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My kids have only been American Citizens for 21 months. We brought them from Mexico to this country, dressed on the day we landed in LAX in red, white and blue.

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I’ve never been a real patriotic type gal. I’m more the marching in the streets to change things kinda gal than a flag waver. But as we handed U.S. Customs our kids’ immigration paperwork and crossed into the U.S. I could have waved a hundred flags. They were legit citizens and we were a real family. And tonight I find myself explaining a ton of American history as we watch the Democratic National Convention.

While watching Bill Clinton speak, we have to explain why everyone loves him so much. How he was the first president mommy ever voted for and how he passed the family leave medical act, which made it possible for mommy and daddy to take off time and adopt our kids.

We listen to Bill talk about how he met Hillary. All the things she has done for children, for the world. Alan says “she did a lot. Without all the things she did the world wouldn’t be as good.” Yep, no prompting from mom, he drew that conclusion on his own. Good speech Bill.

Next night, we point out, “that’s Jesse Jackson.” He used to march with Dr. King. “Who’s Dr. King?” Griselda asks. “remember when we talked about the holiday, remember we watched the video about him?” And Griselda thinks for a minute “oh yeah , the bus, the lady on the bus that wanted to sit down.”

Then we watch Joe Biden. Edgar and I laugh and swoon at how much we love Biden. How he’s a loose cannon. How that’s what makes him cool. The kids wonder at it. “He cared a lot about passing laws to take care of women” mommy says, he did a lot. Thanks Joe.

Next, we watch a video about Obama. And we have to keep pausing it “what’s the financial market?” Alan asks. “What’s that house, what are they looking for?” Griselda asks as they show a photo of the house where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. “Is that Hillary in the picture, rewind dad” Alan says. “Why is the president crying?” they ask as we watch Obama talk about the Newton shooting. “why is he singing? “ Amazing Grace. “Why are you crying mommy and daddy” they ask. Same-sex marriage signed into law. “Why are those ladies jumping around mommy?”

So in that short video, I have to explain 9/11, shootings that killed children in an elementary school, a shooting at a black church, same-sex marriage being signed into law and then Wall Street! It’s so much, and they want to understand it all. And I want to tell them all about it.

As hard as so much of it is to talk about, I want them to know that America is strong. It’s strong and great because of all the shit we’ve been through. Just like they are strong from all the shit they’ve been through. I’m not happy to tell them that other human beings flew planes into a building and killed thousands. I get no satisfaction in telling my kids that people can get guns and shoot up children, LGBT folks and churches because our gun laws are a joke. And Wall Street, well… it’s complicated.

But like Barack said, America already is great. As cynical as I like to be about life and the world on any given day, I would not have adopted my two kids from Mexico and brought them here if I hadn’t thought this country would give them a better chance. To be themselves and the best expression of whatever that may be.

A country that is not perfect, yet so perfect in that imperfection we fight to preserve. Sure we fight. We agitate. We don’t agree. We love. Sadly we hate. We create beautiful art, music and inventions. And we f’ up a lot. But goddammit, the fact that I can say all this is why it’s a good country. And as I often tell my son “anyone that tries to take that away from us, being ourselves, whatever that is, that’s not American.”

Lastly, we watch Hillary.

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Edgar and I cry as she walks out. Godammit, I think, she did it. Alan watches the entire speech. Griselda falls asleep. Alan turns to me at one point and says “this is the best talk ever.” He’s so curious about it all and he’s listening to the first woman ever nominated by a major party to be president.   And he will grow up thinking this is normal.

To quote the first president my children would ever know, “The American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.” Thanks Barack. And to quote the first president they will ever see elected “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” Thanks Hillary. That’s what I want for my kids. And we are down to fight for it together.

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Exactly one week after our anniversary our family will now have a new anniversary, our family anniversary!  Introducing the fabulous and amazing latest addition to the Aguirre-Gildard family, Griselda Lea and Edgar Alan!!

g y ea

As a note, Edgar Alan had a different name when we met him and told us from the beginning that he wanted to change his name.  We talked about it and told him we liked his name and thought it was fine, but he still wanted to change it.  He likes Edgar a lot, so he wanted his first name to be Edgar and he likes the name Alan and wanted that to be his middle name.  He has no idea the poet/author jokes he has in store for his future!  We talked to Griselda about changing her middle name to Lea so Siana could share a part of her name with her too and she liked it so we made that change upon finalizing.

The last few days have been pretty crazy and so much has happened that we’ll just include the highlights here.  Warning there are like a million pictures to follow! 🙂

We flew to Hermosillo via Phoenix on Sunday and boarded a plane old school style

plane

And pretty much an hour after we landed we headed to Unacari where the kids live.  Our new friend Adrian threw a party at Unacari for her daughter Arlette and invited us all. The kids were all such wonderful hosts, pouring soda for their friends and offering cupcakes and pizza to everyone.  And of course there was a piñata!

Here’s Arlette enjoying her piñata and of course Edgar Alan and Griselda took a good whack at it too!

pinata 1 pinata 2 pinata 3

The party was such a great way for the kids to have closure and say goodbye to their friends and the many tias that have taken care of them. Thank you Adrian for throwing such a great party!

We then moved on to the next morning which started early with signing paperwork at Unacari which released the kids to our custody. We were pretty excited about this!

u sign 2 u sign

Upon leaving Unacari with us for the last time, the kids were pretty happy too, we said “let’s go” and they sprinted out, with Edgar Alan doing a little jump for joy on the way.

kids run ea jump

We then headed out to get the new birth certificates.  We first went to one office to get Arlette’s birth certificate with Adrian to which we all applauded when they got the final signed official copy.

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And finally after a few hours it was our turn at a different office.  Signing multiple copies and with fingerprints from the kids, we got it done!  And now they are officialy our kids!

sign 1 sign 2

sign 4 sign 3

Finally Familia Aguirre-Gildard!

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And as if all this excitement wasn’t enough, we then headed out to the airport for the kids first plane ride ever!

They were all so excited they waited by the window for the plane!

kids 1 kids 2

And here we all are just before boarding, onward to Mexico City for our next adventure in paperwork and waiting in offices…

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Today is our 13th anniversary.  The best present in the world we could get is to know that in 1 week we will be picking up the kids from Hermosillo!

We heard from our lawyer Ricardo last week that everything was ready with the court and we will be picking the kids up and their new birth certificates within the next week.   We are thrilled and so excited and now are quickly nesting to get ready for their arrival.

The past few weeks we’ve been constructing furniture and getting their room ready.  This includes bunk beds and a wall unit for all their cosas!  IKEA to the rescue!

E construct S construct

Finished product – a heart and space odyssey theme!

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G bed A bed

And a place for all the stuff!

shelves

Siana’s Pooh Bear is watching over the room (upper left hand corner) he was always a good guardian for Siana and will now hang out with the kids.

Angel has been patiently waiting for the kids, sometimes she goes in their room and just chills on the rug.

angel wait      angel rug

And we do the same thing.  We just hang out in their room and think about them being here.  We can’t wait to pick them up!

And one last nopal pic before we bring them home.  We spruced up the nopales with some rocks and brought out the gnomes to take care of them.

nopal rock

The next step after we pick the kids up is to take them to Mexico City.  We will be reporting from the road (and plane) next week about our status.  Thanks to all friends and family for the support, we’re almost there!!

Tunas and Permits

It’s the time of year when tunas (aka prickly pears) start to bloom on a nopal and we’re hoping that’s a good sign for our adoption!  Our nopal finally brought forth a little fruit and we tried it.  Not bad, it’s a little seedy but at this point it’s more the symbolism of finally seeing some fruit after years of growing our nopal that gives us hope that we’re getting close to the finish line!

Tuna 2

Tuna 1

In our quest to move this whole adoption along, we recently made a trip down to the border town of Nogales to file a permit to do adoption business.

This permit is required to move things along, so we drove to Tucson, AZ to meet our agency folks at the International Child Foundation  – Ricardo (our lawyer) and Jackie (Executive Director)  and then traveled from there.  It was great to meet Jackie in person as we’ve been talking to her on the phone and via email for two years.

jackie and us

We also met another adoptive parent, Adrian, that is currently in the process of adopting a 12 year old girl, also from Unacari (who knows our kids and they’ve been bonding over their upcoming adoptions!) and it was great to talk to her and spend time with another parent going through the same experience.

We spent a few hours driving together from Tucson to Nogales.

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We then spent several hours waiting in the office (literally a few hundred feet over the border)

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and finally after even more hours waiting, we got the permits!  Here we are with our lawyer Ricardo and our new friend Adrian standing proudly next to a Mexican flag.

group

We celebrated over some nachos at a nearby cantina.  And then crossed back into Tucson.

Adrian traveled all the way from New York to take care of this one day permit situation, so we couldn’t complain about our 14 hour roundtrip drive, but of course we did….

We have high hopes that the next time we go to Mexico it will be to get the kids.  We hope to have more good news to share soon!

Good news first, we were able to visit our kids at the end of June and had a great time!  We played in the pool at our hotel, did some activities around Hermosillo and spent time bonding in our room doing crafts, reading books and learning English.  The kids are awesome and only bummed when we leave and we understand because we are bummed too.  The hopeful news is that everyone in Unacari says our adoption is moving along quickly and we hope it keeps moving so we can get these kids home!

Now on to the endless bureaucracy that is International Adoption – the land of a thousand visas.  Ok, we exaggerate, but when you hear the many steps to getting the adoption visa, it seems like a thousand steps for a number of visas:

1. We filed for specific US immigration visas for each child with USCIS

2. They sent us back a provisional approval, this of course came in the mail while we were in Mexico a few weeks ago, but we were happy to see it when we returned.

3. While in Mexico we picked up original copies of Articles 16 and 17, these are documents that were needed to begin the whole adoption process in Mexico.

4. We then took the USCIS form, the copies of Article 16 & 17 and another form we had to fill out, along with a new set of passport photos and went to the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to file an Adoption Visa. After a few hours there, we were told we had to make an appointment and come back later in the week.

paperwork

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5. We went back to the Mexican Consulate again after setting up an appointment and after two hours, we got our visa.  Hooray!

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The visa is a actually included inside our passport and we took additional photos

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6. We now head back to Mexico with our lawyer to file some other visa with the approved visa we just got.  Or something like that, we aren’t clear, but we have to do it. So we’ll drive to Tucson, pick up our lawyer, drive with him to Nogales and get the next thing checked off.

Then the entire Mexican Government goes on vacation for the end of July for two weeks, lucky them.  And then we all wait.  Wait for some other paperwork from USCIS to make it’s way through the National DIF and then back to the State of Sonora where our kids are located.  Then from there we wait for a court date to be set in Sonora for our adoption to be finalized.

While we wait, we’ve been working on the kids room, we figured out a space saving set up for the closet in their room and put it all together, thanks to the Container Store, Elfa rules!

closet 2

And our nopales are growing like always and we hope to have more good news as the weeks go on!

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We realize it has been a really long time since we updated our blog.  But now we’re back and finally have good news, we got a referral and were matched with kids!

Celebration Time!

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In March our lawyer called and said there were two children identified that were legally available for adoption, siblings, a boy and girl ages 9 and 7.  The next step was to go to Mexico and meet them and if we all had good chemistry, we could start the process from there.

We flew down to Hermosillo in late March to the same group home we visited last year, Unacari.  We learned that they actually call it a “casa hogar” which translated means “house home” but we’re thinking it’s more like group home.  We met with the director and our lawyer and a psychologist that has become more like a family member to us in the last few months.  And finally, most importantly, we met the kids!  What a surreal experience to meet your kids for the first time in an office!  But it was great, they are wonderful and as cheesy as it sounds we did all sort of click and it was a match!

The kids have very distinct personalities.  To maintain a bit of privacy until they are legally ours, we’ll just call them by initials now.  The boy, “C” is 9 years old, although we think he must have a much older soul.  He loves to sing and has an angelic voice, is clever and thoughtful, seems curious about everything and has a lovely disposition.  The girl, “G” is a fierce little chica!  She has no problem speaking her mind, but is also loving and a sweetheart.  She loves to take pictures with our cell phones and seems to have a bit of an eye for photography!  We look forward to watching them develop as little people and cultivating their interests and strengths as time goes on.

We spent several days getting to know them on our first trip, took them to the beach (they had never seen the ocean so that was awesome!) and just spent time with them hanging out.  On our second trip in late April, we went back for a week and got to take them out to stay with us for a whole week in a nearby hotel.  We played in our hotel pool, went to the local zoo, went to a movie, toured local restaurants and discovered they both love shrimp and of course pizza and hamburgers!  We also went to a modern art museum and had some discussions about what art means to each individual person.  At this point we are only sharing photos of them without showing their faces, but wanted to share these as it was a great day at the museum.

siana pic

edgar pic

We are very lucky to have been paired with two such wonderful kids and are getting ready for another week long trip to visit them at the end of June.  We talk to C and G every week on the phone and they are excited about coming to live in Los Angeles with us.  As for as an update on the adoption process, the paperwork has now been filed and is on its way through the court system in Hermosillo. Simultaneously, we have filed I800 forms for them here with USCIS, to start their immigration process.  Our hope/guess is that everything should be ready and completed for us to bring them home in September.  Fingers crossed everything stays on track, we are cautiously optimistic as usual!

So that’s the story for now.  As for an update on our nopales, they are growing and even sprouted some flowers a few months back.

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We’ve discovered we have to chop off pencas sometimes or an entire branch will collapse from the weight, you’ll see here that one nopal is smaller, but it had collapsed from the heavy pencas so we had to trim it.

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It’s already growing back quickly, you can see little pencas sprouting, definitely a survivor.  That must be a metaphor for something – let go of things that are weighing on you so you can grow?  Either way, we are happy to see that the nopales are thriving and hope to see our family do the same!

Adoption Note: Many people have asked about how the kids came into the system.  Questions like “what happened to their mom” or “why did they get removed from their birth family’s home” are questions that of course pop up in ones mind when hearing our story.  We’d like to say that although we understand natural curiosity, we will not be sharing the children’s background with others.  All that we will be sharing is that their birth family could not take care of them and the legal system decided to make them available for adoption.  C and G’s story is their own and if they want to share it later on in life, we want it to be their decision, not ours, because it is their story to tell.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill 

 

It’s going to be endurance that gets us through this adoption.  The latest update on our adoption is that we have to renew our immigration paperwork with USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services) as our approval expiration date is fast approaching in November 2013.  In order to renew and extend the approval for immigration, we need to submit an updated copy of our home study, which we completed last April. Our home study agency was separate from our main agency as our main agency is located in AZ and our home study agency had to be in CA.  “No problem” we thought naively, we will just contact our home study agency and get a renewed version to send in.  And then this happened: Siana dialed the phone number – it is no longer in service.  The agency has closed, no forwarding info.

 

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We were panicked and resigned to the fact that we were going to have to do the entire home study over.  But after much digging through old emails we found another phone number for the previous director of said agency and found out that all the files from the closed agency were sent to another agency. Yay!!  We contacted the new agency and yes they have all our files and can do an update. Whew. Of course an update requires re-doing things like TB tests and a few other annoying documents, but it’s better than having to do EVERYTHING over so we can’t complain. Much. Well maybe we just did….

 

In case you are ever in a situation and this happens to you, here are the steps for renewing USCIS approval and/or requesting an extension:
  • Step 1: Send in a request to USCIS to extend the deadline due to the extenuating circumstance of having to renew a home study with a new agency.  We’ve been told they usually approve these extensions, fingers crossed they do so we don’t also have to do the whole USCIS process over. Also this renewal is free. Finally something is free!
  • Step 2: Get the update started, this may require doctor visits again, more fingerprinting (really?!), employment verification and financial information.  If this were a movie it would be called Home Study, Part II: This time it’s personal.  And by personal we mean they want to see our bank accounts, etc.  This step is not free, but also not as much as re-doing the home study from scratch, so that is a definite plus!

 

Marathon Training Update
The latest on our marathon training is that we’ve gotten up to running 8 miles, woo hoo!  Siana has never run this much before and is in awe that she’s still standing. Edgar seems pretty cool about it all,whatever, show off… 🙂  Each week we add more miles and hope to keep going.  We are grateful for our pace groups and can’t imagine training for a marathon without our training program with LA Roadrunners.  We are actually happy to have something to distract us from the delays and obstacles of the adoption process.  Having to get ourselves up and out of bed early on Saturday morning to do our long runs is, well, therapeutic.
marathon shoes

 

Nopal Update
They’re still growing strong.  Gotta be a good sign, right?
 October Nopal

Running to Stand Still

Running to stand still.  Sure it’s a great song by U2. It’s also a good way to describe the adoption process.  We ran around for months and now we’re just standing still.  Waiting.  Standing still can make some of us crazy.  Especially those of us with the proverbial “ants in our pants” – enter Siana, who is writing this blog.  I will now switch to first person so I don’t do that thing where I talk about myself like I’m someone else.

 

I have a really hard time sitting still.  This is especially true with regard to my mind.  There is no clearing my mind, just distractions to keep my monkey mind from jumping from tree to tree.  The adoption process requires one to just sit with the fact that not only are you waiting for decisions that will completely alter your life to be made by people you can’t see or talk to, but also to acknowledge continually that most of it is out of your control.

 

With all that swimming around in my head, I’ve started to get more than antsy.  For a little support, I started re-reading a great book by Pema Chodron called “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”.  Chodron is this really cool Buddhist monk and has all sorts of good insights and advice for those of us that need to chill a bit when things get tough. She tells a story in this book that really stuck with me and inspired me to do something I’ll talk about a bit later.

 

The story is about Trungpa Rinpoche, another famous monk guy, that tells a story about facing down a growling dog.  He was entering an unfamiliar monastery with a group of attendants and as they neared the gate, they saw a large guard dog with huge teeth that was growling ferociously at them.  The dog was chained up, but trying to get free and seemed intent on attacking them.  They walked past the dog keeping their distance, when suddenly the chain broke and the dog rushed at them.  Everyone froze in terror and then Rinpoche did something crazy, he turned and ran as fast as he could, straight at the dog.  The dog was so surprised that he put his tail between his legs and ran away.  And the moral of this story in my opinion? To run face first into your greatest fears, face them down and head straight for them.

 

And the result for me?  I’m going to run a marathon.  The full disclosure here is that I’m not a fan of running.  I’ve always thought it was boring, too much time to think and be alone with my monkey mind, and the idea of doing that for 5-6 hours is terrifying.  So I’m going to do it.  Run right into it, literally! Edgar has already run a marathon, but he’s going to do it too, part moral support and part because he just wants to do another one.  We’re in this one together, which is good so we can get each other up on the early mornings we need to get our runs in to beat the heat.

nopal with shoes

We joined a running group to train for the LA Marathon, which is in March of 2014.  We started our training this past weekend and I did not die after running 3.5 miles, so I will take that as encouragement from the universe.  We got new tennis shoes and installed a fun running app on our phones to track our progress and it’s kind of fun.  A challenge to run right into.  Truly I’m hoping to learn to run and stand still, in my mind anyway.  Either way, at least we’re getting exercise.  I figured posting about this and making it public would really keep me on track.  Now everyone knows. No turning back.  Kind of like our journey to form a family, we’ve put it all out there and are heading for the finish line.

nopals with shoes 2

Mexico’s Tummy

A few months back, Siana had an interesting conversation with our 4 year old niece Stella.  We often call her Stella the Great , when you read the conversation that follows you’ll understand why.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Stella: Tia are you going to have a baby?

Siana: No, but I’m going to have big kids like you.

Stella: Are they going to come from your tummy?

Siana: No, they’re going to come from Mexico!

Stella: Oh!  They’re going to come from Tata’s Tummy!

There are so many awesome things about this conversation, the best being the comment about Tata’s Tummy.  The Tata she is referring to is her great-grandfather, Edgar’s 96 year old grandpa Joaquin.  Stella knows that Tata lives in Mexico, but he visits a lot and she knows him very well.  She made the connection that obviously if the kids are coming from Mexico, they are somehow coming through the only person she can think of that lives there and that’s Tata.   Smart, yes. The best response to what appears to be a difficult conversation with a 4 year old?  Definitely.  Somehow easier than talking to adults about adoption? Maybe, depends on the day…

Here’s a pic of Stella playing dominos with Tata and Edgar

tata

We’re in the waiting phase and it’s a long one.  Not long in the scheme of how long we’ve been working with our agency – which has been great about keeping us updated and advocating for us.  But long in that we’ve wanted to have a family for a long time.  It’s a long haul.  And we’re mostly staying optimistic, depending on the day, we take turns.  In the mean time, we’ve taken on the following activities:

  • We remodeled our 1940’s kitchen – ok, so we hired a contractor to remodel it.  But we were without our kitchen for almost 2 months, which felt like a lot of work, you haven’t lived until you’ve over-experimented with a toaster oven. Here are the dramatic before and after photos:

BEFORE

before left before right

AFTER

after left after right

  • We built some new bedroom furniture – thanks IKEA

build 2 build 1

We went to the beach – Took a couple of days off and enjoyed the beach, one of the perks we should take advantage of more in So Cal

beach

So we wait. Our nopales have been through a lot as well, they’re growing like crazy and at one point a huge piece broke from the weight.  We trimmed it back and it continues to grow and thrive.  We hope this is a metaphor for our journey, sometimes we might break and fall, but we’ll get back up and keep on going.

broke nopal 2  broke nopal

broke nopal 3

 

 

We’re slightly behind on providing this update, but we have a lot of good excuses that we will talk about in a minute.  First to talk about our recent trip to Hermosillo, Mexico.  We went to Hermosillo to visit with the social services director and meet her in person so she can see what we are like and hopefully fall in love with us and move us to the top of the pile.

We flew from Tijuana to Hermosillo and stayed with Edgar’s lovely tio and tia who not only drove us around, but fed us maybe a little too well!

Our main priority on this quick visit was to meet our lawyer in person and visit the social services director. We met our lawyer at a VIPS (which is sort of like a Coco’s or Denny’s) who works with our agency and we just adore him.  He’ s awesome and he knows everyone in the social services department we quickly learned upon touring the office with him.  It turns out he’s actually had a lot to do with developign the international adoption program in Mexico and in his spare time he helped to set up an orphange for abused girls as well.  He’s an all around great guy and we’re so glad he’s our advocate on the ground in Mexico.

We went with him to the social services office and first met the district attorney and then met the social services director.  The office where the social service operations are run is also connected to an orphanage or shelter (as they refer to it) called Acari, which is the Yaqui word for a home.

acari sign

For a quick history/geography/anthropology lesson, the Yaqui tribe is native to Sonora and the The Yaqui language belongs to the Uto-Aztecan language family. Edgar’s grandfather is part Yaqui.

Here we are in front of the social services office which has a really cute fountain of kids playing.

us fountain 2 fountain

Our meeting with the director went well.  She just asked us about ourselves, Edgar did most of the talking and most everything was done in Spanish with the exception of occassional translating for Siana.  At one point Siana had to show off her Spanish skills which were ok, but when she told the director that she can talk to kids because their vocabulary levels are about the same, she seemed ok with that!  At the end the director turned to our lawyer and said “me gusta esta pareja” which means “I like this couple” which we took about as good a sign of any that she likes us.  She really likes us!

So now we’re back to the U.S. and waiting for a referral.  In the mean time we are busying ourselves with some home renovation projects, the biggest being that we are going to re-do our kitchen.  We’ve been meeting with contractors, buying appliances, spending time at Home Depot picking out sinks and faucets and are glad to have the distractions to help us prepare our tiny hogar for our future kids.  We also got our plumbing fixed and installed a new garage door, nothing like the looming possibility of more people in our house to get us motivated to get stuff done!

Nopal update – our nopales have exploded!  There are so many pencas we realize we need to chop a few off and try to eat them.

nopal april 2

april nopal

Siana once helped Edgar’s grandmother clean the espinas off nopales, but it’s been a while. Like a long time, so we’ll see if our foray into actually consuming nopales is successful minus any injuries due to renegade thorns!