September 29, 2016

One Year Together!

There really are no words.  At 3:45pm last year, our lives changed forever with a phone call.  At 4:50pm, we met one another for the very first time.  At 5:00pm, we played on the park for the first time together.  At 5:25pm, we took our first family photos and at 5:45, we went home as a family of three.

There were many days this year that were filled with uncertainty, we are so grateful that part is over.  Every day with Estela has been filled with laughter and joy, with learning and loving.  This little girl has changed us forever and we are so thankful for her beautiful presence and spirit.

Today we will celebrate with some of her favorites: sushi, swimming and dessert!

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We love you sweet Estela!

September 15, 2016

Back in Minnesota

It has been four weeks since we have all been in Minnesota together.  Here is a video that shows Estela and Kevin's arrival which was kindly made and given to us by our friend Mandy.  They arrived the same night that the Gold winning Women's Olympic Basketball players arrived, so it was quite a welcoming!

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Since then we have been celebrating and been transitioning to life in Minnesota.  Kevin started to work as a Social Studies teacher at Washburn High School.  He is teaching geography courses as well as an African American Studies course.  Both present different challenges related to class size and that fact that he is a white male teaching a class on African American Culture.  Overall though things are going well as Kevin is enjoying his work and is very much glad to be back at Washburn.  I (Cassie) am working as a Social Worker at Ramsey Middle School.  While it is a new area of Social Work and a big learning curve, I am so enjoying the work, my interactions with students and my ability to use Spanish.  Estela is spending her mornings at a Montessori school and reports that things are going well.  There she is learning new skills everyday, including how to squeeze her own mandarin juice, sing new songs and interact with her peers.  We are enjoying our time with family and friends, as well as exploring the community around us.  We have spent a lot of time outside on our bikes, at parks and running around the lakes.  Life seems full, but we trust it will slow down.

We think about Nicaragua every day.  We communicate with our friends there on a daily basis and we are wondering how to best maintain these relationships.  We miss the food, the heat (some of us), the lifestyle and the people.  It will be a long process, but we are encouraged by the community that we have made along the way.

We have the intention of continually writing in this space.  So come back soon!

September 7, 2016

A Letter To My Bicultural Daughter

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Estela Maryuri,

Your papito and I started to talk about you over ten years ago.  We started the process of finding you five years ago.  Eleven months ago you entered our home and our hearts and just this past week we are now officially a family.  Throughout all of this time, I have often dreaded the day that we will leave Nicaragua and move to the United States.  I know that this doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially after our long in-country adoption process, but it grieves me to think about taking you away from almost everything you know.

In Minnesota, we will not be able to walk across the street and buy fresh tortillas for breakfast each morning.  Much to my chagrin, you will probably eat cereal or toast for the first time, never a pop tart though.  For dinnertime, it will be more challenging to make gallo pinto, although I will do my best to find us red beans.

When we leave for school and work in the morning, you will not see horses and oxen walking down the street with their carts.  There won’t be people walking across the street or waiting at bus stops.  Instead, you will most likely see big box stores and interstate.  There are also a lot of lakes and green trees. 

When you are going to bed at night, you won’t hear loud music blaring from your neighbors next door or wake up to all of the neighborhood dogs barking at each other.  It will most likely be still and quiet.  I can turn on the fan if you need a little noise.

You will no longer sweat 365 days of the year.  You will experience a more drastic change of seasons, you will feel cold for the very first time.

All of these changes are bittersweet.  I so wish that I could keep everything the same for you, raise you in this beautiful country where you will always hear your first language and be surrounded by other Pinoleros, the incredible people of Nicaragua.

Adoption is full of loss.  While we have all gained so much, there is still so much loss.

I do not doubt your resilience in the transition.  I am confident that you will grow by leaps and bounds. 

However, in advance I want to apologize for not being able to keep you in your home country.  Know that I will do everything to help you maintain connections to this place.  We will visit often.  We will communicate regularly with the people that are so dear to us.  We will find ways to continuing eating tajadas and baho and queso fresco.  We will continue to speak Spanish with one another and continue to develop relationships with Spanish speakers in Minnesota.  We will put up art in our home that represents and depicts Nicaragua.  You will always have a piñata at your birthday party and I will sing you Las Mañanitas on your birthday morning.  I look forward to learning and growing with you, know that I am with you each step of the way.

August 21, 2016

Court Day

August 4th was a very special day in our family’s life.  While Estela was placed with us on September 29th and she has known us as mama and papa ever since, we were not a legally recognized family until our court date.  This last year has often had us feeling very vulnerable throughout the adoption process, so it was a great relief to know that we would be a forever family.  Kevin was working in Minnesota on our court date, so it was just Estela and I and our lawyer.  We were able to finalize with another adoptive family who has been a special gift to us on this journey.

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The courthouse is the white building on the left.

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Talking with Papa before court.

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This day was filled with waiting, waiting and more waiting. 

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We enjoyed reading the book, “I love my dad because…”

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We are family!

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Kisses and a mural!

During the hearing, I was asked to share my “palabras” or words on how the transition has been to having Estela as a part of our family.  I read the following words, which Kevin and I prepared in advance.  I teared up and had to take breaks as I read these important words.  Estela did not seem too concerned as she played with her play dough.

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Your honor,

First and foremost my husband and I want to thank for the the great opportunity and responsibility that you have granted to us in the caring for and nurturing of Estela Maryuri Lane Zonnefeld.  Our lives were forever changed for the better on September 29, 2015 when we received a call from Mi Familia that our little girl was waiting for us.  At the center in Managua, Estela soon feel asleep peacefully in my arms and would soon come to call us “mamita” y “papito.”  She has fit so perfectly into our family as if she was always here with her father and I.  We are so thrilled that we will get to spend each and every day of our lives together as a family.  We cannot imagine our lives without this precious little girl.  We are saddened by the difficulties that she faced before joining our family and are committed to giving her the tools to heal and become whole.

We have now lived in the beautiful country of Nicaragua for almost five years and are excited to pass on the culture, history and traditions of the country of lakes and volcanoes to our daughter.  We also look forward to continuing the relationships we have developed while living in Nicaragua as we will be visiting Estela's home country and living here again in the future.  Estela is first and foremost a resilient and strong, young, Nicaraguan, a caring and loving child, who though has faced much diversity shows us so much hope for the future.  We thank you for entrusting us with this little miracle, our daughter, Estela, Maryuri Lane Zonnefeld.

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Su honor,

Sobre todo, mi esposo y yo queremos agradecer usted por la gran oportunidad y responsabilidad que ha otorgado a nosotros en el cuidado y crianza de Estela Maryuri Wren Zonnefeld. Nuestras vidas cambiaron para siempre y para el mejor el 29 de septiembre de 2015 cuando recibimos una llamada de Mi Familia donde ellas nos dijeron que tenían una hija para nosotros. Pronto, en el centro de Managua, Estela se durmió tranquilamente en mis brazos y días después comenzó de llamarnos mamita y papito. Ella se encaja tan perfectamente en nuestra familia como si ella siempre estuvo aquí con su padre y yo. Estamos muy emocionados de que podemos pasar a cada día juntos como una familia. No podemos imaginar nuestras vidas sin esta preciosa niña. Estamos entristecidos por las dificultades que ella tenía que enfrentar antes de unirse a nuestra familia y nos comprometemos a darle las herramientas para sanar y convertirse en integral.

Ahora hemos vivido en el bello país de Nicaragua por cinco años y estamos muy contentos de compartir la cultura, historia y tradiciones del país de lagos y volcanes a nuestra hija. También esperamos seguir con las amistades que hemos desarrollado al mismo tiempo viviendo en Nicaragua, visitaremos el país con Estela y esperamos que podamos vivir aquí otra vez en el futuro. Ante todo, Estela es una niña resiliente y fuerte, joven, nicaragüense, un niña cariñosa y amorosa, que aunque ha enfrentado mucha dificultad, nos muestra tanta esperanza para el futuro. Gracias por confiar en nosotros esta pequeña milagro, nuestra hija, Estela, Maryuri Wren Zonnefeld.