Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holding out hope

We received our approval letter for our I800a on November 20th. Glad that there were no RFE's - or errors this time! I emailed Chareyl the next day and she had already received their notification and sent it off to Haiti (wahoo for that). I have been particularly emotional about not having a referral going into the holidays. I remember last year at this time feeling really hopeful that we might get a referral anytime. *sigh*

For some reason I had really been hoping to see our little girl's face (at least in a picture with our referral) before my 40th birthday which is in less than 3 weeks. I've given up hope for that happening, but am still hoping that maybe we'll get a final payment request by the end of the year??...which would mean that a referral would follow soon thereafter.

Sometimes I feel foolish continuing to hope for something to happy by a certain time (because it's been blown out of the water time and time again). I do trust that it will happen when it is supposed to, and that the Lord's timing is perfect. I also just need to hold out hope for something to keep my spirits up. So, for now I'm hoping for SOME sort of news to be my Christmas miracle this year.

On another note! A couple days before we received our I800a approval letter we had the chance to attend a nice dinner prepared by a Haitian chef! We were able to enjoy it with another couple that is also adopting from Haiti. They are at the very beginning of the process, still receiving their initial approvals. It was really nice to get to know Brooke and Greg. They were a lot to fun to chat with and enjoy this special meal with together.

A little bit about the meal...Chef Roody Salvator of Makaya Catering lived in Haiti until he was about 21. He shared with us about his humble upbringing and introduction to cooking. When each course was served he gave a bit of information about what Haitian influence was involved with that dish...if it was based on something in Haiti, if Haitian spices were used, etc. I got the chicken (on polenta) which was super tasty...

I didn't take a picture of the soup or salad (both were good)...but I especially LOVED the soup. Mmmm. Here is a picture of the dessert though. It was caramelized plantains and ice cream with a special sauce to pour over it. Delicious!...

I regret that I don't have a better photo, but entertainment was provided by the lovely Marj Desuis. She had a fabulous percussionist also, but I don't remember his name. I remember Marj's name because I have followed a bit about her online over the last nearly 2 years. She, also being Haitian, was the entertainment for the formal gala fundraiser I was heavily involved with for Haitian roots in the spring of 2016. Because I was running the auction that had just closed I wasn't able to be over by the entertainment when she performed though and didn't get to hear her at all (which I was really sad about). So! This was a great, more intimate setting to be able to relax and enjoy her talent! Her music can be purchase on iTunes also :)

Lastly, here is a picture of Chef Roody Salvator. He was quite charming and has an amazing culinary talent. Here's to hoping we can attend another pop-up dinner of his soon! Because his business is a catering service he doesn't own his own restaurant, so this dinner was held at Eggs in the City (normally only open during the daytime, so it was perfect). Looking forward to see what Roody creates for us next time!! Maybe by then I'll have happy news of my own from Haiti. I'm holding out hope.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kind-of updates

On October 12th I received an email that our I800a application had been received on the 6th (which I knew because of my tracking info). All it really said is that an official letter stating the same thing would be received in 7-10 days. I got that letter yesterday (the 17th) and am now just crossing my fingers that our fingerprint appointment is here very soon. Our I800a expires in 2 weeks and fingerprint appointments are often scheduled that far out or more. I just am dying to know if there will be any lapse in our I800a which is what allows us to accept a referral.

We don't have any reason to believe that our referral is pending any day, but I think I'm extra on edge knowing that Chareyl (our adoption facilitator) is in Haiti now. I wonder if she's finding anything out about our file? Will she have news for us? Will she (knowingly or unknowingly) see/hold our child?

AAAAARGH. I just want to know the things. I want to move on from this stuck stage of waiting and wondering and want to see our child's face and know anything about her. So, when I'm feeling that way extra - I feel extra protective about making sure that I do everything I can to be sure that an expired document won't stand between that and us.

You know what...I'm going to call USCIS now and see if our file has been passed on to a case worker yet. The letter said they would receive it 10-14 days after our application was initially received. Today is 13 days. I'm calling. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to "refresh" our fingerprints this time instead of needing an appointment, and maybe they'll be able to give me any information. ANYTHING!...calling now.

Done calling. Well, I got a helpful person on the phone but not great news. She said that they have our file, but that our file hasn't been assigned to a case worker yet and that once it has they anticipate 4-6 weeks for approval if everything is perfectly in order. So, we'll likely have at least a month of lapse in coverage.

She said that they only refresh fingerprints on the 1st free extension (which we've already done) or if we have an approved I800 (which happens after we are matched). So, we'll definitely have to go in and do fingerprinting...and she said those are scheduling out 2-3 weeks. I said that hopefully everything is in order with our application, but asked if there was a need for an RFE do they wait to schedule the fingerprinting appointment until that is satisfied (so we aren't waiting another month after the RFE is fulfilled) and she said sometimes, but not always. She said that depends on how the caseworker likes to handle it. The reasoning behind that is that if it takes 2 months to satisfy the RFE then that is 2 months of time "lost" on fingerprints, so it's seen as a favor to the applicant not to go ahead and run those before approval is ready.

It looks like I'll want to call again in a few days and talk to our assigned case worker and feel things out. Best case scenario if he/she says that everything is in order and that our approval will be complete upon receipt of fingerprints...and that she'll be sending out fingerprint appointments right away...that would be next week at the earliest before I'd get our appointment, then at least 2 weeks later to do our fingerprints. So at least a month from now at the SOONEST before we could get approval. Possibly longer even if things go smoothly, and definitely longer if they issue an RFE for current background checks. I'm so frustrated and sad. Sounds like a minimum 2-4 week period where we will be ineligible to receive a referral for the first time in several years of waiting. And of course this happens at a time where it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that a referral could come in the near future.

I guess there is nothing else that I can do right now. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fingers crossed

That's me right after handing over our I800a renewal application (and home study) to the FedEx lady. I overnighted that sucker to arrive by 10am tomorrow. Let's get this show on the road!

So, there are back-logs for the background check process (which we need in order to complete our home we could mail it off with our I800a renewal). We have to do state, federal and child abuse registry annually. Normally it takes 2 weeks and it is taking 9+ weeks currently. The delays would have put us getting those background checks finished after our I800a would have expired. Leaving a lapse in approval the entire time we applied with USCIS and redid our fingerprinting.

My agency agreed to go ahead and finalize our home study so we could send it off to apply for our I800a since our background checks are actually currently valid until December. Our new background checks will be in well before that so our agency is still complying with keeping those current. The question is whether USCIS will look at our home study (submitted with our renewal application) and say, ", your background checks expire too soon" and submit an RFE (request for evidence). We would be able to satisfy that RFE, but that would result in a period of lapse for our I800a approval and therefor a period where we are ineligible to accept a referral of a child.

Sidenote - we applied to have our background checks expedited and were denied (since they don't expire until December), but they reconsidered based on our circumstances...however with them being expedited they were estimating them being done in 3 weeks. At least if we get an RFE we'll have quick turn around being able to satisfy it I guess. Hopefully if that happens USCIS is still willing to submit our fingerprint appointment while they wait for that to be satisfied so we aren't waiting on that afterward too. *sigh*

So!! The fingers are crossed that they don't care about the upcoming fingerprint expiration that is written in the home study and that they go ahead and submit our fingerprinting appointment (I'll never understand why we have to physically go in and re-do those)...and that we get our I800a renewed before November 2nd when it expires.

I'm also crossing my fingers that we get our referral SOON dang it! We're nearly 26 months officially registered with IBESR in Haiti, and almost 3 years into the Haitian adoption process (not 2 mention the 2 years with Ethiopia before that). We are ready to see her face!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

5 years ago today.

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to post today. The only things I can update about are long and boring: paperwork, updates, denied expedite request, pending expirations, backlogs, judge strikes, blah...blah...blah.

However, 5 years ago today we took our first concrete step in this adoption journey and submitted our preliminary application to our first adoption agency. We were "only" with them for 2 years before needing to change to our current agency and switching to Haiti, but that day was like a commitment for us in my mind. After lots of research and prayer we felt like we were on the path we needed to be on to complete our family. I still think that.

I am a woman of faith. Sometimes I may feel like I'm not as strong as I should be, but I do believe that God loves me and listens to my pleadings regarding my family. I believe that He answers my prayers and guides me. I also believe that I may not always be able to see or understand His timing or His way of doing things. But that doesn't mean it isn't perfect. Not just because He is perfect, but because His love for me is. I know that He wants what is best for me, for our family, and for our future daughter. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to look back on this long, twisty, roller-coaster ride that officially started 5 years ago now...and I wonder if I'll see answers to some of those why's. Or will I not be able to see any answers to why, but just feel right-ness of it all?

At the beginning of this year this year I committed to focus on trying to replace my fear with faith. I have often times fallen short. Very short. But I do have faith that we are where we need to be on this journey right now. I would be lying if I said that I was ok with not being further down the road by this point, but I do believe that we are where we need to be and that He knows who our child is even if we don't. And the beautiful thing is...because He knows who she is and her needs, I can pray for her and He can succor her. He can find someone else to hold her and to comfort her for now. He can use someone else to feed her for now. He can guide the complex maze of paperwork that will eventually link us together. And He will bring her home to her family when the time is right. Now if I can just replace all my worries with faith in the meantime...and hold onto hope until the day that I can be the one He blesses to hold her, to feed her, and to comfort her.

Until then my prayers are for those who are caring for our child, for her first family in whatever they are suffering, for those running her orphanage, for our adoption facilitator, for each set of hands that is progressing our paperwork in both countries, and for my heart to be still as I ache to see her face and hold her for the first time.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Irma & our unwanted milestone

Since I'm spending too much time tracking Hurricane Irma (and worrying) today as she barrels through the Caribbean with all her destruction...I decided that now was a good time to write a post that I've been putting off for a couple of weeks.

There are several landmark dates in our adoption journey...October 3, 2012 was the day we officially began this adoption journey (with our application to our first agency - with Ethiopia before that door closed to us)...December 12, 2014 was the day we turned in our application to adopt from Haiti with our current agency...and August 23, 2015 was the day our dossier was officially accepted by IBESR (the Haitian government). So, while we're nearly 5 years into this adoption journey...and a couple months shy of having been pursuing this adoption through Haiti for 3 years...the date that is referenced within the adoption community during the wait for a referral match is the IBESR entry date. For us August 23rd. As we approached that date it seemed to loom as a more concrete reminder of how long we've collectively been waiting to know who our daughter is. To see her face. To meet her and hold her. I had sincerely hoped that we wouldn't be one of the families that met that 2 year mark in IBESR without a referral. So when that day arrived it was pretty emotional for me. And something else compounded that emotional day for me...

August 23rd was also the first day of school for our boys. There are 3 reasons why that was difficult for me. My youngest child at home is 6 years old and was transitioning to all day school this year. A big 1st grader, no longer my sidekick during the day. This makes me sad. I tried not to voice that to him, but rather to express how excited I was for him...but when I put him to bed the night before his big first day of school he was the one to cry (not common for him) that he would "miss our one-on-one time". I about lost it. To compound matters with this specific child - he was diagnosed a few months ago with type 1 diabetes. I've never turned over his dosage of insulin to anyone else besides Mark or my mom. This was so unnerving for me. Being the worrier I am, preparing to send him to school all day brought with it a series of imagined worst case scenarios that sent me into an anxiety-filled feeling of lack of control.

Now, add to those feelings of sad sentimentality and justified worry the fact that I never imagined when we started this adoption that when Max started 1st grade that I wouldn't have our daughter at home by then. I thought I'd be using this time working on attachment and bonding, practicing on her hair, doing all the little kid things I was going to be missing with Max...with her.

August 23rd I felt empty. Worried. And an intense lack of control - both regarding Max and baby girl.

I think that feeling of lack of control that I mentioned earlier, regarding our little girl specifically this time, is amplified right now as we launch into hurricane season and are waiting to see the affects of Hurricane Irma as she churns by Haiti. Hurricane Irma is the strongest Atlantic Hurricane ever on record. And, again...too many worst case scenarios fly through my head. Not only worries of destruction around her and to her country of birth, but also the after effects of storms like this on Haiti. Flooding, mudslides, disease. Worries about my child crying out in fear without someone to comfort her tonight are pulling on my heart also. I was in a shelter down south as a red-cross volunteer following Hurricane Katrina as the arms our Hurricane Rita reached out over us. It was frightening night for me and I'm a grown woman. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be for children, especially those without someone to assure and comfort them. Oh, my heart.

...I had to step away from this post for a bit to calm down. I had a lot of these same worries last fall when Hurricane Matthew approached and hit Haiti. It is such an overwhelmingly sick feeling of worry. I know it's not productive, and I don't want to indulge in's like I just can't control the overwhelming sad, anxious, impending feeling of doom. Even when there isn't a known source of worry attacking our daughter's homeland, I have a feeling of worry if she's ok. Is she eating? Is she being cared for? Is she being neglected or abused? Does she have health concerns that are being ignored? then you add an acute worry like the hurricane to those already existing worries and it's like worry-overload.

To try and shift gears with this post before it becomes 25 paragraphs of me cyclically venting my same worries...Here is something that was happy at the time. I wish I had posted about it when they arrived and I was feeling giddy:

As some sort of indulgent splurge justified by the passing of the aforementioned unwanted anniversary (2 years in IBESR without a referral) I bought a couple pairs of Toms shoes...mommy and me matching. They are super cute. I put them in the basement with the bins of clothes and shoes that I've been collecting over the years. I can't wait for the day that we can both put them on together.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Didn't we just do this?

I swear that we just barely updated our paperwork. Didn't we?? But it's time (again). I was feeling the push to get it done and in today, so after finishing our BCI application paperwork and home study renewal application I drove to Mark's office for him to sign them (rather than leave the papers sitting on the counter for heaven knows how long before we remember for him to do it). I have the luxury of having our adoption agency close by too so I just drove the papers and our check to their office after Mark signed.  It's good that I took my slightly frustrated, but mostly "meh - doing this again" photo before dropping of the papers...because afterward I had much more of a crazy pulling my hair out look going on.
So, when I turned the papers in at our agency I asked the woman at the front desk if she could submit our BCIs today and she said yes, but that they are backlogged and taking 8-9 weeks right now. Not her fault, but 'say what??'? Our I800a approval (and fingerprints) expire in 9 weeks. If we can't mail in our I800a update application until our home study is done...and our home study can't be finalized without the BCI then we are just at a grid-lock waiting for those BCI's to come back! So if those roll in at 9 weeks and we overnight everything to USCIS it could still take a month or two to process that...and during that month or two we won't be able to accept a referral! Arrrrgh!  Apparently the FBI is training a whole bunch of new people how to process background checks so they have gotten really back-logged.

People! I'm just so frustrated. In a month and 3 days it will be 5 years since we turned in our initial application to start this process. Five years! In that time we have processed so much paperwork. I just want our referral. I want to see our daughter's face. I want to know her. To hold her. Maybe this paper chase issue will all turn out ok, but at this point my tolerance for more bumps in the road on THIS side of the adoption process (meaning before meeting her) feels thin. I know there will be a lot more issues processing paperwork after meeting her...all the more reason I want to get to that point in the process.

Honestly, I can't decide if I'm more worried that our referral will come during that gap of time that we aren't able to accept a referral...or if I'm more worried that another 5 or 6 months could go by without any word of a referral.

I'm just weary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The nearly un-crackable email

So, as I suspected we didn't get the approval letter in the mail by the date the USCIS officer anticipated we would - so I called to let him know (like he instructed me to). He agreed to email me a copy (thank freaking goodness), but he let me know that they are required to encrypt their emails and then send a separate email with a password to unlock it. I'll just skip to the end of the drama and say that after an hour of googling how to do this and attempting to open it we were finally able to open it. Mark had to download a program that would process it and open a prompt for us to put in the password. So! We got the blessed approval letter that we needed Chareyl to take down for our file! Praise the good Lord.

We were able to bring the approval letter to Chareyl's home (along with letter/pictures for Nelie, the little girl who we have the pleasure of sponsoring her education with Haitian Roots). Chareyl left for Haiti today and promised to follow up on our file (and each of the other families who are waiting for a referral). She did mention to me that she did receive a referral for another one of her clients that very morning! Not only does that make me happy for that family, but it is encouraging to me to see that referrals are being issued. Things have been a bit quiet on that front on the message boards.

The other thing that Chareyl told me tempered my prior frustrations with our previous email situation. Apparently Chareyl has a family who have a match ready for official referral, but they are waiting on the updated I-800a (just like we were). They needed Chareyl to take it down with her when she left, but it hadn't arrived in the mail. When they called to ask about having it emailed to them they said that they absolutely could not email it. I obviously don't know all the details about this situation...and perhaps USCIS was only willing to do this for me because I had to have things re-done because of their mistake, but either way I feel extra grateful that she has ours in hand. I'm sure this family will get theirs in the mail and be able to scan it to Chareyl to print in Haiti and it will work out, but it's just nice to know that ours is handed off and will for sure be updated in the next day or two.

I try not to hold my breath, but I'm hopeful that Chareyl will come home from Haiti with some sort of news for us on our file. I'm hopeful that we are close to seeing our daughters face. Not holding my breath of course, but hopeful.

In the meantime I'll be anxiously awaiting photos from Haiti while Chareyl and the Haitian Roots volunteer trip are down there. Knowing that some of these photos will be from the orphanage where our little girl is living...and that they are all being taken from that beautiful, heartbreaking island of her birth.