Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hockey Parents

I'm hoping that we can call ourselves that someday. Once he is home and well adjusted, one of the first things I would like to do is get our son on skates. For those who don't know, Shawn is an avid hockey player and we both were at one time avid spectators. I was a huge minor league fan when I was in high school and beyond. You might even say I was a team groupie. A good friend and I used to wait outside their team bus, loiter near Thai Heaven, where they often ate their pregame meals, and were fan club members.

My big claim to hockey fame is the puck that hit me behind my ear and knocked me out during a game. How cool is that? I still have the puck as proof. I also collected hockey cards for a few years, which, when hobby turned to obsession (just one more pack of Upper Deck Premium and I'll quit), I thankfully set it aside. I still have albums full of cards that will never be worth more than a few cents each….Guys who were once pretty good in the NHL but lived in the shadows of well managed sensations…who are now running the Zamboni at their local rink and playing pick up games with regular citizens. From my years of painstakingly pricing and cataloguing cards, I did come out with a few gems. Stashed away, I have a handful of rookie cards that will make for nice heirlooms.

So, then I met Shawn, and in our first conversation at the bar (yes, we met in a bar…don't judge me) he divulged that he played hockey as a kid in Minnesota. This was only a few years after my hockey days, so I was enamored. It wasn't until years after we married that he started playing again, but once he made the decision to buy gear and join a league, there was no looking back. He's been playing ever since. Ironically, his middle brother and family moved to Alaska and now almost every member of their family plays, including my sister in law, Kristen. I'm jealous. I would love to learn to play, but I'm too fragile. Shawn jokes that I would need a full body cage just to go out on the ice.

This brings us to today, when Shawn boards a plane for Fairbanks, Alaska, to freeze his butt off in the tundra to play in a tournament with his brother. This is what a brotherly bond is…still good friends after so many years of beating each other up and wishing each other dead. Can we really have an only son? Probably not. When he's 35, our boy will need this bond. Regardless of what so many only children say, I want this for my son.

Although I won't be there for the tournament, I'll hopefully get updates on the scores. Why did I choose not to go support my husband you ask? After all, you would think airfare to Alaska from Seattle would be cheap. No. Small airport in the middle of an iceberg equals big ticket. Round trip for one is in the 600's if you're lucky. For a few days in a cold stinky ice arena, I'll pass this time. While I would have loved to see Cade & Taylor, who are growing up all too fast not to see when we can, I can't justify burning my vacation time right now. I'll need all the paid time off I can get sometime this year (hopefully).

So, wish my hubby luck as he plays a marathon of games. Here is a pic of Shawn and his brother after a game during the same tournament 4 years ago. He has none of that hair now, but the brotherly bond has endured. Good luck guys!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thank you in advance

In advance of bringing home our child, I wanted to take a minute and thank our friends and family for referring to him only as our son. Not as our adopted child or Chinese baby. Please don't refer to his birth parents in China as his "real" parents or that we're not having a baby "of our own".

Yes, right now there is a lot of talk about China and adoption, but it is purely in discussion of the process that we are going through. While we will be involved in many Chinese based activities to help keep his heritage and culture a part of his life and will speak openly of adoption, he will be part of our family and heritage first and foremost.

I've had a couple of innocent comments hit a nerve lately and I thought it would only be fair to help those who mean well understand why certain references can seem benign but have negative impact.

Thank you for respecting this. If you would like to learn more about proper adoption vocabulary, Click Here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

I hope you're all wearing green today! I luckily have on a pair of green pants that have kept me from getting pinched. My red hair has helped me through the day, too...However, I was kicked out of the bar at Red Robin for not having ID. I lost my driver's license and my temporary is expired.

I had to drink my Guinness (or diet coke as the case was...It was 11am...I wish it were a Guinness) in a regular booth.

Today is also my M.I.L's birthday! Happy Birthday, Trish! Today signifies The Luck of the Norwegians in your case. I think that means you're exempt from green and can actually wear purple on this day.

Finally, tomorrow marks my 11th anniversary at my company. They just added new benefits for the 10 year+ people, including a 4th week of vacation, which will come in VERY handy when we plan my family leave. I already received my watch and reserved parking spot last year, but the good news is that I only have 4 more years to go until I get a sabbatical. It used to be a "dream trip" which I was going to choose a trip to a cooking school in Italy, but I think our little company is getting too big and there are too many "lifers" now. Bummer for me. By the time 4 years rolls around, I get the feeling a trip by myself to anywhere will be welcome!

Friday, March 16, 2007

So Now What?

So, everyone who I've told about our dossier's departure for China has asked the same thing. "Now what happens?" Wouldn't it be nice if I could provide a nice easy to understand answer complete with a clear cut timeline!?! I would print out flyers and place them on the cars of everyone we know. Unfortunately, we aren't that lucky.

Those people who are in the Non Special Needs program know that within a few month range, they will be waiting for about 22 months if they get their 6 months of paperwork completed and logged into the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) office right now. The waits for NSN are getting longer for many reasons. Probably a good topic for another post. The people getting baby referrals now have been waiting for about 16 months, but those people were also logged in late October 2005, so you can easily see that the waits are getting longer and not shorter. If we were to go the NSN route, we could let people know that we would have a referral of a girl in x age range in approx. 20-24 months, or Winter/Spring of 2009 (people would look at us funny if we said we were asking for a healthy boy…they happen, but chances are better at winning the Powerball jackpot).

To expound upon how extreme those wait times are, a gal posted on a forum recently that she and her husband had a goal to get pregnant before June so that she could have the baby and have a year go by before they get their referral. It is very possible. A bit of a gamble, but possible. How crazy is that?! For those going the NSN route, the wait will be like enduring 2.5 pregnancies. Yuck! I almost can't type that it sounds so horrible.

Well, we're going the Special Needs route, which means it completely changes our timeline. It doesn't have anything to do with the lengthening wait times, but more because we want to be guaranteed a boy and want to adopt from China. On top of that, we became enthralled with what are considered special needs in China. We felt compelled to utilize the resources we have here to bring one of those little guys home and provide the best medical care we can. I don't want it to sound like we're out to "save an orphan". I don't think that it's a healthy outlook to have on building a family. I do indeed feel that his little life will be better and that we are just doing our tiny part to end the struggle that surrounds the population problem in China. I also feel like no child should be subject to the scratch and dent pile. For those of you going for a healthy girl, please don't feel like I'm down playing your journeys to your little girls. That's definitely not the case. We are all on the same path.

So, back to my explanation of what next…

Now we start reviewing waiting child profiles. I have been looking at them for some time now and have requested full files on a few kids. One that I really started falling in love with has been matched with a family. I was so sad, but it's my own fault for getting attached when we weren't ready to officially start considering files yet. Shawn and our social worker warned me against this. I have one other file for a little boy who has been on our agency's waiting list for almost a year now. He will be 3 in August and if we travel sometime in the fall, which will put him a few months older than our target 18-36 month range. Shawn is now saying he thinks that's too old. Yes, the guy who said no babies now thinks 36 months is too old. I keep trying to tell him that a few months won't really matter considering delays, etc. We may wait until our agency gets another batch of special needs files, which should be in the next month. The longer we wait, the longer the delay in travel, but if we find our son in the next 30-60 days, by my math, we should travel sometime between Oct. 1 and Christmas.

Now I'm stuck with this in limbo feeling. I can't really shop since we don't know age, size, etc. We don't know if we'll need a crib or a regular bed, what age range of toys or books will be appropriate, etc. It's a little frustrating. I do REALLY feel now like I'm pseudo-pregnant, but a pregnant woman knows give or take a size how to prepare for the coming child. At least I can still drink wine. If not, I might survive this.

So the long winding road continues. We stopped at the stop sign on Paperchase Avenue, took a left at What Now Boulevard, and continue straight for an undetermined number of miles. If there is anything interesting to see along the way, we'll take pictures and keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

#$@&! Our Dossier is on the Way to China!

Less than 48 hours after sending our final documents to our agency, I received a call that our documents are on their way to China! I can't quite figure out how they got the documents back from the consulate in SF so quickly, but I don't really care. All I know is we are DONE with paperwork.

I didn't quite know what to do with myself when I got off the phone with our agency rep. I felt like I had just gotten the "You're Pregnant" call from my doctor. Since I didn't have to worry about doing something to harm the baby, I went to Trader Joe's for a bottle of fancy $3 Shiraz and swung by Starbucks for a triple grande wet cappaccino...on a Wednesday! This news has made me wild and crazy!

So, now that we know that May 1 and the rule change is a non issue, we can seriously consider the one child file that we have or choose to wait for the agency's next batch of special needs files to see if our little boy is in that group.

I personally want to consider the boy that we have a file on, but Shawn is concerned that he is too old. We asked for 18-36 months and he will turn 3 in August, a couple of months before we'll probably travel... but he doesn't understand fully that he will be behind a bit and not the average 3+ year old when we meet him. Besides, I'm not sure how a couple of months will matter.

We have some talking to do. We'll see how it plays out in the next few weeks as we get over the numbness and start to make decisions.

Now I need to find a good pediatrician and start on a rough draft of our Letter of Intent. That will have to be accepted by China once we ask for a particular child.

The roller coaster never ends! This is no typical pregnancy!

Another Turn of the Page

As if it weren't stressful enough going through this adoption process, my parents decided to spring on me that they are selling their house and moving to Arizona. Out of the blue on a random Sunday afternoon over sandwiches and iced tea, they just decided…

"You know, rather than refinishing those kitchen cabinets, let's just sell the house we made a home for our family 30 years ago, quit our jobs and move to Arizona."

It probably didn't happen quite like that, but I don't think I'm too far off. My dad is retired and is now a professional Judge Judy jury member, but my mom has been working for herself now for about 20 years now and it has been a great gig…but alas, it is time for her to stop doing chores and running errands for spoiled doctor's wives and kids, and enjoy life with dad on her own schedule. Since I was very young, I remember hearing nothing but horrible things about the weather and traffic of Washington State. I'm not sure why we never moved. My dad could have been a truck driver from anywhere, and same goes for my mom's status as domestic goddess. I suppose it was just the rat race that kept us in Washington and away from someplace warmer and with a much lower cost of living (seriously, do y'all know what houses and gas costs up here?).

While I was shocked that they are moving far far away and selling the only childhood home I've ever known, I am also really happy for them. I am excited for them to finally relax after decades of hard labor. Their house is on the market and creating quite a buzz. Here's to hoping it sells fast and for more that they expect!

Good luck in your next adventure mom & dad! You won't get to see your grandson as much as you might like, but he'll love visiting his grama & paga!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The skies parted and the angels sang "Hallelujah"!

OK. I'm not a religious person... but I said a big "Thank you baby Jesus!" when I checked the mail on Friday.

Enclosed in an unassuming plain envelope with a TINY typeset Homeland Security return address was our I171-H!!!

For those who don't know what this is, it is the document that the US Government provides that officially says they approve us to adopt a foreign orphan. It is the most time consuming to receive and the most important document to go in our dossier thusfar.
While I was wishing it would have a fancy foil seal or something, I was equally as glad that it arrived...and nothing on our records! I was expecting some old blocked out memory to come reeling back in big bold Times New Roman.
I ran in from the mailbox to show Shawn that it arrived and he practically yawned while saying, "Oh, good". I swear his adoption journey will begin on the connecting flight to Beijing.
As if that wasn't exciting enough, the very next day, our long awaited marriage certificate arrived! Thank you, Big Phil! That was the best $2 I've ever spent!
To top off all this excitement, I was able to pick up a well written letter by my doctor explaining my medical condition in detail. He did a great job of clarifying that it is not an epileptic condition and is unrelated to Multiple Sclerosis, both conditions that would raise red flags. He said twice that I am in excellent health with a very mild form of Tuberous Sclerosis. Whew! Thank you, Dr. Collins... you rank right up there with Big Phil!
So, first thing yesterday, I labeled the last big manila envelope to our agency and shipped off the final pieces of our dossier.
Since they are taking care of all the authentication work for us, this should be the last time we have to see any of those documents before they head off for China. Our agency rep Elizabeth said that if the consulate rushes our docs, they may be able to get us in a dossier group next Friday! That would give us a DTC of 3/23, or 3/30 at the latest. That's a full month early. As long as China decides to count the dossiers that ARRIVE before May 1 and not LOGGED IN by May 1, we should still be in good shape. Until we get that confirmation, we won't really know for sure, but at this point, I think we'll qualify regardless considering my favorable doctor's letter.
Next step: Wait! Yes, we're spoiled because we're won't be in that 2 year wait bunch since we are going Special Needs, however now we need to wait for a new group of SN files to arrive at our agency. They are hoping to have more by April and we get them before anyone else and before they go public on their website. If we don't find our son in that batch, we may submit paperwork for a little guy with Cleft Lip/Cleft Palate in Hubei. He will turn 3 before we travel and Shawn is suddenly concerned that that's too old...but he'll come around. This little guy has been in my favorites for almost a year, meaning that he has been waiting WAY too long. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Polli and her buddy Jack

I wanted to give Polli some props. For the most part, the only reason she pays any attention at all to our fish is because she LOVES their food pellets. Every night when she hears the bag crinkle, she comes running and sits politely waiting for her obligatory pellet before bedtime.

I caught this picture of her one night while she was saying hello to our Jack Demsey, Jack (yes, very original I know). He is one of two fish in our 200+ gallon tank right now after we tragically lost close to 30 fish during our week without power in December. It was really emotional to see Shawn pulling fish out of the freezing tank that had been with us for years. Two troopers survived it. Jack and the big boy, our shy African Frontosa.

Finally...Our Marriage Certificate is on the Way!

Well, it’s not really on the way, but I finally got through to someone in St. Thomas who was able to help me. This was a huge feat and was one of my final hurdles in the paper chase. For those who care, here’s the back story:

Shawn and I were married in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands on a beautiful morning in February, 1996. It was 8:30am on a weekday and we were the only people on the beach. White sand, azure blue water, and eucalyptus trees surrounded us as we pledged our lives to each other. Nothing seemed more perfect or more romantic. We felt like we really worked the system and won big time…No big church wedding, no wedding planner headaches (we had one, but on the island. Whether I wanted the Island Dreams package #1 or Perfect Paradise package #2, was the extent of my wedding day stress). For 11 years now, we’ve felt like we came out way ahead of most of our friends who went to town with the whole church thing… Until we needed a copy of our marriage certificate.

Shortly after the New Year, I wrote a letter to an address I found online for ordering marriage certificates from the Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, there was no phone number, and no details on how much it cost, whether we needed to provide I.D., proof that we are who we say we are, etc. My letter pleaded endlessly that they expedite any forms necessary as we needed the certificate to meet a deadline for submitting paperwork to adopt a foreign orphan. I even went so far as to say that this child needs medical care that is awaiting him in the U.S., and that we had a deadline of March 1st. Apparently, none of my lies struck a compassionate chord with anyone there, because here we are 2 days before March 1st, and not so much as a whisper from the islands. The clerks must be out back, feet dangling in the surf, sipping something with lots of rum, laaaugghhhinng...all the while fanning themselves with my letter.

Today, as I addressed an envelope to our agency, sending off the last of our documents and pictures until our USCIS paperwork to comes back, I realized that I HAD to do something to try to get our marriage certificate. I did a search for any court or city hall sounding contact on the island and took down about 5 phone numbers. On my lunch, I started calling numbers, and on the 3rd one, I got a gal who put me on hold and then transferred me to the Superior Court. I was then transferred two more times and put on hold for about 15 minutes. Because I had no idea of where I was in the system at this point, I couldn’t hang up. I was calling long distance on my cell phone, so who knows how much it was costing me, but I was hanging on for dear life!

Finally, Phyllis (or Big Phil as I’ve decided to call her) came on the line and said that she never got my letter and ALL letters go through her. All? OK, whatever you say, Phyllis. I was picturing a big Caribbean gal with a scarf wrapped high on her head…arms crossed and lips pursed. NO letter came to her…no way, no how. "Child, you’d better think again! Snap snap snap…" OK, I’m done with the euphemisms.

So, Big Phil went on to say that I was supposed to send my request with $2 to the Court House and not Vital Records (although the CDC website lists Vital Records in about 4 places). I said my apologies and asked her for an address. She gave it to me and asked that a self addressed stamped envelope accompany it. She said she makes one trip a week to “the warehouse” to gather documents, only one (strong emphasis on one…her bright red painted fingernail pointing skyward at the phone to make her point)

After gathering a few facts about who we are and when we were married, she changed from all business and became all smiles. “Thank you for visiting our islands, dear.” “Was your wedding lovely, honey?”. “I’m so glad you’re adopting a child, my dear. I’m sure he or she will be very lucky. Be sure to bring him in to visit next time you’re in St. Thomas”. It was all good times now. Big Phil and I are buddies.

So, now I just have to run to the bank for a whopping $2 money order and get this thing sent to Big Phil. Maybe I’ll throw a Starbucks card in there for her. They have to have a beach side kiosk somewhere on the island by now.

So, thanks to Big Phil and her ONE trip per week to “the warehouse”, hopefully she’ll find our marriage certificate and we’ll have it in the next couple of weeks. Let’s just hope we’re not in one of those boxes lost in their last round of hurricanes or water damaged by the latest monsoon. When we were there to be married, they were still cleaning up from Andrew and it wasn't pretty.

Next step: Pray hard for a smooth processing of our background check and I-600A at immigration. The arrival of that final HUGE piece, the I-171H really can’t come soon enough. Without it, our dossier won’t be complete. We have almost exactly 2 months left before the May 1 deadline!