Monday, March 31, 2008

Two Weeks till Gotcha Day!

Ahhh, it’s back to work today, my last full week of work. With a few days off last week and the weekend, we got a lot accomplished. Jessica and Joaquin now have room in the dressers and their closets. All paperwork is caught up and ready to go, except for the copies I am making today, the house is in order, I just have to do general cleaning before we leave, we purchased a van and Eric spruced it up a bit, prepared our list of items not to forget, etc. And in the middle of it all we even found time to take a break and head down to the stadium to watch the last batting practice for the Cinti Reds before their first game. Eric’s buddy gave him 4 tickets, which was super nice, only 200 people were allowed in. It doesn’t get much better than free tickets, free ballpark hotdogs, and free pop while we watched the Reds and even got a few autographs. The kids say Daddy always comes through with fun little perks. It felt really good to go to bed last night and know we accomplished so much the last few days and even got to have some fun family time just the 4 of us. The photo is from the ball park this weekend.

Also this weekend a friend from church gave us this really cool Spanish Phrase book. She is a Spanish teacher at one of the local schools. It’s awesome because it’s broken into sections, airport, restaurant, shopping, time, etc. It small enough to fit in a purse, but has lots of great stuff. I will definitely have it with me at all times while we are there.

My sister got her webcam up and working this weekend so next on the list is to have our parents get their up and working. Hopefully that can be accomplished this weekend so we can do a few trial runs before we leave.

I think it’s all finally hitting me. We meet our kiddos 2 weeks from today! Over the weekend Eric and I were pondering this thought “what in the world do you say the first time you meet your children…they’re not babies…they totally understand what’s going on.” We will all be excited but nervous, will it be awkward, what will they be thinking…hmmm. I think we came to the conclusion that there is no way to prepare for “what we will say.” I feel like it’s one of those things that just need to run it’s course, it needs to be natural and not prepared. I am beginning to get excited beyond words.

On the agenda this week is to have our call with Julie and put the final touches on everything so that next week all we have to do is shop for last minute items, pack and exchange money. My colleagues are having a “Kids Shower” for us on Saturday and my family is having one on Sunday. My mom and sister are spending way too much money, but are having a ball. My aunt even took Emi and Nate shopping for summer clothes and and got them each several outfits. Emi picked out an outfit she will wear when we meet Jessica and Joaquin, along with several other tops and a pair of capris. Also this week at work my boss has put out an announcement to all of the students, and Humanities and Sciences faculty and staff to bring in pantry items, items children like to eat. So today students have been bringing in cards with mac and cheese, jello, hot chocolate, pasta etc. “A Pantry Party” what a clever idea. We should be good and ready for when we bring Jessica and Joaquin home.

I’m out of breathe just thinking of everything…smile. But all of the hustle and bustle will be followed by 2 ½ weeks of time spent just the 6 of us as a family. Eric works crazy hours all the time so the kids and I are really looking forward to having him with us for 2 ½ whole weeks!!! Followed by Tia Jeanie coming to Colombia to spice it up a bit.

Fun Fun Fun!

Friday, March 28, 2008

VISAs In Hand

This is the UPS guy delivering our VISAs in the rain. Emi took the photo.

Holy Cow, we got our VISAs back already!!! I just sent for them late Monday afternoon and within 24 hours of the Colombian Consulate in Chicago receiving our paperwork they had them back in the mail to us. UPS Delivered them yesterday morning! If the smoothness and rapid return of paperwork we have experienced throughout this process is any indication of how long we will be in Colombia, we will be home in record time! For those not knowing why we need a VISA…a VISA is an addition to a page in your passport that allows us to carry out legal work in Colombia, ie. Adoption stuff.

And that’s not all, I have more exciting news! I know, I know, it seems I always have good news to share. God has found great favor with us and I think he is enjoying watching my awe of Him as He continues to drop us blessing after blessing. My sister called me this week with a plan to come to Colombia to be with Emliee, Nate, Jessica, Joaquin and I the last little bit while we are there, after Eric has to leave. Eric will be leaving after 2 ½ weeks to come home and go back to work. My sister’s plan is to get her ticket and pack. As soon as we get word of Sentencia (out final court date) she is going to board a plan and head on down. Once we go for Sentencia we will be able to come home about 4 working days later. During those 4 days we will have to visit the Embassy Doctor, go for passport photos, get the new birth certificates with Jessica and Joaquin’s new last name, get passports for Jessica and Joaquin (which we pick up the next day) and run a few other errands in preparation to come home. So Jeanie, my sister, will be there to run around with us and then be with us as we travel home. I am so excited!

Emilee and Nate are on spring break so I took a few days off work. So yesterday we cleared out drawers in their dressers and worked in their closets. Now Jessica and Joaquin have some space of their own in the bedrooms. We also packed up all of the items donated for Children’s Vision International. Of course the books and baby items were pretty heavy and we had to be careful to not go over 50 lbs per suitcase. So we have 4 suitcases, 50 lbs each, for the orphanage. Good thing we are going to Bogota so we can take 2 suitcases each. I am dreading traveling with 8 suitcases, but thrilled to have so much stuff to give to CVI! I already warned Julie, our program director, that when the driver picks us up at the airport we will probably not all fit with the amount of luggage we have. She said it’s no problem, they will arrange for a taxi to follow our driver from the airport to wherever we stay.

Next week on Tuesday we will get a call from Julie. Both Eric and I have to be on the line with her and she will cover everything from A to Z. I imagine after we get that call we will be even more excited and I will have plenty of things to add to my list that I hadn’t thought of.

Well…time is ticking!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Excitement is Building

Can I just say we have the most amazing family and friends!!! I can not even begin to explain the excitement and joy in the hearts of our family and friends as they await the children to come home.

My work friends and my family are planning showers for us. They will both be the week before we travel and they are inviting the whole city…okay, that was a little bit of an exaggeration, but they are inviting tons of people. My grandma’s neighbor even has the kids photos on her refrigerator and has called her several times about their sizes and items they may need. The person that grooms her puppy even gave her money to buy the new additions something. Mamaw Starla and Papaw Ronnie already bought Joaquin his first UT (University of Tenn) outfit. Go VOLS! They also bought Jessica the sweetest little outfit that will definitely be packed for her to wear whole we are there. Family members can hardly talk about Jessica and Joaquin without crying. Emi and Nate think 3 more weeks to meet them is forever. People are so generous and kind, they are so excited they just can’t wait to “give” not just material items but love, hugs and kisses (abrazos y besos). These kids have no idea what they are in for. They are going from broken pieces and orphanage life to people who will surround them with love and affection. This generational curse that is upon them will definitely be broken.

Here’s a question for those of you who have traveled to Bogota. Are long sleeves necessary or will short sleeves with jackets do? Here in Cincinnati all of the spring shorts and capris are out so it’s been tough to come by pants other than jeans. I have found a few long sleeve t-shirts for them, but long sleeves have been hard to come by too, especially for Jessica.

So what’s on the to do list? On Friday my aunt and I traveled to Columbus to have all of our notarized items apostilled and our plane tickets were printed. So on Monday I will make copies of everything and overnight our paperwork to Chicago to the Colombian Consulate to process our VISAs. The turn around time is about 1 week, so we should get them back in plenty of time. The house is ready but because Emilee and Jessica will be sharing a room and Nate and Joaquin will be sharing a room I need to go through the dressers to make space. I am off a few days this coming week so I will be able to add a few more check marks to my list. I will be getting the luggage out this week and making lists for packing. I need to pick up some children’s Tylenol and cold medicine to have on hand and work on organizing our video clips. I also spoke to Children’s Vision International on Thursday to confirm our visit with them.

Travel update…we will be leaving on Friday April 11th arriving in Bogota at 8:30ish pm. As it stands now, Eric will have to come home early, so his flight home is April 30th. He will be with us for 2 ½ weeks. Emi and Nate really want to stay with me in Colombia. So for the rest of us we are set to tentatively come home on May 10th.

One last thing. Joaquin’s birthday is 3 days after our Gotcha Day. So my sister asked if when we get together for Easter if we could video the family singing Happy Birthday (Feliz cumpleaños) in Spanish to Joaquin, then we could show it to him on his Birthday. What a fun idea.

Also, Jessica’s backpack came so we are ready to start putting a few fun items in them. I think we are on track. Time to start making lists so I don’t forget something.

Happy Easter to all of you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Photos


I just happened to run into my sister between taking Nate to Baseball and Emi to Dance so she scanned the photos and sent them to me. So here they are. A day earlier than

Pleasant Suprise

Today when I got home from work I had several suprises in the mailbox and on the front porch. The most exciting of which was the UPS Envelope. We received our official paperwork from Colombia, but along with the paperwork were MORE PHOTOS!And OH MY WORD...CUTE!!! Emi and Nate were with me when I was opening them and we all shouted when we saw the photos. We now have a total of 3 photos. I am going to my brother's tomorrow night so he can scan them for me. Eric is out of town until Friday and is now dying to see the photos. Nate has baseball tonight and Emi has dance so we won't have an electronic copy until tmw night. But you can be sure I will post them immediately.

Emi's description is "Jessica is just plain cute!" and "Joanqiun looks ornery but adorable."

Also in the mail were my FBI Fingerprints. We had received Eric's on Friday. Now we have everything we need to get our VISAs. WooHoo!

Last but not least, Joaquin's backpack came. We ordered both of the kids backpacks with their names on them. His is small with a soccer ball and his first and middle name on it. We will take the backpacks with a few items in them when we meet them. The backpacks can serve as their carry-on item for the plan too.

Ahhh...good day!

Just Tid Bits

Just a few things to mention.

First, this is for anyone, but my intentions are to pass this to Eric’s and my mom. There is a family in Colombia right now adopting a 7 yr old boy. This family also has a daughter who is 12 that they adopted from India. Anyway, they also have a blog. They just met their son yesterday and are going to blog while they are in Colombia.

I thought it would be a good idea for our moms to follow along on the Middaugh’s journey in Colombia. This will help to give them an idea of what the process will be like, the photos will show some of the background etc. They are staying at El Refugio, where we hope to stay. The Middaugh’s will be coming home just as we are getting ready to travel. So feel free to follow along, I think it will help put your minds at ease as to what our journey will look like when we go.

Secondly, really this is just a therapeutic rambling part. I have found myself unable to sleep for the last few weeks and constantly nauseous. At first I thought it was just because the call was coming soon, but it has continued since. I honestly think it’s just a “mom” thing. I am very content knowing the kids are in good hands until we arrive, it was a relief to get that info. I am not anxious about traveling, excited, but not anxious. We have plenty of time to complete our paperwork, so no stress there. The house is ready to go, again no stress. So all I can drum up as a reason is that I ache to have them with us.

Since we have gotten the info on the kiddos, I have found myself at times grieving for them. Their poor little lives were in shambles until they came into government care. I have a visual in my head as to how miserable they must have looked and been at that time. Although relieved that the government took them in, my hearts hurts that during that miserable time they did not have a mother to care for them. They were obviously well cared for once taken in, as they recovered quickly, but to envision your children in such shape is heart wrenching. I am so excited to meet them. I wonder how nervous I will be on April 14th, will Jessica be a daddy’s girl like Emi and will Joaquin even know what to do with a positive male in his life? So many questions run through your mind but it’s all so exciting.

It will be difficult to not give and give and give to them. Have they ever even really been to a restaurant? Have they ever gotten to pick out and buy something for themselves? Do they know what it’s like to have something of their own? Aye ye ye!

Sorry for rambling…

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The questions have been pouring in...

Q & A

So are you keeping the names as is?
Yes, there has been some discussion about calling Joaquin by his first name or calling him Alex. Right now it’s staying put, we will call him Joaquin. Jessica does not have a middle name. Eric wants to give her my middle name, Ann, Jessica Ann. But no final decisions have been made.

How long have Jessica and Joaquin lived in the Orphanage?
They came to the orphanage 3 ½ years ago and came in pretty bad shape. All is well now, they are both doing wonderfully.

Where will you stay when you are there?
We will stay at a Bed and Breakfast type of place that caters to families who are in Colombia to adopt. We will have laundry facilities, internet, and other amenities as well. We will know more about one week before we leave as to which place we will stay specifically. Our agency will make all of the arrangements for us.

Will you have an interpreter?
Yes, we will have the CHI rep that lives in Colombia to interpret for us. We will have our own lawyer assigned specifically to us as a CHI family and will even have a driver to pick us up at the airport and such.

Are Emilee and Nate going and will all of you be staying the whole time?
Yes, Emi and Nate are going with us. Their school has been wonderful and everything is working out on that end. We all plan to stay for the entire time we are there.

How long will you be there, and when will the children actually be Hollis’?
We will have to stay for about 4 weeks, give or take a few days. Once we meet the kids they will go “home” with us to the bed and breakfast. A few days later we will go to a meeting to show how things are going. If all is well, which it will be, we will get custody of the children and await a court date to finalize the adoption. Once we have custody we will be free to travel around the city/country. It will be a few weeks before we get a court date. The adoption will be finalized the day we go to court. The birth certificates will be changed, giving them our last name and we will make arrangements to travel home.

When will the children be US Citizens?
As soon as they step foot on American soil, they are US Citizens. The adoption will all be final in Colombia, however we will have to go thru a re-adoption process here in the states. Just a formality. We will also have to send updates to Colombia several times in the next year to show the progress of the children. We will work with our social worker to make that happen.

What all do you know about the children?
Actually we have been extremely blessed to have so much info given to us. Details will not be shared on line, but I can tell you we have info on the birth parents, some family members, a summary of their lives before being brought to the orphanage, their physical condition upon arrival to the orphanage, current medical, psychological, social, and emotional info, descriptions of their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. All of this and even a little bit more.

Will the children be prepared some how and understand what adoption is all about?
Yes, oh yes. A social worker and/or a psychologist will be meeting with them several times before we meet them. The photo pages we sent with our dossier will be given to them and completely explained and gone over. They will be fully aware of the events to come.

Will you meet them at the orphanage?
No, we will meet them at one of the ICBF offices in Bogota. They will know they are meeting their new Mami, Papi and siblings and will have said their goodbyes to their friends and orphanage staff.

And there you have it......Any more questions?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gotcha Day!

The info you have all been waiting for...That was Fast!!!

Colombia has already confirmed our Gotcha Day (this is the day we will meet the children). Monday April 14th! The photo is the only photo we have or that we will get before we meet Jessica and Joaquin Alexander. Jessica just turned 7 in February and Joaquin is 4. He has a birthday on April 17th, just a few days after we meet them. It will be fun to celebrate his birthday with him. By they way, Joaquin is pronounced Wakeen…just in case you needed help with that.

It looks like we will be traveling on April 10th or 11th. We are flying on buddy passes so we need to leave some extra time to make sure we all get down there. Then on the 12th and/or 13th we plan to visit Children’s Vision International to deliver the books and other items and to spend some time at the orphanage. We want to do this before we meet Jessica and Joaquin for several reasons. One reason is just that we want to be able to focus on them and us as a family, not worrying about anything else. Secondly, our children are currently living in an orphanage and it may be terribly scary or confusing to them to take them to Children’s Vision International.

Our next steps are to notarize and apostille a few of our items then send them off to Chicago where our visas will be processed. We have to have visas while we are there to carry out the legal procedures of the adoption in Colombia. All of this will take a few weeks, so I’m on it. I will spend the weekend and beginning of next week gathering documents. I will have to take them to have our notary verified here in Cincinnati, then I will be driving to Columbus on Friday or or the following Monday, to have our documents apostilled, same day service, so we can get everything off to Chicago.

It’s so hard to believe we are actually getting ready to travel!

Wow, one year ago about this time we applied to CHI. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. I remember before we took the step I called my sister to, in a way, get her permission to adopt. See, my brother and I are older and had the fun of having our babies, but my sister was just starting her family. She had two baby girls at the time and I didn’t want to take anything from her. It was time for all of us to focus on her and her family, I in no way wanted to dampen that. For anyone who doesn’t know my family well, my siblings, parents, most of my grandparents, aunts and uncles all live within 15 minutes of each other. So we are a tight group, and I am very close to my siblings. Before I got the words out of my mouth she said, “I think I know why you are calling, but you talk first, just in case I’m wrong.” So I told her my thoughts and she, with not one bit of hesitation, said “Of course it’s okay!” She did indeed know what I was calling for, she knew it was coming. Just one more confirmation that we were on the right road. We filed our application, were approved and began telling our families. They were all so open to adoption.

Our families have been so incredibly supportive and are very excited about getting the kiddos home. Eric and I are so fortunate to have such wonderful families.

Okay so, maybe I am a little bit bias, but aren't they adorable????

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Referral News

Okay, now that I have had a few hours sleep and have a few spare minutes, I will fill you in a bit more on yesterday’s events.

Just before lunch I got a call on my office phone from our Ohio rep Kellie. The call went something like this. “Beth, this is Kellie. So when is your last day at work there?” I reply with “April 8th, just a few more weeks.” So Kellie says, “Good, then you will be finished in plenty of time to go pick up your babies!” Beth “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA, This is wonderful!” Kellie then says, “I have a photo of two precious children…..” (sorry, I can’t tell you the rest…not yet anyway) Then my hands started shaking and my mouth went dry.

I then received an email with all the info and a photo of our dear son and daughter. Of course I called Eric and gave him the news and sent on the email to him. He looked at the photo and…tears of joy. The moment he knew would someday come, a moment he has dreamed would someday happen, happened yesterday. He reacted just he same way he did when Emi and Nate were born. He is truly beside himself and in love already.

Telling the kids was a lot of fun. Eric could not be there, so the kids called him on speaker phone and I videotaped their reaction as Eric gave them the news. Nate was shocked, speechless, Emi just kept saying No Way, Oh My, They are So Cute! We then took off to my moms to share some time with my mom, sister, grandpa, aunt etc. My family was so excited with us.

I gave the kids each a copy of the photo to take to school. They attend a very small school and EVERYONE knows about the adoption. It will definitely be on the morning announcements. Emi and Nate just keep looking at the photos and saying their sibling’s names over and over again.

You know how pregnant women have a glow about them? Yep, that’s me today! My babies are coming home and my mom already has their picture on her refrigerator.

It was such a relief to know they are in safe hands, doing well! Oh and one more thing, I can’t imagine any better description of two children to fit in our family. The little guy and Nate sound like real brothers and Emi and her sister are going to get along just fine! I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less from my heavenly papi!

Papi = Daddy
Mami = Mommy

And you yahoo girls crack me up. I didn’t have the post up for more than 15 minutes and you guys were leaving comments. You all are awesome. But if you read the comments, my sister had to be the first to rub in the fact that she has already seen the photo…hee hee.

Julie, the Colombia program director, will be calling sometime this afternoon. I will have more news later.

Thank you all for your love, support and prayers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

REFERRAL...Need I Say More?

We have an official referral, one girl, one boy!!!

We are not able to post their photo, names or any specifics yet, as stated by the Colombian Government. But as soon as we get the go ahead, I will have it up for you. My mind is spinning right now, so I will post more info tmw.

All I can say, YES WE ACCEPT!!! What an amazing feeling. We love them so dearly already and Emi and Nate are beside themselves. Everyone is on cloud nine and super excited.

Tomorrow Julie, the program director will be calling me and we will be able to get going on a timeline for travel etc.

Sorry I don't have time to post more info, but I promise...more tmw!

Oh, and just a cool tid bit, we got the call exactly 6 mts from the time our paperwork landed in Colombia.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Colombia Crisis Ended

(According to CNN)
The presidents of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador have signed a declaration to end a crisis sparked when Colombian troops killed a rebel leader and 21 others inside Ecuadoran territory.

"With the promise not to ever again assault a brother country and the request for forgiveness [by Colombia], we can consider this very serious incident resolved," said Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.

Correa, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shook hands Friday at the end of what had been a contentious meeting of the Rio Group of Latin American leaders.

What a relief!

On the adoption front, nothing yet.
The question of what we will name the children has come up. Here at home we decided to not talk about names again until we receive the referral. We would love to keep thier given names, but depending on the situation, we may use them as a middle name. There are so many factors involved that there is no way to really make a decision. A lot depends on the age and desire of the child. It's much easier to choose a name of our own for a baby, but for a 7 year old, that may be a bit troubling for them. But, in general, our goal is to keep the names the birth mother has given to them. Either as a first name or a middle name. So we'll just have to see what happens when we get more info.

Keep your eyes out for a post with the title "REFERRAL!" I expect to be able to post it soon. (Smile)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Colombia in the News

I debated on putting this info on the blog. Mostly because my mom is already in a tizzy about the current turmoil in Colombia, I don't want to add to her anxiety, but I felt it important to post. This blog is meant to keep record of the journey and this is certainly part of the journey. I can honestly say, I am not afraid. I can travel knowing that I am in the hands of the one who can keep us safe, therefore, no reason to fear. As long as we use some common sense and follow any advise the agency may give to us, we are good to go. The agency is very much on top of the situation keeping in close contact with reps in Colombia and so far everything is just fine as far as travel and the adoption process. The agency has been very good to keep us informed of the current situation and currently have no concerns sending folks to Colombia to complete their adoption process. To me it is no more scary than knowing a situation like 9/11 could happen all over again, right here in America.

If the situation escalades and we travel, my mom will have many sleepless nights. I just want to go, get our babies, and get home. I really do hope it all calms a bit so we can feel free to get out and about in the city to experience the culture while we are there. Please pray for the Colombian people and the safety of our children.

Click on the link below to see a clip from CNN regarding the situation in Colombia and the stand of the American government on the issue.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A New Phase of Waiting Begins

A few days of relief then anticipation all over again…

So Friday we get the info that our paperwork is moving and it won’t be much longer. We all took a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. It was so good to hear of movement, this was reason enough for us to rejoice. But now it’s Wednesday and I am already starting to become anxious for the next step. For the past two weeks I have been addicted to my phone and email. I knew something was going on, I could feel it in my bones. The only thing I knew to do was stay close to the phone and check email every half hour hoping for news. It really is an awful feeling to be so attached to these electronic devices. So after Fridays call it was nice to have a break from my addiction. I even left my phone at home on accident on Tuesday and did not have withdraws in fear of missing “the call”.

The words Julie, our CHI Colombia Program Director, spoke were “we hope to hear something very soon. Usually when Bogota requests paperwork they have children in mind for you.” This was very exciting, but after thinking about it. What does “very soon” mean? 2 weeks, 2 months? Some folks wait years which is why “very soon” is a vague yet exciting description…yikes.
I imagine by next Monday I will be addicted to my phone and email again.

In the meantime, I thought I would list a few tidbits about Bogota:

Bogotá is located in the centre of the country (8661 feet) above sea level. Located on a high plateau in the Andes mountains. The average temperature is 57°F. Dry and rainy seasons alternate throughout the year. The driest months are December, January, February and March; the rainiest are April, May, September, October and November.

In the 1990s, Bogotá was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. At one point it had a homicide rate of 80 per 100,000 people. Since then, however, Bogotá has gone to great lengths to change its crime rate and its image.

Colombia's flag was adopted in 1861. It is divided into three segments, the blue and the red together have the same width as the yellow one. Yellow represents the land, blue represents the ocean, and red represents the blood spilled by patriots.

6.5 million children (that’s 38.9% of all children in Colombia) live below the poverty level.

Only 60 of every 100 children who start primary school in Colombia make it all the way through to finish 8th grade.

Estimated numbers of street children in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota are up to 110,000.

On the street, many children turn to inhalants to dull their hunger pains and escape their world of desperate poverty.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 children in Colombia have been recruited by illegal armed groups to become child soldiers.

Ever wonder why we chose Colombia? Maybe the above stats have something to do with it.
Can’t wait to get the rest of my babies home!