Today I posted about my FAVORITE adoption related book. It brought out the neglected Sociologist in me. Check it out here. Also, thanks to Carmen I was actually able to read a book for fun in Lebrija. A book, for FUN! I brought "Stern Men" by Elizabeth Gilbert, like everybody else in the world I really liked Eat.Love.Pray which I'd like to mention I read BEFORE the Oprah hoopla way back in 2005. Anyways, "Stern Men" was good, it's fiction so very different than Eat.Love.Pray obviously but I really liked all the quirky characters and the little peak inside life on the Maine coast that it gives you. Even though it's set in Maine the detail of each characters personality kind of reminds you of all the crazy people you have in your own life. Click here for more info about the book.
Today I dispense my "wisdom" about what we packed for Colombia and loved and what we wished we would've brought over at Melinda's Blog. Sadly none of the companies whose products I love gave them to me for free. One day people! One day I'll have a job like Eileen's awesome Clinique gig. Wilipina power! I also have one last rambly story from Lebrija...
Last week I realized that it could be many years before we return to Santander. Our financial responsibilities now cover Elian and Carmen and buying 4 tickets back to Colombia just might not be in the cards for awhile. Keeping all this in mind I decided that we should seize the day and take a family picture all together. I also decided that Carmen and I should go to the salon because I needed a BREAK like yesterday! So off we went!
If this sounds like an outing, just keep in mind that Lebrija is tiny, so the salon was like 2 blocks away and consisted of one lady and some stray kids who were hanging around. Not exactly spa-like but you can't beat the price. It cost me $2 to have the lady straighten my hair for 30 minutes. The flatiron was so hot I thought she was going to burn my face off but I swear when she was done I looked into the mirror and thought "Freaking A, this is why movie stars hair always looks amazing. Professional-grade flatirons" Courtney Cox, I'm a coming for ya!
Anyways my own personal hair revelations aside the best part was Carmen's hair. I should point out that my mother-in-law is no stuck in the 70s, never stopped parting her hair in the middle slouch. LIke so many Colombian women she keeps up with fashion and isn't afraid to go bold but I'm sad to say that we had to have a little hair intervention. First the stylist talked her into using the flatiron and holy crap her hair looked amazing! She has beautiful thick, and I mean Shakira-thick hair. But then we had a little back-sliding when she asked the stylist to give her 90s style chicken bangs. When I saw what was going on I had an ethical deciison to make... Should I say something?
I had to think fast, picture day was that night and these bangs were CRAZY! They were about to be immortalized.
So, I said... "You know, that looks nice but maybe some side bangs might be more modern" I said it like I was a Project Runway judge. "You know, it's not very modernnnnnnn" The seven year old next to me turned around and looked at me with wide-eyes that said "Thank God you said something!" She was all Michael Kors to my Nina Garcia.
All across the salon, the little kids and tweens hanging around nodded in acquisence while I held my breath wondering if I'd hurt her feelings. "Why can't I just shut up?" I asked myself? You've gotten too bold with the triumph of getting your own Mom to wear some bootcut jeans.
"Whatever my daughter-in-law says goes! Emily knows best." Carmen declared!
Wh-what? Sometimes I just love her so much! I couldn't believe it.
I breathed a sigh of relief and then thought to myself, "Geez, if only everybody else in my life could get on board with this way of thinking!!! " You hear that Elian?
After the bang intervention was finished the little girl next to me nodded her approval and told Carmen "It looks much better that way." And I thought to myself... well my work is done.
Here's our family pics. We took them at a place called"Foto Shock!" and mercifully everybody in the family agreed that we could keep the weird tweety-bird background and excessive subtitles that are so popular here off the pictures. I don't need a picture that says "My family is great" in cursive across the front. One hopes that message is implicit.
I think we are pretty-damn cute together! Don't forget to check out Carmen's new modernnnnnn hairstyle!
A side note: Yesterday I found out that other adoption agencies are actually referring parents who are adopting from Colombia to our blog. Crazy! We are Colombian-Adoption-Internet-Famous. Take that Paris Hilton! Anyways, to all the parents waiting and the parents who are re-living the wonderful journey to get their child through our blog. Welcome! Thanks for joining us on this wild ride. Yesterday the courts re-opened! Finally! This means we could submit our request to finalize the adoption. Currently we are Elian's legal custodians, foster-parents of a sort if you will. Today I guest posted about the process of submitting paperwork, you can check it out here if you like.
And since I'm talking court stuff perhaps this is a good time to explain why we are in Colombia forever. In order to take advantage of Arnold's winter break we left the day after he got off school. Unfortunately his break also coincided with the Colombian courts' winter recess and since the courts weren't open we couldn't move forward with the adoption until now. So yesterday we requested our court date and hopefully we will get one within the next two weeks. The process of finalizing the adoption is called "Sentencia", in English this sounds bad but in Colombian adoption "Sentencia" is very good! Once we've gone to family court and finalized the adoption we can go to the Embassy and file for Elian's visa and future US Citizenship. I've heard the Embassy rounds take another week or so. After we've gotten all that taken care of we can go home. I honestly cannot wait. I love Colombia but it's really hard to see the effects of our erratic schedule on Elian.
Plus I miss Nutella and my bed.
Also Malia mentioned that I hardly post pictures of myself and Elian. This is because I'm both vain and the principal photographer in the family. However I don't just take pictures of Arnold caring for Elian, sometimes I help too! Here's some proof!
We're not only back in beloved Bogota but I'm also back guest-posting at Raising Colombian Kids again this week. Today I'm giving the shortlist of stuff we've learned and spouting off philosophical quotes from reggaeton artists. Click here to check it out. Also I thought I'd mention where we are "living" here in Bogota. We are staying with our friends Martiza and Andres who not only were gracious enough to invite us to stay with them for the whole six weeks OVER THE HOLIDAYS but are also sweet enough to say that they missed us and our noisy toddler while we were in Santander. The whole time we were gone they asked when we would be coming back with their alarm clock (Elian).
They live on the 19th Floor of a new apartment building in downtown Bogota. The location is awesome! We have our own bathroom! From here we can walk to ANYWHERE you want to go, we just go downstairs and hit up La Septima and we're there. There is a Crepes and Waffles literally across the street. And a grocery store and El Museo Nacional and a notary and... etc etc
Thank you Andres and Maritza, I don't know what we would've done without you!
Right before we left Arnold and I were arguing/debating about whether to bring our umbrella stroller. We were bickering about this up until the last minute. Lucky Em D. got to see us continue this argument up the night before we left. Arnold wanted to leave it at home because it was one more thing to deal with. I wanted to bring it because I thought it would make our 5 hr layover in Houston not as heinous on the way back.
I ended up winning because, well I am very stubborn.
Thank God I did though because now we call it the “magic stroller”. It magically calms Elian down when he is fussy. It magically puts him to sleep in the afternoon when he is tragically tired but still unwilling to take a nap. And it magically saves us from carrying around our 10 Kilo toddler all over Bogota which saves us many, many chiropractic bills.
Anyways, we love it and I can’t imagine how many more battles we would’ve had without it. One especially sweet day Elian pulled his hood over his face and put himself to sleep. Why thank you magic stroller!
To all the future adoptive parents who follow along: If you are not going to be in Bogota or a big city like Medellin it might not be as useful to have a stroller. The streets of smaller towns are not always well paved also some cities are just a nightmare traffic wise. We took the stroller to Bucarmanga one day and it was just not safe crossing the streets there. For that I would suggest bringing an ergonomic carrier. We have one and it works as well as the stroller plus gives us the use of our hands! This is a bonus when you are trying to pay the bus driver while holding your wiggly toddler. Elian really loves his and it's also nice to carry your child close for bonding and attachment reasons.
Remember when I wrote my love poem to the bus? Well like all love affairs sometimes there are a few bumps in the road. A few days ago we decided to go to Bucaramanga for the afternoon. I'd like to say that this turned out to be a fun day trip, but it what it really turned out to be was a "Seriously, when the adoption books say 'keep things low-key for your kid or they'll freak out and you'll regret it' they mean it" lesson. The buseta ride from Lebrija to Bucaramanga is windy, fun, bumpy, trafficky and way too long when there is bridge construction, which of course there was. Elian spent the whole ride alternating between excited and terrified. Needless to say this did not lead to either a fun outing or a fun night at home for us. The pictures came out fun though. There is something about the rad 90's turquoise/geometric pattern of the bus that lends itself to silly photos.
Elian took to his first flight like a seasoned road warrior, he perused the in-flight offerings, rejected them, looked out the window for 10 seconds and then fell asleep until we left baggage claim. There were many other children on the flight. All were screaming except ours! It was such a nice change. :)
Today I blogged about our "Integracion" meeting over at Raising Colombian Kids. Click here to check it out. And also... a fashion show as Elian shows off the many outfits our loving friends bought for him.
If you have ever watched Univision or Telemundo for more than 5 minutes you know about “Ingles sin Barreras” which is a “Learn English” tape series that is constantly advertised. It is the Sham-Wow of Spanish TV. The infomercials usually have a variety of testimonies of people talking about why they needed to learn English and how Ingles sin Barreras worked for them. Exclamation Point!
I might have mentioned that it took Arnold and I awhile to figure out the bottle we gave Elian on the first day had a cap on the inside. Or maybe I didn’t because it’s embaressing. Oh well, too late now!
He tried to drink it for half an hour before we figured it out. What a great introduction to us as new parents! The “people who give me food that doesn’t work”. Anyways we figured it out eventually but the other day we made the same mistake because Arnold didn’t realize I had packed the bottle with the inside cap. Yes, our child tried to drink a trick bottle... again.
We were having lunch with Andres and Maritza at a carnival when we discovered this. Andres shook his head and said “Elian is thinking ‘I need to learn English! Maybe you should get him Ingles sin Barreras."
One of my favorite things about Latin America has always been the bus. I grew up in public transportation deprived California and as a result have an unrequited love affair with public transportation. Weirdly after I studied abroad in Chile I fell even deeper into the love affair with everything that other people hate about busses in South America.
I love it when they are so crowded that you get to shove people out of your way to get off. I love the small adrenaline rush of knowing you’ve got to get OFF THE BUS before the driver take off without you and I especially love it when people get on the bus and sell stuff like ice cream or miniature paper models of Chilean navy ships (true story). I love that there’s no schedule, you just hang around till one comes and I love, love, love watching the city whizz by out the bus windows. And if I loved busses before today I entered into a domestic partnerhsip with them because the bus blessed me with a memory that will endear me to them forever.Today we walked all over downtown Bogota much to mine and Elian’s delight. Bogota is especially beautiful at Christmas time and Elian was beaming with joy watching the bubble vendors in Plaza Bolivar and laughing as the other children jumped up to pop them. We were having so much fun in fact that our party of 5 walked about 2 miles and then realized we would have to walk 2 miles back. We couldn’t get a taxi so we decided to take the bus which I thought was a great idea except… the four of us were also carying 5 bags of heavy groceries, a crib mattress, a stroller, a toddler bathtub and a very active toddler. And uh, bus drivers don’t like just sit at the curb cause you’re slowed down by your million pounds of food or small toddler.
But this is Colombia, the land of possibility and qustionable safety rules so Arnold took a firm grip on Elian and the rest of jumped on the bus whilst hystericlaly throwing on packages, mattresses etc. I would’ve been embaressed but it’s too much fun being the crazy people who are basically moving into the bus. Besids I’m a parent now, I don’t have time to be embaressed. And where’s the fun in that anyways?
So we’re all sitting seperately in the back of the bus packed with people and 4 weeks worth of groceries laughing or asses off at the ridiculousness of it all when I spied Arnold and Elian sitting four rows in front of me. They were sitting in front of a man who was playing an Andean pan flute (again totally normal). Elian was dancing and babbling and generally crowing with joy. Apparently he loves buses, music and dancing, just like his parents. His pleasure was so infectious he seemed brighter and more alive then the thousands of Christmas lights floating over La Septima. And as I watched Arnold through the crowd of people I saw him holding Elian up and at that moment I thanked God for busses and the joy they give little boys, new parents and their family friends, all sitting like sardines in a bus, weighed down by 5 grocery bags, one baby bath, a stroller, a mattress and the insanity of being totally infatued with a small boy.
I think I mentioned before that our little boy is a very Colombino in that although he only has an understable vocabulary of 5 words, one of them is “Gracias”. When you give him a food he liikes you get a “Gracias” When you help him up and down stairs he bats his unbelieably long eyelashes and says “Gracias”. It’s incredibly really, and a tribute to his amazing foster mother.
The rest of the words he says are more or less unintelligible except for “Si!” and “Tete” which means bottle. But he loves to babble and talks to us all day long. One of the most common sounds he makes is “Ahhhhhhhhhh”. Ahhhhh is usually accompanied by a big smile so Andres is on a mission to get Elian’s first English word to be “Awesome” As a result Elian hears the word awesome approximately 5 million times a day.
The video below shows Elian in one of his current favorite activities, going up and down stairs, very, very slowly. If you listen closely you’ll here him say “Gracias” as we help him down each stair and I have to say, hearing him say that is very, very, mucho pero incrediblely AWESOME!
Our little rubber ducky loves taking baths, which is great because we’re currently bathing him a tiny bucket. We have to seat him Indian style so that he fits. Then we place this tiny bucket on a stool in the shower so Arnold doesn’t break his back. It’s about as safe as it sounds. Except that superMom technichal advisor Offir sat there and gave us step by step instructions as in “Okay, now wash his armpits”
The first night I was kind of terrified of the bathing process since Elian wasn’t really taking well to having his clothes taken off at all. We’ve also had many a bad experience trying to wash our high-strung puppy so perhaps it’s our personal history that made it so scary.
It didn’t help that he started freaking out the minute we took him to the bathroom but apprently that was just some kind of pre-bath confusion because he LOVES taking a bath. He loves splashing, he loves trying to drink his dirty bath water and he absolutely loves playing with the foam blocks that Dahlia and Mark got him. He also didn’t mind that all five of us crowded in the bathroom watching Arnold give him his first bath. Elian is nothing if not a star.
Later that night when Andres came home all of us who were “privileged enough” to be there for the first bath exciteldly showed him the videos. His reacion “Oh my God, It’s like “Washing babies for dummies instructional video”
Disclaimer: The internet is on the fritz so I've been writing down our memories offline. Hopefully today I'll be able to schedule all the pics and stories to go up finally! Also, he moves around a lot and our camera is uh "budget style" so sorry everything is blurry.
I thought yesterday was the best day ever but I guess I was wrong because this morning my heart broke it was so full of joy. Elian is kind of a violent sleeper in that he thrashes… a lot. Some might consider this a sort of karmic payback for my own bad sleep habits but luckily I don’t really believe in karma. Convenient, huh?
Anyways, the first night we didn’t yet have a crib so I slept with him on a mattress on the floor. This wasn’t the original plan but when he woke up in the middle of the night wimpering there was aboslutely no way I was going to leave him alone and scared in the dark after his first day with scary new people.
So I laid down next to him and had a freezing and uncomfortable night. At some point I remembered how Marjie told me “You won’t believe what you’ll be able to do for your child.” I think this came to mind when he somehow shoved my head off the bed.
Before Elian I had glimpses of what it might mean to be a Mom. Like when Dora grabs my ear to sooth herself or Bison announced that he was going home with “Tia Emily” but now I know that the people closest to your heart will never compare to the love you feel for your children. And I know this because after my night of frigid beating by my unconscious child I awoke to a little guy snuggling his head into my neck and cooing the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard. And as he sighed, opened his eyes and smiled at me shyly before burying his face in my arm I felt that in my life there could never be anything that could compare to this morning, to this little boy or the feeling that we belong together.
It's hard to know how to distill the day we've experienced into a few words. So I didn't, it's mostly going into two posts. To hear about the process of meeting him this morning visit the Raising Colombian Kids blog by clicking here. Today has been one of the most joyful and awesomely low-key days of my life. Many of life's big events are high stress and dramatic but Elian is definitely the child for us. We could not pick a better little guy if we chose ourselves. He is fun and outgoing for Arnold and sweet and smiley for me. And although we were steeling ourselves for a rough day and the possibility of weeks of rejection and hysterical fits our little boy saw fit to bless us with a day full of laughter, jokes and the best behavior that you could ever ask of a 17 month old. Goes directly to Arnold and I when he is upset? Check. Somehow magically knows not to pull the ornaments off Andres' Christmas tree? Check! Says "Gracias" when you help him up and down the stairs? CHECK. When to bed in less than 15 minutes after the cutest, happiest bath in a tiny little bucket? CHECK!
So many other adoptive parents told me how wonderful it would be but I guess you just really don't know until you experience it yourself. Today was the best day of my life, I don't know how anything else could compare.
See this weirdo sleeping on the floor? Yeah, that's Arnold and I think this picture says everything about the crazy week we've had... I always thought as the day got closer that we would be a Hallmark card of excitement and joy but it was more like a Lifetime "Special Event". There was anxiety, fitful nightmares, bureaucratic debacles, heavy workloads and lots and lots of hysterical crying. I won't speak for Arnold but I quite frankly spent most of the week alternating between three states of being: 1) Hysterical Mess 2) Freakishly Efficient 3) Overwhelmed with Gratitude. I think that psychology textbooks refer to this kind of week as a "Stressful Life Event".
It's very strange indeed to oscillate between having a hysterical breakdown on the phone with an FBI agent to cooing over baby clothes and installing childproof latches but it's all over now and I feel like I'm starting to come together and let myself start to get excited. And now, lulled by the comparative blissful calm of the Houston airport it's all starting to sink in... tomorrow, barring any further disasters we are going to meet the little boy who will be our son. The little boy who will change our lives forever. The little boy we've been imagining and praying for and loving from afar for three long months.
This is a cross post from my guest-stint over at "Raising Colombian Kids". A Top Ten List of Things I love about Colombia and look forward to doing, eating and experiencing on our trip. Thanks for the great suggestion Melinda. I loved putting this list together. Note: Except for Number 1 this list is in no particular order.
2. Street Vendors! I love buying stuff on the street. Obleas and aromaticas are especially welcome in drizzly Bogota. In Bogota bargaining to get a good price is half the fun. Not for obleas of course, but always for your "Se habla espanol" t-shirt.
1. My family. Colombia has already given me my husband, my wonderful extended family and many good friends. In a few days Colombia is giving me the greatest gift of all, my first child. Te amo Colombia querida, de todo corazon!
Today over at Raising Colombian Kids I'm meting out advice regarding packing and traveling in Bogota. Click here to absorb my wisdom! Perhaps my guest-blog gig is going to my head? I'm starting to believe that I am some sort of Colombian travel Martha Stewart.
And in not-really related news I saw this a few days ago on Tyler Watson's Blog and I love it. My cousin Sage makes a strong effort not to do presents with her kids and I think it's wonderful. In fact I think it is a small step than can be world-changing. Don't get me wrong I love both buying and receiving presents but I also love justice, mercy and quality time with my loved ones. Advent Conspiracy supports my Charlie Brown-esque love for Christmas as it should be.