1 Samuel 1:20b: ...and she called his name Samuel, for she said, "I have asked the Lord for him." Exactly one year ago today, not a day before not a day after, Russ and I received an email from our agency with pictures attached of a little 2-week old baby named Samuel. I felt in my heart before we even looked at the pictures that this was it! This was the one! Our coordinator even told the lawyers that chances were high that he was the one for our family. And of course, once we saw the pictures, our hearts were gone, completely captured by a two-week old blob.
Now, in the adoption world there's a holiday that is celebrated called "Gotcha Day." For each family it is a different date on the calendar but it all means the same thing: This baby is ours to keep. He is our son. It's similar to a birthday but for the entire family as a new branch is grafted into our family tree. It is the day I will cherish close to my heart even when Eliot is 14 years old and driving me insane and even when he is an adult w/ a family of his own.
All that to say, the Lord's timing couldn't have been more perfect. We found out today, exactly a year after accepting Eliot's referral, that we are out of PGN. We actually have been APPROVED!!! The ink pen actually signed in our favor this time making Eliot officially ours. It is absolutely inconceivable for me that this actually happened. Over the last year, this has been the step that has cost us everything while giving us everything. In case you hadn't put two and two together, this means we get to come home. "We".
Don't freak out and head to the airport quite yet. We have bits and pieces to take care of for the good ol' USA before we board a plane. We still have a few weeks of getting a new birth certificate, a passport and then waiting on the US embassy to issue us a Visa for little Eliot Samuel Mohr.
Eliot Samuel is officially ours.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Eliot and I decided to send mom "to get her hair did" this afternoon. Guys day out! We started by kickin' it with a little lunch.... a normal meal for El: pollo, squash and mangos. Mmmmm hmmmm. A few minutes on the floor playing some catch, then we hit the town, just us guys. We cruised around for a while, then decided to hit some art galleries. FYI: Guatemala is full of INCREDIBLE art. After taking in a lot of paintings, etc., it was close to pacha (bottle) time. So, we thought we'd swing by our favorite little coffee joint, "& Cafe" and head to the park in the Centro. That is, until we got a few doors down from the gallery...
See, when we left the house, we were well aware that the rainy season is beginning. So far each afternoon we've had a bit of rain, but no big deal thus far. Besides, it's guys' day, right? We left the umbrella at home just thinking we'd tough it out. Raincoats and umbrellas are for wimps. At least, that's what Eliot said.
So, a few doors down from the gallery and it started. Keep in mind that each entire city block in Antigua is just one solid wall from corner to corner on either side of the street, so there's little place to hide. At first it was no big deal, the eve of each store front was enough to hide under. Until the wind came. Then it was a full on rain storm. So, Eliot and I quickly found a little spot along one side of the street to hide in a doorway of a closed business. I sat on the stoop and pulled him close to me in his stroller, with nothing to sheild the rain but a bib. HE LOVED IT. Cars drove by splashing water everywhere, the water dripping from the eve of the building was dripping right next to us, getting me completely wet from the waste down and he kept sticking his hands out to play it it. He couldn't sit still, he was just wiggling and giggling. It was quite an adventure. I finally got wet enough that we made a run for it to the next available doorway about a block down (funny, lots of places were closed today). We ducked into a jewelry store and actually bumped into some of our housemates. Of course, they are all women, so they had raincoats, umbrellas, plastic covers for the strollers... wimps.
Here's a pick of us stuck on the side of the street in the rain...
It was now pacha time. We busted out and ran for it. About 3 1/2 blocks later we made it to the cafe. Nice, the power is out. So we jumped in and decided at least to hang out and wait for the storm to pass. Some more friends were inside. Girls. Completely dry girls. No sense of adventure! We dried off, played for a while, then had the afternoon bottle. Still raining. This is normally naptime, and Eliot let me know it. I put him asleep, tucked him into a dark room in the back in his stroller and waited. About halfway through his nap the power came on, so thankfully I didn't have to loiter any longer. Our girl Gabriela whipped up a White Chocolate Mocha (& Cafe makes the best one in the whole world), and soon after Eliot woke from his 35 minute nap. We kicked it for a while so "da da" could finish his mocha, and as the rain slowed to a sprinkle we decided to head home to see mom's beautiful hair.
The guys kickin' it at "& Cafe"...
All in all it was a very fun day. We laughed a lot together, and got soaking wet. Cap it off with some fried chicken at Pollo Campero and that's a good day to be a dude in Guatemala.
Posted by Katie at 6:27 PM
Monday, May 28, 2007
I’m in a new place today. Attitude-wise. I’ve been reading in Jeremiah in the Old Testament and for the last 28 chapters it’s been a little on the discouraging side. God is angry w/ all the people and Jeremiah keeps trying to warn them that destruction is coming but they couldn’t care less. Then all the sudden I’m into chapters 29 and 30. So much hope!!! In the Message version of the scripture it says, “ As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out –plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for…..I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from the countries into which I drove you, bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.” How amazing is that. If I could just focus on this instead of the internet chat-boards of who got out of PGN and when and submission dates, I’d do a lot better down here! In addition to these chapters, Russ has me reading a new book he got from a friend. It’s an amazing story of a man in China who is just serving the Lord like crazy throughout the craziest times. In this part of the book I read yesterday, he’s in prison serving a 7 year sentence and was able to send out messages to his friends and family from time to time. Here’s one of his messages, “ God has sent me to witness in this place. There are many people here who need Jesus. I will be in this prison for exactly the length of time God has determined. I won’t leave one moment early and I won’t stay one moment too long. When God determines my ministry in prison is complete, I will come out. “ And according to God’s plan, he only served a little over 7 months of that sentence. 7 months and 7 days to be precise.
God does have a plan. How have I been so leary of believing that? He always does and always will. He hasn’t forgotten about me down here. On the contrary, I’m part of some plan for Him and it wouldn’t be perfect any other way. How else would you explain how I got “stuck” living in a third world country w/ such a messy adoption case? God is a tricky one, I’m a little giddy wondering what He has up his “sleeves”.
Posted by Katie at 7:39 PM
Friday, May 25, 2007
Today marks my 6-month anniversary of living in Guatemala w/ Mr. Eliot. Pretty shocking and yet uncomfortably normal that I'm still here. I remember thinking at the 2-month mark that I was doing something pretty impressive by dedicating 2 months...If I'd only known. I can not complain for one second that my time here has been too long, the Lord knows what he's doing and I cherish every second of keeping Eliot all to myself. Here are some pics of my first week here back in November when Eliot was still a little squirt and I was in the chaos of having just arrived. Don't let his hair fool you, I promise he's only 6 and 1/2 months old in these pictures! All of his clothes were too big and he was still a bit unsure as to what was going on. We made it though, through God's grace!!
Posted by Katie at 9:03 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2007
KATIE: There's a thought that says that when you encounter people and spend much time w/ them that they act as an elevator in your life. They either lift you up and encourage you in life or they drag you down. Well, I have a friend here in Guate who must live on the 110th floor because she inspires me. She stinkin' blows my mind. Her name is Melissa and you need to read her blog (which is linked to mine, by the way.) If, in fact, you have time after reading this ridiculoulsy long blog of ours...yikes.
While I've lived here almost 6 months, I have been living in a common routine. Today I broke that routine and spent time doing something new that has been just blocks away from where I live. Melissa and her brother, Peter, were going to a children's home called Hermano Pedro and Russ and I asked to go along. This comes from a strand of thinking that has been building for me and from some conversations w/ Russ. First of all, I have felt as though the Lord has been providing an opportunity to serve outside of learning the ropes of motherhood. I have such a flexible schedule and very little timely commitments in this lifestyle, I just want to honor the Lord w/ that time instead of just watching CSI reruns. Also, how will Russ and I raise Eliot while living (assuming we get to go home at some point...) in the United States? It would be really easy to keep him relatively sheltered and not even think twice about it. People do it all the time. However, we want Eliot to know the value of every person, no matter their difference. How do parents do that in the U.S.?
RUSS: While out running errands this morning Katie began sharing with me her thoughts on this topic. It seems that the Lord has been challenging her in this area quite a bit, and I know that her friendship with Melissa has certainly played a role, as Melissa really lives to serve Jesus everywhere, with everyone, all of the time. Katie spoke of how she knew that the last 6 months have been very valuable for her and Eliot, but she wondered if there was more to it. She is living in a 3rd world country where church groups and missionaries make huge projects out of coming here to meet the needs of people who have become her neighbors. Today we began to explore the idea that perhaps this could be about more than just us, that the Lord could use the large amounts of time spent here to impact others for His kingdom... and in the process, begin to live out by example for our son what it means to love others and share the love of Jesus with those who are hurting and in need. While I urged her not to feel guilty or selfish for having enjoyed so much free time here just hanging out with El, the events of the day would soon prove that there are exciting things that could happen here if we just made ourselves availble and simply asked God how we can make the most of our time spent here. Even if it just meant taking an hour out of an afternoon.
KATIE: So, today we strapped Eliot into the sling and walked a few blocks into the Children's Home. As expected, the first thing I noticed was the smell of urine. Once we got all the way back into the hospital/home there was a large courtyard surrounded by rooms filled w/ rows of cribs. Unlike an orphanage, these cribs weren't filled w/ babies who just needed homes, these metal cribs were inhabited by special needs children/adolescents that can't even do simple basic skills such as eating solids or walking or even sitting up. The overwhelming thought upon going into one of these rooms was, "These are Your children, Lord." As to be expected, there was only a few staff people per each room filled w/ cribs. Melissa went straight for one of her favorites who I assumed was around 3 or 4 years old until Melissa introduced him as her favorite 9-year-old. His face just lit up upon a simple greeting from us. These children don't get a whole lot of attention or even just simple touches throughout the day. Who knows how they got there or where they would be if they hadn't made it there. You can tell the staff does as much as they can, but there are just too many needs for so few hands. Once Eliot woke up from a quick nap in the sling, I took him out to let him play a little bit. I loved seeing him interact w/ the children. It may be one of my favorite moments w/ my son so far.
RUSS: I have to admit I was nervous about going. I wasn't sure if I could handle it, and even if I could, I was just uncomfortable. I know nothing about special needs kids and although I can speak enough Spanish to survive down here (for the most part), I wasn't going to be speaking with people who could help me figure out how to communicate with them despite any language barriers. But, as I told Katie, I figured these kids needed this more than I needed to be comfortable.
Once there, I realized, I didn't need to say much at all. Just smiling, holding a kid's hand, calling him "guapo" and stroking his hair was all I needed to know how to do. And boy did I pray over those kids as I stood over their beds. I learned today that ministry can be a very simple thing. We make it into this big project, you know. Be ready to share your testimony, wear a bracelet with colorful beads and know the sinner's prayer. Here's the best part: Eliot knows nothing of all that and he did as much ministry as we did today. Does he have any special gifts? Well, not yet. He can't even talk. But what's the one thing he knows how to do? What does he love more than anything these days? That's right, playing catch. And as I spent an afternoon feeding a kid a Pepsi through a straw, Eliot sat on the floor and played catch. I might add that he held as many hands and gave as many hugs as we did today. Eliot bounced a ball back and forth with Irvin (a kid who is probably in his mid teens, who can't speak or walk). We realized that Irvin did something today that he very rarely gets to do: play ball with another kid. Because even though Irvin lives in a hospital full of kids, it's apparent they hardly interact. Few of them are even capable. And when the game was done Irvin crawled towards Eliot, and w/ a huge smile, reached out and gave Eliot a big hug. My one-year-old adopted son served in an orphanage today. How freakin' cool is that?
I couldn't be happier that God challenged us to think outside ourselves today. As I prayed over those kids, it occured to me how often we pray that God would show those who are in need that He loves them, that they are not alone, that they are loved. Today, though, as I prayed that over these kids, I realized that the Lord was telling me to do the same thing. That it means nothing for us to pray that someone would know the love of God if we're not willing to be the ones who hand it out to them.
Posted by Katie at 7:57 PM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
So, this morning I've had most of you on my mind. Unless you're some stranger who happened upon my blog, you have been someone I have been thankful for. This experience over the last year and a half has been completely unexpected and because of that, Russ and I have seen our friends and families and even friends of friends and family rise up and give us support. Support we could never have imagined. I can't even begin to make a complete list of all the people who have given to us financially. There is NO WAY that we would have been able to make this commitment to Eliot w/o everyone chipping in. From the beginning we keep getting checks, usually right when we need them. We have never accepted your gifts lightly, as we know that with each check written or anonymous envelope in our doorway or left at the church, you have made a sacrifice. Whether it's been $20 or $1000, it has paid for some part of this unforgettable experience. Not to mention, each visitor that comes brings along gift after gift after gift for myself or Eliot or even the other moms here. There's also a group that has been supportive w/ your time. Everything from taking Russ to a Card's game or out to lunch (you martyrs, you!), to watching our dogs so Russ can come visit, to giving up your few personal days of the year to hop on a plane and come visit this woman so that she doesn't lose her mind. Lastly, there's the support of your words. I can NOT express how timely each email or card has been. I stated that none of this experience would've been possible w/o your financial support, well, I'm pretty sure I would've strapped Eliot to my back and jumped ship had it not been for everyone's kind and supportive words. I'm amazed at people. Our friends and family have taken it upon themselves to educate themselves on this whole messy process. I would venture to say that our support network may know more about the Guatemalan adoption process than many who are apart of it. Poor Eliot will have so many "aunts" and "uncles" by the time he gets home, he won't be able to figure out who our family really is, and I'm pretty humbled by that. There's been a few times before all this that I would watch the news and think "why would anyone choose to bring a child into a world like this? It's such a mess" but in all that mess, there's you guys. So, here I am in Guatemala with my husband and sweet baby, overwhelmed by the love and support of people thousands of miles away.
Posted by Katie at 10:02 AM
Monday, May 21, 2007
So, I'm trying to get Eliot to eat his carrots (the age-old fight between mom and son) when a taxi pulls up to the front door. Sharon and I look at each other confused and I went to the front window to investigate. Upon a peek through the window, whom do I see? Oh, just Russ. Russ is in Guatemala. WHAT? I couldn't be happier, I mean, how great is that?
After a little explanation from Russ including a card w/ 28 names listed, I owe a huge thank you to Bridgeway Elementary and friends. (sidenote for those of you who don't know: Bridgeway was the school I worked at for the last 4 years) I am in total disbelief of the amazing gift you gave me of more time w/ my husband during this trying time. 18 days of Russ, to be precise. There is nothing I could have asked for that could be better. Eliot has already been reaching for Russ like it's no big thing and he's only been here a couple hours. This was a huge surprise and I can't thank those 28 of you enough. Holy cow! THANK YOU!!
(This picture is from the Bangles new album: "Sleep like an Egyptian")
Posted by Katie at 3:24 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2007
There's a quirky part of this experience that I never saw coming. No, it's not the amount of guacamole consumed in a week, but it's the fact that we all hate weekends. This goes against every grain of my American upbringing. Even the most content of Americans who happen to love their job, really enjoy a good weekend. There's even a whole restaurant chain dedicated to the beauty of Fridays (speaking of, I could really go for some JackDaniels Chicken thingys). And I can even remember certain dance moves that would spontaneously occur when I would get to work on a Thursday and realize there was no school on Friday. A 3 or even 4 day weekend seemed like a special gift from the Heavenly realms. All that to say, that is not the case here in "the mala" (as my roommate calls it.) If the Guatemalan population is enjoying time off on a Saturday and Sunday that means one thing to those who are self-centeredly focused on going home: no one is working on your file. Now, on the other hand, Mondays are like a sight for sore eyes. We fostering moms just might start a restaurant of our own down here and call it T.G.I.M., although I'm not sure how well that would go over. So, here I am on a beautiful afternoon and all I keep coming back to is "Blah...it's Saturday." A more mature response might be to leave the bitter discontent and just relax and trust that the Lord can do whatever needs to happen in the five days of the work week. That would be the more mature way of viewing it all. Maybe I'll save that for next weekend, when I've had a little more sleep and Eliot's not running a fever...
Posted by Katie at 2:56 PM
Thursday, May 17, 2007
We escaped!!! A team of nineras (nannies/babysitters) were brought in on special assignment: take care of the babes while the moms take an actual break. That's right, I spent 6 hours away from my Eliot. It's the longest time away from him that I've had since November 25. If you wear a watch daily and have for years and then forget it one day, you know the feeling that I had the whole day. Something is ascew, something is missing. Did I still wonder if I brought enough diapers and bottles and have to remind myself that he wasn't there? yes. Did I keep checking the time and wondering if the ninera was keeping to his schedule? um...yep. Halfway home did we all get really anxious to get back to the babies? You bet. Did I kiss him 400 times upon returning? Absolutely.
We did have a good time though and appreciated our time in civilization. A trip to the mall is great medicine for homesickness. Subway sandwiches never tasted so good. We even restrained ourselves from going into the baby stores! We didn't buy a whole lot but it was more about getting away than getting something.
By the way, while we wait out our PGN news, we got word that PGN is actually closed today and tomorrow for "PGN Day". This would be equivilent to Secretary's Day or Bosses Day. In other words, noone is working! Although, the sound of it is similar to Maplewood Days or even Jean Jones Day so I half expected to see carnvial rides somewhere in the city today. So disappointed. There's just so much potential in this 'holiday'. It's a shame really.
(This picture has nothing to do w/ the post, I just wanted to show it off because he's so stinkin' cute!)
Posted by Katie at 4:03 PM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
So, several months ago I made the statement to Russ that Eliot's birthday was coming sooner than I'd planned. While that doesn't make logical sense as it's a date on the calendar, it makes a lot of sense to me. As I kept thinking about it, it occured to me that his "first year" only lasted 6 months. No wonder it felt so fast! I got here when Eliot was just over 6 months old. What does him turning one mean? Do I have a 'baby' anymore or are we onto toddler-land? To be honest, I'm super excited about him growing up, just not so fast. I'm not sure if it's the teacher in me, but I can't wait to see him recognizing letters and figuring out cute little math problems (is there such a thing?) I can't wait to see what clever little things come out of his mouth after growing up with Russ as his dad. I'm excited about picking out snacks to take to school for Eliot on his birthday and packing a little bag of yum for he and Russ to take to the Cardinal game w/ his little baseball mit. I'm so excited to see what trouble he and the dogs get in together and I pray that someday we'll see what a great big brother Eliot could be. I wonder what kinds of things he'll put on his birthday list when he's 8 years old and what sneaky surprises Russ and I will come up with for him.
It seems that everyday, he's more mobile. Every day he's smarter and cuter. This is the stuff that rocks my world. This is why people end up w/ 7 children, they're too stinkin' amazing. Yes, I'm not so naive to believe that children are a piece of cake, but I am just loving this. All odd beginnings aside, this is without a doubt where I'm supposed to be. I can't wait for you all to meet him, hopefully before I eat his face off because it's so cute!
Monday, May 14, 2007
I promise to blog more tomorrow but wanted to get some pictures out from Eliot's first birthday party. His birthday is really on Wednesday, the 16th but I decided to have the party early so that Margie and Dana Seibel could be a part of it while they were here for a visit. We went w/ a Monkey theme since he's such a little monkey right now! He enjoyed his cake that my housemates and I made quite a bit!! There was a great turnout (18 babies!) and Eliot was a great little host! Russ joined via webcam (that Margie carried around the whole time!).
Thursday, May 10, 2007
If you hadn't noticed, our son has just a bit of hair... He got a very short cut back in January from Russ and I've been trimming the sides and front just about twice a month ever since. Well, this habit was slowly turning into what Russ calls a "guatemullet", which combined w/ his spacious Madonna-type teeth and chicken pox was sending Eliot into his 'awkward' stage just about 14 years too early. So today we went to our favorite hair salon, Kinky Afro, to visit my favorite stylist (aside from Ninfa at home!) who's name happens to be Belly. Of course. She's so great, we love her!
Eliot did great! Also, as mentioned, he popped out another tooth up top!
Sidenote: please keep Eliot's birthmom in your prayers as this week includes mother's day and his first birthday. I can not imagine her thoughts and feelings.
Posted by Katie at 4:10 PM
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
One of the many blessings of being "stuck" here has been the unforgettable friendships that have come about because of our similar situations. The tricky part of these friendships is that the time spent together is short-lived and you're actually happy about it. I can remember every single moment when one of my friends has told me that they were out of PGN. There's something powerful about hearing that news for someone. These are the people that when I get a previo, they hate it for me. It's their worst fear in their own life. All of them love my son and have been the ones to witness most of his firsts w/ me. It's hard to see them leave as each of them have a special place in my heart, as do their children.
To look at it from the States, you'd think it's an odd combination of people. We've often joked that many of us might not have become friends if we were in the states. There's people from all over the US and even from European countries. While many of us don't have a great deal in common, there's a very strong common thread. None of us could wait another day w/o our children. There are people from all age groups, all walks of life. Some married, some single. Some stretching every dollar to make it work, some who showed up paid in full. It doesn't quite matter what the story was to get here, we all love and support each other. When you see some "gringo" tooling through town pushing a big jogging stroller w/ a little brown head popping out, you already know you'll be friends.
I'm more than thankful for this community. These crazy people get every aspect of the process, all the lingo, all the frustrations, all the joys. They all miss home, too. For now, they are my family away from home. I couldn't be more excited for them to join their "real" family and friends. The sadness of seeing them go actually enriches my experience as I fully understand what leaving means.
My friend Nikki is leaving this weekend and I wish her and Gabby all the best. By far, they have been one of the highlights of my time here and I'm so excited that they finally get to go home. I will miss meeting them for coffee and cheesecake and hearing Nikki's stories. They are blessed to have each other and are such a perfect fit. My friend Shelly left last weekend after living here since September. There's been a few times this week that I've gone to dial her number and realized that I need to delete her name from my Guatemalan phone. I'm excited for her and her beautiful daughter Ana. She has brought me so much hope that this will happen for us one day, too.
All in all, I'm blessed to know these women and their children and to be a part of the journey they took to find them.
Posted by Katie at 7:17 PM