The French Connection and 2 Years Home…

Two years ago today, we woke up for the first time as a family of seven on American soil.

The day we physically got to hold our kids for the first time was August 3, 2012. We were declared a family in the eyes of the Colombian government September 10, 2012. We came to the United States on September 20, 2012.

We don’t know what date is most important, but they are all special to us. In some ways, it feels like an eternity, but in other ways, it feels like just yesterday. We still fight some adoptive-specific battles here and there, but today 99% of the stuff we deal with is normal kid stuff.

We look back from time to time and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. Two naive parents that didn’t have a clue what to do and five kids who’s entire life and culture were about to change… With a lot of on-the-job training and the grace of God, we are where we are today.

In looking back, a film crew from France was doing a documentary on adoptive children in Colombia on the day we met our kids, August 3, 2012. Because of that, we have those first few moments of seven strangers becoming a family captured on video (with French overdubs). Feel free to watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmK8-nmPTR0&feature=youtu.be

As you can see, the baby was not certain about the whole idea of a new family. To be honest, none of us were, but it is amazing to see how the strangers in this movie would become the most important people in each others’ lives.

Thank you to all and thank you to God for making that moment the start of the hardest, most fun, scariest, most worthwhile, happiest journey of our lives.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

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Coming home…

4am came very early & very fast after a long night of packing.  The kids woke up like champs & within 5minutes were fully awake & ready to van a la Texas!  We were all ready with bags at the curb by 5am & headed to the airport. After a long check-in with the passport office, security, American airlines, & immigration we were finally at our gate.  Our oldest had already broken down in tears about 15 times.  Anything that was said that he didn’t agree with, or thought took too long, or wasn’t the right color, anything that wasn’t exactly what he wanted caused a breakdown, poor guy he was nervous.

Ready to go, 9 suitcases later…

Praise the Lord that airplanes are so cool, while we waited to load the plane the kids were all enthralled with the planes taking off.

Excited to get on the plane…

The first plane ride was pretty uneventful.  Everyone behaved themselves for the most part, Darth took a short nap.  The only drama was at the beginning.  Turns out booking 8 seats together with a 2 day notice is difficult.  So we loaded on the plane & began the great seat-switch of 2012.  We asked the flight attendant to help us & she said to get in our seats until the plane was full & then she would help us.  Well as you would have guessed the kids freaked out, luckily when you leave a crying/screaming kid next to a stranger they cannot wait to trade places with you & let you sit by your kid!  I love it when a plan comes together!!

As we landed in Miami, the kids asked immediately, “Texas?”.  Nope kids sorry this is Miami, then the kids ask, “Bogota?”.  We reply, “Nope Miami, the United States.”  They reply, “Texas?”   After 5 rounds of this we gave us & said, “Yep Bogota.”  When we arrived we are ushered like cattle up to the sky train to sit in the passport office where our paperwork would be processed & we could all officially enter the US & the kids would become official citizens.  Remember how great the kids did on the airplane, well I am pretty sure that they spent all of their, “good & pleasant behavior” for the day.  We sat in the  passport office for just over 2hrs.  It is a room with rows of chairs of people sitting quietly…& our family.  The kids colored, played with cars, made tents from the AA blankets we snagged from the last flight & ate snacks.  I believe that the highlight was when a woman told me that I needed to change Darth’s diaper, I had to explain to her in broken Spanish that Darth was just very gassy & that the diaper was empty…as the woman walked away Darth ripped another one.  30 minutes later Darth had finally filled her diaper & cleared all of the seats around us, baby girl can carry some stink!

An officer came & took the kids finger prints & told us that we were good to go, we were so excited because now we only had to wait 1 more hour before our plane would depart for Texas….then we got to our plane’s gate & saw that the layover was going to be nearly 3hrs.   Again can I remind you that our kid’s good & pleasant behavior ran out  a few hours ago.  We claimed a row of seats at the gate & began the “let’s entertain the kids for another 3hrs” luckily God had allowed us to stay in Bogota for 7wks so it makes you pretty fearless, we entertained the kids in a sand-box for nearly 2 months, I can handle 3hrs in the airport.  Again lots of cars, card games, chicken for dinner, changing into our TX outfits, & meltdowns filled the next few hours.

Finally it was time to load the plane & I prayed for grace for the seating situation but God had already taken care of it.  The plane was not full & we could all sit together without having to disturb anyone’s seats.  As we got into the air, the drink cart came around & big girl discovered the miracle of ice.  Darth was already sleeping & I was given a cup of ice water for her in case she woke up.   When big sister was finished with her orange juice she looked longingly at Darth’s drink.  I finally conceded & gave her the water…for the next 20min big sister delighted in the ice.  She told me that it is her favorite TX snack.

Just a cup of ice for me please

As we woke up the kids & told them we were in TX we got slow sleepy smiles & the question, “are we going to our house?”  Yes!  As we walked off of the plane & rounded the corner we saw the most beautiful sight!  A glass window with our family & friends waiting to greet us with smiles & welcome home posters!  I wish I would have snapped a picture but I was too close holding back tears, seeing these people that I had missed for months, ready to greet us with open arms!!  And luckily the kids saved just enough sweetness to be sleepy but pleasant to all of these people who were excited to see them!

Walking off of the plane! Loving our Ranger’s tshirts!

Hugs were passed around, tears were cried, cheeks were pinched, pictures were taken…we were home, we were with our family & friends where we belong!  It was after 9pm & you stayed up late to see us home & show our kids that they have friends here, what a blessing!!!

After luggage was collected & eyes were hardly able to stay open from sleepiness & emotion we headed to the van to head home.  As we reached the van eyes were popped back open & the kids were thrilled with their grande car.  Oscar was not a fan of the carseat & rode all the way home in Papi’s lap.  As we pulled into the driveway there were more friends waiting with cake & OTB queso!!  The kids ran into their house & right into their rooms, exclaiming how much they loved them. 🙂

After everyone got a glass of water we put them in bed & they went right to sleep.

We made it!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Day 48… (a.k.a. Goodnight and Goodbye Bogota)

Our last day…

We thought it would never get here, but it finally did. Tomorrow we leave, exactly seven weeks to the day that we left.

Bogota is sort of not our home and our home at the same time. After living for the better part of two months in a new place, you start to get familiar with the the tempo and quirks that make it what it is. We know a sweet lady that goes to the park every morning at about 10:30 to walk her four dogs. I can tell you who to see in the peluqueria to get the best haircut. I know the only three places in a half-mile radius that sell Mt. Dew. I also know that on Thursday night at the park, there is a pick-up game of basketball. Having said that, we still long for our real home. The place we are suppose to be… Midlothian, TX. Tomorrow we will be there.

As Chistians, I think we forget that this world is like our Bogota. We are here for a while, we get pretty comfortable with the place, but we have to always remind ourselves that we are temporary residents. Our real home is in “el cielo con Jesucristo”!

As new parents, we remind ourselves that Bogota is everything that is familiar to our children. Over the next few days, they will feel exactly like we did the first few days we were here. They are excited to be coming home, but home will feel pretty foreign for a while. We’ve done our best to show pictures and explain, but there is no substitute for the real thing. I originally wanted to end the paragraph at that last sentence, but I was two or three paragraphs below when middle brother just crawled out of bed, shaking, and sweating a little. I scooped him up in my arms and asked him if he was nervous about tomorrow. He nodded. I talked to him, made a little bed for him on the floor beside the computer, and told him I would be here all night and all of tomorrow. I told him that we would face everything that comes tomorrow, and the rest of our lives together. That’s what families do!

This is our home in Bogota. Our place is the second row of windows from the top, on the right side of the big glass windows. The corner room is where we watch wrecks at the intersection.

A picture or our last Colombian morning out our front window.

So, for our last day in Bogota, we did something very un-Bogotaian (if that is a word) – we went swimming! Every kid except Darth, Beth, and I went to the apartment of our missionary friends to use their pool… Notice that I have been speaking Spanish so long I said “apartment of our friends” instead of “friend´s apartment”! Rediculous! When we got there, the place was locked. I definitely thought I was being funny when I said, “If they don’t let us in to use the pool soon, I’m going to have to use the bathroom.” I got the “I have six kids” look from Beth. After we got in, it was nice, and the kiddies loved it. It is a rule to wear swimming caps at the pool, so we definitely looked like a gang with our caps and water pistols! Our friends were amazing hosts as always, and were super nice to our kids. Little brother got over his fear of swimming, and joined us for a solid half-hour. Then his fear of swimming came back after he got three or four mouthfuls of water as he was repositioning himself in the tube. “¡No mas, Papi, no mas!”

On a related note, now that I am a family man, I am having to make a lot of sacrifices. I wore shorts for the first time since 2004, and I went swimming for the first time since I have been out of high school (1998). Beth thinks it is funny. I think Beth needs to get a life!

This is what our four oldest do when we ask them to smile. I promise, no one is sad or in pain in this picture.

Here you go. My legs really do exist. I’m not a Nearly-Headless Nick.

The Boys- Beth told us to pose for our picture with the water pistols. I really got into it. The kids didn’t give me the memo that we were suppose to shoot back at the camera.

The whole group. I think my pose in this one came from Charlie´s Angels, which might explain why it looks so feminine in retrospect.

Big sister time. We put the blue cap on her so we knew she was a girl. In the big life vests and the swim caps, they all looked the same!

For Mr. Cautious, the crappy life-vest wasn’t enough. He required two flotation devices before venturing into the water.

As for the other members of our party, my mom stayed home and packed. Thank goodness for that. We might actually get to bed tonight because of her work. Darth stayed home with her and took a nap. I missed mine.

I need to help Beth and Mom finish up the packing, so I better leave it there for today. Thanks again to all of you that have been with us in spirit while we are so far away. Please pray for travel tomorrow. As I just told one of our friends a few minutes ago, after studying for 13 years what holds planes up, I am more nervous about flying than any other time in my life!

Look out Texas. A storm is coming!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Day 47…

There was something exciting to see the US flag waving in Colombia & something even more exciting to hear 5 Colombian voices shouting out, “La bandera de Estados Unidos!”  As we entered the Embassy we were taken to a large waiting area outside, luckily the weather was nice & the area was large enough that the kids could play without bothering anyone, once again we were thankful for the matchbox cars!

Seeing Old Glory for the first time in nearly 7wks, tears were in our eyes!

We arrived a little before 1pm & I went to the window around 1:30 & signed off on our kids paperwork.  The consulate was very kind & said wonderful things about our kids, he was from TX…ahh just like coming home!  He then said that we can hang around & they will have the visas ready by 3pm.  So that´s just what we did, the kids had a snack, played with cars & ended the day with an ice cream treat from the “Crepes & Waffles” shop on the Embassy premises. And at 3pm we heard that wonderful call on the loud-speaker,  “Will Elizabeth or Justin come to the window…your visas are ready!”  Whoo hoo!!! We can come home & bring all 5 of the kids with us :)!

As we were waiting for the visas to be processed Lucy pointed out a young girl to me who was working at the coffee shop & said that she saw her crying one day when Lucy was here with another family getting their visas & Lucy asked her what was wrong.  The girl replied, “I grew up in an orphanage in Bogota & never got adopted, all I know how to do is pour coffee, I never had anyone to love me or take care of me, or teach me anything,  I wish that I had one of your families.”  Friends we are bringing home 5 children, they are no longer orphans but there are still so many out there…

I pray that more people are called to adoption, it is very difficult & it should be.  You are being entrusted to take care of another life: there is no promise that it will be easy, that they will take care of you when you are older, that they will come to know the Lord, that they will be kind to you, that you will like them every day, that they will be healthy, that they won´t destroy your house & everything in it, that they will strain your marriage, that they won´t strain your family.  Like everything in life there is no guarantees but there is a promise that you will be honoring God, loving His child, & learning more about the gift of salvation every single day.

My children´s job was to accept the possibility of family, they had to say, “yes we want a Papi & Mami.”  We had to fill out the paperwork, save for years, change our spending lifestyle, live in a foreign land, go to court, be scrutinized in EVERY aspect of our lives.  People like to remind us what a blessing we will be for these children & how generous of us to take in 5 orphans.  Oh friends we are greedy pigs, we wanted a family, we wanted children & God so lovingly provided these children, our children.

Oh friends, adoption is ready, children are waiting, step up!

There were no flights with room enough for 8 tomorrow…but on Wednesday we will be headed HOME!!! On a side note, we owe our landlord nothing!!  To God be the glory!

♦♦♦

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 84:10-12

♦♦♦

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Day 46…

Sorry friends, Tyler found me asleep on the couch so we will keep it short & sweet tonight…

A good day, we went back to the church again & had a much better week.  We were so blessed by the music they played a lot of songs that we recognized & could sing along with in English & the kids did much better this week too.

This was the first song that was played in the service…

http://db.tt/NNOOqyfH

Also on a side note, for all of you FBC members there is a Colombian Dickey.  Martha spotted him last week & we were able to snap a somewhat obscure picture today, he is so kind & counts just like at home.  Can´t wait to add 5 new kids to the congregation & 2 new grandparents, that´s right for the first time in years Tyler & I will have the privilege to worship with both sets of our parents & our kids, we are beyond excited!

Look who is back in church

Loves the singing!

Please notice the gentleman holding open the door, he is the Colombian Dickey (for our fellow FBC members), wish we had a better picture!

The rest of our day was as normal, lunch, movie, park & dinner…followed by a great game of coin rolling.

This is a special shout-out for Aunt Mari…¿is there something on my face?

Coin rolling, entertained the kids for over an hour!

Challenge

Church was so good, not because the kids behaved but because of this sweet gift that God gave us.  At the end of worship we sang “How Great Thou Art”, singing about the glory of our Savior in my children´s country with fellow believers, words I know by heart because of my parents devotion to bringing me to church every Sunday, the blessing of these children that we have been entrusted to be parents to hit me again.   God is so good.

Tomorrow we head to the US Embassy in hopes of getting our visas.  I wish I could express to you the importance that we get the visas tomorrow.  We have been praying without ceasing since Thursday, please join us.  Our appointment is tomorrow at 1:30pm.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth


			

Day 45…

How do we fill another day in Colombia…

Starting the day off with some Tom & Jerry, please remember that our children have started their day with the same cartoons for a solid month now & they still love them!

Then we headed to the park & God provided some free entertainment.  First 2 boys were there with their remote control car & this kept our children´s attention for over an hour, until the boys ran out of gas for their car.   Luckily by that time a large group of teenagers arrived & our kids observed them & their games (lots of capture the flag & freeze tag) for another hour.

Our kids watched this car for over ah hour.

The jumps got a cheer everytime from our kids!

Nothing like a group of teenagers to keep your kid´s attention for another hour

We then headed home for lunch & wouldn´t you know that immediately after lunch there was a wreck on our corner, we have now seen a total of 7 wrecks on that one corner.  I had 2 kids that were struggling to finish their food & kept on playing but as soon as Mami said, “you can´t go watch the wreck clean up until you are done.” The food was shoveled down fast.  Sorry friends but yes this was about a 30min activity, the kids love to watch the police arrive, the clean-up, & then decide whose fault it was.  Since it is a 4-way stop with no stop signs this always leads to some great conversations, usually the kids decide that the person with the ugliest car is at fault.

Yep, we watched this wreck clean-up for about 30min

After Darth´s nap we headed to Del Rodeo, not for dinner but to play on the indoor playground.  Don´t worry we ordered juice for everybody so we were not free-loaders!

Please note that anytime we ask Little brother to smile we are given this precious grimace

Ugh this girl is just too cute!

A family pose, look closely for our 2 oldest up top

Afterwards we headed to get some Chinese food for dinner, it was the kid´s first time to have it & they all ate it up, the only thing picked out was the steamed spinach.

Ending the night by bringing home Chinese food for dinner.

After dinner a story, bible story, prayer & off to bed.

A little reading before bedtime, look at all that brown hair precious!

Praying that this time next week they are all tucked into their own beds with their church clothes laid out for tomorrow´s service at FBC!  Get ready there is a van of kids headed your way!!

Another day done 🙂

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Day 44…

Guess what friends, we have 5 kids & 5 passports & 5 doctor´s reports!  Everything is ready to go for our visit to the US Embassy on Monday.  We are fervently praying that we can get the visas on Monday & be able to book flights & fly out on Thursday, right now there are enough seats available on Thursday flights (we had our handy-dandy
American Airlines friend scouting AA flights home for us).

Saving their brother from a crocodile that lives in the “water” at the park, gotta love those imaginations!

Watching Meet the Robinsons & the kids are all about inventing, this was one of today´s

Celebrating Martha´s 1 month in Bogota with burgers

Home on Thursday, I still can´t fully believe that it will happen yet, not until we are holding those visas in our hands.

We are so ready to come home!  Tomorrow we start another weekend, another 2 days to fill.  Martha has been here a month on Sunday, on Thursday it will be 7wks for our family.  When you start the adoption process & you hear that you could be in-country for 4-8wks, I got in my heart & head 4wks.  7wks in a foreign country with 5 kids.  I still can´t believe it.  I remember the first 7-11 days, we were TERRIFIED.  We would count down the hours until the day ended & then fear when they would wake up in the morning.  Oh baby how far we have come!  We no longer fear our children, we are excited when they wake up, we are greeted with I love you´s & hugs, they are excited to spend the day with us.  If one has a melt-down I no longer panic, I know it will come to an end & we will have grown a little more as a family.  I remember days of bad weather panicked about what to do & dreading being in the apartment all day.  Or the fear of going anywhere besides the park that is right by our house because the traffic is so crazy.

I am thankful that I worked at the YMCA for the good part of 9yrs & have hours of training in children´s activities & games & tons of talented friends that are rich with advice & happy to share, that my husband is great with directions, that my husband has finished his PhD (he knows how to not give up), that working at church with the youth we learned how to pray for our kids, when we were sick my mom a nurse was here to get us well, Martha retired this past June & has been able to stay with us for a month (WE COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT HER!!!), thankful that Tyler & I have worked as VIP´s in our church´s nursery for the past 5yrs, I am thankful that we kept on living.

Don´t let road-blocks stop you from doing what is right.  Pastor always says, “if you don´t know the next step go to the last step & keep doing it until God tells you the next one.”  We cannot tire of doing good.  Tyler & I lived nearly 5yrs of frustration in desire for children & in 1yr our prayers were answered but we needed to be prepared for this journey.  We needed to fight the lion & bear in the pasture before we faced Goliath.  I pray that we stop wasting time & find contentment in our circumstance, that we honor God where we are in life & that we are living daily to please Him.

Bogota has been hard, harder that I could have ever imagined but not once have I thought that we are out of God´s hand.  We are given one life, one very short life…

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.          2 Peter 1:5-11

At the dinnermesa,

Beth