Monday, December 05, 2011

Cliffhanger


Okay, I think it’s time to update the blog. I was pretty good at updating it while we were in the DR, but I kind of left it hanging. That’s the problem with multiple social media sites. I updated things on Facebook, but I never got around to the blog. I have now been contacted by enough people who wondered what happened that I think I need to put it here. So we made it back. We have been here in Denver for the last month and things are going great. But more on that later. First, a little catch-up …

The last few days in the DR were an absolute whirlwind. We finally received the birth certificate authorization from the Junta on Thursday, 10/27. I’m pretty sure this is when we officially and legally became her parents. From there we went immediately to the local government office in the town Daniela was born to get the actual birth certificate. They originally said it would be ready the following Tuesday afternoon. But after returning a couple hours later to speak with the Director and give here our whole story, she agreed to have it ready the following morning. Funny story – when I went to pick it up on Friday morning, literally within a minute of printing the birth certificate the power went out, which is quite common there. But the lady said I was lucky it was printed because they didn’t have any gas for the generator and it could be a few hours before they have power again.  

Anyway, from there we (Daniela and I) made a quick stopover at an office to get the birth certificates legalized and then went over to the passport office to get her Dominican passport. Fortunately we got there just before noon so we could still get the same day service. So a few hours later we had the passport in hand. This was an emotional step for me because it was the first time I saw her name as Daniela Tucker with her little picture right next to it. Something about that … So from there we tried to go over to the Embassy to get our appointment letter which would allow us to get the medical appointment first thing Monday morning, however we found out it closes at noon on Fridays, so we were done for the weekend, but really pleased with how things were finally moving.  

So first thing Monday morning, about 6:30am, Daniela and I arrived at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo. I hadn’t had a chance to confirm with our contact there because it closed early Friday. So we waited outside. The line there is always huge with people seeking different visas to visit the United States. But since we didn’t have an appointment, we had to wait for our contact to arrive at the office. Half hour goes by, and the sun starts peaking over a neighboring building. Another half hour, still no word. Another half hour, and I’m sweating, Dani is getting restless, and I’m begging to move inside, but they can’t. Finally, after about 2 hours of waiting, they let me move inside to the air conditioning, but still no word from the contact. Finally, at 9am, after 2.5 hours of waiting, we were told to go back outside to a window where we could get the appointment letter, which we did.

After getting that, we rushed over to the medical office where everyone seeking a visa must have a consultation. Because we were getting there later in the morning, it was pretty packed, hot, and sweaty. After finding out I could only pay in cash and walking about 8 blocks round-trip, carrying Dani, to get money from an ATM, I finally made it to the window. After registering and paying, the lady said I could pick up the results on Friday (it is Monday at this point). So again I explain our situation and she says she’ll see what she can do. A few minutes later a lady came over and it was like the Red Sea parting. She basically escorted us directly to a doctor and to the front of each line. I almost felt bad. The only difficult part was she had to get 4 shots (not fun for her … or me), but otherwise within 30 minutes we were done and they said they would have the results in an hour … awesome! And sure enough, an hour later they had them. I was pretty dumbstruck at this point, because this is just not how things work here. All we had left was the Visa interview and we were done.

We called our Embassy rep hoping we could get in right away. She said she couldn’t do it that afternoon, but first thing the following morning and we would get the Visa then. So after speaking with Delta and learning the afternoon of the next day would have no fare difference, we jumped on it and booked the tickets.

So first thing the next morning Daniela and I were once again at the Embassy. This time we had a letter so we were immediately let in to a room filled with visa applicants and numbers just constantly being called. After about an hour of waiting, we were called and met with our Embassy rep. We gave her all the paperwork and she said we could sit down again and she’d call us. About 30 minutes later we were called and a different representative went through the paperwork, had me raise my right hand and swear it was all true, signed a few things, and then she approved her visa. She then said we could come back in the afternoon to get the Visa because they were having problems with the system. Once again, after explaining that we had a flight planned that afternoon, she said she would see what she could do. This time we waited for about 2 nerve-racking hours, before finally being called up and we had the Visa in hand. From there we rushed home to pick up Mercy, Taryn, James, and William and were off to the airport.

We got there plenty early, which was a good thing. There were a lot of hoops to go through in getting a ticket, getting Mercy and William, who had been there for over 5 months, through immigration, and of course making sure we had everything we needed for Daniela. But we eventually made it to the gate. The flight went great and everyone slept well. Again, it was quite emotional finally taking off with all of us together and returning home. Everything about it felt surreal. I knew it was one of those days we would never forget and I just wanted to soak it all in.

So we arrived in Atlanta and at immigration we were directed to an office to present all the visa paperwork. After speaking briefly with an officer, who was great, he stamped her passport and visa and at that moment Daniela officially became a US citizen. We were actually a little taken off-guard by that. We thought that was something that took some time in the States to do, but that’s just the paperwork part. She actually became a citizen at that point. Again, that was a pretty cool moment. And it was at that point that I felt like I could finally truly rest. We had done it. After over 4 years of waiting and 5 intense months away, it was finally done. She was back in the States with us and it was official.

Daniela, moments after she officially became a U.S. citizen. 
From there we flew to Denver where we arrived just before midnight to a fall blizzard. My mom picked us up at the airport, brought us to our new home, and we crashed.

TO BE CONTINUED … 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“Reunited …


… and it feels so good!” After about 2 ½ months apart, Taryn, James, and I were finally reunited with Mercy, Daniela, and William. Needless to say, it was a joyous and tearful moment at the airport. We then went directly to an all-inclusive resort on the north coast (found an incredible deal for just $44 per night for all of us!) where we spent a few days just as a family. It was just a sweet time. It actually took Daniela a couple days to get used to me again. When we first arrived she would not go to me, which was a little saddening. But I was glad it just took a couple days and not a couple weeks like the first time around. Daniela is fully walking all around and was noticeably taller and skinnier than when I left. She really is built like a Tucker. William, on the other hand, is not. He is a BIG boy. We haven’t weighed, but I’m certain he weighs more than Dani, despite being a year younger (18 mo. vs. 6 mo.). Dani is also talking a lot more. It is a mix of English and Spanish, which is cool to see. And William “talks” quite a bit also, though only in babbles.

As for finalizing the adoption, we have unfortunately hit another delay. We were hoping to have the birth certificate by Tuesday at the latest, but still have not received it. I’ve visited the offices for the last 3 days, including 3 hours of waiting today, but to no avail. We’ve heard, “It should be here this afternoon” for the last 3 days. I will be there again first thing tomorrow. This means that there is no way we will be returning together on Saturday as originally planned. If we can get it by early tomorrow, there’s a chance we could finalize everything else (passport, medical appointment, and visa) by Tuesday of next week and return on Wednesday. If not, it would likely stretch into later next week or early the following week, in which case myself and the kids would need to return to school and I would try to return when everything is COMPLETELY finished (ideally the following weekend), to pick them up and come home. So if you can, pray that it happens early tomorrow (Thursday).

Thanks,
The Reunited Tucker family



REUNITED!!
Llego Papa



Brothers



He gets more attention than a puppy. 


Drinks with mom. 





Tough life






Saturday, October 15, 2011

I've fallen, and I can't get up!

Random title, but it’ll make sense in just a minute.

So last night I got a call from Mercy at about 11:30pm here, 1:30am her time. She was crying and clearly shaken. In the split seconds before she explained, the worst thoughts went through my mind – something happened to William or Daniela. She said, “Honey, I fell.”  “What?! What do you mean you fell?”

She went on to explain that she had fallen asleep in an awkward position holding William. So she woke up and went to put him in his crib and as she went to put weight on her right foot, it was totally asleep. Her ankle rolled and as she was falling with William in her arms she was able to twist her body and fell on her back to protect him. A stinging pain shot up her leg. Somehow William remained asleep and she managed to crawl on her knees and get him in his crib. As feeling came back to her ankle the pain got worse and it almost immediately started swelling and turning black and blue. That’s when she called me. She was feeling light-headed from the pain. I told her to R-I-C-E it (my Sports Medicine education came in handy there) and wake up the Tichenor’s (who they’re living with) to get some help, which she did.

This morning it was still quite swollen and black and blue, so she went to the hospital to have it checked out. Now remember, she’s in a developing country and even the best hospitals there are a few steps below a mediocre hospital here. Some of you may recall my experience there a few years ago getting my ingrown toenail treated. If you don’t, check it out here, about halfway down the post. Anyway, they X-rayed it and confirmed that she had fractured it, so she would need a cast. So they proceeded to put on a good old knee-high, plaster cast – a little outdated and probably a lot higher than they needed to go, but better than nothing. So she will be on crutches for about 3 weeks.

Ironically, yesterday was the day that Daniela figured out that walking was much more efficient than crawling and began walking everywhere. So now she walks and Mercy doesn’t – nice timing.

A bright side to all of this is I found out yesterday morning that it should be within 7 business days from Monday that we receive the birth certificate (much better than a month as we were last told), which would put it on Tuesday, October 25th at the latest … supposedly. It should then just be a few days to get her passport and visa and we could come home. So since I don’t have school next Thursday or Friday and Taryn and James have half-days on those days, followed by their Fall Break the following week, we have decided that we will all try to fly down there on Wednesday evening (the 19th) and hope that everything is finalized by the following weekend (29th/30th), so I won’t have to miss more than a week of school and the kids wouldn’t miss any. The kids and I are also making sure to bring a bunch of Sharpies to color her plaster cast, just like the good old days. 
So there it is. Please pray that somehow the process would have no further delay, as well as for Mercy’s ankle. I’m just glad we will be there shortly to help. We will continue to try and keep the blog updated. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Okay, maybe not almost there

I found out from our Dominican lawyer this morning that what we thought would be a 3-5 day span between submitting our certification of no appeal (which should be done this Friday) and receiving the birth certificate could be more like a month. She's convinced that's inaccurate and will find out more this Friday, but obviously that kind of took the wind out of our sails. So I won't be flying down there this Friday and hopefully we will learn more then. I have a short week at school next week and our kids have half days on Thursday and Friday, followed by their 10 day Fall Break. So if it looks like this could stretch on well beyond next week, I am strongly considering heading down with the kids on Wednesday of next week and staying through the following week. Mercy is having a really hard time not having seen the kids (and I think me too :)) in over 2 months, and vice-versa. So while the flights are a lot of money we'd rather not have to spend, I think it's worth it. 

That being said, we are holding out hope (at least a little) that we will get better news on Friday and perhaps things will move quicker. But either way we will go with it. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Almost there

Well, the 30 day appeal period ended on Saturday, October 8th and nobody objected to us adopting Daniela (surprise, surprise). It seems like such a pointless part of the process, as we were there for about 90 days prior to that and it doesn’t make sense that that can’t be done then. But it is what it is. Our lawyer hopes to receive the certification of no appeal and submit it to the court today and then we just wait for approval and receive the birth certificate, which makes it official. At that point we have an interview with immigration officials at the Embassy and receive her passport and visa, which should just take a couple days. And then we can all come home. As soon as I have an idea when we can get the birth certificate, I will fly down. We are really hoping that happens this week so I can fly down there on Friday and hopefully we can finalize everything within that following week. Mercy’s mom and my mom will be staying with Taryn and James here in Colorado for the week.

It’s crazy to think Mercy has been there for over 4 months now and we have all been separated for over 2 months. It has been extremely difficult, to say the least. Probably even moreso for Mercy to be away from Taryn and James as they’ve started school and other activities, we celebrated Taryn’s birthday, and we’ve moved into the basement of the house we’re renovating. While daily phone calls and frequent Skype sessions have helped, needless to say, we are very ready for it all to be done. As I’ve said before, I have a new respect for single moms and dads and for those military families that are separated for long periods of time. I don’t know how it can be done without solid support from friends and family.

As for our house, we moved into the basement about 3 weeks ago. I took on the assembly and installation of the kitchen cabinets (with much help from my friend Jay Clark), the bathroom cabinets, and all the painting. Since then we’ve been working on the upper 2 floors. I also took on the painting there, which I’ve spent every spare moment on in the last 10 days (about 60 hours!), along with some help from friends and family the last 2 weekends. Besides a few touch-ups, we finished all that this weekend. We plan on having many of the finishing touches done by our contractor while I’m gone and once I return, I will begin installing the kitchen cabinets on the main floor (hopefully just a couple weeks), and at that point we should be able to move in (we will be renting out the basement). It’s actually been pretty cool to take on some of the work on the house. Not only has it kept us within the budget, but I’m like 1,000 times more handy than I was a month ago (but don’t tell Mercy that) and it has helped keep my mind off being away from Mercy, Daniela, and William. That being said, I’m ready for all that to be done also and just settle in, something we haven’t really done in years.

As always, we appreciate the support and encouragement that friends and family have been in this challenging time. Not only in all the tangible ways (help with kids, painting, etc.), but also just the calls, e-mails, Facebook/blog comments, or whatever. It really does mean a lot. I hope to keep the blog updated while I’m there finalizing the process.

Godspeed!

Pictures: I can’t wait to see these faces in person again!







Monday, September 05, 2011

The end is in sight!!

Well, we just got news today that Mercy and Daniela will be appearing before the Judge on Wednesday, which means our 30 day appeal period should begin on Thursday. This will be followed by 5-10 days to receive her birth certificate, her passport, and her visa, and they can head home. That would be around October 12-17th. I will be headed there shortly before to bring them all home. It feels really good to have the end in sight and we are just hoping and praying for no unexpected delays.

Gloria a Dios!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Heartache

We’re approaching the one month mark since Taryn, James, and I left Mercy, Daniela, and William in the Dominican Republic. The kids have been in school for a few weeks. They love their teachers and are enjoying school most of the time. I started teaching a couple weeks ago and am really excited about this year. This senior class is great, which really impacts the vibe of the whole school. I’m teaching “Worldviews and Apologetics” (juniors), “Leadership” (sophomores/seniors), and “Foundations of the Faith” (seniors). I’ve also been spending a lot of time at the house we are renovating. As some areas have gone over budget I’ve attempted to take on some of the renovation myself to help bring some costs down. And for those that know me well, that’s pretty funny. Let’s just say I didn’t take Woodshop in 8th grade. I’m getting a lot of help from friends, especially Jay Clark, who lives just a few doors down from the Dimos’ where we have been staying. We have assembled the cabinets and plan on installing them tomorrow. I’m also taking on most of the painting, fixtures, and other things that don’t require a lot of skill. It has been fun to see it come together and I am excited for Taryn, James, and I to move into the basement within the next week, and especially excited to have us all back together there within the next couple months.

On that note, things with finalizing the adoption are moving along, but there is still no clear timeline. The Judge who has our file has 10 business days to give his approval, which would be by Monday, September 12th. At that point a 30 day appeal period begins. At the conclusion of that it takes about 5-7 days to get issued Daniela’s amended birth certificate (with our names on it!), and 2-3 more days to get a U.S. passport and a Visa for her, at which point we are free to travel. So basically once this Judge gives approval, which should be within the next week, we have a pretty fixed 40 days left. However, there is no guarantee he will give approval. He could determine something is lacking in our paperwork and require us to supply it. This happened with the Thomas family, who I mentioned before is there adopting also, which has delayed there process by a few weeks. We really hope the same thing doesn’t happen with ours.

We’re all trying to make the best of this time apart (if that’s possible), but it definitely got old really quick and just keeps getting harder. I have a newfound understanding and respect for single-moms (or dads). It is not easy keeping up with everything, and I have the advantage of living with another family which definitely makes it a little easier in some ways. The whole separation has had the most noticeable effect on James, who has become much more clingy to me and is having a hard time going to school (though he’s fine once he gets going there) and going to bed at night without me right there. It’s hard to see him miss Mercy so much but not really know how to process it completely. Anyway, needless to say we’re ready to be done with this and be together. It will feel really good to have a somewhat fixed timeline once this ruling is made. In the meantime, we would really appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

The following are some pictures from our last week together (a month ago now), as well as some pictures from Mercy’s mom and Aunt who visited shortly after we left.




Matching suits


Grandma Trude


This really captures her insecurity in standing and trying to walk. I love the look on her face. 




Crashed





Swimming with Oma



I'm having a hard time grasping that I have 4 kids. 

The shirts say it all. 

James' last morning at the beach. 

Looking for shells.

The Finale show. I need to post the video at some point, because it was quite a show. 

Bros

One last cuddle at the airport.

Shopping with Alex


Eating dominoes with Tom

Aunt Bridgette

Outside the community center

Dani and Emilio


Picnic at the Botanical Gardens