2017.

[FYI, the yearly wrap-up posts are long. Feel free to skip it.  I mostly do these for myself.] 

I think it’s about time for an update.  This is late, practically a year late.  Basically to the point of being ridiculously late, but until now I just couldn’t.

At the beginning of last year, I wrote a wrap-up post for 2016, which had proven to be a really difficult year.   If you remember, I have this habit of naming years in my head, and 2016 was “The Year of the Two HMA’s.”   I was late writing it, and I didn’t get it posted until the middle of March.   I finished up that post with these words: “It is yet to be seen what kind of name 2017 will end up with in my head.  But I’ll be sure to let you know.” 

I had no idea when I wrote those words that we were just a couple of weeks away from having a bombshell dropped on our family.   Because I was about to learn that 2017 was “The Year We Found Out Lacey Had Brain Cancer.”

I’m not going to write extensively about my thoughts on all of that at this point.  It will come.  Maybe.  But for now I’m going to try to at least walk through the events of the year so that I’ll have them written down.

2017 went a little something like this….

In January, we took a trip to Mississippi for my little sister’s wedding.  I had spent a couple of weeks trying to round up everything we’d need, because it should come as no surprise that we don’t really have fancy clothes or winter clothes here in Arequipa.   We finally made it to the airport on our departure day, only to have the fog roll in.  And in Arequipa, fog means the planes are grounded.  So we waited at the airport all day long, and they ended up canceling all the flights.   So we went back home, went to bed, and tried again the next day.  More fog.  So we waited at the airport for the entire day AGAIN (which was by this point filled with lots of screaming angry people), only to be sent home that night.  On the 3rd day, I was starting to panic, because it was just a few days until the wedding, and I was afraid we wouldn’t make it.   But thankfully the fog lifted long enough that a couple of flights got off the ground, and we made it out of the city.  It only took us 50 extra hours added onto our itinerary, but we finally made it to Mississippi, and my kids never wanted to see an airport again.

Finally arriving in Jackson after 50 EXTRA HOURS added onto our itinerary. But we made it. And some of my favorite people were there to pick us up!

The wedding was amazing.  Janie was a fairytale princess.  My boys were in awe; it was their first American wedding and they’d never seen anything like it.  Lacey and I had the privilege of standing up front with her as her matrons of honor, and we cried as we watched our baby sister take her vows.    The reception was at my parents’ house, and we all had so much fun dancing to the amazing band.   My boys fell in love with the Pettis girls (whom I’ve known almost my entire life… my boys have good taste), and they had so much fun with their “dates.”

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous bride?

The boys’ expressions for pretty much the entire night. They were in awe.

After the wedding festivities, we packed up and drove to Chattanooga to spend a little time with Nate’s mom and brothers.   His mom spoiled us with a little overnight date, so we snuck away to downtown Chattanooga while the boys had fun “Mammaw time.”   Nate and I stayed at the Read House, which was special because we haven’t been back since we stayed there on our wedding day in 2004.   It was neat to be back.    After a few days with the family in Chattanooga, we drove back to Mississippi to squeeze in a couple of medical appointments (mainly with Barrett’s pediatric cardiologist) and throw a fun little birthday party for my mom before heading back to Peru.

The Read House in Chattanooga. It was fun to stay here again after almost 13 years!

We left Mississippi on the first day of February, and we even though we always hate the goodbyes, we were excited to get back to Peru. While we had been away for the wedding, the Goots (our teammates, the Gutierrez family) had arrived after their HMA!  We’d been apart for months, so it was so wonderful to get to be reunited.  They were exhausted from all of their traveling and support-raising, but they were motivated to jump back into ministry after so long away.

Bonhams & Goots… Finally reunited and back into ministry planning mode!

We all hit the ground running and started making ministry plans for the year.  Now that the whole team was back in one place, we were able to start back with some of the ministry activities we’d had to put on pause.  We were busy again with things like “Noches de ROCA”  (Wed. night discipleship and prayer meetings),  youth group meetings, counseling, and bible studies.

At home, the kids and I jumped back into homeschool after their break from the holidays and the wedding.  Barrett spent the month wearing an old-school heart monitor because he’d had a few abnormalities over the past several months, and the doctor wanted to know if the high altitude in Arequipa was affecting it.  It drove Barrett a little crazy, but he handled it like a champ.

In March, we continued ahead with our normal ministry events, plus a few special events like a church-wide beach retreat to Camaná (a beach about 3 hrs away) and a New Members class.  We also started our Sunday School classes back up and started incorporating a “Children’s Sermon” into the service each week, and Nate and Nathaniel took a trip to Cusco for a presbytery meeting.   In the middle of the business, we had a 12-day (!!!) water cut, which was the longest stretch without water we’ve had yet.  It was not fun.  (Still not as bad as the time we had a 6-day water outage along with our most violent stomach bug to date…that one was worse.)

Sunday School starting back up at La Roca

We also had a couple named the McCalls come to visit our team here in Arequipa to talk more about missions and get a feel for what ministry in Peru might look like.  We had a great time hosting them and getting to know them for a week or so, and we looked forward to seeing what God might do in the future through that connection. [spoiler alert: we were excited to extend an invitation for the McCalls to join our team, which they accepted. They’ll hopefully join us on the field when they finish their support-raising!]

And then came April.    On April 5, I received a phone call that suddenly shifted everything.  My mom called to tell me that doctors had just discovered that my big sister Lacey had a large brain tumor, and they were pretty positive it was cancerous and very aggressive.   Everything stood still.   The next couple of days were extremely emotional, and Nate and I began making a plan for what we should do. In the meantime, Janie and I created the Love For Lacey Facebook page where we announced the news and asked people to join us in prayer.  We knew that Lacey would most likely need a very delicate brain surgery in the next several days, plus weeks or months of treatment.   We decided that we would fly back to Mississippi to be present for the surgery, and that the boys and I would stay on in Mississippi for an indefinite amount of time to help out as needed with Lacey’s family.    So we packed our bags and I loaded up our homeschool into suitcases, and we flew back a couple of days after receiving the news.

Finally back with my sisters!

 

“Braverman Dinner” (as Lacey calls it) on the night before her big brain surgery

Lacey’s surgery was 2 days after we arrived, the Wednesday in the middle of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.  She went home from the hospital on Good Friday.  We celebrated the resurrection as a family together on Easter morning, and it was beautiful.

Sitting in the hospital with Lacey after surgery, reading her texts to her so she could hear all the encouragement pouring in

After the surgery, the biopsy showed that Lacey’s cancer was indeed a stage 4 glioblastoma.  She would need aggressive treatment for the rest of her life.  Even though we all knew that it was the expected result of the biopsy, it was still hard for all of us to hear the official diagnosis.  But we cling to the truth that God’s will is good and right, and that his plan for Lacey’s life is for her good and His glory, however it may unfold.  We know this is true, and we believe it.

Nate stayed in Mississippi with us for about 2 weeks altogether before needing to head back to Peru, but the boys and I stayed to help with Lacey’s 4 kids and errands and treatments and anything else that we could do.  Plus, to be honest, I just couldn’t imagine getting on a plane and being a continent away, so I was glad that there was a way that I could help.   Lacey had a couple of weeks to rest and recover from surgery, then started chemotherapy and radiation.

By May, I was busy helping in Mississippi and missing Nate like crazy, and he was back in Peru getting ready for a short-term team to arrive.  Our home church (Madison Heights Church) was planning to send 5 guys to Arequipa to help with a project to install large water tanks on the homes of various members of our congregation who had regular needs for water.  (When you live in the desert, the need for water becomes a stark new reality on a day-to-day basis.)  I was sad that I wasn’t going to be there to help host.  It worked out well though, because since the boys and I weren’t there at our home in Arequipa, there was plenty of extra space and beds for the 5 short-term team members.  So instead of staying in their hotel as planned, they just stayed with Nate in our house.  They worked hard and accomplished a lot in a few short days, but they were all worn out by the end!

In Mississippi with the short-term team before they flew down to Arequipa!

Meanwhile, back in Mississippi, our whole extended family and tons of Lacey’s friends were working together to help Lacey and her family get through all of her weeks of treatment.  It was all hands on deck, and so much support flowed in from all directions.  Meals were brought every single day to Lacey’s house and to my parent’s house in order to feed the masses.  Different people drove Lacey to every single appointment and treatment since she couldn’t drive and needed extra help with some of her day-to-day tasks following the surgery.  Friends and classmates helped Lacey’s kids with every single activity, including their schoolwork on their 3 “at-home” days per week. (Her children attend a university-model school where they do their work in class 2 days and at home the other 3, so it is like partial homeschooling in a sense.)  There was such love and support and practical help from every corner.  Lacey’s community rallied around her like I’ve never seen, and it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

The quilt that Lacey’s friends made for her, covered on both sides with patches signed by friends who prayed for her during the hours of her brain surgery. Her community came together like I’ve never seen in order to carry their family through those months of radiation and intense treatment.

Nate and I were doing the best we could to keep some things “normal” while we were apart.  We knew it would be hard on the kids (especially on Luis) for our family to be split for so long.  Through Facetime, we tried to keep up with the routine of  Nate reading to the kids before bed.  They called him often and video chatted every chance they got.   Noah and Barrett understood for the most part what was going on, at least as well as they could at that age.  They missed Nate, but they knew where he was and they understood why we had stayed in Mississippi for longer. But Luis struggled significantly, and he didn’t quite understand what had happened and his anxiety peaked.

Keeping up with the evening routine of Nate reading while the boys color…. except it was through Facetime.

Near the end of May, Nate and I had the chance to sneak away for a weekend.   We had been looking at tickets to see if there was anywhere at all that we could get to cheaply so that we could see each other in the middle of our stretch of being apart.  Flying from Arequipa to Mississippi is expensive, and we thought there had to be an inexpensive option somewhere, and we didn’t care where.   He finally found a couple of cheap tickets to Miami.  We met there for a long weekend and it was so nice to get to spend a few days together after being apart during such an emotionally intense and weary time.  It was such a blessing, but it was also really hard to leave him in the airport afterwards and head back to Mississippi alone, where every day held such intense emotional weight.

A quick weekend trip to Miami so we could see each other in the middle of the craziness. It was just what my heart needed.

The twins turned 7 at the beginning of June, and we celebrated with a party at my parents house.  The boys also had the chance to attend VBS at Highlands Pres (the church I grew up in and that my parents and Lacey’s family still attend).  Those kinds of things aren’t really a possibility for them in Peru, so I was glad they had the chance to go!  On the 9th, the kids and I headed back to Peru.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a harder time saying goodbye than I did on that day.  The boys were also more emotional than normal because they didn’t want to leave their cousins that they’d been spending so much time with.  Luis, in particular, struggled intensely because he hadn’t seen Nate since the beginning of April and was afraid we would get back to Peru to find that he had left us.   Luis’s abandonment fears run deep, and his anxiety that his dad was gone forever came out in full force on that trip back.  It was hands down my worst travel experience to date, and I was a sobbing mess by the time we arrived in Arequipa.

The 7 crazy cousins. They became a tight crew during those 2 months.

 

Saying goodbye to this girl was rough. I sure do love my big sister.

We didn’t rest long, though, because I had to jump back into the government process for my Peruvian driving license as soon as I got back (which is a long and difficult and MISERABLE process!).   I was also determined to finish out our homeschool year by the end of the month so that we could take July off from school and have at least a few weeks of “summer break.”  We finished at the end of the month and celebrated with ice cream!  Meanwhile, back in Mississippi, Lacey finished up her radiation, and we waited to hear results from her first scans.

Celebrating the end of the school year! High fives all around!

In July, I struggled.  I had expected to come back to Peru and be able to jump back in to life and ministry, but instead I found myself getting depressed as I tried to manage being so far away while Lacey continued battling her cancer.  I kept feeling myself slipping emotionally, but I couldn’t explain it.  We were still busy with ministry, but I just wasn’t myself.  I decided to pursue some counseling through the resources with our missions agency, and my amazing counselor helped me process through some of what I was feeling.  I continued working with her for the next several months.   I also continued on with the driving license process, which felt overwhelming at times. I failed the first time even though I had performed well on the test, because the evaluators wanted a bribe.  The second time I took the test, I stalled the car out repeatedly because I was so nervous (you have to use a stick-shift for the test), and I failed AGAIN.  I was so frustrated!!   But we had some good things that month as well…  We celebrated 4 years with Luis in our family, and a few days later he turned 8 years old (although he was sick that day).  We also celebrated Nate’s 33rd birthday.

Celebrating 33 amazing years of Nate.

August was busy.  Nate finally found a good property to rent for the seminary he’d been making plans for. He was excited to start trying to turn some of his ideas into reality.  We signed the lease on the property and started doing some work on the place.   We also started our new homeschool year on the 7th, and I was glad to get back into a solid daily routine again.  Noah and Barrett started 2nd grade and Luis started another kindergarten-ish year (it doesn’t really line up with a grade since it’s special-ed for his special needs and learning issues).   I FINALLY passed my driving test and received my Peruvian drivers license!  And on the up-side, since my process had taken so much longer than the rest of the team, the law happened to change in the middle of it and my license is good for 10 years instead of 2.  So I won’t have to go through that again for a LONG time!!

First day of school!

 

We also hosted an MTW Vision Team for our missions agency in August.  They brought down a group of people from all over the U.S. who wanted a better view of missions and life on the field.   I continued with some counseling, and when Lacey’s birthday rolled around on August 16th, I struggled with being so far away.  So I made a big purple birthday cake and we celebrated her from here!   Nate and I also celebrated our 13th anniversary with a fun progressive dinner at various stops around town.  Nate had to do a bit of traveling at the end of the month to attend presbytery meetings here in Peru, and we wrapped up the month with a big virus that swept through the whole family.

The MTW Vision Trip crew finally on the ground in Arequipa!

 

A purple birthday cake for Lacey. It was GOOD.

We started September off with a much-needed family weekend away. Well, it wasn’t that far away… we drove to a great hiking place about an hour outside of town, and we hiked up to a really cool waterfall.  We let the kids explore, we caught some tadpoles to take home with us (aka homeschool science class), and we stayed at a hotel with a pool.  It was nice to spend 48 hours just reconnecting as a family.   Nate continued on with plans for the seminary, and we kept working on the property that we had leased.  On the 18th, we celebrated 5 years on the field (our “missioniversary”), and we were so thankful for the way that the Lord had continued to confirm to our hearts over and over again that this life of missions is what we are called to.  It’s hard being a world away from those we love, but God just keeps reminding us that he holds us and sustains us, no matter what.   Later in the month, Nate and Nathaniel had to fly to Greece for a couple of weeks to attend some leadership meetings with our missions agency, and Alicia headed back to the US to see her family.  The boys and I stayed here in Arequipa, and I was not a fan of being the only one here!  I was so thankful when all of them landed back in Peru again!

Trying to get a selfie with the waterfall. We aren’t good at selfies.

 

A few shots from our little family get-away

 

Noah learning a little about Greece while Nate was there.

In October, we started prepping for another trip back to the U.S., this time for Nate and Nathaniel to attend the Global Missions Conference in order to do some recruiting.  While they worked on their plans for the conference, continued on in ministry at La Roca, and moved forward with plans for the seminary, the kids and I continued on in homeschool.  We released the tadpoles we had caught and raised, and I took each of the kids on a mother/son date night in order to spend a little non-school time with each of them.  I definitely need to do that more often! We also cheered Peru on as the national team played some qualifying matches for the World Cup.  We cheered for Colombia as well, and invited everyone from church over for the Colombia vs. Peru game.   We were excited when both countries qualified!

Saying goodbye to our little tadpoles froggies.
The Peru vs Colombia World Cup qualifier game. We hosted a viewing party and cheered for both!

In November, we boarded flights for the U.S.  Nate and Nathaniel went to the Global Missions Conference they’d been prepping for.  They had a booth featuring the various work happening in Peru, and they gave a presentation at the conference as well.  They also got the chance to see some of our great friends who were attending the conference, and I was sad I didn’t get to see them, too!  But I was thankful that when Nate flew to the conference, the boys and I flew to Mississippi.  I was so excited to see my sister again and get to spend time with my family!  While we were there, my little sister Janie and her husband announced that they would be moving from Chicago back to Mississippi.   When Nate finished with the conference, he joined us in Mississippi, and we stayed there through the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was one of the sweetest trips back to Mississippi I’ve ever had because it was filled with such intentional family time . But once again, it was really hard to leave at the end of the month.

The “Peru Guys” all set up at the Global Missions Conference!

 

A few pictures from our Thanksgiving trip to Mississippi.

At the beginning of December, we were back in Peru and I pulled all of our Christmas decorations down from the storage room.  I was struggling with preparing myself for the holiday, because I knew I would have a hard time being away from my family this year.  But it wasn’t long before Nate came and told me that my mom had called, and she had offered to fly us back to Mississippi for Christmas if we could manage to get away.  I was so thankful!  The kids and I flew back about a week and a half before Christmas without telling anyone, and we were able to show up and surprise Lacey, who had said that all she wanted for Christmas was her entire family in one place. (Here’s the surprise video.)  Nate finally joined us a couple days before Christmas, and we were all together.   It was a really sweet time with my family, and I was so glad to get to spend the holiday with all of them.

Hiding outside the door to surprise Lacey for Christmas

 

the sisters and brother-in-laws on Christmas day 2017

 

Christmas/NewYears dinner out for the adults before we headed back to Peru

We flew back to Peru on New Years Eve, and we were somewhere over the ocean when we said goodbye to 2017.  To be honest, much of the year was a blur.  I struggled emotionally in a deeper way than I have in a really long time, and I felt like I was split between two completely different worlds.  I feel such a strong calling to missions and to life on the field, but I also felt such a strong pull back to Mississippi for the first time.  It was hard to figure out how to navigate a consistent longing to be back there with my family, while at the same time being convinced that we were supposed to stay right where we were in Peru.  But ultimately, I just felt thankful that God had given us such a peace regarding where we should be.  And I clung to his promises that he’s not just sovereign, but that he is good.  He knows every corner of my heart. He knows every cell in Lacey’s brain and exactly how many seconds she (or any of us) has left.  While this year might have blindsided all of us, it came as no surprise to him, and he will bless us abundantly and show us his mercy and goodness even through this.

The Bonhams ringing in the new year at 35000ft, somewhere between MS and Peru.

And so 2017 was the year that we found out Lacey had brain cancer.  And it was also the year where God showed himself faithful and true and good, yet again.   And he will do it again next year.  And the one after that.  For the rest of eternity.

 

 

 

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Exploring Peru: The Sacred Valley.

Just 2 short weeks after our little trip to Colca Canyon with my parents, our team set off on a trip to Cusco, Peru, and the Sacred Valley which surrounds it.    There are several families with our missions agency who live and serve in Cusco, and Nate and Nathaniel had been there several times in the last couple of years for meetings, but they had always just flown there for the day.  There had never been a good time for all of us to take the kids along, so Alicia and I had never had the chance to see that part of the country.

When an opportunity came up that would require a longer trip to Cusco, it seemed like the perfect time for the whole team to go along.   The new director of our missions agency was coming to visit Peru in September, and they were hoping to get as many of the Peru missionaries together as possible to meet him and attend some seminars he would be leading.  Some of our fellow missionaries were also having their first official service for the new church plant they had been serving in, and they had invited us to attend.  In addition, our teammate Nathaniel needed to finish up some of his meetings and exams for the ordination process and would need to do it in Cusco.    Since all of those things happened to fall within a few days of one another, we decided it would be a great time for all of us to drive out together.

^ can't beat the views on the drive
^ can’t beat the views on the drive.

We rented a house in Urubamba, which is in the Sacred Valley and about an hour from Cusco.  The trip was going to end up being about 10 days long, so we knew we wanted to stay somewhere where the children could run and play without worry, and where Alicia and I could cook meals to save money instead of eating out.    We ended up getting an amazing deal on an incredible house that both of our families could share, and the owner gave us a rate that was better than any of the hotels nearby.  Plus it had a HUGE fenced in yard, perfect for 6 crazy children.    And even though it was a bit of a drive for Nate and Nathaniel whenever they had to drive into Cusco for meetings, it meant that Alicia and I could stay with the kids, prepare our own food, let them play, and not have to worry about being cooped up in a hotel for hours at a time.   It ended up being the perfect set-up.

^ So much green space to run!! That's hard to find in Arequipa.
^ So much green space to run!! That’s hard to find in Arequipa.

We headed out early on a Monday morning, expecting the drive to take us 9 hours or so.   It ended up being 11, because once again, we had to cross over areas of very high altitude, and this time we didn’t fare so well.  We stopped every 20 minutes or so for kids to throw up on the side of the road… and occasionally in the car when we didn’t stop in time.  It was a lovely 11 hours, you can imagine.   Thankfully, the views were incredible, and being surrounded by such beauty made a rough trip into an enjoyable one, all things considered.

^ this view makes a drive full of sick kids a little more peaceful.
^ this view makes a drive full of sick kids a little more peaceful.

We stayed one night in Cusco for Nathaniel to have his meetings and exams, then headed to the house in Urubamba the next day.  The place ended up being perfect!  The kids were still not feeling all that well, so Alicia and I stayed put for several days.  We certainly didn’t want to put them back in the car on those winding roads after all of that!  But since we had such a beautiful place to stay, we didn’t mind a bit.  The kids had plenty of room to play, and Alicia and I sat on the patio enjoying the views of the valley while Nate and Nathaniel attended all of their meetings.

^view from our hotel room in Cusco... then on to Urubamba the next day!
^view from our hotel room in Cusco… then on to Urubamba the next day!

Over the course of the 10 days, we explored the little town of Urubamba as we had time, as well as a bit of Cusco on the days that we had to drive there for various things.  And while it was fairly laid-back trip for the mamas and kiddos, that wasn’t quite the case for Nate and Nathaniel.  They were certainly busy and had a full schedule, but we were all really thankful to get to spend time with some of the other missionaries serving in various parts of Peru with our agency,  with the new agency director, and with our regional director.  Alicia and I were able to go with the guys to a few events, and it was wonderful to catch up with our coworkers here in Peru.  The kids were thankful to get to play with their missionary-kid buddies that they hadn’t seen in awhile, and we were glad to have the chance to go to the very first service of one of our new sister churches here in Peru.

^ the guys enjoying dinner with the new agency director (Far left: Lloyd Kim) and our regional director (Far right: Bill Yarborough)
^ the guys enjoying dinner and discussing ministry with the new agency director (Far left: Lloyd Kim) and our regional director (Far right: Bill Yarborough)
^ dinner and a meeting with the Peru missionaries and some of the people involved in the churches in Cusco
^ dinner and a meeting with the Peru missionaries and some of the people involved in the churches in Cusco
^ we had the privilege to attend the very first worship service of our sister church in Cusco, La Fuente de Gracia.
^ we had the privilege to attend the very first worship service of our sister church in Cusco, La Fuente de Gracia.

At the end of the trip, we had a couple of days for our two families as a team to spend some uninterrupted time working through planning, vision, and goals for the future of our ministry in Arequipa.  (Unless you count interruptions by the kids, in which case we were interrupted about 270 times.)  It nice to dream about future ideas, work through logistics of ministries that we hope to start soon, and spend focused time discussing the vision for our team.  The evenings were spent chatting by the fire, playing a little Catan, and being reminded of how thankful we are for our teammates.

^ preparing a pachamanca... a delicious peruvian meal cooked in a hole in the ground! YUM!
^ preparing a pachamanca… a delicious peruvian meal cooked in a hole in the ground! YUM!

Finally it was time to fill the kids up with anti-nausea medicine and hit the road again.  Thankfully we did a little better on the return trip, but we were all ready to be out of the car when we arrived in Arequipa again.     And even though it was a long drive, it was completely worth it.  The boys are already asking for another trip back to “the Big House!”

^ The sun setting over the sacred valley, as seen from the backyard of The Big House. We can't wait to go back!
^ The sun just starting to set over the sacred valley, as seen from the backyard of The Big House. We can’t wait to go back!

***

Check out a few more picture from our trip.  Hover over the photo for captions, and click for larger view or slideshow viewing.  Enjoy! 

Exploring Peru: Colca Canyon.

In the year and a half that we have lived in Peru, I havn’t had much opportunity to really explore the country.   I have heard how beautiful it is, and I have seen some photos, but I havn’t had the chance to see much of it for myself.  Other than quick trips to Lima (the capital) here and there for visa issues or filing government documents, I haven’t really left our little corner of southern Peru.   All I knew was Arequipa, which is breathtakingly beautiful in its own right, but I was dying to see more.

In August, I finally had the chance.  Twice.  And though I still didn’t really leave southern Peru, I was finally able see a little more than just our little city.

In the middle of the month, my parents came down for a visit, and we decided to take the opportunity to take a couple of days off to visit with them and explore.     We decided to head out to Colca Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons in the world (over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!), and only a 3 hour drive from the city of Arequipa.     We weren’t really sure what to expect or if the kids would enjoy it, but we booked 2 nights at a kid-friendly hotel and headed out.

On the drive there, we had to cross over some areas of pretty high altitude.  We actually hit the 16,000ft mark at one point (which leaves you feeling a little woozy if you’re wondering).

^ The screenshot from Nate's app that was tracking our altitude. 16,000ft is definitely high!
^ The screenshot from Nate’s app that was tracking our altitude. 16,000ft is definitely high!
^ stunning views on the drive
^ stunning views on the drive
^ tunnels through the mountains
^ tunnels through the mountains

We made a stop at a volcano lookout, where 7 volcanos could be seen from one spot, and the kids flipped out over seeing snow.  (They threw a few snowballs at each other, then jumped back in the car because they aren’t really used to anything below about 50 or 60 degrees.)   And of course, there were lots of stops to let the alpacas, vicuñas, sheep, or burros run across the road in front of the car.   At one point it was pigs.  You just never know.

^ please move.
^ please move.

 

^ the kids on "shoo" duty
^ the kids on “shoo” duty… which includes running, jumping, shouting in the road without getting too close.  That last part is important.
^ delayed bc there's a bull fight in the middle of the road. Just another day in Peru.
^ delayed bc there’s a bull fight in the middle of the road. Just another day in Peru.

After coming through the mountains, we descended into the valley and spotted the grounds of our little hotel, which turned out to be an amazing place to stay with kids.  {Comfy beds + hot water with good water pressure + rooms large enough for a family of 5 + a yummy restaurant on-site + kid-friendly staff + GRASS TO RUN IN = a major hit with the Bonhams.}

^ view of our hotel as we were descending into the valley
^ view of our hotel as we were descending into the valley
^ we loved staying here! A great place for the kids to let loose and run.
^ we absolutely cannot wait to go back here again!

They explored the whole place, hiked up to the top of the nearby hills (which they called their “superhero adventure”), and had plenty of space to run.   We headed out the next day to explore the nearby towns and find some natural volcanic hot springs.  We weren’t disappointed!  We found a great spot down inside the valley where we could sit inside the steaming pools with the walls of the canyon rising up around us.

^ the view from the natural volcanic hot springs
^ the view from the natural volcanic hot springs

Our last morning, we drove to the “Cruz del Condor,” where we were able to stand at a lookout at the edge of the canyon and watch the condors soaring overhead.   Andean Condors are the largest flying bird in the world, with wing spans around 10 feet, and they are incredible to watch.

^ condors soaring above the canyon
^ condors soaring above the canyon
^ these birds are amazing!
^ these birds are amazing!

After a couple of fun days exploring the area, we loaded up and headed back to Arequipa.  The trip was short and sweet, and we are hoping that we will get back to Colca again before long!   And now I have my first check on my list of “Peruvian Places to Explore.”

***

Check out a few more picture from our trip.  Hover over the photo for captions, and click for larger view or slideshow viewing.  Enjoy!  And don’t forget to come visit (:

2014.

I am late with this, but that’s par for the course these days.

I never got around to doing a 2013 wrap-up post, and now that I don’t have one to go back and read, I regret it.   I love being able to go back and read bits and pieces of our story whenever I get nostalgic.  So, I want to make sure I get one written for 2014 even if it is February before it is getting posted.  And of course, there’s no way to do it without it being ridiculously long… sorry about that. But I’ll make up for it with plenty of pictures (:

It was a crazy year, but I have a feeling I am going to be able to say that every year for awhile, so I should probably find a more specific descriptor to use.  It was another year of adjusting, transitioning, and figuring out what “normal” is going to look like for us here in Arequipa.  It was another year that pushed and stretched us a lot.  It was full of some really great highs and some really rough lows.  But that also feels like another generic description of a year that was anything but.

So since I can’t figure out how to describe it, here’s the roundup of what went down in 2014.

January.   We started the year on our rooftop at midnight, watching the entire city erupt in color.  Arequipa does New Years right.  {Click here for a video to see what I’m talking about.}  We had been in Arequipa for 2 weeks.  We were still staying in a temporary rental apartment while we hunted for a place to live and a vehicle that didn’t cost a million dollars. (Cars are expensive here.  Although a million might be an exaggeration. Barely.)  We had 3 huge sicknesses back to back that wiped out almost every member of the team, and 2 of those sicknesses were stomach bugs.  There were children vomiting everywhere AT THE SAME TIME.  We finally found houses for ourselves and our teammates, and we all moved in. But we didn’t have any of our stuff that we had shipped from Colombia (mostly clothes and beds bc we had sold everything else).  We were sleeping on the floor of an empty house (my back says NEVER AGAIN. The kids thought it was fun).  But mostly we were just thankful to finally be here and to have a place to live.

^ the day we showed the house to the boys, they were thrilled to find TURBO (the snail) on the roof!  Sadly, he was gone by move-in day.
^ the day we showed the house to the boys, they were thrilled to find TURBO (the snail) on the roof! Sadly, he was gone by move-in day.
^ the view from the rooftop of our house.  We were so excited to move in!
^ the view from the rooftop of our house. We were so excited to move in!

February.   Our container that we had shared with the other 2 families finally arrived…except it was late because it was caught in huge agricultural strike that blocked all the roads.  After two and a half months living out of a couple of suitcases, opening up our boxes felt like Christmas!   We tried to save as much money as we could on furniture, so Nate ended up buying a bunch of lumber and making a good bit of our stuff:  dining table and benches, side tables for the living room, bedside tables, a buffet/island for the kitchen.  There was sawdust everywhere, and then I sanded, stained, and painted everything.  The house was a mess, but we were happy with the results!  We spent the month getting the house set up, exploring our new city, trying to meet new people, visiting various churches around town, learning our way around, and continued hunting for a reasonable vehicle.  {Click here to read our team’s February 2014 newsletter to get caught up.} 

^ checking out the loot from a trip to the fish market
^ checking out the loot from a trip to the fish market
^ the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city
^ the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city

March.   With the beginning of March brought the beginning of preschool in spanish.  The boys began 3 days a week, which meant 3 days a week of homework help for me.   The “school” part wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped, but the spanish boost it gave to the twins was worth it.   Nate started classes again as well. The car-hunt continued, hopelessly, and the guys (Nate, Nathaniel, and Josh) finally decided to take a trip to Lima, where there is more selection and the prices are a bit lower.  They found and purchased cars and drove them back, which took 17 hours on some rough roads.     We found out from the US government that Luís’ citizenship had been denied due to us living outside the country and they sent him a green card instead and said we would have to come back to the US to finalize everything. Noah came down with Tonsillitis and was the sickest I’ve ever seen him, and I braved a pediatrician’s office in spanish for the first time.  We continued visiting churches and making ministry contacts.  My parents took their first visit to Peru!  We participated in a Leadership Assessment with our missions agency and were encouraged by the results.  {Click here to read our March 2014 newsletter, which was a quarterly “Family Update,” to get caught up!}

^ the boys on their first day of preschool
^ the boys on their first day of preschool
^ showing my parents around Arequipa
^ showing my parents around Arequipa

During those first few months, we also surprisingly dealt with culture shock all over again.  I thought there would be some, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be intense again.  But Peru is different from Colombia.  And though there are some similarities, there was still a heavy adjustment period.  Thankfully this time we could get by with spanish, which helped tremendously.  But we also had the added difficulty of not knowing anyone, whereas there was already a team on the ground when we moved to Colombia.   I also struggled with a lot of loneliness the first few months.  (I still do occasionally.)   And even though we had our small team here, whom I love dearly and am very close to, being constantly surrounded by strangers is difficult, and it weighed on me.  Plus, Luís struggled a lot with the move. He had only been with us 5 months at that point, and was still at the height of initial transition in many ways.  He regressed a bit and was very anxious, and it took some time for him to settle back in.  All of those things combined with Nate’s initial busyness to get us settled made for an intense few months.

market20

market16

aqp around town 4

market

April.  We started the month with a bang.  Or a shake, rather.  Our first “big” earthquake happened on April 1st, another big one on the 2nd, and I was a bit jittery for a few days following.   But it wasn’t long before getting shaken up became kind of normal!  Small quakes are pretty common.  The boys continued in school and Nate continued in class.  We began visiting a new church (the one we are a part of now) and began developing relationships with the small congregation there.  Nate started getting together with a few Peruvian guys to learn Andino music and practice spanish.  He took a trip to Cusco (another city in Peru) to visit other missionaries there.  We experienced our first Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Peru.  Our landlady taught me a bit of Peruvian cooking.  Luís started speech therapy.  Our teammates Nathaniel and Alicia began preparing for their trip back to the US for their son’s skull surgery, and we hugged them goodbye on the 28th. {Click here to read our team’s April 2014 newsletter to get caught up}

^ Nate and the guys practicing Andino music in my living room
^ Nate and the guys practicing Andino music in my living room
^ torta de choclo... So glad I learned how to make this because it is AMAZING!
^ torta de choclo… So glad I learned how to make this because it is AMAZING!
^ Making salt dough volcanos!
^ Making salt dough volcanos!

May.  I celebrated my 30th birthday, which just felt weird.  But in a good way, I think.   Much of the month was spent in preparation for a quick trip back to the States in June.   We needed to go back to the US to work on Luís’ citizenship issues, plus we needed to update some of our US paperwork/IDs and needed some specific medical checkups.   Trying to make arrangements for everything we would be doing for those couple of weeks took us a lot more time than we expected!  May was an admin-heavy month, for sure.  But we also had the chance to host several different families in our home for meals and to get to know them better.  The team was also invited to participate in a youth ministry up in the north of the city, and Nate started attending and getting to know the kids.  Nate’s mom came down at the end of the month to see Arequipa and help me travel back to the states with the kids while Nate stayed in Peru for a few extra days.  {Click here to read our team’s May 2014 newsletter to get caught up}

^ at the boys' favorite park
^ at the boys’ favorite park
^ silly boys
^ silly boys
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^ homemade bows and arrows from stuff we found in the park

 

June.  On June 3, the twins turned 4 (THEY ARE GETTING TOO BIG!), and we boarded a US-bound plane that same night.   The boys were excited to get an airplane ride for their birthday! We made it to Mississippi the next morning and began 3 whirlwind weeks of seeing people we love, updating a few churches about our ministry here, and doing a lot of government and medical appointments.   I wrote about the boys’ impressions of Mississippi, and about the specifics of our trip on the blog.  In short, it was both WONDERFUL and EXHAUSTING.  As much as we enjoyed it, we were ready to get back to “life” and sleep in our own beds by the end! {Click here to read our June 2014 newsletter, which was a quarterly “Family Update,” to get caught up}

^ we had sweet time in Chattanooga with Nate's family
^ we had sweet time in Chattanooga with Nate’s family
^ this crew spent every waking second together
^ this crew spent every waking second together
^ my beautiful sisters
^ my beautiful sisters
^ My family.  I miss them every single day.
^ My family. I miss them every single day.

**a couple of summary side-notes: During this second quarter of the year, I entered another phase… I still struggled with intense  loneliness, but things were settling more at home and I was having the chance to breathe a little more.  I had moved into a phase of anxiousness to get the ball rolling.  I wanted to be busy with ministry, to be making friends, to be active in things going on in Arequipa.  The process of observing and learning and praying and waiting to see which doors the Lord would open for ministry was so difficult for me!  I knew that the first year needed to go slow so that we could make wise decisions, but being patient was hard.  I began praying fervently for Peruvian friends, and I asked several others to pray with me.  I was lonely, but I was also very confident that the Lord was working here, and that he was laying the groundwork for building community, which also made me hopeful and excited.

AQP Misti Panorama

July.  We jumped back into things head-first after arriving back in Arequipa at the end of June, excited about the small ministry possibilities we were seeing.  We had been refreshed and refueled on our trip, and we were excited about the possibilities we were beginning to see take shape here in Arequipa.  Nate became more and more involved with the local youth ministry, and our team accepted the invitation of the small church we were attending to officially partner with them for ministry.  We were excited about where things were heading.  Nate took a trip to Cusco to help them with the building of an orphanage, and a few of the guys from church went with him to help.  Luís also started speech therapy and psychomotor therapy sessions at a new therapy center that has proven to be AMAZING. We also had a LOT of celebrating  — July 4th, Nate’s 30th birthday, Luís’ “Family Day” and 1 year anniversary of meeting him,  Luís’ 5th birthday, and Peruvian Independence Day.  {Click here to watch our July 2014 video update to get caught up!}

^ one year home with our sweet boy
^ one year home with our sweet boy
^ outskirts of Arequipa
^ outskirts of Arequipa

August.  This was around the time I started thinking of making some changes for the boys concerning school, so much of August (for me) was spent researching options and making plans.  We continued investing in and being a part of the little church we had partnered with, and Nate’s music group, “Jesus El Verbo,” performed for the first time.  The pastor who had been running the youth ministry left for seminary in Brazil and asked our team to take over during his absence, so Nate was excited to invest more fully in that as well.  We celebrated “Arequipa Day,” which was more chaotic than we had expected (:  Nate and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary on the 21st.  10 YEARS!  My sweet grandfather fell and wasn’t able to fully recover in the following weeks, and on the night of August 23rd, we received the call that he had passed away.  I threw clothes in a bag and boarded a plane the next day so that I could be there for the funeral to say goodbye, and Nate stayed in Peru with the boys.  It was a difficult, emotional, and yet very sweet time, and I am so thankful I was able to be there.  I was in Mississippi for about 48 hours, then my mom and I traveled together back to Peru.  Months earlier, Nate and I had booked an trip for our 10 year anniversary, and my mom had planned to keep the kids while we were gone.  I was back in Arequipa for about 24 hours, then Nate and I got on a plane and left for our trip to meet Kelly (my best friend) and her husband who were also celebrating 10 years.  We spent a week with them on a cruise boat, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much we savored the down time!  It was Nate’s and my first get-away since before we left for the field, which means we’ve had 2 international moves and an adoption since then.  A vacation with our best friends was just what we needed! {Click here to read our team’s August 2014 newsletter to get caught up!} 

^ letter practice
^ letter practice
^ the last picture I took with my sweet grandfather when I went back in June.
^ the last picture I took with my sweet grandfather when I went back in June.
^ sailing with this group was amazing.
^ sailing with this crew was amazing. Best trip ever.
^ Happy anniversary! 10 wonderful years with my favorite (:
^ Happy anniversary! 10 wonderful years with my favorite (:

September.  We came back from the anniversary trip and Nate had about 6 days at home before he was gone again, this time to Cambodia for a leaders’ conference with our missions agency.  He traveled about 42 hours each way, then dealt with jet lag, so he was exhausted by the end of it!   I started some preliminary homeschooling work with the boys just to get them used to the idea, and they finished up their last few weeks of preschool.  Josh and Emily announced their plans to transition back to the states.  We as a team got busy working on all of the things that the transition entailed for all of us.  Nate continued on with more involvement in the church and the youth ministry, and our relationships with the little congregation we were serving continued to deepen.

^ the desert surrounding Arequipa
^ the desert surrounding Arequipa
^ Nate sharing about his Cambodia trip with our church
^ Nate sharing about his Cambodia trip with our church

October.  It was an exciting and a difficult month, all in one.   We headed to the Dominican Republic for our agency’s regional retreat, which is held once every 4 years.  We were able to catch up with other missionary friends that we hadn’t seen in years and sit under excellent teaching.   It was a great time for encouragement and motivation in ministry, and we were so thankful for the chance to spend time with so many of our friends and mentors.   We were also reunited with Nathaniel and Alicia!  After 6 months in the states for their son’s big surgery, they were able to meet us in the DR for the retreat and then head back to Peru with us afterwards.   But we also had to say goodbye to Emily and the kids, as they headed back to the States directly from the retreat, and Josh finished out another week or two in Peru before heading back to the States to meet his family.  I bawled my eyes out.   After the retreat, the boys and I started officially homeschooling and Luís continued to make excellent progress with therapy.  I started classes a few days a week to give me a spanish boost.  Nate and I had to make multiple trips back and forth to Lima to get our residency figured out, and we welcomed a sweet puppy named Lucy to the family, which meant lots of long nights at first (:  {Check out our team’s October 2014 newsletter to get caught up}

^ I was so thankful for time spent with good friends at the retreat, especially with Esta! I miss living in the same city with her, now that we have both moved away from Bogota.
^ I was so thankful for time spent with good friends at the retreat, especially with Esta! I miss living in the same city with her, now that we have both moved away from Bogota.
^ Nate napping with a teensy tiny Lucy.  This arrangement wouldn't work these days!  She's huge now!
^ Nate napping with a teensy tiny Lucy. This arrangement wouldn’t work these days! She’s huge now!

^ Lucy

November.  November was busy as Nate and Nathaniel jumped into a few different ministry opportunities in the church and in the city.  They were invited to lead a few different things at church, and they were both asked to preach.  They were also asked to help with some counseling situations, and soon began counseling weekly.   I jumped into the ladies ministry at church, continued helping out in other ministries where I could, and continued homeschooling the boys.  I taught my first women’s bible study in spanish!  In order to balance ministry, homeschooling, language study, and just general home maintenance and cooking (which takes longer here than in the States),  I hired a sweet peruvian lady who helps me a few hours a week with whatever I need (house things, cooking, keeping the kids, etc), and also helps me with spanish.  She has proved to be an immense blessing to us and a sweet friend, and is quickly turning into the boys’ peruvian grandmother!    Nate’s mom came to visit for thanksgiving, and she helped Alicia and me to pull off an amazing thanksgiving dinner!  {Click here to read our team’s November 2014 newsletter to get caught up}

^we put the tree up!
^we put the tree up!
^ Mammaw came to visit!
^ Mammaw came to visit!
^ I wasn't sure what to do when we got to this part of Thanksgiving dinner prep...
^ I wasn’t sure what to do when we got to this part of Thanksgiving dinner prep…
^ Nate preaching in spanish for the first time since we moved to Arequipa
^ Nate preaching in spanish at our church for the first time.

December.  A nasty flu swept through the family at the beginning of the month and wiped out 4 of us (not Luís… he never catches anything here!).  We were in the bed for awhile, and we were very thankful when it was over!  But we didn’t have much down time, because December proved to be an exceptionally busy month.  We hosted 3 big Christmas parties (one for the church, one for the youth ministry & its surrounding community, and one for our neighbors).  Alicia and I were so tired of cooking by the end of it!  But all 3 events went even better than we had hoped.   We helped plan the Christmas service at our church, where Nate was able to preach the Christmas message, and I participated in the Christmas pageant that the women’s ministry put on.    We spent Christmas even drinking hot chocolate on our rooftop watching the amazing fireworks display at midnight.  On Christmas morning we celebrated together as a family, and in the evening all together as a team with a delicious Christmas dinner.  My parents arrived for a visit on the 30th, and we were excited to finish out the holidays with them.  {Click here to read our team’s December 2014 newsletter, which is our quarterly “Family Update,” to get caught up}

^ The Christmas Service - Nate preaching and performing with the Andino music group, me dressed up with Juana for the pageant
^ The Christmas Service – Nate preaching and performing with the Andino music group, me dressed up with Juana for the pageant
^ me with two sweet friends from our church
^ me with two sweet friends from our church
^ new Christmas Eve jammies!
^ new Christmas Eve jammies!

Over the course of the month of December, the pastor of our small church made the decision to step down to handle some personal matters, and the congregation met and voted unanimously to invite Nate and Nathaniel to be their pastors.  After a lot of time spent in prayer and seeking wise counsel, they accepted, with plans to take on their new roles at the first of the new year.

AQP Panorama

And so we ended the year the same way we started:  sitting on our rooftop, watching the city erupt in fireworks…a little exhausted, looking back over the craziness of the year we’d just walked through, and extremely excited at the opportunities the Lord was bringing for the year to come.

Cartagena.

When we made our plans for our quick, 3-day trip to Miami for Luís’ citizenship, passport, and our visa renewals, we decided to take a little detour on our way back to Bogotá.  Instead of flying straight home afterwards, we made a stopover in Cartagena for a few days, which is a beautiful Colombian city on the Atlantic/Caribbean coast.  For the entire year that we’ve been here, we have heard over and over again, “you HAVE to visit Cartagena before you leave.”   And since Nate and I knew that our little family desperately needed to have some quality down-time together for some really intentional bonding, we thought the opportunity was too perfect to pass up.

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia
our view
our view

We booked a stocked apartment since it was cheaper than a hotel, plus it meant we could cook instead of eating out. (With a house full of kids this age, can you blame me?! Restaurants are NOT FUN right now.)   We spent several days exploring the cool walled city, splashing in the pool, and playing at the beach.  The kids LOVED it, and it proved to be just what they needed… a little bit of casual, laid-back FUN that they could experience together, as brothers.

the boys wading in the ocean
the boys wading in the ocean

We skipped a few naps, stayed out late doing fun things, and wore the boys completely out in the hot Cartagena sunshine.  They played hard and slept harder, and for the first time in 2+ months, Nate and I looked at each other and said, “this feels almost normal again.”  It was good, and we needed it.

DSC_0885

I was a bit worried about the whole Miami/Cartagena trip for Luís’ sake, because the only other time he’s been on a plane or to a new place was when we met him and took him away from his entire life as he knew it.  I was afraid that some anxiety and panic would bubble up, that sleeping in a new place might make him uneasy, and that he might be afraid it was all going to happen again.   But I also felt confident that being able to spend some intentional, undistracted time as a family unit, away from class and work and other responsibilities, would probably be good for us in the long run.  I prayed consistently before our trip that the Lord would ease any fear that might arise in Luís and that he would be confidently secure in his place in our family, despite another plane ride, meeting new people, and another new place to adjust to (even if only for a few days).

The Lord answered that prayer a million times over, and we were amazed at how well Luís adjusted to traveling.  I think he’s going to fit pretty well into this crazy lifestyle we’ve been called to!

exploring a fort and up to no good
exploring a fort and up to no good

In the short week and a half that we’ve been home since that trip, I can already see a difference in the way the boys are bonded to each other, and in the way that Luís is bonded to us.   It seems like he trusts us a little more.  The boys all laugh together a little harder.  Bedtimes have been a little easier.  A little more tenderness has emerged.  I see more and more glimpses of the “real” Luís starting to make an appearance.

Seeing a new, beautiful part of Colombia was good.  Seeing a new, beautiful part of my family was even better.

DSC_0931

{To see the full photo album from our trip to Cartagena, please click here!}

Official.

Believe it or not, we’re nearing the 3 month mark since Luís joined our family.  3 MONTHS.  I’m not sure how that happened.

For the first 2 months, we had legal custody of Luís, but he wasn’t technically our son yet.  We were waiting for the judge to review our case and sign the adoption decree, and we came back to Bogotá for several weeks while we waited.  (Benefit of adopting from the same country we serve in:  We spent the waiting period in OUR OWN HOUSE rather than 2 months in a hotel in an unfamiliar country!)  We got the phone call late on Friday night, August the 30th, that the judge had signed the decree and all they needed was our signature for him to be ours.  Nate got off the phone and immediately booked the first ticket out to Cali, Colombia for Monday morning.

So on September 2, Labor Day, Nate signed the adoption decree and Luís became a Bonham.  For real.  Forever.

(Well, technically he became a “Bonham Travis,” because that’s the way they do it here in Colombia.  He automatically got my maiden name tacked on the end.)

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^ The document that made it real.

But of course, that wasn’t the end of it.  He was a Bonham, but he wasn’t able to leave Colombia yet or enter the US yet.   We still had to go through the US immigration process with the US embassy here in Colombia before he could get the appropriate visa to leave Colombia and enter the States to become a citizen.   So we spent a couple of weeks carting him around to doctors visits, medical tests, embassy interviews, passport appointments, and more while we checked off our to-do list.  He was a trooper through most of it, despite missed naps, long days in offices, and a whole lot of paperwork.

^ sleepy kid passed out on my lap after yet another long day of appointments
^ sleepy kid passed out on my lap after yet another long day of appointments

We finished the process and were approved to take Luís back to the US for his citizenship.   We flew out early on September 24th, and when we landed in Miami that afternoon, the customs guy stamped Luís’ visa and that was it – He’s an American!

^ Somebody's happy to be America's newest citizen, just after getting his visa stamped and making it official!
^ Somebody’s happy to be America’s newest citizen, just after getting his visa stamped and making it official!

We stayed in Miami for a couple extra days to get an American passport for Luís, update Nate’s passport, and renew my and the twins’ visas for Colombia.  We also did a little shopping for things we’ll need in Peru (since we won’t be back in the States again before we move), and Luís got to meet 3 of his grandparents.

^ meeting Nanny and Mammaw
^ meeting Nanny and Mammaw

It was a quick trip with a whole lot packed into 2 very short days, but we got it all done and hopped on a plane back to Colombia, with our newest little American in tow!

And that’s it.  Other than some post-adoption follow-up appointments to see how the bonding is going, we are done with the process.  He’s ours.  After 2 and a half years, we’re done with the adoption to-do list…and it’s finally sinking in.

Now we can focus 100% of our attention on the bonding and attachment process, which of course, is a whole different ballgame (:

Three.

I have three-year-olds.  What?

I mean, didn’t this JUST happen?

Month 1 -- 6-3-10 thru 7-3-10

How in the world did we go from this:

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To this??

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I don’t know, but I sure am loving the process.

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 Happy Birthday, boys.  Thanks for making the past 3 years of my life even more exciting, adventurous, chaotic, and crazy than they already were.  You add a big dose of silliness to my everyday (…even on days when I’m exactly not looking for it…) and a new dimension of joy to our family that makes me cherish the “little years.”  There’s nothing I love more than slobbery, sticky kisses from the two handsomest little charmers I know.

I love watching you grow up.    I love being your mama.   I love how much you love me back.   And I know I am going to love whatever craziness Year Number 4 brings.

March Instagram Roundup

Since I can’t take my good camera all over Bogotá with me for fear of it getting snatched, I have started taking alot more pictures with my phone.  And since posting on Instagram is much easier than posting it on the blog or facebook, that’s where most of my photos end up these days.

Here’s a roundup of last month’s photos: (click to view larger)

[see all my instagram photos here]

Three million pictures, two months, one post…Go!

Can I just say that it is HARD to get the time and brain-power to write from here?  I don’t know why that is, but let me just say that I have major respect for the missionary mamas out there who can blog consistently from the field.  My hat is off to you ladies, because I am someone who loves to write, and somehow it still escapes me.

Maybe it’s all the language-learning, or the constantly changing routine, or the growing kids, or something else all together, but my days get away from me almost as fast as my energy does.  I’m going to have to find a way to remedy this.  If you have any tips, send them my way.

So in true Bonham fashion as of late, here’s yet another fire-hydrant style update from our family in Colombia.  It’s long, but don’t worry…I’ll include LOTS of pictures (:

First, I’ll back up a bit.   Christmas was good…. weird, but good.  It was definitely strange being away from our families over the holidays for the first time in our lives, but we expected that.  We had a pretty low-key day; we let the boys open the little gifts we got them, made a big breakfast, skyped with our families, made homemade tomato-basil soup for lunch (YUM), and got lots of time to rest.   We will probably do a few things a little different next year, but it was good to start creating traditions for our little family, all on our own.

my three favorites on Christmas morning
^ my three favorites on Christmas morning
the bobbleheads digging through their stockings
^ the bobbleheads digging through their stockings
trying out their instruments and hard hats
^ trying out their instruments and hard hats
my three boys whipping up a big christmas morning breakfast
^ my three boys whipping up a big christmas morning breakfast
^ snuggling on the couch, watching a christmas movie while waiting to video-chat with the family
^ snuggling on the couch, watching a christmas movie while waiting to video-chat with the family
^ ending the night with glow-sticks in the playroom
^ ending the night with glow-sticks in the playroom

The next night, my parents and little sister came to visit!  My dad and sister stayed for 5 days, and my mom stayed for just under 2 weeks.   We took them around town and showed them the sights, including Monserrate, which has the best views of this massive city.  We got some great pictures from the day:

Barrett Monserrate
^ Silly little Bear… not sure what funky thing he’s doing with his hands.
Bonhams Monserrate
^ Amazing view
Bonhams Travis Monserrate
^ family picture! my sister Janie, the Bonhams, and my parents
Nikki Nate Monserrate
^ love him (:
Noah Monserrate
^ My sweet little Noah
An amazing view of an amazing city
^ An amazing view of an amazing city

It was a fun day of getting to see Bogotá from a whole new perspective.  This city is HUGE, and I never really appreciated its size until I could see it from above.

We also showed my family a few other cool parts of the city and spent lots of time playing with the boys.  Mom painted for me while she was here, and by the time she left I had a beautiful piece of art to hang on my bare white walls.

the artist at work, and the finished product
^ the artist at work, and the finished product

The next week was spent interviewing potential niñeras and spanish professors.   We lost our sweet niñera, Adriana, the week before Christmas because her commission-based side job (a direct sales business) offered her a full-time salaried position.  I was sad to see her go, but excited about her new job and the awesome benefits that would come with it.  And thankfully, she still comes to visit often and will continue to be a great friend here in Bogotá.   (She randomly dropped by tonight, as a matter of fact!)   So we started over again, interviewing new ladies for the position.

We found an awesome professor named Clara who has been teaching both english and spanish for 25 years, and she REALLY knows her stuff!

Clara
^ Clara

She keeps us on our toes, and we are learning so quickly with her method of teaching.   She was also able to give us a much better class schedule, which allows me more time to study, more time at home with the boys, and more time for conversational practice with our new niñera, which boosts my spanish all the more.

The new niñera that we found is amazing as well.  God keeps blessing us with awesome (although over-qualified) niñeras, and this one is no different….except that we hope that she won’t have any other job offers in the meantime!!   Her name is Hilda, and she has been such a blessing to us.   She loves the Lord and loves my children — two things that make my heart happy!  The boys love her, and I have really enjoyed our growing friendship as well.  We spend about an hour drinking coffee and talking (in spanish) every morning before I go study, so she has become an excellent language partner for me.  She is quick to correct my grammar and pronunciation mistakes, which is exactly what I need!   And since she is a friend of Emily’s niñera, Nury, the two of them get together every morning with all the kids and take them to the park.  So the kids get to play with their buddies every single morning while I study spanish.  It’s a perfect fit!

Hilda
^ Hilda

The week after we hired Clara and Hilda, we had the privilege of hosting 3 pastors from Bolivia for a few days.  They were in Bogotá to meet with some pastors and learn more about the church here, and we were excited to have them stay with us.  It was an intense weekend for Nate, because he had to operate in spanish almost 100% of the time since he accompanied them to almost all of their events all weekend.  But he enjoyed it and was able to form some great relationships with them that we hope will prove to be lasting.  One of the guys had some travel issues when he was going home, and ended up getting stranded in Bogotá for an extra 6 days.  He ended up staying with us while we got it worked out, and we were able to enjoy several more days of his company.  It was a great week for building cross-cultural relationships AND building our spanish!

^ our last evening with our new friends
^ our last evening with our new friends, Boris, René, and Nicolas

About a week later, Nate left for Peru with the other guys of the apprenticeship program for 9 days.  It was my first time being alone in Colombia while Nate traveled, so my sweet mama flew down to hang out with me while he was gone.  I didn’t have to twist her arm too much to come hang out with her favorite grandtwins.  My best friend Kelly was supposed to be coming down during that time as well, but something important came up at home, and she had to postpone her trip at the last minute.  I was bummed that she wasn’t going to be able to make it.  But little did I know that my big sister had booked a ticket on the same flight!  It was an AWESOME surprise, and I was so excited to spend 5 days showing her around the city.   Having Lacey and Mom here definitely made the time without Nate a little more bearable.  (Lacey wrote several posts about the trip on her blog — click to see posts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).  Mom also did another awesome painting for my walls while she was here.

Girls (plus the twins) weekend in Bogotá!
^ Girls (plus the twins) weekend in Bogotá!
the next masterpiece... a Colombian Bird of Paradise
^ the next masterpiece by my mom… a Colombian Bird of Paradise for my dining room

Lacey left after a couple of days, then Nate returned from Peru, and Mom left the next day.  That next week, we prepared for a new family to join our apprenticeship program and two other families to join the long-term Colombia team.   The Jesch, Lupton, an Aschmann families have all landed in Bogotá, and we are so happy to have them here!  We got to know the Jesch and Lupton families during our month living in NYC for training, so it was a happy reunion.  The Jesch’s are part of the same apprenticeship program that we’re in, so we will be seeing LOTS of them!  We have tried to help them get settled into their new city as best as we can, because we remember all too well the stress surrounding the big move!

The current members of apprenticeship program... LtoR - Gary Waldecker (bossman), Kines, Jesch, Bonham, and Gutierrez families
^ The current members of apprenticeship program… LtoR – Gary Waldecker (bossman), Kines, Jesch, Bonham, and Gutierrez families
All the folks in Bogotá with our agency! There are 39 of us now, including kids.  We are growing!
^ All the folks in Bogotá with our agency! There are 39 of us now, including kids. We are growing!

In the midst of all of this, we’ve been steadily studying spanish and trying to do as much as possible to keep our adoption process moving forward with our most recent homestudy amendment.   The language learning is moving along, as is the adoption process, and we hope to see major strides in both this year.

Whew. It’s been 2 busy months. I always say “it’s probably about to slow down a bit,” but we’ve been here for more than 5 months and it hasn’t happened yet.  So I’m not going to say that this time.  So here’s to another month or two of craziness, and here’s hoping I’ll have the brainpower to write it all down.