Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Introducing Samuel Timothy Buchanan!

On December 17, 2009 a precious and beautiful baby boy was born in a city just on the outskirts of Medellin, Colombia.  Precisely four years later, on December 17, 2013, while sitting in a restaurant enjoying breakfast in Park City, Utah, Brent and I received a call that we had been matched with this child.  On August 19, after a grueling, emotional, and difficult 8 months, we boarded a plane to Medellin, Colombia.  August 21, 2014 was Samuel's "Gotcha Day".  Today we have been here for exactly six weeks, and today was the day the judge signed the adoption decree.  Samuel is officially adopted, and is officially our son and Lilly Grace and Alex's brother.

Today started out pretty normal.  It was loud outside, but the skies were bright blue.  The morning was warm, but there was a constant breeze.  My first thought was that today was going to be a great day.  Part of me thought, "Today is the day!"  I tried to guard my heart, but prayed so intensely and often that we would receive good news.  Later in the day, Brent told me he had the same feelings. 

Instead of really getting up and at 'em, the four of us let Brent try to sleep in and we moseyed to the front of the apartment.  The kids ate scrambled eggs and watched Toy Story 2 while I leisurely cleaned up the kitchen and did some picking up around the apartment.  We put on comfy clothes, did puzzles, colored, had school, sang songs, and read books while Brent got some work done.  At 10:30 I sent a text to my mother that today must not be the day, but there was always hope for tomorrow!  I assumed we would hear something early in the morning if there was going to be any news from the courts. 

Boy was I wrong!  I was about to put lunch on the table, when Brent came in the kitchen smiling from ear to ear!  The judge had signed the sentencia, which is the official adoption decree!  We needed to be at the court by 4:00 in the afternoon.  What glorious news!  Brent couldn't stop smiling, and I couldn't stop crying.  Our prayers were answered!  We called and texted our families, then sat down for lunch.

During the midst of all the commotion and celebration, Samuel had his first two major injuries.  He has gone six entire weeks without any real "ouchies," and waited for today when we would be seen by a judge to hurt himself.  The first injury occurred when he rounded a corner a tripped over Lilly Grace.  He bonked his head and got a nice goose egg smack dab in the middle of his forehead.  We put ice on it, and he seemed to be fine.  Then, he decided to do a forward roll on the couch while nobody was watching.  (This is a trick the kids have repeatedly been told not to do, by the way).  He rolled off the couch and hit his head on the corner of the coffee table.  The impact was so hard it made him bite his tongue, and hit the side of his face as well.  The tongue and face were fine, but he has the biggest goose egg Brent and I have ever seen on his head.  Since he takes a baby aspirin every day, we have been a little worried, but he appears to be doing great.  We are watching him closely, but he hasn't passed out, been dizzy, thrown up, or acted out of sorts.  He just doesn't like when we touch it.  Poor guy!  It truly was so sad, and he keeps telling us that he got too many ouchies today.  So true, kiddo!

After naps we headed to the court in a neighboring city of Itagui.  It only took about 25 minutes to get there, and the area was interesting.  It reminded us of China Town because there are buildings about 5 stories high close to the street, small businesses everywhere selling food, groceries, and knick-knacks, and people are everywhere!  We walked into the court house, and everybody was so cheerful.  The attorneys and secretaries and other workers were all casual, mainly in jeans and Polos, but smiled constantly. Then the judge walked in and met us.  He was one of the kindest people we have ever met.  He talked to Samuel the most, and some to the girls.  Brent and I signed the official document, and then we went to another room for a fiesta! 

We got tons of photos with the judge, and he jotted down his e-mail so we could forward him the pictures. The attorney, whom I assume was the state attorney, thanked Brent over and over for adopting Samuel and giving him opportunities, love, and family.  It is bizarre being thanked for adopting a child when we are so thankful that he is part of our family!  After the very unprofessional but exciting photo session, it was time to party!  We had chocolate cake and coke, and celebrated being a family of five. 

We didn't stay long, because our driver Cristina has her driving restriction Tuesday and Thursdays beginning at 5:30.  They do this in Medellin to try to minimize traffic.  It really isn't helpful, and traffic is still horrendous.  Thanks to traffic, it took us almost an hour and a half to get back, which is a long time in a car with three children that are hungry and tired. 

It was dinner time when we finally made it back to the apartment, but we had planned on going to Parque Lleras for dinner. We gave Samuel some ham and cheese and the girls some peanut butter to remedy their low blood sugar attitudes, then took a taxi to the park surrounded by gobs of restaurants.  We ate at a hamburger place, and all had fun drinks to celebrate.  Alex had natural lemonade.  She loves the sour flavor, and guzzles it down without any sugar in it.  Samuel and Lilly Grace had virgin pina coladas, I had something like a Shirley Temple, and Brent had a Tom Collins.  The food was so-so, but it was a fun atmosphere.  Before we left, the kids danced on the stage.

Now we are back at the apartment.  The kids have long since passed out, and Brent and I are relishing in the fact that all of the waiting and wondering is over.  We have a son!  A precious, loving, fun, compassionate, amazing son!  Now, we must do laundry and pack.  We have a flight for Bogota booked for Thursday morning.  It has been a truly amazing day filled with the joy of answered prayer!

The kids with Blanca, our attorney, outside the Courthouse

Samuel smiling with the judge

The entire family with the judge

Monday, September 29, 2014

Struggles: Big and Small

Allow me to preface by saying I am not going to try to sugar coat this, nor am I trying to appear that I am whining.  I simply want to be honest with how things are going.

The big picture is that everything is going beautifully.  When it comes to being a family of five, I feel like we are adjusting quite well.  We parents need to learn to be more patient and not to nit-picky about everything the children do that isn't perfect, and the kids still need to learn to share better and not be so bossy.  I feel like these struggles are normal struggles every family has, and we try to learn from day-to-day.

Not everything is rainbows and unicorns though.  Adoption isn't always easy, just like having a newborn isn't easy, and life isn't easy.  Does the Bible ever says it is going to be easy?  Nope!  Can we still remain joyful even when it isn't easy.  Yep!  (Easier said than done, by the way.)  We aren't dealing with an infant that wakes up 27 times at night, or a young toddler who bites, or a teenager who is rebelling against everything Mom and Dad say.  In that respect, adopting a 4 year old is one of the best ages to adopt!  I do think every age is the "best age to adopt", but for us in this situation,  4 is great.

Four years also comes along with its own issues.  We are dealing with a child that has four years, nearly five, of never being told no, experiencing very little discipline or boundaries, not being required to share, and being babied.  He was also awakened several times throughout the night and taken to the bathroom, so his little body never learned to wake himself up when he needed to go.  These issues are improving vastly in our six weeks here, but they are a constant struggle.  At first we would tell him that only babies do such and such, and that only egged him on. He loves being a baby, so he would keep doing whatever we had asked him not to do.  Parenting certainly requires creativity, so we are coming up with new ways to convince him to act like a big boy.  Despite his baby-like tendencies, he is a phenomenal big brother.  He likes to make sure his sisters are in close proximity, not getting into trouble, and are okay in general.  He may be tiny, but his compassion is very large!

Another huge struggle I have had is why God allows some children to be born sick.  Why are there children with cancer, genetic disorders, learning disabilities, and physical ailments?  Clearly the Lord's plan is way bigger than anything we can perceive, but it breaks my heart that our Samuel's heart is not the way it is "supposed" to be.  Why will he not be allowed to play soccer in high school, or ride roller coasters, or go a few days without taking his pills?  Why must he have a scar down his chest that'll make kids always ask him, "What happened to you?"  These questions have plagued me, and I don't pretend to know all the answers, but I have come to realize something very important.

If Samuel was born "normal," his birth family probably would have kept him.  He would have been raised in a dire situation to say the least, one that I cannot even fathom.  What would be the most sad is that he may never have been exposed to the gospel or have the opportunity to ask Jesus into his heart.  Brent and I mess up in some form or fashion as parents every day, some days worse than others.  However, we strive to ensure that our children know Jesus, love Jesus, and pray that one day they accept Him as their Lord and Savior.  We cannot change Samuel's heart physically, but we certainly can influence his heart spiritually.

In dealing with struggles and sickness, Brent and I are struggling because we are sick of being here. It is a gorgeous city with delightful people, but it isn't home.  It is so hard for Brent to get all of his work done, especially as elections are getting closer.  Even with the door closed, the kids can be loud.  The internet doesn't always work great, and he is 2,000 miles away from his office and clients!  I have to hand it to him, he has done a fantastic job working remotely.  I only wish his clients knew how much time and energy, and how many late nights he spends making sure everything is done perfectly. 

We miss being able to hop in our car and go where we please without hailing a taxi.  We miss our home and especially our bed.  The bed here isn't horrible, but isn't comfortable.  All of the comforters look like they would be in a motel rented by the hour.  We miss our furniture.  The living room here consists of one couch that has broken springs and is horrible.  I miss having Walmart a couple minutes away.  (Oh gracious, I just said I miss Walmart.  I am almost ashamed).  We miss our sweet, spoiled, six pound Lucy.  We miss American food!  Brent and I were sort-of-but-not-really joking that we would love for someone to surprise us with a big, greasy, cheesy Papa John's pizza when he landed in the Montgomery airport.  We miss Frazer school, where the kids go in the mornings for preschool.  We miss our friends.  We miss First Baptist and especially our Sunday School class, which contains some of the wisest, God-fearing, scripture-knowing people we have ever met.  Above all we miss our families.  We FaceTime occassionally, but there is nothing like being with family.  Speaking of family, my mother mentioned Thanksgiving the other day.  The thought of her Thanksgiving food makes me salivate like Pavlov's dogs.  Best. Cook. Ever!!

Since we began the adoption process two years ago, we have learned a lot about "hurry up and wait."  We prayed for patience, and the Lord really tried to teach us patience.  If we were told the average time for a certain step was three weeks, it would be five weeks.  When we were about to start packing to get ready for our trip to Colombia in April, we ended up having to wait until late August.  We are trying so hard to be patient, and it is a constant battle. This is all in the Lord's hands, but our hearts and our minds are so weak sometimes.  This should be our last big time of waiting, which reminds me of the part of the the Dr. Seuss book, "Oh! The Places You'll Go!" when he talks about "the waiting place."  We all go through times in the "waiting place" for sure, but eventually "Somehow you'll escape all the waiting and staying/ You'll find the bright places where boom bands are playing."

We are currently waiting for the judge to sign the sentencia, which will be the official adoption decree.  Whereas right now we are Samuel's legal guardians, once this is signed we will be his legal and official parents!  He will officially be a part of his forever family, although we feel as though he already is.  This will be a great day of celebration, and maybe some Dr. Seuss boom bands will even play!  This could occur any day from now until next Thursday.  We pray we get the news early this week, but it is nice to know that at the very most it'll be a week and a half away.

After that is signed, within a day or two the five of us will board a plane for Bogota.  Here we mainly deal with the US Embassy, and should be in Bogota for only five business days if all goes according to plan.  Then, we hop on a plane headed for the precious, amazing, wonderful USA!  As soon as Samuel steps foot on American soil/ Atlanta airport carpet, he is a US Citizen!   We are praying that moment is just around the corner, our time here goes quickly, and we don't crave too much American food in the mean-time. 

Before I close, let me end on a positive note and share some of the great parts of the past several days.
1) We walked to the park yesterday, and the kids played for a solid hour.  Then we walked nearly   a   mile to a restaurant.  The kids were awesome the entire weekend, no matter what we did!
2) Samuel prayed last night before bed, "Thank you for Daddy, Mama, Alex, Lilly, and Jesus.  The End."
3) The kids have had a lot of practice coloring and drawing while we have been here.  Samuel drew his entire family today.  It is always evident who is who, because he makes sure the males are anatomically correct.  The three kids are still young enough where being naked doesn't matter.  Their hineys and other parts are no different than an ear or an elbow.  The drawings, nonetheless, make Brent and me laugh.
4) We went to the mall Saturday.  The big kids got haircuts, and look absolutely adorable.  All three kids got to ride cars at a small race track at the mall.  Samuel drives like a Colombian taxi driver.  He hits the gas then brake, gas then brake.  Alex is terrifying. She only hits the gas, and would fling herself into the side of the race track and into her siblings.  Lilly Grace is an exceptional driver.  She will not worry us to death when she turns 16.  The verdict is out on her siblings.
5) Lilly Grace and Samuel refuse to get on escalators unless they are together and holding hands.  At the end they count and jump off together.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Implosions, Dinner-Guests, and a Night on the Town

This week has been pretty uneventful, except that the kids are beginning to play really well together.  There are three children that are basically within a two year age span, so it isn't glorious all of the time, but we celebrate when it is!

On Tuesday morning we were all playing around the apartment.  It was a bright sunny day with a few puffy white clouds and the bluest sky you could imagine.  We were delaying our home school session for a while because the children were being adorable and playing so well - and then we heard a deafening BOOM! The kids flipped out, and Alex, trembling, wanted to be held for a long time.  Though it was startling, my dad had fortunately told us the previous week that he had read about a building that was to be imploded.  Once we realized we were not being bombed, we went to our balcony to investigate.  We could see the dust cloud billowing from less than a quarter of a mile away, and everybody in our neighborhood was standing on their roofs and cheering.

That afternoon, Brent went to the grocery store while I stayed home with the children.  We have decided that going as a family is entirely too much torture, and Brent is so kind and willing to go.  While he was gone, I tidied up the apartment and got it ready for a showing. It is for sell, and it is interesting being in an apartment with three children while people are walking around and scoping things out. 

Brent returned around 5 and we quickly unloaded groceries and hopped back in the taxi to head to Santafe, an upscale mall a few miles from our apartment.  We walked around for a while, then decided to eat at a restaurant called the California Burrito Company.  Once we walked in, a young guy in perfect English asked us, "What can I get for ya?"  Brent and I stood there while our jaws hit the floor.  An American!  We talked to him way more than we should have, but it was so nice to converse in English.  The restaurant was similar to a Moe's, but everything was made fresh and was a little trendier.  The fellow we met worked for the corporate office folks and went to store openings in Spanish speaking countries.

After dinner we took the kids to a play area on the top floor of the mall.  They played so hard and were tons of fun to watch.  All three kids had tried to go to the bathroom before the play time, but Alex's fear of automatically flushing toilets prevented her from having success.  Not too long after the kids began playing, I noticed Alex's pants were drenched.  Thus, we had to leave the "Happy Place" earlier than intended and took a taxi home.

Yesterday we didn't do much, but because the kids were playing so preciously together, we decided to do less school and more play.  Sometimes they close the door to their bedrooms, and we know they are doing things we don't condone - like jumping on the beds, body slamming each other, etc - but we act ignorant if it means they are all playing and getting along.  Maybe we shouldn't, but at this point our sanity and their ability to play well together is of vast important.

We invited our translator, Cristina, and her husband, Ruben, over for supper.  We had crackers and cheese for an appetizer, Mexican chicken chili over rice with arepas for our main course, and store bought chocolate cake for dessert.  I accidentally added a can of jalapenos instead of green chilis, so it was quite spicy.  It was fun having them over, and it made me miss having people over for dinners at home.  Nearly weekly we take turns with our best friends, Kelli and Matthew Morgan, and have each other's families over for supper.  It is always fun because the kids play, we get some adult time, and there is good food involved.  They live a few houses down from us, which makes these meals convenient.  We can't wait to get back in the swing of that once back in Alabama.

Two awesome days in a row meant that today was tough.  It truly seemed like we were all sick of being inside.  School didn't go very well, until I realized that Samuel excels when he isn't sitting with his sisters.  He gets distracted by Alex's constant jabber - and when I saw constant, I truly mean constant. Whatever comes to her head, comes out her mouth.  He also seems jealous when Lilly Grace is able to do easily what he is trying so hard to do.  Once the girls went off to play, he was able to attempt to write and recognize numbers 1-4, and successfully wrote upper and lower case A, E, I, and U.  Alex is recognizing more of her shapes, and Lilly Grace sounded out and wrote "zebra" today.

Today seemed like battle after battle over the most ridiculous things, and Brent and I decided we had to get out of the apartment.  We bathed the kids, dressed them up, and headed to Parque Lleras.  It was just what we five needed, despite the moronic taxi driver. We walked around in the fresh air among all the trendy shops and swanky restaurants, and finally landed on a nice restaurant for the evening.  The meal was relaxed, and took well over an hour and half, during which the kids were amazing!  The children had chicken and cheese quesadillas and meat balls, and Brent and I had the special that included three courses.  My appetizer was the best part of my meal - homemade cream of tomato soup.  Brent really enjoyed his as well, and the ambiance was excellent, only made better by chipper, fun, happy, well-behaved children. 

After dinner, we went to a road-side vendor to purchase some jewelry for the kids.  They all picked out bracelets, as did Brent, and I chose a necklace.  The kind guy basically had to remake the girls' to make them small enough for their wrists. He spent tons of time and was very nice.  We got a picture of him and Lilly Grace together, to which she responded, "I have never been with someone I have never met before!"  Her wording was sheer innocence, but Brent and I laughed uncontrollably.  After a round of high fives and fist bumps from the jeweler to the kids, we hopped on a taxi to come home.  Tonight more than made up for the difficulties of the day.

Tomorrow, as opposed to today like we originally thought, marks the beginning of our 1-10 day period that the judge has to grant the adoption decree.  We are also meeting with our attorney to go over the next steps. She is under the impression that we should have the decree by next week, but we don't want to get our hopes too high.  We are praying for things to go quickly, and would love for you to join us as we pray.  We are ready to pack our bags and head to Bogota.

Monday, September 22, 2014