Day 23 – Sentencia

1-26-2013 12-14-34 AMToday we signed the sentencia for Cooper’s adoption and got his new birth certificate! Though in our hearts, Cooper has been our son for more than a year, it is now official. The signing of the sentencia happened with a bit more fanfare than last time ( Last time we were here the family courts were in a temporary location while renovations were being made to the Justice Building after a bombing several years ago. The family courts are still in same location. Magnolia says that they used to have a sign by the elevators stating the number of months that the courts had been there, but the sign was gone now.

We went to the fourth floor and entered family court #11 which was made up of one large room where the court staff works and then a smaller office for the judge. Our lawyer Trudy is such a wonderful lady and everyone seems to love her. When she arrived, she greeted everyone on the judges’ staff and then walked right in and talked with the judge. After a few moments she came out and asked if we wanted to meet the judge. Since I didn’t have the honor to do so last time (it was a different judge), I was grateful for the chance this time. We talked for a moment (well, Magnolia and Trudy did most of the talking since I still don’t speak very good Spanish), and then got a picture with the judge. After that we sat down at one of the clerk’s desks and went over the entire sentencia for spelling errors.

Once everything was corrected and printed, I signed the official document making Cooper our son. It was a exciting moment and I was able to get a picture of  it thanks to Magnolia. =)

We got back to the hotel while Trudy traveled to Buga to get Cooper’s new birth certificate. Magnolia wanted to do something for Mary Ann, Stephanie, and Ana (our friends from Texas), so they spent the afternoon at her house getting pedicures. The boys took naps while I worked on pictures for the blog and talked with Michael (the father from Texas).

After the boys woke up, we played a little and I got the message that the birth certificates where in hand and that we could go ahead and book tickets to fly to Bogota. While buying the tickets we had one of those cute moments between Cameron and Cooper.

Magnolia had messaged me that the girls where going to go out and learn to salsa, that they would be back tomorrow. I mentioned it to Cameron and he was a little upset that his mommy wasn’t coming back until tomorrow (at least I think that was it…he was also upset that mommy wasn’t taking him to the party). =) I explained that it was a joke. A few minutes later he and Cooper were sitting together in a chair and Cameron put his arms around him and said, “Cooper, I will take care of you, since mommy isn’t coming back til tomorrow.” I had to laugh…and of course explain again that it was a joke. =)

Anyway, we have a lot of mixed emotions at this point. We are scheduled to leave on Sunday morning for Bogota to get Cooper’s passport and visa in order to return to the states. We love this place so much and all of the people here. It is going to be really hard to leave. But, we are also looking forward to getting home. Please continue to pray as we count down the days until our return.

Days 17-22 – Just a Quick Update

Hey everybody! This has been a fun week, but we haven’t had a really good internet connection, nor have we had a lot of time. We have been so busy seeing this beautiful country that we haven’t had a lot of time to write. I promise that we are going to get caught up with all of the amazing pictures and descriptions of the places that we have visited this this past week.

The big news is that we will be signing the sentenica for Cooper’s adoption tomorrow morning!! This is the final legal document that marks the completion of the adoption! From there we have to get Cooper’s new birth certificates, secure plane tickets to Bogota, and pack for the next leg of our journey.

Check back tomorrow evening for more posts, but for now please keep us in your prayers as we take the next steps in completing the adoption and getting home with Cooper.

God Bless!
Patrick, Mary Ann, Cameron, and Cooper

Day 20 – Salento

Today was one of those days where the pictures say far more than words ever could. We hired a van to drive us to a little town called Salento, Colombia. It was about an hour drive up and down the mountains covered in coffee bushes (also called trees, though they would be small ones). We saw individuals walking up and down the slopes carrying large bags of coffee beans. We learned that all Colombian coffee is hand picked, they don’t every use machines to harvest the beans. Colombian coffee is a soft bean and the machines damage the bean causing the favor to be bitter. I have to admit that the coffee the hotel is serving is some of the best coffee I have ever had. They serve it black and I drank it that way…it was amazing.

The town of Salento was an experience as well. We walked up and down the streets of the town, browsing through little shops and cafes. We ate lunch at a wonderful little place that had the most amazing views and great food. The people in the town were incredibly friendly. We had a wonderful time.

On the way back we drove through Armenia and then back to hotel. Magnolia shared a lot about the history of the area and the restructuring that took place after the earthquake that hit the region several years ago.

“Salento is a town and municipality in the north-east of the department of Quindío, Colombia. The municipality covers an area of 377.67 km2.[2] It was the first settlement in Quindío of the modern era, and the first municipality founded in the department. The town of Salento itself is located 24 km northeast of the departmental capital Armenia. In 2005 the municipality of Salento had an estimated population of 7247, of which 3597 lived in the main urban zone.[1]

The main route from Popayán and Cali to Bogotá used to pass through Salento (see below), but when the route was diverted the town became isolated and did not develop as rapidly as the rest of the region. For this reason it has retained more of its traditional colonial architecture than almost any other town in the eje cafetero, along with a quiet and relaxed way of life, and as a result the town and nearby Cocora valley are among the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia.”  – Wikipedia

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Day 19 – Off to the Coffee Region

About a week ago, Magnolia asked if we would be interested in a trip to the coffee region of Colombia. This was a trip that we had considered last time we were here, but decided not to venture too far away from the city of Cali. Both of our adoption agencies at the time, and the U.S. Department of State had warned us of the dangers related to travel into the “rural” areas of Colombia. The warning then read much like they do now.

Statements like these would strike fear in the heart of any traveler. “The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia…violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large cities…exercise caution and remain vigilant as terrorist and criminal activities remain a threat throughout the country…Explosions occur throughout Colombia on a regular basis…Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of terrorists and narco-traffickers…Although the incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak in 2000, it remains a threat, and is of particular concern in rural areas…One U.S. citizen was kidnapped and killed in March 2011, and another was kidnapped and freed in May 2011…the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.” (note: the full statement is documented below)

Of course, if you look up travel information for foreigners to the United States, the information isn’t all that flattering either. Terrorism, street crime, attacks with guns, and gang violence are all concerns for foreign travelers. Travel hints like, “Don’t wear jewelry, stay in well lit areas, don’t leave your door open, and travel only on main roads” are all listed. So, the reality is, people are the same everywhere. Sure, some places have more issues than others, but the bottom line when traveling is just be smart. It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the rich culture that a country has to offer, just make sure you travel smart and I recommend always travel with a local.

So, saying all that, we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity again. We began planning the trip and discovered that the cost of making the trip was only a little more than what we were paying to stay in Cali, so we invited our friends from Texas to go with us and hit the road (it wasn’t really that simple, but for the sake of space, I will leave it at that). I hope that my account of this trip will be a help to other families that come to adopt in Cali. I hope that you will embrace the culture that your new son or daughter is coming from and be willing to venture out a little to see this amazing place that is Colombia.

Okay, I have mentioned our friends from Texas a couple of times, but they haven’t really gotten a formal introduction (I don’t think). So, here it is. Michael and Stephanie are a first time adopting couple from Texas. I met them for the first time as they were  exploring the dark hotel when they first arrived wondering what in the world they had gotten themselves into (it was Sunday night and the staff had all retired for the evening). Their non-English speaking driver had picked them up at the airport and dropped them in their room. Since they are like us and don’t speak Spanish (we all relied on Google Translator a lot on this trip), they had no idea what was going on. Thankfully I had needed to fill our water bottles and bumped into them at the water cooler. They told me later how thankful they were that they had met me that night. Their first night was a lot like ours when we got Cameron – Arrival Day for Cameron’s Adoption (expect I wasn’t there to calm my nerves…that would have been weird…like something out of a time travel movie or something). Anyway, Michael and Stephanie are adopting a beautiful young lady (13 years old) from Buga where Cameron and Cooper are from. We have been sharing many of our experiences together for the past week. We have enjoyed having some friends to talk and share with. Plus, Ana has been a great babysitter. She is going to make a great big sister.

So, back to the trip. We had a wonderful trip up to the coffee region, stopping about halfway up for some wonderful Colombian lunch. For the record, Michael and I learned that in some parts of Colombia, a “ham” burger is just that. It has a beef patty, a slice of ham, and then the normal stuff you see on a burger in the states. We both thought that we were getting a little taste of home…oh, well. =)

We passed through some amazing country on our way to a city called Armenia. As we got closer to the city, we started seeing lots of….banana trees!! (you thought I was going to say coffee plants, didn’t you). Yeah, the local folks joke about how the coffee region is becoming the banana region. There are so many banana trees. Fun fact: did you know that the average banana tree only produces one or two bunches of bananas before it is cut down and a new tree is planted! I guess that it why they have to have so many. =)

We also started seeing a lot of coffee plants too. The coffee plant only grows at a certain altitude, so I am sure that we will see more later on in the week. We are going to the National Coffee Park on Wednesday, so I am sure we will see a lot of coffee then.

Once we got to the hotel, we took a little nap before dinner. Afterwards we played in the pool for a bit and then I watched a little bit of a movie before calling it a day. Tomorrow we are going to tour a little town called Salento. It is supposed to be a really old town with a lot of authentic Colombian architecture.

Many of the pictures below were taken in a moving vehicle, so I hope the beauty of the country side is not lost.

Full Statement from the US Department of State:

“The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Cartagena and Bogota, but violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large cities. This replaces the Travel Warning for Colombia issued February 21, 2012, to update information on recent security incidents and terrorist activity.

While the Embassy possesses no information concerning specific and credible threats against U.S. citizens in Colombia, we strongly encourage you to exercise caution and remain vigilant as terrorist and criminal activities remain a threat throughout the country. Two people were killed and approximately 60 injured by a car bomb during an assassination attempt on the life of a former Interior Minister on May 15, 2012. Explosions occur throughout Colombia on a regular basis, including some in Bogota itself. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of terrorists and narco-traffickers, including armed criminal gangs (referred to as “BACRIMs” in Spanish), that are active throughout much of the country. Violence associated with the BACRIM has spilled over into many of Colombia’s major cities. These groups are heavily involved in the drug trade.

Although the incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak in 2000, it remains a threat, and is of particular concern in rural areas. Terrorist groups and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. One U.S. citizen was kidnapped and killed in March 2011, and another was kidnapped and freed in May 2011. The U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, but it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.

U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia must file a request to travel to any area in Colombia outside of two general areas. The first area is outlined by the cities of Bogota, Anolaima, Cogua, and Sesquile. The second area is on the Highway 90 corridor that connects Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. All U.S. citizens in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions and exercise extra caution outside of the aforementioned areas.” -

Day 18 – Day at the River

Another Sunday comes and today we got to spend the day by the river at a little restaurant that Heinrich likes to take the families too. They have great empanadas and plantain chips, not to mention the beautiful view of the river and a nice pool area. We did a little swimming, crossed the river (Cameron’s idea), and ate lunch. Both Cooper and Cameron loved the kiddie pool. Cameron had a lot of fun playing with the adopted daughter of our friends from Texas. Throwing cups of water at each other was the game of the day. It was a beautiful day, even though the taxi ride to and from the river was a bit rough for daddy. The taxi didn’t have windows that opened where daddy ending up sitting and the roads had lots of curves winding up the mountain by the river. We saw lots of people swimming at different spots along the river. The river in Cali is like the beach in Savannah…the place to go to cool off and get a tan. Most places were very crowded, but the restaurant we went too was not. It requires a fee per person, so it is not as popular with the locals.

Below are some pictures and video from the day.

Day 17 – The Sugar Cane Plantation

Today we visited the Sugar Cane Plantation out in the country near Palmira, Colombia. It is a very beautiful area though it takes a little while to get there. On the plantation is a museum showing the history of the sugar cane industry. We visited this place the last time we were here (, but it was good to share it with our friends from Texas. One part of the tour was open that we had not seen before because last time there had been a lot of rain and the area was flooded. It is amazing to see the process that the sugar cane goes through, even today. The sugar cane fields cover thousands and thousands of acres in the valley were Cali is located. The fields line the highways leaving the city on both sides. Much like corn when you drive through Iowa or Indiana. =)

Here are a few new pictures that we took during our visit.

Day 16 – A Walk in the “Cat” Park

Yep, you read it right. This morning we decided to take a walk in the Cali Cat Park. I don’t think that is what it is really called, but it describes it well. We visited this last time and Cameron has been talking about seeing the cats every since we got here (not that he remembers them, but he has seen the pictures a couple of times since then

After a walk through the park we stopped by a couple of stores to do a little window shopping and get some necessities, then back to the hotel for lunch and naps. Just as the boys laid down to take a nap, the rain started. Not really hard, but nice and steady. That is the way that we remember Cali from last time. It rained for a little bit each afternoon, cooling off the air and making everything nice and green. I am actually sitting on the stone porch of the hotel right now listening to the sounds of the rain falling on the trees and stone, mixed in with the sounds of the city. It is truly a magical place…

…sorry, had to take a moment and just take it all in. =) Someone just walked out of the hotel and scared me half to death, so I am back now. =)

There is something that I have been meaning to write about since the day that we met Cooper for the first time. There is a paper that you have to sign when you take custody of a child that you are adopting. One of the paragraphs says something like this:

“By taking custody of the child you agree to be there when they scrape their knee, break a bone, or just need their nose wiped. You agree to console them when the fail and celebrate with them when they succeed, and when that girl breaks their heart, you will be right there to assure them that it isn’t the end of the world. You agree to guide them and protect them from making bad decisions that destroy their confidence and sends them down a path of moral degradation. You agree to teach them right and wrong. To teach them how to use this knowledge to become men of integrity and honor. You agree to provide for them. Give them food, clothing, and a place to live, put them through school and give them every opportunity to learn and succeed. You agree to stand by them as they make the biggest decisions of life, who to marry, what to do, where to live, and how to raise their own children. You agree, without fail, to be there for them…always.”

Actually, it only says, “You agree to provide for the child in all aspects of their emotional, physical, moral, and economic needs.” But when I was sitting there listening to Magnolia translate the document, all of that other stuff was going through my head. What a responsibility that Mary Ann and I have accepted. What a responsibility all parents have to these little people that we have agreed to raise. James Dobson, in his book Bringing Up Boys (yes, I figured it was time to read it) talks about the focus of the book…

“Our purpose in this…will be to assist mothers and fathers as they ‘play defense’ on behalf of their sons – that is, as they protect their boys from immoral and dangerous enticements. But that is not enough. Parents also need to ‘play offense’ – to capitalize on the impressionable years of childhood by instilling in their sons the antecedents of character. Their assignment during two brief decades will be to transform their boys from immature and flighty youngsters into honest, caring men who will be respectful of women, loyal and faithful in marriage, keepers of commitments, strong and decisive leaders, good workers, and secure in their masculinity. And of course, the ultimate goal for people of faith is to give each child an understanding of Scripture and a lifelong passion for Jesus Christ. This is, I believe, the most important responsibility for those of us who have been entrusted with the care and nurturance of children.”

May God grant us the ability to do right by both of our boys. There is no way that we will be able to do this on our own.

Cameron saw some YouTube videos of a kid reviewing about some angry bird products. He picked up the items in this video and told me what he did without any prompting. He is too funny.

Day 15 – Morning at the Zoo

As Cameron would say, “Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, presenting the Cali Zoo!!!”

Needless to say, Cameron has been waiting for this day for awhile! He woke up so excited that the day had finally arrived. There were two things that he wanted to see most, the monkeys and the meerkats (which he saw on a deck of animal planet cards). I was pretty sure about the monkeys, but not so sure about the meerkats. But I figured he would enjoy it no matter what.

It was a beautiful morning as we headed into the zoo. We were joined by our new friends from Texas and their daughter. Both of the boys have really taken a liking to the daughter, though she doesn’t speak any English they still seem to communicate. Of course nothing stops Cameron from non-stop conversation in his thick southern draw.

Most of the animals were active and fun to watch. There were a few, like the crazy bear from last time (, that decided to just nap the morning away (sounds like somebody else we know from yesterday). Overall, I think that boys enjoyed the animals a lot and Cameron got to see both of the animals he was looking for after all. =)

We got back to hotel, ate lunch, and had good naps.

Day 14 – Afternoon at the Mall

Well, our morning was great! Of course, I don’t remember a lot of it because daddy apparently slept all morning. I remember getting up for breakfast and then playing a few hands of Crazy 8’s with Cameron, but beyond that I don’t remember anything until Mary Ann woke me up at 12:45 PM and reminded me that we needed to catch the taxi at 1:30 PM to meet Magnolia at her house. We needed to exchange some money to pay the lawyer and Magnolia was going to help us with that. So, the morning was a little hazy. =)

We caught the taxi at 1:30 PM and headed to Magnolia’s house. Colombian taxis are always fun. They are pretty small, which I assume is because they have to weave in and out of traffic like crazy folk. All four of us sat in the back of a taxi like the one pictured here. About halfway there Cameron looks up at me (as he is squeezed between Mary Ann and I) and says, “Daddy, this isn’t very comfortable.” He is so cute. =)

After getting the money we needed, Magnolia dropped us by a shopping mall while she attended to some other business. Besides picking up a few needed things, we were also able to visit McDonald’s for our first family visit to this American institution….in Colombia. =) Ordering at restaurants is always fun, but Mary Ann did a great job. =) Below are a couple of pictures from our visit.

The Mulvehill Family at McDonald’s in Colombia.

From his reaction, we think that this was the first time Cooper had drank from a straw.

This is what was left of Cooper’s first Happy Meal! He ate the whole thing!!

This evening Cameron got a special treat. His Wednesday night class from church got on Google Talk and said hello. Though I think he was excited to see them, it also made him a little sad and he wasn’t with them. It wasn’t too long after that, however, that we got a little excitement in our room that made us all smile….well, except for Cooper.

We were just sitting around before dinner, I was doing some work on the computer, Mary Ann was checking e-mail, and Cameron was playing with Cooper. All of the sudden Cooper started screaming and jumping up and down. We had no idea what was going on, Cameron was on the other side of the room, and Cooper hadn’t fallen or anything. He just kept pointing toward the door to the little patio outside of our room. We thought that maybe he saw a lizard or something, so we tried to calm him down by showing him it was okay. Mary Ann got down by the door and looked under the bed to find the lizard….only it wasn’t a lizard, but a cat! Mary Ann pulled the cat from under the bed and Cooper ran for the other side of the room (see the video). It was too funny. He had loved the dogs that we saw up in the mountains on Sunday, but he is obviously not a cat person. =)

Later we found out that the cat belongs to the owner of the hotel and that she doesn’t like to be alone. Our door had been open earlier this afternoon and she must had found her way in looking for some company.

Tomorrow morning we go to the zoo. Cameron is very excited.

Day 13 – Court Assignment

While we waited for the news about our court assignment today, we decided to spend some time in the hotel pool. The boys needed to expend some energy and the sun was shining, so…..IT WAS COLD!!! Of course that didn’t stop them. It just took daddy awhile to get in the water so that Cameron could “swim” in the deep water. The things I do….=)

After lunch and naps we got a phone call that Magnolia was waiting in the lobby for us. We met her and our lawyer, Mrs. Trudy, on the porch of the hotel. They were so excited about our court assignment!

For those of you that don’t know the process, here is the basic run down of what takes place with an ICBF adoption here in Cali, Colombia region:

  1. Adopting parents arrive in Colombia
  2. Usually on Tuesdays, the ICBF will make an appointment for the presentation
  3. The adopting family goes to the presentation appointment. They are given the history of the child, their routines, and any other important information that the adoption parents need to know.
  4. The child and parents are united and a date is set (usually the following Monday) for the integration meeting.
  5. The adopting family and the new child spend the next week bonding.
  6. At some point during the week a letter giving the lawyer permission to work your case has to be notarized by the public notary.
  7. After the week of bonding, the integration meeting is attended by the adopting parents and the child. In this meeting the psychologist asks a lot of questions about how the parents and child are doing. At the end of the meeting you sign the document stating that the ICBF of Colombia believes that the adoption is a good match and that the courts should finalize the adoption in the best interest of the child.
  8. The next day, the paperwork is submitted to the family court system and a court is assigned. This is a very important step since there are 11 possible courts that the case could be assigned too. Each court has its own personality and in our case the lawyer and our interpreter both wanted either court 3 or court 11.
  9. Once assigned to a court….you wait. Could be 2 weeks, might be 4 weeks. You just never know and in some cases it can be even longer. Everything affects the length of time that it takes to process the documents. Holidays, vacation days, and strikes can all play a role is this waiting game. There is nothing else to do but to enjoy the city, or in some cases travel to other destinations within Colombia. You just can’t leave the country.
  10. Finally the day will come when you will get the call that the adoption is ready to be finalized. You go to the family court building, sign what is called the sentencia, and at that point, the adoption is complete. The child now legally belongs to the adopting parents according to the laws of the Hague Convention.
  11. Once the sentencia is signed, the lawyer takes a copy to the original birth city of the child to get copies of the original birth certificate and to have new birth certificates created. Normally, this takes place the next day.
  12. Once the birth certificates are in hand, the adopting family can travel to Bogota to finish the immigration process. Travel plans are made and the flight is scheduled.
  13. Once in Bogota, the first order of business is the child’s Colombian passport. This takes the first day to secure.
  14. The next day, you can go to the USA Embassy to submit the paperwork for the adoption visa.
  15. It may take a day or two for the visa to be completed. Once done, the adopting family goes to the Embassy to get the adopted child’s visa.
  16. Now it is time to go home. Because you have to purchase a round trip ticket, your departure date is normal weeks away, or I guess in some cases, already passed. You have to go to the airline office and negotiate the change to your tickets and purchase a ticket for the new child.
  17. Finally, you fly home and face immigration on the USA side. This can take a couple of hours depending on the number of people.

So, there you have it. Nice, huh?

Prayer Requests:

  • Continue to pray for our bonding with Cooper. Things are going well, but we are still working with a bit of a language barrier.
  • Pray that Cameron continues to get better.
  • Pray that our paperwork gets approved and everything moves quickly in the court system.

So, did I mention that we got court 11? =) We celebrated with ice cream at Ventolini!