Sunday, December 30, 2007

Making progress

The last week of 2007 has been a good one for information! A couple of days ago I found out our case is on Victor Barrios' desk for a final signature. That means we could be out of PGN next week! Hopefully the New Year's holiday won't delay the process too much and we will be on our way to the final steps in the process - Grace's birth mom will sign off for the last time, her birth certificate will be changed to my last name, the second DNA test will be done, and the US Embassy will issue "PINK" with an invitation to come to Guatemala so we can bring Grace home.

I also received 7-month update photos from my agency. Grace looks alert, healthy, and seems to be holding her head up much better than a month ago.

Now that is progress...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

...and Daisy

I wasn't really ready for another dog, but just look at cute Daisy was on the day we got her! At 14 weeks old, she was 15 pounds of "puppy energy" and we couldn't resist taking home this adorable black Lab mix from the rescue group.

Today she weighed in at 32.8 pounds and is really turning out to be a good dog. She goes with me every Monday as I get trained at obedience classes and then tolerates me when I try to practice "heel", "stay", and "come" with her during the week. Daisy loves to run and play and I love the "puppiness" in her. She does so many funny things and everything - blowing leaves, snow, ducks in the yard, socks - is fascinating to her.

I hope she stays this cute forever!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Summer


If you love dogs, and especially Labrador Retrievers, you have probably read Marley and Me. When I read the book I couldn't help but smile at the similarities between Marley, and my yellow Lab, Summer. But Summer was never as naughty as Marley. She was an incredible dog, and I was lucky to spend 9 years with her. Summer was my running partner, a fantastic swimmer, and an expert at getting human food from the "weakest link" at the table!

In the last few chapters of Marley and Me, Marley gets sick and his family has to make the difficult decision about putting him to sleep. When I was reading the book over 2 years ago, I knew this part was coming and dreaded reading those last pages. I cried for Marley and his family, and I told Summer, who was on the bed with me that night, that she just better be around forever.

Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how much you love someone or how much you need them. There comes a time when you have to say "goodbye" and I am proud that I was able to do that for my faithful friend when she needed it. I miss her every day and I remember.......

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Guatemalan Christmas

Nothing would be better than to have Grace home for her first Christmas. But, since that couldn't happen, at 7 months old, she will be experiencing her first Christmas in Guatemala with her foster family.

Christmas in Guatemala mixes Christian and Mayan traditional celebrations. The days before Christmas are filled with parties and preparations, including fireworks! Families decorate their homes with pine wreaths, poinsettias, manzanillas (small yellow fruits), and nacimientos (Nativity scenes). Christmas trees have become popular in Guatemala because of the strong German population there. For 9 days before Christmas, posada processions pass through the streets with neighbors carrying the figures of Mary and Joseph stopping at houses to sing the traditional carol asking for lodging for the Holy Family.

On Christmas Eve, called La Noche Buena, everyone stays up very late because the celebrations do not start until late. At the stroke of midnight, you share "El Abrazo de Navidad", the Christmas hug, with your family and friends and many people attend midnight mass. The party continues into the early morning with fireworks, tamales, empanadas, and pastel noviden (Christmas cake). Most children open presents on Christmas morning, brought to them not by Santa, but by El Nino Jesus.
A lot of this reminds me of the way my family spent Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house when we were kids. The whole family was together, staying up until midnight, when we sang "Silent Night" and put the Baby Jesus in his manger.

I can't help but wonder how Grace will spend her Christmas. But her foster mother promised me she would take pictures. And Grace has a wonderful dress to wear for "La Noche Buena".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's Your Birthday!

Who is this cute baby with the curl?

I'll give you a hint...... here she is today.....
My mother and Grace's Nana... And today is her birthday!

Now, one last photo......
When Grace and Nana were together for the first time, they immediately connected. She she is the best at rocking and singing Grace to sleep, especially with the Irish lullaby called "Toora Loora Loora" which my grandmother used to sing when my mother was a baby.

How many years ago was that? I'll never tell!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Plaza Sesamo

You know Big Bird but have you ever heard of his young cousin, Abelardo? He is one of the main characters unique to Plaza Sesamo, the Spanish version of Sesame Street. Amazingly, Plaza Sesamo is in its 34th year, airing first in Mexico but now all over Latin America and on Spanish language stations in the United States. It is estimated that the program reaches 84% of Spanish-speaking households in our country. Having grown up with Sesame Street, myself, I am not surprised Plaza Sesamo is also the longest running Spanish children's series.

Grace LOVES Plaza Sesamo. And, according to her foster mother, she loves Barney, too! Actually, from what we have seen, Grace likes television in general. She and Big Daddy could sit for hours (and did!) in front of the TV, but she prefers the songs, music, and bright colors of the kids programs, where he would rather watch CNN. Either way, they looked pretty content sitting together and napping to their favorite programs!

Big Daddy and Nana brought this Elmo for Grace. It is as big is she is but they packed it in one of their suitcases and brought it over 1,000 miles so she could have it! It was a great present and a colorful prop for our pictures.

Oh, and Aunt Susan sent the cool blanket!

A few words about PGN


On November 9th our case entered PGN. These letters stand for Procuraduria General de la Nacion. This is final Guatemala government part of the adoption process where the PGN officers are responsible for reviewing each adoption case individually when all of the paperwork has been completed by the adopting parents, the agency, and the lawyer. To enter this stage a case must have already received "pre-approval" from the US Department of Homeland Security and have gone through the Guatemalan Family Court where a social worker has reviewed the facts surrounding the relinquishment of parental rights by the birth mother. At that point, the attorney can submit the case to PGN.

Each case file is reviewed by two "officers" who individually have the right to determine whether a case is ready to be signed off or needs additional information or corrections. If this happens, a "previo" or kick-out (KO) is issued and the attorney, agency, or adoptive parent has to gather additional information or fix whatever the problem is. Sometimes this can be done quickly and other times it can take weeks. Once the case is complete and has gone through two reviewers, it is sent to PGN director's office (Hector Barrios) for a final signature and a PGN decree.

On average, it takes a case about 8 weeks to get through PGN, although there are people who fly through and others who get stuck in this stage for several months. To outsiders, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how quickly one case gets through compared to another. Today marks 5 1/2 weeks that we have been in PGN and 5 of those weeks have been with the 2nd reviewer. I am so tempted to call PGN today to check on our progress. There is a wonderful woman named Laura there who must talk to adoptive parents all day, every day. She sweetly tells you when you call that "you can wait" as Guatemalan time certainly doesn't seem to be the same as "waiting American adoptive parent time"!

Note: I copied the photo from N.L.'s page. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ready for a close-up

At 2 months

My agency promises an update every 6 weeks - either pictures or medical information. As any adoptive parent will tell you, this is a long time to wait! I'll admit it...I am not the most patient person. I am used to being in control and doing a hundred things at one time. Every day of this process has been a lesson in patience. Frustrating? Yes. Difficult? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely! Just look at this incredible little girl waiting for me to bring her home.


At 3 months


At 4 months


At 4 1/2 months


At 5 months


At 6 months


Monday, December 17, 2007

How did we get here?

It all started in the summer of 2005 when I went to an adoption seminar for an agency in my area. I was so impressed with the people and what they had to say that I contacted them to start the process. When my materials came in early September, though, I panicked and put it all aside.

I never stopped thinking about adopting and about a year later I called the agency again to see if we could reactivate my file. They did and on October 10, 2006 I sent the first of many forms and documents that would eventually lead me to Grace.

What a difference a year makes....

The beginning

We have a snow day today and I should be taking advantage of the time off by accomplishing some things on my "to do" list. But I think the "blog bug" has gotten to me after reading my friends' posts and realizing what a great gift this could be for Grace some day. So, I have taken the plunge, so to speak. I have never been one to keep a journal, so I am not sure what will happen here.

My intention is to really begin on Gotcha Day - whenever that day comes. But it makes sense to give some background and show what has brought me to this point.

This picture was the "beginning" with Grace - three days old and at 8 pounds, 2 ounces she was probably a big baby by Guatemalan standards. She actually weighed in at 9 pounds when she was born! I still laugh when I see this picture. Just look at those cheeks!