There is so much to write in regards to Dateline that I have a hard time deciding on where to begin. I checked my email history, and I started conversing with producer Benita Noel over a year ago. After countless emails, phone calls, filming, photos, etc… we finally arrived at tonight’s broadcast. Before I ramble on too far, I want to point out that I sincerely believe she (Benita) did an excellent job of NOT “type-casting” adoptive parents as anything other than genuinely caring and compassionate people. I think each family shown tonight expressed a genuine concern and love for the children of Guatemala, and were portrayed in a fashion that kept us all “human.” I didn’t come away feeling that we “lost ground” in the battle to protect our children from being victimized by accusation. She stuck to the facts and dealt a hard hand to those who attempt to circumvent the law. And, she ended it by allowing us (adoptive parents) to express our concerns and fears. And, I was quite impressed with Victoria’s tenacity with Thanassis, and her “soft” approach with the victimized families.
What Dateline doesn’t show you, is how much their involvement benefited many families not shown on the program. Long before Thanassis and/or the awful kidnapping took shape, it was calls and questions by Benita and Dateline that helped solidify investigations into Reaching Arms International (and a few “bluffs” along the way 8)) and a couple other agencies, and actually sped-up the induction of a second DNA test. If memory serves me correctly (and Benita will correct me if not), the State Department was very interested in their air date several months ago, due to the fact that a second DNA test was being inquired about, yet had been pushed by FOA and others as a way to close the window on those committing DNA fraud several years ago. Part of my interview dealt with this, and the “powers to be” didn’t want the obvious to be broadcast on television.
I know Benita tired of my constant preaching of “fairness,” although she didn’t express it, and I think her end product respected the concerns we all had. And, truth be known, she was touched by her experience with everyone she met in her research. Maybe Kevin and I “wore” her down!! Haha
I’m still trying to take it all in, and I’m not sure how long that will take. I appreciate the additional “clips” on the web at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/
as it allows me to “haunt” Blanca Martinez for a little longer. I know this is short and brief, and I will be happy to entertain any questions anyone may have. There is no need to keep things quiet now. In the meantime, I’m going to tuck my oldest daughter in her bed and have a beer! 8)
Thanks for the "kick in the rear." haha
I have been trying my best to keep some distance from all the current turmoil surrounding the current status in Guatemala; it is simply too frustrating to wade through all the "mud" that is being thrown from the different entities involved. Rather than worry about it, I decided to just "do the family thing" and avoid letting all this "stuff" interfere with life in general. So far, so good! 8)
Alia is nearing 10 months and is probably the most pleasant child we have known. That is saying a lot, as Amaya was what we considered an "easy" baby to care for. Alia went from not sitting on her own when we picked her up in July to pulling herself up to everything, and in the past couple of weeks she has learned to let go and keep her balance for a couple seconds at a time. She then grins with that big smile of hers and does it over and over again. I'm guessing she will be walking sometime before her first birthday. It will be quite odd looking, as she is barely on any growth charts here in the states. It will be hard to tell her apart from some of the stand-up Dora figurines that Amaya adores so much! 8). Amaya recently turned four and had a Scooby Do themed party to celebrate. We play this game she calls "Scooby Do." I am Freddy, she is Dafne and Alia is Scooby - Amaya says that she gets to "make the rules" (of which there seems to be none). We chat about nonsense stuff, and the most important "rule" is that we address one another by our proper "Scooby names." Funny!
The Dateline script is being written as I type. There seems to be no set date, just that it needs to be ready ASAP. I have a couple things to send in to them as of a couple days ago, so I am guessing they are looking for an October readiness. Through communicating with the producer for nearly a year now, I've learned that nothing is "set in stone," and it can change on a whim. There originally was a date of Sept. 10 set, but that fell through - not sure why. I will be sure and post something more definitive as soon as I hear. Hopefully it will get its airtime prior to any sort of shutdown in Guatemala.
Alexia's case is somewhat frustrating and confusing. The communication between ourselves and Feliciano has brokendown substantially. With the current "threat" toward hogars or private homes, I'm sure the situation is quite difficult within the Guatemalan system. PGN and the government in general is making it quite difficult for some to operate in Guatemala. Our last update consisted of us being told that our file was complete and inside PGN as of August 19th. It was expected to be in another 8 weeks which would put us getting out sometime in November. To be honest, we are nor very clear on the status of her case at this point.
Here are our two safe, sound, and sassy at home!
We have been home for a week now and still are not fully recovered. Not only was the experience exhausting, but we both (Lisa and I) caught terrible colds in the process. Thank goodness neither Amaya nor Alia are showing any signs of getting ill - we're keeping our fingers crossed!
The attached photo is at Lambert Airport in St. Louis. After waking at 3 am for a 4 am trip to the Guat. Airport and then flying into Houston, sitting for nearly an hour in immigration and then on to St. Louis, this is the "best" we could do to put on two excited smiles haha. Immigration was interesting because there were nine babies in all. A couple of us experiencing it for the second time, but most were "first-timers." The nice thing was we were able to meet some very nice families and children along the way, from the Ross family to the Heatherly to the Hillan to the Shields to the Cartwrights and others I cannot recall. Very nice and caring people.
After all the "drama" of adoption, Alia has become an instant fit into this family. Much like when Amaya arrived, we cannot imagine our life as it "used to be." We have quickly transformed her sleeping and feeding habits to be more in-line with "OUR SLEEP SCHEDULE!" 8) We fill those bottles up and stuff the cereal in her as best we can. So far so good, because she has slept completely through the night the past two nights. Nothing like a baby that loves to sleep! She is very ticklish about everywhere one touches her and she loves to laugh. She pushes up on her hands and sticks her head up as far as she can reach - sort of like a turtle popping out of its shell. Not crawling yet, but only a matter of time and we'll be chasing her around the house.
We are so proud of Amaya for the way she handled herself at Grandma/Grandpa's house while we were away, and for the way she has dealt with having a sibling. While in Guatemala, we checked regularly via email on how she was handling her first "overnight" away from Mom and Dad. We kept waiting for the word that she was being a holy terror or just missing us. We refrained from calling out of fear of disrupting a "good thing." We "prepped" her as best we could for nearly a month, but one never knows for sure how it will turnout. Of course we have had to slowly remove the pedestal she stood on all week with the grandparents, but overall everything went perfectly.
Other than one little "sharing of Dad's lap" incident, we haven't noticed any serious jealousy at all. We keep waiting for it and are prepared, but once again, we are very impressed with Amaya's maturity in all of this.
We've been extremely busy, and I haven't had a chance to respond to individual emails as I normally do, so If I have missed responding to someone please contact me again.
With an 8:00 am appointment, we arrived about 45 minutes earlier than we should have. For some reason I didn't remember the "wait" outside to be so long. We lined up around 7:15, but weren't let in until 8:00 am. It had been a long time since our last Embassy appointment, So I couldn't remember exactly how it worked. Once in the Embassy, we squeezed next to the other 30+ families already present. Since we didn't have anyone handling this stage of the process, we tried to figure out exactly how it all worked. Basically you wait for windows 5, 6, and 7 to collect your adoption packet based on the number on your pink slip. Our number was 26, which happened to be the same number as another agency "rep" had, so we both went to window 6 at the same time to clear up the problem. Fortunately for us, ours was correct. When someone requests a change of their Embassy appointment, their attorney must take the issued pink slip back to the Embassy and have the change recorded on it.
At window #6, we were taken through the Embassy process step-by-step by a wonderful lady named Melody Santa Maria. I informed her that we were doing this on our own, so she may have to repeat instructions from time to time. She was absolutely cordial and helpful from the very beginning to the end. We thanked her profusely for her patience and kindness. Sometimes the Embassy staff doesn't always get a "fair shake,' but in her case she was exceptional. We received our "bill" for $380 and slid over to window #4 to press the little buzzer for assistance. We paid our bill and returned to our seat for the infamous call the to the "closet" for our interview, which by the way, did not amount to a whole lot - took all of about 3 minutes and we were back to our seats.
Called to window #9 for our final document check (health report of child, etc.) and we were out of there in about two hours! 8) I didn't get the fellows number who handled this part of the process, but he too was exceptional (reddish hair and beard, with glasses). He did tell us he didn't see many families come through that did not use an agency. I gave him a brief statement regarding my feeling about most agencies. He gave us the "most important" document in the entire process, the receipt for the visa the following day, and we were on our way back to the Marriott.
I wanted to mention a couple things that didn't have a lot to do with this adoption, but did with our first child's. I didn't mention any names in my introduction because of some legal issues I didn't want to get anyone else involved with. But, as we entered the Embassy, we ran into an old friend from Amaya's adoption. Colleen Fluery, prior to partnering with Traci Orr and starting the agency For This Child, was instrumental in our first adoption. She helped get us established in Antigua to foster and played a crucial role in getting Amaya home. We were together nearly everyday for the first few weeks of my stay in Guatemala. She translated for me, made phone calls, asked tough questions, and drove me to Guatemala City day in and day out. She was with me in nearly every stage of trying to identify Amaya when her identity was unknown. It was her contacting Rudy Rivera that ultimately helped us verify that we did NOT have the child we were referred. She is the consumate professional in everything she does, and we could not thank her enough for all she did for our family.
We made it to the land of the “Quetzal” around 11:30 am. Have to say the airport is getting better and better each time we fly, the Guatemala City Airport that is. They are working feverishly on modernizing and enlarging it, and it really is something they can be proud of.
After settling in at the Marriott, we scheduled a 2 pm pickup of Alia and Alexia. We called our friend Edwin Rodriguez to take us to Feliciano’s hogar, unfortunately he was busy with other clients, but he was able to send a very kind and respectful driver named Jose Lemus. Jose speaks great English and ranks right up there with Edwin in regards to his sincerity in taking care of adoptive families.
We had called Feliciano to arrange a time to get the girls, and he asked what we were doing afterwards. Now, this always scares me somewhat, because Feliciano never gives us any advance notice that he is planning on taking us somewhere for dinner or entertainment. And, to have him tell you “I’ll explain when you get here” is even more frightening. We are thinking about all the things that we “need” or don’t “need” for our daughters. Now, we have to “guess” what we “need” for an evening with Feliciano!!
Once at the hogar, it was like we had never left from our April visit. Cristel and Sandra were there to greet us, and all the children looked great! Alia hadn’t changed much other than her hair is a bit longer and curlier (have no idea how we ended with two girls with curly hair), and we quickly realized she had sprouted one lone tooth on bottom once she pulled our hand to her mouth and started chewing. She is a tiny thing, but already up on all-fours and “bucking” every chance she gets. We had forgotten about the “Michael Jordan” stage when it seems NOTHING is out of reach. She had my glasses and Lisa’s necklace before we knew what hit us. In April, we could “out quick her,” but her hand-eye coordination is much better now. We’re going to have to get up to speed quickly.
Alexia was a different story. We have known for a long-time that she would be the most difficult due to her age and her life-long stay in the hogar. She has been there since day four of her one-year existence, and she is very attached to her caregivers – as they are to her. We didn’t take her with us on our visit trip due to the uncertainty of her abandonment, so we wanted to be sure and spend some time with her this trip. As before, picking her up causes a fairly traumatic experience for her. We can get close and sort of “tease” with her, but each time either of us hoisted her from her seated arrangement, it was the “cry that melts your heart.” It sort of makes one feel like the “bad guy.” I don’t think anyone, us included, “wants” a child to be frightened like that. Knowing full well that stuff like this happens everyday in adoptions, it was still “difficult to swallow.”
Fortunately for Alexia, her family court appointment was for the following morning the same time our Embassy appointment was. So, it was decided we would get her after we completed the Embassy on Monday and returned to the Marriott.
Our “explain when you get there” worry got put on hold due to Amaya not being with us. Feliciano had planned on taking us horseback riding – mainly for Amaya and Angel David (Feliciano and Sandra’s adopted son). We owe Angel, because he was definitely disappointed when we opted for a nice dinner out. He told Cristel, “this isn’t the way to kabayo sp?) We had a nice dinner “somewhere” in Guatemala City and were entertained with a karaoke song (Guatemalan style) by Feliciano. I have to admit, I didn’t recognize one word, but he did a fine job. And, I have photos to prove it!
After returning to the Marriott and enjoying a peaceful and relaxing evening, we started getting prepared for the Embassy the following day.
I know this is a bit late, but didn't have time to post during my class - had to take a final!! 8)
Our pick-up trip has finally arrived and, as expected, we are “scrambling.” Last minute shopping, last minute securing the house, and last minute packing! I’m hoping this is how everyone functions at this point of the adoption process. I’m sitting in a Master’s class thinking about other things, things such as my two-hour drive home, then our two-hour drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to drop off Amaya. From there it is on to St. Louis for the night (short night), and our early morning wake-up for a 5:45 am flight. There is no doubt we will forget something!!
I can say there is much more “calmness” with this trip. I don’t consider it the “second-child” syndrome where one isn’t as excited as the first, but more a confidence that everything has been done correctly and everything will run smoothly for our trip. The second time through is definitely less stressful due to understanding the entire process somewhat better. Many have told us that one cannot prepare for a second addition to the family, and I have to admit we are not prepared. Yes, we have the crib ready to go, bottles sitting to be filled, and plenty of wet-ones!! But, I don’t believe reality has set in at this point. We are bringing a seven-month old baby into our lives and Amaya’s. It is back to the “waking up in the middle of the night,” “diapers galore”, and “the teething experience!” Yikes!!
I find my mind “flickering” from one idea to another without coming to any solid conclusion or plan for anything. I guess I’m more comfortable just “winging-it.” Not a great trait to rely on in every situation, however.
One of those “flickering” thoughts is in regards to whether we have come to any conclusion on our daughter’s name! Strange thought, I know – but something we have tossed around for months. We have definitely decided on “Alia” as a first name, and we’re pretty sure “Gabrielle” will become her middle name. Now, this poses a future dilemma with Alexia. Since Amaya Grace and Alia Gabrielle are “A.G.” initials, it is only fair to do the same for Alexia!! So, we are trying to come up with a third “G” name for Alexia’s middle name. With everything going on at this moment, it is humorous that thoughts such as “what the heck G-name can we find for Alexia” even enters my thoughts.
Speaking of Alexia, we will be spending time with her as well as finishing up Alia’s process. We opted out of taking her with us on our visit in April, due to uncertainty about the outcome of her abandonment. So, we are looking forward to the opportunity to have her with us. Her case is “in process,” but to be honest, we are not sure where it is at this point. We knew we were in family court a couple weeks back, so assuming her case is following a similar timeline, she should be in PGN, or nearing PGN, without pre-approval. Since DNA is not a factor in determining pre-approval in an abandonment case, we are somewhat removed from that stage. With pre-approval taking an eternity, there hasn’t been any reason for us to get too excited.
With everything that has gone on with adoptions over the past few years, I did not realize one could change an Embassy appointment due to schedule conflicts. The Olympic Committee meeting in Guatemala the week of July 2nd has caused some serious problems in securing accomodations for many adoptive families. Because of this and a handful of other conflicts, we decided to change our appointment to July 9th. I had sent an email implying we were having a conflict and needed to attempt to reschedule for July 9th or 10th. We had not heard back from the Embassy after several days, so with some information from one of the great followers of this website, we were able to reschedule. Evidently the trick is to put in all "caps" APPOINTMENT CHANGE!! List adoptive parents names, adoptive child, and bio-mom's name. If your case # is handy, that will suffice as well.
it is so nice that the adoptive community shares information like we do!! It is invaluable in navigating the complicated adoption process - especially in its ever-changing nature.
Not much time to write, but we did receive our "pink slip" and have our Embassy appointment set for July 2nd. Now the chaos begins in booking flights, finding hotels, etc.....
After being resubmitted on March 28th, we have made it out of PGN. Looks like a late June or early July pick up trip. It is ironic as one adoption nears an end, another begins. Alexia's POA is in transit after an oversight delayed us for a couple weeks.
The picture I attached is of Alia, the little girl who just received PGN approval. Her hair shows significant growth in each new photo we receive, and we do thank all of you who have sent photos after visiting Feliciano's hogar. We sincerely appreciate it.
It is likely this way with everyone else, but our adoptions seem to "time up" with other aspects of our lives that make it difficult to manage. One would think that a June or July homecoming would work perfectly for parents who are both teachers and have summers free, however this is never the case with us. Eight or nine years ago we started a concession business during our "off" months in the summer. Since starting this, our business has grown quite significantly and keeps us running for the biggest part of the summer. We have tried to keep the month of June free and then hit it hard in July and August and then operate on weekends in the fall months when school starts. As fortune will have it, our pick up trip will no doubt schedule itself during our first event of the year!!
I have to admit we have been "slacking" in regards to preparing ourselves for the arrival of an infant. The crib is ready, but we really haven't supplied ourselves with all the necessary "baby stuff" required to raise an infant. I'm sure since we requested an infant that "sleeps through the night," "is potty-trained," and "can make their own bottles" we'll be JUST fine! haha