Of Comings and Goings

We have been all over the place this week!!

This was our view earlier this week...

And for the most part, it was pretty relaxing--even with 5 kids in tow!

We headed over on Sunday morning after breakfast and "church."  Our driver was so sweet!  His name is Marvin, and he brought his daughter's pet lizard, Lola, along for the trip. And he also brought a CD of '70's and '80's hits and movie theme songs too. Then he asked me to explain the significance of MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" to him...in Spanish...because he doesn't speak English. It was probably the funniest Spanish conversation I've ever had!

I think the trip took about 2 hours, but we stopped for lunch at a river full of crocodiles. Creepiest thing I've seen in awhile. I don't like standing on bridges anyway...and this one had 2 narrow lanes of busy traffic, a very narrow sidewalk, and a not-so-high rail to look over...way down into a river teeming with huge, ugly crocs. But the food was delicious!!


This week, we've learned that our kids are little fishes. They all got around in the water pretty well, which was a huge relief because there are 5 of them. At the resort, there were 2 beaches...both surrounded by jungly/mountainy areas. It is so beautiful that it almost doesn't seem real. And there were a few pools here, too. The kids definitely preferred the pool, but they loved the ocean, too. 

We are all a little sunburnt...well, we gringos. Our Ticos are super dark from the sun!

We really weren't sure how this would go because the kids seem to need consistency and routine, but they've done amazingly well!  It's a huge blessing because Michael and I needed some
rest. We had the boys in one room, which was hard on Michael. Poor guy. :( David gets really wound up at bedtime...and at wake-up time...and kind of all day, except when he falls asleep at the dinner table. He's still kind of a baby in a lot of ways. But the girls did really well in the room with me!  They liked watching this weird Costarican tv show called Combate at night before bed...it kind of reminds me of a scaled-down version of Wipe Out with attractive Latin Americans. 

On Monday night, we had a birthday fiesta for all 3 kids. Ever since our Walmart trip, Gina has been telling me about how David didn't get anything for his birthday a few weeks ago. Then she told me that none of them have really ever had a party or gifts. They sometimes had queque, but nothing more. So we decided to have a party to celebrate all the parties they've missed...and that we've missed, too. We got them each a gift. For Gina, a baby doll, which she named "Esteffani," with a little bath tub and accessories. (She's currently sleeping with it.) For Wagner, we got him his own yellow soccer ball. I thought he was going to hyperventilate. And for David, a "Rayo" McQueen car that races across the floor. Because we didn't have any real candles, we improvised and used the fake battery-operated one on our dinner table. We calculated that between all 3 kids, there were 21 birthdays that were never properly celebrated. :( We had the kids "blow out" the fake candle once for each year. They thought it was hilarious. And I think Wagner got dizzy...or he was just being really dramatic for years 8-10. 

Asher had a really hard time with the gifts. We kept trying to explain that he had 5 years' worth of parties and gifts and Christmases. The stuff he has received could fill our hotel room. But these 3 just had these simple gifts and the small items we sent them in their care package in September. That's all. 

We ate breakfast in a restaurant in the jungle with capuchin monkeys and coatis walking and jumping around!  It was extremely entertaining!  The monkeys routinely stole sugar packets by the handful...and the coatis ambled around and spilled fresh fruit drinks just to lap them up. The monkeys would go up on the higher balcony areas and knock chairs down just to show off!  The kids loved it!  We also saw red macaws, toucans, and lizards living in the wild around us. It was a very cool experience!

We had planned to check out at noon on Wednesday and swim until 2...but it decided to pour...torrentially. So we rode home a little wet and tired, but it was a good trip!

Today, we had an appointment at Migración for the kids' Costarican passports this morning at 7. That means we had to get up at 5. Boooooo. 

BUT, because our lawyer is amazing, the passports, which were originally scheduled to be ready on December 6, will be ready for pick up tomorrow afternoon!!!!  That means that we go to the US Consulate for visas Monday. And as soon as the visas are ready (which could very likely be Wednesday), we can come home!!!!  Two whole weeks early!!

So we have a huge prayer request: we have to try to change 7 plane ticket return dates. Pray that Spirit Airlines won't charge us $100+ per ticket so we can come home!!!  Not that we don't love CR...because we do. But this isn't real life. We are ready to start doing life in our home. 

Speaking of doing life, we've had the opportunity to do life with some cool people down here. Today, we got to celebrate Thanksgiving with some new friends at The Abraham Project. The AP is an amazing ministry. Seriously amazing. Check it out: 

Overall, things with the kids are going well. There are really frustrating moments and really good moments. We expect it to be like this for awhile...and we expect things to be hard when we first come home. In a lot of ways, we will have to start over. We explained to the kids this morning that we may leave efore December 17. Pray that they understand and are prepared. And pray for an understanding and gracious representative to answer the phone when we call Spirit Airlines!!!  

We are thankful this year for God's leading in this journey. As we've walked through the in-country part, we have seen His hand in so many details. We are thankful for the many new friends that we've made here. And we are thankful for our support system at home!!  It was weird to not be home for thanksgiving, but it was good, and we get to come home soon!!!










Progress

So our first full day as a legal family of 7 has been fairly peaceful and almost normal!  Staying "home" helps a lot. We all thrive on the consistent surroundings and routines. And we have a lot of little routines and schedules. We have an iPad schedule, a movie schedule, a daily schedule with snacks and bedtime and showers. Everyone seems happier when they know what, when, who and where. And I'm happy when all the kids are happy...and not arguing in 2 languages. 

Here are some highlights from today:

-The gardener here at Port told me that it's now summer here in CR. And it's awesome!

-Landyn and Gina played together a lot today. That's a first, and something we've prayed for. They basically made a baby duck day care...complete with blankets (leaves) and a bath tub (the sink in the boathouse) and a rocking chair (a hammock). 

-Gina is finally letting go of her role as David's caregiver. It's been hard for her. We know it's been her identity for 4 years. It was good to get to see her play with everyone and not worry about whether or not David was ok today. It's too big of a burden for her to carry, and it's so healthy for her to let herself be an 8-year-old girl. Just an 8-year-old girl. 

-David is struggling a little emotionally because he's not used to Gina not being all over him all the time. He wanted me to carry him everywhere all day. No, literally. All. Day. Good thing he's little. :) 

-Wagner is really independent. He has a lot of trouble remembering to ask us before he goes off somewhere to play. Poor guy. He's not being intentionally disobedient. He just can't remember. 

-We have been so blessed to get to know the students and staff here at Port. Living with others is sometimes problematic for bonding, but it is equally a blessing. A huge blessing. We love it here!

-We have seen HUGE progress in all 3 kids in all areas since the hearing yesterday!  We know it's because so many people are praying and The Lord is answering!  And honestly, I think the kids needed it to be legal. Needed to be Tiptons. Forever. 

These last 2 days have been the first 2 where we feel like we've taken steps forward...without the 2 steps back part. And we like it that way!

Día de la Adopción

It's done!  I wasn't sure if I would feel differently or not...since our kids have already lived with us for a week. But I definitely do feel differently!  In a good way!

The spiritual warfare down here has been super intense for us. And to be very honest, during the last 2 days, I had moments when I thought, "Lord. It's a good thing you gave me that dream...otherwise I would seriously question what we are doing here and if this is the right path for us."  Two nights in a row, after the kids were asleep, I went outside and ugly-cried for a good, solid 20 minutes. It literally felt like we were walking through hell with these kids...and in a lot of ways, we have been. The enemy had a hold on every aspect of their lives, and he's not giving that up without a serious fight. But the victory is already won...already paid for in Jesus. So, suck it, Satan. We are taking back what you've stolen. 

The adoption hearing this morning was surprisingly anticlimactic. Haha. The kids were interviewed by the judge individually. Then we were called into "court" with our lawyer and PANI's lawyer and a translator. And of course, the judge. The court was a small office. It took about 10 minutes. We signed a paper. The kids are ours. Haha. Pretty simple!

Then we want back to PANI for queque and coca with all of the wonderful ladies who have had a hand in preparing our kids for this day...this new life. 

After our mini fiesta, we had a meeting with the kids' psychologist and social worker to get a little more background information and to ask any last questions. It was a surprisingly refreshing and encouraging meeting!  The psychologist validated all of the issues we've had as well as how we've handled them. Yay!  We're not doing it all wrong!!!  We learned more specifics about their first mama. Poor thing. She's basically a helpless child herself. Pray for her. She desperately needs a Savior in this world...both physically and spiritually. I know our older 2 resent her. I hope that someday I can explain that it truly wasn't her fault. I hope, for the sake of their own healing, that one day they can forgive her...that one day they can think of her without pain and resentment. 

Right after the meeting, Gina had a little meltdown over hurt feelings. We talked it out. Everyone who needed to apologized. And since then, she has been a different kid entirely!  I'm almost afraid to type it!!!  Like I might jinx it! She seems freer and more childlike...less anxious and angry. I think she needed to see that we weren't going to change our minds. They had so much trouble believing that anyone would ever want them. She had to be sure before she could start to let her guard down. Pray that she continues on this healthy path. 

Wagner is pretty excited about getting a new name: Wagner Miguel. I like it a lot. He chose well. :)

David still doesn't seem to have any idea what's going on!  In many ways, he's more 2 than 4 in age. And he's darn cute. And be forewarned. His name is pronounced "Daveeeed" and not "Dāvid."  If you call him "Dāvid" like it's American, I will correct you. 

We are thrilled to not have any more appointments for awhile!! We have 4 solid days of just hanging out here at Port. And them we go to the beach on Sunday for 4 days!!! :) I'm so excited for that!!  

Keep praying!  Please!!!  And thanks for loving our family from afar!  We miss everyone at home terribly right now. We're sending lots of love from CR!

La Familia Tipton
Michael, Audra, Landyn, Asher, Wagner, Gina and David 

Ask me again in 5 minutes

When people ask me how things are going, my tag line has become, "Good right now. Ask me again in 5 minutes."  It really does change that fast. We are continuing to work through hard stuff. Some of it's the same stuff we've been walking through since the first day. And some of it's new. All of it's hard. But we are seeing progress. 

I have been way too tired to blog the last couple nights. So here's a recap of our weekend:

Saturday: We ventured out on the public transportation system all the way down into downtown San José with 2 of the students from here at Port. The kids did really well on the bus. And they also did well at the open market we visited. We saw some cool downtown sights and are some pizza (well, they did...I didn't) and got some ice cream. And then headed back to Port. Thank God for the students. We would literally still be in San José now otherwise. The city is so busy, and the public bus stops aren't always marked well...or at all. Haha

When we got back, the kids were LOCOS!  We think they were so quiet in town because they were super overstimulated by everything. And when we got back, they flipped out. It was a tough evening. And to top it off, the same two students who took us into town offered to watch a movie with the kids so Michael and I could go drink coffee alone or go for a walk. When we told the kids about it, they were fine. Excited, even. And 5 minutes later, I got a whole bucketful of disrespect from one of our female children who shall remain initial-less. I think she wanted us to stay and didn't know how to verbalize it, so she thought if she acted up, we would have to stay. Or my other theory is that she was upset because she felt like us taking a break meant we didn't want to be with her and that was her way of lashing out. Either way, it was ugly and bedtime wasn't pleasant. Lesson of the day: Outings are not the best idea right now. Our kids need major consistency.  But the coffee break was nice and much-needed. :)

Sunday: We woke up tired and frustrated and decided that we needed to do "church" together. We talked to the kids again about how hard this process of becoming a new family is. We told them about the dream I had about them and that even though it's hard, we know that God made us a family and that we trust Him to help us do this together. We read Philippians 2:1-12 in Spanish and English. And we sang 3 worship songs in both languages. "Abre Mis Ojos/Open the Eyes of My Heart" (which they love!!!  They were singing it in the shower.), "Cantaré de Tu Amor Por Siempre/I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", and "Hosanna."  They LOVED singing in Spanish and knew some of the songs already. 

After lunch, our friends came over and brought some wicked awesome Costa Rican fruit!!!  We had pipas (un ripened coconuts), from which we drank coconut water and ate the meat. Deliciosas! 
Una pipa getting nice and cold in our fridge. :)

 And we had granadillas, which our friends called "monkey snot."  It was weird looking, but very good! 
For real...I know it looks like frog eggs, but it's good. I promise. 


 And we also had "hairy eyeballs," which are really called "mamon chinas."  They taste like grapes!  If you can get past the texture thing, they're awesome!  

We will for sure miss the fruit here. Especially fresh-squeezed cas juice. Mmmmmm...

The kids chased ducks most of the day yesterday. There was (yes, past tense) - a duck family with 24 patitos. And another mama with 4 chicks. (There is apparently a gato loco here on campus that eats all the patitos eventually.) W and G and I had an interesting conversation about the mama duck with 4 babies. Two of her babies were very weak and not doing well. She was completely ignoring them and even stepping on them while they were suffering!  G got really upset and kept yelling, "¡mamá fea!" and "¡mamá mala!"  We talked about how the mama duck was not doing her job to care for and to protect her babies. G and W decided that the 2 sick patitos needed a new mama. W announced, "Los patitos necesitan una adopciòn."  And they went in search for a new mama for the babies. They finally found one with a small nest and gave the babies to her.  They told her to take care of the babies because the other mamá didn't. It was their life story being played out with wildlife. And it was therapeutic for all of us. 

We are on our way out of the rainy season now, so the last 2 days have been perfect!  We have played outside a lot...and yet they still have so much energy at bedtime. 

Speaking of bedtime, it's still rough. Landyn and Asher somehow go right to sleep and then stay asleep through all the chaos. It's getting better though, I think...or maybe we're just getting used to it. 

Today we had a brief meeting with our kids' social worker for the court hearing tomorrow. The kids did great answering all the questions, and I did great undertaking EVERYTHING the social worker said to me!  Haha. We go to court bright and early to finalize the adoption!  And the judge is letting us change W's name!  His legal documents all have a slightly different name...a name he doesn't really go by...They are allowing us to change it legally AND give him a middle name since he never had one. We told him he could choose between Gabriel or Miguel. He chose Miguel. :)

Poor G is struggling a lot. And we have had to lay down some firm limits. So today, I took only her into Walmart with me (while Michael stayed with the other 4 in the buseta...oh my.)  She really needed that one-on-one time. She loved shopping and helping pick laundry soap scents and snacks. I learned today that her favorite Disney princess is Ariel and that she loves tuna. She chose tuna over cookies for snack today!  She has been much happier since our Walmart trip...even though taking her made it take twice as long. I think she is finally seeing that yes, we will call her out when she is being disrespectful, but also that we don't love her less for it. At least that's my prayer for her right now. 

So here's what we need prayer for:
-For lots of rest tonight and a smooth bedtime so that the hearing feels like a celebration and not a chore. We are so tired!
-For bonding--we are seeing signs of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)... Especially with the older 2. They are bonding indiscriminately with random people they don't know. I am planning a "stranger danger" chat for Wednesday once all the court stuff is done. 
-For chains to be broken. Always pray for this. 
-For night time in general. Four out of five kids have wet their beds this week. :( We bought "Good Nights" and water resistant shower liners (because mattress protectors are nonexistent down here!)
-For new mercies each morning for everybody. 




Today, we went to the kids' school near the albergue at the request of their maestras (teachers) for some proper goodbyes.  And again, Michael and I were surprised and overwhelmed by how much theteachers loved and would genuinely miss our kids!  W's teachers were both crying.... a lot...as they gave him gifts and snapped photos with him.  He was very serious the whole time he was interacting with them, but he was a totally different kid with his compañeros.  The kids came away with many cartas (letters) and regalitos (small gifts).  

W's special ed teacher spoke English well, so she was able to communicate many details to us.  She kept thanking us for what we are doing.  She said that she and the other teachers had started to worry that they would never have a family.  She told us that she has grown to love W so much over the past couple years and that their tears are tears of happiness.  She kept telling us that she will pray for us--that God will bless us.  And she begged us not to return them...ever.  We told her that we know it won't be easy, but that this is forever.  Returning them is not an option for us.  No matter how hard it gets.  She gave us her name and email and asked us at least 6 times to send her updates.  It was a sweet surprise after a couple of hard days.  It have us hope that things won't always be this hard!!  Haha

Things overall have been better today than yesterday.  We are working through a lot of deep heart issues right now.  My good friend, who also has 3 adopted Ticos, told me that it's actually a good thing that we are seeing these behaviors because it means the kids feel safe enough with us to act out.  As frustrating as it can be, it's true.  And our goal is for them to feel safe enough to turn off the survival mode switch...for the fight or flight response not to be the default anymore.  At the moment, everything feels like one step forward, two or three steps back.  But we are getting there little by little.

We expected everyone of the behaviors we've seen so far....and there have been quite a few.  So it's not that we have been caught off guard or that our expectations were unrealistic.  It's just that when it's 3 at once....and our 2 bio kids are needing our attention, too, it's extremely exhausting.  The one thing I've really struggled with is that we were taught in our training to say yes more than no the first year.  That has been the hardest thing this week.  The kids' paperwork declared over and over that the kids (especially one in particular) need very firm limits.  We can't say yes more than no when every single limit is being tested every 5 minutes.  And I felt really guilty and discouraged about that yesterday.  Over the last 2 days, we've had to say "no" more than we'd like to.  But if we are every going to function as a healthy family, we desperately need limits and boundaries.  So we have "laid down the law," so to speak...as gently, but firmly as possible.  And we are seeing the fruits of that today already. I'm sure we'll backtrack a little (or a lot), but for now, we're happy with the progress everyone is making.

Bedtime last night was better....because we reminded them of our Family Covenant and that respect means listening the first time....which means you stay in bed....your own bed....and you don't yell....or throw things....or hide under someone else's bed and then refuse to come out and then scream for 15 minutes when we gently extract you from under said bed.  (Yep....that's a thing that happened.)  Hopefully, it will be even better tonight.  We are really trying to spend a little time with each child at bedtime, and that takes awhile. Keep praying for this time!  It's the hardest!


Bedtime tonight wasn't terrible either!  Everyone was showered and in bed by 9:10. Read to and lights out by 9:30. It's a little later than we hoped for since the sun comes up and the birds start squawking...I mean singing...at 5:30, but we'll take it!  Plus we had a really crazy, fun, and confusing game of Uno right before showers. The later bedtime was totally worth all the laughs. (W is the worst cheater...and he doesn't seem to actually understand the point of the game.  It made things interesting.)

Poor Landyn fell off the scooter today and hurt her wrist...fell in the same exact place that G did. She's ok, but it hurts a little. And D fell on the sidewalk and scraped his knee. We need to bubble wrap these crazy kids!  Also, D was acting a little sick this evening. We think someone gave him regular milk on his ceral at breakfast, and he's lactose intolerant. :( Normally, we all sit together for meals at one table. (There are 13 students and various staff who love here at Port, and we all eat together.). But we were late for breakfast and had to split up. As I was running from table to table trying to make sure each kid had what he or she needed, someone gave D granola and milk...and he'd already eaten half of it. This afternoon, he was very lethargic and fell asleep on my lap at dinner and slept for an hour. He's fine now, thankfully. 

Today was good. Thanks for your prayers!  Keep them coming!!


I love how a song can take on a whole different meaning in a different stage of life.  I have forever loved the song, "Beautiful Things."  But this week, it has taken on a new meaning for me.  Right now, we are relying solely on God's power to make beautiful things out of dust.  It's the one thing that keeps us going in the hard moments.  

Today, for me, God made a beautiful moment out of dirty laundry.  As I walked (by myself for once) to the lavadora (washing machine), I had this huge peace sweep over me.  It was so sweet and powerful, I almost cried right there.  And in that instant, I knew that someone was praying for me.  I literally felt it from head to toe.  (Thank you to my cousin, Dawn, who was praying at the moment...and to anyone else and everyone else who is lifting us up.)

I just keep thinking about the lyrics to that song...

"All this pain, I wonder if I'll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all.
All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?"

I feel that's exactly where we are with our kids right now.  There's so much pain and need for change.  So much as been lost.  Their first family.  Their innocence.  Their confidence in the people who were supposed to love and care for them.  Years of milestones and special days with no family to celebrate with.  But our God is the Redeemer.  And He actually has the power to restore what has been lost.....what has been taken.  And by His power, we are taking back what the enemy has stolen from their sweet little lives.  Bit by bit, we are gaining ground.  Because He does make beautiful things out of ugly messes all the time.  I am praying that I will be able to see the beauty in every moment...even the ones that are messy and covered in ugliness.

"You make me new...You are making me new."

I feel like I am becoming someone new through this new stage of the process.  The mother I have been to Landyn and Asher has to change.  These 3 need me to be someone with more patience and grace.  Someone who sees them, not for their behaviors, but for who they were created to be in Jesus.  It, like most of the big steps in the journey, is a painful process.  I have to be so much more intentional about everything!  Our life was comfortable before this....easy.  That's not the case anymore, and that's ok.  We would rather be right here in the center of God's plan for His Kingdom and for our family than anywhere else...no matter how comfortable.

Here are some highlights from today:

Our Ticos are as picky about food as L and A!  But they do seem to love rice, broccoli, most fruits, potatoes, grapes and bananas.  They are funny about meat....like Landyn.  They don't like mushrooms, but they like salsa de tomate (which is like sweet ketchup) on almost everything!  They might be disappointed by American ketchup because it is NOT the same thing!

W has been playing soccer with some of the students here, who are college aged.  They are way better at soccer than Michael and I, and plus we are exhausted because W makes us run ALL over the field.  Haha  He yellowcarded me last night when I apparently scored a goal when I wasn't supposed to....but he's a bit of a little cheater, so he may have made up a rule.  Haha

Little D loves his lactose free milk!  He just drank the last little box of it.  He apparently can eat cheese and yogurt??  We will have to have a doctor check this out when we get home!  The whole thing is a little confusing.

G left her hair down today (no pony tail or braid) today for the first time, and it's GORGEOUS!  I tried to take a picture, but she didn't want one.  I will have to sneak one later...

The food here is soooo good!  It's a mix of cultural dishes here!  There are students here from Finland, Germany, Canada, and the States.  And there are Costaricans who live and work here...so we eat a little bit of everything.  The guy from Germany made lunch today, and it was sooo good!  Most of the meals are already gluten free, but when they're not, the cook makes me and the girl from Finland something GF.  I have not been sick here AT ALL!!  It must be the way food is processed here!  (Or unprocessed, maybe.)  I haven't felt this good....maybe ever! 

Michael is picking up a lot of Spanish, and we're learning to understand each kids' little speech quirks.  The language thing is getting a little easier.  W wants to learn English NOW!  Instead of having me read to him last night, he tried to read The Hunger Games in English to me.  He kept asking if I could understand him...the vowel sounds are so different.  Spanish is so phonetic, and English is not.  But I think he will learn quickly.  He's very motivated.

D repeats random things that Asher says...like, "Oh my gosh!"  haha  Oh great.  He's a little monkey.  Monkey see, monkey do.  Monkey hear, monkey repeat.  

The kids are LOVING drawing with Michael.  They are going to miss him when we go home and he's at work all the time.  

Poor W is a lot smaller than the size they gave us for his clothes.  And we even erred on the side of "smaller" because we read in his medical file that he was little.  And his clothes are still too big!  Poor guy!  He at least found a few pairs of shorts to wear that don't come down to his calves. 

The kids love music.  And they like to play the piano in the main building.  G sang "Abre Mis Ojos" (Open the Eyes of My Heart) with me the other day.  She already knew it from church, I guess!  How cool is that?!

And bedtime is by far the worst part of the day!  They all take so long to settle down. We are trying to figure out a better routine. Pray for that!!  And keep praying in general. Today was much better than yesterday, and I know it's because The Lord is answering prayers left and right!!!



Battles

The events of today reminded me that we are indeed in a war. A war over the souls and lives of these 3 kids. A war against hopelessness and fear. And today, the battle got real. 

Up until this point, things were new and tentative...and the kids knew they still had to go back to the albergue each night. Now that they know they are ours "por siempre," there are some serious boundaries being tested. We knew this would come. We aren't at all surprised by the types or intensities of the behaviors. We were trained for this. We prepared for this. We prayed about this. And yet...there were times today when I felt at a complete loss. This language barrier makes things so hard. We can communicate about a lot of basic stuff...but when it comes to matters of the heart, we are just not there. 

We have tried to stick to mostly positive reinforcement with gentle redirections. And today, that just wasn't cutting it. Some dangerous behaviors were taking place...some emotions out of control...and I raised my voice a bit to explain the seriousness of the situation...to make sure that our expectations were understood. And I made G cry. She's mostly over it now, but she was quite upset with me for about an hour. I tried to explain to her that in our family, everyone gets to be safe...needs to act safe. I think she understands...she just wants to see how far she can push things. And she's learned a lot of negative behaviors in her short life because she needed to survive. It's seriously so hard. 

Sometime last year when we were waiting for these 3...when it was still uncertain as to whether or not they'd ever be ours, The Lord spoke to my heart. I was crying and praying that God would move the process...that they could be ours...and in that moment, The Lord said, "Remember the agony you feel now when they are yours. You will need to remember how badly you wanted to bring them home when it gets hard." Friends, I am in that place. I know that there is wholeness and healing for these 3 in Jesus. I believe Jesus already paid for the full redemption of all of the pain they carry. But there are moments when the battle around us is so intense that it's hard to feel the hope we carry within. 

Tomorrow, we are going to attempt a bilingual family meeting after lunch to work on a family covenant. We are hoping to be able to dialogue about respect and expectations and allow all 5 kids to weigh in on what they believe our family should be about. We are going to make posters for our "promesas" and put them up in our casita. And take them home and hang them in our schoolroom. Pray for my Spanish to be sufficient. Pray for receptive hearts. Pray for peace in our family. 

On a happy note, we get to stay here ALL day tomorrow and Thursday!  Por fin!  We are so tired of appointments!  

Somos siete (We are seven)

Today has been another long day of appointments and emotional moments. We had to pick up the kids at 9:30 for their medical appointments for US Immigration. No vaccines needed!  ¡Qué bueno!  Then we had to go find a place to get passport photos taken. That was a bit of an adventure...walking around in San José with 5 chiquitos. Asher started crying. I think he was overwhelmed by the city.  We had to cross lots of streets...Landyn and our Ticos seemed to enjoy it. 

After the appointment, we came back to Portantorchas for lunch. Then we got a call from our lawyer saying we had to come to PANI to sign the document for legal custody. We went and the people at PANI were so excited for us. Our lawyer kept commenting on how changed W was since last Wednesday. He is a totally different kid. He calls us "Ma" and "Pa". Hahaha. It makes me feel like we're in Little House on the Prarie. But we are blessed that he calls us anything at this early stage!  And tonight, he asked me one more time if they really didn't have to go back to the albergue and I said, "sí." In his typical manner, he got excited and writhed around a little and covered his face. And then...he crawled in my lap and laid his head down!!!  What?!?  Totally wasn't expecting that...but I did play soccer with him in my bare feet, which hurt. A lot. So I guess that was my reward. 

After PANI, we stopped at the albergue one last time to say goodbye and give gifts to the tías. W helped me write cards to them, and G helped me choose lotions for each tía. At the albergue, we were met by the chiquita, B, with the piercing black eyes. She immediately asked me to pick her up. And then she asked Michael to give her a "caballo" ride (piggyback). She squealed and giggled and it was a sweet, but brief distraction from the inevitable. Our kids had to say goodbye to the ladies who have loved them and held them and bathed them and fed them and cared for then when they were sick. For 3 years, these ladies have sacrificed their time and energy to care for our kids. We finally showed them the letter from the lawyer explaining that the kids would not be back. They shared hugs and kisses...exchanged little gifts...and said "adios" one last time. Our kids were too excited to be sad. They ran down the path to the buseta. And as Michael and I turned to say goodbye to 2 of the tías, we realized that they both had tears streaming down their faces. Especially Nuria, the woman who has been with our children since they first became orphans. She had held it in until the kids were gone. Michael and I and the other tía wrapped our arms around her and we all cried. I told her we knew that this is very hard for her and that we are thankful for her. She told me that she will miss them so much, but she knows they will be ok. It was seriously sooo hard. I have a lump in my throat just writing about it. I am so thankful my kids had someone like her in their lives when we could not be there. 

We also learned today that Ticos drink cafe at young ages. It's a cultural thing. And also a really bad idea. D is currently running in circles and wrestling with Asher for a ball. We are praying he calms down soon so we can put them to bed!  Those birds come out and start squawking at 5:30..


Highlights: 

W and G know more English than we thought.  They keep surprising us. 

Now that we are 7 por siempre, limits are being texted already. Ay yi yi. G and D are stubborn, and it's hard to communicate some of these things in Spanish. Pray for patience and understanding. 

They all love for their water bottles to be in the freezer and turn to hielo (ice). Tonight, D said, "Mi hielo. Que Rico. Hielo Rico."  Silly boy. 

For better or for worse, somos siete. Pray hard for us as we enter this new stage. And pray for bedtime tonight. Haha. That coffee still hasn't worn off. 


Albergue

I am sooo tired, and we have to get up super early tomorrow for another day of running around...and hopefully get permanent custody of our kids. So today's update won't be too long...

Today, we had some down time this morning. We had intended to go to an international church with some of the students and the director here at Port...but we must have gotten used to the loud birds because this was the first day we slept past 5:45 or 6!  We woke up at 7, which was too late to get ready. Also, we probably slept in because we were awakened several times last night by some creature apparently trying to kill some other creature...off and on...for hours!  Something was running arounf and screeching on the metal roof!  I told L and A it was la chupacabra...and now Asher is a little afraid of going outside at night. Haha. 

This afternoon, we went to the kids' albergue to spend some time with them on their "home" turf one last time before every thing changes. We wanted to help them take pictures and videos of things they want to remember later. And we wanted to have a chance to talk to their tías with a translator just in case there was anything we needed to know that was getting lost in translation. And since I'm only understanding about 80% of what our kids are saying, I wanted to be sure that they didn't have any more questions before this big step. 

I spent a lot of the afternoon swallowing around a lump in my throat. For many reasons. First, I know our kids will miss their friends a lot. I don't think they realize it yet in the midst of this exciting new adventure...but the loss and grief will come at some point. And there is one tía who has been with our kids from the time they entered the system. Her name is Nuria, and I can see in her eyes that her heart is so happy and so sad at the same time. She gave me a folder of baby pictures of D and older photos of W and G. As I watched her hold D on her lap, I felt sad for her and the loss she will feel...the loss the kids will feel when the sense of adventure wears off. I think she's been the closest thing to a mama they've had.  None of this is easy. 

And then there are the other kids in the albergue. I spent some time holding a sweet baby boy for awhile. He ended up falling asleep on my chest, and it broke my heart to put him in his crib in the corner of the common room. The tías are wonderful, but that sweet baby needs a family and a home. As I whispered a prayer over him before I placed him in his crib, my heart just broke. And then there are the twins. Two 8 year-old boys who asked us to find them a family in the US. What do you even say to that?  The one twin kept touching Michael...almost like he believed if he could just touch him, somehow it would do something magical. The other twin crawled in my lap for awhile. An 8 year old boy. He just wanted me to hold him. It was all I could do not to cry.   And then there's a tiny 4 year old girl with eyes that pierce your soul. Seriously. I would take them all if I could. 

W and G had their trash bags packed with the few belongings they can call their own. School books, the clothes we gave them on Saturday, and the Tico version of Pokemon cards. Landyn and Asher had a really hard time at the orphanage. Asher cried and said he wanted his stuffed animals at home. Landyn just said she didn't like it there. We got a chance to talk to them a little about what life is like for these kids...what life has been like for our kids. It was hard for all of us. 

G was upset that she had to stay one more night. W said he's ready for tomorrow AND he read English words to me today!! Colors and animal names!  Who knew!?  D was still wearing his Cars shirt. He still doesn't really know what's going on, but he lets me give him muchos besos all the time...so it's all good. 

Tomorrow, we have to take them to the doctor for their immigration physical exams. I think there may be vaccinations involved. :( Pray for that. We are supposed to be bonding with them...and we have to take them to get shots. 

And...we rode the bus tonight...the public one!  Into Guadalupe!  Some of the girls who are students here invited us to go to church with them. It was a bilingual church where they are basically living out the book of Acts...and they did Jesus Culture and Bethel...in English and Spanish. Talk about Heaven touching earth!!!  Such good worship!  The bus was a little scary, and we would've been lost if we had been by ourselves...but it was kind of fun!

Pray for everything to go through smoothly with custody tomorrow. The kids are so ready. Honestly, they would have been fine if we'd kept them since Friday. And keep praying for rest and for no more chupacabras on our roof. And pray for those babies who will be left behind in the albergue. Pray for people to respond to God's heart for adoption. Pray that they won't be left as orphans. 

Almost normal

Today felt really "normal" and comfortable!  No more broken bones today, praise Jesus!  And G hasn't complained of too much pain.  The kids slept in a bit this morning and had fun picking out their clothes.  This evening, we will take them back to the albergue for 2 more nights.  G wasn't thrilled with this plan.  She told me she would rather stay with us, but I told her she can say goodbye to her friends and tias and get her "regalos" (gifts) that we sent back in September.  Then on Monday, they will be ours "por siempre."  G keeps asking me, just to be sure.  I keep telling her, "En el lunes, ustedes van a venir aqui (a Portantorchas) y van a vivir con nosotros por siempre."  And she asks, "Por siempre?"  And I say, "si."  Then she either gives me her electric smile and squeezes my hand or gives me a hug, or she covers her face.  Both she and W tend to cover their faces when they get really excited or happy....like they feel like it's something they have to hide.  Pobrecitos.  The scars from their life before us are evident throughout our little everyday interactions.  We have a long road ahead...

Here are some highlights from today along with other fun facts about our Ticos and our time here:

This morning, we walked into town with the family that runs Portantorchas.  The town we are in is called San Antonio de Coronado...or something close to that.  Haha  It's quaint and relatively safe to walk through during the day.  We went shopping at a grocery story there for some more bananas (muchasssss bananas) and other snacks since the kids are already eating us out of house and home!  And we were able to see some of the sights.  There was a fruit market with gorgeous displays of tropical fruit everywhere!  And ginormous grapes from Chile!  We will definitely have to go back there!  And there were several bakeries (which I can't eat at anyway), but they smelled awesome!

G is calling both of us by our parental names.  D has been all along.  I think W may have called me "Mama" yesterday....but he speaks quickly and stutters when he's nervous, so I'm not positive.  He did refer to Michael as Papa at least once...not to him, but about him.  It's good progress!

W LOVES Michael!  And he is a huge cheater at the game of Uno!  He seems to really enjoy card games in general.

Our Ticos like bedtime stories just like Landyn and Asher!  But we for sure need more Spanish children's books.  I'm already tired of "La Oruga Muy Hambrienta," and we only had them overnight once so far.  

I am starting to be able to understand D's little 4-year-old Spanish.  He says "mamo" for "vamonos" (let's go).  And the ONLY verb he ever conjugates is querer.  As in "Yo quiero eso.  Yo quierolo.  Yo quiero mas.  No yo quiero eso."  All of his other verbs are "a ver" for "Look!" or "I want to see!"  and " a comer" for "eat".  

D LOVES Lightning McQueen!  We brought him a Cars t-shirt and hat, and when we found out he doesn't wear diapers (we were told he did), we bought him McQueen undies.  He is wearing everything Cars that he has today, and he keeps telling me that they're all the same.

W picked out his own clothes today, and he matched them perfectly!  And then he and Papi played futbol in the rain...and he fell...BUT after he fell, I was walking by and he called out, "Mama, mis pantalones estan sucios."  Did you catch that?  "Mama"  That, my friends, is a first.  He more than likely ruined the shirt he was wearing, but he said "Mama!"  

W and G love Temple Run.  We are having trouble getting our phones back from them!  They call it "El Bosque" (the forest).  We are slowly trying to figure out some boundaries and limits on their screen time....while trying to say "Yes" more often than "No."  Very, very difficult.

Landyn and W love to play fuzbol ("futbolin" en Spanish).  W seems to be bonding with L pretty well!

The older 2 are really excited about riding bikes in Ohio...except we don't have one for W yet.  If anyone has a used 20 in. boys' bike they want to sell us (for a decent price...because we are going to be so broke after this trip), let us know!  We need to have something there for him when we get home.

G and D are afraid of dogs.....Uh oh.  Haha

W is starting to test some limits.  It's a little frustrating because of the language barrier, but it's also a sign that he is feeling comfortable and safe enough with us to try that...

W loves anything with peanuts.

D apparently isn't totally lactose intolerant.  He can eat cheese and yogurt....his tias said he just needs to drink lactose free milk.  So, we bought some at the little grocery store up the street.  

All 3 of them do this thing where when they get overly excited or overstimulated OR if they are just too happy to deal with life, they cover their faces.  I'm not sure what it means...




We were all a little sad to take the kids back to the albergue tonight.  G kept asking me to clarify the plans for the weekend and Monday. And she asked to wear her new clothes back.....and to take her raincoat....and her monkey nightgown.....and some peanuts.  We just couldn't say no.  She told her bed, "ciao" several times before we left, and W even crawled into his bed and got under the covers and was muttering something unintelligible very quickly in Spanish.  And little D wanted to wear his Lightning McQueen shirt and take his tortuga raincoat.  He didn't seem to understand where we were going and why, but he seemed ok when we dropped him off.  W gave HUGE hugs to both Michael and I.  G was a little distant with us....probably because her little heart is confused about where she should want to be.  And D let me give him lots and lots of besos before we left.

Then, on the way home, our driver, Don Abel, asked us if it was ok if we stopped at a house nearby for a Thanksgiving celebration with missionaries and church friends he knew.  We said, "Why not?"  (We found out that Don Abel is a follower of Jesus last night after G's hospital visits.  You'd think we'd stop being surprised by how God has orchestrated every detail....)  So we ended up in this missionary family's house talking about our adoption and their ministry and life!  There are so many amazing people here in Costa Rica!  It's ridiculously awesome!  I could totally just move here.....and I'm sure that no one who knows me would be the least bit surprised by that!

Yesterday, I was worrying about finances.  It costs A LOT to have a driver takes us everywhere, but it's the safest form of transport with 5 kids in tow.  I was praying last night that God would somehow help us with this.  Tonight, after Don Abel dropped us back at Portantorchas from the Thanksgiving party, he refused to let us pay!  What a blessing!!!!!  It's just more evidence that God is in every single, tiny, little detail.

So, overall, today was almost normal!  Whatever that is!  It's still very hard!  I had some moments of intense sadness today.  With our older two, we can sometimes actually see the battles between fear and longing, pain and healing, and doubt and hope playing out on their little faces as they try to navigate each step of this process of becoming a family.  And for us, and especially for me, I think I loved them so fiercely before...and now that love has to change and grow to meet them exactly where they are...and sometimes they're in dark places.  It hurts to walk through those places with them.

In the past 36 hours, I've learned that D loves "luces."  "Mami!  Hay luces!  Mami!  No hay luces!"  He wants to see light.  He loves the light.  Jesus, please, keep drawing them toward Your light.  Because in Your light there is life and love, and perfect love casts out all fear.

"Keep praying for us. So many good and hard things all mixed into one day. It's a little overwhelming. I'll post an update after we take the kids to the albergue tonight."  That was my Facebook update yesterday.....I had no idea that it was prophetic when I posted it.  At least the part about so many good and hard things happening in one day.  I am emotionally drained beyond what I thought possible, but I still have to say that it was a GOOD day.

We picked our Ticos up around 11 after what was supposed to be a "quick" stop at a Costarican Walmart.  Hahahahaha  How naive of us!  There is no such thing as a quick stop at a Costarican Walmart.  Then, we brought them back to Portantorchas for the day to try to start to develop a "regular" routine for our days here.  We played soccer first, of course, with W.  He has the ability to literally turn anything into a ball...paper, rocks, air, a stuffed turtle...and he can also make any decent space a goal.  And let me tell you, I will not need to set aside time to workout here if I continue to try to be his goalie!  That's some serious cardio!

The other 4 kiddos played with sidewalk chalk and scooters that friends of ours are letting us borrow while we're here.  If Little D isn't riding a scooter or holding onto a scooter or asking where the ,"escooter" is, it's not a normal day here...so far.  Before lunch, we are trying to get into the habit of playing outside because it's so beautiful here, and there's so much to do outside.  W and Papi played futbol for awhile on the cancha (field) while the other chiquitos chased patitos (baby ducks).  Those poor ducks have to be so traumatized.  Little do they know that there are about 5 more weeks of torture in store for them.

The kids got a little bored outside, so we took them to see our 2nd casita...the one with the TV and DVD player (which they loved) and all of our school stuff and juguetes (toys).  They played and explored the toys for awhile, and then we went to lunch.

Up until yesterday, we had taken them to lunch where what we bought was all we had.  And the first day, when we took them to KFC to celebrate our official matching day here in Costa Rica, I think they must have been too nervous to eat.  And when we went to the museum, they ate pretty well, but when it was gone, it was gone.  At lunch here at Portantorchas, they serve family-style meals at the tables.  When our kiddos can see that there's more, they will pretty much keep eating until they feel like they will burst.  Yesterday for lunch, we had arroz, lentejas y chorizo, y ensalada (rice, lentils and sausage and salad).  Holy cow!  Those kids can put food away like nobody's business!  W had 3 helpings.  G...I lost count.  She ate a lot of rice.  Even D ate quite a bit.  He didn't finish his, but he was impressive, nonetheless.  G ate so much she gave herself a stomach ache!  Snack time was the same...galletas (cookies) y bananas. We had brought back 2 big bundles of tiny bananas (mi favorita!), and by the end of the night, they were all gone.  I think it was like 15 bananas.  W ate 4 of them right before bed!!!!  Along with palomitas de maiz (popcorn) and mani (peanuts), which they also LOVE!  We are struggling with how to figure out a way to teach them balance and moderation.  It's so hard because they've come a place of neglect and hunger.  We want them to know that there will always be enough....but that they don't need to eat it all at once!  G even took peanuts to bed with her, which we were told to expect.  And for the first year or so, we need to say "yes" to them so much more than we say "no."  At the moment, I'm kind of at a loss for how to handle this.

After lunch, we had promised the kids a movie in Spanish.  W chose Max Steel in Spanish, and all 5 kids snuggled up together on a futon to watch.  D made it about 5 minutes.  G made it about 8.  Landyn made it a little longer, but got bored because it's a movie for "chicos."  Asher and W stuck with it until the end.  They sat together and watched intently.  D really likes to keep moving....ALL THE TIME!  He has so much energy, and his attention span is very short.  We are learning that he loves cars, magnet pompoms, and escooters.  And he needs to do something physical about every 15 minutes.  I'm tired just thinking about it!  After the boys' short movie was done, I told the chicas they could pick a girly one.  They chose Brave in Spanish...and again, W and Asher were the only ones who watched any of it!  The others kept wandering off to play with LeapPads or ride scooters.  So we ended up back outside....and that's when our day got really difficult.

G was riding one of the scooters, and fell off.  I went to her immediately and asked if she was ok, and she started crying.  She had a little scrape on her right wrist, so I thought that was the issue.  I took her back to our casita and cleaned her up and bandaged the scrape.  She seemed ok.  Later in the afternoon, she started to complain that her finger still hurt.  It was really difficult for us to tell if something was seriously wrong or if she enjoyed getting the attention.  I know that might sound harsh, but we barely know these kids.  The only background we have on them is in a 29 page Spanish file.  And based on the few pages of anecdotal notes on the kids, we just couldn't tell if there was a serious issue.  As the day wore on, she started holding her hand in an odd position.  And she started to complain more and more about pain, and her pinkie finger started to swell to about 3x the size of her other one.  She is such a tough girl!  Any other kid probably would have cried a whole lot more!  

So after agonizing over what to do, we talked to one of the staff here at Portantorchas, and they reminded us that the campus has an emergency medical service that comes here.  So, we had them call for us.  And for the first time since we met the kids, I felt like my Spanish skills were totally inadequate for the situation at hand.  I was so upset and worried for G that my brain just wouldn't and couldn't produce the words I needed.  I asked one of the staff who is bilingual to tell G what was going to happen so she would be prepared.  When he told her that some doctors would come in an ambulance to look at her finger, she immediately melted down and started sobbing loudly.  We were at dinner at that point, and she was already struggling to eat with one hand.  She totally shut down.  I knelt by her chair and rubbed her back, but she wouldn't look up.  She wouldn't talk to me or the man who was helping me explain what was going to happen.  I just kept telling her everything would be ok.  I wanted to explain to her that we would never, ever let anything bad happen to her...that I would go with her everywhere she might need to go....that we will only ever do what is best for her...and that we just wanted her to be safe and not be in pain.  But I don't know how to say those things in Spanish.  I only know how to talk about day-to-day stuff.  It was agonizing.  I couldn't explain to my little girl that we were going to take care of her...no matter what.  And when the ambulance came and we went outside to let the EMS guys look at her finger, it got worse.  I don't know what it was about the ambulance, but when she saw it, it triggered a violent fight or flight reaction in her.  She started wailing and almost bolted.  I put my hands on her shoulders and just kept telling her it was ok.  After some coaxing, she eventually let the medics look at it.  They said we needed to take her to a hospital.  And that's when I almost cried.  It took everything in me not to cry in front of her.  We had them 3 days, and they're not even ours yet and we had to go to the hospital.  

So, when our driver came, we asked him to take us....all 7.  We were supposed to be taking them back to the albergue.  Instead, we were going to a busy San Jose clinic at night.  Our driver was our hero last night!  He came with me and G inside and helped translate everything.  I would have been so lost without him!  The clinic staff sent us from one room to another to a station to another room and back to the station for a stamp and a signature and then back to the waiting area. It took a LONG time.  Poor Michael had the other 4 outside in an outdoor waiting area.  And little D was not very content to sit and wait.  He needed to be able to run around.  It was so stressful.  Finally, we got her X-ray, and the doctor said she did have a tiny fracture.  And then he told me that we needed to go to a children's hospital next...in a different part of town.  God bless Don Abel, our driver!  He was seriously amazing!  He came in with G and I again and helped me navigate the whole confusing process.  Poor G hadn't eaten her dinner, and she kept telling me she was sooo hungry.  I had no snacks with me.  But finally, the doctor called us in and wrapped her finger with tape and told me to get her some Tylenol.    

In the meantime, Michael had called our lawyer, who called the albergue, and the tias there gave us permission to just keep the kids overnight.  It was a surprise blessing after the stress of the evening.  The kids were very excited to wear their new pajamas and to sleep in their new beds.  They had so much trouble falling asleep because they were so excited!  It was almost 11 before they finally settled in, and they told me they normally go to bed at 8!  AHHHH!  Thankfully, they got to sleep in a bit today because it's Saturday and breakfast is at 9 instead of 7:45.

So, here we are....playing Uno in the casita before breakfast.  The kids were so excited to pick out their new clothes today.  D is wearing Cars underwear, a Cars t-shirt and a Cars hat.  He's one happy kid right now....and he's riding the escooter again.  W has really relaxed a lot.  He prefers Michael to me right now, and that's ok!  He has never had a papa, and he is loving this time with him.  G had some moments yesterday before her mishap that were confusing for all of us.  Her emotions are a little bit hot and cold sometimes, but it's understandable.  This is a huge change for these kids.  We're still basically strangers to them.  They are so brave!

We will find out today whether or not we will just keep the kids now or if they will go back to the orphanage for 2 nights.  For now, we are enjoying this lazy Saturday in Costa Rica!  Keep praying!  G is still having pain despite the medicine.  Asher is much better.  Landyn and Asher are seriously blowing my mind.  They are so patient and gracious with their siblings.  And Landyn and W are bonding really well, which was a little unexpected!  And in the end, I think G and even the others saw that we are going to take good care of them, and they don't need to worry.  Even though it was a bad situation, some serious bonding and attachment took place.  Thank you, Jesus, that you make beautiful things out of broken fingers and broken hearts.  We need every bit of Your beauty right now in our situation.  And thank you, Jesus, for bananas....even though they're all gone already!
My heart is full tonight.  Full of precious memories that we made today, full of excitement about unexpected bonding breakthroughs we had, and full of some level of sadness because we have to work so hard to prove to our kids that they deserve to be loved.  Today had it's awkward "what do we do now??" moments, but it also held moments that I didn't expect to get to experience this soon in this vida nueva.

This morning at 10, we picked our kiddos up at their albergue for a little day trip.  We had talked yesterday about going to a little amusement park, but last night, we discovered that it wasn't open today.  So we opted for El Museo de Los Ninos (The Children's Museum) in San Jose.  In the buseta, I sat with W for this ride. Yesterday, he sat quietly with Michael for every ride while the other 4 sat in the back with me and played games on iphones and looked at everything outside and chatted in Spanglish.  W is very independent, and I can't yet tell what he's comfortable with, so I have tried not to force conversation or affection, but I also don't want him to think I don't want to talk to him and hug him!  It's such a hard balance to find!  So today, I sat with him and asked him about equipos de futbol (soccer teams) and jerseys, and I showed him pictures of Ohio on my iphone.  What the heck did we do before iphones??  It has been such a powerful tool for bonding and breaking the ice!  Anyway, we talked for a little, and he answered all of my questions, but I got the impression that he would not have talked at all if he had his way.

When we arrived at the museum, I had my first " I-seriously-have-no-idea-what-you're-saying" moment.  Up until that moment, my Spanish skills have been sufficient to get us to and through the situations we encountered.  Not this time!  Thank goodness W was paying attention!  He understood the directions the guy gave us and got us to the right place, but not before we were all dripping with sweat from wandering around in the morning heat and humidity.  And then I had to ask for 7 tickets!  We're still trying to get used to this, "2 adultos y 5 ninos, por favor" thing!  

The museum overall was a hit with all of the kids.  Although we did get quite a few strange looks from various people as we herded our Tico/Gringo brood through the exhibits in Spanish and English and Spanglish. During the first hour or so, we had a few awkward moments as we all tried to pick up where we left off yesterday.  W is very independent.  He likes to walk up ahead of the rest of us (which, by the way, is exactly how he acted in the dream I had about these kids 2 years ago before we ever knew they were real and that they'd be ours).  And W isn't sure what to do with affection.  Sometimes he is ok with a little physical touch.  Other times, he gently removes our hands from his shoulder.  He did that to both Michael and I today, and when he did it to me, my heart just broke.  Not because he hurt my feelings, but because I realized that he doesn't really know how to let us love him.  

D and G are much more receptive to affection, but we still had a few awkward interactions during that first hour.  D wasn't sure if he wanted to hold G's hand or mine. G has been like a caregiver to him for years.  And the social worker told him that now that he has a mama, it's not G's job to take care of him.  It's mine.  And he accepted that pretty quickly yesterday.  Today, it took him awhile to decide that it was ok to hold both of our hands.  It's such a hard thing for a 4-year-old boy who doesn't really know what a "mama" is to process all of this.  But he definitely likes playing around with our new names, "Mami" or "Mama" and "Papi."  He was making up a song about Papi at one point!  He actually sang a lot today as he was playing.  It was precious and carefree!

G seems to really like physical affection, but at the beginning of our trip, she also seemed uncertain about what to do.  She sometimes grabs my hands and wraps them around her, or gives me side hugs...but we did graduate today to the full 2-armed hug by the end of the afternoon!  And wow, that girl gives fierce hugs!  

Landyn and Asher did so well with everything today!  I know it has to be hard to have so little of our attention right now.  But they are showing no signs of resentment or frustration.  They understand that our kiddos have been through things they will hopefully never have to experience or understand, and they have shown them such sweet love and acceptance.  I'm so proud of them! 

But I would have to say that for every hard, awkward moment, there were twice as many beautiful ones....glimpses of what will become the new normal for our family.  Like D singing as he played...singing about Papi, no less!   Or W letting his guard down and being silly and playing dress-up with us.  Or W eating everything in sight for lunch!  Oh my, 10-year-old boys eat a lot!  Or at least this one does!  And he did initiate conversation with me just to tell me that he was so full he might burst!  For kids who have walked the hard road our kids have, this is a BIG deal!  He wanted me to know that we had done a good job meeting a physical need, AND it was the first time he initiated an interaction with me without prompting!  That's a big breakthrough!  His belly was full...and my heart was full.  And then there was the HUGE hug W gave Michael when we said "Ciao."  He wrapped both of his skinny, brown arms around Michael's neck in a way that I didn't expect at all!  AND he let me hug him and kiss his forehead and even smiled a little.  And there are so many more precious things that happened in this short day... D wanted to share his nachos with Papi and W...and then W turned and shared them with Asher.  And when Asher, who wasn't feel too well today, was upset, W was concerned for him and even stopped wandering ahead and went and stood next to Papi and Asher for a bit.  I actually think it was good for them to see how we cared for Asher in his moments of discomfort today.  I think it gives them a glimpse of what's in-store for them.  

And I haven't even mentioned my favorite moments yet!  While we were playing towards the end of the day, G was running around and hiding behind various fixtures in the little town exhibit called "barrio seguro."  For almost 2 hours, somehow, we were the only family in this whole section, and it was awesome!  At one point, G peeked her head out and looked at me and called, 'Mami!"  And I melted!  So far, neither G nor W have called us Mami or Papi.  They actually call Michael by his first name still.  And they haven't called me anything at all.  But she said, "Mami."  That's a name that has held a lot of hurt for her.  I really expected that it would take a very long time before she could call me that.  And maybe I won't hear it again for awhile...or maybe she'll say it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.  Either way, I will be her Mami por siempre, and I'll move heaven and earth to make sure she knows it.  And then, as if my heart wasn't full already, on the way back to the albergue, D fell asleep on me!  It was one of the most precious moments of my life.  I think that with our biological children, we take for granted all of the snuggles and cuddles we get when they are babies and even toddlers.  There are so many years that we've missed in these kids' lives.  So many milestones we weren't there for.  So many memories that aren't ours to share with them.  And that will always be painful...probably for all of us.  But this mischievous little boy who just yesterday was running away from me...this ornery little boy who I've already nicknamed "mono" because he climbs EVERYTHING... fell asleep against my side.  I could feel his little heart beating and watch his chest rise and fall slowly....his tiny brown fingers resting on my pale arm...and in that moment, I felt like wholeness is within reach for all of us.  God is already healing them.  The road won't be easy, but we will get there together.  He is already clearing the path for us to follow.

So my heart is very, very full.  I feel like the past 2 years have been a process of stretching and growing and rearranging  and making room in my heart....room for 3 more.  And that process has been pretty painful at times.  But today as I watched all 5 of my kids play, I realized that part of that pain has been caused by 3 empty spaces that are now filled.  And somehow, there's room for all 5 of them in there!  And although it hurts a little as my heart tries to figure out how to make everything fit just right, I know that God has prepared all of us for this journey.  And this is just the beginning.  We have more stretching and growing and rearranging to do as a family, but we will get there.  We will find our new normal.

Keep praying!  We need it so much! Satan is trying to attack us through lack of sleep and sickness.  Pray for Asher--he has a very croupy cough, which I was told tonight is common here.  He felt pretty awful today. And pray for rest for us.  We've been waking up before 6 every morning, and I haven't been sleeping well here.  What we are doing is so emotionally and physically draining.  We need rest!  And pray for our Ticos to learn how to let themselves be loved...not just by us, but by the Father who sent us to show them that when Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans," He meant them.  
The last 48 hours have been an exhausting and wonderful whirlwind of emotion, yet somehow full of the most powerful peace I've ever experienced.  Everything so far has been amazing!  We have made awesome new friends--the kind that instantly feel like family, awoken to bright sunshine over huge, green mountains (and some really loud birds), and held our children, at long last!  

We arrived at the San Jose airport yesterday around lunch time to be met by friends we literally met for the first time yesterday!  They haven been lifesavers to us!  They arranged our transportation for the first few days, helped us find our way around, and watched our bio kids ALL day today while we visited with W, G and D.  And they also took tons of pictures for us, which I can't wait to be able to post!

We rode in a buseta to our home for the next 6 weeks, Portantorchas. It's a Torchbearers ministry campus on 5 1/2 acres in Moravia, Costa Rica, and it is AMAZING here!  It's in a valley surrounded by mountains!  And there are crazy awesome fruit trees everywhere that we can straight up eat off of...which our Ticos loved today!  We basically have 2 casitas for our family: one for sleeping with 4 bunks and a double bed, 3 showers and 3 toilets, and another house with a private living area with a DVD player and a kitchen.  But all of our meals are included, and the cook, Carlos, makes me yummy GF stuff for every meal!!  There's another girl at the ministry school with gluten and lactose intolerances, which is crazy...since I'm gluten intolerant and our little D is lactose intolerant.  God knew exactly what we needed and went before us even in these crazy specific details!  And the director and his family and the students here are so sweet and encouraging, too!  This place is literally perfect for our family's transition time!  (We'll post some good pictures maybe tomorrow...we have been running around like crazy and haven't had a lot of time for photos.)

Ok...so moving on to what you all really want to hear about: the official matching with the kids!  We got up early and left for PANI to meet our lawyer for the first time, and wow.  She is a wonderful woman!  She gives the kind of hugs that make you want to cry!  She is passionate about the children and the families she advocates for.  She's fierce, and she gets it DONE!  She met with us with the kids' social worker, who is a sweet Tica who clearly loves our kids and will only accept the best for them, and their psychologist.  We heard some really difficult details about our kids' past life.  They are survivors for sure.  And this transition has to be so hard for them.  They are the bravest people I know.

After our meeting, we called our driver, and he came and picked us up for the much-anticipated trip to the children's home.  I think Michael and I both went into this not really knowing what to expect...but praying that it would be good.  It was beyond good...it was a miracle.  We weren't sure how the kids would be introduced to us, so we just followed our lawyer and the social worker through the gate and up the steep concrete path.  Little Ticos met us on the path before we even made it to the doorway.  There are 15 kids that live in our kids' albergue, ranging in age from 1 month old-11 years old.  A little 5-year-old Tica grabbed my hand as soon as I was within reach.   I scanned all the little brown faces around us for 3 that looked familiar and found G first.  I knew her immediately by her big black eyes, her shy smile, and her pony tail (which was braided today).  We had gone there wanting more than anything to hug them, but also knowing that in a lot of ways, this whole thing is a lot harder for them than for us.  We know they'll be loved beyond anything they have experienced and that they will be safe.  They don't know that yet.  So we didn't want to push them, but G made her way over for a hug after a few shy moments and some encouragement from her tias and her social worker.  Then little D peeked his head around the corner and flashed us his super ornery smile...and then promptly ran away!  Haha  He did come hug us and pose for a few pictures, but he's very bonded to G, and wanted to be sure to be close to her at all times.  Then W came out with his glasses on, which we've never seen.  He is (as the missionary who volunteers at the orphanage says) tan guapo (so handsome).  Seriously.  He's going to be a heartbreaker.  He was by far the most reserved with us, but already, those walls are coming down little by little.  Honestly, we are a little surprised by the way all 3 of them, but especially the younger 2, warmed up to us just in a few short hours!

We stayed at the orphanage for about an hour and visited.  The kids showed us their beds and the bathrooms and introduced us to their friends.  They brought out the toys and gifts that we had sent them.  We had made little books for them to write about their favorite things in, and they brought those out to show to us.  The social worker was really good at facilitating little interactions here and there between us and them.  Our missionary friend at the orphanage brought a cake for this special day, and the social worker suggested I feed it to D.  Giving food to our kids...especially during the first year...is one of the most important things we will do.  It's how they learn to rely on us and trust us.  Meeting that basic need seems so simple, but is so powerful.  And he let me do it!  After that, he stopped running away and let me read him his favorite book, "Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo, Que Ves Ahi?" (Brown Bear, Brown Bear)  G came over, and we got to look through photos on my iphone for awhile.  They loved seeing pictures of family and our home and Ohio!  G and D initiated some hand holding with me while we looked at photos.  W spent some time with Michael.   He told the social worker that based on Michael's photo that we sent, he could just tell that Michael is a futbolista (soccer player).  Hahaha  W lives, breathes, sleeps and eat soccer all day long.  It's obvious that he's really uncertain, but curious about what a papa is.   

After about an hour, we let the kids choose a place for a celebratory lunch.  They picked KFC..I think mostly for the papas fritas and the play place.  We all loaded into the buseta and headed down the road.  I just kept looking at them and thinking, "We're actually here!  They're finally ours!"  It still doesn't feel real!  I've stared at their pictures for so many months that it is surreal to be able to see them in action and to hear them and to touch them.  And even to smell them!  They smell like the kids in Guatemala...I don't know any other way to describe it!  But it's one of my favorite smells in the whole world!

After lunch, we took the kids up to Portantorchas to meet Landyn and Asher (or Landeeeen and Achair, as they call them)!  The kids were all really shy and awkward at first.  But it was mere minutes before they were all 7 (our 5 plus our friends' 2 kiddos) chasing ducks, petting patitos (baby ducks), stomping through the underbrush, and exploring together.  Landyn and G hit it off pretty quickly.  And D LOVES "Achair."  He is constantly either calling, "Achairrrr" or "Mama."  W is very independent.  I don't think he knows how to let us love him yet.  G loves affection, and D seems to, too.  And all 3 LOVE regalos (gifts).  But it seems like maybe W's love language is  just soccer...and quality time.  Michael and the big kids played futbol for a little while because Portantorchas has a soccer field!  Que perfecto!  And W started to let his guard down for a little bit.  We showed them the beds in our casita and the closets full of new clothes for them.  G and D were SO excited about ropa nueva! W didn't really react.  Maybe that's because he's a 10-year-old boy...and because it wasn't about soccer.  Because he LOVED the soccer socks and shin guards we got for him!  We showed them some of the toys we brought, like Legos, Transformers, and play dough.  They LOVED the toy suitcase...yep...there's a suitcase that's pretty much all toys.  6 weeks is a LONG time!  And we don't have the money to have someone drive us around everyday!  It is EXPENSIVE!  But I'm terrified of the bus system here!  I swear we'd end up in Nicaragua somehow!  So we brought toys!  

Then, before dinner, we took the kiddos back to the albergue.  Landyn was upset.  She wanted them to stay, but we promised to return for them at 10 am tomorrow for another fun day!  We got lots of hugs and took some family photos. Twins at the orphanage asked the missionary to tell us to tell the people en Los Estados Unidos (the US) that they want to be adopted by Gringos, too.  Broke.  My.  Heart. Just like the one-month-old baby.  And G's best friend, who I know G will grieve for.  And the 5-year-old little Tica who kept wanting me to hold her on my lap or hold my hand.  There's so much need and so much loss and so much pain.  But there are 3 fewer orphans this week.  Gloria a Dios.  We are hoping to bring them "home" for good this weekend.  :)  Pray that everything goes smoothly with that!


So, it was beyond anything we could have expected or imagined.  I feel like this is such a brief, vague recap of one of the most important days of our lives.  I don't really even know how to put most of today into words.  We just continue to see evidence of God's goodness in every detail.  And every time I look at their little faces or hold their hands, I feel overwhelmed by the fact that God chose us for this adventure.  We are literally seeing a dream come to life.  Today, the social worker explained to the kids that from now on, they have a new family and a new life...un vida nueva.  She told them that everything bad that happened in the past is done, and they need to leave it behind.  I'm so eager for them to taste more of that new life.  The new life that comes, not from us, but from the God who called us to these children at this time.  His love is strong and deep and furious, and they will know that love well.  And that love will give them life.  We feel that love in us.  It's not of us, but it's in us.  Pray that they feel that furious love even now.  Because only that love can heal the pain that they carry with them.  

Here are few little fun facts we learned today about our Ticos:

D-Loves books (especially Eric Carle in Spanish), loves perros (dogs), loves G, likes bubbles, loves RescueBots and Lightning McQueen (We packed Asher's old Cars shirt for him to wear, and he was so excited....it was the first thing he told his tia when we got back!), loves to say "Mama", loves riding a razor scooter, doesn't like to share (haha), is terrified of baby ducks, and likes to be held and carried (Thank you, Jesus!  The baby duck terror led to him asking me to pick him up....and it became a regular thing by the end of the day.)  He's a tough kid.  He bonked his head at KFC on a metal bar and didn't cry....but let me hold him anyway.  His brown eyes are full of mischief, and his smile could melt the hardest of hearts!

G-Loves games on the iphone and pictures, likes to climb trees, but is afraid of heights (haha), has beautiful long black hair, likes hugs and to hold hands, likes having a sister (so far...fingers crossed), is tough (She cut her finger on a thorn and it bled.  She was very calm and let me clean it up...another good bonding moment.).  And she has the biggest smile ever!  It's electric!  And she has some pretty awesome dimples to go along with it!   I pray that she won't, but I think she might struggle a bit once the newness of things wears off.  She has a lot to grieve once we leave her home forever.  Pray for her sweet heart in this time of transition.

W-Loves soccer, loves soccer, loves soccer, loves soccer....Likes chicken, is super handsome, hates wearing his glasses, has the cutest little fohawk, likes dogs better than cats...loves soccer.  Pray that his heart feels safe with us.  He has a lot of pain to work through, and being adopted is bringing up bad memories of what "family" meant when he was younger.  Pray for him to be filled with that new life!

So, that's just a glimpse into our day today.  It was precious, and we will cherish it por siempre (forever).