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Friday, January 26, 2007

Our Adoption Time Line per request.

*Decided to adopt in Jan. 2006
*Signed with agency in March
*Paper ready by May
*Baby girl born May 7
*Received referral May 11 (and accepted it in my heart that instant)
*Officially accepted referral May 13
*Dossier to GC June 19
*Visit trip Aug. 10-13 - Amazing!
*DNA done Aug. 25 Finally!
*It's a Match! Aug. 30
*Decided on her name ~ Soleil - Sept. 30
*PreApproval - Oct. 3
*Second visit trip Oct. 4-10
*Into PGN - Oct. 23
*Kicked Out of PGN for who knows what - Nov. 7
*Resubmitted to PGN - Nov. 17
*Traveled to Guatemala with my 3 older kids to foster our baby in Antigua - Dec. 6
*Dave joined us for Christmas Dec. 20-27
*Out of PGN Jan. 10, 2007 (after 11 1/2 weeks)
*Adoption decree signed Jan. 13
*New birth certificate issued for "Damaris Stewart" ~ Jan. 22
*Dave arrived to help bring us home - Jan. 29
*Submitted to the Embassy for the final appointment date (pink slip) - Feb. 1
*Visited the Rio Dulce (where Dave and I met almost 12 years ago) Feb. 1-4 (pics to follow)
*Hoping to have Soli's new passport and our pink slip in hand by the end of tomorrow Feb. 6

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Never a dull moment in Antigua...

We made it through Rotavirus and stomach flu now we're moving on to head lice. Yikes!! They seem to be going around our little complex. So far, Evie is the only one with the creepy crawlies (and she actually only had one), but just thinking about it is making me itchy all over. Luckily, Catalina, our caretaker's wife, was able to set me up with the poison and the protocol that I need to get rid of the buggers. Oh well, at least I'm not bored. On the up side we got Soli's new birth certificate today, and our attorney is planning to submit our case to the embassy on Monday. The embassy then has 48 hours to issue the "pink slip" which gives the time for the final embassy appointment (usally a week or so after the date of issuance). During this appointment the US Embassy gives the adoption one final seal of approval, there is some exchange of paperwork, and I think this is when the baby's visa is paid for (which has to be picked up the next day). Dave is flying down Monday, and we are all tentatively planning to fly home on February 12. I have such mixed feelings about going home. I love it here. I love that we have no car, no Costco, no boy scouts, no school. I miss my husband desperately, and single parenting obviously has its challenges (especially where large quantities of vomit are involved), but otherwise I don't miss the hustle and bustle of our California life. I know that I'll have major culture shock when we get home, and I just hope we can bring a little of our Antigua lifestyle home with us to California (minus the head lice!). We'll see...Thanks for checking in. ~Heather

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ruinas Las Capuchinas

Here are some pics from our infamous trip to the ruins. In a nutshell I was expecting ruins as in "big pile of rubble" where my rowdy children could let loose. I wasn't expecting pristinely preserved 17th century architecture. It was absolutely beautiful, but I had not prepared my kids for museum behavior. Anyway, as they were bouncing off the crumbling walls I dropped the bajeemini out of my camera which seriously stressed me out because I love my camera so. As you'll notice most of the below pictures have a black shadow in one corner or the other. My poor camera. It really hasn't been the same since and it shudders when I turn it on, which can't be good.

They look so sweet and innocent in this picture.

This one, too.

Looking a little naughty.

Do you see the moon above the ruins? And, of course, the edge of the Earth in the top left hand corner? Just kidding.

They aren't sure what the purpose is for these "cells". There are 18 in total and they are arranged in a perfect circle with a common area in the middle. They think they may have been an isolation bay for contagious diseases. I thought they looked like little rooms each with there own private bathroom. I'm not kidding. Each room had a little niche in the wall where one could sit quite comfortably and take care of business. These "toilets" had an opening that entered the building's sewage system. Can you believe that? Amazing.

View from one of the "suites" overlooking the perfectly manicured garden.

I look just like my mom in this picture. I can so remember her cooing at her babies (she has six) and making that exact face.

They were playing Power Rangers...Rescue!!

It's amazing how pictures can make any adventure look twice as fun as it was.

And then just a few hours later Soli came down with rotavirus. Poor girl. We went through a lot of towels...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

She´s Ours!!!

It´s over!! Our adoption of Soleil is complete! The final decree was signed by the birth mother on Saturday, and now Soli is legally our daughter! I am so relieved. Dave is flying down in a week and a half for our embassy appointments. We´re planning on taking the kids to see some of the sights and to visit the Rio Dulce (where Dave and I met almost 12 years ago) while he´s here. Then we´ll be on our way home! We´re flying through Miami, and we´ve arranged for a long layover so we can have lunch and introduce Soli to her Miami grandparents. We´re hoping to be home by the second week in February in time to get the kids on the slopes once or twice before the snow melts. And, hopefully, they´ll still have Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks! Thank you all so much for your continued support and warm wishes. I´ll be keeping this blog going for several months after we´re home (and then it´ll probably morph into a family blog). I´m having technical difficulties with my computer, but once I have those sorted I´ll be posting pics of our infamous day at the ruins. As always, thanks for checking in. -Heather

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I thought the day would never come...

We're out of PGN!! Got the call today from our agency. So we should be heading home in 3 - 4 weeks. Yeah!
On the health front... by Saturday Soli had made a full recovery from Rotavirus, but on Monday night she started throwing up again. Ughh!! Then Cole started throwing up, then Emerson woke up with a tummy ache. Then last night I came down with it. The good news is that it seems to have been a 24 hour bug of some sort. The kids are all better (Evie never had it), and I expect that by tomorrow I'll be 100% myself. Then we'll celebrate our PGN out!! MacDonald's here we come!
The last couples weeks have been rough, and as much as we've enjoyed our time here in Antigua I think we'll all be happy to sleep in our own beds. Thanks for checking in. ~Heather

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Coleman meets La Policia

Coleman had a little "run-in" with the local authorities today. He and a friend from our complex had scaled one of the walls around our property to play soccer on the neighboring church's soccer field. They had received, what they considered, permission to do so from "some guy in a red shirt". So they asked me if it was OK, and I couldn't pin point an exact reason to say no (although I ignored that little voice in the back of my head that was saying it was a bad idea.). About a half an hour later one of my neighbors comes rushing up to my door and says, "Can you help me translate? The police are here and they've got someone's kids!" Instantly, I was panicked as I looked around quickly for my own kids who had all been playing outside. I only counted three, and as we got to the front gate I saw that, yes indeed, there was number four peeking guiltily out from the backseat of a black, four door Policia truck. Let me give you the full image...There are two men at the gate with rather stern looks on their faces, dressed in all black and hands poised over the guns on their belts. Then, in the truck across the street (all black with bright yellow writing, POLICIA CIVIL), was a driver, two dumbstruck American kids, three more uniform clad policia in the bed of the pick-up, and lastly, standing just behind the vehicle, were two additional policia, each holding a semi-automatic weapon! (At least I think that's what they're called!) You can imagine my shock. Apparently, the church director had seen the boys playing soccer and had called the police (I'm sure they looked supremely threatening.). When the authorities arrived they raced their pick-up across the grass toward the boys at an alarming speed. (I hope they did damage to the well manicured lawn.) Coleman said he froze (paralyzed with fear, no doubt) while the other boy tried to flee the scene! When the truck stopped the federales jumped out, drawing their weapons and pointing them at the kids! Can you imagine?! I'm so pissed! Who points semi-automatic weapons at kids playing soccer??? For Chrissake!! I'm surprised they didn't pee their pants! So, as I stood there, gaping at my son in the back of a policia pick-up, the guys at the gate proceed to tell me that these two boys had been caught trespassing and were lucky they hadn't been shot. He continued to say something (by now I was having trouble understanding because my brain was starting to short circuit) about taking the boys "downtown" to where, apparently, there is a special home for naughty, trespassing boys! I was freaking out! But, I calmly explained to them that the boys had received permission to play soccer at the church. He told me that if they had permission, they should have gone through the front gate (like civilized people) instead of jumping the wall (like rowdy Americans). By now I'm realizing that this situation is likely going to cost me a mordida (a bribe). So I ask him, "Que hacemos?" "What do we do?" He asked me which boy was mine and I told him. He and his partner exchanged smiles and said something to each other that I didn't quite catch (again, major short circuiting), and then they took down my name and age. Then, to my utter amazement, they opened the back door to the pick-up and let the boys out, without the exchange of a single Quetzal. They told me to tell the boys to use the front gate next time. I assured them that the boys would never go over the wall again, and they were on their way with a smile and a nod. Ughh! You can imagine that we were all rather glad to hunker down in our cozy little house with the doors locked and the curtains drawn for the next couple of hours. Come to think of it, we haven't left the house since! Coleman shed a few tears after the whole ordeal, but I think it may have been good for him. A little respect for authority never hurt anyone... Honestly! Tweenagers!! I would gladly pay $50 for a picture of those boys in the back of that truck. Oh well... There's always next time. Just kidding.

Our hike to Cerro de la Cruz

On the day after Christmas we took the kids (plus a couple extras) on a hike up to the Cross on the hill above Antigua. Here are some pictures from our day.

We took Jhonathan and Fabiola, our caretaker's kids, with us.

You can see almost the whole city from up there.
See the volcano in the background? Probably responsible for the earthquake we had here the other day.

The arch over 5th Avenue.

Look at my happy girl!

Iglesia La Merced
I love this man...

Another cool old church.

La Policia y La Plaza Central

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We're on the director's desk!

We got word today that we did not get kicked out of PGN last week after all, and, in fact, our file is on the director's desk waiting for approval as we thought. That was great news. We could still be kicked out, but hopefully we'll be approved in the next couple of weeks. That will be a great day. After that the birth mother signs off for the last time (bittersweet somehow) and the final adoption decree will be issued. At that point Soleil will legally be our daughter. Then we wait for a new birth certificate, (with our last name), a Guatemalan passport to be issued for her, and finally, the US emabassy will issue the final embassy appointment (pink slip). Once we have our embassy appointment and Soli has been seen by the embassy doctor we'll pick up her visa (so she can enter the US), and we'll be free to come home!!! Once we touch down on US soil Soleil will be a US citizen. (This is because Dave and I visited her in her birth country before the adoption was finalized.) The last 3-4 steps after exiting PGN usually take 3-4 weeks. I'm trying to keep that big bottle of olive oil in my mind and trying not to get my hopes up that we'll be out of PGN soon. These last five days have been a good reminder that this is an unpredictable journey at best. I have no idea how long we'll be down here, and I knew that coming into this. We're on our way, but we still have plenty of check marks to go. Please keep us in your thoughts. Thanks for checking in. ~Heather
P.S. Soli is in a holding pattern with rotavirus. She's not much better today, but not worse either. I'm keeping her pumped with fluids. She upchucked this morning, but I think it may have been due to a big burp followed by a quick cough. There was no heaving involved (if you know what I mean...). Her diarrhea does seem to be more persistent. We're going through the diapers, wipes, and desitin (not to mention the outfits from the blow outs). I'll keep you all posted.
"I don't feel so good and I just want my Mommy to hold me all day (and most of the night)."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Quick Soli update...

Just a super quick note to let you all know that Soli seems to be on the mend (hold on while I find some wood...ok). She slept through the night last night (Gracias a Dios!) and hasn't thrown up again. She is continuing to take her soy formula on a normal schedule, and tonight I gave her some pedialyte just for fun. She still has diarrhea but it's really minor. I could almost chalk up the difference to the change in formula. We find out tomorrow the status of our case. I did, however, buy the large bottle of olive oil today at the Bodegona. I think this is my way of coming to terms with the fact that we are likely to be here long enough to need the big bottle. The good news is that if we're here long enough we'll get to experience Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Easter in Antigua. They have these processions and sawdust carpets that are supposed to be just amazing. If I can trick myself into hoping that we're here for Semana Santa then surely we won't be, right? Here's to hoping...My mom called tonight and said that she's looking into coming down. It would be so lovely to have her down here. The other night while I was walking my sick baby through my dark house at 4 in the morning I had a delirious moment when I thought to call my mom to see if she could come over. Would have been a rather long drive from California... I had another brain fart today as I was walking to the store. I was talking to Dave on my cell phone, and it was on the tip of my tongue to ask him if he wanted me to pick up anything special from the store. Honestly! Anyway, thanks for checking in. Dave took these pics of the girls "playing soccer" when he was here. Aren't they the cutest? ~H

Monday, January 01, 2007

My new "project"...

I was wishing for a new project and now I have one: rotavirus. Soli's got it. She started with the symptoms Saturday night and neither of us have slept much in the last two nights. I had Catalina (our caretaker's wife who takes care of my kids 2 afternoons a week) come over yesterday and today for a couple of hours to help me out. Yesterday I held the baby while Cata cleaned my kitchen and fed my kids. Today she held Soli while I just passed out for a couple of hours. For me, parenting (or trying to) on little to no sleep is one of the most difficult tasks there is. It has been a rough couple of days. Friday we got word that they think our case was kicked out of PGN instead of being approved as we were hoping (after 9 weeks). Saturday I took the kids to the ruins where I dropped (and seriously disfigured) my camera. We were only there for 1/2 hour but between getting there (Imagine Evie running ahead on the sidewalk toward a very busy intersection ignoring my shouts to stop, and Cole and Emerson stepping on each others' heels and incessantly pestering each other the whole way.) and trying to keep my children behaving appropriately in a museum like setting, I was totally frazzled. We closed the place down at 5:00 pm and the curator literally had to usher us out the door. It took every ounce of my energy to get my unruly children out the door. And as soon as I stepped out onto the sidewalk I just broke down. I sobbed hysterically the whole walk home. We must have been quite a sight: me sobbing uncontrollably, Evie crying because she hadn't had a nap and I wouldn't let her push the stroller, and the boys walking quite a ways behind us commiserating on what the heck to do now that Mom had apparently lost her marbles. It was definitely a low point, and, just a few hours later...rotavirus. Ouch. The good news is that there's nothing quite like a sick baby to put an end to any pity party. And Soli's bout with the nastiest virus in town seems to be relatively benign compared to some of the stories I've heard. She's only thrown up twice, and I quickly realized that it was her dairy based formula that was causing the vomiting. She has been able to keep down pedialyte as well as the soy formula that my neighbor, Marcie, had been keeping on hand for just such an occasion. (Thanks Marcie ~ I owe you!) Her diarrhea is also moderate, and, so far, I'm not concerned with dehydration. Hopefully, tonight we'll both sleep better. Sorry about the downer post. This afternoon was much better for all of us. The kids and I took a walk to get a treat (nothing like some chocolate and bubble gum to improve any situation!). Soli was feeling better and we all appreciated the fresh air and exercise. We found a little playground and the kids made some new friends. I'm so proud of how easily they have been able to cross language barriers and make friends wherever they go. We heard about a local soccer league that starts this week and we're going to check it out. That would be fun for all of us. I have cute Christmas pics that I'll post soon. Thanks for checking in...~Heather, sleepless in Antigua