Monica and Kelly spent, as far as we can tell, their entire life together. They lived in the same foster families and, with just about every single major life event, always had the other near. Not that I’ve always recognized this fact, but that permanence acts as a foundation to their relationship (and extends to our relationships with them). They know each other well. The quirks, the behaviors, the buttons to push (and not push) at given times. And they do love each other in typical sisterly fashion.

Now along comes a brother.

A brother who is close in age, full of energy, ready to play and fight, and who comes with his own distinct adoption baggage (different from their own). Plus (because it’s simple math), he divides mom and papi’s attention.

It’s been interesting.

We expected this. I remember talking with Chris and Mary on how Nicolas and Diana had to go through a stage of bonding because they never knew each other well (having not been in the same foster families). Biological families go through similar experiences as the number of siblings increase. It’s normal.

But still interesting. Monica tends to stay above the fray. She handles the changes in, frankly, a pretty mature and self-reflective manner (I can’t tell you how flippin proud I am of how that girl is turning into an awesome young woman). We’ve had some honest breakdowns. Yesterday she told me she wished she didn’t have a brother anymore (again, normal). We’ve had to curb some mothering behaviors. Overall, nothing major.

Kelly and Diego are a different story. One minute they’re best friends, hooting and yelling and running and laughing. The next minute they’re tattling and fighting and playing war games on each other. Part of this is that they’re so very close in age. Kelly, I would say, is having the hardest time adjusting to the new family hierarchy  She’s no longer the youngest. She’s also our daughter who responds best to predictable patterns, fewer surprises, and clear expectations. Right now we’re in a period of mild chaos. And that’s just how it’s going to be for a while as things settle.

Diego is adjusting and struggling in two areas. The first is communication. For the next few months he’s in the nether world of loosing the ability to communicate (as he forgets his Spanish) all the while trying to make sense of the new (English) words coming at him all the time. This is frustrating (think how frustrating it would be to us!) and you can see that frustration roll across his face sometimes. The second area of struggle is that he’s learning family rules. And the odd thing about some of these rules is that they were very much tailored to Monica and Kelly (and their issues) – so sometimes the rules seem strange (although some are arguably basic: don’t hit, bite, lie, etc.).

In short, we’re in an adjustment period. Overall I’d say we’re not facing anything unexpected (or drastic), but I do find value in recognizing that this is what is happening.


Diego Fernando Vander Veen

Happy Sentencia!

Diego is officially and legally (and permanently) ours! Some hours ago Olga Elena and Sorany told me to grab the passports, head down to the courts, and give my signature. I’m not entirely sure what happened (I personally think Olga Elena worked some lawyerly magic – that or the judge was overwhelmed by the mounds of paperwork that came with this family), but we’re very happy. Thank you all for the prayers and comments from the last few days.

As for timelines, we’re still a bit unsure when we’ll be leaving Neiva. My guess is this weekend (possibly tomorrow). Olga Elena needs to complete a few more tasks, but the important parts are complete. Now the ball pretty much enters the American court – what with doctor’s visits, passports, and visas. But at least it feels like we’re moving forward.

Anyway, we of course had to post Diego trying to say his crazy new Dutch last name (the one of the girls still cracks us up).


Getting to Know Each Other

One of the first things you do as an adoptive parent is buy shoes. We brought down a pair of Reds flip-flops but they barely fit his feet so we headed on over to the Carrefour and tried to figure out Colombian shoe sizes. The ladies in the shoe aisle thought us peculiar (“You don’t know his shoe size?”) until we explained that we’ve only been parents for a few hours. He wanted Spiderman genericcrocs, but they didn’t have his size. This didn’t faze him much and he was happy to get boring old white crocs (although we did return the next day to buy Spiderman sneakers).

And that’s the thing about Diego, he pretty much takes everything in stride.

Getting to know one another is fun. Diego is shy, slow to talk around new people. He does love to smile and when he gets excited (like when watching a movie), his whole body jumps with belly laughter. He doesn’t say his “S”s and “R”s, but we do alright communicating. He likes kicking the ball around in the park, coloring, blowing bubbles (Mami very wisely brought “spill proof” bubbles this time), and watching TV.

With a lot of adoptions you have this honeymoon period where things are wonderful and everyone gets along (followed by a hard work period where everyone figures out how to function as a family). We didn’t have a honeymoon period with the girls (it was all hands on deck from the first day), and it’s too early to tell with Diego. This is a long way of saying that I don’t want to read too much into these past days, but all in all, he’s a pretty easy kido.

Now our challenge is fighting the waiting and filling up the day. Just as I remembered it with the girls, this is one of the hardest parts of the trip. We live such packed lives in the states (between family, school, and work) that it feels very foreign (pun intended) to have so much time on our hands. We fill it getting to know each other, walking a lot, creating elaborate ways to obtain food (which supermercado today? which panderia looks safe enough to eat at?), walking to the park and playing futball (see below), and chilling out.

Tuesday will be here before we know it and then (hopefully) our paperwork enters the courts. On that note, please pray that we don’t get placed in Court 4 which, apparently, doesn’t move fast at all (Court 1 is the jackpot).


Diego’s Gotcha Day

Diego's Gotcha Day Picture
Diego’s Gotcha Day Picture

Our Diego is a little man with big brown eyes and expressive face. We met him at the entrance of the building, not content to wait in our apartment, and he walked up the steps carrying a rose and strawberry flavored bon bon bum. He didn’t talk for the first hour, but did give us big hugs. And smiles, lots and lots of smiles.

We ate cake. That’s what you do in Colombia for the first gotcha day. You sugar up the kids with cake and candy (and the social workers too) and then see what happens! In Diego’s case, it was a very fun game of hide and seek.

Our routine started today (I think). Playing in the apartment for an hour or so. Taking a walk. Visiting the supermarket’s cafeteria for lunch. Swimming. A bit of downtime TV (Diego picked Sponge Bob…I can hear Kelly and Monica laughing at that one). More walking. Dinner. Lots of Skype with family (which, I think, was a bit overwhelming for him by the end of the day).

This is only day one, but it seems like he was exceptionally well prepared by his foster mom. He knows all his siblings – even talks about them – and has daily habits down well (ie washing hands, brushing teeth, using utensils). With the girls I remember it being very chaotic. Diego was pretty calm and quiet for most of the day. Taking it all in I guess.

He laughs a lot.

Over the next few days we’ll post how we grow together. We’re just so happy that he’s finally with us (we’ve been praying for this day for nearly 3 years). It was a wonderful first day together.


Final Decree

We are official.

Colombia issued a documented, official match of “John Vander Veen” and “Suzanne Martin” (names always get goofed up) with one Diego.

With international adoption, you have papers that spawn papers that then spawn their own papers. Renee is incredible at tracking all of them (and this time around we’ve leveraged a bit of the power of Google as well). This paper, the official match paper, contains the jackpot of information future parents want (history, medical, etc.).

For us it’s a somewhat cool and interesting experience to get an updated glimpse of a family some 3 years after adopting the girls.

Here’s Little Ds picture.