Saturday, March 31, 2012

19 Months of Rory

We are currently at about 19 months and 3 weeks, but who can blame me for being behind?  The pictures, however, were actually taken at 19 months.

This was a BIG month for Rory.  She visited two countries, got about 1359 shots (more like 3), and became a little sister!


While in Uganda, Rory was amazing.  I think she's got her mommy and daddy's adventuresome spirits, because she settled into Africa perfectly.  She never stopped grinning when zooming down the road without a car seat, didn't bat an eye when mommy dressed her up in boots, long pants and long sleeves in 90 degree weather to help prevent mosquito bites (i.e. malaria), ate Ugandan food like a champ, became best friends with Uncle Ken, a Ugandan friend of ours, and didn't even seem to notice the 8 hour time difference.  She definitely didn't turn down a caramel waffle cookie from Amsterdam either.

Here's proof of Uganda: Rory standing in a pineapple farm.

And, we've got the good ole Amsterdam self-take.

And, as always, I'm amazed at how she's changed!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Survival (à la) Mode

Today is the first day Sarah officially went back to work post-"homecoming", which means it's my first official day as Mr. Mom to three girls.  How is everything going?  Uh... surprisingly well.  At this moment the girls are playing quietly by themselves (a somewhat rare occurrence), so I thought I'd take a moment and write a blog post.  It would take forever to talk about everything, so let me tackle three topics real quick, and throw in pics of our girls...

  • Language: The twins are very slowly learning English phrases.  They've successfully used: more, water, please, thank you, I'm finished, Mommy and Daddy.  Adoptive families tell us it could take up to a year before they get anywhere near catching up to conversational English.  Faith and Favor definitely still talk to each other in Rutooro, and every now and then we catch them making jokes about "poo poo".

  • Sleeping: I'm still co-sleeping with the girls because we think that they're transitioning better that way.  We do our bedtime routine of reading books and praying, and within 25 minutes of lights-out they're both fast asleep.  I sneak away to spend a couple hours with Sarah, but then I get back into bed with the girls.  So far almost every night either Faith or Favor will wake up and whine or cry for a few seconds until I hug them and reassure them back to sleep.  In the morning I try to sneak out again for about 10 minutes to make a cup of coffee, which I have to then drink in their room or else they wake up frantic to find me (which happened once).  For the record, they sleep at least 10 hours at night and Favor naps for about 1 1/2 hours midday.
  • Discipline: Whoa buddy, this is a biggie.  Most people know that Rory is basically the easiest kid in the world, making us totally inexperienced in the discipline department.  We started in Uganda and have continued here with time-outs and time-ins as discipline (we actually signed some agreement as part of our home study that said we won't spank our kids... doesn't really matter; neither Sarah nor I were spanked as children).  Bottom line is that previously Faith and Favor had practice behaving only for the general orphanage events such as mealtime, bedtime, or church.  All other time was unstructured and they could really get away with anything they wanted.  They could snatch away toys, hit other kids, and eat gum off the street, all with no fear of consequences.  What we're doing right now is forming their sense of boundaries and right and wrong, and reinforcing our roles as authority figures in their lives.  
So... we're in survival mode.  But we're not completely exhausted, falling into bed sobbing every night... By God's grace, we survive and thrive.  We're taking all the challenges head-on, and we rejoice as our new sense of family is forming for all.  Sarah and I even get to spend late evenings cuddling on the couch and eating bowls of ice cream.  I dub it, "survival à la mode".

P.S.  The "girls playing quietly by themselves" only lasted until I finished typing the first paragraph :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Finale

Our girls are home, life is good.  Watch the story for yourself here at the Blume Photography website.  We are so grateful to them for filming our homecoming!

More pictures and stories to come!  We are officially back to public blogging.  :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Uganda: Coming Home!

Yesterday I went to the US Embassy at 7:30 AM to drop off all our paperwork and see if I could get a visa interview appointment. Everything in our mountain of paperwork seemed to be in order, so they told me to come back at 2 PM. After a leisurely brunch at Cafe Javas (with some drinkable coffee btw) and killing some time at a mall, we showed up for the interview and also brought in the twins’ grandfather just in case they would ask for him at the interview. It took about an hour for them to call me in, and the interview lasted just about 10 min. All the questions were straightforward and easily answerable, but at the end of the interview, the lady said that we were missing one document and she needed to see it before she said the visas were approved! Well, I talked to our facilitator outside who hopped on a boda (motorcycle taxi) and zipped to our lawyer’s office and back in less than 10 minutes with the document in-hand! I submitted it and received the verbal approval, and they said we could pick up our visas on Wednesday at 4 PM!

Our awesome travel agent was able to secure us seats on a flight Wednesday night. We’re connecting in Amsterdam, with just a 5 hour layover there before we head to Atlanta and arrive Thursday afternoon at 3:40 PM.

Anyone who wants is welcome to greet us at the airport! Just plan to be at the top of the escalators that all people take into the terminal when they arrive. Let’s make this a big welcome home party for Faith and Favor!

Post-arrival we’ll be holing up at our home in Stone Mountain for a while, working on building a new sense of family for all 5 of us. We won’t be entertaining visitors much, but we’ll let you know when it’s okay to come over and meet Faith and Favor. Thanks so much for being a part of this journey with us! We’ll update our blog and Facebook whenever we have the opportunity.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Uganda: Happy Birthday!

Yesterday, March 9th, was Faith and Favor’s 4th birthday. It’s actually quite unique that we know their birthday at all, because most orphans don’t have reliable records and end up having a made-up birthday based on everyone’s best guess. The girls probably never celebrated anyone’s birthday before, so I knew that they wouldn’t really expect anything or even know what was going on if they were thrown a big party. Our amazing guesthouse hosts knew it was their birthday, so they baked up a simple carrot cake with frosting and sprinkles for the girls to celebrate!




And we got a really great birthday present: Faith and Favor’s passports!!! That was the last piece we were waiting on before we could submit our visa application to the US Embassy and request a visa interview. I’m putting all the paperwork together this weekend and we’ll head to the embassy first thing Monday morning to request a same-day interview. Please be praying that everything goes smoothly as the Lord wills, and that we are at peace with the time frame He’s got in store for us.
Even with help, being a single parent to twin 4-year-olds who don’t speak English is a pretty rough gig. Here are some things I’ve learned about my girls and about parenting so far:
  • Both Faith and Favor will use the bathroom as an excuse for attention. This happens several times a day. They’ll go potty and then 15 minutes later ask to go again, and insist they have to go (in Rutooro, their language), and Faith will even clutch her crotch and hop up and down for dramatic emphasis. I confirm with them several times in Rutooro that they really really need to go again, and then take the time to go through the bathroom routine, all for two seconds on the pot with nothing to show for it and then a quick “I’m finished!” (but in Rutooro). Grrr.
  • Favor is the emotional one. She wakes up every morning in a perky mood and gives me lots of kisses, but any time I’m even a little stern with her throughout the day, she breaks down crying. She’s really adorable and loves for me to carry her, and tonight she fell asleep holding my hand.
  • Faith gravitates towards women for contact, attention, and affection. She will allow me to carry her and hold her hand, but if there’s anyone else nearby she leaves me and jumps into the other person’s arms. I don’t take it personally, and I know that part of the reason she does that is because she’s been raised almost exclusively by women and she has almost no concept of what a daddy is. It may take months or years for her to develop a more healthy attachment and connection with me and Sarah, and for her to be a little more discriminating with running to complete strangers for affection.
  • Just the honest truth, but… sometimes kids push your buttons so much you realize that parents with less self-control really would make the completely inexcusable mistake of physically lashing out at them.
  • Time-outs work like a charm.
  • There are tons of opportunities throughout the day that I can take a moment to pray for my kids. Today, one key moment was nap time, and I felt the presence of the Spirit as I interceded for all 3 of my girls and my wife.
  • I can actually do this. For the longest time I was scared of being a father to kids. Well, maybe I was scared of being a father to anyone older and more difficult than Rory. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be tough enough, or know the right thing to do at the right time, or have adequate wiping skills. But I’ve learned in just a couple weeks with Faith and Favor that you learn pretty quickly how to do it all. It’s not so bad, you learn from mistakes, and you survive one day at a time. I’m not saying that I absolutely love everything about being a dad right now, but I can honestly say that I’m learning and I know it’ll get better. Bottom line: I trust in the Lord for everything, including this. By God’s grace my girls will grow up to be strong women of faith (and favor).

Thursday, March 08, 2012

In Uganda: Firsts

Quick update: We’re still waiting on the twins’ Ugandan passports which have been promised and not received almost every single day this week. The excuses we got? Tuesday: “The guy who needs to sign some form wasn’t in, so it couldn’t get signed.” Wednesday: “The passports got printed, but the system crashed so they had to wait on IT to get there so they could plug them in the system. Thursday: “Oops, it’s a holiday – Women’s Day. All government offices are closed.”

But it looks like as long as we get the passports in hand sometime Friday or early Monday morning, we can still probably file on Monday morning and ask to get a US Embassy visa interview on Monday afternoon, which would get us visas and tickets out by Wednesday at the earliest!

This morning was really sweet… Both Faith and Favor woke up at almost the exact same moment around 6:45, and they were full of energy. They rolled around the bed and hopped on top of me giggling and smiling. They saw I was awake and they gave me kisses without me prompting them. I loved it!

Nap time today, on the other hand, had me putting them both in their first simultaneous time-out because they wouldn’t listen to me and thought it was funny to take turns screaming in my ear.
My aunt Joanne arrived late last night! She’s been so gracious to volunteer her time to help with the girls as we wrap things up and prepare to fly back home. I’m thankful she’s here!



Yesterday was a cool day of “firsts” for the girls. All the adoptive families who are in the guesthouse with me went out to a mall for lunch. At the restaurant they had a kid play area complete with dual trampolines, video games, and a kid movie theater. Faith and Favor spent tons of time on the trampolines, and I’m guessing they never got to see or play on them before.



In the mall we took an elevator up a couple floors, and I watched closely as the girls got in with no problem and then had wide-eyed looks of amazement when the doors opened to an entirely different place. They kept looking around and smiling their big grins.



After playing some more on the mall playground, we got ice cream for all the kids. Their orphanage didn’t ever have ice cream – let alone a fridge – so I again watched their reactions for another first. They tasted it and made funny looks. Faith dove right in and ate tiny spoonfuls, but Favor kept poking her spoon at the ball of ice cream and then licking what little bit stuck to the spoon. (They don’t really know how to use utensils yet btw.) Favor’s ice cream ended up melting completely, so I just got her a straw to use. She happily slurped up the melted bowlful! I’m guessing that milkshakes might be a better choice for her.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

In Uganda: Salongo

 

Faith and Favor are doing great so far. They are with me literally 24 hours a day. I can only really shower or go to the bathroom when they’re preoccupied with napping (which they’re doing right now and I just realized I haven’t showered today!). Today I snuck away with Faith to take her to go potty, leaving Favor with the group of families hanging out. When I returned, Favor was soaked in tears and the other parents said they couldn’t console her. It’s episodes like that that show we can’t really leave the girls in anyone else’s care at this time unless we want to disturb the process of developing attachment and connection with them. They really fear transition and abandonment since we’ve removed them from all they’ve ever known at the orphanage.

 

They both seem to be sleeping better, which is a little odd since Sarah’s gone and I expected our nighttime crying to at least double. They sleep at least 10 hours at night and nap at least 2 hours in the afternoon, and are now only slightly whining when I put them down to bed at any time. I sandwich myself between the girls and pretend I’m sleeping so that they will also sleep, and my body also acts as a barrier so that they don’t flop onto each other and scare each other awake (which has happened on many occasions).

We thought the girls would probably have food issues because they were undernourished at the orphanage, and any time they even saw food they’d get anxious. Faith was even known for scarfing down her food and stealing food off the plates of the slower eaters. We’ve now been feeding them 3 meals a day and snacks for more than a week, and I’m happy to report that they’re eating well, getting a little less anxious, and they’re even getting a little picky about what they eat… like any normal kid, they seem to dislike vegetables on their plates. But we’ve still got a long way to go with food. It’ll take a while to put some meat on their skinny little bodies, and it’ll take months or years for them to develop a healthy and secure approach to eating.

According to the tradition where the girls are from, their Ugandan names (serving like last names) reflect their twinhood. Favor’s Ugandan name is Nyangoma, which means “mother of the drum” and is given to the older twin. Faith is Nyakato, which means simply “the younger female one”. When we first heard of these names, I thought it was an incredibly cool cultural tidbit that I was happy to keep in their legal names post-adoption. And then I heard that parents of twins also get new names! We would be Salongo Jonathan and Nalongo Sarah. While we traveled around their home region, several people referred to us as such. The only person we heard about in the twins’ lives who was officially called that was was their birth mother. Even though I’m only “Salongo” through adoption, I am proud to carry the name!

Friday, March 02, 2012

In Uganda: Update and Stories from Jonathan

Quick rundown on what’s going on:
  • Thanks for praying for our court appointment. Now that we’re one happy family, we are free to post fun pictures of the Pascual 5!
  • We’re back in Kampala, taking care of all the necessary things to obtain visas for the twins so that they can go home to the States.
  • Sarah and Rory depart tomorrow, leaving me alone with Faith and Favor until my aunt gets here on Tuesday. Pray for my sanity!
  • Though we have an internet connection, it’s still too weak to post a ton of pics and videos, but we’ll do that whenever we can!
Okay, on to my favorite part about blog posts…

The Twins and Animals
One of the steps to getting visas is getting the girls medical examinations. We went to the appropriate office this morning, and on the way the girls of course kept saying “Noyenda kupama!” which means, “I have to poop!” We told them to wait, and when we were in the waiting room I took them one at a time to the bathroom. When Faith and I went, I saw a tiny lizard on the wall next to the sink. I thought it was a great idea to say, “Look Faith! A little lizard!” Well, when she looked she lost her mind and started screaming and jumped into my arms. Thankfully it didn’t literally scare the crap out of her, but she was definitely too scared to drop her pants and sit on the toilet, so we had to go back to the waiting room.

We’ve learned the twins seem to be afraid of a lot of animals, especially dogs. There were a couple of really tame dogs at the orphanage, but we heard that the house moms would sometimes tell the children that the dogs would get them if they didn’t do what they were told. So whenever we walked in the yard outside and came near the dogs, Faith and Favor would jump into our arms and cling tightly to us, while Rory would say, “Doggie! Woof woof!” and would run up to pet them.

Nighttime Fun

Three nights ago, we were sleeping soundly with the twins in one bed and Sarah and me in another (with Rory on the floor in her baby tent). Two hours after lights out, I woke up to find Favor on the floor next to their bed. She had fallen out and fallen about a foot and a half but didn’t even wake up. I got her comfy with a pillow and blanket, left her there, and I went back to sleep. Maybe an hour later, we heard a thump and two high-pitched screams. I jumped out of bed to find Faith on top of Favor, both of them screaming bloody murder! I picked Faith up off her sister, tossed her onto her side of the bed, and quickly put Favor down next to her. They both calmed down immediately and fell asleep again, probably never even realizing what had happened. Sarah and I then pushed our bed next to theirs to prevent further catastrophe. What can we expect after the girls spent their whole lives sleeping in cribs at the orphanage?

Twins' cribs


Nighttime Fun Part 2

Last night we got everyone in bed and tried to fall asleep. At first we experienced what has become the nightly ritual of Favor crying herself to sleep for about 15 minutes. Then Sarah and I laid in our bed (of course pushed up next to the girls’ bed), chatted and prayed and fell asleep ourselves. Just before midnight though, the comedy started. Faith kicked it off with waking up, sitting up screaming and pointing at something random in the room, which woke up Favor and she joined in the screaming and pointing too. They both were flailing around, so Sarah and I jumped into action and each took a girl to calm them down. After maybe 10 min of shushing and cuddling, things started to quiet down, just in time for Act 2. Off to the side we heard some swishing and a loud thump, and then Rory was screaming suddenly. She had shifted and rolled her tent off the bed, trapping herself between the bed and the wall! (Don’t worry grandmothers, it wasn’t a life-or-death situation.) I rushed over and rescued her, but not before the twins started screaming and wailing again. Sarah got overwhelmed and said, “I need your help!!!” I zipped Rory back in the tent (still crying) and grabbed Faith, and Sarah scooped up Favor and went back for Rory. Then in my arms Faith was screaming and crying and pointing and saying something about Favor, which really to me sounded like she thought Favor was being kidnapped. Sarah had the presence of mind to realize the twins were probably just confused as to where they were, so she flipped on the bathroom light so they could see. Favor continued to cry and pointed at our comforters which were all flowery until we took all of them off the beds. Then, we all sat on one of the three beds and caught our breath, and everyone stopped crying, but everyone was also wide awake. Sarah paused a moment and said simply, “We’re outnumbered.” And we couldn’t help but laugh.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In Uganda: Introducing

The 5 Pascuals!!!!!

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More pictures and stories coming soon…