Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shopping, Shoes, Shots, Sickness, Snakes, and So On

What a great week it's been at home!  So much has gone on, and come on folks - don't you love the alliteration in the title?!  It has been eventful to say the least, but regardless of the busyness of it all, it seems so much more relaxing to be home.

It took nearly a full week to get laundry caught up and all of the unpacking completed.  Now that those chores are done, our house is basically back to normal.  I still really need to reorganize toys, and get more gender-neutral and boy-toys down stairs, but there just hasn't been time for that yet.

Monday was a school holiday, so all three of the kids got to stay home and play. It was my first day home alone in America with all three kids, and it started out rocky.  The biggest issue was Alex exuding everything typical of a two year old.  Two is one of my favorite ages to be honest, sans the whining.  The day fortunately got better and better, but we were quite ready for Brent to return home after work.

Tuesday was the girls' first day back at school.  Lilly Grace was really excited, but I was a tad nervous for Alex.  However, she waltzed right into her classroom and started telling her teachers about meeting and hugging Minnie Mouse. (Note: She hasn't actually met nor hugged Minnie, but the line between reality and imagination in a two year old is nonexistent.)  It was awesome being back at Frazer Kindergarten and seeing so many sweet faces that all had kind words to say.  Samuel was none to happy to leave his sisters, and he begged to go to school.  We told him once he learns his letters, numbers, and colors he can go. 

In the meantime, he and I are home schooling.  It really feels like one step forward, three hundred steps backward sometimes. He is learning shapes, colors, and even numbers fairly easily.  He also can recall some letter sounds, but memorizing the letters is our biggest struggle right now.  Though I get frustrated and want to cry almost daily, sometimes I just have to laugh at things instead of cry.  I told Brent one morning it felt like Celebrity Jeopardy on Saturday Night Live.  I asked, "Is this a C or a D," and the response I was given was, "Hmmm, a B!"  He will get there, it is just taking diligence and patience.  However, his writing skills are improving exponentially on a daily basis!  It makes his Mommy and Daddy beam with pride.

We also went shopping to get Sam some clothes for the wedding weekend.  I was so thankful for a lady at Namedropper and to my friend, Beth Oliver for all the advice and help about dressing a boy.  He is definitely going to be one handsome young man this weekend in the Highlands!  What he liked best about shopping was the trains he got to play with at the store - he could have cared less about his new clothes. 

Wednesday morning, Sam and I conquered Walmart together.  He has a tendency to dart off, but stayed with me the entire time.  We even practiced letter flashcards while we shopped, and a couple of letters were starting to stick.  They redid the produce section as well as invested in new carts that actually steer without inducing arm cramps, so it was successful on several different accounts. 

On Wednesday evening, the three kids and I headed to church.  Brent had a super important dinner meeting with a large and really cool client, so I was flying solo with the kids - except not really, my parents were parked on either side of my car, so we each handled one kid per adult.  It was one of those evenings that made me think, "Why don't y'all act like this every day?!"  They were fantastic.  They ate their dinner, then played with the other kids while waiting on the evening activities to begin.  My tummy was beginning to have butterflies because I was about to leave Sam for the first time.  He went to 4 year old choir with Lilly Grace, Alex went to her "play class", and I stayed with my parents for the prayer meeting.  He did awesome!  It was a wonderful night.  To make the night even better, Brent's dinner meeting didn't go too late, and it went really well!

Thursday was a busy day.    Samuel had his first doctor's appointment with our pediatrician.  For those of you in Montgomery, let me just say that I adore Partner's in Pediatrics!  They answered all of my questions and got us in within just a couple of days.  I brought in probably 7 pounds of medical paperwork that they are still copying and sorting, and were so thorough with every little detail.  My sweet mother-in-law kept the girls while Sam and I were at the doctor.  (A word to the wise for you single ladies out there - marry in to a great family.  You'll be so glad you did!)  Lilly Grace was so excited about Nana coming over, she couldn't even sleep.

The doctor went well.  It took a long time because there was a lot to do - nearly 5 years to go over, several things to establish, on top of the normal physical.  His check up went great.  Dr. Blakeney could not hear a murmur at all (miracle), and we think his surgeon must have been top notch (Praise the Lord).  Though I am against the flu shot (don't judge, I have my reasons - but we do every other vaccination), I caved and he got one.  He hated it, but did fantastic.  Such a tough cookie!  We will soon have follow up appointments with some specialists in Birmingham.

We returned home just as my mother was pulling up in the driveway to deliver delicious and cute cookies, as well as a gift from some neighbors.  We all headed out back and found Nana with the girls in dress-up clothes playing.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucy, our dog, tossing something in the air over and over.  Lucy had caught a snake.  Seriously, why are snakes always found when there are no men around?  We threw it in a box, and Sam went nuts.  He was screaming "No quiero " over and over and running as far away as possible.  Then, all of a sudden he wanted to see the snake.  He peered over the box, and in perfect English said, "Awww, hey sweet snake."  Hmmm, I guess he got over that fear quickly.  Not much later, Brent arrived home and he may or may not have tossed the snake that the kids named Tim into our crazy neighbor's yard. 

Friday wasn't too eventful.  The kids put on American flag tattoos and we made Halloween -style Rice Krispie Treats.  Once they were all in bed, Brent and I began preparing for a yard sale.  Our neighborhood was having a neighborhood-wide one, which was perfect as we had several things we no longer needed.  Sadly, Brent's stomach symptoms returned, and he was having horrendous abdominal pain as well as some other issues.  I think the over-the-counter stuff he took for several days simply masked the real problem, and we were starting to become quite concerned.  He agreed that if he didn't drastically improve, he would go to the doctor.

We got up super early for the yard sale Saturday morning.  Poor Brent was miserable, and every movement sent sharp pains through his stomach.  The yard sale was a major success, and everything that wasn't sold was packaged up for the Caring Center at church.  As the morning progressed, Brent's troubles did as well.  He decided to go to All-Med Urgent Care, and my parents and I took the kids to the Pumpkin Patch.

Brent was given medications that would treat a food-borne illness that would either be bacterial or parasitic.  He clearly ate something not-so-good in Colombia, but he won't find out exactly what it is until results are back in a few days.  While Brent was miserable at the doctor and at home, the kids, my parents, and I were having a blast at the Pumpkin Patch!

It was Sam's first time for a lot of the things, and all three were giggling in sheer delight almost constantly.  We started out at a huge slide made of French drain pipes and hay bales.  We saw some precious families from our Sunday School class here, and enjoyed watching the kids all be country bumpkins.  Next, the kids did some of the inflatable slides and jumpy houses until they were red in the face and drenched in sweat.  We then headed to watch pigs race.  The two big kids got really into the race and were almost breathless cheering on the pigs.  Next was the petting zoo area.  The kids were able to feed and pet sheep, goats, donkeys, and a cow.  Alex had her hand bitten by a goat, which is the third time in a row we've been to this place that one of the girls have been bitten by a goat!  If I was a better mom, I would make them steer clear of the goats.  Ooops. 

We then headed to another climbing and playing area, which was fun until the kids realized there was a box full of corn, in lieu of a sand box, designed just for play.  It was a major hit.  They jumped, made corn angels, and each took turns getting buried under the corn.  My parents freaked me out by telling me baby mice love being in piles of dried corn.  Fortunately, we never saw any "pinkies."  The only down side of the corn box was the obscure places the corn ended up.  Lilly Grace got about 4 handfuls of corn out of her panties, and Alex got this funny look on her face before she asked we pull her panties down.  She had corn all in the front and underside of her panties... that can't be comfortable at all.  Sam somehow had no corn anywhere, though he played the longest. 

It was time for lunch, though the kids claimed they weren't hungry and wanted to keep playing.  After lunch we rode on a ride that made Colombian taxi drivers seem sane.  It was a cow train ride pulled by an insane tractor driver.  We all unloaded from the train with our organs in the wrong place, dust in our eyes, and some nearly-soiled drawers. 

Then, we went on a hay ride to the actual pumpkin patch.  It is a fantastic hay ride because there is no hay to bother legs or allergies.  We all loved meandering through the pumpkins, and the big kids tried to prove their strength by picking up large pumpkins.  My father, the biggest kid of all, thought he would prove his strength by balancing a pumpkin on his head.  By this time, the kids were getting sleepy so we decided to head to Pops' truck to make it home before utter exhaustive attitudes set in.

Once home, we encountered Brent on the recliner still looking a little pale and green.  We turned on some football and all fell asleep.  I got up from the couch to make a recipe from Pinterest that has made my mouth water since we were in Medellin: tomato basil Parmesan soup with cheddar bacon pinwheels.  I was so excited about a home cooked fall meal. 

Everything was going great.  The veggies had been finely chopped and were getting soft on the stove. The aromas filling the kitchen were delightful.  I didn't want a chunky soup but a smooth creamy soup, so I filled the blender with the yumminess.  My thoughts were, "This is brilliant!  We are going to have tons of veggies and the kids won't even know it.  "  Then I thought, "Even more perfect.  The blender lid has small gaps in it, so steam can escape while I blend this concoction."  Needless to say, none of this decision was brilliant or perfect.  A bright red boiling hot mixture erupted through the gaps sending a mess throughout my kitchen.  My white blouse looked like it had been splatter painted, and I was burned on my neck and both wrists. 

Obviously, dinner wasn't going to happen in a timely manner, so we met Brent's parents for dinner at Chappy's.  We enjoyed the family time and also saw several friends while there.  After dinner, we went back home and got the kids ready for bed.  Brent rested some more and let his meds take effect while I finally finished the soup which would be consumed another day.  The best laid plans... yada yada yada....

On Sunday, Brent still wasn't quite feeling great so the four of us went to church while he stayed back.  I feel like I am getting the hang of getting three kids ready.  We were all fed, dressed, and ready, ran to fill up with gas, and made it to church on time.  The older two did very well in big church, and Samuel went to his Sunday School class for the first time.  It all went exceptionally well, and his teachers are wonderful.  It helps that he and Lilly Grace are in all of the same classes at church.

My parents had us over for a delicious fall meal, and Brent was able to join us.  The kids' cousin Scarlett was there as well, and Scarlett, Lilly Grace, and Samuel got to sit at their own table like big kids.  Afterward, we went outside and my dad flew his model helicopter for the kids. They loved it!  Because of some griping and whining, we decided to go home and prepare for Sunday afternoon naps. 

Sunday evening, the kids and I headed back to church for Mission Friends, which was another first for Sam.  It all went great, and we survived several "firsts" all in one day.

Although being back home is phenomenal, it isn't always easy.  Having three children isn't harder than having two, but it is busier.  There are more mouths to feed, more rules to enforce, more dishes to clean, more laundry to wash, more bodies to bathe, more kids to clothe, and more messes to put away.  Honestly, the hardest part is trying to get Sam caught up with his peers.  It is exhausting for both of us, and I really feel like we aren't getting anywhere.  It is already evident that he won't be ready for 4K in January, and I am terrified he will be behind in 3K, although he will be the oldest in the class.  I know everybody says not to worry, he will get caught up, focus on bonding, boys are different, etc, but as a mother I can't help but be concerned.  Maybe it will click on day, and I pray for that "Ah hah" moment every day.  We prayed for patience at the onset of the adoption process, and evidently I didn't learn it well enough yet.

We are on to another week which will end with a vacation to the Highlands, North Carolina with Brent's family for his cousin's wedding.  We all are so excited, and can't wait for our first family of five vacation this fall. 

His clothes for the wedding - cute little rascal

Showing off their tattoos, and yes, Alex has a huge belly

Sam and Lilly Grace routing on their favorite pigs at the race

Alex resting in the corn

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cloud Nine

Sunday morning, Brent and I awoke to our alarm clocks.  We weren't awakened by a screeching pteradactyl-type bird, horns, car alarms, airplanes, car back-fires, or security guards hollering down the street.  Simply our alarms.  We showered and got ready in our bathroom, and had all of our clothes to choose from... well, almost all. There was still a lot of laundry from our Colombian journey left to do.

I cooked cheesy scrambled eggs and sliced fruit for breakfast.  How nice to have a  decent cutting boards, a whisk, and a small bowl to use.  Clean up was also so fast with a garbage disposal and dishwasher.

We successfully got three kids ready for church and arrived a tad bit early!  What a welcome sight First Baptist was!  Samuel was greeted by several people, and he was very friendly to all who came to meet him.  Brent's family joined us at church, and we took up two entire rows.  Alex goes to her class, because she can't quite sit still for really any time period at all.  She waltzed right into her class like such a big girl.  I was so proud!  Samuel and Lilly Grace stayed in big church with us and the family.

Toward the beginning of the service, Pastor Jay welcomed us back from Colombia and welcomed Samuel to the First Baptist family.  We truly were touched, and it brought crocodile tears to my eyes when the congregation clapped for us!  It was so moving because we know these folks have been with us every step of the way, and there have been countless prayers sent up for Samuel and our family.  Samuel was smiling SO big, and waved at everybody.  Lilly Grace, who is actually really social in smaller settings despises having tons of people looking her way.  She freaked out and had crocodile tears for an entirely different reason.  She and I left to calm down for a bit, and she told me that when people look at her it makes her feel shy.  Bless her heart!

The kids did incredible in church!  To our knowledge, this is Sam's first church service.  He was a total pro.  It also seems like Lilly Grace grew up a ton in two months and she was the best she's ever been in church.  They both tried to sing the songs along with the congregation, and pretended to fill in the blanks along with the sermon.

Samuel went to Sunday School with us, against his will, while LG went to her class.  He was so jealous and kept begging to play with Lilly Grace, but we didn't think he should be left without parents the first day back in America.  We promised him that next week he could go to Sunday School.  When we later went to pick up Lilly Grace, we let Samuel meet his teachers and play with the remaining kids in the class. It went perfectly.  I think it will make for a smooth transition next week.

Alex is in Mary Ruth Wolf's class (our pastor's wife).  Her previous teacher was Ms. Anne, whom Alex thought hung the moon.  Well, Alex thinks Ms. Mary Ruth is hanging the moon as well.  She talked so much about Sunday School, and was crazily proud of her artwork of the burning bush.   She showed every single person she encountered her artwork, and kept staring at it in awe of her own skills.  She even toted it to lunch and showed it off there as well.

Then, the five of us got in Brent's car and drove to Wynlakes for lunch.  While waiting for our table, we saw one of my best friends, Christy, and her family!  It was lovely seeing her, and having the entire Glassford gang meet Samuel.  Also in the lobby, Steve Harvey walked through. He was evidently golfing at Wynalkes, and surprisingly, very few people were swarming him.  One family waited outside the men's bathroom for a photo, which seemed a little creepy to me.  Everybody else was pretty cool about it.

We sat at the table adjacent to my parents, which was perfect.  The kids behaved like angels, with good manners, sweet attitudes, and eventually full bellies.  Lilly Grace had a crying spell, but it wasn't without reason.  She fell out of a chair and landed with her boot heel up her hiney.  I think that would make me cry, too!  Man alive that food was yummy!  We had a lot of fruit in Colombia, but not many veggies.  At the buffet, there were green beans, sweet potatoes, salads, broccoli, and squash - and those were just some of the veggies.  We definitely got our fill, and really enjoyed filling our bellies with scrumptious American food.

We then went home and passed out in food comas.  After naps, the girls and I headed to church for Mission Friends, while Brent and Samuel went shopping for pants.  Samuel is so tiny that most of his clothes don't fit. Brent ended up buying him several pairs of 2T khakis and jeans.  He is about to turn five and is wearing 2T pants.  Fortunately, my friend Beth Oliver gave me tons of advice on dressing skinny little boys without them looking too babyish, too grown, or too frumpy.

Sunday was definitely an incredible day.  Brent and I feel euphoric being at home and being with everybody who means so much to our family!  Now, onto our new normal in America as a family of five!  We still have oodles of laundry to do and a few more suitcases to unpack, but that's taking a back burner to us enjoying being back.

A rare photo of the 5 of us.  Waiting for lunch.  Thanks Brooke Glassford!  

Sweet Home Alabama!

It is hard to believe that less than 48 hours ago, we were still in overcast, polluted, chilly, drizzly Bogota.  Around 8:15 at night, later than the kids usually go to bed, we all got in a van to head to the airport in Bogota.  Fortunately, the children took late and long naps, so the late night wasn't going to be as difficult as it could have been.

We arrived at the airport, and while Samuel, Alex and I watched our gobs of luggage, Brent, Lilly Grace, and our translator went to the tax exemption line so get some money back on some of our in-country purchases.  After doing all that was necessary, Brent was told that since we did not have tourist visas (ours were specific for adoption), we did not qualify for any refund.  Had we had the girls' names written on the receipts instead of ours, we could have qualified.  We were bummed, but at least we can pass this information on to others.

Then, it was time to check out baggage.  Samuel goes bezerk when our luggage gets checked and taken away.  We convinced him he would see it again, but he still can't stand it!  We aren't sure if he is scared his toys and clothes are gone forever, or if he just really likes having everything close by.  Once he recovered from the luggage withdrawals, we headed to emigration.  We were given a packet of stuff to hand to the emigration officer.  (Don't think I am a moron, but the Colombian word says "Emigration" at the airport, and isn't emigration when you leave a country, and immigration when you enter a country, or do I have this all backwards?) The staff at Julyana Adoptions made everything so easy and organized our paperwork, so emigration was a breeze.  We were cleared to leave the country.

The next step in the airport was customs, then security.  Aside from juggling three energetic kiddos, who were behaving fantastically, security was so easy.  You don't have to get anything out of your bags, they just scan it all.  Shoes stay on.  We simply had to remove jackets and anything in our pockets.  Additionally, their security people are always smiling and incredibly nice.  Can TSA please take some lessons in this respect?

We headed to one of the airline clubs to get a quick bite and try to sleep for a bit.  Samuel basically gets comfortable and falls asleep instantly.  He is a parent's dream child when it comes to bedtime.  Alex was surprisingly quiet, but is a tornado.  Once she finally fell asleep, Brent and I got so tickled because at one point she was talking and waving in her sleep.  The child truly never slows down - awake or not.  Lilly Grace had the most difficult time.  She was being so good, but the noises were really bothering her.  Brent spent the rest of our Colombian pesos in the airport while I watched the munchkins.

Eventually, it was time to board the plane.  Alex slept in her stroller and in my arms until we boarded.  The big kids woke up to walk, but stayed in a fog.  It was close to midnight after all.  The flight went perfectly.  Alex and Brent were beside a nice Colombian gentleman, and Alex slept the entire flight.  Brent woke up once to find Alex semi on top of this gentleman, and semi snuggling him.  Samuel and Lilly Grace slept the entire flight, despite having their feet in each other's faces.  We were anxious about taking a red eye, but it worked out perfectly because the six hours went by really quickly.

We landed in Dallas and had to go through customs.  It was incredible having Samuel on American soil!  We were originally told once he landed he was officially a US citizen, but have since heard conflicting information.  Customs took about 30 minutes altogether, and we were escorted to a room that had a play area.  Though it was only 6am, the kids had a great time playing while Brent dealt with the customs officer.

Once we claimed and rechecked our luggage, we went to the Centurion Club for breakfast... an amazing American breakfast!  Fruit, quiches, french toast, potatoes, yogurt, muffins, juices, coffee.  That french toast was pretty incredible.  The kids and I stayed at the table waiting for Samuel to finish eating while Brent took a shower.  He was still feeling pretty horrendous at this point, but at least did fine on the six hour flight.  Once we were finally finished, I took the kids to the bathroom to potty, freshen up, and I tried to make myself look somewhat decent.

Our layover was over before we knew it.  The timing was perfect and we boarded the plane to Montgomery.  It was an easy hour and a half.  Samuel and Lilly Grace sat side by side and honestly did not get reprimanded or in trouble once.  They played on their LeapPads most of the time and had some little snacks every so often to pass the time.  Brent was in a seat alone right across the aisle from the big kids.  Fortunately, he was able to cat-nap a tad on the flight.  I was next to Alex behind the others.  Her traveling attitude and behavior has done a 180 degree turn.  She was a delight!  It made the time pass quickly.

At 10:35 am we landed in Montgomery.  I am so thankful the airport is tiny, because we couldn't wait to see friends and family!  We were welcomed by the best, happiest, most loving crowd there has ever been.  My sister took pictures for us, as did several of our friends.  It was one of the best moments of our lives!  I think Samuel knows how much he is loved by so many people. He isn't shy at all and was quick to give high fives, hand shakes, and hugs.

Along with these amazing people, we were greeted with balloons, posters, candies and more, but nothing can compare to the welcome these friends and family gave Samuel and the rest of our family.  For months and months, all we thought about was when we could finally go to Colombia to meet our son.  We weren't mentally prepared for the eight weeks because our brains couldn't get past the awesomeness of the expected "Gotcha Day."  Not only that, we weren't prepared for the awesomeness of coming home.  It was emotional and perfect.  It makes us realize that we have been blessed with the best families in the world and the best friends in the world as well!

Following a lot of photos, hugs, tears, smiles, and celebration, we loaded up the luggage and headed to our house.  My mother had cleaned the house immaculately, and she had decorated!  We had new decorative pillows on our bed, candles around the house, two vases of flowers downstairs, a wreath on the front door, scent packets to make the house smell amazing, trimmed bushes, photo frames with all three children, and tons of other precious and generous touches.  My mother-in-law had gifts on the fireplace for the children and a gorgeous bow on the mailbox.  My grandmother had gone grocery shopping.  Our sweet friends the Cowdens and the McDaniels had gifts for all three kiddos, and Beth McDaniel and her infinite medical knowledge gave Brent advice on what to do for his illness and what to do if he didn't get better.

Samuel had an absolutely blast exploring his house.  He seemed a little overwhelmed, but did an wonderful job taking it all in.  He loves his room, the toys, the yard, and especially our dog, Lucy.  It was so fun seeing him explore the house.

Within a few minutes, our families arrived.  My mother had lunch for everybody: a Chappy's sandwich tray, chips, and cookies.  Brent's grandparents brought YooHoo's - a treat Lilly Grace loves when she goes to their house.  The kids played so hard in the backyard, and the kids' dear friend Anna Catherine came to play as well.  They played soccer, swang, ran, jumped on the trampoline, and played on the see-saw.  They were drenched in sweat and had that fantastic kid stench.  Everybody went their own ways, and Brent bathed our kids and put them down for naps.  We watched some disappointing football and fell asleep as well.

Once the five of us were able to peel ourselves from our comas, we began to unpack a little bit.  Believe me, unpacking two months world of clothes, toiletries, toys, etc is a daunting task.  Brent, being the kind-hearted man that he is, praises every little bit that I get accomplished and keeps reassuring me not to stress about it and to take my time on the unloading and reorganizing.  Hopefully, I can get it all done within the next couple of days and the house can be back in great shape.

My phenomenal mother also had dinner ready for us: macaroni and cheese, rotisserie chicken, steamed vegetables, and carrots with hummus. Delicious.  We all ate well, and played together after dinner.  Because of the excitement of the day and their long naps, we let the kids stay up a little past bedtime, which meant they were able to hang out some with their aunts and uncles that came over that night.

Brent and I put the kids to bed, then got to spend time with his siblings and their significant others.  It is always so much fun when it is the six of us, and they truly are the best in-laws ever!  In just two weeks, we all get to go to the Highlands of North Carolina together for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of their cousins.  All of the siblings are sharing a house, and it should be a ton of fun.

Eventually, they headed out and Brent and I headed to bed.  Our own bed.  Our own pillows.  In our own house.  It felt tremendous!  Although we were excited about going to church in the morning and seeing our wonderful church family, I think we passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

The all-too-wonderful family and friends awaiting Samuel's Alabama debut at the Montgomery Airport.  
(Photo credit to my sis- Stephanie Parsons.  She does wonderful pictures if anybody is in search of a photographer.  )

Samuel walking in and grinning as he sees everybody welcoming him!  
 (Another photo from my sister)

Friday, October 10, 2014

The End... and a New Beginning!

This will be my last post from Colombia!  In many ways, this two year journey is coming to an end.  We have survived the roller-coaster called adoption and have learned so much about our Lord throughout the duration of the ride.  We have been taught patience and to have faith even when situations seem bleak.  We have felt utterly out of control, and have learned that throughout all of life, we truly have very little control.  Though this seems scary, it really isn't.  Would we rather be in control, or have our sovereign, omniscient, all-power God in control? 

We are elated about coming home and showing off our new son!  He is awesome, folks!  However, coming home will be a new beginning for all of us.  We will have to discover our new normal as a family of five in America.  The girls will continue going to Frazer Preschool, and for now Samuel will stay home with me.  We have tons of doctors appointments to take him to in the coming weeks. He is still learning the rules and boundaries of our family, and how to be a "big boy," and we will practice some schooling at home to get him caught up with others his age.

We so wish we knew what he was picturing America to be like.  If he was shown pictures of New York City or Miami, he is going to have a big awakening when he sees Pike Road, Alabama.  He has always lived in an apartment, so we are curious what he thinks about a spacious house surrounded by grass.  We certainly hope he enjoys life in Alabama, where traffic isn't horrific, fields of horses and cows are always close, and everybody is granted plenty of personal space.  We can't wait to take him to Shakespeare to feed the turtles and ducks, to First Baptist where the great folks in the world are, to Pump it Up to use tons of that four year old boy energy, to parks that are not cushioned with cement, and countless other "firsts."  The big news is we have a first for all three of our kids in a few months!  We are going to Disney World in December!  It'll be how we officially celebrate his adoption into our family as well as his fifth birthday.  AND my best friend Lizzie and her family will be there at the same time at the resort right next to ours. 

We tried to stay busy today in order to make our last day go quickly.  A sweet lady that partners with Lifeline named Ana invited us to go to a petting zoo.  About ten minutes before we left, Brent got really busy at work and decided it would be best for me to go with just the kids.  Not only that, whatever his sickness is has become much worse.  My funny dad warned him not to look too sick so that people in Hazmat attire don't show up and treat him like he has Ebola. Ana and her two little boys, Pablo (2 years old) and Francisco (1 month) picked us up.  Therefore, we two adults were in the front seat, and all five children were in the back seat.  Man I can't wait for car seats and booster seats!  We went to a petting zoo first, which the kids loved.  Then, the kids played on a small playground for a long time.  They were covered in dirt, but had a grand time.  Lilly Grace kept calling Pablo, "Pablo Escobar."  I was mortified and kept apologizing to Ana.  Brent and I had no idea she had heard us talking about him when we were in Medellin.

The 7 of us then headed to a bigger park area.  I don't even know how to explain it; it was way more than a park, but not quite an amusement park.  Ana needed to feed the baby, so I headed in with four kids under five.  Somehow I managed to purchase tickets for all of us, and juggled four kids.  The park really was geared at older kids, so I was continually lifting kids and helping them "play."  By the time we needed to leave, I was just as exhausted as the kids.  We had a lovely time with Ana and her boys.  She was so sweet, and the kids loved playing with cutie patootie Pablo!

We got back to the apartment around 2:00 and the kids were starving out of their minds, but were actually acting really good!  They were great the entire time we were gone.  Brent had gone out and purchased lunch for us, and ran to the pharmacy to get more of Samuel's heart medicine, some medicine for his tummy, and Dramamine to help us sleep through the flight.  All of that was roughly $14.  Incredible isn't it? 

Though it was a super late nap for the kids, the timing worked out perfectly since they will be up late tonight. They are still asleep right now (5:20 pm), but we are getting ready to wake them up, take showers, get ready, pack, and go!  It's been great Colombia, but there's about to be a party in the USA!

(I am still not able to post photos on here with our internet, but rest assured that in the next few days, there will be a huge influx of photos on my Facebook page from our two months here.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Last Full Day in Colombia

Today was our last full day in Colombia, sort of.  Technically, our plane doesn't take off until 12:30 am Saturday morning, but we will be at the airport by 8:30pm tomorrow evening, so today seems more so like our last full day here.

The day was really cold and drizzly, meaning everybody except me slept in.  It was nice having some peace and quiet while everybody was snoozing.  Lilly Grace was the first to wake up, and so we were able to spent some time together reading several books.  It was precious because we haven't had much time for just the two of us since we arrived to Colombia.

Brent was feeling a little better today, but still has room for a lot of improvement.  He continues to have some body aches, head and belly pain, and tummy troubles, but he says he isn't miserable like the past couple of days.  It seems he is heading in the right direction, and has a little over 24 hours to recover enough to feel well on the plane.  Thank you so much for praying for him, and for all the texts and messages checking on him.

The kids all seemed like they needed some special time today.  Brent had oodles and boocoodles of work today, so while the kids each had their one-on-one Mommy time, we did out best, unsuccessfully, to not bother him.  I am sure he will be delighted to be in an office and be able to work without four family members running around being loud.

Alex had the first turn.  I painted her finger nails and toenails the colors of her choice.  She is a girly-girl and truly loves this.  She giggles every time the polish brush touches her toe nails.  We then read three books and chatted while her nails dried.

Samuel's turn was next.  The rain had mostly stopped, and we bundled up as best we could and went to the small soccer field by our apartment.  We had a great time playing futbol for several minutes.  Let's hope nobody was watching, because I got out-gamed by a four year old.  It was a lot of fun!  We then came in and sat on his bed and read some books.

Lilly Grace was last.  I also gave her a pedicure and manicure using the colors of her choice, then we read a few books together.  It is such a joy chatting with her!  When she is with her siblings, she is quick to take charge and be bossy, but she truly has such a beautiful heart.  It's a true blessing to get to see the soft, sweet side of her.  This morning when it was just the two of us, she chose several Bible stories to read.  Her love of Jesus at such a young age is precious, and she has such a remarkably wise understanding of salvation to be barely four years old.

By then it was lunch time, and we all had sandwiches and fruit - which has basically become our regular here in Bogota.  Brent said he would prepare breakfast in the morning, which meant that was the last meal that I had to prepare in Colombia!  Woohoo!  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love to cook - but I like doing it in my kitchen with my appliances and cookware that I know are clean and working.  The kids went down for nap while Brent worked diligently and I rested and perused Pinterest while salivating over non-sandwiches and non-Colombian food.

Brent had a lot going on today, so we left for the evening way later than we had planned in order for him to take care of business.  We went to an area of town known as Zona Rosa.  It is upscale, and seems to be where the people with money hang out. The people dressed much nicer than others we have seen in the different areas of town.  The mall was quite ritzy and only had fine dining restaurants.  We walked down the street and only found bars, and finally settled on a chain Italian restaurant.  The kids were famished, and hungry kids are not happy kids.  For that matter, hungry adults are not happy adults. We all needed some grub in our bellies! 

Dinner arrived, and Brent reached across the table to cut one of the kid's meals.  He evidently forgot about the candle in the middle of the table.  All of a sudden, he was flapping his arms because his arm was on fire!  There was nothing to put it out with, and it seemed like he was on fire for an eternity!  He got the flames out, while his shirt smoldered for a bit longer.  Unfortunately, it was his favorite shirt.  Additionally, his skin below the shirt is burned.  (Linda, don't worry - we will put silver on it Saturday ;) ) There is a silver lining to the situation.  He has worn a Columbia jacket almost every time we have left the apartment, and wasn't tonight.   That material is highly flamable, and his entire arm probably would have been engulfed in flames and it would have melted on his skin.  I am so thankful the situation wasn't worse than it was, but it is so sad that after feeling so sick for a while, he burned his arm!

After dinner we immediately went home. We put the kids down, and we are currently sitting in our apartment freezing.  It has been in the 50s all day, and with no insulation or heat, and a few broken windows, it isn't much warmer inside.  We layer the kids up really well for bed here, and cover them in a handful of blankets.  Tomorrow night we are sleeping first in an airport, then on planes. Though this won't be too comfortable, hopefully it will at least be warmer!

We can't wait to board that plane tomorrow night.  Hopefully we won't be too excited to sleep, but we have some medicinal help available if that is the case.  Tomorrow morning we are going to a petting zoo and park with a precious gal that partners with Lifeline, then we will get ready, nap, and pack for our return home! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Go Big AND Go Home!

To be perfectly honest, our time here in Bogota has gone without a hitch.  Every single appointment at every agency has been easy, and every person we have dealt with has been incredibly kind.  We have yet to encounter any disgruntled people in Colombia.  They never make fun of our Spanish, and are always inquisitive of our family.  Countless have thanked us for helping a child from their country. 

All of that to say, something had to go awry.  Today held out last item on our to-do list: obtain Samuel's Visa from the US Embassy.  We originally had an appointment at 11:30, but found out last night it was changed to 1:00 - smack dab when the kids start turning in for naps.  That made for three days in a row that Samuel wouldn't get his full nap in, which was making him really sleepy and grouchy. 

We originally planned for the entire family to go to the Embassy, because it isn't a common occurance to be able to visit a US Embassy. Sadly, whatever is ailing Brent did not pass through the night.  He woke up several times during the night running a fever, and when the fever broke he would have intense chills and shivering.  His stomach has been hurting him really badly, and he has a great deal of gastrointestinal upset.  We have tried Motrin, Zofran, and Pepto, and he has had very little relief.  Therefore, we decided I would take Samuel and Lilly Grace to the Embassy, and Alex would stay back with Brent.

Before our Embassy appointment, the kids and I went to the grocery store a couple of blocks away.  This may not seem like a big deal, but keep in mind I know barely any Spanish, rarely leave the apartment without Brent or our translator, and grocery shopping with three young kids in any location isn't exactly a cake-walk.  However, we survived!  Nobody was run over as we crossed several streets, and we purchased toilet paper and food for lunch.  Maybe some of you ran a marathon, or lifted ten thousand pounds over your head, or cured some heinous illness, but I took three children down several blocks grocery shopping and returned in the rain unscathed.  We got back, cooked, ate, and cleaned up to get ready for Marieta to pick the three of us up for the Embassy. 

The Embassy is a far cry from what I expected.  I assumed we would be ushered inside, and the building would have comfortable seats and an RSA building-like atmosphere.  Wrong!  Everything we did was handled outside.  There was a medium sized crowd of Colombians awaiting Visas to travel to America, but we were sent to a ticket-booth like window ahead of the crowd.  I turned in gobs of paperwork and Samuel's passport and was told to sit and wait for it to be processed.  Samuel and Lilly Grace were not on their a-game.  They couldn't keep their hands to themselves and kept whining and tattling.  Maybe I have less patience than most mothers, but whining absolutely drives me ballistic. 

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait for long.  The young guy that handled our case was actually headed to Birmingham in a couple of weeks where all of his family lives.  Small world.  I was fingerprinted, and we went over some more information.  He also had a small interview about our stay in Colombia.  Then he told me it would be roughly two hours for the visa to be ready.  Yikes!  Two hours outside in a drizzly rain with two kids who needed naps did not sound like fun.  Marieta recommended the kids running around in a little field on the Embassy grounds.  It was muddy, but I didn't even care.  The kids needed to run and play.  They picked tons of dandelions, until they realized their hands were covered in bugs.  After some mega freaking out, we relocated to a concrete area.

The kids ran and played, and all was going well until Samuel pitched fit after fit because Lilly Grace was winning all of the races.  (He proudly informed Brent a few days ago that when he runs by himself he always wins.  Haha!)  I told him it didn't matter who won, just to have fun, but the fits persisted.  He actually is pretty fast, but Lilly Grace has legs several inches longer and therefore is somewhat faster. I had him sit down on a bench beside me for five minutes without whining, and when he got back up to run and play was in great spirits.  The kids took turns running, so they both won every sprint.

I looked down at my phone for a couple minutes to let Brent know we had a long wait ahead, then I heard a loud thud and saw Samuel sprawled on the cement.  Evidently he tripped and caught himself with his face.  I don't mean he put his hands down and then his face, he actually landed on his face.  He bit hit tongue, knocked a couple of teeth, bruised his forehead, scratched the bridge of his nose, and busted his nose.  His mouth was full of blood and dirt, and there was blood gushing from his nose.  The child looked awful.  It was so sad!  We rushed to the bathroom, and he was crying minimally until he saw the blood in the mirror.  He was then crying hysterically for a while, but calmed down way faster than most kids.  When he gets hurt badly, he doesn't cry and carry on for long.  The bleeding eventually stopped.  No teeth were broken or loose. His battle wounds include a bruised forehead and nose, and swollen, scratched up nose.  The good news is immediately after the accident, our name was called WAY before the two hour mark.  We had only waited for about 45 minutes!

We now have Samuel's passport and visa, and every single thing is finished!  We have no more tasks to do except to fly home.  Brent really needs to get better so he can enjoy the end of our stay in Bogota and not be miserable when we fly.  Keep praying for this precious man!  Tomorrow is our last full day in Colombia!  Woohoo!  See you soon America!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Another Day Down, An Amazing Husband, and a Perfect Savior

Yesterday, the kids were cranky and whiny, so this morning after breakfast and getting ready, Brent and I decided they all needed some alone time.  They weren't being punished, we were just preventing possible incidents from occurring.  Each kid got to pick two toys and a book and were placed in separate rooms throughout the apartment.  They played so wonderfully.  It was fun overhearing how differently they play.  Lilly Grace played like everything was a princess, Samuel was loud and all of his animals were fighting, and Alex was in her own little two year old land until she threw all of her toys out of the door.

The older two then played together while they watched part of a Muppet movie, and Alex and I had some one-on-one time.  Eventually, everybody started getting antsy and the sun was sort of peeping out of the chilly skies, so the kids and I headed outside to the park.  It is remarkable how fresh air, running, and climbing completely fix anything going on with children. 

After a lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and crackers, the kids turned in for early naps since I had to get Samuel up for his medical appointment.  His appointment was at 4, but the doctor's office requested we get there at 3:30. Traffic can be horrific, so we had to leave by 2:30 to be safe.  Traffic ended up being light per Bogota standards, and we were checked into the office before 3.  They didn't call us back until 4:20, which is a long wait for a 4 year old boy.  I brought toys and snacks, and he really did very well while we waited.

The pediatrician was wonderful.  He was bilingual, so the translator did not accompany Samuel and me to his office.  It was not a very thorough physical, simply what the US Embassy required.  However, he answered any questions that I had, was patient, and one of the kindest physicians I have encountered.  Not only was he a pediatrician, he also was a neonatoligist, and had tons of photos in his office of tiny babies, twins, and triplets.  It was precious.

He listened closely to Samuel's heart, and said he didn't hear a murmur at all.  This is remarkable considering the extent of Sam's cardiac condition and his surgeries.  After he asked me my occupation and found out I was an ER nurse, he asked me if I would like to listen as well.  He was very impressed with how well our little boy is doing.  Samuel has gained a pound since we have come to Colombia and grown 2 centimeters!  He is quite healthy.

We went over Samuel's vaccination history, and he only lacked one vaccine.  He was given a Hepatitis A vaccine, and though he didn't like it, he didn't cry one bit.  We saw several older children coming out of the vaccination room crying and carrying on, but not our trooper!  I was so proud. 

The doctor told me that the paperwork that had to be taken to the US Embassy would be ready in roughly an hour, which was nice because that meant we wouldn't have to return early in the morning.  Marieta, Samuel, and I strolled around the area, walked around another Colonial Spanish neighborhood, and wound up at a park.  Samuel had a grand time playing and swinging, and is working on the concept of pumping his legs while he swings.  I gave him a snack, then we walked to a nearby mall for him to go to the bathroom. 

While he snacked, I called Brent.  He sounded horrible, and either caught a stomach bug or was the recipient of horrendous altitude sickness.  I can attest that it is incredibly difficult feeling poorly when you have to take care of children, and Lilly Grace and Alex were stuck in the apartment with him.  Going out to dinner was definitely out of the question, which is a problem because we have no dinner food at the apartment.

We both racked out brains, while Marieta, Samuel, and I walked back to the doctor's office to collect the paperwork for the embassy.  We came back to the apartment and made sure we had everything needed for the appointment to obtain Samuel's visa tomorrow.  I then checked on Brent, and he truly looked pitiful.  He can handle tummy issues really well, so when he is in bed complaining of belly pain and other symptoms, I know it is for-real!  His eyes were glassy and overall just heartbreaking!  That meant it was time for my to step up my game.  I have been extremely anxious about venturing out by myself, and have been fine this week with our translator, but I had to go alone tonight to bring dinner home.  Alex came with me so that Brent could have some peace and quiet, and we walked to a Dominos Pizza around the corner.  I ordered in Spanish!!!  Alex and I brought it home; it was incredible! 

Brent was able to get some pizza down, then went back to rest in bed.  As each kid was bathed and put in pajamas, they would hop in bed with Brent.  They got to watch the rest of their movie instead of a book tonight, then went to bed.  Brent is exhausted from not feeling well, and I am tired from a 4 hour doctor ordeal, but thankful it all went smoothly.

As we are coming to the end of our stay in Colombia, I have been thinking about the past 7 1/2 weeks.  I don't even know the words to describe it all, but it is surreal to think it is almost over.  Brent and I are thankful for all of the encouragement and prayer, and I do not say this lightly.  We could not have survived without our friends and family.  Our parents being here for a total of two weeks provided a great deal of sanity, as did the opportunities we had to FaceTime family and friends. 

There are several worship songs we have listened to and sung frequently here, and one of them is "Oceans" by Hillsong United.  It starts, "You call me out upon the water/ the great unknown, where feet may fail/ and there I find You in the mystery/ In ocean's deep, my faith will stand."  The Lord called us way out of our comfort zone.  8 weeks away from work, family, America, home, etc!  It truly was a mystery all along, except that we knew we were called to do this. He protected us from drowning in the water, and when it seemed like all was falling apart, He would provide some miraculous good news.  The bridge of the song begins, "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders." Every time I hear this I choke up.  I don't think Hillsong literally meant borders of countries when they wrote this, but that is what this part means to us.  This entire adoption journey has been about trust, even when it has been rocky we had to trust the Lord.  Of course we were not perfect in our trust, but we had so many wonderful encouraging people reminding us every time we were discouraged to trust in the Lord!  Here is a link to the song with lyrics for those of you who aren't familiar.   I recommend taking the time to listen.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

I also want to brag on my wonderful, loving, patient husband.  I can honestly say that we haven't gotten sick of each other, despite being together nearly nonstop.  He has been such a solid rock for our family not only in Colombia, but since our family began.  I am prone to motion sickness, and he has sat in the back of almost every taxi with three rambunctious children, so I could sit in the front with the window down.  On the days at the beginning of our stay when I felt poorly, he would take all of the kids out so I could rest in quiet.  He has helped cook and clean dishes.  He swept and mopped countless times.  He has handled the logistics of everything we have done, from hailing taxis, finding places to stay, and handling the finances of every aspect of the adoption.  He also has handled his work from thousands of miles away.  He hasn't complained about a single thing, even when I griped that I was so ready to come home.  He has been incredibly patient with our children. On days that he was in the bedroom working while I was homeschooling and tending the children, he would march out of his room and demand the children obey and respect Mommy.  Despite all the craziness and busyness, he has made me feel loved beyond belief.  He has brought home sweet treats, sent roses, given me breaks, and purchased some memorable gifts for me while we have been here. Above all, he continually points our family toward Christ.  He would lead our home-church every Sunday, and ensures we remember to pray, and tries to bring Christ into the equation any chance he gets.  We could not have survived this long road without Brent, and I hope he knows how awesome the kiddos think he is, and how much I will always love and respect him.

Let's hope and pray Brent feels better tomorrow so he can enjoy the last few days in Bogota.  We head to the Embassy at 10:15 for our appointment at 11:30.  This should be our final step, except for heading home.  Three more sleeps here, one in an airplane, and then HOME! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Emeralds and Appointments

Brent started out the day with conference calls, while the kids and I got ready, played, and changed over laundry.  Generally when I say that, I mean putting laundry from the washer into the dryer.  Here, we have no dryer and hang everything to dry.  It wouldn't be a big deal except it isn't warm enough to dry clothes quickly at all.  We hang them to dry, and then lay them out of the kitchen table to finish drying.  Our luxurious American amenities sure are nice: dryer, dish washer, working appliances, garbage disposal, AC and heaters!  There should only be one more load of laundry done here, the rest can be saved for home.

The five of us took a taxi to the emerald district.  The jewelers are only open Monday through Friday from about 10-3, because they only like to use natural light to look at the emeralds.  There are men throughout the square doing business by comparing emeralds held in folded paper looking through a loop.  The sign of a deal is a mere hand shake.  Most of these men deal in raw emeralds that have not yet been cut or shined.  We went inside and dealt with a recommended shop that supposedly didn't try to con you into buying fake emeralds, and gave a great price.  We were able to purchase some jewelry for about 40-50% of the cost in America.

Needless to say, dozens of emerald jewelers all lined up is not appealing to youngsters.  They were mesmerized by the elevator and became the official elevator greeting committee, which kept them entertained for a good while.  Then, their patience was up, and they began driving each other ballistic.  After such a marvelous weekend, it was about time for them to act out.  It was lovely seeing all the gorgeous emeralds, which are mine and Brent's birth stone after all, but we were ready to go after all of the shopping was done. 

We headed to a local hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop for lunch.  It reminded us of the cafes in Italy that are on most street corners.  The kids had ham and cheese, and Brent and I had a chicken-filled pastry.  We all had drinks with our meals, and altogether it was $5.  Not bad at all!

As soon as we got back to the apartment, our driver/translator arrived to take Samuel and me on the several errands that we had to run. First, we went to the passport office in order to pick up his passport.  The office was packed with hundreds of people, but we were in and out within 5 minutes.  Then we headed to the clinic to have his TB test evaluated.  This also hardly took any time, and the results were negative. 

As we were leaving, the office staff at the clinic asked for the photos of Samuel that had been previously taken.  3 days ago, the dimensions of "official photos " in Colombia changed, so we had to have these redone at a local photography store.  Fortunately, there was one halfway in between the doctor's office and the parking lot. It didn't take much time, and was one less thing to have to do tomorrow.

Because everything was working out well with timing, Marieta went ahead and took us to the ICBF office because a letter we needed was completed, signed, and stamped.  While there, I filled out a quick survey about our agency in Alabama, and about how I feel the ICBF handled things.  My only complaint was that we were never given a written list of Samuel's medications including dosage, amount taken, and time of day taken.  Considering his medications are heart medications, only receiving a verbal order from a social worker who had nothing to do with his medical information, I was nervous that he wasn't receiving the correct dosage.

We had all of these appointments and agency meetings completed in under three hours, which isn't bad considering Bogota traffic.  We just got back, and we put Samuel down for a short nap just as the girls were waking up from theirs.  Brent took the girls to get snacks and some bottled water, while Samuel and I are at the apartment resting. 

Tomorrow afternoon, Samuel has his medical appointment, and the following day we should be able to get his Visa from the American Embassy once the doctor officially clears him.  It is all coming together nicely, and the steps here in Bogota are really simple and straight forward.  We are thankful we don't have much downtime here, and the days are truly flying by.  That means that in no-time, we will be packing and boarding an airplane!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Blue Skies in Bogota

It's almost 5pm here in Bogota, the city that is almost constantly overcast, misty, and chilly, and there have been bright blue October skies all day long.  It has been warm with a slight breeze, and we aren't even having to wear jackets in our apartment.  To say that it has been a wonderful Sunday would be an understatement.

We had to break from our Sunday routine of having pancakes or french toast simply because of our lack of groceries, and settled for some off-brand Fruit Loops.  While we were getting ready, the children were having a blast playing together.  It is such a sweet noise hearing children, especially those that recently became siblings, having a grand old time together.

We had church in our living room.  We were invited to a church here in town, and were thinking about going, but it was so far from where we are staying that we opted not to.  It is so exciting to think that next Sunday we will be back in our pew at First Baptist with our amazing church family.  Samuel has never sat through a real church service before, so the first few Sundays may be a little interesting.  I am very curious as to how he will do in Sunday School once he first goes, but we will most likely keep him with us in our class at least the first week or so.

After church, Brent had an Uber come and get us.  It is convenient having this service available in Bogota, since there are not taxis readily available on our street. We went to the Colonial Spanish part of town.  Sunday traffic is minimal, but there are so many roads closed due to restrictions that it still took a while to get to our destination.  I was excited at first, but hesitant when our Uber driver rolled up the windows and told us to be careful before we got out of his car.  We made sure to hold on tightly to the kids' hands, and kept our belongings close at hand.  It was close to the city center and had its fair share of vagrants and pedlars, but we never felt unsafe.

We were dropped off at the plaza in front of an old cathedral.  There were llamas to ride, pigeons to feed, venders selling snacks, and a stage being set up for a concert or a rally.  We had a snack of strawberries and some sort of cream, then began exploring.  We meandered down Spanish streets that were closed for Sunday restrictions and enjoyed the sights.  There were vendors on most corners selling roasted corn, sweet treats, fried plantains, and fresh fruits and juices.  We stumbled upon one of the most gorgeous cathedrals we had ever seen, which is shocking for Bogota.  Most of Bogota is interesting, but far from pretty.  The bulk of the architecture, aside from the Spanish district, looks stuck in the 1940s - 1960s.  The church had a Gothic twist to the Spanish style, and had vibrant, gorgeous stained glass throughout.

After that we kept walking, and came upon a bizarre/ Colombian flea market.  In areas where the market wasn't open, there were street vendors selling all sorts of items.  Brent accidentally dropped all of his Colombian cash out of his pocket, and though he picked it up in a split-second, the vagrants noticed immediately.  They flocked to him faster that a cheetah catching prey, and Brent convinced them he didn't understand Spanish while I held tight to the munchkins.

We soon arrived to a main street, only to be welcomed by a massive protest parade.  These folks were either PETA or the Colombian equivalent and were clearly wacko.  They were holding up ridiculous signs, including one of a person looking like he was getting ready to be served on a platter.  Call me crazy, but eating a hamburger is a way different ball game than murdering somebody.  We sort of wanted to grab a hamburger and eat it on the street while staring down these goobers, but decided against it. Instead we ate at a PPC - Pizza, Pollo, and Carne (Pizza, Chicken, and Steak) and really enjoyed our meal.  Alex, Brent, and my meals came with a Coke, and we became the parents we used to judge - we gave our two year old a Coke.  In our defense, she only had a little bit.

It was inching closer to nap time, but the kids were being amazing so we kept exploring.  For dessert we went to a pastry and coffee shop.  A pedlar came in begging for money, and we were very impressed with how the barista handled the situation.  He clearly wanted the man gone, but gave him a nice fist bump before he ushered him out.

It truly was a great day spent in the Spanish district.  We came back home and all took long Sunday afternoon naps, followed by a snack of popcorn and Tang.  Dinner is going to be blah: ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, and apple slices.  Tomorrow we are heading to the emerald district to shop, and in the early afternoon Samuel and I will pick up his passport and get his TB test read.  We are doing our best to make the most of our last week in Colombia, and counting down the days till we land on American soil and Samuel will officially become a US Citizen!

Munchkins in the Colonial Spanish district with the mountains in the background

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Llamas, Cable Cars, and a Gorgeous Mountain

We were hoping for a much better night than the first, but Alex simply cannot sleep here for some reason.  Maybe it's the altitude, or the fact that she won't wear socks to bed or keep her covers on, and so she freezes at night.  Possibly, it's a combination of the two. She went to sleep insanely late last night, and was up in the wee hours of the morning again coughing, tossing, and turning.  We assumed she would sleep super late into the morning.  Wrong!  She got up earlier than she has in months, as did the other two kids.  Due to her intense crankiness, we put Alex in Lilly Grace's bed to try to go back to sleep while the older two hopped in bed with us and watched Finding Nemo.

Brent got out of bed first and made fried eggs for himself and the children.  It was such a treat and so kind of Brent to cook, which is not easy in our little kitchen here.  We then cleaned the kitchen and got ready for the day.  We bundled up because we were planning on going to Monserrate - the mountain in the middle of town.  Bogota is on a plateau of sorts, and is mainly flat, but is 8500 hundred feet above sea level.  The top of the mountain is roughly 10,500 feet, so we were prepared for cool weather.

It was a windy road getting to the mountain.  Poor Lilly Grace's face was draining of color, and she kept telling us she didn't feel well.  We arrived at our destination, and within minutes the poor child threw up.  Immediately, she said she was fine.  We got a snack and drink from a local street vender.  It was about $1.50 for a bottled water and 6 cookies.  Then, the kids all got to sit on a llama named Lucas, which they thought was amazing! We were even able to get a family photo with Lucas.

Then we all boarded a cable car and made the steep incline up the mountain.  It was incredible seeing not only the gorgeous mountain, but the entire city of Bogota as we ascended.  It is ginormous, and is a city of 8 million people, hence the heinous traffic.  The top of the mountain is where an old monastery is located, and many gorgeous sculptures of the days leading up to the crucifixion, Jesus dying on the cross, and the resurrection.  The sculptures are amidst gorgeous gardens.  The area was built hundreds of years ago and truly is remarkable. 

We meandered through a bizarre where venders were selling all sorts of trinkets, snacks, clothes, and souvenirs.  It was fascinating. Then we went through a market where every vendor was selling the exact same thing.  Brent thought it looked great, I was repulsed.  He is a far more adventurous eater than I am.  There were freshly stuffed sausages, whole chickens, plantains stuffed with mozzarella and something purple, soups, and a few other options.  It smelled the same way as the lab smelled in high school when we dissected frogs, rats, and sheep eyes.  It wasn't appetizing in the least, but those vendors were certainly proud of their food. 

We settled for a cafe that had traditional Colombian food and some more simple options.  Brent had eggs, rice, pulled pork, salsa, and beans.  The kids and I had hamburgers.  I may have mentioned this a few dozen times, but I can't wait for American food!  True, hamburgers are pretty American, but I miss American hamburgers and my stomach is growling right now thinking about what all I want to eat when we get home.  Brent and I already have a childless date planned for our favorite restaurant, Garrett's. 

After we finished eating, we walked around the top of the mountain some more.  We then took a funicular down the mountain.  This is basically a rail car that follows a track, but is guided by a cable since it is on such a steep incline.  It reminded me of a cable car that is on the ground instead of suspended in the air.  It truly was an amazing experience, and is a must-do for anybody that finds themselves in Bogota.  Surprisingly and rarely, it was a clear day so the views were marvelous.  If our internet wasn't heinous, I would post pictures, but that'll have to wait until we are back in America.

We got home and all five of us slept.  Samuel and Alex took super long, much needed naps.  I tried, but the boys playing soccer in the hallway and the car alarm that went off for an hour made it difficult.  Sweet home, quiet, Pike Road is going to feel like heaven.  Brent and I wonder what Samuel is going to think about living in a house, not an apartment, having his own back yard, and not hearing sirens, horns, and car alarms all day long. 

We were able to FaceTime with several folks this evening.  The kids were able to talk to both sets of grandparents, Uncle Travis and Aunt Kelly, Uncle Michael and Aunt Lindsey, and Beth Stanley - our social worker back home.  It was nice to see such precious faces, and for Samuel to meet the person who helped us every step of the way to bring him into our wild family. 

Now, the kids are in bed and Brent and I are watching the Auburn - LSU game.  The Alabama game was very sad, but at least Auburn is beating LSU!  Samuel and Lilly Grace enjoyed watching parts of both games with Brent, and they are looking forward to going to an Auburn game together soon after we are home.  As you can see, we have a lot of plans for when we return to the states.  We can't wait to introduce Samuel to all the south has to offer, all the fun and excitement of fall, and of course to all the friends and family that have prayed for and loved him since before he was officially in our family.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Busy Day in Bogota

We all woke up exhausted.  It's not exactly the way you want to start off the day.  Alex was up from 3:45-5:00 am because her bed kept deflating, then she couldn't fall back asleep.  That meant I was up during that time as well.  Brent tossed and turned all night, and the two big kids weren't accustomed to the new noises of the large apartment complex. 

The kids piled in bed with us a little after seven and watched some cartoons, then I attempted to fix breakfast in our measly kitchen.  I tried to make cheesy scrambled eggs with ham, but was not used to the stove getting hot as fast as it did.  The eggs had a few overcooked areas, but it was enough protein to survive the morning on.  We quickly got ready, and our sweet translator came by a little before 9.  We had to go to the passport office to apply for Samuel's Colombian passport.

Because today is the day of Marieta's driving restriction, we had to take taxis everywhere.  We only thought the taxi drivers in Medellin were nuts.  These drivers put Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to shame!  Brent and Alex stayed back to work and take some scheduled calls, while Lilly Grace tagged along with Marieta, Samuel and me.  I was expecting an entire morning devoted to applying for his passport, but we were back within an hour. 

After we returned to the apartment, Samuel and Alex practiced tracing letters on their LeapPads while Lilly Grace worked on some work recognition. I pretended it was their learning and school time, and I drank some amazing hot chocolate and enjoyed watching their little brains at work.  Brent worked some more on a big presentation coming up, and I took the kids outside to play.  Amazingly, the sun came out for a while and burned through the smog and clouds. It was short-lived, but was perfect timing for our time spent outside.

We then took a taxi to a mall, which turns out to be the biggest mall in Colombia.  It had several American stores, tons of areas for children to play, a ginormous food court, about 7 banks, and at least 3 Dunkin Donuts that we spotted.  We ate at a hamburger place, then tried to get some American money exchanged into Colombian pesos.  Unfortunately, the banks didn't do this, but we pulled out some money from the ATM and it wasn't a big deal.  The kids were lured by all the bright fun play areas, but considering they almost fell asleep while eating, we decided it best to head back for naps.

I got Samuel up early from his nap so he and I could go with Marieta to the doctor for his TB test.  We only had to go a few miles, but bumper to bumper traffic made that short distance take about 45 minutes.  We barely made it to the doctor in time.  I was expecting Samuel to go ballistic at the doctor because his other trips to doctors have been extremely traumatic, including open heart surgery not too long ago.  I definitely underestimated him.  He was incredible and took that TB test like a champ.  His bravery was well rewarded with a smiley face around the bleb from the test, a sticker on his hand, and a sucker in his mouth.  I must admit, they did not perform the test in the proper location.  In America, we are taught to give these tests on the soft underside of the forearm, and they gave it to him on the tough skin on the top of his arm.  Obviously, I kept my mouth shut.   Their kind bedside manner made up for their strange skills.

We got home and walked to dinner.  Strangely, almost all of the restaurants are open only for lunch, which severely limited our options.  We ended up eating at a Subway, and it was fantastic!  Brent has wondered about their Subway commercials here: 7800 pesos for 15 centimeters just doesn't quite have the same ring to it as the "Five dollar foot long" jingle in American.  Whatever their advertising means are, they must be successful.  There are Subways everywhere, and the one where we ate was busy the entire time.

It is now almost 9:30 at night.  The kids have been in bed for an hour and a half, and Alex is still whispering and playing in her bed.  Maybe we shouldn't have given her that candy before bed.  We are planning a fun-filled weekend since this is our last weekend in Colombia!  Hopefully we will all awaken more rested and ready for a fantastic day. 

Destination: Bogota

Tuesday was such an exciting day!  Officially becoming a family of five and having Samuel as our son was inexpressibly amazing.

And then, there was Wednesday.  The poor kids were starving for attention and were desperate to play with Mommy and Daddy, but Daddy had tons of work he had to get done and Mommy had to pack, do laundry, clean the grimy hand prints off the walls, and figure out what to do with the leftover groceries that we had.  We truly felt sorry for the munchkins, but all of those were necessary things, so the kids were given toys, books, movies, LeapPads, and the like for entertainment while we tried to take care of business.

Additionally, we had our walk-through to make sure we left the apartment in good condition.  We expected this to take about 15 minutes, but it was an hour and a half!  They counted every vase, piece of flatware, cup, plate, painting, towel, you name it.  The landlord was trying to sell the place, so we thought he would want to know what things weren't working well.  This included the dishwasher which worked so poorly it didn't dissolve the detergent, 3 eyes of the stove that wouldn't turn on, several areas where the electric wiring was done improperly causing lights to blow every time certain switches were flipped, and a frequent smell of sewage from two of the bathrooms.  The place actually was incredible nice, and these things did not affect our stay whatsoever, we just wanted them to know so they could fix it in the future for other potential tenants or buyers.  We did not expect our apartment to all of a sudden be filled with an electrician, dishwasher repairman, stove repairman, and an apprentice of some sort.  I am not sure why all of those things couldn't be tended at a later date.

Although every one of those men was quite kind, we were ready to get on with the day.  Right after they all left, our attorney came over.  Blanca is incredibly organized, and had everything laid out in individual folders for the different agencies we would visit in Bogota.  Basically, she made it where we don't have to do any thinking, she handled all the details for us.  She also went over a tentative schedule and what all would take place in Bogota.

We tried to take the kids out for a fun last night in Medellin to eat a fun meal, do some shopping, and let them have a good time playing.  Unfortunately, we were all exhausted and cranky, so we just settled for a fun meal at Crepes and Waffles.  It was yummy, and we all enjoyed it.  We also all enjoyed dessert there (duh, why wouldn't you get dessert at a restaurant with that name?!).  The kids all had mini Nutella waffles with ice cream and cool whip, and Brent and I split a crepe filled with strawberries and bananas and drenched in chocolate sauce with ice cream and whipped cream on the side.

This morning, we were up, dressed, packed, fed, and ready to go before 8.  Cristina and Reuben took us to the airport, and we started our airport time with some Dunkin Donuts.  I am pretty certain that any day that begins with donuts is destined to be a phenomenal day!  The kids were amazing in the airport and on the flight.  Alex has come a long way, and is actually becoming a joy to travel with.  The actual flight to Bogota was only 30 minutes, but it was a full morning of traveling altogether.

The Bogota airport is humongous with no trains or shuttles connecting the different areas.  The only transportation is by foot.  It was a good distance to baggage claim, but the kids did wonderfully!  Our new driver/ translator met us at the airport right outside of baggage claim, and we headed to our new apartment.

We had been spoiled by our penthouse in Medellin, and we only thought the kitchen there did not have much.  This kitchen here has next to nothing, but enough to survive for a week.  The biggest shock was that there isn't air conditioning or heat!  AC most definitely is not needed, but a heater would be fantastic.  Fortunately, we are within walking distance to a pharmacy, convenience store, grocery store, tons of restaurants, several shops, cupcake stands, and bakeries.  It is in a casual area of town with great prices, so we decided we would eat more meals out instead of struggle in the sparse kitchen we have.

We walked to a local restaurant for lunch.  It was extremely local: no menu, two options, one local juice drink, and very few workers.  It was actually delicious, and was about $13 for all five of us to eat. We then put the kids down for naps as it was already becoming late in the afternoon.

After the children slept, the kids and I went to the playground that is just outside out door while Brent got some work done.  It is amazing having a place to play that isn't on a steep incline, nor is a long walk from our apartment.  The kids love it!  The only downside is that Colombian playgrounds are a tad different than American ones.  The designers certainly don't have safety in mind.  For example, the entire playground is grass, except for areas where the kids could easily fall.  Those spots are bricked.  The bottom of the slide is brick, and the slide is extremely steep.  Thus, if a child goes faster than he or she intended (every single time), his or her hiney lands on brick.  Alex isn't accustomed to such a steep slide and did a forward roll off the side. Her only battle wound is a slightly bruised chin, but she doesn't ask to slide anymore.

Just to the side of the play equipment is a small soccer field/ basketball court.  Samuel loves it!  Evidently, playing soccer, or futbol, is in his DNA.  He is excellent!  He handles the ball so well, and can scream "GOAL!" louder than any other 30 pound munchkin.  Beside that is an area that has two bars and a set of rings.  Gymnastics loving Lilly Grace was thrilled, and does all of her tricks on the bar.

Once Brent was finished with work, we all walked to a pizza place for dinner.  We then crossed the street to go grocery shopping.  We didn't get much, but once we checked out we realized it was more than a decent amount to walk back with to the apartment.  The kids each carried a bag, and we safely made it all the way to our apartment unscathed with all groceries intact... until we entered the door.  I dropped the glass jar of instant coffee and made a mess of glass and coffee all over the kitchen floor.  Brent put the kids down and went out to get more coffee while I cleaned up the disaster I created.

We survived our first part day in Bogota.  It is a much different place than Medellin, but we are enjoying the experience.  Even more so, we are enjoying knowing we will be home soon.