Archive for August 2013

Santiago: First Impressions

We arrived in Santiago, Chile on Saturday morning a few minutes after 8:00 am. (Can you believe we were in a plane for almost 12 hours with no time change? Santiago is in the same time zone as Cincinnati!) The last half hour of the trip, Arturo was almost bouncing in his seat he was so excited to finally be coming home after more than 13 years away. Neither of us had gotten much sleep during our red-eye flight, but we each managed to get a few hours – enough to get us through the day.

Arturo’s father was waiting for us as we exited customs, and it was wonderful to finally meet him. He’s a kind, funny, generous man, and our first few days with him have been great. Arturo is loving every second. When we’re at home in Ohio, Arturo and his father talk quite frequently and even use video chat every few weeks, but that’s not the same as physically walking next to someone or giving someone a giant hug. It’s been great.

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Arturo Sr. and Arturo Jr. in front of Parque Forestal, a large park in the center of Santiago. It has the feel of New York’s Central Park, although it’s not nearly as big.

We’ve spent almost all of our time so far either working or visiting Arturo’s family. Arturo is working remotely for part of our visit to save as many vacation days as he can for the adoption trip, so Monday and Tuesday of this week have been somewhat normal workdays for him, except he’s working from a desk in his father’s law office rather than from his cubicle in the Kroger tech center. Our weekend and evening times have been spent with family.

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Arturo peeking over his laptop at me while working

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Arturo’s father in his office

Saturday evening, I finally met Arturo’s grandmother, whom he constantly talks about. She’s the sweetest lady! We brought photos of Shawna and Seth, and she spent over an hour looking at the photos of our children and going through the photos on my phone.

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Arturo’s grandmother (Abuelita Fanny), one of Arturo’s uncles (Enrique Sr.), and Arturo listening with rapt attention to a story Arturo Sr. was telling over “once.” (Like British tea, “once” is the Chilean meal at about 5:00 when the family eats a small meal of sandwiches and fingerfoods. Dinner comes much later, around 9:00.)

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Arturo Sr. in the middle of his story – I think this one was about a tarantula – and Enrique Jr.

Since our arrival, I’ve also met several more of Arturo’s siblings. Arturo’s younger sister Alicia is married to an American and lives in the US, so we see her quite regularly and spend the holidays with her. But I had never met Carola and Fanky, Arturo’s stepsister and stepbrother, or Gus and Jopi, Arturo’s halfbrother and halfsister. Sunday afternoon and evening, Arturo’s stepmother, Pamela, treated the whole group to an amazing selection of homecooked Chilean goodness. Oh my it was delicious.

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L to R: Arturo Jr, Arturo Sr, Jopi, Pamela, Gus, Marcela (Fanky’s wife), and Fanky. Carola unfortunately wasn’t able to come due to an emergency in her husband’s family. We’re hoping she and her family will be able to join us this weekend.

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Arturo & Gus, wearing his uniform. Gus is a 4th year cadet in the Chilean Naval Academy (3rd in his class!!), and he had to leave at the end of the evening to return to school.

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Los Tres Hermanos (The Three Brothers): Arturo, Gus, Fanky

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Arturo Sr with his two sons, together for the first time in 13 years

While most of our time has been spent working or with family, we’ve still found time for a few quick jaunts around Santiago. This seems to be a city much like New York in the sense that most of its citizens get around by metro and public transit, and those who do drive face wretched traffic. We’ve done almost all our travel in the city so far by bus, metro, or walking. Walking is my personal favorite, as it provides ample photo-taking opportunities. :)

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Arturo has often described to me the mountains surrounding the city of Santiago, and they are true to their description. In downtown, where we’re staying and where Arturo’s father has his law office, the mountains are obscured from view by the tall buildings. But venture out into the more residential areas, like the neighborhoods where Pamela, Abuelita Fanny, and Fanky and Marcela live, and the mountains completely surround you. These are the Andes, towering snow-covered beasts nothing like the Appalachian mountains I’m used to from my hometown in West Virginia. These mountains floor me every time. There’s even an ancient volcano clearly visible to the northeast, with the characteristic volcano-like hole in the top, but I haven’t yet been able to get a good photo of it. (Don’t worry – the trip is still young. I’ll get a good photo of the volcano yet! lol)

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The flora here also amazes me. It’s a crazy mix of temperate deciduous and evergreen trees (like we see all over in Ohio), desert plants (one of the plants used as a “bush” here is a plant I recognize from the desert section of Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory), and tropical palm trees. It seems so hard to comprehend that these plants can all coexist in the same place!

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One of the more unusual, desert-type plants

In our walks, we’re making sure to visit some of the places Arturo remembers most clearly from his childhood. His dad lived for many years in this first-floor apartment:

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This building is across the street from Parque Forestal, where the first photo in this post was taken.

and Arturo has often told me of the ballets he saw at the Teatro Municipal, which were his first introduction to classical music.

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Santiago’s Municipal Theatre, Teatro Municipal

A café is just down the street from the theater, and these next two photos are specifically for Arturo’s mother. She would take Arturo and Alicia to this café after concerts and ballet performances, and she once worked in the brick building just next door.

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Arturo’s maternal grandfather was a well-known radio and television personality in Chile from the 1940s until he died in 1985. At that time, this building was the US Embassy in Santiago, and one of his radio programs, a culturally focused program, was recorded and broadcast from the embassy each week.

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The former US Embassy in Chile, now the Chilean Chamber of Commerce

Arturo’s father got us a hotel room for our first few nights in Santiago as a welcome gift and also to help us rest and relax after the long flight. (So thoughtful of him!) Our hotel was directly across the street from this park, Cerro Santa Lucia. Sunday morning after breakfast but before meeting Arturo Sr for the day, we took a few minutes to wander through.

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Cerro Santa Lucia

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A closeup of the fountain statues in front of the park

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The park is full of little trails and stairways to explore. We didn’t have time to go down all of them, but I wish we had!

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This is perhaps one of our last “family vacation photos” as a family of two. :)

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Meeting Arturo’s family has definitely been my favorite part of this trip so far, but I must say the food is a close second. I love every Chilean dish Arturo has ever made for me or that we’ve ever eaten in the (very few) Chilean restaurants in the US, so I’ve been looking forward to the food for quite some time. It has not disappointed.

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Breakfast on Sunday: empanadas

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Arturo’s lunch on Saturday: steamed fish and shrimp. (My lunch on Saturday was a type of Chilean stewed beef, which Arturo Sr. also had, and it was INCREDIBLE. Unfortunately, the photo didn’t really turn out. You’ll just have to use your imagination for that one.)

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Lunch today: a completo, which is a Chilean-style hotdog topped with relish, finely diced tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Yum!

I’ve also loved the little vignettes all over the city – a beautiful doorway here or a majestic building there. It’s a camera bug’s paradise. :)

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This Coke truck cracks me up! It’s the cutest little delivery truck I’ve ever seen. Love it! :)

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We’ve been in Chile less than 4 days, and this place and the people I’ve met have already captured my heart. I can’t believe Arturo was away for so long, and I can guarantee you it won’t be anywhere NEAR 13 years before we come back again, next time with two lovely children in tow. We have almost two weeks left here before we return to the US, and I intend to savor (and probably photograph) every moment.

 

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Get your tickets! Get your tickets!

Our final (and perhaps most exciting) fundraising event is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY! I can’t wait! On Sept. 7 at 8:00pm, we will present an incredible musical-review-style show titled “Natural Children / Real Parents: An Adoption Fundraiser” at Monmouth Theatre in Newport, KY. The show is the brainchild of area director and actor Dan Doeger, and it’s going to be amazing.

benefit show

Some who have heard the title of the show have somewhat lightheartedly questioned us. Natural children and real parents? Versus unnatural children and fake parents?

Those questioners are right. On the surface, the title does seem somewhat unusual. However, the title of the show is a reference to a pet peeve of many adoptive parents: the question “Are those your REAL children?”

You would be amazed how often adoptive parents are asked this question, particularly those with interracial adoptive families, like ours will be. This question can be particularly hurtful to adoptive children, who upon hearing someone ask this then ask themselves, “How can a child not be real? Does that mean something is wrong with me because I am adopted?” The message of the show is that all children have value, regardless of how they were brought into their family.

The first lines of the show are these:

Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased on our Events page. The theatre has limited seating, so don’t wait too long before reserving your spot.

Danielle Muething, Matt Dentino, Patrick Phillips, and Jennifer in Showboat Majestic's production of "Babes in Hollywood." All four are performing on Sept. 7th.

Danielle Muething, Matt Dentino, Patrick Phillips, and Jennifer in Showboat Majestic’s production of “Babes in Hollywood.” All four actors are performing in the show on Sept. 7th.

Every ticket purchased helps make us into real parents who are that much closer to bringing our natural children home.

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Leaving on a jet plane

This afternoon, Arturo and I will be leaving our feathered charges in the very capable hands of our birdsitting/housesitting friends as we travel south … WAY south … to Arturo’s homeland of Chile. Arturo hasn’t been home, hasn’t hugged his father or grandmother, hasn’t seen two of his younger siblings, hasn’t walked the streets of his hometown in over 13 years. In fact, though we’ve been married over five years, I’ve never met most of Arturo’s family. It’s high time we went for a visit.

Arturo's father and grandfather, many years ago

Arturo’s father and grandfather, many years ago

This trip was planned over a year before we had any idea God would call us to adopt, and while the timing is a bit inconvenient for adoption planning and preparation purposes, we’re determined to make it work. Arturo is absolutely giddy at the prospect of being on the same continent as his father, let alone in the same room. I’m looking forward to relaxation and free time, good Chilean homecooking (because Chilean food is DELICIOUS), and an afternoon or two spent exploring my husband’s hometown. It’s going to be a wonderful trip.

Arturo and I love traveling together. We’ve explored many cities side by side — Chicago, DC, New York, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Miami, and several cities in China, to name just a few. It’s time to add Santiago, Chile to our list.

Great Wall

Great Wall

Bejing, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xian, China

Terra Cotta Warriors, Xi’an, China

Xian, China

Xi’an, China

Beijing, China

Beijing, China

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Miami

Miami

Chicago (one of our favorite cities!)

Chicago (one of our favorite cities!)

Chicago

Chicago

Chicago

Chicago

Toronto

Toronto

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

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Our Feathered Friends

Arturo and I may not currently have any children, but that doesn’t mean we’re a family of just two. We’re the proud, happy owners of two little ones of the feathered variety: Pepper, a cockatiel, an Sunshine, and English budgie.

I haven’t yet mentioned our parrots on our blog, which was partially intentional. As much as we love both Sunshine and Pepper and cherish their birdly company, they are just pets, and this blog is about something much more important: our quest to become the parents of two precious children. However, our birds nonetheless are a very important part of our daily life. I work from home, and Pepper is my company through long days spent in my upstairs office. Sunshine and Pepper both accompany us throughout our evening chores, perched on our shoulders as we clean and cook. And they both entertain us endlessly with their antics.

While they are far from children, we do love our parrots dearly. I took a few particularly cute photos of them while we were taking photographs of the silent auction items several weeks ago, and I couldn’t resist sharing these shots.

This photo was taken while Arturo was holding up the Colorful Lap Quilt, Item #76, for photographs. It's quite a large quilt, and his hands were stretched far over his head. Pepper, who had been sitting on Arturo's shoulder, took that opportunity to climb up his arm and perch on the very tip of his fingers, peeking over the edge of the quilt. Too cute! :)

This photo was taken while Arturo was holding up the Colorful Lap Quilt, Item #76, for photographs. It’s quite a large quilt, and his hands were stretched far over his head. Pepper, who had been sitting on Arturo’s shoulder, took that opportunity to climb up his arm and perch on the very tip of his fingers, peeking over the edge of the quilt. Too cute! :)

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Item 76 i

I set up a light box for photographing the smaller auction items. Sunshine got curious, so I took a few photos of her in the lightbox.

I set up a light box for photographing the smaller auction items. Sunshine got curious, so I took a few photos of her in the lightbox.

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I can’t wait till our real children meet our feathered “children”! :)

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Updates

Goodness. What a month it has been. The craziness started just before July 14th, in the run up to our first fundraising event (the Amazing Grace Benefit Concert), and it just didn’t stop. With the help of many incredible friends, we managed and organized 5 major fundraising events and a 3-week-long silent auction that included over 80 items, while also juggling grant applications and finalizing our adoption paperwork … all in less than a month.

Wow. While typing that first paragraph, I fully understood for the first time just why I’ve been so stressed the past month. I’d never thought of it in quite those terms before. No wonder I’ve been exhausted and felt like I was going crazy. But, it was all worth it. We’re now so much closer to bringing our kids home!

Quite frankly, we were insane to schedule so many fundraisers back-to-back, but when we were putting the dates on the calendar, we felt like we had little choice. We’re going to spend the next 2 weeks in Chile visiting Arturo’s family, so scheduling anything the last 2 weeks of August was a no-go. The adoption process from Eastern Europe is so quick that we knew we needed to get the fundraising ball rolling asap. While we probably won’t be traveling until October at this point, at the start of this process, we thought we might be flying to Eastern Europe as early as the first week of September, and we had no time to waste. The events were put on the calendar as quickly as we could get them scheduled.

While the schedule probably could have been better planned, God truly blessed our fundraising efforts. He is absolutely providing for our needs. As you can tell from the fundraising thermometer on the right, we are well within striking distance of reaching or even exceeding our fundraising goal. God is good, and we are incredibly blessed. Thank you all for your support. Words are completely inadequate to express just how grateful and humbled we are by the outpouring of support and encouragement we have received. Thank you.

Now that life will be a bit calmer — we have only one more fundraising event left, and that’s not until September — I promise we’ll be making more frequent appearances on our blog. We have SO much to tell you all about! For starters, I want to post photos and descriptions of each fundraising event. They were all so much fun! This past weekend, we ran the Newtown 5K for our “One Meter at a Time” fundraiser, and we have photos from that, too. We’re three 5Ks down, and it’s already time to schedule TWO MORE! Praise God! Arturo and I have started putting together Shawna and Seth’s rooms, and we had some amazing friends over to help us a few weeks ago as we moved furniture and rearranged. Plus, we have several posts ready to be written describing some of the incredible things we’ve learned along this journey. Suffice it to say we have post topics pouring out our ears. We just haven’t had time to write it all down for you, but hopefully that will be changing.

Until then, here’s a quick update. First, we received USCIS approval on July 29th, meaning the US government has cleared us to adopt two children from Eastern Europe. Woohoo! The same day we got the approval form, we shipped it express to Eastern Europe. It was the very last item we needed for a complete dossier. (Dossier = packet of papers we submit requesting approval to adopt from Eastern Europe.) Unfortunately, our approval form was delivered about 24 hours too late for our dossier to be submitted on August 1st at our submittal appointment. Boo. We had to wait another week, until August 8th, for the next available appointment and for our dossier to finally be submitted. While the week-long delay was horridly frustrating, the upside is that our dossier has been submitted!

What does that mean? Well, that means that all we’re waiting on right now is approval from the Eastern European government, and then we’ll finally travel to meet our kids! We’re of course praying for a travel date as soon as possible. Travel dates are typically 8-12 weeks after the submittal date. Over the summer, travel dates have been averaging around 9 weeks from the submittal date. If the Eastern European government continues their current trend, we’ll be traveling in the first or second week of October. It’s coming up quickly! I can’t wait. After that, we’ll probably be in Eastern Europe at least 5-7 weeks to complete the in-country adoption process, but hopefully we won’t need to stay more than that.

When we tell people we’re hoping to be in Eastern Europe 5-7 weeks, their next question usually relates to this post, when we asked for your prayers about a possible stay of 8 extra weeks due to medical testing required by the CDC. The short answer is that we don’t know whether or not we’ll have to stay those 8 extra weeks, but we’re hoping and praying we don’t. The Eastern European government and officials from the CDC met about a month ago to work out a compromise, which has tentatively been agreed upon. However, Arturo and I are going to be only the second family using the new “compromise procedure,” and the first family in line is just a few weeks ahead of us in the process. We won’t really know until we get there just how all of this is going to work.

Best case scenario, Shawna will have already completed the medical testing before we even arrive in Eastern Europe. (The testing is only required of children over 10, so it will not affect our attempt to adopt Seth.) Worst case scenario, we will have to stay 8 extra weeks as we originally feared, but Arturo’s employer is being very flexible and will likely let him work remotely during that time. The “best case” is much more likely than the “worst case,” but we won’t know for several weeks whether or not Shawna will be allowed to start the testing before we arrive. Like almost everything in the adoption process, it’s a waiting game.

At this point, our pre-adoption paperwork is done, our fundraisers have been a huge success, our grant applications are (mostly) filed, and we have a bit of a break before the next big items on our to-do list are due. We’re going to take a bit of time away to connect with family while we’re in Chile these next two weeks, and we’ll hopefully come back renewed and reinvigorated for the road ahead. Thanks for your patience during our blog silence, and we’ll be back again soon with more details!

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Silent Auction is closed!

Whew! Our silent auction is officially closed. A few bidding wars commenced in the last hour, and a couple surprise bidders swooped in to steal the win. What a great time! Thank you SO much to everyone who placed a bid. We so appreciate your support! Thanks to your help, we are $1,940 closer to bringing our children home. Wow! I am overwhelmed! :) There are no words.

God is so good, and we are so blessed.

This set of wooden dolls, #61, was one of the most hotly contested items late in the bidding.

This set of wooden dolls, #61, was one of the most hotly contested items late in the bidding.

If you were a winner, Heather Wigle or I will contact you tomorrow to give you the details of how to pay. If you don’t know if you won your item(s), just visit the item’s page, where each item’s winner is indicated. Congratulations to everyone who won!

This post wouldn’t be complete without a HUGE shout of gratitude and appreciation to Heather Wigle, who made this whole venture possible. She came up with the idea, solicited most of the donations, and helped set up and tear down each time we displayed the items (which is an even bigger task than it sounds … and it sounds pretty huge). Heather, thank you so much for your generosity and for your friendship! We are lucky to know you, and our kids will be lucky to have your positive influence in their lives. Thank you.

We’d also like to send a huge shout-out thank you to all those who donated items. There are too many for me to list right now (it is well after midnight, after all), but in the next few days I will definitely be posting an list of all the incredible people who donated their time, their goods, or their services (or all three!) to make this auction possible. Thank you so very much!

God is so good. :)

Thanks to your support and your bids, we're now closer than ever to bringing our girl home!

Thanks to your support and your bids, we’re now closer than ever to bringing our girl home!

(Sidenote: I haven’t yet had time to update the fundraising thermometer to the right. I’ll get to that in the morning — it’s nearly 1:00 am, much past my bedtime — so don’t be confused when you see that the thermometer hasn’t moved. I’ll get to it soon, I promise!)

Good night, all, and God bless you.

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