Nate and Becca's Totally Awesome Adoption Adventure

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Final Decree, Birth Certificates and Passports February 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 11:13 am

Yay!  We received a call from Lucia on Wednesday morning at 10:30 saying that one of us had to be ready to go to court in 30 minutes…the judge was about to sign the final decree!  Andres, our driver, picked Nate up and they met up with Oscar, our attorney, at court just in time to see everyone leave for lunch.  So they waited for a while, and when the judge got back, he and Nate signed the decree!  That afternoon Nate, Andres and Oscar went all over Bogota (which is larger than NYC) to get corrected birth certificates for our children.  On those birth certificates, we are listed as their parents, and their names are now (get ready for it…) Maria de los Angeles Siefert Hamill, Maria Jose Siefert Hamill and Tomas Allan Siefert Hamill.  (Not sure how the in-laws feel about that….)  When we get home, we will re-adopt them in Wisconsin, and that´s when we´ll get WI birth certificates for them and get their names right: Angela Maria Siefert,  Josie Maria Siefert and Tomas Allan Siefert.

So then yesterday, we went to get the kids´passports.  The process here is amazing.  There´s a photo place just outside the passport office, so we went there to get their pics taken, and then took the pics into the office.  We paid a little money ($60 USD for all three), signed some papers and an hour later, walked out with the passports.  It was amazing!  We came back to the hotel and then in the afternoon, we went to the doctor.  He said the kids are healthy, even though the girls are quite small.  Today, one of us will go back to ICBF to get some Hague documentation (confirming that the kids are coming to us in an acceptable fashion – not through baby-buying, etc.).  The US embassy is closed today, so we will go there on Monday to get the kids´visas, which should be ready to be picked up on Tuesday morning.  At that point, we´ll be free to come home!  Our tickets are booked for Saturday and Sunday, and it won´t be worth it to pay to change our tickets to come home 2 days earlier.  So, we´ll just hang out here and do some fun things to enjoy Bogota before we leave.  We will fly out of Bogota on Saturday afternoon and land in Ft. Lauderdale at about 7pm.  Then we take the kids through immigration.  We´ll spend the night there in Florida, and then come back early Sunday morning.  We will be in Chicago at about 9am, which means the kids will have most of the day to explore their new home!  None of us can wait!

I should go….Josie is here asking me to read to her from her favorite book…..the Spanish-English Dictionary.  LOVE IT!

 

The first weeks February 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 2:10 pm

Josie

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy

 

Our computer is officially broken, so we haven´t been able to blog.  So sorry to all of you who have wanted to follow us, but aren´t our friends on Facebook!  Anyway, I´ll take a few minutes here to get all caught up.

We first met the kids 19 days ago.  (WOW – I can´t believe it´s been that long!)  Before the kids were brought in, we sat down with the social worker who has been working with the girls since they first entered care 4 years ago, and she was such a blessing.  They had a TON of information for us…big packets of the girls´school work from last year, immunization records, and a photo album going back to just before their 4th birthday.  We even have pictures of their kindergarten graduation, with them in their little caps and gowns with their teacher!  So special.  We will be receiving their entire protection file when the final adoption decree comes through.

Our first meeting went better than we could ever have imagined it.  The girls were a little shy, but came in with hugs, kisses, and declarations of “Te quiero!”.  One of the ladies handed Tomas to me and he was very happy to sit in my lap and drink his juice.  :)  Bubbles and the Pucca and Garu dolls really broke the ice.  So did fruit snacks.  At one point, Angie started crying, and we tried our best to comfort her, but she was just getting more and more upset.  It had been about 20-30 minutes that we had been alone with them, and the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Welfare) came back in and asked us to come down to the main office.  At one point, someone had swept Angie away, which made me very nervous.  But, Lucia (our in-country representative) and David (her son who is also our translator) explained to us that they took her to talk to the psychologist.  They brought her back 15 or 20 minutes later, and she was doing much better.  Apparently, she had heard us speaking English and was scared of that.  But, they explained to her what was going on and that we are able to speak some Spanish, and that really helped.

Here they come!

Hugs for Mami!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls Exploring

Tommy with Mami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sad Josie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the guest house where we´re staying and had 5 days of bliss.  Followed by 2 days of:

 

 

Poor Josie was having a really hard time and we just couldn´t figure out what it was.  Thank God for Lina, another translator.  She helped us talk to Josie and figure out that she was scared that ICBF would say that Nate and I couldn´t be her forever parents.  Also, thankfully, our lawyer just happened to be at the house then too.  We were able to have him explain to Josie what was going to happen – that we would go back to ICBF one more time the following day, just for an hour, and there he would get a paper to take to the judge to make it official that they would be our forever kids and we would be their forever parents.  And that he is here to make sure that nothing ever happens to prevent us from being their Mom and Dad.  From that point on, things have been better.  Not perfect, but better.  We are going through a predictable testing period now, but even time-outs and time-ins are becoming easier.

 

 

Rolling out the dough...

even using their faces!

We have done some really fun things.  We went to a pizza place called Archie´s, where the girls were able to make their own pizzas.

 

 

 

Clockwise: Papi, Mami, Josie, Angie and Tommy (sleeping!)

We went to Monserrate, a mountain peak in Bogota, and took a tram to the top.  It was there that we got our first family picture.

 

We also went to the Simon Bolivar Square to feed the pigeons.  Nate and I thought it was pretty disturbing – like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie – but the kids really enjoyed it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For about $1.50USD, we were able to buy 3 bags of grain from this lady to feed the birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kids are blossoming beautifully.  We love how funny they are, how affectionate they are, how passionate they are.  We have spent the last couple of weeks reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to them in Spanish, and they can´t get enough of it.  Angie is drawing pictures of her heart with Jesus in it.  Not sure how much they get, but they love to learn about Jesus and God´s Secret Rescue Plan and his Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

All in all, we´re having a wonderful time here.  But, we can´t wait to get home.  We´re sharing a room with the kids, and having to be in there with them for 12 hours each night.  It´s getting draining.  We can´t wait to be in our own home, eating familiar food, sitting on our couch, sleeping in our bed, speaking in our own language and cuddling with our dog.  Not to mention, living on our own schedule. But what we´re working to remember is that, as hard a time as we´re having here, the kids are going to have a harder time.  And, they won´t have any hope of going “home”.  We´re using this opportunity to feel what they will be feeling and develop empathy for them.  Hopefully they´ll transition easily.  Today, Josie cried because she wants to be home in her pink room “¡YA!”  (in English, NOW!).  Hopefully soon.

I was just informed by Lucia that we have 2 of the necessary 4 signatures.  Our paperwork is sitting on the judge´s desk, awaiting his signature.  After that, the Minor´s Defender needs to sign it, and we have the final decree!  Not sure when that will happen.  Lucia said it´s premature at this point to change our flight reservations, but we´ll see.  She´s hoping we´ll be done before the 5th.  We are too.

 

 

 

Laptop Battery Dead. :( February 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 7:55 pm

Our laptop battery died tonight.  Died dead.  Deader than a doorknob.  As in, we can´t even turn it on when it´s plugged in.

We do have access to a computer at the guest house where we´re staying, but we have to share it and the keyboard is international (read: super annoying to use.)

We´re looking into options to get a new one, but if we do, it could take a very long time.  Praying we can find one at the Colombian Office Depot in a few days!

On a more pleasant note, we are getting the kids at 8:30 in the morning.  Super exciting!  More to come……hopefully…..

 

We Made It!

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 1:44 am

If we thought God was good before, we hadn’t seen anything yet.  He just keeps on continuing to bless us in ways that we could never have imagined.

Last night we had a reservation for the shuttle van to pick us up at 12:30am, but we were a little nervous that we’d run into weather problems.  We called to see if we could be picked up an hour earlier, but they told us the only options would be 6:30pm or our original time.  Mom and Dad volunteered to take us down at 8:30, so we decided to take them up on that, even though the cancellation policy of Go Airport Connection stated that we would not get a refund.  But when I called to cancel, we got our first great news – they would refund our payment!

So Mom and Dad took us to O’Hare in the snow (thanks you guys!) and we got there around 10:30.  Unfortunately, the ticket counter was closed until 3:30.  :(  So we settled in for a long wait in the ticketing area/baggage claim.  We eventually found an outlet, so we were able to watch a movie.  It was fun times!

When the ticket counter eventually opened, we got in line with everyone else.  And got A LOT of questions about why we had an empty stroller with us.  We were able to talk to some wonderful people about our adoption adventure, and to a person, they were thrilled to hear that we were not only getting one baby, but three.  We also had to wait for the security line to open, which provided opportunities for more discussion.  And, when we got to the gate, one of the couples we had been talking to came up and gave us some money, saying it wasn’t much, but to get the kids a treat on them when we get home.  We were so touched!

So we got on the plane, and were able to take off on time, thanks to God’s miraculous intervention.  :)  Neither Nate nor I has much of any memory of that trip, as we were out like lights by the time the plane was in the air.  <shock>

Then we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, grabbed our carry-ons, and ran to the next gate (only 3 or 4 gates away).  We asked the gate attendant if we had time to quickly buy something to drink, but they said that they had been waiting for us, and we had to board right away, so we did.  And were seated by the most amazing people ever.

Next to me was Yolanda, a 72 year old Colombian grandma who has adopted our family.  She doesn’t speak much English, but I was able to communicate with her reasonably well in Spanish, even though I was stinking exhausted.  Yolanda was incredibly helpful to us – giving us advice about stores, restaurants, fun things for the kids to do, etc.  She gave us her phone number and address and asked us to call her so she can take us shopping, teach me how to cook Colombian food, etc.  She even gave us the location of an evangelical church in our neighborhood – one that has pastors from the US!  God is good. 🙂

There was also a family sitting behind us, Maria Victoria and Jorge and their daughter (whose name I can’t remember) who overheard our conversation with Yolanda.  They also had tons of ideas of fun things to do with the kids and also invited us to their house.  Maria Victoria and Jorge don’t speak any English, but I think I’m understanding correctly that they live in a compound of houses situated around a park for kids, and they invited us to come over for an authentic Bogota dinner and for the kids to play.

Nate and I are still trying to decide if we’ll take these strangers up on their offers…we are, after all, a skeptical American police family😉.  But, it’s so wonderful to see the beautiful, generous, loving, hospitable spirits of the Colombia people.  We thought that we were the ones who would be blessed by the arrival of these three beautiful children into our family, but it seems like the impact of this journey God has led us on is much further-reaching than we ever anticipated!

(Now Nate is going to take over because I am really tired)

Our driver, Andres, picked us up from the airport.  When we stepped outside of the airport, the weather was absolutely perfect, sunny, no humidity, and about 75 degrees.  It felt like May in Wisconsin.

Andres got us a cab, shoved all of our luggate into a hatch-back Hundai, and we had the wildest cab ride I have ever experienced.  Four lane roads, but enough cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses for about six lanes of traffic in the States.  The motorcycle cops were darting in and out of traffic like crazy–they could show any motor cops from Milwaukee a thing or two.

We arrived at the guest house where we are staying (www.casalanthana.blogspot.com) and pretty much just dumped out stuff.  We’ll organize it in the morning.  There is one other American family staying here, and three families from France.  We made a quick run to the bakery around the corner and then went to bed at 5pm.  We woke up for a few hours at 11, and we are going to go back to bed.

One word about the coffee here though; it’s absolutely amazing.

We were just too tired to take pictures earlier, but we will have our camera with us from now on.  Pictures will get posted tomorrow.

 

Ready to Go! January 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 8:29 pm

Today is Monday, January 31 and Milwaukee and Chicago are set to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-21 inches of snow.  And our plane is supposed to take off in under 11 hours.  Go figure.

We are on the 5:45am flight out of O’Hare, which calls for us to arrive at the airport by 2:45am.  Good times!

We had booked reservations with an airport shuttle van to pick us up at 12:30am tonight, but with the snow, we are taking my parents up on their offer to take us earlier in the evening.  That will make for a long night at the airport, but at least we won’t have to worry [as much] about being held up by traffic on I-94!  They will be here at 8:20 to pick us up.

So, here we sit….Out. Of. Our. Minds excited to get out of here, but knowing that we have to wait.  And, after this little wait, we have another big wait at the airport.  But, we are chomping at the bit to be even 80 miles closer to the kids. 🙂

Thus, our front hallway:

Three checked suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 1 umbrella stroller, 2 [SPRING!] jackets and 2 neck pillows.

Spirit Airlines changed their baggage size limits effective tomorrow to have a limit of 40 lbs. per bag to avoid paying overweight fees.  Thus the third bag.  And our ability to take pillows! 🙂

We can’t even believe that we’re about to see the kids.  And not just see them, but get them – get to touch them and hold them and bring them home with us.  We’ve been looking at their pictures, talking about them, reading their file over and over, getting their rooms ready, and organizing and re-organizing their clothes, but they still seem so fictional….so far away.  I’ve talked to women who have had biological babies, and they say that they can’t fully comprehend that a human is going to enter their lives until they’ve actually given birth.  And I totally believe that.  But this is different.  I don’t have these kids growing in my body.  I have felt no kicks, no jumps, heard no heartbeats.  We haven’t seen my belly morph into all kinds of bizarre shapes.  I haven’t had the physical preparation of Braxton-Hicks contractions or labor and delivery to tell me that the kids are coming.  But it’s here.  And it’s amazing.

In less than three days, we’ll get to see:

Maria de los Angeles (Angie)

Maria Jose (Josie)

Tomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who wouldn’t be ecstatic?

More updates and pics to come!

 

FBI Update December 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 11:08 am

I just got off the phone with the FBI. When I called, the guy asked how long ago we had sent in our requests, and when I told him it had only been 5 weeks, he said that we wouldn’t even be in the system yet. But, he checked anyway and found out that our clearances will be sent out no later than this Friday, Christmas Eve. AMAZING!!!! Can’t even believe it. (Neither could the FBI guy. 🙂 )

So, our Feb. 1 travel date estimate could be moving up! We’ll keep everyone posted.

 

We’re approved! (Yes, again. :) ) December 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — becs424 @ 11:34 pm

Today, there was a wonderful surprise waiting for us in our mailbox….a very thick envelope from USCIS!  Containing the approval letters for each of our kids!!!  It took 15 days from the day they received our file until we were approved which is much faster than the 6 weeks we anticipated.  Hopefully the speed we’ve been seeing thus far will continue through our trip, keeping us there for only 3-4 weeks, rather than 5-6…😉

Now we’re waiting for our FBI clearances to come back.  Again.  In Colombia, FBI clearances are only valid for 6 months.  Ours came back in March, so they’re now outdated.  It has been taking about 13 weeks to get the clearances back, and we submitted ours 5 weeks ago.  We’re really hoping to get them back sooner than that!  I’ll be calling the FBI headquarters tomorrow to see where we are in the process and if we can get an estimate as to when we can expect them.  Maybe I can leverage the holiday spirit to get someone in the mood to get it done quickly!

We have both been missing the kids so much it isn’t even funny.  Today I found some videos of Third Day’s song “Merry Christmas” on YouTube and sat watching them with tears streaming down my face.  (I posted one on Facebook – if we’re friends, take a look!)  We can not wait to get down there!  In honor of them, we are having Colombian food week this week.  On the menu:

Pan de Queso (Colombian Cheese Bread)
Cazuela de Pollo y Frijoles Blancos (Chicken and White Bean Casserole)
Dulce de Leche Bars
Pollo Asado (Colombian Roasted Chicken
Natilla Colombiana (Coconut Pudding – a Colombian Christmas tradition!)
Arroz con Polly (Chicken and Rice – sounds boring, but totally isn’t!)
Arepas de Queso
Ajiaco Bogotano (Chicken and Potato soup)
Posta Negra (Black Beef)

What is NOT on the menu:

Pinchos de Higado y Corazon de Pollo (Chicken Liver and Heart kebabs.  Because ewww.)

But, Nate works all this week.  So if anyone wants to come over to try some authentic comida colombiana, give me a call! 🙂