  We could never have done it on our own, but He's provided for us every step of the way. 

Yesterday I went to the bank to deposit two checks, one a grant and the other an unexpected financial gift, which covers the cost of all of our airline tickets--even Juan David's ticket home.  When I got home from the bank, I found more unexpected financial gifts that came in the mail, nearly enough to cover what I just paid to book our lodging for the first month!  That leaves us with our legal fees (to an amazing lawyer, might I say) and daily living expenses.  

God has been so good to us.   

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

On the way

I just tracked our package from the consulate (okay, so I checked it all day long), and it's been picked up in Houston.  Yay!  That means our passports our on their way back to us--in time. :)  One more stressor to mark off the list. 

Our attorney is probably tired of hearing from me by now--since we're using a different attorney than the one the agency uses, it makes things a little more complicated.  I've had to call him quite a bit lately.  However, that man has a way of putting me at ease, despite my broken and flustered phone Spanish.  He's totally worth having and wonderful to work with.  I am very confident about finishing out this  long, complicated, and bureaucratic process ahead of me knowing he is representing us. (I say me because Mike will only be there for the beginning of it). 

Every day another detail comes together in a way we never could have planned on our own. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

My "lil'" graduate

  • Photo
    Isn't he just adorable????  Someone gave us that suit a few years ago when we were trying to adopt Juan David the first time--for Juan David.  Look who it fits now!!!!  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We have tickets!

Thursday afternoon started a chain reaction of events that led to absolutely no sleep, lots of stress, a few moments of panic, a huge answer to prayer, and seventeen hours of traveling all over Texas on Friday.  Some close friends made themselves available at a moment's notice, and our amazing Lifegroup from church spread a blanket of prayer over us all day long that we could literally feel.  What could have been a difficult, stressful day turned into a rather pleasant, enjoyable day for us as a couple.  By 2:00, we were celebrating the successes of the day at a delicious Colombian restaurant in Houston. 

We now have tickets to return to Colombia on Saturday evening, the 8th, landing us in Bogota on Sunday morning, the 9th.  We also found a nice apartment to rent that has a lot of outdoor activities for the boys to do together.  When I saw soccer goals in the picture, I knew we found the perfect place for both of our soccer fanatics.  I contacted the owner, so all I need to do now is book the reservations. 

We've been waiting and praying over a funding issue that didn't turn out like we had hoped.  It put us in quite a bind, and we didn't know what to do.  We always thought that God would make the money fall into place precisely when we needed it, and we were a bit disillusioned when it didn't.  Once again, God's timing proved better than ours.  Four hours after we purchased our tickets yesterday, we got a phonecall saying that the money did indeed come through--enough to reimburse us for all three of our airline tickets, leaving us with only the cost of Juan David's ticket home.  God is good.

That's all the main news for now.  If you'd like a full run-down of the events from the last 48 hours, read on.  (Warning:  it may be long.)  I'll try bulleting it to keep from going off on rabbit trails.

  • Thursday morning--Mike calls the agency, and she says we're safe to go ahead and purchase our tickets so we could get things going on applying for our visas.
  • Thursday afternoon--I call our attorney, and he also says to get things going on our visas as soon as possible.  We both make arrangements to take the next day off in order to get to both Austin and Houston before the consulate closes at 2:30 in Houston.  I make arrangements for someone to take David to school in the morning so we can leave at 5 a.m.  In order take care of any of the paperwork for Friday, we need tickets so we have a departure date and a length of stay.
  • Thursday evening--Mike calls Delta Airlines to discuss our adoption situation to see what kind of discount they have available for adoptive families.  After spending at least an hour on the phone, he says he's ready to book the tickets.  THEN the guy says, "Oh.  You have to book them in person at the airport because you have to show legal proof that you are adopting." So, Mike gets a code to confirm the prices and arrangments they'd already made over the phone and tells the guy he's headed straight to the airport.
  • Thursday night--We all three jump in the car and head to the airport.  When we get there, we realize that we forgot one MAJOR detail.  We don't have credit cards--only a debit card, and there's a cap on how much can be debited from our account each day.  Our tickets would exceed that. (Here's where we insert that moment of panic.  Remember...we NEED to have our ticket information before we leave at 5 a.m. on Friday, and the bank is closed.  It's already 8:30 at night.)  We rack our brains to see if we have anyone to call on to help us out.  We call our very close friends and they say they'll drive to the airport to meet us with a credit card.  Then we went into the aiport to find that all the ticket counters are closed.  There's nothing we can do until they open at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.  Mike calls the airline back to find out if there's any way we can just book our tickets over the phone and just fax the documents they need, but no, it can only be done in person.  We call our friends, who are already on the way to the airport, and tell them the situation.  They agree to meet us at the airport the next day at 4 a.m.. (Thank God for people who love us  and our sons that much.)
  • Late Thursday night--We head back home, and I am far to stressed out to sleep.  Tomorrow's long day just got even longer. Mike and David head to bed, while I go over the documents again and again to make sure everything is there and in order.  I sure would hate to drive all the way to Houston and find out that I left something out.  I also realize that we need prayer, so I send out an e-mail to our Lifegroup, who has faithfully carried us through this whole process for nearly the past five years.  I finally fall into bed around midnight, but my mind just keeps on racing.
  • 2:30 a.m. on Friday--My alarm goes off and I get up to get everything ready to go.  David crawls into the truck (realized the night before that the Neon needs new breaks) to keep sleeping quite uncomfortably, and we head to the airport at 3:15.
  • 4:00 a.m.--We get to the airport, Mike goes inside, and our friend joins him inside.  They come out again at 5:30 with tickets in hand.  Mike said that the lady at the counter was amazing, and she said that hearing our adoption story completely made her day.  The adoption discount saved us around $2,000, so having to go in person was worth the inconvenience. Our friend stood with us in the parking lot and prayed for the remainder of our day to go smoothly.  David switched vehicles to continue sleeping, and our friend then took him home with him and then to school.  We headed straight for Austin.
  • 8:30 a.m.--We get to Austin with little to no traffic and arrive at the Secretary of State building.  We quickly fill in the ticket information in the letter that we need apostilled.  We've done this before, so we go straight to the office and get tended to immediately.  Ten minutes later, we're back in the truck on our way to Houston.
  • 11:30 a.m.--We arrive in Houston and stop at an Office Depot to make the required copies of our tickets to turn into the Colombian consulate with our visa applications.  
  • 12:00 noon--We arrive at the Colombian consulate and take a number.  We're surrounded by pictures of Colombia and lots of other Colombians.  I love hearing them speak.  Colombians have a different accent that just sounds beautiful to me.  We turn in our paperwork, have to redo our applications because they printed out onto three pages instead of two, and then we wait while the guy reviews our documents to make sure it's all there.  After about an hour or so, he gets my contact information and says it will take 3 days to approve and then will send our passports back to us.  I remind him that we leave on the 8th, and he assures us that we'll get them back before then. (We're prepared to drive back to Houston  to get them if they're not Fed-Exed by Wednesday at the latest).
  • 1:30--We're done!!!!  There's a business card at the consulate for a Colombian restaurant just outside of Houston, so we program the address in the GPS and head there.  By now, we're absolutely starving!
  • 2:00--We enjoy a lovely lunch date together over some absolutely delicious Colombian food.  We get David one of his favorite Colombian drinks to take back with us, and then we started to head back home.
  • 3:00--We texted David to remind him to ride the bus, since he doesn't normally ride the bus on Fridays.  He goes to his friend's house and enjoys an awesome evening out with his long-time buddy.
  • 7:30--We got back into town, grabbed a bite for dinner at Chick Fil-A, and headed home.  Exhausted, but totally relieved. It turned out to be a great day, and I thoroughly enjoyed the road trip with my husband.  A week from today, we'll be headed back to Colombia for the third time.  Interesting how it worked out. My last day to work is Friday.  This will be the third year in a row that we are leaving for Colombia immediately after school gets out--except this time, we had nothing to do with planning that.  I'm sure we'll see more glitches before it's all said and done (remember, this is international adoption we're talking about).  However, we're just glad to finally have those tickets in hand.