Thursday, May 27, 2010

The objects of Sammy's culinary attentions

- a bar of soap
- a cigarette butt
- a piece of garlic
- a bay leaf
- uncooked leek
- Maya's toes
- a small wooden chicken
- a piece of green chalk
- an earplug
- various stickers
- substantial amounts of paper, cardboard and tissue

These are all items that Sammy has attempted to eat over the past couple of months that got scooped back out before they went down. What inept parents. Or... what a super speedy 11-month old who needs to chew on everything. He was even caught on video taking a nibble of Ahmed's heel today.

Here's Sammy attempting to eat the wall.

Sammy trying to decide if the ball will fit in his mouth.

Maya reading a book and Sammy wondering how it will taste.

Sammy sizing up the piñata and preparing to put all the small choking hazards that fall out of it into his mouth.

Ah yes, life is fun. This time in a week I'll have finished my masters degree and will finally be able to actually write about the past month of our crazy new lives as the parents of two amazing kids. A barrel of laughs apart from the late nights writing about vocabulary acquisition, blah de blah.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don't let your guard down, part 2 or: All our mañanas have finally come

Ok, here's the story of how a mad dash across Mexico City actually did produce a miracle.

Tuesday, 13th April. Sammy is now exactly 10 months old. Today's the day we get to leave Mexico for the last time in our adoption process(es).

Schedule for today:

8am: breakfast
9am: pick up passport - scan and send to Francesca immediately and cross fingers for a miracle
11am: pick up laundry from laundromat
12pm: check out of hotel
1pm: last-minute gift shopping
3pm: taxi to airport
6pm: leave!

Phone call at 8am reveals that passport won't be ready until 12pm, so the weekend plans are thoroughly out the window. I skype with Ahmed and he alerts the translator. After picking up laundry and quickly packing (and Sammy unpacking, and me repacking, and Sammy unpacking, and me repacking, etc etc) and checking out, which took forrrrrreeeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrr, we finally got to the passport office at 12.30pm.

As we walked into the building, I checked my phone and had a text message from Ahmed saying: Francesca is in office for next half hour, if she doesn't get it tonight, it'll be another 24 hours, as she's really busy. In a panic, I raced upstairs, grabbed the passport off 'legalization man' and flew down the street to the internet cafe across the road to get scanned copy before 10pm in UAE. After 15 agonizing minutes of trying, the cafe owner declared his scanner to be broken, so he directed me to the next cafe. I flew again, with Sammy enjoying (or not) the bumpiest pushchair ride of his life. No scanner at internet cafe. This part of town is completely unfamiliar to me. I'd checked that there was an internet cafe with scanner the day before, and had relaxed. Ha, not knowing their dumb machine was broken. It was now 9.55pm in Abu Dhabi, and I had no hope of making it. I couldn't risk running around this crazy suburb with no idea of whether there were any more internet cafes.

Called Ahmed in a panic as I sprinted down the street to grab a taxi, saying I was going to make it and please call Francesca and beg her to wait. Miraculously, a taxi appeared, and I urged him to run all the orange lights, which he very nicely did, all the way to Zona Rosa - a 10 minute drive in good traffic - where we leapt out as we struck a traffic jam, threw Sammy's pushchair together, flew across the street, and into the internet cafe that I knew had a working scanner. At 10.05pm (UAE time), scanned copy of passport was sent. Nothing more I could do now except wait.

Bought some gifts, went to airport, flew to Madrid, we were picked up by my lovely friend's equally lovely mother and taken away to be looked after for the next five days as we waited for Sammy's visit visa to be ready, so we could go home!

Or so we thought.

In the fifteen hours since I'd scanned and sent that passport, it had been translated into English, translated into Arabic, sent to Abu Dhabi, Ahmed had sent all documents to his PRO, texted him, and finally, gone to see him, to discover he was sick. Only to be told he could go to immigration himself. Went to immigration, applied for visa and was told there was an urgent 1-hour service for an extra 100 dirhams. What!!!??? So he walked out of immigration with the visit visa in his hand, went to Turkish airlines and rebooked our flights home for the following day, and then went back to his afternoon class, and then let me know that we were not waiting for three or five days as we'd thought, but would be on the very next flight. Then drove the visa to the airport.

24 hours after arriving, we went back to Madrid airport to discover all northern European flights had been cancelled, but lovely, wonderful southern European Spain was not affected, neither was Turkey, and so we flew home. Just like that.

Don't let your guard down, part 1

That's right, you can't just sit back and relax. Never forget that in an adoption process.

Monday morning, we had a sleep in, after our energetic weekend. Had a lovely chat to Ahmed & Maya on Skype, a nice relaxing breakfast, then sauntered down to the passport office, which also houses the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Affairs) - or should I say, the other way around. The plan was to get the third stamp on Sammy's birth certificate, which is needed for his residence visa, and find out if perhaps the passport was already there. This all happens from the same tiny office. With Maya's case, they'd told me two working days and it only took one. So I just assumed it would be the case this time.

The translator in Dubai had the scanned birth certificate already and was just waiting to receive the scanned copy of Sammy's passport, to translate into English and Arabic for his visit visa, which we'd been told would take 3-4 working days. With the weekend looming in the UAE, I'd had a hopeful timeline: get passport Monday afternoon (Tue morning in UAE), translations to Ahmed's PRO in Abu Dhabi by Wed morning, and maybe, maybe, he could apply on the same day and by some miracle, get it on Thur afternoon (only 2 working days, but hope springs eternal), so we could fly from Madrid on Thur afternoon (late Thur in UAE) and be home in time for weekend which starts on Friday.

So, at 11.30am, we rocked up to SRE (Foreign Affairs), to be told that the legalization office was only open for submissions from 8 - 11am. So we couldn't go past security. Then I mentioned that we were also waiting for Sammy's passport, so she called the person in charge of that who said that yes it was ready! I was now actually picturing us at home for the weekend. A very jubilant me took Sammy up the lift, and discovered that the person doing legalizations was sitting in his office, so I just asked if perhaps he could accept our submission even though we were late. Sure thing, he said. Wow, all too good to be true. Indeed it was.

He then went to get our passport, but no, whoever had spoken on the phone didn't know what they were talking about, and it wasn't ready. I had to come back to pick up the legalized birth cert at 2pm, so asked if perhaps it might be ready then. He said, yes, probably, just ask again.

So off we went, quite confident in the knowledge that I'd be getting this passport to the translator later that day, and we'd be going home for the weekend.

2pm: Birth certificate was now legalized to the hilt, but no passport, and the relevant people had left for the day, so "Come back tomorrow" Ha, there went the weekend plans.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wonderful weekend

The weeks in Tijuana all run along a fairly similar theme, it seems. Monday morning, you wake up hopeful that this week, finally, that final decree/birth certificate/miscellaneous-document-that-is-holding-up-our-process/report/visa is going to be ready and we can move to the next step of the interminable process. As the week slides by, that precious document doesn't materialize. By Friday afternoon, more often than not, the despair has set in and you resign yourself to enjoying your weekend, since all the document-producing offices are closed, and you figure: "Oh well, there's always next week..."

Well, for our little family, those weeks are now over, and this weekend was my very last in this country during this process. I knew we were leaving on Tuesday evening - oh the joy of having some certainty! So we proceeded to enjoy ourselves very much over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, my lovely former Abu Dhabi British Council student Maricarmen, along with her husband and son, Guillermo and Bernardo, picked Sammy and me up and gave us a brilliant weekend of their company, lots of delicious food, and insider knowledge of the city and its plentiful offerings.

Three very keen and loving new baby-entertainers kept Sammy in his happiest mood (and he's a super happy wee charming lad). We saw Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec, Museo de las Bellas Artes, Museo del Arte Moderno, Zocaló, The Parliament buildings (where Sammy showed off his wobbly walking skills through the ancient house of representatives until we were told off by the security guard), Torre Latinamericano, Palacio de los Correos, gorgeous old cafes, churches, streets, and we ate our way around the city. We saw Rivera's, Orozco's, Siquieros' murals - something I'd vowed to see before leaving Mexico. Guillermo took loads of photos, which he's going to send me, so watch this space for photographic evidence of this incredible tour.

Incredibly, my two trips to Mexico City have both been without camera. With Maya, the camera I'd given to the foster family came back broken. With Sammy, I'd forgotten to bring the charger, so the battery was dead. What was I thinking?

Anyway, Sunday evening saw us both exhausted, one of us with incredibly sore feet - I don't think Sammy's jaunt through the houses of parliament qualified him to have incredibly sore feet - and ready for two more days of paper-chasing in this fine city.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cheeky chops

Am I not just the cleverest little scallywag that lived?

Note my makeshift cupboard door protectors (a hairband) on the far left. Not applicable for the one single cupboard, which of course is the one Sammy climbed into.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Yeah, wow.

Last few days have been go, go, go. It's like something 'gives' and suddenly, after sitting about twiddling your thumbs wondering how on earth to fill your time, you have to be in three different places at once, and everything is so efficient.

The boring details of the past 72 hours are... boring, so won't go into it. But in that time the following happened:
- Got final decree from court
- Got Sammy's new birth certificates - he now has a new surname!
- Attended Gabrielle's piñata-bashing birthday party
- Bought some paintings and somehow squeezed them into an already overloaded suitcase
- Got one birth cert legalized and one apostilled
- Said goodbye to Sammy's (and Maya's) foster family
- Packed in about 5 minutes flat
- Said goodbye to some lovely people we've met over past few weeks in a bit of a mad rush
- Took car back to rental agency
- Flew to Mexico City
- Applied for Sammy's passport
- Paid for all the legalizing of docos after a big long bank queue
- Got birth cert legalized again at another govt office
- Ate a whole Lindt chocolate easter egg and the better part of a Green and Black's block of chocolate
- Felt pretty sick

Sammy has been a trooper throughout, though he's been stuck in pushchair almost all day, just to try and avoid adding to his growing list of bumps, cuts and bruises from all his adventuring. Phew... he really is a 10-month old hurricane, and I think he needs to wear a helmet and cotton wool suit.

So... I've left Tijuana for good. Never have to go back to that place unless I want to! That is a wonderful feeling, and I spent a lot of yesterday thinking back over the past two years, all that madness.

I was reminded of some of the incredible, kind, generous people I've met in Tijuana, Playas, Rosarito during this time - and at the other end of the scale, some real scumbags! Ha ha, those postings shall remain unpublished...maybe ;-)

Weekend now: relax, catch up on sleep, explore Mexico City, go out with some friends living here. And home soon!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool!

Back in Abu Dhabi when I was booking flights out here, I thought I'd be generous and allow almost three weeks for the final bits and pieces of stamping to get Sammy home.

Return flight from Mexico City - Madrid was duly booked for 1st April and Madrid - Abu Dhabi for the 4th (includes a few days of sitting around in Madrid waiting for UAE visit visa to be ready). I even secretly harboured visions of being able to change my flights and come home a few days earlier...

Well, who's an April fool then? Did I momentarily forget the sluggish Tijuana Family Court and the endless sitting around waiting as the days tick past and nothing seems to happen?

Here's the new timeline, and what the heck, I'm going to actually write it down. Let's actually, for the first time ever since we started this whole adoption shenanigan, be confident that something in the Tijuana court system will just work when it is supposed to.

Tue, 6th April: Aida picks up Sammy's final decree at 2pm.
Wed, 7th April: We apply for Sammy's new birth certs with us as his parents!
Thur, 8th April: Drive to Mexicali to get one of his birth certs certified and legalised for the UAE visa
Thur, 8th April (PM): Catch the last flight to Mexico City & get very little sleep
Fri, 9th April: Apply for Sammy's passport, if we can only figure out which office to apply at - it keeps changing!
Mon, 12th April: Pick up Sammy's passport. Run around government offices getting more stamps on his birth cert.
Tue, 13th April: Fly to Madrid, 6pm. Twiddle our thumbs in Madrid waiting for Sammy's visit visa to be processed.
Sat, 17th April: Fly home to Maya and Papa!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Ever seen anyone so happy to have a bath? Oh the joy of your own tub (on loan from Santiago), your own rubber duckie (on loan from big sister) and your own squeaky dragon (handed down, again from big sis). Oh dear Sammy, we need to get you some of your own stuff my boy.

Check out the teal green walls. Psychodelic.

A folk dance from Sinaloa, state where Maya and Sammy's birth mother is from. He sat mesmerized while I tried to shield his ears from the wall of noise blaring from the loudspeakers.

Dance from somewhere around this region. Big street festival of tacos and beer (of which we had neither) in Rosarito at the moment, for spring break.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Adoption day take two

Super happy chappy, trying his hardest to grab hold of the camera.

First set of wheels.

Spent all week in limbo waiting waiting for some news that Mr Judge had reviewed and signed off our case, and then suddenly on Wednesday I just got a feeling that it was going to be done on Friday. Sure enough, got the happy phone call from Aida today.

I can always tell when I pick up the phone. She says "Emma" and her intonation either goes down (95% of the time, as it's no news) or up (meaning, yes, something has happened and it's good). I was in the queue to buy a pair of jeans at the time, of all things.

Yes, judge has reviewed and listed our case, it gets published on Monday, something or other happens then for a few days, then court is closed for Easter on Thur and Fri, and it's likely to be all done and dusted by Monday week. Then the real fun begins... getting the final decree and then birth certificate legalised (or whatever the term is) by about fifty different government departments here in Baja California and Mexico City. And then applying for his passport. So still no idea when we'll be home, but at least it's happening at last.

Sammy, well he's a different baby from the wee lad I picked up last week. Super smiley, happy little monkey. He's a delight, and since he's got over his bronchialitis, he's just been the bee's knees. Can't wait, can't wait to go home...

Today, adoption day take two, I was in San Diego of all places with Niamh and Karen, two lovely Irish girls out here with their babies. Meanwhile Sammy was with a lovely friend of Dawn's (one of Sammy's witnesses). Had a great trip to Whole Foods, foodie paradise, and Las Americas where we whizzed about and got lots of goodies for our babies and selves.

Dawn, was one of Sammy's adoption witnesses. Bless her heart!

Sammy starting his formal education at Gymboree at the grand old age of 9 months.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I primi passi

What a surprise this was, little monkey, he's soooo determined to do the things he wants to do, and this is one of them.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Crazy days. Aren't they all?

Here's a bit of time line of past week:

Monday 3am - left Abu Dhabi, via Istanbul, Madrid, Mexico City, to Tijuana 40 hours later.

Tuesday 10am - got picked up in TJ airport by the lovely Muriel, another hardy soul braving the TJ adoption labyrinth.

Tuesday 12pm - picked up a poor, bewildered, sick Sammy from Mirna, who howled the whole way home in the car to Rosarito.

Tuesday afternoon - moved into our accommodation with one super sick, clingy, distraught baby, one shopping trolley full of all the clothes Mirna had packed, one giant suitcase, a swathe of gear that Mirna piled on us, and myself: jetlagged to the eyeballs, bewildered, missing my wee girl and husband like nothing else. Sammy pretty much cried from the moment I picked him up until the moment he fell asleep at 9pm. Poor guy is in this completely new environment, with this strange person, feeling rotten, and he doesn't have a clue what's going on. Told him in English - a totally foreign language to him - that it's all going to be ok, and I think those words were equally meant for me.

Tuesday 9pm - after 3 hours solid of yelling, Sammy collapsed into sleep, and I did the same, fully dressed, with all the lights on in the kitchen and food on the bench. Couldn't stay awake a second longer.

Wednesday am - took Sammy to the doctor at the little hospital clinic next door, who said he had a bad case of bronchialitis, hooked him up to the nebuliser for three sessions of sucking up vapours, which he quite enjoyed, and prescribed a list of drugs as long as my arm. Have four more sessions of nebulising to go over next three days.

Wednesday pm - met some of the other families adopting here on the beach for a walk and to celebrate Hilary's birthday. Little smiley boy from December still hasn't cracked a smile. He's looking very pensive and serious indeed. I'm pretty spaced out myself. Judge's signing off of last decree was supposed to (by law) be done last Friday. Still not done. Still about 5-6 working days of bits and pieces after he signs, but we need that dumb signature. All the other stories are equally long and frustrating, it seems. Not sure why everyone adopting in this country has to suffer so much. Though, I know that the intense joy of having Maya and now Sammy in our lives (well, it hasn't been very joyful with little man yet, but I'm optimistic on that count!) does make us appreciate being parents sooooo much. More nebulising.

Thursday am - more nebulising. Now Sammy has decided he's not a fan at all of nebulising and I have to pin him down while he turns beet red and screams. A not-very-pleasant 20 minutes. Pretty similar experience when I have to give him his meds.

Thursday pm - no more news on judge, who took a day off today. Oh joy, this bollocks again. Sammy definitely has a 'lucho libre' streak in him, little Mexican wrestling star. Nappies are prime time for squirming, yelling, arm-flailing. As is bed time, changing clothes, eating, pretty much anything. He loves to bang on things, has finally started to smile (and what a charming little full-face grin he has!), loves things with buttons (the lift, the hospital bed, mobile phone, remote control - typical baby in that respect, but so much more interesting in whacking things than his dainty big sister)

Friday am - last nebulising. Screamed blue murder again. No news on judge.

And another week closes with... no news. I really can't complain, as there are others here in similarly bad or worse situations of frustrating no-news waiting. But my goodness, just coming here brings back all the sense of despair and dread that was there with Maya's adoption. I thought I was safe from that this time, as it seemed so cut and dried, but ha, I should just wait until Aida says yes, the papers are ready for you to pick up and walk out of court with. But on the other hand, I couldn't leave Sammy a minute longer. He's now 9 months old, and I can see the trauma it's caused him to be suddenly uprooted from all he's familiar with. He's coming round slowly, but it's so hard on him. I miss Maya like nothing else. Our skype conversations so far have been so sweet, with her telling me: I yuv you Mama (she doesn't say 'l's yet), I miss you Mama (admittedly that one was prompted by Ahmed!), Mama cuddle? Ohhhh, wish they were here, but not really a possibility. There is no way on earth I could have coped with Sammy if Maya had been here too - 3 hours of trying to put a screaming baby to sleep with severe jetlag, nope, couldn't have done it, if I'd had a two-year old here as well. And one of us needs to be at work! And with this stage supposedly just a few days of stamp, stamp, well, it seemed pointless for anyone else to come out. Oh how foolishly naive we are. Every time. Don't we learn???

Have a surprise for next blog entry. But it needs to wait for a couple of hours.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The perennial question

The question I probably get asked more often than any other is: so when are you coming home? Here's the answer (and it hasn't changed since the very first time I was asked back in March 2008 when I first jumped on a plane to go and adopt Maya):

I don't know.

It's such an insanely complicated process that involves lots of steps. Each step depends on a series of other steps before it, which can get complicated by silly things like the person who needs to sign the document being away at a conference, or sick, or forgetting to sign the right page, or a typo on a document requiring a new document, or any of a hundred different things. Even at this nearly finished stage, there are so many little steps that need to be completed, so many stamps that need traipsing across cities to obtain, so it will be a minimum of three weeks, I'd say. That's my guess, but my guesses tend to be horribly wrong.

At the very end of it though, I get handed a gigantic stack of papers (almost 5 kg worth, I reckon) which is the sum of all that stamping, signing, couriering, traipsing across town. Quite impressive.

What not to wear

After much thumb-twiddling, sighing, waiting, grumbling and false starts, our final decree is nearly ready to be published. Again this is a process which involves presenting of reports from one government department to another, 8 working days for the judge to sign something, then 2 days for something to published, then 3-4 working days for something to be somethinged and then finally the important something is ready to be taken from court and used to apply for Sammy's birth certificate. The inner workings of the Mexican court system are still a mystery to me after all this time.

Well we're presently quite near the end of that series of 'working days', and I'm off in 24 hours. In the past week we've been in a mad scramble of packing, preparing, printing, assignment-writing, money-exchanging, video-making, iPod-loading, birthday-party attending and nanny-hiring.

Sammy is exactly 9 months old today. Never thought he'd still be in Mexico, but, well, heck, who were we kidding?

Ahmed asked me to tell him what clothes Maya can wear before I leave - I swear he believes he's colour-blind, when in fact he's pretty good at finding pants and tops that match - so I've made a little folder on the desktop of photos with acceptable outfits, in case he's having a what-to-wear-for-nursery-crisis. Here are the entries under What Not to Wear:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DIF reports...

...have now been submitted to court. Only about four weeks after we were told they would be. Not too bad in DIF time, I guess. So now, just waiting for the final decree, which is the judge stating: yes, yes, jolly good, adopt this boy. Stamp stamp. All done. At which stage I leap on a plane, scoop up Sammy, get his new birth certificate saying we are his parents, and then I start parenting him!

Feels very odd this time round. With Maya I'd been busy 'parenting' her for 14 months before we got the official paperwork to say that yes, we were her legal parents. This time, we get the paperwork to say we are the parents, and then we start to be his parents. All very odd concepts, but I guess a year down the track, this will all be a hazy memory, as we are knee deep in toddlerhood, Bob the builder, Shawn the sheep, Timmy the baby sheep, Winnie the poo(h), Thomas the tank engine (spot a pattern here?) and all the other delightful offerings of Disney inc and the rest of them.

Still not going to make predictions about when stuff will happen. My vague response to anyone who asks is: "in a few weeks" which sums it up nicely.

Can't wait Sammy, can't wait! I picked up my friend's 9-month old boy yesterday, and oooh, that'll be Sammy soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Another 'step' has been stepped.

On Tuesday, our witnesses went to court to tell the judge's secretary that we might just pass the muster as Sammy's parents. Took ages to get that appointment, but now that's done. Our hugest thanks to the lovely Anna and Dawn for being our witnesses. We do feel incredibly lucky to have such a crew of support through these crazy adoption stories.

Now: still need to get word from Aida that our reports from DIF have been presented at court, which was supposed to happen 15 days ago, 12 days ago, 10 days ago, 7 days ago, 5 days ago, yesterday, today, tomorrow, etc. Dum de dum. Take your time. Sammy's growing growing growing. We're waiting waiting waiting. Ahh, that DIF, ay? If I really wrote what I feel about DIF it would unleash a string of very rude and unpublishable words, so we'll just leave it at that.

So that's it, really. Waiting for reports to go to court, and then a week, two weeks, three weeks after that the final decree is issued, jump on a plane and go and scoop up Sammy and get to know him over a series of days spent in registration offices, passport offices, banks, embassies, courts, lawyer's offices, etc. What fun we'll have!

Nearly there bubby! Please don't grow too much just yet!

Ruby roo and baby too

Maya spends a lot of her day wanting "mama cuddle!" or "papa cuddle!", and a lot of her pretend play is based on this theme. Ruby roo and baby are perfect for this. Thanks dadima!