Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year

Happy New Year!

2008 is going to be an amazing year for us. It will be the year that we finally become parents! This house will have a child in it, and toys, and laughter, and we will be a happy family. We are so excited about going to Russia and about all the changes that are coming our way.

We hope God blesses you all in 2008!

P.S. Our family members and friends are reading this blog, but haven't posted any comments. In 2008, I would love for you to share your thoughts with us, because later, our child will be reading this blog.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

apostilles...almost

On Friday, we drove 2 hours to get our dossier apostilled. It was very hard to turn loose of it and give it to the receptionist to take to the back! That was the 1st time the dossier has been out of our hands since we started the process. After waiting for 45 minutes, it was done, but with one problem. R's employment letter was not correct. It was signed and then notarized by the same person, and that's not allowed. :(

So, as soon as R. goes back to work on Wednesday, he'll get another employment letter and we'll FedEx it to be apostilled. Shouldn't really cause us any time delay, but it's really annoying!

We had good news yesterday though! We got a letter from the Dept. of Social Services. They approved our home study and sent it to immigration on Dec. 21! That means we should have our 171-H in a few weeks! We were both so relieved!


Photobucket

Christmas gifts for our child

Time to update! We had a great Christmas, even though we did not have as much time with family as we had hoped. My sister and her family had to return home early, and R's brothers did not come after all.

We got some wonderful gifts for the baby. I had so much fun opening everything. R's mother gave us a set of matryoshka dolls, which are nesting Santas. The matryoshka dolls were on my list of Russian things that I wanted our child to have, so I was very happy to get them! My sister gave us some wooden alphabet blocks with the Russian alphabet on them! We both loved those. I gave R the book A Little Story About a Big Turnip which is based on a Russian folk tale. I'm glad we already have some things for our child which reflect his/her Russian heritage.

Our child also got a rubber ball (perfect for playing in the backyard) a Pat the Bunny book and bunny (I just love that book!) a fabulous wooden snail pull toy, bibs, a This Little Piggy hand puppet/book that I can't wait to play with, a little plaque that says "heaven sent" that I'm going to put on the nursery door, and a boo boo bunny! I know with the hardwood floors in our house our little one is going to fall at some point and that boo boo bunny will really come in handy!

We also got stuff for our trip, lots of travel size items and containers, which we really needed. I put all the stuff on the bed in the nursery, so now I've officially started the packing process!

I had so much fun putting all the stuff in the nursery. Except for putting the crib together, it looks ready for our child to come home!

Our family was so wonderful and all the gifts were so thoughtful. We love you all so very much.

Last Christmas, we hadn't made the decision to adopt. We loved sharing Christmas with our family and watching Gracie and Nathan enjoy their Santa Claus, but it was bittersweet for me too, because there was the sense of not having that joy in our own lives. This Christmas was very different. As I watched them enjoy their Santa Claus this year, I kept thinking about how wonderful next Christmas will be with our child, and I experienced the joy more fully. Even though our child is not with us yet, that sense that we are missing something is gone.

Photobucket

Monday, December 24, 2007

merry christmas

We are having a wonderful Christmas so far. Later today, we'll go to the candlelight communion service at our church, and that's one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Then we will be spending the next few days with our family. I'm looking forward to playing with our 3 year old nephew; we don't get to see him nearly enough. This is our last Christmas without a child. As we enjoy this year, we are thinking constantly about how wonderful and amazing next year will be, when our baby is finally with us and we celebrate as a family.

We are thankful to God for the ultimate gift, his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Hope everyone has a very joyous and merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

notarized

We got all our documents notarized today! Except for our medical forms and our 171-H, we have everything for our dossier notarized and ready for apostilling! It feels so good to have that done! We are one huge step closer to traveling and finally meeting our baby.

Our notary works at the local university where R. works. She was so nice and helpful. Turns out she has a granddaughter who was adopted domestically. She was very sympathetic to our cause, and understood when we handed her the huge stack of papers to be done! She made it very painless, and I am very thankful for that. Now if only the rest of our process will go as smoothly as today!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

home study done

Late yesterday afternoon, we received the final copies of our home study! YAY! Except for our medical forms (which we will take care of in Jan.) and our 171-H, we have all of the documents for our dossier. We are so excited! Monday morning, we'll find out when we can take everything in to be notarized. The human resources director at the University is going to do them for us. We're hoping she'll be able to notarize everything on Wednesday. Then our plan is to take everything to be apostilled right after Christmas, and then hand deliver our dossier to our agency, probably on Jan 3. We won't be able to get the dossier turned in before Christmas, as we originally hoped, but it's ok. It will be a great way to start the new year! We're thrilled to be at this point in the process!

We're still in the nesting phase. R. spent all day working in the basement. We've been in this house for 6 months, and now finally the last of the boxes have been unpacked. He organized all the bikes and bike parts, as well as all the tools. It looks really good. Now we can go to the basement and actually find something if we need it!

I've spent a lot of time thinking about next Christmas, and how much fun it will be when our child is here and we are celebrating our first Christmas as a family.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I enjoyed this article

Eight Similarities Between God’s Adoption of Us and Our Adoption of Children
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1991_A

God's protection

"The Lord watches over you
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore." -- Psalm 121 5-8

It is comforting to me that God is watching over our baby until we can be there to bring him/her home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

home study approval

Talked to C. at our agency late this afternoon, and we finally have approval on our home study! Initially, she had some concerns about some things in our home study and how was written, and I was very worried. After we discussed it more, she thinks it will be ok for the Moscow region! If we end up with a referral from Kemerovo, Tula, or Kaluga, we will need at least one additional visit with our social worker and an addendum to our home study. We will cross that bridge later if we come to it. Unless things change, chances are very good that we will be going to the Moscow region! I am excited about that!

Quite an emotional roller coaster today, from the lows of worrying about the home study being rejected to the highs of home study approval and thinking about going to Moscow. R. and I wore ourselves out thinking about it all. And he definitely has a cold. Some of the people he works with have it too, so it's going around. We're going to spend the rest of the evening just trying to relax and calm down!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

and more waiting

Still no email today from the agency, so this afternoon, I couldn't stand it any longer and I called. C. was on the phone with someone else, so I wasn't able to talk to her. She must be insanely busy right now, with families trying to finish their dossiers or travel before the Russian holiday begins. I left her a voice mail, so hopefully I'll hear something tomorrow. I'm hoping she'll be able to give us an idea of the time line, when we might be traveling, and if she's had any thoughts about which region we might be going to.

I think R. is sick again. At first, I thought it was just allergy, since he had gone mountain biking in the woods Sunday afternoon, but now he's a lot more congested. I think he has another cold. :(
And he's already had one this season already. I hope it passes quickly and he's feeling better soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

home study on its way

This morning, our social worker sent our home study to our agency. If they don't find any errors, we should be receiving our copies soon. Another step forward!

I emailed our agency to let them know the home study was on its way, and to find out about our time line. Based on what others have said, I'm thinking we could be traveling in Feb., but I'm not sure. No email from them today, so I'm hoping to get one from them tomorrow.

The weather was so beautiful today. Way too warm to feel like December. R. and I took a walk when he got home from work. I had happy thoughts about pushing a stroller through our neighborhood.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

another good day & some russian radio

Great news this morning. My sister M., her husband J., and their son N. are coming for Christmas! We didn't think they were going to be able to be here, and we're so excited!

I found a website with internet radio stations from Russia. (I don't read much Russian at all, but I figured out how to get around on the site. In the numbered list, just click on the bold word underlined in blue, and it opens a new page with the streaming station. ***update: I just realized that at the top of the list on the right, you can click on "Eng" and read the list in English. Most helpful.) I have enjoyed listening to the different stations this afternoon. It's fun to hear the language and imagine being there soon!

I checked our account in Quicken this afternoon, and so far, we have spent $4400 on this adoption. (That includes certified documents, vaccinations, passports, USCIS fees, new luggage, agency application fee, used laptop to take with us, and home study). Wow. I was a little shocked by that. R. wasn't surprised at all. We have done a good job so far of sticking to our budget, and we will continue to save where we can. But all that really matters is having this baby home with us, and soon!

Friday, December 7, 2007

good day

Huge step forward today! R took a half day off work and got home at noon. He fixed a sandwich and grabbed a banana to eat in the car, and we jumped in the car. We drove an hour and a half to our social worker’s office. We felt rushed, because we knew she was only going to be in her office until 3:00 this afternoon. We got there at 1:45, so we had plenty of time to spare. Our social worker was very nice to us today. We gave her my medical letter and the corrected draft of the home study. She went through our file and double checked her list, and everything was there! Our part of the home study is over! She said that she would send our home study to our agency on Monday morning! She told us that we were an easy family to deal with, and that our home study had gone very smoothly. That was good to hear. She said some of her clients are very disorganized. She said one of her clients even lost their dossier. Who does that?? I can’t even imagine! Anyway, soon we will have the final copies of the home study and then we can get our dossier apostilled. We are excited to be at this point in the process!

After we left the social worker’s office, we went to Burlington Coat Factory. We found some very warm gloves with Thinsulate insulation for $6.99! We each got a pair. I had seen them online for $25, so another super score! I tried on some faux fur winter hats, but nothing I liked. We both tried on coats too. It gave us a good idea of sizes and lengths, but the prices weren’t a bargain, so we’ll just order those, probably from Land’s End. After reading other blogs, I’m worried about the coat not being warm enough!

On the way home, we stopped by the salon and visited my sister A. for a minute. After going to the grocery store, we went to Starbucks and then listened to Christmas music all the way home. The sunset was absolutely amazing. A beautiful end to a nice afternoon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

new blogs

I was so excited to find some blogs of other families with our agency. It helps so much to read about everyone else's progress and to know we are not alone on this difficult and exciting journey.

I spent several hours going over the rough draft of our home study. I got all the corrections done and printed it out, all 15 pages. Tomorrow afternoon, we are driving an hour and a half to deliver it to the social worker's office. I'm so ready for the home study to be completed, so we can get our dossier notarized and apostilled.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

finally

We finally received my medical letter from the doctor today. R picked it up late this afternoon. I emailed the social worker to see if she will be in her office Friday afternoon, so that we can drop it off, along with the corrected draft of the home study document. Once we do that, our home study will be complete, ready to go to DSS and then on to immigration! I'm so excited!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

impatient

Not feeling patient today at all. Really tired of waiting on paperwork to be done. Ready for our child to be with us.

"being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience." -- Col 1:11

still no news

Well, R called the doctor’s office yesterday. My medical letter has not been completed yet, and he asked them to call as soon as it was finished so we could go pick it up. They didn’t call yesterday afternoon, so I emailed the office this morning. We’ll continue contacting them until we have the letter. This is the last thing we need for our home study, and I really want our home study to be finished!

Problem with blogger. All the images in my blog have disappeared, so this afternoon, I’m going to try to reload them. I want to print this blog for our child, so I really need for the images to be there. Annoying.

update:
Well, I think I fixed the problem with the photos. I transferred them all to photobucket. From now on, I will let them host all the images, instead of uploading them directly to blogger. And that way, I'll have a backup. Now if only the doctor's office would call, all my problems for the day would be solved!

Friday, November 30, 2007

no news

Ever since Tuesday afternoon, I've been waiting for the doctor's office to call to say that my medical letter for our home study is ready, and I can come pick it up. No phone call. Just me waiting all week for the phone to ring. We'll be calling them Monday morning to find out the status.

Stephanie M. is leaving tomorrow for their 2nd trip. They have court on Dec. 4, and we'll be keeping them in our prayers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

boots

I just ordered some boots which I hope will be perfect for our travels to Russia.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Yesterday, while shopping with my mom and sister, I tried these on, but they were too big, and the store did not have my size. They look better on than they do in this picture. I was happy because they looked like regular shoes and not puffy moon boots! They are waterproof, and they have a snuggy soft faux fur lining, so I think they'll be perfect for the snow. After searching online, I found them at Shoe Show, and with shipping, they were only $27! Super Score!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

moving forward

Well, I survived the physical! This was a new doctor for me. He has been R's general physician for 16 years now, but this was my first time to see him. I liked him, and I think I'll continue to use him in the future. He was supportive of our adoption, and said that he'd write the medical letter for me this week. As soon as I have it, our home study will be finished and ready to go to DSS. Yesterday, I got the draft of the home study from our social worker too. More progress!

We broke down and applied for a credit card today. We got a mastercard with a $3000 limit. We're worried about going over our adoption budget, so that will give us a cushion to cover any emergency expenses or plane ticket troubles. We haven't had a credit card in almost 4 years now, so it felt strange to be applying for one again.

Last night, we told our neighbor across the street that we are adopting. She is so excited for us, and thrilled that we'll have a baby on our street! Turns out she has traveled to Russia. Don't know what the circumstances were, but she said she went during the Communist era. (I'll definitely be getting the story about that from her later!) It's very interesting that on our little street in our small town that not only will we have traveled to Russia, but our neighbor has been as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

all things medical

I ordered a travel card today to use in restaurants in Russia. I have a severe allergy to tree nuts. The card explains in Russian that I have an allergy and need to avoid any foods containing nuts. I have been worried about what I am going to eat there, when I don't speak the language and can't read a menu. I'm planning to take food and snacks, and then buy food at a store once we get there. Eating in restaurants is my last choice, but I wanted to have the card just in case.

Tomorrow morning I have my physical. After the physical, I am asking the doctor to provide a letter stating that I am healthy, free of communicable disease, and emotionally capable of parenting a child. This is the last thing needed for our home study. And also, next month, he'll be able to fill out the medical form needed for our dossier as well. I'm so ready to cross this off the list. I hate, I mean hate, going to the doctor. I get tense and feel anxious. It takes a lot of deep breathing, praying, and talking to myself. I will get through it tomorrow by thinking about the baby and focusing on meeting him/her as soon as we can.

Now we're not sure about gender. Our home study will read either gender, as young as possible. Our social worker told us that by saying either gender that our baby would definitely be a boy. But today Lori , who is also with our agency, shared with us that even though their home study specified either gender, their referral was for a little girl, 13 months old. So, who knows? We would be happy with either a boy or a girl. Right now, only God knows until we are surprised with the wonderful news.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

happy thanksgiving

R. and I are together, healthy, in a beautiful home, with a baby on the way. We are very happy, and so grateful for all the blessings that God has given us.

Hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

successful home visit

We survived our home visit, and it went very well! Our social worker arrived 15 minutes early, which wasn't too bad. We sat down at the dining room table. R fixed coffee for her, and she quickly reviewed the biographical profiles that we had written. She didn't ask intrusive or difficult questions at all! (R. and I prayed before she arrived, and it definitely made a difference.)

She ended up being very helpful. She spent the rest of her time with us giving us some great information. She gave us the name of the person who will handle our apostilling. She also told us how to apply for the Title IV Non-recurring Special Needs benefit, as well as the adoption benefit for state employees. She mentioned the federal tax credit, which we already knew about, and she said that there is a state tax credit as well. She recommended that we contact the Health Department to have the baby evaluated for early intervention services (occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy). She also recommended that we enroll the baby in a Mothers Morning Out program for a couple of times a week to help with his language development. She said that if he is just with me, I will understand his grunts and not force him to talk. If he is around other small children, they will not understand him, and he will be motivated to talk better. Makes sense. I have waited a long time for this baby, and right now, I feel like I want to have him with me all the time! I think I can adjust to a few mornings a week though!

She also recommended that we domesticate his adoption, and that is something that we definitely plan to do. I want him to have a birth certificate in English, so his life will be easier later. She said we don't have to do this until after his first post placement report, so that helps. That gives us a little break in the paperwork.

Even though I didn't sleep much last night, I'm too excited right now to be tired. I'm so relieved and happy that it went well, and I'm so happy that we have made a huge step forward! We are closer to meeting our baby!

Thanks for all the positive thoughts and prayers!

Monday, November 19, 2007

house beautiful

Well, I'm fine after my fall. A few bruises and a little soreness, but I'm fine. I was so thankful that I didn't have a broken bone right before our home visit with the social worker! That would have been hard to explain!

The social worker is coming tomorrow morning, and I think we're ready. This house has never been this clean! At least it will be clean for the Thanksgiving holiday too, so that's an added bonus. I got all the home study paperwork together too. I printed out our biographical profiles, and now all the papers are organized and ready to give to her. I'm sure I won't sleep well tonight, because I'm nervous and excited! I'm nervous that she'll ask some difficult or intrusive question, and I'm excited because this is a huge step forward for us. I'll be so happy to cross this off our list.

Please send prayers for success and positive thoughts our way...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ouch

I fell down the stairs this morning. I'm ok, just bruised and sore. A few pulled muscles in my back. It's my own fault, I guess. I had just gotten up, so I was half awake; I wasn't holding on to the handrail, AND I was wearing these very fuzzy socks which are slippery on the bottom. I won't do that again. I'll wear slippers with a tread on the bottom.

R. and I are about to go to Target to get a laundry hamper, so our utility room will look nice and neat for the social worker.

Friday, November 16, 2007

a multi-generational book

(This post was written by Russ.)
When I stopped by my father's place today he was cleaning out his bookshelves.

"You gave me this one," he said, handing me a hardback copy of Sailing Alone Around The World by Capt. Joshua Slocum. "Then you gave me a copy of The Complete Joshua Slocum. Why don't you take this one with you?"

On the way home, I thought about the book. The first time I saw the book was when I was a child, and my father had a tattered paperback copy held together with a rubber band. Slocum was a down-on-his-luck sea captain who was given the Spray, a sloop that had moldered for years in a field. After rebuilding it, he became the first person to perform a solo circumnavigation, having great adventures along the way.

Slocum wrote with a lovely, light touch that was just about ideal for young folks to read - apparently, edited versions were on school reading lists back before the Great War. Lots of good lessons there, about solving problems, seeing the world, experience and competence - and in general, life and how to live it.

I know I've always loved the book, and I already had Slocum's book on the mental list of books that any child of mine should have around. This copy - from son to father, then father to son and eventually to another generation - well, it's special, isn't it?

another baby gift

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


My mother brought over a gift for the baby this morning. It's a fabulous advent calendar. It has people of the world in the little pockets. They are puffy and just adorable! I was surprised to see that he pocket for December 22, which is my birthday, holds the little man from Russia. It's a sign! We know this adoption is God's will for us. I just love this calendar, and can't wait to use it every year. It will be a nice part of our family Christmas tradition for many years to come.
(Thanks, Mama!)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


No other adoption news today. I did do some cleaning in preparation for the home study, and R. is planning to hang some pictures tonight when he gets home from work.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

h.b.

Happy Birthday, Michele!
Thinking of you with lots of love...

exciting day

We got the date for our home visit! Our social worker is coming on Tuesday morning, Nov. 20. I'm not dreading it anymore. I'm excited about it, because it will be a HUGE step forward for us, bringing us so much closer to traveling and meeting our baby. So I'll be cleaning and getting the house ready this weekend. You're all more than welcome to come help me!

The snail brought a fantastic package from my aunt and uncle! (Thank you N. and J.! It really made my day!) It felt like Christmas had come early! They sent me a gorgeous baby afghan that she knitted, as well as an adorable blanket and beautiful baby quilt that she made. They also sent a bib that she cross-stitched with "yummy" on it, a super soft stuffed dog, and 5 Little Golden Books ("The Saggy Baggy Elephant", "The Little Red Hen", "Baby Animals", "The Poky Little Puppy", "The Happy Man and his Dump Truck"). I was excited to see those, because I love those stories and didn't have them yet. It was a wonderful surprise, and I loved it!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

luggage & shots

Today was another productive day. We went to the health department and got the 2nd in our Hepatitis A/B combo shot series. We waited for a long time for them to process our payment correctly, and we agreed it was just practice for later!

(Enjoyed seeing you today, Sweet Pea! )

This evening, we went to the K-Mart and got the luggage for our trip! It was not expensive and it's not particularly attractive, but it should work well. It's small enough to fit in the small trunk of a Russian car, and if the airlines abuse it and damage it, we won't mind. This photo is not the best, but it is green. (Of course!) We thought green might be easier to spot in the sea of black luggage on the baggage carousel at the Moscow airport! After talking to Stephanie M. last night, I was inspired to get the wheeled duffel! I think it will be easy to pack our clothes in it, especially since the suitcase will be full of food! Originally, we were hoping we could just carry on 2 backpacks, but now we've decided to check luggage too, and just hope it makes it!


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

home study paperwork almost done!

Today's snail brought the third reference letter that we needed for our home study. (Thanks again, D!) We now have all the paperwork completed for the home study, except for my medical letter. I have a physical scheduled for Nov. 27, so we will have that by the end of the month. I just emailed our social worker about scheduling our home visit. Finally!

The house is 90% ready. Maybe 95%. We still have cabinet latches, smoke detectors, and baby gates to install, as well as a few pictures to hang, but we think we can get it done. And we still need to put the crib together too! Ok, maybe just 90% ready!

The home study is such a big hurdle. I'm not looking forward to the home visit. Having a stranger come to the house to examine it and then talk about our personal life will be difficult, and I'm dreading it. Of course, it's probably much worse in my imagination than it will be in reality. I'm just ready to have it over and done with, because having it done brings us one step closer to our child.

Monday, November 12, 2007

online courses completed!

We just received our final certificate from Adoption Learning Partners, and I just emailed it to our agency. So now we have completed all 3 of the required online courses, and all the completion certificates have been emailed to our agency! YAY! Another thing done!

We didn't think we would enjoy doing the courses, but R. and I ended up having some really good discussions, especially about attachment and the medical issues we might face. We didn't think we would, but we actually do feel more prepared to parent after taking these courses.

documenting our journey

After discussing it for months, we finally have a blog to document our adoption journey for ourselves and our child, and also to share our progress and news with our family and friends. I encourage everyone to post their comments, because down the road, I would like to have this blog printed as a book for our child.

Today's news - reference letters!
We now have 2 of the 3 reference letters that we need for our home study. R. brought them when he came home for lunch, and we were so excited!

A little explanation about the llama - He was a gift from my mother, and the first thing we received for the baby. I can't wait to see our child sleeping with him and dragging him all through the house!