Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to "normal?"

We celebrated our 10th Anniversary last week by going to a concert


N & F, my little models striking a pose!

Little Miss J
future heartbreaker


Whatever normal is.

I am so proud of my kids. They are amazing gifts that have been given to me. I love seeing them do little acts of kindness towards each other and us. I must remind myself that they are so young and have a lot to learn yet. It is our job to guide them and help them and try not to get so frustrated with them. We found out that N has been eating tooth paste. Apparently for a long time...even though she said she knows its bad. We finally figured it out when she got busted helping M eat it too. That was a bummer. So for now we brush with water!

My little girls are masters at deception and lying. We are working on changing this. It amazes me that they can lie with such a straight face. It makes you doubt that they could possibly have done something wrong! Peer pressure is helping turn it around. If we tell the truth we don't get in trouble. If we lie, we lose TV watching. If it's serious enough - like the toothpaste incident, everyone loses TV until the truth is flushed out. We let them stew for 15 minutes "alone" (we were listening from around the corner) and suddenly we got the whole story - in stereo!

But those are the little things that will work themselves out after they know what the expectations are. Everyone wants to be "good." I catch them being good all day long - sharing toys, helping mom, cleaning up their things, making beds without being asked! Truly great things.

I survived taking all 4 kids to the Mall of America to buy school shoes today! Phew. I was sweating a little when they got a glimpse of the amusement park and I had to explain today wasn't a good day for going! Poor kids! Cruel mom! But buying shoes was such a treat for all of them - they didn't mind.

They are so excited for school. It will be hard to let them go! Thank goodness kindergarten is only half day and J & M are still at home for a while longer.

Look at these picts! Gorgeous kids, huh!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

anyone out there?


One, two, three, jump!





Now that we're home from Ecuador, I don't know if anyone is still checking in here because it's easier to just pick up the phone and chat, but I got one request for picts, so here it is. We've been spending a lot of time out on the boat and swimming in the lake. The girls are doing really well. We are falling into a regular routine and the 4 seem to be melding into true hermanos. It is so precious to see them look out for each other and comfort one another.

We get along with Spanglish in our house. The girls seem to truly understand everything, but speak back in both languages. "Puedo more," "quieres swim," "Yo too!" these are the most frequently spoken phrases here - even F is speaking like this. It's adorable.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Almost there!!!!!

This is very cool. Delta has WiFi on our plane. Fitting that our last plane ride home has WiFi and I can blog!

We have had an insane travel day. Last night, or this morning rather, our 11PM plane pushed back from Guayaquil, Ecuador at 3:30AM. The kids slept for 2.5 hours in an airport lounge and they slept reasonably well on the plane too with one exception. Poor F got sick to her stomach and threw up. Pobrecita. She did it in amazingly good style though. She was in the aisle seat and leaned over and gave Delta a lasting present, barely a drop on her clothes. Well done F! The flight attendants were pretty happy with dad too for doing an expert cleanup job on aisle 3!

We were originally supposed to land in MSP at 10:30AM, but now are due to arrive about 2PM. Not too bad. It seems a little surreal and bitter sweet. Our daughters are leaving their birth country and former home. While their future presents many great opportunities and experiences, a chapter in their life, and life as they have known it, is changing today forever. It's also bitter sweet because we have aboslutely loved visiting and learning about the culture and life in Ecuador.

I suspect N will remember it especially well as she is older than J and because today is her 6th birthday. Feliz cumpleanos!!

All in all, Ecuador is an amazing and wonderful country. The people, the culture, the landscapes are all fantastic. Suffice to say that Ecuador far exceeded my expectations and is even a place that I would love to call home.

The M Family adventure has been memorable. I have to thank the many people that helped us while in Ecuador, but especially our two lawyers, C & X. They worked tirelessly for us and did everything they possibly could to accelerate the process. Also, it could not have been more clear to us, how much they truly care about the girls and how committed they were to helping them. We are forever grateful for their role, their support and their results!!

I think it's fair to say that this experience has changed all of our perspectives forever as well as changed our lives forever. I believe we will all be in a better place because of this adventure!! We were definitely all pushed outside our comfort zone, but it is well worth it!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

All the stars have aligned...well most of them.

Yesterday we got the ID cards and passports. This morning, K flew to Guayaquil with N & J. I waited for our attorney to hopefully pick up the last certificate from the National Council for Children & Adolescents this morning. My flight with M & F was at 12:15PM, the last possible time for me to get the certificate and fly to Guayaquil to get the visas at the US Consulate. Our attorney got the certificate!! The only problem was she got it at 11:40AM and was 20+ minutes away. At 12:03pm, my attorney came running up to me at outside the airport. I grabbed the docs, gave her a hug and sprinted to the security checkpoint. Oh yeah, I was pushing a stroller, carrying two carry-ons and holding F's hand. Long, story short....we got the certificate, made it to Guayaquil with 8+ suitcases, and got the visas. We're headed home!!

It was one of those days where everything was too good to be true. That is, until we went to get on our flights. We were supposed to depart from here at 11:10PM tonight (Friday) arrive in Atlanta at 6am and connect to MSP, arriving at 10:30AM Saturday. At the moment, we are sitting in the airport with a delayed outbound flight, delayed until 2:50AM. Our connection was changed and we will now get home at 1:45PM Saturday.

Frankly, if we get home on Saturday some time, I will be happy. So far, 1 of the 4 kids is sleeping. Hopefully, soon all will be!

I've never been so delayed by a flight, so inconvenienced and yet still so happy and content. There is tremendous sense of relief and completeness that we are on our way home. This has been an amazing and trying experience. We are so grateful for our new, expanded family and can't wait to get home and make more memories.

The last 24 hours!!

Have been rather insane!! Yesterday, after much waiting and running around from place to place, we got new ID cards and new passports for N & J. The civil registry for the ID's and the passport center made a NJ DMV look like a well-oiled machine of the 21st century by comparison!! But that's ok because we got it done!

Later today, we hope to get one last certificate we need. Then, we are off to Guayaquil this afternoon to get the visas so we can travel home. I am knocking wood as I say this, but it looks most certain we will be home by 8/15 and possibly even sooner if just a little bit more luck comes our way! Cross your fingers!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another day in paraiso






We got word of more progress today; we have new birth certificates! We won't be able to meet with the Council for Children until next Tuesday, August 11th. We should get new ID cards and passports the same day. Then off to Guayaquil on Wednesday, August 12th for their visas at the US Consulate. Then we should be able to depart Thursday or Friday depending on potential delays and flights; we're getting so close!! We are anxious to be home.

The beach house is fantastic. So much space, pool, great park in the development, steps to the beach, a chef and a butler. Yeah, it's pretty awesome. At the same time, all I want is to sleep in my own bed. It's a long time to be away from home. The ambiguous process doesn't help much either. On the bright side, it looks (dare I say) nearly certain that K and I will be home to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary on August 21st.

Here's a link to all pics since my last pics link.

OK, so while I was writing this post, our lawyer called. She now wants us to return to Quito on Wednesday of this week, 8/5. On Thursday, we will get the ID cards and passports. She is going to try and get us in front of the council on Friday. We will still need to go to Guayaguil for visas on Tuesday 8/11. It might not necessarily speed up the process, but I do like completing at least 2 more steps of the process this week. We'll see what happens....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cause for Celebration!!!

We received the written judgment this afternoon confirming and legalizing the adoption of our two youngest daughters!! It's official, we are a family of six!!! This also means we should be able to come home soon, about 2 weeks!! We're very grateful for the help of our attorneys here, Ximena and Cumanda. They managed to complete the lion's share of the legal work before the court holiday from August 1st through August 15th. We have to get new birth certificates, ID cards, passports, a visit with the National Council of Children and then we head to our embassy for visas to go home.

Life is good at the beach


King of the beach

Panama hats are made here! Cool. Crafting!



Manta is the 2nd largest port city. Tuna is a big business here. Don't ask me what that fish is, but we saw lots of fish being sold -and carved up - out of carts in the street this morning.

Heck yah! Ice cream, baby!


We are relaxing for a week in Manta. Life is good here for us.
We'll likely head back to the city on Wednesday. We had to have help to get the upload speed fast enough to bother posting. We've been without Skype and blogging for a few days - hardship!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Papallacta

one of the pools outside our cabin


f & n in our rustic cabin - no tv! what?


f, n & j on a bridge over a river we crossed to get to our cabin

f and c loving the warm water


they all want to hang on me at the same time - help!

Great weekend. It was chilly (50 Fahrenheit) for us to get in swimsuits, but the thermal pools all ranged from bathtub warm to hot-tub hot, and then scalding thanks to springs heated by two nearby volcanoes. The kids loved getting to swim and goof around. M didn't try to drown himself as much as he did the last time we had him swimming - progress. C and I got the opportunity to get massages and slathered in Andean mud at the spa and then wrapped in plastic wrap and left to soak - we loved it. From the hot spring pools we could see the clouds swallow the hillsides and hummingbirds in the trees. All the fresh air, altitude and fun = all 4 kids slept for the 2 hour ride home this afternoon.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Adoption decree


N,M,F & J with our cook's 4 mo. old baby. They LOVE this baby and fight over who gets to hold her.


All dressed up to go to court yesterday. This is our "backyard."


We met a judge yesterday and he was clearly smitten with our little family and our lawyers were able to persuade him to issue the adoption decree today! Unexpected great news! So late next week we'll have new birth certificates for the girls with us listed as parents, and after that - ID cards, Ecuadorian passports, and finally visas and home..... We're still gonna be here a few weeks - (these things still take time!) but it means that instead of being home Sept 1, we'll be back (dare I say) mid-August. I should not be writing this, because I don't want to jinx anything - hope there are no new roadblocks or slow-downs.

Tomorrow we are off to Papallacta - hot springs about 2 hrs away. We'll stay overnight - we learned our lesson driving at night when we went to Otavalo - no need to repeat that experience. The kids will have fun swimming and hopefully this time tomorrow I'll be immobilized in an Andean mud-wrap or soaking in a hot pool of therapeutic water (with a rum and coke, just maybe?).

Then Tuesday we fly to Manta on the coast. We have rented a house for a week or two (until we are called back to Quito for the next process). The home has a pool and is right on the beach and is about 3x the size of our current apartment. Oh, heaven! The kids are really looking forward to that.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers! We were in such a funk earlier today and this good news has turned it all around for us! Woo!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ice cream and playgrounds everyday!


A scene from our wanderings yesterday. Check out how moms here carry their babies/toddlers. Cool homemade contraptions - forget 'Baby Bjorns!' These moms are working - they're selling fruit from their baskets on the streets.


We scream for ice cream!


J & N - favorite - 'vainilla'

We seem to find a reason to get ice cream every day. What's not to love? It is so entertaining and as a bonus it takes our little ones at least 30 minutes each to eat a single cone. Maybe they are savoring it, maybe they are just slow-pokes. We visited 3 different playgrounds today. We're a tad bored here. We miss the indoor playgrounds at the malls, the amusement parks, the water parks, kids gyms, and general commercialized kid-friendly family traps the US offers on every corner. We're improvising here. It's building character - that's what Norm would tell us (wink).

Tomorrow (Thur) we have an appointment in the afternoon at court! Woot! It is our 'audencia' with a judge - our adoption hearing.

This weekend we're planning a mini- getaway to Papallacta - hot springs. Can't wait. We have much to look forward to.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Picture Gallery Link

There was a problem with my link from my prior entry. Click here to view pics.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A memorable weekend to say the least!!






How quickly we are making memories as a family of 6!! We had so much fun and are thoroughly exhausted. On Saturday, we drove ~75km along curvy, mountainous roads to Otavalo; the trip took nearly 2 hours. Once we arrived, we witnessed one of the largest, well-known artisan markets in Ecuador. Crafts included hand-made everything, sweaters, hammocks, pan-flutes, charangos (looks like a 1o string ukelele)...and lots more. The people, the food, the crafts, the sights, were all amazing. Once we left the market, we drove a bit to a nearby "cascada". We parked the car, then hiked for about 20 minutes or so to arrive at a beautiful waterfall. It was a beautiful sight.

From there, we drove through the town of Cotacachi and on to the reserve Cotocachi-Cayapas. There we saw the Laguna Cuicocha. This lagoon was formed by a vulcano that imploded into itself. Then some other eruptions formed two island peaks in the middle of the lagoon. We took an awesome boat ride around the lagoon and stopped near the islands to see the sulphur springs bubbling up from below the water's surface. This was a stunning sight to say the least. Saturday was a long day, pretty much 8 am to 8 pm. All enjoyed and were exhausted.

Sunday, we took the kids to the zoo and saw many animals. It was a nice zoo with many varieties of animals, big small, etc. After that, we headed to a state park to let the kids run around and have fun. There was a nice play area and a cold (and somewhat dirty) pool. Although today was tiring for all too, the kids really enjoyed a day of kids-focused activities.

The link to all the photos in our library since last weekend's gallery posting can be found HERE. Also, I compiled some video from this weekend for a few highlights.

video

A couple of funny coincidences....while in a shop in Cotacachi, a young boy started talking to K in perfect english. He explained his aunt owned the shop and he was visiting her; he lives in Hudson County, New Jersey (where K and I lived shortly after being married). Then, while at the park today, a woman started talking to us in english; one of her children was born in New Jersey. Small world!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Accomplished something?



We verified our signatures today. We dressed up, went to court, waited in a crowded hallway, were led into a small room where a man (a judge? a clerk?) watched us sign our names and checked our passports.

It is one of the many steps, checked off......

We will go again to court in a week for our adoption hearing. Then another 15 days for finalization. Then visas, new birth certificates, passports, etc.

We are trying to be patient. We are frustrated.

We celebrated our court date with ice cream- like I said before, we find a reason daily for ice cream.

Another celebration- got all 3 girls showered together - done in 15 min. Amazing. Really! They were helping each other and happy to get to watch a movie tonight. It's the little things in life that make me sooo happy.

The children are a miracle. We are so blessed. We are so easily frustrated by this process and living in a foreign place, but seeing the kids all together snuggled in bed, holding hands on the sidewalk, playing with baby dolls.....it puts our whole life in perspective.

We're off to Otavalo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otavalo) tomorrow for the day: a large indigenous market, and the village of Cotacachi. So we'll have some fun pictures this weekend to share, I'm sure.

Love to all.

ps. If you are praying, pray for patience.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2 weeks down!

F & N, matching t-shirts "Ecuador, milagros todos los dias" (miracles every day - from F.M)

J's favorite time of day: "tina," bath

N - the princess -loves to blow-dry

C at the mercado

It's hard to believe that we've been here 2 weeks already! It kind of feels like forever! Maybe because we have done very little to accomplish our adoption. We are in the sitting-around-waiting for-our-competent-lawyers-to-make-things-happen-stage. We have gotten custody (unofficially though) and signed a petition to adopt the girls. We are hopefully going to court on Friday to "verify our signatures" on the petition. That's right. We go sign and initial in front of a judge that we indeed are the folks that want to parent N & J. Then hopefully soon after that we'll have our adoption hearing. We are not what you call patient people. This process is very challenging for us because every step takes so long (in our eyes only - our Ecuadorian lawyer seems annoyed that we want things to move faster).

Please pray for both patience and speed!

Today we stopped by an artisan market and checked out the local goods. Lots of colorful characters and beautiful handicrafts abound. Also too many child beggars to count. As we were walking towards the market a "mother" pushed her small child (smaller than M) towards us and this little child was "selling" candy. It is sickening.

Later I (K) took M to the grocery for some more eggs and rice (MUST have rice) and I got 3 separate cat-calls on the walk there! Ewww! It's like being in NYC, except here I don't have language skills and I don't know if it is complementary or threatening. Basically made me want to sprint back to the apartment and never leave without C again. I hate that feeling - being an outsider lacking communication - AND dependent on C to "help" me around town because he is so competent in Spanish.

Also today, I insisted on a quick trip to the mall in search of a new book to read and got the comments (in Spanish, this I can understand though) "Are all of those children YOURS?" I felt very proud saying, "Si! Todos son mis hijos" (yup, they're all my kids).

F and N came to me this morning and told me that they had been talking and they decided to surprise me with a day of no fighting, no whining, no complaining, lots of sharing and being nice so they could have gum (chicla) that C got them. OooohhhhhKaaaayyy. And they did! It was the most peaceful day we've had all week! They seem to be figuring out the sibling dynamics with each other. As I type they are all snuggled in bed side-by-side watching a movie as a treat because they were soooo good today.

N is my helper. She picks up whatever I am doing - cooking, washing dishes, folding clothes, straightening up, reining in M......she's "my sidekick." A very gentle and sweet spirit. Quiet, a bit timid in new situations, and afectionate. She comes up to me throughout the day to give me a hug and tells me she loves me. Melts my heart.

J is sweet and silly and naughty. She loves to stick her tongue out at F or N if they are being reprimanded. She is always the last one at the dinner table finishing her food. She loves to play on the monkey bars and hang upside down. Every morning we are wakened by the sounds of her giggle from the girls room. EVERY MORNING. She's a happy girl. She is a tough cookie - loves M and takes his rough-housing, but is quick to cry when her feelings are hurt. Well, she IS 4 years old. That's normal stuff.

I've been getting messages on Facebook/emails asking if I'm home yet. Um, no. Looks like we're here through August. Even if we get all of our court dates done soon, there is still a 15 day waiting period before our adoption is finalized and, oh by the way, the courts close Aug 1-15. So we're planning a trip to the beach during that time.

This is a trip of a lifetime and we are going to try to see everything we can and enjoy every adventure that comes our way..... and suppress our impatience and homesickness!

Thanks so much for all the kind words of support. We miss you all and can't wait to introduce the girls to you!

PS Tonight I got them all bathed in UNDER an hour! WOOHOO!!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nothing new. Here's some pictures....

Ice cream....a daily treat! (left to right - K,M,N,J,F & a friend)


beautiful Quito


Joselyn
Nataly