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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

TeleferiQo






Since ~3000m wasn't exciting enough, we decided to take a cable car ride up another 1000m!! It was ~8 minutes to the top; for some reason, these rides are more comfortable when there are feet of snow below you! The scenery was breathtaking (or maybe that was the altitude) and worth the ride and cold at the top. Amazingly, all the kids did just fine, even F's new friend (the grand-daughter of our driver).

We also went to colonial Quito to visit the Plaza de San Francisco. Highlights include a church whose interior was covered entirely in gold leaf and the Bicentennial Musem, where we caught a fantastic puppet show. Another gallery of pics from today can be seen here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Link to more pics

If you'd like some more pics, this link (click here) will bring you to the gallery of pics from the time we left our house early 7/1/09 until 7/11/09. FYI, there's a lot; 347 photos and 8 videos! I hope your connection is faster than mine! Enjoy!

La Mitad del Mundo (both of them!)






Today we went to the middle of the world!! Both of them! When they discovered the equator a few hundred years ago (1736 to be precise), they didn't have GPS; they were off by ~180m. Unfortunately, they had already erected a monument, museum, restaurants, souvenir shops etc. So, they left it there, and then erected another museum. The actual mitad del mundo was less "toursty" and quite cool. The scenery at both was stunning. The white vulcano in the distance is Cotopaxi; an active volcano at ~5800m. The museo Inti-nan (the actual one) had many, cool demonstrations showing the effects of gravity and the differences between the hemispheres. It is true, water drains counter-clockwise in the north and clockwise in the south. When the tub of water was straddling the equator, the water went straight down. On the equator, the effects of gravity are less. K and I were both able to balance an egg on the head of a nail, quite cool! We had a great day!!

video

inappropriate branding



Things we have in our cupboard: "SNOB" olive oil and apricot jam and "Bimbo" bread. We gravitated towards these subconsciously at the grocery. Oh well.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's been one whole week in Ecuador!!












Today, I had the best empanada of my life. Seriously, it was amazing and it only cost $1.20. I bought two, but I did, reluctantly, give one to K (I'm a giver). I contemplated posting a picture of it, but I was afraid it wouldn't do it justice.

Late yesterday, we went to Parque La Carolina. We had a lot of fun, but it was an interesting scene. It reminded us a little bit of Central Park NYC, but not as well maintained, a bit dirty, stray dogs roaming around, and little kids begging. Still, moderately scenic and the kids really enjoyed the wide open space.

I nearly capsized in a paddle boat. F was fairly scared but quickly enjoyed the maritime adventure. M loved it as well. Mom had her own vessel, a bit more stable with N & J, who also loved the journey. I was grateful our boats stayed upright; the water made most swamps look appealing!!

Tonight for dinner we went to KFC. That's right the Colonel called and we answered. The food is just as dreadful as in the states. So why did we eat there you ask?? It's simple really, they had a cool play place for the kids and it's only a few blocks from our temporary home. The kids had a blast; I mean, who wouldn't love launching themselves into a pit of soft, plentiful, plastic balls. It was cute to watch the kids have so much fun. F made a friend and was sad to leave.

I finally got around to downloading the video we have shot so far. Here's a clip before bedtime. Uploading video is time consuming. Even after downgrading the quality, it took 20+ minutes to upload 1 minute to the blog.

This weekend we are headed to La Mitad del Mundo (the actual equator) and to some sites in Quito. I hope to have some more scenic pics to share with you then!
video

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Only in Ecuador






Today I bought 25 beautiful pink roses for $2! It's crazy. In our apartment, there are propane tanks everywhere. I'm not a huge fan. Fortunately, there is a large fire extinguisher in the kitchen as well. Comforting...kind of. There is no central natural gas system here, so the stove, dryer, hot water heater all have their own propane tanks. Oh yeah, so does my grill. I am very excited about my "Made in the USA" Thermos gas grill. Over the weekend, it was all we had to cook since we couldn't figure out how to light our "luxury" stainless steel stove! That's fixed now.

The kids are adjusting reasonably well. That is to say they are fighting as if they have been together since birth!! Ok, they get along very well at times too! All in all, they are very cute and doing well. There is alot to get used to for all of us. For mom and dad, it will be hard for us to get used much less help when we get back!! What do I mean?? Our rent includes 2 cleaning ladies that come everyday to replace our towels, make beds and clean up. In case that isn't enough, we have another lady (former f.m. domestic helper) come in twice a week to help with laundry and cooking. She costs a whopping $2/hour. Don't worry, we're not taking advantage...apparently a typical wage for this type of work is $1 to $1.50 per hour!!

I found a most fantastic new cookie. There's chocolate in the middle and more surrounding the outside. K doesn't love them as much as I do. Lucky for me!!

My systems engineer friend will be glad to know the locally brewed beer is fantastic and economical...in moderation of course!

Some important math we have learned recently...2 + 2 does not equal 4. It equals 10...10x the work,10x the noise, 10x as long to bathe the family, 10x the laughs, 10x the love!! Another interesting euquation, 1 = 3! That's right 1 = 3. Managing 1 very rambunctious young boy = managing 3 girly girls. M is not afraid to agitate all three of his sisters at once. He knows how to get under their skin remarkably well. I think F is happy to have some sisters to share the pain, I mean love from M!! Don't let the very cute picture of M fool you!!

Progress is slow but steady...we signed some documents Monday and are awaiting our first vist to court to start the official legal process. We expect to go before a judge next week sometime.