Monday, February 17, 2014

Reflections on the last year

Val and I were at the Americana Hotel and water park on the weekend with the kids and a flood of memories and emotions came up.  It was around this time last year that we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel and got the phone call that would change our family forever.   The following day we were on a flight to Georgetown to meet our new son. Its hard to believe its been a year since we met Keem, although in many ways, it feels like he has been part of the family a lot longer.  It is amazing to see how he has grown from a shy, quiet toddler who clung to Val’s neck for dear life, to the vibrant, outgoing happy little boy that he is now.  Words can not describe how thankful we are to God for all he has done in Keem’s life and in ours!  People ask us all the time, “how is he adjusting?” and we are happy to say he is adjusting extremely well.  He is a very resilient boy.  Some of the biggest adjustments were for us and this year has not been without it’s challenges.  This has been a season of personal growth and togetherness as a family and these circumstances have served to remind us of God’s faithfulness and need to depend on him.
It has been beautiful to see the older kids in our family open their hearts to Keem so easily.  We  love to see Keem often snuggled on the couch with one of them, usually Ryan and Jack, or the way Izzy and Kaylie mother him, like he has been with us forever.
We are also very grateful for the friends and family that have supported us. Your encouragement and prayers have been overwhelming and we hope that this continues as we continue raising our family. We especially enjoy our conversations with other adoptive couples, who can relate with us so well.
There are so many things we love about Keem.  He is so affectionate, which helps overlook his mischievous  side.  We love his peculiar eating habits.  He has little use for chips or cookies, but a voracious appetite for fruit and curry.  We love his daredevil antics in the swimming pool.  We love his quirky mannerisms, the stomping or air guitar when he is excited, the way he asks to have his food cut and the tiny thumb that never leaves his mouth.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A New Normal

I’ve had a few people ask about how things are going, and I realized it’s been far too long since I’ve updated our blog.  We have been busy and happy.  But we have also been stressed, emotional, exhausted, and it’s been difficult to put an answer to the question “How’s it going?”.
Keem is adjusting very well.  He’s a happy boy, who is fitting in with the family so well.  He starts every morning with a big smile for me, snuggling his new blankie and yes, still sucking his thumb.  Lately Keem and I have been having breakfast alone together, while the rest of the family sleeps.  He chatters away as if we are having a serious conversation.  Half the time he still has his thumb in his mouth, and I don’t understand a word he says.  But when he takes time, and has his mouth free his vocabulary is pretty good.  He says all the kids names, mommy, daddy, yes and no, animal names....he knows a lot more than he says and he’s always surprising us.  He loves playing with toys, and especially when the other kids play with him.  He doesn’t like being alone and so when the kids are busy he will follow me around, usually wrapped to my leg.  He laughs a lot, and has a very mischievous personality.
Slowly he is learning his boundaries, and also learning to be obedient.  One of his biggest challenges has been listening.  We are trying to teach him that when we say his name he can’t ignore us.  At first it felt like all I was doing was saying “no Keem please don’t touch that”.   I was spending my entire day following him around picking up broken things, and it was challenging.  I had to remind myself constantly that I can’t have the same expectations I would have had with the other kids at that age.  He would play in the garbage, toilet, color on the walls, climb onto the counter and grab glasses, empty the knife drawer, and try to leave the house.  We found him wandering around at night and promptly bought a child proof door handle for his room.  Now he can’t get out at night and wander which puts our mind at ease.  He requires our undivided attention, which we expected.  In the moment, it is exhausting. I find myself praying at those moments, praying that God will allow me to be patient and not frustrated. Praying that I don’t feel bitter towards Keem for the way that he acts.  It’s helped me focus on being the kind of parent God wants me to be, instead of agonizing over the things I can’t change right now.  
After we got home, we went to see our families.  It was so exciting to introduce him to our big families, with lots of kids to play with.  He was very comfortable with them, and we were thrilled at the excitement and interest from our families. He already says “Nana and Gramma” quite clearly.
We did start to notice a habit he had been getting into.  He started calling all of our friends, and family ‘MOM”.  At first we thought it was just because it was easier.  But as we watched him, we saw him ask for things, and MOM became a person he could get things from.  So we have started trying to do more things for him directly.  It can be a problem when he goes from one person to the next calling them mom.  It means that he really doesn’t see me (the real mom) as anything different than any other person.  So we have been trying to reiterate that we are the important people in his life.
This has been easier to do lately because we have been under a small quarantine and haven’t been leaving our house.  A bit over a week ago we realized that the boils we had been getting in Guyana, were still showing up on some of us here in Canada.  So Derek went to the doctor and we got tested.  The tests showed that we had brought back a bacteria with us from Guyana.  So for the last week and a half I’ve been cleaning like crazy, disinfecting the house, washing bedding every day, washing floors with bleach, lysol-ing handles, and bathing the kids and ourselves in a special solution.  A few days ago we were told we weren’t contagious as long as we continued with the cleaning regime.  Derek went back to work.  We just put ourselves on a mini quarantine until we know for sure it’s gone.  Today we go to the doctor to get tested and I’m confident that it’s gone.  No one has shown any more symptoms and my house isn’t just clean it’s “Trisha and Elly clean” ;)
It definitely made the stress of having a newly adopted child that much more stressful.  We felt like we had so much more work than usual, and under normal circumstances would have been exhausted.  Keem being here, added a lot more to that and we will be happy when we can relax a bit.
We have also all gone through a bit of homesickness for Guyana.  We miss our friends there, and the ones who aren’t there anymore, but aren’t here.  We miss our rooftop chats with Whitney, Brock, Kalpna and Bharat, and the group of children with them all that felt like our family.  We miss the way of life in Guyana.  This was something I didn’t expect to feel.  One thing I really miss (and I’m not speaking for Derek here!), is the heat!  I loved the heat in Guyana,  I have never gone for so many consecutive days without feeling cold, ever!   Now that we’ve been back, I haven’t worn shorts since we got home.  It’s been jeans and long sleeves for me!  I’m not sure if it really has just been freezing here, or if my body has just gotten so used to the heat that a normal warm Canadian day feels different to me!
That is mostly what has been happening here.  We appreciate all of the people who have been praying for us through this.  I can’t begin to explain how much we need those prayers.  A lot of people might think “Oh good, you are home with your son, now it’s over!”, but in reality it is just beginning for us here.  God has been so good to us, and we are so thankful.  Even in the difficult times, we have found that through those difficulties, He shows us more and more how we need to be dependent on Him.  He’s really been teaching us to let go of so many things and although it hasn’t always been easy we know that moments like these make our relationship with him stronger!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


We are home!  It cost us a small fortune, but we bought tickets for seven and flew out of Port of Spain on friday morning and landed at Pearson at three in the afternoon.  We sailed through customs and immigration without any problems and my Mom and brother Greg pulled up the moment we collected our luggage.  It was awesome to see most of my family that night (my brother Scott and his family couldn’t make it as they had to very unexpectedly attend a funeral), and to meet my new nephew and get the news that my sister is expecting again.  Scott and clan did stop in last night, as well as Raleigh and Cari and Dave and Lisa, Val’s sister whose wedding we had missed.  We are heading over to Val’s family this aft and can’t wait to introduce Keem to grandpa and grandma and everyone else there.  Being gone for so long makes you really appreciate your family.  Its also very moving to see how everyone is so excited about meeting Keem.
Going to church this morning was good too although it seemed like a lot of people were missing, probably camping or cottaging and it seemed very short compared to what we had grown used to.  It was really good to talk to some of the other families there that have already adopted or are going through the process right now.  For my family, this adoption has been a mixture of trials, blessings, adventure, sleepless nights, moments of incredible joy and a whole range of other emotions I can’t quite put into words, but other adoptive families can easily relate to.
Every one keeps saying how good it must be to be home, and they are right, there is nothing quite like home.  But we both have to admit, Guyana also feels a lot like home.  There are many things that we miss already, especially all the people we met and got to know down there.
Right now though, my favourite thing about Guyana is sitting in a car seat behind me.  He is one hundred percent our son now and no judge or social worker or immigration official can say otherwise.  He has been really good here, mesmerized by the amount of space around our yard and the amount of toys in the playroom.  (He doesn’t even realize there are several more rubbermaid bins full in the basement still!)  He seems a little overwhelmed sometimes as everyone is so eager to see him, poke his tummy and touch his curly hair.  His hyper moods are getting more infrequent and shorter lived and he sleeps as though he doesn’t have a care in the world.  We don’t know what the future looks like, what kind of battles he will face, but for now he is safe and comfortable and happy with us, and we are thrilled with him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CANADA Here We Come!!!

We woke up this morning feeling refreshed and ready to get things done today.  Derek took the kids to the zoo, while I went with 2 of the other parents here to the High Commission (the Embassy) in the hopes of getting our Visas processed.  The security guard looked skeptical when we came, and questioned why we were back so soon.  He mentioned that they had said they would contact us when they had news.  I had given them the wrong set of photos for the application, so at the very least I wanted to drop those off.  So the guard let us through, and we waited.  After about an hour they called us up and said the pictures we had left originally were fine, so we could go home and wait until they called with more news.  We offered to wait there until the applications were done, even if it took all day.  The guard looked at us like we were crazy, and mentioned that they would have to kick us out at lunch because they close down for an hour.  But we insisted on waiting anyway.  Within half an hour we had our processed applications in our hands!  Praise God!!  It felt like Christmas opening the envelope!  We were giddy with excitement as we walked to the zoo to tell the others.  When we got to the zoo, one of the fathers that was with us at the High Commission told Derek that "we have to go somewhere else for the visas now".  He with a deadpan expression as a joke.  Derek just about had a heart attack!
We all felt like celebrating after that, so we walked as a group to the Creole restaurant down the road for lunch, followed by ice cream from the market.  Afterwards we went for a swim at their hotel (our kids in their clothes since we didn't plan to do it).  They had such a good time and it was refreshing on such a hot afternoon.
At 6 we had to say goodbye.  This was harder than we thought it would be.  This group of people that we have gotten to know over the last 6 weeks have become very dear to us.  They have become family to us and we both got choked up saying goodbye.  It's not that we won't see them again, in fact we have already started planning our visits.  It's just that we've gotten used to seeing them, everyday.  We've gone through so much together, and we will miss them incredibly.
Kaylie was sobbing all the way home in the taxi, and again at dinner.  The kids felt how difficult it was too.
Yesterday, I had booked tickets online for a flight on Friday.  The airline allows you to book without paying to reserve a certain ticket price/time.  You have 24 hours to pay.  I went online tonight to pay (22 hours after I booked) and I was told that I couldn't get the original price anymore.  The tickets had gone up by $75 each.  We were very frustrated since we had booked them yesterday with the understanding that we were reserving the ticket price.  Since the price went up so dramatically, it added $600 to our already overly expensive flights.  We are hoping the airline will rectify this, but aren't too hopeful.  It's hard when you are already paying $4000 for a flight, but want to go home so badly that it doesn't even matter anymore.
But, we are coming home!!!!!  By the time we get home it will have been 6 weeks (to the hour) since we left.  We are so excited to go home, see our family and friends and spend the rest of our summer doing typical summer things....camping, swimming, relaxing, BBQ's.....

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Goodbye Guyana, Hello Trinidad

We said farewell to Guyana for the last time this morning.  It was a very bittersweet occasion.  On one hand we are very glad to be wrapping up our trip and hopefully coming home soon.  On the other hand we are very sad that we won't be coming back for a long time.  We met a lot of really awesome people and had a ton of really great experiences.  We hope to go back to Guyana one day to show Keem where he came from, but that won't be for a long time.
It's also going to suck not being able to see and talk to the other two families that are here everyday.  They have become like family to us, our kids call them "aunt" and "uncle" and we feel like we have new nieces and nephews.  We have really valued having their help along the way and it's been amazing to be a part of their adoption journeys in some way.  Since their kids are older it's really exciting to see them experience all the new things they've missed out on.  Even simple things like escalators, automatic toilets and hand dryers!  Keem is oblivious to all of these things and doesn't realize what he's even been missing out on.
We will really miss our new friends, but we will be visiting often.
Now we are finally in Trinidad.  It was a rough day.  We had been up since 2 am, travelling with 5 kids is very difficult especially when one of them is an unruly, wild maniac.  On top of that Val was feeling very sick and it's blistering hot on this island.  We got a cute little b&b on the outskirts of Port of Spain which is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to.
Val went directly to the High Commission this morning with our paperwork.  We are still waiting for them to finish but tentatively it MIGHT be done tomorrow afternoon.  It will be so nice to have the waiting over with.
Booking last minute flights is proving to be very expensive, but it would have been more expensive to book and then have to change 7 tickets.  After all this expensive travelling my next trip will involve just a mini van and a tent.
Please pray that tomorrow goes smoothly, or if it doesn't that we have enough patience to get through it anyways.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Trinidad Tuesday

Tonight, we've officially been away from home for 5 weeks.  We are ready to go home.  It's bittersweet, there is so much about Guyana that we love.  People we have met, we will miss the other families that are here with us so much when we leave.  I will miss the hot hot weather, but Derek will be glad to see that go.  Both of us, and the kids are excited to go back to our Canadian life.  We miss our family, friends, our own beds, bug free living, free medical care, late night campfires, Derek even misses the firehall.  Our health is deteriorating at an alarming rate, every single one of us has had a painful boil, mouth infection, serious cut or missing half their skin from mosquito bites.  Some of us have a combination of many of those ailments. I think at this rate we might have to go right to the doctor's office from the airport. 
Yesterday we booked our flights to Trinidad.  We leave Guyana at 6 am on Tuesday morning!
Booking the flights is a bit of a risk.  We have yet to receive confirmation from Trinidad that our citizenship will be processed next week when we go.  No one is willing to give us a definite answer on that.  But we are anxious to get home, and so we are taking a chance on going now.  Being there in Trinidad, at the High Commission will likely get it processed faster than sitting here in Guyana.  We are hoping that because they have not said "No we won't be doing it" that means it's likely that they will.  If all goes well we plan to fly HOME on Thursday or Friday!!!  But we say that very tentatively.  IF the paperwork goes through, IF we get it all done by then, that is the plan.  Praying that it will go as planned!!  Staying in Trinidad is 5 times more expensive than staying here in Guyana.  We really don't want to stay there long because we are already low on cash as it is!  But we are confident it's a risk worth taking.
Things with Keem are going well.  He is a lot of work.  Derek and I are exhausted.  He is dangerously hyper sometimes and we have to watch him like a hawk.  He also has a very hard time in the apartment.  There are so many things he can reach that he should not be touching that it makes it very hard to be obedient.  There isn't a lot of things for the kids to do here other than swim, so all of them are getting very antsy in this apartment.  We are hoping that once we get home Keem will mellow out a bit, get into more of a routine, and things will feel more normal.
This week we went to a place about an hour from here called Splashmins.  It's a black water creek out by the outskirts of the jungle.  It was a great break from being here everyday, and the kids had a blast swimming.  We also took a boat ride through the jungle there.  We saw a monkey, some parrots and even bubbles from an alligator under our boat.  Derek caught an iguana there.  On the way home we stopped by a road side stand that was selling large iguanas for eating.  I was thankful to hear they were too expensive for us to buy because I didn't feel like skinning and cooking up a large lizard for supper.  I think Derek was pretty disappointed though.  Instead, I bought him salted shark at the market, which ended up tasting horrible and we threw half of it out.  I guess you get what you pay for!
Today we went out for ice cream for the third time here at Bruster's Ice Cream place.  The best ice cream I've had- ever.  For the same price as a small iguana we bought our kids and our selves massive double scooped ice cream cones and a mini bus ride to Georgetown.  

Monday, July 08, 2013

Derek's Kaieteur Falls Video #2

It was the trip of a lifetime, something I dreamed of doing ever since I heard of the falls two and a half years ago when we started researching Guyana, but really an the kind of adventure I've dreamed of my whole life!   I went with Brock, one of the other Dads here, and we flew out of Ogle Airport, just down the road from our place.  The flight itself was worth the price.  ($27,000 or $140 Can)  Flying over the vast jungle,winding mudy creeks, tiny villages and the mighty Demarara and Esequibo rivers was breath taking, and you realy get an idea of how remote and rugged this country is.  After forty minutes the flat, swampy rainforest turns to mountainous plateaus covered in thick jungle.  And then you see it and its almost surreal.  Our pilot did a fly by and landed on an airstrip close by.  After a twenty minute hike, this was our first view from land.

We hiked along the ravine and took in the view from several vantage points.   What is really awesome about Kaieteur is that there are no gates, fences, garbage, graffiti, security guards or crowds of people.  The Falls and the whole area is completely pristine.  The canyon walls have a sharp edge and concave walls which gives you a great opportunity to lay on the edge and peak over it!

To give this perspective, Kaieteur is 741 feet high, making it the highest single drop water falls in the world.  It is roughly five times the height of Niagara!  Just being that close it stirs up so many strange feelings.  One is in complete awe at its power and it makes you feel pretty small and insignificant. Getting up after laying on the edge left me trembling!

Years from now, I want to take the family back to Guyana, and show Keem where he came from. And take the boys back to the falls, maybe by boat part way up the river and then hike the rest of the way in.  (Its a five day trip if you take a plane back home.)

Derek's Kaieteur Falls Video #1