To those of you unfamiliar with our story, we adopted our little guy from Guatemala. We started the process of adoption maybe three years before he came home with us. It was a journey full of lots of prayer...worthy of telling in itself. But, for now, I shall skip to the part at the END of that adoption chapter....where we actually got to travel to Guatemala to bring our son home. We first received his photo and information in February of 2005 and he came home with us at the end of May in 2007, just after his 4th birthday.
Here is the diary I kept on my laptop while we were in Guatemala. Some of the days and times don't quite line up. I don't know what happened except that I was a little distracted while I was writing it. I use "blog names" for my friends and family, to keep our privacy safe. The Jedi is my husband. Sweetling is our little girl, who had just turned 9. Mango, Telephone, and Christopher Robin are all good friends of mine. Speckle, who is mentioned by name several times, is Sweetling's stuffed leopard.
Sunday, May 27….6:16 am (local time)
We got up last night at 12:10 pm, got the car loaded up, had a light breakfast, picked up a sleeping Sweetling, and were on the road by 1:15 am. The Jedi remarked that we we’re on the road with people who hadn’t yet gone to bed. We arrived at the Columbus airport at maybe 3:20 am. Woke the Sweetling, got her shoes on, and unloaded the car.
I must at this point comment on what a wonderful image the Sweetling made. I wished that we had the camera out and accessible, but knew that the Jedi wasn’t going to tolerate a camera delay after we were all set. Sweetling had on black leggings, a pink tied dyed shirt, her neon green crocs with all their jibbetz. Her hair fell loose to just past her shoulders. Around her neck was the strap to her black passport wallet, which hung just at her waist level. Her pink, purple, and yellow “school time” backpack was over both shoulders, filled with activities for the plane rides. Since we had three pieces of luggage to be checked, Sweetling was responsible for pulling one of the pieces through the airport. We decided that it was a suitcase pet. Under her arm, Speckle the Leopard was tucked. (Sweetling decided that we could remember where we had parked, 3C, because their were three of us and Speckle “sees” steak.)
On the way to the garage elevator, I made an excited comment about being on our way. Sweetling added that we were on our way to bring E---- home. Then she added, “But I’ll still be part of the family.”
So we immediately stopped to reassure Sweetling that she was absolutely a very, very, very important part of the family and that she would be a part of the family forever and ever and nothing was ever going to take away from how important she was to us.
Then we were on our way again.
The Jedi repeatedly set off the metal detectors going through the security check point. It was finally determined, after he had walked back and forth and had the wand passed over him multiple times, that he just had a really high iron content in his blood. The extra time allowed me and Sweetling to get our shoes back on, get our passports back around our necks, repack the laptop, etc.
Plane rides and connecting flights all went really smoothly. Sweetling, who is afraid of heights, was really worried and nervous about the plane ride. I sat by the window during our first take off. Sweetling sat in the middle, and the Jedi sat on the aisle. By the time we had reached our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet and the captain had taken off the seatbelt light, the glimpses Sweetling saw through the plane window made her want to get up to look out the window directly. As soon as she was allowed to unbuckle and get out of her seat, she climbed across Mommy to peer out. Immediately, she decided that she really really really wanted to sit next to the window after all. Being in a plane was SOOO cool. Again, the desire to have the camera was made known. She really wanted to take a picture of the sunrise from above the clouds to show all her friends. It was truly a beautiful sight. But alas, the camera was in the briefcase in the overhead compartment and the Jedi in the aisle sleep was trying to snooze a little to make up for two nights of 3-4 hours of interrupted sleep. (We did take one picture of Sweetling in the Houston airport in front of the planes at the terminal.)
The clouds were too thick as we flew over Mexico to let us see the countryside, but again, the view from above the clouds was still spectacular. We didn’t get a glimpse of the ground until we started our final descent into Guatemala. Then, Sweetling and I were both eagerly peering out the plane window, with Sweetling in the window seat. Flying down through the clouds was really cool. The clouds were thick, but not so thick that we were in total white out for the entire descent. Instead, we got to glimpse clouds at eye level through a slight haze. As we emerged from the haze, I was trying to catch sight of Guatemala. A shape became visible. Slowly my brain resolved what my eyes were seeing as the haze cleared. A mountain!
I had been under the impression that Guatemala’s geography was as such: Guatemala on the east and west touches the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The land near the coast is lowlands of tropical rain forests (this is true). Then the land begins to rise (also true) into mountainous county (yes indeed). But I thought that the middle of Guatemala was a high, rolling plateau of grasslands. It totally isn’t. The middle of Guatemala looks like the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee…a little. There are tree covered slopes of pine, but most of the mountainsides are used for croplands and are somewhat terraced and patchwork looking from above. Guatemala City itself, at least the part we could see near the airport, is arranged in clusters of streets and buildings on one slope, and another cluster on the slope next to it, then another little cluster…and so on. The plane fell lower yet, and I could see the details of the buildings in one of the clusters. Many of them are made out of cinderblock or concrete with what looked like corrugated steel roofs. But I know that was only one cluster, and I’m eager to see more of the City later in the week.
We claimed our luggage and went through immigrations and customs, very easily and efficiently run, and we stood in line to exchange some money into the local currency, Quetzals.
I have to head to breakfast now….so later today I’ll post with the rest of the city, the our 45 minute drive through the countryside, the children’s home, and most importantly ---the very, very special person who came on the ride to the airport to meet us!!!!! I have to come up with a new blog name for him, because Energy doesn’t fit his personality. I was considering calling him Heartache, because my heart aches when I think about him…..or Heartstrings, because he has such a firm grasp on mine already.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with Mango and asking her what in the world I was supposed to do with a little *boy*. She said that daughters can be kindred spirits, but that little boys have little male souls that you just fall in love with. She was totally right. I have, in a sense, totally fallen in love with our little guy.
(Oh, and Mango---that secret fear I confessed on the phone the other day? Totally invalid. From the moment I saw his first smile, I would know him anywhere, in any group of children. He is absolutely and forever imprinted on my heart.)
Sunday, May 27th, 1:13pm (local time)
It’s naptime. We’ve just spent half of the day with Our Little Guy. Right now he’s laying on the bottom bunk making quiet noises until (in theory) he falls asleep. Sweetling is on the top bunk with the book Prince Caspian, reading in the little bit of light squeezing in between the window frame and the curtain. The Jedi is reading Dolphin Digest. He’s got elven blood, so he has that low-light vision going for him.
So, we got off the plane, went through immigrations and customs, exchanged some money, and headed down the hall. The center where Our Little Guy has been living is run by a husband-wife team (who I’ll call Mr and Mrs D). Mr D was supposed to meet us at the airport. They got hung up in traffic, so weren’t immediately present. We went through the lobby, looking for them, and out to the main drop-off/pick-up curb to wait (and to turn down several offers for a taxi). In just a few minutes, we were approached by a smiling, tawny-haired woman who identified herself as Mrs D. She might have said many other welcoming things…but I don’t remember any of them. All I heard was that “someone special” was waiting for us in the van. I didn’t know where the van was, but I was ready to step off the curb and head out into the triple lane of semi-parked traffic to find it.
We got to the van, loaded luggage into the back, and then they opened the door. Sweetling and the Jedi climbed in first, and I got to sit on the bench near Our Little Guy. Two other little boys, that Mr and Mrs D are adopting, were also in the van for the ride. We smiled at Our Little Guy and he smiled at us, and my heart just melted. I vaguely remember reaching out to clasp his hand and he curled his fingers around mine.
You know, I had been trying to prepare myself for a long period of adjustment, and I know that there will still be one. But, emotionally, I was prepared for Our Little Guy not to know or like us yet…and for us to not know him enough to love him personally. I was prepared, or I was trying to prepare myself, for the bonding to not happen right away. But it did. Oh for me it did.
We drove… ok, I need to pause and describe Guatemalan traffic. I’d say crazy, but that isn’t exactly right. Chaotic, but in a very laid-back way, is a better identification for Guatemalan traffic. There were three to four lanes of traffic on the main road. I say three to four, because the ‘lanes’ were pretty fluid and dynamic. Traffic was pretty much bumper to bumper, and was moving along at a good pace. Cars, vans, mini-buses, and weird looking little vehicles, were moving down the street weaving in and out and between each other rather arbitrarily. I don’t remember any traffic lights…but that might just be my memory…and I had much more important things that my focus was on.
We drove and Mrs D gave us a more complete story of Our Little Guy’s birth father and his life. We stopped for lunch at pizza hut, which apparently doesn’t have enough tomato sauce on it to trigger Our Little Guy’s allergies. He held my hand going from the van to the restaurant. J
From there, we drove 45 minutes through the country side. Mrs D says you either driving up a hill or driving down a hill all the time in Guatemala. We were on the Pan American highway for most of our drive. I had a little giggle time with Our Little Guy. We turned off the highway and onto a dirt road, which is the main road to the village near where the children’s home is. Mrs D explained that the fields had just been planted. We’re at the very beginning of the rainy season. Right now, the fields look like ours do after a harvest. There were lots of tan and gold. Many of the fields were filled with a grid pattern of twisting posts. Mrs D explained that they were supports for beans and other vine crops. She also said that later in the rainy season, everything is lush and green. The fields went up and down the hillsides as if the slopes weren’t even there.
We drove through a corner of the village nearest the home. Many of the houses, that I could glimpse, were constructed out of dried cornstalks. All of them had tall fences surrounding the houses and the yard. Half of the fences were made out of tall sticks with something woven between their bases and their tops (similar in construction to a bamboo fence, and nearly as dense.) Other fences were made out of corrugated tin slabs held in place by stakes. We saw a few animals, chickens, pigs, in the yards. We passed a horse or a mule laiden down with chopped wood and a pick up truck with its bed full of chopped wood. Two young women in long skirts of the traditional clothing rode on top of the pick up’s load. Mrs D said that in the villages of the country side, most of the women still wore the more traditional clothing styles.
The children’s home is located on 17 and a half acres of land that the D’s purchased a few years ago. (The D’s have lived and worked in Guatemala for 13 years now). It’s a complex of buildings constructed in stages over the last couple of years. The main house has two levels. The downstairs is a facility for older boys. The upstairs is the D’s residence. A second building is the team house, where we are now staying. It has a main kitchen/dining room and two large rooms on each side, each with an adjoining bathroom. Groups of college students or church work groups come down from the states in the summer and stay in the team house, so its meant to house many people at a time. The third building is another two story building. The ground floor is devoted to children who are HIV positive. The second story is for younger children, many of whom will go into an adoption program. A staff of nurses and nannies help care for all the children. I have not yet asked how many children are currently here…but I think that this is a fluid number anyway. (The Jedi tells me that there are 30 children.) Also on the complex is a fenced playground for the younger children, which was funded through Sunday school donations from three separate churches. The complex, like everything else I’ve seen so far in Guatemala, sits on the side of a hill, so a lot of terracing and retaining walls has been put in. The building of the playground required bringing in a tractor to level and move dirt as well as the pouring of cement for the concrete retaining walls. Further up on the hill, a basket ball court for the older boys occupies an unusually flat space near the top of the rise. A large, large vegetable garden fills most of the gentle slope between the basketball court and the playground.
When we pulled up, a team of older boys was out with shovels and pick axes finishing a ditch for a new waterline. The center’s newest upgrade has been the installation of a large water tower, also made possible by donations. The tower chlorinates the water, so we’ve been blessed with drinkable water and functioning plumbing during our stay here. (The Jedi spent some of his evening last night helping to get the waterpipe laid down, the joints sealed, and the thing hooked up. We had water when we woke up this morning.) The shower head in our bathroom is electric, and it heats the water as its passing through the shower head. I’m going to be trying that out this evening.
We got introduced to the older boys, and Mr. D jumped down into the trench to help them. We went up to the main house with Mrs D to play with Our Little Guy in the room where he’s been living. The playtime went really well. It helped that one of the little boys the D’s are adopting was there and played with us as well. He was very outgoing and talkative, and I think that made the games easier for Our Little Guy to join in. Sweetling, meantime, really wanted to go play on the playground. The smaller children were out having their afternoon playtime, and Mrs D said she could go join them. One of the nannies was out supervising. So Sweetling ran off to go play.
Our Little Guy is adorable. He has the best smile and the cutest giggle ever. We looked at books a little…and he loved any picture that had water in it. (By the way, I was very clearly informed, by one of the other little boys in the van, that Our Little Guy likes Nemo. Out of the blue, his friend decided that this was the most important information for his new Mommy to know).
Now, we had been introduced to Our Little Guy as Mommy and Daddy, and I had referred to myself as Mommy a few times (“Can Mommy help you put on your shoes? Hold Mommy’s hand. Would you like Mommy to pick you up to reach a book?”) Still, when the Jedi started a tickle war, I was both thrilled and surprised when Our Little Guy started calling out “Mommy, Mommy!” Mommy, of course, saved the little giggling one, at which point he would run back to the Jedi to be tickled, so that he could yell for Mommy and get rescued again.
After we had thoroughly wound the little boys up, Mrs D suggested we get our luggage moved to the team house and get settled in while she gave the boys a bath and got them ready for dinner. The Jedi lugged both the Big Honking suitcase as well as one of the other suitcases from the van, down a hill, over the ditch, and down a concrete flight of stairs. I put Sweetlings backpack on her, slug my back pack over my arm, and picked up the last suitcase. Mrs D grabbed Jedi’s briefcase and went to go unlock the team house for us. I got around the corner of the van and down the hill and stepped across the trench, then one of the older boys materialized to take the suitcase from me and carry it for me. I happily accepted his help.
After dinner, everyone was exhausted. (Well, everyone was exhausted well before dinner, actually). Sweetling was tired, the boys had missed their afternoon nap, the Jedi had been up since 10pm local time, and had only gotten a few hours asleep on the two nights prior to that. Even I was starting to come down off my adrenaline rush. So after dinner, we headed back to the team house to tuck Susan in. (Oh, I almost forgot, Our Little Guy showed up for dinner in jammies and a superhero cape).
We tucked Susan in, and of course, someone had to stay with her. I selflessly volunteered for that role. So, I brushed my teeth and hair and went to bed while the exhausted Jedi went out to dig trenches and lay and seal a pipe line. I don’t know when the Jedi got to bed (cause I was so soundly asleep.)
After breakfast this morning, we brought Our Little Guy back to the team house with us for some family time with just us. We gave him his stuffed Nemo from Nana and Bapa, which he dearly loved. Sweetling gave him a birthday card from her to him. He loved both the card and the sticker covered envelope. I had brought a folding fabric frisbee, which I got out for us to play with together. At first, Our Little Guy didn’t move. The Jedi and Sweetling tossed the frisbee back and forth, and Our Little Guy watched and laughed. Then the Jedi tossed the frisbee to Our Little Guy, who giggled and was delighted. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and he threw the frisbee back from his self-appointed seat. We included him in the frisbee game like that for a while. I was sitting near him, and I one point, I stood up and asked him if he wanted to stand up and play. He shook his head no, and looked fearful for a moment, so I sat back down near him and said that was ok. And we played like that for a while. On one of the passes to him, the frisbee came near him, but landed a little ways away from him. Previously, I had been retrieving it and giving it to him, but this time I said it was ok, he should go get it. So he crawled across the floor to get the frisbee, crawled back, sat down, and threw the frisbee. Ok, at least now he was moving. He was still giggling and smiling, and having a great time, he was just a little uncertain about these new people. (Yesterday was so long ago, you see). But crawling soon turned into standing and running and playing. As he seemed more comfortable, I got a little bit of video during our game.
We played with a bouncy ball, we colored, we showed him his bed. We tucked Nemo in on his bed. We had a tickle session. (The bed was base). Sweetling turned her bunk into a castle, and Speckle and Smudge and Blue were the brave knights who defended her. He tried to put his bouncy ball in the pouch that the folded frizbee goes into, so I got him a large ziplock bag and wrote his name on it (first, middle, and last) in large letters with a permanent marker. He loved this. He put his ball, his card, and his envelope in his bag and tucked it into a corner of his bed between his pillow and the post of the bunk bed. We had snack. We had a potty break (during which I heard the toilet paper roll spinning around many, many, many more times than it should.) Mommy rerolled the toilet paper and we washed hands. We had more tickling time. Our Little Guy was a dragon and chased Sweetling around the room. I got some more video. We played the Mommy save me game. We played the Sweetling save me game. We saved Sweetling from the Daddy tickler. We tumbled off the side of the bed and hit the floor *hard*. We weren’t phased by this because we are made of boy stuff. We accidentally cracked heads with Sweetling. We weren’t phased by this either, but we were really, really worried when Sweetling started crying. Sweetling got comforted by Mommy and Our Little Guy got comforted by Daddy. Then Sweetling gave him a hug and it was all better.
Its now 3pm. Our Little Guy has been sound asleep for quite some time. The Jedi is also asleep. Sweetling is in the other room playing a make-believe game by herself. Mrs D told me she usually wakes the boys after an hour of sound sleep. But, she said, lately they’ve been sleeping longer in the afternoon. They are getting over colds, and have needed the extra rest. So, here I am in the time old mother’s question…should I wake him now? Or let him sleep? If I wake him, will he be tired and cranky the rest of the afternoon? If I don’t wake him, will he be able to sleep tonight?
And, when he does wake up, what will we do this afternoon? Its three hours from now till dinner. That’s a lot of time to fill in a large, pretty bare room with only a few toys. Maybe we’ll play hide and seek J. Its raining outside, so we have to do indoor things. I am really looking forward to taking him swimming. If I take a picture of him all curled up on his bunk, will the flash wake him?
Two more notes… Guatemala is on the San Andreas fault line. Apparently there is an active volcano that’s visible from where we are on a clear day. You can see it steam and hear it let off gases and such. The Jedi says that he thinks he heard it this morning. (We woke up just before 5am local time. We got dressed and ready for the day, and the Jedi went out to see if Mr D needed any more help on the water line project. The D’s weren’t up yet, so the Jedi stayed out and played with the two labs that live on the property.)
Second, the rain this afternoon started when I was writing this. It had been sprinkling since just before lunch, but as I was writing, there was this loud hammering on the roof. The Jedi and I went to the large bank of windows in the great room. It was a genuine torrential downpour going on outside. We got Sweetling to come see, but she wasn’t that interested and quickly returned to her book. Mr D said that during the rainy season, the kids pick large mushrooms that they use in spaghetti sauce. He says they don’t put any meat in the sauce then, the mushrooms are hefty enough on their own.
Lastly (yeah, this is three things), Our Little Guy snores.
Monday, May 28th, 11:11 am
I’m all done adding the tag “local time”. We’re in Guatemala, all the time references are Guatemala time. You are all bright enough to remember that.
So Little Guy slept in the team house with us last night. He didn’t fall asleep until just after nine.
Trying to blog at any time other than nap time was a pointless endeavor. Little Guy has been asleep for about an hour and a half now, but the Jedi was up at the main house working on Mr D’s computer, and he had the laptop with him. I don’t know how long I have till Little Guy wakes up.
Some things I’ve noted about Little Guy—
He loves to draw. We brought a doodle pad and a clip and color with us. He’s about filled the doodle pad in just a couple of days. I think we might be going through a doodle pad a week. Now granted, many of the pages are full of delighted scribbles, and I think once the novelty of being allowed to do nothing but scribble wears off, he’ll probably slow down in his consumption of paper. (The children’s home has coloring books and crayons. I like both of those things…coloring within lines is a nice way to develop fine motor control and to exercise the muscles needed for writing later. But there’s another type of value to be had in just drawing and scribbling and making your own marks on totally blank paper.) I also think that markers might not be something he’s used to being allowed free access to. He is thrilled with the markers. When he first used them, he got a little on his hand, and he held up his hand and pointed to show me. I told him that this was all right, this sort of thing happened, and we’d wash his hands later. Since then I’ve had to remind him not to draw on his hands just twice. He’s pretty interested in the fact that the marker will write on his hand, then wash off.
He also likes to keep his things in a certain order. When he opens his clip and color --- ok, pause and let me explain this. His clip and color is a flat blue case with a clipboard on one side. It opens up and has a plastic tray inside that stores markers, crayons, and colored pencils. So, when Little Guy opens his clip and color, which he can do all by himself, sometimes the crayons pop out of their tray. They don’t come out of the clip and color, they just come out of their little crayon slots. Eswin very carefully lines his crayons back up in their slots before he begins coloring. When he’s finished, he puts away all his materials and closes his clip and tray without being asked.
He also really likes having his own things and is even pleased with the gallon Ziploc bag to keep them in. He puts all his stuff (except the big Nemo), back in his bag. Sometimes he just sits there, takes his things out, and puts them back in again. (Now, the children’s home has plenty of books and toys, so please don’t be under the impression that he has been lacking for play things and for stimulation.) I think what fascinates him right now is that these are HIS things. He has *ownership* over them. I was a little concerned, and had told Sweetling, that it might take Our Little Guy a little while to understand the concept of his things and her things, because we thought all the children’s home toys are communal. But he has picked up immediately on this concept. He takes care of his things, he has respected Sweetling’s things, and he is still very good at sharing what there is only one of.
We played Bed Dragon this morning. This game started because when Little Guy woke up, he was feeling a little insecure in the strange environment. We had established his bed as a ‘safe place’ through our play yesterday. He got up to use the bathroom, but then went right back on his bed and sat there. Sweetling and the Jedi had been up for a while, and Sweetling decided to get out her ball and bounce it. Little Guy wasn’t really ready to leave the safe zone of his bed yet, but he seemed like he wanted to play. He got out his ball and played fetch with Sweetling for a while, throwing his ball off the bed, and giggling when Sweetling brought it back to him. A couple of times, the ball rolled towards my bed, and I would lean over to keep it from rolling under the bed. I rolled it back to Sweetling, who took it to Little Guy, who giggled. Once, I stopped it with my foot. Little Guy giggled and giggled, and jumped out of his bed to run across the room and retrieve his ball from under my feet. Then he ran back to his bed, squealing. Bed Dragon was born shortly after that and we made a game of Little Guy bouncing his ball to me, me holding it and roaring, and him running to retrieve it and then running back. After that, he seemed to be a lot more comfortable. (Sweetling gave the game its name, and fed the bed dragon imaginary bed balls when the bed dragon’s captured ball was reclaimed.)
We had breakfast on our own today, then went up to the main house for lunch. After lunch, it was naptime. I was going to bring Sweetling and Little Guy back to the team house for Little Guy’s nap, and the Jedi was going to remain at the main house to work on Mr D’s computer. Sweetling and Little Guy and I went out the door and sat on the stoop to put our muddy shoes back on. Little Guy got his shoes on, stood up, and held my hand and Sweetling held my other hand. We went down one step, and Little Guy turned around and asked for Daddy. I told him that Daddy wasn’t coming now. He would be down later. Little Guy immediately sat down and pronounced “wait for Daddy.” I repeated that Daddy was coming later. Little Guy didn’t budge but responded “I wait for Daddy.” We compromised by going back in and getting a hug from Daddy, with the reassurance that Daddy would definitely come down in just a little bit.
Little Guy is also enamored of Sweetling. He watches what she does, and tries his best to copy it. I had bought little 88 cent bags of plastic dinosaurs, one for each of them, for the return plane ride. But this morning before lunch, I decided to go ahead and get them out now. (Once again, Little Guy was delighted to have his name written on the bag and the first letter of his name put on the foot of each dinosaur.) Sweetling and Little Guy each sat down on the floor to play with their dinosaurs. Sweetling asked me which ones were the meat eaters. She held up ones she was uncertain of for me to maybe categorize them. Little Guy immediately held his up to me as well. I wasn’t too sure what some of Sweetling’s were, so I sent her to the Jedi. Little Guy immediately started bringing his over to the Jedi to be named as well. Sweetling put her dinosaurs in a circle. Little Guy put his dinosaurs in a circle. Sweetling put her dinosaurs in a line, Little Guy put his in a line. He loves watching Sweetling and then trying to do what she does.
Sweetling, by the way, is a fantastic big sister. She has been very patient and understanding. And she’s been enduring a lot of change and abnormalities…from powdered milk to strange electric showers in cold bathrooms. I’ve just been really impressed with her ability to go beyond just coping…but to cope while maintaining a pleasant attitude AND while doing everything she can to make Little Guy feel welcome and secure. She’s been amazing.
Lastly, Our Little Guy likes to be carried. He likes to be tickled and hugged and snuggled. He likes to be near us (even if he’s still a little uncertain when he first wakes up). After the children (oooo….the *children*) had been playing with their dinosaurs for a while, and Sweetling had lost interest and was ready to move on, we asked them if they wanted to go outside to the playground. Little Guy was on the bed with me, dumping his dinosaurs into my hand, then holding his bag open for me to pour them back in, and repeating. We asked Little Guy if he wanted to go to the playground. He looked up at me and said “with you.” That was what was most important to the Little Guy. Playgrounds were fine, as long as it was “with you.” (The plastic bag of dinosaurs also came along.)
Wednesday, May 30th, 4:21am
I’ve been awake since 3:30am (once again, all the times are local times…and Guatemala is two hours later than Cincy). I laid there; trying to fall asleep for 45 minutes, then gave up and decided to blog about yesterday. Right now, we’re in the Marriott in Guatemala City. The Jedi is asleep (or at least dozing in and out.) Sweetling is asleep next to Little Guy. Little Guy is asleep with his feet on Sweetling’s pillow and his head where his feet should be.
Yesterday, after breakfast, the Jedi was lying on the bed with a child on either side of him. The game was, each child grabbed an arm and tried to hold it down while the Jedi raised his arm. This game was great fun. I knew what a difficult day it might be for the D’s to say goodbye to Little Guy and for Little Guy to leave the D’s…though I wasn’t sure if Little Guy would grasp that he was leaving the D’s permanently. Regardless, the day loomed before me with all its repercussions. I stepped out onto the back porch to pray alone. I leaned against the railing, looking at the distant mountains visible between the tall pine trees and prayed. Close to tears, I found myself repeating a Phillipians verse over and over again. “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, through prayers and petitions and with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Then there was a tapping on the window behind me, and Little Guy was peering out.
I opened the door and invited Little Guy out. We walked up and down the elevated porch that ran the length of the team house identifying pine needles, seeds, dead beetles, caddy flies in spiderwebs, bird droppings and other lovely things. I thought he might have great fun pushing all these things around with a broom and maybe knocking them off the edge of the porch. He did have great fun sweeping with a broom, but the railing of the porch had a bottom horizontal rail that was hindering the sweeping off part. So I grabbed a dustpan and we swept things into the dustpan and dumped that over the top of the rail. This was even better, because we discovered the seeds had ‘wings’ on them and would helicopter down like a maple seed…and if the wind caught them they would fly away. This was absolutely wonderful and a great delight. “Fly fly!” he cried and “Again, again!”
When it was time to leave, he said goodbye to Mrs D and to the two little boys he had been rooming with. He was all right with that…though he looked really troubled as Mr D was driving us away. (I learned later that Mrs D had cried herself to sleep the night before. The D’s have been caring for Little Guy since he was 10 months old and Little Guy’s birth father was also a boy that they had taken in and raised in their home when he was younger.)
We went to Antigua for a few hours of shopping and sight seeing. Antigua sits near an active volcano called “Agua”…because it often holds a lake near its top. (Some time ago, one side of the lake gave way and there was a massive mud slide that took out part of Antigua. I’m not sure if there is still a lake there, or if the lake was lost after that.) The roads in the historic section of Antigua (which is where we went) are the original cobblestones laid down in the 1700’s. Mr. D said any new construction in that district had to comply with the Spanish architectural style of the 1700’s so that it blended in with the rest of the district. Also, any new construction or any remodeling on existing construction, was not allowed to look too “new”. It all had to blend in with the existing dated architecture. And the effect was wonderful. Quaint little shops lined the street right across from the ruins of an original Spanish monastery, damaged by an earthquake in 1776. Many of the houses and shops were organized around a central courtyard filled with lush plants (we would catch glimpses of the courtyards through large open arches on the streets.) The stucco buildings of the shops and homes were all in a rich, earth tone palette of terracotta, goldenrod, tans, browns, and muted greens and blues. It was just beautiful.
Mr D told us about all of this as we were walking through the streets to the central park. There was some business he needed to do at the bank, but he invited us to hang out in the park near the fountain or to go into the cathedral that formed one side of the plaza. We walked through the wonderful park (shady paths of original stone flanked by lush trees in islands of green, lined with many benches full of chatting people). Little Guy stared at the fountain for a while, but the fountain was in the center of the park, away from the cool shelter of the trees, and it was a really bright, sunny, hot morning. So we went into the cathedral, because I really wanted to see it.
As we were heading up the steps of the cathedral (whose front held niches filled with the original life sized statues of the saints), Little Guy noticed that Mr D was not with us. His eyes filled up with tears and he began making soft, quiet little crying sounds. The cathedral is still in use as a place of worship, and had several people throughout its interior sitting and praying, meditating, or just resting on its pews. We sat down on a pew in its cool interior where a breeze was coming in through the large open doors. I held Little Guy and comforted him, promising that Mr D was going to be right back, everything was ok, and Mommy loved him. He calmed down a little bit. Sweetling wanted to go back to the park, and I asked Little Guy if he wanted to go back to the fountain. He nodded his head. So out we went again. Sweetling and the Jedi sat a bench in the shade, and Little Guy and I sat at the edge of the fountain. (which wasn’t a wide edge designed for sitting, but a curb and I low wrought iron fence with an edging of greenery between the fence and the fountain wall). I perched on the curb and Little Guy sat on my lap and watched the fountain for a while. When my feet started falling asleep, I asked Little Guy if he would walk around the fountain. He nodded. We stood up, but then I learned that Little Guy really wanted to walk *in* the fountain. I told him that we couldn’t do that, and showed him the fence, but suggested a second smaller fountain I had seen on the way through the park where he could reach the water. So we headed, with the Jedi and Sweetling, towards another fountain. And we found lots of pale indigo flower petals on the cobblestones near the fountain that would float. And then we found leaves…some of which would float. And then we found sticks. And we found a dog dropping, but Mommy told us that it wasn’t a stick. And we disinfected hands. And we had a great time finding lots of little things and throwing them in the fountain to see if they would float. And we didn’t even take much notice of when Mr. D rejoined us. (And we disinfected hands again at the end of our activity).
Then we all headed to the market to shop. (On the way, we stopped at Pollo something for lunch. Mr D had us order and talk with the servers to practice our pitiful Spanish skills. He chatted with them fluently and explained that we were trying to learn Spanish. They seemed greatly entertained by us.) I had a great time at the market, and spent nearly all of our quetzals and some of our American dollars (which the vendors were happy to take from us). I am not a good bargainer. In fact, I didn’t even try. Mr D would jump in and rescue me when he knew that I was about to pay way too much for something. He also told me that, at the market, where one is supposed to be price haggling, stopping at a stall and saying “ooooooo” was NOT the way to start. The Jedi bought a large Guatemalan flag for our church’s sanctuary and a small Guatemalan flag for the wall of Sweetling’s room. Little Guy has a new backpack, a stuffed animal friend, and three little terra cotta turtles. (He also has a neat cross for the wall of his bedroom, but he’s not that interested in that.) Sweetling has two pieces of jade to give to her two best friends that were mined from an ancient Mayan quarry and have traditionally been given as token of friendship (meant to bring good fortune to both the giver and receiver when given in true friendship). She also has an elephant (there were a lot of stuffed animals made in the bright, colorful weavings that Guatemala is famous for), a ceramic strawberry, and a handbag. I have a set of placemats. (I was walking along the market, telling the Jedi that I wanted placemats, when a vendor heard me and popped out saying “Placemats? Here Senora.”) I also have a cool shoulder bag.
When we got to the hotel, Mr D was dropping us off. Staff materialized with an umbrella to escort me and the children to under the awning. More staff materialized with a luggage cart to load up our suitcases. There is no such thing as self service in Guatemala. The gas stations are swarming with attendants…like two for every pump. The Pollo restaurant, which in the states would be a fast food, order it at the counter and take it to your seat, was a sit down and let us take your order. The Jedi was very careful when we were at the market to keep quetzals in smaller bills for tipping hotel staff when we arrived.
Mr D dropped us off, and he said goodbye to the Little Guy in my arms. He gave the Little Guy a kiss, and had the Little Guy give him a kiss. As he walked back to his van, Little Guy just looked stricken. We headed into the hotel lobby, and there the crying began in earnest. Mommy rocked and walked and comforted and kissed and reassured, but I understood and I sympathized and the tears were running down my cheeks too. (Little Guy had his face buried in my shoulder, so he didn’t see that). Little Guy cried all the way up to our room.
Now, if I hadn’t spent the last few days with Little Guy so that I already knew him pretty well…I would never ever, ever had suggested to any other little boy who needed consoled that he could have a bath. But to Little Guy I said, “Would you like to play in the water in the tub?” Little Guy stopped sobbing and nodded. I carried him into the bathroom where he wanted down. (The Jedi tipped the bellhop and settled the suitcases in and helped the Sweetling settle in). Little Guy got down, and began undressing. I closed the bathroom door. For the next hour, Little Guy had water fun in the bathroom. I ran a regular bath, then we drained that and ran a bubble bath, then we drained that and ran water from the faucet to play under, then we put the stopper back in and filled the tub, then we drained that and ran the shower to play under, then we put the stopper back in and filled the tub. The dinosaurs came in and became Nemo characters. The dinosaurs played “going over a waterfall”…(which is a great game usually played on the edge of a bed.) We got out of the tub, got dried off, got lotionned, and put swim trunks on. After the bath play time, everything was all right again.
We did in fact, head to the pool after snack time. More on that later. Its now 5:45…and I need to get a shower to get ready for our embassy appointment this morning.
Wednesday, May 30th, 3:55 pm
Now I know swimming isn’t a spiritual gift, but let me tell you what a little fish Our Little Guy is. Mind you, he does love water, but the most water he had ever been in up to this time was a bathtub. Nevertheless, within a few minutes of being in the pool yesterday, he was nearly swimming on his own. We put Sweetling’s old “Safe T. Seal” floater on him, but that seemed to just unbalance him and he kept flipping over. (The safe t seal is two buoyant pads that are held by lacing around the torso, one pad is held on the chest and stomach and one on the back. Little Guy was trying to swim horizontally in the water, and the buoyant one on his belly kept trying to turn him sideways. I think the device was meant more for floating upright and less for swimming.) Since the Safe T. Seal was pretty much the opposite of helpful, we took it off. After that Little Guy would go paddling around with just a hand under his belly helping to keep him above the water line. Not that he had any fear of going under the water. Oh no. Little Guy loves to go under the water. He especially liked floating face down on the surface of the water, which he would do while only holding on to a hand. Then he’d raise his face up and paddle when he needed air.
We had two extremely minor tests of wills today, both right before nap when it was just Little Guy and me in the room. Little Guy was playing with his tiny turtles. I told him to keep them on the table so that they wouldn’t get lost. I looked back down at whatever I was doodling with, and he popped from the table to the bed and said “I didn’t keep them at the table.” Sure enough, there he was with the turtles in his hand, sitting on the bed, informing me that he hadn’t followed my direction. I repeated that the turtles had to stay on the table so that they didn’t get lost, and added that if the turtles got taken off the table, Mommy was going to take the turtles away. He said “ok” and scampered with the turtles back to the table. A few minutes later, after we had brushed teeth, he sat down outside the bathroom and said “no” when I said it was time for nap. I said, “yes” and reached down and took his arm. He stood up and went to the bed, and we tucked in for nap. Like I said, little tests. Just like sticking one’s toe in the water of a pool to see what the temperature is. Little Guy stuck his toe into the boundaries to see how much wiggle room he might have.
The Jedi and Little Guy are both asleep. I’m just now feeling the effects of being up at 3:30, going to the embassy and sitting in a waiting room for two hours, then going swimming for another hour or so. Sweetling and I explored the hotel for a while, but we think we’ve discovered everything of interest here. The executive lounge upstairs is supposed to have board games….but I think that consists of a chess set displayed on a shelf. It has a tv, which is constantly tuned to a Spanish news channel. Really, now that the embassy appointment is over, I’m ready to go home.
Saturday, June 2nd, 3:16pm EDT
I can count on one hand the times in my adult life that I have been wretchedly, wretchedly, miserably sick. Prior to this Wednesday, the last of those times was in 1994, during my first year of teaching preschool.
I don’t know where the phrase “sicker than a dog” got its origins…but that’s what it was. Montezuma’s Revenge struck us down Wednesday night.
We had been so careful to drink only bottled or purified water, to select carefully what we ate, to wash and disinfect hands. But Wednesday night, in the immortal words of Bill Cosby, I would not have been surprised if my shoes came out through my mouth and landed in the toilet bowl. I was miserably wretchedly stomach sick, a fate which was very closely followed by being miserably, wretchedly sick at my other end as well. A couple hours after I started vomiting, the Jedi was struck down as well.
I say “struck down”, and you all are thinking it’s just me being melodramatic. No. No. Would that this were the case. No. We were struck down. By Thursday afternoon, despite having two doses of antibiotic in my system to counteract Montezuma’s infamous bacteria, I was still flat on my back in bed, managing only to stumble into the bathroom every now and then. Ok, that wasn’t totally accurate. I wasn’t flat on my back. I was curled in a pitiful ball around a pillow cause the cramps hurt so much. That’s more accurate.
I vaguely remember talking to Sweetling about needing to be a “Little Mother” and take care of her new little brother for the day. A task which she did admirably. The Jedi and I took turns riding the elevator two floors up with the kids at meals and snack times so that they could grab food from the perpetual snack bar in the Executive Lounge of the hotel. They lived on muffins, fruit, and nuts that day.
By afternoon, the Jedi, who had recovered a tiny, tiny bit more than I had, learned through contacting various people that the hotel had a doctor that they could call in. The Jedi had them bring in the doctor for me.
In short, Thursday was spent being sick.
Praise God, Sweetling never caught it. The thing would have hospitalized her. Little Guy had had really loose BM’s for a day or two prior to this. The Jedi and I thought it was a diet change, but now we wonder if maybe he didn’t have something that was really mild for him, but slammed us. We started both Sweetling and Little Guy on an antibiotic just in case.
By Friday, the Jedi and I had progressed of the Pedialyte cocktails. (The restaurants in Guatemala often serve their soft drinks in glass bottles. The Jedi commented that he had really wanted to bring home a glass 7-up bottle, but instead, we were brining home Spanish Pedialyte bottles.) Friday morning, everyone got baths and showers and we got packed up.
Down in the lobby with all our suitcases, Little Guy began stating that he didn’t want to go. The Jedi and I started talking to him about his cool new house, with his very own room with fish all on the walls and his own bed with a Nemo blanket. It was the Nemo blanket that saved the morning. On the shuttle on the way to the airport, Little Guy told the couple sitting near us all about his new house and his Nemo blanket.
He had a great time pulling luggage through the airport, and was back to being excited and happy. Then we had to check the luggage, and the tears started. We explained that the luggage was coming with us, it just had to ride in the bottom of the airplane and that we’d get it back when we got off the airplane. But Little Guy was just putting up with too much change. For most of the 10 hours of travel time, Little Guy was emotionally fragile. He would be doing fine, he would be happy and excited, and then the next minute he would be sad.
Sweetling, poor thing, got sick halfway through the first flight. I couldn’t get to her over Little Guy, and couldn’t find a motion sickness bag in time. The flight attendant brought us a ton of paper towels and we cleaned Sweetling up as best we could. For the rest of the 10 hour journey, she never did fully recover, but stayed dizzy and nauseous.and miserable.
So, between Little Guy being really overwhelmed by everything, Sweetling being motion sick, and the Jedi and I just barely back on our feet, the return trip was a pretty terrible ordeal all around. (Little Guy likes *looking* at airplanes, but not the long flights. He also likes escalators. And he loves sending his back pack through the x-ray machine. In fact, trying to keep him from darting back through the metal detector while clutching his backpack and squealing “again again” was the biggest security checkpoint issue we faced. At Houston, Little Guy was officially processed through immigration and is now classified as a permanent resident. We have to repeat, yes repeat, the adoption process in the Ohio courts and file for citizenship status for him. Also at Houston, Sweetling got to visit the “Space Explorer” gift shop and bring home two souvenirs from there. Those were pretty much the up points of our trip.)
We didn’t get to our hotel in Columbus until 1am. The Jedi dragged our luggage in and I got the children tucked in and we all collapsed.
Our Columbus hotel was right by the airport. We went swimming this morning, and our pool was practically next door to a runway. I thought this was cool. Little Guy took one look at the planes and pronounced “All done airplanes.” We assured him that we were all done with the airplanes. After he was reassured that we weren’t doing any more transcontinental journeys by air, he enjoyed watching the airplanes too.
Nana and Bapa came down from Canton and met us around noon. Little Guy did really, really well with their visit and even greeted them by saying “Papa, Nana, Papa, Nana.” I was concerned that with his lack of sleep and the ordeal of yesterday that he wouldn’t react well to meeting new people. But that wasn’t the case at all. Bapa wore his hat with Little Guy’s picture on it, and Little Guy got a big kick out of that.
We played in the pool for a little while longer. Little Guy and Sweetling both got to show off all the cool things they could do in the water. Back in the hotel room, as I was getting changed, I heard Nana reassure Sweetling that Sweetling was her *only* granddaughter. We went out to lunch, and Sweetling held Nana’s hand on the way into the restaurant and sat by Nana at the restaurant.
By the end of lunch, Little Guy was about asleep sitting up in his chair. We said goodbye to Nana and Bapa, and began the drive back to Cincinnati. Sweetling napped on the back seat of the van for a little bit, and is now playing a game with Speckle. Little Guy is still napping on the middle seat of the van. He wasn’t really sure about the prospect of a car ride, so I’m very, very glad he’s napped through most of this one.
For more stories about our Little Guy (who is eventually renamed on my blog as Toa of Boy, please click here.