We arrived home on Thursday, and the past few days have been filled with time together as a family and new experiences. My parents with their spouses each came to visit on Thursday, and Alicia's dad came to spend the weekend, so the children had the opportunity to meet all of their grandparents. It has been great to watch all four of my children hanging out and playing together. Alexa and Ariana have both commented about how exhausting it can be to try to keep up with Ashton and Alia. We have done a number of projects around the house and reorganizing things. My tools were removed from the shed and migrated to my woodshop in the barn, and room was made in the shed for bikes and toys. We have done a lot of laughing together. Yesterday, Alia decided to try on some of the boots in the house. Watching her try to walk in the boots was hilarious, as we watched her struggle with each step. Today, we went to church and saw so many friends...it was great for us to reconnect with all of our friends. I think it was a bit overwhelming for Ashton and Alia by the end of the morning. At the end of the day, we got a fire going in our backyard and introduced the kids to the sweetness of s'mores. It was great to see the look in their eyes as they enjoyed the toasted marshmallow smothered with the melted chocolate smashed between two graham crackers. Tomorrow, Alia will have her first day of pre-school, and we'll begin to get Ashton registered for school.
Getting to know our pets!
We had some presents from Christmas waiting for the kids. More Legos for Ashton...he loves building things with Legos.
We left Miami this morning, and after a mostly uneventful flight, we arrived in Philadelphia. Debarking the plane, we made our way from the plane to pick up our baggage. Ashton and Alia were anxious to meet their sisters, and as we turned each corner of the airport, they would ask where they were. We crossed the bridge that went over the road at the airport, turned the corner and began to descend the escalator. The girls were at the bottom with my mother and her husband...About half way down, we the kids realized who was at the bottom. When we got to the bottom, they ran to their sisters and gave them huge hugs. We gathered our luggage and loaded everything in the cars. After a quick lunch, we headed home. It was great to drive a car again. We arrived home to be greeted by a number of our friends. Alia seemed to be comforted by the fact that there were other children at the house, and she quickly went to play. Ashton was very shy, but after the initial greetings and introductions, we saw that someone purchased new bikes for the kids. Ashton and I went to his new bike, and he jumped on and took off. Family and friends visited with us for a good part of the afternoon, and then a friend from church dropped off dinner, and we were able to enjoy our first meal together as our whole family. What a joy to see all four of our children around the table. As we prepare for our first night at home, I am struck by the fact that being home is a great comfort for us, yet for Ashton and Alia being here is mixed with a new joy and bit of anxiety and grief. We continue to pray for God, our great Healer to care for the hearts of our children and bring them healing. Here are some pictures from our homecoming...
This morning, we all were too excited to sleep, so we were up early. We were done packing and ready to go over 30 minutes before Carlos arrived. We gave ourselves a few hours before our flight since we didn't know what delays we might encounter trying to fly back to the US. We ran into a small delay at the immigration counter since we only presented copies of the adoption documents. Our lawyer had come to the airport to say good-bye and she had just left, so Carlos called her and she quickly returned to the airport. After half an hour or so, everything was cleared up and we were ready to go to the next step. We had already checked in our luggage and had our boarding passes, so we could move on to security. All in all, it took about two hours from the time we arrived at the airport to get to our gate. And the Tegucigalpa airport is very small. There is not much in the way of food to purchase at the gates there, so we made due with some plantano chips and two baleadas. The flight was uneventful, which is good, and around 4:30(EST) we landed in Miami. When we went to go through passport control, we needed to enter the visitors section, since the children were flying on Honduran passports. At the US Embassy yesterday, along with the visas, we were given a large manila envelope filled with papers for each child, with the instructions "DO NOT OPEN" and give them to the immigration officer in the states. In Miami, we approached the passport control officer and handed over our passports and the large manila envelops that are only opened within the cone of silence. The officer was really nice, and he processed us at the window, then walked us back to a large room with rows of chairs (I thought I was done with these for a while). He handed over the top secret "For Your Eyes Only" envelopes to someone else in the large room and we sat down and waited for a while. We were waiting to be called back to the interrogation room with the bright lights, but instead after 10 minutes or so, a real nice immigration officer called us over, confirmed the identities of the children with their passports and said we could go. In a sort of stupefied manner we stood there waiting for more hoops to jump through. Alicia asked about the documents in the envelope, and if the officer knew what was in there, she wasn't telling us...so we still do not know the contents of the mysterious envelope that I carried into our country. We were done, so we went and collected our luggage (all the bags made it to Miami) and we found our shuttle to our hotel and settled into our room around 7pm. On the way to the hotel, Ashton looked out the window and saw an American flag and said, "Estudos Unidos" (United States). I leaned over to him and said, "Bienvenido a Estudos Unidos!" (Welcome to the United States), and he had a huge smile on his face. Alia is still a bit confused, she thinks we'll get to the United States tomorrow. She doesn't understand that Miami is in the US, no matter how much we try to tell her that she is already in the US. After dinner at a Cuban diner across the street followed by a swim in the cold outdoor pool, we are settling in for a shortened night of sleep as we begin to adjust from the two hour time difference. We will leave for the airport tomorrow around 7am and should be home by early afternoon. Good night...here is a picture of Alia in the Miami airport. I think it says it all...
Ashton likes the conveyor belts for walking through the airport. Both the kids loved riding on the sky train at the airport.
Waiting for our airport shuttle. Mami wanted a picture, and I am not sure anyone else did. This gives a little glimpse into some of the strong-willed "personality" that comes out at times.
Today was our day at the US Embassy. We were up early and collected our things for a very important interview at the Embassy. Our appointment was scheduled for 8am, and we arrived at the Embassy at 7am and were shown to the eight o'clock line in the mass of people standing outside. The lines began moving, but it certainly looked like it was going to be a long morning. We were toward the front of the 8am line and around 7:30, we were led to the "gate-keeper" lady behind the thick glass. I assumed since it was the US Embassy that she would speak English, but that wasn't the case. She was unable to find our names in the computer system and told us to get back in line...I was beginning to think we were going back down another long and confusing path...then Alicia mentioned the name Melissa (who is the woman we have been working with through this process from the Embassy)...the gate-keeper smiled and pulled out a different list, found our name and pointed toward the door, which security promptly opened for us. We went through security, and entered another room with rows of chairs...and waited. It was only a few minutes before the call came over the loudspeaker for the Crossgrove family to go to window 5, which was actually a small room with a window and a nice lady behind it. She collected our documents and began processing everything, and sent me off to go pay the bill. I returned and we were sent back out to the chairs. A few minutes later, we were called back into the little room for a brief interview...and then it was all done. We were told that the visas would be done by early afternoon, and we left. Carlos was not allowed to go into the Embassy with us, and we were not allowed to take cell phones with us, so when we came out we were hoping to see him, but we were done earlier than we had expected, so he was nowhere to be found. Of course, there is a whole industry outside the Embassy of guys ready to take visa pictures and to let you use their phone. So for 20 lempira (a little less than a dollar), I was able call Carlos and he picked us up at the front of the Embassy. Carlos recommended that we use the morning to go to the zoo at Picacho, which he said was small but the kids would like it. It was actually bigger than he remembered, and there was a nice play area for the kids. We returned to the Embassy around 2pm and I went in and waited, then I left with the children's passports with correct visas. Another 20 lempira phone call, and then we were off to one more governmental building. We wanted more original copies of their birth certificates, so Carlos took us to the unmarked government building. We waited in another line to enter the building, then three benches of line inside the building until we went to another window. The woman looked at the passport, asked a few questions, and printed the birth certificates...it was all done...we could make plans to go home.
We returned to the apartment and I called the airline. Since we were technically changing two of our tickets from a previously purchased ticket and adding two more tickets, it was a bit confusing. The woman on the other end of the phone was a huge help in getting things pulled together, so our flight is set. We will fly out tomorrow from Tegucigalpa to Miami. We plan to stay overnight in Miami and fly home to Philadelphia on Thursday arriving around 12:30pm. We are looking forward to getting home and the kids are so excited to meet their sisters and see their new home. Some people have asked about coming to the airport or meeting us at our home when we first get there to welcome us home. We would love to see our friends and family, and welcome you to come. If you plan on either of these, contact our daughter Ariana, or send us a message and we'll forward it to her. Thanks again for all of your prayers, love and support.
Ashton had stared down the goat, and eventually the goat gave up and returned to his food.
The peacocks were all strutting their stuff, so we got a great picture of one behind Alia
In the play area, they had a huge slide, which the kids enjoyed. They even convince Carlos to go down and take his son, Noah with him.
Last night, I said to Alicia that like a Pavlovian dog, I have been conditioned to expect everything in the process to take longer than we are told that it would...and so, as we lay down to bed last night, I was hoping for good news and all the while, expecting to hear absolutely nothing. I was pleasantly shocked, as I lay in bed after being awakened by children ready for another day, when Alicia walked into the bedroom with a slightly shocked look on her face. She began to read the email from the National Visa Center telling us that our paperwork was approved and sent to the US Embassy in Honduras. Once the early morning fog in my mind faded enough to process what was just said, I leaped out of bed and we began to work feverishly on the next and final steps. I worked on completing the last forms that we needed to complete and Alicia contacted the Embassy. The kids could tell that we were excited so we shared with them what the email meant, and that Lord willing we would be going home before the end of the week. Now, they were excited and it took the rest of the day to help them understand that we are not leaving tomorrow. After we didn't hear anything back from the Embassy, Alicia took the advice of someone that completed an adoption previously and called the Embassy. This was actually a mistake, because she spoke with someone that didn't know our case and didn't know what they were talking about and he told her it would still be a long time, possibly weeks. I walked into the room as I saw panic set in on her face, and in my very calm and patient way told her to get over it and ignore the guy and move on...as you can see I am a very patient and understanding counselor. By late morning, we actually received a call from the woman that does the exit interviews. She asked Alicia a few questions, assured her that she would work to keep the process moving for us, but it could still be a few days. We settled in and got ready for a few more days.... By mid-afternoon though, we received an email from the Embassy saying that they had all of the necessary approvals and if we were ready for our interview, we could schedule it for the next available time...we reviewed the list of documents needed for the interview, and we were ready. We asked them for an interview and a few minutes later, we were told to be at the Embassy tomorrow morning at 8am. We are not sure how long it will take for the visas to be processed, so we haven't secured our flights yet, but it looks like we will be home by the weekend. With this news, we began to go through the apartment and started cleaning and packing...
This time has been long and it has been hard to be away from friends and family, but as a friend and fellow adoptive parent reminded us, God has been using this time to work on all of our hearts to strengthen our bond and help prepare Ashton and Alia for the difficult journey ahead for them in a new family, a new home and a new land. I thank the Lord for his care and provision for us, for not always giving us what we want, but always giving us what we need. Some have asked me what the adoption cost us...and I have often thought about the credit card commercial a few years back...you know...
...6 and a half years of paperwork, appointments and approvals...$16,000
...Agency, Government and Lawyer fees...$13,000
...2 trips to Honduras and related expenses...$17,500
I called my mom this afternoon, and one of her first questions was, "So what did you do today?"...well...today was much like every other day since unless we plan for transportation, we have no where to go. So, today was another day of hanging out at the house, playing in the backyard, reading, doing some schoolwork, and waiting. We did take a walk down into Santa Lucia for lunch at a restaurant that looks out over the pond, and some ice cream for dessert. There is nothing to update on the progress of the adoption, except that we did receive confirmation that the NVC in New Hampshire received our paperwork and will process it, and we should allow for 3 days before the Embassy will have our records. We have been in contact with the Embassy and hope that our persistent emails will make them vigilant for the approvals from the States so that we can get our exit interview this week. Other than that, there isn't a lot to share. Enjoy some pictures:
The kids cleared an area to lay down the blanket and Ashton was reading a book to Alia
These pictures were taken as we waited for our food.
I find it ironic that the parents from America order the typical Honduran food, and the child from Honduras orders a hamburger and fries.
ice cream in the park by the pond. I love this picture...it shows how tiny Alia really is.
Ashton was eating his ice cream and watching some men feed bread to the ducks and turtles.
The other day, Justin Buso sent me an email of encouragement with a song, after a few emails back and forth, he asked me (as any good church softball coach would...) if I was getting my workouts in for softball down here. I told him that I was getting in my weight training with both 35 and 60 pound weight sets. Here is a 60lb. work out.
The past few days brought only a little progress on the adoption. Here is the update - our paperwork is in New Hampshire at the NVC. It will be processed and sent electronically to the US Embassy in Honduras where it will be reviewed and we will be given a date for our exit interview. After my last post, a number of you reached out to us with a simple note of encouragement, a link to an encouraging song, or a phone call through Facebook. We even received a great note from a woman who gave up her child for adoption many years ago and thanked us for making the sacrifice for the children. All of this has been a great encouragement to us and a reminder that our hope is found in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the fact that He is the creator and governor over all things and our lives are securely in His hands. Thank you for your prayers and support.
Please pray for the processing of our paperwork. We were able to follow the UPS tracking number, and saw that the package was over 11 pounds. I know that we have generated a lot of paperwork over the past 6 and a half years, but I realized that the package was filled with files of people seeking visas to enter the US. I can only imagine the piles of requests that need to be sorted daily. Pray that our case is addressed in a timely manner, and thank the Lord for each person that has the responsibility of reviewing each request.
They have not officially entered the rainy season in Honduras yet, but we have had strong storms the past four days. Mostly, the rain has come in the evening, but yesterday, the storm rolled through in the afternoon and the kids went out and played in the rain, and were soaked to the bone.
Today, for a change of pace, we asked Carlos to take us into Tegucigalpa, which worked out well since he needed to take his mother in for therapy. We had Carlos drop us off at Mi Esperanza, a ministry that we had visited on our trip last July (click here to check out the post from our last trip). This time instead of learning about the ministry and shopping, Alicia went for a beauty treatment. She had her hair done, a manicure, a pedicure, and some time in a message chair. Not only was this a great time for Alicia, it was a great opportunity for the students to practice some of the beauty skills that they have been learning.
After Mi Esperanza, we went to City Mall for a late lunch and to let the kids ride some rides and play some games in their amusement park, while we had the opportunity to get to know a young couple Mississippi that are here to complete an adoption of a 2 year old boy. It is great to share the joys and struggles of others on the same journey. The kids loved the play area, so I had to tell them that I only put so much money on the card and when the money ran out, we were done...let's just say they didn't think I put enough money on the card.
After we returned to the apartment, Ashton and Alia sat down on their own and began to read some of the books that I have been reading at night. When we were here in July, they didn't want us to read any books to them. On this trip, I began reading some simple books in Spanish to the kids before bed, trying to embellish a bit as I did with our older two children. Tonight was the first time that they both sat down and took time to read on their own. Even trying on Mommy's glasses for the effect.
Well, that's enough for tonight. Hopefully, we'll have more progress to post tomorrow night.