Catie Come Home

Our adoption journey to Guatemala

April 26, 2005

Home

Not only has Catie come home, so has Grandma & Grandpa. We said our farewells yesterday to Danny, Kimberly, Anthony, Elli, Catie, and began our treck to West Virginia. The leaving was a little easier since we knew all of the above mentioned would also be stopping for a visit, in few days, on their way to Ohio to visit Kimberly's parents. Not only was the trip a memorable one for us, but we gained a wonderful new grandchild (Number 12). We have many pictures which will require some organization on our computer, and the making of albums etc. The trip was likely a one-time adventure for us, and a chance to see another country (our first trip out of the US). In many ways it was a tiring trip, but also and enjoyable one. We are thankful to be home after being gone almost three weeks. We found everything at home just as we left it, except for the grass which we immediately began to mow. Everything here is green and the flowers are blooming, a contrast to Guatemala which is quite brown at this time of year. The rainy season has not started there yet.

Thanks to all who have been reading the blog. I Hope it has been informative.

Grandpa Jack

April 21, 2005

Snapshots from Guatemala

I'm still a traditionalist when it comes to photography -- I use the same Minolta X-370 SLR that I bought with my high-school savings in 1985 -- but Dad entered the digital era a few years ago and got a new digital camera for Christmas in December. That means we were quickly able to upload the photos he took in Guatemala to my computer so I could take my first crack at photoblogging.

I've just finished pulling an all-nighter to figure out how to use the free Hello photo-sharing software through Blogger in order to get the photos online. You can see my photo essay in the posts below. I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I enjoyed reliving the experiences so soon after we arrived home.

Blogging is a fantastic innovation. I wish I had known about it in 2001 and 1999, during our first two adoptions. I'm sure Kimberly loves it, too. The love of blogging that kept me wide awake all night also meant she got to sleep through Catie's 5 a.m. feeding. So Kimberly got the sleep she deserves after a hard week, I got some quality bonding time with our new daughter and everyone else gets a quick and almost immediate glimpse into our wonderful journey over the past several days. Sounds like a win-win-win situation.

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April 20, 2005

The Best of Times

The sickness of the past week is nothing compared with the joy in our hearts now that we are home. The same is true of the numerous adoption trials we have endured over the past year-plus -- the overbearing social worker whose unnecessary demands forced us to delay the homestudy process by nearly two months last spring, the months-long wait for Catie's birth and the even more excruciating months-long wait to be able to bring her home.

None of it matters now because we are home happily and safely. We have a new daughter in our home and wonderful memories of a journey to Guatemala with my parents and our children. We have three beautiful children, a family we could not have had on our own. We are blessed.

The Worst of Times

Yesterday ranks among the most miserable days of my life. I started getting sick just after midnight, and I was still aching after we arrived home at about 1 a.m. I'm sure a looked quite the fright to all who saw me at Hotel Antigua, on the road to Guatemala City, at the airport and on our flight. But I didn't want to stay in Guatemala another day for fear that someone else might get sick, so I just prayed that my stomach problems would run their course by takeoff time.

God answered that prayer with a yes. The driver transporting us from Antigua to Guatemala City had to stop once at a Shell station so I could visit the bano, and I could barely walk through the airport. But by the time we got there, I was able to drink a Gatorade and 7-Up to fight off cramping muscles. It was the first nourishment I had had since dinner and, other than a few pretzels and crackers, all that I would have throughout the day. I also was able to keep down some aspirin to fight body aches, and I lay across three seats at our gate for more than an hour. When I awoke, I felt much better. I took Dramanine before boarding the plane and again near the end of the flight to settle my stomach and help me rest.

I'm still not too hungry today, but I had some of Charlei's great homemade bread (thanks for bringing it to our house) and some cheese. Other than that, I'll be drinking lots of fluids to stay hydrated. The upside is that my lack of appetite now should make it easier for me to get back on the South Beach Diet plan -- except that steak is the last thing I ate before getting sick, so I'll be eating more chicken and ham for a while.

Kimberly thinks my sickness is the result of eating ice cream for dessert Monday. The milk in foreign countries sometimes isn't great for American digestive systems. But I both Dad and I actually caught some kind of stomach virus. My sickness also seems like appropriate punishment for a comment I made at dinner Monday. Kimberly worried about getting sick that night, and I told he were leaving no matter what. So I got sick and had to live by my own mandate. I deserved it.

April 19, 2005

Grandpa´s Guatemala Impressions

Following are a few of my impressions of my Guatemala visit. (1) I have found most of the people friendly, even if I cannot speak their language. A smile works everywhere. (2) Poverty exist among wealth. Many people (at least in the cities) dress in as good or better clothes than I, and drive better cars. At the same time you see much poverty, and people living in places worse than we keep our animals in. Poverty among some wealth, and I expect the wealthy are taking advantage of the poor, in many cases. (3) One cannot get a proper impression of everything because of the walls. This is a city (Antigua) of narrow cobblestone streets, with concrete walls on both sides, yet behind those walls may exist beautiful buildings, hotels, restaurants etc. You can´t tell a book by it´s cover is a true statement here. (4) Employees in the hotels where we stayed were exceptionally well dressed in uniforms, and clean with well groomed hair etc. I wondered to myself and others what kind of a wage they received, and was told by a tour guide yesterday that probably $80.00 per month would be average. Even the tour guide told me that most of his money came from tips. Hotel rooms cost as much as in the US, so it makes one wonder where the money is going. (5) Antigua has a lot of tourist, and business people from other countries along with the US. Several corporations have offices and manufacturing plants in Guatemala. Wonder why? (6) I see many simaliarities to big cities in the US. Some good, some bad. (7) I love the little children. (8) It´s a nice place to visit, but I think Í will stick a little closer home. I

Leaving Guatemala

This is Grandpa again. I´m up, but not very at´em. I thought I was feeling better yesterday, and then committed the cardnial sin,¨I ate¨. Grandma says I did not eat much, but both Danny and I had a dish of ice cream, and now Danny is sick too. We are suppose to leave here for the airport at 1 p.m., and are praying Danny is well enough to make the flight. We had planned on our last meal in Guatemala being a good one, but I guess we have found out who the weaker sex is on this trip. None of the female species are sick, so far.

We have all enjoyed the trip despite the sickness. I have spent much more time in a hotel room than I had planned, but still got to see many things of interest, buy a few trinkets, smell the coffee, and if God wills bring home another wonderful granddaughter. Catie seems to be adjusting well now, with just the normal occassional cry when she is ready to eat, needs a diaper change, or wants more attention. Hopefully all will get to see her soon. If she isn´t scared she has a nice little smile.

Pray for our safe trip home.

April 18, 2005

Love Those 'Taxis'

Antigua has a new feature that we do not recall seeing before: mini-taxis that look like glorified golf carts. We've seen them all over town, and they travel pretty quickly on the cobblestone here. They also are easier to maneuver through the concrete posts in several of the streets here that are designed to keep buses off the roads.

Dad talked about hailing one of the taxis more than once the past few days but never did. Kimberly and I did today, though, when Dad and Mom let us venture out on our own again. We walked to the silver shop I saw yesterday to see if it had any Guatemalan coins. It's a long haul to that store, and when it wasn't open, neither of us wanted to walk back. We caught a taxi, and after negotiating a ride back to Hotel Antigua for $3, we hunched forward (so as to avoid banging our heads on the ceiling) for the bumpy three-minute ride. We arrived jostled but safe, and we loved the ride.

As for the coins, we could see some in one of the glass cases through the barred and padlocked door, but the store clearly was not open. A man in the jade store across the street told us the owner lived next door to that jade store and we could knock to ask him to open the silver shop. But no one answered next door, either. We're going to try again tomorrow.

I'm beginning to give up hope on finding any fairly priced coins, though. I did find another one yesterday, a silver peso from the 1800s much like the one I bought Elli for $25 three years ago, but the lady wanted $77 for it. As a collector, I know a bit about the value of coins, even Guatemalan ones, and they really try to gouge people here. I don't mind paying a bit more for the pleasure of knowing that I actually bought a coin in Guatemalan -- sentiment is worth more than silver to me -- but three times the actual value is unacceptable.

We'll see if I can find a better deal tomorrow.

Our Children's Heritage

As many of you reading this blog know, Catie has an unusually fair complexion for a child of Guatemalan ancestry. We jokingly call her "our little white baby" because she looks so different than Anthony, whose heritage is Mayan Indian, and Elli, who has more Hispanic features.

We are not the only ones to notice. In fact, Catie has attracted quite a bit of attention here. On our first full day in Guatemala City, a group of three teenagers at Pollo Campero were so fascinated with her that one of them snapped photos of Catie with her cell-phone camera. The girl may have done so because Catie is so cute, but Dad thinks it's because people here don't see many white children. Then on embassy day, our lawyer's daughter looked at Catie, looked at Kimberly and said, "She looks like you."

And yesterday, when all of us returned to the store where I met the woman who knows people in Guatemala, she didn't realize that Catie was from here. She told Dad that she thought we had just adopted Anthony and Elli from Guatemala and that Catie was just "a white American baby."

Kimberly broached that subject again today with Hector, our English-speaking tour guide, and he told us that some of the villages in the eastern part of Guatemala are home to people who are white. He offered to do some research on Catie's birthplace if we contact him after we get home. You can bet we will -- and we hope he will be able to help us learn more about Anthony and Elli's birthplaces, too. We are very excited about learning more about our children's heritage.

A Morning of Tourism

Catie had another solid night's sleep last night, so all of us were well-rested for a day on the road. Dad is feeling better each day, too, though I can tell the heat is beginning to wear on him. It wasn't supposed to be so hot and hazy in Guatemala; that's what Washington, D.C., is famous for!

We started the day with a relaxing breakfast at the hotel again and left for a nearby coffee plantation at 8:30. The retired Americans who own the place bought it in 1991 as a place where their grandchildren could see how "the other half" lives, but they ended up turning the land into what sounds like a profitable business. I'd say they're doing even better now than when we visited three years ago upon adopting Elli.

They do more than harvest and sell coffee now. They offer tours of the finca; they grow coffee trees to sell to other farmers here; they ship coffee directly to regular customers in the United states; and they just started raising "red wiggly worms" for use in their compost piles. (That is the owner's description, not mine, but they're different than nightcrawlers.) The owner even wrote and self-published a book last fall that tells his story of moving from the classrooms of America to a coffee plantation in Guatemala. The book, titled Detours, is available on Amazon.com. We were going to buy a copy today but wanted to make sure we didn't run low on money, so we will order a copy when we get home.

Both Kimberly and I were impressed with the help that the owners of Finca Los Nietos, Al and Carolyn Thompson, have offered to Guatemalans. Not only do they hire them for work on the plantation, but they also offer incentives for locals to find customers for their coffee trees. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the people who find clients for them, and the other 50 percent goes to the finca owners. They even hired the retired grandfather of the plantation's 24-year-old administrator so the grandfather could afford to buy medicine.

And best of all, the Thompsons are offering four scholarships per year as incentives for Guatemalan girls to stay in school through middle school. Carolyn said that by high school, 95 percent of students are boys because families want to make sure their sons, who need to earn money for their families, have the best education. So the Thompsons are doing their part to help a few girls also improve their knowledge. If I recall correctly, the families have to foot 50 percent of the tuition costs, but the scholarships cover the rest. The program has existed for three years, and all 12 original girls, four each in grades 7 through 9, are still in school.

Kimberly and I have been wanting to find a way to give back to the country that has given us so much, so we are very interested in the program ourselves now. Our friends and family may be hearing more about it from us in the future.

After leaving the coffee plantation, we visited a cooperative where Mayans are taught to weave and make other crafts. The highlight was when the women dressed Kimberly, Elli and Mom in traditional Mayan clothing. (Anthony said he was too embarrassed, and they apparently didn't have any pants big enough to fit me.) They didn't do that when we visited the coop in 2001. We snapped plenty of photos for everyone to see when we get home.

We cut short the final stop at the macadamia nut plantation because the tour guide there was an obnoxious, crude, foul-mouthed athiest and "tree hugger." At one time I had wanted to write a freelance story on the plantation because I love its mission: propagate carbon-dioxide-eating macadamia trees throughout Guatemala to help fight pollution and discourage the destruction of rain forests. But the tour guide -- I'm calling him "Lorenzo the Loon," a San Francisco transplant -- quickly offended all of us, as well as the Swiss family in our party (he made fun of Swiss chocolate in touting the macadamia plant's own version).

The guy also basically groped the young daughter of the Swiss family. Both Dad and I agreed that had he touched Elli in the way he touched that girl, he would have heard a few pointed words from us. I recoiled when he later approached Catie in Kimberly's arms -- and then he made a foul-mouthed comment about how he gets scared every time he is near a child that young because his are adults now. We left not long after that and did not pay the entrance fee or wait for macadamia pancakes. All of us were disgusted.

Thankfully, Kimberly pulled Anthony and Elli away early as Lorenzo was making his athiestic pitch and ridiculing the creation story. We're glad the kids' only interest was in getting dirty by picking up a few macadamia nuts from the ground.

April 17, 2005

Making Friends

I ventured out on my own today in search of coins, and while I didn't find any coins, I did manage to strike up some conversations with some English-speaking Guatemalans.

The first was a woman in the jade museum/jewelry store. I asked her if she knew of any place that sold silver coins because I recalled having seen a silver shop near that store the last time we were in Guatemala, but it was closed then. Turns out the shop was right across the street. But after the woman showed it to me, she told me she collects both paper money and coins (mostly paper money) from all over the world. She knows people who live in or travel to many countries, and they send her samples for her collection.

We talked quite a bit about our hobby, including how I got started collecting Guatemalan coins because of adoption, and we ended up trading contact information. I'm planning to send her some U.S. coins, and she said she would send me any Guatemalan ones if she ever finds any. I don't really expect her to find any -- I found only a few in my long search today, and the prices were far too outrageous for me to buy any -- but I had fun talking to her nonetheless.

I also talked to a woman in a candlestick store about adoption. I explained to her that my family was in town for an adoption, and she mentioned that she has friends in Georgia who want to adopt from Guatemala but don't know how to begin. We exchanged contact information, and I plan to try to help that family connect with our adoption agency, Homestudies and Adoption Placement Services, or HAPS, in Teaneck, N.J. Both Kimberly and I highly recommend them.

The most amazing part to me is that I was so readily open in talking about adoption during this trip. I can still remember how scared we were when we adopted Anthony in 1999. I'll always feel guilty because we let a nice young man in one of the jade stores believe that Anthony was an American. I don't know why he thought that because Anthony of all our children looks so obviously Guatemalan, but as he talked to us about our child, we were too scared to set him straight when he assumed Anthony was American like us. We never lied or even said anything misleading. We just remained silent.

Well, not anymore. Both Kimberly and I began to be somewhat more open about what we were doing in Guatemala when we adopted Elli in 2001, but I really surprised myself today in talking about our adoptions. I am glad that my cynicism about Guatemalans has faded with time and that I am comfortable enough to tell them about the most important people in my life.

Safe and Sound in the Sling

As I did with both Anthony and Elli, I have trekked through both Guatemala City and Antigua with Catie in a sling draped over my shoulder and across my chest. Unlike Anthony and Elli, though, Catie is not content for me to sit still while wearing the sling. She wants to be moving and lets me know it, quite loudly, when I dare to sit even briefly. The crying stops as soon as I arise.

Something tells me Catie may actually best me in her level of stubborness. Anthony has always been pretty easygoing; Elli is pretty stubborn in her own right but is no match for Daddy; but Catie has me beat so far. I cave every time, even when my back is killing me and I just want to sit. I try to resist her wailing, no matter how loud it gets, but I eventually crumble. She already must know that she is probably going to be the "baby of the family."

The sling, by the way, has attracted quite a bit of attention this week. Several Guatemalan women have asked about it. They recognize the bright material as being Guatemalan in origin but aren't used to seeing the sling draped over the shoulder and across the front of the body. The Mayans here carry their children on their backs or across their chests using belts under the shoulder (at least that's how I think Kimberly interpreted the one woman's comments to us).

Kimberly also noted that Guatemalans probably aren't used to seeing a man carry a baby. I certainly haven't seen any other men doing so. Even other adoptive families here tend to use strollers to transport their babies, despite the cobblestone roads in Antigua. But you know, I wouldn't have it any other way. I have cherished every minute of carrying our three children around Guatemalan in a sling. I don't care if I do look like a girly man.

A Good Night's Sleep

Kimberly tried a new technique with Catie last night, and all of us benefited from a good night's sleep. We decided to give Catie more time to eat rather than just stopping when she first resisted the bottle. We gave her little breaks after each ounce or two and then offered her the bottle again. She gladly took it and downed 5 ounces before falling asleep. She had never taken more than 3 ounces at once and typically had only 1 to 2 ounces.

The theory: Put her to bed with a completely full stomach so she would sleep longer. It worked brilliantly. She slept four hours to start and only woke briefly at 1 a.m. She did not require another feeding and diaper change until 4 a.m. That meant seven pretty solid hours of sleep for everyone else in the room -- and then Catie went back to sleep until 7:30 a.m. All of else, especially Catie, felt well-rested when we started the day. She was still a little fussy at times but not nearly as much as she has been the past week.

Papaw Update

Dad is feeling a bit better today but still can't eat much, which means he doesn't have much energy to do much. He stayed in the hotel this morning and watched Anthony, Elli and Catie while Mom and Kimberly went shopping and I went on a separate coin hunt.

This afternoon, Dad joined us in shopping for jade and seeing how they make jade at the nearest place that demonstrates the techniques. The best tour is farther down the road, but none of us was really up for the walk by that time. We're all back at the hotel now, and I'm blogging from its Internet cafe for $1 an hour (a pretty typical rate here). We will have dinner at the hotel in an hour or so, after Dad has recuperated a little. I don't think he will eat much, but I've been singing the praises of the ice cream from Hotel Antigua all week (you remember it don't you Stephanie), so he may sample it.

All of us had a big breakfast at the hotel this morning. It was a spectacular buffet, putting to shame all those American hotels/motels/inns that promise breakfast buffets but then provide only stay donuts, tiny boxes of cereal and day-old muffins. We were able to eat fresh fruit, pancakes, black bean paste with goat cheese (a staple with almost every meal in Guatemala and quite tasty), fresh pastries, hashbrowns and even made-to-order omelettes (assuming they understand the order, which the chef didn't until a nice man standing next to me interpreted for me).

Dad just nibbled on rolls and some of the lighter fare. The rest of us ate enough to get us through the day so we only had to pay for one meal in the evening. Kimberly also is feeling a bit ill in the tummy today, so she hasn't eaten much either. But that's par for the course. I'm beginning to think she likes to get sick on vacation, especially in foreign countries. :)))

NOTE TO STEPHANIE: Whatever you want to have for us when we get home is fine. No special requests. We're just glad you're willing to meet us at home so late. Your welcome to stay the night at our house since it will be so late.

NOTE TO CHARLEI: Our loft is yours to use when you need it, though when Mamaw and Papaw are in town we'll have to banish you to the basement. :)))

NOTE TO MARTIN: Stephanie passed along your message. What do you mean the lawn hasn't matured enough yet or it hasn't rained? What kind of an excuse is that not to help a brother in need and mow his yard while he is losing sleep in Guatemala? Still bitter about those Opening Day Orioles tickets, eh? :)))

April 16, 2005

Note to Neighbors and Meemaw

Hello Old Town friends and Meemaw. A friend of ours from church is throwing a tea in Catie's honor a week from today, and you are invited. We figured the best way to get the word out was to post a note on the blog so you could reserve the date. Details to come.

That's all for now. Signing off for the night, as it's dark and I'm still a little nervous about walking alone to our hotel, even though I'm only about two blocks away.

Volcanoes in View

Guatemala means "land of eternal spring," but this country has not lived up to its namesake this week. It has been hot, muggy and overcast. That has not only made the trip difficult for my father and more tiring than expected for all us, but it also has meant that we have not been able to see one of Guatemala's natural wonders: the volcanoes. Until today, that is.

We did not see the volcanoes at all from Guatemala City, and I always loved the view of them from the 5th-floor terrace at Princess Reforma. Even in Antigua, which is cooler than Guatemala City, we could only see the bottom half of the towering volcanoes on Thursday and Friday. The tops were covered by haze and clouds.

But we awoke this morning to moderately blue skies and could see five different volcanoes from the B&B in San Pedro. And by the time we arrived at Hotel Antigua, the skies were even clearer. One of the volcanoes is active, and we could see steam pouring from its spout this morning. Pretty cool ... so long as we are far away and the mountain doesn't blow its top.

A Fond Farewell to the B&B

None of us was eager to return to the B&B just outside Antigua last night, but we are glad we did. Anthony made friends with one of the little boys whose family tends the place, even though the two of them spoke different languages.

Anthony just chattered away at Pedro Jr. (We called him that because Kimberly didn't understand him when he shyly spoke his real name and because his father's name is Pedro.) And although his new friend did not say much back to Anthony, we could tell they had fun. I videotaped some of the interaction from a distance with the "night shot" feature of my videocamera. Pedro Jr. sampled some of the American snacks we brought, including chococate and "chewies" (Gummy Bear-style snacks featuring different cartoon characters), but he seemed a bit baffled by them.

The friendship continued in the morning. With Dad sick and check in at Hotel Antigua not until 1 p.m., we had to cancel our plans to tour the coffee and macadamia nut plantations until Monday. That gave the children the whole morning to play.

At one point either last night or this morning, Anthony informed everyone that his new friend in Guatemala knows Billy and Connor, his best friends back home, and he misses them, too. So even though Anthony has had fun here and even said at one point this week that he wants to live here, we know he misses America, too.

Fussy Days, Restless Nights

Catie seems to have adjusted quickly to the Glover family, but she still gets fussy during the day and awakes several times during the night. A head cold she got a couple of days ago has been part of the problem the past two nights.

We did start putting her to bed on her stomach because her foster mother said that's how she is used to sleeping. But that technique only worked for one night. Then she developed the head cold. She slept a little better on her back last night because the mattress in the bed was slightly elevated.

The bigger problem seems to be that she wants to eat all the time -- no cracks about how she's just like her Daddy, please -- but never very much in one sitting. So she eats an ounce or two during the daylight hours, naps a half-hour or so, awakens in a happy mood for a brief time and then wants more food.

We're slowly trying to get her adapted to eating larger amounts and sleeping for longer stretches, but that has been a challenge. We're hoping that once we get home that she will become more settled.

Having Papaw here has definitely helped. When I couldn't get Catie to stop fussing the other day, Elli looked at me and said, "Uh oh, it's Grandpa time." And sure enough, Catie quieted down for Dad. But Dad will have to go home at some point after we get back to the states, so Catie is just going to have to learn to be content with "Daddy time" and "Mommy time."

One good sign: Catie fell asleep in my lap for the first time today and then let me move her to my shoulder as I lay on the bed. She slept about two hours. Kimberly said that is the longest stretch of sleep Catie has had since we met her Monday. It was also the most peaceful I have seen her. Catie typically tosses and turns quite a bit, far more than either Anthony or Elli did.

You can bet that Daddy loved every minute of that quiet time with Catie -- and I am hoping for many more to come.

A Town Square without Character

Kimberly and I were bummed to arrive in Antigua on Thursday and hear from the owner of the B&B where we stayed that the indigenous Guatemalans who frequented the town square for years to sell their handmade goods have been banned from the practice.

Seeing all of those beautiful Mayan children and their parents throughout the square, and buying their products, was one of the highlights of our first two adoption journeys to Guatemala. We did have a few of them approach us in the square yesterday, but they were not nearly as persistent (also part of their charm) as in the past. They also didn't have much to sell.

People are still allowed to sell their goods in town, but they are tougher to find now that they have been moved from a central location. That said, Kimberly quickly reminded me yesterday as I was about to approach one Mayan mother to buy some necklackes that I needed to decided beforehand how many I wanted to buy, get them and then bid a hasty retreat before "the swarm" it. I told her that no one else was in sight, but she responded, "It doesn't matter if you see them; they are there."

She was right. Before I managed to conclude the exchange, two or three other Mayan girls and a couple of men had arrived to pitch their goods. One guy followed Dad a block or two, lowering his price every time Dad turned him down! I love this place!

After that one purchase on the street, we headed to a couple of warehouse-type stores where it looks like several Mayan families have set up shop to sell their products. We found the one store on our last night in Antigua in 2001 and were glad to see it still in existence. We were able to buy most of the trinkets we wanted.

I even found placements and coasters in blue and gold -- West Virginia University colors. For 10 bucks, now I can have Kimberly set the table in the colors of my alma mater. That's even better than coming home from Russia last year with a "nesting doll" for my Dad that featured WVU football players.

I'm sure we will buy more goodies -- we're still searching for just the right jade, for instance -- but we have most everything we wanted and more. I've added a Mayan-style shirt and belt to my wardrobe and found a notebook holder in the same style. My search for old Guatemalan coins is a longshot, but I'll keep looking.

Papaw Blogging on Hold

Dad had some serious stomach problems about a week before we left the states, and he was hit with another bout overnight. We're not sure if it was caused by him eating too much greasy food or what, but none of the rest of us has been affected and we've been eating pretty much the same fare.

Dad has been recuperating today. He has not left the bed much and has only been able to sip Sprite and nibble at toast.

The problem appears to have subsided for now, and we hope to get in some more activities before leaving Tuesday. But it really depends on how Dad feels. None of us are comfortable just leaving him alone in the hotel room of a foreign country while he is sick. We did so briefly for lunch today once we arrived at Hotel Antigua, but we could tell Mom wanted to get back to him ASAP.

Please pray for him.

April 15, 2005

Post from Anthony

No, I don't love stinky diapers; Elli does. Catie falls alseep.

Post from Elli

Catie is beautiful. Bubba loves stinky diapers. I love you, Catie.

More Shopping on the Agenda

Today is a day for hitting the shops in Antigua. We started the morning with coffee at a cafe -- only Dad, Mom and Kimberly imbibed -- and Mom and Kimberly hit nearby shops while Dad and I blogged. (They're standing over our shoulders, hounding us to go shop outside the immediate perimeter! Can you hear Kimberly breathing down my neck?) So I guess it's about time for us to go. More later.

Catie Is Ready to Work

Yes, that's right, our five-month-old daughter is now a legal immigrant with a work visa. That's the last step in the process for us to bring her into the United States, and we finished it yesterday before heading to Antigua. (I couldn't blog about it because the computer at the Princess Reforma wasn't working.)

The embassy appointment went much more smoothly than three years ago, when we misread the time we were supposed to be there and almost blew it. Only an understanding embassy worker saved the day for us then. She let us get our paperwork in even though it was technically too late. She was surprised that our attorney or a representative had not accompanied us to the embassy, and this time, our attorney's daughter took us herself.

On the one hand, we hope our goof in 2001 didn't trigger that change; on the other hand, we were glad to have Nancy there. Not only did she quickly lead us to the embassy gate when she saw four or five other adoptive families about to beat us into the first place in line, but she answered all of the last-minute questions we had about what to do. The embassy appointment was much less stressful than in the past.

I returned in the afternoon to get Catie's Guatemalan passport, work visa and immigration papers. I was a little nervous that I would mess something up, but all went smoothly, and I was home in time to catch the ride to Antigua. Technically, we could have left Guatemala today, the original date of our return flight, but we have so much more we want to do in such a short time. We return late Tuesday, and it probably will be Wednesday before we get through customs and immigration at Dulles.

We're eager to introduce Catie to everyone -- and maybe even put her to work since she has a green card -- as soon as we get home.

Back to Blogging ... But not for Free

We arrived in Antigua yesterday afternoon, and I'm at an Internet cafe in the town square now. As I remembered from three years ago, there are Internet cafes throughout this place, and it's fairly cheap -- 8 quetzales (a little more than $1) an hour at this one and a little more at another one we checked.

Dad is sitting right next to me and blogging, too. I think he's hooked on blogging now, if only because it means he gets to sit for long stretches. I can certainly appreciate that, as those of you who read my many whiny posts about walking everywhere in Russia last spring can attest!

We're not actually in what is exclusively an Internet cafe; instead, we're sitting at a group of computers along one wall inside a barber shop, and we had to walk through a hallway to get the barber shop. Kinda neat (or maybe not so neat) to be blogging as hair is being trimmed behind us.

The place we're staying at now is a bed and breakfast just outside Antigua. It does have Internet access, but it's not free like it was at Princess Reforma and you have to have your own computer to access it. Not much good for us -- and it would be a pain to have to have the B&B owner drive us into Antigua just to blog. That cuts down on spur-of-the-moment blogging. It's one of many reasons that we've decided to stay there only one more night and then get a room at Hotel Antigua, which has much nicer facilities and will put us just a few blocks from town square.

Mom said just two words when we walked inside the arch to the outdoor common area at Hotel Antigua: "Oh, my." And the price is only $20 more per night, plus we get free breakfast.

We feel a little guilty moving out of the B&B because Mark, the owner who came to get us in Guatemala City, is a nice man and caters to adoptive families. He does a good and admirable work. But we are just looking for something more in terms of accomodations.

Part of the problem is that we're spoiled Americans -- kind of ironic in light of the sermon we heard last weekend on "contentment," which is something none of us are right now -- but Kimberly and I also have a personal attachment to Hotel Antigua. We stayed there two or three nights in 2001 when we adopted Elli, and it reminds us of that time. (We miss you being here with us, Stepanie/George/Dace!). We showed Dad and Mom the place before we decided to move there as of tomorrow, and the hotel's lobby and common area are even nicer now than they were then.

Anthony said while we were at the hotel that he wanted to go back to the B&B instead -- it has a nice yard where he and Elli can kick ball -- but the adults at least are looking forward to being "near the action."

Grandpa from Antigua

We made it to Anigua around 6 p.m. last night. We did not find the bed and breakfast as inpressive as it looked in pictures. Grandma told Danny it was a little like when we used to go camping, but I would have to say it was a little better. We plan to stay there again tonight, and then move into the city, which was where we wanted to stay in the beginning. The same person (Mark, an American from LA) has a bed and breakfast in town, but it was full. We will be staying at the Hotel Antigua.

Catie seems to still be adjusting better every day. Grandma said this morning that she now seemed to recognize me. When I came into the room, and she saw me, she smiled. I have walked with her a lot, which she seems to like, but I have laid off the diaper changes. I never could get one back on till it was effective. I don´t want to leave Grandma out of the picture in this blogging, although I cannot put down her thoughts, and she doesn´t blog. She is quite a Catie caretaker, which I´m certain she enjoys. I can see the love for Catie in her eyes. She is that way with all her grandchildren, and likes to do things for them. I think it is lunch time, and the ladies said it is time to quit blogging, so this is Granda signing off for now.

April 14, 2005

Blog Post from Catie

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This will be my last blog from Guatemala City. The temp is already quite warm here and it is 0nly 8:25 a.m. Danny and Kimberly are at the embassy taking care of the final paperwork so we can leave the country with Catie. She is doing much better as far as adjusting to everyone, and likes to play with Anthony and Elli. We will leave this afternoon for Antigua for a few days of vacation. I'm certain there will some blogging done from there.

I plan to write some (at a later date) about my impressions of the country and the people, but I must say they have been very favorable. I wrote a little concerning the server in the breakfast lounge. Today I wanted to say goodbye to him, and tell him we probably would not see him again. He was very kind, shook my hand, gave me a big hug, and said "God bless you". I gave him a big tip, and wished him well. I did put some religious events on my webpage. You may check them at http://www.biblestudypage.com/

We will look forward to coming home though. More later, if we can make connection.

April 13, 2005

Thin But Healthy

Catie had her last doctor's appointment this afternoon, the final step before our U.S. embassy appointment tomorrow. She is a healthy baby but a little on the tiny side. She weighs 11 lbs., 13 ozs. now and is 25 inches long. That puts her off the charts on the low end for average weight at her age and in the 25th percentile for height. But the doctor told us not to worry because she should gain weight quickly in the next couple of months.

Rosa, Catie's foster mother, and her niece, who is pregnant, came to the doctor's office. A woman working for our attorney was supposed to meet us there but was running late. Today was the first time we have ever seen a foster mother again after what we thought was the final, tearful farewell, and we were glad to see Rosa again. Catie was, too. She is literally "sleeping like a baby" as I blog. We even invited Rosa and her niece to dinner at Chili's, and Rosa gave Kimberly detailed information on Catie's eating and sleeping habits. We hope that will ease the transition.

While we were at the doctor's office, Kimberly showed Rosa baby pictures of Anthony and Elli. When Rosa saw the first portrait we had taken of Elli upon returning home in 2001, she said Elli was mucho grande -- and she said we need to work on beefing Catie up like that too. :)))

On another note, Chili's had a moonwalk that Anthony and Elli just loved. Anthony loved it so much that he has now proclaimed today "the best day ever." Flying to Guatemala to get his baby sister has now been trumped by a few sweaty but passing moments in the moonwalk as Anthony's best day. Kids are so fickle!

The High Price of Chiclets

Kimberly bought some Chiclets chewing gum from a young boy on the street yesterday. We paid 20 quetzels (almost $3) for a few pieces of gum ... but it was worth every penny to us to see the smiles on his and his mother's faces.

Every time we travel here, we see the faces of our own children in those of Guatemalans who are less fortunate. We see them at the airport, on the streets of Guatemala City and in the town square of Antigua, and we desperately want to help all of them. Many of them look as if there growth has been stunted by malnutrition, and I suspect most of them are truly needy. While we are relucant to just hand them money, we will buy goods from them. And while I'll usually try to negotiate with an adult Guatemalan if I think the price for a particular item is too high, I tend to pay whatever price a Guatemalan child quotes to me -- and sometimes more.

I can remember buying necklaces from two girls in Antigua on our trip to adopt Anthony. The girls were sitting on a stoop together, and Kimberly says they were probably sisters. They probably thought I was crazy for insisting on buying necklaces from both of them when the money was going to the same family. But I couldn't help it. I wanted something from each of them.

Three years ago, Kimberly did something a little different. She bought ice cream for the children who were eating lunch in Antigua's town square next to the bench where we sat. And this year, Kimberly brought a bag of bite-size candy bars to hand out in the town square. I'm sure that will be just as big of a hit here as it was in Russia, when I gave a bag of chocolates to the eight-year-old son of two of the Christians there.

I overpaid for the Chiclets yesterday only because I didn't have any smaller bills. But now that I've done it once, I might just do it again and again. It makes me happy, and it makes the children happy, if only for a brief time.

Where Catie's Adoption Stands

We take Catie to the doctor this afternoon for one last appointment, and if all goes well, we will be at the embassy tomorrow morning to complete the final step in her adoption (not counting the "re-adoption" process in the states that begins in six months or so). After our morning meeting at the embassy, one of us will return in the afternoon to get the paperwork. Technically, we could leave Guatemala then, but Lord willing, we'll be heading to Antigua for a few days instead.

You can't really experience Guatemala unless you get out of the capital city, which in many respects is very much like the capital city of the United States. People here generally dress in suits, casual clothes or other common clothing. They have American chains like Chili's, Domino's Pizza, McDonald's, Burger King and even Chuck E. Cheese (or Charles Edward Mozarella, our codeword when discussing it in front of the children). You can even buy luxury cars or high-end clothing at a combination shopping mall-car dealership just a few blocks from our hotel.

Antigua and the surrounding areas, on the other hand, are populated by many Mayans. They flock to the town square to sell their handmade goods. You also can tour a jade museum in Antigua and learn how they harvest and refine that popular Guatemalan jewelry. And when we adopted Elli, we toured nearby coffee and macadamia plantations. Coffee is a staple in Guatemala, and the macadamia plantation is an innovation designed to stem pollution from the open fires, smog-generating cars and other realities of the atmosphere here. I don't recall all of the details from the tour three years ago, but apparently macadamia trees soak up some pollutants, so if Guatemalans can be convinced to plant more of those trees, pollution can be alleviated.

We look forward to our travels to Antigua most of all when we come here, and now we're excited because my parents will get to enjoy it with us.

Earthquake in Guatemala

We heard rumors yesterday that a small earthquake shook part of Guatemala on Monday night, so I just searched Google News to confirm the rumor. It is true.

The quake ranked somewhere between 4.6 and 5.3 on the Richter scale, according to two different measurements, and was centered about 50 miles from Guatemala City. It hit at about 8:40 p.m. None of else felt it -- we would have been eating, or just finishing, dinner with the Venturas at the time -- and it apparently did not do much damage.

We thank God for keeping us safe and ask for his continued care for us while we are here, on our return home and throughout our lives.

If you want more details on the quake, you can go to this brief AP article.

The Adoption Connection

One of the benefits of adopting from Guatemala is that we get to meet so many other adoptive families while we are here. And every time we have been here, we have met people who remind us how blessed we have been in all three adoptions. We get so wrapped up in our own lives and perceived troubles that we forget there are others who face more trying circumstances than us.

As I've mentioned before, this adoption has tested our patience because Catie was exactly five months old the day we met her. Elli was only three-and-a-half months old when we went to Guatemala to get her, and Anthony's adoption was simply ideal. Everything went perfect that first time, and we met him when he was only seven weeks old.

We knew that speed was unusual even for our adoption agency. Back in 1999, when adoptions from Guatemala were not quite as popular as they are today, HAPS was able to get some babies home to their families within two to three months, but seven weeks may well have set some kind of record. The experience spoiled us on what to expect in the future.

Other families' experiences should have lowered our expectations. When we adopted Anthony, we met one woman who had been in Guatemala with her baby for the second or third time since her birth but was still unable to finalize the adoption. The baby was six months old then, and there was no end in sight to the delays. The adoptive family across the hotel hall from us on that trip, meanwhile, did not get their child until he was several months old -- and he cried pretty much all day and all night the entire two or three days they were here. On top of that, the mother had an injured arm and could not easily hold her child.

On this trip, we met an Irish couple here to adopt a beautiful girl with as much hair as Anthony has now. Their daughter is only six months old ... but the adoption process took them FIVE YEARS because of the rules set forth in the Hague treaty on international adoption. Just the thought of that horrifies me. That would have meant the adoption process we first began in 1999 would have continued until last year before we brought a baby home. In just a little more than that time, God instead has blessed us with three children.

And the situation in Guatemala is so much better than in many other countries, like Russia and China, where adoptive families often do not get their children until they are much older, where the children tend to have more health problems, or where they are scarred by "attachment disorder" from being placed (and virtually ignored) in orphanages rather than in loving foster homes.

In retrospect, Kimberly and I really have had it easy when in comes to adoption. Sure, we wish we had been there for every single day of Catie's life, as well as Anthony's and Elli's, but in the big picture, we did not miss much. The trials that other people have endured to start or expand their families through adoption, on the other hand, truly are humbling, and I admire them greatly.

Another Day in Guatemala

Danny is quite a blogger, but this time I beat him to the computer. Actually, We could not get online, and he went to take a nap. Catie was awake a couple of times last night so that is the parents job to get up with her. Grandparents try to sleep, but since we are all in one room that can become difficult. Finally, I got up at 6 a.m., along with Elli and Anthony and we all played in the bathroom (only place there was a light) with Catie. We all went to breakfast, which is just a short distance from our room, and I finally got Catie to sleep. Grandpa's just have a way with little girls. Big Joke!

As I said, breakfast is just down the hall, in what they call the lounge (not the type you are thinking of). It is quite a good spread, and free. I could stay here all day, but they stop serving at 10 a.m. There is a real nice man (not sure what to call him) who takes care of the lounge, and breakfast. I kept seeing him here in the morning and then again at night, so this morning I asked him if he worked all the time. He speaks some English. He explained to me that he works from 6-10 a.m, then returns and works from 6-10 p.m. I'm not sure I would want those hours, but Danny says a lot of people do the siesta thing in the afternoon.

I'm certain that Danny will have lots to blog when he wakes up and finds the computer is working, so I will not steal his thunder. Take care, everyone. This is Grandpa, signing off from Guatemala.

April 12, 2005

Shopping Day

Grandma and I have been out blowing the boys inheritance today. They don't need it as bad as we do anyway. The day was quite HOT, and I'm not use to that kind of heat yet, not counting the fact that heat is not good for people with MS. In my case neither is cold, so I'm stuck unless I can find a place that stays 70 to 75 the year around. I made a few deals in spite of the fact that the exchange rate still taxes my feeble mind. I have begin to say "just tell me the price in dollars".

Catie has had a much better day. She rode in a Guatemalan sling (that is what I call it) with her daddy, and seemed to like it. She has had a couple of good naps. It would be nice if she decided to sleep through the night.

Well, Elli is sitting on my lab as I type this, and says she is ready for bed. Good night to all.

Grandpa Comments

We arrived in Guatemala yesterday (April 11) at 11:10 A.M. (1:10 P.M. ) Paden City time. The flight went well, which was a blessing for those who don't fly much. After the normal time in getting our luggage, and going through customs, we had a rather long wait for the bus from our hotel. That was probably a good thing because it gave us time to observe some of the dress and traffic of Guatemala. There was a little mix up with some paper work, so we will be staying in Guatemala City until Thursday, before moving on Antigua for some sightseeing. We will hit some of the shops here while waiting.

Grandpa got the priviledge of waiting in the hotel lobby for Catie to arrive. I was about to give up, and was standing on the hotel steps, when two women (one with a baby) came around corner. Naturally, not being able to speak a word of Spanish, I had a little problem finding out if this was the right baby. Finally, one of the ladies produced a sign with Kimberly's name on it, and I was able to lead them to our room. I had not planned on looking at Catie (she was covered with a blanket in spite of the fact it was hot) so Kimberly and Danny could see her first, but when I got to the elevator the foster Mother uncovered her, so I could not resist. I spoke to her and she gave me a big smile. What a joy that was. She is beautiful, with a little hair, and a happy smile, although I admit to being prejudiced. After a little mix up on the elevator, it only went to the fourth floor and we were on the fifth, we found the stairs to completed our journey to the room. Oh, by the way, the elevators really go all the way to the top floor, maintenance was just working on one of them.

I think Danny has already blogged about their side of the meeting, so I will not deal with that on my blog. Needless to say it was a happy time, except for the sadness of the parting of the lady who has raised Catie for five months. I cannot imagine that feeling.Catie has had some trouble adjusting to the new surroundings, and people, but today (12th) she seems to be doing better. I just had the priviledge of walking with her till she went to sleep. Grandma, was having a fun time with her early this morning, when she woke up early, by playing with her while the rest of us slept. I don't know which of us is more excited.

This has been a good trip for us, so far, and we pray it will continue so.Yesterday we took a very quick tour of some of the shops here. I'm having a little trouble figuring out this money thing. The exchange rate is 7.5 to 1, which means 7.5 quetzales is equal to 1 US dollar. I bought a shirt for 72 quetzales, or 10 dollars. Paying 72 of anything for a shirt is a little strange to me.I am blogging this from our hotel, which has a nice Dell computer in their breakfast lounge, for free use of anyone. That's nice!

More later, as I can think of anything to write. Words don't flow out of me like they do Danny, so my blog will probably have some grammar and spelling mistakes, but what can you expect of a redneck Grandpa.

NOTE: This post will now appear on Danny's blog as we have corrected the problem of me being able to post directly to his page. I had posted it earlier as a comment to one of his blogs, and will try to delete that.

More Trinkets

Kimberly and I are always willing to open our wallets when we come to Guatemala. It seems like we find some nifty trinkets we missed on the last visit that we simply must have on the current visit. This time, we are determined not to leave Guatemala with regrets about purchases we wished we had made but didn't. We may never be blessed to travel here again.

We started the shopping this afternoon. Kimberly bought a nice purse, and I bought a Mayan-style shirt. Both were items we regretted not buying on previous trips. I also bought a new clock for my office wall. The clock is set in wood that is carved in the shape of the Guatemalan map. It also features the national bird, the quetzal, and some images of the Mayan era. I love it. And we bought a few inexpensive carved and painted images of birds as ornaments for our Christmas tree.

That's all just from the shop down the street from our hotel, too. We haven't even been to Antigua yet, and the trinkets are even more plentiful there. Guatemalan jade is on the top of Kimberly's list, and Guatemalan coins, if I can find any, are on the top of mine. We filled a suitcase with diapers and formula for Catie on the way down. Hopefully, it will be near empty when we leave and provide enough room for all of the goodies we get.

At church over the weekend, we just had a series of good sermons about contentment and other such topics that are very relevant to families like ours. While I am confident in saying that we would be more than content if we returned from Guatemalan with nothing but our entire family intact, I am also grateful that we have been as blessed as we have. It is wonderful to be able to buy several mementos of our travels here.

P.S. to Rick: They have some really cool pens here, and Catie insisted that I buy a few for Uncle Rick.

Sibling Love

I wish I could bottle the affection Anthony and Elli have shown for their little sister on this trip and save it for the days when sibling rivalry tends to be a greater force than sibling love. Both Anthony and Elli have been excited about our trip for weeks, and that has been one of our greatest pleasures. Our first two children are the reasons we wanted a third -- and we expect no less of Catie, who already has added to our joy.

The excitement within Bubba and Sister was abundantly apparent when we awoke them at 4 a.m. on Monday for the trip to the airport. Elli in particular is usually a bear when awoken from a deep slumber, but even she did not throw any minor fits about what shoes or clothes to wear or anything else. And Anthony practically bounded down the stairs. He was full of energy all day yesterday until dinner at 9 p.m. Virginia time, and even then he kept himself from falling asleep at the table. He didn't crash until lights out at about 11 p.m.

We also know Anthony was excited because he put yesterday's trip into the category of "best day ever." He regularly says "this is the best day ever" -- but only for special occasions like birthdays, etc. So we know the day was special to him.

We tried to make the day just as special for Elli. We gave her the honor of being the first to hold Catie after she came to the room. She won't remember that, but we can tell her some day and hope it will be as special to both of them as it was to us.

Both of the older kids have dawdled over Catie ever since she joined the family in the flesh as well as in spirit. They love to rub her furry little head, let her clutch their fingers and mimic the "baby talk" we adults use when chatting with Catie. Anthony says over and over again how cute Catie is, and although Elli insisted just a few days ago that she would be my baby again once we got Catie, Elli really hasn't shown much of a jealous bone yet.

While the feel of Catie in my arms makes me nostalgic for the days of Anthony and Elli's infancy and a part of me can't bear the thought of Catie growing one more inch, I still can't wait to watch all three of our children mature together. Lord willing, they will always be close.

Chicken Memory

How could I possibly forget the chicken when remembering our plane trips to Guatemala? I'm talking about the fried chicken that so many Guatemalans carried on the plane with them to the United States when we adopted Anthony. Kimberly and I were baffled by that curiousity back then, and it wasn't until years later, when a Central American businessman opened a branch of a popular chicken chain in the Washington, D.C., area, that we really understood it all.

The chain in question is Campero, and the aromatic memory of that 1999 flight jumped to the forefront of my mind today when we went out for lunch. We were looking for the McDonald's but found a Campero chicken franchise instead. We simply had to eat there -- and the grub was great, for my appetite if not for my diet.

Ironically, after having just blogged about not having any embarrassing Spanish moments last night with the Venturas, I had a major faux pas when calling for the waitress to get our check. I beckoned her with the greeting senora, which apparently is a greeting reserved for older, married women. This woman was neither old nor married (at least Kimberly gleefully noted that the waitress wasn't wearing a ring), so I should have called her seniorita.

My only consolation is that Kimberly goofed again before I did. We had intended to order one bucket of chicken for us to share at lunch and no fries or other sides. Anthony and my Mom also ordered water, Elli a Sprite, Kimberly and cola and me an orange drink. I was pretty sure that when the waitress repeated the order to Kimberly, she asked if we wanted three colas for the adults. I was right. When she brought our food, we had six full meals, five colas and one orange.

If we return to Guatemala again someday, we're going to have to think seriously about paying Doris to come with us as a translator. I'm tired of giving my adopted family here the idea that Americans use bedpans all the time, bury other people's wives prematurely, think every lady is an old married woman, and can't get enough fried chicken and cola!

No Embarrassing Spanish Moments

Neither Kimberly nor I embarrassed ourselves last night when trying to converse with the Venturas. Kimberly did a great job keeping the conversation going, though afterward she said that it was exhausting trying to speak and understand another language.

I kept quiet much of the night and didn't try to say anything in Spanish. The memory of my one attempt to say something to the Venturas five years ago when we adopted Anthony was still far too fresh in my mind for me to try.

When we had dinner with them that time, they asked if we would like to stay with them one night. Kimberly was trying to think of the Spanish word for "bed" to tell them we couldn't accept the offer because we needed a bed for Anthony. She asked me to look it up. I found what I thought was the right word and said it. The Venturas looked at me questioningly. I repeated the word -- and repeated it again and again, as if saying it multiple times would make it right.

Only after the third or fourth attempt did I bother to look at the word in the translation dictionary again. I had told the Venturas that we could not stay with them because they had no ... bedpan. No wonder they looked so befuddled! Kimberly tried to salvage the day by explaining what I really meant, but we we're not sure to this day that they ever really understood.

I wish I could have been a fly on the steering wheel of the Venturas' car on their way home that night. I can just picture them looking at each other and one saying to the other: "What's with those Americans. We're supposed to be the Third World country, and they're still using bedpans!"

Thankfully, Kimberly embarrassed herself even worse Sunday night when she called the Venturas to invite them to dinner at our hotel. As she talked to Brother Ventura, she thought he kept saying his wife wasn't there. Kimberly interpreted that to mean Sister Ventura had died ... so she offered her condolences. Sister Ventura is alive and well!

My brother's wife, Doris, had to salvage the day that time. Doris is Mexican and speaks Spanish, so Kimberly called her and asked her to call Brother Ventura and make she he understood their brief conversation. Doris called back later to say that she and Brother Ventura had some good laughs at Kimberly's expense. So now she can never again tell "the bedpan story" without me also getting to tell "the dead wife" story. :)))

The Church in Guatemala

We had a nice visit with Francisco Ventura Lopez and his wife last night. Brother Ventura is a preacher here in Guatemala. He travels to various churches of Christ in the country, and he reports that the work is growing. As we did five years ago when we first met them, we asked the Venturas what they need to help the churches here. They requested only two things: more Spanish-language songbooks and glass communion cups. They ask very little.

We had hoped that we might be able to worship with the brethren on this trip, but the congregation where Brother Ventura works now is about 20 miles from Guatemala City -- but in the opposite direction from Antigua, which is where we will be on the Lord's Day. We asked about a church in Antigua, and Brother Lopez said there is one in that area, but it also is not close, and the public transportation here is not safe.

We plan to have a Bible study of our own instead. Though that method will be more edifying because only Kimberly understands limited Spanish, once again we are saddened that we will not be able to meet more of our Guatemalan brethren. In the past, we have been too nervous to even consider going to one of the congregations here both because of the transportation issue and because we do not know how people might react to our children -- not so much the Christians but others we might see along the way. But on this trip, we had grown more comfortable with the idea of attending worship at a Guatemalan congregation. Sadly, we will not be able to do so.

Free (But Spotty) Blogging from Guatemala

I'm able to blog for free from the Princess Reforma hotel in Guatemala City. They have a Dell computer, with a flat-screen monitor, set up in the corner of the 5th floor lobby here, and the access is wireless. That is a new and much-appreciated development since our last trip here.

Unfortunately, the wireless connection is spotty at best. I just updated my "Memory Plane" post but lost it when the connection was broken. Bummer. I'll try to go back later and update it again.

UPDATE: I've finished the "Memory Plane" post and managed to publish the final version. You can look at it below. Thankfully, I have time to deal with spotty Internet connections today, as we have nothing planned but giving Catie time to adjust. I'm sure we'll visit the tourist shops just down the block, and we're pondering a visit to the Guatemalan Zoo, but for the most part, this is just a day to enjoy the new addition to the family.

April 11, 2005

The Memory Plane

Jill (Price) Clark, a lifelong friend of mine, visited us this weekend. It was the first time I had seen her in years, and as much as I wanted to reminisce about our wonderful childhood, I have a lousy memory sometimes. I recalled a few events -- like the time our two families went camping in Ohio and the campground flooded -- but I couldn't even remember, for instance, that all of the Glover and Price children once unknowingly played in poison oak and awoke in camp the next morning with swollen faces. How could you forget something like that!

Well, as bad as my memory is, every time I get on a plane to Guatemala, the most cherished memories of my life rush into my mind.

Today, I remembered how crazed Kimberly was when we almost did not get to make our connecting flight in El Salvador five years ago. The seats reserved for us had been taped off because of some problem, and Kimberly absolutely insisted that we would be on that flight, in someone else's seat if it came to that. They found us a seat.

As I looked across the aisle at Anthony at one point today, I thought of him cuddled in my arms on our return to the United States. He filled his diaper just as our descent to Dulles began that day, preventing us from changing his britches, but somehow that is a fond memory five years later. Thankfully, our immigration agent let us clean the boy before having to go through the process of confirming his right to enter the country!

I also remembered the long and enjoyable conversation I had with a Guatemalan man on the trip to get Elli in 2001. I can't recall what we talked about ... but I remember how much I loved talking to a man from my son's birth country about anything and everything. In a strange way, I saw him as family. I wish I had asked for his address and tried to keep in touch with him.

(More memories later. I have to go make some new ones now with the Venturas, the preacher and his wife we met five years ago when we adopted Anthony.)

Continued after a not-so-good night's sleep:

And I remembered the beauty of the towering Guatemalan mountains on our way to get Elli. We arrived late that trip, so we could see the mountains jutting into the night skyline, with the open fires of small (and presumably Mayan) villages dotting the landscape. As our plane banked to the right and passed over one line of mountains, we suddenly saw the lights of Guatemala City. We felt like we were at home -- a peacefulness very much unlike the sense of dread that followed us every time we stepped outside our hotel after adopting Anthony.

Now I will have a whole new set of memories from yet another plane trip -- seeing Anthony sitting between my parents, watching Elli nap on Mommy's lap, showing Elli that same mountainous landscape in the daylight as we neared Guatemala City yesterday. I wish I could recall more events from my childhood because I have lived a happy, blessed life. But if I never remember another thing from those days, I will cherish forever the memories of our three journeys to Guatemala over the past five years. They are seared into my mind.

And even if I do forget them, well, I'll have this blog to remind me!

A Hitch in the Process

Looks like we'll be staying in Guatemala City for a few days. The passport process was not finalized as we had thought last week, so we could not take Catie to the doctor today. That will have to wait until Wednesday, and then we'll go to the embassy on Thursday to finalize everything so we can take Catie home next week.

That will put a crimp in our sight-seeing plans, but the only sight we really came to see is the one we finally have in our arms after a wait that greatly tested our patience. Kimberly said today that it's like she has been in labor for five months. The pangs have been emotional rather than physical, but they have been just as real to her.

The only question I have now is how long it will take before she starts talking about going through it all again. Just as mothers who endure painful labors tend to swear off pregnancy ever again, only to change their minds later, Kimberly has said this will be our last adoption. I'm not as convinced that it will be. Ask her again in two years, and you may get a different answer.

A Bittersweet Introduction

We arrived safely in Guatemala on time today and met Catie at about 4 p.m. Papaw got the honor of meeting her in the lobby of our hotel and directing the foster mother and Catie to us. He said he talked to Catie in the elevator, and she smiled.

As always, our introduction to Catie was bittersweet. We loved that little girl unconditionally from the day she was born, and even before that in theory, but it is so painful to take a child from her foster mother, the only family she has known. That is especially true with Catie being five months old. The bond between the two was abundantly clear to all of us, and while it cannot possibly be as hard on us as it is on the foster mother when she leaves the room, it is still gut-wrenching. I did not know the woman, but I embraced her tightly and did not want to let go. She raised our baby girl for five months and did a fantastic job of it. We can never repay her the debt of gratitude we feel.

Catie is having a hard time of it now, too. We are struggling to learn what she likes -- how she likes to be held, when she wants to eat, what position she prefers for sleeping, etc. "She just has this look of terror on her little face," Kimberly said just a few minutes ago in our room when Catie awoke from a nap that did not come easy. "It's like she woke up and realized, 'That wasn't just a bad dream, I'm still here in this room.'"

We know she will adjust in time, but we all love Catie so much that we just want to make her momentary pain disappear instantaneously.

UPDATE: Kimberly just walked up to say that we may have figured out how Catie likes to be fed. They put her in the crib, rested her head on a pillow and gave her the bottle that way. Apparently she does not necessarily like to eat while being held.

P.S. to Sarah Matthews: Kimberly says I still have "the touch." I was the only one who managed to get Catie to fall asleep earlier. None of my old techniques worked, though, and my back is killing me already, so while I may still have the touch, I appear to be losing it rapidly as I age.

We're On Our Way, Baby Girl

Happy 5-month birthday, Catie! It's about 4:30 a.m. here in Virginia, USA, and Mommy, Daddy, Brother, Sister and Mamaw and Papaw are headed out the door for Guatemala to come and get you. You have been part of our family in heart since the day you were born, but we can't wait to have you in our arms this afternoon.

We still haven't decided who will get to meet you first. When we went to Guatemala three years ago to adopt your older sister, Elli, our dear friend Stephanie had the honor of meeting you and your foster mother first in the lobby of the Princess Reforma hotel. Only one person was allowed to go to the lobby for the initial meeting, and neither Mommy nor I would let the other see you before the other. So Stephanie saved the day.

With Mamaw and Papaw making the trip this time, the big question is which grandparent will esteem the other higher than himself/herself and let the other see your beauty first. I have a feeling it could be a big controversy. And once you get to our hotel room, I'm sure there's going to be a big line of people crowding around for cuddles! Try not to be scared. We can't help ourselves; we just love you so much and can't wait to hold you. It has been a long five months, and, Lord willing, we'll all be together soon.

Take care of yourself today, Katydid (aka, "The Bug"). We can't wait to meet you and make our family whole once again.

April 09, 2005

Thank You, Atlantic Media

The trip to Guatemala seems all the more imminent after yesterday, my last day at work for eight weeks, so I want to take a moment to publicly thank my employer for helping make this adoption possible. Atlantic Media, which owns National Journal's Technology Daily, has contributed to our family's growth in two ways: a generous adoption reimbursement that now has helped defray some of the enormous costs of two of our three international adoptions, and a family-friendly leave policy that has enabled me to take several weeks of paid paternity/adoption leave.

I am especially grateful for the leave time. Kimberly is home-schooling our children and managing our household, and adding a 5-month-old infant to the mix is sure to shake things up for a while. We're hoping that my ability to stay home for a few weeks and play "Mr. Mom" will make the adjustment easier. I'm not exactly sure what I'll be doing. I foolishly told Kimberly she could be my boss for eight weeks, and she's still busy plotting how best to enslave me. But I'm thinking that as much as she hates chores like laundry and ironing that I'll be doing a lot of that.

I also hope to seize this time as an opportunity to get more involved in teaching Anthony (and Elli when she's in the mood for school). I taught them about Columbus last fall on Columbus Day and did some research on spiders for the homeschool science fair project Anthony did last month -- he won second place -- but otherwise I haven't had much spare time to get directly involved in their education. The kids and I all love coins, so one thing I want to teach them is how to count money -- how many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and half-dollars make a dollar, for instance.

My love of politics, policy and history also might be useful in teaching our children at home some day, but it may be a bit early to be telling them about the battle between the blogs and the Federal Election Commission, the fight over the transition to digital television or even the Hague treaty on international adoption. Come to think of it, they may never get old enough for that stuff. :)))

But to get back to my original point: I wouldn't even have time to think about what I want to teach my children over the next several weeks, let alone be home to do it, if not for Atlantic Media. And if not for the company's adoption reimbursement, our family would be facing a greater financial burden. This country needs more employers that are willing to help couples adopt and adjust to the challenges of parenting and raising their precious children.

If you think your employer could be doing more to help adoptive families in particular, the Adoption-Friendly Workplace is a great resource of information. It offers a list of employers and the adoption/family benefits they offer. You also can go here, here or here for more information.