Monday, July 29, 2013

A little here, a little there

I just got off the phone with Toni (our AGCI case worker).  We have standing phone call appointment every 2 weeks to answer questions and keep us on track with our paperwork process.  Nothing too interesting from the phone call, but here are a few of the things I've gotten done over the last week:
  • We had the application notarized and mailed in for certified copies of Mark's birth certificate ($69).
  • I received certified copies of our marriage license ($15).
  • I applied for a new social security card (since I lost mine).
  • I found out while at the social security office that years ago when records were made electronic that when my records were entered in that I was marked as a male.  I'm quite sure that I'm not.  My birth certificate even states female on it, but because they couldn't read the numbers on it (it was an original certificate) they couldn't open the system to amend it.  So!  I got to go home, find another certified copy of my birth certificate (which luckily I had) and then I went back another day (to wait over an hour in line again) in order to fix their clerical error.  I didn't want something causing a problem down the road (at immigration or something) when they see that the computer says I'm a male.  So, that got fixed!  The error, not me....I had to correct the worker when he said (loud enough for others to hear) that I needed to get my gender changed.  "Ummm...I'm not changing my gender, but we need to amend the paperwork mistake"  He smirked.
  • I filled out all papers for our FBI background screenings (but I can't submit mine until I have a photocopy of my social security card that I'm waiting on).  I also got the two certified checks ($36.50 each) that we have to submit with our applications.
  • After difficulty being able to print the application with Chinese characters on it, I filled out, notarized, and submitted an application to Taiwan for a background check on me.
  • We had submitted background check information for Iowa and Arizona and have already received back word from Iowa.
  • I spent over an hour on the phone with our health insurance company requesting a letter that states that our adopted child will be covered under our current plan as soon as we take custody of them.  For whatever reason this request blew several people's minds and I got bounced from person to person and placed on hold several times.  Hopefully the letter shows up in the mail.
  • I typed up a letter to distribute with our 4 letter of recommendation requests.
  • We completed our first 2 chapters (and homework) of our first online parent education module.
 So, nothing exciting to shout from the rooftops...but we are making progress a little at a time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More than boxes to check

When we adopted our oldest (domestically) there was a giant list of conditions that we had to accept or decline - whether or not we would be open to a child with those traits/conditions.  At the time we thought that was difficult...working our way thoughtfully through the list analyzing what we were equipped to handle, what we had the resources to deal with.  Eventually we checked all the boxes we felt were appropriate for us and felt comfortable with our choices.  And we ended being placed with a healthy baby boy.

This time around (doing international adoption) things are different.  And they are different with each country.  With some countries there are still check lists.  With Ethiopia however, it is more of a sweeping statement of being open to special needs or not.  You can limit it by defining the severity (minor correctable, moderate, severe)...but what falls into those categories can be somewhat subjective.  Mark and I are in agreement about which special needs we are open to, and would be a good fit for our family...but there are some that we don't feel comfortable taking on, and feel that another family may be a better fit for. 

Our struggle right now, is this: 

We do not want to open ourselves up to being in a position where we feel like we need to decline a referral (if we were matched with child with a SN out of our spectrum of things we are open to)...or that because we would want to, that we would step outside of what we logically know is the best fit for our family and take on a child with a special need that requires more attention that we can provide considering the needs of the 3 children we already have.

On the flip side, we are concerned about listing that we are only open to a healthy child when there are special needs that we are open to - that we would take on gladly.

So, we are spending a lot of time not only researching various conditions (especially specific heart defects)...but also pondering what we feel most comfortable putting on our paperwork.  I contacted our caseworker for advice amidst all of this and she responded yesterday that we can include specific conditions that we are open to in the homestudy wording.  Now, that would preclude us from the previously mentioned concern of possibly being presented with a special need that we aren't comfortable with, but it does give some guidance to our agency prior to the match process about the type of special needs that we definitely are open to. 

Initially Mark was very closed to the idea of listing that we were open to special needs.  I think this was because he is educated in the many "worst case scenarios" of each disease or condition.  He also knows what kind of long term care some require and what kind of limitations they provide for the child.  There is also always the concern of adding this worst case scenerio to the inherent risk of undiagnosed problems that will come up for the child down the road due to malnutrition and institutionalization.

As we have discussed things though, Mark realized that because of that same medical background that he is also aware of some conditions that would scare some people away, but that we feel are truly very manageable.  Because of this I believe that we are slowly getting to a meeting place about how to approach things, and how to guide our caseworker in the wording for our homestudy.

When people ask why our paperwork is taking so is things like this that require research, thought, discussion, and lots of reflection that add to how long each step takes.  (Yes, in addition to the mounds of paperwork that must be collected, filled out and submitted)  Would it be "easier" (and at least with us, faster) to just submit that we are only open to a healthy child - of course.  And if that is the best fit for a family then I think that's great, but I believe that even most families that put that they are only open to a healthy child put time and thought into that decision.  In the end we (as prospective adoptive parents) all want to help a child that is in need of a home and family, and providing the best care for any child includes finding the family that is the best match for them.  I want to make the best decisions that I can right now to help the right child for our family find their way to us. 

And, by way of sidenote - last night I dreamed (for the first time) about a beautiful girl with lovely dark brown skin, eyes, and hair.  In my dream she had been part of our family for a while and fit in beautifully.  Since I only woke up a few hours ago I can still feel what it was like in my dream to wrap my arms around her.  I feel like I love her already, and she is not even born yet.  Thank goodness I have three beautiful little boys to pour out my affection on while we wait.  That wait as a first time parent was nearly unbearable.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Baby steps

So I was up until almost 2 am last night working on paperwork, then I was up at 6:30 to get myself showered and all 3 boys ready and out the door before 9:00 when we needed to be to the police station getting my fingerprints done.  It's sad when you feel like you've just run a marathon by the time you leave the house at 9:00 am...and things are just starting.

Mark met me at the police station to do fingerprints.  He had already gone into work that morning to do paperwork.  He had actually blocked out the first half of this day as an administrative day to catch up on paperwork, so that was the only reason we were able to pack all of these business-hour-only items in today.  Anyway!  I must say that the best part of the fingerprinting was the scrub we got to use to wash the ink off our hands afterwards.  My hands are feeling pretty darn smooth now.

Then we rushed to Ogden to WIA for a meeting with our caseworker.  He talked with the boys, did our couple interview, and then scheduled a time for Mark to come in and do his individual interview.  The boys were pretty good - it was cute to see them answer questions and chat with Josh, but eventually they got really comfortable and then the arguing and getting into things started (followed by a poopy diaper and then goldfish crackers smashed into the carpet).  They were a handful and it felt good to get everyone situated in their respective seats back in the van when we were done.

Then it was off to the Driver's License Division.  Yeah!  *insert sarcasm*  Just one of those things we've been procrastinating.  We figured that we probably should get a Utah Driver's License since we've lived here nearly 2 years and we're asking Utah (and Arizona where we're currently licensed) to do a state background check on us.

We quickly filled out the forms while the boys ran back and forth (drove me nuts), helped each other reach the drinking fountain (ew), and potty breaks became necessary.  Once papers were done we waited in line, got our pictures done, and were given a number to wait for our turn.  Mark sailed through just fine, but I found out that one of my documents wasn't acceptable for a SSN verification (I can't find my card).  I was told that I either have to order a new social security card or get a 1099 form from our financial institution.  We also found out that we had to take a written driver's test.  Mark needed to get back to work (we came in separate cars), so while he started his written test I left to go figure out my 1099 situation.  I called America First CU, figured out the closest branch, called them and talked about what I needed.  They said that there is no way for them to print a 1099 that has the full social security number on it anymore (which is what I needed).  The SSN is automatically truncated for security.  So, I was stuck again.  Luckily the girl I was talking to knew that they only started doing that a few years ago, so she thought of going back to a 1099 a few years prior and bingo - she was able to print a 1099 for 2009 that had my full social security number on it.

I was so focused on getting all these things done that I was surprised when I arrived at the credit union branch to pick up my paper...and saw my brother Josh!  I forgot he worked at that branch!  So, that was fun.

At this point the kids were at the end of their rope.  They had been running errands all day, they were hot and hungry for lunch...a revolt was beginning.  Oh, I know what sounds like a good idea when the boys are like this...take them all BACK to the driver's license division and do that over again and then take a written test while they wait patiently.  Yeah, right.

Instead, we grabbed a bite to eat on the go and drove to Mark's work.  When I explained my situation my mom offered to help out (she was out finishing errands).  So, she headed to Mark's office and while we waited for her to get there (which wasn't long) one of his nice employees (Dani) came down and waited with them in the van and I sped off in Mark's car to finish up with my driver's license.  Once my mom got there she had the smart idea of just taking the boys to her house and leaving me her car.

Things went pretty smoothly (other than the terrible headache that came on while I was there) with the driver's license.  I was glad there were no issues with the form being from 2009.  I walked out with my temporary driver's license, swapped Mark's car for my mom's and headed to pick up the boys.

I got home around 3:30 and we were all exhausted.  Max went down without objection for his nap and I started looking at what we need to do next with this seemingly never-ending checklist of things to do for our homestudy and dossier.  I was feeling a bit burned out and thought that maybe it would help if I vented about or re-capped my day so far.  I am pretty darn tired between so little sleep last night and then wrangling the rascals amidst things today.  So glad for the help I had though - things wouldn't have been possible without it, that's for sure.

Now that I've purged all of that I do feel a tad bit better.  It's better for me to blab here (to a post that likely nobody will ever read once I publish this blog someday) than to want to recap every boring detail to some poor soul.

I can not even imagine how good it will feel to have the homestudy and dossier done and to drop the last item in the mail.  That feels too far away and too close to get it done in time - all at once.

No, duh

Sometimes there is just a need to say something really obvious.  To tell someone (or in this case, just write down) something that is not a newsflash, but needs to be said anyway.  So here it is...

Holy crap does international adoption take a lot of paperwork.  Sheesh!

I feel like I've been working on things forever and there is just still so much paperwork to be done.  *sigh*  Is this unexpected?  No.  Still a pain in the neck?  Yes.  Worth it?  Also yes.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homestudy and telling the boys

Anyone who has adopted knows that there is a little bit of pressure to have your home looking nice when your case worker comes to do the homestudy visit.  Now, I know that we won't be rejected if our mantle has dust on it...or even if the kitchen sink is full of dishes - BUT it's normal to want your home to look presentable when you've invited someone over, let alone someone who is coming for the purpose of inspecting your home!

So, this Tuesday (July 9th) I worked very hard getting the house in perfect shape...and my mom took Noah and Lincoln to the park and a movie for a few hours prior to the appointment as well as the duration of the appointment so we could concentrate on the homestudy (and because the boys don't know about the adoption).  Mark left work a few minutes early and all was on track.  Phew!  Until the case worker was late.  Finally I called him to ask if he was having any trouble finding our home and he said that he'd written down next Tuesday (I checked the email, it was the 9th).  He was very nice and apologetic and asked if we could do Thursday.  Now, Thursday was our anniversary and that wasn't exactly what I pictured doing on that day, but I didn't want to delay things any longer so I agreed.

Now the next couple days was "interesting" trying to follow around the boys and keep the house perfect.  I'm glad I don't live that way every day (having to have my home perfect) because it drove me crazy.  It was good that we got out of the house for a good portion of the day on Wednesday!  Nonetheless, my mom volunteered to come take Noah and Lincoln again on Thursday for the appointment.  I polished the house back to where we wanted it to be, and the caseworker showed up just fine this time.

Josh, our social worker, did my personal interview and by the time we were wrapping that up Mark got home.  We finished up some discussions, did the home walk through, and things went fine.  We scheduled our next interview for Tuesday and were surprised to hear that he wanted to meet the other boys (he saw us interact with Max at our home).  It would have been nice to know that since my mom took them twice to keep them out from under our feet for the homestudy - and because we hadn't told the boys about that adoption!  So they'll be coming with us on Tuesday.

That being said, on Friday night we sat the kids down and made our big announcement.  We made sure they know (as well as kids that age can understand time) that things won't be happening for a long time, but that we wanted them to know what all the paperwork and interviews were about and that over the next few years that they can always share their feelings or questions with us.  We showed them the Ethiopian doll, talked about things, looked at pictures on the internet, and then all had ice cream cones.

So, at least this week had a couple concrete steps to share about!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quote to reference

I have a feeling that I should post this quote here so I can refer back to it over the upcoming years!  A lot!  It is from an adoptive mother/author/blogger (Jen Hatmaker) on the adoption process:

"On the excruciating wait/delays:  Oh my, I can speak to this.  First, forget whatever timeline you were given at the beginning.  Forget you ever heard that.  Put that in the trash can. Adoption will change, shift, slow down, hit snags, be weird, be difficult, take longer than you think, take longer than you can stand.  This will happen.  This is the normal thing.  When someone gives you a timeline, say, "Thank you for that cute little sentence.  Flush." Potential adopters, let me tell you this:  Get your "YES" straight at the very beginning.  Decide on it.  Roll around in it.  Put it on the table and shellack it. Because you cannot let every delay and snag derail your certainty about adoption.  When you say YES, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM.  I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours.  We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing,  YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay.  Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption.  Every adoption has snags.  We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because this is hard," but all that is garbage.  You know what's hard?  Being an orphan.  They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home.  So we will.  We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will. "  - Jen Hatmaker

I love so many different aspects of this quote.  It just grabs hold of me each time that I read it.  Although I must interject that I don't exactly believe that Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" thing...I'm pretty sure that's been around for thousands of years...but I do think it is a lot of people's crutch!  I do agree that it will be more productive when I'm struggling to remember that indeed her suffering (and of course that of our daughter's family also) is greater than our own.

And the part about getting our "yes" straight at the beginning...I received advice similar to that from Brandi.  She was the caseworker who had the heart to heart conversation with me while I sat on the Target store's floor (the night before leaving for Europe).  She explained that there would be more snags, hangups, and unexpected things to come and that if I let every one of them question whether we should be proceeding with the adoption or if the program was in danger of closing...that we wouldn't make it.  It would be too much on me, and too much on our family.  I was overcome as she told me that and I knew she was right.  As Mark and I talked about things over the following days - we got our "yes" straight.  I may not like the way things play out over our journey, and as Jen Hatmaker says I "may cry and rage and scream in the process"...but amidst that I will know that we're doing the right thing and is part of that "yes"!  Not too different from the "yes" I said when Mark and I were married.  It wasn't a " long as it doesn't get too hard" it was a "yes even WHEN things are hard"!

I also love the part of the quote that says, "Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong."  That rang so true for me...there are times where I can face difficulty, change, frustration when it is out of my control...but if it results after something I chose prayerfully, I do tend to doubt that I heard right.  Not that God had it wrong, but that I heard Him wrong.  Because of that I am grateful I have had cause to stop and really re-consider whether to move forward with this adoption so early in our process.  I knew it was for sure what I wanted, but I struggled with knowing it was right for our family and committing to that "yes".  Because of our wrestle with that, we now we have that "yes" straight and it's a matter of relying on Him and one another to stick things out, and to remember that it's not about us - it's about her.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Phone call and spilling the beans

So, today we had our first scheduled phone call with our caseworker Toni (with AGCI).  It was just a nuts and bolts kind of phone call.  We didn't go over much that we didn't already know, but it helped us to go over everything that needs to happen with our home study and dossier over the next few months.  I must say that condensing everything we need to accomplish in just the next 4-5 months into a 45 minute conversation was a bit overwhelming, but we weren't surprised by anything.

We also scheduled our first home study visit and interview for this Tuesday!  Our caseworker with WIA is Joshua and he seems like he has a good handle on things.  It is exciting to be making big, concrete steps forward like this!

I also have to mention that on Sunday night we had a get together with my whole family before my brother Matt and SIL Katie moved to California the next morning.  We decided that we wanted to tell the rest of our families about the journey we've embarked upon and I wanted to tell my family before they left...SO we told them at our little get together.  People were excited and it was fun to just be able to talk about it.  We were clear about how long this process will be, but also about how excited we are.  As a side note it's been fun to see all the neat things my mom has pinned on to her pinterest board titled "Sweet Little Girl (Dreaming of our Ethiopian Granddaughter)"  That meant a lot to me.

We've been trying to get a hold of Mark's siblings to tell them, but no success yet.  Exciting stuff!