Imagination…

Today, when I got home from work, the kids told me they were able to speak French. My knee-jerk reaction was to disagree, but with the quickness that they picked up English, I was motivated to listen. I asked them to speak in French for me, to which they said the following word:

“Ponchew!”

When I asked what it meant, they told me it was a shoe for a little pig.

Over the course of the evening, they incorporated their new word into conversations. Because their word was French, and the French are classy individuals, it was done with an aire of sophistication…

“Un ponchew Senor.”

“Gracias Princesa”

I’m guessing that in their mind, shoes for little pigs are a plaything of royalty and the super wealthy. While that sounds a little ridiculous at first, I think about Fabergé eggs and remember that someone at some point convinced a Russian king that bedazzling an egg that could hang around his neck would be the coolest thing ever.

Their imagination is amazing to watch, and it reminded me of a few other times that I’ve seen them play…

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A few months ago, I walked in on the following scenario: Four kids were on the top bunk in the girls’ room. The remaining child was hiding under a blanket with our bucket of plastic dinosaurs on the floor. As I entered the room, I was immediately told to be quiet by the kids on the top bunk. I consented and watched at a distance. One of the kids at the top threw one end of their jump-rope over the side of the bed. The one under the blanket immediately grabbed a dinosaur, tied the rope around its neck, and gave two quick tugs on the rope, all while doing their best to remain hidden. The dinosaur was pulled up, and the other kids gave an “Oooo!” as the identity was revealed.

I could no longer maintain my residence. I had to ask. “What are you doing?”

“Papi! We’re fishing for dinosaurs.” I guess I thought there was more there, but there wasn’t. The simple explanation was the correct one.

I was then reminded that if I talk too loud, I would scare the other dinosaurs away. Obviously it was too delicate a procedure for someone as cantankerous as me to participate, so I left.
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After watching “Meet the Robinsons” they were inspired to invent something. Their idea of inventing something was to stick two or more unrelated toys together.

The youngest son put all his cars in a bucket, and showed me his “invention”. I congratulated him on inventing “cleaning up” and encouraged him to use his invention more often at the house.

Some of the others put a lot of sand in cups and strainers and fastened them all together. As they showed me their invention, I asked what it did. They told me they didn’t know but reminded me of how neat it looked. That sort of reminded me of something else that looks pretty good but doesn’t do much: Kim Kardashian.
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Have you ever noticed that the plastic army men can’t actually engage in battle? All they can do is stand on those little plastic blobs and pose dramatically. My boys decided that merely depicting what looks like a snapshot of an intense battle was not enough.

They chose to set up their army men on two sides, and would take turns rolling a quarter to “take out” the other troops. If a man fell over, he was dead, and his corpse was quickly carried to the side as the next salvo commenced. The person that killed all soldiers on the other side won. This game was played for several hours a few weeks ago.

Even though the Tan and Green have been fighting each other with Vietnam-era weapons for years, the boys chose Civil War tactics by putting them in nice straight rows. Since the battlefield was tile and a few table legs, they didn’t have much cover anyway.
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I’m glad God gave them imaginations, and every day, they learn to use the toys they have in new ways.

I’m glad that they have four brothers and sisters, because they are rarely mad at all of them and can usually find one with whom to play.

I’m glad that they can play. When they play, they just enjoy being kids. Every kid needs to just enjoy being a kid from time to time. We have our whole lives to be grown-ups.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Birthdays, Spiritual and Physical…

Two Sundays ago, we had a busy day.

Our two oldest got baptized after accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior  a few weeks earlier on May 7th, and Darth had a birthday.

The night before, we were driving home after visiting with friends and family, and Beth and I were discussing what final preparations needed to be done that night while the kids were listening to Christmas music in the back (Yes. Christmas music. I live with Beth and five kids… I just go with it now). This conversation was happening in English, which has been Mami and Papi’s secret love language. Our oldest son, in the fourth row, asks our oldest daughter, in the second row, what we were talking about. She turns around and says in Spanish, “After Mom and Dad put us to bed, Mom has to go to the store and buy drinks, paper plates, and napkins, and Dad needs to go to the back yard and finish setting up the tables and chairs.”

They know English!

When did that happen? I guess there’s a time in every parent’s life when they get that moment of pause and realize that conversations had in front of their children are no longer secret. After all, kids don’t pop out of their moms talking (Except for that really funny SNL skit with Will Ferrell).

Faced with this realization, we decided we would go ahead the next day with our plans of me translating in the baptistery, even though I became like one of those little plastic swords or parsley you get with your meal at a restaurant… just there to make the things that matter look good. The other detail that didn’t go according to plan was the lack of water… Yup. We realized Sunday morning that we forgot to fill the baptistery up. I think my brother, dad, and I estimated that this sucker takes over 200 gallons, so simply turning on the faucet doesn’t result in instant gratification or even room-temperature water (un poco frio)! We started filling it before Sunday School, and it was getting close by the time service started. We did decide that, with four people in the water at one time, we could displace what we didn’t have time to fill (Thanks Archimedes – you are proof that most great moments of brilliance happen in the bathtub).

We went upstairs, and got changed. It is my parent’s job to help those that are getting baptized on Sunday mornings, so it was nice to have them there to share in a personal moment before the actual baptism. Also, a sweet young college student that we were blessed to share our house with before we had kids was up to encourage our kids and take pictures too.

We weren't on vacation, but we did the vacation pose anyway. It seemed appropriate.

We weren’t on vacation, but we did the vacation pose anyway. It seemed appropriate.

Then, the part of the service came. It was so cool (pun only slightly intended). We all got in, and our oldest girl and I were on the side as my son moved to center stage.

The two questions I translated:

1. “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?”

2. “Are you being baptized today to give evidence of your faith?”

Si and Si! Baptism!

The oldest, getting dunked.

The oldest, getting dunked. (My dad ready to assist in the background).

He then traded places with big sister, and the same questions and responses were given. Baptism!

Y big sister tambien!

Y big sister tambien! She didn’t come up as gracefully…

It was great to look out and see our family in the crowd… our physical family and our church family. It is so amazing to see how many people have embraced our kids. They needed Jesus (first and foremost) and a Mom and Dad… but they got so much more! After the service, we took a ton of photos of them and just a few of the people that love them so much, but we had to get home and get ready for our second big event – Darth’s party.

Priority one – Put the guest of honor to bed! We thought that the grumpiness of a sleepy child mixed with a very self-centered day may prove to be a dangerous cocktail.

After that, Beth and I busied ourselves cooking and keeping the other four kids entertained while we waited for guests to arrive. As people trickled in, we turned on the water for the kids, set up some fans for the adults, and began a three-hour grazing period. We got a slip-and-slide and some other fun water toys for the kids to play with outside, and they had a good time. Some things that didn’t quite go to plan:

1. After a very moving sermon about prayer that morning, guess who has two thumbs and forgot to bless the food… This guy! Although, it isn’t totally my fault. Darth has never had that much attention in her life, and she froze a bit on us. The idea was after singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out candles which, coupled with a prayer, was suppose to herald the commencement of food. However, we had to deal with a three-year-old that just woke up from a nap and was quite disoriented with a throng of people looking at her and singing. I imagine it is what Ted Williams will experience when they finally de-thaw him.

2. Beth imagined a rousing game of water-balloon fighting in the midst of the party. She sat up most of the night filling water balloons and putting them in our metal trough that I bought from Tractor Supply for various jobs around the house a few years ago. Sadly, these water balloons were not the pregnant bombs we had intended them to be. We chose quantity over quality, so they would bust if we filled them bigger than an apple. Also, something happened overnight, because that morning, two thirds of them had burst. Does that dampen (no pun intended) a child’s spirit? No. Our water balloon war turned into a Hillbilly bathtub. About half the kids decided to sit in the feeding trough with the nasty rubber floaties from former water bombs at some point throughout the party. I even think I got a thank-you from one of my boys for the picina (swimming pool). Anything for you, son!

3. The great people at Wham-o, know exactly how long to make a slip-and-slide. It is approximately 15 feet. Beth and I thought we would leverage the gently sloping grade of our back yard, buy two slip-and-slides, and connect them for about 30 feet of delight. I spent about two hours the day before carefully cutting and connecting the two slip-and-slides. We tested it to make sure there were no leaks or other unforseen issues. No problems! Unfortunately, I had no way to empirically measure (with children staying clean) the coefficient of friction of the average 50-pound child. As I watched kids at the party, all would get a running start, land on their belly, and slide for about… ummm… I’d say… about… yeah… 15 feet. The back half became a waiting room for those that looking for an opening in the Hillbilly bathtub.

Birthday Girl... after adjusting to popularity.

Birthday Girl… after waking up and adjusting to popularity.

Yes. That's the back seat of the van and a ladder... We had to get creative!

Yes. That’s the back seat of the van and a ladder… We had to get creative!

Our water park was a big more sophisticated than Duck Dynasty, but not by much. Notice the "swimming pool off to the right".

Our water park was a bit more sophisticated than Duck Dynasty, but not by much. Notice the “swimming pool” off to the right.

Beth and I debriefed afterwards. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but it was a fun and beautiful day in the life of our family. I did the math, and we only have 65 more birthdays left! Hopefully there will be more baptisms too! I won’t forget to pray for that!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Re-Adoption…

Last Friday, we did our re-adoption.

I think Beth posting this picture to her Facebook and writing “It’s official” confused some people, so I thought I would take a minute to explain it a little more…

It's Official!

It’s Official! …Wait! What does that mean?!?

First off, let me say that it was official when we received our sentencia from the Family Court in Bogota on September 10th of last year. That legally named us the mother and father of the kids, who were officially in the care of the Colombian government at that time. When they stepped foot on US soil ten days later, they were legally US citizens.

So, what’s the big deal? Why did we spend four months of savings to do it again? Well, even though they are our children and US citizens, the documentation that makes them our children was issued in a foreign country. Because they live here and are subject to our laws, both state and federal, legal matters get tricky when a foreign government made the decision that you want your own government to honor.

If you go to fwcc.org (Families with Children from China) website, they have the following list of reasons why it is important to do a re-adoption (I think their words are better than mine):

>· Adoption is a matter of state law and each state has its own laws. A state court adoption decree issued as a result of a re-adoption is fully independent of the foreign decree. As a result, if you have an adoption decree issued by a U.S. state court, all other states in the U.S. are required under the U.S. Constitution to give full faith and credit to the decree and to all of your child’s rights under the decree. Therefore, obtaining a U.S. state adoption decree assures you that every state in the U.S. will recognize the decree and makes it unnecessary to rely solely on the validity of a decree issued under a foreign law.

>· Federal laws, such as Social Security, can be based on a state’s underlying law regarding adoption, inheritance, etc. In certain circumstances a U.S. state issued adoption decree, as opposed to a foreign adoption decree, is required for an adopted child to be entitled to social security benefits through his or her parents or parent.

> · There are practical concerns. An adoption decree from a U.S. state court will be in English. The adoption documents that are issued from your child’s country of birth are generally in a language other than English and will always need to be accompanied by separate English translations. Should you need to prove the adoption it will be easier for you or your child to be able to refer to one document that is written in English and is readily recognizable as a decree of adoption. In addition, you will have a limited number of originals of the documents from your child’s country of origin. Should you lose these it will be difficult if not impossible to obtain additional “originals” or certified copies. If you have a U.S. state adoption decree you can easily obtain additional copies if necessary. For example, when you apply for a U.S. Passport for your child, you will be required to send them an original copy of the foreign adoption documents for processing of the passport. If you have a U.S. state adoption decree, you can use this in its place, and give this to the Passport Office rather than risk losing the original foreign decree.

> · Usually a legal name change is part of the adoption decree so that all of your child’s future documents will reflect his or her “American” name. As it is a court-ordered name change, the USCIS should issue the Certificate of Citizenship in the child’s new name. Otherwise, if the child’s U.S. visa and other immigration documents are in the former name some USCIS and Social Security offices will not issue documents in the child’s “American” name.

> · Some states require that you readopt before it will issue a birth certificate for your child.

> · The re-adoption hearing is usually a friendly proceeding before a Judge, either in a courtroom or a small room. Usually family members and friends are allowed to come to the hearing. The hearing can serve as an opportunity for other members of your family or friends to be involved in the adoption of your child, who could not attend the initial adoption abroad.

> · Finally, an adoption decree issued from a U.S. state court will provide your family with additional peace of mind and protection should the foreign country involved, or others, ever challenge the validity of the adoption of your child or adoptions from the country generally. You may at some point want to bring your child to visit his or her country of birth. A U.S. state issued adoption decree will prove and confirm his or her status as your child under U.S. laws.

So re-adoption, from what I can tell, looked at the sentencia that we received, said it is good, and echoed it with an adoption decree here in the US.

This was very different from court in Bogota. That is not to say one was better than the other; they were just very different experiences, even though they essentially do the same thing.

In Bogota, the family court was more like an office. There was a window in front of the court we were assigned to, and a long line of people. Inside there were lots of busy people working to take care of the paperwork. In the far back was the judge’s office. We got to see the judge in her office, but it wasn’t because that was part of the normal procedure. It was because our lawyer knew certain people that would allow us to go back and visit. We visited twice.

Once was with all the kids before the ruling. We got the kids in nice clothes and tried our best to look like June and Ward Cleaver to “seal the deal”. Our judge was super nice and spoke to our kids in Spanish a little. That was before we were very good at it, so our lawyer spoke for us.

After we got a ruling, I went back to the court to pick up the paperwork, and, while there, I told the judge thank you because I was getting a lot better at Spanish at that point. FYI… halfway through telling her “thank you”, I accidentally used the familiar “tu” instead of the much more respectful “usted”. I threw in a few “Lo sientos” to make it better, but I think she looked past the error.

The mechanics of the court in Bogota (What the busy people behind the window were doing while we weren’t there) are better explained in the last four paragraphs of this blog post.

Here is the US, it was more like what you think about when you see Judge Judy or Night Court. We went to the Family Law Center in Fort Worth and met our lawyer 15 minutes before our court date. He gave us a quick rundown of what to expect. Then we went into the court. There was a bailiff (not “Bull”), a judge (not Judy), our lawyer, and our entourage (Us, the kids, and Beth’s parents and sister). That was it. I think that had more to do with the fact that we were the first decision of the day for the judge and not because we weren’t super cool. We didn’t have to sit on the defendant side or the plantiff side. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have to sit at all.

We were sworn in (the kids mimicked us, even though they didn’t have to give testimony) and our lawyer asked me a series of questions to which he told me before-hand the answer would always be “yes”.

“Have these children been in your care for more than 6 months?”

“Have they been examined by a medical doctor of your choosing?”

“Are you satisfied with their mental, emotional, and physical state?”

Those are the ones I can remember. There were three or four others. He asked Beth after hearing my testimony if she agreed. Fortunately, she didn’t let me down! At that time, I think the judge was enjoying himself, and he asked if “Grandma wanted to testify…” Beth’s mom didn’t let us down either! Like the proud Grandma she is, she said “It’s like they’ve always been our grandkids. It’s hard to think of life without them.”

The judge was kind enough to let us take some pictures of the court and us in it. We looked like tourists. We stopped just short of  hanging off the judge’s podium for our staged “hung jury” photo since the next case was coming in, but it was super nice to enjoy a court setting where nobody was mad at each other.

We then went downstairs and waited about 15 minutes for our paperwork. They told us that our final adoption decree and birth certificates would come at the end of September. We could pay them more money and get them sometime in August… How does more money make the government do what it is suppose to do faster? We saved the extra money and will be waiting.

We approached the bench.

We approached the bench.

Me giving my testimony... Our youngest son receiving the testimony of her mother of what will happen if he doesn't get back in line.

Me giving my testimony… I wasn’t aware, but our youngest son was giving a testimony too.

Because all that happened before 9:00 am, we decided to indoctrinate the kids into another piece of (North) American culture – Cracker Barrel!

It was a good day and the last part of our adoption… Now we can start living happily ever after. So far so good!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty