One year ago today we woke up at 5 am to prepare to meet our son for the very first time. Exhuasted from the 12 hour journey we took the day before and a night of catching up with Andres and Martiza we were functioning exclusively on anxiety and coffee. I will never forget the look on Andres' family's face as they said goodbye to the three of us that morning, knowing we would be coming back home later the day with our son. We were taken to a small room and given a pep talk/information. We signed some documents. It was surreal and scary.
And then they gave us a child.
Can I repeat that?
They gave us a child. To stay with us forever. For the rest of our lives.
The first year was very, very hard.
Because becoming a family is hard work.
But now, a year later our house is full and so are our hearts.
Thank you for sharing the first part of the journey with us and supporting us along the way.
Love, La Superfamilia Perez
Note: A year ago today Arnold and I were en route to Bogota to meet our son for the first time. Unbelievable. For awhile now I've been fixated on the idea of getting an initial necklace. All cool girls have one! Carrie Bradshaw has one and so did Betty Suarez. Ms. Allyn has one too.
Obviously I had to get on that train.
It had to be just the right necklace though. Even though I am not necessarily vain, I am self-involved and my letter necklace had to be just right for me. This set off an existential crisis of the highest degree. What kind of letter was I? Bold Typography? Delicate filigree? It had to be something meaningful. I didn't want just a piece of jewelery. I wanted something that reminded me of something.
And nothing was right.
Then I saw the locket and I realized that "my" necklace wasn't really going to be about who I am, it was going to about who I wanted to be. Each part of the necklace means something to me and today, on the very last day of my life that I can say "At this time last year I was not even yet a mother" I want to tell you why it is special to me.
The dove with an E represents the Holy Spirit. When we were dating Arnold brought me a necklace with the outline of a dove and told me "You hold the Holy Spirit inside of you. Don't forget you are special." As Christians Arnold and I believe that the Holy Spirit is present inside us, guiding us and giving us strength to love in a way that is bigger and better than we could do on our own. That necklace is chipped and worn now but whenever I see a dove I remember his first gift to me and that time in our lives: when we were falling in love and the world was our oyster. The dove makes me want to be worthy of the young man who gave it to me so many years ago.
The clear glass disc and chain are from a clearance Anthro necklace I bought for 9.99 in Atlanta last Spring. At the time we were struggling tremendously as a family and I needed a little sparkle. Elian loved to play with that necklace. Each day I came home and even though he refused to let me touch him, he would play with that necklace giving me the chance to hold my face close to his and run my fingers through his fuzzy bear hair. When I see that clear circle I remember those tenuous moments of hope when it seem that happy days we share now were an impossibility.
Last but most certainly not least is the locket. The locket reminds me of Elian's foster mother who cared for him from the day he was born till the day we met him. I knew that I was going to have the unusual opportunity to meet her and I wanted to bring her a gift. But what do you bring to the person to whom you are most grateful? To the person who cared for and loved your child for a year and a half knowing all the while she'd have to give him away to strangers.
It's a situation where Bath and Body Works just doesn't apply.
I wanted something special, to give her something so that she would know that I will never forget what she did and I will always be greatful for her love and sacrifice.
So I gave her a locket. And I told her this story:
My grandfather died when I was 10 years old and after he died I put his picture in this locket. And I wore it around my neck and close to my heart to remember that even when someone close to you is no longer in your life, the love you shared still lives on. I want to give you this locket with my grandfather's picture and remind you that even though Elian is far away the love you gave him will always be there, living in both of your hearts. We both know that he is too little to remember past a few years the care that you gave him, but I want you to know that I always will.
If you think I got through that carefully planned speech without bursting into tears you are delusional. I only got halfway through the word grandfather before I exploded. I can't say Elian's foster mom did better, she was a mess too. In fact she was worse than me in that she burst into tears upon seeing our faces for the first time. Her husband teased that she is a chronic crier in the best of times, but I saw him covering up his sniffles with bright red eyes. It's not generally a goal of mine to elicit tears but I felt proud because I knew I had done my job, I had let them know how much the love they showed my child meant to me but what I didn't know is that God can take a little love shown and turn it into something more because she took that locket, held my hand and told me " I have fostered children for 9 years and giving him up was still one of the hardest things I ever had to do. The past weeks have been terrible and I prayed every day telling God. 'Give me a sign if you want me to continue.' Thank you so much for being my sign."
Obviously I burst into tears. Again.
So now you know why I needed a new locket.
I thought my necklace would represent who I am but it doesn't. It represents the person I want to be.
I want to be worthy of my husband's love and a bearer of the Holy Spirit.
I want to be a mother who loves her son in the hard moments. I want to always look for way to love when it seems there are none.
I want to be the kind of person who can give love freely without the need for a thank you, knowing that even a tiny bit of love can become greater than you ever imagine.
Love can overcome death and give life to those we leave behind. It is our sign, our only hope and our saving grace. It is bigger than our broken hearts and grander that our wildest exaggerations. It is God's gift to us and I wear my necklace to remember not to take it for granted.
One year ago today I was sitting at my desk getting ready for a day of work. When the phone rang I groaned inwardly. Who starts making business calls before one can even check their e-mail? I picked up my phone and the person on the other end said "Hi Emily. This is Janet. Are you ready to become a mother?" And then my heart temporarily stopped.
Everything started moving really slow and incredibly fast at the same time.
"Uh, I'll call you right back." I stuttered.
I slammed the phone down, keeled over at my desk and did my best not to hyperventilate.
I was not ready, our application had only been approved one week earlier.
I was not ready for an early morning phone call at work let alone a life-changing revelation.
I was not ready to open an e-mail attachment and see the very first picture of the little boy who would become the dictator of my existence love of my life.
I was not ready for any of it and I was alone. Arnold had already started his school day and there would be no way to contact him until 3:00 pm.
I asked myself "Is it wrong to tell your co-workers before you tell your husband?"
The day was pure torture. Needless to say I didn't do anything at work. Not unless you count taking bi-hourly breaks to go outside, lay down on a bench and watch the sky expand to limitless possibility. To lay there and try to understand that your life as you knew it had changed forever.
And you never saw it coming.
A year ago I was not ready for anything and today 365 days later I am living everything.
Note: Imaginary Vacation will be back next week!
Last year on this day you looked like this:
Awwww sweetheart you were so cute! Last year on this day I looked like this! Less cute than you, but I do my best.
On that day I was blogging about silly things. I'm guessing that you were smiling and shrieking because that's what you do best. Beyonce was doing this. Beyonce has nothing to do with us but you know, a little Beyonce usually doesn't hurt anybody.
Unbeknownst to both of us a group of strangers in Bogotá gathered in a room and decided that you, me and Papa would make a great family. They moved some magic papers around and put us on the road to becoming a family.
I am so grateful to those people who we will probably never meet. You are everything that we never knew we needed and wanted in our lives.
I love you more than you will ever know.
Remember when I talked about how Elian pays us back in smiles? Well I think he is ready to start exploring other forms of currency: He has started to hug! Overall I would say Elian is not into hugging or cuddling. Cuddling requires him to stay still for more than 2 seconds and let's just say we don't call him the hurricane for nothing. Still Arnold and I have been hugging him and kissing him and doing our best to coddle him despite his reticence. I honestly had kind of given of hope that he would ever be interested in hugging us back.
Just like a pot that doesn't like to be watched though, the second I accepted his lack of interest in hugging he changed his mind about the practice and embraced it with gusto. Elian is not a conformist though, he has his own special ways of hugging. He starts off with the piggyback hug. This is where he runs around in back of you and kind of strangles your neck gleefully. Then he moves on to the full flying bear hug. He runs at you from the front, throws himself into your lap and grabs your neck forcefully. He is surprisingly strong for a not-yet two year old. Sometimes he gets overcome in the moment and follows up the hug by pulling your hair. I'm not so much into that part, but you know, I'll take what I can get.
I recently came back from a business trip to Atlanta expecting to arrive home to fallout: a confused toddler who was upset that Mommy left. Last time I left for work he regressed noticeably. He refused to look at me for 3 days after I got home. Let me just say that it is hard to leave home knowing that you'll have to re-teach your child to make eye contact (for the fourth time) when you return. But you know toddlers, just when you get the zig down, they zag.
This time I didn't come home to an angry toddler. I came home to one that was happy to see me return. When I got back last week and sat down on him with the floor ready to rebuild our relationship for what feels like the zillionth time I was pleasantly surprised to find out while I was gone my little dinosaur had gotten on the hugging train. Ten minutes of sitting on the floor and playing trains earned me one neck hug and one flying bear hug.
It's hard to express what those hugs mean to me. Arnold and I love Elian and for the past six months we've been doing our best to accept that we have to teach him everyday that we are his new parents and love him without the expectation that he will love us back. To some degree I'm sure all parents do this: adoptive or not. But for many months we did it knowing that our child needed us to love him through the process of grieving the loss of his foster parents. For a long time he didn't see us as his parents. Sure he favored us, but mostly because we were the people he knew the best in a scary world full of strangers. Sure he looked for us to carry him and feed him but at night he sobbed and called out for his foster mother. To say that it's hard to love someone with the all-consuming energy that a child requires while simultaneously knowing that they do not yet love you is very hard. It is heart-breaking and it seems like it will never end. So you mentally set aside the idea that your child will hug you, or love you or call you Mommy because thinking about those things is too hard. It's too hard to watch other children say "Mommy" or happily give their parents sloppy kisses. You tell yourself over and over again "I have to understand him. I have to give him time. He's just a little person in a big scary world" But still, it's hard. It's hard every single day. You tell yourself not to have expectations, but it hurts every single time he pushes you away.
So the hug is not just a hug. It's a sign that things are starting to change. That your hard-work earning the title of parent is starting to pay off. That you can start to dare to hope that the day your child loves you unreservedly and knows you are his mother is coming soon.
Last year at this time we were submitting adoption paperwork and wishing for a child. This year I'm celebrating Mother's Day with my husband, my grandma and the most wonderful little boy in the whole world. Don't let anyone ever tell you not to wish or dream. Grab that dandelion fierce like and send it's seeds flying to the heavens.
I love this storytelling theme; it’s like the blog topic that never ends! As you know I've been thinking about widening my story. Letting life be bigger or more complicated, more ugly or more beautiful. But it's not just me anymore so I've been thinking about Elian's story. One of your jobs as a parent is helping your child see themselves. You accompany them on their journey to learn who they are. You encourage their talents and re-direct their missteps. You teach them they are loved and worthy of love. When they are little you are the mirror they look into to find themselves.
So I've been thinking a lot about Elian's story. Watching him to see who he is... wondering what kind of person he'll become, and par for the course of my personality I'm worried...
I feel sometimes like already the world is trying to impose a story on him. More than one person has told me how lucky he is to have us as parents. On one level I agree because Arnold and I rock! Perhaps somedays as parents we are an epic fail but on other days we kick ass! I appreciate the sentiment but there is something about these these comments that leaves me unsettled. I worry that the world will force him to have a “poor little orphan” story. "What a lucky little boy! “rescued” to come to America with such a lovely family."
Blech. I hate that.
Elian rescued us as much as we rescued him. Nobody walks up to a newborn biological child and coos “Oh you are so lucky your parents created you”. Why should my son feel lucky to have parents that love him? Loving parents should be a child’s right not a privilege for those born in the right place under the right circumstances.
His adoption is part of his story but I don’t want it to be the defining factor in his life. I want him to be able to be who he wants to be. To have his own dreams and identity. I want him to be proud of his roots but not confined by them. When I was little people constantly said, “Filipino people do this and White people do that.” Where was I supposed to live in that world? On standardized tests I would literally have to choose which box to check and none of them represented me. I felt like I was constantly fighting to be myself.
Elian is a Colombian who was adopted into a Colombian-American-White-Filipino Family. His story is big. I don’t want people telling him what he should or shouldn't be or who he is or isn’t. I don't want them to tell him what he should feel about his adoption or how Colombian kids or American kids should act.
But it’s hard, right? As a parent you have dreams and desires for your kid too.
If Arnold and I had our way Elian will turn out to be either a professional dancer or the winner of Top Chef. He will marry a lovely woman and give us adorable grandchildren to spoil. Of course he will be polite, thoughtful, considerate and go to church every Sunday. It goes without saying we hope he will go to college on a full scholarship, preferably in a city that we would enjoy visiting. I hear Columbia University in NYC is quite nice.
But you know, I might have to accept that he’ll want to be a professional football player and major in Economics or something similarly uninteresting to me. He might never get married and decide that he wants to be Buddhist monk.
So what do we do? How do we help him find his way without dictating his story? I honestly have no idea… but I guess asking the question is the first step.
Last week I went to SoCal for a business trip and I took the opportunity to read a book, “Rockabye” by Rebecca Woolf. The story follows her through her unplanned pregnancy and the first few years of her son’s life. In the book she is so honest about the struggles of becoming a parent: the pressures of other people’s opinions, the exhausting guilt, the fear that you are no longer allowed to be yourself, the constant anxiety that you will make the wrong decision and fail your child, the simultaneous urge to run away balanced with a love so intense you think it will break you in two.
I read her book and I felt every single word.
Her book said so many things that were lying heavy on my heart. Things I was afraid to say aloud for fear that someone would agree, “You know you might not be the best Mom for him, we’re going to take him back and give him to a better Mom.”
Nobody can do that of course but it’s there always in the back of my mind, a fear that whispers at me constantly. When you spend so much time having to convince people that you’re a worthy parent with home studies, fingerprints and international background checks at some point you start to believe you deserved the abuse. That maybe you aren’t good parent material and that's why you had to spend a year defending yourself. And when the going gets rough and you’re tearing your hair out that voice gets louder and louder. Last week the voice was overtaking me when I found her book. I couldn’t believe how brave she was to say the things she did. It was so comforting. Apparently I am not totally crazy. Or at least not alone in my crazy.
So then I wrote her an e-mail to tell her how much I appreciated her brutal honesty. It was the first time I’d ever written an author but I was just so grateful I couldn't NOT write and say thank you… but here’s the thing. SHE WROTE ME BACK.
How awesome is that?
Not a bounce back form e-mail. A sincere, thanks for your note and I promise you will make it e-mail.
And that’s why I decided to be a little more honest and courageous on this blog, to share a little more about my real life. Her story reached me at a moment when I was feeling lost and needed her words. And I think that’s the beauty of writing, the opportunity to use your voice to give something beautiful to somebody else. Maybe it’s the birthday card with a personal note or the magical realism that gives everyone in a world a taste of your home country. Maybe it’s the information someone needs to balance their budget or the Jane Austen novel that gives you hope you’ll find your Mr. Darcy. And maybe sometimes, it’s just your story, honestly written, that reaches someone as they’re struggling and gives them the consolation of knowing they are not alone.
So remember how I'm trying to do the no-yelling thing? Yeah... it's been going... okay. Yelling has gone down substantially but my frustration level rose to a crisis level. A sort of dreading going home, trying to resist the urge to run away crisis level. It was really, incredibly unpleasant and a little scary for me for awhile. I honestly have never been so explosively angry in my life and it is a horrible feeling. Terrifying really. So there was a lot of hiding out/avoiding home. Does this sound bad? It was, it was bad.
I don't regret the no-yelling though because it kind of forced an emotional crisis that would've happened eventually. And perhaps this is a normal thing? I don't know. I do know that one of my friends once told me that she wanted to "throw her daughter across the room". And when I was like "Oh ha ha ha. Yeah it must be hard." She said "No seriously, I want to throw her. I don't. But I'm dead serious that I want to do it." At the time I thought she was joking, that it was just the sleep deprivation. But now I can say that I know exactly where she was at. And it is a dark, dark place.
So I started calling in the experts, any social worker I could get my hands on for advice, the blogsphere of adoptive parents and books, books, books. Our social worker was awesome, she said "I know it's hard. He's mourning his losses and it's so upsetting because there's pretty much nothing you can do to help him."
I assume that most parents when their child is upset, sad or hurts himself can pick that child up and comfort them because that child knew them for 9 months before he ever took his first breath. When I pick my child up he screams louder. Sometimes he goes ballistic over a small frustration as if the small trigger brought back a world of pain that he doesn't know how to reconcile. Some of this is toddler stuff, some of it is adoption stuff. I'm not a social worker so I don't know the difference, all I know is that it sucks.
It sucks a lot.
But we did get to talk things out with our social worker and she gave us some helpful advice: Pick him up as much as you can. Take him swinging with you. Do any activity you can get him to do in your lap. Treat him like you would treat an infant, physically and cognitively he is almost two but the trauma of the adoption gives him a much younger emotional age. Baby him as much as you can... We had stopped picking him up every time he asked because frankly he's already really heavy to carry around for extended periods of time. This was a huge mistake and we paid the price. So now I basically carry him around all day long. Soon my left arm will be strong enough for me to enter it in Guinness book of records. This one simple change however has made a huge difference. HUGE. He's calmer, happier and more able to handle everything. And when he is calmer, happier and more able to handle things, so am I.
I'm not telling this story because it's fun to share my bad moments. Just seeing all of my mistakes printed out in black and white makes me cringe. I'm telling this story because I want to be real, about everything. Elian has brought me unimaginable joy but his arrival has also exposed terrifyingly dark parts of myself. I didn't have the preparation I needed to help him or the experience of knowing what to do and I am indebted to all the parents (adoptive or otherwise) who freely shared their struggles in books and on the web. People like to say that "love is enough" but love is fickle and people are imperfect. Love is not always enough. We come with dings and scratches and faulty steering.
Sometimes we need help.
Sometimes your love won't be enough. Sometimes you'll need help. And that's why I'm telling my story.
Thank you for all of your encouraging words regarding my ING app. I will let you all know how it turns out in a few weeks or so. In other blogging news I've been flapping my yap over at Raising Colombian Kids all this week. Yesterday I talked about "Things to do before Leaving Bogotá" and today I'm talking about navigating the airport. Yes, strangely I was able to write a whole looooong blog post about El Dorado Intl. Airport. I've been there THAT many times. You can check both of those posts out here. Tomorrow for my swan song as a guest blogger I'll be talking about something really special. Something that we did in Colombia that up until now I haven't really been able to put into words. I find that sometimes it is very easy for me to convey a story about mundane, everyday life and very difficult for me to convey something that is very important to me. And this event impacted me so strongly that I fear even talking about it because words don't do it justice.
The special event was meeting Elian's foster family. We had onces with his foster parents a few hours before we left and meeting them was an experience that was only second to meeting Elian.
Many of you know how hard it was waiting three months to go get Elian. At night I would lay awake staring at the spot where his crib would be imagining where he was in Bogotá. I would pray every night that he was safe and sound with a loving family. I would imagine his foster mother tucking him in and kissing him goodnight. I thought about him every single night for three months. Praying that he had a good family was the only thing that kept me sane during that time.
After meeting his foster family I can tell you that those prayers were answered far before I dared to breathe life into those words. Elian's foster parents are more wonderful than I could've imagined. I owe them my little boys health and happiness and when I feel impatient or frustrated with him I remember their faces. I remember how they loved him for a year and half knowing they would have eventually have to give him up. I remember that the reason he is healthy and happy was because they showered him with the best they had. I remember how big their hearts are to have done that for us and for him and I take a deep breath, calm down and re-commit myself to being a worthy recipient of their beautiful gift.
This week I'm doing my last stint of guest-posting over at Melinda's blog. Today I walk waiting parents through the technical aspects of Sentencia. If you are so inclined, check it out here!
I love, love, love Alicia Keys. I actually cried once watching her perform at the Grammy's. True and embarrassing story. The precision of her playing and her amazing lyrics just got to me. Two weeks later for Valentine's Day Arnold bought me not just her CD but also the sheet music to go with it! I know, I am luckiest girl ever. Please don't remind me of this when I am grumping about how he doesn't dry the knives correctly.
But enough about Arnold and his romantic-comedy worthy thoughtfulness, this post is about Alicia Keys. I love her originality, I love her lyrics, I love that she's bi-racial like me. So obviously I bought her new CD before we went to Colombia. And obviously I love it.
The first days we were with Elian were rough on all of us but I'm sure especially on him. It's scary being a little person in an uncertain and unstable world. So he wasn't into going to sleep at naptime. He just couldn't and I can't really blame him. It's scary to go to sleep when you don't know what's going on. So I would take him to the third floor of Andres and Maritza's building and just push him around in his stroller until he crashed. And I would do this while listening to Alicia Keys on my iPod because the third floor of their apt. building consists of an empty hallway and a gym that is not yet open. It usually took him about 5 songs to fall asleep. It became a sort of joke, measuring how long naptime took in Alicia Key's songs.
As in "I got him to sleep in 5 SONGS TODAY!" Woot! Woot!
And then one day we were going on the whole album and I was getting a little bit impatient. It's really exhausting learning to be a parent and 18 months is really a hit-the-ground running age. There's no crawling or sitting. When Elian is awake he is AWAKE so suffice it to say naptime is very important to me. I was getting frustrated. I prayed for patience. God did not see it fit to grant me patience. So I continued pushing him around somewhat grumpily. Elian babbled enjoying himself immensely. My thought process went something like this "Go to SLEEP! LIke an hour AGO!" Stomp. stomp. stomp. And then I stopped when I heard a song that eased my frustration: Perhaps God did not see it fit to grant me more patience but I did receive a helpful reminder. I am his mother now and I have to continue pushing to learn how to love him better every single day. And sometimes that means no naptime.
That's How Strong my Love is -Alicia Keys
Some people they call me crazy For fallin' in love with you They can take me and lock me away baby Cuz there's nothing those bars can do
I'll be the rising moon after the setting sun just to let you know you'll always have someone I'll be the clear as day when the rain is done So you'll always know
Through the shake of an earthquake I will never fall That's how strong my love is Like a shift through the storm we can risk it all That's how strong my love is
Remember when I alluded to last minute drama regarding our ability to secure Elian's visa in time to leave Bogotá together? Yeah, that was a fun time. And now I'm going to tell you all about it... While we were in Colombia things went unnaturally well. We got Sentencia 8 business days after we requested it which is CRAZY amazing. We even got his birth certificate the same day we got Sentencia thanks to our lawyer's savvy connections.This gave us 5 days to get his visa. It only takes two. We were more than golden! We were home free! I couldn't eat anything but saltines but I was over the moon. We were on our way home! And then we weren't.
What we needed was just one thing. A document from Colombian social welfare that says and I quote "These people adopted this child." Never mind the birth certificate with our names or the Court Decree saying the same things. The stupid Hague convention requires this document.
But no big deal? Colombian Social Services is on it! They always turn around things super fast. We 'll get the doc and then we go to the Embassy and the next day visa. Bada-bing. Bada-boom! Easy Peasy. Except this is us, so of course something went wrong. Actually many things went wrong. Shall I tell you about them?
Monday: We leave the document to be signed.
Tuesday: The computer breaks down. No big deal. They'll do it the next day.
Wednesday: The ONLY person internationally authorized to sign the paper QUITS HER JOB over some policy disagreement and LEAVES social services. We are now officially screwed. Elian and I simultaneously throw tantrums at a Bogotá Shopping Mall.
Wednesday Night: My stomach ailment mysteriously returns. I ponder what it will be like to spend a week in Bogotá by myself with Elian and then take a 13 hour flight home with him. I think the cold sweat is a bad sign.
Thursday Morning: Nauseous and depressed I return to my all saltines diet while I wait to find out what's going to happen. I know if we don't have that document by 11 the embassy won't let us in and we'll have no chance of getting the visa until next week. I look and my baby boy and pep talk myself. This is a blessing, a special time to spend together... but I don't believe it. I know it would've been horrible.
Thursday Morning: Our facilitator calls and says "Get thee to Social Services we are going to track down the head of the dept and get her to sign." I was like, what? The head of "Social Services" is kind of the equivalent of trying to track down a member of Obama's cabinet. Not easy. When we arrived they said "Oh she'll be here any minute, she's at Casa Narino. Yeah, Casa Narino is the Colombian white house. Okay then. "At least she's not actually with the president!" they add trying to cheer me up.
Thursday Morning 10:30: Our facilitator starts visibly getting nervous. Not a good sign as she is a cool cucumber. She looks at me and makes a decision "We are going to the embassy with Elian. We will beg the embassy to start processing the visa with the promise that the document is coming. Arnold is going to stay here and get the signature." People at social services are fluttering around in a tizzy about our situation. Alright then, off we go. I'm officially scared. It's the first time I've ever seen our facilitator walk quickly.
Thursday Morning: 10:55: We get into the embassy with 5 minutes to spare. There are big weird gates that open and close. They make a sound very similar to Lostzilla. We're there for a few hours. They provisionally accept our application. I try not to throw myself against the service window and faux hug the consul. My appetite begins to return.
1:30 -No sign of Arnold. I'm wondering where the hell he is because cell phones are not allowed in the Embassy. Nor are ipods. Nor are cameras(thus this all text post) It makes the hours you spend there freezing outside like cattle all the more entertaining.
2:00 - We return to Social Services after promising to bring back the document later that afternoon. We arrive to find Arnold in a hysterical fury. Social Services neglected to put my name on the document. And Ms. Cabinet Member has gone into another meeting while the document is being re-written correctly. Arnold has spent the last four hours wandering the hallways with the plan of launching himself on her if she accidentally steps in to the hall. All of social services is eyeing him suspiciously.
3:00 pm -Arnold tells me he is going to throw Elian at Ms. Cabinet Member and grovel at her feet if he sees her. I plan my "begging for mercy" speech to use at the Embassy. And then our last minute miracle occurs and they FINALLY appear with the document. I try not to scream with joy. I am hysterical but not lacking in dignity!
3:30 pm - We turn in the document and finally eat for the first time today.
FRIDAY -We pick up Elian's visa 8 hours before our flight is scheduled to leave. I'm not ashamed to say that I wept there in the Embassy when they handed it to me. And when I mean I wept, I don't mean a little, I mean A LOT. I may have imagined it but Bogotá suddenly seems to me the most beautiful it's ever been. Pristine clear skies. I feel like Amelie after she gives the box back to Dominique Brodetau. Everything is WONDERFUL!
And that my friends is how spend our last two days in Bogota.
We had a very exhausting and stressful day yesterday securing a signature we needed to get Elian's visa but I'm not going to dwell on that because we got it and we're going home. TOGETHER! Praise be to the Lord. Hopefully when we get home I'll have enough energy to blog about that ordeal. We finally got his visa today with a mere 8 hours to spare before our departure back home. And although I've been ready to leave for awhile I'm also sad to leave behind Bogota, our friends here and the wild and wonderful journey we've had together starting our family. But I know someday we'll be back and the next time I wander these streets this beautiful city will take me on a sentimental journey remembering our first days together as a family.
In all the excitement I forgot to mention that I've been spouting "travel advice" about Bogota all week over at "Raising Colombian Kids" to see the photos that Elian and I wandered around snapping of his beautiful hometown click here. God-willing today we will be at the Embassy finishing up the last details for Elian's visa. We are currently experiencing a ridiculous technical problem that might prevent us from getting his visa on time to leave tomorrow night. Please pray that this will get resolved for us. Arnold and Carmen have to leave tomorrow night regardless of what happens and just the idea of having to make the 13 hour trip back by myself with Elian makes me break out in hives. Okay. I will now take a break from freaking out to share some pictures. Unlike today monday was a happy day. We'd like to share it with you. In order to be fancy I will call this a photo-documentary!
Woo-hoo! At some point a few weeks ago I packed Elian in the Ergo and we went out to hit the streets in search of pics for a new series of Travel Tips for Raising Colombian Kids. It's called Bogota for Beginners. Alliteration! Fancy! Today I blogged about Crossing the Street. Seriously I wrote a whole blog about crossing the streets in Bogota. Check it out here. Last Friday we found out that our documents had been reviewed, approved and returned to the judge. Now there are two steps left 1) The judge must sign the papers and then 2) We will be called to court to sign the papers which will legally finalize the adoption. DUM DUM DUM! Our facilitator reports that she is "extremely surprised" at how quickly the process has gone. I hope that as you read this blog entry that we are signing those papers.
As I write this blog we're getting ready to enjoy a lovely goodbye dinner of Paella for Andres' mother at Maritza's parents house. It is a wonderful drizzly grey day in Bogota. Maritza's parents house is a paradise of wi-fi and extra adults to entertain Elian. Loves it. Pray that we'll have good news to share tomorrow...
1) Thank you everybody for your kind words and advice from yesterday. I have to be honest and admit that my recent health problems were actually not that bad. Not fun, but still not that bad. Nothing compared to some past “health events”: I’m looking at you Mexico City D.F. and Fiona Rojas-Clancy. Today I’m back on my feet and a steady diet of the two most delicious foods in the world: Saltines and Gatorade. Thank God because today was the day the family was going to force me to go see a doctor. 2) Our internet “friend” is still MIA. His network’s name is Omar. Please come back Omar!!! I need to catch up on Modern Family. On the flip side the waiter at the internet cafe is flirting with me. When I greeted him today he said "Oh your hands are so cold! Where's the baby?" A little weird, but still love the personal attention.
3) And in totally un-related news today we found out today that Bienestar’s Family Defender has 3 days to review the file which means it should be back to the judge by Monday by the latest, perhaps even tomorrow. And then hopefully. Sentencia! And Embassy! And Visa! And back home! Woo-hoo! That’s news good enough to kill any amoebas!
4) And of course… your daily dose of Elian. I would hate to provoke the internet’s wrath by not posting pictures. And by the internet I mean Em D.
I'll start with the downs. The guy we've been pirating internet from in the apartment is AWOL and my stomach is in a precarious state. This means that everyone and their Mom has been attempting to ply me with various home remedies which is very kind but also extremely annoying. Yesterday I ended up yelling "I'm NEVER going to eat again so leave me alone". I said this in English and then left the room for my husband to translate. Such good manners I have! No one was deterred by my outburst though, this morning Carmen proposed rubbing holy oil on my stomach. I am currently hiding out from aforementioned home remedies in the internet cafe across the street.
The good news is that it looks like the court process is going "very well" to quote the very non-specific description of our facilitator. Yesterday we received word that the we had been assigned a court and that the judge had formally accepted all of our documentation as being in order. This is a great relief considering all the drama we had with our delayed FBI clearances. Apparently the judge accepting the documentation is the slowest part of the process. The next step is for our file to be sent back to Bienestar where the Family Defender will do a final review of our case. Then she will send it back for the judge to give us Sentencia. Everyone is demurring on an actual timeline but in our experience Bienestar has been very good about turning stuff around quickly so hopefully we are good to go soon for Sentencia.
And now that I'm done complaining, I'll give you what really want!