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.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Days 41-42: Taking Lucas to his birthplace and packing his bag.. sniff

So the more kiddos you adopt the more complicated the actual travel situation becomes. Most couples need to send someone home to work and make money (us) which leaves the other parent to stay in Colombia with the new guy (me and Sam).. so then what do you do with the rest of the people? Due to our kids attachment concerns they need to stay with Mom (the routine) but at some point for Lucas the routine and consistency (and English and Daddy and his yard) of home outweighed the need to be with me. Sending him and my mom home on the original plane tickets means that is 2 less tickets for me to juggle and makes my work load here a little lesser as I move into a more labor intensive time. Starting next week (hopefully) I will start the shuffle of all of the paperwork pieces needed to wrap this thing up and prepare for the US Embassy, which is our last stop.

Tomorrow morning I put my oldest baby on his first plane ride without his Mom and ship him home to his Daddy. This leaves me with one diapered child and one who still needs a lot of assistance. This leaves one kid that can ride on me all day and one in a stroller. This leaves zero people to be hit by a bus... well I guess we could all get hit at the same time, but you could blame that on me and I'll see you in heaven (where I will look much better than I do now. Mama needs a curling iron and some heels).

Knowing that Lucas' visit to his birth country was coming to a close, meant we needed a big Lucas and Mommy date. Ted and I had already agreed we wanted to go through Lucas' old information and then make a trip to his birth hospital. It is still a bit over his head now, but we hope in a few years, he can look back at these pictures and make sense of a part of his story. Many children don't know the place of their birth in international adoption, so this is a gift.

On the way there, I initiated a sticky conversation about parts of his story that we haven't talked about enough. He knows he is adopted and he knows his story of Fana and coming to us, the problem is that he hasn't been confronted with other people's pregnancies lately and his brothers are all adopted.. so he thinks that everybody flies somewhere to pick up their kids when someone tells them they can. Hence, you see the predicament. So.. what I'm saying.. is that if one of my kids ever asks you who your birth mom is, you can explain your lineage. He is just trying to figure stuff out. He didn't seem to be upset about any of this, but he was very snuggly and wanted to hold hands.

Below, a few selfies of us being silly.

Also, our bling.

I don't know quite how to describe his birth hospital.. as in Ted's line of work we have seen everything from 4 walls where someone gives birth on a dirty table with blood chipped instruments and everybody just hopes for the best.. all the way up to American grade. The best I can explain is that this is right in between. It is a hospital, in that this is where you go, and someone qualified can see you to some extent.. but it was also the public hospital of his area of Bogota. Everyone was being triaged at the door. I was hoping to at least go into the lobby even if we couldn't go to the maternity area, but I quickly realized they were more concerned with why I was standing there and what my emergency was.. and since I obviously did NOT have an emergency, it was time to quit being the weird American and get out of the way. Many poor people were camped outside, and I felt bad enough walking around with my child with a camera. In this instance, my desire to record this event for my future mature son won, so we took a few discreet photos of him.

It is so humbling to know that this is how he started his journey to me.

He seemed to understand all of this, and talked about where everyone else that was dear to him was born. Things get a bit more tricky when kids want to know about their siblings situations.. and all 3 of my boys histories are very different so I had to dance a bit over those.

In the end, I gave him a big hug and thanked God for him and for watching of that little guy before I knew anything about a baby boy named Jonathan from the public hospital.

When that was done, we went for another little mini-date to Carulla for a brownie for him and an ATM for me.

Today, we are just hanging around here and preparing to send him and Grammy off on the plane. There will be some ice cream to celebrate his last afternoon here, and then Grammy and I will be partying at Crepes and Waffles tonight to send her off in style. Tomorrow morning, my brave little boy will leave his birth country again (but not for the last time) and I'm really going to miss him. He is a pretty cool guy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Days 35-40: Sentencia!! (sorta?), making grandparents tired, and travel update

So I just sorta forgot to blog the past few days.. well almost the past week.. and then I thought about it.. and then I didn't.. and then I fell asleep.. or then I thought about it and didn't care because I was tired.. ya know.. that :-)

First, let's talk about where we are at in the process, as my process this time hasn't been nearly as cut and dry and not as "normal" due to my court. So, I DO have "Sentencia" meaning that the Colombian government and the judge for Court 22 has agreed to Sam's adoption and he is henceforth decreed Samuel Alejandro Sibley, effective June 7th, 2013. I went and signed on Friday morning. The catch? Is that the Defendor of Minors assigned to my court won't "resign" his rights until the final moment he is made to. He has agreed to the adoption, don't worry,he is just making a point. He has 4 business days after the Judge's decree, and because today is a holiday, it means I won't have my official copies of the document until next Friday.. and even that isn't always a guarantee with Court 22. Like all could be well, but if for some reason the secretary isn't there to stamp the copies or whatever, I'm still in limbo. Ted and I had to make some really hard judgement calls with the rebooking of my flight. On one hand, we could try to get me home earlier, but then we run the risk of something going wrong (and a lot of things could given all of the hoops I need to jump through quickly to get back into the USA and my Embassy appointment).. if we book later (and we did) we know we have plenty of time even if I hit a few snags or something doesn't happen on the day it is supposed to.. I can get tickets that aren't ridiculous in price (relatively).. and worst case scenario I end up sitting here for a few days with all things done and I can focus on showing Sam the last few days in his birth country.

Because, oh wait, this ISN'T about ME.

When I get on that plane, Sam will be losing it all. He has already lost his friends at Fana, but he can still understand everyone around him and the smells and sounds are right. When we get off the plane in Texas, there won't be little old ladies cooing at him saying "hola mi amor chiquitito!!!" that he gets everywhere he goes here. His only point of reference at that point will be me and Ben who came along with him. So yes.. I MAY be sitting here in two weeks with everything wrapped up in a bow and ready to go on the plane.. but that will be the perfect time to really focus on Sam. If I try to rush out of here.. I gain a few days with my husband and Worthy to Shine(although given how sleep deprived and burnt out I am, I know I wouldn't be worth much anyway), but I'd be losing a few more thousand dollars and precious time Sam won't get back.. and that choice would be much more about me and what I want emotionally, rather than what is best for Sam and for us financially.

So anyway.. hopefully I get my copies on Friday and then the week after I can start working through the new birth certs, passport, and IR3 visa stuff for the US embassy.

So since I wrote last, Grammy and Papa arrived and went around doing all of the same things we already did with Ted, and then again with Auntie Breann! Hence why I didn't go into that much detail on a daily basis. I think we tired them out well enough. Randy is now on the plane back home and my mom is out for a breather.

Here are a few highlights from last week.

We attacked Simon Bolivar Parque

We went back to the Candelaria and enjoyed yet another really huge protest. This time, it was Colombians marching to stop the importing of stuff from China and to only buy Colombian (especially leather in the form of shoes, purses, etc).

Oh look, back at the Montserrate!

With Randy's departure today, and Lucas and Mom on Thursday, it was time to fill suitcases with items for Sam's culture box, as well as the Fana gala next month in MN. There was some intense shopping on Cyclovia/Market day this week!

Here you see us enjoying the street vendors..

Here, you see the results of my failed haggling with the soccer jersey guy.. and even through Ben is the child least likely in most of earth to be a Colombian soccer star, he still wanted one and wears it proudly. Way to support buddy!

Lastly, this is me negotiative some of the first crop of the day with one of my mango guys.. turns out when you smile sweetly and explain what you're really after, he will slice it up on the spot. Thanks Mango guy!!

Below is an example of what is usually going on when we are skyping (in this case, with Uncle Evan). Lucas was intently asking Evan about a game he had, and Ben had a tantrum and lay on the ground to whine for a bit, so I capture this precious moment.

Last night, we actually had one of our roughest nights to date here in Room #2. Sam woke up around 2am.. and noticed that Ben and Lucas had made their progression to my bed... where he decided he also wanted to be.. except that he did not want to sleep there. He wanted to crawl all over everyone and not lay down.. and any notion of laying down (although he was exhausted and cranky) was not to be had.. which resulted in all 3 or 4 Sibleys crying at various times. I couldn't lay on the ground with him, or the others would freak. I couldn't put him back in crib or he would freak. I wouldn't have us all together or we would freak at each other. Ben gets the gold star for the night, for the guy who slept through the majority of this, even though Sam grabbed him by the afro at one point to make him move. I went out and got a coffee at 6am or so.. and then I think after that I got us all somewhat calmed by a cartoon of some kind.

The good news, is that Sam woke up.. he didn't feel good.. and he wanted to be with me. The bad news is that everyone else wanted to be with me too, and this was the only room to "be" in.. and our bed just isn't big enough. We need a giant pack and play for the whole family that nobody can fall out of so that when 4 people are on a full bed, the little guy doesn't go all "10 Little Monkeys" and fall off the bed onto his little head.. because that is bad form when you've only had the kid for a month and the Defendor of Minors hasn't "resigned" himself ya know?

This morning, I didn't have much in me after my night of no sleep so we were off to Pan Pa Ya to watch the kids play and ingest large lattes. Here is our proof.

Tomorrow, I plan to get a driver in the morning and Lucas and I are headed for a special date to the hospital where he was born. I don't think he will understand, but I will, and for that reason there will be kleenex. We hope that having pictures of himself in front where he entered the world will help fill in some of the missing spaces later on when he is making sense of all of this.

Tomorrow afternoon, we return to the leather district in search of a few more items for Fana. Yeesh Fana, way to twist my arm for more shopping.. it will be SOOO PAINFUL.. SARCASTICALLY painful :-)

Now? I nap, because I really need a nap if Sam is going to start giving me a workout at nights.. but luckily he has a voice and he trusts me enough to do "the work" in attachment.. and "the work" results in great things later on, and Ben is my proof of that (remember 2011? ugh, but necessary).

Peace out all!!