Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's the Word Bird?

Oh I am so overdue for an update.

Things have been a wee bit crazy around here!  I'm feeling a bit like a whackadoodle!!

So here's the best way I can explain this:

Apply and complete application for homestudy agency (your local agency)
Complete homestudy (a big packet o' paper about your family)
Apply and complete application for placement agency (they actually have the program in your country)
Complete dossier (the big 'ol packet of paper that gets sent to your country of choice)
Dossier arrives in said country
Dossier is reviewed, translated, and logged in to the adoption authorities
Referral of child
Acceptance of Referral
More paperwork and waiting
Travel to visit (most countries now require 2 trips, one visit, one pick-up)
Travel to pick-up child

Call your social worker at your homestudy agency and say "We're ready to do this again!"

See how whackadoodle this is?!

Here's a peek at our timeline:

March 17th-Officially decided to adopt again
March 17th-25th Explored and prayed over all adoption options (domestic, international, foster)
April 27th-Reviewed country choices for our first placement agency of choice, All God's Children International (AGCI) in Oregon
April 28th-Submitted free pre-application for All God's Children International-chose the Philippines
May 1st- Began working on gathering medical letters in support of Jeremy's stable health
May 2nd-Touch base with our homestudy agency Special Children Inc. (SCI)
May 7th-Jeremy's personal medical letter sent to AGCI
May 14th-Confirmation-alll medical letters have arrived at AGCI, approved by social services department, but still encouraged to choose another country-we choose Bulgaria
May 31st-Touch base again with SCI
June 7th-Phone call with Deb, our social worker/case worker at SCI (we used her with AJ's adoption too!)
June 8th-(Our Anniversary) SCI Homestudy Packet arrives
June 14th-Announce to family and friends we are adopting again!
June 20th-Creation of our Adoption Puzzle Fundraiser on GoFundMe
June 20th-First puzzle piece donation made!
June 20th-Submitted formal application and fee to AGCI
June 21st-Received initial call about a little girl in Bulgaria who needs a home through another placement agency-Americans for International Aid and Adoption (AIAA) in Michigan
June 24th-Received official referral information for Mimi
June 25th-Submission of referral documents to pediatrician, ophthlamologist, University of Minnesota International Adoption Clinic, PT, SLP, and Vision Specialist
June 27th-Accepted Mimi's referral
June 27th-Letter of Intent specific to Mimi signed and notarized
June 28th-(AJ's birthday) Announced Mimi's referral publicly
June 28th-Mailed Letter of Intent to Secretary of State in Madison, WI to be apostilled
July 3rd-Received apostilled Letter of Intent from Madison
July 5th-Mailed apostilled Letter of Intent to AIAA
July 5th-AIAA Packet with Formal Application arrives
July 8th-Letter of Intent is received at AIAA
July 19th-Confirmation that Letter of Intent is in Bulgaria with the translator
July 23rd-SCI Homestudy visit/75% of required documents, including formal application and fee are submitted
July 25-27th-Operation Mimi Rummage!
July 25th-Formal application, fee, and other forms sent to AIAA
July 30th-Officially place our application on indefinite hold with AGCI and inform them of Mimi and AIAA
July 30th-Confirmation from AIAA that Letter of Intent is at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Bulgaria
July 30th-MOJ requests POA, Declaration, and Personal Statement to be completed and submitted ASAP
Homestudy report completed
Apply for adoption grants and scholarships
Dossier packet arrives from AIAA
I-800 Apply to USCIS for Immigration Approval & Obtain Fingerprinting Appointment
Wine/Beer Tasting & Silent Auction Fundraiser
Wait on immigration approval I-171H

Dossier put together
NOVEMBER AT THE LATEST-Dossier sent to Bulgaria
Dossier logged in at the Ministry of Justice (takes 2-4 weeks from arrival)
Travel to visit
One month lapses
Travel again to pick-up-Mimi!

Other updates:
We are just short of 200 pieces of our puzzle being claimed!  Wahoo!  Jeremy and I so enjoyed documenting our puzzle peeps on the back of each piece when the first hundred were claimed!  We're excited for the next hundred....

Our rummage was wildly successful!  We had three days of Operation Mimi full steam ahead.  Thursday was our best day, with the rain putting a damper on Friday and Saturday being football weather.  We sent Jeremy for hot chocolate it was so cold.  Thank you to EVERYONE who donated, brought tables, made simply sinful baked goods, and prayed over our rummage and our baby girl!  We are blessed.  I will post soon about the most humbling experience I've had since we were in Guatemala picking up AJ.  It's a doosie.

You'll notice some new features on the blog on our right sidebar...we've added time and weather widgets for Sofia, Bulgaria.  It's always nice to know when Mimi's having a sunny day.  We've also added the timeclocks for when we both finish looking forward to zeros on those clocks!

So that's the word bird.  We'll be sure to update everyone as things proceed.  That is the beauty of cut and paste, folks.  Yes.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you...

I Chronicles 28:20

Friday, July 12, 2013

An Ode to the Photog

I’ve been walking around saying we’ve never had family photos before. Which is true, but not true.  We’ve had a few attempts, but nothing solid.

A few days after AJ came home, I attempted to take some photos of him.  I cried, and cried, and cried.  He could not sit up, he fell asleep.  I wanted to see those big brown eyes.  I couldn’t make him laugh.  I took some photos of him lying on our guest bed.  Looking, back they certainly look like newborn photos.  He was that small and that precious.  Despite this, no one really cared for those photos.  It broke my heart.  Something was wrong already, and I couldn’t even get a cute picture of my baby boy.

The following spring we attended an event for Wisconsin families that have adopted from Latin America.  They offered a photographer during the event, so we thought we’d try.  Things were great, until we told the photog and her assistant that AJ was deaf.  She immediately panicked, as did her assistant. As if we weren’t already nervous and anxious already, their reactions just made it a whole lot worse.

I remember sitting on the stool, posing a fake smile, while AJ was sliding down my lap losing it.  If she shook that Elmo any harder his eyes were going to pop out.  I felt tears welling in my eyes.  My one eye stung terribly and held a blood spot from the cancer drug that had been injected into my eye the previous day (no cancer, just a brilliant person figured out a specific drug usually used for cancer patients worked for my condition).  “You know, not all children are perfect” my heart screamed! 

Taking him to a studio is just out.of.the.question.  That's all I'll say about that.

Later that summer, we had a photog come to our house to shoot family photos.  She came, early in the morning and, well...that too was a disaster.  The mosquitoes were terrible and bit every inch of our bodies.  She couldn’t get him to turn and look.  She had no idea what to do with him.  We paid a ridiculous amount of money for a whole lotta nothin’.  Out of those pictures, one was precious enough to print.  One.  Not one of them showed his sweet grin. 

After those experiences, I vowed to take AJ’s photos myself.  He’s not easy to catch much less encourage to smile when you’ve got a camera in your hand.  I thought we’d never have family photos.  Which may not be a big deal to some, but for me, it was heart-breaking.  I think I did ok, considering how difficult it is to take his picture.  There were always pictures of AJ with one or the other of us, but never us as a family.  As he’s gotten older, there have been more attempts, but nothing solid.  How’s that for candid (pun intended)?

When I began thinking about his birthday party this year, I thought it would be fantastic to have someone else take pictures.  Someone whose sole job that day was to capture the day’s events.  So, I asked a friend’s husband, who had ironically just gone public with his media company, to take photos.  Praise heaven he obliged. 

I have never, never, never been around such a patient photog.   Several kiddos at AJ’s party had special needs.  He captured everyone, beautifully.  I have never seen so many pictures of my son smiling.  Grinning.  Cheesing it up.  We got a family photo-with my sweet hubby in a pirate hat.  Who knew men could look sexy in a kid’s pirate hat.  I digress…

The photos were incredible.  I was less stressed and thrilled he got every shot we requested. 

So when our placement adoption agency emailed and said, “Please send family photos with the hard copy of your letter.  They cannot be casual photos”, I panicked…and then emailed our photog.

With just a day’s notice, he took on our request.  We met at a park and he took some INCREDIBLE shots of our family.  AJ’s curiosity and contentment were center stage, we just followed his lead.  I have never seen anyone so patient with a kiddo and photographs-much less a kiddo that can’t always hear you, er-chooses not to hear you sometimes, wanders off in the middle of shots, won’t sit still for 2 seconds, and makes candid shots a running sport.  He captured AJ in his element.  We took many photos without him smiling, but the sweetness behind the candid snips of time shows and that is what matters.  He did smile, and giggle, and we enjoyed every minute of the shoot.   If you are waiting to take family photos, for any reason, don’t.  Go for it. Capture the here and now and leave the perfect in the dust.   I promise you won’t regret it.

To top it all off, our photog brought some prints and our photos disc over the same night so that we’d be able to sleep knowing I wouldn’t have to run and get prints made the next morning to send to Bulgaria. 

We’ve said thank you a thousand times, but Mike-we really hope you get the picture as to how talented you are and how that talent has impacted our lives….and the life of our future daughter.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Constant Learning

This summer has so far been the most "normal" summer we've ever experienced.  It's full of popsicles and sprinkler fun, sandy feet and sunscreen.  It is everything I wanted in those early years with AJ.

Those days when we were waking up and doing back-to-back-to-back therapies.  One summer we ventured outside for his PT session.  I just about passed out.  He was ready to use his skills in a natural environment outside the house.  I whined about the therapies, the work, the constant "do this, do this, do this".  Summer was hard, with photos of other people's children doing those "normal" things while I was fighting insurances and scheduling constant therapy sessions.  

I'm glad we had that period of time.  What a labor of love.  

When his school team first told me he would not have ESY this year, I thought they were joking.  Indeed, he is attending ESY (things always change in AJ Land).  However, he's remembering verbal prompts such as "let's go to school", "let's go bye-bye", and the ever famous "where are mommy's shoes?".  He shows me a mega-killowatt smile when I pull up school on his iPad.  And when his short session of ESY is over, he has no problem leaving.  

He's quicker to adapt to changing environments and schedules.  This-is a huge step.  HUGE.  

It is a very, very strange feeling to not be running to therapies constantly.  Still.  And we've been out of the constant therapy world for over a year now.  He has done so well, and made so much progress, much due to the intense bouts we did when he was younger.

Never fear we are still in the constant learning phase. Mostly, I find we are working on social and feeding skills.  AJ is perfectly capable of using a fork, spoon, or spork with finesse.  Well, as much finesse as a child can have at his age. Despite his learned skill, we are back to battling utensil use.  We're also working on not just grabbing other people's food, or plates, and not dumping our cups of liquid.  I swear this kid has go-go-gadget arms.  Holy cats.  

Social wise, we are working on reminding him of the proper way to greet someone.  His preferred method currently consists of pulling your hair, grabbing your glasses, and laughing hysterically.  When he gets excited or feels uncomfortable or doesn't know what is expected of him, these behaviors come out.  In the last few weeks I've had two little girls come up to me and tell me "he pinched me".  My heart sinks and I say, "I'm sorry.  He really didn't mean it."  We are so blessed and fortunate to be an example of acceptance that this type of things sends me into a sad panic.  I start to worry if that kiddo told her parents and how they will react.  And then what do I say to them? I don't want to make excuses for AJ, but what do I say? I really struggle with this piece of teaching my child manners. It is such a hard place to be with not completely being sure as to what he understands.  

And then he does things like grabbing an apple and starts munching on it.  Holy use of all the feeding skills we've been working on.  He's gaining social skills by interaction with his puppy.  Constant learning, constant change.

We are constantly working on helping AJ learn.  And this summer, we're doing it with popsicles and fun.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hats and Stillness

Yesterday morning I found myself abundantly thankful that we are not first-time adoptive parents.

If we were, I do believe we might have wimped out by now.

And we're just getting started.

There is this little document called the Letter of Intent which needs to be filed in Bulgaria to officially put our daughter on hold.  I sent the letter to the Secretary of State's office in our state's capital to be apostilled.  It was supposed to arrive on Monday, yet as of yesterday we didn't have it.

.   I began focusing on this verse:

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still"
Exodus 14:14

I felt like I was spinning. There is absolutely nothing we could do be sit and be still...and wait.  I could not force the post office to deliver the letter we are waiting on.  I couldn't do a thing.  That feeling was and IS very, very hard to stomach.  With the 4th of July holiday looming,  getting this letter to our agency and then to Bulgaria was becoming a faster race.  I let go, and thought, I need to just be still and let what is going to happen...happen.

This morning our older dog was going absolutely bonkers barking.  I figured he was barking at the workers who were doing some utility work in our yard.  On a hunch, I went to the front door.  There, stuck in the corner of the mailbox was a peach card.  I had missed the delivery of the apostilled letter.  There was no doorbell.  No knock.  Nothing.  The utility workers told me the guy just wrote out the card and left.


I marched into the post office and was intercepted by a sweet gentleman who directed me to a delivery manager right away.  She met me after business hours to ensure I had the letter.  It will be mailed to our agency on Friday and arrive in Bulgaria early next week.  We've been told this is just fine.


I don't understand this.  We were totally in control with AJ's adoption.  Hahahaha. I should say, we thought we were.  Some things about this adoption are old hat, while others are definitely new hat.

I am so thankful we had the experience we did with AJ.  While nothing is every carbon copy, I found familiarity in reading through our homestudy requirements, IR-3 versus IR-4's and on and on.  I knew what apostille meant when it was requested.  We already have our passports.  I can tell you the difference between homestudy and placement agency.  So much we've experienced is transferring to adoption process #2.

And yet, there is so much new hat.

The first hat being our faith.  When we adopted AJ, our faith was run of the mill.  Stale.  Cookie-cutter.  I don't remember praying during his adoption process.  Maybe I did.  But I don't remember.  I remember feeling angry with God for allowing our process to go sour.  We steered clear of church for years.  Why did He give us this child with special needs?

It's taken years, but we know the answer. And we thank Him daily for the blessing AJ has been since the moment he entered our hearts.  We are trusting in Him and drawing on our faith to carry us through this process. We were not expecting to experience the feelings we've experienced in the last two weeks until much later in the process.  God changed the game.  Ok, so you've got this referral now.  Do you trust me now? The post-office is going to screw up...Do you trust me know?

And a daughter.  A daughter.  If you know our family, you know that on my husband's side there hasn't been a girl in the family for 30 years.  Before that, 75 years.  The standing joke is that Jeremy's family just doesn't have girls.  We'll I guess we're breaking that mold too.

A few hours before we accepted her referral, I was explaining to a friend that I had been in contact with our school district, asking questions and wondering what services were available for her when she comes home. She said, "This sound so official already".  It was then that I realized I was advocating for my baby girl. Already.  And I haven't even met her yet.  The experience and knowledge gained from being AJ's Momma is transferring into early advocacy for our daughter.  Precious.

Today, while I was still and waiting, mountains were moved.  I got an email saying someone had clothes for us for Mimi.  I received news that the blind support group my in-laws work with donated to our puzzle fundraiser, as did several others very unexpectedly.  Jeremy called with a lead on new babysitters.  I got the message that the letter was ready to be picked up.

Be still.  And watch Him move.

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