Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Days 48-57: Final Days in Bogota

By the way, I'm home!! I DID return home very early on Friday 6/28 and I left Bogota on Thursday evening the 27th, which was my day 57.

*** Also, you must know that at this moment, I am sitting guard in the hallway of my home.. dangerously close to my two older sons who seem to be unable to keep from touching each other. Who, also happen to be about 2 feet away from my peacefully sleeping Samuel. Who, by the way, if you happen to wake up with your mayhem and foolishness, I may possibly "end you" (but obviously not in a way that would prevent me from adopting more beautiful children). So I sit here. Watching. Listening. You already lost your night light. Try me. I even got my spa music going for good measure of my peace of mind in this moment.*****

So yeah.. I'll attempt to catch you up to what I was doing around a month ago. For perspective, I finally got Ben's adoption travel blog updated about 5 months after he got home, so I am making progress. I can get this uploaded, and then it will be done and I can proceed further with this interesting transition phase we adoption minded folk know as the "after the airport".

First, MTP DID get me those pictures of Sam's birth neighborhood!

Also, this will be my official plug for Carbonite online computer back up. Except for a few small glitches with having to reinstall a bunch of stuff, all of my files for adoption and Worthy to Shine and our family were intact.. which is why I get to share all of that with you now!! I didn't get my computer back until next week, but someone forgot the chord so I couldn't update it finally when we were in MN ;-)

Okay, back to Sam's birth neighborhood! These first two are of the office where I went to get his new birth certificate completed.

And here is Hospital Tunal, where little Sammy was born back in September 2011 and his journey to us started. From our area, it seemed to be similar to the way Hospital Engativa ran when I went there with Lucas.

*** So in the process it took this, one of the perpetrators has been removed from his room to the boring and lifeless exile that is my room. There is no joy there.. as well as no space ship night light. There IS still a mother in the hallway that can see you and all of your foolishness.. so why don't you just quietly deal with yourself and we will consider this again in 10 minutes.***

After the birth certificate, we were on our way the following day to get his Colombian passport, complete with his new Sibley name. Everything at the passport office went rather quickly. The interview was very general, I mostly just had to make sure that all of the documentation was correct. When it came to do the photo (of him sitting by himself in a chair without me) the world did not see the usual automatic Sammy smile when he gets his picture taken. Sam was not a fan. I think he thought he was going to get another shot (which is what happened the last time I put him down and a Colombian he didn't know started touchin' him). The picture isn't horrible, but he certainly doesn't look pleased with his lot in life. We returned the next day to pick up his little passport. Since we now had everything in hand, we were able to make our appointment at the US Embassy for what I think was the next day June 20th.

So you may be thinking.. if she had Embassy on June 20th, why didn't she fly until the 27th??

WELL friends, when I had to make my judgement call on our flights, I had to do it back when I had Sentencia, but the Defendor of Minors wouldn't renounce his post, so I knew at best I wasn't going to have those copies in hand until June 15th at the earliest. What if I assumed all was well and he STILL didn't provide my stuff? Then I would have been up an even more expensive creek (to the tune of $3k probably). So Ted and I went conservative and decided it was better to pay a few extra days in hotel cost and KNOW I can fly on what I booked. I didn't know I'd get Embassy on the 20th, it could have taken a few days more if things hadn't have lined up just perfectly.

I wish I could show you pictures of our time at the Embassy, but the US Embassies all of over the world don't allow such things.. it's a lovely place and they've made even more changes. The people have a crepes and waffles!! They don't have the trafficking concerns as much here as Ethiopia, so it is more of a formality. The interview gal was very sweet, and told me how lucky I was given adoptions are now closed for 0-6yr old "normal healthy" kids. She also said she would shoot to have me out of there in an hour.

Sammy was not for sleeping, so he and I rode laps around the common area in his stroller and I had a ridiculous calorie and icecream and caramel situation from Crepes and Waffles and it was fantastic.

We left Embassy envelops in hand on June 20th.

So what did I do that past week? Kill time, and try to kill that time in amusing ways. Below, some examples.

Sammy and Julieth took turns "boop"ing each other on the head, and then took a friendly walk in search of attention from the maids to coo over them.

I went to a lot of play places.

Yes that middle one is a selfie of me with Sammy up in the net.

I went back to the market some more. This was a day I got really lost.

I went to the Botanical Gardens on an unfortunate hair day.

I'm really not a fan of giving little kids candy, but all that judgement flies out the window when stuck in a hot taxi for an unknown period of time, unarmed with 2 toddler boys. So, I learned that suckers buy peace.

The last two days, I went to Saltre Magico. Yes. I went there twice. I needed something FUN and COLOMBIAN to keep my mind off of the fact that I could have been at home with my husband but wasn't. So Ben was the king of toddler rides, and Sammy was the other king on his Maclaren stroller throne who spectated the amusements.

No, we did not go to the "Britney Spears Experience" musical, but I just had to take a picture of it for proof that such a thing exists.

Nearing the end of our time, I had to make sure that we caught a photo moment with miss Alecia. Without her help, I would have gone crazy town.

So Thursday 6/27 I packed up our room (with Alecia's help with the boys) and we took off for the airport at 9:30p for our 12:15a flight. I could give you every horrible and blissful detail. I will sort into some highs and lows.

Lows first, I need to leave you with positives:
*It was 12:15a and my kids were FREAKED about what was going on.
* there was no water to be had, only the fizzy kind that makes sippy cups explode. which I learned.
* I got to load first, but I had to sit there a long time in a very hot cabin with two terrified children. One of the children is potty trained and not emotionally stable due to tiredness to go in his pull up. This child screamed like I was severing a limb for 20 minutes. everyone hated me. I cried.
*Sammy could have flown "lap baby" but didn't so I could have the space (worth it on the overnight), but the very newbie stewardess wouldn't let me hold him AT ALL on the 2nd flight since he had a seat.. so he screamed like a terrified baby reaching for me for about 2 hours. They also wouldn't let Ben potty because they didn't turn off the seatbelt sign the entire flight (no turbulence.. not going up or down..). I even asked permission. Nope. Turns out the old guys in the back just went, so eventually I did to. Rebel without a cause.

*After the initial wait on the hot tarmack, once the plane took off Ben was out cold. Not a peep. Sammy was on my lap andjust fussed here and there to be repositioned. I watched 3 movies while doped up on espresso.
*I did get stuck in the holding tank for immigration which made things really tight, but they were easy once they got to me. I had to run like mad, but all was well.
*We got all our luggage. Ben will demonstrate how I got him, the luggage, and the baby through the re-check. People laughed.

Once on that final flight I was in survival mode, but we were almost there!! I didn't have a minivan yet, so my husband had to time dropping off Lucas with picking me up to make space for the luggage. Daddy arrived a few minutes after I did, and all was well. We lived... and then I went home and crawled into my bed and went super sleepy time.

**The child has still lost the priviledge of his spaceship night light, but he has not given up and all are asleep. Parenting success. Maybe now I can get up off the floor of my hallway and actually have a cup of tea or something crazy like that.

Thus began our new life of "after the airport" adjustment. Our story doesn't end here :-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 47: Visiting Sam's birth neighborhood and getting the new birth certificate

So now that I finally got my Sentencia document in hand on Friday, we are able to progress with moving through the hoops to get back to the United States. Just like Ethiopia, this involves all of the documents to submit to the US Embassy, but the US Embassy here has a lot more time on their hands with far fewer children leaving the country per year (like, less than 10% of Ethiopia numbers).

Sam's journey to Fana was different than many other children, and he was not born or affiliated with Fana in any way until he was released from foster care into their care. He was born in a much different part of town on the far south side, that involves much more than a quick trip to the Notary like many of our friends and my last adoption here.

Maria Teresa Perez, my driver for adoption needs, and henceforth to be referred to as "MTP" arrived at 8:30am along with Alecia my helper to stay with the kids. Sam was not a fan of this idea. I was instructed to pull my hair up. No purses. No money. Look boring. Nothing but passport tucked into my clothing in a "I will very much notice if you go for this" place. We walked about a mile down to the Auto Sur interestate to catch a few busses. I think MTP and I bonded a bit while we both ran for our intended bus. She is such a tiny woman she can sneak away from you if you aren't careful. Our bus ride was uneventful other than when we sorta broke the door at one point, but they got that fixed. The busses also make no effort to avoid potholes, and there is no cushion so I might have some rear-end-bone bruising from that. An hour and a half later, we jumped off the bus in Sam's birth families neighborhood.

A word about this neighborhood. Neighborhoods are hard to describe because I have a lot of countries to compare them to. If you've traveled with me, I'd say it was a cross between Milagro Ecuador and Danli Honduras. Not Port au Prince (not enough trash, buildings in too good a condition) but not at all my part of Bogota either. People appeared to be mostly healthy, but would seem very materially poor to standards of most. I definitely stood out, although I had tried not to. Although I wish I could capture images of Sam's birth neighborhood, I would have felt like a jerk taking photographs. This is their life, not my private tour site.

We walked to what I can best describe as the "people" version of a DMV here at home. You go to the area Registar to register your baby you just had, with an official letter from the doctor who delivered it. You go to the Registar to get your drivers license, and your ID card. I was there with MTP in line behind about 10 other women/couples with itty bitty babies they were there to register, or add on the father's birth rights. There were so many other young pregnant women around that I thought maybe you had to register your pregnancy? MTP thought most of these young ladies were nearing 18 and wanted to get solid ID cards made before they went into labor.

Before we got there, we chatted about how you don't tip or bribe here, but it doesn't hurt to be extra sweet.. as if the particular Registar didn't feel like it, they could hold us up for as long as they felt like since my case is more complicated and takes a lot more of their time than a birth registry does. If it was a man, smile at him, and smile a lot. If it was a lady, we would head out and buy her chocolate. So there you have it folks, the way to a Colombian man is batting your eyelashes.. they way to a lady is chocolate. There is a life lesson in there someplace right?! :-) In this case, we had a lady, and she was actually quite pleasant. She referred to us as "mi amor" a lot.. which is a bit odd but whatever makes your day go better right? It took us quite a few minutes of double checking everybody's names and passport numbers in multiple places, which ended having to be done twice due to a name missing. Sam's story is also different than most, so she had to call Bienstar/ICBF to make sure that one of his major documents allowing him to be adopted was there in the file, besides everything else that we had given her. It was there, so all was good. We then found out it would take 2 hours to make 10 copies (no biggie, just unexpected).. so then MTP and I set out to kill 2 hours with absolutely nothing to do. We wandered.. we ate bread.. we got juice boxes.. I had the first yogurt I would not repeat.. and then we wandered some more and sat on a bench for 45 minutes and watched big male pigeons try to get with the lady pigeons.. and my skin burned a bit more. We set out to find chocolate as a thank you for our Registrar lady, but could only find drugstores with condoms.. which we joked would make a great present for Registar lady.. but then we digressed and found actual chocolate. We got back to the Registar and waited a bit more, where she then came back with our 10 copies in hand, and was very excited about her chocolate.

At this point, we knew that we were quite close to Sam's birth hospital, which I really wanted to visit. After all of the bus hopping and seeing the traffic, I didn't trust myself to be able to get myself back there well with the children, and the fee for a driver to get there would have been wicked. MTP was so sweet to let me walk over there and take a few pictures with her phone for me. Although the area surrounded the hospital gave my heart a turn given Sam's specific story, the hospital itself seemed very similar to Lucas'. They were still triaging at the door so we didn't even try to get in.

Pictures to come once I get them from MTP :-)

We hopped back on our busses and bounced all the way back to Calle 116 and walked back. By this time, it was 3:30p and definitely the longest I have ever been away from Sam while he was awake. He was happy to see me, but the major freak out didn't come until later when I was holding Ben on my lap. THAT was the deal breaker and sent us into a situation for the rest of the afternoon. Speaking of situations, I think Ben worked it with the ladies when it came to his carb alotment for the afternoon. I also noted that the entire top half of the new box of cereal I bought was ripped off completely, to which he responded "yeah Mommy, I couldn't get that open.." YA THINK? Yeesh child.

Sam seems to be pleased that I'm back now and both are asleep. Tomorrow morning MTP and I set out for the Colombian passport office to get him all legit for the plane, and to be submitted to the US Embassy perhaps later this week.

Good times tomorrow!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Days 43-46: Lucas returns to the USA, officially official Sentencia, and Sam continues to adjust

Wednesday was Grammy's last day with us, and after we seemed to get everying packed up, we had to go do some final celebrating at Mimo's. The boys never turn down ice cream and a ball pit. It's kinda our thing. Even Sam got brave and jumped in, knowing that Ben could probably crush him at any moment.

So on Thursday morning my little boy and Grammy headed for the USA. For as challenging as Lucas' behavior had been at moments during this trip, I found myself having a rather hard time letting him go with Grammy for his first plane ride ever without me and our longest time apart since he left Fana. From best I hear, he did a great job and seems to really enjoy being home with Daddy.

Here they were before I lost it.

So I went back to bed for a little bit after sending Lucas and Grammy on there way.. and when we all got up, I realized how much I had really gotten used to 3 little boys age 5 and under in our hotel room.. because 2 little boys was cake!! One has to be contained to a pack and play (AWESOME) if needed and uses a diaper and the other one.. well there is only 1 fully mobile person to pee in random places or escape from the room or poke someone in the eye or get their arm stuck in a window at a time.. rather than 2 of them. Ben and Sam are also interested in different things, so they almost ignore each other unless they end up in the same space for a moment, or when Sam would prefer Ben never come within 2 feet of me. Ben still has issues at meals, but we have worked out a system where I can feed them both like baby birds and if you miss your 2 second window as the spoon comes your way you just have to wait.

But anyway.. I digress.. we were having such fun one morning being semi-nude, that I thought you'd want in on it.

Am I the only one that things Ben has slimmed down.. and is looking more and more like a handsome young man?? Sam is a compact little fellow for now. Watch out ladies.

Friday morning I went out on a power walk and lunch out with the boys. Walking is much easier now that both people are contained so intersections are less stressful. Friday afternoon, at the close of nap, my attorney delivered my OFFICIAL Sentencia.. meaning the Defendor of Minors for Court 22 had offially "resigned" his post for this little guy, and he is henceforth Samuel Alejandro Sibley. Our friends the Fellermans also received their sentencia that day, and it was another families last night, so we decided to be crazies and head out to an interesting restaurant in Chia. I don't remember the name, but it seems to be a rather famous spot with lots of kids activities and a dance floor and all that. I think it was true with the kids activities but many of them were closed at that time.. what I recall was that every table had giant machete-esque knives and there was mucho open flame. If you know Ben, you could see why this would stress me out!! We still had a great time.. here is us playing outside before dinner.

We had a fantastic meal, and we borrowed some lovely flowers to throw up in the air and celebrate 3 families finally having Sentencia!! This is how Sam feels about being a Sibley.

This is how Ben felt about it.

This is the fire we accidentally kinda started..

And this is how I felt about Sam being a Sibley..

Don't judge, if you lived in a foreign country for nearly 2 months with 2-3 little boys in a hotel room, you'd be having a giant margarita out of a skull head thing too.

Changing gears:

Sam went to a pre-visit for the Embassy Doctor on Thursday afternoon to kinda knock out the exam portion of that requirement. The guy was quite nice, and was very excited that I knew where Sedelia, Missouri was from, because he was a foreign exchange student there. He was also very excited about my husbands work with Medical Ministries International out of Leticia, Colombia and that I didn't seem to be phased by much of anything he had to say about Sam's file. He said Sam had excellent documentation and records, and that the only vaccine he needed was Hep A because he was about to "lose" his first dose that he had a year ago. This is how Sam felt about all of that.

But then later he felt like this, so it's okay (with his strategically placed sock).

Now when we come back after getting his Colombian passport, we only have to give them the new documentation and they can write their recommendation letter for the embassy.

Both yesterday and today were spent hanging around here and wandering the neighborhood. Here is what Sam and Ben have been up to hanging out in the room and the park. In the room, sometimes Sam waits for Ben to go outside so he can sit on his bed like a big boy and touch his stuff. This brings a little brother great joy.

Both boys seem to enjoy sitting on the teeter-totter at our favorite park, but neither can figure out the sciece of how the magic is supposed to happen with these.

Today, Christie, Zahria, Julieth, and the boys and I wandered up Calle 116 to the Usaquen market where I had never been before! I purchased the token Sibley creepy item for the living room, this time a wooden statue of an Afro-Colombian king (intended to be part of a nativity set.. ironically the Ethiopian version). This was also a rather sunny day, so Christie and I as the whitey girls that we are got some awesome sunburns and glowed for all to see in the market.

Here are the kiddos hanging out waiting for us to get lunch.

Here are some street performers, dressed up as the guy from the horror movie with the pokies coming out of his face, The Mask, and the octopus head guy from Pirates of the Carribean.. if they are there next week I'll get a picture with.. but we didn't want all 4 of our young children to freak.

and now, a few words about how Sam is doing. He is doing WELL.. and by well.. I don't mean easy. Sam is responding very different to trauma than Ben.. almost the exact opposite. I think much of this is the difference in care centers as well as personality. As best we can tell after having him for nearly 2 months now, is that he is a pretty easy going guy really. In his world, people are safe and nice, and somebody will feed him. It also helps that he can understand me well, as I speak to him only in spanish for the most part... and I can keep him in the loop about what is going on, and who is doing what. The problem with this kind of scenario and personality, is that it doesn't built attachment to ME.. I'm just another good caregiver in a line of good women that have taken care of him. This is why it took him about 6 weeks to start behaving how Ben did on day 1. Now we are seeing all those markers of toddler grief and loss. This has made things significantly more challenging for me, but it is also a relief to SEE IT. Like tonight, he made it clear that he wanted to be held and walked by me.. period.. or he was not going to go to sleep. Period.

This is obviously hard to physically go through everything with him and to respond to every little arm reaching up for me and every cry, but these are the things that build trust. Fana is a wonderful place, and they fed him and cared for him to the best of their ability, but they are still a care center and that is that. They weren't and can't be "mama love" and now that Sam has gotten a taste of that, he is determined to test it out and communicate his preference.. and I need to be willing and able to enter into this stage of grief with him. He fell asleep in my arms as I paced through the room in the dark tonight, and this was a first.. that he even WANTED a person to do that. He usually just lays in his crib and plays peakaboo with himself, plays with his feet, and strokes his own hair to calm himself. These are standard behaviors for a child to learn to self sooth, but we want to re-program his brain that it is safe to ask Mommy and Daddy for comfort (and anything else). It's a lot tougher than I make it sound (particularly at 3am when I can't seem to calm him), but it is GOOD. This is the good work that will pay off later.

I leave you with some sweetness.

Tomorrow morning, me and Maria Teresa Perez are jumping on a city bus ride down to the southmost part of Bogota to where Sam's story began, and to show up at the registry to change his birth certificate (with my adoption decree in hand to authorize that). Hopefully by tomorrow afternoon, I will be considered his mother, even at the registry here in Colombia.