Thursday, November 29, 2007

The "Dressel Meadows" Kiddos!

Hello All!
Today we got a phone call at 7:20 am (yawn!) to start our day. It was our representative Edith calling to let us know that while there was a couple hiccups in getting the birth certificates for Juancho & Laura, the new amended copies with our last names were on their way to Bogota - so we should be prepared to leave later in the morning to get passports. She said her assistant Mario would likely call us later since she had workshops all day.

Side Note: On Tuesday, the paperwork was sent to the ICBF (Colombian Child Welfare) office in the town of Villavicienco, which is the office representing the Meta region - where Juancho & Laura were born. Their original birth certificates should have been there, since they were under the care of ICBF prior to our adoption. However, their original birth certificates were not there! So a driver was hired in Villavicienco to drive to Cumaral (the town where the children were born) to obtain the originals. I'm not sure if they were at the hospital or a records office or what, but the driver was able to find them and get two certified amended copies with our last names...YEAH! The only problem with that is that we need EIGHT amended certified copies...not just two. But the woman who did this for the driver insisted that she would only give him two. It seems that she was not familiar with the needs of the adoption process. However Mario figured out how to solve that problem...yeah Mario!

In the meantime, we had enough copies to get the passports done, so Mario picked us up around 11:00 am to take us down to the passport office. The children will travel to the USA under Colombian passports. We will change these to US passports once we are home because the children technically are not American citizens until they set foot on US soil. So we got the passport and visa photos done, and then waited for about a half hour in a crowded passport office. Those pursuing adoptions seems to get put at the front of the line, so it went faster than we expected...though I must say with 3 children in a crowded room with limited entertainment (just the couple books and Magna Doodle I brought) the children were all contemplating a meltdown by the time we left...I could tell! Didn't help that we were all starving! But we got passports!!!! Well...two of them...

See, those darn birth certificates that there was trouble hunting down, on the amended copies, the clerk wrote the same identification number for Laura and Juancho. However, the number was truly Laura's identification number. So the birth certificates for Juancho were unusable! They had an incorrect identification number, and that is a big deal to the passport people! So phone calls were made and we HOPE that the corrected birth certificate arrives tomorrow. If it does, Robert and Juancho will return to the passport office with Mario to get his taken care of. If it doesn't get here tomorrow, but instead over the weekend or on Monday, it may push our timeline back by one day. We will see what transpires and will keep you updated!

Meanwhile, one French family went home last night and another was supposed to tonight BUT they also had some incorrect information on their paperwork that wasn't caught earlier. It was rejected by the visa application, and so they could NOT leave tonight. It was very sad for them - as only the mother (Corinne), grandmother (Micheline) and baby (Alexanne) are still here and they miss their husbands and Corinne's older son Killian. Good news is that they only have to be here one more day...they will leave tomorrow night.

We are planning on taking the older children to DiverCity tomorrow - it is a pretend city for children - where they go and choose a profession and earn 'pretend' money. The profession they choose allows them to truly practice the profession. For example - if they choose to be a veterinarian, they get to check out and groom a real dog! Or if they chose to be a newscaster, they get to sit behind a real news desk and be videotaped by real videocameras doing a newscast! Then they earn 'money' that they can spend in various ways in the city. We'll bring the cameras and update you tomorrow about the afternoon.

Here are a couple pics of Angie & Laura with their brand new passports (complete with their brand new last names!)! A funny thing about their passports is that they have BOTH of our last names on it! It is Colombian tradition to give children both their mother's and their father's last their passports say 'Dressel Meadows' for their last names! Funny!

One more day closer to home! Love the Dressel Familia!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rain Showers (& a Video!)

Today on our way home from our afternoon walk, we got caught in a huge downpour, complete with lightening and thunder! The rain was coming down fast and furious...and we all got soaked! It was kind of fun one complained, even little Angie strapped into her umbrella stroller! :) Of course as soon as we got through the door of our room at the house, we stripped off the wet clothes and got everyone into dry warm clothes! It was a fun adventure though!

Some of you may know that I (Holly) am a bit prone to spill on myself from time to time. It is not rare for me to have a spot on my shirt or pants from a little lunch or coffee gone astray. However, I think being a Mom has gotten me 'off the hook' when it comes to spills on my clothes! I changed my clothes 3 times today...and not one of the times was it due to a spill I caused myself! The first time was due to the rain, the second was when Angie accidentally dumped an entire glass of juice in my lap at dinner, and the third was when I got thrown up on by my middle daughter (after a collision between she and Angie...she got bumped pretty hard on one of her new two front teeth (sensitive!) and because she cried so hard and has a cough, she ended up throwing up...these are special times of parenthood!). So next time you see me with a spot on my shirt or pants...think twice before teasing me about how I always spill! :)

We didn't do anything towards our case today. We thought we might be called to go take care of Angie's birth certificate, but we didn't hear from our in-country associate. We'll call her tomorrow and hopefully tomorrow we will take care of Angie's birth certificate and get the kids passport pics taken. We are hopeful that Laura & Juancho's birth certificates were amended today with their new last names and are on a FedEx truck back to Bogota! If so, then our timeline will continue as previously mentioned.

Thanks to Laura for her comment and suggestions on our post yesterday regarding getting all the final steps taken care of. That was very helpful! It's always great to get insight from others who have 'been there, done that'. That will be us pretty soon!

No pics today...the battery had run out on the camera and Mami forgot to charge them. More tomorrow. In the meantime I'm going to try to upload a couple videos to post here for you to watch!

Love from Bogota!

The Dressel Familia

PS - Click on the link to the right to see Juancho & Laura swinging and Papi practicing his Spanish (note: this video was taken about 2 weeks ago...Papi has learned a lot of Spanish since then!) VIDEO:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One Day Closer to Home!

This morning we were picked up bright and early by Andres, a new driver/representative that helped us with our Sentencia signing! We met our lawyer Graciela at the court (Juzgado 21) at around 10 am this morning (after a very long drive in thick Bogota traffic!). We reviewed the Sentencia - which is a several page document that officially grants us custody of the children and gives the children our last names. After making sure that the items in the document (ie - names, birthdates, etc.) were all correct, we signed! The kids are OFFICIALLY our children!

After signing, we walked several blocks to an office where we were going to get
Angie's birth certificate changed to reflect our last name (Angie was born in Bogota) but it turned out that the one individual that does that step was sick today - so it couldn't be done. Not a big deal, because we will go back tomorrow to get it done. But then we had to walk back the several blocks to where the car was. We enjoyed the walk, but my feet did not...I had chosen to wear my 'fancy shoes' which is code for 'shoes I shouldn't walk more than one block in'. :) Thankfully Robert was there to be my stabilizer!
The appropriate documents were FedEx'd to Villavicencio to the Records Office in that region today so that we can get Laura & Juancho's birth certificates changed to reflect our last name also. Juancho & Laura were born in Cumaral, which is in the Meta region, about a 4 hour drive from here. It would be fun to see where the children were born, but the roads to travel on are not safe, plus we would have to stay overnight there and would incur extensive costs for the travel and extra overall it is better to do the FedEx route. We hope to have the amended birth certificates back by Thursday. If we do, that means we will be spending Friday at the US Embassy obtaining passports for the children (they do it same-day!) and having the children in for their US Embassy doctor appointment to make sure none of them are bringing any crazy bugs to the USA! (They've been pretty darn healthy though, so we aren't concerned!)
After we got back from our eventful morning, we went out with a couple of families here. Sarah & her husband John are adopting 2 older girls that I've posted about - Diana and Jamie; and Tamara and Baby John who you have also heard about! We all walked down to a large four story Artisan's store called Maku. Maku has a bunch of great handicrafts made by local craftsmen...much like the things we saw at the market this past Sunday, but with several more items as well. We did some shopping for Christmas presents and spent some time at Frisby's across the street...the kids loved playing in the playplace they had for children there...and it was a great way for them to burn off some energy!

We got home and shortly thereafter dinner was served...our cooks here - Ana and Okenis are WONDERFUL! They make amazing food, keep the home and our rooms clean, and are here to help with whatever need may arise...we love them! For dinner tonight was soup as a started (yum!) with rice, broccoli & cauliflower, and turkey (we think a leftover bit from Thanksgiving...but very good). Dessert was Key Lime Pie!

The kids all went to bed amazingly well is usually pretty difficult to get them to sleep in the same room...though we have found putting Angie to bed a bit ahead of the other two really helps! It will be nice to have them in separate rooms soon though...that will make a world of difference with bedtime!

Tomorrow we will probably get Angie's birth certificate taken care of...then we believe that
Mario, one of our drivers, is taking us on a city tour...that should be interesting!
We are one day closer to home...yeah!
Love, the Dressel Familia!

PS - A few photos for you to enjoy!

All four children at the fountain behind Maku. They loved the large koi fish in the pond, an the fountains in the background (apologies for the half naked mermaid!)
Laura and 'Snake Eyes' the Slide!
Angie & Monster Juancho - having fun in the ball pit at Frisby's!

Juancho buries himself in the balls while Diana & Jamie come down the slide!
The Motley Crew...Robert with the bags full o presents, our friend Tamara in the black, and Juancho, Laura & Jamie throwing their toys (balls) in the air!

Juancho - aka Superman with his cape (aka - Daddy's suit coat!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Got Sentencia!!!

Hola Friends & Family!

Well, I think we may have broke some sort of record! After our papers being officially in the courts just 6 days, we received Sentencia! Sentencia is the final notice bringing us in to sign before the judge that makes us official parents to our three children! It also starts the ball rolling for us to be able to come HOME!!!
Typically the court process takes up to 25 business days. The court process starts after the Integration Meeting, which takes place about a week after the children are received (you may remember us talking about that meeting in a previous post). Once the Integration meeting is over, the clock 'officially' starts ticking on the court process. Having Sentencia within 2 weeks is considered lucky - that the process moved very fast! Having Sentencia in only 6 business days is almost unheard of. Our dear friend Tamara from Massachusetts has been here for 6+ weeks already, and still has up to 10 business days before her case will be completed. She received a slow court that had an additional step (over the other courts). It is truly the luck of the draw...but of course we believe there is more than luck going on.

It will be great to come home! Great for the kids to be in their new home, great to get a routine established, great to have the process completed and the children officially ours, officially Americans, officially 'forever'! There are also some tangible things that are difficult in our current situation...bedtime being one of them! It is hard to put 3 kids to bed in the same room! It is hard to enforce our rules when other families living in the same house have very different rules for their children. It is hard to get a routine going when every day has different stuff going on in the house (new families coming, old families leaving, outings, parties, etc.). Most of all we miss home, friends, families, everyone...WE CAN'T WAIT! Thanks for your prayers - we cannot attribute our quick process to anything but those!

So what happens now? Tomorrow AM bright and early we go to court to sign the Sentencia documents. Immediately after we FedEx the Sentencia documents to the Records Department of the Region where Laura & Juancho were born (Meta Region, Cumaral) which is about a 4.5 hour drive from here on unsafe roads. We have to FedEx the documents to request new official birth certificates that display their new last name - Dressel! Once those are received (probably Thursday) we will be able to apply for their passports on Friday, along with have their US Embassy doctors appointments. Monday we will apply for the visas for the children, and those will be ready on Tuesday to pick up. Pending no delays to the plan laid out above, we will be flying home on Wednesday, December 5th. A day late for my birthday - but a GREAT present nonetheless!!!
Today we went to Archie's Pizza for lunch. It is a spot nearby where they have a Children's Kitchen. The kids go in and pay a nominal fee (about $2 each) and they learn how to make their own pizza! The chef leads them through all the steps in a fun child-friendly way. They pound the dough, flatten it, throw it up in the air, all the great things pizza chefs do to make great crusts! Afterwards they put on their toppings - tomato sauce (called salsa napoliteano), cheese (queso) and whatever toppings they choose. Our three all chose pineapple (pina) and ham (jamon). They were very proud of their pizzas...and ate them all! (except Angie - she only ate half!).

This morning, before Archie's, Robert and I went to an emerald dealer in the city. He is very official and top notch - he doesn't even have a retail store - he sells by appointment only! We felt very upper crust when he sent his driver to pick us and another family up. Did you know that emeralds and rubies are amongst the rarest precious stones? Did you also know that Colombia provides 70% to 80% of all the emeralds in the world? Did you also know that these facts make emeralds (good quality emeralds, like the ones this dealer had) pretty expensive?! There were BEAUTIFUL stones in his collection - he had loose stones and stones set in rings, necklace pendants and earrings...they were all gorgeous. Gorgeous color, clarity & brillance. But all with price tags to make you gulp! There was a ring priced at $22,000! One of the loose stones itself was over $12,000! A little out of our league, don't ya think?!? But fun to look at!

But what a great note our day ended on...with SENTENCIA! Hip Hip Hooray! The kids are very excited to come home to Minnesota! We are going to make a paper chain to count down the days!

Good Night! With LOVE from Bogota!

PS - the pictures below are from making pizza's at Archie's earlier today!

Juancho, Laura & Angie at their 'prep table'

Pounding their pizza dough with their elbows (they also used their chins, their cheeks, and of course, their hands!)

Juancho practicing throwing (and thankfully catching) his pizza dough!

Juancho at the table enjoying his 'appetizer' (yogurt)

Laura at the table also enjoying her 'appetizer'

Angie with a big grin for everyone!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We got sunburned today!

Happy Sunday to you all! It was a fun day today! We went to Usaquen - which is a part of Bogota that is a city within a city in a sense. It is a quaint little area of town that has a huge open air market on Sundays. There are vendors of every kind - jewelry, art, clothing, handicrafts, food, antiques, and more. The weather was gorgeous - nearly 80 degrees...both Robert and I came back with sunburns! Nothing major, but it is good to have a little sun on our cheeks!
Summer officially starts in Colombia in December, but we are starting to see hints of summer now...warmer days, less rain...and the bugs are coming out! Robert was welcomed into the shower this morning by a large hairy spider! He killed it swiftly with a shampoo bottle though...there wasn't enough room in there for the both of them!

After we got back from the market this afternoon, we visited with some of the families here, and the girls all worked on making jewelry with beads we had purchased from a nearby store. Laura made a necklace and bracelet for herself and I made a ring. Juancho thought about making a necklace too - but quickly abandoned that idea in favor of something more 'boyish'.

Sunday nights a different family staying at the residence makes dinner since the girls that work here have the night off. Mark from New York made a hamburger casserole that was a hit with everyone. Last week we had quiche made by the families from France, and the week before Robert made spaghetti with garlic bread.

After dinner the girls took a bath. We only have a shower in our room, plus a plastic baby tub that we usually bathe Angie in as she is too young to do a shower. However tonight Laura wanted to share in the tub experience. How the two of them fit in that little plastic baby bath I do not know...but they sure had a great time in the bath. Afterwards they were running around half naked as I was getting their pajamas on...and Robert taught them the song "Shake Your Booty". They loved it and even after getting dressed, Angie kept dancing and humming the tune to the song...but the only word she said was 'booty' (though it usually came out more like 'booey'. We got a video of it...maybe for another night!

Tomorrow morning Robert and I are going to check out some emeralds that a local guy sells for a good price - all very authentic. We've heard that other families have bought an emerald to give to their daughter on a special occasion or birthday and we would like to do that for our girls too - we will see what we find out. We also hope to talk with our representative tomorrow and see how our case is...we hope it is through the first step at least...but we'd love to hear it is through the second too...who knows at this point! We'll update you tomorrow!

Much love from the land of beautiful flowers!

The Dressel Familia

Angie & Laura in the tub enjoying bath time!

Angie dancing on the table to 'Shake Your Booty'

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I'm Getting Philosophical!

For the first week-ish of being parents, we had the head knowledge that we were parents...but the "We are actually parents to these 3 children for the rest of our/their lives" hadn't quite sunk it yet. We've both taken care of nieces & nephews for a weekend or even longer at times. Obviously this has a different perspective than taking care of someone else's kids, but I don't think I really 'felt' like a Mami until the last week or took a while to truly sink in!

Robert and I have the desire to start from square one with our children and 'train them up in the way they should go'. The unique challenge with our children is that they have received 'training' from other people in their lives before they met us. Direct and indirect training. Training that has been helpful to us, and training that maybe has provided us with some challenges too.

I try to imagine being in their shoes. For Juancho & Laura - the first 5 to 7 years of their life they were with their biological mother (and possibly father). They learned to operate under her rules, her discipline, possibly learned how to manipulate their mother into getting what they want, learned values (both positive or negative ones), etc. Then the 3 of them, after Angie's birth, lived with a foster mother and her two children for nearly 3 years. They learned a new set of rules, a new set of family dynamics, a new way of discipline, and so many other new things (both positive & negative).

Now they are with us - their 'Forever Family'. But yet they are in a place where they are again learning new personalities, new family dynamics, new rules (we made a poster of "Las Reglas de la Familia Dressel" (Rules of the Dressel Family) and hung it on the door in our room the other day), new discipline, new values, new expectations, new ways of love being shown, so many new things. What the children may not fully grasp yet is that this is the LAST time they will have to learn it all again for the first time. There will not be another new family 2 or 3 years down the road. We are it!

We love being parents. It is wonderful in so many ways. In the first few days of getting to know each other, and even when the more challenging days come - as we teach how our family operates, what is expected, and what will be the outcome (positive or negative) of a given behavior. Those who have adopted sibling groups in the recent past have all said the same thing..."Just wait until you are 4, 6, 8 or 12 months into your life as a family and see how far you have all come". Right now I cannot imagine my children speaking English to us and each other most of the time. But I know it will happen. I can't imagine Juancho or Laura consistently choosing not to pout and storm off if Mami or Papi says no to something they want (though we are already seeing some small improvements in this area), I cannot imagine the day when Laura won't whine about something or there won't be any fights between the 3 children, but I believe all of these days will happen!

In the meantime, when we find ourselves faced with a new challenge, with something that makes us say 'Huh, we haven't talked about how to handle that', we go back to what the foundation of our parenting - and truly the foundation of our lives and our marriage is...Christ. We have been given the gift of raising up these children - to serve as godly parents that parent them in a way that reflects the attributes of Christ as best as we can in our flawed humanity. When I find myself exasperated, frustrated, at a loss of knowing what to do, my desire is to more and more say a quick prayer - "Lord give me your wisdom, direction & me how to be the best Mami to Juancho, Laura, Angie right now and always." We are all learning is a beautiful thing.
We spent the morning this morning working on homework with Juancho & Laura - they are working on colors, animals and the words 'big' & 'small'. Later we played Monopoly (the Colombian version) and Battleship. We then went out with our friend Tamara & baby John to pick up a couple Christmas presents. Later we had lunch at our favorite burger place (El Corral) and poked our heads in a couple stores before walking by a park on the way home. This afternoon Juancho played a couple online ESL video games while Mami & Papi rested by watching Narnia. Laura played outside with her friend Jamie (whom Juancho declared tonight is his girlfriend...uh oh - it is starting already!) and Angie napped (so did Mami & Papi a bit). After dinner tonight we played Alphabet Bingo with the older kids and then watched a pirated version of Ratatoille that someone left at this residence! As the kids were going to bed, Laura told me the story of Little Red Riding Hood in Spanish ("Abuela, que grande ojos tu tienes!"). They went to sleep pretty well...though that may be in part due to them being able to stay up past their normal bedtime as a treat.
Pray for Robert as he has been sick with a sinus infection and an ongoing tummy discomfort. He got a Z-pack today to hopefully knock out his sinus infection in the next couple days...but it is never fun to be sick!
Tomorrow we are planning to go to the Sunday markets to do some bargaining! We will let you know how it goes!
Good Night! With love from the Dressel's!
Some pics...
Juancho & Laura putting together a puzzle this morning
Juancho & Angie ready to head out for a walk to the park
Angie "playing dead" of her favorite games

Angie & Papi taking a nap this cute!

Angie brushing her teeth with nothing on but underwear, and shoes & socks, of course! She does like to brush though (that 's good news for Dr. Perry's office!)

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Mother Would Say That!

Have you ever said/done something that later made you think..."That was something my mother/father would say/do?" We've been having a few of those moments lately! That's not a bad thing...just makes us realize we are really parents now!

One such incident was tonight at dinner. We've learned that our two older children have a dislike for basically any vegetable except cucumbers! So we have decided that it is reasonable to have them try every vegetable that crosses their plate. To try at least one. Tonight's vegetable was cooked cauliflower. Now Mami isn't even a big fan of that vegetable either...but I sure wasn't going to avoid the vegetable if I was telling my children to try it! Before the plates were brought to the children they were telling the cooks 'No cauliflower for me!'. But we overruled that and said 'One cauliflower for each please!'. Now these cauliflowers had been breaded and they really weren't that bad.

So here's how the conversation & situation had Robert and I so entertained because it was almost like watching ourselves when we were that age balking at a vegetable Mom or Dad was making us try. I distinctly remember sitting at the table well past dinnertime with cold broccoli or brussel sprouts on my plate! (sorry Mom!)

Mami: Juancho & Laura, I recommend that you eat your cauliflower while it is still warm - it is better that way.

Juancho & Laura make a face and move their cauliflower away.

Juancho: Papi, I don't want to eat this cauliflower - it smells bad

Papi: You just have to eat that one Juancho, to try it

Laura: Mami, can I just eat this bit (aka - eensy-weensy barely visible speck) of cauliflower insted of the whole thing?

Mami: No Laura, you have to eat one whole piece

Mami: If you swirl the cauliflower around in the gravy from your meat it will taste more like meat.

Juancho & Laura make a face and move their cauliflower away.

Laura: Mami, now my cauliflower is cold

Mami: Yes, remember how I told you it would be better to eat it while it was warm?

Juancho and Laura spear the piece of cauliflower with their fork and bring it up to their mouth. Laura smells it and contorts her face in disgust. Juancho barely licks it and acts as if he is gagging. (Mami and Papi secretly giggle...they remember doing this very thing to their parents).

Meanwhile...the rest of the table is served ice cream for dessert...

Juancho: Mami & Papi, I'm full, I don't want any more dinner.

Papi: That's fine - you can be excused after you eat your piece of cauliflower
Juancho turns in his seat and puts his head on the table. Meanwhile Laura suddenly has a fit of courage and pops the cauliflower in her mouth and chews fast. She chases it with a generous gulp of juice. She declares it wasn't that bad and is happy to have her ice cream passed to her.

Juancho sees this unfold and thinks he may want to go for it too. He puts the cauliflower up to his mouth and smells it. He contorts his face again and pretends he is going to throw up. Mami & Papi don't pay any attention. He takes a teeny tiny bite and makes the worst face possible. He gags. (Oh Mom & Dad - I remember being this dramatic at the dining room table at times!)

The cooks comes out and says to Juancho: Your ice cream is better pop that cauliflower in quick. I'll hold your juice ready for you.

Juancho gets a bout of courage himself...pops in the cauliflower and chews rapidly and then swallows - chasing the cauliflower with juice. He happily grabbed his pot of half melted ice cream and smiled at Papi.

We told the kids we were proud of them for trying a vegetable that they didn't want to. We may not have won the 'Our Kids Love Cauliflower' contest with this event...but it did reinforce to our children that vegetables are important and that while they don't have to like everything they try - they should at least try it! (Meanwhile Robert and I plan to introduce the kids to 'Mashed "Potato" Surprise' after we get home...which is really mashed cauliflower with milk and chives/ can hardly tell the difference...then they may discover they like cauliflower!) We'll keep you posted!

Mami spent the day at the spa with all the other Mami's. Papi held down the fort here with our 3 (and looked after the older 2 girls of another family much of the time too!). Sounds like he did a great job - not that I was worried - he is a great Papi! (PS - the spa I went to was part of a 'club' that the owner of our residence belongs to. The prices for the services were unbelievable. Can you believe that I got a 1 hour full body massage with a full body exfoliation for only $35? Or a French Manicure for only $5? It was ridiculously cheap...and the first time EVER in my life I've had a professional was awesome!).

Laura & Juancho learned about animals in school today. Laura continues to struggle with motivation...she is a smart girl, but I don't think she believes she is capable of learning...she resists learning English. Juancho meanwhile is a quick study and loves learning new things in English. Papi is learning Spanish more each day too - taking an online Rosetta Stone Spanish course that has been helping him immensely! It is also great for the kids to see that Papi is working on learning Spanish while they are working on learning English.

That's about it for tonight...I'm going to post a couple pics from previous days that didn't make it on the blog pics were taken today!

With love from the Dressel's!

This picture reminds me of my older sister Jenni. As a little girl, Jenni somehow managed to get her face into the corner of every picture...just as little Angie did here!

On the fourth night we were here, we had a band come to play/sing traditional Colombian music at a farewell party for a family that was going home.

This is our friend Corinne. She is from France & is here adopting her second child, baby girl Alexanne. Her 5 year old son Killian was adopted from Colombia too!

A family photo taken in the living room at Betty's Place after the musical performance a couple weeks ago!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Our Future Americans! (note their little flags?)
We had a great Thanksgiving Day - even though we missed being close to family & friends! Hope you had a wonderful day as well! The 'residencia' we are staying at (Betty's Place) is owned by an American woman who is married to a Colombian man. She orchestrated a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner...complete with all the 'usuals' including turkey (of course), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing (Robert made it from scratch AND no recipe - and it was a HIT!), and of course PUMPKIN PIE!

We've talked about Thanksgiving with the kids over the last few days and I think they started to understand it a bit more today. They did great trying the new foods...but by far their favorite (not a new food) was the turkey...we have three major carnivores on our hands! :)

Our oldest little carnivore!

There were about 30 people here for dinner - including all the families staying here, as well as the staff of the place and a few other special invited guests. We had a great time and all the children played together really well.

She loves her Papi!

Not quite a family photo - where is Laura?!

We also got to talk to the Meadows family earlier today via Skype - we attempted a conference call with Holly's family as well as her brother who is currently in London, England. It worked for a few minutes - and the children got to say hello to their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Very cool to have a phone call that spanned three continents!

Yesterday Laura & Angie went to the hair salon with two other girls staying here (Diana & Jamie) to get their hair done. The salon is called Norberto's and it is a mix of circus meets upscale Aveda salon for kids! The kids sit in fun chairs (Angie had a race car) and can watch movies or play X-box while they get their hair done. They even have full manicure and makeup services for the little girls - I did splurge and let Angie and Laura get a manicure too...they had a great time!

Notice the classic X-Box stare?
Princess Angie with her hair stylist & manicurist hard at work!
The Finished Product - isn't she lovely?

Today we took the classic 'Couch Picture'. For those of you who have adopted or are familiar with adoption - there is often the 'couch picture' that is taken of every baby & child being adopted by a group of people. For those adopting from China - it is often the children within the DTC group, and for us here in Colombia - it is the children of the families staying at the same residencia as us! So here is the shot of the children that are in the process of being adopted from Colombia that are staying at Betty's Place with us (with the exception of Daniel and John Reyes - the 2 little boys on the left end of the couch in the Colombia soccer uniforms). Daniel Reyes was adopted from Colombia 5 years ago and is here with his family visiting!
All the new children in The Couch Photo!
(From L to R: baby Lauren (NY), Daniel & John Reyes (MD), Jamie Bronson (NY), Juancho Dressel (MN), on Juancho's lap: baby John (MA), baby Ava (MN), Diana Bronson (NY), on Diana's lap: baby Esteban (France), Angie Dressel (MN), Laura Dressel (MN) and on Laura's lap: baby Alexanne (France))
Juancho loves the babies - on his lap are baby John, baby Ava & next to him is baby Esteban!
Angie & Laura with babies Esteban & Alexanne (Esteban wasn't liking this idea so much!)
Juancho's favorite baby by far is Baby John (aka - Juanito)
Below is another Angie video - she loves to put on Mami or Papi's shoes, as this video will show. She is also quite an affectionate girl who sends 'besos' (kisses) to you all as you will see too! After Angie gives you a kiss and says 'Otra vez' ("Do again!") she turns the viewfinder of the video camera around so she can see herself...this girl loves the camera! Click on the link indicated below to watch the video. We'll get one up soon of the other children too - we have quite a few...but we haven't had a strong enough internet connection to get the video uploaded fully! Soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Salt Cathedral & More

Yes, I'm becoming a deliquent poster...I've missed two days now! I'd like to blame it on a poor internet connection or having an illness in our family to care for or something like that...but it really just came down to being too tired once I was able to get online and do anything last night! Sorry all!
The kids are all tucked in bed...we had the EASIEST time ever getting them to bed tonight...though that may be because we let Angie stay up until 9:30 (an hour past bedtime) and Juancho & Laura til 10:30 (2 hours past bedtime!)! Laura & Juancho fell asleep within minutes! The reason they got to stay up was because tonight was the soccer match between the Colombian national team and Argentina. Juancho wanted to watch it...and we told him and his siblings they could stay up to watch it as long as they were behaving well. They did great! (Though they did multi-task by watching the game on the big TV and the Chronicles of Narnia on the mini DVD player with headphones at the same time!)

Now that the game has ended about 45 minutes ago (Colombia won 2 to 1) there are still cars driving by honking their horns and playing music and people shouting on the you all know, soccer is a BIG thing down here! Juancho & Laura both have a mock soccer uniform with their names and favorite numbers on the back! They both play soccer pretty well...though Juancho is the only of the two of them that has expressed interest in being on a soccer team...we said we'd look into that this spring!
Yesterday was a good day...we walked out to a mall called the Santa Ana mall. It's a pretty fancy mall...we didn't even go into most stores because they were boutique type stores...with skyrocketed prices to match! We went for the purpose of going to Carrefour - a store very similar to Super Target with nice products but inexpensive prices. We bought some kiddy perfume and cologne for Juancho & Laura (they both wanted to wear Mami & Papi's stuff all the time...and that costs a lot!) and some deoderant for Juancho (he can get the pre-teen 'funk' after he's played a game of futbol!). We had lunch at a restaurant in the mall and then walked home. Walking places in Bogota has so far been fairly easy, but a bit adventurous - especially with a stroller! The sidewalks are often buckled in places, making them like an obstacle course to navigate. Crossing busy streets is insane - there are rarely crosswalks, and even when there are, we've determined there must be a game of 'try to hit the pedestrians' going on in Bogota - with extra points for pedestrians pushing a stroller! It seems cars speed up and honk when we try to dart across the street rather than slow down and let us pass!
While Angie took her nap, Juancho & Laura started school yesterday with Senor Mario! Senor Mario is a teacher in the area who does extra tutoring for students like ours who are not in school but need to be kept up on their education. He is focusing on learning English for them. Yesterday they started with the basics - the English alphabet. Truly not too different from the Spanish alphabet - minus a few letters and different pronunciation. He gave them homework - to write an English word that starts with each letter of the alphabet, and to sing the ABC song with Mami & Papi a few times! Last night after dinner Mami sat down to help Laura and Daddy sat down to help Juancho. About a half hour later Juancho was finished - he is very task oriented and a hard worker. Laura is a bit more like her Mami - easily distracted! She is also a bit more behind academically, so things are harder for her. She did great - but realized that clowning around during homework time only wastes play time later.

We also had a birthday party yesterday evening for Antoine DeRoot. Antoine is the father of Esteban - a 5 month old baby near the end of his adoption process here. Antoine and his wife Frederique are from France and Antoine was turning 43 yesterday! So we had party hats, a cake (with french wording), singing and the works for Antoine! Today he left to go back to France and just before he left they got the best present of all - they got Sentencia! That is the final signing which means Frederique and baby Esteban will be able to go home sometime next week!
"Tia Betty" (owner of 'Betty's Place), the girls & baby Esteban
The girls in their birthday celebration hats!
Angie enjoying the birthday cake!
Antoine, Frederique & baby Esteban DeRoot from France

Today was a big day! After breakfast we got ready to travel out to Zipaquira. Zipaquira is the town where the salt mines and Salt Cathedral are found. We had a day long tour planned with a guide Jorge Rico. It was about a hour long ride out to Zipaquira, but we stopped first in quaint town of Cajico. We walked around the town square that was beautifully landscaped with flowers and fountains, and stopped for a great mochachino at a local bakery...yum!
This is the inside of the bakery - we loved the style!
The family (minus Angie) in the Cajico town square
Jorge Rico (our regular guide) and the kids in the square in Cajico
From L to R - Jamie, Laura, Diana & Juancho at the town square in Cajico
We got to Zipaquira around noon and lined up to tour the salt mines. The mine we could tour (we traveled up to 600 feet below ground in these mines!) was no longer actively used for mining (though other mines in the area are...processing of salt is going on all the time here - the salt processed from these mines makes up 80% of all the salt used in the country of Colombia! But the salt mine we toured was home to the Salt Cathedral, an AMAZING underground tour of carvings, sculpture and symbolism that lays out the 14 stations of the cross, culminating in a huge underground cavernous cathedral with pews, a huge cross, a choir loft, and other sculptures. Services are actually held here every Sunday, and people have even rented the cathedral for their wedding! The beauty of the symbolism of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection as depicted here was enough to bring tears to our eyes. Our mine guide (also named Jorge) was great as he told the history and symbolism of everything in English (for the benefit of the parents) and Spanish (for the benefit of the kids). A special moment was on the way out of the mine when our guide Jorge asked Juancho where he lived. He responded with emphasis and enthusiasm 'MINNESOTA!'...the kids are excited to go 'home'. Today we left Angie at home with the nanny Alicia, but Juancho & Laura were fascinated with everything they saw and learned (though they were a bit nervous walking in the dark cave at first!). It was truly amazing. If you are ever in Bogota, you must visit this site!
Salt sculpture of Angel Gabriel
A salt replica of the famed Michaelangelo painting
Papi with Juancho & Laura in front of the 'salt cascade'

Salt sculpted Nativity scene
The whole group inside the Salt Cathedral
The town of Zipaquira (note the huge church in the middle of town & the mountains in the background - Beautiful!)
On the way home we stopped at an authentic Colombian restaurant. We ordered the #3 chicken family meal - which said it consisted of 2 chickens, french fries, yucca root and drinks. We assumed it meant 2 portions of chicken. But it really meant 2 full chickens! (some organs included!). The chicken was really good - but we had TONS leftover (lunch tomorrow!)...and we were amazed that we got all this food for about $12. We can't feed our family for that little cost at McDonald's at home! It was cute because during lunch Juancho leaned over to me and said 'Don't worry Mami, I won't eat the bones.' (see an earlier post if you don't know what that means!)

We got home just in time for Laura & Juancho studied the numbers from 1 to 100, along with a few words. Their homework is to write out the English words for the numbers 30 to 100 and draw a picture of what each of 5 English words Senor Mario taught them are (ie - grapes, fox, rain, etc.). We worked on it a bit tonight and will finish up tomorrow.
We can't believe Thanksgiving is two days away! We tried explaining Thanksgiving to Juancho & Laura - but they can't fully grasp what it means quite yet. We are planning for a big Thanksgiving meal here at Betty's Place - Robert is in charge of making the stuffing, and much to his JOY, the pumpkin pies have already been made (from scratch no less!).

Time to post some photos to support this long post...and then off to bed for us...just because the kiddos went to bed late doesn't guarantee they will sleep in!