Saturday, August 30, 2014

Update from Medellin

We are still here in Medellin, and though we are trying to make memories and enjoy it, we truly do miss home.  Our apartment, though quite nice, is right next to a main road and gets really loud very early in the morning.  We don't have a single casserole dish or baking sheet in the kitchen, which severely limits our meal options.  The sofa has some springs that have sprung, making it extremely uncomfortable.

However, should I really gripe?  Things are going amazingly well, and we are extraordinarily thankful!  There are of course the typical issues with the kiddos considering there are two four year olds and a two year old, but we believe once we are home and they have more freedom, space, and ability to play outside many of these issues will be resolved.

Samuel is adjusting quite well, and still clings mainly on to Brent.  Brent and Samuel clearly both have the love language of touch, and Brent is good about being a jungle gym for him, hugging him, and snuggling him often.  Samuel thrives on this!  I am learning.  It is not my nature to be touchy, but I am trying to learn since clearly this is what Samuel craves.  One of the issues we are trying to overcome is every time Samuel either doesn't get his way or is asked to share, he crosses his arms, pokes out his lip, pouts, and cries.  He is so accustomed to being an only child, and we were told was quite spoiled.  Once again, how amazing is it that this really is the only issue we have?!

We have tried to get out of the apartment more this week.  Up until yesterday it rained everyday, so getting out meant going somewhere inside.  We went to a mall called El Tosauro Wednesday.  There was a small theme park in the middle, tons of ritzy stores, and a kids play area on the top floor.  We really built it up for the kids, and Sam clearly had been there before.  We made sure to get there as soon as it opened so we would have tons of time to play before nap times.  We also had to buy some new clothes for our son.  He is tiny.  Most of his 4t and a lot of his 3t stuff falls right off.  Thank goodness for elastic banded clothes.  Clearly Brent and I should have checked to see when all of the kid stuff opened before we made such a huge ordeal about going to this place.  It all opened at 1 or 1:30, and our taxi was picking us up at 1:15.  Needless to say, we had three sad kiddos.  At least they got to play on the Burger King Play Place for a bit.

Thursday afternoon we went to another mall to purchase a thank you gift for Samuel's foster family.  I mean really, how do you thank someone who took amazing care of your son for nearly four years?  They gave him so much unconditional love and devotion, and prepped him beautifully for his adoption.  We bought a frame and enclosed a photo of Samuel with his forever family.  There were several kids play areas in this mall, and the kids played so hard.  They burned tons of energy.  Samuel has so much energy, and has phenomenal endurance.  He has yet to get winded, nor have his lips or nail beds ever shown the slightest hint of turning blue.  (The nurse in me continuously checks these things).  We tell him he has a very special heart, and loves showing off his scars on his chest.

We then went to a restaurant that Brent said was fantastic!  I can't understand nor read Spanish, and I ordered what I thought was something akin to chicken pot pie.  WRONG!  Oh my goodness, I get queasy even writing about this.  It smelled good, even looked good.  I took a bite.  Friends, the texture convinced me I was eating larva and soggy vegetable soup. It was repulsive.  Thanks for Google - which now we know to utilize before  ordering, we learned I had cow stomach soup.  Gross!

We closed out the evening by running through the grocery store that is located at the mall.  Of course that should have been uneventful, except all three kids were whining, fussing, and pouting.  Alex had brought the rest of her hamburger with her and choked on it.  We have given that child more back blows in her short 2 1/2 years than most likely anybody on earth.  After her burger came flying out of her "goozle," she grabbed it, rechewed it, and swallowed it back down the correct pipe. Aren't kids gross?

Friday, we had our integration meeting.  This is a bonding meeting to see how well bonding and attachment are going. It included our family of five, Cristina our interpreter and driver, Blanca our attorney, and Samuel's super sweet social worker Adriana.  The meeting went beautifully well!  We were relieved. Poor Samuel was so apprehensive to be returning to the ICBF office, and kept tearing up and not wanting to play.  Adriana frequently told him this was his last time ever being there, and he would always be a part of our family.  His fears were heartbreaking, but he was so brave!  Luckily, the meeting which is estimated to take 1-2 hours only took 25 minutes!  The Lord is so good.

Today has been such a wonderful Saturday.  We started out simply with cereal, and Samuel ate the fastest and most of any of the three kids!  Maybe we can put some meat on his perfect, tiny little body.  Brent then introduced him to futbol americano.  He was hooked immediately and loved to scream, "Tackle!"  Lilly Grace has loved watching football with her daddy since she was a tiny tot, so Brent was in heaven with his two oldest.

We took a break from football and playing to walk down to the apartment of some friends we recently met.  They were so kind!  The couple's names were Will and Vickie, and along with them was her mother and their daughter, Catalina.  The grandmother spoke not a stitch of English, and yet talked nonstop to all of us.  She would randomly plant big wet kisses on the kids.  She was so adorable.  Grandmothers are the same in every culture and language!  Catalina is our age, and was really pleasant to be around.  I think if she lived in the states, we would be friends.  Will and Vickie were so gracious, kind, and welcoming.  Their condo was decorated beautifully, and they cooked us a scrumptious Colombian meal.  We all ate an exorbitant amount of scrumptious food.  The menu included grilled steak, chichuronis (fried pork rinds), beans, sweet plaintains, mashed fried plaintains, rice, and Colombian salad.  For dessert, Will made a from-scratch orange cake with sweetened condensed milk icing.  It was perfect and delicious.  He sent leftovers home with us!

Will drove us back to our apartment, and we all five passed out with full, happy bellies.  Samuel woke up with a belly ache because he ate so much at lunch, but somehow milk and football fixed that.  The kids and Brent had a great time watching the Auburn game.  Although I am an Alabama fan, it was pretty cute watching him cheer Auburn on.  As I close, Brent is going to add the video on here and I am going to go eat another piece of the orange cake.  =)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things We Have Learned

We are starting on our second week here, and man have we learned a lot!  We have learned things we didn't know we ever needed to learn.  Allow me to elaborate.

We have learned that driving here is so different than in America.  It's not necessarily scary, but the basic rules include accelerate as quickly as possible, slam on your brakes, and be as close as possible to the cars and motorcycles to the front and beside you.  It sure makes this mama "car dizzy" as our Colombian friends call it. 

Samuel is like a sponge and is learning so much English.  He can count to six in English, knows several colors in English, says please and thank you, and "I love you."  He also burps like a true Buchanan, and says "Excuse me" with the most adorable Colombian accent. 

Lilly Grace has learned that sharing the role as the oldest is tricky.  We now have two first borns in our family, and they both have dominant personalities.  She just speaks English better.   It is almost like having twins I guess.

We have accomplished two days of Esquela de Buchanan, and all three kids have learned a lot in a brief amount of time.  Alex has learned to use scissors, and is catching on to some colors.  She is best at green and orange.   She is also learning how to draw her shapes... sort of.  Lilly Grace is learning about vowels.  Her LeapPad helps a lot with that.  She also started talking about dangling participles.  I am thinking her LeapPad must have brought that one up, because I certainly didn't.  Samuel is learning to recognize some letters.  He also traced his name really well today.  He was able to spot and circle all of the I's on a worksheet today without any help.  He is very meticulous with his coloring, and when he draws he always draws a frame around his work. He also just about has "God our Father" down pat. 

I have learned to cook with an oven that takes forever to preheat, and a stove with only two eyes that work.  Our dishwasher doesn't clean well, so I wash everything by hand.  There is no garbage disposal, so all food remnants get tossed.  I realized how spoiled I am, and how easy we have it at home!!!  I also have learned that if you don't drink a ton of water at this higher altitude, you feel horrendous.  Thankfully our social worker taught us ways to remedy altitude sickness.

Together, Brent and I  learned today governmental offices world wide are slow.  We had to get a Colombian ID card and number, and were told to expect about 2 or so hours to be at the immigration office.  Thanks to a broken fingerprint scanner, we got to spend about five hours altogether in the process.  Our amazing translator and driver babysat the kiddos, while we did the paperwork and such with our attorney. 

What Brent has learned takes the cake, though.  This is not the type of thing I typically write about, but it's too funny not to share.  I have Brent's permission so as not to embarrass him.  I digress.  He has learned that pasta here is la pasta, NOT pene, as in penne pasta. The night of our first full 24 hours with Samuel, we went out for Italian.  Brent thought he was asking Samuel if he wanted pasta and cheese, or what the girls call "mac-a-noodles."  Samuel gave Brent a horrendous look, and has refused to even try pasta for us yet.  Today, we discovered why.  Brent had asked Samuel if he wanted penis with cheese for dinner. Brent and I were laughing uncontrollably in the Immigration Office once we realized the heinous mistake, and now we know why Samuel may never eat pasta a day in his life. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Getting in a Groove

We arrived here last Tuesday, which makes today Day 7!  We survived an entire week.  One week down, approximately six left.  Though it seems daunting, we can do this!

We did church as a family in the apartment yesterday after a delicious pancake breakfast.  All three kids scarfed them down in a heartbeat.  It was my first time making pancakes that I didn't burn a single one.  Needless to say, I was quite proud of myself. 

Brent brought our Apple TV from home, so he was able to stream videos from the internet onto the television here.  Allow me to interject something here - Brent is brilliant if you haven't figured that one out.  We watched some of Vaughn Forest's service and listened to Matt Redmon, Chris Tomlin, and Hillsong United.  Watching our girls worship and sing brought tears to my eyes, and I pray it won't be long until Samuel joins in.  He enjoyed some of the children's songs that we played in Spanish.  We ended with a Bible story and prayer.  It was such a sweet time having our first church experience as a family of five, although it was quite different than First Baptist.  We can't wait until Samuel is able to walk into First Baptist for the first time and see the murals of the different Bible stories in the children's wing, the stained glass that depicts Jesus' life, and all of the precious people who radiate the love of Christ.

After a fairly low-key day, we hiked up our street to an ice cream shop following supper.  Man oh man, it was scrumptious!  The fresh air was nice as well, so we ate outside.  Considering the chill in the air, we all donned our jackets.  It continuously feels and smells like fall here, which makes Brent ecstatic about football season and me ecstatic about cooking fall food.  Once back at the apartment, we were able to FaceTime with several family members.  It is evident when we make these calls that already Samuel is picking up on a lot of English.

We were awakened at 2:00am this morning from the most intense thunderstorm of our lives.  I am fairly certain that lightening was only a few millimeters from our windows.  It was so close that the lightening and thunder were nearly simultaneous.  Add the near vicinity of the storm to the fact that we are really high above sea level and essentially in the clouds, and all of the tall brick buildings reverberate the sound.  It was deafening.  Samuel slept like a log through it all as he must be accustomed to these storms.  I checked on the girls and Alex was snoring, but poor Lilly Grace was hiding under the covers.  She told me, "Mommy, I am very brave and I am not scared.  But it's okay if you stay in here."  I stayed. 

Today we started homeschooling.  More than ever before I admire all you preschool teachers out there, and all you kick-butt mamas who truly homeschool.  Truthfully, it went really well.  Lilly Grace's awesome teacher Mrs. Helms sent us her lesson plans and work sheets to last all the way through the beginning of October!  The kids were great.  Although we were taught over and over again to expect some developmental delays in all adopted children, Samuel is very bright and doesn't seem delayed whatsoever.  Praise God!!  That said, it is clear that there are things he wasn't exposed to yet in the day-care he attended.  Colors, cutting, and letters are all foreign to him.  He is picking up on them quickly, and even wrote an upper and lower case I over and over today.  He excels at coloring and painting, so I think he will pick up on the other fine motor skills easily.  Lilly Grace loves school and learning, and was fantastic.  Alex truly is still a baby and lives in her own little chatty land, but she obeyed well and pretended to do what her sister and brother were doing.  She even did pretty well using scissors for the first time.

Once the afternoon arrived, the day honestly took a dive.  I have a lot to work on when it comes to patience, and often I feel like I am making mistake after mistake as a mother.  Alex did not say a single thing without whining.  She ran into about 45 doors and 300 counters and cried for hours on end.  Lilly Grace had a rotten attitude and snatched and spoke harshly constantly.  Poor Samuel has moments when he is grieving the change in his life, and he cried onto Brent's shoulder.  Spirits and attitudes lifted finally, and the kids were playing beautifully together until we heard a blood curdling scream.  LG had swung one of the wooden doors over her toe and gashed her toe about an inch on the top all the way to the nail.  A hunk of bloody skin was flopping on her nail.  It looked incredibly painful and deep.  Then, Brent threw his back out which he has never done before, and looks pitiful when he tries to walk.  He won't complain about it, but watching him it is evident he can't get comfortable or relax the muscles in his back without immense pain.

Finally, it is night time.  All the kiddos went down a little early tonight, and hopefully won't be awakened by any storms through the night.  Hopefully, tomorrow will go better.  Just like today, we will do school (Esquela de Buchanan) in the morning, and Brent and I have to get a Colombian ID card in the afternoon at the immigration office.

Let me close with a cute Samuel story.  We were watching the movie "Spirit" as a family, and all of a sudden he belts out one of the songs from the movie in perfect English.  Every single word.  The entire song.  He either has seen the movie a bazillion times, or heard that song a bunch somewhere.  Either way, hearing him sing perfect English was pretty hysterical since it came out of nowhere!

Thanks again for your prayers and support!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Days 2 and 3 as a Family of Five

While most of you who read this are sweating buckets in triple digit weather in the deep south, we five Buchanans have been enjoying 75 degree weather today with rain during rest time and bed time.  Pretty much perfect!  The climate in Medellin is phenomenal - doesn't get too hot nor cold, and when it rains it doesn't get very muggy because it usually only rains lightly for a brief amount of time.  It is also gorgeous.  The city itself is in a valley surrounded by green lush mountains, and unlike most large cities there are trees, flowers, and vegetation everywhere.

Here are some interesting tidbits about our location and what we have learned about Medellin.  We are just about 3 blocks from Pablo Escobar's building, despite the fact that we are in one of the safest areas.  He also owned a wildlife area that raised African animals, and we saw some hippos that were descendants of his hippos.  People here don't wear shorts or flip-flops, so we stick out life sore thumbs.  The people of this country are all gorgeous.  Nobody wrinkles!  Everyone has been incredibly kind to us gringos, and smile all the time.  I hope their kindness and generosity rub off on me!  Also, there are no straight roads!  We have yet to see anything perpendicular, which is tough on this motion sick prone gal.  However, Brent is the best and always volunteers to sit in the backseat with the munchkins. 

Yesterday began our first full day as a family of five.  We played a lot inside, went to the playground at our apartment, blew bubbles, and had a marvelous time.  Brent is a fantastic boy father - such a natural. They play futbol, wrestle, and laugh.  I have a lot to learn, but he is an incredible kid.  Extremely affectionate, gives kisses freely, and smiles almost all day.  Just like any other kiddo, he pouts when he doesn't get his way, and is really good at dictating for others to share without necessarily being willing himself to share.

After lunch at the apartment, it was time for the kiddos to take naps.  The girls pitched their typical, "I don't want to take a nap" fit, and Samuel begged and begged not to sleep.  All three kids had crashed within a couple minutes.  We awoke them after a short nap to head to Raul's office to go over the plan with the judicial system and to answer any questions we might have.  We brought a big bag of toys for the kids, and they all played beautifully.  It is truly miraculous how they act like siblings already.   Raul and his staff even provided the kids coffee (yes, all three love it!!), guava, and cookies.  While there Brent and I signed over a power of attorney to our sweet lawyer, Blanca and went over the next several steps.  Most of the steps require waiting and patience.  Whew - that'll be difficult! 

There was a play ground outside of the building we were in, and the kids were relieved to run around and play.  We then walked to an Italian restaurant which was delicious!  Or it was delicious to four of us - Samuel clearly doesn't like pizza or Italian.  He chugged two glasses of milk and ate some yogurt at home. 

Yesterday night was a little tough for Samuel.  I laid down in bed with him and rubbed his back and tummy for a long time, but he kept tossing and turning.  Once he was still, I left.  Bless his heart, he cried so hard so I went back and he calmed down.  It took awhile, but he finally fell asleep and slept until 7:30 this morning.

This morning we all slept in, got ready, and headed to the zoo.  It was very different than the Montgomery, but we still enjoyed it.  Brent and I were convinced a lot of the animals were sick since the ostriches, emus, and peacocks were missing a lot of feathers, and we all watched some lynx type animal vomit.  The kids had a great time and ran the entire time.  Samuel moves constantly all day long without tiring.  He does not act at all like he has a heart condition.  In fact, I was originally worried about it, but we rarely even think about it.  God has been amazing in keeping him healthy and a normal, active, four year old boy.  Praise the Lord!

We ate lunch at the zoo and had our first Colombian food experience!  Delicious!!!  The kids all had chorizo, french fries, and fresh juice.  Brent had an array of meats and sausages, sweet plaintains, rice, and cheese filled arepa.  I had bean, rice, chorizo, and plaintain soup.  It was incredible!!!  We also learned that toilet paper is not present in public bathrooms.  You have to purchase a pack of toilet paper before you go in the bathroom, which is insanely bizarre.  From now on, we will pack some in our bag before we leave the house.

As I type this, the kids have been in bed asleep for nearly an hour.  They were worn out, and bedtime went marvelously tonight.  Brent and I are exhausted, too, but thankful to God for our three beautiful, kind, amazing children!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Gotcha Day - August 21, 2014

Yesterday was Gotcha Day!  We became a family of five, and Brent and I officially are outnumbered by munchkins.  It is glorious.  Yesterday could not have possibly been any better or more perfect.  It is an unexplainable feeling having two years of prayer come to fruition, but it certainly is incredible!

Surprisingly, all four of us slept great the previous night, and the girls woke up peppy and in great spirits.  They were ecstatic about meeting their brother, and truly seemed to understand everything far beyond what we would have expected of a 2 and 4 year old.

Around 1:00, Cristina, our driver, picked us up and drove us to the ICBF office.  Kids don't use car seats here, and drivers don't pay much attention to lanes or how close they are to other vehicles.  That combination makes me a nervous mommy!  We arrived at the office safely, and it is a wonder our paperwork was located and completed!  There were thousands and thousands of brown boxes stacked everywhere, construction going on, dust flying, and desks packed into every square foot available.  However, every person we encountered was so kind and friendly.

Prior to the "en cuentro" or meeting, we met with a psychologist, nutritionist, our in-country liaison, and legal representative.  We learned more about Samuel and his likes and dislikes, his foster family, and important information.  I must brag on the girls.  During the hour or so of meetings, they played phenomenally well despite the fact they weren't able to take a nap. 

Finally, the cutest little boy I've ever seen was walked into the tiny room we were in.  He was snacking on raisinets, smiling shyly, and seemed a bit overwhelmed.  The girls handed him a gift from us which was a motorcycle and box of dinosaurs, we celebrated with cupcakes, and had a lovely time playing on the floor.  There were no tears, and within minutes he was laughing at his new forever family.  It was such a beautiful moment, and it was so evident that his foster mother had done an incredible job prepping him for his family.

Speaking of his foster mother, she is truly an amazing woman.  She has kept Samuel healthy, independent, and very kind-hearted.  Not only that, she sent with him several of his favorite toys, some clothes, extra shoes, his favorite snacks, journals from since he was a baby, and hundreds of photos.  One of the most touching things she did was hand-embroider a towel for Samuel that reads "Samuel Buchanan 8-21-2014" and has a firetruck on it.  I wish I could hug her in person, and tell her how thankful we are for her.

Once we got back to the apartment, Brent went over a bunch of Samuel's belongings and medical documents with some of the ICBF staff, while the kids and I played with blocks, LeapPads, and bubbles.  The bubbles were a huge hit, and within minutes Samuel was calling me Mama!  Samuel and Brent are already great buddies, and seem to be bonding very well.  It is evident that he feels most comfortable with his daddy, and if Brent leaves the room, he is quick to ask, "DondĂ© estas Papi?"

He is fitting in perfectly, and acts like a four year old boy.  He and Lilly Grace already act like siblings: always want to be near each other, tattle, snatch, giggle.  He seems very protective of Alex and makes sure she isn't left behind.  If Alex is whining or crying, which being two years old happens A LOT, he will rub her arms and try to console her. 

We are head over heels and thankful that so far the transition is going so smoothly.  Certainly there will be difficult times and difficult days, but it has been a true blessing from the Almighty that things are going so well thus far.

As I close, let me leave you with this story of the kiddos.  They were all painting with water colors, and having a grand old time.  Alex was in her own little world, as she so frequently is.  Samuel told us he was painting a girl named Lilly and the baby Jesus.  To that Lilly Grace replied she was painting Samuel and baby Jesus.  Such precious children the Lord has blessed us with! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We are here! How did that happen?

If anything, this post proves that prayer is fruitful.  I feel like the past two years contained a lot of "hurry up and wait" over and over, but all of a sudden I am sitting in a living room in Medellin with the windows open enjoying a gorgeous view.  Additionally, in precisely 24 hours we will have a son in our family. 

About three weeks ago, we were having our final travel call. In a whirlwind, we got our Visas and other final paperwork knocked out, but needed one last bit of paperwork from ICBF in Colombia to submit to the US Embassy.  At the end of one week, we were told that paperwork was nearly impossible to locate as the ICBF was in the process of changing offices.  We were crushed because we thought that meant another delay.  However, the following week proved otherwise as things happened at record breaking pace.  Monday we received that last bit of paperwork.  By Wednesday it was translated.  Wednesday night it was submitted to the US Embassy, we were granted an en cuentro date (meeting), and told to book flights.

We got up at 3:45 yesterday morning, got ready, and embarked on our journey.  My mother got up super early and drove us to the Montgomery Airport.  We flew from Montgomery, to Dallas, to Miami, to Medellin.  It was an incredibly long day, but everything went fantastically.  The girls traveled well, although Alex struggles to sit for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time. 

Once we arrived in Medellin, a precious gal named Cristina and a taxi driver named Reuben met us at the airport and drove us to our apartment.  We quickly learned very few people speak any English at all here, but they are both bilingual and helped us out a ton.  The drive from the airport to the city is lovely, but incredible curvy.  I'll spare details, but I had an embarrassing bout of motion sickness. 

Finally we found the apartment, and were told by the landlord the jacuzzi flooded causing part of the ceiling to bust through.  Honestly, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.  We adults were exhausted, and the kids were even more so!  Fortunately, the landlord had already arranged for another apartment just down the street.  It was fantastic!  More space, seems more kid-friendly, and has gorgeous views.  It ended up working perfectly!  We got settled in quickly and hopped in bed.

Today was our first full day in Medellin.  We unpacked and had to deal with some issues with the apartment.  It is all being taken care of, thankfully.  Cristina took us to the grocery store, and surprisingly it was laid out almost identically to most grocery stores in the states.  The biggest difference was that it was sooo expensive.  A small jar of peanut butter was $8!  Brent and Cristina then went to exchange some money and get Brent a Colombian phone number.

This city is fantastic!  The people are so nice, the weather is ideal, and the views are marvelous!  Pray for us as we gain a new family member is 24 hours.  I will also try to be better about posting photos, but won't be able to have Samuel's face in many until we are back in the states.