Friday, April 29, 2011


No problems with getting the Visas! Praise the Lord!

Brent picked them up before he went in to work. He had several people in the waiting area think he was Colombian and start speaking in Spanish to him! When the one lady stopped talking he said, "No entiendo! Ingles??" She gave him the strangest look and then smiled and said, "OH, you're a gringo!" Brent said, "I'm about as gringo as you can get!"  HAHAHAHA!!!!

Today we organized the school area and filed papers that had been tossed into their crates for the past two months due to my lack of organization and follow through. It all looks MUCH better. The basement is mostly clean and I was able to pack away two of the tables with all the "stuff" on them.

 This is what it looked like for the past month..

We are working on sorting and repackaging all craft items and toys into ziploc baggies to save space in the luggage...

7 backpacks mostly packed!
All the kids except for Caitlin are packed now! That's a relief! So far so good. We are able to fit 2 kids clothing to one large suitcase. We'll see how many bags we'll end up with!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Colombian Consulate in Washington DC

Yesterday we woke up early, dropped the kids off at Brent's brother's house to get spoiled by their awesome aunt and uncle, and headed to DC.

I'm going to give specific details for other families that might have to visit this particular consulate:

There is on street parking so bring quarters for the meters. There is also a parking garage a block away, but it was pricey. We found a street spot thankfully!

The Consulate is located in a business office building.*** We signed in in the lobby and went to the 10th floor for the Consulate office. When you get off the elevator, turn left and follow around to the back of the hall. It's the last door of the hallway.

The Consular office is VERY small and stuffy- so I'm thankful we didn't bring the kids. We handed the ladies at the desk our paperwork. They then informed us that it takes 3 business days to process the visas! For us that would be the day before we are leaving! I told them we just couldn't do that so they said we could come back on Friday. They are only open to the public from 9am to 12noon Monday through Friday. So Brent is going to head back tomorrow to pick them up. We are praying everything is correct and there are no snags!

As I mentioned before, it seems no one could get through on their phone lines. Well, there was a sign in Spanish that, from what I could piece together with my limited vocabulary, said their phone system was messed up and sorry for the inconvenience. So that explains things! Hopefully that'll be fixed soon!

We met another adoptive dad who was waiting to pick his visas up. They are adopting two older children from Bogota and left today! I'm hoping we can get in touch with them when we get to Bogota.

We were only in the Consulate for about 15 minutes, but the other adoptive dad said that on Monday he waited 3 hours to turn in his paperwork. It was the first day back to work after Semana Santa so everything was backed up. Just be aware if you are trying to get a visa after a holiday!

Hopefully some of this will help any of you adoptive families that need to go to the DC Consulate.

**(Note: You want the Colombian Consulate, NOT the Colombian Embassy. I never even knew there was a difference! )

We don't have any Colombian restaurants anywhere near our house so on the way home we stopped at an amazing little restaurant in Gaithersburg called Colombian Breeze. The food was fantastic. Just so you all know, Colombian food is nothing like Mexican food! We started with Arepas smothered in cheese. Mmmm... We've made these at home so we were curious if ours tasted like REAL arepas. Surprisingly, ours came fairly close! But you just can't compare when you put that much cheese on them! These were wonderful.

I had Arroz Con Pollo- Chicken with rice. It reminded me of Chinese Chicken fried rice, only the spices are a little different. It came with little yellow potatoes that were delicious.

Brent ordered Baneja Paisa. This dish is the most traditional meal served in Medellin- our kids' city. It is kind of like a sampler of food. Very yummy. (We sampled each other's food!)  I loved the red beans and the fried plantain was wonderful. I'd had plantain before and didn't like it, so I was pleasantly surprised how good this was. I do have to comment that Brent let me unknowingly try the fried thick bacon looking thing. Only after I commented that I didn't care for it did he inform me that it was fried pig intestines! EWWWW!
I'm thinking I'll pass on that portion of the meal while in Medellin!

We also brought home several packages of frozen, homemade arepas, a package of Guava paste that you are supposed to slice and eat with cheese, and a homemade block of chocolate to make Colombian hot chocolate. They put a piece of cheese in the hot chocolate and let it melt, then drink it. Chocolate and Cheese. My two favorites. It should be delicious!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shopping, Consulate, Finding out, and Minutia

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of shopping, shopping and more shopping! The kids are sick and tired of it and so am I! I'm not a shopper to begin with, so this is killing me! Finding complete wardrobes for 7 children (and a few new things for me since I have put on a few pounds through this "paper pregnancy") in a few short weeks is overwhelming! BUT, I think I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  The last pair of sandals and package of socks were bought today. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah! I don't want to ever have to shop this much, this fast ever again.

Tomorrow we head to the Colombian Consulate in Washington DC.  Normally, you can travel to Colombia without having to get a visa, but since we will have legal custody of a Colombian citizen (or three!) while we are there, we have to get "Special" visas! So far neither myself, another adoptive mom, or our agency can get through to them on the phone line to find out if we need an appointment or whether we can just show up.  So we are PRAYING that they are friendly and let us get our visas easily. I've read a few horror stories recently of other adoptive families trying to get theirs at other consulates around the US so it has me cautious. I'm going OVER prepared with my entire traveling file box of every single paper they could possibly ask for!

Finding Out...........
Last week we learned that Luisa, Jhonatan, and Cindy found out about us the same day we got our travel dates! They were shown our photos and the dvd we made and were given the little gifts we sent. Raul, our agency rep, told us that they were jumping up and down all weekend, they blow us hugs and kisses each morning and night, and are very excited! You have NO IDEA how thankful we were for this news. With older child adoption, you never are fully sure that the children will be glad to be adopted. So hearing that they were so ecstatic was a relief to us. 

Today, in another phone call with Raul, we found out a few more details. Luisa is understandably nervous and a little scared but still super excited.  She asked the social workers which one of us they thought she looked like? Did she look like her big sister? (Is this not the most precious thing ever!)   Cindy liked her little Strawberry Shortcake doll we sent. When she was asked if she wanted to come live with us, she asked if Luisa and Jhonatan would come. When they said yes, she said she would like that! Jhonatan asked to see pictures about where they would play once they came to their new house. You'll never believe this... their foster home is in a rural area with woods and hills and dairy farms, just like here! Here, we're going to the second largest city in Colombia thinking we're getting children who are going to have an adjustment to country life, and we end up getting countryfied kids! God is so awesome!

The more we find out, the more we realize how they are meant to be in our family. I can't remember now if I wrote this before, but we learned a while ago that according to his foster mom, Jhonatan likes doing "karate type moves". In case you don't know our family well, Karate is a very big part of our lives! Even Brent takes it with all the kids. This is a match made in heaven- literally!

Minutia that nobody really cares about....
*Airline tickets are purchased (boy was that a crazy 3 days!) We fly out of JFK in May and will come home in June to Dulles
*We are planning to be out of the country for 5 weeks. (never been away for more than 10 days, so it should be interesting!)
*It will be cheaper to live for another MONTH in Bogota than for us to change our 9 airfare tickets to come home if we finish sooner.
*Apartment in Medellin is located and our agency is putting a security deposit on it tomorrow
*Shopping is "almost" finished
*Vaccine updates are finished- without too much drama (blood draws for our homestudy was a traumatic event I'm still recovering from...)
*We are still looking for luggage to borrow before I can begin packing
*The whole house needs to be cleaned from top to bottom
*Still need to buy a vacuum, Cindy's car seat, and a bathing suit for me (yuck!)
*I HAVE to find a time to work on our family scrapbook we are taking down with us!
*Need to figure out the phone situation
*Need to find a way to kill ants and stink bugs once and for all so they don't take over the house like in some horror movie while we are gone
*I have only had one "melt down" moment with the kids, which I think is remarkable!
*I am really hoping we get to meet some other adoptive families traveling around the same time as us! A few have blogs!
*I think I might forget every single Spanish word that I've learned when I see the chico's faces.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Travel Approval!

Today has been one of the most exciting days for us so far in this adoption process. We got word on our travel date!
We fly to Colombia on...
Wednesday, May 4th 
and will receive Luisa Faith, Jonathan Scott, and Cindy Joy on 
Friday,  May 6th!!!!!!!

We are going to have them for MOTHER'S DAY! They will have a momma for this Mother's Day, finally! Thank you, Lord, for that sweet, precious gift.

We were so concerned that we were not going to hear any news about our travel dates today and we would have to start making some difficult decisions about what to do with the immigration approval expiration date approaching. Thankfully, God didn't make us deal with that. Instead we heard the wonderful news that we weren't going to have to wait the full month like ICBF was going to make us wait.

We are so incredibly happy that my words can't even find their full expression.

I just had the realization that we will very likely return home the exact week two years from the date we first felt the call to adopt- June of 2009.  God is so cool like that, ya know?

And one more awesome thing...
Two years ago we quietly mentioned to some of our dearest, closest friends (on a Bob Evans parking lot after Sunday dinner) that we were thinking of adopting. Both families were BLOWN AWAY, because they said they had just been discussing the SAME THING!

We have traveled this adoption journey- ours to Colombia and theirs to a little girl in China- together for the past two years. And, get this, we are leaving the SAME EXACT DAY AS EACH OTHER! As Dan said, "Now, God's just showing off!" He is! And I love it! Can you believe this?

Monday we will have a phone call with Raul to go over Visa information, more travel info, apartment info, etc.
Tuesday we will drive to the Colombian Consulate in DC to apply for the Adoption Travel Visa
Wednesday we will drive back to DC and pick it up before they close for Holy Week.
From then until May 3rd we'll be shopping, packing, and pinching ourselves to see if it is really real!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Article 5!

Just got word a few minutes ago that our Article 5 was expedited and picked up today!! Hooray!!!

This is the last thing we need before we can get travel approval and it has taken mountain moving strength to get this! God is the one that gave our case the favor of the multiple government workers involved in the process.

Why am I so surprised when God shows up? Why do I doubt so easily? My faith is so small. Lord, forgive me.

I am so humbled by the MANY friends, family, and strangers who have emailed and posted saying they are praying for us. It is overwhelming. When we were discouraged or exhausted we were buoyed up with God's strength because of your faithful fervent prayers. Thank you from the depth of our hearts.

Next is waiting to hear when we will be ok'd to travel!  Maybe I need to pull out the To Do list that I haven't looked at in a week...things are starting to seem "real"!!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last night I called NVD no less than 10 times. I either was on hold for 1/2 an hour or got transferred around to everyone and their brother. Finally around 11pm I was able to get someone to speak to a supervisor for me. It took a lot of pleading but the supervisor said they would try to get the last two visas issued by the close of the day at midnight- 1 hour! Could we dare to hope?
11:50 came and I called again. The person answering the phone matter of factly said, yes they were processed today! I made him check and double check that they  had truly been sent. I know I was annoying him, but I wasn't going to take any chances after all the mistakes in the past.
Soooo, as of around 11:30pm last night all three visas were at the US Embassy in Bogota!! YAY!

Raul, the Colombia program manager that we are dealing directly with now, said he would get the in-country rep, Silvia, to take the DS-230 to the Embassy and she would request that they expedite our article 5 letter!

Today, was a much quieter day. I didn't feel the need to call the Embassy since Silvia was going in person and she has a much better relationship with the people in that office. This afternoon, Raul called and said that our Article 5 should be issued Wednesday at 3pm!!! Amazing! This is the last step for the US Government until we are ready to leave Colombia and the kids get their visas to enter the US.

Could this really be happening? I'm still trying not to get my hopes up too high. There are still a few more little steps where things can go wrong, of course! But, I am much more hopeful that our paperwork will be at the Medellin ICBF by Thursday or Friday so they can issue our travel dates before they shut down for Semana Santa.

I asked Raul to speculate on our tentative travel dates, but he wouldn't until Friday! LOL! Poor guy. I'm trying to pin him down, but he knows better than to do that with an uptight, stressed, emotional momma-to-be! LOL!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where Do I Begin?

This past week and a half has been insane to say the least.  We are trying to laugh about the craziness, but at moments it is hard and infuriating. All the explanations are very detailed and boring and I won't be offended if you want to skip all the drama. I just wanted to record it for our family's story. Here goes...(btw, you might not follow this without a calendar next to you! LOL!)

Our I800 approval sat in the USCIS Records division for 6 days with no movement. The supervisor couldn't or wouldn't do anything to address the situation which was very frustrating. Meanwhile we decided to get our congressman's office involved. At one mention of our intentions, the wheels started turning in the USCIS office. Our congressman's office called and helped us out, although I think things started moving when I just mentioned calling our congressman. Still they lied to our congressman's assistant saying everything was mailed that day, when in fact it hadn't. Then, later it turns out they only sent 2 out of the three boxes of paperwork. Guess which department packages and ships the boxes? Yep, that's right. The Records Division...lovely.

Finally, on April 7th all three files were at the National Visa Center. BUT, there was the huge worry that the government was going to shut down Friday at midnight! So I called several times asking them to expedite our case. We were told that they were in the "scanning department" and were being sent to the Embassy Friday afternoon, but that night when I called, the new person (very cranky) said they weren't even in the "processing department" yet.  ARG!! Every time I call this place I get a different person and a completely different answer. And, believe me I've called probably 15 times since last Friday!

Friday afternoon we had a phone call from Raul, our in-country rep. He briefed us on the process and gave us two pieces of really bummer news.
1. Our article 5 will probably be issued on April 20th- in the middle of the week that the Colombian government is closed down for Semana Santa- Holy Week. So really, it would probably not get to ICBF until the 27th or 28th. Another week lost...
2. ICBF is not going to allow us to travel for 3-4 weeks after we got our Article 5 letter from the US Embassy.They want to take that time to introduce the kids to our photos and dvd, counsel the kids and help them adjust to the changes they will go through. We were sooo disappointed. Another whole MONTH of waiting. We appreciate that they care about the kids so much, but frankly a month is a long time!

As the weekend wore on, we realized that this new timeline very likely will (if/when we have more delays) put  our travel dates at the beginning of June. Our hearts sunk when we realized our paperwork for our immigration (I800A) expires the first week in July. Usually, families are only in Medellin for about a month, but that only leaves us a one week window if there are delays! In our kids' particular situation, delays are definitely within the realm of possibilities because of some of their history with their adoption process.

Here's what that means according to our program manager: We could travel to Colombia, meet the kids, go through the court proceedings, become the legal parents of the kids, travel to Bogota to get their visas and the US Government will not let them have the visas to come to the US because our paperwork is expired. BUT, we could not stay in Colombia because we have to reapply for an extension of our immigration approval, a 2-3 month process including a new homestudy with a homevisit! What would happen to the kids? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????

Now, we can start the process for updating our immigration approval, and that is probably what we will do if we can't get anything accomplished by this Friday. We just really hate to do this because it will cost over $2000 to do it. AND, we might not even need it if we don't get delayed in country. AND our homestudy worker is not known for her speed so it might not even get done before we'd have to travel. It's gonna be difficult to get fingerprinted when we're not in the country! So, we are really,  really hoping to avoid this. 

My mission for today, Monday, has been to PUSH, PUSH, PUSH to get our article 5 letter issued and to the ICBF office by Friday before they close for Semana Santa. (According to our agency they CAN do it that fast if there's some pressure.) That way our travel dates will be earlier and we don't have to worry about the whole immigration approval expiration date.

Today,  I was able to speak to a supervisor at the NVC that agreed to expedite our case within the next hour. Just in case, though, I contacted our congressman's office again asking her to push things through once they left the NVC and arrived at the US Embassy. She agreed, and later forwarded me an email from the US Embassy saying they only had ONE of the children's visas. ARG! AGAIN! Why does this paperwork keep getting separated??? Again, I followed up with the NVC, and they were not super helpful. So I'm going to call again tonight (they're open 24 hours) and beg and plead with someone to send the last two visas to the embassy.

We are praying fervently that we can get our Article 5 letter issued by by the US Embassy by Wednesday, so Sylvia (Gladney staff) can then overnight the letter to ICBF by Friday when they can then set our travel date- for a month later (maybe 2nd week in May?), but still early enough for us to get home before our immigration approval expires.

Just so you understand....This is a complete impossibility to get all this done this fast. To gain favor with so many government workers and to have nothing fall through the cracks and do it by Wednesday is laughable.

Guys, seriously, we need  MIRACLE! A real one.

So, we are asking our friends and family to please pray (and fast if you feel led) that God would provide in some way. I have NO IDEA how He is going to work this out, but God is big, and mighty, and He is in control over paperwork and timelines.