Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jessica and Joaquin offically Hollis'

I promise there are a few pics after this windy journal...

I got up bright and early this morning, just about 15 min after Eric left. I wanted to be ready by the time the kids got up, because there is no confining them to the room while I am in the shower. They slept in a bit which was nice. It was great to sit in a room with 4 peaceful sleepers. Just the peace on their faces while they sleep shows me that they are doing well and feel safe and comfortable with us. Plus it was nice to have a few quiet minutes to myself. I have no idea how they sleep with me coughing and sniffling all night long, but they all sleep right through it. Everyone woke up in a really good mood and every time they heard a plane this morning they said “Papi” then counted the days we think we have left. The first plane Joaquin heard he ran out the door in his pajamas and watched the plane. He came back in and said “I see Papa in avion”. Nate replied with “That was really good Spanglish!” At 9:35 Emi gathered up Jessica and Joaquin to go outside and watch for Papi’s plane. Joaquin was in the bathroom but as soon as he heard the plane he came running outside with his pants down and toilet paper in hand. Everyone around cracked up at him, Joaquin could have cared less that we were laughing at him.

We knew Eric made his flight on standby status because at 9:30 Andres the driver showed up with Eric’s luggage. He said Eric got on his flight, but they held his luggage and didn’t send it because he was on standby. Not sure why standby status has anything to do with his luggage, but we will have to be sure and take care of that glitch before the rest of us travel home. Yikes, so that means we have two more suitcases to lug when we travel home. Luckily I don’t think there is anything in the luggage Eric can’t live without. One of them is full of souvenirs and the other is half souvenirs and half clothes. We are going to look real cute with all this luggage and me and Jeanie trying to lug it all. We have to check it in Colombia then claim it in Atlanta for customs and re check it again. So the two of us with 4 kids and 8 suitcases plus Jeanie’s one and all of our carry on bags is going to be a riot. If this is the worst thing that happens we are in good shape.

I told Jessica she could play on the computer after breakfast. I have Emilee log her on to girly games and then she goes from there. Well this morning she asked Emi to sit in the chair with her and said “mi turno, Emilee turno, mi turno, Emilee turno” In other words, let’s take turns, or for Emilee it meant I am willing to play with you nicely. She then reached over and gave Emi a big kiss and hug. Emilee hasn’t been more excited this whole trip. She looked and me and said “I think we’ve had a break through!” I about cried.

We lost internet connection here at the house today for a while. I was starting to worry a bit because I needed to email Eric’s phone to let him know not to hunt for his luggage in Atlanta for customs. We finally got internet back so I did email him, but it looks like his phone is full and may not be getting messages. My mom tried to call him but it didn’t seem to work either. We finally got a hold of him and he already knew about the luggage. I guess the plane was full that they couldn’t get his luggage on due to the weight limit on the plane. So that’s why we ended up with the luggage here.

Lucia called this morning at 10:40 and said David our interpreter would be here in 10 minutes to pick me up to go sign the paperwork. We were so anxious to take the next step and sign the final decree. The final decree makes Jessica and Joaquin real Hollis’, so today is very a very exciting day. Their birth certificates will officially be changed to Joaquin Alexander Hollis Balzer and Jessica Hollis Balzer. It’s law here to tack on the mother’s maiden name at the end, but once in America that will go away. We plan to give Jessica my middle name when we return to the states. So she will be Jessica Ann Hollis.

This part may be a bit lengthy. So stay with me…hee hee. I knew I couldn’t take the kids with me to sign the papers, and so because we had such a good morning I felt pretty good about leaving them with Emilee. Zuetana offers babysitting for thinks like this, so I told the front desk that Emi knows the rules and hopefully they are all okay, but to keep an eye the situation and not to hesitate to intervene. I laid down the ground rules, no computer, but TV and a movie are fine, we blew up the beach balls to play with and pulled out a bilingual memory game. The plan was to be gone for about an hour. I told the Jessica and Joaquin that Emilee was in charge and that if they were good they could have pop with lunch and a very special gift this afternoon. They both told me they understood and off I went.

So David and I loaded in a taxi and off to downtown Bogota. I knew immediately why no kids could go. The streets are packed with people and you have to try and weave in and out of people. Plus the court area is cramped and small, not a good place for kids. We saw Oscar just outside of the building and he waved us in. He said at this time of day we would have to wait 20 minutes for the elevator and would have to take the steps to the 7th floor. I started praying right away. I am used to doing 4 flights, from working at the college, but 7!!! Well needless to say you can see I am still alive. So we went to this little cove in a hallway with two windows, court 22 and court something else, I forget which number. So all these lawyers are waiting in line for their turn and Oscar goes right through the door into the office behind the window and waves me in with him. He grabs our paperwork and looks over everything before I sign. Well, he found two names misspelled and so we had to redo two pieces of paper. Oscar just told me to sit tight and he and David took off back down the steps. They came back a few minutes later, via the 7 flights of stairs and back into the office. I was so thankful he told me to sit tight. Then off again they went down the steps. Again 5 minutes later they came tracking back up the steps a sweaty mess. David was about to pass out. I felt kind of bad just sitting there, but they had it under control. We waited for another good 45 minutes before we were ready to leave. So all in all our trip ended up being 3 hours instead of 1 hour.

The whole time I was worried about how the kids were doing with Emi and Nate. When I got out of the taxi at the door I didn’t even have to ring the bell, the lady working the front desk was looking out the peephole and opened the door pronto, before I was even out of the taxi. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Joaquin and Jessica came running at me and hanging on so I could barely walk. I told them it would only be an hour, so 3 hours was a bit of a surprise for everyone. As I entered the door the entire house was waiting for me telling me how bad Jessica had been for everyone. Oh how embarrassing. Emilee was quite tattered, but still standing. Apparently Joaquin checked the peephole every 5 minutes for the last hour and half. He asked the frond desk lady if I decided to get on a plane and go with Eric. She explained that I was working on the paperwork and that it’s just taking longer than we expected. Jessica however thought the entire 3 hours would be a time to see how bad she could be and even rebelled against all the adults at Zuetana. She screamed, not crying, just screamed every word she said, turned up full blast everything that had a volume button, crawled thru windows to other peoples rooms, broke a glass on purpose, hit and smacked Emilee and Nate, She ran wildly through the place, refused to eat her lunch and basically just refused to listen and obey. So knew she was in big trouble when she saw all the adults telling on her. Even Joaquin gave me a funny face, shook his head, pointed to Jessica and gave me a big thumbs down. Then he went on to tell me just how good he was for Emilee and gave me a big thumbs up. He pranced around for a long time like a proud peacock and even went over and gave Emi a great big kiss.

It was past lunch time, but they saved me some food, so I told Jessica I was not happy with her and she knew it. I told her she had to sit with me while I ate and no computer, no TV, and no movies for the rest of the day. Joaquin asked for his afternoon candy and I told him how proud I was of him and that he could pick out a piece of candy, he gave me a high five. Jessica watched the whole deal and didn’t even budge, not once asking for a piece for herself. She knew she was in for it if she acted up with me. She has been an angel ever since and hasn’t asked for anything special. She had to sit with me for a good long time on the couch, drawing, looking at books, etc, but no funny business. Holy cow! There will be an early bed time tonight, Emi and Nate deserve some alone time on the computer or watching a movie or whatever they want. Nate’s only comment was “I know one thing for sure, I will never be a babysitter. She was worse than we have ever seen.” They both said Joaquin could not have been any better, and I believe them, he was so proud of himself.

Later Joaquin asked for pop, and I had to say yes, he was sure to tell Jessica she couldn’t have any because she didn’t behave and gave her a thumbs down. I had to tell him to hush and let me take care of Jessica. But really Jesscia already knew and it didn’t bother her at all that we all had pop and not her. She’s a smart cookie, I think she figured out the pecking order today. Emi is the oldest and is boss when mom says she’s boss. But my real concern was that she wouldn’t listen to any of the adults in the house. Aye Aye Aye…smile.

It’s really kind of funny now that I am looking back on the day, but at the moment I was utterly embarrassed.

Okay, enough of that.

Today there was a big soccer game between Colombia and Venezuela. It was to reiterate the peace between the countries. It was all over the news for the Colombian people to be extra polite and on their best behavior today, which I thought was funny. The Colombian people are very competitive when it comes to soccer, so you can imagine how on edge the city was. Needless to say we didn’t venture out today, just in case of trouble. There is another big match coming up against a huge rival, Brazil, so the city will be one big party that day. We were offered to go to a match last week and we thought about sending the boys, but the tickets were $60 each and we decided against it. We would have loved to have gone, but no one else from the Zuetana houses were going, and we didn’t want to go alone. Brian, we did get you and Brandon jerseys, they are not just like the National team, but nice, but it’s the best we could do without going today to the game and buying an original from a vendor. Can you imagine me trying to buy a jersey from a vendor in the midst of chaos with 4 kids and little Spanish, plus we would have had to take a taxi…no thanks.

Okay, one last tid bit regarding our time line. Oscar our lawyer has friends all over the place. He was going to fax our paperwork to the two birth cities so his lawyer friends could get started on the birth certificates. He will then overnight the official paperwork today to them. Once they cities have received the official paperwork they will send us the revised birth certificates. Ocscar said his friends in both cities work fast and should be able to get things done by Friday, which means with the holidays, we hope to be ready for the next step sometime on Tuesday. Our goal is to be home on Friday, 4 weeks exactly. We will not have a definite idea until we get the birth certificates. We will let you all know for sure early next week.

Tia Jeanie will be coming down soon and Nate especially is really looking forward to that. Looks like Saturday or Sunday she will be here.

Also, Eric has been stuck in Atlanta. He hopes to get on 9:45 pm flight to Cincinnati, hopefully that works out.

Tomorrow should be a lot less exciting…I hope! …again I smile!

Jessica and Joaquin building what they think their house looks like in the US with popcicle sticks

Emilee winding down with a hot cup of tea after dinner

What a sister, after a long day Emilee is still willing to share with her sister

This explains Joaquin...see what we are dealing with???

And last but not least, here is Nate pretending to "toot" out popcicle sticks to make us all laugh. Jessica and Joaquin thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Yes, it’s true, we are supposed to sign our final decree papers tomorrow afternoon if all goes well. Lucia is going to call in the morning to confirm a time. Eric leaves early in the morning for the airport and my sister is making plans to come in the next few days. We still don’t plan to be home until next Friday, but we’ll see. Because the kids were not born in Bogota we will have to wait a few extra days for their birth certificates to be changed in their birth cities and then be sent to Bogota. Jessica and Joaquin were born in two different cities, but were found in Bogota when the government took them in, so that’s why the adoption process actually happens here. BUT we also have two holidays, Thursday and Monday, so we basically have 5 days of nothing happening. We will see what Lucia says about the turn around time in the birth cities, apparently they have connections and we hope for a quick turn around. I tell you CHI has connections. Today when we went to the notary with David for Eric to sign his last paper, there was a line out the door and David took Eric right to the front of the line like he owned the place. Now that’s service!

We spent the morning hanging out around the casa. The kids had an English lesson at 11 and had a great time. Joaquin came down the steps giving me a thumbs up and a big grin when it was over. They will meet again at 9 am on Friday.

After lunch we met David to go to the notary and to get the passport and visa photos of the kids. We explained what the photos were for and Joaquin happily complied to have his pic taken. Once it was over he said can we go to the US now? Then we stopped at Maku to pick up a few last minute items so I don’t have to really do any shopping after Eric leaves tmw. They kept asking if what we were buying was for our house in the US or for our family in the US. They're getting just a little excited.

Then we had another cooking lesson here at Zuetana. It was some kind of soup that I can’t spell, but I have the recipe. And the kids made something too, I have no idea what it was, but it was very yummy, kind of sweet and easy to make. A new family came to the other Zuetana so they had a small party for her and her family at our house, since that’s were everyone was for the cooking lesson. Several families have gotten Sentencia so they kind of celebrated that too. We are hoping Peggy and Sofia get Sentencia by the end of the week, then maybe we will be on the same flight to Atlanta. That would be really cool.

Before we went to bed we explained to the kids that daddy would be getting up really early to fly home to the US and that we would have to stay for about one more week. I was really proud of all of the kids, no tears, no fits just lots of I love You. I am going to make the kids a count down after I talk to Lucia tmw and get a more clear idea of what she thinks the turn around time is with the holidays and all. I think it will help them to have a visual of how many days we think are left. They are so excited to go. Tonight, when we were giving kisses, Joaquin said, very clearly in English, I Love You! Then Jessica chimed in and wanted to count in English too. They are proud of themselves for the little bit of English they have learned, and very well should be. I am truly amazed at what they have learned so far and am astonished at how far they have come. I am expecting tomorrow they will be a bit whiney and there may be some tears, but we will just take it easy and see how it goes. They may surprise me. The last few days I have thought about the plane ride and dreaded it, but today I changed my mind. They are really looking forward to going and in watching their behavior I have a peace about it all. I really can’t explain it, but they are amazing, very smart little kiddos.

The owners stopped buy about 9 tonight just to tell Eric goodbye. They really like him and made sure he had their email address and told him to remember he will always have friends in Colombia. This place really goes out of thier way to take care of you, I guess that's why we pay what we do to stay here.

Joaquin and Emi got along fine today, woohoo, and Jessica and Emi are doing better everyday.

Oh and tonight Joaquin said he wanted to go to college to be a doctor…very impressive.

Sorry, not so many pics today.
And I felt a great deal better, thanks for your prayers.

Lucia is with us on this pic. We are wearing our shirts Uncle Brian had made. On the back of each shirt it says, “A Family is Made with Love”

Monday, April 28, 2008

The American Grill Out

Can you believe it’s been 2 weeks since we have met the kids. It feels like forever but at the same time it feels like just yesterday. I spent some time today thinking about how far they have come and I am really amazed at the progress. We have been around some kids who came from foster care and can’t believe the difference in general behaviors. But Jessica and Joaquin have learned so much that we can’t help but to be proud of them.

I woke this morning not feeling the greatest. A slight fever and a nasty head cold. It’s really okay, it could be a lot worse. I just hope I don’t pass it to any of the kids.

We took off for the park not long after breakfast, it was a beautiful morning so we took advantage of it. On our way there a guy, looked like Americian, asked us if we were in Colombia to adopt. I said “it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?“ He laughed and said he sees a lot of gringos in Colombia for the same reason. We thought it was funny he called us gringos, he was so sunburned and was in shorts, so obviously not a native Colombian. He must come here on business a lot. Anyway, of course we had to get an ice cream while we were there, it wouldn’t be a trip to a park without an ice cream. I thought about our first trip and how different it was coming this time with Jessica, she had fun and stayed with us with no problem. Joaquin was still trying to figure out the ins and outs of us and thought it would be cool to walk the opposite way as us and refuse to hold our hand when we were leaving. Luckily the walk is not too far, so the fussing was no big deal.

Jessica's I'm concentrating look

Nate Chilln'

About the time we got back the chef was starting up the grill for an American Grill Out in honor of Eric going home on Wed. They love him here and we so excited to have a grill out, which isn’t the norm here. The Frenchies ate their hotdogs and hamburgers with forks…ah, come on, use your hands for goodness sake. The Germans were just glad it wasn’t chicken and love the change. We of course ate it up. The chef was very proud and the owners acted like they had never had hotdogs and burgers on a grill. They were all exited and went back for seconds and thanked Eric for the idea. It was the perfect day for a grill out and almost felt like home for a few minutes. Anther couple came from a different Zuetana, they have been here for 5 weeks and are in the slowest court possible. They expect to be here for 3 more weeks, but their daughter, a baby, is beautiful. They are from Nashville TN so we hope to hook up again sometime back in the states, they are Vols fans, so we became immediate friends…smile!

Just before lunch Joaquin had one of his moments with Emilee, a not so good moment. He is awful to her, I haven’t quite figured out why, but will only be nice to her when it’s his idea to play and it’s always rough housing. So I made him sit on his bed for 2 minutes, like time out, which he hated. He also has a hard time listening to Mami. So I explained to him, while he was crying, that we all love him very much, and I named all of our names. I told him it was very important to listen to Mami and to be nice to Emilee. I asked him if he understood and if he would answer me he could get up and play. Well, this ended up going on for more than 30 minutes. He was mad at me but I couldn’t let him up until he could tell me he understood that we love him very much and that he understood my wishes to be nice to Emi and to listen to me. I knew he understood but was just being stubborn, refusing to simply say “Si”. (yes). Then Emi came in and grabbed a bottle of pop and said that daddy is allowing them to have gasiosa (pop) with the special lunch. Jouaquin loves pop, so about 15 seconds later he looked at me and said “Si!” I asked him for a hug and told him again how much we love him. Well, he has been a different child ever since. He listened to me all afternoon and was very pleasant with Emilee. He even let her put socks on him. Normally he would have kicked at her. He was very loving and affectionate and sat on my lap several times, just to be with me. I think something may have clicked today! Today we will chalk one up for Joaquin.

After lunch we packed Eric up so we don’t have to mess with it tomorrow. We did most of the banking so I won’t have to be going to the ATM a bunch. As we were packing we came across 3 things of candy that my sister and aunt bought for La Maria from Jessica and Joaquin. Of course when hey saw the candy their eyes were as big as half dollars. We told them it was for their friends at La Maria and that Aunt Jeanie and Aunt Jo got the goods for them to pass on. They were very excited and didn’t ask for one piece themselves. I thought it may spark some conversation about them wanting to go back and visit, but they didn’t say a word, they were just excited to go thru the rest of our stuff and ask if they could give anything else. They talked a lot about going to the US today, they were really excited. We again explained Eric was leaving in 2 days and they totally understood. We counted how many days we thought it would be before we get to fly and that daddy would be waiting for us. They are so excited to get home, which makes me happy.

We decided to stick it out here at Zuetana. We really feel too much change would not be good. If it looks like we are going to be here more than 2 more weeks, we probably will make the change for financial reasons. I just found out that not only is this Thursday a holiday but so is next Monday. Yikes, that’s two holidays, two days the offices are closed and no movement in paperwork. But it’s all in God’s hands, we’ll be home when He sees fit. Emi and Nate are ready to stick it out, they are doing great. Nate said the first thing he wants when we get home is El Mariachi…how funny is that. Emi wants Skyline, but said a soft taco sounds real good too. Nate said he is ready to pig out, we’ve all lost weight. They are learning what it’s like to not have a full pantry to help themselves to.

(Traci, the Zuetana outings and events are at an extra charge. Julie will try to get you in El Refugio first, which is a lot cheaper so don’t freak. El Refugio does not plan outings. However Lucia will try to plan at least one thing for you (as a group) while you are here. You are welcome to do more on your own, but don’t have to. We have enjoyed the outings but are paying the “price”)

An interesting note regarding eating habits with Jessica and Joaquin. Jessica will at least try things, and generally likes it if she tries. Joaquin has gotten better about trying things but sometimes you just can’t coax him. But before they are allowed to leave the table they have to ask permission. It’s just our way of adding some structure for them. So if they ask to be finished, and they really haven’t eaten well, we may say 3 more bite of chicken…or something like that. Both of them will shove however much we tell them they have to eat in their mouths, all of it. Sometimes they can hardly chew it up their mouths are so full. So we have been working on that. I have a feeling they had to clean their plates at the orphanage before they could play and so they got in the habit of shoving it in so they could be done.

Okay, well I better get some rest, time to hit the sack.
Love to all of you and again thanks for all the comments.

The Frenchies are on the far end, the Germans in the middle and then us. This is all of the folks staying at our house. The Frenchies are not so friendly and don’t appreciate Joaquin and his humor, only one of them speaks a little English. The Germans have been great and speak pretty good English, we enjoy them.

Here we are playing Jessica's new favorite game UNO!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Trip to Guatavita

Today we went on a trip to Guatavita. It was a small village about an hour outside of Bogota. The drive was beautiful in a cultural way and the view of the Andes was beautiful. Guatavita is a circular lake surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Lake Guatavita was one of the sacred lakes of the Muisca Indians. It is also one of the origins of the legend of El Dorado. The drive was as worth it as the village and lake itself. I love the culture of the Colombia and to see the various life styles is very cool, for me anyway.

Jess and Joaquin refused to get in the pic

We told the Jessica and Joaquin after breakfast that we were going to get on a bus. Joaquin very excitedly said “to go to the United States?” We said no, but shortly after a plane went over us and he pointed and asked Nate if we were going on a plane to the US.

I woke up with a nasty cold, I felt it coming on last night and didn’t sleep much, not able to breathe. Joaquin started back with a runny nose yesterday too and I don’t think he felt real well today. He had a bit of a rough day, he definitely did not enjoy the trip as much as the rest of us. However, he and Jessica liked the bus ride, they both wanted window seats, they took a nap on the way and on the way back. We got to meet a few more families from CHI, that was pretty cool. Joaquin has had a few moments the last few days just testing the waters. He does well, no real fits like Jessica had. They are in bed early tonight, the trips wear them out.

I so wish we understood more Spanish. It kills us to not know everything they are saying to each other and to other Spanish speakers. I say that because tonight Joaquin asked one of the other boys here why his mom doesn’t buy more games for them. The little boy responded by saying my mom doesn’t have much money left. Joaquin then said, “my dad has a lot of money!” We cracked up, but there are so many more conversations that we don’t understand. They are a crack up. If only he knew how far the money “doesn’t” go.

We talked some more about switching to a different B&B, El Refugio would be about half what we are spending here at Zuetana. We have to call Lucia tmw anyway and may see what she says about the availability of the big room at the other place. We are kind of torn as to what to do. We’ll see. Eric leaves on Wednesday and if we switch it will before he leaves. We are comfortable here, but the price is, well, a bit pricey.

Emilee and Nate are still doing well. Peggy and Sofia were on the trip with us, so Emi got her baby fix again today. Nate desires to have conversation with people like Uncle Brian, Papa, Uncle Matt, Uncle Tim, Papaw Ronnie etc. So he gravitated to one of the other CHI new Dads, a young, fun looking guy. I had to keep telling Nate to leave him alone, he is trying to work with his kids and be a dad. It appeared they guy had no interest in Nate and Nate didn’t understand why I kept telling him to come with us and leave well enough alone with the other families. But Andres our driver loves talking to Nate, I think he really just likes to rub his head. Andres is great. And thanks to Peggy, Nate and Emi got some conversations in with someone other than Eric and I.

This was Andres just after rubbing Nate's head...shucks, I missed the shot

Tomorrow starts a new week, a week with the possibility of Sentencia. Thursday is a holiday here, Labor Day, so all offices will be closed. Wow, if we get Sentencia this week, we will be coming home the just a few days later. That’s pretty exciting to think about.

Well we tried to get another family photo of all 6 of us and one of the 4 kids, but Joaquin just won’t cooperate. Finally this evening he did sit still after I begged and pleaded, so I guess this is as good as it gets. We have a picture frame we bought and wanted a really good photo of all of us, or one with just the 4 kids, but it has been a nightmare trying to get Joaquin to not act silly or to just sit still. So here’s what we got today, not too shabby.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Right?

I keep losing track of what day it is. I wake up every morning and rack my brain as to what day it is.

Today we just relaxed a bit again around the house. Nate slept in and missed the made to order breakfast. We picked him up some fruit and he made oats once he got up and about. Emilee and Nate spent some time with their cousins on the webcam after breakfast, which they both enjoyed.

Here is Nate talking to Brandon on the webcam.

Jessica got into a bit of trouble for back-talking Mami last night and was told she could not have the TV or Shrek this morning. I was surprised it wasn’t a fight this morning. But when she got up and got ready, she asked her dad if she could turn on the TV. Obviously remembering what we had told her. He told her if no but if she was good all morning to mami that she could watch it this afternoon. She shook her head yes and with out a fuss, complied. Chalk one up for Jess!

Eric and Emi went back to Maku to pick up a few things we wanted while Nate and I stayed back with the little ones.

Here are a few things we did before lunch.

We taught Jessica how to log onto to color pics on line. She loved it!

Joaquin did some exercises

The brothers played with cars

The girls played on the swing

We also taught them how to play UNO. Once they have the rules down we thought it would be a good way to work on numbers and colors in English, as well as turn taking.

We watered the plants, but then it rained all afternoon, so I don’t think they really needed it. Also it stormed here last night. The thunder was so loud, we forget how much higher we are, it’s really much louder when it thunders here.

After lunch we watched Shrek, AGAIN! Then we went to Crepes and Waffles just for ice cream. The ice cream is really pretty cheap and the selections are a lot of fun and it’s not too far. It started raining again when we got ready to leave, so we got a bit wet on the way back. It was too wet to go to the park so we chose ice cream instead.

The kids are really doing well figuring out who we are and how we work. Emi and Nate are still doing great being away from home and are ready to stay for the duration of our trip. Jessica and Emilee seem to be bonding, which makes me really happy. They have a way to go, but have come so far.

Joaquin finally says his name as Joaquin Hollis. At the beginning Jessica would say her name as Jessica Sanchez Hollis. But Joaquin would only say Joaquin Alexander Sanchez. We have not pushed the name at all, or even mentioned it anymore for that matter, and then out of the blue yesterday or the day before, he said “my name is Joaquin “something” Hollis.” He has given himself a different middle name that none of us can figure out, but he has been saying his name a lot the last few days, with Hollis on the end.

Here at Zuetana you can put your family photo in a book and leave a written message, the book sits on a table in the lobby. So today Joaquin wanted to look at the book with me and pointed to each family telling me who was the mami, papi, nina and ninos. I think he is starting to figure out this idea of what makes up a family. He has been giving lots of kisses and likes being held. But he does not like to have his picture taken unless he is being really silly. That’s why we still don’t have a really good pic of just the 4 kids or of the 6 of us.

This was an attempt to try and get a pic of the 4 of them.

Tomorrow we are going out with a group of folks, still not sure where. Someone told us they thought we were going just outside of Bogota to a village of some sort. I guess we’ll see. I’ll just get the camera ready. We were told we would be gone all day. Should be fun.

Thanks to the folks who emailed about the price of our weekly stay. Zuetana is more expensive than El Refugio and we thought about requesting to move, but really we don’t think the change will be good for the kids, so we decided to stick it out here. We also wanted to try and visit their orphanage, but don’t think it would be a good emotionally for Jessica and Jaoquin. We have some candy that my sister and aunt got for J and J to give their friends but I think we are just going to print a picture and send a card along with the goodies. But before we make a final decision, we are going to wait a few more days and see what we think.

Good night from Bogota!

One last pic...
This is Emilee taking care of the "little man"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Today Marks Week 2

Today makes two weeks since we left the states. However in adoption time line its been 11 days. Lucia our program rep here in Colombia stopped by today to check on us and said that we are in a good court, court 22. Here is what we were told “But please don't read that to mean that you'll be home before the designated time. Bogota adoptions take 3 1/2 to 4 weeks and because your case fell into a good court, you are right on track for that time frame.” I know our families are so very anxious for us to come home, but just like we planned, we are planning to be here till about May 10th. Hoping for a few days sooner, but ultimately it could be until May 10thish. Eric is still planning to fly out on April 30th, next Wednesday.

We stayed up late last night watching a movie, in English and Jessica and Joaquin enjoyed watching it too. So because we got in be late, we slept in a bit. The morning was nice, we just took it easy until we went out for lunch to Crepes and Waffles. They are finally catching onto the fact that we have to wait for a check before we can leave. But it was tough when they ordered and it didn’t come out as expected. Jessica wanted a hamburger, so I said hamburgesa and it came out tasting like spaghetti. Joaquin asked for pollo, chicken, and it came out like chicken and dumplings. Both were very tasty, but because it wasn’t what they were expecting, they wouldn’t eat it. Finally when it was time for us to order ice cream they realized they weren’t getting any until they ate some of their lunch. It went okay, it will just take a while for us to figure out their likes and dislikes with food and for them to realize they eat what they are served. Emi and Nate are not picky eaters and will eat what you give them for the most part. I realize I am spoiled that way, but Eric and I both feel you make the best of what you have, even if it’s not what you expect. It will be easier when we are in the states and can actually read the menu.

We had our family English/Spanish lesson today with Carmen the program director. Joaquin was pretty much totally uninterested. Jessica will work with us some but I don’t know how much is sticking. We have set up English tutoring for them twice a week until we leave, just one on one with the tutor. Hopefully that will help a bit. Joaquin can’t write his name yet, so we will be working hard over the summer. They are just so excited about all the change that it’s been difficult. We also learned some much needed Spanish phrases to help us along in every day life while we are here with them. Like “share” and “use a quiet voice.” I think the most important thing we learned was about what orphanage life is like from where they come from. One of the owners volunteers at a local orphanage and we were able to get some insight. See the kids scream even when they are just talking, they run wild like they own the place and talk back to adults all the time. Obviously these behaviors will not go over well in the US or in our home. But we have not addressed these too much because we had other battles to fight. We just have tried to control these behaviors as best we could with out getting in too deep. So get this. Apparently at La Maria the kids basically take care of themselves except for some instruction to eat, bathe and sleep. The kids yell all the time because it’s the only way to be heard and to keep hold of what they are playing with. They could watch TV as much as they want, basically, which explains Jessica’s fascination with the TV and soap operas. It also explains why they don’t stay seated while eating and think they are the boss and don’t have to listen and can talk back to adults. So as you can see, we have our work cut out for us. Aye Aye Aye! However, they are both extremely intelligent and once in the US we hope they begin to catch on quickly. The plane ride should prove to be very interesting. They don’t like to be confined for long, so a 5 hour plane ride, with airline food, well…actually I don’t want to think about it right now. smile

We also had a native explain to them that daddy would be coming home next Wednesday because he had to go to work. They had a few questions which was good to have Carmen there to interpret. She is fluent is Spanish and English. We were able to tell them we would talk to daddy on the computer every day and that Tia Jeanie would be coming to help us and fly home with us. They understood. We will be reminding them from time to time before he leaves. Joaquin asked if we could stay here forever so daddy didn’t have to work. To his 5 yr old mind we are not working now and doing fine. Carmen explained that daddy has to work and will go back to work so we can all go home to the US.

We paid for our second week her at Zuetana. $1650 a week for 6 and a trip to the zoo and a bowling isn’t too bad right???? Wow. It cost me $12 to do 1 load of laundry, wash and dry. You get one load free a week and I had to do 2 this week. Also we have told them days in advance that we would not be eating lunch yesterday and today here, but they charged us for it anyway. At the other Zuetana they can give 24 hrs notice and then not be charged for a meal that they do not attend. We did complain and they said they would look into it for us. If this continues to be the case we won’t be eating out any more. It’s just nice to get out once in a while, but we’ll see.

Joaquin said he loved us on his own, with out us saying it first last night. I thought that was pretty great. Jessica has been drawing pictures of her house in the US. The staff here have said they can see a difference in Jessica and Joaquin since we first go them, but follow it by saying we still have our hands full. I agree, but wouldn’t change it for the world. You will get to see just what we are talking about when we get home, but we will work hard till then, then you all (family) get to pitch in and help us. It really will take a village to raise these two…smile.

Joaquin always looks at these cross figures when we are out and so finally yesterday Eric bought him one. He had to have the one with La Maria on it. So last night he when we were watching a movie on the compter Joaquin had to put his figurine on the computer. We were making jokes that Jesus had the best seat in the house.

A cultural note. We were told that Colombian people are willing to adopt sometimes but request only the lighter skinned children. We have noticed that most business folks here, folks in restaurants and in stores are all more light skinned too. The darker skinned folks we have seen as street vendors, in town in the not as nice places etc. Very interesting. Also people don’t take their kids out to restaurants like we do. Our kids were the only children in Archie’s. In Crepes and Waffles we saw one older child about 12, but no other children at all. It’s just different than what we are used to. Yes, I know it’s during the week, but it’s just been odd to not see kids out and about too much.

It was another rainy day, so I didn’t get many pics. We have no plans for tmw, maybe just hit the supermarket and Nate and Emi have some school work. If it’s not raining maybe we will go to the park again. But I have to say it feels good to know we are ½ way home, plus or minus a day or two.

Again, we love you all and covet your prayers. We are doing well.

How would you like this job? I guess you would stay in shape...

This is a garbage truck.

I guess the pro to being a garbage man here is that you get to garbage pick for anything you can use or eat. We have seen this guy and girl collecting garbage around our B&B several times and then they sort through each bag by hand. When they need a break they just take a nap right on the grass by their truck. Guess they’re not to worried about people stealing their garbage.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Making the best of a rainy day

We woke up to rain today. The first rainy day since we have been here, not to bad for this to be the rainy month. Our activities director asked us if we still wanted to make the trip to Monserrate and we decided to go for it. The weather can change on a dime so we hoped it may quit raining, but it didn’t. The drive to and from was great, it was interesting to see the various types of housing and buildings, I didn’t get any pics because all you could see through the camera were the raindrops on the windows in the taxi. But I definitely recommend anyone coming to Bogota to go to Monserrate. The train going up was out of order. Originally we planned to take a train up the mountain and the cable car back down. Now, I like roller coasters, I’m not afraid of heights, I love to fly, but the trek up the mountian got to me a bit. I had a few butterflies, but Jessica loved it. Coming down I was fine, but the going straight up to the hightest point in Bogota was a bit, well, scary. Yes, Monserrate is the highest point in Bogota, at least that’s what our taxi driver told us. There is a beautiful church there, a small market, a few restaurants, beautiful gardens and an awesome view of the whole city. Because of the rain our pics of the city didn’t turn out as good as I would have liked, but it was still worth the trip.

Once we left the mountain top we asked the taxi driver to take us to Archie’s Pizza. On the way Joaquin fell asleep. As he was starting to wake up he mumbled something and then clearly said “United States?” (In Spanish of course). We have no idea what he said, but obviously he was dreaming about something in the US.

I highly recommend Archie’s too. It was great fun for the kids and the food was awesome. You can let the kids make their very own pizza. They let the kids kneed the dough and did some fun stuff with them. They let the kids put all the toppings on and then bake it and bring it to the table. It’s really a lot of fun. Jessica and Joaquin had a ball. Most decent restaurants have a security guard. We were sitting near the door by the guard and Joaquin asked the guy if he would show us his gun. Oh boy! Luckily the guard didn’t show us.

I was telling Emilee at the restaurant that Jessica and Joaquin have no idea how a restaurant works. We just take so much for granted. Kids who come from foster families understand but kids from an orphanage, well every experience is so new. I guess restaurant behavior wasn’t something I had thought about. It’s not a big deal, just something I hadn’t thought about. They didn’t understand why we had to wait around when we were finished eating. We had to explain they had to bring the check and we had to wait so we could pay, then we could leave. And also you can’t have more of something when you eat it all, you only get what’s on your plate, not like at home.

Emi and Nate had a good time today bowling with dad and the group of folks from the Zuetana houses.

Jessica and Joaquin are doing wonderful, we are all gelling just fine and are feeling like a family. It a wonderful feeling. Today Joaquin fell off the bed, he didn’t cry, but I picked him up and put him on my lap and he just cuddled up. My heart melted and about that time Jessica looked at me and held up her hand with the I Love You sign and said te queiro (I love you). Ahh…A perfect mami moment.

Another suggestion for those of you preparing to travel, it’s worked well for us so far, is to pull out new toys every so many days. It helps to give them something new to do because you kind of get in a rut with the same ol’ stuff at the B&Bs. Balloons have been great, a beach ball, color wonder, silly putty, and other light weight things. They think it’s great to have something new every so often. And they definitely love the videos of the house, animals at home and other things we taped.

Oh I forgot to mention that we got a new French family here. Guess who? The little boy from their orphanage we spoke of the other day that they saw during our interrogation. As soon as he got here Jessica and Joaquin had to come in the cabin and grab several of their new things and show Johan, the little boy. They were really excited to see him and play with him. Very Cute.

Dad, Jeanie, Brian and Brandon, I am sorry to say that Joaquin refuses to wear his camo pants I brought him. His is not picky with his clothes, but he refuses to wear his camo pants. I am not sure why. I don’t know if it’s because they see military people in camo all the time here or what. People here don’t wear camo like we do in Harrison, so Joaquin will have to learn. I don’t think there is any thing cuter than a little guy in camo. I’ll have to work on that one when we get back to the states, it’s not a battle I want to fight here.

One more note, Jessica asked to watch Shrek in English today. Nate was so excited! She has it memorized in Spanish, I guess she needs a challenge…smile.

A few folks at the other Zuetana have lice, glad we are at this one!!

More tomorrow, again thanks for all the comments and prayers, we love you all!

Nate and Jess playing with Color Wonder

Of course the boys had to potty while we were out. This time it was 800 pesos a flush, here they are coming out of the pay to pee bathroom

And if you are a boy and you don't want to pay to pee, well you could always use the urinals out in the open for all to see...